Categories
Gadgets Science Smartphones

Fairphone, A Case of Responsible Innovation?

fairphone

Fairphone, Responsible Innovation?

This week I want to carry on my investigation into Responsible innovation with an example. I think it might express the idea easily, which has been one of its problems. So meet the Fairphone.

I have seen Fairphone described as a responsible innovation, so let’s take a look at its credentials. Anyone who has ever looked into manufacturing practices of our favourite modern technology will know that there is a dark side to its use, from illegal mining, child labour, poor safety records, it is all there. And this seems to be what Fairphone are trying to counteract.

I take the following from the website:

Mining

We want to integrate materials in our supply chain that support local economies, not armed militias. We’re starting with conflict-free minerals from the DRC to stimulate alternative solutions.

Sounds like it might address some of the problems noted above.

Design

We’re using design to change the relationship between people and their phones. We’re focusing on longevity and repairability to extend the phone’s usable life and give buyers more control over their products.

With all due respect to a certain company that makes phones that you cannot even change the battery on, I can feel someone turning in his grave!

Manufacturing

Factory workers deserve safe conditions, fair wages and worker representation. We work closely with manufacturers that want to invest in employee wellbeing.

Sounds more than reasonable given the bad press that many manufacturers have had in recent years.

Life Cycle

We’re addressing the full lifespan of mobile phones, including use, reuse and safe recycling. We believe that our responsibility doesn’t end with sales.

Given how many are in circulation this must be a priority, and the problem of e-waste is well known.

Here is the publicity blurb:

A smartphone with social values

This quality smartphone lets us open up processes and start a conversation about what is truly fair. From conflict-free minerals to fair factory wages, we’re making improvements one step at a time. Your purchase supports better ways of doing business that aim to inspire the entire industry.

And for those of you who also care about other things:

Introducing the Fairphone 2

5-inch Full HD display with Gorilla® Glass 3

Android​​™​ 5.1 (​Lollipop)

32 GB internal storage​

Expandable storage via MicroSD slot​

Dual SIM

4G LTE/3G/2G

Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 801 platform,​ 2GB RAM​

It looks like a serious piece of kit to me, and if all of the above is true, how could you say no?

The roadmap on the website goes into greater detail, I can certainly recommend a look. You can get a cost breakdown, as well as a financial statement (the project is financially independent). Now I should note that am not paid for this post, neither have I approached the manufacturer, I have never asked for anything from them and am fully independent myself, but I must say that it certainly looks like a fine project to me. They are now taking orders for Fairphone 2, and I am sorely tempted, I would be a hypocrite not to be!

529 Euros. Does that sound reasonable? It is out of my price range I am afraid, but more to the point does it explain what Responsible Innovation might be?

Categories
Gadgets Reviews Smartphones Technology

Smartphone battle: Galaxy S6 vs iPhone 6 Plus

Samsung’s Galaxy S5 smartphone didn’t have the wow factor that we’ve come to expect from new smartphone releases. It was by no means a flop – with retailers ordering more S5s than they did S4s in the 25 days after both phones launched – however it didn’t impress as much as it could have.

The iPhone 6 PlusNow Samsung is back with a shiny new Galaxy S6 – it’s new metal and glass construct means it literally is shiny! – and it has clearly gone out of its way to set a new standard with the S6. For the first time, Samsung have released a phone which in terms of aesthetic build quality, is very similar to that of an iPhone. Also like Apple’s phone’s, Samsung’s latest Galaxy model does not have a removable back, meaning users cannot change the battery or add additional storage.

This is the first time that Samsung and Apple – the two giants of the smartphone world – have made devices which in terms of design and build, are actually pretty similar. That gives us a golden opportunity to compare the two phones spec for spec to determine which is truly the best.

The Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge are practicably identical in terms of tech specs, so for the purpose of this review I’ll be using the S6. Apple’s comparatively priced and sized phone is the iPhone 6 Plus, so that’s what I’ll be comparing the S6 to today – the iPhone 6 Plus versus the Galaxy S6!

Camera

You’d struggle to find a smartphone released these days which doesn’t come with a pretty competent camera. It’s a staple feature that most people have come to expect as standard from a new phone.

