Apple’s iPhone declines in China, and this year could be a struggle

Perhaps the next iPhone 8 will be Apple’s next shot at achieving greatness in China.iphone mac pixabay

The current iPhones aren’t helping Apple gain market share in China, according to Canalys. Markets like China and India are at the top of Apple’s agenda to grow the iPhone business.

China accounts for a third of worldwide smartphone shipments. Buyers in the market are leaning toward local brands like Huawei, Oppo, Vivo, and Xiaomi, which formed the top four smartphone vendors in China in 2016, according to Canalys.

Apple was in the fifth spot, and Samsung doesn’t figure in the top five.

In 2016, Apple’s phone shipments in China totaled 43.8 million units, a drop of 18.2 percent compared to 2015. It’s not looking any better for Apple in 2017.

“This year, the outlook remains bleak for Apple to get its China performance back to its heyday of 2015,” said Jessie Ding, a research analyst at Canalys.

The decline in China hit Apple’s worldwide shipments hard, with a net effect of about a 7 percent decline in the number of iPhones shipped globally, Ding said.

But the Chinese buyers are “awaiting the 10th anniversary of the iPhone with very high expectations,” Ding said.

The iPhone 8 may succeed, but it may not change a long-term trend of Chinese smartphone buyers buying local brands.

In many smaller Chinese cities, Huawei, Vivo, and Oppo smartphones are selling well. Those companies are also investing heavily in branding in top-tier cities, posing a further threat to Apple, Ding said.

Apple faces a similar problem in India. The iPhone brand awareness is limited to urban areas, and the handsets are priced too high for most of the population. Apple recently made a move to start assembling smartphones in India.

Many Chinese companies are launching new handsets this year with a focus on cameras and screens. One such smartphone is Huawei’s Mate 9 Pro, which was shown at CES. Huawei—known for networking gear—also makes its own chips, like Apple and Samsung.

Other Chinese brands like LeEco are also emerging and growing internationally. LeEco has particularly interesting smartphone designs. The company came out with a smartphone without a headphone jack ahead of Apple.

It’s a tight race among the top three Chinese smartphone makers. Huawei in 2016 shipped 76.2 million units, Oppo shipped 73.2 million units, and Vivo about 63.2 million units. Xiaomi’s market share tumbled, declining by 21 percent to 51.4 million units.

A survey released by IDC this week also noted a down market for iPhone in China, but placed the company in the fourth spot, ahead of Xiaomi. According to IDC, total smartphone shipments in China were 467 million units in 2016, growing by 8.7 percent.

But Apple’s shipments declined by 23.2 percent that year, totaling 44.9 million units. The top three Chinese smartphone makers were Oppo, Huawei, and Vivo, according to IDC.

Verizon planning $20 smartphone upgrade fee

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Verizon is planning to charge a $20 flat fee for customers to upgrade their smartphone, the company has confirmed to ZDNet.

“The upgrade fee helps cover our increased support costs associated with customers switching devices,” a spokesperson said. “Customers can pay the charge when they upgrade, bill it to their account or trade in an old device to offset the cost. The fee for upgrading on device payment is still half of the two-year contract upgrade fee.”

The pricing has been leaked in an informational flier from MacRumors.

The new program is said to start on Monday, April 4 and will cover any smartphone on a Device Payment financing plan, Apple’s new iPhone upgrade plan, or at full retail price.

Verizon is simply following its competition. AT&T, the second-largest carrier in the US and Verizon’s biggest competitor, charges $15 per smartphone added or upgraded, while Sprint charge up to $36 per smartphone.

Up and coming carrier, T-Mobile, does not have an upgrade fee.

Verizon’s new upgrade fee comes after several high-profile phone announcements, including Apple’s iPhone SE and Samsung’s Galaxy S7.

We have reached out to Verizon for more info.

This is the best use of 3D Touch on the iPhone yet

Six months after the release of the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus, I’ve yet to find a consistent use for 3D Touch. Sometimes I remember to press light enough to preview an email, or view a photo in Instagram. But the bulk of the time I tap on the screen and use my phone as I always have.

