Samsung: all over the news, again

Gotta hand it to their PR team.

Another day and another set of positive Samsung stories, wherever you look.

A special mention goes to the consultants IDC. Last week when Samsung released a strong set of first quarter results – another quarterly record profit – IDC reported that Samsung shipped more smartphones than the next four vendors combined. Even better for Samsung was confirmation that of the top 5 vendors globally, only Apple suffered a drop in market share; LG, Huawei and ZTE made small gains while Samsung’s market share soared.

Although Apple grew sales volume by around 6 percent to 37m phones, its market share fell sharply from 23 per cent to 17 per cent. By contrast, Samsung’s mobile sales skyrocketed by 60 per cent to 70.7m for a 32.7 per cent market share, up from 28.8 per cent ayear ago.

There was a time, not so long ago, when mobile phones were used just to make calls and send texts? It seems a long time ago.

In the UK, 31.7m (out of a total of UK mobile phone audience of 49.5m) are smartphones. UK smartphone penetration stands at 64 per cent and rising. In December, 82 per cent of all phones acquired were smartphones. There is a common misconception that the digital drive is being driven by 20 and 30 somethings, with nothing better to spend their money on than the latest gadget.

Wrong.  In December 2012, 71 per cent of new devices acquired by Brits aged 55 plus were smartphones, according to the consultant’s comScore. For aficionados of the Samsung v Apple battle, interest has just ramped up with the Samsung flagship handset, the Galaxy S4, which hit the shops over the weekend. Except, those cunning PR sorts at Samsung were busy dampening expectations – or trying to create a false sense of excitement depending on your point of view - by warning of possible S4 shortages.

Demand for the S4 will be so fierce, according to vested interests by the names of Carphonewarehouse and Phones4U that they may not be able to keep up with demand. The cool and sensible response to the media frenzy resulting from the release of the S4 is to rise above it; better still, ignore it.

Better to stick to one’s existing, trusty and reliable handset. On the other hand: the writer’s existing handset, a Samsung S3, is already fully 12 months old. It has perhaps, just perhaps, been slowing down just a tad.

It is after all, an essential tool for work these days. There is also not the slightest danger of anyone – even close friends or family – accusing the writer of being cool, about anything. It is even a rare luxury to answer to the charge of being sensible. After an appropriate period – there is no point hurrying or appearing to be a tech anorak so we are talking a few days at least – the S3 can be replaced by a S4. Vague efforts will be made, with little success, to exclude from regular vocabulary words such as flagship, thinner, lighter, faster processor, best Android ever, eye recognition and smart screen.

Photograph: Getty Images

Douglas Blakey is the editor of Retail Banker International

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In the 1980s, I went to a rally where Labour Party speakers shared the stage with men in balaclavas

The links between the Labour left and Irish republicanism are worth investigating.

A spat between Jeremy Corbyn’s henchfolk and Conor McGinn, the MP for St Helens North, caught my ear the other evening. McGinn was a guest on BBC Radio 4’s Westminster Hour, and he obligingly revisited the brouhaha for the listeners at home. Apparently, following an interview in May, in which McGinn called for Corbyn to “reach out beyond his comfort zone”, he was first threatened obliquely with the sack, then asked for a retraction (which he refused to give) and finally learned – from someone in the whips’ office – that his party leader was considering phoning up McGinn’s father to whip the errant whipper-in into line. On the programme, McGinn said: “The modus operandi that he [Corbyn] and the people around him were trying to do [sic], involving my family, was to isolate and ostracise me from them and from the community I am very proud to come from – which is an Irish nationalist community in south Armagh.”

