Amazon (AMZN) has reportedly contracted Foxconn to build its long-rumored “Kindle smartphone” according to the Taiwan Economic News. The news corroborates Digitimes’ report late last month that Foxconn will have the smartphones ready for a mid-2013 launch. The site claims Amazon has ordered 5 million smartphones with each unit said to cost between $100 to $200. Finally, the report states Foxconn will be working with touch panel makers J Touch and Young Fast Optoelectronics to receive supply parts for Amazon’s smartphones. J Touch Corp. recently revealed a 5-inch “WhiteMagic” touchscreen display that promises brighter images and longer battery life. An Amazon smartphone would presumably run on Android, as is the case with the Kindle Fire tablets.
Research In Motion (RIMM) announced on Monday “120 select customers” that “span a variety of industries including financial, government, insurance, healthcare, manufacturing, media, and distribution” now have access to its BlackBerry 10 Technical Preview program. The new program comes off news that the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency had decided to drop RIM devices for Apple (AAPL) phones. Starting Monday, the program will provide organizations and governments with early access to BB10’s enterprise solutions along with pre-production BB10 smartphones. BlackBerry 10 officially launches on January 30th. RIM’s press release follows below.
With its app development situation improving, Microsoft (MSFT) announced this week that it has expanded its Windows Phone Store to 37 new markets around the globe, bringing the company’s app store presence to 191 total markets. Alongside the new regions, Microsoft also revealed that its WindowsPhone.com Web Store is accessible in 112 markets. Coinciding with the new market launches are new features: Universal search to make content discovery easier, app installation to SD cards (for when an Internet connection is not available), and a new reinstallation feature that makes transferring account information less troublesome. More →
Although Google+ hasn’t turned out to be quite the Facebook (FB) “killer,” Google (GOOG) is still very serious about expanding its social network. The company announced on Friday an upcoming update to its Google+ Android app with new features for “including on-the-go profile editing, an easier way to author content, and a subtle notice when there’s new stuff to read.” Google is also adding some killer photo features: up to 5GB of full-sized photos can be backed up for free via Instant Upload and Android 4.2’s 360-degree “Photo Sphere” panoramas can be shared to the mobile stream. More →
This week has been a very good one for Research In Motion (RIMM) and BlackBerry 10 news. First there was the teaser by RIM, then a detailed leak from Vietnam, followed by a mouth-watering video walk-through leak. And now the company has released a new video with Vivek Bhardwaj, Head of Software Portfolio for BlackBerry showing off BlackBerry 10’s touchscreen keyboard. As BlackBerry purists know, nothing beats a physical keyboard, until maybe now. Bhardwaj says the keyboard on BlackBerry 10 is visually designed to look and feel like a physical BlackBerry keyboard with frets in between key rows “maximized edge-to-edge.” The keyboard is also more intelligent and personalized, automatically learning words based on your vocabulary for future suggestion. The keyboard’s also got a cool contextual awareness feature that automatically adds spaces between words when you need to rapidly type something out. Bhardwaj says the software knows how to infer where the spaces should go and that the content awareness is smart enough to switch between several languages such as English and Spanish. We’ve posted the full video below, and the new keyboard capabilities look awesome.
I love all game consoles equally. My Xbox 360 is used equally as much as my PlayStation 3. The Wii — oh, I’ll just leave it at that. The current generation of consoles is all but over — 10-year life cycle be damned — and new consoles are rumored to be coming next fall. If not next fall, then in 2014. Whatever is the case, Sony (SNE) can’t afford to lag in third place again. Sure, the Xbox 360 and PS3 are neck-in-neck in global lifetime sales, and the Xbox 360 did have a one year head start, but coming off the disappointing PS Vita, “confidence is less high” that Sony will deliver a console next year in time to compete with Microsoft (MSFT), according to Kotaku.
Smart TVs, particularly Samsung’s (005930) last few generations of flat screens, can be hacked to give attackers remote access according to a security startup called ReVuln. The company says it discovered a “zero-day exploit” that hackers could potentially use to perform malicious activities that range from stealing accounts linked through apps to using built-in webcams and microphones to spy on unsuspecting couch potatoes. Don’t panic just yet, though. In order for the exploit to be activated, a hacker needs to plug a USB drive loaded with malicious software into the actual TV to bypass the Linux-based OS/firmware on Samsung’s Smart TVs. But, if a hacker were to pull that off, every piece of data stored on a Smart TV could theoretically be retrieved.
