Android still dominates smartphone sales, Apple gains much ground

Posted in News,Technology by Scott Meisner on May 5th, 2011

It’s time to take a closer look into the exciting and ever-expanding smartphone market. The NPD Group, a market research company, has done some number crunching for us to determine US smartphones sales for the first quarter of 2011. They break it down by smartphone manufacturer: Android-powered smartphones accounted for 50 percent of smartphone unit sales in Q1 2011 (falling 3 percent from last quarter); Apple’s iOS gained some ground jumping 9 percentage points to comprise 28 percent of smartphone sales; and RIM remains in a distant third place, dropping 3 percentage points to 14 percent for the quarter. Ross Rubin, executive director of industry analysis for NPD, explains Apple’s growth and Android dip (spoiler alert: it’s the Verizon iPhone’s fault): “Apple and Verizon had a very successful launch of the iPhone 4, which allowed the iPhone to expand its market share that was previously held back by its prolonged carrier exclusivity with AT&T. While some of that growth came at the expense of Android operating system (OS), Android models still accounted for half of all smartphones sold in the quarter.” Thanks to the iPhone being available on the world’s two largest carriers, Apple (14 percent) is now the third-largest handset brand in the US behind LG (18 percent) and Samsung (23 percent).

Here are a couple fun facts for you to chew on. This quarter marks the first time a majority (54 percent) of all new mobile-phone handsets purchased by U.S. consumers were smartphones. Woohoo, yay technology! And here are the five top-selling mobile phone in the country: iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, Motorola Droid X, HTC EVO 4G, and HTC Droid Incredible. Go Apple and HTC!

[Via NDP]

BlackBerry PlayBook comes out April 19, starting at $499

Posted in News,Technology by Scott Meisner on March 23rd, 2011

RIM’s ready to enter the heated tablet market with their BlackBerry PlayBook. The device, exhaustively detailed here, releases April 19 and will come in three storage capacities: 16GB ($499), 32GB ($599), and 64GB ($799). These prices line up nicely to Apple’s iPad offerings. AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint are the wireless carriers planning to carry the PlayBook. Note the models listed here are WiFi-only. These are up for preorder today through Best Buy, and RIM says that once the release date rolls around it’ll be available to pick up at many retailers including RadioShack, Office Depot, and Staples. Official PR’s sitting after the break.

Update: Though it’s not powered by Google’s Android OS, the BlackBerry PlayBook (and any QNX-based BlackBerry smartphone, for the matter) will support both BlackBerry Java and Android apps. BlackBerry users will not have access to the Android Market, however; the apps will be sold in BlackBerry App World. Before the transition to the other app store can happen, Android developers must port their apps to have them run properly on these new foreign devices.

[Via Engadget; BlackBerry; BGR] (Click here for more…)

Apple reports 2010 Q4 earnings: “highest revenue and earnings ever”; Steve Jobs calls out Google & RIM

Posted in News,Technology by Scott Meisner on October 19th, 2010

As 2010 nears its end, it’s time for companies to share how well (or poorly) they performed during the fourth quarter of the year.  As is the norm for Apple, Inc., Q4 has been another record breaker for them.  Apple posted a record revenue of $20.34 billion and net quarterly profit of $4.31 billion.  Compare this to one year ago, that’s up from a revenue of $12.21 billion and profit of $2.53 billion.  Says CEO Steve Jobs: “We are blown away to report over $20 billion in revenue and over $4 billion in after-tax earnings-both all-time records for Apple.  iPhone sales of 14.1 million were up 91 percent year-over-year, handily beating the 12.1 million phones RIM sold in their most recent quarter.  We still have a few surprises left for the remainder of this calendar year.”

