Tag: smartphone

Survey claims phablets are a fad

More than a billion smartphones and tablets are in use around the world, and research outfit Flurry has detected more than 2,000 unique device models so far. 

Rapid development has resulted in a multitude of form factors, from tiny smartphones to huge tablets, but it appears some of these form factors are just fads. One of the biggest fads, quite literally, seem to be phablets.

Flurry found that so-called phablets account for just two to three percent of device usage. This means there aren’t too many of them out there, despite the fact that major outfits like Samsung have embraced them wholeheartedly. Phablets, with their oversized 5+ inch screens, just seem to be a bit too much for the average consumer.

The survey shows that 16 percent of connected devices have screens of up to 3.5 inches, and it is a safe guess that most of them are old iPhones. Mid-sized devices, with screens ranging from 3.5 to 4.9 inches, account for 69 percent of the market. Phablets got just two percent. 

Moving beyond phones, small tablets with 7- to 8.4-inch screens, account for six percent of connected devices out there, while full sized tablets, with 8.5-inch or bigger screens, end up with seven percent. 

The numbers show a couple of interesting trends. Consumers seem more than willing to pick up small and medium sized tablets, which comes as no surprise. In fact, many analysts believe the next big thing in the tablet market will be cheap and cheerful 7-inchers, like Google’s Nexus 7 and Apple’s iPad mini.

The other trend indicates that overhyped phablets are just a fad. Even upcoming mid-range phones tend to ship with rather spacious screens, while flagship models already feature 1080p screens larger than 4.7 inches. Phablets are now just marginally bigger, with screens ranging from 5.2 to 5.5 inches. The added bulk does not appear to justify the additional screen acreage, it seems. 

Google boss: Smartphones stole my masculinity

Google co-founder and Google Glasses enthusiast Sergey Brin claims that smartphones are emasculating.

Speaking at the TED conference, Brin seemed to imply that if you use a smartphone you might as well put your family jewels in a blender and that the whole Android thing was a sure way to make real men start eating quiche.

He wants men to start using Google Glasses so that they can kick sand into the faces of nerds everywhere and score themselves a proper woman.

Brin went so far as to say that using smartphones is “emasculating” because they did not show you how to use your body.

Smartphones encourage men to walk around hunched up, looking down, and occasional rub a featureless piece of glass.

He thinks that it is much better to look at the world through Joe 90 style glasses as apparently this will make you ooze with testosterone. Brin did not say what would happen if women wore his magic specs.

Brin’s remarks came after Google announced a pre-release version of the device for $1,500. To apply, would-be Glass owners have to pitch Google on Google+ or Twitter using the hashtag #ifihadglass, Network World reports.

Anyone left out of the pilot program will have a chance to buy Glass later this year when it becomes available, Brin said. The final price tag will be below $1,500 but Brin did not say how much it would cost for males to get their manhood back.

Lenovo shows off smartphones

Lenovo has been showing off smartphones which are being seen as a prelude to the much rumoured Intel-based IdeaPhone K900.

According to ComputerWorldthe semi-mythical IdeaPhone K900 is going to be the first of Chipzilla’s significant moves into the smartphone world.

The phones that Lenovo was showing off yesterday at a preview event at CES were ARM loaded. They are also targeted at emerging markets rather than the cut and thrusting US and European arenas.

The models Lenovo displayed included the S720, A800, S890 and K860, which all run recent versions of Android, either Ice Cream Sandwich or Jelly Bean. But what was interesting is that these machines are all supposed to be predecessors to the K900.

Intel has been promising Atom-based smartphones for two years and showed a prototype at CES in 2012. The fact that Lenovo signed up to the dream was big news. Certainly if Chipzilla can get a toe hold into China it could do well. China is one of the emerging markets where low-cost smartphones are driving enormous global smartphone growth, and could be a good base to launch into the mobile market.

Smartphone penetration is only 40 percent of the Chinese market compared with 80 percent in the US. 

