[Special Feature]Fearless Predictions for 2013

Shawn and I thought it would be fun to do a predictions piece for 2013 so we would be able to come back and laugh at ourselves when none of it comes true.  These opinions are solely ours, and have not been put forth with any insider information from any OEM.  Most of these actually have no basis in fact whatsoever.  But with that in mind, here are our fearless 2013 predictions:

Sean’s Predictions:

1) Apple will release an iPhone 5S that looks virtually identical to the iPhone 5.  The internet will decry the  new phone and say Apple has lost its way.  Tech sites and blogs will write editorials expressing their disappointment.  Apple will sell as many as they can produce.

Shawn’s Response:
I’m probably on board with this one, considering the years and years of history we have of Apple to fall back on.  I’m really not sure where Apple takes their iPhone from here though…even thinnerer and lighterer?

World Exclusive: the iPhone 5S will look exactly like this


2) Google will release an updated Nexus 7 with a 1080p screen.  Pricing will be the same as the current Nexus 7

Shawn’s Response:
Not sure I agree here.  I think putting a 1080p viewpanel in a Nexus 7 drives the cost up past the point where Google is able to offer it at $249/$299.  I see the Nexus 7 as their “mid-grade” line of tablets, and the Nexus 10 as the high end tablets.  So I’m not sure I see this in Asus or Google’s future.

3) Samsung will release the Galaxy S IV with a 5″ 1080p screen, a quad-core Exynos 5450 CPU, 3GB of RAM, a 2600MAH battery and a 13MP camera.  It will inexplicably still have a home button.

Shawn’s Response:
Samsung has a real hit on their hands with the Galaxy series.  I think these specs could be dead on…but I’m predicting not only a physical home button, but also a total of 4 capacitive buttons as well, 2 on either side of the home button.  Samsung’s official stance:  “People love buttons!”

4) Microsoft will produce its own Surface Phone.  Nokia will continue to struggle until they are eventually bought.  Windows Phone 8 still won’t exceed 5% market share in the United States.

Shawn’s Response:
Microsoft does this only if they’re incredibly stupid.  The Surface (which may or may not be a great device) does nothing but put Microsoft squarely in the center of a war with their hardware partners which they can’t really win.  The phone space has enough dead or dying OEMs already (Nokia or RIM ring a bell?) for MS to really think they can jump in with a device that will move Samsung’s Galaxy S or Apple’s iPhone out from a top spot.  Also…Windows Phone 8 is not a good product.  Considering the amount of money that MS has spent on marketing for the Surface, they had better have a lot more cash reserves  if they want to make a move into the mobile phone space.  Then again..since Sean is predicting that Nokia will be bought – perhaps it will be Microsoft that buys them?

Microsoft should definitely copy this

5) Jony Ive will give iOS a major update which will include widgets and a new industrial look.  It’ll still be locked down and allow for little user customization.  Tech sites and blogs will give it rave reviews.

 Shawn’s Response:
While I’d be shocked and amazed if this actually happened, I don’t see it.  Ive is a great hardware designer (if you like the Apple products) but there’s a lot of change that would have to come to software side of Apple’s iOS that would make widgets in particular possible.  It goes against so much of the tradition of Apple and the iOS platform…I don’t know if it could be done in a year and I don’t know that Ive has the software chops to do it.  Perhaps 2-3 years out…but not in 2013.  

Shawn’s Predictions:


1) Motorola will produce a Google Nexus branded phone, with cutting edge (for the time) specs in processor, screen (non-pentile), and have a gigantic battery – probably called the Nexus Maxx HD.  This device will be sold with LTE through the Google store, unlocked, and be heralded as the greatest Android phone ever.

Sean’s Response:
I would love this so much, but I’m not sure I see it happening.  Google doesn’t want to risk alienating its partners and releasing a Motorola Nexus might do just that.  

This + 3300mah battery = win

2) Google will do “something” to further chip away at Apple’s dominance in the 10 inch tablet space.  Not sure exactly…but something good.  Like a massive public awareness campaign that will culminate in the launching of a Nexus 10 with HSPA+ wireless for $499.

Sean’s Response:
The Nexus 10 won’t sell in huge numbers.  While I think an HSPA+ Nexus 10 will definitely come out in the next year, I don’t see it “chipping” away too much at Apple’s dominance in the 10 inch tablet space.  If Google really wants to compete in the tablet space, they need to get a better tablet app infrastructure in place.  

