SFDesigner:DW’s Weekly Mobile Wunderlist #001

This week saw the rollout of two new OS platforms from two of the largest players in the mobile space. First is the new BBX platform combining the Blackberry and QNX platforms and the other is Ice Cream Sandwich, the nickname for Android 4.0 from Google in combination with the latest Nexus branded device, the Galaxy Nexus from Samsung. In addition, there are other updates on the device front with the new Droid RAZR from Motorola and a new fitness device powered by Android.

Apple iOS

With the launch of iOS and the iPhone 4S, Apple has been able to do a one-two punch with software and hardware. Apple announced that last weekend they sold over four million iPhone 4S devices. The device this time is launching on a broader set of carriers including AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and recently announced C-Spire (formerly Cellular South).

In addition to the hardware upgrades, it has been claimed that one third of Apple devices that are compatible with iOS 5 have been updated to the new version of the operating system. This includes the iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPod Touch 3G, iPod Touch 4G, iPad and iPad 2.

There have been a number of reports of decreased battery life from iOS 5 upgraded devices and increased heat from the devices. There have been no updates announced to address the battery drain issue.

Links

  • “Regional Carrier C Spire Gets in on iPhone 4S Action” / FOX Business
  • “iOS 5 Adoption Rate” / Zimbio
  • “iOS 5 Batter Life Worse?” / OS X Daily

Google Android

It has been a big week for Android. First, the latest Droid device, the Droid RAZR was announced by Motorola. It is a Gingerbread (2.3) powered device that sports a Gorilla Glass coated, 4.3-inch qHD Super AMOLED display with a dual-core 1.2GHz TI OMAP4430 processor. Being on Verizon, it supports their LTE network, and is the thinnest smartphone currently released with 7.1mm thickness. The phone will be available on Rogers in Canada, but without the LTE service. Other specifications include an 8 megapixel rear camera capable of 1080p HD video, 1GB RAM, 16GB of onboard storage with 16GB additional on the microSD card and an 1,800mAh battery. The phone is also compatible with the Lapdock 100 to extend the phone with a larger screen and a full keyboard. A new feature called SmartActions helps to better manage battery life through intelligent use of GPS location and other factors. A media cloud service called MotoCast allows you to access media and documents on your home computer through your phone via your cellular connection.

In addition to their phone, Motorola also announced the MOTOACTV, a new iPod Nano like device that is focused around fitness and music, powered by Android. The device includes a GPS and tracks time, distance, speed and calories burned providing a link to sync and track progress on MOTOACTV.com. The device has an interesting music player that learns what songs push your performance and then then can play them when you need the extra motivational boost. It also comes with a built-in FM radio. Music is synched using a desktop application called MotoCast that works with iTunes or Windows Media Player. The device also has a number of headphone, wristband, arm band and bike mounts available for the device.

Less than a day after the announcement of the Motorola devices, Google and Samsung teamed up to demonstrate the new version of the Android OS, 4.0 or Ice Cream Sandwich. The goal with this platform was to unify the tablet and handheld operating system to have a single platform for Android devices moving forward. To demonstrate the new functionality of Android 4.0, the new Galaxy Nexus was also announced, which is covered in more depth later. For Android 4.0, the entire operating system has a visual overhaul, including new fonts and new user interface components throughout the entire system. Part of this refresh also allows smartphone and tablet owners to each have widget customization and resizing on each platform, which was available only in Honeycomb on tablets and for specific smartphones in Gingerbread. With these components comes new support for gestures to replace dedicated buttons for common functions like close, delete, and zoom. Some of this is visible in applications like the calendar which allows users to change the scope of the calendar view based on pinch and zoom gestures.

A helpful feature for developers is the ability to natively take screenshots without the need for the SDK tools—something that I have wanted with Android for a long time. Speaking of images, the camera application has expanded functionality dramatically, adding in the ability to do common image correction directly with the application. There is also a nifty, but probably less practical facial recognition feature that can be used to unlock the phone. I don’t know how this would work if you have a photo held up to the camera, and during the demo it failed to work with the actual phone owner, so this feature is still being ironed out.

