Taking a look back at seven days of news across the Android world, this week’s Android Circuit includes Samsung’s falling profits and revenue, news on the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 launch dates, Sony Xperia’s smartphone future, the next developer preview of Android M, details on the Chinese court case against Samsung and Oppo over bloatware, Cyanogen’s ongoing plans to conquer Android, the Material Design framework for web developers, Instagram’s latest update increases picture quality, and Disney’s new Star Wars app.
Samsung Galaxy S6 vs Galaxy S6 Edge (image: Ewan Spence)
Samsung says it probably miss forecasts for the second quarter, with operating profit from April to June likely to slide 4% on an annual basis to 6.9 trillion won ($6.13 billion). Analysts had forecast earnings at 7.2 trillion won ($6.35 billion).
That will mark the second-consecutive quarterly profit decline for Samsung on an annual basis, at a time when the company is struggling to revitalize its product portfolio while Apple takes a bigger bite of the market on the high end and low-cost players like Xiaomi and India’s Micromax sell more phones on the lower end.
Samsung finds itself in a similar position to 2014, with an underwhelming and under-performing flagship. It has a mobile division that is dragging the rest of the company down with its poor performance. While I will happily give credit to the team who designed the curved screen technology seen in the S6 Edge, the lack of follow-through has weakened the final product.
Samsung needed to break out of the cycle it found itself in after the success of the Galaxy S3 and Galaxy S4. Last year it carried on, and the Galaxy S5 saw profits and revenue crash. The design changes from the S5 to the S6 are welcome, but they reduce the functionality of the product. Leading with two flagship handsets has unsettled the market. And continuing the policy of creating multiple variants of the flagship to release in the months that follow (some with better thought out features and higher specifications) is a tired strategy that has proven to be less effective each year it has been used.
Galaxy Note 5 Brought Forward
Last month, Samsung said that the Galaxy Note 5 handset and the Samsung Pay technology would be launching at Berlin’s IFA event in September – the traditional launch period for Samsung’s phablet handset. That might be set to change, reports Jonathan Cheng for the Wall Street Journal.
In a break with recent tradition, Samsung Electronics Co. will move up the autumn launch of its oversize smartphone lineup by several weeks to mid-August, according to a person familiar with the matter.
The South Korean company’s move is part of a bid to give its Galaxy Note smartphone-tablet hybrids some breathing room before mid-September, when Apple Inc. typically unveils its refreshed iPhone—a product whose popularity has the potential to monopolize media and consumer attention for weeks.
Samsung pulled the same trick last year with the early release of the Galaxy Alpha, debuting that handset on August 13 to get the jump on the iPhone 6. The Note 5 is going to draw direct comparisons with the iPhone 6S Plus so this will give it more coverage online
. With Samsung needing as much positive publicity as possible to promote the device, this is a smart short-term move.
Galaxy S6 (left) versus iPhone 6 (right)
Flowers blowing in the wind
The F1.9 lens in the Galaxy S6 captures moving images far better than the iPhone 6
Build quality on both phones is top class
Galaxy S6 (left) also picks out more detail in shadow.
I feel the Galaxy S6 (left) is the better phone, but the iPhone 6S will be step up the challenge.
Both phones (Galaxy S6 bottom) have loud speakers, but they lack bass.
Galaxy S6 (right) switches to a glass back, but aluminium like the iPhone 6 may have been wiser.
Sony’s Smartphone Dream Not Over
The head of Sony’s mobile division Hiroki Totoki has emphasised Sony’s commitment to its mobile division with a clear quote given to Arabian Business
…we will never ever sell or exit from the current mobile business.
This stands in contrast to evidence that Sony would be more than happy to see the smartphone division be purchased by another company, or even shuttered by Sony itself:
Android M’s Nutty Name
With the second developer preview of Google’s Android M now available, one of the biggest questions might have an answer… what does the M stand for? Writing in The Telegraph
, Sophie Curtis spots the internal reference for the moniker:
The OS is reportedly being referred to internally as Macadamia Nut Cookie, but Google may opt for something more catchy for the public release. Our bet is on Milky Way.
As well as the branding, Curtis runs through the major changes in the code, including the addition of Google Pay, Mountain View’s rival to Apple Pay:
Once you have registered your cards, you can simply unlock your phone and place it near a merchant’s contactless terminal to make a payment. Loyalty cards can also be used in this way.
Android M has native fingerprint support, so Android Pay can also confirm a purchase with their fingerprint. Fingerprint on M can also be used to unlock devices and make purchases on Google Play.
Google’s employee Alex Gawley speaks about his company’s new app ‘Inbox by Gmail’ during a media preview of Google’s newest products in New York on October 29, 2014. (JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
The Shanghai Consumer Rights Protection Commission has filed a legal complaint against Oppo and Samsung on the issue of bloatware (reports 9to5Google’s Cam Bunton
). It asks for consumers to have more control over pre-installed applications on their smartphones, from providing more information about the bundled applications to the ability to delete unwanted apps. The case notes the 44 pre-installed apps on the Galaxy Note 3, and 71 apps on the Oppo Find 7. Speaking to the Shanghai Daily
, the Commission’s secretary-general, Tao Ailian, laid out why it was bringing the action:
…it filed the public interest lawsuits after investigating complaints from the public about unwanted apps. In a study of 20 smartphones, the commission found several that were sold with apps already installed, many of which could not be removed. It also claimed that some phones “stole” cellular data.
“We hope it will force other companies in the sector to end the unreasonable, but common, practice of pre-installing apps without telling consumers. This is something that is very much necessary for the healthy development of the whole industry,” he said.
In the legal action, the commission is seeking a ruling that would make Samsung and Oppo legally obliged to make clear on the packaging of their smartphones what apps have been installed and also to provide instructions on how they can be removed.
With Android manufacturers facing ever decreasing margins on hardware, deals to pre-load software can provide an attractive additional revenue without raising the price of handset. Any restrictions on bloatware, such as those being sought in the above case, would certainly have a financial impact on manufacturers.
Cyanogen Still Gunning For Google
But when asked about how much progress Cyanogen has made in recent months, McMaster was more evasive. “We’re having great success in continuing to grow the number of OEMs and [network operators],” he said. Which ones? McMaster said that the company had launched a device in Indonesia with Smartfren, a local telecom that is also a Cyanogen investors. Others, he said, will be announced in the coming months.
“By mid-2016, you will see Cyanogen in every market in a meaningful way,” McMaster said. That’s not including China, he clarified.
The story of Cyanogen is far from over, even if it has a huge number of turns in the road ahead of it. Naturally we’ll bring you any ongoing developments here in the Forbes Tech channel
as they happen.
The Cyanogen Offices