Talks between Three owner Hutchison Whampoa and O2 haven't yet reached a conclusion, but already some of the UK's biggest companies are keen to take advantage of a future merger. After briefly flirting with Vodafone in a recent trial, Sky has confirmed it will become a quad-play provider with the launch of its own O2-powered mobile network in 2016. According to Sky, O2's current owner Telefónica UK will provide access to the carrier's 2G, 3G and 4G services, allowing it to go up against BT, Virgin Media and also TalkTalk, which signed a deal with the operator in November, to offer phone, broadband, TV and mobile bundles.
Today's announcement has certainly been on the cards, especially after BT first signalled it wanted to become a carrier again, nearly a decade after it exited the industry. The landline giant eventually decided EE offered more opportunities than O2, but interest remained in the UK's second largest carrier. With the potential consolidation of Britain's mobile market looming, Sky has deemed now is the right time to expand its offering, in the hopes that customers will add a phone plan to their existing packages.
But spare a thought for Vodafone. Sky initially leant on the carrier's network to offer 200,000 "handpicked" customers access to its mobile services as part of a trial at the end of last year. It's not clear how big the takeup was, but Sky has obviously decided the carrier wasn't the right fit. It's a similar picture over at TalkTalk, which chose to break ties with the operator and migrate its mobile service over to O2's network.
So what does this all mean? Well, should BT acquire EE, we'll have four major providers aiming to get you on one of their quad-play packages. Increased competition will likely encourage better service and lower prices, which is an obvious benefit to you.
Offering iPads as in-flight entertainment systems is so 2014. Australian carrier Qantas will soon welcome a new breed of gadget onboard -- the Samsung Gear VR, along with a Galaxy Note 4 to power it. The phone's loaded with a special app that shows you 360-degree views of the carrier's first-class lounges and even a virtual reality boat ride. You can also use it to watch a movie, but unfortunately, if you want to marathon House of Cards, you'll have to use your own laptop or tablet for that. See, the bad news is that there will be a limited number of Gear VRs available, and it's not accessible to everyone flying Qantas: only folks in Business Class aboard an Airbus A380 going from LA to Sydney or from Melbourne to LA can borrow one. Even then, they're expected to use it only for a limited time, so other people can take their turn.According to Gizmodo Australia, Qantas is providing two units each for the Mebourne and Sydney first-class lounges, four for inbound flights from LA and another four for outgoing flights to the city. The lounges will be stocked with the units as soon as mid-February, whereas the planes themselves won't be offering the device until mid-March. If you're just looking to experience using the virtual reality headset, though, it might be wiser to just buy the $200 Gear VR and the $700 phone to power it, as each top-tier round-trip ticket for those Qantas flights cost roughly 20 grand.
Instead of smartphone apps and traditional bank transfers, Google is hoping that its Gmail and Google Wallet integration can strike a chord with people wanting to send money in the UK. The feature has been available in the US for ages, but finally it's headed for British shores too. Once you've finished writing an email, you'll soon see a new "£" symbol at the bottom of Gmail's composer: type in an amount, select the source of your funds and then hit the "attach" option. Job done. It doesn't matter if the recipient has a Gmail address and, in addition, when someone sends you some cash Google will give you the option of redeeming it or returning it straight away. You can keep it in your Google Wallet account for further transactions, or transfer it to your bank account if you need it immediately. Google says the feature will roll out in the UK "over the coming weeks," so hang tight if you're not seeing it straight away. Is this a precursor to a full Google Wallet roll-out, with contactless mobile payments and physical cards galore? We aren't getting our hopes up.