In addition to these features, there are a number of features that have been discussed and will vary on device hardware features. The first is around NFC or near field communication. This, when integrated with Google Wallet will allow you to pay for goods at payment terminals, but also a new feature called Beam will allow NFC devices to share information when devices are touching or tapped with each other. This includes contacts, maps, web sites, or links to applications in the Google Marketplace.

Back to the phone, the Galaxy Nexus is a big update from the Nexus S in terms of functionality and form. The device has a 4.65 inch screen with a 720p resolution of 1280×720 featuring a Super AMOLED HD screen. The device is slightly under 5 ounces and features a 1.2GHz dual-core processor. The phone will support HSPA+ and LTE depending on the provider. The device will have either 16GB or 32GB on board RAM; however there was a lack of details regarding if it will support additional microSD storage. In terms of cameras, it will support a 5MP rear and 1.3 front, with the rear camera supporting 1080p video recording. A unique new sensor on the device is a barometer which Google claims is used to get better GPS data based on elevation.

On the tablet front, there hasn’t been much information this week. The Ice Cream Sandwich demo didn’t highlight tablet functionality; other than the fact that the platform is now uniform across devices. During an interview at the Asian edition of All Things D, Google’s Andy Rubin claims that six million Android-powered tablets are “out there”, but there weren’t many details offered other than that. The only major product sneak was from ASUS who unveiled the Transformer Prime tablet that will ship with a quad-core NVIDIA chip, have a 10-inch display, mini-HDMI port, SD card slot and a 14.5 hour battery. It will presumably ship with Gingerbread, but Jonney Shih from ASUS stated that he expects Ice Cream Sandwich to arrive on tablets by the end of the year, or earlier.

Links

New Devices

Samsung Galaxy Nexus

Samsung Galaxy Nexus

Samsung Galaxy Nexus

Carrier: Verizon (US); Vodafone, Three (UK); NTT DoCoMo (JP)

Availability: November 2011

Specs:

  • 4.65″ Super AMOLED HD (1280×720)
  • 1.2 GHz dual-core processor
  • Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich
  • 135 g / 4.76 oz
  • 5 MP rear camera with 1080p HD video capture
  • 1.3 MP front camera
  • 1GB RAM
  • 16, 32GB built-in memory
  • Bluetooth 3.0
  • LTE or Pentaband HSPA+
  • Two versions either SIM locked or unlocked will be available
Motorola Droid RAZR

Motorola Droid RAZR

Motorola RAZR

Carrier: Verizon (US)

Availability: November 10, 2011

Specs:

  • 4.3″ qHD Display (960×540)
  • 1.2 GHz dual-core processor TI OMAP4430
  • Android 2.3.5 Gingerbread
  • 127 g / 4.48 oz
  • 8 MP rear camera with 1080p HD video capture
  • 1.3 MP front camera
  • 1GB RAM
  • 16GB built-in memory, 16GB microSD card pre-installed (supports up to 32GG microSD cards)
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • 4G LTE Support
HTC Evo Design 4G

HTC Evo Design 4G

HTC EVO Design 4G

Carrier: Sprint (US)

Availability: October 23rd

Specs:

  • WiMAX-Capable
  • GSM Roaming
  • 4″ qHD display (960×540)
  • 1.2 Qualcomm MSM8655 CPU
  • Android 2.3
  • HTC Sense UI
  • Mobile Hotspot
  • 5MP Rear Camera with 720p video recording
  • 1.3MP Front Camera

Microsoft Windows Phone

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has been making a number of announcements this week. First, that multiple new Nokia Windows Phone devices will be revealed at Nokia World next week in London. A number of rumor sites have been posting images that claim to be the Nokia 800, codenamed Sea Ray. In addition, Ballmer made some jabs at Android, mostly around the approachability of the platform, and that to use an Android phone you need to be an advanced computer user.

In addition, there were new rumors regarding the next two editions of the Windows Phone platform codenamed Tango and Apollo. Specifically, that the screen sizes for the platform will expand from the current single-screen spec of 800×480 and include other sizes starting with a 480×320 size for Tango with reported LTE support, and later with Apollo to include an HD screen of 1280×720 and support for dual core CPUs.