Now let’s break it down by product category.  Apple sold 3.89 million Macs during the quarter (representing a 27 percent unit increase over the year-ago quarter); 14.1 million iPhones (representing a 91 percent unit growth); 9.05 million iPods (representing an 11 percent unit decline); and 4.19 million iPads were sold, succeeding the number of Macs sold!  That’s some crazy stuff right there.  And as for Jobs’ “hobby” that is Apple TV?  The new model sold 250,000 units over the course of its first 18 days on sale.

Looking ahead to the first fiscal quarter of 2011, Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer expects revenue of about $23 billion and diluted earnings per share of about $4.80.  Saying this was a tremendous quarter for Apple is a huge understatement.

Normally this is where the Apple quarterly earnings post would conclude, but El Jobso couldn’t contain his excitement over the record breaking numbers so he decided to jump onto the conference call (listen to it here) and share some thoughts.  Charged thoughts on the competition.  Some choice quotes:

On RIM’s business model: “[iPhone] handily beat RIM’s most recent quarter.  We’ve now passed RIM and I don’t see them catching up with us in the foreseeable future.  They must move beyond their area of strength and comfort into the unfamiliar territory of trying to become a software platform company.  I think it’s going to be a challenge for them to create a competitive platform and to convince developers to create apps for yet a third software platform, after iOS and Android.  With 300k apps on Apple’s app store, RIM has a high mountain ahead of them to climb.”  “I think at least now it’s a battle for developers, and a battle for the mindshare of developers, and a battle for the mindshare of customers, and I think right now iPhone and Android are winning that battle.”

On Google’s Android “openess” & fragmentation: “Google wants to characterize Android as open, and iOS and the iPhone as closed.  We think this is disingenuous.  Unlike Windows, which has the same interface on every machine, Android is very fragmented.  Compare this with iPhone, where every interface is the same.”  “Twitter client TwitterDeck recently launched their app for Android.  They reported that they had to contend with more than 100 different version of Android software on 244 different handsets.  The multiple hardware and software iterations presented developers with a daunting challenge.”  “We think this open versus closed argument is a smokescreen that hides the real question: What’s better for users, fragmented versus integrated?”  “We are very committed to the integrated approach, no matter how many times Google characterizes it as closed, and we believe that it will trump the fragmented approach, no matter how many times Google characterizes it as open.”

(Click here for more…)

RIM unveils a tablet of its own, the BlackBerry PlayBook

Posted in Images,News,Technology,Video by Scott Meisner on September 28th, 2010

On Monday Research In Motion (RIM) CEO Mike Lazaridis unveiled a BlackBerry tablet device called the BlackBerry PlayBook at the 2010 BlackBerry Developer Conference.  So what exactly is the PlayBook, you ask?  Let’s start with the hardware specifications.  The 7-inch LCD display (1024 x 600, WSVGA) dominates the device in a form factor we’ve all come to know and love in the Apple iPad.  It’s a capacitive touch screen with full multitouch and gesture support.  For a modern tablet, this thing is a beast.  It packs a Cortex A9-based 1GHz dual-core processor and 1GB of RAM.  Ports around the edges include microHDMI, microUSB, and charging contacts.  802.11 a/b/g/n WiFi and Bluetooth 2.1+EDR support is there as well.  Various video (1080p HD Video, H.264, MPEG, DivX, WMV) and audio (MP3, AAC, WMA) playback formats are supported, as is HDMI video output.  There are two HD webcams, a 3MP cam on the front and a 5MP cam at the rear; the back-facing cam supports 1080p HD video recording.  The PlayBook measures at 5.1″x7.6″x0.4″ and weighs less than one pound, making it smaller and lighter than the iPad.  3G & 4G models will be issued, and although capacity was not formally announced, 16GB & 32GB units were on display.

