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Are Amazon Tablets Taking Over?

February 27, 2017 by  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

While research groups like IDC and Gartner have shown an overall 15.6 decrease in worldwide tablet shipments in 2016, the market has not gone entirely belly-up, as Amazon continues to pull ahead with a phenomenal 99.4 percent increase in annual tablet growth during the same period.

According to a report by the folks at TrendForce, Amazon managed to ship 11 million Fire-series tablets over the course of 2016 even as global tablet shipments fell by 6.6 percent from the previous year. While the sales numbers were impressive, the company still fell behind Apple at 27 percent of the market and Samsung at 17.2 percent, yet managed to beat expectations as a result of strong year-end holiday sales.

Apple also pulled ahead with strong tablet sales last year and retained its top spot, selling 42 million devices to Samsung’s 27 million. A few weeks ago, we wrote that IDC may have regretted telling the media to rely on expectations that the fruit-themed device company would allegedly oversee the decline of traditional PC sales by 2015. While traditional PC sales dropped 5.7 percent to 260.2 million in 2016, they still remain an impressive part of the overall device market and have not fallen as quickly as tablets have over the past year.

TrendForce expects tablet sales to continue declining from 157.4 million units in 2016 to around 147.8 million units 2017. While Amazon nearly doubled its annual shipments and Apple enjoyed strong iPad sales over the holiday season, other brands such as Microsoft are expected to fall into 7th place as the company experiences panel shortages for its Surface Pro series.

For a limited time, Amazon will occasionally offer its 7-inch 8GB Fire Essentials bundle and its 16GB Fire Essentials Bundle at discounted prices. For instance, the former had been available for $33.33 in November and $49.99 until earlier this month, along with free Prime shipping. The company is expected to offer similar deals throughout the year in an effort to strengthen its sales base from loyal Prime customers.

Courtesy-Fud

Linux To Support Virtual GPUs

February 24, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

pen source’s Mr Sweary Linus Torvalds announced the general availability of the Linux 4.10 kernel series, which includes virtual GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) support.

Linus wrote in the announcement, adding “On the whole, 4.10 didn’t end up as small as it initially looked”.

The kernel has a lot of improvements, security features, and support for the newest hardware components which makes it more than just a normal update.

Most importantly there is support for virtual GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) support, new “perf c2c” tool that can be used for analysis of cacheline contention on NUMA systems, support for the L2/L3 caches of Intel processors (Intel Cache Allocation Technology), eBPF hooks for cgroups, hybrid block polling, and better writeback management.

A new “perf sched timehist” feature has been added in Linux kernel 4.10 to provide detailed history of task scheduling, and there’s experimental writeback cache and FAILFAST support for MD RAID5.

It looks like Ubuntu 17.04 will be the first stable OS to ship with Linux 4.10.

Courtesy-Fud

New Qualcomm, Intel Modems Boasts LTE Speeds Greater Than 1Gbps

February 23, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

With every new generation of smartphone, LTE connections gain more speed. That’s because the devices have faster modems that can transfer data at previously unheard of download speeds.

The top modem providers are Intel and Qualcomm, whose cellular chips are used in the iPhone. Both have announced modems that will push LTE connections to speeds well over those of regular home internet connections.

Qualcomm unveiled the X20 LTE chipset, which can transfer data at speeds of up to 1.2Gbps. Intel announced the XMM 7560 LTE modem, which can download data at speeds of up to 1Gbps.

However, cellular networks aren’t yet designed to handle such fast speeds. One exception is Telstra, an Australian telecommunications company, which has launched a gigabit LTE service for commercial use in that country.

Gigabit LTE will slowly start appearing in mobile devices and networks this year, said Jim McGregor, principal analyst at Tirias Research.

“This is making 4G what it was intended to be — a true wireless broadband solution,” McGregor said.

These performance bumps are important as users handle more data,  McGregor said.

“We’ve seen this with microprocessors for years,” McGregor said.

Qualcomm said its Snapdragon X20 modem will become available next year, and McGregor estimated it will be in devices soon after. Intel said its XMM 7560 is ready, but couldn’t say when handsets would come out.

Most users may not need LTE speeds of 1.2Gbps, especially when using apps like Uber, Snapchat and WhatsApp. But more PCs are getting LTE connectivity, and could use the speed for high-end applications.

