Archive for February, 2010

60,000 Android OS Smartphones Sold Each Day

February 17, 2010

During his keynote address at the Mobile World Congress 2010, Google CEO Eric Schmidt threw out an amazing statistic: roughly 60,000 Android-powered devices are being sold every day.

That’s about 1.8 million a month. If it stays at that rate, it will total up to around 220 million smartphones running Google’s operating system sold this year.

Reaching this figure requires this OS to be available around the world. And it is –Schmidt said that devices using it are currently being sold in 48 countries in 19 languages. And to think that back in November of 2008, Android was available on one device from one wireless carrier in one country.

Mobile First
With growth like that, it’s no surprise that Google is switching its efforts from making web apps that can run on PCs to making ones that can run on mobile devices.

It won’t be long before more people are accessing the Web over their phones than they are with desktops and laptops. While those in many developed countries have both a phone and a PC, in emerging markets people generally have just a phone. And it makes more sense for this group to upgrade to a smartphone than it does to get a PC — phones are cheaper and a better match for their conditions, especially unreliable sources of electricity.

Google is riding this wave. If it succeeds, this company may exceed that 220 million device figure by a wide margin.

Where Is the Android 2.1 Upgrade for the Droid?

February 16, 2010

Last Monday, Motorola promised to release a system software upgrade for the Motorola Droid in the coming week. Eight days later, users of this smartphone are still waiting… probably impatiently. I know I am.

Motorola Droid

Clearly, the people who made this announcement jumped the gun a bit. Since then, Motorola spokespeople have been more cautious, promising that Android OS 2.1 is coming to the Droid, but not saying exactly when.

A timetable that leaked out of this company yesterday says it will be out  by the end of next month, but I’m hoping it will be released before then. But at this point, we really don’t know.

 What’s New?
The Droid’s version of Android OS 2.1 will offer much greater support for speech-to-text, allowing users to enter text into any application with just their voice.

In addition, the multi-touch gesture pinch-to-zoom will be added to the web browser and photo viewer. Android 2.0 has support for multi-touch, but Google did not include gestures like pinch-to-zoom into the bundled applications. This is starting to change — a version of Google Maps released last week already offers this gesture.

The version of OS 2.1 for the Droid will include the enhanced weather and news widgets that debuted with Android OS 2.1, and Google Goggles will be bundled as well.

It will also offer a fix for the bug that lets users bypass the security log-in, and also bring longer battery life.

Create a Custom Start Button Wallpaper

February 8, 2010

You’ve probably seen the ads running on Brighthand that feature the Windows phone logo with various icons sprouting out of it.  If you love your Windows phone, you might be interested to know that you can make a custom version of this logo for yourself, and then put it on your PC or smartphone.

First off, head over to Microsoft’s website where you’ll find a tool for creating your image. You’ll see the Windows phone logo surrounded by small buttons — just tap on the ones that reflect the things you do most on your device, from gaming to Word.

When you’re done, you can save your image in a variety of sizes. If you want to put this on your PC, you’re just about done, but it apparently didn’t occur to Microsoft that people would want to put this on their phone. Go figure. So you have to take your custom image and resize it down to WVGA (800 by 480), VGA (640 by 480), or QVGA (320 by 240) with an image editor.

Then copy the smaller version onto your phone, go to Settings > Today to select your image, and you’re in business.

Phones Are the New Thin Clients

February 5, 2010

I hope you read the review of LogMeIn Ignition for iPhone that was published today. This is a great app and one that I’ve been using for years, not just on my iPod touch but also on a variety of Windows phones.

This is the best example of thin-client computing I know of, as it lets you use one not very powerful computer to control a second much more capable one.

Turn On the Wayback Machine
Thin-clients got their start decades with mainframes, and there was an attempt back in the 1990s to bring this technology to Microsoft Windows, with little or no success. This is because , at the time, the differences between a thin client and a fat client weren’t significant enough.

The concept was a laptop without a hard drive as the thin-client, which would be connected to a server at an office or possibly the home.  The problem was the price difference between the client laptop and a regular laptop was maybe a $100. Virtually everyone would rather just pay a little extra money and get a full computer. Especially as wireless networking was in its infancy in those days, so the client laptops were generally expected to connect to an Ethernet cable to be able to do anything… not a very practical solution.

What a Difference a Decade Makes
Jump forward ten years, and the situation has changed dramatically because we have a whole new class of devices to work as thin clients: our phones.

Unlike the previous failed concept of the thin client, these are simple computers that we want to carry with us everywhere. And with just a couple of additions can be really good laptop alternatives.

Remote-access software like LogMeIn is the obvious starting point. With it, your phone can do most of what your PC can do. If you’re away from the office and need to modify a spreadsheet or mail someone a file you can pull out your iPhone or Touch Pro2, connect to your desktop PC, and just do it right there. This doesn’t require you lugging a laptop with you everywhere, just your phone.

Obviously, there are limitations in this. While doing a quick task or two on a 3.5-inch display is acceptable, no one is going to sit down and work for 6 hours that way. You want a large screen and full-size keyboard.

Rather than scrap the concept, I’d like to extend the capabilities of the hardware a bit. Several companies have put out high-end phones with video-out ports. I’d like to see these become common, if not universal. I’d also like to see the USB ports on phones start to support keyboards and mice.

