The power of mobile technology: Never before have consumers been able to hold so many lawsuits in their hand.
Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc. has just thrown another baton in the smartphone lawsuit parade that has stretched to courtrooms across the globe, as phone-makers sue one another over similarities in their mobile devices, which are packed with patent-protected circuits and widgets from dozens of companies.
Motorola has filed suit against Apple Inc., purveyor of the mega-blockbuster iPhone (the device lifted Apple to $46 billion in sales in its most recent quarter). Apple is an increasingly bitter rival of Google Inc., which agreed to buy Motorola in August, a deal that is still awaiting regulatory clearance.
As patent observer Florian Mueller noted, Google probably had to approve Motorola's lawsuit, given that part of the buyout terms appear to forbid Motorola from filing lawsuits without Google's explicit permission. Google has not directly sued or been sued by Apple in this matter — the two compaies are fighting their legal war by proxy.
Phones that run Google's Android operating system have collectively outsold the iPhone, and Apple is none too happy about that. The Cupertino electronics maker has initiated a flurry of lawsuits against Android phone manufacturers, including Samsung Electronics and HTC Corp., alleging that the companies "slavishly copied" the iPhone's signature look.
Now Motorola is trying to make things even more difficult for its rival. In its second action against Apple in the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Florida, the company wants the court to ban iPhone sales. Motorola alleges that Apple devices infringe on six of its patents, including one for a phone with a "concealed antenna," and another about keeping data on "multiple pagers" synchronized. Motorola, as children of the 1990s will recall, made a lot of pagers — they still do.
For updates in this saga, make sure to keep your pagers on.
– David Sarno
Image: "Hungry Evil Android". Credit: asgw / Flickr
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.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Photo: An Apple iPad 2, left, and a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 at a store in the Netherlands. Credit: Robert Vos / EPA
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.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
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
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.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
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
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.
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.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
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
At the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, we saw a bit of a scramble by TV makers such as Samsung and LG to show off what they working on or releasing in the coming year that would allow us to control our TVs using voice, gesture and facial recognition.
Many technology pundits and analysts have said these sorts of announcements, which also took place at last year's CES, are in response to rumors that Apple is working on an "iTV" that will offer a new way of controlling a TV and maybe even how we pay for or watch channels and TV shows.
But as many video-game lovers out there know, TV voice recognition, gesture controls and facial recognition are already here in the form of Microsoft's Kinect motion-sensing camera, which is an accessory to the Xbox 360 home gaming console.
However, Kinect is just getting started, and currently has a small number of apps. And it's still a device that sells for about $150 and requires an Xbox 360, which starts at $200. Make no mistake, there will be a cost of entry to the future of TV.
At CES 2012, Microsoft showed off a bit of what the future may hold for Kinect, the Xbox and TV with demonstrations of its latest Kinect-enabled app for the Xbox, called Sesame Street Kinect (you can see our demonstration of the app in a video atop this article).
Sesame Street Kinect is what it sounds like, episodes of the long-running children's program tailored to use the Kinect camera. And what Kinect can do is really impressive.
Since 1969, children around the world have sat in front of TVs repeating back the alphabet, colors, words and numbers to characters on Sesame Street (I did it when I was a child). Until Sesame Street Kinect, which is set to release later this year at an unannounced price, the characters on the screen couldn't respond to the viewer's actions. Now, to a limited extent, they can.
The demonstration we saw featured the Grover, Elmo and Cookie Monster characters prompting viewers to interact by either saying certain words or moving in certain ways.
For example, we took part in a demonstration in which Grover drops a box of coconuts and asks that the viewer pick them up and throw them back to him.
I f the viewer stands up and moves in the way that they would throw an imaginary coconut (don't throw a real coconut unless your trying to break your TV) then Grover catches each one in his box, even reacting to how hard the Kinect interprets the viewer's throw to be.
