The best Android smartphone. Part 3

This post is part of a series. To read the previous post click here. To read the first post click here.

Having the best product vs having the best marketing machine.

As indicated in our previous Android smartphone review, the LG G3 is hands down a much more complete product when compared to its Samsung counterparts. While both phones have health-related extra features like built-in pedometers and apps that shows how many steps you have taken in a day etc., Samsung actually goes much further in the bells and whistles department. It has a heart-rate monitor, fingerprint security, and air gestures to name a few (for a complete review and the assessment of the usefulness of these features please read our previous post here) but none of those features answer the questions of usability. They are nicecool-to-haves more than necessities.

LG on the other hand has developed a product that addresses the smartphone usage concerns of its customers. The phone’s features are very customer centric and very well thought out. We have not met a single person who has used the LG G3 and not absolutely love it. Yes, we also mean the cell-phone photographer enthusiasts. But here is the main obstacle that stands between LG and more market share: Marketing.

lg_android_web_traffic_growth_chart_chitika

Look at the chart above. What do you see? If you answer Samsung, rest assured you have no problem with your vision.

Now look a bit closer at the quarter to quarter adoption rate. Who is picking uo the most market share? Yup, it’s LG.
So the question is, who do you want to be in this race. We are not going to dwell on the fact that LG’s partnership with Google in producing the Nexus line of phones bogged dowb their marketing etc. Our focus is on analyzing who has a future and who doesn’t in this matchup. We would love to say it is LG, but with the Samsung Galaxy S6’s rumours already making rounds on the internet, it remains to be seen how long it would take for the consumers to figure out who is selling a superior product and who is just throwing out a bunch of phones and going they stick.
So far Samsung’s strategy has paid dividends and the company is the leader when it comes to Android handset sales. We would be very curious to see the results for the fourth quarter of 2014. Our prediction is that a slow-down (or worse a swing into the red) for Samsung would indicate serious issues and speak volume regarding the fact that the consumer class as a whole has made a decision to take their business elsewhere, be same way they did with HTC since late 2011.

We will update this post when the data is available.

The best Android smartphone. Part 2

This post is part of a series. Click here to read the previous post.

Let the reviewing begin!

As explained earlier in the previous post, our review is strictly based on the Android platform. The main reason for this is because of the fact that there are far more contenders on this platform than any other. Apple has a monopoly over IOS and Windows phones are – at the moment at least – mostly irrelevant in terms of market share.

In our roundup of Android Smartphones in this review, we will be looking at the following flagship, arguably the most popular, Android phones:

1) Samsung Galaxy S5
2) Samsung Note 4
3) LG G3
4) HTC One M8

Samsung Galaxy S5

s5

Notable Hardware features: Quad Core Processor, 5.1″ screen, 2GB RAM, 16GB ROM (expandable with SD Card), 2800mAh battery.

Power button position: Right, towards the top

Volume rocker position: Left, towards the top

Headphone Jack position: Top, towards the right

Removable Battery: Yes

Power Jack position: Bottom, covered by water proof flap.

This is a feature packed phone that is an upgrade on the older S4. Features like water proof and finger print reader features are certainly nice to haves but also come with caveats and tradeoffs in usability issues.

Pro: Snappy and responsive, the phone is jam packed with features like knock-on (tap the screen twice to turn on the device, tap once to turn it off). The Air gestures and other features that utilize the camera functions such as turning on the device by simply approaching it etc. gives this phone an edge when it comes to showcasing technology. The showcasing of technology goes a bit overboard when it comes to the camera however, and the camera’s responsiveness still leaves much to be desired.

Cons: The power button being on the opposite side of the volume rocker seems to be a function that Samsung is fighting to keep. Users across the board have complained about accidentally turning off the screen when trying to adjust the phone’s volume. This is simply poor design and a lack of proper R&D. The fingerprint function does not work all the time like the one on the Apple iPhone. Few misreads every now and then are enough to cause the user to decide to bypass the feature altogether. The flimsy plastic flap that covers the micro USB port is annoying and the phone constantly gives warning regarding the phone not being water proof if the flap is not properly secured (although this can be disabled). The Air gestures and other features that utilize the camera functions such as turning on the device by simply approaching it are more novelties that drain battery life than real deal breakers or innovations that make a difference in user experience. The headphone jack being at the top of the phone means that the user must place the phone in their pocket with the top of the phone pointing upwards. This is again a poor design in our opinion. The user would have to remove the phone and adjust its orientation before being able to use it.

