Android 4.4+ KitKat ships without browser app. OEMs have to license Chrome or build their own
Nov21

Android 4.4+ KitKat ships without browser app. OEMs have to license Chrome or build their own

Interesting newsbit about Android 4.4 KitKat just popped-up on Twitter today. According to Android developer and author Maximiliano Firtman, he just got official confirmation that KitKat “… doesn’t ship with any browser, just the WebView. The emulator has it but not real devices. It’s up to each vendor to create a browser app using the WebView (such as Samsung) or to get license to preinstall Chrome.”   So, what does it mean for Android device users? Probably not much. Most OEMs license full Google Apps suite for their smartphones and tablets, and they take Google’s Chrome for Android or the stock browser, as well. And those who do not, like Amazon, are perfectly able and ready to build their own browser apps too. The decision to ship open source part of Android  without a browser is probably another part of Google’s strategy to take back the control of Android.  But it may also give an opening for other browser makers such as Firefox. Source: Maximiliano Firtman 1, 2 Update: Yes, it is an option for OEMs to use the old stock AOSP Android browser. Just like there’s an option to use old Gmail, GCal , GSearch, etc; You are always welcome to stay with Android 4.2 or 2.2 apps, when we move on to Android 6.x with fully licensed Google Play stuff…...

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Cyanogen has a new hardware partner. Will announce it in a few weeks
Nov21

Cyanogen has a new hardware partner. Will announce it in a few weeks

Cyanogen Inc. is one of more interesting new startups in a smartphone platform game. Founded by the team behind CyanogenMod – one the most popular Android ROMs, they recently received some serious venture backing, and now are trying to build their own version of smartphone OS based on Android . And, for a few month old startup, are moving pretty fast. Cyanogen has already released their ROM launcher/installer to Google Play, announced a hardware partnership with Oppo – fast rising Chinese OEM, and will soon have another smartphone maker to ship a device with CyanogenMod on board. At least that is what they hinted  on their official Google+ page yesterday: Who is this new Cyanogen hardware partner? Your guess here is as good as mine. HTC has been rumored to work with them at one time. Oppo may actually form a separate company to focus exclusively on Cyanogen  phones. Oppo’s VP quit this week and may have his own Cyanogen focused startup in the works. Huawei is hinting about its plans to launch a separate Internet smartphone line to take on Xiaomi. The possibilities for speculation at this point are endless. With Android smartphone spec sheet loosing its differentiation value, and vendor customized Android launcher failure to improve things, OEMs are looking at new ways to make their phones stand out. A line of pure Cyanogen smartphones may be a good way to do...

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Take that Amazon! Chinese e-tailer Jingdong launches its own JDPhone smartphone program, eyes MVNO
Nov20

Take that Amazon! Chinese e-tailer Jingdong launches its own JDPhone smartphone program, eyes MVNO

Amazon has been trying to figure out how to do Kindle smartphone for years now. Some patent applications show that Jeff Bezos has been toying with the idea of customized Amazon Phone in 2008. It’s been 5 years now, and we still haven’t heard anything official from them. Now one of Amazon’s main competitors in China – Jingdong,  thinks it has cracked a smartphone formula and is launching its own JDPhone program next week. They also have plans for own MVNO in the near future. Jingdong VP Wang Xiaosong says that they have been selling smartphones for 7 years now, and already moved 30 million of them. This gives Jingdong a good insight on what customers expect from their smartphones, and what they do not like about them. They now decided to use that data to corner high volume 1000-2000 Yuan market in cooperation with smartphone OEMs. According to Wang Xiaosong, most of cheap smartphone owners are unhappy with their experience today. They buy a new phone with low powered CPU and 512MB of RAM, and suffer through laggy response; low resolution makes big smartphone displays are pointless, most pictures taken with them are unviewable, etc;. Jingdong will use the data about customer preferences, and share it with OEMs through JDPhone program. Smartphone vendor gets a list of minimum specs for a certain price tier, and then gets preferential placement and promotion as JDPhone to e-tailer’s 100 million customers. Right now JDPhone between 1500-2000 Yuan ($245-328)  should come with 3G connectivity, Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 CPU, 5” 1080p display, 13 megapixel main and 5 megapixel front camera. Snapdragon 600 CPU and 4.5” 720p display is enough for a 1000-1500 Yuan ($164-245) handset.  The first JDPhones will be ZTE’s Nubia Z5S and Z5S mini, launched yesterday. But Jingdong says handsets from 4 more Chinese OEMs are on the way. Jingdong has also applied for MVNO license to China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. They plan to use the data on 100 million registered customers  to check their credit score, and will offer subsidized JDPhones with zero upfront payments. Source: Sina 1, 2,...

