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Time for September to draw to a close, and time for our monthly newsletter, Infowatch! Hello and welcome to all of you out there – regular followers of Infowatch and first-timers alike. This has been a month of hectic happenings, breaking news, product launches and controversies galore in the tech domain. Without much of further ado, let us straightaway dive into the news bits that grabbed the headlines in September 2014, shall we?:
iPhone 6 arrives, With Controversies
In a grand event at Cupertino, the much awaited 4.7” iPhone 6 and the 5.5” iPhone 6 Plus (phablet) made their appearance this month. In keeping with the buoyant predictions of software and iPhone app developers worldwide (and surely, Tim Cook’s expectations!), over 10 million units of iPhone 6 got sold within the first 3 days of its launch. What Mr. Cook had surely not bargained for, however, was the ‘bendgate’ controversy of iPhone 6 Plus, or the way in which Apple’s live streaming of the September 9 show would go kaput during the event. Apple Watch – the ‘one other thing‘ of Mr. Cook, was a noteworthy new gadget too.
Host of new smartphones dazzle at IFA 2014
IFA, one of biggest annual technology trade shows in Europe, was held at Berlin during the first half of the month. Attended by close to 1550 exhibitors and an astounding 240000 trade visitors, the 6-day extravaganza witnessed the launch of a bevy of sophisticated new smartphones. Some of the most noteworthy among them were Sony Xperia Z3 and E3, Samsung Galaxy Note 4 (probably the biggest challenger of iPhone 6) and Note Edge, and Nokia Lumia 730 and 830. Incidentally, the Lumia 730 has been dubbed as the ‘selfie phone’.
First Android-powered printer hits the market
It’s not only about tablets and smartphones and wearables at Samsung. The company brought the breakthrough Smart MultiXpress printers (in 10 alternative models) to the market this month. Meant to be used with PCs, these printers have 10.1” touchscreen panels and boast of Near-field communication (NFC) features. Cloud Print and XOA printing platform are supported by these new-age printers too. The Samsung-Android partnership is still on!
Need to file a police complaint? Do it through apps!
At least that’s what Delhi Police is encouraging people to do. Irrespective of the type of FIR to be filed (it might even be traffic updates), people can now visit the official website of Delhi Police (that’s www.delhipolice.nic.in) and download three different mobile applications on their phone. The apps are showcased at Google Play Store as well. Thanks to advancements in the mobile app development industry, manual complaint registration delays are now things of the past!
Google forced to cough up $19 million in refunds
According to a ruling by the American Federal Trade Commission, Google was forced to refund a whopping $19 million to parents. The case revolved around mobile apps for kids – which included dicey in-app purchase options. Children, while thinking that they were spending ‘virtual money’ while playing a game, were unwittingly ending up spending ‘real money’ on unnecessary downloads. Apple Inc. and Amazon.com were sued in January and July 2014 respectively on roughly the same issue.
Facebook, the best friend of introverts?
Pavica Sheldon, a communications arts professor at the Alabama University, has come up with a rather startling research result. According to her, those who are generally shy and introvert by nature tend to spend more time on Facebook – albeit they do not publishing posts or upload photos/videos that frequently. The extroverts interact more with FB, but it’s the introverts who keep a closer watch on their friends’ news feeds.
Samsung to make Galaxy Note 4 commercially available from October
The launch of the 5.7” Samsung Galaxy Note 4 has probably been pushed forward by a couple of weeks. Mobile market and app development analysts feel that this would negate any first-mover’s advantage that the iPhone 6 Plus might have had. Note 4 has been priced at 699 Euros (Samsung’s most expensive smartphone ever), while the digital pens for the device would cost 120 Euros (low-end) and 410 Euros (high-end Stylus) respectively.
‘Best Android Experience’ at pocket-friendly rates
That’s precisely what Google is planning to provide to Indian smartphone users, via the all-new Android One platform. Spice, Micromaxx and Karbonn are the three mobile companies that have collaborated with Google to bring Android One to the market (the price range is Rs. 6299-Rs. 6499). Each of the three phones have received favorable reviews, and Google has plans to expand the Android One project to other South Asian countries in future.
