Sprint May be Getting iPhone5. Not Definite Yet [RUMOR]

Sprint Networks

Sprint is rumored to get iPhone5. Will it happen?

The upcoming iPhone5 in October might have a new twist to it. Sprint-Nextell might be joining the ranks as a phone carrier. This would be in addition to AT&T and Verizon to carrying the phone in the US.

I say “may” because it’s unconfirmed just yet. The Wall Street Journal reported that it will be happening. They got their information from “people familiar with the matter”. Yet, news leaks sometimes can be misleading.

Other iPhone5 Rumors

  • iPhone4 will get an 8GB model, replace 3GS as low-end device
  • dual-mode iPhone will let you switch from CDMA to GSM networks.
  • 4G LTE – No word if dual-mode LTE – WiMax
  • 8 Megapixel camera, Front facing VGA camera with no light.
  • A5 processor running dual 1 GHz.
  • Thinner and lighter phone
  • Longer and wider screen – Same size phone
  • Turns into Bumble Bee, everyone’s favorite Transformer (OK, maybe not. But wouldn’t that be cool?)

LTE vs WiMax

If Sprint does get the iPhone5, we could see a full iPhone war come October. There is one problem to this – Sprint is primarily a WiMax 4G service and iPhone is rumored to be LTE.

Sprint had put in measures to try and buy out Clearwire and add LTE into their service. Even if that happens, Sprint will have to do some fast work to make the iPhone 4G usable in the US.

We then have to ask the question: is T-Mobile also getting the iPhone? Not to mention the underdog carriers (US Cellular is one of the top underdogs in the Midwest, an iPhone 5 would mean local competition, too).

How iPhone5 Could Affect Android

Android has done a good job in clouding the market. Whereas iPhone only has 1 model with 3 memory size options (16, 32, 64 GB) and 2 color options (Black or White), Android comes in many sizes and shapes. HTC, LG, Motorola (obviously) and Sony- Ericsson all make different types of Android smartphones.

Still, with an iPhone 5 in all four US carriers could put a new dent into Android sales. A lot of people may make the switch because it’s an iPhone.

Once again, this is a rumor, but if true, could give Apple a bigger market share. Sprint users might have a bad experience for the first year simply because the carrier has to adapt to the phone, instead of vise-versa. If it does happen, I might finally switch off to another carrier for the first time in 13 years…

Google Purchases Motorola Mobility (along with 24,000 Patents) for $12.5 billion



Google announced this morning that it will be acquiring Motorola Mobility for $40 a share – $12.5 billion total. With it, come 24000 patents on mobile devices, in which 70-80% will most likely move right into Android technologies. Is this a major win for Google and their partners?

Motorola Mobility started in 1928[Wiki]. They pioneered mobile devices starting with the StarTAC in 1996. Motorola Mobility also invented the flip phone and their most successful handset – the RAZR – was the most popular phone from 2004 to 2008 (when the iPhone surpassed it).

“This transaction offers significant value for Motorola Mobility’s stockholders and provides compelling new opportunities for our employees, customers, and partners around the world” said Sanjay Jha, CEO of Motorola Mobility. “We have shared a productive partnership with Google to advance the Android platform, and now through this combination we will be able to do even more to innovate and deliver outstanding mobility solutions across our mobile devices and home businesses.”

24,000 patents, ranging from initial cellular connections all the way to current technologies, are also a part of that purchase. This means that Android has a better chance of warding off most other patent lawsuit disputes, which seems to be a key to a smartphone or tablet.

It’s also a great advantage to Android partners Samsung, HTC, Sony-Ericcson and LG-Electronics. Motorola had several Android-based smartphones themselves, including the Droid and Droid 2.

“The combination of Google and Motorola will not only supercharge Android, but will also enhance competition and offer consumers accelerating innovation, greater choice, and wonderful user experiences.”Says Larry Page. “I am confident that these great experiences will create huge value for shareholders. I look forward to welcoming Motorolans to our family of Googlers.”

With this news, the mobile eco-system might take a major turn. Google has some major firepower behind their Android system now. While not all technologies they purchased might not be viable in today’s tech market, they could be a basis for modified technology based on original patents.

Have you switched to an Android phone yet? Do you have a Droid3? What are your thoughts on this acquisition?

Official Google Press Release

HTC Gratia Hands-On Review

As a mid-tier offering, the HTC Gratia doesn’t appear to get the same notice as the Sensations, Desires and Incredibles, which is a shame because it’s a good phone and will suit those who want a small Android phone but don’t have the cash for a top-end device. If you haven’t heard of the Gratia before and you live in the US, that’s because over there it’s known as the Aria. It’s largely the same device.

