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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Around 45 percent of Android mobile devices have a browser that is vulnerable to two serious security issues, but some countries have a considerably larger percentage of affected users than others, according to data from mobile security firm Lookout.
The two security issues were uncovered over the past month by a security researcher named Rafay Baloch and were described as a privacy disaster by other researchers. They allow an attacker to bypass a core security boundary, called the same-origin policy (SOP), that exists in all browsers.
The SOP prevents scripts from one domain from interacting with data from a different domain. For example, scripts running on a page hosted on domain A should not be able to interact with content loaded on the same page from domain B.
Without that restriction, attackers could create pages that load Facebook, Gmail or some other sensitive sites in an invisible iframe and then trick users into visiting those pages in order to hijack their sessions and read their emails or send Facebook messages, for example.
The SOP bypass vulnerabilities found by Baloch affect Android versions older than 4.4, which according to data from Google are installed on 75 percent of all Android devices that actively visit the Google Play Store. Android 4.4 is not vulnerable because it uses Google Chrome as the default browser instead of the older Android Open Source Project (AOSP) browser.
Google has released patches for the two vulnerabilities through AOSP, which serves as the base for the customized Android firmware installed on devices by manufacturers. The task now falls on device vendors to import those patches and release firmware updates to end users.
However, history has shown that the availability of Android firmware updates varies greatly among manufacturers, different devices from the same manufacturer and even among countries, as local carriers also play a role in the distribution of over-the-air updates.
Kaspersky has revealed that it is working with Interpol in attempting to foil a gang of cash machine (ATM) hackers who have found a way to make it spit out its contents without even using a card.
The hack is incredibly carefully thought out. Hackers gain access to cash machines, through mole employees or perhaps cleaners, and add the malicious code, named Tyupkin by Kaspersky. The cash machine continues to function as normal.
The malware is triggered only at set times – Sunday and Monday nights – thus avoiding being accidentally triggered by a member of the public.
At that time, the mule is sent to the machine and types in a series of digits unique to that raid based on an algorithm known to the gang.
He then makes a second call to the gang who generate the second half of the code from their end, thus ensuring that the mule isn’t tempted to swan off with the dough.
At that point, it’s Winsday. The machine will display how much is in each cash compartment and willingly spits it out to the waiting mule who goes back to distribute the swag.
“Offenders are constantly identifying new ways to evolve their methodologies to commit crimes, and it is essential that we keep law enforcement in our member countries involved and informed about current trends and modus operandi,” said Sanjay Virmani, director of the Interpol Digital Crime Centre.
“We strongly advise banks to review the physical security of their ATMs and network infrastructure and consider investing in quality security solutions,” added Vicente Diaz, principal security researcher at Kaspersky Lab’s Global Research and Analysis Team, who, coincidentally, knows a company that can offer those solutions. Fancy.
Among the recommendations Kaspersky offers is a reminder to switch away from default passwords for systems including the system BIOS for each cash machine.
In June of this year, two Canadian teenagers showed how they had broken into an in-store ATM simply by downloading the instructions from the internet and using unchanged default passwords.
Malware for ATMs first came to the fore in 2008 when two Louisiana criminals reconfigured a cash machine to make it believe that it had smaller denomination bills than it really did.
Mobile metrics firms Mixpanel and Fiksu, which monitor the activity of iPhone owners via the analytics embedded in clients’ apps, have both noted an improvement in the ratio of the iPhone 6 Plus to iPhone 6 smartphones.
As of Sunday, for example, Mixpanel pegged the iPhone 6 at 6.02% of all iPhones, with the iPhone 6 Plus representing 1.34%. The ratio — 4.5:1, or 4.5 iPhone 6 handsets for every one iPhone 6 Plus — was an improvement for the iPhone 6 Plus from the 6.8:1 of two weeks prior.
Fiksu, another mobile app metrics provider, recorded a similar trend.
On Sunday, Fiksu’s ratio was 3.9:1 in favor of the iPhone 6, a stronger showing for the iPhone 6 Plus than two weeks before, when the ratio was 6.5:1.
In other words, about 18% to 20% of all iPhone 6 smartphones monitored by Mixpanel and Fiksu were iPhone 6 Pluses.
Apple still shows a delay between ordering and shipping for both models, but the lag for the iPhone 6 Plus — at “3-4 weeks” on its e-store — remained substantially longer than the iPhone 6 (“7-10 business days”) by a large margin.
