Subject: Mobile | January 31, 2013 - 02:35 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: smartphone, RIM, blackberry z10, blackberry q10, blackberry, BB10
Research In Motion (RIM) is no more, but the company will live on as BlackBerry. Earlier this week, the company held a press conference where it made the name change official and introduced two new smartphones running the BlackBerry 10 operating system. It was a lot to take in at the time, and it has taken me this long for me to write about it as I have been torn on how I feel about the new BlackBerry.
First up though, the phones certainly look quite good. They are rather sleek looking utilizing curved edges well. BlackBerry has designed an all-touchscreen Z10 and a smaller Q10 smartphone with physical keyboard that is has just enough Bold DNA to evoke fond memories of my first smartphone.
The Z10 features a 4.2” touchscreen with a resolution of 1280 x 768 (356 PPI). Beneath the hood is a dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 SoC clocked at 1.5 GHz along with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage. For expansion, the phone supports micro SD cards. It can output video over HDMI and the phone includes an 8MP rear camera and a 2MP webcam. NFC and Wi-Fi are included along with LTE support.
Customers in the UK and Canada will be getting their hands on the phone sometime this week. US residents will have to wait until springtime, however. The BlackBerry Z10 is slated for a spring 2013 US launch (around March). In the US, the black version will be available on AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile for $149 while a white SKU will be $199 and a Verizon exclusive (Verizon will also sell the black model, but reportedly at the higher $199 price).
The Q10 carries the same internal hardware as the Z10 but goes with a smaller 3.1” 720 x 720 touchscreen. Beneath the screen is a physical keyboard reminiscent of the old BlackBerry Bold. Specs and pricing were more-scarce here, but it should see a US release sometime in April 2013.
Both BlackBerry smartphones run the company’s new BB10 operating system. The new OS is a complete overhaul that has several neat features. There is a new BBM client that integrated video chat and screen sharing, an app store with 70,000 launch apps, a work and home workspace separation (which will be great for BYOD workplaces), and a feature called Peek. Peek is invoked by a swipe gesture and allows you to, well, peek at a second application (such as email0 while watching a video or browsing the web. BlackBerry 10 will run multiple applications in the background and has an app switcher similar to Maemo where it displays live icons laid out in a grid. The OS also includes a camera application and editor. The camera app allows you to time-shift a bit after the photo is taken in order to find the best shot (for example, finding the shot where everyone was looking at the camera and/or not blinking). It is nice to see that rolled into a smartphone camera as it is rather useful when trying to get group shots of the family! Having the physical keyboard is sure to be a boon to many former BlackBerry users and may be the deciding factor in those users coming back to BlackBerry after leaving for Android and iOS.
That statement does segway nicely into my worry, however. Essentially “former users” is the key phrase, and after Android and iOS have gobbled up the market I do not know that BB10 and the two new phones will be enough to win back their former users much less new customers that did not grow up using BlackBerry phones. Don’t get me wrong, the phones look really nice, and BB10 as an operating system shows promise. On the other hand, Google and Apple have a colossal head start and the majority of the market share. This is a stranglehold that even OS-juggernaut Microsoft has not been able to crack with its new Windows Phone 8 devices. BlackBerry may be able to win back the hearts of IT departments and grab some of the enterprise market, but I worry that BlackBerry took too long to put out BB10 and supporting hardware to reclaim its former glory.
I suppose I will just have to wait and see how well-received the phones are at the contract prices versus deals that are likely to be given out for Galaxy SIII phones, the Nexus 4, and previous-gen iPhones (keep in mind the Galaxy S4 is rumored to be released soon, so that would make the S3 likely to get a nice discounted on-contract price).
By all that is Brick Breaker, I hope that
RIM BlackBerry finds some way to succeed. Perhaps a partnership with NVIDIA for Tegra-powered BB10 devices? After all, as Ryan mentioned on the podcast NVIDIA is in need of design wins for it's chips and BlackBerry could do with more hardware aimed at more price points.