To get the specs out of the way, it’s an Android 2.2 device with a 3.2″ 320 x 480 touchscreen. Weights in at 115 g and measures 58 mm wide, 104 mm tall and 12 mm thick. All the expected radios and gadgets – 3G, wifi (b/g), bluetooth, GPS, compass, 5 MP camera, microSD expansion slot – the full specs are on HTC’s site (though it lists the Android version as 2.1).

As you’ll see from the pictures below, the review model had a white plastic back that had a slightly matt finish to it. The phone felt comfortable in the hand and the detail of the extra screws on the back gave the Gratia an “industrial” edge, which I liked. I didn’t try to find out if the screws actually held anything together or were only for effect.

Taking the back off reveals the SIM slot, the microSD slot and the battery. At the bottom left, the two contacts are for aerials that were embedded into the back cover. The micro USB connector is in the middle. The back covers the sides, top and bottom as well.

Side on, there’s a sense of the shape and how it feels in the hand. It’s not a thin phone, but it’s not a fat one either.  It’s comfortable. As with most devices, there’s a little bit of bevelling to make it feel thinner than it really is.

Enough on the physical, what’s it like to use as a phone? Unsurprisingly, it’s much like every other HTC Android 2.2 phone. It comes with the HTC Sense enhancements and there did seem to be a few little extra launcher customisations that I hadn’t seen before. Unfortunately, I didn’t have another phone handy to compare and they may simply be incremental updates that went along with 2.2.

Generally, the phone was responsive using both the touchscreen and the trackpad. Animations were smooth and scrolling up and down lists was good. The usual slew of apps was present and the Gratia has access to the Android Market if you need more. Audio and video playback was fine with no glitches or jerkiness on the files I tried. Some other reviews said the Gratia was “underpowered” but I can’t really say that performance was an issue, though I’m not a big game player which seems to be the focus of the issue. And of course, if you do have lots of apps open, it will begin to slow down.

Setting up apps with accounts to access email, Facebook, Twitter, etc. was all by the numbers, as it were. I was up and running with the Gratia within minutes of turning the phone on.

Battery life was ok – I got a day’s worth of work out of it with some to spare and that’s with a bit of email, bit of surfing, bit of music listening. A typical day as far as I was concerned, but the Gratia will need recharged overnight for the next day.

Pricewise, off-contract the Gratia is generally available around £275 with the best prices being close to £250. I was unable to find any UK mobile telco carrying the Gratia at present so I can’t comment on contract prices.

Overall, this a fine mid-range smartphone at a fair price. There’s plenty to recommend and not too much to complain about. For someone looking for an Android 2.2 phone that’s not going to break the bank off-contract, this is a good choice.

Thanks to HTC for the loan of the Gratia.

HTC Dual USB Car Charger

If you spend a lot of time in your car and frequently need to charge your devices there then HTC has a cool little gadget for you.  The HTC Car Charger plugs into your vehicle’s 12v outlet and outputs two standard USB charging ports.  It also comes with a coiled USB / mini-USB cord.  However it can be used with any standard USB / mini-USB cord, such as the one that comes with pretty much all phones these days.  It also claims it can us “intelligent variable rate charging prevents overcharging your battery.”

It’s official rated for HTC devices including: HTC Desire S, Sensation, EVO View 4G, Flyer, Droid Incredible 2, Droid Incredible S, EVO 3D, Inspire 4G, Thunderbolt, EVO Shift 4G, Merge, Wildfire, Desire Z, Desire HD, Aria, Desire, Evo 4G, Droid Incredible / Nexus One, T-Mobile G2, T-Mobile myTouch Slide.  However, any phone that charges in this method will work just fine with this device.

It retails for $19.95 over at the Andoid Central store, but if you search around online then you may be able to find a better deal.  In fact, that’s exacly what I am going to be doing this evening.

Netflix Finally Meets Android

Netflix is finally coming to Android devices, albeit slowly, to specific devices at a time. So far, the free Netflix app will show up in the Android Marketplace on the HTC Evo 4G, the HTC Incredible, the HTC Nexus One, the HTC G2, and the Samsung Nexus S.

I have (and still love) a Sprint HTC Evo 4G, so upon discovering that Netflix was available I immediately installed it. The app appears to have a design very similar to the iPod/iPad/iPhone/iOS version, which I also have installed on my iPod Touch 4.

