Monday, June 15, 2015

Android Circuit: Samsung 'Insults' Galaxy Fans, Google Wins HMRC Contract, Xiaomi Mi5 Mimics Apple

Taking a look back at seven days of news across the Android world, this week’s Android Circuit includes Samsung’s confirmation of the Galaxy S6 Active, BlackBerry’s potential switch to Android from BB10, Samsung’s definition of insanity, Xiaomi’s Mi+ plans, Google’s ‘Which Phone’ tool, the new family-friendly section of the Google Play Store, HMRC choosing Google over Microsoft, and Larry Page’s nomination as CEO of the year.

Android Circuit is here to remind you of a few of the many things that have happened around Android in the last week (and you can read the weekly Apple news digest here).

Samsung Support Pages Confirm Galaxy S6 Active 

The annual tsunami of derivative Galaxy handsets shows no sign of stopping in 2015 as the South Korean manufacturer confirmed the Galaxy S6 Active handset through an update to its support pages. Forbes’ Jay MacGregor looks at the details of the ’rugged’ version of the Galaxy S6 - this year’s iteration is missing a few key features:

 Today’s leak, however, details that Samsung will stick the 2500mAh battery, no microSD slot, a fingerprint scanner and stay loyal to the current S6 dimensions. It seems strange that the rumours could’ve been so wrong for months, but it’s possible. What’s also possible is that those specifications are a placeholder for the actual specifications of the soon-to-be-released handset. The fact that the width and weight of the device is no different -when the active models are typically larger – support this idea.


Is BlackBerry Risking A Move To Android?

There is news from Reuters that Android may be welcoming another hardware company into the fold. The beleaguered BlackBerry is reportedly looking at adopting Android for a slider handset that will be launched in the second half of 2015. Personally it feels like too little, too late, because there are a lot of risks in changing operating systems from the homespun BB10 to the Google-influenced Android:

A Google Play certified BlackBerry device would have easy access to the full range of Android apps, but with strict requirements on the inclusion placement of Google apps, certification would limit BlackBerry’s ability to stand out through its software.

That said, a switch to Android-powered hardware does make some business sense. While BlackBerry continues to design handset, the construction is by Foxconn. With Android the software driving the hardware, there are cost savings to be made through off-the-shelf hardware with existing driver support for Android. CEO John Chen continues to focus on efficiency savings and cost reductions - reducing the support cost on hardware integration with software could be his next target.


Samsung’s Definition Of Insanity

Speaking of strategy and planning, handsets such as the Galaxy S6 Active and the leaked Galaxy S6 Mini and S6 Mega speak to Samsung’s plans for the rest of 2015. It all looks remarkably like the same strategy that was found wanting in 2014, the same strategy that was moderately successful in 2013, and the same strategy that delivered stellar results in 2012.

At every opportunity, Samsung has taken the safe option, the option that lets them hedge bets, the option that minimises exposure to risk, and the option that will bring in guaranteed income but not necessarily enough income to improve on the return seen in previous years.

Irrespective of who you want to attribute the quote to, Samsung continuing to follow the same playbook year after year fits in with the cliché “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing year after year and expecting different results.” Samsung’s strategy is delivering weaker results year on year, and the opportunity to change the strategy for 2015 has been missed.


My editorial from earlier this week has more details on Samsung’s missed opportunities.

The South Korean ‘Insult’

Speaking of Samsung and its avalanche of handsets, SamMobile’s editor-in-chief Abhijeet Mishra has penned an angry editorial about Samsung’s choice of specifications on the current S6 family. He’s not happy that the ‘flagship’ Galaxy S6 is less advanced and less capable than the derivative models. Gordon Kelly sums up the story along with his own thoughts on the issue:

Mishra’s problem? The Galaxy S6 Active packs a huge 3,500 mAh battery, a capacity nearly 1,000 mAh greater than the batteries in the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge…

Despite the validity of Mishra’s points, I personally think ‘insult’ goes too far. The Galaxy S6 Active is not simply an improved Galaxy S6, but a whole different animal which actually has as many negative aspects as positives…

The Active is a deliberately niche product and I doubt Samsung made it to spite or insult early adopters of its more heavily publicised brothers.