That might change, however, as I accidentally discovered the best 3D Touch use ever. As you likely know, you can press on an app’s icon to bring up a series of shortcuts to actions within the app. For example, pressing on the Messages icon will bring up three contacts you talk to frequently, along with a shortcut to composing a new message.

The next time the App Store icon has a red badge on it, which indicates multiple apps have an update, lightly press on the App Store icon, then select Update All. The App Store will launch and begin downloading all available app updates. It’s such a small shortcut, but one that I will use almost daily, and I love it.

Apple releases iOS 9.3.1 to fix crashes caused by tapping links

iOS 9.3 was released to the public on March 21, the same day as Apple’s big event where it unveiled the iPhone SE and iPad Pro 9.7 (both of which are now available, by the way). Yet here we are just 10 days later and the company has deemed it necessary to already issue an emergency update for its mobile operating system.

iOS 9.3.1 is now rolling out to supported iPhones, iPads, and iPod touch units across the world. Its only function is to fix a very nasty bug that somehow made the cut to the final version of iOS 9.3. This bug will render your Apple device useless after tapping on links in Safari and other apps.

Thankfully, after you update your device to iOS 9.3.1, the crashing and unresponsiveness associated with tapping on links in certain circumstances will happen no more. So clearly this is one update that you should apply as soon as possible, especially if you have been affected by this bug.

Nothing else is included in this iOS release, so you don’t get any new features or anything like that. Then again, iOS 9.3 itself comes with plenty of those, and it’s only been out for everyone since last week, so that makes perfect sense.

iPhone SE release date, news and features

iPhone SE release date, news and features

Apple’s new 4-inch iPhone SE is now on sale. Will you be splashing the cash on this palm friendly smartphone?

The iPhone SE is here, and we’ve got all the details you need to know about Apple’s new 4-inch iPhone.

It lines up alongside the 4.7-inch iPhone 6S and 5.5-inch iPhone 6S Plus, giving customers a trio of handset sizes to choose from – and three different price tiers as well.

None are particularly cheap, but at least there’s a more affordable option thanks to the iPhone SE.

It measures 123.8mm x 58.6mm x 7.6mm, the same as the iPhone 5S, and tips the scales at 113g (3.99 ounces). The 3.5mm headphone jack, Lightning connector port and speaker are all housed on the bottom, while volume is up top and the circular volume keys and slide switch are on the left.

The camera lens on the rear is also flush with the body, rather than protruding out like on its bigger brothers. The iPhone SE is a little thicker than the 6S and 6S Plus, which means Apple has had a bit more space to play with when it comes to squeezing in the 12MP iSight snapper.

In terms of colors, you’ve got four to pick from for the iPhone SE: silver, gold, space grey and rose gold.

iPhone SE display

The iPhone SE has a 4-inch Retina display, making it perfect for one handed use. The resolution remains at 1136 x 640, which is the same as the iPhone 5S, with a pixel density of 326ppi.

There’s no 3D Touch however, which is only available on the 6S and 6S Plus.

iPhone SE

iPhone SE power

You’ll find an Apple A9 processor and M9 motion coprocessor inside the iPhone SE – those are the same chips you’ll find in the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus.

It makes the iPhone SE 30% faster than the handset it’s replacing, so if you’re looking to jump from an old 4-inch iPhone to the new one, you’ll certainly notice the difference.

Apple never reveals how much RAM it handsets pack, but according to early Antutu benchmarks it looks like the iPhone SE has 2GB of RAM inside – putting it on par with the 6S and 6S Plus.

iPhone SE operating system

No surprises here, the iPhone SE runs iOS 9.3 – the latest operating system from Apple which it launched at the same time at the phone.

It’s not the most scintillating of software updates, but it does bring improvements to Notes, News, Music and Apple Health, plus the introduction of a new feature in Night Shift.

