Mihaita Bamburic

Google proves once again it is terrible at selling smartphones

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Getting the latest Nexus smartphone from Google in the first few months of availability can prove to be a real adventure. You know how it goes, as the same thing has happened before with its predecessor. You have to be either extremely lucky to get one early on or extremely committed to the brand to put up with the perennially insufficient stock by waiting your turn at finally getting one. It's insane.

Because of these issues, I have long given up on the thought of buying the latest Nexus smartphone while it's hot -- including the Nexus 6 phablet, as much as I would love to grab one. The fault lies consistently with Google. The search giant is terrible at selling smartphones. Even worse, it comes up with a crappy excuse to justify it.

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Smartphones: Apple ties with Samsung, Android still growing, Windows Phone still failing

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Samsung is no longer the leading smartphone vendor. According to a new report from Strategy Analytics, Apple caught up with the South Korean maker in Q4 2014, thanks to a record number of iPhone shipments totaling 74.5 million units. The two players now share the top spot on the podium.

How did it come to this? Well, it's simple. Apple's shipments increased from 51 million units by 46.07 percent year-over-year, while Samsung's shipments decreased from 86 million units by 13.37 percent, each converging to 19.6 percent market share. Thanks to the strong performance shown by iPhones, iOS' market share rose also, to 19.6 percent from 17.6 percent a year prior, while Android's market share dipped slightly to 76.7 percent from 78.3 percent.

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Xiaomi brings its Mi 4 flagship smartphone to India

Xiaomi Mi 4

Half a year after it unveiled Mi 4, Chinese smartphone vendor Xiaomi is bringing its "fastest & most gorgeous Mi Phone ever" to India. Starting February 10, local consumers will be able to get their hands on the flagship device through retailer Flipkart.

Mi 4 is one of the most interesting smartphones unveiled in 2014, in no small part thanks to its $320 starting price. Handsets from rival makers such as Samsung have price-tags twice as high, so it is easy to understand what makes it such an appealing option in the flagship segment. Fortunately for those wanting to get their hands on Mi 4 in India, its price-tag is still as attractive as ever.

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Flash is DEAD! YouTube goes all-in with HTML5

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YouTube introduced the HTML5 player back in early-2010. I remember it quite well. At the time, it was made available through the Try something new! page, only as an experimental feature. I was excited to get rid of Flash, so I flicked the switch. I had high hopes. I thought I would be able to play all videos using the HTML5 player, but, as it turned out, that was years away from happening -- YouTube's HTML5 player was not yet ready for prime time, and Flash would get a few more years to reign supreme.

Fast forward to early-2015 and YouTube finally announces that HTML5 is the default player. Flash might as well be considered officially dead on YouTube. It's a huge step forward for those of us waiting for the day when sites we visit are no longer asking or forcing us to install Flash.

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Microsoft Q2 FY2015: The highlights

Does a deleted Microsoft blog post show it's about to buy mobile email firm Acompli?

Microsoft has released its earnings report for Q2 FY2015 (that's Q4 CY2014 for everyone else), revealing figures that closely match analyst expectations. The software giant achieved $26.5 billion in revenue, with operating income coming in at $7.8 billion. Gross margin and diluted earnings per share were $16.3 billion and $0.71, respectively. However, in after-hours trading, Microsoft's shares dropped by $2, or 4.28 percent, to $45 per share.

Microsoft has delivered some good news through its earnings report concerning its Devices and Consumer part of the business. Surface revenue reached $1.1 billion at the end of the quarter, which translates to a healthy increase of 24 percent over Q2 FY2014. Lumia sales topped 10.5 million, which, again, is better than the same quarter from a year prior as well as the previous quarter, Q1 FY2015. And the list goes on.

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What you need to know about T-Mobile's new Score program

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T-Mobile wants nothing to do with subsidies, but it is willing to trim the cost for a price. Normally, if you want to buy a new phone from the magenta carrier you will have to pay full price, either outright or through financing. Except that now T-Mobile has a new program, called Score, which was just introduced to allow its customers to get smartphones at lower prices. Is Score a good choice for you?

For just $5 per month, T-Mobile customers who sign up for Score will be able to take advantage of lower prices when purchasing a new smartphone from the carrier, in either six months or a year after joining the program.

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Facebook Lite officially available for low-end Android devices

Facebook Lite Android

Facebook is not exactly the lightest mobile app around. In fact, it is one of the worst offenders, no matter if we are talking about Android or iOS. It uses plenty of resources, both in terms of data and processing power. We may have gotten used to it by now, but these are major pain points in developing and emerging markets, where more and more potential users are going online for the first time.

There, lots of consumers are rocking low-spec Android devices and small cellular data plans, and the standard Facebook flavor is not a great match for them. So, the social network has finally released a lighter version of its Android app, called Facebook Lite, which promises to address those shortcomings. Let's take a look at it.

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Cross-platform support is key to Spartan's success

Project Spartan Windows 10

Microsoft revealed earlier this week that Windows 10 will ship with a new browser, known as Spartan. The venerable Internet Explorer will still be around for enterprise duty and certain sites, but the new kid on the block is the one Microsoft wants you to embrace. However, when it is Google's Chrome or Mozilla's Firefox that you have to leave behind, convincing you to jump ship is not going to be easy.