Next let’s talk software.  No, the PlayBook does not run the recently announced BlackBerry 6 operating system.  Instead it runs BlackBerry Tablet OS, an operating system built with a touch-based interface in mind.  It’s built upon the QNX Neutrino microkernel architecture.  QNX is a software company RIM bought earlier this year, and they are respected in the industry for their reliable, secure, and robust operating system architectures known for powering planes, trains, automobiles, medical equipment, and large core Internet routers.  In other words, RIM is messing around with Tablet OS.  So what’s RIM pushing with their new OS?  The combination of the 1GHz dual-core processor software-based symmetric multiprocessing promises “true multitasking” and a highly responsive, fluid user experience.  You can look forward to “uncompromised web browsing” thanks to support from Adobe Flash Player 10.1, Adobe Mobile AIR, and HTML5 in the mobile WebKit browser.  The PlayBook also touts BlackBerry integration and enterprise-ready support.  This is where RIM is really looking to stand out in the competition.  If you have a BlackBerry smartphone you can pair it to your PlayBook over a Bluetooth connection to view “email, BBM, calendar, tasks, documents and other content” on the larger tablet display, no syncing required.  The PlayBook comes BlackBerry Enterprise Server-ready and compatible out-of-the-box, so this’ll surely make the suits a happy bunch.

Lastly it’s time to bring up developer and app support.  The PlayBook will have access to the BlackBerry App World.  RIM claims that the Tablet OS is “built for developers” and wants the app-makers to start pumping out consumer and business-friendly apps ASAP.  Apple has one leg up on the competition due to the uber-success of the App Store and all its contents and RIM is ready and willing to heat up the competition.  “The [Tablet] OS is fully POSIX compliant enabling easy portability of C-based code, supports Open GL for 2D and 3D graphics intensive applications like gaming, and will run applications built in Adobe Mobile AIR as well as the new BlackBerry WebWorks app platform.”  In addition to announced the PlayBook, RIM pleased developers in attendance with the announced of the WebWorks platform and other dev tools.  In short, WebWorks will allow devs to quickly and efficiently write code for a BlackBerry app that’s tightly integrated with BB 6 and Tablet OS functionality.  A new Advertising Service allows “simple” and “rich media” ads to be easily transposed into an app.  The Payment Service SDK will allow for in-app purchases for third-party devs over over credit card, PayPal, and carrier billing.  Last, RIM is finally opening up BMM to the devs with the BlackBerry Messenger Social Platform.  App devs will have the ability to use BBM to relay messages, files, user profiles, and invitations to end users.

Besides letting loose details about the hardware specifications, glossing over the software capabilities, and getting developers excited to produce content for a new platform, RIM unfortunately did not give an in-depth preview of the the Tablet OS, so it’s hard to say how simple or intuitive the device actually runs.  Definitely peek after the break to watch a preview video that hints at a CoverFlow/WebOS hybrid UI.  It’s interesting to look at how RIM wants to market the PlayBook.  They are calling it a “professional-grade” tablet that is “perfect for either large organizations or an “army of one.””  They are certainly distancing themselves from King iPad by touting the Flash/ HTML5 Webkit browser and true multitasking from the start.  I get it–business suits love their BlackBerrys for the phenomenal enterprise support and the PlayBook would make a sensible companion.  Thing is, I’m not so sure if BlackBerry can bank on the “professional” demographic to gain much market (and more importantly) mind share with the PlayBook.  (What? Is Apple’s approach too fun and playful for serious buyers? I think not.)  Two things need to happen for the PlayBook to become a breakout hit.  The device needs to be competitively priced (pricing has yet to be disclosed) and the App World needs a big backing from developers.  The latter requirement is essential; super resourceful apps make all devices (cell phones, tablets, etc.) enticing for consumers and business professionals alike.  RIM has to prove the worthiness of the PlayBook, devs need to jump onboard the platform, and consumers will respond when it comes time to buy.  The PlayBook has tons of potential and people are excited; Twitter was beeming with positive feedback after the announcement was made.  If RIM can properly execute on this, a worthy competitor to the iPad might finally arrive.  The PlayBook is expected to release in “early 2011″ in the US; international rollouts will begin in Q2 2011.

