Archive for the ‘ tablet ’ Category

Android, Jellybean and What we can expect next from Google

These past three weeks have been jam-packed with OS news. First Mountain Lion reared its face back mid february then Microsoft released the highly anticipated Windows 8 consumer preview to the public. These new softwares from the tech titans of silicon valley show us not only what’s coming later this year but the direction they’re taking computing. For once Apple is the less interesting of the two, presenting an OS that’s just more of an incremental step closer to bridging the iOS/OSX gap. Windows on the other hand is coming in packing a completely new OS with Windows 8. The desktop we’ve all come to know and love has taken a backseat to a more Windows Phone 7-eque metro tile screen. This new interface makes windows more walled, adds an app store and, most importantly, finally makes Windows finger-friendly.

                                

But in all this buzz, one major player is still left out. Google has for over a year now been trying to sell us on the idea of a Chrome OS without any success. Sure, they’ve come down in price but at the end of the day they still leave people asking, “why don’t I just install Chrome?” But, Google has seen nothing but good results when it comes to their Android mobile OS. In light of the major plays by both Cupertino and Redmond, Google may just have just had their hands forced. Putting Android on a laptop would make for a lightweight OS that, with the inclusion of the Android market, would be more than capable of performing most common tasks such as writing documents, browsing the web, playing music and light gaming. And because Google licenses Android for free, a mobile version could be priced competitively against Microsoft’s offerings and still keep all the revenue from searches and Android Market purchases.

So what’s the hold up? Well, Google still has a lot of work to do before they’re ready to enter the laptop market. First of all, Android on tablets is a hot mess. Samsung, by far the largest seller of Android tablets, had to admit during Mobile World Congress that their tablet  sales were less than steller. The biggest reason is most likely because Android isn’t micromanaged enough. It’s closing in on half a year since Ice Cream Sandwich was released and we’re still only seeing it on select devices. While this is a nuisance for smartphone owners, it’s a deal breaker in the high-end market. If Google wants to be a respected player on the laptop front, they’re going to need to be able to give people the peace of mind that their $400+ investment will be supported for 2-3 years at least.

This may just be speculation but with the way the market is going I don’t think Google has a choice unless they want to kill off the Chromebook experiment. For now, we just have to hold our breath and wait to see what’s coming down the road with Jellybean.

Are you getting Ice Cream Sandwich?

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Ice Cream sandwich is out and Google’s fragmentation problem is rearing itself to everyone’s chagrin. Imagine being at the beach with your family and your parents choose to give only a few of you Ice Cream and you just have to sit there and watch. Oh, might I remind you that you’re paying these parents monthly…this is terrible! With my iPad, I got iOS 5 in a timely manner and my single complaint – not having multitouch – was cleared up within a few weeks and I’m completely up to date. My Motorola Triumph that came out this summer, the Motorola Atrix that was the darling of the smartphone world BACK IN FEBRUARY and that HTC EVO that ushered in the 4G era less than a year and a half ago are all out of the question. I understand why my phone was off the list, it’s a Virgin Mobile phone, but I can’t understand how you can leave behind the Goliaths of the Android space less than two years after their release? And even those phones that are getting upgraded aren’t getting it until “first half of 2012″… in what world is that acceptable? Remember that Open Handset Alliance that EVERY ANDROID OEM SIGNED UP FOR? What happened to the 18 months of support? This is a huge problem when you’re tied to a two year contract and the person you’re paying nearly a hundred bucks to (or more) each month doesn’t care enough to keep you supported after your device is out of the spotlight but you’re still stuck in a contract. This definitely isn’t the best way to build up customer appreciation and this shows why Apple is still #1 in customer satisfaction and brand quality in general. Enough of my ranting, here’s the list of supported phones (from Engadget) so check it out and prepare to be dissapointed.

Note: If you don’t see your device listed, don’t fret… yet. If it hasn’t been confirmed or denied, the OEM’s likely still deciding which products will get the upgrade to Ice Cream Sandwich. Keep checking back here from time to time, as we’ll continue to update the list.

