Monday, 17 June 2013

iOS 7: Goodbye iOS, Hello Android.

At WWDC last week, Apple launched their newest mobile version of iOS; iOS 7 and it’s a far-cry from the old model. It’s better looking, more open and more functional: It’s more Android.

What’s new: Appearance

It’s very good looking. Using a new skinny font and lighter colours are key to this. The iconic slide bar has been altered as well as the keyboard which is translucent to allow you to see beneath it. The overall look is very ‘Google Now’ and this has clearly been their inspiration. Maybe it's just me but I think the overall look is very similar.

What’s new: The Control Centre

For those familiar with Android devices, the Control Centre is simply the notification bar. In what is just a copy of what Android has been offering for several years, the Control Centre allows users to adjust settings such as brightness, WiFi and rotation lock as well as providing quick access to other apps. Try and spot the similarities below (FYI the Android screenshot is a bit old but Android 4.2 has kept the functionality, just left it looking a bit better):

What’s new: Multitasking

Woah, ground-breaking work from Apple here… By copying Android 4.0’s ‘window switching’ abilities, Apple now allow an easier form of multitasking. Looks strangely similar, no?

What else?

Safari now provides unlimited tabs, photos now have filters and apps can now automatically update. Airdrop allows for easier sharing, Siri has a new voice, Mail can be gesture controlled and “hello, iTunes Radio”.

We all know that Apple needed to move, and needed to change the mobile iOS. It was tired, basic and was holding Apple’s technology back. They’ve done a good job with iOS 7 as it is a more complete and less restricted OS but they’ve improved by doing what they promised never to do; copy others.

Android based their initial OS on the best bits of iOS, and Steve Jobs/Tim Cook were very forward in pointing that out. However, now the table have turned. The notable changes in iOS 7 have been copied from Android, not just in concept, but in appearance. It is a sign of weakness and admitting defeat. In all these changes, Apple haven’t innovated whatsoever and that will worry the already troubled investors.

     In launching iOS 7, Apple have admitted defeat in innovation, and in turn, have taken their seat behind Android’s operating system. The changes make Apple’s offering stronger, but only by taking the older elements of Android. Apple’s innovation has been under the microscope for a while now, and this release does nothing convince others that Apple still ‘has it’. This is another flat launch of something new from Apple. Investors are far less bothered about software – they need to be convinced that Apple can dominate the market once again. Now they are firmly behind, and chasing the opposition, that domination is becoming less and less likely.

I'd love to know your thoughts, please leave a comment below if you fancy a chat.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

HTC and Samsung begin a Twitter-war; LG jumps in to keep the peace

HTC and Samsung were at loggerheads on Twitter on Friday after the Mobile Awards. @HTC_UK won the deserved title of "Hottest Phone of the Year" and duly rubbed it in the faces of @SamsungMobileUK:
Samsung responded well, in my opinion, with a funny dig back at HTC:
HTC bit at this one, and probably went a bit too far by mentioning the articles that Samsung reportedly paid students to write in a bid to derogate the competition:
I'm all for brands interacting like this on social media. It adds a personality to the brand. I do think the HTC tweet about the paid writers was a little unnecessary and petulant, though. Interaction like this should be light-hearted - and LG are the real winners in this 'social media battle' with their mediation tweet:
It's all fun and games of course, and great to watch brands be willing to loosen the reins on social media! Who do you think came out on top here? Was HTC's tweet a bit petulant or did they get it right?

Monday, 3 June 2013

Vine finally released for Android - includes zoom function

Twitter today announced that Vine was (finally) available to Android users. A seemingly endless wait and a slightly botched launch (the Google Play link on Vine’s website was broken for several hours) didn’t stop word spreading and the app has already been downloaded several thousand times.

The UI is very slick and so far, no complaints with performance. As a first launch, the app is missing several features that iOS users are enjoying, yet that is to be expected. The app is currently missing use of a front-facing camera, search, mentions and hashtags, and the ability to share to Facebook. BUT it does include a zoom feature which is unavailable to iOS for the time being. Android users can expect countless updates and additions over the coming couple of months when I would imagine Vine will have tied the iOS and Android versions together in terms of progress.

Expect a flurry of dreadful Vines over the next couple of weeks as Android users settle into the platform. I’m off to join them! Very excited.

