Category: Mobiles

EU roaming charge agreement crucial

Europe with flags - Wikimedia CommonsThe European Union’s digital chief has said that failure to solve the last remaining barrier to abolishing mobile roaming charges across the bloc would lead people to question its ability to deliver on promises.

EU lawmakers and member states are set to hold a third round of talks today on where to set caps for the wholesale roaming charges telecom operators pay each other when their customers call, send texts or surf the web abroad.

It has taken Brussels a decade to reach the point where its citizens will be able to use their phones abroad without paying extra.

European Commission Vice President Andrus Ansip said that it was important to get the agreement sorted out because Brussels has sought to show it works for ordinary citizens.

He called on the negotiators to start showing some “significant flexibility” to achieve a final agreement

The two sides remain far apart on where the wholesale caps for data should be set, with the European Parliament pushing for an initial cap of 4 euros ($4) per gigabyte while member states want it to start at 8.5 euros per gigabyte.

Ansip wrote that if no political compromise can be achieved, people will rightly question its common will and ability to deliver on its promises.

“That is a risk we should not run,” Ansip wrote.

The split on wholesale roaming caps stems from wide differences in domestic prices and travel patterns across the bloc.

Countries in northern and eastern Europe with low domestic prices and generous packages favour lower wholesale caps to avoid companies raising prices in their home markets, effectively making poorer customers subsidize frequent travellers.

Countries in the tourist-magnet south worry that their operators could be forced to hike domestic prices to accommodate the seasonal tourist traffic. They also fear operators will put off investment in networks if foreign operators can gain cheap access to their infrastructure and undercut them domestically.

BT losing a pizza the action after Italian accounting scandal

banner_pizza_The BT Group is facing two shareholder lawsuits in the United States, after a fifth of the telecommunications company’s market value was wiped out in a single day amid a growing accounting scandal in Italy.

The lawsuits accusing the British company and three top executives of securities fraud were filed in the US District Courts in Manhattan and in nearby Newark, New Jersey.

Both lawsuits were brought by individuals seeking class-action status, and named Chief Executive Gavin Patterson, his predecessor Ian Livingston, and Finance Director Tony Chanmugam as defendants.

A spokeswoman for BT declined to comment on behalf of the defendants. BT had launched an internal probe into its Italian business after a whistleblower flagged concerns.

The price of BT’s shares in London and American depositary receipts in New York fell nearly 21 percent.

BT wrote-down its Italian division to £530 million from £145 million after Patterson expressed disappointment with the “inappropriate behaviour” uncovered.

BT reported slowing demand from government and corporate customers following last June’s vote by Britons to leave the European Union. It said that slowdown, together with the accounting problems, would weigh on results for two years.

But the lawsuits accuse BT of having concealed or made misleading statements about the accounting practices in Italy, causing it to inflate earnings and its stock price.

Companies are frequently sued in the United States after releasing negative news that investors say they did not expect.

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Samsung blames the battery for Note 7 fiasco

samsung-galaxy-note-5Samsung Electronics has ruled out design flaws as the reason why its Note 7 caught fire and blamed the two battery makers.

The outfit has delayed its Galaxy S smartphone as it attempts to enhance product safety following an investigation into the cause of fires in its premium Note 7 devices.

The investigation has taken months and Samsung seems convinced that it was someone else’s problem despite smart money being on the fact the phone was too thin to take any battery safely.

Samsung initially blamed battery faults in batteries made by its subsidiary and swapped them for batteries made by another supplier which also caught fire.

What is curious then was Samsung’s obsession with getting the Note 7s off the market when customers were ignoring the recall. After all it would have been easier to issue them with a new battery and had done with it.

Samsung mobile chief Koh Dong-jin said procedures had been put in place to avoid a repeat of the fires, as investors look to the launch of the South Korean tech giant’s first premium handset since the Note 7, the Galaxy S8, some time this year.

“The lessons of this incident are deeply reflected in our culture and process,” Koh told reporters at a press briefing. “Samsung Electronics will be working hard to regain consumer trust.”

However Koh said the Galaxy S8 would not be unveiled at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) trade show in Barcelona, which begins on February 27, the traditional forum for Samsung premium product launches. He did not comment on when the company planned to launch the new handset.

