Subject: General Tech | August 20, 2013 - 04:37 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: zte open, zte, smartphone, msm7225a, mozilla, Firefox OS
Mozilla has been working on its mobile Firefox OS for about a year, and smartphones running the OS are starting to become available stateside. The first bit of hardware running Firefox OS is the ZTE Open, which launched last week for $79.99 exclusively on eBay. Unfortunately, the limited stock ZTE made available is already gone, and there is no word on when more smartphones will be available. (However, in typical eBay fashion, users are turning around and selling the $80 phone for $170 if you really want to get your hands on it...)
According to the eBay listing, ZTE managed to sell 985 of the orange ZTE Open smartphones.
The ZTE Open comes in blue or orange and features low end specifications. Fortunately, Firefox OS and its HTML5 applications do not demand much hardware. On the outside, the ZTE Open has a 3.5” TFT touchscreen with a resolution of 480 x 320, a single home button sitting below the display, and a 3.15 MP rear camera. Internal specifications include a MSM7225A SoC with an ARM Cortex-A5 CPU clocked at 1Ghz and Adreno 200 GPU along with 2GB of internal storage expandable by micro SD card. Other specifications include 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 2.1, 3G cellular radio, a 1200 mAH battery, and various sensors (accelerometer, ambient light, and GPS). The Firefox OS smartphone measures 114 x 62 x 12.5mm.
Seeing the ZTE Open sell out of its limited stock in such a short amount of time suggests that there is some positive amount of demand for Firefox OS from enthusiasts, but the smartphone and OS platform still has a long road ahead of it before it becomes a true threat to Android and iOS. Much like the fabled Ubuntu Phone, more than enthusiast demand will be needed, along with support from US carriers and app developers. With that said, it is a good first step into the US market and I hope ZTE makes more phones available soon.
Read more about Mozilla's Firefox OS.
Subject: General Tech | August 3, 2013 - 06:56 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: us cellular, smartphone, wireless carrier, financial results
US Cellular recently released financial results for the second quarter of 2013. US Cellular, a Chicago-based company, serves approximately 5 million wireless customers in 23 states. It reported second quarter revenue of $911 million, net income of $143.4 million, and Earnings Per Share (EPS) of $1.69.
Compared to the same period last year, US Cellular saw decreased revenue ($1.03 billion in Q2 2012), but increased net income and EPS versus the $52.7 million and $0.62 in Q2 2012 respectively.
Included in the recently-ended second quarter results is $480 million in cash from the de-consolidation "Divesture Transaction" deal.
Looking towards the second half of 2013, US Cellular plans to add Apple devices to its lineup and continue the build out of its 4G LTE cellular network. According to US Cellular, the company expects to see 2013 yearly revenue of $3.615 to $3.715 billion and annual income of up to $700 million.
More information can be found in the press release.
Subject: Mobile | July 16, 2013 - 04:40 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: zte, tegra 4, td-scdma, smartphone, nvidia, china mobile
Details have leaked on a new ZTE smartphone called the Geek U988S thanks to China's TENNA certification database. The Geek is powered by NVIDIA’s latest-generation Tegra 4 SoC and is headed for Chinese wireless carrier China Mobile and its TD-SCDMA network.
Along with leaked specifications, the TENNA site has photos of its upcoming smartphone. The pictured model has a pink colored chassis with a large 5-inch touchscreen LCD with a resolution of 1920 x 1080. A 2MP webcam sits above the display and the rear of the phone hosts an 8MP camera. The device measures 144 x 71 x 9mm.
Internal hardware includes a Tegra 4 SoC clocked at 1.8GHz and 2GB of RAM. The phone works on China’s TD-SCDMA network.
There is no word on pricing or availability, but photos and a specs list can be found here.
Subject: Mobile | July 5, 2013 - 08:00 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: smartphone, sch-s738c, Samsung, just delivered, galaxy centura, android 4.0.4
Just Delivered is a new section of PC Perspective where we share some of the goodies that pass through our labs that may or may not see a review, but are pretty cool none the less.
Find the Galaxy Centura on Amazon!
I recently decided to move away from AT&T and try out a Straight Talk plan on the recommendation of friends. Moving to Straight Talk also meant getting a new phone though, because when I went to Straight Talk last month AT&T compatible SIM cards were still not available.
