Tag: smartphones

Microsoft waves goodbye to Nokia

nokia-lumiaThe Nokia brand name can’t be worth very much because Microsoft is going to ditch it from its line of phones.

It originally planned to use the Nokia name for as long as 10 years but freshly fledged CEO Satya Nadella is obviously revisiting just about everything ex-CEO Steve Ballmer had committed to.

Microsoft bought Nokia for a rather expensive $4.6 billion but the former Finnish mobile phone unit had already seen its fortunes wane.

Microsoft already had a mobile phone division so plenty of people scratched their heads and wondered why it even bothered to pay that much money for a firm that had seen its day.

Microsoft is currently going through a gigantic culling exercise which will see over 12,000 people lose its jobs.

Microsoft, like its long time partner Intel, has never really hit it big in the mobile phone market.

Future phones will be sold under the name of Microsoft Lumia, it appears.

Bring your own device use grows

tesco-hudl-tabletAs many as 40 percent of US citizens who work for large corporations use their own smartphones, desktops, laptops, and tablets to do business.

That’s according to IT market research company Gartner, which recently surveyed over 4,300 people about their technology and attitudes.

Amanda Sabia, a principal research analyst at Gartner, noted in her report that the lines beween work and play are becoming ever more blurred.

The Gartner survey demonstrated that personal desktop PCs were used the most for work at 42 percent, smartphones by 40 percent, laptops at 36 percent and tablets at 26 percent.

But it appears that enterprises aren’t putting pressure on people to use their own devices with only 25 percent of employees asked to do so by their employers.

The trend is firmly in favour of smartphones and tablets, with 32 percent of those surveyed likely to buy a smartphone, 23 percent to buy a notebook, 20 percent to buy a tablet and 14 percent a desktop PC.

Four out of five of those surveyed have downloaded mobile apps, said Gartner.

Tablets pushed out by smartphones

cheetahAs smartphone screen sizes get bigger, tablet market share is shrinking.

That’s according to Gartner, which said that tablet sale growth is falling and in 2014 will represent less than 10 percent of all gizmos in 2014.

Hardware buyers are hanging onto their tablets and while sales will amount to 229 million units this year – up 11 percent from 2013, the overall trend is down.  For example, in 2013 tablet sales grew by 55 percent.

Gartner beliees that shipments of PCs, tablets, ultramobiles and mobile phones will hit 2.4 billion units this year.  Ranjit Atwal, a research director at Gartner, said the relationship between PCs, ultramobiles and mobile phones is getting ever more complex.

He thinks some people won’t replace a tablet with a tablet but are taking an interest in hybrid or two in one devices.

Gizmos using the Android operating system will hit one billon this year, he said.

Windows for mobile devices in mature markets is growing, but growth is snail like, rather than cheetah like, according to Gartner.

Apple, Samsung want your dabs

fingerprintFingerprint sensing technology has been with us for some time. But it seems that smartphone and tablet giants Samsung and Apple want to promote it a little bit more.

Research outfit IHS said the fingerprint sensor market will grow to be worth $1.7 billion by 2020.

The number of handsets and tablets using fingerprint sensors will total 1.4 billion units – four times the number of the 317 million units that will ship by the end of this year.

While Apple has been at the forefront of fingerprint sensing to date, other vendors are going to pick up the baton, said IHS. Samsung hasn’t yet got to the starting gate but is expectedto do so as soon as it finds a smaller rectangular sensor.

But while fingerprint sensors will have their vogue, swipe sensors will continue to exist, particularly in lower end smartphones.

One important element that will push adoption of fingerprint sensors are financial companies – companies like Mastercard, Visa and Paypal think they will be ideal for mobile payments.

Fingerprint sensing was first pioneered by Japanese banks but saw the sunset when there were several incidents of gangsters chopping off the fingers of victims to access accounts at ATMs.

We’re all running out of juice!

alkaline batteryAs we’re soon going to be swamped by even more smartphones, tablets, wearable devices and notebooks there’s an urgent need for better battery technologies real soon now.

That’s according to ABI Research which said that by 2019 there will be eight billion devices on the planet – a billion more than there are people right now.

If you’ve got a smartphone, you probably realise that the smarter they get the more electricity they take and that trend is going nowhere but upwards over the next few years.

ABI Research points out that the holy grail doesn’t lie with lithium and graphite batteries, nor with micro USB chargers.  But it claims that silicon anode batteries from the likes of Leyden Energy and Amprius, as well as germanium based devices may hold out hope for the charging nightmare we even now face, in 2014.

“The opportunity is enormous,” said Nick Spencer, a senior director at ABI Research. “The average advanced market home has over 10 untethered devices with rechargeable batteries today.” Spencer reckons that if wearables take off, along with electric cars and the internet of things, the demand will be even greater.

But, thinks TechEye, we’ve been promised better battery technology for years and thus far no-one has picked up that particular baton. So let’s see how it all pans out.

Google to gobble up smartphone market

smartphones-genericWant an Android smartphone for around 100 bucks?  Go to India, because that’s where the action is.

Market analysts at IDC said Google has introduced what it describes as the “first wave” of Android One devices in India in collaboration with local gizmo makers Spice, Karbonn and Micromax.