Enough of my speculation, however. What do you think about the new BlackBerry and it's new devices?
Subject: Mobile | January 10, 2013 - 04:23 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: zte, smartphone, mozilla, html5, Firefox OS, ces 2013, CES
Mozilla has been interested in smartphones for awhile now. The Boot2Gecko project has since transitioned to Firefox OS, and now the company is nearly ready to officially release the code and begin getting it onto smartphones and competing with the current giants of Android, iOS, and WP8. According to The Verge, who talked with the company at CES, Mozilla’s mobile operating system will be released within the next two weeks.
The Verge checks out a prototype phone running Firefox OS.
The mobile OS is coded in HTML5 and uses HTML5 applications. While Mozilla plans to introduce an app store to curate things, currently users are able to find run web apps on the Internet. Do not expect Firefox OS to take the smartphone world by storm this year, however. Mozilla will reportedly restrict the mobile OS to low end hardware, with up to 800MHz single core ARM processors. Further, no OEM phones are scheduled for a US release this year (so far). ZTE has confirmed that it is pursuing handsets with Firefox OS pre-installed. Currently, the company is planning at least one low end smartphone release in Europe late this year. US residents will likely not see Firefox OS shipping with phones until next year at the earliest, depending on how well the phones do in the developing markets and when Mozilla opens up the hardware restrictions to higher-end devices.
Until then, you can check out Firefox OS for yourself in a simulator using the Firefox web browser and a browser add-on called the Firefox OS Simulator. To test it out, open up a Firefox browser window and install the add-on from this webpage. Then click the Firefox button and navigate to Web Developer > Firefox OS Simulator. Then, on the left hand side of the window that opens, click the stopped button to start the simulator. A new window will open running the mobile operating system.
The Dialer, Messages, and Web Browser apps in Firefox OS.
PC Perspective's CES 2013 coverage is sponsored by AMD.
Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!
Subject: Mobile | January 9, 2013 - 04:07 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: CES, smartphone, Lenovo, k900, Intel, clover trail, Android, ces 2013
Lenovo has shown off a new Android smartphone at CES. However, in an interesting twist the new Lenovo K900 is powered by an Intel Atom processor rather than an ARM SoC. The K900 smartphone is constructed of a stainless steel alloy and poly-carbonate material. Lenovo has managed to pack all the hardware in a 6.9mm thin chassis that weights 162 grams. It will come in one of four colors, including gold, silver, and grey in a brushed aluminum pattern and one that has a diamond-plate design on the back cover.
The K900 features a 5.5” IPS touchscreen display protected by Gorilla Glass 2 and with a resolution of 1920x1080. The chassis also hosts a front-facing webcam with an 88-degree field of view and a rear 13MP (F1.8) camera with a dual LED flash.
The outside is neat, but it is the internal specifications where the Lenovo K900 gets interesting. The smartphone is powered by an Intel Clover Trail+ SoC. While Intel is not yet providing details on the new processor, Engadget speculates that the SoC will be the Intel Atom Z2580, which is a dual core Clover Trail successor running at up to 2GHz. The K900 will also include 2GB of RAM and between 16GB and 64GB of internal storage (plus a microSD card slot). The phone will be running Android along with Lenovo’s Le Phone skin on top (though it can reportedly be disabled).
All in all it looks like a really slick smartphone from the specifications list. Battery life and performance are still unknown, but I’m excited to see benchmarks of this once it is released. Unfortunately, it is not headed to the United States at this time. Instead, the Lenovo K900 will be available in China starting in April of this year. Pricing should be available closer to the product’s release date. Engadget has the full press release along with hands on videos with the hardware.
PC Perspective's CES 2013 coverage is sponsored by AMD.
Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!
