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Archive for the ‘Phones’ Category

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

posted by Technology @ 11:19 PM
Thursday, January 26, 2012
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."

ALSO:

Google agrees to buy Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion

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

Motorola Mobility sues Apple over patents, probably with Google's blessing

– 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

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

posted by Technology @ 11:30 AM
Thursday, January 26, 2012
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.

RELATED:

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

Lumia 710, Nokia's first U.S. Windows Phone — review

Nokia and Microsoft sign Windows Phone deal worth 'billions of dollars'

– 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

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

posted by Technology @ 5:04 PM
Wednesday, January 25, 2012
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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.

RELATED:

Lumia 710, Nokia's first U.S. Windows Phone — review

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CES 2012: Lumia 900, Nokia's first 4G LTE Windows Phone, debuts [Photos and Video]

– 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

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Droid Razr Maxx with bigger battery to launch on Verizon

posted by Technology @ 7:40 PM
Tuesday, January 24, 2012
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.

RELATED:

Motorola Droid Razr, from Verizon, review [Video]

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Verizon cuts price and memory storage of Droid Razr, as expected

– Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

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

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

posted by Technology @ 5:21 PM
Tuesday, January 24, 2012
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.]

RELATED:

Apple reports record sales of iPhones, iPads and Macs

If you publish with iBooks Author, does Apple 'own' you?

Apple loses bid to ban Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 in Netherlands

– 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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Apple loses bid to ban Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 in Netherlands

posted by Technology @ 11:42 AM
Tuesday, January 24, 2012
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For the second time, a Netherlands court has denied Apple its request for a ban on sales of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet, whose design Apple says illegally copies the iPad's.

The Samsung victory, first reported on the blog Foss Patents run by patent expert Florian Mueller, came Tuesday in The Hague, where an appeals court ruled that the Samsung device — which runs on Google's Android operating system – doesn't steal from the iPad's patented design.

The Dutch court's decision, which upheld a lower-court ruling made in August, is another setback for Apple in its worldwide patent battle against South Korea-based Samsung.

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 in that court. Also in December, a temporary ban on the Samsung tablet in Australia expired. The dispute is set to go to trial in Australia in March.

Apple last week filed two new patent suits against Samsung in Germany, seeking a ban on 10 Samsung phones and five tablets.

RELATED:

Apple loses bid to block U.S. sales of Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1

Apple vs. Samsung: Galaxy Tab 10.1 sales ban lifted in Australia

Apple sues Samsung again in Germany, calls for ban on 10 phones 

– Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

Photo: An Apple iPad 2, left, and a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 at a store in the Netherlands. Credit: Robert Vos / EPA

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Sony PlayStation Vita hands-on [Video]

posted by Technology @ 3:42 PM
Saturday, January 21, 2012

Sony's PlayStation Vita has got me intrigued.

As much of the gaming world has moved toward smartphones and tablets, I've wondered if consumers (or myself as a gamer) would take to new handheld consoles the way they did with the Vita's predecessor, the PlayStation Portable.

But after spending a few minutes with the Vita in my hands at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last week, my interest has piqued.

If you've played video games on the PlayStation Portable, which affectionately became known to most as the PSP, then the Vita will look very familiar at first glance. Joysticks and buttons are placed to the left or right of a nice, wide display and the graphics produced by the system are detailed and sharp.

But unlike the PSP, there are many features of the Vita that better equip Sony's handheld formula for competition in a smartphone-riddled future. On the front of the Vita is a 5-inch OLED touchscreen and a similarly sized touch panel can be found on the back of the device.

Uncharted: Golden Abyss on the Sony PlayStation Vita

I played a bit of Uncharted: Golden Abyss, one of the titles that will launch with the Vita during its U.S. release on Feb. 22, and the game used traditional controls and the touchscreen. And switching between the different control options was intuitive and easy.

The Vita can also be used as a controller for Sony's PlayStation 3 home console, which could bring touch controls to even more games if developers embrace this feature. Though I didn't get to spend a long time with Uncharted or the Vita, the potential for some really creative game-play options was obvious. 

The Vita will also run a number of smartphone-like apps, including apps for the photo-sharing site Flickr and video-streaming service Netflix, local-discovery app FourSquare and social networks Facebook and Twitter.

There are also two cameras on the Vita, one on the front and one on the back, and in the few test shots I snapped on the CES showroom floor, I have to say I was a bit disappointed. Photos didn't seem to be high quality and colors were washed out and not sharp. Sony wouldn't say what the resolution of the cameras would be for the U.S. release of the Vita, but the Japanese version (which went on sale on Dec. 17) featured VGA-quality cameras in front and back with a resolution of 640-by-480 pixels, which is about the same as an Apple iPad 2. 

We'll be getting a review unit of the Vita in a few weeks, and I'll reserve final judgement for then, but after my hands-on time with the system, there's a lot to like and a few things that I'm not so excited about (aside from the camera). One of them is the pricing of Vita's new proprietary memory cards. 

The Vita will sell for either $249 in a Wi-Fi-only version or $299 for a 3G/Wi-Fi model that runs on AT&T's network. AT&T is offering no-contract data plans for the Vita of $14.99 for 250 megabytes of data per month, or three gigabytes for $30. Games (on a new card format and not the UMDs found in the PSP) will sell for about $9.99 to $49.99, according to Sony. All of that seems to be pretty fair pricing in my opinion.

However, memory cards for the Vita — which you will definitely need if you want to store any apps, downloadable games, movies, music, photos or any other content on the Vita — are sold separately.

A four-gigabyte memory card will sell for $19.99. Not bad. An eight-gigabyte card will sell for $29.99 and a 16-gigabyte card will sell for $59.99. Getting a bit higher. And, a 32-gigabyte card will sell for a whopping $99.99.

It seems a bit painful to think you may end up spending an extra $100 after plunking down as much as $300 for a Vita, but this is the current reality, depending on how much stuff you'd like to store in the device. Ouch. 

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– Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

Photo: The game Uncharted: Golden Abyss on the Sony PlayStation Vita. Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh / Los Angeles Times

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Apple's new iBooks 2, iBooks Author and iTunes U apps are moves to capture the future of education and self-publishing

NEWS ANALYSIS: Alongside Apple stating that iBooks 2 and textbooks on the iPad would reinvent the textbook as we know it, the iPad-maker announced Thursday that it would also attempt to reinvent book-making by way of an app called iBooks Author.

The Apple-developed app, available as a free download from the Mac App Store, (ideally) makes it easy to make books for the iPad. But together, iBooks 2 and iBooks Author are moves to capture the future of education and self-publishing, and to continue to build on the success Apple had under the late Steve Jobs.

If you've ever used Apple's Keynote or Pages (or Microsoft's PowerPoint or Word) apps, then you should be able to hit the ground running in iBooks Author. There are templates for different types of book layouts, and adding the interactive 3-D models, photos, videos and diagrams that Apple demoed iBooks 2 textbooks on Thursday is as easy as clicking and dragging a built-in widget — provided you've already produced the video, photos, diagrams and models you want to use.

Apple has even built into iBook Author HTML5 and Javascript support for programmers looking to take their books beyond what the app can do itself; multi-touch interactions for pinch and zoom views of photos and swiping gestures are also included.

Want to see what your book looks like before you publish it to iBooks? Just connect your Mac to an iPad by way of a USB cable and you can preview the book on the tablet.

The aim of the iBooks Author app is to make it easy to get these impressive multimedia elements, as well as questionnaires and other educational materials, into a page of text and published as a book on the iPad as easy as possible — whether you're a self-publisher looking to write your first book, a teacher whipping up something quick for a special class, or a publishing powerhouse like the textbook trifecta of McGraw-Hill, Pearson and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Before his death, Jobs told biographer Walter Isaacson that he believed Apple could disrupt the $8-billion-a-year textbook industry. Jobs said in Isaacson's book, titled simply "Steve Jobs," that the iPad was the tool to make transformation in the textbook business a reality.

According to the book, Jobs' idea "was to hire great textbook writers to create digital versions, and make them a feature of the iPad. In addition, he held meetings with the major publishers, such as Pearson Education, about partnering with Apple."

Jobs told Isaacson "the process by which states certify textbooks is corrupt … but if we can make the textbooks free, and they come with the iPad, then they don't have to be certified. The crappy economy at the state level will last for a decade, and we can give them an opportunity to circumvent that whole process and save money."

In announcing the iBooks 2 and iBooks Author products, Apple is beginning to bring a piece of Jobs' long-term vision to fruition. The company also noted Thursday that there are currently about 1.5 million iPads being used in schools and more than 20,000 education apps sitting in its iOS App Store.

But make no mistake, iBooks 2 and iBooks Author aren't just about textbooks. The two new apps are working together to entice students, teachers, educational institutions to embrace and buy the iPad in bigger numbers than they already have.

On Thursday, in announcing the new products, Apple made no mention of new discounts on iPads for students or schools — though Apple has offered such discounts in the past on Macs and even created special versions of the iMac for schools. Apple even built the now-defunct eMac line specifically to sell to schools.

Apple wants us to ditch the paperback and hardcover textbooks in favor of an iPad and digital downloads, that much is obvious. But the company also wants the iPad and Macs to become to go-to devices for educational institutions and publishing houses.

Although Apple's iTunes is the world's most popular online music storefront, Amazon is the world's largest seller of e-books. By adding a level of interactivity to books that Amazon and others simply can't match, and by making it easier to publish a book and sell it in the iBooks app directly from iBooks Author, Apple has made a move to challenge Amazon and its Kindle e-reader and Kindle Touch tablet as the preferred platform for self-publishers and digital textbooks.

In a statement announcing iBooks 2 and iBooks Author, Apple said as much (without naming Amazon and other e-book rivals such as Google and Barnes & Noble).

"iBooks Author is also available today as a free download from the Mac App Store and lets anyone with a Mac create stunning iBooks textbooks, cookbooks, history books, picture books and more, and publish them to Apple's iBookstore," Apple said.

The apps are also a challenge to Adobe, a company Apple has been known to partner with and feud with from time to time. Adobe's Creative Suite, Digital Publishing Suite and Touch Apps, available on both Windows PCs and Macs, are some of the most popular tools used by publishing houses and self-publishers looking to create a book, whether an e-book or a book before it heads to print.

Though capable of producing many different types of content for a broader range of devices, Adobe's software can cost thousands of dollars, while Apple's iBooks Author app is free.

Apple on Thursday also released an iTunes U app, which allows teachers from kindergarten to the university level to stream video of their lectures and post class notes, handouts, reading lists, etc., all within the app.

Previously, iTunes U was a podcasting service for college professors who wanted to put up video or audio of their lectures. Now it is one more reason for a teacher to consider an iPad and a Mac as tools to reach students at any grade level. And like iBooks Author, the app is free.

In my opinion, Apple is one of the best companies out there at providing lower-cost products that pull consumers into an ecosystem of apps and gadgets. It's one of the reason the company has so many cult-like followers.

For many Apple fans, their first purchase was an iPod or iPhone. With those purchases comes buying apps, music, movies and TV shows from iTunes. And for many, later comes a MacBook or an iMac computer. This strategy is repeating itself with iBooks 2 and iBooks Author.

First, get students and teachers to use more iPads in school by offering affordable and engaging digital textbooks. With iBook textbooks capped at a price of $14.99, I have to wonder whether or not textbooks will become shorter and more narrow, and thus students and teachers we'll have to buy more of them. Second, make it easy for anybody to produce their own iBooks (textbooks or otherwise) and then sell those books in the iBooks app, luring in aspiring authors. When those students, teachers and authors go to download music or a movie, set up a cloud storage service or buy a laptop, a phone, a new tablet — maybe someday a TV — what brand will be at the top of minds? Apple.

iBooks, iBooks Author and iTunes U, together are a move to fend off Google, Amazon, Adobe and other competitors in determining the future of education, publishing and book reading. Together, the launch of these apps is an attempt to not only maintain but also expand Apple's current success into the company's post-Jobs future.

RELATED:

Apple says iBooks 2 app reinvents textbooks

Apple iPad 3: Launching in February, March, or later?

Apple looms large over the Consumer Electronics Show, despite not showing up

– Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

Photo: Apple's iBook Author app on an iMac, and an iBook and an iPad. Credit: Apple

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Apple says iBooks 2 app reinvents textbooks

posted by Technology @ 10:16 AM
Thursday, January 19, 2012
Textbooks for sale in iBooks 2 on an Apple iPad

Apple promised to reinvent the textbook and offer a new experience for students and teachers by way of an update to its iBooks app for the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch on Thursday.

The app update — which Apple is calling iBooks 2 and is already released to the iOS App Store — will allow for textbooks to be sold through the popular app, which in the past sold novels, nonfiction and poetry, but not textbooks.

All textbooks sold through the free app, which is available only to Apple's i-devices, will be priced at $14.99 or less — a stark contrast to the high-priced paper books that fill college bookstores.

But the main allure might not be the price as much as the interactive features iBooks textbooks can offer.

Apple, which announced the iBooks update at a press event in New York at the Guggenheim Museum, said the iBooks textbook exceeds paper texts in terms of engagement, calling it a durable, quickly searchable book that offers easy highlighting and note-taking  as well as interactive photo galleries, videos, and 3-D models and diagrams.

Digital textbooks can also offer immediate feedback with questionnaires at the end of chapters and automatically create flash cards of glossary terms for a student to study.

Apple said the move makes sense given that more that 1.5 million iPads are used in schools. "Now with iBooks 2 for iPad, students have a more dynamic, engaging and truly interactive way to read and learn, using the device they already love," said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing. 

One thing not mentioned by Apple on Thursday was any sort of program that would offer iPads at a discount to students, teachers or schools.

Apple also said there are more than 20,000 education-focused apps available in the iOS App Store.

The tech giant has enlisted the heavyweights of textbook publishing — Pearson, McGraw Hill and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt — to sell textbooks through iBooks 2. Combined, the three companies make 90% of textbooks sold in the U.S. Smaller publishers such as DK and the EO Wilson Biodiversity Foundation will be publishing to iBooks 2 as well. 

Just as iBooks does with other types of books, textbooks will offer a free preview of a few pages or even a chapter before a purchase is made.

EO Wilson is also publishing a new book through iBooks 2 called Life on Earth, and the first two chapters of the new title will be free with more chapters coming as they are written.

ALSO:

Apple iPad 3: Launching in February, March, or later?

'The Numberlys' app for the iPad: Storytelling of the future

Apple's iBooks 2, iBooks Author: Bids to own publishing's future

– Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

twitter.com/nateog

Image: Textbooks for sale in iBooks 2 on an Apple iPad. Credit: Apple

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AT&T’s new pricing: more data for more money

posted by Technology @ 7:22 PM
Wednesday, January 18, 2012
AT&T changes pricing structure for data plansAT&T is raising the prices and the allotments of its data plans for smartphones and tablets — more money and more data for new customers.

If you already have AT&T service, your contract and bill will be unaffected.

The new plans roll out Sunday, the Dallas-based company said Wednesday.

AT&T's current smartphone data plans come in three flavors: 200 megabytes of data for $15 a month, two gigabytes for $25, or four gigabytes for $45. As of Sunday, those plans will be scrapped in favor of a new trio: 300 megabytes of data for $20 a month, three gigabytes for $30 or five gigabytes for $50.

In the new pricing structure for tablets, the nation's second-largest mobile carrier will increase the price on only the top two tiers of data. So the 250-megabytes-for-$15 plan will remain in tact for tablet owners, and the new options will be three gigabytes of data for $30 a month and five gigabytes for $50.

Although the plans are more expensive, the adjustment offers more gigs for the money — essentially tacking on an extra gigabyte of data for $5 a month in the top two plans.

So what's with the rate change? Is this a consequence of the failed attempt to purchase T-Mobile USA or a move to fuel AT&T's new, expanding 4G LTE network?

