Busy Week in Mobile Phones

It’s going to be a busy week in the mobile phone space with both OnePlus and Motorola expected to announce new Android models. OnePlus hasn’t exactly been quiet in the run up to the event and Motorola’s suffered a few leaks in the process. Either way, it’s going to be fun to see what’s on offer before Google and Apple produce their annual refreshes later in the year. Nokia might be re-entering the smartphone market too but their latest announcement is shrouded in mystery.

ThOnePlus Logoe OnePlus 2 will follow on from the successful One, though with OnePlus stoking the rumour mill, it’s still hard to know fact from fiction. What has been confirmed is that it will have a fingerprint reader, 4GB RAM, a Snapdragon 810 processor, USB C connector and cost less than US$450. Some suggest that there might be more than one version of the 2 inbound, but if there is OnePlus haven’t mentioned so far.

Motorola M LogoOn the Motorola side, the teases us with “Your relationship is about to change” signed, “XGX Moto”. I think we can expect new Moto X and Moto G models and as Motorola tends to go with evolution rather than revolution, they’ll probably be much like last year’s, only better. Some have suggested that the two Xs might mean two models, but I think it’s just supposed to be “XOX” for hugs and kisses.

Nokia LogoFinally, Nokia might be re-entering the mobile phone space. There’s a VIP press conference in Los Angeles but no-one knows for sure whether it’s a mobile phone, tablet or a virtual reality headset. The invites featured “Nowhere” and “Now here” which led to much speculation with nothing concrete to go on. We’ll just have to see.

The OnePlus 2 announcement is at 7 pm PT on 27 July which is a very early 3 am UK time. Motorola have a far more reasonable 9 am ET on 28 July which equates to 2 pm here in the UK. Keep ’em peeled.

 

Nokia Lumia 1520 sneaks out early

Windows Phone fans anxiously await the next versions of the Lumia Windows Phone 8 devices from Nokia. For some fortunate customers, like the Xbox One, a few lucky people are getting the handset just a bit early. The latest in the line of Nokia phones falls into a category that has been dubbed a ‘phablet’, which loosely translates to an oversized smartpahone — one that rivals Android devices like the Galaxy Note.

The Nokia Lumia 1520 is set to be released in late November, when Microsoft has plans to also launch its next-generation gaming console, the Xbox One.  The 1520 purports 4G LTE and a 3,300mAh battery, with a 20 MP rear camera. And, now the oversized phone has hit the market a bit early, with an advance version apparently being sold at an AT&T retail location.

A poster in the forums over at Windows Phone Central has managed to land the device and posted images and a receipt as evidence. “Ok here is a copy of the receipt, this should provide all the ‘Proof’ that I own the phone”, says Michelle SV. Then, she proceeded to post images of the box being taken apart as well. It was compelling evidence, though not foolproof, as these things have been faked before,

The phone was sold unlocked and, beyond that, the customer claimed to have entered a second store and was also offered a Lumia 1520. Microsoft has, so far, failed to issue comment. However, given the recent travails with Xbox One thanks to another retailer, the company is possibly game planning a strategy to deal with these, increasingly common, mishaps that seem to be occurring.

nokia lumia 1520

Zens Qi Wireless Charger

Although I was disappointed by the Nokia DT-900, I wasn’t ready to give up on wireless charging nirvana for my Nexus 4. With a bit of searching and review-reading, I plumped for a Zens Universal Qi Single Wireless Charging Plate which garners 4.5 stars on Amazon. Although unknown to me, Zens is a young Dutch company specialising in wireless charging products, and from first appearances, it looks like they’re doing a good job.

The Zens charging plate comes in a well-presented package but is surprisingly small. It’s bigger than the DT-900 but it’s still not large and I imagine that most large screen smartphones will overhang on one side or another. However, the extra size and the rubber covering mean that most smartphones will sit comfortably on the pad. As with the DT-900, it has a DC power supply – no USB charging here, either.

Nexus 4 on Zens Charger

In use, the Zens charging plate is far better with the Nexus 4 than the DT-900. In most instances, simply placing the the Nexus onto the pad started charging and usually, I’d get a high rate of charge without any precise positioning. With a bit of practice, I was able to get a sweetspot that worked every time and an LED on the right side of the plate turns green when the pad starts charging.

The screenshot below shows the charging rate when everything is perfectly aligned and honestly, it’s not far off the rate when the Nexus is plugged in.

Zens Charge Rate

The plate also has a feature that when the phone is fully charged, the charging turns off until the the battery levels falls to about 93%. Here’s what it looks like in Battery+.

Zens Wireless Charger - Full charge

In my opinion, the Zens charging plate knocks the DT-900 into a cocked hat, especially if you have a Nexus 4. Both are priced a little under £45 here in the UK, though the Zens charger seems quite pricey in the US at $100 (Amazon). Update – have since discovered the Zens charger on other websites for a far more reasonable $50. Recommended for all UK Nexus 4 owners.

