Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Yes, size does matter !

How big can a phone be?
What is the right size for a phone, what is the right size for a tablet?
Here are some easy facts trying to give some thresholds in this fuzzy world. Sorry if you find it too obvious, but when you look at the market, it doesn't seem so...

Which one is the iPad?
1. The one-hand test
For me, a phone should fit in one hand, and should be possible to use with one hand, the other carrying you bag, or doing whatever you want, until it is legal ;-)
So, what does it mean?
I have a "regular" hand, so I think my own experience is relevant. Large hands can add a few millimetres to my conclusions

That's OK (Galaxy S2)

The test is to be able to type a phone number or a text with you thumb, without too many errors and keeping comfortable. This probably leads to a width of 65 – 66 mm, considering current screen frames (bezel).
The trick is that it depends also on the thickness of the phone. So a Samsung Galaxy S2 with 66.1 x 8.5 mm is comparable to a HTC Sensation with 65.4 x 11.3 mm while a HTC HD2 with 67 x 11 mm is too big.
This will evolve as frames will be thinner and thickness will reduce. This should allow 4,5”, maybe 4,7 or even 5” screens.

OOH, it is too big
(Galaxy Note)
The other thing is the height: it must allow your thumb to cross comfortably the screen, in order to be able to reach the keys at the bottom as well as the notification bar on the top. This becomes more and more a constraint as screens are wider with the evolution towards qHD resolution. This is more subjective as the hand can move, but it seems we have reached the limit.
According to these considerations, the new Galaxy Note (5,3" screen) does not pass the test. I let you decide if it is enough to say it is not a phone but a (small) tablet.

2. The pocket test
Then, what is the next threshold?
The HTC Flyer in
a trouser pocket
The pocket test seems relevant. A jacket or a jean have more or less the same pocket size: 120 mm wide (considering the thickness).This corresponds also more or less of the size of a Lady hand bag. This means currently 7” screen. The new Samsung 7,7” Galaxy (133 mm) does not fit in a pocket, which is really a pity. The frames are currently very wide on tablets and we can assume that 8” screen will soon fit in 120 mm.

The HTC Flyer in
a jacket pocket
The weight is also a constraint. My wallet weight 160g, which gives a benchmark. The Flyer with 420g is heavy, and today only the Note is below 200g. Well, when will be available a 7” at 250g with a stylus???

3. Typing without a support

HTC Flyer
If you intent to use your tablet standing, you should better not go over 7” also. There are two ways to use it: two thumbs typing or having the tablet in one hand and typing / writing with the other. In both cases 120/130 mm width is a good threshold, even if it is more flexible than the former one.

But what is the interest to have a bigger screen?
Resolution is not really an issue: the Galaxy Note has the same resolution (800 x 1280 pixels) than a Galaxy 7,7” or 10,1”, and more pixels than an iPad 2 (768 x 1024 pixels). Sure the bigger is more comfortable, but the Note is amazing for book reading.

4. The two hands keyboard

Galaxy 10,1"
If you intend to use your tablet sitting, like a laptop, you will be interested by the possibility to type with two hands, as on a normal qwerty keyboard. Maybe you don’t believe it is convenient, in fact it is astonishing. You can really take notes during a meeting… For that, you need 190 mm to be comfortable, which corresponds for example to the Samsung 8,9” screen or the iPad.

So, is 9” the perfect size?

On one hand, I believe that a 8,5 / 9” in 16/9 format could fit in near future both above criteria: 120 mm overall width to fit in a pocket and 190 mm screen length to allow two hands typing.

On the other hand, there is no limit until a school bag size, which should allow 11 / 12” size, beginning to be really comfortable. My paper notebook weights 560 g which is exactly the 10,1" Tab right, while being much bigger, and remaining really acceptable...

Here is a view to summarise. Light green corresponds to current possibilities, dark one to next future.

As always everything depends on the way you intend to use your phone/ tablet, but in any case you need to keep in mind that resolution is as important as screen size, while physical size will determine the way your mobility is impacted.

