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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

[News] Google's Nexus 7 tablet reported sales about 1 million per month

Asus executives are reporting some substantial growth in the Nexus 7 tablet area, according to their quarterly earnings call.  While Google does not discuss sales figures for their products, Asus apparently doesn't have any such qualms...the call indicates that the first few months after launch about 500,000 units were sold, then steadily grew to 600,000 and then 700,000 in the months after that.  Currently that sales figure is just south of 1,000,000 - an impressive feat considering this device has had a handful of television commercials, a 1 day stint on Google's homepage, and word of mouth marketing.  While these numbers pale in comparison to the numbers of iPads sold each week, it demonstrates the Nexus line from Google and partners is making headway in the Android tablet market.

With the Kindle Fire HD it's only real competition, and with the upcoming release of larger storage and 3G connectivity options in the Nexus 7 (as well as the soon to be released Nexus 10 model) Android tablet sales as we head into the holiday season may well yet be even further on the rise.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

[Op-Ed]Windows Phone 8 is D.O.A. due to puzzling choices by Microsoft and Nokia

Microsoft officially released Windows Phone 8 (WP8) yesterday at an event in San Francisco.  When it was originally announced way back on June 20th I thought it held a lot of promise.  The newer software supported multi-core processors, higher resolution screens, and maintained the speediness associated with the "modern UI" (or the artist formerly known as Metro for anyone outside of Microsoft).  Carriers were vocal about backing WP8 even though many of them had barely supported Windows Phone 7 (WP7).  It sounded like all the pieces were in place for a strong WP8 launch and Microsoft seemed to have an excellent chance of solidifying the third place position in the smart phone OS war behind Android and iOS.

While WP7 never exceeded 5% market share in the United States, I thought WP8 might make it to the high single digit/low double digit range.  As it finally launches more than four months after it was announced however, some puzzling decisions from Microsoft and Nokia have already condemned Windows Phone 8 to a slow, painful death.

[News] Apple losing two executives in top tier shake-up

Announced the same day as the Google Event, Apple is going to be losing two top level executives early next year.  Senior VP of iOS Scott Forstall and Senior VP of retail John Browett will be leaving the company, effective Spring of 2013.  The reasons behind the shake-up are fodder for the rumor mill (as usual), running the gamut from Mr. Forstall being "forced out" due to conflicts with other Apple divisions as well as potentially the well known snafu over the iOS 6 Maps app.

[News] Google Play Store claims 700,000 apps available for Android devices

Anyone who knows anything about mobile knows that it all boils down to the apps.  Gaming is great, e-readers are nice, but the saying isn't "There's an app for that" for nothing.  People want (and demand) quality, usable apps for their mobile devices.  Apple leads the way in this area, but according to Google, as of this week, the Play Store isn't far behind.  As of December 2010, Google Play noted that they had over 200,000 apps, which means that significant growth has come in Android apps in a relatively short period of time.

Now again, quality and usability come into play here, but with that many apps, it shouldn't be too hard to find something good.  With quality crossovers from iOS to Android such as Flipboard, Instagram (now owned by Facebook) and the ever popular Angry Birds franchise, one has to search pretty hard to find something on an iPhone that doesn't have an equally as good counterpart on Android.  Google also announced a deal with Warner Music Group (see details here) to bring even more content to their Play Store.  Things are looking up for Google this week for sure.

*Source:  Droid-Life

Monday, October 29, 2012

[News] Video usage of Nexus products, with Android 4.2

Check out this video from the good folks over at the Verge, who got a crazy sit down with some of the key players at Google, showing off some of the great new features of 4.2 Jelly Bean and the new Nexus 4 and Nexus 10 products.

Its about 15 minutes long, but well worth your time.

*Source:  The Verge

[News]Google's official blog reveals pricing for Nexus 4, Nexus 7 (16GB and 32GB ), Nexus 7 w/mobile data and Nexus 10

A post this morning on Google's official blog has revealed pricing for all their new Nexus products.

