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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Oracle, Google scrap over Android IP damages

In the latest chapter of the ongoing legal saga between Oracle and Google, Oracle claims it should be awarded $2.6 billion for Google’s alleged infringement of its intellectual property with regard to the Android mobile operating system.

An expert hired by Oracle, Boston University finance professor Iain Cockburn, calculated the figure as part of a court filing on Tuesday, Marketwatch reports. Previous filings did not indicate just how many “billions” of dollars Oracle sought in damages.

The filing was about as he-said, she-said as it gets:

Google falsely claims that Prof. Cockburn concludes that Oracle is owed anywhere from $1.4 to $6.1 billion in damages. He does not. His opinion is that the total damages that should be awarded to Oracle is $2.6 billion.

Google, of course, rejects Cockburn’s estimate as “inappropriate,” calling into question the methodology for calculating the figure and calling the figure inflated.

It’s the latest round in a long legal battle in which Oracle says Google is infringing on the patents and copyrights within its Sun portfolio, which it acquired last year. The Android ecosystem has been under fire from several companies, including Apple, who attest that both software and hardware too easily mimic patents held by rival tech companies.

Motorola Mobility Short Interest Triples on Android Competition

Investor bets against Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc. have more than tripled since January as the mobile-phone company faces rising competition from rival handset makers that use Google Inc.’s Android operating system.

The company, based in Libertyville, Illinois, had short interest of 15.9 million shares on June 28, compared with 4.9 million on Jan. 10, according to the New York-based research firm Data Explorers. Shorts represent about 5.4 percent of the shares outstanding, about double the 2.6 percent average for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index, the data show.

The bearish bets may reflect growing concerns about Motorola’s profitability as it competes with Apple Inc. and an increasing number of companies that use the same Android software it does, said Tero Kuittinen, an analyst at MKM Partners LLC. The range of Android smartphones, from companies such as Samsung Electronics Co. and HTC Corp., makes it difficult to stand out, he said.

“People are anxious about the profit picture in the Android space,” said Kuttinen, who is based in Stamford, Connecticut and has a “buy” rating on Motorola. “People are skeptical about Motorola’s ability to hike the margins.”

Motorola Mobility, which makes mobile phones and set-top boxes for cable television, was spun off from Motorola Inc. this year and has lost about a third of its value since it started trading Jan. 4. The stock rose 13 cents to $22.13 at 11:02 a.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading.

In a short sale, a trader borrows shares and sells them. If the price drops, the trader profits by buying back the stock at a lower price, repaying the loan and pocketing the difference.

Android Challenge

Chief Executive Officer Sanjay Jha, who was hired from chipmaker Qualcomm Inc. in 2008, stabilized the handset business by cutting costs and focusing on Android, making it one of Google’s early supporters. Android is available for free from Google though, and it has been adopted by traditional mobile- phone makers that want to offer smartphones capable of browsing the Web and running software programs known as apps.

Besides Samsung and HTC, LG Electronics Inc. and Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications AB offer Android phones. All four of those companies are likely to ship more phones than Motorola in the current quarter, said Tim Long, a BMO Capital Markets analyst.

Motorola Mobility, whose stock ticker is MMI, “had a first-mover advantage, but now Samsung, LG and Sony Ericsson have joined HTC, and we expect each to out-ship MMI,” said Long, who cut his rating on Motorola to “underperform” on June 27 and dropped his price target on the stock to $19 from $26. Of 38 analysts who track the stock, 21 recommend buying it, 12 rate it a hold, and 5 suggest selling.

Innovation Effort

Jha has been pushing innovations in software and design to help Motorola devices stand out against Apple’s iPhone, Research In Motion Ltd.’s BlackBerry as well as other Android devices. Motorola’s Atrix, which went on sale in the U.S. in February, plugs into a keyboard-and-screen console similar to a thin laptop so the phone can be used as a personal computer.

Motorola is also working on smartphones with more secure e- mail so companies will be more willing to adopt Android devices, and technologies to make it easier to transfer content from phones to tablet computers to set-top boxes.

“We are taking some risks and betting some dollars and making sure that we have some sustainable differentiation,” Jha said at an investor conference this month.

Jennifer Erickson, a spokeswoman for the company, said executives were not available for interviews and declined to comment on the short interest.

Scale Challenge

The company’s major rivals have greater scale, said Long, which may allow them to demand better terms from suppliers and save on other expenses to lift profits. Motorola pulled back in some international markets as part of its cost-cutting efforts.

Motorola sold 4.1 million smartphones in the first quarter, up from 2.3 million a year earlier. Samsung sold about 12.6 million in the quarter, with HTC at 9.7 million.

“MMI’s lack of global reach is becoming more of an issue,” said Long, the second analyst to downgrade the stock in just more than a week.

Motorola may also have more competition at Verizon Wireless, which is the largest U.S. wireless operator and accounted for 28 percent of Motorola’s revenue last year. Verizon, which began offering the iPhone this year, also sells Android phones from Samsung, LG, Sony Ericsson and HTC.

Verizon Rivals

“Competitive headwinds are intensifying in the U.S. from other Android vendors, notably at key carrier partner Verizon, where we see MMI’s share being vulnerable,” said Kulbinder Garcha, an analyst at Credit Suisse Group AG, who cut his rating on the stock to “underperform” on June 21 and dropped his price target to $19.

Motorola said in April that it will be break even in the second quarter or earn a profit of 12 cents, excluding some items. Analysts forecast a profit of 6 cents a share.

“People are thinking the quarter is probably not good,” said Buzzy Geduld, chief executive officer of New York hedge fund Cougar Trading, who said he has neither a short or long position on the stock. “The stock is cheap but we just don’t know what the catalyst is.”

Monday, June 27, 2011

HTC Flyer launched for Rs. 39,890, is over-priced for a 7-inch Android Tablet.


We’ve been waiting for the announcement of the HTC Flyer ever since it got listed on Letsbuy.com earlier this month. Now, HTC has officially released the diminutive 7-inch Android Wi-Fi + 3G tablet in India, pricing it at a rather hefty Rs. 39,890 (MOP) – quite surprising compared to the pricing of 10-inch tablet offerings already in the country. Hopefully it will release a Wi-Fi only offering at a much lower price. The tablet comes with HTC Sense 3.0 UI onboard.

Bearing HTC’s classic aluminium unibody design, the 7-inch HTC Flyer runs on Android 2.3.3 Gingerbread, and not the tablet-specific Android 3.0 Honeycomb. We’ve known this unfortunate fact for a while now, but it doesn’t make it any easier to swallow. Somehow though, HTC has managed to overcome the biggest limitation of bearing a non-Honeycomb Android OS on a tablet, and has managed to provide access to the Android Market. Not too dissimilar to when the (7-inch, Android 2.2 Froyo-based) Samsung Galaxy Tab also offered access, at a time when no one else did. Smaller manufacturers have had a much harder time in the past. We expect the tablet to be upgraded to Android Ice Cream Sandwich (version 4.0 or 2.4), and bypass Honeycomb completely.

