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Google I/O 2011

clock May 11, 2011 01:11 by author Jeremy

Google's I/O event was held today, impressing the world with the fresh updates and new implementations they've got up their sleeves.

To start off, Google announced that Android 3.1 would be released to Verizon Xoom customers starting today. The update will include customizable widgets, and will allow users to have their device act as a "host" for other devices: for example, connecting a digital camera to your tablet will allow you to import all of your photos, while connecting USB devices like an XBox 360 controller will let you play specific games using the remote. By summer, Android 3.1 will be getting another update to include Google TV, which will have its own section in the Android Market as well.

Speaking of new Android versions, Google's released the official name (but not software number) of their next OS: Ice Cream Sandwich (seen above). They're hoping that this will be the universal OS applied to all devices, including your phone and tablet. While not officially stated, general word amongst fan-droids is that this should help battle fragmentation.

Also new to Android versions: Google has struck a deal with a large list of carriers and OEM's to make sure that all phones released will receive updates for a minimum period of 18 months. While this doesn't explain how often the updates will occur, it's still a start in the right direction. One of Apple's main strengths over Android phones was their stability brought through regular updates; meanwhile, Android owners struggle to get minor fixes corrected within just a few months. See the picture below for just a few of the major OEMs and carriers involved.

Google's also announced two new software services (though this first one was pretty much all but "officially" confirmed): Music Beta and instant movie streaming. Music beta will hold up to 20,000 songs in the cloud and is free (for now - very important note there). Like iTunes and many other media players, you can create playlists, see lists of recently played and play counts, and even offers "Instant Mix" (like iTunes' Genius). Also, once playlists are made, they'll be available on each Android device you own - no need for wires anymore).

Instant movie streaming will have varied pricing, starting at $1.99 for regular movies and $4.99 for HD selections. Upon renting a movie, you have 30 days to start it; once started, you have 24 hours to finish. The real question is how this will play out against other major movie streaming cmopanies such as Netflix.

Music Beta is available now for everyone to tinker with (remember, it's only free while in Beta). The movie streaming app will come with the Honeycomb 3.1 update and will hit phones "in a few weeks" (2.2 and above required, though).

The last two announcements really drove Google's point home - quite literally, too. Android at Home is one of them, which will allow your Android devices to control large appliances and devices throughout the house. This includes dishwashers, thermostats, even lamps. Google realizes that these machines won't have wifi or USB docks, so they're accepting developers to come work with them to make this a relaity. They've already started working on a few examples, such as controlling lights with your tablet.

The other announcement is one welcoming everyone to test and create for ADK, Google's new hardware design. It currently incorporates USB integration, but hopefully will include Bluetooth later. With the ADK, users will be able to control any number of products with their Android devices, assuming it gets a big enough kick-start from hardware designers and developers. At I/O, Google's example was a wooden labyrinth which was controlled by a Xoom via USB.

All in all, lots of exciting things at I/O today. Probably the most famous of these was the promised updates to phones from carriers/OEMs. We've still yet to hear what software number Ice Cream Sandwich OS will be, but we're sure it'll come out in due time. For now, we have Music Beta, instant movie streaming, and soon Google TV to hold us off.

Source/Pictures: engadget.com



HTC Thunderbolt and Kyocera Echo, Released March/April 17

clock March 16, 2011 01:16 by author Jeremy

Two phones that have been teased around the web for a while now are finally getting official release-statements: Verizon's HTC Thunderbolt and Sprint's Kyocera Echo. The former is going to be the first smartphone on Verizon's 4G LTE network, and will be available March 17 (just two more days!). Meanwhile, the latter smartphone will be out on April 17th (just two more days! ...oh, and a month on top of that).

What's so special about these two, you ask?

As mentioned previously, the Thunderbolt is the first 4G smartphone using Verizon's LTE network, which should provide faster download/upload speeds. The Thunderbolt will come with a 4.3" display, an 8-megapixel rear camera with 720p HD recording, a 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera for video chatting, and the latest 1GHz Snapdragon processor.

This, of course, should be a power-hog, so expect to charge your battery quite a bit. The Thunderbolt has already been delayed several times due to poor battery life, relating to issues around signal strength. These issues have been fixed, and there's even news circulating of an extended battery being offered by HTC, which will have roughly 2750mAh (almost double the phone's stock battery of 1400mAh). The phone-stand also comes back, just for your viewing pleasure.