Our verdict: Not the most user friendly phone. The back button on this phone is on the opposite direction (right hand side) compared to all other Android phones not made by Samsung. Great for creating customer loyalty when the user’s first device is a Samsung, but a poor choice for trying to win over new users. We give this phone an overall score of 3/5.

 

Samsung Galaxy Note4Note4

Notable Hardware features: Quad Core Processor, 5.7″ screen, 3GB RAM, 32GB ROM (expandable with SD Card), 3220mAh battery.

Power button position: Right, towards the top

Volume rocker position: Left, towards the top

Headphone Jack position: Top, towards the right

Removable Battery: Yes

Power Jack position: Bottom

This phone is certainly more than a glorified S series Samsung phone. The stylus on the phone makes it a stand out and on a class of its own. For users who are in the creative/artistic space, the search practically ends right here. There’s not another phone out there that has an integrated stylus, let alone one with so many features. The 3GB of RAM makes the operating system runs extremely smoothly and overall the interface experience is a joy. Almost all users of the Note4 love its large screen and the stylus that comes with it.

Pro: Bigger, Faster, and a better camera than the S5. That seems to be the selling point of the Note4. Oh and let’s not forget the stylus with the impressive air commands!

Cons: This is pretty much a copy paste from the S5, which is a great disappointment for us. The power button being on the opposite side of the volume rocker seems to be a function that Samsung is fighting to keep. Users across the board have complained about accidentally turning off the screen when trying to adjust the phone’s volume. This is simply poor design and a lack of proper R&D. The fingerprint function does not work all the time like the one on the Apple iPhone. Few misreads every now and then are enough to cause the user to want to bypass the feature altogether. The Air gestures and other features that utilize the camera functions such as turning on the device by simply approaching it are more novelties that drain battery life than real deal breakers or innovations that make a difference in user experience. The headphone jack being at the top of the phone means that the user must place the phone in their pocket with the top of the phone pointing upwards. This is again a poor design in our opinion. The user would have to remove the phone and adjust the orientation of the already cumbersome phone before being able to use it.

Our verdict: We want to give this phone a 4/5 but we just can’t. The stylus and more RAM and standard ROM space are certainly an upgrade and the 5.7″ screen is brilliant and a pleasure for viewing documents. Unfortunately the poor layout of the controls and jacks as well as the lack of the knock on that comes standard with other phones means we can only give this phone an overall score of 3.5/5.

 

LG G3

G3

Notable Hardware features: Quad Core Processor, 5.5″ screen, 3GB RAM, 32GB ROM (expandable with SD Card), 3000mAh battery.

Power button position: Back of phone

Volume rocker position: Back of phone above and below the Power button

Headphone Jack position: Bottom, towards the right

Removable Battery: Yes

Power Jack position: Bottom

While the big smartphone news and launch parties have been around Apple and Samsung, LG has clearly made a niche for itself. With the design of the G3, LG has certainly taken Samsung to school when it comes to proper R&D and designing a product with the user in mind, in our opinion.

Pro: This phone has everything you can ever need for the business, except a stylus. Reliable Knock On, placement of power and volume buttons on the back of the phone in a recessed area makes perfect sense it is almost a crime that no one else has thought about it. The phone is extremely configurable, even the soft buttons and their placements are configurable. It also includes a dedicated button that can be added to the soft buttons row to display notifications without the need to swipe down from the top of the screen. The phone even has quick access tool bar in the notification that is a dedicated remote control that you can configure to work with your TV or home theater system. All this right out of the box with no additional upgrades or apps required left us speechless. The 5.5″ screen is a decent size that allows for significantly better viewing of documents than the S5’s 5.1″ screen. Calculator, calendar, email, browser, and a few other apps open as a window, allowing you to quickly multi task. All at the touch of a dedicated button that can be added to the soft buttons row.

Cons: No fingerprint or water proof features. Lack of stylus that the Note4 offers.

