Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Google puts Android device menagerie on parade

Google showed dozens of Android devices from the mobile operating system's history at Mobile World Congress.
Google showed dozens of Android devices from the mobile operating system's history at Mobile World Congress.
(Credit: Stephen Shankland/CNET)
BARCELONA--Mobile device customers may love or hate Android, but there's no denying it's been a hit with device makers and carriers.
Exhibit A was on display at Google's booth at the Mobile World Congress show here in Barcelona, Spain. Dozens and dozens of Android phones and tablets slid by on a curving track that looped them continuously.
In the collection were some notable models such as the first to come to market, the T-Mobile G1 from October 2008. But then there were members of that vastly larger collection of forgettable models -- useful to customers, perhaps, but probably nothing deserving even a footnote in the history of mobile computing or generating much in the way of passion.
The photo above shows the Hisense E910. Have you heard of it? Me neither.
Android chief Andy Rubin said Monday at the show that 300 million Android phones have been activated, a number currently increasing by about 280,000 per day. There are 450,000 apps in the Android Market, indicating that a big crowd of programmers is willing to put up with the difficulties of spanning all those devices.
Google hopes the Ice Cream Sandwich release of Android -- version 4.0 -- will ease some of the pains and unify the market. But it's not easy to get it onto Android phones, judging by the fact that Google released the ICS source code in November and plenty of new phones at Mobile World Congress still are saddled with the older version 2.3, aka Gingerbread.
Apple's iPhone gets a lot more credit for shifting the mobile industry, deserves the "iconic" label more than any Android phone I can think of, and has sold phenomenally well. But there's something to be said for the power of Android's numbers, too, and it was impressive to see the reach of Android's manufacturing partnerships. That represents a tremendous investment in design, engineering, and marketing that will pay dividends for years.

Cybercriminals target phones; Android most exposed —analysts

BARCELONA - Cybercriminals are sneaking a soaring number of malware into smartphones to steal data or even money, with those running on Google's Android most exposed to security threats, analysts said.
While the Android open concept has gained the hearts of those who find the iPhone too closely managed by Apple, it is also turning out to be the Google operating system's Achilles heel.
"Something really worrying about the Google model, which is also the beauty of that model, is the openness of the environment," Cesare Garlati, consumer specialist at security firm Trend Micro, told AFP.
Anyone can create or install an application on an Android phone, Garlati pointed out, as opposed to the Apple controlled Appstore which imposes a layer of screening.
"Android's security model basically says, it is the responsibility of the end user to judge if an application is secure.
"I think that is asking too much from the user. Who is able to understand if a vendor is legitimate?" he asked.
Trend Micro surveyed independent analysts about security features on the four main mobile operating systems -- Apple's iOS, RIM's Blackberry, Microsoft's Windows and Google's Android -- and found that Blackberry was ranked most secure and Android the least.
Blackberry benefitted from the fact that it was originally designed more as a platform than a device, while iOS, ranked second most secure, was tightly controlled by Apple.
Nevertheless, Garlati stressed that "no platform is immune from problems."
With over a billion people expected to own a smartphone by 2013, cybercheats are increasingly setting their sights on the market.
Several sessions at this year's Mobile World Congress therefore addressed security, with companies including McAfee, SAP, Kaspersky Lab all trotting out new security products for tablets or smartphones.
Technology company Juniper Networks compiled a "record number of mobile malware attacks" in 2011, particularly on Android phones.
In 2010, just 11,138 mobile malware samples were recorded, but they soared 155 percent to 28,472 in 2011, the company said.
Just under half -- 46.7 percent -- occurred on Android phones, said Juniper, whose study did not look into Apple breaches.
"The combination of Google Android's dominant market share and the lack of control over the applications appearing in the various Android application stores created a perfect storm, giving malware developers the means and incentives to focus on the platform," the group said.
Eugene Kaspersky, chief executive of the eponymous computer security firm, said: "We are pretty sure that this will follow the computer's evolution," pointing out that threats had surged from 90,000 in 2004 to some 16 million in 2011, with internet transactions largely fueling the rise.
Some criminals are hiding "malicious code in legitimate applications" that consumers are downloading unwittingly.
Once they have gained access to data on the phone, they are stealing information that could be used in identity theft or in illegal transactions.
A further incentive for cybercriminals to breach smartphone security is that unlike computers, each phone "has a direct link to money" through the SIM card, Denis Maslennikov, Kaspersky Lab's senior malware analyst said.
Criminals are able, for instance, to implant so-called trojan horses that prompt phones to send SMSes to premium numbers.
"In 2012, the whole malware industry will become a fact we will have to deal with," he warned

