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Xiaomi Becomes World’s Third-Largest Smartphone Vendor

October 31, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

China’s Xiaomi Inc has nudged it’s way into being the world’s third-largest smartphone vendor just three years after first hitting the market, trailing only Samsung Electronics Co Ltd and Apple Inc, according to a new industry study.

Strategy Analytics said Xiaomi accounted for 6 percent of all 320 million smartphones shipped during July-September. Samsung made up 25 percent, down from 35 percent a year earlier due to rising competition from several directions.

Apple’s share also fell slightly to 12 percent.

“Xiaomi was the star performer,” Strategy Analytics Executive Director Neil Mawston said in a statement.

“Samsung continues to face tough competition from Apple at the higher-end of the smartphone market, from Xiaomi and Huawei in the middle-tiers, and from Lenovo and others at the entry-level.”

Xiaomi has been the top seller in its home market of China and recently entered India, where it sells phones exclusively through e-commerce site Flipkart.

Vice President Hugo Barra told Reuters in Bangalore last month that the company aimed to sell 100,000 phones a week in India in October when the country celebrates Diwali.

 

 

Microsoft Debuts $199 Fitness Device

October 31, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Microsoft Corp introduced a device called “MicrosoftBand” that will allow users to monitor their fitness and exercise regime, marking the world’s largest software company’s foray into the wearable technology market.

The wrist-worn device has sensors that monitor pulse rate, measure calorie burn and track sleep quality, Microsoft said in a blog post. Microsoft said the device will be available in the United States in limited quantities from Thursday for $199.

Apple Inc unveiled a smart watch on Sept. 9 that will combine health and fitness tracking with communications and will go on sale in early 2015, while Samsung Electronics Co unveiled its Galaxy Gear smart watch in September 2013. The Apple Watch will be priced at $349.

Microsoft also launched a health app called “Microsoft Health” that includes a cloud service for users to store and combine health and fitness data.

The Microsoft Health app will collect data from the fitness band and will work on iPhones and Android smartphones, as well as its own Windows Phone.

 

 

Facebook Debuts ‘Rooms’ App For Chats

October 24, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook is going old school, with a stand-alone app for discussion boards geared towards allowin users to talk about shared interests without having to use their real names.

The company released Rooms on Thursday, its answer to the craze around posting and sharing anonymously. People can use any name they want and don’t need a Facebook account. The app contains rooms geared around various topics, all of which require an invite link to enter. Providing an email address is optional, for the purposes of having accessed rooms restored if the user deletes the app.

The app is only available on iOS. Plans for other platforms like Android or Windows Phone were not disclosed.

The app is not just about anonymity. With it, Facebook hopes to provide a discussion board-type platform where users can chat about shared interests outside of their usual social circles. It’s a concept that has been super popular since, oh, the web’s been around.

“One of the magical things about the early days of the web was connecting to people who you would never encounter otherwise in your daily life,” Facebook said in a statement Thursday.

“From unique obsessions and unconventional hobbies, to personal finance and health-related issues — you can celebrate the sides of yourself that you don’t always show to your friends,” the company said.

But the app’s ability to succeed likely depends on the number and diversity of rooms created by its users, and whether the app’s focus on visuals and photos appeals to them. There’s also no desktop version.

The app was developed as part of Facebook’s Creative Labs project, which has also released stand-alone apps like Slingshot and Paper.

Facebook stresses that Rooms will let users create a unique identity separate from their Facebook account. Your name can be “Wonder Woman” in the app, Facebook said.

I tried out the app, and was even able to use “Mark Zuckerberg” as my name. (A short “hello” post of mine then immediately generated several “high fives.”)

Facebook, however, may share information about Room users within the companies and services operated by Facebook, which would include Facebook itself and other apps like Instagram and WhatsApp, according to the Rooms terms of service.

 

 

Survey Reveals Workers Using Personal Devices For Job-related Tasks

October 23, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Many workers use their personally owned smartphones and other technology devices for job tasks, but a new survey reveals a big percentage are doing so without their employer’s knowledge.

Market research firm Gartner surveyed 4,300 U.S. consumers in June who work at large companies (with more than 1,000 employees) and found 40% used personally owned smartphones, tablets, laptops or desktops as a primary or supplemental business device.

That 40% might not be unusual, but more surprisingly, Gartner found that 45% of workers not required to use a personal device for work were doing so without their employer’s knowledge.

