Taking a look at mobile computing, the fine line between phones and the tablets has become faint. Google has a full line-up of Nexus brand devices from a 10″ tablet to the new fourth generation Nexus phone, and we’ll compare them to their competitors. Then, we look at why the upcoming “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” is like no movie before.
We knew NASA has been going through some changes, allowing private companies like SpaceX to do the rocketry because of lack of funds, but it looks like NASA is shut out of the latest project. And don’t miss finding out just how toxic your phone is!
All the greatest things in the world of technology for Thursday, September 13th.
The moment we all we all wondered, watched, and waited for: Apple’s iPhone 5 event. Only yesterday, Apple showed the world its sixth generation iPhone. This new iPhone catches up on some hardware specifications, but brings in a new design which is certainly fresh. While announcing the iPhone 5, Apple also unveiled a new line of iPod Touch and iPod Nano devices. The iPod Touch has a better camera, and not comes with Siri as well. The iPod Nano has a larger, touch-enabled screen. But now to the iPhone. The new 4″ screen has the width of a widescreen TV, and has an improved 720p Retina Display screen. The device is also lighter, despite its new dimensions. While it currently runs iOS 5, the iPhone 5 is formidable, given improved battery life (8 hours talk time on 3G) and the faster A6 processor. The device is expected to get iOS 6 very soon. Lastly, the new Apple devices will feature a new “Lightning” docking port which is slimmer and faster. Overall, the device is a certain step up from the iPhone 4S, but in my opinion is most improved in design. Original design has seemed scarce in the mobile world, and Apple has always been able to break that trend. Recently though, new devices like the Lumia 920 or Galaxy S III have challenged Apple’s title for originality. For $199 on contract, you will be able to pick up an 16 GB model on September 21st, for $299 a 32 GB and for $399 a 64 GB. Read and see more.
After all the wait, we finally get a date and price on the Wii U. It seems to have been a long time coming, but Nintendo has recently announced that their new console would be released on November 18th (November 30th in Europe), just in time for the holiday season. Each console will come with the Wii GamePad, a tablet controller which gives players even more ways to interact with a video game, including touch, voice, and a second screen for inventory, power-ups, or other game-enhancers. The GamePad can even play some games while the TV is in use. The 8 GB model will run you $299, while the 32 GB model is $349, including a charger, a stand, and a copy of one of the launch titles, Nintendo Land. The Wii U will bring with it a variety of other games including New Super Mario Brother Wii 2, the sequel to a previous multiplayer Mario game on the Wii. The console is most importantly now supporting HD resolution gaming, so you can now enjoy all of your favorite Nintendo characters in high-definition. In the U.S. and Canada, all major cable and TV providers are said to support the Wii U’s TVii software on the GamePad, giving consumers access to DVR and TiVO options for your television. Read more.
It’s been a huge week for technology already, and enough headlines that it’s hard keeping up. Thankfully, you don’t have to.
We’ll start today with Amazon’s announcements on the Kindle Fire HD tablets. Amazon has been leading the pack of Android tablet vendors with its first generation of Kindle Fire tablets, and now they’re looking to make that gap even wider. The two new tablets are 7.0 and 8.9-inch tablets, both with an impressive 1920 x 1200 resolution display. These displays are high quality screens, beating out most of competing tablets though not quite rivaling the new iPad. Starting at $199 for the 7-inch and $299 for the 8.9-inch, Amazon is offering quite a deal. Also announced was a slightly updated version of the original Kindle, selling soon for only $159. All of these tablets will see the benefits of some of Amazon’s newest software offerings, such as the new Kindle Serials, a way for consumers to subscribe to a text and get all future issues. Aside from those three devices, Amazon announced its next e-reader, the Paperwhite, with a superior screen with sharper-than-ever-text. With all of the above and more, Amazon is offering more than just another reader or tablet. Read more.
