May 26, 2012
I believe Nokia when it says that the company has no Plan B, or that Plan B is to make Plan A a success – at least for now. Perhaps it would prefer not to consider such an alternative until it saw that Windows Phone was failing to make inroads after an extended period of time. Of course, the big question is, how long would that period be?
The line from Nokia is that the ecosystem of Windows Phone must succeed for Nokia to succeed. But I’m not sure it’s so black and white. Apple, and for years before it, RIM, succeeded with no other licensees of its operating system. There was that brief window where PalmOne was the only successful licensee of Palm OS, owned by PalmSource. And, really, which major handset provider besides Nokia was wildly successful with Symbian?
Indeed, while few doubt that Nokia will be the most successful Windows Phone licensee, a successful ecosystem does not necessarily make for a successful licensee. Some would argue that, if Windows Phone proves a failure beyond Nokia, than Microsoft should just purchase Nokia. But Stephen Elop, in recounting the story of how Nokia came to license Windows Phone, says that that was never on the table. Indeed, Nokia would be about as comfortable inside Microsoft as Motorola Mobility still looks inside Google. Not needing the IP, or being able to leverage it without purchase, Microsoft would be loath to buy Nokia no matter how high its share of Windows Phone became.
Tags: ecosystems, Google, Googorola, licensing, Microkia, Mokia, motorola, Plan B, Tizen, webOS, Windows Phone
April 3, 2012
Honeycomb, you are deluding yourself. It is the Samsung Galaxy Note that is big. Indeed, last Friday Sam Biddle at Gizmodo recently lambasted Samsung’s 5.3” smartphone, calling It a “distended LED baking sheet.” The self-described rant goes on to decry the Galaaxy Note as an ergonomically poor design and then amplify concerns that the Note will lead to other phones of similar or perhaps even greater size.
The first thing about the Gizmodo piece I find interesting is that it doesn’t weigh in at all on the S-Pen. In this age of blending finger and pen input, I’m certainly not as anti-stylus as I once was, but I’ve noticed that the inclusion of the pointing device hasn’t been nearly as polarizing as the size of the screen. In fact, it’s had so relatively little impact that it’s somewhat surprising Samsung has forged ahead on integrating it into a 10” Galaxy Tab.
October 20, 2011
The past few weeks have been an incredible time for smartphones. Apple launched its iPhone 4S, sticking with its successful iPhone 4 design and repeating a play that the company used before when it launched the 3GS as a follow-up to the 3G. The move bespoke a confidence in its approach, focusing efforts on where the company thinks it matters while resisting temptations such as a larger display or LTE.
And if the introduction of the iPhone 4S was classically Apple, what happened the following week was classically Android. Within 24 hours, two Android licensees announced bleeding-edged phones. The Motorola Droid RAZR packed LTE into a .71 mm splashproof, Kevlar-coated, stainless steel-supported profile. And the other side of the globe, Google and Samsung teamed up to reveal the first Ice Cream Sandwich phone, boating a 4.65” AMOLED display, NFC to enable Android Beam, and face recognition-based unlocking. Both handsets are headed toward Verizon, the high-end Android cup of which seems like it will overflow this holiday season.
Tags: 800, Android, Apple, Nokia, nokia world, sea ray, Windows Phone 7
October 17, 2011
Some recognized that HP’s decision to exit the handset market was a small boost for RIM, Not only was HP thought to be more aggressive in going after RIM’s enterprise customers with a vertically integrated offering, but the scuttling of the Pre 3 left the Torch as one of the few vertical sliders in the market.
However, separate from the recent BlackBerry network outage that we’ve seen before, there’s at least two reasons for the lack of enthusiasm around the company. The first is the challenge in getting people excited about its latest developments in BlackBerry 7. RIM has focused on finally tackling the BlackBerry’s generally lagging animation and greatly accelerated its browser. They were likely the moves that would have yielded the best return on effort and RIM has been effective on both fronts, but these are catch-up maneuvers.
Tags: Blackberry, BlackBerry Tag, Siri
July 17, 2011
The first Motorola Droid set off a wave of high-end Android handsets that came in rapid succession as Verizon rolled out the red carpet for the Google-backed operating system. It had a strong specification sheet but its slide-out keyboard was a disappointing tactile experience as Motorola sought to keep the device relatively slim. The Droid 2 improved the keyboard, but it still wasn’t great.
