You have to hand it to Samsung really. After getting the public to generate unprecedented buzz and pandemonium, Samsung certainly brought in the Galaxy S 4 with a bang thanks to its snazzy Unpacked 2013: Episode I event. Heck— the buzz and excitement caused not one, but two competitors to try and pour salt in Sammy’s coffee, yet Sammy wasn’t deterred. As opposed to the traditional unveilings and demos that we’re used to seeing at keynote events, Samsung instead thought about doing something ummm, “unique” or “different” to say the least by providing a variety of skits, dances and literally theatrics to introduce its new flagship. More importantly, Samsung used its brand name to be out of the box in comparison to its competitors: go into the heart of the Broadway, use one of the world’s largest stages complete with an orchestra, an MC and some sweet live performances to introduce something that is “unique” and different”.
While those of us in attendance were quite impressed (and believe us, Rob Nazarian & I were certainly entertained at the event)— the Galaxy S 4 certainly poses a significant observation of not just the Galaxy S 4, but Samsung as a brand as we know it: Samsung is utilizing the features and more importantly— the marketing of its products to sell its brand. Make no mistake about it: Samsung has made a serious transition going from what was known as a relatively unknown Korean brand to a wannabe Apple competitor to what is perhaps the most exciting and controversial brand to date. The scary thing is this— not only is the transition a success, but everyone else is now playing catchup in terms of brand recognition and excitement.
If you haven’t been living under a rock for the past few days, you’re probably well-aware of the upcoming Microsoft Surface tablet. Dubbed as one of the saviors for Microsoft’s rapidly degrading brand, the Surface tablet has already been identified as the true iPad and Android tablet challenger. With its thin profile and abundant storage space (comes in 32GB or 64GB configurations with an expandable storage slot), the Surface tablet will have at least the physical features to make it an interesting product. However, the hardware is just one aspect of the tablet— the real kicker is Microsoft’s brand-new OS: Surface for Windows RT technology. The OS will essentially mirror its upcoming Windows 8 OS, while having exclusive offerings like Microsoft Office 2013 and a special version of Netflix included with the tablet. So in essence, upcoming Surface tablet seems to be a true productivity workhorse— at least on the surface (no pun intended folks).
Now while the upcoming Surface tablet certainly looks to be an interesting and perhaps attractive product, Microsoft is treading into dangerous territory. As RIM and certainly HP can attest, Google’s Android platform has a clear stranglehold of the tablet market share— something that both the Blackberry Playbook and HP’s TouchPad certainly couldn’t achieve during their brief lives. Consumers love seeing a new product, but expect reasonable value of what a product offers. The Surface tablet is going to debut at $499 for the 32GB entry-level model– which doesn’t even include the $130 Touch Cover keyboard/cover combo that’s necessary helpful for doing all that increased productivity like using Microsoft Office 2013, as Microsoft is hyping. As indicated by numerous studies, the number of iPad and Android tablets are growing at an astronomical pace. Oh and don’t forget– newer Android tablets are being released on a seemingly daily basis and the prices of the those tablets (and subsequent accessories) are becoming much more reasonable— if not lower overall. So considering Microsoft is certainly unproven, while Apple and more importantly— Android have a clear understanding of not just what consumers want, but what consumers actually need in a tablet— Microsoft doesn’t offer any compelling reason for why consumers should give their product a try. Microsoft’s Surface tablet is a painfully basic product that has a premium price won’t even put a dent in Android sales or overall market share.
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.
In some not-so-surprising news, Android prodigy Jean-Baptiste Queru used Google+ to share why ICS has been a slow update process across all types of Android devices. He begins his opinion by referencing the Sony Tablet P getting the update in a relatively timely manner— 5 months to be exact, despite the major differences between ICS platform and Gingerbread/Honeycomb. He argues Sony has already been a major contributor to the Android Open Source Project (AOSP). They had been working with the ICS source code since it was released and essentially had fewer changes to make for its existing devices than other OEMs typically have to deal with. Essentially, Sony had a “head start” in the development for its own variation of the ICS software. Queru adds other manufacturers hasn’t been “contributing nearly as much as Sony did”, so now the other manufacturers will “have to play catch-up”.
Queru doesn’t stop there either. He stops just short of expressing his disgust and angst for Google-engineered devices not only receiving the latest ICS software build, but having any version of ICS period due to “delays introduced by operator approvals”. Perhaps he is pointing to the Verizon fiasco with the Galaxy Nexus or the lame duck excuses from carriers and their detailed update processes. Despite his feelings, he does express his excitement for Google going back to the basics and selling its Google Nexus line of devices again.
