Start up: dual-SIM nations, Korea v Apple (and Google), Galaxy S6 flat – or rounded?, and more


A dual-SIM Sony Xperia. Photo by hirotomo on Flickr.

A selection of 8 links for you. Keep moist. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Korea’s FTC has created a task force to determine whether Apple and Google are damaging the Korean market » Patently Apple

Today the South Korean press is reporting that he Korea Fair Trade Commission (FTC) will create a task force for ICT this year and closely monitor Social Networking Service providers (SNS) and operating system providers.

The country’s anti-trust regulator announced its plan for this year on Feb. 1. What is most noticeable is a task force for information, communication Technology (ICT).

The FTC is said to establish a task force and closely monitor whether or not monopolistic companies like Google and Apple inflict damage to the Korean market using their dominant position in the market.

The regulatory body is paying attention to the fact that the two companies comprise 99.5% of the local mobile operating system market.

Umm.. that percentage hasn’t changed. All that’s changed is Apple’s proportion of it, which went from about 10% to 33%.


Enough is ENOUGH: It’s time to flush Flash back to where it came from – Hell » The Register

Iain Thomson:

Even if Adobe put its top programmers working on Flash, a free piece of software, a lot of people around the world are very keen to find exploitable bugs in the plugin so they can break into victims’ computers.

Many netizens have recognized that Flash is too old and doddery to be worth the hassle. YouTube finally dumped the technology in favor of HTML5 video. Twitch doesn’t need it any more, neither does Netflix and others.

“The reality is there’s a market out there and people are going to exploit it,” Williams said. “Java has been a top vector, as has Flash, and now the attackers are moving to Silverlight as well.”

The fact is, Flash is just not fit for purpose. It will ruin your month. It will fill your hard drive with raw sewage seeping in from the grotesque underbelly of internet. It’s the Lego brick in your foot when you’re feeling your way through a dark kitchen at 3am.

It’s not even good for funny animations any more – we have HTML5 and a GIF resurgence for that. If you’re still using the plugin, you may as well hang a sign out for hackers reading: “Here’s my arse, please kick it. And then empty my back account.”


The global prevalence of dual-SIM Android devices » OpenSignal


Dual SIM devices are particularly popular in Asia

What we found

– The number of multi SIM devices is huge:
in the last month 26% of new users of the OpenSignal app had a device multi SIM support. This survey covers just over 1 million app users up to 18th January 2015.

– There is a very broad choice of multi SIM devices:
we identified over 10,000 different Android models with multi-SIM support.

– There are profound differences between markets:
in general developing economies have a higher proportion of dual-SIM users, in several countries dual (or multi) SIM users are the majority of Android users. The US, UK and Canada all have around 4% penetration, Australia is slightly higher at 5%. Several European countries have middle of the road values – Greece, Hungary, Spain, Albania, Croatia are all around 25%.

Ten thousand different Android models with multi-SIM support. Just amazing. Multiple SIMS are used for many purposes: having a business and personal number on a single phone, choosing between providers in different locations or data/voice plans, being.. er.. duplicitous.

India, Russia, Tanzania, Nigeria, and the Philippines lead the pack (greener means higher percentage).


Supply chain sees weak demand for Xiaomi’s Mi4 model in 4Q14 » Digitimes

Supply chain shipments for Xiaomi Technology’s Mi4 were weaker-than-expected in the fourth quarter of 2014, while those for the company’s previous Hongmi model remained steady.

Orders to supply chains for the Mi4 throughout the quarter until February 2015 have lagged, which coupled with an expected slowdown in the overall handset industry during the first quarter of 2015 has left supply chains rather pessimistic about orders for the device.

Supply chain sources commented that China’s handset market cooled down over the fourth quarter, which coupled with weak demand in emerging markets also influenced orders for the Mi4.

The cooling market in China really is going to have a lot of effects – principally, forcing a number of Chinese OEMs to look abroad or suffer badly in the slowdown.


Samsung pins hope on Galaxy S6 for rebound » Korea Times

“The Galaxy S6 is expected to have pretty much upgraded features compared to previous models. It will help the company post stable growth,” said Kim Young-chan, a technology analyst at Shinhan Investment. “If it successfully attracts users who have been reluctant to change their devices, Samsung can increase market share in the premium smartphone segment.”

On Tuesday, Samsung started giving out invitations for its Galaxy Unpacked Event 2015.

“The Galaxy S6 will make its debut in two versions ― flat and rounded screens,” said an executive at a local parts supplier, Tuesday. “It will have a metal build, which will make it look even more like Apple’s latest models.”

Galaxy S6 will use glass on the front and back, making it more appealing, he said.

