Monday, October 31, 2011

Samsung Galaxy Nexus vs Samsung Galaxy Note

We take a look at two of Samsung's smartest devices – the Galaxy Nexus and the Galaxy Note

Samsung's Galaxy Nexus was unveiled last week to much fanfare, and when you take a look at the device it's easy to be impressed. With its vanilla Ice Cream Sandwich (pun not intended) OS and slim futuristic looks it's a smartphone that begs to please.
But beneath all of its good looks and groundbreaking software how does it function? What does it offer that other devices do not? In order to find out we've put the new Galaxy Nexus up against the newly launched Galaxy Note – a 5.3-inch display smartphone/tablet hybrid.

Samsung's Galaxy Nexus features a 4.6-inch Super AMOLED touchscreen that operates at a resolution 720x1280 and offers an incredible pixel density of 316PPI, just a few small blobs short of Apple's iPhone 4S and its pretentiously named Retina Display.
The Galaxy Note, on the other hand, features a whopper of a Super AMOLED display, measuring 5.3-inches and display 800x1280 pixels, with a pixel density of 285PPI.
It's hard to fault Samsung for its choices with either device in this category and fault them we shan't. Both these devices have fantastic, responsive, vivid displays that are tough as old boots thanks to their Gorilla Glass coating.
We would be happy watching either of them every day.
Winner - Draw

Form & Build
Samsung Galaxy Nexus - 135.5 x 67.9 x 8.9 mm, 135 g
Samsung Galaxy Note - 146.9 x 83 x 9.7 mm, 178 g
With its 5.3-inch screen the Galaxy Note isn't exactly pocket-ready, but the device is certainly crafted well enough. The use of plastics adds a bit of a sour note (we'd like to see some metal now and again, Samsung) but overall the device feels solid and durable.
The Galaxy Nexus undoubtedly looks and feels more premium than the Note, though. It's crafted from almost identical materials. The design exudes a far more professional vibe too, which isn't something to be sniffed at.
The device is also smaller, lighter and 100% more pocketable than the Note too, giving it this round.
Winner - Samsung Galaxy Nexus

Samsung's smartphone camera's are coming on in leaps and bounds and the Galaxy Note's 8-megapixel offering is no exception.
It features LED flash, autofocus, geo-tagging, touch focus, face and smile detection, image stabilisation and 1080P video capture. It'll allow users to snap a more than printable image on the spur of the moment.
A secondary camera is offered too and the 2-megapixel effort, which can also be found on the Galaxy S 2, is far and away the best video-call camera we've used.
Mystifyingly the Galaxy Nexus only has a 5-megapixel primary camera, but what it lacks in pixel count it more than makes up for in software enhancements and performance.
Samsung and Google have got together to ensure that the Galaxy Nexus' primary camera has no shutter lag at all, meaning you get to shoot what you see, not what you saw 3 seconds ago. It's a feature that we hope becomes the norm for other manufacturers too.
In addition to this the camera benefits from an LED flash, touch focus, geo-tagging and face-detection, and as with the Galaxy Note, 1080P video capture.
The secondary camera is a mere 1.3-megapixels but it will ably serve its purpose.
Winner - Draw


The Galaxy Nexus will ship with the latest version of Android, Ice Cream Sandwich, and this iteration of the OS represents a shift in strategy for Google.

No more custom UI's, no more putting off updates. From here on in what happens to the OS is dictated by Google and that is a decision we are stoked about.

On the practical side this updated operating system is fast, stable and has been richly re-designed to compete with the advances of its competitors. You can expect to see a new font throughout, face recognition, improved core apps and a whole new UI. It's very impressive.

Samsung's Galaxy Note ships with version 2.3 of Google which, while impressive and practical, isn't going to win any contests against the new version of the software.

Yes, you'll still have access to the same myriad of applications from the Android Market. Yes you can still customise, but overall the introduction of Ice Cream Sandwich largely makes previous iterations seem like release candidates.

Samsung's TouchWiz 4.0 overlay does add to the charm of the Galaxy Note though, with custom eye-candy, hubs for social integration, books and games, and custom widgets and apps, but it's a small victory when held up against the future of the platform.

Winner - Samsung Galaxy Nexus


Samsung's Galaxy Nexus is powered by a dual-core 1.2GHz Cortex-A9 CPU which is more than powerful enough for even the most testing tasks, and the running gear is ably assisted by 1GB RAM, which will make slipping in and out of applications seamless.

The Galaxy Note weighs-in even heavier in the guts department though, with a dual-core 1.4GHz Cortex-A9 and Mali-400MP GPU, which affords the user just a smidge more poke when they're in a pinch.

The Galaxy Note also features 1GB RAM, and this fact pushes it up there just beyond the reach of the Galaxy Nexus, giving it a win in this round.

Winner - Samsung Galaxy Note

The mighty Samsung Galaxy Nexus has taken the win, but only by a whisker!

It's a device that offers a glimpse at the future of the Android world, and performs ably across the board but, as with its two forebears, it doesn't really push the envelope in any way shape or form.

