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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Mercury Launches Sub-10K Android Tablet

Powered by a 1.2 GHz Telechip 8803 Cortex A8 processor with three cores, the mTab has 512 MB RAM and 4 GB internal storage, with an additional 32 GB option via a memory card. It sports a 7" WVGA (800x480) capacitive touch screen with multi-touch support. Connectivity options are available using Wi-Fi, and using an external 3G USB module, which will be made available with 3G packages bundled along with the tablet for free internet surfing.

The mTab features a front 1.3 MP camera, useful for video conferencing, shooting photos and videos. In addition to the most popular audio formats, it supports playback of several popular video formats including Divx, MPG, and MP4 up to 1080p using the HDMI output. The 4000 mAh battery claims to support about four hours of video playback. PC connectivity is provided via a USB 2.0 port, while a 3.5 mm stereo jack lets you plug in headphones. The tablet supports motion sensing 3D games using the G sensor built in it. With dimensions of 19.3 x 11.7 x 1.4 cm and weighing 400 grams, this is very handy as well.

Mercury Launches Sub-10K Android Tablet

The Mercury mTab comes at just Rs 9,499, and is backed by a 1-year warranty. From what is on offer in the specifications sheet, this looks like a very promising tablet at a very reasonable price.

Sony Ericsson launches two Android smartphones

Xperia Ray will be available in the second week of September while Xperia Active may hit the markets in the 4th week of the month and are expected to be priced between Rs 17,000-Rs 20,000.

Sony Ericsson has launched two new smartphones in India under its Xperia brand. Both phones - Xperia Active and Xperia Ray - were announced in June during the CommunicAsia 2011 event in Singapore and feature the latest Android 2.3 operating system along with a 1 GHz processor. With this, the Xperia brand will include nine phones and there are more to come.

Xperia Ray will be available in the second week of September while Xperia Active may hit the markets in the 4th week of the month. Both the handsets are expected to be priced between Rs 17,000-Rs 20,000.

Xperia Active has a 3 inch reality display with Sony's Mobile Bravia display technology, and a 5 megapixel camera with HD video functionality. It is a dust and water resistant phone, and incorporates wet finger tracking which means that the phone works perfectly even when the screen or the user's fingers are wet.

Sony Ericsson's Xperia Active is for health conscious people and comes pre-loaded with sports apps that enable consumers to easily track their fitness levels. Users can set their ideal training route using the built-in GPS, barometer and compass. The on-screen heart rate and pulse can be monitored in real time (enabled by ANT+ wireless networking technology), while the iMapMyFitness app can monitor day to day performance. In addition, Facebook inside Xperia allows consumers to share their progress and experiences with friends.

The phone comes with a changeable soft-touch back cover, and detachable ear hooks for the portable handsfree that ensure the earpieces remain in place while you are running. It is packed with a wrist strap and arm case for use during workouts as well.

The phone is not the lightest - it weighs about 110.8 grams. Besides, the battery has a capacity of 1,200 mAh, which is measly for smartphones. We hope that Sony Ericsson has some tricks up its sleeve to make the battery last a full day.

The other new Sony phone is called Xperia Ray. Aimed more at style conscious consumers the phone comes with a sleek aluminium frame, reality display, mobile Bravia engine, and a 3.3 inch screen.

Xperia Ray, which also runs on the latest Android platform for smartphones (Gingerbread 2.3), is powered by a 1 GHz processor. The phone is quite sleek, with a thickness of 9.4 mm, and it looks gorgeous.

Besides, it has an 8.1 megapixel camera with Exmor R Sony camera technology and HD video functionality, which means that the camera will be one of the best, if not the best, in its class.

Xperia Ray incorporates a front facing camera and a scratch resistant screen with excellent resolution and brightness, and integrated touch keys. The phone is light at just 100 grams. All the other bells and whistles of the smartphone such as WiFi, 3G, Bluetooth and DLNA are all present.

MTS launches android-based smartphones priced sub Rs 5,000

The smartphones -- MTS MTag 3.1 and MTS Livewire -- are based on Qualcomm's mobile processors.

"Launched in the sub Rs 5,000 category, these are the most affordable Android smartphones in India," MTS India President and CEO Vsevolod Rozanov said at an event here.

The sleek MTS MTag 3.1 from Huawei comes with audio and video player with and a 3.2 megapixel camera. MTS MTag 3.1 provides easy access to Google Mail, YouTube, Google Talk and Google Maps.

"MTS MTag 3.1 comes loaded with a host of features, including Voice Search and a 3.2 megapixel camera. It is targeted at mobile entrepreneurs and business executives who need to stay connected while being on the move," Huawei India CEO Max Yang said.

Further, MTS Livewire from ZTE runs on CDMA EV-DO network and provides access to high speed Internet.

"This handset provides a great customer experience, including on the go access to Live TV and on demand video playback," ZTE India CEO Cui Liangjun said.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 for IFA 2011 in a Bit More Detail

The team at Samsung blew the top off of the Android world back in November of 2010 when the released the first real Android tablet effort across the world – what the tech world’s next big convention IFA 2011 may hold is the next generation of this very model with an added 0.7-inches and a Super AMOLED display. As we know from leaked details contained in Samsung’s own official “Unpacked” app for IFA in Berlin, they certainly will be releasing what’s called the Galaxy Tab 7.7. Aside a “Galaxy Note” device that’ll likely have something to do with a stylus for mobile devices and the “Wave 3,” a Bada device with a 4-inch Super AMOLED display,, the Galaxy Tab 7.7 would be the second reported upgrade to a device already out on the market with slightly lesser specifications.

What we can expect from the Galaxy Tab 7.7 was revealed earlier this month on August 11th where we got our hands on a leaked roadmap of Samsung devices which also let us in on possible specs for the first Ice Cream Sandwich device, the Nexus Prime (though we don’t call it that in the roadmap article, learn about how it was confirmed twice just yesterday on our sister site Android Community.) What this leaked roadmap tells us is that the tablet will be the next Android tablet in line to run Google’s official tablet-ready mobile OS Android 3.x Honeycomb.

In addition, this same roadmap lets us in on the idea that this tablet will come in two versions: P6200 and P6210 (or P6100), the latter being a Wi-Fi only device while the former will be an HSPA+ device (we’re hoping for the 4G LTE version sooner than later, if you know what I mean.) Next we believe this tablet will have a 3 megapixel camera on the back, a 2 megapixel camera on the front, and will have a rather impressive display to tote along.

Possible Galaxy Tab 7.7 Refresh for IFA 2011 via DroidLife

Note that the photos above (at least one of them) have the Android menu row of soft keys, this indicating that the device will not be running Android 3.x Honeycomb.

Now here’s where it gets a bit more interesting: this device is said to have a 1024 x 600 pixel display – that’s all well and good on it’s own – but what we MAY be looking at here is a massively impressive (compared to current tablet-sized displays) Super AMOLED screen. Though back on the 12th of August the folks at Samsung insisted that the roadmap and some other details of future devices seen on several blogs were not accurate, we’ve got to keep considering what was noted:

Some media have been reporting that Samsung is preparing to launch nine new smartphones and two new tablet devices. While Samsung is continuously working on new devices for our customers, the details being cited are not accurate in this case.

We appreciate the interest in our upcoming mobile devices and will share more information once its available.

Prototype 7-inch Super AMOLED Samsung Mobile Display at FPD 2010

Beyond (or perhaps in spite of) Samsung’s words here, details on a 7-inch Super AMOLED display have been popping up since November of 2010. Inside that month we got to see a lovely glance at an early vision of a 7-inch Super AMOLED Galaxy Tab-style display. On the other hand, on May 2nd, 2011, we were again told by Samsung that there’d be no Super AMOLED tablets inside 2011. We shall see!