“Almost half [are using their device] without their employer’s awareness,” said Gartner analyst Amanda Sabia in an interview.

“Are those without employer’s awareness violating a rule? That would depend on the employer,” Sabia added. “The point is that some CIOs are underestimating [the number of] employees using their devices and should be prepared for this.”

The Gartner survey found the most popular personally owned device used for work was a desktop computer, at 42%, closely followed by a smartphone, at 40%, a laptop, at 36%, and a tablet, at 26%.

“The lines between work and play are becoming more and more blurred as employees choose to use their own device for work purposes whether sanctioned by an employer or not,” Sabia said. “Devices once bought for personal use are increasingly used for work.”

 

 

Mobile Phone Growth In U.S. Continues To Slow Down

October 22, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

The overall mobile phone market in the U.S. will fall off this year by 1% even as many emerging countries around the world see robust growth.

After several years of accelerated growth, the U.S. market is feeling the effects of market saturation and smartphone ownership that’s lasting longer than once expected, Ramon Llamas, an analyst IDC, said in an updated forecast.

IDC’s five-year forecast issued for October significantly undercuts its April forecast, dropping expectations for U.S. smartphone and feature phone shipments by manufacturers to retailers. IDC now expects 1.7 million fewer phones shipped in 2104 than it had expected in April; it predicts 174 million phones will ship this year, with that figure declining gradually to 169 million in 2018.

Smartphone shipments alone will grow just slightly through 2018 in the U.S., but about 5% less than earlier expected, rising from 150 million in 2014 to 160.5 million in 2018. Feature phones shipments have dropped off faster than earlier expected.

Llamas said the signs of decline started in late 2011, prompting carriers in the past year to try to get customers to replace phones more often with easy trade-in plans and relaxed contracts.

It’s too soon to say what effect the early trade-in plans will have on the market, Llamas said. The life of an average smartphone still lasts about two years, but that could be changing.

Paying on installment plans “could really change the market,” Llamas said in an interview. “But if people pay off their devices and then realize they don’t have to pay the carrier as much [at the end of the payoff period] and only pay for wireless service, they might just hold onto their phones. I think people will hold onto their phones as long as they can after they are paid off. If this plays out and they hold on and don’t update, we’ll see flattening of sales volumes year after year, or even declines, all in the name of saving money.”

Realizing what’s happening in the U.S. and among other major economies, both Apple and Samsung have concentrated heavily on selling their new smartphones in China and other areas where smartphone sales are still strong.

 

 

Sprint Cuts Jobs At Its Headquarters, More To Follow

October 22, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Sprint recently eliminated more than 400 jobs from its headquarters in Overland Park, Kan., an amount that equals about 6% of the 7,500 workers there.

The company is expected to make more job cuts this month, including from other locations in the U.S., further lowering the ranks of its 33,000-person work force. Since January, the company has cut its ranks by about 5,000, from 38,000.

The latest headquarters cuts were in IT and portfolio management and Sprint’s network, technology and product areas, according to a statement by spokesperson Roni Singleton. Some employees will work their last day on Nov. 7 and others will finish Nov. 14.

“Sprint is focused on competing aggressively in the marketplace,” Singleton said. “We want our customers to pay less for a better value on a new networks. As part of this plan, we have to more closely align our cost structure with that of our competitors.”

CEO Marcelo Claure signaled there would be job cuts in August shortly after taking on his new role. Claure also inaugurated a round of pricing reductions.

Even so, analysts expect the company to lose more subscribers and fall into fourth place among the nation’s top carriers, behind T-Mobile.

An earnings call is expected in late October, although the date hasn’t been scheduled, Singleton said.

Sprint’s more than 5,000 job cuts in 2014 put it behind Cisco, with 6,000 job cuts (8%) announced for the year and Microsoft, with 18,000 job cuts (14%) planned for the year.

 

Amazon, Simon & Schuster Sign Deal Over E-books

October 22, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Online book retailer Amazon.com Inc revealed that it has signed a multi-year deal with Simon & Schuster Inc, the second Big-Five book publisher, on the future price of e-books.

Amazon, which had been in discussions with Simon & Schuster since July over pricing, confirmed the deal first reported by the Business Insider news blog that the two had reached an agreement.

Amazon had been locked in a months-long standoff with publisher Hachette Book Group, the fourth-largest U.S. book publisher owned by France’s Lagardere, over digital book pricing. That has led to numerous issues for authors.

