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The SXSW Trade Show this year will see the launch of two new web comics platform, TappyToon and Amootoon. Those behind the new medium stated they wish to innovate the segment by ‘breathing new life into the medium’. The way this is achieved is by integrating aspects of film making, comics, and web development into a single medium which they claim will make things simple for the content creators. What this means for the comic readers is that they will get to experience sound, special effects and animation in what otherwise has only been a static medium so far. Readers will also be able to interact with the characters ‘for a more immersive experience’.
The Korean start-up also stated the new TappyToon and Amootoon format has been optimized for viewing on smartphone and tablet devices and are designed to make the most of the digital rendering capabilities of these new age mobile devices. TappyToon will be available for free on iOS devices from May 2014 while making its Android debut in June. Those eager to know more will be able to experience TappyToon first hand at the SXSW Trade Show at booth no. 1206.
Amootoon, on the other hand will launch in beta form on April 2014 and can be previewed at booth no. 1111 at the SXSW Trade Show that runs from 9 – 12 March.
Android has emerged as one of the most popular operating systems in use today. That devices running Android has outsold all its competitors in 2013 is no doubt a good measure of its popularity, beating even Apple iOS in the process. The online search giant has now upped the ante claiming its mobile OS has proved to be the fastest to reach the top.
“I mean, look, in the history of operating systems, I think Android has been the quickest and most successful adoption of an operating system in the world. So you just sort of stop, take pause and say, oh my God, that’s crazy. Nobody could have ever predicted that we’re going to get an operating system adopted in an industry, which has so many different OEMs, manufacturing with their own operating systems having adopted around the world,” said Nikesh Arora, senior vice president at Google while speaking at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media and Telecom Conference.
First acquired by Google in 2005, Android (the company also of the same name) has since seen several upgrades. However, as stated by Google, the OS first attained a level of maturity from the Ice Cream Sandwich version. The OS then attained newer heights with the upgrade to Jelly Bean which continues to be the most used version of Android so far. Google has since launched the Android KitKat version, the most recent so far.
However, to completely ignore Apple’s iOS when discussing the most successful of mobile OS’s will be just half the story told. Apple devices such as the iPad and the iPhone continue to be the single largest tablet and smartphone brand respectively, outselling any of its Android competitors by a healthy margin. It’s just that the iOS got swamped by an operating system that is based on a completely different business strategy. Android is doled out free enabling any manufacturers to use it as per their will. In contrast, Apple maintains a vice like grip over iOS and is the only maker of gadgets based on it. In any case, it will be interesting to see how things pan out now that Android has proven to be more popular than iOS.
Google has come up with an updated distribution list of the various Android versions that are being employed. Not surprisingly, it is the preceding Android version – Jelly Bean that continues to hold the sway with about 62 percent adoption. The latest iteration, KitKat, can now be seen running on just 2.5 percent of devices, which marks about a slight improvement over the 1.8 percent Android devices that had the newest Android version last month.
One of the barriers to KitKat adoption is the bulk of mainstream phones from LG, Samsung, Sony, HTC not pushing out the latest updates. Most of these companies all have a custom UI that hinders quick updates.
Coming back to the Android version distribution list, while its Jelly Bean that continues to be the largest version in use right now, its Android 4.1 Jelly Bean that runs in the majority (35.6 percent) of devices followed Android 4.2 and 4.3 versions is use on 17.1 and 9.6 percent of devices respectively.
Among the other preceding Android versions, 14.2 percent of devices continue licking Android Ice Cream Sandwich while HoneyComb has been reduced to just 0.1 percent. In contrast Gingerbread can be still seen running on 19 percent devices along with Froyo on 1.2 percent devices. These figures aren’t expected to show growth any more but will only be fading into oblivion.
Overall, the above figures might not be of much interest to the average users but still makes for an interesting read for Android users as it gives them an insight as to which group they belong to or how big or small the group has come to be over the months.
It is only a matter of time before smart wearable devices are available from every company. There are already more than a handful of smartwatch and fitness tracking devices available right now. However, while there have been two distinct wearable segments so far, smartwatches and fitness trackers, experts have started to predict an integrated device could be coming our way, and in the not too distant future.
More advancements in the field of battery, storage, display, and computing will play an important role in determining just how the devices will function in future. Current ranges of smart wearables rely on a smartphone, so far as functionality is concerned. These are designed to keep the user informed of notifications in a more convenient manner that normally would have required cranking up the smartphone device each time, communicating via Bluetooth. These devices only function when in range of the smartphone; beyond which these function with much reduced functionalities.
