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Showing posts from February, 2018

Spotify Continues To Outgrow Apple Music

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Spotify has announced that it will beginning trading on the New York Stock Exchange, in a direct listing which will allow shareholders to sell up to $1bn of stock. That much has been strongly rumoured for a while now. 

The prospectus for the list contains some interesting numbers though. As of December Spotify had 71m paying subscribers and 140m users in total. That number goes to show just how quickly the service has grown and, more importantly, how against the odds it has continued to see off the threat of Apple Music. 

When Apple launched its streaming service Spotify had around 20m subscribers. In the intervening years Apple has grown to a recently announced 36m subscriber base. Which sounds good, but when you look at the gap between he services you have to commend Spotify for impressive subscriber growth. 

Apple Music inherited around 1.5m users from Beats Music,  meaning the gap between the services was about 18 million subscribers. That gap has all but doubled since then. For ever…

With Samsung No Longer Racing To Be First, Who Leads The Mobile Market

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DJ Koh, head of Samsung's Mobile Division, had said that the company will no longer race to be first to market with new innovations or features, instead it will focus on making things available when they are ready.

That's a significant change in the way the company operates. Think about all the features Samsung has got to market with first, often to be trumped when something better arrives (usually from Apple) forcing the company back to the drawing board.

The worry here is that Samsung becomes too risk averse in its design and we lose the innovations that did change the world. Roll back this policy six or seven years and consider whether the new Samsung ideology would have birthed the Galaxy Note.

With Apple stuck in a rut, introducing changes which haven't taken off, like force touch, and Samsung getting cagey by policy, who is going to drive innovation in a smartphone market which is getting increasingly mature?

Amazon Buys Ring For $1bn, But Why

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Ring has a portfolio of products based around home security. Cameras and smart doorbells being to the fore. On that basis it doesn't seem a likely candidate for a billion dollar purchase by Amazon,  but that's exactly what has been announced. 

For Amazon I believe there are two main reasons for making this purchase, both of which follow the companies existing strategy of removing friction from customer's purchases on the Amazon store. 

First off,  adding Alexa to more spaces in the home. Having Amazon's assistant in every home is a goal that the company has been pursuing with partners for a while. The purchase of Ring creates another pathway into the home for customers who wouldn't consider a dedicated Echo or smart speaker. In the same way Google is bringing Nest into the Google Assistant fold,  so Amazon can add Alexa to Ring products. 

Secondly, access into customer's homes for deliveries. We've already seen that Amazon wants to make this a key part of its …

Looks Like Certain Android OEMs Are Going To Slavishly Copy The Notch

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First it was Asus,  now we have seen solid evidence from Evan Blass that Huawei will follow. Then yesterday we had a leak which suggests the next OnePlus flagship will also do it,  which in turn implies Oppo will be incorporating one too. I'm talking about the notch here,  a design feature which Apple introduced on the iPhone X and which all these Android manufacturers have rushed to copy. 

It's an absolute nonsense. The iPhone has a notch to accommodate the Face ID sensor pack,  but none of these phones have anything similar. So why have the notch at all? 

It certainly isn't because it's a desirable  feature.  As Apple has already demonstrated,  it's a compromise which works only so well,  when it works at all. 

No, the only reason for following this design 'feature' is to create a phone that can be mistaken for an iPhone at a glance. And if that's your design ethos,  well you shouldn't be in the smartphone business at all. 

Now I know that the Essenti…

Bad Asus Clones iPhone X, Notch To The Fore

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Asus unveiled its Zenfone 5 today, and what a disappointing effort it is. The design team took an iPhone X and cloned it in order to get a impressively high screen to body ratio.

Problem is that it narrows the Zenfone 5's market to people who want to be seen to have an iPhone X but just can't afford one.

The phone itself packs no more into its notch than the standard selfie camera and speaker, so it's not like Asus were forced into this design choice by the technology.

A 6.2" display which goes into the corners and includes a notch offers no more screen estate than the 6" rectangular screen it announced on the Zenfone 5 Lite. 

The Zenfone 5 promises to be cheap - at around half the price of the iPhone X, but that's a price point where you can now find impressively worthy phones.

Ones that aren't relying on somebody else's designs for 'inspiration'.

Governments Can Now Bypass iOS Security

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There's been plenty of hoo-haa about the inability of law enforcement services to access data on locked iOS devices, and the limited assistance Apple is prepared, or able, to provide in gaining access to them.
That has become an entirely moot argument for now according to a report from Forbes, as Israeli company Cellebrite has been telling governments around the world that it can access any iOS device on demand.
Good news for law enforcement, not so great for those who have something to hide.
There have been several instances of the company unlocking devices for customers with at least one rumoured to be an iPhone X - although the weakness of that phone's Face ID system has already been demonstrated and it would surprise me if most attempts to unlock one need to go as far as Cellebrite at all.