Subject: General Tech, Mobile | November 16, 2012 - 12:35 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: oled, Samsung, smartphone
If the marketing had been accurate we would now all be using millimetre thin displays with vibrant colours and near instantaneous response, either on our desks or in some form of electronic paper. Unfortunately organic LED screens have proven both difficult and expensive to make, with manufacturers still trying to find a way to make large OLED devices affordable for consumers. The next possible product is one we have seen prototypes of but if Samsung is to be believed they will be hawking bendable plastic phones next year. OLED phones would have several benefits, without glass they would weigh less than a traditional phone and could be somewhat slimmer, but the biggest benefit to OLEDs is that they can tolerate bending and twisting and still function properly. Hit up The Register for more on Samsung's new plans as well as a look at some of the prototypes previously offered by their competitors, but not Apple.
"Development work on Samsung mobiles fitted with flexible OLED displays is nearing completing, with handsets set to be released in the first half of 2013, it has been claimed.
A source said to be close to the matter reckons Samsung is almost ready to launch flexible displays for mobile handsets, the Wall Street Journal reports."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Samsung fabs 64Gb NAND chips on a 10nm process node @ The Inquirer
- Sinofsky denies failed putsch led to his defenestration @ The Register
- Everspin makes ST-MRAM a reality @ SemiAccurate
- Lenovo UEFI Bug Only Likes Windows and RHEL @ Slashdot
- Newer Technology NuGreen LED Desk Lamp Review @ Madshrimps
- The Ultimate Kitguru Giveaway – Modded GTX690/SSD/RAM
- Win an Antec P280 Window or P280 White Window Computer Case @ Tweaktown
Subject: Processors | October 31, 2012 - 02:25 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: smartphone, R&D, prototype, Intel
Intel researchers located at the company’s Barcelona, Spain labs are working on multi-core solutions. Specifically, the researchers are looking to bring massive numbers of processing cores to smartphones and tablets. The x86 chip giant hopes to see as many as 48 core processors powering mobile devices within the next five to ten years.
Currently, quad core System on a Chip (SoC) processors represent the highest number of cores in a mobile device, so a 48 core processor would be an absolutely massive jump. Of course, there are several issues that Intel will need to address in order for such a chip to be feasible. The package size, TDP, and power draw will all need to be drastically reduced in order to fit into the power envelope and form factor of smartphones in particular. The biggest issue standing in the way of such a chip though is software. Massively multi-threaded software is still extremely rare, and on mobile devices is no where close to effectively utilizing the number of cores Intel wants to provide.
Image credit: Computer Wold. A prototyping platform running software to research efficient multi-core processing.
Analyst Patrick Moorhead argues that five to ten years is effectively an eternity in technology-time, and by the time the hardware with massive numbers of cores is feasible, the software will be there. Intel is a bit less optimistic, but hopeful that developers will embrace the idea of multiple low power cores versus a few high clocked, power hungry cores. Such a transition in the software industry would allow smartphones to multitask much more efficiently than they do now, and would no longer have to comprise on the extent of background tasks in order to keep the user interface stable and snappy.
Intel is currently using cloud computers to analyze multi-threading and what tasks can be parallelized. The company envisions being able to encrypt email, listen to media, sync with backup services, and use voice recognition without needing to reach out to Internet-connected servers at the same time. Cores would be able to split the work or dedicate certain numbers of cores to tasks like the UI or video playback. Intel has already demonstrated the ability to turn off unused portions of the CPU to save power as well as its turbo boost modes to increase clockspeeds when there is TDP headroom. It will be interesting to see a 48 core chip, especially if software developers can be coerced into doing tasks with massive numbers of cores in mind.
Interestingly, AMD is going for heterogeneous cores (CPU cores, GPU cores, ARM cores, etc) while Intel is using its process node and chip technology lead to throw large numbers of homogenous cores at the problem of processing. In the end though, it all comes down to battery tech and software enabling these kinds of advancements. I'm hopeful that I'll see these kinds of currently mind-blowing chips in my future smartphone, however.
