Sunday December 7, 2014 12:32 pm PST by Richard Padilla
Apple today debuted a new ad for the iPad Air 2 named "Change" which showcases the new tablet being used in a wide variety of professions and situations. The ad shows the tablet being used by artists, motorcycle enthusiasts, photographers, and schoolteachers as its full-screen visuals shrink to resemble the form of the device itself.
Wednesday November 26, 2014 9:13 am PST by Kelly Hodgkins
Since their September launch, Apple's iPhone 6 and 6 Plus have produced record-setting revenue and sales for Apple, but looking beyond financials, the handset also is radically changing the reading habits of those who own the large-sized devices, according to news-reading service Pocket.
Pocket recently analyzed 2 million article and video opens and examined the reading behavior of readers both before and after the launch of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. In particular, the study compared how iPhone and iPad usage changed after the recent iPhone launch.
According to the results, customers with an iPhone 5s and an iPad spent an equal amount of time with each device. As users adopted the iPhone 6, however, they spent considerably more time reading on their iPhones than on their iPads, with users choosing their iPhone over the iPad 72 percent of the time.
This trend was even greater among iPhone 6 Plus owners, who grabbed their iPhones 80 percent of the time when they wanted to read. The big screen of the iPhone 6 Plus also increased video watching by 40 percent.
Even before it was announced, analysts expected the larger-screened iPhone 6 and 6 Plus would cannibalize iPad sales, especially for the 7.9-inch iPad mini. Overall, iPad sales are on the decline, dropping as much as 12.7 percent year over year as the tablet market begins to slow.
Tuesday November 25, 2014 9:35 am PST by Mitchel Broussard
The worldwide tablet tablet market is expected to see a significant decline for 2014, according to reports from the International Data Corporation. The tablet market's year-over-year growth is expected to be 7.2% this year, down from 52.5% in 2013. According to the analysts, one of the central reasons for the market slowdown is the expectation that 2014 will be the first year Apple will see a decline in iPad shipments.
IDC expects Apple to ship 64.9 million iPads this calendar year, a decline of 12.7 percent from 2013. Capturing 67.7 percent market share and shipping 159.5 million devices, Google's Android operating system will continue to be the most popular OS for tablets.
Total tablet market shipments is projected to hit 235.7 million units shipped, yielding relatively small growth of 7.2 percent over 2013. As a comparison, shipments in the worldwide tablet market saw 52.5 percent growth from 2012 to 2013. IDC equates this slowdown in growth to the longer lifespan of tablets in the modern market.
"The tablet market continues to be impacted by a few major trends happening in relevant markets," said Ryan Reith, Program Director with IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Device Trackers. "In the early stages of the tablet market, device lifecycles were expected to resemble those of smartphones, with replacement occurring every 2-3 years. What has played out instead is that many tablet owners are holding onto their devices for more than 3 years and in some instances more than 4 years. We believe the two major drivers for longer than expected tablet life-cycles are legacy software support for older products, especially within iOS, and the increased use of smartphones for a variety of computing tasks."
IDC also points towards consumer hesitancy over Windows 8 tablets for such low market shares in the total tablet and 2-in-1, or detachable, product market, a space Microsoft largely owns at the moment. Microsoft will only see about 11 million tablet shipments this year, equating to less than 5% of the overall tablet market.
"We need to look at how the tablet ecosystem is answering these challenges, and right now we see a lot of pressure on tablet prices and an influx of entry-level products, which ultimately serves Android really well," said Jean Philippe Bouchard, Research Director for Tablets. "But we also see tablet manufacturers trying to offset this price pressure by focusing on larger screens and cellular-enabled tablets. The next six months should be really interesting."
Looking forward, IDC sees a few factors that could impact the worldwide tablet market, including the overall industry reaction to Windows 10, what Google does in the tablet space with Android and Chrome OS, and the yearly potential of even more products from Apple. But, according to IDC, "Despite all of these unknowns, it seems clear that consumers can be expected to hold onto tablets longer than smartphones."
Thursday November 20, 2014 6:49 am PST by Mitchel Broussard
Foxconn Technology Group has plans to spend NT$80 Billion, or $2.6 billion, over the course of the next two years on a new factory in Taiwan to produce displays exclusively for Apple, according to Bloomberg.
In a conversation with Sophia Chang, a public relations representative for Foxconn's display unit Innolux Corp., Chang stated that equipment installation will begin next month, although she would not confirm that Apple is the client for the facility. Following an urgent request for exclusive capacity, the mass production of panels is expected to begin by the end of 2015.
