Q1’14 iPad Sales Down 16% Y/Y to 19.5M


Josh Lowensohn, The Verge:

One other closely watched metric is iPad sales, which were down 16 percent from the 19.5 million the company sold during the same quarter last year. Wall Street was expecting a modest improvement of 20 to 22 million units sold. In a call with analysts, Apple’s VP of finance Luca Maestri said the company viewed the drop in sales as closer to a 3 percent decline due to year over year channel inventory changes. Cook also chimed in, trying to put the overall sales of the iPad in comparison with the company’s other products.

“We’ve sold over 210 million, which is more than we or anyone thought was possible in that period of time,” Cook told analysts. “That’s almost twice as many iPhones as we’ve sold in a comparable amount of time… we’ve come a long way, very very quickly.”

That’s the past, and the past looks pretty rosy for the iPad. A 16% Y/Y unit sales decline isn’t though. Do you know what I think is happening? Large smartphones like the HTC One series, Samsung Galaxy S series, Galaxy Tab series, LG G series, Samsung Xperia Z series, etc. are happening. They question the need for a tablet, especially the smaller 7.x-inch ones. The rumored LG G3 will have a pixel format of 2560×1440 (3.68 megapixels), which is considerably more than the retina iPads (2048×1536, 3.14 megapixels) have. Resolution, or pixel density, is not even close: 534 ppi vs. 326 ppi for the retina iPad mini. With these large smartphones you get some of the size, almost all of the pixels, and a lot more portability.

I am starting to dislike the complexity of having to manage two devices (iPhone and iPad) and would rather have one device in the middle. That’s exactly what these large smartphones offer. Now if a 5.5-inch iPhone 6 were to be an option…





LG UltraWide 34UM95


LG: The LG UltraWide 34UM95. The high tech industry seems to love attaching the word ‘ultra’ in front of everything: Ultra HD, UltraWide, Ultrabook. (Don’t forget Ultraman!) UltraWide is LG’s marketing-speak for 21:9, which is the aspect ratio a lot of feature films use. Have you noticed black bars on the top and bottom when you watch movies on your 16:9 smartphone? That’s because feature films are ultra wide.

A typical high end 16:9 monitor sports 2560×1440. Stretch it out to 21:9 and you get 3440×1440, and that’s what the 34UM95 has. The 21:9 aspect ratio will undoubtedly be great for watching 21:9 feature films and games, but I think ultra wide monitors can be a great replacement for multiple monitor setups too. Instead of having three 1280×1024 monitors you can have almost the same display area with three 1146×1440 windows on the 34UM95. Or instead of having two 1600×1200 monitors you can have two 1720×1440 windows. Having a single large monitor also means no thick bezels in between monitors, less power cables, less DVI/VGA/HDMI cables, less visual clutter, and less power consumption.

Other specifications include a terrific viewing angle (178/178 left-right/up-down degrees) thanks to it being an IPS LCD, 8-bit pixels for 16 million colors, and the surface is treated with anti-glare and a 3H hard coating. The last bit of good is the color gamut of 99% of sRGB. sRGB is the color space most cameras use, what’s generally used for printing, and most of what you see on the Internet. The 2009 17-inch MacBook Pro, which was touted as having 60% more color space than the previous generation, is what I’m using to type this post; it sports 72% NTSC or about 100% sRGB. Just because a display supports 100% Adobe RGB, a much larger color space, does not mean the graphics on the Internet, your smartphone, your point-and-shoot, your printouts at CostCo, Target or Walgreens will.

LG also claims the 34UM95 can display 1 billion colors. That’s partially true. The sub-pixels are not 10 bit; they are 8 bit: 256 (2^8) levels of gray multiplied by itself three times for each of the three sub-pixels equals about 16 million colors. LG uses FRC or Frame Rate Control to dither the grays to make each sub-pixel act like it is 10 bit, for a grand total of over 1 billion levels of gray (2^10 is 1024 and then to get all the grayscale combinations: 1024x1024x1024). Add in a color filter on top of those gray levels and you get color.

The LG UltraWide 34UM95 is a fantastic monitor for watching feature films, gaming, and work, if you can afford it. The 34UM95 will be released on April 30, 2014 and can be pre-ordered on Amazon for US$1484.65. (Amazon affiliate link.)

