Oh the irony! I got up yesterday morning planning to write a version of the post you read now, choosing instead to look back at readers' life-changing tech. The trigger: Motorola starting the New Year with a 64GB Moto X model and my previous day's personal tech devices wrap-up, which got me to thinking abut smartphone differentiation. Processing power, graphics chips, and the like are passé. Who really cares but a minority of gadget geeks? But storage matters to everyone, and Apple gets it—as iPhone 6 and 6 Plus capacities demonstrate.
My feeds are full of reports this morning about a lawsuit filed against Apple alleging that iOS 8 consumes too much storage and, as such, the company misrepresents the amount available. I would have looked so smart writing yesterday about how much Apple gives that competitors don't. That's okay, now my analysis has a news hook. The point, for people reading no more than two paragraphs of any story: iPhone 6 capacities outclass competitors, and the problem of operating systems consuming much of available storage isn't new or exclusive to the fruit-logo company. Just look to Google and Microsoft, for example.
Three weeks ago I asked "What tech changed your life in 2014?" You answered here and on Google+. As the new year starts, I wonder what will make all our lives better. Apple Watch? I doubt it. Shake me awake from the nightmare if the wearable isn't the most successful flop of 2015. Windows 10? Skipping nine is a good sign, but is giving users more of what they don't want to let go life changing? Eh, no.
At the precipice of looking ahead, this is a last look behind. Once Consumer Electronics Show leaks and early announcements rush the InterWebs, all eyes will turn forward -- blind to what many people have, focusing on what they want instead. That's because "aspiration" is the defining word of the technology era, and the promise if you buy newfangled This or That your life will be better for it. Sometimes the promise is true, but too often not, which is why I asked the important question three weeks ago.
Looking back on this last day of the year, I wonder how my daily tech changed so much since the first. On Jan. 1, 2014, my core computing comprised Chromebook, Nexus tablet, and Nexus smartphone. Midyear, I switched out to all Microsoft—buying Surface Pro 3 and Nokia Lumia Icon. While commendable the effort, Windows poorly fit my lifestyle. Today, I'm all Apple—13-inch MacBook Pro Retina Display with 512GB SSD, iPhone 6 128GB, and iPad Air 128GB. I can't imagine using anything else.
Following the lead of my BetaNews colleagues Mihaita Bamburic, Ian Barker, Alan Buckingham, Brian Fagioli, and Wayne Williams, I review my year in tech, and unlike 2013 focus on products that released during the year. I present my 2014 personal tech alphabetically, from company name, rather than order of importance—because they all matter. Note: While the list looks like four, it's five because the first is two combined.
I'm not easily impressed. Lots of tech products see the light of day each year, but only a few I consider to be truly great. And by that I mean technology that I want to have in my life, that brings value, and, last but not least, that makes me feel good. The subjective factor is just as important, I believe, when it comes to the things that I have to look at and interact with on a daily basis. That's just the way it is, and I'm fine with it.
Because of this, a pretty long list can get really, really short in no time. My colleagues have already shared their favorite tech products of 2014 with you, and now the time has come for me to do the same. It's BetaNews tradition, after all. So, without further ado, here they are.
At the end of 2014, the Windows Phone landscape is dominated by low-end smartphones. Of the ten most popular devices that the platform has to offer, just two are high-end handsets -- however, neither is a current-day flagship. If it is not clear enough by now, Windows Phone is nothing more than a low-end affair, after more than four years down the road. Is that a bad thing?
Nokia Lumia 520 is the most-successful Windows Phone around, accounting for a whopping 25.4 percent of Windows Phones in use. Put differently, it is as popular as the following nine most popular Windows Phones put together. Altogether, the top ten makes up 67.2 percent share in this market, according to information revealed by AdDuplex.
Windows Phone has no future in the consumer market. After being around for more than four years, its market share is only at 3 percent, and declining. Microsoft might as well pull the plug now, before its nickname becomes BlackBerry. After all, no one would really miss Windows Phone. Seemingly bracing for the inevitable, even die-hard Microsoft fanboys have embraced rival platforms (you know who they are). There's nothing to be gained by being the last one on the podium, unless Microsoft is looking to become the laughing stock of the market. It'll have to fight BlackBerry for the title, but that's not hard.
The consumer market is not only tough for Microsoft, but for relevant players too. Samsung's profits are sliding, and its sales aren't doing well either. Apple may still have the highest profits, but its iPhones' market share is closer to that of Windows Phone than Android. Other players are struggling with similar issues, which will only grow larger with time. So why keep going at it? At the end of the day, Windows Phone adds little to no value in the consumer market. However, there is still hope for the platform in the enterprise market, which has a different set of priorities to consumers. There, Microsoft actually has a chance of becoming a major player.
