Dr. Ketan or How I Learned to Stop Waiting & Flash the ROM
The Lollipop update rollouts bombed. This shouldn’t be news to those of you who have been tracking the progress of many Android devices, but for the most part, Lollipop adoption has been a rollercoaster of broken promises and disappointment for many Android users. This is not to say that many of you didn’t get Lollipop early, however. At XDA we are typically knowledgeable with flashing custom ROMs and, in Lollipop’s case, leaked ROMs – and both of these brought 5.0 to many devices way ahead official rollouts.
I was one of the lucky ones. Shortly after Lollipop, I had both a Nexus 5 and a Note 3. The Nexus 5 also got Lollipop a little later than we had expected, but it was nevertheless one of the first ones in line. As for my Exynos Note 3 (daily driver), I knew that I wouldn’t see Lollipop anytime soon, especially since AOSP ROMs do not have a huge presence on said chipset line. I was pleasantly surprised when I read that there was an early leak of Lollipop for the Note 3 that was stable enough to be used all day, and I proceeded to flash Dr. Ketan’s ROM to stop the wait.
There were more leaks for the Note 3, and eventually it released in Russia with an official and final firmware. Other devices weren’t so lucky, however. We did a Lollipop update roundup back in early February, and back then things didn’t look that bad. Two and a half months later, the Lollipop rollout for major flagships is still not fully done, and the developments have shown that this was probably one of the most hurtful update races for Android. We’ll look at a few particular cases, but first we must ask: why does this update matter so much?
Not Just Materialism
We all wanted Lollipop because it was pretty, but the update was much bigger than that in many respects. The plethora of new APIs (over 5,000) are an integral part of the developing Android experience that we are seeing today and that we’ll see later on, and without these new options a lot of possibilities are closed off to both users and developers. This is not only limited to functionality, however, as Material Design relies on a lot of Lollipop-exclusive software bits to render its beauty. Google did manage to make many Material elements available on older versions, but a lot of menu animations and subtle shadows are completely lost on KitKat and back. The animations on Material apps are also significantly choppier on some KitKat devices, especially those with heavy OEM skins.
Most importantly, though, Lollipop is paving the way for the future of Android in design and functionality yet the terribly slow rollout further increments fragmentation. This has always been an issue in Android, particularly with OEM skins. Now, developers and users are seeing twice as many bridges between the KitKat and Lollipop for AOSP/Stock ROMs and each OEM skin. SD Times ingeniously called this a “pain the app” for developers, and published some of the reason as to why the recent fragmentation can be hurtful for software creators (I strongly suggest reading it as it also contains some neat advice and insight). And if this wasn’t enough, the early versions of Lollipop contain a lot of issues, with bugs such as the infamous memory leak which many OEMs failed to eliminate completely.
It’s been known that factory unlocked devices (or carrier-less, for that matter) are typically the ones to get the updates faster, and many enthusiasts refuse to buy devices from carriers strictly because of this issue. While it is true that carriers usually drop the ball on updates, Lollipop has had many broken promises and missed deadlines from manufacturers themselves. More importantly, a huge issue with the rollout was the absolute lack of consistency within regions, something that led to worldwide frustration as many saw that some regions got the update way ahead of time.
Take the case of Samsung, for example: they are known to have soak tests for major updates, and Poland was a privileged region that got Lollipop for the S5 as early as December. Samsung was one of the few that were implicitly bound to deliver quick Lollipop updates, and the early previews that we had suggested very early releases for the S5 and Note 4. Was this the case? No, at least not for the most part. While Poland got the S5 update really early, many regions didn’t follow until much later. And while the leaks for the Note 3 also came in december, the official rollout also didn’t follow until much later. In both cases, the deployments were extremely limited to certain regions. When it comes to Samsung, they make it even harder for themselves by having several hardware variants with substantially different software for many regions, but even then international variants with the same Snapdragon chipset saw very different update times.
The Korean Giant was never the fastest with updates, however, while Google’s (and now Lenovo’s) Motorola was. For the most part, Motorola did a good job, even bringing Lollipop to their mid-ranger Moto G before a lot of other OEMs did for their flagships… but only to India and Brazil. The localized update drama hit once again, and while XDA users were quick to flash the firmware on their Moto G’s, the rest of the world was left in angst. Their strongest (but arguably not best) flagship, the Droid Turbo, was left waiting in the blue for a long time until we finally learned that it’d skip straight to 5.1. The fact that they have so many Moto G variants (1st Gen, 2nd Gen, LTE, Forte, Ferrari, etc) also hurt the update rollout to an extent, and thus the fastest and supposedly “most committed” player had Lollipop issues.
HTC was perhaps one of the most disappointing players in the race: they had promised Lollipop for their M8 within 90 days of receiving the source code, but the promise was not met for all of their handsets, as only their developer unlocked versions had gotten the update. The M7 also didn’t see the goal, and most importantly, HTC had stated that the device would stay in an early Lollipop build and not receive 5.1 – meaning that it’ll keep many of the bugs Lollipop brought. Luckily, we recently learned that the M7 might receive 5.1 after all, but this was only due to the massive fan uproar that followed the announcement. The fact that XDA saw the first (unofficial) Sense 7 ROM from Skydragon so early is also a rather mind-boggling.
LG was reportedly on track to being one of the first players to get the update, and we had seen screenshot leaks of their Lollipop builds for the G2 really early on. As for the G3, LG was fast. Faster than Google, even. But, like with Samsung, the rollout was region-limited. While LG G3 users in Poland saw the update as early as November, other users didn’t see the candy goods until much, much later. In fact, it was not until the last week of January that LG teased about American G3 users getting Lollipop, and carrier variants saw an even longer while before they received it (some have gotten it within the past two weeks). So while they caught all sorts of headlines with their early bird release, in the end it was mostly that – a headline grabber, for the region limitations meant that users got even angrier.
Sony was perhaps one of the most quiet OEMs about Lollipop, and we really respect that they didn’t overpromise like most others did. In fact, at CES we learned that the update was coming when it was ready as they were taking their time, and the best part about Sony’s humbler approach is that we were told we’d get support for plenty of devices: the Xperia Z, Xperia ZL, Xperia ZR, Xperia Tablet Z, Xperia Z1, Xperia Z1S, Xperia Z Ultra, Xperia Z1 Compact, Xperia Z2, Xperia Z2 Tablet, Xperia Z3, Xperia Z3v, Xperia Z3 Compact, and the Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact. That’s a lot of X’s and Z’s. And just a few weeks ago they added the original Xperia Z to that list. This commitment, alongside their development of AOSP branches, make us (and Xzibit) proud.
OnePlus, too, was committed to fast Lollipop updates. In fact, that was a major selling point for many people, and also a key aspect of their “Never Settle” campaign. And like many OnePlus promises, it simply didn’t come true. Granted, a lot of these issues were caused by the Cyanogen team who at that point had developed a kind of grudge with OnePlus. That being said, OnePlus’ OxygenOS was also promised to be delivered at a certain date, and it wasn’t met. Cyanogen’s Lollipop release came the just other day, but not without missing several implied deadlines, and also not without Cyanogen CEO Kirk McMaster telling users to “calm the f**k down” regarding the wait. Yeah, hardly the most cheerful of rollouts.
Nvidia did a surprisingly fast update to their Shield Tablet, and many were in joy… but Nvidia managed to screw it up with an update that messed up the color reproduction of the display. This is not to say they were the only ones – in fact, it seems that virtually all Lollipop releases contain bugs or issues here or there (and some persist post factory resets), sometimes minor (and harmless) but sometimes major ones like those in Verizon’s infamous update pulling drama which was reissued on a few instances.
And then there’s carriers. There’s little to say about this that isn’t known or expected, except for the fact that Verizon and AT&T actually put out updates faster than T-Mobile on many instances. The carrier updates for this major Android version were not only disjointed, but full of bugs. Some of them were delayed to the point of ridicule, like the T-Mobile Note 4 lollipop. The regular Note 4 started seeing the update way after its Note 3 predecessor, which is weird in itself, but while the Note 4’s Lollipop has been rolling out on carriers and variants all over the world for months now, T-Mobile is not delivering and will not deliver for another 3 to 4 weeks.
Android Is Our Profession
So, as you can see, the Lollipop rollout wasn’t as sweet as we hoped it would be. The notes for this article had a lot more information that I wish I could fit in here, but I hope that the editing shows just how almost every player failed in some way or another, and sometimes in downright offensive ways. For an update this big, this is not good for anyone. Software development gets stalled, users can’t enjoy new features, Android gets fragmented further, and people get very angry. While I was somewhat optimistic in February, the fact that we are still seeing Lollipop update news every day for some of the biggest devices in the history of mobile tells us that something is not right. KitKat didn’t have the fastest adoption either (in fact, most updates crawled on certain handsets), but Lollipop’s update drama has gone far and above in many regards.
Now, we obviously can’t wish for perfect rollouts for every player (nor every year), but the fact that Google itself put out such an unfinished OS update in the first place is perhaps what should worry us the most. Lollipop was pretty and functional, but it brought many bugs to the table, and some like the always-discussed memory leak can put tangible (and annoying) consequences into your user experience. Many suspect that OEMs spent so much time developing fixes for these bugs, and it makes sense. Under this light, Lollipop’s rollout is a communal mistake that trickles down to every level of the update process.
With Dr. Ketan’s ROM I experienced Lollipop ahead of time, and it shows a great virtue of XDA: region-limited rollouts mean little if you know how to flash the pulled ROMs or leaks, and even if you have a different variant, you might see a port for your device. I fell in love with Lollipop and the performance bump it offered, but when I had to get a Note 4 I went with a T-Mobile variant to enjoy its feature set as well as full coverage on their network (something which international/exynos variants lack). I also believed in their track record of relatively fast updates (for a carrier). But as previously stated, Lollipop is not coming to that carrier device for a while. As much as I’d love to enjoy the features on it, the ROM for the Canadian Note 4 (same hardware) is compatible with mine and proven to be stable. So I know exactly what I’m going to do now. See you on the sweeter side…
ICS Walkman Port for the 2011 Sony Xperia Lineup
In the past, we brought you news of the ICS Walkman app port to a couple of devices and the Walkman app ported to MDPI Xperia phones running Gingerbread. With the popularity of the Walkman port growing, so too is the number of devices it is ported to. With the Gingerbread port already solidly in place, the next step was porting the music application to Ice Cream Sandwich for the same devices.
The app is available for the Sony Xperia 2011 line running ICS, including the Mini, Mini Pro, Active, and Ray, and was posted by XDA Senior Member Rizal Lovins. The application installation process is rather simple. Download the recovery-flashable update.zip and flash in a custom recovery.
There are a few issues, however. A common problem is the Sound Enhancement forces closes for some, along with a few other bugs. For Sound Enhancement issues, users are instructed to clear data. It has also been suggested by some users to disable xLoud, as it’s known to interfere with the application. Otherwise, users are reporting that it works pretty well.
To learn more, head to the original thread.
Modded Xperia S Music Player Shows Up for Other Xperia Devices
It can be said without exaggeration that the Sony Xperia S has been one of the best Android devices ever when it comes to porting its software to other Android devices. Xperia S ports are simply everywhere, and range from a few applications to, in some cases, full blown ROMs. It seems as though nearly everyone wants a piece of Xperia S software love, and devs have been more than willing to hand it out.
The Xperia S ports to everywhere saga continues as XDA Forum Member Lasan has ported the Sony Xperia S proprietary music player, called MusicXS, to a range of Xperia devices including the Mini, Mini Pro, Active and Ray. The mod, which is a recovery-flashable update.zip, will install the music player along with all the libraries required for it to run properly. Says Lasan:
work fine with SoundEnhancement and Surround Effect. May be ported completed 99%
So not only are you getting the application, but also all the fun little options it comes with. As with Sony XLoud, users will be treated a modified music experience, and since the stock Android music player still doesn’t seem to understand that people want equalizers with their music, it’s definitely worth a shot for music lovers. However, there are some things users need to know before flashing. Says Lasan:
For devices other than WT19 (walkman), remove the default music files in /system/app/SemcMusic.apk with RootExplorer or Titanium Backup
For MIUI and GingerCruzt-XS, Music and all fix include to next update
Be sure that your device meets the requirements before flashing, and of course, make sure you have a Nandroid backup handy just in case.
