Two and a half years ago Bitlock set out to crowdfund a smart bike lock at a time when hype around connected devices was surging and goodwill in crowdfunding platforms was buoyant. Since then both categories have taken some confidence knocks and served up disappointments aplenty. So what happened? Did Bitlock ship, and if so, did its smart device live up to expectations? What problems did it… Read More
A new tipping point in the world of tablets: today the analysts at Gartner have released their tablet sales numbers for 2013, and Android has topped the list for the most popular platform for the first time, outselling Apple’s range of iPad tablets nearly twofold. Of the 195 million tablets sold in 2013, Android took nearly 62% of sales on 121 million tablets, while Apple sold 70 million iPad… Read More
TechCrunch » Android
2013 has been dubbed the year of Android by Strategy Analytics, which has just put out its smartphone OS shipment figures for the year. This follows a mobile device-maker centric report it put out yesterday.
Google’s Android platform accounted for 79% of global smartphone OS shipments in the year, according to the latest Strategy Analytics estimates. It reckons a record 781.2 million smartphones shipped globally running Google’s mobile OS, out of a total of 990 million smartphones.
(Another analyst, IDC, put out its own smartphone market figures yesterday – in which it had global smartphone shipments just pushing past the billion mark in 2013. Either way, plus or minus 10M, it’s a whole lot of smartphones.)
Despite Android breaking its record for shipments last year, the platform is not quite the powerhouse engine of growth it has been, with some slowing down evident in the data.
Strategy Analytics notes that 2013 saw Google’s mobile platform grow at its lowest rate yet — which it pegs at 62%. It’s also expecting further slowing down for the platform this year.
“We expect Android’s growth to slow further in 2014 due to market saturation, and rivals like Microsoft or Firefox will be ready to pounce on any signs of a major slowdown for Android this year,” said Neil Mawston, Executive Director, in a statement.
Fierce competition in the smartphone space has taken its toll on a range of mobile device and platform makers, over the years (from Palm to Nokia to BlackBerry, to name a few). And, returning to Android, after such a long run of growth, it was inevitable the road for further platform expansion on smartphones would start to narrow.
Slowing growth on the Android platform may go some way towards explaining one of Google’s current projects aimed at raising the standard of lower cost Androids via its Motorola device making division — and the likes of the Moto G handset: a relatively cheaply priced device that has a feature set that punches above its price-tag, and is clearly aiming to outshine the budget Windows Phone competition.
It also explains Google seeking to push Android into other areas — like cars — and indeed, expanding its wider business in new directions via various acquisitions (such as Internet of Things company Nest; robotics company Boston Dynamics; and AI builder DeepMind, to name a few recent purchases).
Still, returning to the smartphone market, Android remains head and shoulders above the competition — and Google remains the mobile kingpin by reach.
Apple’s iOS shipped 153.4 million devices in 2013 — taking a 16% marketshare. This is a sizeable drop on the 19% marketshare Strategy Analytics recorded for iOS back in 2012 (although it’s worth noting that the number of smartphones being shipped globally has increased, year-on-year, so a platform maker can still grow units shipped yet shrink in overall marketshare — as is the case with Apple).
Strategy Analytics said iOS grew a “sluggish” 13% annually during 2013 — although it also notes Cupertino saw “record volumes”. The iPhone 5c not performing as well as expected is cited as one reason for what it characterises as “sharply slowing” growth on Apple’s platform.
As for third place, the analyst says Microsoft’s Windows Phone platform is now “firmly established” as the smartphone industry’s bronze-coloured third major ecosystem.
The Windows Phone platform shipped 35.7 million units worldwide in 2013 – giving it a 4% marketshare last year. (NB: Out of those 35.7 million Windows Phones, 30 million were Nokia Lumia devices – underlining exactly why Microsoft is buying Nokia’s mobile making division: Nokia’s phone business is the Windows Phone business).
Despite establishing Windows Phone at the back of the smartphone platform leadership pack, Microsoft still has its work cut out to keep building momentum, says the analyst.
“The Windows Phone platform is still struggling to gain traction in the low-tier and premium-tier smartphone categories and they remain serious weaknesses that Microsoft will need to address in 2014,” noted Linda Sui, Senior Analyst, in a statement.
As for the rest — aka BlackBerry OS, Firefox OS, and the even littler guys such as Jolla with its Sailfish OS — last year these platforms collectively accounted for just 2% marketshare globally, and just 19.8 million units shipped.
Still, that’s well within touching distance of the industry’s third placed ecosystem, Windows Phone. So there’s plenty to play for when it comes to taking home the bronze. Microsoft’s new CEO better make sure to keep looking over his or her shoulder — as well as pushing to close the gap with iOS.
But it was also a time for gadgets. As we wait for 2013 to come to a close and hope for brighter things for the year to come, here’s a look at the gadgets we loved, the ones we hated, and the ones that we found aesthetically offensive.
The Fitbit Force
Fitness trackers are many and varied, but Fitbit consistently delivers top-notch hardware. The Fitbit Force is the latest. It takes the successful formula of the wrist-borne Fitbit Flex and adds a basic screen so you can get information right from your wrist, instead of having to open an app on your phone every time you want to check your progress (in more detail than via a few lighted dots).