Long story short, I ended up getting the Samsung Galaxy Centura smart phone and Straight Talk's $45/month no-contract offering, which is around half of what I was paying AT&T! The phone itself cost $100.
The Samsung Galaxy Centura is a smartphone that operates on Verizon's network and runs Android 4.0.4. Not the latest and greatest Android, but Samsung has not "blessed" the phone with its TouchWiz UI and it is a nice step up from the Samsung Infuse 4G's Android 2.3 OS that Samsung never bothered updating further (heh).
The Samsung Galaxy Centura is model number SCH-S738C (GP). It measures 4.44" (H) x 2.4" (W) x 0.45" (D) and weighs 4.4 ounces. The front of the phone features a 3.5" 262K TFT touchscreen with a resolution of 320 x 480. A small speaker grill and Tracfone logo sit at the top, while a Samsung logo and three capacitive buttons sit below the screen. The buttons are menu, home, and back. The front of the phone is black and surrounded by a glossy blue bezel that also matches the battery door.
The back of the phone has another Samsung logo, a speaker grill, and a 3MP camera capable of shooting 3MP stills and 640 x 480 video. The back of the phone comes off and doubles as the battery door. Samsung has put several clips along the edges to hold it in place, and may actually be a bit too secure as it can be hard to get the door off.
A standard 3.5mm headphone jack is located along the top edge of the phone, a power button is located on the right side, and two volume buttons are located on the left edge. The bottom edge includes a micro-USB connector.
Internally, the Galaxy Centura features a Qualcomm MSM7625A SoC with a single core Snapdragon S1 processor (45nm, Cortex-A5) clocked at 800 Mhz, an Adreno 200 GPU, and a CDMA cellular radio. Additionally, the SoC is paired with 512MB of RAM, 4GB of internal storage (expandable via a microSD card under the battery door), and a decent 3.7V, 5.55 Wh, 1500 mAh battery. Other internal hardware includes an accelerometer, GPS, Bluetooth radio, and Wi-Fi radio. I am not as familiar with CDMA as GSM, but the Centura operates on Verizon's equivalent to AT&T's 3G network for data and vocie (though not at the same time). It is currently connected to Verizon's EVDO Rev. A:8 network. As far as network data speed, the fastest results I have been able to get, as measured by speedtest.net, are 1,276 kbps down and 487 kbps up.
While it had no problems running Android games at decent frame rates, 3DMark mobile pushed it to its limits. It scored 536 in the Ice Storm benchmark and 281 in the Ice Storm Extreme benchmark, for example. Unfortunately, this 3DMark app was not available when I had the Infuse 4G so I am not able to offer up comparison results.
Now that the specifications and pricing is out of the way, I can talk a bit about first impressions. I have been using the smartphone for a couple of weeks now, and it is a fairly solid device, especially considering the price of the hardware (and the monthly plan is cheap too). It is noticeably slower at some tasks than my old Samsung Infuse, but that is to be expected with slower-clocked hardware. With that said, performance was actually much better than I expected it to be. The phone is able to run apps and games without issue, though when multi-tasking the game frame-rate starts to dip. Switching between applications (especially with a game running) is not as snappy as with my Infuse, but not terribly slow either. I'm not sure if it's the newer version of Android or not, but the software side of things seems to work well on this hardware.
The physical smartphone is plastic, but it feels well built. Admittedly, I have dropped my new phone quite a few more times than I would have liked (heh), but it has held up really well. It has not yet gone plastic to concrete yet though. Dropping it on tile and carpet has not caused any issues, however. When holding the phone and using the touchscreen, there is no creaking of the battery door and it seems to stand up to pressure without problems. With that said, I do have one complaint about the physical hardware, and that is that when holding the phone in the landscape position, the end of the back cover next to the speaker grill gives too much and makes a creaking noise when pressed in (say, when playing a racing game). That is the only area that exhibits that issue, however. It is likely due to the fact that Samsung carved out a bit internally for the microSD card and speaker underneath the back cover on the phone itself whereas the rest of the phone's back cover fits snugly to the back of the phone.
Overall, I'm happy with the phone, it gets excellent signal where I live now and is a good Android (albeit 4.0.4) experience for only $100 for the hardware. If you are off contract right now and thinking about switching to one of the many MVNOs (and live in an area with good Verizon coverage), I'd recommend trying out the Samsung Galaxy Centura from what I've experienced thus far. It is not the latest or fastest hardware by far, but it has great price/performance.