The next big story is really two: Nokia. Just having unveiled two new devices with surprising new technology, the world was shocked to find Nokia’s stocks drop once again. The company’s stock prices have steadily been spiraling downward, and Wednesday’s new 16% dip in stock value doesn’t look good. Stormy company forecasts aside, one would never expect a company as low as Nokia financially to unveil the kind of devices shown only Wednesday. The Lumias 920 and 820 aspire to be the best camera phones in history, and may very well be. the Lumia 920 features PureView camera technologies previously well-proven by Nokia and many camera specs which beat any other smartphone out there, such as the F/2.0 aperture and large sensor. Finishing off is the “floating lens” technology, acting as mechanical frame stabilization in real-time. While the camera is only 8.7 MP, the BSI sensor allows for high-density oversampling of pixels, which means pictures will be very sharp. The 820 may lack PureView technology, but still has an impressive camera with many improvements. To top it off, both phones feature a new screen technology, more sensitive than conventional capacitive touch screens. Read more.
Tune in next week for more weekly news!
The date is out that the iPhone 5 will be announced on September 12th. We’re looking at an entirely new phone this time, as we move away from the 4S, we are secretly relieved to not realize the horror of something along the lines of an iPhone 4SX. As usual, Apple isn’t set to disappoint. Surprisingly, it appears as if some reliable leaks have come out showing that the new iPhone (don’t worry, as far as we know, it’s not called that) will have some unforeseen and compelling new features.
This is the reader-friendly version of what we allegedly know about Apple’s next-gen phone:
- taller, thinner, crisper screen even more gorgeous than Retina Display
- new screen will be more efficient to improve battery life
- new screen is as wide as the 4S screen, but taller so that movies and media can be viewed without black bars
- front facing camera is now oddly centered
- less black/white space for the button and camera areas on the front because of the long screen
- No built-in YouTube app
We also expect to see various hardware improvements, as well as LTE, but that’s currently not backed up by any strict evidence.
I’m not one for rumors, but I’ll give you the quick-take. It appears as if the parts supplier ETradeSupply has leaked photos, and a video, of a portion of the iPhone 5’s body, as well as the front glass panel. Japanese Mac website Macotakara has released detailed videos as well. While it’s not the whole phone, the details seem fully plausible. What we can gather is that the screen will move from the 4S’s 3:2 aspect ratio to a 16:9 ratio, the standard for widescreen movies, televisions, and more. This makes viewing any media in HD easier, especially when the screen’s pixel density is supposed to be far more impressive, as well.
The iPhone 4S has a retina display pixel density of 960 x 640, while the new iPhone will likely have a pixel density of WXGA 1280 x 720. I would be shocked to see it, but it is possible Apple will blow us all away and show us a 1600 x 900 resolution phone . Forbes writer Susan Kalla noted ETrade Supply’s claim that the new screen will allegedly use new LCD technology which allows for better battery life and, of course, a better screen. Anyway, it’s not set in stone yet, but of all the rumors so far, these appear the most believable.
While it’s not backed up by evidence, let alone being confirmed, it’s only logical for Apple’s iPhone 5 to include LTE functionality as well as 1 GB of RAM. Various other hardware improvements are plausible, but these two seem like logical steps for the iDevice to keep up with the pack.
While the some of the above details may be uncertain (as Apple likes it), we are nearly certain that Apple’s iPhone 5 event will be on September 12th, and will most likely be for sale on September 21st.
While Microsoft has already made a huge impact this week at the Windows 8 Surface tablet announcement, but hasn’t stopped yet. At Wednesday’s Windows Phone Summit, the all-new Windows NT core found in Windows Phone 8 is the same Windows RT core in Windows 8. Sadly, existing Windows Phone devices like the Nokia Lumia 900 or HTC Titan II won’t be upgradeable to the new OS because the kernel requires specific hardware as well as security functions. Microsoft also announced Windows Phone “7.8”, which will be on the current Windows CE kernel and be offered to existing devices. This means that those devices will get many features of the new operating system, as well as the homescreen redesign. So what does all this mean for consumers?
We’ve already seen the first supposed Windows Phone 8 phones, and from those and all we heard we can draw some conclusions. According to the Verge, these devices from HTC, even the lower-end, all have at least dual-core processors, as well as chips which support NFC and LTE. This means that Windows Phones can be expected to offer superior hardware even in what would be at cheaper entry-level. For more info, check out the Verge’s post.
Below is a comparison of the Start screens of two Nokia Lumia 900 phones, one running Windows Phone 7.5 and the other, right, running 7.8. The difference is significant, and customizability has been seriously revamped.
