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Friday, July 28, 2017

Samsung Electronics to launch refurbished Note 7 phones in South Korea from 7 July

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Seoul: Samsung Electronics Co Ltd said on Sunday it will start selling a refurbished version of the recalled Galaxy Note 7 smartphone in South Korea on 7 July, using batteries different from those that caused some handsets to catch fire last year.

Samsung said in a statement it will offer 400,000 phones, dubbed the Galaxy Note 7 Fan Edition, in its home country priced 699,600 won ($611) – about 30% lower than the Note 7’s original launch price. The devices will be made from recalled, unsealed Note 7 handsets and unused Note 7 components.

Batteries for the refurbished devices will have a lower capacity than those of the original Note 7s, but have passed new safety measures implemented following the recall, Samsung said.

The world’s biggest smartphone maker by volume was forced to halt sales of the Note 7 in October, roughly 2 months after its launch, due to fire-prone batteries from two different suppliers. The incident cost Samsung over $5 billion in operating profit and damaged its reputation, though the firm has since recovered with the successful launch of the Galaxy S8.

The firm said earlier this year it planned to sell refurbished Note 7s after investigations by Samsung and independent firms concluded the batteries were solely responsible for the fires.

Samsung also plans to hold a launch event for the Note 8 in the second half of August, a source told Reuters last month.

The firm said it will decide whether to sell the refurbished Note 7s in other markets at a later date. It has said it does not plan to offer the device in the United States or India.

Apple’s iPhone turns 10 years old

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Apple Inc’s iPhone turns 10 this week, evoking memories of a rocky start for the device that ended up doing most to start the smartphone revolution and stirring interest in where it will go from here.

Apple has sold more than 1 billion iPhones since 29 June 2007, but the first iPhone, which launched without an App Store and was restricted to the AT&T Inc network, was limited compared to today’s version.

After sluggish initial sales, Apple slashed the price to spur holiday sales that year.

“The business model for year one of the iPhone was a disaster,” Tony Fadell, one of the Apple developers of the device, toldReuters in an interview on Wednesday. “We pivoted and figured it out in year two.”

The very concept of the iPhone came as a surprise to some of Apple’s suppliers a decade ago, even though Apple, led by CEO Steve Jobs, had already expanded beyond computers with the iPod.

“We still have the voicemail from Steve Jobs when he called the CEO and founder here,” said David Bairstow at Skyhook, the company that supplied location technology to early iPhones. “He thought he was being pranked by someone in the office and it took him two days to call Steve Jobs back.”

The iPhone hit its stride in 2008 when Apple introduced the App Store, which allowed developers to make and distribute their mobile applications with Apple taking a cut of any revenue.

Ten years later, services revenue is a crucial area of growth for Apple, bringing in $24.3 billion in revenue last year.

New model

Fans and investors are now looking forward to the 10th anniversary iPhone 8, expected this autumn, asking whether it will deliver enough new features to spark a new generation to turn to Apple.

That new phone may have 3-D mapping sensors, support for “augmented reality” apps that would merge virtual and real worlds, and a new display with organic LEDs, which are light and flexible, according to analysts at Bernstein Research.

A decade after launching into a market largely occupied by BlackBerry and Microsoft devices, the iPhone now competes chiefly with phones running Google’s Android software, which is distributed to Samsung Electronics and other manufacturers around the world.

Even though most of the world’s smartphones now run on Android, Apple still garners most of the profit in the industry with its generally higher-priced devices.

More than 2 billion people now have smartphones, according to data from eMarketer, and Fadell, who has worked for both Apple and Alphabet, sees that as the hallmark of success.

“Being able to democratize computing and communication across the entire world is absolutely astounding to me,” Fadell said. “It warms my heart because that’s something Steve tried to do with the Apple II a

Apple said to plan dedicated chip to power AI on devices

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San Francisco: Apple Inc. got an early start in artificial intelligence software with the 2011 introduction of Siri, a tool that lets users operate their smartphones with voice commands.

