The Galaxy S III, Samsung’s flagship phone for the year, is ready as ever for its American debut. For the first time ever, Samsung’s Galaxy S line has uniformity within all of US carriers. This means every Galaxy S III in America will look the same and will actually have the same name. This means no more of that added Epic 4G Touch and Skyrocket discrepancies within the names. So you can bet that Samsung is ready to market this phone out like it has never before. This video from Samsung kicks off the start of this marketing campaign with Samsung proudly touting the multi-tasking king that is the “pop-up video” feature where the actor is texting and watching a video at the same time. Checkout the video and see for yourselves! Does this make you even more excited for its pending US release?
I live and work in that area of Northern California known as Silicon Valley… the center of tech innovation. Since I moved out here in 1996 I’ve been working in the tech industry and have seen many a technology come and go, from Palm Pilots to Pocket PC’s to Blackberries.
The Fruity Revolution
Once Apple redefined the smartphone in 2007, the mobile landscape started to change. Gone was the vast variety of feature phones and PDA’s as more and more people got iPhones. Apple essentially redefined what a smartphone should be. There’s no disputing that fact. And for the longest time, Apple had no real competition, allowing them to saturate the market with their devices and increase the mind share of their mobile brand.
The Green Robot Wars
Seemingly out of nowhere in 2008, Google came out with their first public iteration of the Android mobile operating system, known as Cupcake. It was showcased on the now historic G1, a QWERTY slider on T-Mobile in the United States, also known as the HTC Dream elsewhere. It didn’t exactly take the mobile world by storm, but it was a very important release since it showed a glimmer of possible competition to the OS from Cupertino.
Three years later, Android has grown tremendously through follow-up releases Donut, Eclair, Froyo, Gingerbread, Honeycomb, and now Ice Cream Sandwich. Android is in its fourth major release and has matured to a mobile OS that rivals the Apple juggernaut. As a matter of fact, it has now surpassed iOS in market share worldwide. With over 900,000 daily activations, Android is still growing and its app ecosystem is robust.
There’s no question that right now the top two phones to buy are the HTC One X and the Samsung Galaxy S III, but they won’t be so popular 6 months from now. It won’t be because better handsets will be released, it’s more about Android version updates or lack thereof. Both phones come with Ice Cream Sandwich onboard, and for now seem like the latest and greatest. A little later in the year, Android 5.0 Jelly Bean will be announced and the SDK will be released. This will probably take place in October, and unfortunately neither of these phones will see Jelly Bean until at least March/April 2013. If you’re in the U.S. the prospects are even more dismal. So for now everyone is enjoying their new greatness, but come November, the crying and complaining will begin about why their phone isn’t getting updated.
In case you’re thinking that things will be different, unfortunately we go through this every year, and to be honest, things aren’t getting better, they’re getting worse.
The great thing about today’s technology is the ability to choose from a variety of mobile carriers to best suit our needs. That means some of you can choose Verizon Wireless for example because of great nationwide coverage and the solid 4G LTE speeds. Others choose AT&T because of the ever-improving 4G LTE network or great selection of mobile devices. The rest choose networks like Sprint and T-Mobile because of their great all-everything value which is price-conscious for consumers. Keep in mind I didn’t mention regional carriers like U.S. Cellular or Cincinnati Bell, which also give great value for customers (albeit at the cost for great coverage in one region of a country, but lackluster coverage elsewhere).
While there’s a great abundance of mobile providers to suit our needs, there’s a growing sense of frustration and anger at the mobile carriers because of the idea that they are not focusing on great customer service, but rather focused on consolidating features— while increasing the overall costs for the consumers. Unfortunately, consumers in this day and age feel as if they are at the mercy of these providers, so they lock themselves into 2-year contracts and can potentially pay thousands of dollars for cellphone service. The effect you see from this is two fold: 1) By locking themselves into a commitment, customers are stuck with devices that often lose support from not only the cellphone carrier, but the manufacturer as well. 2) The average customer doesn’t come even close to using their max totals allowed in their cell plans (an example is using just 40 minutes out of 400 anytime minutes or 1GB of data out of 2GB in a billing month), so they waste precious dollars. It certainly isn’t far-fetched to believe consumers are being taken advantage of by the big companies, especially in these trying times of economic recession and recovery worldwide. Naturally, there are plenty of individuals who have had enough of contracts completely and not have not only gone the prepaid route, but are completely satisfied by the decision. For this reason, I believe it’s necessary for not just Android users— but any smartphone user to at least understand why prepaid mobile service may not be such a bad thing.
