BBM coming to iPhone and Android

May 14, 2013

The long awaited Black Berry Messaging service is coming to iOS and Android phones.

This move has been rumored for over a year yet it was a surprising news. BBM will come to iOS 6 devices and will work on Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich and higher. The app will be free and bring cross-platform messaging between BlackBerry, iOS and Android users.

BBM has 60 million active monthly users — certainly nothing to sneeze at — but in the years since it reigned supreme, the messaging space has drastically changed. Apple’s BBM copycat service iMessage boasts over 140 million users. Other services, including MessageMe, GroupMe and Facebook Messenger boast equally large and growing users bases.

And then there’s WhatsApp. More than 10 billion WhatsApp messages are sent each day and its user base is easily in the hundreds of millions. The service is widely successful in emerging markets — exactly the markets that BlackBerry cites as its core BBM user base. WhatsApp is also on a ton of platforms — including Windows Phone, Symbian and, yes, BlackBerry 10.

BlackBerry will argue that BBM is more than just chat — it has groups, the ability to send files and more — but, for users on other platforms, that might be just a semantic difference.

The proposition of bringing BBM to iOS and Android was something that made sense — and was potentially disruptive — back in 2009 or even 2010. In 2013, the onus will be on BlackBerry — and, really, BBM users — to convince other users to switch and use the app.

At a press session after the announcement, BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins said that he believed a core differentiator between BBM and WhatsApp is that BBM is free. Of course, there are other free services out there, including Facebook Messenger. Still, Heins has a point about free being a potentially big driver in adoption.

One area where BBM could improve its cross-platform experience is around the idea of the PIN. Remembering and finding user PIN numbers can be difficult. WhatsApp and iMessage are so successful in part because these services employ a user’s existing phone number. In the case of iMessage, the experience is actually seamless with SMS, working in the same application and the same way.

Regardless, the crowded messaging space just got a bit more crowded. Let us know what you think about BBM coming to iOS and Android in the comments.


Chinese Scammers Turn Fake iPhones Into Real Ones

April 15, 2013

Apple has gotten a lot of heat last month for its after-sales service practices in China.. Instead of being exploited by Apple, police have discovered that some Chinese criminals used Apple’s return policy to turn more than 100 fake iPhones into real ones.

In December, a Wenzhou Apple shop owner turned in what he claimed were 121 iPhone 4S BAND parts (the core of the phone, worth about $476 each) that were broken and asked they be replaced. Apple complied, but discovered in January that the parts were actually counterfeits. Apple reported this to the shop, which maintained its innocence and reported the case to the police.

After several months, police arrested one of the shop’s engineers and her boyfriend, who, in turn, gave up other employees in the scam, all of whom have since also been rounded up. In addition to raising questions about Apple’s after-sales service in China and whether it might be too lenient when it comes to returns. But it also raises the question of how many of the iPhones out there are real. Scammers can now make fake parts so real that it takes even Apple itself a month to notice the difference.


62% of Americans Hoarding Old Cellphones

December 5, 2012

If you have a collection of outdated cellphones hanging around the house, you’re not alone. About 62% of US households have at least one mobile phone that lays around not in use.

A report from mobile security platform Lookout reveals consumers are holding on to old cellphones largely because they don’t know what to do with them. Reasons for latching on include not knowing how to dispose (27%), being concerned about personal data getting out (13%), not having erased data (17%) and still wanting to access information and apps (6%). In some cases, households have four or more old mobile phones (10%) they aren’t using. Read more

Who’s the Biggest Tablet Moneymaker?

November 12, 2012

There are a lot of new tablets on the market, but which one represents the most profit for its manufacturer? Research firm IHS says Microsoft’s Surface costs about $267 in parts and labor, excluding its optional keyboard cover. Meanwhile, Apple’s third-gen Wi-Fi-only iPad with 32GB of memory and a 9.7-inch screen cost an estimated $333.


Microsoft and Apple are garnering the highest profit margins for their tablets, followed by Google and then Amazon , according to research firm IHS.

Microsoft Corp.’s first self-made tablet , the Surface, costs about $267 in parts and labor when excluding its optional keyboard cover. It went on sale Oct. 26 priced at $499, for a profit margin of around 46 percent. Surface comes with a 10.6-inch (26.9-centimeter) screen measured diagonally, and can access the Internet only through Wi-Fi. The price is for its base model with 32 gigabytes of memory.

With a similar configuration, the Surface bakes in slightly more profit for Microsoft than Apple Inc. did when it released its third-generation iPad in March.

