TR – Android 4.4 KitKat’s Project Svelte: what it is and why you should care

December 5, 2013 by  
Filed under Features & Editorials

Written for TrustedReviews, find the original article here

Earlier this week Google revealed the driving force behind the Android 4.4 Kitkat release and its name is ‘Project Svelte’. We take a look at what this curiously named initiative is, how it was developed and whether – as some are claiming – it could lead to the end of fragmentation on Android. 

What is Project Svelte?

The key is in the name. Svelte is Google’s attempt to cut the fat from Android allowing it to run faster and more smoothly on lower range handsets. It comes after Google’s admission that initiatives like ‘Project Butter’ (introduced in Android 4.1) made the operating system a silky user experience, but at the expense of upping the hardware requirements significantly.

“The first thing that I was working on was Project Butter to make the system smoother,” explained Google Head of Engineering Dave Burke in an interview with ReadWrite. “The thing is, butter puts on weight. So then I did Project Svelte to lose weight. So now my contribution to Android is basically zero.”

It is a good joke, but Svelte addresses a serious problem for Google. Android 3.0 was purely for tablets, so entry-level Android handsets incapable of running Android 4.x were being forced to install the aged Android 2.3 operating system to maintain a reasonably responsive user experience. The three-year old platform did a job, but it also locked owners of these phones out of newer features and an increasing number of apps that require Android 4.0 and above.

android 4 4 2 TR   Android 4.4 KitKat’s Project Svelte: what it is and why you should care

How was Project Svelte made?

Google is famous for ‘dogfooding’ – that is making its employees use and live with their own projects. It was no different with Project Svelte. Everyone on the team was given a crippled Nexus 4 where the addressable RAM was cut in half to 512MB and the resolution hacked from an HD friendly 1280 x 768 pixels to 960 x 540 pixels. Two of the Nexus 4’s four processing cores were also switched off and the clock speeds of the remaining two were lowered.

“Literally a bunch of us just used that as our default phone. It was painful, and it was broken to start with,” said Burke who listed the four key targets his team set out to achieve:

  • Reduce the footprint of the system.
  • Reduce the footprint (memory usage) of the apps that run on a Google Experience (Nexus) device.
  • Fix how apps react and crash during bad memory situations.
  • Provide better measurement and instrumentation of how apps are running in Android so developers can see how memory-conscious their apps are.

The Project Svelte team got there by stripping Google apps from the OS (even including the Google Play store), which drastically reduced their memory usage. This also allowed KitKit to be even more customisable as previously locked functionality like SMS messaging could now be swapped like any other app for a third-party alternative.

Svelte also placed a strong emphasis on cutting RAM usage in third-party apps by giving developers access to ‘ProcStats’ – a tool that monitors app memory usage. Android also now tracks app memory usage and will shut down an app if it is using too much memory for too long so the incentive to make more efficient apps is strong.

How Project Svelte can end Android fragmentation

With all these benefits the notion has spread that Project Svelte is Google’s silver bullet to fix Android fragmentation and on the face of it there are compelling arguments to back this up:

  • The vast majority of Android phones can now run the latest OS
  • Manufacturers know a budget Android phone with the latest Android OS is a compelling sales proposition
  • Customers will vote with their wallets which should see Android 4.4 budget phones very soon

But there is a better, (still) less publicised reason to be optimistic as well, which was undoubtedly the driving force behind Project Svelte in the first place: Google Play Services. Getting the latest version of Android onto budget mobile devices gets the latest version of Google Play Services onto them as well.

What is Google Play Services? Our detailed analysis will tell you more, but in a nutshell it is a background service with near limitless levels of access to modify your phone. It already has permission to do the list of things (spread over two screens!) pictured below and, quite remarkably, it can even give itself new permissions at any time.

