While Apple hasn’t formally announced the iPhone 6 yet, there’s few surer signs of an impending new model than a fire-sale to clear out existing stock. How’s $0.97 sound for an iPhone 5c in that case? For the next 90 days then, Walmart has your ticket and is discounting the colorful 16GB handset by just over $28. Cupertino’s same-size current flagship is dipping in price for the next three months too, but the end result doesn’t sound anywhere near as dramatic. The iPhone 5s is now $20 less expensive, going from $99 to $79. All of these prices are with a two year contract through AT&T, Sprint, US Cellular and Verizon. If you’d rather hold out for something new and likely much more expensive, well, September 9th is only a few weeks away.
If there has been a recurring gripe with Vine, it’s that you’ve had to capture all your videos in Vine to share them — you either had to record 6-second square clips or head elsewhere. You won’t have to make that compromise any more, though. As of today, iOS users (Android is coming soon) can use existing videos in their Vines, no matter how many are needed or how they were shot. If you want to stitch together highlights from your iPhone 5s’ slow-motion footage, you can.
You’ll have also more control, whether or not you’re content to shoot inside the app. The Vine camera now lets you duplicate and mute clips. You can also use a “ghost” mode to line up with a previous shot, and a torch feature lets you make movies in pitch darkness. The additions might diminish the spirit of Vine’s simple, on-the-spot recording, but they could also lead to more professional-looking clips that keep you (and hopefully, your followers) coming back.
Secret’s app is ostensibly meant for office gossip and getting transgressions out of your system, but it has also been abused by bullies wanting to intimidate and shame others. Well, one Brazilian judge is fed up with that misuse — enough so that he’s ordering Apple and Google to remove Secret not just from their respective local app stores, but from people’s devices. Microsoft also has to yank Cryptic, an equivalent Windows Phone app. If the companies don’t take action within 10 days, they face fines of 20,000 Reals ($8,876) per day. That’s a drop in the bucket given their massive revenue streams, but it’s reasonable to say that they’d rather not pay that much just to keep one title available in one country.
The request is certainly feasible. All three companies have removed apps from their stores, and they can technically pull or block software installed on gadgets. However, that last measure is primarily used as a last resort, such as in the event of a malware outbreak; Apple, Google and Microsoft might be reluctant to act unless they have no choice. Whether or not they’re stuck isn’t clear. Brazil’s Constitution bars anonymous attacks that don’t let you defend yourself, but there are arguments both that the data isn’t truly anonymous (Secret knows the culprits) and that the ban hurts freedom of expression. Don’t be shocked if one or more tech firms contest the ruling.
Source: Estadao (translated)
Google’s all-encompassing Photo Spheres are no longer limited to Android users and those comfy with photo stitching software — the internet giant has just released a Photo Sphere Camera app for the iPhone-toting crowd. As before, it lets you create 360-degree panoramas just by spinning around in place. You can both share the resulting masterworks with others (including the Google Maps community) and check out others’ spheres in the Views hub. It’s overkill if you’re perfectly content with alternative panoramic apps or plain old landscape shots, but it’s hard to object to having one more way to liven up your vacation photos. Swing by the App Store to check out Photo Sphere for yourself.
Source: App Store
Last month, a photo surfaced showing what looked very much in line with Apple’s usual iPhone battery design but with a capacity of 1,810 mAh, higher than the 1,560 mAh battery found in the iPhone 5s. Speculation naturally pointed toward the new battery being for the 4.7-inch iPhone 6, with a number of observers being disappointed in the modest capacity increase considering the larger display slated for the device.
Just last week, an analyst report claimed the 4.7-inch iPhone 6 will actually include a 2,100 mAh battery, giving hope to those looking for a more substantial increase but lacking any evidence to support the claim.
New photos shared by Nowhereelse.fr [Google Translate] now provide additional support for the original 1,810 mAh claim. The photos offer a good look at the batteries, which appear to contain the full set of regulatory and specification text as well as an Apple logo, with one photo showing the batteries in trays for shipment.
(Click for larger)
The one battery shown in closeup does include a manufacturing date of June, making it several months old, while the original leaked battery had a more recent manufacturing date of July. Still, the growing evidence for the 1,810 mAh battery suggests the analyst claim of a 2,100 mAh battery may indeed be incorrect.
These new photos of the rumored 4.7-inch iPhone 6 battery come just after other photos surfaced from a different source allegedly showing the battery for the 5.5-inch iPhone 6. That battery checks in with a capacity of 2,915 mAh, potentially offering a significant increase in battery life depending on how much more power the device draws than its smaller sibling.
