Rebranding, Huawei’s change to survive

Huawei has been released from the black list but its reputation is ruined. Can the Chinese company survive in the mobile device business after that mess?

As every one of us have heard, Huawei was put to the black list of US trade commission. That meant that US companies could not trade with Huawei in any way. It lead to the big headlines about Google banning Huawei and so on. Now the company has been released from the black list and life goes on, or does it?

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It is very hard to understand customers’ reactions to the entire Huawei mess if we think about different regions. In America, Huawei really hasn’t been a big player in smartphone market but a relatively competitive in the network business. Very little Huawei phones have been sold by the carriers and that’s still the way Americans buy their phones. The little market share they had in smartphones, is now gone.

From a European standpoint, Huawei hasn’t changed that much during the debate. The US and China trade war has been going for a while now and for most of us Europeans, the Huawei ban was just a part of that trade war. I personally don’t find Huawei phones that attractive anyway but their two brands, Huawei and Honor have been some of the best selling phones in Europe for the last few years. That trend is unlikely change too much after the Huawei debate is completely over.

However, the way Huawei could turn this into gold, is to rebrand their phones and make some other changes as well. From this point onward, this article doesn’t base on facts but on my personal smartphone preferences. First of all, the rebranding. Huawei has been making phones under the Honor name for a while now, so that name is done. They’ll need to find a new, catching name like Vulcan or Wraith.

They should also drop their own UI and use Google’s Android One as a base. All Huawei’s own extras should be added as applications that could easily be updated and has to yield to same permissions as any other apps. This could win the doubters to their side. Camera app of course is important as Huawei has been known for its great smartphone cameras.

Oh, and as I accidentally just made another Nokia / HMD Global, Huawei’s new brand would differentiate itself by being the first at new technologies, like it has been. Their own SoCs are half a year ahead of their competitors even though they are a bit slower. Their display technologies and especially their product design has been top notch for the last couple of years.

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There are currently no clean Android phones on the flagship market other than the Pixels and maybe the Sony Xperia 1. There used to be some Moto phones and that’s it. Nokia’s 9 was a big disappointment and it is also competing more with the upper mid-rangers like OnePlus 7 or Galaxy S10e. More competition in the clean Android market is better.

Google Fuchsia – What should it be?

So, Google opened their Fuchsia developer page and it’s time for us to speculate. What should the Fuchsia be from customers standpoint?

There are a very little facts about the Fuchsia right now. Google just opened the developer page at fuchsia.dev but the site barely tells us anything. From Google I/O, we know that the OS should be working on many different kinds of devices and form factors.

Developers, software, applications

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Developers, developers, developers

How ever Google decides to make the apps work, they should work regardless of the form factor or device. Microsoft has got this wrong several times with its Windows Phone and RT systems. If a developer wants to build a great app for the Fuchsia, the app should work on all the form factors from desktop to tablet and smartphone, maybe even on the wearable devices.

The best way to get the developers interested is money. Money interests anyone but there are also other things, like trending languages and ways to create software that would attract developers. More ways to create apps, more apps, more users, more money. It is also probable that Google will promote the web apps that would work on any device like iPhones or Windows computers to generate profit for Google.

However, the cloud computing is growing all the time and it’ll be interesting to see, how Google will want to use that in Fuchsia. Could we see a cloud based video editing app or will the Stadia game streaming system be a big part of the new OS?

Android fragmentation

Android fragmentation is probably one of the most used geek terms on this site. It is used to describe the problem Android has with the older versions dominating the Android distribution chart.

One big task Google has with the Fuchsia is to prevent this kind of fragmentation from happening. It is essential to keep users safe, applications up to date and features widely spread.

Android has developed this problem over the years by leaving the system updates to the manufacturers, not Google. In the last few years, Google has tried to fix this but the cruel fact is that most Android devices are still running older version of Android than the project Treble, and very few manufacturers have updated their older models to support Treble anyway. In Android 10, there will be new features to fix this mess but it’ll still take years for them to reach the majority of the devices.

All this has of course allowed manufacturers to make their own customizations on their Android UI. It’ll be interesting to see how this will be introduced in the Fuchsia, or will the UI be similar on all manufacturers’ devices?

