Samsung Ramps Up Apple Challenge With Galaxy Note 5, Galaxy S6 Edge+

Samsung staked its claim to the high end of the smartphone market Thursday, unveiling two large-screen handsets and its new mobile payment system as part of its challenge to Apple.

The moves are aimed at keeping the South Korean giant atop the global smartphone market and countering its US rival Apple, which has made gains with its large-screen iPhone 6 (Review | Pictures) and iPhone 6 Plus (Review | Pictures) and its tap-to-pay feature.

At a New York media event, Samsung unveiled its Galaxy S6 Edge+, the latest update for its flagship handset, and Galaxy Note 5, its main device in the “phablet” market.

“Today the journey continues in the large-screen category that Samsung created,” said J.K. Shin, Samsung’s head of IT and mobile communications.

The Galaxy S6 Edge+ and Galaxy Note 5 each have a 5.7-inch display, but the S6 has smaller overall dimensions and a curved “dual edge” screen that sets aside a portion of the display for contacts or other content.

Launching Samsung Pay
The company also announced that its Samsung Pay service would roll out in South Korea on August 20 and in the United States on September 28, and that it would launch in Britain, Spain and China with partners to be named in each market.

Shin said he expects wide adoption because Samsung Pay “doesn’t cause small business to upgrade their terminals and will be accepted almost everywhere on day one.”

Samsung said its mobile service can be used with magnetic stripe terminals as well as those using updated NFC or “near field communication” contactless payments employed by Apple Pay.

InJong Rhee, Samsung Electronics vice president, said that “NFC is fine technology but most stores don’t have it.”

He added that Samsung Pay will be secured by its Knox software, which creates a one-time code without transmitting credit card numbers.

Samsung has remained atop the global smartphone market even though its sales have been slipping in the past year.

samsung_pay_with_galaxy_s6_edge_plus_ap.jpgWith the new devices, Samsung expands from its 5.1 inch display on the existing Galaxy S6, and leapfrogs Apple’s handsets at 4.7 and 5.5 inches.

The new handsets, which have Samsung Pay and wireless charging options integrated, will go on sale in the US and Canada on August 21, said Samsung, which did not announce specific launch dates for other markets.

The Galaxy Note 5 is the upgraded version of the phablet which Samsung is generally credited with popularizing. The new device has a new pop-out pen stylus and shares its upgraded 16-megapixel camera with the Galaxy S6 Edge+.

Kantar Worldpanel analyst Carolina Milanesi said Samsung trailed Apple in the phablet market devices with screens at 5.5 inches and above in the second quarter.

Stealing a march on Apple
Ramon Llamas, analyst at IDC, said the launch appears aimed at getting ahead of Apple, which is widely expected to announce its own upgrades later this year.

“This is a calculated move to avoid the marketing onslaught of Apple in September and October,” Llamas told AFP.

Llamas said that with these devices, “Samsung is establishing itself at the high end and attacking its biggest and closest competitor, Apple.”

Daniel Gleeson at IHS Technology agreed, saying Samsung “is hoping to steal a march on Apple’s new iPhone announcement which will likely happen in early September.”

Gleeson said the Galaxy Note 5 appears aimed at professionals and business users due to its stylus and keyboard attachment, while the Galaxy S6 Edge+ “is a much more fashion-forward device and is likely to appeal to a younger, hipper market.”

According to IDC, Samsung led the smartphone market in the second quarter with a 21.7 percent market share, even though sales dipped from a year earlier and its market share was below 24.8 percent in the same period a year ago.

Apple, which briefly took the lead in the fourth quarter of 2014 with its new iPhones, saw its market share rise more than two points from a year earlier to 14.1 percent, IDC said.

Gleeson said Samsung Pay faces challenges because of the head start by Apple and Google’s Android Pay.

“Unlike Apple which has accumulated 800 million payment card accounts associated with iTunes, Samsung lacks this critical element for its payment service to quickly gain traction,” he said in a note to clients.

“Samsung Pay’s co-existence with Android Pay is likely to create frictions in the Android ecosystem as consumers could be confused by the two payment options.”