Want to know a big reason why Android smartphones are virtually ubiquitous these days? Because many of them are very affordable, that’s why. IDC’s latest market share estimates show that 58.6 percent of Android phones shipped in the second quarter cost less than $200, many of them from surging Chinese manufacturers like Huawei, Lenovo and Xiaomi. Simply speaking, many in China and other developing countries can’t (or won’t) justify buying the expensive phones that thrive in regions like Europe and North America. It’s no wonder that Samsung is losing the battle at the moment, then — while the company has budget handsets, it’s heavily invested in high-end hardware like the Galaxy S line.
The influx of low-cost devices also helps to explain year-over-year dips in market share for both iOS (11.7 percent) and Windows Phone (2.5 percent), which pale next to Android’s 84.7 percent slice of the pie. Apple doesn’t participate in the sub-$200 realm to start with, so it won’t compete in terms of sheer units; it’s doing fine profit-wise. Windows Phone, meanwhile, has few bona fide hits in this space outside of the aging Lumia 520. There are new iPhones and more budget-friendly Windows Phone makers right around the corner, though, so it won’t be shocking if there’s a different story in the months ahead.
New reports from Chinese media sources (Google Translate, via G for Games) claim that the iPhone 6 has entered a final product validation testing stage ahead of mass production before its launch this fall. Apple is reportedly working with Foxconn’s Zhengzhou factory to produce a small number of units to ensure quality control standards have been implemented, as the device will then be mass produced at Apple’s various supply partners.
Previously, a report last month claimed that Apple had already begun mass production for the iPhone 6, however it is possible that reported production issues may have led to delayed testing and output. It is also unknown whether this final testing stage is for both the 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch iPhone 6, as Apple has reportedly had issues in producing the latter’s sapphire display and battery life.
Apple’s iPhone 6 is expected to be announced at a launch event on Tuesday, September 9. In addition to a larger screen, the device will likely incorporate a thinner, rounded form factor and feature a faster and more efficient A8 chip, as well as an improved camera with stabilization.
“The iPhone 6 will be released globally on September 19th,” an email in my inbox reads. I don’t know who the tipster is, nor how they came across this nugget of information. The communication came from an email service called Leak, which allows anyone to send emails anonymously so the receiver can’t trace it or reply to it. It could’ve come from Apple CEO Tim Cook himself and I’d have no way of knowing. (Though I doubt it.)
Leaks like this not only show up all the time, they’ve increased in number over the years — and now that it’s easy to start anonymous rumors without accountability, our inboxes will simply give up. We are becoming a leak-obsessed culture. Nearly everyone wants to know about tomorrow’s devices, today, and few (if any) smartphones get launched without someone spilling the beans. The next iPhone hasn’t even been announced yet, but millions of people already think they know what it looks like and what it will do, thanks to images of its supposed chassis, casing and sapphire display. Even if the leaks aren’t accurate, it’s too late — there are likely plenty of folks who have already (bizarrely) decided whether to buy it or not.
Leaks like the iPhone 6 images are the consumer electronics equivalent of spoilers. The “show” in this case is the product launch event in which new devices are shown off to the world for the first time. Accurate or not, leaks tarnish the experience of seeing the final product officially unveiled: They set expectations too low or too high, and you’ll probably look elsewhere for a new device if the images are unflattering. A smartphone’s fate could be sealed before it officially exists.
While most people hate spoilers — try tweeting about the end of a Game of Thrones episode on a Sunday night, I dare you — they seem to love leaks. When popular vlogger Marques Brownlee showed off the alleged next iPhone’s sapphire display cover in a video, it generated millions of views. Professional leaksters like Sonny Dickson and Evan Blass (who recently retired his @evleaks persona) have amassed hundreds of thousands of followers eager to see the next big thing.
While most people hate spoilers, they seem to love leaks.
Leaks are a rule, not the exception, in our increasingly connected world. Rumors can originate from multiple sources: Employees willing to risk their careers to get the word out; publicly accessible websites and listings, including the FCC and China’s TENAA databases; controlled leaks sent out by the company on purpose; and a network of suppliers, partners and carriers who all get their hands on the device closer to release. “[Companies] rely on a fairly complex supply chain of parts and manufacturing provided by other companies, and as such it’s extremely difficult to avoid leaks,” said Jan Dawson, chief analyst at Jackdaw Research.
Even worse, apps like Leak and Secret (which allows you to post confessions to friends anonymously) make it harder to distinguish truth from fiction, because it emboldens both the legit tipsters and the imposters. A week before Google VP Vic Gundotra left the company, someone posted a Secret claiming that the exec was interviewing; shortly after, another post on Secret declared that TechCrunch Editor-in-Chief Alexia Tsotsis would leave the company the next day. (Tsotsis appeared on video the day of her rumored departure to prove that she was, in fact, not leaving.)