Without further ado, here's the list:
  • Nexus 4: 8GB for $299; 16GB for $349; available unlocked and without a contract on 11/13 on the Google Play store in U.S., U.K., Australia, France, Germany, Spain and Canada. The 16GB version will also be available through T-Mobile for $199, with a 2-year contract (check here for more details).
  • Nexus 7: 16GB for $199 and 32GB for $249; available in U.S., U.K., Australia, France, Germany, Spain, Canada and Japan, and also through our retail partners Gamestop, Office Depot, Office Max, Staples, Walmart.
  • Nexus 7 with 32GB and mobile data: $299 and unlocked, on sale 11/13 in the Google Play store in U.S., U.K., Australia, France, Germany, Spain and Canada.
  • Nexus 10: 16GB for $399; 32GB for $499; available on 11/13 in the Google Play Store in U.S., U.K., Australia, France, Germany, Spain, Canada and Japan.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

[News] Monday, Oct 29th, is the Google Android event *Updated*

Just a quick reminder that Monday, October 29th, 2012 will be the Google Android Event, starting at 10am eastern, 7:00am pacific time.  Yours truly will be covering the event as it happens, and will have updates throughout the morning for the Android goodies that come from it.  A quick recap of the rumors so far:  Nexus 10 tablet, Android 4.2 Jelly Bean updates, $99 Nexus 7, 32GB Nexus 7, and a 3G enabled Nexus 7.  Could there be more surprises in store?  I surely hope so.  But if all we get is what's rumored, I expect it will be a pretty solid day for Google, Android, and the OEMs involved.

UPDATE:  So...that Google Event....not so much.  Due to concerns about travel during Hurricane Sandy, Google has postponed their event indefinitely.  Sad I guess, but best not to have folks be flying with windspeeds of up to 70mph.  Thanks to the good folks over at Engadget for letting us know.

*Source:  Engadget

Friday, October 26, 2012

[News]Nexus 10 pictures leak ahead of October 29th reveal

Courtesy of briefmobile.com we now have pictures of the previously rumored Nexus 10 (N10) tablet:
The leak indicates the Nexus 10 will be running Android 4.2 out the box.  Other specs include a 2560 x 1600 (Super AMOLED?) screen, a cortex A15 dual-core 1.7ghz Exynos 5250 CPU/Mali-604 GPU combo, 2GB of ram, 16GB of internal memory, a 5MP rear camera, NFC/WiFi, and Bluetooth 4.0.  As with all Nexus products the N10 does not have an SD card slot.

As predicted the Exynos 5250 CPU/Mali-604 GPU combo is the same one used in Google and Samsung's new Chromebook and is the first cortex A15 chip in a tablet or smart phone. 

The screen also falls in line with previous rumors and gives the Nexus 10 the highest PPI of any tablet on the market at 299.  This compares favorably with the current market leading iPad which has a PPI of 264.

No word on pricing yet, but Google's October 29th event can't get here soon enough!

More pictures of the front, back, and profile:

Thursday, October 25, 2012

[News] Nexus 4 device appears for sale on UK retailer website

Carphone Warehouse, a UK retailer, apparently knows something we Yanks here Stateside don't.  That being the Nexus 4 from LG will be available for sale through them on October 30th, a day after the Google Event on October 29th.  The website showed the phone and link, only to have it subsequently removed, presumably from all the attention.  A screen grab of the site (and phone details) appears below:

Hopefully the site's removal of the link is because they needed to fix info from one of the rumors we've heard about this phone - that it will come with only 8GB of internal storage, with no SD card expansion.  And you can get it an any color you want, as long as its black.  While the design of the device is strikingly similar from the front to the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, the internals are updated and the devices rear cover plate has a unique tiled look to it.  Since this will most likely NOT be offered on Verizon (no LTE capability is currently reported) will anyone out there on a GSM provider be looking at this as their next phone?

*Source:  Engadget

[News] Best Buy cutting Galaxy S3 price for 1-day only sale

Samsung Galaxy S3
As most of you have probably heard already, the Samsung Galaxy S3 is one of (if not the) best Android flagship phones on the market right now.  Starting and ending tomorrow, October 26, 2012, Best Buy's retail stores are offering this device at $100 off its normal price of $199.99, making it a steal of a deal at $99.99.  Now a new 2 year agreement is required to get this price, but it work for 3 major carriers: Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint.

