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).