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HTC One: New Smartphone?

Posted on February 19, 2013 | 0 comments

HTC One: Smartphone Reinvented? 

By JOANNA STERN | ABC News 02/19/2013

HTC is kicking off the start of Android phone season. At an event in New York City today, the Taiwan-based company announced its latest flagship Android phone -- the HTC One. 

 

"We think it's time to shake things up in the smartphone space," Mike Woodward, President of HTC America, told ABC News in an interview. "We have decided to come out and reinvent the smartphone."

Of course, HTC hasn't completely reinvented what the smartphone looks like -- it's still a large rectangle -- but according to Woodward, the One is a complete shift for the industry, built around how people use their phones now.

"We have re-architected the phone around how Generation Feed behaves," Woodward said. Woodward and HTC say Generation Feed is those of us who look down at their phones constantly, staying up to date on news and friends.

Ahead of the Hardware
HTC's Android phones have always been known for their top-of-the-line hardware parts and the One is no different.

The phone is made entirely of aluminum -- no small feat, according to Woodward, who said it took two years to make a good all-metal phone. It also has a large 4.7-inch, 1080p screen, which is flanked vertically by two speaker strips. (HTC calls it Boomsound.) The phone is fast too, thanks to its quad-core Snapdragon 600 processor and 2GB of RAM.

Ultrapixel: Forget Megapixels
Where the One stands out from other Android phones on specs is with its camera. "Generation Feed grew up with a camera in their pocket, but the pictures that they take are not always great and they're not always outside," Woodward said.

With that, HTC has ditched megapixels for an ultrapixel camera.

"An ultrapixel is twice the size of a megapixel -- it lets in 300 percent more light," Woodward says. "We paired that with dual-axis stabilization. This is different than letting a shutter open."

HTC says the new technology should allow you to take much better low-light shots without having to use flash, which often makes for flat, blown-out images. We got a look at the camera and took this shot without a flash. A shot with the iPhone didn't match it. Nokia has focused on similar low-light settings with its Lumia 920 PureView camera vi.

HTC has paired that camera hardware with some new software features. It has livened up its gallery and allows you to take three-second videos when you take a photo. HTC calls this sort of video or photo a Zoe; the camera takes one second of video before you hit the shutter button and then two seconds right after, giving you photos that "come to life."

It sounds bit like the latest app from Twitter, called Vine, which takes six-second videos. HTC says you can share Zoes with anyone via a URL.

A Revamped Android
HTC has always added its own flare to Android with its Sense software. While HTC backed off from tweaking Android too heavily in its previous phones, it has begun to think of Google's software entirely differently with the One.

The phone is based on the latest version of Android (Android 4.2 or Jelly Bean), but HTC says that the majority of Android users only use one home screen instead of the three provided by Google (80 percent of Android users use fewer than three home screens, says HTC).

"We found that widgets and home panels aren't that well understood, so we wanted to simplify that," Woodward said. Called Blinkfeed, the home screen on the One is now a grid of news or a newsfeed of your social media accounts and news accounts.

"The idea is in a blink of an eye your phone is constantly refreshed and your phone is constantly alive. That becomes your home screen," Woodward said. The feed can be customized and if you don't like it, you can choose to put your Blinkfeed on another pane and use a regular Android home screen.

In addition to the Blinkfeed and redesigned user interface, HTC has added features like a Sense TV, which works with an IR blaster in the phone to turn the phone into a remote control for your TV.

Android Phone Season
The One will be offered by 180 carriers in 80 countries over the next few months. It will be available in the U.S. at T-Mobile, Sprint and AT&T in March. HTC would not confirm the pricing, but said it would be competitive. Most high-end Android phones and the iPhone 5 cost $199 with a two-year contract.

But, of course, this is Android phone season and Samsung is rumored to be announcing the next version of its popular Galaxy S 3 -- the Galaxy S 4 -- in early March at its own event. While the One might be the only phone now designed for Generation Feed, it may make sense to wait to make sure it's the right one.

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Make Free Calls...

