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Roaming mobile charges will finally stop in Europe under “net neutrality”

Posted by wicked July - 1 - 2015 - Wednesday Comments Off

After months of negotiations and back and forts, the European Union has agreed to remove the roaming charges that users accumulate as they travel overseas, and instead adopt a “net neutrality” standpoint. The “trilogue” between member nations, the European Parliament, and the Commission finally decided that two years from now, mobile users can freely use their respective carrier services whenever they travel to other member countries, instead of paying a fortune on top of their regular monthly service fees.

The removal of the roaming charges will take effect by June 2017. But from now until then, there will be a cap on how much carriers can charge users. For mobile data, it will only be up to five cents per megabyte while it will be five cents per minute of calls, and two cents per SMS message. These are just stop gaps until the time when roaming charges will be totally removed. But it doesn’t mean users can go crazy using their data or calls and texts. They will also be subject to a a fair use policy, although the details of that have yet to be enumerated.

The three entities were also able to agree on the rules of “net neutrality”, which means that all internet traffic should be treated equally. Specialized services like streaming live TV will be seen as the same as browsing, as long as they will not hinder the use of other customers. This is a welcome break as compared to the stricter rules that we have in the US.

This agreement is the culmination of three years of negotiations between the parties, although the final agreement may be different from the original plan. They removed plans to harmonize the way carriers offer services in Europe, as it was probably too contentious. Bandwidths are sometimes considered national assets as it costs billions of euros, and so some member states would not want to tread on that. But otherwise, despite all the sometimes tense wrangling between parties involved, it was a pretty satisfactory result.

VIA: Fast FT

Roaming charges to be scrapped in the EU

Posted by wicked June - 30 - 2015 - Tuesday Comments Off

european union eu flag 

The European Commission has been gradually chipping away at data roaming costs within the European Union and has now decided to abolish roaming charges on the continent on June 15th 2017.

The new rules state that customers on EU based operators will pay the same amount across the Union as they do in their home country. However, there was potential for an exploit here, whereby customers in one country could buy a cheaper SIM deal from abroad in order to achieve cheaper rates. To combat this issue, the Commission has ruled that there will be a limit to the amount of roaming data and calls that are free before a carrier can begin charging any additional fees.

When travelling in the EU, mobile phone users will pay the same price as at home

Sadly, the summer of 2017 is still quite a way away. Until the new rules come into force, the Commission will be imposing another interim cap which will begin from April 2016.

Carriers will be limited to charging customers a maximum of €0.20 per MB, €0.06 per SMS and €0.05 per minute when roaming abroad, which is about 75 percent cheaper than the current cap.

Online content will not be unfairly blocked or slowed down anymore, and paid prioritisation will not be allowed

The Commission also has some tougher net neutrality rules on the way too. Beginning April 30th 2016, ISPs on the continent will be prevented from throttling speeds or blocking access to any online content, apps or other services.

However, blocks in the name of network security and combating child pornography are exempt. It will be interesting to see how this affects some national government efforts to block access to video and torrent sharing websites.

Internet “fast lanes” have also been ruled out, with the exception of parts of a network reserved for higher quality “innovative services” and Internet TV, so long as these don’t affect other people’s access to regular internet services.

The rules still have to be put into writing, signed off on by the European Parliament and Council, and then translated into all the various languages, which is partly why these rules are going to take a bit of time to implement. Still, I’m sure an end to data roaming charges and increased internet neutrality protection will be well received when they finally arrive.

LG G4c goes on sale in Europe

Posted by wicked June - 8 - 2015 - Monday Comments Off

LG G4c

Back in mid-May, LG announced its mid-range G4c smartphone alongside its G4 Stylus, which went on sale in parts of the world last week. From today, the LG G4c is now also available in parts of Europe.

The mid-range handset has gone on sale in the Netherlands through retailer BelSimpel for €248 and through Italy’s Stockisti for €249. The smartphone can be pre-ordered in the UK too, through retailers including Handtec and Carphone Warehouse for £179.99. LG is marketing the G4c as a compact smartphone, changing the G4 flagship’s “see the great, feel the great” slogan to “see the great, feel the compact.”

The LG G4c shares aesthetic design similarities with its plastic flagship brother, but features much more mid-range specifications. The smartphone is powered by a quad-core Snapdragon 410 SoC, 1GB of RAM, 8GB of internal storage with a microSD slot, an 8MP rear and 5MP front camera combination, LTE data, and a 2,540mAh removable battery. Sadly, there’s no laser auto-focus option for the rear camera on this model. Despite being marketed as a compact smartphone, the LG G4c features a 5-inch, 720p display with a similar slight curve to the high-end G4.

Although the handset may feature mid-range hardware, LG has taken across a few of its premium software features to the smartphone, including Knock Code, Gesture Shot and Glance View. Android 5.0 Lollipop is installed out of the box.

