Irina Sandu

on mobile and Mozilla

Month: June, 2012

Android and mobile browsing insights – Week 26

Every week (or so) I post an overview on what’s been happening in the mobile (browsing) world and is relevant to Mozilla.

 

  • New Android version, 4.1, and new device(s) rumoured for Google I/O
  • Android dominates the Chinese smartphone market with 55%, iOS at 12%
  • ZTE looking to expand to high-end range and Western markets
  • Microsoft showed the Windows Phone 8 platform, its next proposition for smartphones
  • Amazon app stores to open to Western European countries
  • Mobile payments main factor for growth of NFC applications

 

In the week before Google’s I/O event details about upcoming announcements leaked. They include a new version for Android, v 4.1, code-named Jelly Bean and a 7 inch Nexus tablet, rumoured to feature the latest software version on a 1.3 GHz Tegra 3 processor with 1 GB of RAM at a very competitive $199 price tag.

 

Android is the dominant smartphone operating system in China with 55% of the install base in Q1 2012, according to an iiMedia report. On second place there is Symbian, with 25%, followed by iOS, with a 12% share. The report puts the total number of active smartphones in the country to 252 million devices, which combined with the market of Web-enabled feature phones puts the country at a total of 372 million mobile Web users. Android’s dominance in China puts the amount of different device models to over 2 000, which includes units of forks of the Android source code developed among others by Baidu and Alibaba.

 

ZTE, one of the Chinese handset producers looking to make a presence in Western smartphone markets, announced its goal of selling 35 million smartphones in 2012 as part of its effort to become the number 3 smartphone vendor in the world by 2015. In 2011, the company shipped 15 million units, mostly in Asia. To accomplish this goal ZTE is launching models to compete in the high-end of the spectrum, which complement its already well developed medium and low-range offering. The new devices will be part of the upcoming Grand range, which debuts with the launch of the ZTE Grand X, a dual-core Tegra 2 CPU and Android v 4.0 model, to be available across Europe and Asia. A x86-based device is also expected to be part of the new range.

 

Microsoft showed the Windows Phone 8 platform, its next proposition for smartphones. The defining characteristic for the new platform is the adoption of the NT kernel, the same one that has been used in the Windows environment for the desktop since XP, to replace the Windows CE one that Microsoft has been using for its mobile platforms. This shift provides better hardware support, including for multicore processors, more file systems and device drivers and enables the writing of native applications in C++. This change will not allow for current Windows Phone 7 devices to be updated to the new version; they will instead receive an update to v 7.8 to bring similarity from a user experience perspective.

 

The new Windows Phone 8 will ship on devices this fall and will include top-of-the line hardware with support for multi-core processors, a NFC-based mobile wallet solution and Internet Explorer 10. Microsoft will emphasize synchronization capabilities between its desktop and mobile Windows offering and provide content synchronization features through NFC technology. Internet Explorer 10 claims to be 4 times faster and to have 2 times more HTML5 feature support than IE on Windows Phone 7.5 (Mango) and will also introduce a proxy-browsing mode.

 

Amazon plans to rollout the international version of its app store later this year, starting with the UK, Germany, France, Italy and Spain. The company has reached out invitations to developers to submit their mobile applications to be distributed in these new countries. Launched on the 22nd of March 2011 with an app inventory of 3 800, the store grew to 31 000 in the course of an year. The store’s main differentiators are the 1-Click purchasing and TestDrive features. This effort has raised rumours about a potential international sale of the company’s Kindle Fire tablet and a different set of rumours points to a version 2 launch on the 31st of July.

 

Mobile payments are the fastest-growing application of NFC technology in the Asia-Pacific region, according to Datacard, a payment solutions provider in the area. The main driver for the growth are emerging markets that skip the PC stage and move directly to mobile. By 2015 there are expected to be 863 million NFC-enabled smartphones in the market, according to Frost & Sullivan.

Android and mobile browsing insights – Week 25

  • Top Developers allowed to reply to reviews in the Google Play store
  • Dolphin Engine is a new implementation of the mobile browser with enhancements on the platform level scoring 450 points on html5test.com
  • Samsung Galaxy S III getting good reviews
  • Microsoft announced a tablet line for Windows 8 called Surface
  • Entry-level devices to account for 40% of the smartphone market in China in 2015, up from 25% currently
  • Postpaid subscriptions first time on the decline in the US
  • Bharti Airtel and Softbank to open mobile portal in India

 

The Google Play Store has started to allow developers to reply to reviews of their applications directly inside the marketplace comments section. This feature is currently only available for organizations with Top Developer badges and it might be rolled out in the future to the other developers, as well.