There’s still no Instagram app for Windows Phone 8, but Microsoft (MSFT) says developers are embracing its new mobile OS with open arms. The company announced on Thursday it is seeing a “sustained 40% increase in Windows Phone app submissions.” As a result of the uptick in app submissions, it’s not letting any of its curating staff go on a holiday break in order provide app certification within five business days. The announcement might not delight the staff members working in that department, but could be construed as sign of success for Microsoft. The company has struggled to convince developers small and large, including Google (GOOG), that it has a big enough user base to warrant investing time into. More →
Ridiculous sizes aside, oversized smartphones (“phablets”) that border on tablet territory are here to stay. By next year, the crop of smartphones with 5-inch displays will seem tiny compared to phablets with 6-inch+ screens. According to The Korea Times, Samsung (005930) is reportedly planning to launch the Galaxy Note III with a 6.3-inch OLED display in 2013. By comparison, the current Galaxy Note II has 5.5-inch display. Huawei also (002502) confirmed last week it will release a Galaxy Note II competitor with a 6.1-inch screen. Having pioneered the “phablet” category, Samsung might see no problem with consumers adjusting to even bigger smartphones. More →
Hot on the heels of its email redesign, Yahoo (YHOO) announced on Wednesday that it has completely redesigned the Flickr iPhone app. The new app borrows heavily from Instagram and focuses on what makes Flickr special: photos and communities. Yahoo’s new Flickr app also includes 16 filters with their own fancy names to go head-on with Instagram and Twitter’s recently updated app that added eight filters. Users can now access the Flickr app with numerous accounts including Facebook (FB) and Google (GOOG) and photos can be shared to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr or via email. The new Flickr app is available for free on iPhone but to our disappointment, there isn’t an iPad-optimized version. More →
In what can be considered a major dig at Microsoft (MSFT), Clay Bavor, product management director at Google (GOOG) Apps told V3 that the company is not bringing native Gmail or Google Drive apps to Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8. Bavor said Google has “no plans to build out Windows apps” and that the company is “very careful about where we invest and will go where the users are but they are not on Windows Phone or Windows 8.” As we begin to see a shift toward users storing their data in the cloud, the lack of Google Drive on the newest Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 is an alarming concern. It’s true there are alternatives such as Microsoft’s SkyDrive, but no native Gmail app for either OSes suggests Windows is no longer a priority to develop for anymore. Instead, Bavor says that the company will continue to “make big investments in mobile in 2013 with the goal of having beautiful mobile apps” on iOS and Android.
The beauty of Instagram is its simplicity and lack of advertisements. But if comments made by Carolyn Everson, Facebook’s (FB) vice president of global marketing solutions are accurate, advertisements could be coming to Instagram in the near future. When asked if Facebook would put ads on the photo-sharing app and micro social network, Everson said that “eventually we’ll figure out a way to monetize Instagram.” Given Instagram’s explosive growth since Facebook acquired it in April for $1 billion, it makes sense for the social network to expect a return on its investment. Everson didn’t mention a specific timeframe for when Facebook plans to monetize Instagram, but said that many brands are using the platform to engage with followers and that monetization was definitely “going to happen.”
Apple (AAPL) is finally catching up to the overwhelming demand for its latest iPhone 5 according to analyst Shaw Wu from Sterne Agee. Wu says production of the iPhone 5 has increased from delays of two to four days to same day, meaning Apple can ship them to customers sooner. He has increased his forecast that Apple will sell 47.5 million iPhone 5s this quarter instead of the 46.5 million he had previously projected. More interesting, though, is his warning that the iPad mini is cannibalizing sales for the fourth-generation iPad. Wu’s lowered his expected sales forecast for the 9.7-inch tablet from 25 million this quarter to 23.5 million. Wu believes larger iPad sales will see a decline as consumers trend towards tablets with smaller form factors and 7-inch displays. Apple CEO Tim Cook has said before that he’s not worried about product cannibalization as long as it’s within the company and not by a competitor.