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Spillikins #86. Smartphone Satisfaction, or About Surveys
The week turned out to be rich in behind-the-scenes events but not their public discussion. Once an again, out of the blue there appeared rumors of Nokia supposedly readying a Windows Phone 7 device. No, they are not. The same holds true for an Android phone, which would be a sure death for the company. On the other hand, Nokia is currently in talks with Microsoft about moving the Live services to their platforms somewhere in 2011. As far as I can remember, nobody has been discussing that so far, so let's just consider it a rumor, albeit from a trustworthy source.
Last week, I found myself snowed under the work, as there turned up some twenty phones, each of them demanding attention, on my desk after my return from the business trip. If I have enough time, I will share some impressions right here, while some will be saved for later reviews.
Going back to funny incidents at Nokia World 2010, which I forgot to mention the other time… They were bandying about Apple during the whole event, but business is business. Starting from October 2010, Nokia will emphasize that the majority of their accessories are compatible with the Apple iPhone. There can be no better way to acknowledge one's defeat. Soon you will be able to find a line saying "3.5 mm iPhone compatible AV connector" or something like that on the accessories website. That is one weird move by some manager opting for higher accessories sales at a cost of predating all Nokia PR efforts in fighting the iPhone. They keep saying that they are at war but in fact are trying to sell their accessories for the more successful rival product.
Last week brought plenty of bad news. The Nokia N8 is delayed again, this time till the end of October. The Nokia 5530 is now officially shipping with a 2 GB card instead of 4 GB; although that was discovered on week 27, it is only now that the company is saying that it wasn't a mistake. Finally, Sony Ericsson makes another promise to provide the Android 2.1 upgrade for its flagship model, the Sony Ericsson X10, but that will only happen in Q4. To humor them, I will say that you should expect it no sooner than at 23:59 on December 31. Unfortunately, there won't be version 2.2 or later available for the model, as the X12, the company's next flagship and new addition to the Android lineup, is due in February. As of this writing, it is too early to talk about it, yet the index has a hidden meaning to it. I hope that the TBD entry in the camera field will turn with a non-trivial one for this flagship.
As the company behind the photo flagships of the past, with a lot of experience in this area, Sony Ericsson should get back in the saddle. Thank God, some managers realized that and are now trying to create something similar on the Android platform. Will they succeed or not? I don't know that. I have no idea about that as people in Sony Ericsson are changing their plans on a weekly basis. There is some certainty only as far as the middle end is concerned, but even there products get reshuffled every now and again.
For the first time, Sony Ericsson makes an official statement that they have no plans for Symbian products in the nearest future. As a result, three projects go down the drain. One of them is a successor to the Satio. To some extent, I feel sorry for the device, yet it didn't have any market prospects. It is paradoxical, but the camera and megapixel horserace is over. However, there is a lot to be improved on the camera side in Android phones, and the first company to do that will be the winner. While HTC is not in a hurry to improve its position in the area, Motorola and Sony Ericsson still have some space left for maneuver.
It is worth mentioning that version 2.2 upgrade for the Samsung Galaxy S has been delayed, too. It is now expected to arrive somewhere in the middle or at the end of October; true for the majority of European countries, both locked and SIM-free units.
On the whole, I'm getting an impression that most companies have problems managing their development schedules, and that meeting deadlines is a very difficult thing to do. The deadlines are being shifted everywhere, which is disappointing.
The J.D. Power and Associates research company has published a report on how satisfied American customers are with their smartphones and traditional handsets. The majority of mobile resources automatically copied the results, without giving much thought into that, without even visiting the company's website to see what it all actually is about and what markets can be applied to. Well, let's bridge the gap.
So, J.D. Power and Associates is a company studying the American market and U.S. customers. Hmmm… The first thing to note is that Nokia is barely present in the U.S., and hence reports about its products will not be adequate, the company is known by few people. The resulting distribution of the key factors of overall satisfaction is quite interesting (may differ across various markets and countries, say what is good in Taiwan need not be so in Germany and vice versa). Here is the distribution of the key factors for phones:
The distribution for smartphones is as follows:
The report is obviously not a major one and is more of a PR trick of J.D. Power and Associates than a serious market research attempt. Unfortunately, I couldn't find any information about the sampling frame or the number of respondents. It's not that important, though. In my whole life, I haven't seen a single actual living person, not related to the industry, just a regular customer, asking for a particular operating system in a shop. Extrapolating my personal experience to the whole market wouldn't make much sense if not confirmed by all other studies. The only exception was Windows Mobile in select countries like Russia. But even in that case, only 0.6 per cent of all customers asked about the OS when buying a phone. It implies that the high rank of the "Operating system" key factor (a whopping 24 per cent) makes absolutely no sense. People choose features, interface but not an OS behind all that. It's just a methodology flaw.
The second issue has nothing to do with the survey per se; it is more of a problem of journalists copying the results. Many appear to have forgotten that the research is devoted to the U.S. market and are trying to apply the results everywhere. Such interpretation distorts the main picture and is just wrong.
Let's take a look at customer satisfaction in April 2010, when the company collected some first data samples, and that in the middle of September. The results are drastically different. Did anything that could change the general spirits happen during that period? Nothing happened. Effectively, the discrepancy in the results is an indication of some research flaws, inefficient sampling procedure or respondent selection issues. Such drastic changes in satisfaction can only be due to a serious reason, which should be easily observable on the market. Yet we don't know of any and the market is fairly calm.