Qualcomm, a modem pioneer, is trying to stay a step ahead of Intel in the rat race to rev up LTE modems. Intel is speeding up modem development as wireless connectivity becomes an essential part of computing, said Aicha Evans, senior vice president and general manager of the Communication and Devices Group at Intel.

he new modems are also a stepping stone to 5G, the next-generation cellular network technology that Evans estimated could deliver speeds of more than 45Gbps. Beyond mobile devices, 5G will be used for machine-to-machine communications and will be a standard feature in a wide range of devices including PCs, robots, drones and internet of things devices.

The Snapdragon X20 LTE chipset is a CAT 18 modem and supports a wide range of cellular technologies that could make it work in most countries worldwide. The chip supports carrier aggregation and data transfers over multiple streams. It works with 40 cellular frequency bands and supports technologies like Voice over LTE (VoLTE) and LTE broadcast.

Intel’s XMM 7560 is a CAT 16 modem and supports carrier aggregation across multiple spectrums. The chip maker has already readied its first 5G modem, and the company now says it has silicon ready for that chip.

Is The Independent Game Developers Future Bleak

February 23, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming

Never more than a stopgap that was hugely inadequate to the gap in question, Steam Greenlight is finally set to disappear entirely later this Spring. The service has been around for almost five years, and while it was largely greeted with enthusiasm, the reality has never justified that optimism. The amassing of community votes for game approval turned out to be no barrier to all manner of grafters who launched unfinished, amateurish games (even using stolen assets in some cases) on the service, but enough of a barrier to be frustrating and annoying for many genuine indie developers. As an attempt to figure out how to prevent a storefront from drowning in the torrent of rubbish that has flooded the likes of the App Store and Google Play, it was a worthy experiment, but not one that ought to have persisted for five years, really.

Moreover, Greenlight isn’t disappearing because Valve has solved this problem to its satisfaction. The replacement, Direct, is in some regards a step backwards; it’ll see developers being able to publish directly on the system simply by confirming their identity (company or personal) through submission of business documents and paying a fee for each game they submit. The fee in question hasn’t been decided yet, but Valve says it’s thinking about everything from $100 to $5000.

The impact of Direct is going to depend heavily on what that fee ends up being. It’s worth noting that developers for iOS, for example, already pay around $100 a year to be part of Apple’s developer programme, and trawling through the oceans of unloved and unwanted apps released on the App Store every day shows just how little that $100 price does to dissuade the worst kind of shovelware. At $5000, meanwhile, quite a lot of indie developers will find themselves priced out of Steam, especially those at the more arthouse end of the scene, or new creators getting started out. Ironically, though, the chances are that many of the cynical types behind borderline-scam games with ripped off assets and design will calculate that $5000 is a small price to pay for a shot at sales on Steam, especially if the high fees are thinning out the number of titles launching.

It’s worth noting that, for the majority of Steam’s consumers, the loss of arthouse indie games and fringe titles from new creators won’t be of huge concern. Steam, like all storefronts, sells huge numbers at the top end and that falls off rapidly as you come down the charts; the number of consumers who are actively engaging with smaller niche titles on the service is pretty small. However, that doesn’t mean that locking out those creators wouldn’t be damaging – both creatively and commercially.

Plenty of creators are actually making a living at the low end of the market; they’re not making fortunes or buying gigantic mansions to hang around being miserable in, but they’re making enough money from their games to sustain themselves and keep up their output. Often, they’re working in niches that have small audiences of devoted fans, and locking them out of Steam with high submission costs would both rob them of their income (there are quite a few creators out there for whom $5000 represents a large proportion of their average revenue from a game) and rob audiences of their output, or at least force them to look elsewhere.

Sometimes, a game from a creator like that becomes a break-out hit, the game the whole world is talking about for months on end – sometimes, but not very often. It’s tempting to argue that Steam should be careful about its “low-end” indies (a term I use in the commercial sense, not as any judgement of quality; there’s great, great stuff lurking around the bottom of the charts) because otherwise it risks missing the Next Big Thing, but that’s not really a good reason. Steam is just about too big to ignore, and the Next Big Thing will almost certainly end up on the platform anyway.

