Vertu Ti goes on sale in Hong Kong as the world’s most expensive Android smartphone
Mar08

Vertu Ti goes on sale in Hong Kong as the world’s most expensive Android smartphone

Vertu’s first ever smartphone to run Android, the Ti, has now gone on sale. Hong Kong is the first market to get it, and, as you’d expect, it’s not cheap. Not only that, but it turns out to be quite a bit more expensive in Hong Kong than the suggested retail price that Vertu announced last month when the device became official. The Vertu Ti can be bought in Hong Kong for 75,000 yuan, which turns out to be $12,061 or €9,272 at the current exchange rates. Yet we were previously told that the Ti would retail for €7,900. But maybe that was a ‘price before taxes’ sort of thing. We’ll never know. What is certain though is that this is the most expensive Android smartphone ever made. In fact, it may also be the most expensive phone ever made. And it’s also the first handset released by Vertu since shedding its Nokia roots (the luxury phone maker was sold by the Finns last year). It’s interesting to see that immediately after that ownership transfer occurred, the company started working on an Android device. The Vertu Ti isn’t a high-end phone in terms of hardware specifications, but makes up for that (or so its maker hopes) with the materials used for its construction, as well as the fact that it’s manually assembled. The Vertu Ti has a 3.7-inch 480×800 touchscreen, an 8 MP rear camera with dual-LED flash, a 1.3 MP front-facing camera, a dual-core 1.7 GHz processor, 1 GB of RAM, 64 GB of built-in storage space, all the usual connectivity options (except LTE), and acoustics tuned in collaboration with Bang & Olufsen. It runs Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. The handset is made from titanium, and the screen is made out of sapphire crystals, and the device’s ability to withstand impact is ‘four times’ more than other smartphones (though we assume the comparison isn’t made with rugged competitors). The titanium makes the Vertu Ti’s chassis five times more sturdy than those of other phones. And there’s some leather in there too, for good measure. But the materials are just half the story. The Ti comes with a ‘Vertu button’, which opens up an app that allows you to, among other things, be instantly connected to a ‘virtual concierge’ service that will always be available to you 24/7, no matter where you are. You can call, email, or have a live chat session with your concierge, and behind this is a team of actual humans looking to cater to your every need. If you’re into such things, this alone may make the huge price tag of the Vertu Ti a lot...

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Neo T001: a Samsung Galaxy S III Mini clone that will cost $65
Mar07

Neo T001: a Samsung Galaxy S III Mini clone that will cost $65

Clones, clones, clones. Chinese clones. Phone clones. Chinese phone clones. They’re everywhere. Well, in China they are. But so far we’ve focused a lot on clones of high-end devices, be they not-yet-announced (the case the HTC One was in back when the GooPhone One caught our eye), or highly successful in terms of sales for quite a while (remember the GooPhone N2, anyone?). But the Chinese clone makers aren’t just focused on the high-end. Midrange devices can work as their inspiration just as well. Take the Samsung Galaxy S III Mini. It’s a 4-inch handset that keeps the looks of its ‘bigger brother’, while in fact being an entirely different device, with very different specs. Still, its design is reminiscent of the Galaxy S III, so why not clone it? That’s probably exactly what Neo thought. Hence, the Neo T001 was born. Keep in mind that Neo isn’t a clone-only business, for it’s also working on high-end devices that don’t look like carbon copies of something else – case in point, the N003. Still, for the T001 the influence is clear. While it’s not 100% identical to the Galaxy S III Mini, it’s almost there. Obviously though, its specs are a bit toned down compared to the original. Not by much, though. The Neo T001 has a 4-inch 480×800 touchscreen, a dual-core 1 GHz MediaTek MT6517 processor, 512 MB of RAM, a 5 MP rear camera, a 0.3 MP front camera, dual-SIM support, and a 1,500 mAh battery. The low RAM is basically the only huge downside this has compared to the Samsung phone (which comes with 1 GB). The processor inside the clone may be made by a different company, but it’s still a dual-core 1 GHz ARM Cortex-A9 design. The rest of the specs are pretty much just like the Galaxy S III’s, while the Neo T001 brings dual-SIM support to the table as well, something missing from the Samsung. But the Neo’s main advantage compared to the Samsung Galaxy S III Mini is its price. This clone will be retailing for just 399 yuan. That’s $65! And no, that’s not a typo. $65 for an unlocked phone that’s got specs very similar to the Galaxy S III Mini that’s priced a lot higher. Obviously though, you have to live in China to get one of these, as Samsung’s lawyers would probably strike as soon as the Neo T001 leaves that territory. We assume that Neo is making the T001 at a profit (even if very small), so we have to wonder what Samsung’s profit margin for the Galaxy S III Mini would be. Actually, we don’t....

