China Smartphone Glory Days Are Over as Apple, Xiaomi Face Tough Times

China Smartphone Glory Days Are Over as Apple, Xiaomi Face Tough Times

China’s smartphone boom may be over, as even Apple Inc grapples with a slowing economy and investor darling Xiaomi Inc struggles to stand out amid intense competition in low-margin handsets.

On Tuesday, Apple reported the slowest-ever increase in iPhone shipments as the Chinese market weakened. That slowdown in the world’s second-largest economy is threatening to hamstring consumption across the country.

Xiaomi, China’s most valuable startup with a $45 billion (roughly Rs. 3,06,047 crores) pricetag, is under threat, after it missed targets for $1 billion (roughly Rs. 6,801 crores) in Internet service revenue and also handsets sales in 2015.

As China’s economy grows at its slowest pace in a quarter of a century, the country’s once booming smartphone market has become saturated. For vendors whose products have become commoditised and make little to no profit, that doesn’t just mean the years of easy growth are in the past, but that it could be a struggle to keep their heads above water.

(Also see:  Apple Says It Has Over 1 Billion Active Devices Worldwide)

“The large growth rates that we saw in years past are definitely much different now,” said Bryan Ma, analyst at IDC, which predicted China’s smartphone market will grow at 1-2 percent this year. “In theory it could slip below zero this year, but either way, it’s relatively flat.”

Last year, IDC estimated it grew 2 percent. From 2011 to 2013, the market on average more than doubled in size each year.

Xiaomi’s Internet services revenue surged 150 percent to CNY 3.71 billion ($563.94 million or roughly Rs. 3,834 crores) from CNY 1.48 billion a year earlier, an internal document reviewed by Reuters showed.

xiaomi_phone_reuters.jpgA spokeswoman for Xiaomi declined to comment on revenue for 2015.

Like peers such as Apple, Beijing-based Xiaomi is trying to sidestep a slowdown in the world’s largest handset market by coaxing smartphone buyers to also purchase Internet services and opening stores in China’s less wealthy cities.

The firm has grown rapidly since it started in 2010. But Xiaomi’s valuation has been questioned recently as the firm has struggled to maintain its early growth surge.

Xiaomi missed its global shipment target by 12 percent, selling 70 million handsets last year, when domestic rivals such as Lenovo Group Ltd and top player Huawei Technologies Co Ltd countered at home with similar Internet-only device sales campaigns.

“Given that Xiaomi’s valuation has always been based on the company being more than a commodity handset manufacturer, missing their services revenue goal by such a significant margin is even more concerning than missing their handset target,” said Ben Thompson, a tech analyst at Stratechery.

Now it’s a question of whether Xiaomi can grow that revenue fast enough to prove its critics wrong, Thompson said.

The company encapsulates the risks of a vendor like Samsung Electronics Co Ltd in recent years, who can’t build a moat for their business.

“The only way to win with an undifferentiated product is having a superior cost structure and scale,” said Thompson. “Samsung did it, and now Huawei is doing it. ‘Win’ is all relative though, if you’re making a couple of bucks in profit per phone.”

[“Source-Gadgets”]

No Need to Fret, Apple Is Doing Fine

No Need to Fret, Apple Is Doing Fine

Let’s get this out of the way first: Despite what you may have heard, the iPhone is not dying. Neither, by extension, is Apple.

It’s true that in an earnings report Tuesday, after weeks of speculation by Wall Street that iPhone sales would finally hit a peak, Apple confirmed the news: iPhone sales grew at their lowest-ever rate in the last quarter. And the company projected total sales of as much as $53 billion (roughly Rs. 3,61,532 crores) in the current quarter that ends in March, which would be a decline of 8.6 percent from last year and Apple’s first revenue drop in more than a decade.

But if Apple is now hitting a plateau, it’s important to remember that it’s one of the loftiest plateaus in the history of business. The $18.4 billion (roughly Rs. 1,25,518 crores) profit that Apple reported Tuesday is the most ever earned by any company in a single quarter.

(Also see:  This Is the Biggest Threat to Apple’s Business Around the World)

It’s necessary to start with these caveats because people have a tendency to react strongly, almost apoplectically, to any suggestion of weakness on Apple’s part. Like pickles, cilantro and Ted Cruz, Apple inspires extreme opinion. The doubters are now ascendant. Apple’s share price has fallen more than 11 percent over the last year, in stark contrast to gains by the other four American tech giants.