Chang also mentioned that the advanced sixth-generation display plant will be built at Innolux's Kaohsiung Science Park campus in Southern Taiwan. The forecast details that the funds for the plant will be spent over a two-year building period with the company planning to hire 2,300 employees to operate the facility.
Foxconn has been a longtime manufacturer of Apple's products, primarily handling final assembly of the devices. After attempting to partner with Sharp in 2012 to focus on advancing LCD technologies, Foxconn was rumored to be in talks to utilize the Japanese display manufacturer's technology in order to start producing iPhone and iPad displays.
The company struggled to meet high demand for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus when the two phones launched earlier this fall, sparking a large-scale hiring effort by Foxconn to meet production demands. Demand has been so high that Apple has reportedly tapped secondary manufacturer Pegatron to boost production on the iPhone 6, and perhaps even the iPhone 6 Plus, to help meet demand.
The new Taiwan plant announcement comes as Foxconn has reportedly been in discussions for a $5.7 billion display factory in Zhengzhou, China. Foxconn has been angling to become a larger player in the display market, seeking to win orders for iPhone and iPad displays and avoiding the sourcing of those parts from vendors like Samsung, LG Display, Sharp, and Japan Display.
Wednesday November 19, 2014 7:31 am PST by Mitchel Broussard
The previously announced SteelSeries Stratus XL has officially launched today on the Apple Store. Following in the footsteps of the original Stratus controller, the beefed-up Stratus XL provides a larger frame that gives it some parity to console controllers in terms of relative size and button layout.
The Stratus XL connects to an iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch using a wireless Bluetooth connection, and the large design fits all of the expected control inputs: two joysticks, a pressure-sensitive directional pad, four action buttons, and four shoulder buttons that include two analog trigger buttons.
Our sister site TouchArcade got a hands-on with the controller at E3 this past summer, and found the new device favorable over the diminutive size of the original Stratus. They noted, "Instead of curling your hands around the tiny SteelSeries Stratus, holding the SteelSeries Stratus XL is more similar to having an Xbox 360 or Xbox One controller in your hands."
The Stratus XL uses AA batteries instead of a rechargeable battery pack. SteelSeries says the batteries should last for 40+ hours of playtime, and a switch on the back of the device should help users prevent heavy drainage of the batteries when not in use.
The SteelSeries Stratus XL can be purchased now from the Apple Store for $69.95, which is about $10 over the price tag of the PS4 DualShock 4 and the Xbox One Wireless Controller. The Stratus XL will be available for direct purchase from the SteelSeries official website, and for hands-on demos at select Apple Stores, on December 6.
Tuesday November 18, 2014 6:57 am PST by Mitchel Broussard
Vainglory, showcased as one of the examples of the capabilities of the iPhone 6 back in September, is now available for download. Developer Super Evil Megacorp announced today that the game can be downloaded on the App Store in North America, South America, the Middle East, and Africa, with a European launch coming this Thursday. Japan, China, and Korea are promised to closely follow. The game actually launched unexpectedly early, with some users able to download the app yesterday afternoon.
Vainglory is a MOBA (Massively Online Battle Arena) that puts players in teams of three, each team fighting to destroy a crystal at the opponent's home base in "fast-paced, 20 minute online multiplayer matches." Mobile MOBAs are nothing new, with games like Fates Forever and a handful of others finding success in taking the PC-centric sub-genre and grafting it onto a mobile phone touchscreen.
“Vainglory is not about casualizing a core genre or making a direct port of an existing game,” said Stephan Sherman, Chief Creative Officer of Super Evil Megacorp. “To make Vainglory, we started from scratch to create that core MOBA experience — the highs and the lows, the build-up of anticipation, the sweet victory or bitter defeat. We want you to feel how it feels to play a core game — with the immediacy of touch.
“Vainglory opens up a whole new world of experiences in touch-screen gaming by playing together with friends in the same room, as a LAN party. While queuing up solo for online multiplayer games is fun and rewarding, the intensity of team play with friends around the table is incredible. Plus, trash talk. It’s like the LAN parties of old — except no heavy PC equipment required.”
The game is free-to-play, with certain characters available to everyone at specific time intervals. Users can use in-game cash accrued through gameplay to unlock new classes, or opt to pay real-world money for those classes if impatient. Notably, however, users can't use real money to purchase character perks and upgrades or one-time-use in-game bonuses.
