May 31, 2011

Apple to unveil iCloud, iOS 5 on Monday, June 6

Apple to unveil iCloud Monday, June 6
Had some doubts that Apple was heading skyward? Those lingering concerns can now be put to rest. Apple has confirmed that it will be announcing iCloud on June 6th, what it's calling an "upcoming cloud services offering." That will be part of the keynote for this year's Worldwide Developers Conference, known to the cool kids as WWDC. This is, of course, where everyone has come to expect new iPhones to come to light, but this year we're thinking the focus will be more on software, and indeed Apple's event notice indicates that the big highlights will be Mac OS X Lion and the next version of its mobile operating system, iOS 5. This is a decidedly non-Apple way to announce something big like iCloud, making us wonder what other surprises Steve Jobs will have for us at the event -- yes, he'll be kicking things off. As ever you can find out as it happens here, live.

Samsung teases 4G tablet for 2011, Galaxy S III in first half of 2012

Don't expect a lawsuit or two to keep a good chaebol down. Not if J.K. Shin has his way. The president of Samsung's mobile communication division is telling us to expect an "enhanced" LTE Galaxy Tab (without providing any detail) sometime later this year, following the launch of the company's 8.9-inch Tab this summer and 10.1-inch Tab next month -- the latter priced between $499 and $599. Shin said that Samsung is already in talks with US and South Korean carriers to launch the 4G tablet. He also teased a third version of the wildly popular Galaxy S handset series for the first half of 2012. A proclamation arriving on news that the delectable Galaxy S II has just set a record for the fastest selling smartphone in Korea after unloading one million handsets in the first month of domestic sales.

Naturally, Shin also had a bit to say about Samsung's ongoing legal battle with Apple. "We didn't copy Apple's design," he said bluntly, adding that Apple's allegations "will not be legally problematic." Sure Sammy, tell it to the judge.

Update: The Wall Street Journal updated its story calling for the 8.9-inch Galaxy Tab to launch this summer, not in June as originally stated.

May 29, 2011

Droid 3 details leaked: dual-core processor, 4-inch qHD screen, no LTE?

Droid 3
You've probably already seen the leaked pictures of the Droid 3, but what you really want to know is what's going on underneath that chrome trim. TechnoBuffalo claims to have the inside scoop and it sounds like the latest landscape slider from Motorola is packing a number of nice improvements. According to a tipster the screen has been upgraded to a 4-inch qHD panel and inside is one of those fancy dual-cores all the cool phones are rockin' these days -- presumably of the Tegra 2 variety like itsDroid X2 cousin. As spied in the photos it also has a new 5-row keyboard layout and front facing camera for video calls, while the rear-facing shooter is getting bumped to 8 megapixels. There is one disappointing, but not entirely shocking, detail though -- the Droid 3 will lack LTE. We can't confirm these specs, but they're perfectly logical assumptions and raise no alarms and no surprises.

Toyota reveals “Toyota Friend” social media network

In recent years many automakers have gone to extremes to deliver information via creative avenues of existing social media platforms, but now Toyota has taken things to an entirely new level by co-creating its very own social media network: Toyota Friend.

Toyota Friend is largely the result of a collaboration between automaker Toyota and customer relation software (CRM) software developer Salesforce. The unlikely duo have formed a strategic alliance to build Toyota Friend, which will act as a private social network for Toyota customers and their cars.

The new service will be gradually rolled out, first in Toyota’s domestic market of Japan only in 2012 and only for owners of electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids. These customers will then be able to network amongst themselves, as well as with their cars, the dealership and Toyota. Hit read more for details.

Microsoft Earns More From Android Than It Does From Windows Phone

Now here's an interesting find ... apparently Microsoft makes more money from Android than it does from Windows Phone. This rather odd arrangement, according to Citi analyst Walter Pritchard, came about due to Microsoft's lawsuit against HTC last year. The settlement saw HTC agreeing to pay Microsoft $5 for every Android handset they shipped. With HTC having shipped some 30 million devices that's a total of $150 million heading Microsoft's way.

Compare this with the 2 million Windows Phone licenses Microsoft has sold, which are estimated to cost around $15 a pop. That's $30 million, a lot of money sure, but far from the figure received from HTC.

