Posts tagged ‘battery drain’

Has LTE hurt HTC?

LTE has been a drain on HTC fortunes. Can it do better in 2012?

It seems that things aren’t going so well for Taiwanese manufacturer HTC, after it reported lower than expected quarterly earnings, bringing to and end four quarters of growth. Oops.

For a company that was famed for its stratospheric rise into public consciousness, it’s a bit of a come down. HTC was known to mobile aficionados, (or geeks as they are more commonly known), as the manufacturers behind early smartphones such as the Windows Mobile powered Orange SPV. It first introduced a touch screen device in 2007 (called the HTC Touch – brilliant) just before the iPhone was released. When Android came along HTC was able to really express itself though, producing powerful, affordable, quality hardware, married to an advanced, cutting-edge OS, enhanced, in the main, with its own ‘Sense’ overlay. It was a successful formula – and led to it quickly becoming the standard bearer for Android.

In fact, consumers were soon talking about an ‘HTC’ as a rival for the iPhone, rather than an ‘Android’.  No mean feat.

However, it turns out the problem wasn’t Apple, it was Samsung. The Korean manufacturer has stolen its thunder as the goto Android alternative, with its Galaxy line taking over from ‘HTC’ as that ‘not-an-iPhone’ brand leader. Samsung quadrupled its smarthone sales in 2011 compared to 2010 and with the iPhone leaving hot cakes in the shade for umpteenth year running, it’s been at the expense of HTC rather than Apple.

So what is the problem for HTC? A big issue in the US is that instead of technical leadership, in 2011 it became known for producing too many phones that were hard to differentiate. It’s also clear that LTE hindered rather than helped. The phones were generally 3G devices with LTE functionality bolted on. This obviously requires a lot of power, but HTC tended to keep the batteries relatively thin, in order to avoid burdening the phones, and the users pockets, with an even larger footprint.  iOS5.0 battery issue Snafu aside, Apple also puts a lot of work into battery life optimisation, which is inevitably harder to do when OS and manufacturer are not vertically aligned.

The end result is that HTC LTE phones have quickly became known as power hungry clunky bricks rather that the technical, speedy tour-de-forces that it probably had intended. Not cool.

Indeed HTC’s top brass have come out and said as much, with its CFO admitted that it had “dropped the ball” with its recent line-up. In comparison, Apple’s reserved and patient approach to LTE looks ever more sensible.

A Nokia 6310 – last charged in 2003, and still going. Fully multimedia too – Calls AND texts.

LTE in Europe is still limited and HTC and Samsung have clearly been concentrating on the 700MHz LTE frequencies used in the States as that’s where the volume is right now but HTC has just announced that the Velocity is coming to Vodafone Germany soon. As LTE starts to roll out in the Europe and the Middle-East though, we could soon be faced with the same LTE-induced battery pain that the US has (One advantage of the UK not having LTE until the mid 22nd century, (probably), is that the chipsets will at least decidedly mature and the chronic battery issues will presumably be sorted. Presumably).

So if you’re in Europe will you be jumping on board with LTE as soon as you can get your mits on a smartphone? Will you keep your phone and go with a Mifi device? Wait for the iPhone 5? Or see how it all pans out and just stick with your Nokia 6310. Now that was a phone…

Why LTE would have made the iPhone 4S worse

LTE will come to the iPhone - let's hang in there

While a lot of people were aggrieved that LTE did not make it into the iPhone 4S when it was released last October, the tech site Ars Technica has done a good job making it clear that not only did Apple not need to have LTE in the 4S it actually would have been detrimental.

The clue is in Apple’s just released quarterly results, which show that, unsurprisingly, the iPhone has accounted for a sizable chunk of Apple’s revenue over the past two years. Of the 37 million iPhones sold in the last quarter, only an estimated 10m or so were sold in the US. And outside of the US, while certainly growing apace, LTE is still an emerging technology.

Even within the US, the number of iPhone owners who could actively make use of LTE, is not huge. Verizon has reasonable coverage, but AT&T is still getting going and Sprint has yet to start its LTE roll-out. Apple would have increased the cost of its BOM on integrated technology that most of its customers could not use.

What’s more, considering the battery drain that current LTE chipsets impose on the iPhone’s Android rivals, it’s little wonder that LTE was omitted. The initial release of iOS5 caused users enough battery problems as it was, and having to weather the storm of the inevitable user dissatisfaction that a battery draining LTE chipset would have brought is a sea of hurt that Apple did well to avoid.

It’s also not the first time that Apple has approached network technology in this way. The original iPhone released in 2007 was much derided by commentators for its lack of 3G – but Apple was happy to wait for greater 3G rollout and better 3G chipsets for the follow up a year later. It proved to be the right move.

As I covered a while back, the chipset that Apple is waiting for is that Qualcomm MDM9600, which should enable Apple to get LTE into a form factor it wants with, hopefully, not much power drain.

One area though that does have pockets of LTE is the Middle-East, on networks such as Etisalat, in Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Devices are sure to be a major point of conversation at the LTE MENA conference, taking place on 29th-30th April, Westin Mina Seyali, Dubai, UAE, and I for one will be keen to hear the operator’s take for the need for LTE handsets, from either Apple or its competitors.

On a selfish note, if LTE didn’t make it into the next iPhone I wouldn’t be too bothered. It would save me the frustration of seeing others round the world using it, while here in the UK we’ll be stuck with a cutting edge iPhone on a second class 3G network. The chances are though that LTE will be here for the next iPhone, possibly available in the summer. It will be interesting to see if Apple produces a separate version for markets without LTE, or goes for a single phone, containing a chipset that many will have to wait to make use of.

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