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Destiny Media Releases New iPhone Music App
VANCOUVER, April 26, 2013
China’s ZTE is the latest Android device maker to agree to agree to Microsoft’s patents fee demands over its use of Google’s operating system.
Visit link: Microsoft clinches new Android deal
HTC has reported a 98% drop in profits, leaving the top market tier to be dominated by Samsung androids and Apple iPhones
The divergent fortunes within the $200bn (£130bn) global smartphone market were laid bare this week when Taiwan’s HTC reported a 98% slump in profits, confirming Samsung and Apple’s seemingly unassailable lead over their rivals.
In 2010, HTC was the world’s biggest maker of smartphones that used Google’s Android operating system. Now it has joined two other former titans, Nokia and BlackBerry, in a desperate search for profit and growth.
As HTC reported a slump in first-quarter profits to £0.9m, Samsung Electronics, the world’s largest maker of mobile phones and smartphones, was basking in a forecast that its quarterly operating profit would be around 8.7trn (£5bn).
The market is splitting into three tiers that allow only for high-end products in developed markets, a bevy of barely profitable products in the middle, and a hugely competitive low-cost segment in developing markets such as China.
In the last quarter of 2012, the last period for which figures are available, Apple and Samsung together shipped 111.5m smartphones, according to researcher IDC. That’s more than 50% of a market that has tripled in volume over that time – and compares to a combined share of less than 20% back in the second quarter of 2010, when the once mighty Nokia had 37%.
The plight of HTC is even more stark when its market position is viewed through the prism of Google’s Android software. Android is the leading operating system thanks to Samsung, beating Apple’s iOS system and Microsoft’s Windows Phone, which is used by Nokia. If consumers are flocking to Android phones, they are choosing Samsung and not HTC.
Benedict Evans, technology and telecoms analyst at Enders Analysis, calls the Android smartphone market “Samsung and the seven dwarves” – a reference to the 1960s when IBM dominated the mainframe market, and its seven rivals fought for scraps. The modern equivalents are China’s Huawei, Lenovo and ZTE, Korea’s LG, Japan’s Sony, the now Google-owned Motorola, and HTC.
But Steve Brazier, chief executive of the research company Canalys, thinks that the HTC One phone, launched in February, offers a way back. “The HTC One is hot,” he said. “The problem is it’s not really shipping yet, which is why their first-quarter figures were bad. The product was delayed.” Nonetheless, it faces a significant challenge from the Samsung Galaxy S4 phones, which also hits retailers’ shelves this month.
Brazier adds that there is hope too for the other also-rans. For BlackBerry, he thinks it first needs to calm its US government clients, who have been eyeing the iPhone as an alternative. For Nokia, the solution is easier said than done: “It needs something radically different from what’s out there.”
HTC, BlackBerry and Nokia are fighting against a rapid decline. Since 2010, they have been squashed down from an aggregate market share of 61% to barely 10%. Now, none has more than 4% of the market. Samsung is at the top with 29%, ahead of Apple with nearly 22%.
HTC’s problems sum up the difficulties that competitors face when they are trying to overcome two players that dominate half the market. The One was delayed because, reports say, it couldn’t get enough cameras at the required specification to satisfy its needs.
Brazier said: “The big issue in the smartphone business is that Samsung and Apple are cornering the supply chain, so HTC can’t get ‘tier-one’ components.”
To be tier one you have to order in large enough volumes to demand quality and timeliness along with price discounts. Once you slip from that position, it’s hard to recover it.
A decade ago, Apple cornered the markets in small hard drives and then solid-state storage to build its iPod, and then iPod nano, and dominate the music player market. Now it uses its growing cash pile to hire factories and production well ahead of time – locking rivals out. “HTC has a real scale problem,” says Evans, the Enders analyst. “It’s a problem that Nokia is starting to face as well. It’s a problem of the reach and power that Apple and Samsung can bring to the market.”
Samsung, meanwhile, is completely vertically integrated, owning the factories that make everything from the memory chips to the screens, and writing its own apps and code to go on the only element of its smartphones that it doesn’t make – Google’s Android operating system. And even that is free. Buoyed by colossal advertising and marketing spend which dwarfs even the likes of Coca-Cola, and with worldwide distribution, it is determined to control the mobile phone market. It aims to ship 500m smartphones this year, more than the whole market in 2011.
