CTIA Wireless 2010

The CTIA Wireless 2010 show was recently held in Las Vegas. It is the biggest wireless trade show of the year in North America bringing together wireless hardware manufacturers, software developers,  service providers, industry experts, and pretty much anyone that is involved with wireless. A team from Aumnia, including myself, was there to preview the latest wireless handsets, gadgets, software and market trends. The conference was smaller than previous years highlighting the fact that the industry and the economy in general is still recovering but the activity on the show floor was busy which was a good sign.

Google’s Android OS had a huge presence at this show. Almost every handset manufacturer  showcased a phone running Android. Over 20 new Android handsets were announced during the course of the show. It seemed like Android was turning many handset manufacturers, who previously never had much success in the smartphone market, into serious contenders overnight.

The most impressive smartphone that I saw at the show this year was the Samsung Galaxy S running Android 2.1. In terms of usability, speed, and responsiveness there are not many smartphones that are better than the iPhone, in fact, I personally don’t think there are any at the moment. The Motorola Droid was good and the HTC Nexus One comes very close and if I was an iPhone user (which I am not) wanting to switch to Android, that would be the one to go with…until now. The Samsung Galaxy S is definitely the best Android phone that I have seen to date. The device is fast and super responsive. And the AMOLED screen is amazingly sharp allowing playback of 720p videos. If I were to get an Android phone, this would be the one and it should be available later this summer.

Samsung Galaxy S

Samsung Galaxy S


The other big take away from the show was that all the major carriers in North America were upgrading their networks to 4th generation technology allowing for faster data speeds. There are two competing 4G technologies: WiMAX and LTE. With theoretical speeds of greater than 100Mb/s, DSL and Cable internet providers will have some serious competition. Sprint is currently ahead of the game with 4G deployments in many cities across the USA using WiMAX because unlike LTE, WiMAX hardware is commercially available. WiMAX has already been deployed in many countries worldwide. LTE is newer but with Cisco recently announcing that it will not build WiMAX hardware and AT&T and Verizon both choosing LTE, it looks like LTE (at least in North America) will be the 4G technology of choice.

2010 will be an exciting year for wireless. It will be a big year for Android and I’m looking forward to seeing how Apple responds to this with their new iPhone. It’s great to see companies push each other to the limit in terms of innovation because as consumers, we all benefit from this, no matter what smartphone OS you prefer to use. With 4G networks becoming a reality, I see a trend for more devices that will allow you to share your data connection over WiFi across multiple devices (laptop, netbook, iPad, and even your phone). With 4G being an IP based network, voice usage will primarily be VoIP eliminating the need for voice minutes. It will be interesting to see how the service providers handle this and how data usage will be charged.

Handset Preview: iPhone 3G S

It’s that time of the year again…I’m referring to Apple’s annual World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC) where they have traditionally announced a variety of new products. For the past couple of years, the biggest buzz surrounding this event has been the anticipated announcement of the next generation iPhone and as usual, Apple didn’t disappoint. They have announced the 3rd version of the smartphone and they are calling it the “iPhone 3G S”. The “S” stands for speed. The form factor is in most part identical to the 2nd gen model. They have made a variety of improvements to the hardware and the “3G S” will also ship with the new 3.0 OS. Here are some new features of the iPhone 3G S:

iPhone 3G S

  • Video capture and edit – In the YouTube era, video capture is definitely a must have in any smartphone and Apple has finally answered. The “3G S” adds a new feature that I haven’t seen in any smartphone. In addition to capturing video, it also allows you to edit the video on the fly before uploading or emailing.
  • Improved camera –  3.0MP with autofocus, but still no flash.
  • Faster processor and improved battery life – this typically doesn’t go together because running faster usually means draining the batter faster. Apple did a good job improving the efficiency on the other power hungry components inside the phone. Look forward to faster running applications and smoother loading web pages.
  • Voice control – you can speak commands to the iPhone to dial a phone number, play a song, announce the song title, etc… I’ve never been a big fan of voice control. I find it faster to just dial the phone myself. You still have to press a button on the iPhone to tell it to listen to you, so it is not completely handsfree. If it actually listened to you without you having to press a button first, now that would be cool.
  • Voice memo – this is a handy feature. You can use it to record meetings, lectures, or short notes. I think it would be a better app if they had a function to transcribe your recording to text.
  • Compass – this is the first time I’ve seen a compass on a phone and I think this is a cool feature. It’s definitely useful when combined with the GPS. Maybe someone will design a “stud finder” app.
  • Spotlight search – The inability to search through emails is a big issue. Spotlight is a feature that Mac users are familiar with. It allows you to quickly search anything on the iPhone (email, contacts, iPod, etc…)
  • Cut, copy, paste – Nothing too exciting here, except that it finally works.  I like how you can undo the cut, copy or paste by  shaking to the phone.
  • MMS – It’s finally working! But as smartphone adoption continues to increase, why would we need to use MMS?

