Tag: smartphone

HP to bet big on Windows 8 tablets

HP is planning to bet big on Windows 8 tablets, prioritising business growth as analysts forecast a sales boom.

HP may not have had much financial success with its TouchPad last year, but the firm is intent on grabbing a larger share of the tablet market, particularly in the business space. 

With CEO Whitman indicating a widening of its product range to incorporate more mobile devices, including smartphones, HP is seeking to increase its range of hardware being sold through the newly formed Printing and Personal Systems (PPS) group.

“I would say it is one of the three big investments for the year,” Paul Hunter, Vice President, PPS, UK&I told TechEye at the firm’s Gold Partner event in London.  “We have got growth aspirations for next year, and Windows 8 tablet is big – I would probably put it at the top of the tree. It is the biggest point of customer engagement”.   

With the Windows 8 on the way there, Hunter believes there is an opportunity to sell more business focussed devices, telling us in no uncertain terms that the Microsoft infrastructure for corporate enterprise “is there to be competed for”.

Hunter added that he sees more growth in the number of devices owned per person: “They have got a laptop, they have got a tablet and they have got a phone, and there is not a huge amount of consolidation of that,” he said.  

“Five years ago  it was all about a single device, and whilst quite often the industry is talking about consolidation of devices, we actually haven’t seen that happen, what we are seeing is people with more devices,” Hunter said. “So the tablet is a big opportunity for us.”

Figures from International Data Corporation (IDC) forecast total tablet sales to all areas of the market are set to hit 117.1 million units this year, an upwards revision from 107.4 million. IDC expects 165.9 million units next year, and 261.4 million in 2016.

As sales increase, analyst Tom Mainelli at IDC says that there is “room in the market for others to find success”, with Windows and Android devices finally showing signs of challenging the iPad.

IDC predicts that Windows tablets, including Windows 7 and Windows 8, are expected to make a greater impact over the coming quarters, though they are expected to lag behind Android and iOS for some time. This will mean growth from one percent of the market in 2011, to four percent in 2012, eventually accounting for 11 percent of the market in 2016.  

Recent figures from Context showed that tablet sales are booming in business use as well as with consumers, though Apple reigns supreme in this area too.

Motorola next up for Intel smartphone

Google’s Motorola Mobility has revealed itself as the next smartphone vendor to support Intel’s attempts to make inroads into the market with its Atom processors.

Motorola Mobility, now a part of Google, will release the Razr i in the UK and other parts of Europe, touting long battery life and a 4.3 inch edge to edge Super AMOLED screen. The phone will be released with Android Ice Cream Sandwich, upgradable to Jelly Bean when it is released in October.

Unlike the newly released iPhone 5, the Razr i will feature NFC, while Motorola appears to be doing its best to make the most of the name of its processor, claiming “Intel-fast” speeds that will allow quicker loading for its 8 megapixel camera.

Motorola says that the phone should be able to reach speeds of 2.0GHz due to Intel’s Atom processor.

Intel has been making inroads into the smartphone market dominated by chips built using ARM designs, and has seen its processors used in a number of handsets in the past months.

Who will ultimately win this battle is not clear yet, but Intel has some way to go before it can dent ARM’s monstrous share of the market. 

Apple increases Samsung Galaxy sales

Apple might have scored an own goal with its patent trial victory.

Forbes has found that sales of the Samsung Galaxy S III have shot through the roof since Apple took its rival to the cleaners.

According to Trip Chowdhry, the managing director of equity research at Global Equities Research, customers “rushed” to buy Samsung’s flagship phone the moment the verdict was announced.

He said that two out of three Costco stores were completely sold out of the T-Mobile and AT&T versions of the phone. The third had the T-Mobile version in stock, but was sold out of the AT&T version.

Throughout the trial the Galaxy S III had outsold the iPhone 4S for this month.

Curiously the Galaxy S III was not actually part of the court case and Samsung appears to be able to sell it anyway. So what is going wrong?

Apple made a big marketing mistake. By banging on about how much Samsung copied it, the company told consumers that they could buy the same thing cheaper and from a good manufacturer.

During the court case, Apple had convinced the world, as it had the jury, that Samsung was making the same product, cheaper, and without needing to be locked into its Walled Garden of Delights.

A potential shopper comparing the two would arguably agree that they are similar enough – so why pay more for an Apple logo when times are hard?

