China abandons one-child policy!

China has scrapped its notorious one-child policy, allowing all Chinese couples to have two children for the first time in more than three decades, official media reported on Thursday.

“China abandons one-child policy,” Xinhua, China’s official news agency, announced on Twitter.

For months there has been speculation that Beijing was preparing to abandon the highly controversial family planning rule, which was introduced in 1980 amid fears of a calamitous population explosion.

China’s Communist rulers credit their policy with preventing 400 million births but the draconian regulation has also been blamed for millions of forced abortions.

The UN estimates that by 2050 China will have nearly 440 million over-60s.

News that the one-child policy had been scrapped comes three months after one Chinese newspaper predicted the policy would be phased out by the end of this year.

At the time those reports were denied by the Chinese government.

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UPDATED – Nokia to make Android Phones in 2016!

Nokia has just published a statement on its official company website claiming that it has “no intention to manufacture or sell consumer handsets”. Furthermore, the company also deemed as false recent reports that quoted a Nokia executive as confirming the company’s ambitions to manufacture smartphones out of an R&D facility in China.

Earlier this week, a couple of reports suggested that Nokia is staging a comeback to the smartphone market. The initial report, published on Monday by ReCode, quoted sources familiar to Nokia’s plans according to which the company is planning a return to the smartphone market in 2016. A few days later, a Chinese newspaper quoted Mike Wang, the President of Nokia China, communicating an intention to to manufacture smartphones in the Chinese city of Sichuan.

Nokia’s recent statement doesn’t specifically make any mention to plans of designing smartphones in the near future. The statement only mentions that the company has no plans to sell or manufacture consumer handsets, and this specificity leaves room for interpretation. ReCode originally reported that Nokia will licence smartphone designs to third party manufacturers, which is exactly what the company did with the Nokia N1 tablet, a device designed by Nokia, but manufactured and commercialized by Foxconn.
Nokia is bound by its deal with Microsoft not to release any Nokia-branded smartphones until the third quarter of 2016. We’re keeping an eye on the situation and we’ll get back to you as soon as there’s more to report.

Recently we heard rumors about alleged Nokia plans for re-entering the phone market in 2016. We are happy to report those plans are indeed true and Nokia will be marking its return next year with an Android smartphone.

Nokia sold its device business to Microsoft a year ago and it signed a non-compete clause preventing the company from producing smartphones under the Nokia brand until December 31, 2015 and feature phones under the Nokia brand for a decade.

nokia-lumia-930

Nokia used wisely these non-compete clauses and outed the powerful Nokia N1 tablet early this year. The N1 is designed by Nokia, including its Z Launcher for Android, but the rights for the branding, manufacturing, marketing and distributions were licensed to Foxconn.

The President of Nokia China confirmed Nokia is working on Android powered smartphones, which will be probably manufactured in factories in Sichuan, China (after further assessment) and will be launched in 2016. He also sheds some light on company’s future – the Nokia’s R&D center will permanently relocate to Sichuan, China.

Looking forward to Nokia’s next phone chapter? We certainly are.

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Apple loses patent ordered to pay $368 million and drops out of top five smartphone makers in China!

Apple has lost a patent related case to VirnetX, a patent holding firm in the US, for infringing on four of the latter’s patents related to FaceTime. The four patents in the case deal with establishing VPSs and domain names.

Apple argued that it did not infringe upon any patents, that FaceTime was a free service with no revenue and that VirnetX does not have any products that use those patents but apparently it was not enough to please the judge and now Apple has been ordered to pay $368 million.

Apple doesn’t have to pay the amount just yet. The company has now filed a motion asking whether VirnetX has sufficient evidence to support its case and to reexamine each of the four patents in question with the US Patent Office.

VirnetX pulled a similar move on Microsoft earlier this year, winning $200 million in settlement from Microsoft for using its VPN-related patents in its Windows operating system and other products.

Apple drops out of top five smartphone makers in China

Chinese smartphone makers have phased off Apple from the top five smartphone makers in the world’s most populous nation.

With an upsurge of affordable Android devices from Chinese vendors, Apple is way too expensive to be able to compete.

Currently, the top five of smartphone makers in China looks like so:

1. Samsung
2. Lenovo
3. Coolpad
4. ZTE
5. Huawei
“(The Chinese vendors) are selling their devices at a very low price that can attract first-time smartphone users,” Nicole Peng, a Canalys analyst said. “Apple’s iPhone is still very expensive and it kind of limits their expansion in the country, when the target audience of where the growth is coming from is at the low-end.”

