Tag Archives: Mobile phones

Cheap Android phones don’t mean what you think they mean

Benedict Evans ponders the meaning of Android:

As should be obvious, this makes counting total ‘Android’ devices as though they tell you something about Google or Apple’s competitive position increasingly problematic. But to me, pointing out that ‘Android’ doesn’t necessarily competed with iPad is rather boring – what’s really interesting are the possibilities that these new economics might unlock. 

A good example is this – a 2G Android phone wholesaling for $35 (just one of hundreds). Now, stop thinking about it as a phone. How do the economics of product design and consumer electronics change when you can deliver a real computer running a real Unix operating system with an internet connection and a colour touch screen for $35? How about when that price falls further? Today, anyone who can make a pocket calculator can make something like this, and for not far off the same cost. The cost of putting a real computer with an internet connection into a product is collapsing. What does that set of economics enable? 

Benedict picks out what’s really interesting about Android, and it’s absolutely not that “80% market share” pundits keep going throwing around. The kinds of devices that Benedict describes aren’t in the same market as the iPhone: a $35 2G smartphone is as comparable to the iPhone as a Mercedes S-Class is to a Mini. Both do the same thing (carry you around), but no one who’s in the market for one of them will end up walking out of a showroom with the other. 

But what is interesting, as Benedict points out, is what a $35 Internet access device enables. When devices like this are as pervasive as a pocket calculator used to be, what does that allow us to do? Smart devices, network-enabled, which are almost cheap enough to throw away are much more interesting in the long term than expensive (but undoubtedly brilliant) devices like the iPhone. 

Microsoft’s days numbered on netbooks? Not so fast

Image representing Microsoft as depicted in Cr...

Image via CrunchBase

Michael Hickens thinks that thinks that the emergence of Android as a viable operating system on netbooks means Microsoft is in trouble:

Microsoft got away with ignoring the Web as long as everything important was taking place on the desktop (most of which it owned), but the increasing ubiquity of cloud computing, abetted by faster and increasingly ubiquitous wireless connectivity (Wi-Fi, LTE, WiMax, 4G, etc.) is bringing that era to a close. Windows may be trying to catch up, but the truth is that people don’t love Microsoft. They love Apple, they love Google, and they love Nokia. People use Microsoft because they think they have to. Or rather, they used it because they thought they had to. Them days are over, Microsoft.”

It seems to me that it’s a big jump from “people don’t like Microsoft” to “people will use an operating system designed for mobile phones with minimal application support on netbooks”. I’m just not convinced that there’s any advantage to using Android rather than something like Moblin or Ubuntu Netbook Remix. The fact that you might even be able to use Android applications on Moblin makes the point even more moot.

What’s more, Windows 7 is a very different beast on netbooks than was either Vista or XP. It’s performance and reliability is better, for one – and the interface works nicely on a small screen.

UPDATE: And it seems that Acer isn’t all that sure about Android, either. The systems it will ship will be dual-boot, with Windows XP, because “consumer acceptance of the Android platform is unclear for the time being.”

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Lewis Hamilton likes his BlackBerry Storm


Of course, I’d be surprised if he didn’t, given that Vodaphone are one of his team’s sponsors. But I’d be interested to hear from anyone who’s actually bought a Storm and used it for an extended period. While the initial reviews weren’t exactly stellar, I suspect it may be one of those phones which takes a little getting used to…

One interesting thing about this video: Lewis doesn’t really sound scripted. I have a feeling that the talented Mr Hamilton is a bit of a closet gadget freak…

UPDATE: Right on cue, James Kendrick gives a recap of his experience with the Storm, describing it as “a very capable smartphone”.

Reports of Android’s demise somewhat exaggerated

Information Week’s Eric Zeman decided that the fact he hadn’t heard much about Android on the first day of Mobile World Congress meant that the platform was in trouble:

Um. What gives? Many manufacturers have committed to the Android platform. Where are the handsets? Mobile World Congress is one of the biggest mobile events of the year. Android’s failure to show up makes me very nervous about the platform’s future.”

This got picked up by both MacDailyNews and Daring Fireball’s John Gruber, which doubtless means that thousands of Mac fans the world over will take away the idea that Android is dead.

Only one problem. Eric’s report wasn’t  accurate. Let’s look at the key bits.

“Nokia (NYSE: NOK)’s new phones don’t run Android”

This is hardly news. Nokia is a major backer of Symbian, and is hardly likely to use Google’s. Sounding surprised that Nokia isn’t using Android is a bit like being shocked that Apple isn’t – fake surprise.

