AT&T Fined $700K Over Unauthorized Data Charges
The Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday hit AT&T with a $700,000 fine for switching pre-paid customers to a monthly data plan without their consent.
AT&T will also refund those customers affected by the unauthorized switch, which amounted to $25 to $30 per month, depending on data use.
The problems started in 2009 when AT&T started requiring new smartphone customers or those who upgraded their device to enroll in a monthly data plan. Customers with existing pay-as-you-go plans (or disabled data) who kept their phones could remain on pre-paid data plans, but some consumers who replaced their phones under warranty or insurance, or who moved to a new home were switched to the monthly plans anyway.
Affected customers filed a complaint with the FCC, leading to this week's consent decree.
The move "sends a clear signal that wireless carriers can't wrongfully charge consumers," FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said in a statement. "These strong FCC accountability measures will ensure customers are not over-charged. I am pleased that AT&T is taking the appropriate steps to resolve this issue."
Samsung, Apple Dominate Smartphone Market as Nokia Slips
Smartphone shipments grew 35 percent annually to reach nearly 162 million units in the third quarter of the 2012, according to new data from research firm Strategy Analytics.
IDC reported similar numbers, estimating that smartphone vendors shipped 179.7 million units during the third quarter, up from 123.7 million units last year for 45.3 percent year-over-year growth.
Samsung was the undisputed star of the market, shipping a record 56.9 million smartphones worldwide during the third quarter — the largest number of units ever shipped by a smartphone vendor in a single quarter — to capture 35 percent global share, Strategy Analytics said. Apple came in second, shipping 26.9 million smartphones worldwide to nab 17 percent market share.
"Despite tough competition in stores and courtrooms, Samsung continued to deliver numerous hit models, from the high-end Galaxy Note phablet to the mass-market Galaxy Y," Neil Mawston, executive director at Strategy Analytics, said in a statement. "Apple had a solid quarter in the important United States market and this helped to strengthen its global performance."
Samsung and Apple's success was not a good thing for Nokia, which slipped from the top three global smartphone rankings "for the first time in history," Neil Shah, senior analyst at Strategy Analytics, said in a statement. Nokia shipped 6.3 million smartphones worldwide, grabbing 4 percent market share in the third quarter, slipping from 16.8 million units and 14 percent share a year ago.
Smartphone Numbers Top 1 Billion for First Time
There's no question that smartphones are growing in popularity, but just how many of these advanced devices are in the wild? According to new data from Strategy Analytics, the number of smartphones worldwide topped the 1 billion mark for the first time in the third quarter.
The first modern smartphone was the Nokia Communicator, introduced in 1996. The Finnish phone maker held tight to its market share dominance for more than a decade, but that changed with the 2007 arrival of the iPhone and the rise of the Android platform.
"By the third quarter of 2011, we estimate there were 708 million smartphones in use worldwide. After a further year of soaring demand, the number of smartphones in use worldwide reached 1.038 billion units during the third quarter of 2012," Scott Bicheno, a senior analyst at Strategy Analytics, said in a statement.
That works out to about one in seven of the world's population owning a smartphone in the third quarter. Still, "smartphone penetration is still relatively low," said Neil Mawston, Strategy Analytics' executive director. "Most of the world does not yet own a smartphone and there remains huge scope for future growth, particularly in emerging markets such as China, India and Africa."
That could change rather quickly. Mawston suggested that the next billion smartphones will be activated by 2015.
AT&T Adding New 4G LTE Galaxy Smartphones, Tablet to Lineup
AT&T today announced that it will start selling two new Samsung Galaxy smartphones, as well as the previously revealed Galaxy Note II and Galaxy Tab 2 10.1, later this year.
The Samsung Galaxy lineup will gain the 4G LTE Express and Rugby Pro. Samsung is touting the Galaxy Express as the perfect match for first-time smartphone users. The Android 4.0-based device boasts a 4.5-inch Super AMOLED Plus touch screen and 5-megapixel rear-facing camera, and runs a 1.5-GHz dual-core processor and 2000 mAh battery.
For users with a more active lifestyle, the Rugby Pro "can handle whatever life throws at it," Samsung said in a news release. The phone – built to military specifications – is waterproof, shock resistant, and dust-proof, with a 4-inch WVGA Super AMOLED display and a 5-megapixel rear camera that records HD video in 720p. The device will also have access to Enhanced Push-to-Talk.
Tokyo Court Rejects Apple Patent Claim Against Samsung
Following Apple's $1 billion patent win against Samsung in a U.S. court last week, the tech industry has been closely watching the companies' other patent fights around the globe. Today a new patent judgment came down in one of Apple's most important markets: Japan. But this time the winner turned out to be Samsung.
A three-judge panel in Tokyo ruled that Samsung did not infringe on an Apple patent claim covering the syncing of video and music data with devices to servers. Led by judge Tamotsu Shoji, the panel rejected Apple's request for damages related to the alleged infringement, which would have amounted to 100 million yen (approximately $1.27 million). According to AFP, Judge Shoji told the court that "the defendant's products do not seem like they used the same technology as the plaintiff's products so we turn down the complaints made by [Apple]."
