November 24, 2014

[Op-Ed] MWC 2014 was evolutionary, not revolutionary

mobile_world_congress_2014

Given that I am only seventeen, I have to say that my passion for mobile technology started at a very young age.

When I was seven my parents bought their first mobile phone — for the sake of getting in touch with the school in case something happens to me.

I cannot recall the precise name, though it was one of these chunky Nokia handsets sporting a tiny white and black display weighing as much as a TV back in the day.

That's the one, anyone remember its name?

That’s the one, anyone remember the model number?

The memories of me rocking the snake game still linger in my mind after all these years that have gone by.

For the last three and a half years I’ve been sharing my knowledge on mobile technology via YouTube and blogging. Since mid 2012 I solely focused on writing and recently it became sort of my job, if you will.

Well, after all these years of watching how the industry develops, from the 5cm thick Nokia handset to the LG G Flex featuring a flexible body, my eyes have seen a radical change in this section of technology.

As a mobile tech enthusiast, Mobile World Congress is something that I am looking forward every single year. Especially this year’s where two flagship phones where once rumored to be unveiled, the Samsung Galaxy S5 and the new HTC One. As many of you know HTC made a last minute announcement that their handset will be revealed in a separate event. Oh well, what can you do?

Fundamentally, MWC 2014 points of interest were two; Xperia Z2 and Galaxy S5. To be quite honest with you, I didn’t expect Sony to release the successor of the Z1, just five months after its launch. I am aware that the Z1 was announced five months after the original Z as well, though Sony had to do this mostly due to the fact that the first Xperia Z was steps back compared to competition.

With that said, both handsets constitute a clear indication that two of the front running names in the industry are facing a dead end from a hardware standpoint. Samsung and Sony have been following Apple’s two-year strategy with its respective line ups, though both extended it to a three year one.

Irrefutably, when the Galaxy S line up commenced back in 2010 it was an auspicious sign for Android’s future as it offered a spec sheet much better than the iPhone and a beautiful — cheap-ish — design.

A year later the incredibly thin dual-core S2 hit the market, as the 4S component, making users reconsider about Android phones.

Same thing about the S3; all-new design, double the speed, enhanced camera etc. And frankly, that is what consumers found  brilliant about the S line. The fact that every year they saw a successor years ahead of its predecessor.

In 2013, the downhill begun and all of the above started fading out.

Eleven months ago Samsung released the S4, which practically was an S3, featuring a bigger display. In fact, I’ve ranted about the specific matter on another website I used to write for, so feel free to take a look.

And now the S5, a water and dust proof S4, with squared bezels, an enhanced rear sensor and fingerprint scanner. Oh, let’s not forget the sensor on the back that rates your heart beat, because you know, heart beat sensor is a must on a cellphone.

s3vs4s5

From left to right: Galaxy S3, Galaxy S4, Galaxy S5.

국제광고 한 눈에 보기_2

Beside the GS5, another much anticipated smartphone was surprisingly revealed as well during the conference.

Sony took the stage and announced its 2014 flagship too. Unfortunately, design resemblance between the latest gen and the previous ones is something you’ll certainly spot in this case as well. Sony continued its signature stylish glass front and glass back design that has been offering since the Z, announced back in February of 2013.

Now in the particular occasion, I’d say it is sort of obvious to see the same design language for three consecutive generations, since the company managed to launch three flagship phones of the same line up in twelve months.

But why? Evidently, the company assumes that phone releases is the same thing with software updates. You push out a new one whenever you find a flaw or the mood strikes you.

Left: Xperia Z1 Honami Right: Xperia Z

Left: Xperia Z1 Honami
Right: Xperia Z

Left: Xperia Z1 Honami Right: Xperia Z2

Left: Xperia Z1 Honami
Right: Xperia Z2

The big question here is, what new does the Z2 offer over the Z1? Practically, nothing. Don’t get me wrong, the screen upgrade to IPS thus featuring sharper viewing angles is great, but that’s it. And no, 4K video recording is not a significant integration to me.

Back to the purpose of this piece — which is to point out the design resemblance between the fresh and the stale — in three words, it is terrifying. The fact that we’ll see no major hardware enhancements, until nano technology is implemented, scares the hell out of me.

I don’t like repeating myself so bottom line; I hope the above companies prove me wrong. And sooner, rather than later.

  • Bender Bending Rodriguez

    I don’t really mind the similarities between the old and the new since these companies need to build a brand recognition. What I do mind are the hideous design choices Samsung makes. Dimpled back? Ugly. A chrome plastic trim around the device? Cheap. Obviously they’re famous for their removable batteries so a metal unibody design may not be desired but they could at least give us actual metal trim around the sides. Is it too much to ask for a 2014 flagship device to have a premium look and feel?

    Lastly, those gimmicky features. I’m so glad my phone has a heart-rate monitor…said no one. Ever

    • OrestGPap

      Well, based on an interview I’ve watched after the S4 event, a Samsung PR guy said that the company goes with polycarbonate in order to maintain the thinness of the handset.
      Huawei’s Ascend P6 is much thinner than the S5 and the S4 and it features aluminium bands and glass back. Lame excuse Samsung.

      • Bender Bending Rodriguez

        Definitely a lame excuse. What he’s really thinking is “metallic materials cost more. We want as much net profit as possible so we go with cheap plastic.”

        • OrestGPap

          Exactly. Less production expenses = more profit.

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  • Hydroninja9

    Tbh i feel like samsung cant go with this “not innovating anything” route for much longer , maybe 3 years tops till samsung starts losing its position as market android leader. I wasnt expecting the Z2 to come out and i didnt really want it to come out so early , seems like a kick in the face to us americans who only have the Z1S for tmobile on contract. Im really suprised samsung didnt even attempt to make their new FLAGSHIP phone premium , they just want high profits instead. I really hope either htc , sony , nokia , or motorola kicks their butt this year. I feel like innovation in smartphones is really stagnating , hopefully next year will be better. Really great article Orest ,i like how you not only covered MWC but also some of the past stuff that was in relation.

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