Subscribe to:

Subscribe to :: ::

Is The Tablet Space Drying Up?

October 9, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Demand for Tablets is getting so weak that more chip suppliers plan to phase out their tablet-IC businesses.

The so-called “game-changing technology” when Apple launched it, is turning out to be just another fad – much like the iPod.

Digitimes reports that its deep throats in Taiwan-based IC design houses are giving up on tablets, which have been killed off by large-size smartphones. Tablet demand worldwide will likely decline 10-20 per cent in 2016 which will probably kill the fad off.

Shipments of tablets running Android OS might be less than 160 million units in 2015, and will fall further to 120-130 million in 2016, the sources predicted.

As a result, international vendors have decided to leave the tablet-IC market because of low prices which will yield them low profits. Meanwhile weak demand, price competition among tablet chip providers remains intense.

The only one to see an increase in sales has been MediaTek. Its shipments for tablets continue to grow and it aims to ship 45 million tablet chips in 2015. It is not sure what black magic the outfit is performing to buck the trend.  We hate to say we told you so, but this was inevitable.



Sony Says 2016 Is Make-Or-Break Year For Smartphone Unit

October 8, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Sony Corp’s chief executive pegged 2016r as a make-or-break year for its struggling smartphones, saying it could consider other options for the unit if it failed to turn profitable.

After years of losses, Chief Executive Kazuo Hirai has engineered a successful restructuring drive at Sony, with recent results showing improvement thanks to cost cuts, an exit from weak businesses such as PCs, as well as strong sales of image sensors and videogames. But its smartphone business has been slow to turn around.

“We will continue with the business as long as we are on track with the scenario of breaking even next year onwards,” Hirai told a group of reporters on Wednesday. “Otherwise, we haven’t eliminated the consideration of alternative options.”

Sony and other Japanese electronics makers have struggled to compete with cheaper Asian rivals as well as the likes of Apple Inc and Samsung Electronics.

Sony phones including its Xperia-branded smartphones held only 17.5 percent of the market in Japan and less than 1 percent in the North America, according to company data last year.

The electronics giant in July lowered its forecast for its mobile communications unit to an operating loss of 60 billion yen in the current fiscal year from an earlier estimate of a 39 billion yen loss.

“I do have a feeling that a turnaround in our electronics business has shown progress. The result of three years of restructuring are starting to show,” he said. “But we still need to carry out restructuring in smartphones.”



Samsung Appears To Be Back In The Black

October 8, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Samsung is expected to announce its first annual increase in quarterly profit in two years following a dismal third quarter in 2014, but word on the street is that things are not going well.

Samsung’s July-September operating profit to have risen 64 percent marking the first pickup since a record profit in the third quarter of 2013, but investors are not exactly excited.

Most of Samsung’s problems are its phone business. Though overall phone shipments likely rose, the brokerage says the greater share of lower-end products and price cuts for the Galaxy S6 models weighed heavily on the company’s bottom line.

At the lower end it launched new products targeting markets such as India, while at the high end it switched from plastic to metal, introduced curved screens and cut the price for its flagship Galaxy S6 devices after sales fell short of high expectations in the second quarter.

The smartphone market is saturated and no one is selling that many anymore. Chinese makers have eaten up its lower end market. New hardware features can be quickly matched by rivals. Samsung lacks service or software offerings that can pique consumer interest and not easily be replicated, a problem it hopes its recently launched Samsung Pay service can help address.

None of this has convinced investors that the company is back on track for sustained growth and the sustained growth is likely soon. The company is under pressure to return some of a cash pile of $53 billion through dividends or share buybacks.

Samsung’s semiconductor business probably remained its top earner for the fifth straight quarter as new premium phones came to market.


Verizon Finds New Use For Its ‘Supercookie’

October 8, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Verizon’s purchase of AOL means that ads for some U.S. mobile users are about to get a whole lot more targeted.

The company has updated its privacy policy, saying that it now shares unique identifying information about users of its mobile phone network with the AOL Advertising Network, which claims as customers 74 of the top 100 websites tracked by ComScore.

The move will allow AOL to target ads at visitors to its sites and others using information from Verizon’s databases as well as its own. According to Verizon’s October 2015 privacy notice, the targeting criteria include visitors address, email address, age range, gender, interests, location, mobile web browsing history and app usage. The company can also track some non-mobile web browsing, to sites carrying AOL ads, it said.