Android L might be Android 5.1
Let’s stay with Google Android for a bit. Most mobile software experts and Android app developers had assumed that the upcoming OS version – Android L (the dessert name is yet to be finalized) will officially be known as Android 5.0. That, however, does not look so much a sure thing – after the launch of Karbonn Sparkle V (an Android One handset), on which the displayed time was 5:10. The first Android Kitkat-powered phone had 4:40 shown on its screen, so will the new version be 5.1?
Windows 9 will be unveiled tomorrow
Microsoft will be looking to put the embarrassments of Windows 8 behind it, in the new version of the computer operating system. At a much-hyped event at San Francisco, Terry Myerson and Joe Belfiore will be showcasing Windows 9 – during the ‘Windows Technical Preview’ session. Tech geeks are already abuzz with the return of the Start menu on the new platform (that would be a mighty welcome thing). Windows 9 is likely to be released commercially in early-2015.
Microsoft acquires Mojang for a whopping $2.5 billion
Windows Phone is struggling, hardly anyone uses the Surface tablet – and Microsoft is plotting a turnaround in these devices’ fortunes. This is one of the key reasons why the company has forked out $2.5 billion to acquire Mojang, the company that had designed the immensely popular Minecraft game. Interestingly, although Minecraft is the most downloaded paid application at both Play Store and iTunes, its maker Markus Persson had earlier refused to develop apps for the Windows platform. Easily the most important tech acquisition of this month.
Wish to purchase the Xiaomi Redmi 1S handset? You better hurry!
The first lot had been sold out on Flipkart within seconds, and the second lot has performed equally well. In a report published on the 18th of September, it was stated that the phone took all off 3.4 seconds to get sold out (yes, again!) from the Flipkart online store. As many as 40000 units of this Rs. 5999-priced phone was made available, which makes this sales performance all the more impressive. At this rate, Xiaomi Redmi 1S can easily trump its main rival, the second-generation Moto G devices.
Google Play Store gears up for an interface update
No one is yet sure of when Android L is going to release, but Android Police have confirmed an update in the interface (UI) of Google Play Store. Larger headers, Material Design and brighter colors are going to be some of the key features of Play Store 5.0. Apart from the revamped icon for Play Store, there will be 5 ic_launcher files. We will have to wait for the redesign to actually take place, to find out the other changes.
iPhone vs Android…The Battle Continues
If you thought that Apple would launch the large-screened iPhone 6 and quietly hope that Android fans will switch over to it…well, you were wrong. Tim Cook and his team have created a dedicated online support page, to inform users how they can move content from their Android handsets to the new iPhones. The quality and availability of apps have been specially highlighted upon. It remains to be seen though, whether this strategy actually manages to convince people to ditch their Android phones (especially after the Apple ‘bendgate’ fiasco).
Sony in a severe financial strife
For the first time in over 50 years, Sony had to cancel annual dividends. The increasingly disappointing sales of Sony smartphones have resulted in the company incurring a remarkably hefty $2 billion loss over the last financial year. More than a thousand employees are set to lose their jobs as well. Kazuo Hirai, the president of Sony, is optimistic about the company’s smartphone business becoming profitable pretty soon though.
Too much of spyware in Facebook Messenger?
When you chat with your buddies on the Facebook Messenger app on Android phones, your chats might not remain confidential. A study conducted by Motherboard.com has indicated that the FB application has a host of spyware code, apparently meant for enterprise surveillance activities. It’s not yet certain whether Facebook is spying on its users, but analytics are being run on the Messenger app’s usage – that’s for sure. Only recently, the total number of Facebook Messenger downloads on Android phones crossed 500 million.
Now, a mobile app for the blind
No longer do visually challenged people have to do without the benefits of mobile applications. The KNFB Reader app, initially demonstrated in June by Ray Kurzweil, has been launched at the iTunes store – and it helps people without eyesight to listen to music, listen to texts (via audio readback), and engage in day-to-day activities in a lot of other ways. The Android version of the app is due to release in a couple of months too. KNFB Reader is a paid app ($99), and is a classic example of how sophisticated modern day smartphone app development techniques have become.
Now, Sony is into the smart glass market
Google Glass has not done that well? Other companies are not going to be swayed by that initial hiccup in the domain of smartglasses. After the announcement of Facebook Oculus, it is now the turn of Sony to make an entry into this sector – with the high-end Sony SmartEyeGlass. It is compatible with all Android 4.1 (and above) devices, although the video-capture function can be utilized only when the glass is being used with an Android 4.3 (or later) smartphone. The transparency level of SmartEyeGlass will be around 85%. Currently in the prototype testing stage, this gadget is expected to hit the markets by March next year.