The experience was a lot of fun for a room of four adults, and I imagine kids will enjoy this sort of thing too. Jose Pinero, am Xbox spokesman, said a similarly interactive app from National Geographic is coming this year as well.
Although Microsoft has sold more than 66 million Xbox consoles and more than 18 million Kinect cameras, the tech giant realizes it has something bigger than just video games on its hands with Kinect.
Both Kinect and Xbox Live are headed to Windows 8 later this year. Hopefully, that will mean more interactive "two-way TV" apps like Sesame Street Kinect, and more apps related to media outlets such as ESPN and National Geographic.
There are also rumors that the company is working to get Kinect built directly into TVs, which would very likely place Xbox Live and Kinect in direct competition with Google TV and Apple's expected entry into the TV market. That's a living-room showdown I'd like to see.
Photos: Sesame Street Kinect in action. Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh / Los Angeles Times
Move over Segway, and make room on the road for the Board of Awesomeness.
Chaotic Moon Labs' Kinect-controlled motorized skateboard zoomed through the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week, showcasing a quirky mashup of technologies — one that hopefully won't end with the rider getting a mashed-up head.
By attaching a Samsung tablet to the Kinect, the Austin, Texas-based software laboratory set out to "make Kinect do everything it's not supposed to do," which includes helping accelerate a skateboard and its rider to 32 mph.
It did it by creating an electric skateboard with the Kinect as a built-in gesture sensor, so the rider can accelerate by pushing his hands forward, and slow down by pulling them back — a little bit like skateboarding with an invisible steering wheel.
The board has giant all-terrain tires, as well as an 800-watt electric motor, so you could probably skateboard up San Francisco's Lombard Street if you needed to. (Note to readers: Don't.)
The brain of the conveyance is a Samsung tablet powered by the new Windows 8 operating system, which you better hope doesn't crash — because if it does …
– David Sarno in Las Vegas
On Tuesday, here on the Technology blog, we summed up a few of the TV-related highlights of the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show from LG, Vizio and Sony. But make no mistake, Sharp and Samsung made some news of their own.
As noted by my colleague Jon Healey and myself, 4K TVs have been a major trend at CES in Las Vegas this year. The promise of 4K TVs is a display that offers up to four times higher the resolution of today's highest resolution high-definition TVs, which currently top out at 1080p.
A bit confused by all the terms? No problem — 1080p refers to TVs with a resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 pixels with the 1,080 counting the number of lines of resolution on the vertical side of the TV. The newer 4K standard refers to displays with about 4,000 lines of resolution counted on the horizontal side of a screen.
Sharp, however, took the resolution jump further than its rivals and introduced a prototype 8K TV this year, which it says will offer double the resolution of a 4K TV set, or a resolution of about 16 times higher than a 1080p TV. Sharp's 8K TV is currently planned for retail, but the prototype at CES did come in a whopping 85-inch screen size. The screen resolution of the Sharp prototype does fall short of an actual 8,000 mark, despite the name, with a 7,680 x 4,320 resolution display being used.
Huge TVs are something Sharp has been into for the last few years, choosing to concentrate on the higher-end of the TV market. This year it also showed off an 80-inch LCD TV, with LED backlighting, that will playback 3-D video (viewable with 3-D glasses of course). Sharp said its 80-inch was equal to about the size of nine 32-inch TVs, or about 266 smartphones laid out next to each other.
The TV maker also said it was committed to its LCD TV business and plans to introduce 17 new LCD TVs over the next 90 days.
But not all of those 17 new TVs will be big-screen heavyweight sets. As noted by my colleague David Sarno, Sharp also introduced its line of Aquos Freestyle TVs at CES this year. The Aquos Freestyle is a series of TVs that are built thin and light and can actually be picked up and moved around a home.
The idea is maybe you'd want to take the TV out in the back yard for a couple hours, or maybe into another room for a bit for a party or other good reason.
