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Apple is reportedly building a mobile payment service

Posted by Nuttapon_S On January - 25 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

There are plenty of existing mobile payment systems that let you buy goods with your iPhone, but there are now signs that Apple wants to take on some of those duties itself. The Wall Street Journal claims that the company is in the early stages of building a mobile payment infrastructure that would let its customers buy all kinds of products and services, not just those in its own stores. Sources say that Cupertino has tasked the former head of its online store with getting the service off the ground, and it’s reportedly discussing the idea with other companies in the tech industry. Apple isn’t commenting on the rumor, but it has been researching mobile payments for years — we know it’s at least intrigued by the concept.

If you thought Typo’s iPhone keyboard looked an awful lot like the keyboard from a BlackBerry Q10, you’re not alone. BlackBerry has just sued Typo in a Northern California court for alleged patent infringement. The slide-on peripheral is a “blatant” copy of BlackBerry’s signature input feature, according to the company. We’ve reached out to Typo for commentary, but it may not have many options — the crew in Waterloo has patented a lot of keyboards, and it’s hard to deny the strong resemblance.

Update: Typo isn’t going to take the lawsuit lying down; the company says that it plans to fight back, and claims that BlackBerry’s accusations “lack merit.” Read Typo’s full statement below.

We are aware of the lawsuit that Blackberry filed today against Typo Products. Although we respect Blackberry and its intellectual property, we believe that Blackberry’s claims against Typo lack merit and we intend to defend the case vigorously. We are excited about our innovative keyboard design, which is the culmination of years of development and research. The Typo keyboard has garnered an overwhelmingly positive response from the public. We are also looking forward to our product launch at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas next week and remain on track to begin shipping pre-orders at the end of January.

(Reuters) – For all the hype, Apple Inc’s long-awaited iPhone agreement with China Mobile Ltd may deliver little more than a fleeting revenue jolt for the U.S. giant.

A deal with the world’s largest mobile carrier, expected as early as this week, nets Apple 759 million potential new customers that could generate $3 billion in 2014 revenue, or nearly one-quarter of Apple’s projected revenue growth in its current fiscal year.

But after the initial haul, Apple will find itself in a familiar, expensive battle with its main smartphone rival, South Korea’s Samsung Electronics Co Ltd, to win over customers, one wallet at a time.

And China Mobile will likely have to wait at least a year for its payout as it spends billions of dollars to build a 4G network so customers can make full use of their iPhones.

“The easiest way to grow iPhone sales was always distribution. This was the pot at the end of the rainbow and now that we’re there, it’s going to be an old-fashioned slog it out over customers,” said Ben Thompson, a Taipei-based writer on the technology industry at stratechery.com.

China is Apple’s second-largest market after the United States. Net sales in China for the fiscal year ended September 2013 rose 13 percent to $25.4 billion, accounting for about 15 percent of Apple’s $170.9 billion in total net sales.

But its performance has been mixed. Where once there were lines around the block for the newest iPhone, now Apple faces intense competition from Samsung plus a host of local players such as Xiaomi making cheaper smartphones.

China Mobile, which says it already has 45 million iPhone users, could gain 17 million new activations and the deal should generate at least $3 billion in revenue for Apple in 2014, according to Forrester Research.

Analysts expect Apple’s revenue to increase by $13.2 billion in its fiscal year ending September 2014, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Apple declined to comment on its negotiations with China Mobile. China Mobile spokeswoman Rainie Lei said talks were ongoing and declined to elaborate.

AFTER THE GOLD RUSH

The last of the big-name carrier signings marks a shift in the smartphone battle: once availability is no longer an issue, marketing becomes the deciding factor.

Samsung has the spending edge.

The South Korean titan is expected to spend around $14 billion on advertising and marketing this year. Samsung spends a bigger chunk of its annual revenue on advertising and promotion than any of the world’s top 20 companies by sales – 5.4 percent, according to Thomson Reuters data. Apple spends just 0.6 percent.

“Apple is definitely going to have to increase marketing spend,” said Bryan Wang, a Beijing-based analyst with Forrester Research.

“Apple is going to gain revenues from China through the upcoming China Mobile agreement. But its next question will be how to further compete with competitors after the first year.”

Another problem for Apple is consumer habits in China, where smartphone buyers tend to prefer cheaper handsets. More than 88 percent of people buying smartphone handsets in the third quarter spent less than $500, according to data from Canalys.

The latest iPhone 5S costs $868 in China while the 5C fetches $737, according to Apple’s China website.

