Jun 7 2010

AT&T discontinuing unlimited data for $30 plan

AT&T announced last week that they will be discontinuing their $30 unlimited data plans for users of netbooks and smartphones. While current subscribers will not be affected, future interested users will have the option to purchase either a 200MB data plan for $15/month plan or 2GB data plan for $25/month. Since the only users who really require more than 2GB of data are iPhone users, netbook users need not be concerned and might actually save $5/month or more.

Via Afterdawn

May 28 2010

Motorola May Introduce Android Tablet

Motorola may be in the process of designing a tablet that will run Google’s Android operating system, says a company executive. The executive was answering questions at a conference when the subject came up. He also revealed that Motorola is focusing heavily on Android. The potential device, according to the executive, would be about 7 to 10 inches and would be intended to supplement a user’s TV experience.

This rumor has come about at the same time as another rumor concerning Android devices made by Motorola. Motorola is allegedly working on two new high-end Droid phones that will be released sometime in July with Verizon as their carrier. There has been speculation that one of the phones has already been seen by the public in the form of a prototype found in a gym earlier this week.

Either way, this summer looks to be very interesting in terms of Android devices.

Via PC World, image via PC World.

May 25 2010

Dell Streak Is More a Smartphone than a Tablet

Dell is a very strange company: it has just unveiled a device that it is calling a tablet and is meant to compete with Apple’s iPad. There’s only one problem: this device, called the Streak, looks a lot more like a smartphone than a tablet to me.

The Streak is Android-based and has a touchscreen about half the size of the iPad’s. It has a 1 GHz processor, 2 GB internal storage, up to 32 GB external SD storage, and a 5 megapixel camera. There’s nothing wrong with this device—it actually looks kind of cute—but by no stretch of the imagination would I consider it a tablet.

It is true that the iPad’s OS is a mobile OS and in some ways, the iPad may be more similar to a smartphone than a laptop. But there is a difference between tablets and smartphones, and the iPad is clearly a tablet, while the Streak is much more like a smartphone.

Android has great potential to compete with the iPad but only if it is used on devices that are actually tablets.

Via PC World, image via PC World.

May 23 2010

AT&T Raises Termination Fee

AT&T has announced that it is raising its early termination fee (ETF) for smartphones from $175 to $325 starting June 1. Customers who were considering breaking their contracts with AT&T have just one week to decide before leaving AT&T early gets way more expensive.

The hike in this fee has fueled rumors concerning the iPhone’s AT&T exclusivity. Though AT&T insists that the price increase is unrelated, one cannot help but wonder: is Verizon perhaps going to be carrying the iPhone in the near future?

Those who choose to leave AT&T now face an uncertain future because there really is no guarantee that Apple and AT&T are going to let other carriers, such as Verizon, provide service for the iPhone. Even if Verizon does begin to offer iPhone service, it will not be until late June or early July, which means customers hoping to switch would have to go about a month without a phone, which is almost unthinkable in our society. If Verizon does not end up carrying the iPhone, customers will be forced to choose other Verizon phones—luckily, the company does have some great choices out there (my personal favorite right now is the HTC Incredible).

Via PC World, image via PC World.

May 19 2010

Google’s Android Beats Microsoft, Challenges Apple

Google’s Android operating system was the fourth most popular during the first quarter, according to the research firm Gartner. Android was in ten percent of smartphones sold, which put it behind Nokia’s Symbian, Research in Motion, and Apple. Gartner said that Android will beat Apple as soon as there are more handset makers using it.

Even though Apple’s App Store boasts over 200,000 apps to Google’s 38,000, Android’s openness has made it become more popular with developers. Many developers are choosing to write apps for Android, not Apple. Developers typically choose a limited number of mobile platforms to write software for.

Microsoft’s mobile OS has become less and less popular on smartphones. Microsoft is trying to compete with the iPhone by having high standards for handsets that use its software. But more and more handset makers are turning to Android, which is free—Microsoft charges a licensing fee to those using its software (it is the only major company to do so).

Via Reuters, image via Reuters.

May 5 2010

Intel Releases Smartphone and Tablet Chip

Intel has announced on Tuesday that it is releasing a chip for smartphones and tablets that will hopefully open the door for Intel chips in the smartphone market. The chip, called Atom, has been primarily used in netbooks so far and has been a major hit.

