Categories
Technology

Smartphone wars: Splitsville with iOS in 2020 💔

Smartphone wars are tough. I am not even going to attempt to sway you one way or the other. It gets emotional, worse it even gets political! Let me tell you, how I switched a few weeks ago to a high-end Android Smartphone as my daily driver. Especially rare given I have never used an Android smartphone since 2010. I will also tell you more about what I am loving, and what I miss


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User Experience on the new flagship Android smartphones is miles ahead of iOS, yes even iOS 14

Android for the most part has nailed “micro-interactions”.

When someone sends you a message on WhatsApp that is merely informative, the system automatically picks up the context and gives you a pre-cooked auto-reply right within the notification pop-up – just tap “Okay” and done! That is not all, Android has better contextual menus that make it easier to do stuff then and there. Quick share buttons for examples are available everywhere, just hit on the URL in chrome, and there is a copy / share URL icon waiting for you.  Widgets have been around in Android for ages, sorry iOS 14!

I love the Android Lock Screen Experience

smartphone with a google assistant screensaver
Clean, personalised, informative

The idle display for instance, displays precise elapsed time remaining for the battery to charge. Nice little icons appear about notifications you have received, for instance you may not worry about Amazon delivery notifications, you may however want to check when someone sends you a message via LinkedIn. This helps me de-clutter my attention. To add cherry on  top, Google Assistant on locked screen gives me full access to a suite of features with options to customize – it is miles ahead of Siri at speed as well as range of things it can do. It is also more easily compatible with my Smart Home technology. I also love an AI driven screensaver option, you can ask the assistant to show you pictures of people you decide from Google Photos.

A few hardware features truly set flagship Android smartphones apart from Apple, but

Once you get used to Fast Charge, you will not go back

I am completely addicted to fast charge on my Android smartphone. 40-45 minutes of charge and the device is back to 100%  I really don’t feel the need to carry around a power brick. Wireless charging is really fast as well. There is also reverse charging option I use to charge my AirPod Pro’s.

smartphone as fast as a racing car
Fast charge… Can you hear the engine roaring? Love speed, don’t you?

Much much better display that supports customization

The PPI on my smartphone screen is higher than that of Apple’s latest iPhone, the blacks are deep, the colours are just phenomenal and the gamut is very wide as well. Moreover, if I want to conserve my battery, I can switch to a lower resolution or a lower refresh rate. 90 Hz or Above display rate, is simply phenomenal – you just have to experience the butter smooth animations, and games. 

Physical Switches & Connectors

I love having the option to flick a physical switch and go from silent mode, to vibrate to ringer mode on my android smartphone. In case of Apple I mostly always set it on Vibrate, but it did disturb my sleep time to time unless I switched on do not disturb. Also its nice to finally move to USB C, cheap, now near ubiquitous, and probably more durable, I am glad not having to worry about a lightening connector.

Little things matter, and my high-end Android smartphone has plenty of these that make me smile

Better Do Not Disturb and Well-being settings

Do not disturb in Android for example, has a wonderful option where you can grey-scale the screen, schedule it. I can alter pattern of notifications. All of these features I find very useful.

Better network management & smart acceleration

My phone has the option to use both Wi-Fi and Cellular when one of the connections is poor, it can also use both simultaneously to provide for blistering fast speeds by combining 5G and Wi-Fi. This is awesome to have. I find Wi-Fi connection switching is faster, more seamless, and also I like the option of connecting to a private DNS server/

Built-in Hands Free Alexa

Smartphone pulldown menu

This is truly awesome – when charging in the night by the bedside table, we have a fully functional Alexa with a smart display. This is particularly useful as I have automation that controls AC temperature, and all the lights and scenes through Alexa. I also have Smart Speakers connected via Alexa, so it becomes a fully functional smart device wherever I am.

I love under the glass fingerprint scanner

smartphone touch ID embedded in screen
Source (Android Authority)

This feel futuristic, it is zippy and fast and I don’t have to hold the device to my face if I am in a meeting or video conference. Perhaps not quite laser secure but the phone has reasonably good Face ID as well.

iPhone camera is still the best smartphone camera out there

This is probably down to clever algorithms and better processors overall (Apple is miles ahead in that department). However I found inconsistent camera experience on my high end Android device. The selfie camera is average, it over processes images. The main driver sensor is high resolution, has amazing colour accuracy and HDR capability but somehow I don’t like how it focuses. Low light photography is better than iPhone though. Video is not great on this Android device, but honestly I don’t use the phone for videos at all.

smartphone photo taken in nightscape mode
Night photography is absolutely stunning but as a general shooter, iPhone is much more versatile and capable.

Having said that, I do like the software control I have over the camera.  Especially the ability to manually control shutter speed, white balance, and to use the camera along with a tripod and take long exposure shots is good to have, although I am not sure how much I will use it.

The good news is that iPhone and Android are borrowing each other’s features

Ultimately, you know what, it doesn’t matter. At least not to everyone. iPhone users love it for the simplicity, beautiful hardware, amazing cameras and rock stable hardware / software combo. This is not likely to change and I don’t think Android will ever come close to that level of perfection. Android users just love all the variety, the flexibility, the customization. Android and iOS both are maturing as platforms, and therefore it is heartening to see the innovation is fast followed by both. Examples are ripe. See iOS for instance, it has widgets that have been common on Android for a very long time.  Notifications are looking more and more alike, App groupings. App slices are also looking more like each other than unique features.