But the increasing share of the iPhone 6 Plus in the usage data indicates that, even though it is harder to find than its smaller sibling, customers are acquiring it in larger numbers. That, in turn, hints that sales — or at least usage — of the iPhone 6 Plus are increasing faster than for the iPhone 6.
Most analysts expect the iPhone 6 Plus’s share to jump even more once the 5.5-in. smartphone goes on sale in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) on Oct. 17. Customers in mainland China can pre-order the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus from Apple’s online store starting Friday, Oct. 10.
While the iPhone 6 Plus is out of stock on Apple’s online market, some of the Cupertino, Calif. company’s brick-and-mortar stores have devices to sell, according to iStockNow.com, a website that tracks iPhone retail availability.
Coated with white rubber, Yubi Navi looks a bit like a game controller or TV remote. It can link to a smartphone via Bluetooth and contains small actuators that twist it left or right or make it bulge slightly in the middle.
When used for navigation, it can guide a user to a destination by prompting him to turn left or right at a given intersection. When the goal is reached, it vibrates.
The idea is to free people from the need to keep looking at a map displayed on their smartphone.
At the Ceatec tech expo outside Tokyo, DoCoMo did demos of prototypes of the device, which were linked to a power source via wires. A screen displayed a 3D animation of the streets of a town through which attendees could virtually navigate with the help of Yubi Navi.
Aside from avoiding the dangers involved in not paying attention to one’s surroundings, this can help people enjoy a location more by noticing new shops and other attractions,” said Koji Okamoto of DoCoMo’s strategic marketing department. “In Japan, walking with smartphones is a big problem and we want to solve it.”
The device can also be used to send tactile “nudges” to other people as a form of communication, much like the haptic messaging functions of the Apple Watch.
DoCoMo also demonstrated one of its own wearables on Monday, a credit card-size sensor that straps on your forearm to tell you how much fat you’re burning.
The 54-gram prototype is a semiconductor-based gas sensor that can detect acetone molecules, which are emitted from the skin when fat is being burned.
DoCoMo managed to shrink the sensor from one that weighed 6 kilograms. It can link to a smartphone via Bluetooth and relay data on how much acetone it detects.
“We’d like to realize a healthier world just by wearing such a device that can measure various types of health indexes like fat burning,” said Satoshi Hiyama, an engineer with DoCoMo’s Frontier Technology Research Group.
The device could be further miniaturized to fit into fitness bands or smartwatches, Hiyama said.
The electronics maker on Friday announced a “pin-shaped” lithium-ion battery that’s 20 millimeters (.03 inches) long with a diameter of 3.5 mm, about one-twentieth the size of AAA batteries. Panasonic said it’s the smallest in the industry in terms of capacity by volume.
The CG-320 battery has a nominal capacity of 13 mAh and voltage of 3.75 V, which allows for Bluetooth and NFC (near-field communication) links with smartphones.
Its compact form factor and low weight make it ideal for wearable devices such as smart glasses, fitness bands and hearing aids as well as electronic pens, according to Panasonic.
While compact batteries could shrink the overall size of wearables, usability and interfaces help determine how big they are.
“The size, which is the smallest of its kind in the industry, can allow more flexible product design, and high strength and stability of form delivers high reliability,” a spokeswoman for Panasonic wrote in an email.
The battery could also help reduce the size and weight of wearables, she said, adding that the Internet of Things (IoT) is another possible application.
The CG-320′s capacity is lower than that of a wearable battery such as the Jawbone UP24 activity monitor’s 32 mAh lithium-ion polymer battery, but the latter is larger.
Panasonic is developing two more pin-shaped batteries with capacities of 30 mAh and 50 mAh. They’re slightly larger and heavier than the CG-320.
Battery size and power are a key aspect of wearable devices that has been putting a damper on wider-scale development and popularization. The Apple Watch, for instance, will likely require a daily recharge. That can be seen as a big hassle for a device that’s relatively small.
A number of attempts to innovate on materials and control systems for wearable batteries are being pursued.
The U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory has tested a prototype battery based on the lithium carbon fluoride (CFx) chemical formula that could go for 10 years or more without a recharge.
Jawbone, meanwhile, doubled the battery charge of the UP24 to two weeks through a firmware update with enhanced algorithms.
Panasonic’s battery is similar to conventional cylindrical lithium-ion batteries. It has negative and positive electrode sheets wrapped around each other inside a small stainless steel tube.
