US stolen smartphone database complete

The Verge reports on the completion of the US database that blocks activation of stolen phones.

Though most smartphones already offer tools to let you locate lost phones, only Apple has managed to offer a feature which satisfies SF and NYC prosecutors’ desire to deter theft. The Activation Lock feature of iOS 7 can not only remotely wipe a phone, but keep it from being reactivated without the owner’s credentials.

You should have invested in technology stocks in 2013

Bitcoin isn’t the only thing that you should be tracking

Bitcoin, Schmitcoin — Tech Stocks Also on a Frothy Run

LinkedIn, up more that 95 percent; Facebook, up over 76.5 percent; Yahoo, up 83 percent; Amazon, up 57 percent; Google, up close to 50 percent; and even perpetually stagnant Microsoft, up close to 43 percent. Apple lagged, up only 4.5 percent, and Twitter remains below its November IPO price, down 7.4 percent. Even suffering Groupon and Zynga did well, up more than 86 percent and 84 percent respectively.

Jony Ive’s early designs

These photos from the recent book on Jony Ive are really interesting and provide an insight into his early design ideas.

Check Out The Earliest Work Of Apple’s Design Leader Jony Ive

Kahney highlighted this quote from Paul Kunkel in a book about Apple design: “Unlike most of his generation, Ive did not see design as an occasion to exert his ego or carry out some pres ordained style or theory. Rather, he approached each project in an almost chameleon-like way, adapting himself to the product (rather than the other way around) … for this reason, Ive’s early works have no ‘signature style.’”

Microsoft ready to kill Windows RT

The Guardian reports that Microsoft is most likely terminating Windows RT.

Larson-Green, who is executive vice-president of Devices and Studios at Microsoft, said that the aim of Windows RT was “our first go at creating that more closed, turnkey experience [that Apple has on the iPad]…” but that Microsoft now has three mobile operating systems: “We have the Windows Phone OS. We have Windows RT and we have full Windows. We’re not going to have three.”

It is no secret that Windows RT does not generate value for Microsoft.

Only Microsoft and Nokia’s handset division, which is being acquired by Microsoft, make any RT devices. Microsoft had to write down $900m at the end of the June quarter on unsold Surface RT devices.

Apple’s Newsstand app in its forgotten corner

PandoDaily writes about the dimming star that is the iOS Newsstand app.

For an Apple design, the Newsstand icon looks decidedly juvenile. But what’s worse for publishers is that there is now no visual reminder within the Newsstand icon that there are publications inside, waiting to be read. On top of that, in iOS7 users can now hide the Newsstand icon inside a folder. The once-special treatment that Apple gave publishers in order to encourage the distribution of magazines to the iPhone and iPad had apparently vanished, at least in terms of visual prominence.

However, Newsstand still offers more than apps in some ways.

He also says the Newsstand’s background downloads – which means publications are available for immediate reading every time Newsstand is opened – is also still the most reliable way to get a new issue onto a subscriber’s device, and “only in the Newsstand is the delivery all but guaranteed.” (However, background downloads are now available for all iOS apps.) The Newsstand also still boasts some unique advantages over other apps, including free trials, the ability to update covers, and the opportunity for subscribers to share direct contact information.

Samsung’s $14 billion splurge in advertising this year not bringing in desired results

Reuters reports that Samsung is expected to spend $14 billion in advertising and marketing this year. That’s more than what Google paid to buy Motorola Mobility.

Despite the heavy spending, the marketing efforts backfired on a few occasions. Samsung was under fire for blatant product placement:

Last month, a Samsung-sponsored short-film contest finale at the Sydney Opera House received poor reviews for blatant product placement in a series of ‘behind the scenes’ videos. In Britain, viewers panned a product placement deal with ITV’s popular X-Factor talent show. “Is this a singing competition or an extended Samsung advert?” asked Twitter user Ryan Browne.

Some of the advertisements were outright sexist:

Earlier this year, Samsung’s New York launch of its latest top-of-the-range Galaxy smartphone came under fire for being sexist, portraying giggling women chatting about jewelry and nail polish while the men discussed the new phone, and the company’s new fridge and washing machine launch in South Africa drew similar complaints as it featured swim-suit dancers.

