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Welcome to the first ever tablet to earn the Google Play Edition moniker, the LG G Pad 8.3. Those who have been craving for a relatively new tablet that offers the stock Android experience know where to head to. Price quoted is a quite competitive $349.99 and is already on sale in the US via the Google Play Store. For that amount of money, what you get is a new tablet running the latest Android 4.4 KitKat which together with its Full-screen Immersive mode makes the most of the brilliant 8.3 inch HD display.
Another positive quality of the G Pad 8.3 is that with its expanded 8.3 inch display, the tablet is unlike many in the market, including even the Nexus 7 2013 that looks likes an expanded smartphone. The thick bezels along the top and bottom make the 2013 Nexus 7 a bit ungainly, something that is non-existent on the LG tablet.
The G Pad 8.3 also includes a micro SD card slot which will let users add some more memory in case they run out of the built-in 16 GB of storage. This happens to be another extremely positive aspect of the device considering all Nexus branded devices miss out on this.
LG’s other most recent venture with Google, the Nexus 5 has already taken the market with storm though sources maintain the G Pad 8.3 should not be confused with the 8 inch tablet that Google is actively rumored to be developing. However, while that is still in the nebulous stages, buyers have an excellent tablet option to consider in the form of the G Pad 8.3.
Unconfirmed reports point out an 8 inch tablet from Nokia may be in the making for a release in the coming months. Sources maintain a limited number of the device, codenamed RX-115, were shipped by Indian importer Zouba to a testing center in Bangalore. Details are sketchy at the moment, though it is believed the tablet will feature a 8.3 inch full HD display and includes a micro SIM card slot. The rest of the details indicate that the tablet will run Windows 8 RT, given that the current Lumia 2520 does, and many would like that to be replaced with the full featured Windows 8.1. It’s possible that Nokia should consider coming up with a version for both the Windows versions, something that especially applies to the Lumia 2520 given its brilliant credentials.
As for a release date, the next major event to look forward to while also providing for enough time for the device to come to its final shape is the MWC event in 2014. We might be treated with a prototype in the CES, though, scheduled in early January.
There have been several instances of companies coming up with 8 inch tablets running Windows 8.1 and all have been priced competitively at around the $300 mark. Assuming the upcoming Lumia 2020 runs Windows RT, Nokia will have to price the tablet really well to ensure it is able to ward off the challenge posed by the new crop of 8 inch Windows 8.1 tablets and the army of cheap Android tablets.
It’s that time of the year again, time to celebrate Apple’s annual “12 Days of Gifts” giveaway. This has been a regular feature in Apple’s yearly calender, though surprisingly, the offer wasn’t applicable in the US. That’s all changed, and Apple fans in the US can now take part in the giveaway this year. Other regions that have been included are Japan, Canada, Europe, and a few other countries.
The “12 Days of Gifts” app will offer apps, songs, movies, games, or books for free for twelve days starting Dec 26 through Jan 6 for iPads and iPhones, although it is not known what freebies Apple has lined up this year. The 12 Days of Gifts can be downloaded for free from the Apple iTunes Store and can also be set to ping you whenever new gifts become available. The gifts will only be available for 24 hours, though Apple has also stated not all of the goodies will be relevant in all countries.
Some front line companies such as Samsung and Philips along with the biggest electronics retailer in Europe, Media Saturn, had to deal with unannounced guests from the European Commission. Neither of the companies divulged any details of the raid, though they did confirm their premises were subjected to scrutiny on suspicions of an unfair collusion to limit the sale of devices to jack up prices. The companies will be liable to pay 10 percent of their global earnings if found guilty by the EU Anti-trust Regulator. No charges were pressed though and it’s not known either if any incriminating evidence were found against any of the parties involved. The raid comes at a time when retailers are having a hard time keeping themselves relevant against online operators such as Amazon, Otto, Staples and the likes. The three companies have, however, pledged all support towards completion of the investigation.
None had expected the UK based supermarket chain Tesco to come up with a tablet offering of its own; and if that wasn’t enough, the company has now stated they are planning a sequel for launch soon. All of it started with the Hudl, whose biggest feature has been its affordable price tag. Tesco is claiming the Hudl, which went on sale for £119 (roughly around 195 USD), sold in numbers significant enough to warrant coming up with a sequel. The Hudi went on to notch up sales figure of more than 35,000 within the first few days of its launch, while around 300,000 have been sold in the two months since. That is the entire shipment they had expected to sell through the end of 2013.
As for the upcoming Hudl 2, almost the entire thing remains cloaked in secrecy and the only thing we know of the upcoming device is that it will sport enhanced specifications. That’s hardly surprising considering every sequel is designed to be better than its predecessor. However, it remains to be seen just how much of an improvement Hudl 2 comes with without disturbing the affordability factor which is believed to be Tesco’s trump card.
