Smartphone Sales Grew 4.3 Percent Globally in Q2 2016: Gartner

Smartphone Sales Grew 4.3 Percent Globally in Q2 2016: GartnerSale of smartphones to end-users totalled 344 million units globally in the second quarter of 2016 – a 4.3 percent increase over the same period in 2015, market research firm Gartner said on Thursday.

Overall, only five smartphone vendors from the top 10 showed growth. These were four Chinese manufacturers – Huawei, Oppo, Xiaomi and BBK Communication Equipment – and South Korean giantSamsung.

Interestingly, BBK owns Oppo Vivo smartphone brand.

In the second quarter of 2016, Samsung had nearly 10 percent more market share than Apple which continued its downward trend with a decline of 7.7 percent.

Apple sales declined in North America as well as in Western Europe. However, it witnessed its worst sales decline in China and Asia-Pacific regions where sales declined 26 percent.

“Demand for premium smartphones slowed in the second quarter of 2016 as consumers wait for new hardware launches in the second half of the year,” said Anshul Gupta, Research Director at Gartner, in a statement.

Among the top five smartphone vendors, Oppo exhibited the highest growth in the second quarter of 2016 at 129 percent.

In addition, the decline in sales of feature phones by 14 percent bolstered the decline in overall sales of mobile phones in the second quarter of 2016.

All mature markets except Japan saw slowing demand for smartphones leading to a decline in sales of 4.9 percent.

In contrast, all emerging regions except Latin America saw growth which led to smartphone sales growing by 9.9 percent, Gartner said.

Gionee S6s Selfie-Focused Smartphone Set to Launch in India on August 22

Gionee S6s Selfie-Focused Smartphone Set to Launch in India on August 22Chinese company Gionee last week started sending press invites for an event on August 22 in India where it was expected to reveal a new selfie-focused smartphone. Now, the company in a tweet has pretty much confirmed that the Gionee S6s will be revealed at the event.

The company’s global Twitter handle in a tweet said, “The incoming one…The New One, which is redefining “premium selfie” means to you.” The tweet was accompanied by hashtags Gionee S6s alongside selfie and flash. The company seems gearing to target the selfie obsessed audience with its new S6s smartphone in India. Unfortunately, there is no word on the innards of the handset so far.

Gionee also shared an image of the S6s smartphone on Twitter which gave the world first glimpse of the handset ahead of the official reveal. It is likely to sport an all metal build while pack fingerprint scanner at the back. The front camera features a flash, carrying on the selfie-focused theme.

We can expect the company to release more teasers around the handset ahead of the August 22 launch.

Gionee last month launched the M6 and M6 Plus smartphones at an event in Beijing. The biggest highlight of the smartphones was they came with an inbuilt data encryption chip that the company claimed would ensure extra security of user’s communication and content.

The Gionee M6 was priced at CNY 2,699 (roughly Rs. 27,200) for its 64GB storage variant, and CNY 2,899 (roughly Rs. 29,200) for the 128GB storage variant. The Gionee M6 Plus 64GB variant was priced at CNY 2,999 (roughly Rs. 30,200), and the 128GB variant was priced at CNY 3,199 (roughly Rs. 32,200)

China’s Launch of First Quantum Satellite Major Step in Space Race

China's Launch of First Quantum Satellite Major Step in Space Race

China’s launch of the first quantum satellite Tuesday will push forward efforts to develop the ability to send communications that can’t be penetrated by hackers, experts said.

The satellite launched into space from the Jiuquan launch base in northwestern China’s Gobi desert will allow Chinese researchers to transmit test messages between Beijing and northwestern China as well as other locations around the world.

If the tests are successful, China will take a major step toward building a worldwide network that can send messages that can’t be wiretapped or cracked through conventional methods.

“It moves the challenge for an eavesdropper to a different domain,” said Alexander Ling, principal investigator at the Centre for Quantum Technologies in Singapore. “Lots of people around the world think having secure communications at a quantum level is important. The Europeans, the Americans had the lead, but now the Chinese are showing the way forward.”

Quantum communications use subatomic particles to securely communicate between two points. A hacker trying to crack the message changes its form in a way that would alert the sender and cause the message to be altered or deleted.

