The Nokia Lumia 800 is due to shortly hit our shelves here’re in Ireland, and might just hit out heartstrings. Nokia’s first Windows Phone 7 handset is seen by many as the ailing mobile giant’s last chance to turn it’s luck around, as well as the clock and rise to the top of the league again. It’s not an easy task, that’s for sure. We’re all getting pretty comfy with our snazzy iphones and androids, so it’s going to be tough to woo people away and back to what is still seen as ‘the old reliable’.
Apple is set to release one of the most anticipated and useful updates of the iPhone’s existence in June, along with a major mobile operating system update; iPhone OS 4.0. Multitasking is set to be included in the latest software update, filling what was seen as a gaping hole in the benefits list of the iPhone specs.
The iPhone is one of few smart-phones which has not enabled multitasking, which is seen by most as a serious downfall when going to consider a new phone. Mostly, however, the cult of Apple and the handsets’ momentum in sales has kept this from being too serious an issue for first time consumers or the company in general.
HTC, the Taiwanese phone manufacturers have started the year off well by announcing their three newest phones; the HTC Legend, Desire, and Mini running Android and Windows Mobile.
The new phones contain a number of new design features, setting them apart from the rest and are certainly easy on the eye.
HTC are most famous at the moment for producing the Google Nexus One phone earlier this year, and the first Android phones in 2009 which have begun to slowly make their mark on the technology world, and presenting the biggest challenge to iPhone dominance to date.
The Desire is a 3.7inch OLED display running Android 2.1, and is closest in technical terms and features to the Nexus One.
A 1-HGz Snapdragon processor offers oodles of speed and comfort while not waiting an age for the phone to catch up with your commands, Adobe is also kept happy with Flash 10.1 support for the phone which certainly gives the Desire an edge over it’s biggest competitor, the iPhone which famously snubs flash in favour of HTML5.
Also included in the phone are a host of standard features such as a 5-megapixel camera, with flash, geotagging, FM radio, GPS, Bluetooth, WiFi and 3G.
A new feature in terms of the phone’s design is an optical joystick, instead of the trackball in place on the Nexus One, which can be clumsy looking and ruin the overall look and feel of the phone. The optical joystick on the other hand is a smooth and comfortable way to get about, and definitely improves overall usability.
Design is also what HTC hope to make more grounds on with their latest releases. The HTC Legend is a unibody aluminum casing, not unlike the MacBook Pro line, and looks all together one of the prettiest phones from the manufacturer. The handset is lighter than the iPhone weighing 4.4 ounces and comes with a 3.2inch display running Android 2.1
Some believe that this unibody design is a pre-emptive strike against Apple’s latest iPhone evolution which may very well go along the lines of the MacBook range, and follow an aluminum casing, it will be interesting to see how much take up there is of the new design as it’s certainly much better looking and comfortable than previous HTC phones.
The third, and final phone announced was the HTC Mini, which is the only one of the three new releases to be running Windows Mobile, signaling that HTC hasn’t let go of the Windows platform yet.
The phone is similar dimensions to the Legend, with a 3.2inch screen and weighs 3.8ounces. The handset also packs most of the features found standard in the other models, with the notable exception of a flash on the camera and geotagging.
It is a bit of a surprise that the phone doesn’t support the newly announced Windows Mobile 7 operating system, which has certainly blown off a few cobwebs from the OS, in light of Android and iPhone OS making such big splashes in the market.
All three handsets will be available available through Vodafone in Europe in the first half of the year, including Ireland.
The models released are good phones, packing a lot of nice features which we do miss from some other popular smart phones, however in the coming age of touchscreen it does feel that there are too many un-necessary physical buttons on the HTC phones, which take away from what could be more screen space.
Vodafone already stock a few HTC Android phones and are also preparing to sell the iPhone, just in time for the latest model to be announced this summer; the long awaited iPhone 4G.
Just what the 4G will mean for the phone market and the average consumer remains to be seen, but if previous experiences with Apple are anything to go by, HTC and Google should begin rolling up their sleeves for a long, hard fight for a market share.
International users, including our good selves in Ireland and Europe will have to wait a little longer for the iPad 3G version, assuming that we get the WiFi version on time, that is.
Jobs announced at his keynote that Apple were working on international contracts with various networks to cover data plans and being able to use the internet on the go.
AT&T have already managed to bag the contract for the States, and many expect O2 to seal the deal on this side of the Atlantic, however with the iPhone recently being made available to Orange and Vodafone, it really could be anyone’s game.
