Insiders say Amazon Plans to Launch an iPad Rival

  • Amazon may be selling a tablet computer as early as October, report people familiar with the matter.
  • The new tablet is expected to feature a 9-inch screen and run on Android’s operating system (but will reportedly not include a camera). An Amazon-designed second tablet may be available next year.
  • Amazon is still expected to introduce two new Kindles in the third quarter.
  • With its own online retail operation, Amazon is well positioned to compete with Apple. Moreover, one analyst says Amazon can offer a cheaper alternative and make up the difference with movie, music and book sales.

iPhone Users Lead the Charge in Mobile Gaming

  • According to a recent Nielsen study, the average iPhone user commits twice the average amount of time to playing mobile games as compared to other mobile gamers, suggesting that iOS may have the most engaged gaming audience.
  • The study also indicates that 93 percent of app customers have paid for games in the last 30 days.
  • The average iPhone owner spent 14.7 hours playing games during the month, while the average Android owner spent 9.3 hours (the overall average for smartphone gamers is 7.8 hours/month).
  • The report explains that consumers are typically more willing to spend money on games than other types of apps.
  • Nielsen breaks down the leading categories of most popular apps for Q2 2011 in the following order: Games, Weather, Social Networking, Maps/Navigation/Search, Music, News, Entertainment, Banking/Finance, Video/Movies, Shopping/Retail, Dining/Restaurant, Sports.

Verizon Wireless Dumps Unlimited Data Service Plan

  • After weeks of speculation, Verizon Wireless has announced it will no longer offer customers unlimited data service plans, but will instead introduce service tiers at varied price points.
  • Verizon joins AT&T and T-Mobile in offering tiered service models. Sprint Nextel remains as the only major carrier to offer an unlimited data plan.
  • Verizon’s current unlimited data model is $30 on most plans. Moving forward, customers will get a maximum of 2GB/month for that price. Customers who use up to 10GB will pay $80/month.
  • Customers with an existing unlimited plan will be grandfathered in and will not have to change to a tiered plan, but any change in service will terminate the unlimited data plan.
  • ETCentric contributor Phil Lelyveld comments: “It will be interesting to see if this becomes a competitive differentiator among services, and whether consumers hit the limits and start caring about limits on their wireless data plans.”

Milestone: Apple Surpasses 15 Billion App Store Downloads

  • Apple announced the 15 billionth app download this week. The App Store has been open three years.
  • There are some 425,000 apps and 100,000 iPad apps available to users in 90 countries.
  • Apple has paid more than $2.5 billion to app developers to date.
  • From the Apple press release: “Users of the more than 200 million iOS devices around the world can choose from an incredible range of apps in 20 categories, including games, business, news, education, sports, health, reference and travel.”

Most Popular Smartphone Platforms: Android, iOS, BlackBerry

  • Google’s Android continues its lead over all other smartphone platforms, according to the latest quarterly report from comScore.
  • However, Apple has overtaken Research In Motion’s BlackBerry for second place among U.S. smartphone software providers.
  • Android grew from 33 percent to 38.1 percent, while Apple grew to 26.6 percent and RIM declined to 24.7 percent.
  • Microsoft and Palm both showed declines as well.
  • In terms of handsets, Samsung currently leads with 24.8 percent of the smartphones in circulation while Motorola remains in second place.

Tablet-Notebook Convergence: Ultra-Thin, Touch-Sensitive Devices

  • “Tablets aren’t cannibalizing notebooks; they’re converging with them,” writes John Paczkowski in a WSJ article about how fears regarding an iPad takeover of PC sales is overblown.
  • Bernstein Research analyst Toni Sacconaghi sees tablets and notebooks converging as solid-state storage, low-power processors, app stores, touch interfaces, and lighter weights continue to span both platforms.
  • Sacconaghi predicts there will be notebooks of iPad weight with touchscreens and integrated keypads for under $1,000 which may undermine sales of tablets.
  • Paczkowski concludes: “In other words, the cannibalized becomes the cannibal. And in the end, it turns out that the post-PC era doesn’t mean that the PC is dead, but rather that it’s been born anew as a converged device — an ultrathin, touch-sensitive notebook.”