Galaxy S6

The Galaxy S6 boasts a phenomenal new 16 mega pixel rear camera, and a 5 mega pixel front facing camera – great for selfies. Speaking of selfies, the S6 is super selfie friendly, as you can take a selfie in loads of ways – pressing the volume buttons, covering the rear facing heart rate monitor with your finger, tapping the screen, or pressing the capture button. The S6 can also film in 4K, which for those who don’t know, is four times better than standard, 1080p HD. The ability to capture up to 120 frames per second (only 60 in HD) is also a handy feature.

iPhone 6 Plus

The iPhone’s rear camera is only 8 MP and it’s front camera is just 1.2 MP. The iPhone supports face detection on both it’s front and rear camera’s – as does the S6. The iPhone 6 Plus can also video in sloooow mooootion (see what I did there?) at 60 frames per second in HD, but it trumps the S6 in terms of how slow-mo it can go – an amazing 240 frames per second.

Winner

Camera tests, such as this one, and this one, show that in terms of camera it’s really a no-brainer. The S6 wins hands down. It’s cameras are both able to shoot at higher quality and leave images looking sharper than those produced by the iPhone. So you can make good use of the camera, Samsung has sped the launch up to just over half a second. Double click the home button and within a second you could be taking shots or shooting video – way faster than the iPhone 6 Plus.

Speed

Now lets look at how fast each of the phones is.

Galaxy S6

Samsung Galaxy S6 smartphoneThe S6 has some very capable hardware behind it, with two physical processors (1.5 GHz and 2.1 GHz) each split into 4 logical preprocessors, the S6 packs a pretty hefty 8 core processor, which is supported by an impressive 3 GB of RAM. The S6 is running Android with Samsung’s (now significantly slimmed down) TouchWiz ‘Disney Layer’ integrated on top. This is much faster, and less bloated than the TouchWiz seen on the S5.

iPhone 6 Plus

The iPhone 6 Plus has slightly more modest hardware, with one dual core 1.4 GHz processor, supported by 1 GB of RAM. It’s packed with the latest Apple mobile operating system iOS 8.

Winner

In speed tests, the S6 obliterates the 6 Plus. Despite it’s inferior software, iOS 8 does a really good job of using the iPhone’s limited hardware to get the best performance out of the phone. Whilst it seldom wins speed tests, it’s usually not far behind the S6.

Battery

One of the most important feature’s of any phone is the battery life. There’s no point in having a flashy gadget if you can’t use it because it’s got a shocking battery life. Battery life doesn’t appear to be improving that much, or too rapidly either, and if I want a phone purely for battery life, I’d still use my old Nokia 3510i!

Galaxy S6
Samsung’s S6 has gone backwards in terms of battery life compared to it’s predecessor, the Galaxy S5. GSM Arena ranks the S5 the 16th best smartphone/tablet ever in terms of battery performance; comparatively the S6 with its 2,550 mAh battery ranks a pitiful 46th.

Something to consider regarding the battery of the S6 is that it can charge wirelessly and it supports fast charging and ships with a fast charger. It also supports wireless charging.

A classic Nokia 3510i
Better battery life than all smartphones!

iPhone 6 Plus

On the same GSM rankings the iPhone 6 Plus ranks much better, coming in at 25th position – way ahead of the standard iPhone 6 which ranked a shocking 90th! This is largely thanks to its much bigger 2,915 mAh battery.

Winner

You can talk for up to 20 hours on Samsung’s S6 before it runs out of juice, whilst with Apple’s 6 Plus you’d get an extra 4 hours of nattering. The Galaxy S6 comes in slightly better than the iPhone 6 Plus in terms of web browsing time and video playback however. Ultimately, despite the fact that it’s easier to charge the S6, the 6 Plus has a bigger battery and seems to last longer, so this one’s a win for the iPhone.

Size, capacity, screen and price

Finally I’ll explore a few of each phone’s other features.

Size

The iPhone 6 Plus has dimensions of 158.1×77.8×7.1 mm. The Galaxy S6 is slightly smaller in all dimensions, including depth, where it is 0.3mm thinner than the iPhone; its dimensions are 143.4×70.5×6.8 mm.

