Monday, December 24, 2012

Facebook says, Poke You

Last week, Facebook launched a new iOS app called Poke which lets people send photos, videos, pokes, or text Facebook messages to their friends that expire after a few seconds. This app has raised many eyebrows because of the way it unabashedly copies the popular texting app, Snapchat. Mark Zuckerberg, is said to have coded the app himself and the entire app was developed in just 12 days, thanks to Facebook's "Hacker Culture".

The Poke app lets Facebook users to send messages with a photo or a short video(up to 10 seconds) that self-destructs after 1,3,5 or 10 seconds. When a user has been 'poked' they get just a notification in the web-version. On mobile, if the Poke app is not installed, a link to the Apple App store is displayed in the Facebook app from which the users can download the app and see who/what poked them. While the app by itself does not bring any additional value to the table but ephemeral messaging seems to the next hip thing and Facebook wants a piece of it. The initial reviews of the app mentioned it as being slow which is not surprising considering the short development duration it had. So hopefully things should get better soon once the app gets some traction.

So a lot of people are wondering why Facebook built this app, the answer probably lies in the fact that users are no longer bound by the desktop and if you need to engage users, then mobile is the way forward. Also Facebook could have built the app to just 'show off' that it can indeed pull it off and also to sound a clear warning to any other competitor who might be planning to build a rival app - Poke You!

Though Facebook is late to the mobile game, having bet on HTML 5 earlier(which flopped) but now it has switched gears to native app development and has made quite a few leaps with recent app releases which include the revamped Android app, Facebook Messenger app, Facebook Photo-Sync feature and now Poke. The common emotion that Facebook evokes among people is 'privacy concern' and considering the fact that Snapchat has grown in popularity because the service is used mostly by teens to share racy snaps, some kids might want to keep their personal lives private from uncle Zuck's all pervading eye. But that has not stopped the app from claiming the top spot in iTunes store toppling Google Maps to the second place. Also another consoling fact for the privacy paranoids is that all Facebook pokes are encrypted and the keys will be deleted in two days and even this is to facilitate abuse reporting. So you can breathe a sigh of relief and give this already popular app a spin.

Mobile has long been the sore thumb for Facebook and the only way for the company to grow is to monetize its user base on the mobile platform and for that it needs to get its apps in as many hands as it can. So all the best to Facebook with that!

Disclaimer: All ideas, thoughts or reviews published in this blog are my personal opinion and not that of my employer (Samsung).

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Instagram is not evil, you are just acting crazy

Image Credit: Instagram
Every time a major online service provider makes a change to their of Terms of Service, privacy pundits raise a great hue and cry over how evil corporations 'steal' user's data and make money off them. Even before you know it, all hell breaks loose and the users start ranting and whining about their paranoia. If only everyone took a few minutes to actually read the fine-print before clicking on the Accept button. The latest service to come under the privacy breach radar is Instagram, the billion dollar baby of Facebook.

Instagram recently updated their ToS to

"[Y]ou hereby grant to Instagram a non-exclusive, fully paid and royalty-free, transferable, sub-licensable, worldwide license to use the Content that you post on or through the Service, except that you can control who can view certain of your Content and activities on the Service. [...]
Some or all of the Service may be supported by advertising revenue. To help us deliver interesting paid or sponsored content or promotions, you agree that a business or other entity may pay us to display your username, likeness, photos (along with any associated metadata), and/or actions you take, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you."
On first glance, it definitely looks like Instagram was hatching an evil plan to sell all your photos and make money from it. This even 'worried' parents, who wondered if their kids' photos would be used in advertisements. Seriously? If you want to keep all your data safe, then do not to upload it anywhere on the Internet! First of all how many people do actually know that there is an option to make photos as 'Private' in Instagram. Only followers who are approved by you can view the photos. Even if yous hare the link on any social media site like Facebook or Twitter, even then only the approved users will be able to view it  (Worried parents, please use this option to share your kids photos with just your family and friends and not the Whole Wide World). Kevin Systrom, the CEO of Instagram wrote a blog post to address the concerns of the users; he clearly mentions that Instagram does not intend to sell user photos. He also mentions that even after the ToS come into effect, photos classified as Private will not be used for any advertising purposes.

