Monday, 9 February 2015


Can Samsung keep its crown?
March 1st 2015 seems like a long, long way away...

Goodhour, Synapse Circuit Readers! It’s a glorious, golden sunny day here in London! Although it’s quite chilly it looks like spring is on its way! Yay! I hope that all is well with you and yours! I also hope that you are making the most out of your tech!

I tell you, as a Samsung fan, the countdown to the first day of March is excruciating. Like the rest of the world I want to know what the Galaxy S6 and its Edge variant will entail. Oddly, although there is such a great anticipation there’s talk going round to say that Samsung could be on its way to obscurity... Read on...

#Samsung #GalaxyS6 #GalaxySEdge

As pointed out with HTC as an example there are many manufacturers looking to snatch Samsung’s position as the Android king! Then there are the anti-Samsung Android consumer out there that may have already buried the prolific manufacturer... ...this is what makes the Android market so fascinating: we have our favourites. And although there is a sense of loyalty out there it seems as though we mostly favour the manufacturer with most to offer.

Why are people writing off Samsung all of a sudden? To put it very simply: The Galaxy S5. We were expecting more and didn’t quite get it. In addition the Chinese manufacturers have produced high-end handsets with a midrange price and therefore Samsung’s midrange efforts aren’t as enticing as they once were. Again, these Chinese handsets have yet to make an impact on the UK market. And from what I have seen thus so far they (the Chinese manufacturers) have yet to reach the US market.

Over here (the UK) we get a little trickle in the form of Huawei and ZTE and that’s about it! As you know, Huawei produces some pretty darn good handsets but they haven’t broken the UK in a big way. Huawei handsets are the kind you go for when your premium handset is too expensive to repair (the warranty has expired) and some of what Huawei has to offer can make for a decent enough handset for a teenager – if you wanted to buy the handset outright. However, most teenagers are pretty much clued up and you may not be flavour of the month for going Huawei! “Listen, son! It’s Huawei or the highway!”

Above: The ZTE Blade S6. This interesting 64-bit handset from ZTE may never come to the UK marketplace. 
Okay... Let’s go over to ZTE... At the moment ZTE handsets can only be had through Virgin Mobile and the handsets on offer haven’t been great! Uh-uh! The best handset that ZTE ever released over here was the Grand X that borrowed heavily from the Samsung Galaxy Nexus design. At the moment ZTE aren’t releasing its better handsets in the UK for some reason. So, like Huawei, ZTE is out of the running for Samsung’s crown.

Which manufacturer can seriously stand a chance to take Samsung’s crown?

What manufacturers are seriously in contention?

We looked at HTC a few days ago and I have it that, although its flagship One M8 is beautifully designed, the camera is just not up to the task thus the chances of HTC producing a handset with a killer camera is minimal. It appears that HTC is dashing its UltraPixel main camera for a 20MP one for the One M9 and this could possibly do it for HTC. There again this wouldn’t be the first time that HTC put a potentially good camera in a handset only for the results to be grainy with jerky video. I just do not see HTC reversing that bad camera trend. Then the Sense overlay is pretty boring. As I have already written about HTC I will leave it there. What? You didn’t read the article? Here it is: What’s Wrong With HTC?

Sony has done very well with the Z range – the Z2 & 3 are quite popular behind Samsung and LG. However, the design for the Z range is quite safe and resembles the Galaxy S2 from way back. Nothing necessarily wrong with the Galaxy S2 design as it is what the handset can do that matters... Aside from a 20-odd MP camera, water and dust resistance the Z range doesn’t offer any extras that can compare with Samsung’s TouchWiz. There’s no Sony version of the S Pen or the Galaxy Note. Sony does produce some great tablets though! I think that these tablets are underestimated! But somehow I don’t see Sony taking Samsung’s crown. Apparently, Sony wants to sell off the Xperia

The G3 is LG’s breakthrough and it looks like they will continue to create beautiful handsets that tick all the boxes: camera, screen and design. LG are poised to take up where the G3 and G Flex left off. I think that LG has the potential to take Samsung’s crown which won’t be that easy. I mean, if you are due an upgrade in April are you going to wait until May or June for the G4?

Another design in the G3 direction could tip the scales in the favour of LG. So far LG is the strongest contender.

While Archos handsets aren’t freely available in the mobile device retail outlets they are certainly available to purchase through the Archos website. Archos could be the unanticipated French invasion as it seems like they are gearing up to be in the race again. Archos, in my opinion, seem to just miss the mark with its releases. The price for the very good 50b Helium 4G, £149.99, is quite reasonable. The 64-bit 50 Diamond is going for the budget market and this handset could make more dents in Samsung’s midrange efforts. Archos could possibly steal Samsung’s midrange crown. Archos don’t appear to do high-end premium at the moment but who knows what they will be announcing at the Mobile Wold Congress from the 2nd of March?

Again, I have to hand it to Motorola for coming back strong in the latter half of 2014 with great handsets to cover the low, mid, mid-high and premium markets. Now that it is owned by Chinese Lenovo there is a strong possibility that Motorola could usurp Samsung on every market front. However, there are some concerns that may keep Motorola waiting in the corridors of power...

1. The camera! Oddly, the 8MP camera on the Moto G 2014 yields in a better result than the 13MP Moto X and Nexus 6 cameras.

