The week in gadgets: news from Android, Samsung, Google Glass, tablets and toilet tech

6 Aug 2013

Chart depicting the fragmentation of the Android market, by OpenSignal

A look at gadget happenings, as the fragmentation of the Android market is visualised, Samsung hints at a new Galaxy Note, the UK tries to keep Google Glass off the road, the tablet market looks to new releases from Apple and Amazon to lift sales in the latter half of the year and a high-tech toilet drives security professionals potty.

Android at-a-glance

Last week, OpenSignal illustrated the fragmentation of the Android market in a series of interactive graphs and charts. The company, which usually maps wireless coverage, notes close to 12,000 distinct Android devices in operation this year compared to almost 4,000 last year, based on downloads of the OpenSignal app.

In this report, OpenSignal surveyed 682,000 devices, of which Samsung represented a 47.5pc share. It found there are eight versions of Android currently in use and that 37.9pc of users are on the latest version, Jelly Bean.

Compare this with iOS users – of which 95pc are on iOS 6, 5pc on iOS 5 and just 1pc using older versions – and you can see the problem for developers becoming clear.

Android vs iOS platform versions (Source: OpenSignal)

Source: OpenSignal

Increased fragmentation means that Android devices vary greatly in terms of performance and capabilities, which presents a challenge for developers trying to make apps that will work consistently across all devices.

Developers also face difficulties with user interface, with many brands overlaying stock Android with their own UI, and more screen sizes than any other platform. Across the entire iOS range, there are just four different screen sizes to deal with.

However, OpenSignal also finds strength in Android’s fragmentation in that the availability of less expensive devices running older versions of the platform enable it to reach a wider audience.

Samsung’s new Galaxy

Samsung has revealed that a new Galaxy device will be unveiled at an event on 4 September ahead of consumer electronics trade show IFA Berlin.

Invites bearing a hand-drawn look request the presence of the press at ‘Samsung Unpacked 2013: Episode 2’ while an announcement from Samsung Mobile on Twitter said to ‘note the date’, both of which have prompted speculation that a new Galaxy Note will be unveiled. This will follow a trend as last year’s IFA saw the debut of the Galaxy Note II.

Samsung Unpacked 2013 invite

For those that can’t make it to Berlin, the event will be broadcast live on YouTube and a separate event will also be hosted in Times Square.

Tablet market gearing up for final half of 2013

According to figures from IDC, tablet sales in Q2 dropped for the first time between first and second quarters, decreasing 9.7pc. With 45.1m tablets shipped, however, the numbers are still up 60pc year-on-year.

The research firm attributes the sequential drop to the lack of a new tablet from Apple, as iPad releases tend to pique interest in tablets generally, benefitting not just Apple but the entire market.

Waiting for a new iPad has also affected the iOS share in the tablet market, which almost halved from 60pc to 33pc year-on-year after sales dropped 14pc. This is in stark comparison to significant annual growth for Android and Windows, up 163pc and 527pc respectively, giving Android market leader position with 63pc of the share.

IDC tablet market Q2 2013

A new iPad is expected to reinvigorate the market in the final quarter of this year, just in time for the holiday season. A next-generation series of tablets from Amazon is expected to arrive as early as September, though, and leaked specifications promise a powerful contender.

BGR’s sources claim we’ll see a new 7-inch Kindle Fire HD with a 1,920 x 1,200 pixel display, 2GB RAM, a front-facing camera (but no rear camera), and both Wi-Fi and cellular connectivity. The device is said to be powered by a 2GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 SoC, which includes four Krait 400 CPUs and Adreno 300 GPU, running Amazon’s take on Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean. There are three storage options reportedly in the works: 16GB, 32GB and 64GB.

There’ll also be an 8.9-inch Kindle Fire HD with similar specs plus a 2,560 x 1,600 display and an 8MP rear camera.

The new devices are also said to have undergone design changes to make them not only look but feel better – and lighter.

Google Glass: not for UK drivers

The UK’s Department of Transport has put a stop to Google Glass usage on the road before it has even begun. Stuff reports that a stg£60 fine and three penalty points will be issued to drivers wearing the heads-up display while driving – the very same penalty incurred if using a mobile phone while driving.

Google’s device probably won’t see a public release until 2014, so the UK government is making this move well in advance of wearable tech becoming mainstream. Meanwhile, the Glass Explorer Programme in the US is expanding, with current owners receiving an email from Glass Support letting them know that they can now invite one friend to try Glass Explorer Edition.

Thanks to a screenshot posted to Google+ by Ryan Mott, we know that invitees must be US residents aged over 18 years and be available to pick up their device from San Francisco, New York or Los Angeles.

When toilet tech goes bad

For US$5,686, the Satis toilet by Japanese manufacturer Lixil will open up as you approach it, perfume the air, and automatically activate the flush, a bidet function and hot-air dryer before closing up shop when you walk away.

The high-tech toilet is activated when a user with the My Satis smartphone app is detected within its Bluetooth range. However, Trustwave’s Spiderlabs has discovered that the app and device use a default 0000 password, giving anyone with the app access to these controls, The Register reports.

Toilet-themed practical jokes aside, the security flaw highlights a common issue where developers using default access codes are leaving systems vulnerable to attack.

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Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.