[Via Engadget, here & here]

(Click here for more…)

Android continues to grow, takes top spot away from RIM in US smartphone market

Posted in News,Technology by Scott Meisner on August 5th, 2010

According to The NPD Group, a market research company, Google’s Android smartphone OS has climbed to the #1 spot for most purchased smartphone OS in the U.S.  In doing so it pushes past RIM’s Blackberry OS and Apple’s iOS 4.  Here’s the official standings for Q2 2010: #1- Android (33%), #2- RIM (28 %), #3- iOS4 (23%).  RIM dropped 9 points since the previous quarter and has not been positioned in second place since 2007.  And if you’re wondering, Android gained 5 points and Apple picked up a single point over the course of the quarter.  The top 5 best-selling Android devices in the second quarter of year are Motorola Droid, HTC Droid Incredible, HTC EVO 4G, HTC Hero, and HTC Droid Eris.  Ross Rubin, executive director of industry analysis for NPD, says that though the recently announced Blackberry 6 will “offer features that have been popular in recently launched Android handsets,” the first crop of supported devices, namely the Blackberry Torch on AT&T, “lacks the large screen allure that has characterized the best selling Android devices at its price point.”  In other words, he is blaming Android’s wild successs on the myriad of Motorola and HTC handsets that feature large screens (ie. Droid & EVO 4G).  And if RIM doesn’t start to change their ways with new innovations (Blackberry 6 fails to impress at first glance), it might be a while until they reclaim their old title as the most selling OS in the hotly competitive smartphone market.  And how ’bout dem U.S. carriers?  #1- Verizon Wireless (33%), #2- AT&T (25%), Sprint (12%), T-Mobile (11%).  Full PR is after the break.

[Via Engadget] (Click here for more…)

RIM formally details new BlackBerry 6 OS

Posted in Technology,Video by Scott Meisner on August 4th, 2010

When Research In Motion (RIM), the makers of BlackBerry smartphones, officially unveiled the latest BlackBerry operating system in late April at WES they failed to properly go into much detail about it.  We were teased with a brief (music) video demonstration and that was about it.  On Tuesday the company finally revealed in full detail the next iteration of its OS dubbed BlackBerry 6.  I’ll run down the most prominent new features.  A newly designed home screen allows for customization and arrangement of icons, contacts, and web page shortcuts; context-sensitive Action Menus allows “users [to] bring the most common actions or tasks of an application to the surface”; a Universal Search tool allows you to search keywords that will ping all the phone’s content, the web, and the new BlackBerry App World; an all-new Webkit browser features tabbed browsing, auto-wrap text zoom, pinch-to-zoom, and supports HTML5 content; Social Feeds integrate access to BlackBerry Messenger, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, AOL Instant Messenger, Google Talk, Windows Live Messenger, and Yahoo! Messenger applications, allowing you to view all your friends’ actitivies in one space; it also allows you to “post updates across multiple networks simultaneously”.

The new multimedia experience in BB6 packs a really exciting new feature–the ability to sync your music collection over WiFi.  Using BlackBerry Desktop Software 6, you can enable Wi-Fi Music Sync “that allows users to view their entire iTunes or Windows Media Player music libraries from their BlackBerry smartphone, create and edit playlists, as well as select music for download.”  As long as you’re in range of your WiFi signal, playlist edits and song information are automatically synced to the phone.

The OS also includes new camera modes and a Podcasts application that allows you to manage audio and video podcasts.  A dedicated YouTube app is included, too.  All of these new and updated features comprise BlackBerry 6.  Consumers will have the chance to get their hands on it August 26 with the launch of BlackBerry Torch, the first BB to come loaded with the new OS.  According to RIM, BB6 will be ported to the BlackBerry Bold 9700, BlackBerry Bold 9650, and BlackBerry Pearl 3G “subject to carrier certifications in the months ahead.”