Xiaomi’s Mi5 Plans Look A Little Familiar

August 2014 saw Chinese smartphone manufacturer Xiaomi launch the Mi4 handset (reviewed here previously on Forbes). It won’t come as a surprise to learn that the Mi5 is on its way before the end of the year. Xiaomi is looking to outfit the handsets with the Qualcomm SnapDragon 820 with its 64-bit architecture, with hopefully fewer of the issues that dogged the SnapDragon 810.

The new snapdragon chipset, which saw a low-key release from Qualcomm earlier this year, is said to use the 14nm FinFET (Fin-Shaped Field Effect Transistor) process, and will reportedly start shipping later this year.


The Mi4 was pitched as a rival to Apple’s iPhone when it was launched and was one of the main competitors to Tim Cook’s smartphone in Asia. The two rumoured models of the Mi5 bear a spooky resemblance to Apple’s portfolio:

…the Chinese company is also said to be set to release a 6-inch version of the Mi5, to be called Xiaomi Mi5 Plus, which will also have the latest Snapdragon chipset… If Xiaomi does release Mi5 and Mi5 Plus, both devices could well rival the Apple iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus in China, especially given Xiaomi’s identiy as a rising “China’s Apple.”


Founder, Chairman and CEO of Xiaomi Global, Lei Jin (L) and Vice President, Hugo Barra gesture during the launch of Xiaomi’s Mi4i smart phone (MONEY SHARMA/AFP/Getty Images)

Let Google Find The Right Phone For You

With so many Android devices currently on the market (and all of having broadly similar specifications and capabilities), it can be tricky to decide which Android smartphone is the phone for you. Google now has a handy ‘Which Phone?” tool you can use to get suggestions from the current manufacturer and carrier portfolios.

With many Android phones to choose from, here’s a great place to start.Answer three or more quick questions, and we’ll suggest phones just for you.


If you’re curious, Google suggested the Galaxy S6 / Galaxy S6 Edge pairing for me.

The Family Friendly Space In Google Play

Continuing with Google’s efforts to improve accessibility to the Android ecosystem is the launch of the ‘Family Friendly’ section of the Google Play Store. This offers curated apps that Google’s staff believe are suitable for young children using Android devices (which typically means tablets). Stephen Hall at 9to5Google:

The new “Family” app category includes only apps that have gone through and been approved by a hand-picked selection process. Currently, the top section features apps that are only on Google Play, the second is a “New & Popular” list (assumably, apps that are new and popular), there’s a “Spotlight on Disney” section, a section that sorts apps by character, and more.


You can access the new section on the web at this link, and the mobile version will be available in the Play Store app on your Android device.

Call The Taxman, Call The Google Taxman

While it might not be directly related to Android, the continued expansion of Google’s cloud services into the corporate and enterprise space increases the reach and credentials of Google as a platform player, and that does help Android. So the capture of the UK Government’s tax department (Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs) from Microsoft is a very big win for Mountain View:

Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) is the first major department to move to Google Apps, part of an apparent loosening of Microsoft’s stranglehold on the government’s software services. The department will join the Cabinet Office and Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) in deploying the fluffy white stuff. HMRC has 70,000 staff, and as such will be Whitehall’s first mass deployment of Google’s cloud services.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – MAY 15: Larry Page, Google co-founder and CEO speaks during the opening keynote at the Google I/O developers conference at the Moscone Center on May 15, 2013 (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

And Finally…

Larry Page is the best CEO ever! That’s the conclusion of Glassdoor‘s survey of employees on the ‘Top 50′ CEO’s’. Chance Miller at 9to5Google puts that into context:

This year, Google CEO Larry Page was voted as the chief executive officer of the year with a 97 percent employee approval rating. Last year, Page was 10th on the list, with LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner taking the top spot. Weiner this year fell to 12th overall with an approval rating of 93 percent.


‘Android Circuit’ will round-up the news from the Android world every weekend here on Forbes. Don’t forget to follow me so you don’t miss any coverage in the future, and of course read the sister column in Apple LoopLast week’s Android Circuit can be found here, and if you have any news and links you’d like to see featured in Android Circuit, get in touch!

About the Author

Prejeesh Sreedharan

Author & Editor

I am a Biotechnologist very much interested in #SciTech (Science And Technology). I closely follow the developments in medical science and life science. I am also very enthusiast in the world of electronics, information technology and robotics. I always looks for ways to make complicated things simpler. And I always believes simplest thing is the most complicated ones.

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