Computer World has a write-up with quotes from the Intel engineers working on the multi-core smartphone chip, which is worth a read. What do you think about the prospects of a 48 core chip in your handheld mobile device?
Subject: Mobile | September 27, 2012 - 02:46 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: tablet, stylus, smartphone, Qualcomm MSM8960, optimus vuii, LG
LG recently confirmed the specifications for its upcoming smartphone, and the company has gone in a different direction that the other big players this time around. The Optimus Vu II is a rather large phone that is approaching the size of a tablet, and it will cost almost $900. The smartphone is model LG-F200 and measures 132.2 x 85.6 x 9.4 mm. At 159g, it is no lightweight, but is lighter than I would have guessed. It will be available in pick, white, or black colors, with a 5.0" IPS display prominently centered on the front of the device. The display can recognize finger or stylus input, and has a resolution of 1024 x 768. Interestingly, the Optimus Vu II has a 4:3 aspect ratio where most phones opt for the thinner 16:9 displays. This results in a phone that looks almost square, and makes it look more like a tablet than a smartphone.
Other features include an 8 MP rear camera, 1.3 MP front facing camera for web conferencing, and the Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich operating system. Connectivity includes 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, APT-X Codec, MHL (video output to HDMI), NFC, LTE, and USB 2.0. Of course, the Wi-Fi network connection supports DLNA, Wi-Fi Direct, and Miracast.
Internal specifications include a Qualcomm MSM 8960 dual core processor running at 1.5GHz, 2GB of RAM, and a 2,150 mAh battery that can be charged via magnetic induction. There is an external SD card slot, but no word yet on how much internal storage the Vu II will come with. The smartphone (tablet?) will come with an IR blaster and QRemote software so that you can control your home theater PC setup with it, and a One Key keychain that will make the phone beep loudly to assist you in finding it (unless you have misplaced your keys as well... though that might just be my bad luck heh). The VoLTE support is also notable, and should result in improved audio quality during voice calls.
The LG Optimus Vu II is a rather odd device with its large 5" screen size, aspect ratio, and boxy design. While we will have to wait for the US launch to confirm the approximate $864 (966,900 won) price, it is an expensive smartphone that looks and operates more like a tablet (and still costs more than a 7" Nexus 7!). As much as I love stylus support, I just don't see the Vu II catching on in the US.
You can find the full press release in the LG Korea newsroom website.
What do you think? Will you be picking up the Vu II, and if so why?
Subject: Mobile | August 24, 2012 - 06:41 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: windows phone 8, smartphone, nokia, microsoft
While Windows 8 on the desktop (and ARM devices) have occupied much of the spotlight for Microsoft’s products, it is not the only Windows 8 product coming out soon. Namely, the mobile variant that is Windows Phone 8 is set to officially release later this year. In line with, and suggesting a release day, the launch are leaked details on two Nokia smartphones that will run the next-generation Microsoft mobile operating system.
According to sources in the know, Nokia is planning to launch two new smartphones under its Lumia brand during a media event in NYC on September 5th 2012. As the event will see both Nokia and Microsoft on stage, the September 5th date seems very likely to be the official Windows Phone 8 debut. On the Nokia side of things specifically, the company plans to launch both a mid-range handset as well as the Windows Phone 8 flagship smartphone. The Nokia mobile devices are currently known by their code names of “Arrow” and “Phi” respectively. While specifications on the mid-range handset are unknown, the flagship Phi smartphone will reportedly feature similar design aesthetics to the company’s other Lumia-series smartphones–including a curved glass display and polycarbonate body.
The Phi will be an AT&T exclusive device while the Arrow will be available on both AT&T and T-Mobile. Interestingly, if the rumors hold true Verizon will not have a launch WP8 device. It will see a tweaked version of the mid-range Arrow codenamed Atlas but it is not going to launch with the other two Nokia devices.
Image credit: CNET.
