smartphones

Twelve South’s HiRise Wireless is a super versatile wireless smartphone charger

Posted by | AirPods, Apple, computers, Gadgets, inductive charging, iOS, iPhone, mobile phones, PIXEL, pixel 3, Reviews, smartphones, TC, technology, usb, wireless charger, wireless chargers, Wireless Charging | No Comments

Wireless charging has been a wonderful addition to mainstream flagship smartphones including the iPhone, Samsung’s Galaxy lineup and Google’s Pixel phones. But there hasn’t been a really great option for bringing the benefits of wireless charging with you on the road, while keeping your desktop setup tidy until now, with TwelveSouth’s recently released HiRise Wireless.

The HiRise Wireless builds on the good reputation of the existing HiRise line from TwelveSouth, which includes the Duet, a great combo charger for both iPhone and Apple Watch. The Wireless version, as implied by the name, includes wireless charging of up to 10W, which means you get the fastest cable-free charging rate available for devices that support Qi charging, including the iPhone X, XR and XS, as well as the Pixel 3 and Samsung Galaxy S10.

The HiRise is unique in that it provides a charging puck that can both mount in the frame (which has a nice weighted base to stay rock solid on your desk) and pop out to either provide a lie-flat wireless charger (which will work with the new wireless AirPods charging case, for instance) or pack away in a bag.

The upright angle the wireless charger provides when mounted in the frame is perfect for registering Face ID unlocks when used with an iPhone X or later, and positioned on your desk. That’s a great way to give yourself access to phone notifications without distracting too much from your desktop work. And the puck itself is a lot smaller than most wireless chargers, which isn’t idea for typical at-home charging, but which is terrific for stowing it in a gadget pouch.

The puck also has a rubberized ring bordering the charging pad to prevent your device from slipping around, and it works with a detachable USB-C to USB-A cable that comes in the box which adds to the portability, and means you can easily use it with whatever USB-C charging cables you already have on-hand for your Mac or other devices.

If you’re in the market for a wireless charger and travel a decent amount, it’s hard to beat the value of the HiRise Wireless. It’s $79.99, which is more than you’ll pay for a lot of quality wireless chargers, but Twelve South’s unique design is worth the premium in this case for people looking for its unique flexibility.

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App revenue tops $39 billion in first half of 2019, up 15% from first half of last year

Posted by | analyst, android apps, app revenues, app stores, app-store, Apple, Apps, China, Google Play, instagram, iOS App Store, iOS apps, Mobile, mobile applications, mobile apps, mobile games, Netflix, online marketplaces, sensor tower, smartphones, streaming services, Tencent, tiktok, Tinder | No Comments

App store spending is continuing to grow, although not as quickly as in years past. According to a new report from Sensor Tower, the iOS App Store and Google Play combined brought in $39.7 billion in worldwide app revenue in the first half of 2019 — that’s up 15.4% over the $34.4 billion seen during the first half of last year. However, at that time, the $34.4 billion was a 27.8% increase from 2017’s numbers, then a combined $26.9 billion across both stores.

Apple’s App Store continues to massively outpace Google Play on consumer spending, the report also found.

In the first half of 2019, global consumers spent $25.5 billion on the iOS App Store, up 13.2% year-over-year from the $22.6 billion spent in the first half of 2018. Last year, the growth in consumer spending was 26.8%, for comparison’s sake.

Still, Apple’s estimated $25.5 billion in the first half of 2019 is 80% higher than Google Play’s estimated gross revenue of $14.2 billion — the latter a 19.6% increase from the first half of 2018.

The major factor in the slowing growth is iOS in China, which contributed to the slowdown in total growth. However, Sensor Tower expects to see China returning to positive growth over the next 12 months, we’re told.

To a smaller extent, the downturn could be attributed to changes with one of the top-earning apps across both app stores: Netflix.

Last year, Netflix dropped in-app subscription sign-ups for Android users. Then, at the end of December 2018, it did so for iOS users, too. That doesn’t immediately drop its revenue to zero, of course — it will continue to generate revenue from existing subscribers. But the number will decline, especially as Netflix expands globally without an in-app purchase option, and as lapsed subscribers return to renew online with Netflix directly.

In the first half of 2019, Netflix was the second highest earning non-game app with consumer spending of $339 million, Sensor Tower estimates, down from $459 million in the first half of 2018. (We should point out the firm bases its estimates on a 70/30 split between Netflix and Apple’s App Store that drops to 85/15 after the first year. To account for the mix of old and new subscribers, Sensor Tower factors in a 25% cut. But Daring Fireball’s John Gruber claims Netflix had a special relationship with Apple where it had an 85/15 cut from year one.)

In any event, Netflix’s contribution to the app stores’ revenue is on the decline.

