Xiaomi Takes a Slice of the Smartphone Pie

  • Just three years into its existence, Chinese smartphone manufacturer Xiaomi Technology has a $4 billion valuation and has garnered “Apple-like adoration” from loyal fans, reports Reuters.
  • Founder Lei Jun, 42, helped shape China’s Internet revolution when he co-founded and sold Joyo.cn to Amazon before moving on to Xiaomi Technology. At Xiaomi, Lei has become a Steve Jobs-like figure, as he has marketed his product simply, but in a way that generates “an aura of exclusivity around its products,” notes the article.
  • When addressing comparisons to Jobs, Lei says, “I will take this as a compliment but such kind of comparison brings us huge pressure.”
  • “Xiaomi and Apple are two totally different companies,” he continues. “Xiaomi’s based on the Internet. We are not doing the same thing as Apple.”
  • The company released its second phone in October and has sold 300,000 units. The phone is comparable to Samsung’s Galaxy S3 and Apple’s iPhone 5, but sells for only $370.
  • “Unlike the big domestic smartphone players, such as Lenovo Group, ZTE Corp and Huawei Technologies, which work with telecom carriers to sell a large volume of smartphones, Xiaomi sells most of its phones online and in small batches,” writes Reuters. By limiting quantity and selling in small batches, Xiaomi creates buzz. This demand led to Xiaomi selling its entire batch of 50,000 smartphones in less than two minutes in October.
  • China is expected to pass the United States as the number one smartphone market within the year, but some people still believe the market will be controlled by market leaders ZTE and Huawei, and that Xiaomi’s small scale strategy will hurt its long term outlook.

TIME Lists Top 10 Gadgets of the Year: iPhone 5 Takes Top Spot

  • Although Apple may have to cede the top spot on smartphone sales, its iPhone 5 still sits at No. 1 in terms of overall device and operation system quality, earning the coveted TIME Magazine ‘gadget of the year’ award.
  • TIME’s Harry McCracken calls the iPhone 5 ‘one of the most artfully polished gadgets anyone’s ever built,’ adding that ‘when it comes to melding hardware, software and services so tightly that the seams fade away, Apple still has no peer,'” VentureBeat reports.
  • “Despite 5 million units sold in its opening weekend, and stellar sales results that catapulted iOS back into the mobile operating system lead in November, the iPhone 5 probably can’t catch the Samsung Galaxy S III, which launched in the summer and reached 18 million units by early November,” the article continues.
  • Apple did not, however, gain recognition from TIME for its iPads, even though the new iPad mini earned a warm welcome by many in October.
  • TIME‘s top 10 gadgets are as follows: 1) iPhone 5, 2) Nintendo Wii U, 3) Sony Cyber-shot RX100, 4) Raspberry Pi Model B, 5) Lytro, 6) Apple 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display, 7) Microsoft Surface with Windows RT, 8) Samsung Galaxy Note II, 9) Nest, and 10) Simple.TV.

Mobile Trends: Should Laptop Makers Shift Their Focus to Tablets?

  • Tablets are set to outsell laptops by 2015, according to a new report from IDC, underscoring the necessity for PC makers to focus on designing attractive slates.
  • “This forecast further emphasizes the massive shift toward mobile, which has been underway for several years: Smartphones began outselling PCs last year and will easily continue to do so as consumers and enterprises do more computing on the go,” reports GigaOM.
  • “Many PC makers were either late to the mobile device game, or not part of it at all, and have watched sales dollars filter to those making smartphones at first, and now tablets,” the article continues.
  • While the IDC report suggests that laptops won’t entirely go away — just as desktop PCs have remained — GigaOM suggests the model of computing that relied heavily on these PCs is changing, and IDC’s predictions could be “too conservative.”
  • The report also notes the decline in unit revenue for mobile devices, compared with the revenue of desktops or laptops. “That means computer makers will have to make up the difference in volume and the best chance to do that is by seizing momentum early, much as Apple did with its iPad,” the article states.
  • “Additionally, tablet hardware is improving quickly, and perhaps more importantly, so are the applications that run on tablets,” GigaOM continues. “Activities that once sounded absurd on a tablet just two or three years ago are now possible on an iPad, Android slate or Windows RT device. Instead of looking back at ‘old-school computing,’ laptop makers should be looking ahead at potential software and cloud services that tablets will benefit from.”