If you're considering picking up a new Android device anytime soon, and this one is on your list, head on over to Best Buy early tomorrow and check it out.  Supplies are most likely limited to what they have on hand, so the early bird will get the worm.  If the worm was a 4.8 inch display Samsung smartphone.

*Source: Droid-Life

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

[News]Verizon Galaxy Note 2 with home button branding official

Proving once again that it has no shame, Verizon introduced its variant of the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 (SGN2) today with its logo on the home button.
Verizon's antics are getting tiresome.  Between the locked boot loaders, slow updates, expensive family share plans and now nonsense like this it makes it really hard to continue to support them.

While not a deal breaker the button branding is tacky and the fact that none of the other carriers felt it necessary to do something similar says a lot. 

The official Galaxy Note 2 press conference is this evening and launch details are expected to be announced then.  Look for the Verizon SGN2 to be released on November 15th with a $299.99 on contract price.

It looks now like the official release date for Verizon will be Thursday, November 29th.  That's a full month later than T-Mobile and Sprint, and over two weeks later than AT&T.  The reasoning for the delay is unknown, but it's probably to give the RAZR HD/MAXX HD more time on the market without major competition. 

The good news is this gives those that pre-ordered plenty of time to cancel their orders if the HTC DNA or LG Nexus 4 end up being better options, or if they finally decide to leave Verizon because they're sick of being treated like second class citizens.

[Op-Ed] Which Tablet Should You Buy?

So guess what? Yes, it's true Apple has announced the iPad mini propelling themselves into the small tablet market. Should you buy it? Well Let's take a look at the most popular small tablets on the market right now and see if it is in fact a purchase worth making.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

[News] New iPad mini will debut November 2nd for $329 *Updated*

Apple has announced the newest version of their iPad, a 7.9 inch display device coming in either white or black, with specs similar to last year's iPad 2 for $329 to start, with 16GB of storage and WiFi enabled only.  An LTE enabled version will also be available for sale, price point as yet unknown.  All versions of the device should be available as of November 2nd, 2012.  More info on these and other Apple announcements as they come available.

Specs for the iPad mini (from the keynote speech):  "measures 7.2mm thin (25% thinner than the larger iPad) and weighs 0.8lbs. The screen resolution is 1024 x 768 just like the first iPad and iPad 2, but the screen size is 7.9-inches. 4G LTE support is available for the cellular model, an Apple dual-core A5 processor, a FaceTime HD camera on the front, and 5 megapixel iSight camera on the back with 1080p HD video capture."

Pricing for the different models of the iPad mini, in storage size and then by connectivity (from Apple.com):

Wi-Fi                                                                 Wi-Fi + Cellular








With the iPod mini, Apple also announced an updated version of their only 6 month old iPad 3, introducing both a new processor and the new Lightning connection.  This represents a departure from normal life cycle releases for Apple, who normally pushes a year out before a new version of a product is released.  Additionally, the 13 inch MacBook Pro now sports a Retina display, something I'm sure loads of MacBook Pro users were waiting for.  

[Op-Ed] Where does smartphone evolution go from here?

The perfect smartphone is a moving target that is different for everyone.  In terms of raw specifications, each generation of new phones has surpassed its predecessor in computing power, memory, and display quality.  But now, tech users and producers alike find ourselves at a near "tipping point" in terms of the power and features of our phone technology.

Samsung Galaxy Note 2
HTC's has in the works the Verizon version of the "J Butterfly" device (specs and info found here) which is truly cutting edge.  Along these same lines, Samsung's announced recently (info found here) that 1080p resolution displays will be integrated into their phones by early 2013.  Other phones already landing this year (like the Samsung Galaxy Note 2) bear within them quad-core processors and as much as 2GB of RAM.  We have had LTE data speeds in mobile devices going back as far as early 2012.  All of this tech advancement makes me wonder - where do we go from here?  Or perhaps put another way: what will be the next big leap forward in smartphone innovation from major OEMs?

Monday, October 22, 2012

[News]HTC 8X running on Verizon appears, release in early November

Last week rumors appeared that Verizon might cancel or delay the release of its Windows Phone 8 (WP8) handsets because the OS has no provision for remote access.  Apparently certain aspects of Verizon's device management system necessitate remote access (anyone else find this kind of creepy?) in order to function properly.

