Spotify launched this week in Australia and New Zealand. It’s hugely popular overseas, but how does it compare to what else is on offer here in New Zealand?
Rara.com is a relative newcomer to the New Zealand market, but because of its ability to cache music, it’s well worth a look. If you use Rara’s Android app, which costs a little extra, you can download songs over Wi-Fi and they’ll be cached on your phone. That means when you’re out and about roaming, you’ll be able to play back songs without downloading them again on 3G. You still get to listen to your music, and you save on mobile data costs.
Rara has millions of songs to choose from, but is missing a lot of key artists. One that particularly sticks out is Adele, who has been tearing up charts in New Zealand. Despite Rara being a New Zealand website, it’s also missing many local artists.
If you just want to listen to Rara music on the web, it’ll cost you $8 a month. But if you have an Android device, we recommend you add mobile functionality to your plan. It’ll cost you $14, but allow you to listen to your playlists when you’re on the go.
Music Unlimited is Sony’s music streaming service, available on the web, the PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, and on Android devices. There’s plenty of music available – Sony just says it’s “millions and millions” – and it incorporates Sony’s massive music catalogue, as well as a host of other artists and songs. You can try it for 30 days for free, but after that it’ll cost US$6 (NZ$7) per month for a basic subscription, which allows you to listen to unlimited music on multiple devices and create customised channels, amongst other things. The premium subscription costs US$14 (NZ$17) a month and grants users the ability to create playlists and listen to radio stations reserved for premium users.
The web-based Music Unlimited app is a bit clunky and slow, but most in-browser music players are. There are also a few notable artists missing from the music catalogue – The Beatles, for instance, are nowhere to be seen. That said, Music Unlimited’s catalogue is considerably better than most.
Music Unlimited, like other streaming services, can cache your playlists so you can play them when you’re offline.
Spotify is new to the New Zealand market, but it has a massive following overseas. This is likely because Spotify has two important things – a massive music catalogue, and a free service. The free service is ad-supported and grants unlimited access to the catalogue, but there are two subscription tiers which give you access to different features.
The major difference between free Spotify and the basic paid service, called Spotify Unlimited, is the fact that the ads are gone. Both the Free and Unlimited tiers are only available from your computer. The Premium service, however, allows you to access Spotify from a variety of different devices, including your mobile phone and tablet. It also enables an offline mode, so you can cache music and listen to it offline. The Unlimited service costs $7.49/month and the Premium service costs $13/month.
Spotify has heavy Facebook integration, so you can sign in through Facebook, see what your friends are listening to, and share what you’re listening to with your friends. But this is also where things become problematic – you actually need to have a Facebook account to sign up for Spotify. If you, like many people, are concerned about the privacy issues related to Facebook sharing, you might want to choose a different service.
Rdio, a music streaming service from the people who brought you Skype, is a subscription service that gives you all the music you want, via one of two monthly plans. For $9 per month you get the service via your web browser (Flash required), plus the Windows and Mac OS X desktop clients. $14 per month gives you all that, plus access via the Rdio apps available for iOS, Android, BlackBerry and Windows Phone 7. Unless you never leave your house or don’t own a compatible device, the extra $5 per month is a no-brainer.
Finding the music you’re after is a snap. Assuming, that is, you’re allowed to listen to it. Here is the only place Rdio fell flat on its face: thanks to the complexity of international music licensing, there is a tonne of content that we in New Zealand can see, but cannot play. In most of the other music streaming services, you simply can’t see the track in the music catalogue if it’s not available here.
Audio is heavily compressed over 3G to keep data costs down giving you something a little better than radio quality. You can also ‘sync’ music to the device, which gives you an offline copy you can listen to when you’re disconnected.
Grooveshark has been available to New Zealanders for about three years now, and it’s free to us. Just type a song or artist into the searchbox on the website using your desktop browser or the browser on your phone or tablet, then hit play. It really is that simple.
Grooveshark has a wide range of music, and there are no audio adverts to interrupt your tunes. Aside from simply searching for a song, you can also tune into to predefined stations, based around a music category.
The best part of Grooveshark is that you don’t need an account to find music, listen to it, or even share it with your friends on Facebook. If you do create an account, however, you can favourite tracks, create playlists and get music recommended to you.
The two premium services – Grooveshark Plus (US$6 per month) and Grooveshark Anywhere ($9 per month) – allow you to download a desktop version of Grooveshark that lets you access playlists and favourites even if you’re not on the internet, and gives you unlimited playlists and favourites.
Samsung previously made it known that the Galaxy S III would not be announced at Mobile World Congress.
But it leaked anyway. And it might steal the show. Forgot about the HTC One X and Sony Xperia U, the Samsung GSIII will be the Android phone to beat in 2012.