Looking below the hood of the 7-inch tablet, we see it has a regular LCD capacitive touchscreen with a resolution of 1024x600 pixels, a 1.5GHz single-core processor, 1GB of RAM, 32GB of inbuilt storage (expandable with microSD card), a 5MP rear camera capable of 720p HD video recording, a 1.3MP front-facing camera, GPS and A-GPS connectivity, HSPA+ (HSDPA 14.4Mbps, HSUPA 5.76Mbps), Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth v3.0 with A2DP, Dolby Mobile and SRS sound enhancement, and, a 4000 mAh battery that is rated to provide up to 1470 hours of standby time, and 4 hours of video playback time.

HTC has included some interesting features that will quickly distinguish the HTC Flyer from other Android tablets available in the Indian market so far. The first of these is HTC Scribe technology, which gives the Flyer stylus support on its capacitive screen. The feature also has something called Timemark, which enables audio clips within written notes. Interestingly, the tablet has two sets of touch-sensitive controls, to be used in landscape and portrait mode.

The HTC Flyer also comes with HTC Watch support, a video download service that “enables low-cost on-demand progressive downloading of hundreds of High-Definition movies from major studios.” Lastly, but interestingly, is the tablet’s support for the OnLive gaming service, a cloud-based service that will allow users to play a variety of games online on their tablets (or stream it to their TV), including the latest PC titles, such as NBA 2K11, Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood, and Lego Harry Potter.

We aren’t sure just how well the Indian market will take the entry of the high-priced HTC Flyer, even with its interesting features and stylus-support added to the equation. Let us hope HTC realises their mistake soon enough, and re-prices the Flyer in India.

Microsoft convinces another Android vendor to sign a patent-protection deal

Microsoft has added another Android backer to the list of those signing with Redmond for patent protection.

On June 27, Microsoft announced that General Dynamics Itronix signed a patent agreement with Microsoft for Itronix devices running Android. Microsoft characterized the agreement as providing “broad coverage under Microsoft’s patent portfolio for General Dynamics Itronix devices running the Android platform.”

“Although the contents of the agreement have not been disclosed, the parties indicate that Microsoft will receive royalties from General Dynamics Itronix under the agreement,” said Microsoft in its press release.

The General Dynamics Itronix devices are ruggedized mobile tablets, netbooks and ultramobile PCs. Many of the products in the Itronix line are running various versions of Windows, according to their spec sheets. But the GD300, a “Rugged Wearable Computer for Military, Federal/Civil and Commercial Field Service Personnel,” is Android-based.

Microsoft has signed patent-protection agreements with a number of device makers using Linux in their products, including Amazon,TomTom, Melco/Buffalo and more. More recently, Microsoft has been targeting vendors running Google’s Linux-based Android operating system and is working to convince them to pay royalties to Microsoft to cover alleged patent-infringement issues involving Android. HTC signed a patent-protection deal with Microsoft for an undisclosed amount last year that focused on Android.

Not all Android vendors are signing on the IP (intellectual property) dotted line, however. Barnes & Noble is in a legal fight with Microsoft over Microsoft’s claim from earlier this year that the Android-based Nook e-reader violates Microsoft patents.

Some industry watchers believe Microsoft is currently making more from its Android patent deals than it is from licensing the Windows Phone operating system in the smartphone market.

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Friday, June 24, 2011

Study: iPad tallies 89 percent of tablet traffic

Apple's iPad leads in tablet traffic.

Apple's iPad leads in tablet traffic.

Apple's iPad is overwhelmingly dominating tablet traffic, a new report from ComScore has found.

According to the market researcher, Apple's iPad accounted for 89 percent of worldwide tablet traffic on the Internet in May, easily besting Android-based tablets and other slates.

On a country-by-country basis, iPad traffic was highest in Canada last month, accounting for 33.5 percent of all non-computer traffic. (Non-computer means anything besides a laptop, Netbook, or desktop.) Android devices were able to score just 0.4 percent market share in that category. In the U.S., the iPad represented 21.8 percent of all non-computer traffic, while Android accounted for 0.6 percent.

The iPad's much higher contribution to worldwide traffic compared with Android tablets isn't all that surprising. According to Apple, it has sold 25 million iPads since the tablet's launch in spring 2010. Moreover, iPad held 87 percent market share in 2010, according to research firm IDC. Another research firm, Gartner, said it believes the iPad will own 68.7 percent of the market in 2011. Android devices, on the other hand, will only have 19.9 percent share this year, the firm said.

ComScore's look at non-computer traffic around the world.

ComScore's look at non-computer traffic around the world.

(Credit: ComScore Device Essentials)

ComScore also examined the smartphone market. In the U.S. last month, Android phones represented 35.6 percent of all non-computer traffic, followed by Apple's iPhone with 23.5 percent share. In most other countries, however, Android followed the iPhone in total traffic. In Canada, for example, Apple's smartphone represented 34.6 percent of all traffic in May, followed by Android smartphones with 8.2 percent share.

So, how were people getting on the Web? According to ComScore, 47.5 percent of iPhone page views occurred over Wi-Fi last month, compared with 52.5 percent over mobile networks. On Android devices, 21.7 percent of page views came through Wi-Fi access vs. 78.3 percent over mobile networks.

On the tablet side, 91.9 percent of iPad page views came through Wi-Fi access, compared with 8.1 percent over mobile networks. ComScore said 65.2 percent of Android tablet page views occurred over Wi-Fi, while 34.8 percent were tallied via mobile-network access.

The breakdown of the tablet figures may surprise some industry watchers. Tablets are inherently mobile devices, making the use of mobile networks to access the Web more likely. However, it seems that iPad owners are still very much tied to Wi-Fi.


5 Android apps that should be on every smartphone

I may be hard on Google for the mess that it has created with Android Honeycomb tablets, but on the smartphone front Android is still going strong. That is with good reason, Android phones are as good as anything on the market, and made even better with the right apps installed. No matter if you are a fan of HTC Sense phones with its attractive UI, Samsung TouchWiz phones, or stock Android phones, there are five apps that should be installed on every Android phone to make them better.


LauncherPro. The Android launcher is attractive but very basic in design and function, and LauncherPro takes any Android phone to the next level. This alternative launcher adds a customizable dock bar for launching apps, but that is only a fraction of the functionality it brings to the home screen. Speaking of home screens, LauncherPro brings a totally revamped home screen environment, with a new app drawer for launching apps included. The app also makes a suite of home screen widgets available that can be added as desired to install a raft of new functionality on the home screens as desired. These widgets can be customized to the heart’s desire, and are skinnable to make them look just right. The Gmail widget alone is worth the price of LauncherPro. There are other alternative launchers but none match LauncherPro for features. You must have the Pro version to unlock all the features including the widgets. $3.49.


Beautiful Widgets. The strength of Android is the ability to make the interface very personal, and Beautiful Widgets is the daddy of them all. The app installs a bunch of home screen widgets of varying sizes that make it a breeze to tailor the look and feel of the screens to the user’s personal taste. The widgets include HTC Sense look-alikes for those who like the clock and weather screens on those devices, but that’s just for starters. There are hundreds of clock, weather and battery meter skins for download within Beautiful Widgets that can make the phone screen look any way you want. The various widgets can be combined in any number of ways to fit your style. There is even a live wallpaper that changes the screen background to match the time of day and local weather conditions. €1.99.


