iPhone 5C and iPhone 5S

iPhone 5C and iPhone 5S Announcements

The new iteration iPhone has been announced by Apple on the 10th of September, where the company introduced 2 different iPhone models. There was a strong negative impact on the company’s stock price where the price dropped by 5% the day after the announcement. The primary reason this could be because analysts and consumers were hoping for a much lower price point for the lower end phone, iPhone 5C.

iPhone 5C

This iPhone has a plastic backing with the same internal technologies as the iPhone 5 so there is not much of a difference in technical power. The phone comes in 5 different colours and with the new operating system for all iPhones, iOS7. The iPhone 5C is due to be released on the 20th of September 2013 which is a lag of 10 days between the announcement and sale dates. Apple has also created new colour cases which are made solely for this phone and have chosen the base colours amongst others to provide contrast such as black and white. There is a slight improvement to the camera with the same features as the iPhone 5S, but some features have been revoked which would be to give consumers more reason to buy the premium handset.

Although this phone is seen to be a nice addition to the roster of phones available via Apple, various market analysts felt that the price point needs to be much lower to ensure that the company can benefit from selling these devices in the market, particularly the developing market. Apple has had a hard time trying to expand into developing markets such as China and India where smartphones are usually not subsidised by the carrier with a long term contract. These 2 markets consists of over 2 billion people which Apple could have gained some market share in if it had priced the lower end phone at a much lower price. Apple’s competitors such as Samsung and Nokia are using their low price, decent technology handsets in these markets and gaining a large market share which Apple could never attain if the prices remain so high. Even in developed markets, the iPhone 5C is still priced high for a phone which has last year’s technology inside it.

iPhone 5S

This version of the handset has much more exciting technology inside it. The handset costs slightly more when bought out of contract or pay as you go, but that could be because of inflation. The iPhone 5S has 2 main features which makes it completely different from the previous iPhones, firstly the Touch ID home button and the 64-bit architecture for its A7 processor.

The Touch ID allows the owner to use their fingerprint to unlock their phones without having to type in their passcodes. A potential indication has been hinted that the user can authorise payments for music and movies with their fingerprints and would eventually be open to third party applications. There is little worry for identity theft as the company has put the fingerprint data onto the A7 chip which is only accessible to the handset only and can’t be copied out of the chip. Although this was pushed as a key security feature, there could be a way for hackers to find a way to get this information.

The other main area of change is the 64-bit architecture of the CPU in the phone which is said to be the first in the world for a smartphone. This A7 chip will allow applications to run at a faster rate than the 32-bit processors which can be a reason for consumers to buy new the handset if they want the faster phones all the time. The other aspect which shows that Apple is thinking forward is that they can port this A7 chip to its tablets which in turn would run better programs and have better computing power for running graphic intensive applications such as games. Another forward thing Apple can push for is reducing its independence on Intel processors which could be more expensive when compared to UK processor company ARM Holdings in respect to its laptops and other Mac products. This would be an excellent opportunity for Apple to acquire ARM Holdings fully since they do have a lot of money on their balance sheet, as well as restricting the competition from having the intellectual properties of their processor manufacturing methods.

Which to buy?

The purchase decision will differ depending on the person’s perceived value of the new phones. The features of the new phones can be apparent to those who have not made an iPhone purchase before and are getting tired of their own smartphone. However, existing users may see this as pointless such as me. I can’t justify tying myself to a new 24 month contract to get a phone with a fingerprint scanner and a slightly better camera. I have a compact camera (Sony NEX F3D) for taking pictures and I hardly ever take pictures on my current iPhone 4S, only for those “on the whim” moments. Most of the features which are being promoted on the new phones will be available to me for free, via iOS7. The operating system update alone will keep me satisfied for another 2 years since I tend to buy the “S” versions of the phones as Apple would have kinked out any problems in the normal “numbered” phone.

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PlayStation Vita

PS Vita Price drop then new console announced

The PS Vita was given a price cut from this year’s GamesCom which was in the middle of August. The reduction in price has been in effect for months in Japan where the console has had a strong reception. The console has needed an official price drop in the Western markets, but retailers had cut the price and took a hit to their margins in order to shift units of the handheld console. GAME in the UK is charging less for the 3G version which is supposed to cost more than the Wi-Fi only version which shows that the console needs to shift more units, especially in the UK. It is quite surprising that Sony decided to announce a new version of the console on the 9th of September, less than a month after changing the prices worldwide.