FTC Mobile Apps for Kids Report Finds Little Progress in Privacy

  • The Federal Trade Commission’s staff report, “Mobile Apps for Kids: Disclosures Still Not Making the Grade,” analyzes mobile applications aimed at children, and finds that little progress has been made since last year in terms of warning, or even informing, parents about the data collection in applications.
  • The report notes that the applications have interactive features and social media sharing that can send information on the children to advertising companies or analytics companies without seeking parental consent. Some applications do not even disclose the actions to parents, according to the report.
  • “While we think most companies have the best intentions when it comes to protecting kids’ privacy, we haven’t seen any progress when it comes to making sure parents have the information they need to make informed choices about apps for their kids,” said FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz. “In fact, our study shows that kids’ apps siphon an alarming amount of information from mobile devices without disclosing this fact to parents.”
  • “All of the companies in the mobile app space, especially the gatekeepers of the app stores, need to do a better job,” he added. “We’ll do another survey in the future and we will expect to see improvement.”
  • The report, which examined disclosures within the app, disclosures on the promotion page in the app store, and at the app developer’s website, found “most apps failed to provide any information about the data collected through the app, let alone the type of data collected, the purpose of the collection, and who would obtain access to the data.”
  • “Even more troubling, the results showed that many of the apps shared certain information with third parties — such as device ID, geolocation, or phone number — without disclosing that fact to parents,” according to the report.

Silicon Image UltraGig 6400: WirelessHD for Next-Gen Mobile

  • Silicon Image’s UltraGig 6400 is a new WirelessHD transmitter that may be small enough and strong enough to break the WirelessHD smartphone barrier, writes Engadget.
  • According to the press release, the UltraGig 6400 is “a complete WirelessHD transmitter for mobile devices that integrates a 60GHz RF transceiver, baseband processor, and embedded antenna array into a single IC package.”
  • The device has full gaming and 1080p video capabilities, but is also small enough for both tablets and smartphones.
  • Previously, people who wanted video output from small, battery powered devices like tablets and smartphones would either “be looking at a WiFi-based option like AirPlay, DLNA or Miracast, which can sacrifice bandwidth and latency, or at a wired connection like MHL, which effectively means tethering ourselves to the TV,” notes the post.
  • The transmitter is one-fifth the size of the older WirelessHD Gen3. It also consumes less power than smartphone’s local displays and “has a mere 5ms latency to allow for interactivity, and shouldn’t add more than $10 to the cost of manufacture,” reports Engadget.

Tech Industry Calls on Congress to Allocate More Mobile Spectrum

  • A team of tech companies including Apple, Samsung, and Nokia has submitted a letter to Congress requesting that it allocate more spectrum for mobile data, reports The Verge.
  • The letter argues the spectrum addition “is timely and relevant” to discuss alongside fiscal cliff debates.
  • “Now is the time to ensure the incentive auctions are as robust and successful as possible at liberating spectrum,” reads the letter. “We should also turn our collective attention on ways to reap the economic benefits of underutilized federal spectrum assets.”
  • “Other signatories include Intel, RIM, Qualcomm, Alcatel-Lucent, Cisco, and Ericsson, all of which are members of the High Tech Spectrum Coalition,” notes the post. “The group believes that upcoming spectrum auctions won’t meet the demand for wireless broadband, nor will it be possible to ‘engineer our way out of this problem’ with more efficient technology.”
  • The letter asks Congress to urge spectrum holders to “become more efficient, to share with one another, to vacate, or to lease their spectrum.”
  • An earlier report this year also recommended the government consider sharing spectrum with commercial partners, since it’s “increasingly difficult to find desirable spectrum that can be vacated by federal users.”

Mobile Video Calling Creates New Frontier as Technologies Improve

  • “As the cameras and screens of smartphones and tablets improve, and as wireless networks offer higher bandwidth, more companies are getting into the business of enabling mobile video calls,” reports The New York Times, noting that the rise has been so quick that analysts have yet to compile numbers.
  • In 2011, Microsoft acquired video calling service Skype. Similarly, Apple developed its own FaceTime feature to sell the iPad and in September expanded the service beyond just Wi-Fi to cellular networks.
  • Google’s free video calling service Hangouts on its social network Google Plus allows up to ten people to video conference, and it features more than 200 apps. Just last week, Yahoo purchased its own video chat service OnTheAir. Tango Mobile is yet another video calling service, which has attracted 80 million active users and sees 200,000 join daily, according to CTO and co-founder Eric Setton.
  • Microsoft has incorporated Skype into its Windows 8 mobile phones, allowing people to receive calls even when the app isn’t running. Google is interested in “making money on the applications, but in learning more about them so it can sell more ads by getting people to use [Hangouts],” notes the article.
  • “Don’t expect video calling to improve productivity. Tango uses the same technology that enables video calls to sell games that people can play simultaneously,” the article states. “Google says some jokey applications on Hangouts, like a feature that can put a mustache over each caller, seem to encourage people to talk longer.”
  • “Tango’s average video call used to last six minutes, Mr. Setton said, but when the company started adding other applications to go with the videos, like games and designs that float over people, the average call length rose to 12 minutes.”

