TIME Smartphones

Apple Might Finally Be Beating Samsung in Smartphone Sales

But some analysts say it's a tie

Apple and Samsung have long been bitter rivals in the smartphone market, with each able to claim an advantage over the other: The higher cost of Apple’s iPhones have helped the company enjoy wider profit margins, while Samsung has historically clobbered Apple in terms of the number of devices shipped.

However, that may no longer be the case.

Apple sold a record 74.5 million iPhones last quarter, it said as part of its earnings report Tuesday. A day later, Samsung said it sold somewhere between 71 and 76 million smartphones. That means there’s a decent chance Apple is now beating Samsung not only in profit margins, but also in number of devices shipped.

Still, some analysts are sowing doubt over whether that’s actually the case. One research firm, Counterpoint Research, says Apple is now on top: It says Samsung only shipped 73.8 million devices last quarter. Ben Barjarin, an analyst with Creative Strategies and TIME columnist, also gave the nod to Apple.

But another analyst, Strategy Analytics, has taken the middle road and called it a tie, saying Apple and Samsung both shipped 74.5 million devices, giving both companies an equal 19.6% share of the global smartphone market.

A tie game means we’re headed to overtime. Whether Apple can hold on to its maybe-possibly-kind-of lead over Samsung depends on how its newest iPhone models perform as their shine wears off. Apple’s sales numbers last quarter got a big boost from the introduction of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, particularly in China, where the bigger devices were an equally big hit. If history is any indication, Apple won’t refresh its phone lineup for several months at the earliest, while Samsung is reportedly set to drop a new flagship model early this year to replace the Galaxy S5. If that as-yet-unannounced phone is a winner, it could put Samsung right back on top.

TIME Tablets

Here’s How to Pick the Best Tablet For You

Apple Unveils New Versions Of Popular iPad
An attendee looks at the new iPad Air during an Apple announcement at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts on October 22, 2013 in San Francisco, California. Justin Sullivan—Getty Images

What to look for—and what to avoid

Five years ago, no one knew quite what to make of the tablet. Was it the future of the laptop? Was it made for creation or consumption? And in the end, was it just a bigger version of the smartphone? For the next several years, we saw almost every device you could imagine, from a 2.8-inch micro-tablet (the Archos 28) to a 27-inch beast (the Planar Helium). A few new ideas stuck. Most flopped.

Jump ahead to 2015, and the market has largely settled. Customers seem to want one of three kinds of tablets, and the best devices almost all fit neatly into one of these categories.

In that spirit, we’ve broken down these three tablet groups, then picked a handful of products we would recommend for each. We’ll let you know what to look for—and what to avoid—depending on your preferences. Finally, we’ll highlight a few trailblazing tablets that don’t belong in any of these categories.

1. The General-Purpose Tablet

Pros: Can do a little of everything
Cons: No obvious strengths
Typical screen size: 9-11”
Typical starting price: $400-500

The most popular category for tablets, these models are jack-of-all-trade devices, designed to do a little bit of everything. Want to snap family photos? Each of these models comes with a decent camera. Need to give an off-site presentation to a client? You’re getting a nice mix of lightness and screen size. Just want to share status updates and YouTube comments? Post away.

The only problem: none of these tablets truly excel at any one thing. Products in this category tend to be just a bit too big for a purse or coat pocket, but a little too small for completing serious work.

So grab a general-purpose tablet if you plan to use it for all sorts of tasks, but consider another category if you have one or two particular uses in mind.

(Read more: Microsoft Surface Pro 3 review)

2. The Mini Tablet

Pros: Extremely portable, great for reading
Cons: Underpowered and bad at productivity
Typical screen size: 7-8.5”
Typical starting price: $200-400

The mini tablet is the ultimate travel and leisure device. Pop it in your backpack, slide it out for some poolside browsing, or place it on your nightstand for some bedtime reading. They’re so light you’ll forget you’re holding a tablet, and thin enough to squeeze in almost any nook, pocket, closet or cranny.

Better yet, they’re the cheapest tablets on the market. The iPad Mini 3 is Apple’s least expensive new tablet, while Amazon’s Kindle Fire HD 7 has a price tag under $150.

But you also get what you pay for. Miniature tablets tend to be the least powerful models, less capable of running high-end mobile games with a smooth, consistent experience. And forget about productivity. Trying to update a spreadsheet or compose a presentation on a mini tablet is frustrating and time-consuming.

Finally, consider that smartphones are getting bigger every year. Do you really need a 7-inch tablet if you plan to buy a 6-inch phone next year? The biggest phones and smallest tablets are practically becoming the same device, and you certainly don’t need both.

