1.4B Smartphones In Use By 2013; Only 45M Windows Phone, 20M BB10 As Android, iOS Lead In ‘A Race Of Two Horses And Two Ponies’


ABI Research has put out its latest projections on the lay of the land for smartphones and tablets worldwide in 2013: it says that there will be 1.4 billion smartphones, and 268 million tablets in active use this year, with Android keeping its lead in handsets and iOS continuing to dominate in tablets. Microsoft and BlackBerry will continue to remain in the game in smartphones with small shares of the market — enough to keep developers interested. It won’t be a two-horse race, ABI tells me: “Maybe a race of two horses and two ponies.”

What’s different about ABI’s figures compared to, say, those of IDC, Strategy Analytics or Gartner, is that ABI focuses on the number of devices in active use, rather than the number of devices getting shipped for sale. And in that regard, ABI says that Microsoft’s Windows Phone and BlackBerry 10 will be small, but still competitive enough to stay in the game.

By the end of 2013, there will be 45 million Windows Phone devices, and 20 million BlackBerry 10 devices in use worldwide, ABI predicts These respectively work out to 3.2% and 1.4% shares of the market. That may sound like peanuts compared with Android’s 798 million handsets (57% share) or iOS’s 294 million devices (21% share). But this will continue to remain just enough to keep a critical mass of developers interested in the platform — significant because apps will continue to be one of the main drivers for why consumers buy phones, says ABI.

“The greatest fear for both Microsoft and BlackBerry is that the initial sales of their smartphones will disappoint and thereby kill off the developer interest, which then would effectively close the window of opportunity on further sales success,” writes Aapo Markkanen, ABI analyst. “Our view is that the installed bases of this scale would be large enough to keep these two in the game.”

This should come as mixed news to both Nokia (the dominant handset maker on the Windows Phone platform) and BlackBerry. It’s a sign of hope that things can turn around, but given the momentum of Android right now, it could be some time before those market shares move into double-digit percentages. That, in effect, means more hard work and investment keeping investors patient and developers interested over time.

“Based on our current shipment forecasts, we don’t see the installed base of either BB or WP reaching the double-digits within the next five years,” Markkanen told TechCrunch. “It’ll be a slow climb, since if they both stay in the game they’ll be kind of eating into each other’s success. It won’t be that much-touted two-horse race, but I wouldn’t necessarily call it a three- or four-horse race either. Maybe a race of two horses and two ponies.”

ABI has also put out some figures on how it sees the active user market in tablets in 2013.

While IDC earlier today noted that in tablets just over half of the devices shipped in the last quarter were iOS devices, and Android makers accounted for most of the rest, ABI’s figures indicate that the installed, active base continues to remain largely Apple’s to lose. iPad devices accounted for 62% of the market, or just over 166 million devices, and only 75 million Android tablets. There will be just 5.5 million Windows-powered tablets in use this year, it notes.

The window of opportunity for companies like Microsoft and BlackBerry to extend use of their platforms comes down to growth rates for smartphones and tablets. These will be 44% for handsets and 125% for tablets this year compared to 2012, ABI says.

Image: Flickr

TechCrunch » android

The BlackBerry Q10 Is A Curious Blend Of Old And New


You know, for a company that made its mark thanks to devices with physical QWERTY keyboards, BlackBerry really didn’t spend much time chatting about the Q10. It’s going to hit the street well after the all-touch Z10 does so it’s an understandable move, but I’ve heard many a person begrudgingly stick with an ailing BlackBerry because of its top-notch keyboard. Thankfully, I managed to corner a Q10 for a little hands-on time, and its keyboard is just as good as ever — the big question is, how’s the rest of it?

Looking at the Q10 is much like a catching a glimpse at familiar-looking stranger walking down the street — the broad strokes are similar, but many of the smaller touches are different and surprising. Take BlackBerry’s legendary keyboard, for instance. It doesn’t look entirely unlike the ones seen on recent BlackBerry 7 devices like the Bold 9900, and it retains the spacious layout and highly-satisfying click of the BlackBerrys of days past, but the familiar row of navigation and menu buttons have finally been put to rest. The volume rocker also looks like its been plucked off of a PlayBook too, which isn’t much of a surprise — the same could be said of the company’s Dev Alpha units.