When Apple’s iPhone 4 prototype was left in a bar, the company’s curtain of secrecy lifted like nobody had ever seen before. This mistake arguably got more press coverage than the official unveiling itself, but company attorney George Riley stated in court documents that the incident cost his employer immensely. Riley said: “By publishing details about the phone and its features … people that would have otherwise purchased a currently existing Apple product would wait for the next item to be released.” That said, Apple’s iPhone release schedule is hardly unpredictable, evidenced by the fact that it rarely moves launch events to other times of the year; most fans were likely already aware that the iPhone 4 would come out soon, and were going to wait until it arrived in stores regardless. But in theory, any unforeseen hit to potential quarterly sales could be devastating to the company’s earnings reports and investor expectations.
Dawson believes there are two scenarios in which leaks cause financial harm: A new phone appears to be coming out sooner than people expect, which typically decreases sales; and when unflattering leaks make the phone look less compelling than people hoped, prompting them to buy something else instead. Given recent whispers that the new iPhone will come in two sizes, both of which are larger than the 5s, the latter argument makes sense; if people trust those rumors, they may have already decided whether or not they’ll buy one.
Much of the damage comes during product launches, the result of deflated hype that normally builds ahead of the keynote.
For a company like Apple, loss of sales is only half the issue. Dawson argues that much of the damage comes during product launches, the result of deflated hype that normally builds ahead of the keynote. “[Apple] relies on showmanship and the big reveal, and leaks take the wind out of that pretty badly, especially if they’re detailed and accurate.” When companies are eager to wow audiences with a whiz-bang presentation, they put a lot of emphasis on the element of surprise and — they hope — delight.
Ken Hong, global communications director at LG Electronics, reckons the in-hand experience of the device itself (or at least the first impressions from the press) outweighs the damage that any rumor could do to the company. “The industry has evolved to the point where journalists don’t attend press conferences to only hear product details, but also to experience products and to meet the people behind the products.”
Damage caused by false leaks are difficult to predict, because it depends on the expectations they set. “The only time [inaccurate rumors] really help,” said Ramon Llamas, mobile analyst at IDC, “is if that company surpasses those expectations, in which case, we’re all happy.” One example Llamas used was when rumors in 2006 claimed that the original iPhone would look like the iPod classic, complete with a click wheel. The final product was fortunately nothing of the sort. (We later learned that Apple had considered a click wheel early on, but dropped the concept for a touchscreen.)
Alternatively, inaccurate leaks can also lead to disappointment when the product is finally announced, if expectations are too high. Early rumors indicated the Samsung Galaxy S5 would come with a quad HD display and eye scanner. Later reports refuted these claims, and each new leak leading up to the launch event felt like a downhill plunge to many eager fans because the flagship just didn’t have the same oomph as the first leaks suggested. Samsung eventually released a quad HD version of the GS5 later, but it’s currently only available in Asia.
With so many false rumors floating around, Hong says it’s difficult to prove that leaks hurt a company’s bottom line. “No one knows if the leak is true or not until the company confirms it,” he said. “It may have been different five years ago when everyone believed the leaks they heard, but that’s no longer the case.”
Blass believes the positive results are more evident than the negative. “Whenever you see hundreds of comments in a leak thread, discussing the most … minute details of the leaked device, that’s a big win for the manufacturer,” he said. “The main goal of a marketing team is to get new product in front of as many eyeballs as possible.” Instead of enjoying one or two news cycles, leaks give a product exposure for a much longer period of time.
Companies can also use public reaction from leaks as a focus group. Sonny Dickson, a full-time leakster known for his Apple and Samsung rumors and images, says that feedback based on early images and rumors can help companies make a few last-minute product tweaks. “I’m just a part of the product cycle,” Dickson said.
Regardless of how it impacts the company, all of us — the consumers — are directly affected. Leaks and rumors typically embody our first impressions of an upcoming device, and we tend to have an early emotional attachment or detachment to it. Seeing a cool new phone for the first time is thrilling and exciting; it satisfies our inner geek. But it also influences our decision to buy or pass on the rumored device. Additionally, we’ll tell friends and family about it, and the word of mouth will spread.
“The main goal of a marketing team is to get new product in front of as many eyeballs as possible.”