Researchers around the world have successfully sent quantum messages by land. But a true satellite-based network would make it possible to send quickly encrypted messages in an instant around the world and open the door to other possible uses of the technology.

Cyber-security has been a major focus in recent years for China, which has pushed regulations aimed at limiting technology imported from the US in the wake of Edward Snowden’s revelations of widespread surveillance by the US through the use of American hardware.

China has in turn been repeatedly accused by the US of hacking into computer systems to steal commercial secrets and information that could harm American national security. China has rejected claims that it runs a state-sponsored hacking program and says that it is among the leading victims ofcybercrime.

Quantum messaging could become a major defense against hackers and have applications ranging from military and government communications to online shopping.

The biggest challenge, Ling said, is being able to orient the satellite with pinpoint accuracy to a location on Earth where it can send and receive data without being affected by any disturbances in Earth’s atmosphere. The results of China’s tests will be closely watched by other research teams, he said.

“It’s very difficult to point the satellite accurately,” Ling said. “You’re trying to send a beam of light from a satellite that’s 500 kilometers (310 miles) above you.”

Hoi Fung Chau, a professor and quantum communications researcher at Hong Kong University, said that it was too soon to say if the tests will succeed, but added he expected quantum messages by satellite to become the global standard eventually.

“The theory is already there, the technology is almost there,” he said. “It’s just a matter of time.”

The launch is a major triumph for China, which has spent years researching quantum technology and developing the satellite and other uses for it. China has previously announced the construction of a quantum link between Beijing and Shanghai that would be used by government agencies and banks.

Pan Jianwei, chief scientist on the satellite project, was quoted by the official Xinhua News Agency as saying the launch proved China was no longer a follower in information technology, but “one of the leaders guiding future IT achievements.”


Battlefield 1 Open Beta Starts on August 31

Battlefield 1 Open Beta Starts on August 31Battlefield 1, EA’s first video game set around World War I in over two decades, is getting an open beta that starts August 31 before its October release, the company announced in a blog post late on Monday. If you would like early access, you will need to sign up as a Battlefield Insider member by this Sunday, August 21 and opt for your platform preference to get a code.

The beta will give players access to the Sinai Desert map, based on the real life one in the nation of Egypt, and provide two game modes in Conquest – a large-scale game mode with up to 64 players fighting for control – and Rush – a 24-player mode where the attacking force must find and destroy the telegraph posts of the defending force.

(Also see: Battlefield 1 Is the Most Expensive Game in India)

“From infantry skirmishes in the narrow streets of the village of Bir el Mazar to dogfights above the majestic cliffs, you’ll need to make tactical use of the dunes as you engage in explosive battles,” EA explained. “When all hope is lost, reinforcements will arrive in the shape of a powerful Behemoth: a deadly Armoured Train charging through the desert sands.”

Battlefield 1 is the first major entry in the franchise since 2013’s Battlefield 4 and the first Battlefield game not to release on either of the previous-gen consoles – PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360 – since 2005’s Battlefield 2: Modern Combat. The open beta for Battlefield 1 will be available on all three release platforms: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Origin for PC.

MediaTek Helio X30 Deca-Core SoC With PowerVR ZXT GPU Launched

MediaTek Helio X30 Deca-Core SoC With PowerVR ZXT GPU Launched

The MediaTek Helio X30 is built on TSMC’s 10nm FinFET architecture, and sports a quad-core PowerVR 7XT GPU.

MediaTek on Monday announced the Helio X30 SoC, its new flagship deca-core SoC for mobile devices that with its powerful GPU is considered to be especially appropriate for devices with virtual reality capabilities. It is expected to be seen in products shipping in the second half of 2017.

Positioned as the successor to the Helio X20 SoC, the Helio X30 is built on TSMC’s 10nm FinFET architecture, and sports a quad-core PowerVR 7XT GPU. Apple’s alleged ‘A10’ chipset that is expected to be used in the upcoming ‘iPhone 7’ and ‘iPhone 7 Plus’ models is also rumoured to be built on the same process.

The MediaTek X30 chip features a tri-cluster design just like its predecessors the Helio X20 and Helio X25, and will be able to support a camera with sensor capability as high as 40 megapixels, and will be able to support video capture up to 24 megapixels, reports Phone Radar. The chip will able to support devices with up to 8GB of RAM.