Posted on February 06, 2013 | 0 comments

Slash Your Cell Phone Bill: Make Free Calls On Your Smart Phone

By Becky Worley |Upgrade Your Life - 4 hrs ago

Your smartphone costs a fortune in monthly fees. But there are new ways to get unlimited voice calling and significantly decrease the number of cell voice minutes you need. So pull out your smartphone, and we’ll fire up a few tools to potentially save you hundreds of dollars on your cell phone bill this year.

Wi-Fi Calling on Cell Phones Explained
Your cell phone can communicate in four distinct ways: voice calls, texts, data over cell networks, and data over Wi-Fi. What many people don’t realize is that connecting via Wi-Fi doesn’t count at all against your cell phone bill. So how can you exploit this loophole to cut down on your overall cell phone bill?

Making voice calls on your computer over the Internet is nothing new; but you can now combine your cell phone with Wi-Fi to make calls for free on your mobile devices. This could enable you to talk over Wi-Fi and downgrade your cell service to the cheapest plan available – one with fewer voice minutes than you’re currently paying for.

Facebook Calling
Facebook recently announced that iPhone users who have the Facebook Messenger app installed can now make free phone calls to other iPhones users through the app. You’ll be alerted to an incoming call with a Facebook notification rather than with your phone’s ringtone, but if you have a Facebook friend with an iPhone whom you call a lot, this could help you conserve cell minutes.

Skype
Facebook is just the latest in a long line of upstarts taking aim at the established cell service market, like Line2 and Viber, but the biggest player is Skype. Their mobile app lets you make free Skype calls to anyone in the world with a free Skype account. But if you want to call any phone number in the US or Canada, whether or not the person you’re calling has a Skype account, you can pay $3 a month for this unlimited privilege. While $3 a month isn’t free, it could save you more than that on your cell service bill. Calling is simple: just fire up the app and dial the number.

Google Voice
Google offers a comprehensive service called Google Voice. With it, you get one unified phone number that rings on your cell or your landline, plus tons of cool features like transcribing your voicemail – and it makes calls over Wi-Fi. But beware: When you use Google Voice to make calls from your cell phone, it still counts against your cell phone minutes, unless you use an additional app like GrooVe IP or Sipdroid in conjunction with your Google Voice account. This combination will give you completely free Wi-Fi calling that doesn’t count against your minutes.

T-Mobile and Bobsled
T-Mobile has embraced free Wi-Fi calling whole hog. They provide an app called Bobsled to make free calls over Wi-Fi. You can call any US number. It works from any Android or Apple iOS device – not just phones, but computers and tablets as well. Surprisingly, this free service from T-Mobile does not even require you to be a T-Mobile customer; it works with any carrier. As of right now there are over 2 million Bobsled users, and T-Mobile says 95% of them aren’t T-Mobile subscribers For this reason, Bobsled is my number one pick for best way to make free WiFi calls on your smartphone.

But How’s the Quality?
I’ve tested Wi-Fi calling in a number of circumstances, and generally, the quality is pretty good – sometimes I’m aware of a slight delay, and some tinny audio quality, but overall comparable to what I get using my cell phone to make calls in the traditional way. And remember, making calls over Wi-Fi isn’t just about saving a few bucks by downgrading to a cheaper plan. Many people have poor cell reception in the places they use it most – in their own homes or at work – places where they might have an excellent Wi-Fi signal. If this is true for you, you might actually get better quality by making your voice calls using Wi-Fi.

Brad Marshland contributed to this story.

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Is 2013 the year of Apple’s iTV?

Posted on December 25, 2012 | 0 comments

By Marc Saltzman | Digital CraveThu, Dec 20, 2012 1:50 PM EST

Let’s face facts: Apple’s newly-launched iPhone 5 and iPad mini were two of the industry’s worst-kept secrets.

In fact, both product unveilings proved to be, well, anticlimactic -- largely because of all the industry rumors and leaked info and photos that preceded them. This is especially true for techies who followed all the prerelease hype, which resulted in a sense of déjà vu when Apple CEO Tim Cook took the wraps off these products.

Bottom line: We already knew what Apple's latest smartphone and pint-sized tablet looked like and what they can do.

But Apple's iTV is a different story altogether.

