Tag Archives | HTC

HTC's 3 Android 4G Phones for Sprint, AT&T and Verizon

 

HTC Shift 4G

HTC chose CES as the launchpad for three new Android 2.2-enabled smartphones for 4G networks. One of these phones, the EVO Shift 4G, is a slider that will complement HTC’s original EVO and Samung’s Epic 4G on Sprint’s WiMax network. Rounding out the trio are the Inspire 4G for AT&T and the ThunderBolt, one of 10 new phones and other devices from various vendors now announced for release for Verizon’s 4G network.

 

At 5.8 ounces, the new Shift is a bit lighter in weight than the original EVO 4G, HTC’s existing Sprint phone. The Shift also adds a slideout keyboard, said HTC officials, speaking with me at the show here in Las Vegas.

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Windows Phone 7 Handsets: Initial Questions and Answers

I spent this morning liveblogging Microsoft’s official Windows Phone 7 kickoff here in New York. Even though there wasn’t a lot of brand-new news–Microsoft started showing off the OS months ago, and some of the hardware news had leaked–there was still lots to chew on. Herewith, a few early impressions based on experiencing the keynote and spending twenty minutes fiddling with the phones on display here.

How’s the interface?

We already knew that Windows Phone 7 was an inventive approach to mobile interfaces that owed little either to earlier versions of Windows or the iPhone. (It is, however, reminiscent of the Zune HD and certain aspects of Xbox 360 and Windows Media Center.) It features Tiles (big icons that can display constantly-updated information in a widgety fashion), screens that slide to the left to reveal more stuff (like the iPhone and Android desktops, but inside apps as well), and other distinctive ideas. Judging from the time I spent with some phones this morning, the level of overall polish and fluidity is very good.

It’s not an iPhone-style great leap forward,, but I can certainly imagine some folks actively preferring it to the iPhone interface. And given that Android’s interface remains so-so and the future of HP/Palm’s WebOS on phones is somewhat murky, Windows Phone 7 could end up being the iPhone’s most serious competitor from a usability standpoint.

Any other unique benefits?

Windows Phone 7 has built-in Office apps with editing (although I need more time with them to judge whether they’re better than third-party suites for other phones). It lets you subscribe to music using Microsoft’s Zune Pass service; solid subscription music services are available for other platforms, but they’re not integrated into the OS. Speaking of integration, the music player has an API that permits third-party services such as Slacker to show up–Microsoft’s demo this morning mentioned this feature but didn’t really show how it works.

Window Phone 7 also has lots of hooks into Facebook, Windows Live, and other social networks–it grabs and melds information from them, lets you issue updates and upload photos, aims to make it as easy to browse photos on Facebook as it is to view ones on the phone, etc., etc. This social stuff is ambitious for sure, but I want to live with it for a while before deciding whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing. (I’m instinctively skeptical of phones that aim to support social networks through built-in features rather than excellent stand-alone apps–the disaster known as Microsoft Kin shows how hard it is to pull that off.)

What’s that image at the top of this post?

During this morning’s presentation, Steve Ballmer and company reported all the catch phrases on that slide so often that I almost began chanting along. To some degree, they’re just marketingspeak–no company is going to say that its new product is occasionally delightful, adequately mine, and a sluggish hassle. But Windows Phone 7 is the first evidence I’ve ever seen that Microsoft understands how to make a pleasant, efficient, modern mobile operating system–which has absolutely nothing to do with cramming the Windows interface onto a tiny screen.

What’s missing?

Let’s see. Multitasking for third-party apps; cut and paste (which is coming early in 2011); massive quantities of great apps; the assumption that virtually every new app will be available for your phone; a movie/TV service as comprehensive as iTunes; an ecosystem of accessories to rival the iPhone. I also didn’t see any way to swap out Bing as the default search engine in favor of anything else. (To be fair, the Bing services–including voice search and Maps–look good.) None of these omissions render the operating system DOA, but they need to get fixed, and Microsoft has little time to dawdle. Windows Phone 7 2.0 or Windows Phone 8 or whatever the next version is called needs to fill in most of the obvious holes.

What about big-name third party apps?

Microsoft had surprisingly little to say about that today. It demoed eBay and IMdB, plus a couple of games (including The Sims). The phones that attendees could try out had a few other name-brand apps, including Twitter (which looks similar to the Android version) and Fandango. But I didn’t see Facebook or Foursquare or Bejeweled or other apps that I try to install on a new phone as soon as I get it. (Foursquare has been demoed in the past.)