Today however we have an image of the HTC 8X running on Big Red's network with a rumored release date in early November.
Photo courtesy WPCentral.com

Obviously the rumors were wrong or a solution has been found for the remote access problem.

The 8X features a dual-core Snapdragon S4, a 4.3" 720p RGB Super LCD-2 screen, 1GB of RAM, a 1800 non-removable battery, a 2.1MP wide angle front camera and an 8MP rear camera with ImageSense. The rumored price is a mere $99.99 on contract.

Somewhere all five Verizon WP8 fans are smiling.

[News] iPhone 5 jailbreak "Close" and Class-Action Suit filed against Apple

Photo courtesy Macrumors
So you have the iPhone 5 and have been patiently waiting to get your jailbreak on. Well, you may be in luck. Recently a member of the Chronic Dev Team announced that a full tethered jailbreak for that iPhone 5 of yours is "close" to being done. Unfortunately for now, a developer account is needed to run the jailbreak.

Sorry to disappoint you regular users such as myself but since the iPhone 5 has a completely new chip as well as a completely new operating system, it's simply not an easy task.

The good news is that even if the tethered jailbreak won't work for everyone this more than likely means an untethered jailbreak may be just over the horizon.

If you do have a developer account then good luck with your jailbreak. The rest of us will try to obediently wait.

To piggy back on that news, a pair of iPhone users Zach Ward and Thomas Buchar filed a class-action suit against Apple in San Francisco. The complaint lists a single count against Apple of "Conspiracy to monopolize the iPhone voice and data services aftermarket in violation of Section 2 of the Sherman Act."

The suit alleges that Apple conspired with AT&T to lock iPhone users to the AT&T network for five years without receiving consent from the consumer. The plaintiffs are seeking declaratory and injunctive relief, treble and exemplary damages, legal costs, and the software unlock codes. It also seeks to force Apple to disclose that the iPhone is locked to specific network.

According to CNET, previous lawsuits against carriers have been unsuccessful thanks to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2011 that found consumers no longer have the right to file class actions suites against wireless carriers.  That's probably the reason that the plaintiffs are attacking Apple rather than AT&T.

 Source: Slashgear, CNET, iphonebuzz

[News] Bill Gates thinks the new Surface tablets are great!

Okay...so this might not exactly qualify as "news."  But you have to hand it to the guy...anytime the head of a multi-billion dollar software corporation gets a video out on YouTube about how great his company's new product is, its going make headlines.

[News] Apple's event is tomorrow

A quick reminder for those Apple fans out there that Apple's event is tomorrow, October 23, 2012 and will likely showcase the announcement of the iPad Mini (or whatever its real name ends up being).  In addition, there are some other rumors including:

[Rumor] Google Event announcement to include 3G enabled Nexus and Nexus 10 tablet

With October 29th fast approaching, the rumors on what is going to be announced at Google's Event are coming fast and furious...the latest and greatest include the following:

  • A 3G enabled Nexus 7 tablet, with HSPA+ speeds rumored
  • 32GB Nexus 7 tablet (all but confirmed)
  • Nexus 10 tablet, in partnership with Samsung
  • Nexus 4 device from LG (see specs reported here)
  • Androids latest OS release, 4.2 (rumored still to be named Jelly Bean)
Some of these things (the 32GB Nexus 7, the Nexus 4 from LG) were previously reported, so no surprises there.  But the inclusion of a 3G Nexus tablet would be new and exciting, as would the official announcement of the Nexus 10 tablet.  While rumors of the Nexus 10 have slated its release as somewhere in the 1st quarter of 2013.  No matter when its released, this tablet is sure to please (see the full details here) as long as the price point is a reasonable one.  This also, along with Microsoft's Surface tablet, is going to go up against Apple's featured iPad 3 device so price is going to be a factor if they hope to expect solid sales numbers.  Pricing it at (or above, heaven forbid) the iPad's current prices aren't going to do it any favors.

The 3G Nexus 7 I'm interested in since it will have to be tied to a carrier...but which carrier, how, and for how much data is the question.  Hopefully, we'll see more details soon.  And, if not, the 29th is only a week away.

