Tag: smartphone

Nokia on the ropes after credit rating downgraded to 'junk'

Nokia has been given a stark warning over its future financial position after it received a severe kicking from credit ratings firm Fitch.

Fitch has downgraded the Finnish phone maker’s rating to ‘junk’, dropping BBB- to BB+, as the company becomes less viable for investment than your average Eurozone nation.

In order to avoid further negative action, Nokia needs to start performing quickly.  Following some concern from other credit ratings agencies such as Moody’s last week, this is not something Fitch is particularly hopeful of.

The mobile firm needs to “stabilise revenues” and start generating cash if it is to be considered for an upgrade any time soon, a statement read.

However, the ratings agency said that “given the potential headwinds facing the company” it is not convinced that this will happen in the next 18 months.

Indeed the firm is being buffeted from various angles as its business receives stiff competition from both its high end Lumia smartphone range, and its lower end models.

CEO Stephen Elop had hoped that the Lumia would be able to turn around the fortunes of the ailing company, aided by a marriage of convenience with Microsoft.   

Of course, as Nokia’s recent results show, this has not exactly gone to plan.   In fact Stephen Elop’s “burning platform” is turning into a sinking ship as it struggles to flog its smartphones in a highly competitive market.

Despite some initial optimism for the link up with Windows, it appears the decision may have fallen flat as mobile operators claimed Android might have been a better fit.

Even in emerging markets such as India, a stronghold for Nokia in the past, the phone maker is seeing its profits eroded as vendors producing cheap Android handsets make life difficult at the lower end too.

Such is the dire picture for Nokia that Fitch paints, even a partial success with its Lumia range is not likely to be enough to make up for losses throughout the rest of its business.

Nokia has a built up a sizeable pile of cash over the years, from sales of rubber boots right through to the flagship 3210.  Its results showed it had around €4.9 billion in the bank. 

But unless the firm returns to its winning ways soon, then that fortune will quickly dwindle.

Baidu contracts Foxconn for cheap smartphone

Baidu and Foxconn are reportedly embarking in cosy discussions about building a low priced smartphone, which will run the Chinese web company’s mobile operating system.

According to the rumour mill, the phone will cost around $159 (1,000 RMB) and include
a 3.5-inch touchscreen, 1400mAH battery and high-resolution camera.

As well as running Baidu’s “Yi” OS, there will also be software such as Baidu’s cloud storage service, Baidu Music and Baidu Maps.

This isn’t the first mobile phone move by Baidu. Late last year the Chinese giant went into partnership with Dell. However, their mobile offspring – the Dell Streak Pro D43 – is said to be targeted at business users and has higher specs and a $474 (2,999 RMB) smartphone price tag than the rumoured Foxconn phone.  

In previous reports, Baidu CEO Robin Li said the company had earmarked mobile as an important growth channel.

And Foxconn is of course no stranger to the handset market having produced the Android-powered Journey A890 budget handset for the Indonesian manufacturer Nexian as well as making gadgets for Apple, HP and Best Buy.

Baidu is expected to report its first quarter results next Tuesday and according to Forbes the outlook is positive. It is predicted that the company will announce a profit of around 84 cents a share, which Forbes says is a rise from 47 cents per share last year.

The company’s revenue is thought to rise by 82.1 percent to $677.5 million for the quarter from last year’s $372 million. For the year, analysts forecast a revenue of $3.57 billion.

Nokia teeters on the edge with abysmal results

Nokia has announced its financial results, and they are pretty grim for the Finnish phone maker.

Operating losses for the first quarter totalled a massive €1.34 billion ($1.76 billion) as the firm took a battering from its competitors.

This compares with an operating profit of €439 million ($576 million) in the same period last year as the “burning platform” CEO Steven Elop took over threatens to sizzle to a crisp.  

Revenues were also down 29 percent to €7.39 billion ($9.7 billion) amid rumours of a staff cull.

Earlier in the week investors were warned to stay away with its rating lowered to one above “junk” by Moody’s Investors services.

“We are navigating through a significant company transition in an industry environment that continues to evolve and shift quickly,” Elop said in a statement upon announcement of the results. 

Elop cited “greater than expected competitive challenges” for seeing the phonemaker dip into a large loss.

Despite the decent reception of the Lumia devices, some reception hiccups aside, it seems that there is still a long way to go if Nokia is to keep fighting.

The firm still claims to have €4 billion of net cash on its balance sheet, but with a few more performances like this it will be back to making rubber boots for the Finnish firm.

Part of the problem has also been the attack on its low end phone business.  Nokia has always performed well in India, for example, but it is in emerging markets like this that Nokia has faced a stiff challenge from cheaper Android handsets.

Elop says the firm will focus efforts in the “low-end of smartphones and feature phone assets to drive improved business results and conserve cash”.  This will mean continuing to renew its Series 40 offerings which have proved popular.