Meanwhile, on Sprint's end, we'll be seeing the Kyocera Echo, a dual-screen smartphone that offers "simul-tasking". Consumers can use the two screens to simultaneously check their email, text message, browse the web, and more. During the Sprint event in February, they showed how the dual-screen phone could be used for gaming: The Sims was demo'ed with the top screen showing the game, and the bottom screen showing the control buttons. Alternatively, you could also converge both screens together (not physically, of course!) to use them as one large viewing apparatus. Nifty, indeed.

The smartphones of today just keep getting smarter, it seems.



Lights! Camera! ...Atrix!

clock March 7, 2011 23:05 by author Jeremy

I'm normally not one to have the latest gadgets, best technology, or shiniest toys, but after seeing the Motorola Atrix at CES with its Laptop Dock and HD Dock, I just couldn't resist. I went ahead and pre-ordered one and got it the day before its official release. After two weeks of playing with it, I'm still amazed at the service the phone brings.

General Info:

What I received was in no means an understatement to what everyone has said about the phone: this thing is wicked fast. With amazing video and sound quality, the Motorola Atrix can load videos and maps in seconds, assuming you're connected wirelessly to the internet.

One of the best parts, I think, is switching between apps. This seemingly nonexistent transition occurs just like in any other smartphone: with the tap of a button or the swipe of a finger. But once you do it, any video you were watching, any facebook status you were updating, or any picture you were taking, suddenly halts and switches to whatever you aimed to do next. Pauses to load screens are minimal, if there are any at all.

This is, of course, on an Android phone with Motoblur. There are customizable widgets and gadgets and whatchamaroos everywhere, and it's up to you on how you want to make your home screens look. You can drop your icons like it's hot (yeah, I went there) throughout seven different screens, allowing one to neatly bypass the alphabetic menu of apps. This is the first time I've had an Android phone before; I was an iPhone wielder previously, and we didn't have this "customizable icon" and "widget-sprees" that you young'uns have.

The best way to determine processing speed? By gaming, of course. The Atrix was nice enough to come with a demo of Need For Speed: Shift. Playing the game was just about as smooth as playing on a console at home: no lag, no bumps, no freezing. I suggest not drinking a cup of coffee beforehand though, as the phone will pick up even the slightest shakes of a hand while you drive.

Sound/Audio:

The sound is just on par with the visuals. Phone calls aren't strained, and I didn't find myself once jamming my phone into my ear thinking it would help hear the other end better - and be honest, you know you've done the same thing before. The speaker on the bottom backside of the phone packs quite a punch, too: whether it's used as a speakerphone or just listening to music, everything comes out loud and clear. Speaking of music, there are pre-set Equalizer settings that you can tinker with. Listening to music on Pandora basically had my phone vibrating, and it wasn't even on a high bass setting at the time.

Camera:

Quality? Definitely not bad. The Atrix came equipped with a 5-megapixel camera that can shoot HD video as well. You can customize your shots too, ranging from things such as sepia tones or landscape view. It may not be a digital camera replacement, but it definitely holds its own against other camera-phones. The best part, in my opinion, was the front-facing camera. This added piece of hardware is becoming very popular in today's gadgets, and with due reason. Thankfully, the Atrix did not disappoint consumers here.

 

Props to you if you can read that bottom line - I wrote so small that I couldn't even read it normally!

Apps:

The Motorola Atrix comes packed with a bunch of extra apps that I, personally, wouldn't use: Blockbuster, Latitude, and YellowPagesMobile, just to name a few. Removable? Some, but not all, which means that I (and possibly you) will have a few useless apps sitting around eating precious space.

Speaking of apps, the Atrix comes with the "Webtop" app, which is what the Atrix relies on when connected to one of its many docks. You can still make phone calls, send text messages, and reply to emails. Which leads us to the...

 

Laptop Dock:

Ah, the infamous Motorola Laptop Dock, one of several accessories that helped drive the Atrix to such popularity. There have been quite a number of negative reviews on the Atrix Laptop Dock, and after tinkering with it for a while, I can see why. Even on a wireless network, loading times are somewhat slow. Granted, the Atrix still doesn't compare to an actual desktop with their fancy videocards and such. Consumers should keep in mind that the visuals on the Laptop Dock are still being powered by your phone; essentially, you're just looking at your phone through a bigger screen.