Our Verdict: This phone takes the concept of customer-centric to the next level. An absolute pleasure to use with decent camera. We give this phone the overall score of 4/5.

 

HTC One M8

M8

Notable Hardware features: Quad Core Processor, 5.0″ screen, 2GB RAM, 32GB ROM (expandable with SD Card), 2800mAh battery.

Power button position: Top towards the right

Volume rocker position: Right, towards the top

Headphone Jack position: Bottom, towards the right

Removable Battery: No

Power Jack position: Bottom

This is the oldest flagship phone in our review. It is certainly up for a refresh although it still packs a punch and has certain features that would give even the Note4 run for the money.

Pro: Standard knock on feature, uncluttered notification with a separate tab for settings was very innovative and still is very relevant. Speakers facing the front and headphone jack located at the bottom of the phone shows that HTC was certainly thinking about its customers when designing its flagship phone.

Cons: This is the oldest model of all phones reviewed so the screen size and non removable battery specs are unfortunately very 2013. Mediocre camera performance.

Our Verdict: we give this aging phone a 2/5 for its solid specs and usability in a business environment.

So what is a business solution provider doing reviewing phones on its blog you might ask. The answer to this question will be answered in our upcoming blog post. Stay tuned. Questions and comments are always welcomed.

The best Android Smartphone. Part 1

A very brief synopsis on Smartphones and their history

phones

Smartphones have become an unavoidable part of doing business. Ever since the introduction of the Palm Pilot PDA device, Personal Digital Accessories have made near instant inroads into the lives of business executives.

Palm launched a plethora of personal digital devices in the late 1990’s that sported its Palm OS operating system. The devices were very well recieved in the business world and the company became wildly succesful, at one point breaking into 2 companies, one focusing solely on hardware and the othet on OS development alone. All of Palm’s devices relied on having a stylus for menu selection as well as for taking notes. During the turn of the century, Palm’s new rival, RIM – maker of the BlackBerry – took advantage of the changing technology landscape and mobile data services and launched a device that boasted its instant messaging platform that many still believe is the best to this day. Palm was left bleeding customers and could not muster a counter punch.

Palm’s last savior was the Treo 650, a colored touch screen phone with full qwerty keyboard and a stylus that was launched in 2003. It remained very successful among the Palm die-hards within a rich eco system of applications, written for the Palm OS platform over the years.

Fast forward a few quick years, along came iPhone and the rest was history. Palm quickly lost the last of its supporters and BlackBerry also suffered massive losses in the United States market as customer flocked to a brand synonym with the revolutionary iPod and one that was well known for delivering quality products that stood the test of time better than most of its rivals.

Fast forward a bit more and Google announced that it was throwing its hat into the smartphone ring and the Android was born. All of this happened in a timespan of less than 20 years with companies going from bank to bust left and right in the process.

Smartphone of 2015 vs smartphone of 2000

Needless to say things have changed dramatically in the last 15 years as far as what consumers and business executives are looking for in a mobile device. In circa 2000 smaller was always better when it came to phones and having a company mobile and a personal one had its own charm and novelty value. Today a 2 inch screen phone has virtually no place in the mobile device market. Bigger screen is the way to go. Having a company issued device like the old BlackBerry is also the trend of the past with more and more companies embracing the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) culture of unifying and streamlining communication. Business executives want a single device that can answer all their needs from being an alarm clock to providing turn by turn navigation to meetings with clients.

Business Android Smartphones roundup

In this review, we are focusing specifically on the best Android smartphone hardware. Apple products running IOS and Nokia devices that run Windows are also not included in this review.

Our simple test was to use these devices ourselves and also interview our colleagues and clients and guage their experience with the devices. Unlike what is done on other review sites, we are not so concerned with immaterial details like screen size difference of 0.2 inches or amoled vs super amoled screen resolutions. Our focus is on the overall ease of use, added value of the prepackaged software, and the synergy between the OS and the hardware.

We use 2 very simple criteria to judge our smartphones:
1) Hardware layout and positioning of buttons, jacks, ports, hardware communication features like NFC, and removability of battery.
2) Ease of use of the ROMs that the phones come with and the level of integration of various software functions within the ROM.

You can read the full review of each device in our upcoming post here.