Samsung Galaxy Note. First Look
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Spillikins ¹163. Android Updates: Myths and Reality
The Samsung Galaxy S3 keeps creating a lot of hype, Galaxy Note's inexpensive successor has been mistaken for the anticipated release and Galaxy fans keep thinking about what it is going to be like. I suppose the pitch of the fever is going to be in the end of March. Galaxy S3 has been attracting a lot of attention long before the release.
I want to begin from afar: daylight saving time. Thanks to the president, here in Russia we no longer have it. However, the power of the Russian president only covers Russia while phone manufacturers operate internationally which has created a number of inconveniences for Russian users. I am sure this silly experiment with ditching daylight saving time will be abandoned but the problem of devices automatically setting themselves an hour back or forward remains. Curiously, Apple devices in Russia are a lot less prone to fail their owners. This is not due to Apple's watchful eyes over the Russian president initiatives – the first time there was no daylight switch they changed the system time automatically as well. This March however most of them did not.
The reason for that is that Apple users had updated their phones and tablets while users of other manufacturers had not. Why? Surely not because of OTA (over-the-air update) that was here long before the very first iPhone.
I think we should look into the psychology of users of different OS. It could explain why users update their Apple devices all the time while often forget to when it comes to other manufacturers' products. Last week Alex Patsay published interesting statistics: 61% of iOS users have already updated to the latest version of this OS while only 1.6% of Android users run the latest Android version.
I want to begin going through the numbers with the Android website that can tell us how many devices run ICS:
It is only natural to be surprised with the fact that only 1.6% of Android devices are running on the latest OS version since ICS was announced almost six months ago. But here lies the first and one of the deepest differences between Apple and Google. While Apple announces a new OS together with the release of a new product running on it Google announces new OS for manufacturers and developers, not end consumers. Firstly, Google releases a part of the new OS code for manufacturers to adapt it for their upcoming devices. This takes about 4-7 months. Apple OS announcements are OS that have already been tested on new devices to be released in a few weeks. It is not that Android OS is updated slower but quite contrary, it is updated very fast. Google is using a different business model – they have to work with dozens of manufacturers and they cannot possible cover every one of them individually. Google releases a reference device (Samsung Galaxy nexus for Ice cream Sandwich) and updates the old reference devices to allow the manufacturers get a taste of the new OS.
If you look at the history of Android updates you will see the same picture: Android 2.x release was not followed by an immediate switch of All Android devices to the latest version. The update was graduate and began only a few months after the announcement. This pattern is a hallmark of Android and when in October 2012 Android 5.0 is announced it won't mean an immediate transition of Android devices to the latest OS version – it will begin to happen only in Q1 2013.
The next part of the story is the platform fragmentation mentioned very often as a big downside of Android OS. If you look at the Google's chart you will see that most of Android users are running Android 2.x so there is no considerable OS fragmentation. However, there are hundreds of different smartphone models on the market featuring different hardware and this creates serious fragmentation created not by the OS but by hardware and price diversity. There are low range phones and there are flagships. And this is a hallmark of Android and a part of its identity. Android devices unlike Apple devices target multiple markets and it is one of Android's strong sides. iPhone is only available in one rather expensive version which limits its market opportunities but allows the developers not to think about compatibility and create one app for all iOS devices. But the target audience of Android is a lot bigger and is growing a lot faster. So there is no big deal behind the fragmentation issue. Big developers are ready to invest into multiple versions of their software for Android devices (both low and high range). Those who cannot allow that have to focus on a specific market niche (not necessarily flagship phones). I hope now you see why I find this whole fragmentation issue ridiculous.
How much more complicated is it to update an Android smartphone as compared to iPhone? In theory the procedure should be the same but it is not in real life. Firstly, Apple devices have always been updated via iTunes (the over-the-air update became available just recently and is just as easy). In case of Android smartphones the update depends on the manufacturer's proprietary software that also may or may not feature OTA. For example, ten days ago the Ice Cream Sandwich firmware update became available for Samsung Galaxy S2. At first, it was available in only four countries with more countries receiving the update one by one. And as far as I know in these ten days about a quarter of million of Galaxy S2 have been updated to ICS (not only the official KIES/OTA updates). I am sure that the official Samsung statistics is a lot smaller. What does this number tell us? I think it tells us that switch to the new OS quotient is going to be very high and that people who use Galaxy S2 know how to use it and how to update it. I remind you that the new firmware is not available in many countries yet.
Unfortunately the update process is not that easy. If you are going to use KIES on your PC be ready to be requested to remove all USB devices (including the keyboard and the mouse). Samsung developers seem to have slacked off a bit. I could not update my S2 via KIES on Mac too – an error kept popping up so I had to use a Win 7 PC. I believe that many users will not be wasting their time trying to figure out why they cannot install the new firmware and simply forget about it. There is also a big group of people who don't understand why they need to update at all if everything seems to be working just fine. Apple users unlike other users have made updating a habit. However, there are plenty of Apple users who don't update their devices. Moreover, some of them don't even sync them with their PCs. For example, gray iPhones with tons of pirated software that also cannot connect to App Market. People who use these devices never even sync them because they just don't need it. One of the most popular service in electronic stores in Russia is Apple product activation – people activate their iProducts and never sync them. You find it ridiculous? But some people don't use their iPads to watch movies. People have different needs.
