Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Strengths and weaknesses of Android OEMs

Image: Evolllution
One of the best things about the Android ecosystem is that as consumers, we have plenty of choice. We have a variety of manufacturers to choose from, as opposed to iOS where you only have the iPhone, or WP8 where the only good option is Nokia's Lumia devices. Or even BB10 where you only have phones from BlackBerry to choose from. With Android, there is pretty much a phone for every type of person. Each OEM that makes Android devices is good at something different, which is why we have different devices made suitably for different types of people. They each have their own strengths, and of course weaknesses. That is what this post will be about - highlighting what I think is each Android OEMs strengths, and weaknesses.

HTC

Strength - Hardware
Even before the HTC One, I never really heard any major complaints about the build quality of HTC devices. In fact, the reason why I personally chose the One X over the SIII to be my first ever Android device (coming from the iPhone 4) was because of the build quality of the One X. The HTC One was lauded by critics and consumers alike for the amazing build quality, and I think that shows what HTC's greatest strength is.

Weakness - Marketing
Alas, what good is a well built phone if nobody knows it exists? Outside of tech circles and well-informed consumers, how much of the world's smartphone-toting population have heard of or seen a HTC One? Not too many I would imagine. Despite HTC's attempt at "change" and Robert Downey Jr's addition to the marketing team, HTC are still not on many people's radar.
Did this campaign accomplish anything?

Samsung

Strength - Marketing
While marketing is HTC's Achilles heel, it certainly isn't Samsung's. The billions that Samsung spend on advertising really helped them gain the lion's share of the Android ecosystem. Ever since that viral SIII ad where Samsung mocked the iSheep standing in line for the "next big thing", Samsung have been unstoppable, utilising everything from unicorns to alien invasions in their ad campaigns. Even though Samsung plan on reducing their marketing budget this year, we should still expect to see quite a healthy number of ads from the South Korean powerhouse.
Still one of my favourite smartphone ads.

Weakness - Software
It's no secret that among the enthusiasts as well as journalists, TouchWiz is the most criticised OEM skin in the entire Android ecosystem. It's not all bad though, Samsung's S-Pen features make the Note products the best in their category. But other than that, the rest of TouchWiz is more bloated than refined. With a device as powerful as the Note 3, there should be zero lag throughout the system, but that isn't the case. And with TouchWiz taking up so much storage space, Samsung really need to trim it down. We know it, and even they know it - TouchWiz with all its features gimmicks, needs to be reworked. And we might get that soon enough.

LG

Strength -  Unique hardware
In a market where all smartphones share roughly the same traditional candybar form factor, LG did well to make two of their phones standout by looking completely different, and not in a bad way. The G2's rear-mounted buttons have been well received by many parties, and the G Flex has been widely regarded to be the winner of the first battle of the curved smartphones against Samsung's Galaxy Round. LG's gamble to be different seems to have paid off as their mobile revenue jumped 29% from last year. Sure it's not as high as Apple's or Samsung's revenue, but it looks to be all uphill from here for LG.

Weakness - Software
Similar to their South Korean counterpart, I think LG need to work a bit more on their software. Similar to TouchWiz, it's not all bad. The Knock-On feature is cool and having several layouts for the softkeys is a nice touch, but their notification shade, no. Slide Aside is also kinda clunky to use, where you need a 3-finger swipe to access it, completely throwing one-handed use out the window. LG got the hardware to make a push in the market, they just need their software to match up.
LG need more useful features like this. Image: Android Central
Sony

Strength - Legacy
If you're like me, you grew up with a PlayStation in your living room. Childhood memories have a way with making us look at a company differently. While I personally never liked the sharp edges of the square-ish Xperia Z and Z1, I do have a soft spot for Sony. Before I started using a smartphone, most of my phones were Sony Ericsson phones. My first MP3 player was also from Sony. Many people might not agree that this is Sony's greatest strength, but I think this ad perfectly captures my point.

Weakness - Lack of ecosystem cohesiveness
Yet despite having a hand in almost every major tech industry, Sony's smartphones don't seem to make the most of it. The Xperia Z1 was supposed to be "The best of Sony" in a smartphone, and in truth Sony did try. But reviews all basically came to the same conclusion - the Z1 fell short. The display wasn't the best, and neither was the camera, even with technology taken from their Bravia TVs and their digital cameras. If Sony can successfully integrate the technology from their other sectors, their mobile division will surely get better.

Motorola

Strength - Optimisation
Remember how everyone was losing their minds when they saw the specs sheet of the Moto X? Remember how everyone was still losing their minds when they discovered how much the specs sheet didn't matter to the Moto X? That's Motorola's strength right there, optimisation. Despite using what many people will call "mid-range" specs, the Moto X exceeded all expectations and performs just as well as many of the other so-called "high-end" flagships in the market. Motorola's X8 Mobile Computing System silenced many doubters, and their software features like Touchless Controls and Active Display showed us how software optimisation should be done.

Weakness - Global presence
I was very upset when I saw that the Moto X would be a US-only phone (Americas to be exact). It's only just making its way into some European markets, like 6 months after it's initial release. And the phone that is available globally, is their entry-level Moto G. It's a good phone no doubt for that market, but it's unfortunate that the rest of the world can't enjoy a Moto X of their own. I'm sure Motorola will be expanding their flagship's presence globally in the years to come but until then, this will be Moto's biggest obstacle in regaining the market share they once had.
The Moto X is a great phone....if you live in America. Image: Mobile Syrup
I'm sure other people will look at these OEMs differently, and perhaps have their own ideas of what their strengths and weaknesses are, so sound off in the comments if you do.