PRODUCT REVIEW: Expert Shield screen protectors

I was fortunate to receive a message a few weeks ago offering me a screen cover for my HTC One X. My initial reaction was that it was a bit unnecessary, I’ve always felt that but obviously I took up Expert Shield on the offer.

I’d not bothered with screen protectors because of the age-old insurance ‘logic’ of “I’ll just be careful”. So anyway, I’ve been using a screen protector from Expert Shield for nearly a month now and it’s changed my thinking. Quite typically, I dropped my phone a couple of days after applying the screen and, fearing the worst, I turned it over to discover that there was no scuffing or marks whatsoever. Given that the screen on an HTC One X costs £150 to replace, you can imagine the relief.

It’s an easy set-up process, and when it’s on, it’s pretty much invisible to the eye and doesn’t affect performance of the phone. 

Overall, I’ve been very impressed and, for the sake of £7 or so, I think it’s worth adding to your phone. I know it’s not going to be for everyone (it never used to be for me) but if you're looking to get a screen protector, then I've been impressed with Expert Shield and what they provided so would thoroughly recommend them. Here's a link to their website.

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Tim Cook's desperate plea to investors: "Apple can still innovate"

Apple CEO Tim Cook exclaimed yesterday that Apple have 'a lot' of surprises up their sleeve and staunchly defended Apple's innovative image.

Cook said: 

“Many people now say that innovation means a new category. Yes, we’re still a company that innovates. We have some incredible plans that we’ve been working on for a while.” 

Tim Cook also attacked Google Glass for not having "mass appeal" but he's largely missing the point. Firstly, Google Glass has garnered mass public interest. Secondly, Google has innovated. However much Tim Cook hates to admit it, they have provided the world with something new, something different. 

To me, the statement reeked of desperation and seemed a quick-fire way to claw back the interest of investors. It also came from a man who is clearly struggling under the pressure. Apple's dramatic fall in share-price has certainly not gone unnoticed. Add to this the looming court case in the US about tax affairs and Samsung's record sales of the S4: it's been a tough few months for Apple. I stated after the launch of the iPhone 5 that Apple needed to make a statement and failed to do so then, and it's difficult to imagine the 5S will be much of a statement either. So that brings us to the iPhone 6 which is reported to be launched in September. The concern for Apple fans should be that Apple will, once again, launch a tuned-up version of all their products come September. These products, whilst good quality, do not capture the same excitement as they used to. Dare I say it, they are becoming boring.

Apple, it's over to you to put your innovation where your mouth is. Seriously - time is running out.

REPORT: Samsung S4 sales to top 80m in 2013

Reports are suggesting that Samsung are heading towards an incredible sales total for 2013. On the Galaxy S4 alone reports are indicating that sales could top the 80m mark - an absolutely extraordinary figure. This has been proposed by RBC Capital Markets analyst Mark Sue.

“Galaxy S4 demand in the first month of availability has been incrementally better than our estimate of 10M units,” Sue wrote. “In comparison, the S-III took nearly 2 months (50 days) to achieve the 10M units mark. Our broad-based channel checks at U.S. stores indicate that demand for the 16G S-4 devices remains strong with 32G Black devices mostly sold-out and 32G White devices yet to make it to the stores. At this pace, the GS4 is likely to cross 20M shipments in 2Q13, potentially reaching 80M S4 unit shipments in CY13.”

Where exactly this market is appearing from is unclear but with sales of other Android devices remaining steady, and Windows Phone devices holding their own, this market could well be iOS, or perhaps a final shift from feature phones.

Samsung seem to be benefiting from pushing some limits on innovation with the S4, something Apple failed to do with the iPhone 5. I said at the time that, whilst some of the S4 features were gimmicky and perhaps a bit unnecessary, consumers would respond positively to Samsung's creativity with features. Whilst I didn't like the lack of aesthetic change, it appears that they've still hit the mark.
Remember that the 80m sales are S4 only, this doesn't include the continuing sales of the S3, the Note devices or indeed the likes of the Ace.

It remains to be seen whether Samsung can indeed shift 80m devices in 2013. If they can, there will be absolutely no doubt about the dominant manufacturer in the smartphone market.