PS: This 34-inch display is marketed as a monitor, which sounds crazy to me because the largest display we have in our home is a 34-inch Sony XBR CRT TV. Yes, it is ancient technology and millions throughout the world are kicking their CRT TVs to the curb and replacing them with LCDs, but I must tell you: there is not much out there that can compete with the picture quality of a Sony XBR CRT TV. I digress. The reason why a 34-inch display can be marketed as a monitor is because our visual system looks for height to figure out if it is big or not. A 21:9 34-inch monitor doesn’t look any bigger than a 27-inch 16:9 to us because both the 34-inch and 27-inch is about 13 inches tall. Big, but not really.





Project Ara: Make Your Own Best Smartphone


Project Ara is Google’s attempt to upend the smartphone industry by making smartphones modular. Want your smartphone to take better photos in low light environments? If Project Ara is successful you might be able to choose from several companies. How about the most important component in a smartphone, the display? Imagine getting to pick the size and pixel format you want: a 5.5-inch 1920×1080 OLED display module by Samsung or an equivalent IPS LCD module by LG Display. Tough call. And when these companies upgrade their displays you won’t be forced to spend several hundred dollars buying a new smartphone just to get the better display.

If only I could combine the rumored 5.5-inch 2560×1440 LCD on the LG G3 with the camera from the Sony Xperia Z2 that DxOMark tested best on a smartphone. That’d be fantastic.





LG G3


Stuff: The LG G3 will sport a 5.5-inch LCD with a pixel format of 2560×1440 or in display industry jargon Quad HD or QHD, for a resolution of 534 ppi. The 5.5-inch iPhone 6 with 1920×1080 pixels, if true, will look outdated as soon as it comes out.

Some might wonder what the point of a 534 ppi display is if we can’t even see the difference. Well, there is research out there that suggests a much higher threshold: roughly 600 ppi. If the LG G3 comes with a great camera and the battery lasts for a day, I will be tempted.





Rumor: Samsung Galaxy Note 4 with Youm Flexible OLED Display


ZDNet Korea: The rumor is the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 is coming in the second half of 2014 with Youm display technology. What is Youm? Youm is a flexible OLED display technology using plastic substrates. Senior VP of OLED Research at Samsung Display Co. Brian Berkeley demonstrated a prototype three sided Youm display at CES in 2013 (YouTube: Pay particular attention from 1:35.). I’m sure some will take full advantage of having discrete access to information on the side of the smartphone, but I’m more excited about future smartphones becoming more rugged without becoming rugged looking. The idea of an almost indestructible display sounds good to me.





Why Nike Killed Fuelband


1. Tim Cook is on Nike’s board.
2. Apple’s iWatch is coming.
3. Fuelband, and all others like it, would have gotten killed anyway.





Low Cost Ultra HD TV Panel Production


Alex Wolfgram, Digitimes:

Both LG Display and Samsung Display are aiming to mass produce RGBW Ultra HD TV panels to compete against Taiwan-based makers in the China market where low-priced Ultra HD TVs are currently in high demand, according to industry sources.

To me Digitimes is the best source of juicy rumors. I need to figure out what this means: low-priced Ultra HD TVs are in high demand in China. I will be using 4K to refer to Ultra HD from hereon. 4K TVs are expensive, but they are getting cheaper. For example, the 65-inch Samsung UHD 4K LED 9000 Series Smart TV goes for US$3,499.99. As 4K TVs come down in price and hits retail price points such as $2999, $1999, etc. demand for them will increase. I think that’s what’s happening in China: those with a lot of money, say the top 10% which equates to 135 million potential customers, are starting to buy 4K TVs. If just a small portion of those with a lot of money are purchasing 4K TVs in China that could easily be construed as high demand. So that’s what I think it means: rich Chinese are buying 4K TVs as prices are dropping. I don’t think it means China, and the rest of the world, will see cheap 4K TVs any time soon. But it seems 4K monitors are getting cheap really fast: on Amazon, Samsung’s U28D590D, a 28-inch 4K monitor, is going for just $744.50. (Amazon affiliate link.)





