Apple announced that its next Macintosh operating system, OS X Yosemite, will be available July 24 in its first public beta. The announcement comes as the company is celebrating another successful quarter of lofty profits and heavy Mac sales as it prepares to launch a new iPhone this fall. The second half of 2014, in other words, will be a major period for Apple and could help the company generate unprecedented profits and revenue if analysts' forecasts hold true. Until then, however, Apple is giving the public the opportunity to try out Yosemite. Apple plans to launch the final build this fall, but consumers willing to try out a beta product can take the new OS for a spin and see if it will be right for them when Apple releases it later this year. More importantly, it will give Apple the requisite number of testers it needs to discover and fix bugs that might cause problems when a wider group of users start working with it this fall. In this slide show, eWEEK will provide a primer for those thinking about adopting Yosemite to see if the OS is right for them. We'll highlight the top features and the items likely to make Yosemite a popular option for many Mac users.
eWEEK recently received a hands-on demonstration of the Amazon Fire smartphone that AT&T will exclusively sell starting July 25. Priced at $199 with a two-year contract, the Fire might seem to be breaking the Amazon pattern of pricing hardware low and making up its profits on software and services down the road. However, that $199 is for a 32GB version (not the industry-standard 16GB). It also comes with a one-year Amazon Prime subscription, a value of $99 (if you already have Prime, Amazon will tack on another year) and unlimited cloud storage. Those details make the phone seem more ready to fight. However, whether the device can beat out those of competitors—or more exactly dominators Apple and Samsung—for consumer attention, is another matter. Amazon is making a solid effort, surely, with its Mayday 24/7/365 help service, Firefly technology, which identifies and helps people shop for more than 100 million things and what Amazon calls Dynamic Perspective—technology that enables users to, among other things, navigate the phone with a wrist jerk, turn pages with their eyes and play games by moving their heads. Have a look for yourself.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab S is the thinnest tablet on the market, and the smaller of the two sizes—display options are 8.4 and 10.5 inches—is easy to hold in one hand and light enough, at just 1 pound, to hold at length, whether during a long subway commute or giving a business presentation. The other stand-out feature is its display. While in the past Samsung has used liquid-crystal displays, the Tab S features a Super AMOLED, like the Galaxy S5 smartphone, and the result is an incredibly rich and crisp display. But impressive critical specs alone aren't enough to sell the number of tablets Samsung intends to, and so the company has partnered with content creators and packed the Tab S with software and offers of still more software and services—such as three free months of both Audible and Sirius XM Radio, three free months of The New York Times and Marvel Unlimited, and six-month offers of The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post. Indeed, so much on the Tab S has been done in duplicate or triplicate, it can feel like Samsung is, by turns, offering users every option or satisfying lucrative marketing deals. Likely, the latter is a matter of individual preference—much like the styling of the Tab S, which is more flashy than the starkly modern iPad. Still, when it comes to what matters most—speed, battery life, size, weight, display—the Tab S is an undeniable winner.
Amazon, as expected, unveiled its first smartphone, the Fire Phone. The Amazon Fire, introduced June 18, has a starting price of $199 with a two-year service agreement on AT&T's network. Amazon will also offer a 64GB option for $299. The device that was widely anticipated and discussed before the official announcement comes with a design that looks awfully similar to the iPhone. Perhaps, more importantly, it's the first smartphone to come from Amazon and the first device to leverage the company's Fire OS, a proprietary version of Android. Amazon's Fire Phone is not a run-of-the-mill handset and includes a wide range of features not commonly found in a smartphone. For instance, the smartphone comes with four cameras on the front to provide 3D-like features. The smartphone also has the Mayday tech support feature built into its software to provide on-device support in just seconds. All in all, the Fire smartphone is an interesting device and one that AT&T customers should watch for when it goes on sale July 25. This slide show highlights the key features in Amazon's Fire phone.