Verizon links all this information together using a patchwork of identifiers, including ad IDs from Apple and Google, browser cookies from AOL, and its own Unique Identifier Header (UIDH) which it adds to mobile data traffic on its network. It’s this last item that ads significantly to AOL’s ad targeting power, as it’s easy to delete or change the other identifiers.

It’s also now possible to opt out of Verizon’s UIDH system too, thanks to reporting by ProPublica, which earlier this year revealed that the company was still using the identifier to track users who had deleted it.

Concern about targeted advertising is rising, with an increasing number of Internet users opting out of advertising altogether through the use of ad-blocking software. Apple recently made it possible to download content blockers for its Safari browser on iOS, prompting a flurry of players to enter the market.

Some see such blockers as a tool to force the online advertising industry to change its ways. One, Eyeo, deliberately lets through certain ads, as long as they are unobtrusive. It introduced has its own iOS content blocker — but also taken steps to win over other developers to its platform by making its process for allowing some ads through the blocker more transparent.



Google Unveils Two New Nexus Smartphones

October 1, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Google Inc has rolled out its new Nexus phones in its latest attempt to thwart Apple’s dominant share of the smartphone market.

The launch of the phones, the Nexus 6P and the Nexus 5X, comes a day after Apple Inc reported record first-weekend sales of its new iPhones.

The Nexus 5X 16 GB model will be priced at $379, while the Nexus 6P 32 GB will cost $499, Google said at an event live-streamed on YouTube.

Apple’s 6s and 6s Plus start at $199 and $299, respectively, with a two-year service-provider contract.

Nexus devices, which typically do not sell as much as iPhones or iPads, are a way for the tech giant to showcase its latest advancements in mobile hardware and software.

Google also unveiled a tablet built entirely by the company based on its Android operating system.

The latest version of Android, dubbed Marshmallow, will be available to existing Nexus customers from next week.

The Android mobile platform is a key element in Google’s strategy to maintain revenue from online advertising as people switch from Web browser searches to smartphone apps.

The Nexus 5X is made by South Korea’s LG Electronics Inc and the Nexus 6P by China’s Huawei Technologies Co Ltd . Both phones feature Google’s new fingerprint sensor, Nexus Imprint, which is located on the back.

The fingerprint sensors will help quickly authorize purchases made through Android Pay, the one-touch payment app on Android devices that competes with Apple Pay.

The phones are available for pre-order on the Google Store from a number of countries including the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland and Japan.

The Pixel C tablet will cost $499 for the 32 GB model and can be bought with a detachable keyboard, which will cost $149.

The tablet will be available in time for the holiday season on the Google Store.



Samsung Still Pursuing iPhone Users, Offers New Incentives

September 30, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Samsung will rebate monthly lease and installment payments for the latest Galaxy smartphones up to $120 and will even throw in $100 more for trading in an iPhone.

The offer, however, does excludes devices sold or running on the AT&T network. But it does apparently apply to a lease or installment plan from T-Mobile, Sprint, Verizon Wireless or US Cellular. The devices that are eligible are the Galaxy S6, Galaxy S6 Edge, Galaxy Note 5 and the Galaxy S6 Edge Plus.

In one example, a Galaxy S6 through Verizon would require a $24 monthly payment for 24 months to pay off the device. Samsung’s offer covers those payments up to $120. The redemption period ends Oct. 9, according to online conditions.

For smartphone users switching to Galaxy from the iPhone, the $100 award will come in the form of a $100 Google Play gift card.

This isn’t the first time Samsung has attempted to lure iPhone customers. In August, Samsung offered U.S. iPhone users a 30-day test drive of a Galaxy phone for $1.

Samsung has been hot on the tail of Apple for years, and is expected to set up its own leasing program; Apple announced the iPhone Upgrade Program on Sept. 9. “If Apple does it, then it must be good enough for Samsung,” said Roger Entner, an analyst at Recon Analytics.



Is Oculus Going Cheap With VR?

September 29, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Around The Net

Oculus and Samsung had a few milestone announcements to make at yesterday’s keynote for the Connect 2 developer event. Gear VR got an update and halved in price. Oculus signed a few important content partnerships.