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Google's Rubin promises new focus on tablets as Android hits 300m

T-Mobile G1 running Google Android software
The first Android: the T-Mobile G1 running Google Android software in 2008. In all 300m devices have been activated since. Photograph: Jacob Silberberg/Reuters
Google will up its challenge to Apple's iPad this year, says Andy Rubin, the head of Google's Mobile and Digital Content division, who has overseen the rise of Android to dominance in the smartphone space.
At the same time he announced that Google is now activating 850,000 Android devices via its servers every day, with 300m having been turned on during the operating system's lifetime.
The numbers do not include millions of Amazon's Kindle Fire tablet, Barnes & Noble's Nook e-reader, or a number of other devices including smart TVs which use "forked" versions of the Android software but do not sign into Google's servers when they are activated.
Speaking at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Rubin said that there had been 12m tablets running Android activated so far - a figure he called "not insignificant, but less than I'd expect it to be if you really want to win."
By contrast, Apple sold 15.4m iPads in the Christmas 2011 quarter alone, and more than 50m since going on sale in April 2010.
Persistent rumours have suggested that Google will offer its own Google-branded tablet, possibly as soon as April. The company has made no announcement.
According to Rubin, the weakness of the existing Android tablet platform was that "there's no organised way for consumers to recognise it as a viable platform" and that he wanted people to see the devices as part of the wider Android ecosystem of apps and accessories.
In a post on the Google Mobile blog, Rubin said that Google's mobile software platform has seen year-on-year growth of more than 250%. "These numbers are a testament to the breakneck speed of innovation that defines the Android ecosystem," he noted. The Android Market has seen the number of apps available triple from 150,000 to 450,000 in the year since the last Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, with more than 1bn app downloads each month.
Android growth to 2012Android handset devices activated and per-day activations. Source: Google. (Not all data was supplied.)
Rubin dismissed the idea that Android tablets lacked apps which would show off tablets to their best advantage. "Android's unique in that it's a single platform that spans device types," he told Nilay Patel of The Verge, adding that "developers have to do the work" of creating apps that would recognise when they were running on a tablet and take advantage of it: "they're already doing that work for other platforms," he said.
He said that "2012 is the year that we're going to double down and make sure we're winning in that space".
Rumours about the Google tablet suggest that it would be sized to compete with Amazon's Kindle Fire, which at 7in has about half the screen size of Apple's iPad. Although Amazon has not released sales details for the Kindle Fire, the research company IDC reckons that about 5m Kindle Fires were shipped in the two months after it went on sale. That would make it a contender to have the largest share of non-Apple tablets.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Google now activating 850,000 Android devices per day, 450,000 apps in the Android Market

Google has just announced some impressive Android stats, which of course massively increased. The last time Google communicated any sort of numbers was during their Q4 2011 conference call. At the time CEO Larry Page said “Android is quite simply mind boggling. 700,000 phones are lit up everyday and I’m please to announce 250 million Android devices in total, up 50 million from our last announcement in November.”
Today on the company blog Andy Rubin, the father of Android and Google’s SVP of Mobile, wrote that has experienced a year-on-year growth rate of 250%. The number of Android activations on a daily basis has skyrocketed to a massive 850,000, this now brings the “total number of Android devices around the world past 300 million”. Google also noted that “800+ Android devices that have launched to date”. In addition, the number of apps in the Android Market has tripled tripled over the year to house over 450,000 apps (up from 150,000 during MWC 2011)… plus they are now seeing 1 billion app downloads every month.
Those are big numbers. It will be interesting to see what happens when they hit the 1 million activation mark per day. So Google is doing well with Android, which means that Microsoft is also reaping in the royalty rewards from the patent they own.

Sony unveils new Android UI with Xperia P and U smartphones

MOBILE WORLD CONGRESS - Backed by the biggest marketing rollout in Sony’s history, the consumer electronics giant today at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona unveiled a new user interface for its Android-based Xperia P and U which will form part of the new NXT line-up.
The new NXT series is designed to make it easier for consumers to share content from their smartphones to TVs, laptops or tablet devices. The new phones will also come with Sony’s new ‘WhiteMagic’ display technology.
Designed to enhance the Android experience, the new user interface also include new album, video and music players and the ability for consumers to access their favourite apps directly from the lock screen.
A new Reality Display promises razor-sharp clarity and the ability to take a photo from sleep mode to snap in about a second via a single key press.
The new smartphones are also designed to make use of the Sony Entertainment Network for unlimited access to thousands of movies and millions of songs.
The Xperia U boasts a 3.5-inch Reality Display, a 5-megapixel camera and runs on the Android Gingerbread OS which Sony says will be upgradable to Ice Cream Sandwich (4.0) during the second quarter. It runs on a 1GHz dual-core processor.
Also sporting a 1GHz dual core chip, the Xperia P has a 4-inch Reality Display, runs on Gingerbread and will also upgrade to Ice Cream Sandwich in the second quarter.
The P, however, has an 8-megapixel camera and can capture images in HD, 2D and 3D. It comes in a choice of silver, black and red and has an aluminium unibody.
Users can stream their music from either device to wireless speakers using DLNA technology and can connect to HD TVs using HDMI technology.
Sony unveils new Android UI with Xperia P and U smartphones