The Galaxy Note is to the device what the HTC Desire was the Nexus One, which is to say a superior specimen all but for a few small points (which can be altered by the end-user should they be so intrepid), and as such it's a device which deserves some respect.

Original Galaxy Tab Getting Android 2.3.5 Upgrade through Verizon

The Samsung Galaxy Tab attempted to do what no other tablet would: take on the iPad head-to-head. That first 7-inch offering didn’t topple Apple’s place atop the Tablet heap, but its release marked the beginning of the onslaught of Android tablets from all manufacturers that we see today. Samsung has since followed up that noble effort with a series of Galaxy Tabs, and most recently announced a new 7-inch slate to replace the original. But there is no love lost, at least for Verizon subscribers. The carrier has just posted the release notes of an Android 2.3.5 update headed towards the Galaxy Tab. It’s not Ice Cream Sandwich, nor is it even Honeycomb, but it is a bit more than what many might have expected. Improvements abound, check the source link for the full changelog.

[via Verizon]

Google Wallet teams up with Sprint and Samsung to showcase service in-store

The GoAndroid first got a peek at Google Wallet back in May, and the NFC-driven wallet went live in September. And in a blog post earlier today, Keren Michelson, Product Marketing at Google Wallet, announced it was teaming up with Sprint and Samsung to embark on a roadshow to help consumers get to grips with Google Wallet ‘in situ’.
From now until January, Google will be visiting stores in the five key cities where Google Wallet is live – New York, Chicago, Washington DC, San Francisco and Los Angeles. It will set-up half-day events to demo Google Wallet and actually help customers pay for goods with the service. Participants will be motivated to take part too, as they’ll receive $10 towards their purchase when they pay using one of Samsung’s Nexus S demo phones.
GW 520x198 Google Wallet teams up with Sprint and Samsung to showcase service in store
Stores on the radar include Duane Reade, Jamba Juice, Walgreens, Peet’s Coffee & Tea, Foot Locker and Fat Witch Bakery, among others. Google Wallet will be in each city on the following dates:
New York: Oct. 17 – Nov. 13
Chicago: Oct. 17 – Nov. 13
Washington, DC: Nov. 15 – Dec. 12
San Francisco: Nov. 15 – Dec. 12
Los Angeles: Dec. 14 – Jan. 12
The series of events follow hot on the heels of another promo initiative Google held a few weeks back, as we reported when employees decked out in Google Wallet gear headed into stores such as Duane Reade, Toyrs R Us and Macy’s, approached customers with Android phones and pitch the Google Wallet experience whilst offering to pay for their purchases in full.

Google TV 2.0 (Android 3.1) Reaching Sony Hardware Today

Somedays I feel like I am the only person in this world who loves Google TV. But not today. Today I can pretend everyone loves Google TV, and indeed everyone gets a second chance to fall in love. And second chances at falling in love don’t come frequently. So take advantage. If only one thing could spoil news that the Google TV 2.0 update (otherwise known as Android 3.1 for Google TV) is already arriving for some lucky owners of GTV hardware, it would be that Logitech Revue owners like me will still have to wait a few more days. Lucky dogs owning Sony’s hardware (including internet-connected TV sets and the GTV Blu-Ray player) should start seeing the update any time now, and some already have. God bless.
[via AndroidCentral]

Asus roadmap leaked: Transformer Prime Nov. 9, more tablets in Q1 2012

An internal document shedding some light on Asus’ upcoming Android plans tells us a little more about the quad-core Eee Pad Transformer Prime, and that two “hero products” will be launching next spring. In between revenue results and media coverage, the presentation mentions a November 9th launch for the Transformer Prime – already confirmed by an Asus executive – and notes that Asus has shipped 1.6 million units of the original Transformer and the Eee Pad Slider.

The document (PDF link) tells us a lot of what we already know about the Transformer Prime. Like its predecessor it will have an optional keyboard attachment, essentially making it an Android netbook when equipped. The Prime is following in the design footsteps of Asus’ Zenbook line of laptops, leading the company to note its “Beauty/Fashion” appeal. The most interesting tidbit in the presentation comes near the end, when Asus notes that the Transformer Prime is “Leading in quad core & ICS”. That’s a definite indication that the Prime will be the very first Ice Cream Sandwich tablet when it launches, though it could also mean that Asus is simply planning a quick update.
The Transformer Prime is exciting in its own right, but what about those “hero products” slated for Q1 2012? An update to the Eee Pad Slider is possible, but might not be all that likely: the integrated keyboard tablet sold only a fraction of the volume of the Transformer. A more exciting possibility is that Asus is finally preparing a retail release for its Padfone concept device. With Ice Cream Sandwich bridging the gap between Android’s smartphone and tablet development arms, the time is right for the smartphone/tablet dock form factor to make its grand entrance.
[via NotebookItalia,]

Barnes & Noble event set for November 7th – Nook Color 2 likely

We’ve been hearing rumblings of a sequel to Barnes & Nobles Nook Color reader/tablet for months, and it looks like predictions for a November 7th launch were right on the money. Invitations for a “very special announcement” bearing the distinctive Nook logo are arriving in the inboxes of major media now. The Nook Color 2, or whatever it will be named, seems almost certain at this point.