So consider a mini tablet if you want something leisurely and affordable, but make sure that’s all you want — or else you’ll wish you purchased something bigger and more capable.

(Read more: Hands-on with Apple’s new iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini 3)

3. The Productivity Tablet

Pros: Gets work done
Cons: Expensive and bulky
Typical screen size: More than 11”
Typical starting price: $600-1,000

The answer to the mini tablet is the productivity tablet—a device built for getting work done. Typically equipped with massive screens and sold with optional accessories (ex: keyboard and stylus), tablets in this category are designed to replace your laptop.

The best customer for these tablets is the on-the-go professional. You can work up a client presentation at your desk, slide the tablet into your briefcase, then travel to an off-site presentation, all with just a couple pounds of technology in tow.

On the flip side, are these devices really good enough to replace a laptop? Sure, they might be the most productive tablets available, but most laptops still do the same tasks just a bit better, making the productivity tablet a hard sell for seasoned business people.

And then consider leisure activities. Even if you don’t plan to use your tablet for fun very often, those few moments will quickly become obnoxious as you attempt to hold up a 900-gram device through all 58 minutes of Game of Thrones.

So buy a productivity tablet if you’re serious about getting work done (and don’t need or want a laptop), but save the fun and games for another device.

Bonus: The Trail Blazers

Pros: Creative, outside-the-box
Cons: Unproven

Microsoft Surface Hub
Nvidia Shield Tablet

You might say the tablet market has matured, but Microsoft and Nvidia aren’t convinced. Microsoft’s freshly announced Surface Hub comes in two massive sizes—55- and 84-inches—an office touchscreen designed to reinvent brainstorms, conference calls and collaborative meetings. We’ve never seen anything quite like it, complete with Skype integration and stylus compatibility. The device is set for release sometime later this year.

Meanwhile, Nvidia isn’t satisfied with angry birds and crushed candy: the company’s Shield Tablet wants to bring the power of expensive, modern gaming to a tablet device. As such, the tablet comes packed with a 2.2 GHz, quad core processor—the sort of internals you’d normally expect only on a laptop. While it’ll be tough to lure PC and console gamers from their keyboards and Dualshock controllers, Nvidia is committed to the cause.

It’s entirely possible that both Microsoft’s and Nvidia’s pioneering devices will flop. But if either hits, we’ll be looking not at three, but four tablet categories in 2016.

This article originally appeared on FindTheBest.

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TIME Smartphones

Samsung’s New Ultra-Slim Galaxy A7 Is Totally Metal

Samsung Galaxy A7
Samsung's Galaxy A7 smartphone. Samsung

It's thinner than the iPhone 6

Samsung unveiled Monday its thinnest smartphone to date: The Galaxy A7.

The Galaxy A7 clocks in at a 6.3mm thickness with a full aluminum unibody. It also expands on social capabilities with a new ‘Auto Selfie’ mode, noise reduction for voice control and LTE Category 4 4G for faster data speeds, Samsung said in a statement.

Additional features on the A7, which runs on Android 4.4 KitKat, include an extra security layer for important files and documents and multi-screen capability for convenient multitasking. Samsung will also offer a dual SIM model in some countries to let users have two phone numbers, which is common in South and Southeast Asia where it’s cheaper to make calls between customers of the same wireless company.

With a 5.5 inch screen, the A7 is also the biggest screen phone in the Samsung’s Alpha series, which include the Galaxy A5 and the Galaxy A3. The A7’s size puts it in competition with Apple’s iPhone 6 Plus, whose screen is also 5.5 inches across. But the A7 wins on thinness — the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus are 6.9 mm and 7.1 mm, respectively.

The A7’s exact prices and release date have not yet been announced.

TIME Gadgets

Samsung Unveils Crazy-Small Drive That Gives You 1TB of Storage

Samsung

And reportedly can rip a movie in 8 seconds flat

Samsung unveiled the mighty mouse of storage devices at its Consumer Electronics Show presentation on Monday.

The company says its Portable SSD T1 storage device, which is roughly the size of a business card and can store up to a terabyte of data, can transfer content from any device at roughly four times the rate of the average external drive. A 3MB movie, for instance, can rip to the drive in 8 seconds.

It also comes at a whopping price: a full terabyte of storage will set you back $599, but you can spend a more budget-friendly $179 for 250 GB.

