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IBM Launches Watson Analytics

September 18, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

In an effort to expand its Watson analysis technology, IBM is trying out a new service that can answer questions business managers might have about their data.

IBM has launched a beta of Watson Analytics, an interactive Q&A service designed to answer questions and highlight trends within sets of enterprise data.

The service “is about putting powerful analytics in the hands of every business user,” said Eric Sall, IBM vice president of marketing for business analytics.

Traditional business intelligence tools remain too difficult to use for business managers, Sall said. “It is hard to get the data. It is hard to analyze the data if you’re not a specialist, and it is hard to use the tools,” he said. Watson Analytics attempts to streamline the process.

Natural language systems are becoming increasingly prevalent as a form of human-computer interface. Apple’s Siri, Google’s GoogleNow and Microsoft’s Cortana all act as virtualized personal assistants, able to answer a range of simple questions on behalf of their users.

Watson Analytics operates in a similar manner, in that it can offer responses to questions posed by the user in their chosen language, rather than forcing the user to develop a SQL query, master a complex statistical package or write data-parsing code to better understand some large set of data.

The effort is the latest move in IBM’s $1 billion initiative to commercialize Watson technologies.

IBM Research developed Watson to compete with human contestants on the “Jeopardy” game show in 2011, using natural language processing and analytics, as well as many sources of structured and unstructured data, to formulate responses to the show’s questions.

In the years since, the company has been working to commercialize the Watson technology by identifying industries that could benefit from this form of cognitive computing, such as health care, law enforcement and finance.

Earlier this year, IBM launched the Watson Discovery Advisor, which is customized for scientific researchers who need to deeply probe one specific body of scientific knowledge, such as chemistry or cellular biology.

Another service, the company’s Watson Engagement Advisor, uses the artificial intelligence technology to aid in customer support.

 

 

Is PayPal Taking Shots At Apple Pay?

September 17, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Around The Net

Paypal has taken out some full page newspaper ads that try to lure users away from Apple Pay and back to its long-standing alternative.

eBay-owned Paypal has already swiped at Apple Pay in a blog post, but it wasn’t very critical.

It asked consumers a number of questions about how they might choose a payment provider, and reminded them of the things that they should consider before deciding to embrace Apple Pay.

That was on 9 September, at which time the firm kicked off a marketing campaign, which was backed by some online videos, to remind people of its length of time in the industry.

“We’ve been centered on payments for 15 years working across all platforms, all parts of the ecosystem and compliant with regulations. Keeping people’s money safe is our top priority,” it said, before asking punters to consider what kind of outfit they place their trust in.

The newspaper ads go further and straight for the jugular, and bring up a recent incident in which Apple was criticised for lack of security.

Inciting the market, and hopefully taking its mind off the fees Paypal takes on transactions, Paypal said that “people rule” and that these ruling people demand that their money be kept safer than their selfies.

This is a very obvious dig at Apple over the recent celebrity pictures leak that was traced to iCloud.

Remember though, that while Paypal asked merchants and customers to connect only with providers that they trust, its service is accepted as a payment mechanism on iTunes.

Courtesy-Fud

Apple iPhone 6 Pre-orders Sets Record With 4M On First Day

September 17, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Apple Inc said many customers will have to wait until October for their new iPhones after a record 4 million first-day pre-orders were logged, double the number for the iPhone 5 two years ago.

The company said demand had outstripped supply of the new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, which feature larger screens and longer battery life. Deliveries of pre-orders will begin on Friday and will continue through October.

Bumper first-day pre-orders point to first-weekend sales of up to 10 million units, analysts estimated.

“Assuming preorders are similar to the 40 percent of first weekend sales for the iPhone 5, this would imply iPhone 6/6Plus first weekend sales could be around 10 million,” Wells Fargo Securities analysts wrote in a note.

About 2 million pre-orders were received for the iPhone 5 in the first 24 hours after it went on sale in September 2012. Apple sold 5 million of these phones in the first weekend.