At the high end, the firm is struggling to differentiate itself despite ad campaigns trying to highlight how one shiny touchscreen phone can be different from another. Customers are repeatedly leaning towards Android and iOS rather than Windows.

If it does not manage to solve its conundrum soon, the promise of a powerful Nokia / Windows partnership could soon be at an end.

According to uSwitch mobile expert Ernest Doku, Nokia will have to move fast to avoid disaster.

“This massive net loss proves Nokia’s illustrious past as a top mobile manufacturer counts for nothing on the cutthroat smartphone scene,” he told TechEye.

“The Finnish firm’s great white hopes, the new flagship Lumia 900 and Lumia 710, are slick and well-made and the Windows Phone platform performs on a par with the best Android devices. But whether or not these will improve Nokia’s performance going forward remains to be seen.”

He reckons that putting all of its eggs in one basket is not helping its survival prospects.

“You do get the sense that Nokia has pinned all its hopes on one flagship phone, and if you’re not Apple that’s risky game play. This is something Samsung has recognised, hitting the market with its fleet of Galaxy handsets,” he said.

In the low end segment Nokia is also in trouble.

“Nokia’s Asha phones are popular in developing markets but this is fast becoming just as competitive as the high-end smartphone scene in the developed world,” Doku said.

Microsoft "developed smartphone two decades ago" – claim

Software king of the world Microsoft had a modern smartphone prototype sitting on Bill Gates’ desk nearly 20 years ago.

Former chief technology officer, turned super chief Nathan Myhrvold told Men’s Journal how he tried to convince Microsoft to make the iPhone, basically, more than two decades ago.

In 1991, Myhrvold worked out how a smartphone would appear down to the smallest detail. He said that would be a “digital wallet” that would consolidate all personal communication — telephone, schedule manager, notepad, contacts, and a library of music and books, all in one.

He thought it would record and archive everything and could be in the shops for about $400 to $1,000 retail price.

At the time, though, Microsoft thought that such a toy was too expensive and it did not want to take many risks at that point of its existance.

Myhrvold said that he was still fairly happy about the iPhone thing. At least it meant he was right. He does not need to care much he is making a fortune with his cookbooks, and patent trolling.

 

Smartphones sales set to cross a billion

Analysts for Credit Suisse have been shuffling their tarot cards and have worked out that either sales of smartphones will cross a billion a year by 2014, or Prince Harry will meet a tall dark handsome stranger.

Pumping for the former interpretation, Credit Suisse says that  the key factor in the prediction is Chinese customers who are just getting interested in smartphones and will want cheap and cheerful versions.

According to Barrons, Credit Suisse thinks that sales across the world will grow about 46 percent to 687.9 million units this year and will touch 1.05 billion units in 2014.

Kulbinder Garcha wrote in his report that he was confident that there would be robust growth for the smartphone market in China – and this will account for 22 percent of global units by 2015.

While many are writing the company off, Credit Suisse expects Nokia to drive earnings recovery in 2013 and gain an 11 percent market share in the long term, based on carrier support, competitive pricing and strength in brand and distribution.

The analysts also expect Samsung and Huawei to gain market share.

Woodern spoons will be awarded to Motorola Mobility, HTC and Sony. BlackBerry maker Research In Motion appears to be rapidly declining, the analyst claims. 

'Internet' chips speed up multicore computing

With the numbers of cores on a chip rising, designers could soon be looking to the internet for ways to improve communication speeds between cores.

Right now, there is an emphasis on adding more cores to the chip to increase computing speeds.  Even smartphones are beginning to see quad cores burning a hole in your pocket.

With multi-core chips it is possible to achieve faster speeds because tasks can be split between a number of cores, giving advantages over a single core. With a small numbers of cores this presents little problems.

Communications between four, six or eight cores might be okay with a bus currently used on processors, problems can be encountered with processors using hundreds or thousands of cores in the future. 

With a bus, only a pair of cores at a time are able to communicate directly, placing limits on speeds. There is a need for high end servers to add an extra bus once more than eight cores are strapped together. With the number of cores set to rise significantly, this causes problems – and the engineers say that continuing to add more and more buses won’t work.

For example, adding in a load of buses means that a system will require a lot more power.

According to the team, a potential answer is to follow the way information is passed around the web.  This means communicating with other cores in the way that computers accessing the internet do, and forming the data being sent into packets.

Each chip would have its own router, and would be able to send information down a number of paths rather than just being tied to one core.

This would allow communication with the four nearest cores, allowing for lower voltage systems.

One of the problems with on chip networks is that when two packets arrive at one router, one has to wait in line while the other is processed.  This could, in fact, slow processing down.

However, with ‘virtual bypassing’ sending a signal ahead to the router, the team reckons it can avoid packet gridlocks.

Using this router method, the researchers have conducted tests where they have reached close to the theoretical maximum speed for data transfer.

Another approach, known as low-swing signalling, involves a power reduction in the high and low voltages needed to create the ones and zeroes of a digital signal. Along with virtual bypassing, a test chip was able to achieve energy savings “orders of magnitude” that of a bus.