So this column will try to do something tricky: explore what’s ailing Apple without going off the deep end. And after talking to several observers who watch the company closely, here’s my ice-cold take:Apple is doing quite OK.

Could it be doing some things better? Sure. Are any of its problems urgent? Not particularly, and from what one can tell, it’s working to address many of its shortcomings. Does it face existential threats? Yes, but no more than any other tech giant. Will it remain an outsize presence in the tech industry for years to come, generating profits on a scale that no other corporation can match? Almost certainly.

(Also see:  Apple’s iPhone Success May Be Reaching Its Peak)

“I’m not worrying about Apple in 2015 or Apple in 2016,” said Ben Thompson, an analyst who runs the site Stratechery, and who questioned Apple’s far-off future in a recent piece. “I’m thinking about the arc of Apple from 1976 to Apple in 2046. The iPhone era has been the pinnacle of everything that Apple does best. Anyone fretting about Apple right now is totally overstating it. But if I look out 10 years, 20 years, each of Apple’s advantages starts to fade.”

I’ll get to those long-run worries in a bit, but let’s start with the present. At the moment, Apple’s biggest problem is its own success. The iPhone turns nine this year. The iPad turns six. These devices have made Apple the world’s most valuable company (until Google’s parent company, Alphabet, overtakes it, which might happen soon).

Apple’s iPhone business is now so huge it sounds almost fantastical – Apple books more revenue from the iPhone (about $154 billion or roughly Rs. 10,50,534 crores in its last fiscal year) than Amazon,Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard or IBM generate from all of their operations. Two-thirds of the world’s countries have gross domestic products smaller than annual sales of the iPhone.

Yet the very dominance of Apple’s aging mobile empire inspires doubts about its future. The bigger the iPhone gets, the harder Apple has to work to beat its previous milestones, and the more vulnerable it appears to some fatal technological surprise.

The primary criticism of Apple’s recent performance is that it’s doing too much, and as a result, the general quality of its products has slipped. Related to that is the notion that Apple has lost some of its innovative and design magic. It has put out a larger-than-usual number of features and products that have failed to thrill reviewers. As Gizmodo put it in a headline summing up 2015, “Everything Apple Introduced This Year Kinda Sucked.”

Apple still does noteworthy new things, but I can understand Gizmodo’s frustration. The Apple Watch is a work in progress. Apple Music and Apple News feel awkward, far less pleasant than dedicated music-streaming and news apps that have long been available in the app store (like Spotify and Flipboard). The Apple TV offers little I couldn’t get on other devices, and its remote is heroically unfriendly. And 3D Touch and Live Photos, the new features in the latest iPhone, are nice but not groundbreaking.

But there’s something worth keeping in mind about each of these criticisms. They’re the gripes of a technophile, and they don’t necessarily reflect mainstream consumer perceptions about Apple’s products.

“Most of these critics are those who spend most of their time in this world of Apple analysis, so of course they’re hypersensitive to their devices,” said Horace Dediu, a fellow at the Clayton Christensen Institute, a think tank, and an analyst who follows Apple at his site, Asymco.

Dediu said customer satisfaction data showed continuing love for everything Apple sold. Almost everyone who has purchased an Apple Watch loves it. The same is true for iPhones and iPads. Apple’s crash logs show that its software isn’t getting buggier, contrary to what heavy users might think. “And people have short memories – they forget that the first iPhone was also full of bugs, that things in the past weren’t perfect,” he said.

Dediu is one of a chorus of analysts who argue the iPhone is far from its peak. With incremental improvements to the device’s interface and capabilities, Apple can add more than enough to keep people hooked to its devices. He calls the current peak in sales a “localized peak” – a blip from which Apple will soon emerge. In a piece last fall, I echoed this theory that the iPhone can’t lose; so has Thompson.

But if continued growth sounds like wishful thinking, there’s another path for Apple to prosper even if iPhone sales do hit a wall: Suck more money out of each phone. In a note to clients last fall, analysts at Goldman Sachs suggested that through a widening number of subscription services baked into the iPhone, Apple could begin to reap a huge monthly fee from its users, which it said constituted “the most lucrative installed base in the world.”