Apple sold 9 million iPhone 5Ss and 5Cs, which were launched last year, in the first three days in stores. The company did not reveal pre-order numbers for these phones.

Raymond James analysts said they expect sales of iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus to top 9 million in the first weekend.

“Apple will be selling every iPhone it can make, at least through October. Because of this, the first weekend sales are typically more indicative of supply than demand,” they said.

The company routinely grapples with iPhone supply constraints, particularly in years that involve a smartphone re-design.

Apple’s website showed last week that the larger 5.5-inch “Plus” models displayed a wait time of up to a month. The 4.7-inch version was available for delivery on Sept. 19.

Janney Capital Markets analysts said the large number of pre-orders was due to “pent-up demand” for bigger iPhone screens.

The brokerage raised its sales estimate for the latest iPhones to 37.4 million units for the current quarter and 60 million for the quarter ended December.

 

 

iPhone 6 Plus Already Delayed Due To High Demand

September 15, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Customers may have to wait three to four weeks to get their hands on Apple Inc’s  iPhone 6 Plus, after a record number of orders for the company’s latest smartphones put a huge dent in the available supply.

The new iPhone 6 goes on sale on Sept. 19 in the United States but the company began taking online orders on Thursday. While the larger 5.5-inch “Plus” models now display a wait time of up to a month, the 4.7-inch version remains available for delivery on Sept. 19, Apple’s website showed.

Verizon Wireless, AT&T and Sprint Corp, also showed shipment delays of up to six weeks on their respective websites. Apple said the pace of orders has so far outstripped any of its previous iPhones.

“Response to iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus has been incredible, with a record number of pre-orders overnight. Pre-orders are currently available online or through the Apple Store App,” spokeswoman Trudy Muller said.

Apple routinely grapples with iPhone supply constraints, particularly in years that involve a smartphone re-design. The latest iPhones come with larger screens and some analysts had anticipated that production issues may keep a lid on initial runs.

Its suppliers had scrambled to get enough screens ready because the need to redesign a key component had disrupted panel production, supply chain sources told Reuters last month.

It was unclear whether the hiccup could limit the number of phones available to consumers, the sources said at the time. Apple declined to comment on supply chain issues.

In addition, Chinese customers may also have to wait until the year-end before they can buy the iPhone 6. Apple is yet to set a release date for China, the world’s biggest smartphone market.

The company unveiled its latest iPhones along with a watch and a mobile payments service last Tuesday.

 

4K Television Sales Finally Picking Up Steam

September 11, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Approximately 14 million ultra-high definition (UHD) 4K2K television sets have been shipped worldwide in 2014, penetrating 6-7% of the overall TV market, according to WitsView, a subsidiary of Taiwan-based market intelligence firm TrendForce.

Chinese vendors, including Skyworth, Changhong and Hisense, have the highest shipment rates. The six largest Chinese brands, which also include Konka, TCL and Haier, will achieve a 13-15% penetration rate in the UHD TV market this year, the firm projects.

The spec of 4K2K TV means 3,840 X 2,160 pixel resolution compared with HD TV, which has a resolution of 1,920 X 1,080. UHD TV has four times the resolution of HDTV.

“China’s six major 4K2K TV brands price their products very competitively,” Anita Wang, a research manager at WitsView, said in a statement. “Other vendors can’t offer such an attractive price proposition.”

Last month, the retail price difference in China between 65-in 4K2K 3D and HD 3D TVs was 32%, but in other markets it was as high as 63%, Wang said. As a result, Chinese consumers are more willing to purchase 4K2K televisions, Wang added.

One of the biggest issues facing the UHD TV market is a lack of “available” content. That’s not to say there aren’t plenty of 4K movies and TV shows ready to be streamed to the public. Since 2004, the movie and television industry has been producing 4K content for the digital market.

“Broadcasters will always use the best equipment they can, because they want to be able to archive and repurpose that content in the future. But that’s a long ways from saying they have 4K content in the production chain,” said Paul Gray, director of TV Electronics Research at DisplaySearch.

