HTC makes Nexus One Replicant and a host of other handsets.

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.

Desire

HTC Desire handset

Nexus One replicant (nice little Blade Runner pun there)

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.

Legend

HTC Legend smart phone

HTC Legend, looks like a MacBook case/Nexus One body/next iPhone design?

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.

Mini

HTC Mini smart phonew

Mini and light, perfect for the pocket.

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.


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Europe left waiting for 3G iPad – Apple want to replace notebook/netbook

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’.

Internet on the move, but do we have to wait much longer for the privilege?

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.

The iPad is here!!! Now what’s it all about?

Here at last! Steve Jobs finally announced the new iPad (iSlate turns out to be just fan speculation) to a crowd of gathered journalists. Now that we’ve all gotten our jaws off the floor at what a gorgeous and sleek device the iPad truly is – let’s see what’s under the hood.

IPad seen here with dock and keyboad... isn't it lovely?

Only half an inch thick and weighing .9kg you won’t even feel the pad in your bag. These measurements were generally to be expected given Apple’s love of the slim and the need for portability which would outdo its rivals. The battery will last you about ten hours, which is a lot longer then most laptops and netbooks available on the market today.

The screen is somewhat smaller than most were expecting at only 9.7”, this however is still perfect for magazines, books, movies, music, writing and pretty much anything else you can think of! It uses LED display with IPS meaning that from whichever angle you see it at you get no fading and still get a good strong image.

The first of the TWO models, which has WiFi only is shipping in March, with the follow up second model will have both WiFi and 3G and will be shipping in America, anyway, in April.  The basic version will be just $499 which is about €350 and well below what anyone had previously expected. Rumours are rising about who on this side of the pond will be getting the 3G rights, AT&T, traditional American carrier of the iPhone is said to already have secured its deal, so if history is to be repeated then it looks like O2 might have it in the bag. The 3G version will probably be more expensive, but even then will still be affordable and give e-readers and other tablets, slates or pads a run for their money.

Speaking of e-readers, the iPad will come with a brand new native app; iBook. This app will, essentially be an e-reader  and bookshop all in one, and allow you to download books straight to the device without ever leaving iBook and read them on the large, crisp display. Exactly how this reading experience will compare to e-ink, which is designed  to mimic paper is hard to tell. Apple are probably aiming more for the magazine and newspaper market, and trying to pick up ebooks while they go.

iBook store will give Amazon a good fight, but will it win over book fans? Hard to tell, doesn't bowl me over too much...

Apple are also reporting that the full 140,000 of their apps, currently available in their app store will be ready to go for the iPad for when it comes out in the shops, by which time there will be a whole mountain of apps ready for the platform as developers speed up creating new apps specifically tailored for the larger screen and faster processor. This also goes a long way to securing and keeping Apple’s 99.4% market share of all applications, leaving Nokia and Google in the shade with little hope in the short term of gaining any major ground.

Also bundled In are all the apps we know and love from the iPhone, such as Contacts, Safari, Mail, Maps, etc.The layout of the interface is extremely similar to the iPhone/iPod screen, just with more space between apps also allowing for a background image, and allowing for the multiple home screens which you can swipe between for your various applications.

Some standard ideas still follow through from the iPhone with a multitouch screen, allowing for a more flowing navigation of your files and apps. The 30-pin connector located just under the standard ‘Home’ button are also some friendly and familiar faces, and fit in nice and seamlessly with the device and make it look more like an iPhone then just the screen of a MacBook taken off the keyboard.

Some new innovations come with the A4 chip which has been designed by the Apple team specifically for the iPad, which is supposed to make the device far more efficient than others.

The iPad also comes with a choice of storage sizes all flash based, 16, 32, and 64GB, which is similar to the iPhone storage and should be enough to hold anything you really want to carry around, given that the iPad isn’t really a netbook, but more than a phone the storage sizes aren’t hugely surprising.

Still no flash?

Some things missing, however are making small holes in the otherwise glowing facade of Apple’s latest product. Apple had an excuse for not having flash on the original iPhone, and maybe even on the 3G, but for the iPad? Certainly not – for such a media oriented device it is quite unusual for it not to carry support for one of the most used animation tools and what can often be the basics of many websites out there today. Many people expected support for the popular plug-in, and there is a minor sense of disappointment at it not being at the party. Two other things which were speculated were a webcam and USB port, although these were probably filed under the category of “they’d be handy” and mostly on a small number of fans wish lists, few really ever expected that either would make a real appearance.