How Microsoft Intends To Send A Computer Recycler To Prison

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This story on The Washington Post is interesting, demonstrating as it does, that Microsoft still has many and varied income streams even from Windows versions which are long dead.
The story has twists and turns and I'm not entirely convinced that Eric Lundgren's story is completely honest, but rather than the fate of one computer recycler, the interest here is in the impact it has for second-hand computer buyers.
Buy a PC which has a valid Windows license and even a legitimate COA and obtain a restore disk copy from anywhere but the OEM and you're in breach of Microsoft's licensing terms. As is the seller. Microsoft charges those OEMs a licensing fee to create restore disks.
Chances are the OEM won't want to sell you the disk, as it wants to sell another computer and Microsoft won't want them to anyway, as it means another older  PC that doesn't run Windows 10 messing up its control of the market.
In practice, anyone creating 28,000 restore disks to distrib…

Why Does Microsoft Still Have An Xbox Division

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Microsoft has spent the last two years ruthlessly culling all of its business areas which sell to consumers - Windows phones, Music Streaming, fitness trackers... all these subtractions add up to a company which can't do business with consumers.
Yet the success of the Xbox division gives the lie to that statement. Microsoft can sell to consumers - if it has the right product and listens to those consumers.
Gaming generated almost as much revenue as Windows, it all but matched Advertising, LinkedIn and Enterprise Services combined. Imagine where it could be now, if Microsoft hadn't botched so much of the Xbox launch as to give Sony the upper hand in the market.
The same is true of every other consumer play Microsoft made. Windows phones were killed just at the point where they were gaining traction. The Band was killed when customers were crying out for an updated version. Groove Music (AKA Xbox Music, Zune Music) continuously failed to deliver features which users on other st…

Blackberry's Move To Android Not Going Well

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TCL's purchase of the rights to the Blackberry brand name seemed like a real opportunity to leverage a once popular brand name and achieve sales success.

That hasn't turned out to be the case. Far from it in fact. Despite achieving some success among tech writers and bloggers with the Key One, total sales in the whole of 2017 were less than a million handsets. 

Now if each handset was sold at a sizeable profit that might be considered some measure of success, especially considering the number of Android manufacturers vying for a slice of the premium market.

Whether that's true or not it's clear that having a good brand name is not an automatic guarantee of success in the mobile market. 

It seems that TCL needs to rethink its Blackberry offering if it seeks sales success by volume.

Qualcomm - Broadcom Merger Now Dependent On Price Alone

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Qualcomm has been forcefully rejecting Broadcom's purchase offers for some time now, however the company is now reported to have agreed terms of a takeover, leaving price as the only remaining sticking point. 

Broadcom's current valuation for the mobile CPU power house is light, according to Qualcomm anyway, and the company is looking for a much bigger pay off before hitting the go button.

Even then the whole plan needs to get through regulatory approval - and you can bet your last Snapdragon 835 that this deal - expected to be the largest ever, will attract very close scrutiny.

Loss Of Apple's iCloud Business A Blow To Microsoft Azure

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The Verge is reporting that Apple is no longer using Microsoft Azure for any of its iCloud storage, reporting that it now relies on Amazon and Google exclusively to provide this service. 

With Microsoft making cloud services a bigger and bigger part of its business model any loss is painful. Given the size of Apple's user base and iCloud offering, this has to be the most painful loss yet. 

With the growth which Azure has posted over the last couple of years, this probably won't worry the execs at Microsoft just yet. But expect them to aggressively pursue this particular contract next time Apple looks to review it's storage purchasing.

Sony's Ear Duo Wireless Earbuds Might Be A Bit Too Far Ahead Of Their Time

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Look, I love the concept of these headphones as much as anyone, the idea of a set of wireless earbuds which deliver an 'outside-in' experience just sounds so good. It's the complete opposite of what Sony has been doing so well for the last couple of years - active noise cancelling.
The Ear Duos are what Sony calls Open Ear headphones. Allowing external audio to mix with ambient noise so you aren't completely cut off from your environment. The full integration with Google Assistant or Siri gives these a second desirable feature.
The problem is that, as much as leaving these in your ears all the time and utilising them with a smart assistant sounds great, there are a couple of drawbacks. Mainly the bulk of the battery / control unit on the back of your ear and the battery life being just four to five hours.
If you live or work in an environment where talking to yourself in public is acceptable your probably going to want to keep these in all the time - at which point th…

Sony Xperia XZ2 Brings 4K HDR Video To The Smartphone World

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Sony has announced its new flagship device for 2018, available in medium and large sizes and packing a few notable features which one up the competition.
The Xperia XZ2 and XZ2 Compact are both powered by the new Snapdragon 845 and sport 18: 9 screens. As previously rumoured they also get rid of the headphone jack, leaving you the option of USB-C or Bluetooth headphones.
Sony has packed two new features into the XZ2 which should make them attractive to a key niche in the smartphone market.
Firstly, the new Xperias are capable of recording HDR video at 4K, something that has never been available on smartphones before. Then there is the dynamic sound - a rumble effect for media audio which Sony is claiming will allow you to feel the sound.
As expected Sony also unveiled a new design language - from the front those new 18:9 displays dominate, but from behind there's been a move to conform, becoming more HTC like in the way the rear of the phone is presented.
There's good news fo…

First Ad For Samsung's New Galaxy S9 Arrives

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Unsurprisingly, there's a heavy focus on the new camera in Samsung's first advert for the new Galaxy S9, that's because it amounts to the largest part of the change from S8 to S9.
All of the details are as leaked - the dual aperture camera which switches from f2.4 to f1.5 in low light, the dual camera on the S9+ and the super slow mo, which captures 960fps at 720p.
That latter technology is Samsung's own, not bought in from Sony and has been improved in one key area where the Sony was lacking: motion detection. Whereas the Xperia's super slow mo camera would sometimes miss the action you were trying to record, Samsung has setup the camera to start recording as soon as it detects motion in the frame - you don't even have to fire the shutter.

