REUTERS – It’s been likened to a piece of toast, a device for elephants and a throwback to the 1980s-style brick phone.
And yet, despite all the sniggering, Samsung Electronics (005930.KS) has sold 5 million of the phone/tablet Galaxy Note, helping drive its booming handset profits in the quarter just ended.
More than a freak hit, consumer and design experts believe the surprise success of the “phablet” marks a deeper shift in the fast-paced world of mobile devices.
The most obvious thing about the Note is its size. Its 5.3 inch (13.5 cm) screen is almost as wide as the iPhone’s screen is long. And then there’s the stylus.
Where Apple’s (AAPL.O) co-founder, the late Steve Jobs famously ridiculed the idea of using a pen to interact with a screen, Samsung has partnered with Japan’s Wacom Co Ltd (6727.T), a market leader in digital pen technology, to come up with something less clunky. As part of Samsung’s marketing blitz it has set up artists in malls to draw portraits of passers-by.
Samsung says it hopes to sell at least 10 million Notes devices this year.
But why, exactly, are people buying it?
Samsung’s Lee Jui Siang, mobile phone chief for Southeast Asia, Oceania and Taiwan, says people want to only carry one device – and especially one that allows handwriting. He points to a global survey of 5,000 smartphone users which indicated demand for handwritten annotations was particularly high in Asia.
But the Note’s designer sees things slightly differently. Samsung Vice President Lee Minhyouk said the design risk was “breaking a taboo” about keeping handsets small enough to fit easily in your hand.
“Smartphones are more about entertainment. The Note was created by simply breaking that taboo and focusing more on the new functions that smartphones require,” Lee told Reuters.
The Note has its detractors. It’s a “polarizing device”, says IDC analyst Melissa Chua. Gizmodo, a popular gadget website, has routinely insulted the device’s size, attracting strong reactions, for and against. Its most recent post in late March elicited nearly 1,500 comments, a third more than the next most commented article that month.
But others say this misses the point.
What the Galaxy Note has illustrated, design and industry experts say, is that as the mobile device market matures, it opens up the possibility of greater diversity as users and manufacturers experiment with form factors.
“We’re seeing a shift in the marketplace and there’s room for diversity,” says Shivesh Vishwanathan, senior solutions architect at Persistent Systems. “Smartphone devices are personal to people and are being used in unique ways – which explains why we’re seeing some strong reactions for as well as against ‘phablets’.”
Stuart Lipoff, a technology consultant and past president of the IEEE Consumer Electronics Society, compares it to the mature TV market: from small sets parked in the kitchen to wall-sized mounted screens.
“This is part of the normal evolution of any category of consumer electronics as it matures,” he says. “As any product category matures you see an expansion in the range of features, performance and price.”
For Samsung, it’s not just a boost to the bottom-line, but also a glimpse of a bigger prize.
The Note suggests Samsung, which last year became the world’s top smartphone maker, may have found a way to eat into the tablet market, where it remains a distant second to Apple’s iPad.
“Samsung has successfully cracked open the 5-inch device market, where Dell (DELL.O) failed miserably a couple of years ago,” said Lee Kakeun, an analyst at Hana Daetoo Securities in Seoul. “It’s now expanding into the bigger-sized tablet market, where its stylus could differentiate it among non-iPad tablets and help it expand market share in the tablet market, too.”
While competitors try to catch up – LG Electronics (066570.KS) has recently unveiled the 5-inch Optimus Vu – Samsung is already forging other niches.
It has just introduced the Galaxy Pocket, with a 2.8-inch screen, and websites are awash with speculation that the Galaxy SIII, due for launch in the next few months, will have a 4.8-inch screen, halfway between the SII and the Note.
Samsung can experiment like this, analysts say, because it controls the process.
“Samsung’s integrated business model – for instance, it makes its own application processors and AMOLED screens – is the biggest ingredient of Samsung’s winning formula,” says Daniel Kim, a Seoul-based analyst at Macquarie, “which in our view cannot be easily copied.”
(Additional reporting by Chyenyee Lee in HONG KONG; Editing by Ian Geoghegan)
If there’s any smartphone at this moment which has more hype behind it than the Samsung Galaxy S3, it’s the iPhone 5. Just like the Galaxy S3 too, we know nothing concrete about it and everything that’s circulating are rumors. Now there’s another one to add to the rumor mill, the potential release date of the iPhone 5.
iPhone 5 release date rumored for June 15
The folks over at iPhone5NewsBlog report that the iPhone 5 will likely release this summer as compared to the fall following the later release schedule set by the delayed iPhone 4S launch last year. According to the blog, the magic date will be June 15, which is supposedly the last day of WWDC 2012, the venue for past iPhone announcements.
The blog found a “conference meeting” booked at the usual venue for WWDC for June 11 to June 15th. Now given that it is impossible to confirm whether this booking is for an Apple event at this time, we would take the June 15 release date suggested by the blog with a grain of salt.