Samsung Galaxy S6 and Apple iPhone 6 Plus dimensionsCapacity

Samsung’s flagship phone comes in three sizes, 32GB, 64GB and 128GB. Apple’s alternative also comes in 3 sizes, a smaller 16GB, 64GB and a huge 128GB. As I mentioned earlier, neither has expandable memory.

Screen

The iPhone’s screen is 5.5 inches, which is bigger than the Galaxy’s 5.1 inch display. Despite the iPhone’s bigger screen, Samsung wins in terms of pixel density, sporting an impressive 576 PPI, compared to the Apple alternative which has only 401 PPI.

Price

On the day of publishing, the iPhone 6 Plus costed £699 GBP from Apple’s website. This is for a SIM-free, 64GB version with the device. The Galaxy S6 costs slightly less with a SIM-free, 64GB version of the phone costing £640 from Samsung’s website.

The Winner

It has a better camera, it’s faster, it’s smaller, it’s got a better screen and it’s cheaper – how could I not choose Samsung’s Galaxy S6 as the winner. Apple’s iPhone 6 Plus does have a better battery, and it is a very good phone, but it is 6 months older than it’s Samsung rival and despite inferior technology it still costs more. No wonder Samsung has regained the smartphone sales crown.

Samsung have really upped their game with the S6 and that will no doubt cause Apple to up theirs when they release their next phone (expected to be the Apple iPhone 6S) in a few months time.

Categories
Apps Smartphones

Flappy Bird

Flappy Bird, for those of you who don’t know, was a smartphone game where users had to try and get a bird through as many obstacles as possible. I say had, as the app has been removed from the iTunes and Google Play – more on that later. I’m not sure I can really explain it much better than that, so take a look at this video to see it in action.

As you can see people take this game pretty seriously. The chap says how he has been playing it for about a week and that “it has totally consumed [his] life“. I tried the game on a friends phone and sensing that it was something that I was likely to get addicted to I decided not to install it myself. I am very glad I made that decision. In fact I have decided to take a total detox from all smartphone and tablet apps recently, and it really does feel great.

A screenshop of the Flappy Bird appUsually I install an app when I have some time to kill, but after a while, I seem to be wasting far too much time on pointless apps. I took a step back and saw that playing games such as Flappy Bird was just a waste of my time. This article is not asking you to stop using apps, but I do want to make people think.

I want to make people think, much in the same way that I suspect Dong Nguyen wants to make people think. Dong Nguyen was the creator of Flappy Bird and despite the fact that some sources report the game to have been earning around $50,000 per day in ad revenues, he took it down. The game was very addictive and didn’t really add any value to the lives of players. If anything, for many it just caused a lot of stress and aggravation.

Anyone who downloaded the game still has it, but if they uninstall it it is gone forever. Some people are selling their handsets with the game still installed on it, although many manufacturers advise against this on privacy grounds.

What I want to know – in the comments below – is what are your opinions? Was the developer right to remove the game? As a society are we getting more addicted to such games? If so, how are they affecting culture – or are they just a bit of harmless fun?

Oh and folks, please don’t go taking a hammer to your phone. 🙂

Categories
Gadgets Reviews Series Smartphones

Using the Galaxy S4 Mini

This is the third article in a series reviewing the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini.

Last week I finished by saying:

“In the next post in the series I will be reviewing Tech21′s Impact Shield case for the S4 Mini. See you then. :-)”

I lied.

I haven’t had a chance to use the case as much as I would like, so have delayed the article a week, so I can write a better review.

In this post I am instead going to talk about my experience of using my S4 Mini on a day to day basis.

Organisation

One of the main features I have benefited from thanks to my ‘smarter’ phone is that it has improved my level of organisation. I was already a reasonably organised person before I got my phone, however having a calendar which comes pretty much everywhere with me and can create alarms and reminders, is pretty useful!

Because I always have my calendar with me, I am able to make decisions and plans more instantaneously, which can be advantageous. That said I am now heavily dependant on my phone and were I to be without it, I would struggle to keep track of my diary. Hopefully I would be able to retrieve my schedule from Samsung, as I do try and keep my contacts and calendar backed up with Samsung sync.

Battery

In June last year, (so 15 months ago now) Joe questioned (here on Technology Bloggers) if smartphone battery improvements were on the way. I can tell you now that they weren’t! Major improvements are yet to materialise. :-/

A BlackBerry Curve 8900 in its case
My BlackBerry Curve 8900.