Inside the Galaxy S III is said to be a quad-core Samsung Exynos CPU running at 1.5GHz. It will power a 4.8-inch 16×9 display that’s reportedly a Blu-ray display — whatever that means. A 2MP resides in the front bezel while an 8MP is embedded around back. BGR doesn’t state the target carrier(s) but the phone will rock a 4G LTE radio. An unconfirmed rendering is pictured up top.
The case is reportedly made out of ceramic, which in a world of plastic and aluminum, is a fun change of pace. Ceramic feels great to the touch, can be very durable and since it’s comprised of mostly baked mud, it’s better for the environment. Plus, with ceramic, Apple can’t claim Samsung copied any of its products.
It will ship with Android 4.0 installed sometime later this year. Samsung previously stated that it would hold a launch event for the phone closer to its ship date. I’d expect the phone in late spring/early summer.
Google officially unveiled Dart this week, during a keynote address at the annual GoTo conference in Aarhus, Denmark. Thankfully, it seems to live up to much (though not all) of the hype, while falling far short of the worst fears. In fact, based on the documentation and tools released so far, Dart may be exactly what many client-side Web developers have been waiting for.
Yet another Google language?
Some will doubtless say we’ve been here, done that. Not long ago, Google debuted a new language called Go, which was widely hailed as a “Java killer.” But aside from a few presentations at Google’s developer conference, we haven’t heard much about Go since it was first unveiled. Is Dart likely to fare any better?
What is the best NoSQL database in terms of performance? 1 answer on Quora
Samsung Electronics Co overtook Apple Inc as the world’s top smartphone maker in the July-September period with a 44 percent jump in shipments, and forecast strong sales in the current quarter in a clear warning to its rivals.
Samsung only entered the smartphone market in earnest last year, but its sales have skyrocketed thanks to a sleek production system that rapidly brings new products to market. Apple introduced its first iPhone in 2007.
“In the handset division, Samsung has no real rival models to challenge its products except for the iPhone 4S. Apple and Samsung will continue to dominate the market in the fourth quarter,” said Kim Hyun-joong, a fund manager at Midas Asset Management, which owns Samsung shares.
Profits from the South Korean firm’s telecoms division, announced on Friday, more than doubled from a year ago to a record 2.5 trillion won (NZ$2.8 billion) and accounted for 60 percent of Samsung’s total profit, offsetting a plunge in earnings from its bread-and-butter memory chips.
Shipments of smartphones jumped 44 percent from the preceding quarter to 27.8 million units, up nearly four times from a year ago, according to research firm Strategy Analytics.
Apple’s iPhone sales shrank by 16 percent to 17.1 million units in the third quarter. Samsung had 23.8 percent of the global smartphone market in the third quarter, 9 points higher than Apple. Samsung’s flagship Galaxy line of products is powered by Google’s Android software.
Apple sold fewer phones in the third quarter, missing street expectations for the first time in year, as customers held off buying iPhones until the October launch of the latest version.
The world’s biggest technology firm by revenue reported a 4.25 trillion won operating profit for the July-September quarter, broadly in line with its earlier estimate of 4.2 trillion won.
That was down from 4.9 trillion won a year ago but up from 3.8 trillion won in the preceding quarter.
Samsung said its fourth-quarter earnings could be better than the third, boosted by one-off gains from its $1.4 billion sale of its hard disk drive business to Seagate Technology.
“I am cautiously optimistic on the fourth quarter outlook at this point,” Robert Yi, head of Samsung’s investor relations, told analysts.
“Looking ahead into the fourth quarter, when industry demand is traditionally at its peak, Samsung expects sales of mobile devices to remain strong and flat-panel TV shipments to increase,” the company added in an earnings statement.
Apple, whose iPhone sales account for nearly half the firm’s total sales, reported a 40 percent gross margin, or the percentage of sales left after subtracting the cost of goods sold. Samsung’s phone division reported a 16.9 percent operating margin, which further takes account of marketing costs.
Nevertheless, Samsung faces challenges as the new iPhone introduced earlier this month is notching up strong sales.
Nokia is also fighting back with its first phones based on Microsoft’s Windows software. And Sony Corp announced on Thursday it would take full ownership of its mobile venture, Sony Ericsson, in a bid to exploit its music and video library.
Samsung has announced the launch of its Galaxy Note mobile device, adding to the flagship Galaxy lineup of products. The device, powered by Android, will square off against a series of new models released by Apple, Nokia and HTC Corp.
The iPhone, introduced in 2007 with the touchscreen template now adopted by its rivals, is still the gold standard in the smartphone market.
Samsung may not have come up with the concept, but it has adopted Apple’s breakthrough smartphone idea perhaps better than any other handset maker. It tries to offer the Apple experience at a better price with better functionality.
“Samsung’s rise has been driven by a blend of elegant hardware designs, popular Android services, memorable sub-brands and extensive global distribution,” said Alex Spektor at Strategy Analytics.
