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Why are OEMs trying to force the smartwatch revolution?

By Simon Hill

moto 360 review aa (1 of 9)

Technology companies work hard to bring us a better future. They lie awake at night worrying about how they can make our lives easier, how they can provide us with the next killer gadget to boost our productivity, and put a smile of wonderment on our faces.

Oh no wait…. no that’s wrong. Technology companies work hard to make money. They lie awake at night worrying about how to part us from our hard-earned cash, how to sell us more gadgets, and put a profit-generated smile on their faces.

Smartwatches are the next big thing

Everyone and their dog is making a smartwatch right now. The analysts are falling over themselves to predict a surge in sales.

  • IDC suggests wearables will sell more than 19 million units this year, rising to 112.9 million by 2018.
  • Gartner reckons that 40 percent of wrist-worn devices will be smartwatches by 2016 (to put that in perspective the traditional wrist watch market was 1.2 billion last year, so nearly 500 million smarwatches within two years).
  • NextMarket Insights suggests that 15 million smartwatches will ship this year and that will grow to 373 million by 2020.
  • Canalys reports that shipments of wearable bands (which it divides into basic and smart) are up 684 percent in the first half of 2014.

Do you know how many smartwatches shipped in 2013? Strategy Analytics says 1.9 million and many of them were bundled with a smartphone by Samsung. The first half of this year has seen shipments of 1.7 million.

It is early days, but we’re not seeing a great deal of evidence that this is the wearable technology everyone has been waiting for. We’ve certainly moved on from the days of Seiko’s wrist computers back in the 80’s. Current releases eclipse Microsoft’s efforts from just a decade ago. But is this really the year of the smartwatch? The demand looks distinctly limp, but there’s a reason for that.

microsoft-smartwatch bill gates

Early adopters as beta testers

The first wave of a new category is almost always pretty bad. There are teething troubles to work out. Manufacturers need feedback to understand what features people really want and there can be a difference between what they think they want and what they actually use. Large scale production brings prices down, research enables smaller and sexier designs, and third-parties develop clever software and accessories that take things in new directions.

We can’t really judge the future smartwatch market based on the current smartwatch market. They are mostly chunky and ugly.

We can’t really judge the future smartwatch market based on the current smartwatch market. They are mostly chunky and ugly. Their main purpose is to save you from having to take the smartphone out of your pocket. The more features you cram in the worse the battery life gets. More big OEMs will launch smartwatches in the coming months and they’ll refine their lines. Traditional wrist watch manufacturers will get in on the act and take things in a more stylish direction. Let’s face it there’s plenty of room for improvement.

samsung gear s aa 12

Why are they pushing smartwatches?

The smartphone market is saturated. It’s coming down to a battle between price and brand. As prices fall and commoditization kicks in OEMs profits are squeezed hard. Smartwatches present two important opportunities:

  1. A new product category is a new market to exploit.
  2. A smartwatch could also be a differentiator that sells your smartphone over another.

Obviously we don’t need smartwatches. And OEMs can’t make us buy them. Just as they couldn’t make us rush out for new 3D TVs and smartphones. Even with a wave of hype they have to make something desirable for it to really catch on and it remains to be seen whether they’ll pull that trick off with smartwatches or not.

huawei-fitness

Where’s the USP?

There’s definitely a lack of really compelling killer features for this first crop of smartwatches. There are two basic directions they seem to be taking.

Some are essentially miniaturized smartphones or extensions of your smartphone and it’s not clear that they really offer anything that’s unmissable. If your smartphone is Batman, then they’re Robin, and we can all do without Robin right?

The category that is gaining some traction is fitness trackers. A smartwatch can track your activity more effectively than a smartphone. It is convenient to wear and forget about and you can sync data later to review it. Devices that just include a few activity sensors can run for days and even weeks between charges. They don’t have to be chunky and they don’t have to be so expensive.

If smartwatches could match the battery life and style of some fitness trackers then they’d be taking off a lot faster.

Apple Watch

Apple Watch

How big will smartwatches be?

If the OEMs can’t sell them directly then they’ll bundle them up as enticements to buy more expensive items like smartphones. We’re already seeing this happening. There’s also a growing momentum as more and more OEMs release their wares.

