Thursday, December 20, 2012

Why Samsung rules Android !?

Following previous blog
which was very successful, Alexey asked me to publish this one as well:
Somewhere around October published Brian S Hall this article, you are welcomed to read it.
Alexey “Technologov” did an analysis after this pierce and here it is:

I have bought a Galaxy S3 few months ago, was absolutely stunned by it, so I went to learn Android from others.

Brian S Hall said:
Apple = Hardware + Software + Ecosystem.
And Samsung = Hardware.
This is WRONG!

Many people think that all Androids are equal, and this is a race to the bottom with cheapest vendor wins. This could not be farther from truth.
In reality: Samsung = Hardware + Software. (+small ecosystem inroads)
I decided to compare *software* in this article.
Here is the outcome:
Differences between Samsung Android 4.0 (i9300 Galaxy S-III) and vanilla Google Android 4.0 (Nexus or Chinese phones) are HUGE:
[in square brackets I put the bonus effect of a particular feature on total handset value]
killer features:
Samsung Smart Stay - phone looks at you, and does not shutdown screen as long as it detects your face. Killer feature! Worth at least +10% of total handset cost! [+10%]
Video Pop up play - lets me browse the web + see video clips same time!
In video clips, the main focus is music, not the video, so I focus on the Internet, while putting only half-eye on the video clip.
This is available on PCs since Windows 98, yet lacks on every other smartphone! Killer feature!  [+5%]
A long-long list of smaller "nice-to-have" features:
Each feature by itself doesn't change the picture, but combined together, they increase the value of Samsung Android products.

-Shortcut to screen brightness (this is imba simple to implement, very small, yet super-useful feature, as I tend to change screen brightness very often, and it is super-easy with the S3)
Why haven't Google done it ? Because Samsung UI team do better job of human user experience testing. This is why I value it so highly, and can easily justify another $20 on this feature alone. [+3%]
-Samsung gestures (screen-shot, double tap, etc...) [+3%]
(I can swipe my hand over Galaxy S3 screen, and it will take a screenshot ! This is imba cool)
-better icons (TouchWiz UI) [+3%]
-extra codecs: *.wma, *.wmv (I'm kind of shocked and surprised, that Sammy intervened so deeply in the O.S) [+3%]
-assistive Flashlight widget (this is much easier to use as widget, rather than other flashlight applications) [+1%]
-Much improved lock-screen with water effects [+1%]
-better Clock app: has smart alert (slowly increasing volume in morning, so I don't need a hammer to silence my phone), timer, stopper, world clock (multi-time zone). Everything integrated with one GUI. [+1%]
-Dropbox 50 GB for free for 2 years (cloud service) [+1%]
-S-Voice (cloud service) [+1%]
[Not yet valued features:]
-S Memo / S Note
-S Planner
-S Beam (NFC+Wi-Fi direct combo)
-AllShare cast (remote desktop/streaming) - with Samsung TV.
-Music Player and Video Player software in S3 are superior (made by Samsung)
Based on my rough estimation, I believe, that Samsung Android worth over at least +25% (perhaps +35%) more per device vs. non-Samsung Android of same hardware. (depending on the values you put on those individual Samsung Galaxy S3 features)
In other words, if the (hypothetical) Galaxy S3 comes with vanilla Google Android 4.0, I could pay like 3000 ils (Israeli Shekels) for it, but for the same hardware with Samsung Android 4.0, I could easily justify 3750 ils for it. This is the "Samsung premium" I would happily pay for their *software* alone.

At this rate, I expect Samsung to keep on improving software in Galaxy S4, and keep charging a premium over the other Android vendors.
My recommendation: If you don't believe me, just use the Galaxy S3 for a month, then try the vanilla Android for a few days. You will understand the difference very quickly. You will not want to go back.
Now let's compare true value, or so-called bang-for-the-buck:
Galaxy SIII 16 GB i9300 vs. Galaxy Nexus i9250
Price 3300 vs 2400 ils. (Israeli Shekels, Sep. 2012 from
+38% higher price.
Hardware: (value for me)
MicroSD slot +15% (I put 64 GB of extra storage, used for videos --
use case is to convert the S3 into an HDTV in my pocket and watch it in bus or parks)
Bigger Battery +5% (2100 vs 1750 mAh) (again, for traveling reasons, I take 3 batteries when on long travels. Probably would have to take 4 if I were using a Nexus.
Replacing the battery is just a 1 min inconvenience on my Galaxy S3. For normal work days the S3 battery is good enough, and I still have ~25% at the end of the day.)
CPU Quad-core +5% (potential of HEVC decoding, future-proof)
Camera (8mp vs.  5mp) +0% (I don't care, but other people might put a value on it) = +25%
Software, as mentioned earlier, worth at least another +25% premium for the S3.
S3 value is at least +50% higher than the Nexus ! (price only +38% higher)