Aldi’s decision to follow suit with an even cheaper tablet, one that costs just £80, may be a competing point for the Hudl. Dubbed the Medion Lifetab Android tablet or just Lifetab, the tablet comes with features that can be considered befitting the price tag, though a reported four hour run time will be a real pain. Nevertheless, the tablet offers compatibility with the Google Play Store where it will have access to over 850k Android apps. The tablet also comes pre-loaded with quite a few apps such as Drawing Pad, a media player, and a month long free trial of Kaspersky Tablet Security.
As such, there seems to be a new battle brewing in the ultra-low cost tablet segment where the Hudl may have taken an initial lead, though competition is hot on its heels.
The US Apple App Store has crossed one important milestone, that of playing host to over a million live apps for the first time ever. The above feat has been achieved in around five years’ time since the app store first came into being in July 2008. Apple had announced its worldwide app store has made it past the million approved app mark almost a year ago though back then; it’s about 700k apps that were live. Now with over a million live apps, the number of approved apps now stands at a staggering 14 million. Of the more than million apps now live, more than half of these are specific to the iPad while around 900k app apply to the iPhone. In comparison, the Google Play Store now has 881k live apps of the 1.17 million that has been approved.
However, there has been no official statement issued highlighting the above feat. This is surprising as this is the kind of news that anyone will like to go around town trumpeting such an achievement. It was the app discovery site Appsfire that first spotted such a development, something that has been confirmed by Macrumors own app discovery site AppShopper which lists the number of apps available for download being 1,006,557.
Apple has just had a bumper November for sales, which saw demand for its products rise 19 to 20 percent month over month. This is much higher than the normal six percent increase in sales during Novembers over the past several years. Sales are usually robust during the month which marks the onset of the holiday shopping season, though demand for Apple products seems to be exceptionally high this year. This prompted Cantor Fitzgerald analyst Brian White to declare this year’s performance to be the best so far.
Much of the demand can be attributed to the new range of Apple devices. These include the new iPad Air, which comes with a new design that has made it among the thinnest and lightest tablet in the world, and a new iPad mini with Retina Display that has been in short supply, prompting buyers to lap up the first gen iPad Mini which continues to flourish. The new iPhone, which incorporates a fingerprint scanner, has also been selling in record numbers. The iPhone will get a further boost in sales if the deal with China Mobile to launch the iPhone in that country has indeed gone through as expected.
“With approximately 97 percent of the sales now accounted for in our Apple Barometer, we estimate sales in November rose by approximately 19-20 percent month-over-month, and well above the November average of up 6 percent over the past eight years,” said White. “As such, we believe this November will prove to be the strongest in the history of our Apple Barometer.”
The good performance no doubt will lead to a much better showing during the holiday quarter, even after taking into account a 10 percent drop in sales during December. “If we assume an average MoM sales decline of 10% in December, we estimate our Apple Barometer will grow sales by 28% QoQ in 4Q:13, or more than double the average increase of 13% over the past eight years,” said White in a research note to investors.
Apple’s Barometer is a measure of sales achieved by the company based on data compiled from the Taiwan based companies that supply the components that goes into the making of the Apple devices.
The YotaPhone breaks a lot of new ground with its dual display design, opening up a lot of new opportunities for users. With a regular LCD display on one side and an e-ink panel of equal size on the other, the YotaPhone could well be the ultimate smartphone device for many out there; well, theoretically at least. The device isn’t exactly cheap either, having already gone on sale in select European countries for a cool 499 Euros, though it’s not known when it’s going to land in the US.
One question that is on top of everyone’s mind is whether the YotaPhone is as good as it claims. The device comes close, but leaves some space for improvement. To begin with, the device lacks the sleek shine of many of its ilk. Instead, the YotaPhone comes across as a chubby device with thick bezels that give it somewhat of a budget smartphone look.
The lack of the typical Android set of buttons along the front makes things look clean and interesting, though it also requires the user to use a few swiping actions to get going. A right swipe is needed to reach home, while a left swipe accomplishes what the back button does. To see recent apps, one will have to double tap on the display. Similarly, a swipe down using two fingers will take a screenshot of the display and transfer it to the rear display. The gesture controls might be a little disappointing to Android loyalists, which is further amplified by the fact that the swipe pads can be unresponsive at times.
This takes us straight to the most interesting aspect of the device, the secondary e-ink panel along the rear. Unfortunately, being used to the likes of the Amazon Kindles, the rather low 640 x 360 pixel e-ink panel leaves a lot to be desired. Text can be fuzzy to hardly readable at times on the display that has been fetched from the front LCD panel.