The Q10 is actually quite a looker despite those borrowed bits. Its rear-end is buttery soft thanks to its glass-weave construction, and the end result is a carbon fiber-esque pattern that looks awfully familiar to the sort of things Motorola has been doing with its recent smartphones. And don’t worry you special little flower you, because the initially cagey BlackBerry rep on hand said that no two Q10 backs would look the same. It’s not the thinnest device I’ve ever seen at 10.3mm thick, but it’s surprisingly light and felt like it could take a few hits before giving up the ghost.

Sadly, the BlackBerry representatives on hand didn’t allow for much fiddling with the software (an effort to prevent people from monopolizing demo units for too long), but what I did see was very promising. Checking the hub, peeking at apps, and generally just zipping around the OS was smooth and unfettered, thanks in part to the Q10′s 1.5GHz dual-core processor and its 2GB of RAM. Darrell did a fine job deconstructing all of BlackBerry 10′s particulars in his Z10 review so I won’t rehash it all, but there was a distinct difference in feel between how gestures and navigation work on the two devices. Things are generally a bit more intuitive on the Z10′s expansive display, and having to reach over the keyboard to swipe around is a bit curious at first, but folks coming from touch-enabled devices like the Bold 9900 will already be used to that.

Overall, the Q10 is a surprisingly handsome device that seems well-equipped to handle the needs of existing BlackBerry fans who need more than just a touchscreen in their lives. Whether or not it’ll cause Android or iOS devotees to jump ship remains to be seen (though I highly doubt it), but that’s more of a quandary for BlackBerry 10 as a whole rather than the device on its own. Sadly, there’s no hard word on when you’ll be able to get a hold of one yourself: CEO Heins mentioned in a post-presser Q&A session that the device will likely hit store shelves in the U.S. and beyond some time in April.

TechCrunch » Gadgets

Yesterday Alicia Keys Was An iPhone Addict, Today She’s BlackBerry’s Global Creative Director


It wouldn’t be a BlackBerry press event without something totally unexpected and semi-weird thrown in the mix. Today, at BlackBerry’s media conference revealing BlackBerry 10, the company appointed Alicia Keys as the new Global Creative Director.

Her first act as GCD was to talk about how much she loves BlackBerry 10 at today’s media conference. Her other responsibilities are somewhat unclear — just like will.i.am’s role at Intel.

According to Keys, she’ll be working with app creators, designers, carriers, and more to make sure BlackBerry is the most efficient, cool and simple platform to be on. She proved just how “BlackBerry” she can be by wearing a tuxedo-type outfit, complete with black pants, black jacket, and white button down.

Keys was a long time BlackBerry user in the past, but jumped ship for “something sexier.” The way she explains it, she was carrying two phones for a while, “playing the field,” but now she’s exclusive in her relationship with BlackBerry.

If so, that exclusivity began today, as she was Instagramming photos from either an Android device or iPhone just yesterday. And she has been tweeting from Twitter for iPhone in the past week as well.

TechCrunch asked Alicia Keys directly which phone she used during her rough patch with BlackBerry and she declined to answer. “I don’t think it’s necessary to disclose which phone I used,” she said. “It was another phone.” It was clearly an iPhone.

For now, she seems pretty focused on combining your work phone with your play phone, which is something BB10 does very well. However, it’s unclear just how much Keys will bring to the company other than celeb status.

Hopefully, she’ll be able to refrain from Instagramming until the Facebook-owned app makes its way to BlackBerry. We’ll be keeping an eye on it in case she falters.


TechCrunch » Gadgets

With Hundreds Of Thousands Of Phones Collected, Device Recycler ecoATM Adds Tablets


According to Strategy Analytics, about 1.6 billion mobile phones were shipped in 2012, with 700 million of those being smartphones. That doesn’t even take tablets into account. Compass Intelligence estimates that 18 million new tablets were sold during the fourth quarter of 2012. Naturally, as waves upon waves of new smartphones and tablets hit stores, people need a way of disposing of their old, used devices.