Subject: Mobile, Shows and Expos | June 3, 2013 - 06:36 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: tablet, smartphone, phablet, mediatek, liquid s1, computex 2013, computex, android 4.2.2, acer
During Computex Acer announced its new Liquid S1 smartphone. In fact, the term smartphone may not be enough to do the nearly tablet-sized 5.7” Liquid S1 justice, and Acer has even dubbed it a “phablet”.
On the outside, the Acer Liquid S1 has a massive 5.7” touchscreen with 720p resoultion surrounded by an aluminum side grip and a front 24mm and 8MP rear camera. The smartphone/tablet/phablet (heh) weighs in at 195g.
The new mobile device is powered by a quad core MediaTek SoC clocked at 1.5GHz, 1GB RAM, 8GB storage, and a 2,400mAh battery that Acer claims will last “all day.” The Liquid S1 runs Android 4.2.2, and offers a stock experience apart from Acer's multitasking Float UI and Cloud Docs document software. Other features include DTS StudioSound audio, dual SIM card slots, and a microSD card support (maximum of 32GB).
Wireless connectivity options include Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and 3G radios as well as wireless display and wireless printing technology.
The Liquid S1 smartphone will be available in either matte black or white across Asia and Europe for 329 Euros. It is set for release sometime in the third quarter of this year (Q3'13). US users wanting a large smartphone (or small tablet) will need to either import the Acer model or look elsewhere as the company has not yet expanded its mobile offerings to this side of the pond, excluding laptops of course.
Subject: General Tech | May 3, 2013 - 11:00 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: smartphone, optimus f5, LG, jelly bean, Android
LG has launched a new Android smartphone with 4G LTE connectivity. The new LG Optimus F5 is available in France now, and will be rolled out worldwide later this month. It measures 126 x 64.5 x 93mm and comes in either glossy white or piano black. Its specifications are not anything surprising, but this is not a new flagship smartphone. Rather, LG is positioning the mobile device as an affordable LTE smartphone.
On the outside, the LG Optimus F5 features a 4.3” IPS qHD display with a resolution of 960x540 (256 PPI). Above the display is a 1.3MP webcam while the rear of the smartphone hosts a 5MP camera with autofocus.
Internally, the LG Optimus F5 is powered by a dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon SoC clocked at 1.2GHz, 1GB of RAM, and 8GB of internal storage. LG is using a beefy 2,150 mAh battery which should give it decent battery life even when connected to 4G LTE networks. The phone also supports microSD cards for expandable storage up to 32GB. The Optimus F5 is running Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean.
The new Optimus F5 smartphone will be available soon in France and worldwide towards the end of May. LG has not yet released specific pricing information, however.
Subject: Mobile | April 12, 2013 - 05:27 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: smartphone, Samsung, jelly bean, galaxy s4, exynos octa, android 4.2.2
Samsung recently launched its new flagship Galaxy S4 smartphone, and users will be able to pre-order it from several US carriers later this month.
AT&T customers will be able to pre-order the 16GB Galaxy S4 for $199.99 and 32GB model for $249.99 beginning April 16. Those prices are contingent on a two-year contract. US Cellular will also be carrying the new flagship smartphone, but has not announced how much it will cost. Customers can register to be notified when it becomes available, however. T-Mobile is also going to offer the Samsung Galaxy S4, but customers will need to pay full price. According to UK mobile site Phones Review, T-Mobile will offer the smartphone on its new no-contract plans for $99 plus a $20 per month fee until it is paid off starting May 1. Regrettably, there is no word on when (or whether) a Verizon or Sprint-comparable model will show up.
Of course, the Samsung Galaxy S4 offers up the following specifications. On the outside, the phone features a 5” Super AMOLED screen with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 and Gorilla Glass 3 protection. A 2MP webcam and 12MP auto-focus camera with LED flash are also included. The internals of the phone are also impressive, with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 SoC, 2GB of RAM, and up to 64GB of internal storage (expandable via microSD cards). The 2,600 mAh battery seems a bit weak compared to the one in the Galaxy Mega 6.3, but space constraints likely limited the battery size despite the beefier processor and higher-resolution display. Sensors and I/O include accelerometer, gyroscope, proximity, compass, barometer, temperature, humidity, and gesture. Wireless radios include a cellular modem (4G LTE, 3G HSDPA), A-GPS+GLONASS, dual band 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, NFC, and Bluetooth 4.0. The Qualcomm 600 SoC consists of a quad core Krait 300 processor clocked at 1.9GHz and an Adreno 320 GPU.