Vainglory's biggest advantage is its positioning as the killer app of the moment for Apple's newest iPhone, much like Infinity Blade III was for the iPhone 5s and even the original Infinity Blade was for the iPhone 4. Though it's touted for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, the game can be played on the iPhone 5s as well. iPad options include the iPad Air, iPad mini with Retina Display, iPad with Retina Display, and iPad Air 2.
Wednesday November 12, 2014 8:13 am PST by Mitchel Broussard
New details have come to light regarding the iPad Air 2's graphics processing power since its launch last month, with a new report from AnandTech revealing the new tablet's graphics are even more powerful than previously thought.
Benchmarks and teardowns on the tablet revealed details on the inner workings of the iPad Air 2 in the days following its launch, but a new image of the A8X die provided to AnandTech reveals the layout of the Apple-designed chip. The die photo shows the A8X includes eight-core graphics, even larger than the 6-core GX6650 graphics from Imagination Technologies previously assumed to be in the chip.
To get right down to business then, the die shot confirms what we had begun suspecting: that A8X has an 8 cluster Series6XT configuration. All 8 GPU clusters are clearly visible, and perhaps unsurprisingly it looks a lot like the GPU layout of the GX6450. To put it in words, imagine A8’s GX6450 with another GX6450 placed right above it, and that would be the A8X’s 8 cluster GPU.
AnandTech was unable to share the source's actual image of the die, but Chipworks has just provided MacRumors with a similar image showing the eight graphics cores taking up a substantial portion of the A8X's die. The photo also shows the new triple-core CPU and a number of other features included on the chip.
Uncertainty over the A8X graphics stems from Imagination's public list of Series6XT graphics offerings, which tops out with the 6-core GX6650, but the new die photo reveals that Apple has employed a semi-custom design essentially pairing two quad-core packages on the chip to yield eight-core graphics.
Thanks to its licensing agreements with Imagination, Apple is free to modify the GPU designs developed by the graphics company, and Apple's position as a key investor in Imagination almost certainly gives it advance access to Imagination's pipeline, allowing such custom designs to be launched just nine months after Series6XT was announced.
Other gathered information includes details about the A8X's size and design. The die shot places the A8X at roughly 128mm2, only a bit larger than the 123 mm2 A6X used the last time Apple developed a custom "X" chip for the iPad. Compared to other models on the market, the A8X is a bit larger than NVIDIA’s 118mm2 GK107 GPU but also smaller than Intel’s 130mm2 2C+GT2 Haswell CPU. Design-wise, the A8X otherwise appears to have not drastically changed much from the A8, besides slight tweaks to make the eight-cluster design functional and the addition of a third CPU core.
Just yesterday, Imagination announced its next-generation Series7XT designs, and given the timing of this year's announcements and releases, the new graphics are likely to make their way into Apple's A9-series chips for inclusion in its 2015 iOS devices.
In Q3 2014, iOS device activations in the enterprise sector grew two percentage points, expanding from 67 to 69 percent. Android, concomitantly, slipped 2 percent, accounting for 29 percent of net device activations. Windows Phone remained a very distant third with only 1 percent of activations, a figure that has remained flat for the past six quarters.
Much of Apple's quarterly gain can be attributed to the launch of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, which caused a surge in iOS device activations in September.
Good Technology says “The release of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus accounted for all of this gain.” More specifically, iOS was down to 66 percent of activations in July and August, but comprised 73 percent of September activations thanks to sales of the new devices.
In the tablet enterprise market, Apple also remained the dominant tablet manufacturer with its iPad models, but faced an increasing challenge from Android tablets. In the just-ended quarter, Android increased its market share, climbing slightly to grab 11 percent of tablet device activations as compared to the iPad's 89 percent share.
Apple increasingly has been focused on the mobile enterprise market, updating its enterprise-level mobile device management tools earlier this year and recently partnering with IBM to develop new business apps and services for Apple's iOS devices. As part of the Apple-IBM collaboration, IBM will provide iOS-optimized cloud services, develop industry-specific apps, and begin selling iOS devices to its corporate clients.
Thursday October 30, 2014 8:51 am PDT by Kelly Hodgkins
Apple continues to rank among the world's top tablet manufacturers both in customer satisfaction and shipments, according to reports released today by J.D Power and IDC, although the company is showing some signs of weakness as lower-cost competitors gain momentum and consumers look for more innovation in Apple's tablet lineup. Apple fell slightly behind Amazon in J.D. Power's semiannual customer satisfaction survey, while the company's lead in worldwide tablet shipping volume continues to shrink.