The Atom chip differs from Intel’s PC processors in one major area: the Atom chip is not nearly as power-hungry. Standby time in phones with an Atom chip is supposed to be ten days, according to Intel.

The Atom chip also delivers impressive performance and is supposed to render web pages faster than other chips do. The Atom chip is also supposed to support different operating systems, including Intel’s Moblin, Nokia’s MeeGo, and Google’s Android. The first two operating systems mentioned are Linux-based.

If this new chip is as good as Intel’s other chips, the company should do very well indeed.

Via CNET, image via Intel.

Apr 28 2010

HP to Buy Palm

Computer maker Hewlett-Packard announced today that it intends to purchase Palm, the struggling maker of Pre and Pixi smartphones. HP will pay $1.2 billion for Palm and gain access to Palm’s software for smartphones and computer tablets. The acquisition will help Palm immensely, as it had to put itself up for sale due to financial difficulties.

HP should be a help to Palm, as it has a lot more money, but both companies have ultimately been less than successful in the mobile phone market. Analysts have said that there will be challenges for the two companies.

Both HP and Palm have not fared well over the past three years and were overshadowed by other makers of smartphones like Apple and Research in Motion. Few people even know that HP does indeed make smartphones—though it is the number one seller of PCs in the world, it is not even in the top 20 sellers of smartphones.

Via The New York Times, image via HP.

Mar 12 2010

Android Rises in Smartphone Market, Blackberry Still King

ComScore, a market research firm, recently reported share holdings from September to January in the smartphone industry.  The results are mostly positive for Android, which has posted significant gains, and has finally overtaken Palm. Android now holds roughly 10% of the market, while Palm continues to steadily dip.  WinMo’s prospects don’t look much better either; after capping at 20% in October, it has also begun a major plummet.

Meanwhile, the iPhone has remained strong throughout Q4 ‘09, keeping its number 2 spot.  It now commands a strong 25.1% of the market, and seems to be going up.  The possibility of an iPhone OS 4.0 could bring new converts to the House of Apple, but they will have much to do before they can eclipse the Covenant of RIM.  Blackberry stands still as the premier smartphone, at a massive 43%, and has survived despite the lack of hype or interest tech blogs have had on RIM products.

Via Ars Technica

Mar 6 2010

Sony Looks to Compete with Apple

A recent news story about Sony published in the Wall Street Journal has caused a lot of speculation about Sony’s plans for mobile devices. Though Sony is not officially confirming anything, it is thought to be developing products and services to compete with Apple.

Sony is reportedly ready to launch an online media platform called “Sony Online Services” that is intended to compete with iTunes. It is also releasing a mobile phone with the Android operating system soon. The phone is going to be called Xperia X10. Currently, Sony makes an e-reader that is a competitor to Amazon’s Kindle.

If Sony is intending to directly compete with Apple, it may want to prepare itself for potential lawsuits. Apple is currently engaged in a lawsuit against HTC for patent infringement relating to the iPhone, which many people are interpreting as an indirect against Google.

Via Digital East Asia.

Feb 18 2010

Windows Phone 7: Microsoft Finally Catches Up

WinPho 7
Once upon a time, there was a highly successful PDA OS known as PocketPC, available in stores during the early 2000s.  People didn’t have mobile internet and fancy ideas such as “the cloud” and “App Stores” didn’t exist.

But then Steve Jobs came along in 2007 and ushered in what is commonly thought of as the “Mobile Web Revolution”.  Smartphones quickly spread, and PDAs began to die.  Microsoft’s response? Repackage PocketPC as “Windows Mobile” (commonly known as “WinMo”), and hope no one would complain. Unfortunately, the tech blogs did complain, and with each WinMo release there was an outpouring of disgust towards the next cruel joke that came from Redmond. Until now; Windows Mobile 6.5 will be the last WinMo version ever, and the crude monstrosity it was is dead.

Normally we don’t focus much on phones, but with the Mobile World Confrence in Barcelona, it is hard to avoid reporting on them. And frankly, the death of WinMo for a new line called the Windows Phone 7  Series is some pretty ground-shaking news in the mobile world.  Windows Phone 7 completely scraps the PocketPC core and instead takes the approach of the Zune HD in terms of user interface.  The result is a lot prettier of an UI, though the resulting effect on the user experience is debatable.

