Although the iPhone remained the top smartphone by customer satisfaction, with a score of 81 in the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) published Tuesday, Apple’s lead largely evaporated. Not only did Apple’s score fall two points from the year before, satisfaction in competitors’ devices jumped.
Samsung’s satisfaction score grew the most, increasing by five points to 76, a 7% gain. Motorola’s score climbed 5.5% to 77 points, while Nokia’s gained a point to close at 76, a 1.3% increase. Other smartphone manufacturers’ scores slumped: Those of HTC and LG slid 4% and 5.3%, respectively.
2012′s eight-point gap between Apple and the best of the rest was halved in 2013, as Apple now leads the next-closest, Motorola, by just four points.
ACSI’s director, David VanAmburg, attempted to explain Apple’s shrinking lead.
“While the iPhone 5 had strong sales, it has not bolstered Apple’s overall customer satisfaction,” said VanAmburg in a report accompanying the survey results. “[And Samsung's] improvement is the largest yet for any cell phone manufacturer.”
VanAmburg credited the 2012 launch of the Galaxy S3 for the boost to Samsung’s score, and noted that the 81 scored by the iPhone lagged behind the 86 garnered by Apple’s Mac personal computers and iPad tablets last September.
ACSI’s results generally conformed with media coverage and customer reactions to the iPhone 5 — which was seen as a minor upgrade, even though it sported a slightly larger screen — and Samsung’s Galaxy S3 and S4, which have been applauded. Most analysts, for instance, have portrayed Samsung as Apple’s only real competitor.
According to IDC, Samsung shipped 71 million smartphones in the first quarter, while Apple shipped 37 million iPhones, or just over half as many. Apple’s share shrunk to 17.3% for the quarter, down from 23% the same period in 2012; meanwhile, Samsung’s share climbed from 28.8% to 32.7%.
The Internet company nabbed the 92nd spot in the annual list of global companies from multiple industries including technology, retail and service, released Tuesday by BrandZ, a brand equity database. The ranking gave Yahoo a “brand value” of US$9.83 billion, which is based on the opinions of current and potential users as well as actual financial data.
Apple occupied the number-one position on the list, with a brand value of $185 billion. Google was number two, with a value of roughly $114 billion.
The BrandZ ranking, commissioned by the advertising and marketing services group WPP, incorporates interviews with more than 2 million consumers globally about thousands of brands along with financial performance analysis to compile the list. Yahoo last appeared on the list in 2009 at number 81.
Yahoo’s inclusion on the 2013 list comes as the Internet company works to reinvent itself and win back users. Previously a formidable player in Silicon Valley, the company has struggled in recent years to compete against the likes of Google, Facebook and Twitter.
Improving its product offerings on mobile has been a focus. New mobile apps for email and weather have been unveiled, along with a new version of the main Yahoo app, featuring news summaries generated with technology the company acquired when it bought Summly.
Most notably, Monday the company announced it is acquiring the blogging site Tumblr for $1.1 billion in cash. Big changes to its Flickr photo sharing service were also announced.
Yahoo’s rebuilding efforts have picked up steam only during the last several months, but the 2013 BrandZ study was completed by March 1.
However, last July’s appointment of Marissa Mayer as CEO likely played a significant role in the company’s inclusion in the ranking, said Altimeter analyst Charlene Li. “Consumer perception has gone up since then,” she said.
“Yahoo’s leadership has a strong sense of what they want to do with the brand,” she added.
Yahoo’s 2012 total revenue was flat at $4.99 billion. However, after subtracting advertising fees and commissions paid to partners, net revenue was up 2 percent year-on-year.
The new bid marks a significant boost from its earlier offer of $2.97 per share and beats Dish’s $3.30 bid. Clearwire shareholders had been scheduled to vote on Sprint’s offer at a special meeting Tuesday, but that meeting has now been postponed until May 30.
Sprint already owns roughly half of Clearwire, which has been its partner for 4G WiMax service since 2008. After Softbank agreed to invest $20 billion in Sprint and take a 70 percent share in the company, Sprint moved to complete its ownership. It plans to use Clearwire’s spectrum to beef up its new LTE network.
But Dish, a satellite TV and broadband provider, has made offers for both Sprint and Clearwire in an attempt to get into the relatively fast-growing mobile business. On Monday, Sprint announced it had received permission from Softbank to negotiate with Dish on its $25.5 billion offer, though Sprint said it still favored the Softbank deal.
