Tag: smartphones

Microsoft study sheds light on UK app economy

smartphones-genericMicrosoft has revealed the results of its new study into the state of the UK app landscape and it’s crediting “brave developers” with creating a dynamic little economy. App developers aren’t just IT professionals, there are plenty of hobbyists coding out of their homes and they are joining the fun.

However, it’s not all smooth sailing. Low return on investment is a big concern, as only 51 percent of apps were achieving a reasonable return. App development also requires plenty of new skills and 86 percent of developers believe the skill set is much different from five to ten years ago. Other challenges include the need to design cross-platform apps and potential problems with security and privacy.

Despite these challenges, Britain’s app economy is thriving and 95 percent of developers are optimistic about the future of their niche. Another 86 percent believe current apps have only scratched the surface, while 83 believe demand for custom apps will increase over the next few years.

“The ecosystem of UK developers is growing rapidly, with professionals, hobbyists and a new breed of those responsible for commissioning applications bringing their own unique blend of passion and potential,” says Anand Krishnan, General Manager, Developer and Platform Group, Microsoft Limited. “It’s a world of opportunity – and harsh new challenges. The days of developing for a single platform, a single form factor, even a single kind of device are over.”

Although there’s no shortage of optimism, it’s probably a good idea to be cautious. Some developers were talked to believe app development is slowly transforming into a bubble. As mobile apps mature, there will be less room for newcomers and new ideas. Furthermore, the cost of developing mobile apps is going down, as coders in traditional outsourcing markets gain the necessary skills and start to compete at a fraction of the cost of western devs.

Tablets drive ad impressions

Keep taking the tabletsA survey showed that the Apple iPad accounted for the majority of mobile advertising impressions.

The report, from Opera Mediaworks, is US based and focuses on the third quarter.

There wasn’t a slump for mobile advertising during the summer, the company said, bucking previous years’ trends.

The Apple iOS system grabbed 44 percent of impressions and 50 percent of revenue – that’s based on Opera M’s ad platform, which serves 60 billion ad impressions a month.

But if you substract the iPad from the equation, iPhone and Android are level pegging at 31 percent and 30.3 percent, respectively.

The report showed tablet market share has doubled with iPad and Android tablets accounting for 10 percent of all impressions. That’s compared to the same period in 2012, when tablets seized only five percent of impressions.

Smart watches are a surreal notion

Salvador DaliThere’s not that many youngsters I know who wear wrist watches these days, apart from as a fashion accessory, maybe sometimes.

After all, the majority of kids have a smart phone on them, which is really a supercomputer that tells you everything you need to know, including the time.

So a report from Digitimes Research has me wondering whether the right hand knows what the left hand is doing.

The report suggests the entry of the Apple iWatch will boost the smartphone market, which, in the developed countries at least, has reached saturation.

Average selling prices of smartphones are falling but Digitimes Research seems to believe that if Apple releases its iWatch in the second half of next year, the brand power alone will boost the ASPs.

The research reckons that smart watch shipments will amount to 5.92 million units next year, 22.79 million in 2015 and 75.66 million in 2016, but that’s only if Apple gets its watch out.

Older people tend to wear watches and our eyesight isn’t as keen as youngsters’ – so the development of larger display smartphones has been something of a boon.

You can read more, if you can see the screen on your smart watch, here.

PC market continues to be weak

IDC graphIDC released figures estimating that worldwide PC shipments accounted for 81.6 million units in Q3 of 2013 – that’s a drop of 7.6 percent, compared to the previous year.

But IDC said it had expected a decline of 9.5 percent for the quarter.  It said that shipments were weak in the early part of the quarter but business buys and channel intake of Windows 8.1 based systems happened in September.

IDC said emerging markets continued to be weak, while the channel and vendors were stock heavy on Ivy Bridge systems and eroded by lower priced smartphones and tablets.

Upgrades from Windows XP boosted shipments in the enterprise desktop section.

Rajani Singh, senior research analyst at IDC, said that the US market hasn’t changed that much. There may be a small increase in the fourth quarter, he said. But that will be followed “by a challenging 2014”.

In EMEA the PC market continued to decline with weak consumer demand a shift to tablets.  The channel maintained lean inventories during the period.

The only bright light were “pockets of investments” despite companies still being reluctant to spend any money.

Lenovo is the top vendor and is expanding into the channel, while HP and Dell were numbers two and three.  Acer and Asus both were weakened by lack of spend by consumers. Asus doesn’t have a significant corporate user base.

IT departments nervous about BYOD

threeiphonesMost IT departments are not certain their mobile policies are compliant with both corporate policy and government regulation, according to a report.