Surprisingly, companies such as Samsung promote this very trend of launching smartwatches that only function with a specific smartphone brand, knowing that standalone smartwatch devices would have allowed for a vastly improved user experience. As Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak has said of smartwatches, he’d like to have the entire smartphone and internet experience on his wrist. Users won’t have to buy a particular smartphone for a specific smartwatch, and vice-versa. This would break the current trend where smartwatches now only display secondary data. Take the smartphone out, and the associated smartwatch will be reduced to being just another electronic watch with a sprinkling of other functionalities.
The only restriction that has been hampering the growth of smart wearables so far has been adequate technological backup. Manufacturers have come up with devices that offer about 2-3 days of back up time at most, while the use of e-ink display can take that further to about a week. Constant advancement in technology should help ease the limitations soon. but what remains to be seen is whether manufacturers choose to come up with smart wearable devices that will work independently or still be tied to a smartphone. Right now the concern is smartwatches being not stylish enough; let’s hope future smartwatches will also be a lot smarter than they are right now.
Following the launch of the iPad Air and the iPhone 5s, the clamor for the next gen versions has already started to pick up pace. Now, rumors making the rounds are that Apple may have an early release of the iPhone 6 sometime around July 2014, instead of the usual September timeline that the Cupertino-based company usually has. Analysts at Mizuho Securities have stated Apple might advance its iPhone 6 launch schedule, basing its claim on the rise in activity among component suppliers based in Japan and China.
Apple is also reported to have assured a sapphire crystal glass manufacturer of profits by the middle of this year (the next iPhone is believed to come with a sapphire crystal display). However, some sources maintain that there is no reason to believe Apple will launch the iPhone 6 early. A September launch is perfect to approach the holiday season as the device will still be fresh enough to appeal to the holiday buyers; a launch in September will also allow Apple enough time to smooth out supply issues.
As for the device itself, the next iPhone is almost certain to offer an even bigger display to keep up with other smartphones of its genre. The current iPhone 5s sports a 4 inch display, which could be bumped up to 4.7 inches for the next version. An even bigger 5.5 inch version is also being speculated, though some believe Apple might carve out a separate niche for the bigger version instead of including it in its iPhone line-up. The phablet, or big screen segment, has already grown to sizeable proportions and Apple surely won’t want to miss out on having a contender there this time; Samsung’s iPhone, the Galaxy S5, sports a 5.1 inch display.
Display size apart, other areas where the iPhone 6 is sure to upgrade include a 64 bit A8 chip along with iOS 8, offering an enhanced smartphone experience. Apple is also expected to enhance the scope of the finger touch sensor in iPhone 6 to make it play a bigger role in its application for a more secure payment option and integration with more apps.
So far as the iPad Air 2 is concerned, experts believe it is expected to stick to its usual launch schedule of the fall of this year. In fact, analysts believe Apple might not launch a new version of the iPad Mini as well as the purported iPad Pro with 12.9 inch display to focus more on the iPad Air. Further, the iPad Air 2 could also have the touch ID sensor found on the current iPhone 5s, which no doubt will enhance its appeal even more.
Among everything else, Apple is also tipped to release the long awaited iWatch device this year. It’s another segment that has just started to boom and Apple surely will like to get in on it before it’s too late. Apple is already believed to have gotten interest from batteries from LG Chem. This is on top of earlier reports of Apple hiring fitness and other app developers to develop the iWatch.
Android tablets are out on top, beating Apple for the first time ever and by a comprehensive margin. Figures revealed by analysts Gartner show that Apple has had a 36 percent share of the tablet market in 2013, almost half that of the 62 percent share that Android has had for the same period. Android accounted for 121 million tablet sales in 2013, compared to 70 million iPads sold. In all, 195 million tablet devices were sold in 2013.
For Apple, the results were in spite of registering a growth over its 2012 sales where 61 million iPads were sold. That number translated to a 53 percent share of the tablet market. For the same period, Android accounted for 46 percent share of the tablet market, or 53 million tablets.