With just over a fortnight before the first units start arriving, Samsung's commercial is currently as close as most people will get to a handset.

Samsung Bumps Galaxy S9 Prices Up A Smidge, Prepares For Discounts

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Samsung is definitely hoping to cash in on the added capabilities of its new Galaxy S9, with higher prices here in New Zealand meaning a $100 premium on the launch price of the S8.

Considering the updates Samsung has brought, that isn't an unreasonable price hike. However once those early adopters have hoovered up early stocks it's likely the S9 will see some discounts to keep sales moving. 

Last year the Galaxy S8 was offered with a sweetener bundle for early buyers, then a different bundle for fast followers and finally a near 25% discount for those who lagged behind. 

That's on top of any sweeteners the carriers were offering. 

Samsung knows that it will still make a profit on the S9 even at these discounted prices, so having a go at raking in some Apple-style profit levels from early adopters is a easy bet to place. 

This year's bundle seems to be based around a wireless charger and Bluetooth audio extras like headphones and speakers. 

It's unlikely many S8 owners wi…

What Is HMD Global Trying To Achieve With Retro Nokia Phones

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As well as its usual Android fare, Nokia today announced a 'new' 8110 - the banana phone famously used in the original Matrix film.

It wasn't an especially great phone at the time and it didn't even have the spring loaded slider which appeared in the film. So the 'Reloaded'version announced by Nokia today seems to be a pretty faithful copy. 

I assume the market here is for ironic nostalgia. There's no other reason to want this phone. 

Things is, if HMD Global is planning to work its way through Nokia's back catalogue to try and cover itself in retro cool, how long before it meets itself coming back? 

Looking forward to the Lumia 1020 Reloaded once HMD figures out how to build it.

Nokia's New Flagship Is The Sirocco

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HMD Global launched a new Nokia flagship phone today - unafraid of being overwhelmed by the Samsung hype rollercoaster for the Galaxy S9. 

The new Nokia 8 Sirocco is a tweak to the existing 8, using the same Snapdragon 835 processor, this time paired with 6gb of memory and 128gb of storage. 

The changes here are mostly visual, with a new Edge-like screen which chamfers at the edges to create a thinner profile. The fingerprint sensor has moved to the back of the phone too, creating smaller bezels and giving over more of the face of the phone to the screen.

There's the addition of wireless charging to the phone, however Nokia had added its name to the list of those who have disposed of the headphone jack.

Nokia's notoriously light Android skin will give way to Android One over the course of this year. So expect even better upgrade performance from the Finnish brand.

Samsung Galaxy S9 Is The Very Definition Of An Upgrade

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What looks like a Galaxy S8 but is improved in almost every way? It's the new Galaxy S9 of course. Samsung announced the new phone in Barcelona today and it a perfect demonstration of how iterative upgrades should work.

Samsung has fixed all of the issues which might have prevented you considering the S8 when you bought your last phone. 

That means a repositioned fingerprint sensor, stereo speakers and a new camera pack which challenges the use of dual cameras on competing devices. 

That new camera is the first to deliver a variable aperture on a mobile phone. On the S9+ it is paired with a second camera in a similar configuration to the Note 8. This marks the first time Samsung had split specifications between different sizes of Galaxy S flagships.

There are software tweaks and a new AR emoji feature which promises to be more useful than Apple's dreadful Animoji. 

But most of all, the S9 feels like Samsung took an S8, identified areas where it could be improved and improved them.

T…

Questionable Survey Gives Cortana 15% Of Smart Speaker Market

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Loup Ventures undertook a survey of smart speaker owners and the results produced look highly questionable to me.

The company reported an 89% satisfaction rate for smart speakers, based on a survey of 520 respondents. But only 31% were smart speaker owners. So what were the other 58% so pleased about? That they hadn't bought one yet probably.

Diving into the detail of device ownership and the survey's credibility is called in to question again. 15% of those who had a smart speaker claimed to own a Cortana device.

Now either the Harmon Kardon device has been selling like there's no tomorrow or this survey's respondents were telling porkies.

There's no way on earth Microsoft's assistant is that close to parity with Google Home. Or that Amazon's Echo has only half the overall market.

The survey also claims that the HomePod has 3% market share, which is rather more believable. But by the time you get to that information you can be sure that the survey as a whol…

Does Your Laptop Or Tablet Really Need Always Connected LTE

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Microsoft has begun the push for Always Connected Windows laptops and tablets, with devices sporting LTE becoming more common and Windows on ARM looking to expand upon this capability by building it into the ARM CPU itself.
Meanwhile Apple and several Android OEMs already offer tablets with LTE capabilities.
When you always have your smartphone with you, I have to question whether this functionality is actually needed by anybody. Certainly, there are limited use cases and reasons for needing to duplicate the hardware in your smartphone.
As usual, it's Apple that has demonstrated how this should work - although is still sells, and customers still buy, LTE iPads. By allowing a Mac or iPad to create a mobile hotspot from your iPhone, Apple has obviated the need for LTE in those devices. The connection is so seamless and works so naturally, I can see no reason for needing LTE in another device.
Save of course for the known problems with Apple's battery life, or an individual'…

Sony Xperia XZ2 Exposed - 18:9 Screen And No Headphone Jack

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Right now it looks like I'm swimming against the tide. Having resigned myself to the ongoing death of the 3.5mm headphone jack - and only slightly mollified by the emergence of USB-C as a new quasi-standard for audio output - it appears I will have to accept that screens will have an 18:9 aspect ratio in future too.
Sony is the latest to adopt this form factor - and dispense with the headphone jack - as leaked images of the Xperia XZ2 clearly show. 
Much as Sony's Xperia business seems to exist only to showcase the capabilities of its components, the rendered images of the still concern me. Sony has stood out from the crowd in the design of its phones, borrowing nothing from the competition and always delivering a design language which speaks only of Sony.
This was as much true of the first Xperia X10 as it was of last year's XZ.
The XZ2 looks unlikely to continue this tradition. Remove the badges and this could be a phone from any number of device manufacturers.
Has Sony…

Did Microsoft Really Sell Only 11 Lumias In New Zealand?

