Major Internet service providers in the United States have long taken a beating in customer satisfaction surveys, but the latest survey from the American Customer Satisfaction Index has the grimmest news yet for American ISPs: They now have the lowest customer satisfaction ranking of any industry in America, worse than even airlines, health insurance companies and gas stations. The survey shows that American consumers are particularly unhappy with ISPs’ call center service, with the variety of Internet plans they offer and with their quality of online video streaming. More →
When Google unveiled its new Hangouts service last week, keen observers noted that there was a glaring omission in the company’s effort to cobble together all its messaging services onto one platform: Google Voice. But a new Google+ post from Google director of real-time communications Nikhyl Singhal suggests that Hangouts users won’t have to wait for Voice much longer. Specifically, Singhal says that while “today’s version of Hangouts doesn’t yet support outbound calls on the web and in the Chrome extension,” it will “support inbound calls to your Google Voice number.” He then adds that the company is “working hard on supporting both, and outbound/inbound calls will soon be available.” Singhal also says that Hangouts are “the future of Google Voice,” so it’s pretty clear that Google is placing all of its messaging service chips onto Hangouts for the foreseeable future.
Is Samsung’s Galaxy S4 really “a precious stone glittering in the dark” or is it just an overrated slab of plastic with a nice display? Consumer Reports weighed in on this important controversy on Monday and declared that the Galaxy S4 really does live up to the hype and should now be considered the best smartphone in the world. Overall Consumer Reports found that “the S4 delivered top-notch performance in the most critical areas of our tests, including the camera,” and was particularly impressed with the device’s display that it said “is sensitive enough to use with gloves on — handy during cold weather.” The publication also praised the device’s multitasking capabilities and said that watching videos while checking email on the Galaxy S4 was a snap. Needless to say, Samsung will likely be pleased with such a high-profile endorsement, although the company would still likely sell record numbers of the Galaxy S4 even if Consumer Reports had panned the device.
We’ve known for a while that Samsung wants to significantly decrease its dependence on Google and its Android platform, and now The Wall Street Journal reports that the company “will be hosting a global competition to lure developers to create apps for its Galaxy smartphones” that will pay 10 winners a combined $800,000 in prize money. The Journal says that Samsung is “particularly looking for apps that can be coordinated with” its new Group Play feature that debuted on the Galaxy S4 and that lets users quickly zap music, photos and other content via NFC from one phone to another. Samsung’s strategy with the Galaxy S4 hasn’t just been to deliver improved specifications from earlier models but to add several new software features that the company thinks will help its devices stand out in a crowded Android market.
Samsung is staying true to its word and will soon bring new features from its Galaxy S4 smartphone to its older Galaxy S III. SamMobile has got hold of a leaked version of the Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean update for the Galaxy S III and has found that it will bring several Galaxy S4 features to the Galaxy S III, including the new version of S-Voice, a revamped settings UI that will feature a tabbed interface and the Galaxy S4′s new lock screen system. SamMobile says that Samsung will push out the Android 4.2.2 update to Galaxy S III owners starting in June. Samsung said earlier this year that any new features for the Galaxy S4 that aren’t reliant on hardware will also be brought to its other flagship smartphones such as its Galaxy Note line of phablets.
One of the most intriguing concepts for the future of the PC industry we’ve heard lately has been Dell’s Project Ophelia, a USB thumb drive-sized “computer-on-a-stick” that can plug into any monitor’s USB port to transform it into a makeshift computer capable of running multiple operating systems. PCWorld reports that an early version of Ophelia that will only run Android will ship out to developers starting in July and could ship out to consumers as soon as August. The first version of Ophelia “will have Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capabilities and is aimed at users who do most of their computing on the Web,” says PCWorld, which means that monitors using Ophelia will be more like Chromebooks than traditional PCs. More →
With Apple’s “iWatch” likely to release this year, it’s not surprising that we’re starting to hear rumors about components being cobbled together just before the company starts ramping up production of the device. Japanese blog Macotakara points us to a new report from Taiwanese publication Economic Times claiming that Apple is testing out 1.5-inch OLED displays produced by RITEK subsidiary RiTdisplay for its upcoming smartwatch. Macotakara notes that earlier rumors claimed the iWatch would have a 1.8-inch display, so it seems that Apple may be thinking of reducing the device’s size if it’s really giving 1.5-inch panels a long look.