The deca-core MediaTek Helio X30 sports four Cortex-A73 cores clocked at 2.8GHz, four Cortex-A53 cores clocked at 2.2GHz, and two Cortex-A35 cores clocked at 2GHz. xThe chip comes with a modem that supports three carrier aggregation (3CA) and supports Cat.12 LTE.

Apple Asks US Supreme Court to Rule Against Samsung Over Patents

Apple Asks US Supreme Court to Rule Against Samsung Over PatentsApple Inc on Friday asked the US Supreme Court to clear the way for the iPhone maker to secure hundreds of millions in damages from Samsung Electronics Co Ltd in a case over smartphone design patents.

The world’s top smartphone rivals have been feuding over patents since 2011, when Apple sued Samsung in a northern California court alleging infringement of the iPhone’s patents, designs and trademarked appearance.

In its legal brief on Friday, Apple said Samsung had not provided evidence to support its argument that design patent damages should be decided on one component of a smartphone, rather than the entire product. Apple said there was no need for the Supreme Court to send the case back to a lower court for further proceedings.

A Samsung representative declined to immediately provide comment. The South Korean company has said that a ruling for Apple would diminish innovation and negatively impact the economy.

Following a 2012 jury trial, Samsung was ordered to pay Apple $930 million. Samsung has been trying to reduce that figure ever since.

Its efforts were partially rewarded in May 2015, when the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit reversed the damages on trademark liability. The appeals court, however, upheld Samsung’s infringement of the iPhone’s patents, including those related to the designs of the iPhone’s rounded-corner front face, bezel and colorful grid of icons.

That brought Samsung’s exposure down to $548 million, of which $399 million involves design patents. Additional damages, based on five other phone models, could also be awarded depending on the outcome of appeals.

Samsung asked the Supreme Court to review the case, calling the damages awarded excessive. In March, the justices agreed to look into whether courts should award in damages the total profits from a product that infringes a design patent, if the patent applies only to a component of the product.

In a filing last month, the US Department of Justice said the case should be sent back to a lower court.

But Apple said Congress has been clear on the issue of design patent damages, and there was no reason the Supreme Court should allow Samsung to make additional arguments.

Samsung Galaxy J5 (2016), Galaxy On7 Available at a Discounted Price

Samsung Galaxy J5 (2016), Galaxy On7 Available at a Discounted Price

Flipkart is holding a ‘Samsung Days’ sale where select Samsung smartphones are available at a discount.

First up is the Samsung Galaxy J5 (2016), which is available at Rs. 12,490, a discount of Rs. 1,500 compared to its MRP, and Rs. 5,00 compared to the best buy price. The Samsung Galaxy J5 (2016), which was launched in India in May comes with a 5.2-inch HD (720×1280 pixels) Super Amoled display and is powered by a quad-core processor clocked at 1.2GHz clubbed with 2GB of RAM. There is 16GB of storage and the handset supports expandable storage support via microSD card (up to 128GB).

The Galaxy J5 (2016) is backed by a 3100mAh battery. It comes with the S Bike mode introduced with the Samsung Galaxy J3 (6) as well as a 13-megapixel rear camera with f/1.9 aperture and LED flash, and 5-megapixel front-facing camera with flash and f/1.9 aperture.

Next up is the Samsung Galaxy On7, which is available at Rs. 9,190. The Samsung Galaxy On7 sports by 5.50-inch 720p display and is powered by 1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 410 processor alongside 1.5GB of RAM. The phone packs 8GB of internal storage that can be expanded up to 128GB via a microSD card. The Samsung Galaxy On7 packs a 13-megapixel primary camera on the rear and a 5-megapixel front shooter for selfies.


Apple’s Car Project Now Said to Be Focussing on Developing Autonomous Driving Software

Apple's Car Project Now Said to Be Focussing on Developing Autonomous Driving SoftwareApple has hired the former head of BlackBerry’s automotive software division as new leadership at the iPhone-maker’s car team places increased emphasis on developing self-driving technology, according to people familiar with the project.

