One Billion Strong…..and Growing

For the first time ever, worldwide sales of smartphones topped one billion in 2014, according to IT research company Gartner, Inc.

The 1.2 billion units sold marked an increase of 28.4% from 2013. Smartphone sales now represent two-thirds of all mobile phone sales worldwide.

More than 367 million smartphones were sold in the 4th quarter of 2014 alone, representing nearly one-third of the annual total, up 29.9% from the 4th quarter of 2013. Also in the 4th quarter, Apple overtook Samsung to claim first place overall—a spot Samsung had held since 2012.

Driven largely by the release of its iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, Apple sold nearly 75 million smartphones in the 4th quarter of 2014, representing a 20.4% market share. Samsung was second, at 73 million and 19.9% market share, followed by Lenovo (24.3 million, 6.6%), Huawei (21 million, 5.7%) and Xiaomi (18.6 million, 5.1%). Read more

Be Smart and Learn About The Smart Home at BroadbandVision 

The “Smart Home” idea got a little more interesting this past week. Samsung announced the purchase of SmartThings, a company that makes an app that “turns your smartphone into a remote to control all of the smart devices in your home.”  Here’s a great review of the most recent version of the app.

Industry analysts noted that the purchase is yet another sign that Samsung is all-in for the so-called “Internet of Things” (IoT, IP-enabled machine-to-machine connections on a massive scale). Last month, Samsung, Google’s Nest, and others, founded an IoT standards group.

As for the IoT, here is a great in-depth discussion of the concept.  A research group recently predicted it would be a $8.9 trillion market by 2020.

So, you can take the links above and read all day (as I just did) about connected devices and the IoT. The possibilities are fascinating, and to some people, frightening from a security standpoint. One estimate says that 70% of smart, or IOT, devices are “hackable,” in other words, having serious security vulnerabilities.

However, if you work for a rural telco, the smart thing to do would be to learn more about the smart home and smart device technology. In October, NTCA, ITTA, and Telecompetitor will present BroadbandVision.  The session entitled “Get Smart: Leveraging the Smart Economy” will discuss the smart home and how broadband service providers are well positioned to leverage this growing business opportunity.  A panel of industry experts will discuss the growing smart movement and the challenges and opportunities it presents to service providers.

I hope to see you there!

Measuring Stress: There’s An ‘App’ For That?

Stress is a national epidemic. Studies show that most Americans suffer from some kind of stress; finances and work are the leading sources of stress among adults. More than three-quarters of Americans report that their stress level has increased over the last five years. Stress has been linked to heart disease, high blood pressure and ulcers, among other things.

In a world where an “app” exists for so many things, ranging from the important, to the cool, to the absurd, where fitness monitors come in all shapes and sizes, and so many of us wouldn’t be caught dead without our smartphones, it seems inevitable that we would use our smartphone to measure stress.

Last week, without much publicity, Samsung released a “stress-monitoring” update to the health-monitoring app (called the “S Health app”) for the Galaxy S5 phone. Here’s one early review.

Overall, the reviewer was not too impressed. His main issue seemed to be that Samsung does not educate the user about how the stress-monitoring function works, so he’s not certain it even works as advertised.

I too have read some of the documentation that accompanies the Galaxy S5 and the S Health app (I’ve been thinking of purchasing it and issuing a “product review” for New Edge), and it doesn’t make much sense to me either. How it can determine my stress level just because my heart rate goes up and down is beyond me.

At any rate, I always have my smartphone with me (I’ve even written New Edge articles on the thing), so turning it into an all-in-one device that can I can use to document my physical activity and measure my stress is appealing. If Samsung introduces a built-in pulse oximeter for my Galaxy S3 Mini, I think I’ll try the stress-monitoring app and do a review here.

Curved TVs? The Resolution Revolution Will Not Be Televised At Less Than 100 Inches Wide

If you have read my previous articles on TVs, you know I’ve been researching and shopping for a new TV for over a year now. Last weekend, my wife, who rarely, if ever, tells me to buy something, much less agrees to my requests to do so, remarked, “Just a buy a new TV already, okay?”  She’s tired of the 20-inch “temporary” TV we now use.

Curved TVs are one of the latest “innovations” in TVs and were on full display last week at CES in Las Vegas. (For a fantastic account of what happened at CES, see my colleague Josh Seidemann’s dispatches from the land of sand and nickel slots).

So, why curved TVs? Samsung says a curved TV is “a comfortable experience for the human eye, as the curved panel allows the distance between the user and TV screen to be the same from almost any angle.” Another selling point is that a 100-inch curved TV takes advantage of gamers’ peripheral vision and enhances the gaming experience. I know a gamer who likes to set up a three-monitor display in his living room for gaming, and curved TV would replicate this.

So, why not curved TVs? It comes down to the fact that the purported benefits will not be apparent to most viewers. Specifically, the benefits only show up on very large (100-inch or larger) TVs. Also, reviewers have noted that unless you are sitting dead center of the screen, it looks distorted.  Here’s a link to a great, albeit in-the-weeds discussion of curved TVs, and another article that discusses why curved TVs don’t make sense for most people which also includes a very funny discussion about how one manufacturer’s roll out of a new curved TV model went bad. Read more

Samsung Acquires OTT Provider Boxee, ‘Cloud DVR’ Feature Discontinued

Over-the-top (OTT) video provider Boxee recently announced that it is becoming part of consumer electronics giant Samsung. However, Boxee’s “Cloud DVR” service, which let users store programs online, is being discontinued. Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed, although online reports indicated that Samsung spent $30 million on the deal.

Boxee made several attempts to distinguish itself in the OTT field. In addition to the unlimited cloud storage it made available for an extra $10 per month, it also produced an attachment that incorporated an antenna to pick up over-the-air broadcasts. These features were intended to make Boxee more attractive to cord-cutters or cord-shavers.

Samsung, like many other television manufacturers, has tried to interest consumers in “smart” or “connected” TVs that integrate applications more often found on OTT devices. The user interfaces of smart TVs have often been criticized for being cumbersome. Presumably, the Boxee acquisition is part of Samsung’s attempt to revitalize its smart TV efforts and engage consumers’ interest in the product.

What They’re Watching

Online blogs and trade news sources began reporting on April 10 that Sony would layoff roughly 6% of its global workforce as part of its reorganization. Sony reported a $6.4 billion loss for fiscal 2012 precipitating the cuts along with several product changes yet to come. Among those, Sony will focus its television manufacturing to high-end organic light emitting diode (OLED) sets and “Crystal LED” displays. Read more

Google TV Slowly Adding More Partners

LG Electronics joins Samsung, Sony and Vizio as a partner in the development of Google TV. This past October Google released the long awaited 2.0 version of the middleware to less than stellar reviews.

While the Google TV idea holds promise for combining content from the Web and from conventional television distribution, it remains to be seen if the addition of another electronics manufacturer and new chip sets can help propel Google to a wider and deeper market penetration. Logitech announced this past year that it was dropping out of Google TV development after developing the “Revue” box which reportedly created a $100 million loss for Logitech.

Google notes in blog postings that there are more than 150 individual apps built specifically for the Google TV platform with additional Android apps available to enhance the television experience.

It will be interesting to see what the Google TV partner companies demonstrate at CES 2012.

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