One piece of uncharted territory in the mobile phone and tablet industry relates to how much Gorilla Glass (used for touch screens) that Corning manufacture, compared to an estimate of how many devices are physically shipped. Corning routinely publish the total area of glass produced, from which analysts attempt to triangulate with the relative sizes, and volumes, of the products that employ the technology.
The biggest estimated gap appears to relate to glass used to power “media tablets” in China. These tend to run the Open Source version of Android (aka “AOSP” – Android Open Source Project), don’t use any of the Google Play services (hence never need to authenticate with Google), and are assumed to be personal TVs that feed content from WiFi. Or suitable capacity SD memory cards traded (illicitly?) in some Chinese markets, preloaded with films or video from other sources.
The existence of these low cost WiFi personal TVs would explain why Apple, with a seemingly sub 15% unit market share, still drive a vastly disproportionate amount of web and e-commerce traffic that operators experience. However, such tablets – Kindle Fire being the most prominent exception – are fairly rare outside China and India.
There are rumours that Amazon are about to release a mobile phone – I don’t even think they’ve said phone themselves – but on their announcement invite video, folks are rocking their heads from side to side looking at a handheld device. All the bets are on showing items in 3D, as demonstrated by this (now Google) employee – who conjured the effect using a Nintendo Wii remote and matching sensor bar. A fascinating (less than 5 minutes) demonstration of what was possible some months back here: Head Tracking for Desktop VR Displays
Of course, by the time you read this, Amazon will have likely blown your head away with a ready to ship (soon) device, and some compelling content or applications. As an Amazon Prime customer, i’m looking forward to it. Not least having a 3D display without the need for special glasses!
Footnote: the Amazon Fire Phone was announced, two of it’s features described (in 80 seconds) in this BBC video. This neglected to mention that the WiFi can wind up to full dual channel 801.11ac speeds (as fast 300Mb/s), and that it already supports the UK LTE and HSPA+ bands out of the box. You can also throw video to your TV using Miracast (as present in a lot of modern TVs already, and in many set-top boxes). At the moment, like the Fire TV set top box, it has been announced for the US only.
I must admit, I did tap the US off contract price into Google: 649 usd in gbp – and it comes out £381.52 + VAT = £458 or so. As in the USA, that’s a 32GB phone for the price of a 16GB iPhone 5S. Then told myself off for doing this, as the USA cellular market is a strange beast (most business in $80/month contracts including handset subsidies – where the handset cost is $200 up front). Everything about the hardware is great, and the source of initial moans by the tech community around US pricing, being tied to AT&T for contract sales, no sign of a rumoured bundled carrier data contract etc – are things that Amazon could iterate at blinding speed – both in the USA and elsewhere.
It is a shopaholics dream phone – it can look up from a selection of millions of items visually, or by listening to music or TV shows – and to be able to order them for you (and deliver on a bundled Amazon Prime service) in a very, very slick fashion. About the only thing it can’t do yet is to value antiques. Or can it?