HTC bets on cameras, music to recover smartphone mojo

HTC bets on cameras, music to recover smartphone mojo
"HTC seems to have learned from mistakes it made in 2011," said Malik Saadi, Principal Analyst at Informa Telecoms & Media.
"The company aims now to concentrate on what they do best and have built their brand on: bringing innovation through design of premium devices rather than spreading efforts across all segments of the market."
The HTC One series consists of three models, the One X, One S and One V, running the latest version of Google's Android software.
The phones feature HTC's ImageSense camera technology that the company says offers photography on a par with traditional digital cameras, including fast autofocus and low-light shooting. They also have photo storage and sharing software.
The phones have fast processors for graphics and either polycarbonate or metal cases the company says are harder and more resilient than standard ones.
Music features include integrating Internet radio and using audio technology from Beats Electronics, which HTC bought last year, for games as well as music.
Looking over their shoulders
HTC said 144 mobile operators - the widest carrier support for the firm so far - have agreed to carry HTC One range models starting from April.
"The products look competitive, but HTC executives will be looking over their shoulders nervously to see how these new devices stack up against rival Android smartphones also being announced at the show," said Ben Wood, head of research at CCS Insight.
Analysts note however that, as most mobile vendors are building their phones around similar themes, making it harder to differentiate models, companies will need to look to software, innovation, distribution and building partnerships to stay ahead of the game.
"HTC's strategy to streamline its branding and to offer fewer, better-differentiated products is a reaction to both market forces and engineering necessity," said Tony Cripps, principal analyst at Ovum.
"Its decision to focus on perfecting core smartphone functionality around camera and music playback is an extremely pragmatic one."
HTC said earlier this month that it anticipated a drop in revenue of as much as 36 percent for the first quarter, well below analysts expectations.
The former contract maker had a fairytale ride in 2010 and early 2011, when its shares more than tripled in the 14 months to April 2011 and sales grew four-fold in 1- years as consumers snapped up its innovative phones with their distinctive large clock numerals.
But an equally rapid fall from grace saw its stock become the worst performer among global smartphone companies last year, down 42 per cent.

New Huawei quad core Android smartphones 'fastest in the world'

Chinese smartphone manufacturer Huawei claims it has the fastest smartphones in the world thanks to processors the company has designed itself.
The new Ascend D quad and Ascend D quad XL phones, launched at the Mobile World Congress expo in Barcelona, use Huawei's own K3V2 quad core processor at speeds of 1.2GHz and 1.5GHz respectively. The company claims its new processor, based on the industry-standard ARM architecture and designed with a partner it declined to name, is significantly faster than the Nvidia Tegra 3 quad core processor. The Tegra 3 is used in rival Android phones, as well as tablets such as the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime.
The new phones come with 4.5in screens that have a high resolution of 1,280x720 pixels so you can see more detail onscreen, yet Huawei claims these phones are more compact than rival 4.5in and 5in phones and therefore more comfortable to hold.
Despite these impressive specifications, Huawei boldly claims the Ascend phones will have average battery life of one to two days. Chairman Richard Yu attributes this to its years of experience in building the broadcast towers and other infrastructure used in mobile phone networks. Both phones will also come with the latest version of the Android operating system, 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich.
Huawei also announced the very similar Ascend D1 which oddly uses a different 1.5GHz quad core processor from chip maker Texas Instruments and has a smaller battery than either the Ascend D quad or Ascend D quad XL.
Yu wouldn't be drawn on pricing of any of the Ascend phones, citing negotiations with the mobile phone network companies, but he did claim that they would be released before the summer with 4G versions arriving later in the year.