Amazon MP3. This free app has morphed from a simple way to get free music on Android phones into a full-fledged cloud music playing system. The free MP3 of the day is still there, along with easy access to cheap album deals in the Amazon music store, but with the launch of the Cloud Drive the Amazon MP3 app has evolved into a must-have for Android phone owners. Once you upload your music library to the Amazon Cloud, streaming it to any Android device (and computer) is a simple tap on the screen. Purchased (and free) music is automatically put into your Cloud Drive for instant access on the phone. The app also plays music store locally on the phone for those not into the whole cloud thing. Free.


Dolphin Browser HD. The web browsers installed on Android phones are pretty good, but they don’t hold a candle to the Dolphin Browser HD. This browser is as fast as can be for rendering web pages in perfect form, and has a unique touch system for improved web browsing. The bookmark system is as sophisticated as that on any desktop browser, yet is as easy to operate as tapping on the screen. Dolphin also has a plug-in system that adds tons of functionality to the browser as desired. There is a configurable gesture system in Dolphin that lets you trigger actions by drawing on the screen with a fingertip, a tremendously useful feature. There is a free version that is ad-supported in the settings menus, or a $4.99 version without ads.


Multicon Widget. Phone screens can only hold so much information due to the small size, and sometimes you need to put more icons for apps than will fit. The free Multicon widget lets you put up to 4 app icons in the space normally occupied by one, which greatly extends the screen real estate. The four icon slots are not restricted to apps, you can put shortcuts for actions and special functions like Wi-Fi toggle in the slots. This is the most useful widget for a free app.

These five Android apps add incredible value to the smartphone, but they are not the only good apps in the Android Market. What are your must-have apps for Android?


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Android 4.0: what you need to know In Depth: Android 4.0 release date, specs and more rumours

We've had Android 2.3 Gingerbread. We've had Android 3.0 Honeycomb. Next up: Ice Cream Sandwich, the next version of Google's Android operating system.

Although it's possible that Ice Cream Sandwich will be given a lower version number, such as Android 2.4, we think the scale of the upgrade makes it more than a mere point release - so our money's on Android 4.0.

No matter what number Google gives it, the next version of Android brings new features, new hardware and new ways to play with your Android kit.

Here's what you need to know.

Android 4.0 release date

Google says the Android 4.0 release date will be around Thanksgiving in the US, which means it should ship just in time for the all-important Christmas shopping binge this year.

Android 4.0 phones

Specs for what could be the Google Nexus 3 have surfaced courtesy of BGR, revealing a handset with a dual-core 1.2GHz or 1.5GHz OMAP 4460 or Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, a 720p HD display, along with 1080p HD video capture through the 5MP rear-mounted camera.

Huawei is also claiming that its forthcoming handset the Glory, while shipping with Android 2.2, will be upgradeable to Ice Cream Sandwich when the OS becomes available, according to PCMag.com. It's not yet known whether the Glory is headed to the UK, and if it does it's likely to be carrier-branded rather than come sporting the Huawei badge.

The Android 4.0 OS will be a unified OS

Say goodbye to Gingerbread for phones and Honeycomb for tablets. Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich will be a single OS for both kinds of devices, with the user interface adapting to suit whichever form factor you throw at it.

A unified codebase means developers will only need to code their apps once for them to work on Android 4.0 phones and Android 4.0 tablets, and Google will offer a whole bunch of new APIs that developers can use to code apps for every kind of Android 4.0 device.

The Android 4.0 interface will look a lot like Honeycomb

Not a huge surprise, this one: the rather whizzy new interface from Honeycomb will be making its way to Android 4.0 - although as with previous incarnations, device manufacturers and/or network operators can create their own customised UIs too. The Android 4.0 UI will enable you to adjust the size of home screen widgets to better suit your particular preferences.

Android 4.0 specs include USB hosting

The Android Open Accessory programme brings third-party devices into the Android fold, potentially enabling you to connect anything from an Xbox controller or USB mouse for Android games to a heart monitor for fitness apps. Accessories will initially connect via USB, with Bluetooth coming along shortly afterwards.

Android 4.0 features include goodies for phone users

Android 4.0 phone users will get an expanded multitasking tool and a system manager that ensures you don't run out of memory.

Android 4.0 software will track your face

Your Android 4.0 phone or tablet's camera will be doing some potentially nifty facial recognition, tracking the movement of your head and adjusting the on-screen image accordingly to create a pseudo-3D effect.

Google has also demoed videoconferencing that uses the feature to focus the camera on the person you want to look at, which is fine unless you're staring at someone good-looking while talking to somebody who's been hit with the ugly stick.

The Android 4.0 system requirements could be hefty

Leaked details suggest that the Google Nexus 3, Google's reference handset, will have a 1.2 or 1.5GHz processor (although some of the more excited rumours predict a quad-core Kal-El processor), 1GB of RAM, a "monster-sized" display, 1080p video capture and an ultra-thin body. US customers get 4G mobile internet too.

Android 4.0 hardware will be relatively future-proof

Google has persuaded its manufacturing partners to agree that when they make new kit, it'll support the latest Android updates for at least eighteen months, and firms such as Samsung promise that they'll be dishing out upgrades much more quickly than before. The aim is to prevent embarrassing "where's my upgrade?" howls from existing and future Android customers.

Digital Life: A Xoom with a view -- how Android is taking on iPad

The Android army is on the march and they're gunning for Apple. Not content with bringing the fight to the iPhone, devices based on Google's slick software have the iPad in their sights too.

What was once a trickle is now a flood, as Android tablets of all shapes and sizes arrive in numbers.

This week's bounty includes the 10-inch Motorola Xoom, once considered the leading contender for the iPad crown, and the HTC Flyer, a quirky seven-inch tablet with an optional stylus.

Delays in bringing the Xoom to market have meant it's not the first device to use the latest version of Android -- codenamed Honeycomb -- which has been optimised for tablets instead of phones. That honour went last month to Samsung's capable Galaxy Tab 10.1V.

But the nearly identical Xoom still packs a punch that makes it worthy of consideration as an iPad alternative.

Boasting a bigger, higher-resolution screen, the ability to play Flash video and, uniquely, a USB port to connect keyboards, cameras, etc, the Motorola reaches parts the iPad cannot.

Yet that's not the whole story, with the iPad winning out on battery life, software and weight.

The Xoom's poorly positioned power and volume buttons, for instance, are classic examples of ill-considered design.

More importantly, Honeycomb is anything but the finished article, lacking some polish and a broad range of tablet apps.

Available only through O2 in just one flavour (32GB with WiFi/3G), the Xoom has been sensibly priced at €630 -- €70 below the equivalent iPad.

It doesn't set the world alight the way many had expected and it's very similar to the Galaxy Tab 10.1V. But it shows Apple can't rest on its laurels yet.

HTC obviously took one look at the crowded tablet market and decided it needed something to stand out. Perhaps a stylus wasn't exactly the best answer but the Flyer is in a niche all by itself. The tablet's small size has its advantages for portability while not materially affecting usability.

Even the older version of Android on board doesn't matter much.