Samsung Gear VR, the wearable accessory that allows you to strap a compatible Samsung phone to your face and see the virtual worlds within, got a new version that now costs only $99. That’s without the phone of course, so you will have to BYOD.

Oculus, on the other hand, is bringing some much needed expansion to the content side of the equation. There’s games, movies, TV shows, streaming video, all becoming available in the next few months. This is widely expected by our tech journalist colleagues to finally bring VR into many more homes. We tend to agree that that’s a very real possibility.

Among the more important content partnerships are that with Fox, who’s bringing over 100 of its movies to the Oculus VR Cinema, and Lionsgate. But what’s really expected to bring VR into your average Internet-connected living room is the fact that Netflix follows suit, as will vimeo and Hulu in the fall.

Kids will be able to stare like zombies for hours on end into a VR version of their favourite gamers’ video feeds via Twitch. Hooray!

Facebook also announced 360 degree videos that will become available on the news feed. Disney, Vice, GoPro, Saturday Night Live and others have already been signed up to produce content.

We expect a version of VR goggles to come out soon enough with an Intel Realsense or similar technology, so we’ll be able to tune into someone’s surroundings in realtime. Microsoft’s Hololens seems like a perfect tool for such scenarios.

It’s without a doubt exciting times in the area of VR. Now, whether it will falter like 3D TV has, or live on to see another “day”, it’s too soon to tell. We will be following the developments closely.



eBook Sales Appear To Be Falling

September 28, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

It is starting to look like the shift from hard content to digital content that killed off physical cds is not going to happen to books.

In the first five months of 2015, publishers’ revenues from e-books sales fell 10 per cent to $610.8 million, according to the Association of American Publishers, compared to a 2.3 per cent drop in print book sales in the fiction, nonfiction and religious categories (that the industry calls trade books.)

Anyone with common sense will tell you that the reason ebook sales are falling is because greedy publishers jacked up the price until people failed to see the point of ebooks. Ebook prices have risen and serious readers still prefer the tactile pleasure of a physical book and will choose that over a digital book for the same price.

Ebooks generated 24.9 per cent of publisher revenues between January and May, down from a peak of 26.5 per cent in the year earlier period.

Barnes & Noble reporting slight gains in comparable sales in its core book selling business after years of declines that had led many to wonder whether the largest remaining bookstore chain might suffer the same fate as Borders, which went out of business four years ago.

On the e-reader front, about 12 million devices industries wide were sold last year, down 40% from the nearly 20 million sold in 2011.


More Anti-trust Scrutiny For Google Over Android OS

September 28, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has initiated a preliminary investigation into whether Google Inc utilizes its Android operating system to dominate competitors as more consumers go mobile, two sources familiar with the matter said on Friday.

The Android mobile platform is a key element in Google’s strategy to maintain revenue from online advertising as people switch from Web browser searches to smartphone apps. The FTC had previously investigated Google for allegedly breaking antitrust law in a separate case but that probe ended in a settlement.

Reuters reported in April that some technology companies had complained to the U.S. Department of Justice about Google’s anti-competitive practices and urged the regulator to investigate allegations that Google unfairly uses its Android system to hurt rivals.

The FTC and the Justice Department conferred, and decided that the FTC would take the case, one source said. The probe is in its very early stages, according to sources.

Both Google and the FTC declined comment. In a blog post in April, a top Google executive defended the way the company handles Android, saying other firms could use Android without Google but that working with Google benefits consumers by giving them a better experience with their phone.

The FTC probe focuses on Google’s requirements that its search, maps and other products be given a prominent place on handsets. The demands make it impractical for handset makers to put Google rivals on their smartphone’s home screen.

Android is the top smartphone platform with 51.6 percent U.S. market share, according to an August report from analytics from comScore. Apple is in second place with 44.1 percent.

Fairsearch, a technology trade group, said it welcomed the FTC probe, adding that Google”has used a range of anticompetitive tactics.”

“The stakes are extremely high, because Google’s behavior impacts the entire mobile ecosystem, including map and location services, and app developers,” the group said in a statement.

App makers offering alternatives to Google’s popular products, such as HERE for maps or Microsoft for search, would benefit if the Mountain View tech giant’s hold on Android is weakened, though a slow legal process means they likely will not see relief anytime soon, said analyst Bob O’Donnell of TECHnalysis Research.



