June 11, 2012
It may not be the most glamorous activity, but if you’re going to ship at least a tablet with any credibility, it’s helpful to have a suite available to read and preferably edit Word and Excel files. Microsoft has noted that its leading Office suite will be included with Windows RT and presumably the tablets on which it will run. With its market leadership, Apple has had the liberty of charging pretty handsomely for the pieces of its iWork suite, which still attracts more than its share of customers versus iPad alternatives such as Quickoffice and Docs To Go, which was acquired by RIM and is bundled on the Playbook,
At the tenth All Things D conference, Google executives promised that we would see offline Google Drive functionality in a matter of weeks. As an extension of Google Docs, Google Drive presents links to files on the Web, which is only marginally more convenient than going to the Web page to begin with,
On the surface, Quickoffice puts Google into the local productivity suite business, but Quickoffice will likely simply serve as the software that facilitates offline editing of Google Docs. Without Windows and Mac versions, though, Google may be missing out on important offline platforms. it would be nice to see a simple preference to have popular native ffice suites (or OpenOffice) support Google Docs file types. In any case, it seems there’s a way for Google to put what is more or less the existing Quickoffice product to work, which is apparently not the case for Meebo Messenger.
Tags: Android, Excel, Microsoft Google, Office, office suites, OpenOffice, Quickoffice, spreadsheets, Word, word processing
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
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
January 13, 2011
By itself, the Atrix was but one of the dozen or so large-screened Android smartphones that invaded CES 2011, but what really set it apart was its lapdock accessory. This clamshell combination of a full-sized keyboard, screen and battery allow the Atrix to function more like a Linux smartbook.
Extending the processing and connectivity of a smartphone to notebook proportions is, of course, not a new idea. The pre-Elevation Palm sort of tried it with the Foleo, which was a mostly independent device and in some ways a closer ancestor to the BlackBerry Playbook. Celio implemented it with the Redfly, although that product was tied to the unpopular Windows Mobile OS and later BlackBerry, where it was poorly integrated. Rather than a dock, both solutions were able to use bandwidth-constrained Bluetooth to pair the input and output enhancement to the phone. In the case of the Redfly, a cable could also be used.
The Atrix 4G lapdock solution seems like it will work better than those approaches, but in the excitement over a smartphone that can apparently transform into a laptop, I think we’ve been too quick to overlook the lapdock’s strange design, in which the Atrix is docked behind the screen. This allows for easy connection and disconnection of the smartphone, but it doesn’t allow for use of both screens simultaneously. More importantly, it doesn’t allow you to easily transport the docked Atrix within the lapdock. I’d be surprised if a competitor taking a crack at this didn’t make it so that the phone is inserted securely inside the clamshell, allowing for sufficient ventilation, of course.
Tags: Android, Atrix 4G, celio, CES 2011, Foleo, lapdock, Motorola Mobility, netbooks, Palm, Redfly, smartbook, smartphone
December 7, 2010
As it did with Eclair (Android 2.1), Google has taken the occasion of a new version of Android dubbed Gingerbread (Android 2.3) to bring out a new handset offering a “pure Android experience.” This time around, that purity is brought to you by Samsung rather than HTC, which produced the original Nexus One, a handset that stole some thunder (but few sales) from the Motorola Droid juggernaut.
Google has used the Nexus handsets for experimenting with distribution outside the carrier channel, even if it made the original Nexus somewhat of a sacrificial lamb. The superior distribution of Best Buy should certainly help with the push of the device.
However, the improvements in Android 2.3 may not do much to drive consumers to the Google-branded handset, at least for a while. Unlike recent Android enhancements that brought improvements such as more home screens, dramatically faster operation, and mobile hotspot capability, .most of Gingerbread’s improvements are under the hood. The marquee feature, NFC, could yield some compelling new applications, but the one most popularly considered – enabling payments – is hardly a magnet.
The “S” serving as the device’s surname refers to the Samsung Galaxy S family that is the foundation for not only the Nexus S design, but defines many of the key hardware characteristics for the Samsung Focus, which many consider “the Windows Phone to get.” With the Galaxy S, Samsung has pursued a strategy of ubiquity versus exclusivity, and so the Nexus S will compete with similarly priced and specced siblings at all four major carriers, including the Vibrant (as well as the faster G2 and MyTouch 4G) on T-Mobile’s own portfolio. Even though the Nexus S is an unlocked device, its (partial) optimization for T-Mobile’s network all but assures that it will be most appealing to customers using the smallest of the national facilities-based carriers.