Security 

At this day and age, Google will need to make everything to keep Fuchsia safe. Running the OS on any device and form factor makes it vulnerable for issues that other companies have. For example Microsoft had to fix Windows for multiple times because Intel’s CPUs had big vulnerabilities.

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This is continuity to the fragmentation part because there must be a fast way to deploy these security updates when necessary. Our part is just to hope that Google isn’t trying to swallow a too big of a bite.

IoT integration

Wether we ask it or not, everything is going to be connected to the internet. You can already buy fridges and microwave ovens that are connected to the internet. Everything else is to follow. Creating a new operating system and skipping IoT would be foolish.

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Most likely, Google is going to add their own IoT control environment to the Fuchsia. That’ll be another interesting thing to follow.

Device management for enterprises

One thing where Google is way behind Apple and Samsung, is mobile device management. From enterprises standpoint, it’s quite easy to buy Samsung and Apple phones and manage them via Knox or Apple DEP / MDM. Although Google is trying to catch up, it’s going to take time before Google’s solution will be the number one solution for most companies.

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That’s why I hope that Google is taking this seriously and creates a full on management system for all devices from desktops to smartphones and company cars. The management system should have everything from AD to remote connections, software deployment and remote device actions. This is an enormous task that Microsoft has worked years and years to improve.

The enterprise market could do with a competitor. Easiest way for Google to start is to make the device management better than any competition on the market with a competitive price tag. That would get them more customers and resources to create the full on server ecosystem.

 

I’ll just hope all the best for the Fuchsia project and wait impatiently writing these speculations.

Huawei launches P20 Pro with 40 megapixel camera

Huawei tries to breath new life to the stagnant smartphone market with the new P20 Pro. It uses AI to stitch together images from three different sensors.

As the smartphone market is getting less and less interesting with iterative updates, the Huawei P20 Pro is a welcome exception. Huawei launched a full lineup of P20 devices at Paris but the Pro model is easily the most interesting.

The Huawei P20 Pro is a glass and metal sandwich with a 6.1″ 18.7:9 2240 x 1080 resolution notched OLED display. It has the Huawei’s in house Kirin 970 chip, 6 GB of RAM,  128 GB of storage and a 4000 mAh battery. On the camera side though, things get more interesting. The front 24 megapixel camera is placed in the notch and on the flip side, there are 3 cameras.

The main camera, on the middle, has a massive 1/1.7″ 40 megapixel sensor for nearly Pureview-like resolution. The top camera has an 8 megapixel sensor with a 3x telephoto lens. The bottom camera has a 20 megapixel sensor with a monochrome lens. To turn this massive amount of data to a beautiful image in all conditions, Huawei is using AI. The monochrome lens lets in more light in dark situations, so the AI can for example take the colors from the main camera, and the details from the monochrome sensor.

Like said, this camera setup is like the Pureview of 2018. We are hoping to see more of innovation like this in the future to keep the smartphone market evolving. The notches are not good marketing pointers.

Speaking of notches and Huawei, they actually made their notch a marketing point. They compared it to the iPhone X notch and said that their smaller notch is better because the user can see more notification icons. I’d say that every notch is a notch, and should be got rid of.

The other two P20 models are the regular P20 and the P20 Lite. The P20 has a smaller 5.8″ LCD display with the same 2240 x 1080 resolution, 4 GB of RAM and the battery is 3400 mAh in capacity. The front facing camera is the same 24 megapixel unit but on the rear, there are only two cameras, a 12 MP main camera and a 20 MP monochrome one. Rest of the specs are the same.

The Lite has a Kirin 659 chip, 5.8″ IPS display with the same resolution, 16 and 2 megapixel cameras, 3000 mAh battery, 4 GB of RAM and 64 or 128 GB of storage.

Innovation is good for the smartphone market. We have heard some rumors about a Nokia phone with an impressive camera setup. Hopefully we are getting some real facts of it soon. Of course, other manufacturers are allowed to innovate too. It just turns out that some are too busy removing features.

Note8 review: super premium Android


It’s the time of the year that all the iPhone and Note reviews are taking the world by storm. I’m a Nexus user but this year I have used iPhones, cheap Nokias and now, my most expensive phone ever a Galaxy Note8. Time for a recap.