The Droid 3 is a big step forward. Not only does the keyboard offer a vastly improved typing experience including a luxurious number row, but the screen has been expanded to four inches, which I believe is the “sweet spot” for a touchscreen handset (although requires a little adjusting to after using the Samsung Infuse extensively for a while. Consistent with reviews of the Atrix 4G, the user interface is silky smooth and Motorola includes a 3Dish animation effect (swiping in a concave manner as opposed to HTC Sense’s convex one).
The bottom lipped industrial design is more akin to the stacked slabs I preferred on the original Droid as opposed to the curving slope on the Droid 2, but the bottom slab is now at a diagonal. Critics angered that Motorola switched the button order between the original Droid and Droid 2 will likely be glad to know that Motorola has kept the Droid 2 button order intact. Motorola has even improved the on-off button, which I sometimes found difficult to trigger on earlier Droids; the Droid 3 blanks out with a cute CRT-like power down animation. The case is a much more pleasant soft-touch texture than the Droid 2′s rubbery back. And finally, the whole package, while a bit imposing in the hand, is a bit thinner than the Droid 2.
I tried Google Navigation on it last night and it worked great on the trip out although took a while to pick up signal coming back when it was admittedly a bit cloudier. In the next few days, I’ll be trying out the Droid 3′s full HD camcorder complementing its 8 MP still capabilities. I’m not as much of a fan of Motorola’s visual style in general versus some of its Android competitors. (The browser icon is terrible.) However, it makes good use of the device’s high-resolution (QHD, 960 X 540) display and text, while small, is easy to read. Alas, it is a 3G-only device. Overall, though, it seems like a much bigger leap forward from the Droid 2 than the Droid 2 was from the original Droid, and without question the best QWERTY device in Verizon’s lineup.
Tags: Droid, Droid 3, motorola, smartphones, Verizon Wireless
June 17, 2011
When Apple debuted its portable digital music player that would interact with iTunes, it named it iPod. This left many scratching their head iPod? Why not iSongs or iMusic, particularly since Apple was almost exclusively focused on that content at the iPod’s debut. Over time, though, Apple added support for more media types to the device, including photos, videos and games.
Years later, Apple introduced the iPhone, claiming that it was the best iPod it had ever produced. In fact, the app that played back music and videos was called “iPod” to play upon the familiarity with the blockbuster portable device. This always seemed a bit odd to me, though – assigning what had previously been a hardware brand to software. Indeed, the metaphor fell apart when Apple introduced the iPod touch, and renamed the “iPod” app Music to avoid recursion.
Now, a decade after the debut of the iPod, and as Apple may finally leave the iPod classic behind this fall, it’s all becoming almost completely logical and consistent. Apple still has the fixed-function iPod shuffle, but the flagship iPod touch is indeed a container for many seeds; the floodgates have been opened completely with a rich app library. And the iPhone’s “iPod” app will disappear with iOS 5, being replaced with separate apps for music and video. This move signals that – as much as the iPod has been synonymous with music – its brand and capabilities have grown into things more consistent with its name.
Tags: branding, iPhone, iPod, music
April 25, 2011
International roaming is expensive, pre-ordered SIMs don’t make sense unless you will be making at least $30 worth of cellular calls, and buying prepaid SIMs can be a hassle. So, during a recent international trip to Europe, I checked out XCom Global’s MiFi rental service in part due to the stellar Engadget review. Longtime Switched On readers know that I’ve long admired the Novatel portable hotspot, and it performed incredibly well on HSPA+, holding up through long days of use both in hotel rooms and used on the go for smartphone-based walking navigation.
Standard definition streaming sometimes buffered and I had at least one Skype call where the other party gave up, but several others where the other party heard me perfectly. XCom Global ships you the MiFi in a nice carrying case with a few different country adapters, an extra battery, and a FedEx return envelope for when you arrive back home. They support many different countries and will will definitely be on my to do list the next time I go abroad for any extended stay.
The service is about $18 per day – cheaper than what many hotels charge for Wi-Fi you can’t take out of the building – and you can also save a few bucks by renting only a USB modem for $15 per day.. My one complaint is that XCOM Global starts the clock the day of your departure, even if you won’t arrive at your destination country until the next day. Even with amortizing that day over the rest of a trip, though, it’s still a good value.
Tags: international roaming, MiFi, travel, xcom global
March 19, 2011
There can be no doubt that T-Mobile’s branding of its HSPA+ network as 4G was the best marketing move in the wireless industry in recent history. Sprint may have had the first 4G network and Verizon Wireless may have the fastest, but HSPA+ has allowed the fourth largest U.S. carrier with challenging spectrum holdings to go from a constrained 3G portfolio to marketing three 4G devices (the G2, myTouch 4G, and a 4G version of the popular Samsung Galaxy S design) with a a fourth announced (the Sidekick 4G).