Night Shift automatically adjusts the screen temperature in the evening, making the display warmer which Apple says could help you sleep better if looking at your iPhone (or iPad) is the last thing you do before turning in.

iPhone SE

iPhone SE camera

Again, bringing the iPhone SE in line with Apple’s two current flagships, you’ll find the 12MP iSight camera on this new iPhone which includes the firm’s Live Photos, Focus Pixels, 4K video recording and true tone flash.

Meanwhile on the front there’s a 1.2MP snapper for your selfies and Facetime calls. That’s a slight disappointment consider the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus both sport 5MP front cameras.

iPhone SE

iPhone SE more specs

There’s NFC in the iPhone SE, allowing you to use Apple Pay for contactless payments, something the iPhone 5S cannot do.

iPhone SE release date

iPhone SE is now on sale. If you fancy getting Apple’s latest iPhone, check out our selection of the best iPhone SE deals.

iPhone SE

iPhone SE price

The iPhone SE starts at $399 (£359, AU$679) for the 16GB model, while the 64GB variant will set you back $499 (£439, AU$829). That makes it cheaper than the 6S and 6 handsets Apple will continue to sell.

As Apple questions FBI’s hacking methods, list of unlock cases grow

As Apple questions FBI's hacking methods, list of unlock cases grow

Just a few days after the FBI revealed that it had found a way to unlock the iPhone at the center of the San Bernardino shooting case without Apple’s help – thus vacating the court order that caused most of Silicon Valley to side with Apple – it has agreed to help unlock another iPhone and iPod in a different case.

The FBI agreed on Wednesday afternoon to a request from the prosecuting attorney in an Arkansas homicide case to help assist in unlocking the two Apple devices belonging to the accused, according to the Associated Press.

Authorities did not revealed whether the iPhone in the Arkansas case are the same model as the San Bernardino iPhone, or whether the FBI will use the same method to try to get into the devices.

Still, the news that the FBI is assisting in unlocking iPhones for a different case comes at an interesting time for Apple.

Apple’s attorneys have begun to research how it can legally compel the FBI to reveal theunlocking method it has found, according to the LA Times, presumably so that it can plug the vulnerability being exploited by the method and thus protecting phones from this method in the future.

It’s unlikely Apple will be able to find a legal way to push the FBI to reveal its secret, according to Reuters. And if it does, the FBI will more than likely fight Apple in the courts over it.

The FBI had originally said that if Apple complied with the San Bernardino court order by developing a method (a backdoor, as Apple claimed) that would allow authorities to access the iPhone, it “is about one specific case” and would not be used again. Obviously, as it didn’t receive Apple’s help, this may no longer apply.

After all, there are a number of cases around the U.S. that involves unlocking a phone that the FBI might now be able to assist in without needing a court order demanding Apple’s help.

To give you an idea of such cases, the American Civil Liberties Union helpfully mapped all the cases that involved the government applying for a court order using the 1789 All Writs Act (the same one used for the court order involving the San Bernardino iPhone) to compel Apple or Google to provide assistance in accessing data stored on a mobile device.

There were 63 cases in total to date since 2008.

An iPhone Is the Latest Thing to Catch Fire on a Plane

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Lithium-ion batteries and aircraft have some bad blood: Boeing’s 787 Dreamliners were grounded three years ago because of battery fires, the FAA banned all lithium batteries in hold luggage , and now an innocent iPhone has caused a fire on an Alaska Air flight.

According to a KOMO news report, a girl on a spring break flight from Washington State to Hawaii had her iPhone 6 spontaneously combust mid-air:

“All of the sudden there was like 8-inch flames coming out of my phone, and I flipped it off onto the ground and it got under someone’s seat, and the flames were just getting higher and a bunch of people stood up.”

Under heavy loads or physical abuse, lithium-ion batteries have been known to explode, releasing the considerable stored energy inside in the form of heat, rather than electricity. It’s the reason hoverboards-which contain cheap batteries that get stood on all day-catch fire (and have been banned by all major airlines), and the reason lithium-ion batteries are supposed to be carry-on only.