"Customers are using more data than ever before," David Christopher, AT&T's chief marketing officer, said in a statement. "Our new plans are driven by this increasing demand in a highly competitive environment, and continue to deliver a great value to customers, especially as we continue our 4G LTE deployment."

RELATED:

AT&T closes $1.9-billion purchase of Qualcomm spectrum

AT&T's 4G LTE enters 11 new markets, including Los Angeles

Lumia 900, Nokia's first 4G LTE Windows Phone, headed to AT&T

– Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

Photo: AT&T logo. Credit: Lisa Poole / Associated Press

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Samsung: No, we’re not interested in buying RIM

posted by Technology @ 11:55 AM
Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Research In Motion BlackBerry

Just one day after Research In Motion shares received a boost off news that Samsung Electronics might be interested in buying the struggling smartphone and tablet maker, Samsung came out on Wednesday and said the rumored deal isn't happening.

Samsung, the second-largest cellphone producer on the planet behind Nokia, said it is not considering taking over RIM and that it has "never" been interested in buying the BlackBerry maker, according to a Bloomberg report.

James Chung, a Samsung spokesman, told the news outlet that the Korean company and RIM, based in Canada, haven't had any contact regarding a purchase deal.

Chung also told Bloomberg that Samsung isn't interested in the rumored software licensing deals that RIM has been reportedly exploring as well.

On Tuesday, stock in RIM rose $1.30, or 8.04%, to $17.47 per share after the tech news site BGR ran a story, citing unnamed sources, stating that Samsung was the "front runner" to purchase RIM.

Of course, Samsung hasn't been the only company that has been rumored to be interested in buying RIM. Among the other potential suitors with speculated interest in RIM are Nokia, Microsoft and Amazon. RIM shares jumped 10% in December on news of possible takeover interest from Microsoft and Amazon.

This also isn't the first time that Samsung has come out and denied rumors of its interest in a smartphone property. Last September, Samsung declared its lack of interest in buying the WebOS operating system from Hewlett-Packard.

After months of trying to figure out what to do with WebOS, HP eventually decided to retain ownership, open-source the software and then move forward on developing new tablets (but no new smartphones) running the operating system.

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– Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

Photo: BlackBerry Messenger on a BlackBerry smartphone from Research In Motion. Samsung announced Wednesday that will not purchase BlackBerry maker RIM. Credit: Oliver Lang / Associated Press

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One of my major complaints when I'm reviewing just about any top-of-the-line Android smartphone on Verizon is the price.

Samsung's Galaxy Nexus and Motorola's Droid Razr and Droid Bionic each launched at a price of $299.99 and each phone packed 32 gigabytes of storage. Verizon isn't alone in this high-end, high-price approach; AT&T and Sprint release similar handsets at similar launch prices.

My beef isn't so much that new smartphones with 32 gigabytes of storage debut at the $300 price point as much as it is that there is often no option of getting the same phone with less storage for $200 at the same time.

This approach to leave out the $200 option at launch is, of course, by design. After the hot new handset is on the market for a few weeks or months, the price, and often the storage capacity, goes down. It happened with Samsung's Nexus S, which came out before the Galaxy Nexus, and the Droid Bionic. On Tuesday, Verizon announced that it is happening with the Droid Razr too.

The Razr, a Verizon exclusive, is available with 16 gigabytes of storage at $199.99 on a two-year 4G contract. Gone is the more expensive 32-gigabyte model for $299.99. The difference between the phones, aside from price, is that the 16-gigabyte microSD card has been removed in the lower-priced version.

If you want the Razr with more than 16 gigabytes of storage, the newest version still contains a microSD card slot, which can support up to a 32-gigabyte microSD card.

In the $300 price point, the upcoming Motorola Droid Razr Maxx will replace the Droid Razr for Verizon. The Razr Maxx is essentially the same phone as the Razr, but it adds a thicker battery that Motorola promises will offer all-day battery life and the ability to handle a 21-hour phone call — something I've never seen before in a 4G phone.

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– Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

Photo: The Motorola Droid Razr. Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times

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Samsung reportedly ‘front runner’ in RIM purchase

posted by Technology @ 3:01 PM
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
Photo: Research In Motion's Senior Manager of Brand Marketing, Jeff Gadway discusses new BlackBerry technology in a presentation at the company's "BeBold" event at the Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas on Jan. 10, 2012. Credit: Eric Reed/AP Images for BlackBerry

BlackBerry maker Research In Motion is again at the center of buyout rumors and this time the speculated buyer is consumer electronics giant Samsung.

Among other possible suitors believed to be interested in RIM are Nokia, Microsoft and Amazon, which sent shares in the smartphone and tablet maker up as much as 10% in December when the rumor mill was churning.

On Tuesday, after the website BGR published a story that stated Samsung was the "front runner" to purchase RIM, stock in the Canadian company rose $1.30, or 8.04%, to $17.47 per share.

"Research In Motion is currently weighing every single option it can think of in an effort to reverse a negative trend that is approaching a boiling point for investors," BGR said. "Reports that RIM is currently in talks to license its software to other vendors are accurate according to our trusted sources, though we have been told that RIM is most likely leaning toward an outright sale of one or more divisions, or even the whole company."

RIM officials were unavailable to comment on the BGR report on Tuesday.

The negative trend mentioned by BGR is a well-documented slide at RIM that didn't relent in 2011. In December, RIM recorded a $485-million loss on unsold PlayBook inventory after the tablet failed to live up to sales expectations since its launch in April. Every model of the PlayBook was also cut to $299 in a move to entice consumers.

With sales of the PlayBook slow, no wireless carriers have stepped up to offer a 3G or 4G version of the BlackBerry tablet as RIM had originally planned. 

RIM also dealt with multiple product delays, employee layoffs, service outages, contracting market share, disappointing earnings results and declining stock prices in 2011.

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– Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

Photo: Research In Motion's senior manager of brand marketing, Jeff Gadway, discusses new BlackBerry technology in a presentation at the company's "BeBold" event at the Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas on Jan. 10. Credit: Eric Reed / AP Images for BlackBerry

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Apple sues Samsung again in Germany, calls for ban on 10 phones

posted by Technology @ 10:34 AM
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
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Apple has reportedly filed another patent infringement lawsuit against Samsung in Germany, this time calling for a sales ban on 10 smartphones it says violate its design rights.

Filed in Dusseldorf Regional Court, Apple's suit — which calls for a ban on the Galaxy S II, Galaxy S Plus and eight other models — isn't the only front in the ongoing international patent battle between the two firms, reports said Tuesday. Apple also filed a suit against five Samsung tablets "related to a September ruling" that imposes a sales ban on the Galaxy Tab 10.1, according to a Bloomberg report.

Apple alleges that Samsung's Galaxy Tab 10.1 copied the design of the Apple iPad in a way intended to confuse customers. After sales of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 were halted in Germany, Samsung released the re-designed Galaxy Tab 10.1N, which the Dusseldorf court said in December is different enough from the iPad that "it is unlikely to grant an injunction" against the new design, Bloomberg said.

"An appeals court also voiced doubts about the reach of Apple's European Union design right that won the company the injunction against the Galaxy 10.1," the report said.

For now, Apple's new smartphone suit against Samsung is set to "come before the court in August and the case against Samsung's tablets will follow in September," according to PCWorld.

If this all sounds a bit familiar, it is. Apple and Samsung have been suing and counter-suing each another across Europe, Asia, the U.S. and Australia for months, each alleging patent infringement over the design and operation of their respective phones and tablets.

In December, Apple failed to win an extension of a temporary sales ban against the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 in Australia, where the dispute between the two tech giants is set to go to trial in March.

According to the news site ArsTechnica, the ongoing patent battle between Apple and Samsung has caught the attention of the European Commission, which is conducting an antitrust investigation with the two companies regarding the suits.

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– Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

Photo: An Apple iPad 2, left, and a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 at a store in The Hague, Netherlands, in August. Credit: Robert Vos / European Pressphoto Agency

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Beats Electronics and Monster Cable Products, two companies that together defined the current $1-billion headphone industry with the Beats by Dr. Dre line, are parting ways at the end of the year.

But before the two become competitors in a segment of consumer electronics that is just as much about fashion as it is technology, a wave of new Beats by Dr. Dre headphones and boom boxes (built by Monster) will hit store shelves.

At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last week, I caught up with Jimmy Iovine, Beats Electronics' chairman and CEO of Interscope Geffen A&M Records, to talk about what products the Beats brand had planned for 2012 (you can see our interview in the video above).

First up will be the new Mixr headphones, designed by Grammy-winning producer and DJ David Guetta. The Mixr is a lightweight and strong design — I twisted and bent the headband, and it returned to form and never felt week — that offers the bass-heavy sound Beats is known for. At $279, the Mixr is set to hit U.S. stores in early February in black and white. They're already available in Europe.

Beats Executive headphones

February will also see a wireless release of the Solo headphones, also priced at $279. And due in mid-September are the $349 Executive headphones, which bring a sleeker and more understated look with a leather headband and aluminum ear cups.

Iovine was also proud of the new BeatBox, a follow-up to the first-generation (and much less portable) BeatBox, which will sell at a price of $399. A release date hasn't yet been set for the new battery- or AC-powered BeatBox, which plays music from smartphones and MP3 players docked on the speaker setup.

Since launching in 2009, Beats has teamed with Justin Beiber, Lady Gaga and Sean "Diddy" Combs for artist-sponsored headphones. The Mixr is the only artist-specific set of headphones planned for 2012, Iovine said.

But this year we will see more HTC smartphones paired with Beats headphones as a result of HTC purchasing a $300-million stake in the audio company late last year, he said. And Beats speakers will be found not just in the Chrysler 300, as they were in 2011, but also in the Dodge Charger. And, as we saw at CES, Beats speakers are making their way into more HP laptops this year too.

After the Monster manufacturing deal expires at the end of the year, Beats plans to go out on its own, Iovine told my colleague Gerrick D. Kennedy on our sister blog Pop & Hiss. Despite reports to the contrary, Iovine said, the split was always the audio start-up's intention.

"It was always planned. It was always a five-year deal," Iovine said. "It was a manufacturing distribution deal. We were with Monster for headphones and speakers. It was always a plan to turn into a freestanding company."

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– Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

Image: The Beats Executive headphones from Beats by Dr. Dre. Credit: Beats Electronics/Monster Cable Products

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Next generation of smartphones may be waterproof

posted by Technology @ 9:33 PM
Monday, January 16, 2012

A smartphone is submerged in water.

Waterproof smartphones are on their way, and we say it's about time.

A smartphone can store thousands of songs, photos and videos — but accidentally spill a glass of water on it, and kaput. You have to buy a new one that will run you anywhere between $200 and $600.

Unacceptable!

Now a company called HzO says it has developed a technology that can change all that. It calls it HzO WaterBlock and says it works by coating the inside of an electronic device with a nano-thin film that has water-repelling properties.

You shouldn't take a phone treated with HzO scuba diving, but if you drop it in the sink while you are washing dishes, or if it accidentally winds up in the washing machine, or if your kid spills a glass of water on it, it should continue to work just fine.

And the best part? Paul Clayson, president of HzO, told The Times that he expects the first consumer electronics treated with HzO WaterBlock to be on the market by this summer.

Hallellujah!

The chemical makeup of WaterBlock is proprietary, but the company says it is a non-hazardous, organic material. It does not alter the look, feel or weight of the phone, and it is applied to the inside of the device — not the outside.

The idea is not to keep water out, but rather to protect the circuit boards and electronics from any water or debris that gets in.

We asked Clayson how long he thinks it will take before waterproof phones become the norm.

"I think it will take a little bit of time to adopt," he said. "I think it will go in the higher end of consumer applications first, but I think two years from now it will be a ubiquitous offering in consumer electronics."

"Once consumers know it can be done, they will demand that it be offered in all devices," he added.

We wholeheartedly agree.

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– Deborah Netburn

Image: A smartphone submerged in water at the HzO lab in Salt Lake City. Credit: HzO

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Skype coming soon to Windows Phone, later to Xbox Live

posted by Technology @ 3:35 PM
Monday, January 16, 2012
Skype on an Android phone

Skype can be used to make voice and video calls over the Web using PCs, a number of TVs and Blu-Ray players, Facebook and via smartphone apps found on BlackBerrys, Androids, iPhones and iPads.

Yet, despite Microsoft buying Skype at a price of $8.5-billion in October, you still can't make a Skype call on a Windows Phone handset. However, that will change soon, Skype and Microsoft said in a YouTube video produced at the Consumer Electronics Show last week.

If you're feeling a bit skeptical, you're likely not alone. Skype has been promising a Windows Phone app since April of last year. But a higher level of integration between Skype and its new owner Microsoft is inevitable, if not late.

Rick Osterloh, Skype's vice president of product, said in the company's CES video that the online calling service is working on apps for not only Windows Phone, but also for Microsoft's Xbox gaming console and the in-development Windows 8 operating system.

Osterloh also said that Skype is on an upswing of growth with the service recently passing 200 million monthly users who use more than 1 billion minutes a day. Also on the way is group-calling with up to 10 people on a single call, he said.

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– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+
Twitter.com/nateog

Image: A screenshot of a demonstration video of Skype for Android on a Samsung Nexus S smartphone. Credit: Skype

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Nokia Lumia 710 Windows Phone is free at Wal-Mart with contract

posted by Technology @ 10:43 AM
Monday, January 16, 2012
Nokia Lumia 710

The Lumia 710, Nokia's first Windows Phone to hit the U.S., barely went on sale on Jan. 11 and already Wal-Mart is undercutting other retailers by giving the new phone away for free on a two-year contract.

T-Mobile USA, which launched the phone, sells the Lumia 710 for $49.99 on a two-year data plan, as do other retailers such as Best Buy. The price drop by Wal-Mart is a fast one and it's unclear if other retailers or T-Mobile itself will follow suit.

But if we do see more price drops on the Lumia 710, they will probably be motivated in part by the pending arrival of the new Lumia 900 at AT&T, which is rumored for sometime in March. An official release date and price haven't yet been disclosed for the Lumia 900.

The Lumia 900, which made its debut at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last week, has  a 4.3-inch display and a unique polycarbonate body.

But while the 900 packs a larger screen and a bit more style, it and the 710 are very similar on the inside, with both phones running Windows Phone 7.5 Mango on a 1.4-gigahertz Qualcomm processor and 512-megabytes of RAM.

The Lumia 710 has 8 gigabytes of built-in storage, while the Lumia 900 has 16 gigabytes. And the Lumia 710 features a 5-megapixel camera with a single-LED flash, while the Lumia 900 has an 8-megapixel camera with a dual-LED flash.

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– Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

Photo: The Nokia Lumia 710 Windows Phone from T-Mobile USA. Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh / Los Angeles TImes

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As General Motors introduced its first efforts to bring apps from your smartphone into your dashboard at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show, Ford expanded its Sync AppLink system — which does just that and launched about a year ago.

Ford Sync Destinations

When AppLink made its debut, Pandora was the only app a Sync user could operate via in-dash touch screen. Later, Stitcher radio gained Sync compatibility, which includes voice control as well.

Ford announced at CES in Las Vegas this week that apps for iPhones, BlackBerrys and phones that Google's Android would be added to the AppLink-friendly list, including NPR News, Slacker Radio, iHeartRadio, TuneIn Radio and Ford's own Sync Destinations turn-by-turn navigation app.

To see NPR News and Slacker Radio in action in a new Ford Mustang GT, check out our video from CES above.

Ford says that more apps that work with Sync's voice recogniton software are on the way. Oddly enough, Sync (which was developed through a partnership between Ford and Microsoft) has no AppLink compatibility with Windows Phone apps.

Just as with GM's in-car-app systems — Chevrolet MyLink and Cadillac CUE — AppLink can use apps only if it’s connected to a smartphone with the app installed, and it accesses data through the phone. Ford isn't selling any AppLink data plans.