One of the main advantages retailers like Argos have over Amazon is that they operate huge stores all over the country. It encourages passing trade and it often means that customers can leave with their order just minutes after they arrive. The internet retailer is trying to combat this with the rollout of free same-day deliveries, forcing Argos to find new ways to get products into people's hands. Today, the company has confirmed it's done just that, announcing it will open 10 new digital stores inside selected Sainsbury's stores from this summer.According to Argos, these new stores will offer up to 20,000 products that can be bought instantly in store or reserved for collection via its specialised tablet kiosks. More products are available if you choose to have them delivered to your home, but you can also use Argos' existing mobile apps to do the same job. Sainsbury's is letting Argos have between 1,000 and 5,000 square foot of store space inside its supermarkets, hoping that an increase in footfall will translate into more grocery sales. However, like Argos' recent tie-up with eBay, today's announcement does come as a surprise -- Sainsbury's already sells consumer electronics and homeware, meaning it could effectively see customers spend more money with its rival.
When people talk about Apple and Samsung, the lazy narrative is to say that Apple makes the most money, but Samsung makes the most devices. According to Strategy Analytics, however, that story may no longer actually be the case. In its latest look at the state of the industry, Apple and Samsung both shipped an estimated 74.5 million devices in the last three months of 2014, making them joint first in the shipments race. Of course, this was the first period where both the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus were made available, but even still, those are some hefty numbers.
Overall, the smartphone market is believed to have increased to a record 380.1 million devices in the fourth quarter of 2014, but Samsung wasn't benefiting from it. In fact, by these numbers, the company has seen its market share slide from 30 percent at the end of 2013 to just 20 percent now. The report talks about how Apple is eating the company's lunch at the high-end, Huawei in the middle and Xiaomi, amongst others, at the bottom. The report also suggests that if Samsung wants to stem the flow of blood from its veins, it should try and buy some companies like BlackBerry. Sitting pretty in third place, meanwhile, is Lenovo - now that it's successfully bought Motorola - while Huawei sits in fourth spot thanks, in part, to its efforts in China and Africa.
Source: Strategy Analytics
Sony's PlayStation 3 is getting a bit long in the tooth, but if it's still your preferred device for streaming video, Sky is finally ready to lend its support. Following the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 4, the broadcaster is launching a Sky Go app today for Sony's older gaming console. As per usual, the service lets you watch live programming and stream videos on-demand, including the bevy of films offered via Sky Movies. Simply having a Sky TV subscription isn't enough though -- like its other supported gaming consoles, to use Sky Go on the PS3 you'll need an active Sky Go Extra subscription (£5 per month) or Sky Multiscreen. If that sounds like quite a stretch for your wallet, there's always Now TV, which separates some of Sky's offerings into standalone monthly subscriptions.
Nintendo is today rolling out its "Creators Program," a system that ensures it gets paid when YouTubers share its content. The Creators Program is a response to the popular "Let's Play" YouTube clips that feature long amounts of gameplay. Nintendo took issue with such videos back in 2013, asserting its copyright over them either by issuing takedowns or inserting commercials before them. Last year, it did the same with popular Mario Kart 8 videos but also revealed it had a plan to start revenue sharing, and some eight months later it's ready to explain how it all works.
YouTubers wanting to get paid for videos that include Nintendo's content will need to register with the company at its Creators Program microsite. Once that's done, they'll need to either register their entire channel (if all the videos feature Nintendo content), or individual videos on a case-by-case basis. Nintendo will then take up to three days to mull over the claim before approving the channel or video(s).
Once they've jumped that hurdle, they'll then be making money again. How much? Nintendo will share 70 percent of advertising revenue for those that register entire channels, or 60 percent for individual videos. Creators won't get paid immediately, of course -- Nintendo will send out payments (via PayPal) two months after YouTube tallies the view counts i.e. you'll be paid in March for all your January views. And that's that. The system is a little convoluted, but if Nintendo insists on getting paid -- which it has every right to -- the Creators Program is surely better than DMCA takedowns and forced advertising.
Source: Nintendo Creators Program
Microsoft has long wanted you to use OneDrive to store your photos, but actually viewing those photos isn't ideal -- you're ultimately using a file browser that just happens to have some photo-related features. That's going to change in the next couple of weeks, though. The folks in Redmond are rolling out a photography-focused update to OneDrive that gives your image library some TLC. You can organize photos into albums with edge-to-edge photo collages and larger single-picture views. It should be much easier to find and share your snapshots, as well. OneDrive now draws on Bing image recognition to give your pics basic tags (like "beach" or "dog"), and PCs running Windows 7 or 8 can automatically sync photos from devices as soon as you plug them in. Only web and iOS users will see the new photo tricks right away, but they'll reach Android and Windows Phone in the days ahead.