Clearwire’s board of directors agreed to Sprint’s offer in December, but some minority shareholders in Clearwire had vowed to reject the deal, saying it undervalued the company and its significant spectrum holdings. Sprint had already increased its offer once, in December, from $2.90 per share to $2.97.
Finnish startup Jolla has announced its first smartphone, which debuts its Sailfish OS on a 4.5-inch screen. The device integrates the company’s unique back covers with the software, allowing the look to change and new features to be added.
Jolla, which was founded by former Nokia employees who wanted to continue the development work the Finnish phone maker had done on the MeeGo OS, is with the introduction one big step closer to entering the ultra-competitive smartphone market.
“The earliest memories I have of things really crystalizing is from the summer of 2011. I was on holiday and there was a conference call I took on the beach, and the people that became Jolla, the founders and many of the early contributors were on that call. But to me the hard work really started in January 2012,” said Marc Dillon, who recently stepped down as the company’s CEO to focus on developing the first phone.
The LTE-smartphone — which is just called Jolla, for now — is powered by a dual-core processor and has an 8-megapixel camera. It also has 16GB of integrated storage which can be expanded using an SD card.
The smartphone has been designed to look like two thin slabs that have been bonded together, and users can change the color of the back one with different snap-on covers. The back cover isn’t just about the hardware design. It is integrated with the OS and can be used to add features and change the look, a concept Jolla calls “the other half.”
“This is one of the most powerful things we have … a very simple example could be that you have covers with different colors,” Dillon said. “So you change the back of the device to a red one in the evening and a black one for the office and that would also change the user interface because there is a connection there.”
The cover could also have more memory for extra content that could be used by artists to put out limited edition phones, according to Dillon.
The company’s core offering is the Sailfish operating system, which Jolla hopes will lure users away from competing platforms. To help boost the availability of apps, the OS will be able to run Android applications.
The heart of the OS consists of thumbnails of opened applications on the homescreen from which users also can access multiple features directly by scrolling from side-to-side or just clicking on them to access the main feature.
“The true multitasking is working in lots of different applications. You can have a video running in a thumbnail while you are doing something else on the device,” Dillon said.
The Jolla will start shipping during the fourth quarter and cost a!399 (US$510) including taxes in the EU. It can be preordered on Jolla’s website.
DAS (distributed antenna systems) using coaxial cable have been the main solution to the problem, but they now face some limitations. To address them, Corning will introduce a DAS at this week’s CTIA Wireless trade show in Las Vegas that uses fiber instead of coax all the way from the remote cell antennas to the base station in the heart of a building.
Cable-based DAS hasn’t kept up with the new world, according to the optical networking vendor. Though Corning is associated more often with clear glass than with thin air, it entered the indoor wireless business in 2011 by buying DAS maker MobileAccess. That’s because Corning thinks optical fiber is the key to bringing more mobile capacity and coverage inside.
The system, called Corning Optical Network Evolution (ONE) Wireless Platform, can take the place of a DAS based fully or partly on coaxial cable, according to Bill Cune, vice president of strategy for Corning MobileAccess. Corning ONE will let mobile carriers, enterprises or building owners set up a neutral-host DAS for multiple carriers using many different frequencies.
Though small cells are starting to take its place in some buildings, DAS still has advantages over the newer technology, according to analyst Peter Jarich of Current Analysis. It can be easier to upgrade because only the antennas are distributed, so more of the changes can be carried out on centralized gear. Also, small cells are typically deployed by one mobile operator, and serving customers of other carriers has to be done through roaming agreements, he said.
Corning ONE links each antenna to the base station over optical fiber, converting the radio signals to optical wavelengths until they reach the base station. Fiber has more capacity than coax, can handle higher frequencies, and requires just one cable from a MIMO antenna, Cune said. Because of fiber’s high capacity, it’s relatively easy to bring other mobile operators onto the DAS.
The system is based on optical fiber, but it can be extended over standard Ethernet wiring to provide backhaul for Wi-Fi access points. Each Corning ONE remote antenna unit that’s deployed around a building will have two Ethernet ports to hook up nearby Wi-Fi access points, which can use the fiber infrastructure for data transport to wired LAN equipment, Cune said.
The person acknowledged that other parties were involved, adding that DirecTV was “one of many” suitors. Media reports have previously identified Time Warner Cable Inc as another company weighing a potential stake in the company.
