It fell in the toilet. The clumsy waitress knocked a glass of water onto it. You forgot it was in your pocket when you jumped into the pool. That’s just a few of the hundreds of ways your phone could come into life-threatening contact with liquid. When it happens to you (and it will), as soon as you’re done freaking out, you’ll probably begin frantically tapping all the buttons, blowing on it, or blasting it with a hair dryer to quickly get rid of all that water.
While those are all well-meaning actions, guess what? Totally the wrong approach. Here’s what you should do.
First, retrieve it as quickly as possible. If your phone is still in the bottom of the jacuzzi or the toilet, get it out ASAP. The longer it’s in the liquid, the greater the likelihood damage will be.
Once the device is no longer submerged, if you can, take that battery out. Don’t even bother powering it off, don’t press any other buttons, just open up the phone and pull the battery out. If you can’t do that though — if you own an iPhone or another device that’s impossible to quickly pry apart — you’ll have to settle for just carefully powering the device off. You want to cut off power in the device as quickly as possible to prevent the possibility of a short circuit.
Now — Do not blow-dry it or stick it in the oven. The heat can damage the delicate electronics inside. What you should do is give it a quick wipe with a clean towel, making sure no water accidentally ends up draining into its ports or other openings. If there are traces of water trapped inside cracks or indentations in the case, try carefully and conservatively using compressed air to blow it out. Just be careful not to blow the water further inside the phone.
Next we have a few different options. Many folks swear by stuffing your phone in a bag of dry rice, and letting it sit for 24 to 36 hours or more. This is cheap, easy, and can be done in a pinch. But this method could have some negatives: If the rice absorbs the water well, you may be left with a mushy rice mess stuck in its creases and I/O ports. Those with skin in the game (as you’ll see below) also say that the starch from the surface of the rice can get inside your phone and muck it up, but I haven’t been able to find solid empirical evidence of this. To be safe, wrap the phone loosely in a paper towel before dropping it into the rice.
The smartest option is to keep synthetic desiccants on-hand. They are far less messy, and they work more quickly and efficiently than rice.
The $20 Bheestie Bag is one option you can order and keep on the shelf at home. You can drop your phone in the airtight plastic pouch periodically (like after your jeans get soaked in a rainstorm) to make sure no lingering moisture starts doing damage inside your handset, or just use it if your phone encounters a full-on liqui-mergency.
Dry-All is another product you can buy and keep with you just in case. Same deal as the Bheestie Bag: you just seal up your phone inside the pouch, which is filled with desiccant, and then wait the specified amount of time (24 to 48 hours) to let your phone dry out. You can grab a pouch for as cheap as $6 on Amazon.
Drybox is another option. You can use its website to find retailers in your city that have a Drybox you can use on-site. After you’ve powered down your phone post-plunge, you just head to one of these Drybox locations and within minutes, your gadget should be bone dry and restored. While San Francisco had many to choose from, other cities like Houston, TX, and Santa Barbara, CA did not have any Dryboxes nearby, so do your research.
Of course, the smartest thing you can do is begin hoarding the desiccant packets you’re already getting for free. Start now: Every time you see a loose desiccant packet in a box with a new pair of shoes, a hard drive, a shipment of spices, or whatever, pull it out and save it. Dump them all into a plastic or glass container you’re certain has an air-tight seal. After you’ve collected a bunch of them, you have an emergency phone-rescue pod ready to go. Just drop the dunked phone into the container, seal it up, and you’ll get the same results as any of those other commercial options.
The trick to all of these methods is that for the desiccant to do its magic, it needs to be in a sealed container so that it can absorb water only from your phone, and not from the outside air. Also, you need to have enough of the desiccant present to absorb all the water.
Following these tips, there’s a good chance your phone could survive its untimely spill. But if it takes an especially big plunge, you could be SOL. In which case, it’s time to buy a new handset
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Even though the iPhone 5s was released a few months ago, we have already seen many rumors for Apple’s next generation iPhone 6. Apple leaker C-Tech, who is either a hit or a miss, posted the photos below of what appears to be the iPhone 6 metal housing.
The photos show the device being very thin, (as rumors have pointed to, perhaps 6mm) making the iPhone Air name rather appropriate. You can also see the larger back frame, lining up to other rumors that the iPhone will feature a larger display around 4.7 to 5 inches.
Obviously the authenticity of these photos cannot be verified, but do you think the images are legit?
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With the speed of innovation in the tech industry, we can’t know every piece of technology that will fill our everyday lives in five years, but we can predict what won’t last. As smartphones begin to render low-end cameras obsolete and Netflix continues to upend the DVD and Blu-ray market, it’s clear the technology landscape will look dramatically different in the near future.
Here are five tech products we predict will go the way of the dodo in the next half-decade.
Netflix, Netflix, Netflix. Amazingly, the entire demise of Blu-rays and DVDs (and Blockbuster) are due to one company. There were other players in the cultural shift to streaming movies, but Netflix is the iTunes of movies on demand. Funny enough, iTunes offers movie rentals as well.
Blu-ray players were the cream of the crop when it came to watching movies for a few years, but 2013 is expected to be the last year of growth for the market. As the ease of use, accessibility and quality of Netflix continues to increase as it rolls out 4K streaming over the next few years (not to mention other competitors that may generate interest from users), look for Blu-ray players to quickly become a nice collectible right next to your VCR.
Stand-alone in-car GPS units
In a little over six years, over 1.3 billion iPhone and Android smartphones have been sold around the world, and all of those devices have access to mapping software. Combine that with the propagation of in-car GPS systems, and it spells a swift demise for the stand-alone GPS units for vehicle dashboards, which saw widespread success in the early and mid-2000s. Since smartphones started offering GPS capabilities in 2008, sales of stand-alone GPS units for vehicles have seen a 15-20 percent decline per year.
Costing between $75 and $350, standalone GPS units built for vehicles from companies like Garmin and TomTom are already losing their viability (although these companies are still finding success with GPS units for boating and other outdoor activities), and will likely be completely removed from the market in five years. As battery technology allows for more usage time in smartphones and more people move into newer cars with built-in GPS systems, opting for a standalone GPS unit will cease be an option in the near future.
