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

Getty
Show Hide image

Find the EU renegotiation demands dull? Me too – but they are important

It's an old trick: smother anything in enough jargon and you can avoid being held accountable for it.

I don’t know about you, but I found the details of Britain’s European Union renegotiation demands quite hard to read. Literally. My eye kept gliding past them, in an endless quest for something more interesting in the paragraph ahead. It was as if the word “subsidiarity” had been smeared in grease. I haven’t felt tedium quite like this since I read The Lord of the Rings and found I slid straight past anything written in italics, reasoning that it was probably another interminable Elvish poem. (“The wind was in his flowing hair/The foam about him shone;/Afar they saw him strong and fair/Go riding like a swan.”)

Anyone who writes about politics encounters this; I call it Subclause Syndrome. Smother anything in enough jargon, whirr enough footnotes into the air, and you have a very effective shield for protecting yourself from accountability – better even than gutting the Freedom of Information laws, although the government seems quite keen on that, too. No wonder so much of our political conversation ends up being about personality: if we can’t hope to master all the technicalities, the next best thing is to trust the person to whom we have delegated that job.

Anyway, after 15 cups of coffee, three ice-bucket challenges and a bottle of poppers I borrowed from a Tory MP, I finally made it through. I didn’t feel much more enlightened, though, because there were notable omissions – no mention, thankfully, of rolling back employment protections – and elsewhere there was a touching faith in the power of adding “language” to official documents.

One thing did stand out, however. For months, we have been told that it is a terrible problem that migrants from Europe are sending child benefit to their families back home. In future, the amount that can be claimed will start at zero and it will reach full whack only after four years of working in Britain. Even better, to reduce the alleged “pull factor” of our generous in-work benefits regime, the child benefit rate will be paid on a ratio calculated according to average wages in the home country.

What a waste of time. At the moment, only £30m in child benefit is sent out of the country each year: quite a large sum if you’re doing a whip round for a retirement gift for a colleague, but basically a rounding error in the Department for Work and Pensions budget.

Only 20,000 workers, and 34,000 children, are involved. And yet, apparently, this makes it worth introducing 28 different rates of child benefit to be administered by the DWP. We are given to understand that Iain Duncan Smith thinks this is barmy – and this is a man optimistic enough about his department’s computer systems to predict in 2013 that 4.46 million people would be claiming Universal Credit by now*.

David Cameron’s renegotiation package was comprised exclusively of what Doctor Who fans call handwavium – a magic substance with no obvious physical attributes, which nonetheless helpfully advances the plot. In this case, the renegotiation covers up the fact that the Prime Minister always wanted to argue to stay in Europe, but needed a handy fig leaf to do so.

Brace yourself for a sentence you might not read again in the New Statesman, but this makes me feel sorry for Chris Grayling. He and other Outers in the cabinet have to wait at least two weeks for Cameron to get the demands signed off; all the while, Cameron can subtly make the case for staying in Europe, while they are bound to keep quiet because of collective responsibility.

When that stricture lifts, the high-ranking Eurosceptics will at last be free to make the case they have been sitting on for years. I have three strong beliefs about what will happen next. First, that everyone confidently predicting a paralysing civil war in the Tory ranks is doing so more in hope than expectation. Some on the left feel that if Labour is going to be divided over Trident, it is only fair that the Tories be split down the middle, too. They forget that power, and patronage, are strong solvents: there has already been much muttering about low-level blackmail from the high command, with MPs warned about the dire influence of disloyalty on their career prospects.

Second, the Europe campaign will feature large doses of both sides solemnly advising the other that they need to make “a positive case”. This will be roundly ignored. The Remain team will run a fear campaign based on job losses, access to the single market and “losing our seat at the table”; Leave will run a fear campaign based on the steady advance of whatever collective noun for migrants sounds just the right side of racist. (Current favourite: “hordes”.)

Third, the number of Britons making a decision based on a complete understanding of the renegotiation, and the future terms of our membership, will be vanishingly small. It is simply impossible to read about subsidiarity for more than an hour without lapsing into a coma.

Yet, funnily enough, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Just as the absurd complexity of policy frees us to talk instead about character, so the onset of Subclause Syndrome in the EU debate will allow us to ask ourselves a more profound, defining question: what kind of country do we want Britain to be? Polling suggests that very few of us see ourselves as “European” rather than Scottish, or British, but are we a country that feels open and looks outwards, or one that thinks this is the best it’s going to get, and we need to protect what we have? That’s more vital than any subclause. l

* For those of you keeping score at home, Universal Credit is now allegedly going to be implemented by 2021. Incidentally, George Osborne has recently discovered that it’s a great source of handwavium; tax credit cuts have been postponed because UC will render such huge savings that they aren’t needed.

Helen Lewis is deputy editor of the New Statesman. She has presented BBC Radio 4’s Week in Westminster and is a regular panellist on BBC1’s Sunday Politics.

This article first appeared in the 11 February 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The legacy of Europe's worst battle