Friday, 29 November 2013

The Tech & Musing Christmas Guide: Tablets

The second in the Tech & Musing Christmas Guide takes a look at the tablets on the market. Despite another year of iPad dominance in the tablet sector, the three recommendations below offer plenty of variety in the operating system stakes. See what you think:

Low range: Nexus 7

One of my favourite products from 2012 makes another appearance in the 2013 list. Given its price, and ability, I still believe it is the best choice for the everyday user wanting a tablet for the basics. It's direct competitor - the iPad Mini - has a poorer resolution, less power and a poorer battery life - all for a significant chunk more money. It's no contest. I maintain that if you're in the market for an iPad - just splash out a little more on the iPad 2 (below).
      Anyway, back to the Nexus 7. 2GB RAM, an HD screen and 9 hours of video playback, for that price, it's a no-brainer of a purchase. If you're looking for something a little cheaper, a little smaller - but even if you've got the scope to spend higher, don't ignore the Nexus 7, by any means. Oh - did I mention wireless charging? Yeh, it has that as it's cherry on top. 

Mid range: iPad 2

It was always going to be on my list, but the iPad is still the king of tablets. Android simply isn't offering the alternative challenge to the iPad, and if you want anything larger than a 7" tablet, the iPad is the best route to go. Now, with the huge number of iPad's available (and with barely discernible names), which should you buy?
     The one on your lips might be Apple's attempted Christmas smash - the iPad Air - but despite an inspiring ad, it's a thoroughly uninspiring product. Your money would be best-placed by spending it on the iPad 2. It's still a top-quality device and you save a significant amount by picking up a slightly older version.

Top range: Surface Pro 2

Perhaps a surprise addition on this list, the Surface Pro 2 is my 'money is no object' recommendation for a tablet this Christmas. At an eye-watering price of £800, it certainly won't be the tablet of choice for many, but it's the only competitive tablet on the market that can function as a laptop as well. The original Surface had its problems, but was an impressive device - the Surface Pro 2 rectifies those issues, and adds a whole lot more. Don't despair if you want a Surface but not at the Pro 2 price, you can pick up the original Surface, or Surface 2 for half the amount.

If you haven't tried a Surface, I would. It's a solid device, and one that is enjoyable and importantly, useful. If you want that tablet-laptop hybrid, the Surface 2 is your best option.

So, what do you think? Have I missed anything off the list? As always, if you're interested on other tablets, get in touch.
Keep an eye on the blog for the next in the Tech & Musing Christmas Guide - laptops.

Will KitKat finally satisfy the craving for less Android OS fragmentation?

"I'd like to move away from Apple, but the iOS ecosystem is just better than Android". It's a common quote - and understandably so. When Apple updated phones to iOS 7 - 90% of live Apple devices were operating it within a month. Whilst not being great for a vast number who have struggled with the update (especially battery life), this is great for Apple. Android have never experienced that luxury. 

There are 10 versions of the Android OS in circulation on smartphones, from the initial Android Donut to the latest Kit Kat - and Android 4.0 upwards (in my eyes, the turning point when the OS started to compete with iOS) only represents 61.2% of this. Therefore, only 61.2% of Android users are being treated to the best that Android can offer, that simply isn't good enough. There are still around 30% of Android users stuck behind on Android 2.3.3 (Gingerbread). Android is a different beast to what it was back then.

So why is Android 4.4 (KitKat) different? Simply put; it has been built to run on all Android devices from 512mb upwards (i.e 99% of them). This has been proven by the geniuses over at xda, who have put Android 4.4 onto the Nexus One and have seen brilliant results.

So why does having a consistent OS version make a difference? Surely it just helps those with poorer phones, and doesn't impact upon those with phones on Android 4.0 upwards? Partly true.
      For a start, as mentioned before, those with earlier Android devices would see a dramatic shift in the performance. After-all, the hardware of a device is just half the battle. That's not to say that those operating a newer version of the OS won't see an improvement - Android 4.4 is a cleaner version, and will further improve performance on even the newest of devices.