Note that we will of course be up and ready at the Samsung event (and many other events) during IFA 2011 in Berlin next week. Stick with us for coverage galore!

UPDATE: also note that Samsung’s official IFA 2011 website is now up and running – at the moment with just a placeholder image, fully functional soon I’m sure.

Life Is Crime location-based MMORPG now available on the Android Market


Currently on the Android Market we have a few really good location-based MMORPG titles to play if you enjoy that sort of game. Red Robot, however, has brought another one to Android called Life Is Crime which, as you may have guessed from the title, is a crime game instead of a zombie or fantasy one.

If you haven't played a location-based game of any kind, essentially it uses your location for most aspects of gameplay within the game whether it's infecting someone and turning them into a zombie or taking over their part of the city in a more strategy-based location game. With a locationn-based MMORPG title, it's the same location-based gameplay idea but in an MMORPG theme where you can complete quests, fight monsters and other people and most other activities you find in an MMORPG.


  • Real World Game Map: Our map allows players to see a rich visual representation of the real world. Locations drawn on the map grow with player interaction and map persistence allows players and places to become legendary over time.
  • Leaderboard & PvP: Fight other players at different locations and climb to the number one spot on the leaderboard!
  • Reputation: Become notorious within your town or city - fight and dominate territory to keep your Rep high.
  • Missions: The mission system takes every day, real places in your routine - coffee shops, banks, gas stations - and matches them to location-based missions, virtually enabling players to complete the “Destroy ATMs” mission at any bank, in any town.
  • Deal Contraband: Players can pick-up and drop off virtual contraband at real locations and profit.
  • Location-based GameFeed: The GameFeed allows players to see gameplay and gamers at locations around them. The GameFeed also enables players to share achievements, goals, and gameplay moments with other players. Find new places and players.
  • Achievements: Earn over 50 Achievements!
  • Weapons and Gear: Customize your character with over 160 cool weapons and equipment!
  • R2 Gaming Network. The R2 Network also features push notifications and deep integration with social networks such as: Facebook, Twitter and Google.

In Crime Is Life, you are a criminal, along with everyone else who plays the game, looking for the next big score and to become a big time criminal instead of the street corner thug you start off as. You can rob people, make minor drug deals, and other petty criminal acts until you start getting reputation and bigger. Then you can start pulling off bigger crimes like bank heists, bigger drug deals and so on.

The really cool part about this game though isn't so much the criminal aspect of it or the fact it's using the actual map of your city to play it on but that actual locations in your city are where you do your crimes. So if you walk by a bank on the street, in the game chances are it will show up and you'll be able to rob it. Same goes for other locations and other criminal acts. To pull off these crimes though you will need weapons and other gear which there is plenty of to acquire in-game.

While Crime Is Life supports almost every city, it is uses data collected to hold future events and special quests in specific cities for users to do. This is all through their FourSqaure-style check-in engine they have built specifically for this game. For you PvP fans out there, yes there is PvP combat. All combat in-game is turn-based as well. You can download this game now off the Android Market for free.

Big moves by Google and Hewlett-Packard upend the tablet computer market

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Shockwaves swept through the tablet computer market this month as Google bought Motorola's mobile device business and Hewlett-Packard scrapped its TouchPad after less than two months on the market.

If you'd been considering buying an Apple iPad or another tablet, analysts say those two events could affect the types of products that will be available over the next few months and the prices you will pay.

Google says its purchase will let it improve the tablet market by allowing it to upgrade the software that runs tablets made by Motorola and other companies. But analysts said the bigger challenge will be price. Consumers have shown a voracious appetite for cheap tablets, something Apple and its competitors haven't yet produced.

Just wait, they said. Those products could be coming.

Tablet computer sales boom

Led by the iPad, tablets have become the fastest-growing segment of the computer market.

United Airlines is giving pilots tablets to replace bulky flight manuals. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers football team gave its players iPads for playbooks this year, according to the St. Petersburg Times. In Cleveland, Michael Symon's Lola restaurant uses iPads to show diners wine and beer options.

Rhoda Alexander, a tablet and monitor analyst with research company IHS iSuppli in Santa Clara, Calif., said restaurants that a few years ago would have used touch-screen cash registers are equipping waiters with tablets to take orders and process customer credit cards. Analysts estimate that Apple controls well over 80 percent of the tablet market with its iPad.

"We're seeing new uses for these devices every day," Alexander said. "The market is going to grow."

But no one knows how much the market will grow. Bob O'Donnell, an analyst for research company IDC in San Mateo, Calif., said the Google and HP decisions have changed many of the assumptions he and other analysts used in trying to predict how quickly the tablet market would grow.

"It's an enormous disruption. The table has been completely reset," O'Donnell said.

Google owns the Android operating system, the software that runs tablets made by Motorola, Samsung, Acer and several other computer companies. Android devices are distant No. 2 to Apple in the tablet market.

Google called its $15 billion purchase of Motorola's mobile device arm an opportunity to beef up Android. Analysts said Google now will be able to improve both the Android software and the Motorola Xoom tablet hardware, potentially improving the overall product.

Prices too high for many consumers

Michael Gartenberg, an analyst with Gartner Research, said consumers could benefit from Google's commitment to tablets. Creating real competition for the iPad means either offering more features for the same $500 that Apple charges for its tablet or finding ways to drastically lower prices.

So far, the lowest-cost Android tablet is a $400 Asus model. Analysts said it's a fine product, but it's not cheap enough to overcome Android's limitations - a clunkier interface than the Apple product, fewer programs available and fewer services such as music and movie downloads. Several companies have said their Android tablet sales were lower than expected.

Alexander said her group recently surveyed customers who had already purchased or who were considering buying iPads and similar devices.

She found that iPad owners selected the tablet because of its features and easy access to content from Apple's iTunes music service and its AppStore software market. But people who were considering purchases weren't as impressed by those offerings.

"Price is hugely important to the people who planned to buy devices," Alexander said. The early adopters may have been willing to pay whatever Apple was charging, but the larger numbers of people on the sidelines are waiting for price cuts, she added.

Gartenberg said HP's recent actions have proven that point. Earlier this month, the company said it was canceling its TouchPad tablet after having launched it in July. The company slashed prices to $99 from $500, and stores started selling out nationwide. The fact that little software was available for the tablet or that the company was not going to be improving the product didn't scare away shoppers.

"It does show that when you sell a $500 device for $99, there's going to be a market for it," Gartenberg said. He added that the $99 price point was too low for any company to produce a tablet and make a profit, but it was a sign that demand for lower-cost tablets is huge.

O'Donnell said he expects some $250-$300 tablets to hit the market later this year. One producer that several analysts are watching is Several technology experts expect the web retail giant to launch a more robust version of its Kindle eReader later this year, effectively making it a low-powered tablet running on Google's Android system.

"You're going to see some very aggressive price points this holiday season," O'Donnell said. "Apple isn't going to move. They don't have to, but everybody else is going to be aggressive."

Alexander called a potential Amazon tablet a game changer. Amazon already has services such as the Amazon Android App store that allows customers to buy software for tablets and smart phones and the Amazon Instant Video service that allows buyers to download movies and television programs. Making those available on a company- produced Android device could offer big competition to similar Apple services.

"They have the delivery systems" for entertainment services that Android currently lacks, she added.

More questions than answers

For all of the excitement around the recent developments, analysts were quick to say that it's too early to know how the market will respond to what's happened.

The quick selldown of HP's TouchPads could revive interest in that product's webOS software. O'Donnell said HP will sell about 1 million of the devices, enough that a competitor may be interested in buying the software from HP to launch future tablets. And having 1 million webOS users could lead more software designers to write programs for the device.