ANALYSIS: Why Google Play Services is more important than the Nexus 5

permissions TR   Android 4.4 KitKat’s Project Svelte: what it is and why you should care

Privacy conspiracists heads may explode, but the point is Google Play Services on Android 4.x devices is the tool that can update virtually every part of the platform. It keeps 99 per cent of functionality bang up-to-date even if the Android version number changes in future. This sounds pretty good to us.
How Project Svelte cannot end Android fragmentation

And yet there are some significant buts:

  • Manufacturer’s third-party skins
  • Battery life
  • Yes, Android version numbers

The first of these is something that has plagued Android since day one: the largely inefficient graphical overlays handset makers put on top of Android to differentiate their handsets. Motorola Moto G TR   Android 4.4 KitKat’s Project Svelte: what it is and why you should careGiven Motorola recently claimed its predominantly stock Android £135 Moto G (right) could perform basic tasks in Android 4.3 faster than Samsung’s TouchWiz inflicted £500 Galaxy S4, it gives you an insight into how troublesome these skins can be. In a stroke skins could wipe out much of the efficiencies gained in Android 4.4. Worst still it could give manufacturers the leeway to may even lazier skins.

Next comes battery life because, for all its advances, surprisingly Android 4.4 doesn’t appear to have improved it a great deal. A key criticism of Android 4.4 hero device the Nexus 5 is its inconsistent battery life and Nexus 4 owners haven’t reported any significant gains from the 4.4 upgrade with better jumps actually coming from the previous upgrade from Android 4.2 to 4.3.

Crucially battery capacity remains a significant manufacturing cost, which is why the Nexus 5 saw a big capacity cut compared to the LG G2 that inspired it and budget handsets – while running less power-hungry components – always come with much smaller batteries. Android 2.3, conversely, is frugal and when making budget handsets cutting corners wherever possible is crucial.

Lastly we have Android version numbers because while Google Play Services can update most things on your phone, it cannot trigger automatic upgrades from Android 4.4 to 4.5, 5.0 or wherever the OS is headed next. Many users may not care about being on the latest version of Android, but many do and until Google works out how to fix the most literal aspect of Android fragmentation Apple will have a stick to beat it with.

Furthermore, Google needs to set a better example to manufacturers. It excluded the two-year old Galaxy Nexus from the Android 4.4 update, even though the point of KitKat is it runs better on older and budget phones. Apple meanwhile only excluded its five generations old iPhone 3GS from iOS 7 this year. If Google doesn’t convey the message it actively cares to fix fragmentation on its own branded handsets, what hope has it of convincing others?

Why you should care about Project Svelte

Despite these concerns there is no doubt Google got its priorities right in putting together the Project Svelte team. Android has long offered the greatest functionality and customisability of the main mobile OSes and, having smoothed its rough edges with Project Butter, making it run more efficiency on less powerful devices was the major issue.

Project Svelte may not be the silver bullet to Android fragmentation many would like it to be, but it makes the platform faster, more cohesive and more widely available than any previous version. That’s a pretty big step.

Copyright for all reviews, editorials and features on this site belong to their respective publishers. All samples published on this website are via prior agreement with those publishers and serve to act as a portfolio and centralised location for all my work. Contact me at gordon@gordonkelly.com should you wish to commission me or supply review samples, press releases or arrange meetings.   

TR – Windows Phone must be Microsoft’s tablet OS

October 17, 2013 by  
Filed under Features & Editorials

In my editorial for TrustedReviews I argue it is time for Microsoft to finally give in and adopt the logic path…  click to enlarge. Original here

17 Oct 13 15 53 10 TR   Windows Phone must be Microsofts tablet OS

Copyright for all reviews, editorials and features on this site belong to their respective publishers. All samples published on this website are via prior agreement with those publishers and serve to act as a portfolio and centralised location for all my work. Contact me at gordon@gordonkelly.com should you wish to commission me or supply review samples, press releases or arrange meetings.   

 

 

 

Ars Technica – Finland and Nokia: An affair to remember

October 11, 2013 by  
Filed under Features & Editorials

My Wired longform feature was picked up by Ars Technica as its hot story of the week. You’ll find a screengrabs below (click to enlarge and settle down for a great yarn)

Find the original here.