However, the main benefit to the Android ecosystem is via the app offering. It will be easier to provide widespread updates  for apps because developers will only have to consider one OS version. This is also true for the release delay in new apps. iOS often sees an earlier release of apps - simply because of the ease in developing for one OS version.

This could be the final turn of the knife from Android who, after successfully manufacturing better phones than the iPhone, will now be able to boast of a complete OS in partnership.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

The Tech & Musing Christmas Guide: Phones

In the build up to Christmas, I thought it would be interesting to see where tech stands at this time of year (and maybe even offer some advice along the way). If you're looking for phones, tablets, laptops, contracts or even smartwatches, this is the place to be. If your questions aren't answered below, please get in touch.

On the cheaper side: Nexus 5

At £300 up front on Google Play, and generous contract offerings, the Nexus 5 really packs a knockout punch for its price.

LG did a brilliant job on the Nexus 4, and they've managed to go one better with the recently launched older brother. A large, glossy 5" screen shows off Android 4.4 (KitKat) in beautiful HD quality, and the 2.3GHz quad-core processor alongside 2GB RAM allows the Nexus 5 to challenge the very top in the smartphone market, let alone the cheaper ones. The camera is not the best but it's difficult to fault, and the ever-evolving feature of wireless charging is a great addition. 

Have a look at the pricing options for the Nexus 5, where for £32 per month you'll find the phone alongside unlimited data and texts, plus 1000 mins of calls. Or, you could buy the phone outright and purchase a cheaper sim-only deal - but trust me when I say, it's difficult to find a better alternative to the Nexus 5.

Mid range: Moto X

Motorola have exploded back onto the smartphone scene in 2013, and the fresh boost from Google has clearly helped this rejuvenation. 

The best of the Motorola 2013 offering, comes in the form the Moto X which boasts a 4.7" HD display that is backed-up by 2GB RAM and plenty of processing power. Making the most of Android KitKat's (v4.4) 'always listening' feature, Motorola have created an impressive, hugely customisable device that should be considered by all buyers - I haven't even mentioned the 10MP camera! Literally 'designed by you', buyers are able to design their version of the phone before purchase, and wider knowledge of this could produce a winning selling point. Whether or not the brand is fashionable enough to dent the market remains to be seen.

Coming down to price, the Moto X will appear on generous contracts, ensuring that the user isn't disappointed with the phone, or their deal. Unfortunately, this isn't available in the UK as yet, but it is reportedly on the way soon - UK users should have a look at 'Unlucky to miss out' at the bottom for other ideas.

Top range: HTC One

Widely regarded as 'Phone of the Year', stretching to 'Gadget of the Year' in some quarters, the widely acclaimed HTC One has topped my list of 'must buy' tech this year. The brilliance (and beauty) of the phone cannot be underestimated. A glorious HD screen, great audio, a superb camera and impressive battery life make the HTC One a serious contender for 'best smartphone of all time', let alone 2013. 

Perhaps 'Top Range' is slightly misleading as the HTC One certainly won't break the bank. When taken on contract, users can be looking at just over £30 per month for unlimited texts, unlimited internet and plenty of calls. Interested in the HTC One? You should be.

Unlucky to miss out and worth keeping in mind this Christmas:

  • Sony Xperia Z1
  • Samsung Galaxy S4
  • iPhone 5
  • Nokia Lumia 720
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3
That's the guide to the best phones out at the moment. If you've got any suggestions for alternatives, or want an opinion on other phones - get in touch.

Keep an eye out for the next in the Tech & Musing Christmas Guide series - Tablets...

Monday, 18 November 2013

The Samsung Galaxy Gear Review

I've spent a while with the Galaxy Gear, and lived with the product. Below is a review of the best and worst of the first Samsung smartwatch.

When early forms of technology are released, it’s always fun to look back in hindsight at the cumbersome, and clumsy look of it. The first camera phone for example – it attached to the bottom of the phone and had to be carried in a separate bag. I thought it would be the same for the Gear, that fitting such technology into a sleek watch was going to be impossible, but Samsung have done a good job on it.

The Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch - actually quite a masterpiece

The Galaxy Gear is made from a rubber strap, and stainless steel casing for a 1.63” AMOLED screen. It’s sleek, and doesn’t protrude extensively from the wrist. The materials are solid and certainly don’t feel cheap (even the rubber wristband). Granted, there’s always concerned about scratching the screen, but the opportunity for that to happen has arisen several times and the watch has stayed firm.

The Galaxy Gear doesn't extensively protrude from the wrist

Aesthetically, there is no problem for men, but there might be an issue with size for women. The Gear has attracted positive attention from onlookers and all of which wouldn’t mind strapping it to their wrists. I’ve been wearing the Gear for about a month now and haven’t been frustrated by its size or design, which is a great compliment to the job Samsung have done on it.

Setting up the Gear is a fairly cumbersome process for the moment. The Gear Manager app is only available in the Samsung App Store, and when downloaded and linked via Bluetooth, the user needs to go onto Samsung Apps via the Gear Manager app to download the apps desired. However, after this set-up, the Galaxy Gear and Note 3 synced beautifully and flawlessly. This was one of the most impressive features for me. Phone calls, notifications, photo transfer, are all immediate and easy to use. The range is a standard Bluetooth v4.0, with a distance of a good 10-15 metres.

The Galaxy Gear boasts an impressive engine for a smartwatch, with an 800mhz processor, supported by 512 MB of RAM and a 4GB internal memory. I’ve used the Gear for over a week and haven’t experienced a split-second of lag which is hugely impressive. Lifting your wrist to look at your watch turns on the clock face (which flicks on after a split-second), or there is a power button on the slide of the screen.
The battery supports two days of regular use which doesn’t sound great, but when you consider that a watch is usually removed overnight, the user might as well put it on charge, right? Therefore, I didn’t find the charging issue especially problematic. It’s an easy set-up for charging where the Gear fits into a small hold, which then plugs into a micro-USB to charge. One thing to note however, is that when the battery does die, it renders the whole product utterly useless. A power-saving mode that only allows the watch feature, would be a move in the correct direction.

The Galaxy Gear has been packed full of features, but there are a few to highlight:
  • Call rejection: If your phone is ringing then you can glance at the caller ID on the Galaxy Gear and decide whether to swipe to accept/decline the call. If you swipe to decline, then you’re presented with an series of choices for an auto-response text to the caller. For example, ‘Just in a meeting, will call you after’. These template responses can be customised.
  • Safety assistance: This is one of those features that hasn’t been shouted about because it’s not particularly glamorous, but in case of an emergency, the user can press the power button 3 times to send their location information to their saved contacts with message.
  • S Voice: Samsung’s answer to Siri is very accurate on the Galaxy Gear, and it needs to be given that there isn’t a keyboard to use. There are plenty of functions to the voice commands, including opening apps, responding to messages and calling contacts. When away from too much background noise, this is particularly effective, and for once, actually quite useful.
  • Find My Phone: Another simple but brilliant app is Find My Phone. Just a couple of taps on your smartwatch sets your phone ringing - even if it's on silent. For those that often can't find their phone around the house, this is very useful. 

On top of these, the contacts app works well, dragging over all contacts from the Note 3, onto the smartwatch allowing for quick calls. If you want to dial, then this can be done on a rather fiddly keypad brought onto the screen by swiping upwards from the clockface. S Voice instructions work well to dicatate a call recipient as well, as long as there is limited background noise.
On a media and entertainment front, the gallery is simple, but effective and displays both images and video. To transfer these to your phone takes a second to tap a button in the top right and selecting ‘Transfer’. Before you’ve looked at your phone, it will be there. Another nice addition is the Media Controller that allows users to control the music volume on their phone, and switch between tracks.

Music and entertainment controlling 

Finally, the watch has a pedometer tucked away that tracks steps taken, distance moved and calories burnt. It’s a nice addition, and appears to be accurate.

