Apple and a #gate

I have been actively following tech press since 2012. Noticeably every time there was a new announcement from Apple, some video or a blog would pop-up that purportedly unearthed shortcomings of that product. Latest has been about the issue of iPhone 6+ bending after applying concentrated pressure. I think this is one of the stupidest controversy, largely popularised by sites such as MacRumors, CNET, the great Boy Genius Report, YouTube, etc. News aggregator Apple Spotlight did a great job of putting together a brief history and called it iPhonegate, specifically talking about iPhone issues. But I totally fail to understand why CNET or BGR could not make a featured story out of the following articles and keep that on for a week at the top of the webpage!

Of course I would not bother to question their journalism but clearly I can see it is so easy to attract more viewers with a negative propaganda. It was not long ago that CNET found itself in a bit of a mess, and later on renowned Apple follower Daniel Eran Dilger put together an extensive story about how Apple gets bad press so often. Why would not CNET or BGR publish a featured story on Surface Pro 3 issues, the MacBook Air killer (in its previous role it was an iPad killer)?

In 2013, Apple came up with a unique polycarbonate material for iPhone 5c and a few people called that a cheap plastic. Later on, Apple was bold enough to come up with a public document for environment report of iPhone 5c. Every year Apple sells 100s of millions of iPhones, iPads and Macs. Apparently others do so as well! How about a report on environment footprint white paper like this from Samsung, LG, HTC, BlackBerry, Sony, Lenovo, Xiaomi, Microsoft and Huawei? As much as I would like all Apple products to be durable, I would also like them to recyclable and cause lesser harm to environment. Apple bothers to spend time and resources for device recyclability as we know e-waste is a huge issue.

In 2014, consumers want a thinner and lighter smartphone which is also a bit larger. Should Apple have come up with a 12mm thick smartphone, which weighs 250grams? How many of the tech press guys would want to use that? Or for that matter, which company wants to produce a brick like smartphone? Apple is a market leader in polished, high value products and those products are expected to be used in a certain way. Why would someone want to use a 6.22″ smartphone just the exact same way he/she used Sony Ericsson W700i? This year’s iPhones are bigger than ever before, and they are expected to be used differently than, say an iPhone 4s. Apple does carryout robust testing for their products and they were bold enough to show those secretive test labs. I would like to know how many of the Android OEMs can afford custom built test labs for each of their devices.

"At 275,000 employees, Samsung (just Samsung Electronics) is the size of five Googles! This explains Samsung's machine-gun-style device output; the company has released around 46 smartphones and 27 tablets just in 2014" via Arstechnica

Samsung for its part at least has a muscle power to take a jibe at Apple. But HTC and BlackBerry? They should get their Balance Sheet and Profit & Loss account in right order so that stakeholders (share holders, consumers and employees) get rewarded well enough; and then try to teach people how bad are Apple products. I feel sorry for the whole saga but these two statements sum up the story:

People really love to hate Apple. It should be considered a disorder at this point. ~ J. Gobert (@MrGobert)
About one-fifth of the people are against everything all the time. ~ Robert F. Kennedy

iPhone 6 Plus vs. BMW Car – Durability Test

Hatred Sought After

Samsung unveiled a series of devices over the past few weeks, from Samsung Galaxy Alpha to Galaxy Gear S to VR Headset. Even though they took a really long time to launch a really premium looking smartphone, at last they did with Galaxy Alpha. I have been following tech press very actively for last couple of years. Most often Samsung got a widely positive publicity and Apple had to face the negative music. iPhone 5 camera issues, the infamous iOS Mapsgate, 64-bit OS and hardware dubbed marketing gimmick, insecure/inconsistent Touch ID  and so on. However, suddenly I see the trend changing a bit. Huge buzz on internet about upcoming Apple special event on 9 September 2014 and tech press almost forgot that Samsung launched a few of the most advanced devices in their offering. In addition, Sony unveiled a few very good smartphones as well, but I do not see too many hands on reviews and first impression reports in the wild. I mean, by now, as per last year standards quite a few would have claimed Apple would be doomed with their next-gen iPhone.

Nope not this time! I speak to lots of people around and they seek my opinion on which smartphone to buy. Most often people say, iPhone is great but too expensive while  they hate Samsung! Why? Just like Tim Cook said at WWDC, they bought a Samsung phone by mistake and now do not want to buy again! Motorola and Xiaomi are creating lots of hype and selling well too.It is all hatred against Samsung and Sony. Samsung’s business relied on marketing budget instead of putting together a really stable OS. Android was technically less matured until Jelly Bean version and it was prone to device lags and OS hangs. Now that KitKat is around and TouchWiz got a bit of clean up – Samsung devices getting a bit better. Instead they made a couple of ordinary choices – competing on low price segment with which small problems triggered brand loyalty issues; and instead of understanding the issues with Android and putting lesser gimmicks they chose to include features that too many people did not use/like. Even though I personally never liked Samsung, they offer a better touch experience than many competing brands.

Press loves negative and that is what sells in their business. Galaxy Note Edge is definitely a great thing to take technology to next level. But it is a limited edition device and press coverage should be higher for Samsung to gain innovator’s tag. Samsung did not help itself when they launched sixth smart watch in 12 months, so what about customers who bought other smartwatches? Who cares, let them spend and forget – Samsung will be squeezed from everywhere – Xiaomi, Lenovo, Motorola and LG in Android space itself. Apple’s special event is getting a lot of press attention, if they live up anyway close to the buzz (which they have done so, historically), Samsung may have another couple of rough quarterly figures to report. Remember those recent wall huggers ad? Hatred based loyalty may not last long! Cannot wait to see 09.09.2014 Apple special event live stream from Flint Centre.