Yes, dial-up Internet is still around, and people still use it. In fact, 3 percent of Americans still use dial-up Internet. That’s 9 million people, equal to the population of New Jersey. Only 65 percent of Americans currently have broadband connections. Thanks to the necessity of the Internet and new alternatives for connecting to the Internet at faster speeds, this won’t be the case for long.
Internet companies are expanding at a rapid pace, as people in underserved areas demand access to broadband speeds. Expansions will continue over the next five years, thanks in part to the FCC’s Connect America Fund, which aims to bring broadband to 7 million Americans who cannot currently receive it. Combined with expansions from cable companies and new viable alternatives like satellite Internet (which now reaches speeds of 15Mbps), dial-up Internet will finally be extinct in five years.
Low-end digital cameras
We have Apple to thank for this one. The 2010 release of the iPhone 4 and its game-changing camera forced the mobile industry to step up camera quality to the point that it has rendered sub-$200 point-and-shoot cameras all but obsolete. There are still a few straggling consumers out there who prefer the optical zoom or battery life of a low-end digital camera over the one in their smartphone, but at the rate of progression of mobile camera technology, those user complaints will soon be addressed.
In five years, camera companies like Nikon, Canon and Sony will have done away with their low-end camera lines and shifted their focus to the mid- and high-end market, as the low-end market will have been completely subsumed by smartphones.
One of the quickest and least discussed changes to happen over the last few years is the reduction of physical car keys and the introduction of smart keys in a number of new vehicles by manufacturers. Surprisingly, the move away from physical car keys happened without much of a fuss from consumers. With benefits like keyless entry, push to start, driver profiles and remote start, buyers of newer vehicles have enjoyed the benefits of the new smart system (though many still end up to getting locked out of their cars if they leave the car while the engine is warming up).
But as quickly as smart keys have come on the scene, smartphones may soon replace them. With apps like OnStar RemoteLink offered by Chevrolet, which allows you to unlock and start a your car with an app, the future of car keys may lie in an app store. Whether we stick with smart keys or move on to something more innovative in five years, you can be sure that the physical car key we have used for the last 70 or so years will be a thing of the past for new cars.
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You accidentally left your micro USB charger back at the hotel… 500 miles away. Now it’s time to buy a new one. You pick up a cheapie from your nearest electronics retailer and hey, what gives? What used to take 3 hours to charge now takes 12.
Turns out not all chargers are created equal, even if they look similar. Here are some quick buying guidelines that’ll save you time and ensure you’re using a charger that’s optimized for your device’s power requirements.
First, some background. Charging power is based on three things: power (P, measured in Watts), current (I, measured in amps or milliamps), and voltage (V, measured in volts). The amount of power is determined by the equation P = IV. In other words, power is the product of current multiplied by voltage. Because larger devices like tablets have substantially bigger batteries than smartphones, chargers designed for the former tend to deliver energy at a higher rate (a higher current).
For example, consider these charging scenarios for the Retina iPad mini. You could use a Lightning connector plugged into a computer (via USB), an iPhone charger connected to a wall socket, or an iPad charger connected to a wall socket. A PC USB charger delivers 2.5 Watts of power (5 volts at 500 mA). An iPhone charger delivers 5 Watts (5 volts at 1000 mA). A Retina iPad mini charger delivers 10 watts (5.1 volts at 2100 mA).
While all of these will charge your iPad, using the USB connected to a PC will charge your Retina mini four times slower than if you used the iPad charger it came with. Conversely, if you use a tablet charger for your smartphone, it’d charge up faster than normal (Note: Some devices like the iPhone will only draw up to 1A of current no matter the charger). If you play mix-and-match with these types of chargers like this, don’t worry — you’re not going to blow up your phone or anything crazy like that. And the myth that charging your device at a faster rate will reduce the life of your device’s battery is false. For some older devices, the higher specced charger just won’t work at all, while newer devices will just charge faster.
Ultimately, it’s really the amperage that determines how fast a charger will supply power to your device. If you want quicker charging, look for a wall or car charger that delivers 2100 mA of current at 5 volts (or whatever voltage the device you’re trying to charge is specced at).
If you’re grabbing a new charger off the shelf, there are a couple other things you should consider. One of them is the logo that identifies compliance with international standards. These can be faked. The CE mark is a popular one, and as someone in this forum thread unfortunately discovered, his substandard charger sported a fake CE mark. The C and E in the actual logo should each be approximately a half circle, and if you continued the circle of each letter fully, the two circles would just link together in the middle.
If a charger has incorrect capitalization for the current and power output it’s supposed to deliver (think “MA” instead of “mA,” for milliamps), that could be a sign that the charger isn’t up to snuff too. Having no manufacturer label on the device could also be a red flag.
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Analytics startup Parse.ly has released its third bi-monthly “Authority Report” on Wednesday, and the big finding is that the majority of traffic for some top online publishers still comes via laptop and desktop computers.
The company analyzed the screen sizes of devices that its customers’ readers use to access their content, and found that about 60 percent of all traffic came from devices with screen ratios of 16:9 or 16:10, indicating it came mostly from laptops or desktops. Overall, traffic from mobile devices accounts for between 10 and 20 percent of traffic, peaking at nearly 20 percent in the evenings and with most of it — at least 13.8 percent — coming from Apple iPads or iPhones.
The 2,000 screen sizes driving 99.5 percent of traffic. Source: Parse.ly
This is the third time Parse.ly has released a report on traffic trends. A highlight of its first report was Feedly’s dominance as the reader app of choice in lieu of Google Reader, while its second highlighted the high percentage of traffic coming from so-called dark search. There’s an interactive version of the screen-size chart (and a couple others) available online
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Strap yourself in, it’s going to be a wild ride. In considering the changes we’ve seen in technology over the past year, I’m bracing myself for unprecedented growth when it comes to anytime, anywhere, on-demand information and entertainment.
Based on the trends we’ve seen so far in 2013, I predict 2014 will see many fledgling technologies mature and grow beyond what we could have imagined just a few years ago.