Check the Android Marketplace on your device as well as the Netflix.Com website for additional Android devices as they are added.

Movies & Documentaries On iOS Devices

Since getting the latest version of the 32 gigabyte iPod Touch a couple of months back, one of the uses that has surprised me has been late-night movie-watching after I’ve gone to bed but am not yet drowsy enough to go to sleep. The iPod Touch works extremely well for this task. I am able to pair the iPod to my Sprint HTC Evo’s WiFi hotspot feature and generally get very good Internet connectivity.

By far, Netflix is the best on-demand movie service available. Netflix has the most and best content available. The Netflix app for iPod/iPhone works great. It gives me the most relevant features of the full Netflix service in a tidy little package. So far, I’ve watched dozens of movies right on my iPod.

But are there other iPod/iPhone movie and documentary apps available? It turns out there are, though the quality can vary tremendously. One of them is called “NFB Films” which is an app created by the National Film Board of Canada. You can watch over 1,000 movies, including documentaries, animations and trailers.

Another app is called “Big Star TV.” The app itself is free to install, but if you wish to watch any content, like with Netflix, you have to pay a monthly fee. Big Star’s movies don’t seem to be up to the high quality level of Netflix.

B-Movies is a free app that presents Internet Archive (www.archive.org) films in an organized, easy-to-use format. It should be noted B-Movies is not associated or a part of the Internet Archive. Among other things, the Internet Archive contains an incredibly rich and diverse set of older classic corporate, school and government documentaries.

Apart from these choices of course is YouTube. Certainly YouTube has a tremendous amount of content, but therein lies the rub: there’s so much YouTube content, it makes it difficult for any single app to categorize, let alone try to catalog what’s available. With YouTube it’s best to simply search on a keyword or phrase that interests you and then start surfing.

The promise of the future that was held up when I was a kid has in many ways arrived, but as always there remains a lot of room for improvement.

HTC 7 Trophy Review

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few weeks, you’ll have heard about Microsoft’s return to the mobile phone space with Windows Phone 7.  And boy, have they returned.  Combined with the hardware of the HTC 7 Trophy, it delivers in spades.

Initial impressions were good; not only am I fond of the mini-tablet format, the design very much reminded me of Sony’s Clie TH55, probably the greatest PDA of all time, so the Trophy had some big boots to fill.  Fortunately, it didn’t disappoint; this is a lovely smartphone.

When you get the phone out of the box and into your hand, there’s a little weight to it, giving a quality feel.  It’s a relatively big device at 62 mm x 119 mm but this is a benefit when you start using the Trophy for more than making phone calls.

The 3.8″ screen has a lovely silver bevel which I initially thought was refraction at the glass edge.  It’s not; it seems to be the milled edge of the metal casing and I think it looks great.  As you’ll see from the picture, aside from the HTC logo, there are just three buttons at the bottom of the screen for back, home / start and find.

Round the back, there’s a 5 megapixel camera with autofocus and flash. The Trophy is the first phone I’ve used that has the shutter button in the right place – when you hold the phone in landscape to take a picture, the button falls perfectly under the right forefinger, just as if it was an ordinary camera.

The sides and back have a soft rubber touch to them, giving a bit of grip.  The last thing you want is for the phone to slip out of your hand and plunge to the floor, which will inevitably be concrete, tile or solid wood.  It’s never a sheepskin rug.

Finishing the exterior, there’s a power button on the top, plus volume buttons on the left side. A micro USB port and 3.5 mm earphone jack complete the physical connectivity.

In use, the phone is fabulous.  The 480 x 800 pixel screen is bright and detailed – there’s only the slightest hint of “jaggies” when you look very closely.  The response to the touch screen is excellent and the scrolling is super smooth.  I guess that’s where the 1 GHz processor comes in.

When it comes to the Metro user interface, you can choose your own adjectives.  I thought it was a stylish mix of two dimensional buttons contrasted by three dimensional effects.  One colleague suggested Fisher-Price and another thought it was bit like a tourist map where you’re not quite too sure what the symbols mean as there’s no legend.

However, there is no denying that the overall presentation is luxurious.  Screens appear as if they’re a page being turned.  Deleted emails drop into oblivion off the bottom of the screen.  Screens can present as if they’re part of bigger montages, with individual elements scrolling at different rates. I like the equivalent of the hourglass – it’s now a couple of dots that zip onto the screen, dawdle in the middle and then zip off again.

