Thursday, 27 June 2013

FIGHTING TALK / THE CHINESE ARE COMING.



Huawei Chief Executive Richard Yu shows off the Ascend P6. 
SYNAPSE CIRCUIT: 
FIGHTING TALK / THE CHINESE ARE COMING...

Good afternoon, Synapse Circuit Readers! I hope you are enjoying the tennis and the good weather of late – well, at least I imagine that the weather is good where you are! If you love technology like I do you must be excited at what the Android platform has been developing... I’ve got news for you... 

THE CHINESE ARE COMING

And they are coming with Android handsets that will have the mobile world marvelling. The two biggest names from China, Huawei and Oppo have every intention to usurp the power houses Samsung, HTC, LG and Sony!

Huawei’s Richard Yu was in London to launch the Ascend P6 – the world’s thinnest smartphone - and to also let the press know that they are looking to be Number 1 on the world market. Huawei has the drive and determination to be known for making the smartphone in the world and to put a price tag on it that undercuts Apple, Samsung, LG, etc.

I think Huawei can possibly achieve their ambition but the major competition shouldn’t be taken lightly. I know Samsung are always hungry and they never seem to stop innovating. If you saw the video footage from the CES at the beginning of the year then you will know what I am on about. Huawei and any other challengers will be foolish to take Samsung lightly.

Apple? Hmmmm... If Apple can concentrate on delivering a new iPhone design or designs then they can be very dangerous too! I am quite sure that Cook is considering an iPhone phablet and a budget model for the everyman/woman.

Oh, the one major underestimated manufacturer is Google Motorola. You may have noticed that Google has given Motorola a little make over on the logo and I can imagine that they have a lot to prove.

Here’s what Huawei’s Chief Executive Richard Yu had to say about Samsung...

“We want to provide the best, most beautiful, slimmest smartphone – this one’s much thicker.” Capitalizing on the (in)famous Samsung plastic builds... “We’re not made of plastic."

As you know, I feel strongly that Samsung handsets can look pristine after a good 4 years of use! My Galaxy S2 looks as it came out of the box 4 years ago! I understand how some might see metal and glass as better but it may not be the case when durability is taken into consideration. Again, the HTC One looks amazing – like an ET dropped it on upon entering the spaceship to go back home but I would like to see the One after 2 or 4 years of use.

And with regards to the Galaxy S3 and S4... ...they have been about functionality above the looks which I happen to like very much. I love minimalism. Remember that Samsung are now own 50% of a carbon fibre company in Germany!

ADVERTISING IN A FLASH
Yu continues... "We don’t have so much money to do marketing and branding so we have to make our products better. The best smartphone in the past was from Nokia, then from Apple, then from Samsung. And who is number one? The industry is so dynamic – no matter how successful you are, if you’re currently number one, doesn’t mean tomorrow you’ll be number one.


“Samsung, they have such huge money – if you invest in marketing and branding then people will always buy no matter how good the products are. The Samsung Galaxy S4 is just a so-so smartphone.”

One can chart Nokia’s descent from the top... Nokia simply didn’t see touch screens coming and when the iPhone landed on the market there were other clued up manufacturers waiting to jump on that bandwagon. Had Nokia discovered Android’s potential instead of contemplating Symbian who knows where Nokia would be right now?

To be honest I can barely remember ads for the initial Galaxy S. I can’t for the life of me remember a single Galaxy S2 ad. What Samsung seems to have done is to let the media do the talking on its behalf. I think they mastered the art of PR. At one time you couldn’t pick up a tech or dedicated mobile magazine without reading the headline, ‘iPhone Killer’. Samsung ran with that and it worked. Samsung used the Adobe Flash compatibility greatly to its advantage like HTC and BlackBerry did. Again, hardly any need to spend on publicity there. All the media – including Synapse Circuit – were keen to weigh up the pros and cons of having Adobe Flash on a mobile device. It is the one time where Steve Jobs unwittingly gave the competition a chance to shine! 

Do I miss Flash today? It’s a yes and no... Yes, I miss what Flash could have become. Ordinary people could create a similar app experience without knowing how to program by using Flash. Even if the end product looked like a PowerPoint presentation at least it would be better than having produced nothing at all. Put Flash in the hands of a skilled user / programmer and we could have had some interesting games, multimedia applications and so on. And, no: Adobe just gave up the ghost. They decided that if Apple weren’t going to have Flash on their devices then it wasn’t worth pursuing. I think that decision is wrong and as a result I don’t really miss it. But if Adobe should change that they’d have my attention. I am not holding my breath on that one.

Samsung used that bitter competition with Apple to their advantage because the tech media industry and consumers alike were just waiting for the S2! As you know the S2 delivered and it won awards over the iPhone for being the best multimedia handset in the world. The S2 still holds its own today! That’s how great that phone is.

When the S3 came along Samsung could afford to invest more into advertising and this was the start of Samsung’s own separate product launches. The S3 delivered in many, many ways:

Design; while the S3 design came as a shock to me I warmed to it when I had it in my hands.

Functionality; sure Smart Stay needed good lighting to work but it did work. The video on top was very good too despite that there is an app that can do the same thing. S Voice worked quite well as a means of launching apps and getting weather updates and it wasn’t meant to compete with Siri.

Camera; the videos and pictures that I made with the S3 are superb.