Worldwide tablet shipments in 3Q14 in millions of units (Source: IDC)
According to IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Tablet Tracker, Apple remains the global tablet market leader, despite a 12.8 percent decline in quarterly shipments year-over-year. Apple shipped 12.3 million units in Q3 2014, edging out both Samsung, which shipped 9.9 million units, and coming in well ahead of Asus, which climbed to the number three spot with 3.5 million units shipped.
Apple's iPad shipments (red) and share of worldwide tablet shipments (blue) for 2Q11–3Q14 (Source: IDC)
Apple's market share is projected to increase in Q4 2014 due to the introduction of the iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3, but the jump will likely be tempered as more consumers hold onto their existing tablets for a longer period. IDC also predicts iPad shipments will continue to be eclipsed by the popularity of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.
"Although the low-cost vendors are moving a lot of volume, the top vendors, like Apple, continue to rake in the dollars," said Jitesh Ubrani, Senior Research Analyst, Worldwide Quarterly Tablet Tracker. "A sub-$100 tablet simply isn't sustainable—Apple knows this—and it's likely the reason they aren't concerned with market share erosion."
While Apple remains first in market share, the company lost its number one spot in the latest J.D. Power tablet satisfaction study. Apple scored 824, taking the number two slot behind Amazon and its inexpensive line of Fire tablets. Samsung took the third slot, trailing the two market leaders with a score of 821. J.D. Power measures satisfaction on a 1,000-point scale using five criteria which include performance, ease of operation, feature set, styling/design and cost.
J.D. Power 2014 U.S. Tablet Satisfaction Study—Volume 2
Apple had reclaimed the top spot in J.D. Power's survey earlier this year after losing it to Samsung in the late 2013 rankings.
Apple now is offering its most expansive phone and tablet lineup to date, selling both older iPhone and iPad models, along with the new 4.7-inch iPhone 6, the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus, the Touch ID-enabled iPad mini 3 and the slimmer and faster iPad Air 2. Apple's ecosystem will expand again with the early 2015 debut of the Apple Watch, the company's first entry into the exploding wearables market.
Wednesday October 29, 2014 8:03 am PDT by Kelly Hodgkins
Apple had the consumer in mind when it added a multi-carrier SIM card to its new iPads, said Apple vice president of iPhone, iPod and iOS product marketing Greg Joswiak in a recent Re/code interview (via Fierce Wireless). But that motivation does not mean the Apple SIM will be making its way to the iPhone any time soon, as Joswiak noted most consumers go directly to their carriers to buy iPhones, while the iPad more often is sold through Apple's retail channels.
"It's about the customer experience," he said during an appearance here at Re/code's Code/Mobile conference. "We ultimately don't know who you are going to use as the carrier, [and] we want to make it as easy as possible."
Joswiak said Apple has not discussed putting the Apple SIM into iPhones, but said that because of the way most customers buy an iPhone--through a carrier directly--the Apple SIM is not as well suited. "I don't think you're going to go to the Verizon store and say, 'Can you hook me up with AT&T?,'" he said.
With most iPhone customers committed to their carriers for a significant period of time, either through contracts subsidizing the phone cost or through payment plans, multi-carrier SIM cards make less sense for iPhones.
Apple's new universal SIM in theory allows customers to activate with one carrier and then switch to another carrier as needed, but there are some limitations. The Apple SIM is currently only compatible with AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint and UK carrier EE. Verizon confirmed that is not adopting Apple's new SIM, instead requiring customers to activate with a Verizon-specific SIM.
In addition, while AT&T is listed as a compatible carrier, the provider is not fully supporting all the features of the SIM. Apple and AT&T have confirmed the carrier is not allowing its customers to switch once the Apple SIM has been activated on AT&T's network, instead opting to lock the SIM to its network following activation. Customers who activate service on AT&T will thus have to purchase a new SIM if they want to use their tablet with another carrier.
Apple introduced the new iPad Air 2 and Retina iPad mini 3 earlier this month with sales beginning last week. Both tablets feature a universal SIM, Touch ID, and storage options of 16, 64 and 128GB. The iPad Air 2 also includes a new A8X processor, antireflective display and 2GB of RAM. The iPad Air 2 retails at a starting price of $499, while the iPad mini 3 costs $399 for the base model.
