The next Android flagship: Nexus Prime (Video)

Update (10/08/2011):The launch of the next Android flagship has been postponed because of Steve Jobs death – a gentle act. The launch will take place in London, October 27th.

BTW: I don’t feel like writing a tribute to Steve Jobs, so many others have and there is not a word that I could add to praise this great visionary without whom we likely wouldn’t be where we are with computing today. When I read that message in the morning on my way to work in the subway, I almost started to cry – something that happens really rarely to me.
Thanks for everything, Steve. Thanks for reinventing computing every once in a while, making the use of computers a joyful thing to everybody!

I haven´t been writing much lately, especially not about Android devices – I felt really bored by all the new devices that did not change much.

Most of the new devices are pretty good, at least those that you can consider flagship devices – and if you are not into spending much money for such a useless thing as a smartphone (or simply don´t have that much money at hand), there are plenty of OK mid range devices.

Soon this age of Android boredom is going to end, new devices are going to be released, but more importantly, the Android platform (the software, to make it perfectly clear what I mean) is going to be renewed with the next iteration of Android that is supposed to be numbered 4.0 and has the code name / branch name Ice Cream Sandwhich.

Ice Cream Sandwhich will reintegrate the two branches of Android we have right now: 3.* Honeycomb, which was newly developed for the special needs of tablet devices (bigger screen ;) ) and Android 2.3.* Gingerbread, which feels like it´s been around forever (actually, this is almost true: It was announced in December 2010). 

New software – this implies new flagship devices. One of these will be the device rumored to be called the Nexus Prime (other rumors say the Samsung made devices will be named “Samsung Galaxy Nexus” (what a stupid name!)).

Specs are rumored everywhere in the internets and honestly, I believe that they are accurate, but don´t feel like spreading them before the actual announcement at Samsungs Unpacked event on monday (October 11th, 2011).

Here however, is something more interesting a video of ICS running on the smartphone believed to be the next android flagship smartphone.

 That´s what I wrote all this for. More information and opinion after the official announcement!

VIA: thisismynext.com

FSO: Qt based Aurora for Palm Pre, Pre Plus, Pre²)

The world of mobile linux is like that today: There´s a huge buzz about Android, less, but still some about HP webOS and MeeGo and very little about LiMo. But what about all those projects that started with Openmoko back in the days? Well, some of them are still alive and as that´s why I share this announcement by mickey and morphis, which was posted to the SHR mailing list a two days ago:

Dear FOSS-Telephony lovers,

today we want to announce something that has been brewing in our minds
for quite a while and will change the way we develop the
freesmartphone.org middleware.

In the past, FSO has been too much developed without considering how the
features will actually be used by the API consumers.
Apart from the great work our friends from SHR did, there has only been
a handful of special purpose FSO clients, such as
the Emacs client, Zhone, and Zhone2. Zhone (and its successor Zhone2) is
currently an oversimplified approach based on a
non-maintainable Edje file. We have therefore decided to develop a new
testing/demonstrator for FSO named Aurora that
is supposed to be the driving force for further development.

AURORA

The aim of Aurora is to replace zhone and zhone2 as development UIs for
FSO. From the viewpoint of a middleware architect,
it’s essential to have clients available that use the various features
of the FSO services. On the other hand though, this
time we want to create something that is also suitable for day to day
use. Aurora is supposed to be something we call
a “featurephone client” ? featurephones being those things we used for
telephony before smartphones were invented.

Aurora being a featurephone client does not necessarily mean it will
never get the “smartphone features” Android or iOS
are popular for, it rather describes our approach as being
as-simple-as-possible. So for now you will not be able to
install additional apps or features. Everything (you need) is part of
the Aurora client.

DEVELOPMENT PROCESS

At the top of every application stack is the user. Pleasing him or her
is the topmost priority. Technology should not stand in the
 way, but rather support the user. Hence, Aurora releases will be done
as user milestones. For every user milestone, we will
pick a number of user stories to be implemented. We will then split a
user story into tasks and distribute among the contributors.