The basic problem with us is, we have been spoiled to expect 'free services' all the time with 100% up-time. But the truth is all these services require a lot of money to operate the data centers, maintain the operations and above all pay the team which build and maintain such wonderful products. The only way for such online service providers to make money is by displaying ads based on our preferences or charge the users for the services. Would you pay? It is not like you upload a picture of yourself on a beach and you end on a Kingfisher Calender the next year (but I guess you will secretly hope so)!

Most of the fear about privacy seem to arise not because of Instagram's change in policies but because of its parent company Facebook. When Facebook purchased a photo sharing site with no business model for a billion dollars, it was quite evident that they will attempt to monetize it somehow. It was just a matter of time. If you are really worried about privacy then I suggest you close your Facebook account first. Compared to the frivolous options called as Privacy Settings which lets almost anyone see or share you content, at least Instagram is clear about what it intends to do with your photos and it definitely is not as scary as you imagine it to be.

If you are still not convinced about Instagram, then backup your photos to your personal cloud account and delete your account. And keep your phone off the dinner table and enjoy the food for a while.

Disclaimer: All ideas, thoughts or reviews published in this blog are my personal opinion and not that of my employer (Samsung).

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Flickr of hope for Yahoo

flickr app
The revamped iPhone Flickr app
Its not just Santa, Yahoo! CEO Marissa Meyer has some gifts for Christmas too - the revamped Yahoo! Mail and the slick Flickr app. Ever since Marissa Meyer took over as CEO, there has been a lot of speculation over how she planned to rescue the troubled web giant. She made it clear months ago that mobile was the way to go and she has held on to that promise by launching the two best and most used Yahoo! products.

At Google, Marissa was responsible for maintaining the spartan look of the search engine home page and preventing it from being spammed with ads like the current (cough) Yahoo! homepage. Well at least for now the Yahoo! Mail has been given a beautiful makeover and it looks simply......stunning! Despite the viral growth of social media sites, people still use email ... a lot. (Remember the confirmation emails you get when you sign up for a new account on any site). Yahoo's previous mail web app was riddled with way too many distractions to get any work done at all. The new designs comes as a whiff of fresh air and what's great about it is - it is tailored for every platform be it the web, Android, iOS or Windows 8 and it looks gorgeous in all each of its avatars. Unlike social media platforms where the goal is to get more people to sign up, the strategy with web mail is to retain the existing customers and leverage them to up-sell and any new product (the way Google pushed Google+ to all its users with a Gmail account, irrsepective of whether they asked for it). And I do hope Yahoo's new efforts pays off as well.

Marissa  Meyer pulled out a few more goodies from her christmas bag the next day - the all new revamped Flickr app. The latest war among online tech giants is for user's photos and filters, as was seen in the case of Twitter-Instagram battle. The Yahoo! CEO kept her prmoise to make Yahoo! a mobile-first company by launching a revamped Flickr app for editing and sharing photos from iPod Touch and iPhones (Hopefully we will get some Android love soon). The initial reviews of the app applaud the amount of hard work put in by the talented team at Yahoo! who have delivered a fantastic app that brings the some of the latest features like full Groups capabilities, which was previously only available through the service’s website. 

Overall, Yahoo! seems to be getting back in the game and we always love the underdog who topples the Goliaths and emerges victorious. Looks like its going to be a merry Christmas for Yahoo! after all.

Disclaimer: All ideas, thoughts or reviews published in this blog are my personal opinion and not that of my employer (Samsung).

Monday, December 10, 2012

iTunes Store hits Indian shores

Apple has finally launched the iTunes store in India close on the heels of upgrading the iTunes software itself. Considering the fact that there are hardly any legal way to purchase music online in India, save for the Flipkart Flyte, it seems like there is not much competition for Apple but is that compelling enough to woo the price conscious Indian consumer.