Microsoft are also suing other Android device manufacturers and with a precedent already set by HTC Microsoft are in with a good chance of getting similar deals from them too. That should see Microsoft's earnings from Android increase even further.

Android Not The Place To Do Business For Paid Apps

A long standing assessment of the state of the various app stores has had it that the Android Market is not the place to do business if you have a paid app when compared with the Apple App Store. For example, some 80% or so of paid Android app have been downloaded fewer than 100 times. Android Community gives another example:

In the competitive gaming segment, only five titles in the Android Market have been downloaded more than 250,000 worldwide. In contrast, ten iPhone games in the App Store were downloaded in excess of 250,000 times in the US in the past two months alone.

There are various reasons why this is the case, not the least of which is the almost slapdash approach Android took to paid apps when it first launched. Different apps were billed in different currencies, for example, and there was no real uniform method of payment. Rather customers used a hodge podge of credit cards, network billing and other means.

A unified payment system, as Apple has through its iTunes system, would go a long way to helping devs see their paid apps gain more traction on Android.

May 28, 2011

GE - Solar energy will become cheaper than nuclear and fossil fuel

GE is focusing on thin film solar panels to lower cost and improve efficiency.
GE is focusing on thin film solar panels to lower cost and improve efficiency (now at 12.8 percent). It is planning to build the largest manufacturing plant in the U.S. Credit: GE
General Electric is forecasting that solar power could soon be a more affordable than fossil fuels and nuclear power, the company’s global research director told Bloomberg.
Bloomberg published its interview with Mark M. Little, the global research director for GE, today. Little said that new technology breakthroughs are making it possible for solar generated electricity to be the most economical choice within the next three to five years.
The sweet spot for solar power to break into residential market is 15 cents a kilowatt-hour or lower, he stated. Bloomberg noted its research that the cost of solar cells has dropped 21 percent since the beginning of this year. Hit read more for details.

May 27, 2011

Nokia Says Devs Will Develop For Win Phone 7

The smartphone world is awash with app stores and to keep those stores stocked with content those platforms rely upon developers to spend their time coming up with new and exciting apps. Do devs have enough time and resources to devote to all these different platforms though? That was the question posed to Nokia CEO Stephen Elop with regards to Windows Phone 7.

One dev posed the question of whether Windows Phone 7 could realistically grab enough dev time with the likes of Android and iOS dominating the scene. Elop responded:

When we consider developers, there is a series of things that must be true. You have to have reach, you have to believe you can monetise, you have to believe you have a valid developer platform, and finally you have to great developer tools.We’ve actually studied this and asked a lot of developers all over the world, and, while it's not the consensus, by far the majority view is that [the number of operating systems they develop for] is about 2.8 – 3 platforms. This was a critical question for us.So the statistics, according to Elop, show that devs are perfectly willing to develop for multiple platforms and that three platforms is something of a 'sweet' number for them in terms of what they are prepared to take on. Interestingly Elop went on to suggest that if the research had shown devs weren't willing to develop for Windows Phone 7 in addition to Android and iOS then that would have had an impact upon Nokia's decision to partner with Microsoft. The implication being that an Android partnership could then have been on the cards.

Apple's helping behaviour during the Jpanaese earthquake

Here is a very interesting article I found on the increasingly corporate responsibility measures being taken by prominent companies. On this occasion it is the actions taken by Apple during the Japaneses earthquake. Hit read more for the commendable article.

Motorola Droid X2 official at $200: launching online May 19th, in stores May 26th

Motorola and Verizon have finally stopped teasing us and have made the Droid X2 official. This is a 4.3-inch Android (2.2, to be upgraded to 2.3) smartphone with a qHD screen resolution and a dual-core 1GHz processor. An 8 megapixel camera with continuous autofocus and HD video recording graces the back. The X2 will cost the usual $200 on contract and will be available to buy online tomorrow, May 19th, before making its way out to stores a week later, on May 26th. Leap past the break for the full PR.

Interestingly, we've also spotted the close proximity of the USB and HDMI ports on the side of the new X2. That arrangement is reminiscent of the one on Motorola's Atrix, where the two connectors served to hook that handset up to its laptop and multimedia docks. We don't know whether the Droid X2 will fit into the accessories designed for the Atrix, but it looks sure to be strapping itself into a dock of some description in the near future.