LG Nexus 4 and Nokia DT-900 Wireless Charging

Being an ex-Palm afficionado, I’m a massive fan of wireless charging. The convenience of simply placing a Pre onto a Touchstone to charge is unparalleled and I still use wireless charging with my Cyanogen-modded Touchpad.

Today, the Pre series is history thanks to HP, but wireless charging is still around with Samsung, LG and Nokia all supporting the Qi standard. My current phone is a Nexus 4 but the official orb charger is a small fortune here in the UK, so it was with interest that I saw that the prices of the Nokia DT-900 charging pad were gradually falling. Last week, I finally succumbed and bought one.

DT-300

First impressions are mixed. The DT-900 seems reasonably well-made with a single white LED at the front to indicate the status of the charging. Unfortunately, the DT-900 comes with a somewhat chunky power supply which connects via a cable with DC jacks at each end. It would be far more sensible and useful if it used micro-USB connectors. And who thought that a white PSU with a black pad was good idea?

DT-300 Charger

But on to the wireless charging….

Reports from elsewhere on the web suggest that the Nexus 4 and the DT-900 should work together but my experience was somewhat mixed. The main issue is that positioning the Nexus on the plate is crucial for the charging to ‘lock on’. Incorrect alignment causes the plate’s LED to flash and the phone will continually stop and start charging.

DT-300 Plus Nexus 4

I tried a wide variety of positions, but even when I managed to get everything lined up, charging was poor, as you can see from the attached screenshots from Battery+.

Screenshot_2013-07-21-21-01-25 Screenshot_2013-07-21-21-01-55

Best results were from putting the Nexus 4 on the pad such that about a quarter to a half inch of the pad is visible at the bottom, but even then the battery charge level seemed to hit a plateau at around 80%

Maxed Out

Overall, it was disappointing and the DT-900 will going on ebay very shortly. One might have though that in the four years since the Palm Pre came out that wireless charging would have been perfected. Regrettably, if the DT-900 is anything to go by, it has a long way to go to even match what Palm offered. YMMV.

The Rise of the Smartphone

Today I was relaxing in a cafe, taking it easy on Sunday. As I looked around the other tables, everyone else was either looking at a smartphone or else had one resting on the table. They weren’t students or young professionals either; these were mums and dads, grandmas and grandpas.

Brewing coffeeHere’s the tally of what I saw:

Getting away from “my phone is better than your phone”, what might this highly unscientific observation say about the mobile communications market, at least in the UK?

First, it’s diverse. While Nokia and Windows Phone is nowhere to be seen, the three other operating systems seem to be pretty much holding their own.

Second, Apple has iPhones and RIM has Blackberries. Is the Samsung Galaxy now the de facto Android brand? The popularity of HTC seems to have fallen dramatically with the rise of Samsung.

Third, no-one was actually using their phones to make phone calls. In all the time I watched, there wasn’t a single call made or received but there was plenty of reading, swiping, tapping and pecking. It always seems that the PDA was lost in the convergence with the mobile phone, but the reality is that the PDA won the battle and “voice calling” is one feature among many.

Fourth and finally, smartphones are now ubiquitous and cross-generational. There wasn’t single ordinary phone to be seen and the range of the users suggests that age is no longer a discriminating factor.

As I said, entirely unscientific but still an interesting snapshot in the evolution of the smartphone.

Coffee brewing photograph courtesy of BigStockPhoto.

Six Ways That Sound & Light Bend Your Brain

In a culture fascinated with the supernatural, it’s refreshing to see that tangible science can trump even the most fantastic effects Hollywood can conjure. Wandering around the Internet this morning, I followed a thread of videos through YouTube depicting some amazing effects sound and light can have on liquids and solids. Or, more accurately, how our eyes can be “tricked” into seeing things that might not really exist as they seem.

Check out these six mind-scrambling videos and see how sometimes the weirdest things about life happen right in our brain and not on the big screen.

Personal favorite (and the one that started this early morning foray into YouTube)? The Static Water video. Read the comments on the video for explanations on why this happens. Enjoy!

Nokia Files Patent for Vibrating Tattoo

Does it drive you crazy when you miss a call or text? Have you ever been annoyed by the problem of trying to use your phone, only to discover that the battery is low? Nokia has found a unique way to alleviate these types of problems that many people have to deal with more often than they would like. Soon, you could be able to get a tattoo that will vibrate to let you know that your phone has received a message.

Nokia has filed a patent with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for a magnetic tattoo that generates a tingling or itching sensation whenever the person’s phone rings. The tattoo would be made with ferromagnetic material that would be added to the ink that is used to make a tattoo. After the skin has healed, the ink would be magnetized, and connected with a person’s mobile device.