The fight over patents in Japan is no small matter. Deep-pocketed Japanese consumers have warmed to the new iOS and Android touch-screen devices, largely ditching local manufacturers mired in outdated designs and software platforms specific to the Japanese market. But despite Samsung's close proximity to and regional feel for the Japanese consumer, recent data compiled by Japanese research firm MMRI indicates that Apple remains far ahead of Samsung in terms of tablet and smartphone sales. Nevertheless, late last year Samsung tried, unsuccessfully, to ban the sale of the and the in Japan.
Windows Phone to Top BlackBerry in U.S. by Year’s End
Microsoft's Windows Phone platform has been slow to make gains in the U.S. thanks to the market-dominating Android and iOS operating systems, but new data suggests that Windows Phone might at least best RIM's BlackBerry in the U.S. by year's end.
Over the weekend, WMPoweruser.com said that data from StatCounter suggests that Windows Phone market share in the U.S. will surpass that of RIM's BlackBerry by Nov. 2012.
The blog made an estimation based on trends in StatCounter data and said the move will cement Windows Phone as a "very minor" third player in the U.S. mobile OS market.
StatCounter did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
RIM, however, has been struggling for some time in the U.S., so a gain for Windows Phone in the U.S. at the expense of BlackBerry is more a function of RIM's demise than Microsoft's success. Still, Redmond is prepping to unveil its updated Windows Phone 8 OS alongside the Windows 8 operating system, so things could pick up for the nascent platform.
Slow Internet, Dropped Calls Top Cell Phone Complaints
Telemarketers, spam messages, apps that crash – the list of cell phone annoyances can go on and on. But according to a new survey from the Pew Internet & American Life Project, some of the most common cell phone complaints include slow download speeds and dropped calls, among other things.
The survey of 2,254 adults, conducted from March 15 to April 3, found that 77 percent of people who use the Internet on their phone experience slow download speeds that prevent them from loading things as quickly as they would have liked. Forty-six percent said they stare at a slow-loading screen on their phone at least weekly.
Meanwhile, 72 percent of cell phone owners experience dropped calls at least occasionally, with 32 percent noting they encounter this issue a few times a week or more frequently. Meanwhile, a lucky 26 percent of respondents said they never experience dropped calls.
Android U.S. Smartphone Share Drops, Apple Jumps 10 Percent
The U.S. smartphone market took a dip in the second quarter, with Android's market share dropping 4 points to 56 percent, according to data released today by Strategy Analytics.
Apple, however, saw a 10 percent increase from 23 percent in the second quarter of 2011 to 33 percent in the most recent quarter.
The Google-based OS is reaching its market share peak, Neil Mawston, Strategy Analytics executive director, said in a statement, while Apple continues to make gains. The rumored launch of Cupertino's next iPhone will likely put even more pressure on Android to stay on top, Mawston said.
Despite Apple's success, Android still lead the smartphone OS market with 56.3 percent, compared to Apple's 33.2 percent.
Alex Spektor, associate director of Strategy Analytics, said in a statement that the second quarter saw one of the slowest growth rates ever experienced by the county's smartphone market. Total smartphone shipments fell 5 percent in the second quarter, to a total 24 million units in the U.S.
"A volatile economy, maturing penetration of smartphones among contract mobile subscribers, and major operators tightening their upgrade policies to enhance profits were among the main causes of the slowdown," Spektor said.
Samsung Widens Smartphone Lead Over Apple
The worldwide mobile market, which continued to grow this year by gaining 1 percent in the second quarter of 2012, counted Samsung and Apple among its winners, with both shipping almost half of the world's smartphones.
Manufacturers shipped a total of 406 million units in the second quarter, compared to the 401.8 million during the same time last year, according to new data from IDC.
Global smartphone heavyweights Apple and Samsung have more than doubled their combined market share in the past two years, continuing to widen the gap between their competition.
According to IDC senior research analyst Kevin Restivo, Samsung employs a "shotgun" strategy by creating models that cover a range of markets worldwide, while Apple covers a small number of high-profile models.
The fun and games won't last, though.
"While both companies have expanded their geographic presence in pursuit of market share," Restivo said in a statement, "the two companies will inevitably come into greater conflict as both try to generate additional gains."
For now, Samsung has taken the lead since launching the Galaxy S III in advance of the much-rumored iPhone 5. Samsung's Galaxy Note tablet added to the company's success, pushing Samsung into a new quarterly smartphone shipment record of more than 50 million units.
QWERTY, 4G LTE Motorola Photon Q Coming to Sprint
Motorola announced today that its Photon Q smartphone, the followup to last year's Photon 4G, will soon be available from Sprint.
The updated smartphone includes a five-row, QWERTY keyboard and 4.3-inch ColorBoost touch screen, which Motorola said is the largest screen available on a QWERTY smartphone.
The Photon Q will run Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich and a 1.5-GHz, dual-core processor. It features an 8-megapixel rear-facing camera with 1080p video capture and a front-facing HD camera for video chat.
The Photon Q's "mirror mode" allows users to connect their smartphone via HDMI to larger screens, like TVs, to view photos, movies, or other files stored on the phone.
For mobile payments, the Photon Q also supports near-field communication (NFC).
The Photon Q will connect to Sprint's 4G LTE network where available. Earlier this month, the carrier rolled out its network in 15 cities around Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, Kansas City, and San Antonio. Sprint said today that that network will expand to include Baltimore, Gainesville, Ga., Manhattan/Junction City, Kan., and Sherman-Denison, Texas by Labor Day. Sprint expects to complete its 4G LTE buildout by the end of 2013.