T-Mobile Offering Cheapest iPhone 6s

September 25, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

T-Mobile US Inc offered the least expensive option to own the latest iPhone at $5 under the company’s trade-in plan, amid fierce competition among the top U.S. carriers ahead of Apple Inc’s highly anticipated phone launch.

Customers can get a 16 GB iPhone 6s for $5 per month without upfront payment, under an 18-month lease, in exchange of an iPhone 6, 6 Plus or Samsung Electronics Co Ltd’s Galaxy Note 5 and Galaxy S6 versions under T-Mobile’s latest plan.

They can also get a 16 GB iPhone 6s Plus for $9 per month under the plan.

Sprint Corp currently offers an iPhone 6s for $15 per month, under a 22-month lease, with its trade-in plan.

U.S. carriers are also pressured by Apple’s own financing scheme for an unlocked iPhone that gives customers the freedom to switch between carriers.

Demand for new iPhones were on pace to beat the 10 million units the previous versions logged in their first weekend last year, Apple said earlier this month.

T-Mobile Chief Executive John Legere tweeted on Tuesday that iPhone 6s preorders were 30 percent higher than a year earlier.



Samsung Expected To Announce Smartphone Leasing Plan

September 23, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Samsung is said to be launching its own smartphone leasing plan, following the recent lead of Apple in a long-term attempt to wrest customer control away from U.S. carriers.

“If Apple does it, then it must be good enough for Samsung,” said Roger Entner, an analyst at Recon Analytics. “The two companies are in an intense fight and Samsung cannot let Apple have a leg up on just about anything.”

Samsung did not comment directly on any plans to set up a leasing program, but a spokeswoman did tell Computerworld, “Samsung continuously evaluates trends and assesses business growth opportunities…. We remain committed to growing our mobile business in the U.S.”

Samsung launched its newest Galaxy devices on Aug. 21: the Galaxy S6 Edge Plus and Note 5.

Forbes reported Sunday that Samsung may be launching its leasing program for Galaxy devices within the next several months in the U.S., quoting an unnamed industry official.

Apple announced its iPhone Upgrade Program on Sept. 9; it lets a U.S. customer select an unlocked iPhone at an Apple retail store after making an appointment.

After the Apple announcement, several financial and technology analysts declared Apple’s move as a bold one that allows savvy smartphone users to mostly bypass a carrier. Jan Dawson, an analyst at research firm Jackdaw, called Apple’s upgrade plan a game-changer.

While Apple’s distribution of installment plan phones is limited, Samsung’s “will be even more limited, unless Samsung can get some retailers to partner with for distribution,” Entner said. Samsung today sells devices through Best Buy and other U.S. retailers, but Entner said that is still a limited channel. He estimated the top four U.S. wireless carriers together have 10,000 retail outlets.

Major U.S. carriers have mostly been quiet about the Apple announcement, and didn’t respond to questions about Samsung’s expected launch of a leasing plan.



Apple Said To Debut Electric Car In 2019

September 23, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Apple Inc has marked building an electric car as a “committed project” and has set a target shipping date for 2019, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.

The project has been code-named Titan and its leaders have been given permission to triple the 600-person team, the WSJ said, citing people familiar with the matter.

For Apple, a “ship date” doesn’t necessarily mean the date that customers receive a new product; it can also mean the date that engineers sign off on the product’s main features, the WSJ said.

Apple spent more than a year investigating the feasibility of an Apple-branded car, including meeting with two groups of government officials in California, according to the Journal.

Sources told Reuters in August that Apple was developing a car and studying self-driving technology, but it was unclear if the iPhone maker was designing a vehicle that could drive itself.

Apple was not immediately available for comment.

The Cupertino, California-based company doesn’t currently plan to make its first electric vehicle fully autonomous, WSJ said on Monday.

Apple has been consistently hiring car experts as part of its effort to build a team in automated driving.

Apple has hired this year Megan McClain, a former Volkswagen AG  engineer with expertise in automated driving, and Vinay Palakkode, a graduate researcher at Carnegie Mellon University, a hub of automated driving research.

Apple also hired a senior engineer from electric car maker Tesla Motors Inc, according to a LinkedIn posting.



Smartphone Maker Xiaomi Announces Mobile Carrier Service

September 23, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Xiaomi Inc, China’s dominant smartphone maker, has announced two prepaid wireless plans to mark its debut as a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) competing against China’s national carriers.