For additional info, hit up the original thread.
Workaround For Flash’s Low FPS on Asus Transformer
Quite possibly, one of the only annoyances that plagues the Honeycomb stock browser is its inability to properly use its full 30 fps potential on flash videos. At least, this seems to be the case for a few custom roms in certain devices like the Asus Transformer. After doing a bit of looking around, XDA member Roach2010 found something interesting regarding a file that does not get installed after updating Flash Player versions. Discuss, decided to experiment a bit with this file and found that placing it back where it belongs allows the stock browser to play any flash video at 30 fps.
So far, the results seem to be promising, but not a whole lot of people have tested this. The dev has put it in a flashable package, so please drop by the thread, download it, and leave some feedback behind. One last thing, in case you are wondering how to determine if you are indeed running at 30 fps, the dev has added a link to a YouTube video used to determine this.
The problem is that some devices somehow end up with a missing file that the Browser uses to talk to Flash Player. In my case if I clear the Browser data and reinstall the latest version of Flash Player from the market the config file does not get recreated.
You can find more information in the original thread.
Want something published in the Portal? Contact any News Writer.
BBC iPlayer for Android
XDA member ADeadlySpoon let us know about the release of the BBC iPlayer for Android devices. The player will allow streaming of BBC TV and radio content and include many of the features from the desktop version, which include series stacking, live TV, and radio streaming. The player is working on Android 2.2 and up and it´s recommended to be run on a device with a good processor, flash, and 3G -data plan- or WIFI connection to ensure a smooth viewing experience. Get it for free on the market.
Please leave feedback or report any bug found.
Originally posted by ADeadlySpoon
[APP] BBC iPlayer for Android (and iPhone/iPad)
The BBC have released an iPlayer app free on the market, it does exactly as the mobile site for Android does, it streams programs to our phones.
It only works for Android 2.2+ because of the need for flash player.
Try it out!
Continue to the original thread.
myPlayer – Live TV / On Demand streaming updated WM/Android
XDA member FryWalker presents an updated version of myPlayer for Windows Mobile devices, with it you can have access to Live TV and On Demand content directly without using your browser. The new version 2.0 lets you choose your own media player (CorePlayer v1.3.6 is recommended) and includes features like full streaming integration, live TV channels and live international radio stations amongst many others.
Working on WM 6 and up on resolutions QVGA, VGA or WVGA.
The developer also includes a version for Android devices.
Originally posted by FryWalker
> Choose your own media player – define how each stream is played (CorePlayer v1.3.6 is recommended‡)
> Full streaming integration – browse the content as you would from any other supported device
> Live TV channels – watch the popular terrestrial channels live (ITV, Channel 4, Five, etc.)*
> SBS Australia – content from the Special Broadcasting Service**
> Extensive TV feed index – hundreds of live TV feeds from around the globe
> Live Radio stations – a selection of International broadcasts
> Custom TV / Radio stations – add your favourites
* CorePlayer is required to watch the high quality live TV channels (please use this config.xml for the best experience)
** The SBS channel requires a Flash player, the Adobe Flash Lite application is recommended
> A media player that supports RTSP streaming and the mpeg4 codec (CorePlayer v1.3.6 is recommended‡)
> The .NET 2.0 Compact Framework (which is bundled with Windows Mobile Professional 6.0 and above)
> An internet connection that is based within the UK (for the terrestrial TV feeds)
‡ HTC’s bundled StreamingPlayer and Windows Media Player should also work for users with faster devices (for example the HTC HD2)
Continue to the application thread.
MyPlayer Updated To V.88b For UKians
MyPlayer was one of my favorite application back in the days of Hulu support, but even without this, users can still enjoy some BBC shows. The popular Windows Mobile application has now gone Android thanks to XDA member FryWalker, and it still keeps some of the good features we all love, without the bugs we all have grown to hate.
This is a light-weight application that provides access to the BBC iPlayer service directly – eliminating the requirement for a (flash-enabled) mobile browser.
myPlayer is also available on the Windows Mobile platform
** This application requires an Internet connection based within the UK **
> Extensive BBC iPlayer integration
> Fully featured programme search
> High quality downloads for offline viewing?
> Live TV and Radio
> Browse by iPlayer category
> Automatic stream quality (3G or wifi)
> Manual stream quality by preference
The application link can be found in the MyPlayer thread.
BBC iPlayer Updated
If you´ve been following development of BBC iPlayer, this major update will be of your liking. XDA member FryWalker incorporated the option to watch all the latest Soccer highlights from World Cup. The dev also added an option to keep the device awake while downloading. CorePlayer v1.3.6 is recommended as default player.
As in previous versions, QVGA, VGA or WVGA are supported on devices running WM6 and up.
An Android version is available too.
Originally posted by FryWalker
A light-weight application that provides access to BBC iPlayer, Four On Demand, Five On Demand, MSN Video and SBS directly – eliminating the requirement for a (flash-enabled) mobile browser.
Requires a QVGA, VGA or WVGA device running Windows Mobile Professional (Pocket PC) 6.0 or higher
myPlayer is also available on the Android platform
- Fixed BBC iPlayer live TV streams
- Added option to keep device awake whilst downloading
- Fixed a bug relating to stream player preferences
- All radio content should now be downloaded as mp3
- TV and radio searches are now segregated.
You can find more information in the application thread.
myPlayer – BBC iPlayer / Hulu / 5OD / MSN / SBS
For those who want to have access to BBC player among others without using flash player, this is a good option to watch videos and content. Member FryWalker presents his updated latest version: 1.280.
Originally posted by FryWalker
A light-weight application that provides access to BBC iPlayer, Hulu, Four On Demand, Five On Demand, MSN Video and SBS directly – eliminating the requirement for a (flash-enabled) mobile browser.
Requires a QVGA, VGA or WVGA device running Windows Mobile Professional (Pocket PC) 6.0 or higher.
> Choose your own media player – define how each stream is played (CorePlayer v1.3.6 is recommended‡)
> Full iPlayer integration – browse the Mobile content as you would from any other supported device (including the search feature)
> Browse BBC iPlayer by category (Comedy, Drama, Entertainment, Films, etc.)
> Download high quality BBC iPlayer episodes to your device for offline viewing
> Hulu – watch a selection of your favourite US shows (Family Guy, Scrubs, etc.)
> Watch all the latest football highlights from around Europe
> Five On Demand – catch up with the latest content from Channel Five
> MSN Video – a further selection of streaming content to watch
> SBS Australia – content from the Special Broadcasting Service*
> Live TV channels – watch the popular terrestrial channels live (BBC1, ESPN, Sky News, etc.)
> Extensive TV feed index – hundreds of live TV feeds from around the globe
> Live Radio stations – a selection of BBC broadcasts
> Custom TV / Radio stations – add your favourites
> Search History – tracks the most recent searches for easy access
* The SBS channel requires a Flash player, the Adobe Flash Lite application is recommended
> A media player that supports RTSP streaming and the mpeg4 codec (CorePlayer v1.3.6 is recommended‡)
> The .NET 2.0 Compact Framework (which is bundled with Windows Mobile Professional 6.0 and above)
> An internet connection that is UK based (or a connection via the myPlayer server)
‡ HTC’s bundled StreamingPlayer and Windows Media Player should also work for users with faster devices (for example the HTC HD2)
*** Whilst streaming video this application will use a considerable amount of bandwidth – please ensure you use it via an unlimited data policy ***
User feedback is always appreciated and should help to improve the usability of future releases.
All of the content streamed via this application is copyright of the BBC, Hulu, Channel Five, MSN and SBS respectively.
Disclaimer: you should only watch the BBC iPlayer content if you are owner of a TV licence within the UK.
Latest version: 1.280
For help regarding installation and use of the application please consult the dedicated myPlayer Support page.
> Added Four on Demand channel to Catch Up view
> GPRS data usage warning is now displayed
> Various other minor bug fixes
New ROM upgrade WM6.1 21127 v2.0 for Universal
Member thingonaspring made an important upgrade to his WM6.1_21127 v2.0 ROM for Universal
A lot has changed for this version, that’s why it’s jumped a bit to v2.0.
The kitchen’s been rebuilt extensively to support bepe’s platformrebuilder. The new kitchen adds the following handy features :-
– includes a proper XIP kitchen that re-cooks the XIP section on each build, allowing for more flexibility in the rom layout, if you’re into that kind of thing.
– relocation code is much improved, meaning modules are now stripped of useless sections and better allocated to WM6.1’s available virtual memory slots. Smaller, faster, better.
– suports newer “EXT” type kitchen addons, just place them in EXT folder and build.
– can support WM6.5. Which is nice.
– support for XPR compression as well as the Unis default LZX. XPR is a lot quicker to decompress, so it’s especially handy on 64mb machines that swap stuff in and out of pagepool a lot. It doesn’t compress as well as LZX though, that’s why the roms look bigger. XPR compresion was adapted from TPC’s Kaiser kitchen, so props to him.
– when building a rom with the kitchen you will now make 2 choices, memory size and compression type. After that the kitchen builds automatically up to the usual encoding app.
Changes for v2.0 :-
– both 64 and 128 roms use XPR compression – much faster than Uni’s default LZX
– all modular exe/dll/cpl/mui/tfx/plg components have useless sections stripped thanks to bepe’s platformrebuilder. This saves ram, virtual memory and other resources
– mp3dmod and msdmo dlls included to allow support for apps that use them (pocketplayer and google’s youtube app, probably others too).
– AKU bug fixed to make Market work properly (thanks responderman)
– Drivers completely rebuilt. I had no choice, PlatformRebuilder crashed while building the old driverset as most of the modules were pre-stripped. I’ve also made an attempt to fix some audio choppiness in A2DP, but it’s difficult to test as my A2DP headset is very bad at A2DP. Handsfree is definitely working fine.
– Smaller wince.nls used to save ROM+RAM
– Yet more unused files and modules removed.
– Opera Mini 5 added. This version runs native, unlike previous java-based opera minis. It’s a very fast browser with low memory footprint (about 6mb with a single tab).
– yet more memory freed up for 64mb users
64mb versiom has 4.0mb Pagepool. 33 Mb free RAM on clean boot with 200+contacts and appointments synced)
128mb version has pagepooling disabled
Flash Disk enabled
Extended ROM enabled
– Windows Media Player (TCPMP integrated to replace WMP)
– Office OneNote
– Customer Satisfaction (SQM)
– Entertainment (games)
– Getting started
– Bootsplash/welcome images
– MP3 ringtones not supported.
HTC’s ringtone extension takes up a lot of space in ROM and it’s very slow to load. Convert ringtones to wav instead
– Opera Mini 5 native WM version
– TCPMP 0.72 recomp3 fully integrated to replace Windows Media. Suports WMA/WMV/FLV/FLAC/OGG/DIVX/MP3……. Uses hybrid plugins from 0.72 and 0.81 for best performance
– AdobePDF Reader 2.5
– No2Chem’s USB to PC usb mass storage driver
– No2Chem’s neuPowerCpl replaces backlight settings, power control panel and adds some nice options.
Note that it won’t display advanced usage stats (batt temp etc) as no neuBattery driver exists for uni.
– Dutty’s SDHC driver package (tested with 2/4/8/16gb)
– JWright’s Network Plugin (mount windows shared drives over wifi/activesync)
– TaskManager 3.1
– TotalCommander 2.5.1
– Windows Live 10.7
– Remote Desktop Client
– Office Mobile
– PNG/GIF graphics optimised for size where possible.
This rom has no bootsplash screens, so you will see a black screen on boot, followed by a white screen.
Tap the white screen to begin using the device on 1st boot.
Drivers, XIP section, registry, pagepool and filesystem have all been optimised for speed and RAM.
