News Update :







Motorola Confident in Patent Strength, Could Be Google's Biggest Ally

Friday, August 5, 2011

Google and its manufacturing partners have been taking heat in the courts lately, facing patent litigation from the likes of Apple, Oracle, and Microsoft. While HTC and Samsung remain embattled, one company isn't scared of potential lawsuits. It's quite the opposite, actually, for Motorola. CEO Sanjay Jha did a bit of chest puffing at the mobile manufacturer's recent Q2 earnings call, pointing to Moto's deep patent portfolio focused on mobile handsets, 2G/3G technologies, and emerging 4G LTE innovations. Jha went so far as to suggest the patents could be used to “enhance shareholder value.”

Jha could be suggesting the company plans to due a bit of legal wrangling of their own, demanding licensing fees from others taking advantage of Motorola's proprietary technologies. Perhaps he could be inferring the sale of some of Motorola's patents to Google, a digital conglomerate not averse to buying a little protection (you may recall the recent acquisition of 1,000 patents from IBM). It could also be that Moto plans to sit on the patents, confident that their revenues will not be impacted by potential lawsuits. No matter how it plays out, Motorola is an important ally to Google and the Android OS in the fight over intellectual property. The manufacturer that brought Android from the depths and launched it to mainstream success could be a savior once again.
source: Android Phone

Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc and Xperia Play receive update

It looks like Sony Ericsson is doing a good job of keeping its Android phones updated - it has just announced the release of a new update for the Xperia Arc and Xperia Play. The update doesn't bring the phones past Android 2.3.3, but it does include some new features to improve the entertainment experiences on the phone.

Some of the new features of the update include: xLoud - a boost for your music when it's played through the phone's speakers, Stereo recording - the ability to shoot video with high-quality stereo sound, Digital home - the feature to let you stream content from your phone onto DLNA devices, and some new themes and a landscape mode for your home screen.

The update is for Xperia Arc and Xperia Play phones, and it's not available to everyone yet but it should be rolled out to everybody within the next few weeks (though there will be certain markets excluded from getting this update). Check for updates by going to Menu > Settings > About Phone > System Updates or connect the phone to your computer and run the PC Companion software.
source: Ubergizmo

White Samsung Galaxy S II headed to Vodafone UK

Officially announced for the UK market just a few days ago, the white Samsung Galaxy S II has been confirmed now by Vodafone, which may become the first British carrier to offer the handset (sometime ahead of “early September”).

SoMobile has it that Vodafone will sell the white S II for the same price it's offering the black version. Thus, customers will be able to get it for free on plans starting at £36 per month.

Just like the darker edition of the new Galaxy, the white one features Android 2.3 Gingerbread, a 4.3 inch WVGA Super AMOLED Plus display, 1GB of RAM, dual-core 1.2GHz processor, 8MP rear camera with 1080p video recording, and 2MP front-facing camera.
source: Unwired View

LG A258 Budget-Friendly Clamshell Phone

LG is about to release another budget-friendly clamshell phone for the Russian market. Called the A258, the handset will feature a 2.2-inch color display, a 2.0-megapixel camera, a 1GB of internal memory, a microSD card slot (up to 8GB), a media player, an FM tuner, social networking integration, Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR, a USB port and a 900mAh battery. The LG A258 will retail for 2,800 Rubles (about $100). [LG]
source: TechFresh

Malicious Code Hidden in SmartPhone Apps

Lookout, a mobile security company, has issued a report that illustrates the rise of applications infected by malware (programs built with a malicious intent) on mobile platforms. I was particularly interested by how “pirates” can sneak malicious code in apps that were originally legitimate.

The graph above shows that a malicious that instead of creating a bogus application from scratch, pirates have adapted to using popular and legitimate applications has “hosts” for their malicious code. They start by adding code to an already existing app, then submit this application to a 3rd party app store where the original app may not already reside (each app has a unique ID for each store). To lure unsuspecting users to download the app, the pirates use advertising, phishing or spam sites – whichever works better.Users may be using an infected app, and never realize it. This is dangerously smart and is a much more efficient way to spread malware, and that's why it is so dangerous. Of course, you can reduce the odds of being a victim by sticking to the official store, but it's not that hard to be fooled or too trusting.

This is definitely not the only way to get into a user's phone, but the distribution potential is much greater than when the pirates create a seemingly legitimate app from the ground up. Once in place, the malicious code can send SMS and charge a wireless carrier for small amounts – name it, and the pirates have thought of it.

Although the odds of being attacked are relatively low, they are rising, and you can protect yourself by being more aware when dealing with 3rd party stores that you don't trust.

Lookout's report is of course far from being selfless: it is a way to educate consumers about the dangers lurking around, but also to tell them that there is a way to protect oneself… by using their product.

Although we can disagree on the magnitude of the problem, and the level of real danger, it is good to be aware that such threats exists.
source: Ubergizmo

Verizon To Release Samsung Stratosphere

It seems that Verizon will launch the Samsung Stratosphere very soon. The network carrier has made a support page for the upcoming smartphone and then quickly removed it. There is a possibility that the Samsung Stratosphere is another name for the rumored Samsung Galaxy S II 4G LTE phone. Unfortunately, there is no official confirmation from Samsung at this time. Stay tuned for more updates. [Android Community]
source: TechFresh

New Android trojan records phone conversations

Although there's a new trojan that saves phone conversations to SD cards, why on earth would any hacker want to listen through all those files? Sheer boredom?

There's a new Android trojan in town, and it's secret weapon is the ability to record your phone conversations. At least, that's what CA Technologies' Dinesh Venkatesan claims in his latest blog.

According to the report, the malware drops a “configuration” file — one that contains key information about the remote server and the parameters — once it's installed on the victim's device. It then records and stores phone conversations in AMR format on the consumer's SD card. Based on the configuration file, it's assumed that the trojan also has the ability to upload these conversations to a remote server maintained by the trojan's author.

The news is a step up from last week's report of a trojan that logged details of incoming and outgoing phone calls, and their duration. Venkatesan didn't say how he came across the new malicious package, but explains that he tested the eavesdropping malware in “a controlled environment with two mobile emulators running along with simulated Internet services.” One screenshot confirms that the malware must ask permission before installing itself on the device, emulating a legitimate app.

“Making a phone call from the victim device to trigger the payload,” reads one screenshot caption. “As the conversation goes on, the Trojan stores the recorded call in a directory shangzhou/callrecord in the SD Card.” The file was saved as “20110731012842001.amr” and could be played back in VLC Media Player. The actual size of the audio file wasn't given.

“As it is already widely acknowledged that this year is the year of mobile malware, we advise the smartphone users to be more logical and exercise the basic security principles while surfing and installing any applications,” he said.

Of course, that's easier said than done when consumers place their trust in Google and assumes that the search engine giant is on the ball by filtering out any disguised malware lurking on the Android Market. And while Android has the upper hand over Apple's iOS in terms of development freedom, installing apps from outside the Android Market / Amazon Appstore circle is certainly risky business.

So why would anyone want to record a stranger's conversation? Simple. Account passwords, social security numbers - any number of personal information that's typically exchanged verbally with bill collectors over the phone. But wading through all the other garbage - simple talk, dirty talk, business talk etc - is another story. That would take a load of patience.

WIMM Labs introduce wearable Android-based module

Despite all the conveniences that our gadgets bring to our lives nowadays, the fact remains that whenever we receive a text message or email or want to check our stocks or Facebook, we still need to reach into our pockets or handbags to get our phones. While tablets can achieve that on a bigger screen, it's just not as portable. While wearable devices like the iPod Nano aren't exactly new, WIMM Labs is hoping to change that with their wearable platform which is a 1" by 1" Module.

