Thursday, October 16, 2008

Google - powered G1 Smartphone

It's not really fair to constantly compare the first Google-powered phone, the T-Mobile G1, a smart phone, with the Apple iPhone (smartphone).

That's like comparing a PC to a Mac.

But that PC-Mac comparison became more obvious during the week or so I tested the G1 in and around Seattle.

After more than a year of rumors and hype, the first phone using the Google-developed Android operating system goes on sale next Wednesday from Bellevue-based T-Mobile USA.

It's a great device. But with Apple having made the big leap ahead with the smartphone iPhone, and all sorts of companies now offering Web-enabled devices, the smartphone G1 doesn't feel as revolutionary as the hype suggested it would be.

In the hand, the smartphone G1 feels utilitarian. It's a solid computing and communication device, not a sexy little accessory like the smartphone iPhone.

Yet I'd argue the smartphone G1 is a better phone for one reason alone: Its battery lasts for days, in standby at least, and easily makes it through a day of occasional calling and browsing.

Millions of iPhone fans don't agree on this point, but I'd rather have extended battery life than the superior look and feel of the iPhone. I don't want to worry every day about recharging.

That gets back to the PC-Mac comparison.

Apple's the equivalent of BMW, while Microsoft and now Google, with the G1, are building the Toyotas and Hondas of the tech world.

That's clear in the exterior and interior of the smartphone G1.

As a phone, it works and sounds just fine. Its body — with a tail like a skateboard — feels more natural against my face than the iPhone's flat plane of glass.

Both devices use on-screen numbers and icons to select functions such as Google maps, Gmail and their built-in music players.

But controlling the smartphone G1 isn't quite as intuitive as the iPhone.

For instance, both have lovely on-screen phone keypads. But to place a call on the smartphone G1 after dialing, the instructions tell you to move your thumb off the touch-screen, down to the green "send" button below. It doesn't feel quite right; why isn't there an obvious "send" button on-screen?

Another utilitarian feature of the smartphone G1: four hard buttons and nubby trackball used to navigate on the screen. They're nice to have and give you more ways to control the device, like precise scrolling through a list of messages.

This reminds me of how Microsoft, back in the dawn of the PC era, put multiple buttons on its computer mice. It took the pragmatic, engineering approach, while Steve Jobs thought one mouse button was plenty for Apple.

But some smartphone G1 features are a little puzzling. For instance, you can also activate a call by tapping on the number you've just entered, but that's not obvious to the user.

Maybe you're not supposed to dial that way. One time I did this, and the Android operating system froze up and displayed a scary error message.

It said "Sorry! Activity Dialer is not responding." Then it displayed two buttons: "Wait," which I did for about 10 minutes, and "Force Close," which restored the phone's home page without a reboot.

Speaking of reboot, the phone failed its first spousal-approval test when I asked her to search for an oil-change place on Mercer Island as I drove east out of the Mount Baker tunnel.

Midway across the floating bridge, the phone completely froze and had to be restarted. I ended up taking the battery out to get it going again.

That reminded me of the time I sat in Magnolia trying to load a ferry schedule on an iPhone. It took so long I ended up missing the boat.

Despite those early-days glitches, I'm still a huge fan of these "pocket browsers." But when you're used to broadband computing, they still feel a little slow, even on new 3G networks. Maps, for instance, load much slower than on a dedicated GPS device.

It's still expensive to use these devices, even though the G1 is a bit cheaper than the iPhone. With the maximum discount from T-Mobile, the device costs $179 plus at least $55 per month.

That rate includes $30 for the cheapest voice plan, plus $25 for unlimited data, e-mail and 400 text messages per month. Unlimited messaging is another $10 per month.

Apple's iPhone starts at $199, with AT&T plans costing at least $70 per month.

The smartphone G1's screen is bright and crisp but just as prone to smudges as the smartphone iPhone.

Out of the box, it displays a handful of essential icons: dialer, contacts, browser and maps, plus T-Mobile's MyFaves, which allows you unlimited contact with five friends.

To see other applications — including the bundled YouTube, Gmail and Amazon's MP3 store — you slide a finger upward, which "lifts" a screen on which all the icons appear.

Holding a finger down on the screen launches options, similar to right-clicking a mouse, but it doesn't work in all applications.

The display screen swings upward to reveal a Qwerty keyboard. One of its keys is a nifty, computerlike magnifying glass, which you press to launch a search window. From the home page, this launches Google Search. If you're running an application, it searches within that program.

