Posts by Leah McGuire

YouTube More Successful than Individual Cable Networks

youtubeDuring a recent earnings conference call, Google’s chief business officer Omid Kordestani shared that YouTube reaches more viewers in the United States than any U.S. cable network. The video-sharing platform was acquired by Google in 2006, and has since become the most popular way to view content amongst 18- to 49-year-olds.

YouTube’s engagement metrics continue to increase rapidly, despite increasing competition from Facebook. According to Kordestani, visitors to YouTube’s homepage have increased three fold since 2014. Much of the site’s success, particularly among younger demographics, can be attributed to an increase in mobile viewing. Kordestani calls this a revolution of “the television experience for the digital age.”

The amount of time users spend viewing videos, or “watch time”, is up 60 percent. The average viewing session on mobile devices has more than doubled in the past year, with a record average viewing session of 40 minutes. New features such as video suggestions and auto-play have turned the video-sharing website into a platform to discover new content.

YouTube, along with other video-streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu, continue to challenge the traditional TV landscape. A recent Deloitte report revealed more than 42 percent of American households use video-streaming services.

An increasing number of people view TV shows on smartphones, tablets or computers, and Millennials are leading the charge. Deloitte reported only 58 percent of people under 25 value traditional cable television, compared to 89 percent of adults ages 49-67.

Samsung Unveils Ultra-Slim Galaxy Tab S2

galaxy tab s2Samsung Electronics recently unveiled its latest Android tablets, which are thinner and lighter than its predecessors. The Galaxy Tab S2 will go on sale next month and could offer an attractive alternative to Apple’s iPad Air 2.

The streamlined tablet will be available in two sizes. The 8-inch model weighs in at 265 grams, while the 9.7-inch version weighs 389 grams. The Galaxy Tab S2 features a 2048×1536 pixel Super AMOLED screen and a metal frame that measures 5.6 mm in thickness. Samsung says the compact design and high quality display makes the tablet ideal for reading and viewing digital content.

Both tablets come equipped with a fingerprint scanner, as well as Samsung’s eight-core chip with two quad-core processors. The larger tablet runs at 1.9GHz, while the smaller version runs at 1.3 GHz. Each device comes with Android 5.0, has an 8 megapixel rear-facing camera and a 2.1 megapixel front-facing camera.

The Galaxy tablets come with 3GB of ram, a choice of 32GB or 64GB of storage and a microSD card slot allowing for an additional 128GB of memory. The device will be available in both Wi-Fi and 4G versions.

Samsung is the world’s second largest tablet vendor behind Apple, and is hoping this new design will help it to stand out and stay competitive. “Samsung doesn’t want to be in a position where ‘Oh, the iPad Air is thinner and lighter than everybody else’s product,’” said IDC analyst Bryan Ma.

“It’s basically a Galaxy Air,” he said of the Galaxy Tab S2. “This is just Samsung’s response to the products Apple keeps bringing out.”

Verizon to Offer Vice Media Content on Upcoming Video Service

verizon logoVerizon Communications recently announced it will be adding Vice Media content to the lineup of its upcoming online video service. Vice Media is known for providing current affairs coverage for a younger audience.

In June, Verizon acquired AOL Inc., placing a $4.4 million bet that mobile video and targeted advertizing would help the company find new avenues for growth. The largest wireless provider in the U.S. will be launching the video service later this year and has reached a multi-year deal with Vice Media to provide exclusive content.

Vice-branded content will be offered across categories including culture, food, technology and travel. Verizon’s upcoming digital video service will also offer content from the National Football League and DreamWorks Animation’s Awesomeness TV.

The service is expected to be released in mid-2015 and is aimed at families and younger viewers who consume large amounts of content on their mobile devices.

Apple Watch Sales Plummet in the United States

Apple_Watch_official_logo.svgAccording to market research company Slice Intelligence, Apple Watch sales in the United States have fallen by 90 percent since its launch in April. Online sales dipped below 5,000 per day in late June and early July, whereas in mid-to-late April 40,000 units were selling per day.

