Jun 20, 2011

Getaround car sharing service goes live, rent out your ride with an iPhone app and car kit

We expressed our excitement when we first heard about Getaround, the personal car rental service that enables users to rent out their autos by the hour or day, and at TechCrunch Disrupt the service has officially gone live for drivers outside the Bay Area. The company also announced an accompanying car kit that allows potential renters to unlock their temporary ride using just an iPhone app, at which point they can access a physical key inside. The company says it functions just like any other keyless entry device, and can be set up in as little as five minutes. Worrisome owners should also know that when you offer up your ride you get full insurance coverage from the Getaround folks, so all liabilities are transferred to the individual behind the wheel. Renters get rated by car owners so there's definitely an incentive to keep things neat and tidy, though we'd totally get downrated for neglecting to return the seat to its original position. Be sure to check out the demo video at the via link, you'll wish you thought of this yourself.

Smartphones, not DVRs, are the biggest threat to TV adverts

TV viewers are a famously fickle bunch, which tends to drive TV advertisers crazy. The prevalent theory remains that skipping past ads using a pesky DVR is the biggest enemy of marketers, but new research has once again contradicted that received wisdom. The IPG Media Lab in Los Angeles pulled together a representative group of 48 TV and online video viewers and asked them to sit through some programming while equipped with the usual "devices or distractions" that accompany their viewing habits. Central to the study was the measurement of time each person spent facing the screen and how engaged they were with the content. The first thing noted was that 94 percent of TV viewers and 73 percent of online video consumers used some other form of media to augment their visual entertainment. Smartphones were the most common, with 60 percent of test subjects resorting to their handset while gawking at the TV. That's resulted in a mediocre 52 percent attention level during actual programs and 37 percent during ads. In other words, two thirds of the time, commercials are being ignored and smartphones are helping people with that heinous behavior. Ironically, fast-forwarding adverts using a DVR garnered attention levels that were 12 percent higher, mostly because people were trying to make sure they didn't skip too far ahead. Damn, why does reality have to be all complex and stuff?

Nokia lowers devices and services outlook for Q2, increasingly confident about first Windows Phone in Q4

You know what happens when you tell the world that you're abandoning Symbian for Windows Phone? Right, Symbian sales dry up. No matter how many times you boast about plans to sell an additional 150 million new Symbian devices, and no matter how long you commit to supporting Symbian devices, the OS is essentially dead to developers and consumers alike. So, we're not surprised to hear that Nokia just lowered its devices and services outlook for Q2 of 2011. The updated guidance calls for devices and services net sales to be substantially below the EUR 6.1 billion to EUR 6.6 billion expected in Q2 due to lower than expected average selling prices on lower volumes. It also sees margins drifting below the expected range of 6 percent to 9 percent due to lower than expected net sales -- Nokia expects its non-IFRS operating margin to be "around breakeven." As as result, Nokia is also pulling back its annual targets for 2011 and will provide further updates as its situation becomes more clear.

On the positive side, Nokia does say that it has "increased confidence" that it will ship its first Windows Phone product in Q4 2011. Let's hope so.

T-Mobile announces June availability for Samsung Exhibit 4G and Gravity Smart

We've heard rumblings that Samsung's Exhibit 4G would be making its way to T-Mob on June 8, but now the carrier has confirmed that the Gingerbread smartphone will be available sometime in June. The Exhibit will join Samsung's Gravity Smart, both featuring grounded sub-$100 price tags (after $50 rebate) when they hit stores. T-Mob is displaying the Exhibit with violet and black finishes, and says you'll see "theoretical" peak download speeds of 21Mbps on the HSPA + handset. As for the Smart, the carrier's first Android-powered Gravity smartphone will launch with 2.2 Froyo, and includes a slide-out QWERTY keyboard, so you'll be sending Group Texts to 50 of your closest friends with four rows of hardware keys. Both phones include 3 megapixel rear-facing cameras with flashes, while the Exhibit adds a front-facing cam as well, so that myTouch 4G girl may be hawking a new smartphone on your TV later this month.