Previously when it came to wearable gadgets, they seem to be limited to watches or armbands but WIMM Labs plans to introduce the Module in a variety of consumer products such as keychains, necklaces or even detachable displays that can be attached to your bicycle. Through the use of what they're calling "micro apps", the Module will be able to perform tasks such as a heart rate monitor or be a notification center that displays alerts whenever you receive an email or text message. It could even double as a mobile payment device as well.

It will be Android-based and will feature a 1.4-inch capacitive touchscreen, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, magnetometer, accelerometer and it supposedly will be waterproof too. Unfortunately the device is not being marketed directly to consumers, but instead WIMM Labs has partnerships with manufacturers who may be putting out WIMM-powered devices by the end of the year.
source: Ubergizmo

Motorola Droid Bionic will run Android 2.3.4 Gingerbread – confirmed (apparently)

Motorola has briefly showcased the features of the upcoming Droid Bionic smartphone on its official website, pretty much confirming that the new device will be launched with Android 2.3.4 Gingerbread on board.

The specs have been posted here, where the Bionic was compared to the Moto Droid 3 (already available at Verizon) and the Moto Photon 4G (launched by Sprint). While the Bionic has now disappeared from the website, Droid-life has managed to take a print screen of the specs.

The Droid Bionic will have a 4.3 inch qHD (960 x 540) display, LTE connectivity, dual-core 1GHz TI OMAP processor, 1GB of RAM, 8MP rear camera with 1080p video recording, and a VGA front-facing camera.
source: Unwired View

Huawei Vision smartphone: Android 2.3, 1GHz CPU, unibody construction

Huawei has just taken the wraps off of its newest handset in Beijing, and the curtly-titled Vision offers quite the stat sheet. Will this be the next featured Android smartphone? While it still falls short of Samsung's Galaxy S II and HTC's EVO 3D in terms of raw horsepower, it's still more than capable of holding its own.

Within the unibody frame, you'll find a 3.7-inch capacitive touchpanel, a five megapixel autofocus camera (with LED flash and 720p video recording), 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon MSM 8255 processor and a 1,400mAh battery.

Moreover, there's 802.11b/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth 2.1, 512MB of RAM, 2GB of ROM, a microSD slot capable of holding 32GB, and a micro-USB 2.0 socket to boot. Per usual, A-GPS, an FM radio tuner, proximity sensor and light sensor are thrown in, and for those with varying moods, you'll likely appreciate the availability of silver, gold and charcoal back covers.

The chassis measures 9.9 millimeters at its thinnest point while weighing 121 grams, which Huawei curiously points out is “less than a bottle of perfume or aftershave.” We're told that it's loaded with a “3D interface,” but given that we're not hearing anything about a “3D display,” it's probably little more than spruced-up 2D.

The phone is expected to hit 'selected' market in September, and considering that this is from Huawei, it should be 'affordable'.

HTC Thunderbolt to get Android Gingerbread this quarter

Verizon's HTC Thunderbolt was supposed to receive an upgrade to Android Gingerbread on June 30. However, as you probably already know, the upgrade still hasn't arrived.

Now an HTC rep has reportedly stated that Gingerbread is scheduled to hit the Thunderbolt “in Q3″ – meaning this quarter, thus sometime before the end of September. The upgrade should also bring a new version of Sense UI, improved aGPS functionality, Skype video, Amazon Appstore, and other enhancements.
source: Unwired View

Mobile Cloud Music Showdown - Subscription Services, 4th Place: Zune Pass

Ed. - This article is part of our roundup featuring all of the mobile cloud music services currently available in the US. Click here for more.

Perhaps responding to the plethora of streaming services crowding the marketplace, Microsoft recently added streaming to their Zune Pass service, an all-you-can-eat option for their Zune Marketplace. While its user interface regularly garners critical praise, neither the Zune or Windows Phone 7 has made much of a dent in their respective markets. Will Zune Pass fare any better?

Mobile Platform

Windows Phone 7

Library Size

The Zune Marketplace–where Zune Pass users find, stream and download their music–hosts 14 million 320kbps DRM-free tracks. But the kid-in-a-candy-store emotions normally associated with an unlimited service like Zune Pass are tempered somewhat by the Zune Marketplace's constant state of flux. Not all of its 14 million tracks are available at all times, so it is not uncommon to find an album you'd love to hear but is currently available. The novelty of all-you-can-eat also dulls a bit when the subscription ends, but the classic records you want to keep forever can be purchased (and really, if you love it enough to play it over and over, don't you think the artist has earned your cash?). For the frugal users, Microsoft added a feature called “Keep 10,” which gives Zune Pass subscribers credit to download 10 of the tracks in their library permanently. The songs are theirs to keep, even after their subscription expires.

The Shuffle Test

Ed.- we took 10 songs shuffled from our iTunes library and checked how many each service had.

9x10 – Roxy Music - 2HB (Y), Big Star - Life Is White (Y), Sufjan Stevens - Jacksonville (N*), The National - Slow Show (Y), Daft Punk - Da Funk (Y), Rolling Stones - Gimme Shelter (Y), Big Punisher - Dream Shatterer (Y), John Legend - It Don't Have to Change (Y), Desaparecidos - The Happiest Place on Earth (Y), The Notorious B.I.G. - Ready to Die (Y)

*Zune Pass' library of available tracks rotates regularly; this track was in the Marketplace but not currently available.

Software (Stability)

While we found the Zune software to be mostly stable and reliable, we did have a a few issues. Occasionally the player would have problems showing the proper album art for the currently playing track; instead it showed the artwork for the next song in the playlist. It was unfortunate for the Zune player (and our ears) that songs downloaded from the store didn't blend well during playback. There was an audible break between tracks as we listened to Bon Iver's self-titled record; it fell well short of gapless playback. We did try our best to choke the app's resources by building a massive pending downloads queue, but it handled it with ease.

Software (User Interface)

The Zune Pass service has the significant advantage of being built into a beautiful and intuitive media player. The Zune marketplace is an extension of the Windows Phone 7 UI and is seamlessly woven into the player (where's the iTunes store integration in iOS's music app, Apple?). The player is aesthetically pleasing; every transition and animation is smooth and visually impressive. If you don't know what you want, you swipe right to left for featured releases, top albums, artists and tracks. If you're hunting for a particular release, you swipe left to right to browse by genre, or click the search button to scour the entire marketplace.

It was a bit off-putting getting used to the Windows Phone's UI elements, which rely heavily on long button presses, bringing up contextual menus for more detailed options. But once we did, it was simple and intuitive. No other mobile application we tested was cleaner, prettier or more fun to use.

Playback We found the player's streaming speed to be quite average, taking about 5-6 seconds over a 3G connection, and a second or two faster with a strong Wi-Fi signal.

Recommendations (Finding New Music)

Options for finding new music were limited to the obvious and mainstream, highlighting high-profile releases like Pitbull and Beyonce. The Zune marketplace features one release on the home page each week, and a few more on the next page. Further right-to-left swipes reveal the Zune Marketplace's top artists, albums and songs. There were no social media options, no featured playlists or any other suggestions for new music. We found the omissions to be quite disappointing. There is in fact a “Smart DJ” feature that builds playlists based on the song and artist selected, but like many other attempts to compete with Pandora's genome-based radio, it falls well short.