ASUS

Official statement:

Google recently announced the latest update for Android, Ice Cream Sandwich, which brings some exciting new features and capabilities. At ASUS, we pride ourselves on delivering a great experience with our products, thanks to frequent updates that further enhance our products’ capabilities. We’re delighted to confirm support for Ice Cream Sandwich on the ASUS Eee Pad Family – our aim is to bring the latest Android update to the Eee Pad Series, but at this time we are unable to set a date for its release. Please stay tuned for more news on our Ice Cream Sandwich upgrade plans.

Confirmed:

Denied:

  • None specified
AT&T

Official statement:

We plan for both the Vivid and Galaxy S II Skyrocket to be upgraded to Ice Cream Sandwich.

Confirmed:

  • HTC Vivid
  • Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket

Denied:

  • None specified
HTC

Official statement:

HTC knows how excited our fans are to get their hands on Google’s latest version of Android, Ice Cream Sandwich, so we’re thrilled today to announce the first wave of HTC phones that will receive upgrades: We can confirm the brand new HTC Vivid is upgradeable to Ice Cream Sandwich. In addition, Ice Cream Sandwich is coming in early 2012 to a variety of devices including the HTC Sensation, HTC Sensation XL and HTC Sensation XE, as well as the HTC Rezound, HTC EVO 3D, HTC EVO Design 4G and HTC Amaze 4G through close integration with our carrier partners. We’re continuing to assess our product portfolio, so stay tuned for more updates on device upgrades, timing and other details about HTC and Ice Cream Sandwich.

Confirmed:

  • Rezound
  • Vivid (AT&T)
  • Sensation (OG, XL and XE)
  • EVO 3D (Sprint)
  • EVO Design 4G (Sprint)
  • Amaze 4G (T-Mobile)
  • Sensation 4G (T-Mobile)

Denied:

LG

Official statement:

LG confirms today that the Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) OS will be initially available for the following high-end LG smartphones which were introduced this year: the Optimus 2X, the Optimus Black, the Optimus 3D and the Optimus LTE. We are also continuing to evaluate the ICS OS to determine whether it is compatible with the functionality, features and performance of other LG smartphones to make the ICS OS available on as many LG smartphones as possible. In December this year, the forthcoming upgrade schedule and additional specific models for the ICS OS upgrade will be posted on our LG Mobile Global Facebook page (www.facebook.com/LGMobile) and on our local LG websites. Please stay tuned for more updates from LG.

Confirmed:

Denied:

  • None specified
Meizu

Official statement:

MX market remains unchanged. However, MX and M9 we will soon upgrade to 4.0 (Jack Wong, CEO).

Confirmed:

Denied:

  • None specified
Motorola

Official statement:

We’ve confirmed that DROID RAZR/ Motorola RAZR, DROID BIONIC, and Motorola XOOM (all editions) will get an upgrade to ICS… we have not confirmed any devices will not get ICS.

Confirmed:

Denied:

  • None specified
Pantech

Official statement:

We’re currently evaluating our plans and will provide an update soon. Our customers are our top priority and we intend to upgrade technically eligible products.

Confirmed:

  • None specified

Denied:

  • None specified
Samsung

Official statements:

Samsung Mobile U.S. has not made any official announcement plans for Ice Cream Sandwich software updates to any of our US products. We will let our customers know as soon as we have more information to share.

From Samsung UK’s Twitter account: “The Galaxy S II will be receiving ICS, but there are no dates confirmed as yet. We’ll keep you posted.”

From AT&T: We plan for both the [HTC] Vivid and [Samsung] Galaxy S II Skyrocket to be upgraded to Ice Cream Sandwich.

Confirmed:

Denied:

  • None specified
Sony Ericsson

Official statement:

Sony Ericsson is currently rolling out the upgrade to Gingerbread 2.3.4 across its entire 2011 Xperia smartphone portfolio. This software upgrade will be available through a phased roll out in select markets. Beyond Gingerbread 2.3.4, we plan to upgrade our 2011 Xperia smartphone portfolio to the next Android platform made available to us.

Confirmed:

Denied:

  • None specified
Sprint

Official statement:

Sprint will begin to rollout Google’s latest version of Android, Ice Cream Sandwich, to our customers in early 2012. Ice Cream Sandwich will be available via an over-the-air update to a variety of devices including HTC EVO 3D, HTC EVO Design 4G and other key products in our line-up. Stay tuned for more details and exact timing.