Without doubt, the Galaxy Gear will live or die based on the apps that are modified for the device, and ones created specifically for it. Currently, there are less that 30 apps available on the Samsung Galaxy Gear store, and quite plainly these are not enough. The key areas are covered, but not particularly well. There are unofficial Twitter and Facebook apps, as there is with Foursquare, but none of these are great. The syncing takes too long and they don't retain offline data, which renders the apps fairly obsolete. Not only that, official notifications from Facebook, Twitter and Gmail offer a button to ‘View on your device’ which is frankly a little pointless. These are sure to be developed further, and if upgraded correctly, would significantly enhance the experience of the Galaxy Gear.
Whilst the social networks aren't yet to be well represented, there are some positives with the apps:
  • Pocket: One of my favourite apps has gone up another notch in my reckoning by adapting their service to smartwatch. Before you ask - no you don't walk around reading articles on your watch, instead, articles are read to you on hands-free or out loud. It's not perfect as the voice is too robotic and articles don't always read that smoothly, but it's an intriguing development and one that makes sense for the smartwatch.

  • Snapchat: If ever a device was ready-made for Snapchat, it’s the Galaxy Gear. Okay, you can’t draw on the images, but the essence of what is brilliant about the platform is retained.
  • The clock faces: There are a range of different watch faces for the Galaxy Gear, and weirdly, this is a great addition. It has become ‘thing’ for me to change the clock face every couple of days.
A simple downwards swipe from the clock face brings up the camera, and after touching the screen to take the picture, a swipe to the left brings up the gallery. However, this is where looking at a spec is simply not enough. When I saw a 1.9mp camera, I thought back to the old days where I was taking very blurry images on my Sony Ericsson T630i. However, the Galaxy Gear camera was one of the most gobsmacking features on the Galaxy Gear. The pixel density is enough, but the most impressive part of the camera is the image stabilisation. I’ve taken over 50 photos on the Galaxy Gear and only when I’ve done my best to blur the image has it struggled, otherwise, it has been superb. I did have problems with when overexposed to light, as glare interfered with the photo but this was a minor issue.

The lens for a near-2mp camera

In an age where we’ve got Nokia’s Pureview 42mp camera, the Gear brings us back to the reality that snapping photos for sharing on social media (essentially most of what we do) doesn’t require that pixel density. I’m not saying the camera is perfect; it certainly isn’t flawless, but I’ve taken some photos of impressive quality on it, which is more than I expected to be honest. When taking the Gear out golfing, I came up with the following images. Quite impressive, eh.:

Overall, I’ve been extremely impressed with the technology behind the Galaxy Gear. Looking away from the purpose it has in everyday life (find out what it has been like to live with the Galaxy Gear, here) this is a strong showing from Samsung. The best part of the Galaxy Gear is that it’s only going to get better. Once the app store has been developed, the smartwatch will become instantly more integrated in the lives of the owners, and in turn more appealing to those purchasing.
The Galaxy Gear has just been made compatible with a host of Samsung devices; Note 3, S4, S3, Note 2 and the Note 10.1, the S4 Mini, S4 Active, Mega 5.8/6.3 and the S4 Zoom. These will become available through an Android 4.3 update. Whilst this will be a blow to those who fancy giving the Galaxy Gear a go, but have a different Android handset, there are plans in the pipeline to open it out to other manufacturers.

If you’re interested in purchasing the Galaxy Gear and Note 3, head over here.

Living with a smartwatch: The Galaxy Gear case study

I lived with the Galaxy Gear for one month, wearing it all day, every day but making a real effort to not go in search for where a smartwatch could fit into my life. I wanted to go about my daily activities without forcing it into how I function, and instead see where and how it could be useful. 

There are plenty of reviews out there from people who have used a smartwatch for 5 minutes, and made a judgement call. They look at spec, expectations, features and then walk away. Critics tarnish the Galaxy Gear with their overriding opinion of a smartwatch and the question mark over its purpose. I wanted to veer away from this, and retrospectively analyse how I have been functioning differently with the Galaxy Gear. Essentially, I want to do is talk about what it's like to live with a smartwatch, and specifically, what it is like to live with Samsung's offering; the Galaxy Gear.