Representatives of DirecTV and Time Warner Cable declined to comment on Friday.
Reuters reported in April that former News Corp president Peter Chernin had bid around $500 million for Hulu, the service he helped create in 2007. Reuters also reported that Guggenheim had been hired to advise Hulu and was also contemplating a bid.
DirecTV had circled Hulu once before, when the video company put itself on the block in 2011. Other suitors at the time included Google Inc,Amazon.com Inc and Dish Network Corp. Talks collapsed over the price of that deal.
Hulu has more than 3 million subscribers paying $7.99 a month for its premium service, and generated revenue of around $700 million last year. It sells advertising for its free service.
The Wall Street Journal was the first to report DirecTV’s interest late last Friday.
Tumblr, a place for posting cat memes and duck faces, is apparently in Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer’s sights, with Allthingsd reporting that she is the main driver of a possible acquisition. Yahoo and Tumblr are in “had been in serious talks,” with Mayer having had her eye on the company ever since she worked for Yahoo rival Google.
The report also claims that Tumblr has been “stepping up its efforts” recently to raise funding that could value the company at $1bn, seemingly interested in a potential buyout by Yahoo as long as the price is right.
Yahoo CFO Ken Goldman quoted said that the firm is looking to attract more 18-24 year olds, which is the demographic of the blogging service.
“One of our challenges is we have had an aging demographic,” Goldman said. “Part of it is going to be just visibility again in making ourselves cool, which we got away from for a couple of years.”
One of Allthingsd’s closely guarded sources said that Yahoo acquiring Tumblr fits in nicely with Mayer’s plans.
“If you could pick a company that fits in with what Marissa Mayer has demonstrated in her career – aesthetics, software technology and fast-growing – you could not land on a better choice,” the unnamed source said.
The merger will come as no surprise, as Tumblr boasts 117 million visitors each month, the majority of which are in the 18-24 demographic. However, it still remains unclear what Yahoo would do with Tumblr.
Yahoo will reportedly announce this afternoon.
Dell’s profit for the quarter, ended May 3, was $130 million, down 79 percent from $635 million in the same quarter a year earlier. Revenue declined 2 percent to $14.07 billion.
Dell’s PC division was particularly hard hit. Sales for the quarter were down 9 percent to $8.9 billion, Dell said, and the group’s operating profit skidded 65 percent lower to $224 million. Laptop sales were hit especially hard.
Its enterprise business showed mixed performance. Sales of servers and network gear were up 14 percent but storage was down 10 percent. Dell’s services division reported a 2 percent increase in revenue.
Dell is trying hard to build an enterprise software business, which it hopes will eventually generate higher profits than its PC division. The software group reported an operating loss for the quarter, however, as Dell invested in new sales and R&D staff.
Dell’s earnings for the quarter on a pro forma basis, which excludes one-time items, were $0.21 a share, well off the analyst forecast of $0.35 a share, according to Thomson Reuters.
In a statement, CFO Brian Gladden said Dell’s profits were affected by steps it took to improve its competitiveness. “We’ll also continue to make important investments to support our strategy and drive long-term profitability,” he said.
Michael Dell announced in February that he planned to take the company private in a deal with Silver Lake Partners valued at $24.4 billion. The company founder has said he wants some breathing room to focus on long term investments without the constant scrutiny from Wall Street.
Analysts regarded the move — announced today at BlackBerry Live — as mostly positive, since it could help an improving BlackBerry expand its reach beyond its own new Z10 and Q10 smartphone customers.
Today, there are 60 million BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) customers, a tiny fraction of the number of messages sent via Facebook or Twitter. But BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins said BBM users are very active, sending 10 billion messages a day, and half the messages received are read within 20 seconds.
Opening up BBM to iOS 6 devices and above and Android Ice Cream Sandwich devices and above will expand BBM’s reach, Heins said.
“BBM is so great that it’s too good to keep only to ourselves,”Heins said during an upbeat keynote presentation at the event, which is mainly for BlackBerry developers and partners. “Why now? It’s a statement of confidence, that BlackBerry 10 is strong and the response is so good that it’s time that BBM become multi-platform.”
BBM’s interoperability with Android and iOS is now in beta, and will launch commercially this summer, Heins said. At first, only text messaging will be available to individuals and groups on other platforms. Features already available in BlackBerry 10 on BBM such as voice and video and screen sharing will be added later this year, with updates every two to four weeks.