RiTdisplay begins producing inexpensive a-Si AMOLED displays for smartphone makers

Sure, you'd expect to find an amorphous silicon backplane behind your LCD, but RiTdisplay has now begun producing a-Si AMOLEDdisplays that, according to the company, are a world's first. Developed in conjunction with Ignis Innovation, the 3.5-inch panel was first unveiled at last month's SID Display Week, where it beamed images in 320 x 480 resolution. RiT says its a-Si-based AMOLED screens are relatively inexpensive to produce, potentially posing an alternative to its LTPS-backplaned brethren. The company has already begun manufacturing the displays for undisclosed smartphone makers, though there's no word yet on when we can expect to see them pop up in commercial devices. But if the technology proves to be as cost-effective as RiT claims, it could go a long way toward patching up that AMOLED shortage -- as long as you're not too picky about resolution. 

Samsung Smart View shrinks Smart TV down for your Galaxy S II

Samsung Smart View
We're not sure how many of you happen to own both a Galaxy S II and a Samsung Smart TV but, if you do, you'll probably want to download Smart View from the Android market. Like now -- don't worry, we'll wait. This handy app lets you stream content from your set to your smartphone over WiFi, and can even be used as a controller for games from the Samsung app store. Unfortunately, you're limited to either mirroring the content shown on the TV or watching an optional second stream from a Sammy-branded Blu-ray player but, hey, at least you won't have to miss a single second of Game of Thrones just because that box of Cheez-Its keeps whispering your name. Like any good TV-connected app, Smart View can also act as a remote with a program guide and the ability to change channels, and even more functionality is promised for the future. Eventually, it will make its way to Galaxy Player, Galaxy S, and Galaxy Tab owners

ComScore: Android grows larger than ever among US subscribers, Apple belittles RIM

The latest ComScore results from the last quarter are in, and the US mobile device wars were hotter than ever as 13% more people reported owning a smartphone. Google conquered most users' territory with Android climbing just over five percent (now totaling 36.4%) and still claiming first for mobile software platforms. Apple's iOS destroyer took second place (at 26%) partially due to RIM's S.S. BlackBerry OSsinking about five percent (now 25.7%) to claim third, while Microsoft and HP / Palm rounded out the bunch struggling to stay in the fight with even lower single-digit scores. In the OEM region Samsung claimed first yet again (although slightly dropping to 24.5%), with LG and Motorola landing in second and third respectively, each keeping its place from the prior quarter. In the last two slots, Apple again bested RIM whose devices barely dropped half of a percent, but enough to let the slight growth of iDevices snatch up 4th. The source link below is waiting to be clicked if you want the full battle statistics.

Droid Charge joins the wireless charging club, gets its own inductive battery cover

An HTC Thunderbolt wireless charging cover might still be a no-show on Verizon's site, but in the case of the Droid Charge, things are much simpler. Big Red quietly started selling a Qi-compliant inductive battery cover molded specifically for the LTE-equipped handset, allowing it to recharge when paired with any compatible charging pad. Verizon doesn't list specs, so it's unclear just how much heft that case will add to the phone's .46-inch frame. Still, if ditching your AC adapter is what you're after, you can hit the source link now and scoop one up for $29.99.

HTC sales in May reached $1.42 billion, more than double last year's total

We're seriously considering just reposting the same bit of text every time HTC's earnings come up for discussion. The story never seems to change. Taiwan's premier smartphone maker has once again blown away its performance from the previous year, having informed the Taiwan Stock Exchange that it tallied up T$40.62b ($1.42b) in consolidated sales for May 2011. That's a neat chunk of change more than April's T$38.73b and it also comfortably dwarfs last year's May total of T$18.82b ($656m). There's no breakdown of what devices are to credit for HTC's ever-ascending revenues, but if you ask us, its future prosperity looks pretty good with the Sensation, EVO 3D, and a few tablet-shaped things lurking on the horizon.