For now, AppLink is available only in Sync-equipped Fiestas, Mustangs, Fusions, F-150s and Econoline vans, but the U.S. automaker is considering pushing AppLink out to other Ford brands, such as Lincoln, as well as to vehicles running older versions of Sync.

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– Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

Image: A screen shot of Ford's Sync Destinations app. Credit: Ford

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Phone-to-phone gaming and more with Alljoyn

posted by Technology @ 3:42 PM
Thursday, January 12, 2012

Some times the coolest new things you see at the Consumer Electronics Show aren't gadgets or apps or even 55-inch OLED TV sets (although, admittedly, those are cool). Sometimes they're just technologies, which is what digital stereoscopic displays and gesture recognition were before they became 3D TV sets and XBox Kinect.

IMG_0055

A good example this year is Alljoyn, an open-source software project coming out of an innovation lab run by Qualcomm. Alljoyn enables nearby users of an app to interact with each other, even when there's no local data network. Multiple people in the room can join the activity, whether it be playing a game, taking turns in the virtual DJ booth or working on an electronic whiteboard. And unlike collaborating through a congested Internet, there's little or no delay — the users' devices are seamlessly synchronized.

The magic isn't in the short-range communications technology — Alljoyn runs on top of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. What's special is the ability it gives developers to quickly add proximity networking to just about any app, even if they have no expertise in radio communications. For example, it took programmers at Namco only a week to add Alljoyn capabilities to their Pacman Kart Rally game, according to Qualcomm's Liat Ben-zur.

VIDEOS: 2012 Consumer Electronics Show

The demos at the Qualcomm booth showed how nearby tablets, smartphones and even a tablet and a connected TV could join in games and productivity apps. Because Alljoyn connects apps, not devices, users can collaborate simultaneously with separate groups on different programs, with no overlap — for example, working on a virtual whiteboard with one team while collaborating on a document with another.

Ben-zur said the potential uses include a wide variety of entertainment, education and business applications. The breakthrough here, she said, is that any developer will be able to make apps that can seamlessly discover and interoperate with related apps nearby. She added, "I believe this is a new Pandora's box for mobile."

– Jon Healey in Las Vegas

Healey writes editorials for The Times' Opinion Manufacturing Division. Follow him at @jcahealey.

Photo: Two tablets play an Alljoyn-equipped version of Spud-Ball by Signature Creative. Credit: Jon Healey

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Motorola is building Android phone with Intel CPU for late 2012

posted by Technology @ 2:10 PM
Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Intel reference-design smartphone. Credit: Intel

A Motorola smartphone with Intel inside is due to arrive in the second half of 2012, the two companies announced at the Consumer Electronics Show.

The phone will be the first product of a multi-year agreement that will extend to not only smartphones but tablets too, Intel said.

Intel® Atom™ Processor Z2460 Package. Credit: IntelAlthough the firms didn't disclose much about what the device would look like, how much it would cost or what it wouldd be called, Intel did say that the first of its processors used by Motorola would be the new Atom Z2460.

No word yet on which carrier the handset will make its way to either, but in a meeting Tuesday night, Motorola Chairman and Chief Executive Sanjay Jha said the new phone would run Google's Android operating system.

Hopefully that means the first Motorola and Intel smartphone will be running Android Ice Cream Sandwich.

The Atom Z2640 is a 1.6-gigahertz processor with integrated graphics capabilities and low power consumption, Intel said in a statement.

The partnership is an important one for both companies, especially Intel. Motorola currently uses processors from both Qualcomm and Texas Instruments, two chip suppliers that have found a lot of success in the smartphone and tablet market. Intel's mobile chips, meanwhile, have had a tough time catching on with hardware makers as many have chosen processors from rivals.

Though Intel, the world's largest processor maker, has so far failed to match its dominant positon in the laptop and desktop market on the mobile side, a deal with Motorola might help boost its influence in smartphones and tablets — particularly if Google's $12.5-billion purchase of Motorola Mobility is approved by federal regulators.

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– Nathan Olivarez-Giles in Las Vegas

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

Images: (Top) Intel's smartphone reference design and (bottom) its Atom Z2460 processor. Credit: Intel

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Nokia and Microsoft's first flagship smartphone for the U.S., the Lumia 900, made its official debut at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

The new Windows Phone handset was first unveiled Monday by Nokia, and later that night Microsoft brought the new phone on stage in what was the final CES keynote speech from the tech giant best known for the powerhouse Windows PC operating system.

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 TimesThe Lumia 900 so far has been confirmed as running only on AT&T's 4G LTE network and picks up stylistically where the Lumia 800 left off, with an attractive rounded polycarbonate body and a flat, sliced-off-looking top and bottom.

However, the Lumia 900 will have a larger screen than the Lumia 800 — up to 4.3 inches from 3.7 inches. The resolution of the display will remain 480 by 800 pixels, as is standard for all Windows Phone handsets.

The new Nokia will be offered from AT&T in either cyan or matte black and feature a 1.4-gigahertz Qualcomm processor, 512 megabytes of RAM, 16 gigabytes of built-in storage, an 8-megapixel rear camera that can shoot up to 720p video and a 1.3-megapixel front facing camera for video chatting.

The Lumia 900 will be thinner than T-Mobile's Lumia 710, a 0.45-inches-thick 4G phone I reviewed last weekend.

Nokia officials also told me at CES that the Lumia 800 is finally going to get a U.S. launch as well, but it will be sold only as an unlocked phone. That means the Lumia 800 will sell without part of the cost of the phone being eaten up by a wireless carrier's subsidy, which may put it in the $500-range, though Nokia declined to specify.

Microsoft and Nokia also had no details to offer on pricing or a release date for the Lumia 900. As soon as we can, we'll get the phone in our hands for a full review. In the meantime, check out our hands-on video from CES with both the Nokia Lumia 900 above; and photos and of the Lumia 900 and Lumia 800 after the jump.

  • A cyan Nokia Lumia 900, standing in front of a Lumia 800. (Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)
  • The Nokia Lumia 800, left, next to the Lumia 900. (Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)
  • The Nokia Lumia 800, left, next to the Lumia 900. (Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)
  • Apple's iPhone 4S, next to the Nokia Lumia 800, center, and the Lumia 900. (Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)
  • The Nokia Lumia 900 in the foreground, with the Lumia 800 in the center and the Apple iPhone 4S in the background. (Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)
  • Apple's iPhone 4S, next to the Nokia Lumia 800, center, and the Lumia 900. (Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)
Nokia_lumia-1

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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. Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times

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Sports fans are familiar with the yellow first-down line that appears on the television screen while watching football games, but tech companies now want to bring augmented reality technology to everyday consumers. 

Known as AR, augmented reality is a view of a physical, real-world environment that is altered by overlaying the image with digital photos, videos or text. 

At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on Sunday, Autonomy — a tech company that was acquired by Hewlett-Packard last year — was showing off its AR platform, Aurasma. Lauren Offers, director of marketing at Autonomy, held her business card in one hand and used her iPhone's camera to point at the card with her other hand. On the screen of the iPhone, a video of the rep appeared in which she introduced herself. Later, Offers pointed her phone at a physical copy of GQ magazine; that issue's articles and photos began appearing on the smartphone's screen over the live image of the magazine's cover. 

With AR technology, a consumer simply uses a camera-equipped smartphone or tablet to point at an object to get information — aim at a jar of pasta sauce, and recommendations for what kinds of wine to pair it with will appear over the real-life image of the jar; point to a house for sale, and information about its asking price, number of bedrooms and contact info will pop up on the screen. 

Aurasma's technology "allows smart devices to see, recognize and understand real-life images and objects in much the same way as the human brain does," the company said in a news release. "Aurasma then uses this fundamental understanding of the real world to seamlessly augment the scene with virtual content such as videos, animations and 3-D objects called 'auras.' No bar codes, visual tags or special glasses are required for Aurasma to work."

Autonomy has already tagged thousands of buildings in London with AR technology. If you're standing outside Buckingham Palace and point your smart device at it, for instance, dinosaurs will appear to come out of the building. The company has also tagged everyday items such as a $20 bill — point your phone or tablet at the image of the White House on the back and its elements will come to life: the building appears to turn white, the little flag grows in size, the numbers wiggle and appear to float.

"It's changing the way we access information," said Tamara Roukaerts, head of marketing for Aurasma. "You blend off-line and online: this is the beginning of the outernet; it's actually woven into the real world. And that's how you want your information."

In a recent Times article, my colleague Shan Li wrote that about 6 million AR apps were downloaded in 2010, according to ABI Research — still a small fraction of the overall app market. But the number is projected to increase to 19 million downloads in 2011 and balloon to nearly a billion by 2016. The firm forecasts the mobile AR industry will see $3 billion in global revenue by 2016, up from $87 million this year and $21 million in 2010.

More than 2 million users have downloaded Aurasma and Aurasma-enabled apps since its launch six months ago. The Aurasma app is available for free on the iPhone3GS, 4, 4S, iPad2 and Android devices.

Aurasma will be competing in the final of the CES Mobile Apps Showdown at the Wynn on Thursday.

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– Andrea Chang in Las Vegas

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LG Spectrum phone has 4G speeds, HD display

posted by Technology @ 12:30 PM
Monday, January 9, 2012

LG Spectrum

LG introduced the Spectrum, a new high-end smartphone coming this month to Verizon, at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on Monday morning.

The new handset checks nearly all (but not all) the boxes a consumer might want from a current top-of-the-line smartphone.

VS920_Back_LRThe Spectrum features a 4.5-inch scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass touchscreen with a resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels (yes, that's a high-definition display) and a pixel density of 329 pixels per inch.

That pixel density is important because it could offer something similar in look to Apple's retina display on the iPhone 4 and 4S, which both feature a pixel density of more than 300 per inch. Any display with a ppi of 300 or greater is said be so dense that pixels are indistinguishable from one another to the human eye at a distance of 10 to 12 inches.

LG is capable of producing some impressive screens for mobile devices, as we've seen on the recently released LG Nitro HD for AT&T and the Barnes & Noble Nook Color and Nook Tablet slates.

Inside, the Spectrum will come with 16 gigabytes of storage on a microSD card, and run on a 1.5-gigahertz dual core processor from Qualcomm.

The Spectrum will run Google's Android Gingerbread operating system which is, for now, the one area on paper where the Spectrum is a bit behind as it's not running the newer Android Ice Cream Sandwich software out of the box. But LG did say on Monday that an upgrade to Ice Cream Sandwich would arrive sometime after the Spectrum's release Jan. 19.

For $199.99 on a two-year contract, the Spectrum will also offer up an 8-megapixel camera that can shoot up to 1080p video, paired with a single LED flash. Up front is a 1.3-megapixel camera for video chatting.

ESPN will also provide high-definition streaming video to its Score Center app, which will come preloaded on the Spectrum, so sports fans can take advantage of the phones' HD display.

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– Nathan Olivarez-Giles in Las Vegas

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

Images: The LG Spectrum smartphone. Credit: LG

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CES 2012: Global tech device spending may hit $1 trillion

posted by Technology @ 9:31 PM
Sunday, January 8, 2012

CES Unveiled

Fueled by growth in emerging markets, global tech device spending is estimated to hit $1 trillion for the first time in 2012.

"It underscores just the magnitude of this marketplace," said Steve Koenig, director of industry analysis at the Consumer Electronics Assn. "When you're talking about a market of 3 1/2 billion people that all want TVs, that all want phones, that's a huge market opportunity…. I don't know when we're going to hit $2 trillion, but with the pace of growth in these emerging economies, it probably won't take long."

As people around the world buy more tech gadgets, the industry is entering the second phase of the digital revolution. Consumers should expect the newest devices to become even more seamless in their lives; tech companies will be keenly focused on rolling out new smartphones and tablets that are multifunctional and can replace old-school products (sorry, camcorders). 

Those findings were shared in two back-to-back news conferences Sunday during the media preview day at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the first on the state of the industry and trends to look out for at CES, and the second on global market figures.

Tech experts told an overflow crowd of reporters — nearly all of them clicking away on laptops and tablets and snapping photos on their smartphones — that they expected slower growth in tech spending in developed countries like the U.S. but an explosion of spending in countries such as China and Brazil. One "sweet spot" in emerging markets will be low-cost smartphones; LCD televisions are also expected to do well. 

Among the big trends expected to be seen at CES include devices that are geared more toward personalization and customization, said Shawn Dubravac, the Consumer Electronics Assn.'s chief economist and director of research.

He said he expected to see 20,000 new products launched during this year's show, one of the world's largest consumer electronics trade shows. Many of the products will be smartphones, and phone makers will be aiming to make the "pocketable devices more and more like full-fledged computers," Dubravac said.

Also expected at CES: 30 to 50 new ultrabooks, or super-thin and light laptops, as PC makers try to take share away from Apple's popular MacBook Air. 

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– Andrea Chang in Las Vegas

Photo: An ice sculpture at CES Unveiled at the Venetian in Las Vegas. Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh / Los Angeles Times

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Lumia 710, Nokia’s first U.S. Windows Phone — review

posted by Technology @ 1:04 PM
Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Nokia Lumia 710 is a small, low-cost smartphone with some big, high-cost bets riding on its success.

The Lumia 710 is Nokia's first phone to hit the U.S. running Microsoft's Windows Phone operating system — more specifically, Windows Phone 7.5 Mango. It's also the first tangible product to hit store shelves, in this case T-Mobile stores, as a result of a deal between Nokia and Microsoft announced in February and signed in April that's reportedly worth billions of dollars.

So is the Lumia 710 a good smartphone or not? Simply put, it is. It's a simple, low-end phone, but it's a solid little phone worth your consideration if you're new to smartphones or looking for an affordable Windows Phone handset. The Lumia 710 runs $49.99 on a 2-year contract with T-Mobile starting Jan. 11.

The specifications match-up with most entry-level Windows Phone handsets — namely the Samsung Focus Flash and the HTC Radar 4G.

Nokia Lumia 710The Lumia 710 isn't thin by today's smartphone standards, coming in at 0.49-inch thick, but it doesn't feel bloated by any means, weighing 4.4 ounces.

A 3.7-inch touch screen is featured on the new Nokia, which looks good but results, disappointingly, in a bit of color distortion at extreme angles. The resolution of the screen, which is responsive and very fingerprint prone in the black colorway I tested, is 800 x 480 pixels. Video playback, apps, photos and websites all looked great on the Lumia 710.

The phone is powered by a single-core 1.4-gigahertz Snapdragon processor from Qualcomm, and 512 megabytes of RAM and 8 gigabytes of built-in storage are included. There is no microSD card slot for storage expansion and there is no front-facing camera for video chatting — which falls in line with the lower-end expectations the Lumia 710's price reflects. Though it should be noted that the HTC Radar 4G, which sells for the same price from T-Mobile, does include a front-facing camera.

On the back is a 5-megapixel camera with a single LED flash, which takes clear, detailed photos and can also shoot 720p video. The camera can't match the 8-megapixel shooters found on higher end smartphones, but again, the Lumia 710 isn't a high-end $200 or $300 smartphone.

The Lumia 710 was fast and performed well. I won't go too deep into Windows Phone Mango (for more on that, check out my October review of Mango), but while it isn't the most complicated or power-demanding operating system out there, the Lumia 710 handled everything I threw at it. In about two weeks of testing, I never had an app freeze or crash on me. Call quality was good with voices sounding clear and no dropped calls experienced. T-Mobile's 4G network offered up fast downloads and uploads on the Lumia 710. Battery life was also great: I consistently got a day's worth of charge, no problem.

Stylistically, the Lumia 710 is a bit plain, though not at all unattractive. The curved back plate on the phone is coated in a rubberized plastic that is grippy and comfortable to hold in the hand no matter what you're doing on the phone. The back plate is removable and Nokia is selling different colors — cyan, magenta, yellow, black and white — which thankfully can help add a bit of style.