Buying a 4K UHD TV today requires a leap of faith in two ways: You need to believe broadcasters will begin streaming 4K content soon and feel confident that the content will conform to a standard a new UHD TV can decode and process.

“Neither of those things are clear because there are no standards for 4K video,” Gray said.

LCD computer monitors are also starting to become available in UHD and feature attractive price tags, she said. For example, the 28-in 4K2K monitor retailed at an average of just $630 in August. In the coming months, panel makers will continue to introduce new 4K2K monitors in different sizes.

For example, Samsung is expected to launch a 23.6-in model that will be priced lower than the existing 23.8-in model. That will help to further drive down retail prices and stimulate 4K2K monitor demand.

Meanwhile, Apple is expected to release the 27-in 5K3K high-resolution iMac by the end of the fourth quarter of 2014.

 

 

 

Verizon Has A Deal To Offer Free iPhone 6

September 11, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Verizon Communications will give customers who trade in an old iPhone a free iPhone 6 in exchange for a two-year contract, the country’s largest wireless carrier announced hours after Apple Inc introduced the widely anticipated device.

The announcement came as critics speculated that Apple’s newest phone, starting at $199 with a two-year contract, would not be competitive as more carriers eliminate contracts and unbundle service charges from the cost of devices.

Analysts say that by making the cost of devices more transparent, equipment financing plans make expensive handsets like the iPhone less appealing. On the other hand, the plans allow customers to pay for devices in installments, making pricy devices like the iPhone more accessible.

Customers who trade in an iPhone 4, 4s, 5, 5c or 5s in working condition will receive a $200 gift card to pre-order the 16-gigabyte version of the newer model, Verizon said in a statement. The offer does not apply to Apple’s other new phone, the larger iPhone 6 Plus.

Verizon has been more reluctant than competitors to dive into equipment financing, and its promotion indicates its attachment to the older contract model, which binds subscribers to the carrier for a fixed term, said Jan Dawson, analyst at JackDaw Research.

“There is an inherent risk in the shift to installment billing that it creates more loyalty to the device than to the carrier,” said Dawson.

“Verizon sees the value of the two-year contract in that tying a device to a two-year plan can prevent churn,” said Dawson.

He pointed out that new device releases are major factors for subscribers in deciding whether to switch carriers.

As the market for new smartphone customers shrinks, carriers have been competing aggressively for subscribers, slashing prices and engaging in creative promotions to poach each others’ customers.

On Monday, T-Mobile announced it would beat any other major carriers’ trade-in rates and give customers a $50 credit as well.

 

 

Amazon Slashes Fire Phone Price To Less Than $1

September 10, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Amazon drastically reduced the price of its three-month-old Fire Phone to 99 cents, an obvious attempt to boost slow sales.

The Fire Phone, which originally sold for $649 minus a contract commitment and for $199 with a two-year deal with AT&T, was marked down to $449 without a contract and 99 cents with one.

Amazon spun the dramatic price cut in the best possible light. “Fire is another example of the value Amazon delivers to customers,” said Ian Freed, vice president of Amazon Devices, in a statement Monday.

In fact, by all accounts, the Fire has done poorly. According to data mining done a month ago by ad network Chitika, Fire Phone usage grew only “incrementally” in the device’s first two months. By Aug. 14, Amazon’s phone accounted for just 0.02% of all smartphone-based ad impressions.

Chitika’s number was not a measurement of the number of devices in use, but of the online activity of Fire Phone users: The calculation was best described as “usage share.”

StatCounter, another metrics vendor that also tracks usage share, did not even list Fire Phone in its operating system data for the month of August.

In June, when Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos introduced the Fire Phone, most analysts slammed the pricing, saying that the online retailer needed to do more than simply mimic the competition.

“If the $199 on 2yr contract is all there is to Fire Phone pricing it will be a tough sell,” Carolina Milanesi, chief of research and head of U.S. business for Kantar WorldPanel Comtech, said on Twitter that day.

“Does the 99-cent price matter? Sure it does. But in the scheme of things, does it help? No, because you still have to have a contract,” Milanesi said in an interview today.

