Monthly Archives: May 2018

Samsung Begins Smartphone Assembly in Indonesia

Samsung Electronics Co. has begun assembling smartphones at a factory outside Jakarta to meet demand in fast-growing Indonesia, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The move is the latest sign that the South Korean technology giant is shifting some of its operations to low-cost, fast-growing emerging markets where it is looking to build its presence and cut costs.

The Indonesian unit of the South Korean technology giant aims to assemble 1.5 million handsets each month at a plant in Cikarang, an industrial town east of Jakarta, according to this person, who added that Samsung would manufacture its latest 4G-enabled smartphone at the plant and sell it to consumers starting this month. Samsung currently assembles its phones in South Korea, China and Vietnam and last year sold more than 300 million smartphones globally, according to research firm IDC.

The shift in production is partly a response to new Indonesian regulations aimed at keeping the production of mobile phones in the country, this person said, who added that Samsung started making the phones in January.

A spokesman for Samsung declined to comment, but confirmed that the company has a manufacturing facility outside Jakarta that started production of mobile phones for the local market early this year.

In August, Samsung said it was considering producing mobile phones in Indonesia to meet fast-growing domestic demand.

At the time, government officials said Samsung would use its facility in Cikarang, where the company produces various consumer electronics.

Producing mobile phones there required Samsung to modify its facilities to accommodate the new products, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The move by Samsung is part of an effort to manufacture its products closer to consumers in emerging markets.

In 2013, Samsung’s Indian subsidiary won approval to make mobile phones at a facility in Noida, just outside Delhi, and said earlier this year that was considering building a new plant in the country.

The company has also invested about $8.5 billion in Vietnam in recent years, though its facilities there make products for export to consumers around the world

Indonesia has long been wooing global cellphone makers such as Samsung and Taiwan’s Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. to set up manufacturing facilities there. The aim is to create jobs in the country, as well as to cut imports of cellular devices, which rose in value to $3.16 billion in 2014 from $2.69 billion in 2013.

So far, foreign technology companies have been reluctant to answer the call of Indonesian authorities, arguing that Indonesia doesn’t have a reliable supply chain to support the manufacturing of consumer electronics.

In 2012, Indonesia’s government introduced regulations requiring importers of mobile phones to set up assembly plants in the country by the end of 2015. In 2013, it imposed a 20% luxury tax on imported cellphones to rein in its current-account deficit. In September 2014, the government issued regulations requiring all 4G devices sold in Indonesia to include at least 30% locally-sourced contents by 2017.

Other Indonesian large cellular importers, such as PT Erajaya Swasembada, which distributes mobile phones from major global brands such as Apple Inc., Samsung, BlackBerry Ltd. and Lenovo Group Ltd., are also setting up their own factories in Indonesia.

Samsung is still the leader in the Indonesian smartphone market, with market share of about 30% in the first quarter, according to research firm IDC, though that fell from 38% a year earlier.

Samsung wows investors with futuristic tech that Apple’s iPhone is already delivering

Samsung will “lead by following” Apple Watch

Samsung LSI marketing team head Kyushik Hong spoke at length about “Innovation for the next mobile experience,” outlining plans to introduce a “Bio Processor” chip that packed a series of components related to health related data recording. Asked when the new chip would be introduced and when Samsung expected it to become a meaningful revenue generator, Hong stated that it was expected to ship early next year and might be used in some kind of band or other product focusing on activity, not necessarily from Samsung. And while his presentation discussed “wearable device trend” and the potential of wearables to grow dramatically in shipment volumes, there was no discussion of how Samsung was actually performing in the smartwatch category it largely introduced, before partnering with Google on Android Wear and then going solo with its own Tizen-based Gear watches, all without achieving any success along the way, before being steamrolled by the arrival of Apple Watch.

At the same time, the “trends” Samsung identified for wearable devices included authentication and payment, features Samsung’s Galaxy Gear models continue to lack. Apple Watch introduced Apple Pay last fall, but the company’s own new “Samsung Pay” is a feature still confined to Samsung’s phones.