 

Mobotap, the company behind Dolphin HD, released a new implementation of the browser, in beta, which is called Dolphin Engine.  The release coasts an improved webkit version that scores 450 points on the HTML5 test, significantly higher than any other browser (Chrome beta is at 371, native browser at 280). The version boasts enhancements to canvas, 2D context and GPU accelerated canvas rendering and claims full support for Web Workers, Web Sockets, Web Audio, as well as support for Camera real-time video display, Web Notification, Web GL.

 

The Samsung Galaxy S III, the latest flagship device of the top Android handset manufacturer has been enjoying good reviews in the press this past week, with analysts praising the sleek hardware design, good screen, camera and battery and good performance on the dual-core 1.5 GHz CPU in US devices and the quad-core ones in international versions. The S Voice feature, an equivalent to Siri on the iPhone, has been reviewed as an area for improvement.

 

Microsoft announced a tablet line for Windows 8 called Surface. The line includes 2 models, one to compete in the large tablet segment and show the Metro interface on ARM architecture and one aimed at the ultrabook market to feature the Pro interface on Intel’s chipsets. The ARM-based version will launch together with Windows 8 and the Intel-based on will follow 3 months later. They will be sold initially in Microsoft’s retail and online stores.
Entry-level devices to remain a major growth driver for the Chinese smartphone market, as models sub-US $ 200 will account for over 40% of the market by 2015, growing from 25% this year according to a report by Canalys. Hardware specifications for $ 160 devices are rising, with China Unicom requesting for 4-inch displays and 1 GHz CPUs, more than the 3.5 inch screens and 600 MHz processors required in Q3 2011. Local players will continue to play a role in the shaping of the Chinese market, particularly in the low-end smartphone area, where Baidu and Alibaba both have announced strategies of entering the market. The high-end, over $400 range will keep being dominated by vendors such as Samsung, Apple and HTC, while the middle range is easier accessible to local tier-one brands such as Huawei and ZTE.

 

The US market has experienced the first ever decline in postpaid mobile subscriptions to the advantage of prepaid solutions, which reached 25% of the market. The US is not representative of the worldwide situation, where prepaid is a lot more prevalent, reaching approx. 70% in Western Europe and up to 70% and 95% in areas like China, India and Africa. Analysts explain this trend change in the US as a result of mobile market saturation and increased price sensitivity for their mobile connectivity charges.

 

Bharti Softbank, the joint venture between Bharti Airtel, the largest mobile operator in India, and Japan’s Softbank, together with Yahoo Japan, have announced the launch of an Internet portal in India. Yahoo Japan is the most visited site in Japan and is partly owned by Softbank. The purpose of the joint venture between the Indian and Japanese network operators is to provide mobile web services in India, where mobile access is bound to overtake fixed lined Internet usage by the end of 2012, according to StatsCounter. This announcement represents their second initiative, with the first one being the launch of a hyper-local commerce service in partnership with mobile start-up Y2CF Digital.

Android and mobile browsing insights – Week 24

Every week (or so) I post an overview on what’s been happening in the mobile (browsing) world and is relevant to Mozilla.

 

  • Activation rate for Android devices reached 900 000 units / day
  • iOS6 has been announced, features Siri enhancements, Facebook integration, optimizations for the Chinese market
  • Opera partnered with VimpelCom
  • Tablet owners in the US are 3 times as likely to watch video as smartphone users
  • Android and iOS users to be consuming on average more than 2 or 3 times the amount of data per month than Windows, Symbian or Blackberry users
  • Rumoured Google Nexus 7-inch tablet to feature Tegra 3 CPU and 1 GB of RAM
  • Leaked details of Windows Phone 8 to show Skype and RCS integration
  • Samsung joined the Board of the Linux Foundation
  • Telefonica and Vodafone to build joint venture in Great Britain
  • China Telecom to be expanding in Europe to target 2 million Chinese expats
  • Samsung launched TecTiles, consumer programmable NFC tags

 

The activation rate of Android devices continued to grow and reached 900 000 devices a day, according to Andy Rubin. The figured rose from 500 000 devices per day at the end of June 2011 and 850 000 per day in February this year.

