back to article Apple loses sauce, BlackBerry squashed and Microsoft, er, WinsPhones (Nokia's)

It was a year where Apple slurped down enormous profits but lost some of its bleeding-edge-tech street cred, while Samsung marched inexorably on. But behind the scenes there was much more going on. Here are the year's trends put through the blender. Apple Apple's strategy is quite simple: instead of making products the …

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Curiosity kills the KitKat.

From the article: "The KitKat dialler in Android now calls home." This brings up a curiosity-driven question.

Let's say I would like to get a new smartphone in 2014, not necessarily in the 1st half of it. Let's say that a mandatory requirement is minimal snooping (if I access GMail then Google/NSA will snoop, but that's a GMail "feature", not a smartphone feature; ditto telco call logs). I need the functionality of Nokia 6230 + somewhat usable email and web (with Ghostery+ABP or equivalent). I do NOT care about "apps" beyond that. I do care about build quality, reliability, usability, quality of sound, contact list and calendar functions, and battery life. Shouldn't send me into bankruptcy too early.

Is there anything (GSM) in the pipeline anywhere that would fit the bill? With any OS? Is anyone thinking about marketing a privacy-oriented smartphone? Would it be a popular value proposition? Suggestions of manufacturers/models to follow?

Or is downgrading to 6230 (mine is still functional) the only choice?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Curiosity kills the KitKat.

AFAIK, there is no smartphone that is slurping/phone home proof. Sad really.

I pensioned off my Smartphone almost a year ago and reverted to my old simple cameraless Nokia. It does not have a GPS in it either.

I have to use a smartphone for work. I only use it for making phone calls and texting related to work. No emails no web browsing. It is only switched on when I'm not in the office during work hours and never while I am at home. At least it is not registered in my name.

Am I being overly paranoid? Probably but as someone who had their Identity Stolen I can't be too careful.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Curiosity kills the KitKat.

In this theoretical, are we assuming the 6230 does not "call home"?

It makes calls/texts. The delivery is not direct to the next user. IE, there is never a secure connection.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Curiosity kills the KitKat.

I imagine the calling home in the new dialler is basically to search the web for alternate possibilities you want to call rather than anything nefarious. That said it does give Google another source of information about you. Rather than Google getting the number you dialled, I expect they get the search query you typed into the dialler, i.e. "Michael".

While I'm not a fan of the dialler calling home, the network operators and thus the secret services in $country already collect information about what calls you make, the number, when and duration. By linking the dialler search to this they can potentially add in a name (assuming the number you're dialling is PAYG and not registered to a user already).

So by downgrading to a 6230, you're removing the search snoop from the dialler, but the governments still know who you called, when, and from what cell site.

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Re: Curiosity kills the KitKat.

Off the top of my head, I can think of three makes...

- "Nokia" Asha (although they're sold by Microsoft now, depends how tightly you're wearing your tinfoil hat)

- Samsung dumbphone

- Alcatel dumbphone

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Curiosity kills the KitKat.

The dialer doesn't phone home, that's pathetic spin, what it does, is if a incoming call number isn't recognised, it tries to look it up using known business number database.

It's actually rather useful, and I'm sure the pathetic spin will stop when Windows Phone gets this feature in 2025 (which I unlikely, as if their marketshare carries on dropping/stagnating, it won't be around past 2017).

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Re: Curiosity kills the KitKat.

While not implying that they would be phone home proof, I for one would have more trust on the smaller players, especially the open source ones. So, Firefox, Sailfish or Ubuntu then.

Funny though that none are marketed with privacy. Would be quite eager for one.

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Re: Curiosity kills the KitKat.

It isn't possible to have a cellular phone that doesn't track your position every minute of the day. How do you think it finds you to route your calls? Magic?

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Big Brother

Re: Curiosity kills the KitKat.

You know how Google does these things... slurp data and find out what most people agree on. Do we know if business (or at least business at roll out) phone numbers are determined by slurping Android users' contacts?