Nota: all figures comes from the very good GSM Arena site

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

The end of hardware: everything now is just software

In three years, the iPhone has made most of the multimedia portable devices obsolete. During the iPhone launch keynote, Steve Jobs presented it as “an iPod, a Phone and an Internet communicator”, making useless music players and palmtop computers (like PDA). With mobile calendar and contacts synchronization, Palm and other “organisers” were out-dated. With the camera phone, digital compact cameras are getting less and less necessary and with the integrated GPS and compass, no more need of TomTom or Garmin… Apple provides with the iPhone a universal and a must-have Swiss Army knife. The single-task digital devices can be left on the History shelves.
“Power users” are certainly not going to push aside their reflex cameras or their hi-fi system for an iPhone, but for most of the consumers, the iPhone satisfy all their digital needs.
However, smartphones now exist beyond the iPhone and all manufacturers have intensified their creativity to compete with them. Google and Android have been finally providing a real convincing alternative, developed thanks to reliable products, cheaper than the iPhone. Google benefits from the support of leading players like HTC, Samsung, LG and Sony Ericsson. Microsoft, with Windows Mobile 7, seems to be able to offer a new mobile experience really innovative and thought to be mass market, with the brand new support of Nokia. The ultimate player in this smart-phones ecosystem is a new player in the mass market: RIM. Relying on Blackberry’s fame, they provide up-market services as well as a messenger Blackberry community- targeted service that seduces many young people.
Those ones make the market today.

Beyond the smartphones success, what will be the consequences for the mobile handset industry and also for the consumer electronics and the software markets? What services consumers will be provided with?

The end of hardware: everything now is just software

Further integration of components, fall in prices and larger consumer electronics ranges are cause and effect of a mass-product success. This phenomenon has been observed in the personal computing market since the nineties and in the handset market since 2000’s.

Today, from the low end of the mobile phones range, you can find touch screens, cameras and multimedia player. Then you can find mobile phones that have the power of a five year-old top of the range computer, plus high-speed internet, a GPS, an accelerometer, and a TV output. Those devices that used to be very expensive give birth to new consumer use, not necessarily obvious:
What to do with an accelerometer? Not really measure the acceleration of your new car but rather your phone’s angle, opening up new horizons, particularly in gaming, transforming the handset in a sensitive gamepad – what made the Wii a hit.
Is touch screen useful to make a call? Not really – even opposite; but via internet access, it becomes a universal remote control, able to control your multimedia computer from your armchair, get your playlist appear on the screen and pop up any buttons you may need.
Adding up those two previous features, you can make a radio-controlled helicopter fly.
And a GPS, what for? Everybody already has one in their car, it was the product of 2008, isn’t’ it?
Yes it was, but always-on Internet access allows community applications. Not only to know if you have a friend sitting in the same bar as you, but also to know if a radar has been spotted on your road.
A camera? To make fine-art? Or rather to identify bar codes, business cards, movements or screening the environment, giving path to place recognition. The mix of screen and captor allows to share with friends pictures taken during the day. It is disposable, but it is nice.
A compass? You don’t practice orienteering race? Maybe, but it is able to know where you point the phone, so it can give you the sky map with the name of the stars you are looking at.
All those features are available to third parties thanks to platforms opened to applications developers that give all their sense to those technological headways.

What will be the effects on the consumer and on the market? The main one is that specific hardware is becoming obsolete.

For instance, in order to benefit from a radar alerting system, you had to buy a special device – the first were sold 700€ - and pay for a contract including communications and service. Now, you just have to download the application. A universal remote control used to cost more than 300€. The application for iPod Touch, iPhone and Android is free…. Today any smartphone processor already has the device; it just needs to get the right service via the applications store. But those usages could only exist thanks to reassuring unlimited contract enabling to be “always-on”: the megabit price dropped from 3€ to 0.5€ with the iPhone launch.

As well as PC has ended the specific industrial automated hardware, smartphones have shifted the issue from hardware to software: the device exists; you just need software and services to use it.

To this point, it is worth paying attention at Apple’s communication: iPod advertisements focus on game and the main part of communication (the famous keynotes) dwell on software and its partners.

Creativity is impressive: with the mix of camera sensor, GPS, Internet access, accelerator, and compass you can go way further traditional use. Augmented reality becomes possible. The screen captures our visions and the smartphone, knowing where you are and where you are looking at, add pop ups, like monuments’ names, restaurants in your neighbourhood, etc.

Even American Army uses iPhones to calculate balls’ trajectories, to translate and to broadcast pictures sent from drones… Many services suppliers gave up producing specific hardware and are just adding software layers on existing devices. Soon, on-board computers and car radios, today developed with specific hardware and software, will be on-board smartphones, playing music and video on demand… Entertaining systems in planes will follow the same way (it is already the case with Windows CE, the grandfather of portable OS). Just as there are today computers everywhere, there will be tomorrow smartphones everywhere, and all won’t place calls.