The Chinese market is showing very interesting dynamics with Lenovo quickly rising to the top and having an opportunity to outrun Samsung. Coolpad is a local company that is not widely known outside of China. A brand of Yulong Computer Telecommunication Scientific, it is another brand that offers affordable smartphones, sometimes even below the $100 mark.

In the third quarter of 2012, smartphone shipments in China stood at more than 50 million units. While most smartphones in the country of over a billion sell for between $70 and $120, the iPhone 4S is priced at the whopping $713 off contract.

Miss China crowned Miss World 2012 !

Miss China won the coveted title of Miss World on Saturday, triumphing on home soil during a glitzy final held in a mining city on the edge of the Gobi desert.

The mostly Chinese audience erupted in cheers, and fireworks lit up the sky, when it was announced that the home candidate, Yu Wenxia, had been awarded the coveted title.

“When I was young I felt very lucky because so many people helped me, and I hope in the future I can help more children to feel lucky,” Yu, a 23-year-old aspiring music teacher said when asked why she should be crowned.

Yu, who became China’s second Miss World winner, appeared on stage in a dazzling array of ballgowns during the two-hour final and serenaded the audience with a piercing rendition of a popular Chinese song.

Last year’s Miss World, Ivian Sarcos of Venezuela, handed over her crown to Yu, who wore a sparkling blue dress, in the futuristic Dongsheng stadium in the northeastern city of Ordos.

Miss Mexico, Mariana Reynoso, had been the bookmakers’ favourite for the title, but failed to make the last seven candidates despite a strong showing in the early rounds of the pageant. Miss Wales, Sophie Moulds, came in second, while Miss Australia, Jessica Kahawaty, finished third.

The final, watched by a worldwide TV audience of an estimated one billion viewers, included a nod to the culture of Inner Mongolia, with a performance by a group of Mongolian musicians playing the erhu, a traditional two-stringed instrument.

Ordos, which sits around 700 kilometres (440 miles) from the nearest beach, was an unlikely setting for the world’s biggest beauty pageant.

The city has grown rich over the past decade on the back of a coal mining boom that has transformed it from a sandstorm-afflicted backwater into one of the wealthiest places in China.

The boom triggered a frenzy of building in the city, but the local government has struggled to fill the vast tower blocks that sprung up, earning it the title of China’s biggest ghost town.

However, enthusiastic competitors seemed unfazed by the locale, expressing optimism that with the help of the pageant, the city could leave its reputation behind and take its place alongside other global centres of glitz and glamour.

“Ordos could be the next Dubai,” Marielle Wilkie, representing the Caribbean nation of Barbados, confidently predicted.

Albanian contestant Floriana Garo chimed in with her own bold statement.

“In ten years, this city will be booming,” she said.

Architecture in Ordos, where the city museum is shaped like an undulating blob, is “world class,” added Markysa O’Loughlin, representing St. Kitts and Nevis, also in the Caribbean.

Contestants churned yoghurt in a nomad’s yurt and donned local dress to climb sand dunes during their month-long stint in China. Video clips shown during the final showed the beauty queens posing in swimwear on desert sand dunes.

A total of 116 contestants — the highest ever number to take part — took to the stage during the final in a variety of stunning gowns.

A red ceremonial flag was passed over to representatives from the Southeast Asian resort island of Bali, hosts of the 2013 Miss World Final, during the ceremony.

While the popularity of the contest, first held in 1951, has waned in the West, continued interest in Asian countries ensures that the final rakes in a huge global television audience.

Sweden’s Kiki Hakansson was the first Miss World, while Oscar-winning US actress Halle Berry was a finalist in 1986 and Bollywood star Aishwarya Rai took the crown in 1994.

Venezuela has produced the most Miss Worlds, with six winners, while India and Britain claim five titles each.

Why the iPhone won’t be No. 1 in China..

When Lei Jun, founder and CEO of China’s mobile company Xiaomi Technology, took the stage in Beijing yesterday to announce the Xiaomi Phone 2, his company’s successor to the MiOne phone, it was a familiar sight to anyone who has ever watched one of Apple’s famous theatrical product unveilings.

Clad in a black turtleneck, blue jeans and runners and standing in front of a giant screen as the audience of more than a thousand devotees cheered and clapped, the unveiling bore more than a passing resemblance to an Apple event starring Steve Jobs.

But that’s beyond the point. What matters is that Xiaomi Technology. Ever heard of the company? Founded only two years ago, it’s already worth more than BlackBerry maker Research In Motion. Its latest smartphone has better hardware than the iPhone 4S, yet sells for less than half the price.

