Category: Smart Phones

New tablet beats the iPad in key features

New tablet beats the iPad in key features

Motorola’s powerful, 4G-capable Xoom is a formidable rival to Apple’s device, a reviewer says.

It’s an old design now. Phase 1: Apple introduced several new gadgets. Bloggers and industry tell us why it will fail. Phase 2: It may be for sale. The audience goes nuts for her. Phase 3: Each company and his brother gets to work on an imitation.

It came with the iMac and iPhone. Now, IPAD is entering Phase 3. Apple sold 15 million iPads in nine months, so you can bet that 2011 will be the Year of the Clone iPad.

Starting Thursday, you’ll be able to buy one of the most anticipated rivals iPad: Xoom Motorola. Like most aspiring iPad, it works with Google’s Android software – but the Xoom is the first that runs on Android 3.0 (codenamed Honeycomb), which Google designed for tablets instead of phones.

The series continues Xoom recent Motorola gadgets attractive, compact and well built. Unless you inspect the rear (rubber, plastic instead of aluminum for money), you may not be able to say that touch-screen panel of IPAD.

There are some differences, however. The first is price: the cost Xoom a stunning $ 800, $ 70 more than the equivalent IPAD 32-gigabyte (WiFi and 3G cellular). You can get the Xoom for $ 600 if you’re willing to engage in a two-year Verizon contract. That means paying $ 20 a month to get online using the cellular network from Verizon (if you can get by on just 1 GB of data), instead of access points Wi-Fi hot.

The Xoom also offers a dual-core processor, which, according to Motorola, means smoother animation game And he has cameras. On the back there is a 5-megapixel camera that can also record high definition video. On the front, it is a low-resolution video camera for video chat. The new Android software includes a camera module reinforced-up, which highlights the effects bizarre gadget you never use, like Solarize, Sepia and polarize.

Clearly, a camera is useful on a shelf, and will remain a huge competitive advantage for Xoom – at least until the 2 iPad released next month (if Apple sticks to its model of development to usual annual day, that is). If the new IPAD is not a camera or two, I’ll eat a shelf.

The screen has a resolution of Xoom slightly higher than that of the IPAD, and it gives the tablet a slightly different – more like a business envelope with a greeting-card envelope. The screen shape is a better match for video hi-definition, but the worst for photos and maps.

The Xoom has stereo speakers instead of mono, a good battery for 10 hours of video playback and a power button on the rear panel. Motorola said that later this year, a software update will allow the Xoom enjoy Verizon 4G cellular networks, which means a better download speed in a few cities lucky.

A very cool feature: The Xoom has an HDMI, which means a single cable can send both audio and video hi-def TV. It is an ideal proposal for the roving presenter PowerPoint.

doctor dock Motorola is working overtime, too. You can buy either a speaker dock or a loading dock that is automatically activated Slideshow Xoom or alarm mode. If the material of Xoom were the whole story, it would not be much more than an anecdote. The physical improvements are not enough to knock the iPad iPad especially the 2 – to its pedestal, especially given the price increase.

No, the biggest story here is the honeycomb, the tablet software Google. IPad is the real competitor; tablets honeycomb in every size, shape and price range will soon arrive in stores.

So how is honeycomb? Four words: more powerful, more complicated. The screen is now two bands of small icons. In theory, the numbers above refer to the program you are using, and those in the bottom look like the system tray in Windows status icons and pop-up menus for various settings.

But these icons are darned cryptic, it looks like they were designed by foreigners. Google seems to have forgotten a huge disadvantage of unlabeled icons on a touch screen computer: there is no way to see their names or their office before opening them. There are no pop-up bubbles, for example. All you can do is to activate a touch, see what happens and learn from the experience boring.

New bands are not always make sense, either. Why, for example, never touching the clock icon to display your list of notifications (completed downloads, incoming text messages and so on)? Why do you get to some settings by pressing an icon on the lower band, and the rest of the settings by pressing an icon in the top band? Android not want to be when he grows up Windows?

Some changes in the nests of bees are cool. There is a pop-up menu from the list of recently opened applications – not just their names, but the miniature screens that show you exactly what you did when you left. Widgets (small windows that display the most recent data from, say, Gmail or Twitter accounts) are now more flexible, for example, you can scroll through their contents without opening an application greater whole. You can drag messages into folders individual e-mail.

In the miscellaneous category, Google has blessed the Web browser with tabbed windows and an “incognito” mode (where you let the cookies, history or other avenues that could allow someone to see what you ‘ve been up to). When you use Google Maps to display a large city like San Francisco or New York, you can turn with your fingers to reveal the three dimensional contours of actual buildings. (Useful if you’re the pilot of an ultralight aircraft, I guess.)

