Brits blame Apple, Nokia, RIM et al for smartphone woes
Yet most problems appear network related
Smartphone owners are a vocal lot, willing to vent spleen to all and sundry when their handsets don't work as well as they expect them to.
The message for manufacturers is that they're generally ready to blame you for problems. Network operators can feel doubly relieved: smartphone owners are generally not willing to switch carriers.
So reveals a survey of British smartphone owners carried out during January and February this year by device testing company Fanfare. Some 155 individuals were questioned.
We should point out up front an important caveat: just over 89 per cent of those who took part in the survey said they own a smartphone, defined for the purposes of the study as "a mobile phone that combines voice services with applications including e-mail and/or internet access".
That definition takes in a broader array of devices than you might expect - these days, the ability to download apps is what sets smartphones apart - and the market penetration of true smartphones is actually around 14 per cent, according to most market watchers.
So either a large proportion of punters think their feature phone is a smartphone, or Fanfare's sample is significantly more biased towards smartphone usage than is the general population.
We have to assume Fanfare didn't specifically target smartphone users, since just over ten per cent of the sample said they didn't own such a device.
So what did the 'smartphone' owners say? Their responses don't make comfortable reading for manufacturers or suppliers. While 34.6 per cent of respondents said they were generally happy with their phone's performance, 57.1 per cent were disappointed.
A staggering 80.3 per cent of respondents said they experience problems like application glitches, compatibility issues, crashing or freezing some of the time (51.5 per cent) or all of the time (28.8 per cent).
Branding and money
Vodafone and Orange at least still do the branding thing on handsets. At least *that's* what they say. What they mean is that they put a load of chargeable services somewhere where you can set them off accidentally (e.g. in the days before reasonable data plans, Orange used to put the web browser next to the SMS on their toolbar).
One thing you can say, though, they /never/ make the phone more usable and they almost always decimate the performance.
I've had this argument with the sales/support people numerous times:
If it's /my/ handset that I am buying off you, then I want it unbranded and unlocked.
If it's *your* handset that I'm renting off you, then I want proper hardware maintenance and replacement just like I would with anything else I rent.
Not that any of them understand, though.
Next gen less reliable... maybe not?
At the moment, especially in the ACTUAL smartphone world, we have some new platforms emerging (and I'm including the iPhone here really) - we've got quite a bit of embedded linux coming through (Maemo, Android) and the stripped back OSX on the iPhones has some unixy bits at its' heart.
These OSs come from a long line of OS cores stretching way way WAY back to when a single monolithic machine used to service hundreds of people who interacted through dumb terminals, sharing CPU time and resources with everybody else. I studied IT just at the tail end of this era, just before the Uni I was at replaced the VAX systems we were using with clusters of the latest Sun workstations.
Crucially, the Unix OS core these huge machines used to run persisted. This case-hardened core is now in these smartphones, so although the stuff on top will probably remain a little flaky in some OSs, the core should be relatively solid.
"Feature Phone" OSs had the problem that their OS core wasn't up to the task: Symbian's issue was that Series 60 was frankly shite (although my UIQ handsets were pretty bad for crashes as well).
As for blackberry? Well, I've used a Pearl, and frankly it's the clunkiest horror I've come across, but I couldn't comment on the stability of the platform as I couldn't bear to use it for more than 5 minutes... yuk.
I think smartphones will actuall get pretty reliable - and this is coming from a mobile phone software test engineer of 7 years industry experience, where I saw Feature Phone OS platforms stretched to their capacity in terms of what they were being asked to do.
Perhaps what we finally have here is a convergence of hardware and software: hardware fast enough to run full blown OSs, and software which can finally be in your hand and survive to perform some complex and useful computing tasks.
I think this is a good time - but maybe not for existing manufacturers: who wants another smartphone every 12 months? If the hardware is surviving, and the OS is patched with updates issued (e.g. Apple) to get you the latest version (minus new H/W features of course) then maybe we'll look to keep our handsets much longer, so less profit there.
We live in interesting times. And yes, it does feel like Apple kicked the shit out of the encumbents and forced them to do something... esp Nokia, who still haven't formed a coherent strategy. Oh, and SE, who appear to be falling off the edge of the world.
"not willing to switch carriers."
I was willing to switch in a heart beat !
From (expire contract period) Orange to Vodaphone, who had the handset I wanted (N900). Surly anyone else would do the same; you almost certainly go to a better deal by moving too, in those circumstances.
Of course, Orange came out with the N900 a few weeks later, but they'd kept it secret from their sales and disconnections staff as well as the 'coming soon' web site, so their fault !
O2 "Head in the Sand" attitude
The iPhone is a great product (and I'm far from being an Apple envangelist!), and does 99% of what most of it's users want. The problem is the O2 network, particularly Edge and 3G coverage, but many O2 users have poor voice and SMS too, with constant calls dropped, etc. This is predominantly inside buildings, and in many cases, private houses.
With the iPhone monopoly that O2 enjoyed, a large percentage of iPhone users are stuck with them for up to 18 months or so from, now.
O2 continually refuse to discuss any plans to launch a femtocell device (e.g. Vodafones "Sure Signal") which, for around £50, would at least give a decent personal voice and data connection to those with a good broadband link. It's a shame that, with a decent broadband connection and a wireless router, all of the bells and whistles stuff works great with WiFi!!
SO come on, O2, get your Femtocell act together, or you'll have hordes of iPhone users moving to Vodafone as soon as their contracts expire, and I know I''ll be one!
For those in a similar situation, see the discussion here :-
Not all are reluctant to move
Take a look at the posts at Get Satisfaction (O2) to see the depth of feeling for the unfortunate (me included) who went to O2 just to get the iPhone then realised that they don't have the network to support smart phones.