Confirmed:

  • HTC EVO 3D
  • HTC EVO Design 4G

Denied:

  • None specified
T-Mobile

Official statement:

T-Mobile is committed to enhancing customers’ experience with our devices, including providing upgrades to the latest Android operating system — Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich). We are actively working with our OEM partners to ensure that a number of eligible T-Mobile devices are upgraded to Android 4.0 in the coming months and will communicate updates as we have additional details to share. Today, we can confirm that Android 4.0 is expected to come in early 2012 to the HTC Amaze 4G and HTC Sensation 4G.

Confirmed:

  • HTC Amaze 4G
  • HTC Sensation 4G

Denied:

  • None specified
ViewSonic

Official statement:

Google’s latest update for Android Ice Cream Sandwich brings advanced features and functionality to users. ViewSonic will support Ice Cream Sandwich with our award-winning ViewPad tablet line and are currently evaluating the operating system. Once the BSP is formally released from Google, we’ll have more details, as at this time we can’t set an exact release date. Stay tuned for more updates, as our team will bring you the exciting announcements as we’re able.

Confirmed:

  • ViewPad series

Denied:

  • None specified
ZTE

Official statement:

ZTE hasn’t issued an official statement about Ice Cream Sandwich or when we will introduce new products using the upgraded OS. However, we continue to work very closely with Google to ensure we deliver the best possible Android user experience across all of our devices and with all of our partners.

Confirmed:

  • None specified

Denied:

  • None specified

Kindle Fire Reviewed

Hey folks, good news! Reviews for the highly anticipated Kindle Fire are finally out and they’ve kinda been what I expected at first but didn’t want to accept. When it was announced, the price and visual appeal were enough to make me think of it as the ultimate tablet. I completely overlooked the smartphone level specs and small screen size and how they would inhibit the device’s operations but that becomes apparent the moment you try to load websites, pinch to zoom or view magazines. But, thanks to Amazon’s Silk browser, this tablet is actually still competing with the new 7-inch Galaxy Tab. The fact that a $200 tablet was able to beat a tablet twice it’s price at all deserves huge praise. So, if you go in expecting something on par with the iPad, of course you’re gonna be disappointed and that’s not Amazon’s fault. But if you’re looking at other sub $300 tablets, Amazon’s offering is sleeker, faster and has a much better UI and app selection. There just isn’t any competition here. A solid 3.5 out of 5 (or 4 if you’re going in with the right expectations) is very well deserved.

Google VS. Apple

Google’s been on a tear lately with its Android operating system. It has become the most popular phone operating system, commanding 40% of the smart phone market, and still expanding at an incredible rate. It’s hard to imagine that the adorable little green android’s humble beginnings on the bulky, sluggish, and unpromising T-Mobile G1. From there came a torrential downpour of phones, each better than the last until finally we had a true iPhone competitor with the HTC Incredible (Verizon’s rendition of the first Google Nexus phone). From then on it has been a chase, every year Apple would announce a new phone that would blow all the current Android phones out of the water and the enclave of Android would continue to push back until a clear competitor would arise and the cycle continues. But, while this trend is what makes Android profitable, it is also a huge crutch moving forward. Android is the bestselling OS by far but three major aspects of its growth keep it far behind Apple’s throne:

  1. In all its growth, the Android OS has managed to completely avoid Apple’s market share. Apple has been growing steadily and untouched since the first iPhone came out. Every year they break records (4 million in the first weekend this year) and every year they mint more and more income. Android has actually planted itself in the lush soil left behind by decaying giants Nokia, Windows Mobile, and BlackBerry.                     
  2. Android also isn’t that profitable once you break it down. Google actually makes little or no money on the operating system itself, it just gives it away and profits on the tail end with the search engine, baked in services and (mainly) Android Market… That’s how it’s supposed to work at least. In reality the Android Appstore isn’t even as profitable as Blackberry App World even though it commands more than twice the market share. The companies are also not touching Apple’s numbers individually.      
  3. And the biggest reason, like it or not, is that they’re just not Apple. Before you light your torches, let me explain myself. An Apple product just has an air of prestige and class that no Android phone has matched to date. Even six months after the iPhone 4 was announced, it was still outselling the latest and greatest of the Androids even with their dual-core, LTE, massive screen and all that. No Android has ever been a heavy hitter after more than three months of shelf life.
               