Xiaomi’s Q1 2012 revenue was nearly $1 billion on sales on three million phones. Not bad for a two-year old handset maker doing business in the 1.33 billion people market, which recently overtook the United States in terms of iOS and Android activations. Xiaomi is one of many iPhone contenders in China whose names you’ve never heard before.

Can Apple respond to this latest local challenge to the iPhone?

Things are not black and white.

According to a new report published by China Daily late yesterday:

In China’s booming smartphone market, which is set this year to overtake the United States as the world’s largest, a host of little-known local firms are primed with cheap phones to squeeze market share from US giant Apple Inc’s iPhone.

Apple’s iPad leads the tablet market in China with an IDC-estimated Q2 share of 70 percent and the iPhone remains strong. One of the dangers Apple faces in China is that its growth mostly comes from the greater China region, where sales increased more than 100 percent year over year during the second quarter of this year.

Greater China represented about a third of Apple’s growth in the Asia-Pacific region, which grew 25 percent in the June quarter.

Put simply, the iPhone flourishes in just a handful of wealthy Chinese cities.

There are three main issues worth of note here.


This is Android Jelly Bean-driven Xiaomi Phone 2. Looks sleek, no?

First, According to Apple’s internal survey made public during the Apple v. Samsung suit, a whopping 43 percent of respondents chose Android to stay with their current provider.

The iPhone is backed in China by China Telecom and China Unicom, but the country’s and the world’s leading telco, China Mobile, which counts about 655 million subscribers, still isn’t offering the sought-after device.

Second, in addition to limited distribution, Apple only operates five stores in China, meaning one store serves an average of 216 million customers, with two additional flagship storesset to open later this year.

To put that in perspective, the company has more retail stores in Pennsylvania (population: 12.7 million) than in all of China. Reuters recently noted as much, warning that Apple’s retail expansion in China “has fallen well short of its own goals”.

Of the five stores in the country, two are in Beijing and three in Shanghai. In other words, Apple’s retail footprint is limited to the greater China region.

Though Apple is shooting to open about 25 more stores in China by the end of calendar 2012, the fact remains that Apple’s retail presence in the 1.33 billion people market sucks. The market is so huge and booming that even Apple cannot build enough stores to push its products direct to consumers.

And third, the iPhone is a high-end play, but the real growth in China is coming from feature phone owners upgrading to low-end smartphones. These folks are going for mid-tier devices costing between $130 and $240.

IDC China analyst TZ Wong:

Apple isn’t going to rule China, simply because of the limited models they have and the price points they target. Based on these two factors, we do not think Apple will be the No. 1 smartphone player in China.

Jack Purcher of PatentlyApple disagrees:

If Apple’s next generation iPhone packs enough advancements into it like we all expect, then their sales will skyrocket like they’ve traditioinally done. These so-called analysts that are temporarily spewing their pessimist views in the press today will once again be silenced. 

Apple’s legal pressure is also bound to yield some positive results for the company, Purcher opines:

And let’s not kid ourselves, if Apple gains a positive verdict in their trial against Samsung, it’ll send a powerful message to all copycatters around the globe that they’ll pay a heavy price for copying anything of Apple’s. On the other hand, if the verdict doesn’t go Apple’s way, then all bets are off that Apple will be able to remain the king of the smart device revolution. 

Apple recently re-priced the iPhone 3GS below $200 unsubsidized to counter Android cheapos. The problem is, the iPhone 3GS is three years old now and devices from the likes of Xiaomi beat even the iPhone 4S in terms of speeds and fees while significantly undercutting Apple’s pricey device.

The unlocked iPhone 4S costs an equivalent of $800 and that’s about two months pay for an urban Chinese. The cheap Xiaomi Phone 2 outsmarts Apple with a 4.3-inch 720p IPS display by Sharp, Qualcomm’s Snapdragon S4 Pro APQ8064 quad-core chip, 2GB RAM, 16GB memory and runs on Android Jelly Bean.

IDC estimated that last year sub-$200 smartphones in China accounted for 40 percent of shipments. Those costing $700 and more? Just eleven percent of the market.

Faced with all these issues, in addition to strong local competition (which understands local market better than Apple) and limited retail presence, Apple is at risk of endangering the sustainability of its success in China, especially as local vendors as Xiaomi, and more established ones like Huawei and ZTE, continue to expand share and gain popularity.

According to Gartner, China’s ZTE and Huawei were the only two non-Apple and non-Samsung brands that grew in the second quarter of this year.

In China, Apple ranked second in Q1 2012, with 17.3 percent market share, trailing Samsung’s 19.2 percent, according to Gartner.

Let’s also not forget counterfeit stores, less-than-satisfactory IP laws, rampant gray market, software piracy, all posing a whole new set of challenges for Apple’s China efforts.