Traveling is great — nay, amazing. And travel that requires a passport can be even more fulfilling for those willing to open their minds to new cultures (and, perhaps, deal with entirely too much security screening). But here’s the thing — travel is a lot better, generally speaking, with an internet connection within arm’s reach. Things are never more likely to go awry than when you leave your comfort zone (or, you know, home nation), and we here at Engadget have been investigating the best methods for maintaining a connection whilst abroad for the better part of our lives. To date, you’ve got a smattering of options: rent a MiFi from XCom Global, pick up a rental SIM from iPhoneTrip, pray that you can find a shop that rents data SIMs upon your arrival or pony up for whatever absurd roaming fees that your home operator deems fit.
All of the above options have their pros and cons, but the good news here is that your choices are expanding. As the market for ubiquitous connections continues to grow, another player has recently entered the market. Tep Wireless began as a hotspot rental service that mainly looked after those traversing the United Kingdom, but recently, it expanded its coverage umbrella to include some 38 countries across Europe and 50 nations total. This here editor recently had the opportunity to cross through four of those on a single journey, with a Tep hotspot in hand the entire way. Care to see how things turned out? Let’s reconvene after the break.
We make our own truth. That’s how IDC can come up with roughly the same numbers as fellow research firm Canalys and crown Apple the king, when its rival called Android top dog — it’s all about how you slice it. See, where as Canalys bundled all Android handset makers together, IDC has broken them up, which leads to a rather interesting twist — the largest smartphone maker in the world is now Apple. Cupertino’s growth of 141.7-percent in shipments year over year was enough to push it past Nokia (which slipped to number three) and Samsung (which climbed two spots to take the silver medal), while RIM and HTC rounded out the top five. That being said, no one is running away with the lead here, and Sammy’s continued stratospheric rise should keep Apple on guard.
It wasn’t that long ago that we were jonesing for a Nexus One on Verizon. What HTC gave us instead was the Droid Incredible, with the same 1GHz Snapdragon CPU and gorgeous 3.7-inch AMOLED display — not to mention a better camera (8 megapixel vs. five), 8GB of built-in flash storage, an optical trackpad, HTC’s Sense UI on top of Eclair, and a dash of funky industrial design. The Incredible was an impressive phone with a lovely camera, marred only by questionable battery life and lack of supply, forcing HTC to build a Super LCD-equipped model to satisfy demand. Judging by the popularity of the Incredible, it came as no surprise that following HTC’s announcement at MWC, the Incredible S eventually became Verizon’s Droid Incredible 2. With a 4-inch Super LCD display, global CDMA / GSM radio, front-facing camera, updated internals (including 768 MB of RAM), trick capacitive buttons, and a Froyo-flavored serving of Sense, the Incredible 2 seems like a worthy successor to last year’s Incredible. Does it live up to our expectations or is it just another fish in the crowded sea of Android? Does it significantly improve upon the original formula or is it merely a refresh? Hit the break for our review.
What is the world’s most valuable consumer-facing brand? If you’d asked the guys behind the BrandZ survey at any point over the last four years, they’d have told you “Google,” but in 2011 their answer has changed. Apple is now the hottest property in terms of consumer goodwill, earning an estimated valuation of $153.3 billion and leading a pack that includes the likes of Coca-Cola, BMW, HSBC, and Disney. The tech sector had a very strong year as a whole, with Facebook’s brand improving in value by a staggering 246 percent (to $19.1b) and Amazon becoming the world’s most valuable retailer (at $37.6b) in spite of having no actual stores. Sadly, there were some downers too, as Nintendo lost 37 percent of its brand worth over the past year, Nokia dropped by 28 percent, and the BlackBerry marque was considered 20 percent less awesome than before. Punch the source link to learn more.
How do you best 10 million in sales of your flagship Galaxy S smartphone? Easy, do what the movie studios do and launch a bigger-budget sequel to an even wider audience. Samsung is holding a media day event in South Korea to celebrate the domestic launch of its smokin’ fast Galaxy S II handset. The dual-core 1.2GHz Gingerbread handset with 4.27-inch 800 x 480 pixel Super AMOLED Plus display, TouchWiz 4.0 UI, MHL port, and 8 megapixel camera capable of 1080p video is already on limited sale in the UK on its way to a 120 country / 140 carrier invasion — that’s plus 10 countries over the initial Galaxy S target. Naturally, we expect variants of the S II, with and without NFC, hit all the US majors just like the Galaxy S did in its day. Stay tuned to see if our very positive first impressions of this gorgeous 8.49-mm thick superphone carry over to the review — should be up later today.
Nokia transfers Symbian development and 3,000 employees to Accenture, will downsize workforce by further 4,000
Nokia’s already done quite a bit to cut ties with last year’s big push for Symbian and Qt development, though this is perhaps the biggest step yet. The Finnish company has announced it’s transferring responsibility for Symbian development to consulting and outsourcing firm Accenture, which sounds odd given the latter outfit’s inexperience in delivering mobile OS updates, but the good news is that the 3,000 devs Nokia had working on Symbian will continue their jobs under the new employer. That basically means that Nokia will live up to its unhappy promise that there’ll be “substantial reductions in employment” within its own ranks, while still keeping the men and women responsible for updating Symbian employed. Unfortunately, there will still be a further 4,000 job cuts in the company’s global workforce, primarily in Finland, Denmark and the UK, which will “occur in phases” between the beginning and end of next year. Nokia’s agreement with Accenture also involves continued collaboration on delivering mobility software and services on the Windows Phone platform. You can read more about that in the PR after the break.
It’s no secret that Netflix has grand plans to expand its global footprint that now feeds media to some 20 million North American subscribers. Hell, the company was boasting of the “significant dollars” allocated to its 2011 international expansion plans just four months ago. While nothing’s official yet, we’ve unearthed a few tantalizing openings posted to the Netflix job site over the last few days that could point to an imminent launch. Notably, Netflix’s customer service call center in Hillsboro Oregon is gearing up to expand its scope of operations beyond North America. Two new job postings for a Training Supervisor and Quality Assurance Analyst both mention the need to prepare for “rapid” international expansion and “will support a specific country / region outside of North America.” The Training Supervisor is being hired specifically to educate customer service reps in preparation for that future international growth. Neflix is looking for fluency in English in addition to Dutch, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese (Brazilian and European), and Spanish (Latin American and European), leaving things pretty wide open with regard to the countries targeted for initial launch.
We do know that Netflix had plans to launch in the UK way back in 2004 — plans that were ultimately scrapped in order to focus on its core US business (and later Canada). But if not the UK then we should at least expect to see Netflix target the European continent first if a statement attributed to CEO Reed Hastings from way back in January of 2010 still rings true: “the big market for Hollywood content (after the U.S.) is Europe…Third is Asia. Fourth is the rest of the world.” Can’t let Amazon have the market to itself now can we Reed?