Samsung Galaxy Note. First Look
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Spillikins #111. Myths about Free Applications for Android/Apple iOS
This piece of news was utterly unexpected. The second largest US mobile carrier AT&T intends to buy T-Mobile USA and overtake Verizon Wireless.
Let's look at statistics of mobile carriers according to Comscore. To the right we see the share of smartphones for every company as we will need the data for future discussions.
Company number two buys its next rival for the total amount of $39 billion. This sum AT&T is ready to pay for the market leadership and frequencies in possession of T-Mobile. In large cities AT&T is choking as millions of Apple iPhones put too much pressure on its network. Consumers blame AT&T for the coverage quality and related issues, which were caused by the lack of available frequencies.
The deal can be completed within 12 months and will bring many interesting market developments. Sprint Nextel will almost surely forget about joint plans with T-Mobile USA. The former will suffer due to the merger and its customer base will dwindle. The transition period will not be easy, which creates new opportunities for Verizon. Some T-Mobile customers can be lured away, but it is still unclear if this trick will work and I have some doubts about it taking into account the approach of Verizon. In the long run AT&T will come out on top anyway.
Moreover, if the deal goes ahead the only loser will be Motorola, which banks on Android devices shipped to Verizon Wireless. This year the carrier received Apple iPhone and Android is not that prominent as before. Motorola will team up with AT&T, but the share of Apple iPhone is too high for the carrier. The demise of T-Mobile will lead to joint purchases of equipment with AT&T (not today, but in future). Motorola will have not enough room for maneuvers, which is too much for the company as the number of offered devices is not that high.
We will know more about the deal in the coming days, but there are no reasons for it to fall through at the moment. The giant is being born and it will surely dictate future developments in the market. It is quite intriguing, because T-Mobile was never too strong.
You probably know that I have been testing Android 3.0 (Honeycomb) tablets during the last several weeks. A short article with the brief description of key features has been already published, but a bigger article is also under way.
One of the key differences between the two OS is that "Android offers many useful apps, which are free in comparison with iOS, where you always have to pay". It is one of the convincing arguments in favor of Android. Let's see what is really true here.
Similar ideas are often supported by those who have never used Apple products simultaneously with Android devices. I will limit the discussion by tablets only. We are going to compare any Apple iPad with Motorola Xoom as the first Android 3.0 tablet. I use iPad on a regular basis as an entertainment and work tool. Several weeks of my attempts to adapt an Android 3.0 tablet for that turned out to be futile. The main limitation is not the price or ergonomics, but the absence of necessary applications.
Android fans often cite bigger number of Android Market apps, which can be run on their tablets, which is absolutely true. Nevertheless, many of such apps were not adapted for tablet as they were initially used on smartphones and cannot handle larger screens. Are you still sceptical?
Look at the official Twitter client. It is identical for Android and iPhone, but the version for iPad is quite different. When you open the message you see a window, which does not block the messages bar and can be dragged to the right or shut down completely by one move of a finger. It is quite convenient and utilizes every square centimeter of the screen.
What do we see in Honeycomb? The same phone based client allows stretching the interface and could be considered convenient if you have not tried a purpose built client for tablets before. There is a big gap in user-friendliness.
Soon Twitter will adapt its client for Android tablets, but the apps in question are already available for iPad. We will have to wait until the list of Android tablet apps becomes comparable with HD versions for iPad.
Can you guess how many HD apps are available in iTunes Store? HD here means an application adapted for a large iPad screen. On April 3, 2010 when the first iPad became available in shops a hundred of apps could be purchased for the new device. It was not impressive as they were represented by Apple software or simple utilities.
The most interesting events happened after. Look at dates and figures.
The statistics means that many iPhone applications were adapted for iPad. We cannot say that the success was built on redesigned versions of old software. New applications appeared to cater for the needs of a larger screen. Book readers, periodicals viewers and office suites appeared on the horizon.
Do you know how much I paid for iPad apps during the period from April 2010 until now? I have a hundred of games, several dozens of utilities and other applications. During the year I spent around $90 in iTunes. It is not cheap, but I often purchased expensive games.
As an experienced user I can say that twice a month I go to the chart of best free and fee-paying games for iPad. I often find two or three games you don't have to pay for. The number of purchases was going steadily down not because I did not use iPad as often as before, which is the other way round, but as a result of many free games emerging on the market. Sometimes developers use this strategy to promote new games and you can get old ones for free during some time. You can easily find many free games for iPad, which makes jail breaking senseless.
I was looking for data on free iPad games numbers, but was left empty handed. For Apple iPhone as of January 2011 201,635 apps out of 306,544 required payment, which means that around 30% are free. Put into the bargain different promotion campaigns and discounts to get a wonderful overall result.
What can offer Android? As of January 1, 2011 Android Market had a staggering 200,000 apps, which means parity with iTunes Store. I think numbers after 100,000 become less important, while the quality, advertisement and promotion of apps come to the fore.
How many apps were available before the launch of Android 3.0? SDK appeared shortly before the sales and developers had their time cut short. What figure can you suggest? A thousand or a hundred? The answer is 61 applications!
Unfortunately, Google does not provide this information as it can hardly make the company happy, but enthusiasts made the calculations. The forum of Xoom users adds every app adapted for Android 3.0 and their count stands at 61 now. You can also add standard apps, but their quality is similar to the abovementioned Twitter client.
