Tag Archives | Smartphones

Amazon’s Fire Phone is One Tough Phone to Figure Out

Things that are different have a tendency to confuse people
Jeff Bezos brandishes Amazon's Fire Phone at a media event in Seattle on June 18, 2014

Jeff Bezos brandishes the Fire Phone at Amazon’s media event in Seattle on June 18, 2014

Week before last, Jeff Bezos sent journalists who had been invited to the company’s media event a copy of his favorite childhood book: Leonard Kessler’s Mr. Pine’s Purple House. Mr. Pine painted his home purple so it would stand out from his neighbors’ houses; Bezos included a note alluding to the world “being a better place when things are a bit different.”

As expected, the news at the media event was the launch of Amazon’s first smartphone, the Fire Phone. In multiple ways, it is indeed a purple house–a phone which strives to carve off a distinct niche for itself rather than match what Apple and makers of Android phones are doing.

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Join Me for Amazon’s Smartphone Event

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, not introducing a phone in 2011

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, not introducing a phone in 2011

If Jeff Bezos doesn’t unveil a smartphone with a 3D display this morning at Amazon’s press event in Seattle this morning, a lot of folks will be very surprised–including me.

Assuming that the phone is real and about to arrive, it will make Amazon into a full-service gadget company for the first time. (It already offers multiple tablets, a TV box which streams video and plays games, and, of course, the latest variants of the Kindle e-reader which got it into the hardware business back in 2007.)

I’ll be in the audience at the event and will be covering it live over on Twitter starting at 10:30am PT. Then I’ll follow up back here on Technologizer with further thoughts once all the details are known. See you there, or here, or both, I hope.


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The Case Against Thin

iPhone

Over at the Atlantic, Robert Wright is being sacrilegious. He says he’s unhappy with the trend–seen in phones, laptops, and other products–to make gadgets as thin as possible:

Remember when Jobs first unveiled the Macbook Air? I do, because I had long been a fan of the small, lightweight computers that had until then been available only on the Windows platform. Jobs brought the machine onstage in a manila envelope, because the thing he wanted to wow the audience with was its thinness.

I thought: Who cares how thin it is? Thickness isn’t the dimension that really matters when you have to fit a computer into a tiny backpack or use it in a coach seat on an airplane. And, anyway, more important than any spatial dimension is weight. Sure, to the extent that thinner means lighter, thinness is good, but if you make thinness an end in itself, you start compromising functionality.

Bob has several specific beefs with whisper-thin gizmos. He points out that all things being equal, a thin case leaves less room for the battery, thereby leading to shorter battery life. He says that overly svelte devices are harder to hold and easier to drop. With laptops, he says, engineering for thinness leads to compromises in keyboard quality.

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Which Phone OS Crashes More? It’s Not Android

The argument that iOS is a much more stable operating system than Android has been repeated on the blogs and even in the comment threads of stories about the two operating systems. There’s a problem, though: the data indicates that is untrue.

Mobile app monitoring company Crittercism released data Friday on crash reports from the period December 1 through December 15, and saying iOS has stability issues is putting it nicely. By a 2-to-1 margin, iOS crashes much more frequently than Android, according to Crittercism’s report. The biggest offender is iOS 5.0.1, accounting for 28.64 percent of all crashes.

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The Galaxy Note Get Samsung’s Apple-Bashing Ad Treatment

Samsung’s Super Bowl commercial for the Galaxy Note, directed by a Farrelly brother, is like a fancier, less entertaining parody of its earlier Apple fan-bashing spots:

While the first ads featured the Galaxy S II phone, a direct competitor of the iPhone 4S, this one is for the Galaxy Note. With its huge screen and pen, it’s both an anti-iPhone and one of the most distinctive phones on the market. So the gag feels a little muffled, and the Note doesn’t get enough explanation.

I’m still curious how the Galaxy Note will do–it strikes me as neat, but a niche. But the fact that Samsung plowed money into a Super Bowl spot presumably means that it thinks the phone can be a mainstream hit.


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Foodspotting: It’s Not Just for Food Photographers Anymore

Until now, I’ve thought of Foodspotting mostly as an iPhone app which my wife uses to share photos of her meal when we dine out. She loves it. So do enough other people that a million pictures have been uploaded since the app’s launch, making it feel a bit like an Instagram that’s entirely devoted to things you can eat..

But there’s probably a limit to how many folks there are in the world who want to obsessively photograph food. So the new version of Foodspotting that launched this week is designed to broaden the app’s appeal. The photo sharing’s still there–but it feels more like one feature in an app whose primary purpose is to let large numbers of people find and see the best dishes at local restaurants before they place an order.

The new Foodspotting lets you browse popular dishes at nearby restaurants, or pull up a “picture menu” of a specific eatery. Lists of picks from media outlets such as Zagat’s and New York magazine supplement the recommendations from Foodspotting users. And there’s a section of Specials–which consisted of 50% discounts at several restaurants when I checked–which is the start of Foodspotting’s strategy for making money.