Although the iPad 3G is going to come unlocked, and use new GSM micro SIMs, Apple are set to be beginning talks for various data plans. However the pads should work on WiFi alone and Jobs said that there was a ‘high probability’ that the devices would ‘just work’.
It would just be easier to buy the WiFi only version in this case, given that without a data plan, there would be little point in spending the extra few hundred and having what few features extra it offers without being able to take advantage of 3G’s mobile internet.
Apple seems to see the iPad, not as a device which is meant to fit in between your phone and your laptop, but instead to be a replacement for your laptop. Apple’s thinking could be that most laptops are vastly overpowered for what most people would use them for and netbooks are quite awkward and clumsy.
Most of the computer consumer market never really use the full potential of their computers – whereas the iPad will allow users to read papers, surf the web, view YouTube, write documents and listen to music without spending money on endless storage spaces and heavy(-er) notebooks and netbooks.
This year’s CES show in Las Vegas has produced a host of mouth watering gear, not least of all, amongst e-readers. Three companies have released new readers, with the intent of breaking both Sony and Amazon’s strangle hold on the current market.
Firstly and slightly surprisingly, perhaps is Samsung’s attempt at venturing into new waters, far from its netbooks and phones; the E6 and E101 readers, with six and ten inch screens respectively. The new e-reader line comes with anywhere up to 8GB of memory for all the books you’ll ever need, and a stylus for note taking, and doodling.
The readers, which more resemble phones than books, also pack WiFi abilities and allows users to take advantage of Samsung’s content deal with Google to access over 1million+ free titles available through the search engine in the public domain.
The reader feels sturdy, and looks it too; being similar size to the Kindle, but does look noticeable bigger.
The E6 is expected to retail at $399, and the E101 at $699, and will be available in early 2010, nothing said yet about how much the product would cost in Europe, so we’ll have to wait and see for now.
A complete show stopper at CES was the Skiff, an impossibly thin, and flexible e-reader.
The Skiff sports an 11inch screen, making it bigger then most e-readers currently out there, and is almost completely touchscreen. The device itself is housed in a thin, metal frame which really is barely noticeable.
The touchscreen is designed to take input from both finger and stylus, which makes it feel much more natural then the Kindle, or some other models out there which make reading feel more like being on a computer than curling up with a good book.
The Skiff also packs a lot into it’s 7mm thickness, such as a USB port, 4GB memory for enough books to put a librarian out of a job, SD card slot, and wi-fi and 3G wireless abilities.
All in all, the Skiff combines the wireless joys of the Kindle, with the flexibility of real books and magazines which is really what it’s aiming for, and versatility of any of its competitors.
Not currently available in shops, the Skiff is rumoured to make a debut sometime in mid-2010 in US, again not a peep about a European release date.
Another flexible E-Reader brought out at the CES, was the QUE, from UK based; Plastic Logic.
Almost equally as thin as the Skiff and packing similar memory, the Que also represents another glimpse into a more, flexible future. Encased in plastic, instead of metal thereby making it shatter-proof, the Que aims to expand the now jam-packed E-Reader market, by introducing itself into the workplace, and replacing the many messy documents which might be lying around, rather like a notepad that will never fill up.
The Que boasts the largest touchscreen of all the readers, coming in at 8.5”x11” along with 3G and WiFi inbuilt as standard, and a choice of 4GB or 8GB, depending on how many books or documents you might want to be bringing with you.
The 4GB version comes with WiFi only, and costs $649 while the 8GB version has both WiFi and 3G and will set you back by $799. Currently only available in the US, with AT&T providing the 3G coverage, Plastic Logic is expected to roll out the Que over the coming year.
Of all the E-Readers being churned out, it seems the CES has finally begun to spark the market widening into new fields, whether it be the office, or dedicated magazine and broadsheet displays.
Depending on what you’re looking for; there’s an E-Reader to suit you;
Samsung would probably suit best if you were a hardcore bookworm, offering a nice comfortable sized screen, with buckets of memory and connectivity. While should magazines and newspapers with some books thrown in be more your thing; then it looks like the Skiff might be right down your alley; thin, flexible, sturdy, clean and big you can take whole news-agents with you everywhere! Finally if you’re just a high flying exec, then surely there’s nothing better then having your desk with you without the pain of skimming a laptop screen for hours, you can sit back and read a report as if it were a piece of, slightly plastic feeling, paper.
Whether the Skiff and Que will be affected by Apple’s iSlate remains to be seen; the new device that everyone is talking about could well change the E-Reader market while it’s still in its infancy, but we’ll have to wait and see. It will be interesting to see how colourless e-ink displays stand up to the might of Apple.