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Google and Microsoft will add a “kill-switch” feature to their smartphones using Android and Windows operating systems.
The feature is a method of making a handset completely useless if it is stolen, rendering a theft pointless.
Authorities have been urging tech companies to take steps to help curb phone theft and argued that a kill-switch feature can help resolve the problem.
Kill-switch feature is a method of making a handset completely useless if it is stolen, rendering a theft pointless
Apple and Samsung, two of biggest phone makers offer a similar feature on some of their devices.
The move by Google and Microsoft means that kill switch will now be a part of the three most popular phone operating systems in the world.
Smartphone theft has become a big problem across the world.
According to a report by US authorities:
- Some 3.1 million mobile devices were stolen in the US in 2013, nearly double the number of devices stolen in 2012
- One in three Europeans experienced the theft or loss of a mobile device in 2013
- In South Korea mobile device theft increased five-fold between 2009 and 2012
- In Colombia criminals stole over one million devices in 2013
In attempt to tackle the issue, policymakers have launched an initiative called Secure our Smartphones.
A part of it, they have urged tech companies to take steps to make it less attractive for robbers to steal mobile devices.
“An activated kill switch converts an easy-to-sell, high-value multimedia device into a jumble of plastic and glass, drastically reducing its street value,” the report by New York Attorney General said.
Authorities claim that Apple’s feature – dubbed Activation Lock – which it introduced on all iPhones running the iOS 7 operating system in September last year, has helped reduce theft substantially.
According to a report by the New York State Attorney General, in the first five months of 2014 the theft of Apple devices fell by 17% in New York City.
Meanwhile iPhone robberies fell 24% in London and 38% in San Francisco in the six months after Apple introduced the feature, compared to the previous six months.
“During the same period, thefts of other popular mobile devices increased,” the report says.
HTC has unveiled two Windows Phone 8 handsets at an event in New York.
HTC has said that it intends to promote the 8X, which features a 4.3″ (10.9 cm) display, as its flagship device alongside the Android-powered One X.
The firm is also offering a smaller 8S model with a 4″ (10.2 cm) screen.
HTC’s share price has fallen more than 50% since February after the firm experienced weak sales of earlier models despite positive reviews.
Analysts have said the firm had a weak advertising campaign which was compounded by the fact that its South Korean rival, Samsung, had a much bigger marketing budget.
HTC has unveiled two Windows Phone 8 handsets at an event in New York
Nokia and Samsung have already shown off alternative Windows Phone devices which will launch after Microsoft releases the operating system.
HTC said the 8X would launch in 50 countries in early November across 126 mobile operators, while the 8S would be available in 52 countries with more than 146 operators.
Such detail was notably lacking at Nokia’s recent Lumia 920 launch, where it did not confirm the date or number of countries the smartphone would be sold in.
HTC made much of the devices’ design at the US event saying they had “a remarkably unique profile” thanks to the way their edges tapered, becoming thinner at the bottom, to make them feel thin in their users’ hands.
It said its top-end model featured an 8 megapixel camera on its rear supported by a dedicated chip for “faster focus speed and clearer, sharper shots”. The 2.1MP front camera – used for video chats – has also been designed to provide a wide-angle view.
The firm also hopes to distinguish both models by including Beats Audio sound equipment which it said offered “deeper bass and crisp vocals”. The handset maker owns a 25% stake in the company.
The 8X has an NFC (near field communication) chip for touchless payments, but the 8S does not.
The bet on Microsoft’s technology carries risks – the firm’s phone systems only accounted for 3.1% of global smartphone shipments in the April to June months, according to research firm NPD.
But one of the company’s analysts said HTC had an opportunity to grow that number.
“The reception from operators is quite good,” said Francisco Jeronimo, European mobile devices research manager.
“The market wants another alternative to Android as vendors don’t want to face the kind of problems that have arisen out of the lawsuits between Apple and Android device manufacturers – products being withdrawn or delayed.
“But HTC has to compete against Nokia and Samsung which also have Windows Phone 8 products.
“Nokia offers extra services on top such as its transport and augmented reality City Lens facility, while Samsung has a bigger marketing budget.”
Another analyst praised HTC for the industrial design and materials used to build its new devices, saying they would prove eye-catching on store shelves, but was not convinced that would be enough to improve its fortunes.
“HTC has had problems standing out in the Android market, and it could be even more difficult on Windows Phone 8 as Microsoft controls more of the experience on the platform,” said Gartner’s research director, Roberta Cozza.
“HTC needs to add further value to the ecosystem similar to what Nokia has done with its imaging and navigation resources.
“Unless that happens I don’t suspect things will change a lot for the firm.”
HTC’s press conference is the last of the big smartphone launches that had been scheduled ahead of the Christmas shopping season.
Samsung’s Android and Windows-powered touchscreen devices have been unveiled at the IFA trade show in Berlin.
