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

A Microsoft Fantasy

MandroidMicrosoft and their “Windows Everywhere” strategy — it’s a painful thing to watch.  Microsoft is becoming the new Blackberry.

Technology is always improving at an ever-accelerating pace.  Mobile devices combined with ubiquitous, ever-present Internet, combined with ever-increasing bandwidth have come together to disrupt the traditional PC market, which itself was a disruption.

Companies that ride the wave of technological disruption frequently become household names. Once upon a time one of them was Microsoft, which was able to ride the crest of the wave of the personal computer revolution. Microsoft software was once almost everywhere. Alas, the next wave of disruption came along in the form of mobile hand-held computers with always-on connectivity, and now Microsoft in many respects is drowning behind that next wave.

I believe people at Microsoft see the handwriting on the wall – traditional PC sales numbers are dropping like a stone into a bottomless pit. The vast majority of people don’t need a traditional computer because modern handheld touchscreen devices such as iPads and smartphones frequently do most of what consumers want faster and better.

So, with Windows 8 Microsoft tried to force Windows users away from the traditional PC desktop to a new touchscreen interface dubbed “Metro” that seems to be sort of half-baked. When users rebelled, they released a semi-compromise in the form of Windows 8.1. Apparently the thinking must have been that if they could get end-users of desktop Windows computers used to the new interface, they would naturally gravitate towards the same interface on Microsoft smartphones and tablets. Thus – “Windows Everywhere” has been implemented and is clearly floundering, with good reason.

Microsoft is still a profitable enterprise, largely because of the X-Box and server software. In my opinion, Microsoft should concentrate on these two profitable areas of their business and forget about selling tablets and smartphones.

A Radical Suggestion

However, if Microsoft can’t bring themselves to abandon the mobile device market, I have a radical suggestion for them. It’s clear to me the only remote chance Microsoft has of success in todays’s mobile market is if they would dump mobile versions of Windows and adopt Android. They could call it Mandroid.

Microsoft now owns Nokia, and even before the Nokia purchase Microsoft has demonstrated it can produce sleek hardware.

Microsoft, if you want ANY chance of the vast majority of consumers considering buying your mobile products, re-develop them with Android. You would have the huge instant advantage of the Android app market, and a stable mobile OS that already has plenty of marketplace traction.

Will Microsoft adopt Android? Not a chance. If Microsoft is lucky it will end up like IBM, a beached shell of its former self.

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.

“The iPhone won’t make a long term mark on the industry” and other gems from 2007

The Cell Phone Of The Future...Probably

I have no idea how I came across this article this morning – a commentary piece that ran on Bloomberg.com in early 2007. In retrospect, it reads like a humor piece. See, in January 2007 Matthew Lynn made a series of speculations about how the then-recently announced iPhone – from that little upstart gadget company called Apple – would fall flat on it’s figurative face.

I’ll let Lynn’s words do the explaining, since he seems to have stuck both feet and most of his legs into his mouth back in 2007:

“The big competitors in the mobile-phone industry such as Nokia Oyj and Motorola Inc. won’t be whispering nervously into their clamshells over a new threat to their business….The iPhone is nothing more than a luxury bauble that will appeal to a few gadget freaks. In terms of its impact on the industry, the iPhone is less relevant.”

It gets better. Lynn goes on to claim that Apple was too late to the phone-party. The company wouldn’t be able to foster proper relationships with carriers – “Apple has never been good at working with other companies. If it knew how to do that, it would be Microsoft Corp.” (that particular line almost sent coffee shooting out of my nose). And Lynn goes on to profess a collection of other, painfully wrong predictions about the impending failure of Apple and iPhone.

Now, I know hindsight is 20/20 and we’re all guilty of completely missing the mark when it comes to anticipating outcomes. But this guy steps in it so deep that it’s hard not to notice his absurd observations – mainly that he has some weird, misplaced fascination with battery charger weights and the infallibility of some company called Nokia (I think they’re still around – chasing Apple around with smart phones of their own. At the very least, the name sounds familiar /end sarcasm).

So, Matthew Lynn wrote an article for Bloomberg in 2007 where he categorically deconstructs any chance of Apple succeeding with the launch of the then-new iPhone.