Leaks can encourage competition between manufacturers. “If I leak an Apple part that is very important to their next product and the public reacts well, I’ve just created pressure on Apple’s competitors,” Dickson said. “They’re going to have to work harder to counter this hype and create hype of their own.” Over time, this competition results in better products for consumers to enjoy, and increases the speed at which new features come out.
Blass points out that consumers and companies aren’t the only ones impacted by leaks. “In my mind, the biggest, and most disturbing, real-world effect of leaks has to do with the teams that build and market the handsets themselves,” he said. “You go to work every day, toiling in secret for months or even years, all in preparation for a single day, a single launch, a single moment in time, when the product is supposed to be revealed to the world, on stage, for the first time. Leaks take a lot of the magic out of those launches, and thus they slowly eat away at phone teams as they watch their carefully laid plans slowly laid bare for the entire world to see.”
Earlier this year, Mat Smith and I visited wireless companies in South Korea to be briefed on upcoming products. We had to sign non-disclosure agreements, which are written documents stating that we could not disclose the things we saw or heard until a later date. As we entered many of the buildings on one company’s campus, we were required to leave our electronic equipment at the door, and the list of unapproved devices included nearly every conceivable thing capable of recording imagery, sound or data. (So, nearly everything was banned.) Manufacturers are obviously taking steps to protect their trade secrets, yet the products we saw were leaked through other sources shortly after we returned home. Can anything be done about it?
The answer’s likely, “No.” Most companies do things like watermarking confidential firmware to track leaked screenshots, mandating non-disclosure agreements to be signed by partners and putting phones in boxy disguises when the team needs to test the network in the real world. But those actions only go so far to prevent leaks. After all, Blass retired @evleaks last week for personal reasons, but others will step up to take his place; the community of leaksters is extremely competitive. “It’s like putting a finger in one hole in the dike,” LG’s Hong said. “More [leaks] will appear.” One industry insider, who asked to remain anonymous, said their company cannot make contingency plans based on the likelihood that leaks will occur; they simply have to “roll with the punches.”
“It’s like putting a finger in one hole in the dike; more [leaks] will appear.”
High-profile launches are often the most difficult to keep quiet about. “The more people care about the information, the more likely it is to leak,” said Dawson. The biggest leaks are incredibly valuable: Gizmodo got its hands on the lost iPhone 4 prototype for a few thousand dollars and was rewarded with millions of page views. As long as the public craves the latest phone leaks, details will surface somehow.
Some executives, such as Huawei’s Chairman of Devices Richard Yu, have tried an “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” strategy. Yu has notoriously leaked images through Sina Weibo, a social media service in China. (He’s also discussed unannounced products with Engadget in multiple interviews.) Others have attempted to quell future leaks by inflicting punishments on those who make a living from leaking their products. Taylor Wimberly, former editor-in-chief of AndroidAndMe, said Motorola representatives kicked him out of a press event because he leaked the original Droid.
Companies will always fight leaks, but they will never win. Leaks are just a fact of life in our digital age, so consumers may as well embrace them. The question remains: With technology making it easier for any armchair Photoshopper to create deceptive rumors, won’t it become more difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff? Dickson says no, because it comes down to the leakster’s track record. “If [a leak] doesn’t pan out, are people going to trust the source the next time? When I leak a product, I leak it with confidence.” If all of his competition establishes a similar mindset, the future of leaks may not be bleak after all.
[Image Credits: Getty Creative, Gizmodo, @evleaks]
If you didn’t already know, Facebook is targeting the celebrity set with a new iPhone-only app called Mentions. However, when it launched in July, it was only available to musicians, actors, athletes and government officials in the US. Today, the company has lifted one restriction, making it available to socially important people in over 40 countries worldwide, including the UK. The bad news is that you’re probably not a big enough deal to use it. Mentions is designed to help VIP’s interact with fans via their verified Facebook page, allowing them to post updates, host live Q&A sessions and identify if they’re trending. Tyrese Gibson supposedly used it to share news of Apple’s Beats acquisition with the world, but really it’s the overworked PAs trying to keep on top of their employers’ social lives who will be secretly rubbing their hands following today’s expansion.
Source: Facebook Mentions (App Store)
So much for fighting to the bitter end — Apple and Samsung have just announced an agreement that will see them end all patent lawsuits against each other outside of the US. For those not keeping score, that means they’re dropping cases in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, South Korea and (phew!) the UK. The two tech companies aren’t automatically buddy-buddy after this, however. Besides continuing their existing American cases, they aren’t pursuing any licensing deals or other pacts that would avoid trouble in the future. Still, if you’ve been hoping that Apple and Samsung would finally make nice and focus on beating each other in the marketplace instead of the courtroom, you’re much closer to getting your wish.