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It's not often you get a chance to review exactly how badly a device sold, but a particular set of circumstances does appear to uncover just how well - badly - the Lumia 950 sold in New Zealand.
When the Lumia 950 launched in New Zealand Microsoft did a deal with network provider Spark to offer a bundle with a ScreenBeam 2 Mini and Microsoft wireless keyboard and mouse. The ScreenBeam Mini 2 being a particularly interesting piece of Miracast hardware, allowing as it does, a USB host device on the adapter to control the device beaming to your screen - in this case the Lumia 950.
When launched the offer was restricted to just 75 units. Get them whilst they're hot!
A couple of weeks ago those same Lumia 950 bundles - shorn of the wireless keyboard and mouse - arrived at a well known Kiwi computer store. As far as I can establish, these are the unsold devices which Spark returned to Microsoft and which have then been subsequently sold on.
So how many devices does this retailer ha…

Microsoft Underlines Lumia Fiasco Three Times In Red, Just So You Won't Forget When Andromeda Arrives

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Buying Nokia's phone business and then running it into the ground wasn't the greatest of moves, screwing around reasonably loyal customers was worse. Now, after a several month absence from the shelves, Microsoft is selling Lumias once more - at serious inflated prices for a device running a dead duck operating system.
There's something quite bizarre about the whole episode - which suggests that Microsoft discovered a secret stash of smartphones in a warehouse somewhere and decided to have a go at flogging them. The absolute definition of the dead horse, in this particular case.
The whole point of clearing down Lumia stocks, we have been told repeatedly, was to clear the desks for the launch of Andromeda, the folding Surface phone, which is widely tipped to appear this year. In that case why drag the zombie corpse of Windows Mobile 10 back into the light of day to damage Microsoft's mobile reputation once more.
That the 950 / XL still have a class leading camera is sm…

Alfa Romeo 164 ProCar: So Fast It Killed A Whole Racing Series

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This might look to you like a fairly standard Alfa Romeo 164, but that rear wing and those wheels should clue you in to the fact that this was something a little bit special. So special in fact, that it scared every other motor manufacturer away from the F1 support formula it was supposed to launch.
As far as I know the Alfa Romeo 164 was the only ProCar ever to run in public and almost certainly the only one ever built.
So what was ProCar? It was envisaged to be a second string to the F1 teams bow, a support race for the Grand Prix circus, using cars the public could buy for themselves - or at least ones that looked like it.
It was a silhouette formula. From the outside the cars would look standard, but underneath they were very different indeed.
Alfa Romeo bought the Brabham Grand Prix team specifically to ready themselves for the new formula. The car was a kevlar, nomex and aluminiumm racecar monocoque with a mid-mounted F1-spec V10 engine, which Alfa built specially for this car.…

Microsoft And Xiaomi Strengthen Ties, Cortana Coming To Mi Devices

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Chinese news site Caixin is reporting that Microsoft  and Xiaomi have extended their partnership and will work together in more areas going forward. Whilst the agreement speaks about cloud computing and artificial intelligence, the two more pertinent areas of common interest are around notebook computers and smart assistants.
Xiaomi has firmly established itself as one of the big names when it comes to smartphone sales - fourth place in the big fourth quarter last year is ample evidence of that. Experience in smartphones is going to give the company a big leg up when it comes to building Always Connected PCs around the ARM platform - an initiative which I believe flags the future for the PC, in Microsoft's eyes at least.
Access to Xiaomi's large smartphone sales numbers will almost certainly be a factor in this agreement as well. Getting Microsoft's ecosystem on to more and more Android phones out of the box is clearly the Microsoft mobile strategy going forward and whils…

F1: McLaren-Renault MCL33 Launches - Looks Like A Winner

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It's an old F1 saying, but if a car looks quick it usually is quick; and in its dayglo orange and black paintwork, the new McLaren MCL33 look every bit a winner. The team swaps its Honda engine for Renault - the first time in the French company's 40 year history the two have worked together - and an increased level of expectation.
Both Red Bull and McLaren are expected to outpace the Renault factory team and this year will be the year in which Fernando Alonso needs to bring the evidence to back the claims made by many that he is the fastest driver of all.
Last season Red Bull rode Renault power to three race victories, McLaren will be looking to be on the Austrian team's pace from the get go.
Also of note and something which is going to be increasingly important as the season progresses, the McLaren's Halo device is painted black, even without the black paint around the cockpit which Haas used, it looks better than the white Halos used by Sauber and Williams.

Samsung Smartphones Outsold Apple In Q4

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The Q4 holiday buying season has always been something of an anomaly as far as smartphone sales go. Apple generally takes the market lead as a result of the iPhone's popularity at this time of year. 

