AT&T, Microsoft and Nokia haven't said when the Lumia 900 will hit stores or how much it will cost, but if the flagship Windows Phone is a device you just have to have, you can now pre-order it.
Microsoft's retail stores are currently taking a $25 deposit for those looking to reserve themselves a Lumia 900 on launch day, whenever that is. The deposit offer was first reported by The Verge and confirmed to The Times on Friday through Microsoft Store employees.
Rumor has it that the Lumia 900 could launch in March at a price of about $99 on a 2-year contract, which would undercut top-of-the-line rivals such as Apple's iPhone 4S and the Android Ice-Cream-Sandwich-equipped Galaxy Nexus, built by Samsung.
In the U.S., the Lumia 900 will be exclusive to AT&T and feature a 4.3-inch display, a polycarbonate body in cyan or black, a 1.4-gigahertz Qualcomm single-core processor, 512 megabytes of RAM, 16 gigabytes of built-in storage, an 8-megapixel/720p video rear camera and a 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera.
I spent a bit of time with the Lumia 900 at CES in Las Vegas last month, and the phone did look quite impressive and something I thought could sell at $150 or $200 on a 2-year contract. Check out my hands-on look at the Lumia 900 below.
Samsung has confirmed that the official follow-up to its popular Galaxy S II smartphone, which the tech media are dubbing the "Galaxy S III," is on the way.
But just when the next top-of-the-line Samsung smartphone will arrive is still unclear. The company issued a statement Wednesday, first reported by the website TechRadar, that the new Android handset won't make its debut at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain (Feb. 27-March 1), as the rumor mill had been predicting.
Instead, Samsung said it will hold its own event for the new phone. Here's the statement, as reported by TechRadar:
Samsung is looking forward to introducing and demonstrating exciting new mobile products at Mobile World Congress 2012.
The successor to the Galaxy S2 smartphone will be unveiled at a separate Samsung-hosted event in the first half of the year, closer to commercial availability of the product.
Samsung stays committed to providing the best possible mobile experiences for customers around the world.
So, what will the next Galaxy S phone look like? Many of the rumors surrounding the device have speculated that a larger screen, better camera and faster processor (maybe even a quad-core processor) are on the way.
The Galaxy S II -- which was my personal favorite Android phone until the Samsung-built Galaxy Nexus arrived late last year -- was offered in multiple variations for multiple carriers and sold in either 4.3-inch or 4.5-inch screen sizes, matched with 8-megapixel cameras, 4G connectivity and dual core processors.
Lets hope that Samsung launches the "Galaxy S III" on the latest version of Google's Android operating system, known as Ice Cream Sandwich, whenever the phone does arrive.
Samsung's patent lawsuits with Apple and other rivals are bringing the South Korean tech giant a bit of regulatory scrutiny in the European Union.
On Tuesday, the European Commission, the E.U.'s antitrust agency, said it had formally launched an investigation into whether Samsung had broken any competition laws by not allowing rivals to fairly license patents relating to 3G technology.
"The European Commission has opened a formal investigation to assess whether Samsung Electronics has abusively, and in contravention of a commitment it gave to the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI), used certain of its standard essential patent rights to distort competition in European mobile device markets, in breach of EU antitrust rules," the commission said in a statement. "The opening of proceedings means that the Commission will examine the case as a matter of priority. It does not prejudge the outcome of the investigation."
Central to the investigation is determining whether Samsung has lived up to a pledge the company made 14 years ago to license patents it owned that are "essential" to 3G technology in mobile devices such as phones and tablets.
"In 2011, Samsung sought injunctive relief in various Member States' courts against competing mobile device makers based on alleged infringements of certain of its patent rights which it has declared essential to implement European mobile telephony standards," the E.U. agency said. "The Commission will investigate, in particular, whether in doing so Samsung has failed to honour its irrevocable commitment given in 1998 to the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) to license any standard essential patents relating to European mobile telephony standards on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms. The Commission will examine whether such behaviour amounts to an abuse of a dominant position prohibited by Article 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (TFEU)."
Samsung officials were unavailable for comment Tuesday on the commission's investigation, but the agency said it would work to "guarantee undistorted competition and to reap the positive economic effects of standardisation" of technologies such as 3G wireless connectivity. "It is important that FRAND commitments be fully honoured by the concerned undertakings," the commission said.
Samsung was dealt a loss in its ongoing patent battle with Apple as the South Korean electronics maker's request to overturn a ban on the sale of its Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet in Germany was denied.