And Google faces a big competitive issue with its purchase. While the Motorola Xoom was one of the first Android tablets, it's not the best seller. That honor goes to the Samsung GalaxyTab.

By jumping into the tablet hardware market, Google is now competing with many of its best customers. If other tablet producers begin to feel that Google is saving its best innovations for its own tablets, they may look at webOS or another competing operating system for tablets.

Some reports, for example, suggest that Amazon could use HP's webOS for its tablet instead of Android. And Microsoft plans to launch a new operating system for mobile devices next year.

Alexander said all of those unanswered questions make it nearly impossible to predict if or when any of the competitors will be able to produce a viable alternative to the iPad.

"The problem for everybody at this point is the lead that Apple has," Alexander said. "You're going to get a more competitive horse race as more people get involved, but we don't know what the field's going to look like yet."

Friday, August 26, 2011

Android bakes bitter 20th birthday cake for Linux

As Linux celebrates its 20th birthday, its biggest success – mobile – is turning into its worst headache.

Thanks to Google's Android, and in turn thanks to the success of Steve Jobs' iPhone and iPad, Linux has found a fresh lease of life.

Smartphones running the Android version of Linux account for 39 per cent of the market; Android has given existing phone-makers a fresh opportunity and propelled newcomers. iOS is second to Android on 29 per cent of the smartphone market, coming as it does from just a single OEM: Apple. iOS is number-one on tablets, however, with Android coming second.

The smartphone and tablet have arrived just as it seemed Linux's biggest disruptive days were behind it.

What started as an off-the-radar hobby for geeks had crossed into the business mainstream by the 2000s as companies recognised it as an alternative to the cost and lock-in of Windows on the server.

While Linux failed to unlock the desktop, still owned by Windows, it was application and server makers' adoption of it that turned Linux into the second most popular server operating system. Linux has borne various distros running on those servers – Red Hat, SuSE and Ubuntu being the most popular.

And yet, Linux is second, not first – albeit a healthy second. Despite the hard work by IBM, HP and Dell in making and selling servers, and the engineering and support work of Red Hat, Novell and Canonical, Linux still lags Windows.

Linux ascended despite the best efforts of Microsoft to discredit and sabotage it. Microsoft called Linux a "cancer" that threatened software makers' IP, it launched a "get the facts" campaign to undermine the commercial story for Linux, and tried to put people off by insinuating they risked prosecution by Microsoft as Linux contained Microsoft patents.

Microsoft's attacks blew themselves out, though, and cooler business heads are in charge as Microsoft's server business has worked to make Linux run better on Windows server through its hypervisor software. Linux on the Windows hypervisor means more Windows servers in the cloud, rather than Windows servers losing out to Linux servers in the cloud.

Microsoft hasn't stopped being any less threatening towards Linux, however, it has just changed tactics as the excitement shifts to mobile. As phone sales have exploded, Redmond has started hunting down Android device-makers, claiming the Linux they love violates its patents, and it is either prosecuting them or tying them up in deals to license its patent portfolio. The result is that Microsoft is profiting from Android, because under these deals Microsoft gets a percentage of the money from the sale of each Android phone.

Microsoft's attacks have come as Apple has turned aggressively litigious against Android and those companies making and selling phones and tablets running Linux.

Round up the cheerleaders

As the heat is turning up, the company responsible for Android – and credited for having propelled Linux into mobile – has taken two steps that have left techs speechless. The standing army of cheerleaders who've spent the last few years shouting about how it's game over for Apple, Microsoft, Nokia, RIM and anybody else not in love with Android are suddenly chilled by uncertainty.

First, Google caused consternation by ending the Android code free-for-all. It broke with its practice of open-sourcing the most recent version of Android – Honeycomb. Google claimed it took a "shortcut" to get Honeycomb to market and did not release the code because it was not suited for use on phones. The next version of Android, dubbed "Ice Cream Sandwich", will be open-sourced "by the end of the year", we are now told.

Next, Google unsettled Android OEM partners with its plan to spend $12.5bn buying Motorola's phone business – Motorola being the world's second-largest maker of Android handsets. Google's Android chief Andy Rubin claims it's business as usual and that Google's Android partners are on board with the deal, but the facts say otherwise.

Blackberry all set to use Android app for QNX Smartphones

Research In Motion Ltd. (RIM) is planning to boost up its handset sale by using the Android applications. Android is one of the best platforms for all tablets and smartphones. Around 25,000 apps are available in the Android Market. So, if this news is true then RIM might see a rise in the sale of its QNX handsets, which are expected to be launched in early 2012.

QNX is a Unix-like operating system developed by the Canadian company QNX Software System which was later acquired by the Blackberry producer RIM.

One of the reasons for the slump in the sales of Blackberry handset is the shortage of applications in the Blackberry Apps world. But with this deal Blackberry users will get access to download and run Android application in their Blackberry handsets.

The deal between Google’s Android and RIM’s- Blackberry is sure to spurt the sale of Android based Blackberry handsets and arguably Android would become a strong contender to be the numero uno OS.

According to the report of Bloomberg, Steven Li, an analyst with Raymond James Ltd. in Toronto said, “Being able to run Android apps, that’s a big plus. If you get the tonnage of Android apps and the top 50 apps through Blackberry’s App world, it could address many of the concerns people have about RIM’s ecosystem.”

As per the Gartner Inc., Blackberry’s share of global smartphone market fell to 12 percent in the second quarter from 19 percent in previous year whereas Apple Inc. climbed to 18 percent from 14 percent, and Android rose to 43 percent of the market.

RIM has said earlier that its Playbook will be equipped with the technology that allows the its users to run Android applications on it. But they never disclosed their plan that the same technology would be used in the QNX powered smartphones.

So, if Blackberry uses the Android application then it would be profitable for both the companies.

Sony Ericsson Xperia Neo V leads Android 2.3.4 upgrade charge

Following Monday's Live with Walkman, Sony Ericsson has revealed its second awkwardly named phone of the week, the Xperia Neo V. The Neo V -- as in the Roman numeral for 5 -- is intended as a replacement for the Xperia Neo from earlier this year.

Sony Ericsson also promised new software for all of its Xperia phones released in 2011. That's the Xperia Play, Arc, Neo, Pro, Mini, Mini Pro, Active and Ray. These lucky phones will be getting an update to Android 2.3.4, which will be preinstalled on the new Neo V. The major changes include a new '3D sweep panorama' mode, a version of Google Talk with video chat enabled, and T9 Trace, a keyboard similar to Swype.

Not such good news if you have an X10, X10 Mini or X10 Mini Pro, or the X8 -- the X10 was updated to 2.3 recently but won't go any further, and the rest are stuck on even staler versions of Android.

You might assume that the Neo V has been improved from the original Neo. While the two phones look virtually identical, however, the only thing that separates them, aside from a change of colour, is the camera. Sadly, it's been downgraded rather than improved, making the new Neo V more of a PSP E-1000 than an iPhone 3GS.

When we reviewed the original Xperia Neo, one of the things that impressed us most was its 8-megapixel Exmor R CMOS sensor, which produced stunning images even in low light conditions. In the Neo V, this has been replaced with a 5-megapixel unit, probably the same one found in other Sony Ericsson phones such as the Mini. So, we can expect image quality and low light performance to drop, though it will still support 720p HD video.

This may seem a strange move by Sony Ericsson, but its hand might have been forced. GSMArena suggests the Japanese earthquakes earlier this year have caused difficulties in the manufacturing of the 8-megapixel sensor and its saving its limited stock for the flagship Xperia Arc.