As reported by Sarno, "Sharp's Aquos Freestyle flat-screens get their signal wirelessly, and as the models demonstrated by parading them down the showroom runway, they are light enough to be carried around the home, whether to the balcony, the kitchen or the powder room."
Portable? Yes. Mobile? Not really. The Aquos Freestyle sets were shown off in 20-inch, 31.5-inch, 40-inch and 60-inch sizes.
Like Sharp, Korean electronics giant Samsung had some prototypes to show off at CES too, including a 55-inch TV that it described as "Super OLED."
OLED, or organic light emitting diodes, are more energy efficient, thinner and provide better black-levels when compared with standard current LEDs used in TVs today. OLED is also more expensive to produce than LED backlighting. And just about every TV maker throws out claims at CES that its display, which is also 3-D capable, provides the best picture — Samsung's stance is no different with its Super OLED sets, promising in a statement that its prototype display offers "the ultimate in vividness, speed and thinness, with true-to-life picture quality, enhanced color accuracy and motion picture quality even in the fastest scenes."
Samsung also announced an update to its high-end Smart TV line, which runs apps such as Netflix on its TVs, that it says will allow users to control their sets with voice and motion control and facial-recognition technology.
"For example, users can turn the TV on or off, activate selected apps or search for content in the web browser simply by speaking in any of the 20 to 30 languages that are supported by the technology," Samsung said in a statement. "With a wave of their hand, they can browse and choose a link or content via the web browser."
A built-in camera in the top-of-the-line Smart TV sets "recognizes movement in the foreground and two unidirectional array microphones recognize voice at an incredibly accurate rate. Noise cancellation technology helps separate any background noise from the users commands."
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Image: Samsung's LED 8000 Smart TV, which features built-in cameras and microphones for voice, gesture and facial recognition. Credit: Samsung
At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, it's something of a rebuilding year. There have been no jaw-droppingly new consumer technologies unveiled, or obvious must-have new devices like in years past.
But that's not stopping near-record crowds from descending on Sin City, slurping up all its beer and bandwidth, and filling convention halls up and down The Strip.
The show's organizer, the Consumer Electronic Assn., has said that close to 150,000 attendants filled the city's hotel rooms this year, coming to check out exhibits from a record 3,100 companies.
The booths at the Las Vegas Convention Center on Tuesday, the show's official opening day, ranged from tiny stalls hung with bejeweled iPhone cases to city-block size mega-booths from global electronics makers, many paying millions to erect giant walls of high-definition screens that showcase their latest TV technology.
After attendants handed out 3D glasses at the booth of South Korea's LG Corp., a movie started on a massive IMAX-size screen showing a meteor shower shooting toward the audience. More than a few "whoas" where audible from the crowd below.
At the Samsung booth, representatives gave demonstrations of the company's new Smart TVs, showing onlookers how to change channels or search the Web with simple voice commands, or to "click" on-screen buttons and links with a hand gesture. A model of the company's latest ultra-high-def TV hung on another wall, with pictures of waterfalls and forests that were so clear that one visitor said, "Wow, is that in 3D?"
And more laughs were had Monday night at Microsoft Corp.'s final keynote (the software giant has said it will no longer give the show's main speech, or maintain a booth at CES.) The company did its best to mark the semi-somber occasion by hiring American Idol host Ryan Seacrest to be the master of ceremonies.
Seacrest and Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer enjoyed some amusing back-and-forth banter, such as when Ballmer explained the new, tile-based look of Windows 8, which is called Metro and is an improvement on the company's earlier phone operating system.
"The Metro user interface — you’ve seen it being pioneered in recent years, but now it’s all coming together."
"Why did you look at me funny when you said Metro?" Seacrest asked, feigning hurt feelings.
Ballmer laughed, and Seacrest said, "I guess I'm going to be your mascot now."
More stunts lay in store for the show, too — on Thursday, ESPN will stage a live boxing match at the convention center that will be broadcast in 3D on the network.