I would much rather have as few ways of giving up data as possible. I know the network needs to know where I am, but I also know the dialler doesn't need to send data to the chocolate factory (plus any intelligence agencies along the way).

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Re: Curiosity kills the KitKat.

http://img.thesun.co.uk/aidemitlum/archive/01648/polar-bear-main_1648457a.jpg

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Re: Curiosity kills the KitKat.

@Mikel: No, my calls don't need location information to be routed. The information that is needed is which tower the handset communicates with. You cannot determine location from that. If several towers get a signal from the handset, measure the signal strength, correlate it, *and record it* then my location may be determined with an accuracy of maybe a few hundred meters (down to a few dozen meters in city centres, depending on the tower density, obstacles, etc.).

I suspect you might also think that someone needs to know your precise location for you to navigate using GPS. Think again.

And on a general note: even if some location information were needed for an essential service such as call routing, It would not be a problem in itself. The problem arises when such information is recorded long term (e.g., long after bills are paid), *identifiably*. E.g., the mobile service provider might want to keep a record of which towers were involved in originating and terminating calls, for traffic analysis. They would not need real phone numbers or IMEIs or anything like that for such analysis. So if they do keep such info, it is for some other purpose.

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Re: Curiosity kills the KitKat.

I'd suggest a nexus 5, with one of the many custom ROMs loaded onto it, without gapps.

No Google slurping, and still fully functional. apps can be got from f-droid (open source app store)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Curiosity kills the KitKat.

"And on a general note: even if some location information were needed for an essential service such as call routing, It would not be a problem in itself. The problem arises when such information is recorded long term (e.g., long after bills are paid), *identifiably*. E.g., the mobile service provider might want to keep a record of which towers were involved in originating and terminating calls, for traffic analysis. They would not need real phone numbers or IMEIs or anything like that for such analysis. So if they do keep such info, it is for some other purpose"

They keep it for legal reasons. Location information - using triangulation and moving from cell to cell - has been used to prove the location of individuals in prosecutions. If you carry a cellphone, your location is tracked.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Curiosity kills the KitKat.

Both Microsoft and Apple are less interested in slurping, at least on a corporate level. As mentioned in the article, Microsoft attempts to differentiate itself on this point. I don't believe any are NSA proof. The Nokia 720 is probably the closest you'll get to being both Smartphone while getting the basics (i.e. battery life, reception and call quality) right.

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Very interesting thoughts. Personally for me Google has been the big winner this year with Chromebooks and Tablets and its new budget Android phone the Moto G, no doubt they will see a good 2014 but I suspect Android phone sales will decline somewhat if MS keep pushing lower end phones. Microsoft whilst struggling with Laptops / Desktops has finally managed to make a small dent in the Mobile market and has the chance to just have Nokia making Windows phones and gain the benefits from having as much control as Apple whilst being more flexible in models offered. Apple has stood still, I think the next two years are critical for them. If they don't manage to make big waves with something they might give Microsoft an opportunity to catch up - or perhaps a new party. Samsung have had a good year but I get the feeling they don't know why.They still have a far less refined Android experience on their phones than HTC or Motorola (I have the Samsung Note 3) and I can't see them going anywhere amazing next year. They need to work on timely updates and not filling their phones full of rubbish. They also are threatened on the low end by superior phones such as the Nokia 620 and the Moto G. HTC I suspect will get better as people forget how rubbish their first HTC was, especially if they concentrate on fewer phones. Blackberry have not had a good year, Can't see a way forward for them at the moment but suspect someone will buy them. Perhaps Samsung or HP / Dell (two other companies with not so promising futures).

Just my thoughts! Perhaps I should be an Analyst

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Samsung know why...