Nothing has been said, however, about when this update will be available. Likewise, there was no mention of a release date or pricing for the new Xperia Neo V, though we can assume that, with a downgraded camera, it will be priced less than the original Neo.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Apple Wins Samsung Phone Ban In Dutch Court

Apple has rolled up its sleeves and continues to throw punches at Samsung. Wednesday, a court in the Netherlands agreed with Apple's claim that a handful of Samsung smartphones violate Apple's patents. In particular, the handsets violate a patent with respect to how smartphones scroll and browse through a photo gallery.

The handsets in question include the Samsung Galaxy S, Samsung Galaxy S II, and the Samsung Ace. The injunction preventing their import goes into effect October 13 in Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. The injunction would include nearly two dozen more countries if Apple had more aggressively applied for registration of the patent. As it stands, the injunction applies to just those six countries.

Samsung will still be allowed to import its Galaxy Tab 10.1 device into these countries.

The Dutch court tossed Apple's claims regarding three other patents that pertained to copyrights, style/design imitation, and registered designs, reported the Wall Street Journal.

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The good news for Samsung is that the injunction relates specifically to the current version of these three smartphones. Future versions of the Galaxy S, S II, and Ace that contain revisions to the behaviors in question may be able to get around the injunction. Samsung could, in theory, update the software so that it no longer violates Apple's patent. This would allow Samsung to import the devices into these European Union countries once again.

Samsung isn't the only company affected by this decision, though. Android itself is now in jeopardy.

"Regardless of how Samsung may be able to work around this decision in Europe," said FOSS Patents, "it's a severe blow for Android. In all likelihood, the winning patent is infringed by Android itself--probably not the operating system per se, but by one or more of the applications that ship with Android and without which the usefulness of Android would be impaired in one particular area (photo viewing). Apple now has the first enforceable court decision in its hand (out of many lawsuits going on around the world) that finds Android to infringe an Apple patent."

In other words, this ruling could serve as the basis for Apple to win patent litigation in other courts around the world, leading to similar injunctions. That would be bad for Samsung and every other maker of Android devices.

Samsung issued a statement vowing to fight the injunction. It said, "Today's ruling is an affirmation that the Galaxy range of products is innovative and distinctive. With regard to the single infringement cited in the ruling, we will take all possible measures including legal action to ensure that there is no disruption in the availability of our Galaxy smartphones."

Monday, August 22, 2011

Motorola’s Value to Google Found in 18 Patents

Among Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc.’s more than 17,000 patents, a group of 18 may prove most useful in Google Inc. (GOOG)’s effort to fend off litigation targeting the Android mobile platform.

The inventions date back to 1994 and form the heart of three Motorola lawsuits against Apple Inc. (AAPL), making them among the stars of the portfolio, said David Mixon, a patent lawyer at Bradley Arant Boult Cummings in Huntsville, Alabama. They cover technology essential to the mobile-device industry, including location services, antenna designs, e-mail transmission, touch- screen motions, software-application management and third- generation wireless.

“Any patent owner, before they consider litigation is going to carefully evaluate their patents to withstand an attack,” Mixon said in a telephone interview. “You don’t want to hold any back. You want to pick your strongest patents.”

Google is counting on its $12.5 billion acquisition of Libertyville, Illinois-based Motorola Mobility to strengthen its patent lineup as Apple and Microsoft Corp. challenge Android, the best-selling smartphone operating system in the second quarter. Google had been issued fewer than 1,000 patents as of the start of this year. Motorola Mobility would add another 17,000, as well as about 7,500 pending applications.

“There are a lot of sweet patents in that portfolio,” said Dean Becker, chief executive officer of Palm Beach, Florida-based ICAP Patent Brokerage, the world’s largest. He said Google only needs a few to bolster its legal position.

On the Sidelines

Android was introduced on handsets three years ago to further Google’s advertising business and is provided free to device makers including Motorola Mobility, Samsung Electronics Co. and HTC Corp. (2498) The platform accounted for 43.3 percent of the smartphone market last quarter, according to Stamford, Connecticut-based research firm Gartner Inc. Cupertino, California-based Apple had an 18.2 percent share.

The U.S. International Trade Commission, which arbitrates patent-related disputes, has fielded more than a dozen cases in the past year related to smartphones and tablets. Because Google doesn’t profit directly from Android, it has been able to sit mostly on the sidelines while its partners were sued.

Google has been sued twice by competitors over Android -- Oracle Corp. (ORCL) and Skyhook Wireless Inc. -- and has never led a patent-infringement case against another company. It declined to comment for this story, as did Motorola Mobility and Apple.

An ITC judge last month found HTC’s Android phones infringed two Apple patents, which may spur a U.S. import ban.

‘Under Threat’

“We’ve been saying for some time that we intend to protect the Android ecosystem,” David Drummond, chief legal officer at Mountain View, California-based Google, said during a conference call with analysts last week. “It’s under threat.”

Motorola Mobility, which created the consumer market for mobile phones with the DynaTAC 8000X “brick” in 1983, and Apple, which reinvented the industry with the “smart” iPhone in 2007, are among the larger companies that have been battling over ownership of mobile technology. Motorola Mobility, spun off from Motorola Inc. in January, picked a fight with Apple in October when it filed three lawsuits and an ITC complaint.

The cases target Apple products including the iPhone 4, iPad, AppleTV and MacBook Air. Motorola Mobility used four of the 18 patents from the Apple cases to help push BlackBerry maker Research in Motion Ltd. (RIMM) into a cross-licensing settlement last year. That deal required Waterloo, Ontario-based RIM to make an undisclosed upfront payment and pay royalties.

Balance of Power

The balance of power is shifting toward Google with this acquisition of Motorola Mobility, so the option for settlements and cross-licensing will become “inevitable,” said Ron Epstein, CEO of Epicenter IP Group LLC, a Redwood City, California-based patent brokerage.

“We’re in a market battle here and people are using innovation as a tool for who will win,” he said. “The only way to protect your innovation from copying is patents.”

One patent from 2001 disables a “touch sensitive” sensor when a smartphone is near a user’s head to prevent inadvertent hang-ups or dialing. Another from 1994 aims to increase data storage, while a third enables users to control when a global positioning system sends their location data over a network.

Motorola Mobility also has a “leading position” in fourth-generation wireless networks, CEO Sanjay Jha said on a conference call last month.

‘Back Off’

In addition to the Apple fight, Motorola Mobility has claimed Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft infringes some of its patents over video technology and is seeking to block imports of the Xbox video-game console.

Even with a stronger patent portfolio for Google, Apple is likely to continue to pursue its patent battles against HTC and Samsung, said Peter Misek, an analyst with Jefferies & Co. in New York.

“This is a war,” Misek said.

Apple filed its own patent-infringement complaints against Motorola in October at the ITC and in federal court in Madison, Wisconsin. Apple also filed a civil suit in March accusing Motorola Mobility of “a pattern of unfair, deceptive and anticompetitive conduct” and said the company demanded higher licensing rates than for other competitors over three years of talks. Microsoft has made the same allegations over Motorola’s licensing demands, which Motorola has denied in both cases.

Epstein said the strength of the 18 patents from the Motorola Mobility portfolio is likely the tip of the iceberg.

“I would be shocked if they brought all of the patents they thought were of value in this first round of litigation,” Epstein said. “They brought a set of patents that they thought would do a job they set out for, which is telling Apple to back off.”

Microsoft's Android patent claims get tested Monday

The first test of Microsoft's claims that device makers running Google's Android mobile operating system have infringed on its patents comes Monday.