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Behold the smallest and lightest phone in the world
Mar05

Behold the smallest and lightest phone in the world

The Alcatel One Touch Idol Ultra may be the thinnest smartphone in the world, and in fact if we go into the non-smartphone category we might find even thinner offerings out there, but the subject of this post is the world’s smallest and lightest phone. So not the thinnest. In fact, it’s much thicker than the One Touch Idol Ultra. That said, the Phone Strap 2 WX06A announced by Japanese carrier Willcom is insanely small. Its dimensions are 70x32x10.7 mm. To give you some perspective on that, it’s as long as most smartphones with 4.5-5 inch screens are wide. Just let that sink in for a second. The Phone Strap 2 weighs just 32 grams, which is at least four times less than leading smartphones of this day and age. Again, incredible. But also fairly useless, isn’t it? Just look at how small it is in the hand. Plus, its battery life is nothing to write home about. 2 hours of talk time. That’s a lot worse than even the most battery challenged smartphone, and it’s laughable compared to some other featurephones. The 300 hour standby time is better, but why buy something you’re not going to use? With its size, though, the Phone Strap 2 is more of a novelty and less of a device we’d actually recommend to anyone. Of course it’s Japan-only, by the way. Oh, and in case you were wondering, you can do text-only email on the 1-inch screen. Thankfully, only 12,000 of these will be made, in the three colors you see above. Details about pricing aren’t out yet, but it has to be cheap, right? Via Newlaunches Via The...

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Ubuntu for tablets announced with side-by-side multitasking. Developer Preview out on Thursday
Feb19

Ubuntu for tablets announced with side-by-side multitasking. Developer Preview out on Thursday

Canonical (the company behind the Ubuntu brand) unveiled its smartphone operating system ambitions last month, and today was the turn of the tablet-focused variation of the OS to get the spotlight. Ubuntu for tablets is now a thing too, and it closely resembles its smartphone counterpart, while coming with some neat tablet-only tricks. The interface is based on swiping from all the sides of the screen, just like for phones. Swiping from the left unveils your favorite apps or, if you swipe all the way from there, a list of all apps – both currently running and installed. Swiping from the top presents you with the OS settings and notifications, and swiping from the bottom exposes the in-app menu for whatever you’re currently running. Finally, swiping from the right brings something new: the so called side stage. This is basically a new way to multitask. The side stage contains apps in phone format, so it takes less than a third of the screen. On the rest of the screen you can have a tablet app at the same time. And if one app supports both tablet and phone mode (as it should), then you can easily switch between those two states. The phone mode will always show up in side stage, though, and won’t ever take up your entire screen. The video below demonstrates all of this. A sharing mechanism is built into the OS, a la Android, and you can share stuff from every app. Intelligently, this is done via the side stage, so the content you were sharing still takes center stage. Multiple users are supported, and the accounts are secure. A Guest Mode is also in, allowing you to easily lend out your tablet to a friend without worrying about his or her usage. There’s voice search support, and as may be obvious from how swipey the whole UI is – no need for buttons at all. Not physical, not software-rendered. Well, except for power button, volume control, and that sort of thing of course. Like with smartphones, Ubuntu has two sets of minimum specs for tablets. One is a lower-end offering, which should have at least a dual-core Cortex A15 processor, 2 GB of RAM, and 8 GB of storage and screen size of 7 to 10 inches. On the other hand, the more high-end hardware should come with at least a quad-core Cortex A15 processor (or, interestingly, Intel x86), 4 GB of RAM, and 8 GB of storage. This is more suitable for 10 to 12-inch tablets, Canonical thinks. The higher-end option offers ‘full desktop convergence’, which means that, if you add a mouse...

