A Pair of Often Rumored Phones About to Get Real?

We have been hearing and reading rumors about smartphones from Facebook and Amazon for a long time now.

The Facebook Smartphone

Facebook phone rumors are nothing new.  I recall reading a TechCrunch story about it in 2010.  At the time, Facebook spokesperson Jamie Schopflin told Mashable that, “[T]he story, which originated in Techcrunch, is not accurate. Facebook is not building a phone.”

That was then, and this is now, and judging by the “media only” event invitations that went out, something’s up.  I seriously doubt that Facebook would be holding a media event for a major new release of their mobile app for Android or iOS.

The Amazon Smartphone

Amazon smartphone rumors are a little bit more recent.  They didn’t start until people saw that Amazon could build a credible tablet beyond the Kindle e-reader as CNet talked about back in 2011.  Will we see the book-seller-turned-tech-giant CEO Jeff Bezos on stage later this year hawking a Kindle Fire smartphone?

According to AppleInsider.com, DigiTimes has been at it again leaking information about Amazon’s Android powered smartphone shipping this year.  The rumors of a new Amazon smartphone flared up again when DigitTimes indicated that Amazon was witching from a 4.3″ display to the larger 4.7″ “phatablet” size.  Lending credence to that idea, that an Amazon smartphone is still be months away, is this little snippet that appears in the AppleInsider story:

“Development of Amazon’s rumored handset reportedly remains fluid, and the retailer is said to be “working on or enhancing other specifications” of the device.”

Take Aways

So, what we can gather, if any of these rumors are accurate, is that both Facebook and Amazon are hard at work on their smartphone plans.  Facebook looks to be closer to the finish line as they are calling a major tech event next week.  It is unclear how Facebook would position a smartphone.  Would they view themselves as a premium brand go try to complete directly with Apple and Samsung on the high end?  Would they go after the smaller Windows Phone and BlackBerry market?  Or would they they to complete on the “free with a new 2-year contract” level?

Amazon, still looks to be refining their device to get the most bang for the buck, which makes sense because the Kindle Fire isn’t about profit margins on the hardware, it’s about how much can the vendor sell with their own “a store that fits in the palm of your hand” smartphone.  With that in mind, I can’t see Amazon trying to position their phone any higher than the mid-market.  Since Amazon is more about selling things and content, it makes more sense to me that they would have their own phone on the low end side, and continue to develop their mobile apps for iOS, Android, and all the rest to maximize the number of people viewing the goods they have for sale.

[Via AppleInsider.com…]

Thanks to Mike C. for the tip…

Samsung Galaxy S4 Launch Event Comments

The following are my thoughts and comments made while watching the Samsung Galaxy S4 launch event video.

Be advised that I am an Apple fanboy.  You’ve been warned.

– The opening remarks made me think that I was watching an boring awards show rather than a product launch from a major technology company.

Comments from JK Shin – President and Head, IT and Mobile Communications Division

– The Galaxy S4 was developed by “Innovation inspired by people” as opposed to….?

– Forget the famous S Pen, get ready for “S Heath”

– BlackBerry will be fuming that Samsung has ‘borrowed’ their idea for BlackBerry Balance and created Samsung Knox for separating personal/business applications and data

– “These ideas have been conceived from observations from real life.”  And by real life, Samsung means Apple, the iPhone, and iOS.

– Life is a journey and the Galaxy S4 is a companion for that journey.

– The Galaxy S4 “is slimmer, lighter, and more solid” – ok, sure, but as compared to what?

– Galaxy S4 will launch on 327 mobile networks in 155 countries

– Galaxy S4 will begin shipping at the end of April in 3G and 4G LTE editions

– Look how big that white Galaxy S4 looks in the emcee’s hand!

Comments from Ryan Bidan – Director of Product Marketing

– Full 5″ display with 441ppi using Super AMOLED screen

– I find it interesting that while they are talking about wireless performance, there is a note at the bottom right side of the slide that reads: “All data in this presentation is based on internally measured standards.”

– 13MP back camera, 2MP front facing camera – Ok, that makes the iPhone’s 8MP camera seem wimpy

– 2GB ram, 16/32/64GB of storage, microSD slot for up to an additional 64GB

– Temperature & humidity and IR sensors join accelerometer, RGB light, digital compass, proximity, gyro, and barometer sensors

– Galaxy S4 will ship with a removable 2600mAh battery

– Dual Camera feature – picture/movie can include images from rear and front facing cameras simultaneously.  Ok, that’s cool.

– Having flashbacks to Qualcomm’s “Born Mobile” CES 2013 keynote address during the Dual Camera feature demonstration

– Drama Shot can take 100 photos in 4 seconds and lets you pick the one(s) you want to keep

– Eraser allows you to take multiple pictures, blend them, and remove unwanted people who may wonder into the shot.  Works on Does not work on real people like in-laws.

