The Tech News Blog

November 26, 2013

Smartphone Shipments Skyrocket as Prices Drop

Top 10 Smartphones (update)

Worldwide smartphone shipments are expected to exceed 1 billion units in 2013, up 39.3 percent over last year, research firm IDC predicted on Tuesday.

While a number of markets are reaching saturation, demand for low-cost smartphones in emerging markets continues to drive the market forward, IDC said. By 2017, smartphone shipments are expected to approach 1.7 billion units, growing 18.4 percent annually from 2013 to 2017.

According to IDC, the biggest driver for smartphone market growth has been a decline in average selling prices (ASP), particularly among low-cost Android devices. The firm expects ASPs to be $337 in 2013, down from $387 last year, and $265 by 2017.

November 12, 2013

Android Nabs Milestone 81 Percent of Smartphone Market

Android 4.4 KitKat Revealed: What

Google's Android platform had a milestone third quarter, topping 80 percent of global smartphone shipments for the first time, according to IDC.

The analyst firm also said Microsoft's Windows Phone had an "amazing" quarter with 156 percent year-over-year growth.

"Android and Windows Phone continued to make significant strides in the third quarter. Despite their differences in market share, they both have one important factor behind their success: price," Ramon Llamas, Research Manager with IDC's Mobile Phone team, said in a statement. "Both platforms have a selection of devices available at prices low enough to be affordable to the mass market, and it is the mass market that is driving the entire market forward."

Android reached 81 percent of the smartphone market thanks to its "broad and deep list of vendors," IDC said. Still, Samsung led the charge with 39.9 percent of Android shipments, while other Android vendors "still struggle to find meaningful market share."

Apple's iOS landed in second place with 12.9 percent of mobile operating system share. That's down from 14.4 percent during the same time period last year, but IDC attributed that to "soft demand in the weeks leading up to the launch of iOS 7 smartphones."

"If the 9 million units sold during the last week of September is any indication of future adoption, iOS stands to reap another record quarter in terms of volumes, market share, and year-over-year growth," IDC concluded.

October 3, 2013

Report: Amazon Prepping 2 Smartphones

Amazon Boxes

Amazon has been dodging smartphone rumors for years, but recent reports suggest the retailer might finally be releasing a phone of its own.

Amazon is apparently developing two phones — a cheap one that will hit shelves by the end of the year, and an "expensive" version with a 3D user interface and eye-tracking technology.

Details appeared in a Hacker News posting, explaining that while the device, code-named "Smith," will not come with an actual 3D screen, it will sport a camera placed on each of the four corners to track the user's movements and move the UI accordingly to give the impression of three dimensions.

Hacker News also said Amazon intended to launch a less expensive phone this year, too, but ran into software and hardware issues before "lots of key players" left the company.

The second, entry-level device is reported to include basic software similar to the Fire OS found on the new Kindle Fire tablets. Few details have been revealed, but Amazon recently refuted rumors that the handset would be available for free, or at all this year.

August 13, 2013

Rumor: Sony Prepping Smartphone Lens Attachment

Sony Bluetooth Wireless Smartphone Camera LensImages leaked on Monday suggest Sony is prepping a wireless lens add-on for mobile device users who want the full-fledged shutterbug experience.

First reported by Sony Alpha Rumors, the photos show the DSC-QX10 and DSC-QX100 lenses, both with built-in sensors, a Bionz processor, Wi-Fi/NFC connection, and an SD card slot.

Without an LCD screen or other camera controls, the lenses are meant to attach to and be controlled by an iOS or Android smartphone or tablet.

"This is nothing like we have seen before," Sony Alpha Rumors said. "For the first time you can shoot top quality images with your smartphone. Forget [those] iPhone or Android lens kits!"

According to the report, Sony will "soon" launch two models — one with a RX100MII sensor and Zeiss lens (the taller lens pictured below), which will reportedly offer the same image quality as the Nikon 1 system. The other, smaller lens (pictured above) features an 18-megapixel CMOS sensor with a 10x zoom, similar to the Sony WX150.