3) Google will release the Key Lime Pie version of Android, version 5.0, which will at last unify the mobile device platforms of phone, small tablet, and large tablet.  App developers will flock to it and scaling apps will no longer be an issue for Android ever again.  Apple users will deadpan it as being too complicated and lacking polish, claiming it feels like an unfinished product.  It will launch on the Nexus Maxx HD, and be on someone’s Galaxy Nexus two days later.

Sean’s Response:
We’ll definitely see Key Lime Pie this year and I expect it to continue the refinement Android has undergone under Matias Duarte.  If Google can solve the smart phone/tablet apps issue they’ll finally be able to really compete with Apple.  KLP will definitely show up on the Galaxy Nexus in a day or two, but not on the Nexus Maxx HD because it won’t exist 😉

4) RIM releases Blackberry 10 and their new hardware devices, to deafening silence.  Large corporations continue to shed Blackberries from their mobile device fleet, until in August of 2013, RIM files for the Canadian equivalent of bankruptcy protection.  This comes after months of trying to sell their portfolio to anyone who will buy them…with no takers.

Sean’s Response:
I think Blackberry 10 has a chance.  In fact, I think it will outsell Windows Phone 8 (WP8) in 2013.  Although Rim has been hemorrhaging customers, it still has a dedicated and loyal fan base.  The hardware looks nice and Blackberry 10 has some cool features.  The major carriers have thrown fairly large support behind WP8 trying desperately to establish a third mobile OS in addition to Android and iOS, but they’re backing the wrong horse.  Blackberry 10 will do better than WP8 and finish the year with greater than 7% market share

Best looking Blackberry ever

[News]Nokia Lumia 920 reviews starting to trickle out

The embargo on the Nokia Lumia 920 ended this evening and the first reviews have started hitting the web.  So, does the Lumia 920 live up to the hype?

The reviews so far are mostly complementary.

Both theverge and cnet reviews praise the screen, battery life, out of the box wireless charging, general design and performance of the new Windows Phone 8 (WP8) flagship.

Complaints are mostly aimed at the large size and heft of the device.  The verge review simply states “The Lumia 920 is a tank,” while cnet says “Nokia’s Lumia 920 is sculpted, but also heavy and bulky.”

The much hyped 8.7MP PureView camera seems to be a bit of a mixed bag as well.  While apparently capable of taking great pictures, especially in low light, it is short on options and has a fairly steep learning curve.

The Lumia 920 looks like it’s a nice device, but is it enough to sway Android and iOS users to WP8?

UPDATE:

Engadget has its review up and it echoes the sentiments of the other two.

[Op-Ed]Windows Phone 8 is D.O.A. due to puzzling choices by Microsoft and Nokia

Microsoft officially released Windows Phone 8 (WP8) yesterday at an event in San Francisco.  When it was originally announced way back on June 20th I thought it held a lot of promise.  The newer software supported multi-core processors, higher resolution screens, and maintained the speediness associated with the “modern UI” (or the artist formerly known as Metro for anyone outside of Microsoft).  Carriers were vocal about backing WP8 even though many of them had barely supported Windows Phone 7 (WP7).  It sounded like all the pieces were in place for a strong WP8 launch and Microsoft seemed to have an excellent chance of solidifying the third place position in the smart phone OS war behind Android and iOS.

While WP7 never exceeded 5% market share in the United States, I thought WP8 might make it to the high single digit/low double digit range.  As it finally launches more than four months after it was announced however, some puzzling decisions from Microsoft and Nokia have already condemned Windows Phone 8 to a slow, painful death.

On June 18th Microsoft unveiled their Surface tablets.  The Surface with Windows 8 RT features a quad-core Tegra 3 ARM CPU and a 10.6 inch 1366 x 768 screen.  The Surface with Windows 8 PRO features a dual-core Intel i5 and a 10.6″ 1080p screen.  Both tablets have 2 keyboard options, a USB port, and access to the Windows Office suite of  apps.  The Surface seemed like a viable laptop replacement.  Other tablets like the Asus Transformer had offered keyboards before, but access to the Office suite of apps, a USB port, and the option to get an Intel powered Surface made it feel more like a real computer than a tablet.  No release date or pricing information was given but speculation was it would be announced at the June 20th kickoff event.