Can we say that owners of Android 3.0 tablets get less for their money? I don't know, but the majority of 10″ tablets cost more than a similar iPad2 with the parity in terms of features. The only advantage is Adobe Flash support added last week (you just have to download an Android Market app). Android 3.0 comes with good hardware and I like NVIDIA Tegra2, but the software remains the key.
Let's look at Motorola Xoom as the first Honeycomb tablet. It has no video playback application. When you click on the file the playback starts automatically. You can install QQPlayer to deal with AVI/DivX/Xvid, but you cannot move between the tracks and the picture quality is not the best. Core Player offers better quality, but some files just do not open. I tested this app on Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, but the song remained the same.
The powerful hardware lacks software support of many standard features and it is a serious issue. The question of time is crucial. So far Android 3.0 tablets are not ready to compete with Apple iPad2. Motorola Xoom sales in the US are rumored to be disappointingly low. Other tablets will not fare better and the only problem lies in software. The OS and related apps from Android Market may have a bright future, but today they are not ready to beat the rest of the pack.
The experience of Android 3.0 after Apple iPad is slightly depressing. You have to convert the video as on iPad (so far), additional apps are not numerous and many pieces of software have to be adapted for the larger screen, while the price is definitely higher. Why do we have to pay more for less?
I hope that the myth of too many fee-paying apps in iTunes Store has been already shattered. Free Android apps are not that good, while many applications for iPad can be had for free. Despite my love for Android in the tablets segment it is still far behind Apple.
The market of Android phones develops in a very whimsical pattern. Every manufacturer tries to get a foothold in the top segment and offers many flagship models, but different companies have different ideas for the very best Android devices.
In this race they almost forget about the mass market and come up with only one or two accessible models. Any low-cost Android solution cannot rest on its laurels for long as it is swiftly overtaken by a cheaper handset from a rival company.
Remember the release of Sony Ericsson Xperia X8 with the right price and attractive features. It became popular for a month when it ousted an older model from LG, but soon this phone got lost in the filled to capacity group of cheaper alternatives.
Price games are favored by LG. Optimus was the benchmark of value for money due to aggressive promotion in Android niche. LG Optimus Me P350, which hit the shelves in March is an accessible solution aimed at underlining the reputation of LG as a manufacturer of inexpensive Android models. A 2.8″ QVGA phone costs only €150 and this week you will read its review on our website. This nice offering will be popular for quite a long time.
To my regret Motorola is likely to lose the initiative this year in Android segment. Atrix 4G is an excellent model with the class leading performance and user friendliness, but it is available almost exclusively in the US. The company is planning to return to its deserted markets in 2013. This period is long enough for consumers to forget about Motorola. Concentrating on the home market may not work due to Apple iPhone, because the majority of Americans will prefer iPhone. Motorola had to be active elsewhere, but they decided to refrain, which can be seen as a mistake.
Nevertheless, I like their products. For example, Atrix 4G will have a similar phone in the Droid lineup (for Verizon). It is the third Droid with Atrix like hardware, but with redesigned keypad featuring 5 buttons rows. I think it has the best keypad I have ever tried so far. My first impressions are based only on a brief encounter with the model, but as far as Milestone/Droid was inspiring this incarnation will also follow suit. Android models do not often boast good keypads and this one is likely to become the best. The model is nice to deal with.
The absence of Motorola in Europe allows other companies not to be quick with the introduction of their flagship models and get all possible revenue from the current portfolio. At the beginning of summer HTC is planning to offer Pyramid (thank you to XDA.cn for pictures). It is the second model of this manufacturer with qHD screen of 960х540. Until now only Motorola Atrix 4G and DROIDBIONIC had similar screens. Unfortunately, we have just Super LCD here, but it is excellent anyway and provides nice picture quality. Other features are standard – 768 MB of RAM and a 1.2 GHz processor.
Do you know what the problem for the Android market is? It becomes overcrowded and somebody will have to lose out. Motorola, Sony Ericsson, LG and Samsung rely heavily on Android and the first two manufacturers will find it tough. 2011 will define the future of these companies.
The life goes on and the horrible catastrophe in Japan will be overshadowed by other international developments. The influence of this disaster on the consumer electronics market will be a profound one. Manufacturers are reluctant to disclose details of their losses. For example, Canon does not mention any serious damage to their plants, but according to rumors several production lines were stopped. Nikon also seems to be unaffected. Sony Ericsson mentioned in their press release that the manufacturing process can suffer due to components shortages. There are no details about models or components themselves. We can only guess that the issue is related to CMOS cameras as one of Sony sites is located near the devastated area.
We cannot view the market influence as the grave one. It is possible that Japanese companies will not be able to ship earlier produced goods to Europe and other markets (these are flagship models as entry level items are too expensive to make in Japan). It is the problem of deliveries rather than the production itself as ports and airports are still out of order.
Fans of Japanese companies may not be able to buy new products. Certain models may disappear from the shops, but the prices will stay the same. Regarding consumer electronics items (I do not mean professional digital cameras) the missing elements may be provided by Korean counterparts.
It is an open question how much time will be needed to restore the air traffic. If you have any information how the natural calamity influenced the production drop us a line. Go to our forum or send an e-mail. Thank you in advance.
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Published 22 March 2011
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