Update: NVIDIA has confirmed that its Tegra 2 chip is the heretofore unnamed 1GHz dual-core chip inside the Droid X2, which just happens to be Verizon's first dual-core smartphone.

Update 2: A little birdie tells us you may be able to pick up this bad boy in person in some stores as soon as tomorrow (May 19th). Your mileage may vary, but let us know in the comments if you manage to buy one.

Update 3: Sure enough, they're on shelves. Matt sent us a pic, which is after the break.

Samsung spices up the USB 3.0 hard drive party with three new models

It's not the first time that Samsung's pimped up their hard drives with some USB 3.0 goodness, but come April, the Korean giant will be delivering three new product lines that are yet to be named. The first one is a basic portable model that goes up to 1TB, and comes encased in a smudge-resistant matte housing with a choice of four colors. The next one up is simply a premium version of the portable drive that not only looks prettier (as pictured above), but also beefed up with auto backup software and 256-bit Full Disk Encryption. A USB dock will be available for both portable lines.

Last but not least, those looking for more storage space (and presumably faster spinning speeds) can turn to the desktop version, which will be available in three flavors: 1TB, 1.5TB, and 2TB. Press release after the break.

Samsung develops DDR4 memory with up to 40 percent better energy efficiency than DDR3

Samsung's famed lead in component manufacturing is being extended today with the announcement of a DDR4 DRAM stick that can perform read and write operations using up to 40 percent less power than the old/current DDR3 stuff. Bandwidth maxes out at 2.13Gbps at 1.2V, while Pseudo Open Drain technology assists in minimizing the battery impact. Over time, Samsung projects the new DRAM modules will hit 4Gbps speeds. It's working away with server makers right now in order to achieveJEDEC certification, but the target market will clearly be laptops and other mobile devices, where energy-frugal memory like this would best be appreciated.

Idapt's i1 Eco universal charger keeps it lean, mean, and definitely green

You won't have a difficult time hunting down a charger these days, but hunting down a good one? Now that's a challenge. If you're looking for something that's off of the beaten path (and shamelessly fond of Ma Earth), Idapt's new i1 Eco may be precisely what the doctor ordered. It's a universal charger with two points of charger: a USB port and a tip port, the latter of which is useful for "over 4,000 gadgets" include the iPad, iPhone, PSP, your Xbox 360 controller and your GPS unit. It features an auto-off system that disables it when not in use, and a restart button kicks things back into gear when the time comes. It's slated to ship this spring, but only heaven knows for how much.


Mitsubishi has debuted a new compact concept car at March’s Geneva Motor Show. Dubbed the Mitsubishi Concept Global Small, a road-going version of the show car will be built from 2012.
Created on the philosophies of “compact”, “affordability”, and “high fuel efficiency”, the Concept Global Small took to the Geneva stage before eventually making it to production status in 2012. The production version of the concept will be built at Mitsubishi’s Thailand plant.
Despite its small footprint, Mitsubishi says the Concept Global Small offers comfortable seating for five adults. The concept is also highly maneuverable, making it ideal for congested city streets. Hit read more for details and pictures.

May 26, 2011

Google and Sprint team up to take your digital dollars with new NFC payment system?

There's been rumors of a Google-fied mobile payment system for some time, and now it looks like the Mountain View crew is teaming up with Sprint to finally make it happen. Last month, we heard that the Now Network would bring NFC payments to its customers this year, and Bloomberg reports that the partnership and payment system will make its debut on May 26th. Apparently, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Washington D.C. are the first cities getting the service, which is a much broader initial footprint than its Isis mobile payment competition. The anonymous sources also say that Verifone and Vivotech are providing the hardware and software that will let you replace your credit card with a Nexus S -- because you always wanted to replace your credit card with your Nexus S.

Update: According to All things D, the payment system will be put through its paces by none other than El Goog's Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt at the D9: All Things Digital conference next week -- where we'll be on hand to peep the contactless payment presentation in person.

Microsoft announces Windows Phone 'Mango' update, coming in autumn

Mango may no longer be a secret in and of itself, but we doubt Microsoft would've set up an entire eventto preview its big Windows Phone update if there was nothing hidden up that Redmond sleeve. To that end, we've just come across an official press release from the company, released on its Romanian website. The machine translation awaits after the break.

