Showing posts tagged android

Android this week: HP’s me-too Slate7; Tablets as phones; Android on Chromebook Pixel

#SuryaRay #Surya This week saw the Mobile World Congress event wrap up in Barcelona, with a few new Android devices to look forward to. One confirmed an earlier rumor that HP was getting back in on the tablet market as the company introduced its Slate7 running on Android. The most appealing aspect of the product may be the $169 price tag because there’s not much to make this “me-too” tablet stand out from the crowd.

The Slate7 is another 7-inch tablet, competing against Google’s Nexus 7, the new Asus FonePad, Amazon’s Kindle Fire, Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 2 and others in this space. I can see why HP opted for a small slate as their comeback product: Some recent data indicates that smaller tablets will outsell larger ones in 2013.

HP used a fairly standard set of hardware in the Slate7. A 1.6 GHz dual-core chip powers the Android 4.1 device, which includes 1 GB of memory. The 7-inch touchscreen uses a 1024 x 600 resolution panel; the same res as my original Galaxy Tab back in 2010. Storage capacity is 8 GB of flash memory that can be expanded with a microSD card. A pair of cameras complete the product with the rear one offering a meager 3 megapixels. In short, this a low-priced product with old specs competing against similarly priced products with better specs. As I said when HP was rumored to re-enter the tablet market: good luck with that.

Also out of MWC are tablets that include cellular voice capabilities: The aforementioned Asus FonePad and new Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 are two examples. I’ve said for some time that I think small tablets will replace smartphones, but I think we’re very early in that trend for two reasons.

Consumers can’t conceive of carrying a 7- or 8-inch tablet everywhere because the device is not as pocketable as a traditional smartphone. I certainly understand that situation. Yet, I carry a small tablet everywhere; in a pocket when I can and in the hand when I can’t. As I said on this week’s podcast, I think this is a situation that has to be experienced; not simply written off because it sounds like a bad idea.

The other issue, at least in the US, is how carriers control what devices actually connect to the cellular networks. My Samsung Galaxy Tab actually had voice capability in 2010, but US carriers stripped the functionality out of the device. In contract, international versions of the Tab worked just fine for voice calls. I’m not yet convinced that US carriers will support voice features in these new Android slates, but I hope I’m wrong.

Finally, I’ll be spending some time using Android on a completely different device this coming week: Google’s Chromebook Pixel. I’m finding that besides a superb web experience thanks to the high resolution display paired with an Intel Core i5 processor, the Pixel is a versatile laptop as well.

I’m already running a simultaneous instance of Linux alongside Chrome OS and thanks to the Android-x86 port, I can run Android on the Pixel as well. The touchscreen isn’t yet supported, so I’ll have to use the Pixel’s touchpad; not a big deal as it’s one of the best I’ve used on a laptop, rivaling that of my old MacBook Air.

Related research and analysis from GigaOM Pro:
Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.

* Analyzing the wearable computing market
* Tablets wars: Apple is from Venus, Amazon is from Mars
* The connected planet: Smartphones aren’t the only player @suryaray

10 Best Cases for the Sony Xperia Z

#SuryaRay #Surya 1. Sony Pouch Case for Sony Xperia Z

Custom-made for the “Z,” this pouch will hug your smartphone safe. Cost: $22.99 _Image courtesy of Sony/Expansys_

Click here to view this gallery.

Are you getting excited about the Sony Xperia Z? If you’re planning to pick up the new Android handset, we’ve got you covered with a selection of classy cases.

Even though the Xperia Z is pretty rugged, boasting water and dust resistance, you’re still going to want to protect — and personalize — your new handset.

SEE ALSO: 10 Adorable Charms for Your Headphone Jack

Take a look through our choices in the image gallery above. Let us know in the comments below which one tempts _you_.

