Review: A week with iOS 7
iOS 7 is defined by renovation, but does Apple's bold new mobile vision pave the way for innovation?
It seems like we hear more reports about BlackBerry’s revival every week, although those of us who live in the United States may not see it much in our everyday lives. It turns out there’s a good reason for this: Sales of new BlackBerry 10 devices have reportedly been middling in the U.S. while having much stronger showings in other countries. Barron’s points us to a new research note from RBC Capital analyst Mark Sue, who says that BlackBerry 10 demand “appears to be mixed by region” with “Canada, the U.K. and the Middle East… seeing the strongest BB10 sell-through.” In the U.S., however, Sue says that “BlackBerry has a diminished consumer presence” and is “seeing slower sell-through.” Adoption of BlackBerry in the U.S. may increase as more corporate IT departments upgrade their users to BlackBerry 10, Sue added.
In what appears to be a desperate attempt to clear out inventory buildup, Microsoft will offer its Surface RT tablet to educational institutions at shockingly deep discounts. The tablet is available to schools and universities from now until August 31st starting at $199 for the 32GB model. The touch keyboard cover will add $50 to the price, while the type keyboard cover brings the total up to $289. The Surface RT comes bundled with Microsoft Office Home and Student 2013 RT, which includes Word, PowerPoint, Excel and OneNote, and the tablet runs the Windows RT operating system, of course. Critics have blamed the watered-down Windows RT operating system, the tablet’s limited storage and high price for the Surface’s lackluster sales performance, and this current promotion could be an effort to clear excess inventory.
A new report suggests that LG is preparing a new smartphone that will support “always-on voice commands.” According to Gotta Be Mobile, the company will launch an Android smartphone in 2014 that will allow users to issue voice commands without being required to touch the screen first. The feature, which is built-in to Qualcomm’s quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor, can be activated by saying “hello” to the device. The chip is even capable of learning a device owners voice to prevent others from using the feature. Current voice features such as Siri require users to press a button or enter a specific application before issuing a command. Despite the “always-on” requirement, Qualcomm has said that the feature won’t impact a device’s battery life.
T-Mobile on Tuesday announced the upcoming availability of Sony’s flagship Xperia Z smartphone. The handset is equipped with 5-inch full HD 1080p display, a 1.5GHz quad-core Snapdragon S4 Pro processor and a 13-megapixel rear camera. The Xperia Z is also water and dust resistant, and includes 2GB of RAM, 16GB of internal storage, a microSD slot, a 2-megapixel front-facing camera and Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. The smartphone will be available from T-Mobile “in the coming weeks.” The carrier’s press release follows below. More →
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg met with Samsung president Shin Jong Kyun this week to discuss a potential partnership, Bloomberg reported. Facebook, the world’s largest social networking site, is interested in working with Samsung, the world’s largest smartphone vendor, to help boost its mobile advertising sales. The two companies are also said to have spoken about investing in technology startups. Facebook previously partnered with HTC on the HTC First, a smartphone that was skinned with Facebook’s custom Home software. Facebook Home was largely panned by critics and the HTC First flopped on the market. BGR exclusively reported last month that AT&T was preparing to discontinue the HTC First after only a month on the market.
Industry watchers began talking about an imminent slow-down in the high-end smartphone market back in 2011, but 2012 was still a huge year for pricy smartphones with cutting-edge specs. According to market research firm Berg Insight, sales of high-end smartphones from the likes of Apple and Samsung with retail prices above €400 before subsidies grew to 250 million units in 2012, up from 150 million in 2011. Of those, Berg says 40 million smartphones were flagship phones powered by cutting-edge quad-core processors. More →
While you may be tempted to install the recently released beta version of iOS 7, you may also be worried that it could brick your iPhone. Never fear: 9to5Mac points us to a new demonstration program from consumer electronics website Recombu that lets you preview iOS 7 without any risk of wrecking your device. How does it do this, you ask? By hosting the entire thing inside your web browser. While this obviously doesn’t give you the exact same experience as actually using iOS 7, it does give you a nice look at the new user interface and lets you see how the redesigned core iOS apps look. 9to5Mac notes that “if you’re using Firefox or Chrome, you can also use your webcam to take pictures in the Photos app.”