Barnes & Noble is playing catch-up, at least in the publicity race: Amazon’s similar full-color, 7-inch tablet the Kindle Fire also runs a modified version of Android, and wil lbegin shipping out to customers on November the 15th. Most impressively, it’s just $199, putting it into impulse buy territory when compared to $400-$500 full-sized tablets. Various estimations put pre-order sales at around a quarter million already, and Amazon might be able to make as many as 5 million by year’s end. Retail employees are already reporting displays and marketing material being prepared in bookstores ahead of Barnes & Noble’s event.
The original Nook Color is still competent for its intended purpose, reading ebooks with some light browsing, emailing and video. The $250 tablet gained notoriety among Android enthusiasts for its easy hackability via a boot table that defaulted to the MicroSD card. CyanogenMod 7 is a popular ROM, and the Nook Color was technically one of the very first devices to run Android Honeycomb via an SDK port. Who knows if Barnes & Noble will keep the easy-modified software structure of the original Nook Color, but they’ll almost certainly try to compete with Amazon’s rock-bottom pricing.

QuickClick apps make finding nightlife in a new town easier

A company called MarketImpact has announced the pending launch of some new apps that are designed to help people in an unfamiliar city discover things to do. The apps fall into the QuickClick Locale Series and there are bunches of different apps in the series that are designed specifically for one sort of task. For instance, there will be different apps for eating and for night clubs.

The apps will have versions that focus on Nightlife, Restaurants, fast food, casinos, coffee, desserts, gas stations, parking, and ATMs. The reason for apps with specific uses is to allow the user to get all the details they need on only one screen rather than having to click to different screens.
Any extra detail needed like food type or bank name will be able to be typed directly on the one screen. It’s not clear, if the apps will be offered for specific major cities or if the app will cover any city. The apps are up on the Android Market right now.
[via SFGate]

Microsoft’s lawyer says “Android stands on our shoulders”

Microsoft has a keen interested in Android despite selling its own mobile operating system – an interest that’s vetted to the tune of more than $400 million a year in kickbacks from 53% of Android devices sold. Now Microsoft’s deputy patent troll intellectual property counsel says that Google has built its OS on the back of technology developed (and owned) by the Redmond software giant. Microsoft is only one of many companies gunning for Android manufacturers, but tellingly, not targeting Google itself.

Horacio Gutiérrez, deputy general counsel for Microsoft’s intellectual property group, told the San Francisco Chronicle the following in an interview:
These devices have moved from having a rudimentary phone system to being a full-fledged computer, with a sophisticated, modern operating system. In doing that, they have really stood on the shoulder of companies like Microsoft who made all these billions of dollars in investments.
He went on to talk about Microsoft innovations that are “really critical features that make smart phones what they are today.” Without going into detail, Gutiérrez mentioned synchronizing data with servers and back-end hardware and software innovations that he believes belong to Microsoft. According to Gutiérrez, these patents aren’t contingent upon the final outcome of a software process – say, making a web browser close when the desired action is completed – but on the way in which the outcome is achieved. Different methods of doing the same thing are covered by different patents.
A surprising number of Android manufacturers would seem to agree, or at least, they don’t want to fight out the finer details in court. Samsung, HTC, ODM company Compal and many others pay royalties to Microsoft for every Android device sold. In fact, the number of Android devices that contribute directly to Microsoft’s pockets far exceeds the number of Windows Phone 7 devices sold, even if the latter is more directly beneficial to the company. Google asserts that Microsoft is manipulating the IP and court system to extort its hardware partners.

AT&T Announces the 4G LTE Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket, Nov. 6 for $249.99

Many were wondering if the Samsung Galaxy S II LTE would make it to the states, and we now have the answer in the form of an early Monday press release from AT&T. The handset with a 4.5-inch Super AMOLED Plus display and 1.5GHz dual-core processor will come to the carrier as the Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket. Other specs include an 8MP camera with 1080p video captures and 16GB of on-board storage.
The Skyrocket will go on sale November 6th and will be one of AT&T’s pricier models, $249.99 on a two-year contract. It’s no Samsung Galaxy Nexus in terms of software, but it does best that device in some areas. Screen technology is an upgrade (though lower resolution) and the clock speed of the processor is increased. See the announcement below for more info.
Samsung Galaxy S™ II Skyrocket™
Lightning fast reflexes powered by a 1.5 GHz dual core processor and AT&T 4G LTE speeds make the Galaxy S II Skyrocket faster for Web browsing and all your favorite apps. A Super AMOLED Plus display spanning 4.5-inches is the brightest, most colorful screen on the market.
  • 4.5-inch Super AMOLED Plus display(800×480 pixels)
  • Android Gingerbread (2.3.5)
  • 1.5 GHz dual-core processor
  • 8-megapixel rear-facing camera with LED flash, with 2-megapixel front-facing camera
  • 1080p HD video recording
  • 16 GB of on-board memory, microSD expandable to an additional 32 GB
The Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket will arrive in AT&T company-owned retail stores and online Nov. 6 for $249.99 with a two-year commitment.