Not much is known about the alleged smart television the late Apple cofounder Steve Jobs was quoted about in Walter Isaacson's best-selling biography.

"I'd like to create an integrated television set that is completely easy to use," said Jobs. "It would be seamlessly synched with all of your devices and with iCloud. It will have the simplest user interface you could imagine. I finally cracked it."

But as we say goodbye to 2012 – Apple's most prolific year when it comes to product launches – and set our sights on 2013, the following is a round-up of the latest buzz surrounding iTV (or whatever it'll be called).

Is iTV really in the works?

Yes. Aside from Jobs' assertion he "cracked" the television user interface problem, but Apple's Cook has all but confirmed it's on the roadmap. In an interview with NBC earlier this month, Cook said an Apple TV is "an intense area of interest" and he compared the current living room television experience to going "backwards in time by 20 to 30 years." Even back in May, when Cook chatted with AllThingsD at their DX conference for about 90 minutes, he hinted about an iTV project. When asked producing a set-top box and companies like Sharp handling TV panel production, he answered rhetorically "Can we make a significant contribution far beyond what others have done in this area? Can we make a product that we all want?"

When's it coming?

According to this report from Focus Taiwan, an inside source says Apple's first television won't be available until "the end of next year," with a possible debut at the Consumer Electronics Show the following January (2014). While the timing may be accurate, Apple never takes part in the annual CES spectacle in Las Vegas, so this part of the tip is a bit suspect. Other reports suggest we won't see an Apple-branded television before the year 2014 altogether. Is that too late? Some analysts believe so; as for how critical the timing could be, see below, under "How important is it?"

Where is it being made, tested?

In the same Dec. 19 article published by Focus Taiwan, testing of Apple's iTV has already begun at Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. (a.k.a. Foxconn) in New Taipei City, citing an "insider" at the factory. This isn't the first time news leaked about the development of Apple's iTV: In May, Terry Gou -- the head of Foxconn -- slipped the news during a Shanghai press conference about it "making preparations for iTV, Apple's Inc.'s rumored upcoming high-definition television," reported China Daily. A week later, however, the company quickly refuted that information, saying it was "not accurate." By the way, Foxconn is the world's largest maker of electronic components and manufacturer of the Apple iPhone and iPad, among other products like Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Nintendo Wii and Amazon Kindle.

How big will it be?

Foxconn is currently testing early television prototypes with screens ranging between 46 and 55 inches, says BGR in a recent article, which references a Wall Street Journal finding. The same WSJ piece also says its sources confirm Apple is working with Sharp to design the TV, plus Sharp is also said to be supplying the display panels for it. Focus Taiwan also reports Foxconn is currently testing TV prototypes up to 55 inches. Will it have a retina screen, comparable to what's found in the iPhone, iPod touch, iPad and MacBook Pro? Not likely, says Trip Chowdhry, managing director of Equity Research at Global Equities Research, in an interview with Forbes, as a 50-inch television with a Retina display technology would cost about $25,000 today.

What can it do?

What Apple's own HDTV can do is likely the most shrouded of all secrets -- and something you won't find much info on online from other sources either. Some of the buzz predicts users will have access to an App Store, to customize the television experience with software and on-demand services, plus there's also iCloud integration to tie content to multiple devices. On iCloud support, Gene Munster, managing director and senior research analyst at Piper Jaffray, said this in a research note: "While a solution for live TV combined with previously aired shows 'recorded' in the cloud remains a significant hurdle, perhaps this code is precisely what Jobs believed he has 'cracked.' Other rumors suggest Apple's TV will also have a built-in camera for FaceTime video calls and will include support for the voice-activated Siri, which is now bundled in many of its iOS products. "We also believe Apple could use Siri, its voice recognition, personal assistant technology to bolster its TV offering and simplify the chore of inputting information like show titles, or actor names, into a TV (typically with a remote)," adds Jaffray. Given Apple's focus on design, its iTV will also likely be super slim and boast a minimalist look.

How important is it?

