It developed the app in partnership with Secusmart, and presented it at the Cebit trade show where all kinds of encrypted communications will be a hot topic, driven by the continued revelations from former U.S. government contractor Edward Snowden about National Security Agency snooping.
Secusmart’s profile has been raised considerably since German Chancellor Angela Merkel started using the company’s SecuSuite for BlackBerry 10 to protect her communications.
The new Secure Call app offers businesses and individuals the same level of voice communication encryption that Merkel has, but on a platform-independent basis, according to Vodafone. The app will first become available for Android-based smartphones, and later for iOS and Windows Phone, according to Alexander Leinhos , head of external communications at Vodafone Germany.
It will be launched toward the end of the year, and cost about €10 (US$14) per month, per user.
For now, there are no plans to make Secure Call available outside of Germany, but the app would be attractive to users in other countries as well and exporting it wouldn’t be too difficult, Leinhos said.
At Cebit, Vodafone also launched an expanded version of its Secure SIM service.
Secure SIM Data lets enterprises and authorities sign and encrypt e-mails, documents and VPN connections. It also encrypts storage devices such as USB sticks and external hard disks, and can be used on Windows 8-based ThinkPad notebooks and tablets from Lenovo, Vodafone said.
Users don’t need a separate smartcard or token because the private key and certificates are securely stored on the SIM card, according to Vodafone, which developed the service with Giesecke & Devrient. For example, to encrypt a Word document, the user enters a pin code.
Secure SIM data adds to the existing Secure SIM Login product for two-factor authentication to access corporate networks and hosted services
The radio service, announced last Friday, is available for free, with no ads, and users don’t need a log in to use the service, said Daren Tsui, vice president of music at Samsung Media Solutions.
The Milk application is available through the Google Play store, and will initially work with Samsung’s Galaxy smartphones and tablets. The company is, however, thinking about expanding its use to competing mobile devices, Tsui said.
The service will initially be available in the U.S., and will be expanded worldwide at a later date. It has 200 radio stations and 13 million songs, and in addition to functioning as a jukebox, allows users to create customized stations based on artist or genres.
Milk is targeted at competing music service like Apple’s iTunes Radio service, which is available for free with ads and ad-free for $24.99 via the iTunes Match service. Samsung is not yet providing an option to buy music, but Tsui said that idea is being researched. Meanwhile, the service could be one way to sell more tablets and smartphones. The app works with the AllShare feature, which allows streaming of music to TV sets and other Samsung devices.
Samsung worked with popular radio service Slacker — which is ad-based and has a database of 10 million songs — to develop the service. Samsung will also compete with other ad-supported free music streaming services such as Pandora and Spotify.
Milk covers a range of genres and songs, and has an interface designed to make it easy to find songs, Tsui said.
The Milk interface is centered around a dial — which looks much like the software version of dials found on Apple’s iPod Classic and Shuffle — which can be customized to include favorite genres. The dial can’t fit all 17 genres provided in the app, so users can select up to nine genres to fit on the wheel. The dial can be turned around to switch on a music stream from a specific genre such as dance, electronica or indie.
Users can also customize radio stations by searching for songs or artists. Samsung has music licensing deals directly with labels, Tsui said.
The app lets users see who’s online for a private or group chat, and lets them decorate messages with pictures and stickers. Users can also share their location, and contacts are automatically added to the app.
For now, some features available on the Android and iOS versions — such as the ability to record messages and send photos privately — are missing on the Windows Phone app. The pop-up chat heads Facebook has implemented on Android are also missing.
The availability of apps on Windows Phone has been a problem for Microsoft when competing with Apple’s iPhones and the Android camp. At an event in conjunction with Mobile World Congress, Joe Belfiore, who runs Microsoft’s Windows Phone platform, highlighted recent additions such as Instagram, Vine, Waze and Mint.
The arrival of these apps is more than a coincidence: It’s a result of Microsoft working with third party app developers and slowly growing phone sales, according to Paolo Pescatore, director of apps and media at market research company CCS Insight.