Windows Phone 8 improves on hardware support, adds features, and tweaks the software interface to be more user friendly. Some of the more interesting new features include a shared codebase with Windows 8 RT and Windows 8 (x86-64) where only minor tweaks will be necessary to deploy “Metro” Modern UI apps to phones, tablets, and desktops. Further, hardware requirements have been upgraded to support 720p or 1280x768 (WXGA) displays, NFC (Near Field Communication. Think RFID but at shorter distances (and some other differences)), multi-core processors, and the inclusion of SD card slots.
On the software side of things, Windows Phone 8 will integrate the licensed map technology from Nokia and will feature a new Start Screen that allows changing tile size (small, medium, large) and ditches the navigational cue arrow. Nokia does seem to have some decent map technology from what I've used of it, so I'm glad Microsoft is taking advantage of the close relationship between itself and Nokia to get a licensing agreement going (and here's hoping Nokia is making some money off of it, they could always use the boost).
Unfortunately there is no pricing information or clues as to whether the two smartphones will actually be purchasable on announcement day. I guess we will all find out on September 5th!
In spite of the controversy surrounding the Modern UI on the desktop, Windows Phone 8 is looking to be a solid improvement over WP7 and it seems that Microsoft is moving in the right direction. Questions remain on whether or not it will be enough to take on the Google Android and Apple IOS juggernauts, however. Tizen and Firefox OS are going to have a harder time breaking into the market thanks to WP8, however.
That’s just my opinion and bit of speculation, however. What do you think? Will Nokia and Microsoft see better sales and increased adoption with Windows Phone 8 and Nokia’s second try at a smartphone running Microsoft’s OS? Will you be considering an upgrade or switch over to WP8?
Read more Windows Phone coverage using the Windows Phone 8 tag.
Subject: Mobile | May 7, 2012 - 02:09 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: smartphone, Samsung, galaxy s3, galaxy s III, Android
Previous rumors of a quad core smartphone from Samsung proved to be true at the 2012 Samsung Unpacked event in London on Thursday. There, they officially unveiled the Samsung Galaxy S III Android 4.0 smartphone.
The new smartphone runs the latest Android 4.0 “Ice Cream Sandwich” mobile operating system with an updated version of Samsung’s TouchWiz interface that adds additional functionality on top of the vanilla Android experience. Many sites have mentioned that Samsung really focused in on the software and experience aspects of the phone rather than the underlying hardware specifications and performance characteristics.
The company is introducing a number of new features with the Galaxy S III including voice control with S Voice, “S Beam” wireless file transfer, and a feature called “Pop up Play” that allows users to play videos while checking email and browsing the web. The S Voice feature lets users turn their phone on by saying “Hi, Galaxy” as well as writing emails, sending text messages, hitting “snooze” on the alarm, organizing schedules, and taking photos. Another feature that the Galaxy S III offers is NFC payment.
On the hardware side of things, the smartphone measures 136.6 x 70.6 x 8.6 mm, and weighs 133g. On the outside, there is a 4.8 inch HD Super AMOLED Pentile display with a resolution of 1280x720. There is a 1.9 megapixel camera on the front and a 8 megapixel camera on the back with backside illumination to improve low light performance. The phone is available in Pebble Blue and Marble White at launch, with additional color options to follow. Powering the software and HD display is a 2,100 mAh battery, 16, 32, or 64 (coming soon) Gigabytes of storage, microSD card slot, 1GB of RAM, and a Exynos 4 quad core processor. It also features 802.11 a/b/g/n WiFi (support channel bonding), GPS, GLONASS (radio navigation system), NFC, and Bluetooth 4. As far as cellular technology, it supports EDGE, 3G, and 4G (depending on which model you buy–more on that below).
Matt at Engadget managed to shoot some video of the new Samsung phone at the launch event, seen below.