Needless to say, the Labour leader’s office has continued to deny any such thing, but while we may nurture some suspicions about his behaviour, McGinn was also indulging in a little airbrushing when he described south Armagh as an “Irish ­nationalist community”. In the most recent elections, Newry and Armagh returned three Sinn Fein members to the Northern Ireland Assembly (as against one Social Democratic and Labour Party member) and one Sinn Fein MP to Westminster. When I last looked, Sinn Fein was still a republican, rather than a nationalist, party – something that McGinn should only be too well aware of, as the paternal hand that was putatively to have been lain on him belongs to Pat McGinn, the former Sinn Fein mayor of Newry and Armagh.

According to the Irish News, a “close friend” of the McGinns poured this cold water on the mini-conflagration: “Anybody who knows the McGinn family knows that Pat is very proud of Conor and that they remain very close.” The friend went on to opine: “He [Pat McGinn] found the whole notion of Corbyn phoning him totally ridiculous – as if Pat is going to criticise his son to save Jeremy Corbyn’s face. They would laugh about it were it not so sinister.”

“Sinister” does seem the mot juste. McGinn, Jr grew up in Bessbrook during the Troubles. I visited the village in the early 1990s on assignment. The skies were full of the chattering of British army Chinooks, and there were fake road signs in the hedgerows bearing pictograms of rifles and captioned: “Sniper at work”. South Armagh had been known for years as “bandit country”. There were army watchtowers standing sentinel in the dinky, green fields and checkpoints everywhere, manned by some of the thousands of the troops who had been deployed to fight what was, in effect, a low-level counter-insurgency war. Nationalist community, my foot.

What lies beneath the Corbyn-McGinn spat is the queered problematics of the ­relationship between the far left wing of the Labour Party and physical-force Irish republicanism. I also recall, during the hunger strikes of the early 1980s, going to a “Smash the H-Blocks” rally in Kilburn, north London, at which Labour Party speakers shared the stage with representatives from Sinn Fein, some of whom wore balaclavas and dark glasses to evade the telephoto lenses of the Met’s anti-terrorist squad.

The shape-shifting relationship between the “political wing” of the IRA and the men with sniper rifles in the south Armagh bocage was always of the essence of the conflict, allowing both sides a convenient fiction around which to posture publicly and privately negotiate. In choosing to appear on platforms with people who might or might not be terrorists, Labour leftists also sprinkled a little of their stardust on themselves: the “stardust” being the implication that they, too, under the right circumstances, might be capable of violence in pursuit of their political ends.

On the far right of British politics, Her Majesty’s Government and its apparatus are referred to derisively as “state”. There were various attempts in the 1970s and 1980s by far-right groupuscules to link up with the Ulster Freedom Fighters and other loyalist paramilitary organisations in their battle against “state”. All foundered on the obvious incompetence of the fascists. The situation on the far left was different. The socialist credentials of Sinn Fein/IRA were too threadbare for genuine expressions of solidarity, but there was a sort of tacit confidence-and-supply arrangement between these factions. The Labour far left provided the republicans with the confidence that, should an appropriately radical government be elected to Westminster, “state” would withdraw from Northern Ireland. What the republicans did for the mainland militants was to cloak them in their penumbra of darkness: without needing to call down on themselves the armed might of “state”, they could imply that they were willing to take it on, should the opportunity arise.

I don’t for a second believe that Corbyn was summoning up these ghosts of the insurrectionary dead when he either did or did not threaten to phone McGinn, Sr. But his supporters need to ask themselves what they’re getting into. Their leader, if he was to have remained true to the positions that he has espoused over many years, should have refused to sit as privy counsellor upon assuming his party office, and refused all the other mummery associated with the monarchical “state”. That he didn’t do so was surely a strategic decision. Such a position would make him utterly unelectable.

The snipers may not be at work in south Armagh just now – but there are rifles out there that could yet be dug up. I wouldn’t be surprised if some in Sinn Fein knew where they are, but one thing’s for certain: Corbyn hasn’t got a clue, bloody or otherwise. 

Will Self is an author and journalist. His books include Umbrella, Shark, The Book of Dave and The Butt. He writes the Madness of Crowds and Real Meals columns for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 25 August 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Cameron: the legacy of a loser