Again if the problem were the battery then this action would be unnecessary. Samsung and its suppliers would have worked out a way to track the fault. However, if it really were a design problem then Samsung would have have to rethink the new phone too.

Another odd part of the story is that Samsung said it accepted responsibility for asking battery suppliers to meet certain specifications and did not plan to take legal action against them.

AT&T kills off first iPhone

apple_iphoneIn an end of an error (surely era Ed.), AT&T has shut down its 2G service and finally killed off the first-generation iPhone.

The 2G shutdown has been planned for a few years  and judging by the lack of outcry from Apple fanboys when the network stopped working there can’t be many people still able to get Steve Jobs’ pivotal shiny toy to go. To be fair it is ten years and Apple normally expects people to replace their phone after one.

AT&T notes that the 2G shut down will free up resources and spectrum bandwidth for the network to use for future rollouts of more advanced wireless solutions like 5G down the line.

Of course, the Apple fanboy could move to Blighty, where 2G is still going. In fact some remote areas are only covered by 2G because it is reasoned that some coverage is better than nothing.

Even within more urban and populated areas that have substantial 3G coverage, there is still a large dependence on the reliability of 2G.

Nokia gets back into smartphones

 

wellington-bootFormer rubber boot maker Nokia is back in the smartphone game and launched a mid-range smartphone for the Chinese market.

The Nokia 6 is an Android smartphone and is being made by HMD which owns the rights to use Nokia’s brand on mobile phones.

The Nokia 6, which runs the newest version of Google’s mobile operating system, Android Nougat, sports a 5.5-inch full HD (1920×1080 pixels) display. With metal on the sides and a rounded rectangular fingerprint scanner housed on the front, the Nokia 6 seems reminiscent of the Samsung Galaxy S7.

It is powered by a mid-range Qualcomm Snapdragon 430 processor and will compete with the likes of Samsung’s Galaxy A series models and other mid-end smartphones. The smartphone is manufactured by Foxconn.

On the face of it there is not much to see there, but really there is not much to see in many mid-range smartphones anywhere. It does have dual amplifiers which it claims can deliver a louder sound but the innovation seems to stop there.

The Nokia 6 will exclusively sell in China through ecommerce giant JD.com for $250. HMD says it will launch more products in the first half of this year.

“China is the largest and most competitive smartphone market in the world,” the company said in a press note, justifying why its long-anticipated smartphone is limited to the Chinese market. “Our ambition is to deliver a premium product, which meets consumer needs at every price point, in every market.”

The idea is to get its brand into China where it can be noticed. The price point of Nokia 6 is very close to the average selling price offered by the top three Chinese players. The mid-end smartphone market is growing 12 percent year-on-year.

 

Chinese ZTE in big trouble

big-trouble-in-little-chinaChinese telecom equipment maker ZTE is slashing about 3,000 jobs, including a fifth of positions in its struggling handset business in China.

The company is already facing US trade sanctions that could severely disrupt its supply chain and is getting rid of about five percent of its 60,000 stron global workforce.

Its global handset operations will shed 600 jobs, or 10 percent of the total, with the cuts concentrated in China. Things have not been going very well in China and the outfit is losing market share.

A local manager in one of the company’s overseas branches said a 10 percent quota was given to shed staff in his department by the end of January.

The US Commerce Department first announced in March that it would impose a ban on exports by US companies to ZTE for allegedly breaking Washington’s sanctions on sales to Iran.

While this has not happened yet it could nobble the company’s supply chain because it relies on US companies including Qualcomm, Microsoft and Intel for about a third of its components.

 

Samsung laughing despite melting phones

laughing-camelSamsung is likely to forecast its best quarterly profit in nearly three years this week thanks mostly to good memory chip sales.

It would have been a lot better had it not for those pesky melting smartphones it released. The South Korean firm discontinued sales of the Galaxy Note 7 phones after some of the devices caught fire, warning of a $2.1 billion hit to its profit in the fourth quarter of 2016 due to expenses tied to an ongoing global recall and lost sales.

But a surge in sales of memory chips and organic light-emitting diode screens for smartphones will provide Samsung with a pile more cash than expected.