SUPPORTED DEVICES

We decided to only support the Palm Pre devices (Pre/Pre Plus/Pre 2) for
the first to-be-released version of Aurora. More
supported devices will join after the 0.1 release. This decision has
been forced by the fact that we are only very few people
working both on FSO and Aurora (and also on OpenEmbedded). Later on, we
expect to see the OpenEZX family of devices,
the Openmoko devices, the Nokia N900, and possibly also a bunch of HTC
smartphones supported.

TECHNOLOGY


Some words about the technology choices we have made for Aurora. The UI
components of Aurora will be based on Qt’s QML
(Qt Markup Language) and will have parts written in C++ and Vala
(although we’re going to use Python for prototyping as well).
We will support both Qt/X11 and Qt/Embedded, the latter being useful on
smaller systems, such as the OpenEZX family of devices
(48MB RAM, no GFX acceleration, etc.)
For the first release we will only provide Qt/Embedded based images for
the Palm Pre devices;
those flashable images will be based on OpenEmbedded, however we’d
welcome people taking care of creating releases based on Debian, Gentoo,
etc.

THE CODE

At the moment, there is not much to look at, but feel free
to download the current status via git.freesmartphone.org -> aurora.

HOW TO HELP

Speaking about welcoming people, the major aim of this announcement is
to find people who want to share this vision
and give us a bit of a hand. We are especially lacking artists and folks
who can improve our user interaction.
Apart from the technical reasons, we chose QML to have a very low
barrier of entry. QML is easy to understand
and it also comes with a GUI design tool.

If you are interested and share our vision, please feel free to contact
us. We can then see how you could help us to get to the end goal (see
roadmap) even faster.

There are two possibilities to make us aware of you:

– IRC: irc.freenode.net; channel: #openmoko-cdevel
– Mail: 

Thanks for your attention,

Mickey & Morphis.

Some may ask: Why should I use my smartphone as a featurephone? Well, you don´t have to. But if you are interested in free software, this is a way to free your phone. Just think of it as a cool idea: My phone runs on free software. Pretty cool, huh?

Frustration

I’ve been preparing to publish something here for quite some time. I started a writeup on smartphone platforms while sitting in the train on the way back from an useless job interview in munich. I didn’t finish it, had other things to do, my parents were on holidays nearby, and I had another stupid test to pass. While I was working on that, I head to learn the hard way why exactly Apple came up with their magsafe stuff: The power supply of my netbook somehow managed to pull it down when I stood up from my desk. Screen broken. Nice black area on the right of the screen. I most likely won’t fix it. I will rather sell it, and buy something that’s more helpful and an additional battery for my 14″ notebook.

In addition to that, another semester has started. As I hate printing all the stuff you need to be prepared at lectures and later be prepared at the examination, simply because it takes so long, is an effing waste of natural resources and it’s a pain in the neck to carry all that paper along whenever you travel in order to be able to work, i tried to find something that could fit my workflow. An electronic device, like Amazons kindle, plus some features to be able to make annotations during lectures. I hear someone shouting TabletPC. Sorry, that’s not it. It can do too much else and thus distract me badly, it’s heavy, expensive and in addition to that, most TabletPCs have a terrible battery life.

And don’t talk me into the iPad or an Android tablet. They seem (if my inquiries weren’t too bad) to lack the appropriate software – not to mention their sunlight readability. It’s too bad that there are so few tablets using Wacom technology.

Really, the only device that’s close to fit and available is made by Apple, and i am not talking of any iOS device here. I think of getting one of these crazy Newton MessagePads. Unfortunately, those that are powerful and thus interesting (2000,2100) are rare and still expensive, and then there is another drawback: Apparently no PDF support. PDF just wasn’t that popular in the 1990s. Converting is possible, maybe it would even work out.

