It’s been a banner week for mobile devices not made by Apple (you’ll have to wait until the 7th for those). Samsung, quite literally, blew its chance to gain ground on Apple, given the new iPhone’s reputed lackluster feature set. Google likely killed off Project Ara, its modular smartphone. Verizon and T-Mobile both rolled out new service plans aimed at stretching subscribers’ data plans. Hasselblad actually made a photography device that won’t require the life of your first born to obtain. And Nubia unveiled its newest flagship phone — but where’s the bezel. Numbers, because how else would we determine market share?
By Cat DiStasio
Cell phone technology continues moving forward year after year, but many of the developments are incremental—a better camera, more storage space, or a faster processor. Those are just the improvements that make it to the mass market, though. There’s is a whole world of innovative developments in cellular phone design and technology that most people have never heard a word about, and some of them even come from leading cell phone manufacturers. Nokia, for instance, has developed a cell phone that can recharge in your pocket and other models made from largely recycled materials. Other companies are working hard to develop modular phones that are easier to repair and upgrade, thereby cutting down on electronic waste. It’s impossible to know which of these futuristic technologies we’ll actually be able to get our hands on, but it’s fun to dream about what kind of features your cell phone might have in another five years.
Nokia’s E-Cu phone charges in your pocket
Long-time leader in cellular phone technology Nokia developed an amazing concept phone that uses body heat to recharge its battery. Although we haven’t seen this technology hit the consumer market, the Nokia E-Cu’s unique charging ability would afford cell phone owners some major freedom if it ever came to fruition. The phone’s copper exterior and its internal integrated thermogenerator converts heat from the body into electricity, making it super easy to ditch the plug-in charger and portable battery packs without any concerns of the dreaded low battery indicator.
PhoneBloks modular reparable cell phone
PhoneBloks developed a concept phone a few years ago that many others have emulated since. A series of modular components snaps together like LEGO bricks, making it simple to replace a broken part or upgrade the phone. With a modular phone, you wouldn’t have to shell out hundreds of dollars for a brand new phone just because one component of your current phone stops working. PhoneBloks could save enormous amounts of electronic waste from ending up in landfills, also, since they allow people to get maximum use out of their initial phone purchase.
Kyocera’s waterproof, washable cell phone
Countless cell phones have been rendered useless bricks after being dropped in toilets, tubs, pools, and lakes – and everyone knows at least a few people who have desperately buried their damp phone in a bucket of rice in hopes of reviving it. Kyocera and Japanese telecom firm KDDI partnered to solve this modern-day problem by creating a waterproof, soap-proof phone called Digno Rafre. If washable cell phone technology becomes the norm, it would become even easier to keep up with your Twitter feed while soaking in a bubble bath, and could even lead to cell phones that could be used underwater, which would really make for some awesome Instagram pics.
O2 Recycle phone made from freshly cut grass
Created for the Rugby Football Union’s social responsibility campaign last year, the O2 Recycle phone is composed of reclaimed cell phone parts and grass clippings collected from southwest London’s Twickenham Stadium. Designer Sean Miles of DesignWorks made just one of the ultra-green phones, putting in over 240 hours building the phone case from glass clippings which were freeze-dried within two hours of being cut from the stadium, and then pulped, molded into the casing, and coated in an eco-friendly resin. The result is a crisp green phone that blends in completely with any stadium grounds or field, and has a much smaller environmental footprint than typical plastic phone bodies.
Samsung’s flexible phone
Ever the leader in consumer electronics, Samsung released a concept in 2011 for a truly futuristic cell phone design. The flexible, bendable, OLED phone can practically be folded in half without any risk of cracking the screen or damaging the components within. At the time, Samsung promised to release the flexible phones the following year, but the project has met a number of delays and is currently expected to roll out some time in 2017. The design has evolved over the years, and some of the images Samsung has released suggest a phone that could be curled around your wrist, reminiscent of slap bracelets from the 1980s.
Nokia Remade recycled phone
Finding new ways to incorporate recycled materials into new technology is a goal many companies share. Nokia was an early adopter of the eco-friendly trend, and in 2008 they unveiled a concept phone made from aluminum cans, plastic bottles, and old car tires. The recycled components primarily went into the phone’s casing, but Nokia didn’t overlook the inner workings. The company sought to employ more environmentally sensitive technologies like printed electronics (which reduce waste and CO2 emissions during manufacturing) and a backlit display which saves energy and increases the life of the battery.