I do feel hopeful that Microsoft will get one thing right that Google has failed to do so far: doing everything in its power to ensure that third-party apps have a look and feel that’s consistent with the overall interface. All the ones I’ve seen so far, such as eBay, truly feel like Windows Phone 7 programs.

How’s the hardware?

I think it’s a smart move that Windows Phone 7 will be on three AT&T handsets, each based on a 1-GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon CPU and a five-megapixel camera, and each going for $199.99 on contract–but each with its own personality and none resembling the iPhone all that closely. The LG Quantum has a physical keyboard; the HTC Surround has slide-out Dolby Mobile/SRS speakers; the Samsung Focus has a 4.3″ Super AMOLED display. The Focus goes on sale on November 8th, and the other two will follow within a few weeks.

A couple of early hands-on impressions: The Focus feels like a cousin of Samsung’s Galaxy S phones, with an impressively thin case and a display that delivers very, very vivid colors. (Whether they’re too vivid compared to a good LCD is a matter of opinion.) The Quantum’s slide-out landscape keyboard felt pretty good by slide-out landscape keyboard standards, but the slider mechanism was oddly stiff. (This may have been due to interference from the bracket for the cable that fastened the phone to the demo station.)

What’s the deal with AT&T?

It seems to be more serious about Windows Phone 7 than it’s been about Android to date–it’s Microsoft’s “Premier” wireless company for now, and the initial lineup of handsets looks decent. It also looks like AT&T has integrated some of its own stuff (including an app for its U-Verse TV service that’s available both to subscribers and non-subscribers) without munging up the Windows Phone 7 experience. Here at the event, I spoke with David Christopher, Chief Marketing Officer of AT&T’s wireless unit, and he seemed genuinely enthusiastic about Windows Phone 7. Would it surprise you to hear that he cheerfully refused to answer direct questions relating to AT&T’s iPhone exclusivity and whether the new Microsoft phones will help the carrier prepare for the era of the Verizon iPhone?

What are Windows Phone 7’s chances?

Ooh, I was afraid you’d ask that. It’s unknowable at this point, really. Microsoft let Apple build up an unimaginably gigantic lead in the market for next-generation smartphones, and now it has to catch up with Android, too. It’s incredibly daunting, and these phones–which are version 1.0 products despite the “7” in the name–aren’t going to get Microsoft anywhere close to parity. On the other hand, I’m impressed with Windows Phone 7 overall–and I can’t think of a different strategy that the one Microsoft seems to be following that would have a better shot at success. This is going to be fun to watch…


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HTC Dilutes Android With New Sense

It’s telling that HTC doesn’t refer to Sense as a user interface or a layer atop its Android phones, but rather as a “holistic experience filled with moments of delight.”

That’s pure marketing jargon, but it also shows how HTC wants to strike its own path with Sense, and to be less reliant on the core Android experience. The proof is in a batch of new Sense features, which will initially appear in HTC’s Desire HD and Desire Z handsets. I’m guessing they will eventually come to HTC smartphones in the United States, as well.

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HTC's Android Gamble is Paying Off

Smartphone maker HTC was one of the first manufacturers two years ago to announce devices for the then-unproven Android mobile OS. It was a gamble — there was no guarantee that the new platform would survive, even with Google’s muscle behind it. If HTC’s latest financials are any guide, that gamble is paying dividends (literally!).

The company reported a $268 million profit for the just ended quarter, up a third over last year. It also sold 4.5 million phones just in April — beating current smartphone juggernaut Apple and its iconic iPhone as consumers pulled back from the iPhone 3GS in anticipation of the iPhone 4.

HTC had for much of its corporate life focused on Windows-powered devices. However with Microsoft’s mobile phone division apparently in chaos, and the company’s mobile focus on its Windows Phone 7 operating system due later this year, the company is increasingly turning to Android as its primary operating system.

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AT&T's Other June Smartphone

Four days before the iPhone 4 goes on sale on June 24th, AT&T will start stocking the HTC Aria, which sounds like its first Android smartphone that a serious smartphone fan might take seriously. For $130 (on two-year contract after rebate) it’s got decent specs, a trackball, and what AT&T describes as an especially pocket-friendly size. It also runs Android 2.1 with HTC’s Sense interface (Google’s own Nexus One remains the only Android 2.2 phone, but please don’t call that fragmentation).