Thankfully, the stylus is not required for normal operations such as launching applications, tapping or typing -- in fact it can't be used for those at all, bizarrely. Instead, it enables you to scribble notes, draw pictures or make annotations. Most people will find it entirely pointless.

But what will really prevent the Flyer from breaking out of its little ghetto is the cost. Exclusive to the Carphone Warehouse, the 32GB WiFi/3G version retails for €680.

Sorry, HTC, for a seven-inch tablet, that ain't gonna fly.

Game On

Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D

NINTENDO 3DS

RATING: 9.5/10

Nostalgia plays funny tricks with the mind. Revisiting fond memories often ends in disappointment. So it's with a wary eye that we approach this 3D remake of one of the most highly decorated games of all time.

Ocarina of Time had a classic Nintendo design, full of fiendish puzzles, playful characters and dexterous juxtaposition of sunny moments with sudden darkness as evil descends.

But surely it can't hold up 13 years later on a handheld console, slathered in 3D, the effect-du-jour? Surprisingly, the answer is an unqualified yes.

Nintendo has carefully recreated the charming original and tweaked it subtly to appeal to a new audience.

Crisp visuals, clever 3D and smart use of the touchscreen and gyroscope enhance the entertaining adventure.

Perhaps the opening sequence, which acts as an extended tutorial, outstays its welcome and some dungeons still err on the side of frustrating, but Ocarina of Time will introduce a whole new generation to the joys of Zelda.

Infamous 2

PS3

RATING: 8.5/10

If I had a penny for every time I wished bolts of electricity could shoot from my fingertips . . . Oh well, there's always Infamous 2, which heralds the return of troubled anti-hero Cole MacGrath who eats electrons for breakfast.

MacGrath faces a new threat in a post-apocalyptic southern US city overrun by anarchists, and only his electrical superpowers can save the day.

Much like the first game, it plays out like the lovechild of Assassin's Creed and Crackdown, with Cole effortlessly scaling tall buildings before jumping to the ground to kick some anarchist ass.

This sequel has been lavished with attention, from the gorgeous graphics to the host of side-missions, some of which can be created by the players themselves.

Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale

X360/PS3

RATING: 6/10

A dungeon crawler in the Diablo mould, Daggerdale looks and plays as if it came from central casting. All the clich├ęs are present and correct -- goblins, endless loot and grumpy dwarves.

With precious little personality to call its own, only the four-player co-op mode makes it worth a download.

Bits and Bytes

Meteor gets iPhone4

> Meteor and its sister firm eMobile have become the last of the big networks to begin stocking the iPhone 4 -- but don't forget the iPhone 5 is just a couple of months away.

The plans look reasonably attractive but bear in mind, Meteor's 3G network is not nearly as extensive of that of its rivals.

www.meteor.ie

www.emobile.ie

New pollen alert app

> Hayfever sufferers can download a new Irish app (for iPhone and Android) that alerts them to high pollen levels in the air. Find Pollen Alert in your phone's specific app store.

EA online game store

> Games giant EA has launched its own online store where you can download the latest titles for the PC.

The site, called Origin, already stocks more than 150 games for direct download.

Report: Android slowly losing market share

Android's rather sizable share of the U.S. smartphone market declined slightly from 52.4% to 49.5% last quarter.

Although it is probably far too early to draw any real conclusions from the above-mentioned data, at least one analyst believes Android's downward spiral will continue to accelerate.

"In our opinion, this is just the beginning of Android's share loss in the U.S.," Needham & Co. analyst Charlie Wolf wrote in an investors note obtained by AppleInsider.

While Wolf predicted Android would regain market share duringJune-September, the analyst emphasized a "material decline" is likely to begin in the December quarter following the launch of Apple's long-awaited iPhone 5.

Wolf also blamed Android's slight market dip on sales of the iPhone 4 via Verizon's Wireless network, and speculated "the iPhone could launch on the Sprint and T-Mobile networks this fall" - granting Apple yet another significant boost in share.

However, Wolf did concede that Android is "well positioned" in two huge markets: Asia Pacific and the Rest of World regions.

In sharp contrast, Apple is "faced with the challenge" of building an iPhone Lite for prepaid markets like China - where the wildly popular smartphone has yet "to scratch the surface" of the Chinese market which boasts an estimated 896 million mobile phones.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Sony's Music Unlimited comes to Android

ony has released an app making its Music Unlimited online streaming available on smartphones running Google's Android system, amid growing competition from Amazon and Apple in cloud-based services.

Sony's digital cloud-based music service, which launched in December and is available in Europe, the United States, Australia and New Zealand, allows users to stream millions of songs to Sony devices but previously lacked mobile access.

Sony last week said it would restore all Qriocity online music and video distribution services everywhere except Japan after shutting it and the PlayStation Network down in April after hackers compromised personal data from 100 million accounts.

The launch of the new app will make the service available on smartphones running Android as well as devices such as the PlayStation3, Internet-connected Sony televisions and Blu-ray players.

The app will be available to users in the United States, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Spain, Britain, Australia and New Zealand.

The service allows users to stream music content from a catalogue of more than seven milllion songs licensed from labels such as Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, Warner Music Group, EMI Music and independent labels.

Monthly subscription fees start at $3.99.

Earlier this month Apple unveiled its iCloud service that stores music, photos and other content on the Web and shares it across multiple devices.

Online retailer Amazon unveiled its own Cloud Drive and Cloud Player services in March, which allows users to store their digital music online and play it on a computer or an Android device.

History Shows That Google’s Android Tablets Can’t Be Dismissed Just Yet

What’s to be done about the lack of interest in Android tablets? It’s a massive problem for Google (NSDQ: GOOG) and its Android partners, but a look back at the history of Android suggests that Google’s launch-early-iterate-often strategy makes for a significant amount of pain at the outset only to gather momentum later.

We’ve addressed this topic before, but influential iOS developer Marco Arment, creator of Instapaper and an early force at Tumblr, raised it once again this week: why do people just assume that Google can turn Android into something suitable for tablets? By any measure, sales of Android tablets have been disappointing, and the release of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 this week doesn’t seem to have really changed anyone’s mind about the current state of the platform.

Even Research in Motion (NSDQ: RIMM), bedeviled by myriad problems of its own, shipped twice as many Playbooks in the first quarter it was on sale as Motorola shipped Xooms during its debut quarter. Granted, we have no idea how many of those shipments from either company are gathering dust at a Best Buy distribution center somewhere in Missouri, but it’s still a knock on Google and Android partners that retailers were more interested in stocking RIM’s brand-new and unproven operating system than Android, currently the world’s leading smartphone operating system.

Meanwhile, Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) continues to steamroll the competition, shipping 4.69 million iPads during its last quarter. Arment quite rightly notes that tablet software developers would be foolish to spend time writing applications for Android when they have such a huge target right in front of them, and wonders why those reviewing Android tablets assume that those developers will eventually come around to supporting Android.

It’s obviously not a given that Google and the rest of the industry eventually can come up with a true iPad competitor, but it’s also wrong to assume that valuable lessons aren’t being learned from this first generation of Android tablets. Remember the early Android handsets? The G1 was the first, and while it was cute, no one took it seriously as a response to the iPhone. The same could be said for the Android 1.5 handsets, like the MyTouch or Samsung Moment.