So without further ado, here are my top 7 predictions for technology trends that will dominate 2014.
1. Consumers will come to expect Smart TV capabilities
With Smart TV shipments expected to reach 123 million in 2014 – up from about 84 million in 2012 – we are poised to see explosive growth in this industry.
In the midst of this growth, we will continue to see fierce competition between major players like Samsung, Panasonic, and LG. Prices will need to continue to drop, as more consumers crave, and even expect, the ability to use Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Instant Video and their web browser via their TV.
Of course, the development we’re all waiting for in 2014 is the release of Apple’s much anticipated iTV. It appears the iTV is now in the early development stage, and that Apple may be in the process of making a deal with Time Warner to facilitate programming on Apple devices.
2. Smart watches will become ‘smarter’ Rather than having to pull out your smartphone or tablet for frequent email, text and social media updates, you’ll glance at your watch.
2014 is the year to keep an eye out for the Google watch. Rumor has it the device will integrate with Google Now, which aims to seamlessly provide relevant information when and where you want it (and before you’d asked for it).
We’ll see smart watches become even smarter, learning what news and updates are important to us, when we want to receive them, and responding more accurately to voice controls.
For smart watches to succeed, they’ll need to offer us something that our smart phone can’t; whether this means more intuitive notifications, or the ability to learn from our daily activities and behaviours (for instance, heart rate monitoring), it will be interesting to see.
3. Google Glass will still be in “wait and see” mode
While Google Glass hasn’t yet been released to the general public, we’ve heard enough about it to know it’s still very early days for this technology. With an estimated 60,000 units expected to sell in 2013, and a predicted several million in 2014, it’s still a long way from becoming a common household technology.
These augmented reality glasses allow you to access information like email and texts, take hands-free pictures and videos, effortlessly translate your voice, and even receive overlaid walking, cycling or driving directions, right within your field of vision.
It’s predicted that both Google Glass 2.0, and its companion, the Glass App Store, should be released to the general public sometime in 2014.
Be on the lookout for competition in this market, particularly from major players like Samsung. I predict we’ll see much of this competition aimed at niche markets like sports and healthcare.
4. Other applications and uses for Apple’s TouchID will emerge
The release of the iPhone 5S has, for the first time, made on-the-go fingerprint security a reality. The potential for Touch ID technology to really take off is, I believe, an inevitable reality. Touch ID, which uses a high-resolution camera to scan your fingerprint, allows convenient ultra-security for your iPhone.
Currently, the technology is limited; the only real uses are unlocking your iPhone, and making purchases in the App store. I predict that we’ll see this technology incorporated into other Apple products soon. I think we’ll even see TouchId integrated into MacBook products later this year or next.
I also predict TouchID, though not quite bug-free, will be used for other purposes, such as to securely integrate with home security systems, access password software, and even pay for groceries (more on that in an upcoming article).
5. Xbox One and PS4 will blur the lines between entertainment and video gaming
The new gaming consoles (Xbox One and PS4) will increasingly integrate social media-like connectivity between players. Players could have followers, work together to achieve in-game goals, and new technology will allow for equally-skilled players to compete.
The PS4, slated to be released November 15th, will track both the controller and the player’s face and movements for more intuitive play.
Apart from great gaming, these systems will allow for a far more integrative entertainment experience. For instance, rather than switching between TV, gaming, music and sports, you’ll be able to do two or even three activities side-by-side, or by easily switching back and forth.
6. 3D Printing will begin to revolutionize production
We’ve seen a huge rise in the popularity of 3D printing this year, coupled with a dramatic fall in pricing. The ability to easily create multi-layered products that are actually usable – well, that’s pretty amazing.
I’ll be watching for a movement towards simple products being produced close to home, and to greater customization given the ease of manufacturing. I think it’s inevitable that manufacturing in countries such as China will become less appealing and lucrative for businesses given the high costs of shipping and managing overseas contracts.
I don’t expect these changes to reach their full effect in 2014, however I believe businesses will be starting to consider how this will affect their production plans for 2015 and beyond. 7. The movement towards natural language search will make search more accurate and intuitive
There was a time when we used terms like “personal digital assistant” to describe a hand-held calendar. Oh, how times have changed.
With the emergence of intelligent personal assistants like Google Now and Apple’s Siri, the goal is to have information intuitively delivered to you, often before you even ask for it. The shift seems to be away from having to actively request data, and instead to have it passively delivered to your device.
Natural language search will continue to overtake keyword-based search, as seen by Google’s move towards longer, more natural searches in its recent release of Hummingbird, Google’s largest algorithm update thus far.
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1. So who actually is the best company today?
2. Who is going to win going forward?
Let’s do a quick comparison on product innovation, CEOs and leadership, brand and design, ecosystem, giving customers what they want, and profits and growth. Have included my view at the bottom.
Historically this was a no-brainer as Apple leapfrogged everybody with its new product breakthroughs: iPod, iPhone and iPad. However, since Tim Cook took over as CEO in 2011, the charge is that Apple has become more of an iterator rather than an innovator.
For years, the Apple rumor mill has forecast (wrongly) the imminent arrival of the iWatch and the iTV, while Samsung has brought these products to market, with the Galaxy Gear and Smart TV. Google too is pushing ahead with new product categories, like the Google Glass smart-glasses.
Jong-Kyun Shin, the Samsung President/CEO who runs its mobile division, said: “Innovation is what will get consumers to buy new devices… The Galaxy S4 has features unique to Samsung like Air Gesture that detect hand gestures. In the process of developing and making the Galaxy S4, we have filed around 120 patents related to user interface and software. We’ve also hired a number of software engineers from India, Russia, China and Europe to develop unique features internally.”
Is this innovation strategy working? Reviews of the hand and eye gestures in the Galaxy S4 suggest that they are not “fully-baked”, actually slow the phone down and are more like gimmicks. Critics’ reviews of the Galaxy Gear smart-watch have also not been great, and it has only sold 800,000 units since its launch two months ago. However, Interbrand’s Moon Ji-hun argues that its more about positioning: “Probably Samsung knows better than anyone that Gear will not become a mainstream product. Still, they are trying to convey the message that ‘we are first with such technology,’ which they hope will help build their brand as an advanced technology firm.”