It doesn't get simpler than this
Like all things Apple, accessing the iTunes store and purchasing songs are quite simple. Create an Apple ID and enter your credit card information, that's it. The interface is quite good and its easy to discover songs. The preview feature lets you listen to about a minute of the song. It is quite useful before you decide to buy a song. My latest hobby has been previewing songs :P

Competitive pricing
Apple has priced the tracks quite competitively. For a recently released Bollywood movie, each track costs Rs.12 and the entire album is yours for Rs.96. I believe this is about the same as the cost of purchasing the original CD. So why go all the way to shop, buy a CD, rip it, upload to iTunes library and then sync with an iDevice when you can do all this with just a click. Thanks to iCloud, songs purchased from iTunes store can be synced across the entire Apple family of devices automatically. All these convenience come with a clause, thou shalt not stray from thy iKingdom as all thou files are DRM protected (Update:Apple has stopped DRM protection on its songs since 2009). It might not sound like a deal breaker if you own a lot of Apple products but for the general population it might. (There are ways to bend these rules a bit, but you might have to google them up for yourself!)

Flipkart does not not allow to preview the songs before you buy or does not allow to buy individual tracks. However, the same bollywood album was sold for Rs.72! Plus, the songs are not DRM-protected, so you actually own the songs you pay for. Ta Da! So it was a no-brainer for me and I finally purchased Dabbang 2 album from Flyte. You can either download the files one at a time directly or use the Flyte Download manager for bulk downloads. But the latter didn't work for me so I went ahead and downloaded the tracks individually. There are options to select the bitrate for each song. I naturally chose 320 kbps - maximum bang for the buck. Now its all Fevi Fevi Col se...Fevicol se :)

So what do you think about the iTunes India store and the pricing which definitely makes more sense than the $0.99 per track pricing (as in US). Is it better than Flyte or are there any other better online music store in India apart from these, drop in your comments.

Disclaimer: All ideas, thoughts or reviews published in this blog are my personal opinion and not that of my employer (Samsung).

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Facebook launches new mobile messaging app

Photo Courtesy: Engadget
 For the past one week, Facebook has been getting a lot of attention. First, for the anticipated acquisition of WhatsApp, a popular cross-platform mobile messaging app that lets users send messages across various platforms like Android, iOS, Blackberry and Windows Phone. This has elicited trade pundits to share their gyaan on why Facebook shouldn't buy WhatsApp and should invest more in building its own mobile app, which has been quite an Achilles heel for the social networking giant. However, all these rumors were soon quelled by the folks at WhatsApp officially denying that they were in talks with FB to sell the company. Rumors are no fun if they come to an abrupt end so soon :(

The latest news doing the rounds is about a new mobile messaging app launched by Facebook that does not even require a Facebook account! Yup, you heard it right. All you need is a name and a phone number and you are all set to text. The app is similar to WhatsApp; it pulls the contacts from your address book and lets you send messages to contacts who need not necessarily be on Facebook. Currently it is available as an Android app and Facebook has launched it in select countries like India, Indonesia, Australia, Venezuela and South Africa.

Facebook has decided to kill two birds with a single stone by launching its app in the emerging markets where it does not yet have a stronghold and by choosing to release its app first on Android platform, which is probably the most dominant smartphone platform especially in the emerging markets. Though some might argue that Facebook has passed on a golden chance to enroll more users by not making it mandatory to use the app, I believe it is a clever bet.

The biggest concern with users for not using Facebook is privacy. By making the app available to all, Facebook is essentially planning to get its app into as many hands as possible. If Facebook manages to pull it off and the messaging app comes out as a considerable alternative to the current popular messaging apps like Nimbuzz, WhatsApp or ChatOn it will give Facebook a much needed foothold in the mobile arena. The success of this app will be two-fold:
  1. Ads: Though the current version of the app is ad-free, I am sure Facebook will consider targeting users with ads soon. Given the fact that a Facebook knows everything about us, the friends we are chatting with and what they like, the ads will be quite 'personal'. Though this may not appeal to some privacy advocates, there are some who might thank Facebook for reminding them to buy a gift for their friend's anniversary.
  2. More users: Once the users like the messaging app and are willing to create their Facebook profile, it will add a few more users to the ever-growing billion plus social network.
Either way it looks like a win-win for Facebook. Well, all that droidfooding seems to have done some good after all. Its too early to decide if this mobile bet will pay off or not. Have you tried the new messaging and if so, what do you think of it.