Industry experts had expected other publishers eventually to be drawn into negotiations as well, as the Internet retailer tries to set new benchmarks for the e-book market.

Negotiations with Simon & Schuster took about three weeks and closed two months before Amazon’s contract expired, according to Business Insider.

Simon & Schuster made its original offer and an agreement was reached after a few changes by Amazon, the source told Business Insider.

 

 

Google’s Nexus 6 Unlocked Device To Cost Significantly More

October 21, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Google’s new Nexus 6 smartphone will be offered at $649, unlocked, when pre-orders begin on Oct. 29. The price is almost twice the $349 starting price charged for the Nexus 5 a year ago.

Google didn’t elaborate on the price increase after announcing the Nexus 6, but several analysts said Google may be intending to push the Nexus as a premium brand that can compete with the iPhone 6 and other high-end phones.

Google originally developed Android to be inclusive and global, and indeed, it is the world’s largest OS by far. The company developed the Nexus line in 2010 to show Android phone manufacturers, and the public, how a pure Android phone could look and feel without the added features and bloatware installed by phone makers.

Meanwhile, the four national carriers are expected to sell the Nexus 6 with a subsidized price of as low as $200 with a two-year contract, and separate pricing for installment plans. AT&T will be a Nexus provider for the first time, and Verizon Wireless will carry the phone despite a spotty history with the Nexus line.

Such a carrier push to sell Nexus 6 phones with a subsidy seems to indicate that Google is intent on spreading wider adoption of its pure Nexus line that it so far hasn’t achieved. Google has long described Android as an operating system for all, but Google also wants to promote a more refined Android device, which it is trying to do with its Nexus line.

The $649 Nexus 6, which will run Android 5.0 Lollipop with support for 64-bit architecture, is a better phone than the $349 Nexus 5 that runs Android 4.4 KitKat. Nexus 6 also starts with 32 GB storage, double the capacity of its predecessor the Nexus 5. (A 64 GB Nexus 6 will run $699 unlocked on Google Play.)

But all the enhancements in the new Nexus 6, including its 5.96-in. Quad HD display and Snapdragon 805 quad-core processor, still don’t fully account for the 86% increase in starting price for the unlocked model, analysts said.

Sundar Pichai, senior vice president of Android at Google, noted in a blog post that wireless carriers will offer the Nexus 6 on monthly contracts or installment plans. A number of industry sources predicted the two-year contract price will start at $200, a common industry price for high-end smartphones, including the new iPhone 6.

The four major carriers, Google and Motorola, which is the  Nexus 6 manufacturer,  all refused to discuss the prices that carriers will charge. They also would not disclose the November release date.

 

Tablet Sales Growth Dropped Drastically

October 17, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

The news about tablet sales isn’t good.

Gartner and IDC both recently dramatically lowered their tablet shipment and sales estimates for 2014 and coming years, citing primarily the longer-than-expected time customers keep their existing tablets. (That phenomenon is called the “refresh rate.”)

Gartner said it had originally expected 13% tablet sales growth for the year globally; it has now lowered that growth rate to 11%. IDC’s forecast change was even more dire: In June, it predicted shipment growth this year would be 12.1%, but in September it cut that number to 6.5%.

In the U.S., things are worse, because more than half of households have a tablet and may hold onto it for more than three years, well beyond analysts’ earlier expectations.

IDC said in its latest update that tablet growth in the U.S. this year will be just 1.5%, and will slow to 0.4% in 2015. After that, it expects negative growth through 2018. Adding in 2-in-1 devices, such as a Surface Pro with a keyboard, the situation in the U.S. improves, although overall growth for both tablets and 2-in-1′s will still only reach 3.8% in 2014, and just 0.4% by 2018, IDC said.

“Tablet penetration is high in the U.S. — over half of all households have at least one — which leads to slow growth…,” Mikako Kitagawa, an analyst at Gartner, said in an interview. “A smartphone is a must-have item, but a tablet is not. You can do the same things on a laptop as you do with a tablet, and these are all inter-related.”

Tablets are a “nice-to-have and not a must-have, because phones and PCs are enough to get by,” added Carolina Milanesi, chief of research at Kantar Worldpanel.

In a recent Kantar survey of 20,000 potential tablet buyers, only 13% said they definitely or probably would buy a tablet in the next year, while 54% said they would not, Milanesi said. Of those planning not to buy a tablet, 72% said they were happy with their current PC.