Offline Playback

The Zune Marketplace lets you download select songs to your Zune/Windows Phone 7. Most (but not all) songs can be marked for download and played through the Zune Player. Syncing can be done with the Windows Phone 7 Connector on a Mac or the Zune software on a PC. Amazingly enough, the Mac application is offered through the Mac App Store (it's the only Microsoft application in the store) and syncs music via iTunes.

We had no problems downloading multiple tracks and albums from the Zune Marketplace. Downloads were passable over 3G and extremely fast over Wi-Fi. We were impressed that unlike other services, we could easily load up the download queue with a hundred or more tracks and the software didn't miss a beat or lag even one bit.

Price Free 30-second previews in the Zune Marketplace with no Zune Pass. $15/mo for unlimited access on Xbox Live, PCs, Zunes and Windows Phone 7 (with 10 free “Keep 10″ tracks per month).

The Verdict

It's ironic that Microsoft–maker of the ubiquitous but oft-plagued Windows operating systems–would develop a piece of software as beautiful and intuitive as the Zune Player but struggle getting users to adopt it. The Zune Pass service, much like its player, is a well-designed music catalog and streaming service, and is seamlessly integrated into Windows Phone 7′s interface. Using the software is a dream, an experience not easily quantified in print.

But for the strides it makes in design elements and user experience, the Zune Pass and Marketplace falls short of most of its competitors in features, specifically those to help users find new music. There is no social integration (puzzling considering how social media is woven into most parts of WP7) and no user-submitted or artist/editor-curated playlists. The service was also a bit expensive, but we did love that they let you choose 10 songs per month to save permanently in your collection.

Zune Pass could have easily been at #5, below Napster, but we placed it where we did because we constantly found ourself choosing to use it over other services, simply because the user experience was so enjoyable.
source: Unwired View

Motorola Announces Budget-Friendly XT531 Smartphone for Asia, Latin America, and Europe

Today Motorola announced the XT351, a budget-minded smartphone that merges the latest version of Android with a set of specs not often found on a phone of its caliber. Featuring a 3.5-inch display, 800MHz processor, and dual front and rear cameras, the Android 2.3 handset will also be available in a dual-SIM flavor. Motorola touts “best-in-class” battery life with a 1540mAh battery capable of 8 hours of talk time or 28 days of 3G standby.

The Motorola XT531 will launch in China this month followed by Hong Kong, Taiwan, Europe (as the Motorola FIRE XT), and Latin America (as the Motorola SPICE XT) this fall. The dual-SIM model will also be available in Asia this fall.
source: Android Phone

Has Your T-Mobile Android Been Experiencing Poor Battery Life Recently? You May Not Be Alone

If you have an Android device on T-Mobile and your battery life is suddenly not what it once used to be, there may be a bigger issue at hand. A recent posting on the T-Mobile support forums is addressing the issue, which apparently arose around July 28th and seems to mostly be affecting HTC handsets, particularly the G2. While the support team says it is working to resolve the issue, they are seeking user input to better diagnose the issue. We're scratching our heads as to what exactly could be causing widespread battery issues, but questions concerning 3G/2G data modes suggest that it may have something to do with changes to T-Mobile's actual network. We'll keep our ear to this thread as more develops. In the mean time, any readers experiencing poorer than usual battery performance?
source: Android Phone

HTC Thunderbolt 4G Gingerbread update to arrive this quarter?

Verizon's first 4G LTE phone, the HTC Thunderbolt is a pretty good phone, but it has one glaring problem: the phone still runs on Android 2.2 Froyo. People who aren't keen on rooting their phone to install a custom ROM have been waiting for the update since the phone was released (its release was delayed for a long time as well) and Verizon still hasn't given a confirmation for the update's release.

The Android 2.3 Gingerbread update was supposed to arrive in Q2 this year but obviously it didn't happen, and now we're midway through Q3 with still no sign of it. However, a recently sent message from Verizon to a subscriber sheds some light on the update's imminent arrival. Here's what the message said:

“We will certainly pass along your concerns to the developers at HTC. We are working hard to address the issues you have mentioned with future updates for the device. We are excited to announce that the HTC Thunderbolt will receive the Gingerbread (Android 2.3) update in Q3 2011. Stay tuned for details as we get closer to the update availability..”

This means we now have a Q3 date to look forward too. Hopefully the wait for the update won't follow in the footsteps of the phone's delayed release.
source: Ubergizmo

Verizon's new Motorola Droid Bionic and LG Enlighten show up in photos

We can't say we haven't seen Verizon's redesigned Motorola Droid Bionic until now. The handset has appeared in photos and renders a few times, but it's always good to see more of it. Three fresh images have been spotted over at Droid-life, showing the Bionic next to the Samsung Droid Charge (which is already available at Verizon).

The Droid Bionic seems to be a bit bigger than Samsung's device. This may mean it has a 4.5 inch screen, not a 4.3 inch one (but we can't be sure about that until Motorola says so). All will be clear in early September, when the new Bionic – codenamed Motorola Targa, as you can see in one of the photos below – is finally going to hit the shelves.

Before the Droid Bionic is launched, Verizon may introduce a new Android smartphone from LG, namely the LG Enlighten – which is nothing more than a QWERTY-equipped LG Optimus Net rebranded for Verizon.
source: Unwired View

Motorola Droid Bionic To Be Released In September

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Motorola's CEO Sanjay Jha has recently confirmed that the Droid Bionic will be launched in September 2011. In case you didn't know, the Droid Bionic has a 1Ghz TI OMAP 4430 processor, a 4.3-inch (960 x 540) qHD display, an 8-megapixel camera with a LED flash, and LTE support. The Motorola Droid Bionic is priced at $299 with a new 2-year contract. [Gadgetsteria]
source: TechFresh

HTC Droid Incredible 2 silver edition coming soon to Verizon?

Available at Verizon Wireless since late April, the HTC Droid Incredible 2 may get a color refresh soon. The new color should be silver, and you can see what the Incredible 2 looks like in it if you check out the images below.

Since the black Incredible 2 has received an official Android 2.3 Gingerbread upgrade earlier this month, the silver one will most likely come with this version of the OS as well. Unfortunately, there's no word on when Verizon will launch the handset in the new color.

The silver Droid Incredible 2 should have the same price as the black edition, namely $199.99 on contract. Although, well, Verizon may want to cut the prices of both handsets, since new devices are going to be released soon – including the Motorola Droid Bionic (and possibly the iPhone 5, too, sometime in September).
source: Unwired View

Samsung Galaxy S II White knight edition arrives, gives you more reason to ditch that white iPhone

Not much is known about this leaked picture, other than it being a white colored Samsung Galaxy S II. Well, we do know what the Galaxy S II is, being dual-core and cutting-edge, and this being white. Will this be the white knight killer from Samsung to cut the throat of that white iPhone 4? Or the next iPhone?

AT&T's LG Thrill 4G delayed until August 21?

Earlier this week, AT&T announced that the new LG Thrill 4G (its own version of the Optimus 3D) would cost $99.99 on contract, also saying that the handset should be released pretty soon. Rumor has it that the Thrill is expected to hit the shelves on August 7. However, the smartphone may have been delayed.

The Radio Shack memo seen below suggests that AT&T pushed back the launch date to August 21. Not a huge delay, of course, but still a delay.