The patent application says: “prior to using the ferromagnetic inks for attaching to human skin, the ink material may be exposed to elevated temperatures to cause demagnetization. Such demagnetized ink is then used for creating an image by dispersing the ink material on or under the skin to make a functional, tattoo like image. Once the apparatus is settled and the skin cured, the user with the functional image may use permanent magnets to magnetize the functional image on the skin again”.

In other words, once you get this high-tech form of tattoo, and connect it to your phone, you will be physically alerted every time you get a call, message, or text. You can set it to remind you of an upcoming appointment. It can let you know that your phone is running out of juice, so you can go charge it before it dies.

The tattoo will also act as a form of identity. Instead of typing in a password, the tattoo itself functions as your password. Don’t like the idea of having a visible tattoo, somewhere on your body? The magnetic mark can also be applied in a way that is invisible.

The way I see it, the advantages of the tattoo are many. If your phone is connected to your tattoo, and someone steals your phone, that person won’t be able to access it. You would never miss a call, message, or text ever again. On the other hand, Nokia has not said what will happen if you get the magnetic tattoo, and hook it up to your phone, and then upgrade to a new phone after that.

Image: Tattoo by BigStock

Altair Semiconductor Powers 4G and LTE

Altair Semiconductor logoThe Altair Semiconductor Company specialises in 4G and LTE wireless chipsets for the mobile telecoms industry. Andy and Courtney chat to the CEO of Altair to find out more more about the transition to the latest wireless standards.

4G, LTE and mobile broadband were all key technologies at CES this year, with products incorporating 4G announced from Motorola, Samsung, Nokia and LG, to name but a few. When compared to the relatively slow penetration of 3G, 4G uptake is happening much faster and it’s even surprising the industry. Verizon is expected to have most of the USA covered by the end of 2012. China and India are not far behind with major deployments.

Tablets and smartphones are driving the market but Altair’s chipsets are included in 4G dongles, MiFi-type units and wireless broadband routers.

Interview by Andy McCaskey  and Courtney Wallin of SDR News and RV News Net.

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Nokia E6 and X7 Smartphones Announced

Nokia today announced two new smartphones, the E6 and the X7, both sporting the latest version of Symbian, codenamed “Anna”. The Nokia E6 adds to the business range and the Nokia X7 excels at games and entertainment. The new Anna software has new icons and usability improvements, including better text input, faster browsing and a refreshed Ovi Maps.

We are further strengthening Nokia’s smartphone portfolio with these two new devices, both of which offer a more beautiful and intuitive user experience that will soon also be available for the Nokia N8, Nokia E7, Nokia C7 and Nokia C6-01,” said Jo Harlow, head of Nokia’s Smart Devices business. “With these new products and more Symbian devices and user enhancements coming in the near future, we are confident we can keep existing Nokia smartphone customers engaged, as well as attract new first-time and competitor smartphone users.”

The E6 takes over from the E71 and E72, coming with a keyboard and hi-res touch screen. Designed as a premium device with glass and stainless steel, it offers the business user access to Microsoft Exchange, Communicator and Sharepoint.

The X7 features a 4″ display which is great for games and movie playback. The 8 megapixel camera rounds out the features, with HD video capture. Also constructed from glass and stainless steel, it’s a solid device, albeit with an unusual design. It will come preloaded with Galaxy on Fire HD and Asphalt 5 HD games.

These look like good phones but are these Symbian’s last hurrah before Windows Mobile 7?

Deloitte’s 2011 Teaser Predictions

Deloitte’s Technology, Media and Telecommunication’s practice have given a sneak peak of their global predictions for 2011.

First up, over 25% of all tablets bought in 2011 will be purchased by businesses, with retail, healthcare and manufacturing purchasing over 10 million. Initially, the use of tablets in business will be by people who have brought their own device into work but by the end of the year, businesses will be buying for employees.

Secondly, less than 50% of all “computing devices” sold in 2011 will be traditional PCs and laptops. Peter O’Donoghue, head of Deloitte’s technology industry practice, adds: “In 2011, more than 50% of computing devices sold globally will be smartphones, tablets and non-PC netbooks. 2011 will mark the tipping point as the growth of applications for non-PC items outstrips traditional software sales and consumers embrace a wider variety of devices.”

When you consider that PC sales will hit 400 million in 2011, you suddenly realise how big the non-PC market has become, that it’s grown from almost nothing in only a few years and that the growth is likely to continue at the expense of the PC market.

Finally, Deloitte is of the opinion that no single OS will dominate the smartphone or tablet market. The top 5 operating system developers have plenty of cash to keep the OS wars going through 2011.  The top 5 aren’t named but I’d guess that it’s Google, Apple, RIM, Nokia and Microsoft. Deloitte points out that this fragmentation causes problems and additional cost for application developers, media companies and IT departments.

The full report will be released on Wednesday 19th January.