Nokia-owned Withings today announced the launch of its newest activity tracker, debuting the Withings Steel HR analog fitness tracking watch with a built-in heart rate monitor. Like the Apple Watch, it uses green LED lights to detect variation in the level of the blood in the wrist, a technology known as photoplethysmography.
Available in two sizes — 36mm and 40mm — the Withings Steel HR uses the same design language as the company’s previous fitness tracker, the Activité. It features a simple and stylish analog watch face with unobtrusive digital meters for tracking heart rate and movement over the course of the day.
It has a stainless steel casing, chrome hands, and comfortable silicone straps. The 36mm watch (available in black or white) comes with an 18mm band while the 40mm watch (black only) comes with a 20mm band. When worn, the Steel HR measures continuous heart rate during workouts, average heart rate during the day, and resting heart rate when sleeping.
“Whether you’re an athlete or simply trying to lose a few pounds and get a better handle on your health, knowing your heart rate can help you better understand your overall health and reach your fitness goals,” said Cédric Hutchings, VP of Digital Health, Nokia Technologies. “With the wealth of insights it provides and the extended battery life for a health watch of its type, Steel HR truly is the first of its kind.”
A sub-dial on the Steel HR tracks the percentage of a user’s daily activity goal that’s been achieved, while an added digital screen displays health data like heart rate and notifications from a connected smartphone. The data that’s displayed can be changed using a navigational button on the side of the watch.
The Steel HR features a rechargeable battery that lasts 25 days per charge and it has a backup power save mode that offers an additional 20 days of battery life. In power save mode, heart rate tracking is disabled, but it continues to monitor basic activity. The Steel HR is water resistant and can be used when swimming.
Withings will begin selling the Withings Steel HR at the end of October. The 36mm version will be priced at $179.95 and the 40mm version will be priced at $199.95.
Tags: Withings, Nokia
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Nokia’s trolley-dash approach to business means that it now makes health gadgets and professional-level VR cameras. The latter arm sells one product, a $60,000 VR camera called Ozo which is bought by studios like Disney and UEFA. In order to gee-up demand and to celebrate launching in China, Nokia is now hacking $15,000 off the asking price for the gear. The first customer to grab the unit in the middle kingdom is LeVR, the surprisingly-named VR arm of Chinese superconglomerate LeEco. From this we can take one of two things: either Nokia overpriced the hardware, or it’s so staggeringly popular that everyone (in the industry) wants one.
Microsoft is cutting an additional 2,850 jobs on top of 1,850 announced in May 2016, meaning it has laid off over 10 percent of its workforce in the last two years. Most are ex-Nokia employees from its mobile hardware division, it said in its annual SEC filing. That means Microsoft has almost nothing left of its $7.2 billion Nokia acquisition, originally intended to make it a smartphone hardware player. The software giant has already notified 900 of the employees and will complete the remaining layoffs by mid-2017.
Microsoft’s mobile phone plans are a big question mark, as sales are in a free fall. The only ray of hope for Windows Phone fans (if there are any left) is that Microsoft hinted last year that it needs to make a mobile device as good as the Surface line. A “Surface Phone,” however, is still nothing more than a rumor and if it does come along, would likely be aimed at Microsoft’s core business market and not consumers. With layoffs now totaling 12,100 in two years, however, Microsoft seems to want nothing to do with building smartphones.
Source: SEC filing
Nokia recently bought Withings for $191 million and immediately put it in charge of its entire digital health business. The Finnish company may have been persuaded in part by the Body Cardio, Withings’ new flagship scale that launched today. On top of measuring your body mass index (BMI) and composition, it can judge your cardiovascular health by measuring how quickly blood pumps through your body. “It’s the most advanced product we’ve ever made and the product that most represents Withings’ DNA,” co-founder Eric Carreel tells Engadget.
I had a look at the Body Cardio at Withings’ French headquarters, and the minimalist, Apple-esque design (created in conjunction with Paris design studio Elium), is certainly striking. The scale is just 0.7 inches (18 mm) thick, and has a flat base with no feet. That allows it to work on any surface, whether it be a carpet or hardwood floor. You only need to charge the internal battery every year or so, and using it is a simple matter of standing on the scale.
From there, you can read your stats off the accompanying smartphone app or on the scale directly. As before, you can see — and track over time — your weight, BMI, body composition (including fat, muscle, water and bone mass), and standing heart rate. The key new measurement, however, is the “pulse wave velocity” (PVW), or speed at which blood circulates in your body.