Many tried to make a smartwatch people wanted to wear and use this year, and many failed. Pebble succeeded. Success for a smartwatch still doesn’t look like massive millions of units sold, but it looks better than when the Pebble team tried this a few years ago with the inPulse smartwatch for BlackBerry. “The what?” you say. Exactly.
iPad mini with Retina Display
The iPad mini with Retina display takes the winning form factor of the original iPad mini and slaps a super high-res screen in there. It’s essentially a no-compromise machine, in that it’s cheaper than the iPad Air, and has the same processor, computing power and battery life. Plus if you have big pockets, it’s pocketable.
Kids need coding skills if they want to survive in our dystopian future. The ability to hack a circuit board could be the difference between eternal servitude and mastery over a private robot army by 2050 and we all know it. This educational tool is the perfect, cheap apocalypse survival kit. It’s technically from last year, but we contend it had more impact this year when production really spooled up.
Amazon knows when it’s got a good thing going. Last year’s Kindle Paperwhite was a good thing, and this year’s update keeps all the good and adds some better stuff. Like faster page refresh, greater text/page contrast and more even lighting.
Samsung Galaxy Gear
Pebble made a good smartwatch, and Samsung made a dumb one. They made weird ads to try to promote their dumb smartwatch, too, which helped nothing and creeped out the entire world. Plus it only works with a small pool of Galaxy devices, and it has terrible battery life and looks awful. Go home Samsung, you’re drunk.
“Android-based game console” is a phrase we wrote so many times this year. So. Many. Times. And it turns out, they mostly blow. Atop the pile of those that miss is the Gamestick, a crowdfunded disaster that no one loves.
The Ouya is like the Gamestick, in that it was a disappointing “Android-based game console,” but to its credit, it isn’t the Gamestick. It’s still not great by any stretch of the imagination, but huge hype didn’t help, and it has decent niche appeal for anyone who really likes emulation and would rather have something permanent instead of plugging their phone into their TV repeatedly.
Speaking of startup gadgets that really blew it in 2013, the Leap Motion Controller doesn’t live up to its massive hype at all. Sure, if you’re a billionaire inventor like Tony Stark or Elon Musk it’s great for designing space ships or giant death airships, but for regular people, trying to, say, browse the web, you’re going to try this once, hate it and stick it in a drawer.
CTA Digital iPotty
Kids need to learn to use the toilet, and they should learn early that they also need to use iPads while they’re doing their business. So why not combine potty training and tablet use into a single device? The answer is that you shouldn’t do this because God will never forgive you if you do.
Maybe face-based computing is going to work eventually, but as-is, Google Glass looks like garbage. It makes your face look bad. Don’t try denying it. Google has released plenty of images of models wearing it and none of them look any good, so you with your normal-person face will look plain ol’ stupid.
The LG G2 is a great phone, as it is essentially a slightly improved version of the excellent Nexus 5, albeit with some LG bloatware crud. But LG went out of its mind and put the wake/sleep and volume rocker button on the back, just to infuriate me to the point where I would like to do murder. You couldn’t choose a less ergonomic place to put that button, LG. Not if you ran a thousand focus groups to figure out more inconvenient positioning.
I ain’t mad at you for dropping one of the ‘D’s Nintendo – you never needed three to begin with. And this device is actually pretty great, and I’d buy this instead of a 3DS if I didn’t already have one. Still, it’s not good-looking. It is, in fact, ugly. Good looks cost money, though, so uglification for a budget device may be strategy, not a stupid mistake.
Apple’s new Mac Pro is a sight to behold: In black aluminum with an eye-catching cylindrical design, there’s little chance you’ll ever mistake it for any other computer. The previous Mac Pro was iconic too, of course, but this one is also just slightly larger than a football and dimpled on the top with a recess like a jet engine. But the true power lies under the hood, and what’s contained therein will satisfy even the most pressing need for speed.
Basics (as reviewed)
- 3.7 GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon E5 processor
- 16GB 1897 MHz DDR3 RAM
- Dual AMD FirePro D300 graphics cards with 2GB of RAM each
- 256GB SSD
- 6 Thunderbolt 2.0 Ports, 4 USB 3.0
- 802.11ac + Bluetooth 4.0
- MSRP: $ 2,999
- Product info page
- No faster Mac exists under the sun.
- It’s like having an exhibit from an industrial design museum in your house.
- It’s super expensive.
- Bring your own screen/everything.
Few would argue that Apple’s design for the Mac Pro isn’t unique. It’s been compared to Darth Vader’s iconic look from the original Star Wars movies, and in a less flattering light, called the “trash can” Mac. But when you actually have one sitting on your desk, it’s a very different story. The aluminum surface is cool to the touch, reflective without being shiny, and – somehow – astoundingly reassuring.