She pointed out that Apple, for example, gives away the iPhone 4S to customers who sign up for a two-year contract with a mobile carrier. The Fire Phone’s “unlocked” price of $449 is also identical to that of an off-contract iPhone 4S.

Amazon missed its chance to make a splash months ago, Milanesi argued. “This price then would have sent a different message,” she said. “It would have made a difference because at the time [mid-June] there was not a lot going on. But to do this the day before Apple announces its new iPhones, and right after Samsung showed off its Galaxy Note 4 and Note Edge?”

 

 

Facebook Trying To Do Damage Control Over Messenger App

September 3, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook is trying to do damage control for its Messenger app,due to recent negative publicity.

The social network is responding to a firestorm of user anger that erupted when it appeared that Facebook was forcing people to load its Messenger app in a veiled attempt to usurp their privacy.

Now Facebook is trying to set the record straight.

“You might have heard the rumors going around about the Messenger app,” Facebook said in a message to users that popped up on the network’s mobile app. “Some have claimed that the app is always using your phone’s camera and microphone to see and hear what you’re doing. These reports aren’t true, and many have been corrected. Still, we want to address some concerns you might have.”

The message is one way Facebook is trying to spread the word about Messenger.

“We’re testing ways of explaining Messenger to people, and as part of that, a percentage of people will receive this notice,” a Facebook spokeswoman said in an email to Computerworld. “We felt it was important to offer more information, particularly in light of false reports that have spread over the last couple of weeks.”

The trouble started earlier this month when users first complained that Facebook was making them use a separate app to send messages, photos and videos to their friends via their mobile devices.

Matters heated up when reports surfaced alleging that Facebook could use the app to surreptitiously take over users’ smartphones to take photos or even make phone calls.

Much of the confusion stemmed from reviews of the app in the Google Play store and Apple’s App Store.

On Google Play, a user identified as Ty Owen wrote, “Look very closely at the permissions before downloading. The permissions state they can make calls and send texts without you even knowing. By doing this it will cost you money and god noes [sic] what other info they are getting.”

The problem snowballed and the rumors spread, leading some users to either not download Messenger or to uninstall it.

According to Facebook, those comments do not reflect reality.

“If you want to send a selfie to a friend, the app needs permission to turn on your phone’s camera and capture that photo,” the company said in its message to users. “We don’t turn on your camera or microphone when you aren’t using the app.”

 

 

 

 

September 9th Confirmed As Apple Date iPhone 6 To Be Unveiled

September 3, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Apple has announced it will host an event on Sept. 9 in Cupertino, Calif. to unveil its newest iPhone.

Invitations to the media and analysts went out a week ago for the long-expected event. Apple was even coyer than usual, declining to provide any hints, as it often does, of the event’s purpose.

“Wish we could say more,” the invitation simply read.

Analysts expect that it will be used to unveil new iPhones, as the same-timed presentations did in 2013 and 2012.

The date, as Computerworld pointed out a month ago, synchronizes with Apple’s iPhone 5S and 5C unveiling of last year. Then, Apple touted the new smartphones on Tuesday, Sept. 10. The year before, Apple used Sept. 12, a Wednesday — the usual day of the week, Tuesday, had been an anniversary of the terrorist attacks against New York City and Washington, D.C. — for its iPhone 5 debut.

The event will take place at the Flint Center for the Performing Arts, which is on the campus of De Anza College in Cupertino. The Flint Center seats 2,400, significantly more than either the theater on Apple’s campus which was used last year for the iPhone 5S and 5C or the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, where Apple hosted its 2012 iPhone 5 presentation.

o-founder and former CEO Steve Jobs unveiled the original Mac on January 24, 1984, at the Flint Center. (Jobs’ portion of the shareholders’ meeting where he introduced the Mac begins at the 40:56 mark in this YouTube video.)

The choice of the venue, its size and even the impenetrable tagline made one analyst wonder what Apple has up its sleeves other than the anticipated iPhone 6.