TIME Gadgets

This Is the Best Samsung Galaxy S5 Case You Can Buy

ENDING OF MOBILE WORLD CONGRESS IN BARCELONA
Several attendees are at the Mobile World Congress that was held in Barcelona between 24 and February 27, Samsung introduces its latest model Galaxy S5 in Barcelona, Spain on February 27, 2014. Anadolu Agency—Getty Images

The Spigen Slim Armor is the best everyday Samsung Galaxy S5 case

The Best Samsung Galaxy S5 Cases

This post was done in partnership with The Wirecutter, a list of the best technology to buy. Read the full article below at TheWirecutter.com

After evaluating 43 distinct cases over a period of 30 hours, we think the Spigen Slim Armor is the best everyday Samsung Galaxy S5 case for most people. The dual-layer plastic and rubber case adds less bulk than most cases made with the same materials, and the attention to detail is obvious. It costs under $20, comes in an array of colors, and even maintains the Galaxy S5’s signature “Band-Aid” look.

How we picked

A good case has to offer cutouts for the headphone port, IR blaster, microphones, speaker, charging port, and the rear camera/heart rate sensor array. It should also cover the volume and power buttons without reducing the clicky sensation when you press them. Most importantly, it needs to provide at least some protection from drops and impacts. This means it needs to cover the back, sides, and corners of the case, and prevent the screen from rubbing against a surface when the phone is face-down. It doesn’t have to have military-grade protection (though we have a recommendation for that!), and because the S5 is already water-resistant, the case doesn’t need to be.

Our pick

We think the Spigen Slim Armor has the best balance of protection, size, and looks for most Galaxy S5 owners. The TPU and polycarbonate plastic case offers full body protection from drops and scuffs while adding minimal bulk, a combination that bumped it to the top of all those we looked at.

The Slim Armor adds less than 3.5mm to the Galaxy’s total thickness. Its height and width are right in the middle among the cases that made it to our final consideration. Spigen’s case also creates a lip that’ll help keep the glass from hitting the ground if the phone is dropped and elevating it when the handset is placed face down on a desk or table. The plastic back is smooth and easily slides in and out of a pocket. It also has some thoughtful design touches, like separate cutouts for the camera and heart rate sensor and individual speaker grates.

We’re not the only ones who like this Slim Armor. On Amazon, the listing that includes the case along with a few variants has 2,092 ratings with an average star rating of 4.5.

Other great cases

Another great protective pick for the Galaxy S5 is the NGP from Incipio, which sells for $12. The NGP is a tiny bit thinner than the Slim Armor. It doesn’t have a plastic shell, just TPU, so it’s not as rigid as Spigen’s, but it still securely grips the phone without letting go unless you want it to.

If you need more protection, we suggest Speck’s CandyShell, which sells for $23 and up. It meets MIL-STD-810G drop test standards, so it’s the one to get if you drop your phone a lot. It’s better-looking than most other hardcore cases (like Otterbox) and comes in five different colors. Speck told us that, in their own tests, the case “was dropped onto a hard, unrelenting surface from 4 feet 26 times and . . . retained full functionality, with no damage to the screen or buttons.” (It’s important to note the case has only been tested against the standards of military uses, not actually evaluated by the military.)

Spigen’s Tough Armor ($18+) is a slightly thicker and wider version of the Slim Armor, with a little more protection. The outer layer is flat with a metallic finish instead of a dimpled back. It offers the same high level of coverage around the camera and heart rate sensor as well as the speaker. It’s larger than the CandyShell, so you’ll feel the extra bulk in your hand and pocket. It’s also more angular where the CandyShell is smooth and curved.

In closing

While personal preference plays a big role in choosing a case, the Slim Armor is the most well-balanced option for most people in their day-to-day lives. It offers an impressive level of protection and has a look that should appeal to a majority of people.

This guide may have been updated. To see the current recommendation please go to The Wirecutter.com

MONEY Tech

Why the War Between Apple and Android is Over

A visitor looks at Apple's website on the new Samsung Galaxy Note 4, in a Samsung pop-up shop in Soho in New York.
Richard Levine—Alamy

This is Tim Cook's Apple now—and Cook vehemently disdains litigation.

I will spend my last dying breath if I need to, and I will spend every penny of Apple’s $40 billion in the bank, to right this wrong. I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product. I’m willing to go thermonuclear war on this.

— Steve Jobs

You’ve undoubtedly heard this infamous quote by now from the late Apple APPLE INC. AAPL -1.4634% co-founder, which was included in his official biography that was published shortly after his death in 2011. Steve Jobs’ loathing for Google GOOGLE INC. GOOG 4.6724% Android was perfectly captured in this quote.

