Thursday, June 30, 2016

Smartphone Upgrade Cycle

A strong majority of smartphone users wait two years or longer to upgrade their handset, according to June 2016 polling. Nearly half wait at least three years between upgrades.
That’s according to ad tech firm Fluent, which surveyed US smartphone owners in June about their device habits. A plurality of respondents—30%—said they upgraded their smartphone once every two years, which used to be the typical length of a wireless service contract that came with discounted-upgrade privileges. But major wireless providers have phased out such offers in favor of payments plans that ultimately have smartphone users shelling out for the full sticker price of their handsets (plus interest).
That could be one reason why even more respondents wait longer than two years: 42% of the overall respondent base said they waited three years or longer before trading up.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Win 10 Activation News

As Microsoft hurtles towards the release of its major Windows 10 Anniversary Update, the company has introduced a tool that's supposed to help PC owners resolve problems with activating the operating system on their computers.
Microsoft has a complex system in place to ensure people are using a copy of Windows that hasn't been pirated. But that system sometimes gets too aggressive and ends up dinging people with authorized copies of Windows. The new Activation Troubleshooter is supposed to help. It should make it easier for people to reactivate their computers after changing hardware, such as swapping out their motherboard or hard drive.
Right now, it's available only to members of the Windows Insider Program's Fast ring, who got a new beta build of Windows 10 to play around with on Wednesday. Microsoft hasn’t said that the tool will be available to everyone with the forthcoming Anniversary Update, but that seems likely.
Using the Activation Troubleshooter, users can associate a digital Windows 10 license with their Microsoft account. After that, they can change out hardware on their PC and re-activate Windows with the license that they associated with their account.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Amazon Passes Walmart

A new report shows that Amazon is now the second-biggest player in consumer-electronics sales, leaving Walmart in the tech dust. And while BestBuy retains No. 1 ranking, and in fact slowed its market-share loss to the lowest level in years, it may be next.
Writing about the new industry ranking from This Week in Consumer Electronics (TWICE), Deutsche Bank analyst Mike Baker notes that the category’s big gains overall — total sales increased 4.3% in 2015, its best year since the 5.2% increase it scored back in 2011 — are almost entirely created by Amazon. “Amazon contributed $5.1 billion of the $5.6 billion increase,” he writes, “representing 90% of total industry growth.”
Those gains gave Amazon its largest market-share growth in the 12 years Deutsche has been tracking it, while Best Buy’s share loss slowed, “and is now almost flat with last year.” In dollar spending, the Minneapolis-based BestBuy made gains that are “almost identical to RadioShack’s dollar loss, so it appears this was the major source of dollar growth.”

Monday, June 27, 2016

Apple Coding Class

Apple this summer is expanding its lineup of Apple Camp sessions to include a new course that teaches children the basics of coding. Aimed at children ages 8 through 12, the new 3-day session will use software from Tynker to introduce concepts of block-based coding and will allow kids to program Sphero robots. These classes will be small – capped at around a dozen attendees – and are opening to registration this morning alongside others in Apple’s ongoing summer camp series.
While Apple has hosted Apple Camp for years, this is the first time it has offered this “Coding Games and Programming Robots” course. The company has participated in Hour of Code, however, but that is in December and separate from Camp.
The debut of the new coding class comes at a time when Apple has been increasingly focused on helping to introduce coding to younger users. At its WWDC event, for example, the company debuted a new iPad app called Swift Playgrounds which teaches kids to code in Swift.

Friday, June 24, 2016

New Amazon Kindle’s newest iteration of its Kindle e-reader device is thinner, lighter and the same price it was before.
The Kindle, Amazon’s flagship and entry-level e-reader model, is getting a makeover to make it slimmer and rounder, aiming to make it easier to use by those who like to read one-handed.
The new version will weigh 5.7 ounces, about 16 percent less than the current version. It also is about 11 percent thinner and is available in white as well as black.
The new model announced Wednesday will have twice as much memory capacity as its predecessor, holding about the same number of books but with a speedier processor. That extra power is especially helpful for readers using VoiceView, a voice-to-text service aimed at readers with visual impairments.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

LibreOffice 5.1.4 Released

The Document Foundation (TDF) announces LibreOffice 5.1.4, the fourth minor release of the LibreOffice 5.1 family, targeted at individual users and enterprise deployments. Users of previous LibreOffice releases should start planning the update to the new version.
For enterprise deployments, The Document Foundation suggests the backing of professional support by certified developers, migrators and trainers (the full list is available at:
People interested in technical details about the release can access the change log here: (fixed in RC1) and (fixed in RC2).

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Samsung Pay

Smartphone leader Samsung Electronics has for years been a spectator as Apple built a services "ecosystem" supporting its products. But now, as the two develop the market for mobile payments, the Korean tech giant is taking the fight to its U.S. archrival.