I used to have a Blackberry Curve 8900 which would last around two to three weeks between charges. Despite using as many power saving features as I can, I am charging my phone pretty much every day. If I had mobile data, WiFi, GPS, Bluetooth and Near Field Communications on all the time, with full screen brightness, and was using my phone a lot, I reckon I could drain it (from full) in just a few hours. The camera is a big drain on the power, as are all other processor intensive activities. That said, considering its size, the camera is amazingly good.

With regard to charging I try and turn my phone off if I am doing a full charge, but usually just trickle charge. I have researched how to maintain the battery life and have found that modern smartphone batteries are designed to be charged little and often, and they don’t like being pushed to extremes (empty/full and also high/low temperature). Keeping your battery between 30% and 90% is the best area. My battery seems pretty healthy, so the trickle charge appears to be working. 🙂

Overheating

One thing I’m not impressed with is how my phone sometimes overheats, so much so, I have to remove it from its case and can’t hold it as the back gets really hot. Considering the storage space and processing power my 124.6 mm tall phone houses, I am frankly amazed that it doesn’t come with a huge fan attached to the back. My 67.98 cm³ (which sounds like a lot, but really isn’t!) phone houses two cameras, one of which is a brilliant 8MP, a HD screen, 1.5GB of RAM, and, among other things, a 1.7GHz processor!

It is no wonder when I put my phone under stress by using a lot of features at once (like for example SatNav functions, as these are quite processor intensive and uses mobile data, GPS and the screen) it starts to overheat. For the size it is, I can’t complain, however I think future phones should be slightly bigger to incorporate better cooling systems, in order to prevent internal component damage from overheating.

Apps

One of the main reasons I chose an Android phone is because of the huge range of applications available. Most of the apps for Android are free, which is a bonus! Some do take liberties however, and demand unreasonable privileges; like the Facebook one, hence I haven’t installed it, but Facebook were going to want to glean all they could from you, weren’t they.

I now have an app to wake me up at the best time in my sleep cycle, an app which can send an SOS message via the backlight, an app to scan barcodes, an app with the latest news, oh, and amongst others, Angry Birds (although I am trying not to use it as it is a real time zapper)!

I have often been known to say ‘there’s an app for that’ but that’s because it is true; almost anything you want to do, there is an app to help you!

Android

On the first article in this series, David from The Only Cog asked about what he called the ‘Disney layer’ that Samsung add to Android – i.e. their slight OS tweaks. He asked the following questions:

“Can it be turned off? How do you find it? What version of Android is it running?”

Google Android's LogoHere are my answers. I have looked into it, and as far as I can tell, Samsung’s altered version of Android is fixed, and you can’t downgrade to the standard OS. That said, I think the changes they make are just to make things look better and also to add a further level of control for users.

The second question therefore doesn’t apply. In response to the third, I am currently running Android 4.2.2 (which came pre-installed) although I think the S4 Mini will be among the first to get 4.3, (Android KitKat) probably just after its big brother the S4 receives the upgrade.

Slogan

Samsung’s slogan for the S4 Mini is “Minimalism Maximised”. I completely agree with what they are saying, the phone has the convenience of a small phone, but the power of a bigger one. I prefer “tiny but powerful”, maybe the S5 Mini will adopt that one. If so I want royalties Samsung! 😉

Next Week

As promised, next weeks article will be a review of Tech21’s D3O infused case. See you then.

Categories
Gadgets Reviews Series Smartphones

Reviewing Mobile Fun’s FlexiShield case for the S4 Mini

This is the second article in a series reviewing the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini.

In this article I will be looking at a FlexiShield case for the Galaxy S4 Mini.

Which Case?

If you browse Mobile Fun’s site, you will see they have a huge range of cases for the S4 Mini, (at the time of writing, they had around 80) so choosing the right case can be a challenge. Different cases have different purposes, so in order to get the right case for you, you need to decide what you want to use it for.

Here are some of the different functions you might want from a case:

  • Protection – probably number one for most people
  • Design – a stylish case can add to the phones aesthetic appeal
  • Storage – some wallet style cases also allow you to store credit cards in the cover
  • Functionality – the Samsung official case lets you access some functions through the window in the screen cover, whilst saving power by not keeping the whole screen on

I want a case which protects my phone and also looks good. Protection is my top priority, as I don’t want to damage my phone, although if I can make it look better in the process, that’s a bonus.