BGR article that quotes exports suggests Apple "needs to launch the Next Big Thing in order to reverse investors’ soured sentiment." BGR quotes Barclays Capital analyst Ben Reitzes, who predicts that Next Big Thing could be Apple’s iTV, but if the WSJ information is correct – that It won't even launch in 2013 – then the fear is it will be too late to snap investor out of their "recent funk." Shares of Apple stock have dropped as much as 25 percent the last two month alone, from a high of $705.07, just before the launch of iPhone 5. Reitzes says Apple "just needs to launch the Next Big Thing to remind investors why it is the most successful consumer electronics company in the world." At the time of writing this, Apple's stock price is at $525.70.

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Smart Devices Hit New Record

Posted on December 15, 2012 | 0 comments

Smart Devices Continue Surge, Hit New Record

By David Nagel 12/11/12

More smart connected devices--desktops, laptops, tablets, and smart phones--shipped in the latest quarter than in any other quarter in history, topping 303.6 million units, growing 27.1 percent from the same period last year, according to a new analysis and forecast released by market research firm IDC. The strongest gains were seen by the three leading manufacturers: Samsung, Apple, and Lenovo.

Third Quarter 2012
Samsung, for its part, shipped 66.1 million units in the third quarter of 2012--nearly double its 3Q 2011 shipments of 33.5 million, according to IDC's latest Worldwide Quarterly Smart Connected Device Tracker. Its market share jumped to 21.8 percent from 14 percent in the third quarter of 2011.

Second-place Apple shipped 45.8 million units, up 38.3 percent from 3Q 2011, and captured 15.1 percent of the overall market, up 1.2 points from last year's quarter. It's worth noting that despite coming in second in units shipped, Apple beat Samsung in total sales by dollar, as its average selling price per unit was significantly higher than Samsung's.

"The battle between Samsung and Apple at the top of the smart connected device space is stronger than ever," said Ryan Reith, program manager, Worldwide Mobile Device Trackers at IDC, in a prepared statement. "Both vendors compete at the top of the tablet and smartphone markets. However, the difference in their collective [average selling prices, or ASPs] is a telling sign of different market approaches. The fact that Apple's ASP [of $744] is $310 higher than Samsung's with just over 20 million fewer shipments in the quarter speaks volumes about the premium product line that Apple sells."

Lenovo leapfrogged HP to take the No. 3 slot in the third quarter, shipping 21.1 million total units, an increase of 60 percent over the previous year's third quarter. Its market share grew from 5.5 percent in 3Q 2011 to 7 percent in 3Q 2012.

Among the top 5 vendors, No. 4 HP was the only one to experience a decline in the third quarter. HP fell 20.5 percent on unit shipments of 14 million, winding up with a market share of 4.6 percent, down 2.8 points from 3Q 2011.

Sony rounded out the top 5 with shipments of 11 million units, up 25.4 percent from last year. Its market share fell slightly--a tenth of a point--hitting 3.6 percent.

All other vendors combined shipped 145.6 million units, up 9.7 percent over last year.

The total 303.6 million units shipped in the quarter represented about $140.4 billion, according to IDC.

Forecast Through 2016
Looking ahead, the growth seen in recent years is expected to continue through 2016, when, as IDC predicted, tablets will outsell both desktops and laptops. In 2011, 930.4 million smart connected devices were shipped worldwide. For 2012, IDC has forecast that figure to jump about 28 percent to 1.19 billion units. That will rise to 1.45 billion in 2013, 1.68 billion in 2014, 1.91 billion in 2015, and, finally, 2.11 billion in 2016. For the period from 2011 to 2016, that represents a compound annual growth rate of about 17.8 percent.

The chart below breaks down that growth by category. According to IDC's forecast, by next year, tablets will outsell desktop PCs, and, by 2015, they'll surpass laptops.

 

"Both consumers and business workers are finding the need for multiple 'smart' devices, and we expect that trend to grow for several years, especially in more developed regions," said Bob O'Donnell, program vice president, Clients and Displays, also in a prepared statement. "The advent of cloud-based services is enabling people to seamlessly move from device to device, which encourages the purchase and usage of different devices for different situations."

The shift in device preferences will also drive the average price of smart connected devices down, from $534 across all categories in 2011 to $378 in 2016.

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