When I envisaged a smartwatch, I foresaw a bulky product that would only be worn by the real tech-geek. I wasn’t close. The Galaxy Gear sports a classy design, and with it on, I haven’t been conscious of its presence whatsoever and those that have noticed it, have commented positively on its appearance. So settling down with the Gear wasn’t a problem, and after a few days with the Gear, I begun to subconsciously use it for normal tasks. From here its murky role in integrating into my life started to become clearer.

The first thing I noticed, was the receiving of a text when I was in the middle of something, and how just a glance at my smartwatch didn’t break my stride or concentration. When it buzzed, I checked who I’d received a text from and then I’d action that  - if I wanted to respond then I could talk my response out to the Gear via S-Voice (I only use this at home), or take my phone out to respond. Most of the time however, a response could wait and I could switch focus attention straight back onto the task.

Secondly, and perhaps my favourite use, was the syncing on calls and reminders. If someone calls when I’m out, or in a meeting, I can glance at my watch, swipe to reject the call and choose an auto-text response – all with my phone somewhere else. If I wanted to answer it, I can talk straight into the smartwatch in a very Star Trek-esque fashion (I didn't like to use this), or switch it to my phone/hands-free. A reminder for a meeting pops up with a courteous buzz and you’ve got your information in a split second before dismissing it.

The camera was a surprise. It became a go-to option when snapping some day-to-day shots, which it does well. Obviously when I wanted a higher-quality image, then I’d take out the Galaxy Note 3, but the Gear became the first thought. For example, I took this on the underground when irritated by Apple’s iPhone 5C billboards:

Finally, I lost my phone down the side of the sofa (with the Galaxy Note 3 that’s surprisingly easy!) and instead of calling it, or spending a while searching, I just tapped upon the ‘Find my Phone’ app and found it immediately.

I’m not for one minute going to stand here and say that the Galaxy Gear, or any smartwatch for that matter, is an essential item to have. It’s not. However, I’m also going to disagree with many reviews that dismiss the Galaxy Gear as not being ready for the consumer. It is.
     The technology is wonderful. It’s a smooth user experience; a powerful piece of kit that doesn’t lag and it syncs instantly with the information on the user’s phone.
Critics shouldn’t be lambasting Samsung for failing to achieve perfection on a first attempt, instead they should be applauding Samsung for getting anywhere close. Wearable technology is in it's absolute infancy but Samsung have done a superb job on the product, it’s the developers and the software that need to now get working.
The Galaxy Gear, and smartwatches in general, thrive off the immediate; the snappy information. When football score updates, for example, are integrated into an app for the Galaxy Gear, then that’s where we will see it being loved. It’s that immediate content, which doesn’t require much thought or further explanation, that shows off the Gear and its purpose. Instagram for example would be ideal for the Galaxy Gear, after all, it already supports 15 second video and quick, easy-to-capture images, so why not? Whatsapp is another app that needs to be catered for, but support for these will come. The potential for the smartwatch, with apps such as these enhancing the experience, is greatly increased.

So, after two weeks with the Galaxy Gear, the smartwatch found a role in my life and this may have a completely different role in someone else’s. But it is really important to note that the thought of parting with the Galaxy Gear is genuinely quite saddening, and that says a lot about my enjoyment of the product.

I’m the first to say if the world isn’t quite ready for a product, I did with the Chromebook, and also with Windows 8, but I believe that the world is ready for the smartwatch. With continuing app support, the Galaxy Gear is ready for the world.

For the full product review, click here. If you’re interested in purchasing the Galaxy Gear and Note 3, head over here.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Apple reportedly developing a curved-screen iPhone - this is getting out of hand...

Bloomberg have reported that Apple are in the process of developing curved-screen devices for a late-2014 launch. Specifically, Bloomberg state that the developed phones will have glass that curves down at the edges - I assume that they are suggesting the shape doesn't greatly differ from the iPod Nano.

