Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Some thoughts about Apple and others

Recently new top-notch smartphones from Apple and Nokia advent has blown the Internet as well as notorious law patent cases happened during the relentless war between Apple and Samsung. I will start from the former. I’ve watched presentations of Nokia Lumia 920 and iPhone 5, I also know the capabilities of Samsung GIII. First and foremost, I’m not an Apple fanatic who tries to jump on the bandwagon and stands in long lines for the first sales of its production, nor anti-Apple freak who has some complexes towards Apple and try to post everywhere anti-Apple posts showing his hate with every fibre of his being. The devices I currently use are: Macbook 13 inches i5, iPad 2 and HTC Sensation. I also used to have Samsung Galaxy Tab and HTC Desire S.

I’ve always been outspoken person regarding the gadgets and I have no intentions to take any side in the arguing between Apple zealots and anti-Apple… zealots too btw, since hating Apple became the same religion as to be infatuated by Apple. I wish everyone to stop being childish and buy what you like without hating others who prefer something different.  But one thing that makes me chuckle is how other developers try to present some «important» functions as an advantage which makes and ramp up a confidence that this is some kind of important features that them better than iPhone, and every Tom, Dick and Harry immerse themselves into the holy wars against Apple zealots showing them that «Apple doesn’t have this, doesn’t have that». However when I start to thoroughly check what those advantages are, I start to think that I’m in the some kind of a loony-bin, because people post some functions but don’t know what they mean or they don’t even ponder about whether they ever need them, the advantages actually don’t look so lucid for most of the users, they just buy embellished reviews without having a clear insight of what they’ve seen in those reviews.

For example Lumia 920 has wireless charge, «excellent, iPhone sucks!» - the average anti-Apple Internet warrior exclaims! And for sure, such cogent argument sounds very persuasive, wireless charge that is sooo damn cool! But now let’s try to think of it better using a bit more coherent approach and put the same point more succinctly, what is wireless charger basically is? It’s a charger box which u need to plug in anyway (or charge it via plugger), it’s quite big and not comfortable to carry it with you and your phone would have to be in a fixed position anyway while charging, so what’s the advantage? That actually makes it even more uncomfortable, cos u need to pay extra money for the charge box which lessens comfort of charging. Evidently, if I would be able to plug that box and it would charge my phone while I can roam at my apartments with my phone, that would be a real breakthrough and worth feature, because I will never forget to charge my phone since it would be enough just to bring him at my apartment and no matter where I left it in the nighttime while I sleep and no matter that I came home sloshed for instance after some party and I obviously would forget to plug it. Regardless of what happened, in the morning I will take 100% charged phone. However there is no such technology thus far. But the average Joe doesn’t care about such minor details, he just perceives the magic words «wireless charge» and it warms his heart.

Second «advantage» of Lumia, 10 hours 3G talking against 8 hours of iPhone 5. That’s great will exclaim again a consumer. Well let’s again look at this «advantage» a bit more plausibly. Smartphones take a lot of energy, and in order to not have any problems, you anyway need to charge it everyday, sometimes even twice a day, because the Internet surfing which takes a lot of time discharge the battery in no time. So what basically give those 2 hours of talking if both Lumia and iPhone 5 anyway needed to be charged every day? Basically nothing. Unless of course you talk 10 hours every day, are you? Another misleading feature has been busted.

Optical stabilization? Haha that’s funny, first of all an average user doesn’t even know what it is, the average Joe just hears such clever words and thinks that it’s cool but hasn’t the least clue what does that actually mean, let alone the fact that the average Joe doesn’t even know what is ‘’optical’’ and it’s needless to even ask him to write any Fresnel equation.  In fact, all phones have to some extent the optical stabilization, the difference is only in technologies and I also can’t say that it actually helps u so much. If we talk about real cameras like Canon, then for sure, but phone is phone, even when it is «smart» phone it’s still not a camera and current smartphones including Lumia make the pictures with basically the same quality and btw Nokia only now finally grasped how to make decent cameras and now they boast about it like it’s some sort of a revolution. Sounds really silly, what Apples, HTC and Samsung achieved 3-4 years ago, now tries to be passed as an advantage and breakthrough by Nokia. Dear Finnish guys are u seriously so dumb? Or you think that we are idiots? It’s like if some automobile company will present a new car and will say that «we have a great advantage, we got a safety airbag in our new cars!», the automobile drivers would start to laugh at your face about such «argument» since all cars already have it. And I’m now laughing at your face with your boasting about your cool camera; welcome to the Earth guys, FYI we all already have normal cameras. But well, it’s hard to refute the fact that it’s better now than never of course, from that standpoint you did a great job.