Mobile Fun’s FlexiShield Case Review

The first of the two cases I have chosen to review is Mobile Fun’s own brand FlexiShield case.

Mobile Fun: Galaxy S4 Mini FlexiShield CaseI am going to be honest, I didn’t have high expectations of the FlexiShield case, as I had looked at reviews of a similar case for the S4 Mini’s big brother, (the S4) and they weren’t very positive. This meant that when I received the case and discovered how great it was, I was pleasantly surprised! 🙂

Price

One of the reasons for my initial doubt was the price. The case currently costs less than £10, which is one of the cheapest S4 Mini cases on the market. Samsung’s Official case (which offers very little protection in comparison) costs around £18, so in terms of protection, the FlexiShield one is very competitively priced.

Design

S4 Mini FlexiShield Case chargingThe FlexiShield case is surprisingly durable, as you would expect from the name, the case is quite flexible, yet when it is fitted on the phone it is very strong. The case fits the phone perfectly, and leaves all the vital ports and sensors accessible. The top ports are all perfectly aligned, however access to the camera and bottom microphone, whilst still accessible is slightly off-centre, which looks a little untidy.

My phone is the white version, so I chose the ‘Frost White’ version of the case, and it looks great! The phone is still visible, as the case is semi-transparent.

The power and volume buttons are covered by the case, so all you have to do to access them is push on the side of the case. Similar cases have recesses where the buttons are, making them hard to press, however this is not an issue with the FlexiShield for the S4 Mini.

At times my phone does appear to be overheating when in the case, however this is usually only when it isn’t in a well ventilated area. The phone is fine when I have it in my pocket, just don’t go and wrap it in a blanket!

Sometimes when GPS and mobile data are on and the phone is trying to process something (like mapping) I do notice the back getting hot, so I usually remove it from the case.

Protection
Whilst the FlexiShield can’t offer the same protection that a D3O case can, it does offer a reasonably high level. When fitted on the phone, the case covers all of the back and sides and has a lip which is elevated over the top of the phone, meaning that no matter how the phone falls (proving it is falling onto a flat surface, not a spike or something!) the case will take the impact, not the device itself.

Mobile Fun's Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini FlexiShield CaseRather by accident, I tested the true protection of the case by throwing my phone about a meter across the room, where it came to land on the floor. The thud when it hit the ground wasn’t reassuring, however the case had absorbed the impact, meaning my phone was intact. I wouldn’t advise you thrown it at the floor, however if you do drop/throw it, the case will provide some protection.

The case does a great job of protecting the phone from marks and stains. It is really easy to clean with a damp cloth, and keeps your phone safe from harm.

Rating

Mobile Fun’s own brand case is very competitively priced for what it offers: durable, well designed protection for the S4 Mini.

UPDATE: Having reviewed Tech21’s Impact Shield case I am downgrading this case from 4 star to 3 star.

I rate Mobile Fun’s S4 Mini FlexiShield case three star.Three Star

Next Week

In the next post in the series I will be reviewing Tech21’s Impact Shield case for the S4 Mini. See you then. 🙂

Categories
Gadgets Reviews Series Smartphones

A series reviewing the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini

The Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini was launched on the 1st of July 2013. Six days later (on Sunday the 7th of July) I bought the phone on a 24 month contract.

A Series

Having owned an S4 Mini for a few weeks now I have decided to write a series reviewing the phone.

In this series I will be looking at the phone as a whole, as well as comparing it to its brothers and cousins from Samsung’s Galaxy series. I will also be giving my verdict on various accessories and cases that I have tested.

The series will post every Tuesday.

Introduction over; lets get started!

Why S4 Mini?

Anyone who has chosen a smartphone will know that it isn’t an easy decision. Most people have a personal favourite brand, however there is a lot of choice which makes it difficult to decide which device is right for you.

I have to admit, I had been bitten by the Apple bug. Apple are very good at marketing, and my experience of their products had made me think they were the best.

However when visiting phone shops, I asked staff whether they would buy the Galaxy S4 or the iPhone 5, and every single one said the S4; most also agreed that the iPhone is overpriced for an inferior gadget.

