Samsung’s Galaxy S6: Metal, wireless charging are in, removable battery and microSD are out

Samsung Galaxy S6

Samsung Galaxy S6 announced at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona

Samsung announced its Galaxy S6 on March 1, as expected, and many of the rumors about its design have proven true, including the decision to build both an Edge and non-Edge configuration (the Galaxy S6 Edge and Galaxy S6 respectively), as well as the lack of a swappable battery or microSD card. Samsung has compensated for these removals with a bevy of new features meant to appeal to the broad market — whatever else one can say about the Galaxy S6, it’s definitely not a warmed-over retread.

New technologies

The Galaxy S6 will use the same Exynos 7420 SoC as the Galaxy Note S4. But the chip in the S6 is built on Samsung’s 14nm process, not the 20nm technology that the Korean manufacturer used for the older phablet. The result is apparently a phone that’s 35 percent more energy efficient while being up to 20 percent faster (no benchmarks are yet available, so we’re taking Samsung’s word on this one).

GalaxyS6-Pixels

Other improvements include a shift from DDR3 to DDR4, a bump to 3GB of RAM as standard (up from 2GB),and 32GB of minimum storage, up from 16GB. Samsung is also putting a heavy push behind wireless charging this time around, with support for both the WPC and PMA standards. There’s a new front-facing camera at 5MP as opposed to the previous 2MP (with an F1.9 lens), and an even higher-density AMOLED screen that Samsung says features 77 percent more pixels than the Galaxy S5. New fingerprint sensors, a louder speaker, and a set of application-level improvements round out the device. It’s also unclear how much those additional pixels boost the overall display quality — while I like high-resolution smartphones as much as anyone, we’ve long-since passed peak pixel density and are firmly in the territory of diminishing margial returns where simply adding pixels is concerned.

The Galaxy S6's Edge (image by The Verge)

The Galaxy S6’s Edge

 

One new capability that takes advantage of the S6 Edge is the ability to assign colors to up to five specific contacts. Assign blue to your mother, for example, and the edge of the phone will glow blue when she calls. Samsung claims this allows you to know who’s calling before even picking up the phone to see, but whether or not this proves a practical innovation probably depends on how you store your phone. If you keep it in a pocket or purse, it’s of less value compared to leaving it face-down on your desk.

Samsung is also claiming that it can fast-charge the device, with a full charge in half the time of the iPhone 6 and with 10 minutes of charge time delivering enough power to use the device for four hours. Whether or not this requires special hardware is unknown and it presumably refers to wired charging not wireless.

Will consumers bite?

Unlike the Galaxy S5, which was generally seen as a rehash of the Galaxy S4 with incremental improvements (and whose sales suffered accordingly), the Galaxy S6 / S6 Edge are clearly a huge revamp of the entire product line. Samsung is attacking on multiple fronts — its new phone will have far more cores than the iPhone, it’s built on a more advanced process technology, the company claims its camera is better (as shown below), basic storage is higher, wireless charging is available, and there are even more payment systems in place. Even allowing for the fact that the Apple A8 SoC sets records as far as performance efficiency, Samsung’s quad-core Exynos should be quite competitive.

Samsung is particularly proud of the device's camera, though independent testing will have to confirm its quality.

Samsung is particularly proud of the device’s camera, though independent testing will have to confirm its quality.

The one missing piece of the puzzle is price. Previous rumors indicated that the S6 would be priced well above Apple’s iPhone, and the features Samsung unveiled today seem to suggest that’ll be the case. This isn’t a cheap device by any stretch, but Samsung may well take a shot at the premium market as opposed to allowing Apple to dictate overall device pricing. That’s a risky strategy — consumers have historically seen Apple hardware as the market leader, and that company has a long history of capturing the top of its particular market segments.

The S6 has the hardware specs to be the next leading lady of the smartphone market. But price and overall device experience will determine whether the company can seize that crown.

