Friday, 16 January 2015

SYNAPSE CIRCUIT LOOKING BACK AT 2014



SYNAPSE CIRCUIT
LOOKING BACK AT 2014!

Goodhour, Synapse Circuit Readers! It is so wonderful to see you again after what seems like ages! In a nutshell I’ve been taking timeout to rest and recharge to bring you more from Synapse Circuit! I have a lot that I want to achieve this year! And I am going to do it too!

2014 certainly was an interesting year for all things tech... Here’s my take on it...

#SynapseCircuit #2014 #Android #Apple #Google #Samsung #LG #Motorola #HTC #Huawei #ASUS #ZTE #Sony

A GOOD YEAR FOR APPLE?
I don’t think that it’s been a bad year for Apple but it hasn’t been the best year for them either! If anything the Apple Fanboy / Fangirl has benefited – sort of – from having a bigger screen spearheaded by Android! It’s about freakin’ time! “Sort of...” because iOS 8 has bugs and apps aren’t yet taking advantage of the bigger screen size of 6 Plus!

The iPad – as predicted – has been cannibalized by the advent of 6 Plus; as I have stated so many times: the iPad is overpriced for what it is. The iPad is probably a great solution for those with absolutely no desktop / laptop but if you already own a Mac computer then there isn’t much point in an iPad. How about the iPad mini? Well, now that the 6 Plus is a reality... If you are a Apple person and a parent do you think it’s worth shelling out for an iPad mini (when there are great inexpensive Android tablets)? “Here, kid! Here’s a £80 Android tablet! Knock yourself out!”

PANORAMA
Then towards the end of the year a damning UK investigative TV programme, Panorama, revealed what it is like to be a factory worker making iPhones in China, Foxconn! That programme certainly blew the lid off the Apple being kind to the planet and people ethos! Now that was truly an OMG moment! You saw how land areas were being decimated, people endangering their lives excavating for precious metals... ...the factory workers being treated like slaves and how they live like battery hens all cooped up in a small space... My goodness! Shocking! I watched that program with disdain; you just can’t treat people like that! You just can’t mess up the planet like that either! It’s mad! I am not saying that other manufacturers aren’t doing the same but it was a documentary report on Apple and how it operates!

CEO, Tim Cook has come out denying it but once you have the evidence so patently put in front of you denying these findings is an exercise in idiocy!

People often ask me why I dislike Apple and that is a prime example; no matter what the grim reality is of a situation with Apple they always deny it thinking that we won’t see it or stop seeing it! Not a good idea, Tim!

A BAD YEAR FOR ANDROID?
It has certainly been an odd year for Android... I think for the most part of 2014 the Android Fanboy / Fangirl were treated to a mixed bag of Android handsets and tablets – many of which were pretty much mediocre. The year began, as it does for Synapse Circuit, with the launch of the Samsung Galaxy S5; expectations were riding high and although it was a great handset it was a case of being more of the same. People, me included, expected something of a departure as it was with the Galaxy S3! Then LG came out with the G3 that showed off a great design and had the wonderful 5.5” QHD screen that we were expecting for the Galaxy S5! Again, HTC wowed us with the beautiful looking One M8 but disappointed us with the camera.

As predicted, we saw some great handsets coming from China such as the Oppo R5 but it hasn’t entered the UK market in terms of being available with network providers! You can purchase the Oppo handsets online! They are touted as “premium handset killers” but I can’t say they are... So far I have yet to see a handset match the Galaxy Note 4. Sure, it is arguable that the Galaxy S5 isn’t as formidable but it still puts up a good fight against the rival Chinese manufacturers in terms of usefulness. However, Samsung has lost some market share in China as the natives are purchasing the likes of Xiaomi and the Mi 4 and Redmi Note 4G selling very well.

MOTOROLA
The budget to mid-range market was pretty dire until the advent of Motorola Moto G 2014! Like the predecessor the Moto G 2014 wowed the budget end of the market even though 4G wasn’t a feature! Motorola more or less redefined the level entry handset... Yes, you could argue that manufacturers like Huawei and ZTE were putting out dirt cheap handsets but the spec on them weren’t that much to shout about! The Moto G 2014 offered a very decent spec for the money, £150! The 5” screen and front-facing stereo speakers are pretty hard to beat! So, it left many of the budget manufacturers, Archos, Acer, ASUS, Huawei and ZTE struggling to gain a good portion of that particular marketplace! I think that the lower end handsets from the manufacturers mentioned above were ill-conceived when it comes to the spec! Sure, some of these sub £90 - £80 handsets might look like remarkable deals but in use they are horrific! I think this is part of the reason why Android took a bit of a dive: people go for these cheap handsets thinking they are on par with, let’s say for arguments sake, an iPhone and find out that these cheap Android handsets are anything but! As a result some would be Android folk just end up going for the “easy to use” iPhone; these cheap handsets could very well be responsible for those having a negative opinion on Android. In the past I have tried to replace a non-functioning handset with one of those cheap handsets only to get so frustrated that I could throw it against the wall!

