07 February 2016 ~ 1 Comment

How Windows Phone is growing faster than Apple and Android in the UK

Windows Phone is regarded by many as not being able to compete with the mighty Apple iOS and Google’s Android-powered smartphones. Indeed, we’d usually agree with the argument that Microsoft is “doomed to irrelevance in the mobile age”. However, it may be time to reconsider the reports of the imminent death of Microsoft’s smartphone operating system. According to the latest figures, it certainly is not dying in the UK.

Smartphone operating system market shares for the year ending December 2015 compared to the year end 2014 shows some interesting trends. Android’s market share grew by 1.8 percent while Apple’s iOS declined by 3.1 percent. Meanwhile, Windows Phone showed better growth than Android at 2.3 percent (albeit from a much lower base).

A curious fact which emerges from the Kantar Worldpanel ComTech global analysis shows that the UK is the only Western market where Microsoft phones are showing growth. In China, Windows showed a 0.5 percent growth in a market currently dominated by Apple.

The performance of Windows Phone in the UK is probably linked to the success of Microsoft’s Lumia 950 and 950 XL handsets which were launched in November. Both phones have been well received by the public and if they had been released earlier in 2015 the UK sales growth for Windows Phone would have been even more impressive. This success contradicts Gartner’s view last year, which predicted that the Lumia won’t have much of an impact on Microsoft’s dismal performance in the global markets.

It’s not all good news for Microsoft though as the overall Windows Phone market share has tumbled across the globe to 2.2 percent and analysts do not see much hope for improvement from that base. Without strong support from OEM partners and mobile app development, the future looks bleak for Microsoft mobile. However, the new Lumia handsets are very popular with users who want a functional smartphone without much need for additional software or applications. And this market will probably keep driving the sales of Windows Phone.

What do you think? Where do you see Windows Phone this time next year?

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29 January 2016 ~ 0 Comments

Could the UK see Samsung Galaxy S7 before April?

Galaxy_S6_Edge

The much-anticipated premium smartphone offering from Samsung, the Galaxy S7, might be available in the UK by April, following its anticipated release in the United States on 11th March. Another date doing the rounds on the rumour mill is 4th March for the US launch. However, some sources are claiming that the UK might see it as early as the 11th March.

As with previous launches, it is expected that Samsung will announce four new handsets, the Galaxy S7, S7 Plus, S7 Edge and S7 Plus. It seems likely that the S7 screen size and screen resolution will not change as the current 5.1-inch display is considered an optimal size and resolution for standard smartphones and screens. What will be new is a pressure-sensitive touchscreen, imitating the latest offering from Apple in the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus.

Expected new features on the phones include fast charging via the USB Type-C port, an upgraded camera and wireless charging. The S7 will possibly have expanded storage made possible with the addition of microSD support and this might allow additional storage of up to 128GB. An interesting speculation is that the S7 front camera resolution will be 12 or 16 megapixels while the front camera will drop from 12 to 5 megapixels. It is assumed that this change is to allow more light in on a camera where resolution is not the primary consideration. Rumours persist of a camera with 12 megapixel and f/1.7 aperture to enable better low light photography which would be fantastic.

The operating system will be Google’s Android 6.0.1 (Marshmallow), which is the latest version. It is possible that the S7 will be IP67 certified (dust and water resistant) like the Galaxy S5.

To ensure that the S7 meets the demands of power-hungry consumers it is possible that the new phone will feature the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 chipset. This should make for a very fast phone which will hopefully be coupled with an improved battery management system which will mean better battery life.

What will the new Galaxy S7 cost in the UK? At this stage pricing is pure speculation but it would be safe to assume a starting price of around £600 SIM-free. Not a bargain at the price, but decent value for money and squarely in competition with the new iPhone 6S. Buyers looking for a phone in this category will be hard pressed to make a choice between the two – although the consensus seems to favour the current Galaxy S6 as a better all-round phone.

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27 December 2015 ~ 0 Comments

Android Marshmallow 6.0 is now out

android marshmallow relseased

The latest operating system update for Android phone users has been released. Continuing the tradition of confectionary-themed code names, we now have Marshmallow for version 6.0. The updates began with Android 1.5 Cupcake and were then followed, alphabetically, by names like Gingerbread, KitKat, and then Ice Cream Sandwich for version 4.0.

Unsurprisingly, the Google-developed Nexus was the first phone to get the new Android operating system. Manufacturers who work closely with Google, and who developed Nexus devices, such as LG and HTC, will be first in line for the upgrade. Sony, Samsung and others will get Android 6 early in 2016. However, Samsung has indicated that owners of the Galaxy Note 5 and S6 Edge+ should have received their Marshmallow updates in time for Christmas. The version for the standard S6 and the S6 Edge will be released in January while the Note 4 while Android for other models will only be available towards the end of January .

So what is exciting about Marshmallow? After all, it is not a major design update like Lollipop was, but there are some exciting new features. A major emphasis is on increasing battery life. Other general improvements include better app permission controls, standardised support for fingerprint scanners, more granular volume controls, USB-C support and new Google Now features.

The new fingerprint sensor functionality means that you can unlock your phone with your finger and when Android Pay is released in the UK you will be able to make payments without opening apps.

Android 6.0 opens the way for improved voice control features. Users will soon be able to speak to their apps – and the apps will even talk back. This natural way of speaking to our smartphone and the apps installed on it could revolutionise the way we interact with our devices. Probably not soon, but it could.

To improve battery usage Google has announced the Doze feature. Using motion sensors to detect whether a device hasn’t been moved for an extended period of time, Doze will switch it to a deeper sleep mode that consumes much less power. Doze will still allow alarms to go off and key notifications to come through.

Google says it took two Nexus 9 tablets, one running Lollipop and the other Android Marshmallow, loaded the same apps and settings on both, and then tested the standby power drain on the two. Apparently, the Nexus 9 running Android Marshmallow lasted up to two times longer than its Lollipop counterpart which is pretty damn impressive. These results sound very impressive and should lead to noticeably better battery life.

One of the new features which should prove very popular is Now on Tap which is essentially an updated Google Now and allows for contextual and location based information when using apps like WhatsApp.

In summary, many of the updates are aimed at developers and should lead to improved user experiences for Android users. What are your thoughts?

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