On Tuesday, Verizon, Sprint Nextel and T-Mobile USA joined the “It Can Wait” campaign that AT&T began last year. Next Monday, the campaign will kick off TV, radio and online ads warning consumers about the dangers of texting and driving, and a driving simulator will tour the country to demonstrate how dangerous the practice can be.
Recent studies have raised concerns over the growth of texting while driving and its dangers, especially for teenagers. Almost 43 percent of high school students of driving age had texted while driving in the past month, according to a recent survey by the Cohen Children’s Medical Center of New York.
The co-branded summer campaign, scheduled to run through Labor Day on Sept. 3, was timed for what the carriers called the most dangerous season for teen driving. It will also include messages in Wal-Mart, Best Buy and Radio Shack stores as well as the carriers’ retail shops.
More than 200 organizations are also joining in the campaign. On Sept. 19, just as they did last year, backers of the program will ask consumers to take a pledge not to text while driving.
“They are doing the right thing,” said mobile analyst Jack Gold of J. Gold Associates. “I don’t think anybody, including the carriers, wants people texting while they’re driving.”
At the same time, the carriers may also be trying to head off further regulation of mobile use in cars. Texting while driving is illegal in many states, as is talking on a phone without a hands-free system. However, regulation might someday go further to outlaw mobile use even with hands-free systems, he said. Carriers may also fear being named in lawsuits over texting-related accidents, so they’re taking strong steps to warn against it, Gold said.
Google said it is expanding the amount of free storage for users of its cloud storage service Google Drive. Google Drive on Monday announced it’s increasing the amount of free storage it offers subscribers from 10GB for Gmail and another 5GB for Drive and Google+ Photos.
Combined, Google subscribers will get a net total of 15GB of free unified storage and will be able to share all the additional data among the Drive cloud storage service, Gmail and Google+ Photos.
Clay Bavor, director of product management at Google Drive, wrote in a blog that with the new combined storage space, “you won’t have to worry about how much you’re storing and where.
“For example, maybe you’re a heavy Gmail user but light on photos, or perhaps you were bumping up against your Drive storage limit but were only using 2 GB in Gmail. Now it doesn’t matter, because you can use your storage the way you want,” he wrote.
Google has been increasing its competitive pressure on other cloud storage providers since launching its Drive service last year.
Among Google Drive’s competitors is Microsoft’s SkyDrive and Apple’s iCloud, but the companies most threatened by Google’s move into online storage are smaller specialized service providers, such as DropBox, Box, SugarSync and YouSendIt, according to analysts.
Dropbox offers 2GB for free, and its first paid upgrade option is to 50GB for $9.99 a month or $99 per year.
“[Average consumers] don’t have much of a relationship with these smaller [cloud] companies,” Gartner analyst Michael Gartenberg said at the time of Google Drive’s launch. “The challenge for these smaller companies is reaching out to consumers or shifting to somewhat of a different market; the problem is that Google also wants the business market, the small business market and ultimately the enterprise IT market.”
The new tools represent yet another expansion of the Microsoft search site to make it more interactive and useful as the company seeks to distinguish itself from Google search.
In March Bing expanded its center column to incorporate more social information from Facebook, Twitter and Klout into how it displays search results involving people. In January its right-hand Social Sidebar was scaled out to include more content from users’ Facebook friends such as status updates, shared links and comments.
Previously, users could see that content, but could not interact with it without leaving the Bing site. But with the latest expansion, they can.
“Now you can see what your friends might know about what you’re searching for and engage with them directly without leaving the search page,” Bing said last Friday in a blog post.
As an example, if a person is searching for tickets to a Beyonce concert, and a friend posted on Facebook that she has an extra ticket, the person could comment directly on the post on the Bing site to let the friend know that he would like to join her for the concert, Bing said.
The person has to be signed into Facebook for the feature to work. The tool honors the user’s account settings and won’t share any information without the person’s approval, Bing said.
There does not appear to be any restriction on how old the Facebook posts can be.
The feature’s focus is on surfacing the most relevant information for the searcher, but on average the technology looks at roughly two years’ worth of Facebook data for each person, a Microsoft spokesperson said.
For instance, searching for the just-released film “The Great Gatsby” displayed Facebook posts from as far back as 2011, some of which did not even refer to the recent Hollywood adaptation of the book.