Obviously, these reports have to be taken with a pinch of salt - Apple are sure to be developing devices like this, then again, they'll be developing far more on top of that - it doesn't mean that it will be produced. However, let's go along the line of thinking that this is true - It confirms that manufacturers see curved screens penetrating the market in under 2 years. As someone who is certainly sold on flexible technology - yet not curved screens - this is quite a surprise. I just can't see the consumer demand for it. 
      Curved- devices are there for the sake of technology. I've got no problem with that, but feel it's just a consumer delaying tactic before the real innovation - flexible technology. Perhaps I'm being harsh (and please comment if you feel differently) but curved devices simply don't excite me, and don't offer nearly the technological development of flexible devices.

Not only this, but Apple developing curved-screen devices for consumer markets would represent a far bigger shift. This would define the positioning of Apple in the innovation space and cement where I believed they had dropped to. TechCrunch wrote an article about the 3 stages of innovation - where Apple was always last on the scene to spruce up the product and really make it consumer friendly. It was by no means a great article, but even so, those days are apparently over. 
     In the same Bloomberg report, Apple are also in the process of developing larger-screen phones - yes, Phablets. (I've only recently been sold on the idea...) The Samsung flagship series may have it's first major challenge but perhaps not until 3 years since it launched the first Note. Apple would have to pull out something quite remarkable to convince me that this delay was worth it - or that they were being at all innovative.

As always, it could be that none of this will ever reach public consumption... Who knows!

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Mobile phone sizes, just what is too big?

I've recently been using the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 in order to review the Galaxy Gear and after switching back to my beloved HTC One (if you're wondering why, then I'd like to mention that the switch is no reflection on the Note 3, instead it's indicative of the brilliance of the HTC One. Anyway I've been a bit bemused by the switch in size. Suddenly everything felt fiddly, and to be honest, I missed the Note 3 - not especially because of the phone itself, more of its size.

When I first started using the 5.95" Note 3, the size frustrated me. I could get it in my pocket, but not particularly easily, and writing a text or email one-handed whilst standing on the tube was nothing short of a nightmare. However, slowly the size of the phone, and particular the 5.7" screen begun to win me over.

Everything looks great on a screen like that. Browsing the net, Twitter etc is all a pleasure and feels more productive. I think that a phone can be too big, the Samsung Mega for example, now that is too big. To be overly simplistic, between 6" and 7" is territory that should not be trodden between a phone and a tablet. I'm not suggesting that the HTC One is too small, far from it, it's still a 4.7" screen. But in fact, I've now understood the appeal of a phablet where I hadn't previously. It's not about being practical all the time, it's about being more practical 90% of the time you are using it.

These phones won't be practical for everyone, but before you write off purchasing a phablet then just have a go with one. You may well like it...

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Phonebloks: Conceptually complete - yet still not enough

If you haven't seen it already - here's a really interesting crowdsourcing concept, based around a simple insight.

Phonebloks tries to tackle the problem of mobile phone wastage by allowing the user to purchase the individual elements of the phone and replace them when they break or become outdated. Therefore, instead of having a fixed specification, you can tailor-make your own phone using ‘bloks’ – individual modules such as cameras, processors and batteries – to suit your needs. 

Say, for example, you wanted to upgrade the phone processor, you could just remove the blok and replace it with another blok. Perhaps you wanted a higher resolution screen? Then this could also be replaced as a blok. 
     The camera could include a basic 5-megapixel blok, a mid-range 10-megapixel blok with a better lens and maybe a professional-grade 20-megapixel blok with an optical zoom lens for the keen amateur photographer.

There isn't an option for recycling from Phone Bloks as yet, but as a key ethical selling point, this is sure to be introduced. 

Anyway, here's the official video to explain it a bit better:

Obviously this is a brilliant concept, with an insight behind that is spectacular. With Motorola's support, there may well be less concept and more reality, but it's still not for me. Part of my love for a new piece of technology is the brand new piece of hardware - something aesthetically different. I would always be keen to switch bloks and update.

