gadgets

I was getting worried, but it seems like smartwatches are taking off after all. Research company Canalys estimated 6 million smartwatches and fitness trackers were sold in the first half of 2014, or a 684% increase compared to the previous period.

This doesn’t even take into account Android Wear devices, which will start to get counted in next quarter’s report.

And the best is yet to come. The Moto 360 was widely considered superior to the two Android Wear watches already on the market. Motorola will launch the device next month after its event on September 4.

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Just a scant few days ago, I wrote about how the 7-inch mini tablet might go the way of the dodo bird, and a scant few days later, I may have to eat my words. According to a report from the IDC:

Large smartphones (otherwise known as phablets), are already a growing trend in Asia, having outshipped notebooks and tablets last year.  But IDC finds that now even larger devices, tablets of 7” screen sizes and above, are increasingly shipping with cellular voice capabilities, and such devices are getting more traction in the Asia/Pacific excluding Japan (APeJ) region, breaching the 25% mark in the second quarter of 2014. . .This translates to more than 60% growth on a year-on-year basis in unit terms for this category of tablets, which also incidentally happen to be 100% Android-based.

The report also goes on to state that 50% of 7-inch and up tablets shipped in India and Indonesia have cellular voice capabilities. I travel to Indonesia a lot and so find that nugget fascinating, as I don’t recall ever having seen a person call with a tablet. They probably do via a headset.

I can believe this trend happening for a number of reasons: cost, perception that more is better, traffic and handbags.

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The Cornerplay has made some crazy predictions we know, some of them involving Chromebooks. We’ve long argued that in comparison to Windows PCs, Chromebooks sell only because of price and that Microsoft’s efforts to lower the cost of Windows PCs will be effective.

Chromebooks are in the news again because HP is launching the Stream 14 for $200, a Windows laptop the press is designating as a Chromebook killer. This laptop will probably be powered by Windows 8.1 with Bing, a version Microsoft is providing free to OEMs in exchange for Bing as the default search engine. The Stream 14 has an AMD chip so it’s unclear whether the laptop will perform well, but it will probably sell well regardless due to price.

It’s not clear when the HP Stream 14 will launch, but we don’t need to wait that long to evaluate our argument that Chromebooks sell only because of price. Low cost Windows laptops have already been proliferating on Amazon, the place where advocates like to point to as proof of Chromebooks’ success. And those cheap Windows laptops are winning.

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I need a dumb phone with only five features: phone calls, SMS, mobile hotspot, long battery life and slim profile.

Here’s why: I travel a lot, so require a local SIM to make calls and text. However, I’d like to still be able to receive calls and texts with my main number, so I usually carry a second phone for overseas use. This works passably well in that the second phone acts as a hotspot and I can use my main phone with data for Whatsapp, LINE, etc.

qwerThe downside is that Internet tethering is a big battery drain, and the second phone runs out quickly. I don’t need the phone’s other functionality — touch screen, camera, GPS, camera, etc. — for all those things I have my main phone. What if the second device doesn’t do anything else except calling, texting and acting as hotspot, so it can dedicate its entire battery to just those things? Like an old school Nokia phone, just with super-sized battery and 4G Internet tethering capabilities.

Instead of multiple plans, I focus all the data I need in one. When you buy a lot of data for one plan, it becomes significantly cheaper.

I wish a manufacturer will step up and make this phone.

Recently, I was browsing an electronics store and found the next best thing: a Huawei 5370 Mobile WiFi Hotspot.

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Congratulations to Ashwin, Aniela and Jesus (!) for getting the three OnePlus One invites. Gentle reminder that invites have a time limit, so please place your orders before they expire. Once you get your phones, check out my nine suggestions for improving usability.

With that announcement out of the way, it just occurred to me who should adopt OnePlus’ marketing strategy: Microsoft with the Surface 3. To recap, the OnePlus One strategy is to sell flagship devices to tech geeks as a loss leader to generate hype and demand (see here for the blueprint).

I don’t think the Lumia is a good fit for this strategy as consumers won’t have an easy way to compare the value of a Lumia to an iPhone or Android, so its ability to act as a loss leader is limited. But that restriction doesn’t apply to the Surface, which competes with 300 million PCs shipped every year.

Microsoft should create a Surface 3 that is priced aggressively: one with a beastly Nvidia Tegra K1 chip, pen digitizer, Surface Pro 3 display, and a thinner and lighter profile than its predecessor.

Charge $199 for this device. With Office included.

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Mini tablets exploded at a time when 3.5-inch iPhones and 9.7-inch iPads were what’s most popular. There was a big gap between these two sizes: the iPhone was highly portable, but the screen meant bite-sized consumption; iPads were better for Internet browsing and games, but it was too large to easily carry around. Mini tablets fulfilled a market gap — a computing device small enough to hold with one hand that offered a better reading experience than phones could provide.

However, the world today is different. The 4-inch iPhone 5S is practically the smallest smartphone on the market, 5-inch phones are average and 5.5-inch phones are not uncommon. The trend to bigger screen sizes is apparent in the chart below:

Did you know that smartphone screens nearly doubled in size since 2007?

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I’ve wanted to write this for some time, but hadn’t because there was no solid data to back-up my assertions. I do now. This is about why I believe the future of tablets (and by extension, computing) is 15-inches in display size.

Let’s start with the origins of the modern tablet. The original iPad played such a strong role in shaping our perception of what a tablet should be, including a 9.7-inch display that we think of standard today. Apple arrived at that size because 9.7-inches was ideal given technology’s constraints at the time like weight, battery life and cost. It was the right size for 2010.

The iPad was never designed to be used primarily with one hand, unlike “mini” tablets of today. As Jobs demonstrated in his keynote, the iPad was meant to be used on the lap; or held with two hands; and only occasionally holding with one hand so the other can perform an action.

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