Every single EXE, DLL, MUI, CPL and plugin has been made into a module – with the exception of .NET libs (can’t be modular) and one or two specific DLLs/EXEs that will not execute in modular form. Again this saves memory an 64mb machines and speeds up access to executables.
A Helpful Guide to Music Streaming Services
With the launch of Apple Music, music streaming services have recently gained a lot of consumer interest, and as usual, Apple’s foray into the market has caused disruption, as competitors scramble to introduce new features and modify their pricing structures in order to better compete, and as fresh users new to the market continue to evaluate and decide which service would suit them the best.
While many people are quick to denounce all streaming services as being a variable of the same thing, a common trend is starting to form: These companies are all fine-tuning their focus in order to differentiate themselves with specific users in mind. Some services are offering ways to combine the streaming model with the digital music locker model, allowing users to upload their own tracks and access them from anywhere. Others are strictly focused on providing a competent and complete catalog to stream from, lush with features related to music discovery and social media sharing. And yet others offer free or very low-cost access to radio station-like channels that allow a certain level of user customization or preference tailoring. Let’s take a quick look at some of these services and what sets them apart from each other.
Note: This article will be updated with our impressions of the Apple Music service when it launches for the Android platform. Stay tuned!
Table of Contents
- Google Play Music
- Amazon Prime Music
- Spotify Free & Premium
- Tidal Free & Premium
- Rhapsody unRadio & Premier
Google Play Music, by virtue of the application coming pre-installed on the greater majority of Android devices, is usually what an Android user would first come across when looking for a competent and complete music streaming service. That doesn’t make it a bad choice, however, as both the free service and the $9.99 monthly All Access tier offer some very compelling features wrapped inside of a slick and modern UI. Play Music aggregates music from three key areas into one experience across multiple devices and platforms: a user’s existing digital music library, any music purchases made from the Play Store, as well as a streaming service spanning Google’s entire catalog.
For starters, both the free and paid tiers allow a user to upload 50,000 of their own songs to the service, which is then stored on Google’s servers and made available to stream on any device that houses the Play Music app, as well as on the web via a web browser. Google employs a matching system here, so that if a track is available from the Play Store, it will not need to tap into the user’s bandwidth to upload the physical file, and what’s more, any matched track that is below 320 kbps will see an upgrade in quality. Music that is purchased directly from the Play Store is automatically added to a user’s library, but does not count towards the 50,000 song limit; that music can also be downloaded in DRM-free MP3 format to the user’s devices.
Then there’s the All Access pass, which was introduced as Google’s own streaming service. Available for $9.99 per month, a user can stream any song or album from Google’s catalog, which currently sits at over 30 million songs. This is ad-free, no interruption music playback, up to the same 320 kbps quality a user would get when directly purchasing music from the Play Store. Artists and albums can be added directly to a user’s library or a playlist, and those tracks will appear with and be sorted among everything else, making for one cohesive music library. Of course, albums and tracks can still be purchased if a user wishes to own the physical files.
With such a huge catalog available, Google has built in several ways to focus on music discovery. The ‘Listen Now’ tab offers artist and album recommendations based upon a user’s activity on the service, such as artists to those that are similar in the library, when a user thumbs up or down a particular track, specific genres that a user indicates interest in, recent purchases from the Play Store, etc. Google also offers generated, contextual playlists based upon the date, time, and location of the user, so that one can quickly find relevant music that revolves around a specific occasion or activity. For example, opening Play Music at 5:30 in the evening could trigger a playlist suitable for the drive home from work, working out, or cooking dinner. Choosing a playlist will allow you to select a specific category or genre of music appropriate to the activity, and selecting a category will allow you to further choose a playlist based around a specific artist or concept within that genre. Also available are radio stations based around genres and even specific tracks that play similar music based upon algorithms, and even Google’s infamous “I’m feeling lucky” search option makes an appearance.
The Android app itself is as you would expect a Google app to appear and function: Material design that revolves around a gesture-based interface that focuses on swiping to navigate around the most important areas of the app. Swiping from the left edge will pop out the navigation menu, where one can find the Listen Now, My Library, Playlists, Radio, and Explore sections, as well access settings and switch to different Google accounts.
At any time, swiping up on the play bar from the bottom will expand out to the Now Playing screen, showing full album art and play controls. Swiping left and right on this screen will go to the previous and next track in the playlist, and YouTube Music Key members (available automatically with All Access) will have access to music videos directly from the album art. While Play Music is open, a user’s lock screen will transform into full screen album art along with play/pause/previous/next buttons, and an ongoing notification will appear with the same controls in the notification drawer.
The service is not without its shortcomings, however. Like many music streaming services, Google has implemented a device limit of ten authorized devices per Google account, with the additional stipulation of the user being able to only de-authorize four devices per year. Ordinarily, this is a pretty acceptable practice, and many users will never be bothered by the limitation. Problems arise, however, due to the fact that the service can sometimes erroneously use two or more authorizations for a single device or computer. This issue has been somewhat corrected; it used to be that changing ROMs on a device or even simply performing a factory reset would always end up requiring another authorization. Thankfully, this is no longer always the case, but there are still times when something could get hung up. Take for example my Google Play Music Account:
I use Chrome on OS X, and therefore, I use the Google Play Music Extension for the purposes of uploading and downloading music to and from my computer. One day, the extension updated, and ate up another authorization even though it was on the same system. This is on my desktop machine, but if I also had the extension downloaded to my Macbook Pro, and the same thing were to happen, I would already be using 4 out of my 10 authorization slots. I have heard that, if one were to call up Google’s customer service, they can provide a one-time master reset of all authorizations, and also reset the de-authorization limit as well, so that one could start out with a blank slate. This is unpublished information, however, and I’ve yet to actually have the need to do so, so this should not be taken as gospel.
Amazon provides yet another choice for those users who want both a streaming service and a digital music locker, with some added bonuses for those who still like to purchase music on a physical medium. The service is comprised of these two parts, named ‘Prime Music’ and ‘Music Library’ respectively, and along with the digital storefront, are unified into one experience, the ‘Amazon Music’ app.
The ‘Music Library’ is something most Amazon users will know, as it has been around for a while under the ‘Amazon MP3 Store’ and ‘Cloud Player’ monikers. You can purchase digital music direct from Amazon, which will then be added to your ‘Music Library’ and available to download DRM-free in a variable bit rate .MP3 file, in which Amazon aims for an average of 256 kbps. You can also purchase many albums in a variety of physical formats, such as CD, DVD, and even vinyl records, and get immediate access to the same digital .MP3 files in a process known as AutoRip.
Whether you purchase music digitally, or on AutoRip-compatible physical media, it will all be stored to your ‘Music Library’ for free, with no song or storage limit. You can then stream or download the same tracks from the Amazon Music app, which is available on PC, Mac, Android, iOS, and Kindle Fire devices, or use the Web Player on any compatible browser. You can also import your own music files purchased outside of Amazon (provided they are DRM-free) to the Music Library and stream them in the same way, up to 250 tracks at no cost or 250,000 tracks for $24.99 per year, with no other option in between. A caveat of this is that any imported music above the 256 kbps quality will be downgraded, and Amazon is only guaranteeing imports in .MP3 or .M4A format. For all other filetypes, such as .WMA, .OGG, .WAV, and others, Amazon will need to have the rights to access the .MP3 files from its own catalog.
‘Prime Music’ is Amazon’s newest addition to its music service. Like the namesake implies, Prime Music is only available to Amazon Prime subscribers ($99 per year). It includes unlimited, ad-free streaming access to around 1 million tracks from within the Amazon Music app, and like Amazon Prime Instant Video, tracks are both added and removed constantly. The same 256 kbps .MP3 format applies, and users can also download tracks for offline listening. You can add Prime Music tracks to the Music Library as well, and these tracks will appear among purchased or imported music, making for a unified experience.
There are a few ways to both navigate through and search for Prime-eligible tracks. Amazon’s storefront will show Prime subscribers a banner indicating that they can listen to a certain album or tracks from a certain album for free. There is also a dedicated Prime Music page, which will show recommended albums, new additions, Prime playlists, and popular tracks, much like the Amazon homepage showcases physical goods. Prime playlists are human-curated by Amazon, and offer playlists based around categories such as artist, decade, genre, popular, workout, and more. Amazon also offers Prime Stations, which groups tracks into an ad-free radio station format, sorted by genre or artist, and offers users a way to discover new music. Users can skip and like or dislike tracks to tailor these stations to their personal tastes.
The Amazon Music app for Android cohesively displays all of this as one unified ‘Music Library’, but also gives you filtering options to display only the content you wish, as well as a separate tab to only explore Prime Music. One can, for example, very quickly and easily search through Prime Music tracks to add to the Library, make those and other tracks available for offline playback, and then filter down to only display those tracks that have been downloaded onto the device.
Spotify is the current heavy-hitter and market leader in the world of music streaming services with more than 75 million active users, and for good reason: it is currently the only service to offer a completely free access tier that allows you to browse and play music from its entire catalog. It is also the one that has the most to lose from Apple’s very recent and disruptive move into the business, thereby assuring that new features and pricing plans are continuously added at a lightning-quick pace. Spotify’s focus has always been on both music discovery and social sharing; find new artists, share them among your Facebook, Twitter, and tumblr feeds, and collaborate on playlists together. There are two tiers of Spotify: Free and Premium ($9.99 per month, or $4.99 if a college student at an American university). In response to Apple Music’s family plan pricing, Spotify now also offers 50% off additional Premium subscriptions when added under a main Spotify Premium account.
The free tier of Spotify currently offers ad-supported, on-demand access to the entire Spotify catalog on desktops and tablets, and ad-supported, shuffle-only access on smartphones. What this means is that artists, albums, and playlists can be browsed via the smartphone app, but they will play in a shuffled state, and users can only skip a song up to six times per hour on their shuffled playlists as well as on the Radio feature. Ads are presented as both visual ads on screen, and 30 second commercial-style audio ads that play between tracks. Streaming quality is limited to 160 kbps in Ogg Vorbis format on both desktop and mobile clients.
Spotify Premium offers on-demand access to the entire Spotify catalog on all devices, is ad-free, and offers an unlimited number of song skips. Streaming quality is upped to a maximum of 320 kbps in the same Ogg Vorbis format, and users can also listen to their playlists offline, with a maximum of 3,333 songs synced per device and staying offline for up to 30 days. Premium also offers users the ‘Spotify Connect’ feature, which allows for playback through a compatible home stereo system, laptop, or TV using the Spotify app as a remote. In addition to Spotify Connect, Premium users also have access to Playstation Music on the Playstation 4 console, allowing users to create custom soundtracks for their games which can be played in the background.
Both Spotify tiers include many different ways to discover new music, as well as share music among your friends and social networks. The Spotify app includes its own Activity Feed, where you can see what your Facebook friends with Spotify, as well as other Spotify users you choose to follow, are listening to. You can also quickly share an artist, album, or playlist as a social network post, or message these to your friends directly. Playlists can be marked as collaborative and shared, so friends can add or delete music at will. Music discovery is a key focus of Spotify, and it’s almost impossible to list each one of the many ways in which users can discover new artists. ‘Radio’ builds radio stations based around artists, moods, or genres, in which users can like or dislike tracks to tailor the radio station to suit their personal taste. ‘Discover’ builds lists of recommendations for you based upon your listening habits. ‘Charts’ allows you to browse various Top 50 lists around the globe, as well as the top tracks your friends are listening to.
These are just scratching the surface, as new ways to discover music are being added in new features meant to better compete with the recent launch of Apple Music. Among the recently introduced features are: ‘Now’, which is a contextually aware way of delivering new music to you based upon the time of day. ‘Moments’, which organize tracks based upon specific moments a user might want a soundtrack to, such as parties, workouts, commutes, or having a morning cup of coffee. ‘Running’, which plays tracks tailored to both your taste and the tempo you’ve set for any running activity. And ‘Discover Weekly’, a recently-launched addition to the Discover feature, which is an auto-generated playlist tailored around your music listening habits, and is automatically updated every Monday. In addition, iOS users also have access to built-in functionality with the Runkeeper and Nike+ Running apps, as well as having an automatically generated and updated running tempo with the ‘Running’ feature built into Spotify.