Malware Shift: Android Overtakes Windows as Top Security Threat

  • In the 2013 Security Threat Report from security firm Sophos, it’s been revealed that Android is now the top market for hackers, beating out previous frontrunner Microsoft’s Windows OS.
  • “The security firm found that during a three-month period this year, 10 percent of Android-based devices experienced some form of malware attack. Just 6 percent of Windows PCs, meanwhile, were hit by an attack,” according to Technology Review.
  • Cybercriminals understand more than ever that the technological future is in mobile, making this an issue of high concern considering over 100 million Android devices shipped worldwide in the second quarter of 2012, notes the report.
  • Because Android is fairly new, especially when compared to Windows OS, users are not yet conditioned to security concerns and will click on links or open unknown apps.
  • “To make matters worse, the anti-malware tools available in the Android ecosystem just aren’t as strong as they could be,” explains the article. “Security firms are behind the times a bit. And until they catch up, we’re all at risk.”
  • According to the Saphos report, in order to stay safe, users should only surf the Web to known sites and should not download anything that could be dangerous.

Opinion: Will Mobile Devices Eventually Replace the Big Screen TV?

  • In this opinion piece published on CNET, freelance writer Steve Guttenberg predicts that iPads and other tablet devices will eventually make having a large screen TV a thing of the past.
  • “By 2020 younger people who will have grown up with tablets won’t see a need to ever buy a big display, which will by then seem as obtrusive as a pair of 4-foot-tall tower speakers do to most buyers nowadays,” he suggests.
  • For the naysayers, Guttenberg cites audio technology as an example. Twenty years ago, it was hard to imagine that most consumers would be less concerned about a set of quality speakers and more interested in portability or personalization. Yet that’s where we’ve landed.
  • “With music, everyone except for a handful of audiophiles, listens in their cars, computer, or on iPod,” he writes. “A home hi-fi of any quality now seems irrelevant; the same fate is in the cards for TVs. They will start to look too big, too imposing for the room’s decor.”
  • This is interesting to consider now, as tablet sales are taking off in the consumer market. Will mobile devices such as the tablet kill TV?
  • Guttenberg believes we are heading in that direction: “There will always be a market for big TVs, just as there is for great audio, but big-screen sales will continue to shrink over time. Most people will be perfectly content to watch movies and sports on their iPads.”

Financial Analyst Weighs Pros and Cons of Zynga $7 Billion IPO

  • In an analysis of Zynga’s pricy IPO, Forbes contributor Peter Cohan advises investors to “avoid this stock.”
  • “Social media gaming sweat shop Zynga filed to sell 14.3 percent, or 100 million, of its shares, valuing the lot at $7 billion,” he writes. “Should you pay the price to get in on its IPO? No.”
  • Zynga does have some things working in its favor: 1) It operates in the highly profitable virtual goods market that is expected to more than double by 2014; 2) It has a competitive advantage with the largest player audience on Facebook and 383 percent annual growth rate from 2008 to 2010; and 3) It has the ability to sustain its leadership position. “In October, Zynga announced Project Z that would lessen Zynga’s dependence on Facebook users. If that and its effort to go mobile work, Zynga would be in a stronger long-term position,” suggest the article.
  • So why not invest? Zynga’s IPO valuation is too high relative to its competitors; its growth is slowing down; and, its net income shrank for the majority of 2011 leaving “razor thin” 3.7 percent net profit margins. “No amount of sweat-shopping will fix Zynga’s slowing growth,” reports Cohan.

Is the Carrier IQ Rootkit Tracking Everything on Your Smartphone?