HTC Vivid Official for AT&T, Nov. 6th for $199.99

AT&T has announced its first 4G LTE smartphones, the Samsung Galaxy S II and the HTC Vivid. The Vivid is the phone we have up until now known as the HTC Raider (and is still known under that name in some regions). The Vivid features a 4.5-inch qHD display, 1.2GHz dual-core processor, and 8MP camera capable of 1080p video capture.
AT&T is pushing its 4G LTE network to new regions and launching the handset (along with the Skyrocket) on November 6th. The Vivid will be the lower-priced option at $199.99 on a new two-year agreement.

Apkudo helps devs test apps to be sure they work on multiple devices

One of the biggest challenges for app developers on platforms like Android where there are multiple smartphones and all those smartphones tend to have different hardware is fragmentation. Just because the app the develop runs on one Android smartphone doesn’t mean it will run on all of them. Some devs have found that out the hard way, as have Android users when they try and use the app. Apkudo is a new testing platform that devs might find interesting.

Apkudo is set to launch a new free testing service that will help devs to see how the application will run on nearly 300 different Android devices. The product will be launched at AnDevCom in San Francisco on November 6. Apkudo has 289 devices specifically including tablets and smartphones that account for just about every Android device sold so far.
The apps a dev creates are uploaded to Apkudo and then the lab runs the apps on the APK using each device. The full test takes less than a minute and then bugs and issues are reported back. There are cameras in the lab that record the video of the app running on the app devices and the devs can slow the video down to catch specific errors. This sounds interesting, I wonder if it will change to a paid service later.

HTC Desire S Gets Android 2.3.5, Sense 3.0

Heads up, citizens of the UK. The HTC Desire S is receiving its update to Android 2.3.5. The biggest change with the update involves HTC’s custom user interface, where it has been updated to Sense 3.0. This brings about new lockscreen elements, a refreshed notifications pull-down, and other goodies. The update has been arriving for owners of the unbranded Desire S as well as those with the phone on-contract through Vodafone, Orange, and O2.
[via EuroDroid]

Samsung Galaxy S Glide and Motorola RAZR Headed to Rogers this Week

While Motorola’s new take on the RAZR franchise will be exclusive to Verizon in the US, those in other parts of the world should have no problem getting ahold of the new device. A new leak out of Rogers indicates the handset will be available beginning November 4th. The same leak shows that the Motorola RAZR will be preceded by the Samsung Galaxy S Glide with its combination of high-end specs and slide-out keyboard on November 3rd. Both devices will be available for $149.99 on three-year contracts.
[via mobilesyrup]

Add the Samsung Galaxy S to the List of Devices with an Unofficial Ice Cream Sandwich Port

The Samsung Galaxy S is joining a growing group of current devices receiving pre-release builds of Android Ice Cream Sandwich. As was the case with previous instances on the Nexus S and HTC Thunderbolt the alpha build is worth mentioning but hardly useful as daily driver ROM. Android 4.0 has not seen an “official” release, so developers have been using the SDK (rather than the source code) to patch together makeshift builds of the new OS version. This results in software that isn’t fully baked. The Samsung Galaxy S version of this tasty treat is not even available to the general public yet, though work is progressing thanks in large part to the same team that brought us MIUI.
[via XDA]

Press Shot Labeled as Verizon Samsung Galaxy Nexus, Carrier Branding Nowhere to Be Found

The above image doesn’t look much different than any other official Samsung Galaxy Nexus image we have seen before, but this one isn’t just any Galaxy Nexus. According to the astute men of DroidLife, this image has the distinction of originally having the file name "Verizon_SCH-i515.jpg.″ The image was located on Samsung’s website, and despite its name the device pictured lacks any recognizable Verizon marks. Two possibilities here: (1) the file is a placeholder image with Verizon included in its name for identification purposes for the people working on the Samsung website, or (2) like the Nexus devices before it, the Galaxy Nexus will be absent of the expected carrier branding, lending to it’s clean Google Experience roots. Sure, it’s a bit much of a fuss over a single image, but it is the Galaxy Nexus. We’ll take any excuse to talk about this beautiful device.
[via DroidLife]

HTC ships 13.2 million devices in Q3, confirms two launches for November

Another day, another quarterly earnings report. Taiwanese smartphone specialist HTC is doing very well, with 13.2 million total device sales (not all Android, of course), $4.54 billion in total revenue, $625 million of which is profit. Riding the continuing surge in worldwide smartphone sales, HTC is up year-over-year in every major statistic, with shipped devices rising an impressive 93%.