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+

Display

5.70-inch

Processor

1.5GHz

Front Camera

5-megapixel

Resolution

1440×2560 pixels

RAM

4GB

OS

Android 5.1

Storage

32GB

Rear Camera

16-megapixel

Battery capacity

3000mAh

Dell’s New Chromebook 13 Launched for ‘Google for Work’ Programme

Google’s latest Chromebook laptop will be specially designed for corporate customers in an effort to get more workers off machines powered by Microsoft’s dominant Windows software.

The Chromebook unveiled Thursday will be made by Dell and will go on sale Sept. 17. Prices will range from $400 to $900 (roughly Rs. 26,000 to Rs. 58,500), a step up from a line of bare-bones Chromebooks that have been selling for as low as $150 (roughly Rs. 9,750) since Google teamed up with Hisense and Haier to make those devices.

The cheap Chromebooks have helped make the laptops popular in classrooms, but they haven’t made many inroads in offices.

Google Inc. is trying to win over corporate customers with the Dell Chromebook 13, which offers more flexibility to run a variety of apps that haven’t been easily accessible on previous Chromebooks. The laptops also offer more controls for corporate administrators to limit access and set rules for how workers can use them.

Apple also has been trying to boost corporate sales of its iPad tablet in a year-old partnership with business technology specialist IBM Corp. and a wide variety of office app makers. Microsoft, meanwhile, is pinning its hopes on Windows 10, a recently released version of the operating system designed to run smoothly on personal computers, tablets and smartphones.

Various PC manufacturers that building Windows machines for decades have been working with Google to design lightweight laptops running on the Chrome operating system since 2011. The new machine from Dell joins Google’s line-up of other high-end, business-focused devices that include the Asus Chromebook Flip and Chromebook Pixel.

The Chromebooks will remain a part of Google later this year after the company splinters under an umbrella organization called Alphabet Inc. that will oversee a hodgepodge of businesses and experimental projects delving into medical research, city management, drone delivery and driverless cars.

Samsung Galaxy Note 5, Galaxy S6 Note Edge+ ‘BlackBerry-Like’ Keyboard Covers Launched

Samsung on Thursday at its Galaxy Unpacked 2015 event launched the new Galaxy Note 5 and Galaxy S6 Edge+ smartphones. The company alongside the new products also launched several accessories for both the handsets including Clear View Cover, wireless charger, Level headphones, Battery packs, and the new Keyboard Covers.

The all new BlackBerry-like Keyboard Cover will be available next month and will come at $80 (approximately Rs. 5,200). The move to launch a physical keyboard as an accessory for its new premium phones is an attempt by Samsung to tap consumers who still prefer physical Qwerty keyboards over touchscreens.

The new Keyboard Cover will be compatible with both the new Samsung Galaxy Note 5 and Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ smartphones. It will be available in Black, Gold, and Silver colours. The Keyboard Cover attaches to the handsets at the lower half and offers physical keyboards just below the screen. Once attached, the smartphone detects the Keyboard Cover automatically and adapts to the accessory.

One of the concerns with the usage of Keyboard Cover is it marginally elongates the size of the device, which already boasts a 5.7-inch screen. Notably, the new Keyboard Cover use capacitive technology and doesn’t require Bluetooth or battery power.

(Also see: Samsung Pay Gets Korea and US Launch Date; Coming to UK, Spain, and China Later)

Samsung at the launch confirmed that the Galaxy Note 5 will be made available in select markets, while the Galaxy S6 Edge+ will feature wider availability. The smartphones will be available for pre-orders for in the US from Thursday, and the smartphones will be made available from August 21. In the US, the Galaxy Note 5 will be available via AT&T (with a no commitment contract) at $739.99 (roughly Rs. 48,400) for the 32GB variant, and $839.99 (roughly Rs. 54,800) for the 64GB variant, while the Galaxy S6 Edge+ will be priced at $814.99 (roughly Rs. 53,300) and $914.99 (roughly Rs. 59,800) for the 32GB and 64GB variants respectively.