The airlines aren’t likely to ban all portable electronics any time soon, but it’s still a slightly scary reminder of how much potential energy we’re all carrying round in our pockets. And, why airport security is really one big joke.

Apple reportedly in talks to buy Imagination Technologies

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For almost a decade, Apple and Imagination Technologies have been joined at the hip. Every iPhone from the original 2007 model has used a version of a PowerVR graphics core, as has the iPad. Apple’s business has been a huge boon for Imagination Technologies, but the company’s efforts to diversify outside of graphics by buying the MIPS architecture and developing real-time raytracing hardware have met with very limited success. Recently Imagination announced that it would lay off 350 staff and restructure its business. Now, reports suggest that Apple may be negotiating to buy the company outright.

As reported by Ars Technica, this wouldn’t be a dramatic shift for Apple, who already owns 8.4% of the company and designs its own custom CPUs. It would, however, be a significant change for the rest of Imagination Technology’s current licensees, who depend on the company for IP. Intel has made use of Imagination Technology in multiple products, as has Samsung. ARM develops its own graphics core, dubbed Mali, but plenty of ARM-based SoC manufacturers still choose to pair with a different graphics core. Imagination Technologies lost money in both 2014 and 2015 as its efforts to grow its MIPS, raytracing, and IoT businesses came to little while the market for smartphones and tablets that use its IP shrank. Still, the company has decades of experience in graphics, particularly power-efficient GPUs. The PowerVR2 powered the Sega Dreamcast, while Series 3 drove the short-lived but well-received Kyro GPU family.

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It’s not clear if Apple will continue to support Imagination Technologies work on the Vulkan API if it acquires the company. To date, Apple has shown little interest in Vulkan, preferring to focus instead on its own API, Metal. Imagination, in contrast, has talked up its efforts for both Vulkan and real-time ray tracing. Buying Imagination Technologies would also give Apple theoretical access to MIPS as well as its ARM licenses, though the Cupertino company could also choose to keep just the GPU division of Imagination and sell the rest of the company off.

A major shake-up in IP licensing could give ARM some additional room to breathe or allow smaller competitors like Vivante to snap up some business as well. Apple could continue to operate the firm as an IP licensing division, but it’s more likely that it will take future designs private and build iPhone-specific capabilities. Short-term, we don’t expect Apple’s hardware to change much (assuming the deal goes through): Apple bought PA Semi in 2008 and launched their first CPU architecture (as opposed to an optimized SoC design) in 2012. It might not take that long to do a custom GPU architecture, but it would still take 12-18 months to roll a fundamentally new approach to graphics for future iDevices.

Facebook Messenger May Soon Let You Pay in Offline Stores

Facebook Messenger May Soon Let You Pay in Offline Stores: Report

Over the past few months, Facebook has been aggressively making its instant messenger Messengermore capable by adding the ability to send money to a friend and talk to an AI bot. It seems the company has two more interesting features lined up, if the code of the iOS app is any indication. According to a report, Facebook could soon add in-store payment option for goods and services and introduce new chat options.

Comments on the code of the Messenger app for iPhone reveal that Facebook is working on a feature that would allow users to “pay directly in Messenger when you pick up the item” in a store without the need of cash, reports The Information.

The addition of this feature to Messenger, which recently announced it has hit 800 million monthly active users, could make it serve as a mobile retail hub. It appears Facebook wants users to shop at brick and mortar stores by using its app. The report notes that a handful of retailers such as Everlane and Zulily are using Messenger for handling customer service. According to the report, Facebook also plans to bring ads to messages between users. The timeframe for this rollout is slated to be by the end of June.

It appears Facebook is also working on a “secret conversations” option in Messenger. It’s not clear whether this means that the company wants to further bolster security in Messenger, or introduce Snapchat-like ephemeral messages. Facebook also seems to be experimenting with chat bots, possibly adding the ability to have it book a taxi ride for users. ​The report adds Messenger for iPhone code contains mentions of calendar sync features, the ability to share article quotes with friends, and status messages for select friends.