To be continued!

Thursday, 28 July 2011

A few weeks with a Samsung Galaxy S2 and a HTC Sensation

Well, it has been now three months that I live without an iPhone, and it is great! Everything is over-the-air, no iTunes, welcome to the open world. Big screens, customisation, widgets, etc. It is funny because I find that people are really changing and say "Oh, your phone looks great, I should have bought it instead an iPhone..."
I have had the opportunity to test many Android devices, and the two last flagships are really great: HTC Sensation and Samsung Galaxy S2.
They are really one step ahead from previous ones, in term of hardware and software. They fit perfectly in your hand, even with their 4,3” screen. It is radically different from a Desire HD for example, which was really big. The standard software such as in call management, quick access to settings (wifi…), Office, e-mail is great.
I have read a lot of test between the two models, but what I wanted to give you a real user feedback after a few weeks of usage. What are the differences between the two? To be honest, the both are great and you won’t be disappointed with them.
So, what can I say?
In term of design, both are great, and really different: maybe it is the first glance that will help you to choose. The HTC is soft, with curves, metal finish, and brown colours. The Samsung is square, thinner and lighter, black, a bit more plastic but nice.
The Samsung has one central hard key, for home, enabling also wake up, which is really convenient, as well as a side key for locking. This is much more convenient than the only key at the top of the HTC. Both lack a camera button. The other touch key works very well, HTC ones are easier to distinguish. Samsung lacks the search key, not a big deal…
The HTC has an USB plug on the left, which is not very convenient on a car support, but not a big deal either.

That’s for pure hardware, what’s happens when you turn it on?
The screen, first. A lot has been said about the Samsung super AMOLED. Well, it is not so impressive in fact. It is bright, yes, too much. Very vivid, and the Samsung colours are ugly (yes, it is subjective). In comparison, the HTC is elegant, with a very high definition and subtle grey colours. The definition of the Sensation (540 x 960 pixels vs 480 x 800 pixels) allows 2 or 3 e-mails more on the screen, while I have the impression to have activated the settings for shortsighted on the Galaxy! The colours are more faithful on the HTC also. The QHD definition of the Sensation is also great to look at a film and offers really more space and a better visual impression. The only issue is that some applications are not well designed for it, such as Pure Grid Calendar, iCoyote, Le Monde… Hope it will change soon.
Nothing to say about processor, the two dual core work great. Samsung offers 6 GB more storage, that’s good!
Both have 8 Mp AF camera, LED flash, HD video capture. Both also have front camera, which is great with the Visidon face recognition unlock app; nevertheless HTC front one is very poor.

So, what about software?
HTC Sense interface is great, and if you like customisation but are not keen to spend hours on the market to have you own interface, it is definitely the best choice. The lock screen is great (even if I prefer Widget locker for the widgets and the ability to have direct access to the notification bar). The icons are more elegant than on the Samsung. But why only 4 rows of icons? The screen is perfect with 5 x 5 icons with Launcher Pro (for example). Samsung is a copy of iOS, nothing stunning in fact.
Both are very fluid and stable, and allow over the air firmware update.
Both have very good notification bar short-cuts for settings, call and music control. This is really an asset and change the usage compared to other brands. The “in call management” of the Galaxy is better for call rejection with SMS and call switching. What have done HTC engineers for the call switching, it is a nightmare!
The smart dialling, ie contact search of the HTC is great, it is enough for me to prefer it to the Samsung. The free app One Dialer offers an ersatz, but really not as good. If you call a lot, it makes the difference. Another thing: volume of calls is very low on Samsung, whatever the headset you have, you can hardly ear your correspondent in a relatively noisy environment.
E-mail client and office suite (Polaris) are both good. HTC and Samsung offer both additional services (applications, books, films, etc.), I am not sure one is clearly above the other. HTC offers a good navigation software where you can download countries maps you can use offline. Very useful if you travel abroad. Samsung offers photo and video editors.
Widgets, contacts and social network integration are definitely better on HTC., even if not very stable, offers remote device management: you can find or kill your device if you have lost it. HTC Sync is also a plus if you want to sync with your PC and not over the air.
HTC keyboard is great, while Samsung offers the very powerful but peculiar Swype. If you don't like it, too bad, the standard keyboard is very basic. HTC offers also a Swype like keyboard, lost in the settings...
Last, not least, battery life. I have installed JuiceDefender, and I manage to finish the day without charging them. Nevertheless, the Samsung seems to be better at this game. I will update you after some further usage.