 

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Xiaomi Teases Launch of Gaming Product at Tuesday Event 20/1

Xiaomi kicked off 2015 with the quiet launch of the Redmi 2 and this was soon followed by the Chinese company’s first major event that saw the launch of the new flagship phablet, the Mi Note, and the “even-better” Mi Note Pro alongside the Mi Headphones and Mi Box Mini.mi_3_xiaomi_fb_feed.jpg

Now, Xiaomi has teased another launch for Tuesday. The new teaser comes from Xiaomi’s gaming division and shows three rectangular boxes with a black background. Notably, the teaser image shared on the company’s Weibo account has a controller on top and what may be a game console alongside, tipping the launch might see the first Mi-branded console being unveiled. The teaser image includes a tagline that says, ‘Bigger is Better’.

Xiaomi’s speculated move to launch a gaming console appears to be plausible, considering that Chinese government last year lifted a ban from 2000 on gaming consoles.

Last year, Microsoft taking advantage of the lifted 14-year ban, launched its Xbox One game console in China. Sony is yet to follow, but has announced its intentions. It earlier this month delayed the January 11 launch of the PS4 console in China, without providing a reason and saying it would announced the new launch date in a separate notice.xiaomi_jan20_teaser_event_weibo.jpg

At the sidelines of Xiaomi’s big event last week, the company confirmed that it is all set to launch the Mi 4 flagship smartphone in India on January 28. Xiaomi’s Vice President of International Operations, Hugo Barra, announced an event in New Delhi on January 28, which tied in with India Head Manu Kumar Jain’s statement that theXiaomi Mi 4 would launch by the end of the month.

Considering that Xiaomi follows a customary Tuesday flash sale for its handsets in India, it is possible the Mi 4 will go on sale for the first time on February 3 via Flipkart.

Amazon, Flipkart eye tie-up with IRCTC

MUMBAI/NEW DELHI: Before Flipkart, there was IRCTC, which for most Indians was their introduction to e-commerce more than a decade ago. And even now, revenue from online ticketing on Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corp rules the roost, having exceeded the combined sales of Flipkart and Amazon India in the year ended March.

While both Flipkart and Amazon each said earlier this year that they had hit a billion dollars in annual gross merchandise value or total value of goods sold, IRCTC generated Rs 15,410 crore or nearly $2.5 billion through online ticket sales in the last financial year, up 24% from a year ago when it sold tickets worth Rs 12,419 crore. The figures are sourced from RoC filings.

Amazon, Flipkart eye tie-up with IRCTC

Amazon and Flipkart are in talks with IRCTC as they look to tap the railway portal’s existing database of more than 21 million consumers

Since IRCTC doesn’t compete with any of the online marketplaces in India, both Amazon and Flipkart are in talks with the government-owned portal as they look to tap the railway portal’s existing database of more than 21 million consumers.

“Tie-ups with portals like Flipkart, Amazon etc are in the process under which these portals would like to sell their merchandise through IRCTC’s portal, it being one of the largest e-commerce sites in the entire Asia-Pacific region,” said Sandip Dutta, public public relations manager at IRCTC, which set a record in March when it booked 5.80 lakh e-tickets on a single day. That compares with 27 tickets a day when it began in 2002.

The government-owned portal posted a 33% increase in income at Rs 954.7 crore, which mainly includes service charges on tickets, sales of Railneer water, onboard catering services and licence fees from outsourced catering vendors. This is similar to online marketplaces where sales don’t include actual goods sold but instead count commission from sellers and revenue from advertisements on their e-commerce sites. Amazon Seller Services posted revenue (commissions) of Rs 169 crore while Flipkart Internet, which manages the portal, had total income of Rs 179 crore.

But unlike these privately owned marketplaces, IRCTC posted profit after tax of Rs 72 crore, up from Rs 59 crore in the previous year. Amazon, which entered India a year ago, posted a net loss of Rs 321 crore while its biggest rival Flipkart more than doubled losses to Rs 400 crore.

Despite having a monopolistic position, higher web traffic and sales, IRCTC can’t command a valuation similar to Flipkart or Snapdeal, feel experts.

“Being a government company, its slow decision making, red tapism, less innovation leads to non interest by investors, which in turn leads to a lower valuation. Margins of travel are much lower than margins commanded by selling goods online too,” said Rakesh Nangia, founder and managing partner of Nangia & Co, a tax and transaction advisory firm.

Also, e-commerce companies sell a wide variety of goods unlike IRCTC, which is mainly a ticketing website with no product mix, making it a less scalable business. According to a report by consulting firm Technopak, the $2.3 billion e-tailing market is expected to swell to $32 billion by 2020 and account for 3% of the total Indian retail sector by then.