Choice is a wonderful thing, for many of us it’s probably the primary reason we own an Android phone in the first place. Speaking of which, it’s hard to beat that initial feeling when you get a brand new device. You remove it carefully from the box, peel off the plastic screen protector and admire it as it gleams spotlessly in your hands. Keeping your phone in such pristine condition throughout its life isn’t easy; however there are numerous solutions on the market that can help. The question is which solution works best? A quick search on the website of any mainstream tech retailer will bring up hundreds of sleeves, pouches, wallets, skins, cases and films. Would you prefer leather, suede, neoprene, plastic, rubber or even “invisible”? I’ve tried various solutions over the years with mixed results.
I’ve been a mobile phone connoisseur since the mid 90’s when Nokia ruled the roost. My trusty 3330 would be thrown in my pocket alongside my keys, coins and wallet without a care in the world. The one and only time I dropped it, I simply popped into town and bought a new exchangeable cover; job done. It was one of my early ventures into the smartphone world that made me re-evaluate the benefits of phone protectors. Back in 2004 I bought a sim-free iMate Jam (HTC Magician) and paid £500 cold hard cash. The store I purchased it from suggested a leather case for protection, which I decided to go for as I could definitely see the benefits. The case in question was a classic design which anyone who has been using phones or PDA’s for a number of years will definitely be familiar with. A couple of pieces of black leather on the front and back, joined by a few strips of black, elastic material with a leather ‘lid’ that folds over the top and sticks in place by way of some velcro tabs. If my memory serves me right, I think it even had a belt clip on the back (did anyone actually use those?). There was no question that this case would protect the phone. The problem was that the iMate Jam was a hefty old device. It was made of metal, as thick as a yellow pages directory and could probably have been used to anchor a small boat. Putting this phone in such a rugged case made it virtually impossible to pocket. It didn’t take long before I ditched the case and it also didn’t take long for me to regret that decision. On a visit to my parents’ house, the iMate was sitting in my shirt pocket. I bent down to pick something up and out it flew dropping a few feet onto the slate finished kitchen floor. I’d gained a sizable dent on the bottom corner and clearly some kind of loose connection somewhere as the device would perform a master reset every time I pressed the top half of the screen. Lesson learned.
I’m sitting here today with my Galaxy Nexus by my side with its wonderful 4.65″ HD Super AMOLED display and I’m feeling a bit of tech envy towards the 4.8″ display that’s set to arrive when the Galaxy S III hits the shelves. I’ve had some hands on time with the HTC One X and its 4.7″ screen and Motorola’s current flagship device, the Droid RAZR, offers up a 4.3″ display. It seems that most Android phone manufacturers are of the view that bigger is better and with the runaway success of devices such as Samsung’s Galaxy Note, it would appear that they might be right.
Been surfing on YouTube lately? If you have, you may have come across a video series where user wicked4u2c has made up around 100 videos showing the flexibility of Google’s Android OS vs Apple’s iOS. The video below demonstrates several pieces of functionality that may cause you to perform more steps than is necessary when using Apple’s iPhone. The videos were created to combat the notion that “The iPhone just works” and “the UI is much more simpler”. While I may give them that that many applications for iOS are indeed “polished”, I believe it’s extremely far and beyond from being a “simpler” UI than Android. I know due to the fragmentation of Android, not every version of the OS may be as intuiitive as we’d like, ICS included, however, that being said, the iPhone is nowhere near as easy to use when it comes to executing various functions than an Android device, as you’ll see in the segment below. When it comes down to it, you can’t beat a good o’l fashion side by side comparison. Check out the video below and don’t forget to let us know what you think in the comments.
After using an iPhone for 30 days, I realized that Android has a much more polished UI and more intuitive features. Things were much more difficult to do on the iPhone then they were on Android. This is the reason why I created this video series. I want to show the flexibility on Android compared to iOS.
