Microsoft's pseudo-smartphone, the Kin, was just launched six weeks ago, and it looks like its days might already be numbered. In a statement Redmond has confirmed that the Kin phones will not be rolling out to Europe as planned, and the entire Kin team is to be integrated into the Windows Phone 7 team. This is also where Microsoft will be focusing their efforts.
The Kin was the spiritual successor to the Sidekick, and was in development for a number of years. The operating system was designed as vertical experience built around social networking. There were no games, and some features (like a calendar and IM) were missing. The launch was plagued by pricing issues. Both the hardware and the monthly service were judged as too expensive by many. Verizon Wireless charges the full smartphone data rate of $30 per month for the Kin phones.
There were rumors that only a few hundred Kins were sold, but Microsoft never confirmed that. At the end of Microsoft's official statement, they say that they "will continue to work with Verizon in the U.S. to sell current KIN phones." It's not clear if that means they will just be selling off inventory. Is it best that Microsoft cuts their losses, or should they have iterated the software before giving up?
The last 24 hours have been exciting for Android fans and prospective buyers. All four major US carriers (and a few regional ones as well) have now come out to say that they will carry a variant of the Samsung Galaxy S smartphone. This is an unusual situation for the wireless industry. Most highly anticipated phones are kept exclusive to a single carrier, at least at launch.
The Galaxy S is an Android 2.1-based smartphone running Samsung's TouchWiz 3.0 skin. It will be running on a 1GHz ARM-based chip called the Hummingbird. The screen is a 4-inch Super AMOLED panel reportedly capable of better performance in direct light than other AMOLED screens. T-Mobile, Verizon, and AT&T are looking at getting the standard slate version, but Sprint will be getting a version with a 4G WiMAX radio and a landscape sliding keyboard. This version will be called the Epic 4G. AT&T and Verizon will be branding the phones the Captivate and the Fascinate, respectively.
Only T-Mobile has announced official release information. The Samsung Vibrant (the carrier's name for the Galaxy S) will be available for $199 on contract on July 21. Anyone planning to take a long hard look at one of these phones?
Blackberry maker Research in Motion (RIM) has reported earnings today and industry watchers weren't too happy. The company missed analyst expectations and the reason is pretty clear. Competition from Android and the iPhone are eating into RIM's business. Verizon, which was traditionally a Blackberry heavy carrier, has been getting into Android in a big way. Additionally, consumers continue to jump ship for the iPhone for non-business activities.
It's not all gloom and doom, though. Revenue did rise 24$ to $4.24 billion, but expectations were around $4.35 billion. RIM's stock took a pounding, but the smartphone maker isn't standing still. RIM will be buying back $31 million in stock to help stabilize the company. Investors are growing concerned that RIM will become increasingly marginalized as other platforms continue to take off.
RIM isn't going away anytime soon. They're a profitable business, and people that use Blackberrys often love them. Do we have any diehard Blackberry fans out there?
It was just last spring that we saw Google Voice invites go out to a lucky few. The web-based service has gone on to provide over one million users with a single number to manage their communications. Now Google has opened up the service to all residents of the USA. The good people of less Googley nations will just have to hold tight.
Google Voice provides users with a new Google number that can be connected to multiple phone lines. Calling a Google Voice number will ring all phones connected with an account, but special scheduling rules can control which phones ring when. Google has been slowly rolling out new features to Voice in this last year. There is now a solid mobile web app for iPhone users, who are still prohibited from having a real app. Google has integrated voicemails into Gmail as well.
If you haven't used Google Voice, give it a shot. We are quite taken with the service around here. Even if you don't want to use the number, you can just use call forwarding to use Google's voicemail instead of your carrier's. You can also get free text messaging, and who doesn't want that? Users of Android phones will find some amazing integration with the service as well. Tell us about any Google Voice tips you have in the comments.
When AT&T launched the Motorola Backflip a few months back, it was largely a disappointment for those hoping for a solid Android experience on the network. The Backflip had a number of faults, among them was that the carrier had locked users out of installing apps manually. That is, apps that are not in the Android Market. Now the carriers second official Android phone, the HTC Aria, is also unable to install non-Market apps.
Android is an open mobile operating system, which allows manufacturers and carriers to modify it as they wish. It also allows users unprecedented control over the phone's software. In the case of AT&T however, it seems apparent the users are not to be trusted with that kind of power. Being unable to install external applications locks users out of many beta and pre-release apps. For example, the hotly anticipated Audible app is available only as a standalone beta that must be manually installed. The Swype keyboard replacement is in a similar boat. The Dropbox app was also released in this way before it hit the Market.
As a general rule, we're not in favor of taking options away from users. It feels like AT&T isn't understanding what Android is about. This looks to be a pattern for AT&T now, and we can expect this sort of behavior from them in the future. It is technically possible to use the Android SDK to install third-party software, but the process is complicated. Average users are going to be left out in the cold.