So, what conclusion? In term of look and feel, it is hard and subjective. Samsung is thinner and lighter (116g vs 148), and has more convenient lock/unlock keys. Nevertheless, I prefer the Sensation finish. For the screen, HTC wins, as well as for the software and phone usage. Battery life could again be in favour of the Galaxy, and I must admit I am really impressed. I will keep you updated when I can test a Sensation XE. Well, you know everything now, I let you decide! Anyway, you won’t regret any of your choice. Buy a brand new 64 GB micro SD and make all the iPhone owners jealous!

Thursday, 19 May 2011

10 000 euros the Go: how my carrier made me go to VOIP on my mobile phone

When you don't pay your parking fee, you may be fined with an amount of 5 to 50 times the normal fee. When you don't pay your train ticket, it is about the same. When you are travelling abroad and you dare using your data connection on your mobile phone, despite all the warnings of your phone and your operator, you are "fined' with an amount of 1 000 times the inland fee: you may pay 10 000 € for 1 Go, instead of 10 €. What’s the hell? Have you done something wrong? No, you have just been using the Roaming service of your Operator.
Based on this fact, I would like to tell you a little tale...
I am a business man, I use mobile phone for work, and my company is paying for that: I have some unlimited plan, and I am not really price sensitive (and my carrier has well understood that). I am on business trip, and I make some calls, at a very expensive price, but I have to… It is for work, isn’t it… 30 - 50 € calls for my business trip, it is OK, anyway I have no choice...
Then, I check my e-mails. I have carefully bought a traveller internet pass… so I am safe. 1, 2 e-mail… Hum, I need a Chinese phrase book to take the taxi, I will find it on the app store… and by the way, where is my next meeting? let’s check on Gmaps… oh, I have already burnt my data credit…
Well, I will try on my computer, I have a 3G card with unlimited data plan after all. Oh no! Windows is starting downloading an update… oh, my connection is blocked… ah, yes, I have already burnt my data credit allowance (35€)… seriously, I cannot come home with 200€ fee. I have heard of a colleague having a 1075€ bill… it made some noise…
Well, what can I do? I cannot live without internet in a business trip. Ah, I will go in my hotel lobby, there is Wifi. Oh, in the nearest café also, that is great! And it is 10 € the unlimited pass in my room, well, finally it is cheap. Good, I have entered this @&#@!!! code in my laptop and smartphone, and I am now connected. Good to be citizen of Internet again… Ah, ah, now that the effort is done, why not to try one of these service I have heard of... How is it called? Skype, Viber, GTalk??? Ah, I have to create an ID. Well, for 1000 €, I could try...
Oh, but it is not so complicated in fact, and it imports my address book; I will buy 10€ credit. And I will even make my next call conference with it, let’s try. 60c an hour. Not bad. And the line was good. Finally, I was wrong, I had a choice… And I can call my family from the end of the world on their fix line for 60c an hour again, great. I have also video call for free… Maybe I should try back home...
And that’s it, the job is done. I have discovered a service I would never have made the effort to try if the roaming fee had been acceptable. Now I have an ID, I know how it works, I have bought a credit, I find the quality good... I use it for work and for personal use. It has changed my life.
It reminds me something called i*****, oh sorry! Well, you will understand yourself, don’t you?

Disclaimer: all these events are fictional, and any link to real facts is a pure coincidence.
PS: But maybe I should try to get some figures to make nice business cases from this…

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Did you say user friendly?

Did you say user friendly?

Last week end, I made a small thing that changed my life.
After six years, I have dismounted the child safety that makes the opening of a cupboard door or drawer so complex.
These small pieces of plastic have been very useful to protect my children, but are very painful in the everyday life.

