The smokescreen of a Smartphone War

Yesterday’s news gives us ‘The secret smartphone war over the struggle for control of the user’ (at https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/sep/29/smartphone-war-operators-user-phone-service) held my initial interest for about 7.0 seconds. You see, it is an interesting story, but it is not the real battle that is being fought. As I personally see it, the secondary war is about the agreements that the Android phone makers seem to have with one another. That war we are kept in the dark about. In the end, the Telecom companies want you to be dependent on them, their products and their solutions. They give you some BS reasoning of ‘we weren’t offered that option‘, whilst their head office is all about containment. They only hold they have is by pushing you in a position where you need a new phone EVERY year. That is the service path we are all getting pushed into. Which is one reason why outright buy seems to be so overpriced in many cases. For the next bit we need to see GSMArena.com. There we find the following parts:

32/64 GB, 4 GB RAM
32/64 GB, 4 GB RAM
32 GB, 3 GB RAM (EVA-L19/EVA-L09)
64 GB, 4 GB RAM (EVA-L29)

You would think it is all the same, right? The last two are the same brand. I will get back to the list, but for now, what you would like to do is to check where you can get a 64GB edition, and for some that list is zero, you see, in Australian (not the only place) they are making sure that you cannot get the 64GB edition, in an age of consumerism, is that not weird? In that regard, Apple is the only one offering this, because of different reasons.

In all this, I have used my phone with a philosophy. It is a simple one and in my life of budgets an essential one. In the past, I learned the hard way early in life that chasing technology is a race that costs money and never leaves you with a true advantage, the gaming industry in the 90’s on PC were all about that. The mobile industry, like the PC industry learned this from the arms industry and they were really good students. So no matter what competitiveness they have, if they agree on a few ground rules, there will be enough space for exploitation for all of them. Now, in 2015, Huawei decided to rock the boat and as such they got a larger share than ever before, now that they are on par, they seem to go with the average lot of them. My hopes are that LG tries a same approach, which will cost Huawei et al dearly this year.

When you have been around your mobile for a little while, you will see that storage is (nearly) everything on a mobile and with marshmallow, a 32GB system will end up having about 22GB space left. There is the Android system and the mandatory apps, the amount leaves you with 10GB less. This is not a big deal you think, but over the year we will see an exponential growth of apps and they cost space too. Some people already learned this lesson with Pokémon Go and all the pics that were taken. They were realising how much space was lost. Now, we know that you can add a SD card and store pictures there, but apps must be run from the main storage and those apps are growing too. So over 2 years you would have run out of space. Meaning that you either clean up your system, or buy a mobile with more space. This you might have learned if you had an iPad or iPod. Storage was running low for some a lot faster than they bargained for.

So in this age, when the difference between 32GB and 64GB is one component which is in total a mere $32.87 more expensive, why would we even consider a 32GB system? Because at this point, the mobile warranty of 24 months could be served completely and we would not need another phone one year later! In addition, after 2 years we would have the freedom to choose a better and cheaper provider, so as I see it, neither Optus nor Telstra wants a 64GB phone in their arsenal and the only reason is that the iPhone is that size is because Apple has in general a global approach to their hardware.

Now let’s look again:

32/64 GB, 4 GB RAM – Samsung
32/64 GB, 4 GB RAM – LG
32 GB, 3 GB RAM (EVA-L19/EVA-L09) – Huawei P9
64 GB, 4 GB RAM (EVA-L29) – Huawei P9

Unless LG takes advantage of the option they have now, none of them offers the 64GB version in Australia! Is that not weird? Amazon UK offers both, and at times the 64GB is definitely more expensive, yet consider that at $100 more (for some a little more), you have peace of mind that this phone can last you 2 years without storage issues. That seems a pretty big deal to me. In addition, unless Android past Nougat (V7) grows a massive part, the user will have plenty of space to update their system, if the update would be offered. In addition, with all the other stuff we carry (photo’s music and so on), twice the size is pretty much the only way to go.