Regardless if it launches on August 7 or two weeks later, the LG Thrill will become AT&T's fifth 4G smartphone. It features Android 2.2 (upgradeable to 2.3), a 4.3 inch WVGA 3D display, Wi-Fi hotspot capability, GPS, dual 5MP cameras with 3D video recording, dual-core 1GHz processor, and 8GB of internal memory.
source: Unwired View

World's First Windows Mango Smartphone Unveiled in Japan

After days of speculation, Toshiba-Fujitsu has formally introduced the IS12T, the world's first smartphone that runs on Windows Phone 7.5 (also known as Windows Phone Mango). With the unveiling comes the full list of specs, which includes the 1GHz Qualcomm CPU, a 3.7-inch display with 800 x 480 resolution, 13.2-megapixel CMOS camera with Milbeaut Mobile engine and 1,280 x 720 video resolution, 32GB internal memory, DLNA support, Bluetooth 2.1 +EDR, microUSB port, and IEEE 802.11 b/g/n untethered WiFi, all cased in a waterproof and shockproof body

It is interesting to note that this smartphone comes with Zune-branded multimedia function, Xbox LIVE connectivity, Windows Live SkyDrive access, and Internet Explorer 9 as default browser, but no extra card slot for you. Battery life lasts 280 standby hours and 400 minutes of talk time.

The Toshiba-Fujitsu IS12T will come in three color options: Yellow, black, and pink. No word yet on release date and pricing.

LG Optimus Net P699 (Gelato) for T-Mobile shows up, could be launched by AT&T, too

Officially announced a few weeks ago, the LG Optimus Net P690 will most likely have several North American versions. LG has already stated that there would be a QWERTY-equipped Optimus Net for North America, although without saying for which carrier.

Now an Optimus Net (P699) with T-Mobile's logo on it has appeared over at the Bluetooth SIG. This looks pretty much like the Optimus Net P690 that's bound to be launched in Europe, so it's not a QWERTY device. It's probably that LG OptimusII Gelato which appeared in a leaked T-Mobile roadmap several months ago.

Despite the fact that he P699 clearly has T-Mobile's logo above the display, its Bluetooth SIG description reads “this model will be available on North America AT&T Market around August 2011.” We don't know if that's just a typo, or the handset will make it to AT&T as well. But we'll probably find out soon.

Feature-wise, the LG P699 should bring Android 2.3 Gingerbread, a 3.2 inch HVGA display, HSDPA, Wi-Fi hotspot capability, GPS, Bluetooth 3.0, 3.2MP camera, and an 800MHz processor.
source: Unwired View

IDC: Nokia, LG see significant Q2 shipping decline, Apple continues to grow

Well, the numbers are in and Q2′s proved to be a mixed bag for the mobile market. According to IDC, cellphone makers shipped a total of 365.4 million units last quarter, a year-over-year increase of 11.3 percent. Nokia, while still the world's largest handset maker, suffered a significant blow, with shipments dropping from 111.1 million in Q2 2010 to 88.5 million; the company's market share was similarly down, hitting 24.2 percent, compared to last year's 33.8 percent. LG Electronics was the only other manufacturer to see a loss, with shipments dropping to 24.8 million from 30.6 million in 2010. Apple managed to maintain its recently acquired number four spot, with iPhone shipments hitting 20.3 million, up year-over-year from 8.4 million. RIM was conspicuously missing from the top five lineup, while ZTE landed the number five position. In news that shouldn't surprise anyone with a pulse, the feature phone market saw a decline this year, surprisingly its first since Q3 2009.

Mobile Cloud Music Showdown - Subscription Services, 5th Place: Rhapsody

Mobile Cloud Music Showdown - Subscription Services, 5th Place: Rhapsody
Mobile Cloud Music Showdown - Subscription Services, 5th Place: Rhapsody
Ed. - This article is part of our roundup featuring all of the mobile cloud music services currently available in the US. Click here for more.

Founded in 2001, Rhapsody was purchased by RealNetworks shortly after signing deals with the major US music labels. Recently declaring independence, they've made a recent push to take their service to the mobile space. How do their latest offerings compare with its competitors in the crowded mobile cloud music space?

Mobile Platforms

iOS, Android, BlackBerry

Library Size

More than 10 million songs; music store sells 256kbps DRM-free tracks. Rhapsody's library size and scope is impressive, covering most corners of pop music spectrum. It demolished our shuffle test with a perfect 10x10 score. Its track licenses are still negotiated through the major labels, so it can't compete with the user-submitted glory of Grooveshark's collection (and at the moment, neither can anyone else). But it is much better organized, and the metadata is clean and accurate.

The Shuffle Test

Ed.- we took 10 songs shuffled from our iTunes library and checked how many each service had.

10x10 - Roxy Music - 2HB (Y), Big Star - Life Is White (Y), Sufjan Stevens - Jacksonville (Y), The National - Slow Show (Y), Daft Punk - Da Funk (Y), Rolling Stones - Gimme Shelter (Y), Big Punisher - Dream Shatterer (Y), John Legend - It Don't Have to Change (Y), Desaparecidos - The Happiest Place on Earth (Y), The Notorious B.I.G. - Ready to Die (Y)

Software (Stability)

After installing the most recent version, we found the software to be pretty reliable, and it didn't crash on us. The interface is not the most intuitive, but it's designed for a particular type of music listening (on the go playlist building), and it does it well.

Software (User Interface)

Not unlike Grooveshark, Rhapsody's user interface is designed for a particular type of music consumption. It caters not towards people who prefer to consume music in the album format, but rather towards those who like to shuffle all their music and create spontaneous playlists. It was extremely easy to search through their library and quickly build up a playlist from the mobile app.

Songs in saved playlists can be downloaded, as can select individual tracks. We're not sure what criteria are used to select the tracks that can be downloaded, but we curiously seemed to have more luck finding tracks to download on the iPhone app than on Android.

We liked how Rhapsody clearly labeled albums with explicit lyrics, as well as their censored versions. There are few things worse than queuing up your favorite track only to be greeted by its bleeped and brutalized Walmart counterpart. On the iPhone version of the app, we found it troubling that unlike other audio applications, it doesn't kill sound from other apps when it plays a track. Instead, you'll hear both simultaneously.

One of the things we liked about locker service mSpot was that despite the one-device limitation of one of their plans, authorizations could be swapped easily, from whatever unauthorized device you were attempting to sign into. Rhapsody, however, annoyingly forces you sign into your account from the Web to do so. They also kindly remind you that if you want more than one device to be authorized, you need to upgrade to the Premier Plus plan ($14.99).

Playback We were impressed by the mobile app's streaming speed; tracks usually played within 2-3 seconds of being queued up. The consistency of the stream left a little to be desired, occasionally skipping during playback, even on a strong wi-fi connection. But such instances were not persistent, and the experience was mostly pleasurable.

Recommendations (Finding New Music)

Rhapsody gets major points for their music recommendations. While often ignored by music services, it can be a key feature. Most users aren't religiously scanning music blogs and stacks of vinyl at record shops; many times they just want a little guidance.

The music guide shows albums released that week, albums recently released in previous weeks as well as the always-appreciated staff picks. For those interested in the pulse of Rhapsody's user base, charts show the top 200 artists, tracks and albums on the service.

The Rhapsody playlists are a bit of a mixed bag. Most are boring and generic, like "60's music" and "Bob Dylan" or "Alternative Hits." The interesting options are the curated "celebrity playlists," which were suspiciously missing from the iPhone app. The Android app serves up playlists from the likes of Bob Mould, Al Jarreau and Charlotte Gainesbourg. Some playlists are more inspired than others (AFI's Davey Havok seems to be more concerned with promoting music done by him and his friends), and they're all limited by Rhapsody's library (though a perfect 10x10 on our shuffle test indicates blanket coverage of the mainstream). The “Label Spotlight” section even highlights some independent labels and modest imprints like Barsuk, Arts & Crafts, DFA, Blue Note and Matador.