But, after 6 years, you get used to it and it seems natural. That's why I was eventually surprised when my wife told me it has been a great improvement to dismount them... It took me some days to learn how to open the door without it…

One day after, I had another interesting experience. I went in a hotel with a very smart system of infrared detection which automatically calls the lift when you are in front of the door. Smart isn’t it? When you have your case in the hands, or a breakfast tray… The only problem is that all my colleagues were looking for the button and unanimously found the system “not natural at all”.
But what is the link with mobile, then?
Well, it just that you get used to everything and your judgment is heavily biased by your habits. When you are a heavy Blackberry user, you find that everything different is not user friendly.
When you are used to an old clumsy OS that have been done by engineers who apparently didn’t talk to each other, the first acceptable OS seems wonderful...
User friendly? An evidence? It is not so easy, it remains relative…

Saturday, 14 May 2011

M-commerce: the real shops strike back

Instead of Bringing goods to customer, how to bring customers to goods?

The first revolution of internet has been the information: for retailers, Internet 1.0 was a new, cheap and quite efficient advertising space. For consumers it was also a way to have a quick overview of the existing offer.  The internet 1.0 was an additional exposure for real shops.

Then arrived the dream of the new economy, let’s call it 1.1: retailers started to build on-line shops, relying on the existing offer of their real shops. The “click and mortar” considered internet as another market and the pure players as their only market. Discounters as well as price comparators flourished. These gave a serious competition to real shops, but everybody seemed to discover that goods are still real and that logistics is not free and obvious therefore competition was not so tough.
The Internet players who survived are those who managed to find a true added value in Internet with an additional layer of intelligence to the pure straightforward e-commerce.  Amazon has built a clever recommendation system, and “Vente Privée” introduced the thrill of time limited offer. Let’s call it internet 1.5.
Web 2.0, introducing user generated content, has brought a new value to the Internet. This new revolution has been an additional blow to real shops. First, by giving to customers the possibility to recommend stuff, sales people advice became less valuable and pertinent. As shoppers were given the opportunity to interact and express their view, the retailers loosed grasp on the visibility of their offer. In addition to that, consumer also became retailers. They were able to sell and exchange goods somehow at the expense of real shops (on e-bay and classified ad sites), with e-payment (paypal) boosting it.
That’s when internet went mobile. It is the third step of its evolution, and it is rather a revolution: mobile internet is not only internet accessed in mobility, it is a bunch of new features, among them localisation.
Real shops could get their revenge here: it is no more the demander going on internet to select its purchase, but the internet coming to the consumer to offer him content and relevant information. Instead of pushing a product to the client, Groupon and Foursquare-likes warn him about potential deals that could be around him. This is enabled by localisation based recommendation programs and deals, that would eventually be energised through NFC and the upcoming new mobile features (LTE, Cloud, …).
The roles have been reversed and the pro-activity is no more on the consumer side. While the Internet 1.x and 2.0 had provided reflection and wide scale comparison in the purchasing journey, the Internet 3.0 will push recommended goods based on customer profiling and localisation. The introduction of time limited offers increases the thrill and impulsivity of the purchasing act. Proximity, which was the first asset of street retailers, is back in the mobile e-business. Geographical proximity but also affinity proximity as social networks provides valuable info to targets customers.
Real shops can reinvest the internet, leveraging the very tool that threatened them a decade ago. The war is not over.

Morand, Maxime et Axel

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Viber arrives on Android

To be followed: new reflections on VOIP, but before, answer to the new pool.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Distimo: More free apps in Android Market than App Store

By Jason Ankeny (FierceMobileContent)

Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android Market now offers more free mobile applications than Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) rival App Store, according to new data published by app marketplace analytics firm Distimo. Android Market now touts over 134,000 free apps, compared to almost 122,000 free selections in the App Store. The increase of free Android apps is one facet of Android Market's overall growth: According to Distimo, at its current pace Android Market is expected to offer more total mobile  applications than any other store approximately five months from now, followed in descending order by the App Store, Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows Phone Marketplace, Research In Motion's (NASDAQ:RIMM) BlackBerry App World and Nokia's (NYSE:NOK) Ovi Store.
For now, the App Store remains in front with over 330,000 applications for the iPhone and iPod touch, with the iPad App Store offering over 75,000 tablet-optimized solutions. Android Market is next at more than 206,000 apps. From there, the decline is steep: Ovi Store checks in at almost 30,000, BlackBerry App World is close to 27,000 and Windows Phone Marketplace trails at close to 12,000. "Only moderate growth was observed in most of the application stores over the course of the past several months, however overall growth picked up again in March," Distimo notes. "The App Store for iPhone is the largest store in terms of all applications available--however, it was among the slowest growing stores in terms of relative growth [last month]."
Distimo adds that despite increasing competition from Android and BlackBerry tablets, the iPad enjoys a sizable lead in the category. Daily downloads in the Top 100 overall paid and free applications for iPad combined exceed 500,000, corresponding to daily revenues of about $400,000, excluding in-app purchases.
For more:
- download the Distimo report
Related articles:
Distimo: In-app purchases now half of iPhone developer revenues
Distimo: 60 percent of Android apps are free
Distimo: Games still dominate App Store downloads

