Monthly Archives: October 2012

Phone size; Apple’s problem.

Phone size, Who is Apple’s target audience?

Those very first mobile phones were large brick-sized devices. They might seem a bit silly now but the size was just a reflection of the electronics of the time. However as technology developed they soon shrank down to small brick size then down to large hand held then on to pocket size items. Test messaging did not demand a particularly large screen so minimum phone size ended up very much controlled by keypad size and battery capacity.
There was then the arrival of “the Internet” on phone type devices so screens had to jump up in size to be able to present this data in a viewable format. So phones started to get a bit bigger again with this larger (colour) screen and mini QWERTY keyboards for alpha-numeric input.

In the way that early internet use on computers was dominated by the technologically literate and only later (with the arrival of broadband?) moved across to the more general population, so early phone data use was also dominated by this techno-crowd, and by its very nature, a relatively young crowd. These first internet displaying devices seemed to settle down to a screen size of 3 to 3.5 in (70 – 90 mm), a reasonable balance between physical size, screen quality and cost.

However more recently screen sizes have increased with numerous models covering the 4 inch (100 mm) range and things like the Galaxy Notes going well into the 5 inch (130mm) domain, though Apple has remained down at the smaller end of the scale, just tweaking its new iPhone up from 3.5 to 4 inches.

Is staying this small a wise move by Apple? These new larger size phones are proving quite popular, but then so is their iPhone. However by not providing something in the larger screen range I think Apple is losing out in a fast developing market – and that’s in the slightly older crowd who’s expanding their mobile phone use to include internet data; and what’s more, Apple could start (has started) losing people because of this.

Why? Once you get into middle age your eyes quite naturally lose a degree of their elascicity and it makes it harder to focus on near objects, reading becomes difficult, glasses or contact lenses become a necessity. So a small screen so easily used before becomes a burden where a larger screen makes interaction with your phone so much easier. Also with data speeds (both land line and mobile) increasing more is being expected from whatever device you are using, so trying to squash all that into a small screen is becoming problematic.

I have an iPhone 3GS, a great device. However some time ago I decided to do some upgrading but went the Samsung Galaxy S II route. I still use the 3GS, but that larger S II screen makes reading or looking at web pages a so much nicer experience. If I was to do an upgrade now (this is not long after the iPhone 5 release) top of my shortlist is the Galaxy Note II.
(By chance, while writing this I noticed a Tweet from Austin Evans (@duncan33303), a young highly technology literate guy with some good YT videos… “Just fired up Kindle for Android on the Galaxy Note II. It’s actually big enough to read comfortably.”)
To me this Note II gives a screen large enough to display maps and ‘detailed information’ nice and clearly, just large enough to have two applications running on the screen at the same time, yet is still small enough (just!) to be highly portable.

When Apple developed their iPad Mini they obviously wanted to differentiate it from the popular 7 inch tablet crowd such as the new Kindles or Nexus 7, so they’ve made it a 7.9 inch device. I personally think it’s a great device however it still leaves a big hole in their range of something pocket-size but still ‘big’. I so wish they’d made the new iPad different by going down to say 6 inch, so providing something for those who, like me, was very happy their iPhone but now wants that larger screened item.

Apple might say that they don’t care about this other market, they’re quite happy re-inventing the iPhone every now and again and catching the next group of teenagers wanting phones, but I think this is very ‘short sighted’ approach. I want a set-up where I can seamlessly go from phone to tablet to desk-top computer. If I end up moving away from the iPhones when my 3GS eventually dies a death then I’ll want my next tablet upgrade to match my phone’s system so good-bye old iPad, and of course I’ll want my desk-top to match…

 

(Austin Evans YouTube channel.)

Windows 8, RT and Tablets

What’s going to happen when Microsoft brings out both Windows 8 and the Surface tablet (running Windows RT) together.

I can see quite a few problems with people assuming that their nice new Surface will be able to run their existing Windows programs. After all, it came out at the same time as Windows 8, it has the look of 8, the feel of 8, and it’s even called Windows (be it Windows RT). So why can’t it run my programs!