The primary unique “feature” Samsung added to its watches that Apple didn’t was a small, low quality 1.9 MP camera, which gave it a creepy voyeur-vibe reminiscent of Google Glass while failing to capture images of any useful quality.

Samsung’s Galaxy Gear lineup hasn’t attract many buyers. Instead, the watch ended up with Best Buy seeing more than 30 percent of its sales being returned by unsatisfied customers, according to a report by Ars.

Samsung unveils some existing camera technology

Focusing next on photography as a feature of smartphones, Hong introduced “fast and accurate auto focus” using phase detection. Apple calls this “Focus Pixels,” and introduced it last year as a feature of iPhone 6 (using sensors developed by Sony). Samsung had earlier introduced phase detection autofocus in its Galaxy S5, but its speed to market didn’t change the fact that the S5 was outsold by Apple’s iPhone 5s models without the feature. iPhone 6, with Focus Pixels of its own, further trounced the Galaxy S6.

While much attention is devoted to imagining how Apple’s innovations and technologies will be commodified by Android licensees, the reverse actually seems to be happening: any technical advantage introduced by others is eventually adopted by Apple (examples include LTE, NFC and barometers), while Apple’s technical leaps remain largely unmatched by rivals (such as Touch ID, Continuity and 3D Touch).
Other “futuristic” ideas the company addressed included using multiple exposures composited to achieve wide dynamic range and “ISOCELL technology” that puts a barrier between pixels to increase light sensitivity and effectively “controls the absorption of electrons.” If that sounds familiar, it’s because Apple introduced the concept as “deep trench isolation,” in explaining its efforts to increase the pixel count within the iPhone 6s camera sensor without also increasing the noise commonly experienced as pixels get smaller as they are packed more densely to increase overall resolution.

Samsung rushed high resolution camera sensors to market before Apple, but their high megapixel counts didn’t result in better photos. Instead, it resulted in low light noise and less accurate color reproduction.

While Apple explained that it was using this new technology to increase iPhone camera resolution without losing quality, Samsung stated that its goal for the same process (under a different name) was to reduce pixel size in order to help reduce the overall thickness of its phones. Samsung stated it was reducing the pixel size of its 16MP sensor from 1.12um to 1.0um to achieve 1mm of reduced thickness. Apple reduced the pixel size of iPhone 6 from 8MP at 1.5um to 12MP at 1.22um, not primarily to reduce device thickness, but to increase photo and video capture resolution without losing quality, maintaining larger pixels than competing sensors. Pixel size reduction on its own simply makes each pixel less sensitive to light.

It’s noteworthy that while Apple uses a custom version of Sony’s camera sensor for iPhone 6/6s, Samsung also uses Sony’s IMX240 sensor in its Galaxy S6/S6 Edge, at least in the versions it sends to reviewers. Regular users are finding that Samsung might also swap in its own ISOCELL camera sensors to save money, resulting in reduced image quality.

This all happened before

Overall, Samsung’s investor conference seemed far less ambitious and confident as its event from 2013, where JK Shin, Samsung’s president and chief executive of IT & Mobile, promised that the company would “play a key role in the premium smartphone market.”

As AppleInsider noted at the time, this was a direct contradiction of the warning Samsung had earlier given its investors of slowing profits.

It also belied the reality that most of the phones Samsung had been—and was currently selling—were low end devices, not premium phones. Further, Samsung has been—and continues to repeatedly note—that its premium sales remain static (rather than experiencing any tremendous growth in demand as promised) and that its unit growth is coming from low end devices, which are eroding its Average Selling Price.
Back in 2013, Samsung focused upon screen resolutions, forecasting that by this year, it would be selling smartphones with 3840×2160 displays. Instead of that happening, the company is still selling “WQHD” screens, and even those are plaguing Samsung’s high end devices with excessive screen resolutions that its relatively anemic Application Processors aren’t quite capable of driving competitively.

Apple Ready To Gamble On New iPhone Technology

Not content with the 3D touch interface that was added to the iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus screens, Apple looks set to move to a new screen technology in 2017′s iPhone.