Offline playback

Rhapsody offers offline playback on mobile devices with their Premier plans. It worked as advertised, but we were puzzled to find some songs were only 30-second previews and weren't clearly labeled. When they're downloaded, you still only get the 30 second preview. We did find the organization of offline tracks to be a bit awkward, as it doesn't group by artist or album, simply dumping all downloaded tracks into one depository.

Price Free (30-second previews), Premier (full access to library, mobile access, $9.99/mo) and Premier Plus (up to 3 mobile devices, $14.99) plans available.

Verdict As one of the oldest streaming music services still in existence, Rhapsody has certainly had plenty of time to perfect their product. We found the scope of their library to be broad and far-reaching, covering almost all corners of the pop spectrum. And the recommendations from some of our favorite artists (we love knowing what's on Charlotte Gainsbourg's iPod) is a major selling point.

But their licensing deals with the major labels were forged years ago, and the landscape of streaming music has shifted significantly since their debut. We feel the pricing on the Premier Plans is a bit pricey, mainly due to the clunkiness of the mobile apps. If we're spending that kind of money per month, we'd like to see better organizational options for our collections on our mobile device. We should be able to replace our iPod with the app, but unfortunately it's more of an on-the-go playlist-building novelty than anything else.

The mobile apps are new, however, so we hope to see some organizational improvements in Rhapsody's future, taking it from a good service to a great service.
source: Unwired View

Alps Electric introduces “world's smallest” aspherical glass lens

Our smartphones these days can do just about everything including HD movie playback, but wouldn't it be awesome if we could share those HD movies with friends and family members without everyone crowding around you trying to catch a glimpse on your tiny 4.3″ display? Well it seems that Alps Electric is trying to come up with a solution that could potentially allow you to project movies and photos directly from your phone.
source: Ubergizmo

Motorola Photon 4G Review

The Sprint Motorola Photon 4G just came out, and Motorola presents it as being a “superphone”. Powered by an NVIDIA Tegra 2 dual-core system on a chip, it's easy to understand why Motorola sees it that way. Despite having recent competition from Qualcomm, the chip still dominates many synthetic benchmarks. However, a smartphone is more than raw performance numbers: few people actually buy a smartphone based on that. Fortunately, the Photon 4G has more than just performance. Motorola gave it Webtop, a desktop-like environment that supports a full desktop Firefox browser. The Photon 4G has also been designed to be an efficient email and multimedia device. That's great on paper, but how is it in the real world?

Technical Highlights

Android 2.3.4 (Gingerbread)

4.3x540×960 qHD display (TFT LCD)

1700mAh battery capacity

NVIDIA Tegra 2 Dual Core, 1GHz

1GB of RAM

16GB of internal storage, microSD slot

8 Megapixel Camera

5.00 x 2.63 x 0.48 inches, 158g (5.55oz)

Context We all use our smartphones differently, that's why I tell you what I do with them: I check my email (Microsoft Exchange), and I reply very moderately because virtual keyboards are slow to type with. I browse the web several times a day to check on news and stocks (mainly on mobile sites), but I rarely watch movies or play music. I don't call much - maybe 10mn a day, if at all. On the "apps" side, I use a couple of social networks, and I rarely play games on the go. In the evenings, I may use my phone as a TV remote from time to time. This usage pattern will affect battery life and the perception of what features are useful.

External Design

The Photon 4G is a nice looking phone that uses a new Motorola design, which looks much more modern than the recently reviewed Droid X2. On the front, you can mainly see the display glass and bezel, along with the Photon 4G metallic frame (no carrier logo, phew). This is a construction model that both Samsung and LG have used successfully. It allows phones to be very rigid, while not using an all-metal casing, which makes it possible to have lightweight devices.

However the Photon 4G is not particularly light, or thin. At 158g, the phone is a little heavy and with a 12.2mm thickness, it is significantly thicker than the thinnest Android phone: The Galaxy S2 (8.49mm). However, there's a crowd out there that likes phones that weighs a bit more, and feels "solid" in the hand. I'm not really part of this group, but I can relate to it. Most of the time, folks who like those heavier phones point out devices like the HTC Sensation (read our HTC Sensation review).

On the sides, you can find the USB and micro HDMI ports (left), the volume and camera shutter buttons (right) and finally, the audio port (3.5mm jack) and the power button (top). Having the micro-USB port at the upper-left makes it a bit better when using the phone while charging as the cable doesn't really get in the way when you are holding the phone. This is good.

The back of the phone is made of a plastic that has a "leathery" feel. The 8 Megapixel camera module is pretty obvious, along with the 2-LED flashlight (that can be used as a light for video recording too). There's an integrated kickstand (like the “old” HTC EVO 4G) that is very convenient for watching media files, or just let the phone charge. Motorola made sure that the phone can stand on either left or right side. Smart.

In this position, you can use the USB and HDMI ports at the top

Display Just like the Motorola Atrix before it The Photon 4G has a qHD display (960×540) – this seems to be more common these days, even if high-end smartphones like the Galaxy S 2 still use a 800×480 display. On the paper, this is a definite advantage, although in the real world, I can see the subpixel pattern, and it decreases the image quality .

Right: this is a magnified photo, but it shows the pattern that I'm seeing

This is visible only when my eyes are closer than 15" from the display – or when I'm looking at something with small details like grass or leaves, so it's usually not a problem unless I'm staring at something. I mention it, because other displays like the Sensation 4G or the iPhone 4 don't exhibit this.

Other than that, the display is very nice. The color rendering seems fairly accurate (unlike most of the OLED/AMOLED displays that I have tested) and looking at beautiful images or video will be very pleasing, especially if you look straight at the screen.

The display... in a difficult lighting environment

In today's market the display is good, but there are better competitors out there. If you don't mind over-saturated colors, OLED are better in contrast and saturation, while IPS displays are better in every way, but they are a rare breed. Recently, the LG Optimus 2X and the iPhone 4 were the only two phones with IPS displays that we had on hand.

Basic functions

Call audio quality: the quality of the sound during calls is very good, although I think that this had more to do with the network quality than the earpiece. The voice signal was stable and the connection seemed very solid during conversations. The sound itself was good, but just a bit muffled. The Nexus S remains the clearest of all phones in my opinion.

Dialing / contacts: dialing a number, or finding a contact is very easy. You can use the virtual numeric pad of course, or head into the contact list and scroll down or type a name. If you have a lot of contacts, creating a list of favorites may help quite a bit. My personal favorite on Android is the "direct dial" shortcut. Basically, you choose a contact and a number, and you create an icon on the home page. Upon pressing it, the call is directly placed. It's the fastest way to call someone, and I use it all the time.

This Motorola phone also has a "Contact quick task" widgets that lets you select up to two actions (call, email, sms…) for any given contact.The idea is quite good, and i like it, but the actual widget takes too much surface on the home screen (4 icons worth). That's because the widget features the photo of your contact. I believe that it could have been twice as small if it had used only the name.

Browsing: the Android web browser does a very good job at rendering pages from "desktop-sized" websites, and of course from mobile sites as well. The dual-core processor should make web browsing a bit faster because this activity can use quite a number of processes that can be split across multiple cores. That said, this remains a mobile phone, so sites like Google Docs and other very interactive services tend to be significantly slower when compared to a computer.

Flash Support: Not surprisingly, Flash is well supported as well (version 10.3 is preloaded). This means that you have access to a world of small business and other websites that have been built with Flash. If you have never used an Android smartphone before, I need to set your expectations properly: when compared to a computer, Flash is still slow in absolute terms. Keep in mind that most Flash content has been designed for much more powerful computers, so although "it runs", the user experience is often not as good as one might expect.