If you're obsessive-compulsive about your screen layout, stick with the iPhone. The G1 is looser, with icons here and there after you've started downloading applications.

That gets back to the Mac-PC comparison.

Google and its partners are developing a smartphone phone platform, not a phone by itself, like Apple.

The goal with its Android operating system was to create an open platform that lots of companies can use to build phones and write whatever kind of mobile applications they like.

I wonder if that openness will attract more software developers who ultimately make the Android platform more attractive, similar to the way Microsoft became dominant in the 1980s and 1990s.

For now, though, phone buyers will probably pay more attention to the look, feel and price.

If you're ready to upgrade, aren't committed to Apple and want to switch from a phone to a mobile computer sooner rather than later, you should definitely consider the G1.

Otherwise, you might want to wait a few months to be sure the version 1.0 kinks are worked out and to compare the smartphone G1 with other Google-powered phones that other companies have in the works.

Most everybody will opt for this sort of phone eventually, if battery life lengthens, service fees come down and their cameras improve.


A smartphone is a mobile phone offering advanced capabilities beyond a typical mobile phone, often with PC-like functionality. There is no industry standard definition of a smartphone.
For some, a smartphone is a phone that runs complete operating system software providing a standardized interface and platform for application developers.
For others, a smartphone is simply a phone with advanced features like e-mail and Internet capabilities, and/or a full keyboard.

Definition of a Smartphone:
There is no agreement in the industry about what a smartphone actually is and definitions have changed over time. According to David Wood, EVP at Symbian, "Smart phones differ from ordinary mobile phones in two fundamental ways: how they are built and what they can do."
Most devices considered smartphones today use an identifiable and open operating system, often with the ability to add applications (e.g. for enhanced data processing, connectivity or entertainment) - in contrast to regular phones which only support sandboxed applications (like Java games). These smartphone applications may be developed by the manufacturer of the device, by the network operator or by any other third-party software developer, since the operating system is open.

Features of a Smart Phone:
In terms of features, most smart phones support full featured email capabilities with the functionality of a complete personal organizer. Other functionality might include an additional interface such as a miniature QWERTY keyboard, a touch screen or a D-pad, a built-in camera, contact management, an accelerometer, built-in navigation hardware and software, the ability to read business documents in a variety of formats such as PDF and Microsoft Office, media software for playing music, browsing photos and viewing video clips, internet browsers or even just secure access to company mail, such as is provided by a BlackBerry. One common feature to the majority of the smartphones is a contact list able to store as many contacts as the available memory permits, in contrast to regular phones that has a limit to the maximum number of contacts that can be stored.

Timeline of Smartphones:

The first smartphone was called Simon designed by IBM in 1992 and shown as a concept product that year at COMDEX, the computer industry trade show held in Las Vegas, Nevada. It was released to the public in 1993 and sold by BellSouth. Besides being a mobile phone, it also contained a calendar, address book, world clock, calculator, note pad, e-mail, send and receive fax, and games. It had no physical buttons to dial with. Instead customers used a touch-screen to select phone numbers with a finger or create facsimiles and memos with an optional stylus. Text was entered with a unique on-screen "predictive" keyboard. By today's standards, the Simon would be a fairly low-end smartphone.

The Nokia Communicator line was the first of Nokia's smartphones starting with the Nokia 9000, released in 1996. This distinctive palmtop computer style smartphone was the result of a collaborative effort of an early successful and expensive PDA model by Hewlett Packard combined with Nokia's bestselling phone around that time and early prototype models had the two devices fixed via a hinge; the Nokia 9210 as the first color screen Communicator model which was the first true smartphone with an open operating system; the 9500 Communicator that was also Nokia's first cameraphone Communicator and Nokia's first WiFi phone; the 9300 Communicator was the third dimensional shift into a smaller form factor; and the latest E90 Communicator includes GPS. The Nokia Communicator model is remarkable also having been the most expensive phone model sold by a major brand for almost the full lifespan of the model series, easily 20% and sometimes 40% more expensive than the next most expensive smartphone by any major manufacturer.

The Ericsson R380 was sold as a 'smartphone' but could not run native third-party applications. Although the Nokia 9210 was arguably the first true smartphone with an open operating system, Nokia continued to refer to it as a Communicator.

In 2001 RIM released the first BlackBerry which was the first smartphone optimized for wireless email use and has achieved a total customer base of 8 million subscribers by June 2007, of which three quarters are in North America.

