The Tech News Blog

April 16, 2014

Galaxy S5 More Durable Than S4, But iPhone 5s Wins

5 Secret Samsung Galaxy S5 Features

Samsung's new Galaxy S5 is more durable than its predecessor and other popular Android handsets, but can't withstand accidents as well as Apple's iPhone 5s, according to a new report from mobile insurance provider SquareTrade.

SquareTrade evaluated the phones using criteria such as size, weight, water resistance, grip-ability, front and back panel design, and edge construction to determine how prone they are to break due to accidents. The company tested how well the handsets could sustain drops from 4 feet, being dunked in water for 10 seconds, and how far they slide when pushed across a table. SquareTrade then ranked the phones on a sale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the most susceptible to accidental breakage.

The Galaxy S5 "takes a big step forward in durability, performing well in drop and dunk tests," SquareTrade said. It earned a breakability score of 6, outperforming last year's model, the Galaxy S4, which had a higher breakability score of 7.

"According to our research, 28 percent of smartphone owners, or about 44 million Americans, are considering buying the Samsung Galaxy S5," Ty Shay, CMO of SquareTrade, said in a statement. "It's good to see a major player like Samsung designing phones with accidental water damage in mind. We were also surprised to see how well the new S5 did in the drop test — as previous models suffered significant damage."

April 14, 2014

Analyst: iPhone 6 May Get $100 Price Hike

iPhone Air Concept

Bad news, iPhone users. Apple's next-generation smartphone might be getting a price bump, according to Jefferies analyst Peter Misek.

"Our checks indicate Apple has started negotiating with carriers on a $100 iPhone 6 price increase," Misek wrote in a note to investors Monday morning. "The initial response has been no, but there seems to be an admission that there is no other game-changing device this year."

Apple may be able to eke out at least some of the increase, with additional costs split between carriers and consumers. "Carriers realize that the iPhone 6 will likely be the only headline-worthy high-end phone launched this year and that they will lose [subscribers] if they do not offer it," Misek said.

As for the likelihood of this coming to pass, we'll just have to wait and see. Misek has a spotty track record with Apple rumors, so take his new predictions with a grain of salt. He's been right about a few things, like predicting the name of the iPhone 4s when others called it the iPhone 5, but has made some bad calls as well, especially regarding a fabled Apple HDTV set.

April 4, 2014

Report: Apple Buys Speech-Recognition Firm Novauris

Apple logo

Apple has reportedly acquired speech recognition company Novauris Technologies to help boost Siri.

The purchase happened last year, according to TechCrunch, but was announced only this week.

Cupertino did not immediately respond to PCMag's request for comment, but gave TechCrunch its standard statement: "Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans."

The Novauris team, which includes CEO Yoon Kim and co-founders Melvyn Hunt and John Bridle, have been working with the tech giant since last fall, developing improvements for the Siri personal assistant that comes with all iOS-enabled devices.

Novauris could not be reached for comment. Hunt, however, confirmed the acquisition to TechCrunch, adding that the company is "no longer an active entity."

Though completed last year, Apple's purchase was not announced until Thursday—a day after Microsoft unveiled its own intelligent digital assistance, Cortana, which uses a natural language interface to perform tasks in the new Windows Phone 8.1 operating system.

April 3, 2014

Apple Opens Lottery for Tickets to June WWDC

Apple WWDC 2014

Apple will hold its annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) June 2 through 6 at San Francisco's Moscone West Center.

Tickets for last year's event sold out in approximately two minutes, so tickets for this year's WWDC will be doled out via a lottery. Developers can apply for tickets now through Monday at 1 p.m. Eastern. Tickets will then be issued via random selection, and attendees will be contacted by 8 p.m. Eastern on April 7.

Google is using a similar process to hand out tickets for Google I/O.

Two hundred students can also earn a free ticket via the Student Scholarships program. This year, the National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT) and its partners will promote grants for female engineers and coders.

"We look forward to sharing with them our latest advances in iOS and OS X so they can create the next generation of great apps," Phil Schiller, Apple senior vice president of worldwide marketing, said in a statement.

April 1, 2014

Rumor: Production Issue Might Hamper iPhone Phablet

Apple logo

More reports about larger iPhones are making the rounds, though a new report suggests that Apple is having some problems with the currently non-existent 5.5-inch model.

Reuters on Tuesday, citing anonymous supply chain sources, reported that a 4.7-inch iPhone will be produced in the coming months, while the 5.5-inch model could be held up thanks to a production issue involving the in-cell technology for the larger screens. Apple's in-cell screen technology, first introduced with the iPhone 5, combines the display and touch sensors into a single component, allowing for a more slender handset.

Reuters said Apple suppliers are gearing up to begin producing the screens for the 4.7-inch model as early as May, a few months before the phone's expected arrival this fall. Production of the 5.5-inch screens will start in June, and Apple may use a film sensor for the larger model instead of in-cell technology. Japan Display, Sharp, and LG will handle production.

