Leaked Memo Says Apple Will Push Retail Store Shoppers Online

apple-watch-event0395 Apple might be implementing retail changes that discourage the kind of hype-building launch day lines that get headlines with each new device that goes on sale, according to a new memo reportedly from Apple retail chief Angela Ahrendts shared with retail store employees and obtained by Business Insider. At least for Apple Watch and the new MacBook, Ahrendts is directly store staff to push… Read More

TechCrunch » Gadgets

iOS Platform Of Choice For Shoppers, All But Biggest Companies Focus On iOS And Android

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Apple retains the top spot when it comes for uses making actual purchases on their mobile devices, according to a new Forrester report. iOS shoppers are around 30 percent more likely to make a purchase on their device, and about 15 percent more likely to do product research on their smartphones and tablets than Android users, the survey of 58,000 U.S. respondents found.

But despite the discrepancy, companies are still targeting both platforms en masse. The survey also found that 99 percent of ebusiness professionals surveyed during the study intended to launch either a native or hybrid iOS app by the end of 2013, and 96 percent were also targeting the same for Android. Beyond Goole and Apple, however, there’s a very steep drop off in interest, and only larger companies with big budgets are really looking further afield at companies and platforms like BlackBerry and Windows Mobile.

That’s because around 41 percent of ebusiness pros have only $ 500,000 or less to spend on their mobile budgets, and 56 percent have less than $ 1 million. That money can only go so far, and still pales in comparison to general marketing budgets, and even budgets devoted to general web-facing property. This alone is a prime reason why cross-platform solutions will continue to succeed, even as developers debate the merits of cross-platform technologies like HTML5 vs. native tools.

And while the market appears unified between Apple and Google, that actually belies a fair amount of fragmentation that occupies sufficient developer time and resources within those two larger camps, Forrester points out. Developing for either iOS or Android is a much more resource-intensive affair than it once was, despite efforts made by both companies to encourage users to upgrade and to make it easier to build software compatible across OS versions and device particulars.

In some ways, fragmentation is actually a boon to both Apple and Google in terms of helping them maintain their platform advantage. The more resources developers have to devote to catering to those top two platforms, the fewer they have available to spread out on a third or fourth horse, to the continued detriment of smaller players like BlackBerry and Microsoft. It’s easy to paint fragmentation as a problem, and in terms of developer time and spend, it definitely is, but holding on to the market lead may be an unintended consequence for the mobile top dogs.


TechCrunch » android

Research: UK Smartphone Penetration Hits 58%, Tablets At 19%. Brits A Nation Of Online Shoppers: £1,000+ Now Spent Online Per Year

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Research put out by U.K. telecoms regulator Ofcom suggests the U.K. leads international markets for mobile device adoption and usage, with mobile social networking a key driver of device sales and use. Internet shopping on mobiles is also on the rise — and the U.K. leads for online shopping generally (across all connected devices), with U.K. consumers now spending more than £1,000 per year buying stuff online.

On the TV front, the U.K. also stands out as an early adopter of on-demand TV watched via the internet, with Ofcom flagging up the role played by online TV players such as the BBC’s iPlayer in driving national usage.

The regulator has updated its 2012 Communications Market Report adding more up to date data and comparative info for international markets. The annual report maps comms technology adoption and usage  in the U.K. and internationally, comparing the U.K. with France, Germany, Italy, the U.S., Canada, Japan, Australia, Spain, the Netherlands, Sweden, Ireland, Poland, Brazil, Russia, India and China.

Mobile devices

The U.K. has one of the highest penetrations of smartphones of all the researched markets, according to Ofcom — with 58 percent of the population owning a smartphone in 2012, and almost a fifth (19 percent) of U.K. residents owning a tablet.

Meanwhile, U.K. consumers are downloading more data on their mobiles and tablets than users in the other surveyed countries. In December 2011, the average UK mobile connection used 424 megabytes of data — pushing Japan into second place (at 392 megabytes) and the US into sixth (319 megabytes), Ofcom notes.