A major element that Microsoft will bring is that it has taken Android and WebOS’s approach of dynamic and live data displaying.  Rather than the iPhone which requires individual apps to access info from sources like Facebook and Twitter, WinPho 7 (I expect the nickname to catch on once we all get sick of saying Windows Phone 7 Series) integrates it all to the “People Hub”. This is what on traditional phones (smart or dumb) is called the “Contacts”.  There are other hubs as well, like Pictures, Games, Music + Video, and Office.

Another weapon in Microsoft’s arsenal is Xbox Live and its integration to WinPho 7. The iPhone has shown that mobile gaming is a very real market, and Apple took advantage of  it without much of a background in gaming. Xbox Live is the world’s largest console gaming community, and there is not much doubt that Microsoft will be using this to turn gaming on phones into more than a simple recreational activity.  Adding a Gamerscore to WinPho games will make it a highly competitive device (it might actually attract real gamers from DS and PSP) and probably cause the major names of the game development world to start investing their money onto this new platform.

Microsoft has killed its old app platform, which was viewed by many as a monstrosity in WinMo 6.5.x. Of course this will naturally cause many unsatisfied developers in the beginning, but it is almost undoubtedly guaranteed that the new API will be vastly better.  Another issue Microsoft will have to face is that WinMo was a heavily corporate OS, with a focus on productivity, while WinPho is essentially a Zune + Social phone, with the productivity getting pushed back.

Microsoft still intends to keep the Office hub, so they will likely not lose much of their consumer-base.  Still, WinPho is a product that may already be too late – it will not even hit the market until Q4 2010.  Whether or not it can save Microsoft’s dismal mobile prospects remains to be seen, but this writer is glad to welcome Microsoft back to 2010.

Via Gizmodo

Feb 3 2010

Apple Releases iPhone and iPod Touch Update

Apple has released an update for its popular mobile devices, the iPhone and the iPod Touch. This update, version 3.1.3, patches security flaws, fixes bugs, and provides some enhancements for the iPhone and iPod Touch. The security flaws patched are related to CoreAudio, ImageIO, Recovery Mode, and WebKit.

The CoreAudio patch stops rogue MP4 audio files from running code, terminating programs, and doing other things they are not supposed to do. The ImageIO patch does the same thing for malicious TIFF files. The Recovery Mode fix prevents someone from bypassing the passcode and accessing data on the device. The WebKit patch fixes an HTML 5 problem that can cause mail to load remote audio, as well as a problem that previously allowed access of a malicious FTP server.

The update also fixes a bug that caused apps to crash when a Japanese keyboard was used and improves the battery reporting on the iPhone 3G S.

Apple has been busy with updates recently—it released an iTunes update on Monday of this week.

Via PC World.

Feb 3 2010

iPhone Sales Fall

New research from an analytics firm shows that Apple’s iPhone sales are starting to decline. The cause of this? Android, the mobile operating system used in many smartphones, including Google’s own Nexus One.

Analysts have expected the iPhone to lose ground to Android for some time now. According to the latest research, the iPhone was 18.1 percent of global smartphone sales in the third quarter of 2009. This number dropped to 16.6 percent in the fourth quarter. Though Apple’s overall sales are doing well, its iPhone sales do not reflect the 26 percent increase in overall smartphone sales.

Part of Apple’s problem is that the competitor to the iPhone is not one phone—it’s a platform that can be used on many different smartphones.

Of course, Apple is not just going to leave the iPhone as a static device. The company is famous for its innovation and a new iPhone that will probably have many new fabulous features is due out this year. There is also the just-released 3.1.3 iPhone OS update that contains fixes and improvements for the iPhone.

Via PC World, image via Apple.

Jan 27 2010

Google Will Issue Nexus One Patch

Google’s smartphone, the Nexus One, has not really lived up to its expectations. Many analysts had high hopes for the phone before it was released, but such hopes were dashed when consumers began to complain about it. The phone is the first one sold by Google itself and runs Android, the open-source mobile OS.

The Nexus One has had problems with the 3G network. It has unreliable connectivity and will switch to the slower EDGE network. Users are annoyed with this, as well as Google’s poor customer service. Luckily, there may be a solution to the 3G problem. Google has said it is going to release a patch soon that will fix 3G connectivity in most cases. The patch should be available within the next week or so.

Via Wired, image via Google.