*Source: Droid-Life

Sunday, October 21, 2012

[News]HTC DLX 5" 1080p superphone leaks for Verizon

Thanks to Androidcentral we have our best look yet at the forthcoming HTC DLX (pronounced Deluxe) on Verizon.

The HTC DLX features a 5" 1080p Super LCD-3 screen.  This will be the first full HD screen released on any phone in the United States.  Although the benefits of 1080p screens are debatable, it's still nice to see HTC pushing the technological envelope.  Look at this macro shot comparison with the iPhone 5, no slouch of its own when it comes to display quality, and the difference in clarity is immediately apparent:
Image courtesy theverge.com
The CPU is a quad-core Snapdragon S4 PRO paired with an Adreno 320 GPU.  The DLX has 2GB of ram, a 2500mah battery, and an 8MP camera.  The Japanese version of the DLX (the J Butterfly) has an SD card slot, but the leak doesn't mention whether of not the DLX follows suit.

HTC is still using physical buttons and the front camera appears to be the same wide angle 2MP unit from the 8X.

The rear camera is the same 8MP unit out of the One X+ with a dedicated ImageSense chip.

The prototype unit is running Android 4.1.1 with Sense 4+.  Expect to see the DLX released around Thanksgiving.

Here's the full specs breakdown based on what we know so far:

HTC Droid DLX (Also rumored as the Nexus 5)
All specifications based on current leaks/rumors
Release Date: November
Carrier(s): Verizon
Price: Unknown.  Likely $199.99 or $299.99 on contract
CPU/GPU: Quad-Core Snapdragon S4 Pro/Adreno 320
Screen: 5" Super LCD-3 (RGB) 1920x1080p
Camera: 2.1MP(Fr)/12MP/1080p@30fps
Memory: 1.5GB
Storage: 16GB
SD Card Slot: No
Battery: Non-Removable/2500mah
Pros: A 5" 1080p screen featuring a ridiculous pixel density of 440ppi.  Stylish design with typical HTC quality materials.  The S4 PRO is the most powerful CPU/GPU in the current Android universe.
Cons: Large for the average consumer.  No SD card slot.  Internal battery.
Outlook: The rumored specs of the Incredible X are as impressive as any phone on the market.  The 1080p screen would be the first of its kind on any smartphone and the quad-core S4 Snapdragon CPU is one of the most powerful available.  
Similar phones to consider: Apple iPhone 5, HTC 8X, LG Intuition, Motorola Droid Razr MAXX HD, Samsung Ativ S, Samsung Galaxy Note II, Samsung Galaxy S III

Saturday, October 20, 2012

[Rumor] 32GB Nexus 7 to launch October 29th

Photo courtesy of Engadget
As noted below here, the one tech device I'm really looking forward to is the Nexus 7, but with an increased storage capacity over the 2 previously sold versions.  Multiple sites are reporting not only that several merchants have received them, but also that a few (precious lucky few!) have been able to purchase them.  But the latest info shows a shot of the retail sticker with a "do not sell before" date of 10/29/2012, which is the date that Google is having their Android event (see more coverage on that event here).  Please note that while this sticker shows an almost $1,000.00 price point, these same sources are reporting that the price will in fact be the same as the 16GB version of this tablet ($249).

The Nexus 7 is already one of the best selling Android tablets in the market, with the Amazon Kindle Fire and Fire HD really the only other option for folks looking for that particular size with loads of features.  The benefits of the Nexus 7 make it a clear winner, with updates to Android coming direct from Google as well as the ability to unlock the bootloader and install custom ROMs (similar to what can be done with the Galaxy Nexus smartphone).  I've played with it at local retailers that sell the 8 & 16GB versions...its the "must have" Android tablet in my opinion.  You can be sure to expect a very thorough review from me as soon as I can get it in my hot little hands.  October 29th can't come fast enough!  

Friday, October 19, 2012

[News]More evidence of a high resolution Nexus 10 tablet?

Will Google announce a high resolution Nexus 10 tablet at their event on October 29th?

Nobody knows for sure, but evidence of the Samsung made tablet's existence is steadily starting to appear.

The latest leak is from a picture posted on Picasa:

The EXIF data indicates the photo was taken on a Nexus 10 with a resolution of 2560 x 1600 which matches up with earlier rumors.  This would give the 10.1" tablet a 299ppi making it the highest of any tablet on the market.

