Archive for May, 2009

Nokia Phone 'Gestures'

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Further to previous reports that Finnish handset manufacturer Nokia has got gesture recognition in the works, Pocket-lint learnt today that the company has firm plans to include it in future handsets.

Dubbing the system “natural interactions”, Nokia outlined how such a system could work, as well as providing information about research that the company has conducted into gesture control for handsets.

Past Nokia handsets have allowed limited accelerometer control – for example, the 8800 allowed you to turn over a ringing phone to silence it. New plans could see the gesture system widely expanded.

Nokia proposed a number of different kinds of gestures to groups of people in Chicago, Mumbai, Shanghai and London, and asked for feedback.

One idea was to wave your phone in a spiral in the air if you wanted to find out your location on a map. This was welcomed by the Shanghai group who thought it’d be “cool to show friends”, but Londoners were apparently concerned about waving their phones around in dodgy neighbourhoods.

The idea of kissing a phone to send a text message was brought up too. This was almost unanimously rejected by the focus groups, with one Malaysian nurse describing it as “quite cute, but awful for hygiene”. Residents of Mumbai apparently asked why you’d want to kiss a phone, because it has no soul. Fair point, we suppose.

A gesture idea that went down better was the idea of tapping phones together to exchange contact info or files. One group member suggested that the giver of the info should be on top, and the receiver underneath so that it would give the appearance of gravity assisting the transfer.

Lastly, Nokia asked the groups to invent a gesture they’d like to see in a handset. Various suggestions came in including being able to silence a phone by staring intently at it, and skipping tracks on your music player by skipping as you walk along a street.

Nokia said that not all these ideas would make it to production, but that the most successful would be implemented in future handsets. The company also disclosed that it was looking into “smart materials” and using heat to convey information.

With the N97 poised for release, it’ll be interesting to see which of these ideas make it into the N98 or other future Nokia handsets. There’s also the possibility of older phones that include accelerometers and other sensors being issued with a software update that’ll enable the use of gestures.

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Skyfire Mobile Browser Here

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Version 1.0 of Skyfire was made available for download on Wednesday. Skyfire, whose competitors include the mobile versions of Opera, Chrome, Safari and Internet Explorer, is distinguished by the fact it can handle Ajax and rich media technologies such as Flash 10 and Silverlight 2.0 video.

“As web content continues to include more Ajax applications, Javascript, video [and] Flash 10, and web pages double in complexity every 12 months, there will always be a gap between phone and PC capabilities,” Skyfire chief executive Nitin Bhandari said in a statement. “PC web progress will not slow down for the mobile industry to catch up. Skyfire’s architecture keeps pace with web technologies and seamlessly bridges the gap.”

Skyfire first became available to UK users in beta form last October. Since the most recent beta, version 0.9, enhancements such as a start-page RSS news feed have been added. The application’s launch has also been made faster, power optimisation has been improved and new search functionality has been added.

The browser has integrated social-networking functionality. It can include updates from Facebook and Twitter in the RSS news feed, and users need only click once in the browser to post articles to their Facebook and Twitter accounts, according to Skyfire.

Skyfire said the browser’s beta phase saw more than a million downloads. The most popular sites accessed via Skyfire were the same as the top ones on the PC, such as Hulu, YouTube, MySpace, Google Docs and fully featured Gmail, the company added, attributing this to the browser’s handling of Web 2.0 websites.

Version 1.0 can be downloaded for Windows Mobile and for handsets with Symbian Series 60, third edition. A BlackBerry version is currently in its ‘private closed alpha’ phase, with a public beta coming soon, Skyfire said.

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LG Monaco On It's Way…….

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A device called the LG Monaco, AKA the Pico, has leaked online revealing that it is destined for the US carrier AT&T.
The handset will feature a landscape sliding Qwerty keyboard nestled beneath a 3.2-inch WVGA touchscreen display and an autofocus camera packing a respectable 5-megapixels.

The Monaco will come with a wealth of connectivity options ranging up to 3.6Mbps HSDPA but if Wi-Fi is more important to you, then you won’t be disappointed here.

It also features GPS and Bluetooth 2.1, but perhaps one of the most exciting aspects of this handset is that it will arrive natively running the new Windows Mobile 7 operating system.

The details come courtesy of EngadgetMobile who managed to get their hands on these juicy AT&T slides.

We doubt the accuracy of some of the info though; for example, the report indicates that the Monaco is expected to launch in September 2009 whereas we think that given the slow progress in showing Windows Mobile 7 there’s not much chance in this Redmond-powered handset hitting the shelves before 2010.

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Smartphones Kill Google?

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Search engines are pushing hard to break out of the desktop. It makes sense: while the desktop was once the only portal to the vibrant digital life of the Internet, it increasingly looks like a sacrophagus compared to the possibilities afforded by smartphones. There’s no reason to be tied to a computer to do a search anymore: the tiny phone nuzzled in your pocket is a computer. It’s an easy leap of logic to make that smartphones are the future of search for companies like Google.

But perhaps that leap of logic is deceptively easy. According to Jason Hiner, Editor in Chief of the TechRepublic, the use of smartphones like the iPhone to search describe “trends [in mobile computing] add up to bad news for Google in mobile search because it translates into fewer people needing its search engine.”

Essentially, the argument is this: smartphones powered by modern operating systems like Android and the iPhone OS have numerous dedicated search apps that bypass Google entirely, never giving the monolithic search giant the opportunity to squirt out ads. You are better off using an application like Yelp for the iPhone to find a decent nearby restaraunt, or Taxi Magic to get the number of a cab, than it is to use Google.