But really: Isn’t it effing frustrating that there is no effing device that is really suitable to survive university without having to carry a huge load of paper? Is this market so uninteresting?

Probably I should turn this disaster into a business plan.

Frustration

I’ve been preparing to publish something here for quite some time. I started a writeup on smartphone platforms while sitting in the train on the way back from an useless job interview in munich. I didn’t finish it, had other things to do, my parents were on holidays nearby, and I had another stupid test to pass. While I was working on that, I head to learn the hard way why exactly Apple came up with their magsafe stuff: The power supply of my netbook somehow managed to pull it down when I stood up from my desk. Screen broken. Nice black area on the right of the screen. I most likely won’t fix it. I will rather sell it, and buy something that’s more helpful and an additional battery for my 14” notebook.
In addition to that, another semester has started. As I hate printing all the stuff you need to be prepared at lectures and later be prepared at the examination, simply because it takes so long, is an effing waste of natural resources and it’s a pain in the neck to carry all that paper along whenever you travel in order to be able to work, i tried to find something that could fit my workflow. An electronic device, like Amazons kindle, plus some features to be able to make annotations during lectures. I hear someone shouting TabletPC. Sorry, that’s not it. It can do too much else and thus distract me badly, it’s heavy, expensive and in addition to that, most TabletPCs have a terrible battery life.
And don’t talk me into the iPad or an Android tablet. They seem (if my inquiries weren’t too bad) to lack the appropriate software – not to mention their sunlight readability. It’s too bad that there are so few tablets using Wacom technology.
Really, the only device that’s close to fit and available is made by Apple, and i am not talking of any iOS device here. I think of getting one of these crazy Newton MessagePads. Unfortunately, those that are powerful and thus interesting (2000,2100) are rare and still expensive, and then there is another drawback: Apparently no PDF support. PDF just wasn’t that popular in the 1990s. Converting is possible, maybe it would even work out.
But really: Isn’t it effing frustrating that there is no effing device that is really suitable to survive university without having to carry a huge load of paper? Is this market so uninteresting?
Probably I should turn this disaster into a business plan.

(Crossposting, originally posted at brimborium.net)

Toshiba TG01 – Impressions

The gadget hunger won again – and so I got myself a Snapdragon device: A black Toshiba TG01 “Tsunagi”.

Yeah, it is a Windows Mobile Device. Yes, there is no Android / Linux port for the TG01 right now. But still: A 4.1″ 3G (MID size) Snapdragon slate, less than a centimeter thick – I could not resist.

Hardware

The formfactor is really impressive. It is just as pocketable as my G1 – or even more pocketable, as it is really so thin that people almost won’t see you’ve got a phone in your pocket. But that doesn’t mean that the hardware is perfect – the resistive touchscreen of the TG01 is a good one – but I would still prefer the capacitive one of my HTC Dream. One more bad thing: No 3,5mm audio jack, and the USB port (the only port of the device) is placed on the side of the device. Small pockets and a headset? No way. No need to mention that the slimness leads to a small battery and that should lead to a “not that great” battery life.

Switching the device on you will see a customized Windows Mobile – depending on your operator you might see a special, operator made home screen replacement, e.g. SPB Mobile Shell or Toshiba’s stripe UI.

Besides this the button placement is not perfect: The camera button is directly on the other side of the volume buttons, so if you press the camera button it might happen that you press the volume buttons as well.

Windows Mobile 6.5

With the TG01 being my first Windows Mobile 6.5 device, I have to admit that I like what Microsoft did to make the UI seem more competitive – comparing this to 6.1, it is a pleasure to use – though it is in my opinion inferior to Android. The whole platform is inferior in my opinion, due to its age and a lack of APIs. Looking at the TG01, you will find out that the inbuilt G-Sensor won’t work with some games or applications that work with, say, HTC devices.