U.K. consumers also use laptops, smartphones and “other connected devices” more often to access the internet than other nations, according to the report. One-sixth (16 percent) of all website traffic in the U.K. in December 2011 was on a mobile, tablet or other connected device — a rate that Ofcom said was higher than any other country in Europe.

According to Ofcom, social networking is driving “much of the use of mobiles” — especially smartphones — in the U.K. Four in ten (40 percent) U.K. adults use their mobile phones to visit social networking sites, while among 18-24 year olds almost two-thirds (62 percent) do so — a higher proportion than the other countries Ofcom looked at.

Despite the rise of smartphones and tablets in the U.K., the most common way for U.K. consumers to access the Internet in December 2011 was via a laptop — half (51 percent) of U.K. consumers said they used a laptop most often to connect to the Internet, while just six percent preferred smartphones and six percent other connected devices. Just over a third (37 percent) said a desktop computer was their most frequent means of accessing the Internet.

Online shopping

Internet shopping is now more popular in the U.K. than the other countries surveyed by Ofcom. The regulator said shopping online is being “increasingly driven” by the use of mobile devices. More than a fifth (23.1 percent) of U.K. smartphone users used their device to visit retail websites in the whole of 2011 — which Ofcom said is the highest level out of the five largest European countries. Germany was second with 22.6 percent.

Ofcom also notes that U.K. consumers have broken the £1,000-a-year “spend barrier” on Internet shopping — once again, more than any other country covered by the research. In 2011, the per-head spending on e-commerce was £1,083 in the UK, up 14 percent from 2010′s £950. Australia spent the second highest at £842, with Sweden third at £747, according to Ofcom.

TV

The U.K. is the leading country for the adoption of digital video recorders, and on-demand Internet TV, according to Ofcom. Almost a quarter (23 percent) of UK Internet users claimed to watch TV online every week – driven by the popularity of online TV catch-up services such as BBC iPlayer, Sky Go and 4OD. The U.S. ranked second with 17 percent, with Spain third (16 percent).

In other TV-related findings, the U.K. has one of the highest proportions of TV-owning homes with HD screens – at 41 percent, higher than France (18 percent), Germany (28 percent) and Japan (31 percent), but behind the U.S. (49 percent). Meanwhile 15 percent of U.K. consumers own a smart TV — also a relatively high proportion: the same as in France and more than the U.S. (where the figure is 10 percent).

According to Ofcom, the average U.K. viewer watches more than four hours (242 minutes) of TV every day, with only the U.S. (293 minutes) and Italy (253 minutes) watching more.

TechCrunch » Gadgets

Hours After Google Begins Referring Nexus 4 Shoppers To T-Mobile, T-Mobile Is Sold Out

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Google began directing customers looking for the Nexus 4 in the U.S. to T-Mobile this morning, since Google itself hasn’t had stock for quite a while now. The search giant was advertising a special offer, whereby T-Mobile customers could get the Nexus 4 for $ 199 on a 2-year contract, after a $ 50 mail-in rebate. That’s still not nearly as good a deal as the $ 300 Google was charging off-contract, but people apparently didn’t care that much, because T-Mobile is now sold out only hours after Google started pointing shoppers in T-Mobile’s direction.

The Nexus 4 seemed to be a hot seller initially, with Google selling out of the handset in markets around the world within hours or even minutes (a friend joked that I must have been one of 15 who got in under the wire for Canadian pre-orders). The smartphone is Google’s latest Android reference device, meaning it carries stock Android 4.2, and will always be first in line for future updates, regardless of carrier. The phone is made by OEM partner LG and shares many of its internal specs with the Optimus G, save for the absence of LTE connectivity. Its shared internals with LG’s own branded phone, which could very well bring in higher margins, might have something to do with its stock scarcity.