The new iPhone 3G S will hit stores on June 19  for $199 (16GB) and $299 (32GB) for new AT&T customers. Existing customers won’t be as lucky because it will cost you $399 (16GB) and $499 (32GB) to upgrade if you are still in a contract. Apple has also cut the price of the existing 3G version to $99 for new customers. This will surely attract a whole new set of customers that were previously on the fence because of price. Are you getting one?

Handset Preview: Palm Pre

The upcoming release of the Palm Pre is being touted as the most exciting new mobile phone since the iPhone. I was a dedicated Palm user back in the day of the old Palm Pilots and actually used one of the first PalmOS Smartphones, Kyocera QCP-6035. I’ve never been impressed with the Treo line of smartphones and never owned one but maybe the Pre will change my mind about Palm.

I had a chance to preview it at CES 2009 this past January and it was pretty impressive. It is smaller and lighter than the iPhone.  The device has a touch screen with a slide-up keyboard but the keyboard looked a little small and not as slick as the BlackBerry. What I think will set this phone apart from others is the new operating system.

Palm Pre

Palm Pre

The operating system (WebOS) looked really cool and I think it will give the iPhone a run for its money. One interesting feature is its ability to pull data for a specific “contact” from various services (IM, Email, Social networks, etc…) and mash them together in a single location instead of switching between different applications. The OS is also capable of multi-tasking which is something iPhone users wish they had. The “Universal Search” function has an option to search Twitter (along with Google and Wikipedia). Similiar to the iPhone and Android, the mobile browser is based on Webkit which will give it the ability to display rich web pages and run cool web applications.

The Palm Pre is scheduled to be released on the Sprint CDMA network on June 6, 2009. Palm has definitely generated a lot of buzz around this new smartphone launch and apparently there will be shortages in the early days. I believe that the success of the Pre (and follow-on smartphones from Palm) will be highly dependent on the success of the new WebOS.

App Review: The Hockey News

With the 2009 Stanley Cup Finals well underway, I thought it would be appropriate to review a hockey app that I have used during this past season to keep updated on news and scores of my favorite teams.  I will be reviewing the BlackBerry version but the app is also available on the iPhone.

Scoreboard

The Hockey News

Overview

This app is free and is available for OTA download by pointing your mobile browser to thn.mobi. The front page of the app shows the current scoreboard of the games during that day and you can scroll through them. If the game is in progress, you can click the link and it will take you to the live stats of that game. If you missed a game, you can go to the Scores/Schedules page to view today’s and yesterday’s game summaries. In the Team Standings page, you can view the standings by conference and by division and I have noticed that the stats were updated very quickly after a game has concluded. If you are a fantasy player, there is a section that shows Player Stats, but it only shows the top 10 skaters and goalies.

Aside from stats and numbers, there is a section that has links to the latest articles and news. The content is pretty good but it is limited to articles that are posted on The Hockey News. It would be better if they had a section that showed articles from different sources. The articles are cached on your device and if you set it up to automatically update, you can actually read them on a plane or somewhere where there isn’t any wireless coverage.

What I Like about the App:

  • A single place to quickly and easily view the current day’s games and scores.
  • The ability to view live game stats and the scores automatically refresh.
  • Team standings are updated very quickly after each game. This is a great feature during playoff races when you’re trying to determine your team’s chances to get into the post season.

What I Don’t Like about the App:

  • On the Team Standings page, I wish they had a column that showed the number of games played. That would come in handy during the end of the season when looking at playoff races.
  • The Schedules page shows all the games that are scheduled for a certain day (all teams). It would be nice to be able to see a schedule for a specific team.
  • The articles are limited to content from The Hockey News.

Summary

One criteria for a good application is that it needs to be self contained. That means it needs to provide all the information that I need without having to go to a second app or web page to get the remaining information.  Except for the fact that it doesn’t show the number of games played (or games remaining) in the standings, The Hockey News mobile app is a great application for hockey fans. It saves you from having to go to your computer when watching hockey to get scores from around the league. I give this app a 9/10 and is a must have for hockey fans. To download this free app, point your mobile browser to thn.mobi.

CTIA Wireless 2009

Having to follow two big international wireless tradeshows (GSMA World Congress and CES)  is a big task for CTIA, which was held last week in Las Vegas. I sometimes wonder why they don’t spread these shows out a bit more.

There were not a lot of major announcements at this show. A handful of new handsets were revealed by  the major manufacturers and all of them focused on messaging capabilities. Slider style keyboards seemed to be a major theme and Apple is the only manufacturer that doesn’t have a dedicated keyboard.

The biggest topics at CTIA were centered around software and mobile applications. RIM announced it’s BlackBerry App World and Microsoft talked about its upcoming Windows Marketplace for Mobile. Google and Nokia also have their own plans. With Apple’s App store generating so much buzz, it is no surprise that everyone else is trying to get a piece of the action. App stores are not a new idea and have been around ever since PDAs were popular. The problem was that it wasn’t easy to find an app and install it on your device. The iPhone changed all of that and everyone will probably admit that Apple has changed the way consumers and manufacturers think about applications. It is now an essential part of the success of a smartphone, not just a nice-to-have feature.