Below the phone's display is a single piece of plastic which rises out of the face of the Lumia 710 to house three buttons: back, home and search. Many Windows Phone handsets have opted for touch-capacitive buttons and not a large physical button, but that's the way Nokia went this time around and it's unique. You may or may not like the large button, but it is an original look and one I didn't mind at all. The right side of the Lumia 710 is a volume rocker above a dedicated camera button, which responded fast when clicked. Up top is the phone's power button, headphone jack and, in another departure, USB port.

The top of the phone is a bit of a strange place for a USB port, but I actually liked this decision simply because I hadn't really seen it before. Nokia's phones will need to stand out and feel genuinely different from Samsung, HTC and others that make Windows Phone handsets.

Nokia Lumia 710This phone, while overall a standard and not at all groundbreaking phone, still feels different than others I've seen at this price range and I think that's a good thing. It's small choices, like the removable colored back plates, the large button on the front, and the USB port up top that give the Lumia 710 some personality.

Build quality is solid and the Lumia 710 feels like it could take some abuse and survive over the life of a two-year contract with no problems.

The Lumia 710 also has a couple of unique features on the software side, with a different color option for Windows Phone's app tiles called Nokia Blue, which looks a bit more royal than the standard blue  like the Tar Heel blue worn by the University of North Carolina. Nokia apps are also another differentiator for the Lumia 710 and future Nokia Windows Phones.

The best of the included Noika apps was Nokia Drive, a turn-by-turn voice navigation app that delivered GPS directions in a clear, understandable manner. Nokia Drive also re-calibrated quickly when I went against its suggested routes.

There's also an app, if you can really call it that, called Nokia Cares, which is simply a slide that states that yes, Nokia cares and "respects your privacy. We collect information about your phone and your use of services to improve Nokia products and to provide you more relevant content." But, the app says, Nokia doesn't share your data with third-party companies without your consent. There's also an included link to Nokia's service terms and privacy policy.

All in all, the Nokia Lumia 710 was a phone I enjoyed using. It didn't make me want to give up my Apple iPhone 4S or the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. But unlike the Nokia Lumia 800 on sale in Europe and Asia, the Lumia 710 wasn't designed to do that. Nokia will need to release such a phone in the U.S. to justify its multibillion-dollar partnership with Microsoft.

But while there aren't a ton of bells and whistles here, this straightforward, well-built, speedy little smartphone looks like a good starting point for Nokia and Microsoft.

  • The Nokia Lumia 710. (Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)
  • The Nokia Lumia 710 (Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)
  • The Nokia Lumia 710 (Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)
  • The Nokia Lumia 710, in its box. (Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)
  • The Nokia Lumia 710 with its back plate removed. (Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)
  • The Nokia Lumia 710 with its back plate and battery removed. (Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)
  • The back of the Nokia Lumia 710. (Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)
  • The HTC Radar 4G, left, next to the Nokia Lumia 710, center, and the Apple iPhone 4S. (Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)
  • The HTC Radar 4G, left, next to the Nokia Lumia 710, center, and the Apple iPhone 4S. (Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)
  • The HTC Radar 4G, left, next to the Nokia Lumia 710, center, and the Apple iPhone 4S. (Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)
  • The HTC Radar 4G, left, next to the Nokia Lumia 710, center, and the Apple iPhone 4S. (Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)
Nokia_lumia-12

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– Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

Photos: The Nokia Lumia 710. Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times

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Apple iOS 5.1 beta code hints at quad-core iPad, iPhone

posted by Technology @ 8:23 PM
Friday, January 6, 2012

Apple iPad displays an ebook.

Rumors of a new quad-core "A6" processor for Apple's next iPad and iPhone have been circulating for months, and on Friday a bit of information came to light that will fuel the speculation.

The code for Apple's iOS 5.1 beta operating system, which developers can access for testing before the software is released to the public, hints at compatibility with quad-core CPUs, according to a report on the website 9to5Mac.

The report — by Mark Gurman, who has also delved into a bit of iOS app development — says iOS 5.1 beta describes three different processor variations, making reference to "/cores/core.3," as well as "/cores/core.0," which identifies a single-core CPU, and "/cores/core.1," which identifies a dual-core processor.

Based on Apple's naming convention so far, Gurman says, ".cores/core.3" would refer to a quad-core chip. The speculation is that such a quad-core processor would be called the A6 and be used in the expected iPad 3, following Apple's dual-core A5 (used in the iPad 2 and iPhone 4S) and single-core A4 (used in the first-generation iPad and the iPhone 4).

"Apple leaving references to quad-core chips in the iOS 5.1 beta is notable because iOS 5.1 is the software currently being tested against the third-generation iPad," Gurman wrote. "We cannot conclude that due to iOS 5.1 including quad-core processor references, Apple's next-generation iPad and iPhone will include a quad-core chip, but it seems reasonable based on Apple starting with a single-core chip in 2010 and moving to dual-core in 2011. A quad-core chip in 2012 would fit the pattern."

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– Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

Photo: Reading on a first-generation Apple iPad. Credit: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times

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RIM co-CEOs reportedly may be out as board chairmen

posted by Technology @ 6:40 PM
Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Mike Lazaridis, Research in Motion's president, co-CEO and co-chairman

Research In Motion may reportedly relieve its co-chief executives, Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie, of their positions as co-chairmen of the company's board of directors.

The move comes amid shareholder pressure calling for new leadership, according to the Financial Post, a Canadian newspaper.

Jim Balsillie, co-CEO and co-chairman of Research in MotionThe shareholder pressure is due in large part to a rough 2011 for RIM in which the smartphone and tablet maker dealt with declining market share, earnings results below expectations, shrinking stock prices, multiple product delays, employee layoffs, service outages, a $485-million loss on unsold PlayBook tablet inventory and takeover rumors.

Among those under leading consideration to take over as the head of RIM's board is Barbara Stymiest, who joined RIM's board in 2007 and is the chief operating officer of the Royal Bank of Canada's Financial Group, the Financial Post said in its report.

If Lazaridis and Balsillie are removed from their shared chairman posts, the move reportedly wouldn't change their roles as co-CEOs.

Regardless of what happens, it's clear 2012 will be a major year for RIM as it is looks to rebound from 2011 and release its new BlackBerry 10 operating system, which has been under development for months.

BlackBerry 10 will be introduced on a new line of BlackBerry smartphones that will favor touchscreens over full physical keyboards and enable users to run Android apps alongside native QNX and BlackBerry 10 apps, apps developed using Adobe's AIR software and HTML5.

The new operating system, which was supposed to launch in early 2012 but has been delayed to later this year, will also run on the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet.

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– Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

Top photo: Mike Lazaridis, Research in Motion's president, co-CEO and co-chairman. Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Bottom photo: Jim Balsillie, co-CEO and co-chairman of Research in Motion. Credit: Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press

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Galaxy Nexus, on Android Ice Cream Sandwich, review [Video]

posted by Technology @ 3:51 PM
Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Samsung Galaxy Nexus is one of the best smartphones on the market and in my opinion, it's the best all-around Android phone out there.

Just about everything you could want from a smartphone, the Galaxy Nexus has — and that's a really good thing considering that the phone is selling in the U.S. for $299 on a two-year 4G LTE data plan from Verizon.

Hardware

The phone, which Google and Samsung teamed up on to design, is just .37-inches thick, which is about the same thickness as Apple's iPhone. Inside, the Galaxy Nexus is packed with a 1.2-gigahertz dual-core processor, 1-gigabyte of RAM, 32-gigabytes of built-in storage and near field communications technology.

On the outside, you'll find a gigantic 4.65-inch touchscreen, which may be a bit too large for some. But, in use, the screen doesn't feel as massive as it is thanks to a thin bezel around the display.

Samsung Galaxy NexusThe resolution of that screen is an impressive 1,280-by-720 pixels, which is high enough to be classified as high-definition. This provides a big, beautiful, bright canvas on which to watch videos, browse websites and read e-books.

The display is one of the best I've seen on just about any smartphone. It's a pentile display, which can lead to some pixelization from time to time, but the high resolution of the screen allows for smoother images than I've seen on low-resolution pentile screens.

Battery life on the Galaxy Nexus is pretty good for a 4G phone with such a large display. Over about a week and a half of testing, I regularly found that I could make it through an entire workday before I had to recharge the phone. Of course, the more you use the phone, the faster the battery life goes, and 3G phones still have better battery life. But as far as 4G phones go, the Galaxy Nexus is among the best I've used battery wise.

Phone calls were clear and reception on the Galaxy Nexus was also solid with Verizon's 4G service being fast and plentiful around Los Angeles during my testing.

Cameras

The Galaxy Nexus sports a 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera above the display, which works well for video chatting in a Google+ Hangout or with other video calling services. On the back is a 5-megapixel camera that can shoot up to 1080p video, paired with an LED flash.

Video shot on the phone looks good, but in the rear camera's still photos is where I found one of my few complaints with the Galaxy Nexus. By no means is 5-megapixels a weak camera, but the sharpness and color reproduction of photos I shot on the Galaxy Nexus wasn't at the level of 8-megapixel shooters I've seen on other top handsets such as the iPhone, the Motorola Droid Bionic and Razr and the Samsung Galaxy S II.

One huge plus on the Galaxy Nexus for still photos is the ability to take photos with almost no shutter lag at all. Snapping a picture is nearly instantaneous and while this results in taking some blurry photos from time to time, it should also allow Galaxy Nexus owners to miss fewer moments with their phones than with many other handsets.

Design

The look of the Galaxy Nexus is clean and simple. If you've seen the Galaxy S II, then you won't be too surprised style-wise with the Galaxy Nexus. It's thin and even has a slight bump at the bottom, housing a speaker and microphone, just as the Galaxy S II does.

Samsung's Galaxy Nexus (left) and Galaxy S IIThe front of the phone is thankfully devoid of any Samsung, Google or Verizon logos, which is something I'd like to see from more smartphones. On the right side, toward the top is a power button that also wakes the phone or puts it to sleep. On the left is a volume rocker. A mini-USB port for charging the phone is on the bottom, as is a headphone jack.

The whole of the device, except for the screen, is covered in a dark gray plastic which offers an understated look. The back of the Galaxy Nexus has a removable plastic cover, which conceals the SIM-card slot and battery. Unfortunately, this panel has a thin, flimsy feel to it that is also reminiscent of the Galaxy S II.

You won't find any premium materials on the Galaxy Nexus as you may find on other rival high-end handsets. But while the phone doesn't feel luxurious, it's still durable and well-built.

Android Ice Cream Sandwich

Though the hardware offered is mighty by current standards, the best part of the Galaxy Nexus is undoubtedly its software — Google's Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich.

The Galaxy Nexus is the first device on the market to run Ice Cream Sandwich, which is the biggest overhaul of Android since its debut in 2008. Ice Cream Sandwich is also the first version of Android designed to run on phones and tablets.

Ice Cream Sandwich feels like a turning point for Android. Sure it's the most widely used mobile operating system in the world, but Android has never felt as polished, easy to use, fast or efficient as Apple's iOS. It lacked the design cohesiveness seen in both iOS and Microsoft's Windows Phone too.

Things now are a bit different thanks to Ice Cream Sandwich. Nearly everything has been redesigned and given a new look. This is the first version of Android that I truly enjoyed using — every tap, touch, pinch and swipe. And that can be attributed to its clean style and the fact that Ice Cream Sandwich is simpler and easier to use than any Android before it.

Gone are the four physical buttons built into the front of Android phones. In Ice Cream Sandwich, all the buttons used for the OS and apps are on-screen and can appear or disappear as needed. The OS makes use of three buttons instead of four: a back button, to get you out of whatever you're doing at the time; a home button, which takes you to your default home screen, and a recent apps button for easy efficient multitasking.

Hit the recent apps button, and a column of screenshots of recent apps will show up (similar to multitasking in Android Honeycomb, the previous version of Android built specifically for tablets). But now, closing down an app running in the background is much easier to do. To close an app, just swipe it to the right or left and it will smoothly roll off screen and out of your queue.

In the pull-down notification center, to discard a notification, just swipe it left or right. If you're in Ice Cream Sandwich's Gmail app, reading an newer or older email requires a left or right swipe as well. This repeated gesture feels like one more example of a new level of thoughtfulness brought to Android in Ice Cream Sandwich.

Other improvements include a contacts app that pulls in contact information from Facebook, Twitter and Google+. For Google+ users, contacts can be viewed by circles of friends, co-workers or whatever groups you set up. The Google search bar now follows you as you swipe across the five home screens of Android.

Face unlock on the Samsung Galaxy NexusVirtual buttons rotate to different sides of the screen as you rotate the phone from portrait to landscape orientation. And now, finally, Android has app folders — just move one app icon onto another to create a folder, it's that simple.

A new font designed for Ice Cream Sandwich called Roboto is used throughout the new OS, adding to the feeling that Android finally has an identifiable style, which it previously lacked.

Google also built tools into Ice Cream Sandwich's settings menu that detail how much data has been consumed by your phone toward the 2.0-gigabyte cap Verizon puts on its users. You can also view how much data is used by each specific app and set a data usage limit to keep from using so much data that overage charges rack up.

Of course, there are some downsides as not all apps are optimized for Ice Cream Sandwich or the Galaxy Nexus' huge screen and iOS still has a superior app selection.

Also, Ice Cream Sandwich offers users the option of a "Face Unlock" feature that uses facial recognition technology to open the phone from its lock screen. It works fast and is an alternative to not locking the phone, or locking it with a passcode or gesture. But the phone doesn't just recognize actual faces, it also recognizes picutures of faces. With Face Unlock turned on, I was able to unlock the Galaxy Nexus with an iPhone displaying a photo of myself — not exactly the most secure option.

The bottom line

Android Ice Cream Sandwich is without question the best version of Android thus far. When combined with such fantastic hardware, its hard not to pick the Galaxy Nexus as the best overall Android phone on the market.

  • The Samsung Galaxy Nexus running Android Ice Cream Sandwich. (Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)
  • The back of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. (Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)
  • The Samsung Galaxy Nexus in front of its box. (Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)
  • The Samsung Galaxy Nexus and Ice Cream Sandwich's keypad. (Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)
  • Taking a photo with the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. (Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)
  • The Samsung Galaxy Nexus. (Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)
  • Android Ice Cream Sandwich on the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. (Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)
  • Face Unlock on the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. (Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)
  • Face Unlock on the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. (Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)
  • Gesture Unlock on the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. (Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)
  • Face Unlock on the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. (Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)
  • The 5-megapixel camera on the back of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. (Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)
  • The Samsung Galaxy Nexus. (Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)
  • The Samsung Galaxy Nexus, left, and the Samsung Galaxy S II. (Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)
  • The Samsung Galaxy Nexus, left, and the Samsung Galaxy S II. (Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)
  • The Samsung Galaxy Nexus, left, and the Samsung Galaxy S II. (Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)
  • The Samsung Galaxy S II, left, the Galaxy Nexus, center, and the Apple iPhone 4S. (Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)
  • The Samsung Galaxy S II, left, the Galaxy Nexus, center, and the Apple iPhone 4S. (Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)
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– Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

Photo: Armand Emamdjomeh / Los Angeles Times

Twitter.com/emamd

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Samsung ships 1 million Galaxy Notes, says U.S. release coming

posted by Technology @ 11:06 AM
Thursday, December 29, 2011

Samsung Galaxy Note

With a stylus and a 5.3-inch touch screen, the Samsung Galaxy Note has prompted the question, is it a phone or a tablet?

For about 1 million people in Asia and Europe, what it's classified as may not matter much.

Samsung said in a statement posted to the photo-sharing site Flickr that it has shipped more than 1 million Galaxy Notes globally and that "worldwide sales of Galaxy Note are also on the rise in Europe and Asia including France, Germany, Hong Kong and Taiwan."

The Korean tech giant didn't disclose specific sales numbers, but said that the "rapid global sales of Galaxy Note are notable since it is creating a new market for something between smartphone and tablet pc."

The Galaxy Note, which does make phone calls, will also arrive in the U.S. sometime next year, Samsung said. A tip-of-the-hat goes to the Verge, which first reported on Samsung's Flickr statement.

