Article Of The Day
Based on the various leaks and inside info that we had gotten over the past couple of months, we basically knew what to expect with the Motorola Moto X. We knew about the customization options, and the color choices. We essentially knew what to expect from the spec sheet. And, we even basically knew what the hardware itself would look like. It took longer for the software features to leak out, but soon enough we knew what to expect there as well.
The overall picture that we were able to build from these various pieces led me to believe that Motorola (and by extension, Google) were truly focusing on the experience of the device rather than the straight out benchmark performance. But, now that Motorola has laid out its plan in its entirety, it seems to be that while that original idea I had was very close, it isn’t completely accurate. Motorola and Google are definitely focusing on the experience, but it’s hard to argue that HTC wasn’t also focusing on the experience with the HTC One. The difference is that the Moto X is focused on what users need rather than what they might potentially want.
It’s a subtle difference, but one that has a profound impact across the device and the software. If you want to talk about a company that is overly obsessed with what users might potentially want, you have to look no farther than Samsung. Samsung’s entire philosophy of hardware is to slap together as many variants of every device, at every size and price point, and assume that someone out there wants each one. On the software side of things, Samsung aims for the same kitchen sink approach, throwing in every feature that anyone could potentially want, and once again hope that at least one person will find use in the options.
Motorola has taken more time to consider the options that are truly important to users, and focus on those aspects, even if it means you have to take away from somewhere else. Spec junkies may complain about the 720p display on the Moto X, but the reality is that very few people can actually see the difference between 720p and 1080p in the fine details, but almost everyone can see the difference the higher-res will make on your battery life and graphics performance, because pushing pixels is tough work on any GPU.
And, looking deeper at the spec sheet, again many benchmark nerds will talk about the Galaxy S4 spec sheet and how it “blows away” the Moto X, and on paper it does. But, as I’ve said before: devices don’t exist on paper, they exist in your hand. The Galaxy S4 spec sheet reads like an exercise in potential: “Wow, that’s a great SoC. I hope that someday I find some software that can really take advantage of it…” Whereas the Moto X spec sheet reads like a need/have list: “Okay, I have always-on voice command, so I need a CPU to make that work without killing the battery.” And, contrary to popular belief, the Moto X Snapdragon S4 Pro is not “last year’s hardware”, but far closer to a customized Snapdragon 600. This is still top-shelf hardware, just not bleeding edge. If you are a benchmark elitist, you should keep in mind that the Moto X does beat the S4 on GPU tests and various browser tests.
Similarly, a couple of the multitude of photo options found in the Galaxy S4 may be really useful on a day-to-day basis, but rather than that, Motorola has decided to focus on a much more pressing issue: how quickly you can get your camera app open and ready to go. Now sure, it would have been better for the device to simply have a dedicated camera button that could wake the device straight into the camera, like you can in Windows Phone; but, we understand the desire to find a different (albeit awkward) way to get the camera open quicker.
The same goes for the variations on touchless controls that you’ll find in each device. In the Galaxy S4, you have gesture controls which essentially are only useful when your hands are dirty. If your hands are clean, there is literally no good reason to use gesture/hover controls over physically touching your touchscreen device. But, with the Moto X, the use case of touchless controls is suddenly expanded to any time that your hands are busy (or too lazy) to touch the device. And, the actions that you can perform will continue to grow as Google adds more and more voice commands to Google Now. It seems a lot more likely that I’ll need to control my device without touching it to initiate a quick search, or set a calendar event, than I will to swipe through pictures.
Lastly, on the hardware side of things, I’ve always said that there can be too much choice; and, Samsung has likely gone over that line. Right now, there are no fewer than eight different variants on the Samsung Galaxy S4 when you factor in the various CPU configurations, radio options, and models (Active, Mini & Zoom). The hardware differences between all of those can be subtle and confusing to customers who don’t want to get into benchmarks and GPUs and such. On the other hand, there is one Moto X, but you can change how it looks. Most everyone knows how to choose colors that they like, and pictures that they like, and that’s really all you need to know to sort through the over 2000 different options on the Moto X. 2000 sounds like a big number, but the number quickly drops when you rule out various colors that you don’t like.