Other European countries are likely to follow suite rather quickly, but LG hasn’t given out any details about a possible US rollout. We’ll keep you posted.

LG quietly launches the G4c in Europe

Posted by wicked June - 8 - 2015 - Monday Comments Off

Screen Shot 2015-06-08 at 12.27.52

Earlier today, LG quietly launched a new variant of the G4 in Europe. The handset is called the G4c and is essentially a scaled-down model of the flagship with a smaller display and more refined internals.

This European variant carries the model number LG-H525N and sports a 5-inch 720p panel, a Snapdragon 410 chipset with a 1.2GHz quad-core CPU, 1GB of RAM, an 8-megapixel rear-facing camera and 8GB of expandable internal storage.

If you like the sound of the G4c you can pick one up via eBay for €249 ($275), you can do so, by hitting the source link below.

Source: eBay

Come comment on this article: LG quietly launches the G4c in Europe

Disconnect.Me files antitrust case against Google for banned app

Posted by wicked June - 2 - 2015 - Tuesday Comments Off

Disconnect Me

Google is already facing a legal battle in Europe to determine if it has been abusing its dominant market position, and now Disconnect Inc. is piling on the pressure with its own a case against the technology giant, claiming that the company abused its position when it banned its app.

The Disconnect Android app aimed to block ads and third party tracking software, along with any potential injections of malware. It was banned from the Google Play Store for breaching Google’s terms and conditions.

“Disconnect charges Google with abusing its dominant market position by banning Disconnect’s app, a revolutionary technology that protects users from invisible tracking and malvertising, malware served through advertisements,” – Disconnect.Me

Specifically, Google points to clause 4.4 of its Google Play policy, which prohibits apps on the store from interfering with other apps, either by altering their functionality or by removing their way of making money. By removing ads, Disconnect could be used to deprive developers of revenue. Given that the freemium app segment continues to grow at a strong pace, Google and app developers are clearly interested in preserving their revenue streams.

“Our Google Play policies (specifically clause 4.4) have long prohibited apps that interfere with other apps. We apply this policy uniformly — and Android developers strongly support it. All apps must comply with these policies and there’s over 200 privacy apps available in Google Play that do.” – Google

The case becomes a little more complicated though, as Disconnect claims that it’s not trying to disable all ads, but is offering users the option to protect themselves from invisible tracking and malware, stating that advertising doesn’t have to violate user privacy and security to be successful. The company has referenced several article on the subject of privacy and ads in the past, but clearly hasn’t persuaded Google of the case.

Google had previously blocked the app two times in the past year, leaving the developers to offer the app as a side-loadable apk. The company has filed the lawsuit with Google in pursuit of “equal treatment” so that all Android users can access its app. It is also not clear exactly what compensation the company is after as well, if anyway.

The choice to file a complaint in Europe, rather than say in the US, is most likely to capitalize on the growing legal hostility towards the tech giant in Europe. Disconnect’s case could also be merged with other anti-trust complains on the continent.

Where do you stand on the issue of privacy and ads?

Exclusive: Huawei P8 will have 3-year warranty in selected markets

Posted by wicked June - 1 - 2015 - Monday Comments Off

Huawei P8-29

While most modern smartphones come with standard manufacturers’ warranty, some companies are trying to offer additional services to entice customers. LG is offering free screen replacements in Korea with the LG G4, HTC is offering free damage protection in the USA with the One M9 and we can exclusively reveal that Huawei is offering three years warranty with next-day or three-day turnaround time for repairs with the Huawei P8 in selected Western European markets.

The Head of Device Service for Western Europe at Huawei spoke to us and told us that the company is testing different propositions to see which works best for customers. We’ve already exclusively revealed that the Huawei P8 will come with free same day warranty replacements and now we can reveal the service benefits that Huawei is offering Western European customers who buy its latest flagship.

As part of its Huawei VIP service, customers in the following Western European markets will receive the following service levels with their Huawei P8 smartphone:

Country Service
UK 3 years warranty for the first 5000 customers to register on the Huawei website
24 hours Turn Around Time (TAT) with next-day door-step replacement.
FR 3 years warranty
requires registration and submission of Proof Of Purchase
DE 3 years warranty when you register with Huawei Club
Out of Warranty insurance free for first 3 months
IT Special line customer care
Express Pick up and delivery from customer home for repairs
ES 3 days TAT for repairs
special hotline & courier pick up from customer
NL 3 years warranty
3 days TAT
PT 3 years warranty if you buy the device before 31st July 2016
BE 3 years warranty
3 days TAT
CH 3 days TAT

The 24-hour turn around time for repairs in the UK is certainly impressive, given that most OEMs can only offer 7-14 days TAT and the 3 years warranty will certainly ensure your handset continues to work for longer than the contract you bought it on. In Germany, three months out-of-warranty insurance should provide some reassurance for customers that, if the worst should happen, at least Huawei will foot the bill for the first three months.