 

Version 6 of iOS has been announced by Apple at its Worldwide Developers Conference, and has been made available in beta to developers. New features include enhancements for Siri, deeper integration of Facebook, cellular integration for video chatting on FaceTime and a new provider for its Maps service. Safari has also received improvements, which include iCloud tabs and an offline reading mode. To better optimize the platform for its Chinese users, Apple added added integration for Baidu (search), Sina Weibo (social), Tudou and Youku (video-sharing) for devices sold in the country. The Cupertino company also announced partnerships with car manufacturers to integrate a new version of Siri into dashboards, which is optimized for the car environment.

 

Opera announced a partnership with VimpelCom, the sixth largest mobile network operator in the world by subscribers, to launch a custom version of Opera Mini across the operator’s brands in 18 countries, covering over 200 million customers. VimpelCom is active in countries which include Russia, the Ukraine, Italy, Canada, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

 

Almost 1 in 4 smartphone owners in the US have a tablet, reveals a ComScore survey, and ownership among feature phone users in the country is lower and reaches almost 10%. The demographic profile shows that men and women alike have bought a tablet and the age composition skews towards older people for tablets than for smartphones. In terms of usage, tablet owners are 3 times as likely to watch video as smartphone users, and with 18% of them doing so at least once a week and 9% nearly every day.

 

Ericsson released data on the average monthly traffic volume per subscription for different mobile operating systems, which showed Android and iOS to be consuming on average more than 2 or 3 times the amount of data the Windows, Symbian or Blackberry smartphones are using.

 

Pictures which are rumoured to feature a Google Nexus 7-inch tablet produced by Asus have been leaked. Hardware specifications would include Tegra 3 CPU, possibly in the quad-core configuration, and 1 GB of RAM.

 

Alleged details about the upcoming Windows Phone 8 release have been leaked and they feature screenshots of Skype and Rich Communication Suit integration, improved hardware support for multi-core processors and NFC support integrated with a wallet solution. RCS is an industry effort backed predominantly by network operators to integrate interoperable services such as instant messaging, video and image sharing into mobile devices. In 2011, the Joyn brand was launched as the name for RCS services.

 

Samsung has joined the Linux Foundation Board of Directors, to reflect its commitment to the platform and “streamline its participation with the kernel community and adopt open source best practices.”

 

Telefonica and Vodafone announced that they plan to combine their wireless phone grids in Great Britain and build a joint venture to compete with Everything Everywhere, the market leader in the country. The combination of Telefonica’s O2 and Vodafone UK would create a national LTE broadband network, the spectrum auction for which is being organized by the British government by the end of this year.

 

China Telecom, the third largest mobile network operator in China, is planning to expand in several European countries, after having launched into the UK. The new ventures are targeted at Chinese expats and ethnic communities and are setup as MVNOs and focus on value added services. The top five economies in Europe that China Telecom is targeting: the UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain have a combined total of 2 million Chinese expats.

 

Samsung launched TecTiles, a set of NFC tag stickers available for end-users that can be easily programmed to interact with NFC-enabled Samsung Galaxy devices, as a means to boost NFC technology usage. The tags can be programmed for a multitude of interactions, including the launching of applications, the sending of messages, the sharing of contact information, the changing of phone settings. TecTiles are available in the US.

Android and mobile browsing insights – Week 23

Every week (or so) I post an overview on what’s been happening in the mobile (browsing) world and is relevant to Mozilla.

 

  • Opera announced it reached 189.6 million mobile users, a new version of Opera Mini for basic phones and a partnership with America Movil and one with Bharti Airtel
  • 65% of all Androids run Gingerbread, 19% Froyo and 7% Ice Cream Sandwich
  • The hardware section of the Play Store expansing with accessories
  • Researchers found security flaws in Google Bouncer
  • HTC and Sony partnered to augment their mobile offerings
  • First Android device on x86 architecture available in Europe
  • Samsung Galaxy S III landing in market, Galaxy Note 2 rumoured to launch in October
  • Asus, Acer and Toshiba to be among Windows 8 tablet manufacturers
  • Video of Tizen on Samsung reference device available
  • By 2015 smartphones will account for 75% of new phones sold