Google – now it’s a hardware company – has produced a reference design that makes it nice and easy to create devices using Mediatek MT6582 system on a chip (SoC) devices.

And Google isn’t letting it end there because it’s already teamed up major mobile firms Airtel and Reliance and pulled in Amazon too to give added value to the reference designs.

According to IDC, it won’t end there, because after capturing the Indian smartphone market it will also launch similar products in Indonesia and then Brazil.

IDC thinks Google is set to sell heaps of phones and “redefine”  cheap smartphones with “good enough” specs.

OK – Samsung and Apple can battle it out at the high end and while there are plenty of Indian folk who can afford to lash out on these, there are an awful lot more folks who, quite simply, can’t.

Google hasn’t got a presence in the Chinese market, said IDC, but can make gazillions out of other major markets.

Hong Kong protestors use smartphone app

Open Garden's FirechatStudent protestors in Hong Kong are communicating with each other by using a smartphone app called FireChat.

FireChat by Open Garden is an app that lets people communicate with each other without needing a cell network.

It is able to do that because it can make use of Bluetooth, which has a range of about 200 feet of anyone else using the map.  It also works with phone networks and wi-fi.

There are versions for Android, Apple and Windows smartphones and tablets.

According to the Taipei Times, over 100,000 people in Hong Kong downloaded the app in 24 hours, last Sunday. One person said people are downloading the app because they were worried the authorities might shut down the networks.

FireChat is apparently popular in India because of poor connectivity.

Some analysts are speculating that the company could be the subject of acquisition because big players like Google and Facebook have the ability to scale such apps globally.

Blackberry loses $207 million

blackberry-juicerThere’s still a way to go for Blackberry even though it launched a new smartphone earlier this week.

The company turned in a loss of $207 million for its second financial quarter.  That’s way less than the $965 million it made in the same quarter last year.

The Canadian company said revenues for the quarter amounted to $916 million – with 46 percent representing hardware, 46 percent services, and eight percent for software and other sales.

Blackberry shifted 2.4 million smartphones to end users and cut down its channel inventory.

John Chen, CEO and chairman of the company said: “We delivered a solid quarter against our key operational metrics and we are confident we will achieve break even cash flow by the end of financial year 2015. “Our workforce restructuring is now complete.”

It said it hoped to maintain its strong cash position in the future and will look for opportunities to “prudently invest in growth”.

Smartphones beat tablets on mobile sales

smartphones-genericA report by Monetate said data showed that mobile commerce continues to grow at a fair old pace.

Figures for the second quarter of 2014 available today showed that mobile commerce traffic rose by 120 percent compared to the same quarter in 2013 on smartphones. Tablet traffic grew by 35 percent and desktop traffic flatlined.

Even though mobile devices now generate 16 percent of all ecommerce traffic, revenue is less than four percent.  And mobile customers are more fickle with a 50 percent higher bounce rate, and a 30 percent lower “add to cart” rate.

Further, people using smartphones are 10 percent more likely to abandon a transaction.

“Mobile commercial traffic is increasing dramatically as consumers become more comfortable shopping via mobile [phones],” said Lucinda Duncalfe, CEO of Monetate.  “But the low conversion rates imply that brands need to create more relevant persnalised mobile experiences to take advantage of the opportunities.”

IBM, which contributed to the survey, said companies need to rethink their mobile strategies.  Jay Henderson, strategy director at IBM ExperienceOne said: “It’s a fairly complex process that involves reworking sites, using data to improve nagivation and deepen connections.”

The survey analyses a random sample of over seven billion online episodes.

Apple claims sales record for iPhone 6

Apple's Tim CookGizmo firm Apple claimed it sold over 10 million iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus phones in the three days after it was launched by CEO Tim Cook. (pictured)

The phones are available in the UK, Singapore, Puerto Rico, Japan, Hong Kong, Germany, France, Canada, Australia and the USA – and will be sold in 20 more countries on September 26th.

Cook said that while there are supply constraints on the iPhone 6, the launch is Apple’s best ever.

The phones uses Apple’s A8 chip which is a 64 bit microprocessor, touch app Apple Pay and 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch retina HD displays.

The phones also come with an upgrade to the operating system, iOS 8, which offers new features including predictive typing and a Health app.

Apple is using its familiar trick of charging quite a bit extra depending on the memory. In the US, for example the magic figure is a $100 hike between the 16GB, 64GB and 128GB models.

4G phones enter price war phase

SnapdragonFierce competition in the smartphone chipset and microprocessor market means prices of devices are likely to drop next year.

Smartcom, Qualcomm, Marvell and Broadcom are all competing in offering 32-bit quad core devices all hovering around the $8 to $9 mark.  They are eyeing up Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 210 which costs $9 in bulk, according to suppliers that have talked to Digitimes.

It’s interesting that Intel doesn’t seem to be involved in this price war because it’s usually the first on the block to trigger price wars.  That could indicate its tardiness in joining the smartphone fray.

There is growing demand for 64-bit eight core units which as part of the bill of materials cost around $15-$20.  Four core CPUs cost around $12-$15.