Pros: This is going to be redundant, but...bigger screen. The phone easily connects to the Laptop Dock, and it's quite quick to boot up. Anything you were previously doing on your phone will be immediately launched on the Laptop Dock, transitioning them seamlessly. The Laptop Dock will also let you do a few things your phone can't do just yet: for example, watching hulu videos. For some reason, Hulu doesn't work on Android just yet, but it'll definitely let you watch it on Atrix's Laptop Dock. It also has Microsoft Office on it, allowing the work-oriented businesspeople to bring their spreadsheets and documents just about anywhere on this sleek device.

Cons: Quite expensive. Even with the $100 discount and the $100 rebate (assuming you bought the Motorola Atrix + Laptop Dock bundle for $500), you're looking at $300 for what is basically a netbook that can't function without the phone. Some say you're better off purchasing a tablet since it can do more, but that's up to you. For $300 though, I'd expect the Laptop Dock to have a bit more "kick" in it. It just seemed somewhat slow, laggy, and delayed. To top it all off, there's the fact that you need to pay a little extra each month for the tethering service that's required for the Laptop Dock.

Overall:

I like the phone, and it definitely gets the job done, whatever the job may be: phone calls, video calls, app-gaming, taking pictures and video, music management, or a social media outlet. The processing speed gets top-notch points, and I only wish I could say the same for the Laptop Dock.



Verizon iPhone4: Return of the Death Grip

clock February 25, 2011 23:31 by author Jeremy

It's not as epic as Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, but it's definitely causing a big ruckus nonetheless. An article from our friends ConsumerReports.org claims their testing of the Verizon iPhone 4 shows infamous "death group" issue is still at large, and is still eating your precious phone calls.

For those that missed the aptly-named "Antennagate", here's a recap" if you held your AT&T iPhone 4 a certain way, your call would drop. The claims were so frequent that Apple issued an official statement saying customers should avoid holding it that certain way; this response only gave birth to the infamous quote, "You're holding it wrong". All of this was followed with a statement by Apple claiming that it wasn't a design flaw, and that it's just a quirk that must be endured to enjoy the rest the iPhone 4 has to offer. They at least gave out free cases to those who experienced frequent dropped calls due to the antenna.

I know what you're thinking: how does placing one of the main parts of the antenna in an area where the hands/palms frequently are, not a design flaw? Your guess is as good as mine. Several websites made this point, but it fell on deaf ears. It even spawned this interesting picture, which is basically the epitome of irony/hilarity:

Fast forward to now. The Verizon iPhone 4 has just recently come out and yet the Antennagate issue continues, but now under the guise of "Antennagate 2.0" (see the creativity there?). While it's true that holding any phone a certain way can cause reception to dro, the fact that the antenna is located in a horrible place is still a little disconcerting to some people. And although the reports for the death grip are nowhere near as numerous this time around, just be wary in case you do experience it.

ConsumerReports' blog shows that the area-in-question is the bottom left corner of the Verizon iPhone 4.

Your best bet is to just get a case...or perhaps, replace your left hand with another right hand. Then your palm won't alway be in that bottom left corner! (Disclaimer: we are in no way encouraging or reinforcing people to actually get surgery done to their left hands.) Wanted to throw that last bit in there; you never know!

Source: consumerreports.org

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Recent Rumors: Sprint's Windows Phone 7 and Apple's iPad 2

clock February 23, 2011 22:20 by author Jeremy

In case readers haven't noticed, a lot of news concerning the latest phones coming out are nothing but "speculation". Sure, some rumors are a bit more believable than others, and some are about as likely as the apocalypse occurring tomorrow (if there IS one tomorrow, then I'm sorry for misleading you all). The following two bits of news, however, fit right under the category of "very likely true".

Let's start off with Sprint: they'll be holding an event tomorrow, February 24th, to announce a new phone of theirs. Their latest tweet all but confirms that it's going to be the Windows Phone 7, unless there's another device that can connect to your Microsoft gaming console, without my knowing. And really, I don't think Microsoft is about to start letting different brands connect to their magical Xbox360.

 

 

Next up on the rumor mill pertains to Apple's latest event, which will be held on March 2nd.

What's that back there, you ask? Near the top right corner of the image? Why, I don't see anything except for a black frame with tiny silver buttons on the side, and an image that greatly resembles an interstate-sign for map-apps... Hm, now what could this odd image be, I wonder?

Many are already jumping to thoughts of the iPad 2. And who knows, maybe it could be. It seems odd that Apple would make invitations to a large press event just to announce a new patch for the current iPad; not unless that patch is big enough to start letting your iPad make toast.

Nonetheless, it's time to sit around and wait a while. At least Sprint's event is tomorrow, and that should surely be enough to hold us off until March 2nd.

 

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