Update: We've now swapped in the natively English press release. There's also confirmation that Mango will indeed be known as Windows Phone 7.1.

Update 2: Turns out Microsoft "had to give [the SDK] a name" and dubbed it 7.1, so Mango retains its formal WP7 moniker.

The first thing to note is that the update will be "freely available" to all current Windows Phone handsets, something Microsoft already committed to, and will be ready for download "at the beginning of this summer." (Update: it looks like our translation machinery betrayed us, tipsters are saying it's actually the beginning of autumn.) Naturally, the new goodness will also figure in new devices and from new partners, including Acer, Fujitsu, and ZTE. Those fresh faces join Nokia and the incumbent partners of Dell (maybe) HTC, Samsung, and LG to expand the WP ecosystem.

A Beta SDK of the new Windows Phone free tools will be available within 24 hours, we're promised, for developers to sink their teeth into.

In the communications department, Microsoft is introducing conversation threads, which seamlessly transition between MSN Messenger chats, SMS, and Facebook messaging to keep you talking to the same person irrespective of the method. New contact group tiles are also incoming, with the ability to send quick emails or IMs to entire groups. Twitter and LinkedIn contact integration is mentioned, though we expect this go a lot deeper in Twitter's case, as Microsoft has already demonstrated. Speaking of more in-depth integration, Microsoft has improved the Live Tiles to allow the display of more dynamic information from apps, which will of course be able to multitask beautifully. Internet Explorer 9 is also joining in on the Mango fun with support for HTML5. Jump past the break for all the details.

Update 3: Would you look at that, Bing search has gotten a thorough sprucing up as well. Video of all the new goodness follows after the break -- or you can click here to hit up Microsoft's own video library, which is loaded to the gills with feature overviews.

Steve Ballmer promises 'over 500' new features in Mango, teases new WP handsets

Just how big of an upgrade will the Mango release of Windows Phone be? Try "500 new features" big. Steve Ballmer revealed that seductively round number in a speech over in Japan today, where he also said that additional information about "who's going to be building Windows Phones" will be forthcoming at tomorrow's preview event as well. Combine that with an otherwise unsubstantiated rumor (more coverage link below) about Microsoft showing nine new Windows Phone handsets tomorrow, and it does seem like there'll be fresh hardware to go with the ripening software. Neither the Mango release nor any devices on show will be coming to market any time soon, mind you, but it's nice to think we'll get to see what the future of Windows Phone will look like in physical as well as digital form.

iPhone 5 may feature curved glass screen, continue iPod nano legacy

DigiTimes has been canvassing its manufacturing industry sources again, and today it's managed to extract some intel regarding Apple's typically secretive supply chain. Steve Jobs' team are said to have purchased between 200 and 300 glass-cutting machines, specifically in order to use them to slice up curved glass display covers for the iPhone 5. This move has apparently been in an effort to accelerate production, with glass makers reportedly showing a reluctance to buy the machinery themselves due to its prohibitive cost. Lest you think this sense of urgency might accelerate the iPhone 5 from its earlier-rumored September launch, DigiTimes also reports that yields of curved glass are not yet good enough to start using said fancy machines. So the iPhone may be headed for the same curvacious look as we've already seen on Dell's Venue and HTC's Sensation (or maybe even the concavity of the Nexus S), but as is Apple's wont, it looks like that will be done with a tailor-made, custom solution. At least those Cupertino designers have a couple of generations of curved iPod nano screens under their belt, giving them a good idea of how to handle the atypical glass frontage. Now if we could just have a good idea of when this phone will actually be on sale...

MeeGo 1.2 lands for netbooks and tablets, leaves handsets hanging on the telephone

MeeGo 1.2
Just because Nokia has done everything short of taping a "Dear John" letter to MeeGo's mirror doesn't mean the OS is dead. In fact, Intel's Linux-based baby just got a refresh to version 1.2. So what's new this go around? Well, primarily it's under the hood stuff, like improved Atom support and bug fixes out the ying yang. New audio and networking stacks have also been added for A2DP streaming and HSPA+ support. The tablet UI that Intel was showing off in February is has arrived, to complement the standard netbook version and the in-car interface. Sadly, the handset edition was left out of this update. Those eager to dip their toes in the MeeGo water can download the latest version at the source link.

