The word “sapphire” typically conjures up images of luxury gems, but it could soon be associated with high-end smartphone displays as well. Technology Review reports that engineers at New Hampshire-based GT Advanced Technologies are working on ways to make sapphire a practical alternative to Corning’s ever-popular Gorilla Glass as a building material for smartphone screens. While Technology Review concedes that sapphire screens will likely remain much more expensive than Gorilla Glass screens going forward, the publication points out that sapphire screens would be roughly three times more durable and resistant to scratching than Corning’s displays. The key will be to get sapphire display costs down to around $20 per unit, which would still represent a major premium compared to a typical $3 Gorilla Glass screen, but would at least make the material viable for a limited number of high-end smartphones.
The United States has outstanding LTE coverage compared to other markets, however worldwide carriers are beginning to upgrade their networks to deliver the high-speed wireless technology to their customers. According to a new report from ABI Research, the total mobile data traffic for 2012 amounted to 13,412 petabytes, an increase of 69% from 2011 when 3G data usage accounted for 46% of all traffic. The accelerated adoption of 4G LTE is expected to increase in 2013, however. The research firm estimates that LTE data traffic will grow an astonishing 207% year-over-year in 2013, compared to 99% growth for 3G traffic. The increase for LTE traffic comes as a result of added 4G deployments in developed markets throughout the world. There are still a number of markets that have not yet upgraded to the technology, though.
We’re rapidly approaching a time when we can start referring to smartphones as simply “phones.” According to the latest projections from market research firm IDC, smartphone shipments will top feature phone shipments for the first time ever this year, with China accounting for nearly one-third of all smartphones projected to ship in 2013. According to IDC, vendors will sell 918.6 million smartphones into channels in 2013, including 301.2 million devices shipped to China, 137.5 million shipped to the United States and 35.5 million shipped to the United Kingdom. More →
In a surprising development, it seems that a lot of people don’t like being told they can’t unlock their cell phones. NPR reports that a petition posted on the White House website asking the Obama administration to “champion a bill that makes [cell phone] unlocking permanently legal” has garnered more than 100,000 signatures, which means that the White House by its own rules must now issue a formal response. More →
While we don’t expect police will start arresting 9-year-old girls for unlocking their Winnie the Pooh smartphones anytime soon, we can’t say that the newly enacted American law that outlaws unlocking your smartphone sets a good precedent. Contrast this with what our neighbors to the north are pondering: According to CBCNews, Canada’s top telecom regulator wants to not only limit the early termination fees that wireless carriers can charge but also mandate that carriers unlock their smartphones under “reasonable terms.” Even more amazingly, CBC says that the country’s wireless carriers have actually praised the proposed new rules, as a Telus spokesman said they were “a good start to work from.” A public hearing on the proposed rules is scheduled to occur next month.
It became illegal for consumers to unlock their mobile phones over the weekend due to a bylaw in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The ruling now requires consumers to get permission from their wireless providers before freeing their mobile phones for use on other networks. Under the law, first-time offenders can be fined up to $500,000 or be imprisoned for up to five years for unlocking a subsidized wireless phone without a carrier’s consent. News of the ruling spread like wildfire and enraged consumers from coast to cost. One 27-year-old app developer had enough, however, and he decided to make a stand. More →
Apple’s slowed growth has blown the future of the mobile industry wide open… and that’s very exciting
What a difference just a few months makes. If you don’t recall, it was only last September when Apple’s (AAPL) share prices were blasting past $700 and bullish analysts were proclaiming that the company was well be on its way to having a $1 trillion valuation and dominating the tech industry for years to come. All that’s changed now as Apple has lost its spot as the world’s most valuable company and investors are panicking that the company’s growth rate may have peaked. This isn’t to say that Apple is doomed (and sorry, Apple haters, but it isn’t) or that it can’t return to the lofty heights it achieved last summer, but for the time being it no longer seems destined to mop the floor with its competitors for years to come. More →
The Librarian of Congress determined in October of last year that certain actions involving mobile phones were illegal under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The rules were revised to state that while it is legal to jailbreak smartphones, it is illegal to jailbreak tablets and illegal to unlock phones without permission from your wireless provider. A 90-day window was put in place that allowed consumers to purchase a phone and unlock it, however that window closes on January 26th, TechNewsDaily noted. Most carriers lock their phones to prevent them from running on competitors’ networks. Starting next week, U.S. consumers will no longer legally be allowed to unlock their carrier-locked devices without permission, though some smartphones such as Verizon’s iPhone 5 and the Nexus 4 are unlocked to begin with.
There are new signs of European consumer spending finishing the year 2012 on a very weak note. Could this mean that consumer electronics sales from video game consoles to smartphones will face an outright slump in the first quarter of 2013? The latest — and worst — indication of a European consumption freeze comes from the automobile industry. Car sales in the European Union dove more than 16% in December. This is far worse than the annual 8% slump for the full year, indicating that the EU retail environment may have taken a turn for the worse. The 2012 tumble in car registrations was the biggest decline since 1993, even steeper than what the region suffered after the 2001 downturn or the 2008 global debt crisis. More →
There’s just one problem with the post-PC mobile revolution: The Internet may not be designed to properly handle it. To understand why this is, recall that the Internet was originally designed to be something like the post office where packets of data are sent back and forth from one IP address to another based on information in the packet header. The problem is that none of the Internet’s architects at the time could have known about all the mobile devices that would one day be hooked up to the Internet, from smartphones and tablets to vacuums and refrigerators. When you take all these devices into account, and you consider that they could easily create a logjam by all requesting the same data from the same source, then you can see how the mobile revolution could potentially overwhelm the old architecture. More →
Amid a sea of Ultra-HD TVs, smart washing machines and various other gadgets, waterproofing expert Liquipel took to CES 2013 to make two announcements. The firm, which adds an interior and exterior waterproof nanocoating to cell phones, revealed a new and improved waterproofing material that is even more effective than its first-generation solution. Liquipel also unveiled its new “Liquipod,” a portable machine that can waterproof gadgets anywhere in the world while device owners wait, according to TechCrunch. Previously, Liquipel required customers to ship their handsets to the company’s offices for treatment.
In a country where Internet addiction is a growing concern and playing StarCraft is considered a sport, South Korea is taking the necessary measures to curb “illegal [and] harmful information” according to NEWSis. The South Korean government is reportedly preparing to block profanity and pornography on smartphones owned by teenagers by installing special software on their devices. The plans, meant to crack down on cyber-bullying, will run the gamut from Twitter to Facebook (FB) – basically everything. It’s unclear if South Korea will implement the ban on tablets as well.
We all love our smartphones, but they are a costly addiction to support. According to Consumer Reports, American wireless subscribers saw their wireless bills increase by 7% between 2011 and 2012, and the big culprit is the continued proliferation of smartphones. Overall, 70% of wireless subscribers who took part in Consumer Reports’ survey owned smartphones this year, up from 50% in 2011. As the publication notes, “upgrading from a plain cell phone at a major carrier isn’t cheap” since “you have to buy the smart phone itself (usually $100 to $400 when signing a two-year contract) and fork over $70 to $110 a month for a plan with data service… a lot more than a basic phone plan, which generally costs $40 to $70 a month.”