Mar 16, 2013

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Epic Battle for Android King in Singapore 2013

In the past, any discussion about smartphones would not have been complete with Apple’s iPhone being left out of the picture. The idea of smartphones was coined years earlier even before Apple introduced the first generation iPhone. Few industry giants with the likes of Treo, Nokia and O2 at one point of time attempted but none of them really make a breakthrough with the consumers. No one was able to crack the smartphone puzzle. Steve Jobs decided to assemble his team of brilliant engineers and marketing geniuses in an attempt to take on the challenge. Few reports suggested that prior to its debut in 2007, the making of iPhone started as early as late 1990s. This means that it took even the greatest innovator of our time, Steve Jobs, close to ten years to build a device that turned out to be the revolutionary force and catalyst that changes the way we see the world and do many of our daily routines.


I can go on about the smartphone revolution. I can go on to tell about how Apple, through iPhone, has killed the traditional phone market and dethroned who were once formidable king such as Nokia and Blackberry. But I will not go on. The wave of revolution sparked by Apple’s iPhone is eminent and speaks for itself. Fast forward to today, we are now halfway through the full decade of the revolution. Ever since the departure of Steve Jobs, Apple’s innovation machine seems to have slowed down. Whether we realize it or not. Whether we accept it or not. Android is now becoming the epicenter of the smartphone universe. It is where the excitement and big battles are fought.

Just days ago, Samsung held what was labeled by industry analysts and watches as the biggest smartphone launch in 2013. It seemed to me that Samsung has mastered another stance from Apple’s playbook – hype machine. Of all places in the world, New York is picked as the launching pad for the latest Galaxy S4, taking on Apple at its very own turf. Specs leaks. Image leaks. Software leaks. The entire blogsphere is abuzz in the build up to what is tipped to be the hottest selling smartphone this year. As expected, some of the leaks were genuine while some were fake. As Carla pointed out in her earlier discussion, the future of smartphone is not going to be in hardware superiority but software features that are going to fill the holes to the way we do things in our every day lives. Buried among all the rumors and speculations is the eye scroll feature which many of us thought is going to be really cool. But when the wrap around the Galaxy S4 is finally lifted, we had Smart Scroll. Instead of eye control, the Smart Scroll relies on the tilting and movement of the phone to control the scrolling. A big let down indeed. But the bigger disappointment comes from the initial feedback that has been streaming in from tech bloggers who happened to have laid their hands on the Galaxy S4. The general consensus is the Smart Scroll is a nice attempt by Samsung but it does not work as well and as smooth as it should be. There are tonnes other reviews about Samsung’s latest flagship Galaxy S4 phone. In many instances, the initial jury seems to be that Samsung has just let slip their biggest opportunity to land the final blow to knock Apple’s iPhone dominance.

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Soon after the unveiling, many critics are quick to jump into critizising Samsung’s latest Galaxy S4 as far from a revolutionary device that many have come to expect from Samsung. Some are harsh enough to even describe it as an iterative and not even worth to be considered as an evolutionary product. One of the harshest critics has to be HTC’s chief marketing officer, Benjamin Ho. Ho went as far as describing Galaxy SIV’s plastic build as pales in comparsion to HTC One’s all aluminum unibody.

Remember few months back when Apple debut the iPhone 5? It was met with equally, if not more hostile reception. Despite the screen upgrade and improved appearance, many (including those in Samsung’s camp) blasted Apple for complacency and started predicting doomsday for the Cupertino tech giant. Many were convinced that Apple has lost its magic after Jobs departure and tipped Samsung as the next leader in innovation. Samsung had its chance to show the world that it is ready to take over the helm but they just blew up the chance. The lack of innovation in Samsung’s latest flagship smartphone means that this year will be an interesting year for the smartphone, particularly the Android segment. As Samsung stalls, the rest of the pack are closing in. LG just had a fresh success in their partnership with Google in building the Nexus 4.

If you recall, Samsung were an established player in handset market before the iOS and Android era. That was during the Windows mobile era. They tried and they failed. Then they started by playing a supporting role in supplying components to Apple. At one point of time, more than 50% of iPhone’s components were from Samsung. Along the way, Samsung learned a trick or two and started producing its own phones. Do you the similarity with LG? LG has already been producing Andorid phones before Nexus 4 but they were all crappy that the number of Singaporeans to even willing consider LG’s phone were just a fraction of a tiny fraction. But they seem to have learnt from Google on what it takes to make a beautiful and truly usable Android phone. Despite the huge success and popularity of Nexus 4, LG refused to ramp up its production. (Until today, we have not seen any sign of Nexus 4 coming to Singapore) Instead, LG is trying to switch everyone to their Optimus G and Optimus G Pro. The Optimus G is pitched as Nexus 4-optimized version. But will anyone in Singapore bite into it? That is where the battle for Android King throne is going to be interesting this year.

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Aside from HTC and LG, Sony is trying to make a comeback and they seemed to be showing strong determination in doing so. Announced in recent MWC 2013, Sony’s latest Xperia Z has been made available in Singapore since March 1. It has so far received rave reviews. But most of the positive reviews have so far been centered around the superior hardware build of the Xperia Z while most still see some catching up to do from software perspective.

While Apple has not been showing much innovation with the iOS lately, the battle is heating up in the Android space. Now that smartphone is entering post-infancy stage, the benchmark for smartphone user experience has been established. Everyone seems to have figured out how to make smartphones that are usable and it is quickly approaching the maturity of PC computing. Who do you think will be the Android King in Singapore in 2013? Do you think Samsung’s Galaxy SIV will solidify its grip at the top? Or do you think we are ready for another Korean dominance with LG Optimus G Pro? Do you think HTC One has a chance at all? Do you think Sony’s Xperia Z will turn around the fortune for the ailing Japanese electronic behemoth? Don’t miss out on this epic battle. Cast your vote in our polling!

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