Tuesday October 28, 2014 7:52 am PDT by Eric Slivka
As it always does with Apple's major new iOS devices, research firm IHS iSuppli has torn down the new iPad Air 2 in an attempt to estimate Apple's component costs for the device (via Re/code). According to IHS iSuppli's estimates, the 16 GB iPad Air 2 costs Apple roughly $275 to build, just one dollar more than last year's iPad Air.
The report unsurprisingly points out that Apple benefits from stronger profit margins as users move to higher capacity models, with Apple paying only about $50 more for 128 GB of storage compared to the base 16 GB configuration while charging users $200 for the upgrade. Still, Apple's move to eliminate the 32 GB option and slide the 64 GB and 128 GB models down $100 has slightly eroded Apple's profit margins at the top end.
The latest report from the research firm IHS, due later today and shared exclusively with Re/code, shows that the base model of the iPad Air 2, the 16-GB Wi-Fi version, which sells for a price of $499, costs $275 to build, exactly one dollar higher than the previous base model. The top-end model, the 128-GB LTE version costs which sells for $829 costs $358.
Apple’s implied profit margin on the iPad Air 2 has dropped slightly to a range for 45 percent to 57 percent depending on the device, compared with the original at 45 percent to 61 percent.
Many of the components have remained the same between the iPad Air and the iPad Air 2, with Apple's use of essentially the same display unit allowing the company to reduce costs of that component from $90 to $77. But with Apple's move to bond the display to the device's cover glass and the addition of a new antireflective coating, the same display offers a significantly better user experience.
Other changes include the move to a powerful new A8X chip currently unique to the iPad Air 2, and improved cameras that have resulted in slightly higher component costs.
As always, it is important to note the estimates from IHS iSuppli cover only the cost of the individual components that make up the device and do not include other costs involved in product development, manufacturing, and sales, such as research and development, software, patent licenses, marketing, and distribution expenditures. All of these costs contribute to significantly reduce Apple's true profit margin from the levels cited by IHS, but the basic component cost remains an interesting glimpse at how Apple brings everything together to consistently hit its retail pricing goals.
Monday October 27, 2014 7:32 am PDT by Eric Slivka
With the iPad Air 2, one of Apple's main selling points has been the improved display, which includes a new bonded construction that eliminates the air gap between the display and the cover glass, as well as a new antireflective coating to reduce glare in situations with high ambient light.
Ray Soneira of DisplayMate Technologies has now put the new display to the test, finding that the antireflective coating is indeed a significant improvement for the iPad and a major step above competing tablets, but in overall performance competitors are still doing better than the iPad. Apple receives only minimal credit for the bonded display, as it is mainly catching up with competitors on that aspect.
A major innovation for the iPad Air 2 (that is not fully appreciated) is an anti-reflection coating on the cover glass that reduces ambient light reflections by about 3:1 over most other Tablets and Smartphones (including the previous iPads), and about 2:1 over all of the very best competing Tablets and Smartphones (including the new iPhone 6). [...]
However, other than the new anti-reflection coating and bonded cover glass, the display on the iPad Air 2 is essentially unchanged and identical in performance to the iPad 4 introduced in 2012, and is actually slightly lower in performance than the original iPad Air (for example 8% lower Brightness and 16% lower display Power Efficiency) – most likely the result of an obsession with producing a thinner Tablet forcing compromises in the LCD backlight.
With competitors such as Samsung, Amazon, and Microsoft offering better color accuracy, viewing angles, and power efficiency, Soneira finds the improvements in the iPad Air 2 insufficient to move the device to the top of his tablet display rankings, and the Samsung Galaxy Tab S retains its number one position.
Moving on to the iPad mini 3, Soneira unsurprisingly finds that the display is unchanged from the one used in the previous generation, unsurprising given that Apple kept the specs of the iPad mini identical with the exception of the Touch ID home button and a gold color option. Soneira notes the unchanged display is a "major disappointment", as the iPad mini 2's display has been rated poorly for color gamut and accuracy.
In 2013 the mini was given a Retina display, but remained with a reduced 62 percent Color Gamut – the only current iPad or iPhone without a full Color Gamut. Now, in 2014 the new iPad mini 3 still only has a 62 percent Color Gamut, plus it was denied the new enhanced anti-reflection coating and bonded cover glass of the iPad Air 2.
Soneira again points to competitors offering higher-quality displays on their tablets, concluding that the iPad mini 3 is "embarrassingly mediocre and way overpriced" considering its $399 starting price tag and significantly poorer display performance compared to both competitors and the iPad Air 2.
Full details on Soneira's testing of the new displays are available in his extensive report.
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