Apple patent app sheds light on wireless charging dreams, NFMR love affair

Apple threw quite the wireless party by introducing PC Free and iCloud at yesterday's WWDC keynote, but it seems that the engineers in Cupertino may have even more tricks up their sleeve. Judging by a recently filed patent application, the company's hoping to add charging to its list of cord-cutting services. Specifically, the patent describes building a NFMR (near-field magnetic resolution) power supply directly into your iMac so it can charge your iPhone, iPad, or even peripherals -- such as a keyboard or mouse, when equipped with a special antenna -- without the assistance of your ol' trusty charging cords or batteries. Sporting a somewhat mature iMac that's operating sans NFMR? Pop a special USB dongle in that bad boy and presto, you're good to go. The patent points out that the range is limited to one meter, though there may be ways to install repeaters in peripherals to extend that distance further. Of course, patents won't guarantee we'll be grabbing the scissors to cut our cords anytime soon, but at least we won't have to rely on these things for the rest of eternity.

Motorola XT882 bringing Tegra 2, duak sim to China

Motorola is aiming to change your perception of dual-SIM phones -- typically a hallmark of KIRF and the low-end -- with an uncharacteristically high-end creation that features a 1.2GHz Tegra 2 CPU and 4-inch qHD display. Wasting no time with a clever name, the XT882 supports dual-standby that keeps both SIMs alert and ready to receive calls, and -- when GSM 900 / 1800 / 1900 isn't an option -- it handles CDMA 800. Additionally, the phone sports an 8 megapixel camera that captures 720p video, alongside a dual-LED flash. (A nice finishing touch to the "dual" theme, don't you think?) The XT882 will arrive at China Telecom this month for 5,380 yuan (approximately $830 if you speak green), and unlike some of Motorola's finest in the States, this one has Gingerbread. Engadget China scored hands-on time with the Moto, complete with views of its pattern of 8's on the back side -- good fortune for the home crowd.

Google Sync adds mail server search, appointment confirmation to native iOS apps

Google Sync has pushed Gmail messages, calendar updates, and contacts to iOS since its launch in 2009, but this half-baked solution previously lacked some key functionality. Beginning today, users can finally perform mail server searches and confirm appointment requests from their iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch. This means that you'll be able to search for messages in your entire mailbox, not just for emails stored on your device -- a feature that first appeared with iPhone OS 3, but without Google Sync support. You can also respond to calendar invites from within the Calendar app. Fancy that! A third update brings support for sending messages from other addresses listed in your Gmail account, though only the first two features worked when we took Sync for a spin this afternoon. (Curiously, Google omitted a "Send Mail as" screenshot on its blog, so this last update may not actually be available yet.) This latest trio of updates is available for both gratis and Google Apps accounts

Yahoo App Search, AppSpot make sense of App Store and Android Market

It's a common problem, really. You crack open your app haven of choice, stumble around for a few moments, and back out in frustration -- it's yet another round of Angry Birds instead of toying with something new. If Yahoo has its way, said scenario will no longer be a part of your routine, with the company's App Search wizardry aiming to nix the guesswork so often associated with finding the proverbial needle in the haystack. It'll be available on the PC (and momentarily, for iPhone and Android platforms), and will differ from those other app search alternatives by providing an all-in-one place that combines description, price, overall star rating from users, and screenshots. It'll also pester you with daily, personalized recommendations of the iPhone and Android apps you should consider based on the apps you've downloaded, but only if you're into that kind of thing. 

Toyota content with losing No. 1 title

Toyota’s reign as the world’s number one automaker – at least in terms of overall sales – is likely to be short-lived, something the Japanese automaker says it can live with.

Toyota took over the title of number one in 2007 when it surged ahead of General Motors to become the world’s largest car manufacturer. But quality-related issues like massive global recalls caused sales to stumble in 2009 and 2010. But the massive earthquake and tsunami that rocked Japan earlier this year crippled production, which erased any chance of Toyota retaining its crown.
Still, the Japanese automaker says it is optimistic and that it won’t let the loss of stature get it down.
“There is no meaning in us being the global number one,” Toyota executive vice president Satoshi Ozawa said.
Toyota never actually set a goal of becoming the world’s largest automaker, but its goal of a 15 percent global market share essentially ensured that it would be the largest automaker if it reached its goal.
Buoyed by strong demand in Asia and North America, GM will likely command the largest share of the world car market, although Germany’s Volkswagen is setting itself up for the number one spot within the next few years, assuming its level of growth continues.