For Apple, offering users the ability to tap their iPhones on sales terminals to buy a coffee, snack or train ticket is a fresh revenue stream, like its iTunes music and entertainment service. The banks it works with cough up a small charge for each transaction - reportedly 0.15 percent in the United States.
Samsung, which has trailed behind its competitors in software and services, is taking a different path.
It is not seeking fees from its financial partners, viewing Samsung Pay as an engine to drive sales of phones and other devices.
"We're a hardware company, and at the end of the day I think what we're trying to do is get people who hold (one of) our phones and use it ... to just love it more," Elle Kim, Global Vice President of Samsung Pay, told Reuters in Sydney.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

LG Acquisitions

LG Electronics Inc., with businesses spanning TVs to washing machines, is looking at home appliance acquisitions to fuel its global expansion and withstand a slowing smartphone market.
The company will probably focus on business-to-business targets, such as component makers, Jo Seong-Jin, president of LG’s home appliance division, said in an interview. Earnings from the business will increase in the quarters ahead, Jo said, as he expects the unit’s sales to rise about 10 percent this year. LG shares climbed 4.1 percent Monday, the most in almost a month. The KOSPI gained 1.4 percent in Seoul.

LG, like larger rival Samsung Electronics Co., is trying to innovate and push into premium segments to capture more affluent consumers amid increased competition from Chinese rivals including Midea Group Co. and and Haier Electronics Group Co. LG released its Twin Wash machine in July last year, enabling users to do two loads of laundry at the same time.

“The home appliance industry growth, including washers and refrigerators, is unlikely to show a significant expansion going forward,” Jo said. “The overall home appliance market is expected to grow about 2.5 to 3 percent by sales this year whereas our sales for premium sets alone will generate a whopping 10 to 15 percent growth.”

Monday, June 20, 2016

Free Bus Rides in MD

Local Motors officially unveiled its self-driving shuttle Thursday and said it will begin giving free rides to the public in Maryland this summer.
The electric vehicle, which seats 12, will drive slowly on public roads in National Harbor, Md., operating at speeds between 3 and 8 mph, according to Local Motors chief executive Jay Rogers. He characterized Olli as a “friendly neighborhood robot” that isn’t capable of traveling on highways.
“A full win for Olli, when we can hook up the victory flag and say we’re done here, is when a city says no more cars on our streets,” said Rogers, citing concerns about distracted drivers creating unsafe situations for pedestrians and cyclists as a motivation for creating Olli.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Apple Subscription Model

Apple announced that by this fall it will let nearly all iOS app makers switch to a subscription-based business model, a move that could make it easier for some small-scale developers to turn a profit but risks backlash from consumers burdened by subscription fatigue.
"Ultimately, this should lead to more apps, better apps and more innovation," Jan Dawson, chief analyst at Jackdaw Research, said of Apple's plans.
As revealed in a pair of interviews that marketing chief Philip Schiller did with The Verge and Jon Gruber of Daring Fireball -- an unusual tactic for Apple -- the Cupertino, Calif., company will expand subscription pricing to all app categories, after previously restricting the model to just a handful: periodicals, business apps and media content services.
Apple will also reduce its cut from the current 30% of all subscriptions to 15% once a subscription has been active for a year. For each subscriber who sticks with the deal for 12 months, the developer will thus receive 85% of the subscription price, rather than 70%.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Nvidia Kills Some Setups

Adios, Enthusiast Key. Nvidia’s doing away with plans to require a special software tool to unlock 3- and 4-way SLI setups. But instead of making systems with three or four GeForce GTX 1080 or GTX 1070 graphics cards play nice out-of-the-box with the company’s Game Ready drivers, Nvidia’s pretty much declaring 3- and 4-way SLI setups dead for traditional gaming.
A forthcoming Game Ready driver release will add in 3- and 4-way SLI support, no Enthusiast Key needed—but that support will only be enabled for a handful of specific benchmarking applications like 3DMark Fire Strike and Catzilla, Nvidia told PC Perspective. So you’ll still see extreme Nvidia-powered rigs at the top of overclocking charts, but you won’t be able to put that power to use in actual games. In-game support stops at 2-way SLI profiles.
There’s a caveat to this: Cutting-edge graphics APIs like Vulkan and DirectX 12 allow developers to directly access GPUs, so specific games will be able still tap into three or more graphics cards if the developer implements it. (The same tech lets you run Radeon and GeForce cards together in the same system.) But both of those graphics APIs are still in their very early days, with DX11 titles still representing the vast majority of PC games shipped, and directly implementing mGPU support costs developers time and money. So don’t expect to see a flood of DX12 games capable of supporting 3- and 4-way SLI setups anytime soon.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Apple to Require HTTPS

Earlier this week at a security presentation at WWDC, Apple announced that iOS apps have until January 1, 2017, to enable a security feature called App Transport Security.
ATS was first introduced with iOS 9, and it forces apps to use HTTPS connections rather than HTTP connections when connecting to the web. The more secure connection type authenticates connections and encrypts data transmissions, meaning data cannot be easily read if improperly accessed.
The feature is particularly important in banking and messaging apps, but soon ATS will be mandatory across all apps sold in the App Store.