The company also confirmed plans for two new product launches in November. One is expected to be the HTC Rezound, AKA the Vigor, probably coming in an announcement on November the 3rd. It’ll compete with the latest from Samsung and Motorola, with a 720p screen and Beats audio, and a Verizon (at least initially) launch. The second device is currently a mystery, though there’s no reason that it wouldn’t be announced at the same time.
Out of the three major Android manufacturers, HTC is performing the best all-round, with an impressive 13.76% profit margin over the last three months. Though the company isn’t anywhere near as big as Samsung (over 28 million devices shipped in the same period), it’s operating much more efficiently, and doesn’t have feature phone concerns to worry about. Motorola continues to operate at a loss as it prepares for a Google acquisition later this year.
Looking forward into Q4, HTC’s predictions are reserved. They expect roughly flat total revenue and shipment figures, though both of these would be about 30% higher than the relevant figures for last year.
[via SlashGear]

Buffer releases Android app, iPhone version will be next

Twitter sharing service Buffer has announced the launch of its Android app which will soon be followed by an iOS app for iPhone users.
We last covered Buffer, whose innovative service lets Twitter users schedule updates in pre-timed batches to ensure they never “flood” followers, when it announced that it had registered one million tweets ‘buffered’ and the team has since been busy developing its first mobile app.
The Android application, which is available to download for free, comes with all the usual features including tweet editing, scheduling and switching between multiple accounts. Additional on-app analytics allows users to see the number of clicks, retweets and reach for each tweet.
A dedicated iPhone solution will be next as The Buffer team revealed that next in the pipeline is an iOS app to give iPhone owners a customised experience of the service. For now they, like other mobile uses, can only use the service through its email-based mobile version.
Buffer is also “working away like mad on Buffer for Facebook”, a service that would, presumably, allow its Facebook users to schedule their updates in groups and at specific times as they can already do with Twitter.
Buffer has always admitted it plans to do more than just cover Twitter, having already added Google Reader we assume that it will explore potential connectivity with LinkedIn, Google+ and others sites in the future.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Is HP just making up excuses now to keep webOS in the dark?

HP’s gone a little bit up and down over the last few months. Actually, many would say that there has been a lot more downthan up, and I would tend to agree. I am a fan of any company out there that stands behind their products to the end, and shows that they are pushing ahead despite the hardships. I’ll support those companies along with them, even if I know there’s an obvious dead end ahead. It’s one of the reasons I bought a TouchPad in that crazy fire sale that was happening. Even when I was seeing HP’s dismissal of the hardware front, I was holding out hope for the software. And now that HP is supposed to make a decision on webOS itself, I find myself holding my breath here and there, waiting to hear something.

While we’ve been reporting that things could change for the worse for webOS as of late, it would seem that HP is set on keeping things the way they are. What that means is anyone’s guess at this point, at least deeper than face value. For the rest of the world, we see a mobile operating system that is literally in a state of limbo. We see that HP’s webOS is still there, still being talked about, and still wanted by plenty of people out there. But, we also see HP not really making a move on anything. We see HP literally balking at the idea that webOS is still around or could be left adrift. The truth is it seems to me that HP has no idea what to do and they are trying to bide as much time as they can before someone, anyone forces them to make one.

That has never been so clear to me until just recently, when webOS GPU VP Stephen DeWitt offered his two cents on the life of webOS. Of course, this is coming from an “insider,” so this isn’t entirely set in stone quite yet. But, we’ll take it for what it’s worth for now. And that’s why I’m thinking HP is seriously trying to just come up with any excuse they can to make sure that they keep webOS under their wing, in this constant state of flux and mystery. What I’m talking about is DeWitt mentioning that webOS is designed to work on Qualcomm chips, and that potential companies would “likely want webOS to work with other kinds of chipsets.”

Really? This just seems like we are trying too hard to make sure that no one else gets their hands on webOS. Yes, webOS is designed to work on Qualcomm chips, but last time I checked there were still manufacturers out there using Qualcomm chips in smartphones. So . . . That can’t honestly be a huge issue, right? I understand that those companies using Qualcomm chipsets in their phones might not want to get their hands on webOS, but at the same time, I would be shocked to hear that not one of those companies would like to use webOS. For a nominal licensing fee there’s obviously still money to be made from webOS – why not bank on that? And then, on the flip-side, why not get one of those hundreds of intelligent people out there who have been working on webOS since day one to get the mobile OS to work on something other than a Qualcomm chipset? That’s possible, right? If it isn’t then that’s a realistic dilemma that could really be holding things up. If it is possible, then let’s get this moving, shall we?

I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that HP is making these kinds of moves, blaming these kinds of situations on the hold up because they can’t find anyone to license webOS in its current state. No, not because the likes of Samsung and HTC don’t want to manufacture phones with webOS, but because they don’t want to deal with HP. To me, that makes the most sense. Considering how “wishy-washy” HP seems to be with one of the most fan-crazed mobile operating systems out there, I wouldn’t want to work directly with them right now, either. Someone in HP’s upper management seriously just needs to make a decision on webOS, even if that means they officially declare webOS dead, or that they’ve passed the reigns over to someone else. Just make a decision. We’re all waiting to hear it, seriously.