Prices and an exact release date are unknown, though Sony Alpha Rumors suggested a Sept. 4 launch. A Sony spokesman declined to comment.

July 26, 2013

Samsung, Apple Lose Ground to Smaller Smartphone Makers

Verizon Galaxy S 4

The global smartphone market continued to see a strong uptick this quarter, with Samsung once again leading the pack thanks to its newest flagship device, the Galaxy S 4.

Apple's growth stalled ahead of the expected launch of a new iPhone this fall, though it still managed to move 31.2 million devices, according to separate reports from IDC and Strategy Analytics.

Both companies, however, lost some market share to smaller players like LG and ZTE.

IDC and Strategy Analytics found that Samsung, Apple, and LG nabbed the top three spots for global smartphone shipments in the second quarter. IDC put Samsung shipments at 72.4 million, while Strategy Analytics put that number at 76 million, which is up from about 50 million during the same time period last year. LG was in third place with 12.1 million.

IDC put Lenovo and ZTE in the No. 4 and 5 spots, while Strategy Analytics had ZTE and Huawei, respectively, all of which had shipments of about 11 million.

The numbers put Samsung on top for global smartphone market share, with about 30 percent, though that was a drop of about 2-3 percentage points from last year. IDC found that in addition to buying the Galaxy S 4 , a number of smartphone buyers were opting for the older Galaxy S III since it got a price drop after the GS4 launch.

July 16, 2013

AT&T Unveils Fast-Upgrade ‘Next’ Plan

Best AT&T PhonesThis is how competition works: last night AT&T unveiled "AT&T Next," a new subscription plan that lets AT&T customers trade in and upgrade their phones or tablets every 12 months with no up-front down payment on each phone.

AT&T Next comes on the heels of T-Mobile's "Jump" plan, which lets subscribers upgrade twice a year. Verizon is reportedly working on a similar annual upgrade plan, which Droid Life calls "VZ Edge."

To use AT&T Next, AT&T subscribers agree to pay a monthly fee for their device on top of their regular AT&T service plan. Monthly fees range from $15-$50; a Samsung Galaxy S 4 costs $32 per month.

You're on the hook for 20 payments. After 12 payments, you can trade in your device and get a new one, and the clock starts again. There are no activation or upgrade fees. After 20 payments, the device is paid off. There doesn't appear to be a contract for service, only for the device itself. If you want out, you can pay off the device price early.

This works for AT&T in that the company no longer has to pay subsidies - currently $440 on a Galaxy S 4 with a two-year contract. But it isn't lowering its monthly rates, so over a two-year period someone with an AT&T Next Galaxy S 4 will pay $440 more than a subsidzed customer if they don't upgrade early. AT&T also gets to capture the resale value of the used phones, rather than consumers reusing or reselling them on their own. Customers who want to upgrade in months 13 or 14, and who don't resell their own used phones, will find big savings here, though.

July 6, 2013

Samsung Misses Expectations, Shares Take a Hit

Verizon Galaxy S 4

Stop us if you've heard this one: Company releases line of products that catapult it to the top of its market. Company sits on top of the world for the better part of a year, when it begins cutting forecasts and disappointing analysts. The company's stock price drops as many pundits begin to ponder whether the market itself is getting a wee bit saturated with similar products. Got it?

If you guessed the company was Samsung, you'd be right. The company's Friday earnings miss dropped its shares 3.8 percent, after it announced an operating income of (just) 9.5 trillion won ($8.3 billion), according to Bloomberg.

While that sounds like a considerable amount on paper – especially given that the company reported an operating profit of just 6.46 trillion won last year – the figure still missed the expectations of analysts that were hoping for a figure above 10 billion won.

"Samsung's got diversified businesses. When one business lags, it's got others outperforming and propping up the overall profit," Jung Sang-jin, form Dongbu Asset Management, said in an interview with Reuters.