The Nexus S may be less “a Nexus to perplex us,” but Google’s vanity handsets still seem like a bug in its diversification strategy, one that must be generating considerable head-scratching among Android licensees, particularly those that are not anointed to build a Nexus in a given cycle.. Google is still staying clear of going head to head with OEMs at major carriers, but while it is providing more serious competition this time around, the carriers are better armed as well.
Tags: Android, Google, HTC, licensing, motorola, Nexus One, Nexus S, NFC, OEMs, Samsung
July 17, 2010
While Apple commanded the attention of the media this week by offering a bumper crop of cases free to iPhone customers as a goodwill gesture, the Android camp was not resting at all. Verizon Wireless continued its Droid assault by releasing the Droid X, the big-screened rival to Sprint’s HTC EVO 4G. Motorola has matched many of the specs of HTC’s largest Android device, but the Droid X lacks the EVO’s front-facing camera, kickstand, and of course WiMAX radio compatibility. And for all those looking to get more than their starting basketball lineup using their phone as a Wi-Fi hotspot, the EVO 4G can accommodate eight devices to the Droid X’s five.
At today’s Apple’s press conference, Steve Jobs weighed in on his thoughts regarding devices with 4′” or larger screens. I acknowledged their disadvantages while being somewhat more positive about their long-term prospects in my most recent (and last for this rotation) RCR Wireless Analyst Angle column. The larger screen makes it one of the more comfortable Android devices for typing in portrait orientation.
I’ve been using the Droid X since its announcement on a daily basis and like the device. I’ve found that the battery life — a concern on the EVO 4G — has been good enough to last into the evening with moderate usage. This was about what I was seeing with the iPhone 3GS, but the iPhone 4 has trounced that by a significant margin. Of course, the Droid X — like most other handsets — has a removable battery. Among my favorite software features have been the Mobile Hotspot app and the DLNA capabilities, both unsupported features in iOS (although there are several third-party DLNA apps). I also liked Motorola’s suite of widgets (the new, more understated MOTOBLUR).
But the Droid X has its weaknesses. The bottom row of buttons are quite narrow and a bit stiff and the camera button is a bit inconsistent and mushy. The device’s display led me to dread traversing the display’s length for the ever-necessary Back button, which I preferred to the far left as on the original Droid (and not just because of the convenience when using the slide-out keyboard). The Droid X pays an unwelcome homage to the RAZR by including a camera-hosting hump behind the top of the phone that resembles the infamous “chin” of Motorola’s once best-selling feature phone.
As I noted in my RCR Wireless column, the 4” display of the imminent Verizon Fascinate — based on the Galaxy S platform — will be a more agreeable compromise between screen size (and its screen is indeed extremely impressive) and portability. But the Fascinate will lack a few key specs that the Droid X can claim, including HDMI out and — more curiously — an LED flash. Speaking of which, despite having a higher megapixel count than the iPhone 4, Apple’s handset produces brighter photos with more saturated colors.
The Droid X is certainly a handful, but it’s fairly manageable, at least when you get used to it, at least for those with larger hands.
Tags: 4.3" screens, Android, chin, Droid, Droid X, Evo 4G, iPhone 4, Moorola, superphones
April 29, 2010
Today, while Apple and Adobe were trading barbs, Verizon Wireless launched the Droid incredible, although it seems some who pre-ordered may still need some time to receive. I tried the handset for a few days before it met an untimely demise that was not the fault of the handset.(Sorry, no pictures. I already sent it back to HTC.) From its specifications, the Incredible is a very close cousin of the Google Nexus One (also created by HTC), and adds HTC Sense, which is a positive for the most part. This new revision of HTC’s overlay includes the Leap task switcher, which fills the screen with small previews similar to Exposé for the Mac (and has me wishing Apple would implement Exposé for the iPhone once it can multitask.)