Now the electronics giant is bringing artificial intelligence to chips. Apple is working on a processor devoted specifically to AI-related tasks, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The chip, known internally as the Apple Neural Engine, would improve the way the company’s devices handle tasks that would otherwise require human intelligence—such as facial recognition and speech recognition, said the person, who requested anonymity discussing a product that hasn’t been made public. Apple declined to comment.

Engineers at Apple are racing to catch their peers at Amazon.com Inc. and Alphabet Inc. in the booming field of artificial intelligence. While Siri gave Apple an early advantage in voice-recognition, competitors have since been more aggressive in deploying AI across their product lines, including Amazon’s Echo and Google’s Home digital assistants. An AI-enabled processor would help Cupertino, California-based Apple integrate more advanced capabilities into devices, particularly cars that drive themselves and gadgets that run augmented reality, the technology that superimposes graphics and other information onto a person’s view of the world.

“Two of the areas that Apple is betting its future on require AI,” said Gene Munster, former Apple analyst and co-founder of venture capital firm Loup Ventures.

“At the core of augmented reality and self-driving cars is artificial intelligence.”

Apple devices currently handle complex artificial intelligence processes with two different chips: the main processor and the graphics chip. The new chip would let Apple offload those tasks onto a dedicated module designed specifically for demanding artificial intelligence processing, allowing Apple to improve battery performance.

Should Apple bring the chip out of testing and development, it would follow other semiconductor makers that have already introduced dedicated AI chips.

Qualcomm Inc.’s latest Snapdragon chip for smartphones has a module for handling artificial intelligence tasks, while Google announced its first chip, called the Tensor Processing Unit (TPU), in 2016. That chip worked in Google’s data centres to power search results and image-recognition. At its I/O conference this year, Google announced a new version that will be available to clients of its cloud business.

Nvidia Corp. also sells a similar chip to cloud customers.

The Apple AI chip is designed to make significant improvements to Apple’s hardware over time, and the company plans to eventually integrate the chip into many of its devices, including the iPhone and iPad, according to the person with knowledge of the matter. Apple has tested prototypes of future iPhones with the chip, the person said, adding that it’s unclear if the component will be ready this year.

Apple’s operating systems and software features would integrate with devices that include the chip. For example, Apple has considered offloading facial recognition in the photos applicati on, some parts of speech recognition, and the iPhone’s predictive keyboard to the chip, the person said. Apple also plans to offer developer access to the chip so third-party apps can also offload artificial intelligence-related tasks, the person said.

Apple may choose to discuss some of its latest advancements in AI at its annual developer’s conference in June. At the same conference, Apple plans to introduce iOS 11, its new operating system for iPhones and iPads, with an updated user interface, people with knowledge of the matter said in April. The company is also said to discuss updated laptops with faster chips from Intel Corp.

An AI chip would join a growing list of processors that Apple has created in-house. The company began designing its own main processors for the iPhone and iPad in 2010 with the A4 chip. It has since released dedicated processors to power the Apple Watch, the motion sensors across its products, the wireless components inside of its AirPods, and the fingerprint scanner in the MacBook Pro. The company has also tested a chip to run the low-power mode on Mac laptops.

In 2015, Bloomberg reported that Apple’s culture of secrecy stymied the iPhone maker’s ability to attract top AI research talent. After that Apple hired Russ Salakhutdinov from Carnegie Mellon University as its director of AI research in October 2016.

Chinese firms shipped 51% smartphones to India in March quarter: IDC report

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Chinese phone makers are on a roll in India, according to International Data Corporation’s (IDC) Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker for Q1 of calendar year 2017. The report shows that Chinese phone makers shipped 51.4% of the total smartphones shipped in the Indian smartphone market in this quarter, with year-on-year growth of 142.6% and quarterly growth rate of 16.9%.

Xiaomi, which wasn’t even in the top five list in Q1 2016, is now the second leading smartphone company in India with a market share of 14.2%. It registered a sequential growth of 39.8% in Q1 2017. IDC attributes its success to its budget offerings such as Redmi Note 4 (priced at Rs9,999 onwards) and Redmi 4A (Rs5,999). The Redmi Note 4 also emerged as the highest shipped smartphone in the country in Q1 2017, replacing Samsung’s Galaxy J2 which was the most shipped smartphone in the last quarter of 2016.