Spartan is clearly no Internet Explorer. It is designed from the ground up as a modern browser, that works well across multiple form factors. It will be found on all PCs, smartphones and tablets that ship with or are upgraded to Windows 10, which means that it, at least, will be readily available to test. But does it have what it takes to pass the test, and become your new favorite browser?

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I'm sold on Windows 10, but are you?

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Windows 10 is shaping up to be the best Windows yet. I am still wrapping my head around it, but after going through most of the changes I think there are a ton of things to like about it, which is an astonishing achievement. Microsoft really managed to surprise me, and I didn't expect that, to be perfectly honest.

However, what seals the deal for me is how all the changes tie together. I can now say that there are clear benefits to using the latest Windows across all devices that support it. It makes total sense, for the first time. In fact, without even trying the new Preview release, I am sold on Windows 10. Count me in as one of the first to make the switch on all of my devices!

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Windows Phone users rejoice! Dropbox is here

Dropbox Windows Phone

It is fair to say that Windows Phone still needs quite a few major titles in Store before the so-called app-gap can be considered a thing of the past. Take cloud storage services for example. You can embrace OneDrive if you want to stick with Microsoft services, or, as an alternative, use Box. But neither Dropbox nor Google Drive are an option. Both are hugely popular services, and their availability can be a deal-breaker for prospective Windows Phone users.

The good news is that at least Dropbox's availability on Windows Phone is no longer an issue, as the cloud storage service just launched its app in Store. It's undeniably a major win for the tiled smartphone operating system, which has consistently been criticized for lacking an official Dropbox client.

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Mega finally makes its official debut on Windows Phone

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Windows Phone is the last major mobile platform to receive an official Mega app, following Android, iOS and even BlackBerry. It took quite a long time for the offering to make its public debut in Store, as the cloud storage service, which launched two years ago, first mentioned details surrounding its development in mid-2013.

Expectations are high, also taking into account the fact that Mega currently sits in Windows Phone Store as version 2.0. What does it have to offer? Well, let's take a look at the features it has, and should have.

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Developers are killing Windows Phone

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No matter how much Windows Phone has progressed, it feels like it will always be held back by its app store. Lots of nice titles continue to be unavailable, despite claims of the so-called "app-gap" closing. It is not, clearly. When top developers eventually release their apps on the platform, they usually come long after their Android and iOS counterparts and are rarely updated. Let's not even talk about feature parity, which is a huge issue on its own. Of course, that is if those top developers can be convinced to support Windows Phone in the first place, which isn't always the case. It's not an easy thing to do.

Windows Phone Store is also not helped by the developers who decide to abandon or leave the platform altogether. The latest blow is dealt by Chase Bank, which has supported Windows Phone for more than two years. It just announced that it will take the latter route, packing its bags and leaving the platform in just a few days.

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Android 5.0.2 Lollipop OTA files now available -- here's how you can update

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After releasing Android 5.0.2 Lollipop factory images for the 2013 and 2012 Wi-Fi Nexus 7, Google is now rolling out the latest version of Android for the two 7-inch tablets via an over-the-air (OTA) update.

Google has yet to provide an official changelog for Android 5.0.2 Lollipop, but from the AOSP commits we can tell that there are only a couple of noteworthy changes made since Android 5.0.1 Lollipop. The biggest one is related to TRIM functionality, which should lead to noticeable improvements in performance.

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Of course Lumia 532 is 'Windows 10 ready' -- Microsoft isn't (that) crazy!

Microsoft Lumia 532 Windows Phone 8.1

Microsoft has made lots of mistakes with Windows Phone. Without a shadow of a doubt, one of the biggest screw-ups is the lack of an upgrade path from Windows Phone 7 to the next major installment, Windows Phone 8. The software giant basically shot itself, and its mobile platform, in the foot there. But let's let bygones be bygones, shall we?

The reason why I am bringing this up now is that there's chatter about Lumia 532 being "Windows 10 ready". And it's not just a rumor, no. Microsoft's own landing page for the Windows Phone advertises this, when doing a search for the device. Strangely enough, some are taking this with a grain of salt, like it isn't obvious. But it is. Lumia 532 will get Windows 10. Microsoft isn't going to make the same mistake twice, otherwise it will kill the platform for good.

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Get OnePlus One without invite on January 20

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Selling your first smartphone through an invite-only system is a risky business model. Lots of things can go wrong, quickly, if it doesn't pique consumers' interest. For newcomer OnePlus it, however, worked out great so far. Its One "flagship-killer", which sold half a million units by early-November 2014, has received near-instant recognition from enthusiasts, despite being backed by a company that, at the time of its launch, was less than half a year old.

Since its launch, OnePlus also made One available to those without an invite, on a number of occasions. Things didn't go smoothly every time, as lots of consumers rushed to get their hands on the device, causing issues with the ordering system. If you were among the unlucky ones, or you are just now considering getting one, One (no pun intended) will once again be available sans invite tomorrow, January 20.

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