The ultimate goal from Motorola seems to be in designing a device that is as easy to “try-on” as a shirt that you find in a store. If you like it, you buy it; if not, you grab a different color. Overall, I really like the thought process that has gone into the Moto X, because it is often just as important to say “no” to features as it is to say “yes”. I’m not sure that Samsung has really learned that lesson; and, Samsung won’t learn that lesson unless the market demands it, which doesn’t seem likely to happen any time soon. The Moto X may not be the device that spec nerds want, but it could very well be the device that many average users need; and, that’s the kind of win that Motorola needs right now.
The Indian government few days back met one of the key demands of the telecom operators and bodies by raising the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) limit in the telecom sector to 100 percent. The move is believed to provide huge confidence in the telecom industry for foreign players, and most importantly help reduce the hefty debt burden.
According to an estimate, the Indian telecom services industry is suffering a debt burden of over $40 billion. The burden is despite the fact that India has one of the largest telecom subscriber bases – around 897.02 million.
Raising of the FDI cap is expected to turn around things for the industry. But of course, this is easier said than done. Considering the depressing economic atmosphere in the country, will the turnaround happen? What does 100 percent FDI in telecom sector actually mean for users as well as the industry? What impact does it have on the industry?
There are two aspects to it. One is the foreign partners, the likes of Vodafone, Telenor and Sistema, they will be immediately interested in hiking their stake to total 100% compared to 74% earlier. They will be really interested in taking over the control of the company and will try to forego the problems or the worries they have in dealing with the local partner. The other aspect is that when we talk about companies like Bharti, Idea and RComm which already have some existing foreign partners except RComm which is only domestically-owned, some of these foreign partners can also look at injecting some equity because both Bharti and Idea will to a certain extent be interested in attracting some foreign investments to repay their existing debt.
Financial gains and consolidation
The Cellular Operators of India (COAI), the GSM industry body, reportedly in one of its presentations to the Department of Telecommunications (DoT), had pointed out the weak financial health of the sector, which was reeling under a massive debt of Rs. 1,857 billion.
With FDI gates opened, the telecom sector can garner the much-needed additional funds in coming months. The fresh inflow of money and reduced burden on local entrepreneurs will help the industry provide better quality services as well as adoption of the latest technologies. The industry is likely to have further consolidation with foreign players, who may eye the smaller players in the country.
Welcoming the 100 percent FDI in telecom, Sistema Shyam TeleServices Ltd said in a statement: “The much needed policy decision is a very positive development for the entire industry. With fresh foreign direct investments coming in, this would further catalyze growth and also the process of proliferation of telecom services across the country.”
Reliance Communications (RCom) says the move will help enhance value for all stakeholders. “RCOM strongly supports the Government’s decision to allow 100% FDI in the Telecom sector. 100% FDI in Telecom will enhance value for all stakeholders,” says a company spokesperson.
“ The move to increase the investment cap of 74 percent FDI to 100 percent is welcome as it will help the industry to bring in more FDI to fund the high CAPEX demands of this sector especially in areas to enhance coverage, and launch new 3G and BWA services. This will undoubtedly have a huge benefit for our customers and higher license fee for the government,” says Aircel in a statement.
But market cannot afford more than six profitable telcos in the industry. From the existing situation where we have 10 telcos, we expect the consolidation to take place to an extent that only six players will remain in this industry.
Likely buyouts and mergers
Apart from Bharti Airtel, most of the telecom operators in India may look for buyouts or mergers. Vodafone, the second largest operator in the country, is likely to buyout the 11 percent stake held by Piramal Group and the remaining shares of Essar Group.
Russian conglomerate Sistema holds a 73.71 percent stake in Shyam Sistema with Shyam Telelinkm and operates under the MTS brand in the country. SSTL was the only bidder in the March 2013 auctions for the CDMA spectrum. The Russian conglomerate may increase its stake in its India venture.
