What seems like magic, but really isn’t? I’ll start: folding phones and new smartphone form factors.
They could be magical, though. But not right now. It’s as if the Android manufacturers ran out of ideas about how to make phones better and just started going crazy with one-off experiments instead and it is bad for consumers. Why? Because this is your actual money.
Here’s the thing about reviewing technology: I send 95 percent of the devices back after a couple of weeks and the stuff I get to keep is invariably going to live in a dark drawer while I test the new shiny.
I can’t tell you how the Galaxy Z Fold2 survives as my daily after months of it falling out of my gym shorts pocket to hit the seat slider railing in my car. I can’t tell you about the mental stresses of leaving a R50 000 device largely unattended in a beach bag while I have fun with my family, hoping the group of youths who were eyeballing me taking full quality selfies don’t go digging.
I can’t report that because it wasn’t swimming weather during the testing period, and mostly because I was extra cautious and considerate of the phone during my two weeks.
Luckily the X50 Pro camera problems presented during the unboxing experience. Other reviewers had none of the problems tha I did for some obscure reason, which is why I approached Vivo to send out another unit. It’s extra concerning that when the Galaxy S20 Ultra was reviewed – on the same time lines as you saw in international markets, no less – there were very few local reports of the focusing issue.
Was this because the Exynos signal processing was superior? Highly unlikely. It’s easy to write something off as an anomaly when you’re trying to carry a positive sentiment with the brand. Ditto for the Galaxy S20 FE touchscreen woes which Samsung has now issues three failed software fixes for.
You don’t get issues at this kind of steady clip on an iPhone. I’ve been fortunate in my career to have the latest iPhone in my custody over the holiday period and this lets me explore the limitations and quirks at my leisure in what is traditionally the most intensive phone use period of the year.
Thankfully I don’t do any direct sponsored/advertiser content, so there’s no real financial consideration when I arrive at a negative conclusion on a device. I don’t have to “play nice” or have an editor lecture me about there not being enough space to publish negative sentiment.
The latest iPhone is more than enough of a device for most people and even more so now in the age of streaming where media management isn’t nearly as big of a problem as it once was. And with iPhone prices now at the same level – and cheaper in some cases – as Android in the premium market segment there’s even less reason to buy what in many ways will be an inferior ‘droid.
Let’ s look at the facts. At R10 000 the iPhone SE has the most powerful internals and the best camera on the market by a country mile. You’ll need to keep a powerbank at hand and make do with a 16:9 display, however. Those superiorities add up as you eliminate the screen and battery deficiencies and spend more money. Look at the iPhone 11 against the equally priced Samsung Galaxy S20 FE: iPhone wins for raw performance, battery endurance, camera quality and in the accessories market.
It pains me to say it, but there is no compelling reason – outside of a few niche use cases such as people like me who produce podcasts entirely on mobile devices – to pick a droid over an iPhone if you’re shopping over R10 000.
Android still is the champion of the mass market, though. With a plethora of choices sub-R10 000 that are more than capable of meeting a diverse mix of computing needs.
We’ve perfected the smartphone idea and now should be adult enough to admit that the market has had more than enough time to iron out the wrinkles. No more free passes for poorly conceived mobile experiences that don’t solve any real world problems.
The fact that you can buy a Galaxy Note, iPad Mini and an Apple Pencil, with full accessory sets and still have change from Samsung Galaxy Z Fold2 money is wild. Consumers make too many compromises for these “new form factors.”