Bring Your Own Device means staff are increasingly taking their smartphones into work. Despite this, according to research commissioned by Accellion, an enterprise security company, just 30 percent of organisations have an approved BYOD policy.

70 percent of respondents admitted to being “concerned” and a further 20 percent “extremely concerned” about mobile file sharing.

Additionally, 63 percent of those surveyed want to clamp down on VPN use, and about two thirds have or plan to allow official enterprise content management accross mobile devices. Of course, this means making sure the infrastructure is in place to secure those devices – especially running on sensitive networks.

There was a consensus on limiting or controlling with sites or folders are accessible to staff on mobile, for example, making sales documents available on mobile but blocking access to human resources.

14 percent of respondents were in the process of developing their own corporate app store, with another 14 percent already having one.

Intel becomes irrelevant

The mighty dinosaur IntelIt was formerly a chip giant but pretty soon now some archaeologist will uncover the bones of Chipzilla as the lumbering dinosaur nears the end of its existence.

At the Intel Developer Forum this year, Intel’s newly hatched CEO, Brian Krzanich, attempted to breathe new life into the diplodocus he tends by warbling on about healthcare and tablets. He must realise, of course, that to somewhat mix metaphors, Chipzilla has missed the boat.

The writing was on the wall for Intel some years ago but because the company is such a giant, the tiny brain wasn’t getting messages from its extremities that it was slowly dying.

It is a climate change in the egosystem that will spell the end for Intel because, in the marketing babble of the present age, its business model is clearly “unsustainable”.

Intel could only continue to churn out new processes and chips as long as it had a virtual monopoly in the market.  A new fab costs billions to produce and profit is predicated on the fact that it essentially controlled the market.

The giant appears to have missed the fact that handset manufacturers didn’t and don’t want to be locked into the same model as the PC industry.  Now, anyone with a smartphone or tablet is toting around an extremely sophisticated computer and no-one in their right minds wants to spend thousands on a PC unless they’re forced to.  As recent market research has shown, the days of PCs are pretty much numbered and, of course, like its evil twin Microsoft, Intel forgot about the mantra it used to chant, that mantra called convergence.

It will take a while for Intel to die because it is such a lumbering creature, but a model that requires billions to develop new processes simply based on PC sales just won’t work anymore. And if Intel thinks that tablets or smartphones will save its bacon, then it is living in cloud cuckoo land.

In some ways, we must lament the coming death of Chipzilla.  It had some fine people working for it and its process technology was next to none.  But greed and its virtual monopoly meant that it was viewing the world wearing blinkers and its own momentum and size prevented it from taking vital decisions.

Most CIOs coming round to BYOD

smartphones-genericMost CIOs are happy to let employees bring their own devices to work as the BYOD trend shows no sign of slowing.

IT departments were forced to adapt when personal devices frequently had better compute power and more utility than company-issued Blackberrys. At the same time, there was a challenge in securing devices to make sure sensitive data did not fly off company networks. But when a CEO is wondering why he or she can’t use their iPad at work, and a user’s laptop is better than the company box, it saves cash for the company and keeps employees happy as long as IT can secure the tech.

A report claims over three quarters – 76 percent – of CIOs now let employee devices into the workplace. Understandably, IT managers are concerned about security.

The top BYOD devices are laptops, followed by smartphones, memory sticks, tablets, external hard drives, and iPods.

Managing director of Robert Half Technology, which conducted the survey, Phil Sheridan, said there are a number of factors leading to BYOD’s growth. “Consumer friendly technologies prompt employees to rely on a certain level of productivity at work as they have at home,” Sheridan said. “Only 24 percent of IT directors in our survey said that they do not currently allow employee owned devices into the workplace, so the tide has clearly turned in favour of BYOD”.

It is, however, still necessary for companies to consider their BYOD strategy to prevent any embarrassing data SNAFUs.

Additionally, there can be financial costs in upgrading infrastructure to properly manage employee owned devices, or to provide training. However, almost a third of those surveyed did report cost savings by adopting BYOD policy.

“Although CIOs have security concerns when considering BYOD policies, their teams are best placed to implement the correct infrastructure to support extra devices in a safe environment and to understand the impact of extra devices and apps on the network,” Sheridan said.

Foxconn starts selling TVs

foxconn-tvFoxconn may be about to diversify and try its luck in the smartphone and tablet business, under its own brand. The company has been building iPhones, iPads and a range of other products for years and now it’s selling smart TVs, with a bit of help from 7-Eleven Taiwan.