Note that the US version does not use the higher-performance Samsung Exynos 5 Octa SoC. For reference, the international model's SoC has the following features:
The Exynos 5 Octa consists of a PowerVR SGX 544MP3 GPU and both a quad core Cortex A15 clocked at 1.6GHz and a 1.2GHz Cortex A7 processor with four cores. The two ARM processors are configured in big.LITTLE configuration, so technically it is still a quad core phone--but the lower-power Cortex A7 cores will be used for background tasks and/or to save power while shutting down the Cortex A15 cores when CPU load allows.
The Galaxy S4 will come in White Frost or Black Mist colors. It is an impressive phone and one that I’m considering for my next upgrade pending good reviews. Another good consequence of the S4 launching is price reductions for the Galaxy S3, which may be an option if you don’t have impending upgrade pricing and can’t justify paying the approximate $600 full price of the S4--but still want a new Android phone.
Subject: Mobile | April 11, 2013 - 11:09 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: smartphone, Samsung, galaxy mega, galaxy, android 4.2
Samsung recently officially unveiled its new line of Galaxy Mega smartphones. The new phones (there are currently two on tap) run Android 4.2 and feature relatively gigantic screen sizes. As rumors suggested, and likely in order to keep costs down, the Galaxy Mega phones come without a stylus (like the Note series). Also, the displays are lower resolution than the flagship Galaxy S 4’s 1080p display.
The Galaxy Mega 6.3 and Galaxy Mega 5.8. The Galaxy Mega 6.3 measures 167.6 x 88 x 8mm and weighs 199 grams. On the outside, the smartphone features a black glossy finish, a 6.3” 720p display, an 1.9MP front-facing camera above the display, and an 8MP rear camera. The phone is powered by a 1.7GHz dual core ARM SoC, 1.5GB of RAM, and either 8GB or 16GB of internal storage (which can be expanded via microSD cards). Further, it has a 3,200 mAh battery.
The Samsung Galaxy Mega 6.3
The Galaxy Mega 6.3 includes accelerometer, Geomagnetic, Poximity, and Gyroscopic sensors. It is compatible with LTE 100/50Mbps, and HSPA+ 21/5.76 networks. A Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (supporting Wi-Fi Direct), Bluetooth 4.0, and GPS/GLONASS, and NFC radios round out the smartphone’s wireless connectivity options. The phone also features USB 2.0 and MHL support for getting an HDMI output via a powered adapter.
The Samsung Galaxy Mega 5.8 drops down in physical size and weight to 162.6 x 82.4 x 9mm and 182 grams respectively. The phone also drops MHL, NFC, and 802.11ac support. The Galaxy Mega 5.8 has a white glossy finish surrounding a 5.8” TFT touchscreen display with a resolution of 960 x 540 pixels. A 1.9MP camera serves video calling duties while the rear of the phone hosts an 8MP camera for taking higher-quality stills and video.
The smaller (but still huge) Galaxy Mega 5.8
Internal hardware includes a dual core ARM processor clocked at 1.4GHz, 1.5GB of RAM, 8GB of storage, and a 2,600 mAh battery. Wireless connectivity includes a cellular modem compatible with HSPA+ 21/5.76 networks, 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, and GPS+GLONASS. There is no 16GB SKU, but storage space can be expanded via microSD cards.
Samsung has not released pricing information, but the two new Galaxy Mega phones will be available globally. Europe and Russia will be the first countries to get the new smartphone, which will be in May. From there, the phones will gradually roll out to other markets. Users can expect the hardware to cost less than both the Galaxy S4 and Galaxy Note 2 as the Mega has lower-cost hardware despite the physically larger display. If you just want a large display without paying for the extra horsepower of other flagship smartphones, the Mega series should be a decent option. I would estimate AT&T will sell them for around the $150 mark on contract when they do make a US appearance.
More information along with photos of the new mega-sized Galaxy Mega phones can be found here.
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.
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