In the first half of last year, Netflix had been the No. 1 non-game app for revenue. This year, that spot went to Tinder, which pulled in an estimated $497 million across the iOS App Store and Google Play, combined. That’s up 32% over the first half of 2018.

1h 2019 app revenue worldwide

But Tinder’s dominance could be a trend that doesn’t last.

According to recent data from eMarketer, dating app audiences have been growing slower than expected, causing the analyst firm to revise its user estimates downward. It now expects that 25.1 million U.S. adults will use a dating app monthly this year, down from its previous forecast of 25.4 million. It also expects that only 21% of U.S. single adults will use a dating app at all in 2019, and that will only grow to 23% by 2023.

That means Tinder’s time at the top could be overrun by newcomers in later months, especially as new streaming services get off the ground (assuming they offer in-app subscriptions); if TikTok starts taking monetization seriously; or if any other large apps from China find global audiences outside of China’s third-party app stores.

For example, Tencent Video grossed $278 million globally in the first half of 2019, outside of the third-party Chinese Android app stores. That made it the third-largest non-game app by revenue. And Chinese video platform iQIYI and YouTube were the No. 4 and No. 5 top-grossing apps, respectively.

Meanwhile, iOS app installs actually declined in the first half of the year, following the first quarter that saw a decline in downloads, Q1 2019, attributed to the downturn in China.

The App Store in the first half of 2019 accounted for 14.8 billion of the total 56.7 billion app installs.

Google Play installs in the first half of the year grew 16.4% to 41.9 billion, or about 2.8 times greater than the iOS volume.

1h 2019 app downloads worldwide

The most downloaded apps in the first half of 2019 were the same as before: WhatsApp, Messenger and Facebook led the top charts. But TikTok inched ahead of Instagram for the No. 4 spot, and it saw its installs grow around 28% to nearly 344 million worldwide.

In terms of mobile gaming specifically, spending was up 11.3% year-over-year in the first half of 2019, reaching $29.6 billion across the iOS App Store and Google Play. Thanks to the fallout of the game licensing freeze in China, App Store revenue growth for games was at $17.6 billion, or 7.8% year-over-year growth. Google Play game spending grew by 16.8% to $12 billion.

The top-grossing games, in order, were Tencent’s Honor of Kings, Fate/Grand Order, Monster Strike, Candy Crush Saga and PUBG Mobile.

1h 2019 game revenue worldwide

Meanwhile, the most downloaded games were Color Bump 3D, Garena Free Fire and PUBG Mobile.

Image credits: Sensor Tower

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Samsung’s Galaxy Fold problems are reportedly fixed — so now what?

Posted by | hardware, Mobile, Samsung, samsung galaxy fold, smartphones | No Comments

In a recent interview, Samsung CEO DJ Koh noted that the company was hard at work on Galaxy Fold fixes (he also said people won’t be using smartphones in five years, so who knows?). And now, a report from Bloomberg confirms that the company has put the finishing touches on those fixes two months after the handset was originally set to debut.

So now what? We still don’t have a date. We’ve been seeing promises that a firmer timeline for release would arrive in “coming weeks” for what seems like months now. But those “people familiar with the matter” who told the site that the phone is finally ready for prime time aren’t offering any additional info on a time frame.

Instead, it looks like the company’s plans are to — at the very least — have its first foldable available in time for the holidays. At just under $2,000, that’s a pretty hefty ask for a stocking stuffer. Given that Samsung has now officially confirmed its Note 10 event for August 7, it might well just wait for that big show to confirm the release date — especially if we’re not expecting the see it hit retail until Q4.

Samsung’s been through worse, of course. The Note 7 debacle was a bigger black eye both in terms of timing and scope. But the initial spate of problems with the handset felt like as much of an indictment of the category as Samsung’s methods. Even Huawei used it as an opportunity to put its Mate X through more rigorous testing. Whatever the case, the revolution is going to take even longer to unfold than expected.

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Samsung will announce the next Galaxy Note on August 7

Posted by | galaxy note, hardware, Mobile, Samsung, samsung galaxy note, smartphones | No Comments

It’s official. Samsung just sent out invites for the next Unpacked event. The big show kicks off at 4PM ET August 7, right here in New York. The timing lines up with rumors that have been floating around for a few weeks — not to mention last year’s big event.

And in case there was any mystery around what precisely the company is going to unveil, Samsung has happily spoiled the surprise with the inclusion of a prominent S Pen on the invite. The August event will almost certainly see the debut of the Galaxy Note 10.

The art appears to hint at an updated camera, as well. Based on recent leaks, the invite looks to be a close-up of the nearly all-screen front of the new phablet, with the single hole punch front-facing camera up top. The new handset is said to include a vertical three-array camera with depth sensing and a 5G option. Samsung is also reportedly dropping the headphone jack this time out, after years pointing to it as a standout feature from the rest of the industry.