Chowdhry thinks that the jury verdict will lead to a cross-licensing deal between Apple and Samsung and the whole thermonuclear war thing will be quietly shelved as being damaging to both companies. 

Nintendo found worst in conflict mineral use

The conditions for workers assembling the dizzying number of electronics goods churned out by major manufacturers in Asia may frequently make the news, but the use of conflict materials has not yet grabbed headlines in the same way.

A report from the Enough Project highlights the problems of ethically produced electronics going deep into the supply chain, with many major manufacturers using materials sourced in conflict zones. In countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, tin and other materials used in electronics are mined and sold in regions where wars still rage. In many cases sale of such materials contribute to the funding of fighting for groups like M23 in Congo, fighting that displaces and kills countless numbers caught in the middle.

Conflict tin, for example, has been worth around $115 million a year to armed forces in the Congo, who then smuggle the materials through Rwanda for sale, according to the Enough Project. Gold, tungsten and tantalum are other materials that are used to fund fighting in the region, and often to go on to be used in smartphones, laptops and other products which are then sold throughout the world.

According to the Enough Project there are firms which are trying to rid their supply chains of conflict minerals.

Intel is one that was highlighted as doing better than most. According to the Enough Project’s criteria, it ticked 60 percent of the boxes for reducing conflict mineral usage, including making sure it traces and audits suppliers.  This is an increase from 24 percent in 2010, but still far from the chips being conflict free, according to the report.

Apple, despite the bad publicity over poor working conditions at supplier Foxconn, was relatively well regarded according to this report. HP, SanDisk, Phillips, and AMD are also at the higher end of the spectrum.

However, very few meet even half of the criteria set aside by the Enough Project. 

Canon, Nikon and Sharp met eight percent of the criteria, while HTC was managed just four percent.

The lowest, however, was Nintendo – deemed to have made “no known effort” to trace materials used in the supply of its devices. TechEye approached Nintendo for a comment but it has not replied.

In a statement provided to CNN, the Japanese firm said that it outsources manufacturing of all its products to production partners and “is not directly involved” in the sourcing of raw materials that it eventually uses.

Nevertheless it said that it takes social responsibilities strongly, and expects production partners “to do the same”.

According to Enough Project policy analyst, and lead author of the report, Sasha Lezhnev, there is increasing public awareness on the topic of conflict mineral in consumer electronics, though “the movement is likely to grow even further”, Lezhnev said, speaking with TechEye.

“Everyone has a personal connection to the war in eastern Congo through their cell phone or computer, but not everyone knows it yet,” Lezhnev said. “The good news is that there is something that each of us can do to make a difference and help companies not turn a blind eye to the abuses in their supply chains.”

Lezhnev urges that consumers reach out to electronics manufacturers and ask them to go conflict-free by “tracing, auditing, and certifying their supply chains”, adding that action can also be taken more directly at www.raisehopeforcongo.org.

According to Lezhnev, the group’s efforts are having an effect. Profits for three of the four armed groups dealing in conflict minerals have dropped by 65 percent this year. Lezhnev believes, however, the fight is “far from over, as minerals-driven violence continues”, and would welcome more input from the US administration on the challenges faced.

Android and iOS claim 85 percent of smartphone market

Android and iOS have claimed even greater dominance in the smartphone OS market during the second quarter, leaving a resurgent Windows Phone 7 in the dust.

Boosted by the continued popularity of the iPhone, along with Samsung’s sales muscle, Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS have increased their lead in the market, laying claim to a combined 85 percent stake of smartphone shipments.

For Android this means an increase to 68.1 percent share with Apple accounting for 16.9 percent.

Such dominance in the market is to be expected. Apple is still holding onto its position in the smartphone market that it opened up with the first iPhone, though it is losing ground to Android, which Google has been keen to get running on almost every non-Apple brand.

The fact that one Android manufacturer happens to be the seemingly unstoppable sales machine that is Samsung has not hurt the operating system’s position. The Korean ODM accounted for 44 percent of all Android sales, mostly through the sales of its Galaxy S2 and S3 handsets.

The chasm between the other players is grim viewing for the likes of Microsoft, Nokia, and RIM.

While Android and Apple take home most of the pie, the rest are left fighting for crumbs: both Blackberry and Symbian saw their share decrease from the previous year, dropping to 4.8 and 4.4 percent respectively. The difference being that Symbian is a dying platform, and RIM still intends to push a flagship product.