Certainly, there is a bit of initial head scratching or accidental discovery of features.  “How do I….?” becames, “Ahh, so that’s how it works.”  And I’m still not 100% certain about whether apps run in the background.

I’m not going to review every single app in turn because pretty much everything that you’d expect is there.  Email – check, calendar – check, address book – check, Office support – check, maps – check, web browser – check.  So what are the highlights and lowlights?

Regarding email, there’s no consolidated application.  Outlook, Gmail, Hotmail, etc. are all treated as apps in their own right but I was able to use EAS without any trouble, with emails, appointments and contacts all synchronised perfectly with Exchange.

Contacts are brought into a single place “People” but it’s not perfect with regard to duplicates brought in from different sources, e.g. Gmail and Hotmail.  Sometimes phone numbers are repeated even though they’re the same.

The Phone app is very responsive when you are tapping out numbers – I didn’t get any missed digits or double digits when I was dialling.  An iPhone-toting friend thought that the phone app was much better than the iOS equivalent.  Call quality was good.

I was unable to connect to my workplace’s wifi network because there’s doesn’t appear to be any way to make adjustments to the security settings etc.  To be fair, it’s not possible to connect on an iPhone either.  Connecting up at home was a doddle.

The virtual keyboard is ok.  I’ve got fairly large fingers but on the whole I was able to tap out the odd short email or enter search terms without too many mistakes.   Definitely more successful in landscape than portrait (obviously) but nowhere near as good as the keyboard on a Palm Pre, for example.

The Zune side of things was a hit.  The sound quality was good and reproduction was well-defined.  While the bass could be a little better, it was better than average for a portable device (and the limitation is often the encoding of the track).  I was listening using Sennheiser eH 1430 headphones, not the the supplied ones.

The Zune hub was easy to use and great for browsing.  Videos were smooth and easy to watch. I’m not a big gamer so I didn’t really pursue the Xbox Live side of things but the Trophy is the gamer’s phone in the HTC line-up.  What I did see was pretty slick and it was easy to download games, although it seemed to be quite slow at downloading, even over wi-fi.  I tried a few of the usual suspects such as Bejeweled and they played well.

Obviously the application marketplace isn’t nearly as big as the equivalents for iOS, Android or even WebOS.  But for an OS that’s months old, there’s a fair selection of apps and more will come over time.

Web browsing was excellent….as long as the web page didn’t have Flash.  The big screen and Internet Explorer reproduced most web sites really well and with the hi-res screen, you didn’t have to constantly zoom in and out.  Even quite small text was still legible.  I did find a couple of websites that had mobile or PDA versions and these recognised that the web browser was on a smartphone.  However they didn’t recognise the particular browser on Windows Phone 7 and consequently defaulted to a very basic version.  Switching to the full website version usually solved the problem.

Battery life was perfectly acceptable for a device of this type. I found that I could go a day or two without recharging the Trophy and by that I mean a couple of phone calls, email from EAS, some music listening  and a bit of surfing.  Once I started playing games and watching video, the battery life took a hit, but this is hardly unexpected.

That’s about it. The HTC 7 Trophy is a very good phone and Windows Phone 7 is impressive.  The whole feel of the device  is quality, the screen is great and the OS is modern.  Consequently I would recommend that anyone thinking of a new smartphone should give the Trophy a very long look.

Thanks to HTC for the loan.

Tech Serendipity

Sometimes things no one ever thought of simply seem to come together. Services and devices end up being used to do things the individual inventors and designers couldn’t have imagined.

For some time now, I’ve been thinking about attaching one of the new Mac Minis to one of my TV’s and utilizing it as a home theater PC as well as an over-the-air DVR to record high definition digital broadcasts from the local TV stations. A late Sunday afternoon trip to my local Best Buy and a Mac Mini was mine.

I sat the Mac Mini up with Eye TV and a USB HD tuner attached to my outdoor antenna. Depending on how I have the antenna rotated, I can receive upwards of 17 or more HD and digital broadcast channels. Of course, keep in mind that the Mini is on my home network, so I’ve got complete remote access in a number of different ways.

The Eye TV 3.4.1 software has easy iPhone/iPod/iPad/Apple TV file conversion, so I’m easily able to convert the files to the format of my choice.

A thought popped into my head. What if I converted the files to the iPhone format and put them into my Dropbox? I also have the Dropbox app for Android installed on my Sprint HTC Evo phone. Since I have an 8 gigabyte SD card installed with the possibility of going all the way up to a 32 gigabyte card if I wish, could I synch the exported iPhone files from my Dropbox on the computer to Dropbox on my phone?