There has been a consistent build up of leaks, rumors, and suggestions from the supply chain that a switch away from the LCD technology currently used by Apple for its iPhone screens is on the cards. Moving to OLED screens would allow for more power efficient displays that have a wider viewing angle, better color reproduction, and a more vibrant display. Apple has been reluctant in the past to make this switch because of worries around the lifespan of OLED screens.

Apple must be confident that these issues are now answered (presumably with technology along the lines of that detailed in its patents using photodiodes and varying the anode pitch in OLED screens). Nikkei Asian Review (via Patently Apple) is reporting that Apple has notified its supply chain of the upcoming switch to OLED for iPhones released in the 2017/2018 smartphone season.

This would point to the adoption of OLED screens for the presumptively tilted iPhone 7S. Going with the 7S as the debut handset makes a certain amount of logistical sense. The external design cues of the iPhone are generally updated in even-numbered years with the cardinal numbered iPhone models, while the internal technology and specifications tend to favour the iPhone ‘S’ models.

That is illustrated in the latest models from Cupertino. The iPhone 6 introduced the new design with the curve edges and taper on the screen, the change in size from 4 inches to 4.7 and 5.5 inches, and the thinner design. The hardware changes that included the addition of 3D Touch, increased memory, and a larger camera sensor, were all seen on the iPhone 6S.

Apple’s Gamble Needs Samsung For New iPhone Technology

The latest report from Korea’s ET News is that Samsung’s display division has won the race to be the primary supplier for OLED display panels destined for a next-generation iPhone. Following Samsung’s weak guidance for Q4 2014 earnings, this advance order, likely to be in place for a number of years, will help stabilise the finances of the South Korean company.

Apple is one of the last manufacturers supplying high-end smartphones with LCD screens. While OLED does have some issues, it also offers vivid colors, a deeper black, lower power requirements, and a thinner construction.

The interesting question is less about if Apple will make the switch, but when. Given the quality and visual impact of OLED displays on other handsets Apple will find it harder to match that quality in future iPhones using LCD screens. There may be one or two final hurrahs in place with LCD that we’ll no doubt see on the iPhone 7, but will Apple wait for the iPhone 8 and a 2018 release or will it push to get the OLED screens in place for the iPhone 7S?

The ‘S’ cycle of iPhone handsets is typically when Apple implements a major change to hardware (as opposed to design changes in the even-numbered years). Previous ‘S’ handsets have seen the introduction of 3D Touch and TouchID. The iPhone 7S is the logical time to introduce a brand new screen technology.

To do so, Apple will need to be confident that its OLED supplier can not only supply the volume of displays required, but also reach Apple’s quality threshold. Traditionally OLED displays have had a shorter lifespan and can exhibit features unwanted features such as burn-in of images. Apple will need confidence that the iPhone is not going to suffer these issues.

Capacity also needs to be considered. Apple will be looking for over 200 million OLED displays per year. That is going to require investment, capital, factories and distribution. It’s unlikely that there is a secret OLED factory running just now to supply the iPhone 7. Both Samsung and LG are working on expanding their OLED facilities, presumably in anticipation of higher orders from smartphone manufacturers.

Only Apple switching could provide such a step-up in requirements. Watch for these factories to come online in early 2017 if the iPhone 7S is going to go with the newer display, or if iPhone fans will be waiting into 2018 for the screen technology almost every other manufacturer considers a standard choice.

SpareOne Emergency Phone AT and T

Between earthquakes, hurricanes, polar vortexes, superstorms, and any other number of potentially dangerous natural phenomena, it’s always good to be prepared. The $59.99 SpareOne Emergency Phone for AT&T is a handy tool to keep in the glove compartment of your car, or your emergency supply kit at home. This cell phone offers 3G connectivity for phone calls and location tracking, with voice interaction to make dialing easier. And you don’t need to worry about charging it, as the phone can last for up to 15 years on the shelf with just two AA batteries. It’s a nice upgrade over the unlocked 2G model, which the company no longer sells in the US. But it requires an annual prepaid plan in order to take full advantage of its Locate and Alert services.