The device has been released thus far running a modified version of Google's Android Gingerbread operating system, but Samsung has said that the Galaxy Note will be updated to Android Ice Cream Sandwich in the first quarter of 2012. Samsung has yet to offer up a U.S. retail price.

So what do you think? Is the Galaxy Note just a big phone? Or is it really a new class of gadget? If so, what should it be called — maybe a phoblet or a tabone? Sound off in the comments.

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– Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

Photo:  D.J. Lee, executive vice president of Samsung, unveils the Galaxy Note at Berlin's IFA mobile trade show in September. Credit: Odd Andersen / AFP/Getty Images

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You’ve upgraded: Inventive ways to get rid of your old electronics

posted by Technology @ 4:55 PM
Wednesday, December 28, 2011

iMac

If this holiday season was all about upgrading for you — upgrading to a better computer, phone or camera — then it's time to think about what to do with your old gadgets.

The good news is, you have options. The bad news is, you may have too many options. There are many ways to dispose of your old gadgets responsibly, and navigating it all can be difficult and frustrating.

To help you out, we've put together a step-by-step guide to getting rid of your old electronics now that you have new electronics.

1. The hand-me-down: The best and easiest way to recycle your old electronics is to hand them off to someone you know who can still use them. Do you have a 4-year-old niece who won't know the difference between a 4-megapixel camera or a 12-megapixel camera? She might like your old point-and-shoot. Your frustratingly slow former laptop may work perfectly for a middle-school-age cousin who only needs it for Web surfing.

2. Donate it: So, you don't know anyone who wants your old computer, but if it's still functional there may be someone you don't know who could make use of it. EBay's Rethink Initiative has put together an easy-to-navigate list of organizations that know how to put your old electronics to work.

3. Sell it: You can always sell your old electronics on EBay or Craigslist, but this may be more work than you bargained for. Alternatively, you can check out NextWorth.com, an e-recycling company that will pay you for your working electronics. You can get an instant quote on the company's website and even trade in your electronics at 1,450 Target stores nationwide.

4. Recycle: Unfortunately recycling your old electronics is not as simple as throwing them in with your old newspapers and soda cans. You'll need to find an e-recycling center that knows how to responsibly recycle your gadget. GreenerGadgets.org has a list of e-recycling centers and also has a list of e-recycling centers by ZIP Code. (Look to the bottom right of the screen). Goodwill Industries International Inc. will take e-waste. So will Best Buy.

And if you think this all sounds annoying and hard, we don't totally blame you. But if you take the extra time to recycle your old gadgets, the planet will thank you.

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– Deborah Netburn

Image: If you've been lugging around this 1998 iMac personal computer, it's time to let it go. Credit: Associated Press.

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Windows Phone reportedly passes 50,000 apps

posted by Technology @ 3:02 PM
Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Foursquare app on Windows Phone 7 Mango

Microsoft's Windows Phone operating system has reportedly passed 50,000 published apps, hitting the milestone just 14 months after its launch.

The 14-month time frame for 50,000 apps is second only to Apple's iOS, which hit  50,000 published apps in 12 months, according to a report from All About Windows Phone, a website that tracks Windows Phone apps and hosts a Windows Phone app directory as well.

Google's Android reached 50,000 apps published in its Anroid Market in 19 months, the report said.

For its part, Microsoft declined to comment on the report, neither confirming nor denying that it has passed the 50,000 mark. All About Windows Phone, a site not affiliated with Microsoft, said it compiled its data "from our own tracking system," which is also used to power its directory of Windows Phone apps.

"It took just over a year to get to 40,000 apps, but just 40 days to add the next 10,000 apps," showing increased growth for the Windows Phone operating system, Rafe Blandford, who runs the All About Windows Phone site, wrote in the site's report.

But just because more than 50,000 apps published doesn't mean that every Windows Phone user has access to all of those apps, Blandford said.

"Of the 50,126 items published to the Marketplace, just under 6,000 are no longer available," meaning they were removed by Microsoft or withdrawn by the publisher, he said. "In addition, some apps are only available in select markets. This means the number of available items to a consumer, in a given market, is lower than the number of published items."

In the U.S., about 42,655 apps are available for download, the report said.

Of the apps published to the Windows Phone Marketplace storefront, about 58% are free, compared with about 69% of apps being free in Google's Android Market and about 43% free in Apple's iOS App Store, Blandford said.

Both Android and iOS have published about 10 times more apps than Windows Phone so far, he said, though the two rivals have been offering downloadable apps since 2008.

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– Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

Photo: The Foursquare app running on a Windows Phone handset. Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh / Los Angeles Times

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LG: Android Ice Cream Sandwich upgrade due for 11 phones

posted by Technology @ 10:29 AM
Tuesday, December 27, 2011

LG Nitro HD

LG has detailed its Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich plans and 11 of its smartphones are due for the update to the latest Google mobile operating system.

The updates will begin in the "second and third quarters of 2012, which will be followed by a global rollout," LG said on its company Facebook page on Monday. "During the second quarter of 2012 upgrades will begin for the following smartphone models: the LG Optimus LTE, Prada phone by LG 3.0, the LG Optimus 2X, the LG Optimus Sol, the LG my Touch Q and the LG Eclipse.

"These upgrades will be followed by upgrades for the following smartphone models during the third quarter of 2012: the LG Optimus 3D, the LG Optimus Black, the LG Optimus Big, the LG Optimus Q2 and the LG Optimus EX."

Not all LG Android phones will get the upgrades. Noticeably absent from the list was AT&T's recently released LG Nitro HD, T-Mobile's LG G2X and the LG Thrill 4G.

However, these phones may yet get the Ice Cream Sandwich upgrade since they are rebranded versions of phones that are scheduled for updates. The Nitro HD is a rebranded version of the Optimus LTE, the G2X is a redubbed Optimus 2X, and the Thrill 4G is a renamed Optimus 3D.

Also missing from the list was the dual-screen LG DoublePlay and T-Mobile's LG MyTouch, which is largely the same phone as the MyTouch Q but without the MyTouch Q's sliding keyboard, and G-Slate tablet.

Officials at LG were not available Tuesday to comment on the upgrade status of the Nitro HD, G2X, Thrill 4G, DoublePlay, T-Mobile MyTouch and G-Slate.

"The exact start dates can vary by market, as each country can have different requirements, depending on the carrier and the smartphone model," LG said in its statement. "Further details on the ICS OS upgrade, including their exact start dates, will be released prior to their commencement."

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– Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

Photo: The LG Nitro HD smartphone, available from AT&T. Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh / Los Angeles Times

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Five ways to get started with your new iPhone

posted by Technology @ 12:46 PM
Sunday, December 25, 2011

Apple iPhone 4S

Got an Apple iPhone this Christmas? Well, you're doing pretty well for yourself. It may or may not be Santa Claus' smartphone of choice and you successfully avoided waiting in long lines as many Apple fanatics do once a year when a new iPhone launches.

But marketing and hype aside, the iPhone is one of the best smartphone lines on the market and each of the devices currently available — the 3GS, the 4 and the 4S — run iOS 5, the latest version of Apple's mobile operating system. With that in mind, here are five places to get started if you're a first time iPhone owner.

1. Photography apps: Apple's App Store (the only place you can get iPhone apps), with more than 140,000 apps available, is a major bragging right for the iPhone versus its competitors, but not all apps are created equal. However, no other smartphone platform can currently match the iPhone for slick apps that produce fun and artistic photos. The best place to start is likely Instagram, which combines a solid selection of filters to make photos look like they were shot on vintage film cameras and a social network of other users so you can see the world through other lenses. Hipstamatic is another popular choice, which takes the vintage filter approach to another level with the ability to mix and match digital lenses, flashes and film choices to create a more customized look than in Instagram. Another app, called SwankoLab, allows you to alter photos already taken using a simulated dark room.

2. Games: The iPhone is also arguably the best gaming smartphone out there and the choices here are plentiful. Angry Birds is one of the most popular games available on smartphones and is a good place to start. But other choices such as Robo Surf, Cut the Rope, Tiny Wings, Bumpy Road and Kosmo Spin are worth checking out too — each combining unique art styles, enchanting soundtracks and simple touch screen controls. For those looking for a bit more of a gaming challenge, the third-person shooter Minigore and puzzle game Scribblenauts impress. The sword fighting games Infiniti Blade and Infiniti Blade II show what the iPhone is capable of with detailed 3-D graphics and fast-paced action.

3. Music: Apple's iTunes allows for easy music buying, but there are plenty of other music related apps worth checking out as well. Shazam can listen to and then identify thousands of songs. Band of the Day is a great way to discover new music. Soundtracking is a unique social networking app that allows you to share what you're listening to with others, as well as check out what tunes they like. And if you're a Spotify Premium subscriber, the Spotify app is a must.

4. Built-in Twitter: If you're a big Twitter user, as I am, or even if you're new to Twitter, you're likely going to appreciate that the social network is baked into iOS 5. Checking out a website you care to share in the iPhone's Safari web browser? You can tweet that directly from Safari without having to go and open up a Twitter app. Same goes for photos, videos and locations in the maps app.

5. Ask a friend: As always, talking to a buddy can generate suggestions that may line up with your interests on just about anything — same goes here. Ask a friend who uses an iPhone what they like about the phone or available apps and you're bound to find something you may enjoy too.

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– Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

Photo: A newly purchased iPhone 4S smartphone outside an Apple Store in New York. Credit: Michael Nagle / Getty Images

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Five ways to get started with your new Android phone

posted by Technology @ 11:33 AM
Sunday, December 25, 2011

THe Motorola Droid Bionic (left) and the Samsung Galazy S II

Did you unwrap your gifts this Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/Festivus to find that you're the proud new owner of an Android? If so, welcome to the world of Google-powered smartphones.

Millions of others around the globe own phones running Google's Android operating system, across dozens of devices with varying screen sizes and specs. These phones might be from one of more than a dozen hardware makers, running on just about every wireless network out there.

Given the variation, Android can be a bit fragmented, but no matter what your Android looks like, here are a few basics that can help you get started if you're new to smartphone ownership.

1. Set up your Google Account: To use an Android phone you'll need to have a Google Account, which means you'll have to set up a Gmail.com email address if you don't already have one. Your Google Account is, of course, the login identity that follows you as you use all things Google — Gmail, YouTube, Google Docs, Google Maps, Google Calendar, Blogger and anything else Google produces. This can add some convenience to your life by automatically syncing your contacts and calendars across your computer and your smartphone if you make use of Google's services for keeping track of all that information.

2. Get yourself some apps: The major differentiator between smartphones and other cellphones, aside from the ability to send and receive email, is the mobile app. Android phones have the second largest app store, behind only Apple's App Store for its iPhone/iPod/iPad lineup. Unlike Apple's i-devices, Android users have the option of getting their apps from Google or from third parties. The top two places to find apps currently are Google's official Android Market and the Amazon Appstore for Android. Both stores offer a wide selection of apps and games that have been tested and vetted before being sold, to help prevent apps filled with viruses and other malware from making it out to Android users. Amazon also allows you to test many apps, which can be helpful before downloading. Some basic apps we really like for Android: Pulse is a great news reading app if you like to read news from multiple websites and Cut the Rope is a fun game that can be a bit tougher than Angry Birds but is just as fun.

3. Social networking: Android phones are among the best choices for staying on top of your social networks. The official Twitter app is thoughtfully designed and can help you keep up with the fast-paced social network. Path is a social network that is by default private and designed for easily sharing what's going on in your life with close friends, but you can also share to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Foursquare from Path as well. And, of course, there is Google+. The Google+ Android app isn't the greatest social networking experience in mobile apps, and falls far below Twitter, Path and Facebook in terms of looks and usability, but if you were lucky enough to receive the Galaxy Nexus smartphone this holiday, which runs Ice Cream Sandwich (the latest version of Android) this might not be as big of a problem. In Ice Cream Sandwich, Google has baked-on Google+, allowing for automatic photo sharing and the ability to even read emails in your Gmail inbox by circles of friends on the network.

4. Check out Google Music: For many, the smartphone is also a portable music player, and if you're not already a big iTunes or Amazon customer for music, Google's own Google Music is worth a serious look. Google Music on a PC isn't as easy to use as iTunes, but it does allow you to sync your purchases and music library to the cloud for streaming or easy downloads on the go. Also, Google so far has done a great job on pricing, with hundreds of songs as low as 49 cents and albums as low as $4.99.

5. Talk to friends: As suggested by my colleague Deborah Netburn in her "Five Ways to Get Started With Your New iPad" post, talking to others who own and use Android on a daily basis is a good call. This shouldn't be too tough considering that Android is the most widely used mobile operating system worldwide.

Do you have any other suggestions for new Android owners? Feel free to sound off in the comments.

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– Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

Photo: The Motorola Droid Bionic from Verizon Wireless, left, and the Samsung Galaxy S II Epic 4G Touch from Sprint. Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times

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Samsung Galaxy Tab

Samsung on Friday confirmed that yes, the original Galaxy S phone and Galaxy Tab tablet won't receive upgrades to the latest version of Google's Android operating system, Ice Cream Sandwich.

The disappointing news seemed to be coming after Samsung announced which of its Android devices would get the Ice Cream Sandwich update on Tuesday, while leaving the popular Galaxy S and first-generation Galaxy Tab off the list.

But on Friday, Samsung explained itself in a company blog post on its Korean website, which was reported on by the websites Xataka Movil and The Verge.

In its post, the South Korean company says that the Galaxy S and Galaxy Tab won't be upgraded because the two devices lack the necessary hardware, namely not having enough RAM and ROM, to power Ice Cream Sandwich after Samsung puts its TouchWiz user interface changes over the top of the software.

The argument seems understandable for the sluggish performer that is the first Galaxy Tab, which launched in U.S. stores November 2010. But the Galaxy S, which launched in June 2010, isn't a performance dud by any means, with a 1-gigahertz processor, 512-megabytes of RAM and either 8 or 16 gigabytes of built-in storage.

As noted by The Verge, the Galaxy S has the same internal hardware found inside the Samsung Nexus S, which has been upgraded to Ice Cream Sandwich.

So why is the Nexus S getting Ice Cream Sandwich and not the Galaxy S? The reason, according to Samsung, is that the Nexus S runs a pure version of Android with no third-party changes to the operating system, while the Galaxy S has to maintain TouchWiz and other carrier-specific software additions as well.

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– Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

twitter.com/nateog

Photo: Taking a photo on the Samsung Galaxy Tab. Credit: Los Angeles Times

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FCC approves AT&T’s $1.9-billion purchase of Qualcomm spectrum

posted by Technology @ 10:50 AM
Friday, December 23, 2011

AT&T

The Federal Communications Commission has approved a $1.9-billion AT&T purchase of wireless spectrum licenses owned by San Diego-based Qualcomm Inc.

The purchase gives AT&T control over licenses that, according to the FCC, "cover more than 300 million people nationwide, including more than 70 million people in five of the top 15 metropolitan areas (New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and San Francisco)."

The FCC's decision on the spectrum deal was set to be delayed into next year as the regulatory agency was reviewing both AT&T's proposed Qualcomm purchase and the proposed $39-billion takeover of T-Mobile USA together — that was until AT&T dropped its T-Mobile plans on Monday.

In its approval of the Qualcomm deal, the FCC stated Thursday that AT&T cannot use the spectrum in a way that would negatively impact other carriers using or roaming on nearby wireless airwaves.

The FCC said that, given that AT&T is the largest phone company in the U.S. and the second-largest mobile carrier, concerns of competitive harm were looked at, but any resulting harm wouldn't "outweigh the public interest benefits of this transaction," the FCC said in the order.

In fact, the FCC said it hopes the purchase will prod AT&T and its rivals to use the "underutilized unpaired 700 MHz spectrum" for mobile service, "thereby supporting our goal of expanding mobile broadband deployment throughout the country."