Although the Nokia 7650, announced in 2001, was referred to as a 'smart phone' in the media, and is now called a 'smartphone' on the Nokia support site, the press release referred to it as an 'imaging phone'. Handspring delivered the first widely popular smartphone devices in the US market by marrying its Palm OS based Visor PDA together with a piggybacked GSM phone module. By 2002, Handspring was marketing an integrated package called the Treo; the company was subsequently bought by Palm primarily because the PDA market was dying but the Treo smartphone was quickly becoming popular as a phone with extended PDA organizer features. That same year, Microsoft announced its Windows CE Pocket PC OS would be offered as "Microsoft Windows Powered Smartphone 2002". Microsoft originally defined its Windows Smartphone products as lacking a touchscreen and offering a lower screen resolution compared to its sibling Pocket PC devices. Palm has since largely abandoned its own Palm OS in favor of licensing Microsoft's WinCE-based operating system now referred to as Windows Mobile, although WinCE and Palm OS together now amount to 10% of the smartphone market.

In 2005 Nokia launched its N-Series of 3G smartphones which Nokia started to market not as mobile phones but as multimedia computers.

Out of 1 billion camera phones to be shipped in 2008, smartphones, the higher end of the market with full email support, will represent about 10% of the market or about 100 million units.

The Smartphone Summit semi-annual conference details smartphone industry market data, trends, and updates among smartphone related hardware, software, and accessories.

Android, a cross platform OS for smartphones is scheduled for official release on October 22, 2008.

operating systems (OS) used in smartphones:

The most common operating systems (OS) used in smartphones are:

Symbian OS from Symbian Ltd. (57.1% Market Share Sales Q2 2008 )
Symbian has the largest share in most markets worldwide, but lags behind other companies in the relatively small but highly visible North American market. This matches the success of its largest shareholder and customer, Nokia, in all markets except Japan. Nokia itself enjoys 52.9% of the smartphone market. In Japan Symbian is strong due to a relationship with NTT DoCoMo, with only one of the 44 Symbian handsets released in Japan coming from Nokia. It is used by many major handset manufacturers, including BenQ, LG, Motorola, Samsung, and Sony Ericsson. Various implementations of user interfaces on top of Symbian (most notable being UIQ and Nokia's own S60) are incompatible, which along with the requirement that applications running on mobile phones be signed is hindering the potential for a truly widely accepted mobile application platform. It has received some adverse press attention due to virus threats (actually trojan horses).
RIM BlackBerry operating system (17.4% Market Share Sales Q2 2008)3

This OS is focused on easy operation and was originally designed for business. Recently it has seen a surge in third-party applications and has been improved to offer full multimedia support.
Windows Mobile from Microsoft (12.0% Market Share Sales Q2 2008)

Windows CE operating system along with Windows Mobile middleware are widely spread in Asia. The two improved variants of this operating system, Windows Mobile 6 Professional (for touch screen devices) and Windows Mobile 6 Standard were unveiled in February 2007. Windows Mobile is enjoying great popularity because of the low barrier to entry for third-party developers to write new applications for the platform.
Linux operating system (7.3% Market Share Sales Q2 2008)

Linux is strongest in China where it is used by Motorola, and in Japan, used by DoCoMo. Rather than being a platform in its own right, Linux is used as a basis for a number of different platforms developed by several vendors, including Motorola and TrollTech, which are mostly incompatible.[23][24] PalmSource (now Access) is moving towards an interface running on Linux.[25] Another platform based on Linux is being developed by Motorola, NEC, NTT DoCoMo, Panasonic, Samsung, and Vodafone.[26]
iPhone OS from Apple Inc. (2.8% Market Share Sales Q2 2008)

The iPhone (and iPod touch) use an operating system called iPhone OS, which is derived from Mac OS X. Third party applications were originally only made available for iPhone users through a web service that can be accessed via the included web browser; however, with the release of iPhone OS 2.0 on July 11th 2008, native applications are now available and can be downloaded through the iTunes App Store.
Palm OS developed by PalmSource (now a subsidiary of ACCESS) (2.3% Market Share Sales Q2 2008)

PalmSource traditionally used its own platform developed by Palm Inc. Access Linux Platform (ALP) is an improvement that was planned to be launched in the first half of 2007. It will use technical specifications from the Linux Phone Standards Forum. The Access Linux Platform will include an emulation layer to support applications developed for Palm-based devices.
Binary Runtime Environment for Wireless (BREW)

BREW was developed in the USA by Qualcomm, Inc and is popular in North America. BREW is a mobile application development platform and end-to-end content delivery ecosystem. BREW has recently gained a foothold in Europe via the Three Skypephone offered by network 3.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Google's first phone smart, but needs work

Google's G1 smart phone feature-filled but there's room for improvement:

Given Google Inc.'s reputation as a trend setter on the Web, I expected great things from its first mobile phone -- especially since it is emerging more than a year after Apple Inc. launched the enormously popular iPhone.

