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The Samsung Galaxy S3, revealed a couple of days ago, definitely sports some of the best hardware specs around, but it also looks like Samsung have managed to integrate software functions that give a new meaning for the word “smart” in smartphones. Marketed by Samusng as human-centric functions, these are features exclusive to the Samsung Galaxy S3. On a personal level, I feel like the smart features on the Samsung Galaxy S3 represent a major improvement towards simplifying tasks on your smartphone. Granted, we expect more from a thinking smartphone, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction.
So let’s take a quick look at the software functions that make the Galaxy S3 a truly unique smartphone:
Voice recognition software has been available in some form or another for the past decade, but it was Apple’s Siri personal voice assistant that has first brought together voice recognition and smartphone usage. As Siri was a major marketing factor for the iPhone 4S, Samsung have decided to come up with a personal voice assistant of their own. Dubbed S-Voice, this feature of the S3 allows you to control your smartphone only by using your voice. Commands can be personalized, but possible uses for S-Voice include unlocking the smartphone, launching apps, taking pictures with the 8MP camera, music control (such as stop, play, pause and skip), snoozing the alarm, turning on the Wi-Fi /Bluetooth and more. S-Voice is available in the following languages: British, USA English, Italian, German, French, Spanish and Korean.
Possibly one of the most interesting intelligent functions of the Galaxy S3 is the social tagging feature. According to Samsung, the Galaxy S3 is capable of identifying and properly tagging the people in your photos as long as you have them added as contacts (with an attached picture). If this face recognition software works as Samsung claims it does, it is one of the most interesting smartphone capabilities ever. The Social Share ability takes matters one step further, by allowing you to instantly share the pictures with the contacts the S3 has recognized in the photo.
Direct Call allows you to make a call simply by lifting the phone to your ear while writing a message to someone, or while specific contact details are brought up to the display. Just lift, and speak. Personally, I can think of many scenarios where this could go wrong and I’m not actually sure that the couple of extra touches that you save are really all that important, but it is a nice feature to have.
This is definitely the most useful of all the smart functions available on the Galaxy S3. Smart Stay detects if the user is looking at the display and keeps the display from timing out until the user looks away. A very useful feature for those of us that regularly read text on our smartphones, as I’m sure you’ll agree.
If you’ve been away from your smartphone for a while, it’s possible that you have missed a few calls and messages. Granted, Android smartphones always notified you of the stuff you missed, but the Galaxy S3 takes one step further and vibrates to inform you of the action that happened while you were away. Not exactly the most revolutionary of features!
Microsoft has discovered a new piece of Mac malware that exploits a three-year-old flaw in old versions of Office for Mac. The company recommends Mac users to keep installed software updated.
Doyou ever wonder why food at restaurants is so much better than what you make at home? Honest chefs will tell you that, outside of skill and knowledge, they just have better tools at their disposal. In lieu of spending a fortune on buying your own mandolin, beurre mixer and a really expensive set of chef knives, check out some of the top apps for chefs and foodies. You will be on your way to creating culinary masterpieces in no time.
Matthew Kenney's Raw Express
($4.99 -- iPad)
Raw food is terrific for you. Raw food is also very difficult to make right if you want to do more than just gnaw on carrot sticks all the time. Chef Matthew Kenney has a new iPad app that takes you through the basics of raw food preperation. There are 12 full-length videos (like, how to crack a coconut, which is a lot harder than you might think), 45 recipes, nutritional information and shopping list integration. Raw-food diets are tough to maintain and even harder to keep creative. Pick this one up if you are interested in a raw-food diet or if you are just trying to impress that special someone with your knowledge of raw-food preperation. Hey, everybody loves a cook with a little bit of an esoteric repetoire.
Food Network: Cupcakes!
($2.99 -- iPad)
If you keep up with the hottest culinary trends, you know that cupcakes are all the rage these days (along with gourmet food trucks). This app has more than 100 cupcake and frosting recipes for those of us with a wicked sweet tooth. There is a frosting guide, a decorating guide, an ingredients guide and more. This one could be serious trouble for those of us trying to watch our weight.
Food Network: In The Kitchen
If you are a foodie and watch the Food Network and do not like Alton Brown, there is something completely wrong with you. Now, you can cook just like Brown, too. There are thousands of recipes that can be saved and modified. Shopping and comparison lists help you get the right recipe with the right ingredients for just the right occasions. There are ads in the app, even though it is a paid app, which turns some people off. Otherwise, In The Kitchen is a fine resource for the amateur cook.
AllRecipes.com Dinner Spinner
This app has been around for a while, but it is still a good one. Don't know what to cook? Give your phone a shake and come up with some interesting recipes to try out on your guinea pigs (err, your friends and family). Add ingredients to your spinner and come up with new ways to use them with AllRecipes index. The app now has a scanner that allows you to scan an ingredient and find all kinds of great uses for it. It also has shopping lists and search options. The paid version is available for $2.99.
Epicurious, especially for the iPad, is one of the best tools for looking up a diverse array of recipes, accumulating shopping lists and finding nutritional information. The Epicurious.com database has 30,000 recipes from food magazines, top chefs and user submissions. It is easy to use and has tons of great recipes for the chef looking up how to make cassoulet on the go, or the amateur trying to figure out how to make focaccia.