Rather, the question is over what Valve wants Steam to be. If it’s a platform for distributing big games to mainstream consumers, okay; it is what it is. If they’re serious about it being a broad church, though, an all-encompassing platform where you can flick seamlessly between AAA titles with budgets in the tens of millions and arthouse, niche games made as a labour of love by part-timers or indie dreamers, then Direct as described still doesn’t solve the essential conflict in that vision.

In replacing publishers with a storefront through which creators can directly launch products to consumers, Valve and other store operators have asserted the value of pure market forces over curation – the fine but flawed notion of greatness rising to the top while bad quality products sink to the bottom simply through the actions of consumers making buying choices. This, of course, doesn’t work in practice, partially because in the real world free markets are enormously constrained and distorted by factors like the paucity of information (a handful of screenshots and a trailer video doth not a perfectly informed and rational purchasing decision make), and more importantly because free markets can’t actually make effective assessments of something as subjective as the quality of a game.

Thus, even as their stores have become more and more inundated with tides of low quality titles – perhaps even to the extent of snuffing out genuinely good quality games – store operators have tried to apply algorithmic wizardry to shore up marketplaces they’ve created. Users can vote, and rate things; elements of old-fashioned curation have even been attempted, with rather limited success. Tweaks have been applied to the submission process at one end and the discovery process at the other. Nothing, as yet, presents a very satisfying solution.

One interesting possibility is that we’re going to see the pendulum start to swing back a little – from the extreme position of believing that Steam and its ilk would make publishers obsolete, to the as yet untested notion that digital storefronts will ultimately do a better job of democratising publishing than they have done of democratising development. We’ve already seen the rise of a handful of “boutique” publishers who specialise in working with indie developers to get their games onto digital platforms with the appropriate degree of PR and marketing support; if platforms like Steam start to put up barriers to entry, we can expect a lot more companies like that to spring up to act as middlemen.

Like the indie developers themselves, some will cater to specific niches, while others will be more mainstream, but ultimately they will all serve a kind of curation role; their value will lie not just in PR, marketing and finance, but also in the ability to say to platforms and consumers that somewhere along the line, a human being has looked at a game in depth and said “yes, this is a good game and we’re willing to take a risk on it.” There’s a value to that simple function that’s been all too readily dismissed in the excitement over Steam, the App Store and so on, and as issues of discovery and quality continue to plague those storefronts, that value is only becoming greater.

Whatever Valve ultimately decides to do with Direct – whether it sets a low price that essentially opens the floodgates, or a high one that leaves some developers unable to afford the cost of entry – it will not provide a panacea to Steam’s issues. It might, however, lay the ground for a fresh restructuring of the industry, one that returns emphasis to the publishing functions that were trampled underfoot in the initial indie gold-rush and, into the bargain, helps to provide consumers with clearer assurances of quality. A new breed of publisher may be the only answer to the problems created by storefronts we were once told were going to make publishers extinct.

Courtesy-GI.biz

EU Data Protection Advocates Still Unhappy With Windows 10 Privacy Settings

February 22, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

European Union data protection watchdogs are indicating they are still concerned about the privacy settings of Microsoft’s Windows 10 operating system despite the U.S. company announcing changes to the installation process.

The watchdogs, a group made up of the EU’s 28 authorities responsible for enforcing data protection law, wrote to Microsoft last year expressing concerns about the default installation settings of Windows 10 and users’ apparent lack of control over the company’s processing of their data.

The group – referred to as the Article 29 Working Party -asked for more explanation of Microsoft’s processing of personal data for various purposes, including advertising.

“In light of the above, which are separate to the results of ongoing inquiries at a national level, even considering the proposed changes to Windows 10, the Working Party remains concerned about the level of protection of users’ personal data,” the group said in a statement which also acknowledged Microsoft’s willingness to cooperate.

Microsoft was not immediately available to comment.

A number of national authorities have already begun enquiries into Windows 10, including France which in July ordered Microsoft to stop collecting excessive user data.

The EU privacy group said that despite a new installation screen presenting users with five options to limit or switch off Microsoft’s processing of their data, it was not clear to what extent users would be informed about the specific data being collected.

Microsoft uses data collected through Windows 10 for different purposes, including advertising, the group said in its statement said.