Disclaimer: All ideas, thoughts or reviews published in this blog are my personal opinion and not that of my employer (Samsung).

Monday, December 3, 2012

Google+ is not Facebook

When someone sees me using Google+, I am usually asked what is it and after I tell them that its a social networking platform, they say "Oh, it's like Facebook". My reply is "No, its not like Facebook" and I deliver a long sermon about what makes it different. So here are a few takeaways.

Sure, Google+ may look like Facebook because it has a profile page, a news feed, like(+1), share and all the bells and whistles that will be present in any social networking site, but that is where all the comparison ends. I read this post on CNET how Google+ can thrive alongside Facebook. It is a well-written post that clearly tells apart the two different networking platforms. Just as Pinterest's popularity has not spelled death for Facebook, the same logic applies for Google+ too.

I have been an active user of Google+ ever since it launched in 2011 and I use it differently than Facebook. To me, Facebook is a closed social network that I use to keep in touch with my friends. By 'friends' I mean people whom I went to school(or college) with, my colleagues or in short, (only)people whom I know in the real world end up in my virtual world friend list. I neither send friend requests to strangers just because we have 5 mutual friends nor do I accept friend request from random strangers, even if it is from some beautiful girl. Fine, I made up that one. Gosh, I never get such requests, damn it!

On the other hand, Google+ is more like Twitter + Google Reader put together. I do not use it to socialize with my friends (well hardly any of them are there on G+) but rather to as a source of getting the latest tech news. Posts by guys like Mike Elgan, Guy Kawasaki, Robert Scoble, Verge,etc are awesome and some write exclusively on Google+. Though Twitter is also good for following trends, sometimes 140 chars seems too less to convey anything meaningful. Also another cool feature of Google+ is, it allows to share an entire blog post as a single status update, so it saves me the trouble of having to click the link and open it in a new window. So much work, Phew! Google+ introduced the feature to 'circle' a person to receive their updates without having to be their friend, something similar to the Follow feature in Twitter. This 'inspired' Facebook to introduce a Subscribe feature that lets people who have subscribed to see your public posts. But compared to FB, Google+ has better privacy controls about what information is shared. Also the interface is clean and ad-free (at least as of now) compared to the cluttered Facebook experience.

So, if you have not used Google+ till now then go ahead and give it a spin. It can be used to follow a lot of topics not just tech and might in fact let you discover your hidden passion. For the die-hard FB fans, there's a fair share of cat videos and rage comics circulating on Google+ too, so you won't miss your daily dose of humor. So give it a spin and let me know what you think.

Disclaimer: All ideas, thoughts or reviews published in this blog are my personal opinion and not that of my employer (Samsung).

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Product Leaks - the latest PR stunt

Img Courtesy: Pocket-lint
No publicity is bad publicity, said a wise man. The film industry swears by this law and has never failed to use it to stir interest about a yet-to-be-released film by planting orchestrated celebrity scandals about the film's lead actors. The tech world too seems to have taken a leaf or two from the glamour world - welcome to the world of Product Leaks aka planned PR stunts.

Gone are the days when product leaks were considered a security breach and witch hunts were conducted to crucify the mischief-mongers who had leaked confidential information. Though some leaks are genuine instances of security lapse where an employee loses a prototype at a bar or posts product details in online forums, there are some companies which use product leaks as a way of stirring interest about their product.