It’s never surprising when Apple decides to make new versions of its products lighter and thinner than earlier models but a new report from Digitimes suggests that the company could really outdo itself with the fifth-generation iPad. Digitimes‘ sources say that the next iPad will be between 25% and 33% lighter than the fourth-generation model and will go on sale starting in September. Given that the fourth-generation iPad weighed in at 652 grams, a 25% reduction in weight would mean that the fifth-generation model would weigh just 489 grams. The publication’s sources also say that Apple will start production of the new completely redesigned tablet in July and that “LG Display, Samsung Display and Sharp are expected to be the suppliers of display panels” for the device.
One of the constant complaints we hear from wireless and even some wireline ISPs is that the surge in online video demand has put a strain on their networks that leaves them with no choice but to implement unpopular policies such as bandwidth caps. But CNET reports that Google is hoping to make help ISPs significantly ease the strain of video on their networks by pushing its new V9 video technology standard that the company says can help content providers “save about 50% of bandwidth by encoding your video with VP9.” Of course, the VP9 standard hasn’t even been finalized yet and won’t be available for general use until mid-June at the earliest. All the same, Google is promising developers that adopting the new standard will be easy and is promoting it as a free, open source alternative to rival codec H.264.
We may now have a clue about how Time Warner Cable plans to implement its own Aereo-like service. Unnamed sources have told Bloomberg that Time Warner Cable is considering buying an equity stake in Hulu and “could offer Hulu to its customers as a bundled service inside and outside of the home with its current products,” meaning customers could access their favorite shows on Hulu without paying a monthly subscription fee for Hulu Plus. Under the plan being discussed, Time Warner Cable would take a 33% stake in Hulu with the rest held by co-owners Disney, Comcast and News Corp. Time Warner Cable CEO Glenn Britt recently said that the cable industry’s “structure needs more flexibility” and that he wants to offer customers “smaller, more affordable packages” that don’t cost them upward of $100 a month.
Things have been very up-and-down for Bitcoin lately and the virtual currency’s road coud be getting even rockier now that the United States federal government is getting involved. IDG News reports that the U.S. District Court in Maryland this week order the seizure of Bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox’s funds because it allegedly “failed to register as a ‘money transmitting business’ in accordance with 18 U.S. Code 1960.” The court-issued warrant alleges that Mt. Gox owner Mark Karpeles denied that his firm exchanged currency or “transmitted funds based on instructions to customers” in a questionnaire supplied by Wells Fargo back in 2011. Wells Fargo issues such questionnaires to determine whether clients it works with need to register as currency traders with the U.S. Treasury Department.
Samsung’s marketing Death Star isn’t just hovering over the United States — it has designs on conquering the entire world. Per Barron’s, Global Equities Research analyst Trip Chowdhry thinks that Apple may have a tougher time in India than other markets because BlackBerry and especially Samsung have already blanketed the country with ads touting their smartphones as elite products that consumers simply see as less expensive versions of the iPhone. Because of this, he says that the companies have created ”an environment where they tend to mentally enslave the consumer to buy their products.” Chowdhry says this is particularly true of Samsung, which he says airs TV ads once every 15 minutes in India.
The latest numbers from IDC show that Windows Phone is still having a tough time gaining traction, as the operating system was found on just 3.2% of all smartphones shipped in the first quarter of 2013. And things could look even worse for Microsoft in the second quarter since Windows Phone devices will have to go toe-to-toe with heavyweight flagships being rolled out by both Samsung and HTC, as well as the low-cost BlackBerry Q5 that BlackBerry is aggressively pushing into emerging markets. In fact, the only company that’s really devoting a lot of resources toward manufacturing and publicizing Windows Phone devices is Nokia, which really has no choice since it has chosen Windows Phone as its exclusive operating system. More →