“Samsung has demonstrated that it is possible, at least in the short term, to differentiate and grow by using the Android ecosystem.”
Profits from Samsung’s chip business more than halved to 1.59 trillion won, but the division held up well as its relatively high exposure to lucrative mobile chips helped the firm offset a sharp plunge in prices of commodity computer memory chips.
Samsung was the sole profitable firm among major global dynamic random access memory (DRAM) chip makers in the third quarter.
Second-ranked computer memory chip maker Hynix Semiconductor and Japan’s Elpida Memory swung to deep losses as prices of DRAM chips used in PCs tumbled about 50 percent in the third quarter.
Samsung’s chip business is also benefiting from strong demand for mobile processor chips used in Apple’s iPhone and iPad tablet as well as its own Galaxy smartphones.
Samsung expected demand for PCs to remain weak in the fourth quarter because of weak seasonality, while demand for mobile devices and servers will be relatively strong.
“I see some signs that chip prices have hit bottom as inventories are running out. However, we don’t yet know when the industry is going to pick up since macroeconomic uncertainties overshadow the demand outlook,” said Park Hyun, an analyst at Tong Yang Securities.
Samsung’s display business posted losses for a third consecutive quarter on weak demand for TVs and PCs.
But losses narrowed from the previous quarter, helped by strong earnings from the OLED display, which is widely expected to replace LCD as the next-generation flat-screen in mobile devices and TVs.
August 30, 2011, 11:36 AM — Now that Microsoft has launched Office 365, it is officially “game on” for online office productivity suites. Microsoft may enjoy a near-monopoly in the desktop office suite market, but online it faces established rivals in the form of Google Apps and Zoho Docs.
We evaluated these three productivity platforms to see how they compare. We examined the office tools themselves, along with their file storage, their consistency of formatting, how they work on mobile devices and in different Web browsers, and how much they cost.
All three platforms provide office basics such as word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation tools. All three also have an email client, online file storage, real-time sharing and collaboration, and some measure of cross-platform availability.
Review: Google Apps
Review: Microsoft Office 365
Review: Zoho Docs
As capable as these three offerings are, though, none of them can truly match the features and flexibility of a locally installed desktop office suite such as Microsoft Office 2010, or the open-source Libre Office. Desktop suites also have the advantage of being able to function without relying on Internet connectivity.
Ultimately, the choice of which suite is best is a subjective determination that involves other factors such as which mobile platform or Web browser you use. Based on our scoring, though, Office 365 is the best overall value, with Google Apps running a close second.
Applications are the primary factor in selecting any office productivity suite–online or not. If the word processor, spreadsheet, presentation, or other tools included in a suite don’t meet your needs or expectations, comparing them becomes pointless.
If you’re familiar with Office 2007 or Office 2010, you’ll probably feel most comfortable working in Office 365. The Web incarnations of the Office apps have stripped-down versions of their respective Ribbons, but Office 365 still has the same look and feel overall, and the core features are present.
Zoho has a comfortable-to-use layout as well. The various Zoho apps look and behave a lot like the pre-Ribbon Microsoft Office, particularly Office 2003. Zoho stands out, though, with unique and innovative features such as a drop-down formatting menu to enclose selected text with assorted quotation marks or brackets, and another that changes selected text to all caps, or simply capitalizes each word.
By comparison, Google Apps’ menu bars and features seem austere. People who prefer the old-school text-based menu bar may appreciate the Google Apps interface, but Google Apps is more limited in what it allows you to do, both in formatting and in functionality.
The Office 365 apps offer a more diverse selection of fonts and formatting styles than either Google Apps or Zoho does. More important, those fonts and styles will align with the fonts and styles available in the online apps’ desktop counterparts. You can open Office Web Apps inside the appropriate desktop-suite program with the click of a button, and the desktop Microsoft Office suite can save files to the online storage so that you can access them when you’re on the go and using the Web apps.
When it comes to spreadsheets, unfortunately, none of the three online packages really deliver the power and flexibility that spreadsheet gurus need. The Web-based tools are sufficient for basic purposes, but lack many advanced features. Office 365 beats the other two, though, in look and feel (especially for users familiar with the Excel 2010 desktop software), as well as in macros and formulas.
Winner: Office 365 Choosing a winner here is difficult, because it is largely a matter of opinion. The unique formatting options in Zoho make that package compelling, but we give the edge to Office 365 for its synchronicity with the look and feel of Microsoft Office.
Files and Storage
Zoho comes with a meager 1GB of online file storage; you can purchase an additional 5GB for $3 per user per month. The space allocated for Zoho email is separate from the data storage and is either 10GB or 15GB, depending on the service plan. Zoho limits you to 10MB file attachments on email, which could become an issue if you’re planning to use a document with lots of images, for example.