New Book on Tablet Impact: iPad in the Enterprise

  • In his new book, iPad in the Enterprise (available this August), Nathan Clevenger examines how the Apple iPad has started to transform the way enterprise IT departments are operating. Some interesting excerpts from the book are listed below.
  • “The day the iPad was introduced we had some discussions about adding them into our environment; 24 hours later, we had 500 devices accessing e-mails,” said Frank Modruson, the CIO of Accenture. “CIOs who resist will eventually be forced to change.”
  • “As we move forward into a world where cloud enabled networks are the norm,” says Art Glasgow, the CTO at Ingenix, “CIOs have to accept the fact that the world has changed. Any device at any time on the network will be the norm and it will have to be done without sacrificing security and manageability. Cool matters and usability rules the day so devices like the iPad have to be not just accounted for, but designed for. The good news is that devices like the iPad aren’t just cool. They are flexible, multifunction tools that are changing the way we work and create and in that sense may very well be not just an innovation themselves, but a catalyst to innovations.”

Will Apple Offer a Free Version of its iPhone?

  • Apple may soon “amp up competition with Android” by offering its iPhone 3GS for $0 (with a qualifying service contract).
  • The iPhone 3GS was launched in the U.S. in June 2009.
  • RBC Capital Market analyst Mike Abramsky suggests the free phone will be made available the same time that Apple releases its successor to the iPhone 4, providing options for different demographics.
  • Abramsky also forecasts the free 3GS could “expand the iPhone’s worldwide marketshare from some 64 million users to more than 150 million users.”
  • Google’s Android is currently the top-selling smartphone platform in the U.S.

PayPal Will Process $3 Billion in Mobile Payments for 2011

  • PayPal’s new 2011 estimate for mobile payment processing of $3 billion is twice what the company estimated last year.
  • The $3 billion is divided into two categories: 1) individuals using Paypal’s mobile app to transfer money to each other, and 2) people completing purchases on mobile online commerce sites.
  • The PayPal online payments service (owned by eBay) has 8 million users and is processing up to $10 million/day in mobile total payment volume.
  • PayPal’s competitors include Google Wallet, Square and credit card companies.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 Takes on the Apple iPad 2

  • International Business Times provides an interesting side-by-side comparison of tablet market leader Apple iPad 2 and the newly available Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1.
  • For the Galaxy Tab: higher display resolution (1280×800 vs. iPad’s 1024×768); more RAM; 9 ounces lighter and 0.01 inch thinner than the iPad; Adobe Flash playback capability; features new Plane to Line Switching (PLS) panel technology that enhances brightness, clarity and viewing angles; higher megapixel cameras and 1080p video capability.
  • However, Galaxy Tab’s thinness was achieved by excluding USB, HDMI and SD card slot.
  • For the iPad 2: better battery life than the Galaxy Tab (10 hours vs. 6 hours under similar conditions); better speaker sound, particularly at a higher volume; and perhaps most importantly, more than double the number of available apps (425,000 and growing).
  • The Galaxy Tab is powered by Honeycomb 3.1 OS: “And, no matter whichever way you look at it – slice it or dice it – Honeycomb lacks the finesse and elegance of iOS.”
  • Conclusion: “Galaxy Tab is the best Android tablet to be ever released. No doubt about that. But if you’ve made up your mind about getting iPad 2, don’t give it a second thought. The UI of iOS will not make you want to regret your decision.”

Toshiba Releases its Thrive Tablet with Honeycomb

  • Add another new tablet to the growing list of available devices… Toshiba began taking pre-orders last week for its 10.1-inch Thrive Tablet, expected to hit retail shelves in early July.
  • The $430 Wi-Fi-only 8GB tablet runs on Android 3.1 Honeycomb and is powered by Nvidia’s Tegra 2 chip.
  • PC Magazine reports there will also be 16GB ($480) and 32GB ($580) models available.
  • Inputs include: USB 2.0, Mini USB, HDMI and SD Card.
  • Features include: Multitouch 1280×800 LED display, front and rear cameras and a replaceable battery.
  • According to a PC World review this week, interoperability may be what makes the Thrive stand out from the pack: “The Thrive is the first Honeycomb tablet to include a full-size SD Card slot. None of this microSD card nonsense for Toshiba; ditto for only having a micro- or mini-USB port. By including the SD Card slot and USB port, the company recognizes the need for interoperability among devices. And only with interoperability can a tablet begin to replace a laptop in your arsenal.”
  • In related news, Hewlett-Packard also recently announced its first media tablet, the 9.7-inch webOS-powered TouchPad. The Wi-Fi-only TouchPad is priced at $500 (16GB) and $600 (32GB).