Forgive the guy? Sure. I mean everyone is entitled to his opinion and I’m sure that he has incorporated this embarrassing misstep as a learning experience into his career of writing opinion. Wait….What’s that? Matthew Lynn has a Twitter account? Let’s take a look and see what Mr. Lynn is up to.

In the last 30 days, he’s posted three times about either the impending doom of Apple as a company or the risk of investing in the company. That’s like the guy whose most hated team is winning by 50 runs in 9th inning with one out left and he is still holding out hope for an embarrassing loss.

I’m no financial writer like Lynn is (he still writes for WSJ and Money Week, according to his bio) and I’m not picking on the guy, but read the 2007 piece about the iPhone. Maybe even read in on your iPhone for maximum snarkiness. Maybe in some alternate universe, Lynn was right and there are a bunch of people talking on clamshell Nokias, listening to music on their Zunes as they ride Segways to Borders while 1st gen iPhones sit in junk drawers.

But for now, in 2012, I’m just going to follow him on Twitter – probably from my iPhone 4…maybe even my iPad 2 – and try not to shoot coffee from my nose.

Image: Telephone from BigStock

Out of the Shadow of the iPhone

Samsung Galaxy BeamAt this time of year the technology circus does its tour of the world….CES in Las Vegas, MWC in Barcelona and CeBIT in Hanover, Germany. Interspersed are product launches by major companies like Apple.

When Apple and subsequently Microsoft decided to move away from the industry events and do their own mini-shows, many commentators noted that it was disappointing that the market leaders weren’t going to be attending and predicted the death of the big show. From all the evidence I see, it’s been the best thing that ever happened.

Take Mobile World Congress last week – it was a great show with Samsung, Nokia, HTC, RIM all putting out great phones and tablets. With the figures showing Android well ahead of iOS in the US new handset market and the absence of Apple at the show, it really felt like smartphones had come out from under the shadow of the iPhone. Companies were daring to innovate and be a bit different because the competition is no longer simply about being better than the iPhone, it’s about being better than Android competitors.

HTC’s One line-up might not be earth-shattering but there’s a progression from entry-level to top-end. Samsung continues to produce different sizes and integrate other technologies, such as pico projectors (Galaxy Beam), and Nokia supports its long-term plans in the Windows Phone market while still introducing a bonkers megapixel camera on the older line.

In comparison, Apple would have produced largely the same phone as the last one, only a bit faster, yet would have stolen all the headlines. Great products for sure, but Apple isn’t innovating, it’s perfecting.

The smartphone market is in rude health and it’s great to see genuine innovation and competition rather than the predictable progression of a near monopoly.

GNC-2011-12-19 #730 Two Massive Contest!

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SOPA already here?
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GNC #671 On the Road

Geek News Central Podcast It is survey time again and I hope you will take 60 seconds to fill out my listener survey. We have streamlined this so you can click, click, click and be done. Thanks for your support in advance. Quick show and an absolutely funny in the shower story.

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Show Notes:
Endeavor
Bing Facebook Effect.
PSN is Back sort of.
Miramax comes to Netflix.
Wireless Hard-Drive?
Felony to Stream!
Google TV $179.00
Lodsys reveals their extortion.
Nuance in OSX Lion.
UK Super Injunction expands.
Second Monitor do you need it.
Jetbag your Wine Purchases.
New Scareware fakes drive Failure.
No More “You” Tube?
FCC Commissioner on defense.
Firefox 3.5 No More Support.
Hackers can get 3 years.
Android not Secure?
Facebook wins in court.
AT&T Security Service for Consumers.
Google News Grows.
Baby Named Like.
Sun Versus Comet = Sun Wins
Galaxy Windstorms.
FCC Cracks down on Reporting.
Senators not Happy with ICE Response.
Pirate Bay Server Upgrades.
Alt Operating Systems.
AIM AV.
Microsoft to buy Nokia.
New DJ tools.
Gag USB Cable.
Car Tip.
Waterproof bags for your iPad.
WordPress App.
ChromeBook Thoughts.
TAX on SD Cards!
Leica Art.

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?