Do you think warranty is important enough? Has the extra warranty or the other added benefits influenced your decision on whether to buy the Huawei P8? Let us know your views in the comments below!

Top European countries seeing dip in Android marketshare as people switch to iOS

Posted by wicked May - 6 - 2015 - Wednesday Comments Off

Samsung-Galaxy-S5-Note-4-Android-5.0-Lollipop-b

The Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain have reportedly seen a dip in Android marketshare given the emergence of newer iOS devices. The launch of the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus may have been a factor in users switching over from Android.

In the first quarter of 2015, the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus continued to attract consumers across Europe, including users who previously owned an Android smartphone,” said Carolina Milanesi, chief of research at Kantar Worldpanel ComTech. “On average, across Europe’s big five countries during the first quarter, 32.4% of Apple’s new customers switched to iOS from Android.”

The Android marketshare saw a fall by 3.1% compared to the same period last year with the figure now standing at 68.4%. iOS on the other hand saw an increase in marketshare by 1.8%, which isn’t big, but significant nonetheless. iOS is now said to have 20.3% of the pie in Europe.

Source: Kantar World Panel

Come comment on this article: Top European countries seeing dip in Android marketshare as people switch to iOS

EU vs Google: is there a case against Google?

Posted by wicked April - 30 - 2015 - Thursday Comments Off

 

eu european union flag Sébastien Bertrand

It looked as though maybe Google had dealt with the antitrust problem last year when it agreed to promote rival ads to avoid EU fines. But, just the other week a new press release from the European Commission laid out a Statement of Objections which focuses on Google favoring its own Google Shopping comparison product in general search results.

There was also news that a formal investigation into Google’s conduct on Android has been opened, but we’ll get to that later. Let’s see what merits, if any, the EU has in its charge against Google.

Is Google gaming search results?

Of course it is, but it’s pretty difficult to see exactly where the line is when it’s Google’s job to decide on the results. As Amir Efrati points out, at The Information, the idea that Google is not providing the “the most relevant results” doesn’t make a great deal of sense. Google is deciding what’s relevant in the first place, there is no objective standard.

The internal memo response from Google, published at Re/code makes for interesting reading and lays out Google’s defense, starting with the idea that “The competition is just one click away – and it’s growing.”

There’s definitely a problem with the idea that a company is reliant on Google Search for traffic when there are search alternatives, social networks, and a growing dependence on mobile apps.

EU's new competition overseer Margrethe Vestager is leading the charge against Google

EU’s new competition overseer Margrethe Vestager is leading the charge against Google

On the other hand, there’s a clear issue for competitors when Google is in charge of search, providing the lion’s share of traffic to specific businesses, such as shopping comparisons websites, and also competing with them. Is it favoring its own product in the results, as the Commission alleges? It seems very likely. Does that hinder the competition and stifle innovation? It’s a little harder to say.

The FTC found worse and nearly sued Google a few years back, as reported by The Wall Street Journal. Those allegations focused on Google scraping content from Yelp, Trip Advisor, and Amazon, sticking it into the search results, and then threatening to remove those companies from the results when they complained. Although, Google has argued successfully before that it’s not a publisher – search results can’t really work without headlines and snippets of content.

The antitrust laws

Competition is good, unless you’re getting too big

The idea that competition is good, is at the heart of capitalism, and it makes sense to safeguard consumers from price fixing agreements. We don’t want a monopoly or an oligopoly blocking competition and innovation, while fleecing us in the process. But, it’s not easy to get your head around the antitrust laws because a monopoly is not illegal, it’s achieving or maintaining one by “anti-competitive” means that makes it an offense.

That means you can engage in anti-competitive practices without penalty, unless you get too successful. So, Google can be penalized for things now, that its less successful competitors (in monopoly terms) are still doing.

What this could mean for Android

There’s an awful lot of gray in the search argument, but if you take a look at the scope of the European Commission’s formal investigation into Android, it’s easy to see trouble ahead. The structure of Google’s Android is a lot closer to Microsoft’s Windows strategy in the 90’s, which led it into serious antitrust problems.

These are the three main areas the investigation will focus on:

  • whether Google has illegally hindered the development and market access of rival mobile applications or services by requiring or incentivising smartphone and tablet manufacturers to exclusively pre-install Google’s own applications or services;
  • whether Google has prevented smartphone and tablet manufacturers who wish to install Google’s applications and services on some of their Android devices from developing and marketing modified and potentially competing versions of Android (so-called “Android forks”) on other devices, thereby illegally hindering the development and market access of rival mobile operating systems and mobile applications or services;
  • whether Google has illegally hindered the development and market access of rival applications and services by tying or bundling certain Google applications and services distributed on Android devices with other Google applications, services and/or application programming interfaces of Google.