Samsung did some great adverts for the S3 to drive home the great functionality. The S4 videos – in my opinion – haven’t been as great. We’ll get to the Note in a bit...

INNOVATION
What sets Samsung apart from the competition is that they aren’t afraid to innovate! The Galaxy Note could have dived like a lead balloon where the 5” Dell Streak crumpled but the Galaxy Note opened up a new market niche for other manufacturers to follow, the phablet! The Galaxy Note 2 has enjoyed great success.

Let’s not forget the online YouTube campaigns against the iPhone! Those ads were so funny! So cheeky and inventive; so many iPhone owners switched over to Samsung as a result.

If Huawai and Oppo are going to grab spots held by the Android greats then they will have to deliver on all levels:

Camera; this is where both Huawei and Oppo are taking the lead with the 5MP front-facing camera on the Ascend P6. However, the main camera is an 8MP compared to that of the 13MP on the S4!

Oppo Find 7 is said to be coming with an 8MP front-facing camera! WOW!!!!! The Find 7 may have a 13MP main camera. That could change by September when it is expected to be launched.

Who knows what the Galaxy Note 3 will have to offer? Maybe, just maybe they’ll be able to deliver a higher MP on the front-facing camera. It could already be too late as I would imagine that Samsung must be in production on the Note 3 if they are going to reveal it in August. I can’t say that I have heard too many rumours on the Note 3.

RICHARD YU ON APPLE
“In its latest update, Apple makes the phone extremely simple to use,” he says. “But if we are just learning from them we can’t catch up, because they are now slipping. We want to go higher than them.”

Not being disrespectful to Apple and their legions of fans... The pure Jelly Bean operating system has surpassed iOS 7; again, I am not interested in putting Apple people down. If I honestly thought that iOS and the iPhone were better I would own one or two but I don’t! 

I wrote an article a while back that Apple and the iPhone has lost its “cool” factor. I predicted that the iPhone 5 would be DOA and I was right.

“We have a good relationship with Google,” says Yu. “We want Android to be more user friendly, so we have made a lot of enhancements. Google is good for an engineer but it’s not good for the consumer: It’s a little bit too complicated.”

That is the one good thing of many aspects of Android is that one can create an interesting skin / user interface over it. I think what Huawei has done with their Emotion UI is potentially very good. I personally do not think that Android is complex to the user... Uh-uh... If anything the consumer is so spoiled for choice that it is overwhelming. See my ‘Understanding Android’ for those jumping ship from other devices. I wrote that article with for and / concurrent BlackBerry users in mind. As a consumer I would rather be overwhelmed than under!

Currently it is not difficult to be better than Apple iPhone; they have been beaten already by Google, Samsung, HTC, LG and Huawei & Oppo! Hey, Apple Fans: don’t be mad at me! It’s not my fault that Cook talks himself into a corner regarding the future of iPhone handsets. The man says the most stupid things and feels that he can’t go back on them. So, blame Cook!

Apple is trailing behind with their iPhone and iOS at a premium level. Add to the fact that Apple has yet to enter the budget market. If you have read my article on ‘The False Economy of Budget Android Handsets’ you will understand that the market is still virtually untapped because these budget handsets aren’t up to much – if anything at all!

Can you believe that some manufacturers of budget Android handsets are releasing Gingerbread based phones today???? C’mon! Stop messing around! A 10 year old would know better than to think any budget handset with Gingerbread on it and to some degree Ice Cream Sandwich is a worthwhile phone. FORGET IT!

Just in case you are hard of reading and you like to read things that aren’t there... FORGET IT! Budget Android handsets are no good! They are lacking in CPU, RAM and storage. Nobody expects the camera to be great on these things but the budget market is screaming out for a decent handset!


GOOGLE MOTOROLA
While these manufacturers are content to deliver underpowered and ultimately useless handsets Google Motorola is looking to sweep in with something called DVX that promises to deliver quality with an affordable budget! I have no specs at the time of writing. If Google Motorola get it right... I shudder to think about the impact Android will have on the market again!

If you were paying attention to the Google i / O 2013 developer conference you’d know that Sundar Pichai, the new head of Android (and Chrome) stated that the aim is to get Android handsets into untapped markets around the world. I am expecting big things from Google Motorola. Even former Google CEO, Eric Schmidt has been saying for the longest time that the smartphone of today will end up being the budget smartphone in the future.

I do think these manufacturers are wasting their time and squandering their potential with underpowered budget it Android handset which would be fine if the size of apps were under 8MB but they are constantly growing.

MY ADVICE
Forget surpassing the iPhone – it has been done already. It wasn’t hard to do due to the aforementioned stubbornness, stupidity and endless patent spats from Apple. Cook and co seems to live in a bubble. They aren’t being fair to their consumers.

My advice is this:

Up the ante on the hardware! More CPU power, 4GB RAM, 32GB onboard storage and a massive battery capacity 8000 mAh! Why not? We’re not seeing a great leap in premium handset specs. In order to bring forward good budget handsets the hardware of premium must go up!

Don’t get too hung up on being “the thinnest in the world” if it comes at the expense of the battery. I feel forced into buying a protective case for my S4 because it’s so thin that it makes handling a tad cumbersome when taking photos... One accidental nudge from a passerby and that could be the end of it!

The Android handset market is solid. What about the apps? What about the tablets?

In the meantime look out for Huawai, Oppo and ZTE. 

 What do you reckon?

Thank you for reading!

Take good care!


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