The Vita 2013 edition will have a lower quality screen of an LCD screen compared to the first Vita having an OLED screen which has high quality images. The 2013 edition of the Vita will come in various different colours and have internal memory which is great for having content saved to the console such as indie games, which tend to have smaller file sizes. The console will have a slightly lower price than what is being charged in Japan at the moment of ¥20,000, where the redesign will cost ¥19,000.

Vita 2013

The upcoming content for the console will be very important in the life long survivability of the Vita. Sony has allowed indie developers to create games for both the Vita and the PS4 which makes it easier to sell if there is cross-play functionality. The new concept of cross-play for PS4 games on the Vita console with complete control is a great way to push units. Sony can create a bundle of both PS4 and Vita to push the cross-play gameplay which will in turn push hardware and software sales. This will have a positive effect on the overall company’s sales and profit margin.

PS Vita TV

Sony also announced the TV version of the Vita, which allows the gamer to play Vita games on their TV with a PS3 controller. The ability to play these games would allow gamers to experience the games in a different way, but could lead to problems when the game is expanded onto a bigger screen. The games could look outdated and pixelated if they are not scaled properly to a high definition resolution. There will also be a problem with whether or not the touch interface in Vita games will be removed, or coded to work with DualShock 3 controllers. The only way this would work is with the PS4 controller which does have a touch pad on the front but the new mini “console” announced to only use the PS3 controllers.

The TV Vita has a low price point which will come bundled with a controller with no games. Both of these Vita’s will only be available in Japan from October for the new Vita and November for the Vita TV. It is still unknown as to whether or not the console will make the journey to other PAL regions and North America.

Vita TV

Final Fantasy XIV, a Realm Reborn on a Bunch of Wonky Servers

Agree with the server problems, but its a good thing for me since I need to focus on other things.

Tech

Final Fantasy XIV may be cursed. You know this if you’ve tried to play recently and met the business end of a 1017 error (indicating a full server). It hasn’t been a good week for Square Enix’s second-shot MMO. Heck, it’s been a pretty miserable three years. I keep expecting my copy of the PlayStation 3 version to turn up a black spot.

Though being full up is kind of a good problem to have, unlike the far more serious issues the game had back in September 2010. Then, it was in such bad shape Square Enix had to ask for a mulligan, haul its beleaguered pseudo-medieval realm of Eorzea back to the forge, shutter the servers last November, and promise to essentially rebuild the thing from the ground up.

Which is where we find ourselves today, a little over a week into delivery of said promise, still sporting roman numeral XIV, but…

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Microsoft Xbox One vs. Sony Playstation 4

The date for the next generation of video gaming has been set, 22nd November 2013. The last company to announce the release date which is for the Microsoft Xbox One while Sony’s Playstation 4 is set to release on the 15th November in the USA and on the 29th November in the EU. The Nintendo Wii U began the 8th generation of home console video gaming when it released in November 2012, one full year before the other 2 main competitors but has had lack lustre sales over the one year head start.

Microsoft has aimed its release date to be worldwide but has undercut Sony by one week in the market it has struggled in the most, the EU. Microsoft is making sure that the EU is a focus point in aggressive marketing by bundling day one consoles via FIFA14 which is the equivalent to NFL in the USA. The only problem the company will have is that the console is £429 in the UK compared to the £349 for the PS4, which makes the console even harder to sell. Both companies would try to use their existing infrastructure with their online platforms in order to transfer current generation gamers into the next generation.

Microsoft has secured exclusive games and content for their next generation console such as Titalfall and content with the Call of Duty Ghosts which is most likely to be timed exclusive. Gaming analysts and websites such as IGN like the originality of Titalfall with good use of the next generation’s technical power. The game allows user to be a soldier who can run up walls with futuristic weapons but also let the player use mechanical robots, known as a “Titan”, to move around to fight against enemy ‘mech’ soldiers. The game is based on a futuristic concept much like the Halo series and Gears of War series, which are both exclusive to Microsoft.