That's when Administrative Law Judge Theodore R. Essex of the U.S. International Trade Commission will hear Microsoft's claims against Motorola, in one of the most closely watched patent disputes in techdom. Microsoft filed claims last October that Motorola's Android-based smartphones infringe on nine patents related to syncing e-mail, calendar, and contacts, and notifying applications about changes in signal strength and battery power. Microsoft brought the dispute before the ITC in order to block shipments of Motorola devices from manufacturing facilities abroad before they hit U.S. soil. Both Microsoft and Motorola declined to comment on the hearing.

Microsoft has filed similar claims with the ITC against other mobile-device makers, including Barnes & Noble for its Nook electronic reading tablet. Apple has similarly sued Taiwanese handset maker HTC over claims that its handsets infringe on iPhone patents.

The hearing that begins Monday at the ITC's headquarters in Washington, D.C., will focus on the validity of Microsoft's patents and on whether Motorola infringed on them. In addition to Microsoft and Motorola making their cases, lawyers from the ITC may also chime in to guide Judge Essex. The hearing is scheduled to last about 10 days.

But don't expect an instant verdict. The judge will make an initial determination later this year, followed by a final judgement in 2012. If he rules that Motorola did infringe on Microsoft's patents, he could then issue an injunction blocking shipments of devices in dispute.

While Google is not a party to the litigation, it will loom large in the case. Earlier this month, Google sought to bar one of Microsoft's expert witnesses from testifying, arguing that Microsoft improperly disclosed Android source code with him. Last week, Essex denied that request, ruling that Google didn't appear to make an attempt to resolve the matter within the rules he has set for the case.

Microsoft also has a separate lawsuit in federal court in Washington state alleging the same patent infringement claims. And, as is typical in patent disputes, Motorola has filed a countersuit, accusing Microsoft of infringing 16 patents in its Xbox gaming console and in Windows for servers, PCs, and mobile devices.

Vodafone Android users are first to pay for apps via their phone bill

Android users on Vodafone will be the first in Europe to be able to pay for apps via their phone bill, the operator has announced.

The move is being seen as an attempt to retain control of the crucial payment relationship operators have with their subscribers, which has been challenged by app stores run by Google and Apple.

Initially only Android phones bought directly from Vodafone online, or from its high street shops, will be eligible for the new payment scheme, but there are plans to extend it to all handsets. Both monthly subscribers and pay-as-you-go users will be offered the chance to pay for apps from Google's Marketplace through Vodafone.

The network is encouraging app developers to use the service by claiming that they will sell more software because some Android users are reticent to provide their credit card details to a third party. Many young pay-as-you-go users may not even have a credit card.

“This evolution in Android app payment greatly improves the user’s purchase experience and consequently their likelihood of completing a sale,” Vodafone said on its developer blog.

“In addition to facilitating the best possible user experience, Vodafone operator billing extends your reach to the large number of app buying customers who are unwilling or unable to use credit cards.

“In some countries this can be more than 90 per cent of the market.”

The new approach is unlikely to be replicated on the iPhone App Store, however. Apple maintains a much tighter grip on iOS and takes a lucrative 30 per cent share of developers’ sales. Unlike Google it vets every app before it is made available for download.

Apple also frequently highlights the number of users it has convinced to supply their credit card details; in March Steve Jobs boasted it was “very likely” that Apple had a larger database of credit card details than the online retail giant Amazon.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Android tablets grab 20 percent share

Android tablets have captured 20 percent of the market from the iPad over the past year, but no single tablet has yet been able to challenge Apple's flagship product, says ABI Research analyst Jeff Orr.

Android's tablet market share is growing but none can compete with the iPad.

Android's tablet market share is growing but none can compete with the iPad.

(Credit: Apple)

In a report out yesterday, Orr pointed to high prices as one factor that has stifled demand for individual Android tablets.

"Many vendors have introduced media tablets, but none are separating themselves from the pack to pose a serious threat to Apple," Orr said in a statement. "In fact, most have introduced products at prices higher than similarly-configured iPads. Apple, never a company to be waiting for others, has introduced its second-generation iPad media tablet while keeping product pricing unchanged."

The analyst also blamed fragmentation of the Android OS for stalling overall app development.

From Froyo to Gingerbread to Honeycomb, three different versions of Google's mobile OS can currently be found on different tablets. This presents a challenge to app developers who are forced to pick a specific version and may hold off on development based on the market potential of a given version.

"The benefits of open software platform development have yet to be realized for media tablets," according to ABI.

Google is, of course, hoping to defragment some of that fragmentation with the upcoming release of Ice Cream Sandwich, the first flavor of Android designed for both smartphones and tablets with different features and sizes. The latest rumors claim that Google is rushing to launch Ice Cream Sandwich by October to help the market and also counter any threats posed by Apple's next iPhone.

Related stories:
Is Google rushing to unwrap Ice Cream Sandwich?
Ice Cream Sandwich First Take
Android tablets will grow, but iPad to dominate

Finally, Orr believes that the onslaught of cheaper Android tablets released this year raises doubts among consumers over their functionality.

"De-featured, low-cost media tablets are being introduced by more than fifty vendors in 2011," the analyst said. "This will certainly help bolster year-over-year growth for the category, but it also creates a negative perception in the minds of the mass consumer audience about the readiness of media tablets to be fully functional within the next several years."

Seeing Android tablets as still in the "early adopter stage," Orr says that more positive user experiences are needed to help push the market forward.

Leaked Android Ice Cream Sandwich OS Photos: Droid Green Turns Blue?

There is now slightly less mystery around the next version of Android for smartphones, Ice Cream Sandwich, which Google first announced in May. The update has been pictured in a few alleged screenshots leaked by RootzWiki and the Android Police blog this week.

The four images show Android Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) running on a Nexus S handset. One of the most striking changes is that blue is the new Android green. A picture from Android Police also purportedly shows a new launcher and a revamped notification bar.

The blogs report the camera app on ICS has built-in panorama mode, and that a Google Shopper app will take advantage of NFC capabilities (on supported phones, such as the Nexus S). The Gmail app is reportedly set for a makeover as well, while the Google search bar is embedded at the top, as on Android Honeycomb (for tablets)--but these features are not pictured.

Debut to Take Place on a 3D Phone?

Two interesting tidbits of information also surfaced from RootzWiki and Android Police. The first one is that ICS will debut on a so-called Nexus Prime, an unreleased phone rumored to have an HD display and be manufactured by Samsung. The second is that Google has yet to decide what version number ICS will carry, as the beta software running in the alleged leaked pictures only shows Ice Cream Sandwich as version number.

Google itself gave very little away about Ice Cream Sandwich when it was announced in May. ICS is supposed to bring the best features of Honeycomb (Android for tablets) to mobile phones. Still, other than a few intriguing demos, Google did not disclose many details about the update, such as when it will be available, or which devices will be eligible to receive the update.

Acer Iconia Tab A100, First 7-Inch Honeycomb Tablet, Hits U.S. Stores

Acer Iconia Tab A100

Acer on Friday released its Iconia Tab A100 in the U.S., the first 7-inch tablet shipping with Android 3.2.

The A100 is available in U.S. stores now and will be coming to Canada next month. A 16GB version sells for $349.99 and the 8GB will set you back $329.99; both are expandable up to 32GB via MicroSD. The devices are thus far only equipped with Wi-Fi; there are no plans to be picked up by a U.S. 3G carrier. For that, you'll need the Iconia A501, which will be released on AT&T.

The Iconia Tab A100 includes a 7-inch touch screen display with a 1,024-by-600 resolution. It comes in at 7.7-by-4.6-by-0.5-inch (HWD) and 13.9 ounces. There are two cameras: a 2-megapixel front-facing one and a 5-megapixel camera on the back.

The A100 runs a 1-GHz Nvidia Tegra 2 dual-core chipset.