By contrast, the fingerprint sensor unique to the new iPhone 5s has been well-received and is thought to have been well-executed. In what Apple claims to be “the most forward-thinking iPhone ever”, the iPhone 5s is also the first smartphone to market with a 64-bit processor, the A7, which ironically is manufactured by Samsung.
“Product design, marketing and complex supply-chain management are the trifecta of success in consumer electronics. Excelling at all of them simultaneously is a rare feat, much like throwing a no-hitter in baseball. Akio Morita did it at Sony with the Walkman and Sony Trinitron. Steve Jobs did it with the iPhone and iPad. With the Samsung Galaxy, Oh-Hyun Kwon joins those business giants. Kwon’s first principles of leadership are remarkably simple and clear. Galaxy phones have a signature design feature: big, beautiful, highest-definition screens; an integrated supply chain allows for a family of products at more price points than competitors’; and their brand advertising is bold, tasteful and executed with a cheeky self-confidence equaled only by Apple’s.”
Apple’s recent ‘This Is Our Signature’ ad is very much a restatement of the core Jobs philosophy: its strapline states, “We simplify, we perfect, until everything we touch enhances life.”
So it seems we have a battle between perfection and getting it out new products fast and refining them later. If it continues on current product feature trajectories, then I would favor Samsung.
But what Apple fans and stock analysts alike are crying out for are bold, new product categories which could rest the game back in Apple’s favor.
CEO & Leadership
Samsung Gets The Medal: 3 CEOs vs Tim Cook
You may be surprised to learn that Samsung has not just one but three CEOs. In post since June 2012, Dr. Oh-Hyun Kwon is Vice Chairman & CEO. Then in March 2013, Samsung also promoted two of its presidents to CEO: most significantly for this discussion, Jong-Kyun Shin, who heads up Samsung’s mobile division, and also Boo-Keun Yoon, head of the appliances division. They do still both report to Oh-Hyun Kwon though, so he maybe the more dominant player. As is common in the culture of Korean companies, Samsung hasn’t provided anything more than minimal bios for these executives, so we don’t know a huge amount about them beyond a handful of interviews that they have given over the years.
We do know that before he become CEO, Kwon oversaw Samsung’s components business, which makes displays, chips, memory, processors, etc. Kwon helped lock down one of his division’s biggest customers, Apple. Apple uses a lot of Samsung components in its mobile devices. Under Kwon, Samsung became the second largest chip maker in the world.
Mobile chief Jong-Kyun Shin has been the most outspoken, telling analysts last month that Samsung’s tablet business is growing rapidly and the company aims to topple Apple as the biggest maker of tablet computers too. He is equally ambitious for the Samsung brand, saying, “Our product innovation and marketing strategy have made Samsung the world’s most preferred smartphone brand. Now we’ll move from the most preferred brand to become one of the world’s leading aspirational brands.”
At Business Insider’s IGNITION Conference, David Eun, executive vice president of Samsung’s Open Innovation Center, shed some light on how the company has been able to see such great success despite such heavy devotion by Apple fans and customers: “Samsung is a very entrepreneurial story. The company set large goals for itself and has been bold in its execution.” He adds, “Seven years ago there was no iPhone or Samsung Galaxy phone. It was all about Nokia and Motorola. It takes entrepreneurial ideas and execution. The leaders at Samsung are people who have risen and made their mark by being entrepreneurial.”
And it is still in the shadow of the visionary Jobs that Tim Cook is currently judged. Cook was a very competent logistics man and COO, but as Jobs himself expressed, “Tim is not a product person”. I see him as a ‘professional manager’ who risks managing processes rather than putting the next dent in the universe. He has done some good things, like improving internal collaboration and corporate governance, but he is not the great showman like Jobs and the jury is out on him.
It will be interesting to see the impact next year when Burberry CEO Angela Ahrendts joins Apple as SVP Retail & Online Stores – will they create more of a fashion and customer focused Apple? Maybe Angela will be Apple CEO in the future?
Overall, currently Samsung’s leadership has more momentum, as they are executing at speed, picking up customers, gaining market share and widening product range. Yet there are still big challenges.
Last week, amid investor concern and lower than hoped-for sales of the flagship Galaxy S4, Samsung called a “crisis awareness meeting”. Samsung has invited 600 management staff members to attend a four-day “global strategizing meeting” in mid December, where the main topic is ‘Crisis Awareness’. According to a report by ZDNet Korea, “As people are foretelling that downfall of Samsung is coming, they are trying their best to prevent such crisis from happening.”
While “crisis” at Samsung doesn’t sound great, it is good that the co-CEOs are facing reality and involving the wider management team. It contrasts favorably with Steve Jobs’ famous “reality distortion field”, which helped move mountains in product development, but often meant that he was abrasive and slow to acknowledge problems and challenges (e.g. iPhone 4 ‘Antennagate’).
Wonder whether Apple has a ‘reality distortion field’ on its top team’s leadership performance?
Apple wins the medal but Samsung closing the gap by massive spending
The Apple brand and logo are currently more recognized around the Western world, and in London and New York, you cannot walk down the street without seeing a sea of white headphones and people playing with their iPhones. The Brand Finance Global 500 2013 puts Apple and Samsung right at the very top of the best brands in the world, ahead of Coca-Cola and Google.
Samsung smartphones are broadly comparable, feature-for-feature, with competitors like HTC, Sony, LG and now Nokia, so why has it become so dominant? A big part of the answer lies in its sheer marketing muscle – Samsung spends a bigger chunk of its annual revenue on advertising and promotion than any other of the world’s top-20 companies by sales – 5.4%, according to Thomson Reuters data. Apple spends just 0.6%, and General Motors 3.5%.
Adverts mocking Apple fans, and heavy investment in product placement and in distribution channels have strengthened its Galaxy mobile brand. Samsung now sells one in every three smartphones and has more than double Apple’s market share. Is this enough to make Samsung loved?