Currently, ATS is opt-in, which allows apps to send unsecured data over the internet. Moving to HTTPS connections ties in with Apple's stance on privacy, best exemplified in its refusal to unlock an iPhone used by one of the shooters involved in the San Bernardino massacre.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016


It was March 2001 when Apple ushered in its new desktop operating system, Mac OS X 10.0. Since then, OS X has become a big part of the company's brand identity, as have the individual release names such as Cheetah, Mountain Lion, Mavericks and Yosemite.
But times change, and now Apple is probably just as well-known -- if not more known -- for its mobile operating system, iOS, than its desktop OS. So it seems for the sake of consistency, Apple announced at WWDC 2016 that its computer operating system will now be called MacOS.
That naming follows the path set with WatchOS and TVOS operating systems for the Apple Watch and Apple TV, respectively, and iOS for the iPhone and iPad.
Apple is sticking with major California landmarks for the release names though: MacOS 10.12 is called Sierra.

At least now people can stop debating how to pronounce the "X."

Monday, June 13, 2016

Apple Profits

Apple continues to lead the tech industry, at least when measuring by sales.
Apple is the top tech company in this year's Fortune 50o, an annual ranking of American companies by revenue. It ranked third with $233 billion in revenue.
The "fruit company" beat out every other company besides Exxon Mobil and Walmart.
Apple jumped two slots from last year, and it was also the most profitable company, with $53 billion in profits in 2015.
There are investor fears that Apple might be falling behind other tech giants like Amazon, Google, Facebook, and Microsoft in terms of emerging technologies such as machine learning, cloud services, and virtual reality.
But this year's Fortune 500 demonstrates that despite recent concern over slowing iPhone sales, it's worth remembering that Apple still generates insane amounts of sales and profits.

Friday, June 10, 2016

iPhone Upgrades

iPhone owners in the United States are apparently no longer in such a rush to upgrade to the latest version of the gadget.

Among people who upgraded from an old iPhone to a new one, the age of the old phones has increased over the past several years, meaning people are waiting longer to upgrade, according to data released Tuesday by research firm Consumer Intelligence Research Partners.
For the 12 months ending June 2013, 34 percent of iPhones were at least two years old when replaced. But since June of 2014, that figure has been hovering at around 50 percent. CIRP based its data on surveys of almost 3,000 Apple customers in the US.
Smartphone makers such as Apple depend on sales not just from new buyers but from current owners who upgrade to the latest model. The notion is that an iPhone owner who gets hooked into the Apple ecosystem is more likely to remain a customer. However, Apple needs to make each new iPhone upgrade-worthy or current owners may just rely on an existing device.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

New Pentax dSLR

Ricoh Imaging has just officially announced the Pentax K-70, an advanced yet affordable upper entry-level DSLR slated to succeed the Pentax K-50 (now discontinued) and K-S2.  In terms of specifications, this new camera is very similar to the K-S2, though it also debuts a few new autofocus technologies and inherits advanced features from the K-3 II, including a 24-megapixel sensor resolution and Pixel Shift support.

The K-70 is being launched at $649 in the US— well below its predecessors.   The increased feature set available at a lower price point suggests a shift in the camera market to which Pentax is adapting very well.  Gone are the days of basic DSLRs!

Like most Pentax DSLRs, the K-70 is fully weather-sealed and designed for outdoor use.  The articulating LCD has a new red light mode to allow you to adjust your vision to the darkness while out photographing stars.  It also has an outdoor view setting that can greatly brighten/dim the backlight as needed.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Minecraft Sales

Minecraft has reached a new milestone. Someone should build a pixelated, blocky monument to celebrate it.
Developer Mojang has sold nearly 107 million copies of Minecraft across console, PC, and mobile since it first went on sale in 2009. The studio claims Minecraft has players from every country on Earth, and that even includes four copies sold in Antarctica. This makes it one of the best-selling games ever made, and it still has a ton of momentum. The Microsoft property has sold an average of 53,000 copies every day of 2016, and it has more than 40 million monthly unique players in the $99.6 billion gaming industry.
Microsoft released a new infographic that details some of these figures, and it also shows the popularity of the game across its various platforms in different territories. The original PC version has sold the least number of copies in every region except for Asia, where consoles are less common. Elsewhere, the console version is nearly as popular as the mobile release despite a difference in price of $30 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Wii U, and other consoles and $6 on iOS and Android.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Hardware is Losing to Software