That’s a fair enough argument… but Google’s search business is a long tail one. The more devices capable of using Google search, the better…. even if those devices use that capability less than the desktop. And you’d better believe that Google’s not working on Android just as a pet project: sooner or later, they’ll find a way to tie their search and business into the OS’ limbic system. When that happens — providing Android takes off — things will be looking pretty indeed for Google’s investors.

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1 in 4 Europeans Use Mobile Internet Regularly

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Mobile internet usage is continuing to increase across Europe, according to a new report.

A study by Forrester Research found that nearly one in four people across the continent regularly surf the web on their mobile phones.

Overall usage was found to have gone up by four per cent in the last year – a development that was attributed partly to the growing popularity of smartphones.

“The mobile internet is gaining momentum,” observed Forrester analyst Thomas Husson.

He recommended that firms such as retailers, media companies and financial institutions redefine their mobile strategy in order to adapt to this trend.

Mr Husson said the mobile internet should form part of a wider integrated multichannel and multimedia strategy.

“The expansion of internet brands, smarter phones, and high-speed networks are enabling compelling user experiences that are driving usage,” he added.

This follows a study by Webcredible which found that more than half of those who use the mobile internet on a regular basis use it to view their emails and sites such as Facebook.

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Smartphone Choice…Your Call

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In the next few months four smartphones are going to battle it out. The Palm Pre, the iPhone 3.0, the BlackBerry Storm 2 and the Nokia N97 are all going for the crown title this summer. But which one should you choose?

While not all of these four smartphones have been officially announced, rumors have been flying around for weeks anticipating the new Apple iPhone and the second iteration of the BlackBerry Storm. And there are enough leaks out there to put head to head some preliminary specs.

I’m not going to run you through all the features of these phones, you can check that in this specs table I put together. However, there are a few interesting issues that I’m going to mention.

The latest rumor on Apple’s new iPhone hardware says the device will cost $199 for the 16GB version, while the Palm Pre will cost the same (after rebate), but only for a 8GB version. Even more, the Pre will go on sale a merely two days before the new iPhone gets announced, trying to steal some of the iPhone hype.

As for the speculation that the new iPhone would have rubber corners — forget it. It is highly unlikely Apple would sacrifice slickness for ruggedness. On the other hand, some sort of a non-slip back panel is more plausible.

Most of the Blackberry Storm 2 rumors point that the device would come with a 5-megapixel camera, but all the recent leaked pictures of the device depict it only with a 3.2-megapixel camera. Some say the Storm 2 could come out as early as next month, but RIM would most certainly leave 12 months before upgrading the current model.

The Nokia N97 is one of the hidden gems out these four smartphones. Though it packs the highest price (as it’s not subsidized by any carrier), the N97 comes with some of the highest specs, including the best camera out of the lot.

Which one will you choose?

By Daniel Ionescu, PC World

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AT&T 3G Mobile Broadband Upgrade

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AT&T* today announced plans to upgrade the nation’s fastest 3G network to deliver considerably faster mobile broadband speeds. The network upgrades are slated to begin later this year, with completion expected in 2011.

The upgrade to High Speed Packet Access (HSPA) 7.2 technology is part of AT&T’s plan for continued investments to deliver the nation’s best mobile broadband experience – the ideal combination of speed, coverage and best device line-up. AT&T today has the nation’s fastest 3G network and has attracted more than twice the number of smartphone users than any other competitor.

With its network built on the 3G UMTS technology that is commonly deployed throughout the world, AT&T can boost the speed of its mobile broadband network and offer a wide variety of devices to take advantage of it well in advance of 2011-2012, when most industry observers expect 4G LTE networks and device availability to scale. AT&T plans to begin LTE trials in 2010, with deployment beginning in 2011.

In addition to the planned speed upgrade, AT&T is enhancing its mobile broadband coverage by nearly doubling the wireless spectrum dedicated to 3G in most metropolitan areas to deliver stronger in-building reception and more overall network capacity. Also, AT&T is adding thousands of new cell site backhaul connections to support the higher mobile broadband speeds enabled by HSPA 7.2 and LTE.

“AT&T’s network infrastructure gives us a tremendous advantage in that we’re able to deliver upgrades in mobile broadband speed and performance with our existing technology platform,” said Ralph de la Vega, president and CEO, AT&T Mobility and Consumer Markets. “With the array of smartphones, laptops and emerging devices taking advantage of AT&T’s 3G network today, we know that customers are excited to experience higher mobile broadband speeds, and we are deploying the right technologies at the right times to help them get the most from that experience.”

The upgraded network platform could allow for theoretical peak speeds of 7.2Mbps. Typical real-world downlink and uplink speeds experienced by customers with upgraded 3G will be less than the theoretical peak and will vary based on a number of factors, including location, device, and overall traffic on the local network at a given time.

AT&T’s 3G mobile broadband network is now available in nearly 350 U.S. major metropolitan areas, with about 20 additional metro areas planned for deployment in 2009. The HSPA 7.2 technology will be deployed widely in the network, with the benefits of the network upgrade to be announced on a local basis as the faster speeds are turned up. AT&T will introduce multiple HSPA 7.2-compatible laptop cards and smartphones beginning later this year.
The speed upgrade is one of several ongoing initiatives to expand and enhance AT&T’s mobile broadband service.

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