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+

Display

5.70-inch

Processor

1.5GHz

Front Camera

5-megapixel

Resolution

1440×2560 pixels

RAM

4GB

OS

Android 5.1

Storage

32GB

Rear Camera

16-megapixel

Battery capacity

3000mAh

iOS 8.4.1 Now Available for Download; Fixes Several Apple Music Bugs

Apple on Friday released iOS 8.4.1, a minor update for the operating system that powers the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. This update primarily fixes bugs in Apple Music, the company’s music streaming service that was launched in June along with iOS 8.4.

Apart from fixing several Apple Music bugs, the iOS 8.4.1 update fixes an issue that could prevent some users from turning on iCloud Music Library. This is probably the last update for iOS 8 as Apple prepares to unveil iOS 9 next month, alongside its new iPhone models – expected to be called the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus.

Like always, the update is available via the Settings app on iOS 8. This can be downloaded over-the-air or by connecting your iOS device to iTunes. We recommend taking a full backup of your iOS device before updating.

Full iOS 8.4.1 changes:

This release includes improvements and fixes to Apple Music.

Resolves issues that could prevent turning on iCloud Music Library

Resolves an issue that hides added music because Apple Music was set to show offline music only

Provides a way to add songs to a new playlist if there aren’t any playlists to choose from

Resolves an issue that may show different artwork for an album on other devices

Resolves several issues for artists while posting to Connect

Fixes an issue where tapping Love doesn’t work as expected while listening to Beats 1

BlackBerry Porsche Design P’9983 Graphite Launched

BlackBerry has expanded its premium smartphone range in India with the launch of the Porsche Design P’9983 Graphite. Priced at Rs. 99,990, the new premium Qwerty smartphone will be available to buy in the coming days. The move to launch its new premium smartphone now appears to be an attempt by BlackBerry to tap the upcoming festival season in the country.

The new premium Qwerty smartphone is a variant of the Porsche Design P’9983 smartphone that waslaunched last year.

Initially launched in May, the BlackBerry Porsche Design P’9983 Graphite smartphone features “exclusive graphite-metallic coloured elements” while also sporting “hand-wrapped leather on the back door cover.” The new Porsche Design P’9983 Graphite smartphone is the fourth smartphone launched in collaboration between BlackBerry and Porsche Design, with the others being – BlackBerry Porsche Design P’9983, BlackBerry Porsche Design P’9982, and BlackBerry Porsche P’9981.

For specifications, the Porsche Design P’9983 Graphite features identical innards as the Porsche Design P’9983 smartphone. It features a 3.1-inch touch screen with a resolution of 720×720 pixels and offers a pixel density of 330ppi. Under the hood, the handset is backed by a 1.5GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 (MSM8960) processor coupled with 2GB of RAM, and 64GB inbuilt storage expandable via microSD card (up to 128GB).

A 2100mAh battery powers the BlackBerry Porsche Design P’9983 Graphite, and it sports an 8-megapixel rear camera and a 2-megapixel front camera. For connectivity options, it features Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n; Bluetooth 4.0; LTE; FM radio; Micro-USB, and Micro-HDMI.

One of the highlight features of the Porsche Design P’9983 Graphite is the unique PIN feature – BlackBerry provides an exclusive Porsche Design PIN range to every consumer. The new premium smartphone from BlackBerry comes with such BlackBerry 10 features as BlackBerry Hub, BlackBerry Blend, and BlackBerry World (for downloading business and productivity apps).

The company in a press statement lists some of exclusive Porsche Design accessories that will be in the box including a premium stereo headset, an international charging kit, a polishing cloth, and a USB cable for high-speed data transfer.

Commenting on the launch, Hitesh Shah, Director – Sales and Distribution, at BlackBerry India said, “With the launch of the new P’9983 Graphite from BlackBerry, we bring a unique stylish smartphone combined with the superior productivity and ultimate security experience of BlackBerry 10 technology for our Indian consumers. This new smartphone is custom-built for power professionals aiming to make a style statement while not willing to compromise on effective communication and collaboration.”