It wasn’t until Motorola (NYSE: MMI) came up with the Droid, Google improved the software to the 2.0 version, and Verizon got on board in a big way that Android really started to capture the attention of the public and developers, a year after the G1 made its debut. Things then snowballed from there, as HTC, Samsung, and Motorola started to produce better and better devices backed up by solid software.

It has only been six months since Motorola showed off the Xoom at CES, and three months since Samsung showed off the Galaxy Tab 10.1 at CTIA. At the same point in the evolution of Android for handsets, only the G1 was available.

In other words, just because Android tablets aren’t a success off the bat doesn’t mean they’ll never be a factor. There’s certainly no question that the current combination of Android tablet hardware and software can’t hold a candle to the iPad. Arment notes that developers choose to work on platforms for two of three reasons: they like the technology personally, they notice a groundswell of support for the technology among the public, and they can make money. The iPad fulfilled all three, he wrote, while Android tablets have yet to cross off anything from that list.

Later this year, however,Google intends to release an updated version of Android that will unite the tablet and smartphone versions of the operating system and hopefully right many of the wrongs of the Android tablet experience, such as the bugs and the cranky user interface. Timed against the holiday season with solid promotional efforts from partners (and perhaps the long-rumored Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) Android tablet), there is absolutely still an opportunity for Android—a well-known brand name—to make its mark.

Google, unlike Apple, tends to release products or services as soon as it thinks possible while making tweaks along the way after it amasses enough data in the wild to inform its decisions. Apple, on the other hand, waits until it is truly satisfied with a product before even acknowledging it exists.

They are different ways of doing business, and while one can spend hours arguing over which approach is best, it’s clear that when it comes to smartphones both have had their advantages. There’s no reason why tablets, a similar mobile computing platform in a different package, won’t evolve along the same lines.

HTC launches Sensation in Indian market news

With its latest offering Sensation, Taiwanese manufacturer HTC, has added yet another dual-core Android smartphone in the market, along with the Samsung Galaxy S2 and the LG Optimus 2X.

HTC SensationThe HTC Sensation which comes with a 4.3-inch qHD display having a resolution of 960 x 540, and is powered by a 1.2 GHz dual-core processor running Android 2.3 Gignerbread. The device also includes an 8 Mp rear camera with dual-LED flash, capable of recording at 1080p HD. It features 768MB of RAM and 1GB internal storage for applications.

Its price at Rs32,700 and is expected to give a run for its money to the Samsung Galaxy S2 which is officially priced at Rs32,990 and is also available in the Indian market.

Meanwhile, HTC's announcement via its UK facebook page this week must thrown a scare into HTC Desire owners. HTC said, that the popular smartphone would not get an Android 2.3 Gingerbread update.

Considering that the Desire is barely a year old, the news must have caught the users by surprise, they add. The statement even caught UK wireless carrier Three off guard by the statement. it apologised to its subscribers.

In a retraction, later, HTC said the Desire would get a Gingerbread update, but it will need to "cut select (Sense) apps from the release" to free up some memory for the software. Both the UK and US versions of the Desire come with 512MB ROM, while more recent products in the Desire line pack a 1GB of memory.

The news of the potential loss of applications does not seem to be too much of a cause for worry for users. A quick look through the company's Facebook page reveals that plenty of users would be fine without apps such as Peep, Friend Stream, or Footprints.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Lookout integrates 'safe browsing' on Android

Socially engineered threats remain a major security concern on mobile devices, so to help protect its users Lookout Mobile Security (download) has added "safe browsing" to its premium version today at no extra cost. Safe browsing checks links you tap before they load in your device's Web browser to make sure they don't lead to phishing scams or malware.

Safe browsing is not quite widely available yet on mobile devices, even though it potentially can threaten mobile device users as easily as it does people using laptops and desktops. In an interview last week at CNET's San Francisco office, Lookout's Chief Technology Officer Kevin Mahaffey discussed what he thinks are the next big mobile security problems. "The two things we saw coming were drive-by downloads and exploits on Web sites. Since almost all web browsing on mobile is done with Webkit, Webkit exploits will affect almost everybody," he said. Webkit is the underlying rendering engine that powers the default mobile browser on iOS, most of the mobile browsers including the default on Android, as well as Google Chrome and Apple Safari on the desktop.

Lookout's Safe Browsing shows up as a new option on its main screen. Tapping it only reveals a brief description about the feature because it's designed to be baked right into the main interface, said Anbu Anbalagapandian, a senior software engineer at Lookout. "As Steve Jobs says, it just works," she added.

When you click on a link from within any app, Lookout will detect your browser opening and then check where the link is going to before the page loads. If the Web site is safe, Lookout will show a message stating as much in the notifications window. You won't see it unless you pull down the notifications window immediately after tapping a link.

If a malicious link is detected, Safe Browsing asks you if you'd like to Block the site or Proceed Anyway. In brief testing, Lookout's Safe Browsing successfully blocked the browser from loading five known malicious sites.

To get the update, either install the app and upgrade to the premium version, or update your current installation of Lookout. It is also available during the app's trial period. While adding the feature to Lookout isn't going to change the face of mobile security, safe browsing is absolutely a smart feature to include in any mobile security app.

HTC Gingerbread farce is undermining Android

Apparently, HTC's engineers were schooled at Hogwarts - the phone manufacturer has managed to create a secret stash of memory on every HTC Desire in the world in less than 24 hours.

That's the only explanation I can come to after watching the Android 2.3 car crash on HTC's Facebook page.

Yesterday's news that the HTC Desire, one of its most popular phones and the handset that propelled it (and Android) to the forefront of the smartphone game, wouldn't be getting Android 2.3 was devastating to many that were waiting for all the goodies the new version would bring.

But I was willing to accept the explanation: HTC discovered there wasn't enough memory on board, and it would be the stupidest move conceivable to tout an update that it knew couldn't ever be delivered, so it made sense to own up sooner rather than later.

Of course, it IS possible to get Android 2.3 on a Desire... just ask the thousands of custom ROM users that have been rocking the upgrade for months. It's the Sense overlay that sucks the additional power, so I assumed that in a bid to make sure it didn't offer any kind of poorer experience, HTC took the safe option.

Then today, hours after the first Gingerbread admission, we get the news : 'Oh, sorry, it turns out we CAN bring Android 2.3 to the Desire. Our mistake'.

Did an engineer hold a Flyer upside down when reading the results of a test? Was this the biggest Frape of recent times? Or is HTC just so naive that it thinks it can upset a whole boatload of consumers and then happily show it was bluffing at the merest hint of unrest?

HTC needs some more Sense

Usually, I'd label this a climb down - a manufacturer making a decision and then reneging due to the unexpected backlash. But there's no way that HTC could have thought that consumers weren't going to care about the lack of an upgrade, so I am totally and utterly baffled by this decision.

HTC MUST have seen the pain networks went through last year with the delayed Android updates - consumers getting increasingly irate on forums at perceived idiocy and apathy and in extreme cases leaving the network altogether, so I assumed it was a lesson learnt and brands would know not to mess around with mixed Android messages again.