A disproportionate number of iPhones sell in the run up to Christmas, no doubt driven by gift givers selecting one to put under their Christmas tree. 

Add in the pent up demand which comes with a new iPhone launch at the beginning of the quarter and it's reasonable to expect Apple to top the sales chart. 

In 2017 that wasn't the case. Samsung outsold Apple by a small but significant margin. That's probably a result of the late launch of the iPhone X, plus reduced demand stemming from the flagship's astronomical price hike. 

Over the year the smartphone market saw it's first ever contraction, with sales dropping around 5% from 2016.

That's likely to be as much about rising prices as the saturation of features as the market reaches maturity. 

Have we seen peak smartpho…

It's Back - Samsung Rolling Out S8 Oreo Upgrade Once More

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After a short delay to resolve an issue with unexpected restarts, Samsung is now offering the Android Oreo update for the Galaxy S8 once more. 

This update is a key one, not just for Samsung, which hasn't been particularly quick getting this release out, but also for Google, which is one more in the embarrassing position of failing to speed adoption of another new Android version yet again.

HTC Shutting Up Shop In US?

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HTC has laid off a number of employees at its US operation, with some claiming that only HTC Global staff remain with the company. 

That's not an unexpected move, no doubt resulting from a strategic winding down of US sales as part of the agreement to sell it's smartphone division to Google. 

It seems unlikely we'll see too many HTC phones arrive in the US in the near future. The U11+'s lack of availability almost certainly stems from some form of non-compete agreement. I'm not convinced the U12 will arrive stateside either. 

HTC has a future in the US, it's just not in the premium market. As a result a large US local team isn't going to be required. 

Until the point when the HTC brand is sold off - if that is the plan - the US operation is likely to remain around to sell mid range devices which don't compete with Google and keep the brand alive for a new owner to ramp up once more.

Apple About To Update iPad Mini

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Apple has certified two new iPad devices with the Eurasian Economic Commission,  the licensing organisation for Eastern Europe and Asia. 

With the regular iPad and iPad Pro having recently received substantial updates this suggests that the iPad Mini might be in line for a long overdue update. 

Probably not a large one though. 

For me the Mini is the most appealing iPad, however the age of the current iPad Mini 4 would certainly prevent me from ever purchasing one. 

Apple has neglected its smallest tablet, probably because sales are down. Sales are down because Apple had neglected its smallest tablet. 

It's a vicious circle which Apple can break out of by refreshing the internals to something more up to date, and more appealing to prospective customers. 

Everything else can stay the same, but a refresh which brings the Mini in line with the iPad is all it will take to keep iPad sales moving in the right direction.

Google's Project Zero Exposes New Windows 10 Vulnerabilities

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Google's bug hunting service, Project Zero, serves two purposes. Early discovery of weaknesses in key software and platforms, and motivating publishers to close them by disclosing found weaknesses after 90 days.

This week two issues affecting Windows 10 have been published by the service, the first a Microsoft Edge bug in the Arbitrary Code Guard service and the second allowing a Windows 10 user to elevate their privileges to administrator level. 

There's been some negative response to the publication of these weaknesses, however there is solid logic behind Google's Project Zero charter. 

If Google's engineers can uncover these weaknesses, you can be sure third parties will be able to do the same, and exploits will soon make it into the wild. 

For the first issue Microsoft has failed to deliver a fix, despite getting a two week extension to the 90 day publication window. For the second it classifies the fix as medium priority. 

Nokia Ready To Concede In Health Market

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Nokia's purchase of Withings hasn't been a great success by all account and it various reports agree that Nokia is about to kill its Health business as a result. 

Just a year and a half after accepting the health hardware company for $190m, Nokia is effectively writing off the assets it acquired in the deal,  which many are seeing as a precursor to showing operations for good. 

In a memo leaked to The Verge, the Finnish company appears to be preparing the ground for the closure of its health activities. 

With HMD Global going great guns with the Nokia brand in the smartphone market you'd expect Nokia's health division to be growing as well. Yet almost no Nokia phone buyers end up with a Nokia Smartwatch. 

That's likely because the smartwatch and fitness tracker markets demand more or less than the rehashed Withings smartwatch Nokia is offering them. Too much watch for the fitness market, too few bells and whistles for the smartwatch crowd. 

Lenovo To Launch Three Moto G6 Models At MWC

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For me the Moto G5 was the surprise phone of 2017, packing an awful lot of capability into a remarkable cheap device. It's a phone I could happily recommend to anybody in the market for a new device. 

That recommendation may change though, with news that Lenovo is expected to launch the new Moto G6 models at MWC.

The entry level G6 will be the Play, which will offer the most basic screen, and hardware configuration. 

The more interesting devices are the G6 and G6 Plus. Both get 18:9 screens at 1080p, with the Plus getting a Snapdragon 630 and the G6 a 450. Both will feature a dual camera setup round back - 12mp and 5mp. The big difference will be in screen size - 6" or 5.7" - and RAM allocation - 3GB or 6GB models are rumoured. 

These won't be bezel-less phones though,  as the front facing fingerprint sensor will be retained along with Motorola's clever swipe gestures. 

Will they be as appealing? It's hard to see how they could be otherwise, Motorola is on a great…

Spotify Looking To Hardware To Defend Against Apple

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The HomePod is a masterstroke from Apple. It's exactly the sort of product Apple customers will buy, even if the message being pushed about it's audio quality is flawed. 

