The Samsung Galaxy S4

This coming Saturday, Samsung’s latest smartphone, the Galaxy S4, goes on sale.

Smartphone Battles

2009-2012 smartphone market by provider

Global smartphone market share by provider.

Like with most mass market technology, there is a war going on in the smartphone industry. In 2012, according to market analyst firm ICD, Samsung controlled 30.3% of the global smartphone market, 59.5% up on the 19% of the market it controlled the year before.

There is no doubt that Samsung is currently the dominant force in the smartphone market. The firm seems to slowly be winning its battle with Apple, and looks set to take on Google next, with rumours that it soon plans to ditch Google’s Android operating system altogether.

Nokia are predicted to make a comeback (how successful I am unsure) thanks to Windows RT, and makers of BlackBerry, RIM, are also looking stronger in 2013 after the release of BlackBerry 10 earlier this year.

Galaxy S4

Samsung are trying to steal even more of the market from its competitors with the Galaxy S4, so it has pulled out a few stops, maybe not all the stops, but quite a few, to make sure that the phone is a success.

So, the phone has loads of new features, to make it slightly better than its predecessor – the S3.

The S4 has a slightly bigger (5mm to be exact) screen, boasting a whole 5 inches of full HD display, which no doubt gives it amazing clarity. The new phone is also slightly thinner than the S3.

You can buy a Galaxy S4 in black and white, or as Samsung like to call them: black mist and white frost. I have never looked at a phone before (smart or not) and thought “that looks like frost” or mist, but maybe the S4 really does; or maybe it’s just marketing.

Touch and use even with gloves - Samsung Galaxy S4Samsung claim the latest edition of its Galaxy is usable even with gloves on, hopefully reducing the cases of zombie fingers – Jonny, you might be able to use it! 😉

The phone has various other new features, such as Samsung WatchON, which connects your phone to your TV, turning your phone into a remote control.

Another new feature is the multi-speaker capability – if you have more than one handy, you can sync them together to create a better quality of sound.

The S4 will also come with built in 4G compatibility, which the original S3 didn’t. If a fast internet connection is important to you when you are on the go, then the S4 is probably a better choice than the S3.

Eye-Tracking

Probably the most exciting new feature of the Galaxy S4 is the new eye-tracking technology. The phone uses its front camera to monitor the users eye movements, and uses can use this function for a host of different activities.

One of the features which uses the eye-tracking technology is video playback. If you are watching something, and then look away, the device automatically pauses the media for you. Furthermore, eye-tracking technology can be used to scroll up and down a page, without the need to even touch the screen.

Photos

There are two interesting developments in the photographic area of the phone, the first is that you can now add audio snippets to pictures, to enable you to catch even more of the moment. You can also merge video with picture, creating partially animated pictures – sort of like the photographs in the Harry Potter films.

The S4 can also use (and display) the front and rear camera simultaneously, which shows that its quad-core ARM processor is pretty quick!

Your Thoughts

So what are your thoughts on the S4? If you are getting one, do let us know!

Do you think that Samsung have done enough to fend off the competition from its closest rivals?

Personally I think the S4 looks like it is set to become the best smartphone on the market when it goes live at the end of the week.

Stop using Internet Explorer

This post was going to be entitled “Why you should stop using Internet Explorer” however I didn’t think that was a strong enough title, so I changed it to the direct instruction you see above this text: Stop using Internet Explorer.

You have a choice. You can use Google, Bing, Yahoo! or Ask. You can buy Windows, Mac OS, Chrome OS or Ubuntu. You can go with Apple, Samsung, Sony or RIM.

Although Google dominate the search market, there are still many other search engines out there. Microsoft dominate the computer market, but you can still choose from a [reasonable] selection of other, popular operating systems. You could argue that Samsung now dominate the global smartphone market, but there are still many other companies you can go to to get a smartphone.

You also have a choice as to what browser you use. The internet is arguably now the main function for any computer, so surely you should devote some time then to choosing which browser is right for you?

If you have tried more than three different browsers before, for a considerable length of time and have after weighing up all the pros and cons of each, have chosen your favourite, well done you. If you haven’t, read on.