Apple’s magical effect started to ware off and after asking my friends which phone they would have, I decided that I would be going for a Samsung device. I also considered Blackberry, HTC, Nokia and Google devices, but non really wowed me.

The thing I don’t like about the S4 is its size. I think a big screen is great, but the phone is huge! The S4 Mini is almost the same in terms of technical specifications, however is slightly less powerful and much smaller. The S4 Mini is pretty much exactly the same size as the iPhone 5.

Samsung's S4 Mini, S4 and S3 Mini

I feel that Samsung’s slogan for the S4 Mini perfectly describes the phone ‘Minimalism Maximised‘. It is a super powerful, high spec phone, packed into a pretty small case. The S4 Mini has the spec of the S3, but the functionality of the S4.

Android

In the past Android had a reputation for being an over complicated operating system for the technically minded, however major advancements in the last few years mean that now it couldn’t be easier to use.

Something I love about Android is the home screen. Apple’s iOS only lets you store app shortcuts on your home screen, which is a huge limitation when you consider the features Android offers. On my home screen I have the weather, a handful of apps, and a search box. Scroll to the left and I have the news and to the right my calendar. No need to open anything, it’s just there; one of the reasons why I love Android.

The fact that it is open source really shines through, as everything is built with users in mind. For example, with iOS, you have to stop every app individually, however with Android you can close all your apps at once. Weather, news, your diary, alarms, music, messages and loads more are right their on Android, without you having to load anything. Data usage, battery status, free memory, you name it, Android will tell you. I think you get the picture: I love Android!

Next Time

Next week I will be looking at a FlexiShield Case for the S4 Mini.

Categories
Computers Gadgets Games Media Smartphones Technology

Parenting in the Age of Digital Technology

Last month the Northwestern University in the USA published a national survey entitled Parenting in the Age of Digital Technology. The report is available for free download through the Parenting CC Portal , but here I would like to take a quick look at some of the findings and questions raised and see if we can provoke some debate.

Multiple Screen Viewing
Multiple Screen Viewing

The study explores how parents are incorporating new digital technologies (iPads, smartphones) as well as older media platforms (TV, video games, and computers) into their family lives and parenting practices, and it gives an idea of how parents use and view this technology.

We should point out that this is a US based survey.

The 10 key finding could be seen as the following:

1 While new media technologies have become widespread, a majority of parents do not think they have made parenting any easier.

2 Parents use media and technology as a tool for managing daily life, but books, toys, and other activities are used more often.

3 Parents still turn to family and friends for parenting advice far more often than to new media sources like websites, blogs, and social networks.

4 Parents do not report having many family conflicts or concerns about their children’s media use.

5 There is still a big gap between higher- and lower- income families in terms of access to new mobile devices.

6 Parents are less likely to turn to media or technology as an educational tool for their children than to other activities.

7 Parents assess video games more negatively than television, computers, and mobile devices.

8 For each type of technology included in the survey, a majority of parents believe these devices have a negative impact on children’s physical activity, the most substantial negative outcome attributed to technology in this study.

9 Many parents report using media technology with their children, but this “joint media engagement” drops off markedly for children who are six or older.

10 Parents are creating vastly different types of media environments for their children to grow up in, and, not surprisingly, the choices they make are strongly related to their own media use.

Some other interesting points arise, such as that 40% of families are described as media heavy and spend more than 11 hours a day in front of the screen. Half of all families surveyed have 3 TV’s or more in the house. 40% of 6 to 8 year olds have a TV in their bedroom. 70% of parents state that having mobile devices has not made parenting easier with 40% stating that they have a negative social skills effect upon the children.

The conclusions are in some ways surprising though as the authors demonstrate evidence that parents are still more likely to resort to traditional means of entertainment as rewards and punishment, and they are convinced enough about the educational possibilities offered by so called new media to not worry too much about their negative effects.

An interesting read if you have half an hour, but comments and debate about the summary above would also be educational.

Categories
Business Computers Internet News Smartphones

Taxing the Smartphone

On Monday a report was released in France that contained the suggestion that a tax should be levied on Internet devices in order to raise money to promote and protect French cultural production.