A Dusseldorf regional appeals court upheld the August 2011 sales injunction of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 and said that Samsung's Galaxy Tab 8.9 also should be banned from being sold, according to a report on the website FOSS Patents by patent expert Florian Mueller.
Although the decision hurts Samsung, the ruling may also be a setback for Apple. The reasoning behind the court's decision wasn't because of Apple's claims that the Galaxy Tab 10.1 infringes on the design patents for the iPad tablet. Rather, "the appeals court based its decision on a violation of German unfair competition law," Mueller reported.
The injunction against Galaxy Tab 10.1 sales in Germany cited Apple's design patents as the reasoning for pulling the Samsung tablet off store shelves.
In an effort to not miss out on the growing tablet market in Germany, Samsung redesigned the Galaxy Tab 10.1 and then re-released a new German version called the Galaxy Tab 10.1N, which is allowed to be sold, though Apple has requested a sales ban on that product too.
The Dusseldorf appeals court ruling is the latest in an international fight between Samsung, Apple and their respective teams of lawyers. Last week, Apple was denied a requested sales ban on the Galaxy Tab 10.1 in the Netherlands, where the two companies are locked in a patent battle.
Earlier this month, Apple filed two new patent suits against Samsung in Germany, seeking a ban on 10 Samsung phones and five tablets. Last month, a U.S. district court in San Jose denied Apple's request for a ban on the Galaxy Tab 10.1 before a July trial on Apple's lawsuit against Samsung in that court.
In December, a temporary ban on the Samsung tablet in Australia expired in a related suit between the two tech giants. The Australian dispute is set to go to trial in March, and other suits have been filed acrossEurope and Asia.
While the two companies are rivals and suing to block the sales of one another's products, Samsung and Apple are also business partners. Samsung, for example, manufactures the Apple-designed A4 and A5 processors found in the iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPad 2 and iPod Touch, among other components, such as flash memory, inside of many Apple devices.
Barack Obama's use of social media is credited with helping him reach out to voters in a groundbreaking way that helped him win the 2008 presidential race. In 2012, the Obama campaign is eying a new way to reach voters and donors too -- Square.
The president's reelection campaign, as first reported by Politico, is outfitting its staff across the U.S. with the small plastic smartphone credit card readers and mobile payment apps from Square, the San Francisco start-up run by Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey.
But just as the Obama campaign isn'talone in its embracing of social media this year, it too isn't alone in deploying Square for easier, faster fundraising on the campaign trail. On Tuesday, Republican Mitt Romney's campaign announced it too would be using Square for fundraising in Florida, where Romney is facing rivals Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul and Rick Santorum in a Republican primary.
"We have plans to roll it out nationally but right now we're using Square just in Florida as a sort of beta test," said Zac Moffatt, the Romney campaign's digital director. "The challenge on this sort of thing is never with the technology, it's with the compliance. We're making sure everything we're doing follows fundraising rules and is compliant with the FEC [Federal Election Commission] and that it works well. So, for now, were just focusing on making it all work on this smaller scale, but we'd like to scale this out in time, the right way."
Moffatt said the Romney campaign has been talking to Square about how to best implement the company's card reader and app for "probably about six months. This is one of the challenges we face relative to the Obama campaign -- we have only so much manpower. So we've had to plan this out the right way so that we're using the resources we have in an effective way."
To aid its ability to scale-up its use of Square, the Romney campaign is considering developing its own Square-compatibly app that a supporter could download to their smartphone to make a donation or possibly even collect donations on behalf of the campaign -- but that's an idea that hasn't been finalized just yet, Moffatt said.
The campaign looked to Square for fundraising because of the company's ability to turn a smartphone into what is essentially a mobile cash register with a simple app download and a Square card reader in the headphone jack.
"Ease of use is a big part of why we're using Square," he said. "Anything that reduces the barrier for entry is a No. 1 priority for us. Our apps, well that's something to think through. We still have some things to figure out -- whether or not the Apple is going to take 30% of a donation or not, details like that. But we're always looking to get as close to one touch donations as we can."
For the sake of convenience, Moffatt said, all of the Romney's campaign's Square usage will be iPhone based for now, though Android phones may be added in the future. The "beta test" will take place Tuesday night at the Romney campaign's election party in Florida, he said.
"There will be thousands of people there, so we'll be using Square for merchandise sales and fundraising," Moffatt said. "There will be lots of things like this in 2012 and the question always is, does this technology work for us? We have a lot faith this could be something pretty powerful for us moving forward."