If you are using Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE), stop. Okay, well you can finish reading the article, but then stop using it. A simple instruction, which could do wonders for your internet experience.

Reasons To Not Use IE

There are many reasons not to use IE. Here is a list of what I think are the strongest arguments against the heavy, slow and outdated browser.

Lack of Security

IE seems to constantly be in the news for its security issues. Much of the malware out there on the internet is only made possible by bugs and holes in Internet Explorer! Need proof? Check out this section of IE’s Wikipedia page.

Speed!

In recent years Microsoft have been really working on making Internet Explorer faster, and IE 9 is much faster than IE 6 or 7 were; granted. That said, it is still much slower than the competition. For example, loading Technology Bloggers from cold (hard refresh) in Firefox, Chrome and Safari took 3 seconds, Opera took 4, while Internet Explorer took 7 seconds.

Lack of Features

Without a doubt, for features, add-ons and extensions, Firefox and Chrome are miles out in front. Safari and Opera also have a reasonable number of things you can add to your browser to customise/improve it, but Internet Explorer has only really started to embrace such features since IE 8. Apart from toolbars, Flash, Adobe Reader etc. IE 6 didn’t really do add-ons.

Inconsistency

Social buttons badly rendered by IE

How IE rendered the same code (our social buttons) on three separate page loads – neither is correct.

Take a look at the three images to the right.

Each of the images is a different variation of the social buttons on our sidebar that IE rendered. The screen size remained the same, and the loads were seconds apart.

IE managed to render three completely different versions of the same code. How does that work?

In the first image it didn’t even attempt to load the social buttons before declaring it was finished. It took a better shot in the second image, whilst in the third image it didn’t bother loading Twitter and threw Google+ to the bottom. Why?

Upon loading the blog in Firefox, Chrome, Safari and Opera, I saw the exact same result. Each browser displayed them as they are meant to be displayed, every time – Internet Expolorer didn’t.

Lack of Compatibility with Modern Code

Code is advancing all the time, and a good browser will keep up to date with changes, and make sure it is able to interpret and display modern CSS, HTML, PHP etc.

When the blog snows at Christmas, IE doesn’t show that, IE also doesn’t like the ‘modern’ code which makes our search box work, or the code we use to add shadows to text.

Lack of Compatibility with Older Operating Systems

IE 9 doesn’t work with Windows XP, or any Mac OS or Linux system. Only Vista, 7 and 8 support IE 9. IE 10 only works with Windows 7 and Windows 8. According to StatCounter, in the last 6 months, 26.55% of all computer users used XP, whilst 7.13% used Vista and 7.46% use MacOSX – that’s 41.14% of the market that Microsoft are isolating straight away, and Windows 7 and 8 don’t even own all of the 58.86% share of the market that is left!

Advertising Campaign

Microsoft have recently undergone a quite extensive advertising campaign for IE, to try and shake off its bad reputation. They state how ‘lightning fast’ it is compared to how it used to be, which I can’t dispute. What they don’t however say is how it compares to Chrome or Opera. They also try to reassure users that it is now secure, although that is still debatable!

Which Browser to Use?

There are loads of web browsers out there, check out this handy Wikipedia comparison table to see.

Below is a map showing in 2013 so far, which internet browser is the most commonly used by country.

Top browser by country - 2013

Browser popularity by country. The colour of the country is the colour of the most used browser – see legend.

Personally I would advise using either Chrome or Firefox. If you have a relatively standard, or slow PC, then Chrome is probably best for you. It is light, simple and fast.

I still think that Firefox had more functionality than Chrome, and it is my personal favourite. If your PC is usually pretty quick and of a reasonable spec, then I would recommend Firefox.

Chrome is owned by Google – a multinational corporate giant – whilst Firefox is non-profit and open source.

What is the future for RIM?