Now for the full feature breakdown:
- DirectX and Direct3D support, Havok Technology Suite (the engine which powers Halo, Assassin’s Creed, and Skyrim) as well as other gaming engines for a powerful gaming experience.
- C++ native code support. This means developers can access the grassroots of the phone, utilizing all hardware. (This also puts developing potential on the level of other platforms.)
- NFC support.
- Multi-core processor support.
- “Wallet” app offers integration of credit cards, gift cards, coupons, and PayPal, allowing in-app purchases and supporting NFC payments.
- A variety of new theme colors along with the new Start screen. Live tiles can be made quarter tiles, regular tiles, or double tiles (there aren’t any in the picture).
- HD Screens including 1280 x 720 (720p) and 1280 x 768 (720p and a higher pixel density) resolutions, as well as current 800 x 480.
- Over-the-air updates eliminates reliance on a PC.
- Integrate Skype and VoIP services, as well as developer access to this.
- Camera API which allows the camera button to be linked to other apps.
- Device encryption and secure boot.
- Office 2013 apps.
- App “sideloading” (meaning you can install apps not on the market).
- Device “manageability compatibility” (we’re not sure what this means).
- Removable microSD support and management.
- Java in web browser is faster than the iOS 6 beta.
That’s what we know so far, so of course we’ll be waiting to see the final product which Microsoft delivers. There’s also rumor of Microsoft making their own device, like they’re making the Surface tablets, but we’re not sure this rumor holds water. All-in-all, I’m impressed with Windows Phone 8, but in order to make a market impact, a lot more people are going to have to be impressed first.
The following is an informative video, showing a brief history of Windows Phone, along with introducing the new Start screen.
The entire Summit presentation from Microsoft is available to be viewed, coming in at about 2 hours long. There’s got to be more we missed, so check it out.
Today in Los Angeles, Microsoft revealed their all-new line of Windows 8 tablets. The new Windows 8 tablets come with extremely thin case/keyboard combinations, along with a slick stand. They look to be more portable than laptops and more functional than any tablets we’ve seen yet. Running Windows 8 and with all the bright cases, the 10.9″ tablets look great. Microsoft if making its own hardware, and the news-world drama which ensued was reminiscent of an Apple announcement.
Two devices were announced: a Windows RT version and a Windows 8 Pro version. This means that the RT version is running on ARM, so will be lighter, thinner, and cheaper, while the Windows 8 Pro version is traditional x86 architecture. This also means that some capabilities are limited, such as all features of Microsoft Office “2013”. The Windows RT version will come in 32 GB and 64 GB versions, while the x86 version will be 64 GB and 128 GB. The breakdown of the differences is in the chart below.
Here’s a promotional video which is pretty sweet, but not terribly informative:
We haven’t heard anything on prices yet, but we’re told they will compete with today’s ARM tablets and Ultrabooks accordingly. My guess on pricing is that Microsoft will be extremely competitive, but I would still expect to pay at least $299 for the Windows RT version, and a couple hundred more for the 8 Pro, but we don’t know until Microsoft discloses it. Plus, we can look forward to other devices coming from third-party OEMs like Samsung. All this and more is set to come Q4 this year.
Though the yearly E3 convention is intended for video games, often times companies stretch the definition a bit and unveil new software and technology enabling new ways to play. Microsoft and Nintendo took the stage in this regard, though we did see a few other pieces of technology rear their heads. In all honesty, the concept of Xbox Smartglass looked an awful lot like the new features of the Wii U, given the tablet-console communication will enrich the gaming experience. The Wii U’s tablet integration has been awaited for a while now, but this does raise questions. That said, Microsoft has been keeping us on our toes in awaiting the “Three Screens Vision”, connecting the console, tablet or phone, and PC. It’s also important to note that both have their advantages. Xbox Smartglass will be available for Windows 8 tablets, Windows Phone, Android, and iOS as far as we know. In the keynote, Marc Whitten mentions the use of the app on Android, so we can assume iOS as well. The Xbox website’s Smartglass page says that there will be an Xbox Smartglass app for Windows and Windows Phone, and that the “Xbox SmartGlass technology is available on other major platforms in the My Xbox app”. There is already an Xbox Companion app for Windows Phone and a beta for Windows 8 (since Windows 8 is in beta–download the latest iteration, Release Preview here). We also assume that there will be something along those lines for Android and iOS, perhaps with some limited features, though we have no details as of yet. The real deal here is that Xbox Smartglass is connecting “the devices you already own” for an enhanced experience not just gaming, but viewing movies or videos, and for browsing the web. All these features are briefly described in Xbox video below.