– David Sarno
Image: Ryan Seacrest and Steve Ballmer at the Microsoft keynote at CES. Credit: David Sarno / Los Angeles Times
At the Consumer Electronics Show, models carried around wireless flat-screen TVs playing vivid nature films, executives waved next generation “magic” remote controls and audiences were treated to demonstrations of massive, wall-size TVs.
Also, Apple’s stock hit a record high.
Though the Cupertino, Calif., iPhone giant doesn’t attend the show, rumors are spreading that it has its own TV in the works, and analysts say established TV companies like Samsung Electronics, LG and Sony are struggling to make their TVs more user-friendly and better able to find music, movies and online video from across the Internet.
“The TV hasn’t gone quite through the big revolutionary change that we’ve seen on those other screens,” said Shaw Wu, an analyst at Sterne Agee. “These other players are trying to jockey for position ahead of Apple.”
But with industry observers expecting an “iTV” from Apple that will turn the industry on its head, not all observers were impressed with the latest TV improvements.
“They’re just throwing spaghetti up against the wall right now,” said Peter Misek, an analyst at Jefferies & Co. “I think Apple’s going to force a big change in the industry — and it’s hard for the companies to respond when they don’t know what iTV looks like yet.”
At the CES on Monday, LG showed off its “Magic Remote,” a device with few buttons that resembles a Nintendo Wii controller –- enabling the viewer to point at and select different images and buttons on the screen.
Sharp’s Aquos Freestyle flat-screens get their signal wirelessly, and as the models demonstrated by parading them down the showroom runway, they are light enough to be carried around the home, whether to the balcony, the kitchen or the powder room.
Samsung showed off a new line of smarter televisions with a suite of games and Web applications built in. The company, a major rival of Apple's in both the smartphone and tablet sectors, did hint at a gesture and voice control system for its upcoming TVs, but did not show those features in action.
Vizio Inc. unveiled three new high-definition sets that feature Google TV, the search-giant’s TV navigation software that will also run on TVs from Samsung Electronics and LG, and which comes with dozens of built-in apps that users can use on-screen to fetch sports scores, watch movies and play games.
Meanwhile, Google has had trouble getting its Google TV software to take off. Launched on a small number of devices last year, the product was coolly received by reviewers and failed to gain wide traction with consumers.
Logitech Inc., which made one of the original Google TV set-top boxes, discontinued the device in November, calling it a “big mistake.”
Still, Google has recruited a new cast of the biggest TV makers — Samsung, LG and Vizio — to test the waters with a suite of Google–powered TV sets.
“The manufacturers have no choice but to turn to Google because there’s no one else,” Misek said. But until Google can make its phones, tablets, and personal computers all talk to each other, the way Apple’s do, Google and its TV partners “won’t be able to catch up.”
– David Sarno in Las Vegas
Photo: LG Electronics televisions on display at the annual Consumer Electronics Show. Credit: Frederic J. Brown / AFP/Getty Images
The lineup is mostly familiar, with LG, Samsung, Sony and Vizio producing Google TV products. Sony has released Google TV television sets and set-top boxes, and Samsung and Vizio both showed off prototype Google TV products at CES last year that never made it to market.
Absent from the Google TV hardware lineup this year is Logitech, which gave up on the Internet-connected TV software after its Google TV products failed to catch on with consumers, resulting in more returns than sales in the second quarter of 2011.
LG "will showcase a new line of TVs powered by Google TV running on their own L9 chipset at CES," Google said, also noting that Samsung and Sony will have new Google TV devices on the market this year. LG said in its own statement that some of its Google TV sets will be 3-D.
Vizio will hold "private demos at CES showcasing their new line of Google TV-powered products," Google said.
The Technology blog will be at CES next week looking at Google TV products and other new gadgets, games and technologies, so stay tuned.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Photo: Sony's first-generation Internet-connected LCD television powered by Google's Android-based Google TV platform. Credit: Kiyoshi Ota / Bloomberg
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.