The new models include several firsts for the company: a Windows RT tablet; a Windows Phone 8 smartphone; and an Android-powered camera.
It also revealed an update to its Galaxy Note model – a so-called “phablet” that is larger than most phones, but smaller than most tablets.
The products are its first since losing a patent lawsuit to Apple in the US.
The South Korean firm faces paying its rival over $1 billion in damages related to several of its Android models, but has signalled it will challenge the ruling.
Samsung’s Android and Windows-powered touchscreen devices have been unveiled at the IFA trade show in Berlin
Samsung’s new line-up includes a 10.1 in (25.7 cm) touchscreen tablet which uses an ARM-based chip and the RT version of Windows 8.
It also revealed Intel-based models that are more powerful and run the full version of the system. The devices, which are branded as Slate or Ativ Smart PCs depending on where they are sold, function as hybrids – working either as standalone tablets or as laptops when added to keyboard docks.
They update its 2011 Slate models and follow a similar format to Asus’s Transformer hybrids.
In addition Samsung showed off the Ativ S – its first smartphone to run Microsoft’s upcoming Windows 8 Phone system. It features a 4.8 in (12.2 cm) display, making it one of the bigger models on the market.
There was only one Android-tablet announcement – the Galaxy Note 2. The device features a 5.5 in (14 cm) screen and is narrower and taller than its predecessor.
It also features a new Air View function. When a stylus is held about 1cm above its display, previews are triggered of on-screen objects such as the contents of a photo album or an email.
The news follows on from a recent announcement of another, larger Android tablet – the Galaxy Note 10.1.
One analyst said it was no surprise to see the firm covering so many bases.
“Samsung’s strategy is to make whatever the market needs,” said Ken Dulaney, vice president at the tech consultancy Gartner.
“They make a lot of products in a lot of categories rather than carrying out tons of market research.
“Their greatest strengths are engineering and manufacturing, and they use those strengths to sort out what the market wants. In contrast, American companies typically spend more time on pre-development research, and then rely more on marketing.”
Samsung’s other announcement was the Galaxy Camera.
The device is the second mainstream compact camera powered by Android to be announced in a week, following on from a release by Nikon.
It marks a new category of devices to use Google’s system, offering the opportunity to install photo editing apps and other third-party software on the machines.
Samsung’s model includes the option of using 3G or 4G data connectivity in addition to wi-fi, making it easier to upload pictures to social networks.
Microsoft has unveiled Windows Phone 8, the next version of its smartphone operating system.
Windows Phone 8 shares much of its code with the firm’s PC system, making it easier for developers to write programs for different types of devices.
The company said it should mean there would be some “amazing games” for handsets running its new release.
A tie-up with Nokia has already bought several Windows Phone devices to market, but sales lag some way behind models running Android or Apple’s iOS.
Microsoft said Nokia, Samsung, HTC and Huawei would all be making devices powered by the system upgrade.
Microsoft has unveiled Windows Phone 8, the next version of its smartphone operating system
Other new features announced at the Windows Phone Summit event in San Francisco included:
• Support for multi-core chips, allowing devices to turn on cores to access extra processing power when needed, and to switch off cores when not to preserve battery life
• The ability to work with different screen resolutions including the high definition 720p format
• Support for removable Micro SD cards allowing users to store more media files or install apps saved on the format
• A new “wallet” app allowing the phone to act as both credit and membership cards. It also supports NFC (near field communication) payments
• Built-in maps from Nokia’s Navteq division with turn-by-turn navigation
• A more customizable start screen allowing users the choice of three tile sizes to represent installed software and more color options
• A warning alert if the software believes a website contains malware or is otherwise unsafe
The update also allows internet call software based on VoIP (voice over internet protocol) and video chat technologies to run in the background.
This addresses a complaint that the firm’s own Skype program could not be used to receive calls while its owner was using another application – a function offered on rival platforms.
The firm said VoIP calls should now “feel like any other call” made or received by Windows Phone handsets.
Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 strongly resemble each other – at least when the PC system is run under its Metro interface – and Microsoft was keen to stress that their relationship goes deeper than appearance alone.
The two will share a range of components including graphic drivers, the DirectX collection of application programming interfaces (APIs) and the NT kernel that ties application software to the hardware it is installed on. They can also both support native code in the C and C++ programming languages.
Microsoft said this should not only make it easier to port software between the two environments, but should speed up the time it takes developers to recode programs originally built for iOS and Android.
Microsoft noted more than 100,000 apps had been released for Windows Phone 7.
By contrast there are more than 466,500 programs in the Android marketplace according to search site Appbrain, and “over 500,000” in Apple’s app store according to the iPhone maker.
Securing “marquee titles” is more important to some than raw numbers, and Microsoft addressed this too with news that Gameloft’s Nova 3 and Zynga’s Draw Something were coming to Windows Phone.