_Homepage image courtesy of Amazon, Poetic_

More About: accessories, android, cases, features, Gadgets, Mobile, sony, Sony Xperia Z, Tech @suryaray

First look: Opera shows its relevance in a WebKit world

#SuryaRay #Surya Opera adds value with “Off-Road mode,” Discover, and a new SpeedDial. @suryaray

Oh no, Samsung has a Passbook wallet app, too

#SuryaRay #Surya Android users pining over Apple’s Passbook wallet functionality need pine no more, provided they plan to use a Samsung smartphone. At a developer event on Wednesday, Samsung announced its own wallet software that replicates Apple’s Passbook functionality, complete with an open API for partner integration. Ironically, right after Apple announced Passbook ticket support at 13 Major League Baseball parks, Samsung noted that the MLB is an initial partner for its new wallet.

Samsung explained the new wallet feature along with a list of other launch partners during the developer session:

One of the most popular sessions this year featured the introduction of the open API for the Samsung Wallet service, which allows users to collect coupons, membership cards, tickets, and boarding passes from partners’ applications and store them in one place. The service’s launching partners like Walgreens, Belly, Major League Baseball Advanced Media , Expedia,,, and Lufthansa were announced during the session.

I’m conflicted by the news. It’s actually good for consumers to have similar functionality on both iOS and Android, provided the partner list is generally the same. I don’t want to have choose a platform, for example, because its wallet app is the only one that works with vendors I use. But I have to wonder: Why is Samsung doing this and not Google itself for Android?

This question gets back to the concern I just noted about platform choice. Because this app will only work with Samsung devices, it now becomes a choice of what brand of Android phone to use in support of wallet features. This shouldn’t be an initiative with an original equipment manufacturer; this should be a project for Android as a whole. I don’t blame Samsung; it accounts for more of the Android device market than any of its peers so why _shouldn’t_ it keep pushing ahead?

Regardless, I love the idea of a digital wallet. Although I haven’t used it lately, I’m a big fan of paying for goods or services through my NFC-enabled phone with Google Wallet. But the point of a digital wallet is to eliminate our big, bulky physical wallets that are filled with currency, cards and whatever else we need to carry. Do we really want to start carrying multiple digital wallet solutions on our devices or choose a phone based on what wallet features it supports? I certainly don’t.

Related research and analysis from GigaOM Pro:
Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.

* The future of mobile: a segment analysis by GigaOM Pro
* How to deliver the next-generation web experience
* The fourth quarter of 2012 in mobile @suryaray

Waze adds real-time re-routing around road closures to latest iOS, Android update

#SuryaRay #Surya Social navigation app Waze is pushing an update to iOS and Android users on Wednesday that will let users report road closures. If enough people use that capability, it could start automatically helping to route other users around the closure.

Waze, you might recall, is one of the apps Apple CEO Tim Cook recommended last fall that dissatisfied Apple Maps users try until the Apple product improved. But it’s been around for two years, and Waze’s maps are available in 45 countries. The free app has been downloaded 40 million times, the company said Wednesday.

Waze is already used to report speed traps, the cheapest gas stations and accidents that other users can see in real-time and plan their routes around. But road closures is the newest crowdsourced feature and will automatically influence other drivers’ directions. It will work like this: if a road is closed due to snow or ice, if construction pops up, or a street is closed for an event, a user can report it and the app will automatically re-route the user around that road. But if a certain number of people report the same closing, then the app will automatically start re-routing everyone around that road.

That “certain number” isn’t the same for every kind of road. Two people can’t report Highway 101 as shut down and cause the app to re-route, for example. Waze won’t say exactly how many, but it would have to be a lot more than a single-digit number of reports to take effect. By contrast, a rural county road may be routed around and considered officially closed after a much smaller number of closure reports.

Waze will automatically detect when a road is back open too — as soon as someone drives through that point and doesn’t report the closure, the app considers the road re-opened.

Waze says it got a taste of the utility of its real-time crowdsourcing after being asked for help by the White House and FEMA to help in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy last fall. Waze asked New York area Waze users to mark on the map the gas stations they came across that were open, the length of the lines, and how long the gas was expected to last at that location.