“HTC also failed to announce any new Android gear. Instead, it focused on announcing two new Windows Mobile 6.5 phones”

Perhaps Eric simply missed the HTC Magic, which Vodaphone will be flogging soon. Or perhaps he just got confused because it isn’t called the G2, as was widely expected.

“LG already has picked a a smartphone platform for its future, and it isn’t Android”

This would be news to LG, which confirmed in a blog post that it will be producing an Android phone later this year. LG’s strategy seems pretty clear, as I posted yesterday: give people the option to buy pretty-much the same hardware with multiple operating systems, and see what the market decides.

Seriously, I know that it’s difficult to actually leave the hospitality room at conferences, but when a reporter writes a story like this I expect him to at least wander out and talk to someone on a booth about it. That way you’re actually giving information, rather than speculation.

UPDATE: And to add to the Android fun, Samsung has announced it will ship three phones based on the Google OS this year.

LG Arena: Fantastic hardware, slightly bonkers UI

LG has officially announced the LG Arena (not to be confused with the LG Arena in Birmingham), and accompanying it is a slightly frenetic promo video:

As with LG’s previous high-end phones, the hardware looks fantastic. There’s Dolby Mobile audio, video capable of 120fps, a five megapixel camera, and 8GB of RAM built-in. None of that is too much of a surprise: the LG Viewty that I had a look at in 2007 featured similar hardware which was way ahead of its time.

What remains to be seen is whether the new interface – dubbed “S-Class” (Mercedes, are you listening?) – makes the phone more usable than its predecessors. I found the Viewty frustrating, because I knew that the hardware was brilliant and then had to dive through twenty different menus and options to get to the feature I wanted. We’ll see if S-Class works better.

One area that I think may be an issue, though, is applications. As far as I can tell, The Arena runs Java apps on top of LG’s own OS – which means it’s unlikely to gain much mind-share from developers. And one thing that the success of the iPhone has taught us is that application support is a big selling point for smartphones. Witness the slew of announcements of new app stores from virtually everyone at MWC this week for evidence.

LG going with a more mainstream phone OS would fix this problem of course, so it’s no surprise that the GM730 – a Windows Mobile phone with S-Class – is apparently waiting in the wings. Interestingly, the company is talking up its commitment to Windows Mobile this week, despite having announced that it was  working on Android phones for launch in the second half of this year.

It will be interesting to see whether LG decides to pick one OS and run with it, or offer basically the same hardware running multiple OS’s, and see what the customers decide they want.

UPDATE: A quick confirmation that LG is still planning to produce phones based on Android appears here, for those who might think that the concentration on WinMo today means the Android plans have been ditched.

What matters most about the T-Mobile G1: no PC required

Me, for Mobile Computer Mag:

“This is clearly a window into Google’s view of the future – and it’s a scenario that probably keeps many Microsoft executives awake at night. Microsoft’s strength has always been the PC, and much of its marketing and technology has been geared to the idea of having a PC on every desktop. After all, Microsoft’s Office and Windows franchises – the company’s cash (sacred) cows – depend on it.”

Both Microsoft and Apple see the mobile phone as an adjunct to the PC. Because Google has built the software inside the T-Mobile G1 to sync only with its servers in the cloud, this model is broken. The mobile phone gets set free.

Within a few years, I can see a large chunk of people not having their own “personal” computer, but instead relying on their phone for email, web, social networks, and so on. Oh sure, they’ll use PCs – but why would you need your own when all your data lives in the cloud, and you can access that from any machine?

Next quarter may be good one for Apple in European smartphone market

While the iPhone has been the big smartphone hit in the US, in Europe/Middle East/Africa (EMEA) Nokia continues to lead the pack, with a market share figure of 71.2% according to the latest figures for Q2 2008 by Canalys.

BlackBerry-maker RIM and Windows Mobile specialist HTC are in second and third place, with 7.2% and 7% respectively. Motorola and Samsung follow these two with 3.4% and 3.2%, while “Others” – including Apple – combine together to reach 8%.

However, it could be good news for Apple next quarter:

“Both HTC and RIM have been making steady progress toward the one million shipments per quarter mark in EMEA and are now very close to each other in market share terms, but it is possible that they will be overtaken by Apple in Q3 following the launch of the iPhone 3G in many countries in the region.”

That, of course, implies that Apple will go from a market share of less than 3% to over 7%, which would be impressive growth. It would also be an indication that the iPhone has really arrived as a worldwide competitor.