One of my favorite features of the Droid Incredible is the 8 megapixel camera, which is the first one I’ve used that takes acceptable indoor photos assuming the subject is relatively still. The Droid Incredible is about as thick as the iPhone 3GS, but has a removable battery. The back cover removal process, though, isn’t as slick as it’s been for other HTC devices. The optical trackball on the devices bottom works well and I still prefer Android’s dual navigation features to, say, Palm’s sole reliance on the touch screen. (At least Apple makes placing the insertion point easy with its loupe.)
Unlike the original Motorola Droid, the Droid Incredible has no keyboard, which means you must use a software keyboard. In horizontal orientation, this works fine, and Android’s autosuggest feature is helpful. But in portrait mode, the 3.7” screen is still not wide enough for comfortable typing.
Now, with new text entry-acceleration methods such as Swype and ThickButtons (which I was hoping Apple would open the door to in iPhone 4.0), one can improve speed, perhaps dramatically. But the vanilla text-entry experience in portrait mode is better on the iPhone. It’s also why, as far as Android devices go, I still favor the original Droid. For, as poor as its keyboard is, I still prefer it to having an on-screen one.
Since CTIA, it’s been hard to get excited about any Android handset with the EVO 4G coming this summer. The 4.3” screen should do wonders for soft keyboard typing in portrait mode, and that of course is but one of the superphone’s extensive features. The key question, particularly with Android’s middle of the road battery consumption and potential addition of Flash, is for how many hours during the day you’ll be able to use those features.
Tags: Android, Droid Incredible, HTC, iPhone, motorola, screen width, Verizon Wireless
April 28, 2010
So, it looks as though Lenovo wasn’t the global PC maker that would up with Palm. Instead it was Palm’s Silicon Valley neighbor HP, which has been dipping its toe in WinMo waters for the past few years. WebOS will help diversify mobile offerings from the computing giant, which faced the prospects of facing tough software differentiation under Windows Phone 7 — a dilemma from its PC business that it likely had no desire to repeat in the handset space
Palm gains access to HP’s vast R&D resources, global distribution and corporate clout while HP gains instant entry into the carrier portfolios of three of the four major U.S. carriers as well as an increasing number abroad. In the post-iPhone world, it’s clear that major PC companies need to have a serious play in the handset market. WebOS is an elegant, powerful operating system, but its performance continues to need help and Palm did not have the bandwidth to focus on suddenly hot tweener devices years after the fall of the Foleo and months after the rise of the iPad. WebOS may appear in HP smartbooks such as the Compaq Air’Life and perhaps even down the road as an embedded pre-boot environment. This seems to be a good fit from a technology and product offerings perspective.
There’s more to come on this story, to be sure.
Tags: AirLife, Android, HP, iPhone, Palm, smartbooks, smartphones, Windows Phone 7
April 8, 2010
If you’re asking whether Apple implemented multitasking in iPhone 4.0 (and you’re not a developer), then you’re asking the wrong question. Multitasking headlined the seven “tentpoles” that made up the major new features of iPhone OS 4.0. Apple is bringing the benefits of multitasking through a clever mix of new system features that extend the benefits of multitasking that Apple pursued with push notifications.
Covering such major bases as background location tracking and extending background music playback from the iPod app to Internet services such as Pandora, there are now very few multitasking needs that won’t be met with Apple’s approach that, according to the company, preserves the keys of security – an approach that Apple maintains will preserve the keys of security, simplicity, performance and battery life.
The task switching in iPhone 4.0 complement other changes that used to require a seemingly endless series of swipes to get at information. These include a unified inbox and folders for grouping apps. (It would be great if the app store let you designate an app upon downloading). indeed, these should even free up more screen real estate for another new feature – custom wallpapers beyond the lock screen.
In the Q&A following the announcement, Apple was asked about widgets, a feature available on the Mac and on Android, but not on the iPhone. Apple seemed open to implementation at some future time, particularly with the iPad and took a step toward more lock screen functionality with music playback controls. All in all, the update should go a long way toward removing many user interface inefficiencies that Apple had begun to attack in the platform, as well as make using the iPhone a smoother and less frustrating experience on a daily basis. But since at least some of these features – especially the headlining multitasking – have been available from major competitors, it begs the question whether iPhone OS 4.0 is enough to beat back not only the imrovements of the core Android operating system, but what others are building on top of it.
Tags: Android, Apple, dashboard, iPad, iPhone OS 4.0, multitasking, widgets