However, reading ebooks can be satisfactory, though not the best. The biggest issue here is that the e-ink panel is bogged with ghost images, with a faint image of the previous display lingering. If that is not enough, the lack of adequate ebook reading apps can be telling. While popular ebook reading apps such as Kindle or Kobo can be downloaded on the device, the same won’t work with the e-ink display. Instead, those who’d like to read books will have to make do with the Bookmate app, and it suffers from a very limited collection. There aren’t many apps currently available that can make the most of the e-ink panel, though the notepad that the device comes with can be pretty handy.
These issues however cannot dent the biggest advantage that the e-ink panel has to offer, that of its power saving credentials. The display can hold an image all day long without draining the battery and the rear e-ink panel can also be handy for checking email, notifications, and incoming messages without having to wake up the phone, thus saving power. The e-ink panel also allows for reading just as comfortably in bright sunlight conditions as it would indoors, adding tremendous flexibility to the device.
As for the front LCD 1,280 x 720 pixel display, things are pretty much the same as can be expected of a device running Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean except that its controls require getting used to. The dual core chip rated at 1.7 GHz does a good job at keeping things quick and peppy though it doesn’t have the more advanced quad core chips.
In the end, what can be said is that it’s still a work-in-progress. The YotaPhone needs to be fine-tuned before it can deliver a complete and enriching user experience. While the device as a whole needs a fresh and thorough once over, the rear e-ink panel will definitely benefit from more third party apps being developed to make the most of it, something that is practically non-existent right now. As things stand right now, there isn’t much that can be done with the e-ink side of the YotaPhone even though it does have the potential of being a pretty handy ebook reading device.
There has been no dearth of prototypes of some form or the other showcasing displays exhibiting varying degrees of flexibility. However, it’s only now that bendable display technology seems to have matured enough to make the transition to a commercial entity. Both Samsung and LG have come up with smartphone which they claim to incorporate flexible displays. Of course Samsung isn’t just stopping with the Galaxy Round smartphone device but has announced flexible displays will form a major chunk of their product portfolio starting 2014 onwards.
Unfortunately, Samsung isn’t revealing all its cards which leave a lot of questions unanswered. The broad picture that has emerged is that Samsung will be relying on transparent displays and touchscreen metal mesh panels for its future smartphones and tablets. The company is also reported to have filed a patent application for a transparent display that will have touch based controls both at the front and the rear. These apart, Samsung has also been showing off flexible and even bendable display quite regularly. This makes us wonder if the future Samsung device will in reality be bendable or flexible.
Meanwhile, LG has released a video showing just how flexible their G Flex smartphone really is. Unlike Samsung’s Galaxy Round that bends vertically, the LG G Flex bends horizontally along the center. Also, with the G Flex, it is not just the display that is flexible but the entire smartphone device which is flexible. LG is claiming the device can even withstand forces of up to even 32 kilos directly on its rear before returning back to its original curved shape. What this means is that it is not the display alone but the entire smartphone construction that incorporates flexibility. Even the rear has been shown to be self-healing, having the ability to regain its original texture within minutes even after having been scratched vigorously.
As such, what is amply clear is that it is not just devices with flexible displays that are going to win the race but devices that as a whole exhibits flexibility, including the display. As for the benefits of such devices, there are many with the prime being that these are much better off in handling stress and strain. Theoretically, such a device will be able to withstand stress much longer than conventional LCD based devices though it also depends on the design and build of the specific device. Another advantage with flexible as seen on the Galaxy Round or G Flex is that they will have less glare on the eyes. Even Apple is believed to be considering incorporating flexible displays for its forthcoming iPhone 6 though its more wrap around in nature.
Other challenges that manufacturers will have to take in their stride is to come up with economic means of producing flexible devices in enough quantities. Currently the Galaxy Round has only been released on a limited scale which has seriously limited its wider availability. Let’s just hope such issues have been sorted out before companies takes to launch device with flexible displays.
Google has embarked upon another major expansion drive, this time targeting the Latin American countries for making available its Google Play Book services. The five new countries that will now have access to Google Play Books include Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Peru and Venezuela. The last time we have seen Google expand its service was about a month ago when it’s Google Play Book services was launched in South Africa, Turkey and Switzerland. With this, Google’s ebook service is now available in 44 countries worldwide. However, in stark contrast, Google Magazines are only available in a handful of countries, Australia, Canada, United Kingdom, and United States.
In any case, those in the aforementioned countries can log into their Google account to access the ebook section, an inherent advantage of which is that it can also be accessed via non-Android devices as well.
