As we head towards April, finally it seems we are beginning to emerge from the harsh cold of winter.
At last I can cast off the winter blankets, put the heavy sweaters and warm slippers away for another year and prepare for Hanami!
For many in Japan however April doesn’t just represent the coming of a new Spring, it also has many people contemplating a few “upgrades” to their current technology.
Most notably, people will be considering getting new phones and new tablets.
Photo: Zak Mensah on FlickrIt used to be the case that September/October was always the time when we would find ourselves drowning in a deluge of press conferences, news releases and various promotional offers from Japan’s telecom cartels imploring us to get the latest iPhone, Android or whatever. In the last couple of years though, the technology has accelerated even further, to the point that yearly incremental updates are no longer sufficient to stay “ahead of the curve” as it were. So, we are now faced with a twice yearly barrage of new marketing materials and sales pitches.
Sifting through this tsunami of bovine excrement can seemingly take days.
Thankfully, just as I was last year, once again I’m here, and on hand, ready to consume all that effluent so you don’t have to!
So, where is the wheat among the innumerate chaff this time around?
Which phones and tablets are worth contemplating investing your hard-earned yen this coming spring? Read on and find out. Here’s my top 5 in no particular order:
Regular readers of my work will know that I am not an Apple fan. When I learned of some of the company’s less than honourable behaviour towards both its workforce and its customers, I decided to switch to Android. I haven’t bought any iOS devices since I got myself a first generation iPad mini back in 2013.
iPhone 6 Plus (in picture)
Photo: Omar Jordan Fawahl on FlickrNonetheless, it would be remiss of me not to at least mention the latest incremental and somewhat ineffectual update to Apple’s iPhone series: The iPhone SE.
As to what the SE stands for, I really don’t know. Personally, I thought it was a lot simpler back when Apple used to just number each year’s new phone chronologically after that of the previous year.
Anyway, remember the big fanfare 2 years ago when Apple finally decided to get with the times and offer iPhone’s with bigger screens? It was an idea so revolutionary that Samsung and HTC had already been doing it for 3 years!
Well, apparently we the consumers got it wrong. We don’t need bigger screens at all.
And so we come to the iPhone SE, a phone which while it apparently has the screen clarity, battery power and processing capability of last year’s iPhone 6S, has the same size dimensions as an iPhone 5. Yes, that’s the deal folks, you didn’t misread it. Apple is about to charge you somewhere in the range of 60-70,000 yen for a phone that cosmetically looks exactly the same as 2012’s iPhone 5.
I’ve heard retro is a trend these days, but c’mon Apple. Do you seriously expect consumers to buy into this nonsense?
It is often said that the iPhone is seen as symbol of status, of being a trendsetter. So if that’s the case then why on Earth would I want a phone that looks 4 years old?!
Whilst I’m sure their will once again be a long trail of Apple acolytes just waiting to lap up this latest gimmick when it launches in Japan this Spring, it’s safe to say, I won’t be one of them!
The HTC One M10
One of Apple’s most unlikely rivals in recent times has been the Taiwanese telecom tech firm HTC. Whilst Apple products and those of their chief competitor Samsung tend to favour style, form and aesthetic gimmicks as primary means of attracting customers, HTC tends to play it smarter, instead gearing their phones and tablets towards consumers who actually value performance and value over appearance. This seems to have struck a chord with consumers here in Japan where HTC phones continue to grow in popularity year by year.
Photo: Jeff Blackler on FlickrThe HTC One M10 looks set to raise the bar still further. Building on its predecessor, last Autumn’s M9 model, the M10 promises a host of new features, when it is unveiled in late April. Chief among these improvements is expected be a higher resolution HD screen display, improved PC integration and a higher resolution camera.
The exact specifications remain unknown at the time of writing, but hopes are high that the HTC One M10 will set a new standard for Android phones when it arrives in stores later this year.
Microsoft Surface Phone
Much like the HTC One M10, exact details of this phone remain somewhat sketchy for the time being. However Microsoft has recently confirmed the phone is in development and should be launching sometime in late spring/early summer 2016. Amongst the expected features are a 5.5 inch Quad Amoled Display (I’m not exactly sure what that means, but a tech savvy friend of mine assures me this is a good thing!), up to 128 GB of storage with the additional option of adding a micro SD card.
I’ve certainly been impressed with the Windows Surface tablet from what I’ve seen thus far and I would certainly consider investing in one of these phones should they be able to successfully emulate the PC experience.
Samsung Galaxy S7
Ok, a disclaimer is required here. I have been a Galaxy user for nearly 4 years now. And whilst I have been happy with my experience, I haven’t really felt the need for an urgent upgrade. Although my particular phone, the Galaxy Note 3, is now nearly 3 years old, it still runs all the latest apps and streams video and other file types with minimal delay. In short, Samsung’s phones, in my opinion, reached their pinnacle about 2 and a half years ago. Since then, a number of failed attempts at breaking the mould, such as the frankly bizarre Galaxy Edge, have failed to capture the hearts and minds of phone users.
Photo: Răzvan Băltărețu on FlickrI really hope we will see something new and fresh with the S7, but sadly I feel that as time passes, Samsung is beginning to slip into the same trap as Apple, releasing uninspired annual incremental updates to their existing phones rather than actually doing anything progressive for the phone market. Hopefully the S7 will prove my pessimism to be unfounded, but I have my doubts.
Don’t bother upgrading, wait until September!
Photo: Richard Garside on FlickrWhilst there are a few good phones coming in Spring, September/October remains the best time to get the latest model. Also, if you’re not too big on having the latest phones immediately, you may want to follow my own example. Typically, I identify a phone or tablet that I like, then wait 6-9 months until it’s no longer the latest thing and the price has had time to come down to a more realistic level. So, as it stands, I’ll probably get a new phone this summer, since I saw a couple of models last Autumn that had me interested. But then again, you never known when a new phone is coming to come along, as the original iPhone did way back in 2008 and totally reshaped the industry.