Archive for September, 2010


I’m rating manufacturers on how well they provide a ‘ quality Android experience’ to U.S. customers.

When buying an Android device, you want to know if your phone is going to be updated promptly to the latest operating system.

You want to make sure that carriers aren’t going to add any applications or processes that impede the Android experience. Manufacturers’ Android overlays must be kept in check if you don’t want ‘features’ tripping up your productivity.

The best way to judge what will happen to your phone during the life of its contract is to see what your carrier and manufacturer’s strategy is to Android is across their lineup.

If they fall behind now, they aren’t likely to catch up.  If they start playing tricks on customers or start locking them into things they might not want now, the situation is likely to only get worse.

So who is going to give you the best Android experience?

Here I’ll rate the manufacturers.  The carriers deserve their own post.

Manufacturers:


HTC: B+

HTC  (though it isn’t often given credit) makes the Nexus One, the purest Android phone, and they sell it without their Sense overlay.  They are readying the G2, which appears to be without Sense as well. Both will be  available through T-Mobile, which should be commended.

For the phones it ships with its Sense overlay, HTC  is fairly functional and doesn’t step on Android too much.  That  said, HTC revealed that the Sense 1.6 overlay will have many  more features including backup, remote wipe, a cached mapping program and HTCSense.com.

The big problem I have  is that HTC  duplicates some functionality that Google (GOOG) has added  in its latest updates.  HTC will be less likely to upgrade its phones if it will diminish the utility of their own overlay.

HTC has the best overall record for upgrades as well.

The Nexus One was the first phone, by months, to get Android 2.2.  The HTC EVO was the first carrier phone to get Froyo and now most of HTC’s high-end phones are being updated and sold with Froyo. Some of their lower-end phones are getting left behind however.

Motorola: B-

Motorola (MOT) produced the first Android 2 phone, the Droid, and continues to produce solid high-end phones in the Droid lineup.  The Droid X got its Android 2.2 update today, and now all Droids have the latest OS.

Motorola isn’t  as quick to update lower-end phones and more distressingly is Blurring (see what I did there?) the Android experience with its MotoBlur overlay.  The Backflip on AT&T runs Android 1.6.  To use the new T-Mobile’s Charm, you have to create a Motoblur account and run some of your services through Motorola instead of normal Android apps.

I don’t like Blur as much as Sense or Samsung’s TouchWiz and it keeps getting worse.  Even high-end phones like Droid X are getting muted by it.  On the other hand, their new Droid 2, thankfully showed no signs of Blur.

Samsung: C+

Samsung’s Galaxy S lineup won’t get updated to Froyo until late 2010 according to CSO Omar Khan (read: Christmas).  That’s way behind the curve for otherwise exceptional hardware (GPS notwithstanding).

Galaxy Tab, which will be out for the holidays has Froyo on it (thankfully) and a pretty light smattering of the TouchWiz interface.  With some swift updates, Samsung could pass Motorola and HTC, especially if Sense 1.6 is as pervasive as it sounds.

The TouchWiz overlay slows the experience down a bit but at the same time adds a few interesting features.  Some have said it makes Android more iPhone-like. Take that for what its worth.   Again, for my money, no overlays beat Google’s untouched experience.

LG:  C

Most of LG’s Android phones aren’t available in the U.S. but the Ally is a staple on Verizon.  It runs Android 2.1 but will get a  Froyo update at some point in the future.

I don’t have too much experience with LG phones honestly, but the Ally seems pretty mediocre and the upcoming Optimus line isn’t even a lock to hit the U.S. market. (Although it will hit the rest of the world with Froyo in October-November).

Dell and Sony:  Fail

You come to the U.S. market where people are complaining about Android 2.1 devices with Android 1.6 device?

Sony (SNE) Xperia and Dell(DELL) Streak are both DOA as far as I am concerned.   Both of these companies are operating on some other wavelength with perspective customers.  That’s not to say that the hardware isn’t good.  Each phone very well could be the best hardware on the market

The message should be clear:  Pour some more R&D capital into software development and get in line with the manufacturers above.  For the record, both have promised updates to Froyo and will be re-evaluated when that comes to fruition.

Big picture:

At the moment, there isn’t a huge difference between the top three: HTC, Motorola and Samsung.  If you want Froyo, Samsung obviously drops out.  If you want an overlay experience, Motorola likely drops out of the race as well.

Apple Remote app for iPad

Apple has finally updated their Remote app to version 2.0, and included support for iPhone 4 and iPod touch 4 Retina Display, and for the iPad. It will also support shared libraries for iTunes and, of course, the new Apple TV (2010) that’s just started to hit the streets. AirPlay is also supported, currently for what was previously AirTunes, and no doubt for full on iOS 4.2 video goodness when that’s released as well.

Previous rumors have suggested Apple’s Remote app was the work of a single engineer at the company who had since been reassigned. Whether that was accurate or not, it looks like the release of the new Apple TV was enough to get Remote out of mothballs and onto the iPad, with a new iTunes 10-style icon to boot.

I loved the previous version of Remote, especially for entering passwords and searches — onerous via the infrared remote — so I’m eager to try this one out. If you have already, let us know what you think.

Android credit card

One of the biggest drawbacks to Google’s Android Market, and possibly one of the aspects of the OS that most frequently drives users to app piracy, is the fact that there are so few countries with access to paid apps.  Google is looking to change that, though, with the news that they’re expanding paid app availability to 12 more countries: Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Finland, Hong Kong, Israel, Mexico, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Singapore and South Africa.  In addition, there are reports that Sweden and Hungary are beginning to see paid apps appear in the Market.