Another typical argument, «more camera megapixels», this is in fact very misleading parameter. To understand why it is misleading one should have a basic grasp what characteristics allow to achieve better quality of the cameras, the developers who write their reviews for ordinary consumers don’t bother themselves to show you the robes and they just write the amount of megapixels and the average Joe thinks that the higher number of megapixels, better quality of the picture will be and to some extent it is true, however the Devil is in the details.

What is megapixel? Megapixel it is a parameter that determines angular resolution of the camera matrix. Camera matrix is a chip that consists of sensitive to light elements and photodiodes. So the bigger physical size of the matrix allows to make higher resolution and increase the number of megapixels. Matrix has 3 basic parameters – signal-to-noise ratio (Psignal / Pnoise), sensitivity and resolution. The second and the third can be set, while the first one derives out of the set parameters (there are exceptions though but we are talking about the basic principles here which are known for every person who graduated technical university regardless of the major). Signal-to-noise ration determines the quality of the picture and that ratio should be as high as possible, in other words Psignal should exceed Pnoise both parameters highly depend on resolution and sensitivity. Therefore in order to achieve higher quality of the pictures it’s not enough to increase the resolution (and consequently the amount of megapixels) but u need to change the matrix size, cos u can’t set many megapixels in a small matrix. Smartphones generally have relatively the same matrix size and it’s not feasible to make it significantly bigger without increasing the overall size of the phone. While if you try to set too high resolution in a small matrix it actually may cause diminishing the quality because Pnoise will increase. So basically when u see that smartphone has more than 5 megapixels camera, that is most likely a simple marketing move but not real improvement. You can notice that after 5 megapixels there is already no significant difference in quality, and this is because the actual size of the matrix (regardless of what amount of megapixels developers wrote in the characteristics) remains exactly the same. So when you see that some phone has «8.3 megapixels or 9 for example and this is higher than iPhone’s 8», u may be sure that it's BS, why it is BS I explained above.

What else we have? Ahhh yes, display. 4.5 against 4 and slightly better resolution. I will comment the latter first. The difference between 1280x768 and 1136x640 is essentially almost uncatchable for a human’s eye, perhaps some specialist in graphics and photographs will notice it, but since when all consumers became specialists in that field? 99% of them don’t give a damn on such minor difference and won’t even notice it. As for 4.5 inches display, that’s a laughable advantage. Have you ever heard about the pads? Well people who really need a big screen can use pads, and phone is phone, it’s not a shovel you know (or you want to dig the sand with it?), the size of a display should be balanced to make it comfortable to hold in one hand. So here we have quite subjective argument since people have different preferences, one likes a bit bigger screen, another likes lesser screen it’s a matter of taste and personal preferences and hardly can be called as an advantage. To me personally 4 inches is more comfortable than 4.5, I’m saying it from my experience of possessing the phones with both display sizes, because it makes to scribble down the message or some note quicker, yes of course 4.5 display would better for watching videos, but for me both 4.5 and 4 are not suitable for videos, I prefer to take my iPad or Macbook and watch it with better quality if we talk about movies.

And well I can actually comment all other so-called features like standard plugger contrary to the Apple’s not standard or near field communication systems, but you can do it on your own if you start to think about it in more details.  How exactly the standard plugger helps? When u forgot your own and you can ask from someone else? Well from my experience with HTC, I had to go and buy the new one when I was forgetting it in my business trips abroad, because u need a charger every day anyway, and nobody can provide it for you for so long, besides, Apple is enough popular product so actually you can always find someone who has that charger, so what’s the big idea? There is nothing to shout about, standard charger doesn’t provide any advantage.