As far as the Wii U goes, I’m convinced that Nintendo has this technology pretty much in the bag. The integration that they demoed does look more refined than that of Smartglass, and, as of late, superior. That said, Nintendo has the advantage working with only one “tablet”, if the so-called “gamepad” could be described as such. As far as we know, the gamepad will have some abilities we associate with a tablet, like video-chatting, but the apps and services which will be available are uncertain. We can’t hardly blame Nintendo for this though, because so far as we’ve “heard” the gamepad should be in the $100 price range, limiting the hardware. Then again, if Amazon can do it, why can’t Nintendo? It’s important to note that the gamepad isn’t a tablet. And unlike the devices meant for Smartglass, the gamepad is not really a device outside of gaming purposes. Outside of gaming, we know the gamepad may have features like the 3DS currently has. Both devices will feature integration with the new MiiVerse “social network”, for which smartphone apps will also be available. Nintendo seems to be really going out of their comfort zone in order to try and bring customers what they want most, so kudos to them there.
We’ll admit there was some other technology that was there, but we’ll save you the trouble of it because it wasn’t all that special. If you’re interested on the “virtual reality” Doom 3 goggle gizmo, we recommend the article at the Road to VR blog.
How can you tell when a market is moving quickly? It’s a sure sign when some companies are falling behind, and worse–they don’t recognize it. Whether it be the hardware, the software, the tablet or phone, the market in cellular and mobile devices is growing at a very fast pace and becoming even more profitable than ever before.
As of early May, we can tell that its likely that about half of everyone in the U.S. who pays regularly for a phone has a smartphone. This is up from about 29% in October 2010. The growth of the smartphone industry has followed, growing significantly as well.
Here’s a severely obvious statement: The entire market in mobile is growing and has grown a lot. Facebook is continuing its unprecedented social network expansion, and Apple is continuing to set precedents with pioneer technology. They’re are growing rapidly, to put it mildly. Maybe a better example is Verizon, which has seen only further growth this quarter, as it has more than the past year. AT&T has exceeded profit expectations with record smartphone sales both 2011’s Q4 (4th Quarter) and Q1 this year. And that’s just in the US.
What’s new, then? Companies in the line of phone making, selling, and supporting are doing great with more smartphones, right? Not necessarily. It seems to be the strategy of many Android OEMs to pump out phones every month or two. But as we saw back in December, HTC was the first to discover that this hit-people-with-everything-you’ve-got method isn’t the most effective. As we go back to Economics 101, the demand, though growing rapidly, isn’t meeting that volume of supply. Without saying anything specifically about HTC’s future, balancing constantly improving and innovating in devices and getting that on shelves and making sure it actually get bought (or that there is sufficient demand) is difficult.
We’ve seen a lot of executive stepping up and stepping down recently anywhere from RIM to Best Buy. HP is reportedly cutting as many as 25,000 jobs as of Thursday. RIM got their new CEO Thornston Heins not too long ago, and is said to be adopting two new executive staff members from Light Squared and Sony. Best Buy has lost its chairman Richard Schulze and CEO Brain Dunn in a scandal, and is in need of a replacement CEO–along with a new strategy. They’re hoping to start this off by cutting 50-some stores, but while already looking at huge losses in revenue. And there are more examples of major rethinking in companies dealing with mobile products, and which are effecting companies’ strategies in the mobile market. The question for these companies and others is ‘Are the changes they’re making to adapt to this market enough?’.
The precedents that have been set recently with fast advancing technology such as quad-core CPU phones and LTE mean that consumers are continuing to expect greater things from manufacturers and developers. Apple could be argued to have largely brought on this age of smartphones, but the personal precedents they set raise the bar for everyone, themselves included. This means consumers expect them to deliver outstanding results as well. Because of these expectations, it’s more than a difficult market. New devices are coming out by the dozen, month-to-month, and companies have to continuously perfect products to keep up, let alone get ahead. If that wasn’t hard enough, companies have to juggle pleasing shareholders, which is far from an easy task. The strategies that companies have directly effect both their end product and end user, and the experience the user gets (UE or UX) can, overt time, come to directly reflect the share values of a company.