The video game industry continued its downward spiral in May. According to research firm NPD Group, retail sales of hardware, software and gaming accessories in the U.S. fell 25% to $386.3 million last month, their lowest level thus far in 2013. Hardware and software sales fell 31% year-over-year to $96 million and $175.1 million, respectively, while sales of gaming accessories declined 6% year-over-year to $115.3 million. Including sales of used games, rental and digitally delivered content, micro-transactions, subscriptions, mobile apps and social network games, consumers spent a total of $787 million on video games in May. More →
Don’t mess with Texans’ email. Ars Technica reports that Texas has become the first state in the United States that requires law enforcement officials to get search warrants before snooping on citizens’ emails. The law only applies to state and local law enforcement officials, however, and won’t apply to federal officials who can still access emails without a warrant once they’ve been opened or if they’ve sat unopened in a user’s inbox for more than 180 days. The new Texas law comes at a time when electronic privacy has become a hot-button issue in the wake of revelations about the National Security Agency’s vast data collection program.
Huawei on Tuesday announced the Ascend P6, the world’s thinnest smartphone. The handset measures a mere 6.18 millimeters thick and weighs 120 grams, eight grams more than Apple’s iPhone 5 despite the fact that the phone is much larger. The Ascend P6 is equipped with a 4.7-inch 720p display, an in-house 1.5GHz quad-core processor and an 8-megapixel rear camera. The smartphone also includes a 5-megapixel front-facing camera, 2GB of RAM, a 2,000 mAh battery, 8GB of internal storage, a microSD slot and Huawei’s Emotion user interface atop Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean. The Ascend P6 will be available in black, white and pink in China later this month and it will launch on Vodafone, O2 and Orange in Europe in July. Huawei’s press release follows below. More →
Shares of Nokia surged on Tuesday, mostly because Chinese electronics giant Huawei expressed interest in buying the struggling Finnish smartphone manufacturer. Richard Yu, chairman of Huawei’s consumer business group, told The Financial Times that his company would be open to buying Nokia if it showed a “willingness” to merge. One aspect of Nokia’s current business plan that it will certainly have to rethink if it wants to merge with Huawei is its exclusive use of Windows Phone as its platform of choice. Yu said that Windows Phone was still a risky bet because its market share has not significantly grown in the eight months since the launch of Windows Phone 8. More →
It looks as though Apple might be smoothing out some of the iPhone’s sharp edges for the low-cost version of its popular smartphone. Japanese blog Macotakara has posted some pictures of a case designed for the upcoming low-cost iPhone by third-party accessories manufacturer MGM Corp. that suggests the device will feature rounder edges than traditional iPhone models. AppleInsider notes that “the case for the low-cost iPhone is about 2 millimeters thicker than a similar accessory designed for the iPhone 5″ that conforms to the iPhone 5′s sharper edges. The round edges on the leaked case seem to confirm earlier reports about the low-cost iPhone having more rounded edges compared to other iPhone models, and it certainly looks like it could fit over the purported entry-level iPhone housing that leaked recently. Pictures of the case are posted below. More →
Good news for AT&T subscribers who missed having full QWERTY keyboards: You’ll be able to buy the BlackBerry Q10 from your carrier on June 21st for $199.99 with a two-year service agreement. AT&T also says that “consumers who trade in their current smartphone to AT&T will be eligible to receive at least $100 off the purchase of a new smartphone, including the BlackBerry Q10.” The Q10, which is designed to look more like iconic pre-touch screen BlackBerry phones, includes 3.5-inch touch display, a 1.5GHz dual-core processor, an 8-megapixel rear-facing camera, a 2-megapixel front-facing camera, 2GB RAM, 16GB internal storage and a 2,100 mAh battery. Although the device didn’t launch with the same initial fanfare as the touch screen-only BlackBerry Z10, it’s quickly become a key product for BlackBerry customers who crave the device’s easy-to-use keyboard.