Technology

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Category: Phones

Microsoft Stores taking $25 deposit on Nokia Lumia 900

Nokia Lumia 900

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.

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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Facebook.com/nateog

Twitter.com/nateog

Photo: A Nokia Lumia 800 smartphone sits on display inside a Nokia retail store in Helsinki, Finland. Credit: Ville Mannikko / Bloomberg

Samsung says 'Galaxy S III' is in the works

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. On the left is the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, and at right is the Samsung Galaxy S II.

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.

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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Facebook.com/nateog

Twitter.com/nateog

Photo: The Samsung Galaxy Nexus, left, and the Samsung Galaxy S II. Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh / Los Angeles Times

EU investigating Samsung's 3G patent licensing practices

Samsung at CES 2012

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.

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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

Photo: A Samsung Electronics representative talks about Samsung products at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on Jan. 13, 2012. Credit: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

Obama and Romney campaigns use Square for fundraising

Square

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't alone 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."

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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

Photo: A demo of Square's card reader and iPhone app in action. Credit: Square

Samsung Galaxy Note will be available at AT&T stores Feb. 19

Samsung Galaxy Note

Samsung's much-anticipated Galaxy Note will be available at AT&T on Feb. 19 for $300 with a two-year contract. 

The 4G LTE smartphone can be pre-ordered online or in stores beginning Sunday for delivery by Feb. 17, the company said.

Samsung has been hyping the Galaxy Note as a new device category geared toward the creative-minded set, although most consumers will likely view it as a combination of a smartphone and tablet. The device features a large 5.3-inch touchscreen -- one of the largest on a phone -- and a stylus, called the S Pen. 

By using the pen, Samsung says, "users can easily sketch drawings, jot down notes, or write emails and texts quickly and easily in free-form handwriting."

S Memo, a multimedia app, allows pictures, voice recordings, typed text, handwritten notes and drawings to be combined via a single application, converted into a memo and shared.

"The Galaxy Note brings a new level of efficiency to busy customers who would normally rely on multiple devices," said Jeff Bradley, senior vice president of devices for AT&T Mobility and Consumer Markets. "This new breed of smartphone helps consumers accomplish more with a single device than ever before."  

At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this month, Samsung devoted a big portion of its floor space to showing off the Galaxy Note and hired artists to use the device to draw caricatures of convention-goers.

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Photo: The Samsung Galaxy Note smartphone. Credit: Samsung via YouTube

Motorola sells 200,000 tablets, reports $80-million loss

Motorola Droid Xyboard 10.1 at CES 2012

Motorola Mobility sold 1 million tablets in 2011 -- with only 200,000 Xooms and Xyboards sold in the fourth quarter of the year, a quarter in which the company also reported an $80-million loss.

The consumer electronics maker reported the low tablet sales and negative earnings on Thursday in its quarterly earnings report. The loss came on revenue of $3.44 billion in the fourth quarter. A year earlier, the company reported a fourth-quarter profit of $80 million on $3.43 billion in revenue.

For the full year, Motorola reported a loss of $249 million on $13 billion in revenue, up from an $86-million loss on $11.5 billion in revenue in 2010.

Product shipments are also down year over year for the fourth quarter. Motorola shipped 10.5 million phones and tablets (all of which run Google's Android operating system) in the last three months of 2011, down from 11.3 million in the fourth quarter of 2010.

In 2011 as a whole, Motorola shipped 42.4 million mobile devices, up from 37.3 million devices shipped in 2010.

Motorola also said it remains "energized by the proposed merger with Google and continue to focus on creating innovative technologies." The Google takeover is still awaiting approval from regulators in a number of countries, but Motorola said it expects the $12.5-billion deal to "close in early 2012 once all conditions have been satisfied."

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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

Photo: Motorola's Droid Xyboard 10.1 tablet on display at Motorola Mobility's booth at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Credit: David Becker/Getty Images

Nokia loses $1.38 billion in Q4, sells 1 million Windows Phones

Nokia Lumia 800

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.

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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

twitter.com/nateog

Photo: A Nokia Lumia 800 smartphone sits on display inside a Nokia retail store in Helsinki, Finland. Credit: Ville Mannikko / Bloomberg

Nokia's Lumia 900 Windows Phone may launch at $99

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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.