 

Opera had a full week of announcements:

  • it released Opera Mini 7 for basic / feature phones, which includes Smart Page, a one-page summary of news from Facebook and Twitter feeds, the ability to add feeds from favourite news sites
  • it released the April edition of its State of the Mobile Web report, which now puts the number of Opera Mini and Mobile users at 189.6 million, a number which grew by 47.8% compared to last year and which is comprised of 17 million Opera Mobile and the rest 172.6 million Opera Mini users. Other information states that India became the top country as ranked by number of Mini users, followed by Russia, Indonesia, Nigeria, Ukraine, Vietnam, China, Mexico, South Africa, and Brazil.
  • it announced a partnership with America Movil, the world’s third-largest mobile network operator, under which a co-branded version of the Opera Mini mobile browser will be offered to more than 242 million carrier customers in 18 countries.
  • it announced a partnership with Bharti Airtel to offer a customized and co-branded version of Opera Mini to over 253 million of the carrier customers in 20 countries across Asia and Africa.

 

With the addition of the latest partnerships, Opera Software has reached agreements with 13 out of the top 30 mobile network operators globally.

 

The latest Android version platform distribution stats put Gingerbread (v2.3 – API levels 9 and 10) at 65% of worldwide Android install base, followed by Froyo (v2.2 – API level 8) at 19.1%, and by Ice Cream Sandwich (v4 – API levels 14 and 15) at 7.1%. Versions prior to Eclair (v2.1 – API level 7) are close to extinction, accounting together for less than 1%.

 

Google added more hardware offering to its Devices section of the Play Store, which include accessories for the Galaxy Nexus.

 

Researchers have posted a video proving their ability to bypass Google Bouncer, the cloud-based service that Google uses to scan applications submitted to the Play Store for malware. The researchers are in contact with the Google team and will be working with them to address some of the vulnerabilities they discovered.

 

The second biggest Android phone manufacturer, HTC, and Sony, who also produces devices with Google’s operating system, have entered into a partnership that brings closer HTC’s devices and Sony’s Playstation offering. The agreement is part of HTC’s on-going commitment to provide a series of differentiation elements for their devices series, recently rebranded to One, and of Sony’s strategy of optimizing their PlayStation offering for the mobile industry, which has been renamed to PlayStation Mobile.

 

The first Android device based on Intel’s x86 architecture available in Europe will arrive on the 6th of June and be sold by Orange in the UK. The model is similar to the Xolo X900 model released in India in April and it is based on the Atom Z2460 processor of the Medfield series, which will run single-core at 1.6GHz and is accompanied by a 400 MHz PowerVR SGX 540 GPU. The Android version is Gingerbread.

 

The Samsung Galaxy S III, the next iteration of one of the most successful Android device series, is in the process of being rolled-out to carriers and hardware stores across the world, covering Asia, Europe, North America and Australia. Following the success of the first Galaxy Note series, Samsung is also rumoured to launch a version 2 in October this year.

The Windows 8 tablet segment prospects are beginning to take shape with a series of producers announcing they will be loading some of their hardware with Microsoft’s operating system. Asus, Acer, and Toshiba are expected to unveil models next week, with Asus switching to Windows 8 from Android for its line of Transformer tablets, which will feature 11.6, 13 and 14-inch screens powered by a range of Core i3, i5 and i7 processors.

 

Samsung offered reference devices to Tizen developers to test their latest version on hardware featuring dual-core 1.2 GHz Cortex A9 Exynos CPU, 1 GB of RAM on a 4.6 inch Super AMOLED PLUS screens. Here you can see a video of how the operating system behaves on the reference devices.

 

Mobile analyst Tomi Ahonen produced a list of up-coming milestones of the mobile industry, which includes that:

  • 2013 will be the first year that smartphone sales will pass 1 billion units per year, which is more than shipments of other common electronics, such asTVs, DVD players, digital cameras, PCs
  • by 2013 one third of phones will have WiFi
  • by 2014 half of the Internet users in the world will be accessing the Web mobile-only
  • in 2015 half of mobile service revenues will be coming from data services, which presents a shift from the dominance of voice and data as sources of revenues
  • by 2015 smartphones will account for 75% of new phones sold
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