Well folks, 2014 is almost in the books, and we will soon be in 2015. Outside of tech, the world has been rather crazy; there have been tragic deaths, natural disasters and further division among US citizens. Sadly, the tech world got pulled into the major news with various hacking scandals -- Home Depot customer information was breached, Sony Pictures was brought to its knees and Hollywood celebrities had their naked photos leaked. In other words, there have been many negative things in both tech and non-tech news.
Luckily, not all is bad; the tech community has seen many great devices and software released too. As is customary for late-December, many tech-writers, such as yours truly, begin compiling lists of the best tech of the year. Well, "best" is subjective, I realize that, so instead, I am offering my favorite tech of 2014. Maybe your list is different; my colleague's lists are. Variety is the spice of life however, so please tell me if you agree or disagree with my choices.
Merry Christmas y'all! Today is all about celebrating Jesus' birth, but since he isn't here, we will give and get gifts in his honor. Santa Claus keeps us all saturated in gifts galore, ranging from socks and underwear, to new computers.
Speaking of computers, there is one that I find to be the best, and that is the Surface Pro 3. Did you get one under the tree today? If so, congratulations! You must have been really friggin' good this year. By all means, power it on, and have fun -- get your grimy fingerprints all over the screen. But please know that owning a Surface Pro 3 is a lifestyle -- a special club, if you will -- and there are some things you should consider.
It's that time of the year when our thoughts turn towards a large man in a red suit. Despite his jolly nature, he still manages to sometimes terrify small children, as he did mine. However, the prospect of gifts generally gets them over the hump, and perhaps it's what worked on a recent flight between London and Boston.
The people who boarded the recent Virgin Atlantic flight were treated to a visit from the jolly old man, but more importantly, he had gifts in hand.
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.
Coming to the end of 2014, it's time to start looking to what the year ahead may have to offer. After gazing into its crystal ball, Juniper Research has compiled a list of what it expects to be the biggest technology trends of 2015. Topping the list is a focus on security. Juniper Research predicts that there will be greater interest in encryption and tokenization, as cloud storage providers battle to regain customer trust.
The launch of Apple Pay will help to drive an increased interest in biometrics to help with security, but 2015 is also predicted to be the year that wearables really take off. Now that Apple has entered the arena, there should be a greater focus on aesthetics and smaller players will increase in popularity. Tied in with both security and wearables is a predicted jump in the use of NFC -- for payments, authentication, health and more.
Just like any other first iteration of a major operating system release, Android 5.0 Lollipop is not without its fair share of problems. The main issues that users are reporting are related to battery life, responsiveness and Wi-Fi. Like other 2013 Nexus 7 users, I also have problems every so often with video playback on YouTube, something which did not crop up back in the Android 4.4 KitKat days.
Naturally, most issues will go away with the first or second update. Google is actively working on squashing the reported bugs, proof being that the company just pushed Android 5.0.1 Lollipop to AOSP (Android Open Source Project) and released the accompanying factory images for a number of its devices.
We're frequently being told that the real potential for growth in mobile devices sales is coming from emerging markets, particularly in Asia and the Far East.
The latest research findings from IDC into the Indian market bears this out with strong growth in sales of both smartphones and tablets.
Jolla's Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign, initiated to help it bring its first tablet to market, is already a success with 12 more days to go until the deadline. The Finnish company has raised nearly $1.3 million so far, which is close to $1 million over the $385,000 goal. You may think that Jolla is resting on its laurels now, but you'd be wrong.
Jolla wants to keep the campaign's momentum going, as it just introduced three Stretch goals. The idea is simple -- the more money the company raises the more features Tablet gets. That is a nice incentive to back the campaign. Luckily for those who have already done so, at this point, hitting the first Stretch goal looks like a done deal.
While I keep the list short this year, it wouldn't be U.S. Thanksgiving without my writing about gratitude, and why some tech company's executives, employees, and partners should prostrate and pray "Thanks".
Let's start off with Google, which continues a great run that started with Larry Page's return as CEO in April 2011. If he's not all smiles this Turkey Day, someone should slap that man aside the head. I could tick off a hundred things for which he should give thanks. For brevity's sake, so you can get back to the big game and bigger bird, I select some things that might not come to mind.
The tablet market could be slowing down after years of growth, according to industry estimates, with Apple's iPad set to be hardest hit.
Research firm IDC projects that total tablet shipments globally are set to increase by only 7.2 percent this year, compared with 52.5 percent growth in 2013.
The FCC label on radio-equipped devices sold in US has been mandatory since 1973. By now, we have gotten used to seeing it, no doubt because there is usually nothing that we can do to hide it. But, as technology evolves, its physical presence is bound to cause some serious problems (not to mention that it spoils the look of some gorgeous devices).
However, in mid-July, a new bill, called the E-Label Act, was introduced to give companies that operate in US the option to feature an electronic FCC label on their radio-equipped products. And, after passing through Senate and Congress, President Obama just signed it. Here is what you should know about it.
Encrypting your device may make it more secure, but it also makes it slower due to the added overhead. This is not much of a problem on a fast PC or laptop, as its hardware is able to cope with the extra load. It, however, is a major reason for concern on Android 5.0 Lollipop devices, such as Google's new Nexus 6. Android 5.0 Lollipop is at fault here.
Anandtech has discovered that the difference in performance can be as high as 80.7 percent, and as low as 50.5 percent, between Nexus 6 with encryption turned on and with the feature disabled. Meanwhile, those who update to Android 5.0 Lollipop on Nexus 5 will also notice a notable difference in performance, albeit not as big, even with encryption disabled.
Corning's Gorilla Glass is used to protect billions of mobile device displays. In fact, some of the most popular handsets -- like HTC One (M8), Google Nexus 7, Samsung Galaxy S5 -- feature Gorilla Glass 3 or Gorilla Glass 2. Some companies, like ASUS, are also using it on touchscreen ultrabooks. That's because it fares well under normal usage, offering good protection against scratching.
However, things are different when it comes to drops -- as tough as Gorilla Glass may be, it can shatter quite easily when handsets are dropped, potentially leading to damaged displays. Its maker, Corning, says that this is the biggest issue that consumers are reporting. With Gorilla Glass 4, it finally addresses this shortcoming.
It may have taken a few tries, but Microsoft is gaining momentum with its tablet/laptop, the Surface Pro 3. The device, which includes an optional keyboard, was released a couple of months ago, and sales seem to be lively from what we've heard.
It's not a major surprise, as businesses love Windows, and now more are adopting this platform. Lufthansa and Austrian Airlines are moving to Surface Pro 3. Microsoft claims it is adopting "certain commercial requirements" in an effort to make the device more appealing to the enterprise.