Motorola managed to really impress with last year's Moto X and Moto G. The two smartphones have shown time and time again that they do not need heavily-customized software, large screens or the fastest hardware around to stand out from the rest of the pack. They successfully targeted different parts of the market -- the former has gone after flagship buyers while the latter has sought to attract consumers on a budget -- in a different, impactful way, relying on the appeal of the overall package to tell their story. But, no matter how good they might have been, Moto X and Moto G are clearly showing their age.
Today, Motorola is relieving the pair of their leading roles, as it unveils the new Moto X and Moto G (the 2014 editions, if you will). The names might be the same, but the latest offerings are new inside out.
Phablets are emerging as the next big thing in the smart device market. According to research firm IDC, big-screen smartphones will out-ship portable PCs (laptops) before the end of 2014, and tablets sometime in 2015. What's more, also this year, phablet shipments are expected to far outnumber desktop PCs. Want to bet on a winning large form factor? Pick phablets.
In 2014, IDC expects shipments of phablets, tablets, portable PCs and desktop PCs to reach 174.9 million, 233.1 million, 170 million and 133.5 million, respectively. Fast forward to the end of 2015, and shipments of phablets and tablets reach 318 million and 233 million units, respectively. And with Apple expected to unveil an iPhone phablet, big smartphones are only going to make things worse for PC and tablet shipments.
Microsoft today introduces Lumia 830, a new Windows Phone 8.1 device that is advertised by the software giant as "the first affordable flagship" smartphone. The device is touted to give rival devices from Apple and Samsung a run for their money, so let's take a look at what it has to offer.
The highlight of Lumia 830 is its PureView-branded main camera, which is paired with some very interesting software features, which allow users to, for instance, change the intensity of the flash in the captured still, after the fact. It is aided by optical image stabilization. To showcase just how capable the 10 MP unit is, Microsoft inexplicably compared Lumia 830 with an outdated flagship, Apple's iPhone 5 which is verging on two years of market time. Thankfully, Microsoft has not gone crazy (well, maybe it did).
Premium devices got most of the attention at IFA 2014, thanks to their cutting edge software and hardware. But there are some other interesting new products announced at the trade show which warrant a look. One of them is HTC's mid-range Android smartphone, Desire 820.
Desire 820 may not be as exciting as, for instance, Galaxy Note Edge is with its curved edge display, but it gives us a sense of what the future of Android hardware looks like. I'll give you a hint -- it's not 32-bit. Desire 820 is among the first smartphones of 2014 to be unveiled with a 64-bit processor, Qualcomm's powerful Snapdragon 615.
With all eyes on Samsung, which just unveiled Galaxy Note 4, Galaxy Note Edge and Gear VR, I am genuinely surprised that Sony has decided to showcase its new flagship Xperia devices on the same day as its South Korean rival. Why? Because Samsung commands more attention from the tech media, due to its Android pack leader position. And that can only leave Sony fighting for scraps.
Nonetheless, mere hours after Samsung's Unpacked 2014 Episode 2, Sony took the wraps off its new Xperia Z3, Xperia Z3 Compact and Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact. Oh, there's an Xperia E3 too, which is designed to compete in the low-end market, like Nokia Lumia 530. But, let's talk about the premium Xperias now, which are far more intriguing.
Samsung is single-handedly responsible for creating the phablet category three years ago with the original Galaxy Note. Back then, big smartphones were believed to be nothing more than a niche, with no chance of ever enjoying mainstream approval. At first, I was actually one of the non-believers. But, as every Galaxy Note iteration has proved time and time again, consumers are actually quite fond of the idea of touching a big screen day in and day out.
But, the phablet market has changed dramatically since the original Galaxy Note was released, with more and more Android vendors competing for a slice of the pie. Heck, even Nokia got in on the action, representing Windows Phone, late last year with Lumia 1520 and Lumia 1320. Despite the increased competition, Samsung continues to be viewed as the pack leader, thanks in no small part to the dedicated features its flagship phablets pack. So, what does this year's Galaxy Note has in store?
It does not matter if smartwatches have yet to catch on with consumers. The big players in the mobile industry are just getting started announcing their efforts. ASUS is the latest to reveal its Android Wear-based device, which it calls ZenWatch.
ZenWatch, which is ASUS's first wearable according to the company, is designed as a companion device to smartphones running Android 4.3 Jelly Bean or newer, meaning that, like other devices in this category, it cannot do much without being paired to one. It runs the ZenUI user interface on top of Android Wear, which offers dedicated apps and a custom, rather elegant, design, among other features.
When it comes to major apps, Windows Phone is clearly starting to catch up with Android and iOS. But, even as it makes good progress, the tiled smartphone operating system continues to offer a restrictive selection of alternative browsers. This is one of the Store's few remaining major weak spots, alongside cloud services or popular game titles.
