Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Google's incredible new Nexus range

Much of the tech world waited in anticipation for Google's launch event on Monday only for it to be postponed because of Hurricane Sandy. We weren't left hanging though. Google gave us plenty to talk about by announcing the new Nexus range. And even the most optimistic Android fans were rendered speechless by what was announced.

Okay, our expectations were high but, in short, Google announced a series of the best spec models available, for an outrageously reasonable price. I mean, beyond anything we could have imagined.

Let's start with the Nexus 4 Phone - by far the most exciting announcement on Monday.
This phone packs a quad-core processor, 8 megapixel camera, 2GB RAM and a 4.7" high-res screen with Gorilla Glass. That's not all either; the Nexus also has NFC capability alongside wireless charging and HDMI output. All this for £239 (8GB version) or £279 (16GB version) - less than half the cost of the now inferior Samsung Galaxy S3 and iPhone 5. Seriously, I'm not joking about those prices!
Sold? You should be.

It's not all amazing though, Google have missed off LTE (4G for us in the UK) on the Nexus 4. A shame considering everything else is brilliant but that it wont matter too much. I'm also not a huge fan of Android devices following the Apple-route of not offering expandable memory. This is the situation with the Nexus 4 and whilst the memory won't be a problem at 8GB or 16GB, I like having the option. Let's be honest, for the cost of the Nexus 4 we can have few complaints over what are absolutely minor faults.
       Il be the first to admit I was slightly disappointed to see LG given the Nexus phone but every LG weakness will be covered for by Google on the Nexus Phone. LG make superb hardware and that is what they are being used for here. What's not to like?

So what else did Google announce? Well they've released the 32GB version of the Nexus 7. Okay - not particularly exciting but again the excitement comes through the subsequent pricing. Google have hit bang on the pricing note with the Nexus 7. A few days after Apple announced the iPad Mini at a premium price, Google drops the price of the superior Nexus 7 (16GB) to £159 - £110 less. All of this right before Christmas. In my eyes it's gone from being a contest to Game-Set-Match to Google in the 7" tablet sector. Why would you buy an inferior product for closing in on double the price? Okay, it's not that simple. I'm not including convenience of staying with iOS for example, but the pricing will really make consumers take a step back and consider whether it's worth £110 for convenience, especially on the 7" tablet.
      The Nexus 7 32GB version is £40 more - and if you want one compatible with mobile internet it will cost you £40 more. That is still only £239! An absolute dream. Complete bargain.

I guess the weakest launch in the new Nexus range is the Nexus 10 tablet. Now let me clarify, this is not weak because the Nexus 10 is a poor product, far from it. This is a spec-packed piece of kit but my disappointment is that it's been priced at the same as the iPad. When they've priced the Nexus phone SO competitively, why not do the same with the tablet where, let's face it, Android is still struggling. Anyway, consumers should still be wowed by what is on offer: Dual-core Exynos 5 chip supported by 2GB RAM. In addition the Nexus 10 has an extremely high-res screen with Gorilla Glass alongside NFC, both-facing cameras and a 9hr battery life.

Now its over to Google to market the Nexus range effectively. Up til now the Nexus phone in particular has been the toy for the more tech-minded. Google needs to convince the mass-population to join in. Given what is on offer and the price listed; this should not be difficult. I'll be sitting on my hands for a little while to stop me from buying the set!!

Comments and thoughts welcome. Will you be buying? Which item are you most impressed with? Have I been too positive about it all? 

If you like what you read I would love a follow!


Sunday, 28 October 2012

Windows 8 - My initial impressions

As soon Microsoft launched into the their biggest keynote for 10 years, I was downloading Windows 8. Why? Intrigue mainly. Windows 8 is, if you want it to be, different - fresh and I was excited about experiencing a new OS. After the fairly lengthy update I was thrown into colour, vibrancy and simplicity. The OS is clean, crisp, slick and sleek. To say I was excited by what I saw is perhaps an understatement. In this blog I will briefly talk through my initial impressions, thoughts and difficulties.

One irritation I've had so far is the integration with Hotmail and Microsoft accounts. I, like many others, lost faith in Hotmail and although I've heard they've upped their game (and the new interface in is nice) I'm not going back from Gmail. However, once synced with your normal accounts the OS lends itself beautifully to instant interaction. I also found some of the Microsoft-specific apps (photos, people etc) felt slow to begin with but it seems that was mainly because they were syncing. After that, they have been quicker, but the loading still seems a bit laggy. I haven't had time to look into it yet but I'm sure there is a way of changing this. I think its simply a long 'loading screen'. The good side of this is that what lies behind this wait is great. The music 'app' is wonderful, as is the new 'people' section.

I will admit to being a bit bemused initially. Don't get me wrong, everything is very accessible, but as a hardened Windows-desktop user, the new formats and locations were a bit confusing. I also haven't had the time to delve into the Windows Store but the ability to include 'apps' and tools (not too dissimilar to those on a mobile device) on a PC is an exciting prospect.