Other improvements could be better marked, “lovingly ripped off from IPAD.” Take the new applications and Gmail e-mail, for example (still no word on why we need separate applications for Gmail and other account types). They have been redesigned to mimic perfectly the IPAD mail app. In other words, when the tablet is upright, the message fills the screen when it is horizontal, the list of messages appears on the side left with the message selected in the main window. The Contacts application is also similar.

There is an app that mimics Books under IPAD iBooks, even in the animation three-dimensional page-turner. (It accesses Google attractive new store e-book.)

All other Android goodies are still there, such as voice recognition and impressive navigation GPS. Motorola says the download will come to the Xoom play Flash videos online – something IPAD can not do.

Currently, few applications are designed for screen tablets Android ‘more. However, there are 60,000 applications available specifically for the IPAD (not counting the 290,000 iPhone applications that run on it also, at lower resolution). But this is a temporary exception, the library Android is growing at a white-hot pace.

If you are interested in a tablet, it would be wise to wait a few months. You’ll want to consider what Apple has up its sleeve for the second coming, of course, but also the IPAD research in business-oriented playbook Motion BlackBerry and Hewlett-Packard tablet juicy looking TouchPad, which runs the software webOS ( originally designed by former Apple engineers for the smartphone Palm Pre).

It is not clear at this point why the world needs all these competing tablets, each with different operating systems and app store. There is no sufficient differentiation to justify the assault coming models, most of these companies seem freed tablets just so they can say: “We have a thingie iPad, too!”

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The sales pitches you need to resist

The sales pitches you need to resist

These seven clever come-ons often push holiday shoppers to overspend.

The road to the mall may be paved with good intentions, but retailers know just how to get inside that part of your brain that yells, “Buy me!” And this holiday season, they’re rolling out more tricky marketing strategies to encourage recession-scarred shoppers to spend. “Shoppers are dealing with a whole new arsenal of tricks,” says Kit Yarrow, a professor of psychology and marketing and Golden Gate University in San Francisco.

Merchants have always used marketing tricks and rotating sales to encourage consumers to open their wallets, but this year, they’re pushing every psychological button they can, retail experts say. Competition for shoppers, plus a tepid holiday shopping outlook, means retailers are doing whatever they can to attract deal-hunting consumers’ attention — all in an effort to entice them into spending more than they’d planned. That means adding worry-inducing purchase limits to indicate scarcity, promising free gifts to shoppers who spend just a little more, and offering rewards today to redeem later just so people will come back to the store.

These strategies work in part because they tap into hard-wired behaviors that go back to our days in caves. Long before we were confronted with half-off Merino turtlenecks or buy-one-get-one-free smartphones, we learned to stockpile in the event of shortage and to compete for scarce resources, psychologists and neuroscientists say. The stakes are considerably lower when you shop, but studies have shown our brains react similarly nonetheless. The effectiveness — and proliferation — of these mind games are a big part of the reason you’re apt to look back and wonder why you thought that buying three itchy sweaters for $50 or a $200 no-name television was such a good idea.

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What you need to know about 4G phones

What you need to know about 4G phones

Even heavy data users should think carefully before rushing out to get an ultrafast 4G phone.

Imagine having a mobile phone that matches what you can do on your home PC or laptop. That’s the power of 4G – the term for fourth generation mobile service – which was rolled out by Sprint (S) earlier this year and will soon be available for Verizon (VZ) subscribers. Here are the most important things you need to know about 4G.

1. It’s fast. Sprint, the first mover in the 4G market, says its 4G is up to 10 times faster than 3G, which was introduced eight years ago. Sprint promises peak downloads of more than 10 Mbps (megabits per second), with average downloads of three to six Mbps. Verizon announced on October 6 that it plans in the fourth quarter to launch its 4G LTE (Long Term Evolution) network with downloads to range between 5 to 12 Mbps.

A closer look at the numbers, however, reveals that 4G speeds may vary. Sprint says that 4G can be 10 times faster than 3G. But read the fine print in Sprint’s promotional material: Sprint bases this claim on speed comparison between 3G’s low-end 600 kilobits per second (Kbps) vs. 4G’s max 6Mbps. Sprint notes that 3G can reach 1.7 Mbps, while 4G may drop down to 3 Mbps. So that’s less than twice as fast. We will know more specifics about Verizon’s network in the weeks ahead as it rolls out its service.

2. Regardless of how much faster 4G might be, the increased connection speed lets you do more things with your phone. Early users are already enjoying features like uninterrupted video conferencing, high-definition television streaming and of course lightning fast web surfing that smartphones on 3G networks are unable to provide. Power business users and other early adopters of the new technology who experience 4G will never want to go back.