– S Translator is the voice translation feature that can be useful if you travel to places that don’t speak your native language.

– S Translator understands 9 languages (Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish); 10 if you count US and UK English separately

– I’m a little embarrassed that Apple’s Siri can’t do this already

– Story Album is Samsung’s answer to Apple’s iPhoto and Cards

– Where have I seen that HomeSync cloud icon before?

– HomeSync is Samsung’s iCloud response.  It comes with 1TB of storage space, vastly more than Apple’s 5GB of space for every iOS user.

– HomeSync can support up to 8 users and can be paired with a Galaxy S4 over NFC.

– HomeSync also has an Apple TV AirPlay-like feature.

– Why is no one laughing at these *amazing* jokes?!

– Smart Switch is a utility that will allow you to transfer all of your data “from almost any mobile operating system” to the Galaxy S4.  Funny how that phone on the left side of the slide looks familiar.

– “Samsung Knox is designed for business and enterprise users.  It locks your device down and keeps it safe from malicious applications.” Wow! That says A LOT about the state of Android. First you talk about who it’s for – That’s fine – and the next thing you say is that it will help protect you from all the malicious Android software?!  Did Samsung forget they were in a room full of journalists and tech writers?

– Knox is built on top of security enhanced Android. At 36:54 minutes into a 55 minute presentation, this is the first and last time that Samsung mentions the Google Android operating system.

– Group Play will allow you to stream music to up to 8 Galaxy S4 phones simultaneously.  Must be fun at parties.

– The Galaxy S4 can be used while wearing gloves!

– Works even better if the actress remembers to turn on the phone on first.  It would be easier to see it in her gloved right hand if that super bright 4.99″ AMOLED screen was on.

– Air Gesture allows you to swipe your finger over the phone screen to scroll up/down, left/right

– Smart Scroll / Pause allows you to look away from your phone and have the video you are watching pause until you look back at the screen.  Again, another cool feature.  I wonder how much battery running the front facing camera while watching a 2-hour movie chews up.

– Would you buy an expensive smartphone from these guys?!

Rumor: Microsoft Working on a Smartphone

Windows 8.  Windows Phone 8.  Surface.  Radical shifts in Windows and Office.  Microsoft has been on a roll latley, and now rumors are surfacing, in the form of a Wall Street Journal article, that Microsoft is working on a new smartphone prototype.

“Officials at some of Microsoft’s parts suppliers, who declined to be named, said the Redmond, Wash.-based company is testing a smartphone design but isn’t sure if a product will go into mass production.

One person said that the screen of Microsoft’s smartphone currently being tested measures between four and five inches. Apple’s newest smartphone, the iPhone 5, has a four-inch screen, while Samsung’s Galaxy S III phone has a 4.8-inch screen. “

Microsoft is no stranger to how difficult launching a new, successful smartphone platform is.  Windows CE and Windows Mobile have been around for years.  Windows Phone 7 and Windows Phone 8 cut the ties with previous attempts at a new Microsoft mobile operating system.  Windows Phone has been well regarded, but not well adopted by customers and developers.  And the Microsoft Kin wasn’t exactly “successful.”

Only time will tell if Microsoft can rekindle the magic they had with customers back in the late 90’s and early 2000’s.

[Via Wall Street Journal.com…]

HP’s “Bender” Smartphone Prototype

Last Friday many mobile new websites, including BGR.com, reported that HP has aspirations to build another line of smartphones.

Today, BGR ran another story indicating that not only are plans underway to develop a new line of smartphones, that a test device, code named “Bender”, has already been created and is being tested.  The kicker?  The prototype device is said to be running Google’s Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) operating system.

Huh?  After HP ingloriously put Palm webOS, Palm’s hardware, and people out to pasture HP is trying to jump start things again with an Android phone?  I’m sure this is very frustrating for WebOS’s fans.  HP said that they wanted to get out of the smartphone business when they shutdown production of the Pre3, Veer, and TouchPad – the last three webOS devices – and then making webOS open source.

Then a year later, things are going gang busters again?  This seems totally inefficient to have a smartphone and mobile OS division up and running, shuttering things, and then rebuilding a hardware and software team to, essentially, re-inventing the wheel with a new hardware platform and Android ICS.

To be fair, I can see why HP decided to go with Android over their in-house webOS hardware and software software assets.  Android, and Apple’s iOS, have gobbled up an insane amount of marketshare in the mobile space.  webOS, even in it’s hay day, back in 2009 when the original Palm Pre launched on Sprint, never achieved a significant foothold.  When I chose to switch from the Sprint Palm Pre to the iPhone 4S in 2011, webOS was below 2% marketshare.  If you are trying to become relevant in the smartphone space, you need an option that will draw customers, developers, and carriers to your platform.  webOS isn’t that platform.  Just ask Nokia, Research in Motion (RIM), and Microsoft about their efforts to increase their smartphone marketshare.