Given that this is the first tablet with Android Honeycomb 3.2, it runs more of Android's 200,000 apps than rival tablets. One of the main features of the updated OS is Zoom Mode, which will optimize non-tablet apps for the larger device's screen. A July SDK update made it easier for users and developers to adjust the OS to the different screen sizes. A button in the system bar now allows users to select between two app-viewing options: stretch to fill screen and zoom to fill screen.

Prior to its release, however, Scott Main, lead tech writer for, asked developers with apps that already resize well to tablets to disable the screen compatability option because the new option might actually make certain apps look worse.

In reviewing the A100, PCMag said it was "one of our favorite tablets so far. It's great for watching movies, video chatting, surfing the Web and playing with apps, until its teeny-tiny battery runs out."

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Reliance RCom 3G Android Tablet Launched. Priced @ Rs. 13k

Anil Ambani led Reliance Communications has launched android based 3G tablet in Indian markets, priced at Rs. 13,000. The Reliance 3G Tab is RCom’s answer to recently launched Airtel’s Beetel Branded Magiq tablet. The price of Magiq is Rs. 9k, while Reliance 3G Tablet costs Rs.13k. So, does the price difference of Rs. 4000 really offer RCom Tablet and edge over its competition? Let’s find out.

Looking at the tech-specs, the answer seems to be a big ‘No’. As quoted by MSN, the tablets specs are very regular. The Reliance tablet has 7″ capacitive touch-screen at 800 x 480 pixels resolution. The tablet runs Android 2.3 Gingerbread which isn’t quite impressive, given the fact that only Honeycomb is the Android version optimized for the larger screen tablets. The tablet runs on 1GHz processor and has 512 MB onboard memory. The weight of the tablet is 389 gm which makes it a portable tablet. In addition, the tablet has rear 2MP camera and a VGA camera on the front for video calling. Other features include GPS which makes use of Google Maps and 3G for communications. The tablet supports 32GB of external memory via micro SD card. Other features worth noting are Mobile TV, voice dialing and video recording.

Reliance 3G Tablet In India

Reliance 3G Tablet

Reliance has been a leading provider of CDMA technologies across various telecom circles in India. Reliance is offering attractive, discounted data plans with the tablet. The tablet has been launched in metros like Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata and will be available at Reliance outlets. The tablet is expected to roll out in other cities in the next few days.

Skype Video Calling Now Available on 17 More Android Devices

According to a blogpost by Skype, its v2.1 is now available across a wider range of smartphones and tablets powered by Android. The post further states that where earlier only the users of HTC Desire S, Sony Ericsson Xperia neo, Sony Ericsson Xperia pro and Google Nexus S could use Skype’s video calling facility by Skype, there is now a list of at least 17 other devices that could use Skype, with video calling.

Skype for Android

The list of devices, as per the blogpost include: Acer A5, HTC Desire (2.2), HTC Desire HD, HTC Evo 3D, HTC Evo 4G, HTC Flyer, HTC Incredible S, HTC Sensation, HTC Thunderbolt - Verizon (2.2) (US only), LG Revolution - Verizon (2.2) (US only)Samsung Droid Charge - Verizon (2.2) (US only), Samsung Galaxy S, Samsung Galaxy S II, Samsung Galaxy Tab, Sony Ericsson Xperia mini pro, Sony Ericsson Xperia PLAY, Sony Ericsson Xperia ray. The post further reveals that users with smartphones powered by Android 2.2, other than those listed above could also avail Skype’s video-calling feature, by browsing through ‘Skype Settings’ and then selecting ‘enable video calling’.

Those still unable to find any settings pertaining to video calling on Skype have smartphones that do not fulfill the requirement cited by Skype. Additionally, the latest development means that Skype has looked at major bug fixes, too, which it claims should translate to a better user experience.

Study: iPhone, Android apps store sensitive user info

Mobile apps are still not secure when it comes to storing certain personal information, according to a new study from security firm ViaForensics.

Dissecting a variety of apps for Apple's iOS and Google's Android, ViaForensics found that 76 percent of them store user names in cleartext without encryption, while 10 percent store passwords in the same way, making such data more vulnerable. Running a series of tests from November 2010 through June 2011, the security firm checked out apps from several categories, including financial, social networking, productivity, and retail.

(Credit: ViaForensics)

Each individual app received a pass, fail, or warn based on its security, or lack thereof. A pass meant the app securely stores user names, passwords, and application data; a fail meant that passwords and other personal data were not secured, and a warn indicated that certain data wasn't secure but that such data didn't put the user at significant risk.

Overall, 39 of the apps received a failing grade, only 17 got a pass, and 44 escaped with a warning.

Financial apps did fairly well, with 14 out of 32 getting a pass and another 10 receiving a warning. ViaForensics found that more developers have been adding encryption to such apps. Despite concerns that encryption can hamper performance, all of the secured financial apps that were tested ran smoothly.

The few financial apps that failed the test included Mint for both the iPhone and Android, Square for the iPhone, and Wikinvest for the iPhone.

Social network apps didn't fare quite so well, with none of them getting a passing mark and 14 out of 19 failing. None of the apps encrypt user names, and many also neglect to secure passwords and application data. Among them, LinkedIn for Android, Foursquare for Android, and Kik for both the iPhone and Android failed ViaForensics' password test, indicating that user passwords were stored in cleartext.

Productivity apps also scored low, with only 3 out of 35 apps getting a pass. Many of the failing apps stored e-mail content in cleartext, according to the study, and included Gmail, iPhone mail, WordPress, and Yahoo Mail.

Retail apps were a mixed bag. None of them passed the test, but only 2 out of 14 failed, with the rest receiving just a warning. The study highlighted Groupon for Android, which failed because of a recovered password, and an unofficial Starbucks app that stored the user's full credit card number.

Among operating systems, Apple scored a bit better in security than did Android, but iOS users still have cause for concern.

"It would be a fair generalization to say that so far, Apple has made more efforts toward data protection in their iOS platform, compared to Android," the report noted. "However, users do still face risks due to malware that can compromise the device, or data recovery from lost/stolen devices."

What are the actual risks to users as a result of these "insecure" apps?

ViaForensics sees the potential for identify theft or financial loss if a mobile device ends up in the wrong hands. As one example, if a cybercriminal can find even one password together with a host of user names, any user who had the same password for multiple apps could be in trouble. As such, the study points out the importance of keeping both user names and passwords secure. A recent hacking incident in the U.K. also showed that sometimes passwords aren't enough to fully secure personal data.

A similar study from ViaForensics in June also found security issues with some of the same apps highlighted in the new study.

We've reached out to both Apple and Google to see if they have any responses to this latest study and will add their comments if they offer any.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Mapping the Android vs. iOS Civil War

More than 83 million users of Jumptap's mobile advertising platform have weighed in, and what appears to be a small civil war has broken out between users of smartphones running Google's Android operating system versus Apple's iOS.

According to the company, users in the South and Southwestern portions of the United States tend to "over-index" toward Android, meaning that the operating system is used and requested at a rate that's higher than the national average in a given area. Users in the Northeast and Midwest, in contrast, over-index toward iOS.

And for those curious about smartphone use in the two states that aren't attached to the 48 contiguous ones, Jumptap notes that Hawaii is an iOS-loving state and Alaska is a wash, as it over-indexes for both iOS and Android.

However, the United States isn't totally split into an Android-versus-iOS battleground. A few states—eight, in total—are putting up a fight for the Blackberry platform. Oregon, New York, and Maryland, to name a few states, all over-index for Research in Motion's primary mobile OS.

Jumptap's figures put Google's Android OS as the leading smartphone platform with 38 percent of the market to iOS and its 33 percent. Smartphones using RIM's Blackberry OS take up a distant third at 22 percent and, in total, all three platforms take up a total of 90 percent of the market – "making it increasingly difficult for competing platforms to gain traction," said Jumptap's report.