Microsoft have had a lot of backlash from gamers since they announced the Xbox One console towards the end of May 2013. At the beginning, Microsoft had opted for a digital strategy to disallow gamers to share physical copies of games, and had strict digital rights management as well as an always online connection being required with the Kinect camera needing to be always connected. Since then the company has heard the feedback from the gamer community, which has mainly been against these policies and now each one of these features has been removed or adapted significantly so that it matches more closely to current generation requirements. Some analysts feel that Microsoft are are listening to the consumer which is the best possible outcome for the success of the console, whilst some analysts think that the damage has been done.

Memes on Xbox One policy changes

The PS4 on the other hand has seen to be resonating with gamers, with their pro indie stance on game development and gamer friendly policies. Sony had chosen to unveil their console in 2 different stages: the first announcement which acknowledged the console’s existence and revealed the controller with the second announcement being the E3 expo 2013 where the console was revealed with a myriad of games, both first party and indie games.

The E3 presentation revealed the price of the console for three main markets, much like Microsoft’s presentation, as well as the design of the PS4. The exclusive games which were announced were Driveclub which allows players to join clans of drivers so compete in different racing challenges, as well as Infamous: Second Son which allows the player to use powers in a post appocalyptic Seattle. There were various other indie games shown which was a nice welcome for the hardcore gaming audience as well as games from Square Enix which has been fairly quiet when it came to game development.

Sony was said to have won E3 2013 and that was mainly due to it’s straight forward approach to answering the gamers’ concerns with new policies. Gamers wanted to know whether or not Sony will follow Microsoft’s now revoked console features such as the always online where Sony took a direct attack on it’s competitor by stating their policies in a clear confident manner. They even released a cheeky video to reflect the policy. In the most recent gaming conference in Germany, GamesCom, Sony revealed that they had received over 1m in pre-orders for the PS4, while Microsoft have yet to reveal any pre-order numbers.

At this point in time, there is no way to tell who will end up “winning” the 8th generation of home console gaming. Microsoft is taking a “all in one media system” approach, while Sony has chosen to focus on the core gamer. As for Nintendo, they are trying to imitate their success from the Nintendo Wii by targeting casual gaming for all members of the family. The product life cycle for newer generations of home console gaming is over 8 years, where in the past consoles where revamped over a shorter time period. This is mainly due to the fact that technology was moving much faster back then, whereas now there are only advances in CPU/GPU power with little advances in overall technology. This generation could last until early 2020s, and the content of the software will only get better in quality over time as developers get used to the consoles architecture, which is very similar to PC development.

Sony SWOT Analysis

Sony

Strengths

Sony has got a strong brand image which is known globally by most people in the world. The company produced the Walkman where people could play audio cassettes while on the move which was a strong product when it released. The company has been able to monopolise their brand loyalty by having repeat customers which would purchase different products such as a TV with a home audio system etc.

Sony is an innovative company such as the Walkman, the Blu-Ray discs, the original PlayStation and most recently with 4K resolution televisions. The company has a strong corporate culture of investing in research and development for a long term approach. As technology is always changing, it is important for a company to remain innovative so that their products can compete with others in the market. The fact that Sony operate in various markets also allow it to diversify its risk, for example the video game segment for Sony has been profitable for a long period of time and has been keeping the company from having larger losses.

Weaknesses

Sony has seen its TV division lose a lot momentum in the past 2 decades. The TV division used to be a key area for Sony where they made high quality, long lasting products, but their market was eroded by LG, Samsung and others. This was mainly due to the fact that the prices for the competition was lower than that of Sony and the products also had more features.

The decline in its sales has led to Sony reporting losses for the past 5 years. The senior management have made major structural changes in order to save money from various departments and this involved staff layoffs as well as closure of offices in different countries. Sony has made its first annual profit in May 2013 for over 5 years due to the changes they made. The CEO had changed to Kazuo Hirai, who was the head of the gaming division, and he is changing the strategy of the company to allow features to work on multiple devices.

Opportunities

Sony has been making strides in the mobile and tablet market with its Xperia range of devices where some products are waterproof and shockproof. These gadgets would help Sony to generate sales and profits in the long term if they are able to gain customers who will purchase next iterations of future phones and tablets.