And what's worse is that the upgrade isn't that important in the grand scheme of things. Sure, there are some fancy new tricks for your phone with the Android 2.3, but most users won't even be aware there's an upgrade in the ether, let alone be able to appreciate any benefit it may bring.

So HTC, for the sake of Android's advancement and to stop consumer outrage at the Google mobile platform, please work out whether one of the phones YOU designed for an OS YOU were instrumental in creating is capable of running an update before you decide to make a big announcement about it.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Google Pulls More Malware-Infected Apps From Android Market

Android Logo

Google has removed more apps from its Android Market due to malware, some of which appear to exploit the popularity of apps like Angry Birds.

Google removed 10 apps from the market pending investigation after they were discovered and reported by Xuxian Jiang, an assistant professor at NC State University's Department of Computer Science.

"While continuing an Android-related research project after the discovery of the DroidKungFu and YZHCSMS malware, my research team also came across a new stealthy Android spyware in the Official Android Market," Jiang said in a statement.

Known as Plankton, the spyware "does not attempt to root Android phones but instead is designed to be stealthy by running the payload under the radar," Jiang wrote. "In fact, Plankton is the first one that we are aware of that exploits Dalvik class loading capability to stay stealthy and dynamically extend its own functionality."

There are at least 10 Plankton apps from three different developers, Jiang said. Their stealth nature has enabled them to remain undetected in the market for more than two months.

On Friday, Webroot analysts Andrew Brandt and Armando Orozco took a closer look at Plankton and found that it was focused on the popular game series Angry Birds. "Some of the samples we looked at came as Android apps with names like Angry Birds Rio Unlocker v1.0, Angry Birds Multi User v1.00 or Angry Birds Cheater Trainer Helper V2.0," they wrote in a blog post.

When you install the offending apps, you'll see the following message: "Welcome! Simply click on the button below to unlock ALL levels in Angry Birds Rio. This will not delete your scores but might change the number of pineapples and bananas you have."

Of course, the apps do no such thing. "Instead, the malicious apps install additional code into the Android device into which they're installed," Webroot said. "These additional functions provide remote access and control of the Android device to, presumably, the distributor of the malicious apps, whose identity remains unknown at this time."

Luckily, the Plankton creators labeled their code very distinctly, making it easy to wipe from a phone, Webroot said. Unlike other malicious apps, Plankton appears to provide access to sensitive data on a phone like browser history, bookmarks, and homepage settings in the built-in Android browser. Other malware apps have worked to obtain root, or administrative, access to the operating system.

Webroot, however, said it is investigating a "command-and-control server, which sends back instructions for the app to download an additional Java .JAR file."

"Early reports from the university researchers indicate that the payloads are simply reworked versions of the remote access code embedded in the Trojan, modified so they're slightly harder to detect using existing antivirus signatures," the researchers said.

How do you protect yourself? Webroot suggested using a little common sense. "Does the app sound like what it promises to do is too good to be true? Does it ask for all kinds of permissions that it shouldn't need to fulfill its mission? Did you get it from the official Market or a legitimate app store such as Amazon, or from some random app collection? If you can answer yes to any (or all) of these questions, just don't install the app."

This is just the latest in a string of malware apps removed from the Android Market. Earlier this month, Google removed more than two dozen apps from the Android Market due to malware. It was identified by mobile security firm Lookout thanks to a tip from a developer who noticed that modified versions of his and other apps were being distributed in the Android Market.

In early March, Google remotely deleted a series of applications from users' phones due to malware known as DroidDream and released a security update to rectify the problem.

Unlike Apple, Google does not monitor its apps once they are in the Android Market, responding only to complaints.

"We don't generally go back and try to make sure that every app does what it says it's going to do. [Google is] really trying to maximize the ability of small app developers to get online," Alan Davidson, director of public policy at Google, said during a recent appearance on Capitol Hill.

5 Reasons to (Still) Consider Android Over the iPhone, iOS 5

As with past iPhone updates, iOS 5 plays catch-up with Apple's competitors and Android in particular, while adding unique features such as Twitter integration, iMessage, and online storage through iCloud.

But is that enough to solidify the iPhone's standing as the best smartphone around? Not necessarily. Android still has several features that the iPhone lacks, and may still be worth considering if these features are important to you:

GPS Navigation

Android phones have offered free, voice-guided GPS since October 2009, whereas the iPhone's Maps app requires users to look at their handsets and read off directions as they drive.

The iPhone has third-party apps with turn-by-turn voice guidance, such as Mapquest, but Android's built-in method allows users to jump directly into navigation from address links in other apps. With the iPhone, you must manually copy and paste the address into your app of choice.

Setting Default Apps

The iPhone's lack of native GPS navigation wouldn't be an issue if you could set third-party apps as the default for certain functions. On Android, if you want to use alternative apps for mail, Web browsing or navigation, you can set those apps as the default for all related functions.

For instance, setting Dolphin HD as the default Web browser opens all links from other apps in Dolphin instead of the stock Android browser. It's a subtle feature that makes customization much easier on Android compared to the iPhone.

Expanded voice commands

The rumor of expanded voice commands in iOS5 didn't pan out, so for now, Android provides more voice command options that are built directly into the operating system.

Android users can dictate e-mails and text messages and get directions by speaking to the phone. They can also load music in third-party apps such as Pandora with the "listen to" command, whereas the iPhone's music-by-voice feature is only linked to the iPod app.

Widgets

Android widgets can show certain types of information directly on the home screen, such as breaking news, sports scores, incoming messages, or media playback controls. In fairness, a lot of Android widgets add unnecessary clutter to the phone, but if you can find the right widgets for you, they'll either save time or present information that you might've otherwise overlooked.

Hardware choices

Software features aside, Android provides more hardware choices for phone buyers, including handsets with bigger screens, physical keyboards or features not yet available on the iPhone, such as dual-core processors. The iPhone 4's hardware is excellent, but it may not be the perfect fit for you.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Microsoft: Port your Android apps to Windows Phone

In an effort to get more developers on board, Microsoft has unveiled a tool designed to help Android developers port their apps over to Windows Phone.

In a blog post yesterday, Microsoft cautioned that there's no "magic wand" for Android developers that can automatically port their apps to Windows Phone. But the company is hoping that a new API tool, white paper, and other technical resources can take some of the pain out of the process.

The Android to Windows Phone API mapping tool is designed to serve as a translation guide for developers, comparing different program events, classes, and methods in Android with their counterparts in Windows Phone. So a developer familiar with Android can learn what API calls should be used in Windows Phone to perform various tasks.

The API Mapping tool also provides a feedback page where developers can share their questions and ideas.

Microsoft concedes that since Android and Windows Phone use different architectures and interfaces, not all of the APIs are covered in the mapping tool. Though the company is trying to expand the scope of the tool, for now it's also relying on an "App Guy" to help out further.

The App Guy monitors various developer forums scouting around for questions and discussions specifically related to porting apps from Android to Windows Phone and includes a summary of them on the App Guy page.

And for developers who don't mind a bit of heavy technical reading, Microsoft is also offering a 90-page white paper dubbed the "Windows Phone 7 Guide for Android Application Developers."

