Irritable tech nerd annoyed by nonsensical mobile hardware releases

Fri, 2017/09/08

Some strangely timed or poorly placed mobile hardware releases have found themselves brought to market recently, and I’ve found myself questioning what was going on in the “board room” to create such a situation to begin with. Two releases in specific, the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 (releases September 15, 2017 in the US) and the New Nintendo 2DS XL (released July 28, 2017 in the US), have left me confused as to who the market is and what the point of their release was.

In regards to the Note 8, I’ll provide some background. On April 21, 2017, we saw the release of the Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+, the latter of which has very similar specifications and size to the upcoming Note 8. Previously we saw the release of the newest edition Galaxy S device followed eventually by the equivalent Note series device, intended to be notably larger, feature significantly better battery life, improved hardware performance, and provide use of the S-Pen stylus for a more tablet-like experience. And while that’s worked rather consistently for some time now, Samsung decided to go the “standard and plus version” route with the Galaxy S8. What’s the big deal, David? They haven’t changed up the formula, so I don’t see an issue here. You’re right, they haven’t changed it...much, but note (no pun intended) a few of the differences between the S8+ and the Note 8: 6.2-inch screen versus a 6.3 inch screen; 3500 mAh battery versus 3300 mAh; single camera lens versus two lenses; no S-Pen versus having an S-Pen; something under 600 dollars versus something almost 1000 dollars. So here’s the big deal –aside from price, which I’ll get to- starting from the screen size. We have a 6.2-inch screen on the S8+, right? There is no notable gain in screen real estate if you look to the Note 8, so who would purchase it over the S8+, especially considering the price difference? Well, as some reviewers note, perhaps there's the factor of the screen being slightly less curved and more square due to the device's more tablet-like form factor, but I don't buy it. Considering battery life, the difference is certainly minute, yet it baffles me that the supposed big bruiser of the Galaxy family would have even a smidgen smaller battery capacity. In regards to the camera and S-Pen, okay, it’s cool that you have a telephoto and wide angle camera and additional nifty pen features only found on the Note. But, how helpful is the “cool” or "nifty" factor when the rest of the device is negligibly different (yes, it really is, look up a spec sheet and check out a side-by-side) from a phone you have already released? It isn’t.

At this point in my complaints, it would be typical of me to say that the Note 8 is the wasteful product, but as I see it, the S8+ is the phone that should never have existed in the first place, especially because of the inevitable new Note series release. Maybe Samsung was unsure about releasing after what happened with the Note 7 with its notably sensitive and overloaded battery and decided to make the S8 and S8+? Cynical me says highly doubtful, and that it was, regardless, a major oversight. Granted, the Note series has its audience, and if having the S-Pen is something that you as a consumer appreciate, then aside from the significant price hike, you’ve found your next device. However, Samsung are shooting themselves in the foot with this release, cannibalizing the market of their eighth flagship iteration. On a related note (pun still not intended), we come back to Nintendo’s New 2DS XL, a strange late-game release in their 3DS family of handheld systems.

At this point, the reader should know that I am a purchaser of the New 2DS XL. In regards to the latest Nintendo handheld, I don’t have qualms with releasing the New 2DS XL like I do with Samsung’s product line, but do remain a bit confused by its existence regardless. Right off the bat, there is the clear omission, if only by title alone, of the stereoscopic 3D present in the 3DS family, as with the original 2DS. Positives of this New 2DS XL include a 50-dollar discount compared to the New 3DS XL due to the lack of 3D and cheaper build, a smaller form factor despite having the same sized screens, and a clamshell design that is comfortable to hold and feels a tad safer to shove in a bag and/or give to a child known for breaking things by throwing them. But here’s the thing: despite the clear positives, mostly in cost and design, I just do not understand the decision to release this device if only to say, “Hey Nintendo fans, remember that doorstop-looking 2DS we released? Yeah, here’s another one, except it looks like a normal DS again. You’re welcome!” I just don’t get it, especially as a seemingly pointless attempt to remind people who have been quite aware anyway that the 3DS family still exists. Is it worse marketing than how new Nintendo handhelds are just prefixed with the word “New?” Well, probably not, but confusion remains. As for why I purchased it, well, having the original 3DS with older hardware, smaller screens, and a terribly placed stylus was reason enough to drop for a notably-sub-200-dollar upgrade, but I’m not part of a particularly large market of people who wouldn’t just upgrade to a New 3DS XL for $50 more, nor am I part of the market who owns an original 2DS, which is similarly small.

You probably haven’t met many such a person who would complain to this degree about the most first-world problems, but in case you ever felt inclined to seek out such a person, you’ve come to the right place. Look out for your friendly neighborhood irritable tech nerd in future issue.