Alibaba IPO makes stock market history
It was always a question of how big the IPO was going to be, and now we have the answer. On the day of the IPO (September 19), the share prices of Alibaba rose by 38%. The initial value of the Alibaba IPO was $21.8 billion, and the figure soon became $25 billion – following the sale of some additional shares. This is, by far, the largest initial public offering by any company. Amazon and eBay might just feel threatened by Jack Ma’s online retail company!
iOS 8 gets mixed reviews
Apple has already been forced to roll out the iOS 8.0.2 software update, following complaints about the distinctly ho-hum features of the initial version of iOS 8. For users of iPhone 4S upgrading to the new platform, loss of device speed has been a real point of concern. Shorter battery life is yet another problem that has plagued the early adopters of iOS 8. The official Apple thread has been flooded with complaints about the wi-fi connectivity issues. There have been discontent regarding the audio features too, particularly among iPad users. Apple will iron out these flaws over time – but for starters, iOS 8 is certainly not a flawless platform.
All hopes pinned on Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Z10 and Q10 may have wowed no one, but John Chen’s company is not yet giving up on its intention to fight it out in the smartphone business. A 4.5” new smartphone – Blackberry Passport – was launched on 24 September, and pre-orders have been encouraging enough. Mobile analysts and app developers have been critical about the slightly weird square shape of the device, and the absence of basic apps like Instagram and YouTube is likely to stand in the way of the device’s popularity. Having said that, users of Blackberry Passport (powered by the Blackberry 10.3 platform) would have access to more than 240000 Android applications.
Windows 7 to be available only on new machines
It is pretty clear that Microsoft does not want to keep the success of Windows 9 open to chances. Support for Windows XP has already been withdrawn, and from the 31st of October, original equipment manufacturers will be allowed to use Windows 7 only on new machines. Bug-fixes and patches support will be extended till 13 January 2015. The Windows 7 Professional edition has not been included in this announcement, however.
Ever wondered what the ‘age’ of Google might be? On the 27th, the online search engine giant celebrated its 16th birthday with a doodle – but if the launch date of the Google domain is considered, it is actually 17 years old (a harmless bit of controversy, right?). The announcement by Eric Schmidt that Samsung had devices pretty much similar to Apple’s iPhone 6 more than a year ago has also grabbed the interest of tech-enthusiasts. Speaking of controversies, there is every likelihood of there being some over the strong resemblance of the soon-to-release Samsung Galaxy Alpha with iPhones. Will there be another lawsuit? We’ll have to wait and watch!
iPhone 6 and 6 Plus made the biggest news (in a good and the bad ‘bendgate’ way) in September. The month witnessed the launch of several other high-end, sophisticated smartphones as well. Among them, the 2nd generation Moto G is expected to become really popular in the budget phones sector. If Xperia Z3 and E3 are successful, Sony’s smartphone business will start looking up again. Samsung’s Galaxy Note 4 is more than a worthy rival of Apple Inc.’s very first phablet. The new Nokia Lumia phones have made a bit of a splash too.
Okay, now let’s update you about what has been going on at our mobile app company. It has been a cracking month at Teknowledge Software, with one of its recently launched mobile app for children – Kids Tiles – garnering a 90% positive rating at The Smartphone App Review magazine. Tendish, an app we released this month, is doing well at the stores. A new version of Moodifier (with minor bug fixes), a well-received iOS application, has also been launched. Our Australian chapter – Teks Mobile Australia – has started working on 6 new app projects. Wish us luck, so that we can complete them in the best possible manner.
Has it struck you yet that Infowatch is scheduled to come out on the ‘last working day’ of every month, and today is the 29th – so what’s going on? As our Indian readers will definitely know, and most people from the United States and UK are also aware – Durga Puja (one of the biggest annual religious festivals worldwide) is kicking off tomorrow, and we will be on a short little break. In case you need a free app quote or wish to contact us for any other purpose, you can email or call us at any time though.
Infowatch returns on October 31, with a round-up of all the highlights from the tech domain next month. Till then, enjoy the festive season, let us know if any tech news catches your attention…and stay zapped with, what else, apps!