Motorola Software

MotoBlur: The Photon 4G comes with MotoBlur, a Motorola web service that aggregates updates from a number of social networks on Motorola's servers. This allows the Motorola phone to pull updates from all social networks at once, instead of pulling information from each of them separately. This may save battery life, and it also allows the phone to display social network updates in a consolidated way.

I'd love to be able to not have that dark halo. In broad daylight, a dark screen is just not very readable

Lockscreen: Despite running on the same hardware, the Photon 4G lock screen has a faster response than the Droid X2. This means that I don't have this weird moment when I wonder if I had pressed the power button properly or not. That said, Motorola is still using a dark background, which fine indoors, but not very readable in direct sunlight. It would be nice if the user could tweak this.

Webtop: Webtop is Motorola's desktop environment that turns on as soon as you connect the Photon 4G to a TV/monitor via HDMI. Yes, you read that right, this phone can turn into computer complete with a desktop version of Firefox. If you are using a Dock, you can even plug in a regular mouse and keyboard, which is critical to get any kind of serious work done. Google docs, webmail and other productivity sites should just work.

Obviously, this is still a smartphone, and things aren't fast, but keep in mind that the device fits in your pockets. How you enjoy this depends on what you do. I find it OK to do emails and other text-based applications, but I would not leave my laptop home on a business trip. I love the idea, and Motorola has done a good job of pulling this off, but the concept needs more muscle to back it up.

This utility could be handy

Motorola Media Link: Out of the box, Android doesn't really have much when it comes to synchronizing the files between your computer and your smartphone. Media Link is a utility (for Windows) that synchronizes media files and contacts from a computer to the Photon 4G. Music files can be synchronized from iTunes or Windows Media Player, while photos and video are simply synchronized from a directory. Contacts can come from Outlook or Windows Mail. [Media link homepage]

Critical apps

During my discussions with all kinds of users, I have noticed that these are some of the most critical apps that users can't go without, so I would to give you a quick shout about how they run on this phone.

This keyboard is too slow: fast response time is critical for typing performance

Virtual keyboard (below-average): the default virtual keyboard has a simple and readable design. However, it would have been better with a bit more contrast between the background and the keys (the background is basically too light-colored). However, its weak point is the response from a key press and the visual cues that appear on screen (letter, suggested keywords).

This is key because although you probably won't type fast enough to outpace the keyboard, the slow response may get you to focus on the previous action instead of just focusing on the next letter or word.

Keyboards on devices like the LG Optimus 3D, the iPhone 4 are faster, but today, nothing beats Windows Phone 7 in terms of keyboard responsiveness in my opinion (I tried on the Samsung Focus).

Fortunately, there is a second option... Swype!

Swype Virtual Keyboard (very good): Swype is a much better, keyboard option. It has fortunately been pre-loaded on the Photon 4G. If you've never heard about Swype, it looks and can work as a regular virtual keyboard, but its real power is revealed when you slide your finger from one letter to the next to form words. It's very powerful because your finger doesn't leave the surface of the screen, making the whole motion much more accurate than "tapping" on the screen. I generally find myself typing faster with swype, and even when I don't use the sliding motion, the keyboard's response time is noticeably better than the default virtual keyboard.

The weakness of Swype is that it relies a lot on a dictionary to get it right, so when I was trying to type "activesync", it thought that I meant "quebec"… Swype is great for conversations, but eventually, you may have to fall back to "taps" for slang or technical keywords.

Email is top-notch and professionals will like it

Email (excellent): The Photon 4G offers a very good email experience whether it is through the Email app or via GMail. I'm using the former, to connect to a Microsoft Exchange server, and it has been working flawlessly. I particularly like:

The ability to multi-select emails right away, as it's great for quick content curation. Deleting stuff in bulk also cuts down on the number of network connections, thus saving battery life.
The speedy email search. Believe it or not, plenty of Android phones out there don't even have an email search function
The integrated email "voice search", which can be handy
The high-contrast, clear, readable, email display. I consider white background and black text to be the best setup for reading email, especially in broad daylight. Some manufacturers, like Samsung, choose a black background and don't let users switch colors.

The social widgets let you see and interact quickly

Facebook (very good): On the Motorola Photon 4G, there are two ways of using Facebook. First, you can simply download the app, and use it like you would with any other smartphone. It works reasonably well, and gets the job done easily. It may be sometime a bit annoying when you are waiting for the notifications or messages to update, but there's nothing out of the ordinary there.

The second way of using it, is trough the MotoBlur Social Network widget. It pulls fresh content in the background so you won't have to wait for the refresh, and the widget content is big enough to see what's going on, but also big enough to "like" or "reply" directly. I'm usually not a big fan of widgets, but this is actually pretty cool as you won't have to launch yet another app to reply. On top of this, the widget doesn't seem to be slow, or slow down the phone in a noticeable way (unlike the FB app…). Now, I'm not sure what the impact on battery life is, but in theory the MotoBlur centralized approach to notification updates should be better than anything that pulls content from many networks to the phone.

Google Maps for Android is the kind of the hill

Maps: As of late, I found the mapping experience to be much better on Android devices, and that certainly has to do with the fact that Google has been improving its mapping application on its own platform, while leaving other mobile OSes in the cold. It's not a bad tactic to gain an edge, and the net result is that Android users have been getting steady improvements, while others have mostly stagnated.

First, Android users get free turn-by-turn navigation. This is a big deal as this feature can cost quite a bit of money on other platforms. Secondly, new features like "download map area" are introduced on a regular basis. This one is supposed to let you preload an area the size of a city, which sounds really cool. Yet, it doesn't work on the Photon 4G and many other phones. I'll have to try it with the Nexus S… [keep up with the Google Mobile blog]

Skype: Skype is one of the most popular communication application, and yet, it has historically been lagging on Android. Fortunately, the past few revisions have brought long-awaited features like video calls… BUT, this particular handset does not support Skype video at the moment. Audio calls (and text chat) work fine, though. [Android Market link]

Photo and Video Capture

Photography is evolving slowly @ Motorola

First of all, I have uploaded some photo samples to the Ubergizmo Flickr account, so check them out.

The Motorola Photon 4G is equipped with a 8 megapixel camera and dual-LED Flash. While this may sound pretty "bad ass", the Photon is unfortunately not a killer camera phone. In broad daylight, it does fairly well – but so do most smartphones today. However, it lacks the continual focus that the iPhone has had for a while, and phones like the Sensation 4G now feature on Android.

The panorama user interface is simply bad. Check LG's Optmus 2X for this.

Also, the panorama mode, a feature popular with Tegra-based phones, is implemented terribly. I'm not sure what happened because LG had a very good one in the Optimus 2X. This is clearly a camera application issue. Normally, the previous and next photos of a panorama should be surperimposed so that you can align them properly. This is not the case here. It is as if Motorola was only using the accelerometer (motion sensor) data to figure out when to take the next shot as the user moves. In any case, this is highly inaccurate and counter-intuitive. The other phone that does this very well is the upcoming Galaxy S 2 (review coming up), so this is quickly becoming a competitive area.

For casual photos sharing, the Photon 4G's low-light performance is not great

Finally, the Motorola Photon 4G's low-light capture abilities are just not good enough. I've compared it with the 13-months old iPhone 4, and there's no question that the Photon 4G gets blown out of the water. We will never say it enough: higher megapixel count doesn't matter nearly as much as low-light photography, especially when it comes to mobile phones. People share photos over the web, so smaller images are actually better (I consider 1024×768 to be "small"). There's no point in sending a dark and fuzzy 3000×2500 pixels photo to Facebook.