“Sandy gave us confidence,” Waze spokesman Michal Habdank-Kolaczkowski told me. ”We’re not trying to turn Waze into a crisis-solving app, but as a driver you should know what’s happening on the road,” he said, whether that’s snow, a street fair or construction. “There’s a lot of reasons a road can close, not just a crisis.”

Related research and analysis from GigaOM Pro:
Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.

* The fourth quarter of 2012 in mobile
* Analyzing the wearable computing market
* Carrier IQ and the continued erosion of operator trust @suryaray

A plea to HP: make your mobile products pop

#SuryaRay #Surya HP’s Slate7 is the company’s return to the reasonably-priced consumer tablet space, following the failure of its webOS-based TouchPad. I’ve had a hands-on play with it a couple of times at Mobile World Congress, and spoken to HP mobile chief Alberto Torres about it, and I’m still unconvinced.

I do think the tablet will sell — not magnificently, but not poorly either. Its outward styling is attractive enough, and some people find Beats Audio to be a killer feature (I’m a bit too much of an audio purist to enjoy the bass overload that it represents, but that’s me). It has a slightly feeble camera when its key rivals around its price — $169 — have none.


However, if I were in the market for a small tablet — I’m not, as I own both an iPad mini and a Nexus 7 — I would steer clear for one reason: the screen.

The resolution isn’t the problem; it’s fine for the size. What I can’t get past is how washed-out it is compared to both the devices I own. More than any other kind of computer, a tablet is essentially a screen with trimmings. It has to convince.

The upside with relatively low-contrast screens is that they can be easier to view in sunlight, and according to Torres this was a conscious choice.

“We really have emphasised readability, particularly outdoors readability,” he told me. “It provides quite a good experience for video and gaming, but we decided to emphasise readability.” Why so? “We were looking at a worldwide product. We thought this product will play well in America, but also when looking at emerging markets outdoor readability is quite important.”

You may wonder why I’m obsessing over this contrast point. Part of that’s down to the splendid metaphor it presents. But it’s also because, even after conversing with Torres on the subject, I am none the wiser as to HP’s mobile strategy. So the tablet has what many potential customers will consider an unsuitable screen, because HP wants to address emerging markets? Why then is the Slate7 priced for the U.S., not for the emerging markets, where you really want to strike below the $100 mark if you want to make an impact?

More blandness

And why has HP chosen to barely skin the Slate7′s Android interface? “It’s not final — there will be a bit more [before release],” Torres said, but he confirmed that HP is trying to leave the Android user experience as close as possible to its stock origins.

I’m an Android user, and I opt for the Nexus line (I also have a Nexus 4 phone), which does use pure stock Android, but that’s not why I buy Nexus: I buy Nexus so I always get the latest OS updates as soon as possible. I used to have an HTC phone, and I kind of miss some of the Sense gimmicks that HTC throws into its devices. Stock Android is fine, but HP is missing an opportunity to really differentiate what it’s offering here.

And that’s the fundamental problem with the Slate7: it’s too “meh.” In my opinion, HP rushed it — you must bear in mind that the company only set up its new mobile division last September, less than six months ago. It feels like the Slate7 was timed to come out at Mobile World Congress, as opposed to coming out when it was ready to turn heads on its own merits.

Hoping for greater contrast

“We are the number one PC manufacturer in the word and we intend to be a leader on tablets as well,” Torres told me. But HP’s leadership strategy is to have as broad a portfolio as possible — some Google and some Microsoft in each segment, a bit of something for everyone.

That’s not enough. Samsung also plays that game, but it can get away with it because some of its products have been real head-turners; the Galaxy Note, which was unlike anything else out there when it launched, springs to mind.

The Note was a risk. Half the world laughed when it came out, scorning its excessive size, by smartphone standards, and its reintroduction of the much-maligned mobile device stylus. But it was a hit, and no one’s laughing now.

It’s not too late, HP. You still have it in you to release something extraordinary. Take your time, take a risk, and make the next one a killer.

Related research and analysis from GigaOM Pro:
Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.