This week, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich announced that people are keeping their PCs a lot longer before upgrading: The average has increased from four years to as many as six.
The tablet-refresh cycle isn't much shorter than that, to Apple's eternal chagrin. Even iPhone sales have started to taper off, partly because people are keeping their phones longer or choosing cheaper Android phones.
What's happening is pretty simple. The hardware and the software running on any device itself have become way less interesting than the web apps and services, like the ones that Google and Amazon have made the core of their business.
Why buy a $700 iPhone when a $200 Android phone can access the same YouTube or Amazon Music as everyone else? All you need to do to get new Facebook features is refresh your browser or update your app. You don't need a high-performance device to participate in the 21st century.
It's a stark contrast with the traditional model for consumer electronics, where you're expected to upgrade the hardware to keep pace with the new features they release.

Monday, June 6, 2016

No Xiaomi in the US (Yet!)

Xiaomi's cross-licensing and patent-transfer deal with Microsoft announced earlier this week prompted a flurry of renewed interest in how soon the Chinese smartphone maker will sell its devices directly in the U.S.
Several analysts interviewed this week said they believe a U.S. arrival won't happen for more than a year, perhaps even two years, and will certainly pose big marketing challenges for Xiaomi.
One of the biggest issues will be how to effectively build Xiaomi's brand with its latest premium smartphones like the Mi 5 to attract average Americans who barely know the company, much less how to pronounce the company's name.
Xiaomi means "little rice" in Mandarin Chinese and is pronounced "SHAO-mee," but there are several variations. Former Googler Hugo Barra, now global vice president at Xiaomi, offered a pronunciation lesson on stage last year, explaining that it sounds like the two words starting the phrase "show me the money, but it sounds more like 'shower.'"

Friday, June 3, 2016

Xiaomi Wearable

Xiaomi just unveiled a brand new wearable device, the Mi Band 2. Despite the name, it’s the company’s third fitness tracking device after the Mi Band and Mi Band Pulse. It track your steps, monitors your heart rate and (for the first time) features a tiny display. It costs RMB 149, or a little less than $23.
According to Xiaomi, the company has sold more than 20 million activity trackers already, making it the second largest fitness tracker company behind Fitbit. Like with other products, Xiaomi is able to capture market share with a very aggressive pricing strategy.
The Mi Band 2 is more expensive than its predecessors, but it’s also a bit fancier. The tiny black-and-white display displays time, your step count, your heart rate, as well as approximative distance and calorie counters. You can also use the device to monitor your sleep. Nothing groundbreaking if you’re familiar with activity trackers.
Interestingly, Xiaomi also borrowed a popular Apple Watch feature. If you’re sitting for too long, the Mi Band 2 will vibrate to remind you that you should move.
And if you have a Xiaomi phone, your phone detects if it is connected to your Mi Band so that you don’t need to type your passcode. If someone steals your phone and the Bluetooth device gets disconnected, the passcode is reactivated.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

New Android Features

Google plans to add new features to the Android operating system to better differentiate its Nexus mobile devices from those offered by Apple Inc.

The company, a unit of Alphabet Inc., plans to "put a lot more thought" into its Nexus devices, which could entail customizing the Android software that runs them, Google Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai said at Recode’s Code Conference Wednesday.

Google licenses Android, the world’s largest mobile operating system, for free to handset makers such as Samsung Electronics, LG Electronics and Lenovo Group. This gets its money-making web services, such as search, onto lots of mobile devices, but also means there are many different phones with varied software and apps that work in different ways.

These fragmentation issues mean Android phones are often harder to use and sometimes less capable than iPhones, which have software and hardware designed only

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

MediaTek Fast Charging

Those hour-long waits to get your phone charged enough to leave the house may soon be a thing of the past -- if your smartphone is powered by a new MediaTek processor, that is.
MediaTek says its new processors will allow users to charge their phones from 0 percent battery to 70 percent in 20 minutes. The feature, called Pump Express 3.0, will only be available at the end of the year, and will be available on the MediaTek Helio P20 and future smartphone chipsets.
The Taiwanese company also claims its USB-C charging technology is the first in the world to directly charge the battery, bypassing charging circuitry to avoid overheating the phone.
MediaTek doesn't provide the only fast charging solution available. Its rival, Qualcomm, developed Quick Charge 3.0, which claims an 80 percent charge in 35 minutes. Phone manufacturer Oppo also has its own superfast charging tech, which it claims can fully charge its phones in 15 minutes.