Android Honeycomb has hidden Gingerbread interface, enabled by higher LCD density

Google's already indicated that tablets and smartphones won't be sharing the same Android build untilIce Cream Sandwich in Q4, though interestingly enough, it turns out that the tablet-friendly Honeycomb actually has Gingerbread's interface quietly tucked underneath. According to modder Graffix0214, all you need for making the jump is one simple tweak in a system file: assuming you already have root access, use your preferred method -- Pocketables recommends the LCDDensity for Root app -- to change the LCD density value to 170 or higher to emulate a smaller, denser display. After a reboot, you should then see some Gingerbread love as demoed by Graffix0214's video after the break; and likewise, set the value to 160 or lower to roll back. It sure is nice to have an option, eh?

Nokia's Windows Phones will feature dual-core ST-Ericsson U8500, says STMicroelectronics chief

As you'll no doubt be aware, Qualcomm currently enjoys a stranglehold on processing hardware insideWindows Phone handsets. Its Snapdragon chip stars in both Microsoft's original and updated chassis spec for the platform, but its hegemony may soon be coming to an end. STMicroelectronics (the ST in ST-Ericsson) boss Carlo Bozotti is cited by Forbes as saying that Nokia will use ST-Ericsson hardware to power at least some of its Windows Phones. The dual-core U8500, a long-time Nokia favorite, is touted as the first such system-on-chip to appear, with its successors helping to populate Nokia's expansive WP lineup in 2012. The only intel we've had so far on Nokia's initial handsets for the new OS revolved around Qualcomm-based devices, so even if ST-Ericsson is indeed going to infiltrate the Windows Phone ecosystem, it doesn't look likely to be among the very first Nokias out of the gate.

Phone Oximeter saves lives

We'll be honest with you, we don't know a lot about marketing healthcare devices to everyday people, so perhaps posting a goofy YouTube video with some re-written classic rock songs is standard practice in the industry. Whatever the case, the University of British Columbia's Electrical & Computer Engineering in Medicine team managed to bring its Phone Oximeter to our attention, and all said, this could be a handy little device for monitoring vitals outside a hospital setting. The meter hooks up to a smartphone -- an iPhone for trials, but we're told it works with Android, Windows, and others -- displaying the wearer's blood oxygen level and heart and respiratory rates, and transmitting the readings to the hospital. The department has already done some field testing with the system, trying it out at the Vancouver General Hospital and bringing it to Uganda, where low cost medical devices and Journey spoofs are in high demand.

Google adds News Near You

We can't say location-based services have the best reputation right now, but Google continues to crank them out regardless. The search giant introduced "News Near You," a feature that lets you search for news stories that are based around your current position. After pointing your Android or Safari browser to Google's news page and agreeing to reveal your locale, you'll find these customized stories in its own special category. We tried out the site for ourselves, and within a few seconds we were discovering new and wonderful things in our own neck of the woods. You can check it out, too, provided you don't mind Mountain View knowing exactly which bit of woods your neck happens to reside.

RecognizeMe unlocks your jailbroken iPhone using your face

We don't often jailbreak our iPhones to test apps, but a facial recognition unlock tool seemed a worthy excuse, so we gave it a shot. RecognizeMe uses the front-facing camera in your iPhone 4 (and iPad 2, eventually) to unlock the phone for its owner. Unfortunately, it also unlocked the device for Brian Heater (center), our resident 900 number enthusiast, and Bianca Bosker, Huff Po's tech editor and our only other friend in the newsroom. The app includes a setting for verification threshold, so we played around with that, trying a dozen times to get the app to ignore Brian, but even at 80 percent it was recognizing both of us (65 percent was the cutoff for Bianca). Bumping the threshold up to 100 percent finally locked Brian out, but at that level, the device wouldn't unlock for anyone, making it totally secure -- and totally busted. Verification took a full 25 seconds to timeout (compared to 5-15 seconds to grant access at lower levels, depending on lighting conditions), so using this app requires p-a-t-i-e-n-c-e. At this point, RecognizeMe is a $7 gimmick that might impress your grandmother (assuming she doesn't ask to try it herself), but if you need to keep your device under lock and key, a tried-and-true passcode is still the way to go.


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