Technology Journalist and Copywriter

Kate O'Flaherty

TechBlog

Welcome to my blog, featuring industry musings and opinions on the latest products

By kateoflaherty, Apr 29 2014 02:12PM

The PR machine behind mobile payments is once more grinding with the launch of Paym, a service that allows users to transfer money via their smartphone.


This is intended to be a gateway to the Holy Grail - a cashless society where consumers pay for everything using the device they carry everywhere, their mobile phone.


The move is part of an unrelenting cycle. From NFC through to Bluetooth, mobile payment technology has tried and failed before. Contactless payment cards were intended to open the door for NFC but years later phones still aren't being used for transactions.


Numerous alliances have been set up over the years and gradually fizzled out. Apple is said to have held things back by not including NFC on its devices, despite ongoing predictions that the market is about to take off.


Perhaps Paym will be the technology to break this ongoing cycle. The banks, of course, are on board too, with Bank of Scotland, Barclays, Cumberland Building Society, Danke Bank, Halifax, HSBC, Lloyds, Santander, and TSB already signed up. Other banks and building societies - namely Natwest - have committed to join Paym later in 2014.


But in reality, the Paym service is simply an extension of the mobile banking app; it's hardly revolutionary. For mobile payments to really take off, a technology needs to be found that consumers understand and are compelled to use. It could be Paym, it could be an Apple NFC phone. But one thing is certain: until that happens, the so-called "mobile wallet" is unlikely to become mainstream.



By kateoflaherty, Sep 11 2013 09:49AM


The launch of the iPhone 5S saw Apple take a long hard look at its architecture, but the form factor remains the same.


Last night's event also saw the launch of the iPhone 5C, a cheaper but certainly not cheap, version of its device to sit in the mid-range of the portfolio. The handset is hardly a revolution, but it does see Apple offering more choice in the mid-sector, taking a long-overdue swipe at its Android rivals. It also sees the manufacturer target the lucrative teen market, taking aim at ailing BlackBerry.


Additional business features are a sign of Apple targeting the enterprise market, as an increasing number of iPhones continue to infiltrate BYOD scenarios. This was already evident within iOS7's features, and Apple further fuelled this when it announced last night that free app downloads including Keynote will allow users to get involved with productivity from the get-go, when they buy an iPhone 5S.


Last night's iPhone launch didn't see the bigger screen desired by many, a feature that is ever-present on its biggest rival Samsung's multitude of smartphones. But it did see the introduction of a super-fast A7 chip, fingerprint scanner, top notch camera and motion coprocessor for fitness - viewed by some to be the equivalent of the rumoured iWatch on a smartphone.


Apple's event wasn't full of surprises; most of the information had already leaked online. One of the biggest revelations was the removal of the iPhone 5 from Apple's line up; the manufacturer has never taken away such a new model before. Instead, users can buy the iPhone 5S as the high end model; the iPhone 5C as the mid range; and the iPhone 4S as the free phone on a contract.



iPhone 5S features



• Available in gold, silver and 'space grey'


• A7 chip brings 64-bit desktop-class architecture; up to twice the CPU and graphics performance


• M7 motion coprocessor that gathers data from the accelerometer, gyroscope and compass to offload work from the A7 for improved power efficiency


• Touch ID, a fingerprint scanner built into the home button, uses a laser cut sapphire crystal, together with the capacitive touch sensor, to take a high-resolution image of your fingerprint and intelligently analyse it


• 8 megapixel iSight camera features a larger f/2.2 aperture and a new, larger sensor with 1.5μ pixels for better sensitivity and low-light performance


• True Tone flash variably adjusts colour and intensity for over 1,000 combinations; new Burst Mode, Slo-Mo video with 120 fps, a new FaceTime HD camera for better low-light performance


• Aluminium body with diamond cut chamfered edges, a 4-inch retina display and glass inlays