The BlackBerry 7 smartphoneBlackBerry phones are thought to be among the safest in the world. Almost all politicians use them. But nevertheless, RIM has reported a very big drop in sales and revenues (about 40%) in comparison with the previous year, and this tendency has been observed for several years already. Besides, the release of new Blackberry 10 has been delayed up to the beginning of 2013, the sales of Blackberry 7 isn’t at the levels wanted, the company has to cut up to five thousand job places. The chain of total misfortunes has followed RIM for the past time. So, many specialists say that Blackberry is dying. Is it so? What can RIM do to improve its prospects?

Today RIM has several possible solutions, but all of them require total change in company’s work and specialization. And here they are:

  1. Licensing RIM software to other companies. One of the possible ways for RIM to get out of the crisis is to let other companies to use its Blackberry operation system. It may lead to the increase of the popularity of the OS (just like it was with Android) when people will get a chance to choose among different hardware solutions.
  2. Sale or license of the patents. It may be a good variant to let other corporations to use the patents, but it won’t make any contribution to innovative development of RIM what can lead to the further drop of the positions. It may happen just because money isn’t the most important thing in mobile development today; it is more for innovations in this sphere. Who is smarter gets more profit.
  3. Focus on hardware development. It is quite opposite solution to the first one mentioned. As a variant RIM can start developing good hardware with installing some other operating systems, like Android or Windows Mobile (the latter would be more reasonable as the number of manufacturers that develop phones for Windows Mobile isn’t very big now and the niche isn’t taken yet).
  4. Selling of RIM. Of course, it is the worst variant of all, but if there are no changes in the situation, the owners will have to do it. However, it would mean the end of Blackberry as a trend.

No matter what decision is taken, the era of great changes for everyone who is somehow connected to RIM is coming. Let’s hope that these changes will be for good and we will see Blackberry phones in top 5 of best-selling phones in the world accompanied by iOS, Android and Windows Mobile phones.

Will the updates ever stop?

I love the technology industry. It is a really great area to write about, as it is constantly changing. Every day, new technologies and methods are developed and released and there is always something interesting to research.

One thing that I do wonder about though, is the consumers constant need for updates.

The iPhone 5

The iPhone 5

Take the iPhone for example. You can now walk around with a smartphone sat-nav and a global dictionary in your pocket thanks to Apple’s incredible device. There is no doubt that the iPhone is an example of how technology is constantly evolving and changing.

Since mid 2007 when the iPhone was released, there have been five different variations/upgrades of the device released. Six versions of ultimately the same device in the same number of years.

Fair enough, each time their has been a technological upgrade, however can that really be justified?

Technology is a constantly moving and evolving however I am sceptical that consumers always get the best update.

Apple want to sell phones right, so every year (there or thereabouts) they release a new iPhone. Samsung do the same, as do RIM (owner of Blackberry) and most other smartphone manufacturers.

What I am not sure about is that every year there is a significant enough technological upgrade to warrant the release a new device. So how do Apple do it then? How do they roll out a new phone with ‘cutting edge’ new features every year?

It is my belief that some of the technology in the iPhone 5 has been around for a good few number of years now, however Apple have just been holding back on releasing it, so that they can produce more future editions of the phone.

Also, many of the changes are superficial. For example, the screen gets a little bigger, the camera gets an extra few mega-pixels, the storage options increase. All of these updates could have existed in the original iPhone, however it would have meant that there were fewer tweaks Apple could make to the phone in the future. Why not design a good phone now and not release another until there is enough new technology to justify it?

Within three days of the release of the iPhone 5, people around the world had bought over 5 million. Apple shares rose sharply, and the brand received a big boost. It was a great move by Apple, however are they not cheating the consumer?

In around a year I expect Apple will release another iPhone, and most of the technology and developments that it will contain are probably already in existence and ready to use, however Apple will have decided not to put them in the latest iPhone, so that they have something to put in the next release.

Would it not be better if Apple released an iPhone every three years? That way each phone could be a massive technological leap from the last, rather than just a slight upgrade.

I think it would be better, the consumer would get the best technology available at the time, and wouldn’t have to worry about the device being outdated in a few months. But Apple would probably not see as many sales, over the three years, by releasing just one rather than three phones.

What are your thoughts, are the big firms cheating us? Do we really need as many updates as often as we get them, or would bigger less frequent upgrades be better?