Tag Archives: iPhone

Samsung’s road to smartphone dominance is a dead end

How many stories in the tech press have you read over the past year which posited a theory of Apple being in trouble? Tens – probably hundreds of articles have appeared which put forward the idea that Apple’s needed to move the iPhone downmarket and create a cheaper version to gain market share. Failure to do this means doom.

So let’s take a look at a company which has followed exactly this plan, competing at every level of the smartphone market from cheap devices for the masses through to expensive, high-end phones: Samsung.

Samsung’s earnings are out, and they’re not pretty:

“Earnings will remain stagnant this year as the explosive growth of the past two to three years seems to have ended,” said Lee Sun Tae, a Seoul-based analyst at NH Investment & Securities Co. “Although the lower-end smartphone market will continue to grow, the scale of profit from that segment doesn’t compare to the high-end market so the growth seems limited.”

Samsung’s problem is simple: at the low end it is being squeezed out of existence by low-name and no-name Chinese manufacturers, all happy to stick “good enough” Android on their phones with no costly extra software. Although the company has tried to differentiate its products by value-ended extras and services, for price-conscious consumers these are meaningless or, in some cases, a turn-off.

At the high end, it is being squeezed by Apple, which has proved it can compete in any market.

If you want to make a comparison to the PC market, Samsung is like IBM was: a “quality brand” producing products which aren’t sufficiently different from cheaper commodity players like Dell. In the smartphone market, for Dell read Lenovo or (long term) Xiaomi.

Why single sourced rumours about Apple should be taken with a pinch of salt

You know, if you wanted two paragraphs to sum up the perils of tracking Apple’s supply chain ‘build plans’, they would be these:

In Nov. 2011 DigiTimes reported that Apple had “slashed” orders for iPhone 4S parts 10% to 15% — a report that generated a flurry of doomsday headlines (Uh-Oh: Apple Said To Cut Orders To Asia Suppliers On iPhone 4S Problems” from Business Insider’s Henry Blodget) and persuaded many on Wall Street that Apple was headed for disappointing Christmas sales.

As it turned out, the company shipped a record 37 million iPhones that Christmas quarter, up 128% year over year.

It needs saying again… and again… and again… single sourced stories just aren’t reliable. 

Why comfort and familiarity are features

Techpinions – It’s Good to be Back on the iPhone:

Often I heard the battle cry from the Android community complaining that the iPhone 5 was just not innovative enough and lacked many of the cutting edge features common on Android smartphones. Many with that sentiment miss an important perspective, one that I truly didn’t fully grasp before using Android for a length of time. This perspective is that comfort and familiarity are actually features. And I would argue that for many consumers comfort and familiarity are just as valuable as a cutting edge spec is to others.

Newness for newness’ sake isn’t innovative – it’s destructive to value, because it places the user in unfamiliar territory. And when you force users to make a big leap by learning large changes to the user interface in one go, inevitably some of them will look at the new interface you’re trying to adopt and wonder why, if they’re going to have to relearn a load of stuff anyway, they shouldn’t just jump to another platform.

What I find interesting, too, is that its the same people who are currently slamming Microsoft for abandoning (effectively) the Windows 7 interface with Metro who are also slamming Apple for not abandoning the familiar, well-worn app launcher interface on iOS.

Whoa. IPhone accounts for more than 80% of AT&T smartphone sales

IPhone accounts for more than 80 percent of AT&T smartphone sales:

AT&T posted its fourth quarter results for 2011 on Thursday and highlighted smartphone sales in particular, which reached a record high of 9.4 million devices, beating the standing company record by 50 percent. Apple should be very happy with those results, too, since 7.6 million, or 80.9 percent, of those smartphones were iPhones.

So 80% – eighty per cent! - of the smartphones AT&T sold were iPhones. More than 50% of the smartphones Verizon sold were iPhones. Yes, this was a quarter with a fair amount of pent-up demand for iPhones, given the “delay” to the iPhone 4S, but remember that phone buyers tend to have to wait until their contracts run out before buying – something which tends to smooth out the spikes a little.

UPDATE: As the inestimable Richard Gaywood pointed out to me on Twitter, this is conflating two types of figure: 9.4m smartphone sold and 7.6m iPhones activated. You might not think there’s much difference, but there is: activations include second-hand iPhones, hand-me-downs, and so on. That doesn’t meant that Apple didn’t make AT&T very happy bunnies, but it does mean that it’s less than 80%. How much less? No one outside of AT&T really knows.

(Via jkOnTheRun)

Everything looks obvious in hindsight

Jim Dalrymple:

Technology companies these days are scared to death to make a product that varies too far from Apple does because they fear being left behind. Some companies even go so far as to say that Apple’s inventions were inevitable — if that’s the case why weren’t they done before?

Indeed. Everything looks obvious in hindsight. And it’s fear that makes companies copy, rather than laziness or stupidity. It’s not that companies like Samsung are bad (I love Samsung TVs, for example), it’s simply that when you’re playing catch-up, sometimes the best first step simply to stay in the game is to copy what other people are doing, and rely on customers who want options. In the long run, it will hurt you: but when a company launches a product that creates or redefines an entire category, it’s better to stay in the game with a me-too product in the short term.

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Why can’t anyone match the iPad?

To put it simply no one can match the iPad because no one can match Apple’s prices with a tablet that matches its features:

When better equipped (though bulkier) netbooks can be had for $250, tablet-makers need to set their sights below $200. There is just one problem: the cost of the components currently used comes to more than that. According to the market research firm iSuppli, the basic TouchPad cost Hewlett-Packard $306 to build.

At the moment, as The Economist correctly points out, Google’s strategy isn’t working either:

But the ultimate killer feature that Android and other tablets have failed to replicate is the care Apple took from the start to ensure enough iPhone applications were available that took full advantage of the iPad’s 9.7-inch screen. Today, over 90,000 of the 475,000 applications available online from Apple’s App Store fully exploit the much larger screen size. By contrast, only a paltry 300 or so of the nearly 300,000 apps for Android phones have been fully optimised for the Honeycomb version of the Android operating system developed for tablets—though many of the rest scale up with varying degrees of success.

There simply isn’t enough incentive at the moment to develop applications which fully take advantage of Honeycomb. And Google doesn’t appear to be pushing developers to do it.

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Android fragmentation

MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA - FEBRUARY 02:  Photos of Go...

Image by Getty Images via @daylife

Nick Bradbury, author of the very fine FeedDemon, on learning Android and “the fragmentation thing“:

Of course, I can’t write my first post about Android without mentioning its supposed “fragmentation” problem. It is a problem, but it’s mostly blown out of proportion. Desktop developers have always had to create software that works across different OS versions, different devices and different screen sizes, so the fact that you have to do that on Android isn’t a big deal. But it is a big deal when different Android devices handle things differently – video playback and recording, for example, are challenging due to device differences, and getting video streaming to work reliably across devices feels impossible (as Netflix discovered).

Nick, I think, gets this right. Fragmentation is real, but developers deal with it.

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The unedifying arrogance of PC journalists

Barry Collins is angry. Specifically, Barry is almost splenetic about what he sees as “Apple’s unedifying arrogance” in its response to the brouhaha over the database which your iPhone carries of locations.

In particular, Barry is vexed over what he sees as Apple’s slipperiness over whether it’s tracking your location, describing its explanation as…

“at best, a distortion of the truth. Yes, the iPhone may only be plotting the location of Wi-Fi hotspots and 3G cell towers, but that’s often more than enough to build up an accurate picture of your whereabouts.”

Sorry, Barry, but that’s utter nonsense.

If I say to you “I’m tracking the location of your phone” that suggests that I have data from your phone which shows your location, tied to you (or rather, to your phone).  But no information which is identifiable to you or your phone is transmitted to Apple. The data which is sent to Apple isn’t tied to anything identifiable about your particular phone.

As Apple puts it:

“This data is sent to Apple in an anonymous and encrypted form. Apple cannot identify the source of this data.”

Therefore, Apple is not tracking the location of your phone. It’s really as simple as that.

Remember, too, that the majority of the data in the consolidated.db database isn’t actually from your phone – it’s downloaded from Apple’s servers to your phone to speed up the process of any app which calls CoreLocation to determine where you are (which apps do with your explicit consent).

To quote Apple’s release:

“This data is not the iPhone’s location data—it is a subset (cache) of the crowd-sourced Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower database which is downloaded from Apple into the iPhone to assist the iPhone in rapidly and accurately calculating location.”

And there would be no way for someone who gets hold of your phone, jailbreaks it, and grabs than database to determine which was data originating from you, and which from Apple. So they best “location” they could get for you is effectively regional in scale: it can tell you roughly whereabouts you tend to go, but not in a way which lets you determine when exactly you went there or even if you’ve ever been to a particular place.

Of course, the real “unedifying arrogance” that Barry is bothered about isn’t really that of Apple towards consumers:

“And what’s all this about “very complex technical issues” that are “hard to communicate in a soundbite”? That’s a bit rich from the company that sprinkles soundbites like confetti in keynote speeches, describing its iPad as “magical” without revealing even the most basic of specs – like how much memory the tablet has.

Give us as much technical detail as you like, Apple: we can handle it. If we get stuck, we can even pick up the phone and ask your press officers, in the unlikely event they’ll ever answer a question.” [My emphasis]

Aha. There you have it. The reason that Barry – and plenty of other tech journalists – call Apple arrogant is mainly because Apple doesn’t jump when the journalists tell them. Apple, in fact, has a very bad reputation amongst tech journalists for being one of the least responsive companies out there. And that reputation is, I can tell you from years of experience, entirely justified.

But in this case, I think it’s not really relevant. Apple took its time, determined what the issue was and how they could fix it, and spoke clearly about what the problem was. There really isn’t much more to say about it.

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Apple is dead in the water, redux

Charles Arthur, reporting for The Guardian on an IDC/Appcelerator survey of developers:

“App developer interest is shifting back toward Apple as fragmentation and “tepid” interest in current Android tablets chips away at Google’s recent gains in momentum, according to a new survey of more than 2,700 developers around the world.

In the survey, 91% of developers said they were “very interested” in iPhone development, and 86% said the same for the iPad. For Google, interest in Android phone add development fell 2 points to 85%, and for tablets – particularly Honeycomb – down three points to 71%, after having risen 12 points in the first quarter. The figures are within error margins for the survey, but don’t match the growing interest that has been seen in Android over the past year.”

Seems like developers didn’t get Fred Wilson’s memo, or heed the advice that iPhone was “dead in the water” from Henry “Screw the SEC” Blodget.

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