“They are very much needed. Microsoft has been trying to bridge the gap with iOS and Android, but frankly the rate of development hasn’t been as fast as it should have been,” Pescatore said.
The company still needs to convince or help developers of many local video and entertainment apps to create Windows Phone versions, according to Pescatore. For that to happen, Microsoft and its partners need to sell more phones, he said.
The Mobile World Congress event also detailed the company’s plans to make Windows Phone a better fit for low-end smartphones and presented new hardware partners, including Foxconn, Karbonn, Lenovo, LG Electronics and ZTE. With Microsoft soon closing its acquisition of Nokia’s handset division, Windows Phone is at a critical juncture.
Worldwide sales of tablets to end users totaled 195.4 million units, fueled by sales of low-end, smaller screen devices, and purchases by first time buyers, the company reported.
Android has become the biggest tablet operating system with 62% of the market. In 2012, Google’s OS trailed Apple’s iOS by a margin of about 8 million tablets, but by the end of last year had turned that into a 50 million-unit lead.
The Android camp led by Samsung sold almost 121 million tablets, for a 61.9% share, compared to 53.3 million units and a 45.8% share in 2012. Apple’s tablet sales increased from 61.5 to 70.4 million units, but because the overall market grew faster, the company’s share dropped from 52.8% to 36%.
Microsoft’s Windows tablet sales improved but the share remained small at 2.1%, with shipments growing from 1.2 million to 4 million units. To compete, Microsoft needs to create a more compelling ecosystem for consumers as well as developers across all mobile devices, Gartner said.
Apple’s strong fourth quarter helped it maintain the top position among the manufacturers. Samsung, ranked in second place, had the biggest growth of the worldwide tablet vendors, at 336 %. The expansion and improvement of its Galaxy tablet portfolio, together with a lot of marketing, helped Samsung shrink the gap with Apple.
Samsung sold 37.4 million tablets for a 19.1% slice of the market.
The rest of the top 5 was made up of Asus, Amazon.com and Lenovo. Of those three companies, Lenovo did particularly well with tablet sales growing by 198% to 6.5 million units, or a 3.3% market share. The company’s success was due to a combination of new tablet models launched during the second half of last year, and sales of its Yoga model and its Windows tablets doing particularly well, Gartner said.
However, Lenovo is still behind Asus, with 11 million units sold, and Amazon, with 9.4 million. Asus’ market share grew from 5.4% to 5.6%, while Amazon’s share declined from 6.6% to 4.8%.
As the tablet market becomes even more competitive, this year it will be critical for vendors to improve user experience, technology and ecosystem value beyond just hardware and cost, Gartner said.
The U.S. company’s CarPlay makes its debut in Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo vehicles at the show, demonstrating the software system that allows drivers to control their iPhones via touch and voice, Apple revealed on Monday.
Carmakers have already enabled some access to smartphones via Bluetooth technology, but Apple’s latest offering aims to integrate iPhone functionality more seamlessly with dashboard-mounted display and speaker systems.
CarPlay enables drivers to access to contacts stored on the iPhone, make calls, return missed calls or listen to voicemails without taking their hands from the steering wheel.
Drivers can also use maps, listen to music and access messages “with just a word or a touch”, Apple said. Drivers will also be able to read messages and dictate responses via Apple’s voice-activated Siri software.
Apple said that CarPlay will also be available in cars from manufacturers including BMW,Ford, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, PSA Peugeot Citroën, Subaru, Suzuki and Toyota Motor Corp.
Growth in global smartphone shipments will fall sharply this year and will continue to slow down through 2018, with average prices dropping significantly as demand shifts to China and other developing countries, according to market research firm IDC.
Annual growth in 2014 is expected to be 19.3 percent and then decline to 6.2 percent in 2018, IDC said in a recently released report. That follows a 39.2 percent jump in 2013 when smartphone shipments topped 1 billion units for the first time.
The forecast reinforces concerns on Wall Street that the explosion in smartphones that began with Apple’s iPhone in 2007 is coming to an end, at least in the United States and other developed countries where consumers favor pricey, top-tier handsets.