Intel has, however, been laying down the groundwork for China’s market over the last couple of years. It struck a deal with ZTE and tencent, while Sean Maloney said in early 2012 that the company plans to win in that market and is well placed to do so.

IBM: You'll be able to 'feel' through your smartphone in five years

Smartphones will be able to ‘touch’ materials through their handset within five years, IBM has predicted.

Researchers at Big Blue are already developing applications for retail, healthcare and other areas using a variety of sensors to give tactile feedback through a touchscreen, simulating the feel of materials.

In the company’s set of five annual predictions, IBM is claiming that within five years smartphones will see advances that heighten the sensory ability of handsets to see, hear, taste and smell, as well as simulating touch.

With regards to touch, it is claimed that smartphones will be able to replicate the feel of a material using haptic, infrared and pressure sensitive technologies as a phone user brushes their finger over a material onscreen.  

Haptic feedback is already used in the gaming industry, providing feedback in accordance with on screen action. With smartphones this could be applied to a handset’s vibration capabilities, producing a unique vibration that is, the scientists claim, able to replicate the feel of materials, differentiating between silk, linen and cotton, for example.

One aspect of the advances necessary to enable tactile feedback is to build up a ‘language’ of vibrations relating to materials. IBM says that using digital image processing and image correlation, it will be possible to access a lexicon of data on texture qualities, allowing a phone user to automatically upload the ‘feel’ of an object through a picture.

As well as allowing designers and fashionistas to touch materials in different parts of the world, or shoppers to feel a wicker basket on the other side of the planet, this could enable farmers to determine the health of a crop by comparing it to a database of healthy crops. This could also mean improvements to tactile feedback on touchscreen keyboards.

In future the technology could even be used to send a doctor a picture of an injury, allowing them to feel and detect any damage that has been caused as a result of an injury.

Although some applications may err towards sounding like science fiction at the moment, IBM points out the advances that have been in the previous five years with smartphone technology, and the multitude of applications that are already possible.

Bernie Meyerson, IBM Fellow and VP of Innovation said that advances in the ability to replicate or detect touch, sound, sight, taste and smell  will increase the ability of technology to make sense of the world around us. 

“Just as the human brain relies on interacting with the world using multiple senses, by bringing combinations of these breakthroughs together, cognitive systems will bring even greater value and insights, helping us solve some of the most complicated challenges,” Meyerson said.

Half of EU organisations give employees mobile devices

Many European enterprises have made devices such as smartphones, tablets and laptops available to staff, as mobility trends in the workplace continue to prevail.

A report from the European Union’s statistics arm EuroStats, shows that 48 percent of organisations in the EU27 have provided mobile devices to their employees, a figure which is much higher for large enterprises.   For the 27 countries, 88 percent provided staff with mobile devices.

Within the United Kingdom the figure was higher.   Across organisations of all sizes, 56 percent gave employees mobile devices to aid mobility and remote working.   51 percent of small businesses (between 10 and 49 employees) have handed people mobile devices, rising to 81 percent for mid sized businesses, (50 to 249) and 93 percent for enterprise class organisations (250 or more).

However the UK ranked lower than other European countries, particularly in the Nordic region, with large uptake in Sweden (63 percent), Norway (68 percent) and the biggest user of mobile devices, Finland (78 percent).

The type of device was equally split between portable computers, such as tablets and laptops, and smartphones or PDAs.  For the 27 European nations 40 percent of organisation providing mobile devices gave staff portable PCs, with 39 opting for other portable devices.    In the UK the figures were 45 percent for laptop and tablets, and 52 percent providing smartphones and other similar devices.

The most common use of mobile devices was to access work emails, with 88 percent of organisations in Europe allowing this.  Less were confident to allow wider access to IT systems, as 56 percent enabled the remote modification of documents, and less than half allowing dedicated business applications.  

This was roughly inline with the UK, with nearly all employees handed a mobile device allowed to access emails and readily available websites, while the majority were not allowed to use secure applications.

Mobile devices are becoming increasingly common in the workplace, as companies both provide hardware for their employees and, in many cases, allow them to bring their own device.  This has helped boost sales for mobile devices as the ubiquity of the dekstop PC is challenged.