Ars Technica Ars Technica   Finland and Nokia: An affair to remember

 

Copyright for all reviews, editorials and features on this site belong to their respective publishers. All samples published on this website are via prior agreement with those publishers and serve to act as a portfolio and centralised location for all my work. Contact me at gordon@gordonkelly.com should you wish to commission me or supply review samples, press releases or arrange meetings.   

TR – Blackberry Fairfax sale: RIP BlackBerry, your time is still up

October 10, 2013 by  
Filed under Features & Editorials

BlackBerry has only delayed its demise… a screengrab of my editorial for TR. Original here.

1 TR   Blackberry Fairfax sale: RIP BlackBerry, your time is still up

Copyright for all reviews, editorials and features on this site belong to their respective publishers. All samples published on this website are via prior agreement with those publishers and serve to act as a portfolio and centralised location for all my work. Contact me at gordon@gordonkelly.com should you wish to commission me or supply review samples, press releases or arrange meetings.   

En Voyage – Take Control

September 8, 2013 by  
Filed under Features & Editorials

Every month I write the gadget column for Eva Air’s in-flight magazine. Eva Air is one of the biggest airlines in the Far East.

For September I looked at the peripherals to make control of our gadgets easier on the move.

Grabs from the magazine as below (click to enlarge). You can read a digital version of the En Voyage September edition here

08 Sep 13 16 32 48 En Voyage   Take Control

Click to enlarge

 

Copyright for all reviews, editorials and features on this site belong to their respective publishers. All samples published on this website are via prior agreement with those publishers and serve to act as a portfolio and centralised location for all my work. Contact me at gordon@gordonkelly.com should you wish to commission me or supply review samples, press releases or arrange meetings.

MSN – Nokia deal begins Microsoft’s assault on Apple, Google and Samsung

September 8, 2013 by  
Filed under Features & Editorials

The last roll of the smartphone dice from a company that missed the mobile boat or an aggressive all-out attack? Writing for MSN I argue it’s a bit of both…. screengrab below – click to enlarge (original here). 

11 Oct 13 02 29 47 MSN   Nokia deal begins Microsofts assault on Apple, Google and Samsung

Copyright for all reviews, editorials and features on this site belong to their respective publishers. All samples published on this website are via prior agreement with those publishers and serve to act as a portfolio and centralised location for all my work. Contact me at gordon@gordonkelly.com should you wish to commission me or supply review samples, press releases or arrange meetings.   

TR – Microsoft buys Nokia, gambles on success without partners

September 8, 2013 by  
Filed under Features & Editorials

What does the deal mean for Microsoft, its partners and its rivals?

Over the last three months Microsoft has shown the future of the Xbox, the future of Windows, the future of its business structure and now the future of its mobile business… and it is a gamble which makes bad reading for partners.

The deal in a nutshell is this: Microsoft will pay €5.44 billion (£4.6bn) to Nokia for its devices and services division and the rights to license its patents and mapping services. Affected Nokia employees will stay where they are but become employees of Microsoft and Nokia itself will evolve to become a telecoms infrastructure business. The deal is expected to go through during Q1 2014.

710 TR   Microsoft buys Nokia, gambles on success without partners

Microsoft buying Nokia: what it means for Microsoft
Like Apple and to a lesser extent Google and Samsung, Microsoft now has vertical integration in the market – i.e. it makes both the software and hardware. This model will allow it to develop Windows Phone and Lumia handsets (if the branding remains) in conjunction therefore optimising design, functionality, performance and maximising profit.

Crucially, the deal will also give Microsoft access to emerging markets. 45.5 per cent of Nokia shipments were to Greater China, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America in 2012.

Microsoft buying Nokia: what it means for its rivals
For its competitors the deal should see a more competitive Microsoft, but the company’s decision to build its own phones will also result in Microsoft entering direct competition with its Windows Phone partners.

In reality, this is likely to place greater strain on Microsoft than the likes of HTC, ZTE and Samsung as none have consistently shown strong commitment to the OS and will now be unable to compete with the license fee Microsoft charges itself: nothing. Given this scenario, many may well ditch Windows Phone handset development altogether.