* The future of mobile: a segment analysis by GigaOM Pro
* The connected planet: Smartphones aren’t the only player
* What the Google-Motorola deal means for Android, Microsoft and the mobile industry @suryaray

Google+ Sign-In Is Your New Key to Apps and the Web

#SuryaRay #Surya Sign In - Desktop

Click here to view this gallery.

Google’s new API will let developers build some of the Google+ experience right inside apps, and let you share app activities to the social network.

More About: android, Google @suryaray

Asus Fonepad Is a 7-Inch Tablet That Can Make Calls

#SuryaRay #Surya

BARCELONA — Didn’t we tell you that the lines between smartphones and tablets are blurred? Case in point: the Asus Fonepad, a 7-inch tablet that’s also a phone.

Beware: the Fonepad is a completely different device than the PadFone Infinity. There’s no smartphone-becomes-tablet witchery here; the Fonepad is a 7-inch tablet, powered by Android 4.1 and sporting a 3G chip. You can use it to make calls, although we don’t think a 7-inch device is ideal for the task.

The Fonepad looks pretty much exactly like Google’s Nexus 7, which is hardly surprising since Asus makes that device as well.

However, the Fonepad is very different from most other Android tablets in a one important way: i…
Continue reading…

More About: android, Asus, Fonepad, intel, MWC, MWC2013 @suryaray

“There’s a Web for that”—will Firefox OS bring about the end of the app?

#SuryaRay #Surya Mozilla CEO Gary Kovacs calls for greater smartphone fragmentation at MWC. @suryaray

Don’t hold your breath for that Nokia tablet

#SuryaRay #Surya There are rumors flying around about the possible existence of a Nokia-made Windows 8 tablet. Based on what Nokia CEO Stephen Elop said Monday, though, it looks like a release for such a device is way off.

In a roundtable Q&A at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona today, Elop said that tablets may fit into Nokia’s mobile-centric strategy, but he seemed to be more thoughtful than decisive on the matter. He noted that all the assembled journalists had traditional notebooks. Not so, I said, unclipping the tablet part of my Acer W510. What did I think of Windows 8, he asked. A mixed bag, I replied. Another piece of feedback for his fact-finding mission.

What is Elop waiting for in the tablet space, another journalist asked. Three things, he said: Nokia is watching the tablet market evolve; it is “watching the specific platforms and where they stand in terms of maturity”; and it is focused on “understanding and seeing with [its] engineers the ability to differentiate under those conditions”.

Now the prevailing wisdom is that Nokia would go with Windows RT/8 in the tablet space. Is that platform mature? Heck no. Could Nokia differentiate on it? Never say never, but Microsoft is still trying to get its customers to wrap their heads around the RT-desktop user interface split – do we really want to see further customization confusing people at this point of initial education?

How about Android? As a tablet platform, Android still isn’t there yet — that’s a function of its paucity of tablet-optimized apps, rather than any intrinsic flaw. True, Nokia probably has more opportunity for differentiation there, but it’s an extremely tough market, what with Samsung ruling the roost as it currently does. There’s no analogy to be drawn with Nokia’s work on Windows Phone, which no-one dominated when Elop dived in.

No other tablet platform is anywhere approaching maturity – with the exception of iOS, of course, though that’s not an option. And so, while Nokia is probably testing Windows RT/8 _and_ Android tablets in its labs — it would be crazy not to be doing so — by the criteria laid down by its leader we can make a pretty educated guess: that we should not expect Nokia to launch a tablet anytime soon.

Related research and analysis from GigaOM Pro:
Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.

* What to watch in mobile in 2013
* Forecast: the converged mobile messaging market
* Development strategies for the app-developer community @suryaray

Asus PadFone Infinity: Tablet in Disguise

#SuryaRay #Surya

BARCELONA — Asus has announced the PadFone Infinity, a 5-inch smartphone that turns into a tablet when you plug it into its 10.1-inch dock.

The smartphone-tablet transforming concept is quite unique to Asus. The company launched two such products before: the original PadFone and the PadFone 2, which launched in October 2012.