Year in Review: 2013 – Contribution to Future

We are through with an eventful year 2013. I didn’t manage to write the whole thing about year end review, here is a kind of look back. Usually, we cannot understand the possibility of a revolution within a span of six to eight months, and hence it’s better to ascertain the contribution to future. Lots of attempts have been made to revolutionise consumer electronics last year by various technology companies. However, not all worked well and hence we can take a look at them by events and attempts.

Biggest disappointment of the year came from Microsoft with Windows 8, and Surface line of tablets. The company took a write down of $950 millions. However the company did not give up its hardware attempt when it announced sequel to Surface line up and also acquired its Windows Phone partner Nokia in a $7.5 billion. They brought in ‘Visual Studio Anywhere’ and also a few more advancements to help programming community. In addition, Windows 8.1 was released with the start button amidst helping better hardware integration. Microsoft didn’t manage to turn search business, Bing, profitable. Windows Phone OS could not attract enough competitive developers and hence device sales numbers were relatively higher at the low end market segment only. The company failed to negotiate with Google for services on Windows Phones and hence as users are still waiting for Google maps, YouTube, Gmail, etc. Microsoft restructured itself with an objective of becoming services and devices company, like Apple. Sometime in 2014, the company will find a new CEO as Steve Balmer will leave. PC market has had another troublesome year, while recently introduced Windows 8 interface, which combined desktop as well as handheld device UI, was a major turn off amongst majority of the users. Overall, 2013 did not see much from Microsoft that could really contribute to future.

Wearable tech became a fashion especially with Apple related rumours, even though Apple did not introduce anything in the segment. Google finally introduced Google glass but the price tag of $1500 to begin with. Even with the limited availability, developers were interested for sure but either success or failure of this whole thing is definitely in years to come. Another rumour was about so called iWatch from Apple which again never materialised. However, Samsung jumped into the fray too soon with Galaxy Gear – so called smart wrist watch (in addition to gadget spamming throughout the year). However, poor implementation lead to bad press from the moment review units were distributed. Indeed there were other companies like Sony and existing player Pebble, with their version of smart watches but until now none of them are able to add realistic value to consumers. Of course, future could be bright for wearable consumer electronics with technological advancements, but nothing substantial has been in the market yet.

Curved and flexible displays in consumer electronics were introduced in 2013 by a few of the big names like Samsung, LG, etc. Unfortunately, they had no value addition to consumers and hence just came and went. Samsung Galaxy Round and LG G Flex were not technically deemed dud but found hardly any takers. Samsung continued to gadget spam the market with continuous push into new smartphones and tablets. Premium devices like Galaxy S4 and Note III received incremental updates along with bloated features such as gesture controls. Gesture controls are yet to be adopted by mass smartphone OEMs, as Android phones continued to target so called ‘mass market’ with lower price tags. Google indeed put the step forward in the right direction by announcing Android 4.4 KitKat that is designed to work well enough on 512 MegaByte RAM. The latest version of Android launched with Nexus sequel was appreciated in tech press but new products are yet to arrive from other OEM partners. There were no signs of Google looking to exercise stricter norms on Google Play and security as well as privacy concerns remained.

Apple did not get into a new category and innovation dead at Apple were making headlines nearly every week. Supply chain leaks and many other leaks weren’t really accurate. iOS 7 came out with its all new design and many handy features. Apple ignored NFC but introduced iBeacons in iOS 7. iBeacons far better than GPS and hence expected to boost location based alerts, mainly useful in shopping malls and stadiums where pinpoint accuracy is desired. The best thing about iBeacons is, the usage of BLE rather than traditional GPS. In addition, Apple introduced a new chip in iPhone 5s dubbed motion coprocessor. The chip is designed to track the movement of the device. Best case scenario are health and fitness based applications. The chip is indeed so advanced that, it can track motion of the device without draining out the battery, such as trying to catch nearby wifi when the person with iPhone 5s is travelling by car in city. Apple did couple more things with iPhone that benefits are likely to be in the coming years. Their SoC A7 is a 64 bit desktop architecture. Right now, there aren’t really too many apps that can take advantage of it. But because they’re using same SoC for iPad, the developer community can start building apps for the future. OpenGL 3 support and multi path TCP were couple more things that can help users for long time. Radical new design of Mac Pro is definitely the best consumer PC available now and it is the cheapest when compared to assembled PCs. However, not all Mac Apps are ready yet to take advantage of phenomenal performance offered. MacBook Air got a nice little processor bump that enables it last 12 hours on a single charge. iPad Air and Retina iPad Mini are the most advanced tablets around and they’re gorgeous as well. New wifi technology MIMO also enables them to transfer at substantial speed. Apple also started offering iWork and iLife suite free for all new iOS and OS X device purchases. Best of them was free upgrade to OS 10.9 Mavericks.

All in all, there were not many ground breaking announcements in 2013. But most companies continued to stick to their own methods. Google brought in lower hardware configuration for Android OEMs while Samsung continued to throw in everything to market. 2014 will be fantastic if the companies continue with their momentum they created in last 18-24 months.