Next on Microsoft's to do list is a plan to include features from the new Mango update into the API mapping tool, which it hopes to accomplish this summer.

The new API mapping tool for Android is Microsoft's latest effort to lure even more developers to the Windows Phone platform. The folks in Redmond already offer similar resources for iPhone programers.

Motorola’s Photon 4G gives Sprint an Android boost

For those looking for some new options around Android devices, Motorola’s (MMI) new Photon 4G and Triumph are worth considering. The Photon 4G is the first Android-powered Motorola device on Sprint’s (S) network, while the Triumph is exclusive to Virgin Mobile US (VMED). Helping along Sprint’s 4G push, the Photon 4G is the network’s first dual-core phone, powered by an NVIDIA (NVDA) Tegra 2 processor and running Gingerbread. It’s 4.3 inch aHD display is the same as the Atrix 4G, and even comes with a similar webtop docking device (sold separately).

The Triumph, on the other hand, is a prepaid device with nearly as many features as other smartphones in the market. It has a 4.1-inch WVGA display, dual-facing cameras and a very slim design. It runs Android 2.2 and comes pre-loaded with Virgin Mobile Live 2.0, a socially-driven music app. There’s even an HDMI port, a feature usually reserved for high-end devices. The pricing and availability details on both the Photon and the Triumph have yet to be announced, but Sprint and Motorola have set summertime launches for both.

Carriers look beyond devices to lure buyers

Sexy devices for the business world and the working class makes for a broad Android appeal, a tactic that’s enabled Google (GOOG) to spread its mobile platform across carriers and consumers. And the mobile app ecosystem that’s emerged is also giving carriers some leverage for monetization and marketing. T-Mobile has teamed up with WildTangent, a platform to monetize Android games. The service will embed ads in games, supplementing download costs for rentals. It acts as a discovery tool for premium games, ultimately encouraging users to purchase top titles. WildTangent is promoting its WildCoins virtual currency system for in-game purchases, pushing third party developers to extend their reach.

Google working on a better messaging system?

Google’s determined to instill as many features as it can to encourage growth and adoption around its mobile OS, with word of a new messaging system that could rival RIM’s (RIMM) BlackBerry Messenger and Apple’s (AAPL) iMessage. Few details have emerged around the system, but developing beyond its existing Google Talk and other IM capabilities would put Android in a more competitive position. Instant messaging is an important aspect of mobile communications, with Apple outlining a significant update to its own messaging system at WWDC earlier this week. Messaging is central to BlackBerry’s hold on the market, and luring them away would require Google to push its own comparable app, instead of relying on third-party apps to do the job.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Toshiba Thrive Android tablet goes on sale in July starting at $429 for 8GB version

Toshiba is the latest company to throw its hat into the tablet ring, as its Android-based Thrive slate has been given a release date and pricing.

As with many, many others, the Thrive is powered by the new 3.1 version of Android, a.k.a. Honeycomb, and will ship in the U.S. starting July 10. The 10.1-inch tablet is powered by Nvidia’s Tegra 2 chip, has a front-facing Webcam and rear-facing 5-megapixel camera, and sports USB, mini-USB, and HDMI ports, along with an SD memory card slot. But its Internet connectivity is Wi-Fi only, which means your mobile access to the Web is limited to hotspots.

You’ll be able to pre-order the Thrive starting on June 13. At $429, the base model is $70 cheaper than the iPad 2, but you only get 8GB of storage for the price. For 16GB, the Thrive still costs $20 less than the base iPad 2 at $479, and the 32GB version is similarly cheaper at $579. There is no 64GB flavor of the Thrive, however. (Pricing via eWeek.)

With so many Honeycomb tablets set to enter the market, it will be hard for consumers to differentiate between them. Toshiba is apparently banking on its price point (about $20 less than the 16GB Acer Iconia Tab A500, but $30 more than the 16GB Asus Eee Pad Transformer) and name recognition to get some traction in what will be a highly competitive field of Android slates.

Hands-on with the HTC Sensation 4G; the Android smartphone to get on T-Mobile

My favorite Android device for T-Mobile so far has been the Google Nexus One and that has now been bumped by HTC and its slick HTC Sensation 4G. The Sensation 4G launches at select WalMart stores on 12 June and T-Mobile stores on 15 June for $199.99 after $50 mail-in rebate and contract. You can check out a few photos of the Sensation 4G in my image gallery along with a video walk through and more initial thoughts on the device below.



Image Gallery: Check out a few photos of the HTC Sensation 4G on T-Mobile.
Image Gallery: Sensation 4G retail box
Image Gallery: Back of Sensation 4G in hand

In the box and first impressions

The HTC Sensation 4G comes in one of those excellent durable and compact T-Mobile packages that includes the Sensation 4G, SIM card, battery, A/C adapter, USB cable, wired stereo headset, and some pamphlets. The box contains a glossy image of the device and information on the device and services.

I immediately noticed the slight curvature around the edges of the display where the glass curves up to meet the edges of the display bezel. The device has nice curves and felt much like the Nexus One in my hand, even though it was a bit wider and longer. I turned it on and immediately saw the improvement in resolution due to the qHD implementation.

Specifications

Specifications for the HTC Sensation 4G include the following:

  • Android 2.3.3 Gingerbread
  • 1.2 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon dual-core processor
  • 4.3 inch qHD 540×960 pixels super LCD display
  • 768 MB RAM
  • Integrated 4GB flash drive (only 1GB accessible) with microSD expansion card slot (8GB card included)
  • 8 megapixel camera with duel-LED flash and 1080p video recording capability
  • VGA front facing camera
  • Proximity sensor, light sensor and digital compass
  • Dual microphones for noise suppression
  • Integrated A-GPS
  • Wi-Fi (802.11 b/g/n)
  • Bluetooth 3.0
  • 3.5 mm headset jack
  • 1520 mAh lithium-ion battery
  • Dimensions: 126.1 x 65.4 x 11.3 mm and 148 grams

The Google Nexus One measures 119×59.8×11.5 and 130 grams so it is smaller than the Sensation 4G, but this display is much larger. The high resolution qHD looks fantastic on the Sensation 4G. The back is unique with the three colors and panels and feels great in my hand. The device is rock solid and definitely one to consider if you are a T-Mobile customer.

Walk around the hardware

The front of the Sensation 4G is dominated by the contoured front 4.3 inch display that looks fantastic in qHD resolution. It is a super LCD display and works quite well indoors and outdoors. The contour is subtle, but adds a bit of style to the device and reminds me a bit of what LG did with the G2x. There are four capacitive touch buttons, indicator light hidden in the handset speaker grill, front facing VGA camera, and proximity sensor.

There is nothing on the bottom or right side while you can find the volume button and microUSB port on the left side. The microUSB port also serves as the HDMI connection port with the MHL adapter (sold separately). The 3.5mm headset jack and small power button are located on the top.

The two LED flash lights, mono speaker, and 8 megapixel camera are found on the upper back of the Sensation 4G. The camera lens is inset from the back a bit so there is no real danger of scratching it while a small lip on the back case also adds some protection.

