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All smartphones are not created equal

There are remarkable differences in performance between phone brands, but it also depends where the user is located

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Just as different smartphones offer a variety of camera qualities or screen sizes, they also differ in the network communication features which enable faster download speeds and smoother video streamingOpensignal, the mobile analytics company, has for the first time quantified the experience of users with different kinds of smartphones globally. 

Analysing the three largest smartphone makers by shipment volume – Apple, Huawei and Samsung – the report highlights the degree to which high-end smartphone users experience a faster mobile connection than those users with mid-range or low-tier smartphone models. 

Samsung users experienced faster download speeds than Apple and Huawei users in 35% of countries, across 40 countries analyzed.

Among the three largest smartphone makers, Apple users were faster in 17.5% of countries. And in the remaining 48%, none of the three were fastest although Huawei users were joint-fastest in seven countries.

In the U.S., Samsung users experienced download speeds 8.2 Mbps faster than iPhone users.

However, the country with the greatest advantage for Samsung users was Norway, where Samsung users were 12 Mbps faster than Huawei users, and 14 Mbps faster than Apple iPhone users.

Apple users had the biggest edge over Samsung and Huawei users in U.A.E. and Taiwan.

In those countries, the download speeds iPhone users experienced were 14.7 Mbps and 8 Mbps faster than Samsung users’ speeds.

All smartphones are not created equal; they vary in network capability as well as cameras and displays.

To analyze the differences, Opensignal split smartphone users into three groups — low, mid and high-tier — based on a smartphone’s mobile network capabilities. Because high-tier models include more network technologies, they are more sensitive to mobile network improvements and are, in effect, a leading indicator of what the mobile network experience will be in the future.

Smartphone type affects the multiplayer mobile gaming experience too.

High-tier smartphone users experienced latencies 18% — or 11.1 ms — faster than low- tier smartphone users, and 14% faster even than mid-tier smartphone users. Lower latencies help to speed gamers’ reaction times.

The high-tier smartphone download experience ranges from 70.4 Mbps in South Korea to 6.6 Mbps in Iraq, comparing all smartphone brands across 73 countries.

Users in Canada and Singapore ranked just behind South Korean users with speeds of 67.1 Mbps and 65.4 Mbps, in second and third place respectively.

Download speeds of high-tier smartphones were at least twice as fast as those of low-tier users in 25 countries.

Notably, in Thailand speeds measured on high- tier smartphones were 4.3 times as fast as those measured on low-tier smartphones; in Canada and the U.A.E, 2.9 times; and in Australia, Singapore and Switzerland, 2.6, 2.5 and 2.5 times respectively.

Each of the three largest smartphone brands’ users were the fastest of the three in one tier.

High-tier Samsung users experienced faster speeds than Apple and Huawei users with global download speeds of 26.6 Mbps, 25.1 Mbps and 24.4 Mbps respectively. However, among the mid-tier category, Apple users experienced the fastest speeds of the three largest smartphone brands, while Huawei users were fastest among low-tier users.

Read the full report here.

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Huge appetite for foldable phones – when prices fall

Samsung, Huawei and Motorola have all shown their cards, but consumers are concerned about durability, size, and enhanced use cases, according to Strategy Analytics

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Foldable devices are a long-awaited disrupter in the smartphone market, exciting leading-edge early adopters keen for a bold new type of device. But the acceptance of foldable devices by mainstream segments will depend on the extent to which the current barriers to adoption are addressed.

Major brands have been throwing their foldable bets into the hat to see what the market wants from a foldable, namely how big the screens should be and how the devices should fold. Samsung and Huawei have both designed devices that unfold from smartphones to tablets, each with their own method of how the devices go about folding. Motorola has recently designed a smartphone that folds in half, and it resembles a flip phone.

Assessing consumer desire for foldable smartphones, a new report from the User Experience Strategies group at Strategy Analytics has found that the perceived value of the foldable form does not outweigh the added cost.

Key report findings include:

  • The idea of having a larger-displayed smartphone in a portable size is perceived as valuable to the vast majority of consumers in the UK and the US. But, willingness to pay extra for a foldable device does not align with the desire to purchase one. Manufacturers must understand that there will be low sell-through until costs come down.
  • But as the acceptance for traditional smartphone display sizes continues to increase, so does the imposed friction of trying to use them one-handed. Unless a foldable phone has a wider folded state, entering text when closed is too cumbersome, forcing users to utilize two hands to enter text, when in the opened state.
  • Use cases need to be adequately demonstrated for consumers to fully understand and appreciate the potential for a foldable phone, though their priorities seemed fixed on promoting ‘two devices in one’ equaling a better video viewing experience. Identification and promotion of meaningful new use cases will be vital to success.

Christopher Dodge, Associate Director, UXIP and report author said: “As multitasking will look to be a core selling point for foldable phones, it is imperative that the execution be simplified and intuitive. Our data suggests there are a lot of uncertainties that come with foldable phone ownership, stemming mainly from concerns with durability and size, in addition to concerns over enhanced use cases.

“But our data also shows that when the consumers are able to use a foldable phone in hand, there is a solid reduction of doubt and concern about the concept. This means that the in-store experience may more important than ever in driving awareness, capabilities, and potential use cases.”

Said Paul Brown, Director, UXIP: “The big question is whether the perceived value will outweigh the added cost; and the initial response from consumers is ‘no.’ The ability for foldable displays to resolve real consumer pain-points is, in our view critical to whether these devices will become a niche segment of the smartphone market or the dominant form-factor of the future. Until costs come down, these devices will not take off.”

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New exploit exposes credit cards on mobile phones

Check Point Security has found that handsets using Qualcomm chipsets that hold credit and debit card credentials are at risk of a new exploit.

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Now it’s more important than ever to update your phone.
Check Point security has found a vulnerability in mobile devices that run Android, which allows credit card details to be accessed by hackers.

Mobile operating systems like Android offer a Rich Execution Environment (REE), providing a hugely extensive and versatile runtime environment, which allows apps to run on the device. However, while bringing flexibility and capability, REE leaves devices vulnerable to a wide range of security threats. A Trusted Execution Environment (TEE) is designed to reside alongside the REE and provide a safe area on the device to protect assets and to execute trusted code. Qualcomm makes use of a secure virtual processor, which is often referred to as the “secure world”, in comparison to the “non-secure world”, where REE resides. 

But Check Point “fuzzed” a “hole” into this secure world 

In a 4-month research project, Check Point researchers attempted and succeeded to reverse Qualcomm’s “Secure World” operating system. Check Point researchers leveraged a “fuzzing” technique to expose the hole. Fuzz testing (fuzzing) is a quality assurance technique used to discover coding errors and security loopholes in software, operating systems or networks. It involves inputting massive amounts of random data, called fuzz, to the test subject in an attempt to make it crash.

Check Point implemented a custom-made fuzzing tool, which tested trusted code on Samsung, LG, and Motorola devices. Through fuzzing, Check Point found 4 vulnerabilities in trusted code implemented by Samsung (including S10), 1 in Motorola, 1 in LG, but all code sourced by Qualcomm itself. To address the vulnerability, the runtime of Android needs to be protected from both attackers and users. This is typically achieved by moving the secure storage software to a hardware-supported TEE.

Check Point Research disclosed its findings directly to the companies and gave them time to patch vulnerabilities. Samsung patched three vulnerabilities and LG patched one. Motorola and Qualcomm responded, but have yet to provide a patch, and there is no confirmation of a release date yet.

Check Point Research has urged mobile phone users to stay vigilant and check their credit and debit card providers for any unusual activity. In the meantime, they are working with the vendors mentioned to issue patches.

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