While we do have high hopes for a summer launch, you have to take into account the fact that those who springed for an iPhone 4S back in October last year would be disappointed that a successor has already arrived less than a year since their purchase.
The newest phone from HTC on the Sprint network will have the words “4G LTE” in its name — even though Sprint hasn’t finished building a network that uses 4G LTE technology. This underscores a problem for Sprint: If it doesn’t build out that network in a hurry, it risks falling behind ATT and Verizon.
The HTC Evo 4G LTE smartphone will be available for preordering on May 7 and in stores soon after, Sprint said on Wednesday. Sprint has said its 4G LTE network would be deployed by midyear in six markets: Atlanta, Dallas, San Antonio, Houston, Kansas City and Baltimore.
So if you are one of the first to buy this phone and you live outside those areas, your HTC Evo 4G LTE will be stuck using a slower 3G network until Sprint finishes building out the network elsewhere.
And if you are Sprint, the lack of a sizable 4G LTE network gives ATT and Verizon the advantage in selling newer, faster phones.
“There’s already potentially some issues that not having LTE has caused for Sprint,” said Ross Rubin, executive director of the Connected Intelligence division at the research firm NPD. “The longer that it goes between 4G networks, the longer the drought will be for leading-edge phones that take advantage of those networks.”
(Sprint does have a 4G network that uses WiMax technology, but this is slower than 4G LTE, and it is not compatible with the new phone.)
The warning signs can already be seen in the new iPad. Apple’s third iPad is among the new crop of mobile devices compatible with 4G LTE networks, and ATT and Verizon are the carriers offering the device, not Sprint.
Sprint is, however, a carrier for the iPhone — a device that it is placing a hard bet on to gain more subscribers. And Apple’s move to 4G LTE on the iPad hints that it is likely to adopt the network technology in its next iPhone.
That puts the pressure on Sprint to speed up its LTE deployment. If it does not have a sizable LTE network in time for the next iPhone, it risks not getting the device, just as it does not have the new iPad.
And consumers in the market for the next iPhone — or any LTE-compatible phone, for that matter — may ask why they should buy it on Sprint if they can get better LTE coverage from another carrier.
But in the meantime, with HTC’s Evo 4G LTE, Sprint can send a message: Yes, we are working on a 4G LTE network — just sit tight.
Article source: http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/04/04/sprint-htc-4g-lte/
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Although Apple’s latest version of the iPad is continuing to sell like hotcakes and draw headlines, attention has now shifted, in part, to the probable release date of the iPhone 5. Apple has historically released an updated version of the handset in June—that is, until the release of the iPhone 4S in October 2011. If the comments from a recruiter with electronics manufacturing company Foxconn are any indication, Apple may be moving the release of the iPhone 5 back to a summer schedule. According to the Japanese technology blog Macotakara, which picked up on the comments when the recruiter was speaking to reporters on TV Tokyo’s “World Business Satellite” program, Foxcomm is planning to hire 18,000 people to make the iPhone 5. “It will come out in June,” the recruiter is reported to have said.
While the iPhone 5 would actually be the sixth-generation version of the handset, a blog post on AppleInsider claimed the Chinese workers who build the phones refer to the upcoming handset as the iPhone 5. According to Apple-centric blog 9to5Mac’s Jan. 25 report, the iPhone 5 will feature a bigger screen and a different casing from the iPhone 4. According to a “reliable source at Foxconn in China,” the various prototypes circulating around that production facility share some common features, including a 4-plus-inch display and a casing that no longer follows the design aesthetics of the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S.
A March report from Reuters claimed the next iPhone will feature a 4.6-inch Retina display and will launch in the second quarter of 2012. The news service drew that information from South Korean media, specifically the Maeil Business Newspaper, itself quoting an unnamed “industry source.” Other rumors have suggested the next iPhone will support 4G Long-Term Evolution (LTE) connectivity, something that seems more likely now that Apple’s released an iPad with 4G support.
Over the summer of 2011, analysts and pundits appeared certain that the company would release an iPhone 5 with a radically altered design and powerful new hardware. In October, however, Apple executives unveiled the iPhone 4S, whose exterior seemed virtually identical to the iPhone 4. However, a collection of new features—including Siri, a voice-activated “digital personal assistant”—quickly helped the new smartphone become a bestseller.
Sales of some 27.04 million iPhones contributed to Apple’s record-breaking fiscal 2012 first quarter, which ended Dec. 31. During the Jan. 24 earnings call, Apple CEO Tim Cook attributed the iPhone’s robust sales numbers to a combination of what he called “breathtaking customer reception” as well as pent-up demand from a particularly long gap between new iPhone releases. Overall, quarterly revenue totaled $46.33 billion, with a net profit of $13.06 billion.