Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Google reaches 100 millionth Android activation!!!

If seeing and hearing all about Android everyday wasn’t enough to convince you of how popular the platform is, perhaps some numbers will.

Google announced yesterday during the Google IO developer conference that more than 100 million Android devices had been activated up till now, but did not give any updates or details with regards to what version of Android currently leads the pack.

36 OEMs, 215 carriers, 450,000 Android developers all over the world, Google wants to say "thank you!" Android has recently crossed its 100 millionth activation milestone, and is also growing at its fastest pace yet: 400,000 devices activated each and every day. There are now 200,000 Android applications in the Market, which have accumulated a total of 4.5 billion installs, at a rate which Google actually says is accelerating. These figures have all been cited as a way to illustrate Google's mobile momentum, which is evidently not even thinking about slowing down. 

It's market competant Apple iOS activates 360,000 devices each and every day. The best part? Those numbers are actually accelerating. The Little Green Guy sure has come a long way.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Samsung Infuse 4G: A Review

When it comes to smartphones, how big is too big?

Samsung obviously isn’t preoccupied with that question, as evidenced by its latest Android device release, the Infuse 4G.

As soon as you pop the phone out of the box, the first thing you notice is its size. The thing is massive. It needs to be, though, in order to support its 4.5-inch super AMOLED display. Save for the first Dell Streak smartphone-cum-tablet hybrid — whose screen is a whopping 5-inches — the Infuse is packing one of the largest screens we’ve seen on a smartphone.

This is a good thing. I watched the HD trailer for Cowboys and Aliens on the little silver screen and could practically feel the trail dust on my face. The picture quality was excellent, and as bright as can be. I did wish the Infuse came with a little kickstand for my movie watching, something akin to what the HTC Thunderbolt has on its back. With this phone’s slick edges, it won’t be very stable propped up on my airplane tray table during a long flight.

After seeing how well the screen handled the trailer, I could see myself using Samsung’s Media Hub store, which lets you download from a library of thousands of HD movies. To sweeten the pot, Samsung throws in a $25 credit with the phone, which is enough to rent about 6 films.

Size has its disadvantages. After sitting down with the phone in my pocket, it felt a bit like a splint trying to straighten my upper thigh. And I don’t even wear skinny jeans.

But for being such a fatty in pure surface area, the thickness of the phone is surprisingly svelte. Samsung boasts that the Infuse is the “thinnest 4G smartphone out there today.” It’s light, too. Airy, not terribly bulky, if not a little too light. I personally prefer a bit more heft in my device — one of my biggest complaints with its Nexus S brother was the light, plasticky build that made me feel that I’d break it if I wasn’t delicate enough.

The removable plastic backing that protects the phone’s innards is thin and flimsy. It practically peels off the back of the handset, and I was worried I’d snap it in half while I took it off to look under the hood.

Samsung included a few perks that I don’t often see come with other phones. The Infuse comes with a 2-GB micro SD card, saving you a trip to Radio Shack. It also comes with a microSD adapter card, so if you’ve got a regular-sized card reader built into your laptop, transferring files is easy as pie.

An issue: The phone doesn’t have HDMI-out on the handset itself (Samsung probably ran out of room, being its “thinnest” phone to date), which is a bummer. Samsung remedies this, however, with an included MHL adapter. With a screen this big, you may wonder if you need anything else, but you might find times when an HDTV is easier to watch.

Like every other 2011 Android smartphone release, the phone doesn’t ship with the latest version of Android 2.3 (Gingerbread), but instead runs 2.2 (Froyo). 

Listen up, bird-chucking addicts: The Infuse 4G comes bundled with a copy of Angry Birds, complete with hidden level only available to Infuse owners. Whoop.

Both the 8-megapixel back-facing camera and 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera take clear, crisp photos, which can be auto-uploaded to an AT&T-hosted online locker for storage or sharing, which I found pretty cool.

Overall, Samsung has created a media hub, as much as a smartphone, in the Infuse 4G. All of the included attachments practically beg for you to use it as such, and from my initial tests, it delivers.

As for the phone’s performance on AT&T’s network, that’s something to be saved for a longer review.

Beginning May 15, the phone will be available on AT&T’s HSPA+ 4G network for $200 with a two-year contract.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Google Docs for Android: An early review!!

Since Google's native app for Docs on Android came out last Wednesday, I've been giving it a test drive. Google Docs works well enough in the mobile browser, and many apps have already come out trying to provide sync and edit functions. However, nothing integrates as nicely as a native app direct from the service provider.

When you first start the Google Docs app, you are greeted with a clean, uncluttered home screen with shortcuts to all your items, collections, starred documents, and other helpful things. Text documents, spreadsheets, and PDFs all open quickly and render nicely.

There is also a home screen widget or quick access to starred documents and quick creation of new documents or photos, which Google will run through optical character recognition (OCR) to turn a photo of a document into editable text. And the native app makes sharing a document with your contacts easy.