At IDC, analyst Tom Mainelli reported that the first half of 2014 saw tablet growth slow to 5.8% (from a growth rate of 88% in the first half of 2013). Mainelli said the meteoric pace of past years has slowed dramatically due to long device refresh cycles and pressure from sales of large phones, including the new iPhone 6 Plus. That phone has a 5.5-in. display, which is close to some smaller tablets with 7-in. displays.

 

 

 

Verizon To Offer Sony’s Xperia Z3V Smartphone

October 14, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Sony and Verizon Wireless have designed a new smartphone, the Xperia Z3V, which will go on sale in the U.S. starting later this month.

The smartphone is a variant of the Xperia Z3, which was announced at the IFA trade show in Berlin last month. The smartphone will be sold for US$199 through Verizon with a two-year mobile contract, the companies said.

The Z3V smartphone has a 5.2-inch screen and looks and feels just like the Z3, but there are subtle differences. The Z3V has wireless charging and offers a longer battery life of two hours. The Z3 has one-and-a-half hours of battery life.

The Z3V also lets users play PlayStation 4 games remotely on their phones with the Remote Play feature.

The Z3V has the same 20.7-megapixel rear camera as the Z3, but advanced software to shoot and edit pictures.

Other features include a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor, a 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution screen and a 2.2-megapixel front camera. It runs on the Android 4.4 OS, code-named KitKat. The smartphone is also waterproof.

The Xperia Z3V is the effective successor to the Z2, which shipped just six months ago, and has received good reviews. But PC Advisor says that the hardware in the Z3 is similar to that of its predecessor, so there’s no major reason to upgrade.

Sony’s U.S. mobile business has struggled. But the company is committed to that market, said Kunimasa Suzuki, president and CEO of Sony Mobile Communications, at the event. The Z3V is central to the company’s plans for the market, which also include bringing all of gaming, movie, music and device assets together.

The Z3V was one of many product availability announcements made at the press conference. Verizon will sell Sony’s Smartwatch 3 starting later this month, though no price was announced.

The Smartwatch 3 was also announced at IFA. It will run on Google’s Android Wear OS and offer two days of battery life, said Jeff Dietel, vice president of marketing at Verizon Wireless.

 

 

 

Sprint Confirms Shut Down Of WiMax Network In November

October 14, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Sprint’s WiMax network, rolled out in 2008 as the first commercial 4G system in the U.S., will finally cease operations in November 2015.

The country’s third-largest carrier has confirmed that it will end its WiMax service on Nov. 6, 2015. It had disclosed in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing last year that WiMax would shut down by the end of 2015.

Sprint deployed what was then a newly emerging technology in 2008, attempting to jump past its competitors with a mobile data network that would be faster than its own 3G CDMA system and those operated by the other big national carriers. WiMax launched first in Baltimore in September 2008 with advertised download speeds ranging from 2Mbps (bits per second) to 4Mbps.

The network ultimately was built and operated by Clearwire, another early WiMax adherent that owned spectrum licenses in the same band as Sprint, around 2.5GHz. Sprint bought its WiMax capacity wholesale from Clearwire before selling it to its 4G subscribers. The two carriers had a tumultuous relationship until Sprint acquired Clearwire as part of its takeover by Softbank in 2013.

WiMax predated LTE and may have helped to spur on the development of that standard, which became the 4G system for carriers that had embraced the GSM family of technologies. But as early as 2010, both Sprint and Clearwire were signaling that they would give in to LTE’s broader global backing and follow what was already expected to be the more high-volume technology.

The November date was first reported by AndroidCentral, based on a leaked newsletter that discussed a letter to be sent a year in advance to all corporate WiMax customers. The newsletter also said other WiMax customers would be informed six months in advance and that there would be comparable devices at low or no cost to replace WiMax equipment. Sprint had laid out the possibility of free LTE replacement phones in its terms of service last year.

 

Twitter To Allow Money Transfer Via Tweets

October 14, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

One of France’s largest banks is partnering with social network Twitter Inc. to allow its customers to transfer money via tweets.

The move by Groupe BPCE, France’s second largest bank by customers, coincides with Twitter’s own foray into the world of online payments as the social network seeks new sources of revenue beyond advertising.

Twitter is racing other tech giants Apple  and Facebook to get a foothold in new payment services for mobile phones or apps. They are collaborating and, in some cases, competing with banks and credit card issuers that have run the business for decades.