It’s an argument Apple executives are starting to vocalize loudly. On Tuesday’s earnings call, Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive, said the popularity of the iPhone provided the company a “long-lasting foundation.”

Apple’s ecosystem is so sticky that people tend to flock to its services even if there are better products out there. Even if I’m not a fan, 10 million people have subscribed to Apple Music in its first six months.

Given all these options for minting bullion from the iPhone, the most alarming worries for Apple aren’t about the present. They are about the future beyond the horizon, and they are necessarily speculative.

The basic question is this: In the future, will physical devices matter less than they do now? If computers are more like the machines in the movie “Her” – ethereal, ambient computers that exist in the cloud, that respond to our voices and our bodies, anticipating our desires – what will happen to Apple then? This is a company whose entire existence hinges on the cultural appreciation of physical things. Can it prosper in an age of ambient computing?

These are interesting questions to pose. I had a long conversation with Thompson about these ideas, and Apple’s apparent weaknesses – how it’s not as good at artificial intelligence and voice recognition as Google, how it lacks the cloud infrastructure that Amazon has built, and how, most important, its entire corporate culture is geared toward making actual stuff, which could limit its capacity to create fantastic online services.

But ultimately the discussion felt academic. It seems obvious that as the tech world changes around it, Apple, over the next decade, will need to reinvent itself. But so will everyone else. That is just what you do in this industry.

[“Source-Gadgets”]

Nexus 5X, iPhone 6s, Samsung Galaxy Note Edge, and More Tech Deals

Nexus 5X, iPhone 6s, Samsung Galaxy Note Edge, and More Tech Deals

This week we have great deals on the iPhone 6S, Nexus 5X, Asus 15.6-inch laptop, and more. This is also a great weekend to grab big-screen smartphones on Flipkart when you pay upfront using any credit or debit card to get an extra 5% discount (maximum Rs. 1,500).

1. Apple iPhone 6S 64GB
If you are in the market for a decent deal on an iPhone 6S without a cashback offer, Flipkart is offering the 64GB variant for Rs. 54,999. You can get an additional Rs. 1500 off when you pay online using any credit or debit card. You’ll also receive a 4G ready SIM card from Airtel. The iPhone 6S features a 4.7-inch Retina Display with 3D Touch support. It includes a 12MP primary camera at the back and a 5MP front-facing camera for video calls. The smartphone is powered by Apple’s A9 processor coupled wit the M9 motion co-processor for tracking your daily activities.

Price: Rs. 54,999

Link: Flipkart

2. Nexus 5X 16GB
The Nexus 5X has received its due share of discounts lately. Using Flipkart’s offer on big-screen smartphones this weekend, you can grab one for as low as Rs. 18,499 (regular Rs. 20,999). That’s the lowest price we’ve seen on the Nexus 5X without any cashback offer. You’ll need to pay upfront using a credit or debit card to grab the smartphone at this price. The Nexus 5X runs Android 6.0 out of the box, and is powered by the Snapdragon 808 SoC. It comes with a 5.2-inch display that runs at a full HD resolution. The smartphone supports 4G bands in India. Nexus 5X includes a 12.3MP primary camera and a 5MP front-facing camera.

lg_google_nexus_5x_angle_ndtv.jpgPrice: Rs. 18,499

Link: Flipkart

3. Philips AC4072/11 air purifier
Air purifiers are all set of go mainstream given the rising pollution levels in our cities. The PhilipsAC4072/11 is now down to Rs. 30,635 (MRP Rs. 39,995) on Flipkart. The same air purifier normally retails at the Rs. 34,000 price point. At this price, the Philips AC4072/11 is a great option if you’re in the market for a new air purifier that is both compact and powerful enough. It includes a standard 4-step air filtration process. It includes a 5-step fan speed that can adjust the air flow as per your requirement. There’s a night mode that disables all the shiny lights on the machine and reduces the noise of the fan.

philips-ac4072_air_purifier_flipkart.jpgPrice: Rs. 30,635

Link: Flipkart

4. Samsung Galaxy Note Edge
Croma is selling the Galaxy Note Edge for Rs. 39,994 (MRP Rs. 68,500). Although it’s only available in select locations (Faridabad, Gurgaon, and Mumbai), it’s still a pretty good deal. The Galaxy Note Edge features a 5.6-inch quad HD super AMOLED display on a curved-edge screen. It includes 32GB of internal storage and is powered by a quad-core processor clocked at 2.7GHz, supported by 3GB of RAM. There’s a 16MP primary camera at the back and a 3.7MP front-facing camera. It also comes with a microSD card slot that allows you to expand the memory by up to 64GB.