Samsung dropped its earlier plan to adopt a dual-edge design on the new phone due to concerns over defect rates of curved glasses.

Also: 5.1in screen, embedded (ie non-changeable) lithium polymer battery. It’s hoping this will win back share in the premium phone market. Don’t see why any of those characteristics would do it, to be honest.


Senior Samsung executive resigns » WSJ

A senior Samsung Electronics Co. executive in charge of the technology giant’s rollout of its next flagship smartphone has abruptly resigned, people familiar with the matter said, in the latest management departure at the struggling mobile division.

Just a little over a month into the job, Kim Seok-pil, who was named head of strategic marketing for Samsung’s mobile business in December, will be replaced by another Samsung executive, Lee Sang-chul, who is currently in charge of Samsung’s Russia operations, one of the people said Tuesday.

This person said Mr. Kim was leaving due to health reasons and could return to the company at a later time.


Is Windows RT dead? Microsoft stops making Nokia Lumia 2520 » PCWorld

Microsoft could be close to pulling the plug on Windows RT with its decision to stop manufacturing the Nokia Lumia 2520 tablet.

The Lumia 2520 tablet was the last tablet remaining running Windows RT with Microsoft not making its Surface 2 tablet. Microsoft didn’t provide the specific date it stopped making the Lumia 2520 tablet to Dutch publication PCM, which broke the news.

Microsoft did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But Nokia Lumia 2520 tablets are still being sold through Verizon Wireless in the U.S. starting at $499.99 with a two-year commitment, and for $599.99 without a contract.

That could bring a quiet end to Microsoft’s experiment with Windows RT, which was built for tablets and PCs based on ARM processors. The first tablets with Windows RT shipped in 2012, but the response has been poor, with PC makers like Dell, Asus, Lenovo and Samsung abandoning devices with the OS. Microsoft last year cancelled plans to launch a small-screen tablet with Windows 8.1 RT.

The “Surface mini” just missed its window of opportunity by about six months. Now it would be impossible without gigantic corporate customer buy-in to sell them. But Apple and IBM look to be going after that business, if it exists.


Asustek facing challenges in 2015 » Digitimes

Monica Chen:

Asustek managed to ramp up its notebook shipments to 20.1m units in 2014, up from 18.8m shipped a year earlier. However, shipments of low-priced models to some designated markets contributed much of the growth in 2014.

Meanwhile, shipments of desktops totalled 2m units in 2014, doubling from those shipped in 2013.

Excluding shipments of Windows-based tablets and 2-in-1 models, Asustek’s notebook shipments lagged slightly behind the 20m units shipped by Apple in 2014, according to IDC…

Although Asustek boasts a number of notebook lines, including Gun-, KX- and T100- and Chi-series as well as EeeBook and Chromebook families, slack global demand for notebooks will cap Asustek’s efforts to ramp up its shipments, according to industry sources.

Asustek’s tablet shipments fell short of its target in 2014, reaching less than 10m units compared to 12m units shipped a year earlier. However, buoyed by its voice-calling Fonepad tablet series, the company still aims to ship 12m tablets in 2015.

The company shipped eight million smartphones in 2014, but saw a loss of NT$2bn (US$64m) for the handset business. Asustek plans to release its second generation ZenFone soon and aims to ship 16m units in 2015.

You can just about use those numbers to back out the number of 2-in-1s that Asus shipped, which looks like the low single-digit millions for the year. And that handset business is painful.


Start up: Apple Watch battery life, Amazon Echo reviewed, 3D lightning, dark web buying, Google MVNO only data?, and more


It’s fine, they’re all micro-USB. Photo by practicalowl on Flickr.

A selection of 10 links for you. Slippery when wet. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Apple targets for Apple Watch battery life revealed, A5-caliber CPU inside » 9to5Mac

Mark Gurman (who has a good track record):

According to our sources, Apple opted to use a relatively powerful processor and high-quality screen for the Apple Watch, both of which contribute to significant power drain. Running a stripped-down version of iOS codenamed SkiHill, the Apple S1 chip inside the Apple Watch is surprisingly close in performance to the version of Apple’s A5 processor found inside the current-generation iPod touch, while the Retina-class color display is capable of updating at a fluid 60 frames per second.

Apple initially wanted the Apple Watch battery to provide roughly one full day of usage, mixing a comparatively small amount of active use with a larger amount of passive use. As of 2014, Apple wanted the Watch to provide roughly 2.5 to 4 hours of active application use versus 19 hours of combined active/passive use, 3 days of pure standby time, or 4 days if left in a sleeping mode.