"The component business is widely expected to pick up the slack in the second half when smartphones slow, but now worries are also mounting that the component business' recovery could be short-lived," he added.

June 5, 2013

Most Americans Now Carrying Smartphones

Best AT&T Phones

For the first time since the Pew Research Center began tracking smartphone adoption in the U.S., the organization has announced that most American adults now own smartphones.

Of the 2,250 adults polled by Pew, about 56 percent now own a smartphone. About one third own a feature phone, while the remaining 9 percent don't have a cell phone at all.

Unsurprisingly, ownership spikes among young adults — especially those in their 20s and 30s, as well as people with relatively high levels of household income and educational backgrounds. But income level doesn't always dictate big-budget purchases. In fact, no matter their paycheck, people ages 18 to 49 are most likely to be smartphone owners, according to Pew.

Smartphone adoption among older adults, conversely, is often more of an "elite" phenomenon — that is, the devices are often more prevalent among upper-income-level consumers than those with less disposable income.

That's in line with April data from IDC, which found that smartphones outsold feature phones for the first time in the first quarter.

The smartphone market is taking a positive turn overall, though. As Pew pointed out, all major demographics have experienced significant year-to-year growth since 2012; even senior citizens (ages 65 and older) got a boost, though they still lag behind the rest of the country with only 18 percent adoption.

June 4, 2013

Windows Phone Smartphone Shipments to Rival iPhone by 2017

Windows Phone 8

By 2017, Microsoft is expected to almost catch up with Apple in terms of worldwide smartphone shipments, according to new data from Canalys.

Google's Android operating system will continue to rule the market in the years to come, with 67.1 percent of smartphone shipments by 2017, barely a drop from last year's 67.7 percent. But Cupertino and Redmond will duke it out for second place, with Apple landing at 14.1 percent and Microsoft nabbing 12.7 percent in the next four years, according to Canalys. Microsoft's Windows Phones made up 2.4 percent of global smartphone shipments last year, whereas Apple had 19.5 percent.

"Apple's growth will be curtailed by the fact that momentum in the smartphone market is coming from the low end, and Apple is absent from this segment," Canalys analyst Jessica Kwee said in a statement. "Android's continued dominance is due to the scalability of the platform."

BlackBerry, meanwhile, is also likely to decline, but only barely — dropping from 4.8 percent last year to 4.6 percent in 2017. In fact, Microsoft is the only mobile OS maker expected to gain some footing in the race.

"The scalability of Microsoft's platform will be critical to its success and it has made progress here by enabling Huawei and Nokia to deliver Windows Phone products at aggressive price points," Kwee said. "[Nokia] has had some major carrier wins recently in the two largest markets of China and the U.S., which will help it build momentum in the short term."

May 23, 2013

Samsung Sells More than 10M Galaxy S4 Smartphones in a Month

Verizon Galaxy S 4

Samsung on Thursday announced that sales of its Galaxy S 4 smartphone have topped 10 million units globally less than one month after its debut.

In fact, it took the uber-popular Android phone just 26 days to reach the 10 million-sold milestone. The impressive feat makes the Galaxy S 4 Samsung's fastest-selling smartphone to date.

By comparison, the Galaxy S III reached the 10 million sales mark 50 days after its launch last year, while that smartphone's predecessor, the Galaxy S II , took five months to reach the same sales milestone. And it took the original Galaxy S seven months to reach 10 million units sold.

"On behalf of Samsung, I would like to thank the millions of customers around the world who have chosen the Samsung Galaxy S 4. At Samsung we'll continue to pursue innovation inspired by and for people," Samsung's mobile chief JK Shin said in a statement.

Launched on April 27 in 60 countries, the Galaxy S 4 is now estimated to be selling at a rate of four units per second, Samsung said. The phone is currently available in more than 110 countries and will eventually be rolled out to a total of 155 countries.