“Microsoft should clearly explain what kinds of personal data are processed for what purposes. Without such information, consent cannot be informed, and therefore, not valid.”

Is Blackberry Taking Nokia To Court?

February 22, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

A patent war is being fought between two of the industry smartphone leaders of yesteryear – Nokia and Blackberry.

Blackberry filed a patent-infringement lawsuit against Nokia Oyj, demanding royalties on the Finnish company’s mobile network products that use an industry wide technology standard.

Blackberry moaned that Nokia’s Flexi Multiradio base stations, radio network controllers and Liquid Radio software are using technology covered by as many as 11 patents owned by BlackBerry.

It added that Nokia was encouraging the use” of the standard- compliant products without a license from Blackberry.

Blackberry did not say how much it wanted Nokia to cough up, but it would appear to be part of Chief Executive Officer John Chen is working to find new ways to pull revenue out of Blackberry’s technology.

He’s used acquisitions to add a suite of software products and negotiated licensing agreements to take advantage of the company’s thick book of wireless technology patents.

Nokia is aware of the inventions because the company has cited some of the patents in some of its own patent applications, BlackBerry said.

Some of the patents were owned by Nortel and Nokia had at one point tried to buy them as part of a failed bid for Nortel’s business in 2009, according to Blackberry.

BlackBerry was part of a group called Rockstar Consortium that bought Nortel’s patents out of bankruptcy for $4.5 billion in 2011. The patents were split up between the members of the group, which included Apple and Microsoft.

Since Blackberry contends that patents cover essential elements of a mobile telecommunications standard known as 3GPP, it has pledged to license them on fair and reasonable terms.

Courtesy-Fud

Android Apps Poses Security Risk For Cars

February 20, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Android applications that allow millions of drivers to remotely locate and unlock their vehicles are missing security features that could prevent tampering by hackers.

Researchers from antivirus vendor Kaspersky Lab took seven of the most popular Android apps that accompany connected cars from various manufacturers, and analyzed them from the perspective of a compromised Android device. The apps and manufacturers have not been named.

The researchers looked at whether such apps use any of the available countermeasures that would make it hard for attackers to hijack them when the devices they’re installed on are infected with malware. Other types of applications, such as banking apps, have such protections.

The analysis revealed that none of the tested applications used code obfuscation to make it harder for attackers to reverse-engineer them, and none of them used code integrity checks to prevent malicious manipulation.

Two applications didn’t encrypt the login credentials stored locally and four encrypted only the password. None of the apps checked if the devices they’re running on are rooted, which could indicate that they’re insecure and possibly compromised.

Finally, none of the tested applications used overlay protections to prevent other apps from drawing over their screens. There are malware apps that display fake log-in screens on top of other apps to trick users to expose their log-in credentials.

While compromising connected-car apps might not directly enable theft, it could make it easier for would-be thieves. Most such apps, or the credentials they store, can be used to remotely unlock the vehicle and disable its alarm system.

Also, the risks are not “limited to mere car theft,” the Kaspersky researchers said in a blog post. “Accessing the car and deliberate tampering with its elements may lead to road accidents, injuries, or death.”

While manufacturers are rushing to add smart features to cars that are meant to improve the experience for car owners, they tend to focus more on securing the back-end infrastructure and the communications channels. However, the Kaspersky researchers warn, that client-side code, such as the accompanying mobile apps, should not be ignored as it’s the easiest target for attackers and most likely the most vulnerable spot.

“Being an expensive thing, a car requires an approach to security that is no less meticulous than that of a bank account,” the researchers said.

Oracle Still Going After Google Over Java

February 17, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Oracle has decided that it is not going to give up trying to convince the world that Google owes it billions for Android software.

For the last seven years, Google and Oracle have been slugging it out over copyright over Java applets, which Oracle insists are the key to making Android run. It has gone through two federal trials and bounced around at appeals courts, including a brief stop at the US Supreme Court. Oracle has sought as much as $9 billion in the case.

Other than one loss, which was successfully appealed, Google has won. Now Oracle briefs have decided it is time for another round and filed an appeal with the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit that seeks to overturn a federal jury’s decision last year.