But, seriously? This seems like a gigantic waste of time, money, staff resources, and momentum.  Apple, Google, Microsoft, Nokia, and RIM have all realized that they need to control the customer experience “end-to-end” from the hardware and software, to the online software store, and ultimately, the customer experience.  This tight integration has propelled Apple and Google to amazing heights and others are trying to replicate it.  Palm, with webOS and their webOS device line up, offered the kind of solution that HP is trying to fabricate with Android and new hardware.

If I was an HP shareholder, I would be furious at the opportunity costs associated with tearing everything down, and then, essentially, outsourcing the software development to Google, and ultimately, putting Google in the driver’s seat for the software development of HP’s new ‘gotta do it’ smartphone strategy.

At the end of the day, the only thing that is clear for me, is that I won’t be replacing my iPhone 4S with a new HP smartphone.  I’ve made my peace with webOS and will remember Palm fondly.

Report: Teens Send Over 3,000 Text Messages a Month

BoyGeniusReport.com ran a story earlier this weekend that on average, teens send over 3,000 text messages a month.

“[Y]ou may or may not be surprised to know that U.S. teens, on average, send 3,339 text messages per month. The numbers come courtesy of analytics company Nielsen who analyzed the cellular habits of over 3,000 teens in April, May, and June. The study finds the males between the age of 13 and 17 send roughly 2,539 texts per month while females send a blistering 4,050.”

Call me old fashioned, but if I had that much to say, I’d save the stress on my thumbs and, you know, call the person on the phone.  Now I’ll be the first to admit that text messaging has it’s place.  For example, my wife works in a place where she can’t talk on her phone, and we have to send email or text messages.

When wireless carriers are counting text messages against your plan, they count both incoming and outgoing messages.  It would be interesting to see if the numbers Nielson is reporting are outbound text messages by teens or not.  If Nielsen is only counting outgoing messages, these are really some staggering numbers.

Bottom line: Parents if your kids have a cell phone capable of sending text messages, do yourself a favor and purchase the unlimited plan or have the text messaging service(s) blocked on their phone number.  Or, better yet, tell your child that they will have to pay the monthly service fee for the unlimited text messaging plan, if not the entire bill.

NM Senator, FCC Looking Into Stopping ‘Bill Shock’

MacWorld.com is reporting that New Mexico Senator, Tom Udall (D) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) are looking at possible ways to use smartphone technology to alert consumers when they are about to reach their cellular plan’s monthly cap.

According to MacWorld, “[t]he FCC began seeking public comment  about bill shock in May, and the agency released a survey later in the month that found 17 percent of respondents had experienced sudden billing increases, even though they hadn’t changed their calling or texting plans.”

“The texting and Internet capabilities that make today’s cell phones more useful than ever should be applied to help customers avoid bill shock,” Udall said when introducing the bill. “Sending an automatic text or e-mail notification to a person’s phone is a simple, cost-effective solution that should not place a burden on cell phone companies and will go a long way toward reducing the pain of bill shock by customers.”

Here in the United States, purchasing a smartphone is sort of a catch-22.  We all like playing low prices for our new gadgets, but often those low prices are accompanied with a two year service contract, effectively locking you into the service agreement.  You can exit the contract early, however, you can be subject to $300+ early termination fees (ETF).  I think that I would like to see the phone companies being more proactive to let people know when they are about to reach their contracted usage limits.  Too often I’ve heard from parents about teen texting bills and being caught off guard about how expensive the monthly bill was.  (By the way, it costs less than 2-cents to process a text message, yet the average cost charged for a text message is anywhere from 15 to 25-cents, depending on your plan.)

[Via MacWorld.com…]

Accidents 23% More Likely When Texting While Driving

I was reading the latest issue of MacWorld magazine (October, 2009 cover date) which had an interesting statistic on page 26: accidents are 23% more likely when you are driving. It was an interesting statistic to be sure; however, the statistic was not documented.

A few minutes and Google searches later, I discovered that the statistic was taken from a July 27, 2009 paper from the VirginiaTech Transportation Institute.

“Several large‐scale, naturalistic driving studies (using sophisticated cameras and instrumentation in participants’ personal vehicles) conducted by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI), provide a clear picture of driver distraction and cell phone use under real‐world driving conditions. Combined, these studies continuously observed drivers for more than 6 million miles of driving.”

In the provided table was the statistic that was reported in MacWorld: Text messaging – 23.2 times as high as non‐distracted driving.

The bottom line on this one: DON’T DO IT!!

You can read the report that I found on the VTTI website (includes a PDF download link) or you can read an article that was published in the New York Times.