First Look: Samsung's Galaxy Beam Android Phone with a Built-In Projector

First Look: Samsung's Galaxy Beam Android Phone with a Built-In Projector

Samsung Sunday announced its first phone of Mobile World Congress (MWC), the Samsung Galaxy Beam, an Android smartphone with a built-in projector. The Galaxy Beam will be available globally in the second quarter of this year. MWC, which officially starts Monday in Barcelona, Spain, is the world's largest mobile show.
Projector phones (and mobile projector accessories) have been around for some time, but they tend to be on the chunky and not-so-attractive side. The Galaxy Beam measures only 0.49 inches while packing in a 15 lumens projector. Most pico projector accessories sold today are only 10 or 12 lumens bright.
Samsung Galaxy Beam Android smartphone with projectorSamsung Galaxy Beam Android smartphone with projectorThe Galaxy Beam can project video, images or PowerPoint presentations up to 50-inches wide. The resolution of projected video is 640-by-360 pixels. Samsung did a quick demo projector image quality. The image clarity was impressive: colors looked vivid and the picture looked sharp. In other demos of pico projectors I’ve seen, colors looked washed out, while images and text looked faded.
Here's an upclose look at the Beam:

The projector basically mirrors whatever is on your display. It uses the phone’s gyroscope to correctly adjust the image from portrait to landscape mode. It, however, is not Samsung's first attempt at a phone/projector combo.

Standard Specs

Samsung Galaxy Beam Android smartphone with projectorSamsung Galaxy Beam side viewOther than the built-in projector, the Galaxy Beam’s specs are pretty standard for high-end Android phones. The Beam is powered by a 1GHz dual-core processor, sports a 5-megapixel camera and has 6GB of RAM along with 8GB of internal memory as well as a microSD slot. It has a 4-inch WVGA TFT LCD display. It currently runs Android 2.3 Gingerbread, but will be upgraded to Ice Cream Sandwich.
Design-wise, the Beam has a pretty unique look with a slightly curved back made from a soft, yet ruggedized material. There’s a bright yellow band that wraps around the edges of the phone, which contrasts nicely with the black body.
Samsung estimates that the phone can project video for up to three hours before you need to recharge again. Samsung also informed us that there will also be accessories, such as stands, available for the Beam.

The Best Browsers for Your Android Phone

In choosing a browser for your phone, you have to take into account the more tenuous data connection, the smaller screen, and the kinds of tasks that you need or want to do on your handset. Here's a look at some of the most popular Android browsers, to help you decide which one is right for you.
Note: Though third-party browsers are available for iOS as well as for Android, Apple doesn't allow such tools to replace the built-in Safari browser altogether. For that reason, we've chosen to focus on Android browsers here. For a detailed appraisal desktop and laptop browser options, see "Which Browser Should You Use?"
Dolphin Browser HD; click for full-size image.Dolphin Browser HD lets you create a webzine.Dolphin Browser HD
If you're an RSS fiend, Dolphin Browser HD may become your new best friend. Dolphin lets you create a webzine from popular websites' RSS feeds, presenting simplified versions of Web pages with much of the clutter removed to make them easier to read. Though Dolphin can't transform every website into a webzine, it's a handy tool for people who read extensively on the Web. Dolphin also supports tabbed browsing and gesture commands, enabling you to issue specific instructions to your mobile device by drawing shapes on the touchscreen. You can draw a circle to reload the page, for example, or you can draw an F to instruct the browser to load Facebook.
Firefox for Android
Like its desktop counterpart, Firefox for Android is all about the add-ons, which, for the mobile version, include URL Fixer (for correcting common typos in URLs) and Reading List (for saving Web pages to read offline). Firefox for Android is an excellent choice for users who want to tweak and tune their browsers, and add their own personal touches. Unfortunately, the browser can be a bit slow to start up, and it consumes a lot of RAM--a potential problem if you have an older or underpowered Android phone. Firefox for Android also supports tabbed browsing, and you can sync between the mobile app and Firefox on your desktop, to pick up on one device right where you left off on the other.
Opera Mobile and Opera Mini
Opera has two mobile browsers: the full-size (12MB) Opera Mobile, and the smaller (767KB) Opera Mini. Opera Mini sends your page requests to a server, which compresses the pages before transmitting them to your device, making this space-saving browser much faster than Opera Mobile. For its part, Opera Mobile does a better job than Opera Mini of rendering pages so that they look the way they would on your desktop. Opera browsers don't support add-ons, but both of these Opera apps do let you sync your mobile bookmarks with the desktop version of Opera, and both of them permit tabbed browsing.
Chrome for Android Beta
If you have an Android smartphone that runs Ice Cream Sandwich, Chrome for Android might be a good choice. Mobile Chrome supports tabbed browsing, but it doesn't support Flash plug-ins at all. Instead, you'll find some advanced HTML 5 features, plus synchronization with your desktop browser's bookmarks and settings. Although Chrome for Android doesn't offer ex­­tensions yet, it probably will support additional capabilities in the future. 


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