Friday, March 15, 2013

What is a Cellphone?

Samsung unveiled its newest version of the Galaxy cellphone at an event in New York City at Radio City Music Hall last night.  They clearly wanted to emulate the kind of glitz for an Apple rollout.   While they made their device thinner and three grams lighter, it has a larger screen.  They also added some features like smart gesture which if you are watching a movie on the phone, for instance, and your eyes move away, the movie will pause.   They also made one of the cameras similar to a very good point and shoot model with 13 megapixels.   The new phone has an IR sensor so it could also double as a TV remote.

PC Magazine did a comparison chart of features which is pretty helpful.  Fundamentally, most of the technology changes are things that are likely to be in the next version of the iPhone.   I am not sure I care about whether a phone has an Amoled or Retina display (both are clear) or whether the internal chip is one kind or another (I simply want the phone to do what I use a phone for most - calling people and doing light web surfing and email.)   When I want to do serious web surfing or email or for that matter even watching movies, I move to either my laptop or tablet.    As I think I commented when Apple added the reader to the phone - that is not a feature I am likely to use anytime soon.   It is also likely that when the next Apple phone comes out, it will have all the technical features that the Galaxy has or some variation.

One knock on the iPhone when the 5 came out was the lack of an NFC chip (which the Samsung has) - those chips allow certain transactions to take place using the phone.   I have found Apple's smart wallet to do all that an NFC chip would do without the risk of hacking that some users of NFC devices have complained about.

Forbes did a review that focused on some new features that allow the phone to be a health monitor.  The reviewer basically said interesting but so what.   I tend to agree.   It also concluded that "in a year’s time we’ll be looking at standardized smartphones differentiated by the culture of the manufacturer and the services they provide, as much as we care about the slab and how it performs."

Samsung commented,according to the WSJ, that they were driven by four factors -"The phone had to be fun, encourage closer relationships, offer convenience and help improve health and wellness." The WSJ quick look at the new phone argued that several of the features were not ready for prime time. Perhaps that is why this introduction did not offer a firm release date.

The PC review offered one knock on the new phone - that even though the pixel density of the display was denser than the iPhone it could be a bit fuzzy.   But I suspect that for those phone users who game or watch videos a lot that small difference will mean nothing.

The real question here is personal preference.  When the S2 and S3 came out Samsung made a determined pitch to get iPhone users to switch.  I went to a Samsung display in the mall and found the phone to be a bit clumsy - that will be even more true in this new model.   We'll see what Apple comes out with when they announce their new model.   But for now the real beneficiary is the consumer.

No comments: