Super Sales: Samsung Shipped 300 Million Handsets in 2011

The Galaxy S II has propelled Samsung to record handset shipments. Image: Jon Snyder/

Even though Apple and Samsung continue to duke it out in international courts, it looks like Samsung’s handset shipments haven’t been affected in the slightest.

Samsung is having a banner year for handset sales, passing the 300 million mark for the first time in company history. Samsung attributes the far-reaching success of the Galaxy S II smartphone as a major reason for the record-high sales numbers.

“Samsung has a real advantage versus other handset brands due to its very strong tries with the component supply chain,” NPD’s Ross Rubin told Samsung phones typically feature large, bright, high-contrast displays, a very thin form factor and Flash memory. All of these handset attributes are very popular with consumers, Rubin says, and are areas that Samsung has a production advantage with.

The fact that Samsung’s handsets (in the United States) are available on all of the major wireless carriers is another factor that’s contributed to the company’s stellar sales this year. Apple, by contrast, is on three of the four major U.S. wireless carriers (AT&T, Verizon and Sprint), with only T-Mobile’s nationwide network being left out of the loop.

Among Android handset makers, this year Samsung has taken the lead. In late October, Samsung overtook Apple and Nokia in the numbers, having shipped 27.8 million smartphones compared to Apple’s 17.1 million and Nokia’s 16.8 million in the third quarter of 2011. Of that number, over 10 million were Galaxy S IIs. Apple’s sales were somewhat slower around that period, as many people waited for the launch of the company’s handset (which ended up selling 4 million units in its first three days after launch).

Despite Samsung’s success with shipment numbers, Apple is still the one reaping the lion’s share of profits in the mobile phone market. As of Q2 of this year, Apple saw over 66 percent of handset profits, while Samsung only managed 15 percent.

As far as Apple and Samsung’s legal battles go, Samsung’s had a bit of luck lately. An Australian court overturned a ban on Galaxy Tab sales down under, allowing Samsung to sell its Android tablet to customers without fear of copyright infringement reprisal. Although the troubled tablet is still banned in Germany, Samsung is appealing the decision.

iPhone 4S Battery Life Woes: Details and Solutions

A growing number of iPhone 4S owners are reporting battery problems with Apple’s newest handheld. The device seems to be draining unusually fast during regular use, as well as when it’s not being used at all.

Users in Apple forums are describing up to 15 or 20 percent drops in battery in the span of one hour during times of light usage. Others report losing 10 to 15 percent battery at night while they are sleeping — something potentially very troubling if you are relying on your iPhone as your alarm clock the next morning.

“My battery life is terrible,” one person in the forum wrote. “I was iMessaging my friend about it (on Wi-Fi) and over the course of 12-15 minutes I lost 10 percent battery life.” Another said he was issued a new phone after reporting the issue.

The problem is primarily affecting 4S owners, but some iPad and iPhone 4 owners are experiencing similar battery problems since upgrading to iOS 5 (this reporter has not — my iPhone 4’s battery life has remained unchanged since the upgrade).

Although Apple has not yet officially commented on the issue, according to The Guardian, some of those affected by the issue have been contacted by Apple’s engineers. One individual said that Apple called and, after asking a number of questions about his usage habits, asked him to install a monitoring program so that they could better diagnose the issue.

The iPhone 4S has a built-in rechargeable lithium-ion battery. It’s supposed to provide up to 8 hours of 3G talk time (14 hours of 2G) and standby time of up to 200 hours. Although it’s a slight larger (capacity-wise) battery than that of the iPhone 4, the iPhone 4 is supposed to get 300 hours of standby time. For more intensive activities like internet use and watching videos, on the iPhone 4S you get 6 hours on 3G and 9 hours on WiFi, and 10 hours, respectively. The iPhone 4S has a beefed up A5 processor and several other hardware upgrades and changes compared to its predecessor. When the iPhone 3GS debuted, it also suffered from battery life complaints.