According to research released by analyst house IDC yesterday, the total number of smart devices, including desktops, tablets, smartphones and other connected devices grew 27.1 percent in the past year. Unit shipments for all devices are also expected to continue to grow at a fast pace, with rising from 1.1 billion in 2012 to 2.1 billion in 2016.

Mobile chip sales to outpace PCs in 2013

Mobile phone chip sales are set to outpace total PC revenues for the first time next year, analysts house IC Insights has claimed.

Falling sales of desktops will contribute to mobile chips dominance in the demand for integrated circuits (ICs).  IC Insights classes total PC sales as all desktops, notebooks, fiddly hybrid devices, and thin client style systems like the Chromebook.

The report predicts that mobile chip sales, including smartphone chips, will outpace PCs for the first time next year.  Revenues for PC ICs and mobile ICs are expected to be $70.7 billion and $65.1 billion respectively in 2013.

For the past two decades, PCs have accounted for around a third of all IC sales.  This is expected to fall to a quarter of the market this year, before eventually accounting for less than a fifth by 2016.

At the same time mobile chip sales are going through the roof.  Sales are expected to account for 24 percent of the market this year, growing to 32 percent in 2016.

While there have been strong sales of smartphones in developed nations, it is widely expected that sales in emerging markets will see considerable growth in coming years.

The report forecasts that the total PC market will see growth in the years up to 2016. Total sales are expected to reach $348 billion from $268 billion in 2011, despite slow sales of desktops.  

Sales of desktop chips are expected to grow by a compound annual growth rate of 0.1 percent up to 2016.  Notebooks are forecast to grow by a CAGR of 7.4 percent.   

There is little optimism for sales of chips supporting Chromebook style devices, which are expected to decline by 0.4 percent over the period.

Tablets are set for significant growth over the period, with a CAGR of 33.9 percent.  

However the report notes that the IC content value of tablets is considerably lower than that of the PCs.  It is expected that it would take shipments of two tablets to generate the same amount of IC revenue as one desktop or laptop.

The forecasts are indicative of the shifting landscape for hardware sales. AMD announced yesterday that it would pay out $320 million to GlobalFoundries in order to reduce chip orders, to realign itself with declining PC sales.

Meanwhile, reports from IHS iSuppli earlier this week highlighted the strong growth that mobile chip firm Qualcomm has enjoyed, moving into third place place in terms of worldwide semiconductor sales, growing revenues by 27 percent during 2012.

 

11 year old boy burned in Blackberry horror

A BlackBerry which “burst into flames” has left an 11 year old schoolboy with serious burns.

Kian McCreath was woken in the middle of the night when the Curve 9320 smartphone, bought as a gift for his brother, combusted and set his bed alight.

The boy fled from his room after waking up with his legs caught in a fire at the bottom of his bed. He was rushed to hospital with serious burns to his legs and feet after plastic stuck to his skin, which are reportedly permanently scarred.

The family is demanding the mobile is recalled from shops in time for Christmas.

One mum told TechEye that the story was “disgraceful”.

“How can a company that makes so much money not research and ensure their products are safe?” she asked. “They know they will be going to kids, especially now”.

RIM needs this PR disaster like it needs a hole in the head. Still popular with high school students in the UK, largely because of its BBM service, the troubled company has been betting the farm on the delayed Blackberry 10 handsets.

While this may well be an unfortunate freak incident of a faulty phone unfortunately making its way past quality control, the idea that its devices could explode and burn the house down will not win many people over, especially parents.

RIM said that the handset, which had been bought by Kian’s father from a shop in Birmingham a fortnight before, would be stripped down and investigated.

However, it said that it had not yet received the handset or battery charger to carry out the technical review. It also dodged demands that the model be taken off the shelf. 

Nokia raises €170 million by selling off HQ

Nokia is to sell of its headquarters at its Finnish base, raising €170 million for the struggling company.

Phone maker Nokia has agreed a sell and lease plan on its property in Espoo, Finland, creating extra cash for the firm in the short term. 