Smartphone growth in North America and Europe is expected to shrink to single digits and Japan could even see a slight slowdown in shipments in the next few years, IDC said.
Manufacturers are increasingly focusing on China where many consumers are upgrading from basic cellphones to smartphones selling for under $300.
“New markets for growth bring different rules to play by and ‘premium’ will not be a major factor in the regions driving overall market growth,” IDC analyst Ryan Reith said in a report.
The average selling price for smarpthones last year was $335, already far below flagship devices like the iPhone 5S or Samsung Galaxy S4, and will fall to $260 by 2018, IDC said.
Still, Verizon has had its own interconnection discussions with Netflix related to increasing the video provider’s traffic speeds on the broadband carrier’s networks, Verizon Chairman and CEO Lowell McAdam said. Following a Sunday announcement that Comcast and Netflix had reached an interconnection deal, McAdam said his company has had similar discussions with the video provider.
The Comcast and Netflix deal shows “the commercial markets can come to agreement on these to make sure the investments keep flowing,” McAdam said.
McAdam addressed the U.S. Federal Communications Commission’s proposed net neutrality rules during a conference call about the company’s acquisition of Vodafone’s 45 percent stake in Verizon Wireless. The FCC’s move this month to resurrect net neutrality rules should provide “clarity” for the broadband industry, said McAdam, whose company successfully challenged an old version of the regulations in court.
McAdam dismissed concerns that his company would selectively block or slow some Web content. “We make our money by carrying traffic,” he said. “That’s how we make dollars. So to view that we’re going to be advantaging one over the other really is a lot of histrionics, I think, at this point.”
But McAdam suggested that broadband power users should pay extra. “It’s only natural that the heavy users help contribute to the investment to keep the Web healthy,” he said. “That is the most important concept of net neutrality.”
The FCC needs to look at the broad Internet industry, not just broadband providers, when it considers new net neutrality rules, McAdam said. Companies like Netflix, Apple, Microsoft and Google have a role, and “any rules will have to include all of these players,” he said.
McAdam called for the FCC to create “light touch” rules on net neutrality. The FCC needs to consider growing uses of broadband in medicine and other fields, he said. “Everything from health care to telematics to the energy grid need to be balanced with someone who’s trying to watch last year’s episode of [TV show] NCIS,” he said.
McAdam said he’s “encouraged” that the latest FCC effort may bring clarity on net neutrality rules.
The handset, which has the code name “Jakarta” but carries the commercial name Z3, is the result of a BlackBerry deal with Foxconn that seeks to shift design and production of low-end phones outside of the company.
It has a 5-inch touchscreen and will come with the company’s 10.2.1 operating system. No other technical details were immediately available.
“It’s going to be a very, very attractive phone for the market,” said John Chen, during a news conference at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. “Somewhere in April, it will come out in Indonesia. It will be under $200 in retail price.”
BlackBerry’s deal with Foxconn was signed in early December and marked a big shift in the way the company develops its handsets. Under the deal, Foxconn will take over development of low-end devices while BlackBerry will continue to develop high-end phones.
“When I first got into the phone business, they told me it takes 9 to 12 months to get a phone up and going. In less than three months the phone is up and qualified and we are now working on distribution,” he said.
Chen said the phone will also be released in other countries.
The same model will go on sale in other Southeast Asian countries and BlackBerry plans an LTE-version that will be released in the rest of the world.
Chen didn’t specify a release date for the LTE version, except to deadpan, “sometime in the future, before I die.”
The CEO also said a new version of the Q10, called the Q20, will be available later this year. It features the QWERTY keyboard that’s present on the Q10 and adds the menu, back and send buttons and the track pad that was a signature part of older BlackBerry models and is being brought back after customer requests.
BlackBerry Messaging, or BBM, is a messaging platform that offers collaboration tools such as BBM Groups, BBM Voice and BBM Channels and competes with services such as WhatsApp, which Facebook bought last week for $19 billion.
BBM will be available as a free download from the Windows Phone Store this summer, while BBM for Nokia X will be available from the Nokia Store when the Nokia X platform launches, BlackBerry said in a statement released to the press.