In the trial last year in San Francisco, the jury ruled Google’s use of 11,000 lines of Java code was allowed under “fair use” provisions in federal copyright law.

In Oracle’s 155-page appeal on Friday, it called Google’s “copying…classic unfair use” and said “Google reaped billions of dollars while leaving Oracle’s Java business in tatters”.

Oracle’s brief also argues that “When a plagiarist takes the most recognizable portions of a novel and adapts them into a film, the plagiarist commits the ‘classic’ unfair use”.

So all Oracle has to do is prove that Applets are the most recognisable part of Java which has been converted into a new product.

Courtesy-Fud

Apple Finally Overtakes Samsung In Smartphones Sales

February 16, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Apple has outpaced Samsung Electronics in smartphone sales for the first time in two years, but that victory might just be short-lived.

Samsung sold 76.8 million smartphones in the fourth quarter, giving it a market share of 17.8 percent, but it was just beaten by Apple, which sold 77 million iPhones for a 17.9 percent share, according to figures from market research firm Gartner.

The fourth quarter is usually a strong one for Apple, boosted by holiday sales of the new generation of iPhones it releases each September, said Anshul Gupta, a research director at Gartner.

For Samsung, though, 2016 ended particularly badly, dominated by the fiasco around the recall of its incendiary Galaxy Note7.

Super-phones like the Note7 could have accounted for 10 to 15 percent of Samsung’s smartphone sales in the period before its recall, said Gupta, but Samsung lost more than that: There was also the damage to its brand.

It could bounce back sooner rather than later, though, as it has a new flagship phone coming out at the end of March.

Apple, meanwhile, is expected to wait until September before unveiling new iPhones. This year will mark the iPhone’s 10th anniversary, and the next model is widely expected to be something special, so Apple fans may delay replacing phones until then, said Gupta. That would leave the way clear for Samsung to move back into the lead from this quarter.

That pattern showed up last year too: Although it dominated the fourth quarter, Apple was a distant second over the full year, with market share of just 14.4 percent over the year, far behind Samsung’s 20.5 percent, and the situation was similar the previous year.

 

 

T-Mobile Riding High, Adds Customers And Beats Revenue Forecast

February 15, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

T-Mobile US Inc, the No.3 U.S. wireless carrier, has reported higher-than-expected quarterly revenue and profit as its promotional offers aided in adding new customers.

T-Mobile had a number of promotional offers in the fourth quarter, including a free iPhone 7 offer with eligible trade-in around Black Friday.

Riding on the success of these offers, the company gained market share from rivals Verizon Communications Inc, AT&T Inc and Sprint Corp in an oversaturated U.S. wireless market.

T-Mobile said in January that it added 933,000 postpaid phone subscribers, or those who pay monthly bills, on a net basis, in the three months ended Dec. 31.

Chatter around a deal between T-Mobile and Sprint Corp resurfaced in December after Masayoshi Son, whose SoftBank Group Corp is a majority shareholder in Sprint, pledged a $50 billion investment in the United States.

Asked last week about a renewed merger bid with T-Mobile, Son said he was keeping his options open about Sprint.

T-Mobile’s total revenue jumped 23.4 percent to $10.18 billion.

The company’s net income rose to $390 million, or 45 cents per share, for the quarter from $297 million, or 34 cents per share, a year earlier.

Analysts on average were expecting a profit of 30 cents per share and revenue of $9.84 billion for the quarter, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

 

Is The iPhone 8 Going Qi?

February 15, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Long-standing rumors surrounding the possibility of wireless charging being a hot feature in Apple’s upcoming iPhone 8 this year are now receiving some confirmation, thanks to the company’s recent decision to join the 213-member Wireless Power Consortium group.

Based on the wireless industry group’s website last week, Apple has been officially listed as one of the latest members to take part in and promote the widespread adoption of the Qi wireless interface standard, which has been used for wireless charging across a number of products.

Early last year, we wrote that the company had filed a patent with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (July 2015) describing a near-field magnetic resonance (NFMR) power supply arranged to provide wireless power to a number of devices over 1 meter in distance. With the basic concept in physics being that the efficiency of power transfer decreases with distance, the company was said to be developing an aluminum casing for its upcoming iPhone devices that would allow RF waves to pass through from the wireless charging receiver and through a window made from a non-conductive material.