Withings says the pulse wave velocity gives you a snapshot of your heart health. If you have an overly fast PVW and therefore “stiff” arteries, it means you could be at risk for hypertension or cardiovascular incidents. If your blood flow speed is slower, it generally indicates more flexible arteries and good health.
So how can a scale discern all that just from your feet? It measures a very subtle change in weight that happens when you’re aortic valve opens, according to the company. The scale also has embedded electrodes, allowing it deduce when the blood arrives to your feet. By measuring the time it takes for the blood to go from your heart to your feet, and knowing your height, it can calculate the PVW.
While the scale doesn’t measure your blood pressure per se, Carreel says the PVW is a better gauge of heart health. “This blood velocity measurement normally requires an expensive device [called a sphygmometer) that only cardiologists usually have, and now it’s available to anyone as a household device.” Withings says the BodyCardio scale measurements provide a “good correlation” with medical-grade sphygmometers based on testing at two French hospitals. (The company says it will release the results of its study on Friday at the European Society of Hypertension’s Paris meetup.)
As a result, Carreel believes the scale goes beyond personal fitness monitoring and into medical health territory. “Simply by standing on the scale every morning, I can track the evolution and the average value of my PVW, which is going to represent in the long-term, my cardiovascular health. So [the product can] detect these signs and warn me of any health risk, and advise me to see a doctor if necessary.”
In addition, Withings will anonymously collect health data from users (provided they consent) to refine its data analysis. It will then share it with researchers, hospitals and cardiologists to see how PVW influences cardiovascular risk factors on a large scale. “We seek to understand all of the factors that influence the changes in arterial rigidity and blood flow speed (PVW), whether they be nutrition or whatever. So the question is, how can we positively influence these factors?”
Such data and research will no doubt form a big part of Nokia’s newborn health business. As with Apple’s HealthKit, the idea is to get data from millions of users into the hands of doctors and researchers, who can see how it relates to future health problems. That means you’ll theoretically get, on top of the usual fitness stats like heartbeat and body fat composition, something more valuable as you age: A decent idea as to whether you’re at risk for serious cardiovascular problems.
The Body Cardio is now available at Apple and Withings stores in black and white for $180, and will arrive to other retailers by July 7th. A cheaper version without the PVW measurement, the Body, is available at a variety of retailers for $130.
Microsoft has laid off hundreds of employees tied to its smartphone business, as the company finally exits the consumer phone market and attempts to streamline its worldwide mobile division (via The Verge).
The move will impact up to 1,850 jobs worldwide, said Microsoft’s head of Windows and devices Terry Myerson, while up to 1,350 of the positions will be in Finland. The cuts are expected to be completed by the year’s end.
The move signals the final nail in the coffin for Microsoft’s Nokia business, which the company acquired under former CEO Steve Ballmer’s management for $7.2 billion in 2014. Today’s announcement will see $950 million written off, adding to the $7.6 billion the company wrote off last year when it cut 7,800 jobs to refocus its Windows Phone plans.
Microsoft is now shorn of almost all of its 25,000 former Nokia employees, and will only retain a small number in R&D roles. Last week, the company announced it was selling off its feature phone business to FIH Mobile, a subsidiary of Foxconn, for $350 million.
All indications point to an end of Microsoft’s Lumia phones and a focus on a single Surface phone, with Myerson promising “great new devices” in an internal memo to employees, although he withheld any specific timeframe. The immediate focus for Microsoft and its new CEO, Satya Nadella, is more likely to remain on bringing the company’s software and services to iOS and Android devices, rather than risk another consumer phone failure anytime soon.
Microsoft has been scaling back its consumer phone ambitions ever since its ill-fated Nokia mobile acquisition two years ago. Nokia meanwhile has shown far loftier ambitions, last month announcing its acquisition of French health tracking company Withings for an estimated $192 million, as it seeks to expand into the consumer electronics market while maintaining its networking and commercial VR business.
Tags: Microsoft, Windows Phone, Nokia
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Last week, Microsoft sold off what remained of Nokia’s feature phone business while Windows Phone’s market share slid below a single percent. Now, the company has taken what’s clearly the last step in correcting Steve Ballmer’s decision to purchase the mobile world’s former number one. The Verge has secured an internal memo from Microsoft’s Terry Myerson saying that the company will cull 1,850 jobs, 1,350 of which are in Finland. The company has also recorded a $950 million impairment and restructuring charge on its balance sheet, of which $200 million will be severance payouts to those employees.