The real beauty of Windows 8 is that it genuinely satisfies the inner explorer whilst allowing you the safety and familiarity of the Windows desktop.

It's too early to properly judge Windows 8 but I can honestly say that I can only see myself enjoying it more and more. There will definitely be teething problems for consumers trying to adjust but it won't take long before it becomes engrained and actually the accessibility is at your fingertips. I wouldn't urge everyone to instantly upgrade just yet though. Take your time and test it out, it may not be for you and Windows 7 is a brilliant OS anyway.

Early days but the future seems bright for Windows 8!

Have you downloaded it? What are your thoughts? Or are you considering upgrading? Would love to hear your thoughts or questions. Give me a follow if you fancy it!

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

The iPad Mini and Apple's other surprises

(Anyone think it looks a lot like the Galaxy Note? Also - these slogans are getting ridiculously bad)

A friend of mine (and big Apple fan) said - before the launch - that he believed the iPad Mini was pointless. I didn't agree. I believe a 7" tablet does hold a practical and financial benefit to a consumer and Apple offering a cheaper alternative to the iPad for consumers is the right move. If you've got an iPad you don't need the Mini but for many, the iPad Mini should be the affordable option. However - £269 at the cheapest end!? What were they thinking? Many consumers were waiting around for the iPad Mini before buying the Nexus 7 and I would assume that they had expected a more competitively priced option - perhaps up to £200. It smells of Apple just grinding out another £70 because of the label. In my opinion consumers willing to spend £269 should seriously consider go the whole way and just buy an old iPad 2/3. It seems the investors agree. Kevin Cook from Yahoo Finance summarised

"But when the slide of pricing schemes for the iPad Mini were shown, the stock dropped hard and fast, trading from above $629 down to $622 in only 3 minutes on over 800,000 shares."

What is good is that we now have a direct comparison and competition to the Nexus 7 which I said we needed before it could be judged properly.


So the Google Nexus 7 has more power, an HD screen and a quad-core processor - all for cheaper. Okay, the iPad Mini has a bigger screen, offers more storage (at about £100 quid an upgrade) and is a bit lighter but still; is that worth the hike in cost? That's up to you to decide I guess.
     We all know it'll sell, and it'll sell well, but, in a straight up comparison with the Nexus 7 - it loses in my opinion.

Anyway what else did Apple announce? Controversially Apple have unveiled a new 4th gen. iPad which also ceases all production of 'the new iPad' which was just 6 months old. This has angered many consumers who, after investing a lot of money, have now seen a newer model soon after their purchase. Now with any other company this wouldn't necessarily be seen as controversial but because of Apple's 18 month 'cycle' this is peculiar. So what does the iPad 4 boast? Apple is shouting about the new iPad having retina display...even though the iPad 3 did as well... The processor is apparently twice as fast without affecting battery-life, 4G is now for everyone and the cameras have improved. All round, good improvements.

Apple also announced an impressive new 13" MacBook Pro (good specs but for a whopping price) and a beautiful new iMac (it really is beautiful):

Lots of excitement! Next up Microsoft take the stage on Friday....

As always, thoughts and criticisms encouraged! If you enjoyed my blog or want to follow for more debates, please do so! 

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Microsoft Surface: How good can it be?

Microsoft have just released the pricing for their iPad competitor - 'Surface' and it makes good, but not great, reading for consumers. For around 399 quid users can pick up a keyboard-less Surface tablet (available for another 60-odd quid) which boasts a 32GB hard-drive, and 2GB memory - both are double that of the new iPad and for cheaper. A 64GB model is also available for another 60-70 quid.

But is it worth it? The tablet itself is powerful, durable and the OS will adapt well for use on a tablet. Microsoft have clearly looked at the tablet market and tried to place the Surface directly between a smartphone and a desktop - almost to the point of it functioning like a laptop. In fact, much of the Surface speaks 'a new laptop'. The screen is 10.6" corner to corner but the resolution is basic. The Surface has a USB port, can host external hard-drives and can charge your phone! It is also compatible with everyday-use items such as printers etc. The little built in kick-stand is a great, practical addition. In fact, much of the Microsoft Surface screams practicality.
      This brings me onto the cover - that doubles as a keyboard. Now I brought a foldable keyboard for my netbook a while back and it was just a nightmare to use but I will reserve judgement on the Surface keyboard-cover until I can have a go. If it can match the responsiveness of the keyboard on my Motorola Xoom then it should be pretty good!

(That is the head of Windows using the Surface RT as a skateboard... Yeh...pretty strong!)

Pre-orders in the US for the $499 model have sold out - but that doesn't necessarily mean anything. We need to wait until the launch of the Surface on the 26th October before we can see how the Surface is selling - and indeed how well it can be used on a day-to-day basis. What is important to note is that Microsoft are going for this. They are ambitious - apparently trying to build 5 million of the Surface before the end of the year... That is ambition, especially with Apple releasing the iPad Mini soon.