Over the years, this “thermonuclear war” has raged on, with Apple primarily targeting rival Android OEMs as opposed to Google itself. Naturally, the highest profile case was against Samsung, but Apple has also conducted its patent warfare through The Rockstar Consortium, a joint venture owned by 5 prominent tech companies. Apple and Microsoft are two of the main backers.

Rockstar was the entity that outbid Google in the 2011 auction to acquire Nortel’s massive patent portfolio, winning out with a $4.5 billion offer. Apple put up $2.6 billion of that total, presumably making it the majority owner of Rockstar.

That portfolio included important intellectual property surrounding Wi-Fi networking and cellular connectivity, among many other areas related to mobile technology. Rockstar proceeded to sue Google and numerous Android OEMs like Samsung and HTC with said patents a little over a year ago.

Well, Rockstar and Google just settled their differences, which could signal that Apple’s “thermonuclear war” is over.

War changes

No dollar terms for the settlement were disclosed, but the bigger story here is an underlying strategic shift for Apple. Cisco CISCO SYSTEMS INC. CSCO -3.1411% was also on the receiving end of patent litigation, and similarly just announced a settlement with Rockstar that will result in a $188 million pre-tax charge.

The patent wars have raged on for years, with little effect on the underlying competitive dynamics of the smartphone industry. From a financial perspective, litigation is unlikely to be worth the trouble, and it now seems that Rockstar’s shareholders (the 5 tech companies) are wary of the distraction and want to exit the consortium. Chances are that Rockstar will never come out ahead compared to the $4.5 billion it paid.

Apple also settled its litigation with Motorola Mobility earlier this year, while the handset maker was still officially under Google’s multi-colored flag (Lenovo’s acquisition of Motorola closed in October). At the time, Apple and Google said they would work together in advocating for patent reform. In August, Apple and Samsung settled all of their outstanding patent disputes outside of the U.S. as well. Neither of these settlements includes any cross-licensing agreements.

Why the sudden change of iHeart?

A changing of the guard

There are a handful reasons why Apple’s war on Android would never bear fruit and why it may be giving up.

Apple’s primary goal was never to make money from these patent suits (it makes plenty of money as it is). It was trying to block popular Android devices from the market. But the underlying strategy of trying to preclude Android devices from the market was inherently doomed, considering the open-source nature of the platform and the sheer number of OEMs making Android devices.

Perhaps most importantly, the strategy was implemented under Steve Jobs. As you can see from the quote above, he had rather strong feelings on the matter. So strong, in fact, that they weren’t pragmatic. Not only would spending Apple’s $40 billion in cash (at the time) be an obvious breach of fiduciary responsibility to shareholders, but the company would have no chance of succeeding at keeping Android off the market. Naturally, Jobs was probably just being a little melodramatic.

But this is Tim Cook’s Apple now, which is very different than Steve Jobs’ Apple in more ways than one. Specifically, Cook vehemently disdains litigation. Here’s Cook on the Q2 2012 earnings conference call, less than a year after becoming CEO:

I’ve always hated litigation and I continue to hate it. We just want people to invent their own stuff. So if we could get some kind of arrangement where we could be assured that’s the case in a fair settlement on the stuff that’s occurred, I would highly prefer to settle versus battle. But the key thing is that it’s very important that Apple not become the developer for the world. We need people to invent their own stuff.

Philosophically, Apple just doesn’t want its rivals to continue copying its hardware and software designs. Legally, the company has limited options on how to stop it, particularly as it’s become painfully obvious that patent suits aren’t effective. That’s especially true for a Chinese competitor like Xiaomi, which mostly operates outside the jurisdiction of U.S. patent courts while China is notorious for weak intellectual property rights.

Fighting words

Without a doubt, Apple is just as upset about Xiaomi’s copying ways as it is about Samsung’s copying ways. Design chief Jony Ive has spoken twice in recent months regarding the Chinese smartphone maker. Here’s Ive at a Vanity Fair conference in October:

I’ll stand a little bit harsh. I don’t see it as flattery. When you’re doing something for the first time, you don’t know it’s going to work. You spend seven or eight years working on something, and then it’s copied. I have to be honest, the first thing I can think, all those weekends that I could have at home with my family but didn’t. I think it’s theft, and it’s lazy.

Ive’s comments at London’s Design Museum last week echo the same notion:

We may seem a little testy when things we have been working on for eight years are copied in six months – but it wasn’t inevitable that it was going to work. It’s not copying; it’s theft. They stole our time, time we could have had with our families. I actually feel quite strongly about it. It’s funny – I was talking to somebody and they said do you think when somebody copies what you do it’s flattering? No.