Nokia starts selling Microsoft phones in China

For a long time Nokia was the King of the Eastern telephone networks but failed to tackle the increased numbers of smartphones from Apple and Samsung and saw its sun set.

Now it seems that Nokia is banging on the back door asking if it can have its market back. This time instead of Symbian based phones it is using Microsoft’s Windows Mobile 7.

Nokia’s push in China is a test run for the Windows 8 release. So far the operating system has had limited success in Europe and the United States.

According to Reuters,  Nokia Chief Executive Stephen Elop wants to use models based on the Lumia 610 and Lumia 800 smartphones.

The Lumia 800C will be sold without a carrier contract for $573 from April. Pricing for the cheaper 610C model, to launch in China in the second quarter, will be announced later.

The phone models will be based around the CDMA technology of China Telecom, the nation’s third-largest carrier. Nokia plans to bring all four Windows Phone models to the Chinese market in the second quarter and also adopt China Unicom’s wireless technology.

Eventually the plan is to have the Nokia Windows Phones will eventually run on all three of China’s mobile networks including China Mobile. 

Cops can crack a smartphone in minutes

A Swedish insecurity company is making a killing selling smartphone hacking software to the world’s police.

Micro Systemation, which is based in Stockholm, claims it can make meat balls of the smartphone security. Anyone can be in an iPhone within two minutes.

The company published a video on YouTube showing how its software, dubbed XRY, can quickly crack an iOS or Android phone’s passcode, dump its data to a PC, decrypt it, and display information like the user’s GPS location, files, call logs, contacts, messages, even a log of its keystrokes.

 

Mike Dickinson, the firm’s marketing director,  said that the company sells products capable of accessing passcode-protected iOS and Android devices in over 60 countries.

He has apparently sold the software to 98 percent of the UK’s police. Its biggest customer is the US military which identifies people by looking at mobile phones.

Micro Systemation is laughing all the way to the bank. It has grown by 25 percent a year and earned $18 million in revenue in 2010 up from $12 million the year before, and doubled its employees since 2009.

XRY is based on a jailbreak hack that allow users to remove the installation restrictions on their devices.

The iPhone has a huge hole which he is not talking about in case Apple closes it. Micro Systemation does not use backdoor vulnerabilities in the devices created by the manufacturer.

The company says it sits down every week and reverse engineers each phone. In the case of the iPhone, the tool “brute forces” the phone’s password and guesses  every possible combination of numbers to find the correct code.

Users who set longer passcodes for devices can in fact make the devices far tougher to crack, he told Forbes. 

Windows overtakes Symbian in the UK

The numbers of smartphones with Microsoft Windows software have surpassed those using Nokia’s old Symbian system in Britain.

According to research released by Kantar, the figures for the last three months to mid-February, after the launch of Nokia’s Windows-based Lumia 800 model, showed Microsoft’s market share rose 5-fold to 2.5 percent in the British market.

Market share for Symbian decreased to 2.4 percent from 12.4 percent a year earlier, according to Kantar.

Generally though the British market is dominated by Google’s Android with a 48.5 percent share and Apple with 28.7 percent.

Kantar claims that the result shows how well Nokia had shifted to Windows Phone 7 (WP7) and there were strong signs that WP7 Nokia handsets are starting to make an impact on the European smartphone market. Lumia 800 took 87 percent of Windows Phone sales in Britain

Kantar analyst Dominic Sunnebo said that the fact that WP7 sales have overtaken Symbian based on one handset is encouraging.

He warned that Nokia will need to expand its range quickly in order to keep up with next generation competitor products being launched in the second quarter.

Smartphone tells if you are angry

Researchers working for Samsung have emerged from their smokefilled labs with a smartphone with tells if you are angry.

Apparently it does not need specialised sensors or cameras, but it works out your emotional state based on how you are using the phone.

It looks at the speed at which a user types, how often the “backspace” or “special symbol” buttons are pressed, and how much the device shakes.

Apparently these enable the machine to work out if user is happy, sad, surprised, fearful, angry, or disgusted.

Hosub Lee, a researcher with Samsung Electronics and the Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology’s Intelligence Group told Technology Review such inputs may seem to have little to do with emotions, but there are correlations between these behaviours and one’s mind, which the software’s machine-learning algorithms can detect with an accuracy of 67.5 percent.

Samsung is showing off the phone at the Consumer Communications and Networking Conference next week. It is designed to work as part of a Twitter client on an Android-based Samsung Galaxy S II.

It enables people in a social network to view symbols alongside tweets that indicate that person’s mood.

Lee said the system could trigger different ringtones on a phone to convey the caller’s emotional state or cheer up someone who’s feeling down.

Sadly he seems to think that a phone showing a funny cartoon to make the user feel better, so we are not sure if he has really got the idea about what will cheer us up first thing on Monday morning.

He said that later emotion detection is likely to attract the interest of advertisers who can provide more personalised services depending on your mood.