Overall BlackBerry 6 is a welcome and much needed refresh to the aging BlackBerry UI.  The most exciting update is the system-wide multi-touch experience.  The Storm and Storm 2 smartphones did pack capacitive touchscreens, but BB6-supported phones will be designed around the multi-touch experience consumers are used to finding in devices like Apple’s iPhone and Motorola’s Droid.  A new Webkit browser will definitely wow users with its speed and future-proof support for HTML5.  The new social networking features also look promising.  As exciting as all of these new additions to the BlackBerry platform may sound, almost all of them have already been implemented in other smartphones for years.  With BB6 RIM is essentially playing catch up with the big players (ie. Apple, Google).  RIM has failed to incorporate that extra pinch of bam that separates itself from the competition.  While BB6 definitely pushes BlackBerry devices closer to the competition in terms of features and aesthetics, it does not give cell phone buyers a definitive reason to choose this OS over another one.  BBM’s sheen can only last so long.

Look after the break for the full PR plus a “sneak peak” video.

[Via Engadget; Gizmodo] (Click here for more…)

BlackBerry Torch slider QWERTY smartphone runs BlackBerry 6, hits AT&T August 12 for $199.99

Posted in Images,News,Technology,Video by Scott Meisner on August 4th, 2010

On Tuesday RIM and AT&T formally announced the latest BlackBerry handset and it’s called the BlackBerry Torch.  It’s BB’s first slider smartphone, and it comes with a full QWERTY keyboard BB users are accustomed to.  Let’s run through the specs, shall we?  The Torch packs a 3.2″ (360 x 480) capacitive touch screen display,  5.0MP camera with flash, auto focus, image stabilization and geo-tagging, built-in GPS and 802.11n WiFi, quadband 3G radio, and 512MB of Flash memory with 4GB on-board and a microSD/SDHC memory card slot for additional storage (up to 32GB supported).  It measures 4.4″ x 2.4″ x 0.57″ when closed and 5.8″ x 2.4″ x 0.57″ when the slider keyboard is out.  Face buttons include start/end calls, main menu, back, and an optical trackpad.  The Torch will be the very first BB to run the just detailed BlackBerry 6 operating system.  This means it will include the fast Webkit browser (for which it was named after–RIM recently bought a company named Torch Mobile), integrated social feeds, a new multimedia experience, and universal search.  The phone will be made available to purchase on August 12 for $199.99 on a new two-year contract with AT&T at Best Buy, Wal-Mart, RadioShack, and AT&T stores.

The brand new form factor is extremely compelling.  It’s the new OS, which seems to be following the pack and not making its own strides, that I am worried about.  Look in the gallery below for press shots and after the break for the PR and two “launch videos”.

[Via Engadget]

(Click here for more…)

Cell phone makers respond to Jobs’ claims surrounding Antennagate [Update: Apple throws Moto's Droid X into the mix]

Posted in News,Technology by Scott Meisner on July 22nd, 2010

Last week Apple CEO Steve Jobs held a press conference to address the iPhone 4 deathgrip situation.  During the presentation he spit out phrases like “phones aren’t perfect” and claimed that the antenna problem is “a challenge for the entire industry.”  To provide factual evidence to back these statements, Jobs showcased videos of the iPhone 3GS, BlackBerry Bold 9700, HTC Droid Eris, and Samsung Omnia II all dropping their signal strength when gripped in a certain way.  (Apple uploaded these videos to their YouTube page.)  Over the course of the next few days following the press conference, RIM, HTC, Samsung, and Nokia shared their thoughts on the matter.  You can be sure they did not take Apple’s “all smartphones have weak spots” accusation lightly.

The first cell phone manufacturer to counter-attack Apple’s claims was Nokia, a company Apple interestingly did not make an example of at the press conference.  Though they agree with the fact that “antenna performance of a mobile device/phone may be affected with a tight grip, depending on how the device is held”, a non-direct jab at Apple comes later in the statement:  “… we prioritize antenna performance over physical design if they are ever in conflict.”  Since Apple did not mention Nokia during the presentation, Nokia kindly left Apple out of their brief statement.  Little did they know that Apple would post a video of the Nokia N97 Mini getting deathgripped on their YouTube site just four days later.

