Disclaimer: This is about what most normal people on the planet use as smartphone platform, Android based devices. As I am talking about new-gen, I am actually talking about the new HI-END devices. This won't discuss:
- iPhone 5S/6. Let see it first because now we have only rumors. It will be a device where Apple will once more tell us "actually your finger is not the size I told you it was, it is different" and will present us again with numerous revolutionary new things (that are actually present elsewhere).
- Windows Phone. WP still fails to gain a serious percentage. Funny how MSFT had an enterprise platform (the MOST complete mobile OS BY FAR) on under-powered hardware and now the hardware becomes comparable to medium-powered laptops but they instead made another OS with far more limitations (and forgetting the WHOLE enterprise backbone). Way to go! Then again Windows 8 and Blue ARE going to become our desktops so WP will become a more familiar image. (in the meantime don't get me started with the cr*p called Windows RT tablets)
- RIM. Yes they are still alive and they even made a current hardware device. Don't think it will save them. Next...
So... The three most important competitors for 2013 are out. Yes we could have a couple of surprises within the next six months (and FOR SURE near the end of the year), but the landscape is pretty much set: Samsung Galaxy S4, Sony Xperia Z and HTC ONE (random order).
You will find numerous reviews for all three. All reviews have a tendency to highlight the strong points of a device, yes good reviews mention the bad points too, but usually don't go deep about them. I won't go deep the good points at all. All devices have more or less fantastic hardware and software, go read the reviews.
So what SUCKS in these three new devices?
Xperia Z came first. Z's killer feature? IP55/57 (read: dust protected AND water resistant to a few meters of water!). So, what did they do wrong?
Well they did wrong two things they POSSIBLY couldn't do better.
- They use the worse CPU of all the new devices. Snapdragon S4 Pro. This CPU is actually pretty modern and I don't think any other mainstream device had the chance to use it, BUT it was a middle step towards the real new generation Snapdragon 600. S4 Pro is maybe close to TWICE the speed of S4 in some tasks, but 600 is maybe three times as fast as S4 (and 50% faster than S4 Pro). Rough numbers of course. Some will say, "you'll not even notice it" which is partially true for like 90% of users. Yet there is another percent (let say 10%) that are either geeks (so they know if they have the best and will drink the juice of pretty much anything) OR posers that will say "if I pay that kind of money I WANT the best, not the second best". Actually one type doesn't exclude the other. Why Sony possibly couldn't do better? Because as I said Z came first and probably BEFORE general availability of Snapdragon 600 (I already said that even S4 Pro was not used before).
- The other bad thing with Z is that... it is a Sony. Sony basically is nothing like what Sony was in 1980 and 1990. In all tech fields (for example I don't consider Sony even a competitor in current flat screen wars). Specifically with smartphones, Sony has a long bad track record of actually not doing what they claim. In previous years they announced a model, it was fantastic, then they delayed it indefinitely until when it was actually released was just "ok" (or worse). Xperia X1 comes to mind etc. This is not the case with Z though. Z came and flooded the market. They give it away in TV shows etc. What I don't know if it has changed (and doubt actually) is if Sony will support their device for AT LEAST 18 months (like Samsung, like HTC and like Google actually suggests for Android devices). Googling Sony smartphones, you'll find many furious users where an update never came and some are even left to live with a cr*ppy version. Phones released 6 months ago. Hmmmm...
So basically Z's problem is the CPU (still faster than last gen) and that it is a Sony.
HTC ONE came second. Killer feature? "A new kind of camera", a news/feature "feed" formed as live tiles (now where he have seen this before) and such.
So what is wrong?
- The new kind of camera with "ultrapixels" is basically a mediocre 4MP camera that has those 4MP "spread" over a larger CCD. Well digital cameras have larger area CCD. They bundle them with multi-MP nowadays though PLUS they use 1000 times better optics (which is where smartphones will never go near). HTC wanted to market this whole thing as taking "better" pictures that don't have to be THAT much hi-res. Well HTC they shouldn't be THAT low-res either. With 4MP even display in a screen monitor is not that fantastic (yes fullHD is 2MP I know). You cannot zoom much (usually we zoom to CROP and this is where 4MP will show how small a number they are). You cannot print very good photos (YES I PRINT SOME and why HTC will tell me differently?). HTC should bundle their "ultrapixel" technology with AT LEAST 8MP (or even go to the current 13MP). Everybody would be happy then. Even if I don't use my phone camera much (well I do, more than my actual digital camera, but even if I didn't) I don't like this marketing misinformation. HTC hello we are in the age of Internet.
- Their actual "feed" software is well... just that: SOFTWARE. It is nothing I would buy a phone about. You can install similar widgets easily. How can you promote a device based on this?
In short HTC ONE's problems are its supposed killer features. Come on.
Samsung Galaxy S4 came recently with a Hollywood (ok actually Broadway like) event. They had an additional problem. They were already the champions and needed to hold the tittle. S4's killer feature? Nothing specific and many (actually WAY TOO many) little things that add-up to a fantastic package. Arguably many of those are software things.
Then what is the problem?
- OK Samsung. I know you are scared (yes scared is the proper word as strong as it sounds) to change SIII shape, but you eventually HAVE to. Because basically the shape sucks. So S4 is like SIII. Nothing much to differentiate the design. If it was a fantastic design (like iPhone 4/4S/5 shape which is distinctive) ok, build on it. But "S" design is well... dull. You can do better.
- What I said. Many of the little things that they added are software things (NOT ALL though as the hardware is fantastic too). Don't stress those too much. Some of them are very strictly area specific (USA the center of the world...) and pretty much useless in most of the rest of the planet.
- OK publicity failure to have issues with the CPU that was supposed to be your core. They are forced to use two different CPUs. Either their new own-built "octacore" (in small numbers and specific markets and submodels) or the Snapdragon 600. Both are latest-gen and super powerful. Still the problem with the octacore is not helping.
- Actually even if they DIDN'T have an issue with octacore, they would most probably do the same. Why? BECAUSE THEY DO IT ALL THE TIME. WHAT IS YOUR PROBLEM SAMSUNG? They have the tendency to name a model for example Galaxy Note (talking about this because I own it) but IN FACT there are at least 8-10 differently configured Galaxy Note! With VERY different model numbers! With little differences like storage size (which is about the only thing acceptable to be different in a single model) to even CPU or LTE/no-LTE capability! They even use different firmware! As for mainstream models? (I researched this a bit because a friend wanted one) The situation is even worse. Model "something", model "something plus", model "something 2", which is OLDER than "plus", then "plus" has at least two different model numbers... and so on. COME ON! This sucks.
So S4's problem is that it looks like a Korean phone, it has some software functionality that is irrelevant to much of the market, it uses two different CPU and you are not even sure which one you will get (esp. with parallel/gray imports) AND in general you don't know S4 you are really getting (I good one? A better one? One that is better in something and worse in something else?)... because basically like EVERY Samsung smartphone, there is not ONE S4.
So which am I getting? None. We are in crisis remember.
But I think the BAD things should start being a factor in purchases. Don't just look what they give you. Look what they DON'T give you (and they could) and punish them accordingly.
(something that people should start doing to Apple more btw...)