All of this means a scrabble on behalf of the component suppliers which may well lead to cheaper overall bills of materials for smartphones.

Toshiba releases 20 megapixel sensor

Toshiba imageThe chip division of Japanese giant Toshiba said it has started making fast 20 megapixel CMOS image sensors aimed at the high end smartphone market. Samples went out last month and full production will start in February next year.

That type of censor will give a smartphone the kind of capabilities more associated with high end and expensive digital cameras.

The sensor, bilt on a 1.12 micron CMOS process has an optical size of ½.4 inch and lets camera modules on smartphones be built to a-height of 6mm or less.  The chip has a pixel count of 5384×3752 with digital zoom capabilities, and includes 16Kbit memory.

The sensor – dubbed the T4KA7 – ddelivers a frame rate of 22 frames per second at full resolution image capture.  That’s an improvement of 83 percent compared to Toshiba’s previous 20MP sensor.

A Toshiba representative said that the sensor will let manufacturers to design next generation ultrathin, power aware high end mobile products.

The sensor will cost around $20 when bought in volumes.

Toshiba said that the CMOS image sensor market will experience a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10 percent between 2013 and 2018, with revenues reaching $13 billion.

World moves to smartphones

shoe phoneFortune tellers at the Groupe Speciale Mobile Association (GSMA) have been consulting their tarot cards and are predicting that either there will be a tall dark stranger who will ask them out to lunch, or by the end of the decade, there will be nine billion mobile connections across the globe.

If it is the latter meaning, GSMA predicts that while three billion of those connections will be data terminals, dongles, routers and feature phones, the other two thirds will be smartphone handsets.

The organisation claims that the smartphone market is poised for huge growth over the next six years.  There are currently two billion handsets in active use.  It predicts that the demand is being driven by people in emerging countries.

In a report with the catchy title,  Smartphone forecasts and assumptions, 2007-2020, the GSMA said that developing economies overtook mature markets such as the US and western Europe in 2011.

GSMA chief strategy officer Hyunmi Yang said that in the hands of consumers, these devices are improving living standards and changing lives, especially in developing markets, while contributing to growing economies by stimulating entrepreneurship.

“As the industry evolves, smartphones are becoming lifestyle hubs that are creating opportunities for mobile industry players in vertical markets such as financial services, healthcare, home automation and transport,” he said.

Asia Pacific already accounts for half of global smartphone connections yet smartphone penetration is still below 40 percent in the region, even when China’s 629 million smartphone connections are included.

By the end of the decade, emerging countries will account for four in five smartphone connections, as regions like North America and Europe hit the 70-80 percent mark and growth drops off.

The fastest growing region is expected to be sub-Saharan Africa. When figures are based on smartphone adoption as a percentage of all mobile connections, the region currently has the lowest adoption rate of 15 percent in the world.

However, the wider availability of affordable handsets and the roll-out of networks are expected to change everything.

The GSMA claims that the main factors driving smartphone adoption in emerging countries is falling prices. The price difference between feature phones and smartphones is getting smaller and smaller and $50 smartphones are now a reality.

Mature markets have seen operator subsidies and the roll-out of 4G networks helping to maintain growth in the premium end of the market, while more intelligent, individualised data plans are also helping to win consumers over from feature phones in all markets.

“Smartphones will be the driving force of mobile industry growth over the next six years, with one billion new smartphone connections expected over the next 18 months alone,” said Yang.

Curved screens don’t yet make the grade

curvyA report said that even though products from Samsung and LG that use flexible OLED materials for displays, they’re not really curved screens yet.

Strategy Analytics (SA) said Samsung’s launch of the Note Edge last week and the LG G-Flex a few months back took curved screens one step closer to reality.

However, SA said that these smartphones are not really flexible screens but rather have curved rigid screens.

OLED screens offer a number of benefits over LCD screens because they are lighter, thinner and probably last longer.

But these devices are the precursors to truly flexible second generation screens which will offer new deisgn such as smartphones with tablet sized foldable screens.

“A number of challenges will need to be overcome,” said Stuart Robinson, director at Strategy Analytics. “More of the phone’s components need to be flexible to make a truly flexibile phone, not just the display. This includes the cover material, the batteries as well as the semiconductors and other components.”

Other challenges include tools and processes that will allow cost effective volume production, he said. The thinks it’s likely that flexible OLED displays will become the preferred display tech in products within the next 10 years.

Smartphones to aid Parkinson’s victims

smartphones-genericA team of software developers at Aston University have designed tech that will help doctors diagnose Parkinson’s disease.

According to the BBC, it is hard for doctors to be sure of a diagnosis without being able to monitor their speech and movements over a period of time.

But because smartphones have motion detectors, GPS capabilities as well as a microphone, it’s possible to provide additional data for doctors once a patient has left a surgery.

Apparently, changes in people’s voices can be an early symptom of the disease and in a recent study 17,000 individuals provided voice samples over the phone. And motion sensors can be used to measure the way a person moves.

Aston University, in cooperation with the University of Rochester NY are looking for 2,500 people to download the app to their smartphones and perform different tests.

You can find more at the BBC, here.