With all of these in play, you could put your phone down on a desk, plug in a keyboard and monitor, run some remote-access software, and it would be just like you’re working in your own office. The files you had open on your PC would even still be there. Plus, your shoulder wouldn’t be tired because you’d been lugging a laptop with you on the trip.

Let’s take it to the next level. You could have a phone with a pico-projector, providing you with a large monitor virtually anywhere you go. This isn’t science-fiction — you can get the LG eXpo right now.

And maybe even throw in a laser-projection keyboard, if those ever become practical.

You could be sitting in an airport using a device the size of a deck of cards and weighing under a pound to do everything you currently carry around a heavy laptop to do.

Let Your Phone Be a Phone
I don’t think I’m alone in wanting my phone to be as powerful as my PC. But as more PC-like features are added to phones, they may become better mobile computers, but they also become worse phones.

One of the advantages of using a phone as a thin client is this arrangement doesn’t force it to try and act like a PC. Rather than installing word processors, spreadsheets, and database applications, the phone can just have a remote-access application that lets me easily control my desktop computer, which can handle the hard work.

This frees up the designers of the phone’s user interface to concentrate on making the phone-related features as good as they can be. It’s a win-win. A phone that’s also a thin-client is a better phone and a power PC.

Verizon Continues Bashing AT&T’s 3G Network

February 4, 2010

The gloves-off fight between Verizon and AT&T continues. Verizon has just started running its latest TV commercial bashing AT&T’s 3G coverage area.

Verizon Shadows TV AdAT&T has been hitting back with a series of ads touting the advantages of its network, but I don’t believe these are as effective because Verizon’s are just better done.

The latest from Verizon is a parody of a classic series of commercials for diamons that ran for years, always around Valentines Day. It is both clever and funny, and also gets its message across.

AT&T’s ads, on the other hand, feature actor Luke Wilson, who I find both boring and irritating. He gets their message across, but not in a way that I find even slightly interesting.

If AT&T wants to really counter Verizon’s aggressive ad campaign, it needs to drop Wilson and come up with a whole new concept. And do it soon.

Kudos to Apple: OS Updates

February 4, 2010

Apple released iPhone OS 3.1.3 this week. This is a minor tweak to this operating system, but it reminded me that this company deserves praise for continuing to support its older models.

Apple iPhone 3G S

Even the original iPhone and iPod touch, which came out in 2007, can install the very latest OS version. That’s practically unheard of in this industry. I can’t name another smartphone that was released in 2007 that is still getting updates from its manufacturer.

I know this is probably a hassle for Apple, but it’s really smart, too. I generally recommend that people not buy first-generation products, as you end up being a beta tester for the manufacturer. Consider how limited the original iPhone was when it first came out.

But Apple’s willingness to offer upgrades for older models makes me reconsider. There’s no doubt that the iPad 2 will be better than the first model, but if the iPhone is any indication, it will still be getting software upgrades in 2012 and maybe even beyond.

Looking Ahead
I call this “future proofing” — the knowledge that something I buy now won’t be horridly out of date in 12 months. It’s something I demand in any expensive device I buy, and it’s an area where Apple is generally strong.

Google’s Android OS is developing a reputation for being decent in this area, though it’s a bit early to say. There are unconfirmed reports that the very first smartphone running this operating system, the T-Mobile G1, will soon get an upgrade to v2.0. If this pans out, it will be good news for everyone who is thinking about an Android-based model.

Microsoft Windows Mobile, on the other hand, is terrible in this area. Just ghastly. Very few models make the jump to major revisions of this operating system. When v6.5 came out, a large percentage of the devices that had launched with v6.1 just the year before did not get upgrades. And word is that none of the models out now, with one lone exception, will get upgraded to Windows Mobile 7 when it’s released near the end of this year.

RIM’s BlackBerry OS is… OK. Some devices get system software upgrades, especially the marque models like the Bold and Storm.

If you tend to buy new phones every year, future-proofing isn’t important to you. But it’s something everyone else ought to keep in mind when making a purchase.

Upcoming Reviews for February

February 3, 2010

January was a slow month for reviews for a simple reason: not many companies want to release a smartphone right after the very important holiday shopping season.

Still, there were a couple of previews of devices on display at CES, the Motorola Backflip and the LG eXpo, plus a review of the BlackBerry Curve 8530  and the long-awaited full-review of the Nokia N900.

And things are going to pick up in February. Jen Edwards already has the Palm Pre Plus and Palm Pixi Plus in hand, and Adama Brown will be getting a Sony Ericsson Xperia X2 very soon. I also have a Sprint Overdrive that I’ve been testing out.

These reviews will be up on Brighthand in the coming weeks, and I’ll be sure to mention them here, too.

Welcome to the Brighthand Blog

February 3, 2010

I’m Ed Hardy, Site Editor for Brighthand, where I’ve been writing  for over 7 years. I’ve been working in mobile technology for about 10 years.

Brighthand is not a blog, it’s a news site. Our articles use the classic rule:  just the facts. However, I often have opinions about the topics I’m covering, and I’ll be posting these in this blog.

So if you want my thoughts on the latest smartphones, tablets, and other portable computers, keep an eye on brighthand.wordpress.com.