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HTC Sues Apple

This isn’t even slightly surprising: HTC is suing Apple. The Taiwanese phone giant says that the iPhone maker has violated five HTC patents, and it’s therefore asking the U.S. International Trade Commission to prevent the iPhone, iPad, and iPod from being imported into the U.S. and sold.

Last month, Apple sued HTC, seeking to ban that company from selling phones in the U.S. Apple is also suing Nokia, which is itself suing Apple. Twice.

(Extremely unlikely but perversely satisfying potential scenario: All three companies win all their lawsuits, preventing all of them from selling any products whatsoever and driving them all out of business. At least it might dissuade other businesses from doing battle in the courtroom rather than the marketplace…)

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Microsoft Strikes Phone Patent Deal With HTC. Should Google be Worried?

Finally, news about smartphones and patents that doesn’t involve large companies suing each other: Microsoft has announced that it’s signed a patent licensing agreement with HTC covering the latter company’s Android smartphones. HTC gets to build Android phones without fear of patent trouble with Microsoft; Microsoft gets to collect a royalty on every Android handset HTC sells. Which is quite an accomplishment given that the company behind Android–Google–doesn’t charge handset manufacturers royalties.

Microsoft would presumably rather be collecting royalties on Windows phones–before it went gaga for Android, HTC was best known as the dominant maker of Windows Mobile devices–but a peaceful relationship between the two companies benefits both parties. (If HTC isn’t among the first companies to jump on the Windows Phone 7 bandwagon, it’ll be very surprising.)

The Microsoft press release doesn’t say anything in specific about the patents involved, but Microsoft has plenty of them covering phone-related technology.

If HTC requires a license to make Android phones without violating Microsoft’s intellectual property, what does that mean for Motorola, Samsung, LG, and all the other companies that make Android handsets? Stay tuned for news of further deals, I guess. Or lawsuits.Either way, it’s also hard to interpret the arrangement with HTC as anything other than an oblique shot across Google’s bow. (Here’s a Cnet story by Ina Fried on all this with a sound bite from Microsoft’s deputy general counsel that makes the shot slightly less oblique.)

Then again, it’s also hard to imagine that it would be in Microsoft’s best interest to sue large phone companies who are logical licensees for Windows Phone 7. Unlike Apple–which is in court with both HTC and Nokia–Microsoft’s business model requires decent relationships with the rest of the industry.


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Reuters: Lenovo Leading Candidate to Acquire Palm

Reuters is reporting that its sources have said that Chinese PC brand Lenovo is now the leading candidate to buy Palm. This follows HTC’s apparent decision to pass on the US device maker following a look at Palm’s books, the story reads. It’s estimated that Palm could sell for about $1.3 billion based on the current market, a bargain considering its once mighty position in the industry.

This would not be the first time Lenovo was involved in cellular phones, however. Several years ago, the company sold that portion of its business to focus on PCs, however it bought it back last year. It has one smartphone which is currently available in China.


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Palm 4 Sale?

Bloomberg says that Palm wants to sell itself and Lenovo and HTC are interested. As a bystander who’s fond of both Palm’s current products and its immense legacy, my preferred outcome is still that Palm figure out how to stay independent and successful. If that’s not possible, I’m rooting for a buyer who can figure out how to make WebOS into the major mobile-OS player it deserves to be–and I’m fretting about scenarios in which its gets bought and withers away.


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Apple Plays Hardball, Microsoft Benefits?

Good post over at CNN Money by Philip Elmer-DeWitt with some backstory about Apple’s lawsuit against HTC over iPhone patents. Elmer-DeWitt quotes Yair Reiner, an analyst who says that the suit is spooking handset manufacturers since it throws the future of Google’s Android OS into doubt. (And Reiner says that manufacturers were already nonplussed over Google’s introduction of its own Android phone, the Nexus One.)

End result, according to Reiner? A window (pun unavoidable) of opportunity for the otherwise way-behind OS known as Windows Phone 7 Series, which manufacturers may turn to instead of Android. (I don’t know if Windows Phone is vulnerable to Apple lawsuits, but on the surface, at least, it owes far less to the iPhone than Android does…)


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