I think Motorola really came back with gusto with the budget to mid to premium but it was the Moto G 2014 that has changed the budget market for the best! We should be seeing budget handsets with a better spec i.e. at least 8GB of storage instead of 4GB and a quad-core CPU as opposed to a minimum dual-core and at least 2GB of RAM. 512MB and 1GB won’t cut it! And sticking with Motorola... I think they did really well with the Moto X 2014 and the massive Nexus 6! I felt that they were / are good handsets for those that do not have the use for the functionality as found in the Samsung Galaxy S5 and Note 4 for example. I really love those designs from Motorola! In my opinion the designs of the Moto G 2014, Moto X 2014 and Nexus 6 are more attractive than the HTC One M8. So, I got me a Nexus 6! Woo!

GOOGLE
It’s pretty much safe to state that Google had a rough time in 2014 what with the anti-trust stance in Europe, people wishing to be forgotten, etc. With the lawsuits aside Google has so many pokers in the fire that I get the feeling that they aren’t releasing product as good as it can be! For example the Nexus Player isn’t available yet in the UK! So, if I wanted a similar experience for my TV solution I have the option to go Chromecast or similar devices from Amazon and Roku for example; and from what I have understood it appears as though the Nexus Player has some short comings... Short comings or not I want one!

Then there is the much anticipated Android 5, Lollipop... Many of us are disappointed with Lollipop in that many devices have yet to receive it! But the uptake, as I recall, is still faster than KitKat... I remember waiting a good while for some of my devices to get the KitKat upgrade! Google promises to get the Lollipop upgrade out as soon as it is possible to as many devices as possible! I did think my Second Generation Moto G would have received the Lollipop upgrade by now but I am still waiting! That said, I am not in that much of a hurry – especially now that I have a Nexus 6! I would rather Google take its time than to rush a release full of more bugs than a rainforest! Is Google doing too much at one time?

Oh my goodness! How can I forget to mention Google Glass? Google Glass seems like it’s taking forever to reach the market – consumer-wise! Some tech pundits have pronounced Google Glass as DOA but I do feel that it has scope (no pun intended). It just needs to come in at a reasonable price!

Android Wear is interesting we’ve seen a bunch of smartwatches to hit the market last year but they don’t appear to be vital; I like the looks of the Moto 360 and Gear S! Oh, I have to say that the smartwatch from ASUS, ZenWatch, looks pretty decent too!

SAMSUNG
It was a bit of a rough ride for Samsung... Unfortunately, the Galaxy S5 didn’t sell as well as expected and I have a few theories as to why...

1. Samsung were relying on the loyalty coming off the successes of the Galaxy S2, S3 and S4; the UK TV advertising was thin.

2. It seemed to me as though Samsung were busy with other handsets; I have lost count as to how many handsets Samsung released last year! Not to mention the amount of tablets they produce! Samsung’s output is staggering that it must be having an impact on their flagship handsets and its advertising budget.

Samsung has also closed down a retail outlet in Stratford, London’s Westfield shopping complex. It is a shame as the shop layout was really nice and it was spacious too! However, Stratford Westfield – despite the masses of retail outlets and shopping area – is not the best place for Samsung or, dare I say, Apple? Why? Simply because the location isn’t quite right! Westfield Stratford is literally around the corner from me and I prefer to go to Central London. Stratford Westfield reminds me of a massive airport shopping mall. The shopping complex was quickly put together for the Olympics! Now that the Olympics has been and gone Westfield Stratford is going to appeal mainly to folk that inhabit East London.

Samsung have stated that they will put out less handsets this year! We will see! The Galaxy Alpha has been axed! Samsung ended the year well with the Galaxy Note 4 and the Note Edge!