BBM was a pioneering mobile-messaging service, but its user base has failed to keep pace with that of WhatsApp and other upstarts, in part because BlackBerry had long refused to open the service to users on other platforms.
WhatsApp, with a user base of about 450 million, on the other hand has grown rapidly. Its service works on Apple Inc’s iOS platform, Google Inc’s market-dominating Android operating system and with devices powered by both the Windows and BlackBerry operating systems.
BBM remains popular, even though BlackBerry devices have waned in popularity. Late last year, the Waterloo, Ontario-based company finally opened the messaging platform to users of iPhones and Android devices, and the number of the service’s active users has grown to more than 80 million.
The little known firm said the proposal for Barnes & Noble as a whole would be for $22 per share, which would value the top U.S. bookstore chain at $1.32 billion. It comes after earlier proposal in November for $20 per share, its second.
G Asset, which not did detail how it would finance a deal, also made an alternative offer to buy Nook for $5 per share, saying spinning off the digital books and device business would create “substantial shareholder value.”
The latest offer for the whole company would value Barnes & Noble at $1.32 billion, while the proposal for Nook would value that unit at about $300 million.
The firm has previously pressed the company to spin off its Nook unit from Barnes & Noble’s bookstore and college units.
Michael Glickstein, G Asset’s Chief Investment Officer, and the only person listed on the firm’s website, did not immediately return a request for comment.
Barnes & Noble shares were up 5.8 percent at $17.75 in afternoon trading after going as high as $19.12 after the news was released, suggesting Wall Street analysts were doubtful a deal would get done.
A Barnes & Noble spokeswoman declined to comment beyond confirming that the company had received G Asset’s offer.
The original Nook device was launched in 2009 to help Barnes & Noble fend off Amazon.com Inc and allowed the retailer to win as much as 27 percent of the U.S. e-books market.
But the company lost hundreds of millions of dollars trying to keep pace with deep-pocketed rivals such as Amazon, Apple Inc and Google Inc. It has scaled back its Nook business and focusing more on content and software.
Two years ago, Microsoft Corp invested $300 million in the Nook unit for a 17.6 percent stake, valuing the division at $1.7 billion. In late 2012, Pearson PLC took a 5 percent stake in Nook for $89.5 million.
Dell has become the first major PC OEM to join the Alliance for Wireless Power (A4WP) group, joining over 80 existing members Broadcom, Gill Electronics, IDT, Intel, Qualcomm and Samsung.
Dell’s membership means it could soon be developing mobile devices that do not require a wired power adapter to charge.
The A4WP aims to standardise wireless power transfer using near-field magnetic resonance technology called “rezence”, which seeks to liberate mobile devices from wired chargers, charging multiple devices simultaneously without the need to dock the devices.
“Power levels and charging speed will meet the expectations of today’s ‘always on, always connected’ user,” the A4WP said. “Users can simply ‘drop and go’ their devices onto a charging surface without the hassle of accurate positioning or alignment.”
Along with the news that Dell will jump on board to unshackle users from the curse of wired chargers, A4WP is also introducing a secondary, higher-powered project focusing on wirelessly charging electronic products from 20 to 50 watts, like ultrabooks, laptops, and mid-powered appliances.
“Dell’s addition to the Alliance signifies the importance of defining a wireless power standard that spans these higher power levels thus expanding the range of electronics beyond smartphones,” the group added.
A4WP said it believes the development of magnetic resonance technology will improve the customer experience when it comes to charging and will bring the capability into more homes and businesses over the next few years.
It also said that its development of wireless charging technology will help benefit both industry and consumers as the specification powers broadly adopted wireless technologies such as Bluetooth Smart, “which simplifies development and manufacturing”.
BQ and Meizu, both Chinese phone makers, will produce the phones that will launch “well within” 2014, said Mark Shuttleworth, in a conference call with reporters.
Shuttleworth didn’t disclose any other details of the phones, but he hinted that the BQ phone would have dual-SIM slots and the Meizu phone would match Ubuntu with Android on a dual-boot system.
Samples of both phones will be shows at next week’s Mobile World Congress exhibition in Barcelona.