Foxconn launched its TV assembly business in 2008 and it has expanded it in recent years with the acquisition of manufacturing facilities from Sony. It also bought a 50 percent stake in Sharp’s panel making plant in Japan, reports the Wall Street Journal.

Shoppers in Taiwan can already buy a range of Foxconn tellies and with gaudy ads like this one for a 40-inch smart TV, who could resist? However, the big news is that Foxconn may be about to launch smartphones and tablets of its own, or through some sort of deal with 7-Eleven.

This is not good news for Chinese white-box outfits. They have been performing quite well recently and demand for white-box smartphones and tablets is quite strong, often outstripping growth reported by big brands. If Foxconn enters the fray, the white-box crowd will face a lot more competition.

Foxconn has a lot of experience and capacity second to none, but it doesn’t actually make any crucial components used in smartphone or tablets. This is true of most smartphone outfits except Samsung.

There is no shortage of high resolution panels, cheap application processors, cameras or batteries. Depending on volume Foxconn could get much better prices than small white-box companies. However, it is still unclear whether Foxconn’s push will be limited to the 7 Eleven deal, or whether it will spread to other markets.

The company certainly has the muscle to pull off a global rollout, but this might not be necessary, at least not for now. Foxconn could instead choose to target a handful of emerging markets like China, markets that are not very saturated and that tend to scoop up white-box phones. The exact same markets Lenovo is gunning for. Such an approach could give Foxconn a foothold in the mobile industry through a back door, as it wouldn’t have to go head to head with Samsung or Apple.

IDC expects further IT spending slowdown

pc-sales-slumpIDC has taken a second look into its crystal ball and revised its earlier forecast for worldwide IT spending. Of course, the new numbers are lower.

In May IDC forecast 4.9 percent growth, but now it expects 4.6 percent. What’s more, if tablets and smartphones are taken out of the equation, spending will be up just 1.7 percent. IDC’s May forecast was 2.6 percent.

IDC cites a slowdown in economic growth in emerging markets as the main reason behind its decision to lower forecasts. Growth is slowing down in China and Asia Pacific. Europe is not even worth mentioning. However, it’s not all bad news. IT spending in the US is now expected to increase 4.6 percent this year, up from 4.2 percent forecasted in May.

There’s some good news for mobile outfits, too. IDC expects spending on tablets to be up 39 percent this year, up from a May forecast of 32.5 percent. Smartphone projections are also up, 18.5 percent over 17.2 percent in May.

Unsurprisingly there is nothing good to report on the PC front. PC sales worldwide are now expected to decline 7.2 percent this year. The May forecast was just 2.6 percent in the red. That’s a huge revision in the space of less than three months and the PC market is clearly in worse shape than analysts thought.

Cheap smartphone shipments to skyrocket

android-china-communistShipments of budget smartphones are expected to see significant growth over the next five years, a report from ABI Research has found.

Low cost smartphones are defined as smartphones with a wholesale ASP below $200 and they are making significant inroads in OEM and carrier portfolios in emerging markets.

ABI expects shipments of such frugal smartphones to reach 238 million units. However, as emerging markets start to enter the fray, shipments will hit 758 million by 2018. Smartphone penetration in emerging markets, including BRIC countries, remains relatively low, so there is plenty of room for growth.

“Despite the low cost moniker, research has shown that the feature gap between low- and high-end smartphones is decreasing, making low cost smartphones a ‘good enough’ solution for price sensitive consumers in all markets,” says senior analyst Michael Morgan.

Oddly enough, big players don’t appear to be capitalizing on the trend. Much of the growth is coming from regional and Chinese OEMs, capable of delivering dual and quad-core phones below the $200 mark. Qualcomm is practically the only big name in the mobile industry to design a series of chips and reference designs for such phones. MediaTek is taking a similar approach and it’s making big gains.

However, cheap smartphones aren’t reserved for developing countries. Although most carriers and retailers in the west tend to place an emphasis on high-end devices, many users are going after cheap smartphones.

“We are increasingly seeing low cost smartphones appear as a solution for prepaid operators in developed markets,” adds senior practice director Jeff Orr. “By 2018, ABI Research believes low cost smartphones will account for 44 percent of all smartphone shipments as the market looks to capture the next billion smartphone users.”

Low cost OEMs like Alcatel, Huawei, ZTE and CoolPad stand to make a pretty penny on the trend, along with countless white-box outfits in mainland China.

There’s gold in the used smartphone market

threeiphonesWith millions of smartphones sold each week, the market is quickly becoming saturated and upgrade cycles are likely to slow down, but while this might be bad news for phone makers and carriers, some outfits will cash in on second-hand phones.

According to research firm Sanford C. Bernstein, the global trade in used smartphones might be the next big thing.

