Taking a look back at seven days of news across the Android world, this week’s Android Circuit includes all the new details about the Galaxy Note 7, how Samsung should not sell it, BlackBerry’s ‘new’ Android handset, who really won the smartphone wars, Google Play’s family library, Alphabet’s Q2 numbers, a beginners’ guide to Cyanogen OS, and how to illustrate the battery life of a modern smartphone.
Android Circuit is here to remind you of a few of the many things that have happened around Android in the last week (and you can find the weekly Apple news digest here).
What We Know About The Galaxy Note 7
More specifications and details on the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 are available this weekend ahead of Samsung’s presentation next week. Chris Smith has a solid round-up of the details of the changes and the base hardware:
Specs-wise, the phone features a 5.7-inch Super AMOLED display with 2K resolution, octa-core processor clocked at 2.3GHz, 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage, microSD support, 12-megapixel Dual Pixel rear camera, 4K video recording and optical image stabilization, 5-megapixel front camera, an iris sensor, USB-C port, and 3,500 mAh battery. The Galaxy Note 7 also has a new S Pen design with increased pressure sensitivity and improved latency.
How To Not Sell The Galaxy Note 7
The Galaxy Note 7 may have an impressive technical specification, but that’s not enough to sell the phone. Samsung needs to launch the device, present the new features, and make a convincing case for people to purchase this handset. That’s not a simple task and I’ve detailed the five biggest issues Samsung will need to overcome to make the South Korean phablet a success:
The biggest danger is that Samsung’s advances are seen as a simple example of Moore’s law. It is unusual for a modern flagship smartphone to launch without a specific feature, so there is a huge box ticking exercise at play of ‘does it have everything that every other device has?’ In the case of the Galaxy Note 7 it is expected that every box will ticked, and every number will be a little bit bigger than the last phablet (and probably matching or slightly exceeding the numbers of the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge handsets).
It’s not easy to reach those numbers while delivering more screen real estate, more battery life, more talk time, more storage, and more memory. But all of that research could be neutered with ‘it’s a bit better than the last one’ in a written review, and that doesn’t make the handset exciting.
BlackBerry’s ‘New And Old’ Security Based Smartphone
BlackBerry promised more Android-powered devices this year after the Priv, and it has not disappointed in its delivery. The delightfully named DTEK50 places a focus on enterprise security at a mid-range price point. It’s also based on an Alcatel reference model, and that suggests to me the Canadian-based manufacturer has ceded the consumer market to the competition so it can focus elsewhere:
Given BlackBerry’s rocky relationship with hardware over the last year, going with an off-the-shelf reference design makes a lot of corporate sense. The design costs are significantly lower, the production costs will be shared out with other manufacturers also using the design, and ancillary costs around a ‘new’ device will be minimized.
…Most people on the high street are not familiar with Shenzhen-based reference designs, so the DTEK50 is going to appear as a new design to then. But in all the discussions online, in the commentary around the launch, and the full length reviews when the headset reaches the geekerati, the cuckoo’d nature of this BlackBerry’s parents will be mentioned.
Android, Apple, And The Winners Of The Smartphone War
Benedict Evans has decided to call this round of the smartphones wars now. Apple? Google? Or somewhere in between? The point he stresses is not the relative numbers of the two platforms, but the fact that these two platforms are the only two that have sufficient scale to continue moving forward.
Meanwhile, it’s now perfectly clear that both Apple and Android have sufficient scale for their ecosystems to be viable (including the Android subset in China), and that no-one else does. But at the same time, once you’ve achieved that scale, further changes in market share are not very meaningful. It doesn’t matter to a product manager at a big US bank how many Android users there are in China, nor to a product manager launching in India how any iPhones are in California. Where your users are, which users you want and which users spend what is more important.
That is, the war is over. Yes, we’ll go from 2.5bn smartphones to 5bn, but the dynamics of the two ecosystems will not change much with that growth. Apple will get some more uses, perhaps, while Android will convert most of that next 2.5bn, but most of those people are in emerging markets and most will be buying phones for under $50 and certainly under $100.