IRCTC, on its part, tried widening its business by partnering Yebhi.com in a revenue-sharing model last year. Electronics, clothes and home furnishings were sold on the IRCTC site, which also promoted online shopping with a link to Yebhi’s portal. However, the year-long contracted wasn’t extended.

 

Microsoft announces Windows 10, skips version 9 to emphasize advances

SAN FRANCISCO: Microsoft Corp announced its ‘Windows 10’ operating system on Tuesday to replace the largely unpopular Windows 8, skipping a number to mark a leap toward unifying the way people work on tablets, phones and traditional computers.

The next version of Microsoft’s flagship product, which still runs the vast majority of personal computers and is used by 1.5 billion customers worldwide, is aimed at recapturing the lucrative business market, which generally ignored the new-look Windows 8.

Windows 10 will be “our greatest enterprise platform ever,” said Terry Myerson, Microsoft’s head of operating systems, at an event in San Francisco. Only 20 percent of organizations migrated to Windows 8, which was released two years ago, according to tech research firm Forrester. Many PC users disliked the touch-optimized interface and bemoaned the loss of the traditional start-button pop-up menu.

He said Windows 10, long known by the project name ‘Threshold’ internally, represented a new type of system for the company, as it seeks to unify computing as mobile devices proliferate. The name represented that leap, he said.

“Windows 10 adapts to the devices customers are using, from Xbox to PCs and phones to tablets and tiny gadgets,” said Myerson.

Microsoft faces an uphill struggle in reigniting excitement about Windows. With the rise of Apple Inc’s iPhone and iPad, and Google Inc’s Android devices, Windows no longer plays a central role in many people’s on-screen lives.

From a virtual monopoly on personal computing 10 years ago, Windows now runs only about 14 percent of devices, according to research firm Gartner.

pic::Start menu of Windows 10

Reaction to the news was cautious. Microsoft shares fell 8 cents to $46.36 on Nasdaq.

“It’s a bold statement for Microsoft to make,” said Daniel Ives, an analyst at FBR Capital Markets. “So far there’s not as much meat on the bone as we would have wanted, although it’s still very early days.”

An early version of the software, demonstrated on stage by Microsoft executive Joe Belfiore, showed two modes, one optimized for touch-controlled tablets, and one for PCs using a mouse and keyboard. Users can switch between the two depending on the device.

Myerson did not say exactly how or when the new Windows would be rolled out, but other executives said Microsoft was aiming for a full release in spring 2015. A technical preview can be downloaded from Microsoft’s website, starting on Wednesday, for users to try out and give the company feedback.

“They were trying to start the messaging for a product that won’t actually ship until sometime around the middle of next year,” said Gartner analyst Steve Kleynhans at the event. “This was to tell the PC installed base that there is a future and it doesn’t have to be covered over in brightly colored tiles, or force them to abandon everything they’ve learned over the past 15 years.”

Myerson said his team toyed with calling the new product Windows One to emphasize the unity of all the companies’ products, but noted that name had already been used.

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Beyond touch id:where mobile fingerprint scanners are headed

pic::HTC One Max’s Finger Print scanner is on the back.

LAS VEGAS:

Apple isn’t the only one looking to shove a fingerprint sensor onto its smartphone.

There will be several high-profile smartphones that will include fingerprint scanners, according to Michael Maia, vice president of sales for the biometric division of touchscreen and touchpad

company Synaptics. Its product will ship in the first quarter, and more phones should come out in the second half, he said.

Fingerprint recognition technology hit mainstream awareness when Apple decided to make it its marquee feature on the iphone5s. Pretty soon, millions of people were putting their finger on the home button to unlock their phone.

Now, other companies are looking to add the same feature to their own flagship smartphone.

The HTC OneMAX was the first to follow the iPhone 5S to include a fingerprint sensor, which was supplied by Validity, the fingerprint ID company that Synaptics purchased last year. Like previous fingerprint ID systems, the HTC One Max required a person to swipe down with their finger to unlock the phone.

It’s similar to the thin fingerprint sensor found in laptops. Validity had virtually the entire share of that market and continues to support PCs under Synaptics.