To my surprise, I don’t even have to synch the exported iPhone videos to my phone – once they are synched to the Dropbox server, all I have to do is open the file from Dropbox on my phone and the file immediately starts streaming. If I’ve got a decent 3G Sprint cell signal, the video plays perfectly without a glitch.

So, I’m taking multiple different technologies, and using them in a way no single inventor or designer ever envisioned. I can record local TV programming from home, export it as an iPhone format file into my Dropbox folder, and stream the files to my phone. Pretty phenomenal stuff if you ask me.

For sure, there are other ways to accomplish the same end result, particularly if one has adequate bandwidth. For situations where bandwidth is limited and more variable, this solution works surprisingly well.

Twonky Mobile Server

It’s always fun when technology intersects, and it becomes possible to do something cool that was previously not possible and/or was never thought of.

Such is the case with my Sprint HTC Evo smartphone. Sure, it’s a pocket computer. Sure, it has WiFi. As such, sure, it’s a network device with a potential node on my home network.

Rewind. What was that last bit again? My phone is a network device with a potential node on my home network. Let’s see – what can I do with network devices – share resources, share drives and therefore share files.

Enter the free Twonky Server Mobile for Android. Twonky Server Mobile is a free piece of software available in the Android Marketplace that shares audio, video and photos from the phone to UPnP and DLNA certified receiving devices on a home network. This includes software such as Boxee and UBMC among others.

I had a copied a number of videos to my Evo’s 8 media card so I’d have them available to watch if and when I had time. Hummm – with the Evo’s WiFi turned on and connected to my home network, if I ran the Twonky Server Mobile software, would I be able to see Twonky Mobile Server as an available network share with my Western Digital TV Live Plus boxes? If so, how would it work?

I’m happy to report that the free Twonky Mobile Server for Android works flawlessly. Simply start the app and there’s nothing else to do on the phone. Twonky Mobile Server shows up as an available server on the network, and the audio, videos and photos show up and play with UPnP and DLNA certified receiving devices such as WD TV Live Plus boxes.

Twonky also offers a small array of inexpensive server software products that make it possible to easily share audio, video and photo media from your Windows or Mac computer via UPnP and DLNA to certified devices such as Playstation 3, many digital photo frames, many Blu-ray players, and other devices and softwares.

Do Frequent Phone O/S Updates Make Sense?

I’ve had my HTC Evo for a couple of months or more at this point. When I first turned it on, there was an update waiting. The update installed. So far, so good.

Over the next few weeks I heard there was another update available, but it turned out there was a problem with the update. It took HTC and Sprint about a week or more to fix the problem update, but since the Evo was still in very short supply, I chose not to update it right away. What if there was a problem with the update and it bricked the phone? How would I get an immediate replacement? Better to wait.

A few days ago, Sprint and HTC started releasing the “Froyo” or “Frozen Yogurt” Android 2.2 update for the Evo. I decided it was time to take the plunge and accept the update.

There were two updates. The first one downloaded and installed, and then the second. No problems.

Now I’m asking myself, did the upgrade to Android 2.2 live up to all the hype? Android 2.2 on the Evo might be a little bit more snappy, but it’s hard to tell since the Evo already had excellent performance with the version of Android it shipped with. There are a few changes here and there that improve usability, some of them somewhat worthwhile, but was it really worth the trouble? The phone was a great device before the update. It’s a great device after the update.

Are updates to existing smartphones enough reason for consumers to get really excited over? As I see it, if lots of new basic usability and reliability can be added with a particular update, then it’s likely worthwhile. Smartphones are still evolving devices.

It seems to me that the job of adding new functionality to smartphones falls primarily to apps, and not necessarily the operating system itself. The operating system should be a stable, functional platform that offers basic functionality and services to those apps.

Once smartphone operating system design begins to mature however, the danger of updating and changing things just for the sake of change is always a potential risk. Also keep in mind that on average people replace cell phones about every 18 months, which is a much more frequent replacement cycle than desktop and laptop computers.

In the realm of desktop computer software, Microsoft Office is a great example of mature software design. There are only so many things word processing software can do. Microsoft Word and Excel both had good design and usability for me starting way back with Office 95. With subsequent releases, Microsoft seemed to sometimes arbitrarily change things just for the sake of change, which is a huge usability mistake. Computer software design is not the same as car styling design.