Motorola's Xyboard tablet line is just about everything I wished the Motorola Xoom had been when it was released not even a year ago.
The Xoom, Motorola's first attempt to build an iPad-competing tablet, was critically acclaimed when it launched last February. It even won the Best of Show award at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
But the Xoom, which sported a 10.1-inch screen, was a bit too heavy (1.6 pounds) and much too expensive (launching with an $800 price tag), and the 3G and 4G models were available only through Verizon. The 4G capabilities were also delayed about seven months, and when they did arrive, Xoom owners had to mail in their tablets to get a 4G hardware upgrade.
Thankfully, in the Xyboard, it seems Motorola has made up for most (but not all) of its missteps with the Xoom.
For one thing, the Xyboard prices are more acceptable.
The Wi-Fi-only version of the Xyboard starts at $399.99 for the 8.2-inch model and at $499.99 for the 10.1-inch model. The Verizon-exclusive 4G version, known as the Droid Xyboard, starts at $429.99 for the 8.2-inch model and at $529.99 for the 10.1-inch model -- that is, as long as you sign a two-year data plan along with the tablet. (All four of the prices named are for tablets with 16 gigabytes of storage.)
Both the 8.2-inch and 10.1-inch Xyboards have touch screens with a resolution of 1280 x 800 pixels.
The Xyboard 10.1 is thin and light, and physically felt much more competitive with Apple's iPad and Samsung's Galaxy Tab 10.1, the two high-end tablets against which I think the Xyboard 10.1 will be competing most for consumer dollars. The Asus Transformer Prime tablet, a tablet I haven't yet tried, is likely be in this category as well.
In my time testing the 4G-equipped Droid Xyboard 10.1, it was clear more than just the pricing strategy was different with Motorola's new tablets.
Inside, the Xyboard 10.1 is fitted with a 1.2-gigahertz dual core processor and 1 gigabyte of RAM, which powers the tablet to speedy performance that lived up to its price tag.
In the front and rear are 5-megapixel cameras, which shoot detailed photos and 720p video out back too. They aren't as sharp as some 5-megapixel cameras I've seen on smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, Apple iPhone 4 and Nokia Lumia 710, but they're far better than the lackluster cameras in the iPad 2 and the Galaxy Tab.
The Xyboard 10.1 is just 0.35 inches thick and weighs 1.32 pounds, making the inclusion of such high-resolution cameras and a rear LEG flash all the more impressive. It also has dual stereo speakers in the back, which sound good for a tablet (better than speakers on the iPad and the Galaxy Tab 10.1) but don't replace a good set of headphones.
The displays on the Xyboard 10.1 were another high point, responding to touch input quickly and rendering websites, apps and videos sharply, clearly and brightly. Unlike the iPad or the Galaxy Tab 10.1, the Xyboard has a mini-HDMI port built in, so it's easy to hook the tablet up to a TV set.
Nokia's multibillion-dollar bet on Microsoft's Windows Phone operating system is still in its early stages, but so far the bet is a financially losing one. Though, there are glimmers of hope.
The Finnish phone-maker reported a $1.38-billion loss for the fourth quarter of 2011 on Thursday, but the company also said that it has sold "well over 1 million Lumia devices to date."
While the Lumia sales so far don't come close to challenging heavyweights such as Apple's iPhone, which sold about 37 million units in the same three-month period, the consumer uptake is notable considering that the Lumias aren't sold in nearly as many markets as rival phones from Apple, Samsung and HTC.
The Lumia line is Nokia's first range of handsets running on the Windows Phone software, and since the series debut in October, Nokia has released just two phones -- the Lumia 710 and the Lumia 800 -- to Europe, Hong Kong, India, Russia, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan.
Only the Lumia 710 is currently available in the U.S. The newly announced Lumia 900, a phone designed specifically for the U.S. market, is expected to hit stores as early as March. Nokia has yet to launch its Lumia phones in China or Latin America, though the company said in a statement that would happen sometime in the first six months of the year.
Overall Nokia sales fell 21% in the last three months of the year, while smartphone shipments fell 31% from a year ago. Much of Nokia's smartphone dip is attributable to the decline in popularity of phones running the company's Symbian and MeeGo operating systems as consumers have turned to Google's Android platform and the iPhone. When Nokia agreed to take on Windows Phone, it stated that it would abandon Symbian and MeeGo as well.
The company's $1.38-billion fourth quarter loss follows a profit of about $980 million a year earlier.
Apple sold a record breaking 15.43 million iPads in the last three months of 2011, which means a lot of people are starting to use tablet computers. And with last week's news that Apple is planning to bring textbooks to the iPad -- well, that's a lot more people who may start to use tablets, too.