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– Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

twitter.com/nateog

Photo credit: Lisa Poole/Associated Press

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Sales of basic digital cameras fall as smartphones fill the niche

posted by Technology @ 5:40 PM
Thursday, December 22, 2011

A man uses a smartphone to take pictures in Libya.

Film is already passe for snapshots. Are inexpensive point-and-shoot cameras next to go?

According to a survey by NPD Group, 27% of photos and videos taken this year were shot with smartphones — up from 17% last year.

Not surprisingly, sales of the basic digital point-and-shoot cameras suffered. According to NPD, unit sales of those cameras were down 17% in the first 11 months of this year.

But not all types of single-purpose cameras were losing popularity.

For the upper-level point-and-shoots — with optical zooms of 10x or greater and an average price of $247 — unit sales grew 16%, according to NPD’s Retail Tracking Service.

And digital single-lens-reflex cameras — with an average retail price of $863 — were popular enough that some camera shops were out of them the week before Christmas. Unit sales were up 12%, NPD said.

“The smartphone is becoming good enough much of the time,” said Liz Cutting, executive director and senior imaging analyst at NPD. “Consumers who use their mobile phones to take pictures and video were more likely to do so instead of their camera when capturing spontaneous moments.

“But for important events, single-purpose cameras and camcorders are still largely the device of choice.”

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– Deborah Netburn

Photo: A man uses his cellphone to photograph fireworks during celebrations at Saha Kish Square in Benghazi, Libya, in October. Credit: Francois Mori / Associated Press

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NFL to stream Super Bowl online and to Verizon phones, tablets

posted by Technology @ 11:24 AM
Thursday, December 22, 2011

nfl.com

For the first time, the Super Bowl, arguably the biggest U.S. sports event of the year, is going mobile.

On Feb. 5, the National Football League will stream Super Bowl 46, taking place at Indianapolis' Lucas Oil Stadium, to smartphones and tablets using Verizon's NFL Mobile app (available on Apple's iOS and Google's Android).

Don't have a Verizon Wireless smartphone but still want to see the big game over the Web? The Super Bowl will be streaming at NFL.com and NBCSports.com.

And, as is the norm, the Super Bowl will be broadcast live on regular ol' TV on NBC. As noted by our colleagues over at The Times' Fabulous Forum sports blog, a record 111 million people watched Super Bowl 45 the old-fashioned TV way last year.

"The live NFL.com and NBCSports.com coverage will come from NBC’s TV coverage of the games," NBC Sports said in a statement. "Complementing that stream will be a number of extra features to enrich the viewing experience including additional camera angles, in-game highlights, live statistics and other interactive elements."

But, of course, the NFL is looking to reach more viewers and looking to mobile gadgets to do so. And that's not all. The NFL, NBC and Verizon will also stream wild-card Saturday, on Jan. 7, the playoffs and the Pro Bowl on Jan. 29.

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– Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

Image: A screenshot of NFL.com. For the first time, the Super Bowl will be streamed live online and to Verizon phones and tablets. Credit: NFL

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Amazon Kindle Fire software and Kindle iOS apps updated

posted by Technology @ 7:43 PM
Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Amazon Kindle Fire software updated
Amazon updated its Kindle Fire software and iPhone and iPad apps this week, adding new features all around.

For the Kindle Fire, Amazon's first tablet and a hot-selling item, the update promises to improve the responsiveness of touch navigation and the speed of actions on the device, such as loading webpages in the Fire's Web browser.

However, the biggest new feature might be the ability for users to edit what shows up in their "carousel" of recent apps and content displayed on the Fire's home screen.

Before the update, a Fire user couldn't remove any items — books they've read, games and music played, movies watched or websites visited — in their carousel.

The ability to remove items from the carousel was a highly requested feature and in this case, Amazon was pretty quick to deliver — the Fire was released Nov. 14.

The iOS Kindle app updates the user interface for periodicals and text books, with access to the same selection of more than 400 magazines and newspapers that are offered on the Fire, Amazon said in a statement.

For the first time, Amazon is also offering "print replica textbooks" to iOS Kindle app users, which allow for full-color pages and the ability to zoom in and out or take notes as needed, the company said.

And the update also now makes the Kindle iOS app a PDF reader as well, Amazon said, which will allow users to view their own documents — a feature offered by iBooks for some time now.

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– Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

Photo: The Amazon Kindle Fire tablet. Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh / Los Angeles Times

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Google’s Andy Rubin: Over 700,000 Android devices activated daily

posted by Technology @ 11:28 AM
Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Andy Rubin on Google+: More than 700,000 Android devices activated daily

Google's Android, the world's most widely used mobile operating system, keeps on growing and is activated on more than 700,000 smartphones and tablets each day.

Andy Rubin, Google's senior vice president of mobile, who oversees the Android operating system, announced the latest Android statistic in one quick sentence on his Google+ page and on Twitter, writing:

There are now over 700,000 Android devices activated every day

Later, Rubin added on Google+:

…and for those wondering, we count each device only once (ie, we don't count re-sold devices), and "activations" means you go into a store, buy a device, put it on the network by subscribing to a wireless service.

To put that all in a bit of perspective, Android activations are up from more than 500,000 a day in June and 300,000 daily activations in December 2010.

Last week, the research firm NPD Group said that Android's share of smartphone sales in the U.S. grew to 53% from January through October, up from 42% in 2010.

Since January of this year, Android has been the most widely used mobile operating system worldwide as well.

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– Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

Image: A screenshot of Google executive Andy Rubin announcing on Google+ that the Android mobile operating system has passed 700,000 daily activations. Credit: Andy Rubin/Google

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People more likely to lie when texting, study finds

posted by Technology @ 2:16 PM
Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Text
A new paper to be published next year in the Journal of Business Ethics finds that people are more likely to lie via text compared to face-to-face communications, video conferencing or audio chat.

The paper is based on a study of 140 students that were grouped into pairs and asked to engage in a role-playing game. One student took on the role of a stockbroker, the other student played a buyer. Researchers told the "stockbroker" that the stock they had to sell would lose 50% of its value in one week. They also gave the "stockbroker" a financial incentive to sell as much of the bad stock to the "buyer" as possible.

Researchers found that the stockbrokers were most likely to engage in duplicitous behavior — either lying about the quality of the stock, or not mentioning how bad it was — if they conducted the buy/sell conversation via text message.

They were most likely to be honest about the quality of the stock if the conversation happened via video, which beat out both face-to-face communication and audio chat.

Lying via text makes intuitive sense. It's what researchers call "lean media," which means it doesn't effectively transfer the rich emotional cues that might alert someone to duplicitous behavior. You can't stutter over text, or twist your hands nervously, or dart your eyes.

But researchers did find something that surprised them. When they asked buyers how angry they were that the stockbroker had lied to them, the researchers found buyers were more furious if they had been lied to via text than if they had been lied to in a face-to-face conversation.

"That was a big surprise to us," said Ronald Cenfetelli, a professor at the Sauder School of Business at the University of British Columbia, who co-authored the paper.

"What we speculated was going on is there is some instant rapport-building, and some quick trust that happens when you talk to someone face to face, and it acts as a buffer and an inoculation — almost like a vaccine — against negative reactions. People are still angry or upset if they are lied to face to face, but when they are lied to in the leaner communications, they are more angry."

What's the takeaway here? If you are running late and considering texting your dinner date "I'm almost there" when you are actually 20 minutes away, you may want to relay the message in a phone call instead. The person may still be mad, but according to this research, they will at least be less mad.

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– Deborah Netburn

Image: A person holding a phone, and texting, while driving. Credit Pat Wellenbach/Associated Press

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Samsung Galaxy phones, tabs to get Ice Cream Sandwich in 2012

posted by Technology @ 10:33 AM
Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1

Samsung said Tuesday that upgrades to Google's new Android Ice Cream Sandwich operating system are due early next year for its lineup of Galaxy smartphones and tablets.

That should be welcome news to owners of Galaxy devices who might feel a bit behind after last week's launch of the new Galaxy Nexus phone, the first device to run on Ice Cream Sandwich.

All of Galaxy phones and tablets for sale will receive the software upgrades, Samsung said in a blog post. The Galaxy S II and Galaxy Note phones will be updated in the first quarter 2012 "and other Galaxy devices will soon follow," Samsung said.

Among the other Galaxy products promised for updates are the Galaxy R phone and the Galaxy Tab 10.1, Galaxy Tab 8.9, Galaxy Tab 7.7 and Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus tablets.

Older Galaxy devices no longer on sale, such last year's original Galaxy Tab, aren't set to receive the upgrades.

Ice Cream Sandwich, the latest version of Google's mobile operating system, is the first version of Android designed to work on both smartphones and tablets and adds many new features such as "face unlock," which removes the needs for passwords to unlock a phone by enabling the phone to recognize its owner's face looking at the screen.

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– Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

Photo: Visitors walk past Samsung's Galaxy Tab 10.1 on display in Seoul on Oct. 13. Credit: Jo Yong-Hak/Reuters

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Samsung Galaxy Nexus finally has a U.S. release date: Thursday

posted by Technology @ 6:11 PM
Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Samsung Galaxy Nexus

The wait is over: The highly anticipated Samsung Galaxy Nexus will be available in the U.S. starting Thursday.

The smartphone — the first device to run Android's Ice Cream Sandwich, the latest version of Google's mobile operating system — will be sold at Verizon Wireless stores and online for $299.99 with a new two-year customer agreement, a Verizon spokesman said. It will run on Verizon's 4G LTE network. 

Verizon, Samsung and Google said the Galaxy Nexus "brings an entirely new look and feel to Android," according to a news release posted on Droid Life. It offers customers a redesigned user experience with improved multitasking, notifications, near-field communications and a Web-browsing experience with "blazing speeds." 

"The lock screen, home screen, phone app and everything in between have been rethought and redesigned to make Android simple, beautiful and useful," the companies said.

Here are some of the phone's features:

– Redesigned user interface: Software navigation buttons, a first for Android smartphones, and a dedicated recent apps button to make multitasking easy.

– Face unlock: Use state-of-the-art facial recognition to unlock the Galaxy Nexus.

– Android Beam: Share Web pages, apps, contacts and YouTube videos with friends by tapping two compatible phones together.

– Redesigned camera: Introduces panorama mode, 1080p video capture, zero-shutter lag for instant photo capturing and effects such as silly faces and background replacement.

– People application: Browse friends, family and co-workers, see their photos in high-resolution and check their latest status updates from Google+ and other social networks.

– Cloud services: Keep email, contacts, photos, music, browser bookmarks and other data synced to the cloud, available across multiple devices so customers never lose important data.

– Google Music: Upload up to 20,000 songs to the cloud and stream it instantly on Galaxy Nexus and from the Web for free.

Customers who purchase a Galaxy Nexus will need to subscribe to a Verizon Wireless Nationwide Talk plan beginning at $39.99 monthly and a smartphone data package starting at $30 monthly for 2 GB of data.

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– Andrea Chang

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Photo: Models display the Samsung Galaxy Nexus smartphone in Hong Kong in October. Credit: Kin Cheung / Associated Press

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T-Mobile to bring Nokia Lumia 710 smartphone to U.S. in January

posted by Technology @ 2:25 PM
Wednesday, December 14, 2011

T-Mobile is bringing the Nokia Lumia 710 smart phone to the U.S. in January, the companies announced Wednesday
T-Mobile is bringing the Nokia Lumia 710 smartphone to the U.S. in January, the companies announced Wednesday.

The entry-level phone is the first Windows Phone from Nokia in the U.S. and is targeted at the 150 million Americans who have yet to make the transition to smartphones. 

The Nokia Lumia 710, capable of running on T-Mobile's 4G network, "delivers high-performance hardware, Nokia's best social and Internet experience, and access to popular smartphone applications and services from Windows Phone Marketplace," the companies said in a statement.

The phone provides one-click access services such as Netflix and also gives users access to signature Nokia experiences, including voice-guided, turn-by-turn navigation. 

"Windows Phone offers a compelling mobile OS choice for people who want a smartphone built around them, their family and friends," said Cole Brodman, chief marketing officer of T-Mobile USA. "We expect it to play a more prominent role in our lineup and marketing efforts in 2012."

Brodman noted that the company's research showed "nearly everybody in the U.S. wants a smartphone," but many couldn't afford one. 

Chris Weber, president of Nokia Americas, said the Nokia Lumia 710 was the ideal "first-time smartphone" that delivered the most compelling Windows Phone experience in its price range.

"This is the perfect first Nokia Lumia experience and the start of our reentry into the U.S. smartphone market," Weber said. 

Available in a black or white finish, the Nokia Lumia 710 features a 3.7-inch scratch-resistant display and a Qualcomm 1.4 GHz Snapdragon processor. It also has a 5-megapixel camera with Nokia's camera technology, enabling people to take pictures in almost any light and share the shot on social networks in seconds. 

The Nokia Lumia 710 is scheduled to be available online and at T-Mobile retail stores, select dealers and retailers nationwide starting Jan. 11. The smartphone is expected to cost $49.99 after a $50 mail-in rebate card, with a two-year service agreement and qualifying Classic voice-and-data plan.

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– Andrea Chang
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Image: Nokia's Lumia 710 smartphone. Credit: Nokia and T-Mobile

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Consumer protections lagging for mobile payments, report says

posted by Technology @ 9:50 AM
Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Shopping on a smartphone

Most cellphone and tablet users can purchase digital goods and charge them to their monthly bill or prepaid phone account, but buyers may not get the protections they need if something goes wrong with the transaction, a new report says.

According to an analysis by Consumers Union, the protections that consumers receive vary depending on their wireless carrier's policies and what's in their cellphone contract. 

"We found that consumer rights can vary widely between wireless carriers, and the protections carriers claim to provide are often nowhere to be found in consumer contracts," said Michelle Jun, senior attorney for Consumers Union, the nonprofit advocacy branch of Consumer Reports. Jun said consumers using mobile payments should get the same "strong protections" that they receive when making purchases with a credit or debit card.

In May, Consumers Union called on the top wireless carriers to strengthen their contracts to protect consumers in the event that their phone is lost or stolen, if a merchant makes a billing mistake or the customer is not satisfied with a purchase.  

Since then, Consumers Union said it had been in touch with representatives from AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless to find out how they handle disputed mobile payment transactions. All four carriers said that they provided ample protections for consumers, but Consumers Union "found that the protections these carriers provide fall short" of what consumers get when they use credit cards and debit cards or when California consumers report a disputed charge on their phone accounts.  

In addition, Consumers Union said, many of the protections that wireless carrier representatives described are not disclosed in customer contracts, making it difficult to know whether consumers can count on these safeguards when problems arise.

"As new mobile payment options become available, consumers are better off sticking to services linked to credit cards or debit cards, which come with strong protections required by law," Jun said. "If wireless carriers want consumers to have confidence in direct carrier billing programs, they should strengthen their contracts with the protections consumers need."

For a Consumers Union tip sheet on mobile payments, click here

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Photo: An iPhone user checks out a shopping app in San Francisco in November. Consumers Union says shoppers don't get the same protections when they use mobile payments to buy digital goods. Credit: Jeff Chiu / Associated Press

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Cellphone use while driving can kill, NTSB says, urging full ban

posted by Technology @ 1:20 PM
Tuesday, December 13, 2011

NTSB recommends a full ban on cellphone use while driving.

States should implement a full ban on cellphones — even hands-free devices — when driving except in emergency situations, the National Transportation Safety Board recommended on Tuesday. The board said the dangers outweighed any benefits to talking or texting while on the road.

"It is time for all of us to stand up for safety by turning off electronic devices when driving," NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman said. "No call, no text, no update, is worth a human life."

The recommendation was unanimously agreed to by the five-member board and drew attention to an August 2010 traffic collision on Interstate 44 in Gray Summit, Mo.

In that incident, a pickup truck ran into the back of a truck-tractor that had slowed because of a construction zone. The pickup truck was then struck from behind by a school bus. That school bus was then hit by a second school bus that had been following. As a result, two people died and 38 others were injured.

