A long, dry summer

Wed Aug 26, 2015

It’s been a long, dry summer - and I’m not just talking about the weather. My series on flagship phones has been somewhat stymied by some recent changes in the industry. I was expecting some more flagships to emerge from big boys like Sony and Motorola, but instead there has been a surge of mid-range devices.

After finding all their money was being made on the entry-level Moto G, Motorola decided to scale back on an ambitious successor to last year’s Moto X. Instead we have the Moto X Play, which is nothing more than a pumped-up version of the Moto G with mid-range specs.

And, after struggling to make an impact in North America, despite a worthy flagship in the Xperia series, Sony has decided to limit the release of the Xperia Z4 to it’s native Japan only.

In the meantime,¬†a bunch of Chinese companies are trying to change the game by releasing cheap Android phones with impressive specs. We’ve got Asus putting out the ZenFone 2, Alcatel’s OneTouch Idol 3, Xiaomi’s Redmi Note 2, and the so called “flagship killer”, the OnePlus 2. However, all these phones cut corners to get prices so low, and sometimes the compromises aren’t worth it.

So, what happened to the flagships? Well, it certainly doesn’t help that Apple is taking over 90 percent of all profits in the smartphone industry. That only leaves one option - make profit on sheer volume alone. But moving as many units as possible, especially in developing markets, means putting an ever downward pressure on prices. This sounds great in theory, especially since you can’t call these new mid-range phones¬†cheap junk. The pace of technological advancement for phones lately has been blistering. A mid-range phone in 2015 makes last year’s flagship look positively vintage.

So maybe the very concept of a flagship is becoming obsolete? It’s too soon to tell. There’s no doubt that the iPhone is an overpriced luxury item, despite being a beautifully manufactured product. But with most wireless carriers doing away with contracts and subsidies, customers are only now being exposed to the true price of a smartphone. Will people stick with the quality and superior customer service that Apple represents, despite the much higher price tag, or will a better bang-for-your-buck win in the end?

The year isn’t close to being over yet, so I may eat these words later… but when it comes to true high-end flagships, it’s starting to look the same as in years past: a two-horse race between Apple and Samsung. And you know how I feel about Samsung.

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