The original iPhone sold about 6 million units in its first year. Do you think the Apple Watch will sell more? A quick glance at analyst predictions reveals expectations of anywhere from 10 million to 50 million sales of the Apple Watch alone in 2015.

Android Wear is gearing up for a big year. Expect the same strengths as you see in the wider Android smartphone market – a range of different prices, hardware permutations, and form factors.

Smartwatches will carve some kind of market out, when this many OEMs throw this kind of weight behind a new product category it’s not likely to completely fail. We just don’t know big it will be.

Remember that the marketing machine never gets tired. It will pursue you endlessly. Maybe you are craving a smartwatch and you just don’t know it yet. How will you feel when everyone else has one? You said you’d never buy a mobile phone. …read more

Source:: android authority

    

FCC proposes raising definition of broadband to 10Mbps

By William Neilson Jr

FCC

Last week, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler spoke to Multichannel News and talked about wanting the definition of broadband to be at least 10Mbps down for rural areas in the US and 25Mbps down for developed markets. This means that any Internet Service Provider (ISP) who accepts Universal Service funds from the FCC (government subsidies) should offer at the minimum 10Mbps down.

The FCC’s current definition of “broadband” Internet is 4Mbps down. Originally, the FCC defined broadband as anything faster than 200kbps, then upgraded that definition to 768kbps down. It was only in 2010 that the FCC officially defined broadband to mean 4Mbps down.

Although AT&T and Verizon urged Wheeler to abandon this proposal, Wheeler has now told the US House Committee on Small Business that he will not abandon his goal of raising the definition of broadband.

“We have proposed increasing the throughput in order to get Universal Service funds from 4Mbps to 10Mbps for precisely the reason that you mentioned, that you can’t have a digital divide. When 60 percent of the Internet’s traffic at prime time is video, and it takes 4 or 5Mbps to deliver video, a 4Mbps connection isn’t exactly what’s necessary in the 21st century. And when you have half a dozen different devices, wireless and other connected devices in a home that are all going against that bandwidth, it’s not enough. What we are saying is we can’t make the mistake of spending the people’s money, which is what Universal Service is, to continue to subsidize something that’s subpar.” – Tom Wheeler (per Ars Technica)

The proposed upgrade in download speeds would only apply to future grants.

Ars Technica

The ISP’s will fight the proposal in anyway that they can, since raising the definition will force ISP’s to show their lack of deployment and competition across the country.

Just take a look at how AT&T and Verizon view this subject.

“Given the pace at which the industry is investing in advanced capabilities, there is no present need to redefine ‘advanced’ capabilities,” AT&T wrote in a filing made public Friday after the FCC’s comment deadline (see FCC proceeding 14-126). “Consumer behavior strongly reinforces the conclusion that a 10Mbps service exceeds what many Americans need today to enable basic, high-quality transmissions,” AT&T wrote later in its filing. Verizon made similar arguments. – DSLReports

In the past, the FCC has struggled to raise the definition bar.

  • When the FCC was trying to raise the broadband definition from 768kbps or to 4Mbps, ISP’s complained loudly.
  • When the FCC was giving out millions for one of the Connect America Fund phases, ISP’s like Windstream refused to take all of the money ($775 per install) because the FCC wanted to bump up the definition of an area to “unserved” if that area couldn’t receive 6Mbps down and 1.5Mbps up, instead of 3Mbps down and 768kbps up.
  • The FCC was chastised by the American Cable Association for wanting to raise the definition of broadband speeds to 6Mbps down (for the definition of “unserved”) by claiming that such speeds meant additional “government-supported overbuilding”….whatever that means.

Basically, ISP’s and phone companies have their markets cornered and don’t want taxpayer cash changing that equation.

But let’s be happy that the cable industry has finally come around to wanting the FCC broadband definition to mean actual speeds and not advertised speeds. Back in 2009, the cable industry’s primary lobbying group (National Cable & Telecommunications Association) pushed for the FCC definition to remain at 768kbps and 200 kbps. The NCTA also wanted the FCC definition to be defined by the speed advertised and not the speed actually delivered. Wait, what?

