This Is the Biggest Threat to Apple’s Business Around the World

This Is the Biggest Threat to Apple's Business Around the World

When is selling an iPhone not the same as selling an iPhone?

Easy: when you’re selling it in a country whose currency is declining in value. So how many is that? Well, in the last 18 months, it’s been pretty much all of them other than the United States. Indeed, the dollar has shot up about 22 percent against a trade-weighted basket of other currencies since the middle of 2014. And in Apple’s case, that’s meant what would have been $100 (roughly Rs. 6,800) of foreign sales in September 2014 was just $85 (roughly Rs. 5,779) by the end of 2015.

That’s not good when you get two-thirds of your revenue overseas.

The strong dollar, in other words, has become an earnings albatross for Apple. It’s getting paid in currencies that aren’t worth as much, and, at least up till now, it hasn’t made up for that by raising prices that much lest it lose market share. Even worse, it doesn’t look like any of this is going to get any better anytime soon. That’s because the Federal Reserve has begun raising rates at the same time that the rest of the world is either cutting them or even printing money.

Now there are two things to remember here. The first is that our slow-and-steady recovery really has won the race. Our unemployment rate is pretty much down to normal, and should get there soon considering that the economy has been adding an average of 284,000 jobs a month for the last three. It’s enough that the Fed thinks it has to increase interest rates today to keep inflation in check tomorrow. Everywhere else, though, things are either stagnant or slowing down to the point that policymakers are doing whatever they can to try to jumpstart growth.

And that brings us to point number two. People move their money to where it can get the best returns. So would you rather buy a 10-year German bond that pays 0.45 percent or a U.S. 10-year bond that pays 1.99 percent? Investors, especially big European ones, have been answering that by turning their euros into dollars, which is just another way of saying that there’s been more demand for dollars – so its price is rising. And it should keep doing so.

Consider this: Europe has promised to keep printing money through at least March 2017, Japan is printing its own with no end in sight, and China is facing big capital outflows itself. That means the euro, yen, and yuan would probably fall against the dollar even if we weren’t raising rates – but we are. The Fed says it wants to do so four times this year, which seems far too ambitious, but even just one or two would be enough to send the dollar up, up, up to, well, not quite infinity and beyond. But high enough that our workers and our companies would both see their bottom lines bottom out.

So it’s a great time to take that trip to Europe you’ve been thinking about, well, just as long as you weren’t planning on selling any iPhones.

[“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”]

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”]

Nokia’s Samsung Ruling Points to Challenging Patent Contest

Nokia's Samsung Ruling Points to Challenging Patent ContestNokia shares plunged after an award from a Samsung Electronics Co. patent dispute fell short of analysts’ estimates, in a sign that rights holders will struggle to extract more royalty revenue from smartphone makers as global demand for handsets slows.

An arbitration court of the International Chamber of Commerce settled the amount of additional compensation Samsung needs to pay Nokia, the Finnish company said Monday in a statement, without providing exact financial details. The ruling could lead to annual revenue of as much as EUR 200 million (roughly Rs. 1,480 crores) from Samsung, Sebastien Sztabowicz, an analyst at Kepler Cheuvreux, said in a note to clients. He had predicted as much as EUR 250 million.

“You’ll only see more margin pressure in this industry in coming years, so companies like Samsung would like to try and defend against that and probably be more aggressive in a negotiation process or even in arbitration where they have to present their case,” said Janardan Menon, an analyst at Liberum Capital in London.

Menon said margin pressure at the handset makers will trickle down to the hardware intellectual-property suppliers, putting them under more pressure. Nokia’s award is “well below consensus and broader expectations in the market,” he said in a note to clients.

The shares dropped as much as 13 percent, the steepest intraday decline since April 30, and were down 11 percent at EUR 5.87 as of 4:20 p.m. in Helsinki, wiping out about EUR 4 billion from Nokia’s market value.

Samsung last week reported fourth-quarter profit that slumped 39 percent as a slowing demand for new smartphones ripples across the industry. The world’s largest phonemaker said maintaining earnings this year would be challenging. Even Apple forecast a sales decline for the first time in more than a decade.

The growth in number of smartphones shipped is expected to fall in half over the coming year as the market becomes saturated with the high-end devices, according to IDC. Growth will slump to 4.7 percent in 2019, compared with estimated expansion of 9.8 percent in 2015 as sales in emerging markets decelerate, the researcher said.

Nokia is the latest wireless-equipment maker to settle a patent dispute with a handset maker challenging the value of patents it uses to make smartphones. The high-margin sales made from licensing such technology is crucial to boosting profitability, especially when operators are spending less on wireless infrastructure equipment. Swedish rival Ericsson AB and Apple settled a legal dispute in December over mobile-device patents.

Ericsson shares fell 1.5 percent in Stockholm to 74.3 kronor.

The value of Nokia and Ericsson’s patents may be facing further pressure. Microsoft Corp. won an appeals court ruling in July that may lower the rates many electronics makers pay to license technology considered standard in smartphones and computers. An appeals court in San Francisco upheld a $14.5 million (roughly Rs. 98 crores) jury verdict against Google Inc. as punishment for unfairly demanding what Microsoft said amounted to billions of dollars for use of patents covering Wi-Fi and video downloads.

That decision gives new ammunition to companies like Apple, Intel and Hewlett-Packard which have waged a worldwide campaign to lower the amount of money they pay for essential technologies that let mobile phones download video, access Wi-Fi or accept calls, no matter the manufacturer.

Nokia’s patent-licensing business now has a annual revenue run rate of about EUR 800 million. Nokia’s technologies division, which licenses its patents, had fourth-quarter sales of about EUR 400 million and full-year 2015 sales of about EUR 1.02 billion, it said.

Nokia’s technologies unit generated about 20 percent of the company’s EUR 475 million of third-quarter operating profit with an operating margin of 58 percent, far above the 13.6 percent generated by its networks business. Nokia is set to report fourth-quarter earnings Feb. 11.

[“Source-Gadgets”]