So why the mobile providers refuse their product to be on sale is just beyond me and the fact that none of them are offering a product in a place seems to be massively out of bounds. With Huawei the fact that there is a single slot and duo slot 32GB option makes even less sense to me. In my mind, this is all about control of the users, and controlling where the users go, which is a limitation on freedom devices have never offered before, so in my mind it was not with the consumers consent. The fact that Samuel Gibbs did not mention that part in their article is not as quoted “Fewer purchases mean the big smartphone players are now under pressure to extract more revenue from their existing user base, which is easier for Apple and its App Store than others reliant on Google’s Play Store, and to try to convince users that life is greener on their side of the smartphone divide“, it is to make sure that continuity prevails, to some extent for the smartphone makers, to the larger extent to mobile providers to keep them in their not seeking another providers place!

In addition the quote “At the same time, the mobile phone operators are in a similar competition. Switching between the major phone networks has always been an issue, whether it’s over price, customer service or the latest handset“, more important it is over bandwidth and facilitation, the more limits the hardware has, the less issues of competition the provider needs to deal with. So is Samuel Gibbs informing you on some ‘secret war’ or is he trying to keep your sight away from the options that matter? The fact that phone limitations is not part of his view (which could be because the UK offers both models) is equally disturbing that he did not look at this from a global point of view, when you are not made aware of what is by me expected and therefore implied is the limitation of hardware offered is as I see it, part of a secret war that they require you not to be aware of. If that is done intentionally, what do you think is in play?

So as the Samsung Note 7 is now an ISIS tool (when you install the 10 second countdown app) and only LG remains to go public with their new model, they now have an option to capture a much larger share of the audience as several of the participating parties refused to consider the consumers’ needs and seems to cater to the telecom request of limitation. LG has an option to grow much stronger in this market than ever before. Apple as IOS has a different situation and as seen on many fronts they have created their own walls of disturbance, so LG could even go after that lot, but we must respect that there is a huge offset between IOS and Android and as such, people are at times less willing to switch there. For now the latest rumours are that the V20 will start the pre-orders this Sunday in the US and European markets will be getting them, yet there is at present no confirmation for both the UK and Australia. So we will have to see about that part too.

The article had more. So consider my words and now see this quote: “Bibby says: “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Flexibility like this is just the next stage of innovation so we’re not surprised to see others adopting it. Manufacturers are trying to ensure that more of their own handsets are sold in the market. They’re trying to clearly compete with each other.”” I disagree with Nina Bibby, marketing and consumer director for O2. The quote is not untrue, but incorrect. It is the presentation of what they want the issue to be, because is sets our mind at rest. I believe that the more correct quote is “They’re trying to clearly compete with each other within the agreed limits of the presented options“, which is not entirely the same! In that same view, the limitations due to the telecom agreements are equally in question. The fact that none offered the complete spectrum is just as much of a worry. Because it is like a corporation trying to make sure that its employees can never truly become independent, because that would be too dangerous for their own continuation. The second part in all this is the entire upgrade service program. It creates brand dependency, which is not essentially a bad thing, but guess what! I reckon that soon thereafter the 64GB option will come and there will be a churn for 12 and 24 months. At that point, the telecom providers would want a phone to last as long as possible. It could be in different ways. For example after 12 months 65% off and a $1 upgrade after 24 months. This is just speculation, so this is not a given, yet overall not that far-fetched.

The most interesting quote is at the end “For now, the battle for control of the phone in your hand is happening behind closed doors. Soon we’ll begin to see the phone-as-a-service idea pushed by one of the big manufacturers, but only once the operators are no longer crucial to sales“. The first part is that not all of the closed doors is about the phone, bandwidth has been a forever war between iiNet, Optus and Telstra in Australia, and the phone-as-a-service is not all in the hands of the manufacturers, that will come soon enough (in one case it already is) in hands of the Telecom companies, because that is a direct factor for customer loyalty, who does not see the $45 a month phone as the margin, it is the $90 a month subscription where their margin is and that part can be set to non-taxation a lot faster too. The phone is merely a hardware write-off, increasing their ROI.

So when you consider your new phone do not be fooled by the SD slot, wonder why the full version is out nearly everywhere else, except Australia? For Australians, consider one nice issue, the Kiwi’s do get the 64GB edition several stores have it available to order. So, do you feel special now, of just used by both the handset sales people and your telecom provider? More important, what other issues did that secret war of smart phones not inform you about? Perhaps you haven’t seen the implications of not having a choice in certain cases. People have been so busy bashing iPhone’s Apple that they forget that Android phones have their own collection of imposed limitations for the consumer.

 

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One response to “The smokescreen of a Smartphone War

  1. Pingback: Challenging fruit | Lawrence van Rijn - Law Lord to be

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