Further impressions

While Phone quality and sound are ok with the latest Swiss Orange firmware, the device feels pretty slow, considering it has an advanced 1GHz ARM v7 SoC. Scrolling isn’t even as fluent as on my good old T-Mobile G1 – but I am pretty much convinced that this is a simple OS matter – the Windows Mobile 6.5 CE 5.2 kernel is pretty old, it is still close to 2005´s Windows Mobile 5 kernel. The ARMv7 instructions don’t seem to have a noticable impact on the devices performance – though compared to the Windows Mobile devices I had before it is without a single question the fastest one.

More soon..

The Gadget Hunger or Openness

I have to admit something today: I suffer from what I would call “gadget hunger”. Even if a device really does what I want, I become bored pretty soon, and want a new device. And guess what, there is often plenty of nice new hardware though it´s often just the hardware – the software is so often locked down as hell, that the device suddenly becomes less interesting for me – that’s the only thing that helps me staying solvent, because there is not much that’s as bad software without even the option of community driven fixes.
So I love this mobile devices. Well, it isn´t just mobility (Example: Recently I learned that there are not only rollable computer keyboards, but rollable piano keyboards as well), but somehow it´s mostly mobile computing devices.
Computing is the possibly the keyword, or explanation why I want rather open devices. As long as you have to stick to one certain OS, you might not find the appropriate software for a certain usage case. Or just not the software you would prefer if everything would be possible. Let´s face it: There is no perfect OS. And another point: It´s fun to play with different software. It´s fun to see software evolving. The hardware might be very promising, but if I can´t even try the next version of the devices OS running on it (though it would technically work and even if it is just Windows Mobile), I will try to get rid of the device. This, just to name an example, happened to the Samsung i780 i once had, gorgeous hardware, much nicer than the Openmoko Freerunner that I just keep because it is so open.

So let´s talk about openess, or let´s call it flexibility. I believe that regarding mobile computing devices we have two kinds of flexibility. The one is hardware features, like device architecture (speed, number of different devices using similar hardware) or connectivity (3G, WLan, BT, USB (Host or Device)), the other is the software that runs on the device per default.
Let´s talk about the software, because it´s less self explinatory than the hardware part in my opinion. Why? Because it is not that obvious as it might seem. Knowing little about this openness thingie, you might e.g. believe that Linux devices are more open than those running Windows Mobile. But in many (or even most cases) it is not.

A good (but rather deprecated) example are Motorolas EZX phones. A team of able developers wanted to free these phones since they hit the market in late 2005. Still there is nothing like an open distribution for these devices – as the OpenEZX project is focussed on the kernel and the now nicely supported devices have become rather old (and boring). Now why did it take so long? First of all these devices had a 2.4 kernel, so porting was supposedly not that easy. But there is another problem, that makes it tough to port SHR or Android to devices like the LiMo running phones: bootloaders, plenty of them, requiring signed images. Often there is no easy way to install additional native (non-Java/J2ME) software and though this is changing (App Stores), you will not be able to easily install software that helps “openning” the devices. Recent LiMo Devices like the Samsung H1 and M1 for Vodafone´s 360 social media platform still have non writable partitions (using compressed filesystems like cramfs) containing the core OS.

Let´s compare this to the (dying) Windows Mobile platform: Maybe you heard of HaRET (Hardware Reverse Engineering Tool), which is a (not only) linux bootloader launched just like a Windows Mobile application, usually used to load a kernel and rootfs from SD – no changes to the actual hardware have to be done, no need to hack a variety of bootloaders (at the risk of bricking your device) as long as you have a HaRET version that supports your phones hardware platform.

