The increasing popularity of smartphones in emerging markets coupled with Google's desire to gain control over its open-source mobile operating system have resulted in Android One. It's a new program, designed with low-end devices in mind, that will see more consumers enjoying the benefits of a close-to-stock Android experience on inexpensive handsets. It's also Google's way of making sure that billions of first-time smartphone users will be exposed to its services and become long-term customers.
"If we look at how people are getting online and accessing information today, increasingly it’s through a smartphone", says Android and Chrome & Apps SVP Sundar Pichai. "While 1.75 billion people around the world already have a smartphone, the vast majority of the world’s population -- over five billion more -- do not. That means most people are only able to make simple voice calls, rather than connect with family through a live video chat, use mapping apps to find the closest hospital, or simply search the web. We want to bring these experiences to more people".
Small displays are passé nowadays, as consumers increasingly prefer large screens. There are obvious benefits to it. Even Apple has finally acknowledged it with iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, which dwarf all previous iPhones when it comes to display size. But, now that we have bigger iPhones, we find ourselves in the unusual position of having to choose which one to buy.
That was not a problem before, because, since the original iPhone was introduced, Apple only had a single flagship in its lineup. In late-2013, it tried to shake things up a bit with iPhone 5c, but it was actually designed as a mid-range offering. With iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, there are more similarities. Nonetheless, figuring out which new iPhone is best for you is easy.
Apple has finally conceded that big screens are better, as its new iPhones offer 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch displays. It has also finally conceded that a mobile operating system is better when it's more open, as iOS 8 supports third-party keyboards and inter-app communication. It's almost like Apple is saying that Steve Jobs was wrong while rival Android manufacturers and Google were right all along. Oh, the horror. How will Apple fanbois be able to explain this?
But, even as Apple is doing all these things, that some of us have already been enjoying for too many years to count, iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are still outclassed by rival Android flagships. In fact, the new iPhones are not much different than Samsung Galaxy S3 or Galaxy Note 3, and, as you may know, neither of the two is the latest incarnation in their respective series. Ouch!
We all have photos and videos that we want to share with other folks. We do it all too often on Facebook, sometimes without even considering that it's a broad audience we are sharing them with, who may not want to, or should not, see all our intimate moments on display.
And let's be real for a minute: not all of us are in awe about someone drunk dancing on video, baby pictures, or mirror selfies (sorry that you had to hear that now) -- some of us may be, sure, but others may be more interested in, just as a totally and completely random example, seeing photos of fast cars (guilty as charged!). For those who want to fully control who can see their photos and videos, there is new app to consider, and it's called Cirqle.
When Microsoft announced Lumia 830 earlier this month, it made no specific mention of the so-called "first affordable flagship" arriving in US stores. The price was also listed in Euros (€330, before taxes and subsidies) from the get-go, reinforcing the idea that, like many other Nokia-branded devices before it, Lumia 830 was destined for other markets.
However, that does not appear to be the case, as US mobile operator AT&T has revealed that it will offer Lumia 830. But it remains to be seen whether the new Windows Phone will also make its way to Verizon, T-Mobile or Sprint.
And I so hoped Apple would have a winner on its hands this year, a new iPhone that would woo me like no other smartphone has done before. And it does. Kind of. But, it's not the 4.7-inch iPhone 6, it's the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus. Yes, it's the darn new phablet on the block! And that's a problem. Having to go for a phablet to get the best iPhone is extremely limiting and stupid. Where's the normal-sized iPhone 6 that everyone can call the best iPhone yet? This one? I'm not feeling it. It's rubbish. What have you done, Apple?
This has got everything to do with the specs. I am not the first person to call Apple out for using hardware which someone had to raid a parts trash bin to find. The iPhone 6 that I've been waiting for does not feel like an iPhone with sub-par hardware. It just doesn't. The important bits are clearly inferior to Android flagships (heck, even top Windows Phones, which were known for using lesser hardware in the past) and iPhone 6 Plus, and, as you can well tell by now, I am one step away from using curse words to describe it. I'm trying not to go there. No promises that won't happen before the last period.
A week ago, Norwegian browser maker Opera revealed that it will bring the popular Opera Mini to Windows Phone. Not long after, the app was made available as a private beta to a few lucky testers. Now though, everyone with a Windows Phone can check out Opera Mini.
Opera Mini is the first well-known third-party browser to be available on Windows Phone. This gives it the opportunity to quickly attract the attention of those looking for an alternative to Internet Explorer, which comes on board the tiled operating system. The latter, at least so far, has proved to be a reliable and, more recently, powerful option. So does Opera Mini have what it takes to steal users away from its Microsoft-made rival?
The Home Depot is the latest US retailer to fall victim to a major payment systems hack, which may have exposed its customers' credit card data since April of this year. The security breach is linked to its US and Canadian retail locations, but not its online store or Mexican chain.
The breach is publicly acknowledged by The Home Depot, with the company's CEO apologizing for what is yet another security disaster. "We apologize for the frustration and anxiety this causes our customers, and I want to thank them for their patience and support as we work through this issue", says Frank Blake. "We owe it to our customers to alert them that we now have enough evidence to confirm that a breach has indeed occurred. It's important to emphasize that no customers will be responsible for fraudulent charges to their accounts".
Do you know what MSN is? Yes, it is that online portal opened by Microsoft nearly two decades ago. Yes, it is also that default Internet Explorer webpage which you change more quickly than a race car driver can shift. But, fret not if you are not familiar with MSN, as almost no one cares about it anymore. To save it from oblivion, Microsoft has decided that the first thing that MSN needs to make a splash again is a nice revamp.
For many years, MSN was a product Microsoft cared little about. Instead, the software giant has pushed products with more potential and consumer appeal, like Office, Windows and Windows Phone. Now though, Microsoft wants to tie MSN in with its newfound strategy, recreating the online portal "from the ground up for a mobile-first, cloud-first world", and using many Bing-powered services (News, Sports and Travel, just to name a few) to boost its appeal.
Lumia 920 and Lumia 820 are the oldest Nokia-branded Windows Phone 8 devices, being announced two years ago. The former was the Finnish company's flagship, until Lumia 925 came along, while the latter was introduced as a mid-ranger, succeeded only now by Lumia 830. The good news is that, despite their age, they continue to receive software updates, a reassuring sign, no doubt, for platform enthusiasts.
Lumia 920 and Lumia 820 have already started to receive a software update to Windows Phone 8.1 in many markets across the globe, but the much-awaited version of the tiled operating system is only now making its way to the AT&T-branded models.
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.