A relative newcomer to the scene, TIDAL has certainly developed a name and reputation for itself. While technically launching in 2014 by a Norwegian company, TIDAL was purchased by notorious rapper Jay Z in the first quarter of 2015, followed by a massive marketing campaign to “relaunch” the service, in which press conferences with famous celebrity artists and musicians were held, with the message being that TIDAL was the first and only music streaming service to be “artist-owned” and approved. Many other artists, and consumers alike, caught on to the marketing campaign and criticized it as being rather disingenuous. TIDAL currently sits at an estimated 580,000 paying users as of March 2015, and the service has seemingly yet to catch on with the public; all the while, executives and other high-profile employees are leaving their positions, and the service has been deemed a flop. All of this doom and gloom doesn’t mean that the service is without its merits, however.
TIDAL offers two subscription tiers: TIDAL Premium ($9.99 per month), and TIDAL HIFI ($19.99 per month). Both tiers offer the same 50% educational discount for eligible college students, and in response to both Apple’s and Spotify’s family plans, now offer family plan pricing at a discount of 50% per additional subscription under a main TIDAL subscription. Unlike Spotify, both tiers offer the same fundamental features and functionality, including unlimited, ad-free streaming of TIDAL’s entire catalog of over 30 million tracks and 75,000 music videos, curated editorials, and offline playback for mobile devices (PC and Mac offline mode is currently in the works). The only difference between the two tiers is the quality of the stream: Premium offers a maximum quality of 320 kbps in AAC format, while HiFi offers streaming of CD-quality, lossless music in FLAC format. We’re going to explain the differences and possible advantages of lossless format music in a future article, but if you consider yourself a music aficionado, this type of quality in a streaming service could be something that is desired, and with the exception of the Deezer Elite service on Sonos hardware, it is the only music streaming service to offer CD-quality streaming in the United States.
In addition, TIDAL also offers features to aid in music discovery, although users expecting something akin to Spotify’s countless features should curb their expectations. ‘TIDAL Discovery’ is an entire section dedicated to displaying and promoting unsigned and independent artists. ‘TIDAL Rising’ promotes artists that have some type of local or regional fan base, in an effort to expose them to different regions. TIDAL also offers curated playlists, offering tracks for various daily activities, moods, and events, and you can also browse recommendations based around genre or a specific artist. You can add specific artists, albums, tracks, and playlists to a ‘My Music’ list, and all content can be downloaded for offline playback on mobile devices.
Pandora Internet Radio forgoes the flashy interfaces, large catalogs, and social media integrations of the other services in favor of simple, tailored internet radio stations calculated by precise mathematical and scientific formulas. It is powered by the Music Genome Project, a 10 year analysis of music that seeks to capture and interpret distinct musical characteristics of a track, and apply them to others in hopes of predicting the essence of a person’s musical taste. A user very simply types in an artist, composer, or genre, and Pandora will automatically create a radio station based around what the Music Genome Project predicts as being similarly pleasing to a listener’s ear. Rating songs with a thumbs-up or thumbs-down further refines the station. There are two access tiers to Pandora: Pandora (free) and Pandora One ($4.99 per month).
The free tier of Pandora is ad-supported, and limited to 64 kbps in AAC+ format on the web and mobile, while in-home devices stream at 128 kbps AAC. Users are limited to 6 skips per hour per station, and a total of 24 skips per day across all stations, where a skip could be a skipped song, a thumbs-down rating, or choosing the “I’m tired of this track” to remove a specific track from the station.
Pandora One is free of ads, and is limited to 192 kbps quality in AAC format on the web, but retains the same 64 kbps quality on mobile. Users are limited to 30 combined skips per day, in addition to the same 6 skips per hour per station.
Along with Pandora, Rhapsody is one of the oldest music streaming services, and was the first to offer an on-demand music subscription service that provides unlimited access to a large library for a flat monthly fee. There are currently two offered tiers: Rhapsody unRadio ($4.99 per month) and Rhapsody Premier ($9.99 per month). Also offered is a Premier family plan, starting at $14.99 per month for two users.
Rhapsody unRadio could be categorized as a direct competitor to Pandora One. It is an ad-free, personalized internet radio service that does away with many of the restrictions of Pandora One, while adding features not available on competitor service. There is no skip limit, you can save up to 25 favorite songs for on-demand access and offline playback, and the music catalog is quite a bit larger (32 million tracks, compared to 1 million on Pandora). Audio quality is limited to 320 kbps in AAC format with the Rhapsody Music Player on mobile, and listening is available on mobile and the web.
Rhapsody Premier is ad-free, unlimited, on-demand access to the complete Rhapsody catalog, allowing users to download any song, album, or playlist for use on mobile, web, and up to 3 home audio devices. Audio quality is limited to the same 320 kbps in AAC format, and users also get access to the same personalized internet radio station functionality that comes with the unRadio service.
The only service on this list to only offer a completely free tier of service, iHeartRadio is an ad-supported internet radio platform owned by Clear Channel Communications that offers access to 20 million songs from more than 1,500 live radio stations aggregated from iHeartMedia and other partners across the United States. The service combines a music streaming catalog with internet radio to create user-customized stations, personalized from an artist you select and similar music. Once a station is created, a user can set a custom ‘Discover Tuner’ to find artists that are familiar, less familiar, or mixed. This is in addition to the typical Like/Dislike rating controls which work on both live and customized stations to either expand or reduce the frequency that song is played or remove it completely from rotation, respectively.
Streaming quality is limited to 128 kbps in MP3 format, and skips are limited to 6 per hour per station and fifteen per day across all stations. Like/Dislike choices cannot be undone, and a user cannot rewind, fast-forward, or record tracks. iHeartRadio supports casting via Chromecast and the Xbox app, but only on stations that are owned by iHeartMedia.
All of the streaming services listed here offer users multiple and varied ways to consume music, and as such, your own personal music listening habits should dictate which service you opt-in to. A person who isn’t very fussy with selection, doesn’t mind ad interruptions, or wants to discover new music with very little operation required might opt for one of the cheaper or even completely free services, such as iHeartRadio, Pandora, or Rhapsody unRadio. A person who wants to interact with music discovery tools in many different and unique ways, have access to a vast catalog, or turn their music listening experience into a completely social activity might want to use Spotify.
If you still purchase physical media, but would like some additional digital music benefits attached to your purchases, Amazon Music and its AutoRip functionality and Prime Streaming/Cloud Library services might be perfect for you. Google Play Music is great, and almost necessary to try, if you already have a large digital music library and want to stream those tracks for free, and the All Access pass could serve to fill up the blanks. And someone who wouldn’t mind paying a bit extra for human-curated playlists and editorials, along with the best streaming audio quality possible might choose TIDAL’s HiFi tier. We already know that a user who is fully involved in Apple’s ecosystem would likely choose Apple Music for the convenience factor alone, but the benefits of Apple Music to Android users, if any, will become known closer to launch.
Which music streaming service do you use, if any? Do you have anything to add about these services, or did we not list your favorite? Please let us know in the comments below!
OnePlus 2: What We Know and What We Don’t
Well, everyone, the OnePlus 2 is upon us. In preparation for its much-anticipated reveal on July 27 at 7:00pm Pacific Time, several OnePlus staff have taken to reddit, answering questions from reddit users for almost two hours about the upcoming and anticipated OnePlus 2 Android phone.
The Atlas of XDA
A few weeks ago, we asked you “How Does Your Location Affect Your Life As A Power User?”. In the days that followed, members from all over the world shared their stories and experiences of life across the globe. Allow me to introduce the true story of what it means to be a power user on this pale blue dot.
Africa & Oceania ^
“Australia is a mixed bag. I’m not a power user, can’t afford to be. We have three main carriers, Telstra, Optus and Vodafone. There are re-sellers of these carriers too, usually with a cut down service for the cheaper rates. Vodafone doesn’t have good infrastructure and the subscription uptake tends to outstrip hardware upgrades, so they are always well behind in coverage and reliability with too many users overloading the infrastructure. Where I live, they don’t even have Vodafone shops and are not a valid option. They are used mainly by people in major cities. Optus is always playing second fiddle to Telstra. They aren’t too bad but never match the coverage of Telstra (who were the government owner carrier). I personally use a reseller of Telstra service. I have an Aldi SIM. It uses a cut down part of the Telstra 3G network but has most of the coverage of Telstra.
Mobile services here are generally quite expensive, but competition is slowly improving costs, although with only three carriers, it’s never going to be a users market. If you consider yourself a power user here, Telstra is the only viable option but they are VERY expensive. 4G services are mostly only for large cities, although it is slowly spreading.
For handsets, most are available and If it’s not here we can easily buy online (although currency conversion kills the price). In general, the handsets are expensive here. A Samsung Galaxy S6 is around $1000 with higher models (like curved) over $1100 and iPhone is also very expensive. It still surprises me how many iSheep we have here despite this. Our market is overflowing with cheap rubbish handsets that are overpriced and under-performing. I resorted to buying an MTK based Chinese phone through ebay. It’s been a bit hit and miss, no updates means locked to Jellybean with minimal dev support for custom ROMs, so it is heavily modded to get more usability and slim down the resource load. We also have region lockout so often when I see something interesting here at XDA, then go to download from Google Play, I can’t. This is very frustrating. I assume it’s one reason Apple users stay with Apple …” – RobboW
“On Guam we have 3 major carriers. They are all GSM networks. One carrier has island-wide 4G (LTE) and the other two have HSPA+ island-wide with 4G in most northern cities and some down south. The speeds are pretty good with HSPA+ 15/3 Mbps and 4G 50/20 Mbps. Since last year, carriers have started switching from Unlimited Data plans to tiered plans. Before $80 could get you Unlimited Talk ,Text, and Data. Now with the new plans $80 can get you Unlimited Talk and Text and 5-10 GB of Data depending on the network. The phone selection is decent. We have Samsung, Apple, HTC, Motorola, but no LG. Most people have iPhone or Samsung flagships. While the low-end has a lot of BLUs. We get new phones about a month after their international launch. The price of an S6 is $299. An iPhone 6 16GB is $150. Since we are a US territory we can use most services including Netflix, Hulu, Google Play Music. Beats Music is not available right now, so I would assume Apple Music isn’t either.
Now on the Home internet side, there are 2 ISPs. One uses cable while the other uses ADSL, VDSL, and rolling out Fiber. Their Fiber plans are 25 Mbps for $55 when bundled with TV and Home Phone. And 50 Mbps for $65 when bundled. I have the 25 Mbps (unlimited usage) with TV and Phone for $166/month. The other ISP has up to 60 Mbps cable line (1TB data cap) for $225 when bundled with TV, Home Phone and Cell Phone with Unlimited Talk, Text and 5GB Data ($80 plan). Neither ISP throttles or blocks websites.” – nflo671
“Here in Bali there are no subsidized phones on the market, an iPhone 6 costs you about $950 unlocked. Most general consumers opt for Samsung or dual-SIM phones even at the cost of lower specs, you’ll be hard pressed to find anyone using Nexus devices here. 4GB data plan costs you $10 although an Unlimited data plan is a joke with fair usage policy of 4GB, then you get capped to 64kbps until next month. Warranties exist, but sometimes you must fight your way through the “You must be the one who broke it” mentality. Most companies opt to trick people into waiting for repairs rather than replacements (even in manufacturing defect cases). Root is seen as ‘evil’ and no matter what, they always blame the users if you root even when you had a malfunctioning screen. Hardware warranties are 1 year, but the battery inside it lasts between 3 to 6 months.
Pirated apks are offered in almost all major retail shops (sometimes they insert an SD card bonus with pirated games inside. There are a massive amount of selfie sticks all over the place. There is a general lack of interest in developing ROMs here and we rarely get updates for phones other than Android One or Nexus users, my I9500 still stuck at 4.4.2 when rest had 5.0.1 we miss out on a huge amounts of services.” –
Likewise in Jakarta the story is similar, here superbonto shares his experience.