Umm. 19 hours is.. 7am to 2am of the next day. That could work if you’re really prepared to recharge it daily. Begins to sound like work, though. In September I reckoned that “a watch that needs constant recharging isn’t a watch, it’s a burden”.


Amazon Echo review: listen up » The Verge

David Pierce:

Other than a blue-green light that flashes around the top of the canister, Alexa offers no real feedback while she works. So when a command fails to register, it just… fails. Sometimes she doesn’t hear me; sometimes she doesn’t know quite what I’m saying. In either case, she ignores me and just keeps on playing the 30-second preview of “Uptown Funk.” (This, by the way, is the one place where the Echo can actually buy things for you: just say “Buy that song,” and it’ll get added to your Prime library.)

The hardest thing about using the Echo is that I can’t get a firm grip on its limitations. If I knew not to ask it certain questions, or to always phrase questions certain ways, that would be fine. But I can’t explain why Alexa knows Andrew Jackson is the proper response to “Who was the seventh president of the United States?” but can’t tell me Thomas Jefferson was the third. I can stand right next to it, and it hears me fine… until it doesn’t.

For $200, hard to see the point. A phone can do much the same, and more besides. A Bluetooth speaker is cheaper. Was this a Bezos idea too?


3D lightning » Calculated Images

Richard Wheeler:

Reddit is a great website, where the ability to share and discuss things on the web gives some great little discoveries. Things that would otherwise seem impossibly unlikely, like two people in completely different places getting a photo of the same lightning bolt, suddenly pop up all the time.

And once you have that, you can do some maths and use a couple of assumptions, and draw what the bolt of lightning looked like in 3D space. Oh yes you can. (And again a year later.)

(The rest of the blog is quite fun too, apart from the entry about Elvish script. Not wanted on voyage.)


Apple, marketing, and black culture » Haywire

It isn’t discussed often, and maybe it’s marketing, too — but there’s a pattern here, and a clever one at that. Apple is using powerful images, quotes, videos, and other forms of media created by black artists and orators. And, while it’s great PR, I also believe it’s quite genuine and surely consistent. The company is obviously intentional with how it interacts with the public at large. Many companies may try this kind of PR, but they wouldn’t be able to pull it off. When you step back and look at the language in the letters, the imagery and messages on their site, the cultural strategy in acquiring Beats, and the 2014 holiday video spot, the threads tie together tastefully to portray a different side of Apple not often covered in the tech blogs.

I was really struck by this when I appeared as a guest on Channel 4 News with Lethal Bizzle (look him up if you don’t) to talk about the Beats acquisition. Quietly, yet effectively, Apple is positioning itself to appeal to urban, not just black, culture. Beats is a big part of that.


Ordnance Survey change in operating model: Written statement » UK Parliament

From Matthew Hancock, of the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills:

Ordnance Survey exists in a fast moving and developing global market. There has been rapid technology change in the capture and provision of mapping data, and increasingly sophisticated demands from customers who require data and associated services – including from government. To operate effectively, Ordnance Survey needs to function in an increasingly agile and flexible manner to continue to provide the high level of data provision and services to all customers in the UK and abroad, in a cost effective way, open and free where possible. Company status will provide that.

Mapping data and services are critical in underpinning many business and public sector functions as well as being increasingly used by individuals in new technology. Ordnance Survey sits at the heart of the UK’s geospatial sector. Under the new model, the quality, integrity and open availability of data will be fully maintained, and in future, improved. Existing customers, partners and suppliers will benefit from working with an improved organisation more aligned to their commercial, technological and business needs.

Hmm. Ordnance Survey was a “trading fund” – basically, a little company unto itself inside the government, although making some map data free in 2010 meant it got a straightforward subsidy from government to fund that.

It’s not clear why it should need to change from “trading fund” to “Government Company” (nor even what the difference actually is). Unless – as some fear – it’s a prelude to privatisation.


Deep web marketplaces » Joel Monegro

Monegro bought a pair of boots for his girlfriend to find out more about how these places – accessible only via Tor – work:

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been frequenting the deep web marketplaces most famously used for buying drugs online with Bitcoin.

I wanted to see if there was anything we could learn about how these illicit marketplaces work that could be applied to improve the legal marketplaces we invest in at [venture capital company] USV.

As part of my research, I purchased an item on Evolution (no, not drugs – a pair of furry boots) in an effort to understand the dynamics of these marketplaces, from trust and safety to flow of funds. This is what I learned in the process. 

It’s fascinating, and Tor and bitcoin underlie it all. The manoeuvres taken by those who ship from or to physical addresses is hugely inventive too. It’s solving the question of “how do you carry out transactions requiring trust when you don’t, and can’t, trust anyone?”