“[The tagline] hints at something unexpected,” said Ezra Gottheil of Technology Business Research. “We know there will be an iPhone in two [screen] sizes, we think we know there will be an ‘iWatch,’ or whatever Apple calls its wearable. But there have been a lot of leaks of a larger-sized tablet. I betcha that’s the unexpected.”

Gottheil was referring to a recent upswing in speculation that Apple is working on a larger-screen iPad, perhaps with a display in the 13-in. range.

“Apple can fill as large a hall as they want,” said Gottheil about the larger space for the Sept. 9 event. “I think the gist is that they want a broader audience, and may be making one big major announcement this year rather than separate events for the iPhone and iPad.”

Apple will kick off the Sept. 9 event at 10 a.m. PT (1 p.m. ET). Apple’s history of live webcasting events is spotty: It always broadcasts the keynotes of its Worldwide Developers Conferences (WWDC), and for the last two years also publicly webcast its annual iPad events. But it has not broadcast iPhone introductions.

 

 

 

 

Smartwatches To Take Center Stage At IFA

September 3, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Smartwatches will take center stage at the IFA trade show in Berlin, with LG Electronics, Motorola, Samsung and Sony all keen to demonstrate that their new products are what consumers want.

Samsung Electronics and LG announced their upcoming smartwatches, the Gear S and G Watch R, last week in advance of the show.

Samsung’s Gear S is a 3G smartwatch that doesn’t need a smartphone to function. It’s powered by an unspecified dual-core 1GHz processor and has a curved 2-inch Super AMOLED screen with a 480 by 360 pixel resolution.

After using Android Wear on the Gear Live, Samsung is back to using the Tizen operating system on its latest model. Getting developers to customize apps for smartwatches will be a challenge for any company, particularly Samsung since Tizen doesn’t have the fan base that Android and iOS have.

To help make up for the lack of apps, Samsung has teamed up with Nike on a running app and Nokia for maps.

The Gear S also has 4GB of integrated storage, 512MB of RAM and a 300mAh lithium-ion battery that lasts two days with typical use, according to Samsung. Pricing hasn’t been announced, but the Gear S will start shipping worldwide in October.

Samsung has now announced five smartwatches in 12 months — the first model, the Galaxy Gear, was launched at IFA last year. The company’s aim is clearly to consolidate its leading market position in smartwatches, particularly given relentless rumors about Apple’s possible entry into the wearables market, research company CCS Insight wrote in its IFA preview.

The tactic is similar to what Samsung has done in the past — try out a number of different ideas and see what sticks. Given this approach, it’s somewhat surprising the company hasn’t put out a smartwatch with a round face, which LG and Motorola Mobility are expected to do soon.

Motorola’s round Moto 360 has been a long time coming. It was announced along with Android Wear in March and will finally be introduced this week. Motorola has promised the smartwatch would ship in the summer and since it’s already September the company has to deliver in the next few weeks to fulfill that pledge.

The Moto 360 is also a good looking device and is expected to have a 1.5-inch screen, be water and dust resistant, and have an integrated heart-rate monitor.

It will compete with LG’s Android Wear-based G Watch R, which has a 1.3-inch screen and is powered by a 1.2GHz Snapdragon 400 processor. It has 4GB of integrated storage, 512MB of RAM and a 410mAh battery. It too has a heart-rate monitor and is water and dust resistant.

Sony is also expected to launch a new smartwatch at IFA. The company is a veteran in the field, so far using its own version of Android. But given Android Wear’s strong momentum, it’s likely that Sony will use the Google platform on the new device, according to CCS Insight.

The smartwatch sector is still in its infancy, with products that have a lot of room for improvement. Wearable sales are still dominated by armbands from vendors such as Fitbit and Jawbone, which have more than a two-thirds market share.

 

 

 

 

Tablet Sales Still Up, But Growth Slowing

September 2, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Tablet sales worldwide will continue to grow this year, but not at the pace previously expected, according to a recently released forecast.

After four years of double- and triple-digit growth, worldwide tablet shipments this year will grow by just 6.5% over last year, according to IDC. The research firm had previously forecast 12.1% growth.