Top Chef University
($3.99 -- iPad)
Fun fact: In my former career in the kitchen, I was once fired by a man that won Top Chef. Anyway, if you like the Top Chef TV series, you will love this app. It features more than 60 hours of instructional video in several gastronomic tracks from 11 of Top Chef's finest contestants. It is heavy on in-app purchases to unlock new lessons, with the entire set coming in at a whopping $79.99. Probably better to just go a la carte and purchase some of the better lessons, like "Stocks and Soups" or "Basics and Techniques" (i.e., how to not cut off your thumb with a cleaver).
(Free -- iPhone)
BiteHunter is a real-time location-based app that aggregates restaurant deals. Find local dining deals from Groupon, LivingSocial, Restaurants.com and more. The value of BiteHunter comes with its real-time tracking of deals to let you know where you can save a couple of dollars when searching for culinary secrets in your city or while traveling. Purchase deals straight from the app, and share them with your friends through Twitter or Facebook before heading out for a night on the town.
Rate the dish, not the restaurant. Foodspotting is an app for discovering the best dishes near you through pictures. Was that beef bourguignon at the little French restaurant around the corner to die for? It is an easy dish to make, but a difficult dish to do well. Snap a picture of it, and share it with the Foodspotting community. This is a great app for local food discovery and restaurant deals.
Urbanspoon lets you shake your phone to find restaurants near you. Have you ever sat on the couch with your significant other and asked the basic question, "Where do you want to eat tonight?" Everybody has done that. Urbanspoon is serendipitous mobile restaurant discovery at its most fun. See all nearby restaurants, book a table or set parameters for a search by price and cuisine type, and then give your phone a shake. Maybe you'll find that hidden gem down the street that you never knew about.
The former CIO of the federal government once praised this app as one of the greater innovations in mobile consumer technology during the past five years. OpenTable allows you to make a reservation from your mobile phone anytime, anywhere. There is power in that kind of simplicity. OpenTable also offers restaurant deals and the ability to manage your reservation from your phone. If your city does a local "restaurant week," OpenTable is an invaluable tool to make sure you get the reservation where you want, when you want, and to ensure that you beat the crowd. When you buy a new smartphone, OpenTable is one of the first 10 apps you need to download.
Apple seems able to do no wrong. In its most recent fiscal quarter, the giant consumer electronics maker posted a 59% increase in sales and a whopping 94% rise in profits. Such stellar numbers disguise the possibility that Apple’s near future may not be so prosperous, particularly if it falters in China.
Apple’s steady climb in sales and profits has fueled a 435% rise in its stock price over the last five years - making it the most valuable nongovernmental public company in the world. While happy to reap the benefits, shareholders are also skittish over when the good times will end. No business can continue to soar forever.
During the two weeks leading up to the earnings report, Apple’s stock fell five days straight over fears that iPhone sales would weaken if mobile phone carriers started cutting subsidies to improve margins. While the earnings report calmed nerves for now, investors are still hypersensitive to any signs that Apple might be losing steam.
China Mobile Is the Key
The best indicators of Apple’s future are likely to be seen in China, where the company is trying to strike a deal with the country’s largest carrier, China Mobile. Apple already has deals with the much smaller China Telecom and China Unicom to sell the iPhone in what has become the world’s largest mobile phone market – with 1 billion subscribers.
So how important is China Mobile to Apple? “Apple needs the partnership in order for them to continue to expand their share there,” says Crawford Del Prete, analyst for market researcher IDC.
China is stoking growth in the Asia-Pacific region, which accounted for 26% of Apple’s $39.2 billion in sales in the first quarter of this year. Nearly all revenue from the region is from the iPhone, which accounted for 60% of Apple’s revenue in the quarter. If these growth rates continue, Asia Pacific will soon surpass Apple’s biggest market, the Americas.
Without China Mobile, Apple could find it difficult to keep sales rising fast enough to satisfy investors, based on the latest projections from Forrester Research. Adding the carrier would raise Apple’s share of the smartphone market to between 15% and 20% by 2014. That amounts to 40 million iPhones, or more than a quarter of Apple’s overall annual iPhone shipments today, according to Forrester analyst Bryan Wang in China. In the first 12 months, China Mobile would be expected to add 10 to 15 million new iPhone subscribers.
Is China Mobile Enough?
Even with China Mobile, though, Apple faces hurdles. Competition in China is fierce, and Apple will be fighting against less-expensive Android smartphones from Huawei and ZTE, and new models from Nokia, which is using the Windows Phone platform in a partnership with Microsoft.
That price differential is a huge problem for Apple in China. The premium-priced iPhone is truly affordable only to high-wage earners in China’s top 20 cities. To move into the Chinese broader market, Apple would have to sell versions of the smartphone that cost much less than the iPhone’s current starting price of almost $800, which is more than a month’s wages for many Chinese. “That is actually way beyond what the average Chinese can spend on a cellular phone,” Wang noted.
In China, carriers typically require people to pay for the phone up front (any subsidies are credited over the life of the contract), which is why the best-selling smartphones in China sell for around $150.
Of course, disappointing iPhone sales could be offset by the iPad. Wang expects that Apple’s tablets will sell very well as replacements for netbooks, the inexpensive mini-laptops that are still popular in emerging markets. They could even top iPhone sales.
However, for that to happen, Apple must win its legal battle over Chinese rights to the iPad brand. Proview Technology Shenzhen Co., the mainland China arm of Hong Kong-based Proview International Holdings Ltd., claims to own the name and is suing Apple.
In a country lacking a truly independent judiciary, it’s difficult to guess Apple’s chances of winning.
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