Slice has been criticized for its inability to measure numbers outside of the U.S. where others are saying the Apple Watch is still successful.

“There are other big economies like Germany and Japan where the watch is selling,” said analyst Annette Zimmerman with Gartner research company. She insists that the U.S. sales “do not tell the full story.”

Zimmerman is positive about the Apple Watch’s sales prospects.

“Gartner have a forecast for the total smartwatch volume for 2015 and that is 40 million and in this 40 million our current assumption is that Apple could do 15-20 million units in 2015,” said Zimmerman. “I am still optimistic that Apple will get high volumes for the Apple Watch during Christmas.”

Although Apple spokespeople could not provide sales figures for the watch, CEO Tim Cook has said, “right now, the demand is greater than the supply.” Others suggest the decline in sale could possibly be due to people waiting for the next generation of the watch, which is rumored to be launched next year.

New Bing Maps Focus on Travel

bing-map-logoMicrosoft recently announced a new preview release of Bing Maps for the web. Despite selling some of its mapping assets to Uber last week, the company is still taking the development of Bing Maps seriously.

The Bing Maps redesign puts an emphasis on travel planning, as opposed to routing. New planning features show there is still room for innovation in the mapping marketplace.

Bing Maps now makes it easy to switch back and forth between results by organizing searches in cards and remembering previous searches. These searches are continuously displayed on the map, making it easier to see where places are in relation to one another. The new Bing Maps also features a useful split-screen mode that shows the street-side view on the top of the screen, while still displaying the map at the bottom.

When looking at travel routes on Bing Maps, the service will predict the optimal time of departure based historical traffic data. Even more convenient, Bing Maps has a feature that will highlight hotels, restaurants and gas stations along the route.

Microsoft says the new layout was designed to be more touchscreen-friendly and makes it easier to share searches. The only feature missing from the preview of Bing Maps is Microsoft’s 3D maps, which was a highlight of the Bing Maps desktop preview for Windows 8.

Government Spyware Maker Hacking Team Gets Hacked

file0002120440786Hacking Team, makers of controversial government surveillance software, recently had 400GB of data stolen from its servers and posted on BitTorrent for the world to see.

Known for its controversial “Da Vinci” software which allows governments to collect evidence on citizens, Hacking Team is less than popular with journalists and privacy advocates. The company’s software enables law enforcement and governments to monitor encrypted communications including email and Skype conversations.

The 400GB of leaked data reportedly included emails, customer information, internal documents and source code. Some files revealed Hacking Team’s former customers included South Korea, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Chile, Oman, Lebanon and Mongolia among others. If any of the leaked source code contains vulnerabilities, the agencies using the software could be at risk.

While Hacking Team has stated it takes measures to avoid its software falling into the hands of oppressive governments, Civil Rights groups still have concerns and they may very well be warranted. The company has told the UN it did not have business dealings with Sudan, but an invoice included in the leaked files suggests otherwise.

Revelations like these will undoubtedly continue to come to light as more details are discovered about the leaked content.

Sprint’s All-In Plan Hits Video Streaming Snag

Sprint logoSprint’s video streaming limit on its alleged “All-In” plan created controversy among customers, causing the U.S. carrier to rethink its fine print.

Sprint recently introduced its new “All-In” plan to consumers, using David Beckham as its prime advertising tool. Beckham, a friend of CEO Marcelo Claure, can be seen in the company’s new commercial pitting the All-In plan against a seemingly inferior AT&T plan. All-In costs $80 per month and includes a $20 lease on handset as well as $60 for unlimited text, phone, and data services.

“If you went to a restaurant that advertised a cheeseburger for 99 cents, but when you show up, they said it’s an extra $2 for the bun or $1 for lettuce, you would feel misled. Yet, that’s what the industry has been doing with its wireless plan,” Claure said. “Why can’t everyone just advertise the full price of both the plan and the smartphone – an All-In plan? That was the idea behind what we’ve created.”