“Our analysis suggests that the used smartphone market is poised to explode – we estimate that the market will grow from 53 million to 257 million units over the next 5 years,” said Toni Sacconaghi of Sanford C. Bernstein. “By 2018, we estimate that used phones will cannibalise eight percent of total new smartphone sales, up from three percent in 2012.”

The percentages don’t sound very impressive, but the unit volume does. At the moment, most used phones are collected in the US and sold in emerging markets. Apple’s iPhones are particularly hot and there is plenty of demand in emerging markets, as many customers simply can’t afford new iPhones – and even older models are status symbols in less affluent markets.

Sacconaghi found that iPhones see a lot less depreciation than Samsung’s Galaxy S series phones. Even broken iPhones are selling, which isn’t the case with other brands. Carriers are also joining the fun and they are offering trade-in programmes that actually pay more for phones locked to a competitor’s network. In some cases, US carriers are willing to pay twice as much to get their hands on a phone locked to a competitor’s network.

Piper Jaffray analyst and Apple guru Gene Munster also concluded that iPhones have better resale values that Galaxy phones.

Apple’s build quality is second to none, so most iPhones stand up to punishment better than plasticky Samsungs. Brand snobbery is another factor, but Samsung has some trump cards as well. Galaxies have an easily replacable back cover and a user-replacable battery, which is not the case with iPhones.

Apple is reportedly mulling a trade-in programme of its own, through its stores, reports Forbes.

Smart toys change Brit living rooms

living-roomOfcom research has revealed that the huge take-up of smartphones and tablets is transforming the traditional living room into a digital media hub. Ofcom’s Communications Market Report 2013 found that people are still coming together to watch TV in the living room, but the telly is no longer the centre of attention.

The number of UK adults who watch TV in the living room is 91 percent, up from 88 percent in 2002, but adults and kids alike now have a huge range of distractions. People are streaming videos, messaging, updating their social media status and doing a lot more, all while watching more TV than before. In fact, watching may not be the right word, as the TV now apparently provides the soundtrack for couch surfing.

More than half of adults now use smartphones, almost double the number two years ago (27 percent). Tablet ownership has more than doubled in the past year, going up from 11 percent to 24 percent The average household now has more than three types of internet enabled devices and one in five owns six or more.

So what exactly are people doing on their smart toys while “watching” TV? A quarter are “media meshing” which means they aren’t exactly watching TV, but doing something related to what’s on TV, like browsing IMDB, talking on the phone or texting about what they’re watching. Younger people are a lot more likely to use other media while watching TV (74 percent).

The other phenomenon is called “media stacking”. Half of people use their devices for completely unrelated activities while watching TV. These include smurfing the internet, social notworking and online shopping (16 percent). Women are more likely to media multitask than men, 56 percent compared to 51 percent.

However, ye olde telly is fighting back. Many people are picking up bigger TVs, with panels over 43 inches, but many households are reverting to having just one TV rather than a bunch of sets in different rooms. Tablets appear to be disrupting the traditional TV routine and smart TVs are also becoming relevant.

The growth in ownership of tablets is driving the use of second screens, and enticing people to the main TV room. More than half (56 percent) of tablet owners use their device for viewing audiovisual content and half of these do so while in the living room.

In addition, tablets are a very useful tool for entertaining and educating children. Kids of all ages love anything with a touchscreen and the vast majority of parents say the let their kids use tablets.

The transformation of the traditional living room into a multimedia hub could go even faster with superfast broadband services with speeds of over 30Mbps. However, just 17.5 percent of British homes have a superfast connection right now. People who decided to switch to superfast broadband told researchers that they have increased their levels of streaming high-definition content and started using more cloud services.

Chinese smartphones to shake things up

android-china-communistSales of high-end smartphones are still very strong, but the market seems to be slowly shifting to cheaper gear.

As smartphone penetration rates in developed markets are already relatively high, much of the new growth is coming from emerging markets which don’t have the capacity to gobble up millions of pricey iPhones and flagship Galaxies.

According to IDC, the average price of smartphones has dropped from $450 to $375 since early 2012. As growth is now being generated in China and India, cheaper smartphones are starting to take off. Lenovo stands to gain from the trend, as it already has a very powerful grip on the Chinese market. Chinese players like Huawei and ZTE should also do well. The big losers might be Apple and Samsung, but nobody expects them to sulk and sob in the corner while their lead evaporates.

Apple is apparently working on a cheaper, plastic iPhone, designed specifically to target emerging markets. Samsung and HTC already have mini versions of their flagship phones and although the Galaxy S3 Mini was a disappointment, HTC seems to have cracked it with the HTC One Mini. Motorola’s new X-phone, or Moto X, is set to launch in a week or so and it won’t be a high-end device as many had expected.