Is Facebook Finally Ready to Announce its iPad App?

  • Facebook is reportedly preparing to release a free social networking iPad app, after nearly a year in development.
  • Developers have overhauled the Facebook Chat and Facebook Groups features, which are now in the final stages of testing.
  • The app will also allow users to shoot and upload photos and video content from the iPad’s built-in cameras.
  • “People who have seen the application said it has a slick design that has been tailored for the iPad and its touchscreen interface.” (Facebook users have previously complained (read the related TechCrunch post) that its interface is not optimized for touchscreen functionality.)
  • Facebook claims it is approaching 700 million users worldwide, with 250 million of them actively accessing the site on mobile devices.

Nielsen Reports TV Viewing Increase Across All Platforms

  • Americans are watching on average 22 more minutes of television per month than last year, according to Nielsen’s cross-platform video report.
  • The average viewer watched more than 158 hours a month of television content on a TV set in Q1 2011.
  • Viewing has increased across all platforms, with Internet and mobile devices seeing increases of 34.5 percent and 20 percent, respectively.
  • However, a subset of viewers who access video via their PCs tend to watch significantly less traditional TV (especially in the 18- to 34-year-old demographic).
  • Nielsen credits the surge to increased amount and diversity of content in addition to the ability to view content based on viewer’s convenience.
  • Another factor is the rise of the tablet, which offers a bigger and better viewing surface than smartphones.
  • According to Peter V. Dobrow from Comcast, families are increasingly adopting mobile devices for TV viewing. “Families use them, if the adults want to watch one thing, then the kids can watch another on the iPad and the whole family can still be in the same room,” Dobrow said. “We’re pulling together different apps and trying to make it easier to use and more consumer friendly.”

Smartphone Data Usage Hits All-Time High

  • It should come as no surprise that Nielsen’s monthly analysis of cellphone bills for more than 65,000 lines indicates that smartphone users (which comprise 37 percent of U.S. mobile subscribers) are consuming more data than ever before on a per-user basis (especially those with app-friendly iPhones and Android devices).
  • The average smartphone user is accessing 89 percent more data per month than last year’s figures, growing from an average of 230MB per month to 435MB per month in the first quarter of 2011.
  • Nielsen reports that “data usage for the top 10 percent of smartphone users (90th percentile) is up 109 percent while the top 1 percent (99th percentile) has grown their usage by an astonishing 155 percent from 1.8GB in Q1 2010 to over 4.6GB in Q1 2011.”
  • As data usage dramatically increases, most users are paying approximately the same amount they did a year ago for data, translating to a lower cost per unit of data consumed.  According to Nielsen: “The amount the average smartphone user pays per unit of data has dropped by nearly 50 percent in the last year, from 14 cents per megabyte (MB) to a mere 8 cents.”

3D Phones: Next Big Thing or Next Big Gimmick?

  • Recent product announcements indicate 3D technology may not be just for cinema releases and home theaters, as the technology is beginning to make its way to mobile devices.
  • The first significant 3D mobile device was the Nintendo 3DS (launched in March). The $249 3DS features a 3.5-inch glasses-free 3D screen. However, sales so far have been disappointing. NPD Group reports that Nintendo sold almost 400,000 units in the first week following its U.S. launch (100,000 units less than sales of the original DS in November 2010).
  • Now, tablets and smartphones are in the 3D spotlight.
  • Rumors are surfacing that the next iPad will feature 3D capabilities – and two new Android smartphones, the LG Thrill and the HTC Evo 3D, are already touting glasses-free 3D.
  • Manufacturers hope these devices will make watching movies, playing games, and sharing photos more of an immersive experience.
  • The LG and HTC phones include special 5MP dual-lens cameras for shooting 3D photos and videos.
  • It is too early to tell whether 3D technology for mobile devices will be the next big thing or merely the next big gimmick. However, the much lower cost of mobile devices could make adoption more swift than its been for comparably higher priced HDTVs.
  • According to Ross Rubin, director of industry analysis at NPD Group: “Handsets by themselves are typically not as strong a voice for developers to create 3D applications. If someone the likes of Apple or Google get into 3D, then there will be a large enough base.”