For Windows Phone 7 the picture is less clear. On one hand, the OS saw the largest increase in market share, by 115.3 percent, largely on the back of Nokia’s Lumia. The next iteration of Windows Phone will be on the horizon, too, as Microsoft attempts to firmly plant its roots in the ‘post-PC’ era.

Nokia makes good hardware but has suffered from significant brand damage, so for Microsoft to turn around Windows Phone using Nokia for its flagship products is possible, but no easy feat. For now, Windows Phone has just 3.5 percent of the market.

Microsoft’s OS may soon leapfrog into second place, but as IDC analyst Kevin Restivo points out, the mobile OS market is now “unquestionably a two-horse race”, with Android and iOS leaving the rest behind.

Galaxy smart phones don't explode

Samsung has found the reason why there were reports that one of its Galaxy S IIIs caught fire.

It looks like the phone got a bit wet and the owner thought that he could dry it out by sticking it in the microwave.  What could possibly go wrong?

According to Reuters, the investigation by independent Fire Investigations had cleared the Samsung device and said it was not responsible for the cause of the fire, and that an “external energy source was responsible for generating the heat”.

The Dublin user posted comments and photos on a website in June, saying his Galaxy phone had “exploded” while mounted on his car dashboard.

While he was driving, “suddenly a white flame, sparks and a bang came out of the phone,” he said.

Samsung contacted FI-UK, an independent British provider of consultancy services into fires and explosions, to determine the cause of the fire.

It provided FI-UK with several Galaxy S III phones, including the burnt smart phone, for a series of tests.

The investigators found that the only way it was possible to produce damage similarly to the damage recorded within the owner’s damaged device was to place the devices or component parts with a domestic microwave.

The investigation also showed that the unnamed user’s latest comments posted on a web site, saying the phone had been recovered from water and the damage “occurred due to a large amount of external energy” which apparently was used to dry out the device.

“This was not a deliberate act but a stupid mistake,” the user added, according to the Samsung blog. 

'Defective' chips could power efficient smartphones

Smartphone chip makers may be trying too hard to produce high quality chips, according to researchers who believe that some dodgy processors could actually benefit handsets.

The likes of Qualcomm, Samsung or Intel might pride themselves on the churning out reliable chips to support the boom in smartphones, but it might not always be necessary.

According to researchers at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, it is possible to use defective chips and still attain the high levels of performance that are demanded by users.

The EPFL researchers say that manufacturers usually won’t make chips that run at very low voltages and are energy efficient because this would lead to low yields, and because many of these chips would be unusable after production.

But rather than chucking chips that are less than A-grade into the bin, Andreas Burg at EPFL says that a new technique could allow them to make their way into handsets.

Burg’s team developed a simulation system that allowed hardware failures to be tested.  The results showed that it was possible for chip systems to tolerate a large number of cock ups on the circuit and still function reasonably well.

Burg says that, in fact, ‘bad’ chips were more energy efficient as they were able to reduce power consumption by “performing very aggressive voltage scaling”, beyond what is usually possible.

Basically, the technique is similar to that of wireless communications n smartphones, which can function without all relevant data being sent in one piece. Electronic devices are resilient to these distortion in signals, and can still load a web page even if all of the information does not arrive in one go.  

Burg took the same approach to chip design, with the system continuing to function even if data is lost or distorted.

Chips could use the ability to function with a reduced power supply, albeit with a slowed ability to perform certain functions, but the chips would still be able maintain overall abilities while taking less drain on the battery.

If chips were able to switch into this mode then it would mean customers would have access to cheaper processors, and consequently, cheaper handsets.

Of course, whether consumers or vendors hungry for the latest and greatest hardware would be happy to see bargain basement chips hit the market is unclear, but there could certainly be applications where this would be useful.

Some, like ARM, are already working on chip designs that switch between lower power cores when completing less intensive tasks.

While we don’t expect an ARM value range hitting the shops soon, perhaps Burg’s technique is well suited to the requirements of emerging markets.

Remote patient care touted as saving the NHS £3.4 billion

Technology used to provide remote patient care could help save the NHS £3.4 billion every year, a report claims.

According to a report from the Confederation of British Industry, massive savings could be made by the beleaguered health service by making use of advances in mobile technology such as smartphones and tablets.

With the NHS looking to make giant cuts as the coalition waves its axe and slashes NHS budgets, the widespread use of technology could relieve some of the burden on staff.

