Another mobile OS bites the dust

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The smartphone OS market is incredibly competitive, made up of just 3 main players. In the UK Android is in the lead with 51.9%, iOS in second with 39.5% and Windows in third with 8.2%, leaving just 0.4% for the rest of the market.

Firefox OS by Mozilla is one of these other OS’s, however this week Mozilla announced it is now throwing in the towel after just a few years of pushing FireFox OS on Smartphones. These were aimed at the low-end without great success. The OS will live on as an open source project but will cease to support smartphones as they were not able to offer “the best user experience possible”.

Firefox OS is not the first in exiting the smartphone market with other examples in smartphone history including: Symbian, Bada, MeeGo, Palm OS and WebOS.

There are also other current OS’s making up the ‘other’ category with Blackberry, Sailfish OS, Tizen and Ubuntu Touch.

Android was the latest introduced platform that has found large success, overtaking at-the-time most popular OS Symbian, back in 2010.

So why have we not seen any companies make a significant impact in the mobile market since Google’s entry with Android?

We’re seeing both a maturation of the smartphone landscape and costs of entry skyrocketing, even with these two large factors it is possible that the ‘other’ category could increase in market share instead of diminish over the next few years as we see more informed consumers looking elsewhere amongst the mature and arguably creatively stagnant platforms.

The new flexible and affordable British Smart Phones

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Smart phones have been a phenomenal success world-wide, with many manufacturers around the world fighting for a slice of the smart devices pie.

The newest participant is British-based WileyFox with the launch of 2 new smart phones. The first is the cheaper WileyFox Swift at £129 with a 5.0” display, 13MP camera and 2GB memory. The second is the WileyFox Storm priced at £199 with a bigger 5.5” display, better 20MP camera and larger 3GB memory.    Both of these phones also support dual SIM, expandable memory, 4G LTE and are powered by the open, Cyanogen OS, which is itself built on Google’s Android.

The WileyFox phones offer good value for money for those seeking to buy their phone outright instead of facing carrier subsidies or for UK buyers looking for a dual SIM phone as they rarely make it to our shores.
Of course good value for money doesn’t equal success, with many of the established smart phone giants failing to find profitability in the field including both Sony and LG who’s Q3 fiscal reports showed declining smartphone shipments.

WileyFox could find more success in the UK compared to markets with similarly position phones such as the US where consumers are tied to pricey monthly plans and do not have the flexibility to choose any network of their choosing, due to a lack of phone signal overlap between network providers.   In the UK not only can the average consumer choose from any network of their own preference, but many are becoming more savvy with their smart phone purchases, either buying phones outright and using either pay-as-you-go SIMs or cheap SIM-only plans.  All of which plays well into Wileyfox’s new affordable and flexible dual SIM options.

Blackberry announces privacy focused Android phone

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Blackberry’s much rumoured android venture has finally become official with the announcement of the companies first Google powered smart phone called the Priv due to be released later this year.

Priv stands for privacy which has been the cornerstone of BlackBerry’s business over the last 20 years.

Both the phone and the strategy announcement of a non-BlackBerry OS phone came out from a simple press release from the company after many rumours and substantial leaks showing much of the device. The announcement also confirmed that BlackBerry is not yet cancelling development of its own BlackBerry OS but will be developing both Android and BlackBerry OS handsets in the future to give consumer the choice of which they prefer.

The dual development approach however may not be a long term strategy and it is very possible that this time next year BlackBerry, if their Android phones are more successful than their own developed counterparts, could announce plans to drop their own OS in favour of providing additional development resources into their Android security layer that will be their unique selling point going forwards.

Many have been calling doom and gloom for the Canadian company and its easy to see why with BlackBerry currently holding less than 1% of the smart phone market, however with the Priv and future business and security focused smart phones they could start to carve back a market from both corporate users and smart phone fans that still long for the days of durable, long lasting battery phones with a physical keyboard but don’t want to compromise with an unsupported OS that won’t run the many applications the modern mobile user would want to use.

BlackBerry going Android could actually provide a breath of fresh air from smartphone slabs that mostly all look and act the same today.

Microsoft gives founder of Acompli the reigns to Outlook

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In December 2014 Microsoft acquired mobile software developer Acompli for $200 million who had developed very popular and critically acclaimed email clients for iOS and Android. Shortly after the purchase Microsoft rebranded these to “Outlook” keeping the functionality and compatibility to other mail providers that critics originally praised.

The rebranded Outlook app has also seen critical success under Microsoft and Microsoft own Windows 10 mobile app currently in development shows signs of its inspiration.

Microsoft announced this week that Javier Soltero the founder of Acompli has been officially but in charge of Outlook on all platforms, including the web, smart phone, tablets and most importantly PCs.

Before Microsoft purchase Acompli Javier was used to a team of less than 75 so being put in charge of one of Microsoft most used applications must be a daunting task.

With the great critical praise and innovative design shown thus far, Javier lead versions of Outlook in the future is definitely one to watch. We are likely to see mobile only features such as the focused inbox make the jump to desktops and we are likely to see new innovations that only make sense with the larger screen real estate on the PC.

As interesting as this is for the future of Outlook, it is as interesting for Microsoft itself, Microsoft is showing they recognise great, unique talent, even if from outside the company until recently and letting them lead large and established products that may otherwise face complacency. Of course with any leadership shift this does introduce new risks but taking the opportunity to crucial to grow in a hugely competitive field.