The NTSB's investigation of the case revealed that the pickup driver sent and received 11 text messages in the 11 minutes preceding the accident. The last text was received moments before the pickup struck the truck-tractor.

"The Missouri accident is the most recent distraction accident the NTSB has investigated," the board said. "However, the first investigation involving distraction from a wireless electronic device occurred in 2002, when a novice driver, distracted by a conversation on her cell phone, veered off the roadway in Largo, Maryland, crossed the median, flipped the car over, and killed five people."

The board doesn't have the power to impose restrictions, but its recommendations carry significant weight with federal regulators and congressional and state lawmakers, according to the Associated Press.

In California, a ban on hand-held cellphones while driving has been in effect since 2008.

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– Andrea Chang

twitter.com/byandreachang

Photo: A driver talks on her cellphone while driving in Beverly Hills. Credit: Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times

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Android, Apple lead U.S. smartphone market, others play catch-up

posted by Technology @ 10:43 AM
Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Iphone

The Android operating system's share of smartphone sales grew to 53% from January through October, up from 42% in 2010, and Apple's iOS share rose to 29%, up from 21% last year, research firm NPD Group said Tuesday.

Research in Motion, which makes the BlackBerry, continued to see its share of the smartphone market decline, plummeting to 10% in the first 10 months of this year. In 2010, it held one-fourth of the market.

Windows Mobile, Windows Phone 7, Symbian OS and Palm/webOS had tiny shares of the market, with each operating system capturing no more than 3%. 

"The competitive landscape for smartphones, which has been reshaped by Apple and Google, has ultimately forced every major handset provider through a major transition," said Ross Rubin, executive director of Connected Intelligence at the NPD Group. "For many of them, 2012 will be a critical year in assessing how effective their responses have been."

Motorola is seeking to rebuild its share of the market, which was 36% five years ago but had fallen as low as 1% in the third quarter of 2009. After adopting Android, Motorola rose to 16% of the market in the fourth quarter last year but fell to 12% in the third quarter this year. But Rubin said Motorola is at least back in the game.

Another smartphone maker hoping to rebound next year is RIM. Rubin said few companies "have felt the impact of the shift to touch user interfaces and larger screen sizes as negatively," but noted that the company is beginning anew with a strong technical foundation and has already made incremental improvements this year with the release of its BlackBerry 7 operating system. In the second quarter of 2006, RIM held half of all smartphone sales, but by the third quarter this year, it had fallen to 8%.  

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– Andrea Chang

twitter.com/byandreachang

Photo: An iPhone 4S. Apple's iOS share of smartphone sales grew to 29% from January through October. Credit: Robert Galbraith / Reuters

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LG Nitro HD, from AT&T, review [Video]

posted by Technology @ 3:25 PM
Saturday, December 10, 2011

The LG Nitro HD reminds me a lot of the Samsung Galaxy S II, and if you’ve ever seen the two smartphones, I’m sure you’ll agree.

The two phones could be mistaken for twins, sitting side-by-side with 4.5-inch touchscreens, and similarly designed plastic backs with 8-megapixel cameras sitting rear-center.

However, aside from the outside looks, the overall experience of using the two phones is quite different and it’s on the software side where LG comes up short with the Nitro HD.

The Nitro HD is one of a new wave of smartphones (along with handsets like the HTC Rezound and upcoming Samsung Galaxy Nexus) that is upping the ante for screen resolution into high-definition territory, with a 1,280 x 720 screen resolution.

The Nitro HD’s display is one of the nicest I’ve seen on any smartphone so far. Streaming video, websites, apps all looked detailed and worthy of being called high definition. Colors came though balanced and accurate. Images looked smooth, with pixelation hard to find due to a density of 326-pixels-per-inch, which is the same pixel density as the iPhone 4 and 4S.

LG Nitro HD from AT&TThe display also features edges that are curved to roll into the sides of the phone’s body, so running your finger across the device for any swiping motion on-screen is extra satisfying. It’s such a small detail, but not having a hard edge to run into makes using the touchscreen a thoughtlessly pleasant experience. Nokia has taken a similar approach with its Lumia 800 and this is a design touch I wouldn’t mind seeing on more phones.

The internals of the Nitro HD are top-notch as well, with a 1.5-gigahertz dual-core processor, 1 gigabyte of RAM and 4 gigabytes of built-in storage pared with an included 16-gigabyte microSD storage card.

Photos from the rear camera looked good, but colors came out a bit oversaturated for my taste; 1080p video shot by the camera was impressive. 

But all this goodness felt a bit held back by LG’s modifications to Google’s Android operating system and a few other gripes.

Every handset maker out there adds their own “skin” over the top of Android in an effort to stand out in the crowd. But LG’s version of Android adds app icons, widgets and even fonts used in the operating system that all feel a bit too big, as if LG is failing to take advantage of all the screen real estate the Nitro HD’s display has delivered.

Battery life was poor, as is pretty much standard for just about any 4G smartphone nowadays, especially phones with 4.5-inch screens requiring so much power. In a week of testing, I found that I needed to charge the Nitro HD before my work day was done, after charging the phone each night as well — so keep spare chargers around at home, work and in the car if you’re considering buying the Nitro HD.

The Nitro HD also has a quiet, flat sounding speaker that wasn’t good for talking to a friend on speakerphone, much less for video watching or music listening — so a nice set of headphones would be a good accessory as well.

At $249.99 on a 2-year data plan from AT&T, the Nitro HD is fairly priced (though it’d be a lot nicer at about $200), but the Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket and HTC Vivid are worth a look if you’re looking for big-screens and 4G speeds from AT&T.

Like the Vivid and the Galaxy S II Skyrocket, the Nitro HD runs on AT&T’s 4G LTE network if that network is available wherever you are, which so far isn’t very many places.

AT&T’s 4G LTE network is up and running in Atlanta and Athens, Ga.; Baltimore; Boston; Charlotte, N.C.; Chicago; Dallas-Fort Worth; Houston; Indianapolis; Kansas City, Mo.; Las Vegas; Oklahoma City; Washington D.C.; San Antonio; and San Juan, Puerto Rico, with more markets planned to launch next year. If you’re outside of those markets, the Nitro HD (and other AT&T 4G LTE phones) run on the carrier’s HSPA+ 4G network or its 3G network, each of which are speedy in their own right, whenever you have a strong signal.

So, taking a look at the good and the bad of the Nitro HD, the new phone sits among the nicer phones available from AT&T at this time, but there is one major hurdle I see that would make me hesitant to purchase this device: the question of Ice Cream Sandwich.

The Nitro HD runs on Android Gingerbread and LG hasn’t yet said whether or not its flagship AT&T phone will be upgraded to the latest version of Android, known as Ice Cream Sandwich. It seems a no-brainer that LG would make the move to Ice Cream Sandwich eventually, but many hardware manufacturers have made a habit of leaving devices stagnant when it comes to Android. 

As great as the Nitro HD’s hardware is, it’s the software, both in its current form and its undefined future, that holds this phone back from living up to its potential.

  • LG Nitro HD from AT&T. (Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)
  • LG Nitro HD from AT&T. (Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)
  • LG Nitro HD from AT&T, the Samsung Galaxy S II from T-Mobile, and the Apple iPhone 4S. (Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)
  • LG Nitro HD from AT&T, the Samsung Galaxy S II from T-Mobile, and the Apple iPhone 4S. (Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)
  • LG Nitro HD from AT&T. (Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)
  • The 8-megapixel camera on the back of the LG Nitro HD from AT&T. (Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)
  • The back of the LG Nitro HD from AT&T. (Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)
  • The LG Nitro HD from AT&T, with the rear cover removed. (Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)
  • The LG Nitro HD from AT&T, with the rear cover removed. (Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)
  • The mini-USB port on the LG Nitro HD from AT&T. (Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)
  • LG Nitro HD from AT&T. (Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times)
Lg_nitro-65

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– Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

Photo: The LG Nitro HD from AT&T. Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times

Twitter.com/emamd

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T-Mobile may offer Nokia’s Lumia Windows Phone handsets

posted by Technology @ 9:15 PM
Friday, December 9, 2011

Nokia Lumia 800, running Microsoft Windows Phone software

T-Mobile and Nokia are expected to announce next week that the Lumia 710 Windows Phone, and possibly the Lumia 800 as well, is headed to the U.S.

TmoNokiaNokia's Lumia phones are the handset maker's first devices to run Microsoft's Windows Phone operating system, the product of a deal between Nokia and Microsoft announced in February and signed in April that's reportedly worth billions of dollars.

The colorful new handsets are already available in Europe, but so far Nokia hasn't announced a U.S. carrier for the Lumia, despite saying that its intent is to have at least the Lumia 710 available in America by sometime next year.

Nokia hasn't yet said whether the Lumia 800 will also be available stateside. Nokia also hasn't introduced any other planned Windows Phone devices outside of the Lumia 710 and Lumia 800.

On Friday, T-Mobile sent an invitation to the press for an event in New York on Wednesday, Dec. 14, that reads "T-Mobile and Nokia have something exciting in the works. Be amongst the first to experience it."

The band Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, as well as DJ Sam French, will perform at the event.

For details on the Lumia 710 and the Lumia 800, check out our previous coverage of the handsets here.

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– Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

Image: The Nokia Lumia 800, running Microsoft's Windows Phone 7.5 Mango operating system. Credit: Nokia

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Ltaub5pd

The Galaxy Nexus and Google's Android Ice Cream Sandwich have finally arrived in North America — but not in the U.S.

On Thursday, Android fans in our neighbor up north were able to buy Samsung's new Galaxy Nexus smartphone as it launched on Canadian carriers Bell for $159.95 and Virgin Mobile for $159.99, along with each company's respective data plan.

But the Galaxy Nexus, which is the first device to run on the highly anticipated Android Ice Cream Sandwich operating system, still has no U.S. release date or price.

Making things a bit more painful for Google gadget lovers in the U.S.: The Galaxy Nexus has been on sale in Britain for weeks and is launching across Europe over the next few days.

Whenever the Galaxy Nexus hits the States, it'll be available on Verizon's 4G LTE network (something we've known since mid-October), sporting a massive 4.65-inch touch screen with a 1280 x 720 pixel resolution, a 1.2-gigahertz dual-core processor and 1 gigabyte of RAM.

The new handset will also have a 5-megapixel rear camera capable of shooting 1080p video and a 1.3-megapixel camera on the front for video chatting, and no physical buttons on the curved face of the device. The back of the Galaxy Nexus looks, well, a lot like the Galaxy S II and the LG Nitro HD.

All of that measures up with other top-of-the-line smartphones out there — so nothing groundbreaking hardware-wise, but nearly all you'd want out of a current smartphone is included, on paper anyway.

So what makes the Galaxy Nexus remotely special? Again, Android Ice Cream Sandwich, Google's first operating system designed for both smartphones and tablets.

Ice Cream Sandwich is the version of Android that Google hopes will get hardware makers on the same page. In the past, many handset makers have failed to issue software updates for older phones when newer versions of Android are released.

Will Galaxy Nexus and Ice Cream Sandwich be any good? We'll have a full review of the Galaxy Nexus shortly after we get our hands on it. Stay tuned.

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– Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

Photo: Andy Rubin, left, Google's vice president in charge of Android, and Samsung President J.K. Shin unveil the Galaxy Nexus smartphone in China on Oct. 19. Credit: Bobby Yip / Reuters

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China’s ZTE to launch high-end Android or Windows phone in U.S.

posted by Technology @ 10:28 AM
Thursday, December 8, 2011

ZTEusa.com AT&T Avail Android smartphone

If you're familiar with ZTE in the U.S., then you're familiar with low-cost or free phones from prepaid or contract carriers such as Boost Mobile, Cricket Wireless and MetroPCS, and from major carriers such as AT&T.

And you'd also know that ZTE's phones are nowhere near challenging top-tier handsets such as the Apple iPhone, or Androids such as the Samsung Galaxy S II and the Motorola Droid Razr. Like HTC used to do, ZTE often makes products devoid of their own brand for carriers looking for entry-level devices.

But next year, the Chinese company is looking to change things up and launch a high-end smartphone in the U.S., according to a report from the Wall Street Journal.

A high-end ZTE handset, running on speedy 4G LTE networks, could arrive toward the middle of next year and "by 2015, we expect the U.S. to be the largest market for handsets for ZTE," said Lixin Cheng, ZTE's North American president, in a Hong Kong interview with the Journal.

Such a smartphone would offer iPhone-like features at a price still somewhat lower than Apple's handset, Cheng told the Journal, declining to go into specifics about price.

The newest version of the iPhone, the iPhone 4S, starts at $199 for a unit with 16 gigabytes of built-in storage, increasing to $299 for 32 gigabytes and $399 for 64 gigabytes.

The idea may seem a bit far-fetched if you've never heard of ZTE before, but the company's growth is very real. As noted by the Journal, ZTE grew to a 5% share of global cellphone shipments in the third quarter of the year.

That recent push propelled ZTE to pass Apple as the No. 4 shipper of cellphones (not just smartphones) in the world, according to the research firm Strategy Analytics. Aside from phones, ZTE also makes mobile hotspot and USB-wireless dongles for carriers such as T-Mobile, Sprint and Verizon.

ZTE is "in talks" with U.S. carriers about selling its high-end phones, which may run either Google's Android operating system or Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 software, Cheng said in the report.

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– Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

Image: A screen shot of ZTEusa.com, ZTE's website for the U.S. market, which displays the AT&T Avail, an Android smartphone ZTE builds for AT&T. Credit: ZTE

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RIM denied BBX name, redubs new phone/tablet OS BlackBerry 10

posted by Technology @ 12:27 PM
Wednesday, December 7, 2011

RIM tweet announcing that BBX is now BlackBerry 10

Research In Motion's next BlackBerry smartphone and tablet operating system won't be called BBX after all.

Instead, RIM is going with the name BlackBerry 10 after a Federal Court in Albuquerque issued a temporary restraining order against the Canadian company, banning it from using the name BBX, which is a trademark of the New Mexico-based software firm Basis International.

Basis sued RIM in October over its use of the BBX name and rather than continue to fight the suit, RIM announced via Twitter on Wednesday that it's moving forward with its new operating system under the name BlackBerry 10.

In a tweet regarding the keynote speech at its BlackBerry DevCon Asia developer conference, currently taking place in Singapore, RIM said:

#BBDevCon Asia Keynote: BlackBerry 10 is the official name of the next generation platform that will power future BlackBerry smartphones!^BZ

Basis uses the name BBx — note the difference in capitalization — as branding for its Business Basic eXtended line of software developer tools. The BBx tools are used to build applications that can run on a number of operating systems that use the Java programming language, including Linux, Microsoft Windows, Apple's iOS and Mac OS X, and Google's Android, according to Basis, which says it trademarked the name in 1995 but has been using it since 1985.

RIM's formerly-known-as-BBX operating system has been under development for months and will be the first OS from the company to run on both smartphones and tablets — an approach taken by Apple's iOS and Google's new Android Ice Cream Sandwich.

The OS now-known-as-BlackBerry-10 is based on QNX, the current operating system found on the slow-selling BlackBerry PlayBook tablet. RIM recently announced a $485-million loss on unsold PlayBook inventory.

BlackBerry 10 will usher in increased touchscreen-based controls to new RIM phones and the OS will enable BlackBerry devices to run Android apps alongside native QNX and BlackBerry 10 apps, apps developed using Adobe's AIR software and HTML5 apps.

The software is expected to arrive on new BlackBerry phones and the PlayBook tablet early next year.

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— Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

Image: A screen shot of Research In Motion's message on Twitter announcing that its BBX operating system has been renamed BlackBerry 10. Credit: Research In Motion / Twitter

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AT&T again ranks lowest in customer satisfaction

posted by Technology @ 5:20 PM
Tuesday, December 6, 2011

ConsumerCellular.com

AT&T's cellphone service was pegged with the lowest satisfaction rating for the second year in a row in an annual Consumer Reports survey of wireless providers in the U.S.