Jan 12 2010

Windows Mobile 7 May be Delayed Again

Google’s Android OS is becoming so successful that it is stealing the spotlight from Microsoft’s Windows Mobile OS. There is strong evidence that the next major release of Microsoft’s OS, Windows Mobile 7, has been delayed yet again. Windows Mobile 7 was supposed to be released this year, but now analysts are saying that there is evidence that it has been delayed until 2011 due to Android’s increasingly popularity with manufacturers. Android is open-source and free to use – a stark contrast to Windows Mobile.

Steve Ballmer’s keynote at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) did not mention anything about Windows Mobile 7. Only the current version of the OS was mentioned. Microsoft may offer more details at the Mobile World Congress next month in Barcelona, but no one is certain if this will happen.

Windows Mobile 7 has already been delayed. It was originally supposed to come out in 2009, but then the release date was pushed to 2010 because Microsoft was allegedly working on some big changes. If Microsoft delays Windows Mobile 7 again, users and manufacturers could become frustrated, if they aren’t already. Still, let’s not get ahead of ourselves – at this point, Microsoft has not confirmed any delay.

Via PC World.

Jan 11 2010

CES 2010: LG’s Intel-Powered Phone

The LG GW990 can multitask with ease

On Friday, LG introduced its GW990 smartphone at the Consumer Electronics Show. It has been described as “huge” by people who have seen it in person, and it certainly sounds that way, with a 4.8-inch screen. It is powered by Intel’s Moorestown platform with Intel’s Moblin Linux operating system.

It has a 5-megapixel camera, which is pretty typical. However, its operating system is anything but typical – it runs Intel’s Moblin, a Linux OS that is similar in some ways to Android. Right now, there really isn’t a developer community for Moblin. LG has said that it is trying to get third-party apps written for Moblin.

The phone can multitask beautifully, thanks to its Intel Atom CPU. It has been demonstrated to be able to can play a movie, keep the calendar open, and send a text message all at the same time with ease.

The GW990 sounds like a great phone, though its size could bar its success. People like their phones to be pocketable. Until Intel’s chips can be used with smaller, thinner phones, Intel-powered phones probably will not command a huge share of the market.

Via PC Mag, image via PC Mag.

Jan 1 2010

Will Google’s Nexus be Able to Compete with the iPhone?

Google is due to announce their new smartphone, the Nexus One, this coming Tuesday. It will be designed to run Google’s Android operating system. Android, which was released over a year ago, was supposed to be revolutionary because it is an open OS that companies can use for free.

Android was meant to compete with the iPhone’s OS in some respects, though that plan hasn’t exactly come to fruition. The iPhone is still enormously popular, likely because of Apple’s continual innovation and risk-taking.  The iPhone is a perfect example: it has taken years for competitors to offer something even half as good. The App Store was a revolutionary innovation that has helped secure the iPhone’s dominance.

The only way to offer strong competition to Apple in the smartphone market is to design a phone comparable to the iPhone, but cheaper or  with a revolutionary new design. Google could do the latter (the former is unlikely, as their profit margins may already be slim), especially if it designed a smartphone that directly used the Internet for transmission instead of traditional cellular carriers.

We may be disappointed, however. Early reports suggest that Nexus One will be just like the average smartphone, and even if Nexus One is truly new and innovative, it is likely to be overshadowed by Apple’s impending announcement at the end of January.

Via ABC, image via Gizmodo.

Dec 21 2009

Recent iPhone and Nokia Hacks Worry Cell Phone Users

Phones have become more and more advanced in recent years, which could lead to the dominance of mobile Internet within a few years. But all these incredible advances to have a price: phones are becoming more and more likely to be targets of hacking.

Last month, an Australian student created an iPhone worm that affected jailbroken iPhones. The worm didn’t cause any harm, unless you count the humiliation of having your wallpaper changed to a photo of Rick Astley. But this suggests that malicious attacks on the iPhone could be possible. Furthermore, not all such cell phone worm developments have been benign; Kaspersky Lab, a Russian antivirus company, has reported a new malicious program that steals money from users of Nokia phones.

Due to the potential security threats to phones, an entirely new industry is springing up: the mobile security industry. One company typifying the new category is called Lookout, a firm that makes software allowing users to track their phones on the Internet. Users can also remotely back up data, wipe their phones, and protect against rogue programs. Impressively, Lookout claims to have figured out how to have its software work on the iPhone, which does not allow non-Apple products to operate in the background like security software tends to.