Publicly WP8 partners supported Surface, but privately it was rumored many of them were unhappy with Microsoft’s decision to enter the hardware market.  Many of the partner OEM’s were also readying WP8 tablets and now they had to compete directly with Microsoft.  When Google produces a Nexus product they choose a partner to make it.  That way Google isn’t directly competing against the manufacturers they rely on.  They also spread the wealth around as Asus, HTC, LG, Motorola, and Samsung have all gotten a chance to produce Nexus products.  This keeps the partners happy while allowing Google to give users the pure Android experience.  Microsoft’s decision to compete directly with its OEM partners during WP8’s infancy seemed ill-advised.

Two days later on June 20th Microsoft officially announced Windows Phone 8 without a release date.  The Surface also didn’t get a release date or pricing.  That information would have to wait four months until October 16th to be revealed.  The WP8 release date wasn’t officially announced until yesterday. 

It’s unbelievable that companies make this mistake over and over.  When Apple announces a product it’s typically available for pre-order that day, and ships a week or two later.  They create buzz and then immediately take advantage of it with a product launch.  Meanwhile companies like Google, Microsoft, Motorola and Samsung hold product introduction conferences and don’t announce release dates or prices.  By the time the product comes out months later the excitement from the announcement is long gone.  Why not wait to announce until shortly before consumers can actually buy the product and take advantage of the positive press?  The answer is unclear, but I’m positive the vast majority of people have forgotten all about those first WP8 and Surface press conferences back in June.

A few months passed and then on September 5th Nokia announced the Lumia 820 and 920 smart phones.  For all intents and purposes, the 920 is the flagship WP8 device.  It features the same dual-core Snapdragon S4 as Android flagships, a 4.5″ “PureMotion HD+” 1280 x 768 screen, an 8.7MP PureView camera, 1GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage.  The camera and screen tech were particularly impressive.  It finally looked like WP8 had a device that was different and technologically strong enough to warrant serious attention.  Sadly the press conference once again ended without a release date or pricing.

 
On October 4th AT&T announced the Lumia 920 as an exclusive.  That’s when I knew WP8 was in trouble.  Look, the Samsung ATIV S and the HTC 8X (announced September 19th) are great smart phones, but they don’t stand out.  The ATIV-S is basically a Galaxy S III in a different case, and the 8X is a hybrid of the HTC Rezound and One X.  Why would a consumer entrenched in the Android or iOS ecosystem switch to either one?  Put simply, they won’t. 
The Lumia 920 is a stand out product though.  The camera is superior to those in other smart phones, the screen is beautiful , and the design is fresh and interesting.  Would the 920 have swayed large numbers of Android and iOS users to switch to WP8?  Probably not, but it had a much better chance than any other WP8 handset.  The exclusivity agreement effectively killed any chance of that happening though. 
Microsoft announced Surface tablet pricing on October 16th and that’s when I knew WP8 was done.  The entry level 32GB Surface is $499 and doesn’t come with the touch keyboard cover.  To get a keyboard you have to step up another $100 and get a bundle, or purchase one separately for $119.99.  The price of entry was officially too high. 
Why would anyone spend that kind of money and switch product ecoystems when they could buy an iPad or Nexus 10 for the same price?  Sure the Surface has some unique features and having Office on a tablet would be useful, but not enough to pay more for an inferior product.  The iPad and Nexus 10 have better CPUs, GPUs, and much better screens.  That’s not even taking into account that a 16GB Nexus 10 costs $100 less than the entry level Surface.
Windows Phone 8 isn’t a bad product by any means.  It actually has some really cool features, it’s snappy, and it’s different.  But it’s also late to the party and doesn’t do anything that warrants switching from Android or iOS.  Getting customers to switch product ecosystems is not an easy task.  The new product must either work substantially better than existing products, be sufficiently different to get consumers attention, or offer the same functionality at a lower price point.   Windows Phone 8 doesn’t do any of those.  Microsoft should have announced WP8 at the beginning of October, aggressively priced the Surface tablets and made sure the Nokia 920 was available on all carriers.  Put that all together and WP8 would have had a fighting chance.  Instead it’s D.O.A.