“In Jakarta, signal reception everywhere is mostly a joke, you can get 3G, or even 4G in some areas but that’s it, no data traffic at all, you can only make calls and texts especially when you wander around rural areas. This leads to a massive battery drain upon travelling. The “root voids warranty” mentality is sunk deep in to people’s minds and as a result the developer community may not be as vast, whilst Android is looked down on compared to apple devices. There are few android tablets from global brands available here. Tablets are mostly used as a toddle’s toy, you can find some cheap $70 tablets with horrendous quality.
Music streaming services are quite limited, there is no Google Play Music or Spotify etc. The only music streaming I’ve ever used is Nokia’s Mix Radio (and the songs there were…. not my cup of tea)” – superbonto
“The only manufacturers that release their phones on time here are Samsung, Lg and Huawei. All though there are Sony and HTC retailers here. If you want to own a nexus device, a Motorola or even a Oneplus your only option is to import. there are also lots of Tecno phones here which are sold cheaply hence many people own them. Sony and HTC phones are viewed as for the rich. We have fast 3G internet and recently 4G was rolled out to the two main cities Nairobi and Mombasa though in some places upcountry its EDGE with no 3G. When I go to visit my parents I have to use 2G, it’s so frustrating.” – Jrobah
“Here in Libya, shipping is no problem but getting a credit card is quite a hassle. Only two banks offer visa cards and you need to wait a month for you to get it because they have to send your application to France to their partner bank/credit card company. Another problem is that it’s only valid for 1.5 years and then you have to go through the same process again. There is a company called Aramex that open 12 post-boxes for you in 12 different counties. When you pay for something online, you just give the seller one of those addresses. After they receive the package, it only takes 7 days at most for them to ship it here to Libya. Other shipping companies (FedEx, UPS…) work here as well but their services are not as good.
As for local sellers, There are many but when a new phone is launched, it will take 2-3 months for it to reach the international price (unless you’re prepared to pay 20-25% extra to get the phone in the same week of launch). For other electronics, there are lots of sellers and you can get a laptop/desktop/TV’s/DSLR cameras for the same international price (almost). But things are not looking good and it might get worse if the civil war reaches Tripoli.” –
“3G coverage is limited, and the bandwidth is comically bad. 4G/LTE is in the same situation, except one order of magnitude worse. Wi-Fi availability is mostly restricted to large company offices, hotels and restaurants catering to non-native (or well-off) tourists, and private homes.We get most devices even before more developed countries sometimes, but with a 1/3200 and increasingly bad exchange rate with the US dollar, it’s safe to say that most of us are limited to low-to-mid range devices, or high-end devices from 5 years ago.
As for apps, many are unavailable here due to region-locking. For the apps that are available, local financial laws involve so much red tape that it is usually easier to just move abroad and buy from there instead (if remaining on the legal side of things is a concern of yours). The only good side? Attractive local and international call rates.” –
New Zealand ^
“We have some of the highest average speed LTE in the world but terribly low data caps. I have over 50 MB/s LTE where I live but a 4.5GB monthly cap and that is considered large for mobile. We have a very low population density and rugged terrain so mobile coverage is poor if you live too far from a town. National broadband speeds are good but being an island our international data transit is expensive and limited. For these reasons cloud storage is not an option at all for most mobile users and we tend to not trust it anyway. We have a lot of competition between providers, there are several hundred ISPs for a population of 4.5 million and 3 mobile networks with several more resellers. We are in the middle of a nationwide FTTH rollout that should cover over 75% of our population and our average speeds and data caps have been shooting up for the last couple of years. I’m pretty sure carrier locking is illegal here, along with a few other things like region locking. There is a fee for breaking phone contracts but you are free to leave and take the phone to another carrier. Carrier bloat is unheard of, usually you get a single removable app for account information that is actually useful.
Media services such as Play music, Netflix etc tend to be very late to arrive if they do at all, we have just got Netflix in the last couple of months, but it has about 1/8th the content of the US version. There are some downsides mostly with pricing and availability of services but on the whole we have it pretty good.” –
“3G is available in the big cities, but not everywhere. While in some places mobile networks don’t have coverage. We have 4 major network providers MTN, AIRTEL, GLOBALCOM (owned by a Nigerian) and ETISALAT. Calls are quite cheap, because there is competition, but no unlimited calls, we only have night-time calls to same network providers (MTN – MTN) (GLO – GLO) etc… with terms and conditions applied. SMS is the same price to other networks 4 Naira standard (some mobile plans could be less). Data is quite expensive, and most times you don’t get what you paid for. From network providers 1GB = 3000 Naira ($16), more data is subsidized as you buy. so we have 10GB for 10,000 Naira ($50.1). But Blackberry users OS7 below, get more than android users and iOS, they get 3GB for 1000 NAIRA ($5.10) with no valid reason. Smart Nigerians do find a way round the data difficulty, (I’m on unlimited data) and the internet speed varies with network providers, so far ETISALAT is still the fastest, where they have 3G coverage. but their plans are expensive.
Most phones get here early, but a little bit expensive (but most times it is cheaper to buy here, than importing to save you the stress but if you can deal with it, No Problem). We have mostly Mediatek phone users (Tecno, Infinix, Gionee, Solo, Itel, Samsung , Apple, Huawei, LG, Sony, Nokia etc. One can get an android phone for as low as ₦9500 ($50 approx.) I’ve not heard of any restrictions so far, we are allowed to use credit card, Paypal just got in, but not with full access. We do not have Netflix, but a VPN can help with that. We have broadband providers also, some claim it’s 4G, but a snail is faster than the speed they provide. We have warranties for most of the devices, I’m not sure about Idevices though. Apps can and should be on the Playstore, but we have few devs” –
South Africa ^
“South Africa here. Most smartphones here go for close to double their price in the US. No Google Play devices as well and usually a small selection of devices in general. And except for Samsung and Apple, product launches are typically three months later than elsewhere. Imports can be ludicrous here. The infrastructure of our mail system is so bad that they have considered shutting it down completely this year. Places like Amazon refused to ship to SA due to all the packages going missing (meanwhile they have opened up) but shipping rates are sometimes ridiculous (think about paying $800 shipping fee for something that costs $1000, and that is without tax and import duties).
Luckily we only get international versions of phones (unfortunately only Exynos flagship Samsung) and usually only have one storage option available (except for Apple devices). Data and call rates are somewhat steep, and without dedicated data bundles networks typically charge R2/MB and R2/min (about 0.17$)” – Xdadevet
“3G here is mostly unusable, it just doesn’t work in most locations. 4G / LTE is beginning to be available, but only in a couple of cities, but it’s still so unstable that is hardly of use. Data plans are going up almost each month! Smartphones usually come here late, when they are discarded from everywhere else (Blackberries are still used here!). The devices that do actually arrive (no iphones) usually are 2 to 4 times more expensive than everywhere else. 24 month locked devices sell more expensive than international unlocked devices sold elsewhere.
Netflix/Google Devices/YouNameIt (even many youtube videos) are out of our reach because the usual US/UK only policy, we still can’t purchase nor upload through Google Music, I can’t understand why! We can’t even buy US Dollars freely.” – alex_herrero
“Good phones are expensive here, the most expensive in the world, phones like Asus Zen5 or Moto G are fairly mainstream. Data plans are way too expensive. I work in IT with 6 others and only I have a monthly more than 1Gb plan. The problem is that it is too expensive even to those of us who love technology. 3G speeds are OK in my city but this can vary greatly. I can use both Google Music and Spotify with almost no issue. 4G seems to be great where there is coverage, since almost no one has 4G sets. If you use a phone to make calls you must have a dual sim (or more), since call to someone who is not the same cellphone network as you will be expensive.
Whatsapp is the only app you must have. Maybe with Facebook, to those who have more than 10MB of daily limit. You see more windows phone than Apple devices If you choose to import a device it will cost you 3 or 4 times the original price, take months in customs, and you will have no warranty. The exception is for Apple devices which are even more expensive than this.” –
Dreadllokz also gave his experiences from Brazil:
“I’m from Brazil, and as you may know, its a BIG country! I’m a power user from Sao Paulo, and I have no problems with Internet Connection. 4G is fast enough but coverage is annoying. Home Fiber reaches 35Mb and that is good, I have no cap and can download every bluray and episodes I want! I have ADSL and Fiber at home and 4G on Cellphone, so I always have an Internet connection. Everything here is expensive, tech is really expensive. Cell plans are also really expensive, I have 6GB/month for about $20, but I have no sms, no calls, nothing, just internet, If I want to make a call, I’ll pay ~$0,50/minute. Since I mostly use Internet, its ok for me! PC Hardware, HT Hardware, Smartphones and Tablets here are crazy expensive. I use a LG G2 that is ok for my needs, I’m not going to get another Smartphone till this one breaks or gets slow. An S6 Edge 64Gb costs R$4K. I still use a Core2Duo as my PC, I use it for media and Internet, not good enough but can run Remux and Blurays from my HD and SSD just fine, so till it breaks not gonna change it either. PC and Console Gaming here are for the Rich, you need R$2K or R$7K to build a decent gaming PC, games and gear in general are crazy expensive, but for PC you’ve always got to torrent. It’s a great land, but taxes kills us! You need to be rich if you wanna go high-end here, from cars to smartphones to hardware in general! minimum wage here is @ $300!” – Dreadllokz
“Cellphones are very expensive (“el dólar a luca”, like we say here), however a lot of people have them with Motorola and Samsung being very popular. Old (new, with no use) cellphones almost never reduce their prices, but the new ones that arrive are very expensive.
You can’t buy apps or claim free books, movies and music in Play Store, without a credit card and not everyone has one here, no other payment methods. Cellphone plans are expensive too. There are 3 big carriers and several other small ones. Our phones are not carrier locked but we rarely get updates.
In cities there is always signal however in isolated places there isn’t any at all.” – skrlet13
“We recently had contracts eliminated so this mean no more subsidized phones. Prices are just a little bit higher but that’s mostly due to conversion rates. There is no unlimited data but monthly plans are ok, it’s about 60 USD for unlimited calls, text and 8GB of data. Updates don’t work here so you have to do it yourself. It’s good in general, the only complaint is the cost of the smartphones, but I guess that is a problem with the manufacturers rather than the country. Most of our major cities have LTE and it’s usually pretty good, although that is carrier dependent.
Services such as Netflix, Spotify and Google stuff work great here but some content is blocked, not much though.” – rj.camargo
Costa Rica ^
“The market here is full of Samsung and now Huawei, but we also can find Sony, LG and iPhones. New Phone models usually launches a couple of weeks after USA but are almost 100% more expensive than in the USA, fortunately it is easy for us to buy on Amazon and import it the Import fee is around $40. In case of warranty we can also return the phone to USA by mail. There are 3 main carriers, one of them is of the government (Kolbi) and right now is the one with best coverage. 3G plans are all unlimited with top speed of 5mb/s and 4G plans are with a top speed of 10mb/s but limited to 6GB. It cost is $12 every 3 months. Due to the mountains, the terrain and forest we use the 1800 band (Kolbi) and there is coverage in 80% of the country. But tethering is free.
We do not have access to some apps like Hulu or Paypal (this only works with PCs), but we are ok with Google Music, Spotify and Netflix even if the content of Netflix is limited” –
“In regard of Ecuador I think the Mobile market has stepped down. There are 3 carriers down here, Claro, Movistar (Telefónica) and the state-owned CNT. About 75% of the population is on Claro, so having a number there is convenient for the phone calls, but not data. Since 2008 (I think) Claro removed the unlimited data plan and instead offers 4GB of data at USD$55. The mobile coverage is highly dependant on the carrier, with Claro being at least 2G almost everywhere (You can make calls near the Chimborazo using Claro) and Movistar has much less of a network, while CNT coverage is a hit and miss although being the very first operator offering LTE in Ecuador. The state-owned CNT have better data plans going to offer 2GB at USD$9,99 with unlimited social networks and the service is decent.
