Tag Archives | Smartphones

RIM’s CEO Swap is No Reboot

After God-knows-how-many months of incessant wondering about how long beleaguered RIM co-CEOs Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie could keep their jobs, the tech blogosophere can move onto other topics. Both gents are stepping down from their day-to-day leadership roles–they’ll remain directors–to make way for Thorsten Heins, formerly the company’s COO (he was one of two of them). Barbara Stymiest, currently a member of the board, will become its new chairman.

The company has posted a video in which Heins talks about his new gig:

If Heins isn’t prepared to speak eloquently about the road ahead quite yet, that doesn’t mean that he’s clueless or that he won’t do a good job. I also understand why he might be inclined to say nice things about Lazaridis, Balsillie, and the RIM team. I’ll even cut the company slack for the spin it’s putting on the executive change, which is that it’s happening because RIM is doing so well, not because it’s in trouble.

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The Lumia 710 is Free, But Don’t Panic

The tech blogosphere’ collective head is spinning as Wal-Mart has dropped the price of Nokia’s first commercially available Windows Phone device in the US — the Lumia 710 — to free. Immediately, people began swing that this was a sure sign that the release is a bust: surely a device selling well wouldn’t be available for nothing so quickly? Or would it?

Look, it’s Wal-Mart were talking about here. Land of “Always Low Prices, Always.. Something tells me that we shouldn’t make judgements on the success of a device merely on this retailer’s pricing strategy. It could simply be that Wal-Mart wants to sell more phone. Let’s also consider the competitive landscape.

With the absolute glut of Android phones out there, there are quite a few devices on the market at that “free” price point. Wal-Mart has many of these devices because they fit into the demographic of their consumers: budget-conscious. The Lumia 710 is a great midrange phone, and is similar in functionality to those free devices.

Also look at Best Buy and T-Mobile: both still sell the device for $49.99 with a two-year contract. While Wal-Mart’s decision may accelerate their plans to discount the phone, they certainly are in no rush to join Wal-Mart in the race to the bottom. Nokia has only offered that these phones are selling “well”, so we really have no clue how things are going.

So take a breath, and let the market judge whether Nokia’s gamble was a smart one.


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MHL, a Possible Solution for the Scarcity of Android Add-Ons

Pioneer's AppRadio 2

Pioneer's AppRadio 2.

If you own an iPhone, you can choose from a surging sea of add-ons that work with it: speaker docks, in-car gizmos, game controllers, and much more. If you have an Android phone–well, if you’re lucky, the company that made it sells some peripheral devices. (Motorola, invented of such add-ons as the Lapdock, is especially conscientious here.)

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The Big Winner of CES 2012 Is… Microsoft?

For a company whose CES swan song is this year, and whose CEO gave a pretty boring keynote address, Microsoft seems to have had an uncommonly successful CES. Windows Phone went into the show a struggling also-ran mobile operating system, and very well may have come out of it a contender.

Why’s that? Two phones made their debut at the show, the Nokia Lumia 900 and the HTC Titan II. Both have been getting glowing reviews from the press for their form and function. Finally it appears Microsoft has devices that look compelling. It couldn’t do much worse: there’s only one way and that’s up!

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The Slippery Slope of Android Differentiation

I know I’ve been piling on Android as of late, but I just can’t ignore comments from Motorola CEO Sanjay Jha. Speaking to the Verge at CES on Wednesday, Jha says that phone makers will continue to skin Google’s operating system with their own interfaces, making the possibility of a purer Android experience seem more remote than ever.

Motorola “has to make money” he says, and “the vast majority of the changes we make to the OS are to meet the requirements that carriers have”. Wait, haven’t we heard this before? On Monday, I wrote that Google no longer has any control over Android, ceding most of it to carriers and it seems, the manufacturer as well.

The problem is that there are just too many Android phones. That makes phones from different manufacturers awfully similar, which makes it hard for any one model to sell well based on sheer distinctiveness. So carriers layer their own user interface tweaks over Android in an attempt to be different.

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Which is It, Google? Is Android Open or Not?

Lately, it’s not often that I agree with MG Siegler. If you’ve read my work elsewhere, you know I’ve taken issue with some of his coverage of Apple.

But his post explaining his distaste for Android is probably the most cogent argument so far why the platform is falling so far short of its potential.

Android was built on a foundation of good intentions. The platform was supposed to usher in a new mobile era where the power was given to the user to make their device their own. No walled gardens, no censorship, no limits. Supporters of the platform heralded its “openness,” deriding Apple and others for their top-town controlled approach.

It sounded too good to be true, and it pretty much was. Carriers balked at giving up that control and quickly Android became just as tightly controlled as iOS or any other mobile platform. And this is directly a result of Google’s business decisions in the company’s quest for Android market domination.

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Smartphones and Tablets Get Their Gaming Buttons

As Sony and Nintendo cling to physical buttons as a major advantage of dedicated portable gaming systems, smartphone and tablet accessory makers have come up with an answer. At a CES press event, two companies were showing off attachable game controllers for smartphones and tablets, providing the tactile feedback that’s sorely needed for precision shooting and platforming.

I checked out one of these controllers, Gametel, from a Sweden-based company called Fructel. The controller clamps on to an Android phone or iPhone–or pairs remotely to an iPad–and communicates via Bluetooth. It includes a directional pad, four face buttons and two shoulder buttons on top. Gametel’s built-in battery runs for about nine hours before needing a charge from either mini USB or Apple’s 30-pin connector, depending on model.

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Windows Phone Hits a Milestone

Better Windows Phone news: It now has 50,000 apps. Still way behind iOS and Android–and still with major absentees, such as Pandora–but enough to make it the third modern mobile operating system with a critical mass of third-party support.


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Samsung: TouchWiz Trumps Ice Cream Sandwich

Geez, Samsung says that it won’t update its Galaxy S smartphones–like my Verizon Fascinate–to Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich:

The company’s argument is that they lack sufficient RAM and ROM to run the new OS alongside TouchWiz and other “experience-enhancing” software. This will come as a massive blow to the great many users of the Galaxy S, who would have rightly expected the 1GHz Hummingbird processor and accompanying memory to be able to handle ICS — it’s the same hardware as you’ll find inside the Nexus S, and that phone is receiving Android 4.0 over the air right now.

I’d gladly give up TouchWiz for Ice Cream Sandwich. In a heartbeat. Would you?


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Too Many BlackBerries

In a New York Times story by Ian Austen, RIM says it’s not sure how many different BlackBerry models it sells:

Features have proliferated on BlackBerrys as part of RIM’s move to the broader consumer market, and so have the number of models. Since 2007, RIM has introduced 37 models. The company, in a statement, said it did not know how many models were on the market.

The company with the most phones doesn’t win; the ones with the best phones do.


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