MWC2014

BlackBerry Z3 and BlackBerry Q20 announced at MWC 2014

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BlackBerry will release a low-cost phone in Indonesia in April and plans a broader release of a phone that restores a beloved row of control keys with a track pad.

The Indonesia phone, the Z3, will sell for less than $200 without subsidies, the company said Tuesday. It will later expand to other markets in southeast Asia. BlackBerry Ltd. CEO John Chen said a version with faster, 4G connectivity is planned for the rest of the world “sometime in the future before I die.”

It’s the first phone made under a new five-year partnership with Foxconn, the Taiwanese company that assembles products in vast factories in China.

Meanwhile, Chen said it will restore the keys in a new phone he termed “Classic.” He said the new Q20 is a response to lackluster sales of last year’s Q10, which has a physical keyboard but lacks the track pad or keys for functions such as going back. He said the company got many complaints about that.

BlackBerry also announced plans to expand its services for businesses needing secure communications, particularly in regulated industries such as health care and financial services. There are plans, for instance, to go beyond securing just email and messaging.

It’s part of the company’s plan to focus on its strengths in business services. BlackBerry Ltd. strayed from that as it tried to lure consumers with new devices.

The BlackBerry was the dominant smartphone for on-the-go business people and other consumers before Apple introduced the iPhone in 2007, showing that phones could handle much more than email and calls. BlackBerry was slow in modernizing its operating system, and once it did, the much-hyped system flopped.

Chen was brought in as CEO late last year after talks to sell the company collapsed. Although he has been credited with turning around Sybase, a data company that was sold to SAP in 2010, Chen has acknowledged that reviving BlackBerry will be his most “complicated” challenge.

In the latest quarter, ending Nov. 30, BlackBerry Ltd. reported a $4.4 billion loss and a 56 percent drop in revenue. But the company said it had plenty of cash to engineer a turnaround.

The new partnership with Foxconn will help reduce much of BlackBerry’s manufacturing costs. Foxconn, known for its manufacturing contract work on Apple’s iPhones and iPads, will jointly design and manufacture most BlackBerry devices and manage inventory of the devices.

Chen said BlackBerry will now target the heavily regulated industries that require greater security. It will simplify its pricing and let people upgrade to the latest systems for free this year. It will also offer free services this year for companies that had left BlackBerry for rivals.

Huawei believes it is finally ready to crack the US smartphone market

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China’s Huawei Technologies believes it can take advantage of recent changes in how operators in the United States sell phones to get a foothold in the all-important market, an executive with its consumer division said on Sunday.

Huawei, best known as a maker of telecom network gear, became the world’s third-biggest smartphonemanufacturer last year, through the sale of mid-priced handsets within its fast-growing domestic market and an increasing appeal to price-conscious consumers in western Europe.

But the group, which lags market leader Samsung and Apple , has yet to gain a foothold in the high-end segment of developed markets such as the United States, where it is viewed with suspicion after lawmakers flagged Chinese telecommunications equipment as potential security risks. It has also suffered from its difficult-to-pronounce brand name, its executives have acknowledged.

After launching five new devices at the Mobile World Congress trade fair in Barcelona, Huawei’s Colin Giles said the group was taking early steps in the United States to build better relationships with mobile operators and directly with consumers via online shops.

“We recognise that the U.S. is a very competitive and very tough market for us,” Giles, the executive vice president of Huawei’s consumer business group, told Reuters.

“Recently there has been quite some change in the U.S. in terms of the whole subsidy landscape, and so that provides a new opportunity for players like us to come with a slightly different distribution strategy than what we used to have.”

In the third quarter of last year, Huawei accounted for 3 percent of all phones sold in the United States, respectively, trailing Apple’s 36.2 percent and Samsung’s 32.5 percent, according to IDC.

Traditionally, mobile operators buy phones in bulk from manufacturers like Apple and then offer them for free or a low upfront cost to customers when they sign a new one- or two-year contract.

T-Mobile USA dropped this model last year in a move to cut costs and woo customers frustrated with restrictions on upgrades in longer-term contracts.

Giles said Huawei was increasing its spending on marketing every year to raise consumer awareness of its brand, though he did not give specific details. In Europe, the company has sponsorship deals with a string of soccer clubs. In New Zealand, Huawei sponsors rugby, and in the United States, it is sponsoring movies.

On Sunday, Huawei launched a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot, a new smartphone aimed at 18- to 30-year-old consumers, and two sleek tablets to compete with Apple’s mini iPad.

The company also unveiled its first wearable device, a fitness tracker called the TalkBand, in a bid to take a piece of the burgeoning category. The bracelet, which comes in yellow and blue among other colours and costs 99 euros, can count calories burned and steps taken. It can also be used to make calls.

Samsung launched a new smartwatch on Sunday to succeed its original Galaxy Gear wristwatch, which has failed to gain much of a following with consumers to date.

BlackBerry Messenger coming to Windows Phone and Nokia X platforms

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BlackBerry Ltd said it will make its messaging service BBM available to Microsoft’s Windows Phone and the upcoming Nokia X platforms in the coming months.

BlackBerry Messaging, or BBM, is a messaging platform that offers collaboration tools such as BBM Groups, BBM Voice and BBM Channels and competes with services such as WhatsApp, whichFacebook bought last week for $19 billion.