The hyper-secretive Apple which is known to employ extreme measures to prevent any information from leaking its fortress has been having a tough time recently keeping rumors in check. Detailed specifications and pictures about iPhone 5 and iPad Mini were making the rounds on the Internet much before its release and some of them turned out to be completely true. (Psst, the latest rumor is that Apple is planning to release an iPhone 5S early next year)

Such leaks reduce the customer interest when the product actually hits the shelves because the customers are 'disappointed' they got the exact rumored product and nothing new! (Maybe except Apple, the loyal following braved hurricane Sandy and stood in line to get the iPad Mini) You see, the charm of a rumor lies in the fact that it keeps us guessing whether its true or not. Once you know its true - Duh!

While some companies are busy trying to silence rumors, the PR folks at RIM are probably planning which top-secret information is to be 'leaked' next. Selling a dream is much difficult than selling a phone and I must say the marketing and the PR team at RIM have managed to pull it off. Despite the fact that RIM has not launched any major handset for the past one year especially in the US (as it is betting all its hopes on the next generation BB 10 OS) there seem to be no dearth of rumors about the awesome specs the BB10 handsets will have, the latest being the photo of RIM CEO Thorsten Heins and Vice President Andrew Bocking at a Lakers game using BB10 devices. Among all the people at the game, the photographer decided to click a photo of these two gentlemen exactly at the moment they were waving their phones in the air. I am sure it was a mere coincidence!

Despite my opinion that such towel-dropping and oops-i-did-it-again moments might portray a company in bad light among customers, the stock market seems to believe in RIM as is evident by the 17.3 per cent increase in share prices in Toronto. If the world likes drama, then who am I to argue. After all, the world likes only three things - entertainment, entertainment and entertainment!

Disclaimer: All ideas, thoughts or reviews published in this blog are my personal opinion and not that of my employer (Samsung).

Monday, November 26, 2012

Early adopters - Trendsetters or Guinea pigs

Acquiring early customers is the most the challenging task for a company when it is trying to launch a new product, because not many would be willing to step out of their comfort zone and sail forth to the promised land. These early adopters go a long way in determining the success or failure of the product - they either love the product so much that they become evangelists and promote it to any one who would listen to them or they fill the online universe with enough ammunition to make sure the product is dead on arrival. Take that, $uck3rs!

 So, what does it take to be an early adopter
 No product is perfect in the initial stages and is bound to be filled with bugs. You know, there's a reason why companies put on a 'Beta' band-aid sticker when they release a new product. If the product is a hit, then they can take credit for it and if it flops be ready for this 'apology' - Oops!Sorry. But hey, we did warn you that our product was not yet fully functional. Remember the point next to the small asterix buried at the end of the page where you checked 'I have read and agree to the terms and conditions'.

But in most cases, early adopters are familiar with these problems that 'might' occur but still can't resist the temptation to get their hands on the something that is not yet available to everyone. I still remember how I scoured my friend list to find someone who could invite me to join Google+ when it was launched. The feeling of exclusivity gives early adopters their daily shot of  dopamine.

Also beta testing a product with a small group is very essential for any product before it goes mainstream. There is no way Microsoft can test all the features in their new OS or Office suite in a lab and release it. Real world usage scenario is very essential to identify some of the flaws that might occur. After all, a product is meant for real-life people and not for simulated test scripts. And those who fail to take this seriously will end up taking a wrong turn like Apple did when it launched its buggy Maps app in iOS 6 despite numerous complaints reported by beta testers.

The million dollar question

The company and the customers have a synergistic relationship - customers receive an early preview on a yet to be launched product that could be the next Instagram and the company also gets to evaluate how good the product they have built is. So, the question of whether early adopters are trendsetters or guinea pigs depends on how you see it. If you like bleeding edge latest technology and are ready to put up with minor annoyances, then go ahead and download that latest Firefox Aurora build (You know you want it). For the rest, uninstall all the beta programs on your system and get over your I-was-used syndrome.

(P.S: Updating the Adobe Reader daily does not qualify you to be an early adopter. The damn thing has looked the same ever since I started using it in 2006 but still insists that I download the 'latest patch' every time I boot my PC!)