£1.9 billion could be saved each year by remote working, for example.  This would mean minimising the amount of time that clinicians would spend travelling, filling in forms and checking records, according to the report, and would increase the amount of time spent with patients.

Community nurses could upload clinical information from a tablet or smartphone after each visit rather than having to return to their office regularly, the report suggests.

According to the CBI, interaction with patients through their TVs is another way in which bosses could drive cost cutting.

By using technology for telecare and telehealth another £240 million could be saved across the UK annually, the report claims.

Telehealth systems have already been installed by Newham Council, with staff interacting with patients through their televisions, reducing the need for physical contact and allowing them to remotely monitor patient well-being.

As the use of smartphones and other mobile devices is rocketing across the UK, patients connecting with health workers in this way may be a consideration for some trusts.

Under pressure, Nokia faces stiff competition in emerging markets

Nokia has released a range of cheap as chips Asha smartphones as it aims to regain market share in emerging regions with new low end handsets.

Three models have been released by the Finnish former rubber boot maker, the 305, 306 and 311, all aimed at providing touchscreen functionality and web access at low prices as Nokia target the “next billion” smartphone users.  

The three devices will be very light on the pocket with estimated retail prices to be around €63 for the Asha 305, €68 for the 306, and €92 for the 311.  

Not surprisingly features are as basic as can be expected for such low prices, but all give access to 3G networks and social networking.  The 306 is also Nokia’s cheapest WiFi enabled phone to date.

The slightly pricier 311 meanwhile has a 1GHz processor, a 3.2 megapixel camera, and preloaded Angry Birds for that extra mainstream appeal.

Nokia has been under intense pressure recently as its sales dwindle, while Samsung takes its crown as the biggest phone seller.  

In emerging markets Nokia has been struggling too, with cheaper Android based smartphones hurting profits and helping send the firm on a downward spiral.  

With its credit rating slashed recently to ‘junk’ rating, and its cash reserves in threat of being depleted, the company is under pressure to act fast to return to form.

The Finnish firm will be hoping that the release of its cheap Asha handsets can go some way to regaining lost market share, particularly in emerging regions. Nokia will have its work cut out for it as the low end phone landscape continues to get increasingly competitive, despite it once being a stronghold for the firm in its heyday.

Among others Intel has also thrown its hat into the ring recently, announcing the relatively cheap Xolo phone in India, alongside a Lenovo produced handset in China.  

Coupled with the intense competition Nokia already dealing with, the firm certainly has a fight on its hands. 

“A slide in both shipments and sales numbers of entry-level devices reflect the fight that Nokia has on its hands keeping hold of a lucrative demographic that has bought billions of S40 phones in the past,” Ernest Doku, mobile expert at uSwtich, told TechEye

“In a challenging smartphone landscape, Nokia’s enduring strength in the developing markets remains its strong suit,” he said. “These new Asha devices cement this as being its key area to drive serious volumes. 

“However, Nokia is well aware that it cannot rely on these buyers forever. As the markets have begun to mature, consumers have equally become more demanding of their smartphones.”

For Nokia it is imperative that it can provide good quality when offering higher end specs at low prices, or risk losing out on lucrative emerging markets. 

“If it can make good on the promise of a high-end experience at these kinds of prices,” Doku said, “Nokia could well be poised to retain a tight grip on these essential emerging markets.”

Nano-coated glass to eliminate glare from your smartphone

Scientists have developed a new method for creating glass that could bring about glare-free smartphone screens, cameras lenses that don’t fog up, and even more efficient solar panels.

According to scientists from MIT, an inexpensive manufacturing process has been developed which can be added to glass allowing it to self-clean, resist fog  and repel water droplets – good news for any smartphone users in the UK.

This is down to a pattern etched and coated onto the surface of glass using processes developed in the semiconductor industry.  

An array of nanoscale ‘cones’ are created which give the surface of the glass unusual, but highly useful, properties, such as repelling water droplets which bounce off the surface of the glass. You can see the water droplets in action in the video below.

 

 

By passing glass through a pair of textured rollers while it is still partially molten during production, the team reckons they have developed – and patented – a method which adds minimal extra costs.

As well as stopping your reading glasses from fogging up this could benefit the solar industry. More light would be allowed to penetrate the surface of the panel rather than being repelled, and the self cleaning material stops dirt accumulating and blocking the light over time.

Even cars could benefits by the lack of fogging inside during cold weather, and stopping dirt clinging to the exterior, not to mention reducing glare.