The job cuts are, essentially, rinsing the company of almost all of its obligations towards the smoldering remains of Nokia. Microsoft went to pains to state that the firm’s Finnish sales vision are protected, with the cuts entirely focused on Microsoft Mobile Oy. As CEO Satya Nadella says, the company is focusing its phone efforts where it has “differentiation — with enterprises that value security, manageability and our Continuum capability.”
When Microsoft sold off its feature phone business, it put out a weirdly-worded statement that only affirmed a commitment to “support” Windows Phone devices. The implication being that it was done actually building handsets itself, and will instead let third parties like Acer, HP and VAIO take over. Alternatively, it’s rumored that Lumia as a brand is done, and the company will instead build a mobile device from its more successful Surface division.
“This in fact describes what we are doing (we’re scaling back, but we’re not out!), but at the same time I don’t love it because it lacks the emotional impact of this decision.”
Recode has published a copy of the internal memo, in which Terry Myerson explains that the company is scaling back, but is refusing to abandon mobile altogether. He also mentions that Microsoft will continue to “develop great new devices,” although that’s no indication that it’ll manufacture them off its own back. A bigger part of the firm’s focus, however, will be to “embrace other mobile platforms with our productivity services,” or getting its apps and services available on Android and iOS devices.
Via: The Verge
Source: Microsoft, Recode
The Nokia brand will return to the smartphone market. Just as Microsoft announced it’s offloading Nokia’s old feature phone business to a Foxconn subsidiary and a mysterious Finnish company called HMD Global Oy, Nokia has revealed that HMD is also acquiring the relevant rights to use the Nokia name on smartphones and and tablets for the next ten years. That means we’ll start seeing “Nokia-branded” phones and tablets very soon. And they’ll be running Android.
We don’t know a lot about HMD yet, but Arto Nummela, currently a Microsoft mobile executive, will leave the company to be HMD’s CEO when the deal closes. Before joining Microsoft Nummela worked at Nokia for over a decade. Florian Seiche, another Microsoft mobile executive with a Nokia past, will join HMD as president. If the pair’s involvement is anything to go by, it seems that HMD will feature some faces familiar to those that followed Nokia in its heyday.
HMD says it’ll invest $500 million over the next three years to develop and promote products. This money will come both from investors and from profits from the newly-acquired feature phone business. Nokia’s involvement in the new devices will be very limited. It’ll take a place on HMD’s board, and set “mandatory brand requirements and performance related provisions.” That essentially means it’s going to make sure that HMD isn’t dragging its name through the mud by releasing awful devices.
Although FIH Mobile — the Foxconn subsidiary that bought a share of Nokia/Microsoft’s feature phone business — isn’t involved in this rights deal, it will be the manufacturer of the new HMD smartphones and tablets. It seems as though HMD will be selling and marketing the devices, while FIH will be doing the manufacturing. Of course, the pair will have access to Nokia’s vast arsenal of mobile patents through the agreement.
The various deals required to make all this happen are expected to close before the end of the year. There’s no firm timeline for when we’ll see Nokia-branded smartphones and tablets, and no information on what flavor of Android they’ll be running.
Microsoft has signed a deal with a subsidiary of Foxconn to sell what used to be Nokia’s old feature phone business. The outfit, that still produces low-end handsets like the 222 and 230, has been sold to FIH Mobile for $350 million. It’ll now come under the control of the manufacturing giant that produces (pretty much) every device you can think of. Microsoft is also handing over a manufacturing plant in Hanoi, Vietnam, as part of the deal. In addition, 4,500 employees responsible for producing the devices will be given the opportunity to join the Foxconn family.
If Microsoft wanted to convince people that it had any ambitions in the handset world, the news today does a terrible job. The company claims that it will continue to “support” Windows 10 Mobile and devices like the Lumia 950, but makes no mention of building more. There is a line to say that the outfit will “support” partners like Acer, Alcatel, HP, Trinity and VAIO. Otherwise, it looks like Satya Nadella believes that his predecessor’s grand push into the smartphone wars was a mistake. After all, the company’s most recent round of financials revealed that Lumia sales have fallen through the floor.
Source: Microsoft (PRNewswire)