Bottom line:
The Galaxy S3 is one of those rare gems, that even after huge marketing spending, it still delivers a great bang-for-the-buck, and I can easily justify the premium. And I rarely buy marketed computers.
The actual material usage (BOM), bill-of-materials, and complexity, is probably close.
Producing the S3 hardware costs Sammy maybe +5% more over producing the Galaxy Nexus (my rough estimate is around $220 vs $210 per handset). But they can easily charge +50% extra for it. Easy profit.
Few words about HTC:
HTC lacks killer features of
Samsung in the software department: namely Smart Stay and Video Pop Up play.
Also HTC One X lacks both removable battery *and* removable storage (MicroSD), for me it is worth no more than the Nexus, maybe less. Indefinitely *much much* less than the Galaxy S3. I would be ready to pay between one-half to two-thirds for the One X, if I needed a new phone today, vs the S3 price.
One last note- Samsung Android 4.0 is better not only than Google Android 4.0, but also wins vs. Google Android 4.2, and on tables Samsung's advantage is even greater, due to the introduction of world’s first full-blown Window Manager for Android, allowing you to have multiple windows floating around, just like on MS Windows. Just look at Samsung Galaxy Tabs and you will understand what I mean.
I would love to read your thoughts about it…

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Sound of MP3 players

Today I would like to introduce a very special guest post from Alexey Eromenko.
Alexey known also by the nick name 'Technologov' is involve in the "contrib" project; also in GNS3 which is a graphical network simulator that allows simulation of complex networks; 
Among other things he is part of the Dynamips community which is a Cisco router emulator, the original project was abandoned for a long time but the community decided to keep improving it under the name of "Dynamips community version" or "Dynamips-community"

On his spare time he is beta tester for OpenSUSE and wrote most of the articles in "Lessons for Lizards" community book about openSUSE. 


Multimedia Codecs supported by portable MP3 players, including smartphones

Out of curiosity, just decided to do a global analysis of various portable MP3 players, and what they do support. Analysis includes both dedicated players and smart-phones, by world-wide units ever shipped in history.

Major formats/codecs:
1. MP3 (The world’s first popular audio codec)
2. AAC (Advanced-audio coding, MP3 successor)
3. WMA (Microsoft Windows Media Audio)
4. OGG Vorbis (*.ogg; Free Software and patent-free codec)

First format is of course - PCM WAVE. (*.wav; uncompressed lossless CD-quality audio; one song often takes 80 megabytes at 1400 kbps !) Due to the huge size each song takes, it is rarely used for portable audio or for Internet downloads.

MP3 - the universal format, standardized in 1993. Became popular to due online sharing of illegally downloaded music in early 2000’s (Napster, Kazaa) and due to the little space it takes, which is especially useful on portable players. Good quality can be achieved at 128 kbps, compared with 1400 kbps for uncompressed PCM Wave makes for a 12x storage efficiency. Open specification, but requires patent royalties.

AAC - the successor of MP3, ratified in 1997. Provides good quality, even at 64 kbps. Open specification, but requires patent royalties. This is pretty much the standard on Apple Mac OS X and iPhone devices. Due to it’s MP3 succession, more logical name would be a (*.mp4), but it got (*.aac) extension instead, while the MP4 format is usually used to describe MPEG4 based videos.

WMA - First released in 1999, Microsoft decided to develop their own codecs, to reduce dependency on world’s standards, as well as to collect royalties from others. Most music gets encoded into it by Windows Media Player, that rips CDs into this format by default. It achieves good sound quality at 64 kbps. Open specification, but requires patent royalties to Microsoft. It comes default on any modern version of Windows.

OGG Vorbis - Developed in 2000, This is the world’s first 100% Free-software format, that is also patent-free and high-quality lossy audio codec. It was developed by the Open-Source Linux community, as an answer to the patent-encumbered MP3 format, and is widely deployed and recommended in the Linux world. As a Linux user, I use this codec, and it achieves great sound quality at 64 kbps. This is the only audio codec, that is massively supported under GNU/Linux desktop systems. (even MP3 is not.) It can be installed as a separate codec on your Windows PC too, of course.
Vorbis advantage is two-fold: It sounds much better than MP3 at low bitrates (64 kbps) and allows you to save a lot of space, and is widely supported by Free and Open-Source Software.

NOTE: Vorbis too, has a successor, released in late 2012, codec named “Opus”, that got IETF certification standard, and is considered the best audio codec in the world. I expect future Android releases to support Opus. It is a universal codec, that may replace both Vorbis and speech-related (VoIP) codecs at ultra-low bitrates, and with low delay. On top of Vorbis advantages, it adds flexibility. It can go from 6 kbps up to 256 kbps per channel. Skype already announced their intent to adopt Opus.