Yesterday Google announced the Cortex A-15 based Samsung Exynos 5 Dual CPU would be powering its new Chromebook, so it would be the most obvious choice for the Nexus 10.

Any chance Google could sell a wifi only version for $399.99?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

[News] Microsoft Surface tablet available for pre-order

Image courtesy of Surface.com
Microsoft is forging a new path by announcing a device that features both their software and hardware - the Surface tablet.  The device would appear to be in direct competition with Apple's iPad, as it features a 10.6 inch display and this size and form factor is dominated by Apple's tablet.  The Surface is (from many reports) well designed and very pleasing to the eye, and how well it will fare with the consumer will likely depend more on the software than the look and feel of the device itself.  But first, what's under the surface?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

[News]Google Event Scheduled for October 29th in New York, LG Nexus 4 likely to be unveiled

Google will be hosting an Android event at 10a.m. (EDT) on Monday, October 29th in New York.

The event is expected to feature the unveiling of the LG Nexus 4 smart phone with Android 4.2 and a 32GB version of the Nexus 7 tablet.  Other possible product introductions could include a $99 Nexus 7 tablet, a Samsung made HD Nexus 10 tablet, an HTC 5" Nexus Phablet and possibly Nexus smart phones from Sony and Samsung.

Personally I'm hoping for a 1080p HTC Nexus phablet on Verizon.  That might be able to tempt me away from a Samsung Galaxy Note 2.  Make it happen HTC!

LG Nexus 4
Release Date: October 29th
Carrier(s): Unknown
Price: Unknown
CPU/GPU: Quad-core Snapdragon S4 Pro/Adreno 320
Screen: 4.7" IPS+ LCD (RGB) 1280x768p
Camera: 1.2MP(Fr)/8MP/1080p@30fps
Memory: 2GB RAM
Storage: 8GB/16GB
SD Card Slot: No
Battery: Non-Removable/2100mah
Pros: Top CPU/GPU available.  Flagship specs across the board including ram, camera, and screen. Nexus phone means non-encrypted boot loader and stock Android.  Nexus phones get updates as soon as they are available (unless you're on Verizon).
Cons: No SD card slot.  Internal battery.  Storage options are very limited.
Outlook: The LG Optimus Nexus brings top notch specs, a non-encrypted boot loader and stock Android together in a tidy black package.  
Similar phones to consider: 
AT&T: Apple iPhone 5, HTC 8X, HTC One X, HTC One X+, Nokia Lumia 920, Samsung Ativ S, Samsung Galaxy S III
Sprint: Apple iPhone 5, Samsung Galaxy S III
T-Mobile: Samsung Ativ S, Samsung Galaxy S III
Verizon: Apple iPhone 5, HTC Droid Incredible X, Motorola Droid Razr MAXX HD, Samsung Ativ S, Samsung Galaxy S III

[News] HTC announces its newest "superphone" in Japan

Today in Japan, HTC unveiled the "J Butterfly" - the phone that had long been rumored as the HTC "dlx", a device sporting a 5 inch 1080p resolution display (among other cutting edge specs) - in 3 distinct colors.  For now, this is an international only device, but additional carriers (hopefully including the USA) could be in line to receive this device as well.

The good folks over at Droid-Life had coverage of this event, and are reporting the specs as follows:

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

[News] Apple sends invites for iPad mini event, world yawns with non-surprise

Well folks...its official - the invites have gone out from Apple for the "official" iPad mini event, scheduled for October 23, 2012.  With the catchy tag line of "We've got a a little more to show you." the invitations certainly won't blow anyone away with their creativity, but perhaps the product itself will do better.  We are now that much closer to seeing the actual look, feel, and specs of this new device.  There is still no official announcement of when the device will be sold, but some websites are reporting that it might even be as soon as October 24, the day after the event.  More info as it becomes available!

Monday, October 15, 2012

[Op-Ed]Why do Android manufacturers only reserve cutting edge specs for large phones?

My wife has a Samsung Galaxy S III (GSIII) and loves it.  Recently her best friend used the GSIII for a while and decided it was time for a smart phone of her own.  Knowing that I follow mobile tech fairly closely she asked my opinion on what to buy.  She wanted a powerful phone that was smaller than the GSIII, but larger than the iPhone 5.  Easy enough right?  Not in the world of Android flagships.  No such product exists.