Time to get back to the start, gadget hunger, or why i started to write this unreadable crap: Recently I spent some time looking for a cheap snapdragon device – and because I did so on ebay, because I ´ve got no problem with using used stuff, as long it is cheap, I ran into the Toshiba TG01 aka “Tsunagi“, the first Snapdragon phone, though one could call it Pocket PC, MID or slate as well, as it is a damn thin (9,9mm) 4,1 inch touchscreen device. And yes, I am tempted to buy one of these, even though there aren´t even “real” attempts to run Linux on the TG01 – there is hope, as it is ported to HTCs´ HD2 (HaRET) and because there are several Android devices out there using the Snapdragon platform as well. And it supports USB Host right of the box ;-)

Admittedly this post would fit linmob just as good or better, but I had to post something here. I really have to learn to write about things that are not gadgets or bad storys again.. ;-)

More on the iPad.

iPad

What I have been reading during the last hour, was a lot of criticism, lots of people seem to be disappointed of the iPad.
Well, that´s pretty much normal, afair – take a look at all these latest launches of Apple products. All these rumored features in the time before whispered by tons of experts and “experts” are too much to be delivered at one launch – and no one would expect any other company to bring that much innovation to the markets in single products.

Of course it is dissapointing that the iPad does not support Videochat, does not support Flash (I do not believe that Flash is the best technology for flash video, anyway), is unable to beam you to the Maledives – oh, wait, that wasn´ t rumored? I am so sorry.

The dissapointment is the lack of multitasking – but I do believe, that Apple will add that, once they have it worked out in a way that is appropriate for such a tablet device. But still, even though I do not love Apple: This is the best tablet to date, and it will most likely be the best tablet when it will be available. Of course, the hardware is not perfect, a flat bottom would be better for on table use, iPad is a bit heavy, or think of a second dock connector for keyboard use in landscape mode (which was much more laptop like). And the screen will (compared to PixelQi solutions) suck at outdoor use I bet. Or more video out options, like Display Port or HDMI. I don´ t have to mention that I would love USB Host on a device of that size, do I?

All nice to have, but not that necessary – because it has Apples software on it, which is just impressive and has huge competitive advantages like all the iPhone Apps and iTunes. No other company will (ever?) be able to offer those.

And let´s not forget one other thing: This is a home entertainment device rather than a mobile companion device – battery life, the screen – all this makes it a device for at home use, particulary when you are on holiday and stay in a cabin or so. A leisure device with some sunday work features. Maybe I am wrong here, and I believe future iPads will be different, better.

Let´s be realistic: This is Apples´ first torpedo to sink netbooks (meaning: the devices between notebooks and sub 4 inch devices. Not perfect, it will most certainly miss its target, the ship will not sink. But better be scared of the next one. The iPhone 3GS was the one that sold best until now – I believe a 3rd generation iPad will be similar. If Apple just listens a little bit to the complaints of the people, this generation will sell more than O.K. and future iterations will be .. just fantastic, at least as far as sales figures go.

iPad. First thoughts.

I was expecting a lot of Apples new device. Having had read most of the rumors, I believed that it would have a 9.7″ capacitive multitouch screen (because there were these rumors of Apple having ordered large quantities of these), I believed the “own silicon” rumor (as Apple aquired P.A. Semi years ago), I did not believe in those Verizon CDMA rumors (simply because GSM is almost worldwide). So, I was pretty close to what Apple delivered announced today.

But still I am pretty impressed having I only seen text and pictures at gdgt.com. The only thing I can think of is “Well Done, Apple!” (And: “Goodbye JooJoo (the ex Crunchpad) and others!”).

Of course, yeah, Wacom like stylus input for handwriting (as we know it) was nice to have. Or voice recognition (which is most likely just a software matter, if iPad has a microphone). And Apple was apparently pretty silent about video, so most likely no 1080p like nVidia Tegra (II) powered solutions… besides: 4:3, not 16:9, so not that great for “mobile cinema”, anyway. And a personal issue: Openess.. (Free Software? Apple!? Rather not.)

But besides these few points, this is a great product. A impressive one. Just like the iPhone was. Just look at the accesoires – a keyboard dock, and a bag, which is a stand. The fact that they made productivity software for this device. They didn´t forget too much, did they?

(More might follow later.)