Find out the week’s top mobile stories from around the world.
This week.. Apple vs FBI latest, smartphone revenue growth stalls in Q4 2015, Google pilots hands free payments and much more.
The golden age of smartphone growth ground to a halt in 2015, and the industry can expect continued pain in 2016, according to a new report.
According to the latest Quarterly Smartphone Tracker from market research firm GfK, revenues from smartphone sales in the fourth quarter of 2015 dipped slightly to $115.2 billion, down .2 percent from the same period a year ago.
During that same period, a record number of handsets were actually sold: 368 million units, up 6 percent year over year. However, commoditization caused the average selling price to tumble 6 percent in the fourth quarter.
The numbers are the latest confirmation of an industry in transition. Since the release of the first iPhone in 2007, the mobile industry has been on a bullish run — but that has lost steam.
The big India story over the last couple of years has been its smartphone boom. The primary driver in this has been the launch of a range of affordable smartphones from both local players like Micromax and new entrants from China like Xiaomi. It makes you do a double take, therefore, to see the latest IDC figures showing that Apple has overtaken Xiaomi in theworld’s fastest growing smartphone market.
IDC data for the last quarter of 2015 show that Apple has moved above Xiaomi to take the sixth spot in smartphone market share. The top five sellers are Samsung, Micromax, Lenovo-Motorola, Lava, and Intex. (Micromax, Lava, and Intex are homegrown brands.)
Apple finally got the forum it was looking for to air its views on strong encryption: Congress.
General Counsel Bruce Sewell came prepared Tuesday to answer questions about the intricacies of the Justice Department’s request to help it unlock an iPhone used by one of the shooters in the San Bernardino attacks — and the Constitutional questions the government’s case raises.
Oddly, though, Sewell offered no recommendations when asked, pointedly, by members of the House Judiciary Committee, how Apple proposes lawmakers strike the proper balance between consumer privacy and security and national security.
Google has begun testing its Hands Free payments app, letting a small group of people in San Francisco leave their wallets and phones in their pockets and pay just by talking.
It may have only recently launched Android Pay, but Google is already looking to save people the effort of digging their handsets out at the checkout.
South Bay residents are being invited to pilot the Hands Free Android and iOS app at a few McDonald’s, Papa John’s, and local eateries in the area.
The app uses Bluetooth low energy, Wi-Fi, and location services on phones to detect whether people are near a participating store.
The Home Office has tightened up privacy safeguards in proposed new spying laws – but police will get more power to see internet browsing records.
The Investigatory Powers Bill will force service providers to store browsing records for 12 months.
It will also give legal backing to bulk collection of internet traffic.
The Home Office was forced to revise the draft bill after concerns by three committees of MPs it did not do enough to protect privacy and was too vague.
Police will also get the power to hack into computers and smart phones – so called “equipment interference” – normally reserved for the security services, when there is a “threat to life” situation, such as locating a missing child. This is an extension of police powers in the draft legislation.
A new report from cyber security firm Proofpoint has revealed that Android users willingly downloaded over two billion malicious mobile applications last year.
The findings are from Proofpoint’s annual Human Factor Report, which looks at the latest cyber security trends cyber across email, social media and mobile apps.
Some of the key findings from the study showed:
- After the US, China is the number one destination for data from malicious applications.
- Dangerous mobile apps from rogue marketplaces affect two out of five enterprises. Proofpoint researchers identified rogue app stores from which users could download malicious apps onto iOS devices – even those not “jailbroken,” or configured to run apps not offered through Apple’s iTunes store.
368m smartphone units were sold globally in Q4 2015, up six per cent year-on-year, according to figures from GfK. However, that increase didn’t translate into an equivalent jump in revenues, which remained static due to a six per cent year-on-year decline in average selling price.
Over the full year, 1.3bn units were sold, an increase of seven per cent. China contributed the largest proportion of sales – some 385m units, or 29.5 per cent of the global total – singlehandledly beating out entire regions including North America (191m, 14.6 per cent) and emerging APAC (185m, 14.2 per cent).
Ad blocking poses a “similar threat” to today’s online media as illegal file-sharing or pirate sites did to the music and film industry 10 years ago, the UK’s culture secretary John Whittingdale warned on Wednesday.
He also said that many see the practice by adblocking companies of offering to white list advertisers as “akin to a modern day protection racket.” Whittingdale was speaking at the Oxford Media Convention, where he delivered the opening keynote.
He pointed out that “in the 12 months to June last year, there was a 48 percent growth in ad-blocker use in the USA and 82 percent growth in the UK,” and that mobile phone manufacturers and network companies are starting to integrate ad blockers into their services as standard. Ars has reported how the mobile carrier Three has already done so, with others considering whether to follow suit. A further sign of the times is that one new browser, Brave, places adblocking at the heart of its business model.
When Google released Cardboard, its crude paper-and-velcro VR headset, the tech company also released downloadable instructions for building your own. If Cardboard’s $15 price tag didn’t convey Google’s egalitarian message, the instructions did: VR is coming, so let’s make it as accessible as possible.
Two of the world’s biggest brands appear to have gotten the message. In mid-February, Coca-Cola released a tutorial demonstrating how to make VR viewers out of old Coke boxes. That’s as far as Coca-Cola’s efforts go (the video is part of the Coca-Cola Studios content series), but a new program from McDonald’s pushes the concept further. On Friday, with help from ad agency DDB, McDonald’s Sweden will begin selling Happy Meals in boxes that transform into VR headsets. The program is called Happy Goggles, and it will make a limited run of 3,500 headsets available at 14 McDonald’s restaurants across northern Sweden.