A Tax Paid Phone
A Tax Paid Phone

For several years France has had a policy of taxing broadcasters and spending the money on supporting its own film and entertainment industries, but revenues are falling. The problem seems to be that many more people are accessing their entertainment via the Internet and therefore not contributing to its production cost.

The Lescure report as it is known suggests a tax of between 1 and 4% on any Internet capable devices (smartphones, eBook readers and games consoles included), but as we might imagine many of the producers of these devices are not happy about the proposal.

Money has to be raised to maintain the entertainment industries, but many of the companies that provide access to this entertainment are not based in France and do not contribute. They probably don’t want to either, and so we come across the same problem that I wrote about last week, collecting national taxes from international corporations based in another state is never easy, and borders are porous.

The proposed tax would replace one already in existence upon storage devices. Currently tax is levied on blank CD’s and memory sticks as well as computers with hard discs.

The manufacturers complain that the price of the devices would rise leading to fewer sales, although the author of the report argues that such a small percentage increase would make little difference, and would not even effect the home job market because most of these devices are assembled overseas. A 1% tax would raise something of the order of 90 million Euro a year.

The problem remains though. As our sources of entertainment move away from pay TV, publicity funded channels and national subscription systems such as the BBC, money is taken away from the producers and associations that represent and fund these industries. Some see the fact that Google and Apple amongst others are operating outside the tax system and are not contributing to the industries that they make their money from as unfair, and hope that this change in tax law will go some way to evening out the field.

The Wall Street Journal goes into a little more depth on the matter in its free online edition.

I wonder if France takes this step if others in the EU will follow. There are many different ways of making money through so called free downloads as we all know, but the money ends up in the pockets of the provider and not the producer and the industries involved are feeling the pinch. Maybe this needs to change.

Categories
Reviews Smartphones

The Samsung Galaxy S4

This coming Saturday, Samsung’s latest smartphone, the Galaxy S4, goes on sale.

Smartphone Battles

2009-2012 smartphone market by provider
Global smartphone market share by provider.

Like with most mass market technology, there is a war going on in the smartphone industry. In 2012, according to market analyst firm ICD, Samsung controlled 30.3% of the global smartphone market, 59.5% up on the 19% of the market it controlled the year before.

There is no doubt that Samsung is currently the dominant force in the smartphone market. The firm seems to slowly be winning its battle with Apple, and looks set to take on Google next, with rumours that it soon plans to ditch Google’s Android operating system altogether.

Nokia are predicted to make a comeback (how successful I am unsure) thanks to Windows RT, and makers of BlackBerry, RIM, are also looking stronger in 2013 after the release of BlackBerry 10 earlier this year.

Galaxy S4

Samsung are trying to steal even more of the market from its competitors with the Galaxy S4, so it has pulled out a few stops, maybe not all the stops, but quite a few, to make sure that the phone is a success.

So, the phone has loads of new features, to make it slightly better than its predecessor – the S3.

The S4 has a slightly bigger (5mm to be exact) screen, boasting a whole 5 inches of full HD display, which no doubt gives it amazing clarity. The new phone is also slightly thinner than the S3.

You can buy a Galaxy S4 in black and white, or as Samsung like to call them: black mist and white frost. I have never looked at a phone before (smart or not) and thought “that looks like frost” or mist, but maybe the S4 really does; or maybe it’s just marketing.

Touch and use even with gloves - Samsung Galaxy S4Samsung claim the latest edition of its Galaxy is usable even with gloves on, hopefully reducing the cases of zombie fingers – Jonny, you might be able to use it! 😉

The phone has various other new features, such as Samsung WatchON, which connects your phone to your TV, turning your phone into a remote control.

Another new feature is the multi-speaker capability – if you have more than one handy, you can sync them together to create a better quality of sound.

The S4 will also come with built in 4G compatibility, which the original S3 didn’t. If a fast internet connection is important to you when you are on the go, then the S4 is probably a better choice than the S3.

Eye-Tracking

Probably the most exciting new feature of the Galaxy S4 is the new eye-tracking technology. The phone uses its front camera to monitor the users eye movements, and uses can use this function for a host of different activities.

One of the features which uses the eye-tracking technology is video playback. If you are watching something, and then look away, the device automatically pauses the media for you. Furthermore, eye-tracking technology can be used to scroll up and down a page, without the need to even touch the screen.