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.
The 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.
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.
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.
The 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.
Virtual 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.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Photo: Armand Emamdjomeh / Los Angeles Times
Samsung Electronics Co. is buying Sony Corp.'s half of an LCD-display-making joint venture between the two companies for about $935 million.
The move will make S-LCD Corp., founded in 2004, a wholly owned subsidy of Samsung and help Sony withdraw from a venture that has given it eight years of losses.
After the deal's expected closed in January, Sony will take an $846-million loss, the Japanese tech giant said in a statement.
But the exit from the LCD-manufacturing business won't mean that Sony is leaving the TV or computer-display business altogether.
S-LCD will provide LCD panels for Sony products via a "long-term supply agreement of LCD panels, as agreed by the two companies," Samsung said in a statement.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Photo: A Sony television with a remote control. Credit: Sony Corp.
The year 2011 was a pivotal one the Web, particularly as it relates the way people go about connecting
to their favorite sites.
The advent of fast-emerging and rapidly growing technologies
in the mobile sector has led to many users regularly accessing the
Web from mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets and even feature phones.
But not all of these mobile devices are created equally, so WM takes a look at some of the past year’s best and most popular
gadgets for surfing the ‘Net.
When news of the iPhone 4S first dropped, some were
disappointed — to say the least. Users wanted an iPhone 5, and instead they got a revamped version of the iPhone 4. (Oh, and Siri.) Still, in the end,
it was the best-selling iPhone ever despite the initially lukewarm response.
The smartphone runs on the brand new iOS 5 and offers much
of the same functionality with which Apple fans and diehard iPhone users are
familiar, including the old standby Safari mobile browser. With the
introduction of the voice-controlled Siri, Apple also gives users a whole new
way to interact with the Web on their mobile phones, as information can be
accessed almost immediately. It’s likely that 2012 will finally see the release
of the iPhone 5, which will possibly be a drastic reinterpretation of the
device with even more sophisticated Internet capabilities.
Apple’s other major contribution of industry-changing
technology is the iPad 2, the successor to the device that standardized tablet
usage. It’s probably not a stretch to say that when people talk about tablets
and tablet browsing, they’re likely thinking of using an iPad, and that kind of
presence is what makes it such an important (and revolutionary) gadget.
Much faster than its predecessor, the second generation iPad
is actually quite similar to its big brother when it comes to navigating on the
Web, but it also presents itself as more of a content creation tool for
publishing on the Web, making it a device much better suited for two-way Web
needs. Like the iPhone, it comes equipped with a built-in, tablet-optimized
Safari browser, and there are some impressive third-party browser options
available for interested users. The second version is also powered by iOS 5.
Although it’s not nearly as revered or idolized as Apple,
Samsung has proven itself to be a beyond-competent mobile developer, and the Galaxy
SII is a great example of its acumen. Some have claimed that it is actually the
“world’s most powerful phone to date,” backed by a dual-core 1.2GHz ARM
Cortex-A9 processor and running on the Android Gingerbread operating system
(with an Ice Cream Sandwich update on the way).
And while being a powerful tool is critical to the demands
of Web users today, the Galaxy SII goes the extra mile by providing users with
a great interface for browsing that consists of a 4.3 inch Super AMOLED Plus
display. One review called it “the yardstick by which every other phone
competing [this year] in terms of hardware specs was measured.”
Running on the Android Ice Cream Sandwich OS, this is widely considered to be the best Android phone
ever created. By building on the successes of the Galaxy SII, Samsung was
able to craft a superb device that is “everything Android ever aspired to be.”
Featuring a 4.65 inch HG Super AMOLED Contour Display and a
powerful processor specifically built for faster Web browsing and multitasking,
this phone is ideal for browsing the Web. So far, no better iPhone alternative
has presented itself or, perhaps more importantly, had the opportunity to
challenge Apple’s dominance in terms of the general public’s perception of what
a smartphone can be.
