I figure that there are three potential reasons for HTC and Samsung to release their flagships at a higher price than Apple’s iPhone 5, which starts at a subsidized price of $199 on most carriers and $99 on T-Mobile:
The carriers won’t give them the same subsidies as they give Apple. Apple has significant leverage with carriers when it comes to subsidies – remember Sprint’s $20 billion deal with Apple to get the iPhone 5? Yeah, that was basically a giant preorder guaranteeing Apple a $500 subsidy per phone.
HTC and Samsung are hoping that by offering bigger screens, more (gimmicky) features, and the general performance enhancements that come with being newer, they can charge more than Apple does and thus make higher margins.
Expecting a bigger and more expensive iPhone later this year, they’re betting that they can raise the price of their flagship devices and still undercut Apple.
Heins has since eliminated 5,000 workers and shuttered several manufacturing sites. Along the way, he has managed to achieve a profitable quarter even as overall revenue dropped 36 percent from the previous year.
Last week Larry Page made a post on Google’s blog announcing that Andy Rubin, the man behind product development on Android since its inception in 2003, was leaving the Android project to “start a new chapter at Google.”
Rubin has played a vital role in constructing Google’s mobile strategy. Page had this to say about his early impact at the company: “He believed that aligning standards around an open-source operating system would drive innovation across the mobile industry. Most people thought he was nuts. But his insight immediately struck a chord because at the time it was extremely painful developing services for mobile devices.”
Why would Rubin leave the project that he created and has lead for nearly a decade? The Verge’s Adrianne Jeffries attributes the departure to two factors: Android becoming too big for Rubin to handle and Rubin’s urge to invent. Or as Jeffries so eloquently puts it: “Android had outgrown Rubin, and Rubin had grown tired of Android.”
Jeffries claims that Rubin is better suited to starting things than to leading a project that is established and no longer has an obvious way forward. His work experience seems to support the claim, as does a recent statement by Googler Urs Hölzle.”I love working with Andy,” he said. “He’s brilliant at setting big goals for the seemingly impossible – and then mobilizing small teams to achieve them.” And for a visionary like Rubin, is there a better place to try something new than in the R&D labs at Google X?
If there’s one product in Google’s pipeline that could use as much help as possible to ensure a successful launch, it’s Project Glass. Set to be released in time for the 2013 holiday season, Google’s smart glasses are going to have to blow people away for consumers to justify buying them in addition to their smartphones – especially if final retail prices are anywhere near the $1,500 price tag on the Explorer Edition being released to early adopters this summer.
Wearable computing seems like a natural next step for consumer technology companies to take. There are advantages to both the watch and glasses form-factors, and I look forward to seeing the developments in this and devices like the Pebble smart watch.
There’s a very specific group of gadget nerds out there that wants to buy a device with Apple’s hardware design, Microsoft’s interface, and Android’s “openness.” Unfortunately for HTC, I’m willing to bet that that group isn’t big enough to save the company’s slumping profits.
But if and when they do, stretching the screen offers less complexity, and less impact on both iOS and developers. That’s how you expand a product without expanding panel production or developer support headaches. It’s an Apple-like solution.
Apple hasn’t released a big phone yet because they haven’t had to in order to be successful. If it does release one, the history of the MacBook line and the release of the iPad Mini indicate that a 5-inch iPhone would have interface elements of the same size as those on the 9.7-inch iPad and the same pixel density screen as the iPad 3/4.
I find this theory likely because it a) makes logistical sense, which makes it seem like something right up Tim Cook’s alley, and b) it lets Apple cover even more price points. My addition to the theory: Apple also release a 5-inch iPod touch Plus at $299, and makes the 4-inch iPod touch the $199 model. That would make the $200 model a steal of a bargain and the $299 model an even lower-priced tablet option than the iPad Mini. This also has the benefit of an easy upsell: Apple won’t include a cellular radio in an iPod touch. If you want LITE, you either need to buy an iPhone (and if you want the big screen too, an iPhone Plus) or an iPad.
In early November I made the decision to send my iPad 2 and Kindle home as presents to my younger sister and mom, respectively. I decided that I would replace both with one device, something with a 7- or 8-inch form factor. After being disappointed with the availability of the iPad Mini, I decided that I would give the Android ecosystem a shot and purchased a Nexus 7 at the Berkeley school store.
Rather than post my initial impressions of the device, I decided to get a few months of actual use out of it in order to give a better idea of what it’s like to use it on a regular basis. Two months in, I’ve done everything on it that I used to do my iPad. Here’s a list of what stuck out most to me from my time with Google’s first tablet:
Widgets, while cool in theory, really don’t serve much purpose in my use case. Out of the five home pages available, I use three – one for my most used apps and music controls, one for browser bookmarks and email, and one with a large widget of the albums I recently listened to. Besides the first page, which basically acts as my first page of apps on the iPad, the others are barely more useful than simply opening the apps. The bookmarks are convenient, but I could always not swipe over to the page and just tap on the Chrome icon to get to the bookmarks. The same can be said for email, and that requires less scrolling to see more of my inbox. The album widget is pretty nifty, but I don’t listen to music on my tablet as often as I do on my phone anyway.
Project Butter and quad-core processor be damned, this thing still stutters. Not in graphics-intense games, mind you – on small tasks, and in scrolling in the web browser. This happened occasionally on my iPad as well, but the increased frequency after switching is noticeable.
I haven’t found a suitable replacement for Reeder yet. This may simply be because of not enough searching on my part, but I miss the design and functionality of my go-to RSS reader.
Instapaper is worse on Android. Marco Arment didn’t develop this version, so I’m not putting the blame on him. With that said, not having The Feature available makes finding new things to read a bit of a pain in the ass, and articles that are formatted properly on the iOS version were so bad on Android that I would generally end up reading them in Chrome. Many of these were from the New York Times, so that might be an issue.
Google Music Manager is pretty nifty. I buy all my music from iTunes, and by having Music Manager installed on my laptop I automatically have all of the music available on the tablet as well.
It is incredibly nice being able to buy books from Amazon from within the Kindle app. I understand why Apple doesn’t allow it on iOS, but I still don’t like it.
Reading books on the Nexus 7 is much more comfortable than on the full-sized iPad. I can hold it in one hand for extended periods of time with no problem.
With that said, reading comics on the Nexus is not as enjoyable as on the iPad. Text is generally just a bit too small, and I found myself zooming in more than I liked and experiencing eye strain during and after reading.
Facebook on Android sucks. Even with the recent move to a native app, it’s slower and doesn’t work as well as on iOS.
Wi-Fi reception is worse than it was on my iPad. In my house in Berkeley, my iPad generally had access anywhere in the house. On the Nexus, I have to be sitting on the side of my room closest to the router, which is across a hallway from the router. Unacceptable.
Overall, would I recommend the Nexus 7 to a friend? That depends. If you’re adamant about only wanting to spend $200 for a tablet, then yeah, this is probably your best option. But if you’re willing to spend the money to have a better overall experience, the iPad Mini is the best you can buy. User interface preferences aside, it has better performance, better wireless access, 4G as an option, a bigger screen, and weighs less. While I don’t mind sticking with the Nexus for now, you can be sure I’ll be selling this to a friend and moving to an iPad Mini as soon as the next revision of it is available.