3. Casual users mostly interested in talking, texting and occasional web surfing on their cell phones don’t need to rush into buying a 4G-enabled phone (and it is not possible to upgrade existing 3G models to the new network.) Even if you are ready to buy a phone and wanted to upgrade to 4G, the network is not available in all parts of the country (see below). It will take years for 4G to roll out into every rural area, and residents of big cities could get shut out due to big restrictions on new cell phone towers.

4. You can easily find out if 4G is available in your area. Sprint says its 4G network reaches more than 268 million people in 50 markets in the United States “and counting.” To see whether 4G is available in your hometown, go here.

Verizon says its 4G LTE network initially will cover 100 million people in 38 markets by the end of 2010. The first markets with access to Verizon’s 4G network include Boston, New York, Washington D.C., Chicago, Miami, Atlanta, Dallas, Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco.

5. 4G is more expensive. Sprint currently charges its customers with 4G-enabled devices an extra $10 per month, regardless of whether they can access a 4G network or not. With increased data usage and Verizon entering the fray, both networks are rumored to convert to “pay-as-you-go” pricing schemes rather than unlimited use packages. 4G devices will also invariably cost more – at least at first – than similar phones on the same networks.

Back in May, Sprint launched its first 4G phone, HTC EVO 4G, selling for $200 with a two-year contract. That phone runs on Google’s Android mobile operating system, and has access to nearly 100,000 Android apps. Verizon has not announced pricing and plan information for upcoming 4G-enabled smartphones.

6. Batteries take a hit on 4G. Sprint’s HTC EVO 4G can run out of battery power after only a few hours of use. While power can be conserved by switching off the 4G setting, the last thing you want to do with your new state-of-the-art smartphone is to slow it down. Extra battery packets which add to the weight of an already heavy phone can be purchased for about $100.

7. A 4G mobile hotspot can give a boost to your 3G phone. Sprint’s website displays a video showing how an iPhone user can find its 4G network and increase the iPhone’s speed. Take that AT&T. Sprint says the hotspot can work with up to five Wi-Fi-enabled devices at time: a phone, a laptop, camera, a couple music players and so on. Sprint says the Overdrive 3G/4G Mobile Hotspot by Sierra Wireless is the first dual-mode mobile hotspot on the market.

8. Sprint and Verizon are leading the way with 4G, but where’s the competition? They’re not snoozing. Kent German reported in CNET that AT&T will be busting a move into 4G next year. AT&T Operations CEO John Stankey says the company will light up its network with LTE service by the middle of 2011. He didn’t list cities, but he says AT&T is aiming to cover between 70 million and 75 million people by the end of 2011.

Meanwhile T-Mobile has been touting its HPSA+ upgrade. T-Mobile says the upgrade increases its network’s speed three to five times over 3G. T-Mobile describes its HSPA+ enhancement as a “super-fast mobile broadband network that delivers 4G speeds in the Northeastern U.S. and other major cities across the country.”

9. So if you are one of those people with a need for speed or rely on your phone for multimedia business communication, it makes sense to upgrade to a 4G phone right away. Just understand the geographic restrictions in accessing the network, and be prepared to pay more in your monthly bill while also making sure to charge your phone more regularly.

For everyone else, there is no need to rush into 4G. Whenever it is naturally time to upgrade your phone due to performance or an expiring contract, you should consider jumping on to the faster network. By that time, 4G will be available in more areas and on more carriers. Although I wouldn’t expect prices to go down, battery and other technical issues associated with new gadgets should be resolved.

The only other thing you’ll have to worry about at that point is when it makes sense to upgrade to the fifth generation of cell phone technology.

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Apple’s iPad to face new BlackBerry rival

Apple's iPad to face new BlackBerry rival

The device will reportedly be smaller than Apple’s popular gadget, but will include a camera.

BlackBerry maker Research In Motion could unveil its new tablet computer—as well as the operating system that will power it—as early as next week at a developers’ conference in San Francisco, said people familiar with RIM’s plans.

The tablet, which some inside RIM are calling the BlackPad, is scheduled for release in the fourth quarter of this year, these people said. It will feature a seven-inch touch screen and one or two built-in cameras, they said.

It will have Bluetooth and broadband connections but will only be able to connect to cellular networks through a BlackBerry smartphone, these people said. Since the tablet won’t be sold with a cellular service, it’s not clear which carriers or retailers will sell the device.

In a significant development, RIM’s tablet will eschew the recently revamped BlackBerry 6 operating system in favor of a completely new platform built by QNX Software Systems, these people said.