Once those customers add the HomePod to their collection they'll find themselves presented with a dilemma. Apple Music is the only streaming service which works on the new speaker. 

And we know even Apple users don't choose Apple Music. With just 36 million subscribers worldwide that's just 3% of Apple estimated customer base. 

So buying a HomePod automatically generates an Apple Music subscription. And almost all of those will be wins from Spotify. 

Given the potential damage to Spotify's streaming business it has to respond and it looks like that response will be to start selling its own hardware. 

The form that hardware will take isn't known, but if it isn't a smart speaker, with Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa integrated the company will have missed a trick. 

Not that there aren't a…

F1: Alfa Romeo-Sauber C37 Launches

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With a little bit of nostalgia and a trip to the Museo Storico at Arese, Alfa Romeo and Sauber launched the historic 2018 car - a full return to the sport for the Alfa Romeo name.
Sauber is seeking to achieve the same giant killing results which Force India have managed with Mercedes power, however the team is expecting a long learning curve as it makes the step up from the back of the grid.
The presence of Charles Leclerc and Ferrari technical backing should hopefully allow the team to make a significant step forward this season nonetheless.

Samsung May Slip A Cheeky Tablet Into The MWC Mix

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The Galaxy S9 and S9+ will undoubtedly be the focus of Samsung's big keynote on Sunday, but it looks like they won't be the only newcomers to make an appearance, with news of a new Galaxy Tab arriving via benchmarks on GFXBench.
The Tab S4 will replace the Tab S3 as Samsung's premium Android tablet, and will closely mirror the current device, if the specs are to be believed. There will be a bump to the Snapdragon 835 CPU and possibly a squarer aspect screen as well.
What there won't be is an 8" screen version of the Tab S4 - with the smaller version once again missing from the Samsung Android tablet range.
That seems a little strange, given that the smaller tablet is much more suited to running Android phone apps in tablet mode, is more portable and has no real premium competition, unless you want a geriatric and arthritic iPad Mini 4.
The Galaxy Tab S2 remains the pinnacle of Android tablet development and it would be nice to have seen Samsung refresh what is no…

HTC Still Has A Couple Of Surprises Up Its Sleeve

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As well as the expected flagship U12, which should appear around mid-year, mirroring last year's U11 launch date, HTC has at least one more phone up its sleeve, one that may or may not arrive at MWC next week.
The Desire 12 retail packaging has been leaked and shows a low to mid-range smartphone with an 18:9 720p screen, 12mp and 5mp cameras, 3GB RAM and 32GB storage, with a micro SD slot, all powered by a Mediatek CPU.
Given the Desire range's history of putting HTC's premium design into cheaper plastic bodies, this looks like a reasonable set of specs for a cheaper phone. Whether customers will buy into the fading HTC brand remains to be seen. At the right price and in the right markets it could certainly give some of the Chinese OEMs, who own that market niche, a run for their money.
Once again the real problem for HTC is going to be its limited capacity for marketing its devices. No matter how good the Desire 12 turns out to be, with no marketing budget to speak of, i…

Sony Teases Something New To Be Unveiled At MWC

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Given that Mobile World Congress is about, well, mobiles, it isn't a great leap to assume that this is a tease for a new Sony phone and, given where it is in its release cycles, that the phone in question is a new flagship Xperia.
But you'd never know it from the teaser.

Just what is Sony trying to tell us about the new phone, I wonder.

iPhone Crash Bug Resolved Already In iOS 11.2.6

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If there's one good reason for sticking to iOS as a platform of choice, it's the speed with which Apple fixes things. 

Last week we found out that iOS devices could be crashed if a particular Indian character was displayed in certain applications, or appeared in a notification.

Today Apple fixed that bug, with a new release of iOS, as well as resolving it on all their other platforms too. 

That's a particularly impressive piece of work, given that in those intervening days a root cause needed to be established, a fix identified, testing needed to occur and then some form of peer review undertaken. 

Which is not to say that others like Google or Microsoft couldn't have done the same, because they could and have done in the past.

No, what is most impressive is what happens after Apple releases the fix. Within a matter of hours it will hit tens, if not hundreds, of millions of iOS devices.

It's a threat response which Android OEMs can only dream of, and leaves Android users…

Older Windows Phones Die Today

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If you've been clinging to an older Windows Phone, running WP8.0 or older, it's about to go dark on you. Microsoft is disabling push notifications and Live Tiles as of today, effectively killing a device which is probably working very well in all other respects. 

Comparatively few of these phones were ever sold, and it's highly unlikely many remain in use today. 

Still it's a reminder that your phone is not necessarily your phone, and in some cases can be rendered obsolete by the closing of a web service somewhere.

Who Will Build The First Windows 10 iPad Competition

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Microsoft has delivered on Windows 10 for ARM, giving OEMs the hardware options to be more adventurous with Windows 10 hardware. 

Which should more PCs in new form factors, and the return of some old ones which seem to have been abandoned. 

The slate tablet, thin and light; with lots of battery life and full Windows. Something we haven't really seen Windows OEMs deliver, aside from a brief foray into 8" tablets a couple of years ago.  

A 10" tablet designed to be used as a tablet primarily, packing a stylus to support Windows 10's alternate input methods and able to deliver an iPad-like third screen experience. 

Right now there's no alternative to the iPad if what you're after is a basic consumer tablet. 