Apple can still take consolation from the fact that the iPad continues to be the single largest tablet brand, outselling others by a comfortable margin. Samsung came in second, having sold 37 million tablets to equal a 19 percent market share, a huge improvement over the 7 percent market it had in 2012. Asus made up the third slot, having sold more than 11 million tablets, which comes to 5.6 percent share. Surprisingly, Amazon, who started the affordable tablet race, managed to sell just about 9 million tablets in 2013. Its market share dropped to 4.8 percent from 6.6 percent in 2012, making it the only manufacturer among the top 5 to record negative growth rate.
As for reasons behind the rise of the Android tablet, it is the emergence of low cost entry level tablet options that appears to have done the trick. For the first time, consumers had a lot of affordable tablet devices to choose from. Fortunately for them, these tablets offered decent specs in spite of the relatively cheap price tag. In contrast, the iPad caters to the premium segment that makes it within the reach of a distinct class of consumers. However, the challenge before Android is to ensure the huge user base who has invested in an Android tablet gets to have an endearing user experience so that they remain within the Android fold.
Further, both Apple and Google will have to watch out for a resurgent Windows platform that has registered growth in 2013. Though still quite insignificant with 2.1 percent market share and 4 million tablet sales, it could make for a much better performance in 2014 on the back of rumors of a thoroughly improved Windows 9. Also, the emergence of improved low power chips have led to better acceptance of Windows tablet which is poised for a take off if Microsoft gets its act together in providing for an enhanced software experience over Windows 8.1.
BlackBerry is up against stiff competition from mobile security solutions provider Good Technology, besting BlackBerry’s perceived lack of ability to deliver in a multi-platform environment, although BlackBerry claims they’ve been providing multi-platform support for almost 2 years now. The Canadian company backed that up with figures that show there have been 30,000 new BES servers installed around the world in the past year, compared to Good’s 5,000 customers.
California-based Good Technology has said their presence in this field can be considered a fallout of the unsatisfactory experience that customers have had with BlackBerry hardware and software. Its CEO, Christy Wyatt, has also expressed satisfaction over the way her company has evolved over the years and claims to be on a steady path of growth. However, Wyatt has stated that she wouldn’t like her company to be branded as a BlackBerry killer, especially since she hails from Canada.
BlackBerry has been more concerned with retaining its enterprise clients, which may be the company’s comfort zone but entails adapting to a fast changing tech scene than what it was even a few years ago. They also have to adapt to customers bringing in their own devices based on different platforms but need to work seamlessly with the BlackBerry at work.
Good Technology acquired BoxTone, a mobile management firm which Wyatt claims to have cost them hundreds of millions of dollars, which shows they are looking towards the long run.
Audiobook Now has announced they have added more than 1,000 titles from Oasis Audio to their catalogue, bringing their audiobook offerings to more than 30,000 at present. The partnership with Oasis Audio also makes them the 10th biggest audiobook publisher to share content with Audiobooks Now. This will also act to boost the digital audiobook provider’s offering of religious and inspirational themed books given Oasis Audio’s penchant to come up with such titles that promote healthy living, positive growth and so on. Oasis Audio is already counted among the biggest producer of Christian audiobooks in the US, which includes the bible though they have diversified to other genres such as fiction, non-fiction and self-help titles as well.
Speaking of the development, Doug Ross, President and CEO of AudiobooksNow said: “Personal growth has been a popular subject in our audiobook rental service for years, so we are delighted to be increasing our selection of these types of titles on digital audiobook download and streaming platform”.
Android and malware seem to like each other very much, but Google is about to spoil it. The search giant is in the process of launching an update for its Play Services that will make is difficult for mischief makers to inject malware-infected apps into the Google app store. An update to Android’s Verify Apps function will now be made to work 24/7. Verify Apps will now be scanning apps at all times behind the scenes to find out if there are any issues to be dealt with. This will no doubt be a good thing given the popularity of the Google platform and recent reports that Android has the highest susceptibility to malware attacks.
The Verify Apps function was first introduced with Android 4.2 version but it would only verify an app when it went live at the Google Play Store or when an update was made available. Verify Apps will also look for issues in apps that a user might have installed directly and not via the official Google Play Store. It will search for known trouble making codes and when a match is found, it will notify the user via warning messages.
According to Google, it will be relevant for almost 99 percent of devices running Android. While some developers choose to bypass the Google strategy of matching apps against known codes by launching some advanced codes, these no doubt will eventually get caught once Google becomes aware of the malicious codes. Now it comes down to how often Google updates its own database of malicious codes. In any case, this is an excellent development considering the threat level associated with Android.