The company can become the leader in the video game industry in the future as they have had a great response from gamers for the PS4 console. When compared to Sony’s competition which is mainly the Xbox One console, the PS4 is at a lower price point to the console unveiled by Microsoft and has the potential to have backwards compatibility with Gaikai technology. Sony has developed the console with indie developers in mind and this would be a great way for the PS4 to have exclusive content which will not be on the other consoles.

Sony’s photography division would be a great way for the company to generate revenues. The NEX range of cameras is a compact camera system which is cheaper than the high range of cameras but produces excellent images. Sony would promote their cameras more via different forms of marketing, such as using photo social media sites like Tumblr where images would be taken from the cameras made by Sony.

Threats

The Xbox One console is a threat for Sony. The main reason this is because Sony generates most of its profits from its gaming division, and if Microsoft were to become the market leader in gaming, this would impact Sony tremendously. The other company which could affect Sony would be Nintendo and their home console, the Wii U which has exclusive games such as Zelda and Mario.

Sony’s stock price has decreased greatly over the past decade and this is mainly due to the problems they have been facing. The way in which investors sell their investments can affect the way in which Sony generates external financing. If investors are cautious of the long term viability of Sony, they can be seen as a risky investment for lending institutions.

Samsung SWOT Analysis

This will be my first post in a long time.

Samsung

Strengths

Samsung has a great market for selling televisions which have innovative features such as internet based applications and recommendations on programmes based on user views. The company has been able to make tremendous strides over the years, and the products for the television division have a wide range of price points to accommodate different consumer groups.

Samsung is one of the largest and the most dominant smartphone manufacturer globally. The company has sold more phones globally compared to its closest competitor, Apple which is the second largest manufacturer. The Samsung Galaxy S series phones are the main reason for gaining a large market share over a 4 year time period. The latest handset had sold millions of units within one quarter of release which shows that the company can shift millions of units through innovation.

The camera division of Samsung is also making impressive changes to the overall market. The company has produced a camera which has the Android operating system by Google which is a first in the industry. The camera allows the user to manipulate images and be able to share their photos instantly to popular social networking sites via its built in 4G and Wi-Fi functionality.

Weaknesses

The laptop division and the tablet division of Samsung is somewhat lacking compared to the overall market and its competitors. The company is trying to release new products within this area but global sales of laptops have declined for a few years now and tablet sales have increased. The company has yet to monopolise on this change in technology as the tablets they have released are not that attractive to consumers.

The fact that the company is selling millions of units of mobile phones is a great achievement, however the biggest problem with this is that the company is not making a good margin on the those sales. The manufacturing of their products is highly fragmented as well, where Samsung has made dozens of different types of handsets to accommodate different price points. This maybe creating mixed messages to investors who may find that a streamlined product offering would better in the long term.

Opportunities

Samsung is said to announce a smart watch in the month of September 2013, but this is not confirmed. IF Samsung were to release a smart watch, then they would the first company to release a product like this to the market. Although there are other smaller start-up companies planning to release their own smart watches, Samsung would be the first large company to produce them on a global scale.

Another aspect Samsung could look into is having a health application and product, much like the Nike Fuelband or Nike+. Samsung could try and partner with Adidas to create a similar product which would allow both companies to enter a market which they do not operate in at the moment. Creating a product which would be bundled with a similar health wristband with a compatible smartphone would allow the companies to attract a different consumer base. Adidas could use celebrities such as Andy Murray to promote the product in advertisements as well as be endorsed by Samsung.

Threats

Apple releasing new flagship mobile devices is the biggest threat to Samsung at the moment, especially the release of a budget iPhone product. The fact that a budget iPhone would allow Apple to sell to developing markets such as India would cut Samsung’s market share. The popularity of the iPhone is evident as customers are loyal to the company they buy from and can make it hard to transfer to another handset.

Other areas which can be threats to Samsung are the fact that the manufacturing factories of the company can be hit by natural disasters. The supply chain would be disrupted which can cause major problems especially if a new product were to be released soon. The company would need to act fast in making sure that the supply can meet the demand of consumers, as well as ensure that the factories are maintained properly during and after the natural disaster.

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