The problem for them is it would mean throwing all their eggs into one basket with Android (except for Samsung which has Tizen) – and Google is ramping up its own Nexus and Motorola ranges.

Naturally, Microsoft going it alone in handsets would be new territory for the company and for the moment it is trying to appease partners. Company EVP for Operating Systems, Terry Myerson, today claimed “[the deal] will help make the market for all Windows Phones, from Microsoft or our OEM partners.”

But the reality is Microsoft earns substantial royalties from Android and the Nokia patents purchases are only likely to increase that so partners – given their underwhelming efforts – will no longer be its primary concern.

Microsoft buying Nokia: what it means for you
In the short term the answer is: not a lot. For the next 3-6 months, Nokia handsets will continue to be sold as before and even once the purchase completes next year Nokia’s roadmap will be set in stone for such a period that it could be a few years before the first truly Microsoft-inspired handset goes on sale. Look at the timescale of Google buying Motorola (August 2011) and the Moto X (August 2013).

Microsoft will also be honouring all Nokia warranties and keeping all Nokia employees, so little should change in the supply chain.

On the flip side, Microsoft and Nokia have been working together since their exclusive partnership began in February 2011, so what you are seeing from today’s Lumias is unlikely to be far from Microsoft’s vision. Microsoft also enforces a number of strict design, button layout and hardware parameters in any case, so why would we see radical change?

nokia microsoft wp7 1297413404 TR   Microsoft buys Nokia, gambles on success without partners

Microsoft and Nokia: why you should care
If little is likely to change in the short term then why should you care? Because it will change things substantially in the long term.

The most likely to suffer are smaller handset makers as the deal reduces Windows Phone’s appeal yet pushes them into bed with Android, which weakens them as choice evaporates. Whether this will make Google feel doubly secure and see it push its own hardware (either through the Nexus brand or Motorola) remains to be seen.

Similarly, the deal will vindicate Samsung executives’ decision to develop Tizen and could see it accelerate the schedule for Tizen handset releases. Their success will make or break its long term relationship with Google.

As for Apple, it knows Microsoft now has new supply chain efficiencies and better opportunity to accelerate Windows Phone development, which means it will need to regain lost momentum.

Whether it sees the deal as a chance to stamp out Windows Phone with a budget iPhone is debatable as Apple is unlikely to hit the rock bottom price tags of the entry-level Lumias.

Microsoft and Nokia: the questions that remain
So general consensus is while the deal will change little in the short term the knock-on effects long term will be significant. Yet significant questions still remain:

  • Nokia CEO Stephen Elop’s return to Microsoft has made him the new favourite to take over from Steve Ballmer. But is the man who arguably brought down Nokia by scrapping its software independence really the visionary to lead the company forward?
  • How will fans of Microsoft and Windows Phone react to a potentially closed business model and will it push them towards Android – can Microsoft really survive without partners?
  • Has Nokia truly left the handset business? Small print on the deal only forbids Nokia from making handsets under its own brand until 31 December 2015, then the reins are off. Could Jolla be the most elaborate of plots to spin off then bring back the abandoned MeeGo project with Intel?
  • And finally (and most fancifully) what of ‘the Trojan horse’? Ever since Elop joined Nokia from Microsoft in September 2010 talk has been of a secret role to a) make the company dependent on Microsoft, b) bring down its value to an affordable level and consequently c) gain Microsoft a handset division through a buy-out. All three have been accomplished, but will Elop ever come clean? We doubt it.

Originally published on TrustedReviews, read it here

Copyright for all reviews, editorials and features on this site belong to their respective publishers. All samples published on this website are via prior agreement with those publishers and serve to act as a portfolio and centralised location for all my work. Contact me at gordon@gordonkelly.com should you wish to commission me or supply review samples, press releases or arrange meetings.   