A similar deal is expected between Tata and Docomo. NTT Docomo currently has 26 percent stake in Tata Docomo. The new FDI limit may encourage the Japanese company to raise its share. Aircel was reported to be in talks for a stake sale from Malaysian company Maxis Communications, which has the majority stake in the company.
As far as Bharti Airtel and Idea Cellular go, these two companies have foreign holding less than 74 percent. These companies may not look for such deals in the near future. Bharti has stakes from Singapore Telecom and Qatar Foundation. Idea has about 19.96 percent stake from Axiata.
Why FDI may not have significant impact
Contrary to the general and popular belief, some analysts believe the increased FDI limit in the country is going to have a very limited impact on the sector.
“ The impact will be limited since the problems faced by telecom companies are to do with regulation and licensing not investment per se. Some tower companies which are 100% foreign owned (e.g. American Tower) could benefit. They do not require licences. However, they would have been obliged to dilute ownership if the government required them to obtain Unified Licences, as the TRAI has recommended,” says telecom analyst Mahesh Uppal.
According to a Wall Street Journal report, analysts are sceptical about foreign players investing in the sector that has been marred by allegations of corruption as well as regulatory uncertainty.
“ For consolidation to happen in India as well as to attract new players to the Indian telecom market, we need a comprehensive framework to provide clarity on all regulatory issues,” Saurabh Agrawal, who heads corporate finance for South Asia at Standard Chartered Bank, is quoted as saying.
Forbes India’s author, Mohammad Chowdhry in his report says the move will not change the fundamentals of the industry.
“ …further fundamental change will depend on greater clarity on spectrum policy, as well as demystification of the mergers and acquisitions environment by making it easier for players to acquire and sell spectrum rights separately from the rest of the business,” writes Chowdhry.
Interestingly, the new FDI policy for telecom has seen opposition outside in the industry. According to Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalitha, the move raises a number of concerns.
“These measures raise a number of serious concerns. Far from protecting the interests of workers and the common people of the country, the UPA government appears to be acting at the behest of foreign interests and some external Rating Agencies which are frequently threatening to lower the Sovereign Rating to ‘Junk Status’ and thereby cowing down the weak UPA government at the Centre, making it bend to its whims and fancies,” the chief minister said in a statement.
On risks involved in the FDI, analyst Mahesh Uppal says: “The “colour” of money is not the issue. However security concerns related more to services, networks and equipment. This is a serious concern in the light of recent disclosures including PRISM and reported concerns in US and UK about Chinese equipment.”
More measures required
Raising the FDI limit is certainly a welcome step, but it’s only one of the many much-needed solutions to our cash-strapped telecom industry. There is a lot more to be done to recover the industry.
The government needs to bring more clarity in its policies related to regulation, licencing and taxation. Taking lessons from 2G scam, the allocations have to be made in more transparent manner. Tussle over the inter-circle roaming, licence renewals and other issues are unlikely to send a positive message outside.
The industry has to come out of the shadows of corruption and the state of confusion where there’s an apparent lack of vision for the industry. It’s notable the industry already had a decent 74 percent cap of FDI, but still failed to gain ground.
Without the availability of a conducive atmosphere, it’s highly unlikely the telecom sector moves towards the path of recovery.
The fight in the mobile phone universe is now shifting midstream, after five years of flagship brawl running unabated. All players are suffering from a flagship fatigue and market saturation at the high-end, so they are reshifting positions for the exploding Android midrange opportunity.
What are the current midrangers offering, though, and are they worthy of the nascent landgrab that is about to ensue in the category? Good midrangers these days start you off with a 720p display, which means we’ll have both H1 2013 entrants, and last year’s flagships in the slideshow below.
We are rounding up a few of the best representatives of the upper midrange category
1. Huawei Ascend P6
Ascend P6 is believed to be the world’s slimmest phone with dedicated design.
It features a sleek and stylish design with brushed metal finish – packed with 4.7-inch display, 1.5GHz quad core processor, 2GB RAM and 8GB ROM. Moreover, it consists of SD storage expandable to 32GB and 2000MaH battery with intelligent battery saving chip preinstalled.The Ascend P6 has a 8MP camera which shines mostly because it has advanced scene recognition settings. But the more interesting one is the front snapper which is 5MP, unmatched on other phones.