…the Commission should continue to look at maximum advertised speed rather than some measure of “actual” speed. In the Notice, the Commission observes that advertised speeds “generally differ from actual rates, are not uniformly measured, and have different constraints over different technologies.” – National Cable & Telecommunications Association


Source: Ars Technica, Multichannel News; …read more

Source:: android authority

    

Next gen Droid coming in October, fast charging highlighted

By Sean Riley

No surprise on the timing of the Droid launch, but rumor has it that Verizon has listened to everyone and is consolidating the line down to a single device rather than the shotgun approach taken for the last couple years.

And as you no doubt remember, the Droid line is now being handled exclusively by Motorola, so if they are to follow the playbook from last year that might mean a near carbon copy of the Moto X internals with a MAXX level battery wrapped in a kevlar coating. Based on my time with the Moto X so far, that battery life bump would be welcome, but the commensurate size bump to accommodate it will definitely be a sacrifice as far as the form factor.

Supporting the idea that the new Droid will sport similar hardware to the Moto X yet again is the tip from the @DroidLanding Twitter account that the new Droid will feature the same fast charging (Qualcomm Quick Charge 2.0) found in the Moto X.

Faster charging is a big deal. That’s why we made it a bigger deal. #waitforit

— DroidLanding (@DroidLanding) September 9, 2014

While the Droid line is never going to be a top seller given its Verizon exclusivity, we’re glad to see it stick around for a slightly different spin on the Moto X line which remains a big hit with us.

Anyone interested in a MAXX’d out new Moto X or is Moto Maker and the slim form factor not worth giving up?

…read more

Source:: androidandme

    

Note 4 pre-orders open tomorrow, to ship from October 17 in US, October 10 in the UK!

By Bogdan Petrovan

samsung galaxy note 4 charcoal black aa 2

Note fans, the time is nigh! Samsung announced today that its hotly anticipated Note 4 will go up for pre-order from tomorrow, September 19.

In the United States, the S Pen-toting beast will become available in stores from October 17. And that’s the time parcels will begin shipping to those who pre-ordered.

Across the pond, UK customers will have a week less to wait, as the Note 4 will hit the store shelves from October 10.

When Samsung devices go up for pre-order, carriers typically announce the availability on their own networks, so expect a flurry of press releases about this time tomorrow. So far we know that all major carriers in the US will be offering the Note 4, and the device will also go on sale from Amazon, Costco, RadioShack, Sam’s Club, Target, and Walmart.

At least in the US, Samsung is throwing in a trade-in deal. If you pre-order the Note 4 between tomorrow and October 16, you can get up to $200 by bringing in any working smartphone. Details will go soon go live here.

So far, we know that AT&T will be offering the Galaxy Note 4 for a stingy $299 on a two-year contract or $34.42 per month with an installment plan. AT&T will only carry the black and white versions at launch.

Interestingly, Samsung is opening pre-orders for the Note 4 on the same day Apple begins selling the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus. The Note has long been the undisputed king of the large phone segment, and it will be interesting to see whether the iPhone 6 Plus poses any threat.

For more on the Note 4 check out our coverage from IFA 2014, including our hands-on and versus comparisons against the Note 3, Galaxy S5, and LG G3.

Are you ordering the Note 4 tomorrow?


Source: Samsung; …read more

Source:: android authority

    

Star Wars: Commander isn’t a Clash of Clans clone, except it basically is

By Andrew Grush

Disney’s Star Wars: Commander first arrived on iOS a little less than a month ago, immediately gaining quite a bit of attention among both Star Wars fans and those who enjoy Clash of Clans-style of games. While not an exact clone by any means, SW: Commander is clearly inspired by Supercell’s Clash of Clans, even if Disney denies that it is a clone.

As for the game’s story, you are able to side with either the Empire or Rebellion in a global-scaled player-vs-player war. Like with CoC, you build up a base of operations, train troops and go on missions. As you’d expect, the Empire has some of the greatest tech on its sides, but the Rebellion has a free tricks of its sleeves as well. Overall the game looks nice graphically and, despite being far from original, there’s a lot to love here for both Star Wars fans and strategy games in general.

Unfortunately, the game is a free-to-play affair that puts a pretty heavy emphasis on paying real cash to bust quickly through timers. Is it playable without spending a dime? Yes, but not without some patience when it comes to wait times and other obstacles. To check out the game for yourself, you’ll want to head on over to Google Play.