Samsung’s operating profit likely rose for a second straight quarter to $7 billion over October-December this is up 37 percent from a year ago, and the highest since the first quarter of 2014.

Memory chip prices have spiked recently on demand for more firepower on mobile devices. But it is the sales of the higher-end 3D NAND chips which have rallied significantly, helping Samsung rake in profits given it is ahead of its rivals such as Toshiba Corp and SK Hynix in the mass production of these chips.

Much depends on how badly the mobile business does with the incredible melting smartphone but most expect Samsung to make a huge profit this year.

For the recently ended quarter, Samsung’s mobile earnings likely rebounded from the dismal third quarter on healthy sales of the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge smartphones, analysts said.

Shares in the company have increased by 43 per cent in 2016 suggesting investors did not expect a serious business impact from Samsung’s name being dragged into a growing political scandal in the country.

Apple sued over fatal crash in Texas

US court in texas

US court in texas

Apple is being sued over a fatal car crash in which a driver was distracted by FaceTime.

The plaintiffs claim Apple failed to introduce technology it had a patent for that could potentially have prevented the driver from using the app. The accident happened  on Christmas Eve, 2014.

Bethany and James Modisette, and their two children — Isabella and Moriah were in the car at the time. The family sustained serious injuries, and five year old Moriah died of her injuries in hospital.

Modisette’s lawyers claim Apple sat on the tech  that could have prevented it but failed to implement it.

The court filings point to a patent that Apple applied for in 2008 (and was granted in 2014) that would “lock out the ability of drivers to use the ‘FaceTime’ application on the Apple iPhone while using a motor vehicle.”

The case alleges that by failing to incorporate this patent, Apple contributed to the death of Moriah and the injuries of the rest of the family.

The company’s “failure to design, manufacture, and sell the iPhone 6 Plus with the patented, safer, alternative design technology already available to it … and failure to warn users that the product was likely to be dangerous when used or misused in a reasonably foreseeable manner … rendered the Apple iPhone 6 defective when it left defendant APPLE INC.’s possession, and were therefore a substantial factor in causing plaintiffs’ injuries and the decedent’s death,” the Modisettes’ lawyers allege.

Pixel has battery woes

lemon batteryGoogle’s Pixel phone might be rather nice, but it appears to be suffering from battery problems.

While these problems do not mean that they do a Note 7 and spontaneously combust, it does mean that they do an Apple and shut down when they still have 35 per cent of their power left.

It looks like they are suffering from the same shutdown bug that plagued the Nexus 6P where the device would prematurely turn off at 25 to 35 percent.

A few Reddit users are reporting that their Pixel devices are also suffering from the same shutdown bug. Some Pixel phones would prematurely shut down at or around 30 percent and would not turn back on until a charger is connected.

Vrski_15, who started the thread claimed that twice in last five days, has the phone shutdown abruptly while he was in middle of something. In both instances, battery was between 25-35 percent, and the phone under normal conditions should have lasted for at least next 3-4 hours.

In the case of the Nexus 6P, Huawei said that this was not a hardware problem but a software-related one. However, users found that the problem persisted even after downgrading to Android Marshmallow. This led Huawei to investigate further with Google, and although the company hasn’t revealed the cause yet, it is probably related to the problem that these Pixel users have been experiencing.

Blackberry licenses tech to China

BlackberryTroubled smartphone maker BlackBerry has done a deal with China’s TCL Communication to make and sell BlackBerry-branded mobile devices globally.

It is the outfit’s first licensing deal since it decided to become a software company.

TCL, which also makes Alcatel-branded mobile devices, will be coupled with BlackBerry’s security software and service suite, Blackberry said.

BlackBerry is betting its future on the more profitable business of making software and managing mobile devices after largely giving up on smartphones.

BlackBerry said in September that would outsource the development of its smartphones, and a month later launched its last mobile device – the Android-based DTEK60, which was made under an agreement with TCL.

The new agreement gives TCL, the fourth-largest handset maker in North America, the right to make and sell BlackBerry-branded smartphones in all countries except India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh and Indonesia, some of BlackBerry’s biggest handset markets.

BlackBerry in September signed a deal giving Indonesia’s BB Merah Putih the rights to make and sell new devices in that country, its largest handset market.