Sony Xperia Z2: Not Good In The Sun


Vlad Savov, The Verge:

Sony starts its quest to be the best with the most important component on any device: the display. Muted and lifeless LCDs were a chronic weakness of the company’s previous Xperia devices, so the new Live Color LED screens on the Z2 and Z2 Tablet make for an incredibly gratifying upgrade. Colors stay true and vibrant, contrast is strong enough to make blacks appear truly black, and viewing angles are almost (but not quite) as good as on the excellent HTC One and iPhone 5S. At long last, the flagship Sony smartphone can stand alongside its direct competitors. Still, even with the widest color gamut of any mobile device and 1080p resolution, Sony’s new IPS screens only bring it up to the same level as the rest — they are not tangibly better than the industry’s standard setters. And in one important respect, they are markedly worse.

Sony feels like Microsoft. I remember when anything Microsoft did it didn’t do very well until its third try. If I remember correctly Windows didn’t quite get it right until Windows 3.0, or was it 3.1. During the browser war years when Microsoft wanted not only to dominate the browser market but completely kill off Netscape Navigator it wasn’t until Internet Explorer 3.0 that Microsoft started to chomp away at Netscape’s browser market share.

The Z1 had a lot going for it in terms of industrial design. I prefer slightly angular corners to corners that are rounded too much. I like flat backs. But there are two things I cannot deal with: a bad display, and a bad camera. The Z1 had a decent camera, but a terrible display. With the Z2 Sony has come quite close to getting the display right, but not quite.

Take the Z2 outside and you’ll be confronted by its biggest shortcoming: it’s practically unusable on a sunny day. Even with brightness maxed out, half of my sample photos for this review were composed through guesswork due to the screen being too dim and reflective to provide any useful information outdoors. This vampiric aversion to sunlight is somewhat forgivable on the Z2 Tablet — which is less likely to be used on the move — but is basically a deal-breaker on the Z2. While I appreciate everything Sony has done to make my YouTube experience better, a mobile phone is meant to be mobile. I should be able to see who’s calling me even if I’m not in a dark room.

Reflectance is the word Sony’s display engineers need to remember. The goal is to reduce reflectance as much as possible. I’m with Savov: I use my phone everywhere including when it is sunny outside, and I need to be able to see what’s on my phone’s display. Like Microsoft maybe Sony will get the display right and start taking market share away from the competition with the third try.





Land Rover Discovery Vision Concept: OLED Touch Screens, Smart Glass for Augmented Reality


Alex Kalogiannis, New York Daily News:

The Discovery Vision Concept, which will be on display at the 2014 New York International Auto Show at the Javits Center, has futuristic features including OLED touch screens in the steering wheel, Smart Glass for augmented reality, and a “see through” hood for seeing obstacles while off-roading.

I like displays, especially the latest and greatest displays. But sometimes I don’t like displays, especially when they are plastered because they just happen to be the newest and coolest technology to incorporate into a less than new and cool thing. An OLED touch screen in the steering wheel? I don’t like this at all.

When the day comes when our cars are fully automatic, meaning they will drive themselves, I won’t mind if everything is made of unbreakable flexible touch displays. But for now I’m the driver and I need to focus on driving. And to focus I need physical knobs and buttons. I need to know I pushed the button or turned the knob, without having to look. No OLED touch displays, thank you. The Smart Glass for augmented reality though might be cool.





Apple to Buy Renesas SP Drivers


Nasdaq:

Apple is rumored to be in talks with Renesas regarding a potential acquisition of a 55% stake in its display chip joint venture with Sharp and Powerchip, Renesas SP Drivers.

The rumored price is US$480 million.

Renesas SP Drivers is the world’s leading manufacturer of drivers and controllers for small- and mid-sized LCD displays used in mobile devices, and accounts for almost a third of the market. It is also the sole supplier of display controllers used in the iPhone, and counts all three of the companies that make iPhone displays, namely Sharp, Japan Display and LG Display, among its key clients.

Having a single source for display drivers and controllers used for the LCDs in the iPhone is a risk. It doesn’t matter that Apple is sourcing from three different display manufacturers for the iPhone if all three depend only on Renesas SP Drivers.

Still, Apple’s interest in a display-chip designing unit potentially signals its intention to become more vertically integrated in its mobile device businesses. Apple has so far designed only its app processors and fingerprint scanners, and could be looking at integrating display design as well with its overall product development.

I think Apple is simply trying to mitigate the risk of a supply chain disruption by depending on a single company for a set of critical components.





   



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