Windows 10 on ARM offers an opportunity to deliver just that.

Samsung's Galaxy S9 Teasers Hint At Camera Capability

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This is one of three teaser ads released by Samsung last week, all of which hint at new camera capabilities in the Galaxy S9 camera. In this one you can clearly read that Samsung is promising a leap forward in low light photography.

The other two are just as interesting, but for different reasons. One hints at high speed capture and the other the ability to create your own emoji using the front facing camera. Your own face for example.

That seems like a clever response to Apple's awkward Animoji concept and one which will gain widespread use, especially if the quality and accuracy is high.

It's less than a week to the big unveil, at which point we'll find out if Samsung have managed to move the smartphone game on once more.

LG 'Judy' To Arrive Mid-year

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Looks like LG won't be taking on the challenge of delivering a new flagship at MWC this year. We already knew the company was, and then wasn't, moving away from annual releases. Now it appears that the next flagship won't arrive until June.
There are probably very good reasons for the short extension to the LG refresh cycle. The G6 looked more than a little underwhelming on the shelf as a result of its use of a year old Snapdragon 821 CPU. Performance-wise the older CPU made little difference to the G6's performance, but from a psychological point of view it lost out to newer phones with newer 835 processors.
So when its new flagship - code-named Judy, apparently - arrives, LG has to make sure its packing the latest silicon. 
Then there is the hype around the launch of the Galaxy S9. LG hasn't a hope in hell of derailing the new Samsung phone's launch machine, whatever Judy looks like or does. Better to let Samsung have its moment in the sun and for LG to keep…

F1: Williams Deny Its Pay Drivers Are Pay Drivers

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Williams team principal Claire Williams, used the launch of the team's 2018 car as a platform to deny that pay drivers Lance Stroll and Sergey Sirotkin are in the team as a result of their wallets rather than their talent. 

In Sirotkin's case that may be true, however based on his 2017 performance against an aging Felipe Massa, any argument about Lance Stroll's capabilities are pointless. 

Williams did decide to give Robert Kubica the team's reserve role and it will interesting to see if his performance in the early season tests and practice sessions is sufficient for the team to bump him up to a race seat at some point in the year. 

F1 has always had its pay drivers, but in recent years, with an ever shrinking grid, that has come at the exclusion of talented drivers without the budget to buy them a race seat. 

For a team like Williams, with one of the most impressive records of success in the sport's history, the lack of a lead driver with credibility or experience is…

Samsung's Galaxy S9 Leaks Reveal All

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Looks like Samsung are going to announcing a new flagship at MWC without any surprises left to unveil. 

A series of leaks have revealed an updated Galaxy S8, with the main improvements coming in the camera department and placement of the fingerprint sensor. 

The latter moves below the camera and will assuage criticism from those who say that's where it should have been in the first place. 

The camera looks to be the big deal on the S9 though. The main camera will feature a variable aperture, a smartphone first, whilst the bigger s9+ will also pack dual cameras as well. That rumoured f1.5 aperture promises to move photo quality on significantly.

That difference in camera units won't mark the only difference between the two versions, with the S9+ slated to pack more RAM and storage too. 

Which marks the is the first time that Samsung has offered a different experience on its flagship phones. 

The big question left to answer is around Samsung's ability to speed up Touchwiz to match…

Quick Off The Mark, Pad & Quill Has A HomePod Nappy In Leather For $20

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This is Pad & Quill's HomePod coaster, a super quick response to the news of marked furniture which broke earlier in the week.
It's $20 for a 4" leather disc, available in brown or black. It's a particularly elegant way of preventing your HomePod marking your wooden furniture.
I imagine this will only be the first of a whole legion of similar products though, so you may want to wait and see what others have to offer before pressing the button on this one.

Furniture Marks May Be The Price You Pay For Great Audio - And Not Just With The HomePod

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Ring-gate is the new first world problem, mainly affecting customers of Apple's HomePod. The silicon ring used to dampen vibration from the speaker and provide a stable platform for the device marks certain oil finished wooden furniture. It leaves a white ring.
This isn't just an issue with the HomePod - pictures of Sonos speakers leaving similar marks are already floating around the internet. It seems that the best method of isolating and stabilising the speaker is most likely to mark surfaces.
Apple's response is fairly standard fare, the marks will clean off and you should think about putting your speaker somewhere else. In other words, it isn't Apple's fault. 
In truth though, the defence that every other speaker of this ilk does the same thing is less than we should expect from Apple.
If Apple was aware of the issue before customers and the media started experiencing it then blithely shipping the HomePod wasn't a customer friendly move. At the very least …

Google's Chrome Adblocker Is All About Saving Online Ad Revenue

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From today users of Google Chrome will have an adblocker built into their browser in a move which Google clearly sees as critical to saving the future of online advertising. Given that most of Google's revenue comes from this source you can understand its concern.
The Chrome adblock tool only allows ads which comply with the Coalition for Better Ads or CBA. Given that Google is a board member of the Coalition you can be pretty sure it has ad revenue very firmly front of mind right now.
Google delivers more ads on the web than any one else. So the growth of adblockers has been detrimental to its business. By building in an adblocker which allows approved ads to be delivered, Google is clearly hoping that users will no longer feel the need to deploy third party blockers which are much more aggressive.
The CBA defines the ads which are unacceptable, with pop-ups, auto-playing video and ads which play before or after content being specific targets. On mobile there's also a maximu…

F1: Haas Shows 2018 Car, Halo Not The Carbuncle Expected

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Haas has revealed its challenger for the 2018 season.The Ferrari powered VF18 is the first of this season's racers to break cover.
The important thing here is the way the Halo device has been incorporated into the design of the car, with the colour scheme cleverly disguising the device. It may not work as well on other colour schemes - Ferrari in particular might struggle - but here, the black and white livery works very well.
Expect to see more cars feature black areas of colour around the cockpit to support better visuals as more cars are unveiled.