Dan Dodge, the founder and former chief executive officer of QNX, the operating system developer that BlackBerry acquired in 2010, joined Apple earlier this year, the people said. He is part of a team headed by Bob Mansfield, who, since taking over leadership of the cars initiative – dubbed Project Titan – has heralded a shift in strategy, according to a person familiar with the plan.

The initiative is now prioritizing the development of an autonomous driving system, though it’s not abandoning efforts to design its own vehicle. That leaves options open should the company eventually decide to partner with or acquire an established car maker, rather than build a car itself. An Apple spokesman declined to comment.

Apple has hundreds of engineers working on car design and has been targeting a release as soon as 2020. That goal has been affected by multiple departures, technical delays and confusion regarding the direction of the project, according to people with knowledge of the efforts.

Tapering demand for the iPhone, which accounts for more than half of Apple’s sales, has emphasized the importance of new sources of revenue. Research and development spending jumped by more than a quarter to $2.6 billion in the three months through June compared with a year earlier.

“The products that are in R&D, there is quite a bit of investment in there for products and services that are not currently shipping or derivations of what is currently shipping,” Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook said in a conference call to discuss earnings Tuesday. “There’s a lot of stuff that we’re doing beyond the current products.”

Mansfield answers directly to Cook, unlike his predecessor Steve Zadesky, who reported to hardware chief Dan Riccio, who in turn reported to Cook. Mansfield’s division comprises three pillars led by Apple veterans: a software team under John Wright; a sensors group headed by Benjamin Lyon; and a unit of hardware engineers led by D.J. Novotney.

Dodge, who is part of Wright’s group, co-founded QNX in 1980 as a student at the University of Waterloo in Canada. The company was sold to Harman International Industries Inc. in 2004 and subsequently acquired by BlackBerry in 2010. QNX developed BlackBerry’s latest proprietary mobile operating system, which it still uses in some of its smartphones. It also makes the entertainment, navigation and connected-device system used by Volkswagen, Daimler, Ford and others. Dodge left QNX in December, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Apple is opening a research and development center near QNX’s headquarters in the Ottawa suburb of Kanata, the Ottawa Citizen reported earlier this year. Just as Apple opened an office in Boston to tap the area’s wealth of speech recognition experts, the Kanata office could give it better access to the town’s pool of automotive software talent.

As it forges ahead with a dual track that could still result in building its own car, Apple has continued to raid auto companies for engineers with expertise in designing vehicle manufacturing systems, and has hired two Ford engineers in the past year with experience building aluminum-bodied vehicles.

Todd Gray came to Apple in May from Ford, where he built the systems used to manufacture the aluminum body of the F-150 truck. He joined fellow Ford alumna Aindrea Campbell, who was a manager in the body construction engineering team and previously headed a group which researched lightweight materials used in vehicles including the F-150. She joined Apple in September.

Quantum Break Developer to Work on First-Person Shooter CrossFire 2

Quantum Break Developer to Work on First-Person Shooter CrossFire 2If you were expecting Quantum Break and Max Payne developer Remedy Entertainment to work on a sequel to Alan Wake just yet, think again.

The company’s next game is CrossFire 2. Well, the story for CrossFire 2 to be specific.

(Also see: Registers Trademark for ‘Alan Wake’s Return’)

“At the CrossFire Vision Summit held in Shanghai during the China Joy 2016 conference, Smilegate revealed that Remedy is responsible for developing the story mode for the upcoming CrossFire 2,” the developer posted on its website.

“Smilegate specifically chose Remedy to bring our unique blend of storytelling, memorable characters and inventive gameplay to CrossFire’s global audience,” the post continues.

(Also see Quantum Break Review)

CrossFire 2 is the sequel to Crossfire, a first-person multiplayer shooter similar to Counter-Strike created by South Korean developer SmileGate. Most of CrossFire’s audience is in China and South Korea with the game reportedly raking in close to one billion dollars in China alone in 2013. A movie based on the game is also in the works.

Granted Remedy has shown it has the narrative skills to craft compelling stories as the likes of Alan Wake and Quantum Break have proven, but these are games which have had a predominantly Western audience. How it adapts to a franchise that is popular in Asian regions what with cultural nuances and difference in storytelling could make or break CrossFire 2. Or perhaps it’s a signal of Smilegate’s intentions of bringing CrossFire 2 to a larger audience beyond Asia? Only time will tell.