Even though Queru’s feelings are a bit of a rant, he does express what most of us already know: OEMs and more importantly, mobile carriers are seriously slacking when it comes to updating the software. Here’s hoping both will step it up when it comes to getting updates to our devices in a timely manner, just like Sony has.
source: Jean-Baptiste Queru+
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.
What does a tablet mean to you? To most, it’s something that lets you have productivity on the go— emails, social communication, reading articles and e-books, etc. Of course consumers realize it’s possible to do all that with a notebook computer or netbook. However, it’s no secret that notebooks are losing in popularity because people understand in this day and age, “less is truly more”. You could have a netbook as well, but then some individuals would be graced with keys far too small for big hands like yours truly, a small screen that’s sometimes just slightly bigger than that of a smartphone or the fact netbooks just aren’t powerful enough even to do the bare minimum like check emails, do some online chatting, etc. Manufacturers have realized consumers want something that can bring the best of both worlds and that’s why tablets have been developed now.
While Apple’s iPad is leading the revolution, it’s obvious there are many other successful tablets. There are many of you who own a tablet now and then there are many of you who will be looking to purchase a tablet in the near-future. The great thing about Android tablets is that they are a direct reflection of the Android platform in general. The Android platform allows for a variety of manufacturers to make unique and “customized” versions of the Android devices which are best suited for each user’s tastes. While there are popular options such as the ASUS Transformer Prime, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and of course the record-selling Amazon Kindle Fire, there’s one tablet that has won my heart and will continue to win my heart for the next year or two (or three or four). That tablet is the Motorola Xoom Wifi tablet. Introduced at last year’s CES, the tablet is still literally the model for which other Android tablets are developed and shaped. I will share with you all my thoughts and experience of owning this tablet. Of course many of you will disagree and want to throw in your two cents, but I just want to give you all some insights as to what the device means to me and how it fits in my lifestyle.
There’s no doubt about the impact of gaming in our society today. Much of pop culture and our social lives are impacted by gaming to a certain extent. Angry Birds went from being a small app to a pop culture reference in the form of mentions from celebrities and clothes with Angry Bird characters being sold in designer stores now as noteworthy examples. We see celebrities and famous figures discuss how they play Modern Warfare or Grand Theft Auto and the impact it’s had on their lives’, which in turn affects our lives. Let’s face it, we play games on our Android devices. What once was an afterthought because of our Sony PSPs, Nintendo DS systems, Xboxes— is now very much status quo and the norm to even the average and simplistic Android user.
The continuous advancements from the development of games allows for users to have respectable Android gaming experience at the very least. One significant thing about the Android platform is the significance of the choice of apps that users want to use: paid apps or free apps. This is especially relevant with gaming on Android. The Android platform caters to two main categories of Android gamers: the recreational gamer and the hardcore gamer. The recreational gamer (and even Hardcore gamers to a certain extent) can enjoy popular gaming series such as Angry Birds, Words With Friends and Shoot The Apple, at no cost to them generally speaking. The hardcore gamer can enjoy such games as Modern Combat 3, Grand Theft Auto III, Madden ’12 and Need For Speed just to name a few, for a premium price that is more than reasonable especially with the vast amount of content included in the various games. There’s a consensus that both gamer types love seeing games that are free, especially when they are free games that look and play at a high level. Knowing that, there’s a troubling trend growing among developers of Android games found in the Market— the “Freemium” model. Read on to find out why this is not only a bad practice among developers, but why it turns me as a gamer off to certain games, even if they look and feel great.
A recent post by Business Insider has got the smartphone world abuzz after posting the results of one of its surveys. In fact, one of the points the article is pushing is that the majority of Android users responded with “nothing, I hate Apple” as to why they wouldn’t buy an iPhone in the future. This has lead to many article being posted about how arrogant Android fans are starting to become. The typical “stigma” for Apple users is that they are stuck up and believe anything that Apple tells them (with Android users being nerds who still live in their mom’s houses). And while it’s no surprise that in the heated war between Google and Apple people would take a shot at the other one (especially on a survey that may be published). Both sides do that, and I don’t have a problem with that. You’ll always have your rock solid supporters who would take a bullet to save their ship or somehow sink the other one. Apple has them. Android has them. What I do have a problem with is when sites take advantage of peoples’ willingness to just read a headline and not actually look into the article.