This will certainly work for some, and rightly so, but I'll still follow the materialistic, environmentally unfriendly route... Sorry!

What do you think of the concept? Could it work? Would you buy one?

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

The night of numbers: How smartphone manufacturers fared in Q3 2013

Yesterday evening saw the release of several big financial indicators of smartphone development, and how the manufacturers within the market were getting on.
      Overall it was a big marker for global smartphone sales, as they passed 250 million units for the first time ever this past quarter. That meant that 60% of all phones sold worldwide were smartphones. Of these 250m phones, a huge 88.4m were Samsung - over 35% of the marketshare in Q3 2013. 

Here's a quick summary of what happened with the individual manufacturers:

First off, the big news from the night came from Apple, who announced their results for fiscal Q4 2013. As always, they made for interesting reading.

As always for Apple, the financial results were pretty healthy. Of the $37.5bn revenue, Apple made $7.5bn profit. That contributed to a whopping annual fiscal revenue record of $171bn. Tim Cook announced an expectation of around $55bn for the Christmas quarter.
     Whilst the finances look strong enough, it wasn't all plain sailing for Apple. iPhone market share dropped to 13% over the quarter and analysts put this down to products failing to address the low-end of the the smartphone pricing market. For example, the Android-based 'Red Rice' smartphone in China costs $130, compared to $549 for Apple's cheapest offering, the iPhone 5c. This contributed to a slightly underwhelming 33.8m iPhones being shipped.
     The stale news didn't stop there, iPad revenues were down, with sales staying flat on the 14m sold in the same period in 2012. Mac sales dropped to 4.6m and iPod shipments dropped by nearly 50% to 3.5m.

Understandably, the value of shares in Apple initially fell over 3% during a press conference with Tim Cook. At end of trading, Apple's stock was down 5%.

The first of the big winners from last night was Nokia. Over 8.8m Nokia Windows Phones were shipped in the last quarter - 19% up from the previous quarter. Notably, Nokia reported an incredible 367% year-on-year rise in the number of Lumia devices sold in North America. Understandably Nokia are delighted with this and attributed the increase of 6m handset sales over 2012 to the widening range of Nokia Windows Phone handsets, in particular the Lumia 520.

This is of course great news for Microsoft as well, as the more people operating the Windows RT interface, the more consumers will be comfortable with the switch to other Windows 8 devices.

Nokia wasn't the only manufacturer patting themselves on the back, Huawei's global shipments grew by 67% to an impressive 12.7m in Q3 2013, becoming the world's third largest smartphone vendor in the period. Whilst this was mostly in China, it is understood that Huawei will be aggressively targeting Europe and the U.S over the next 12 months.
     Behind Huawei, LG also reported strong results by growing the fastest among the top five smartphone brands, up 71% year-over-year to ship 12 million smartphones worldwide for a market share of 5 percent in Q3 2013.

Obviously these aren't exhaustive. HTC have been reporting bad news all year, as have Motorola and BlackBerry; but these figures show that despite Samsung and Apple are still dominating the part,y there is plenty for the smaller manufacturers to fight over.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Is marketable wireless charging is close to becoming a reality?

After several years of wireless charging being a bit of a myth, reports are emerging that Samsung are aiming to have long-distance wireless charging enabled by mid-2014.

So far Nokia and LG are the only ones to break into the space of wireless charging, and it’s gone unnoticed in marketing whilst falling flat with consumers. Why? Because either you charge from within a pointless distance (say 1metre) or you have to put your device on a mat, or an ‘orb’. As you’ll agree, this renders the practice relatively pointless as you might as well stick it into a plug. However, ET News are reporting that Samsung have invested into New Zealand-based company “PowerbyProxi” to look at incorporating long-distance wireless charging into their future smartphones, and finally making the feature a ‘must-have’.

Theoretically, a feature like this would completely revolutionise the design of a phone, where manufacturers could focus more upon aesthetics and features, as the battery would be less vital. Still, it’s only reports, but hopefully this is being pursued because if it were to become reality, it would be a revolutionary moment in technology.