Apple’s third-generation Wi-Fi-only iPad with 32GB of memory and a 9.7-inch (24.6-centimeter) screen cost an estimated $333 and retailed for $599, for a 44 percent profit margin. The 16GB base model cost $316 and was priced at $499, for a profit margin of 37 percent.

A preliminary analysis of the fourth-generation iPad, which comes with a faster processor and went on sale Friday, costs about $305 in parts and labor for the 32GB Wi-Fi-only model, for a 49 percent margin, estimates IHS analyst Andrew Rassweiler. The 16GB base model costs about $295 and sells for $499, he says.

IHS’ analysis excludes costs for marketing, sales or operating system-software, which Microsoft has been touting with its device. The research firm obtains the devices independently and breaks them apart to estimate the cost of the components.

The analysis suggests Microsoft is imputing a cost for its latest operating system, the slimmed-down Windows RT, which debuted last month. It also needs to price its flagship tablet high enough so that manufacturing partners like Dell and Lenovo can compete even after paying Microsoft for the operating system.

Apple is maintaining premium pricing as the market leader.

Among smaller-sized tablets, the iPad Mini that went on sale on Friday boasts a 7.9-inch (20.1-centimeter) screen measured diagonally and costs $198 for parts and labor. This 16GB model has a retail price tag of $329, for a profit margin of 40 percent.

The 7-inch (17.8-centimeter) offering from Google Inc., the Nexus 7, costs $159 for its 8GB model and sells for $199, according to IHS. That’s a profit margin of 20 percent. Google makes a little more on its 16GB model, which costs about $167 to make but sells for $249, for a 33 percent margin. Inc. spends about $174 to make its 7-inch (17.8-inch) Kindle Fire HD with 16GB of memory and sells it for $199, for a profit margin of 13 percent. That’s better than the original Kindle Fire, a money-loser that, on launch, cost Amazon about $202 for every $199 it collected on a sale.

Google is aiming to both make a profit and broaden the reach of its Android operating system, while Amazon is looking to make up the profit gap when customers buy movies, books and magazines from its store.

“Amazon and Google want to put tablets in consumers’ hands — even if it means doing so at a minimal hardware profit,” Rassweiler said in a statement.

Smartphone Activations Hit Record on Christmas

December 30, 2011

Secularly speaking, Christmas is about three things: Engorging oneself at massive holiday dinners, sitting awkwardly with family members you only see annually, and the presents. Oh, yes, the wonderful, wonderful presents.

Topping this year’s smorgasbord of gifts, it seems, was the smartphone. More devices flooded into eager customers’ hands than in any previous holiday season.

Smartphone activations hit record highs this Christmas, with combined Android and iOS activations topping the 6.8 million mark on Dec. 25 alone, according to mobile research firm Flurry Analytics. That’s an uptick of more than four times the average number of activations during the three weeks that preceded the holiday, and a 140 percent increase from last year’s Christmas Day activations.

And with such rapid hardware adoption, of course, comes a voracious appetite for apps. Google surpassed the 10 billion Android Market download mark earlier this month. An impressive milestone, though Apple did hit 15 billion downloads nearly six months ago.

App download rates will only skyrocket, if Christmas day numbers are any indicator. Flurry estimates more than 175 million Android and iOS apps were downloaded during the period from 11 am to 11 pm on Christmas day, with more than a quarter of a billion apps downloaded over the entire 24-hour period. That’s nearly twice the amount of apps downloaded on a single day than ever before.

Photo courtesy of Flurry 

It’s been a gadget-friendly holiday season overall, according to a number of recently released stats. One of every four smartphones sold in the U.K. this Christmas was an iPhone 4S, as the Financial Times previously reported. And earlier this week, Amazon claimed its Kindle tablets and e-readers were flying off of the virtual shelves, with online orders of Kindle devices reaching more than 1 million a week throughout the month of December. This includes the Fire, the Touch and the regular Kindle; Amazon didn’t break down percentages.

While these figures are unprecedented, they come as little surprise considering the rise in smart device adoption over the past two years. In the U.S. alone, over 60 percent of those ages 18 to 24 now own a smartphone, according to data from research firm Nielsen. For 25- to 34-year-olds, smartphone ownership is over 50 percent.

Smartphone adoption will inevitably increase, as prices drop, and manufacturers work harder to penetrate the market. Microsoft, for example, will dive headfirst into the new year, with a huge push behind its Windows Phone platform. That means stronger partnerships with hardware manufacturers (like Nokia, for one), developer recruitment, and a re-dedication to bolstering the Windows Phone app ecosystem.