Photos

There are two interesting developments in the photographic area of the phone, the first is that you can now add audio snippets to pictures, to enable you to catch even more of the moment. You can also merge video with picture, creating partially animated pictures – sort of like the photographs in the Harry Potter films.

The S4 can also use (and display) the front and rear camera simultaneously, which shows that its quad-core ARM processor is pretty quick!

Your Thoughts

So what are your thoughts on the S4? If you are getting one, do let us know!

Do you think that Samsung have done enough to fend off the competition from its closest rivals?

Personally I think the S4 looks like it is set to become the best smartphone on the market when it goes live at the end of the week.

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Business Internet

PayPal – is the internet giant a force for good?

PayPal, its an internet giant – you can’t really argue with that. 110 million active users worldwide and counting.

Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Google+, PayPal, Instagram and eBay ranked by active number of users
The number of active users top internet sites have – PayPal ranks among them with 110 million.

PayPal claims that 59% of purchases are completed using its service, however on average in the US, 88% of users abandon their virtual cart before the checkout.

The debate is still open as to whether people user PayPal because it offers the best service, or because it has a market monopoly – so like with Windows and Facebook, it is hard for people to choose another company, as everyone seems to be using it.

One cannot argue that PayPal offers a useful service. Users can exchange funds, send gifts and purchase goods from an account which gives additional security and guarantees, and doesn’t hold the key to an individuals personal life savings – as a bank account does. PayPal will also convert [many] foreign currencies into your local one, taking a small commission.

PayPal is easy to use, just get someone’s email address, and you can send money to them, or request funds from them. PayPal is also integrated with eBay (well, eBay owns PayPal) and many other sites, making buying online very easy. That said, Amazon still refuse to support it – maybe because eBay is one of its major competitors? Who knows.

Charges

One of the [major] downsides of PayPal are the charges. If one individual transfers money to another individual via a bank transfer, then there are usually no charges. PayPal however does charge.

PayPal's logoIf you use sterling, 3.4% of your transaction and an additional 20 pence will go to the folks at PayPal. So if you get a payment of £150, after fees you will have £144.70; so you lose £5.30. If you trade in US dollars, then the fee is 2.9% and $0.30 – slightly more reasonable. All the Scandinavian countries are charged 3.9% in addition to a fixed fee, as is Japan.

If every month you have a large inflow of money into your PayPal account, your fees do get reduced, and in the UK your fees can drop as low as 1.4% if you receive over £55,000 a month.

You could argue that these charges are fair, as PayPal is a business and needs to make a profit. However you could also argue that users are a little overcharged for the service PayPal provide.

PayPal Here

You can do almost anything on your mobile these days. In terms of business, there are mobile payroll apps, contact managers, and even mobile trading apps, so is it any surprise that PayPal has a mobile application? Probably not. It has several in fact, one for Android, one for iPhone and another for Windows mobiles. As the firm boasts:

“You don’t have to be at a computer to use PayPal – you can shop or send money securely wherever you are.”

But the PayPal app is no longer the only connection between your smartphone and the internet giant.

Last month, PayPal announced that it had developed and was launching a chip and PIN device, called PayPal Here, which (as they put it) provides “a simple, secure way, to accept payments on your mobile device“.

The PayPal Here device wirelessly connects to the sellers smartphone, which hosts a PayPal app, and gives the user the security of a wired chip and PIN, via the phone. So, the seller inputs the amount they want to charge, links their phone to the device, gives it to the customer, who inserts their card, enters their PIN, and the sale is complete.

This could potentially allow anyone to take a payment from virtually everywhere. Industries which were previously solely reliant on cash like taxi services and market stalls, can now potentially take payments by card.

Debit Card

Late last year, PayPal launched its own debit card, so users can directly access their funds via a card. Users can also earn 1% cash back when enrolled in PayPal’s Preferred Rewards Program.

These recent changes are leading me to wonder whether PayPal might choose to move into the banking industry soon? A debit card and an easy access ‘current’ account are both features of most high street banks.

Do you think PayPal will (in the near future) be launching a savings account? Could it start to offer users an overdraft facility, or even short-term loans? I believe it is a possibility – and not an unlikely one either.