"In the newest satisfaction survey of Consumer Reports online subscribers, a provider called Consumer Cellular topped the Ratings — and AT&T found itself at the bottom of the Ratings for the second year in a row," the magazine said in an article about its survey, which will be published in its January 2012 issue.

The survey also offers rankings for mobile carriers in 22 major metropolitan markets, the L.A.-area among them.

"Of the four major U.S. national cell-phone standard service providers, Verizon again scored the highest in this year's Ratings, followed closely by Sprint. Survey respondents gave very good scores to Verizon for texting and data service satisfaction, as well for staff knowledge," Consumer Reports said.

"T-Mobile was below Verizon and Sprint but continued to rate significantly better than the higher-priced AT&T, which recently withdrew its application to the FCC to merge with its better rival."

For AT&T's part, Andy Shibley, the carrier's vice president and Los Angeles general manager, said the complaints noted in the Consumer Reports survey aren't being ignored.

"We hear our customers and we are committed to getting better and better," Shibley said in an emailed statement. "And that will continue as we deploy 4G LTE technology to millions of more customers. We have turned a corner, and we are making progress toward our goal to offer our customers the best experience anywhere."

AT&T also said in a separate statement that it has made more than 1,700 network improvements in the Los Angeles area this year and that dropped-call rates in the L.A.-area have fallen 41% over the past year.

Subscribers of prepaid and smaller carriers "are happiest overall with their cell-phone service," Paul Reynolds, electronics editor for Consumer Reports, said in the article. "However, these carriers aren't for everyone. Some are only regional, and prepaid carriers tend to offer few or no smartphones. The major carriers are still leading options for many consumers, and we found they ranged widely in how well they satisfied their customers."

The Consumer Reports survey was put together using the survey responses of 66,000 of the magazine's subscribers and focused on experiences with their carrier's customer service and support.

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– Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

Image: A screen shot of ConsumerCellular.com. Credit: Consumer Cellular Inc.

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Google’s Android Market passes 10 billion downloads

posted by Technology @ 1:25 PM
Tuesday, December 6, 2011

10 Billion Downloads! - Android Market

Google's Android Market has passed 10 billion app downloads, a major milestone for the world's most widely used mobile operating system.

"One billion is a pretty big number by any measurement. However, when it’s describing the speed at which something is growing, it’s simply amazing," said Eric Chu, director of the Android Developer Ecosystem, in a company blog post. "This past weekend, thanks to Android users around the world, Android Market exceeded 10 billion app downloads — with a growth rate of 1 billion app downloads per month."

The massive number is even more impressive when considering the fragmentation found on Android, with companies such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Yahoo hosting Android app stores of their own, in addition to independent app stores such as GetJar.

Apple passed 15 billion downloads from its App Store in July, noting that there are more than 200 million iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch users worldwide.

More than 200 million Android smartphones and tablets have been sold and about 550,000 new Android activations take place each day, Google has said.

To celebrate passing the 10-billion-download mark, Google and a number of developers are offering selected apps for 10 cents for a limited time, Chu said.

"Starting today for the next 10 days, we'll have a new set of awesome apps available each day for only 10 cents each," he said. "Today, we are starting with Asphalt 6 HD, Color & Draw for Kids, Endomondo Sports Tracker Pro, Fieldrunners HD, Great Little War Game, Minecraft, Paper Camera, Sketchbook Mobile, Soundhound Infinity & Swiftkey X."

Each day, until the 10-day period is up, Google will offer another 10 apps for 10 cents each, as listed on the Android Market.

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Photo: A screen shot of Google's Android Market. Credit: Google

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Galaxy Nexus: Still no U.S. release date, could sell for $299.99

posted by Technology @ 10:38 AM
Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Samsung Galaxy Nexus running Google Android Ice Cream Sandwich

The Galaxy Nexus smartphone, whenever it goes on sale in the U.S., may come with a $299.99 price tag on a two-year data plan.

So far, Verizon hasn't said when the Samsung-built, Google-approved handset will hit stores or at what price the eagerly anticipated phone will sell.

But, according to a Dow Jones report, unnamed sources "familiar with the matter" said the Galaxy Nexus would fall in line at the $300 level with the launch price of other top-tier Verizon smartphones, such as the Motorola Droid Bionic, the Motorola Droid Razr and the HTC Rezound.

Apple's iPhone 4S, which many consider to be the Galaxy Nexus' main competitor, sells at a starting price of $199.

Unlike the iPhone, the Galaxy Nexus will run on Verizon's 4G LTE network (the iPhone is still 3G-only) and feature a larger 4.65-inch touchscreen.

The Galaxy Nexus will also be the first device to run Android Ice Cream Sandwich, the latest version of Google's mobile operating system. Ice Cream Sandwich is also the first version of Android that is designed to work on both smartphones and tablets.

The new handset is already on sale in Britain and is launching in Canada on Thursday from Bell for $159.95 and Virgin Mobile for $159.99 on each carrier's respective data plans.

The new Samsung phone will also feature a resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels (same as the HTC Rezound), a 1.2-gigahertz dual-core processor, 1 gigabyte of RAM, a 5-megapixel rear camera capable of shooting 1080p video and a 1.3-megapixel camera on the front for video chatting. 

As soon as Verizon offers an official release date and price we'll let you know here on the Technology blog and we'll have a full review of the Galaxy Nexus as soon as we can get our hands on the new phone.

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Photo: Models hold up Samsung's Galaxy Nexus smartphones that run the Google Android Ice Cream Sandwich operating system in Hong Kong last month. Credit: Jerome Favre / Bloomberg

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Sony Ericsson phones dropping ‘Ericsson’ in mid-2012

posted by Technology @ 8:19 PM
Monday, December 5, 2011

Sony Ericsson Xperia Play

After a little more than a decade, Sony Ericsson is reportedly dropping the Ericsson, giving Sony a cellphone brand of its own.

The move to re-brand Sony Ericsson as just Sony follows the October announcement that Sony is buying Ericsson's half of the joint venture for about $1.5 billion. The mobile phone company was founded in 2001 and currently makes a wide range of smartphones, with some Google Android handsets among its offering.

Kristian Tear, a Sony Ericsson executive vice president, told the Times of India about the re-branding effort, stating that the switch should be completed by the middle of 2012.

"A lot of planning goes into getting the branding right but we will be done by middle of next year," Tear said. "It will also mean that the marketing and advertising investments will go up. We haven't been as fierce as we were a few years back but we will step it up, refocus and invest more in brand-building in select markets, and India is one of those markets."

The name change makes sense given Sony's pending sole ownership of the mobile phone maker.

As the Los Angeles Times has previously reported, Sony will also cross-license five essential patent families relating to wireless handset technology as a part of its takeover of Sony Ericsson.

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– Nathan Olivarez-Giles

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Photo: Sony Ericsson Xperia Play smartphone. Credit: Sony Ericsson

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RIM exec in Indonesia under scrutiny over BlackBerry stampede

posted by Technology @ 2:57 PM
Monday, December 5, 2011

BlackBerry Indonesia

The head of Research In Motion's Indonesia division is reportedly under investigation after a stampede of consumers broke out at a launch event for a BlackBerry smartphone last month.

Police in Indonesia told Reuters that about 5,000 people were on hand to buy a new BlackBerry phone on Nov. 25 in Jakarta. As customers rushed forward to see and purchase the new phone, "dozens passed out in the crush," Reuters said in a report about the incident.

Now, authorities there are saying that Andrew Cobham, RIM's Indonesia chief executive, is suspected of being responsible for the event getting out of hand, Reuters said.

Officials at RIM were unavailable on Monday to comment on the report.

"Police also named a security consultant hired by RIM, an event organizer and a manager of the sale's shopping center venue, as suspects who are likely to be charged," Reuters said.

The launch event generated an overnight line of more than 1,000 consumers and the main attraction was a 50% discount on the phone for the first 1,000 people to make a purchase, the report said.

Cobham hasn't been arrested, but he "has been banned from traveling overseas. He must go through the legal process here," Jakarta Police investigator Budi Irawan told Reuters.

If charged and found guilty of negligence, Cobham could face a maximum penalty of nine months in jail, the report said.

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Photo: A screen shot of ID.BlackBerry.com, Research In Motion's Indonesian websites. Credit: RIM

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Apple loses bid to block U.S. sales of Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1

posted by Technology @ 10:13 AM
Monday, December 5, 2011

Apple iPad 2, sitting next to a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1

Samsung chalked up a victory in its ongoing patent battle with Apple when a federal judge ruled against a proposed sales ban on the Galaxy Tab 10.1 in the U.S.

Apple had requested a ban similar to the temporary injunction placed on sales of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 in Australia, but the U.S. District Court in San Jose on Friday decided that such a move wasn't necessary before the dispute goes to trial in July, according to Bloomberg Businessweek

Australian's ban on sales of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 is set to lift on Dec. 9, with the patent battle there headed for trial in March.

The two consumer electronics titans are involved in a running legal war over the rights to technologies used on tablets and smartphones in more than 10 countries, including the Netherlands, Germany, Japan, France and Italy, and with more than 20 lawsuits filed between the two companies.

So far, sales of Samsung's Galaxy S, Galaxy S II and Ace smartphones have been temporarily banned in 30 European countries, and Germany has placed a preliminary sales ban on the Galaxy Tab 10.1 and 7.7 (all devices which run on Google's Android operating system). Samsung went so far as to redesign and then re-release the German version of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 as the Galaxy Tab 10.1N, but Apple requested a new ban of that tablet in that country as well, according to the Times of India.

When Apple and Samsung aren't fighting to keep each other's products off of store shelves, the two are actually business partners. Samsung, for example, manufactures Apple's 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 i-devices.

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– Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

Photo: An Apple iPad 2, left, and a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 at a store in the Hague, Netherlands, in August. Credit: Robert Vos / European Pressphoto Agency

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Syrian government reportedly bans use of Apple iPhone

posted by Technology @ 8:41 PM
Friday, December 2, 2011

Pro-Syrian government rally

The Syrian government has reportedly banned the use of the Apple iPhone in an effort to prevent activists from documenting the ongoing uprising in that country and government violence against protesters.

Activists in Beirut were notified of the iPhone ban in a letter from the Syrian Finance Ministry that reads "the authorities warn anyone against using the iPhone in Syria," according to reports from the Haaretz newspaper in Israel and the U.S. website the Next Web (which quoted the Lebanese site El Nashara).

Since the Syrian protests began Jan. 26, opposition groups — who are calling for political reform and the ouster of President Bashar Assad, an increase in civil and human rights and a democratic government — have used devices such as smartphones to document online, in photos and video, the government's violent response to their actions.

The United Nations has said that more than 4,000 people have been killed in Syria since major protests began in March and fears of civil war have arisen as well.

According to Ria Novosi, a Russian news site, protest groups have built and distributed an iPhone app, called Syria Alone, that offers independent news reports and "a collection of videos and jokes" that mock Assad.

According to both Haaretz and the Next Web, no other smartphones have been banned yet. But unnamed protesters reportedly did say, in both reports, that the ban has made it so that "it is enough for any tourist or guest visiting Syria to own an iPhone to be a spy suspect."

In the Haaretz report, a protester added that "Steve Jobs must be turning in his grave on learning that his iconic device is banned in his home country."

Steve Jobs, Apple's American-born co-founder and longtime CEO, died Oct. 5. His biological father was from Syria, though Jobs was raised by adopted parents.

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– Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

Photo: Pro-Syrian regime demonstrators gather in Damascus on Dec. 2 during a rally against sanctions by the European Union against the Syrian government. A banner of President Bashar Assad hangs from a building. Credit: Bassem Tellawi / Associated Press

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Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 sales ban in Australia overturned

posted by Technology @ 9:29 PM
Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1

An Australian court has lifted its temporary sales injunction against Samsung's Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet, landing the Korean company a win in its patent battle against Apple in that country.

The sales ban had been in place since October, after Samsung voluntarily pulled the Galaxy Tab 10.1 from shelves in August.

No doubt, Samsung has to be pleased with the reversal of the preliminary injunction, given that the holiday shopping season is in full swing.

This is just the latest development in the Australian patent battle between the two tech giants, which is set to go to trial in March.

And as we've reported, the Australian dispute is just one piece of the puzzle. The patent battle between the two companies is raging in the U.S., France and 30 other European countries, as well as Japan, and has spread to encompass not only the Galaxy Tab 10.1, but also Samsung's Galaxy S, Galaxy S II and Ace smartphones, other Galaxy Tab tablets (all products that run Google's Android operating system), and Apple's iPhone and iPad products.

The suits and counter-suits cover disputes over touchscreen technology, the look and feel of products and even how the devices connect to the Internet.

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– Nathan Olivarez-Giles

twitter.com/nateog

Photo: The Galaxy Tab 10.1 is displayed in Seoul last month. Credit: Park Ji-Hwan/AFP/Getty Images

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LG Nitro HD: 4.5-inch 720p display, on AT&T 4G LTE, due Dec. 4

posted by Technology @ 7:38 PM
Monday, November 28, 2011

LG Nitro HD from AT&T

Smartphone screens keep getting bigger and thankfully, the resolution on displays is finally starting to grow too.

The latest example: the LG Nitro HD, which features a 4.5-inch screen with a 1,280 x 720 screen resolution. That'd be 720p, the lowest possible resolution that can be considered high definition.

As such, this will be AT&T's first HD-screen phone when it goes on sale Dec. 4 at a price of $249.99 with a two-year contract, the carrier said in a statement.

But the promising touch screen isn't all the Nitro HD has going for it. The new LG handset features a 1.5-gigahertz dual-core processor (that's the same clock speed as some laptops), an 8-megapixel and 1080p camera on the back with an LED flash, and a front-facing 1.3-megapixel camera.

Verizon has a 720p screen phone of its own in the $300 HTC Rezound, which I'm currently testing for an upcoming review. Both of the competing handsets run Google's Android Gingerbread operating system.

The Rezound, which has a 4.3-inch touch screen, runs on Verizon's 4G LTE network and the Nitro HD will run on AT&T's 4G LTE network. The Nitro HD will also offer 20 gigabytes of storage with 4 gigabytes built in and an additional 16 gigabytes on an included microSD card.

Stay tuned — we'll have a review of the Nitro HD soon as well.

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– Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Twitter.com/nateog

Image: The LG Nitro HD, from AT&T, front and back. Credit: AT&T

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6a00d8341c630a53ef0154378a8c83970c-pi

What might prompt one to buy a large, anti-sleek, hardly cool retro-style handset for a smartphone?

Well, consider your options. Those white ear buds are so tell-tale, and those Bluetooth ear clips have "obnoxious business guy" written all over them.

On the other hand, the retro handset provides a nice weighty, I'm-talking-on-the-phone feel, and that satisfying curly rubber cord reminds one, comfortingly, of what phones are supposed to be like.

And here's another bonus: These larger-than-your-cellphone cellphone attachments apparently protect you from 96% to 99% of the cellphone radiation that the World Health Organization has declared "possibly carcinogenic to humans."

It may not be discreet. It's not exactly cool.  But it's safe!

A company called Yubz started making retro-style handsets in 2000, mostly as a gag gift for those early adapters who abandoned the land line for their cellphone about five years before the rest of us did. After fears of the dangers of cellphone radiation began circulating, the company changed its marketing to include a giant "reduce 96% of radiation" note on the product's packaging materials.

For the aesthetically inclined the quirky design store A + R sells a version by French designer David Turpi in pop colors like yellow and magenta. "Super cool! Super cute!" says the description on the site where it sells for $30.

The budget minded may choose to check out the latest addition to the market, the handset pictured above that is made by a company called IMobifone, which is selling the phone for $25. 

The company's website includes images of Jamie Lee Curtis walking on the street with an old-fashioned handset clutched to her ear.

If Jamie Lee is using one, you know it's hot!

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– Deborah Netburn

Image: Courtesy of IMobifone.

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