But there’s no new-iPhone-problem more infamous than 2010’s Antennagate. The problem surrounded the placement of the antennas on the steel band around the newly released iPhone 4. Holding your phone it what came to be known as the “death grip” resulted in your phone’s signal strength dropping dramatically, falling three or four bars. Apple’s solution was to issue plastic bumpers to those afflicted. The problem, although widely publicized, had little affect on iPhone sales, though: the iPhone 4 continued to be a top-selling smartphone for both AT&T, and then Verizon, through this last quarter.

Likewise, iPhone 4S sales also continue to be strong. The device debuted in over twenty European countries last week, and will begin launching in a slew of other spots around the globe, including potentially big markets like Hong Kong and South Korea, Nov. 11.

The issue has not been pinpointed to one particular service or problem-area.

If you’re suffering from iPhone 4S battery drain, there are a few solutions you can try. Many users have reported improved battery life after draining the device completely (that is, until the device powers off), and then letting it fully charge back up in an uninterrupted sitting.

Another user in Apple’s forums found that disabling the calendar in their Exchange mail account and then enabling it again dramatically improved their battery life.

If neither of those fixes seem to be helping, try adjusting your settings. In addition to normal battery-saving techniques like lowering screen brightness or turning off Wi-Fi or switching to Airplane Mode when you don’t mind being off the grid, you can turn off location-based services, or just on the apps you don’t need monitoring your whereabouts constantly. You can also switch off push notifications for email, switching to fetch at longer intervals instead. You can check out this article on Gizmodo for more details and additional tips.

Are you experiencing iPhone 4S battery drain? Share your problems (or lack thereof) in the comments.

Photo: Jim Merithew/Wired

GarageBand for iPhone: First Hands-On Impressions

Get ready, street musicians: Today Apple released its popular music-making app GarageBand for the iPhone. Now you can jam away on a set of onscreen drums, or strum a touch-based Smart Guitar, to compose musical masterpieces wherever you may be.

The slimmed-down iPhone app has all the features of the iPad app: a multi-touch interface with Smart Instruments (to piece together pre-assembled musical bits) and Touch Instruments (for those who want to play and record their own instrumental tracks). You can also record vocal tracks using the device’s built-in mic, and (with the help of an adapter) plug an electric guitar directly into your iDevice and record tunes through GarageBand’s amp and stompbox effects.

In total, GarageBand helps you knock out impromptu jam sessions, all without having to lug around a bunch of equipment.

Naturally, the iPhone version of GarageBand is shrunk down for a 3.5-inch screen.  My app experience on an iPhone 4 was smooth, without any force quits or stutters. And, not surprisingly, it was fun to tap away at the onscreen keyboard and drum set using only my thumbs. I made a complete (albeit heinous-sounding) song in a matter of minutes. So, if you’re looking for a solid music-making app to jot down song ideas or even create passable tunes while you’re wiling away time on your evening commute, GarageBand is the answer.

GarageBand was first launched as a Mac application, and later ported to the iPad with the launch of the iPad 2 in March 2011. “This is no toy,” Steve Jobs said of GarageBand on the iPad. “This is something you can use for real work.” Since then, a number of enterprising companies have released capacitive touch tools, such as guitar picks and drum sticks, that you can use with the app.

The iPhone version of Garage Band is, like the iPad counterpart, a big download. At over 501 MB, it took me at least five minutes over a Wi-Fi connection to complete the installation.

The app opens quickly, and operates only in landscape mode. Navigation is intuitive, and will be familiar to anyone who’s ever used similar music-making and recording software.

You select an instrument to play, adjust settings like reverb and echo if you’re not happy with the app’s defaults, and then tap away at a virtual instrument interface, hitting the record button if you’re ready to commit your work to, er, memory. Most of the instruments and tools look identical to their iPad counterparts, but there are a few small variations, such as in the piano, which has only eight keys instead of 15.