Analysts argue that Apple needs to do something radical too to catch the growth in emerging markets as the west becomes saturated. A low-cost iPhone is widely expected. That could consolidate the Apple-Samsung duopoly more firmly.
Even, so Brazier thinks things can turn around. “The smartphone business is very dynamic. I don’t think it’s played out. HTC could bounce back.”
Does he think that bounceback will happen by the end of the year? He paused. “Well, no,” he said.
Reports of children running up bills for hundreds of pounds by clicking through to paid-for content sparks investigation
Free iPad and smartphone games which can result in children running up hefty bills for their parents through expensive in-game features are to come under scrutiny from the Office of Fair Trading.
More than a quarter of children aged between five and 15 now own smartphones according to Ofcom, and many more have access to their parents’ devices. A whole industry has grown up around apps for them. Many are based on popular characters including the Smurfs and Playmobil and while the initial game can be downloaded for free, players are offered a range of costly upgrades.
Reports of children running up bills for hundreds of pounds by clicking through to this paid-for content are increasingly common, and in one case a parent reported being hit with charges of more than £3,000.
“We are concerned that children and their parents could be subject to unfair pressure to purchase when they are playing games they thought were free, but which can actually run up substantial costs,” said Cavendish Elithorn, the OFT’s senior director for goods and consumer.
The regulator will look into the marketing of these “in-app purchases” – additional content such as virtual currency, extra levels and upgraded features which can cost anything up to £70 a time. On the Smurfs Village game, for example, a wagon of Smurfberries costs £69.99. It has written to games developers and hosting services, and is asking parents and consumer groups to contact it with information about any potentially misleading or commercially aggressive practices they are aware of.
The OFT has not estimated the size of the market, but it said that of the 100 top grossing apps in the Android store, 80 were offered for free and made their money through sales of additional content. In a further indication of how much the market could be worth, in February Apple agreed to pay around $100m compensation to parents in the US whose children ran up huge bills using free apps downloaded from its iTunes store.
Justine Roberts, founder and CEO of the parenting website Mumsnet, said she had seen regular complaints about children unwittingly running up gigantic phone bills. “It’s all too easy for children to get sucked into games and before you know it they’ve racked up huge costs buying coins, berries and doughnuts,” she said.
Many of the parents reporting unexpected bills have talked about the ease of making a purchase, with children only having to click on a link to buy content if the device is already logged in to the Apple or Android store. However, the OFT’s initial investigation will not focus on the mechanisms of making a purchase, but on whether the way the add-ons are marketed breaches consumer law.
It said it would look in particular at “whether these games include ‘direct exhortations’ to children – a strong encouragement to make a purchase, or to do something that will necessitate making a purchase, or to persuade their parents or other adults to make a purchase for them”.
It will also consider whether the full cost of some of these games is made clear when they are downloaded or accessed.
Eithorn said the OFT was not looking to ban in-app purchases, but that the games industry needed to ensure it was complying with the relevant regulations. “We are speaking to the industry and will take enforcement action if necessary,” he said.
The OFT expects to publish its next steps by October 2013.
Facebook boss announces software system – Facebook Home – designed to push updates directly to users’ home screens
Facebook launched a supercharged mobile version of its social network on Thursday, in a risky bid to take over of a new generation of smartphones.
At a much-hyped product launch in California, chief executive Mark Zuckerberg announced a software system designed to take over Android phones by pushing Facebook messages, photographs and updates directly to users’ home screens.
“We want to bring all this content to the front,” Zuckerberg told hundreds of journalists, employees and technology industry insiders at his company’s headquarters in Menlo Park, outside San Francisco.
Zuckerberg said the new system, called Facebook Home, would be the “best version of Facebook there is”. He unveiled a partnership with the handset manufacturer, HTC, which has developed a phone with the software built into it.
Facebook hopes Thursday’s announcement will go some way to answering the critics who say it has failed to develop an effective mobile strategy. But some analysts were disappointed that Facebook stopping short of writing its own operating software or creating a Facebook-branded phone.