The tablet market is maturing and long-term trends are becoming clearer, said Jean Philippe Bouchard, research director for tablets.

More money is being spent on cheap laptops, smartphones or wearables, and people are keeping tablets longer than expected, Bouchard said.

“We originally thought the [ownership cycle] was two years. We realized it was closer to three years,” he said.

In addition, users aren’t discarding older tablets and are instead handing them down to their kids.

Meanwhile, laptop prices are also coming down fast, and putting pricing pressure on tablets, especially in Europe, Bouchard said.

In the last month a plethora of sub-$250 tablets running Microsoft Windows 8.1 with Bing started shipping. Microsoft is helping PC makers build cheap laptops to battle threats from Chromebooks, Android and iOS and is offering the OS royalty free.

Interest is swaying in the direction of smaller-screen tablets, and those looking for larger screens are moving to laptops, Bouchard said.

“As you move up in screen size, you move towards productivity. The keyboard is becoming more important,” Bouchard said.

Tablet shipments will continue to grow in emerging markets, at a 12% rate, driven by small screen, low-cost tablets from Chinese companies. Shipments in mature markets, where buyers are moving to larger-screen devices, remain flat.

Buyers are increasingly considering wearables and smartphones versus tablets, but more data generated by small-screen devices could ultimately help tablet shipments, Bouchard said.

“Long to medium term, it’s a positive thing, it creates a halo effect, it will generate more data, and you’ll need more screen to visualize the data,” Bouchard said.

IDC’s tablet forecast also accounts for 2-in-1 devices, which can be used as laptops or tablets.

 

 

 

 

Microsoft Begins Purge Of Dubious Apps In Windows App Store

August 29, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Microsoft has started getting rid of sham Windows Store apps that try to dupe users into paying for free software, the company has announced.

“Most of the developers behind apps that are found to violate our policies have good intentions and agree to make the necessary changes when notified,” said Todd Brix, general manager for the Windows Store, in a blog post yesterday. “Others have been less receptive, causing us to remove more than 1,500 apps as part of this review so far.”

The Windows Store is the official source of Windows 8′s (and 8.1′s) “Modern,” née “Metro” apps, the touch-based programs designed for tablets and touch-enabled notebooks.

Earlier this year, Brix’s team changed Windows Store apps’ certification — the process under which apps are admitted to the market — to require newly-submitted programs be clearly named, properly categorized and appropriately identified with an icon. Those modifications were made, said Brix, to “better ensure that apps are named and described in a way that doesn’t misrepresent their purpose.”

The same requirements have now been extended to apps already in the store.

The timing of Brix’s blog and Microsoft’s efforts to cleanse the Windows Store was no coincidence: More than a week ago, How-To Geek described its probe of the store in a piece titled ”The Windows Store is a Cesspool of Scams — Why Doesn’t Microsoft Care?”

In the story, How-To Geek pointed out worthless apps, some as expensive as $8.99, that did little more than point users to links for downloading Apple’s iTunes (free), Mozilla’s Firefox (also free) and VideoLAN’s VLC Player (yes, free). The publication also found fake — and paid — versions of Adobe’s Flash Player, Google’s Picasa, King’s Candy Crush Saga and Mojang’s Minecraft.

How-To Geek blamed Microsoft for the scam-app pollution. “Here’s one of the most shocking parts of this. People from Microsoft are actually examining each of these scammy apps, checking their content, and approving them,” the site said, pointing out pertinent parts of Microsoft’s certification process.

The apps How-To Geek fingered have been removed from the Windows Store, presumably as part the 1,500 Brix claimed had been bounced out.

How-To Geek’s story was widely cited by other websites, blogs and publications last week, reigniting charges that the Windows Store was packed with junk.

A quick look at MetroStore Scanner, which tracks each day’s new and updated apps, showed that Brix and his team have their work cut out for them. On Tuesday, according to MetroStore Scanner, 12 copies of the free KMPlayer, a media player owned by a Korean TV streaming company, were published to the Windows Store. However, the dozen KMPlayer copies — all using the transparently copycat name of “KM* 5.1 Player” but each with a different icon — were priced at either $0.99 or $1.99.

