Motorola Promises Next Smartphone Will Be “made to last” and “priced for all”

The Verge: This affordable and durable smartphone will be launching in two weeks on May 13, 2014 in London. The Moto G is already quite affordable starting at US$199 for the 8GB version.

For that price you’d think it’s a barely usable smartphone, but it isn’t: 4.5-inch 1280×720 display with Corning Gorilla Glass, 5 megapixel camera good for capturing 720p video at 30fps, and powered by a 1.2 GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 SoC. On the software side of things the Moto G runs the latest: Android 4.4 KiKat. The only thing missing is LTE.

Maybe Motorola is working on a more durable, affordable, and a lot faster (LTE) Moto G.

Samsung Galaxy S5 More Expensive To Manufacture Than iPhone 5s

Jonathan Cheng and Min-Jeong Lee, The Wall Street Journal:

According to a teardown by market research firm IHS this month, Samsung’s new Galaxy S5 with 32 gigabytes of memory costs $251.52 to manufacture. That sum handily outstrips Apple Inc.’s iPhone 5S, which contains $207.00 worth of components, and is a far cry from ultracheap Android smartphones sold in China and India, some of which can be manufactured for as little as $35.

IHS says its preliminary analysis is based only on hardware and manufacturing costs, and excludes software, licensing and other costs. A Samsung spokesman declined to comment on the teardown.

The high costs come amid the company’s stated goal of simplicity and moderation with the Galaxy S5, a device that company executives characterized as a “back to basics” device rather than one with any flashy but little-used features.

In a February interview previewing the device, Samsung executive vice president Lee Younghee said that the company was steering clear of gimmicky new features in favor of a simple device that would offer “very competitive pricing.”

I don’t give too much credence to information coming out of market research companies so take the manufacturing cost analysis by IHS with a grain of salt. Many components used in the Galaxy S5 come from internal departments at Samsung: the OLED display, internal flash memory and RAM, and others. Although it is quite possible IHS has access to Samsung employees involved in the internal procurement of these components I have my doubts as to its accuracy.

A lot of Apple watchers worry about Samsung, but based on this cost analysis Apple spends US$44 less than Samsung to build the iPhone 5s, which is the company’s top of the line smartphone that goes head to head with Samsung’s Galaxy S5. Multiply $44 by tens of millions and Apple is making a lot more money than Samsung.

Granted the Galaxy S5 is a much bigger phone, but the iPhone is machined out of aluminum, which I assume is more expensive than plastic. Tim Cook is regarded as one of the best in the business when it comes to supply chain management, so I’m not surprised Apple’s costs of manufacturing could be lower than Samsung’s, but I’m surprised Samsung’s costs are not as competitive since the company is significantly more vertically integrated than Apple. One other consideration is that Apple’s iPhone product line is simpler than Samsung’s. I don’t know how many Galaxy S5 varieties there will be worldwide, but I can safely assume there will be more than one. Apple, by making just one iPhone 5s (everything is the same except for three varieties of external coloring) has buying power and uses it to bring down component costs. This is one of the reasons why I don’t think there will be two iPhone 6 display sizes; I think there will be just one and if I had to pick it wouldn’t be 5.5 inches; it’d be 4.5 inches.

Apple Files Patent for “Interactive Three-Dimensional Display System”

via AppleInsider. US Patent & Trademark Office:

An interactive display system may be provided that allows a user to interact with three-dimensional projected images that have been formed in mid-air. Display structures may be used to display a primary image.

Apple popularized touching glass to interact with digital objects. Perhaps Apple will popularize touching air to interact with digital objects, too.

ASUS PB287Q

ASUS: The PB287Q is a 28-inch 3840×2160 4K Ultra HD (UHD) monitor with a response time of 1 ms grey-to-grey (GTG) and a refresh rate of 60Hz (you’ll need a DisplayPort 1.2 connection). The PB287Q comes with three ports: 2x HDMI 1.4 and 1x DisplayPort 1.2. When connected via HDMI the refresh rate drops to 30Hz.

When 4K OLED monitors start to come out — have no idea when — response times in the milliseconds will be laughed at, but for now 1 ms GTG is quite fast and should be fun to use when playing games, watching action flicks and sports. Unlike the Samsung UD590, the ASUS PB287Q sports real 10-bit sub-pixels, which means the 4K monitor can display over 1 billion colors.

Viewing angles are not quite up to IPS standards with 170/160 (CR>10) and brightness is a bit lacking too with a maximum 300 cd/m2. 4K monitors are not cheap, but prices are and will continue to come down: the Samsung UD590 is US$700. The ASUS PB287Q starts from a bit higher at $799.

Samsung Galaxy K Zoom

Samsung Tomorrow: The Samsung Galaxy K zoom is a smartcameraphone: a 20.7 megapixel camera with 10x optical zoom and optical image stabilization (IOS) fuzed with an Android 4.4 smartphone sporting a 4.8-inch 1280×720 OLED display. I like what Samsung is trying to do with the Galaxy K zoom, but Samsung missed the opportunity to make something really tempting by messing up on two things.

The 20.7 megapixel backside illumination (BSI) CMOS image sensor is 1/2.3-inch in size, which mid-range point-and-shoot cameras usually have. The 10x optical zoom goes from 24mm (F3.1) to 240mm (F6.3). The Galaxy K zoom captures 1080/60p (1080p at 60fps) and features slow-motion. Good, but I don’t care much for optical zoom; I used to, but not anymore.