It may sound harsh, but I truly believe that Motorola needs to change the camera app in a big way. People need to see what the final photo will look like before they shoot it, so doing as much real-time focusing and processing as possible is required. It's even more frustrating because the phone has the horsepower to do it.

Entertainment / Play (Very good)

Gaming (excellent): The Motorola Photon 4G comes with one of the most powerful gaming smartphone chips, so gaming is one of the strong points of this device. If you want to check out the latest games that are optimized for this hardware platform, you can download TegraZone, an application from NVIDIA that highlights titles that run better on its chip.

Video Playback: The Photon 4G does an excellent work at decoding 1080p videos, and you can even plug the phone on a large TV to play video files in all their glory. Now, the hardest part is to find (legitimate) video content as Google does not have a video store. You may think "Youtube" or "Netflix", but the former won't stream 1080p content to a smartphone, and the latter does not work at this point. Don't even mention Hulu… So, yes, the Photon 4G is great at video playback — if you can find (compatible) video content. Windows video files won't work out of the box, but you should be able to fin apps on the Android Market that will play those back.

HDMI Output: I just mentioned the TV output, and that's thanks to the micro HDMI port. Keep in mind that as soon as you're connected to a display/TV, you can choose to enter a "media mode" in which the interface is optimized to play media files. It is possible to connect directly with a cable, or using the multimedia dock – the difference being that the dock has two additional full-size USB ports that are handy if you want to plug a mouse+keyboard, and the dock gives you access to Webtop, the desktop environment based on Linux.

Despite being in the back of the phone, the speaker provides an excellent sound (for a smartphone)

Speaker Quality (excellent): I found the speaker quality to be very good. I tried playing a song with clear vocals so that I could judge the quality of the sound and -for a smartphone- this is top notch. It does as well as the best: iPhone 4, Atrix, LG Optimus 2X.

Like all smartphones, the quality of the sound is also related to the location of the speakers. Virtually every setup has pro and cons. For instance, the iPhone and Optimus 2X both have speakers located at the bottom, which give them an advantage compared to practically all phones with rear-speakers. However, when playing games in the landscape position your hand may land just on top of the speakers, which is bad. The Motorola Photon 4G does not have this issue because it is located in the back of the phone, and Motorola has managed to come up with a design that still provides good audio. If you are listening to music, orient the speaker towards you, or lay the phone down on a table, speaker facing up.

Gallery App (very good): The gallery app is great and much better than the default Android gallery. By default, it shows you photo updates on your social networks because they tend to be more dynamic. However, your local photo gallery, online photos, and even home server (DLNA) are just one tap away.

When watching the social network photos, they are big enough so that you can tell what's going and, and adding a comment is usually just a couple of taps away.

The local library shows both photos and movies, and if you have a lot of them, there is a media file search bar. That of course assumes that the files are named in a meaningful way, which is often not the case when coming out of the camera. HTC had introduced location-based file naming as a default scheme. Maybe that would be a good idea. At least you could search for something like "san francisco" or "london".

System Performance (Excellent)

Overall, the Motorola Photon 4G has very good system performance. This is not surprising, given that it is powered by NVIDIA's Tegra 2 processor. In the chart, you will see that many handsets using this chip lead the synthetic benchmarks (Atrix, Optimus 2X, Droid X2 etc…).

When talking about the performance of a consumer electronics device, I always try to separate the "measured" and "perceived" performance. Measured metrics are obtained by running synthetic (not always life-like) benchmarks to stress specific parts of the system.

On the other hand, "perceived" performance is the user observation and perception of performance. Although they should correlate, I would always place perceived performance as being the most important thing. After all, what is performance good for if you can't tell?

BrowserMark, SunSpider: BrowserMark and SunSpider are two tests that measure the speed of Javascript, a key component for interactivity in websites. To be clear, this does not measure "how fast" pages are loading. Instead this look at how fast scripting code can execute. Javascript is used in modern websites for user interface or even complete applications/games.

The Photon 4G does very well, and is very close from the best players out there. If you have been following the smartphone news, you will notice that all the four leaders in those benchmarks are using the Tegra 2 chip..

GUIMark 2 Flash graph test: This test measures the Adobe Flash performance. Flash is a widely used multimedia platform and you can find it virtually everywhere as advertisement, video or other forms of interactive web page module.

To put things in context, there are plenty of phones that don't support Flash at all, so the mere fact that it works is already a good thing. Surprisingly, the Photon 4G does not do as well as other Tegra-powered phones. The reason is still a mystery to me. Even if we take into account the extra screen resolution, I would expect the Photon 4G to match the Droid X2. But yet, there is a 5 frames-per-second (FPS) difference between those two phones over repeated tests.

The CPU Benchmark tries to measure the raw number crunching performance of this smartphone. It's not really an indicator of how good the user experience is, but it shows how much data the device could process. The Motorola Photon 4G does very well here.

NeoCore graphics benchmark has an interesting outcome: the Tegra-2 smartphones lose to the Qualcomm powered Sensation 4G. Some would say that NeoCore was originally developed by Qualcomm to show their graphics performance, but we've been using it for a while, so it's always nice to compare the results with previous reviews. Neocore doesn't use the latest OpenGL 2.0 features - but most Android games don't use them either.

To conclude this section on performance, I would like to remind you that raw performance does not accurately represent the user experience of the phone. It just just a tool to measure how much stress the system can take. If you don't use any apps that stresses the system, having more performance may not make your life any better. That is why it's important to try understanding what you want to do with the smartphone, before getting one, if that's possible at all…

Battery Life (Good)

Overall, the battery life is fairly good, but not the best out there – despite the huge 1700mAh battery. Yet, for my personal usage (see context), I can get about 1.5 days of usage. That said, this will vary considerably depending on your own usage. Little things, like having a poorly optimized social network app or widget, can ruin your battery life.

I've measured the battery life depletion of a few typical power-hungry apps to give you an idea of what they would "cost" in terms of battery life percentage:

Gaming for 30mn: 10%

Browsing for 30mn: 10%

YouTube Movie for 30mn: 10%

I'm very surprised that 30mn of gaming would only take only 10% of battery life, but that's the reading I got, so here it is. I've already seen other phones using 10% for 30mn of browsing and YouTube, so there is not surprise here. Also, I'm not sure that you could perform these activities for 300mn (or 5hrs) as those numbers would suggest (assuming that battery depletion is linear, which it often is). Here are some tips to improve your Android battery life.

Test conditions: display brightness set to 50%, no sound (for my own sanity), WiFi ON, Bluetooth OFF, GPS OFF.

Conclusion (Good++)

Overall, I would say that the Motorola Photon 4G is a “good to very good” phone, depending on what you are looking for. I found the experience to be pleasing, although a couple of things did get to me: the size and the photo quality. The size (or weight) may not be a problem for many people, but I found the Sensation 4G to have comparable (although not equal) capabilities into a smaller body. As for the camera app and photo quality, some users may not use it as much, or care as much. That's really up to you to decide.

But if those points don't matter much to you, the Motorola Photon 4G is really nice to use for emails, web browsing or gaming. It's not perfect, but it is one of the most powerful smartphones on the market today and certainly the fastest Android phone available with Sprint. If you are carrier agnostic, I would recommend looking at the Atrix (AT&T), Droid Incredible 2 (Verizon), Sensation 4G (T-Mobile) and obviously, the iPhone 4, although the next iPhone should come out next month or so…

The Photon 4G is a cool phone, but Motorola needs to kick it up a notch in terms of on industrial design, and imaging capabilities. The competition is brutal out there.