• 10 hours of talk time on 3G networks, up to 10 hours of web browsing on Wi-Fi and LTE networks and up to 8 hours on 3G networks, and up to 10 hours of video playback and up to 40 hours of audio playback


• iPhoto, iMovie, Pages, Numbers and Keynote apps available as free downloads with the purchase of iPhone 5S


• Suggested retail price of £549 for the 16GB model; £629 for the 32GB model and £709 for the 64GB model





By kateoflaherty, Sep 3 2013 09:11AM

The news that Nokia will be bought by Microsoft for $7.2bn signals the end of an era. But it's hardly a surprise; and it becomes part of much wider consolidation in a complex and sometimes fragmented mobile market consisting of multiple operating systems and manufacturers.


What is surprising is the speed of the market's transformation, which can be traced back just seven years. Hark back to 2006/2007; each manufacturer had carved out a niche. Consumers had a Motorola Razr in their back pocket; or a Nokia; Samsung and Sony Ericsson were making decent handsets. Businessmen had a BlackBerry.


Then came the iPhone in 2007. Smartphones to rival Apple's device came along and with them, multiple operating systems and new manufacturers. HTC stormed the market with Android devices, while emerging players such as Huawei and ZTE started making their mark.


And with this deluge of smartphones came multiple operating systems, the biggest revolution being Google's Android, which immediately became a cheaper and more flexible alternative to Apple's iOS. Samsung's share grew as it jumped on the Android bandwagon. Sony Ericsson trundled along until it was eventually bought out by Sony.


And where was Nokia in all this? Although it was still selling the most smartphones by volume until recently, it was quickly losing traction in the consumer space, focussing instead on emerging markets and churning out boring feature phones.


In 2011 came the news that Nokia and Microsoft - which was struggling for share itself in the mobile market - would partner. The phrase, "two turkeys don't make an eagle" was uttered by execs. Why didn't Nokia go with Android?, the industry asked. Google later bought Nokia's rival Motorola.


But despite criticism, slowly, the Microsoft/Nokia partnership was becoming a success. Just this week, it emerged that Nokia's Lumia smartphones had boosted Microsoft's share of the operating systems market to nearly 10% in Europe.


Then came the news of Nokia's sale; it was inevitable. And as consolidation happens fast, the mobile market is changing again. There is only room for a certain number of players, signalling that it's only a matter of time before Blackberry - and others - are bought, too.







By kateoflaherty, Apr 24 2013 11:05AM

When Apple revealed its first profit decline in a decade, the firm's share price had already plummeted. Investors are nervous, and it's no surprise.


Apple's closed strategy and lack of recent design innovation were sure to hit the firm eventually. With growing competition from Google and its open Android OS, Apple's bumper profits were always going to be difficult to maintain.


Apple's results beat analysts' expectations, at $9.5bn profit in the second quarter and $43.6bn in revenue. This compared to revenue of $39.2bn and net profit of $11.6bn in the same quarter a year ago.


But share price has halved since last September, when shares hit a high of $700, making Apple the most valuable company in the world. This compares to the period before yesterday's results, when shares plummeted to around $400.


Apple knows it needs to adjust. Yesterday, CEO Tim Cook announced the firm is adding $50bn to its share buyback programme and $8bn to its cash pile, bringing it to $145bn. He promised that despite shareholders' worries, "the most important aspect for Apple will be creating innovative products".


Rumours that Cook is to be replaced will be fuel to those who say the death of Apple's former CEO Steve Jobs was the catalyst for the firm's decline. Perhaps so, as Apple is guilty of a lack of innovation in recent times.


The iPhone 5 failed to replicate the popularity of its predecessors, with only minimal design changes and limited new features. At the same time, competitors such as Samsung have captured the interest of the consumer with alternatives such as the Android-powered Galaxy range.


It will also be interesting to see how things work out for Apple in the retail and operator space. The technology giant has always controlled these relationships - and the networks and retailers had no choice but to cooperate.