Quick thoughts on the software and performance

The HTC Sensation 4G runs Gingerbread (Android 2.3.3) with the major improvement being the implementation of HTC Sense 3.0. This new version of Sense provides you with an active lock screen similar to what we see on the HTC Flyer Android tablet. Lock screen options include wallpaper with weather, social networking friend stream, photo gallery, stocks, and clock. You also have the ability to customize four shortcuts on the lock screen to apps you wish to launch. Shortcuts assigned to the lock screen can be dragged to the lock screen circle that will launch you directly into that particular application. If you have the friend stream or photo gallery wallpaper selected then dragging a photo or status update to the circle takes you to that image or feed directly as well.

The lock screen also functions with incoming calls and text messages where you can drag and drop your choices into the lock screen ring to activate them.

HTC Watch is the video rental/purchase service on the device with most rentals at about $2.99. HTC also has a new Listen service with a label of MusicStation when you launch it. I couldn’t find who is powering the music service, but there were very few available selections and it seems that the service is just in its infancy with no details provided anywhere online.

Your apps can also be filtered by frequent ones and those you downloaded by simply tapping on the different icons at the bottom of your app launcher.

Pricing and availability

The HTC Sensation 4G will be available soon for $199.99 with a minimum voice and data plan with 2-year contract after a $50 mail-in rebate. WalMart will reportedly get it first at selected stores on 12 June with T-Mobile launching it on 15 June.

Summarizing my first thoughts

The HTC Sensation 4G is a very attractive choice for Android on T-Mobile and if I was looking for a new phone I would definitely pick one up. However, I am a fan of Windows Phone 7 and also have my own HTC Flyer so I think I’ll be skipping this one for now. The specifications are top notch with the only limiting one being the 14.4 Mbps HSPA+ radio. I still saw fast download speeds of 7 to 9 Mbps, which is plenty fast for a mobile phone.

Reception has been great so far and I have been quite impressed by the battery life. I haven’t noticed any lagging or anything and the dual-core processor appears to be performing well.

Let me know if you have any questions and I’ll try to answer them since I still have a couple of weeks to spend with the device.

ComScore: Android captures top spot in U.S. smartphone market

ComScore recently released the latest big statistics for the U.S. mobile phone market, and everyone involved with Android is probably pleased right about now.

Representing a three-month period ending on April 30, the results reflect the 234 million Americans (ages 13 and older) who use mobile devices - 74.6 million of whom own smartphones.

As far as smartphones go, Google’s Android is currently in the lead with 36.4 percent of the market share, just a little over 10 percent ahead of Apple and its iOS platform. The only smartphone platforms that suffered losses in the last three months were (unsurprisingly) RIM, Microsoft and Palm.

As far as mobile OEMs go, Samsung is the top dog with 24.5 percent of the U.S. market share, although it actually suffered a small point decrease. LG gained by a very slight margin to secure the number two spot, followed by Motorola, Apple and RIM respectively.

Of the latter three, only Apple gained more in the market share, which isn’t bad considering it is only selling the iPhone 3GS and 4 still. The only “new” devices that Apple produced since January was the iPhone 4 on Verizon and the same device in white in April.

Related coverage on ZDNet:

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Friday, June 3, 2011

Google delays Android 3.1 until August. Halts Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and 8.9 shipments till then

Bad news for Android fans waiting to get the latest Honeycomb tablet running 3.1 version of OS. Android 3.1 has problems and Google decided to delay it’s launch until August “for most countries”.

And it gets worse. The tablets that were supposed to ship with Android 3.1 – Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and 8.9 – have been delayed until then too.

For now it’s still a rumor. But it comes from a pretty reliable source – Mobile-Review.com’s Eldar Murtazin – who usually gets things right, especially this close to the device launch. So I’m pretty sure we won’t be seeing Android 3.1 tablets here in Europe until August.

Poor Samsung. With Galaxy line they have been a key part of the Android success story from the second half of 2010. They made the first “official” Android tablet, they even partnered with big G to make the second official Google Phone – Nexus S, they gave 5000 Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablets away at Google I/O event. They have jumped through every hoop Google asked them to and shipped more Android devices then anyone else. Heck – they are kicking iPhone’s arse with Android flagship in some major markets.

And then they get screwed by Google on a major product launch in big way. For the second time in less then a year!

Google first screwed Samsung with the launch Galaxy S smartphone last June. At the time the search giant was very worried that it’s major Android partners were replacing Google’s location technology with the solution provided by a small location service provider called Skyhook. Google first learned about it in April, when Motorola decided to ship it’s next Droid with Skyhook solution. Google then refused to certify Motorola’s Droid 2 as Android compatible device until Motorola removed Skyhook’s location technology. Motorola complied, delaying it’s Droid 2 launch and then shipping it with Google’s location solution which they perceived to be inferior to Skyhook’s. Only to learn that Google allowed Samsung to start shipping it’s Galaxy S handset with the same Skyhook technology that Google now said is not Android compatible.

When Motorola complained, Google ordered Samsung to halt all the shipments of Galaxy S with Skyhook’s tech. Even with tens of thousand’s of Galaxies already sold or on the way to carrier customers. And Samsung had no other choice but to comply, stop all Galaxy S shipments and hastily replace Skyhook with Google’s location provider. Remember all the GPS/location problems Galaxy S had last summer? Yep – most likely it was about that.

Here we go again. With the pre-order options and promised mid-June shipping dates popping up around the world, I’d say thousands of Samsung Galaxy Tabs are en route to the carriers and distributors. And now they will have to sit in the warehouses for a couple of months, until Google fixes whatever last minute bug they found in Android 3.1.

In the meantime, potential customers will keep snapping HTC Flyers, Motorola Xooms and Asus transformers with even buggier Android 3.0 OS.

I don’t think Samsung is happy today.

T-Mobile Building Up Low-Price Android Selection

Bellvue, Wash. - Carrier T-Mobile is building up its selection of entry-level Android smartphones with the planned launch of two Samsung-made models, including the carrier's first 4G Android phone to be launched at less than $100.

The low-priced 4G Android smartphone is the Samsung Exhibit 4G, due sometime in June with the 21Mbps versions of HSPA+ 4G technology. The device, priced at $79.99 with two-year service agreement, will feature Android 2.3 Gingerbread OS, 1GHz processor, and Samsung's Media Hub service, which offers downloads of movies and TV episodes on a purchase and rental basis. It also comes with front-facing camera for video chats over Wi-Fi and cellular.

The other sub-$100 Android phone is the Samsung Gravity SMART, also due sometime this month at $69.99 in red and blue and at $29.99 for a gray-color version available only on T-Mobile's web site. The Gravity Smart features Android 2.2 OS, slide-out QWERTY keyboard, and 3.2-inch touch screen.

Late last year, the carrier unveiled its first four Android phones to launch at prices of less than $100. They are the:

--Huawei-made T-Mobile Comet was originally priced at $9.99 and is now available as a free phone.

--LG Optimus T with Google, originally available at $29.99 and now free.

-- and the ruggedized Motorola Defy, launched at $99.99 but now available at $49.

The Motorola Charm, launched late last year at $49.99, is no longer listed on the carrier's web site.