Samsung’s Galaxy S4 launch in New York came under fire for being sexist, showing giggling women chatting about jewelry and nail polish while the men discussed the new phone. Oh Jung-Suk, associate professor at Seoul National University business school cautions: “Samsung’s marketing is too much focused on projecting an image they aspire to: being innovative and ahead of the pack. They are failing to efficiently bridge the gap between the aspiration and how consumers actually respond to the campaign. It’s got to be more aligned.”
Moon Ji-hun, head of brand consultant Interbrand’s Korean operation, adds: “When your brand doesn’t have a clear identity, as is the case with Samsung, to keep spending is probably the best strategy. But maintaining marketing spend at that level in the longer term wouldn’t bring much more benefit. No one can beat Samsung in terms of ad presence, and I doubt whether keeping investing at this level is effective.”
Samsung has told Reuters that it will “continue to leverage our brand power to maintain growth momentum, while focusing on optimizing the efficiency of our marketing activities.”
Apple may sit in top position now, but has lost its mojo over the last couple of years through lackluster product releases and perceived lack of innovation. Samsung is catching up and is already no. 2. The Samsung brand can be improved and it isn’t loved by some like Apple, but I am impressed with the leadership team for seizing the opportunity to leapfrog all its other competitors, through investment and execution with conviction.
Apple wins the medal, but do simplicity and beauty still trump a bigger screen?
Apple has long placed design at the heart of its product development policy. Steve Jobs famously used to obsess about details that nobody would ever see, such as the look of Apple’s factories and the internals of products… this trend was taken to its logical extreme with the launch of the translucent plastic iMac in 1998.
When the iPhone was launched in 2007, its all-touchscreen and single-button front was distinctive and simple. Apple has honed the design over the years with glass casing and then unibody aluminum, but fundamentally it remains unchanged. The iPad takes the same design cues and it gets ever lighter and thinner. Apple’s aluminum MacBooks and iMacs are widely considered to be the most beautiful, slick and minimal.
Sir Jony Ive, Senior Vice President of Design, keeps the Jobs design obsession alive at Apple. His biographer Leander Kahney recently called him the “soul” of Apple, adding, “Ive has a mad, total, one-hundred-and-ten-percent commitment to making the best products humanly possible.” Sir Jony once flew to Japan to watch a sword-maker forge a katana, in his quest to make the MacBook Air even thinner. His remit has now been expanded to software as well as hardware, leading to the flatter, cartoon-like and generally well-received iOS 7 iPhone software update rolled out in September.
However, now that nearly all smartphones have an all-touchscreen front, the differences between them are less striking. Samsung’s current flagship the Galaxy S4 in some aspects has a less polished look than the iPhone 5s, with a polycarbonate plastic backing. However, it has a singular design feature: big, beautiful, highest-definition screens, that dwarf the iPhone and its “Retina” display. The design is “good enough” for consumers who are more focused on features, price and a bigger screen canvas.
Overall it feels that Apple still has the design edge.
Ecosystem & User Experience
Apple wins the medal with its “walled garden”.
This is where Apple still excels. Tim Cook likes to claim that, “Apple has unique strengths in products, software and services”. I think it’s a bit simpler than that. Apple products still broadly have the reputation that they “just work”, and indeed they have made technology more accessible and made us more connected. Add to that the 1,000,000 apps available to download in the App Store and you have a very powerful platform that is seamless across multiple devices. People (willingly) get locked in to Apple’s “walled garden” and it is difficult to persuade them to make the move outside it.
Samsung on the other hand is highly reliant on Google’s Android mobile operating system for smartphones and tablets, and on Microsoft for Windows PCs. While the apps on the Google Play store have caught up in number with the Apple app store, they have historically been slower to come to market and less reliable due to the large fragmentation of Android devices. The Android tablet apps were thought to be just blown-up smartphone apps rather than iPad-style apps fully reimagined for a larger screen, although this is changing. Where Samsung adds onto its devices its own user interface, this is sometimes considered to be “bloatware” that gets in the way of the user experience and duplicates or slows down the core Android or Windows operating system. So here Apple’s obsession with control does pay a dividend for ordinary users wanting stable and intuitive devices.
Principal CEO Oh-Hyun Kwon has publicly acknowledged that this is a weakness and important area of development for Samsung: “A particular focus must be given to serving new customer experience and value by strengthening soft capabilities in software, user experience, design, and solutions.” He also believes that to secure an “an absolute lead” the company, “must have dominance over new technology and global markets”.
John Sculley adds, “As Samsung builds a campus in Silicon Valley, all eyes will be on Kwon to see if the CEO with a Ph.D. from Stanford can be as successful with software as he has been with hardware.”
Looking at buyers of new smartphones, the above chart shows that not many users switch from Apple to Samsung, at only 11%. This is critical to Apple’s long-term survival since Apple users are sticking with iOS and not defecting to Samsung. Apple is having about one-third of its users coming from Android. It is interesting to note that similar to all buyers first-time smartphone buyers favor Samsung by about a three to one margin, approximately 6% vs. 2%, over Apple.
Apple still ahead.
Giving Customers What They Want
Samsung wins the medal.
Customers within Apple’s walled garden broadly get what they want in terms of a seamless user experience across iPhones, iPads and Macs, but they have a much more restricted choice when it comes to variations of new devices. There is only one top-end iPhone (the 5s), and only a big or a small iPad (the iPad Air or the iPad Mini). Steve Jobs famously liked to make these kinds of decisions for customers rather than bother them with a confusing array of options.
By contrast, Samsung makes a much wider range of devices in all shapes and sizes, at a range of price points. They can even go bigger than the Galaxy S4, with a Galaxy Note smartphone known as a “phablet” that blurs the distinction between phone and tablet. Samsung also makes a range of hybrid PCs that fuse tablet and laptop, as well as TVs, kitchen appliances and the new Galaxy Gear smartwatch. The bigger screen in particular seems to be the biggest draw over Apple, although it is something that Apple is likely to correct with the launch of a bigger iPhone 6 in 2014.