Saturday, 30 April 2011

How I have cured my iPhone addiction

iPhone addiction is a common disease nowadays. Symptoms are easy to detect, even if they remain not disturbing in the short term: the affected patient has an iPhone on the hand and can't stop saying things like "Oh, it is wonderful, magic", "It has changed my life", "I cannot live without it", "How can you live with an other phone?", "It is much better, your are not fair", etc.
There is no real issue at short term (most of them are for the operator) except possibly a higher budget needed for your data plan and a kind of autism when playing with it.
At long term, things could be worse, a bit like that:

So, as I am an enthusiastic adventurer, I have tried to get rid of my iPhone... and I succeeded. Now, I wouldn't come back. I think it must be like for cigarette.
Why? Android offers me customisation with widgets and lock screen, notification bar is awesome and addictive (well, am I stupid?), Gmail archive button also, SmartDialing again (should I consult?), dedicated buttons (back, search, menu) are very convenient and save place on the screen, Turn by turn navigation is free and integrated with address book, screens are larger, I can boot it without a computer, I can save files on the SD card, diversity exists... I stop here. And yes, battery life maybe shorter, camera maybe weaker, integration with iTunes is at best clunky, AlloCine app is weaker and Avertinoo doesn't exist. But Firefox sync your passwords and favourites. And of course Navionics charts allowed me to save a regatta ;-)

But, this is not the point. My point is just to stop talking with such passion.

It is a bit like discussions between fans of Canon or Nikon, Porsche or Ferrari, BMW or Mercedes. One is not better than the other, it is different. Canon sensors are better while Nikon autofocus is better (please don't comment if you think I have really no clue about what I am talking)... As I have never driven nor a Porsche or Ferrari, I won't say anything about. Look at web forums, you will understand my point. Maybe it is even  like choosing between a Van or Convertible: it is different, and you won't compare it. Then comes the price, which is a personal matter also.

Above all, the issue is that iPhone has set a kind of standard in UI, and everybody is now used with it. So, it needs some efforts to go towards another system. It is like driving left side or right side. One is NOT better to another, but when you are used to one, iti is very difficult to change. But believe me, it IS possible to live with something else than an iPhone, and you can enjoy it ;-) No, I really love my Android, and when I take an iPhone, I am lost and find the interface strange!!!

I hope theses considerations have made you change a bit your mind or at least smile  ;-)

I will develop UI considerations in a next post.

PS: I have tried to cure my Windows PC addiction with a Mac, but I relapsed. For work, it is definitely not usable for me. But again, it is not a judgement, and believe me, I was in love during 15 days with my Mac, but I had to admit, it is not for me ;-)

Thursday, 28 April 2011

An interseting article on iPhone in the US

Friday, April 22, 2011

Apple's iPhone draws more new customers to AT&T than Verizon

By Katie Marsal

Published: 10:00 AM EST

About 22 percent of customers who bought the iPhone on Verizon last quarter switched from another carrier, while about 23 percent of AT&T iPhone buyers were new to that company.

The launch of the iPhone on Verizon brought fewer than 500,000 new customers to the carrier in less than two months of availability in the first quarter of calendar 2011, according to Reuters. But on rival network AT&T, more than 800,000 new customers joined because of the iPhone.

Still, Verizon topped AT&T in terms of total net subscriber gain, adding 906,000 new customers. AT&T, meanwhile, only added 62,000 net subscribers during the same three-month period.

The race between AT&T and Verizon is of great interest, because AT&T lost exclusive access to the iPhone in February, when Apple's smartphone launched on Verizon's network. Verizon revealed on Thursday that it activated 2.2 million iPhone handsets last quarter, when it was available for purchase for less than two months.

AT&T, meanwhile, activated a record 3.6 million iPhones in the March quarter, an increase of 33 percent from 2010. Those numbers suggested that AT&T was largely unaffected by the launch of the Verizon iPhone -- an outlook bolstered further by the news that the iPhone brought more new customers to AT&T than to Verizon.

