U.S. still dominated by Samsung and Apple handsets
Mobile analytics company comScore has just released its monthly report on U.S. smartphone market share, and as expected Android is still on top. Keeping in mind that these numbers represent market share as of October, 2013, let's jump into the analysis.
As you would expect, Android is on top of the U.S. market with 52.2 percent of devices, up 0.4 percent from three months previous. Apple makes up much of the rest with 40.6 percent, also up slightly in the period. BlackBerry and Microsoft naturally round out the other meaningful OS market shares in the states.
In terms of manufacturers, it's the Samsung and Apple show yet again. Since no other manufacturers make phones with Apple's iOS, of course it has the largest single manufacturer market share at the same 40.6 percent of the market. Following up a somewhat-close second place is Samsung, with 25.4 percent of the market, up 1.3 percent. Motorola picked up a miniscule gain to 7 percent market share, and both HTC and LG lost share to dip under Motorola.
At this point it seems it'll take something monumental to get a single manufacturer to move any considerable amount in a three-month period — maybe things will mix up a bit more around the holidays.
Thought $299 was too expensive for a smartwatch? Well, it's time to dig even deeper into the old wallet with the Qualcomm Toq smartwatch. This guy's $350 but is the first to feature Qualcomm's Mirasol display, which we've seen in products in fits and starts over the past couple years. But it's never quite caught on.
Perhaps Toq will change that. We'll see.
Regardless, a quick unboxing is in order, as there's a lot going on here. For its first smartwatch, Qualcomm's done quite a nice job with the packaging. And while we knew what to expect with the wireless charger, it's still a pretty interesting device. It opens up like a little jewelry box, with a couple hidey-holes for loose change (which you might or might not have laying around after you pony up for this thing) or for the Toq Headsets that are coming eventually.
We'd recommend looking through all the quick-start material as well, as there are a few steps you'll need to take before the watch is ready for your wrist.
We'll have more on the Qualcomm Toq as we get to know this guy.
The Dec. 5 Deal of the Day is the Cruzerlite Experience Case for Motorola Moto X. Take the Android OS experience and fuse it with a custom-fit Moto X skin case and you get the Experience Case! Designed for those who truly love Android, this skin features a unique assortment of Android icons embedded into the back of each case. It's even as flexible as your device's software, providing a slim and easy fit all around.
Cached music can now be handled on external storage
There's a new update for Google Play Music rolling out from today, and it brings a pretty big feature addition for anyone using Google's music app on a device with an SD card. The new Google Play Music version 5.3 introduces the ability to store cached or pinned music on external storage — i.e. a microSD card — as an alternative to internal storage. The app has always been able to play music from external storage, but until now cached music from online libraries was limited to internal storage.
It's a pretty big deal for the many users of Android phones with an SD card slot but limited built-in storage, for instance most Samsung phones and lower-end devices from other manufacturers. Cached music can quickly chew through precious internal storage, and so offloading it to an SD card wherever possible makes a lot of sense. It's a curious decision, however, given Google's stance on SD cards, and the lack of external storage on current Nexus devices.
As usual, the new version of Google Play Music is being pushed out to devices gradually as part of a staged rollout, so watch out for it in the days ahead. The new option to change your cache location can be found under Music settings > Download > Storage location.
Fleksy is a new Android keyboard that's been in private beta testing for the past several months, and now it's out on Google Play for all to try. With large keys and an emphasis on prediction and auto-correction, Fleksy is designed to allow users to type without necessarily looking at the screen — just hammer the keys with your thumbs and use swipe gestures to toggle through corrections and delete words. It's an example of the kind of thinking behind the autocorrect feature of most on-screen keyboards taken it its logical extreme — often you can miss every single letter and Fleksy will do a reasonably good job of piecing together what you mean.
Fleksy is free to try for the first thirty days, after which it'll cost you $3.99. Grab it using the Google Play link above.