2. Motorola devices are pretty much stock Android with a few Motorola embellishments and if you like what Samsung has done with multiple windows, Air gestures and so on then the Moto X and Nexus 6 may seem basic in comparison.

3. If Motorola will do future Nexus devices then the non-microSD slot will be a source of dissuasion – particularly if 4K recording is important to you. Where are you going to store all that footage?

Then there’s Lenovo itself... It is a possibility that they might continue with Lenovo branded handsets but now that they have the Motorola name it means that they have access to the Western markets of Europe and USA. Of course, the Motorola name may carry some weight in China!

The ASUS strategy has been an interesting one... ...the ideas were interesting such as the PadFone and Fonepad but through owning a Fonepad I can see that ASUS didn’t do a great job. Then last year we were introduced to the ZenFone range which looked quite interesting but somehow they had the technology of a bygone era in them... How was that possible? No 4G on the any of the ZenFone models (4”, 5” and 6”)! Bizarre! Still, they were reasonable efforts for the budget end of the market. But if you are going to go for the budget – or any market you have to make sure that your handset is packing some serious hardware to be in the running! When one of my contract handsets got damaged beyond repair my first stop was the ZenFone and then the Moto G 2014 came out and I got it! The Moto G 2014 ticked the right boxes: screen size, camera, stereo front-facing speakers and price. The only box that wasn’t ticked was 4G but the damaged phone wasn’t 4G anyway; still it would have been the icing on the cake.

Above: The ZenFone 2... It looks good (for a plastic handset) but is the Intel CPU up to the job?

 Now it looks as if ASUS have decided to go all in a produce a decent handset from the off with the ZenFone 2 and ZenFone Zoom. These new ZenFone models are 64-bit and at least one of the models features 4GB RAM; the prices are said to start at $199! I know... ...I keep harping on about the ZenFone, its 4GB RAM and price but it does look like you’re getting a lot of phone for your money! That said, the handsets look to be made from plastic imitating metal and this could put some people off. Will the 13MP PixelMaster camera of the ZenFone 2 have what it takes to challenge the 20MP camera (if that’s correct) on the Galaxy S6?

Is it possible that ASUS will have a couple of handsets aimed at the high-end / premium market? Hmmmm... Somehow I can’t see ASUS taking on Samsung just yet but the ZenFone Zoom could be a hit with mobile phone photographers.

Acer reminds me a lot of Archos in that they keep coming ever so close to doing a good handset but trip at the third from last hurdle. Acer seems out of whack with the marketplace. They came so close with the Liquid S1 & 2 phablets but were sadly lacking. Acer just can’t seem to make a handset with enough power or feature a decent camera.

It’s not as though Acer can’t design it’s just that the hardware is very weak. Given that Acer is able to put out a decent tablet or two and are quite well known in the PC industry I am quite surprised that Acer don’t seem to understand the Android market.

Above: The Acer Liquid Jade. It looks like one of those concept renderings you see online and judging by the hardware I don't think it's up to much...

Here’s the Liquid Jade spec:-

MediaTek Quad-core 1.30 GHz
12.7 cm (5") (1280 x 700)
13 MP (Rear Camera), 2 MP (Front Camera)
8 GB

The Liquid Jade looks like a recent model and the spec is not up to par. What manufacturer does 1GB RAM these days? The 13MP camera could be good but like HTC I am envisioning grain and jerkiness on the video recordings. I am very curious about the pricing of the Liquid Jade; is it aimed at the lower end of the market?

In any event I can’t see Acer taking on Samsung.

As I’ve stated previously, Apple has given Android the gift of 64-bit! Manufacturers now have the opportunity to create some great mobile devices. I think the Android marketplace will throw up a few surprises every now and again. All it takes is a decent design and strong hardware; this is where Samsung is consistent. Sure, you can argue that the Galaxy S5 was “safe” but you can’t say that it is not fast and does not feature a decent camera.

The Galaxy A series tells me that Samsung is still going to be hard to beat. And knowing Samsung it’ll try to release more handsets down the line to combat the competition which will be very intense this year. Who knows if Samsung might release premium handsets that feature Qualcomm chips in the future? I know that the Galaxy Note 4 hasn’t been out for long but you can bet that Samsung is already on the case with the Galaxy Note 5 and will it feature its own Exynos chip or Qualcomm?

There is one question still unanswered: Does Samsung have an answer to those inexpensive 64-bit handsets from ASUS, Archos and ZTE (in the States) for example?

Could the answer come in the form of Qualcomm chips? Would it be worth Samsung’s while to compete in the lower market? Wouldn’t it be in Samsung’s best interests to go even higher than the forthcoming Galaxy S6 and current Note 4 (in terms of the fastest possible processor and RAM) to redefine “premium”?

Jeez! From one question many more questions arise!

It would be foolish to write Samsung off as there is still a lot of scope... ...I mean, Tizen could develop into an alternative that will still require the Google Play Store. Again, Tizen is a way for Samsung to develop its own technologies and innovations. I think of Tizen like a forked version of Android (but not) if you see what I mean.

Some say that the edge screen idea is desperate but that wasn’t the feeling when Samsung first showed off its YOUM flexible screen technology at CES 2013. Now that it has arrived some people are trying to discard it. The edge screen is great for the camera functions – what’s bad about a virtual shutter button?

We’ll just have to wait and see... February is taking its sweet time! Lol!

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