Samsung Galaxy Note. First Look
Today, large companies, especially corporate giants like Samsung, do not surprise users with extraordinary products...
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Spillikins ¹167: Gadgets vs. Gravity
This week I am writing two issues of the Spillikins as I have once. The previous one was dedicated entirely to Nokia and has already caused some big discussions. Meanwhile I will be taking a time-out to have time to look through Nokia quarterly figures and see how much it has lost. Nature will inevitably take its course and on Monday Moody’s lowered Nokia’s long term credit rating and immediately its stock plummeted. For the first time in many years Nokia responded to this and claimed that the rating cannot be accurate as the company still has large cash reserves. I think that since Nokia responded so swiftly they realize that they are sitting on a time bomb ready to go off and don’t know what to do about it. But enough for obvious stuff: Nokia isn’t dead yet, it is still number two mobile phone manufacturer in the world as per production quantities so a burial would be premature. But I guess we won’t have to wait too long.
Consumer electronics is best to be tested on kids – they will do stuff to it grown-ups will never think of and reveal all design faults. For over a month I have been working on my review of PS Vita to make good and comprehensive. Alas, yesterday I had an accident. My kids were playing with it, put it on the table and then accidentally pushed it off and it fell on the wooden floor. I measured the height – four feet precisely with no initial acceleration so it must have been an unfortunate angle.
The right “R” shoulder button fell off, one of the screws went out and the display is now covered with cracks. Bad luck. The console won’t turn on even though the Power LED is on and the display is dead. This PS Vita is now only good for recycling. I did not bother to ask how much it would cost to repair it: it needs a new body and a new display so I reckoned it is simpler to buy a new one. A whole month of work gone to waste – I had all the data for the review stored in the console.
Anyway, this little accident made me think about consumer electronics and gravity. My first PSP suffered all sorts of bad falls: hard floor, tarmac and other gadget killing surfaces. I have two first gen PSPs and they are still working fine. One would quite logically conclude that they have a great chassis design but I am sure that sheer chance is the main survival factor of consumer electronics after falls.
All factories manufacturing mobile phones or any other portable consumer electronics devices have special chambers where they perform drop tests on their products from different heights. However, they drop gadgets on a thin metal plate which is nowhere nearly as hard as tarmac or stone. Also, they are not testing random falls – they just use a few preselected angles to drop while in real life there are infinite variants of a free fall. Naturally, manufacturers cannot possibly test for all eventualities but what I want to say is – even the manufacturer claims that his gadget has passed all drop tests it only means that it passed some standard testing procedures.
A fall can ruin any device, even those designed to withstand serious impact.
It is a matter of chance – every device has got an Achilles' heel. A friend of mine uses a Vertu to crack nuts which has become a part of his image. His phone has lost some paint but keeps working like a clock. Another friend of mine has an exactly the same Vertu having one technical problem after another even though its owner is very careful with it.
An example from my experience: once I was washing my face and put my Longines Flagship watch on the sink. It dropped down just three feet but sprayed the bathroom floor with its parts. It cost half the watch's price to fix it. Not so long ago I found it lying in a drawer and decided to give it a go one more time. But another gentle fall from a table caused them to be one hour fast every day. I put them into the drawer again this time probably for good. What I mean here is that it was sheer chance what was happening to my watch and I am sure that many people will call this watch a paragon of reliability.
It is twice more irritating when a brand new thing breaks down. But it just happens and you never can tell. I saw phones fall down dozens of meters onto a solid rock and remain operational. And, on the other hand, I have killed many phones by merely dropping them on a carpet. There is a certain pinch of doom when it comes to build quality. As if some gadgets are 'born' to live long while others have to die young. It is not Sony's fault that I my console broke down after a minor fall and I most certainly cannot claim that this will happen to you should your PS Vita drop. Unfortunately, a full scale crash test is just too expensive.
You should not bother yourself if it's your fault your gadget broke down – it just happens. However, you should pay attention if a product receives many quality related complaints.