Profits & Growth
Growth now with Samsung so wins the medal, but Xmas showdown ahead
The most recent Fortune 500 Global rankings of worldwide companies (based on revenue in their fiscal years ended on or before March 31st, 2013) shows that Samsung topped Apple with revenue totaling $178.6 billion, compared to $156.5 bn. However, with $41.7bn in profit, Apple was beaten only by ExxonMobil. This was more than double Samsung’s $20.6 billion annual profit.
This might be changing – this graph from Business Insider shows that, for the last two quarters, Samsung’s profits were actually higher than Apple’s. Having settled into a pattern of releasing new iPhones and iPads in September/October, Apple is now highly reliant on the holiday quarter in Q4 – although Tim Cook may have a point when he said, “I think it’s going to be an iPad Christmas.”
For now, Apple’s iPhone business is holding up well – it sold 150 million iPhones in its last fiscal year ending in September, as well as 71 million iPads. Indeed, Apple can still claim 70% of the profits in the smartphone sector. The gloss has come off slightly off Samsung’s sales machine – it fell far short of initial estimates that it would sell 100 million Galaxy S4 units, and it is instead now predicting of 100 million total Galaxy S and Note series phones, phablets and tablet devices up until the end of the year.
Apple’s share price has had a tough fall from its all-time highs of $700, although it has since recovered a lot of the ground as stands at year highs of over $560. This is partially fueled by rumors that it is finally about to do a deal to get carrier coverage for the iPhone with China Mobile, the world’s largest mobile carrier and potentially a big source of growth. But for me, this is again an example of a deal that should have happened years ago and which has been hampered by poor execution. Another question mark is the recent launch of the iPhone 5c, with the ‘c’ being variously said to stand for “color”, “cheap” and “China”. It had been hoped that a lower end model would help Apple to gain share in emerging markets, although is it only $80 cheaper that the iPhone 5s and Tim Cook has said that it is a mid-tier rather than low-tier model. This does however give Apple pricing flexibility for the future and, in a market subject to increasing commoditization, I quite admire Apple for standing firm on its high profit margins.
So overall today they seem to be neck and neck but I do see the growth of Samsung to be steadier and more sustained. We’re all fascinated by Apple, but so much of what we hear turns out just to be rumors. Right now it remains a profit generating machine, but long-term that will change if it fails to recapture the public imagination and innovate into new product categories. Samsung has weathered years of legal action, and having initially copied parts of the Apple playbook, it is now starting to innovate into new areas.
In the future I am torn: my head currently says the 3 mystery CEOs of Samsung will prevail, but my heart really wants Apple to come back and leapfrog them, with innovation that changes our lives again. Maybe in future both will remain big beasts, and we will have an Apple and Samsung duopoly
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These are some tips on how to improve the battery life of your iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch running iOS. Some of these tips apply to just iOS 7 but many can be applied to older versions of iOS as well.
Let us know how much your battery life improves in the comments!
Disable Background Application Refresh
iOS 7 brings the ability for apps to refresh their content when on Wi-Fi or cellular and even use location services. To preserve battery life, we recommend disabling Background App Refresh completely. Note that doing this will kill location services for your applications, so you won’t be able to use Navigation in the background – therefore you may want to fine-tune this setting based on your preferences. In addition, you may want to close applications you aren’t using via the Multitasking Switcher (Double press the Home button and swipe an app preview up and out of the list).
● Settings > General > Background App Refresh
Turn Off AirDrop when you’re not using it
You should turn off AirDrop when you do not need it. This prevents you from using Bluetooth and Wi-Fi when not in use when the device is in “discoverable” mode. Simply swipe up on control center to turn it off.
● Control Center
Turn Off Automatic Downloads and Updates
iOS 7 brings the ability to automatically update apps, however that works in the background and can take a toll on your battery life. Tap the settings icon, scroll down to iTunes & App Store and turn off all automatic downloads. If you still want automatic app updates, try enabling them while turning off cellular data.
● Settings > iTunes & App Store
Brightness is the most obvious battery-draining cause on the iPhone. Obviously, try to limit and reduce your brightness at all times. Going a step further, you can disable automatic brightness to improve battery life since the phone will no longer check the ambient light and determine the “best” brightness.
● Settings > Wallpapers & Brightness
Control your Push Notifications
Apple’s iOS is designed to in a way preserve battery life when using push notification. That is, the number of push notifications you receive have a minimal effect on battery life. However, when receiving notifications that cause your screen to light up and phone to vibrate, your battery life will be affected. We recommending setting some notifications to not show any alerts. You can set alerts to ‘None’ on a per app basis.
● Settings > Notification Center
Disable Email Push
Push emails immediately send an email or ‘push’ from a server to your phone, rather than requiring you to manually refresh the mail app. You can set the mail application to fetch instead of push, or even better, set to manual for best battery life. You can fine tune this setting for each email account, but for best battery life performance, set all accounts to “Fetch Manually.”
● Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars > Fetch New Data > Push
iOS 7 brings a new “Frequent Locations” feature. While this new addition can be great for your “Today” tab in Notification Center by giving you an estimated time of arrival to your most visited locations , it can affect battery life. To turn this off, visit
● Settings > Privacy > Location Services > System Services, then toggle the Frequent Locations to the off position.
iOS has many system location services that check your location to improve compass calibration, cell network search, and more. We recommend turning off most of these system services to improve battery. However, if you use the compass often, or travel often, some settings should be left on such as “Compass Calibration” or “Setting Time Zone.” We leave “Cell Network Search” on as well.
Apps must request approval from you as well. If you really need location services for an app, obviously leave them on. However, you might not want some applications to fetch your locations, so feel free to toggle them off here as well. For instance, if you don’t care for Twitter tweeting your location, turn it off!
Disable Wi-Fi & Bluetooth when not in range, Turn on Wi-Fi when in range
Be sure to always turn off Wi-Fi when you’re out of range of a known network. This prevents the iOS device from constantly checking for known networks in range. Whenever you can use Wi-Fi, use it! Wi-Fi is much more efficient than cellular data so you can save battery this way. Be sure to set Ask to Join Networks off to stay connected to that network. Similarly, be sure to turn off Bluetooth at all times that you can.