So what is important in the phones then if you ask me? Well let’s think what made a real revolution when smartphones were released? Cameras? Nope. Touch screen? Partly, but now all phones have it. But the most important feature was [b]operational system[/b]. Operational system gave an opportunity for more comfortable information obtaining and dozens of features like pocket dictionaries, news portals, messengers, shops, journals and so on and so on. So why Apple is so beloved by many users? Exactly, because of its cutting-edge operational system. I have an iPad and Android phone HTC so I know very well both markets. Android so far simply can’t hold a candle to iOS and its Google Play market is inferior to the AppStore, many of those services which AppStore was providing 2-3 years ago and provides now still don’t exist in Android, let alone the fact that almost all Android applications has been taken from the AppStore and adjusted to Android and even such applications are worse than exactly the same applications from AppStore, they are either very buggy, or have less functions. For example check the Longman dictionary application from AppStore and from Android? It’s as different as day and night, and my Android application doesn’t even have regular fix upgrades, less functions and less comfortable for usage, while the same AppStore application is regularly updated and have duly made comfortable interface. Many other applications that are worth to have, don’t even exist in Android, like iTunes University for instance. Many appeared just recently like Instragram for instance. I’m not even talking about Android’s forced closes, crashes, freezings, and lags that happen almost on a daily basis, whereas iOS doesn’t have such problems so frequently and has very robust system that doesn’t bug a lot comparing to Android. And what about Lumia? Well if you check the presentations of it (there are loads of them on YouTube), you won’t see any showing Windows Store apps, you know why? Cos that market is still almost empty. And what is smartphone without good applications store? Basically nothing, it’s a worthless piece of plastic, you can go and buy non-smartphone and u won’t notice too many differences. 

So far the only advantage of the non-Apple smartphones it an easy music uploading, while in iPhone u need to convert the tracks via iTunes which sometimes is annoying especially when u need to copy just one song and have to launch iTunes because of that. That’s basically why I still have HTC Sensation, however I don’t listen to music like I used to right now, I prefer now to listen audiobooks or live podcasts and for that Apple is much better, so most likely I will buy iPhone 5.

So what’s the conclusion? The overall conclusion is quite simple, developers who so far can’t develop better operational system for smartphones than Apple try to misguide people by useless functions or minor differences hoping that scarcely the average Joe will hear some clever words he will start to think that it’s better, typical market move to mislead the users.  I’m fully aware about the Apple production drawbacks, and the main of them is the format policy which makes it more difficult to watch videos or listen to music, and you should spend more money on applications and services there however the Apple haters have to face the fact that in terms of the service and quality that Apple provides, it’s the best company right now and their «evolutional» Nokias or Samsungs can’t hold a candle to the iOS and AppStore service, and this is the core feature of any smartphone, while the features which are more advantageous in other phones are basically either practically useless or too minor to notice it. Email, taking photos, web browsing, texting, and placing calls are the primary functions to many and could care less about extra features. Tech specs are a foreign language for most «average users». While application store, operation system and design are the things that are important for an ordinary user, and that what makes them the crucial features.

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In the end I also would like to add some comments regarding the recent events about Apple and Samsung litigation. What happened basically didn’t surprise me at all. I posted in Twitter that pic:

But I posted it not as an anti-Apple pic, but to firstly show the Western hypocrisy when they talk about so-called «free trade» mainly referring to the David Ricardo theory but act in a different manner, in other words they sing to jig and dance to church music. And to show stupidity of the Third World countries who think that they will be the same prosperous once they get rid of any trade barriers and gladly eliminating them. What American court did was very right decision; they protected its own American company from the possible competitor from another country i.e. South Korea. Every country with the sane market approach would do exactly the same. Wake up third world people, there is no free market, it doesn’t exist, and unless you understand it, your countries will always remain inferior in technologies. You think it’s only Apple does it? Well let’s check the recent news:

Just yesterday Acer was getting ready to unleash its CloudMobile smartphone on the Chinese public sporting an equally local (and equally not Android) Aliyun operating system. According to Reuters, however, when journalists turned up for the launch event today, an Alibaba (who make Aliyun) spokesperson told them the launch had been cancelled, before later releasing a statement saying Acer had received pressure from Google to pull the launch. The competing OS manufacturer claims that the Acer was told product collaborations and Android authorization would cease if the product was released. So far Google has declined to comment, but if true, represents some significant strong arming, in what is clearly a significant market. We have reached out to Google for comment ourselves. More as we know it.

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Aliyun is a smartphone operation system created by Chinese based on Linux. Look how Google pressures Acer to not let the possible competitor to penetrate the market and squeeze it from the Chinese market. And as I’ve already mentioned above, the operation system is a core feature of any smartphone, the hardware has less importance to the software right now since all companies already learned how to make decent hardware, however there are not many operational systems with good quality available. And those who try to make them, are always severely challenged and challenged by the current monopolists. 

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