In the upper right-hand corner of the app, you’ll find an icon that lets you make adjustments to a single track, section or song. In the upper left-hand corner, you can click for a pop-over menu that will take you back to the songs or instruments panel, or let you swap between different forms of your current instrument (like for the piano, you can choose between options like Grand Piano, Smooth Clav, Classic Rock Organ, or Electric Piano).

Next to that there’s an icon that lets you switch from instrument view to song editing view. The editing view shows each of your recorded tracks so far, with opportunities to adjust, edit and loop sections.

Using Smart Instruments is a sure-fire way to create a song that doesn’t sound like it was hacked out by a team of rabid baboons. In this respect, GarageBand succeeds as a music-making device for people with no musical training whatsoever.

But what if you have musical experience — is GarageBand for iPhone a legitimate composition device? Not necessarily, as the app’s puny user interface is quite cramped. Still, this is an iPhone app, after all, and anyone using it to create music should be well aware that the premium music-making experience will be found on an iPad.

As with the iPad version, you can record and combine up to eight tracks, and then export to GarageBand or Logic Pro on the Mac for a bit more polishing. You can also share your iPhone-made masterpieces via iTunes or e-mail.

The app is a welcome addition to any mildly creative person’s iPhone or iPod touch. GarageBand is $5 and is now available for iPhone 3GS and up, 3rd and 4th gen iPod touches, and iPads.

Images: Ariel Zambelich/Wired

Adobe Carousel Will Struggle Against Free Photo Stream

Overpriced and underpowered, Carousel v1 fails to compete with Photo Stream

Adobe has released Carousel, a suite of multi-platform apps that let you share and edit your photographs on any device you on, seamlessly. If it sounds familiar, that’s because its a lot like a pro version of Apple Photo Stream.

Carousel runs on iOS devices, as well as the Mac, with Android and Windows versions on the way. Any photo you add on any platform will be almost instantly mirrored. Edited photos are re-uploaded and then re-synced across devices.

Editing is simple and straightforward. Whilst it’s not the Lightroom Lite we were hoping for, you do get a small subset of Lightroom’s editing tools. And these are nicely organized. You can adjust a slider to change white balance, for example, but when you hit the little arrow next to the slider, you get the option to adjust temperature and tint separately.

It’s well put together for a 1.0, and does one thing that Apple’s Photo Stream can’t: delete photos.

However, it has a lot of barriers to use. First is that it costs $6 per month (there’s a free 30-day trial), compared to the free Photo Stream. Second, you have to manually add pictures to the Carousel library. Third, it’s currently JPG-only, so no PNG screenshots and no RAW files (Photo Stream does both).

Complete integration is perhaps Photo Stream’s biggest strength. Any app that can write to the camera roll automatically joins the game (even Carousel, ironically). Apple’s pro apps (I’m looking at you, Aperture) are crowded and nard to use, but when it comes to making the simple stuff easy, it’s hard for others to match the convenience.

Carousel is available now in the Mac and iTunes App Stores.

Adobe Carousel [iTunes]

Adobe Carousel [Mac App Store]

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Nokia World 2011 wrap-up

Nokia had something to prove at its annual event, and an eight-month turnaround of its smartphone arm is certainly nothing to be sniffed at. While Nokia’s first Windows Phone devices were undoubtably the stars of the two-day expo, there was plenty more to investigate — Nokia’s legion of development labs certainly didn’t let us down. Check out a veritable world of coverage neatly arranged below the break for everything Nokia World had to show us, and few more tidbits we found for ourselves.