What’s more, Google’s latest iteration of Android (Ice Cream Sandwich), one of the company’s most anticipated software releases, was made available to the masses just before Christmas. And, of course, Apple’s iPhone 4S sales aren’t showing signs of stopping.

So if you didn’t find a smartphone under the tree this Christmas, fret not: There’s always next year.

Feds Withdraw Lawsuit Against AT&T Over T-Mobile

December 12, 2011

The U.S. Justice Department has asked a federal judge to postpone or withdraw its petition to stop AT&T from acquiring T-Mobile. It cited a shifting regulatory landscape that makes the AT&T/T-Mobile lawsuit unnecessary.

The request, as reported by Bloomberg on Friday, appears to be part of the strategic tit-for-tat between AT&T and the regulators who are determined to stop the merger.

The new move by the Justice Department, which filed its antitrust suit in August, comes on the heels of the phone giant’s decision to yank its approval application from the FCC. AT&T had decided to withdraw the approval application before the broadcast regulator, which had publicly voiced disapproval, could formally say no.

An attorney for the Justice Department argued that the case should be halted because it’s a waste of taxpayer resources to continue litigating a case that is effectively moot. The government’s position is based on the fact that AT&T can’t go forward without FCC approval and, now that the approval application is withdrawn, it is unlikely that the deal can close by a contractual deadline in September. AT&T replied that it wants its day in court so that it can obtain a legal green-light that it can take back to the FCC.

The parties will appear in court on December 15 to make further arguments about whether the government can postpone or withdraw the suit.

If the Justice Department succeeds in withdrawing the suit, it will have effectively outflanked the phone companies by forcing the clock on the deal to run out.

If the deal fails, AT&T will be obliged to pay T-Mobile a $4 billion break-up fee. The company’s CEO recently said the fee wouldn’t hurt that much because most of it could used as a tax deduction.

The 7 Most Influential Phones of the Decade

October 3, 2011

1. T-Mobile Sidekick

First launched in 2002, the Danger Hiptop was the first mobile phone that had mass appeal to the youth market. This was due in part to its functionality — a fun, user-friendly interface and easy messaging thanks to the phone’s QWERTY keyboard and big screen — but also due to some celebrity endorsements. Jay-Z lent the phone instant street cred when he featured the handset in the video for “Excuse Me Miss.” A star-studded ad campaign for the T-Mobile version — the Sidekick — helped up the cool factor, as did various celebs photographed with the phone. What the Hiptop showed the mobile phone market was how the valuable youth market could be successfully targeted.

2. Motorola V3 RAZR

As the first designer phone available to the mass market, the RAZR featured in innumerable films and TV shows and became a “must-have” accessory — arguably one of the first in the world of consumer electronics. It is now considered a design classic. So much so that the updated “Here and Now” version of Monopoly has a RAZR V3 as one of its pieces.

3. Nokia N95

Released when Nokia was enjoying better fortunes, the Symbian Nokia N95 was a super-smartphone for the consumer masses. The N95 showed the general public it could demand more from handsets than just phone functionality. Although the first chrome version had some limitations, Nokia soon followed up with the black N95 8GB which enjoyed, among a few other tweaks, increased memory, a larger display and better battery life. With a decent 5-megapixel camera with video recording, GPS with navigation, a web browser, email, a basic office suite, good multimedia abilities and N-Gage gaming, the N95 demonstrated that the converged handset was not a pipe dream. Nokia marketed the phone with the slogan “It’s what computers have become,” which seems an accurate way to describe the feeling towards this can-do handset when it was first available back in 2007.

4. Blackberry Curve

The entry-level BlackBerry Curve saw RIM do what some considered the impossible — crossover from an enterprise marketplace to a consumer one. By adding a consumer essential — a camera — and adjusting the OS to a more user-friendly version, yet keeping the classic QWERTY BlackBerry looks and email functionality, RIM opened the appeal of its range to a wider audience. While it remains to be seen whether RIM will still be in the consumer electronics marketplace in 10 year’s time, it’s clear that the success of the Curve is what gave it the confidence to experiment in this arena.

5. Apple iPhone

In 2007 Apple changed the mobile phone market with the iPhone, and then in 2008 changed it even further with the launch of the App Store. However, the iPhone wasn’t the first Apple mobile. Two years earlier Apple had teamed up with Motorola to offer the ROKR, the first phone with support for iTunes. The ROKR wasn’t a great handset and the crippled iTunes element — limited to 100 songs — meant it never became a success. One could argue that ROKR spurred Apple on to create its very own phone with no hardware or software limitations (other than those it chose to implement.)