Toyota unveils third-generation Yaris hatchback for Europe

Toyota’s European arm has officially unveiled the third-generation of its Yaris small car. Toyota teased the updated version of its Yaris at the 2011 Geneva Motor Show with the Yaris HSD concept.

Developed around the concept of “compact outside, spacious inside,” Toyota says the new Yaris offers better packaging than its predecessor. Dimensions of the new car were not released, but don’t expect the Yaris’ overall footprint to change much. Hit read more for details.

Nokia Closes Up UK Online Store

Nokia, as you may have noticed, have not been doing terribly well of late and in another sign of that decline the manufacturer's British online store is to close its doors. The statement on the colosure simply reads:

We are planning to close our channel structure and focus our resources on key trade customers.

It's not just the UK either as Nokia are shutting up their online shops in other countries around the world. The obvious question here is how indicative this is of a general decline in Nokia's fortunes. The UK has a history of customers going directly to networks for handsets so perhaps this isn't a huge deal after all. Then again if it hasn't been a problem in the past why is it now?

Either way Nokia aren't looking too peachy so all eyes will be on the company's first Windows Phone device .

Nokia: Announcing 'Market Disrupting Device' on 21st June

Nokia famously cast aside its own MeeGo platform earlier this year in favour of Windows Phone, but many are hoping that MeeGo will have one last hurrah in the form of the N9. Feeding that wish is the possibility that Nokia will announce it within the next week at the Nokia Connection event in Singapore.
iTWire received an invitation to the evnt and have said that Nokia are apparently introducing a 'new market disrupting device'. That could be the N9, which, by the way, was recently approved by the FCC in America. There has also been a request put out to keep N9 images confidential further fueling the rumour mill that the handset is about to get official.
Even if it does become official in Singapore we should remind you of what Eldar said regarding the device, namely that only 92,000 of them will be produced. For a global audience that would make the N9 a pretty rare commodity and it would no doubt achieve a sort of cult status pretty quickly amongst Nokia fans.

Angry Birds Still Being Downloaded 1 Million A Day

We've not heard much from Angry Birds of late, certainly not as much as we used to hear when Angry Birds mania was careering along at full tilt. Well in order to rectify that Peter Vesterbacka, the Mighty Eagle himself, gave a talk at the Mobile 2.0 Europe - openIDEAS event this week.

During the talk Vesterbacka mentioned that Angry Birds is being downloaded a whopping 1 million times per day. Now you may remember that late last year Rovio made the claim that the Android version of the game had notched up an impressive 2 million downloads in two days. That means that the same trend has continued for more than 8 months! That is an incredibly impressive track record in anyone's book.

The success of Angry Birds was attributed to 'strong branding' by Vesterbacka, but to be blunt it seems far more likely that the game's continued popularity and success are more to do with the seemingly constant updates it receives. Oh and the fact that it's available for just about every device on the planet from your iPhone to your Glaxy S to your toaster (well maybe not that last one, but why ever not?!).

Ad Revenue: Android & iOS Neck & Neck

Some new figures on the state of the smartphone market for you to take a butchers at! This time it's Millenial Media, a market research company funnily enough, that has offered up the data. The data is based upon ad impressions for each platform, which are then used to reflect the market share each platform holds.
Ok let's get into the figures then! In April of this year the lead platform was Android with 53% of the market, which should come as little surprise really. iOS dropped 1%, but Windows Phone rose 0.5% to grab its first full 1% of market share. Are those two statistics related? It certainly appears likely. RIM, increasingly lauded as the 'sick man' of the smartphone world, managed to cling on to a 17% share. Symbian ... well Symbian's prospects are about as good as Tyrannosuarus Rex's were on the eve of a the Baptistina asteroid impact.


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