However, Chinese smartphone makers still might get the best of big brands. We are seeing similar trends in the low-end tablet market. Chinese manufacturers can respond to changes much faster, they are more dynamic and their costs are much lower. Samsung and Apple might spend hundreds of millions on marketing, but no-name smartphone makers can’t rely on an overpaid hype machine – their only choice is to come up with low-BOM (bill of materials), yet competitive low-margin products, which means China is actually teaching the West a lesson in capitalism.

ABI analyst Michael Morgan told Bloomberg that the days of fast growth in the high-end smartphone market are over.

“It’s the Chinese companies who know how to survive on tiny margins that are ready for the fight that’s about to ensue,” he said.

In other words we may be in for a repeat of the PC price slump of the mid nineties. Chinese manufacturers can churn out cheap smartphones and tablets, much like PCs, but this time around the shift might even be faster. Even if Chinese companies can’t access the latest and greatest in mobile tech, that doesn’t really matter in the mid-range and low-end. Last year’s tech is good enough and it’s cheap, which is exactly what they need.

Furthermore, most chipmakers should have no qualms about selling their latest processors to anyone willing to pay – since most of them don’t have their own smartphone business, although Samsung is an exception. The same goes for most other components and some chipmakers have a vested interest in peddling their own designs. Nvidia seems to be leading the way, as it is already working on reference smartphone and tablet designs. Its next SoC (Tegra 4i) is a mid-range chip with LTE and the first products based on the new chip, and possibly Nvidia’s reference design, should appear in early 2014.

This is also pretty bad news for Nokia, which had hoped to replace its Symbian and S40-based offerings with cheap Windows phones. However, Nokia feature phone users in emerging markets seem to be choosing cheap Chinese Androids instead.

However, most high-end smartphone sales in Europe are still coming from carriers, thanks to comprehensive (and usually quite pricey) two-year plans. If European and US carriers embrace more mid-range Chinese phones, things could change in a heartbeat.

HP thinks about smartphones again

HPHewlett Packard is apparently seriously considering re-entering the smartphone market. In related news, we did some research and found out that HP did indeed make phones at one point.

Joking aside, HP was a force to be reckoned with in the days of Windows Mobile. It viewed smartphones as a natural extension of its once massive iPaq business, but smartphones of the day were just too big, too slow and unattractive.

In 2010 HP acquired Palm and started making WebOS devices, but they flopped. HP launched its last WebOS phone in 2011, but now it might give smartphones another go, although the new generation will probably feature a different operating system and rumour has it that Android tops the list at the moment.

In a recent interview with Indian news agency PTI, carried by The Indian Express, HP Senior Director Consumer PC and Media Tablets Asia Pacific Yam Su Yin said the company is focusing on all market segments. When asked whether smartphones are one of them, she answered yes, but noted that she couldn’t give an exact timetable.

“It would be silly if we say no. HP has to be in the game,” she said.

However, HP might have a lot of catching up to do, but Su Yin believes the company can pull it off.

“Being late you have to create a different set of proposition. There are still things that can be done. It’s not late. When HP has a smartphone, it will give a differentiated experience,” she said.

At this point there is very little to go on, but HP probably won’t be another also-ran Android peddler. It will probably need to integrate a few of its business services into the upcoming phones, and recently the company has been making quite a bit of noise about its cloud services, which should end up on the feature list.

Despite that, we’re not sure we share HP’s optimism. The market is already overcrowded and overheating. It is about to get even tougher as Chinese manufacturers start to look beyond the local market and as some PC component makers enter the space. On the other hand HP has a nice brand to play around with and a top notch sales force.

Samsung Young in shops this weekend

Samsung rules the roostSamsung’s Galaxy Young, an Android smartphone running Jelly Bean, will be available through retail channels and networks this weekend.

The Young is a 1Ghz device with a 3.2″ HVGA TFT display and a 3 megapixel camera. It will ship with the usual torrent of Samsung extras loaded into Jelly Bean including TouchWiz, Kies, Apps and Hub, but where the company wants to differentiate is with its integration with Dropbox.

Of course, there are other cloud services available, including Google Drive, and Dropbox is available to download for free from the Google Play store anyway.

The device comes with 4GB internal storage and will be available in different colours.

The mid-range smartphone is not exactly a flagship device but is more affordable for those who can’t justify splashing out on an S4. Samsung has said it will be available from a “number of networks and online retailers”, but the Carphone Warehouse and O2 are the ones it specifically mentions.