But this is like any other market, right? On the contrary, the vicious pace we’re seeing is more than just business competition. The competition for the best smartphone has been speeding forward at a pace which would cause many businesses strain. At this point, its nearly impossible for smaller companies to enter the game unless they have something which can make consumers think twice about their iPhone. We have seen some heads turned with Nokia’s new Windows Phone Lumia line, and considering the company has only reentered the US smartphone game a relative few months ago, the accomplishment is notable. It will be interesting to see if Samsung, Motorola, LG, HTC, Nokia, Sony, RIM, and others, all keep enough of a trusting and trusted userbase to keep on trucking. Can so many companies really keep up?
The answer, however, is difficult. On one hand, the heavy competition and difficulty in pleasing everyone could be a destructive burden that eventually beats out software and hardware giants alike. Yet at the same time, as the market grows, there should be room for more products.
In terms of shares, Apple currently appears to be greatly leading in its industry, to no one’s surprise, with share prices still climbing. Microsoft has been on a downward trend for years, but has had a small trend upwards very recently, though its shares are far below in value. It’s heyday was right around the turn of the century. Google looks tentatively to be trending upwards, growing rapidly, and though perhaps not at the pace of Apple, its share prices are far closer to Apple’s than Microsoft’s. That all said, Google and Apple have under 1 billion shares, while Microsoft has more than 8 billion, meaning that the company’s value could still be equal or higher. Ultimately, its difficult to tell who’s really on top. At least, right now.
There’s a lot of stuff happening this fall. The updates, news, hardware, and tantalizing prospects of the future in consumer technology we’re all looking for are going to come “en masse” this late summer and fall. There are a number of updates and promises and rumors that we should see coming all around this time. Software from Apple, Microsoft, and Google–the big three, of course–are all launching new versions of their mobile OSs. This means not only devices to current phones we love and behold, but a whole new fresh round of devices. From everyone, hopefully. This unified release could lead to some serious competition. When everyone has their latest and greatest on the field, it will be even more crucial to get the public eye, to compete, and to win the individual’s checkbook. Here’s a look at a few of the things which we’re heading into.
- iPhone 5. This phone may have been the most rumored device in history. This extremely-long-awaited phone could have some difficulty in competing in hardware to some Android devices like the HTC One X or Galaxy S III. The amount of time that Apple has made consumers wait for this phone will also mean the expectations will be extremely high. Larger screen? LTE? 1 GB RAM? Quad-core? Full HD screen? 20 MP camera? Built-in keyboard projector? … Apple released the iPhone 4 in June of 2010, but rumors do seem to be pointing to later fall. We’re just going to have to wait.
- Windows 8.The only computer OS which is getting a major update is getting the most major update it’s seen in years. Microsoft is bringing its revamped and reinspired OS to tablets, PCs, and everything in-between. The shear number of products that should come with this release will probably be overwhelming.
- Jelly Bean. The next iteration of Android is rumored to be coming this fall, but hasn’t truly been confirmed. (We should get more details this summer.) Supposedly, we’ll be looking at more tablet-friendly interfaces and some potential Jelly Bean notebooks. There was also word of a dual-operating system feature with Chrome, allegedly allowing you to dual-boot without having to reboot. Stay a little hesitant there.
- Windows Phone 8. Windows Phone 7.5 “Tango” should be just around the corner for many users, if their carrier is willing to give it to them. New devices, however, have been limited by the hardware limitations of the current Windows Phone version. Windows Phone 8 is rumored to be a complete rebuilding of the OS, and will likely unify the experience with Windows 8 even futher, while allowing for more impressive hardware specifications.
- iOS 6. If Apple continues to follow their pattern of releases, it is likely we’ll see a new version of Apple’s operating system, which should make way for the iPad following the 3rd generation iPad, and likely also the iPhone 5. Given that Apple has waited so long for the iPhone 5, it’s possible we’ll see something big with this update. The OS has been around for a long time now, looking practically the same. The features of iOS 5 enliven the experience, but a whole new homescreen redesign may be in order. Surprise us, Apple.
We’ve got a lot coming to us, but we should get peeks and leaks before we get our hands on anything. It’s going to be a wild ride this fall. Stay tuned.