Google likely didn’t anticipate the kind of demand that the Nexus 4 is seeing, hence the global stock shortage. In fact, one of its execs even said in a recent interview it doesn’t expect Nexus devices to be top-selling Android handsets. But it’s interesting to see the company have to direct users to carrier stores, and away from its own Play device marketplace, if only because Google’s attempts to sell hardware directly to consumers haven’t gone swimmingly in the past. In fact, many pointed fingers directly at the carriers as the cause of problems when Google’s initial attempt to sell Nexus devices (specifically, the Nexus One) directly via its online store.

This time around, the price and other conditions appear to be right. Now all Google has to do is keep the thing in stock somewhere, hopefully in time to satisfy hungry holiday shoppers.


TechCrunch » Gadgets

Gdgt Refocuses As The Remedy For Overwhelmed Gadget Shoppers

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Once, buyers were overwhelmed with choice. Now, they’re just overwhelmed with a choice of tools to help them choose. But gdgt, one such site, is hoping that it can build the ultimate solution for consumers looking to make smart gadget buying solutions, is launching new custom search tools it hopes will make using it to clear up shopper confusion a no-brainer.

Gdgt is the brainchild of former Engadget founder Peter Rojas and former editor-in-chief of the same site Ryan Block, offering users a huge database of products to rate, review, compare and declare both their ownership of and desire for. For the gadget space, which is pretty strongly rooted in conspicuous consumption, it is a mecca. You can search for search for virtually anything that runs on electricity and get a look at how it’s been reviewed around the web by professionals, and what other users think. Lately, the team behind it has been quietly and steadily adding new features to make it even better at its job.

“We look at everything holistically when we make an evaluation of a product,” Block told me in an interview, explaining that a lot of what gdgt is has to do with what the founding team saw at Engadget. “We kind of sat down and we took a look at what was wrong with the consumer electronics buying experience online, and we came up with this idea that was somewhat akin to Rotten Tomatoes for personal technology, and that is that we wanted to look at everything there was to know about a product and come up with a very simple, easy-to-digest assessment.”

The new gdgt is all about providing a clear ranking methodology to help users get an at-a-glance look at what they should be buying in any given category. All devices get a score, which is built from a variety of different source data, including reviews at tech sites including this one, user reviews, and first-hand research and testing from the gdgt staff themselves. Categories each get Must Haves taken from the highest scoring gadgets (no more than three per) to help make sure that there’s very little digging to do to come up with the best devices overall.

Gdgt’s latest addition is the redesigned ‘Finder’ (the one for cameras is here, but it’s active for all popular product categories and should be available across the site within the week), which uses simple sliders for important factors like price range and screen size, as well as a couple other simple check box filters to instantly narrow the pool of available products. That process is manually tailored for each individual product category, meaning you’ll never have to wade through unnecessary or irrelevant criteria, and Block is keen to note that gdgt also never scrapes its data, instead using a team of editors and curators to manually prune its results so that you won’t run into the sort of screw-ups typical when you hand these kinds of duties over to a robot.

The people-driven approach also means that gdgt can apply a rubric to reviews from sites that don’t necessarily quantify reviews with a firm number score, and still incorporate that input into its recommendations, something a site that scrapes can’t achieve. That leads to the inclusion of high-quality sources, like the New York Times, which otherwise might go overlooked at sites that depend more on strictly data-driven models like Decide.com and Snapsort.

It hasn’t happened overnight, but gdgt’s approach to the world of consumer tech now puts it in the same basic space as something like The Wirecutter, looking to find a better way to help consumers shop. Block notes however that the approach taken by former Gizmodo editor Brian Lam leans even more heavily toward the editorial side of things and away from data-driven techniques, and he sees the two sites as complimentary, not competitive.

The new focused identity of gdgt as an aide for consumers looking for the best way to spend should help the site with its affiliate revenue from retailers, and overall the site’s reputation and growing library of gadget-related knowledge help it with its growing event-driven business. Overall, gdgt has tied its fortunes to the appetites of early adopters and the rapidly growing community of tech consumers, so if it can continue figuring out ways to continue better serving that community, it should be in a very good place.


TechCrunch » Gadgets