Naturally, Xiaomi adamantly denies the allegations. You be the judge.

The market will work itself out

By his own admission, Ive is not a shrewd businessman; Ive is a designer and he’s justifiably angry. However, the fact still stands that Apple has little effective recourse to stop companies like Xiaomi or Samsung.

It turns out that the solution is just as easily captured in another Steve Jobs quote. Apple’s most viable strategy in beating Android is simply to compete as aggressively as it can by creating the best products. In 2010, Jobs said, “And if we succeed, they’ll buy them. And if we don’t, they won’t. And it’ll all work itself out.”

TIME Gadgets

Samsung’s Virtual Reality Headset Will Cost $200

Samsung Gear VR Samsung

But if you don't have a Galaxy Note 4, it'll cost you a lot more

Samsung’s new enthusiast-aimed virtual reality headset will cost $200, setting an ambitious price point for the device ahead of its release next month.

The Samsung Gear VR Innovator Edition, slated for December release, has a slot to hold the Samsung Galaxy Note 4, which serves as the device’s display. Slide the Samsung smartphone into the Gear headset, and the headset’s lenses stretch and magnify the phone’s flat screen across a wide field of view, making the wearer feel like they’re in an immersive environment.

The headset will cost $200, and $249 when bundled with a Bluetooth gamepad, Samsung virtual reality partner Oculus VR said in a blog post Wednesday. But for users who don’t have a Galaxy Note 4 smartphone already and have to buy one, the total cost to experience virtual reality with the Gear VR will be at least $300 to $800 more expensive.

The Gear VR Innovator Edition isn’t a fully-fledged consumer product — instead, it’s a stepping stone device aimed at developers and other virtual reality enthusiasts so they can design software for a consumer-grade model that will be released later. It’s unclear if the consumer version of the VR will come at a different price point, but $200 would make the Gear VR a full $150 cheaper than Oculus VR’s current non-Samsung device.

The virtual reality company Oculus VR was bought by Facebook in a $2 billion deal that closed over the summer. The Gear VR, a partnership with Samsung, was first announced in September.

Oculus also announced Wednesday that users can now download the Oculus Mobile SDK, a software system that developers can use to make apps, games and other functions for the Gear VR.

TIME Tech

Watch Samsung’s Rap Video About Corporate Diversity — It’s Just as Bizarre as It Sounds

The tech giant hired Korean rapper Mad Clown to do the honors

Tech giant Samsung announced its sustainability report just the way that a tech giant should: By hiring a Korean rapper named Mad Clown to rap about it.

No, this is not a spoof.

Lyrics include:

Samsung we two hundred
Eighty thousand humans
Forty percent of 100
Twelve thousand women
That don’t have to worry
After giving birth
Sit back, relax, no need to work

Translation: 40% of Samsung’s 280,000 employees are women. Parental leave policies are illin’.

Sure, this outreach method may be a little quirky, but it’s better than Samsung’s past PR gaffes — like that kinda sexist Galaxy S4 Broadway spectacular launch event at Radio City Music Hall last year. And who can forget that quickly yanked ad that made light of abusing puppies?

In fact, we’re kind of hoping that one of Samsung’s competitors will challenge Samsung to a rap battle. Dare to dream.

[H/t The Verge]

TIME Companies

Samsung’s Curved Galaxy Note Edge Gets a U.S. Release Date

Opening Day Of The IFA Consumer Electronics Show
A visitor inspects a Samsung Galaxy Note Edge smartphone at the IFA Consumer Electronics Show in Berlin, Germany, on Friday, Sept. 5, 2014. Krizstian Bocsi—Bloomberg / Getty Images

The Galaxy Note Edge will debut in the U.S. on November 14

Samsung Galaxy Note Edge, the world’s only smartphone with a “functional” curved touchscreen, will launch in the United States on November 14, the Korean electronics maker announced Monday.

The Galaxy Note Edge, which features a sort of “second screen” that wraps around the phone’s righthand edge, made waves at floor shows this fall for its unusual design, extending the Galaxy’s already ample screen size to 5.6 inches and squeezing a few handy menu items along the screen’s outer edge. Initial reviews praised the screen’s design more enthusiastically than the functional improvement.

The phone will go on sale through most major carriers including AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile at a starting price that varies depending on the cell phone contract and the carrier. AT&T will offer it at a starting price of $400 with a 2-year contract.

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