And I shouldn’t forget to mention Apple’s earnings on the iPhone. No phone comes close to having the same market dominance as the iPhone. In fact, carriers pay top dollar just to have the iPhone in their line up just because it brings that many customers. Sprint’s deal to get the iPhone on their shelves is losing them money and they won’t start making returns on profit until 2015! That just shows you how strong a presence the iPhone has. Add to that the amount of capital Apple has to put towards R&D for new devices and their complete control of hardware and software and it doesn’t look like they’re being dethroned any time soon.

iOS vs. Android: Why Geeks Should Go Apple

*Before we proceed, I need to add a disclaimer: this whole post would be completely useless if you make your decisions predominantly on image (if you want an iPhone to look cool or you want an Android for geek cred, I can’t help you). *

Choosing a mobile operating system has become one of the most pivotal options for consumers everywhere. To make the choice easier, a rule of thumb has been that if you’re nerdy, you should own an Android and if you’re a technophobe (or the vast majority of people) you should just stay with iOS. But maybe it’s time to change that rule of thumb. As both companies have matured, they have shown tendencies that support an opposite measure. Before you go blasting, hear me out for a bit and I think I could change your mind.

The original line of thought was that Android, while less user friendly, allowed those looking to tinker with their devices to tinker away to their hearts content. iOS, on the other hand, was much more user friendly but was far more locked down. But thanks to Jailbreaking, iOS has become a much more the nerd’s tool. One big problem with Android is that there are so many different phones and versions of Android that no single device can build up a hacker community, and those that do are outshone within months. But iOS devices are updated in a timely manner so they all get the love and support they need from third party developers. iOS devices can be jailbroken in as little as a website visit and click of a button and once they’re jailbroken you can use Cydia to do everything from change the skin to downloading third party apps and even dual booting Android. In fact, some features (such as wireless syncing) became available on Cydia before getting baked into iOS. And if a new device, say an iPhone 4s, get exclusive apps that should be available across the board (*cough* Siri), then you can count on the developer community to make a port within a few weeks to a couple months.

That’s all fine and well, but if you’re an average Joe who doesn’t want to deal with jailbreaks and Cydia then all this means absolutely nothing to you. An Apple device is nothing but a waste of money in your hands; a beautiful waste of money but a waste nonetheless. With Android though, you can get a device that’s just as responsive for free. Plus, Android phones offer features that are more useful on a day-to-day basis such as full QWERTY keyboards. As for usability, Android has become more and more user-friendly with each and every iteration, and that’s about to ramp up with the upcoming release of Ice Cream Sandwich, Google’s OS. Sure, rooting isn’t as easy as jailbreaking and the hacker community is abysmal on a per-phone basis but what does that matter to the average person? Some of you might point out that Android’s appstore collection isn’t comparable to iOS’s and I would have to whole-heartedly agree with you there. But the average person doesn’t venture that far with Apps. Give them basic apps (Facebook, twitter, mail, maps) some games (Diner Dash, Angry Birds, Doodle Jump, etc.) and some camera apps and they’re more than perfectly content. Not everyone is jumping for the greatest VNC client or Plex app on his or her phone. Most people just want a phone that lets them check services and maybe waste time in the subway/bus or wherever.

Again, if you’re a die-hard Android or Apple fan then this doesn’t apply to you since your mind is already made your mind up and nothing I can say is likely to change that. And, of course, there are going to be exception to this basic rule since not everyone fits nicely into a little mold. But, for the vast majority of phone users, this is a good guideline for choosing a mobile OS. I know not everyone will agree so I would like to hear your opinions in the comments section. Whether you think I’m brilliant or I’m spewing shit, just

Amazon’s Long Game (and Wall Street’s Woes)

 