The family of apps will display mobile versions of the Facebook news feed and message service on the home screens of users’ phones. The software, which will initially be available only on selected Android handsets, eliminates the need to switch to a dedicated Facebook app by integrating the social network’s features into the heart of the device.
“Home isn’t a phone or operating system, and it’s more than just an app. Home is a completely new experience that lets you see the world through people,” said an official company announcement.
Describing the software as “the soul of your phone”, Zuckerberg said: “Today phones are designed around apps not people. We want to flip that.”
Facebook Home will come pre-installed on the a handset made by Taiwain’s HTC, called HTF First. The manufacturer’s chief executive, Peter Chou, described as “the ultimate social phone”. It will be 4G-compatible, have a screen larger than the iPhone at 4.3in, and be sold first in the US on the AT&T network for $99.99. It will be available through the EE network in the UK at an unspecifed date.
Facebook Home will also available on devices from Samsung, Sony, Qualcomm, AT&T, Huawei and ZTE.
Missing from the list was Apple’s iPhone, which operates on a closed system. Nor is the family of apps yet available on tablets.
The two features Facebook hopes will set its software apart are Cover Feed, which displays content such as shared photographs, messages and calendar events onto the home screen, and Chat Heads, in which friends, family and contacts are represented by their photographs framed in a circle. These can appear on the home screen, or while the owner is reading a website, playing a game or watching a video. Chat Heads allows users to read and respond to messages without having to switch to a new screen.
More than ever, humans would be connected, said Zuckerberg. “A lot of the world thinks being connected is frivolous. It’s not. It’s who we are.”
Facebook is racing to keep up with the habits of its 1 billion monthly users, 680 million of whom now access the network from a mobile device. Before its disastrous stock market flotation last year, Facebook conceded it needed a better mobile strategy.
Shares in Facebook climbed 2% to $26.83 immediately after the announcement. Shares in Google, which may see some customers diverted to its rivals’s new product, slipped 1.5% to $793.81.
Industry observers appeared impressed by Facebook’s next step into mobile. “I think it’s pretty slick. It gives you instant access to your social context. It’ll make your mobile device a more enjoyable experience, it’ll be much easier to respond to messages. It’s all right there on your fingertips,” said Brian Blau, research director at Gartner, an information technology firm.
Critics rounded on Chathead’s name, if not the software. Others expressed concern that Facebook would have even more data on those who used the de facto Facebook phone. “Every number you dial, every page you look at on your mobile browser, every text message you send, every app that you use – basically everything you do on your phone becomes material for Facebook to use and monetize,” commented one Guardian user, Leviathan212.
“Since Facebook doesn’t make an operating system for mobile devices, this is the next best thing,” said Jan Dawson, telecoms analyst at research firm Ovum. “It will allow Facebook to track more of a user’s behaviour on devices, and present more opportunities to serve up advertising. And that presents the biggest obstacle to success for this experiment. Users don’t want more advertising or tracking, and Facebook wants to do more of both.”
Aside from HTC’s new device, at launch Facebook Home will work on just a handful of phones including Samsung’s best selling S3 and its new S4 phone. However, Facebook has also released a set of guidelines for those who want to use its brand to market their devices, and Huawei, ZTE, Lenovo, Sony and Alcatelonetouch have all indicated they are likely to do so.
Facebook’s heavy reliance on Android to put its brand in front of users leaves it vulnerable should Google, which is developing its own Google+ social network, decide not to co-operate. “Google could easily make sure Facebook home doesn’t work on future versions of Android,” warned Gartner analyst Michael Gartenberg. “Of course, we might call that evil.”
Social network’s collaboration with HTC expected to customise functions ranging from camera to home screen
Facebook will take its biggest leap into mobile this evening when it is expected to unveil a collaboration with handset maker HTC and software that can take over any Android phone.
At an event in its San Francisco headquarters, the world’s largest social network will reveal how it intends to keep up with the computing habits of its 1 billion monthly users, 680 million of whom now access Facebook from a phone.
The centrepiece will be Facebook Home, an application which can be downloaded to Android phones to customise an array of functions from the camera to the home screen, according to a leak of the software seen by the Android Police website.