RIM bought QNX, a maker of operating systems used in everything from cars to nuclear reactors, earlier this year, in what industry watchers said was a bid to replace software criticized as slow and buggy.

RIM eventually plans to transition its BlackBerry smartphones to the QNX operating system as well, people familiar with RIM’s strategy said.

The RIM tablet is being manufactured by Quanta Computer Inc. of Taiwan, and will run on chips from Santa Clara, Calif.-based Marvell Technology Group Inc. (NasdaqGS: MRVL – News), according to people familiar with the tablet’s manufacturing.

RIM said it doesn’t comment on rumors or speculation. A Quanta spokeswoman said the company is developing tablets for clients but declined to comment on whether RIM is one of them. Executives at Marvell, which already supplies chips for RIM smartphones, said the company has developed a new series for tablets but declined to say whether they are supplying an upcoming tablet for RIM.

The introduction of a tablet and new operating system come at a critical time for RIM, whose BlackBerry phones are facing increasingly tough competition from Apple iPhone as well as handsets that run on Google’s Android operating system. Research firm Gartner Inc. estimated BlackBerry’s share of world-wide smartphone sales fell one percentage point to 18% in the second quarter of this year versus the previous year—even as the share of Android and Apple devices rose.

A key challenge for RIM has been convincing software developers to create applications for its phones, and the company will spend much of next week’s conference showing the kinds of things that can be done on its new devices—including the recently released Torch.

RIM is readying announcements and demonstrations, including an update on BlackBerry’s mobile advertising platform and an Amazon.com Inc. music application, said people familiar with the plans.

Still, RIM’s tablet will face stiff competition in an increasingly crowded market. The launch of Apple’s iPad in April sparked a rush to build similar devices by a raft of firms from Korean electronics giant Samsung Electronics to Taiwan’s Acer Inc. and Cisco Systems and Dell of the U.S. Many of those competing tablets will run Android, meaning RIM’s new operating system will go head-to-head with Apple and Google offerings in tablets as well.

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Samsung Epic 4G: New 4G phone coming

Samsung Epic 4G: New 4G phone coming

The second 4G-ready Android smartphone for Sprint boasts a slide-out QWERTY keypad and a front-facing camera for video chat, but it lacks the latest version of Android; also, expect to pay a little more for Samsung’s new Epic 4G than you would for last June’s HTC Evo 4G.

Set to go on sale August 31, the Epic 4G (which marks the first of Samsung’s Galaxy S-class Android phones with a slide-out QWERTY keyboard) will arrive with a $249 price tag, and that’s after signing a two-year Sprint contract and receiving your $100 mail-in rebate.

The QWERTY-less HTC Evo 4G, on the other hand, costs just $199 with a two-year contract and $100 mail-in rebate (assuming you can find one in stock, that is; the red-hot phone’s still sold out on Sprint’s website). Indeed, most of the major smartphones we’ve seen this summer have come with $199 two-year-contract price tags.

So, what are we talking about in terms of specs? First, the basics, starting with the Epic’s 4-inch Super AMOLED screen (same as on Samsung’s other Galaxy S handsets, like the Captivate and the Vibrant). In back, you’ll find a five-megapixel camera with autofocus, a flash, 720p video recording — and yes, video-chat fans, there’s a front-facing VGA for two-way video calls.

Under the hood, the 5.5-ounce, 0.56-inch-thick Epic (blame the slide-out QWERTY for the extra bulk) has a speedy 1GHz “Hummingbird” processor plus 512MB of system RAM for multitasking. Out of the box, the Epic will be running Android 2.1 — a bit disappointing, given that the just-released Motorola Droid 2 is shipping with Android 2.2 (good for features like Flash support, a souped-up Web browser, and improved Exchange support) already installed. Sprint says the Epic 4G will get an over-the-air update for Android 2.2 in the “coming months.”

Back on the plus side, the Epic boasts the same mobile hotspot features we’ve been seeing on the latest and greatest Android phones, good for sharing the handset’s data connection with up to five nearby Wi-Fi-enabled gadgets. Nice, but bear in mind that Sprint will charge you $30 a month extra for mobile hotspot privileges, and it’s also worth noting that the competing HTC Evo 4G will wirelessly share its data with up to eight Wi-Fi devices, rather than just five.

Speaking of data, the Epic 4G is (as its name implies) is the second smartphone to support Sprint’s budding, next-generation 4G WiMax data network, which delivers data speeds that peak at about 10Mbps — several times faster than what you’d typically get over a standard 3G data network, even when you consider that average, real-world 4G speeds hover around 4Mbps or so.

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