Disclaimer: All ideas, thoughts or reviews published in this blog are my personal opinion and not that of my employer (Samsung).

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Are smartphones missing the WOW factor

Once upon a time, in an age of dial-up modems people used cell phones to talk and text.Surprise!!!

Those phone are now called feature phones aka dumb phones. They came in various shapes and colors and some even bordered on craziness. Anyone remember Nokia 3650? Fast forward to 2007, Steve Jobs unveils the forbidden apple(no pun intended) - the iPhone. It truly was an WOW moment as Apple enchanted the world with a shiny new toy that could do a lot of stuff besides trivial tasks like talking and texting. Google built upon the momentum by forming the Open Handset Alliance and releasing Android as an open-source mobile operating system that OEM's were free to tinker around and improvise (I am definitely not talking about the custom UI skins that more often than not distort the user experience).

Android's wild growth and technology helped in reducing the costs and increasing the smartphone penetration. Every phone manufacturer began launching flagship products each year and promised it to infinitely better than the product they launched just a year back. But all these so called 'new features' comprised mostly of larger screens, more pixels per inch, multi-core processors, NFC and a lot of other parts that power the phone. The internals of the phones kept changing but the design was pretty much the same - black/white shiny rectangles.

Of course these changes are essential and the phone manufacturers must definitely be lauded for their efforts to consumerise the latest technology and making it affordable. But none of the phones have managed to captivate the audience like the first iPhone did. Even Apple has not been able to recreate the magic in its successive iterations. though trade pundits would argue otherwise. Though nothing is wrong with the current iPhone design but I still hoped that Apple would release something more than just a taller iPhone.Whatever happened to the fun and cool quotient of owning a cellphone?

Voila...Let there be some colors!

In an otherwise black and grey world, Nokia splashed some colors when it launched the Lumia line of Windows Phone devices - brightly colored phones sporting a chic new UI. Though the Lumia series was not a hit but it still managed to breathe some life in the smartphone design and the cool quotient was back. Though some might argue that the bright fuchsia and cyan are 'unprofessional', at the end of the day its a matter of personal choice. If people like it, then they gotta build it, right?!!

HTC seems to be smitten by the splashy color bug too as they have soaked up their recent lineup of WP8 devices in bright colors like the Limelight and Californian Blue. Android phones get a bit of color love from Samsung which currently sells its flagship device Galaxy S3 in various colors like Pebble Blue, Garnet Red and even a pink one - hear that ladies!

What next?

The current trend of smartphone designs are definitely a welcome change but I am still waiting for something so awesome that would just blow my mind away. Until then, I am getting back to my black Omnia.

Disclaimer: All ideas, thoughts or reviews published in this blog are my personal opinion and not that of my employer (Samsung).

