Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Return of Windows... Mobile

Those of you smart phone veterans definitely remember not too long ago when Windows Mobile held a respectable share of the smart phone market and WinMo phones could be found on the high end of every carrier's shelf. But as time passed and innovation was completely ignored Windows Mobile became a stale, stagnant OS that was sustained primarily by its underground developing community.

Like many WinMo users I jumped ship and helped contribute to the swelling market shares of Apple's iPhone, Googles Android, RIM's BlackBerry and even Palm's (HP's) WebOS.  Well now Windows is back to reclaim its position in the mobile phone arena.  Beginning the end of October and early November Microsoft will unleash its new Windows Phone 7 devices.  Capitalizing on the success of Windows 7, Microsoft has completely re-invented its OS for the mobile arena!

The most impressive part of Windows Phone 7 to me, is the integration of many of Microsoft's various services; most notably, MS Office, Xbox Live and Zune.  Microsoft seems to have put a lot of thought into making a seamless experience across all of its premier products and services. Utilizing what they call "hubs" user will launch into various apps, or interfaces to utilize the devices different functionalities.  At launch Dell, HTC, LG and Samsung will provide devices which will initially be limited to AT&T and T-Mobile with devices coming to Sprint and Verizon in 2011. Check out these devices below plus a little info on the new OS.

  • HTC 7 Surround -- The 3.8-inch T8788 with slideout speaker for AT&T and Telus
  • HTC HD7 -- Schubert comes of age as a 4.3-inch HD2 cousin for T-Mobile and beyond
  • HTC 7 Trophy -- the 3.8-inch Spark headed to international carriers
  • HTC 7 Mozart -- another heavily leaked int'l player with 3.7-inch display
  • Dell Venue Pro -- 4.1-inch portrait QWERTY slider for T-Mobile we broke as Lightning
  • Samsung Focus -- AT&T's 4-inch Super AMOLED slate we broke as Cetus
  • Samsung Omnia 7 -- the i8700 is a 4-inch Super AMOLED jobbie for Europe
  • LG Optimus 7/7Q -- the E900 is the official 3.8-inch global workhorse
  • LG Quantum -- AT&T's 3.5-inch landscape slider first seen as the C900
  • HTC 7 Pro -- a 3.6-inch QWERTY slider for Sprint (2011)
Video tour of devices below:

Though I wont be jumping back on the Windows bandwagon any time soon, I have to say I am impressed. It will be interesting to see MS attempts to get back into the hands and pockets of consumers. I really like the AT&T U-verse integration with the ability to control and watch DVR'd content (free for existing customers $10/month for non-U-verse customers), Netflix, and Xbox Live integration. I welcome Microsoft's return to the smart phone arena; more competitors means more competition, which is all win for us consumers! The big question is will it be enough to persuade smart phone users to come back from Android and Apple land?

Check out the impressive Xbox Live integration:

Source: Engadget


Thursday, October 7, 2010

Flood of New Android Phones

Is it just me or new Android phones popping up like pimples on a teenagers face?! Seriously, though I feel like I can't even keep up with all the new devices.  From T-Mobile's newest high end devices the G2 and the myTouch HD to Sprint's up-coming, low-end $50 Froyo toting LG Optimus S new Androids are dropping every day! I'm glad to see the new phones rolling out; the more options the better and the bigger the Android user base grows which is good for all.

Sprint is FINALLY expanding their Android options some more after being completely left in the dust by their fellow CDMA carrier Verizon, and offering 3 new mid to low-level Android devices, the previously mentioned LG Optimus S, Samsung Transform, and the Sanyo Zio. In my opinion Sprint has really been needing some more Android devices especially in the mid-tier realm and these look like they may fill out that space nicely. Even better the phones are priced at $150 (Samsung Transform), $100 (Sanyo Zio), $50 (LG Optimus S), putting them right in the impulse purchase range and making buying an old school feature phone even more pointless!  The phones will also ship with a new Sprint software add-on called Sprint-ID; it allows user to select different thematic lay outs with pre-configured themes, settings, apps and widgets.  For example a business theme that automatically downloads and installs business related apps, widgets and adjusts the settings. This approach seems better than the current method of loading the phone with a bunch of Sprint crap straight out of the gate.  Check out the vid below for a walk-through of Sprint-ID.


The Samsung Transform is basically a "baby" 4G-less Epic. Running Android 2.1, with a 3.5" capacitive touchscreen, 800MHz processor, FRONT and rear cameras and a slide out qwerty keyboard.  It has a similar design to the Epic 4G minus the Super AMOLED screen and $100 less. And despite the lack of 4G the Transform still supports video chat!!!

The Sanyo Zio intially had some poor reviews but it looks like the final edition has had some tweaks and is now rocking Android 2.1 (instead of 1.6) and has had some bug-fixes. 3.5" screen, 600MHz Qualcomm processor.
And then the LG Optimus S, which in my opinion may be the most interesting of the bunch. For $50 the phone has a 3.2" HVGA screen, mobile hotspot, WiFi, 3.2MP camera,  and 600MHz processor; additionally Engadget describes it as having a Nexus One like feel.  Best of all it is running Android 2.2! It is really looking like it could have the biggest "bang for your buck"  in the Android world thus far!