Samsung revamped their flagship lineup with the longer Infinity Display that makes everything else look outdated. The curved bezel-less display is the one to beat at the moment. Samsung has also stepped up their game with the build quality since they last visited my daily driver treatment. Starting from the Galaxy S6, Samsung has been crushing the build quality game with glass and metal sandwich that allows features like wireless charging in an absolutely beautiful body. The Note8 is the first Samsung to rock a dual camera setup. Also onboard, is the S-Pen, an iconic Note feature for precise control over the huge screen. This should be the ultimate smartphone of 2017.

Starting from the packaging, Samsung really wants this to be a Premium device. Included in the box are USB on-the-go adapter, type-C to micro-USB adapter, S-Pen replacement tips, premiumish AKG earbuds and a surprisingly low-amp charger. I would personally appreciate a case of some sort as at least now, the 3rd party cases are very poorly available in Europe, and even the Samsung’s own high-priced cases are out of stock everywhere. The rear glass needs protection for sure. The Gorilla Glass 5 is a tiny bit softer than the Gorilla Glass 4 and at least the 4 is very easy to get scratched by just laying it down to a wrong place with any kind of stone or sand nearby.

Physical features are brilliant. We have the 3.5mm headphone jack down at the bottom next to the USB type-C charging port, a mono speaker and the S-Pen silo. On the top, is the dual nano-SIM or one nano-SIM and a microSD slot. Buttons are great but there’s one too much of them. Luckily the single press feature of the Bixby button can now easily be disabled. The home button is now virtual but thanks to the pressure sensitive display, it’s available even when the screen is off or the navigation bar is hidden.

At this point, I decided to keep this review a bit shorter, and get to the critic part of the review. Continuing with the navigation bar. Why would anyone want to hide it on this long display? Samsung hasn’t made the navigation bar transparent or even match the color to the content. There are only a few lame options. Continuing with the software, the device maintenance is, to be honest, annoying. The darn thing wants to shut down apps I use. One day I took almost 900 photos and in the evening, I uploaded them to my Google Photos and OneDrive. Samsung software just shut them down for consuming too much power. Thanks. Also, the device maintenance always reminds me in the notification bar because it wants to disable my Freedome VPN. There is always an orange number on the settings button to show the number of the so-called problems.

The weirdest thing is the amount of Samsung bloatware. If Google already provides apps for everything, why does Samsung waste resources to thing like browser, calendar, calculator, clock, app store, SMS-app, phone, email app and so on and so on. A Nexus user just didn’t settle. I tried to setup my Action Launcher and disabling a bunch of Samsung bloat but no, I’m going back to the Nexus once again.

I’m not saying the Note8 is a bad phone, I just didn’t get used to it. This is a $1000 phone, I shouldn’t get used to it, it should be perfect. The display for example, is stunning. Of course, I turned on the maximum resolution and upped the brightness to a reasonable level and what can I say, can display be better? Blacks are black, colors are either oversaturated or accurate depending on your choice. The max brightness is so high that some would even consider throwing in a Note7 joke here.

The camera is great. I wouldn’t take 900 photos one day, if the camera wasn’t great. Shutter lag is minimal, portrait mode works fine, videos are brilliant. There’s just something missing. The images are a bit soft to my liking but very comparable to the iPhone 7 I have in my other pocket. In low light, at least with the current software, the Note8 seems to make everything washed out. While my Nexus 6P and the iPhone can find black from a very dark scene, the Note produces quite grey result. The front facing camera is decent, nothing groundbreaking here.

Not able to add iPhone’s photo here because of the file type. You can check the low light comparison at my Instagram or Twitter.

Nothing groundbreaking under the hood either. The Note8 packs the same SoC the S8/+ had. There’s 2 gigs more RAM thought, making it to a total of 6 gigabytes. In some scenarios this is noticeable. For example, I have never had to reload my Chrome tabs. Even after a lot of cameraing, photo editing, Twitter, Instagram and so on, when I get back to Chrome, all my ten tabs are still there, ready to go. Being Samsung though, that’s not consistent. For example, leaving Instagram to send a message in Messenger, the Instagram sometimes randomly reloads and loses the place I was. Optimization issue probably.