 

TR – Three the best choice for 4G despite starting late

September 8, 2013 by  
Filed under Features & Editorials

Pricing and spectrum put the underdog in pole position…

Times have changed since Aesop told us the tortoise beat the hare in circa 500BC. Today, particularly in technology, it is a race to push out products and services as fast as possible… public betas… fix it with firmware… patch, patch, patch. And yet Aesop’s moral of ‘less haste more speed’ is due a comeback because 4G slowcoach Three seems like the best bet for 4G.

Pricing vs Timing

So what makes Three the fabled tortoise? As by far the smallest UK telco it is an obvious underdog, but it is also slow off the mark with the company announcing this week that it will not launch its 4G service until December. By contrast 4G services from O2 and Vodafone went live on Thursday and UK market leader EE switch on 4G in October 2012.

640x500 KittyCat TR   Three the best choice for 4G despite starting lateBut what really makes Three the tortoise is its smart strategy. The most appealing part is the pricing. Three won’t charge customers a premium for using 4G and it won’t be changing its tariffs, its 3G tariffs are its 4G tariffs.

Customers with 4G compatible phones will get a small network software update when 4G goes live and off they go – no new contracts and unlimited data and tethering options remain. By contrast EE, O2 and Vodafone have all significantly upped the cost of 4G services and introduced a boggling array of new tariffs.

So far price is proving a major obstacle to 4G adoption with EE signing up just 500,000 customers in its first 7 months from a 23 million subscriber base.

Of course customers may be prepared to wait for these cost savings, but they won’t wait forever. EE has now launched 4G services in over 100 towns and cities giving it a major advantage. That said Three’s launch areas of London, Manchester and Birmingham are arguably more appealing than O2 (London, Leeds, Bradford) and Vodafone (London only) and more widely distributed. Meanwhile, Three claims it will cover 98 per cent of the population with 4G by the end of 2015.

Unpicking the frequencies
This issue of coverage is also vital to Three’s 3G-only network, which is currently badly affected by restriction to the 2100MHz band. Our guide to 4G frequencies is available here, but in short: the higher the band the faster its potential speed but the lower its range and worse its ability to penetrate solid objects like walls.

This limitation has dogged Three since it launched in the UK over 10 years ago, but with February’s 4G auction it made a beeline for the 800MHz spectrum – the lowest frequency available for 4G – which will finally give it parity with EE, O2 and Vodafone.

Three didn’t get any of the blazing fast, short-range 2600MHz frequency (arguably that isn’t needed for the size of its customer base), but it also got a large slice of 1800MHz (the best all-rounder) from EE for a capped price (£425m) as part of the deal that let the Orange/T-Mobile tie-up launch 4G services early in the first place. The result is Three should have a price advantage without its historical range and indoor coverage compromises.

Furthermore, with the only truly unlimited 4G data plans, Three also has a potentially major benefit of appealing to rural customers who can replace their typically slow fixed line broadband with a single MiFi subscription or phone subscription that includes tethering.

The best deals at the wrong time
 TR   Three the best choice for 4G despite starting lateThe only serious problem with opting for Three for a 4G phone or contract is its tardiness. It may hold a clear pricing advantage, but Vodafone and O2 are more competitive than EE when it launched with the 4G marketplace all to itself, while EE has also subsequently revised prices.

Furthermore this trio all have their 4G services in place just in time for some of the most appealing handset launches of the year. The iPhone 5S and 5C are expected to launch in September, the same time as Samsung is expected to announce the Galaxy Note 3 and HTC formally unveil the One Max. LG will also release the G2 in September and there’s the little matter of October’s predicted Nexus 5 reveal.

The temptation to grab a shiny new handset with 4G from the off with be strong and the contracts will be long. While Three seems like the best deal on paper, it does mean waiting a few months. I think it’s worth waiting, but anyone buying the latest iPhone probably won’t agree or even consider it.

It’s worth waiting
But if you have the patience, it’s still worth waiting. While its customer call centres still need work, its value is underlined by the recent move to begin scrapping European roaming fees (initially in the Republic of Ireland, Australia, Italy, Austria, Hong Kong, Sweden and Denmark) 11 months ahead of the EU deadline – an atypical consumer friendly move for a telco.