  • As an Android, Blackberry or Nokia user, you may not know that an app called Carrier IQ is logging literally everything you are doing on your smartphone including keystrokes, SMS messages and HTTPS sessions. Other articles on Carrier IQ report that this information is being sent to the carriers.
  • Apparently, there is no way for a user to turn Carrier IQ off without replacing the operating system.
  • A former Justice Department prosecutor has told Forbes that this is “likely grounds for a class action lawsuit” as it violates federal wiretapping law. This story is beginning to get a significant amount of attention online.
  • To see Carrier IQ in action, watch the 17-minute video posted to the PC World article.

Wilocity to Showcase 802.11ad Tech at CES: Ready for 60GHz Wireless?

  • Founded by a team of execs and engineers from Intel’s Wi-Fi Centrino group in 2007, Wilocity is developing next-gen 60GHz multi-gigabit wireless chipsets for mobile and peripheral markets.
  • According to the company’s website: “Wilocity’s Wireless PCI Express technology will enable truly multi-gigabit wireless for a wide range of applications from I/O to networking to video.”
  • “Wilocity, which is leading the charge for next-generation technology called 802.11ad designed to reach 7 gigabits per second over short distances, plans to show off a variety of devices using its technology at the mammoth CES trade show,” reports CNET.
  • “In Wilocity’s dream, the company will excite people about the possibilities of wireless networking that’s faster than what typical computers today can do with a wired connection,” explains the post. “For example, a smartphone carried into the office could connect to a keyboard, mouse, and large display. A tablet carried into the den could become a controller for a game shown on the big-screen TV.”

Shopping Trend: Retailers Find that Consumers Prefer Apps to Websites

  • New iPad apps are rolling out this holiday season to entice the eight percent of online shoppers that own tablets.
  • That percentage may seem small, but Forrester Research found that 60 percent of tablet owners use their devices to shop and many prefer them to smartphones or computers for shopping. For clothing company Anthropologie, iPad shopping accounted for six percent of sales this year and is expected to rise to 20 percent with the introduction of their new app.
  • These new apps aim to provide a more interactive experience and capture some of the in-store essence by revamping their electronic catalogs and adding new features to their shopping pages.
  • Revel Touch has built apps for multiple companies including functions like a “virtual dressing room,” that allows users to create outfits and the ability to share choices on social networks. Apps allow tablet shoppers to zoom in, see videos and find the sizes they want with ease.
  • “You can bring the objects to life on an iPad and you can’t do that on paper — and you don’t have to chop down a tree,” the CEO of Catalog Spree told The New York Times. The company also reported that, on weekends, its users spend almost eight times as long on the retailers’ app as they do on the retailers’ Web sites.

Will New $99 Kobo E-Reader Compete?

  • Kobo announced it will release its $99 Kobo Touch with Offers in time for the holiday season.
  • The 6-inch e-reader is the same as the company’s $130 offering, but “the screen will display ads when it is in sleep mode or turned off, as well as in what the company mysteriously refers to as ‘discreet places,'” reports VentureBeat.
  • The device “will be a direct competitor to Amazon’s Kindle Touch with Special Offers and Barnes & Noble’s Nook Simple Touch,” suggests the article.
  • Although not widely known in the U.S., Kobo hopes to change that with unique features such as support for HTML, RTF and various image files.
  • According to the article: “Just last week, the Canada-based e-reader manufacturer was acquired for $315 million in cash by Rakuten, the largest online shopping mall operator in Japan, which may help the reader become an international hit. As for this season’s e-reader wars in the U.S., it’s still a scrappy underdog.”

Filmic Pro App from Cinegenix is Ideal Tool for Mobile Video Shoots

  • Filmic Pro is a $2.99 app from Cinegenix that transforms the iPhone’s video camera capabilities by providing prosumer features.
  • “The camera lets you set and lock your focus, exposure and white balance,” reports Appletell. “On the backend, a set of menus allows you to set the resolution, from 480×360 up to 1920×1080, though only the iPhone 4S supports that resolution.”
  • Filmic Pro can add color bars and a slate (including countdown) to the video, and bitrate can be modified. Additionally, the app enables exporting directly to YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook, or Tumblr.
  • “You can also set the Frames Per Second from 30 all the way down to 1,” according to the post. “There’s a simple audio meter, a thirds guide, a framing guide (2.34:1, a standard TV 4:3, and a cinematic 16:9). If you want to make your iPhone video look like it was shot on a 35mm movie camera, there’s a matte box function, too.”
  • Appletell suggests that Filmic Pro’s strengths involve greater control over shooting, setting frame and compression rates and the ability to export footage to Dropbox or FTP. The app does not allow users to edit, set titles, or add special effects.

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