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Ubuntu jumps into the smartphone operating system game, promises first devices next year
Jan02

Ubuntu jumps into the smartphone operating system game, promises first devices next year

The latest entrant into the smartphone operating system space has been announced today – it’s Ubuntu. The most widely used Linux desktop distribution is coming to a smartphone near you. This, of course, is hardly unexpected, because every company that has a desktop presence is trying its hand at mobile stuff too, since that particular market is booming and will probably show no signs of stopping for a long time. Ubuntu for phones comes with many new user experience ideas compared to the current crop of smartphone OSes, however in terms of user interface (UI) it’s perhaps less of a departure than Windows Phone (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing). It’s surprising actually to notice how similar Ubuntu for phones is to its desktop counterpart. The grid of apps from iOS and Android is replaced with a Dash-style expandable list, for example. The key UX point in Ubuntu for phones is that swiping from each side performs an action. Swiping a little from the left brings up a Unity-looking row of icons of your ‘favorite’ apps, which you can access most easily. A full swipe from the left brings you to the Apps page, which, like on Ubuntu desktop, lists not only installed apps, but also has app suggestions for you. Swiping from the right is Ubuntu’s Back button, essentially, taking you back to whatever you were doing before (or whichever app you were using). Swiping from the top gives you both a notifications/messages drawer (with immediate full access to all messages and quick reply too), as well as a way to quickly alter certain settings. Finally, swiping from the bottom up brings up each app’s own menu, which is normally hidden when an app starts. This is all meant to give you as much screen real estate as possible for what you’re actually doing at any given time, and not waste it with ‘pointless’ things such as navigation buttons or menu-like controls. Again, although the implementation is different (as it should be, given the form factor), this closely resembles the Ubuntu philosophy on the desktop. Here’s a trailer video for Ubuntu for phones: And here’s the full keynote-like presentation by Mark Shuttleworth, the head honcho at Canonical (the company behind Ubuntu): After watching the videos above, it becomes pretty clear that most of the ideas that Canonical has about Ubuntu for phones are quite interesting, and aren’t different (from the competition) just for the sake of being different (which is what Windows Phone feels like sometimes). However, this is a new mobile platform, and to be successful it will need to gain traction. With phone makers, with carriers...

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Camera phones with 3 MP and bigger sensors outsold digital still cameras 6:1 this year
Dec19

Camera phones with 3 MP and bigger sensors outsold digital still cameras 6:1 this year