Moreover, while its 4G lags behind somewhat, its shiny new DC-HSDPA 3G network (with theoretical speeds up to 42.2Mbps) means many can enjoy 4G-like speeds while they wait for the real thing – it should become faster when 4G comes online, too.

None of which is likely to see Three move from its position as the UK’s smallest mobile network, but then again like the tortoise a route to success has only opened up because of the overconfidence and complacency of rivals. And this is one occasion where supporting the underdog is not just a romantic choice, it’s the sensible choice, too.

My editorial was originally published on TrustedReviews, it can be read here 

Copyright for all reviews, editorials and features on this site belong to their respective publishers. All samples published on this website are via prior agreement with those publishers and serve to act as a portfolio and centralised location for all my work. Contact me at gordon@gordonkelly.com should you wish to commission me or supply review samples, press releases or arrange meetings.   

TR – 7 Reasons why the Xbox One is better than the PS4

September 8, 2013 by  
Filed under Features & Editorials

Contrary to popular opinion Microsoft’s Xbox One console looks a better bet than the PS4 in the long term.

Given the vitriol directed at the Xbox One since its unveiling in May you’d think it was a competition to see who could throw the nastiest insult. It is too expensive, underpowered, unfocused, overly restrictive and invasive of our privacy.

Except I think it isn’t. Certainly there are flaws, but I still think the Xbox One will be a big hit and (controversially) a bigger hit than Sony’s much praised PS4 in the long run. Here are the reasons why:

Content will be more innovative

Microsoft Xbox One console TR   7 Reasons why the Xbox One is better than the PS4Bundling Kinect means the Xbox One’s £429 RRP is significantly more than the PS4′s £349, but it also means this remarkable technology will be fundamental to developers and provide them with a consistent platform to work with letting their innovation run wild.

By contrast the PS4 makes its Kinect-equivalent £55 PlayStation Camera optional to win a price war. This is popular in our economically savaged times, but even if Camera sales are huge they will never cover 100 per cent of PS4 owners and developers can never code with the confidence they can for the Xbox One.

Furthermore with the outlay for the PlayStation Camera, the PS4 totals £405. For the sake of £25, it wasn’t worth fracturing the PS4 platform.

The Xbox One’s performance shortfall will be irrelevant

Some impressive analysis of Xbox One and PS4′s performance has been made, but in reality it is unlikely to matter.The PS3 was also more powerful than the Xbox 360, but coding difficulties meant gamers rarely saw the benefit. Now the machines are so similar much of the code can be shared and that issue has gone, but two problems remain: laziness and the PC.

The first has me questioning whether developers will take the time and effort to truly code incremental improvements into the visuals of PS4 titles and even then whether the majority will actually notice the difference.As for the PC, its performance stands above both consoles this time around and its titles will likely be the source code for multi-format conversions rather than separate development of each format.

In this scenario tweaks to prioritise one console’s performance over the other seems even less likely, especially as Xbox One titles should look incredible in any case.

Greater functionality will give it a longer shelf life

Much anger has been expressed that the Xbox One is a jack of all trades with not enough focus on gaming.

The problem with this stance is the One actually gives games developers a more ambitious and creative core platform for titles then provides a greater multimedia experience on top.Both consoles come with a range of US and UK centric streaming services (with more inevitably in the pipeline) and Blu-ray drives, but the key differential is the One’s HDMI pass-thru. This lets the console control your television and potentially any connected digibox allowing the One to become centre of your living room. There are a lot of ifs and buts here, but the PS4 simply cannot ever do this. Yes a £40 annual Xbox Live Gold pass will be required, but it looks far more ambitious and integral to our long term home entertainment than the PS4.