MVNOs, which purchase network capacity from large carriers and resell mobile plans under their own branding, have failed to gain traction in China, where three state-owned giants dominate the telecoms industry.

But as China’s most popular handset brand, Xiaomi’s foray into the sector could finally kickstart the MVNO industry and provide a boost for Chinese telecom regulators who have sought for years to introduce market competition against the trio of state-owned carriers often criticised for their poor profitability and perceived bloat.

Xiaomi’s new wireless business, called Mi Mobile, will offer voice and data services and utilize either the China Unicom or China Telecom networks.

The launch comes less than six months after Google Inc announced it would launch an MVNO service in the United States called “Fi” that piggybacks off Sprint and T-Mobile’s networks.

There have been rumours that Apple is similarly mulling an MVNO business, although the iPhone maker has not disclosed any plans.



Are the iPhone 6s Sales Really Off The Chart?

September 22, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Mobile

The Apple Press has been flat out claiming that the iPhone 6S is doing really well, based on the word of Apple CEO Tim Cook – however one analyst is unconvinced.

Andy Hargreaves of Pacific Crest has warned his clients that demand for the iPhone 6S may be meaningfully lower than last year’s model.

Hargreaves of Pacific Crest based his figures on Google search volume, device shipments availability, and third-party surveys.

He added that a lack of quantitative statements from Apple and the wireless carriers all point to weak iPhone demand.

Hargreaves is one of the top analysts on Wall Street. His picks average a 33 percent one-year return with a 70 percent success rate and he is ranked in the top 1 percent of all analysts, according to

“Apple’s statement appears to be a statement on supply. Relative to demand, the preponderance of data points suggests that demand for the iPhone 6s is lower than it was for the iPhone 6, possibly meaningfully so. This includes Google search data, device shipment times, third-party surveys, a lack of comments from carriers, and a lack of quantitative comment on pre-orders in Apple’s statement.”

iPhone 6S search volume is 75 percent below last year’s iPhone 6 and 25 percent lower than even the iPhone 5S according to Google Trends, said Hargreaves.

Needless to say the Tame Apple Press is furious. Fortune Magazine said it was amazing that the analyst referred to Google Search data as a way of calling BS on Tim Cook statement. After all Apple always tells the truth and never lies to its users.

However saner investment hacks who normally believe in Apple agree that Hargreaves is onto something.

It highlights fears in Wall Street that Apple relies too much in the Iphone. Weaker sales send a signal to the market that the company has lost its innovative bent and is beginning to lose its “cool factor,” it could also signal the end of Job’s Mob’s marvellous run as a growth stock.



Apple Drops iCloud Storage Plan Prices

September 22, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

For the second time in as many years, Apple dropped prices for its expanded iCloud storage plans, putting costs in line with rivals like Google, Microsoft and Dropbox.

Apple announced changes to iCloud extra storage pricing earlier this month at the event where it unveiled new iPhones, the larger iPad Pro and a revamped Apple TV.

Although the Cupertino, Calif., company did not boost the amount of free storage space — as Computerworld speculated it might — and instead continued to provide just 5GB of iCloud space gratis, it bumped up the $0.99 per month plan from 20GB to 50GB, lowered the price of the 200GB plan by 25% to $2.99 monthly, and halved the 1TB plan’s price to $9.99.

Apple also ditched last year’s 500GB plan, which had cost $9.99 monthly.

The new prices are in line with the competition; in one case, Apple’s was lower.

Google, for example, hands out 15GB of cloud-based Google Drive storage for free — triple Apple’s allowance — and charges $1.99 monthly for 100GB and $9.99 each month for 1TB. The smaller-sized plan is 33% more per gigabyte than Apple’s 200GB deal, and Google’s 1TB plan is priced the same as Apple’s.

Microsoft also gives away 15GB. Additional storage costs $1.99 monthly for 100GB — the same price as Google Drive — while 200GB runs $3.99 per month, 33% higher than Apple’s same-sized plan.

Microsoft does not sell a separate 1TB OneDrive plan but instead directs customers to Office 365 Personal, the one-user subscription to the Office application suite. As part of the subscription, customers are given 1TB of OneDrive space. Office 365 Personal costs $6.99 monthly or $69.99 annually.