The real KMPlayer is currently at version 3.9.

MetroStore Scanner’s tally of the number of apps in the Windows Store was approximately 172,000 as of late Wednesday, meaning that the apps removed so far represented less than 1% of the total in the e-mart.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Samsung Unveils First Of Its Kind Smartwatch, Mobile Phone Not Required

August 29, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Samsung Electronics Co Ltd on Thursday debuted what it said was the first smartwatch capable of making and receiving calls without a mobile phone nearby, in the South Korean firm’s latest effort to find a new growth driver.

The world’s biggest smartphone maker has been pushing hard to develop the wearable devices market as it looks to counter slowing earnings in its mobile division, which led to weaker-than-expected second-quarter earnings.

Samsung is hardly alone in pushing wearables, which have yet to catch on with consumers. Rival Apple Inc is expected to launch its own device this year and LG Electronics Inc on Thursday announced its new G Watch R smartwatch featuring a circular plastic OLED screen, a stainless steel frame and leather strap.

Samsung’s new smartwatch, called the Gear S, differs from its predecessors with a bigger 2-inch (5 cm) curved display and offers features like WiFi connectivity, pedestrian navigation and a built-in GPS. This device will run on Samsung’s nascent Tizen operating system.

Samsung said the Gear S will start selling from October. It did not give details on pricing or where it will be available.

LG said its G Watch R will launch in key markets in the fourth quarter, without indicating a price.

 

 

Apple To Go Big With iPad Next Year

August 28, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

First there was the iPad at around 10 inches and then there was the iPad Mini that is closer to 8 inches. Now Apple Inc is gearing up to roll out a larger, 12.9-inch version of its once dominant iPad for 2015, with production set to begin in the first quarter of next year, Bloomberg cited people with knowledge of the matter as saying on Tuesday.

The report comes as Apple struggles with declining sales of its tablets, which are faltering as people replace iPads less frequently than expected and larger smartphones made by Samsung Electronics Co Ltd  and other rivals have taken a bite out of its sales.

Apple has been working with its suppliers for over a year on larger touch-screen devices, Bloomberg cited the sources as saying.

It is expected to introduce larger versions of its 4-inch iPhone next month, although the company has not publicized plans for its most important device.

Apple was not immediately available for comment.

 

 

Apple Replacing Some iPhone 5 Batteries Free Of Charge

August 27, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Apple has agreed to replace some iPhone 5 batteries free of charge, claiming that “a very small percentage” of the smartphones needed to be charged more often and that those charges were quickly exhausted.

The program, which was announced last week, only in a support document published on Apple’s website, offered free battery replacements for iPhone 5 devices that “suddenly experience shorter battery life or need to be charged more frequently.”

According to Apple, the affected phones were sold between September 2012 and January 2013, and “fall within a limited serial number range.” The Cupertino, Calif. company also said that only “a very small percentage” of iPhone 5 devices were impacted.

Computerworld‘s experience was different. Out of an admittedly small sample — three iPhone 5 phones bought during the stretch in question, each several weeks apart — two were eligible for the battery replacement. Neither of the two that qualified, however, had required more charging than was normal for a nearly-two-year-old iPhone, nor did their batteries drain any faster than the third, ineligible, device.

Apple started selling the iPhone 5 on Sept. 21, 2012. It retired the model last year when it was replaced by the iPhone 5S and 5C.

This was not the first time that Apple has dealt with iPhone battery issues. In October 2013, the company confirmed that it was contacting a “very limited” number of iPhone 5S owners and offering them a replacement phone.

In both 2009 and 2011, iPhone users also reported battery-draining problems with their iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4S devices, respectively.

Customers can check their iPhone 5 for battery replacement eligibility onApple’s website by entering their device’s serial number. That can be found under Settings/General/About.

Until Friday, Aug. 29, the replacement deal will be available only in the U.S. and China; on that date, other countries will come online.