Other than that, the phone has the latest version of Google’s Android operating system, Jelly Bean 4.2.2, and ticks all the other spec boxes you’d expect, such as the short-range data transfer system NFC, GPS and wi-fi.
2. Sony Xperia ZR
The 4.6-inch device has a resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels and is powered by Snapdragon S4 Pro quad-core 1.5GHz CPU with 2GB of RAM and 8GB storage capacity. The storage capacity can be boosted up to 32GB by microSD slot. Users are forced to depend on microSD cards if you intend to store your music and video files on this device. The phone has a 13MP autofocus LED flash with Exmor RS technology which allows you to take pictures in low light. The 2300mAh capacity battery is sufficient to last more than a day with moderate mobile data use without stamina mode on. The images taken are crisp, detailed and rich in colours.Sony’s Xperia ZR is IP55 and IP58 compliant, which means that it can be immersed in water up to five feet and can take photos or record videos for 30 minutes. But the sad part is Sony forgot to update the device to latest Android operating system and the device comes up with Android 4.1.2.
3. HTC One Mini
The HTC One mini comes with a 4.3-inch, 720×1280 pixel display. The HTC One mini has its processing punch delivered by a dual-core Snapdragon 400 SoC with a processor clocked at 1.4GHz along with 1 GB of ram. HTC has delivered the best software it has too – Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean out of the box with Sense 5. The HTC One mini spells out premium with an aluminum unibody design and UltraPixel camera with dedicated ImageChip 2, plus BoomSound (stereo speakers on the front with a dedicated amp).
4. Google Nexus 4
Google Nexus 4 has a 1.5GHz quad-core Snapdragon S4 Pro with Krait CPUs (meaning this thing should be crazy fast), a 4.7-inch WXGA True HD IPS Plus (1280 x 768 pixels) display with Zerogap Touch technology and Corning Gorilla Glass 2, 2GB of RAM, an 8MP rear camera, a 1.3MP front camera, and a 2100 mAh battery rated for upwards of 15.3 hours of talk time. The device has NFC as expected, and will support wireless charging. It will run Android 4.2 Jelly Bean.
5. LG Optimus F7
The Optimus F7 is squarely in the mid-range of specs, with a 4.7-inch 720×1280 display, 1.5GHz dual-core (Snapdragon S4 Plus) processor, 1GB of RAM, 8GB of storage and 8MP/1.3MP cameras. Naturally, the Optimus F7 is running Android 4.1 Jelly Bean with LG’s customizations and bundled apps.
6. Samsung Galaxy S III
The Galaxy S3, released last year, comes with a 4.8-inch Super AMOLED screen that can display 306 ppi. Underneath the hood lies a quad-core processor, 1GB RAM, an 8-megapixel rear-facing camera, and a 1.9-megapixel front camera. While the rear camera can shoot video in 1080p, the front one can only take video in 720p. The Galaxy S3’s battery is a 2,100mAh battery, and it comes with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean onboard. An update to Android 4.2.2 seems to be in limbo, but when it finally does release, it will bring a number of Galaxy S4 features such as gesture controls over to the Galaxy S3.
7. HTC One X+
The HTC One X+ offers a quad-core Tegra 3 chip that runs at 1.7GHz and since higher clock speeds usually result in increased power consumption, the smartphone has been equipped with a 2,100mAh battery that can supposedly provide 6 more hours of talk time. The on-board storage capacity has been given a bump up to 64GB, which is plentiful no matter how you look at it. On the software side of things, the HTC One X+ comes with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean pre-installed, which is currently the platform’s newest version. Layered on top of it is the maker’s custom Sense 4+ interface, with features like Self Portrait mode that enhances front-facing cam shots, grouping photos in the Gallery based on the location they were taken at, and the ability to launch the camera app with a press of the power button.