Google reportedly on the verge of launching ‘Nova,’ a cellular phone service to compete with big four carriers » Android Police

Jacob Long:

The report, first published by The Wall Street Journal, mentions that the program has been codenamed “Nova” internally. That sounded familiar to us, because we had been tipped about a similar program called “Nova” last year. We had not been able to get more info and did not report on it – until now.

Our tipster told us that Google Voice (now, that would probably be Hangouts) would be the backbone of the Google plans, which would be data-only. With access to mobile data and possession of a Voice number, the experience would theoretically be nearly equivalent to a conventional phone plus data plan. The tipster also told us that the plans would offer unlimited data, while leaning on WiFi where available.

Android Police has excellent sources in (or around) Google, and this would make a lot of sense. You’d be pretty screwed for voice call quality if you couldn’t get a 3G signal, though, and as Google is looking to MVNO using Sprint and/or T-Mobile (one is GSM, one is CDMA), their 2G networks aren’t compatible. So you’d need 3G to make a call. And those two networks are smaller than AT&T or Verizon. So you’d be geographically limited.

Looks like Google is banking on people wanting smartphones only for data. In which case you might as well get a tablet..?


Microsoft’s Windows RT isn’t dead…yet » CNET

Shara Tibken:

All of the major device makers working with Windows RT scrapped their products either before they hit the market (such as HP and Toshiba) or following dismal sales once the products were released (in the case of Dell). To say interest in the software was – and remains – low is an understatement. Even the ARM chipmakers who were to benefit from the operating system, including Nvidia and Qualcomm, largely threw in the towel, focusing their investments and efforts elsewhere.

The only device to really utilize the software has been Microsoft’s own Surface tablet. The company released the first generation of its Windows RT-based Surface in late 2012 but revealed in July 2013 that it lost $900m on the device.It released Surface 2 later that year but hasn’t created any more Windows RT tablets since then. At the same time, Microsoft has released three generations of the Surface Pro lines of tablets that run Intel chips, and it continues to heavily advertise the devices.

Would love to know how many Windows RT installs there are, and what percentage are Surfaces. I’d wager it’s around 80% or higher.


Net Neutrality: no on reclassification, yes on adding content & app providers » Inside BlackBerry

John Chen:

Unfortunately, not all content and applications providers have embraced openness and neutrality. Unlike BlackBerry, which allows iPhone users to download and use our BBM service, Apple does not allow BlackBerry or Android users to download Apple’s iMessage messaging service. Netflix, which has forcefully advocated for carrier neutrality, has discriminated against BlackBerry customers by refusing to make its streaming movie service available to them. Many other applications providers similarly offer service only to iPhone and Android users. This dynamic has created a two-tiered wireless broadband ecosystem, in which iPhone and Android users are able to access far more content and applications than customers using devices running other operating systems. These are precisely the sort of discriminatory practices that neutrality advocates have criticized at the carrier level.

Therefore, neutrality must be mandated at the application and content layer if we truly want a free, open and non-discriminatory internet.

Epic trolling by Chen, in this extract from a letter sent to a Senate committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. Net neutrality, of course, is a debate about whether a network allows bits to flow regardless of origin or destination – not who writes bit-wrangling programs for one endpoint or another.

More briefly, net neutrality is an argument about bridgekeepers and tolls; Chen is trying to make it about “who tries to get across the bridges and to which destination”. It doesn’t take much reflection to see that you can legislate the former for positive net (ha) outcome, but that legislating the latter turns you into a controlled economy. Is John Chen really a secret Marxist?

(Even the people on the Crackberry forums, usually the most loyal of the loyal, don’t back him.)


San Francisco woman pulled out of car at gunpoint because of license plate reader error » American Civil Liberties Union

On March 30, 2009, Denise Green, a 47 year-old black woman, was pulled over by multiple SFPD squad cars. Between four and six officers pointed their guns at her—one had a shotgun, she says—and told her to raise her hands above her head and exit her car. She was ordered to kneel, and she was handcuffed. Green, who suffered from knee problems, complied with all of their orders. Four officers kept their guns trained on her as she stood handcuffed, she says. Officers then searched her car and her person, finding nothing derogatory. After about 20 minutes, the police let her go.

It turns out that Denise Green was stopped because police, acting on a tip from a controversial piece of law enforcement surveillance technology, mistakenly thought she was driving a stolen car. A license plate reader had misread her plate and alerted officers that her car, a Lexus, was stolen.

The reader “saw” a 7 instead of the 3 that was actually there. Equally, there seems to have been plenty of human error in the system too – ignoring Dispatch saying the stolen vehicle was a grey truck, not the burgundy Lexus Green was driving.

Automated face recognition next, of course. All you humans look the same.