When someone uses the word smartphone, most people these days probably automatically think of Apple or Samsung. This makes sense because between them they account for over half the world's devices in this category. Apple started the trend and in recent times Samsung has taken over and been leading ever since. Beyond the United States, Australia and Europe, the fastest growing markets are China, India and Brazil, all of which have their own increasingly popular brands. In China, for example, Samsung is the current leader, but numbers two and three are Lenovo and Yulong Coolpad _ I've never heard of the latter either although they released 48 models last year. Apple isn't even fourth with ZTE, Huawei and Xiaomi coming next on the list.
In the world's second largest marketplace, India, the situation is similar with the No.2 brand after Samsung being Micromax. Android boasts a big advantage over iOS with the provision of open customisability. This allows for local layouts and other localisation capabilities to meet the needs of the networks, languages and cultural differences as required. New models are also faster to arrive and are less expensive than, say, Apple products.
It is not that China and India can't build high-end Samsung-like devices; they can, but why bother when they can make plenty of money on low to medium level devices. Brazil doesn't have its own products but Samsung manufactures there to avoid import duties, making Apple models all that more expensive. Apple is now making moves with Foxconn to produce their models in Brazil as well.
Mobile phones are one part of the growing field of smaller device personal computing. Go back far enough and the smallest computer took up a large room. The first portable computer required large biceps to lift. These days your average smartphone is more powerful than anything they had 30 years ago and the latest devices are wearable. In one sense it has become physical.
There is a new acronym to learn: SLD, or sensor-laden devices. These are the basis of a new age of personal computing where different units are collecting all manner of sensor data that, when combined, could influence how we live. Current wearable devices include Google Glass, the Nike+ FuelBand and in the future these could ultimately include things that are placed under the skin. Others being developed include heads-up contact lenses and other interfaces.
The other growing area is embedded devices. These are normal everyday devices with an embedded sensor. This could be your toothbrush counting brush strokes, pill boxes checking dispensing or just about anything else you can think that measures things and events like movement, temperature and so on. The impact of such devices on our lives is yet to be experienced, but for many I suspect it will be profound and perhaps somewhat limiting. Imagine being fed information about the world around you from artificial devices more than your normal senses. Decisions made might indeed be more rational but perhaps also less spur of the moment.
Over time the devices will become less obvious and will be included in things like clothing. The normal senses could be reduced by the amount of other data being received and processed and then fed back to us across a range of areas of our lives. It will change the face of marketing, health services, relationships and product lines across many vertical markets.
Focusing on one recent new device, for example, consider the Samsung Galaxy Gear. While this falls into the personal computing arena, it is right at the edge of what the future holds. It is heavier than the Sony SmartWatch 2, costs somewhere around 11,000 baht and there are issues around the battery life. The screen is reasonable for the size and it contains a 1.9MP camera in the band. Picture image quality isn't that good, but the user interface isn't too bad. The device works in conjunction with your current Samsung device over Bluetooth. You can look up the rest of the specs if you like. Needing a recharge every day I won't be buying myself one but a few versions into the future could be very interesting. Ironically the Samsung watch only works with the Note 3 at the moment, while the Sony and Qualcomm devices work with any Android smartphone.
This is an interesting market space but Samsung's first foray isn't quite right. The worst direction is the locking-in of the device to only Samsung gear. Others have tried this kind of thing in the past and failed, so I hope the Korean giant figures it out before it is too late for them. The price is too high for the current feature set and limitations. In two years the market will be filled with alternatives, so the next version will indicate if they will ever be successful with this product range.
James Hein is an IT professional of over 30 years' standing. You can contact him at email@example.com
About the author
- Writer: James Hein
Position: Database Writer