Samsung hosted a New York press event June 12 to introduce its newest flagship device, the Galaxy Tab S. "Innovation has taken display technology to places it has never been before," said Samsung America's Ryan Bidan, adding that Samsung was again taking it to "another place it's never been ... and offering a brand new viewing experience." Later in the show, an executive said the display technology has been advanced to the point where it now offers an "emotional experience." All this pomp comes with Samsung's transition from LCD to Super AMOLED, technology that it had until now reserved for its best smartphones. The Tab S' display boasts 4 million pixels, and because AMOLED requires fewer layers of materials than LCD, it's also the thinnest tablet on the market. While all this is sure to turn consumers' heads, Samsung has also packed on the security features, leaving no question of whether the Tab S is enterprise ready. With the Tab S, said Bidan, "we are proudly putting our flag in the ground."
BlackBerry isn't selling the GSM version of its Z30 through a carrier in the U.S. Instead, you can buy it from the company itself or through Amazon.com. It's the biggest BlackBerry smartphone yet, and it does some things that might change the way you look at the company's devices. How big is it? It has a 5-inch AMOLED screen—which can display high-definition images. It's also heavier than some of its competition, and the battery can last for days. It has impressive dynamic range and excellent sound (for a phone). But perhaps more important, this BlackBerry has the ability to run Android software in addition to apps designed specifically for the company's BlackBerry 10 operating system. While not every Android app will work and you can't use the Google Play store, most of the apps I tried worked fine. The larger screen means a larger and easier-to-use keyboard that includes BlackBerry's excellent predictive typing. The Z30 retains BlackBerry's secure networking and messaging capabilities. It also supports BlackBerry Enterprise Services just fine. This may be the best BlackBerry yet. Take a look at the reasons why in this slide show.
IDC analysts this month predicted that the global PC market will continue its contraction, with shipments expected to fall by 6 percent this year over 2013, despite some signs of slowing in mature markets. While there are positive signs for the PC space—the continued migration by businesses away from Windows XP, slowing tablet demand and improving economies—the overall forecast is still to see tablet shipments overtaking PC volume in the fourth quarter, and annually in 2016. "The transition toward mobile and cloud-based computing is unstoppable," said Loren Loverde, vice president of Worldwide PC Trackers for IDC. While tablets and smartphones were popular at the Computex 2014 show, there were a number of notebook PCs that were unveiled in the first week of June from such OEMs as Hewlett-Packard, Dell and Asus. Most of the systems epitomized the ongoing transition within the PC space toward new form factors and a wider variety of components and operating systems. This eWEEK slide show takes a look at some of those systems, more than half of which came from HP.
Amazon surprised both reporters and the public at large on June 4, announcing that it would be holding a special event at its Seattle headquarters on June 18 to unveil a new product. Since then, the company has released some hints about its plans, but has tried to keep all of the actual information surrounding the event as secret as possible. Although no one knows exactly what Amazon will launch, that hasn't stopped speculation that a smartphone is the likely product. For months, media reports have predicted that Amazon will introduce a new smartphone, and now this seems like the perfect time—after Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference and before its iPhone announcement—to launch such a device. But with so many top-flight smartphones on the market, what kind of smartphone would Amazon likely introduce to grab a substantial piece of the mobile market? If Amazon does actually introduce a smartphone on June 18, expect the Web retail giant to try to score at least as much success with a mobile handset as it has achieved with its Kindle tablet line. Check out this eWEEK slide show to find out what features would make the Amazon smartphone a standout in an otherwise crowded mobile market.
As expected, Apple on June 2 took the wraps off its new mobile operating system, iOS 8, at a special keynote headlined by CEO Tim Cook. At first glance, iOS 8 looks awfully similar to iOS 7, but according to Apple, there are several under-the-hood tweaks that should make the experience of using the operating system far more appealing than iOS 7. As with previous Apple iOS introductions, the company said that there are hundreds of improvements to the operating system, but some are so small, they're not worth discussing. There are, however, several additions coming to the operating system when it launches that could make today's iOS users quite happy. They include improved access to digital photos stored in iCloud along with new audio and video messaging features. Users will also be able to work on files stored in iCloud from any device and then synchronize the file changes across multiple devices, including Macs and PCs. This slide show examines some of the new features coming to iOS 8 and discusses why this platform should be well-received when Apple releases it this fall.
