Amazon Has the Best Tablet, According to J.D. Power

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Amazon has become the leader in tablet satisfaction, according to J.D. Power and Associates. Only five months ago, this title belonged to Apple.

The Amazon Fire HDX won first place in the J.D. Power tablet satisfaction survey, scoring an 827 out of a possible 1000 for the first time in the company’s history. Apple came in a close second with a score of 824, and Samsung placed third with 821. Asus and Acer rounded out the top five.

The survey measures performance, ease of operation, features, styling, design and cost to get a final score. Amazon managed to pull ahead of Apple due to its high scores in the ease of operation and cost categories.

“Within the tablet segment, there’s a balance of cost and value, and for this period, Amazon was at the equilibrium,” said Kirk Parsons, senior director of telecommunication services at J.D Power. “For the money, [Amazon tablets] do what buyers need them to do. And the Mayday feature really helped them in ease of operation.”

Regarding Amazon’s jump from fourth place in the previous survey to first, Parsons admitted, “I figured [Amazon's] scores would improve, but I didn’t think they’d take the top spot.”

Amazon is one of today’s leading companies in terms of growth and services. It will be interesting to see if it can maintain its current grasp on the tablet market.

BlackBerry to Release Classic Smartphone

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BlackBerry will be releasing a new device called the BlackBerry Classic. CEO John Chen teased details about the device in a blog post, saying it will have a larger and sharper screen, a QWERTY keyboard and top row navigation keys. The Classic is designed to lure back the device’s traditional fans.

“It’s tempting in a rapidly changing, rapidly growing mobile market to change for the sake of change,” Chen wrote. “But there’s also something to be said for the classic adage, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.”

BlackBerry has made many attempts to win back consumers during its decline over the past few years. Chen is now focused on aiming products at the company’s core users, primarily in the business sector, who are fans of a tangible keyboard.

“We are committed to earning your business – or earning it back, if that’s the case,” wrote Chen in his blog post. He has said the phone will debut by the end of the year.

YouTube to Offer Paid, Ad-Free Subscriptions

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How much do you hate ads on YouTube? Enough to pay for their removal? The company is hoping this is the case, and plans to launch an ad-free subscription option for YouTube users in the near future.

Services like Netflix have enjoyed great success from their payment model, which in turn provides users with unlimited, ad-free video streaming. YouTube is hoping the trend of watching videos on mobile devices might help them earn similar revenue.

YouTube’s CEO Susan Wojcicki revealed information about the subscriptions service at the Code Mobile conference in Half Moon Bay, California. “YouTube right now is ad-supported, which is great because it has enabled us to scale to a billion users; but there’s going to be a point where people don’t want to see the ads,” Wojcicki said.

In 2013, YouTube gave select channel owners the ability to charge users viewing their content. It appears the company will build on this concept, by offering subscriptions for certain verticals in order to enjoy an ad-free experience. Youtube is also reportedly working on a free music subscription, which will include advertisements.

“If you look at media over time most of them have both ads and subscriptions,” said Wojcicki.

FTC Sues AT&T for Misleading Customers on “Unlimited” Plans

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The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently announced it is suing AT&T for misleading customers on “unlimited” data plans. The FTC has filed a complaint in federal court, claiming certain customers’ data was throttled up to 90 percent if they exceeded a particular amount of data use in a billing cycle.

According to the FTC, AT&T has been throttling customers on unlimited plans since 2011, and has throttled over 3.5 million customers. The speed cap can reportedly take effect after as little as 2 gigabytes of data has been used. AT&T vehemently denies these claims.

“The FTC’s allegations are baseless and have nothing to do with the substance of our network management program,” Wayne Watts, AT&T general counsel said in a statement. “It’s baffling as to why the FTC would choose to take this action against a company that, like all major wireless providers, manages its network resources to provide the best possible service to all customers, and does it in a way that is fully transparent and consistent with the law and our contracts.”

Throttling data is not illegal, and telecom carriers are not obligated to provide equal data speeds for all customers, but the FTC has taken issue with the misleading nature of allegedly “unlimited” plans. The FTC, along with the Federal Communications Commission, has also begun to investigate throttling at other wireless companies.

QR Code Payments to Rival Apple Pay?

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Some major retailers have blocked Apple Pay in favor of an alternative payment method set for release in 2015. Apple Pay received ample support from retailers during its September launch, but NFC terminals at Rite Aid and CVS enabling Apple Pay have reportedly been disabled.

In a leaked memo to Rite Aid employees explaining the company no longer accepts Apple Pay, a payment system called CurrentC was hinted at being available in the first half of 2015. Developed by Merchant Customer Exchange (MCX), this rival payment system is likely to be adopted by a group of major U.S. retailers including Rite Aid, CVS, Kmart, Sears, Target, Walmart, Best Buy and 7 Eleven.

CurrentC will do away with the need for NFC terminals, by using an app and QR codes which can be scanned to facilitate transactions. Merchant debit cards, rewards programs or your bank account can be accessed for payment. This closed system would eliminate credit card processing fees and give merchants more customer information.

Historically, QR codes have not been very popular with consumers. Apple Pay’s tap-to-pay method makes it easier to use, but only time will tell who will win the battle of mobile payment options.