Enter ecoATM, the Coinstar for your has-been mobile devices. For those unfamiliar, the San Diego-based startup is the maker of nifty ATM-like kiosks that fully automate the buy-back of used consumer electronics, giving you cash for your old iPod. We first caught wind of this innovative concept when it debuted at DEMO Spring 2011, promising to bring its self-serve recycling kiosks to a mall near you.

Since then, the startup has found plenty of eager adopters at retail outlets and has paid out “millions of dollars to hundreds of thousands of customers.” And, in the process, ecoATM Chairman and CEO Tom Tullie says it has saved landfills from hundreds of thousands of potentially toxic devices. To date, the startup has been able to “find a second life” for 60 percent of the devices it has collected, recycling the rest.

However, until now, ecoATM has only addressed a portion of the used device market, as its kiosks have been limited to accepting your cell phones, smartphones and MP3 players. But, today, with the tablet market in full bloom, the startup has expanded its support in kind, announcing that its kiosks will now be accepting used tablets of all stripes. Cash for clunky tablets. [Want to find the location of the nearest ecoATM, GPS yo self here.]

Now that a year has passed since ecoATM took home the Best Clean Tech Startup award at the Crunchies, we decided to check in with Ryan Kuder, the company’s marketing director, to hear more about the progress the startup has made over the last 12 months. Not surprisingly, Kuder tells us that 2012 was a year of dramatic growth for ecoATM and its kiosks, and the validation of winning a Crunchie “right at the beginning of that” definitely helped. (Wink.)

Since winning the award, ecoATM has gone from 50 kiosks to about 300 in 20 states. This year, he’s hoping to add another 600 or 700 kiosks, bringing the total to 1,000. And although ecoATM has focused on placing machines in malls, Kuder said, “Eventually, we’re going to run out of malls.” That’s why it’s also testing kiosks in supermarkets and other locations. (To fund that growth, ecoATM raised a $ 17 million round in the spring.)

But are people actually using the machines? Well, Kuder said people used ecoATM to recycle “hundreds of thousands of phones” last year, and with the company’s expansion plans, that number should go into the millions this year.

As the tablet announcement suggests, ecoATM is also expanding beyond phones into other categories of portable electronics, but Kuder said the company will be proceeding carefully: “You know, it’s important to do the things we do well.”

By the way, the Crunchies are tomorrow night at the Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco. You can buy tickets here.

TechCrunch » Gadgets

iOS 6.1 Adoption On Track To Be Fastest Yet Says Onswipe, With 22% Of Users On Board In 36 Hours


iOS 6.1 arrived just a couple of days ago, bringing little beyond support for new international LTE carriers and movie ticket purchasing via Siri in the U.S., but it’s already been installed on a significant percentage of active iPhones, iPads and iPod touches out there. Onswipe, creators of touch templates for web-based content, have seen adoption of iOS 6.1 rise quickly, from 11.35 percent within the first 24 hours, to 16.92 percent this morning, and up to an impressive 21.81 percent as of 3 PM ET today.

Onswipe is gathering data from over 13 million monthly active users on iOS, which itself represents considerable growth, a 3 million user climb from last month’s 10 million total active users. That means its numbers represent a pretty significant statistical pool to draw from to gather these results. Onswipe CEO Jason Baptiste explained in an interview that his company’s expanded reach is giving the company an even better idea of what’s happening with iOS adoption curves, and that this time around, people are upgrading faster than ever.

Consider that when Apple released its iOS 6 update, it took a week for 44.58 percent of users to get on board. iOS 6.1 is growing at a faster rate, and looks to be on track to top that should its momentum continue. Why? According to Baptiste, it’s likely due to the fact that Apple’s over-the-air update mechanism has been out in the wild for a while now (it’s been built-in to iOS since iOS 5 arrived in October, 2011), meaning users have had time to get comfortable with it and know more or less how the process works.

The fact that users are comfortable enough with the OTA update mechanism to upgrade almost immediately is great news for developers, both of native apps and of web-based mobile-friendly platforms like Onswipe’s since it means that they can create experiences that will be the same for a larger number of customers at once, without having to take into account different software versions with idiosyncratic quirks. Android, by comparison, has just 10 percent of users on Jelly Bean, which was released in July 2012, so it’s clear that Apple’s still way out ahead of the competition in terms of making sure developers don’t face a fragmentation issue.

TechCrunch » Gadgets