samsung_galaxy_note_edge.jpgPrice: Rs. 39,994

Link: Croma Retail

5. Ricoh SP 210SU multi-function laser printer
If you’re in the market for a no-nonsense multi-function laser printer, the Ricoh SP 210SU is a great option. You can grab one on Paytm for as low as Rs. 6,291 (effective price after cashback). The printer can scan, print, and copy using the in-built scanner. The printer is still compact enough to fit most workstations at homes or offices. The printer includes a capacity to hold 150 sheets in the input tray (A4). The scanner can scan documents at a resolution of 600×600 dpi (dots per inch). Ricoh has built in an ID card scanner function which makes it a little simpler to simply scan identity cards.

Price: Rs. 6,291

Link: Paytm

6. Asus 15.6-inch laptop
Amazon has dropped the price on the Asus 15.6-inch X550LAV-XX771D laptop to Rs. 21,499 (MRP Rs. 29,999). If you are in the market for a mid-range laptop that ships without an operating system, this laptop is probably a safe choice at the Rs. 22,000 price point. The Asus 15.6-inch laptop is powered by the Intel Core i3 processor clocked at 1.7GHz, supported by 2GB of RAM. It ships with a 500GB standard hard drive, and runs DOS out of the box. You can transfer your existing operating system license to the system or just install Linux. The lightweight laptop includes two USB 3.0 ports and one USB 2.0 port.

asus_15_6_inch_laptop_image_amazon.jpgPrice: Rs. 21,499

Link: Amazon

[“Source-Gadgets”]

12 Ways to Use Your Android Smartphone More Efficiently

12 Ways to Use Your Android Smartphone More EfficientlyAndroid tips are a little trickier to offer than iPhone tips, for a couple of reasons. For one, it’s often up to carriers or manufacturers – rather than consumers – who have control over which version of Android your phone is running. Furthermore, there are so many more kinds of Android phones, which have their own neat little features. My phone is a Samsung Galaxy S6 (Review | Pictures), but menu options may be different depending on what type of phone you use.

I’ve tried to keep these tips as universal as possible.

1) Customise, customise, customise
In my opinion, the very best part about being an Android user is the fact that you can mess around a lot with your phone to make it your own. Many readers wrote in to say that they like using custom keyboard apps on their Android phones.

But there’s a whole world of customising apps out there available exclusively to Android phones. For example, you can choose to change the way your very home screen looks, or how your apps are organised by using something called an app launcher. I personally use Yahoo’s Aviate, which automatically organises apps by type, time of day and location. So if I’m at work, for example, it won’t put Netflix on my short list of apps. If it’s time to commute, travel apps may get a more prominent billing.

You can also download a variety of diallers and caller ID apps, for example, to further customise your phone. Really, the world is your oyster.

2) Embrace all of Google
Another key advantage of the Android life is that there’s a lot of integration if you’re a Google user. The core apps such as Gmail, Calendar, Photos and others should work seamlessly with your phone. Google’s voice assistant is just an “OK Google” away.

A particularly nice feature in the latest version of Android (Marshmallow) is Google Now on Tap, which sort of acts as a Google-powered footnote to whatever you’re reading tap a word and you’ll get a Google search about it.

But even if you don’t have Marshmallow, you can run a Google search on any phrase on any website in Chrome by highlighting text. A small window should slide up from the bottom of the screen, and tapping it will initiate a search. You don’t even have to leave the page you’re on. You can also turn this off in Chrome’s settings. Just head to Setting> Privacy > Touch to Search.

3) Know what you’re sharing
One question I get often about apps is how you can see what you’re sharing with them. You can do this by going to your Settings menu and finding your Applications Manager. Selecting any particular app should give you a list of permissions, along with an explanation of what they mean.

If you happen to have the latest version of Android, you should also be able to get a little more control over the app permissions. So if you want to, for example, share your location with an app but aren’t that happy about sharing your contact list, you may be able to switch that off. It depends on the app, as well, so this may not work for every program.

