The world of mobile phones can seem daunting and ultimately confusing to your average consumer (my mum once asked if the iPhone was a BlackBerry), but sometimes following technology closely can actually make things more confusing. Ignorance is bliss and all that.
With that in mind, I compiled a list of some of the mobile-related things I don’t entirely understand. Not to get to the bottom of them or anything, just to point and say: “What the fu…?”
Behold, in no particular order, five confusing things about mobile:
1. All the Samsung Galaxy S4s
I wrote about the Samsung Galaxy S4 family the other day, acknowledging that there’s at least logic in the names. Alongside the base model, there’s the rugged Samsung Galaxy S4 Active, the 16MP Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom, and the smaller Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini.
More confusing is what’s going on inside the Samsung Galaxy S4.
The feature-heavy flagship touched down in April in two flavours: one with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 processor, and the other with the sort-of-8-core Exynos 5 Octa.
The Exynos 5 Octa was presumed to be the better processor, with the glaring downside being that it’d power the non-LTE version of the Samsung Galaxy S4. Ok, so you could have the better processor but no LTE, or the lesser processor with LTE. Kinda makes sense; there’s a compromise either way.
That is until Samsung announced that the Exynos 5 Octa did in fact support LTE, and issued a small number of such Samsung Galaxy S4s. In South Korea.
At this point, we had three permutations of the Samsung Galaxy S4, but as of this week: four. Enter: the Samsung Galaxy S4 LTE-A with Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor.
I give up.
2. How can non-Apple/Samsung manufacturers continue to exist?
There’s no shortage of smartphones out there, particularly in the world of Android, but I often wonder how the smaller players manage to survive. I don’t envy them.
Earlier this year, a report suggested that Apple and Samsung combined had grabbed more than 100% - yes, more than all – of 2012 smartphone profit. Bad news for LG, BlackBerry, Nokia, Motorola, HTC, Huawei, Lenovo, Panasonic, Sharp, Acer…
Similarly, we were told that Samsung captured a whopping 94.7% of Q1 2013 Android profits, with LG on 2.5% and the rest combined on 2.7%. It's tough out there, man.
3. The obsession with smartphones being thin
Smartphone manufacturers are currently obsessed with two things: thinner, bigger.
I can understand the benefits of having a smartphone (or “phablet”, if you prefer) with a massive display, but when was it established that consumers want thin devices? Has anyone ever not bought a phone because it was 9mm thick and not 7mm?
The battle for the title of World’s Thinnest Smartphone is absolutely laughable, with manufacturers shaving off TENTHS OF A MILLIMETER. That’s like going to Weight Watchers and rejoicing because you shed a gram.
The Umeox X5, above/left, is expected to measure 5.6mm. Insane.
4. Nexus versions of flagship Android phones
Android manufacturers go to great lengths to customise the Android experience, put their own stamp on it, and in the case of Samsung – consume almost half of the advertised 16GB internal storage.
So what’s the message when flagships like the Samsung Galaxy S4 and HTC One appear on Google Play with stock Android? I could understand if they were cheaper, with wallet-friendly Nexus 4-style price tags, but that’s not the case.
Consider me baffled.
5. No microSD slot
Google’s Mattias Duarte said that microSD cards were ultimately “confusing” to consumers, adding: “If you’re saving photos, videos or music, where does it go? Is it on your phone? Or on your card? Should there be a setting? Prompt everytime? What happens to the experience when you swap out the card? It’s just too complicated.”
That’d be all well and good if no phones had a microSD slot, but some manufacturers bother while others don’t.
More and more consumers use their phones to play music, so surely you’d want your smartphone to offer as much storage as possible, preferably 16-32GB with a microSD slot? But nope, not always.
HTC is one of the worst culprits. The HTC One S had a measly 16GB internal storage with no microSD compatibility, and the flagship HTC One is limited to 32GB – deemed too little by some potential buyers.
More confusing, as I pointed out in Making sense of the HTC Butterfly family: most of HTC’s Asian models do have microSD. Say what?