Although Apple received much of the attention on June 2 for software-focused announcements at its Worldwide Developers Conference, Samsung made a bit of a splash with the Samsung Z smartphone. But this handset is different in one important respect. The Samsung Z is the company's first smartphone model running the Tizen operating system that was developed in-house. Judging from the effort Samsung put into this announcement, the Samsung Z won't be the last Tizen-based handset the company launches. Tizen, a Linux-based operating system, has taken a circuitous path to the smartphone market. The operating system is being developed as a project within the Linux Foundation by Samsung, Intel and others in the mobile industry. It's being offered to the market in the same way that Google introduced Android. Tizen was built into Samsung's Galaxy Gear 2 and is now being baked into last year's Galaxy Gear smartwatch model. Tizen has been in development for years and originates from the old Samsung Linux Platform. But the question is what can the Tizen-based Samsung Z offer customers that an Android-based alternative might not? This slide show looks at what the Samsung Z offers prospective buyers.
NEWS ANALYSIS: Business users will benefit from an otherwise modest upgrade to Apple's mobile OS with new capabilities designed for them and enterprise administrators.
By all accounts, it's yet another high-powered Apple Worldwide Developer Conference week at San Francisco's Moscone Center. Roughly 5,000 developers are in town from 69 countries to find out what's ahead in the iOS and Mac OS X application planning. Apple CEO Tim Cook took the stage June 2 to start the event with some opening remarks and state-of-the-union-type facts and numbers. Here are a few of them: Apple now has more than 9 million registered developers, up 47 percent from last year; 800 million iOS devices have been sold to date (iPad has passed 200 million units sold; iPhone has passed 500 million units); 130 million customers bought an iOS device in the past 12 months for the first time; iOS 7 has reached 89 percent share of the iOS installed base; and 1.2 million apps are available on the App Store. This eWEEK slide show focuses on the new features in the iOS 8 mobile operating system, which is being distributed to developers at WWDC and will be generally available in the fall.
Tablets have changed the mobile and computing markets in profound ways. It wasn't long ago that consumers and enterprise users were buying smartphones and notebooks. Tabletlike devices, such as the old PalmPilots, Apple Newtons, and various products from the likes of HP and IBM, were seen as niche products that were never a threat to PC sales. But the launch of the Apple iPad changed everything. People started buying tablets in large numbers as a supplement to their smartphones or even as a replacement for laptop computers, resulting in a significant decline in the sales of PCs in general. In fact, most major researchers and analysts have predicted that there's no slowing the success and growth in tablet shipments, and before long tablet sales will be unmatched, even against lightweight notebooks. A new study from research firm IDC, however, shows a surprisingly different picture of the tablet market. While things still look good for the space, they might not be as rosy as some tablet makers would have hoped. This eWEEK slide show digs into the IDC findings, plucking out facts that might surprise those who closely follow the marketplace.
At long last, the LG G3 smartphone is coming soon to store shelves. LG finally unveiled the device, descriptions of which had been circulating from the rumor mills for months. The actual device revealed by LG delivers a wide range of features customers would expect in a high-end Android phone, including a big display, nice design and some software improvements to create an all-around solid mobile experience. Although LG's phone is designed to compete against other top-of-the-line mobile phones, including Apple's iPhone, the device wasn't announced with anywhere near the same fanfare as a new Apple handset would be. Although LG smartphones are generally as well-designed as most other handsets in their class, the company's products simply don't get the market attention that Apple or Samsung phones do. Despite this lack of attention, the LG G3 with its 5.5-inch screen and wireless charging looks like one of the better devices reaching the market this summer. Take a look at this eWEEK slide show to learn more about this smartphone.
On May 20, Microsoft not only unveiled the Surface Pro 3, a device it says can bridge the gap between tablets and notebooks, but it compared the product with Apple's own MacBook Air. Microsoft went so far as to put the MacBook Air on one side of a scale and the Surface Pro 3 on the other to show that its device is lighter than Apple's. It was an attempt—albeit a poor one—to show customers why they should buy the Surface Pro 3 instead of the MacBook Air. But the MacBook Air has a lot to like in a lightweight notebook. The computer is thin as well as light and comes with a proven operating system that is far superior to Windows 8. Moreover, the MacBook Air's pricing scheme makes more sense to the average customer who simply wants to get work done and really doesn't need to ponder whether a tablet or a notebook is the right device for a particular purpose. This eWEEK slide show looks at both the MacBook Air and Surface Pro 3 and discusses why Apple's notebook is a better buy than Microsoft's slate.