With its new emphasis on finding places to go and stuff to eat, Foodspotting feels a bit more like a competitor to traditional sources of restaurant reviews such as Yelp. But the similarities don’t run deep. Foodspotting still focuses on pictures and thumbs-up ratings, not full-blown critiques. And there’s no way to steer other users away from disappointing dishes by giving anything a thumbs down.

Judging from my experience so far, Foodspotting also doesn’t have a Yelplike critical mass of content practically everywhere. At the moment, I’m in Newton Corner, Massachusetts–not exactly a hotbed of fine dining–and only see a few photos from a few restaurants. Yelp, however, has dozens of nearby establishments that have dozens of reviews apiece. (Back home in food-centric San Francisco, Foodspotting is a much richer resource.)

Of course, one of the goals of the new version is to ramp up more quickly. If it works, the app, which was already lots of fun, will be even more fun, and much more useful.

Foodspotting is available for iPhone, Android, Windows Phone, and BlackBerry; the iPhone and Android editions are the first two to become available in this updated version.


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How One Little Android Update Caused a Big Headache

My Samsung Galaxy S II had been great to me. It’s a thin, light phone with a gorgeous Super AMOLED Plus display and a dual-core processor that handles Android with ease. When people asked me if I’d ever return to an iPhone–my previous handset was an iPhone 3GS–my answer was a cheery “nope!”

That was until last week, when AT&T delivered an Android 2.3.6 update to the Galaxy S II that destroyed its battery life. Before the update, the phone could easily last through a day of moderate use. After the update, the phone would lose about 8 percent of its battery per hour in standby. Even if I rarely touched the phone during the day, it was dead by bedtime.

I’m telling this story not just to rant–although I’m grateful for that opportunity–but to point out a risk that Android users face: An update that’s supposed to deliver nothing but good things could carry unforeseen consequences. Another example of this popped up this week, with users of Asus’ Transformer Prime reporting lock-ups and graphical glitches after updating to Android Ice Cream Sandwich.

I wasn’t alone in my battery drain problem. Similar complaints have appeared in forums on AT&T’s website, XDA-Developers forums and Android Central (where some T-Mobile users are reporting the same issue), but other users said they weren’t having any issues. This is both the best and worst kind of Android bug, because it’s less likely to merit immediate attention from the phone maker and wireless carriers when it doesn’t affect everyone.

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Highlight, a Social Network for the Real World

For all that Facebook does to help you organize your online relationships, it doesn’t do much to help you interact with folks in the physical world. Every time you enter a restaurant, conference, or hotel lobby, you’re surrounded by strangers who you might be linked to through mutual friends or shared interests. But it’s hard to know who’s who–and if people you know do happen to be nearby, you might or might not stumble across them.

Enter Highlight, a new iPhone app that aims to tell you about the people in your immediate vicinity. Install it on your phone and connect it to your Facebook account, and it’ll begin alerting you to other Highlight users who are within approximately a block and a half of you. You can pull up profiles with information on them from Facebook and send them text messages (such as “where are you, exactly?”). Founder Paul Davison told me that the app is designed to help you meet new people, refresh your memory about people you’ve met before, and alert you to friends who could be lurking right around the corner.

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RIM’s New Boss: Stay the Course

Uh oh: RIM’s new CEO is saying he doesn’t “think a drastic change is needed.” (What does he know that we don’t know?)

Peter Kafka of All Things D reports:

Research In Motion isn’t broken, so no need to break it up. But it needs better internal focus, and better external focus, too.

That’s the takeaway from new RIM CEO Thorsten Heins, who told analysts this morning that he thinks the company is in pretty good shape, all things considered. Sure, in the U.S., it has been roughed up by Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android, but it’s still used by lots of people, has lots of fans in big companies and big government agencies, and lots of users around the world.


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The Future of Phones: Forever Unknowable

In a release exuberantly titled “Lumia 900 Introduction to Trigger Smartphone Renaissance for Nokia and Microsoft,” IHS iSuppli analyst Wayne Lam has some predictions about where the phone market is going between now and 2015:

Largely based on Nokia’s strong support, Windows Phone is set to regain the No. 2 rank in the smartphone operating system in 2015. Finnish-based Nokia in 2009 lost its second-place worldwide ranking because of rising competition from Google Inc.’s Android and Apple Inc.’s iOS.

In 2015, however, Windows Phone will account for 16.7 percent of the smartphones shipped, up from less than 2 percent in 2011, according to the IHS iSuppli Mobile & Wireless Communications Service at information and analysis provider IHS (NYSE: IHS). This will allow Windows Phone to slightly surpass Apple’s iOS to retake the market’s second rank behind Android, as presented in the table below.

That’s awfully confident-sounding. Windows Phone is “set” to become #2 by 2015 and “will” have market share of 16.7 percent and “will” overtake iOS. And hey, it’s an analyst who knows his stuff doing the talking, so the rest of us should pay attention.

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