Most of the phones here are bought unlocked and carrier-independant because of the extremely high costs of paying a phone and a plan within a basic salary of $354. Since 2012, there’s a restriction on the customs office concerning the import of cellphones using courier services that made almost half the offers of cellphones, so It’s been an awful deceleration of the mobile market here in Ecuador. So being a power user as in USA or some parts of Europe, it’s like a dream here.
While I personally don’t use Netflix or any other credit-card dependant service (Google Play, Spotify, etc.) I have noted that only the upper part of the economical mid-class and young people use those services, mostly because of fear of overusing a credit card.”– Piero512
“There is no Google hardware store here, if we want it we get it imported or through other retailers that ramp up the price. There are Samsung and Sony stores around and also an authorized distributor of iDevices, so you can get factory unlocked phones; most of the time though, you get them through one of the three providers (subsidized most likely). we have varied mobile plans, but no unlimited data we do have unlimited voice and/or sms on some of them though. Prices are pretty good from what I’ve gathered, compared to other countries, we might have one of the cheapest rates on mobile in the region, as a matter of fact. The market is flooded with cheap phones and tablets which make up most of the smartphones on people’s hands but that also means that almost everyone has access to social networks and the like. Many of the online retailers don’t ship directly to here, but there are a lot of proxy services to get them from Miami to the city although costs for that service varies between companies.
4G has just been implemented in two of the three carriers, mostly in our capital city; coverage depends on locations as most rural areas have some trouble getting 3G, some however have perfect connection. It depends how far you go into the country. Flagships tend to come pretty quickly here (a couple of months at most after the global launch, but the costs are really high compared to the average income, that is. Past year flagships don’t really drop that much in price, since they are still sought after even if a new one is present; carriers do get them out of circulation to focus on the new device.
Google play doesn’t really restrict many apps here and you can buy them freely with your credit card; you can also get subscriptions to Spotify, Netflix and the like.” – KaosStorm
“We have a fairly decent 3G network here (LTE coming in late 2015), coverage is lacking a little in some rural areas but that’s no big deal. Internet plans are ok, a little more expensive than in France, but we are used to it for €40 we can have up to 20MB/s internet, unlimited calls on landlines and mobile phones on selected countries, and TV.
My biggest complaint comes from Google itself. We are a French department and are therefore submitted to the same laws as them, but for some reason because we are overseas, Google does consider us as a separate market.
It means that we don’t have access to the same apps as the rest of the French territory, a VPN is often needed to unlock some apps on the first install and worse, we don’t have access to Google Now. Google Now was available for 1 year or so without any problem, and I had the time to really get into it then suddenly, for some reason now my Google account localizes me to a neighboring island which is also French and I can no longer access Google Now. From what I saw, regarding the issue, there is nothing I can do except wait for a change” – Crinos
“Devices are expensive considering the income level of average Panamanians. Two of the major four operators just recently started building out their LTE networks on a band that is different from the other countries in the region, the others are using (Band 28 APT). Cell phone plans are generally more expensive than in the US, there is no unlimited talk text data here and data plans only allot you a maximum of 2-3 GB per month, we have no option for 5GB as in the states. However our coverage is good in the capital and in some cities in the interior, but in some places there is zero coverage..not even regular GPRS/GSM. Service used to suck extensively but it’s gotten a bit better recently and LTE should improve matters. iOS users are a minority here, since low to mid-range Android devices reign supreme (and even Blackberry still). No matter which operator you are on, they ALL send you spam text messages advertising their latest promotions, offers etc and it gets super-annoying. On prepaid, some operators inexplicably deduct some of your balance for no reason…it just mysteriously drains.” – Culex316
Puerto Rico ^
“Being a power user in Puerto Rico is basically the same as in the US with only a few differences; here we have more operators than in the US, the income is less and we are a mostly mobile country/territory. We get most of the big players from the US, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile, plus a local one (Open Mobile) and Claro. Coverage varies by provider, but where you live makes a big difference, in most of the island AT&T and Claro have excellent coverage and normal speeds; while T-Mobile, Open and Sprint serve the metro areas with blisteringly fast speeds. Since most of the people here connect to the world via their phones, the broadband operators have been stepping up their game in recent years by offering deals and promotions; even offering 50mbps+ where most have 5mbps.
As for phones, we mainly get the same as the US with a few additions from South America, like Azumi. Almost nobody buys unlocked phones, since they are very expensive, unless you are going to buy a cheap (mostly BLU) phone to use with an MVNO. The dominant phones are the iPhone and the “Galaxy” (all Galaxy series phones), which people pay for subsidized and therefore don’t know how expensive they are. You are automatically inferior if you don’t use the fruit-labeled phone, even if you are using a S6 and they are using an iPhone 4s. The average cost of a plan is from 50$ to 70$ but the local providers usually offer better deals; plus we have MVNOs which offer great bang-for-buck plans. We get the same streaming options as the US but some services, (like Uber) are rare to come by.
Rooting and flashing are seen as wizardry by l337 haxxors, so the dev community is non-existent in my area (don’t know about the metro area). The US based operators censor very heavily, but the local ones don’t. But things are starting to get better, heavy competition is driving prices down and contract-free plans are becoming more common. The things I’m awaiting the most is the ARA Phone, and the end of the dry season so I can take my phone out of its cover.” –
United States ^
“The 4 Major Players here are: Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile. Service coverage as a whole is pretty good on most major providers in the US. We get virtually unlimited options. This is also our downfall, each carrier has it’s own version of phones. It then breaks down a step further from there: CDMA vs GSM. Most phones are available on all networks now, used to be many exclusives. (Motorola is still pretty Verizon exclusive). This makes rooting/bootloader unlocks more likely/sooner on international versions of phones. Phones can be subsidized, however this is starting to fade. (Lock into service agreement and pay lower price). Recently unlocking (not bootloader) was made law in the US, allowing phones to be used/taken to different providers provided they use the same technology (CDMA vs GSM).We have astronomically high data and voice cost compared to some other countries. (They get you on Data most though).
Most services/apps available to the US. Keep in mind though, it’s usually “Free” to us, but not really. Nothing is free. You are being data-mined.” –
“We have 3G coverage everywhere, all across the country on all 3 providers. You get H+ speeds here that’s around 3Mbps on H+. 4G (LTE) is also everywhere with just one provider (ANTEL) and the other 2 providers are expanding their 4G networks really fast. I have the cheapest 4G plan for about USD 25 and I get 2GB of 4G data and 100 minutes to calls, the data speed on my 4G plan is 20/2 Mbps. You can get better speed by paying more, but hey it’s a phone, I can wait 2 more seconds using my cheap plan. There’s a national plan by one of the providers (ANTEL) to install FTTH (Fiber To The Home), I have had fiber at home for about 1 year and a half, it’s amazing. I also have the cheapest plan, 25 USD and I get unlimited data at 20/2 Mbps (the same speeds that I get on my mobile but unlimited data). If you pay more, you can get 100/25 Mbps.
Credit cards can be used to buy online from USA stores, I usually buy phone accessories on Amazon and have them sent to Miami where I have a P.O. Box with a Uruguayan carrier that brings my stuff once a week on weekends flights. We can only buy up to USD 200 outside our country and bring it without import taxes(Customs taxes). We can have 5 of these 200 USD shipments per year, so I can only buy accessories. Buying phones from the USA and bringing them over is not allowed using this method. If I want a phone from Amazon you can buy it but when it arrives in Uruguay you’ll have to pay 250 USD to a Customs Agent + 60% of the phone cost on taxes. No one brings 1 phone because it’s too expensive.
As for streaming services we have Netflix which costs 9,32 USD and we can also use Spotify.” – Socotroco
“I sympathize with Iraqis and Iranians. But I think we (except North Korea) are the “winner” of the worst power user experience competition. All Google related stuff is banned, this means: You won’t be able to download your apps from the Official Play Store or keep your apps updated from the official source. You won’t be getting updates from Google even if you have Nexus line. Play services, etc doesn’t work. You can’t sign in the first time you set up your phone. The following apps won’t work due to censorship: Facebook, all the apps that start with Google, Twitter, Youtube, Reddit, Pandora, Netflix and Spotify (I am not sure). We have 3G and LTE, but good luck getting that to work on a 100MB a month data plan.
For the life of me I don’t understand why would anyone want to use an Android in China. I’d jump ship to Apple in a heartbeat. That half a year I spent back home was terrifying in terms of getting my phone to work.” –
“As a power user who regularly uses iOS, Android, and Windows, here is brief run down of the situation in India. iOS is utterly useless in India. Most people using iOS are wannabe Apple fans who end up buying a cheap iPhone 4 that is probably not being sold anywhere else in the world and are stuck with iOS 6 to which none of the latest apps work. More than that they end up buying 8 GB versions, with iOS taking up almost 5.5 GB space, and then they complain about not having enough space in their iPhones. iOS devices are now usually available at launch, however, they are amongst the most heavily marked up products. A base version unlocked iPhone 6 that you could get for $650 in the US will cost a $1,000 here. That is the official price.
On the Android front things are improving dramatically. You can get an Android One phone for like $70 right now. The software experience on these things is amazing. After some initial updates issues, the spare Android One phones I have at home are updating at par with my Nexus 5. Unlike the US, businesses tend to advertise their Android apps first, and iOS apps get a passing mention. Also, the loosening grip of Samsung is quite visible these days as people are slowly moving towards Motorola, Xiaomi, and Oneplus phones. Windows phone’s are very hard to find, and are usually seen in the hands of Microsoft employees or people who still believe in Nokia.
On the Apps front, the greatest deficit is in the music and video streaming space. That means we have no Netflix or Spotify, or any other streaming service of repute. Frankly speaking a country that considers 512 kbps to be broadband doesn’t deserve streaming services. Broadband is a joke with caps on max data usage on 3G speeds at 15 GB. 3G speeds are decent when available.” –
Sharing a similar story
“Almost all devices are available at competitive prices and Android one devices are available at 4000 Indian rupees. Samsung is the current market leader in phones, they have devised a model for every price point, however Samsung devices of late have become a standard user and a not a power users choice, all Samsung devices are Exynos except Note 4. Indian players like Micromax, Spice, Karbonn have started disrupting the market and with the new brand called Yu from Micromax offering Cyanogen OS out of the box at very very disruptive pricing. Online shopping is now a big trendsetter. People also use feature phones (non-smart), though that trend is changing due to cheap android phones, Some loyal Nokia brand people use Windows phones (cheap ones). We do not have locked devices or carrier bloat, although manufacturer bloatware is still there. The major carriers are Bnsl(government), Airtel, Aircel, Vodafone, Idea, Reliance and Tata docomo. The best service is on Airtel and Vodafone for the most part unless you are in the eastern side where reliance is good.
A lot of people however think smartphone means iPhone and even normal users sheds a lot of cash on an iPhone and then use it for standard email/text/fb/WhatsApp purpose. iPhones are very commonplace though most people buying them are wannabes since the phone is available for an arm and leg price, however even Samsung, LG, Sony have started offering similar prices for their top products.
There are no restrictions on internet access, all services are available however our Internet speeds are slow, 3G coverage is good in metros and tier-2 cities, prices are still high even for 2G data and most people go for 1Gb Internet packs for around 5 USD on average. 4G is only offered by Airtel in select cities and prices are again high although network congestion is very high in some areas at cities, hence sometimes calls get dropped. Broadband speeds offered by ISP varies largely based on state. Roaming charges apply when travelling from one state to another, incoming calls are charged, but you do not receive data roaming charges unless you are roaming with another network than your SIM provider. Mostly people prefer prepaid, corporate users and businessmen use postpaid with special corporate plans. Streaming services for music/video not available, again low Internet speeds and High data processing might be a reason. WhatsApp and FB are people’s choice for Social Networking. All new devices come with one year manufacturers warranty, however claiming on warranty services totally depend on the brand you are using and your luck” –
“Almost every thinkable device is available in this market since its official launch. At first it comes with an astronomic price which can sometimes be 50% higher than global price and it gradually reaches the normal price as the device becomes more available and hype vanishes; sometimes you have to wait until the next-gen is announced! There is no shipping to Iran and we can’t get credit cards so no online purchases either. Again there is no “global warranty” available and you have to pay extra for a local warranty. Recently network operators announced 4G but it comes with a very high price relative to average income ($400-600 per month) and is very crap. A lot of online services and social media are unavailable because of sanctions, censorship and filtering.” – hadi_fotovati
Giving an alternate view, ahuramajdi talks about their concerns with Google’s thoughts on Iran.