Design, Features, and Usability

At 5.7 by 2.0 by 0.8 inches (HWD) and 3.2 ounces, the SpareOne is a larger than your average candy bar-style phone like the Blu Tank II (4.8 by 1.9 by 0.5 inches; 3.5 ounces), but that’s because it needs space to accommodate two AA batteries.

The front of the phone is white plastic, with a clear screen that proudly shows the batteries inside. The back is bright red, with another clear screen that holds a paper insert on which you can write up to eight numbers on speed dial. The top is home to a somewhat dim LED flashlight, with a lanyard attachment to the right. The back is removable, giving you access to the SIM card slot, a nano SIM adapter holder, and the battery compartment. According to SpareOne, the phone can last up to 15 years on the shelf with just two AA batteries, though obviously that number will diminish much more quickly if you actually use it.

The number pad is your standard dialer layout, but you can’t use it to text. An Alert button above is set to dial 911, but you can reprogram it to call a different number. Next to the Alert button are Call Answer and Flashlight buttons on the right, and Call Decline and Volume buttons on the left. A pretty loud panic alarm can be activated by holding the Volume button for seven seconds. At the bottom right you’ll find a Lock button, which disables the number pad. All the buttons glow in the dark, and can be seen clearly even when the lights are out.

There’s no display, but the phone uses voice interaction to make it easier to tell what number you are dialing. The phone speaks numbers out loud and tells you when the call is going through. It will also notify you when the battery is low. Adding numbers to speed dial can be confusing, and I often had to refer to the manual while getting everything set up.pite its simplistic appearance, the SpareOne isn’t meant to serve as a simple phone for everyday use. For that, you’ll be better served by a different device like the Blu Tank II or the Verykool Garnet IX i129. For seniors, the Samsung Jitterbug Plus and the Snapfon ezTWO are better options. The SpareOne works best when used as an emergency backup for times when your regular phone just isn’t available, and in that regard, it succeeds admirably.

New York Considers Mandating Back Doors Into Phones

With a bill reintroduced last week, a New York Assemblyman wants to make it easy for the government to get inside smartphones. It’s a proposal that would mandate smartphone manufacturers be able to unlock the phones they make. The bill comes from Assemblyman Matthew Titone, of Staten Island’s North Shore, and was first introduced last summer. It’s sat in the Consumer Affairs and Protection committee since, so it’s still a long way from becoming law. A cryptographic back door would be bad for cryptography, privacy, and consumers.

The “back door” metaphor isn’t too far from the truth, so let’s flesh it out for a minute. In a memo sent out in support of the bill this week, the bill’s author does that for us. He describes a phone that cannot be unlocked except by the owner like this:

It is as if the police get a search warrant for a safe deposit box at a bank because they have reason to believe that the safe deposit box has evidence of a crime – but they cannot open the box because the bank has thrown away its own key. Indeed, this situation is even worse because whereas a safe deposit box can, ultimately, be opened by force, a passcode-protected smartphone is virtually impregnable, unless the companies maintain the ability to open the phones that it manufactures.

Except, and I think this is the crucial point, if there’s a mandated back door, then it’s not a safe that the government can access, it’s a safe anyone can access. As security researcher Bruce Schneier wrote when Apple introduced its strong encryption:

You can’t build a backdoor that only the good guys can walk through. Encryption protects against cybercriminals, industrial competitors, the Chinese secret police and the FBI. You’re either vulnerable to eavesdropping by any of them, or you’re secure from eavesdropping from all of them.

Under the New York bill, companies that don’t provide or build in these back doors could face huge legal penalties. The Independent describes it:

The proposed law would also make phone manufacturers pay a fine of $2,500 (£1,736) for every phone they sell that cannot be unlocked.

This would result in fines reaching into the tens of millions for companies like Apple, whose devices are designed to have no back door, and are only unlockable by their owner.