Because they spend an unbelievable amount marketing their devices - it often looks like there are no other devices available. Only phone stores have advertising for other phones (almost always iPhones). The cinema currently has nice (weird) adverts for HTC featuring Robert Downey Junior which obviously aren't cheap and Nokia have a nice, but much cheaper ad, showing off the 1020. But Samsung have the EE ad with Mr bacon at every performance of every movie on a continuing basis - they even get to advertise the watch they have so much extra bandwidth.

I saw an ad for mobiles.co.uk that gave you TWO Galaxy tabs 'free' with a Galaxy something phone (not an S4, something cheaper). It was about 27 per month but his and hers tabs free made a compelling case if you happened to be in the marker or knew someone to sell a tab or two to.

I am sure if I really looked at an HTC One against the Galaxy S4, I would choose the HTC One, for sound and looks and various other features (don't know if an overheating issue I read about is real or not) but a casual purchaser (which seems an oxymoron for things like this but also seems to be true) would often plump for the S4 because "they are everywhere so must be good". Of course, I am sure S4 are completely ok but still not the best value for money and not always suited to the user that buys them.

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So, Mozilla...

... is pulling in $300m a year from Google and doesn't produce much in the way of new stuff. Why, then, does it "have to fundraise" as well (see the Firefox default home page)?

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Re: So, Mozilla...

Well, there is a simple answer to that. Mozilla presents itself as a "community" based browser. It would be happier if we all forgot that it is funded by the Gorilla that is Google.

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Holmes

"Big numbers scare me"

Well, surplus is kicked up into the Mozilla Foundation which currently has ~130 million USD invested in financial instruments. There is no reason to drive around with the balls near the concrete, is there?

OTOH, why not find out and write it up?

Starting points:

Mozilla Corporation and Foundation

List of Mozilla products

Firefox estimated cost

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Re: "Big numbers scare me"

"There is no reason to drive around with the balls near the concrete, is there?"

That's true enough. It's the way they word it though. Here is the actual text on the current default Mozilla home page:

"Mozilla, the maker of Firefox, is a non-profit and we rely on donations.

If everyone reading this gave $3, we would only have to fundraise 1 day a year. Donate before the year ends."

It sounds rather like they're begging for cash to stay afloat, in much the same way Wikipedia does (and apparently doesn't really need to).

That's quite an interesting link though, Ohloh estimating the cost of Firefox development to be around $170m per year. If I wasn't sat in the office "working" during the Christmas/ New Year 'lull' I might be tempted to actually do a bit of research on this.

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Re: So, Mozilla...

"Well, there is a simple answer to that. Mozilla presents itself as a "community" based browser. It would be happier if we all forgot that it is funded by the Gorilla that is Google."

Surely "guerilla" would be more appropriate...?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "Big numbers scare me"

I disagree. Mozilla produce tons of stuff, just look at how many versions of Firefox came out this year!

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Everyone should keep a pre-2003 Nokia mobile...

...in their Emergency bag, charged and ready!

I have thrown away numerous smartphones but I always keep my 6310i close at hand.

If the sh*t hit the fan big time its the phone I would take.

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Thumb Up

Re: Everyone should keep a pre-2003 Nokia mobile...

Excellent choice. Old Nokias make great weapons.

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Pint

Title? What title?

Nice article. When Apple stuck a phone into an iPod it revolutionised the smart phone segment. I can't see where the next big breakthrough will come from as 2014 looks to be more of what we had in 2013.

Smart watches I think will be a fad. Google glasses may get some traction but I doubt they will go mainstream next year. Some people are paying thousands of pounds to get their eye's lasered so they don't have to wear glasses.

I'll have a beer, sit back and see what happens.

Andy

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Pint

Re: Title? What title?

I'm with you on the google glasses, you're spot on about the laser eye surgery. Did wonder how they'd work for people who already wear glasses though.

I think the smart watch might be a bit more of a viable idea, but I'd hang off until battery life is a bit longer.

Can I join you for that beer?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Title? What title?