In the wake of the recent iPhone 4 announcement, Motorola CEO Sanjay Jha is looking to reassure the Android faithful. Jha gave a talk at the Executives Club of Chicago yesterday and talked up the companies hardware plans. If the Motorola CEO is to be believed, we could see an Android phone packing a 2GHz CPU this year.
Jha was short on the details, but another Motorola executive apparently let it slip that they planned to incorporate every possible hardware feature into the upcoming superphone. This would mark a dramatic advancement in the rate of hardware iteration. Most manufacturers refrain from upping their specs so quickly to avoid destroying sales of their current smartphones.
While the idea of a 2GHz CPU sounds good on paper, we have to wonder if it will really deliver that much more performance than current CPUs. A lot of the snappiness in a smartphone is related to the software side of things. Don't even get us started on battery life. Do you think a 2GHz smartphone is necessary so soon?
A leaked document seems to indicate that T-Mobile is gearing up for a big promotion on June 19th. On that day, the carrier could be offering all their phones for free with a new two year contract. The document itself is a script for a commercial in which an employee is explaining that all phones are free, even the new MyTouch 3G Slide and Garminfone.
Many consumers are heavily swayed by the price of the phone itself. Despite the fact that the total cost of ownership over the two year contract probably runs into the thousands, many just won't drop $200 on a high-end phone. If this promotion happens, T-Mobile could move a ton of smartphones. It makes sense for the carrier. They make a killing on expensive data plans at $30 per month.
We suggest any of you up for a renewal should wait and see if this truly comes to pass. How much does the initial cost of a phone matter to you?
AT&T has announced today that they are making some fairly big changes in the way they sell data. Gone are the $30 "unlimited" plans with the soft 5GB bandwidth cap. The changes affect smartphones as well as the iPad. Now mobile data will be sold in two packages. The DataPlus plan will cost $15 and offer 200MB of data a month. The DataPro plan will come with 2GB of data and run $25 per month.
The carrier is also changing how overages work, and this part of the plan actually sounds pretty reasonable. On the DataPlus plan, each additional 200MB block will run you $15, and each extra GB on the DataPro plan will be $10. The traditional overage fee amounted to $50 per GB of overage. AT&T also plans to finally offer tethering, but it will only be available on the DataPro plan. It will cost an extra $20 per month and it shares the same 2GB data allotment as the phone.
Users currently on the $30 plan are allowed to stay with it, but can move to the new plans at any time. These options may save money for most people, but some users may find themselves increasingly coming up against the caps. AT&T is currently only selling one Android phone directly, but these plans could be a problem for Google's mobile OS. Unlike the iPhone, Android based phones do a massive amount of background syncing of data. How do you feel about the changes? Would you end up saving of racking up overages?
It's really a disaster waiting to happen. We enter into 2-year contracts with mobile providers, then tote around a fragile piece of glass and plastic that, if dropped, will cost upwards of $500 to replace. Mobile phone insurance has been around for a while to alleviate some of this concern, but one of the most popular phones out there, the iPhone, has not been covered under AT&T's insurance offerings. Well, soon there will be an option.
The upcoming MobileProtect service will cost a whopping $13.99 per month, but it's basically just the same Asurion-serviced protection you get for any other smartphone. On other smartphones, these plans usually cost $7-10 per month. The deductible you then have to pay for a replacement phone are pretty high. They will range from $99 for the low end model (currently the 8GB 3G model) up to $199 for the high end model (currently 32GB 3GS).
As is the case with mobile insurance, it has to be purchased within 30 days of getting the phone. A new twist here is that you will buy the insurance plan through the iPhone App Store, and the charges will go through Apple. The price is high, but it is an option for those among us with both a love of gadgets, and butterfingers.
We were a little worried that the change over to 4G mobile data standards like LTE and WiMAX would get expensive for consumers. ON the heels of Sprint's announcement that users of the EVO 4G would have to pay a $10 premium for data, Verizon is talking about a tiered pricing model for LTE data when it launches. Instead of allowing "unlimited" plans (5GB data cap), Big Red may instead charge different fees based on the amount of data used.
This might be a good deal for people that only use a little data, but in the future with much faster data connections, who's only going to use a little data? The thing to be aware of is that LTE data networks are expected to be much more efficient at delivering data. Carriers may only incur a half or one-third of the costs per megabyte of data on LTE as they do now. All things considered, we'd be surprised if even the cheap plans are a good deal.
Of course, we won't know how bad of a deal we're getting until LTE rolls out. Verizon is expecting the first round of LTE handsets to be available in early 2011. These will be LTE for data only, much like the EVO 4G uses WiMAX only for data. Verizon expects to be using LTE for voice calls by 2012. How much wireless data do you use in a month? Would you like a tiered pricing structure?