Barnes & Noble together With Microsoft has announced an exclusive Nook for Windows 8.1 offer that will allow residents in UK to download books and magazines for free. Of course it is a limited period offer, enabling those who installs the Nook for Windows 8.1 app on their devices to download up to 5 ebooks and 5 digital magazines from a select list free of cost.
“By providing bestselling books and top magazines for free, new NOOK customers in the UK can start their digital libraries with some great content from the NOOK Store. We look forward to rolling out similar great offers to customers in more countries in the future, helping them to experience our unmatched reading platform,” said Jim Hilt, Managing Director, Barnes & Noble S.à.r.l.
Among the titles offered free include bestsellers The Moaning Of Life by Karl Pilkington, Booker Prize winner The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton, and Of Lions and Unicorns by Michael Morpurgo. Magazines on offer include the likes of Cosmopolitan UK, Men’s Health, T3, Esquire UK and and so on.
Speaking of the development, Dr. Fiona Fyfe, Product Marketing Manager, Windows Apps said: ”We are really excited to have the NOOK App on our platform. Our customers will benefit greatly from the exclusive offer of five free books and magazines from the NOOK Store. The Windows 8 operating system works across a range of devices, making it perfect for an eReading app like NOOK. This year, activations of Windows 8 devices has grown, and this in turn has seen our customers engaging deeply with the Windows Store. Currently, we have over 100,000 apps in the Windows Store and the NOOK App is a strong addition which will deliver a great reading experience to our customers.”
B&N had recently embarked on a major expansion drive, making available its Nook app for the Windows 8.1 platform in 32 countries and 12 languages. Among the countries the app has been made available include Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, United Kingdom and the United States.
The National Library of Norway has embarked on an ambitious mission, that of digitizing all of its titles with the hope of achieving this by mid-2020. Such an endeavor will cover every book ever published in the country since, as per Norwegian law, all published material in all media should be deposited with the National Library of Norway. This will ensure everyone in Norway has access to the books at all times, which also includes those that come under the purview of copyright laws. Users will be able to download the books, though this applies only to those that are not copyrighted.
The National Library has stated they will continue to hold onto their physical collection in spite of the digitization efforts. Also, with books becoming machine readable which will not require a physical presence in the library, the authorities stated they will continue to encourage and promote the library as a physical meeting place. The library owns some rare collections of manuscripts, maps, posters, special books, photographs, and more, and will continue to make these available.
There have been widespread digitization efforts elsewhere in the world given the public preference for digital copies of printed texts and the sense of urgency surrounding preserving rare volumes. Also, given that maintaining digital copies is far more cost effective than their printed counterparts, libraries around the world have taken to digitizing their physical collections in the wake of budget cuts.
Amazon revealed that as many as 25 out of 100 of its best-selling titles in 2012 were from indie publishers. This should serve as a measure of the growing clout that the indie publishers and authors have come to wield. Also, lest anyone have any doubt about what exactly “indie” refers to or whether it would include publishing via any of those other than the big six publishing house in the US, an Amazon spokeswoman clarified by saying: “This figure is referring to Kindle books on Amazon.com in 2012, with ‘indie’ meaning books self-published via Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). So a quarter of the top 100 bestselling Kindle books on Amazon.com in 2012 were self-published via KDP.”
Experts believe the share of authors preferring to publish their own books is fast catching on, so the percentage of indie authors is expected to rise further in the coming years. As Orna Ross, director of the UK Alliance of Independent Authors, which is a representative body of self-published authors, said: “We are in the middle of a major change. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if we reached a situation where the majority of the top books are author-published. I don’t see what would stop that.”
Another trend is self-published authors who make it big ending up landing lucrative deals with conventional publishers. Paul Pilkington, a lecturer in a university in the UK, signed up with the UK-based publisher Hodder & Stoughton after two of his novels went on to sell more than 150,000 copies, other indie authors who got picked up by conventional publishers include the likes of Kerry Wilkinson and Beth Reeks. Kerry Wilkinson signed up with Pan Macmillan after success with his crime series which he had initially self-published. Beth Reeks, the nineteen-year-old student of physics, has been picked up by Random House after her romantic fiction, The Kissing Booth, which she had published at the storytelling site Wattpad, created a fan following of over 19 million.
However, not everyone is impressed with the development. As independent publisher Colin Robinson of Or Books cautioned: “It’s possible that some of the publishers I’ve never heard of are in fact imprints set up by the author of the book but, especially as several appeared with books by more than one author (or at least one author’s name), it seems unlikely that more than a few are. Disney and Little Brown are doing great. So are joke books.”
There has been a recent furor when erotic or adult themed novels ended up being listed alongside children’s titles, pointing fingers at self-published authors of those works. The booksellers blamed this on the rampant increase in indie authors who often would publish such stories to gain publicity or earn money.
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