But, if we’re left to deal with these ridiculous reasons, and continue to get stonewalled, then you’ll only have one choice, and it will be completely on you: kill it.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Sony Ericsson Announces Android 2.3.4 Rollout For All Countries – Adds Bonus Features

Back in September, Sony Ericsson announced that they would being rolling out the Android 2.3.4 Gingerbread update to their devices, unfortunately for us here in the states (and other parts of the world), it was only for Nordic countries. Thankfully, today, SE announced that the 2.3.4 update has begun rolling out for the rest of the world but with a few added changes. Highlights of the update include:
  • Google Talk with Video Chat for smartphones with front-facing cameras
  • Updated Facebook inside Xperia™ functionality for enhanced like, share and discover abilities.
  • Xperia™ smartphones introducing world’s first 3D Sweep Panorama functionality powered by Sony.
  • 16x video zoom
  • The software upgrade will enable consumers to turn their Xperia™ smartphone into a mini-mobile PC by connecting USB peripherals (mouse, keyboard or game controller) to Sony Ericsson LiveDock™ multimedia station. Connect the smartphone to a TV via HDMI to get a big screen experience.
  • Gesture input - text input by swiping the finger from one letter to the next
  • WiFi DLNA
  • Screen capture - allows the user to share a screen grab from anywhere in the phone.
Sony Ericsson devices that can look forward to the update are just about their entire lineup and include the Xperia Arc, Play, Neo, Mini, Mini Pro, Pro, Ray, Active, Neo V, Arc S and the Sony Ericsson Live with Walkman. For a video walkthrough of the new features (you have to see “USB on the go”) check out the video below.

Sony Ericsson (soon to be just “Sony”) has quickly proven to be one of the better Android OEM’s, offering continuous support in regards to updates and with their work in the developer community. Now all that’s left is for SE to deliver some shiny dual-core devices to the US and they’ll be golden.
Thanks, Vlad!
[Via SEBlog]

Apple's iTunes vs Microsoft Zune

Which is the best for syncing with a mobile device and for everyday use as a PC-based media player, Apple’s iTunes or Microsoft’s Zune? We investigate

Apple, largely thanks to the success of the iPod and iPhone, is presently enjoying something of a monopoly in the personal music player markets, be it on its iPod devices, iPhones or iPads. And because Apple likes to keep everything connected (or under its control) iTunes has become, for the vast majority of people, the standard PC media player.
And this isn’t all that surprising when you consider that Microsoft’s attempt at an iPod-liked device, known as the Zune player, absolutely bombed upon release. In fact, it wans't even released here in the UK. But one good thing to come out of the ill-fated Zune campaign was Microsoft’s Zune PC software, which is starting to look every bit the iTunes-killer Microsoft fanbois have been saying it was since day one.
Of course to use either you’ll need to first align yourself with either Microsoft or Apple – iPhones won’t work on Zune, for example, which isn’t even available on Macs, and Windows Phone 7 devices won’t work with iTunes. So this is really an article for anyone out there that’s looking to upgrade to a new phone, but can’t decide between going with Apple or Microsoft.

This aspect of the comparison is pretty subjective as it’s based on looks and has nothing to do with functionality. As we established earlier, everybody knows what Apple’s iTunes looks like. It’s simple, grey, easy-to-use and acts as a portal to Apple’s iTunes Store, where you can buy apps, films and music.
Unlike Apple’s products iTunes isn’t really about looks. It even feels a bit old-hat these days, if we’re honest, as very little about the way it looks has changed that much since the service first launched. It serves it’s purpose and is very straight forward to use, but we think Apple could do something with the UI to make it a bit more attractive.
Microsoft’s Zune, on the other hand, is all about looks with its gorgeous wallpapers and Metro UI. So much so, in fact, that if you hadn’t seen either pieces of software before and had to guess which one was Apple’s, you’d probably assume it was Zune.
Zune Zune will also load up backgrounds of the artist that you’re listening to. So if you’ve got some Mastodon playing you’ll get a lovely collage of Mastodon album covers making up wallpaper. The tiles that make up the wallpaper spin around revealing different images and collections of pictures – it really is a pleasure to look at. Apple doesn’t have anything that compares to this in iTunes.
Winner: Zune

During that last month or so, we’ve tested quite a few Windows Phone 7 handsets. This is part of the reason why we’ve become so attached to Zune. It’s also the reason why Microsoft’s software and not iTunes is now the default music player on our PC at home, despite the fact that this scribbler is an iPhone 4S user.
Generally speaking we didn’t experience any issues whatsoever when syncing Zune with our Windows Phone 7 device. You simply connect it via a cable, or over Wi-Fi, and enable the syncing mode. Adding files manually is simple, too – just drag albums, songs or videos onto the phone symbol in the bottom left corner.
One big draw of Zune is that it automatically adds songs to itself once you’ve downloaded them. Apple’s iTunes won’t do this by itself – you’ll have to manually add them or set up a folder. We found this slightly annoying when switching back from Zune to iTunes. Zune also automatically imports your entire iTunes library across as well. Again, iTunes won’t do this by itself. You, once again, have to step in.
Both Zune and iTunes are evenly matched in the syncing stakes. Both support Wi-Fi syncing, for instance, and generally perform above average when updating your device with music, video and media.
Having said that, neither product’s Wi-Fi syncing options are particularly impressive. After trying and failing on numerous occasions with both products we opted back to using a cable – it’s faster and more secure.
One aspect where Microsoft kicks Apple’s ass though is the ease with which Zune updates the software on your Windows Phone handset. We can’t remember one instance where an iOS update has installed on the first go, there’s always at least one failure – always. This could be an issue with the number of people trying to download an update at any one time, but Apple should have rectified this issue by now.
But this isn’t the case with Zune. Both of Microsoft’s recent Windows Phone updates (NoDo and Mango) updated with ease. There were no restarts or no error messages. It was just a case of plugging in the handset and watching it go. Simple.
Of course this difference could be caused by the sheer amount of people accessing Apple’s servers once an update is made available – there is a lot more iPhone users out there after all. But this still doesn’t detract from the general experience: Zune seems better equipped to process and implement software onto handsets.
Winner: Zune