Last year’s event also saw a number of additional devices, including the (still unreleased) Galaxy Home smart speaker. At the very least maybe we’ll finally be getting a date on that product, along with more information about the long-delayed Galaxy Fold.

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Samsung CEO calls Galaxy Fold mishap ‘embarrassing’

Posted by | galaxy fold, hardware, Mobile, Samsung, smartphones | No Comments

In a meeting with a group of journalists in South Korea, Samsung Electronics CEO DJ Koh candidly addressed the company’s latest hardware mishap. “It was embarrassing,” he told reporters, as quoted by The Independent. “I pushed it through before it was ready.”

That last bit no one can debate, really. After years of preamble, Samsung still managed to jump the gun with the Galaxy Fold. The company was eager to be the first major manufacturer to market with the category’s most radical redesign in a decade. Ultimately, however, the company ended up pumping the breaks after multiple reviewers reported problems with their units.

Samsung was quick to place the blame at the hands of reviewers, but eventually shifted course after realizing that problems were more widespread. More than two months after the handset was initially expected to hit retail, we’re still very much in a holding pattern with Samsung’s first foldable — though the company has promised a more concrete date for some time.

Samsung has been quick to deny any rumors that the phone has been altogether canceled, and Koh reiterated that the Fold is still being put through its paces. “I do admit I missed something on the foldable phone, but we are in the process of recovery,” the executive told the press. “At the moment, more than 2,000 devices are being tested right now in all aspects. We defined all the issues. Some issues we didn’t even think about, but thanks to our reviewers, mass volume testing is ongoing.”

Koh didn’t offer specifics with regards to a release date, though the company is reportedly gearing up to launch the next version of the Note at an event in August.

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Analysts think global 5G smartphone shipments will overtake 4G in 2023

Posted by | 5g, Mobile, smartphones | No Comments

After years of buildup, 5G is finally here — albeit more as a trickle than a deluge. These things take time, of course. Carriers are adding coverage, city by city, promising dozens by year’s end. And as for hardware, early adopters have somewhere between one and three handsets to choose from, carrier-dependent.

Indeed, 5G is pretty universally regarded as the next key mobile trend, but it’s not going to happen overnight. A new report from Canalys has 2023 as the true pivot point, when 5G handset shipments finally overtake 4G. That’s roughly five years, with 2019 included. Of course, that’s the global number, and these things will almost certainly vary from market to market.

unnamed 2

The firm has 5G phones hitting 800 million shipments in 2023, which will comprise 51.4% of the global market for the year. That will bring the total shipments up to 1.9 billion since the first 5G-capable devices were launched this year. North America will make up 18.8% of the market to Greater China’s 34%.

That’s big, continued growth for China, which surpassed the U.S. for the title of the largest smartphone market back in 2011. While the Chinese economy has slowed and taken its high-end smartphone market with it, the country is well-positioned to be an important player in the race to 5G.

“5G smartphones will see rapid adoption in China, thanks to a strong government technology roadmap and operators’ financial capabilities,” Canalys mobile VP Nicole Peng said in a statement. “China is also home to many major 5G equipment suppliers and smartphone vendors, which will be responsible for an aggressive marketing push over the next few years.”

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Huawei can buy from US suppliers again — but things will never be the same

Posted by | america, Android, Asia, China, Companies, donald trump, g20, Google, huawei, mobile phones, operating system, president, Ren Zhengfei, smartphones, supply chain, telecommunications, Trump administration, United States | No Comments

U.S. President Donald Trump has handed Huawei a lifeline after he said that U.S. companies are permitted to sell goods to the embattled Chinese tech firm following more than a month of uncertainty.

It’s been a pretty dismal past month for Huawei since the American government added it and 70 of its affiliates to an “entity list” which forbids U.S. companies from doing business with it. The ramifications of the move were huge across Huawei’s networking and consumer devices businesses. A range of chip companies reportedly forced to sever ties while Google, which provides Android for Huawei devices, also froze its relationship. Speaking this month.

All told, Huawei founder and chief executive Ren Zhengfei said recently that the ban would cost the Chinese tech firm — the world’s third-larger seller of smartphones — some $30 billion in lost revenue of the next two years.

Now, however, the Trump administration has provided a reprieve, at least based on the President’s comments following a meeting with Chinese premier Xi Jinping at the G20 summit this weekend.

“US companies can sell their equipment to Huawei. We’re talking about equipment where there’s no great national security problem with it,” the U.S. President said.

Those comments perhaps contradict some in the US administration who saw the Huawei blacklisting as a way to strangle the company and its global ambitions, which are deemed by some analysts to be a threat to America.

President Trump has appeared to soften his tone on Chinese communications giant Huawei, suggesting that he would allow the company to once again purchase US technology https://t.co/4YNJCyKLTg pic.twitter.com/jr45f40ghP

— CNN International (@cnni) June 29, 2019

Despite the good news, any mutual trust has been broken and things are unlikely to be the same again.

