Posts Tagged ‘Google’

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especially for AT&T customers, the upgrades never come, and you end up missing out on the latest phone until it too is outdated.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.

Android Market Now Rents Movies

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

Google’s annual IO conference began today, and Android was a highlight of the keynote. Among the more notable new features, Google is now offering movie rentals through the Android Market. Movies range from $1.99 to $3.99, and have similar terms and expiration policies as other services. I am still looking for the $1.99 selection. There is a good mix of newer and older titles available, from “The King’s Speech” to Monty Python’s “Meaning of Life”.

Browsing through the movie selection, there are a number of features available. You can watch a preview with YouTube, get critic reviews or user reviews, tweet about the movie, read a synopsis, and find out general information about the movie. Movie ratings, length, and contract terms are available as well. Once purchased, the rental is valid for 30 days if the movie is not watched. Once playback begins, the timeline drops to 24 hours. This is comparable to the PlayStation Network and Dish Network’s pay per view options.

I think this service is poised to give both Netflix and Amazon a run for their money. The layout is clean, easy to follow, and conveniently connected to your Google account. This means you can watch on your Android phone or your computer, no matter where you are. There’s even a feature to watch the movie offline if you don’t have a consistent connection. This is done with a “pin” feature, and can take a good chunk of time on a tablet such as the Xoom. Google posts download times as 45-90 minutes for HD and 30-60 minutes for SD. Streaming is instant, so you might want to do that if your data plan isn’t unlimited.

The service is currently available only in the United States. Google suggests you download the movie before leaving the country if you want to use the service elsewhere. An Android app is available on the Xoom, and requires Flash. The app should be available for Froyo and above soon, but you can browse for movies at market.android.com/movies.

I think this feature will be getting a lot of action in my household. I’m looking forward to spending some more time with it. This weekend’s road trip should provide ample opportunity to play, so I’ll post my experiences next week.

Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc Coming Q1 2011

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

Sony Ericsson announced the new Xperia Arc last night at CES. This is the phone previously referred to as the ANZU. For the most part it is similar to the Xperia X10, but the differences bring the Arc above and beyond the X10. Here are the specs:

  • Android 2.3 (Gingerbread)
  • 4.2″ capacitive touch screen with multitouch
  • 1 GHz Qualcomm Processor
  • Reality Display with Bravia Engine
  • 16,777,216 color TFT
  • Sony Exmor R for mobile for low-light video and pictures
  • 8.1MP camera with LED Flash
  • HDMI connection for display on TV
  • aGPS
  • Bluetooth A2DP
  • DLNA
  • USB mass storage
  • Up to 512 MB internal memory
  • MicroSD support up to 32 GB, 8GB card included
  • Microsoft Exchange Activesync
  • 3D and Motion Gaming

The top of the spec list shows that Sony Ericsson has been listening to its customers. The phone starts with Gingerbread, making it a competitor for the other big players in the market. It has multi-touch and a 16 million color display, which rounds out the list of common Xperia X10 complaints. I have been pretty satisfied with the X10’s display, but it is usually a good idea to improve from one model to the next.

I would have liked to see more internal memory. X10 users can’t download apps to the SD card, which easily taxes the internal memory. With Gingerbread this shouldn’t be a problem though, which is likely the reason the internal memory wasn’t ramped up.

The Bravia engine is interesting to me. It is the first use of Bravia tech in a smart phone, according to the press conference. It is designed to bring an extra clear image to the phone, making the most of the 16 million color display. It enhances brightness, sharpness, and contrast as well as improving noise reduction. The result is pretty impressive.

The camera’s low-light sensor has been upgraded. Sony has been a leader in low-light chips, so it is good to see an improvement on the Arc’s camera. The LED flash is also a welcome improvement. The solid LED light on the X10 was useful, but definitely needed improvement. Sony Ericsson chose not to bump the camera above 8.1MP, which was a little disappointing to me. I was hoping for at least 10MP for an upgraded model.

The headphone jack was moved to the side of the phone, which also improves on the X10’s design. It looks like the USB connector is still on top though. The USB connector works a lot better on the bottom or side of the phone in my experience. I was hoping to see some movement there.

Check out the video below to see the Arc from various angles. It is a pretty sharp looking phone, which is what Sony Ericsson is well-known for producing.

At the press conference it was announced that this is the first of a new line of smart phones. The fabled PSP phone should be announced next month, based on the internet buzz. I think the Xperia Arc is a good follow-up to the X10. It made some much-needed improvements, and should really enhance the user’s experience. I’ll post a full review when I get a test unit. You can check out the full press release here.

The Xperia Arc will be released in select markets in Q1 of this year. Other markets should get it by Q2. Hopefully AT&T is on the Q1 list, though I doubt it will be. AT&T is content to lag behind the competition.