The All-In plan has been generating a lot of buzz, but it hit one major snag on the day it was announced. After responding to many complaints, Sprint had to withdraw the video streaming limits that were included in the unlimited data plan.

The fine print on the deal included a 600 kilobits per second limit on video streaming. According to Robert Herron, a blogger who follows Sprint, this is simply not enough data to watch YouTube or Netflix.

“At Sprint, we strive to provide customers a great experience when using our network,” Claure said in a brief statement about the issue. “We heard you loud and clear, and we are removing the 600 kbps limitation on streaming video.”


EU to Scrap Roaming Fees in 2017

europe flagAs part of the European Union’s plan to overhaul its telecoms market to encourage growth and innovation, the continent has agreed to scrap mobile roaming charges across 28 countries by June of 2017. The EU recently reached this preliminary deal after 12 hours of talks with lawmakers.

“Under the agreement, roaming surcharges in the European Union will be abolished as of 15 June 2017,” said Latvia, which holds the rotating EU presidency.

The EU intends to order telecom operators to treat all Internet traffic equally. To address the controversial issue of net neutrality, blocking of any traffic would only be allowed during peak periods or in the event of a cyber attack.

Some companies, including Deutche Telekom, Orange and Telecom Italia, have lobbied for more leeway, but Internet activists warn this could create a two-speed Internet benefiting big companies.

Samsung Breakthrough Nearly Doubles Battery Life

SamsungSamsung has developed a new technology that nearly doubles the capacity of current lithium-ion (Li-On) batteries. With help from researchers and universities in South Korea, the tech giant has devised a solution for extending battery life on a nanoscale by using anodes made of silicon instead of graphite.

The use of silicon in Li-On batteries has been widely researched but, before now, using silicon as the active material has posed significant problems. The volume of silicon drastically changes through charge-discharge cycles, which can lead to weakened battery life cycle energy density.

According to a paper published in Nature, Samsung and its researchers have developed an innovative coating process, whereby graphene is grown directly on layers of silicon. The graphene contains the silicon, while also allowing for its expansion.

“The graphene layers anchored onto the silicon surface accommodate the volume expansion of silicon via a sliding process between adjacent graphene layers,” explains the report. “When paired with a commercial lithium cobalt oxide cathode, the silicon carbide-free graphene coating allows the full cell to reach volumetric energy densities of 972 and 700 Wh l^(-1) at first and 200th cycle, respectively, 1.8 and 1.5 times higher than those of current commercial lithium-ion batteries.”

In theory, these new batteries could allow a device that would normally have a 13-hour battery life to go 24 hours without a charge. This breakthrough could have a big effect on more than just smartphones. Electric cars and all consumer electronics – including wearables and virtual reality – are in serious need of improved technology, and could greatly benefit from this advancement in battery life.

Since this development is the result of a research project, no commercial products using this new technology are commercially available as of yet. The public will likely have to wait a couple of years before these batteries are used to power everyday devices.

Gmail Makes “Undo Send” an Official Feature

gmailGoogle is now officially adding the “Undo Send” option to the main settings of the Web version of Gmail.

The Undo Send feature was first introduced to Gmail in March 2009 and has been in the Labs section of Gmail ever since. Gmail Labs is where new features are tested, which means users must manually switch on any feature they wish to use.

Undo Send will now give users a period of time after clicking “Send” to change their mind. The option to reverse an email will show up on the screen for between 5 to 30 seconds. The amount of time allowed for an email to be unsent can be customized by the user.

The Undo Send option will now appear in the “General” tab within settings. If the feature was already being used in the Labs setting it will be switched on by default. If not, users must manually go into their settings and check the box next to “Enable Undo Send.”

Inbox, Google’s experimental mobile email app, will also feature the Undo Send option.