Vivo, Lenovo and Oppo occupy the third, fourth and fifth positions, respectively, in terms of market share. Vivo controls 10.5% of the market share and its shipments grew 44% over the last quarter. With a market share of 9.5%, Lenovo has slipped down from the third to fourth slot in Q1 despite the fact that its shipments grew by 33.7%. Oppo has a market share of 9.3% but its shipments grew by just 14%.

The success of Chinese brands can be attributed to their aggressive pricing, better user experience, faster adoption of 4G technology and greater emphasis on cameras. About 62.2% of smartphones shipped by Chinese brands in Q1 2017 had 13-megapixel or higher resolution cameras.

The unshakeable Samsung

South Korean giant Samsung continues to be the number one smartphone company in India with a market share of 28.1%. Though the company registered year-on-year growth of just 1.5% (it controlled 26.5% of the market in Q1 2016), it reported growth of 16.9 % in Q1 2017. Samsung’s success can be attributed to its volume-driven market strategy and launches in the affordable J series and the mid-range C and A series in Q1 2017.

Tough times for Indian companies

Indian companies such as Micromax, Lava, Reliance Jio and Intex which together controlled 40 % market share in Q1 2016, have slumped further and now control just 13.5% of the smartphone market share. “Indian vendors are making attempts to recapture the lost ground with new launches in sub-$100 as well as in the mid-range segment. But intense competition from China-based vendors continues to be a major challenge and is expected to increase in coming quarters,” says Jaipal Singh, market analyst, client devices, IDC India.

Positive signs

The Indian market showed a healthy year-on-year growth of 14.8% and quarterly growth rate of 4.7%, claims IDC. Also, a total of 27 million smartphones were shipped in the country in Q1 2017.

People are now spending more on smartphones. The report points out that the average selling price (ASP) of smartphones selling in the country has increased from $131 (approximately Rs8,390) in Q1 2016 to $155 (approximately Rs9,927) in Q1 2017.

The rise of smartphone-wielding investor: The clan has grown 47% in a year

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Smartphones are not just being used to buy apparels and electronics but increasing Indian citizens are using it to shop for stocks as well.

The investor base transacting through mobile phones has seen a 47 per cent jump to 880,000 at the end of March compared to 600,000 a year ago, data provided by the National Stock Exchange (NSE) showed.

While still, this is a tiny fraction of the total stock market investor base of 20 million-plus, industry players expect mobile trading will continue to grow exponentially. Penetration of broadband mobile data and smartphones has given a fillip to online trading user base, they say.

The average daily turnover for mobile-based trading has nearly doubled to Rs 1,358 crore in 2016-17 compared to Rs 700 crore for the previous financial year.

The share of mobile-based trading of total cash market turnover has increased to 3.4 per cent in 2016-17 from 2.04 per cent last finan. It is worth noting, that the share of mobile-based trading of total cash market turnover is higher than the share of mobile investor user base as a percentage of total user base, signalling that mobile-based investors are more active.

Interestingly, smartphones are always becoming a gateway to the stock market for many first-time investors. A third of investors transacting through smartphones are first-time investors.

Besides mobile, internet-based trading is also seeing huge traction. Investors using internet-based platforms have grown eight per cent to 1.9 million in 2016-17 from 1.76 million a year ago. Despite just eight per cent growth, the average daily turnover for internet-based trading has increased 31 per cent to Rs 4,712 crore from Rs 3,605 crore, NSE data showed. Internet-based trading now accounts for nearly 12 per cent of the cash market volumes at the country’s largest stock exchange.

Given the good performance of the Initial Public Offer (IPO) market and also the secondary market, a lot of bank customers are opting for the ‘online trading account’ facility, which is contributing to increase in user base.

Leading private sector banks like HDFC Bank, ICICI Bank, Axis Bank and Kotak Mahindra Bank offer the so-called 3-in-1 account facility (bank account, demat account and trading account).

Industry players say the ease of use of 3-in-1 accounts is pushing a lot of bank clients towards the stock market.

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