BlackBerry’s Good acquisition

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It’s no secret that Canadian based Telecoms Company BlackBerry has been struggling over the last five  years to sell its own smart phones against fierce competition from Google and Apple.

During this time the company has turned its primary focus on its enterprise mobile security plans, opening up its proprietary BES (BlackBerry Enterprise Server) to additionally support competing platforms such as Android and iPhone.

On the 4th September 2015, BlackBerry surprised many by announcing its largest acquisition in the company’s 31 year history by purchasing MDM (Mobile Device Management) company Good Technology for $425 million.

Most news out of BlackBerry of recent years has been on the negative side, mass job cuts and a huge decrease in marketshare, which has seen Blackberry trimming down to form a smaller, leaner company.  So few would have predicted it was preparing itself for a large acquisition to re-position itself in the highly competitive mobile security sector.

Over half of the Fortune 100 are using Good Technology to secure mobile devices so the purchase is a great fit, BlackBerry bolsters its security capabilities as well as opening doors to many high profile business opportunities to sell both hardware and services.

In relation to BlackBerry’s ongoing hardware, Good Technology could also prove very useful in both the ongoing development of their own BlackBerry OS and the much rumoured Android-powered smart devices. Good Technology could provide a similar security layer similar to Samsung does with Knox on future devices.

In conclusion, the future for BlackBerry is now a lot more interesting than it was hitherto.  The company, despite shrinking marketshare is not afraid to take big risks to shake things up – and the one they have chosen here makes a lot of sense. With a big bet like this, it will truly be feast or famine for BlackBerry as they try and conquer enterprise mobile security.

3D scanning is coming to a smartphone near you

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3D scanning, used to make models which could be manipulated on a PC or printed on a 3D printer, requiring sophisticated depth-sensing cameras.  These 3D cameras can be both very expensive and much larger than a regular camera sensor, both traditionally being barriers to bringing the technology to mobile in a more mainstream way.

Microsoft, no stranger to 3D camera technology, has developed multiple commercial versions of its Xbox Kinect 3D motion camera and has shown off several prototypes on miniaturized, mobile versions of 3D cameras. They have now announced a new, software driven approach to bringing 3D scanning to the mass market called “MobileFusion”.

MobileFusion doesn’t rely on any special 3D hardware but is entirely driven by an app being developed for iOS, Android and Windows Phone. The main focus for the app is to create digital versions of real life objects that can be then printed on a 3D printer.

The trick to using a single camera to capture depth is that it needs to be slowly moved around the object, so it does take longer to capture, however the cost and availability bonuses of the app should make this an exciting addition to the phone’s feature set.

The reason why this is a major step forward is that currently 3D scanners are very limited and conversely, most people own a smartphone.  This remarkable technology will let anyone capture digital copies of real world objects be it at a museum, outside, in home or in the office.

With many more 3D objects available and the power to create them at ease, 3D printing may get its shot at mainstream success beyond the current niches that have adopted the technology so far.

As smartphones continue to grow, which is right for your business?

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It’s no secret that smartphones are getting bigger and bigger. Apple was last to the party with the 5.5” screen ‘iPhone 6 Plus’ last September, but extra-large sized phones have been available for both Android and Windows phones beforehand.   There has been a substantial increase in consumption patterns for this size of phone.  Extra-large phones now make up 20% of the market in 2015 up from just 6% at the beginning of 2014.  This number is likely to increase even further as more phone manufactures decide to make these ‘larger than life’ phones their flagship devices, instead of being an interesting niche side offering.

With both consumers and business users doing even more with the content of their larger smart phones, the need for small to medium sized tablets has also decreased. Why carry around a 7” tablet when you have a 5.5” phone in your pocket?  As applications, services and support becomes even more universal across the competing mobile platforms, almost any modern smart phone could be used for business, so with all the competing platforms and devices – which makes most sense for your business?

The primary consideration for business will be to strike a good balance of cost, functionality and administration effort required.

• Price is the most obvious point here and multiplying this by the size of your workforce is critical. What could seem a reasonable price difference between handsets at face value will balloon in size if it is to become the new company standard when you do your rollout.
• Functionality between different devices used to vary far more greatly than it does today but is still a very important consideration.  How great does the camera quality need to be?  Will wireless charging be utilised?  How big is ‘big enough’ for the screen to view ever increasing content application to help workflow on the move?  And the perpetual question of how long will the battery last in ‘real world’ use time?
• Administration effort may not come up in conversation much on picking the perfect phone but is potentially the biggest pain area if not considered thoroughly. Some Smartphones are very much consumer focused and can be used as great business phones – but only after deleting bloat apps, changing settings, disabling features, downloading essential tools and compliance procedures.  Many of these tasks can be assisted with MDM but even with an MDM layer, some phones are simply quicker and thus more preferable to select and setup than others.

If your office runs Microsoft software then the overlooked Windows Phones could be perfect for you. The system is quick and battery efficient and comes with Microsoft Office pre-installed, which saves time downloading the de facto tool every time you roll out a new device. They are also very price competitive:   for example the new 5” Lumia 640 can picked up £129 which makes it cheaper than the 5” Motorola G at £149 and a staggering difference to the 4.7” iPhone 6 starting at £539 unlocked.

There’s no perfect phone for all businesses, so your choice will be tailored to your own business needs, the support lifespan from the manufacturers and new technical innovations that could help improve your worker’s business performance.

What makes you decide which phone your business has chosen this year or is planning to purchase this year?   Let us know which you think is right for your business and what the deciding factor was?
Kind regards and thanks