BlackBerry Porsche Design P9983 Graphite

BlackBerry Porsche Design P9983 Graphite

Display

3.10-inch

Processor

1.5GHz

Front Camera

2-megapixel

Resolution

720×720 pixels

RAM

2GB

OS

BlackBerry OS 10

Storage

64GB

Rear Camera

8-megapixel

Battery capacity

2100mAh

Google’s Android Stagefright Security Patch Is Flawed, Says Researcher

Android’s Stagefright vulnerability has received its share of concerns and patch releaseannouncements from various Android OEM manufacturers, including a new monthly security update cycle. The problem however seems to still be around even after Google released a patch this month for its Nexus devices that was claimed to fix the Stagefright bug.

Jordan Gruskovnjak, a security researcher from Exodus Intelligence has discovered ‘severe’ problems with patch rolling out to Nexus devices. Jordan also claimed that the Stagefright Detector app released by Zimperium (the company that reported the issue initially) is unable to detect the flaw that remains after the patch, which just contains four lines of code.

“Despite our notification (and their confirmation), Google is still currently distributing the faulty patch to Android devices via OTA updates,” notes Exodus Intelligence.

To recall, Stagefright is an open source media player and which is believed to be used on about 95 percent of Android devices, an estimated 950 million users. The vulnerability, if exploited, can let attackers take control of an Android device by sending a specially crafted media file delivered by an MMS message.

“Along with the initial bug report, a set of patches to stagefright flaws were supplied and accepted by Google. One of these patches, addressing CVE-2015-3824 (aka Google Stagefright ‘tx3g’ MP4 Atom Integer Overflow) was quite simple, consisting of merely 4 lines of changed code,” notes Exodus Intelligence official blog.

Jordan tested out a Nexus 5 with an updated firmware flashed to it and was greeted with a crash upon testing. He was able to test the flaw through a specially-crafted mp4 file that bypassed the patch.

The security research company says that it notified Google, and was told the Mountain View company has allocated the CVE identifier CVE-2015-3864 to its report. The company claims that it had to make the issue public with their findings to notify everybody about the issue.

Google confirmed the findings to The Verge, and added that a second patch was already being pushed out. “We’ve already sent the fix to our partners to protect users, and Nexus 4/5/6/7/9/10 and Nexus Player will get the OTA update in the September monthly security update,” said Google in a statement.

The company however did not comment when non-Nexus devices can expect to receive the patch.

Last week, Google and Samsung announced they will offer a monthly security patch to their devices. LG and Motorola also joined to reveal Stagefright vulnerability patches.

Microsoft Improving Touch Mode in Windows 10, Leaked Build Tips

windows_10_build_100564_the_verge_touch_mode.jpg

Microsoft appears set to be revamping the Windows 10 touch mode, which was introduced alongside the Continuum feature for hybrid devices with the January Technical Preview , as per a new leaked build.

Build 10056 of the Windows 10 Technical Preview for desktops, laptops and tablets surfaced on the Web last week showcasing several touch-friendly improvements and upgrades in Windows 10. The Verge, which got hold of the leaked build, notes that the tablet mode now removes all the apps from task bar, leaving users with access to the Start Screen, virtual desktops, and the Cortana voice-based digital assistant only.

The new UI is said to be similar to the touch version of Windows 8.1 OS. However, the Charms bar has now been replaced with a notification centre with easy access to settings and notification. The build also shows recent apps when swiped on screen from left, while giving a full screen view of the Live Tiles and apps when accessing the Start Screen. Also, a new animation has been introduced for the Start Screen, which overlays on the desktop wallpaper.

The apps when launched take up the entire screen without congesting the taskbar. Some of the other changes mentioned in the leaked Microsoft Windows 10 build are black notifications centre, dark-themed UI elements, a new Recycle Bin, resizing of Start Menu and switch transparency on/off, as well as options to change the colour of the UI. Microsoft is yet to officially roll out the build to Windows Insider testers.

Over the weekend, Microsoft rolled out the second build (10051) of the Windows 10Technical Preview for phones. The highlight of the build is the inclusion of an early version of Microsoft’s Spartan browser for phones, along with a number of other features.