Prices start low and go up depending on what you’re looking for, as you can see below;

16 GB  32 GB  64 GB

Wi-Fi                   $499   $599   $699

Wi-Fi + 3G           $629  $729   $829

Rumours have also been circulating over the magazines and newspapers which will be signing up for the new iPad. So far it has been suggested that the New York Times, Vogue and Wired are just some of the publications which are waiting to release their own apps or iPad formatted editions.

Over all it looks to be a brilliant device, and although there wasn’t a huge amount of surprises hidden away other then the name, the iPad has still managed to impress. Whether it will kill off the e-reader, it can’t be said until people actually begin reading on the iPad. It will also be interesting to see how Apple regulate their books.  Which we’ll also have to wait and see for, given the current debates on how ebook downloads should be regulated.

A desirable device, but the question at the end of the day is, do you really need one and if so, why would you need it?

But you WANT it!

Kindle comes with Apps, remember Snake anyone?

Amazon appear to be taking a page from Apple’s book for the Kindle with allowing for the creation of apps by opening the platform up to developers, and bringing out its new ‘Developer Kit’.

The popular e-reader will be taking advantage of it’s 3G technology and long battery life to allow for the development of various apps to be used alongside it’s native functions.

Trying to defend its market share by offering more? Kindle begins to ready itself for the iSlate

So far two companies are said to be creating apps for the Amazon device; Handmark who are working on a Zagat guide, and Sonic Boom who will develop various games and puzzles.

The developer kit will be launched in February in beta version and will come packed with sample codes, Kindle simulator and documentation which will all be able to run on Mac, PC and Linux computers where a developer can build and test their creations.

Although the name ‘app’ might make people think of the ever increasing and complicated apps of the iPhone/iPod, the Kindle’s apps will be slightly more watered down; being constrained by the black and white e-ink, and the reader’s hardware – this will probably make for relatively simple apps, however it is a beginning to a potential trend for amazon to make its reader a much more all-in-one device.

This news comes ahead of Apple’s expected iSlate/iPad announcement, which seems ever harder to escape comparisons to as the technology and retail worlds pays close attention to the company and ready their own products in the e-reader and tablet markets for a fight for market share.

This may be what Amazon is intending to do, by allowing for apps to be developed, they create a watered down version of what the iSlate is expected to be and may be able to hold out against Apple making deep inroads into the e-reader market, however by this point it might be too late.

Excitement over Apple’s show is at fever pitch, and few seem to be paying attention to much else. This is a welcome addition to an already solid product, the questions left are; will people take to it and is it too much for what is, in essence, supposed to be a book? What will the apps cost? And will it be enough to keep the Kindle going against Apple?

iSlate delay, 6 months?!…!

Apple is all set to formally announce the new Touch based device, popularly christened the ‘iSlate’. However, while we’ll get an introduction very soon, most of us will have to wait at least six months to actually lay our hands on one.

Word has surfaced that the software and hardware giant may release the new slate in a similar pattern as the original iPhone in 2007. This does mean a longer wait for those of us outside of the US, but should be just in time for christmas.

iSlate, or not to iSlate, when will we be seeing one on the shelves?

The rumoured tablet was supposed to be shipping in March, but it’s now looking more likely to be June, due to what has been described as ‘minor issues’ and for more work to be done on battery life and the model’s durability.

The iSlate is set to take on the role of something between an iPhone and a Mac, however as more and more stories and suggestions come to light about the device it does seem to be leaning more towards an actual Mac; being able to run multiple programs, web browsing and magazine and ebook reading all on a ten inch touch screen screen, which could revolutionise portable computing.

It’s also believed that WiFi would be the most likely option when going for web access, and using 3G as a secondary ‘out-and-about means’, which has raised the question of whether or not there would be two models available; the WiFi only, or both WiFi and 3G in one.

Another change to what we expected, apart from the delay which has shifted people’s ideas about the new release and what it could do as a portable, is the cost; originally thought only to be $600, with added costs for the large touchscreen and various hardware fittings the price has now been suggested to be around $1,000 or about €700.

Even with the increased price Apple are still expecting to shift up to a million units per quarter, according to Kaufman Bros, who are investors in the Cupertino company.

This does appear to be another bundle of rumours which are popping up like daisies ahead of Apple’s event, so for now it’s best to take them as they come, and have our excitement and credit cards go on standby.

Three E-Readers which will shape 2010… if Apple don’t get there first.

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.

Is it a phone, is it a Kindle? No, it's an E-Reader

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.

Flexible, light, like something from the future; today!

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.

Presenting; (Drum Roll...) The Paperless Office!!!!!

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.