Major dedicated portable MP3 devices:
Apple iPod (~66%, or 2/3 of dedicated MP3 device market), at 300 million units sold. [1]
Others combined (30%; iRiver, SanDisk, Chinese S1 MP3, Creative, Microsoft Zune, …; 150 million estimated)

Codec supported by Non-iPod devices: (150 M devices)
MP3 = 100% of devices. If a device does not support MP3, then it is not an MP3-player ;) @_@
*AAC = 75%. (not supported by some SanDisk models and by Chinese S1 MP3)
*WMA = 60%
*OGG Vorbis = 20% (?; iRiver, some Chinese S1 MP3 models, some SanDisk models, Cowon, and few other brands support it.) [5]

[*] Based on my observation in local shops in Israel, as well as some online shops of MP3 players. Additional information source:

All portable MP3 dedicated hardware:
MP3 = 100%  (all devices; 450 million)
AAC = 92% (300+112 M = ~412 million)
WMA = 20% (90 M out of 450 M)
OGG Vorbis = 7% (30 M out of 450 M)

Well, AAC supported almost universally, except for the Chinese S1 MP3 player, and few others, while OGG Vorbis has poorest support among the portable hardware MP3 players.
Apple supports only MP3 and AAC codecs, of the popular four. [3]

Major smartphone MP3 devices:
1. Apple iPhone - 200 million devices
2. Android - 500 million installed base. (of those about 40% also support WMA, due to vendor customizations of Android O.S itself) [2]
3. Windows Phone (WMA, MP3, AAC) - ~20 million devices. [4]
4. BlackBerry (MP3, AAC, WMA, and Vorbis on newer models, say 50%) - -~200 million devices [6]
5. Nokia Symbian (MP3, AAC, WMA) -~ 250 million devices [7]
(***NOTE: Here I do not count music-capable dumb-phones, because I really don’t know the percentage of dumb-phones (S40?), that can play user-supplied music at all, besides built-in ringtones)

Smartphones: (1170 million)
MP3 = 100% (all smartphones, that I know of, support MP3)
AAC = 100% (all smartphones, that I know of, support AAC)
WMA = 57% (500 M*40% = 200 million Androids with WMA + 200 M BlackBerry + 250 M Symbian + 20 M Windows Phones = 670 million)
OGG Vorbis = 51% (500 M, all Androids and 100 M newer BlackBerry support it, but no other smartphone does = 600 million)

Total devices installed base: (1170 M smartphones + 450 M MP3 players = 1620 million devices total)
MP3 = 100% (1620 M, yay !)
AAC = 98% (1582 M; all smartphones, plus most MP3 players support AAC)
WMA = 47% (670 M smartphones + 90 M dedicated players)
OGG Vorbis = 39% (600 M smartphones + 30 M dedicated players)

Yeah ! Total portable music players, with the advent of smartphones, have surpassed one Billion (with a B) units sold !!!

Now, with the stunning success of Android, the free codec, OGG Vorbis, is quickly catching up to Microsoft WMA.

Apple devices make up almost one third (500 million out of 1620 million) of total devices. Same for Android.
Apple in the meantime keeps selling 5 million iPods per quarter in 2012, and while I see the need for mini-MP3-players (such as the Nano and Shuffle, for sport activity), I see zero use cases for the full-sized iPod Touch. If you know about any use-cases, please share.

A word to cell phone and music player manufacturers: If you wanna sell devices to Linux users, you better support Free Software formats out-of-the-box, including OGG Vorbis audio, new Opus and WebM video; Supporting FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec) and Speex is a bonus. Needless to say that I own an Android-based super-phone, the Samsung Galaxy S III, and recommend it to people.

[1] 300 million iPods:,2817,2394061,00.asp
[2] WMA on Android: For example, Samsung Android 4.0 on Galaxy S III *does* support WMA (and WMV), while vanilla Google Android 4.0 (on Nexus and cheap Chinese Androids) does not. Some Motorola Android devices also support WMA. Official formats supported by Android:
Google: 500 Million Android Devices Have Been Activated Globally
[3] iPod: About compatible song formats
[4] Supported media codecs for Windows Phone
[5] SanDisk MP3 players supported codecs
[6] BlackBerry codecs support
According to Wikipedia, BlackBerry sold 200 million smartphones by Q3 2012 during history:
...and 100 million of those 200 in the last 2 years.
[7] Multimedia Codecs available in Nokia Symbian devices:
Nokia shipped 250 million Symbian smartphones:

Open Questions:
What is the exact total number of iPhones sold till Q3 2012? (my number is approximate)
What is the exact total number of iPods sold till Q3 2012? (my number is approximate)
What is the approx. total number of other MP3 players sold till Q3 2012?
What is the approx. total number of MP3-capable dumb-phones (S40 ? Brew?) sold till Q3 2012? ...and which majors OSes they run, and which codecs do they support? How to analyze dumbphones ? By major companies and firmware family / O.S ?

Extra sources of data :
Look At the (Cell-phone) Handset Industry, Market and Installed Base in 2012 (by Tomi Ahonen)

You’re permitted to USE, COPY, MODIFY this document under the terms of BSD license. See:

by Alexey Eromenko “Technologov”, Dec.2012.


Please share your thoughts and insights ...