And while it's far from perfect, the G1 powered by Google's Android operating system is packed with plenty of consumer-oriented features that may even make iPhone fans take notice.

Made by Taiwan's HTC Corp., the G1 is being released Oct. 22 by T-Mobile in the U.S. and will cost $179 with a two-year contract. The device, about the size as the iPhone but plumper, will be available in black or bronze. It sports a large touch screen, and the lower smidgen of the device is angled -- the curvature seemed more stylistic than functional to me -- and sports four buttons and a trackball.

Beneath the touch screen is a slide-out QWERTY keyboard that makes the G1 feel like a grownup's version of another device T-Mobile sells, the Sidekick. The keyboard will appeal to anyone who, like me, still prefers the feel of physical keys rather than virtual ones on the screen (sorry, Apple).

There's also an adjacent microSD card slot that comes loaded with a 1 gigabyte card. Don't lose this tiny card, because it's the storage spot for photos and songs you want to access on the G1. If you want to invest in more space, the G1 supports cards up to 16 gigabytes.

From the start, the G1 was easy to use. It includes an intuitive interface and many of Google's familiar services, like search, Gmail and Google Talk.

There's also Google Maps, which is enhanced by a built-in compass that lets you see locations in the "Street View" feature by moving the phone as you hold it.

I had no trouble doing things like instant messaging my friends, searching for bubble tea stores near my apartment, and yes, making phone calls. There is a good-looking browser that is pretty simple to navigate, and the device's screen is clear and sharp.

I was more impressed with the speed of T-Mobile's 3G network than I have been with AT&T's, and noticed applications and songs downloaded fairly quickly and easily. This could change, though, as the network is still quite new and there are not many phones running on it yet. The phone also works on T-Mobile's slower but more widespread EDGE network; however, data functions aren't as zippy.

The downside of all the talking, Web surfing and content downloading is that it can quickly run down a phone's battery. The G1 promises up to five hours of talk time and nearly 5 1/2 days of standby time, but who's going to simply chat on a smart phone or let it sit gathering dust?

I gave the device a fairly realistic battery rundown -- on-and-off use of multiple functions and applications and the phone's 3G and Wi-Fi network capabilities. It's safe to say people with a serious multimedia habit will have to keep a charging cable on hand.

Early on, I noticed that the G1's main screen actually extends beyond the device's viewing area. You can access the "hidden" parts by swiping to the right or left of the screen. I used this to organize shortcuts to certain programs by type: I put all my game shortcuts on the left "screen" and kept shortcuts to things like my contacts, Gmail, browser and phone dialer on the main screen area.

A key element is the Google-run Android Market, which lets third-party developers offer add-on programs and games that you can download wirelessly to the G1. For now, downloads are free, but eventually some may cost money.

There weren't that many programs available when I tested the G1 -- I counted about three dozen applications and 10 games, a fraction of what Apple's iPhone App Store contains -- but more should come soon. And while Apple has been slowly approving iPhone applications and rejecting some that compete with its own programs, the Android Market is more open to developers.

I liked a few applications, especially the "Barcode Scanner" that uses the G1's 3-megapixel camera to read the UPC barcodes on things like product boxes and book jackets and then links you to related Web searches. It's pretty nifty if you want to know more about a novel or check prices online.

Some applications take advantage of the G1's GPS capabilities, like one called "Ecorio" that tracks your trips and computes your carbon footprint.

The G1 also connects to Inc.'s online MP3 store, which was easy to browse and offered quick downloads of songs free of copy protection. Take note, though, that as with the iPhone you'll need Wi-Fi access rather than just 3G cellular connectivity to download songs wirelessly.

The phone's built-in support for YouTube may appeal to video fans, but it was underwhelming to me. Even though Google owns YouTube, the clips I watched on the Google phone looked poorer than they tend to on a desktop computer.

Unfortunately, video and song playback is hampered by a major hardware shortcoming: the G1 eschews a standard headphone jack in favor of an included but uncomfortable earbud headset, which plugs into the mini USB port that is also used to charge the phone. This poses several problems, as you can't use your favorite headphones without an adapter and it's impossible to charge the G1 while listening to music or watching videos, unless you want to use the included speaker.