Q3 earnings calls came out last week and they had Wall Street worried about Amazon’s prospects. The problem is that Amazon has been losing money even with its incredible, record-breaking sales volumes and income. But, this doesn’t mean that you should throw your Amazon shares out the window just yet. As much as analysts hate the idea, Amazon’s actually taking a loss now in order to gain more in the long run. Case in point, the new Kindles. The new Kindles with ads aren’t making strong returns on sales right away and the Kindle Fire is actually costing Amazon about $10 a piece, with pre-sales already in the millions. What’s harder to see in these numbers is the future return on the investment. With the Kindle readers, Amazon just has to sit back and watch the money roll in from ads throughout the device’s life span. But the Kindle Fire is a trickier beast. With the Fire, Amazon is deploying a number of tactics to make sure it gets returns on its investment: Operating system, Amazon’s Ecosystem and the Silk Browser.

 

Operating System:

 

The Fire isn’t running vanilla Android, far from it. The Operating system has been heavily coated and tied down with Amazon services. You can’t even access Google’s Android Market from the device. While this might sound like a negative, it’s actually almost necessary for Amazon to turn a profit on its tablet business. Android apps are notoriously easy to download and play for free from the device’s browser, and when the plan is to make a profit on the tail end… that can really be a problem. Instead, Amazon has its own Appstore on the device and the version of Android is different enough that you can’t just download pirated apps. The lack of an SD card also closes a lot of leaks such as side-loading illegally. And the ties to Amazon services aren’t exactly hurting the company either, which takes us to our next topic….

 

Amazon’s Ecosystem:

A major fact we shouldn’t forget about the Fire, it’s basically a glorified Amazon storefront. All the Amazon services are riding on board so you have access to the app store, kindle store, music/video stores and let’s not forget Amazon.com in its entirety. Everything you could ever want you can purchase straight from the device anywhere, any time. And just to get you hooked, Amazon has the one-click purchase so you can spend without realizing it and throws in a free month of Amazon Prime. After just a month of access to the thousands of videos on demand and free second day shipping, most people will probably find it in their hearts to pay the yearly fee. And because of the device’s ridiculously low price, people will definitely be coming back to buy. This factor alone will probably assure a tidy return.

 

Silk Browser:

 

To squeeze even more money out of the device, Amazon played a dirty little trick on us with Silk. The Silk browser (developed in-house by Amazon) actually runs most of the tasks on Amazon’s servers, making for a faster browsing experience… but that’s only a front. On the backend, the browser funnels user information straight to Amazon. Just imagine how powerful that information is. The device has your name and account information tied to it and added to that they also know what you’re interested in from your searches, what you watch, what you listen to, what you read and what you’ve bough. And they have access to the rest of your information through other web services you use… talk about a gold mine. That information could be used to make extremely targeted ads or sold to third party companies who’ve only seen such user information in their wet dreams. I’m not saying that there is no end-user benefit to Silk (in fact, first reactions have been quite positive) but I’m just saying that Amazon was looking pretty closely at its bottom line when it came out with the feature.

 

And, there is another reason for biting the bullet that isn’t so strictly monetary: customer relations. Amazon has always tried to get prices as low as possible for its customers and keep them coming back. The Kindle Fire is literally too good a deal to be true, and that sentiment will not be lost on customers. So, even though Amazon’s Q3 spread sheets aren’t glittering, they’re making wise investments on something that will definitely pay off in the long run (and they definitely have the capital to start investing). In fact, they’ve already started manufacturing millions more devices than they originally anticipated. So don’t go worrying about Amazon, they’re gonna be just fine.

Amazon on Fire!

Wow, 3 (4 if you want to be technical) new Kindles in one day! The star of the show was no doubt the Kindle fire but all the models are noteworthy (to put it lightly). To keep things simple, I’m just going to give impressions and post the tech-specs down below. Let’s start from the bottom ($) and work our way up.

 

Kindle:

   

The $79.99 kindle was a marvelous play on amazon’s part. To get to this price point, amazon cut out the mic, speaker, GPS and touch and threw in some sponsored ads but this really shouldn’t be a problem for 80-90% of e-reader users. This price point also obliterates the second-tier e-reader market.