If you were thinking that the advent of camera phones over the past few years negatively influenced the sales of standalone digital cameras, well… you were right. Very much so, in fact. It took digital cameras only ten years to render film cameras obsolete, and in almost the same time camera-equipped phones have begun to heavily outsell the standalone digital cameras. In fact, in 2012, camera phones with 3 megapixel or bigger sensors have outsold digital cameras by a 6:1 ratio. That’s staggering, if obviously to be expected. After all, the saying goes that ‘the best camera is the one you have with you when you need it’, and what is the one device most people carry everywhere with them? That’s right, the phone. Hence, people think less and less about taking a standalone camera with them wherever they go, and simply rely on the phone for taking pictures. Advances in the quality of pictures taken with phones and smartphones over the past couple of years or so have also certainly influenced the smaller and smaller sales of standalone cameras. For most people, the camera in an iPhone (or high-end Android device) is simply ‘good enough’ these days – not to mention the insane quality churned out by the likes of the Nokia 808 PureView or Nokia N8 (if you can bear the operating system). Interestingly, in terms of revenue, standalone digital cameras still amounted to 47% of the $55.5 billion camera market in 2012. Camera phones have a 25% share of that. These are estimates put out by IC Insights. From the same source comes the forecast that in 2016, overall camera sales will be worth $77.8 billion, and 30% of that will go to camera phones, with just 27% share for standalone cameras. The trend here is clear: most consumer-focused cheap digital cameras are going the way of the film cameras that preceded them – to extinction. Of course, for the foreseeable future there will still be a niche for standalone digital cameras, and a rather large one at that – for professional photography, or even ‘prosumer’ devices (whatever that word means). But for most people most of the time, the phone will be the main camera going forward (if it’s not that already). This is a similar story to mp3 player sales, and these two categories are the first ones to be heavily impacted by the increasing smartness of our phones. Let’s see what phones will deem extinct next. Via EE Times...

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Baidu’s Cloud Phone will be a “100% Internet Phone”, announcement coming on December 21
Dec19

Baidu’s Cloud Phone will be a “100% Internet Phone”, announcement coming on December 21

Baidu is finally getting ready to launch its first smartphone, after no less than two years of rumors on the matter. The tentatively called Baidu Cloud Phone (although its official name may differ) is set to be unveiled on December 21, at 12:21, through a ‘grand’ online conference. That’s also when we’re supposed to find out how much it will cost and when exactly it will be in stores. Baidu’s first offering in the smartphone space will apparently be a “100% Internet phone”, as opposed to its competitors which are, we assume, less than 100% Internet phones. Or something like that. The Cloud Phone is supposedly ‘very different’ from ‘traditional’ Internet phones. It came together after tight cooperation between Baidu itself, China Telecom (the carrier on which it will launch), the yet unknown hardware manufacturer, and a third party software development company. The handset will run Baidu’s own mobile operating system, based heavily on Android. It will come with a 4.5-inch touchscreen (the resolution is rumored to be 540×960) and a dual-core 1.2 GHz processor. On the front will be China Telecom’s Tianyi logo, and on the back will sit the Baidu Cloud logo. The phone will come in three colors: black, white, and red. Baidu is saying that the Cloud Phone will be affordable. And with such midrange specs for this day and age, it definitely should be, if it wants to be successful. Via...

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Rovio moves beyond Angry Birds, will launch Amazing Alex game tomorrow
Jul11

Rovio moves beyond Angry Birds, will launch Amazing Alex game tomorrow

Angry Birds here, Angry Birds there, Angry Birds everywhere. Rovio’s game (and its endless variations) has been incredibly successful, but you don’t need us to remind you of that. Angry Birds has proven that you don’t need amazing graphics or intricate textures and details to have a highly successful mobile game. All it takes is for it to make users come back to it, while also allowing for only playing it for a short while. This is why everyone who’s sitting in a queue somewhere is probably playing Angry Birds (just like anyone sitting at a desk somewhere is probably playing Solitaire). But Rovio’s finally decided that it needs to go beyond those angry birds. As such, the first entirely new game from the company in a very long while is set to debut tomorrow. Amazing Alex will be out for both Android and iOS devices at first. The game has 100 levels, will come with different updates over time (just like Angry Birds), and centers around Alex, a boy who must navigate a series of chain reactions and ‘physics puzzles’. More details in the teaser video above. Via...