No product was more hotly anticipated this year than
Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablet. At $199, a considerably lower price point than the iPad
2, the 7-inch tablet is a great alternative to Apple’s
industry-dominating device, especially as it allows for easy access into any of
Amazon’s other online properties, most notably the Kindle Store, Amazon Prime
and Amazon Cloud Storage.
The Kindle Fire runs on a customized version of the Android
Gingerbread OS and features a brand new Web browser, Amazon Silk, which has
received mixed reviews so far. Though the Kindle Fire may not be the optimal
mobile device for using the Web, there is no denying the impact it has had on
the tablet market. By dropping the price point significantly, Amazon has opened
up tablet adoption to a whole new range of consumers, and the screen size was
successful enough that there isn’t any shortage of rumors that Apple will
release a 7 inch “mini” version of the iPad 3 in 2012. In short, thanks to
Amazon and the Kindle Fire, tablet consumption is becoming even more
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.
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.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Photo: Visitors walk past Samsung's Galaxy Tab 10.1 on display in Seoul on Oct. 13. Credit: Jo Yong-Hak/Reuters
That's right, it appears that Samsung has initiated a lawsuit against Apple governing the company's use of emoticons.
According to a report from patent observer Florian Mueller, who has been dependably covering the worldwide patent wrestling match between Apple and Android manufacturers, one of four new patent lawsuits filed by Samsung in German court is over, once again, yes, emoticons.
Believe it or not, Samsung does indeed own a patent on smartphone use of emoticons. It won the European rights to that "technology" in 2000, and interested readers can see the actual patent here.
The bizarreness of two global electronics powerhouses fighting over emoticons is only deepened when you see that the symbols at issue are not the newfangled illustrated and colorful emoticons you see in apps like this, but rather the old-fashioned parentheses-and-colon kind that many of us have come to abhor. Or adopt. :0).
What appears to be specifically at issue is a smartphone function for allowing users to quickly add prefabricated emoticon strings with a single touch. Some of those strings are rather involved. Like
If you're wondering where the iPhone comes in, it turns out, you can find the iPhone menu pictured at above right by turning on the Japanese keyboard under Settings–>General–>Keyboard–>International Keyboards. Then when you try to write a text message with the Japanese keyboard, you'll see an emoticon option that will trigger the above menu. It is a veritable dictionary of inscrutable and cheery character sequences. To be fair, they are apparently much more recognizable in the East, where the population had been texting en masse for years by the time we started here in the U.S.
Indeed, the feature is apparently important enough in some countries to sue over. Which to me is just
Apple did not respond to a request for comment.
Bonus question: Identify the meaning of the following lengthy emoticon pictured in Samsung's patent:
– David Sarno
Samsung Electronics is making Apple chips in Texas.
That's according to a Reuters report noting that, perhaps a bit surprisingly, the Korean electronics giant – also a major smartphone rival of Apple — is producing the sophisticated A5 processing chip that lies at the heart of Apple's iPhone 4S and iPad 2 devices.
The factory complex in Austin, called Samsung Austin Semiconductor, is pictured above and in the Google map below. It's the largest foreign investment in Texas, according to Reuters. Construction of the complex, which lies along Samsung Boulevard in Austin, started in 1996, and the first semiconducter fabrication facility began operating in 1998. It builds high-precision microchips — chips such as Apple's A5.
The company opened a second wafer factory in Austin in 2008 to build NAND flash chips, the fast memory storage elements that work in computers and mobile devices.
Reuters notes that the Austin facility is located there in part because it's close to the University of Texas' engineering school. The two factories employ about 3,500 total workers, according to Reuters.
– David Sarno
Image: A satellite photo shows a Samsung factory in Austin, Texas. Credit: Google Maps
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.