March 28, 2014

Mac OS X Mavericks Adoption Hits 40 Percent

OS X 10.9 Mavericks alt

If you build it, they will come. And if you offer it for free, they will likely accept it, install it, and start using it much more than previously paid-for updates.

If that sounds a wee bit familiar, you're likely an OS X user. And if you're an OS X user, you've likely been enticed to run the latest version of Apple's operating system — OS X 10.9 Mavericks — in part because it didn't cost you anything to upgrade. The move was a first for Apple, having previously charged a meager amount for its OS upgrades ($20, in the case of OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion). According to the latest figures from advertising network Chitika, free was a smart move.

Based on "tens of millions" of ad impressions on its network from U.S. and Canadian OS X users between March 17 and March 23, Chitika found that 40 percent of the sampled OS X users were running Mavericks. According to Chitika, that adoption rate is six percentage points higher than what the company measured for OS X Mountain Lion 14 months after it debuted, and 13 percentage points higher than what Chitika recorded seven months after Mountain Lion's release.

Chitika previously noted that OS X Mavericks achieved nearly a 12 percent adoption rate in only five days after its official launch. It took OS X Mountain Lion nearly one month or so to reach that threshold.

March 28, 2014

More Reports Tip Phablet-Sized iPhones

Apple logo

Spring is upon us, and so are fresh iPhone rumors.

A new report from Japan's Nikkei Asian Review tips a 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch version of the iPhone this year, dwarfing the current 4-inch Retina display iPhone 5s.

Reports about larger iPhones have been making the rounds for ages - with Bloomberg tipping 4.7- and 5.5-inch devices in November, though the news service said both phones would also feature curved displays. The Wall Street Journal had a similar report in January, but PCMag's Sascha Segan warned consumers not to believe the hype.

Rumors about the next-gen phone also point to a thinner version of the current handset, much more closely resembling the iPod lineup. Blogger Sonny Dickson last month published a series of photos showcasing the iPhone 6's inner workings and Space Grey rear casing, though there is no way to verify the images' authenticity.

March 25, 2014

Apple: iOS 7 Adoption Reaches 85 Percent

IOS 7In spite of battery-drain issues, complaints about motion sickness, and a major security flaw, the vast majority of Apple mobile device users have upgraded to iOS 7.

Apple this week updated its support page for developers with new iOS adoption numbers indicating that 85 percent of iPads, iPhones, and iPod touch devices are running iOS 7, six months after the mobile operating system made its debut. At this point, 12 percent are still using iOS 6 while just 3 percent are running an older version of Cupertino's mobile OS, such as iOS 5.

Apple's new numbers are based on visits to the App Store during a 7-day period ending on March 23.

March 24, 2014

Report: Apple, Comcast Discussing Streaming Video Deal

comcast revolt diddy

Apple and Comcast are reportedly in talks for a deal that would allow Comcast users to access the cable provider's content via an Apple TV set-top box. But the arrangement would also include an interconnection deal intended to make sure Internet-based content does not fall prey to buffering and other delays.

As reported by The Wall Street Journal, a deal is not imminent, as the interconnection bit will require "significant investments in network equipment and other back-office technology."

Ideally, a deal like this would modernize the TV experience, replacing the clunky, traditional set-top boxes with which cable customers are familiar with an interface that more closely resembles the apps and widgets found on tablets and smartphones.

It would also stream live and on-demand TV programming from the cloud. But as anyone who has ever been met with the dreaded "buffering" notice on a mobile device knows, streaming video is not always as reliable as content on your TV. As a result, Apple "wants the new TV service's traffic to be separated from public Internet traffic over the 'last mile,'" the Journal said.

March 18, 2014

Apple Ditches iPad 2, Drops iPad 4 to $399

4th-generation Apple iPad

Say farewell to the iPad 2. Apple today announced that it is discontinuing its aging tablet and will drop the price on its iPad 4 to make the device its lowest-priced iPad.

The iPad 4 (referred to formally as the iPad with Retina display) is now on sale starting at $399 for the 16GB Wi-Fi version; Wi-Fi plus cellular will set you back $529. A 32GB, 64GB, or 128GB version is not currently on sale. For that, you'll have to swing for the iPad Air, which starts at $599 for the 32GB Wi-Fi version.

The move means that all of Apple's larger iPads now include a Retina display; the original iPad mini still has a lower-resolution screen.

"Now for $399 customers can get iPad with a stunning 9.7-inch Retina display, fast A6X chip, and 5MP iSight camera, offering a dramatic upgrade in power, performance and value compared to the iPad 2 it replaces," Philip Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing, said in a statement. "The iPad line sets the gold-standard in mobile computing and all iPads have access to the largest and best ecosystem of more than 500,000 iPad optimized apps from the App Store."