It seems perfectly possible Google will be found guilty here. When Google insists that specific things are pre-installed, or that you can’t use Google apps and services on Android forks, it’s opening itself up to antitrust issues. But, they don’t really have much to do with consumer interests, do they?

google apps nexus 5

Google’s apps come with some strings attached

Business or consumers

Google has argued in the past that the controls it enforces on Android are about ensuring the user experience is good. It’s up to you if you believe that or not, but having used a number of different forks and tried Android without Google services, it seems like a valid point to me.

The thing about these examples the European Commission is throwing up is that they clearly relate to competition with other businesses and don’t demonstrably harm consumers.

Does Google Search or Android really have a monopoly? They’re dominant, but there are still plenty of competitors that appear to be perfectly healthy. What if it’s a monopoly based on merit? Few people are going to argue that the alternatives to Google Search are better, but if you do feel that way, just go ahead and use something else. There’s nothing stopping you, is there?

You can argue that, if a competitor developers a better service, then we’ll all just jump ship. But, there is another side to the argument which is also worth considering. If Google uses its better service in one sphere, say search, to drive you into using its inferior service in another sphere, say Google Shopping or Google+, then is it getting an unfair advantage from that monopoly? Maybe it is, and maybe it doesn’t benefit the consumer.

In any case, the chances are good that Google will come to some kind of agreement. The EC can technically fine Google 10% of its 2014 revenues, which would come to $6.6 billion, but that seems very unlikely. Google is admitting no wrong-doing so far, and insists it hasn’t been anti-competitive. We’ll keep you posted on this one as it develops.

EU files antitrust case against Google, also looking into Android

Posted by wicked April - 16 - 2015 - Thursday Comments Off

The rumors have been officially confirmed, as the European Union has filed antitrust charges against Google with regards to their search practices and business dealings. The formal complaint says that the tech giant has been “systematically favoring its own comparison shopping product in its general search results pages”. The commission has said they may also be opening an investigation into Google’s other business, Android, as they may also be infringing antitrust rules in their business dealings with other OEMs.

The crux of the charges is that Google has been skewing search results to favor their Google Shopping results to the determent of their competitors. This violates the antitrust law because “it stifles competition and harms consumers”. EU Commissioner Margrethe Vestager emphasized that there is nothing wrong with Google’s dominance in the market, but rather what they want is for these dominant companies to not abuse their position through practices that will restrict fair competition among the other players.

This is not the first time that Google has faced accusations like these, with various cases brought against them in different courts. Companies like Microsoft and Tripadvisor among others have filed complaints in the past. The EU has been conducting this investigation for five years but it seems there is “a new sense of urgency” according to some news reports. With regards to looking into Android, they will be looking into whether or not Google has been “hindering the development and market access of rival mobile operating systems, applications and services to the detriment of consumers and developers of innovative services and products.”

Google has not officially responded to the news, but an internal memo that has been leaked suggests that obviously, the company disputes the charges and will fight the complaints with evidence of their own that will prove they have not violated any law. In the past, Amit Singhal, Senior Vice President for Google Search has said that the cases previously brought against them were dismissed and they were not able to back up their claims.

VIA: SlashGear (1), (2)

EU to reportedly file anti-trust charges against Google

Posted by wicked April - 15 - 2015 - Wednesday Comments Off

If reports are to be believed, today will be a historic day for Google, and not in a good way. Rumors are swirling about that the European Union will finally be filing charges against the tech giant for violating antitrust laws. This may be the biggest battle of this kind since the anti-trust case against Microsoft almost a decade ago. While this will not come as a surprise since the investigation has been going on for five years already, it will definitely have huge financial consequences for Google should they lose the case.

The EU is acting on complaints that Google, which holds over 90% of Europe’s general search market, has been favoring its own services over those of their competitors which is a clear violation of the anti-trust law. There are four major areas of concern, as cited by the EU: bias in search results, rival websites’ content being scraped by the company, collusion with advertisers that may have been excluding search-advertising results from its rivals, and finally, contracts with marketers that may be limiting them from using other platforms.

They are also reportedly looking into Google’s business practices for its Android platform, which may turn into a formal investigation eventually. While there has been no official response yet from the company, sources say that they are already preparing a response, and that they are of course, very disappointed with this news. An internal memo shows charts, both from comScore and their internal data, showing that in fact, searches on Amazon and eBay is way higher than those from Google Shopping in Germany, France and the United Kingdom. They also claim that they have “a very strong case” in case charges will be filed.

This is serious business for Google, as they may face fines as much as $6 billion, which may be a drop in their bucket given their revenues. However, this will also lead to injunctions, modifying contracts with advertisers and clients, and of course, looking into their other businesses as well. A previous antitrust lawsuit against Google was dismissed by an American court just a few days ago.

VIA: WSJ, ReCode