Mac Pro With Case
The Mac Pro Without Case
Mac Pro Without Case
Mac Pro SSD
Mac Pro Case
Mac Pro Vs. Mac Mini
Mac Pro Ports
Mac Pro Rear Panel
Mac Pro Rear
Mac Pro Vents
It’s the modern monolith of desktop computing, and indeed it does harken forward to a future age where the amazing engineering contained within is required for your everyday computing needs.
As it stands, of course, the computer housed within that sleek black shell will obliterate any task thrown at it by all but the most extreme and demanding of professionals. Apple might not be as fond of the so-called ‘moonshot’ as competitors like Google, but it gives great immediate futurism with the Mac Pro in terms of both design and performance.
The modularity of the new Mac Pro is not the same as it was with the older versions. You won’t be swapping 3.5mm HDDs out of bays, for instance. But the outer shell slides off easily once you’ve unlocked it, and you get full access to the RAM bays (upgradeable to a maximum of 64GB via four 16GB modules), as well as to the SSD units (which, while Apple-specific, are upgradeable too) and the GPUs (also theoretically replaceable with future Apple-specific hardware). But the real modularity comes via the external I/O: Thunderbolt 2 can theoretically display 4K video while simultaneously transferring it thanks to a unified 20 Gbit/s throughput rate, and there are six ports on the back, combined with four for USB 3.0.
This, combined with the unique thermal core Apple has created, makes for an incredibly small, quiet professional workstation machine. In testing, I couldn’t hear it unless I put my ear up close, and even then it’s a relatively quiet hum, not even close to the fracas my Retina MacBook Pro makes when it’s doing heavy lifting. It breathes a light exhaust of air through the top, too, which is actually a nice refresher if you’ve been slaving away in Final Cut Pro all day.
For the layperson or everyday computer user, the new Mac Pro will seem like a thought-based computer, where virtually every input action you can think of results in immediate response. Whether it’s the Xeon processor or the super-fast PCIe-based SSD or those dual workstation GPUs, everything seems slightly but impossibly faster than on any other Mac, even the most recent iMac and Retina MacBook Pros. To be honest, it’ll be hard to go back even for everyday tasks like browsing the web and importing pics to iPhoto.
But that’s not what the Mac Pro is for: It’s a professional machine designed to help filmmakers create elaborate graphics, 3D animations and feature-length films. It’s aimed at the most demanding photographers, working in extreme resolutions and doing batch processing on huge files. It’s for audio producers, creating the next hit album using Logic Pro X and low latency, high bandwidth I/O external devices.
For me, Final Cut Pro was bound to be the wrench that would otherwise throw my existing Mac setup some trouble. On the Mac Pro, FCP X ran like a dream, rendering and publishing in the blink of an eye. I had to pinch myself to prove that I wasn’t dreaming after it took fewer than 10 seconds to render and publish the final edit of a 1080p video a little over two minutes long. And again, nary a peep from the Mac Pro itself.
For the super nerdy, you can check out the Geekbench scores of the new Mac Pro we tested here and here. Remember, this is the baseline, entry-level version without any customization options, so it’s the bottom of what you can expect in terms of performance.
The Mac Pro has some unique abilities that you won’t find in any other Mac, including the ability to power up to six Thunderbolt displays at once. I ran two Thunderbolt Displays plus a 21-inch iMac, as well as a Wacom 13HD through the HDMI port, and Apple’s premium machine didn’t even break a sweat. This is definitely the computer for the video producer who wants to be able to monitor output in real time while working on some raw video at the same time, or the information addict who feels they just aren’t getting enough with the two or three displays that represent the maximum possible output with a MacBook Pro or iMac.
Another great feature is the upgradeability, which ensures that, as futuristic and ahead-of-the-curve as this Mac already is, it’ll be even more future-proof thanks to the ability to swap out components down the road. Apple hasn’t revealed any details about later upgrade kits, but it’s reasonable to expect that RAM, SSDs and even GPUs will be available for those who feel they need even more out of their maxi Mac.
One final subtle but very nice feature is the auto-illumination of the ports that happens when you move the Mac tower itself. It’s extremely useful for helping you plug the right device into the right port when you’re looking to add new devices, and likewise when you’re looking to unplug something. This kind of attention to detail only reinforces that if you have $ 3K to spend on a Mac, your money’s in good hands with Apple.
The Mac Pro is almost absurd in terms of its abilities. It’ll blow away any ordinary computer user, including one with even slightly advanced demands like myself (occasional video editing, plenty of Photoshop, some digital graphics and podcast production). But in reality, my Retina MacBook Pro wasn’t straining under the demand of my needs, either – the Mac Pro merely makes it all seem effortless.
That said, it’s rare that a computer is an investment; mostly these days, you buy one with the expectation that you’ll probably need another in two years’ time. The Mac Pro, somewhat like the iPhone 5s, is designed with the future in mind, so that video producers who aren’t working on 4K but will be expected to in a few years don’t have to reinvest.
For anyone who’s been looking forward to a replacement for their aging gray tower Mac Pro, and for anyone who has the money and is willing to spend it, the Mac Pro is a no-brainer, but for the rest of us, we needn’t reach quite so high to touch the sky when it comes to Apple’s line of OS X hardware.