The company plans to mass-produce the battery, with monthly production of 100,000 units and shipping to begin in February.
Redbox Instant, a streaming video service partnership between Verizon Communications Inc and Outerwall Inc’s Redbox, will cease to exist this week because the venture has not been as successful as hoped, the two companies jointly announced.
The service, which combined the Redbox DVD rental kiosk business with a streaming video offering from Verizon, was launched in 2013 to compete against online video company Netflix Inc but never caught on with consumers.
Redbox Instant will shut down on Oct. 7th, the companies said in a joint statement.
“The joint venture partners made this decision after careful consideration,” the statement said. “The service had not been as successful as either partner hoped it would be.”
Subscribers will receive an email notifying them of the termination of the service. A separate email will be sent on Oct. 10 with details on refunds, the statement said.
The alliance marked Verizon’s first foray into video streaming outside its network operating region, but it never gained a foothold against online rivals such as Netflix, Amazon.com Inc and Hulu Plus.
The telephone company had only offered Web video services to subscribers using its FiOS TV service, which competes with cable providers such as Comcast Corp and Time Warner Cable.
This might come as good news for anyone who has ever felt gouged by hotel charges for Wi-Fi service: Marriott International has to pay $600,000 following an investigation into whether it intentionally blocked personal Wi-Fi hotspots in order to force customers to use its own pricey service.
The U.S. Federal Communications Commission looked into allegations that employees of Marriott’s Gaylord Opryland Hotel and Convention Center in Nashville used signal-blocking features of a Wi-Fi monitoring system to prevent customers from connecting to the Internet through their personal Wi-Fi hotspots, the regulator said in its consent decree. The hotel charged customers and exhibitors $250 to $1,000 per device to access Marriott’s Wi-Fi network.
The hotel’s Wi-Fi blocking violated the U.S. Communications Act, the FCC said.
“Consumers who purchase cellular data plans should be able to use them without fear that their personal Internet connection will be blocked by their hotel or conference center,” FCC Enforcement Bureau chief Travis LeBlanc said in a statement. “It is unacceptable for any hotel to intentionally disable personal hotspots while also charging consumers and small businesses high fees to use the hotel’s own Wi-Fi network. This practice puts consumers in the untenable position of either paying twice for the same service or forgoing Internet access altogether.”
Marriott said it believes its actions were legal.
“Marriott has a strong interest in ensuring that when our guests use our Wi-Fi service, they will be protected from rogue wireless hotspots that can cause degraded service, insidious cyber-attacks and identity theft,” the company said in a statement. “Like many other institutions and companies in a wide variety of industries, including hospitals and universities, the Gaylord Opryland protected its Wi-Fi network by using FCC-authorized equipment provided by well-known, reputable manufacturers.”
The company will push for the FCC to create rules that “eliminate the ongoing confusion” from the settlement, Marriott said.
The carrier had announced in July it would extend a practice it calls network optimization to unlimited LTE subscribers starting in October. Network optimization targets the top 5 percent of data users on the network when a cell site is under the heaviest demand, and slows down those users’ network performance. Verizon had already applied the practice to the top users of its 3G network.
“We’ve greatly valued the ongoing dialogue over the past several months concerning network optimization and we’ve decided not to move forward with the planned implementation of network optimization for 4G LTE customers on unlimited plans,” the carrier said in a statement on Wednesday. “Exceptional network service will always be our priority and we remain committed to working closely with industry stakeholders to manage broadband issues so that American consumers get the world-class mobile service they expect and value.”
U.S. Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler attacked the plan in a letter to Verizon, suggesting it was a ploy to get customers to switch from their unlimited plans to ones with a cap on monthly data usage. Verizon no longer sells new unlimited plans but allows subscribers with those plans to keep them.
“I know of no past Commission statement that would treat as ‘reasonable network management’ a decision to slow traffic to a user who has paid, after all, for ‘unlimited’ service,” Wheeler wrote in the late July letter to Verizon Wireless President and CEO Dan Mead.
Digital rights group Public Knowledge also attacked so-called data throttling, as well as practices by AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile USA.
The showdown demonstrated the tension over increasing demand for mobile data, which carriers say puts a strain on their networks. Among other things, that demand has led operators to seek ever more spectrum and apply network management techniques they say are necessary to keep serving all subscribers well. Though LTE makes much more efficient use of the airwaves than 3G does, LTE networks are serving a rapidly growing number of subscribers.