Better controller The PS4 adds a lot into its new Sixaxis – Move, a trackpad and a share button to share moments of gameplay – but it doesn’t do enough to address its predecessor’s biggest problem: it simply isn’t as comfortable as the Xbox controller.On top of this the Xbox One controller has added trigger rumble motors, a flush battery pack, new low power state when not in use, upgraded headset audio data rates, WiFi Direct pairing and Kinect integration which can automatically orientate split screen gaming based on users’ positions during same room multiplayer.
51Y 4BKEuL TR   7 Reasons why the Xbox One is better than the PS4

Better launch line up / launch bundling

The most subjective of these points is the quality of the consoles’ games selection, but as we approach launch to me it is the Xbox One that looks to have both the better launch line-up and base bundle.

Following Gamescom we now know the Xbox One will have 22 boxed titles at launch verses 15 for the PS4 and arguably bigger exclusives: Halo 5, Forza 5, Dead Rising 3, Ryse, TitanFall, Killer Instinct, Sunset Overdrive, Project Spark, Quantum Break and Below verses Drive Club, Killzone: Shadowfall, Infamous: Second Son, Knack, Octodad: Deadliest Catch and The Order: 1886.On top of this the £429 RPP of the Xbox One will see it come bundled with FIFA 14 (worth £55), the aforementioned Kinect and a headset. The £349 PS4 will also come with a headset, but no games or PlayStation Camera. To match the One bundle would cost PS4 owners £460. No wonder Sony execs are becoming a little more cautious.

SmartGlass verses Remote Play

Good news for PlayStation fans – recently Sony dropped the price of the floundering PlayStation Vita from $299 to just $199 (£190 to £126) which makes Remote Play between it and the PS4 even more appealing. Furthermore we have Sony’s promise that Cloud advances will see the Vita be able to play PS4 games on the move in the coming years.The problem for Sony is that Microsoft’s rival SmartGlass has a much greater scope.

Whereas Remote Play currently offers second screen functionality for a PS3 or PS4 with a PSP or Vita, SmartGlass on the Xbox 360 and Xbox One offers this with devices running Windows 8, Windows RT, Windows Phone, Windows Server 2012, iOS and Android – devices we no doubt already own. With phones and tablets also looking like the portable gaming formats of the future Sony may need to significantly redesign Remote Play to match it.

Flexibility

For our final point, we’re not talking SmartGlass or the wider multimedia capabilities of the Xbox One and its bundled Kinect, but rather something which initially infuriated everyone: Microsoft’s attitude.

It is clear with the Xbox One that Microsoft is listening to concerns and taking action. Since the initial reveal it has reversed the console’s always-on requirements, mandatory use of Kinect, embraced self-publishing and indie games, taken restrictions off second hand games and added a headset and FIFA14 to the basic bundle to offset the £429 asking price. It has also fractionally boosted the speed of the Xbox One GPU with talk of another spec bump before release.

By contrast Sony has done nothing. In many respects it did not need to, but it hasn’t responded to Microsoft repeatedly sweetening the Xbox One bundle and doesn’t have a great track record when things do go wrong. Sony has been increasingly smug in recent times, but it is Microsoft actually proving it is determined to act and that attitude when combined with Microsoft’s greater financial resources bodes well for the future of the Xbox One long term.

To read the original article on TrustedReviews click here

Copyright for all reviews, editorials and features on this site belong to their respective publishers. All samples published on this website are via prior agreement with those publishers and serve to act as a portfolio and centralised location for all my work. Contact me at gordon@gordonkelly.com should you wish to commission me or supply review samples, press releases or arrange meetings.

 

TR – iPhone 5C will ambush Apple’s innovation

August 25, 2013 by  
Filed under Features & Editorials

A bargain bin iPhone hints at much deeper problems.

Right now it is fashionable to bash Apple… heck even Fox News is doing it. “What have they had lately?” espoused Fox Business News correspondent Charlie Gasparino last week. “They have had the iPad, they’ve had a few other things, but they don’t have anything innovating from [like] what came from Steve Jobs.”