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Google pulled new Android camera API at the last minute. Points to better pics with next KitKat update
Nov18

Google pulled new Android camera API at the last minute. Points to better pics with next KitKat update

All through 5 years of existence, Android phones have been notoriously bad at taking pictures. The situation has improved somewhat over the past year or two, with smartphones like Galaxy S3/4 and Xperia Z1 providing decent imaging performance. Still, no matter how hard Android OEMs tried, they never could match the quality of pics taken with iPhone or Nokia Pureview. And Google’s signature Nexus phones were especially bad in this regard. But things may change soon. It seems that Google has finally decided to focus some of formidable software development and image processing resources to improve Android’s imaging. According  to Arstechnica, Google has been working on a new camera API to be included in Android KitKat release, and shipped with Nexus 5. Unfortunately, they were not able to finish the work in time, had to pull the new API at the last minute and keep the under-performing old API for now. This last minute change could explain the extremely poor performance of camera in Nexus 5. Old, not up to the task API that can’t fully utilize latest advances in imaging hardware, could also be the reason even the best Android phones constantly lose out to their iOS and Windows Phone rivals in camera department. The new visible features that will come with the new Android camera API, include RAW file support, burst mode and support for removable cameras. But most of the improvements are likely to be in low level hardware support and image processing optimizations, that will finally allow Android phones to catch up to competition. Lets hope Google will not take too long polishing things up, and will release the new camera API in Android KitKat 4.4.1 update in a month or...

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Nokia Music may stay with Nokia after MSFT deal. Available on Android, iPhone, Windows and Mac via HTML 5 app
Nov18

Nokia Music may stay with Nokia after MSFT deal. Available on Android, iPhone, Windows and Mac via HTML 5 app

Nokia mobile phone unit may soon be sold to Microsoft, but that does not mean Nokia services that are now available exclusively on Lumia Windows Phones will end up in Redmond. We already knew that Maps are staying in Finland. Now it seems that Nokia Music may be staying in Espoo with the company too, and may soon go multi-platform. Chinese site  CTech got their hands on some development screenshots for Music Service update, and it seems that it will soon be available on Android, iOS, Windows PCs and Macs via an HTML5   app. HTML 5 is a bit disappointing, and will limit the overall app functionality. HTML5 Nokia Maps didn’t fare too well on Android and iOS. But, hey, it’s just a start. And when Nokia finally sells its smartphone division to Microsoft, it will have the resources and all the incentives to make native Maps and Music apps for Android and iOS, as quickly as they can. Of course, Nokia Music HTML 5 app might just be part of the work music team has been doing before Microsoft deal was announced, and might be killed if it’s part of the transaction. But let’s hope this is not the case. Via CTech...

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Retina iPad Mini delayed due to LCD burn-ins at Sharp and LG. Apple is talking to Samsung to fix things
Nov08

Retina iPad Mini delayed due to LCD burn-ins at Sharp and LG. Apple is talking to Samsung to fix things

When Apple announced iPad Mini with Retina display, they didn’t provide its release date. Which was very unusual for  Steve Jobs’s company. But there was a very good reason for that. Apple simply can not make enough iPad Minis with Retina display. And why is that? Because of the displays, of course. Turns out, the screens with the pixel density Apple requires for Retina iPad Mini, are not so easy to come by.  They’ve been talking to 4 potential suppliers: Taiwan’s  AUO, Samsung, LG and Sharp. AUO wasn’t ready to compete in the big leagues, and Samsung, well it’s Sammy – and you know how Apple loves to have them as a key supplier. Only now, they may not have a choice. There are some technological issues in mass producing that sized tablet Retina displays, only Samsung was able to solve. For more details check out these a-Si and LTPS display tech descriptions. What matters in the end, is that neither of Apple’s chosen iPad Mini Retina display suppliers  (LG, Sharp) was able to solve manufacturing yield issues, to deliver enough displays for this tablet. The problem is with something called “LCD burn-in” nobody can see, but which still falls below Apple’s standards. So now, Retina iPad Mini is delayed, and Apple is hard at work renegotiating display supply terms with Samsung. Which is the only company in the World that can supply Apple with enough Retina Mini displays to satisfy the demand. Unfortunately, after being kicked-out as a potential display supplier early this year,  Samsung will be ready to deliver enough Mini Retina screens only sometime early next year. Before that – expect weeks of waiting time for Retina iPad Mini, or be ready to hugely overpay in grey market. IPad Mini production volumes will meet its demand next January, at best. Source:...