"The smartphone market remains a highly competitive and volatile one, where each percentage of market share is hard-earned," the report added.

Android might be winning the overall platform war, but it could be losing the hearts of advertisers looking to engage smartphone audiences. When compared to users of all other mobile operating systems, iOS users delivered a significantly higher percentage of advertising click-throughs. Android wasn't the worst platform, but its users reported click-throughs a bit lower than Jumptap's recorded average of 0.52 percent.

"The uniformity of the iPhone's browsing and app experiences generates higher advertising interaction. Updates of the Android and Blackberry OS platforms should strive for the same seamless experience," said Jumptap's report.

Android could allow mobile ad or phishing pop-ups say researchers

Sean Shulte, SSL developer at Trustwave, and Nicholas Percoco, the senior vice president and head of SpiderLabs at Trustwave, revealed at DefCon what they said was a design flaw in Android.

Sean Shulte, SSL developer at Trustwave, and Nicholas Percoco, the senior vice president and head of SpiderLabs at Trustwave, revealed at DefCon what they said was a design flaw in Android.

(Credit: Seth Rosenblatt/CNET )

LAS VEGAS--Researchers have discovered what they say is a design flaw in Android that could be used by criminals to steal data via phishing or by advertisers to bring annoying pop-up ads to phones.

Developers can create apps that appear to be innocuous but which can display a fake bank app log-in page, for instance, when the user is using the legitimate bank app, Nicholas Percoco, senior vice president and head of SpiderLabs at Trustwave, said ahead of his presentation on the research at the DefCon hacker conference today.

Currently, apps that want to communicate with the user while a different app is being viewed just push an alert to the notification bar on the top of the screen. But there is an application programming interface in Android's Software Development Kit that can be used to push a particular app to the foreground, he said.

"Android allows you to override the standard for (hitting) the back buttons," said Sean Schulte, SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) developer at Trustwave.

"Because of that, the app is able to steal the focus and you're not able to hit the back button to exit out," Percoco said, adding that they've named the issue the Focus Stealing Vulnerability.

The researchers have created a proof-of-concept tool that is a game but also triggers fake displays for Facebook, Amazon, Google Voice, and the Google e-mail client. The tool installs itself as part of a payload inside a legitimate app and registers as a service so it comes back up after the phone reboots, Percoco said.

In a demo showing a user opening up the app and seeing the log-in screen for Facebook, the only indication that something odd has happened is a screen blip so quick many users wouldn't notice. The fake screen completely replaces the legitimate one, so a user wouldn't be able to tell that anything is out of place.

With this design flaw, game or app developers can create targeted pop-up ads, Percoco said. The ads could be merely annoying, like most pop-ups are, but they could also be targeted to pop up an ad when a competitor's app is being used, he added.

"So the whole world of ads fighting with each other on the screen is possible now," said Percoco, who demonstrated an Android rootkit at DefCon last year.

The functionality would not raise any red flags in the permissions displayed when the user downloads the app because it is a legitimate function for apps to check the phone state in what is called the Activity Service, according to Schulte.

Percoco said the researchers spoke to someone at Google about their findings a few weeks ago and that the individual acknowledged that there was an issue and said the company was trying to figure out how to address it without breaking any functionality of legitimate apps that may be using it.

When contacted for comment, a Google representative said he would look into the matter.

Google's Android Patent Outrage

I'm no math whiz, so I can't for the life of me calculate the percentage increase when an operating system goes from free to about $15. That's what may happen to Android if Apple, Microsoft and Oracle have their way.

This trio mutually own patents that could be used to boost the cost of using Android -- possibly causing Google's mobile device manufacturing partners to pay up! Defending against this may be the real reason Google scarfed up cash to buy more than 1,000 IBM patents. One report claims that Microsoft is demanding $15 in royalties for every Samsung mobile device sold that runs Google's Android OS.

Google is now shouting to the heavens about this injustice. It tried to buy Novell's patents for legal defense purposes but was shut out by a bidding coalition that included Microsoft, Apple, Oracle and EMC. In a war of words, Microsoft now claims Google was asked to be part of this bidding coalition. Google countered that the offer was a trick

While patent fights are bad for commercial products, they are murder on free tools.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Skype Adds Video Calling Support For 17 More Android Smartphones

At the end of June 2011, Skype added the ability to make one-to-one video calls over both WiFi and 3G connections to its Android application. However, very few handsets were supported at the time, but now the company has released an update that brings two-way video calling to 17 more smartphones, including the HTC Desire and Desire HD, the Samsung Galaxy S and S II and Sony Ericsson Xperia devices.

As usual, you can download the updated Skype 2.1 for Android app from the Android Market or point your browser to from your phone.

Once installed, you can have video calls from your Android phone with your Skype contacts on iPhone, Mac, Windows PCs and even a number of TVs.

The full list of supported phones can be found here.

If you’re using a phone that runs Android 2.2 (Froyo) or above, Skype says you should be able to enable video calling in your settings. If you can’t find it, that probably means you’re out of luck.

Besides, if your phone runs Froyo you’ll only be able to use the back camera of the device anyway.

Android Users Least Prepared for Rise in Mobile Malware

An explosion in mobile malware in the first half of 2011 has exponentially increased the chance of an Android device getting infected according to one study. Unfortunately for Android users, another study shows that they are the least aware of security concerns and least prepared to protect their smartphone or tablet from malware.

Can your Android device get compromised by malware? Nearly a third of Android respondents to the Gadgetology Report survey were unsure. Actually, it was 27 percent, which is lower than the number of iPhone users (30 percent) that didn't know if malware is possible. However, Android lags iPhone (32 percent compared to 36 percent for the iPhone) when it comes to being aware that there is a malware threat.

Android warningAndroid seems most at risk and least prepared for malware attacks.Four out of ten Android users responded that they have not done anything to prevent someone from misusing the data on their smartphone. Combine that with the fact that less than half of Android users lock their device with a password and that only two out of ten have any other security measures in place, and you have a recipe for a successful mobile malware attack.

To be fair, the Gadgetology Survey also considers iPhone and BlackBerry, and in many cases the results for those platforms are not significantly better than Android. There is a stark difference, though, in the underlying security of the various mobile ecosystems.

Apple has much tighter control over iOS apps, and the Apple App Store. The "walled garden" approach makes it much more difficult for rogue, or malicious apps to slip through the cracks to get distributed to iOS devices. Unless an iOS device is jailbroken and users are out surfing unsanctioned app stores, there is little chance of a malicious iOS app.

Android fenceMaybe Android needs a fence to match Apple's "walled garden".The Gadgetology Report explains, "The open sourced-based Android phones are much more susceptible to malware however it appears that fewer Android owners are aware of this. The fact that there has been no sensational widespread attack on any smartphone platform is probably a factor in keeping phone owners unaware of potential danger but with many phone owners saying they "don't know" if their phones can get a virus or malware says that some education may be in order."

It definitely seems like the attackers are ahead of the curve in figuring out that smartphones and tablets are just little computers--little computers that contain gigabytes of sensitive data, are wirelessly networked, and often left completely unprotected. Awareness needs to be raised among smartphone and tablet owners to combat the threat.

The Gadgetology Report is an ongoing study of people and electronics from The data for this report is from a study conducted for Retrevo by an independent panel in June of 2011. There were over 1,000 respondents representing diverse gender, age, income, and geographic location.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Android captures almost 50pc of smartphone market

android logo Android captures almost 50pc of smartphone market

According to the Q2 Smartphone analysis report by Canalys, Android has taken over 48pc of the total smartphone marketshare worldwide. Android powered smartphone shipments were up 379% and reached 51.9 million unit sales.


