Tuesday, July 30, 2013

What will Apple Do After They Launch the New iPad mini with Retina?

One of the worst kept secrets in the tech industry is that Apple will release an iPad mini with retina display, either late 2013 or early 2014, but I won’t weigh in on that particular discussion. What interests me more, is what will Apple do after they launch the new iPad mini?

I would propose that they will keep the original iPad mini, and price it at $199.

I don’t have any inside information on this; it is purely my own speculation. However, there is definitely precedence for Apple to do this; it is what they have done every time they have introduced a retina display version of one of their devices: iPhone 4, iPad 3, and even the MacBook Pro with Retina.

During the course of the last few days, three important events occurred in the tablet market:

  1. July 23 - Apple announced their Q3 results - iPad sales down from 17m to 14.6m year on year.
  2. July 24 - Google launch the Nexus 7 with a better than retina 1,920 x 1,200 IPS display, priced at $229.
  3. July 29 - According to Strategy Analytics, Android tablets now make up 67% of all devices in the category. Apple's iOS, which powers the iPad, accounted for only 28%. 

This is a very similar trend to what we saw in the smartphone market, and must be a concern to Apple. Most of the competition is coming from lower price 7” tablets from the likes of Google, Samsung and Amazon, and while the iPad mini competes in this segment, it can’t match these products on price. The new favourite amongst these is probably the revised Nexus 7, which is receiving excellent reviews since launching last week. However, Google have increased the price from $199 for the base model, to $229, and have discontinued the old version.

At $199, the current iPad mini would certainly grab a lot of attention. At that price, it becomes a serious contender for first time tablet buyers, as well as an ideal choice for kids. The 7” form factor is far more portable than the 10”, and at only $199 it becomes a natural choice for a 2nd tablet to take with you when you’re out and about. It would also be the ideal entry point for developing countries, where price point is critical, and Apple is struggling to get any traction.

You might argue that this move would destroy the sales of the more expensive models, and it would undoubtedly have an effect, but right now Apple is losing customers to Android, and it needs to take action to reverse this trend. Besides, Apple have never been afraid to disrupt their own market in the past!

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Android Fragmentation "Overblown", But Where Is Key Lime Pie?

Google recently released the numbers showing the percentage of Android versions, and over the course of the past month Jelly Bean usage has gone from 33% up to 37.9%, and now Jelly Bean usage is sitting above Gingerbread. For the first time in many years the latest version of Android is also the most popular.

According to Android co-founder Rich Miner, however, the fragmentation issue is “overblown” and most users are happy with their devices.
“I think this is a bit of an overblown issue, frankly,” Miner said this week at the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council’s technology forum. “Don't forget, there are 1.5 million Android phones being activated every single day. There are 900 million devices out in the market.”
However, the fact of the matter is that more than 60% of Android devices currently in use are running Ice Cream Sandwich or earlier versions of Android, so fragmentation is still something of an issue for users and developers alike.

Android 4.2, the latest version, was released in November 2012, and yet has only 5.6% adoption. In addition, Android 4.1, the first version of Jelly Bean, was released on July 9, 2012,over a year ago. Google have really tried to extend the life of Jelly Bean, and now, as it nears the end of its life, to make a big deal of the fact that it has eventually overtaken Gingerbread (Version 2.3), seems like a very minor victory in the fight to end fragmentation!

Many people expected Google to announce Android 5.0 (Key Lime Pie) at the Google I/O Developers' Conference, as they did with Jelly Bean a year earlier, but it wasn't mentioned. The latest rumours are that the Nexus 5 (possibly another LG phone), and due in October, will be running Key Lime Pie. Or perhaps Google's own Motorola X Phone will be the first, with that release date rumoured to be as soon as August 1.

Either way, Google's efforts to reduce fragmentation will really be judged by how quickly the manufacturers can roll out the Key Lime Pie update to the Samsung Galaxy S4, HTC One, Sony Xperia Z, etc. Considering that Galaxy S3 owners are still waiting for the update to the latest version (4.2.2) of Android, I wouldn't hold my breath!

In comparison, Apple's iOS 6 adoption hit 61% after only a month, and as of June 2013 sat at 93%. iOS 7 is scheduled for release "in the fall", and I expect the adoption rate to be similar.

Modern smartphones are incredible devices, but after admiring the clean lines and beautiful construction, we focus on the display. Bring that to life and all else is forgotten. The phone becomes the display. And the display is the OS. For me, getting a new version of the OS on a smartphone is just as exciting as getting a new phone. I can't wait for iOS 7, and what I love about Apple is that I'll be able to upgrade the same time as the rest of the world.

Thanks for reading!