Some people may have their eyes lasered, but some != all, or even a majority. (Personally I'd need to have a really strong prescription before I'd allow anything like that near the only two eyes you get.)

No, I don't think Google Glass will go mainstream in 2014. Only a small percentage of cars have HUDs and rear parking cameras, despite their considerable advantages. The question is whether demand will increase, and I suspect it will. The number of people walking along with the eyes fixed on phones is sufficient evidence that a lot of people don't mind looking odd, and each one of them is a possible GG buyer when the UI gets good enough.

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JDX
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glasses and lasers

"Some people are paying thousands of pounds to get their eye's lasered so they don't have to wear glasses"

They still wear sunglasses when it's sunny. People don't like having to wear glasses just to see normally, this doesn't mean they won't wear glasses which provide additional functionality (like internet or not going blind).

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Big Brother

Someone must have been sleeping through the Summer of Surveillance.

But unless the technology industry supports consumer demands for consumer sovereignty, acknowledging that we actually own our own data...

You "own" no "own" data.

In the sphere of the so-called "civil society contract" (a blank contract which apparently one signs when conceived), you are a naked worm to be fingered, stopped, questioned, indexed, briefed, debriefed and numbered. As well as metadata-hoovered. Apparently people don't care too much. Don't tell me you "own" any data.

In the sphere of private contracts, Google may X-ray you as you use their services for "free". There are no "consumer demands" and there is no demand for "consumer sovereignity" (whatever that is) and hoping for a "scandal" to "fix" things is bonkers. What form would that scandal take? ("Single mom safeway shopping information leaked! Film at 11 - After Miley Cyrus' latest arsewiggle...") The good thing is, you can always refuse those services and there are some legal restrictions on data aggregations, with more in the pipe.

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Byz

No mention of Galaxy Gear watches?

This was a massive mess up, very expensive but not much benefit.

I got a couple of pebbles for the family for Christmas to try them out and at $150 a shot they are not bad.

No touch screen, but great when your out and about shopping so that you don't need to hear your phone to know that the rest of the family have finished clothes shopping and you can go home :)

Just getting the SDK to start programming them should be fun :D

All of us have found the pebble very useful a good product from a kickstart project and a decent product, plus doesn't need charging everyday :)

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HTC Continue to Alienate

HTC Continue to alienate some power users (myself included) that have multiple MicroSD cards full of media. And without doubt, these same people also require multiple batteries (Although this can be augmented by a portable charger but it's still not as convenient). Note, this also becomes incredibly handy when you figure in that the same media and cards can also be used on my tablet.

Give me a MicroSD slot AND removable batteries and I'll be all over HTC like a rash. Until then? I'll be sticking with an S4 (5/6/7....?)

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Backpackers

And the same backpackers are not allowed in the UK/European markets by the very cartelised distribution channels and their "partners" who cream off the bulk of the profits.

A good Android smartphone should not be more than £60 to £80 (as has been proved by Moto g et al) and the Chinese producers, due to the current economies of scale.

Just why are we drip fed and rippped off regularly, is what needs explaining, Andrew.

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Re: Backpackers @gautam

Cellphone makers' collaboration with telcos is clearly a cartel. They absolutely dominate the retail market for phones. Presumably why we can only source twin SIM phones in the UK via the grey market.

Is it really true that if you buy a SIM free iPhone it may lock to the first telco whose SIM is inserted ? Long saga in a tech forum from someone who sent his brand new iPhone to a firm to have the case customised and they probably tested it by inserting a SIM. When he got it back and put in his own SIM he was locked out.

May not be the same scenario, but I discovered recently that a discarded Nokia 100 that was previously usable with T-Mobile, worked only with Vodafone after inserting a Voda SIM card. Frustrating, as I was going to donate it to a friend who is with Orange -- he can buy a new one for just £10 but why should he have to ?

Time the EU commissioner looked at breaking up the cartel so that telcos sell airtime and retailers like Argos and Amazon sell the phones unlocked and at competitive prices.