The data could also contrast polls that suggested a significant number of AT&T iPhone customers planned to switch to Verizon. A poll conducted late last year found that 26 percent of AT&T iPhone customers said they would switch to the rival network.

Also potentially a factor in gaining new subscribers could be the entry-level $49 iPhone 3GS. Apple's least expensive handset remains exclusive to AT&T, while Verizon's entry-level model is the $199 16GB iPhone 4.

Verizon's network has a much larger 3G footprint in the U.S., and AT&T customers have repeatedly complained about dropped calls. But Verizon's CDMA network also has slower 3G data connection speeds than AT&T on average, and its network cannot allow simultaneous voice and data connections.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

What’s next after iPhone?

In three years, the iPhone has made most of the multimedia portable devices obsolete. During the iPhone launch keynote, Steve Jobs presented it as “an iPod, a Phone and an Internet communicator”, making useless music players and palmtop computers (like PDA). With mobile calendar and contacts synchronization, Palm and other “organisers” were out-dated. With the camera phone, digital compact cameras are getting less and less necessary and with the integrated GPS and compass, no more need of TomTom or Garmin… Apple provides with the iPhone a universal and a must-have Swiss Army knife. The single-task digital devices can be left on the History shelves.
“Power users” are certainly not going to push aside their reflex cameras or their hi-fi system for an iPhone, but for most of the consumers, the iPhone satisfy all their digital needs.

Discover and rediscover digital mobile

Haven’t you ever rediscovered golf, your CD collection or the pleasure of driving just buying a new club, a new CD player or a great car? Although the usage did not really change, the desire to play with a new “toy” has woken up pleasure.
The iPhone has revolutionized consumer usage; unveiling functionalities that have existed for years but never got adopted.

Indeed, most of the services available on the iPhone already existed when the first smartphones were launched. In 2002, Orange released SPV: a product available on Windows Mobile, providing contacts, agenda and e-mails synchronization with Outlook. It was also designed to listen to music, look at pictures and play movies, SPV meaning “Sound, Picture and Video”. This product and its different versions also provided the possibility to download applications and use Internet, just like the iPhone does. Nokia and Sony Ericsson also had launched for several years smart-phones based on Symbian N-series for Nokia and P700, P800 and P810 for Sony Ericsson with powerful processors, touch screens, providing quite all the services of an iPhone.

At that time, those handsets aimed above all at the business market, had perfectible user interface, and the data connection prices were at best unclear, at worst prohibitive.

Like often, just a few ingredients were missing to find the perfect alchemy, and Apple found them: First, reinventing the touch interface, that hadn’t evolved since the first Palm Pilot, and was more an adaptation of the mouse UI to stylus. Apple relies on the integration of the best of technologies (capacitive multipoint touch screen) working with a software (MacOS) with refined ergonomics thought for finger use, all that highlighted by an innovative design. The iPhone has become one of the most desirable products of the time. As usual, Apple used already aging technologies: platform 2G, 2 megapixels camera, universal jack plug, and iPod connector to provide a reliable and efficient product. Whereas other manufacturers are competing in a technology race, most of the time at the expenses of consumer experience and reliability.
Second ingredient: selling both the iPhone and a contract that allowed using easily the advanced features of the product. This contract enabled Apple to negotiate with operators a higher subsidy than competitors and to make an expensive product affordable for the customer.
Apple has also reinforced its products attractiveness thanks to some strong choices, securing the product stability (applications approval, no multitask, necessity to have a computer connected to Internet to use it) and its determination to put forward the leaders’ services (Google: Maps, YouTube, Yahoo stock market and weather forecast). At last, and quite ironically after the Steve Job’s announces against third parties applications, its success soared thanks to a late opening to the much pampered developers’ community - iFund launch: fund dedicated to companies manufacturing iPhone’s software, powerful SDK, etc.).

Well-adapted contracts, subsidies and critical mass
The hit of a single model allowed Apple to negotiate with operators well-adapted contracts, attractive selling price thanks to large and mandatory subsidy, as well as an aggressive commercial campaign (ATL and BTL, especially in the point of sales). Those elements enabled to reach a critical mass, self-sustaining success. Mac was a precursor in the eighties but never managed to reach this critical mass, remaining at less than 10% of the market.