“As a power user and someone who loves Google’s style and way of thinking almost everything is not available for us from Google itself (Like Google Now, Location Services, Maps is literally just Maps) and is not censored by the government. An Iranian once asked Eric Schmidt about it in I/O 2012, Schmidt explained that this is because of US sanctions and isn’t something he can do anything about. “I’m with you but prison is like… there’s no bandwidth”. So as an Iranian I was pretty offended, to fight for my beliefs and country I joined a campaign with most of the android users in Iran to not use android and the Google services. It was good for 3 months until my course at university began (i’m studying IT) and needs for a smart phone compelled me to buy a Galaxy S4 as I couldn’t buy an iphone. The damn thing sells for almost double the price here and there is no guarantee for it, Windows phone was (and is still is) just sad.
Now i’m rooted and running gearcm (android 5.1.1) and pretty happy about it but the lack of these services and the continued comments of Google’s high rankers about Iran is verrrrrryyy humiliating and hard.” – ahuramajdi
“Nothing is available in my country for power users. You cannot buy anything online due to the lack of credit cards and even if we did have credit cards, there are no shipping companies that will ship here. Most phones cannot be found even in stores. We are unable to sell apps on the Play Store and since Google bought Songza and limited it’s use here, we now no longer have any music subscription services. 3G has only just become available on our networks and whilst some countries have even had 4G for ages now, our plans suck! Most people who repair phones have no prior experience in the field so it’s very hit and miss. We don’t even get warranties here! Our internet usage is not monitored nor censored in any way. I think we’re the only country where ISP’s don’t block a single service at all, though after ISIS controlled Mosul, Facebook was blocked for about 3 weeks and that’s it. Though I’ve stumbled across websites that block connections from Iraq.” – Beaner
“Cellphones face about 35% tax added to their price, in terms of market share. It feels 50/50 Android/iOS. We don’t have official LTE but there is “limited testing” due to regulations. Meaning that all big cities has LTE coverage. Communication has undergone some major changes lately and we’ve seen several new players (including a subsidiary of French company Free) meaning that for $30 we get unlimited texts and calls even for US and European landlines and up to 45 days a year of roaming with 6gb per month. And here you get unlimited data that gets throttled when you reach 20GB. Regarding ISPs, the new players are priced at $30 for 100 Mb/3 Mb VDSL though the limits are mostly infrastructure related especially within cities and rural areas limiting to 15Mbit. These are the highest prices you can get much cheaper rates for less bandwidth / monthly usage.
In terms of content, Only iTunes has a fully functional service. All others provide only apps (eg. Google Play) and we have no Spotify or Netflix etc. Most users will download through torrents or use YouTube for streaming.” –
“To start up we have pretty good 3G over here and carriers name it 3.75G for that matter and prices are pretty average and there are no unlimited data plans you get 40GB of data max and then speed gets throttled pretty badly to at least 56kbps. There are 3 main carriers (Orange , Zain and Umniah), smart phone prices are the best part as you can get a galaxy S6 Edge as low as $480 due to no taxes applied on electronics although you get crappy warranty from whichever reseller you get. I’d like to jump back to the internet, 4G has been recently introduced but prices are sky high, it’s $560 for a 2 month 20GB plan. On the other hand every single person here has a smartphone of some extent, there is no censorship whatsoever no even for “P” ! adding to this there is no public WiFi or free internet anywhere due to low prices of carrier deals.” –
In Lebanon there are 2 carriers, these are Alfa and Touch. The network coverage is best in the capital which is Beirut, and it’s not bad in other places. Not long ago 4G became available in Beirut. You may find the cheapest prices over here for unlocked phones, it is not usual for people to have contracts. Internet in Lebanon may not be the fastest around but most people are connected to Internet either on their mobile or DSL or both. There is no censorship in Lebanon and you can access any service you want. The people of Lebanon love technology, and directly accompany it. Many of the people here get new phones directly after they are announced.
“Malaysia has pretty expensive data subscriptions, there are 4 major carriers here: Celcom, Digi, Maxis and U-Mobile. Almost all have unlimited internet quota but after reaching the quota the speed is capped at 64kbps. The price of home internet is expensive. The culprit here is TM which is government based and almost all the networks here rely on it. For 5Mbps unlimited you have to pay about $40 a month which is quite expensive here. There are other network providers too like TIMES, which are much cheaper than TM but the coverage is very limited.
Although 4G LTE is available, the coverage is quite lacking. Celcom has the largest LTE network here which covers more of the country than the other competitors. 3G is still spreading in rural areas. There is almost no censorship here, some sites that are blocked include Porn sites and Illegal Download Sites. There are no carrier specifics device here, so no bloatware and the devices are unlocked so you can easily swap the sim card. Warranties are varied some are good, others however are not.
Almost all Google Services like Youtube etc are available here except Play Music, Movies and the Device store. But we have many alternatives. For music we have Spotify, Deezer, Tidal and many more that are available here for about 5USD a month. For movies some people use Netflix, it is unavailable here but can easily bypass by using VPN. We can get Nexus devices easily here unofficially, but they are quite expensive compared to US prices.” – muhammadnajmi96
“Pricing is critical to us, especially for off-contract phones. We condemn phones when they’re too expensive for the specs it offers for example anything with a Mediatek 6592 apparently must cost under 150 USD here or it will not sell. There are practically only 4 kinds of phones over here – dumb phones (old Nokias,) cheap Android phones (Cheap is relative here; I include the local phones as well as the flagship killers Meizu, Oppo, Lenovo.) Samsung Galaxy’s (from the A3 to S6 Edge) and iPhones (5S’ and 6’s.) Once in a while I see a Lumia, but these four phones are what I see most often. And accessories and after sale support reflects this as such.
There are essentially only two mobile networks here, they compete over who can (violate net neutrality rules best) package more services into an ‘internet promo’ bundled with call and text services. Data speeds are decent at best and non-existent at worst, it’s a 50/50 chance you’ll suffer within the day. Only the big cities and tourist centres have 4G LTE spots. Some areas have 4G HSPA+ (really 3G.) In the highways only 2G, there are even places you can only get GPRS and dead reception areas. The speeds are bad. We have one of the worst internet speeds in the world. Apparently India has ever so slightly better Internet speeds than us. The networks appear to be allergic to unlimited data plans, they charge (monthly) 60 USD for 18 GB data and 25 USD for just 4.5GB? T-Mobile can get away with charging a fixed rate of 80 for truly unlimited data. There is a very aggressive throttling policy as well, which is compounded by ridiculous data caps and overage charges. There is no censorship, torrent services are not blocked. Nothing is blocked. However, reports of clampdowns on illegally downloading local shows pop up sometimes.
We recently got carrier billing for Apple App store and Google Play. Clash of Clans is very big here; T-shirts of the damn thing are sold in actual stores. Spotify is a big deal here. We do not have Netflix, but iFlix (Malaysia-based) is being pushed aggressively, it carries the entire CBS catalog, even old shows and is 4 USD/month for now, worth it.” –
Sri Lanka ^
“The situation here is now OK and is still improving. We have 3G coverage for nearly any reachable place and decent speed too even in very rural areas. There is no price difference in Mobile 4G and 3G, if you have a compatible 4G device – 4G will work on the same package and our internet speeds are improving all the time. It is cheaper as well now 40GB on ADSL costs around $11 (LKR 1490) and for $0.75 (LKR 100) per day we get fully unlimited Data during 12 midnight to 6AM. Considering we are a small country we have five mobile operators, so competition is very high and the calls, SMS, internet charges are very low.
Newer models are never available on the launch day – it will take around 2-3 weeks to arrive here, most of the time prices are the same but it is hard to find a place offering international warranty, most places offer their own warranty which is very unreliable. There are so many counterfeit mobile phones available in the market, if you are not buying the product from an authorized seller, there is around 90% chance that you have bought a counterfeit device I have even seen some people selling counterfeit iPhones running Android. Most of the fake Samsung phones are marketed here as Korean version made by the OEM, which they are not. There is no censorship on our internet except for some porn sites. As developers we cannot sell apps on Google play store because no merchant accounts are allowed here, We have no streaming services like Netflix and Spotify although Deezer was activated recently.
As credit cards are available we can buy items online and for items not available here there are private businesses which will bring most of the permitted items to import from US or UK markets at a very cheap commission. We can import most of those products ourselves from US or UK markets even those Amazon sellers who only ship to US.” – madushan92
” Most of Google’s products and developer related services are blocked due to US sanctions. The Play store is not accessible and you can’t download/update using it. Cell phone prices are a bit high, but for local currency it is way too high, like you have to save your complete salary for about 6-7 months to even be able to consider a galaxy or a high-end. You cannot 3G on the same sim as a talking line, 3G is only available as a data sim only. and of course there is no LTE. My 3G bundle is 2GB/month for around $5. The ADSL connection is crappy, I am rocking 1Mb/sec at home and consider myself to have a fast connection in my city (Damascus). As for repairing we have a dedicated market for all types of cell phone, of course we used Chinese non-original repair parts due to high costs.
Samsung, Nokia (Symbian), Sony, HTC and the hated iPhone are taking the market at the moment. There is no sign of Blackberry, Windows phones or Moto, there is of course some LG out here.” –
“IT malls have all major brands for the standard international price and there are thousands of unofficial shops selling original and fake parts and provide repair services for a low price, accessories can be found everywhere cheap. We have fast and cheap 4G and high coverage in cities. There are Wi-fi access points across the country provided by network carriers. Prepaid phones can be topped up at places like 7eleven. The country does however focus a lot on iPhone, everyone saves money to buy an iPhone, no matter how much better or price worthy an Android could be. No one here has heard of Xiaomi or OnePlus etc. People use mobiles phones for only two things, LINE messengers and simple social games. We do have virtually no free speech, ISPs have to block websites criticizing the monarchy or the military government we also have lèse-majesté law” –
“This is a country where a large portion of all the money is still held by old corrupt politicians and old media conglomerates and thus the users that have the funds to buy high end tech are close to zero. The young people in my country tend to want to leave ASAP after they finish school, thus limiting the potential power user base even more. Here’s the fun side: in the bigger cities our internet coverage and speed… let me put it this way. I’m paying $10 a month for 50 mbps for the internet that is on my PC, which, as I was informed, was a crazy speed for close to no money. We have 3 major players on the mobile front: M-Tel, Vivacom (my carrier) and ex-Globul, who were bought by Telenor, and everyone is trying to bulls*** users by any means necessary. They are all claiming they have the best 3G coverage, and while I haven’t tested M-Tel and Telenor recently, Vivacom’s coverage in the cities is pretty good. None of them offer 4G. There’s a fresh fourth player for that, Maxtelecom, but they offer only data, you can’t use voice calls on their network yet.
At launch they offered 300 gigabytes of data @ 75 mbps speeds and still offer it for the equivalent of $18. The contracts for the three major players, though, are goddamn ridiculous for a country like this and the paying capabilities of the majority of the people. Our country’s laws prohibit the giving of a free device with a contract, and one has to pay ridiculous amounts of cash for a new device. Though recently they realized themselves, and in some cases offered unlimited calls and texts and 2 GB of HSPA+ data for the equivalent of $12. Smartphones are still a relatively new thing, though in recent years we have been quite fast to import the new models of the major players, I was able to see and test the iPhone 6 some 10 days after it’s global launch. Speaking of the forbidden fruit, the users that can afford smartphones are dumb as hell and believe that the iPhone is the best you can get, and because of this belief, Apple products remain ridiculously overpriced. Whereas, in our biggest second hand portal, you can find a flawless Note 3 N9005 for some $270 and a flawless Note 4 for some $430.