BlackBerry posted its Q1 earnings Friday morning, and to say that it disappoints is a mild understatement. Its subscriber base has slimmed down, and it is failing to get any traction against iOS and Android. Moreover, BBM, or BlackBerry Messenger, is delayed until late summer, where it wouldn’t be totally out of the question to be disappointed once more by further delays.
Last week, the company released its latest quarterly numbers and they are exciting, although not in the sense that Heins would like. The forecast was $3.4bn (£2.2bn) in revenue and $0.07 in earnings per share; the reality was $3.1bn in sales and, more importantly, a loss of $0.13 per share.
BlackBerry reported shipping 6.8 million smartphones in the most recent quarter–half a million shy of Wall Street estimates. It reported $3.1 billion in revenue, with a net loss of $85 million for the quarter. Curiously, there’s no breakdown of the sales of BlackBerry devices. How much of their revenue was “energised” by the BB10? Without actual numbers, we’re left in a cloud of doubt about how well the new platform is actually doing.
The numbers “excited” traders so much that BBRY shares lost 28% of their value in a single trading session, putting them back to the level of a year ago.
The biggest problem for BlackBerry, though, is that there’s pretty much nowhere to go but down from here. Aside from customers locked in to the BlackBerry ecosystem, there’s little demand for BlackBerry mobile devices. BlackBerry 10 is a decent mobile OS, and the Z10 is a well-designed smartphone, and those customers were very excited to finally have a device worthy of even being considered in the same league as the iPhone, or leading Android and Windows Phone smartphones. Once BlackBerry burns through those customers stuck in the BlackBerry ecosystem, though, there won’t be anyone left to sell to.
Actually, I take that back. That perspective is based on a US-centric view of the BlackBerry market. Although the BlackBerry market is virtually non-existent in the United States, BlackBerry is a much more popular mobile platform in other regions of the globe. Every Wednesday, BlackBerry PR sends me an update called New-App Wednesday which lists the highlights of new BlackBerry apps for the week. I’ve noticed that the list is often comprised of apps local to foreign markets like Canada, the United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Dubai. I still haven’t seen Netflix NFLX +6.55%, Pandora, Chase Bank, Skype, Fandango, or many other apps I use on iOS, Android and Windows Phone, but it seems that BlackBerry development is alive and well outside of the United States.
Is that enough to sustain the company? It doesn’t seem like it.
BlackBerry has a healthy cash stockpile, and no debt, so it probably won’t shutdown any time soon. Simple math suggests, though, that a company can only operate at a loss for so long before those reserves dry up, and it doesn’t seem like things are going to turn around for BlackBerry.
During the quarterly earnings call, BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins explained, “We’ve never been a device-only company, as we are also running a global secure data network and services business, and we don’t plan to run the company with a short-term, device-only strategy.,” adding, “What is exciting about BlackBerry today is that we’re getting very comfortable with who we are as a company and where we will fit in the market.”
What I heard was, “Don’t pay attention to the low demand and pitiful performance of the BlackBerry 10 smartphones. We’re working on an exit strategy to bail on the failed mobile platform and mobile device market, and will instead position BlackBerry as a services and mobile device management company.”
As for tablets, the BlackBerry PlayBook is no more, says the CEO. He’s unhappy with the device’s performance and is determined to focus on the company’s “core hardware portfolio”. (The company’s website no longer describes the product and only offers a software update for existing customers.)
More to the point: Who wants to buy BlackBerry (the company), for what reasons, and at what price?
Let’s back up. Last week, we heard that Microsoft had once again given up on its perennial hunt to capture a handset maker. This time, the prey was Nokia, Microsoft’s “special” Windows Phone licensee.
The official explanation for the Nokia blowup was that the price tag was too high, but price clearly wasn’t an issue. Nokia’s $14bn market capitalisation weighs in at about 5% of Microsoft’s $288bn. Even when you tack on a 25% acquisition premium, the purchase should have been reasonably easy, especially given Microsoft’s desire to take the handset business into its own hands, if only to counter (or mimic) the strategy established by Google and Motorola.