With the PadFone Infinity, Asus upgrades the specs of both the tablet and the smartphone component to new heights. The smartphone sports a 5-inch screen with a 1,920 x 1,080 pixel resolution (that’s 441ppi), a 1.7GHz quad-core processor, 2GB of RAM, 64GB of storage and a 13-megapixel camera.

The Android 4.2 device also supports LTE connectivity, Wi-Fi, Blueto…
Continue reading…

More About: android, Asus, PadFone Infinity @suryaray

Ginger Software Brings Its Proofreading Keyboard To Android To Let You Fix Typos & Grammar In Any App

#SuryaRay #Surya Ginger Software is on a mission to become the go-to spell-checking tool for Android. This week, the Israeli makers of natural language technology designed to help native and ESL speakers better express themselves, released its latest free mobile app for Android, called the “Ginger Keyboard.” Simply put, the Keyboard is a straightforward, easy-to-use proofreading app that allows users to correct full texts with one click. @suryaray

In its quest to take the Google out of Android, Russia’s Yandex opens new app store

#SuryaRay #Surya Russia’s Yandex has finally rolled out the alternative Android store that it was talking about last year, adding a major piece to its Google-rivaling suite of services for Android-based phones. The company now offers users search, maps, mail and apps, all without a Google logo in sight.

“We are joining the game to contribute to competition that ensures freedom of choice for the end user and other members of the market,” Alexander Zverev, head of the Yandex.Store project, said in a statement.

Yandex is fast becoming a serious contender: its search dominance in Russia has helped it overtake Microsoft’s Bing on a global level (at least, measured by searches, rather than users) and it’s also becoming increasingly popular in the Ukraine and Turkey, where its Yandex.Store will soon open.

The store’s mostly free 50,000-plus apps include familiar fare such as Skype and Foursquare, but also local treats such as the VK and Odnoklassniki social networks. Users can download it for themselves, but in its core markets, the Yandex.Store will be preinstalled on Android devices from manufacturers PocketBook, texet, Wexler, Oppo, Explay and 3Q. App sales revenues are shared between Yandex and those manufacturers, and the web firm also gets to make money off mobile search, much as Google does.

But that’s not the end of the story – Yandex.Store is also available as a white-label product for operators around the world, from the U.S. to Germany. And in those cases, Yandex will share revenues with the carriers. One Russian operator, MegaFon, is already using a rebranded Yandex app store called GetUpps.

In the case of both manufacturer and carrier partners, Yandex is also offering the opportunity to add payment methods of their choice – operators could for example make their own mobile payment service the mechanism for buying these Android apps.

To top it off, Yandex is also offering an updated version of its 3D Yandex.Shell UI, which device manufacturers can license.

This company keeps adding new ways to take the Google out of Android. And why not? It’s there for the taking, and Amazon has already done more-or-less what Yandex is doing on the Kindle Fire. If you take the view that Google is displacing the Android brand with its own, it’s a completely logical reaction on the part of any company that sees Google as a rival, not a partner.

Related research and analysis from GigaOM Pro:
Subscriber content. Sign up for a free trial.

* Analyzing the wearable computing market
* Carrier IQ and the continued erosion of operator trust
* Siri: Say hello to the coming “invisible interface” @suryaray

Yandex Releases Its 50,000-App Alt Android Store, Upgrades Yandex.Shell 3D UI To Target Small Handset Makers, Carriers

#SuryaRay #Surya Google, sans a big Android stand but with the largest global smartphone share for its mobile platform, may not be making as much news as in year’s past at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, but Yandex, the search and cloud/mobile apps company often called the “Google of Russia,” is. Today the company released Yandex.Store, an alternative, customizable, native app store for Android devices launching with 50,000 apps, along with an updated version of  Yandex.Shell, a 3D UI, also for Android devices. @suryaray

Sony unveils thinnest 10.1” tablet ever—the Xperia Tablet Z

#SuryaRay #Surya The Android 4.1 device is also waterproof and can act as a TV remote control. @suryaray