Friday, November 16, 2012

Why my next Android phone will be from Samsung

October has been quite a busy month with all the electronic giants like Apple, Amazon, Google, HTC, LG, Nokia, Microsoft  gearing up for the shopping season in the US and European countries by launching their flagship smartphones, phablets and tablets. All the euphoria overseas has had an impact on me and I am tempted to buy the latest-greatest phone that I can get my hands on. I currently own a Samsung Omnia running Windows Phone 7.5, a solid phone which has withstood my abuse for over 7 months and is still doing fine. I plan to upgrade to a high-end smartphone with multi-cores and blistering speeds. The bigger question now is, not deciding which phone to buy but which mobile OS to choose. Its all about the apps!
Why no more Windows?
Though I like the Windows Phone platform, the biggest problem has been apps. Now that Windows 8 is completely re-written OS I am not sure if the old apps developed for WP 7/7.5 will run on the new device. When I decide to spend upwards of Rs.30K I expect my phone to do all that I want it to and more. Microsoft is definitely going all out to promote Win 8 and attract developer interest. It is a promising platform  but I don't expect the app ecosystem to mature in months and it will definitely take more than a year to decide if people like this platform and if developers are interested to build apps for it. So no big budget WP on my shopping list for the next one year.
Why no iOS?
This one was pretty easy - iPhones are exorbitantly expensive in India. I don't intend to sell one of my kidneys to get the latest flashy thing from Cupertino. Case closed!
Android - so we meet again
My first tryst with Android was in the form of LG Optimus Me running Gingerbread 2.3. The less I speak about it, the better. Android has definitely come a long way ever since, both in terms of the overall OS experience and the apps. So I have decided give my relationship with Android a second chance.
Now that the bigger question is answered, it leaves me with deciding which phone to buy.
Nexus - not now
After Google launched the Nexus 4, I was convinced that it was going to be my next phone but all that changed when I learnt that it is near impossible to get the phone repaired within India in case of any problems , especially considering that Nexus 4 comes with a non-removable battery. Given my experience with electronic gadgets, service is something that I have learnt never to overlook. So no Nexus phone for me until Google can convince its hardware partners to provide support for poor Indian customers.
That leaves me with just two choices - Samsung or HTC.
Why Samsung and not HTC
The flagship phones from both of these companies - the One X and Galaxy S3 are on equal footing. Each has its own pros and cons. The build quality of One X definitely feels premium than S3 but S3 is soft as a feather and fits snugly in my hand despite its big size. The display in One X is quite sharp and realistic while the S3's display is equally good but somewhat borders on over-saturation. The one aspect that tilts the scale in Samsung's favour is the battery backup. Samsung has generously slapped a 2100mAh battery which provides more juice than HTC's 1800 mAh. Heavy users like me would give anything to make their phones last a whole day on a single recharge. Hope HTC is hearing this and improves the battery capacity on their phones.

And there goes my vote for the Samsung S3 - 30 million phones + 1!

Disclaimer: All ideas, thoughts or reviews published in this blog are my personal opinion and not that of my employer (Samsung).

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Lumia 900 – the Hero has arrived

This article is just my analysis of the tweets containing the hash tag #Lumia900 to understand how social media helps in shaping public opinions and how it can make or break something! This is not an actual review of the Nokia Lumia 900 but merely a reflection of the Twitterati discussing about it.

Behold the knight in the shiny polycarbonate armour, the Lumia 900. The flagship phone of Nokia has a lot of burden on his shoulders, for he needs to rescue not one but two princesses, the damsel in distress trying to reclaim some market share, Nokia and the beautiful, young maiden waiting to be wooed by suitors, Windows Phone OS.

There was quite a lot of excitement prior to the launch of Lumia 900. The emotions ranged from excited people having ordered and waiting (im)patiently to get their hands on their shiny new toy to disappointed fans who couldn’t order it in white as only black and cyan were available for pre-order.

AT&T has gone all out to get this phone in the hands of as many people as possible by putting an attractive price tag of $99 with a two-year contract. A lot of people who visited the AT&T stores were also smitten by its beauty. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, Amazon offered it for half the price at $49 with a two year contract. AT&T and Amazon’s aggressive price cuts let customers pre-order for as low as $0.99 to $0.01, with some reports claiming Amazon Wireless gave it away for free!

Lumia 900 won the Smartphone Mobile Madness 2012 poll with a 70.6% share conducted by beating many heavyweights like Samsung Galaxy SII, iPhone 4S, Lumia 710,etc.

On the whole, the Lumia 900 managed to garner a 94% positive feedback, 4% found it disappointing and 2% were somewhat happy with it (the percentages provided here have been calculated based on the comments mentioned in the tweets and not through any poll like the one provided earlier). The slightly dissatisfied customers found the camera to be the sore point in the phone. There were some defectors from the Apple camp, who were clearly in love with the fresh and silky Windows Phone interface. Apart from the hardcore Apple fanboys, the loyal HTC customers felt left out as their Titan and Radar got sidelined and Lumia 900 being promoted as ‘The’ Windows Phone.