When it comes to smartphones, Android competes very well with the iPhone. In fact, I think it’s a much better experience, but when it comes to tablets, I hate to admit it, Android is losing. The problem has never been the hardware, it’s the availability of quality apps. Automatically the assumption is that fragmentation is the problem, but fragmentation is an issue with phones, and yet quality apps aren’t a major issue. so why hasn’t developer support transferred to tablets? Well lets first start with a little history.
Back in late 2009, Android phones seemed far behind the iPhone, but then things changed in a hurry. Even though Android’s first phone, the G1, was introduced in 2008, things didn’t get cooking until the DROID debuted on Verizon in late 2009. From that point forward the Android world really started to multiply by numbers even I couldn’t imagine. I remember when I bought my DROID, people would say there aren’t any apps available on Android to speak of. Things changed dramatically, and by the end of 2010, the iPhone didn’t have much of an advantage when it came to apps.
It doesn’t appear that Android tablets are enjoying the same kind of success. Although the Motorola XOOM, technically wasn’t the first Android tablet, it was what really started a wave of tablets with the OS about this time last year. One could argue that it’s only been one year, and look what happened to Android phones in its second year. The problem with that theory is that the success of Android phones was actually an advantage for tablets to get a better kick-start. Actually in terms of sales, Android isn’t doing so bad. According to the IDC, Android tablet market share for the 4th quarter of 2011 was 44.6%. That’s actually very good, but somehow things don’t seem that close.
We all know Android devices are powerful, really powerful. However, Android owners will always encounter resistance and claims from competing platforms such as iOS or RIM to stake a claim of arguing its devices are more effective and powerful than their Android counterparts. Returning to the competition party is the Windows Phone platform. Although wildly unpopular and continuously dwarfed by its competition, the platform has its eyes on taking back the lost marketshare while giving Android specifically a run for its money. Microsoft created an interesting phone competition called the Windows Phone Challenge (also called Smoked By Windows Phone) which essentially tests to see if an Android or iPhone owner’s device is faster than Windows Phone-based devices. A casual challenger decided to go out and test the challenge for fun.
Ah yes, the variation of the Android platform. Some people love it while others hate it. Let’s face the cold, hard truth about Android: it’s an open-source platform in which any individual can take the basic source, tweak it a little and truly make it their own. Similarly manufacturers can take the basic open source and throw it onto all sorts of devices with all sorts of hardware configurations. What do both amateur developers and established manufacturers of Android devices have in common? Each want to develop and create an end result or product that is “unique” and more or less different from its competition, while also providing a need for its customers and consumers. Amateur developers have a different perspective from both the engineers/developers at Google and OEMS– that’s to take the Android platform which notoriously omits items such as built-in functions like the ability to take screenshots and make it available for all. OEMs and manufacturers conversely see the bare Android platform as too basic and will slap on enhanced features such as social communication widgets. Independent/amateur developers and OEMs/manufacturers have different visions, but again— they’re looking at the bigger goal of answering what they perceive to be Android customer’s need ands try to address them.
What Android users truly want or need can be subjective and there’s no real right or wrong answer. However, we all believe Android’s benefit to users involve the freedom of choice. There are a myriad of options prospective and interested consumers can look into when it comes to manufacturers. For those who want a simple phone which allows for web browsing, messaging (texting and Twitter) and basic phone calls, there are a ton of budget options such as the Pantech Burst smartphone. For others who are interested in watching videos, listening to music or gaming on the go, there are other devices which feature dual-core processors with built-in GPUs such as the HTC Rezound. Whatever it is a prospective user is interested in, they’ll find what they want. Now suppose I ask this question to you: considering Android is truly an open platform, is it fair that manufacturers generally market devices with various hardware profiles, but only one UI option? More importantly, what is the benefit of having an Android device with a custom UI and would manufacturers and ultimately consumers be better off having the option to choose between a device with a custom skin or no skin at all? I personally believe that not only is it unfair for OEMs to market most devices with custom skins, but also marketing devices with no skins may be a financial benefit as well as positive perception from the various levels of the Android community.