Getting album art work
If you’re anything like us, you hate having black squares where album artwork should be. In both iTunes and Zune this issue too much of a problem, as you can search and download the artwork for specific albums as and when you need it.
But say you’ve got some music that isn’t from Apple’s iTunes store or Microsoft’s Zune Market? It could be your ripped CDs or, god forbid, illegally downloaded – what then?
Well, you can drag and drop artwork from Google into iTunes and that will then become the default artwork for a band, which is always good for obscure artists. However, we’ve noticed some issues with this function in iTunes 10.5. In some instances we just can’t add artwork and this means lots of blank squares in our iPhone’s music application.
In Zune you just right-click and select search for Artist Artwork. That’s it. No Google searches, no magic and, most importantly, there’s no Zune registration required, a simple Hotmail/Live account will suffice. To date Zune has found every piece of album artwork we’ve asked it to – even really tricky ones like Rwake and Wolves in the Throne Room.
Winner: Zune

Buying music
iTunes is the default place to by music for practically every human being in the western world. It’s simple to use, well stocked and, generally speaking, priced accordingly. You can get video, music, books films and applications from inside iTunes. And if you have an iPhone/iPad/iPod, it’s the only way you can get content to and from a device (granted there’s other methods, but these are more of a pain than a solution).

Microsoft is similar to Apple in that to get content from your PC to your Windows Phone device you’ll need to use Zune. But the similarities end here, you see Microsoft lets you buy music via its Zune store but it’s taken a more Spotify-like approach to music consumption, which some users tend to prefer.

Here is what a $14.99 a month Zune Pass gets you, according to Microsoft:

A Zune Music Pass lets you stream and download as many songs as you like from Zune Marketplace and listen to them for as long as your subscription is active. You can get a 1-month Zune Music Pass or save money and get 12 months for the price of 10 by choosing an annual pass.

With an active Zune Music Pass, you can:
Play songs an unlimited number of times.
Download an unlimited number of songs to your computer, and sync them an unlimited number of times to your Windows Phone.
Stream music from Zune Marketplace, from your Xbox 360 using Zune on Xbox LIVE, and from You can also use Smart DJ to listen to spontaneous playlists.

At last count, Microsoft had about 17,000,000 tracks on Zune. That’s a lot of music. The only issue we have with Zune is that it’s reliant on the cloud. For instance, if you wanted to listen to music on the move you’d have to stream it to your device, which requires mobile data – and that costs money.

Zune would be an ideal solution in a world that had coast-to-coast 4G-connectivity and unlimited data plans. Unfortunately neither of these things exist in the UK, so for this reason we have to go with Apple on this one, despite the obvious benefits of Microsoft’s solution.

Winner: Apple

As you'd expect, Zune is compatible with Windows, and only Windows. If you have a Mac, you're left out, unless you opt to download Windows Phone 7 Connector for Mac, which will only sync files, rather than allow you to access your full music collection.

But if you’ve got a Windows PC, you have slightly more options, because iTunes works on PCs and Mac.

We use iTunes to sync our iPhone, for instance, but Zune as our PC media player – that way you get the best of both worlds.

Winner: iTunes

Final thoughts
It’s a pretty clean-cut victory for Zune in this instance. It looks better, performs better and is simpler to use and packs in lots more usual features, such as better syncing. Having said that, to make use of either you will need the appropriate hardware (either an iPhone or a Windows Phone).

In the grand scheme of things neither product is perfect, though. Both have their positives and negatives, but to get a real feel for the main differences (namely the quality of the user experience) we’d recommend using Zune if you haven’t already – it’s streets ahead of iTunes in this respect.

Both, however, suffer greatly on account of just how locked down they are – this is especially evident with Zune, which isn’t even available on Mac.

We’d love to see an OS X version of Zune and Zune support iPhone syncing, it’d be great for consumers – it’d give them a choice. But it won’t happen, so get used to one of the other (or in some instances both) depending on what type of hardware set-up you use.

GameStop begins selling Android tablets with free games

Say what you will about GameStop, as many have and will, but you can accuse them of being anything less than shrewd business. To that end they’re expanding their mostly console and portable video game stock to include Android tablets from Samsung, Asus and Acer, starting in a few select stores today. The tablets will be pre-loaded with seven free games including Dead Space and Madden NFL 2012.