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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

Photo: The Nokia Lumia 900 in the foreground, with the Lumia 800 in the middle and an Apple iPhone 4S in the rear. Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh / Los Angeles Times

Droid Razr Maxx with bigger battery to launch on Verizon

Motorola Droid Razr Maxx

When I reviewed the Motorola Droid Razr in November, I had a lot of good things to say about the Verizon-exclusive handset, but I also had a complaint when it came to battery life.

"Daily charging would be a part of life with the Razr and anyone considering buying this phone should have a charger at home, work and in the car," I wrote.

And evidently, I wasn't the only one who thought the Razr could do better when it came to holding a charge -- lots of other tech critics complained too. Motorola seems to have agreed also, which is why the company is releasing the Droid Razr Maxx through Verizon on Thursday.

The Razr Maxx, as I reported before, is the same fantastic phone as the Razr, but it features a bigger battery.

With a bigger battery comes a thicker phone, so the Razr Maxx will be 0.35-inches thick compared with the Razr, which is just 0.28-inches thick. Yeah, they're both pretty thin, but the Razr Maxx won't be able to claim its place as the thinnest 4G phone on the market the way the original Razr does.

Other specs included a 4.3-inch screen, 1.2-gigahertz processor, an 8-megapixel rear-facing camera that can shoot 1080-pixel video, a front-facing camera for video chat and 32 gigabytes of storage (16 gigabytes of storage built into the phone and the rest coming on a 16-gigabyte microSD card).

The price for the Droid Maxx will be the same as the skinnier Razr when it launched -- $299.99 on a two-year Verizon data plan. The first Razr was dropped to $199.99 earlier this month. Both run on Google's Android Gingerbread operating system.

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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

Image: The Motorola Droid Razr Maxx. Credit: Verizon Wireless/Motorola

Apple earnings: $97.6 billion in the bank, and other highlights

Apple Store, San Francisco

Apple just reported its best quarter of all time, as covered by my colleague David Sarno here on the Technology blog.

The Cupertino tech giant reported a boost in sales of iPads, iPhones and Mac computers (but not iPods), pushing it into a record quarterly revenue of $46.33 billion and $13 billion in profit for the first quarter of the company's 2012 fiscal year.

Let's take a closer look at Apple's huge numbers for the quarter ended Dec. 31, which showed strong holiday sales and sent shares in the company up 8% after the markets closed Tuesday.

Cash balance -- One major number to note from Apple's earnings report, as mentioned in its earnings call, is that the company has a cash balance of $97.6 billion, up from $81 billion a year ago.

That's a massive amount to be sitting in the bank and it's a sum Apple will spend in part on developing new products that will help it remain competitive against rivals such as Samsung, Sony, HTC and Motorola.

Revenue -- Apple racked up $46.33 billion in sales in the 14-week quarter, which is up from $26.74 billion in the same quarter a year ago.

Profit -- The tech giant reported a $13-billion profit last quarter, which is more than double the profit the company reported for its first fiscal quarter of 2011.

IPhones -- Apple sold 37.04 million iPhones in the last three months of 2011, which marks 128% growth from a year earlier, when the company sold 16.25 million iPhones.

IPads -- Sales of the ever-popular Apple tablet grew 111% when compared to the year-earlier quarter, with 15.43 million iPads sold for the company's fiscal 2012 first quarter  versus 7.33 million iPads sold in the first quarter of 2011.

IPods -- The iPod isn't dead yet, but it is on the decline. Apple sold 15.4 million iPods last quarter, down 21% from 19.45 million iPods sold a year earlier.

Mac computers -- Apple's Mac line of desktop and laptop PCs -- which includes MacBooks, iMacs, Mac Minis and the Mac Pro -- saw a 26% increase in sales from the year-ago quarter, with 5.2 million Macs sold in the first fiscal quarter of 2012 and 4.13 million Macs sold in the first fiscal quarter of 2011.

"Portables," which would include the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro laptops, made up the majority of Macs purchased, with 3.71 million units sold last quarter, up from 2.9 million sold a year ago. Apple sold 1.48 million desktops last quarter, up from 1.23 million sold a year earlier.

Looking ahead, Apple said Tuesday that it is projecting it will record about $32.5 billion in revenue in the second quarter of its fiscal year.

[Updated: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that Apple's profit for the first quarter of its fiscal year was $6 billion. Apple reported a $13 billion profit last quarter and recorded $6 billion in profit a year earlier.]

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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

twitter.com/nateog

Photo: An Apple Store in San Francisco. Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

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