How Portable Power Helps Planes Take off More Efficiently

When you’re settling into your seat at the airport, you’ll notice some interesting mechanical sounds coming from outside the plane. If you’re afraid of flying, this mystery can cause a great deal of anxiety. It’s a good thing there’s nothing to worry about pre-flight checks. In fact, you want everything to go smoothly during this time frame. One of the methods airports use to keep planes ready to go is by supplying portable power supplies that literally jump start the plane on the runway.

According to Start Pac, that’s the mechanical sound you hear in many cases.

Standard airplane battery packs function like a car, so the plane needs to be moving in order for the pack to charge. Unlike a car, a plane’s battery must power a great deal of electronics so passengers can sit comfortably prior to takeoff. These systems power everything from air conditioning to in-flight movies.

In order for the plane to function properly, it needs a jump start from a portable battery pack. This will also give the turbine engines a boost, which enables the plane engines to turn over and the plan to function properly.

Airports service many planes in a single day, so portability is key. There are power packs embedded into the concrete, but many commercial airports will taxi a portable unit to the runway and charge the plane through that method. Portable power can also recharge quickly, so multiple units can be used for a boost while others are charging for the next shift.

Microsoft targets mobile phone unit as 7,800 more jobs go

Microsoft is shedding another 7,800 jobs as it reorganises its Nokia mobile phone unit.

The move represents a massive shift in strategy for Microsoft since it purchased Nokia’s mobile phone business for €5.44bn ($7.5bn; £4.5bn) last year.

Microsoft axed 18,000 jobs from the unit last July – the deepest cuts in the company’s history.

The technology giant will also write down the value of the Nokia deal by $7.6bn.

Microsoft currently has about 118,000 employees worldwide. A statement from the government in Finland, were Nokia is based, said the job losses would include some 2,300 posts in the country.

The statement said the government was “disappointed with Microsoft’s decision” and called a special ministerial meeting to consider assistance for those affected. “Loss of so many jobs is very sad for the whole society and for individuals affected,” it said.

Microsoft said in a statement that it would “restructure the company’s phone hardware business to better focus and align resources”.

Although still strong in the software market for personal computers, the company is faces strong competition in the fight to establish its mobile handset operation. This market is dominated by devices powered by Google’s Android system or Apple’s iOS.

A survey by research firm IDC said Microsoft’s Windows was expected to capture just 3.2% of the global smartphone market this year.

‘Reinvention’

In a memo to staff, the company’s chief executive Satya Nadella said: “I am committed to our first-party devices including phones. However, we need to focus our phone efforts in the near term while driving reinvention.

“We are moving from a strategy to grow a standalone phone business to a strategy to grow and create a vibrant Windows ecosystem that includes our first-party device family.”

Microsoft is due to start rolling out Windows 10 later this month, introducing a new operating system that can be used to power not only personal computers but a range of mobile devices.

Last month, Microsoft announced a shakeup of top management including the departure of Stephen Elop, the former Nokia chief who joined the US tech company as part of the acquisition

Analysis: Rory Cellan-Jones, BBC technology correspondent

Soon after the former Microsoft executive Stephen Elop became chief executive of Nokia, he wrote a memo to staff warning that the ailing company and its Symbian operating system was on a burning platform.

His solution was to jump on to another platform, the Windows Phone operating system, and eventually to sell the whole business to Microsoft. The alliance of the Windows Phone software with the Nokia hardware was supposed to create a powerful third force in the smartphone market, providing consumers with an attractive alternative to Android and Apple phones.

But now this platform too is burning, and Microsoft’s $7.3bn investment in Nokia along with its smartphone has gone up in flames. Stephen Elop has already left and now nearly 8,000 employees, many of them former Nokia staff, will follow him out of the business.

Microsoft says it will now change direction, creating an “ecosystem” which will see Windows phones built by other manufacturers alongside its own handsets.

The company which dominated the desktop computer era has never been a major force in mobile computing. Microsoft describes itself as “the leading platform and productivity company for the mobile-first, cloud-first world” – but that platform still needs some work.