And potentially following in the Samsung Galaxy S family's foot steps the LG Optimus One will apparently be the family name and it will be offered on other carriers as well; so far T-Mobile is the only other US carrier to announce a device.  The T-Mobile LG Optimus T will be dropping soon as well. Specs appear to all be the same but T-Mo was sure to point out that its Optimus comes with Swype preloaded and the button layout is slightly different.

Not to be left out Verizon will be adding another member to it's Droid family, with the Motorola Droid Pro.  This phone should be a nice device for Team Blackberry members looking to jump ship to Android with its BlackBerry-like portrait qwerty design.  The keyboard looks like a BlackBerry keyboard and has been describe to feel like one too! The Droid Pro has some impressive specs, with a 1Ghz processor, Android 2.2, 8GB of internal storage, WiFi, Bluetooth, a dual LED flash-equipped camera, 3G mobile hotspot and an optional 1860mAh extended battery.  The Pro will come ready to handle the busy business-person's daily tasks and will also have a desk mount like some of its other Droid relatives available for purchase! VZW customers your choices just keep getting better and better. The VZW Droid lineup has got to be the best selection of Android devices offered by any carrier. VZW customers biggest issue is likely which Droid to take home, but thats got to be a good problem to have.... right?

VZW will also be launching the MotoBlur and Microsoft Bing corrupted Motorola Citrus.  Nothing too fancy here Android 2.1 and a 3" touch screen the phone sports Moto's oddly unique "BackTrack" track pad on the back of the device and like the other non-Droid branded phones comes loaded with Microsoft's Bing crap in the place of the normal Google goodness on other Android devices. Hey but at least it is Eco-friendly, the Moto Citrus "has a housing made from 25 percent post-consumer recycled plastic, is certified CarbonFree® through an alliance with, and is PVC and BFR free. The packaging is made from 80 percent post-consumer recycled paper, and the user manual is made using 100 percent recycled paper and soy-based ink". I doubt any of that really matters to most, but that wont stop marketers from trying to use it as a selling point.

Update: The videos were acting funky so for more info and vids follow each devices respective link:

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Sprint WiMax 4G Reaches Ohio!!!

Ok so this wont really matter to many outside of Ohio but I am GEEKED!!!! Sprint's 4G coverage has finally started to roll out in small pockets around the state.  If you're like me you were pissed to have to pay the $10/month up-charge for 4G with the Evo and Epic, especially considering that many states have/had ZERO 4G coverage.  Sprint has promised to aggressively roll out 4G coverage and had Cleveland and Cincinnati slated for September as the first cities in Ohio with Columbus rumored to fall somewhere around that time frame.  Well I'm not sure when coverage started rolling out but I was hearing rumors that we had spotty coverage areas in downtown Columbus and on the north-side of town near the Polaris shopping area. So of course I fired up my Evo's 4G on OSU's campus and..... nothing; but later when I got home (North-side off of Schrock not too far from Polaris) I happily found I get 1-2 bars of 4G goodness depending on which room I stand in.

This couldn't have come at a better time for me since I recently moved and will be without the web for about a week.  Fortunately, my rooted Evo has the Wifi-Tether app which turns my Evo into a Wifi-hotspot just like Sprint's default app, but for free! Couple that with the blazing speed of 4G and I'm back in business!

The one huge downside of 4G for the moment however is its RIDICULOUS drain on the battery.  Its so bad that it pretty much renders 4G as a plugin-only feature.  But rest assured that this issue should be gradually addressed with software updates and better coverage.  I've noticed significant 4G performance variances in different cities; for example 4G in ATL seemed to be slower, spottier and consumed WAAAAY more battery than in Chicago. A Clearwire (Sprint's 4G partner) rep in Chicago explained that this is due to the superior coverage that Chicagoans enjoy.  So as markets mature and coverage improves we should hopefully see faster speeds and less battery drain.

Evo and Epic users in Ohio (and other states) I'd love to hear what areas of the state you have found 4G coverage in, and I'll be sure to update my findings as I will be making a trip home to Cleveland this weekend. Don't hesitate to drop a few lines below!

Update: I am seeing reports of 4G up and running in other areas in Columbus:

German Village Kroger area, King and Olentangy, Main and Grant, and Parsons and Livingston

Skype Mobile Now Available For Android Devices, Fring Steps Up to Challenge

It's been a long wait for Verizon's exclusivity to end on Skype Mobile for Android, but the day has finally come. The question is however; is it too little too late?  The US version of the app is limited to WiFi only (despite the odd fact that the VZW version is 3G only #fail) which means no 3G or 4G (ie. true mobile) Skyping.  Continuing to fail there is no video support..... Yeah soooo.... other than international calling it may not be the most useful app, but hopefully we will see those features added soon.

Meanwhile Fring, which once supported Skype functionality (including video) before Skype demanded it be removed; has added it's own calling service called FringOut. This new service allows users to make US and international calls for as little as one cent per minute! Aditionally Skype supports WiFi, 3G, 4G and video chat functionality as well as chat services through Fring, GTalk, ICQ, MSN, Twitter, AIM and Yahoo. Fring works for all versions of Android not just 2.1+ as well as Symbian devices, iPhone, and Nokia devices with the OVI store.

Skype is definitely better known and has a prettier UI but Fring, a one time ally is becoming a serious competitor. Check out the Fring Mobile app video below.

Source: PPC GeeksPC World