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Microsoft: smart watches/glasses 3-5 years away from mainstream. Google preps Glass 2&smartwatch launch
Oct29

Microsoft: smart watches/glasses 3-5 years away from mainstream. Google preps Glass 2&smartwatch launch

Microsoft has been notorious for missing some major computing trends over the last decade, then spending years and billions of dollars trying to catch up. Usually without much success. And, if wearable computing in the form of smart watches and glasses takes off in a year or two, they may do it again. Because at least some of Microsoft execs are pretty skeptical about the hype surrounding Google Glass and various smart watch efforts. According to Focus Taiwan, Microsoft corporate VP and chairman of the company’s Asia-Pacific research group, Zhang Ya-qin, had this to say about wearables during Global Views Business Forum in Taipei: “I think wearable devices require more time, maybe three to five years in development, before they can become mainstream. We expect to see a lot of try-outs of the devices in the coming years, in forms that include watches and eyeglasses” Maybe it is a misdirection, because Microsoft most definitely has a lot of wearable stuff cooking in its R&D labs: Or maybe Zhang Ya-qin is right, and technology for a mainstream consumer wearables is just not there yet. But Google has been testing a real Glass device with real people in real life for more than half a year now, collecting a lot of valuable usage data, and has a version 2 almost ready to ship. While WSJ reports that Google smart watch will enter mass production within a few months. Apple  also is all in on wearables and will, most likely, have a consumer ready iWatch out before the end of 2014. Sitting still on the commercialization of wearable computing devices, playing with the concepts and prototypes in R&D labs, waiting for the right technology to come around, while major competitors around you are busy launching real devices, sounds like a recipe for another disaster for Microsoft. Microsoft had almost monopoly in browsers, a lot of other Internet properties and yet it ignored the importance of search and search advertising until it was way too late to catch up with Google. After the decade of devlopment and tens of billions invested, Microsoft Bing is still a distant second in the field. They’ve been in smartphones since the beginning of this age. And yet, when the new true mobile computing paradigm came along, Steve Ballmer laughed at iPhone right until the moment he had to kill Windows Mobile and start fresh with Windows Phone. 3 years later and billions down the drain, the results of Microsoft mobile efforts are pathetic. Even if wearable computing is just a hype today and is not ready for prime time, can Microsoft risk to be wrong on this? I hope the new CEO in...

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China Mobile launches official 4G teaser page with Nov. 9-11th launch dates. 2 Generic iPhones in tow
Oct28

China Mobile launches official 4G teaser page with Nov. 9-11th launch dates. 2 Generic iPhones in tow

November launch of China Mobile’s 4G network, with iPhone 5S/5C in tow, has been rumored for a couple of months now. It seems that those rumors are true and TD-LTE network is going live in select cities in a couple of weeks. Over the weekend China Mobile has launched an official  teaser page which promises 4G services “coming soon” – on November 9-11th. The page even shows a couple of generic iPhones, among the cool new offers that will open up on those days. In the meantime, China Mobile retail outlets are preparing for the 4G launch and the new iPhones, too. Some of them going as far as putting up in-store iPhone posters already. We still haven’t heard anything about commercial 4G license grants from Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, and their officials continue to refuse to give anything more precise than “4G licenses will be issued this year” line. But China Mobile seems confident that they are getting one in the next few weeks, and are going ahead with the preparations for the big...

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$82 Android 4.2 smartphone with 4.3” 720p display, 8mpx camera, 1GB of RAM and 1.3GHz quad-core CPU
Oct28

$82 Android 4.2 smartphone with 4.3” 720p display, 8mpx camera, 1GB of RAM and 1.3GHz quad-core CPU

How much do you think a mid-range Android 4.2 Jelly Bean smartphone with 4.3” 720p screen, 1.3GHz quad-core CPU, 1GB of RAM, 4GB of built-in memory, micro-SD memory card slot, 8 megapixel main and 2 megapixel front camera, and 2200 mAh battery should cost? $200, $150? How about $82 or 499 Yuan? That’s the price one Chinese OEM will offer their new G2F smartphone for: Granted, the phone will only be available in China. But if they are able to get to $80 price level for a perfectly capable mid-range Android smartphone over there, how long until similar $120-$150 smartphones make it to Europe and the rest of the world? Xiaomi already sells similar Red Rice smartphone for $130, and will soon start an aggressive international expansion. At this rate of improvement, in a year or two we will have Nexus 4/Samsung Galaxy S3 level devices available for $100-150, unsubsidized. And given that Galaxy S3 is already good enough to start negatively affecting SGS4 sales, I wonder what will happen to the high end Android devices...

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Google’s Android 4.4 KitKat update is more about “Android TV”, less about smartphones
Oct24

Google’s Android 4.4 KitKat update is more about “Android TV”, less about smartphones

With all the info that leaked about Android 4.4 KitKat release, it doesn’t seem that it will be a major smartphone OS upgrade. Some internal tweaks, a few new features, maybe some interface polish with a little borrowing from iOS 7, and that’s about it. At least for smartphones. However, the smartphone part might be the least interesting part of KitKat update. Korean ETNews reports, that the main focus of the new Android OS release are not smartphones, but connected smart TVs instead. According to their industry sources, Google, with KitKat, has greatly improved big screen UI/UX, and interactions/interface between TVs and smaller smart devices running Android.  Changes in TV app development environment are on the way, too. As previously reported by Gigaom, Google will also change the branding of its smart connected TV efforts, from Google TV to Android TV. According to ETNews, LG, who has been making Google TVs since last year, have received the guidelines to change the branding to “Android TV”....

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