Internet Explorer may be good, but a little competition from a longtime established rival never hurts, especially from Norwegian browser maker Opera -- it will soon introduce Opera Mini on the platform, which will hopefully give Internet Explorer a run for its money.
Samsung will announce the successor of the popular Galaxy Note 3 tomorrow, at a press event dubbed Unpacked 2014 Episode 2. This is the second most important unveiling of the year for the South Korean maker, after Galaxy S5. Naturally, that means that our expectations are high for what will arguably be the Android phablet to beat in the second part of 2014, if the success of its predecessors is of any indication.
So far, Samsung has officially disclosed little about Galaxy Note 4, only revealing the silhouette of the new phablet, in one of its most recent teaser videos, and not much else. That is far from a complete picture, so here is what else you can expect from Galaxy Note 4.
New data which was just posted by web analytics company NetMarketShare shows us that, in August, Windows 8.x managed to gain precious usage share in the desktop operating system market. This happened mainly at the expense of the 13 year-old Windows XP, which is seeing its usage share slowly decrease as new devices, toting newer OSs, are brought into the fold.
The good news, however, comes from the rise in usage share of Windows 8.1, which is now at 7.09 percent, up from the 6.56 percent from July. Windows 8 also grew, to 6.28 percent from 5.92 percent, but this is of a lesser importance, as its successor's fate is far more important. Meanwhile, Windows XP decreased to 23.89 percent from 24.82 percent. Still, it is obvious that the oldest of the three still has a terribly long way to go before it reaches similar usage share levels (we're looking at a couple of years, at least) as Windows 8.1 touts now.
HERE may be commonly associated with Windows Phone, but that is not stopping Nokia from also offering its powerful software on Samsung's Galaxy smartphones as well as the new Gear S smartwatch. Microsoft should be worried, as one of the main differentiating features of its Windows Phone -- the exclusive availability of the HERE suite, among top mobile platforms -- just vanished into thin air.
HERE is making its way to Galaxy smartphones with virtually all of its core features intact. That means turn-by-turn navigation in nearly 100 countries, detailed offline maps for up to 200 countries, live traffic information in more than 40 countries, and directions when using public transportation in more than 750 cities from more than 40 countries. It's pretty much the whole shebang.
There's no question about it -- carrier exclusives are a bad idea. They hurt consumer choice, limit the chances of a device reaching its full market potential, and have a negative impact on the market shares of the vendor and the platform, just to name a few of the main negatives. This especially holds true for Windows Phone. After all, when did anything good come out out of a carrier-exclusive smartphone running the tiled operating system? Every time one comes out, many platforms fans, as well as reviewers, express their disappointed.
So when HTC One (M8) for Windows only turned up at Verizon at launch, it looked like the Taiwanese maker was setting itself and its new smartphone up for failure. Fortunately, that is not the case, as the Windows Phone 8.1 device will also be available at AT&T and T-Mobile, the latter of which just announced the upcoming availability. That's the good news. Now here comes the disappointing part.
One of the key ways to get people to buy a product is to actually make it possible for them to buy it. It sounds obvious, I know, but even a company as big as Microsoft has been having trouble fathoming this simple idea. Every Surface model has launched in a limited number of markets, taking its sweet time to hit new ones. Surface Pro 3 is no exception, but at least the delay is much shorter in its case.
Starting today, a little over two months after Surface Pro 3 went on sale in Canada, Japan and US, the Windows 8.1 device is available in 25 additional markets. What's more, also today, the much-anticipated Surface Pro 3 Docking Station is available to pre-order in all markets.
One of the biggest weaknesses that a typical smartwatch has is that it relies on a smartphone to do most things it advertises. Answering a phone call? It has to be paired to a smartphone. Seeing Facebook notifications? It has to be paired to a smartphone. Reading your email? It has to be paired to a smartphone. The list goes on and on and on. You might just as well pick up your smartphone and do all those things; it just works.
Samsung has decided to do something about it, as, today, the South Korean maker unveils a smartwatch that does not have a smartphone addiction. That's because the new Gear S has its own cellular connection, which allows things like social notifications to be displayed without being paired to a smartphone. It's grown up. Who knows, it might even decide to move out of the smartphone's shadow one day and create its own path. It's got what it takes.
Windows Phone is enjoying the support of more smartphone manufacturers than ever. In fact, at Build 2014, Microsoft revealed its tiled operating system had 15 vendors committed to the platform (theoretically speaking). A few more joined the list since, with Archos being the latest to unveil its first Windows Phone.
The French electronics company is readying the poorly-named 40 Cesium Smartphone for a September launch. The device tagets low-end smartphone buyers, as the Windows Phone will hit stores with a price tag of just £79.