Links Don't miss those reviews: HTC Sensation Review, Droid Incredible 2 Review, iPhone 4 Review, Samsung Epic 4G Review, Samsung Infuse 4G Review.

Motorola Photon 4G (motorola site)
source: Ubergizmo

HTC says the Evo 3D will be available at Vodafone after all

Last week, we told you that Vodafone UK had cancelled the launch of HTC's Evo 3D. Now Focus Taiwan claims that the carrier – one of the largest in the world – actually will release the new smartphone.

Reportedly, HTC stated in an email that its 3D Android handset “will go on sale through Vodafone and distributors in six major European countries.” Unfortunately, it's not quite clear if these six countries include the UK – so maybe Vodafone did cancel the handset's launch, but only on British territory.

In any case, Vodafone UK is already offering the HTC Sensation, which comes with all the features you'll find in the Evo 3D, sans 3D capabilities though (these aren't that useful anyway).
source: Unwired View

Nokia and Microsoft holding an event on August 17

It seems August 17 could be the day we see an official announcement regarding the first Nokia Windows Phone. Microsoft and Nokia are handing out invites to an event being held in Cologne on the said date, which does not go into the specifics of the event (apart from the fact that there will be a live act and a great DJ) although we do have reasons to believe Nokia will be announcing their new handset, particularly one running Windows Phone 7 Mango.

There will also be a raffle at the event, where the winners can get three of the Xbox 360 250GB consoles with Kinect and more importantly (for us, at least), three of the upcoming Nokia Windows Phone handsets as soon as they are available. This makes us even more confident in our assumption that there will in fact be a new Nokia Windows Phone announced that night. They say they will make it an evening to remember. We shall see.
source: GSM Arena

Did Motorola just hint they are ready to join Android IP racket with their own patent fee demands?

Android and it's licensees haven't been doing too well lately in dealing with various intellectual property issues. They are being sued left and right over patents, and courts already started handing them some painful defeats.

I recently calculated that, in one scenario, a typical licensee might end up paying $60 per Android device in patent fees. Some accused me of sensationalism, fear mongering and using the very worst possible outcome. Recent developments show that it might not have been the worst case.

ITC court has issued a preliminary ruling that HTC is infringing on 2 Apple's patents, the ruling that might result in a U.S. import ban for all HTC Android phones. Now Bloomberg reports that Samsung has agreed to Apple's demand to delay the launch of Galaxy Tab 10.1, and stop it's advertising, until it gets Australian court approval to do so. While I think those setbacks are very temporary and there won't be any real import bans until current patent suits are resolved in courts in a few years, they are a worrysome indications for a major Android weakness.

And now, it seems, that we can add another player, with one of the biggest patent portfolios in the industry, that may be getting ready to join the Android IP racket, demanding royalty payments from those who use Google's OS in their devices. I can hardly believe I'm writing this - but this new player is Motorola Mobility. It very clearly signaled it's intentions during the recent quarterly earnings conference call.

Here's what Motorola's CEO Sanjay Jha had to say about their patent portfolio, and what they intend to do with it:

We own one of the strongest and most respected patent portfolios in the industry. We have over 17000 patents granted and 7000 patent applications pending, with particular strength in 2G and 3G essentials, non-essential patents important to the delivery of the competitive products in the marketplace, video, particularly compression/de-compression and security technologies, and, finally, a leading position in 4G LTE essentials. With new entrants in the mobile space, resulting from the convergence of mobility, media, computing and the internet, our patent portfolio is increasingly important. We regularly review the company's strategies, opportunities and assets, including the IP, with the goal of creating and enhancing value.

....... .... when I first came here (to Motorola), one of the reasons that I liked this opportunity, was because I had a view that brand and IP portfolio was very strong. As I arrived here and had had a chance to understand our IP portfolio, I actually think it's stronger then I anticipated. There are really a few areas where our patent portfolio is extremely strong. First, 2G/3G essentials, I think that is very well understood by the (Wall)street and the industry, and we have monetized that asset over the last few years very well. Probably a little less well known is our strength in patent portfolio in non-essential patents, which are capabilities that are important to have in delivering competitive products in the marketplace. Third, I think is in our video coding/de-coding and security, and fourth, probably least understood and most underestimated , is our strength in our 4G LTE patent portfolio. As I look at these patent portfolios, I feel very good that we will be able to go forward and find ways to create enhanced shareholder value.

… that (IP royalty) number has come down over the years as a result of licenses that have expired over that period of time, and they are largely related to our 2G and 3G patent portfolios. As we go forward, I think that the introduction of number of players with large revenues, which have come into the marketplace as a result of the convergence of the mobility, computing, internet and other segments, I think that that creates an opportunity for us to monetize and maximize the shareholder value in a number of different ways and we evaluate all of them all the time.

I can understand Sanjay Jha touting Motorola's patent portfolio, and even emphasizing their non-essential patents. That's a clear signal to Microsoft, Apple and others - "Back off. You mess with us, we will mess with you and it may turn out that we have a bigger club to beat you with".

But the talk about the additional patent portfolio monetization is a very clear sign that Motorola is about to get way more aggressive with its patent licensing efforts. Their main targets? New players, with large revenues, who entered mobility industry due to convergence.

Do you know any new player in mobility, who has large revenues and is not using Android for it's mobile devices? HP - does not count - they've bought Palm, with all of it's patents. Microsoft is actually suing Motorola - so it seems to be in stronger position here. And Microsoft extends it's IP protection to all Windows Phone licensees. The rest? All are doing Android. So Android devices from all of them, including HTC and Samsung, are potential targets for IP licensing fee demands from Motorola.

Actually, HTC and Samsung might be THE primary targets for Motorola going forward. Because Motorola is loosing hard to both of them in an open market.

Motorola bet all of it's future on Android. And was the key Google partner on par with HTC from almost the beginning. Motorola even got an exclusive access to the first consumer grade/mass market version of Android (2.0), and most of Verizon's Droid Does launch marketing money. HTC had to wait 6 months to release it's own first Android 2 handsets (HTC Desire/Droid Incredible/EVO). Samsung took even longer to ship it's Galaxy S. But now, due Motorola's execution blunders, it is falling behind Samsung and HTC fast.

During the last 12 months Motorola grew it's Android device sales from 2.7 million to 4.84 million (including tablets) - that's ~80% growth, which looks pretty good in isolation, but pretty bad if you compare it to competition. In the same time period - HTC grew it's sales by 124% – from 5.4 million smartphones in 2010 to 12.1M in 2011. Samsung's growth was mind blowing 500%+ from estimated 3-4 million last year, to estimated 16-19 million in Q2 2011 (not all of them are Androids, a few million run Bada). Both companies grew much faster and from a higher base then Motorola.

Which means that Motorola is rapidly loosing it's market share and significance in Android market, and started generating losses once again. So now they might be looking for additional revenue streams, and patent portfolio may seem like a good and easy place to start. If Microsoft can get hundreds of millions from Android licensees, why should Motorola miss out on the opportunity? Especially if that will allow Motorola to make their smartphones a bit more competitive, at least on price?

Or is Sanjay just hinting Larry here: “You better buy us. Soon. You were ready to pay 4B+ for 6K Nortel patents, and we are worth 6.4B today. Offer nice premium and you'll solve all your Android patent problems, and get a team to make all your Nexus stuff as a bonus. Spin out everything else to some Chinese upstart, and you'll even make a nice profit in the end…”
source: Unwired View


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