This is great news for Android fans and developers alike, and I’m sure Google is pleased to open up the Android platform to more interested devs.  I’m just surprised it’s taken this long for the big G to enable paid apps beyond thescant number of countries that have been available up until now.  After all, the Android Market has been available foralmost two years now.  All that aside, I’m excited to see Android paid apps available to a multitude of new users, which means more devs, more apps, and better quality all around.

Although there are plenty of online radio apps on the Android market, nothing can really replace an old fashioned FM radio. If you own a Droid 2, you can thank XDA for yet again figuring out how to implement one just by following a couple simple steps. As with most things of this nature, a little command line work is necessary, but beyond that it’s easy as pie. Just make sure before you try that your Droid 2 is rooted or else this will end in failure. You’ll be jamming to your local stations in no time.

Best Ringtone Maker for iPhone

Custom ringtone makers for the iPhone are the latest group of of apps to suddenly gain approval for the App Store. This correlates directly with Apple’s recent changes to their App Store policies, allowing 3rd party Google Voice appsand other apps that Apple had previously banned or rejected from their mobile app marketplace, or simply left in limbo. Techcrunch reports:

Since the early days of the App Store, applications that allow users to make ringtones from songs on their handsets have either inexplicably sat on hold or were outright denied. And yet, here we are; as of right now, there are no less than 5 different ringtone making apps sitting in the App Store.

Another segment of apps that Apple has confirmed does not directly compete with their own app and service offerings has been revealed.

Samsung finally releases GPS fix for Captivate, no ETA for 2.2

The Samsung Captivate was released back in July and since that time a small number of users have experienced GPS issues that made navigation nearly impossible. An unofficial software hack has been available for quite some time which resolved the issue, but now all Captivate owners can enjoy improved GPS performance thanks to a new update that is rolling out now.

Samsung’s GPS fix was a long time in coming and we were beginning to think it would be rolled into the Android 2.2 update, but that is not the case. All Captivates will remain at Android 2.1, but the update brings additional improvements such as media scanning time, adding the full version of Quickoffice and addressing Microsoft Exchange 2003 policy support.

Now that HTC and Motorola have updated their flagship devices to Android 2.2, Samsung is on the clock as everyone waits for them to upgrade their entire lineup of Galaxy S phones. We initially heard it would be ready by September, but Samsung has been quiet and rumblings suggest we now might see Android 2.2 in October.

One interesting thing to note is that this update will be pushed over the air by AT&T. We were told the Captivate would require a wired update to receive Android 2.2, so maybe the smaller file size played a factor in this rollout.

When we first caught wind of Fring a while back, Skype compatibility was the draw, but as the years progressed and Fring grew some, the VoIP services didn’t exactly get along. Today, the company’s taking matters into its own hands with the not-so-subtly named FringOut, which appears to provide even cheaper calls to landlines and mobile phones than its powerful namesake. Starting on Nokia’s S60 platform and “coming soon” to Android and iPhone, FringOut’s promising as-low-as one-cent-a-minute calls

Samsung Galaxy Tab

DALLAS, September 16, 2010 —Samsung Telecommunications America (Samsung Mobile)1, the No. 1 mobile phone provider in the U.S., today announced the upcoming availability of the Galaxy Tab™ in the U.S with AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless. The first mobile tablet from Samsung shares many of the powerful characteristics of the Galaxy S smart phone lineup that launched this summer. The Galaxy Tab is designed with several enhancements to create a unique mobile experience that other products can’t deliver.


We already knew Verizon was planning to hit one third of the country with LTE this year with plans to expand dramatically after that, but things are starting to come into sharper focus: the carrier today said that it’ll light up 30 “NFL cities” with 4G by the end of the year. Now, there’s only 32 teams, so it shouldn’t be too hard to figure out where that’s going to be — and considering the plan is to hit “major metropolitan areas,” we’ll go ahead and guess Green Bay isn’t on the list, even though the Packers are by far the best team in the league. (Buffalo and Jacksonville also spring to mind — and let’s not forget that the NFL still isn’t in LA, despite Ari Gold’s best fictional efforts on Entourage.) The plan is to first upgrade each cell site’s backhaul connection to Gigabit Ethernet so they’ll have the necessary bandwidth to support the 5-12Mbps down and 2-5Mbps up speeds with 30-150ms latency promised for Big Red’s LTE network at launch. Ambitious, but hey — we’d love nothing more than to be streaming the Super Bowl over LTE when all’s said and done.

It’s a good day for next-gen network news, apparently — first Verizon promised to bring its 4G network to 30 NFL cities by the end of the year, and now AT&T’s John Stankey says its LTE network will arrive by mid-2011. Trials are already underway in Baltimore and Dallas, and Ma Bell’s pulled some $700 million out of the kitty to fund the buildout, with investment scheduled to go “far beyond that” next year. On top of that, AT&T is also working to upgrade its backhaul connections for its current HSPA 7.2 3G sites to Gigabit Ethernet, and it’s planning to upgrade the vast majority of its 3G sites to HSPA+ for real-world 7Mbps 3G download speeds sometime this year — a seemingly big expansion from the “certain locations” we’d been promised earlier. Why the change? We don’t know exactly, but AT&T is quick to point out that LTE customers will fall back to 3G quite often in the early days, and that Verizon isn’t investing in 3G speeds at all anymore — an interesting claim and potentially a major differentiator if the HSPA+ rollout is completed quickly, but one that won’t matter if Verizon’s network offers sufficient coverage. We’ll see — looks like the next year is going to be mighty interesting.