AnandTech Article Channel

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Mobile Phone Patent Wars

I have been watching the flurry of patent related suits being bandied back and forth between major manufacturers. 
I'm sure most of you have heard about all these suits of Apple against Samsung, HTC and Google which were likewise reciprocated with countersuits by the manufacturers involved. Then there is the case of Kodak against Apple and RIM. 
In the midst of these patent wars, there are several thoughts that cross my mind. 
One is I wonder what the end result will be and how substantial would  be its effects. It is possible that one company will end up paying royalties to the other company. Should this be the case then the end user will be the ultimate loser, since it is almost a certainty that the additional cost will be passed on to them. While the foregoing scenario itself is quite an unpleasant and undesirable one, there is one another one that borders on the insidious, with sinister motives. 
I have noticed that some writers are having a heyday predicting the downfall of Android, HTC, Samsung or at least the very least a massive loss of revenue for them as a result of the suits filed by Apple. 
It is quite curious but wherever Apple is involved as a plaintiff, like clockwork, a study or article will crop up painting the equivalent of a doomsday scenario for the companies involved. Yet when Apple is the defendant, like in the case of Kodak, there are no articles that paint the same dismal scenario even though the case of Kodak could stop the importation of Iphones and Rim phones into the US. 
On the other hand again, articles are aplenty about how Android will lose gazillions of market share because it may have to pay $5 to $15 per phone should they lose the suit !?? 
I don't know where these figures came from, but it seems logical to assume that the inability to import your devices is tantamount to massive loss of revenue. But in this equation, a $15 fine spells a catastrophic market loss. Go figure. 
To my mind, it seems that someone is trying their very best to use unsavory methods to eat into a competitors market. Obviously someone is getting desperate and is now pulling out all stops to prevent what appears to be an impending if not current loss of market share. I would not be surprised if one of the players involved is incurring bigger losses than they are admitting. 
Then of course, one must also keep in mind that there is also the question of international politics since the current battle in this market is USA vs Taiwan vs Korea, at least in some areas. In the other area, its free vs paid....  the usual crusade of open source against the "for profit"giants. What is even more distressing is that the case of Kodak has been dragging on for quite a while, but the case of Apple has gone right to center stage, getting a lot of attention, from the agencies involved and the media... It's something with very serious implications.
On my part I believe that someone should at least try to level the field by putting all the facts on the table. So i am rising to that challenge. From this point onwards, I will write a sort of editorial type article for my blog as my contribution to fair and honest writing.

Monday, July 18, 2011

FINALLY! The Smartphone Buyers Guide


This is probably the best time ever to be a new smartphone buyer. You have so many excellent phones to choose from with an extremely wide variety of features available.

Furthermore the phone choices of local phone companies in the Philippines is on the uptrend as well with competition pushing the prices lower and lower.

However, many of the companies have a high turnover rate as far as their frontline personnel are concerned. This leads to the presence of many customer service people who are ill-prepared to properly explain the phone choices to their customers. More often than not, the choices boil down to something as mundane as resale value. While this may be important for some, it is most certainly not the case for the overwhelming majority who buy phones to use them.

So with that in mind, and the fact that many phones require a 2 year lock in to give you the best deals, it is important for new smartphone buyers to do their homework and make choices based on their own specific needs,

All it requires is for you to ask yourself several questions, making sure that your answers are as honest as possible.

Here are the things you must ask yourself:

1. What functions are indispensable to me? (MUST HAVE)
Smartphones have some basic functions in common. But many of them, especially on the medium to high end, start to distinguish themselves with the inclusion of certain features. 

For some buyers, there are some functions that they absolutely must have, so your list should start with the must have features. That way, you will be able to trim down your list of choices substantially.
Examples of these include:
            - GPS
            - Sound processing like Dolby, SRS, etc
            - Ability to sync with desktop applications
            - Push email. This is no longer the sole territory of Blackberry. Gmail offers FREE push email on Android machines which in my opinion, is well suited for majority of the potential smartphone users.
2. What functions are not essentials, but are potential deal makers? (NICE TO HAVE)
Like computers, it is probably best to get a phone that has some room for your needs to grow into. This would be in the realm of processor speed, memory expansion and onboard program and user memory.