But, do they know how to use them safely?
A new study published by researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health, in conjunction with researchers at Microsoft (a long-time Apple rival), is the first of its kind to examine the physical effects on the head, neck and shoulders of spending time staring at a tablet.
The good news is that it is not all bad news. The researchers found that people are more inclined to move around and shift positions when they use a tablet compared with people who are sitting at a desktop computer. That's definitely good. However, tablet users that hold the device almost at their lap, or rest the tablet in a case on their lap, are putting a lot of strain on the neck muscles -- much more than someone using a laptop or desktop computer.
"If you think about your position when you are hunched over looking down, your head is hanging out over space, so you are using your neck muscles to support the weight," said Jack Dennerlein, director of the Harvard Occupational Biomechanics Laboratory, and lead author of the paper.
Definitely not good.
In the paper, published earlier this month in the peer reviewed "Work: A Journal of Prevention, Assessment, and Rehabilitation," the researchers identified four ways that people use tablets — the lap-hand (holding the tablet down at your lap), lap-case (resting the tablet in a case on your lap), table-case (resting the tablet in its case on a shallow angle on a table) and table-movie (resting the tablet at a steep angle on a table).
They concluded that the best position is the table-movie position because it is the only position in which the user's posture approached neutral. All the other positions put a lot of strain on the user's neck muscles.
Dennerlein said those who use tablets should make sure to move around as much as possible -- "Don't get stuck in one position!" he said. The next most important thing is finding a good case that allows you to prop up your tablet at the most comfortable angle. He added that companies that distribute tablet computers to their employees should make sure to give out cases as well, in order to prevent injuries.
Next up, Dennerlein and his team plan to tackle the effect of tablet computing on the arms and wrist.
One additional note: When we reached out to Apple to see if they had any comment on the ergonomics on using the iPad, a spokesperson pointed us to a large section on ergonomics on Apple's website. The section is impressive, but the suggestions and diagrams are all related to desktop computers, and the site did not have any recommendations on how to most safely use a tablet. We called the rep to see if we had missed anything, but we didn't hear back by press time.
Nokia's eagerly awaited Lumia 900 might undercut rival flagship phones on price in a big way, according to new reports Wednesday.
How big? Well, the tech sites BGR and CNet are reporting that an unnamed "trusted source" has told them that the Lumia 900 will sell for about $99 on a two-year data plan and launch March 18.
If the rumor is true, the AT&T-exclusive smartphone would come in at about half the price of the entry-level Apple iPhone 4S and even less than half the price of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. AT&T officials declined to comment on the reports.
That's a pretty good price considering the hardware the Lumia 900 offers (I was expecting a price of about $200 but no lower than about $150).
The Lumia 900 -- which I got a bit of hands-on time with at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this month -- features 4.3-inch touch screen with a resolution of 480 by 800 pixels.
The unique-looking new Nokia will also be available with either cyan or black bodies, a 1.4-gigahertz Qualcomm processor, 512 megabytes of RAM and 16 gigabytes of built-in storage.
An 8-megapixel camera that can shoot up to 720p video is on back, while a 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera sits above the Lumia 900's display.
So, do you think $99 is a fair price for the Lumia 900? Would $199 have been a better price? Feel free to sound off in the comments and check out our hands-on video with the Lumia 900 from CES below.
OK, this may not be as exciting as Google releasing a Gmail app for Apple's iPhone, and there is still no native Gmail app for the Fire. But the Hotmail app for the Fire should be a worthwhile release for many owners of Amazon's popular 7-inch tablet due to the addition of Exchange Active Sync.
Unlike Amazon's included email app on the FIre, which merely downloads your messages via POP3, Microsoft's Hotmail app will synch emails, contacts, folders and subfolders, said David Law, Microsoft's director of Hotmail product management, in a blog post.
While the free Hotmail app for the Fire is technically an Android app, the version for Amazon's tablet is different from the standard Hotmail Android app used by more than 3 million people, Law said.
The differences between the Fire Hotmail app and the standard Android Hotmail app have to do with the changes Amazon made to Android to create the Fire-specific operating system it runs on its tablet, which as we've noted before is unlike any other version of Android out there.
"Because the Kindle Fire uses a different implementation of Android, we needed to make some updates to our previous Hotmail app for Android to ensure it worked well," Law said. "Now that we've finished the work and the app is ready, we're excited to give customers a great Hotmail experience on the Kindle Fire."