Source: OneDrive Blog
Until we find that perfect technology to power wearables with our own bodies, scientists all over the world are going to keep developing possible candidates. A team from the National University of Singapore, for instance, has developed a flexible, postage-sized device that can convert static electricity into usable energy. One surface of the device is attached to the skin, while the other is covered in silicon with a gold film underneath. Sandwiched in between the two are tiny pillars of silicone rubber -- slimmer pillars lead to bigger output, since they allow a larger surface area to touch the skin.
The group presented their findings at the 2015 IEEE MEMS conference last week, as well as demonstrated how much electricity the device can produce. After attaching the patch to one's forearm and then to one's throat, they found that clenching your fist and talking generate 7.3 and 7.5 volts, respectively. Tapping it with a finger, though, produces 90 volts or enough energy to power several commercial LED lights. The team plans to make their creation even more flexible in the future, so that they can create one in any size and still confirm to the contours of the human body. They'll find that they have a lot of competition from all over the world, though, such as those researchers who developed a tattoo that converts sweat into electricity and those who created a headset that turns a person's jaws into a power plant.
Filed under: Science
It's only been a few weeks since Microsoft released the preview versions of Office for Android, but the software giant is finally ready to bring the final version of those apps to Google Play. Starting some time Thursday morning -- we're hearing from around 10 a.m. ET onwards -- you'll be able to download the finished versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint to your Android tablet. As before, the requirements for downloading said apps include having a tablet that's 7-inches or larger that's also running Android 4.4 KitKat or newer. They also have to have an ARM-based processor and 1GB of RAM or above.
I had a chance to take a brief early look at the Office for Android apps, and I have to say Microsoft did a pretty good job in porting over its Office apps from desktop to the tablet. However, the first thing you'll be asked to do when you launch any of the apps is to sign up or log in to your Microsoft account -- that's the only way you can edit, save or print documents. It's a bit of annoyance, but seeing as the apps are free to download, I'll acquiesce. If you wish to use the app on screens that are 10.1 inches or larger, you'll have to pony up $6.99 a month or more for an Office 365 subscription. A subscription also offers premium features such as tracking changes in Word and getting the "Presenter View" in PowerPoint. You're also able to sync documents across devices if you have a subscription.
All of the Office apps have a similar home screen. Recently opened documents reside on the left column while templates for new documents sit on the right. At the bottom of that left column is a link to open other documents. You can store your files either locally on your device, on your Microsoft OneDrive account, at a SharePoint location or on Dropbox. The interface for each app is strikingly similar to that of their desktop cousins. As far as I can tell at first glance, the layout and functions on the apps are the same -- everything from editing slides in PowerPoint to creating charts and tables in Excel.
I was a little skeptical that the apps would register my taps accurately, especially on a complicated spreadsheet on Excel, but they did. Resizing tables, text and images was easy and I didn't encounter too many bugs in general. Indeed, there were a few functions that actually benefited from a touch interface -- the ability to doodle and draw circles right on the PowerPoint slide with your finger is pretty great. It's worth noting here that while Word and Excel work in both portrait and landscape modes, PowerPoint is strictly landscape-only. That's not really a big dealbreaker though, as you would want your presentation slides to be in that format anyway.
We'll need a little more time to test these apps to really suss out their worth in day-to-day use, but at first glance, they're not too bad at all. Some of you must have thought so too, as Microsoft tells us that the previews alone generated more than 250,000 downloads across 33 languages and more than 110 countries. It's obvious that a lot of folks are Office aficionados who also happen to own an Android tablet. If that applies to you, stay tuned to that Google Play store, download the apps and let us know what you think. Here's hoping the Windows version of these tablet apps are as good or better.