While some models will run the Exynos 4 quad core processor, the US version will likely have a dual core Qualcomm processor due to incompatibilities between the necessary LTE radio and the Exynos 4 SoC. In the end, the general user experience should not suffer as a result but it is still regrettable that there is not a quad core part from a hardware perspective. Because the Exynos 4 SoC is based on older ARMv7 CPU cores and a Mali 400 GPU core, it will be faster in multithreaded tasks but the newer dual core Qualcomm in the LTE models will be faster in general usage thanks to the newer CPU technology and Android’s notoriously poor multithreaded performance. Users should not write off the dual core Galaxy S III phones on specifications alone.
The phone will be available for purchase in Europe at the end of May, with other countries to follow. No official word on pricing has been given yet.
Are you still excited for the US Galaxy S III now that it is official? Will you be upgrading or waiting on one of the other upcoming Android smatphones?
Subject: Mobile | February 26, 2012 - 08:06 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: z2460, SoC, smartphone, orange, MWC 12, MWC, Intel, atom z2460
Reuters is reporting that European cell phone carrier Orange will be selling a reference design Medfield smartphone under the Intel brand name. The Atom Z2460 SoC will find its first major distributor to be one of the world's largest service providers - this could potentially be a big opening for Intel in a market it desperately wants to compete for.
I find it very interesting that not only has Intel developed a processor that has finally garnered attention for the mobile market but the team at Intel has built a reference design that was fine tuned enough to direct sell to consumers. Will the company avoid becoming a typical, low margin SoC company by focusing on vertical implementations like this one? It is an interesting thought and no other vendor has really done it, with possibly the exception of Samsung that owns the entire device process already.
Anandtech has the major specifications of the phone, codenamed "Santa Clara":
These are basically identical to the reference design we saw at CES with only some minor changes to the form factor. Ice Cream Sandwich isn't included out the gate but we are hoping the upgrade will get pushed soon since Intel showed ICS on the Atom SoC in January.
I haven't been able to find anything about availability or pricing yet but I'll be sure to report it when I find it. The mobile market continues to intrigue...
Subject: Mobile | February 26, 2012 - 06:08 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: WP7, windows phone, smartphone, nokia, mobile, microsoft, marketshare
Last year Nokia and Microsoft announced a partner ship that would combine Nokia's hardware with Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 mobile operating system. Back then, the move by Nokia to abandon Maemo, MeeGo, and Symbian was not a popular one; however, it does seem to have worked out well for the company (despite some burned bridges).
According to a new report by Strategy Analytics, not only have Nokia Windows Phone 7 devices proved a popular choice, but the company has managed to propel itself to 33.1% marketshare; a number that makes Nokia the world's largest Windows Phone smartphone vendor in Q4 2011. Further, the company shipped just under 1 million units in Q4 2011 while the market as a whole saw 2.7 million units shipped. That is a significant jump from the previous quarter where Nokia did not ship any units and the market as a whole shipped only 2 million.
|Vendor Shipments (Millions) Q3'11||Vendor Shipments (Millions) Q4'11||Vendor Marketshare (%) Q3'11||Vendor Marketshare (%) Q4'11|
|Total||2 Million Units||2.7 Million Units||100%||100%|
While Nokia does not yet have majority share of the Windows Phone smartphone market all to themselves, they do have the most marketshare of any single vendor. The increased presence of Nokia helped the Windows Phone market as a whole see a total quarter over quarter growth of 36%, according to the report. Further, Director of Strategy Analytics Tom Kang noted that Nokia managed to snag most of it's marketshare from HTC who is also losing ground in the Android market to rival Samsung.
Neil Mawston, the Executive Director of Strategy Analytics determined that the Nokia Lumia WP7 smartphone series, and increased marketing and retail presence in Asian and European countries significantly helped Nokia grow it's marketshare.
Needless to say, Nokia management and shareholders are likely pleased by this turn of events. It will be interesting to see where Nokia is marketshare wise at the end of this year as their new Lumia series smarphones proliferate across the world. The full report is available here to Strategy Analytics clients.