I thought I might be able to circumvent this problem by using a stereo Bluetooth headset, but, alas, the G1 only supports non-stereo Bluetooth headsets.

True smart phone greatness can take time, and I'm willing to cut Google a little slack. After all, the first iPhone wowed, but it was not without issues and missing features. The second version was better, and yet still there is plenty of room for improvement.

So I'm optimistic the G1 will improve soon, partly through its over-the-air software updates and additions to the Android Market. Google's search engine was not the first of its kind, either. And we all know how that worked out.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

iPhone by Apple

iPhone combines three products

A revolutionary mobile phone,
A widescreen iPod with touch controls
A breakthrough Internet communications device with desktop-class email, web browsing, maps, and searching
— into one small and lightweight handheld device.

iPhone also introduces an entirely new user interface based on a large multi-touch display and pioneering new software, letting you control everything with just your fingers. So it ushers in an era of software power and sophistication never before seen in a mobile device, completely redefining what you can do on a mobile phone.

iPhone is a revolutionary new mobile phone that allows you to make a call by simply pointing your finger at a name or number in your address book, a favorites list, or a call log. It also automatically syncs all your contacts from a PC, Mac, or Internet service. And it lets you select and listen to voicemail messages in whatever order you want — just like email.

iPhone features a rich HTML email client and Safari

iPhone has the most advanced web browser ever on a portable device — which automatically syncs bookmarks from your PC or Mac. Safari also includes built-in Google and Yahoo! search. iPhone is fully multi-tasking, so you can read a web page while downloading your email in the background over Wi-Fi or EDGE.

iPhone: Safari Web Browser

With its advanced Safari browser, iPhone lets you see any web page the way it was designed to be seen, then easily zoom in by simply tapping on the multi-touch display with your finger.

iPhone: Multi-touch

iPhone features the most revolutionary user interface since the mouse. It’s an entirely new interface based on a large multi-touch display and innovative new software that lets you control everything using only your fingers. So you can glide through albums with Cover Flow, flip through photos and email them with a touch, or zoom in and out on a section of a web page — all by simply using iPhone’s multi-touch display.

iPhone: Intelligent Keyboard

iPhone’s full QWERTY soft keyboard lets you easily send and receive SMS messages in multiple sessions. And the keyboard is predictive, so it prevents and corrects mistakes, making it easier and more efficient to use than the small plastic keyboards on many smartphones.

iPhone is a widescreen iPod

iPhone is a widescreen iPod with touch controls that lets you enjoy all your content — including music, audiobooks, videos, TV shows, and movies — on a beautiful 3.5-inch widescreen display. It also lets you sync your content from the iTunes library on your PC or Mac. And then you can access it all with just the touch of a finger.

iPhone: Technical Specifications

Screen size
3.5 inches
Screen resolution
320 by 480 at 160 ppi
Input method
Operating system
4GB or 8GB
Quad-band (MHz: 850, 900, 1800, 1900)
Wireless data
Wi-Fi (802.11b/g) + EDGE + Bluetooth 2.0
2.0 megapixels
Up to 5 hours Talk / Video / Browsing
Up to 16 hours Audio playback
4.5 x 2.4 x 0.46 inches / 115 x 61 x 11.6mm
4.8 ounces / 135 grams


iPhone: In News

Apple computer has announced its entry into the mobile phone market, proudly unveiling its "iPhone" that the company hopes will emulate the revolutionary success of the iPod. Apple chief executive Steve Jobs introduced the sleek new device -- which also offers Internet access, a music player and a digital camera -- at the MacWorld conference yesterday and expo in San Francisco, showcasing Apple Technology. "Every once in a while a revolutionary product comes along that changes everything," jobs said. "It's like having the Internet in your pocket," the Apple CEO said. "It's the ultimate digital device. It's like having your life in your pocket."

The iPhone will be ultra-slim -- less than half-an-inch thick -- boasting a phone, internet capability and an MP3 player as well as featuring a two megapixel digital camera, Jobs said. Two versions of the iPhone will be released, a four gigabyte version priced at US $ 499 and an eight gigabyte version priced at US $599. The devices will be shipped to US retail stores in June, Jobs said. Apple expects to make it available in Asia by 2008. "This is a leapfrog product with a revolutionary new interface with software five years ahead of any other phone and desktop class applications, not those crippled applications you find on those other phones," Jobs said.


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