BBM will be available as a free download from the Windows Phone Store this summer, while BBM forNokia X will be available from the Nokia Store when the Nokia X platform launches, BlackBerry said in a statement on Monday.

BBM was a pioneering mobile-messaging service, but its user base has failed to keep pace with that of WhatsApp and other upstarts, in part because BlackBerry had long refused to open the service to users on other platforms.

WhatsApp, with a user base of about 450 million, on the other hand has grown rapidly. Its service works on Apple Inc’s iOS platform, Google Inc’s market-dominating Android operating system and with devices powered by both the Windows and BlackBerry operating systems.

BBM remains popular, even though BlackBerry devices have waned in popularity. Late last year, the Waterloo, Ontario-based company finally opened the messaging platform to users of iPhones and Android devices, and the number of the service’s active users has grown to more than 80 million.

Sony Xperia Z2 with 5.2-inch display, 4K ultra-HD recording launched

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Sony Corp. is borrowing innovations from its audio and camcorder businesses and incorporating its new Xperia Z2 smartphone with noise-cancelling technology and ultra-high-definition video recording.

Noise cancellation works with an in-ear headset sold separately, while the Z2’s built-in camera can capture video in so-called 4K resolution, an emerging standard that offers four times the details as current high-definition video.

“With Xperia Z2 we have taken our premium Z series to the next level, delivering unique experiences that only Sony can offer,” Kunimasa Suzuki, Sony Mobile’s president and CEO, said in a statement.

Monday’s announcement at the Mobile World Congress wireless show in Barcelona, Spain, comes just weeks after Sony said it was selling its Vaio personal computer operations and making its Bravia TV business a subsidiary company. Sony also plans to cut its global workforce by about 3 percent, or 5,000 people, by the end of March 2015.

Sony, once an electronics powerhouse when its Walkman music players defined what portable gadgets should be, has had difficulty keeping up with Samsung and other rivals in various consumer electronics.

Phones are no different. Despite favorable reviews, Sony phones haven’t had much traction in an industry dominated by Apple Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co.

With the Z2, Sony is trying to innovate on hardware, while many of the ground breaking features in rival devices have been in their software.

The Z2 sports the same 20.7 megapixel camera found in its predecessors, the Z1 and the Z1s. Most other smartphone cameras have 8 to 13 megapixels. The Z2 is waterproof, like the Z1 phones, and its screen is slightly larger, at 5.2 inches diagonally instead of 5 inches.

Sony also announced a high-end tablet and a separate, mid-range smartphone.

The tablet is also called the Xperia Z2 and features a 10.1-inch screen, larger than most full-size tablets. It is also waterproof. The Wi-Fi-only model weights 426 grams (0.94 pound), which is lighter than Apple’s lightweight iPad Air, despite the Z2’s larger size.

Sony’s Xperia M2, meanwhile, is meant as a cheaper alternative to the Z2. Its camera isn’t as powerful, at only 8 megapixels, and the screen is only 4.8 inches.

Sony is making a version of the M2 with two SIM card slots, something in demand in emerging markets, where plans vary so much that people often have service with multiple carriers and use what’s most economical for the circumstance.

Both Z2 devices will be available in March, while the M2 is slated for April. Sony did not immediately announce prices or specific U.S. plans. Sony sometimes makes phones available in the U.S. later than elsewhere around the world. 

Sony also took the wraps off its latest premium tablet, dubbed Xperia Z2 Tablet and mid-range Xperia M2 smartphone, at MWC 2014 in Barcelona.

LG confirms smartwatch plans; aims for smartphone growth double the market rate

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LG Electronics Inc aims to broaden its range of smartphones so sales this year grow at double the rate of the market, as the South Korean company seeks to retake the position of world’s third-biggest maker.

LG, who slipped behind Huawei Technologies Co last year with a market share of just under 5 percent, also plans to sell a smartwatch capable of connecting with rivals’ phones, mobile division president Park Jong-seok told reporters ahead of a Barcelona trade fair this week.

LG shipped a record 47.7 million smartphones last year, 81 percent more than a year earlier. But its mobile unit needs more growth to return to profit, after spending heavily on marketing to narrow the gap with leaders Samsung Electronics Co and Apple Inc .

The company aims to increase sales through more models appealing to a wider consumer group, with the Barcelona launch of the G2 Mini – a lower-priced version of the flagship G2 – coming just weeks after unveiling a larger-screen G Pro2.

“I expect competition among tier-2 manufacturers for more market share to become tougher this year, and price competition will also naturally intensify,” Park said.

LG’s mobile unit may take a while to become profitable after swinging to a loss in the three months ended December, as it will continue to spend heavily this year to promote its high-end models, Park said.

Growth of high-end sales in advanced economies is slowing as smartphones become more widespread, likely bringing overall sales growth to the market consensus of 10 to 15 percent this year, Park said.

Overall sales grew 38 percent last year to 1.0 billion smartphones, showed data from researcher IDC.

Park also said LG plans to continue reducing its reliance on local retailers in China where competitors include Lenovo Group, whose $2.9 billion offer for Google Inc’s Motorola handset division could see it leapfrog LG to global No.3 from No.5.

LG also has to contend with the low-priced phones of other local makers Huawei, ZTE Corp andXiaomi.

“In China, we had been pushing for volume growth through investment in retail channels but this proved to be very costly,” said Park.

“We made a strategic change there in late 2012 to focus on high-end models and aim to grow sales mainly through partnerships with mobile carriers.”