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Monday, May 9, 2011

Android This Week: Infuse 4G Lands; Honeycomb Gets Earth; Amazon Tablet Soon

A number of new Android handsets were introduced this week, but the biggest announcement literally came in the form of the Infuse 4G. The handset arrives on AT&T’s network on May 15 and has a 4.5-inch touchscreen, which is the largest on any device sold by the carrier, yet is only 8.99 millimeters thick.

I’ve spent a day with an Infuse 4G review unit and I’m extremely impressed with the screen as it uses Samsung’s Super AMOLED Plus technology. Colors are extremely vivid on the 800×480 screen. The new Infuse 4G also supports 21 Mbps downloads; another first for the carrier, although AT&T’s network is not yet equipped to provide such speeds yet.

In terms of computing speeds, the device skips the current dual-core CPU craze and instead uses Samsung’s single core 1.2 GHz chip. Responsiveness is very good, but not as good as the dual-core T-Mobile G2x that I used earlier this past week. In this brief overview video, you can see a demo of 1080p video playback, immersive 3-D gaming and the overall speediness of the G2x and it’s dual-core 1 GHz Nvidia processor.

But phones aren’t the only devices with dual-core processors: Android tablets have them too and this week Google decided to take advantage of the benefits these chips bring. An updated version of Google Earth landed this week as a free download in the Android Market. The tablet version is more like the full desktop version than the mobile handset edition, bringing a desktop-like experience to Honeycomb tablets. Notable features include a textured, 3-D building layer that leverages the graphics of advanced mobile processors and pop-up context menus for landmarks, points of interest and user-contributed photos of locations.

While many traditional tablet makers are planning to rule the Earth with Google tablets, a non-traditional player looks to be entering the market soon. Reports surfaced this week indicating that Amazon will have a tablet in the second half of 2011. This isn’t too surprising as the web retailing giant already has an Android AppStore of its own and supports Android devices through various software solutions such as Amazon MP3 and Kindle apps. Amazon also has a Cloud Storage service for storing media, video-on-demand and software that streams music from Amazon’s servers to Android handsets.

What is surprising is that few Android owners I speak with are using the Amazon AppStore. This complementary alternative to Google’s own store solves many problems with the Android Market. Namely, it provides better curation and discovery of apps, offers a free mobile app each day and the paid titles may be cheaper than Google’s own store as Amazon sets prices. Our poll is tracking who does and who doesn’t use the Amazon AppStore, so chime in if you’re an Android device owner.


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