This version of the Surface is powered by an ARM processor, targeting the battery / low power consumption devices of the portable market. It makes it no different to that of the iPad; the iPad runs apps downloaded from the App Store while the Apple desktops and laptops run OSX and the programs related to that. This Surface runs applications downloaded from Microsoft’s own marketplace while Windows 8 runs programs for desktop computers.

However Microsoft seems very lax in highlighting the differences between the ARM powered Surface tablet and Windows 8 for the Intel powered machines. I’ve read a few reports and surveys indicating the Microsoft support staff don’t seem to know the differences either.

I guess there is the added complication that in a few month’s time there should be the Surface Pro model which will be Intel powered and run full Windows 8.

I’ve never known people to be confused over the differences between the iPhone / iPad and the MacBooks and iMacs, Apple have kept them quite distinct (even if they are starting to give a common look and feel to their operating systems), but the way Microsoft has handled the release of their new systems has not been well thought out.

Coming in confusing their potential customers with almost identical but operationally very different systems as a way of trying to break into an established tablet market is not really the best way to do things.

But then this is Microsoft, not known for doing things the easy way!

Windows 8 future potential

 Windows 8, how’s it going to go.

Very shortly Windows 8 / Windows Phone 8 will be out; what’s going to happen?
I assume on the computer side of things, as new machines arrive with Windows 8 pre-installed the operating system will naturally spread through the user world. Microsoft has already ended its mainstream support for both XP and Vista, and XP’s extended support will end in the not too distant future, so corporations still hanging on to XP are going to have to upgrade soon.
Microsoft has already announced that its service pack support for 7 will end next year, so again, more reasons for looking towards 8.

What about the phones and tablets, will it break into the Android / Apple duopoly.
One thing that could give it an advantage is that it’s relatively free from the legal arguments going on between the Android and Apple communities. This could make it very tempting for the business world that does *not* like getting involved in other people’s legal wrangles. At the moment they don’t have much choice, Blackberry seems in terminal decline which really just leaves them looking towards the two arguing ‘big boys’.

So if Microsoft can come along and provide a user system with some quality phones and tablets (devices announced by Nokia, HTC and Samsung seem to be getting some good press) that will seamlessly integrate in with their desktop machines and without these Apple / Android uncertainties, then I could see business being quite tempted. Combine this business use with those individuals who want to give it a try and this should provide a more than big enough user base to get developers interested.

So I would not be too surprised if in a couple of years time it had sorted itself out to be something like 40% Android, 40% Apple and 20% Windows 8, and (unless they can do something quite amazing really quickly) RIM / Blackberry seriously struggling.

One thing to remember; before the iPhone came along, in places like the USA those earlier Windows Mobile based phones had about 40% of the market, so if they’ve done it before then there’s a fair chance they can do it again.

7 Inch Tablets.

I can’t make up my mind about these new 7 inch tablets.

I like the larger screen sized phones – easier to see web pages, maps are nicer to use, more room for a virtual keyboard etc . I also like my iPad – a ‘full size screen’ device which can do much of what a lap-top can do but a lot lighter, more portable and longer battery life.
So what about those that fall between the two, the new 7 inch devices which are becoming more and more common. Too large to fit in my pocket or in a pouch on my belt so they’ve lost that portability factor. A lot smaller than an iPad so they’ve lost a lot of functionality that comes with a physically larger screen. The worst of both worlds.
Or is it a case that thought they’re not pocket size they are small enough to fit into almost any sort of bag or carrier without taking up any significant amount of space, yet big enough to provide a really useful size of screen. Also powerful enough with dual and quad core processors to do whatever’s demanded from them.

There’s one thing that must be in favour for at least for some of these devices and that’s their price. The Nexus 7 or the 7 inch Galaxy Tab2 may be smaller than the iPad but they still have a similar level of functionality, however they come in at around half the cost. This for parents thinking of providing their children with a tablet type device for school must make it much more tempting. Also for those uncertain about the whole tablet thing a price at the £160 to £180 range is far less of a risk than the £400 or £500 for an iPad. We’ve also got the much rumoured iPad mini which should be appearing soon.

If I was to be upgrading my phone now I could be tempted with a Galaxy Note 2 with its 5.5 inch screen, a device still small enough (just) for me to carry around on a belt holder. As for these 7 inch tablets, at the moment I’m not too sure.

A case of wait and see.