In contrast, despite a long head start ,Sprint has just three 4G handsets on the market and Verizon Wireless just shipped its first 4G handset. That device – the HTC Thunderbolt (much like its similar predecessor, the EVO 4G) – impresses in all but battery life Here again T-Mobile has an advantage as its HSPA+ handsets deliver better battery life than WiMAX or LTE devices while often scoring closer to Verizon’s speed benchmarks than Sprint’s.
Sprint has a big event lined up for CTIA and the onus is on the company to roll out some more WiMAX products. Hopefully, the revamped Overdrive, for one, won’t suffer from the shoddy design that resulted in the USB connector breaking loose, the fate of the unit I tested.
Tags: 4G, HSPA+, marketing, smartphones, Spring, T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless, WiMAX
February 21, 2011
Before netbooks came on the scene, it was very rare to see an ultraportable laptop make its way to the States from Japan, and those that did could easily cost more than $1,500. There are still a good number of these Japanese-exclusive designs that can be perused and purchased at Dynamism, but the disparity isn’t nearly what it once was. The U.S. even gets to partake in such unusual designs as Sony’s Vaio P, an sleek but pricey reinvention of the traackpadless, low-profile clamshell Sony pursued with the originally Transmeta-based PictureBook.
However, much of the Vaio P’s form factor appeal has been captured by NEC’s LifeTouch Note, which uses a Tegra 2 and Android on a 7” display (slightly smaller than the Vaio P’s). For now, it’s being made available only across the Pacific in NEC’s home market. However, there are a few reasons I’d like to see it come stateside sporting Android or perhaps webOS under the HP brand.
- It’s even smaller and weighs less than the average netbook
- Unlike tablets, it could have a usable touch-typable keyboard
- It boasts nine hours of battery life, which represents great longevity for something so thin.
- Its low profile is less obtrusive when taking notes in meetings, and is a dream on an airline tray in a cramped coach seat
- The form factor is differentiated from those of Windows netbooks.
- It’s affordable as a second PC, residing in the high-end netbook/midrange tablet price range at $500
- At least for HP, it would be a nice update to the market that was once served by the Jornada line of Windows CE clamshells..
I particularly like the BlackBerry-style finger trackpad below the keyboard, but it might not be necessary depending on the operating system. Also, there doesn’t appear to be any buttons that flank it, although that could be added.
Alas, the LifeTouch Note has a resistive touchscreen; I’d see stylus input – and perhaps even touch itself– as less important for this form factor. Still, with the right apps, it could be a dream machine for light productivity on the go, filling a niche between tablet and notebook.
Tags: Android, HP, Jornada, Jupiter, LifeTouch Note, NEC, ultraportables, Vaio P, webOS, Windows CE
February 20, 2011
The iPhone distinguished itself with a single home button for returning from an app to the launch screen. While its functionality may have been strained a bit as the platform has progressed. e.g., having to tap twice to bring up the app switcher, its single UI depression concession made a statement about minimalist simplicity that few platforms (webOS may be one example) have answered.
In contrast, Android launched with four major UI buttons (Home, Menu, Back and Search) and Windows Phone launched with three (Windows/Start, Back, and Search). Exactly how many – if any – buttons is optimal can be debated by user interface experts or considered personal preference. As is the case with much of what I consider Android variation, the media has jumped upon the tendency for different vendors to implement the Android button order in a different way, even in different handsets from the same manufacturer.
I don’t see that as such a major issue, but the Search button, in particular, always struck me as gratuitous. Yes, we know Google is a search company, but that doesn’t mean I need a search button omnipresent on my device. And I was somewhat disappointed that Microsoft followed suit (since, of course, Bing is really important, too).
Now Google, if not having so much seen the error of its ways, will give licensees the option to forego any and all buttons in Honeycomb tablets and presumably Ice Cream handsets. Perhaps this was due to the influence of Matias Duarte, a notion that buttons are trickier to place on a tablet versus a generally vertically oriented handset, or simple feedback from partners.
The drawback is that now, in addition to potentially having different button layouts, Android devices may now have different combinations of buttons and gestures for the same task. Regardless, these devices now have the potential to look cleaner and more streamlined because of the change. Perhaps that’s one of the liberties that Nokia will feel free to take as it balances its unique customization privileges against compromising the consistency in the Windows Phone ecosystem.
Tags: Android, buttons, differntiation, Google, IIce Cream, iPhone, Matias Duarte, Search, Start button, tablets, user interface, webOS, Windows Phone