In May of 2010 the HTC EVO 4G launched on Sprint and ushered in the era of 4.3" Android phones.  My current daily driver, the Motorola Droid X, followed shortly thereafter in July and also has a 4.3" screen.  Here's what Engadget had to say about it their review:

"So, let's just save you a bit of time from the outset: the Droid X is an imposing device, and it's definitely not for the small of hands. Makes no mistake, this is a big phone designed for use by big people. Well, not necessarily "big," but let's just say you're going to have a tough go of it if you're the kind of person that struggles to find a ball at the bowling alley where you can reach all the holes."

Today every Android  flagship phone on the market is larger than the Droid X.  What was considered "imposing" in mid 2010 is medium sized today.

Study after study shows that consumers prefer larger screens, so it's no mystery why smart phones have gotten bigger.  What is puzzling is why manufacturers have relegated the 4"-4.3" smart phone to mid-range status. While users prefer larger phones, clearly a market exists for those that want high end specs in a less substantial package. 

Just last week Samsung announced the Samsung Galaxy S III Mini (GSIIIM).  Many hoped that finally a manufacturer was going to release a smaller product with flagship guts.  They were disappointed. The SGIIIM has a 4" 800x480 Super AMOLED (pentile) screen that's sourced from the original Galaxy S (released way back in 2010), a dual-core 1ghz processor from Sony that's old tech, and a 5MP camera that's far from bleeding edge.  Many wondered why Samsung even bothered trying to associate the GSIIIM with the GSIII given that they have virtually nothing in common except for similar looks.  

Surprisingly one company that seems to be on the right track is Motorola.  I've written a couple (1,2) articles lately taking Motorola to task for their flagship offerings, and almost completely ignored the RAZR M that was announced at the same time.  The RAZR M is very close to the type of phone I think a lot of consumers are looking for.  It has the same dual-core S4 processor featured in almost every U.S. Android flagship this year, a 4.3" qHD screen, 1GB of RAM, an 8MP camera and a fairly large 2000mah battery.  It also features an edge to edge glass design that keeps the footprint of the phone small.  Here's a size comparison with the 4" iPhone 5 and two other Motorola 4.3" phones:
The RAZR M is extremely compact for a 4.3" phone.  It's only slightly larger than the iPhone 5 and much, much smaller than either the Droid X or the DROID RAZR.  The pentile qHD screen is the only technical weak point.  Replace that with the 720p Super-LCD unit out of the HTC Rezound and you would have a compact, high end Android smart phone that could directly challenge the iPhone.

So, being an Android guy, what phone did I eventually advise my wife's best friend to purchase?  The iPhone 5 of course.  Say what you will about Apple (and people say a lot), but the iPhone 5 is a fantastic package from a hardware standpoint.  The CPU, GPU, battery life, camera, materials quality and screen are all world class.  No it doesn't have an SD card slot, and iOS isn't nearly as customizable as Android, but most users just want a high quality phone that works and the iPhone 5 excels at that.  No smaller Android is its equal.

Recently Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple, had this to say about the iPhone 5

"Part of me wishes Apple had not been so, kind of, arrogant and feeling like 'we're the only one with the right clue.' I wish they had made wider versions -- a small and a large version of the iPhone," he said.

The quote struck me as ironic while searching for a smaller Android flagship.  Apple is roundly criticized for giving consumers only a single, smaller design to choose from because that's what they've decided is "best." Meanwhile Android manufacturers get a pass despite only offering flagship phones in sizes that would have been considered laughable two years ago.  A case could be made that OEM's are simply giving the market what it wants, and the sales numbers of large phones like the Samsung Galaxy S III show that's partially true, but iPhone sales show that a huge market exists for smaller, powerful hardware.

Large screens are great.  My next phone will be the 5.5" Samsung Galaxy Note II, so I'm clearly not in the smaller phone camp.  Having said that, consumers that want a smaller device shouldn't be penalized with inferior specs.  Not everyone wants a huge phone and one of the best things about Android is the diversity of products available.  How does not a single Android OEM offer a product that is competitive with the iPhone in both specs and size?  It's mind-boggling given how many units Apple moves every year.