Qi wireless charging more likely than long-range RF for upcoming iPhone 8

But with recent developments in the industry, the possibility of long-range RF charging coming to this year’s iPhone now seem more distant as the company is more likely to adopt the Qi inductive coupling method instead. During CES, a source within Apple’s supply chain partnered with Energous, a company that develops RF-based charging solutions, and this was the first evidence that the more long-range solution featuring transmitters for the home, car and office would make its way into the hands of consumers in 2017. Unfortunately, Energous then announced that plans changed after a “key strategic partnership” was made with another partner, which will now be the first to ship the technology inside its own mobile devices.

While it appears Apple was indeed focused on developing a long-range charging method for its mobile devices, some analysts now point out that it needed to bring a practical solution to the market sooner in order to avoid a potential missed feature that has become standard in the Android community for at least 24 months.

“The success of wireless charging adoption from Apple’s competitors is something that Apple can no longer ignore,” says analyst Vicky Yussuff at IHS Technology. “Consumer survey data shows over 90% of consumers want wireless charging on their next device.”

Although Apple already uses the Qi standard in its watch, which was released in Q4 2015, it is unclear whether the upcoming iPhone will use the full specifications of the technology, as its smartwatch currently uses a modified version that only works with its own chargers.

Nevertheless, the fact that Apple is now an active member of the Wireless Power Consortium allows it to participate and contribute knowledge and ideas to a community responsible for developing some of the world’s more readily available wireless charging standards. The company says “it looks forward to working together with the WPC and its members,” according to a statement given to BusinessInsider.

Courtesy-Fud

Is Facebook’s Oculus Losing Steam?

February 15, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Facebook is closing around 200 of its 500 Oculus Rift virtual-reality demo stations at Best Buy locations across the US.

Apparently the move is because of poor “store performance” which is spin for the fact that few people are even trying the technology out.

Business Insider claims it is common for them to go days without giving a single demonstration.

Oculus spokeswoman Andrea Schubert insisted that the closings were due to “seasonal changes”.

“You can still request Rift demos at hundreds of Best Buy stores in the US and Canada. We still believe the best way to learn about VR is through a live demo,” she enthused.

Best Buy said stores that no longer offer demos will continue to sell the Oculus Rift headset and accompanying touch controllers. But it apparently interests in the headsets dried up after Christmas.

Another worker from California said that Oculus software bugs would often render his demo headsets unusable.

Courtesy-Fud

Apple’s iCloud Retained Deleted Browser History

February 14, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Apple’s iCloud appears to have been retaining users’ deleted internet browsing histories, including records over a year old.

Moscow-based forensics firm Elcomsoft noticed it was able to pull supposedly deleted Safari browser histories from iCloud accounts, such as the date and time the site was visited and when the record was deleted.

“In fact, we were able to access records dated more than one year back,” wrote Elcomsoft’s CEO Vladimir Katalov in a blog post.

Users can set iCloud to store their browsing history so that it’s available from all connected devices. The researchers found that when a user deletes that history, iCloud doesn’t actually erase it but keeps it in a format invisible to the user.

The company discovered the issue with its Phone Breaker product, a forensic tool designed to streamline the extracting files from an iCloud account.

Keeping a copy of a user’s browser history can certainly be “invaluable for surveillance and investigations,” Katalov said. But it’s unclear if Apple knew that its iCloud service was storing the deleted records.

On Thursday, Apple didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment but since Elcomsoft’s blog post went live, Apple appears to be “purging” older browser history records from iCloud, the forensics firm said.

“For what we know, they could be just moving them to other servers, making deleted records inaccessible from the outside,” the blog post said. But now only deleted records as old as only two weeks can be extracted, the company said.

Elcomsoft has previously found that Apple was saving users’ call history to iCloud, but offering no explicit way to turn the synching on or off. At the time, Apple responded that its call synching function was designed for convenience, allowing customers to return phone calls from any device.

For users concerned about their privacy, Elcomsoft said that they can opt-out of syncing their Safari browsing history from iCloud.

Is Wireless Charging Finally Making It To The Next iPhone?