So faster processors, bigger ram and ability to take in the biggest memory cards are nice to have features which can pay dividends down the road.

3. What functions have little if any value to me? (NOT NEEDED)
While I mentioned above that processor speeds are some nice to have features, the same does not apply to the current crop of dual core phones.

Yes they are nice to have, but they put a big premium on the handsets and not all people are able to realize the benefits of dual processors. In reality, for at least half of the potential smartphone users, single core processors from 800 mhz upwards is sufficient for their needs. 

Aside from these, there are some other features that might not be needed at all, but add a big premium to the phones. 

One prime example of this is the Blackberry service. I for one, understand that in the corporate world, there are some users that NEED the Blackberry service. But the way that the telecom companies are pushing Blackberry units, it is clear that a large segment of Blackberry owners don’t use the Blackberry service at all. This is a big waste of their money and it is something that telecom companies should avoid. Sure, it seems to be the in-thing for some youths, but since many of them don’t know better, the telcos should endeavor to have a strong sense of social responsibility and avoid emulating the proverbial snake oil salesman.

4. Is connection to a computer essential?
This is very important because you need to make sure that your cables match the interface on your computer.

Also, many smartphone desktop software allow for connection via Bluetooth, infrared and Wifi. Make sure that your PC and smartphone are compatible in this sense.

I would advise searching the net also for potential connectivity issues between your desktop and smartphone. That way you can avoid the hassle of buying an uber-expensive smartphone, only to find out that you need to undergo a long complicated process just to get them to see each other.

I also want to share my bad experience regarding connectivity here, for the benefit of potential buyers.
Years ago, I needed to shift from Symbian (Nokia E71, SE P990i and SE P1i) to Windows Mobile 6.XX because of my work at that time. I had a need to sync Office and my phone seamlessly so I confidently went with an Omnia 2 and an HTC HD2. Everything was fine until I upgraded to Windows 7 64 bit Professional and Office 2010, just when Windows Phone 7 was released. This was when I found out that my MICROSOFT Windows phone would not sync with my MICROSOFT Office Outlook 2010. What made it worse was the declaration by Microsoft, that they would not be addressing the issue anymore. So they were in effect saying that if you want to sync Outlook 2010 on 64 but Windows 7, you have to buy a Windows Phone.

That, by itself was bad, but what made it worse, was when I realized that my HTC Desire, running on Android, could do synchronize seamlessly with Outlook 2010! How ironic is that?

This marked the end of my Windows mobile days and I swore never to buy ANY Windows phone again. It was a decision I really felt good about, when I learned that Microsoft was also discontinuing the Myphone support . Clearly, very little value was given to users like myself who needed support from the company.

So the lesson here is to read carefully about the end user support that is given by the manufacturer of your mobile OS of choice. It would also be good to check out the user groups because they will provide a backup support system in the event that the manufacturer should falter in their upgrades and system problem resolution.

5. What is my primary PC?
The connectivity software of phones are OS specific so make sure that your primary PC OS is supported by your phones desktop software.

This is something which Linux, Ubuntu and some legacy software users should be aware of. The same thing goes for users of Mac OSX and Windows. Don’t take it for granted that your software and phone is supported. 

Make sure you check both the manufacturers site and the user groups. I have seen cases where a known issue was not even addressed on the manufacturers website.

6. Do I travel a lot?
Some smartphones are more connected than others. If you travel outside your country frequently and you will be needing your phone, then make sure your phone has the necessary bands in your foreign destination. Some people think that a smartphone is automatically a global one. That is not always true, so check first.

7. Will I be mobile for more than 24 hours at a time?
This is a very important question because a lot of the good smartphones today, are so powerful and well equipped which means there is a herculean load placed on the battery. In other words, battery technology has yet to catch up with phone technology so at the moment.

So by experience I can tell you that the better smartphones can sometimes last barely a day if you their features a lot. Many users are happy to get through a single day on one charge.

This is of course dependent on your usage and it should not be the clincher as far as choosing a phone is concerned.