  • Asia-Pacific was the main driver of growth with strong performances from countries like South Korea [85% Android share] and Taiwan [Android share 71%].
  • Samsung was the largest Android device vendor in the second quarter with shipments of its own-branded devices at 17.0 million units.

Full Press Release Below:

Canalys today published its final worldwide country-level Q2 2011 smart phone market estimates, showing substantial market growth in all regions. Globally, the market grew 73% year-on-year, with in excess of 107.7 million units shipping in the second quarter of 2011. Of the 56 countries Canalys tracks around the world, Android led in 35 of them and achieved a global market share of 48%. Asia Pacific (APAC) remained the largest regional market, with 39.8 million units shipping there, compared with 35.0 million in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), and 32.9 million in the Americas.

Android, the number one platform by shipments since Q4 2010, was also the strongest growth driver this quarter, with Android-based smart phone shipments up 379% over a year ago to 51.9 million units. Growth was bolstered by strong Android product performances from a number of vendors, including Samsung, HTC, LG, Motorola, Sony Ericsson, ZTE and Huawei. The final country-level data delivered to clients today shows there were particularly strong performances from Android devices in APAC countries, such as South Korea, where Android holds an 85% platform share, and Taiwan, where it has 71%.

With shipments of 20.3 million iPhones and a market share of 19%, iOS overtook Nokia’s Symbian platform during the quarter to take second place worldwide. In doing so, Apple also became the world’s leading individual smart phone vendor, stripping Nokia of its long-held leadership position.

‘The iPhone has been a phenomenal success story for Apple and a watershed product for the market,’ said Canalys VP and Principal Analyst Chris Jones. ‘It’s an impressive success story, given that Apple has only been in the smart phone market for four years. With the next-generation iPhone anticipated in Q3, it’s likely that Apple’s position will grow even stronger in the second half of the year.’

Samsung also moved ahead of Nokia, with its flagship Galaxy S II product performing well, but its overall performance was underwhelming, considering the opportunities offered by the upheaval at Nokia.

‘Samsung has failed to fully capitalize on Nokia’s weakened state around the world, as the Finnish company rides out a challenging transitional period,’ said Jones. ‘It’s the best placed vendor to grow at Nokia’s expense, taking advantage of its global scale and channel reach, but it hasn’t yet done enough to capitalize on this, particularly in emerging markets.’

Samsung was the largest Android device vendor and the number two vendor overall in the market with shipments of its own-branded devices at 17.0 million units. Its year-on-year growth of 421% was helped by significant growth of 355% in its bada smart phone shipments. Samsung also acts as an ODM for the Google Nexus S and T-Mobile Sidekick 4G, collectively estimated to have shipped 0.7 million units.

Nokia’s leadership position has proved most resilient in key emerging markets, and it still leads in the BRIC countries: Brazil, Russia, India and China. ‘The problem for Nokia is that demand for its Symbian-based smart phones has dissipated very rapidly, particularly in operator-led markets, such as Western Europe, where it’s been strong in the past,’ said Canalys Principal Analyst Pete Cunningham. ‘It badly needs the first of its Windows Phone devices to launch as soon as possible to arrest a decline and, hopefully, silence its critics.’

‘While it is committed to launching a device before the end of the year, we do not expect to see it until mid-to-late Q4, and it will be much longer before a portfolio of Nokia Windows Phone smart phones drives volumes. Nokia is set to have several more difficult quarters before a possible reversal of fortunes,’ added Cunningham.

Microsoft is also eager to see Nokia’s first Windows Phone products, along with those from its other OEM partners, ship with its Mango update. ‘A fresh crop of products is certainly needed,’ said Jones. Fewer than 1.5 million Microsoft-based smart phones shipped during the quarter, equating to a mere 1% share of the global market, down 52% against shipments a year ago.

Windows Phone OEM partner HTC saw Android driving the vast majority of its portfolio, but Canalys expects it to continue to be a leading provider of Windows Phone products. HTC achieved particular success in North America this quarter, climbing to a 21% share and consolidating its second place position, while Apple’s North American share dropped from 31% last quarter to 25% this quarter.

RIM had a challenging quarter in North America, with its market share slipping to 12%, down from 33% a year ago, leading to negative press coverage in the United States. But RIM’s global shipments grew 11% year on year, keeping it the number one vendor in Latin America with a 28% share.

‘It’s easy to be negative about BlackBerry in the US, but it’s important to remember that in other markets, particularly emerging markets, it continues to see significant interest and uptake of its devices, for example in Indonesia and South Africa where it is the leading smart phone vendor,’ said Jones. ‘Nonetheless, it must continue to innovative and recapture lost momentum. It’s critical that the next-generation BlackBerry OS 7-based products launch ahead of the upcoming holiday season to compete in the market.’

Windows Mango matches Apple and Android in features

Microsoft's Windows Phone Mango brings the mobile OS up to snuff with Apple's iOS and Google's Android OS. But Microsoft will soon find itself behind the eight ball again compared to what Apple has in store with iOS 5 and Google with Android Ice Cream Sandwich, both of which are set launch later this year.

The most trumpeted feature of Mango is multitasking, something that rival operating systems have already mastered (admittedly, some later than others). Other Mango improvements include new conversation threads, which combine text, IM and Facebook chat; a revamped Web browser that Microsoft says will be much faster than other mobile browsers; and better support for HTML5 (no Flash support announced).

Click here to find out more!

Apple Seeks Android Inspiration

Meanwhile, Apple has played catch-up with Google's Android in iOS 5, set to become available to consumers this September. With iOS 5, Apple finally adds a notifications center (similar to Android's), as well as contextual Twitter (but not Facebook) integration and Mail and Safari improvements.

Apple has already stolen the spotlight with iOS 5, announcing a PC-free iPhone, and iPad (meaning you won't need a computer cable to activate, sync, or update apps and media), iMessage (like BBIM for iOS devices), and cloud integration via iCloud.

Android Has Its Own Problems

Google has its own catching up to do too with Android, especially when it comes to fragmentation, which is one of the biggest annoyances of the platform. Unlike Apple customers, who get a software update as soon as the company pushes it out, Android updates are trickled through to manufacturers and wireless carriers (who are also the distributors), and take significantly longer to reach customers.

This has created what is called fragmentation: only a minority of users is running the latest software, while others are stuck waiting for software updates that may not even show. Given the variety of the Android ecosystem, developers also have to work on many screen sizes, resolutions and hardware capabilities, making the Android development process more difficult than on Apple's relatively unified platform.

Google hopes to solve the problem of fragmenting its OS with Ice Cream Sandwich, which is set to arrive in Q4. The update plans to make it easier for developers to create apps for the various Android hardware and software versions, but Google has not detailed on how it plans to achieve that. Ice Cream Sandwich also promises to level the differences between the phone-based (Gingerbread) and tablet-based (Honeycomb) versions of the OS.

Is Apple Winning?

Overall though, there are indications that the iPhone 5 and iOS 5 have already won the hearts of consumers shopping for a smartphone this fall. A survey from comparison site PriceGrabber found that Apple's "anticipation and brand loyalty are certainly high", with 48 percent of respondents saying they prefer iOS, compared to 19 percent choosing Android and only 7 percent going for Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 platform.

While Microsoft and partner manufacturers and carriers are taking their sweet time to push Mango (announced in April, heading to phones some time in September), Microsoft has its work cut out for it if it wants to compete against Apple.

Yet the upcoming features of Mango, which was released to manufacturers on Wednesday, bring little novelty to the smartphone arena dominated by Google and Apple. Microsoft needs to do more than just play catch-up with Apple and Google, who always seem to be one step ahead of the game