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Re: Backpackers @gautam

This causes quite a bit of confusion - If you buy an iPhone from Apple, it is truly SIM-unlocked, you can swap SIMs as much as you like and it will never lock you to a network. However, buy an iPhone from the likes of O2/Orange or somewhere like Carphone Warehouse and it will arrive in an unlocked state, but as soon as you insert a SIM (which you need to do to set up and activate the phone) it will lock to that network.

In other words, all iPhones come unlocked, but if it was sold to work on a specific network (even PAYG), it will lock as soon as the SIM is inserted.

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jai
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iOS 7

Many people, offered the old look-and-feel with the new control panel and gestures, say they would gladly swap.

When exactly did you perform this survey? Was it one week after it's release?

http://m.theregister.co.uk/2013/09/27/half_of_all_american_fanbois_now_using_ios_7/

or was it at the start of the month when three-quarters of users are now using the new OS?

http://m.theregister.co.uk/2013/12/09/just_one_in_four_fanbois_has_failed_to_download_ios_7/

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Re: iOS 7

What are you saying?

That the 75% install rate for an update that your phone constantly tries to push to you, which most people probably install "because it's newer so is probably better", or "because this latest app requires it", with no possible way back to the previous version if you don't like it, is a proof that people prefer that version?

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Re: iOS 7

There's a big difference between preference and waking up one morning to "Oh, my phone has an upgrade ready. I'd better allow it."

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Anonymous Coward

Re: iOS 7

Only if you are a moron

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Re: iOS 7

a bit of circular logic there. You have an iphone already,so you get ios7, surely that is a given ?

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jai
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Re: iOS 7

What are you saying?

I was saying that that the phrase "most people... would gladly swap" was offered with absolutely no evidence that it was anything more than made up for the article. IF it were the case that >50% of people would rather have the old version, you'd have think they'd have be loud and shouty about the fact and the other 50% of the users would have heard and NOT upgraded their phones from iOS 6. Instead, the El Reg articles I quoted suggest that more and more people have upgraded over time. If they are all upgrading, as you suggest, because the phone is pushing it on you, then at the very least it suggests that those who have already upgraded are really THAT concerned about the new style, because they aren't going out of their way to warn others. In fact, the only people going out of their way appears to be tech journalists - but is that really because they object to the new OS interface? Or just because they know that an article about Apple anything is click-bait and garners more advertising revenue?

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FAIL

Paranoid Android

Google offered me the "vanity URL" for G+, so it would be my username instead of a 32 digit number.

The catch? "You must verify your mobile phone number by entering a code sent in a text message (SMS), before you can claim a custom URL."

You can't get the URL w/o giving them your mobile number. Nice try, Google.

Note this is on a webpage that I had to log into, from a link in an email that they sent me. There is no need to verify anything.

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FAIL

Re: Paranoid Android

Agree on the fail but in my case I don't have a phone. Any phone. And prefer it that way. [Then again who in Hell, aside from sales or campaign staff would even want to talk at me.]

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Re: Paranoid Android

This malarky of trying to extract your mobile phone number is so transparent.

Yahoo tried this but (presumably) but gave up when everyone ignored them

Microsoft tried to strongarm Hotmail users on security grounds, in case one got locked out (ho, ho).

Unlike Google, MS had the decency to give one the option of disclosing an alternative e-mail address. As I also didn't wish to see that sold to the highest bidder, I gave my Facebook mail address -- which, of course, just leads back to my Hotmail address (ho,ho to them).