● Settings > Wi-Fi
● Settings > Bluetooth
Disable Cellular Data
If you don’t care for using cellular data for some apps and services, turn them off. iOS has many different toggles for cellular data use and some are hidden, so be sure to check all of them listed below!
iOS 7 brings a nice parallax effect on icons and alerts, but this constantly tracks your motion to provide the effect. Reduce motion to prevent this and improve battery life.
● Settings > General > Accessibility > Reduce Motion
Don’t use Dynamic Moving Wallpapers
iOS 7 comes with dynamic wallpapers that move around based on the movement of your device. These moving backgrounds consume much more battery power than regular wallpapers so we recommend that you stay away from them and use Still wallpapers.
● Settings > Wallpapers & Brightness > Choose Wallpaper
Disable Siri Raise to Speak
Disable Siri’s raise to speak function to prevent the iPhone from constantly checking the proximity sensor to see if the device has been raised to your ear.
● Settings > General > Siri
Turn Off Spotlight Search to prevent file indexing
Spotlight indexes your entire device’s filesystem to provide instant search results of your most used contacts, apps and more. Indexing can cause a strain on the battery life, so try to turn OFF any items on the list that you don’t use to prevent the OS from indexing that type of data.
● Settings > General > Spotlight Search
Having your phone constantly vibrate can affect battery life as well, but having a vibrate feature is extremely useful. Try to disable vibrate for some contacts/notifications/text messages.
● Settings > Sounds
If you’re in a 4G Area only, we recommend turning off LTE connectivity. Leaving LTE on actually drains the battery by constantly checking for an LTE signal (and if your carrier does not have LTE in your area, this is a waste). Similarly, if you’re in a 2G area only, disable 4G/LTE connectivity as well.
However, if you are in an LTE area, we recommend leaving LTE on since Apple actually cites better browsing (in hours) on LTE versus 4G connectivity.
Set Auto-Lock to 1 Minute to reduce the amount of time it takes for the iPhone’s display to shut off. Better yet, always lock the device immediately after use to prevent the ~1 minute your display would be on.
● Settings > General > Auto-Lock
Use Airplane Mode when in an area without cellular service
If you’re in a known dead zone that has no cellular service, turn on Airplane mode until your reach an area with cellular service. This prevents the phone from constantly checking for a signal, and can be a main cause of battery drain.
Turn off iTunes Wi-Fi Sync in iTunes
If you don’t use Wi-Fi Sync, and often leave your iTunes open on the same network as your iPhone, turn off Wi-Fi sync.
Turn off Home Sharing
Streaming a movie or song from a computer to your iOS device can cause a huge battery drain. We recommend not using home sharing at all unless it is a feature you really like.
● Settings > Music
● Settings > Video
Set up as new iPhone
If you previously had a jailbreak, and no longer have one, try setting up an iPhone as new instead of restoring form backup. This way you don’t restore unnecessary files.
Some users claim that turning off iPod equalizer will improve battery life, but in our tests (and others across the web) this does not seem to be the case. But if you really want to, turn off equalizer.
● Settings > Music > EQ
Limit Ad Tracking
There are some reports that limiting ad tracking might improve your battery life. You may want to experiment with this setting to determine if it makes a difference on your device.
● Settings > Privacy > Advertising > Limit Ad Tracking
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Each week, there are dozens of Apple rumors, reports, and patent filings that hint at what’s coming out of Cupertino next. Some are legit, but most are totally bogus. We’ve parsed the week’s rumors, ranking them in order from “utterly ridiculous” to “duh, of course.” First up…
ASK AGAIN LATER: Apple Inventing Solar Charging Accessory Apple’s been dabbling in the solar power game for a while — at least according to its intellectual property filings. The company’s latest invention to come out of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is a solar panel accessory that doesn’t need a power converter and would work with a MacBook, iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch via USB or a power connector. They key part of the patent is the power management circuitry, which could be embedded in the device itself. Could we start seeing partially solar powered devices or accessories from Apple in the not too distant future? It’s definitely possible.
ASK AGAIN LATER: Retina iPad Mini Could Launch November 21 Target.com let slip in a product listing that the iPad mini with Retina display would be released November 21, a week before Thanksgiving. This particular release date is interesting — Apple usually releases products on a Friday (like the iPad Air, which just went on sale today). However, with holiday travel, Black Friday, and all that jazz, it could make sense for Apple to give iPad mini admirers some extra time before the weekend officially lands to get their hands on the new tablet. Or maybe the 21st isn’t the real date after all.
SIGNS POINT TO YES: Job Listing Indicates Apple Working on Maps’ Transit Directions It’s about time: Two job listing seem to show that Apple is working on adding transit directions to Apple Maps. The positions are “Maps Public Transit Engineering Manager” and “Public Transit Software Engineer,” and both would (logically) work on the Maps team to improve its “Transit Routing” platform. If it wants to be competitive with mapping app leaders like Google, transit directions are a must. It makes complete sense that Apple would want to beef up its team on this front.
WITHOUT A DOUBT: Apple Experimenting With Curved Glass Wrist-Worn Devices According to The New York Times, Apple is exploring a wristwatch-like device made of curved glass. Between the company’s recent wearables-related hires, other whispers from employees and suppliers, and CEO Tim Cook’s frequent teases, it’s almost a given that Apple is working on some sort of wearable device. Apple has also patented a means for bending glass, providing evidence the company is taking some time to explore the curved glass space. (Corning has been working on curved Gorilla Glass for a while now too). As for when we’ll see these devices and what they’ll look like, that’s still anyone’s guess
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With all of the running apps available for smartphones to track your distance and pace you might ask yourself do you really need a separate running watch?
The type of data recorded and what you can do with it is similar between both apps and GPS watches. Both options will provide you with core functionality of your current pace, distance traveled, elapsed time, a map of your route and other metrics to measure your performance over time.
It is the actual functionality of the two options while running that makes a separate running watch the preferred choice.