While most consumers’ worries center on their laptops and internet scams, we all might need to pay a bit more attention to our phones in the near future.

Via The New York Times.

Dec 19 2009

Apple iPhone Commands Nearly Half of Japanese Smartphone Market

The iPhone isn’t just popular here in the United States. It’s a worldwide phenomenon, as shown by a new study that says about 46% of smartphone users in Japan use the iPhone. The iPhone 3G has 24.6% of the market and the iPhone 3GS 21.5%.

This is very impressive considering that the Japanese market is usually notoriously difficult for newcomers. But in a way, perhaps this is not surprising because the iPhone’s Japanese carrier, SoftBank Mobile, has aggressively marketed the phone with lots of TV commercials, print ads, and competitive pricing.

The iPhone has done well in other Asian countries as well. It made its debut in South Korea earlier this month, selling an impressive 60,000 units. Over 100,000 iPhones have sold in China (and this number may be larger due iPhones selling on China’s gray market).

Via AppleInsider.

Jun 30 2009

Will Netbooks Transform Into Big Smartphones?

The latest rumor on the block is that netbook manufacturers will start to make netbooks with touchscreens and replace/eliminate trackpads.

Pros? This move would free up space for a larger-sized keyboard with a less cramped feel. Surely this will be a major relief for those with larger hands and longer fingers, if not for everyone.

Cons? Well, for those who hate using touchscreens in general and would rather control a cursor by using a trackpad, these netbooks would be less than ideal. Check out alternatives with relatively larger keyboards, such as Workhorse PC’s Certeza MC10 and some of Dell’s netbooks. Or you could just go with a slightly larger netbook.

Since using your fingers to type on a computer screen may be inconvenient for typing longer blocks of text at a time, eliminating the keyboard altogether might not be the brightest idea. This is why the initial step that netbook manufacturers are planning on taking is replacing/eliminating only the trackpad of the netbook.

Maybe in the future, there will be other improvements and innovations. VentureBeat quips that pretty soon, “the only major difference between a smartphone and a netbook may be the size of their screens and keyboards.”

Via VentureBeat.

Jan 28 2009

139 Million Netbook Sales By 2013? Holy Crap

Netbooks have been riding high despite the rough economy, and for now, they aren’t set to stop. In fact, netbook sales are flying upwards, according to a report by ABI Research.

Their report on netbooks forecasted that their sales would ramp up to 35 million this year. Not only will netbook sales boom,  however – they’ll also stay up there and ride all the way to 139 million by 2013 – a tripling of sales within four years.

ABI says the connection is due to a “confluence of social and technological factors” creating a “perfect storm” for the netbook world. The estimate of the boom is also related to some similarities between netbooks and PDA’s. Kevin Burden of ABI elaborated on this connection:

“PDA’s began our reliance on instant accessible data while traveling. When PDA functionality converged with cellular voice, smartphones became the new darling of mobile professional technology that many expected to evolve into the hub for all data and communication needs for traveling professionals… Today, with a better understanding for what a smartphone is, is not, and may never be, along with a reality check on the usefulness of UMPCs, the market remains open for new device types.”

UMPCs are Ultra Mobile PCs, a smaller and newer segment of computers whose prices are cranked higher than notebooks – kind of the opposite of the netbook category, which lies below.

Of course, not everyone’s as positive as ABI. Endpoint Technologies Associates’ Roger Kay said he’d “seen some forecasts of 40 million netbook sales in 2012,” far below the ABI netbook estimate.

The question on everyone’s mind is – why?

The netbook category is often ill-defined, but their sales growth can’t be doubted. This ambiguity may be a clue to their success, as the mainstreaming of netbooks has led to more and more consumers buying them as either a main computer or sidekick to their desktop. Unlike smartphones, which are dedicated to one role, a netbook can be just about anything depending on who’s using it.

While sales are definitely going up, netbook prices could be changing in the near future – and nobody knows quite how this will affect the sector. When Microsoft releases Windows 7 in the near future, the netbook version will definitely cost more than XP or Linux.

Kay, remained hopeful. “My suspicion is Microsoft will charge a bit more, maybe $10 to $20 more, but not too much… They don’t want to lose that market.”

He’s right that keeping the price of netbooks low is the smart thing to do, but manufacturers have been fools before. For now, however, the bullish future of the netbook industry will be putting some smiles on manufacturers’ faces. Let’s see how that translates for consumers.

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