Customer Satisfaction, April 2010
Customer Satisfaction, September 2010
It all is even weirder if we consider the traditional handset market, which LG appears to have been dominating throughout 2010. In the U.S., the company offers its phones with minimum margins so that low prices can sustain some reasonable sales volumes. One can't say that LG products are present in all market segments. Neither can one say that their users enjoy maximum satisfaction. The research leaves a lot of open questions, which won't be addressed unfortunately.
It is up to you to decide whether or not to believe the results. Personally I have so many questions about them, that I can't really take it all seriously. The text is more of a piece of fiction than a collection of data to analyze. There aren't any there. And that is unfortunate, since such research can be of real interest and useful in one's work. This time, it didn't happen.
Only this week I managed to listen to a full interview of Peter Skillman on the mobile phones market, appropriate platforms and related software development. The family name of Peter is a pun on a hot commodity, which is especially needed at Nokia where he works now. He will be responsible for MeeGo UX development. Before he did the similar and pretty good job for Palm and his contribution to WebOS is immense.
I will not spoil your pleasure from Peter's interview by retelling it all, but I can say that I like what he says. Moreover I share the major part of his ideas. It is an essential interview for those who work in the area. Hopefully, somebody will have time and strength to transcribe it? It would be useful for those who cannot listen to the podcast. If the text of the interview appears anywhere, please, let me know and I will share the link with everybody else. So far I want to underline that the interview of Peter is simply great. It's a must.
Courtesy of Engadget folks two promotional videos for Windows Phone 7 appeared online. I liked the first one – it highlights neither features nor design (as the product lacks both), but its human friendliness. Copywriters do not get their salary for fun and this video is truly unusual and grabs attention. The second video is not that good. Do you like this approach or American adverts suit the US market alone?
I like patents as they tell about future characteristics of devices. On the other hand the ideas can be easily left on the drawing board and never be implemented. Images of iPad dock station and new body with two interface slots, which appeared online, look realistic. Even if it is not the next generation iPad, we will anyway see something similar in future. Undoubtedly, I would buy a keypad for this gadget with the tablet holder. It is convenient for recharging, but I would not use it for text input (at least at the beginning). Recharging is another matter. The patent also describes a smart frame capable of reacting to touches, a separate sensor area in the corner of the gadget. Some people assume that this area may be used for reading to allow pages browsing. It can also be a separate controller like a sensor panel. It looks nice and as far as iPad is effectively the only device in the segment these innovations will be welcome. I know many companies come up with their tablet PCs, but so far they failed to offer anything more convenient than iPad. The prices of rival products are too high as well. It is an important achievement for Apple to create a new segment, which they single-handedly dominate. Look at pictures and think about the features of future generation iPad. I think we will have a lot to discuss on our forum.
Last week I had a speech at the conference on the evolution of mobile devices and I mentioned that these gadgets are increasingly less phones than everything else. The feature to call merges into the background and becomes one of many in a new hybrid device. Very often this feature is not the most important now. We can talk about this topic for hours. I bought several books on the same issue and it was probably not a coincidence.
At the conference I was preceded by Denis Popov from Qualcomm and his report surprisingly corresponded to my thoughts and ideas. Unfortunately, I do not have his presentation as well, but as soon as he sends it to me I will share it with you.
The main idea of his speech was that smartphones are often not optimized for the operation in modern networks. Unlike phones, they often use network resources and send small amounts of data (below 5 KB). It means they use more time and data for service information than for information really required by users. Subsequently, this causes additional network loading. When users do not employ their smartphones to the full, it still leads to network loading. The calculations provided by Denis in his speech were extremely interesting.
In particular, he gave the research results from one European network. The behavior of different models during data transfer was analyzed. For example, Nokia E51 turned out to be an ordinary phone for calls. That is, 90% of owners used the handset for calls or SMS and rarely turned to other features like e-mail. In my review of the model I mentioned that it's difficult to consider it a smartphone and it was indeed purchased by people who needed calls and not e-mail or other features. It's nice when your ideas are confirmed by an independent research.
I would like to emphasize again that the term "smartphone" is outdated now and cannot be used to describe these devices correctly. We once again return to phones with different characteristics. They became smart overnight and you cannot distinguish a particular smarter group here. Users decide if a gadget is a smartphone or not. If you go from it online, check mail and use other features it is a smartphone, but if not you have a phone for calls.
It is not a secret that all manufacturers seek ways to save on production. Now when the megapixel race is over cameras became the area to cut corners. Unfortunately, instead of using lower resolution matrices, but keeping autofocus, the companies increase the resolution, but ditch the autofocus. Why? I do not know. Using Nokia E5/C7 I simply cannot do many things I want. It is impossible to get decent pictures of documents in different conditions. I will definitely write a separate article about attempts of manufacturers to get rid of autofocus and related consequences for users. First of all I would like to ask you if the autofocus is necessary. Are you ready to get lower picture resolution, but retain the autofocus and macro mode? Feel free to comment on our forum. I would really appreciate your feedback. Thank you in advance.
Have a good week.
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Published 27 September 2010
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