The bank said last month it was prepared to offer simple person-to-person money transfers via Twitter to French consumers, regardless of what bank they use, and without requiring the sender know the recipient’s banking details.

“(S-Money) offers Twitter users in France a new way to send each other money, irrespective of their bank and without having to enter the beneficiary’s bank details, with a simple tweet,” Nicolas Chatillon, chief executive of S-Money,  BPCE’s mobile payments unit, said in the statement.

Payment by tweets will be managed via the bank’s S-Money service, which allows money transfers via text message and relies on the credit-card industry’s data security standards.

BPCE and Twitter declined to provide further details ahead of a news conference in Paris later today to unveil the service.

Last month, Twitter started trials of its own new service, dubbed “Twitter Buy”,  to allow consumers to find and buy products on its social network.

The service embeds a “Twitter Buy” button inside tweets posted by more than two dozen stores, music artists and non-profits. Burberry, Home Depot, and musicians such as Pharrell and Megadeth are among the early vendors.

Twitter’s role to date has been to connect customers rather than processing payments or checking their identities.

 

 

What Will Facebook Do With WhatsApp

October 13, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook, which closed its acquisition of mobile messaging service WhatsApp earlier this week, has said that it has no near-term plan to make money from it.

Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg, who is visiting India to participate in an event to boost Internet usage, refused to say much more, but it does indicate that the company has not worked out a cunning plan yet.

Facebook’s final WhatsApp acquisition price tag has risen an additional $3 billion to roughly $22 billion because of the increased value of Facebook’s stock in recent months. This means that Zuckerberg is under pressure to make a bob or two from the deal.

WhatsApp works across different types of phones, across borders, and without advertising. The app only charges a 99 cent annual subscription fee, which is waived for the first year.

Courtesy-Fud

 

Google Asks The U.S. Supreme Court For Assistance

October 13, 2014 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Google has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to rule on contentious litigation against Oracle arguing that the high court must act to protect innovation in high tech.

Google’s request seeks to overturn an appeals court ruling that found Oracle could copyright APIs of its Java programming language, which Google used to design its Android smartphone operating system.

Oracle sued Google in 2010, claiming that Google had improperly incorporated parts of Java into Android. Oracle wants $1 billion on its copyright claims. Oracle claimed Google’s Android trampled on its rights to the structure of 37 Java APIs. A San Francisco federal judge had decided that Oracle could not claim copyright protection on parts of Java, but earlier this year the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington disagreed.

In its filing this week, Google said the company would never been able to innovate had the Federal Circuit’s reasoning been in place when the company was formed.

“Early computer companies could have blocked vast amounts of technological development by claiming 95-year copyright monopolies over the basic building blocks of computer design and programming,” Google wrote.

Courtesy-Fud

There’s a Glass App For The Hearing Impaired

October 10, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

Georgia Tech scientists have developed an app that creates captions on Google Glass for users who suffer from hearing loss.

A team of researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology developed speech-to-text software for Google’s wearable technology. Using Glass and an Android-based smartphone, the app converts speech to text and displays it on the Glass heads-up display.

“This system allows wearers like me to focus on the speaker’s lips and facial gestures,” said Jim Foley, a professor at Georgia Tech, in a statement. “If hard-of-hearing people understand the speech, the conversation can continue immediately without waiting for the caption. However, if I miss a word, I can glance at the transcription, get the word or two I need and get back into the conversation.”

According to Georgia Tech, the system works by having a hard-of-hearing person wear Glass while the person he’s trying to converse with speaks directly into the smartphone. The speech is converted to text, sent to Glass and displayed on its heads-up display.

“Glass has its own microphone, but it’s designed for the wearer,” said Thad Starner, a Georgia Tech professor and a technical lead for Glass. “The mobile phone puts a microphone directly next to the speaker’s mouth, reducing background noise and helping to eliminate errors.”

The app, called Captioning on Glass, is free and is available at MyGlass.

Google has been focused on expanding its app ecosystem for Glass, adding apps for Facebook, Twitter and CNN.

Google is still working to move Glass from prototype to an official product.

Google offered the eyewear for general sale in May, although Glass still is in beta testing. The company is looking for early adopters, also known as Explorers, while engineers continue to work on the hardware and software, and third parties add to the selection of apps.

Earlier this year, Google executives said they expected Glass to be released later in 2014. However, during the company’s annual developer conference, they stopped estimating release dates and said Glass will be released when it’s ready.