Only forced updating can make all users to switch to the latest firmware. Otherwise, many people won't update due to a number of reasons and it can become a major problem for manufacturers who try to lure users with the carrot into updating. Luckily, none of them has ever used the stick which is also possible. Many PSP games require an update before playing - which one of it? The carrot or the stick?
At the end of 2011 European Telecommunication Standards Institute (ETSI) had to accept the new standard of SIM-cards. As usual they had to become even smaller and even got the name NanoSIM. Though the size of these cards is actually twice as small as the present microSIM, it’s not really handy to use prefix “nano”. The size of the card is 12x9 mm which is 30% smaller than usual microSIM-card.
The decision was not reached in December, but was postponed until March, 29, 2012. The reason was that telephone manufacturers seriously clashed around the new standard of NanoSIM-cards. For example, Apple believed that there must be an accepted standard with the use of the holder of the cards, similar to the one used in Apple iPhone/iPad. Apple’s consideration is clear and simple: design and performance of such a holder is patented by them and any producer creating something identical will have to pay for it. On the part of Nokia, Motorolla, RIM and a number of other companies followed predictable objections that the standard must be open and nondiscriminatory. That means nobody is going to pay for it. Moreover the chances of Apple to win this battle are bare because the company is a beginner at the telephone market though its smartphone takes up significant share of it. Lobbying potential of the old gang is much bigger and the story itself is not nice as it presupposes one company’s advantage at the cost of a simple trick (the form-factor of the card will be available, but its holder is only under license). Provided that know-how of the holder is questionable to say the least, Apple has nothing to bargain for.
It’s not important for average consumers how these arguments end up, but the main point is for the standard to be accepted. Today even microSIM-cards are not widely spread and there is no need in smaller cards and devices. It’s hard for me to think of the M2M devices which will require such small cards. So we can say that this standard is accepted for future in mind but not for the current or following generations of devices. The stories about devices with such cards getting significantly smaller in size can be left within the tellers’ responsibility as it’s not going to happen.
It seems to me the main business of the telephone producers is not to give them away but to sell them. For example, Apple doesn’t give away their telephones to the business partners, there’s no need in it because they are ready to buy them. They stick to a different strategy in Nokia as the company’s products value amounts to nothing in the eyes of the customers. And if these customers are the sellers of the biggest carrier in the shape of AT&T you will have to make additional payment for using the products under Nokia brand. It has been recently announced that Nokia is going to present Lumia 900 for an overall amount of $25 million to all the AT&T employees. On a conservative estimate of the company freebies will attract 80% of AT&T employees which will abandon their iPhones or Androids for their sake. The predictions are venturous but they have no relation to the real life. In my opinion a safe choice in 2012 will be to give telephones for free and make $30 monthly payments for communication services to them. Only in this case you will be able to make people use these devices and there’s no other variant. On the other hand there’s a reasonable question what’s Nokia’s business if the company is giving away their telephones (I was presented with seven Lumia 800 by Nokia employees). To my mind this business cannot be called business, it’s something different. As I see it Nokia decided to promote Windows Phone 7 and what it’s been paid for.
It puts the very existence of Nokia under threat, but no one cares about it.
To crown it all watch a Nokia N9 video with Android ICS.
There is a tablet from Blackberry in my drawer which I haven’t been using for a year already. It wasn’t good for me because of many reasons, but the main one was lack of mail (and this is in a Blackberry!). When firmware 2.0 was issued mail was added together with the chance to launch Android applications. RIM was so pompous when they promised it would fit almost all applications available in Android Market and today this idea is so established that 7 inches WiFi tablet with 16 GB memory for $199 doesn’t look a horrible purchase. Theoretically it must be value for money. That’s why I decided to try this tablet with the new firmware and updated it. My experience turned out to be disappointing because the tablet started working even slower than before. Unfortunately the ability to fit all Android programs appeared to be a sort of nothing, I could find only a couple of such programs and one of the useful is Dolphin Browser HD. You can find them at the Blackberry applications store where these programs are not at all marked. In short it’s sham and just nothing.
I don’t have any complaints as to the mail itself. It works, but quite slowly and some messages are displayed with such a delay that I want to smash the device. Even as a bedside tablet for reading the mail before going to bed it cannot substitute first generation iPad for me. The time of its work is one more defect which looks like a mockery because every evening the tablet happily announces that it needs to be recharged. It doesn’t do any work during the day, but receives mail in the background mode. Is this a problem? Definitely yes! I don’t know whether I should write the detailed review of the changes and describe the mail application and calendar. Say if it’s worth it then I will update the Playbook review, maybe someone will need this information. But I consider the device not to be worth buying even for $199, because it’s “weak”, slow and not very good.
P.S. Have a nice week and spring time mood. Hope everything you’ve planned will go well and stay positive.
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Published 02 April 2012
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