To be sure, even winning over a tiny percentage of China Mobile’s 759 million subscribers would be a boon for Apple.

“The absolute number of people who are rich and can afford an iPhone is quite large. It’s a big deal,” said stratechery.com’s Thompson.

ONE-TWO PUNCH

For China Mobile, the payout will have to wait as it pumps billions of dollars into its 4G network roll-out and iPhone subsidies eat into profit margins.

It will take at least one year before an iPhone deal is profitable for the carrier, according to Delta Partners, a global telecoms, media and technology advisory and investment firm based in Dubai.

Moody’s Investors Service expects China Mobile’s capital spending as a percentage of revenue will be about 30 percent in 2014, due to 4G spending. That works out to about 196 billion yuan ($32.28 billion), based on Thomson Reuters data on revenue forecasts from 29 analysts.

China Mobile’s existing iPhone users can only use the company’s slower 2G wireless speeds because its proprietary 3G TD-SCDMA standard is not compatible with iPhones.

The company hopes the one-two punch of high-speed 4G mobile Internet and Apple iPhones will bring back customers who abandoned the carrier for China Unicom Hong Kong Ltd and China Telecom Corp, both of which already offer the iPhone. China Mobile also hopes to get current subscribers to upgrade to premium product and service.

One wild card is how the deal will be structured. In the United States, Apple’s home ground, wireless carriers subsidize the iPhone in return for two-year contracts. These subsidies help make the iPhone affordable to a wider U.S. customer base.

Analysts estimate operators pay about $400 subsidy for each iPhone they sell, compared with about $250 to $300 for other smartphones.

While carriers take an initial margin hit, they typically recover the subsidy cost over the two-year contract because iPhone buyers typically tack on pricy data plans.

(Reporting by Paul Carsten in BEIJING, Poornima Gupta in SAN FRANCISCO, Jane Lanhee Lee in SHANGHAI and Miyoung Kim in SEOUL; Editing by Emily Kaiser)

Street photography is the purest, most spontaneous way to create art with a camera. No studios, no props, no poses; all you need is the right equipment and a street with people on it. In this original series for Engadget, we’ll follow three seasoned street fighters and try to glean some practical wisdom about what engages their eyes, brains and fingers in the moments before they shoot.

The third and final street photographer in this trilogy represents a very different (and non-deferential) way of doing things. As you’re about to see, Gavin Harrison doesn’t stick to traditional ideas of what a street shot should look like, or to what sort of camera should be used to capture it. In fact, he spends more time thinking about smartphone apps than about lenses or exposure settings, and there’s a lot he can teach us.

THE PHOTOGRAPHER

Whereas Antonio Olmos and Matt Stuart are steadfast purists, Harrison’s pictures are heavily reliant on the use of filters. And we’re not just talking about a bit of sepia or desaturation: Harrison often uses effects that totally distort the original image, to the point where any journalistic aspect is lost.

Some might argue that Harrison isn’t even a street photographer, and that his work is divorced from reality, but if you put this idea to him, you’ll get a pretty defiant response:

“My photos are highly edited, but that just heightens the realism of the photograph. I want people to stop and look at something, so I take a photo of it and then I make it so that they notice it.”

And it works. Whatever Harrison is doing to his photographs (which is almost everything that can be done to a photograph), it’s proving itself profitable. He’s making sales and he’s increasingly able to live off his work even while he moonlights as an actor.

THE GEAR

Harrison does all his street photography on an iPhone 4. It so happens that the other two photographers in this series also used iPhones. Olmos used his as a backup camera for occasional shots, while Stuart tended to use his mainly for apps that helped him to predict and measure the correct exposure during the course of a day. Neither of these guys used an iPhone as their primary camera, however.

“I got an iPhone 4 two and half years ago,” Harrison says. “Before then, I used aNokia N95 and it was fantastic, but the iPhone was a lot quicker. It gave me my images when I wanted to take them.”

The iPhone 4 was arguably the first smartphone that delivered great still and video output without compromising on speed and ease of use, and hence it gained a strong following among Brits working in various parts of the media industry. Even though the iPhone has perhaps been overtaken by phones that put a bigger emphasis on photography, like Nokia’s optically stabilized, 41-megapixel Lumia 1020, the iPhone remains entrenched among creative types living and working in London.

Then again, while Harrison might regard the iPhone as fast compared to other phones, it’s worth pointing out that it’s not nearly as speedy as Olmos’ Canon 5D Mark II or Stuart’s Leica MP. In fact, Harrison tends to be a lot slower than either of those guys, taking around 10 to 15 seconds on each shot instead of just a couple of seconds.