Most high end smartphones have enough pixels (that’s about 8 megapixels to me) to let me crop away and still have enough of them to print out a decent photo at Target or share on Instagram. And that’s what we do most of the time with the photos we take with our smartphones. Digital zoom when capturing video isn’t bad at all either. Optical zoom adds too much bulk, which the Galaxy K zoom has plenty of. I don’t mind bulk, as long as it’s for the right thing.

What I’d prefer instead is a camera subsystem where the image sensor and the lens were designed together from the very beginning, like the Sony RX1. If Samsung instead of the 10x optical zoom added a big and fast F2 (or faster) lens mated to a larger (1 inch?) sensor, and combined that with the wonderful 5.1-inch 1920×1080 OLED display on the Samsung Galaxy S5 (anyone serious about photos would want to check out the photos on the best display possible, and the S5’s OLED display is the best so far) I would have been much more excited.

Apple Smartband, Not Smartwatch

Roy Latke, Geek Time:

In recent weeks I spoke several times with two sources in Cupertino pertaining to future products to be released by Apple later this year for the holiday season in the U.S. and Europe. Judging on the basis of the information revealed in these conversations, Apple has been working for a long time on a project that appears to be in its final stages of touch-ups.

What became clear is that the much anticipated Apple smart watch is not so much a watch as it is a smartband. It would appear that just as Apple has done with the iPhone and iPad, here too the technology giant plans to create a focal point around which a new ecosystem will evolve. To be more specific, Apple is looking to launch a smart band towards the end of this year whose collection of sensors will be able to be used not only to monitor the activity of the wearer, but also to operate other devices as a gestural controller.

This is, of course, a rumor. And the other rumor is LG Display (LGD) is the sole supplier of flexible OLED displays for Apple’s iWatch, or in the case of a smartband, iBand.

If it turns out to be the Apple iBand, a flexible OLED display that goes all the way around might be cool. With a built-in gyroscope, magnetometer, and other sensors the iBand could always display information upright, whether that be horizontal or vertical.

The difference between a smartwatch focus and a smartband focus is big. A smartwatch will foremost need to be a watch: timekeeping, and a smartphone experience shrunk down to something the size of an oversized regular watch. A smartband, however, would have other priorities much like the recently abandoned Nike Fuelband. Apple would probably pack in a bit more sensors: blood pressure sensor, thermometer (body and environment), barometer, altimeter, etc. These sensors would send data to an iPhone, which would combine the data with movement data from the M7 coprocessor and send it to iCloud for processing. What would iCloud process? Our well being. To be more specific we could get information on simple things like how much we walked, jogged, or ran, how much calories we burned, how our heart is doing (blood pressure), how well we slept, etc. All in real time, and over time we along with Siri would have a good idea of how we are doing. Siri would alert us if we are significantly beyond our normal range.

If I were to guess I’d guess Apple is working on something that’s not quite a smartwatch and not quite a band, but something in between that is more like a band but with a flexible display wrapped all the way around.

Japan Display Inc. 10.1-inch 4K UHD Tablet LCD Panel

Japan Display Inc. (JDI): On April 23, 2014 JDI announced the development of its 10.1-inch 4K Ultra HD (UHD) 3840×2160 LTPS IPS LCD panel with a resolution of 438 ppi. Last year it was a 12.1-inch 4K LCD. Here are the specs:

  • Display Size: 10.07 inch / 25.58 cm
  • Display Mode: IPS
  • Color Gamut: 71% NTSC
  • Contrast Ratio: 1100:1 (typical)
  • Viewing Angles: 160/160+ (CR>100:1)
  • Brightness: 400 cd/m2 (typical)
  • Power Consumption: 2180 mW (1800 mW @ 400 cd/m2 backlight + 380 mW LCD panel)

One interesting observation are the viewing angles. LCD manufacturers usually try to maximize specification numbers by using viewing angles at a contrast ratio of greater than 10:1, but JDI is using greater than 100:1. I don’t know for sure, but viewing angles with a contrast ratio greater than 10:1 could be 178/178, which is typical of most IPS LCDs.

I think it’s safe to assume 10.1-inch 4K tablets are coming.

“… iPad has a great future.”

Macworld: Tim Cook, during CYQ1’14 earnings call regarding the iPad:

And so, when I back up from all of these, I feel great. That doesn’t mean that every quarter, every 90 days is going to be a number that everybody is thrilled with. But what it means to me is that the trend over the arc of time that things look very, very good, that iPad has a great future. And of course the thing that drives us more than any of this are the next iPads if you will, the things that are in the pipeline, the things that we can do to make the product even better and there is no shortage of work going in on that nor any shortage of ideas.

Looking forward to “the next iPads”.

Learn More Effectively By Processing Information And Reframing It In Your Own Words

Princeton University’s Pam A. Mueller and UCLA’s Daniel M. Oppenheimer wrote an article titled, “The Pen Is Mightier Than The Keyboard: Advantages of Longhand Over Laptop Note Taking”. Here is part of the abstract, from Psychological Science:

In three studies, we found that students who took notes on laptops performed worse on conceptual questions than students who took notes longhand. We show that whereas taking more notes can be beneficial, laptop note takers’ tendency to transcribe lectures verbatim rather than processing information and reframing it in their own words is detrimental to learning.

My take is this: low tech, as in taking notes longhand, requires us to use our brain more. But just because you’re a fast typist who can transcribe lectures verbatim doesn’t mean you can’t process information and reframe it in your own words. I say: take your notebook and type away, just make sure you process the information and use your own words. (I do like taking longhand notes with a good fountain pen and nice paper, but it has less to do with efficient information processing and more to do with the pleasure of writing.)