The Note lineup used to be great for power users, content creators and consumers, and road warriors. However, after last year’s catastrophe, the Note8’s battery is relatively small in capacity. The 3300 mAh package didn’t make it through the day too often. The display is very power hungry, and all the Samsung features use power in the background. Those days I made I to the bed time with one charge, there were 10-20% left and 2.5 hours of screen-on-time. Keep in mind that I’m in Finland and no phone has ever lasted more than 3,5 hours SoT in my testing. Could have something to do with the cellular thingies.

LTE speeds here in Finland are quite decent

 

One more interesting note, I have all three phones on my desk at home connected to my WiFi. When I get a notification, email, YouTube, whatever, the iPhone wakes like 10 seconds before the Nexus. Samsung is probably trying to save some juice with the update frequency as the Note8 gets the same notifications another 10 seconds later.

In the Android smartphone market, manufacturers do different things to differentiate themselves from the mass. Lately, the newest trend is super premium class of smartphones on top of the normal flagship lineup. Note8 is Samsung’s super premium phone coming in at $1000. Note lineup used to be something else. For some reason, Samsung thinks it can charge a $1000 for a phone that really only has the best display on the market. Everything else is just a little bit of meh. But I bought one, now Samsung thinks it’s okay to price a phone at $1000. Personally, I think that Samsung had a better change to outsell Apple by lowering their prices, not by following iPhone pricing.

Nokia 6 goes official

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The Nokia name is back with the new Nokia 6, built by HMD Global. The phone will be available in early 2017 but apparently only in China. 

The Nokia 6 will be available exclusively through JD.com in China. No word on global availability yet. The price is around $245 or 233€ (1699 CNY).

The Nokia 6 features an all aluminium unibody design, 2.5D Gorilla Glass and a 5.5″ Full HD IPS display. Powering the pixels, the Nokia 6 has a Snapdragon 430 with 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage and a 3000mAh battery. The Android Nougat operating system seems to have a skin on top of it.

Cameras are 16 and 8 megapixels, the main one featuring F/2.0 aperture and phase detection auto focus. The Nokia 6 also has Dolby Atmos support and dual amplifiers. The home button also acts as a fingerprint scanner.

Source: HMD Global, Nokia 6 product page

LG V20 goes official with Android Nougat

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LG has released the new V20 smartphone, the first device to ship with Android 7.0 Nougat out of the box.

Last year’s V10 was one of the best phones of the year but got almost no attention from the big audience. The V20 aims to change that but uses quite similar feature set. The V20 is targeted for power users, audiophiles and spec monsters. It certainly isn’t for everyone with its bulky size and drastically customized Android experience.

The LG V20 packs a 5.7″ 1440p IPS LCD display and an additional 1040 x 160 display on top of the main one. The additional display can show shortcuts, options, memos and more. The SoC package is typical for a 2016 flagship with Snapdragon 820 CPU, Adreno 530 GPU and 4 GB of LPDDR4 RAM. The 64 GB internal storage is expendable via a microSD card. Android 7.0 Nougat has been heavily customized by LG.

The body of the V20 is made out of aluminium but still has a user replaceable 3200 mAh battery. The rear panel opens like a door when pushing the side button that looks like a camera shooter button. The V20 also has MIL-STD-810 shock certification. Charging is done via a USB Type-C and the fingerprint scanner is placed on the back.

The V20 has three cameras. Two rear cameras and a front facer with two modes, normal and wide angle. The rear cameras are a 16 megapixel normal camera and an 8 megapixel wide angle shooter. On the video side, LG is the first to adopt Qualcomm’s new video stabilization.

LG has focused on audio. In some markets the V20 will ship with Bang & Olufsen headphones and sound tuning. The V20 can record better audio, although the 24-bit / 48 kHz or 192 kHz doesn’t make any difference for most people, probably for no one.

The V20 will ship in three colors, black, silver and pink. There’s no information about pricing or availability.

Source: LG

Samsung releases a voluntary recall campaign for the Note 7

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Samsung has released a statement about Galaxy Note 7 and its battery issues. Current Note 7 owners can replace their phones over the upcoming weeks.

Samsung says that they have received 35 reports about faulty batteries. Reportedly those 35 batteries have exploded. Samsung has stopped shipping and selling new Note 7 units before all batteries have been checked.

As all Note 7 owners will be able to replace their device, this is probably the biggest smartphone recall ever. Samsung has expectedly sold around 500,000 Note 7 units to date.

Source: Samsung, SamMobile