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I love both iOS & Android and I am likely to use both but so far I just love Android as my daily-driver…

Call me a power-user but above mentioned reasons are enough for me to give Android a serious shot. Definitely for the next few months. I did find myself scrambling to download the iOS 14 beta though. However, my reviews are likely to be biased from a dated iPhone 7 plus smartphone.

More power to smartphones! its been 13 years since first iPhone and then Android followed, but it feels like we are just getting started.

Future is bright!

Oh and by the way, could you guess what high-end Android phone I am talking about?

Categories
Opinions Technology

Smartphone is now officially boring. Wait, that can be a good thing!!

The rumour is true. When was the last time you got really excited watching a smartphone launch? I bet it was a long time ago. Even the once highly sought after leaks are all too lacklustre these days. I love to be on Twitter during a major launch event and watch some really funny mock-tweets. It has got to a point where people don’t even know the difference. They just love Apple and buy! see one of the Jimmy Kimmel creations below!

In all seriousness though, we all know that smartphones have transformed the world. Growth in smartphone base, number of apps, and the amount time people spend on the apps is just staggering. This is true despite seeming lack of innovation. I highly recommend reading this blog post. It highlights that Apple & Google are now unassailable until the next S curve is here. AR, VR, AI, voice and chatbot may all turn out to be a thing, but that may not affect the S Curve of the Smartphone. In fact, as the unit growth in smartphone continues, Apple and Google will focus more on improving software, experience and the ecosystem.

The massively increased share of revenue via app stores, is certainly a leading indicator of this shift. The reason I say the slow innovation is a good thing is because I believe it is an opportunity for Enterprises. They can focus now more than ever to catch-up on the incredibly challenging task of gaining, keeping and transacting with customers on Mobile. In fact, I strongly believe that many enterprises need to re-think their very perspectives on this.

We need to stop thinking of Mobile as “an interface” and think of it as “the interface” and invest sufficiently, where it matters

Imagine, a fictitious sandwich company that wants to leverage mobile. Sounds like a great idea. You can build an app to enable ordering, delivery, streamline payments, click-to-buy and a host of other things. Alright, assume you have a great app and a fantastic user experience but think about it for a second. How many of us will care to download the Sandwich company app, and even if we did, how many will use it or keep it without deleting? With almost zero footprint of user’s attention, it is incredibly hard.  Even more so for a sandwich company! Business, technology and operational complexity even in a sandwich business is significant, and it would be foolish to suggest that there is one strategy.

However I believe, as enterprises strive to leverage mobile they need to consider the following 3 key dimensions. Attention, interaction and transaction. If we consider economics of an app based commerce, we can assume for most businesses it means lower costs, increased margins and potentially great 1-1 customer experience. This is very foundation of e-commerce, so nothing new here; but apart from having a great product, I believe we need to incentivise customers along these dimensions.

Attention

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Unless you are Snapchat and you can make a rainbow jump out of people’s mouth, there needs to be a compelling incentive for customers to even notice your app. Some offers are simply not good enough – for instance “a chance to win X” or “a chance to win trip to Y”. We can do better! something tangible, of real benefit to the customer.
Best fulfilled in context and instantly. For the sandwich company for example – 40% off your first purchase, or £5 credit on first usage. Nothing new here, most mobile native start-ups do this, so I wouldn’t dwell on it too much.

Interaction

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How many times a day do you expect people to open the sandwich app? In order to continue to occupy people’s mind-space, we need to incentivise the customer regularly for visiting the app. I understand that this is easier said than done. Obviously some app categories don’t need this kind of interaction incentive. For instance, great content e.g. Netflix, ultimate productivity e.g. Dropbox, Social e.g. Instagram, to name a few.  So, interaction incentive is when you give something to the user for coming back to the app. Some games do this really well – every time you stop playing but come back to the game after some time, you get free virtual coins. Depending on the nature of business you can decide the frequency of your incentive. For instance, the sandwich company could do one of their best deals exclusively for app users every 2 weeks.

Obviously all needs to make commercial sense – generally though customer retention cost is less than acquisition cost and there can always be limited number of deals. Oh and there is word-of-mouth! invite a friend and both get credit. Remember Uber? Virulence is an important feature that needs to be built in to the app. It is expensive though! You could build social invites too. We all hate random invitations on Facebook, something to keep in mind!

Transaction

FreeCharge-Mobile-App

This is the holy grail. Assume that customer downloads the app, interacts with it regularly to redeem your generous incentives. How do you ensure they transact? Well firstly, the sandwich better be good, the ordering, payment, click-to-collect all needs to “just work”. That often is not enough, we still need to incentivise. You might think we’d be out of business after giving so much away in offers. However, with added volume of transactions, you will realise that it almost always makes commercial sense. Otherwise Starbucks wouldn’t do it – collecting stars on the app whilst having the ability to cut the queue is simply fantastic. So, how about an app exclusive loyalty program for our sandwich company? There can be a mix of options – coupons, points, virtual currency, or simply cashback.

It is needless to say that apart from offering direct incentives, your app can just create magic through experience that cuts the time and effort it takes for customers to transact or reduces anxiety associated with the transaction. Invisible payments (Uber), cutting the queue (Starbucks), live waiting times (Citymapper), real time tracking (Dominos) are all fantastic examples.

To sum up, I believe that whilst its not necessary to pester the users with deals & offers enterprises must make explicit effort to address the attention, interaction and transaction barriers when they think about their adoption and engagement strategy. While we hit the maturity curve of smartphone product lifecycle, it is now more important than ever for enterprises to catch-up.

A small disclaimer – I realise any generalising is dangerous & this may or may not apply for everyone. Thanks a lot for reading, and I look forward to hearing your thoughts in the comments section.