Ubuntu is best-known for its desktop and server Linux OS, which has a reputation for being easier to use and install than many other Linux operating systems.
Canonical, the company behind the OS, first announced plans for an Ubuntu mobile OS at the beginning of 2013.
In the middle of the year, the company launched a crowd-funding project for a high-end concept phone based on the operating system. While the campaign for the Ubuntu Edge phone received a strong launch — over a million dollars were raised in the first few hours — enthusiasm quickly tailed off and the campaign raised just under $13 million, which was well below the target of $32 million.
As it enters the mobile space, Shuttleworth said Ubuntu is looking to become the number-three platform in the industry.
That would put it ahead of Microsoft’s Windows Phone and BlackBerry OS, which are the current third and fourth-ranked platforms behind Android and Apple’s iOS.
But to date, consumers appear to be quite happy with the market leaders, which account for 94% percent of the entire market. Microsoft and BlackBerry share 5% and other operating systems account for just 1% of smartphone shipments, according to data from Gartner.
Shuttleworth said he believes a key to gaining market share will be convergence — the fusing of desktop and mobile platforms so computing done on one is immediately available through apps on the other. The company is planning to eventually bring together its desktop and mobile operating systems as a common platform.
It will also focus on growing the number of apps available for the Ubuntu phone platform.
Lack of major apps has been a common criticism leveled at both Microsoft and BlackBerry, and Shuttleworth said he wants to have “the top 50 apps from Android and iOS when we launch these devices.”
That’s what Steve Ballmer said as Microsoft CEO when the company launched its Windows Phone 8 platform and it took the company many months to get developers on board. In some cases, Microsoft itself paid for the app development work.
China’s anti-monopoly regulator on Wednesday said Qualcomm Inc. is under suspicion for overcharging and abusing its market position, allegations which could see the U.S. chip giant slapped with record fines of more than $1 billion.
The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) also said it was in talks with another U.S. technology firm, InterDigital Inc, about a possible settlement to a separate anti-monopoly probe as the regulator focuses on the rapidly evolving information technology market.
Foreign firms from drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline to Apple Inc are facing tougher scrutiny in the world’s second-biggest economy as China targets key industries to protect consumers from bloated prices and second-rate products.
In its first public statements about the Qualcomm investigation, the watchdog said it began making inquiries after receiving complaints that the San Diego-based company was charging higher prices in China than it does in other countries.
“We received reports from relevant associations and companies that Qualcomm abuses its dominant position in the market and charges discriminatory fees,” Xu Kunlin, who heads the NDRC’s anti-monopoly and price supervision bureau, told a press conference in Beijing.
The NDRC dual investigations are part of a focus on information technology providers, especially companies that license patent technology for mobile devices and networks.
Industry experts say the NDRC, which is also the government’s main economic planning body, is trying to lower domestic costs as China rolls out its faster 4G mobile networks this year.
Earlier this month, the China Mobile Communications Industry Association said it had filed a complaint against Qualcomm for overcharging for use of its patents.
Under the anti-monopoly law, the NDRC can impose fines of between 1 and 10 percent of a company’s revenues for the previous year. Qualcomm earned $12.3 billion in China for its fiscal year ended September 29, or nearly half of its global sales.
BlackBerry Ltd Chief Executive John Chen directed pointed words at T-Mobile US Inc earlier this week, calling ill-conceived a promotion run by the company that encourages customers using BlackBerry smartphones to upgrade to iPhones.
T-Mobile US, which is majority owned by Deutsche Telekom AG, sent out emails to some of its customers last week, pitching free iPhone 5s and touting the promotion as a, “great offer for BlackBerry customers.”
That sparked a brouhaha in social media forums after some of the telecommunications company’s loyal BlackBerry customers reacted angrily to the offer, which they perceived as a slight.
The backlash prompted T-Mobile US Chief Executive John Legere to respond publicly. In a Twitter posting on Sunday, Legere said T-Mobile would continue to support BlackBerry smartphones and he assured BlackBerry users they do not have to give up their devices or “loyalty.”