While e-ink display technology may have lost its sheen with the slow demise of standalone ebook reading devices and the growing number of tablets, e-ink is witnessing a resurgence of sorts with smartwatches. We have already seen quite a few smartwatch concepts based on e-paper display, and Archos is the latest to promise an e-ink-based smartwatch sometime this summer. This will be the fourth model in its smartwatch line-up, with the other three introduced during CES in Jan.
Archos hasn’t revealed all the details just yet, though the latest model seems to have a lot in common with the smartwatch trio launched early in January. However, the latest model will incorporate a touchscreen display and is expected to be the costliest of the lot. Also, it would have a curved e-ink panel made of plastic instead of glass to achieve the curvature.
Archos is not known for cramming an insane number of features into their smartwatches, something that Samsung has done with its Galaxy Gear devices. Instead, they visualize the smartwatch as a companion to a smartphone and would help the user with notifications and other data that they receive on the smartphone. The Archos smartwatch will also be compatible with both Android and iOS. It is a simplicity in their approach along with a relatively cheaper price tag that makes their smartwatch score big in a market that is already pegged to be worth billions.
The Creoir Ibis is a smartwatch unlike any other that we’ve seen so far. Launched at the MWC, the Ibis brings a much needed infusion of style in the genre that is comprised mostly of devices that boasts of high end features but are pretty bland looks wise. A unique aspect of the Ibis smartwatch prototype is that it incorporates an analog watch with an OLED display beneath it that adds the smart aspect to the watch. Fortunately, the Ibis does not attempt to pull off a lot of tasks, but instead aims for elegance.
Adding to the style is its stainless steel and crystal composition. The device is based on a simplified version of Android but is compatible with iOS as well. The OLED display is touch enabled and is designed to keep the user informed of notifications from the phone. The Ibis also offers Bluetooth 4.0, USB, and Wi-Fi connectivity options. The Ibis comes with a built-in accelerometer, e-compass, and an ambient light sensor.
“We believe the demand for smart watches will be driven by fashion and sport brands, and the Ibis exemplifies the type of product that we create for fashion brands,” said Pekka Väyrynen, CEO of the Creoir, the Finland based design studio.
“Every brand has its own design language, so with each client we start from scratch to develop a product that specifically matches the brand and their audience. With our expertise, we can provide consumer brand owners with everything they need to have a real advantage when entering the smart device space,” the CEO further added.
However, no matter how appealing the Ibis may be, it’s just a concept right now. The smartwatch was on display at the Creoir booth and as such, we aren’t sure of a launch date or cost. In any case, it’s refreshing to see someone come out with a device that impresses with its style and functionality rather than tries to overwhelm users with an absurd list of features.
Soon users will be able to watch or listen to audiobooks via their TV thanks to the recent tie-up between OverDrive and Roku. This will open up another medium to access audiobooks, and a popular one at that considering Roku’s reach among the masses (the company recently revealed it has shipped more than 8 million devices in the US). Such a move will also act to boost OverDrive’s newly launched Streaming Video service that now offers 4,000 titles. These deal with topics such as children’s content, educational, spiritual, self-help and so on. Not to mention OverDrive’s vast collection of audiobooks that now can be tapped into via Roku. What’s more, OverDrive’s Roku channel will also be free.
“Today’s public libraries already offer tens of thousands of best-selling digital audiobooks and videos in every category,” said Karen Estrovich, OverDrive’s Director of Collection Development. “Roku extends the value of the OverDrive libraries’ digital media collections to TVs in millions of living rooms, kitchens, dens — anywhere the WiFi reaches.”
Roku provides a device that can be used to watch internet streaming videos on televisions making it quite an inexpensive medium to watch online videos on TVs. Now with OverDrive launching a Roku channels, users will be able to access the digital audiobooks and video content from their local libraries and listen or watch them on their TVs. This will make for a convenient and easy method of downloading digital content from libraries to be savored on TVs in our homes. OverDrive’s Roku channel will have all the audiobooks and Streaming Video catalog that the libraries have been fed by OverDrive. Users will have to register their library card numbers, select the OverDrive channel from Roku menu and select their library. Post that, users will be able to borrow titles from the library to be viewed on TVs.
Meanwhile, OverDrive has announced their new Roku channel will be demoed at the upcoming Public Library Association (PLA) Conference to be held in in Indianapolis between March 11 and 15. Visit booth #721 to for a live experience of the new Roku channel.
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