For those that have spent time with the game, do you feel it’s worth the download? Let us and our readers know in the comments.

…read more

Source:: android authority

    

Samsung Galaxy Note 4 pre-orders begin September 19, goes on sale October 17

By Evan Selleck

On September 3, Samsung officially introduced the newest Galaxy Note phablet, the Galaxy Note 4 (and the Galaxy Note Edge). While it’s never been a secret that the handset would launch sometime in October, a finalized date hadn’t been circled on the calendar just yet. That has finally changed for anyone who is anticipating picking up this flagship handset this year.

Samsung has officially announced that pre-orders for the Galaxy Note 4 will begin on Friday, September 19, and that the handset will officially go on sale beginning October 17. From the press release:

Samsung created the large screen smartphone category with the Galaxy Note and are on our fourth generation, a category others are just entering,” said Gregory Lee, president and CEO of Samsung Telecommunications America and Samsung Electronics North America Headquarters. “The Galaxy Note 4 delivers a refined Note experience, and the latest technology that consumers want in their smartphone.

The Galaxy Note 4 features a 5.7-inch QHD (2560 x 1440) display, with a 2.7GHz quad-core processor under the hood and a 16-megapixel camera on the back with optical image stabilization. It’s running Android 4.4.4 KitKat right out of the box, along with Samsung’s proprietary TouchWiz user interface. It has refinements and improvements to the S Pen accessory and a 3.7-megapixel front-facing camera. On September 15, it was reported that the Galaxy Note 4′s large display is the best used in any smartphone to date.

Do you plan on picking up a Galaxy Note 4?

…read more

Source:: androidandme

    

Sony USA puts up pre-registration pages for Z3, Z3 Compact and Z3 Tablet Compact

By Andrew Grush

sony xperia z3 aa (2 of 17)

Sony has never been particularly aggressive when it comes to getting its phones into the hands of U.S. consumers, but it really dropped the ball with the Xperia Z2, as it never made its way to any U.S.carrier and was only sold in unlocked form. With the Xperia Z3, things are looking a bit better.

T-Mobile has already been confirmed as a partnering carrier and will receive the handset right around the same time as other global carriers do. But what about the rest of the Xperia Z3 family? Thanks to Sony’s official US website we’ve seen the first indication that the Xperia Z3, Xperia Z3 Compact and Z3 Tablet Compact will all be made available stateside. All three devices now have pre-register pages and are listed as coming soon.

Of course the pages don’t tell us whether Sony simply plans to sell the devices in unlocked form via its webstore (similar to the Z2) or if they plan to release the Z3 Compact and LTE version of the Z3 Tablet Compact to another carrier. For what it’s worth, Sprint has been rumored to be getting a flagship Xperia phone, which (if true) could end up being the Z3 or Z3 Compact. It’s also possible that T-Mobile could partner with Sony to offer the entire range of devices.

We wouldn’t get our hopes up one way or another, but it would certainly be nice to see Sony embrace the U.S. market in a bigger way this time around. What do you think, would you be interested in picking up the Z3, Z3 Compact or LTE-equipped Z3 Tablet Compact if they arrived through a major U.S. carrier?


Via: Phone Arena;
…read more

Source:: android authority

    

Introducing the first HTC UEFA Champions League Collector’s Edition

By William Neilson Jr

HTCOneM8UEFAChampionsLeagueSoccer

HTC has unveiled a new phone that celebrates the start of the group stages of the Champions League football competition.

Named the HTC One M8 Champions League Collector’s Edition, the special device includes a UEFA Champions League logo engraved on its back in addition to the Champions League trophy with a metallic design. The device also includes the HTC Football Feed app for access to the latest news on the two European tournaments (UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League).

Everything else in the commemorative limited edition smartphone is the same as the normal HTC One M8. That means that the HTC One M8 Champions League Collector’s Edition includes:

  • Front-facing Boom Speakers,
  • 4 Ultrapixel camera,
  • 5 inch 1080 p display,
  • Quad core Snapdragon 801 clocked at 2.3 GHz,
  • Adreno 330 GPU,
  • 2 GB RAM,
  • 16 or 32 GB internal storage expandable via microSD card,
  • Android 4.4 Kitkat with Sense 6 on top and 2600 mAH battery.