Losing Smartphone Leader Probably Not A Big Issue For HTC

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Chialin Chang has left HTC, effective immediately. The President of the smartphone division leaves to start his own AI business. With the bulk of HTC's smartphone division having transitioned to Google's control and the company's focus for smartphones irrevocably changed as a result, losing the incumbent leader seems like an opportunity rather than a challenge.
HTC is no longer a mainstream competitor in the market, despite producing some of the most desirable phones of the Android era, and particularly in the last five years. However, the company has failed to excite customers. Its size and lack of budget for things like marketing, plus poor decisions in the way it spent what budget it had, doomed those ambitions.
So new HTC - the remainder of the smartphone company left from the Google sale - needs to develop a new strategy. Focused in profit. Inevitably that means competing in the premium market with Samsung, Apple and, eventually, Google.
It's more than a company …

iOS Can Once More Be Crashed Via Text Message

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Stop me if you've heard this one before, but it is once again possible to crash an iOS device, although in this case things are further complicated by the bug preventing access to any messaging platform in iOS once triggered.

The bug was first uncovered by Italian blog Mobile World and confirmed by The Verge. It involves sending a text message with an Indian character to an iPhone user. This will either crash the application in question, if it is already open or, if iOS shows a notification, crash the whole device.

Given that this affects all messaging applications it would point very much to a weakness in the code Apple provides to developers for message handling. The good news is that this appears to be fixed in the current beta version of iOS 11.3. Still the question remains, why is Apple's Messaging API so vulnerable to injection attacks and why hasn't Apple been able to find and fix the root cause?

Messaging has been a weakness of iOS since 2015. It looks like 2018 w…

Samsung Quietly Pulls S8 Oreo Update

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Without a whisper of notification or hint of explanation, Samsung has pulled its Oreo update for Galaxy S8 phones. It's hardly unusual for manufacturers to have to stop deployment of an update when a serious bug is uncovered, still some information from the OEM would be nice.
HTC has done the same thing with the Oreo update for the HTC U10. Does this indicate a weakness amongst Android OEMs affecting testing of releases? Probably not. Rather just a different approach to shipping.
Apple, for example, will continue to offer an iOS update with no errors, with the expectation that it will issue a new release of the platform to resolve these issues. As long as the error is not significant, this is the right way to handle problems.
Android OEMs shipping firmware updates know that this is likely to be a one shot wonder for any particular handset. Once the upgrade is released there will be no future upgrade to fix any faults found so stopping, fixing and restarting make sense.
Frustratin…

Skype Users Should Abandon Its Desktop App For UWP

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Microsoft has been alerted to an issue with the Windows Skype desktop version which potentially allows priviliged access to the system via a weakness in the program's updater. 

Microsoft has said the weakness is too difficult to fix and it will deprecate the app in favour of a new client version instead. 

That's a pretty disappointing outcome which suggest two potential responses for end users. 

Firstly a switch to the UWP app for those using Windows 10 and secondly the deletion of the app for those who aren't. 

Microsoft should know better than this. It's a decision that will cost them users. 

If Tim Cook Wants To See The Death Of Cash, Apple Needs To Invest In Apple Pay As A Total Solution

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Cash. It's dirty, insecure and easy to lose; and Tim Cook doesn't like it. In fact Cook is reported to have told Apple's annual shareholder meeting he hopes to outlive coins and bills as they get replaced with electronic forms of payment.
If Cook wants to see that in action he need only pop on a plane over to Auckland. Cash is all but extinct thanks to New Zealand's EFTPOS payments system, which allows merchants to take tiny payments thanks to its minimal fees.
In the last year I have used cash twice - to provide tooth fairy money for my children. Anywhere else, EFTPOS and, usually, Paywave using my phone.
New Zealand's card based culture has been built on solid foundations. All merchants are able to take card payments thanks to mobile terminals, bank account transfers are made through mobile phone apps, provided by the big four banks, meaning most payments are seamless and quick.
The result is that I, and many other Aucklanders, never even see cash day to day.
If…

Uber Lost $4.5bn In 2017 Despite Rising Revenues

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Until Uber completes its IPO and goes public - expected sometime next year - its financial reports will remain incomplete and open to interpretation. One thing which can definitely be confirmed from the information it is releasing is that it is losing money at a phenomenal rate. It lost $4.5bn across the full year.
That's 60% heavier than 2016 and, with 'only $6bn' in cash in the bank something which will make the incoming IPO all the more challenging for CEO Dara Khosrowshahi. He will need to deliver on his plan to be profitable before going public.
In Q4 Uber earned $11bn in revenue, however after paying out its drivers and taxes it was only left with $1bn of that. With operating expenses topping $1.7bn it's loss for the quarter ended up at $1.1bn (GAAP adjusted). Those operating expenses have doubled since the start of 2016.
With hefty investment from SoftBank, there's no chance that Uber won't make it through to profitability. But if it doesn't start r…