Continue reading Nokia World 2011 wrap-up

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Nokia World 2011 wrap-up originally appeared on Engadget on Sat, 29 Oct 2011 15:19:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Journalism Is Fine Because Everyone Is a Journalist

The Washington Post had an interesting back and forth wringing its hands over the future of journalism. Oh no! Journalism is dying! Again! Or so a newspaper with declining readership and revenue would have you believe. More »

Don’t Try to Convert Friends to Your Tech Religion

You probably love your phone, tablet, and other miscellaneous touchscreens—that’s why you bought them. But now that we anticipate, live, eat, and sleep with our gadgets, they’re being deified. Don’t let your fandom turn you fanatical. Relax. More »

Bendy Nokia Phone Prototype and 8 Other Bizarro Cell Phone Concepts

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Today’s smartphones all seem to share the same silhouette. You’ll find a large, flat touchscreen on the front, and maybe a few buttons across the bottom. The form factor will be thin enough to fit in your pocket, and it might include a slide-out QWERTY keyboard. Snooze. But it doesn’t have to be that way, as futuristic cell phone concepts constantly remind us.

At the Nokia World Conference in London — the location where Nokia’s Windows Phone handsets made their debut — a new flexible handset was being demoed. It’s called the Nokia Kinetic Device and, yes, the entire phone is being flexed in the photo above.

The entire device is made of plastic, right down to the AMOLED display on the front. Rather than using swipes and pinches to navigate the UI, you would use bends and twists. To zoom into a page, you bend the phone so its center buckles towards you; zoom out by doing the opposite. A twisting action is used to scroll through photos or adjust the volume.

Since it is all plastic, and all bendy, the prototype lacks a number of features that would allow it to be a true smartphone — or even a cell phone, if we’re being honest. The touchscreen isn’t capacitive, there’s no camera, no GPS and no actual phone functionality. We said it was a prototype, right?

So it clearly has a way to go before it starts landing in consumer hands. Here’s a collection of eight other concepts and protypes that push cell phone design to the limit.

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Porsche-Designed BlackBerry Is a Sleek Slab of Steel

In the immortal words of Ashford and Simpson, the Porsche-designed Blackberry is h-h-h-h-hot

What would you get if you took a Motorola RAZR (the original), a BlackBerry and a mid-1980s Bang and Olufsen stereo, tossed them in a blender and poured the results to set in a shallow cake tin? You’d get the Porsche Design P’9981 Smartphone you see above.

Specs-wise, the phone doesn’t do anything special. It simply checks the boxes required of a modern mobile telephone: 1.2GHz processor, 720p video camera, 8GB storage, 5MP stills camera and a microSD card slot for expansion. It’s relatively small 2.8-inch, 640 × 480 287dpi screen can be explained away by the backlit hardware QWERTY keyboard.

But design-wise, it’s a rather hot-looking slab of glass and stainless steel (no silvered plastic here), and even has a leather-coved back panel. It probably won’t help BlackBerry pull out of its terrible death spiral, but it will at least make e-mail addicted businessmen look a little less dorky.

Price and availability tba.

Porsche Design P’9981 Smartphone [BlackBerry]

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Unlocked iPhone 4S Goes on Sale Across The World

Unlocked, the iPhone 4S costs the same as the iPad 3G

The iPhone 4S begins its second international wave today, going on sale in much of Europe. And unlike the stateside iPhone 4S, this one can be had unlocked.

Customers in Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland can now head to their favorite carrier and sign their lives away for the next year or two.

Here in Spain, the carrier deals aren’t bad (from around €35 per month with 1GB data that you can also share with an iPad using a free extra SIM), but the interesting part is the price of an unlocked iPhone, which starts at €600.

€600 is $850, and that’s for the 16GB model. It goes up in €100 step to top out at €800, or $1,133 for the 64GB model. For comparison, those are the exact same prices as the 3G iPad lineup, which will give you a rough guide to what the U.S prices will be when the unlocked phone goes on sale there, probably some time in November. Up in Canada, the unlocked prices run at $650/$50/$850 (thanks, Jon!), which should also let you see where things are headed.

I have a feeling that there may be another press release from Apple on Monday, announcing another few million units sold. If this damn rain will stop, I might just head over to the Apple store to check things out.

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