If you want to purchase this device, you will be out of luck. HTC is giving this phone away as a competition prize through its social media outlets in October of this year.


Source: HTC Blog; …read more

Source:: android authority

    

Paul O’Brien shares a possible launch date for Nexus 9

By Bogdan Petrovan

nexus-10-logo

Paul O’Brien, a trusted voice in the Android community, suggested that Nexus 9 could launch on October 16.

It’s important to take this info with a grain of salt, as its provenience is murky. According to O’Brien, the source is an “anonymous tipster” which could mean that this alleged release date is totally unverifiable. Then again, it wouldn’t be the first time a leak is attributed to a mystery tipster in order to protect their identity.

Anonymous tipster: The HTC Nexus 9 will be launched on 16th October…

— Paul O’Brien (@PaulOBrien) September 18, 2014

Paul O’Brien isn’t known as someone who shares unreliable info for the sake of publicity. The Brit, who is a respected Android developer and founder of the MoDaCo mobile community, has leaked other developments in the past – last year, for instance, he predicted the Nexus 5 and KitKat would be made official on November 1 (he was off by one day.)

Given everything we know so far about the Nexus 9 and Android L, as well as Google’s track record of releasing Nexus devices in October, we think October 16 is a plausible release date for Google’s new tablet. Of course, we will need some sort of official confirmation before we mark the date down in our calendars.

Rumors claim the HTC-made Nexus 9 will feature an 8.9-inch 2560×1600 display and an Nvidia Tegra K1 processor. A legal document from Nvidia that surfaced last week said the device is expected to launch in Q3 2014, of which there are only two weeks left. That seems to contradict O’Brien’s tip, though release timelines often change and Nvidia’s legal team may not be up to date with Google’s plans.

One thing’s sure for now – we’re entering Nexus season, so expect more rumors and reports about the new device(s) to crop up over the next few weeks.


Source: Paul O’Brien; …read more

Source:: android authority

    

Mobile carriers are likely to start charging for SMS messages

By William Neilson Jr

WhatsAppLogo

Over the last decade, SMS has been a huge cash cow for wireless carriers as it costs them virtually nothing to provide. Now that SMS is (and has been) dying off thanks to a variety of different applications, wireless carriers have resorted to a variety of tactics to keep money coming in since the SMS revenue stream has disappeared.

Wireless carriers will either jack up data rates or keep SMS options limited so that customers must pay more for them. For example, several years ago, AT&T eliminated a number of SMS options and instead left customers with the option of either paying $20 for unlimited text messages, or paying twenty cents per message (both directions). AT&T claimed this was “streamlining” while anyone else can see that this was fraud AT&T pushing people towards paying $20 for a service it costs AT&T virtually nothing to provide.

Now Forbes shows us how carriers are going to approach SMS revenue going forward. Companies that offer free text messaging service are soon going to be charged by the wireless carriers.

Section 251(b) of the Communications Act of 1934 allows people to own their phone number. But who owns a texting phone number is a different story even though the texting number is the same as the phone number. Current law says nothing about texting so major wireless carriers are now claiming that the texting number is their property.

According to Forbes:

  • T-Mobile started trying to impose fees several weeks ago.
  • Sprint will start trying to charge next week.
  • Verizon in April shut off access to texting applications from their network claiming spam was an issue. Eventually, Verizon reversed course because it became public that only 2% of spam messages came from texting applications.

What can the FCC do about this? Likely nothing. Texting is considered neither voice nor data service under the Communications Act. Therefore texting is unregulated and the carriers can charge whatever they want.

AT&TLogoPrice

Then there is the common practice of sending pictures through text messages.

Picture texting is another service, also unregulated by the FCC, and subject to its own set of carrier negotiations. If plain-text costs 3-12 cents, picture texting will cost more. Internet startups will die or be sold if these changes go through and presumably the carriers will pick up those businesses. This does not bode well for innovation. – Forbes

Maybe the wireless carriers will find new ways to cram customers out of a few more billion dollars?


Source: Forbes; …read more

Source:: android authority