America’s almost casual move to blacklist Huawei — the latest in a series of strategies in its ongoing trade battle with China — exemplifies just how dependent the company has become on the U.S. to simply function.

Huawei has taken steps to hedge its reliance on America, including the development of its own operating system to replace Android and its own backup chips, and you can expect that these projects will go into overdrive to ensure that Huawei doesn’t find itself in a similar position again in the future.

Of course, decoupling its supply chain from US partners is no easy task both in terms of software and components. It remains to be seen if Huawei could maintain its current business level — which included 59 million smartphones in the last quarter and total revenue of $107.4 billion in 2018 — with non-US components and software but this episode is a reminder that it must have a solid contingency policy in case it becomes a political chess piece again in the future.

Beyond aiding Huawei, Trump’s move will boost Google and other Huawei partners who invested significant time and resources into developing a relationship with Huawei to boost their own businesses through its business.

Indeed, speaking to press Trump, Trump admitted that US companies sell “a tremendous amount” of products to Huawei. Some “were not exactly happy that they couldn’t sell” to Huawei and it looks like that may have helped tipped this decision. But, then again, never say never — you’d imagine that the Huawei-Trump saga is far from over despite this latest twist.

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Samsung exec says the Galaxy Fold is ‘ready to hit the market’

Posted by | galaxy fold, hardware, Mobile, Samsung, samsung galaxy fold, smartphones | No Comments

As we asked back in February, “We’re ready for foldable phones, but are they ready for us?” The answer, so far, has been an enthusiastic, “not really.” The Galaxy Fold was pushed back after multiple review units crapped the proverbial bed. And just last week, Huawei noted that it was holding off on its own Mate X release, citing Samsung’s issues as a cautionary tale. 

Samsung, at least, may finally be ready to unleash its foldable on the world, two months after its planned release. “Most of the display problems have been ironed out,” Samsung Display Vice President Kim Seong-cheol told a crowd at an event in Seoul this week, “and the Galaxy Fold is ready to hit the market.”

The company’s no doubt waiting for a more formal announcement to release specifics on timing. Samsung has been promising release news “in coming weeks” for several weeks now. Understandably, the company hasn’t been rushing to get the handset back out. As bad as the press was the first time around, Samsung doesn’t want a repeat here along the lines of the Note 7’s two recalls.

When announcing the initial delay, Samsung announced two points of failure: a screen protector that looked like the temporary ones other devices ship with and large holes between joints in the hinge that allowed detritus to sneak behind the display, causing issues when users applied pressure to the front.

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Palm’s tiny phone is available unlocked at $350

Posted by | hardware, Mobile, palm, smartphones | No Comments

The first time I showed the Palm phone to the TechCrunch staff, they were excited. At the very least, it was a unique take on the category, designed to be a second phone for those moments that didn’t require a larger, bulkier device.

But reality set in pretty quickly. The device’s capabilities were severely limited by a number of factors, including size. The biggest issue, however, was a Verizon exclusive that only let users purchase the device as a second handset tied to an existing account.

Back in April, the company announced that the 3.3-inch phone could be purchased as a standalone device — albeit still through Verizon or US Mobile. Today, it’s expanding that, making the handset available unlocked, so it will work with AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and MetroPCS SIMs.

The phone’s available “at only” $350. That’s cheap compared to many full-sized, mid-tier handsets, but cheapness is certainly a relative concept. It still seems like a lot for a second phone, and while it’s certainly adorable, I’d strongly advise against anyone using it as a primary handset. Heck, it’s not even all that great as a standalone MP3 player.

If you’re still interested, you can pre-order it today — and Palm will throw in a $30 leather case with neck and wrist lanyards. It starts shipping in six to eight weeks.

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AT&T cancels Samsung Galaxy Fold orders

Posted by | Gadgets, galaxy fold, Mobile, Samsung, smartphones, TC | No Comments

AT&T has cancelled early orders for the Samsung Galaxy Fold.

Tom’s Guide first reported the cancellation, noting that AT&T said the Galaxy Fold would be available again to order as soon as Samsung announces a new launch date. AT&T is offering $100 in credit to those whose orders it has cancelled.

The Samsung Galaxy Fold was originally scheduled to launch on April 26. However, early reviews indicated there were issues with the phone, which Samsung initially said was the fault of reviewers. The company eventually decided to postpone the launch and get back to the drawing board.

Earlier this week, a Samsung rep told Cnet that it would announce timing on the nearly $2,000 phone “in the coming weeks.”

However, AT&T’s move here suggests that it may be a while before the Galaxy Fold resurfaces, if at all.

Samsung itself asked customers who pre-ordered to confirm that they still want the device following the review period. On May 24, Best Buy cancelled all pre-orders of the phone.

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