February 13, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Apple’s next three models of the iPhone — the iPhone 8 and two updated versions of  iPhone 7 — will finally contain a long-awaited feature: wireless charging, according to an industry analyst with a track record of being right about the company’s plans.

The new iPhone models, which are expected to come in 4.7-in, 5.5-in and 5.8-in form factors when released later this year, will also sport a new 3D Touch feature and an OLED display, according to Ming-Chi Kuo, a financial analyst for KGI Securities.

3D Touch allows users to press harder on the screen to launch actions, such as replying to messages or animating live photos, instead of only selecting applications.

Kuo also expects the iPhone 8 — if that’s what Apple decides to call the new model (see artist rendering above) — to come in an all-glass case, with a flexible, “thinner form factor.”

Kuo, who reports on the Asia-Pacific region, is not just any analyst. The Apple-focused news website and community Cult of Mac, once called him “the most reliable voice on all things Apple…because his ability to accurately prophesy Apple’s future product plans is unparalleled.”

First reported by MacRumors, Kuo’s research note indicated that wireless charging increases the internal temperature of smartphones, which will require the iPhone 8  with an OLED display and glass casing to have a new 3D Touch module with “additional graphite sheet lamination” to keep it from overheating.

“While we don’t expect general users to notice any difference, lamination of an additional graphite sheet is needed for better thermal control and, thus, steady operation; this is because FPCB is replaced with film, which is more sensitive to temperature change of the 3D touch sensor in OLED iPhone,” Kuo wrote in his research note.

Previous MacRumors reports indicate the iPhone 8’s additional features could bump the cost of making the smartphone from 30% to 50% higher — pushing its sale to more than $1,000.

This is not the first time industry analysts have speculated that Apple is about to embrace wireless charging for the iPhone. Last year, market research firm IHS predicted that Apple would introduce some form of wireless charging on the iPhone 7.

 

iPhone 7 Plus Features Pays Off For Apple

February 10, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Features exclusive to the iPhone 7 Plus aided sales of the larger smartphone, but they were not the only reasons why a higher percentage of customers went big last year, analysts said.

“The nature of the market is also shifting,” said Ben Bajarin of Creative Strategies, in a recent interview. As consumers encounter large-screen smartphones with more frequency — especially ones owned by friends — there’s a bandwagon effect, he explained.

Although the shift to bigger screens has been strongest in China and other Asian markets, the iPhone 7 Plus accounted for a larger proportion of new iPhones sold in the U.S. as well, said Bajarin, citing his firm’s research.

Apple does not separate iPhone sales by market, or even say exactly what percentage of total sales was of the 7 Plus, but CEO Tim Cook did claim that the number was the highest yet for its 5.5-in. model. “We saw especially strong demand for iPhone 7 Plus, which was a higher portion of the new product mix than we’ve ever seen with Plus models in the past,” Cook said during the December quarter’s earning call on Jan. 31.

Even before Apple disclosed iPhone sales — for the December quarter, the Cupertino, Calif. company booked 78.3 million — analysts expected that the average selling price, or ASP, would be up over the same period the year before, in part because of the widespread belief that the iPhone 7 Plus had done better than its 2015 and 2014 forerunners.

That was, in fact, the case: The December quarter’s iPhone ASP was $694.57, a record.

Some credited the iPhone 7 Plus’s performance to the features Apple offered only in the large-screen model, notably Portrait Mode. Bajarin agreed that Plus-only features could be selling points. But they were no guarantee. Those specific to the iPhone 6 Plus and 6S Plus, for example, weren’t enough to make those models as successful as the 7 Plus.

More telling than differences between iPhone models, he said, was the consumer perception of the total package. “The evidence we see from China is that when something [is seen to be] the pinnacle at that moment, that’s when China moves toward that product,” Bajarin said. “So there is some value in keeping interesting and expensive technology as a differentiator.”

Among the features that the supply chain rumor mill has posited for this year’s iPhone, several might appear only in the most expensive model, such as a curved OLED (organic light-emitting diode) display and wireless charging.

Not every analyst concurred with the concept of burnishing the Plus model with extra features if that came at the expense of the smaller-sized models.

“It’s more important that Apple makes [each new generation of the] iPhone durable and powerful,” said Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research. “That’s recognizing the reality of the market, and justifying what is an increasing price delta.”

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