Now for the hard part: editing documents. The native Google app is great for viewing documents, but for editing, you'll be sent to the browser. The app opens the mobile version of Google Docs first, but you will have the option to switch to the desktop version--which just means you see the site as if you were on a regular PC. With the mobile version, there's no way to close the onscreen keyboard when using a Bluetooth keyboard, even though many other apps seem to be fine with that arrangement. If you close the onscreen keyboard, you lose the cursor, and no text is inserted. The arrow keys also won't move you around the text in the Document, but bounce between page elements instead. This would work for shorter text entry or quick edits, but I didn't last more than a paragraph trying to actually create a new document that way.

So, I moved over to try Google Docs in the mobile browser. The page renders nicely in the browser, but sadly does not function as well as it would on a desktop computer. As with most full versions of Google Apps on a smartphone browser, scrolling does not work quite right. The document renders beautifully, but you can't scroll through it. The arrow keys simply move you around page elements rather than moving the cursor through the text in the document. That means that once your document reaches beyond the bottom of the screen, you can't get to it. Text entry also lagged way behind my typing in the full desktop version.

I turned to Evernote to create a text document mainly because it played nicely with the keyboard, allowing me to close the onscreen keyboard and instead type and navigate my text with the Bluetooth keyboard. I also like the easy syncing of Evernote with my other computers, as well as easy sharing of notes via e-mail.

There are a few alternative Google Docs viewers. MyDocs--in a beta, testing version for now--offers another simple and clean interface for Google Docs, but will still send you to the browser for editing. GDocs has simple editing baked in, but still won't let me minimize the onscreen keyboard when I'm using the Bluetooth keyboard. This app will also allow download of documents for offline viewing or editing.

If you need a more full-featured office suite with stronger document-creation options, check out ThinkFree Office Mobile, Docs To Go, Office Suite Pro, or Quick Office Pro. If you have one of those fancy, bigger-screened, Android 3.0 Honeycomb tablets, you'll want the HD version of Quick Office. For those who prefer open source office software, Open Office Reader can view, but not edit, .odt and .ods files. When not even that is enough, and you simply need access to the whole shebang, LogMeIn Ignition will get you back to your desktop.

The Google Docs app is a clean and simple way to browse and do minor edits to your Google documents, but not quite compelling enough for me to run out and grab an Asus Transformer for writing. Perhaps the most intriguing feature of the Android app--and the one I will definitely be testing more--is the photo document creation with OCR. For quick reference and reading of Google Docs, this is a great addition to my Android smartphone.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Windows Live Messenger is coming to Android Market!!

An official Windows Live Messenger application coming to the Android market on April 11, 2011. Interestingly, unlike its iOS counterpart, this app is developed by Miyowa – the same company that developed the "official" Windows Live Messenger app on the Windows Phone marketplace. 

We’re not sure why they’re choosing to outsource development of a messenger that many people have been waiting for, but we can’t doubt Miyowa’s ability without having actually used one of their apps. It should be noted that several features from its WP7 counterpart are expected to be omitted, such as file transfer. 

This app will be free but ad-supported, and will be compatible with all devices with Android 1.6 or later. The app will feature push notifications and multi-tasking.

While it is good to see Microsoft expanding it’s Windows Live services across multiple mobile platforms, we definitely hope to see Microsoft focusing more effort on their own mobile platform – Windows Phone 7. With MIX 11 coming up next week, perhaps we might hear about official Windows Live Messenger integration in Windows Phone 7 coming as part of their upcoming "Mango" update? Wishful thinking? We hope not.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Google delays open access to Honeycomb!!

Google Inc is delaying widespread access to the new version of its Android software, saying it has more work to do before the product is ready for certain types of devices.

Google unveiled Android 3.0, known as Honeycomb, earlier this year, billing it as the first version of its Android operating system designed from the ground up for use in tablet PCs. Honeycomb software is already available on the Motorola Mobility Inc Xoom tablet, which went on sale in February.

The software represents Google's first dedicated effort to challenge the dominance of Apple Inc's iPad in the nascent tablet PC market.

But Google said it will not immediately make its Honeycomb software available as open source code, the company's traditional practice with Android whereby any developers are free to modify the software as they see fit. The reason for the delay, Google said, was because Honeycomb was not ready to be customized for use on smartphones.

"While we're excited to offer these new features to Android tablets, we have more work to do before we can deliver them to other device types including phones," a Google spokeswoman said in an emailed statement.
"We're committed to providing Android as an open platform across many device types and will publish the source as soon as it's ready," the statement said.

The spokeswoman said there was no timeline at the moment for when Honeycomb would be available as open source software.

News of the delay was first reported by Bloomberg Businessweek on Thursday.

Previous versions of Google's two-year-old Android software have primarily been used in smartphones. Google became the No. 1 smartphone operating system in the world in the fourth quarter of 2010, according to research firm Canalys.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

HTC Desire to get Gingerbread soon!

HTC has announced that its Incredible S phone would be getting Gingerbread update in the month of June. The phone was unveiled at Mobile World Congress a few weeks back. At that time, the company said that the phone will be updated to Android 2.3 ‘quickly’. Seems like, for HTC, 4 months of time period for software update come under the realm of ‘quick’.