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Foxconn becomes biggest Sharp shareholder. Eyes mobile for global dominance
Mar28

Foxconn becomes biggest Sharp shareholder. Eyes mobile for global dominance

The Hon Hai Group (better known to those of you in the ‘Western’ world as Foxconn) has entered a major partnership with Sharp Corporation of Japan, after more than nine months of negotiations. Foxconn is best known for being the maker of Apple’s iPhones and iPads, but it also makes many other electronics. Sharp is a well known TV and display panel maker. The agreement between the two companies has two parts. Firstly, Foxconn will take a 10% stake in Sharp, which will make it the single biggest Sharp shareholder. Secondly, the Taiwanese company will also buy 46.5% of the shares in a flat panel joint-venture that Sharp has set up with Sony. Sharp will keep 46.5% of the shares as well, whereas Sony will be left with 7%, having an option to divest that to Sharp. Additionally, Foxconn has committed to buying 50% of all of Sharp’s LCD panel output. The entire thing will cost Hon Hai $1.6 billion. This is the largest ever investment made by a Taiwanese company in a Japanese company. The truth is that Sharp desperately needs the money in order to stay afloat. Which may be one of the reasons why this deal went through. Foxconn needs Sharp to stay alive, as it’s one if its biggest suppliers. On the other hand, this does kind of give some credence to nascent rumors that claim that Apple is looking at Sharp (and Foxconn) for supplying the displays for its gadgets in the future. Right now the biggest supplier is Samsung, a company with which Apple is having a number of legal spats across the world. Foxconn is Apple’s biggest OEM, and the relations between those two companies have always been great, so it’s entirely plausible for Apple to source its displays from the company that also assembles its products. This is one more thing that Tim Cook’s current visit in China is rumored to be about. Apple could be looking at Sharp and Foxconn for supplying panels for the oft-rumored Apple-branded television set, if that will ever turn out to be more than speculation made up out of thin air. However, Sharp’s focus in the short term will be on displays for mobile devices. That’s because there’s still a lot of room for growth in that space, whereas TVs aren’t selling as well as they once did, and margins in that industry are shrinking every day. With Hon Hai being one of the largest mobile device OEMs, Sharp’s renewed focus on mobile displays as well as this investment and Foxconn’s commitment to buy 50% of Sharp’s display output do seem to make a lot of sense....

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The reason your cheap Android is (almost) good enough? It has a Broadcom CPU inside
Mar28

The reason your cheap Android is (almost) good enough? It has a Broadcom CPU inside

Broadcom isn’t exactly the first company that comes to mind when you think about smartphone processor makers, or those producing SoCs (Systems-on-a-Chip) for mobile devices. Qualcomm, Nvidia, TI are all more well known players in the field. However, Broadcom has recently stepped into this game, and so far has had encouraging (yet unpublicized) results. Broadcom is probably best known for its Wi-Fi connectivity chips, alongside its GPS and Bluetooth solutions. In those markets, it has around 70% market share. Evidently, that wasn’t enough for the company, with smartphone processors being its newest venture. Broadcom CEO Scott McGregor Did you know that a third of all smartphones currently being sold by Samsung have a Broadcom processor or baseband chip? (Quick note: that’s a third of all the shipped units, not a third of the models). That is the case according to a recent JP Morgan Chase report on the matter. The Samsung Galaxy Y line, the Galaxy Mini, and the Galaxy Ace, for example, have Broadcom CPUs inside. Every quarter, Samsung smartphones with Broadcom processors are being sold in 12-13 million units, with the numbers sure to rise in the near future (as the entire smartphone market is booming). Some of the smartphones currently being sold for around $150 unsubsidized have specs that just two years ago would have made them flagship offerings – 1 GHz processors are now common in the low-to-midrange. As such, those cheap Android smartphones are getting a lot better – fast. And in part thanks to Broadcom and its push into the low-end. The company sells SoCs that, for example, come with a 1 GHz single-core processor, baseband, and other communications chips and power management architecture – all for $20-22. Broadcom does plan to cover the entire market in the future, but recognizes that it has some catching up to do at the higher price points (for higher performing chips). According to Broadcom, Android is now the main target of chip makers, but other OSes do have some potential, considering the Microsoft Tax that a lot of Android phone makers need to pay. So what will happen two years from now? You’ll probably be able to get a quad-core smartphone for around $100, unsubsidized. That’s the insane pace at which this industry moves, don’t be surprised. Via...

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