Archive for the ‘Communication Systems’ Category

Google IO – 18 Months of Android Upgrades Coming

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

We’ve all been there. That point where we don’t know whether to hang on to our current phone or lay down some exorbitant amount of money for the latest and greatest model. They might be upgrading the OS, you might have said. More often than not, especially for AT&T customers, the upgrades never come, and you end up missing out on the latest phone until it too is outdated. Google is trying to solve this problem, and has brought together an impressive set of partners to do so.

At yesterday’s IO keynote, Google announced that it was partnering with AT&T, Sony Ericsson, Sprint, Verizon, HTC, Samsung, Motorola, Vodafone, and LG to make sure that phones are upgraded in a timely manner for a definite period of time. The details are still forthcoming, but the general idea is that each carrier/manufacturer would guarantee 18 months of upgrades and support for each phone. With most American cell phone contracts lasting 2 years at a time, 18 months of upgrades is not so bad. In fact it is great! One thinks of the Xperia X10 which AT&T doomed to fail by letting it linger in Android 1.6, all the while Sony Ericsson was working on kicking out a Gingerbread release (expected this quarter). HTC has supported certain phones, yet other nearly identical models aren’t supported based on the type of screen. This type of thing could soon be a memory.

As new Android versions are released, the carriers would upgrade the operating systems much faster than their current rate of deployment. You wouldn’t find yourself being two to three operating systems behind the current version. This is pretty exciting news. This will go far in addressing the fragmentation issue. Developers won’t have to worry so much about backward compatibility once this system is set up. They can just develop apps for the latest OS. I think this will do a lot to bring some of the iOS-only developers on board with Android. If an app can be used across carriers, and there is a consistent OS running the devices, there will be a larger, non-fragmented audience standing in line to buy their apps.

I am looking forward to seeing what comes of this partnership. It would be nice to know that the phone won’t be obsolete within weeks of purchase. What about you? Do you think this can work? Will the carriers cooperate with Google? Let me know in the comments.

Understanding Data Coverage Notation

Thursday, December 23rd, 2010

Most of us with a smart phone are used to checking our data coverage by looking for “3G” at the top of our devices. Those without a smart phone might look for an E, if they are AT&T customers. I took a very long train ride over the last two days and managed to see a wide spectrum of data coverage. One I had to look up, so I thought it would be good to cover the spectrum. This is primarily a lesson on GSM devices, though there is some overlap.

Having finally debranded my AT&T phone, I now expect to see an “H” to tell me whether I have a data connection. The H is for HSDPA, which is generally understood as 3.5G. It is what AT&T has been working on in 2010, in preparation for LTE in 2011. When an LTE connection gets congested, the phone will fall back on HSDPA which will still be fast, thus making a more pleasant data experience. At least that’s the plan. So far I have noticed a lot of improvement in my connection speed. Part of it is finally having Eclair on my Xperia X10, but the HSDPA is certainly a factor.

Next is the more familiar 3G. This doesn’t require as much of an explanation. Prior to LTE, WiMax, and HSDPA, it was the fastest thing around. Most fast phones are currently 3G capable.

For AT&T customers, the next fastest connection is Edge. You’ll see this represented by an “E”. My Sony Ericsson Walkman phone was only capable of Edge, so that used to be a good thing for me to find on my phone. Now that H is my fastest connection, the E is dreaded. It is however better than the one I found today.

As my phone went in and out of AT&T’s coverage area, roaming here and there, I noticed a new symbol. I saw a “G” at the top of my phone. G is 2G, or really slow. It is short for GPRS. Considering the fact I spent most of the last two days on Edge, I assumed the G was bad, and I was right.

Here are the options for comparison:

Symbol Connection Speed
G GPRS 56 Kbits/second
E Edge 236 Kbits/second
3G UMTS 384 Kbits/second
H HSDPA 7.2 Mbits/second to 14.4 Mbits/second

So there you have it, in a very limited nutshell. You can see why I am happy seeing an H every day now. I don’t get anywhere near the 7 Mbits/second, but it is noticeably faster than 3G. I am assuming as the network matures it will reach its potential. Spending most of the last two days between no coverage or G and E, I have been largely disconnected. That’ll teach me to take a train through the middle of nowhere. It would be nice if AT&T really did cover 97% of Americans as it claims. I would have been far less frustrated.

HootSuite Apps Going Free October 13

Thursday, October 7th, 2010

HootSuite, the popular Twitter companion made a pretty major announcement this week. The full HootSuite app will be available for free on both Android and iOS 4 devices. Among the perks in the full version are clickthrough stats, removal of the three account limit, and otherwise enjoying all the other benefits of the full version. Additional features will be added in the coming weeks and months.

If you’ve already paid the $3 for the full mobile version, you will continue to enjoy HootSuite without ads, using unlimited accounts, and viewing stats. It looks like this means the free version will be at least partially ad-supported. There is also some language in the blog post that needs further clarification. It looks like the free mobile apps are designed to augment the paid “non-mobile” HootSuite pro accounts. HootSuite Pro specifically says it is for new users, so I’m not sure if I was grandfathered into the pro version there too. I’ll post an update when I learn more. It is important to note that to benefit by the grandfathering policy you have to have paid for the $3 app before noon PST on October 13, and you must also use the latest version of the app before noon as well. This entails having a HootSuite account as well.

I’ve been using HootSuite as long as I’ve been using Twitter. I have enjoyed the service so far, and it keeps getting better. Now that the mobile version is going to be free, more people will get to enjoy HootSuite. I’ve used the Mobile Lite version on an iPad, iPhone 3G, and my Xperia X10 with Android. It worked great on each device. I recently upgraded to the pro version, so I am looking forward to seeing what is in store.

If you haven’t tried HootSuite yet, I highly recommend it. I prefer it over Seesmic and TweetDeck, though those apps do have their perks. Now that HootSuite Mobile will be free, you have even more incentive to give it a try. When you do, let me know what you think.