Competitors were at a loss how to react. Some did not believe in touch-screen devices for non-business markets (Nokia, Motorola, Sony Ericsson and Microsoft), others did not perceive the interest of providing an “End to End” experience,  consistent and reliable,  and preferred to launch plethoric ranges, without looking at Devil’s details. Hence, Apple took a significant advance, creating ergonomics standards for clients and a necessary platform for software developers.

However, smartphones now exist beyond the iPhone and all manufacturers intensified their creativity to compete with them. Google and Android have been finally providing a real convincing alternative, developed thanks to reliable products, cheaper than the iPhone. Google benefits from the support of leading players like HTC, Samsung, LG and Sony Ericsson. Microsoft, with Windows Mobile 7, seems to be able to offer a new mobile experience really innovative and thought to be mass market, with the brand new support of Nokia. The ultimate player in this smart-phones ecosystem is a new player in the mass market: RIM. Relying on Blackberry’s fame, they provide up-market services as well as a messenger Blackberry community- targeted service that seduces many young people.
Those ones make the market today.

So, what will your next mobile phone do?

First, but it is not new, it will phone! And innovations in phoning are not over.

It will also be the aggregator of your digital life. The address book will include Facebook events, your friends’ and acquaintances’ pictures and blogs. You will access to your videos, pictures, documents, music stored on line, in the “cloud” or in your computer, and a part of them will be available offline.
Finally, it will be your interface with “real” world: at home, but also in mobility, you will be able to control your hi-fi system, program your DVD recorder, open your shutters, set the temperature, fill the fridge, etc. Possibilities will only be limited by the processor power, the screen size, and the developer’s talent. The software will be able to improve thanks to updates and applications.

The all-software domination is going to put an end to the hardware battles, and will probably give path to a concentration of players. That will allow integrated-hardware former suppliers to focus on service and software that will run on the few standard platforms of the market. At the other end of the chain, design-makers will try to differentiate by other ways and design will be decisive. The hardware battle will no more be horizontal, between different products, but vertical, between similar products but more or less aesthetic.

The main battles will then be close to computers or handsets a few years ago:
·         Design. Even for computers, design is key. Design could be split in two parts: industrial design (size, keyboard, buttons, weight…), and aesthetic. Apple is excellent in this domain, and has made all their new success with it. The real renewal on Apple with the iMac is design, not OS. The success of MacBook is also mainly due to design – the battle is not over! In handsets design, HTC, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, and even the others have their word to say, with different positioning.
·         Screen size and quality (flexible, foldable, beamed, 3D, etc.). This will be the main innovations in the following years, allowing new form factors, and real breakthrough, solving the today impossible compromise between handset and screen size. 3D will probably become a standard, even if limited to certain usages like gaming and TV. Touch screen sensitivity will be better and better, especially in low end.
·         Processor speed. The battle will continue, with dual core, video chipset, allowing more and more powerful applications for image and video editing, 3D gaming, etc.
·         Memory has still room for improvement, to store your entire collection of high quality music, pictures and video
·         Communication. 3G, Bluetooth and WiFi are the today standards. LTE will arrive in the next years, allowing mobile broad band enabling cloud usage. NFC is a success only in Japan, but should arrive in US and Europe in order to facilitate payment, identification and CRM. Apple seems to be on hold on the subject, but Google is pushing, looking at synergies with advertising. RFID and DSRC could be integrated for road toll payment. Here again, the value added will be through the combination with identification, data connection, GPS and other sensors: account management, security, etc.
·         Sensors. They have been a key enabler in smartphones success, allowing a lot of creativity. Photo capture has not reached a ceiling, with better quality, especially in low light, better image treatment, quicker response, etc. The iPhone 4 gyroscope has not become a standard, as the advantages are not obvious compared to compass and accelerometer.
·         Software integration. The possibilities are huge, from better OS integration (battery life management, etc.) to innovative software with new UI in photo and video editing, and should take advantage on all technologies integration (cf. Apple patent on video enhancement). The copy and paste from PC world is not enough!
·         Battery life. This is one of the major issues today; no smartphone is able to be used several days without being charged. Battery capacity, software optimisation and possibly solar cell to charge the battery all the day long…
·         Accessories. Speakers could be better as symbolic, but value added will come from a set of accessories enabling new usages, especially in the professional world: credit card readers, bar code scanners, etc.

To be continued!