Manufacturers send me miscellaneous stuff for reviews and usually I spend little time with new gadgets before passing them to other guys here for tests. But in this case I wanted to get familiar with a pair of earphones by Meizu, the smartphone manufacturers best known for Meizu MX. It is their third earphone model and it has got an answer call button so basically it is a headset. It is shipped in a nice looking box that reminds of vinyl records. This artistic concept is used in the design of Meizu players and smartphones and now they have applied it to earphones. Although, I think many young people will not get the right association as they probably began buying records on CDs.
In the box you find three different ear tips and a very light pair of earphones with the following specs:
Not too bad for earphones that cost only $35. I am no sound connoisseur and all earphones of one price range sound about the same to me. I compared it to $200 Beats earphones and they definitely sound better but I cannot say that the difference is dramatic. Besides, the light weight of EP-40 is a big upside in everyday use. The cord is thin but does not entangle much. Sound isolation is very decent and the noise of the city does not bother you.
I also compared EP-40 with Sennheiser CX300-II that cost about the same on the new iPod Nano and Galaxy SII and find that CX300-II are slightly better. However, EP-40 can also be used as a headset and it’s a big advantage.
Well, these are some of my incoherent impressions. I think that in a while will post either a review of Meizu EP-40 earphones or carry out an earphone comparison test.
One of the former Blackberry’s CEOs was apparently working on a plan to save the company. According to this very comprehensive Reuters article Jim Balsillie did not have a chance to implement it in real life. In my opinion his plan would not have solved all the company’s problems but would have given a real chance for RIM in the future. By forfeiting the market today Blackberry could have made a comeback some day in the future.
Jim though it necessary to open Blackberry technologies, Messengers in particular, for all platforms including, of course, iPhone and Android. The thing is Blackberry Messenger uses the carrier’s infrastructure unlike all other software products and thus it can provide the highest security level. Blackberry Messenger could have had a great many applications. The downside of this move would be plummeting demand for Blackberry devices. The new CEO probably realizes this and does not want things to follow that scenario. But I think it is pointless to cling to a market you have already lost. It is hard to move to a new market and it is twice as hard to leave the home field. But if you are afraid to make risky decisions it would be your rivals who will make them for you sooner or later. The Plan B could have worked and it’s too bad they ditched it. As for now I see no chance for RIM to survive the competition against Android and iOS. Blackberries are getting less popular every day and experts give gloom forecasts about RIM’s future: something has to be done fast.
Gartner are very good with figures when it comes to what has already happened but they are not so accurate when they try to predict something. I suppose this PR report on the future of the tablet market will become one of the textbook mistakes. It is a good example of predicting the future reading chicken entrails. They used some obsolete data on the market and simply extrapolated it into the future with some hilarious conclusions. This is how Gartner sees the tablet market in 2015:
Firstly, I want to put Apple aside: it is an object of many discussions and forecast none of which seem to ever come true. We don’t know what new products will come around and for what price. Any manufacturer can come up with a real bombshell anytime and change the market for good. No one can predict that so analysts work rather on a hunch than use reason.
Look at the MeeGo row: it says that 788 thousand MeeGo tablets were sold in 2011 in retail. Pardon me, I am only aware of a couple of MeeGo tablets and I have not heard of a single market in the world where they are popular. The figure is definitely exaggerated or may be Gartner analysts have a different understanding of what a MeeGo product is.
It keeps getting funnier with Blackberry – it seems like someone just took a ruler and expanded the trend into 2015. Right now Blackberry is only ‘selling’ one tablet and most units are still in the warehouses. The release of the second Blackberry tablet may never happen as RIM is having serious financial difficulties. This forecast seems to ignore what has been going on recently.
The poor WebOS is dead already and gone for good. The analysts also ‘missed’ the soring sales of Android – I think they should have used Android smartphone sales to predict Android tablet sales.
I am quite disappointed with this Gartner report – it is a profanation of market analysis and has nothing to do with the real market situation.
Here is a very interesting must-see piece of infographics covering the growth of Google from 2004 to Q1 2012:
And for dessert I bring you a nice AT&T commercial (watch till the end). Have a nice week!
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Published 26 April 2012
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