Jobs’s old friend Oracle CEO Larry Ellison also weighed in with a few punches this week. “We already know [Apple’s destiny]” he said, “We saw Apple with Steve Jobs, we saw Apple without Steve Jobs… now we’re gonna see Apple without Steve Jobs [again].”

iPhone 5cjpg TR   iPhone 5C will ambush Apples innovation

The problem getting up everyone’s nose is a perceived lack of ‘innovation’, but this isn’t what bothers me. During Job’s 24 years and two spells in charge of Apple the company came up with four revolutionary products: the Macintosh computer, the iPod, iPhone and iPad. That averages out to one every six years. The iPad came out in 2010. Innovation (however we may define it) isn’t overdue yet we’re just less patient these days. Instead what irritates is how Apple is increasingly sabotaging its ability to innovate and on the back of operating system, iTunes and Apple TV inertia its latest way to do that is by releasing a budget iPhone 5C.

The case for
On the surface the so-called iPhone 5C makes sense on many levels. Most obvious is its role as a gateway to lure users into the company’s iOS and OS X ecosystems. In the face of ever-cheaper, better specified Android and Windows Phone handsets the iPod touch no longer does this job and Apple risks losing customers early to Google and Microsoft – customers who might get comfortable there, invest heavily and never come back.

Furthermore advances in phone technology seem to be levelling out. All phones are fast these days, most have decent cameras, GPS, accelerometers, 3G (or even 4G) and most of the biggest apps are multi-platform. Apple might as well exploit this plateau and once again get the masses aboard who have given Android an astonishing 79 per cent mobile phone market share.

iPhones for everyone, break out the party poppers.

The case against
iPhone 5C prototype TR   iPhone 5C will ambush Apples innovationOn paper this model works for just about everyone, except Apple. Apple is not your average company.

It got to where it is today by preaching that it is about as far away from an average company as it is possible to be. To do this Apple has succeeded in convincing the world of three things: its products are innovative, this makes them aspirational and this combination makes it worth paying a premium to attain them.

It is genius: the innovation takes care of the marketing, being aspirational results in demand (and content customers after a purchase) and big profit margins keep investors happy.

A budget iPhone risks all of this. By definition it can’t be as innovative, aspirational or as profitable. Worse still the better it sells the bigger ball and chain it becomes around Apple’s leg. Take a look at the iPhone 5S rumours. NFC, a fingerprint scanner, more responsive screen technology, larger capacities… they may be mostly upgrades, but they are all things that can inspire app developers to do the innovation for them. A budget iPhone will have none of these. In fact the latest rumour is it may not even come with Siri.

Budget devices often outsell more expensive options (look at how iPad mini sales rocketed past those of the iPad) and developers will have little motivation to create apps that can’t be used by the widest user base – a user base that just took a technological backwards step. Apple is welcoming the biggest problem of the Google Play store: developers designing for the lowest common denominator. It is one reason why premium Android gaming experiences remain thin on the ground and ‘free’ apps proliferate weighed down by invasive ads.

Apple can crow all it likes about the possibilities of any new fingerprint scanner, NFC or the extra horsepower of an iPhone 5S, but if developers aren’t exploiting them they will stagnate. Stagnation hits premium sales, hurts brand aspiration and convinces increasing amounts of users that the budget model is good enough.

What’s more when an iWatch or iTV eventually arrives can Apple afford to differentiate iPhones by their level of integration/functionality with these devices?

Limit it and you risk wider interest in them and jeopardise their chances of success. Give parity and there is even less reason to buy a premium iPhone. It is a no win-scenario. Contrast this with the current Apple sales model: you bring new functionality and it simply encourages people to upgrade to the latest and greatest iPhone triggering sales around the block and huge profit margins.

What is *really* the matter?
So perhaps the bigger question is – why is Apple looking to take all these risks? Lamborghini doesn’t need a budget car to stop people being hijacked by Ford when they buy their first Fiesta.

Lamborghini knows when you can afford it the appeal will always be there because they are confident in their innovation, differentiation and aspirational brand. If Apple is starting to question these qualities (and only they know their internal roadmap) then perhaps the company’s problems do go as deep as Fox and Larry Ellison would like us to believe.

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