The software is likely to be illustrated on a device called Myst, specially made by Taiwanese firm HTC. The long-rumoured Facebook phone is the fruit of a two year development project whose early incarnation bore the codename ‘Buffy’ – presumably a reference to the vampire killer television series.
Other than an invitation to “Come see our new home on Android”, Facebook has given no clue as to the content of this evening’s presentation, but the Guardian’s west coast correspondent Rory Carroll will be reporting live from 1 Hacker Way, Menlo Park, when proceedings begin at 6pm GMT.
Facebook’s head of mobile Eric Tseng and other staff have been busy filing patents which hint at some of the big features that could appear. Chief among them is the ‘uberfeed’, according to technology news site Unwiredview, which will be visible from the locked home screen. It will gather information relevant to the owner not just from Facebook, but from emails, texts, news sources, location specific updates, and contain targeted advertising.
Enhanced caller identification pages could also show details of the person on the other end of the line including their location, and prompts such as the names of their children, their last holiday or a recent cinema outing.
The patent application, called “Caller identification using social networking information”, would essentially allow Facebook to take over the owner’s phone book and dialler. Tseng has even proposed ranking the hundreds of entries in the average smartphone contacts book according to ‘social proximity’, in otherword’s how close they are to the user.
Should all this feel too invasive, Facebook has patented a button or setting to switch sharing on and off. Leave it on, and everything you do from taking a train ride to photographing a friend’s birthday is broadcast over the internet.
The Myst handset will be more unique for its software, and the depth to which Facebook features such as its Instagram and instant messaging applications are integrated. The camera and memory are reportedly run of the mill, according to the anonymous Twitter user @LlabTooFeR, a source relied on by developers for unofficial updates on HTC’s plans.
The rear lens will have a modest 5 megapixel resolution rear lens for photos, the front facing camera 1.6 megapixels for video calls, and storage will be a basic 16GB. The screen is larger than the iPhone at 4.3 inches, and the handset will work on certain 4G networks.
Whatever Facebook is planning, founder Mark Zuckerberg has made it clear that the smarpthone will be his focus in 2013.
“You have a good version of all the Facebook features you know and want on your phone. So now the next thing we’re going to do is get really good at building new mobile-first experiences,” he told investors in January. “That’s going to be a big theme for us this year.”
Many of his customers now access Facebook only or mainly from a smartphone rather than a personal computer. In the last year, Facebook’s monthly active users over mobile have rocketed 57%, and if the network is to keep their attention it must ensure rival services such as Google+ do not outpace it on the small screen.
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South Korean firm brings hostilities to iPhone maker’s home shores by debuting its latest smartphone in New York
The launch of the Samsung Galaxy S4 on Thursday marks the latest skirmish in the longrunning and often bitter battle between the South Korean firm and Apple for supremacy in the smartphone market.
The launch event is seen as Samsung bringing the fight to Apple’s home market, with a rumoured production run of 100m S4 handsets. Apple and Samsung account for one in two mobile phones sold.
Worldwide, Samsung dominates the smartphone market, with analysts estimating that it shipped 63.7m smartphones in the fourth quarter of last year. But Apple remains the market leader in the US with ComScore, which tracks phone ownership, calculating that there were 48.9m iPhones in use in the US by January 2013, compared with 27.7m Samsung smartphones.
The number of iPhone users grew more than Android – including Samsung – users in the US last year – by 19m to 48.9m, compared with a rise of 18.5m to 67.7m respectively, with consumers buying almost half a million more Apple handsets in December compared with Android. The higher growth in Apple sales is attributed to the launch of the highly-anticipated iPhone 5 last October.
But industry analysts believe the Galaxy S4 could change the situation, with some suggesting Android users have been waiting for the phone’s launch to buy a new handset.
Apple is still bristling from a setback in its mobile patents battle with Samsung.
Earlier this month, a US judge slashed a $1.05bn (£698m) award by more than 40% ($450m) and ordered a new trial to decide how much – if any – damages Samsung should pay for infringements by 14 handsets and tablets. Both companies rely on each other for components and business.