In contrast, Apple used a different technology from Authentec, which it acquired in July 2012. Rather than swipe, a person just has to place their finger on the home screen, where it is scanned and recognized. Analysts have noted that the placement of the scanner on the home button, a natural place for a finger to rest, makes it easier for consumers to warm up to it.

The HTC One Max’s sensor is on the back, and Maia said a lot of smartphones with a fingerprint sensor would likely include them somewhere on the back. He noted that Apple has the luxury of placing it on its physical home key,while many phones running Android  or Windows phone

lack the space on the front of the phone. Either the phone has capacity touchscreen buttons, or the bezel around the phone is too small to allow for a physical key.

The Holy Grail, Maia said, is to get the fingerprint scanner embedded under the glass, negating the need for a physical scanner. But he noted that was likely still far away — certainly more than a year from now.

Meanwhile, Synaptics is working to create different versions for different handset makers looking to stand out. Unfortunately, Maia wouldn’t comment on which vendors were looking at his technology.

At least one big player, Samsung Electronics, had looked at the technology. Samsung initially planned to include a fingerprint scanner in the Galaxy Note3, people familiar with the device told CNET, which would have beaten Apple’s iPhone 5S with the feature. However, Samsung scrapped the plan before the device’s September unveiling because the technology proved to be unreliable and complicated, the people said.

Samsung could be including fingerprint-reading technology, but the latest word is that the company may use an iris-scanner instead.

Apple wasn’t the first to use a fingerprint scanner either. Motorola, before getting absorbed by Google, came out with the Atrix, the first phone with a fingerprint scanner embedded on the top of the device. It used technology made by Authentec, although it was clunky and also used the swipe method.

Beyond biometrics, Synapsis showed off a few prototypes of laptop keyboards with built-in capacity sensors beneath them. Allowing you to do gesture controls by swiping across keys, or lighting up the keys just by touching them. The company said laptops with this feature might come during the holidays.


Samsung Galaxy S5 may launch in April with iris-scanning feature

samsung-iris-scanner-rumour-635.jpg

Samsung Galaxy S5 is a much-anticipated device, and the speculation around it is endless. However, in a Bloomberg News interview published on Thursday, Samsung’s mobile executive VP, Lee Young-hee, outlined broad plans for the company’s upcoming flagship smartphone, the next iteration of the Galaxy Note phablet as well as the new Galaxy Gear smartwatch.

Speaking about the launch date of the Galaxy S5, and the next iteration of the Galaxy Gear, Young-hee was quoted as saying, “We’ve been announcing our first flagship model in the first half of each year, around March and April, and we are still targeting for release around that time. When we release our S5 device, you can also expect a Gear successor with more advanced functions, and the bulky design will also be improved.”

The launch of the Galaxy Gear alongside the Galaxy S5 was rumoured as far back as November. However, the launch date seems to contradict what another Samsung executive is reported to have said recently. Samsung Electronics Vice President of Design Team Dong-hoon Chang had apparently said that talk of a Galaxy S5 launch around MWC 2014 was “about right”, so could we see a February unveiling at MWC, followed by a launch in March-April? It’s certainly possible.

Rumours of the eye-scanning feature, which we’ve reported before, were also acknowledged by Young-hee, who said: “Many people are fanatical about iris recognition technology.” Young-hee also said the company was considering the inclusion of iris-scanning technology in the Galaxy S5, to take on Apple’s Touch ID fingerprint-scanning biometric authentication feature, launched with the iPhone 5s.

Interestingly, Young-hee in the interview acknowledged the slow adoption of the Galaxy S4, saying “it’s partly true that consumers couldn’t really feel much difference between the two products (Galaxy S IIIand Galaxy S4) from the physical perspective, so the market reaction wasn’t as big.”

In this context, speaking about plans for the Galaxy S5, Young-hee added: “For the S5, we will go back to the basics. Mostly, it’s about the display and the feel of the cover.”

Describing plans for the next iteration of the Samsung Galaxy Note phablet, Young-hee said a three-sided display was under consideration, one that would enable users to be able to read from a sharper angle. He added that the next Galaxy Note will be released, as always, in the second half of the year, and be targeted at consumers who want “more professional use and tend to be willing to pay more for handsets.”

When elaborating about Samsung’s plans for the future of the wearable device segment, Young-hee said that health-care related functions will be a very important part of next-generation wearables like the Galaxy Gear.