The first tablets on sale are the Acer Iconia Tab 100, Asus Eee Pad Transformer and Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1. The tablets won’t cost any less than they do at other retail locations, and if GameStop’s regular pricing structure is anything to go on, they’ll probably be more expensive than at least a few. But gamers hungry for a new mobile experience can practice the time-honored tradition of trading in old consoles and game discs for store credit, which can be used to purchase a new Android tablet. GameStop has already expanded its trade-in and used programs to cover general gadgets like the iPhone and iPod, and presumably, you’ll soon be able to trade in your Samsung Galaxy Tab or Acer Transformer as well. GameStop may integrate these tablets with its mobile streaming service Spawn Labs at some point in the future.
This may seem like an odd move for a company so well-established in the lucrative game console retail space, but if you take a look at some of the games coming out for Android lately, it makes a lot of sense. Check out the graphics in Shadowgun or Modern Combat 3, and you’ll see almost the rival of any Xbox or PlayStation 2 game. Who knows what can be done with upcoming hardware like the quad-core Nvidia Tegra 3 found in the Transformer Prime, and with HDMI output already on many Android devices and native controller support coming with Ice Cream Sandwich, Android tablets are beginning to look a lot like gaming hardware, to say nothing of specialized smartphones like the XPERIA Play.
With downloaded games making up a bigger and bigger chunk of the digital market, GameStop finds itself in the same position that bookstores were five or six years ago. They can continue to make most of their profits off of software which will soon be available at the click of a mouse, or they can diversify and begin delivering the one thing that can’t be replicated with a broadband connection: hands-on, instant hardware gratification. It could be the difference between GameStop being the next Barnes & Noble (appropriately, since they used to be owned by them)… or Borders.
[via SlashGear]

HTC Releases Thunderbolt Gingerbread kernel source code

Well folks, time to let the good times roll and the custom ROMs flow. HTC has recently released the full kernel source code for the HTC Thunderbolt, although this isn’t for Froyo, no, this is for the recently released Android 2.3 Gingerbread. Now all of the hackers and tinkerers that make our custom ROM’s can get to work on the Gingerbread aspects of things. Good news for Thunderbolt users indeed.

Shown in the image below the source has finally been released and is available for download, coming in at just 89MB it shouldn’t take too long and we can expect developers are already knee deep in code. While this isn’t a big deal for the average consumer, all the users that make custom ROM’s or overclocking kernels and all those other things we love to mess with on Android, the source code is a big part of that. HTC hasn’t been the fastest to release in the recent past but we are glad to see this Gingerbread build arrive so quickly after the OTA (although the OTA did take forever.)

 Give all those developers and ROM makers a few days to sift through the kernel source code and I’m sure we’ll be seeing plenty of good things come out of XDA and RootzWiki soon be ready for some flashing.
HTCdev files

HTC EVO 3D dressed in Purple available from Amazon for just $50

I’m sure many of you loyal WiMAX supporters were jealous when you saw Verizon get the Plum colored HTC Rhyme, and immediately you wanted one for yourself just with a more powerful smartphone. Usually I wouldn’t post just because a new color is available but common, purple (plum) is just the best color on a smartphone I think I’ve ever seen. That and Amazon has the awesome dual-core EVO 3D for just $50 in the new beautiful color.

Best Buy had a short exclusive on the Plum EVO 3D and RadioShack offers it in white. Now Amazon can also partake in the fun while beating everyone else with their price. You can get the EVO 3D for $50 dollars with a new 2-year contract or for those will a full upgrade option, otherwise the price wont be so cheap.

What that means is you’ll get the same 1.2 GHz dual-core processor, 1GB RAM, 16GB internal storage and that 4.3″ qHD display and dual 5 megapixel cameras for all the 3D video your heart desires. Only now you can rock the EVO in style with a touch of purple, or plum. You can get it right now from Amazon Wireless by clicking here. Is Plum a color you’d consider in your next smartphone? Maybe for the ladies but what about you gentlemen?

$35 Aakash tablet gets a hands-on, deemed surprisingly OK

The Indian government got some gadget good will when they began subsidizing the incredibly cheap Aakash Android tablet, bringing its student price down to a mere $35. The question on hardware junkies’ minds is, is the experience on such a low-grade device acceptable at all? VentureBeat smuggled one of the tablets out and put together a hands-on, and surprisingly, the Aakash came away with a pretty solid showing.

Naturally the Aakash isn’t going to wow those of us jaded by high-res, high-price Honeycomb tablets. Its Android Froyo operating system and 366 MHz processor are outstripped by the cheapest subsidized smartphones, and a resistive 800 x 400 touchscreen doesn’t hold a candle to more modern devices. But for all that, the tablet includes a couple of surprises along its thick side – full-sized USB ports for a mouse and keyboard. The tablet is designed to teach children to use the web, and in that respect, it could demonstrate the basics of both touchscreen and traditional computer inputs. Unfortunately, there’s no Google apps or Android Market access.
The 7-inch Aakash is, if we’re being generous, utilitarian. If we’re being realistic, it’s ugly. But for all that it’s supposed to do, it’s a surprisingly versatile device, and I know that I would have been thrilled to get something like it when I was in grade school. As a mechanism for bringing modern technology into the most remote regions of India, it looks like the Aakash is a solid performer. There’s still no word on sales outside of India, but even if you could order one, the unsubsidized price is closer to $70 USD.
[via Engadget]