Update to bring faster camera with improved autofocus and contrast
The Nexus 5's camera has been one of the major points of contention for the device. As we pointed out in our review, it wasn't necessarily bad, just weird. The camera of Google's new Android flagship tended to be slow to focus, slow to launch end even slower to take photos — even if it was capable of producing great-looking images in HDR+ mode.
And it appears Google's been busy in the month since the device's release, as new details emerging today reveal that significant work has been done to speed up the device's image capture speed while also enhancing photo quality. The Verge reports that Google has overhauled a number of aspects of the Nexus 5's camera software in the upcoming Android 4.4.1, improving camera app launch times and shortening shutter times to give faster capture speeds. Increasing the camera's frame rate also allows autofocus to work faster, eliminating some of the frustrations many have experienced on the current firmware.
In addition, HDR+ mode has grown a progress indicator to give users a better idea of how long things are going to take. And photos taken with the new camera software are less washed out than before, with more vibrant colors and more contrast, as well as more accurate white balance.
So it certainly appears that Android 4.4.1 — said to be rolling out in a matter of days — could be a significant update for the Nexus 5, addressing one of its biggest pain points. As always, though, the real test will come when thousands of regular users get their hands on Google's improved camera app.
Cyber Monday, the biggest online shopping day of the year is now over (this being Thursday and all), but we're not stopping the savings just yet. If you've been itching to buy something from ShopAndroid.com and missed Cyber Monday, you can still get the savings through this Friday!
Until midnight PST Friday night, you can save 25 percent on all Android cases and accessories at ShopAndroid.com. If you haven't visited our store for a while, be sure to click over and take a browse. The selection is HUGE: cases, chargers, batteries, screen protectors, touchscreen-friendly gloves and more... you name it, you can buy it from our awesome store.
To take advantage of the Cyber Monday savings, all you need to do it use coupon code CYBER13 during the checkout process. It's as simple as that. Also a reminder that earlier this week we announced support for Bitcoin, so if you're sitting on a pile of Bitcoins now you can get it on the savings.
AT&T today announced a handful of new options for its Mobile Share plans — including an 8GB bucket. But the bigger news is that the cost of your device is being separated from the service. And that means if you're not going with a subsidized phone — either because you're buying outright or are bringing your own device — you'll save $15 a month. And once your contract's up, you'll automatically moved to that cheaper, off-contract pricing. Not a bad thing at all.
And starting Dec. 8, AT&T's adding an 18-month upgrade option through its AT&T Next program. Payments are spread out over 26 months, and you can get a new phone every year and a half.
Chipmaker Broadcom has today unveiled a new Bluetooth software stack designed to enhance in-car connectivity for Android devices. The company claims its Android Automotive Bluetooth stack delivers improved audio quality for calls and streaming music over the wireless standard, while boasting Bluetooth Smart (a.k.a. Bluetooth Low Energy) support, allowing battery-efficient connectivity with wearable devices.
The new software stack is an extension of Broadcom's contributions to the Android Open Source Project (AOSP), and is available now to qualified customers — i.e. auto manufacturers, not end users. More technical details in the press release after the break.
New firmware being pushed out starting today in parts of Europe
The Android 4.3 firmware rollout for Samsung's Galaxy S3 didn't go exactly to plan, leading to the manufacturer suspending the rollout to investigate numerous issues reported by S3 owners. Now it appears Samsung has completed its work squishing bugs in the 4.3 firmware as a new update is being pushed out to international Galaxy S3 (GT-i9300) owners in parts of Europe.
According to reports from SamMobile and XDA, the new firmware carries the build number I9300XXUGMK6, and was built on Nov. 28. Early reports from forums suggest that the performance and stability issues affecting the earlier update have been fixed in the latest build. As before, the 4.3 update also brings Samsung's KNOX enterprise security platform, as well as support for the Galaxy Gear smartwatch.
As always, the OTA will likely take at least a few days to filter out to all users; if you've got a European Galaxy S3, hit the comments and let us know if you've got this latest update.