Simply, the success of Microsoft Surface rests largely on the consumer adoption of Windows 8. As I've blogged already - I think this will be a slow but steady process and it may surprise a few with adoption rates but it wont be overnight. If Microsoft can encourage more consumers to upgrade and test out Windows 8 then all devices running the similar operating systems will benefit because the familiarity with the OS will allow more consumers to take the plunge into Windows phones and, the Surface. 
     This is where I think Microsoft have done fairly well. I will certainly be upgrading my new Asus X501a (along with doubling the RAM to 8GB!! :) ) as soon as possible mostly for intrigue but this is helped because of the offer to upgrade new Windows 7 computers for £15 is too good to miss. However I would completely understand many with older Windows 7 cpus not bothering spending the 25 quid as Windows 7 is a very good OS anyway. I believe that £25 may be pushing it for many people who don't want to bother with the hassle. Anyone running anything older than Win7 should definitely look at upgrading, especially if you're running Vista. 

If Microsoft could have offered an even wider, cheaper upgrade to Windows 8 then, although they would take an initial hit, they, and the Windows 8 platform, would be benefiting in many other ways. Give everyone the option to upgrade for 10 quid and most would go with 'yeh, why not'. That would certainly rapidly help the much needed adoption of the Windows OS on mobile devices such as the Surface.

(The Surface advert - "The Surface Movement")

As always - thoughts and challenges encouraged! Also, I'd love if you could give me a follow - check the follow options on the right!

Monday, 15 October 2012

Nokia and Samsung poking at Apple: Is it pointless?

Recently Nokia released a video mocking Apple fanboys:

I like this video; I think its creative and pretty good but it got me thinking: Is this anything more than a bit of fun? And, does it do the brand any good?
     Samsung are the trailblazers in this field. Their mocking videos are becoming somewhat a tradition around the release of each iPhone. Here are the 2 they've released so far:

The Galaxy SII (wonderful phone) mocking

And "It doesn't take a genius" (the better of the two in my opinion - more witty)

The videos all target the queues and the lack of change from one iPhone to the next which are easy target points but do consumers look at this and think favourably upon the company producing them? More importantly, do consumers think 'oh, that's true, maybe I'll buy a Samsung Galaxy SIII or a Nokia Lumia'? I just don't think so.
     Personally, I enjoy these videos. I find them funny, sometimes lacking in class and not as witty as I'd prefer. But my feeling is that these videos simply highlight the superiority of Apple as a brand. Ouch, that hurt to say... but its true. How often to winners find it necessary to poke fun at those behind? Companies like Nokia are not really in a position to poke fun at the hugely successful Apple ecosystem.

Whilst I agree with the videos, and chuckle whilst watching them I'm not convinced on their use as a marketing tool. Then again, perhaps I'm just missing the point all together.

As always, I'd love to here your thoughts!

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

The Perils of Forcing Mobile Market Saturation

It's been a while since my last blog so apologies for that! I have little excuse but a short holiday as distraction.

With the release of the iPhone 5, the Android vs Apple debate has intensified with both parties feeling more superiority than ever. It made me think of the perceptions of different company's and the impact of an attempted market saturation on this perception.
      Apple famously release a single phone every 18 or so months and this makes its sales success even more impressive. Their 'one size fits all' models have captured an audience and got it hooked. Considering the competition, it really is an incredible feat. Regular readers will know that I'm not the biggest fan of the Apple ecosystem and its 'no way out' virtuous loop but you have to admire their success in the execution of that model. HTC initially followed this model with the the flagship HTC Hero. This has limited, and steady success but they wanted market share so they embarked on an old-school Nokia process of attempted market saturation bringing out the Desire, Desire HD, Desire S, Desire Z, Wildfire etc etc inside not much more than 18 months. Does this cheapen a brand in the eyes of the consumer, does it confuse the consumer or does it give the perception of power for a brand? Could the iPhone be successful because it is the simple option?

So has this attempted market saturation affected the perception of the likes of HTC and Samsung? Do people look at both company's and too readily remember the perhaps negative experiences of their friends who used each company's budget models and automatically dismiss the higher-end models on that basis? Perhaps that was poorly worded but I hope you see what I'm getting at. I've heard friends turn their noses up at the HTC One Series because of a friend who had the Wildfire and didn't like it. They then compare the Wildfire with the iPhone being completely oblivious to the sizeable difference in price.

I guess there is a big difference between HTC and Samsung. Samsung is a reputable and long-established, wide-ranging electronics company, HTC do not have that luxury as they joined the smartphone race as a young company. Their meteoric rise and fall in stock has been well publicised and that greed of shareholders could well be behind HTC's eagerness to grow at a rapid rate instead of focus solely on a good reputation. For many the first impression of HTC would have been the budget models and that affects long-term image. However, the counter is that HTC would not be in the public eye. Is the cost of image repair less than the cost of public awareness? And is that completely outweighed by impatience?

I would love to hear views on your perceptions of these brands and if you view either brand negatively because of their budget models after market saturation attempts?