There’s really only one explanation: The engagement was dissolved because of Microsoft’s bleak view of Nokia’s business – that the Finnish company no longer has the technological acumen and brand loyalty that Microsoft needs to make Windows Phone a legitimate competitor with Android and iOS.
BlackBerry’s market capitalisation now stands at about $6bn. That’s less than half of Nokia’s. If Nokia, supported by Microsoft, can’t gain ground on Google and Apple devices, what gives us confidence that BlackBerry isn’t sliding into insignificance?
The BlackBerry name, as a brand, is strong. But a brand only exists as the carrier of a promise. A brand writes cheques that the product cashes. Without a successful product, the brand dies (go ask Kodak).
While Nokia could be acquired by someone interested in the Windows Phone business, one is hard pressed to form a similar thought for BlackBerry. It may be struggling, but there is a Windows Phone ecosystem, including handset makers. There is no such thing around BlackBerry. Developers aren’t writing apps for BB10 in ecosystem-making numbers, carriers have taken a wait-and-see posture, even the core group of dedicated users (I used to be one of them) appears to be losing faith.
This isn’t a brightly optimistic picture. Today, Blackberry finds itself caught between Samsung and Apple at the high end, and a rabidly fermenting crowd of Android (official or not) clones at the lower price range.
So, why hesitate: Ditch the newer BlackBerry OS too few developers believe in, and bet on Android devices to support BlackBerry’s enterprise services.
The answer is probably the same as it is for Nokia: It’s too late.
Despite Apple’s best and latest attempts to rejuvenate its software, and for all it’s glitz and glamour, I don’t believe that iOS 7 will change the current balance of power. My views: because it fails to address key issues which separate Apple and Android.
I know some people will argue that Apple isn’t interested in the same markets as Android, and that it’s not the company’s goal to try and please everyone, which is fair enough. But my rebuttal is that the technology industry is geting brutal day by day; it’s survival of the fittest, and those who don’t adapt will fall by the wayside.
Lets find out why Android is killing Apple………….
1 – Hardware diversity
The most obivous reason for Android’s more recent dominance in the mobile market is because the operating system is simply available to a larger number of people. Apple’s relatively high price point for its products keeps them out of reach of many consumers, especially when it comes to emerging markets. Whilst Apple is maintaining a strong market share in some of the world’s top economies, the US, Japan, Europe, etc, it’s lagging significantly behind other manufactures in other emerging markets.
Android, on the other hand, has a range of manufacturers producing a range of products. Without a central company dictating when new top of the line phones are released, Samsung, HTC, Sony, etc, are available to offer the very highest spec products as soon as new technologies become available, offering the best top of the line devices to consumers. We’ve seen over the course of just three months, faster and more powerful smartphones than ever before, whilst Apple is still stuck on last generation hardware technologies.
At the other end of the spectrum, the same companies are free to design smartphones and tablets which meet more budget price ranges, whilst still providing consumers with a decent smartphone experience thanks to the Android OS. This is proving to be a particularly strong business idea in emerging markets.
Now, whilst Apple may not be interested in lowering its price to meet the needs of these markets right now, today’s emerging markets are tomorrow’s wealthy economies. By ignoring consumers at this early stage, Apple risks facing an uphill battle against a more established brand, Android for example, if it decides to try and sell products in these markets in the future.
But it’s not just a problem with the price; Apple’s product line-up is also extremely limited for even high-end purchasers. Currently you’re stuck with a choice of just one size and spec of phone, which whilst easy for Apple to maintain, means that consumers can’t opt for a larger screen size, additional storage, or whatever other features they might prefer to have attached to their handset or tablet.
Take the Galaxy Note series of smartphones for example, they’ve proved to be extremely popular as they offer customers a unique experience which can’t be had with traditional 5 inch or smaller smartphones. Sony and HTC, amongst other companies, are eager to catch-up in the market space, but Apple’s stubbornness to keep its product portfolio small is restricting its ability to meet real consumer demand.
