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
May 13, 2010
Capping off a week that saw the introduction of the Garminphone and the non-Droid-branded LG Ally to the growing stable of Android devices on T-Mobile and Verizon, Sprint provided more details on the most impressive Android device announced to date – the HTC Evo 4G. First shown at CTIA, the Evo 4G is thinner than I remember it looking, and includes a similar scarlet interior to the Droid incredible (which I thought that was done just for Verizon).
The event also included a pre-screening of Disney’s forthcoming Prince of Persia. The movie really has no tie-in to the device, unless the Evo has a heretofore unannounced time rewinding feature (which I would gladly pay a premium for only to go back in time and no longer need it). Sprint will offer the sleek superphone – with its large screen HDMI out, dual cameras (including one 8 GB one) and HD video capture features — for $199 with a two-year contract starting June 4th, a few days before Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference where the company has released new iPhone models in the past.
There’s been a fair amount of discussion regarding Sprint’s data plan for the device, which I’ll refer to as “Simply Most Things”. The Evo 4G will require a $10 per month surcharge for uncapped 4G (and 3G). You’ll also pay handsomely for its vaunted eight-device hotspot feature which is a $30 per month add-on. In contrast, Verizon throws in mobile hotspot functionality on the Pre Plus for free.
All told, on top of Sprint’s relatively low prices for other services it’s not a bad deal although the hotspot premium is excessive. At the event, I heard someone note that the hotspot pricing is designed to appeal to those replacing their home broadband with WiMax, but I doubt many Evo 4G buyers will use the device that way. I’d rather see a $20 per month 4G surcharge that included mobile hotspot features.
One of my main concerns regarding the Evo 4G, was battery life, particularly after encountering disappointing results with Sprint’s Overdrive hotspot in 4G coverage areas. A Sprint represented said that if you’re streaming video, you’ll get about two hours, but more typical voice and light Web access will yield eight to ten hours. I still don’t think we’ll see even that, but even the seven hour range would put it within reach of other recent Android devices.
Tags: battery life, data plans, Evo 4G, HTC, Sprint
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