“We had a comprehensive sales process with both Finnish and foreign investors and we are very pleased with this outcome,”  said Nokia CFO, Timo Ihamuotila. “As we have said before, owning real estate is not part of Nokia’s core business and when good opportunities arise we are willing to exit these types of non-core assets.” 

He added: “We are naturally continuing to operate in our head office building on a long-term basis.”

Selling and then leasing its property back is a tactic also used by another struggling firm, AMD, last week, and will raise cash that can be used to support the company’s restructuring. 

Nokia has operated in the 48,000 square metre building since its late 90s heyday.

The firm has since seen its sales dramatically drop off, as the likes of Samsung and Apple stole the market. Nokia had been the number one phone maker since 1998, according to analysts at IHS iSuppli, before being knocked from its perch earlier this year.

In attempts to turn its business around, Nokia has put in place major restructuring, committing to cut over 40,000 staff since Stephen Elop took over as CEO in late 2010.

However, despite striking an allegiance with Microsoft to support the Windows Phone operating system, the company has failed to set the crowded smartphone market alight, despite generally favourable reviews of its products such as the recently released Lumia 920.

Time, and indeed cash, is beginning to run out for the firm.  In its most recent financial results the company showed that its cash reserves are quickly dwindling. Net cash during the third quarter was €3.5 billion, a 30 percent drop from the same point last year, when the company had over €5 billion in cash and assets.

Better power amplifiers could double mobile battery life

Power drain on future mobile devices could be reduced by half using a more efficient power amplifier which is being developed by an MIT spin-ff company, Eta Devices. 

At the moment, mobile phone chips that turn electricity into radio signals are rather wasteful, providing only around 35 percent efficiency. This means that the majority of energy used to send information is lost to heat, draining battery at a swift pace.

According to TechnologyReview, MIT researchers at Eta Devices say that they have solved the problem by more intelligently determining the need to increase the power needed to send a signal. 

At the moment, power amplifiers use transistors that operate at two levels – standby, and output signal mode for when sending a signal.  However, the standby mode voltage is generally kept high, as big jumps from low to high power can distort the radio signal, and this creates large demands on power, depleting battery life.

The advance is essentially a “blazingly fast gearbox”, the researchers say, and is able to choose among different voltages that can be sent across a transistor used in the chip. This is done up to 20 million times a second, selecting the voltage that minimises power drain.

This method, called asymmetric multilevel outphasing, will help even when receiving a call, or downloading a video on smartphone for example, as the amplifier is busy even at this point, sending out receipts of packets.

Overall this could help double the efficiency of the power amplifier from the 35 percent achieved in most handsets.

The technology is still at the lab stage, but commercialisation, starting with LTE base stations, is expected to begin in 2013.

Huawei readies smartphone push

Huawei has said that it is looking to its smartphones to push a consumer gadgets business to rival its flagship telecoms gear in revenue.

The company is the number-two globally in communication networks, and made three-quarters of its dosh out of connecting wires to computers.

But if Huawei plans to carve out a global brand in smartphones it will get into a smackdown with Samsung and have to fight off a crusade from Apple fundamentalists and patent trolls. That is even before it has to look at the glorious Vole and Nokia alliance.

But Huawei is looking at China as its starter market. This year it will become the world’s biggest smartphone market and it really has all the contacts.

According to Reuters, Huawei expects to ramp up its Android-focused product range with Microsoft Windows 8 phones and tablet PCs, and possibly phablets – phone/tablets.

It is also developing its own smartphone operating system to distance itself from Android.

Biao said that Huawei was devoting resources into coming up with a phone operating system based on its current platform, in case Google or Microsoft refused to let the company use their operating systems.

Wan Biao, CEO of Huawei Device, said that whatever consumers like, his outfit will develop. That means of course the company will have to boldly go into regions where other manufacturers have already had some success.

Huawei expects consumer device revenue to grow steadily at around 30 percent next year, though sales from smartphones will grow faster, at around 40 percent.