The Nokia Lumia Icon is an interesting smartphone, and an interesting Windows Phone alike. It offers Qualcomm's top-of-the-line processor, plenty of internal storage, a good camera and a 1080p display, all in an attractive package. But it is not available for your carrier, unless it is called Verizon. Hey, you know Nokia, the company loves exclusives.
Microsoft's and Verizon's stores now carry the Lumia Icon, just a week after it was officially unveiled (but we knew the details long before the announcement). The smartphone can be had, in either black or white, for the usual, flagship-price of $199.99 when purchased on a two-year contract. It can also be had with a month-to-month contract, for $549.99, or an Edge plan, for $23.06 per month.
Android vendors may like to announce bigger smartphones (because, bigger is better, isn't it?), but they also launch smaller versions of their flagships, to cater to a larger audience. Samsung has the Galaxy S4 Mini, HTC has the One mini and, now, LG takes the wraps off G2 mini. Heck, even the indicative has a small first letter.
The downsizing applies to the physical dimensions, as the screen is now a 4.7-inch unit with a resolution of 540 by 960, and also to the internals. LG has chosen not to severely underpower its new smartphone. Compared to its big brother, it still offers a quad-core processor in both the 3G and 4G trims, but those cannot compare to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 in the G2.
While Android itself is a free, open-source operating system that can be used by any company and individual commercially, the Google apps and services we see bundled on popular devices do not share the same philosophy. Handsets have to be approved by the search giant in order to use the bread and butter of the Android world, which, among other things, includes access to the coveted Play store, and the Gmail and YouTube apps.
Because Google apps and services are not part of Android, we see lots of devices that are sold across the globe without them. Those come from lesser-known vendors, and may be available in anywhere from supermarkets to retail stores in emerging markets. To give those vendors a fighting chance against more popular rivals and increase its reach, Russian tech giant Yandex has announced Yandex.Kit, an Android suite that offers the company's own apps and services as a viable substitute for Google's own offerings on the platform.
HTC may be upping the ante by releasing quality smartphones and quickly rolling out Android updates, but the company's not-too-distant past, riddled with less than stellar support, is still taking a toll on its reputation, with sales of the latest smartphones underperforming compared to those of main rivals. The lack of trust is certainly an issue which HTC has to overcome.
The company seems to have found a resolution. To give more credence to its commitment of becoming a trustworthy vendor, HTC has unveiled a new program which is meant for the One, One Max and One Mini, that promises extended software support, accidental damage coverage and other perks like lots of free cloud storage and back-up services.
Smartphones without LTE cellular connectivity are becoming increasingly rare nowadays in 4G-enabled markets, as consumers are looking towards faster data speeds to get more out of their handsets. It is no surprise then that research firm Strategy Analytics predicts that sales of LTE smartphones will grow by a whopping 547 percent year-over-year in China, the largest market worldwide.
Samsung is no stranger to 4G LTE, as many of its smartphones offer this cellular capability. To tap further into the growing entry-level market, the South Korean company has announced the Galaxy Core LTE, which touts a premium look coupled with decent specs and fast connectivity speeds on mobile networks.
Google is delving into its wallet once again, fishing out a little cash and going on a spending spree. This time around, it is Israeli startup SlickLogin that is being put in the shopping cart. You may not have heard of the company, and that’s because its services haven't even launched yet, but it is looking to revolutionize two-factor authentication. Additional layers of security are being added by every website worth its salt, and SlickLogin has an interesting alternative to the traditional password.
Like many other two-factor security systems, this makes use of smartphones -- but in a somewhat different way. Rather than generating a unique code that is emailed out and needs to be typed into a website, SlickLogin is audio-based. A unique sound is generated and played through a computer's speakers. So far, so weird. To make things more interesting, and probably more secure, the sound is inaudible thanks to being ultra-sonic, and an app on a smartphone placed near the speaker picks up the sound and completes the authentication process.
It is usually Bill Gates who is heralded for his philanthropy, but according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, it is Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg who is currently the most generous. In another change from the norm, malware threats to OS X, Linux and Android have increased, showing it is not just Windows that is prone to attack. As if to prove this, Mac malware has been discovered that has been designed to steal Bitcoins from victims. Factor in all of Apple's devices and the company managed to sell more units than Windows PCs are sold, although this revelation caused quite some debate.
Twitter found itself in the headlines after the James Dean estate tried to gain control of a fan's James Dean-related account. Twitter has already spoken out about the shackles binding companies from being open about government data requests -- companies are practically falling over themselves to add their names to the list -- and Dropbox is in agreement. The European Commission has expressed a desire to wrestle some control of the internet from US hands voicing fears that too much influence was being exerted,
The world of VoIP services is one packed with various names bustling for attention. One of the biggest names in the game is Viber, which started small but grew impressively as it spread across platforms -- now it has grown to the point that it is deemed worthy of handing over $900 million. At least that is the view of Rakuten, the Japanese firm behind Play.com and the Kobo eReader that agreed to part with this not insubstantial sum of money for an outright purchase of Viber Media Ltd.