This certainly isn’t intended as a criticism; it’s just evidence that he works in a way that is better suited to “iPhoneography.” Part of the reason he takes longer is that he often tries to frame a shot in anticipation of a specific filter being applied later — and sometimes he even experiments with filters while in the same location so he can re-frame the shot if necessary. Once he’s happy, he uses his phone to share a shot immediately to Twitter and his blog. Once you factor in the time saved by doing this directly on a phone, the overall process may well end up being more spontaneous than using a traditional camera and a laptop.

THE TECHNIQUE

Check out the video near the top of this page, showing Harrison in action. He’s fun to observe, simply because of the fluency with which he uses different bits of mobile software to both take and edit photos. He’s spent so much time with his favorite suite of tools that he’s able to envisage the whole creative process even before he hits the shutter button. The smartphone’s touch interface works with the instant previewing to permit rapid trial and error, so ultimately Harrison is able to seize on whatever looks “right.”

“I think apps are really helpful in taking a shot that you wouldn’t normally take if you didn’t know the apps … You’re seeing something with a different eye than if you just had your camera with you, and if you were going to use Adobe Lightroom back at home.”

There’s a school of thought that holds visual effects to be cheesy, or worse, dishonest. It says that edits in a documentary film should be straight cuts rather than dissolves; that any sort of manipulation of a “real” image is essentially fakery.

Conversely, you could argue that glass lenses have always distorted reality to some degree, whether by bending straight lines or vignetting or reducing depth of field, and photographers have exploited this to deliver images with greater impact. The same argument applies to celluloid film, which has also been used for creative distortion, to add noise or remove color or just generally perceive things differently from the way our eyes do, so that an image can be lifted above the mundane. Harrison is just taking this same notion one step further, into the digital realm.

If you want to try out any of the techniques he uses, here’s a rundown of his regular staple of apps:

645 PRO MK II, $3.99 — “It has a built-in light meter and does manual settings like a DSLR.” (Camera FV-5 offers something a bit like this on Android.)

Slow Shutter Cam, $0.99 — “It keeps the shutter open for blurred motion. It works best with a tripod unless you want really weird-looking photos.”

DMD Panorama, $1.99 — “Great panorama app, which can do 360 degrees if you want.” (Pano is similar on Android.)

Clone Camera Pro, $1.99 — “A fun app for cloning yourself or your friends in certain photos.”

Big Lens, $0.99 — “For mimicking depth of field, so you can blur out the background or different objects in the scene.”

Camera+, $1.99 — “Especially good for its burst mode, so you can fire off a bunch of photos in quick succession.” (Camera ZOOM FX offers advanced burst mode on Android.)

Snapseed, free — “One of my main editing apps. Great for any type of photo, because it does so many different things.” (Also available at Google Play.)

VSCO Cam, free — “Especially good for adding an aged, washed-out look to your images.” (Or see Vignette on Android.)

TinyWorld, $0.99 — “Makes scenes look like planets… gives a sense of abstract realism.” (Check out Tiny Planet FX Pro for similar effects on Android, priced at $2.99.)

WRAP-UP

So, we come to the end of our time not just with Harrison, but with a trio of photographers who all bring something different to the table. If there’s one major conclusion to take away from all this, it’s that street photography is a skill that can be learned and improved, through the manual exposure and focusing techniques employed by Olmos and Stuart, and by making sure you always have some sort of camera at hand, as Harrison does.

But it’s equally true to say that street photography is impossible to master. Ultimately, it’s about being ready for that random event that could strike at any moment. You can’t prepare for this — all you can do is prepare to be prepared. If you have the right techniques and sufficient practice, you merely increase the probability that you’ll snatch a perfect shot before the moment disappears forever.

And here’s something else that’s certain: Street photography is more than just photography on the street. It doesn’t consist of photos you could have taken on your way home from the office. To maximize the chances of getting a good shot, you have to allocate time to it; you have to walk miles with no destination; you have to have the undying optimism of a gambler; and you have to overcome taboos about photographing strangers. You also have to be so comfortable with your camera that it almost vanishes from the equation and, perhaps most importantly, you need to shoot hundreds if not thousands of embarrassing duds before you strike gold.

Visit Harrison’s blog, Dodgedabulletpoint, to see more of his artwork. And, if you haven’t already, feel free to take a look at the first two parts of this series, which looked at the work of Antonio Olmos and Matt Stuart.

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