The flow of information between Bing and Facebook goes both ways. In January Facebook announced the beta launch of Graph Search, a social search tool designed to let users discover a wider range of information across the social network. When there are holes in the Graph Search results, information from Bing will be weaved in, Facebook said.
Bing originally rolled out its right-hand Social Sidebar last year, and since then “we’ve been exploring ways to make it more useful,” the site said last Friday.
Nokia will offer a new high-end smartphone through U.S. carrier Verizon Wireless, it said on Friday, hoping to expand its share in the high-margin premium market after years of falling behind Samsung and Apple Inc.
The new Lumia 928, priced at $99 if customers mail-in a $50 rebate and agree to a two-year deal with Verizon Wireless, is similar to the 920 model currently sold through AT&T, but is lighter and slightly different in appearance.
It weighs 162 grams compared with 185 grams for the 920, which some critics had said was too heavy.
The 928′s 4.5-inch screen also extends to the edge of the phone, giving a sharper impression than the curved edges of the 920. The new models also come in black and white compared with the colorful options of the earlier Lumia range.
Most other features, such as a 8.7 megapixel camera and 1.5-gigahertz dual core processor by Qualcomm, are the same as the 920′s.
The 928 is the latest in Nokia’s Lumia range of smartphones which use Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8 software.
Nokia switched to Windows in 2011, aiming to compete with Apple’s iPhones and rivals using Google’s Android system. Sales of Lumia phones have grown in recent quarters, but at 5.6 million in first quarter, they still account for only around 5 percent of the market.
The company has recently launched new products in the lower and mid-tier range to protect its position in emerging markets, but analysts have said its success in the high-margin smartphone market will be crucial for its long-term survival.
Nokia is due to unveil its new Lumia strategy at an event in London on Tuesday.
Games publisher EA believes things will turn around for the company next year. This year has been pretty unpleasant for the company after its trusted DRM sunk its flagship SimCity release.
But Electronic Arts seems to think that is all behind it and has forecast fiscal 2014 earnings above Wall Street’s expectations. EA has been cutting staff and reorganizing studios in recent months to embrace new game platforms. It is preparing a new batch of games including the latest installment of its “Battlefield” shooter game franchise.
Digital revenue, from mobile games, online offerings and other newer sales channels, rose 45 percent year-over-year to $618 million, larger than EA’s packaged goods business in the fourth quarter ended on March 31. It thinks that consumers have held back from buying hardware and software as they await new versions of Sony’s PlayStation and Microsoft Xbox expected later this year.
The video game maker forecast revenue of $4 billion, in line with Wall Street’s expectations. Weakness in the packaged games market dented revenue, but EA recognized $120 million of deferred payments from its “Battlefield Premium” service in the fourth quarter.
For the latest quarter, total revenue declined to $1.2 billion from $1.37 billion a year ago. Adjusted revenue rose 6.4 percent to $1.04 billion over the same period, barely beating analysts’ average estimate of $1.03 billion.
Net income fell to $323 million from $400 million last year.
The app, which takes the place of the home screen on supported devices, puts Facebook much more at the center of the phone. Rather than an app launch or home screen appearing when a phone is woken from sleep, the user sees the Facebook Home screen and pictures and updates from their friends.
“That’s very much in line with our expectations for the launch,” said Cory Ondrejka, director of mobile engineering at Facebook, during a briefing for reporters. “We thought that was a large enough number to start getting data.”
The users are typically early adopters who have specifically searched the Android Play Store to find the app, said the company. Facebook isn’t currently using its main app to promote Home, but word has spread via the social network.
Putting Facebook updates in front of users has led to a 25 percent increase in the amount of time they spend using Facebook, Ondrejka said.
“Facebook is already the most-used app on mobile devices, so being able to bump that is something we are very excited about,” he said.
A new version of Facebook Home will launch Thursday, along with the latest version of the Facebook app.
The latest version of the software addresses bugs, but Facebook is working on subsequent versions that will address feedback and complaints from those first million users. They include a new way to launch non-Facebook apps and an easier way to initiate chats.
The complaints about the app launcher were mostly related to the way it reorganized apps. If users had spent time organizing and curating their home screen, the Home app changed that.
“Any launcher that juggled apps would get this feedback,” said Ondrejka. “Since I’ve spent time curating my apps, I don’t want Facebook to move them around.”
A new version of the app launcher, shown on Thursday but due in a future update, looks much more like the traditional Android home screen.