Similarly, smaller tablets are another prime example of Apple’s inflexibility. I’m sure we all remember Apple dismissing 7 inch tablets as too small to be useful, and then laughed wholeheartedly when the company announced the iPad Mini. Apple’s problem is that is seems to think that it can best dictate what consumers want, whereas Android lets the market decide, and recently this approach has worked very well in Android’s favour.
2 – Competition and innovation
But it’s not just a battle between Google and Apple, each manufacturer utilizing the Android operating system is in direct competition with everyone else, which had led to a much faster pace in innovation. There’s a distinct advantage in offering consumers something which they can’t get anywhere else — look at the recent top of the line Samsung and HTC products, the Galaxy S4 and the One, for example.
Now whilst you might love or hate TouchWiz or Sense, there’s no denying that both of the company’s have invested a lot of resources in improving their own handsets above and beyond the basic Android experience, in order to stand out above the competition. Consider the massive range of additional software piled in with the Galaxy S4: exercise tracking software, better multitasking functionality, and additional camera settings, amongst plenty of other things. HTC, on the other hand, has invested heavily in its BoomSound system, Sense 5, and BlinkFeed, which offers consumers a different experience to Samsung’s.
But this doesn’t just apply to software; the HTC One aimed to provide a top quality audio experience above that of Samsung’s, whereas Samsung attempted to win over some consumers with the faster Exynos 5 Octa processor. Similarly, Sony’s Xperia Z boasts extra features such as waterproofing and improved scratch resistance, something which Samsung has since copied with the Galaxy S4 Active after identifying that it was a great idea that consumers wanted.
Furthermore, the next line-up of smartphones are already gearing up to take advantage of faster processing technologies, like the Snapdragon 800, in order to place themselves ahead of the current crop of smartphones, which is possibly why we’ve been hearing rumors of a beefed up Galaxy S4 as well. It’s a constant battle to offer the best products, which is a massive win for consumers.
This level of internal competition doesn’t exist with Apple products, and it shows when you look at the much slower rate of progress taking place with the iPhone
3 – Open source, free market system
You’ve probably noticed that a lot of Android’s strength stem from its open nature, which allows third parties to do what they want with the platform in order to offer consumers products which they would like to use. This has seen Android leap ahead of iOS in recent years, and has helped the platform capture larger and larger shares of the smartphone and tablet markets, but it’s also spun off a range of entirely new products.
Android has already broken into the gaming space, in a way which Apple hasn’t even started to think about, thanks to Kickstarter projects like Gamestick and OUYA, and even projects funded by big companies like Nvidia. Nvidia Shield is an excellent example of a company utilizing Android in a fairly unique way, offering a handheld gaming platform with all the functionality of a full operating system. Apple certainly isn’t doing any of this, which again is going to introduce more and more consumers to the Android ecosystem whilst Apple remains stuck with its current clientele.
No Apple products here…
There have also been a whole range of other Android powered products which have appeared thanks to innovative third party companies. Plenty of manufacturers are now offering mini Android PCs, often in the form of a USB stick sized device, which bring computing into your living room for around $50 or less. There’s a range of Android TV products as well, which give users access to a range of media options in the living room.
We haven’t even talked about software yet, but now’s a good a time as any. Of course, Apple fans will likely say that the Google Play Store is full of rubbish apps and that the App Store takes in a lot more money, which is true, to some extent at least anyway. But firstly, the amount of money the store makes isn’t necessarily in the best interest of consumers. Android has plenty of cheap or free apps which are great, so the money issue is just a silly one.
As far as app quality goes, it’s certainly true that there are some poor quality apps on the Play Store, but it doesn’t usually take long for these to be exposed and weeded out. The rating system certainly does its job, and most of the regularly downloaded apps in the Google Store are as good as anything found in Apple’s store. In fact, the ease in which apps and software can be uploaded to the Play Store is one of Android’s strengths, as it allows developers to easily and quickly respond to consumer demand, rather than having to wait eons for authorisation from Apple.
4 – Strong developer community
This brings us neatly onto the next point, a strong and ever growing developer community.