Anyhow, Incredible S is not the only lucky HTC phone. Apparently, the company’s older models such as Desire HD and Desire Z would be getting 2.3 update as well. And let’s not forget the grand old daddy of Desire series, the original HTC Desire. All these phones will be upgraded alongside Incredible S. As for the recently announced HTC phones, Wildfire S and Desire S, these babies will come pre-loaded with Gingerbread flavor of Android.

When you purchase an Android phone chances are it won’t come pre-installed with the latest version of the popular mobile operating system. This isn’t Google’s fault as their engineers are great at getting the latest versions of Android out of development and onto the streets but instead the manufacturers and wireless carriers. Luckily, as of late, those involved seem to be kicking things into high gear getting the Android 2.2 update out for many devices that have lagged behind.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Rumor: Ice Cream After Honeycomb!!

Open source software enthusiasts might see another version of Android as soon as this summer. Android devotees already know that each operating system update is given the name of a dessert, and that these names have gone in alphabetical order (Donut, Eclair, etc.).

Rumors about the next version of the Android operating system that comes after Android 3.0, which is expected to be Android Ice Cream, had started well before the unveiling of the Honeycomb OS. Now, it appears that Google has already started working on its upcoming OS.

Latest info suggests that the search giant has already started working on a smartphone build, GRI17, that is being referred to by the code-name ‘Ice Cream’. And it appears that the new build will be bringing some of the elements found in Honeycomb over to handsets. 

Presently, new smartphones run Android 2.3 Gingerbread or 2.2 Froyo operating systems. But, when Google first showcased the features of Honeycomb at 2011 Consumer Electronics Show (CES), most of the gadget lovers demanded these features on smartphones too. Now, the search engine giant understood the huge market value of Android and set to launch Ice Cream for mobiles.

It is not clear which features will be available on smartphones. Honeycomb offers 3D User Interface, multi-tasking and even data encryption for tablets. So,It is expected that the upcoming OS will have some features resembling Honeycomb’s new notification system and visual themes. It is expected that the Android Ice Cream will only be unveiled in the third quarter of 2011.

Sony Ericsson Eyes for No: 1 Android Based Handset Maker!!!

Sony Ericsson CEO, Bert Nordberg, said that Sony Ericsson wants to be the No. 1 Google Android handset maker in the world. And it needs a strong foothold in the U.S. market to make that goal a reality.

Sony Ericsson, a joint venture between Japanese consumer electronics maker Sony and Swedish telecommunications equipment maker Ericsson, has been on the mobile phone scene for about a decade. The company has mostly concentrated on delivering high-end phones to the European and Asian markets. But it's never had a strong presence in the U.S., which has helped keep its overall market share in the bottom half of major handset providers.

The phone, which is based on Google's latest Android software and was introduced tonight at Sony Ericsson's press conference, will become its flagship smartphone in the U.S. market. To generate buzz ahead of the launch, Sony Ericsson ran an advertisement during the broadcast of the Super Bowl. And according to Nordberg, it worked. He wouldn't say how much the company spent on that ad. But he said the CEO of a major U.S. carrier called him directly to ask when his network could get the new phone.

Yes, Sony Ericsson has taken it's first step to achieve it's aim. The PlayStation phone is going to be a reality very soon and it is named Xperia Play (PSP Phone).

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Android Honeycomb shows off its graphics capability!!!

Google officially unveiled Android 3.0 Honeycomb, demoing it on the Motorola Xoom which was introduced at CES 2011 last month, in an event today. The demonstration video showed a handful of features that Honeycomb OS offers like the Notification System, Application Optimization and a new built-in Render Script for hardware accelerated 3D graphics.

Here are some of Honeycomb features that came trhought the presentation:

1. Notification System

The Honeycomb GUI has been optimized for tablets and it has buttons for Home, Back and Multitasking on the lower left while the lower right has notifications and clock. The new multitasking button will show visual preview of the recently used applications and the states that they are currently in. The Notification system has been redesigned for better user experience.

The rest of the screen is entirely dedicated to applications and Google said the Home screen is not just a screen where icons can be arranged but also a developer platfrom in itself. Google also showcased different widgets for Gmail, calendar, Grid for bookmarks, Stack for news or e-books etc. One intuitive feature about is the multitouch support which enables users to scroll through more than one widget at a time (much awaited feature).

2. Application Optimization

Google said that it wants to encourage developers to build tablet optimized applications/games, so it introduced what it called Application Fragment. The Fragment will allow a static frame for the app that can be used throughout the app while the other pane can be dynamic. In the video, Google demonstrated how the Application Fragment works using the Honeycomb/tablet version of Gmail. The feature also offers drag and drop in the Gmail application and the top has an application bar which is context-sensitive based.

3. Render Script Graphic Engine

Using the Script Graphic Engine, Honeycomb is able to show fluid and smooth 3D transitions in the web or applications. The Script also enables various 3D animations and graphics for the Honeycomb OS which will be running on various devices. Google also said that it had worked hard enough to make sure that the OS will get optimized 3D for different tablet devices running on multi-core processors.