Back in 2007, the iPhone offered some revolutionary features. Although not the first touchscreen phone on the market — touchscreen PDAs had been around for years — Apple’s bold move to have only one physical button was almost shocking at the time. Other innovations included the icon-based interface, Visual Voicemail and easy multimedia options thanks to the iPod and YouTube apps. The full-featured Safari browser (when compared to mobile-optimized browsers of the time) was also highly impressive for a handset. The introduction of the App Store in 2008 sealed the deal for Apple as consumers bought into the affordable, bite-size software applications, which had existed before as “widgets” on other platforms, but saw mass market appeal under Apple’s know-how. Amid major hype, the original iPhone was an instant success and iOS remains one of the major platforms in the mobile phone market today.

6. T-Mobile G1/HTC Dream

The very first Android handset was a big deal. The Open Handset Alliance’s fresh OS gave consumers a strong alternative to the iPhone when other mobile platforms were faltering. Shunning the touch-only route with a full QWERTY keyboard, the much-rumored “gPhone” was Googled to the hilt with Gmail, Calendar, Maps, Talk and YouTube preloaded. While the G1 wasn’t an astounding phone, it did two important things. It gave HTC a head-start in the Android market and it revealed Google’s mobile ambitions. These ambitions were later to be realized when Google followed up the Android-based Nexus One and sold direct to consumers via the web.

7. Motorola Droid

Finally, we’re highlighting the Droid as our last influential handset. The Droid was the first big commercial success for the Android platform in the States. Its launch was high profile — at the time, Verizon marketed it as a direct iPhone competitor. While versions in other countries — where it was launched as the “Milestone” — did not do so well, the Droid put the open OS firmly on the map in terms of the American consumer. While it could be considered that earlier Android handsets appealed to the more geeky consumer, the glossy, well-specced Droid saw Android come of age. Although you may not automatically think of the Moto-made handset in the context of today’s mobile phone market, we’re fairly certain the recent figures suggesting Android handsets are outselling iPhone two to one wouldn’t be the case if it weren’t for this 2009 handset — and its great marketing campaign.

U.S. Files Complaint to Block AT&T, T-Mobile Merger

August 31, 2011

The U.S. government sued to block AT&T Inc. (T)’s proposed $39 billion acquisition of T-Mobile USA Inc., saying the deal would “substantially lessen competition” in the wireless market. AT&T shares fell as much as 5 percent.

Breaking News – Google buys Motorola

August 15, 2011

Google announced Monday morning that it will acquire Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion.

Motorola is one of 39 manufacturers of handsets that use Google’s Android operating system.

Buying a hardware company is an unusual move for Google. The acquisition, as Google sees it, “will enable Google to supercharge the Android ecosystem.”

Google CEO Larry Page expanded on what that might mean in a blog post. In addition to citing Motorola’s home devices and video solutions business, Page references recent patent wars that Google believes to be anti-competitive.

“The U.S. Department of Justice had to intervene in the results of one recent patent auction to ‘protect competition and innovation in the open source software community’ and it is currently looking into the results of the Nortel auction,” Page writes. “Our acquisition of Motorola will increase competition by strengthening Google’s patent portfolio, which will enable us to better protect Android from anti-competitive threats from Microsoft, Apple and other companies.”

Android top OS, Apple top Smartphone

July 28, 2011

Android reigns as the top smartphone OS in the US with a 39 percent of the market share. In second place is Apple’s iOS with a 28 percent, followed by RIM and others. Trailing the three top platforms, Microsoft’s Windows Mobile and Windows Phone 7 with 9 percent of the market, leaving HP with 2%, and Nokia  also with 2%.

Looking at the mobile industry by manufacturer, Apple is the only one making one smartphone with one OS, and still leading share among US consumers at 28%.  Other top device makers include HTC with 14% of Android OS’s and 6% of WP7 OS’s. Motorola holds 11% of the Android market, while Samsung 8%.

These latest results show a big jump for Android, a small gain for Apple, and a slump  for RIM, compared with March numbers when the three top mobile players had more even market share at around 28-29% each.  Android continues to gain ground while Apple prepares to launch its next generation iPhone.  RIM is stuck in neutral gear. Hit by weak sales  RIM is laying off 2,000 employees. RIM has been criticized for its heavy handed management structure, which analysts believe stalled their innovation efforts.

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