 

Kindle Touch/ Kindle Touch 3G      

Stepping up from there we’ve got the kindle touch starting at $100 ($150 with 3G).  Besides the keyboard , there really isn’t an advantage to the touch screen but if you upgrade to the 3G version you really get your money’s worth. I know this seems a bit backwards (How could throwing in $50 raise its value?) but you have to take into account the fact that you’re getting free data service for the life of the device: That’s access to any book from Amazon’s store as well as rudimentary internet browsing from basically anywhere you may find yourself… for 50 dollars more. You can’t beat that.

Kindle Fire                                                                                                            

Now let’s get to the belle of the ball, the Kindle Fire. The first thing that comes to mind when looking at this device (unfortunately) is the Blackberry Playbook. And the similarities aren’t just cosmetic, the tech specs also give you a major case of Déjà vu. But don’t get me wrong; this isn’t going to be the flop that the Playbook was. The Fire has three killer features that the Playbook desperately needed: Amazon’s massive Ecosystem, Android, and Price.

  • Ecosystem:
  • Amazon has the most extensive ecosystem by far. They have more movies on demand (and better prices) than Apple, they practically own the e-books business, they can give Apple a run for its money in music sales and to top it all off they have the Amazon Appstore (not touching Apple, but more than sufficient).  All of this means that you’ll never feel like you’re missing out on anything.
  • Android:
  • Let’s not forget that at its core this is an Android 2.3 Gingerbread tablet (not honeycomb interestingly). What that means for users is that you get access to Android’s app catalogue (the second most extensive app catalogue for tablets) while still maintaining a custom UI feel. Amazon has done a splendid job skinning the tablet to make it unique and stylish while keeping it functional thanks to Amazon’s vast media ecosystem.  The Playbook on the other hand ran on QNX (Blackberry’s last hope of renewal), which didn’t have any notable apps, let alone the support that android has had. The game has changed from the days when Blackberry was king. Nowadays the app selection is practically as important as the hardware it’s running on and the Playbook isn’t getting any love from developers (and never did).


  • Price:
  • $200. Let me repeat that, $200!! That’s what you could expect to pay for a no name, half-baked, bargain bin tablet… and you’re getting a full-fledged android tablet. You’re paying $150+ less than you would for the entry-level playbook and you’re getting so much more. Just to add icing to this already delicious cake, Amazon Prime subscribers ($90 a year but totally worth it) get free access to their entire video on demand collection on top of free second day shipping. It’s not exactly hard to choose the winner here.

But Blackberry isn’t the only competition that should be sweating right now. Barnes and Noble can kiss its Nook Color “readers tablet” (a nice way to phrase “cheaply made and with terrible specs”) good-bye. The Fire is $50 cheaper, has more than double the horsepower, has much better build quality and absolutely obliterates the Color when it comes to media selection (apps, music, movies, e-books, etc.).  Samsung’s 7-inch Galaxy tab is also going to find itself swimming with the fishes along with the HTC Flyer (talk about overpriced) and all other tablets sharing 7-inch form factor. The reason Amazon can afford such a low price is because it isn’t a tablet seller but an online store. Whenever you buy off the Amazon Android Appstore (mouthful!), kindle store, or directly from the Amazon store, they reap more and more profit.  The actual device probably won’t earn them more than $10 if they are profiting at all.

Summary:

To summarize it all, Amazon may have just dealt a fatal blow to practically all e-book device makers and any tablet makers selling in the 7-inch form factor. There isn’t another company out there (besides Google perhaps) that can afford to do what amazon is doing while remaining afloat. All that being said though, I still can’t 100% recommend the Kindle Fire. There’s nothing wrong with it, It’s actually something the Vice President of Amazon Kindle said. According to the man with the long title, there’s a 10-inch version of the same tablet (hopefully with better specs) coming out soon-ish (probably Q1 or Q2 this upcoming fiscal year). For me, the extra screen real estate (along with a more storage, a Micro SD card slot and better specs) is easily worth another Benjamin or more so I would wait for that to come out. Because of the size and the fact that I haven’t used it personally, I can’t say that this is an iPad killer (at this point it isn’t even competing with the iPad) but it’s definitely has second-place wrapped up.

 

 

 

If you have any questions or want to share your personal opinion, feel free to comment below!