The deciding factor is choosing a Smartphone is the availability of apps. Currently, Windows MarketPlace is no match to iTunes Store or Google Play, but Microsoft is slowly trying to increase the developer interest for its platform. A lot of tweets were related to new apps being launched to take advantage of the large 4.3” screen of the Lumia 900. One repeatedly re-tweeted link was a list of Top Ten apps which I found very interesting. Some twittizens were hoping for the hugely popular Draw Something app to be available in Windows MarketPlace. As a Windows Phone user myself, this is my wish too!

Well, everything seems to be in favour of Lumia 900 at the moment and the Hero is surely stealing hearts. Now we will just have to sit back and see if this flagship device of Nokia makes a dent in the Smartphone market dominated by iPhone and Android devices.

Disclaimer: All ideas, thoughts or reviews published in this blog are my personal opinion and not that of my employer (Samsung).

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Married to Android, Affair with Apple

It is 2011 and the Robots are taking over the World…..maybe not yet but definitely the way we interact with our phones. The army of green robots led by the mighty commander Android is marching steady and has done what Windows did to desktop PCs back in 1990s, put a Smartphone in everyone’s hands. When Android debuted back in 2007, it was received with lukewarm response and was never considered a worthy competitor to the ‘fluid’ iOS. But in 2012, after several ‘tasty’ updates, the latest being ‘Ice Cream Sandwich’, it stands proud as a mighty rival to iOS. 

The one great thing about Android is, you get a wide variety of choice starting from as low as Rs.7000 to upwards of Rs.30K. I have been using ‘dumb phones’ aka feature phones for as long as I can remember. Smitten by the ads for Android phones by almost all major phone manufacturers, I decided to gift myself one. What followed was an arduous task of deciding the budget, brand, model, specifications, etc.  Finally I decided to get a phone that was around Rs.11K and was voted as one of the best Smartphone for this price tag. Just like a newlywed couple on their honeymoon, all was fine between us for a month. I would put up with occasional process crash windows and the phone tried its best to run every app I threw at it. The trouble began when my dad bought his iPhone! You never realise your wife is ugly, until a beautiful woman moves in next door. 

I put on a brave face and convinced myself that a  phone which does not even lets you set a song as ringtone directly was definitely was better than my Android which lets me use my mobile as a Wi-Fi tethering point. But all this changed when I touched iPhone for the first time. It definitely has the best touch interface, ever. Be it the fluid motion of the screens scrolling by or the beautiful graphics or the very design of the phone, it spelled Class. I felt sceptical about placing my Android phone next to this beauty, fearing it might jump off the table out of shame. The iPhone doesn’t slow down while playing Angry Birds or apps don’t crash frequently. To be honest I have never seen a crash window in iPhone till now! After using both the phones I understood Android was my wife, faithful and loyal, patiently handling all the apps I threw at her and the myriad customisations I put her through. On the other hand, iPhone was my mistress, hot and tempting, shows you the heaven but always gets her way! The one big reason why iPhone is such a hit is because the hardware and software gel with each other, which is not the case with Android. The Android handset manufacturers load the phone to the gills with bloatware which severely affects the phone performance. The walled garden approach of Apple works well, as the apps are screened and tested well before they hit the customer’s phones. At the end of the day it is not a debate between the open and closed ecosystems, it is about what suits you the best. 

If you like your phone to work the exact way when you opened it from the shiny new box, then go with iPhone. Or if you are  a grease monkey who finds a use for each of the seven home screens, then go grab your Android because there is no other mobile OS that provides this level of customisation to users. My take on Android phones are, if you are a power user, then shell out 20,000 bucks to get a decent phone that has the horsepower needed to make android work smoothly. If you are short on budget, then you will definitely get some good phones but you have got to make peace with the fact it will not match all your expectations.  Despite the shortcomings, android has done a commendable job in making phones ‘smarter’. Maybe once more phones with Ice Cream Sandwich start hitting the market; they could be a game changer only time will tell. For now I am going to go and lust at iPhone.

Disclaimer: All ideas, thoughts or reviews published in this blog are my personal opinion and not that of my employer (Samsung).