BlackBerry and Boeing are working together on a new super-secure smartphone. The announcement came at an earnings call at which BlackBerry CEO, John Chen, revealed scant details about the collaboration. What we do know is that the partnership is designed to create a secure device that can be used by US defense and homeland security workers.
Everybody's paranoid nowadays, but the defense sector is one that has a particular need for security. Boomberg reports that the phone is known as the Boeing Black, and it runs on top of BES -- a platform already known and trusted by many enterprise customers.
Microsoft is keeping its promise of delivering Lumia Denim in the last quarter of 2014, as the firmware update is rolling out now. However, most devices which are slated to get it will only receive it starting early next year.
"The Lumia Denim update has started rolling out to a limited number of devices in selected markets, and will continue arriving in waves by device", says Microsoft's Adam Frasier. "A wider rollout of Lumia Denim to all Lumia smartphones running Windows Phone 8.1 is expected to begin in early January, following partner testing and approvals". I wouldn't be surprised if the roll-out ends very late in Q1 2015.
With Windows Phone still struggling to gain considerable traction, Microsoft is trying to boost its operating system's market share by focusing on the low-end of the market, which has real potential of attracting consumers, especially those in emerging markets. And, so far this year, Microsoft has introduced quite a few affordable Windows Phones, with the latest of the bunch being the still-Nokia-branded Lumia 638.
Lumia 638 is a new Windows Phone 8.1 handset that is designed for India. It is touted to be one of the most affordable smartphones with 4G connectivity available in this Asian market, which is sure to attract the attention of price-conscious local buyers. What else does it have to offer?
Windows Phone is a great operating system. If you disagree, you are wrong. Sure, it has frustratingly low app availability, including a lack of Google apps, but the underlying OS is wonderful. Live tiles are useful, and the UI is smart and attractive. Hell, the hardware is wonderful too, and it is often sold at very affordable prices.
Today, Microsoft and Sprint are joining forces to bring the Lumia 635 to Boost Mobile, Virgin Mobile USA and Sprint's own network. Believe it or not, this is the first-ever Lumia handset for Boost and Virgin USA -- two of Sprint's sub-carriers.
Avast has long been a favorite with home PC users thanks to its free antivirus offering, and protects 175 million computers worldwide. It also launched a free mobile product in 2011 and now protects around 50 million smartphones too.
In 2015 it's looking to move into the business market and is seeking beta testers to help perfect its product before launch.
Samsung, the largest smartphone supplier, has had a surprising year and reported losing over 20 million sales, compared to 2013.
Samsung sold 7 million less units in Q3 and 23 million less overall in 2014, compared to the previous year. The Galaxy S5 has been a huge letdown for Samsung, selling less than 20 million units in 2014, a number Apple’s iPhone 6 has already surpassed.
Whenever I read about a company deploying a certain number of smartphones for internal use, it is usually Windows Phones which are given to employees. And Microsoft is the company that proudly does the official announcement on behalf of (or together with) its customer. This time around things are (very) different.
US airline United Airlines has announced that it will deploy iPhone 6 Plus to over 23,000 flight attendants, with the initial goal of giving them the ability to access company resources -- like email, Intranet, policies, and procedures manuals -- and also to handle retail transactions during flights.
Xiaomi has enjoyed great success in its home market of China, becoming the largest vendor in the country in Q2 2014, beating Samsung for the title. The company also was the third-largest smartphone maker worldwide in Q3 2014. And things appear to only be looking up for Xiaomi, with shipments expected to grow at a still rapid pace.
One of the reasons why Xiaomi has managed to reach the top spot in its home country is the permissive local legal system, in relation to patents. The company hasn't really been challenged locally by any of the big non-Chinese players, as quite likely any suits filed against it for patent infringement would be lost by the plaintiffs. Western companies have been dealing with this problem for (too) many years. However, as Xiaomi expands into India, it has to deal with a different legal system, one which just sided with Ericsson in a case of patent infringement. The outcome?
For Nokia to get any real traction with HERE outside of Windows Phone and its former brands, the Finnish company must make its app available to as many potential new users as possible. And that means offering it on the biggest mobile app stores around today -- Apple App Store and Google Play.
Today, Nokia is taking a step in the right direction by making HERE for Android available on Google Play. The app's availability on the largest Android app store comes more than three months after the initial launch, for Galaxy smartphones. HERE still sports the beta label, but continues to offer the same lovely features we have come to expect from it.