Reviews have also been popping up for the new HTC Windows Phone devices the Radar and Titan which are the newest devices to support Windows Phone 7.5 (Mango) along with the already announced Samsung Focus S.

Microsoft also closed their acquisition of Skype this week, and Skype is expected to come to Windows Phone 7.5 Mango in the next few months.

Links

  • “Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer attacks Android phones” / The Telegraph
  • “Nokia 800 Windows Phone press shots slip a week early” / Electronista
  • “HTC Titan Review” / Slashgear
  • “HTC Radar Review” / Engadget
  • “Windows Phone Tango and Apollo to Bring LTE, Dual Core CPUs, 720p Screens” / GSM Dome
  • “Microsoft Officially Welcomes Skype” / Microsoft.com

New Devices

HTC Titan

HTC Titan

HTC Titan

Carrier: AT&T (US), T-Mobile/Vodafone/Orange (UK), Sprint

Availability: October 2011

Specs:

  • 4.7″ WVGA Display (480×800)
  • 1.5 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon MSM8255T
  • Windows Phone 7.5 Mango
  • 160 g / 5.64 oz
  • 8 MP rear camera, dual LED flash, 720p video capture
  • 1.3 MP front camera
  • 512MB RAM
  • 16GB built-in memory
  • Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR
HTC Radar

HTC Radar

HTC Radar

Carrier: T-Mobile (US)

Availability: October 2011

  • 3.8″ WVGA Display (480×800)
  • 1 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon MSM8255
  • Windows Phone 7.5 Mango
  • 5 MP rear camera, dual flash, 720p video recording
  • VGA front camera
  • 512MB RAM
  • 8GB built-in memory
  • Bluetooth 2.1

RIM BlackBerry

This week at the BlackBerry DevCon conference in San Francisco, RIM announced their next generation mobile platform called BBX. This platform is a unified platform for smartphones and tablets and is a combination of the BlackBerry and QNX platform. The environments supported include HTML5 when used with BlackBerry WebWorks, Adobe AIR, Native C/C++ and a new BlackBerry Runtime for Android, allowing Android applications to run on the BBX platform. It was noted that applications built on today’s Playbook platform will run on BBX.

There were additional announcements regarding frameworks for advanced graphics called Cascades UI and additional application integration and with platform services including BBM, Push technology and security. No additional devices were announced. The PlayBook OS 2.0 Developer Beta was released as will which includes support for Android application wrappers, WebWorks and Adobe AIR 3.0.

The BBX announcement was not without some controversy, as the platform will not support legacy BlackBerry Java development. The current PlayBook platform for native applications using C/C++ and WebWorks plus cross-platform technologies like Adobe AIR and the new Runtime for Android (supporting Android applications targeting 2.3 Gingerbread) will flow into the BBX platform without any technology changes. RIM stated that the current Java SDK for Blackberry will continue to be supported, but will not be targeting the BBX platform and will cap with BlackBerry 7.

Links

  • “RIM unveils its next-gen mobile OS: BBX” / c|net
  • “BBX will not host legacy Java BlackBerry apps” / intomobile
  • “Developer Roadmap: BlackBerry BBX and the BlackBerry Java SDK” / BlackBerry Developer Blog
  • “BlackBerry PlayBook OS 2.0 Developer Beta” / BlackBerry Developer Blog
  • “BlackBerry moves into the next generation with new BBX platform, Cascades UI” / betanews
  • “Android app packager for BlackBerry revealed in video” / geek.com

Notable Marketplace & Ecosystem News

Amazon

Amazon just announced another expansion of their Prime Instant Video service that is part of their online video player and through devices like Roku, TiVo, and the soon to be released Amazon Kindle Fire. The new agreement includes shows from PBS including Frontline, NOVA and episodes of Masterpiece and popular Ken Burns documentaries. This is right after the recent agreement with FOX to include a number of their television shows from the last few decades. The new shows are included with the annual Amazon Prime subscription of $79 per year.

Links

  • “Amazon/PBS Deal Brings Julia Child to Prime Instant Video” / paidcontent.org

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