LG
I think it was a good year for LG and the G3! The combination of a great thin bezel and QHD screen was very formidable and as a result I reckon it took a chunk out of the Galaxy S5 market. Many people purchase or take out a contract on a handset based upon its looks! When Samsung delivered more of the same with the Galaxy S5 it left the market open for such a fantastic looking handset!

LG also released some budget handsets and I reckon that a lot of those handsets got abandoned when mobile retail outlet, Phones 4U, died a death! It didn’t escape me that the UK lost a great variety of handsets. Phones 4U used to stock a good range of budget pay as you go handsets and now Carphone Warehouse is the foremost mobile retail outlet chain in the UK – only it does not seem to have such a wide variety. I would imagine that this must have had an impact, albeit small, on LG. Some of LG’s budget handsets weren’t bad!

HTC
If the LG G3 ate into the Samsung Galaxy S5 market share then it certainly impacted upon the HTC One M8 market. As you know the One M8 is great but that’s about it... The Ultrapixels camera never really took off! It was a case of looks first and features second! But HTC does have a legion of followers! But on the streets it looks like a different picture... The One M8 is seldom seen; when the M7 came out I could see the impact it had as there was quite an uptake! 2014, the M8 was a rarity on the streets!

HTC came across as a little confused in that it wants to be Samsung with the amount of different handset released in a hear and at the same time it wants to be Apple with its premium metal product and is neither. HTC released a flurry of handsets towards the end of 2014 and I wonder if they’ve taken the time to make these handsets desirable (no pun intended where the HTC Desire range is concerned). One highlight for HTC is being charged with the responsibility of delivering the Google Nexus 9 tablet!

SONY
Hats off to Sony for consistency and determination. The Z3 looks like Sony’s take on the iPhone; it looks the business and certainly won many people over! The jewel in that crown is the Z3’s 20MP camera! Like Samsung’s Galaxy S5 it is water and dust resistant! Sony appears to be doing well with the Z3... Again, comparing Sony with Samsung, there is a similarity with regards to the releasing of a number of different handsets aimed at the different areas of the market: premium, mid-range to low end budget. The low-end handsets, in my opinion, are just to show that they are like Samsung and other manufacturers that actually shift budget products. The low-end handsets from Sony are on sale pretty much all year round.

The Z3 and its tablet counterpart were good for Sony and for consumers looking for alternatives to the market leaders!

ASUS
Now was it a good year for ASUS? I wouldn’t want to put money on it either way! Like Samsung, ASUS are heavy hitters for Android as well as Windows. There were times where it seemed like ASUS put out a tablet every couple of months! However, I like what ASUS have done with its handset range: Zenfone’s 4”, 5” and 6”! Simple! Not forgetting the Fonepad 7! With Samsung and HTC (and perhaps Sony) there are way too many handsets to take in! ASUS just sticks to one concept, the Zenfone in different screen sizes to suit taste! Unfortunately, these good looking handsets aren’t on any of the UK mobile networks! If you want an ASUS handset you will certainly have to purchase it from its online shop!

Thankfully, the ASUS range of tablets can be bought in most electronic / computer retail outlets. It looks as though ASUS may have done well in the UK’s first Black Friday sale event as a few people l know picked up a MeMo Pad 7 for £69! A steal! It would be interesting to find out the exact figures for ASUS tablet and handset sales for 2014. In any event I reckon ASUS have established its tablet and handset ranges for the future!

I hope that the ZenWatch does well!

PATCHY?
From where I am sitting 2014 was patchy from the Galaxy S5 expectations to the iPhone 6 & 6 Plus blandness and a bunch of underwhelming Android handsets in-between. The Moto G 2014 edition is missing a 4G radio and Lollipop! Then if the handsets were a bit of an overall disappointment (from the UK network availability point of view) then the tablet situation didn’t do much better with the exception of the Tab S range from Samsung! The NVIDIA Shield? Not bad at all – just a tad overpriced if you ask me! The Nexus 9? Hmmmm... I don’t know... I wasn’t and am still not entirely convinced! To be honest I was expecting something more groundbreaking from Google where the tablet is concerned! Don’t ask me what at this moment in time but I can’t say that my heart didn’t sink when I learned that HTC was going to be the manufacturer. Why not Samsung? Why not ASUS? Why not LG? And why not Google MotoLenovo? I couple of Nexus tablets would have been a great swan song so to speak – before Google handed the reins to Lenovo! It would have been fitting to have a Nexus 7 phablet with 4G from the off!

Well, that’s my patchy take on 2014! Standby for my predictions!

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