After all, the best phones are power hungry ones and if you want them, just be prepared to pack an extra battery or two and you’re good to go.

The 2011 Smartphone OS Choices and some comments

1. Android – This Mobile OS has grown in popularity in leaps and bounds and has effectively taken top position in Smartphone OS sales. There is a good reason for this. The Android OS is fast, extremely flexible and well supported by a very large community.

2. Apple IOS – The Iphone is certainly one of the more popular phones around and it would have been one of the must have devices had it not been for the entry of Android. The Iphone 4 was plagued with some issues and there is some talk that the expected release of the Iphone 5 on September might be delayed due to processor issues.
Nevertheless, the IOS ranks high up there in popularity and it is usually the phone of choice for Mac users.

3. Blackberry – This used to be the force to reckon with in the Smartphone arena but because the mobile phone market grew rapidly, Blackberry had difficulty dealing with the new systems. Hence it has dropped significantly in ratings. However, it has just announced the Blackberry OS 7 which they hope might help it regain some of the lost market share.

4. Windows Mobile – Unless you have a very good reason to go with the OS, I suggest going the Windows Phone 7 (if you really need to go MS). Otherwise, go for the other choices because Windows Mobile is essentially at the end of its days.

5. Windows Phone 7 – Microsoft has lost a lot of market share in the mobile market and it hopes to get back in the game by way of WP7. However, most comparisons show their units faltering in comparison to the other new mobile OS contenders. Study your choices very carefully before choosing this OS.

6. Symbian – The future of Symbian is a bit shaky at this point because of the migration of device manufacturers to other platforms. While the newest Symbian OS is a big improvement on its predecessors, it still falls below the mark when compared with the latest from Android and Apple.
The fact that Nokia is THE Symbian manufacturer, and it announced a partnership with Microsoft for WP7 is ominous and might mark the beginning of the end of Symbian as we know it. But having said that, the hardware that are running Symbian have unique features and if they alone, fulfill your needs now, then there is certainly no reason not to go for it.

So there you have it. A short buyers guide to smartphones. As always, take your time and study your options well. Be sure to get the latest price matrix from your telecom companies and run them through your spreadsheet as well to ensure that you get the best deal.

While there are some handsets that are associated strongly with telcos, like HTC, Samsung Galaxy and Iphone, most are not exclusive after a certain period of time. However, careful study of their price lists will show significant variance in phone prices so be meticulous.

Smartphone buying can be a fun process which will also enhance your knowledge a great deal. Don’t put yourself at the mercy of your telcos customer service. Empower yourself.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

HTC Sensation OTA update

Two important updates about the HTC SENSATION

1. HTC confirmed via Facebook page, that the SENSATION will be included in the system update that will unlock the BOOTLOADERS! This upgrade is expected in September.

2. The OTA update to the SENSATION that was rolled out in Europe a few days ago, is now available in the Philippines. Nothing fancy, according to HTC, just some system performance improvements.The new version after the update is 1.35.707.1

Here is a link to the page about the upgrade:

And here is the XDA thread about the update

Friday, July 8, 2011

My Vision Board Strikes Again

I am in gadget nirvana right now.

Just a few posts ago, I was facing the unpleasant task of choosing between the Samsung Galaxy S2 and the HTC Sensation.

As I write this, I have in front of me ....drum roll please...

The SGS2 AND the Sensation!

YES! My vision board worked again! The universe somehow collaborated and created circumstances that made the appearance of these two powerhouses nearly painless and close to instantaneous. Two weeks ago, I would never have dreamed that I would have these gadgets at my disposal and yet they are now here.

So for all intents and purposes, I am a happy camper for at 1 year (I hope) or at least 6 months.

Prior to their arrival, I found good homes for my K810, W850, Omnia 2, HD2 and a newly arrived Galaxy Ace. 5 people are so much happier with their new acquisitions and so am I. I am becoming a believer in the saying that the more you give, the more you get back. At least for as long as you are not giving in order to get...
Hence, I will be preparing a couple of posts so I can share with my readers  my first impressions about these two new arrivals which are arguable, the 2 best phones in the world today.

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