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This post has been deleted by its author

Apple has made it pretty clear...

that they don't run their company to please Wall Street. For the most part, they release products when they're ready as opposed to when they need something to please "analysts" (the Maps app is a notable exception - yes they were getting sandbagged by Google, but what a mess). And good for them. They're still far from perfect, but the industry is otherwise mostly saturated with half-baked crap with user interfaces designed by software engineers and software engineering done by English literature majors. The loss of the Iron Fist of Jobs is clearly felt, but the overall philosophies seem to be holding... for now. They'll release a watch or television if and when it delivers the user experience they want, and if that means waiting for materials or battery or manufacturing technologies to catch up then so be it. Heck, look at how long they sat on the iPad project for... something like a decade from start to release, but it was the first tablet "done right." You only get one shot at a product launch, something Microsoft never seemed to learn. It didn't hurt them too badly when they were the 800-kg gorilla, but it's just sad and pathetic to watch now that they're not.

Android was always destined for a race to the bottom - if Samsung hadn't designed some highly desirable phones they'd have massive numbers and near-zero profits (except for Google). Even now, it seems that a Samsung split is inevitable - rumor is they're looking to revive MeeGo or some other mobile distro. They don't need Google anymore, and why use a commodity OS that helps keep the low-end competitors afloat and always nipping at your heels (and margins!)?

As much as I loathe Blackberry as a company (and BES as an atrocious pile of buggy bloatware), I'm kind of sad to see the BB10 software die. If you have to build a new mobile system, using QNX as the core is a pretty damned good idea if you're into things like stability, reliability, and security. Too bad they're about half a decade too late on that...

Looks like for 2014 I'll be staying in Apple's camp, by default. They're still the only company that consistently crosses my line of "eh, good enough."

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Apple has made it pretty clear...

I don't follow your logic re Samsung. If low-cost Android is always eating your bottom, it makes little difference which OS you are using, because most phone users are not interested in it. We're at a stage where, from a software point of view, all the major OSes are good enough and sales are based on something else. To use the inevitable car analogy, Diesel and spark ignition both are highly developed and have well defined use cases. VW Audi Gruppe is not about to go Wankel or gas turbine because Kia are expanding fast. Samsung's problem is that it has paid insufficient attention to user interfaces, not operating systems.

As for Wall Street, it runs on emotion, not logic. Apple does run its company to please Wall Street, it's just that they want to be seen as a stock with long term serious growth potential rather than a pump and dump opportunity. Your pension fund may have different priorities from the Goldman Sachs boiler rooms, which is why Apple runs differently from Facebook.

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Re: Apple has made it pretty clear...

If low-cost Android is always eating your bottom

Hey - the tech-sex article is over there.

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Profitless Android

In 2013 nearly 1 billion Android devices were sold. Not 1 billion so far for all years - 1 billion for one year. Roughly 800 million phones and 200 million tablets. One device for every seven living humans. Made of a billion lithium batteries, a billion circuit boards and touchscreens, over a billion tiny cameras. Made in hundreds of factories and sold in hundreds of thousands of retail establishments all over the world. Designed in dozens of high-rise office buildings by busy engineers.

Pick an average selling price: $100, $150, $200? That is a lot of money.

And you would have us believe that nobody but Samsung managed to skim a profit off of all this activity? Where did the money to hire the engineers, build the factories, stock the shelves, hire the sales and delivery men come from? More importantly, why? Why would hundreds of competing business interests all over the world conspire to create the greatest technology shift the world has ever known - and exactly break even? Altruism?

It makes no sense. A more likely explanation is that profit is being made and you aren't being told about it.

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Re: Profitless Android

Agreed. There would have to be knock-on effects or we would be seeing firms exit the market. Not enter the market in ever increasing numbers. Putting on the econometrician hat, something is not being measured, but what that is, I don't know.

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JDX
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Re: Profitless Android

"And you would have us believe that nobody but Samsung managed to skim a profit off of all this activity? Where did the money to hire the engineers, build the factories, stock the shelves, hire the sales and delivery men come from?"

Since profit comes after not only salary and manufacturing, but paying fat bonuses and investing in R&D, it's entirely possible that the prospect of a seven-figure salary is a motivation after ploughing all 'profit' into future product development.

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