With around 280 million registered users, Viber could be quite a money-maker for Rakuten who explained that the service has a "rapidly growing numbers of users, especially in emerging countries". With its fingers already in various online pies -- ebooks, shopping and streaming media through Wuaki.tv -- Viber represents yet another string to Rakuten's bow as the company "aims to be the global number one internet services" provider.
There is a tendency among smartphone manufacturers to release new handsets that come with larger screens than their predecessors. Their belief is, apparently, the bigger the better. There is also no visible concern over usability. That especially holds true in the Android world, where we see some of the largest smartphones -- also known as phablets -- around, with their sole purpose, more often than not, being to dwarf what they are replacing. The upside is this trend is catching on among consumers, who are buying more and more phablets each year.
At the same time, in an attempt to steer clear of any unwanted feedback, some manufacturers try their best to negate the effects of the larger displays over usability by resorting to smaller bezels and adapting the software to match the sheer size. A good example of this is the new G Pro 2 phablet, that LG just revealed to offer some interesting hardware and software features.
According to figures released by International Data Corporation (IDC), 2013 was the year that smartphones really took off -- a staggering 1 billion units shipped. As has been the case for some time, it is Android and iOS that continue to dominate, with Google's mobile operating system claiming a 78.1 percent market share, and Apple's 17.6 percent. As has been the norm, Windows Phone found itself in third place, although it did manage to increase its market share to 3 percent.
The figures are based on shipments in the fourth quarter of 2013, and when compared to the same period in 2012, Android and Windows Phone both made gains while iOS lost some of its market share. Jumping from 70.3 percent of the market in 2012, Android's growth was impressive, while iOS dropped 3.3 percentage points from 20.9 percent. Looked at in terms of percentage points, Windows Phone's jump from 2.6 to 3.0 percent of the market, it still represents an improvement of more than 13 percent.
You know how sometimes it just seem like too much hassle to scroll through your contact list to place a call or send a text to someone? Well, no more! There's no need to update your app, but Google's Search tool for Android has been enhanced with a new voice-dialing feature. The app now lets you use phrases such as "OK, Google, call mom" or "OK, Google, send a text to dad" you can... well... place a call to your mom or compose a text message to send to your dad.
Before you start panicking that Google has started spying on your family and is now aware of the relationships you have with each of your contacts, fret not! This is not an entirely automated feature -- you will need to specify which of your contacts is your mom, your dad, and so on. If you try to call your mother using the vocal command before having set up your relationship, you will be prompted to choose which of your contacts gave birth to you -- on subsequent utterances, the call will be placed straight away.
HTC is a brand that has fallen from the lofty heights it enjoyed just a few years ago. Today, the company releases fourth quarter earnings and the figures do not make for particularly happy reading.
On the positive side of things, the results show HTC managed to break even -- this is good news having suffered losses throughout 2013. It's not great news as profits stand at just NT$0.31 billion, but it's certainly better than a loss.
The Galaxy S4 is approaching its one-year anniversary and, to keep things interesting before its successor arrives to take the helm, Samsung has announced a new Black Edition version of the popular Android smartphone. Not to leave the smaller mini out of the equation, the South Korean maker is also giving it the same makeover.
Black Edition makes me think of hardcore variants of Mercedes AMG cars, which usually offer more power on tap than the base models. However, this is not the case when it comes to the two new Galaxy S4 and Galaxy S4 mini trims that come without beefed up internals. Basically, what we are looking at here folks is smartphone plastic surgery.
BT has introduced a 3.5-inch touchscreen smartphone that runs on the Android 4.2 Jelly Bean operating system, but it's designed to be used in the home.
The Home SmartPhone S comes with 2GB expandable memory for storing music and photos, a front-facing camera and Wi-Fi connectivity. Facebook and Twitter are pre-installed and you can download further apps via Google Play and Opera mobile store.
Sony is pulling out of the PC business and is selling the VAIO brand to Japanese investment fund Japan Industrial Partners (JIP). The announcement came after industry speculation about what might be happening in Sony's future after the company responded to rumors that it was in talks with Lenovo about a possible sale by saying that it was looking to "address various options for the PC business". No details about the fees involved have yet been revealed, but it is hoped that an agreement will be reached by the end of March.
Citing "drastic changes in the global PC industry", Sony's announcement came as the company revealed its financial results for Q3 2013. Analysis of the results showed that the "target of returning the TV and PC businesses to profitability will not be achieved within the fiscal year ending March 31, 2014", hence the need for reform. This means that Sony will now concentrate "its mobile product lineup on smartphones and tablets". An estimated 5,000 jobs will be lost.