4) Mess around with your defaults
Another major perk of being an Android user is that you can change the apps that handle certain functions automatically. So if you have a browser you prefer, or a PDF reader you really like, you can use it automatically. If you’d rather always see YouTube videos in the YouTube app instead of on the mobile web, you can do that too.

It’s pretty easy to do this; most often, your phone itself will ask you if you want to set a default app when you perform various functions. If you change your mind, you can go into the settings for whatever default app you’ve chosen through the Settings menu and choose Clear Defaults.

Some phones, such as the Samsung Galaxy S6, also have a menu called Default applications, which will list all the defaults you’ve selected on your phone.

5) Track your data use
Worried about exceeding your data plan? Android phones should have a built-in data tracker that lets you keep tabs on what you’re using. This should be in your Settings menu, under the heading such asData usage.

You can also customise this feature so that it fits with your billing cycle.

6) Disable useless apps
You may not be crazy about every app that comes with your phone; often carriers and manufacturers add apps that you simply won’t use. But while you can’t always uninstall these apps, you can often keep them from running on your phone. On Android, you can disable these apps to keep them from running in the background. Just head to your phone’s version of the application manager, tap on the app you want to sedate, and hit Disable.

If you ever want to re-enable the app, you can do that by following the same steps.

(Also see:  Five Simple Tips to Increase the Life of Your Phone’s Battery)

7) Conserve your battery life
If your phone has a power-saving mode of some kind, you can choose to have it automatically kick in when your phone’s battery hits a particular charge percentage. Head to the Battery section of yourSettings menu. If your phone does have a power-saving mode option, go into that feature’s settings and set it to kick in automatically when your battery’s at various power levels. (On my Samsung Galaxy S6, the options are 50, 20, 15 and 5 percent.) That could get you an extra hour or so of battery life when you’re running low.

(Also see:  Eight Simple Tips to Increase the Battery Life of Your Mobile Device)

8) Become a developer to make things run more quickly
If you want to make your phone move a little more quickly, you can enable its developer options to speed it up. The process to turn on this option is a little funny; you have to head into the About this phone menu in your settings, then find the section that says Build number. Then – and I’m completely serious about this – you tap that item seven times.

Congratulations, you’re now a developer! At least, according to your phone. You should see a new item pop up in the About menu, called Developer options. Within that menu, you can change a few options – namely Window animation scale, Transition animation scale and Animator duration scale – to .5x or lower. This should speed up your phone by reducing the time it spends animating transitions between windows and apps. This does make things feel a little more abrupt when you’re switching between windows. But remember: you can always put it back if you have problems.

9) Swipe down for quick access to settings
Need to get quick access to your flashlight? A one-touch option for Airplane Mode? Locking the screen rotation? Swipe down from the top of your phone and you should find the Quick Settings menu. This is a pretty basic tool for navigating your phone, but you’d be surprised how many people either don’t know about it or forget it.


Many readers also wrote in to note that you can rearrange which notifications appear in this drop-down menu on various phones — I heard from Samsung, HTC, LG and Nexus users on this one.

Reader tips

10) Try out multitasking
Several Samsung owners wrote in to say that you can run two applications at the same time on many of their newer devices. To trigger that, you can tap and hold the Recent Apps button on your phone, which tends to be to the right of the physical home button. That will prompt it to go into split-screen view.

11) Use the Gesture search app
One reader wrote in to rave about Google Gesture Search, an Android-only app that lets you navigate through your phone with a number of gestures.

“If you need to find almost anything on your phone, you can usually find it with just a couple swipes of your finger,” the reader wrote. The app works with a wide variety of Android devices and versions of the operating system.

12) Get quick access to the camera
Another Samsung user wrote in to share a tip about getting to the camera app faster. “The Samsung Galaxy 5’s excellent camera is just a swipe away thanks to a shortcut that saves a few seconds normally spent on unlocking the device,” she wrote. You can enable the shortcut on that device by heading to the Lock screen menu in your settings and selecting Camera Shortcut.

Other phones may already have a camera shortcut on the lock screen by default — take a look! Some phones may have their own ways of getting to the camera fast. Some HTC phones, for example, will launch the camera if you hit the volume up button. Other phones, such as the Nexus 6P (Review |Pictures) and Nexus 5x (Review | Pictures), have options to launch the camera with gestures.

[“Source-Gadgets”]