The mobile market is a rapidly evolving landscape, and demand for Apple products still remains alongside the late Steve Jobs' legacy. But Apple's walled strategy - led by Jobs - has played a part in its latest decline. Whether the firm now rises or falls will depend on its ability to adapt this strategy in the face of competition from rivals such as Google's Android.




By kateoflaherty, Nov 6 2012 10:45AM

Microsoft's newly-launched Windows Phone 8 might have a chance of gaining more share, but it is acres away from competing with Android just yet.


IDC figures show that in the third quarter of 2012, 3.6 million handsets were shipped running Microsoft's Windows Phone operating system (OS). This is a 140% increase on the same period last year but still way behind Android, which shipped a massive 136 million handsets during the same period.


Even so, IDC predicts Windows Phone could jump to third place in 2013, partly due to Blackberry OS' decline. The prediction only puts the Microsoft OS at 6.6%, compared with Android's current global share of 75%, but it seems Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has much bigger ideas.


According to IT Pro, Ballmer said at an event that he expects his newly-launched OS to become a big challenger in the market. This is partly due to the huge amounts of advertising that have been thrown at it and integration with the software giant's Windows 8 operating system.


The launch of Windows 8 last month saw Apple-like queues and to Microsoft's credit, it seems to be selling well. However, if Ballmer expects Windows Phone 8 to be just as successful, he is going to be disappointed.


Last week, Microsoft partner Nokia launched its Windows Phone 8 Lumia smartphones, after reporting an underlying loss for its third quarter in October. To date, phones running Windows Phone have been poor, with no 'killer' device to really raise the OS' profile. Its partnership with Nokia was largely a mistake for most parties, and HTC's Android smartphones hold far more appeal than their Windows Phone counterparts.


The figures speak for themselves. If Windows Phone is to mimic the success of Android it needs to be original, it needs to engage and encourage developers, it needs to be open.


Ballmer can throw marketing spend at the OS but what he really needs to do is inspire people. As Windows is often thought to be the standard for PCs, Android is closer to becoming that for smartphones. If Microsoft doesn't overhaul its attitude soon, its $1bn advertising spend could be a wasted investment.



By kateoflaherty, Sep 12 2012 07:58PM

Thinner, faster, lighter, the iPhone 5, as analyst CCS Insight puts it, broke all records with the "biggest ever launch despite a lack of surprises".


But perhaps the surprises will fall elsewhere. Much more interesting than the launch of a smartphone that is hardly game-changing is the 4G device's impact on the UK operator landscape.


Only yesterday, the imaginatively named EE brand launched its 4G network, much to the opposition of rival operators O2, Vodafone and Three.


According to The Telegraph, O2's customers have already received emails encouraging them to trade in their old handsets for an iPhone 5. Of course, unlike US consumers, or those on EE, they will be waiting a very long time for 4G.


For those in the UK who are looking to upgrade, choosing EE's shiny new LTE brand is a no-brainer. This depends on price of course but Everything Everywhere got itself a very good deal when it was given the green light by regulator Ofcom to roll out its super fast 4G network ahead of its rivals.


Once it was O2 that had iPhone exclusivity, which as a result gave it clear market leadership. EE is likely to take that crown because no matter how much we would like to deny it, Apple still controls the consumer landscape.


iPhone 5 features (and some great pictures at Pocket-lint.com)


• Taller screen - remote control style

• It's 18 per cent thinner and 20 per cent lighter at 112 grams total

• A 4-inch screen at 1136 x 640 resolution

• The A6 processor is twice as fast, Apple claims

• 4G is confirmed

• Battery not much improved. Apple says it "not only matches but exceeds 4S's battery life"

• New connector called "Lightning", which is 80 per cent smaller

• Camera is 25 per cent smaller, better features including a new low light mode

• New headphones, called "EarPods" (vomit)

• September 21 launch date


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