To have a picture of how ineffective it’s marketing campaigns are, compare it with how much Apple spent on advertising:

But, while Samsung has become the world’s biggest advertiser, spending $4.3 billion on ads alone last year, its global brand value of $39.6 billion is less than half that of Apple, which spent only $1 billion on advertising, according to Interbrand and ad researcher Ad Age.

Analysts attribute the poor returns to Samsung’s weak branding. While it has established itself as a reliable brand, its mobile devices are simply a part of Android market, and not a differentiated product like the iOS devices or Windows and Windows Phone devices.

“The stronger, more differentiated the product, the less it needs to be propped up by advertising,” said Horace Dediu, founder of independent research firm Asymco and a former Nokia business development manager, referring to Apple’s ad spend.

“When your brand doesn’t have a clear identity, as is the case with Samsung, to keep spending is probably the best strategy,” said Moon Ji-hun, head of brand consultant Interbrand’s Korean operation. “But maintaining marketing spend at that level in the longer term wouldn’t bring much more benefit. No one can beat Samsung in terms of (ad) presence, and I doubt whether keeping investing at this level is effective.”

“Samsung’s marketing is too much focused on projecting an image they aspire to: being innovative and ahead of the pack,” said Oh Jung-suk, associate professor at the business school of Seoul National University. “They are failing to efficiently bridge the gap between the aspiration and how consumers actually respond to the campaign. It’s got to be more aligned.”

Fujitsu launches laptop with contactless palm authentication

TechWeekEurope reports that Fujitsu has launched a laptop that scans the palm to authenticate its user.

“Vein authentication” uses image recognition and optical technology to scan the normally invisible vein pattern of the palm, back of the hand and fingers. It works by radiating the hand with near-infrared rays. The deoxidised haemoglobin in the palm veins absorbs these rays, thereby reducing the reflection rate and causing them to appear as a black pattern. This vein pattern is then verified against a pre-registered pattern to authenticate the individual.

So the next time you see people holding their palm at their laptop, know that they are not asking their laptops to talk to the hand.

Apple’s iPhone, iPad used in 82% of mobile sales on Black Friday

IBM’s Digital Analytics Benchmark group reports that iOS devices are used to do 82% of mobile Black Friday shopping.

IBM reported that iOS devices accounted for more than 4.5 times the total sales of Android or over an 80 percent share of mobile-oriented sales (above), with 17.3 percent of all online sales occurring on an Apple mobile device versus just 3.75 percent on Android products.

The reports also showed an increase in consumers using mobile devices to shop.

In general, smartphones drove twice as much traffic as tablets, but tablet users actually placed 1.5x as many sales, accounting for 13.2 percent of online purchases compared to just 7.8 percent for smartphones.

Facebook testing feature to surface old posts

AllThingsD reports that Facebook is testing a way to resurface past News Feed posts.

Facebook confirmed the new feature in a statement: “We’re testing a new way to help you remember favorite moments by making it easier to revisit previous News Feed posts,”

“When you click on this notice, you will see a selection of some of the top posts from your News Feed from a year ago. This is just a small test at this stage.”

Indie Platformer Badland finally available on Android

AllThingsD reports that Frogmind’s Badland is now available on Android.

The addicting and arty game launched on iOS in March for $4, and last month came to BlackBerry World at the same price. But, after talking with other mobile developers, Frogmind decided to go free-to-play for the game’s Android release, adding 15-second interstitial ads and two in-app purchases: One just removes the ads, while the other removes the ads and unlocks the second half of the game, for a total of 80 levels.

I really like Badland. To say that it is addictive is an understatement. I got it when it was first released on iOS and I was sucked into the game until I completed it.

I suspect that Frogmind chose this business model on Android to appeal to the different kind of buyers in the Google Play store. With the popularity of its iOS and BlackBerry versions, I believe that making the app available for free will propel it to further success on Android.

It is a no-brainer to download the game since it is free. Go get it now if you are on Android. I won’t be surprised if you end up paying to unlock the full game.