Maybe in 2013 Motorola will offer up a RAZR M II with a quad-core Qualcomm S4 Pro processor, a 4.3" 720p Super LCD RGB screen, 2GB of RAM, an 8MP camera, an SD card slot, and a 2000mah battery.  If they can keep the current footprint of the RAZR M, then consumers would have a true iPhone alternative. 

Until then if anyone asks me what smaller phone they should buy, I'm going to tell them the iPhone 5.

[Rumor] Is Sony preparing their Nexus phone for release? *UPDATE*

As has been reported previously, all indications are that Google has moved towards allowing multiple phone manufacturers to participate in their Nexus program, and we've seen lots of info on LGs device.  Now it would appear that Sony is also readying their device, and some photos have leaked (as reported by Droid-Life) - check out the photos and feel free to comment on what you think!

Photo from Picasa
Photo from Picasa
As you can probably tell from the first photo, this device appears to be running Jelly Bean (due to the wallpaper) and it has only on screen buttons, something Google is moving towards with both the Ice Cream Sandwich release and the subsequent Jelly Bean release as well.  Along with the LG Optimus Nexus, this could be a step in the right direction for Google, Android, and all OEMs taking part in the Nexus program.  Stay tuned for more details as they are available.

UPDATE:  This appears to have been a straight up hoax.  Sony might be working on their Nexus phone, but this for sure isn't it.  Bummer.

Friday, October 12, 2012

[News]Verizon announces Droid RAZR HD and MAXX HD for October 18th. Both officially overpriced.

Verizon has confirmed the Droid RAZR HD and MAXX HD will both launch on October 18th.  The RAZR HD will be $199.99 on contract, while the RAZR MAXX HD will be $299.99.

These prices are what I expected when I wrote our holiday buyer's guide, and it's hard to shake the feeling that both phones are overpriced.

The Samsung Galaxy S III (GSIII) can be had for as little as $49.99 on contact and matches the RAZR HD and MAXX HD in virtually every department.  In fact, the Galaxy S III has more RAM (2GB vs. 1GB), a slightly larger screen (4.8" vs. 4.7") and the same dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor.

The only advantage the RAZR HD and MAXX HD have are bigger batteries.  This would be a big deal if the GSIII was a battery hog, but it's not.  The GSIII will easily get the average user through a day and the $149.99 price difference versus the RAZR HD and $249.99 versus the RAZR MAXX HD will buy a lot of spare batteries just in case.

If you're a Verizon customer that's in the market right now do yourself a favor and buy the GSIII at a discount.  You won't regret it.

(For the record over the next two months the Samsung Galaxy Note II, HTC Droid Incredible X and the LG Optimus G/Nexus are all also being released on Verizon and would warrant a look.  For more info on those go here.)

[Rumor] iPad mini to be announced on 10/23/12

Photo mock-up courtesy of Cnet.com
If you're considering making a tablet purchase in the near future (or for the holidays) and the iPad 3 is just a bit too large for your tastes, perhaps waiting a few more weeks will yield just what you're looking for:  the 7.85 inch so-called iPad mini.  The rumor (courtesy of AllThingsD) is that the announcement for the launch is coming up on October 23rd.  If you're looking for a really good collection of all the current rumors on specs, style, and well...everything else, check out this write up from the good folks over at Gizmodo detailing everything that is currently out there on this new device from Apple.

[News] Two new color options for Galaxy S3 on Verizon

Photo courtesy of Droid-Life.com
For those who have read the 2012 Holiday Smartphone Guide (and if you haven't, check it out here) you know that the Samsung Galaxy S3 is one of the best Android phones out on the market today.  If you are a Verizon Wireless customer, and shopping for a new smartphone, you now have 2 new color options of this powerful phone to choose from - black and what can only be loving described as wood grain brown.

Both of these color variants come with 16GB of internal storage, not the 32GB options that the white and pebble blue options come in.  But if that doesn't concern you, give them a look.

You can get over to Verizon Wireless via the link here, which will take you to the black version.  If you'd prefer the brown instead, simply click the button below the image (caution - the button looks red to me, but will actually select the "Amber Brown" color.)

*Source:  Droid-Life