In a blog post on Tuesday, BlackBerry CEO Chen slammed the T-Mobile US offer as a, “clearly inappropriate and ill-conceived marketing promotion,” and he thanked BlackBerry users for their loyalty to the company.
“Your partnership with our brand is appreciated by all of us at BlackBerry, and draws a sharp contrast with the behavior of our longtime business partner,” Chen said in the posting, noting that T-Mobile had not discussed its promotion with BlackBerry.
T-Mobile US later said it is happy to work with BlackBerry and will by Friday offer speedy and free shipping of BlackBerry devices to T-Mobile customers who order them.
BlackBerry, a one-time pioneer in the smartphone industry, has been struggling to claw back market share lost to Apple Inc’s iPhone, Samsung Electronics Co Ltd’s Galaxy devices, and other smartphones powered by Google Inc’s Android operating system.
The Waterloo, Ontario-based company’s new line of BlackBerry 10 devices has so far failed to win back market share, and Chen is attempting to reshape the company and focus less on the handset segment, and more on the company’s services business.
Chen has stressed, however, that the handset business remains a core component for BlackBerry as the company attempts to engineer a turnaround.
Chen called on T-Mobile US to “find a way forward that allows us to serve our shared customers once again.”
In a SamsungTomorrow blog post, Samsung showed icons for Speed, Outdoor, Curiosity, Fun, Social, Style, Privacy, Fitness and Life that could be part of the Galaxy S5 Samsung is expected to unveil on Feb. 24 in Barcelona at its Unpacked5 event.
The minimalistic-looking icons are each labeled with a superscript 5, hinting at the updated phone. The blog and the icons are part of an updated invitation to Samsung’s Unpacked5 event, which was first announced Feb. 4.
Samsung’s Galaxy smartphone line has long included the custom TouchWiz interface. The new, simpler-looking icons could be part of a back-to-basics approach by Samsung.
While the coming Galaxy phone will surely run Android, there’s been a lot of speculation at how far it will move away from pure Android. Some analysts predict the TouchWiz interface in the Galaxy phone line could be replaced by the Magazine UX seen in Samsung’s new Pro tablets. The Magazine UX has reportedly dismayed Google as it moves to reduce Android fragmentation in the market. In January, the well-known and usually spot-on news site evleaks tweeted photos of three smartphone UI screens that some analysts believe could be used with the Galaxy S5. Two of the three break the screen into panels along the lines of what Magazine UX does on Pro tablets, with square elements or tiles as seen in the Windows Phone UI.
Perhaps the icons in Samsung’s latest blog could adorn a Magazine UX-like interface on the Galaxy S5, but it’s not really clear what Samsung intends to do.
To some, it might not seem to matter much at all what Samsung does with the coming interface, but when Apple updated a new UI for iOS 7 last year, the tech world stood up and took notice. Reader comments on the new Samsung blog noted that Samsung’s new icons seem to imitate the flat design of Apple’s iOS 7.
What might matter more than the graphic design of the Samsung icons is the inclusion of icons labeled fitness and outdoor. Samsung may be prepping a direct link to smartphone apps for fitness and health monitoring that link over Bluetooth to its wearable devices, such as the Galaxy Gear smartwatch, which could be updated on Feb. 24 as well.
Samsung appears to be looking to create a wireless ecosystem of devices, probably with its smartphones as a hub reaching to wearables.
“It’s safe to assume that Samsung is looking at the next Galaxy smartphone device as the hub for peripheral function devices like Gear and FitGear,” said Jack Gold, an analyst at J. Gold Associates. “It makes sense to put hooks [in the form of icons] into the system that Samsung will ultimately need.”
Gold said it will interesting to see if Google adds similar icons to its own pure Android future releases “so as not to fork Android even further.”
Carolina Milanesi, an analyst at Kantar WorldPanel, said that Samsung still faces a choice on peripherals and wearables like Gear or rumored Samsung smart glasses, to keep them compatible with only Samsung smartphones and tablets or to make them compatible with Android products from various manufacturers. Either approach has merits, but each requires a different strategy.