Two Tests of a Phone App vs. a GPS Watch
I performed this test on my road bike instead of running so I could have an accurate control distance with the bike computer attached to the wheel so the actual ground covered was recorded. This is the same method used to issue USATF running race course certifications (wheel measurement).
Only the Garmin matched the bike computer within a margin of .01 miles. The iPhone and Samsung Galaxy Nexus both over reported the distance traveled and pace substantially.
Bike Computer (Wheel sensor): 5.00 miles Garmin Forerunner 210: 5.01 miles iPhone 5 (with Runkeeper): 5.32 miles Samsung Galaxy Nexus (with Runkeeper): 5.29 miles
For runs of a mile or two this may not be a big deal, but if you run longer distances over 10 miles the results can be running over a mile or more less than the phone has reported! That 20 mile marathon long run you might do could end up being more like 18.5 miles.
What’s worse, your pace is being reported incorrectly. You will have a false sense of your performance capability and learn of this on race day when you run a measured course only to find your phone has betrayed you!
In another test, I wore both my Garmin Forerunner 210 and used RunKeeper on my Samsung Galaxy Nexus during the 2012 Chicago Marathon. The phone was strapped to my upper arm with a clear view of the sky. Downtown Chicago presents tough challenges for GPS devices. The tall buildings can bounce signals or block them entirely causing measurements of your location several blocks away or zig zagging across the city.
Extended underpasses such as the one at the beginning of the race block GPS entirely for nearly half a mile.
Garmin Forerunner 210: 26.58 miles Samsung Galaxy Nexus (with RunKeeper): 27.93 miles
I personally believe the Garmin recorded my actual distance covered due to any weaving or not running the exact course line over the course of the marathon. If there was any error due to the buildings or other obstructions it was minimal. The phone was not even close.
There is nothing worse than finding out your pace is not what you think it is or how you trained on race day when you discover your phone has over reported all along.
Issues with Running Apps
Reduced Accuracy The GPS sensors vary greatly between different phones. But the one thing that holds true today is they are less accurate than a dedicated GPS running watch that is specifically designed to capture precise movements. While this is reported universally among runners I wanted to see for myself.
Phones are less accurate than a GPS watch for a variety of reasons. The most common reason is due to the compact form factor of a phone along with all of the other antennas and circuitry inside there just isn’t enough room to include a more accurate GPS sensor. In some phones, the type of sensor used might also vary, but that is beyond the scope of this discussion. GPS watches have a larger GPS sensor as a critical component.
For a phone, the GPS is designed to give a very good indication of your location, but not a pinpoint. Compounding the problem, phones do not take a continuous recording of your location but rather frequent “snapshots” in time. These data points are then connected by the shortest distance between the two points. This is why quick movements, turn arounds or tight turns are often cut off when reviewing phone GPS data on a running app.
Finally, the algorithms used to calculate distance traveled also vary in phones.
Phones are not designed specifically with accurate GPS distance measurement in mind the way a running watch is. A phone is a Swiss Army Knife. It can do a variety of things, but not all of them very well.
Tracking Progress While Running A big issue with running applications is viewing your distance, pace, time elapsed and possibly heart rate while you are running. Typically your phone is strapped to your arm or on a waist belt out of easy sight. Running apps have tried to counter this shortfall by having computerized voices periodically announce your pace and splits over your earphones if you are listening to music. But what if you don’t listen to music?
You will have to physically wake up the screen and make a concerted effort each time you want to check your progress. Even if you do listen to music I find the announced intervals are not often enough to stay on track if you are monitoring your pacing.
A running watch is always within easy view without altering your running form and provides immediate feedback of your run. Pacing is easy to determine at a glance. It is always on and nothing to fiddle with. There is a reason a phone’s screen turns off while running which brings up the next issue.
Battery Life Today’s smartphones can do a lot, but battery technology has not kept pace for their energy demands. A running app is not only constantly using the GPS of your phone, but also the data plan in order to update maps and sync data.
Other features such as social network sharing or uploading to websites can use even more battery. I haven’t even mentioned the draw of the battery for that big screen and any other applications the phone is running either such as your music player and countless apps in the background.
If you plan to run longer than 2-3 hours your phone may not make it through your run leaving you without a way to call for help if needed and leaving you flying blind for the rest of your run. Not good!
GPS running watch batteries can reliably capture 8-10 hours or more of activity and can remain on standby over a week. In other words, more than you will need!
Data Plans Use of a running app requires a data plan on your phone. With many carriers limiting data use or families sharing plans this can add up. While a running app may not consume a lot of data, it consumes more than a GPS running watch that uses no data plan!
Indoor Use If you want to record your running on an indoor track or even a treadmill forget it with a smartphone. Your phone’s GPS will do you no good indoors.
GPS watches are equally useless indoors, but many can be paired with an optional footpod that can record everything with a good degree of accuracy, except for plotting on a map where you ran. You simply keep on running!
I’ve owned both Polar footpod devices and Garmin footpod devices and find the Garmin devices perform really well compared to Polar.
Even better, for instances where GPS may be blocked (such as the half-mile underpass at the beginning of the Chicago marathon), a footpod serves as a secondary data source that is automatically tapped so you are never running blind waiting for the signal to return. Other runners will be in the dark.
It is our recommendation that if you are serious about your running and want a tool best suited for the job it is a great decision to invest in a GPS running watch. If you are just starting out and want to get a feel for the type of data you can record about your runs you can start with an app and then transition to a watch later.
Running apps are powerful but are just not accurate enough to be used to train reliably. This again is no fault of the app designers, but limitations of phone hardware. They also are inconvenient for measuring real time progress while you are running.
The watch I personally train and race with, along with many elite marathoners such as Ryan Hall, is the Garmin Forerunner 210.
In considering a running watch, there are a lot of features, functionality, styles and form factors to consider. I use the Garmin Forerunner 210 as it has just the information I need and enough functionality to train effectively. It can be enticing to have a running watch with more bells and whistles but in the end it is just different ways of reporting the same data.
All you really need is distance, time elapsed, pace and possibly heart rate and cadence if you use those to train. When you get home you can easily upload all of the data and analyze your run and progress while recovering!
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