So, about the actual power users. The situation being like this, the richer power users opt for buying the phone new outright, and the not-so-rich-users (like me, of course) opt for a well kept second hand device. In this regard the Samsung flagships from 2013 and 2014 are the best value, because you slap a new battery in the thing, and if it’s display and internals aren’t damaged, it’s as good as new and ready to rock. Conclusion: if you make some 2000$ a month and can work from anywhere in the world, move here. The internet for your PC is fast, stable and cheap, soon there will be a proper 4G carrier, and the food is cheap at this salary point!” – sirobelec
“Although we are one big happy Nordic family, Denmark is different from Sweden and Norway. We have quite good offers for mobile calls, they are around €13 and you get free calls if you add another €5 and with some, you get 30GB data with 4G 90MBit transfer rates. Most of Denmark is covered by TDC with good 4G connections, even in the small cities, where fiber and copper lines are less good or offered. With Telia/Telenor closing in on the full Denmark coverage plan but still not as good. There are many sister companies of the big companies, using their networks and offering much cheaper mobile contracts, which is very good for competition and why I pay €18 today and have free data 4G,talk/sms/mms. Good offers show up sometimes due to the competition here.
We have no censoring on apps or payments on Play or apple store, except those Apple already do themselves. From what I know, Android has the majority of the Danish market with Apple being number 2. Microsoft have had a hard time with no gains on market share at all. Denmark offers the best of both worlds to mobile owners, but when it comes to warranty coverage, the insurance companies and local repair companies tries to utilize the Samsung Knox counter as a warranty void issue, and so far it keeps development to be less interesting for most android owners i guess. Personally I have had less issues with cracked mobiles, so I couldn’t care less and continue to break the warranty” – Dexter_nlb
“Well I guess we have almost no Censorship regarding our phones and or apps. Devices are for the most part available. Of course they are not always the same as in the US, but still we have a good amount of phones here that are affordable, maybe $50 more than in the US but not always. We have 3 Main Carriers (T-Mobile, Vodafone, O2). In this Case O2 has always been the worst of these three. But there has been a fourth one (EPlus), which has been bought by O2 and their Services were merged together, so O2 really got better. I don’t know how much a Phone call is, due to me having a flat rate, but I guess it isn’t that much. Unfortunately we have almost no possibility of getting an Unlimited Data Plan, I would need this a lot. 10GB are just not enough for one Month if you are have LTE.
The LTE network is quite good, at least in the bigger cities. I even have LTE in the Subway. You have LTE almost everywhere and that is actually really great. My experience as a power user here in Germany is, that there are not many people interested in it. So most of them don’t even know there are possibilities beyond buying the Phone, taking pictures, Whatsapp, Facebook, Phone and SMS.” –
“We have it reasonably good here. Phones are roughly the same as US plus 40 or 50 euro. Importing phones is not an option most of the time due to shipping. The market is dominated by Samsung, iSheep and HTC in that order. There is a small but loyal Sony following. Brands like OnePlus, Xiaomi, Huawei even larger ones like LG or Motorola are near to non-existent due to shops not carrying them. (I have never seen anyone in this country with an LG). We have 4 main networks with 2 or 3 subsidiaries who piggy back on them. Vodafone, 3, Meteor, eMobile. 3 are the largest and have unlimited data plans (throttled at roughly 15GB, depending on luck), but limited range of phones and poor coverage outside cities and main towns handicap them. In cities they reign supreme, outside them, Vodafone dominate due to excellent coverage but average speeds. The other two sort of carve a middle ground, with eMobile more focused on offering “all-in-one” bundles that include cable and landlines (for those who still use them). 4G is poor generally, with 3 the best, then Meteor, Vodafone. All are limited to Cities, but data speeds are good when you can find coverage, 20Mbytes/sec on a good day.
No censorship here, a few ISP block torrent sites.
The only blight on the market is a high proportion of people who think an iPhone is the epitome of all a phone can be and don’t even want to dip there toe into the more techy side of things. Along with this, specifically the experience of a power user, is the frustration that most mobile phone “professionals” will know less about any problems you have than you do, so if you can’t fix it, your screwed.” – Paul Ireland
“We get 3G in almost all of Italy although in big cities we have 4G but it’s expensive from some companies but it’s really fast! At home we have difficulty with only having 7mb/s connection, 100mb/s connections are only available in big cities, but it’s very expensive. I have a 10mb/s connection and I pay 40€/month. Prices of mobiles are slightly higher than other European countries. But online you can find very good offers. Warranties are very good if you buy online, but with some physical shops sometimes you have to wait months until you see your phone again. The state postal service is horrible, for getting a package outside Europe you have to wait 1 month (3 days to arrive in Italy, 27 days to arrive at your home, if it arrives at all, because untraceable parcels very often do not arrive). Couriers are awesome, if you buy online 99.9% of the sellers ship the parcel with them.
We have difficulty in accessing services such as Netflix etc. We do have similar services like that with some big TV companies, but it’s expensive and you can see about 2 TV series in total. As a developer if you want to start a company it’s very difficult because taxes are very high.” –
“In Monaco there’s only one provider – Monaco Telecom, but they use the French network Orange as an MVNO. Because of this, Monaco mobile numbers use the prefix +33 (for France) instead of +377 (for Monaco). iPhone is very heavy here. The iPhone is a fashion accessory and you’re in possibly the most vanity conscious country in the world. iPhone is king here. In terms of Internet, the wifi networks I’ve used have been reliable. For things like 3G, it’s essentially the French network. Even though my network is SFR in France, it doesn’t change when I’m in Monaco with it being that small. But SFR is an absolutely shit network, my 3G is temperamental at times to say the least. Apparently Bouygues Telecom is the best network over here. But for signal it’s maybe best to use someone else because I live right on the border, so I’ll sometimes wake up and be connected to an Italian network. I’m not sure of how competitive the tariffs are for Monaco Telecom – it’s best to look on their website, but essentially the mobile network there is the French one, there would be nothing to stop you from using a French phone there if it was to work out cheaper
As Netflix is available in France, I would imagine it to be available in Monaco (albeit the French version). Bear in mind that some very rich and influential people live in Monaco, so Prince Albert will make sure they are very comfortable and get whatever they need.” – J.Fletcher
“We’re a country very equal to Sweden, mostly if we think about the living standard and salaries. Over 99% of the population have a connection to a high-speed 4G network with a decent smartphone, 98% of the country’s transactions are made with a Credit card or a Debit card. The majority of the market is still controlled by Apple, but more and more people are deciding to buy an Android phone. We actually only do pay for the data/4G in today’s carrier packages (free calls, mms/sms are included in all packs) and the average price for a pack with 5GB data and free calls/messages’s about 300kr/m (~$45). Average salary is 30-40 thousand NOK a month (~£4.5-4k/m) so carrier’s prices aren’t that high for the most of us.
A common problem here is that almost 50% of our country’s covered with woods and hills, which means that only 60% of the country’s area has a decent 4G-network, and about 80% has a decent 3G/H+ coverage. One of the biggest carriers in country NetCom is rebuilding it’s network to deliver a better and more decent quality of signal, but won’t be ready to use before the end of 2017. We’re too very lucky we’re not part of the EU, but only the EEA, so we don’t really have to go by all the EU rules and conditions.” – SnobaTamba
“I am from Romania and we have very fast and cheap internet. For example a 1000 Mbps speed monthly plan is 12 euros. I have at home a 200 Mbps plan and I can download torrents with 25 MB/s. We have 4 main mobile operators, Vodafone, Orange, Telekom and RDS. An unlimited calls and messages plan at Vodafone is 19 euros, including VAT, with 1.5 GB 4G internet. We have very good coverage with 4G present in major towns mostly. I have H and 4G speeds in subway trains as well, not only in stations. But mobile internet speed is good with H+, H and 3G. Some operators offers free WIFI in some places like subway stations. The mobile phones prices are comparable to the UK for example, I bought some mobile phones from there because they arrived later in our stores. For example, an S6 Edge is 840 euros. We have good online stores and they are ok with warranties, my S6 Edge was bought online from Vodafone and the first phone had some issues so they sent me a new one. Vodafone and Orange also offer insurance for mobile phones bought from them.
We have access to Google Play and Music but no access to Netflix. There is no censorship now. We had enough till 1989 when communism ended. But we have had corruption since then.” – 2dorr
“We have 3G in our major cities, and even LTE in certain parts of Belgrade, you can buy 150 Mb of data for $3 which adds up quickly. We have decent internet and good Wi-fi even if it is quite pricey, but that is to be expected. The play store only offers apps, paid and free although very few people in Serbia still buy apps. The people of Serbia actually love repairing and modding old phones (I still see people using Symbian). The most used apps around here are Facebook, Whatsapp, Viber and Instagram.” – Nikolayy2013
“Everything is available as Sweden is a prioritized market, There is no censorship. 4G holds cover over 99% of the population with high speeds. All phones are available at launch or very close to. Apple still holds most of the market with approx 35-40%. All streaming services are available. A 40GB data, unlimited texts and calls, with a free phone upon signing up is $70/month. The warranties are pretty solid and power outages never occur
The girls are pretty too. Shame the sun only shines for 8 months a year. But my screen is bright.” – Smidefix
“In Switzerland, most international smartphones are available both with carriers and off-contract. Some online retailers even offer a decent selection of imported devices like Xiaomi phones. Like most European countries, they thankfully don’t add their ugly logos on the phones. But anyway buying phones off-contract is pretty popular here, and is helped by having companies like Sony making high-end phone for a decent price like the Xperia Z3C, which is pretty popular at this moment, although Apple still holds the crown with around 40-50% of market share.
As for mobile coverage, most of the territory is covered with 4G network across all 3 carries (Swisscom, Sunrise, and ‘Salt.’, previously called Orange), with maybe the exception of uninhabited mountains, but that’s to be expected. Also, it’s worth noting that like many carriers, Sunrise and Orange offer data plans with a limited amount of GB (1GB to 10GB) per month, whereas Swisscom offers unlimited amounts of data, but with a limited speed. They even offer a 169 CHF plan (around $180) that has unlimited data AND speed. I even know a couple of guys who ditched their fixed internet connection and only have a phone they use as hotspot at home, which I find incredible.
As far as features go, We are pretty lucky as most services are available even though it’s a very small country, but that’s probably helped by the fact that historically the government has never really tried to block anything we’re not part of the EU.” – Miomjon
United Kingdom (England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland) ^
“In the UK (England in particular) we have a plethora of carriers and what can feel like too much choice. With Three, EE (a partnership between Orange + T-Mobile), Vodafone, O2 and a bunch of MVNOs like Tesco Mobile and a new carrier called iD. All of the main carriers offer 4G with hundreds of combinations of texts, minutes and data, with some carriers (like Three) offering unlimited data. SIM only plans are gaining traction with unlimited 4G data from Three for as little as £17 per month (approx $26 per month). One of the main areas of competition between the carriers at the moment is where they offer free roaming. Carriers such as Three and iD allow you to use your plans allowance (texts, mins and data) in countries all over the world including the USA. Roaming within EU will be abolished in June of 2017. As everyone here probably knows the iPhone still remains prevalent with Samsung coming in at the top of Android. All-in-all it’s pretty good over here.”–
Comparative Data ^
Global Analysis ^
Here is data for 207 different countries, based on 2013 estimates.
All data provided by Wolfram Alpha Pro
Editor’s note ^
“It is my sincerest hope that this article will not be lost to the ravages of time like so many of the features we write each day. Our greatest asset here at XDA is not our forums, our portal or even the many other projects and forms of analysis we offer. It is in fact you, the bold, the adventurous and the resolute; you are and have always been the heart of our home. It is my desire that we will one day see this as a guide with the stories and experiences of members from hundreds of locales to be used not just as what I hope to be an interesting read but as also something that will continue to bring our community together closer than ever before.” – Mathew Brack
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