We all know that there are a variety of custom ROMs for a start, each offering unique features, porting the default Android experience to handset which would otherwise go without, and some aiming to improve system performance. ROMs like CyanogenMod have proven hugely popular because of their punctual updates for handsets which otherwise would go without the latest versions of Android, and others like Paranoid Android are intent on innovating on the default Android experience.
Take your pick. If you don’t like your current version of Android, there are plenty of other custom ROMs available to suit your needs.
Some community driven developments, like notification features for example, have even gone on to be incorporated into official versions of Android. With more minds working on the same problem, you’re far more likely to achieve superior results than deciding everything with a select group of individuals behind closed doors.
Another example is the custom MIUI ROM, which has proven so popular that handsets pre-installed with the ROM sold out almost as soon as they were announced. Thousands of consumers with products that they want spawned from a third party developer, bringing even more consumers into the Android fold without Google having to lift a finger.
ANDROID ATTRACTS INNOVATION FROM BOTH HARDWARE AND SOFTWARE DEVELOPERS
But it’s not just customs ROMs which are helping to drive Android’s popularity. We’ve already discussed the wide range of apps available, but developers are also more than happy to work on free projects to address the needs of certain parts of the Android community.
Samsung users will probably remember the Exynos processor root exploit which was plaguing various Galaxy handsets a few months back. The problem was initially addressed and patched by members of the development community well before Samsung put out their own updates. Whilst this issue isn’t particularly a selling point for Android itself, having a development community which can access the platform so easily has a huge number of benefits above Apple’s closed platform.
Similarly, look at the new privacy tools in development by the creator of CyanogenMod. In the light of the recent NSA data collecting scandal he saw a need for greater privacy and was able to immediately begin working on addressing people’s concerns, without having to wait for an official update, if one would ever come. I love that community members can so easily be creative with the platform, and whilst it certainly won’t be a major selling point for everyone, developers are what keep the platform moving forwards, it’s another huge benefit to innovation for Android compared with iOS.
But the developer community doesn’t just benefit those who are looking to mess about with the serious stuff under the hood, there are a vast variety of more simply tweaks which most users can take advantage of. Themes are an excellent example of user created content which is easily installed on most Android devices, there are thousands of custom icon packs too, and a plethora of different launchers which help users tweak their Android experience to exactly how they like it. Android works great out of the box, but unlike Apple, Google allows us to tinker away in whatever manner we see fit, to tailor the experience to exactly what we want, and that’s a big selling point for a lot of consumers.
5 – The Google ethos
Many of the reasons Android is doing so well listed above don’t really have anything to do with Google, but that isn’t to say that the company isn’t pulling its weight. Google has created a range of free applications which improve the users experience over the default operating system, and it’s constantly trying out new ideas and scrapping old ones which don’t work.
Google’s commitment to big data also gives the company a large edge over its competitors. Over the past decade Google has undertaken a huge number of projects aimed at giving users better access to the huge amounts of information stored on the web, ranging from obvious applications like Maps, to optimizations and improvements with its search engine. Google Now is an excellent example of Google’s innovation in this space, pulling information from a much larger set of data specifically for a user when they need it.
Need something done? Google has you covered.
I suppose that this can best be summed up by Google’s willingness to experiment with various aspects of its ecosystem. Google Glass is a prime example of an idea which could well flop, but even so, the company is willing to invest time and money to see if it works. It’s this approach which has given the company a massive edge over its competitors, like Apple and Microsoft, when it comes to being on the cutting edge of web technologies. Android, as one of Google’s main projects, reaps the benefits of the company’s experimentation and innovation.
Looking at the situation in reverse, it’s hard to pinpoint anything interesting or experimental that Apple has done in recent years. The company is totally starved for unique projects by comparison, and does nothing to encourage or inspire third party development of its platform either. This can be seen in Apple’s recently rather uninspired unveiling of iOS 7, which in many ways is simply playing catch-up to Android.
To be fair, iOS 7 certainly has its good points but it’s simply not as a creative or innovative platform as Android, for all of the reasons mentioned above. Android attracts innovation from both hardware and software developers, which, in my opinion, is the main reason why our favourite mobile operating system is killing Apple.