– Andrea Chang
Photo: Models display the Samsung Galaxy Nexus smartphone in Hong Kong in October. Credit: Kin Cheung / Associated Press
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.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
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
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 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.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
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
Joining the growing parade of class-action lawsuits against cellphone software company Carrier IQ Inc., suits have been filed by a group of five California plaintiffs alleging that the Mountain View, Calif., company and affiliated wireless carriers and phone makers violated state law by "surreptitiously intercepting communications" of smartphone customers.
The plaintiffs are all clients of Century City attorney Susan Yoon, who filed the class-action suits Friday in Los Angeles County Superior Court against Carrier IQ, T-Mobile USA, Sprint Nextel Corp., Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc., Samsung Telecommunications America and BlackBerry-maker Research in Motion Ltd. Each suit alleged that the companies secretly recorded user cellphone activities.
"In violation of California's Invasion of Privacy Act, defendants herein secretly intercepted, received, recorded and/or monitored" the plaintiff's communications without alerting the plaintiff, the suit against T-Mobile alleges.
The suit also alleges that Carrier IQ's software "records and transmits to defendants keystrokes, content of text messages and passwords."
That assertion has been disputed by Carrier IQ and a group of security researchers, who said that a video purporting to show the capturing of keystrokes and text messages had been incorrectly analyzed by the amateur security researcher who made it.
Nevertheless, the company has stopped short of offering details about the specific types of smartphone user data it collects, saying only that "a great deal of information is available to the Carrier IQ software inside the handset."
Doubts about the types of information the company and its clients collect have led to a series of state and federal class-action suits, as well as questions from federal legislators and privacy activists.
A Carrier IQ spokeswoman declined to comment on the California actions.
"The company has not seen or been served on any lawsuit, so we cannot comment on the allegations at this time," she wrote in an email.
When reached by telephone, Yoon, the attorney, declined to discuss the suits, including whether one of the named plaintiffs, Steve Yoon, was a familial relation.
The T-Mobile suit seeks both liquidated damages ($5,000 per violation to each class member) and an injunction to prevent further alleged violations of California's Invasion of Privacy Act.
– David Sarno
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.
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
Samsung was set back again, temporarily, as an Australian High Court put back in place a sales ban on its Galaxy Tab 10.1 in an ongoing patent lawsuit the South Korean company is involved in with Apple over tablets and phones.
This go-around, the temporary sales injunction is on for just one week as High Court Justice John Dyson Heydon blocked the overturning of the ban through Dec. 9, according to a report from Bloomberg Businessweek.
"A stay for one week will cost Samsung, in effect, one week's trade," but lifting the ban would probably "be injurious to Apple," Heydon said, according to the Bloomberg report.
The reinstatement of the preliminary sales injunction, which was overturned on Tuesday, will delay Samsung's plans to get the Galaxy Tab 10.1, which many see as the Apple iPad's current top competitor, onto store shelves as consumers are ramping up their holiday shopping.
Samsung has said it plans to give up on releasing the Galaxy Tab 10.1, which runs Google's Android operating system, in Australia if it can't sell the device there before Christmas.
Katrina Howard, a Samsung lawyer, told Heydon in court that "even one day can make a difference" and that holiday sales were crucial for the company. Samsung has no doubt already missed many sales opportunities for the Galaxy Tab 10.1 because of its suit with Apple — the sales ban has been officially in place since October, but Samsung voluntarily pulled the Galaxy Tab 10.1 from shelves in August.
Apple and Samsung, which are suing each other over alleged patent infringement on the technology used to make their respective tablets, are set to go to trial in Australia in March to settle their dispute.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Photo: Visitors walk past Samsung's Galaxy Tab 10.1 on display in Seoul, South Korea on Oct. 13, 2011. Credit: Jo Yong-Hak/Reuters
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.
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.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Photo: The Galaxy Tab 10.1 is displayed in Seoul last month. Credit: Park Ji-Hwan/AFP/Getty Images