SA tech flops for 2013

2013-12-16 10:00
Smartphones. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

Smartphones. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

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Cape Town - South Africans have had a feast of technology toys in 2013, but things have not always gone to plan for some of the major players.

Despite the best of intentions, not all tech solutions have found traction.

Here is a list of the tech flops for 2013.

HTC One



There is no doubt that the aluminium-encased HTC is one of the best mobile devices that came on the scene in 2013. But then HTC killed it.

There was virtually no marketing presence and the device was consigned to the back shelves in cellphone stores where few customers ever got to see it, let alone play with it.

HTC hinted that marketing was a weakness and promised that the One would be aggressively advertised.

"We've got great products; we've got great features, and maybe we didn't communicate them as clearly as we should have done," Jon French, HTC vice president of sales and operations for the EMEA region told News24.

But the metal body phone with a top-end processor never did get that marketing budget, and the public forgot about it.

Samsung Galaxy S4



The big question for Samsung in the run-up to the launch of the S4 was whether the South Korean company could top its previous model, the SIII.

Unfortunately, it couldn't.

The Galaxy SIII set such a standard of what users expect from a mobile phone that the S4, despite a ton of marketing money, could not beat.

On the plus side, Samsung scored a win on the S4 with its 13 megapixel camera and especially its offer of a two year repair warranty - even against water damage and breakage.

On the negative side though, the S4 didn't have enough differentiating features to pull ahead of the SIII. And the mass of features on the device didn't sit well with analysts.

According to Jan Dawson of Ovum, Samsung needs to provide better hardware to compete with the build quality from rivals such as Sony, Nokia and HTC.

"The improvements to eye tracking, the addition of S Translator, the hover feature and so on are good steps in this direction, but they are gimmicks rather than game changers. At this point, Samsung appears to be trying to kill the competition with sheer volume of new features. But based on past experience most people will never even find them," Dawson said.

BlackBerry



The Canadian-based company brought smartphones to the mass market and still enjoys a massive market share in SA. It should then be a slam-dunk for the new platform, BlackBerry 10 to dominate the local market. But not so.

The release of the BlackBerry Z10 did not register a blip of buzz despite the popularity of the brand in SA. Part of the reason may lie in the fact that the country is price sensitive and the lack of the popular BlackBerry Internet Service (BIS) did not endear the new device and platform to South Africans.

The launch on BBM (BlackBerry Messenger) to non-BlackBerry devices also did not go well.

Many users were excited by the imminent launch, but when the date came, the system came crashing down. BlackBerry was forced to retreat and delay the launch.

"We were aware of an issue with this unreleased version of the BBM for Android app. This older version resulted in volumes of data traffic orders of magnitude higher than normal for each active user and impacted the system in abnormal ways," said Andrew Bocking, head of BBM at BlackBerry.

Still, when BBM launch to Android and iOS, it scored over 10 million downloads in the first 24 hours.

Sony



Sony has two dedicated content channels on DStv, not to mention a wealth of content in terms of movies and music, but the launch of the Sony Entertainment Network has been consistently delayed in SA.

Rival hardware manufactures like Apple, BlackBerry and Google offer Sony content on their platforms but the company has not rolled out similar services, despite bringing top-end game changing smartphones to SA.

The company said that the launch of its Xperia Z indicated that it was a premium brand and needed to differentiate itself.

"Where do I differentiate myself; where can I make a place for myself in the consumer mindset? The only place I find myself doing that is by delivering a consistently good user experience," Mansoor Ahmed, Sony Mobile product marketing manager for Middle East and Africa, told News24

Icasa



The key to the expanding list of smartphones capable of higher speed LTE (Long Term Evolution) is a network capable of supporting it.

However the regulator has failed in 2013 to assign spectrum to mobile operators so that true mobile broadband can become a reality in SA.

The result has been that the country has fallen further behind developed countries in terms of mobile broadband, even though it leads the region in terms of 3G connectivity.

"The big thing for us is that data traffic in South Africa is growing by 70% year-on-year so we need the additional capacity to be able to offload the 3G network and further improve the customer experience," Vodacom CEO Shameel Joosub told News24.

The operator intends to have all its base stations refitted by March 2014 so that when spectrum is allocated, it can speedily roll out LTE services.

Further complicating matters is the new minister of communications who has voiced his intention to urgently tackle the delivery of mobile broadband spectrum.

"The next crucial step is to replicate the mobile miracle for broadband in South Africa. Most of our population still have no access to the internet at all, let alone a broadband connection," said Minister Yunus Carrim at the Southern Africa Telecommunication Networks and Applications Conference.

The Draft National Broadband Policy aims to create a framework for the rollout of spectrum by March 2014, but it would require that terrestrial TV broadcasters abandon the 800MHz frequency band.

"Institutional challenges associated with spectrum allocation, together with delays in the migration of analogue terrestrial broadcasting to digital, have meant that service innovation, increased competition, potential job opportunities and tax revenues have not been realised," the policy which was proposed on 25 October says.

"I think we need to push harder to resolve the impasse on the 800 spectrum - the impasse for the broadcasters... really making sure that we can get that issue sorted and we can start the digital migration," said Joosub.


- Follow Duncan on Twitter

Read more on:    blackberry  |  vodacom  |  sony  |  samsung  |  htc  |  mobile
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