Now let’s hear what the other cell phone makers had to say about their honorary mention.  RIM co-CEOs Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie start the statement off like this: “Apple’s attempt to draw RIM into Apple’s self-made debacle is unacceptable.”  Other choice quotes:  “Apple’s claims about RIM products appear to be deliberate attempts to distort the public’s understanding of an antenna design issue and to deflect attention from Apple’s difficult situation.”  ..  “One thing is for certain, RIM’s customers don’t need to use a case for their BlackBerry smartphone to maintain proper connectivity.”  Yeah, they just said that.

Things cool down a bit with the reactions from HTC and Samsung.  In an exclusive statement to Pocket-lint, HTC’s Eric Lin compared the Droid Eris’ complaint rate to iPhone 4′s.  At the conference, Jobs said that over 0.55 percent of iPhone 4 customers called AppleCare to complain about the antenna problem to date.  Lin shared that “approximately .016% of customers” feel the need to call in about Droid Eris antenna-related issues.  That’s around 34x lower then Apple’s rate.  Although HTC has yet to push out more formal response to the debacle, I’d say they win the point on this one.  Samsung rounds things out with a terse reply saying that the Omnia II’s antenna is located at the bottom of the device, a logical “design [that] keeps the distance between a hand and an antenna.”  Look after the break for the full statements from Nokia, RIM, and Samsung.

All in all I believe that these cell phone makers are justified in responding to Apple’s “Antennagate” mess.  It may be true that most smartphones have weak spots, but it was an obvious design flaw on Apple’s part to both place that spot where a hand is apt to grip the device and point out its exact position with a black strip.  And to reiterate RIM’s closing words, all of these other smartphones do not require a case to function properly.  Handing out free cases is a temporary fix.  To remedy a hardware problem a new, better design must be conjured up.  When it comes time for Apple to reevaluate the situation in September, I hope they have a more permanent fix in the works.

Update: Today (7/26) Apple posted yet another video in attempt to prove that the antenna problem affects most smartphones.  This time around it’s Motorola’s Droid X, one of Verizon’s current flagship phones.  Watch the bars drop from 3 to 0 after the break.

[Via Engadget, here, here, here, here & here] (Click here for more…)

Blackberry OS 6.0 revealed at WES 2010

Posted in Image cache,News,Technology,Video by Scott Meisner on April 29th, 2010

At this year’s Wireless Enterprise Symposium (WES), Research in Motion (RIM) showed off the latest BlackBerry OS in video form.  (Go acronyms! Anyway…)  RIM CEO Mike Lazaridis did not go into detail about “BlackBerry 6″ but he did have these choice words to say: “It’s an all-new user experience guided by a few fundamental design principles.  It had to be easy to use, yet incredibly powerful.  It had to be fun and approachable.  Anyone that looks at it should say ‘I want a BlackBerry.’”  He also shared his excitement about the “all-new WebKit browser.”  According to a leaked report from BGR, BB 6 will feature a new home screen (with customizable icons), the WebKit browser (with tab support), a redesigned media player and photo viewer, and a bunch of new keyboard commands.  It’s expected that BB 6 will natively support multitouch, finding a home both on touch and non-touch screen devices.  RIM confirms it will release later this year.

Also introduced at the event: the new BlackBerry Bold 9650 & BlackBerry Pearl 3G.  Sprint formally announced it will sell the new Bold for $199.99 with a new two-year contract; Verizon Wireless is expected to make a similar offer.  The Pearl 3G is heading to Canada first on Bell, Telus, and Rogers.  Peek after the break for an image of the sleek new pair of handsets.

[Via Gizmodo; Engadget; The Street] (Click here for more…)