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Showing posts from February, 2009

O2 XDA Zest Review

I'll start this review by saying that you've probably never heard of this smartphone, its almost as if its a stealth device that O2 have been trying to keep quiet about. Strange really as you'll see by the end of this review, there's plenty to shout about.

The impressive XDA Zest

Let's have a look at the hardware first and we find that, unusually, this XDA is not made by HTC. What we have is a customised version of the Asus GM5, in black with a polished metal strip around the bottom and lower third of the sides. The front sports a (beautifully tactile) five-way navigator in a matching shade of silver plastic with call/end and Windows/OK buttons arranged around it. These are below the 2.8" screen, whilst above it we find the VGA camera for video calling, an LED and the phone speaker. The glossy plastic and touchscreen suggest the Zest would be a fingerprint magnet, but actually its not bad at all in this respect.

The left hand side has the volume keys and a connec…

Go Psion!

In the last few weeks Dell and then Intel have started legal action to have Psion's 'Netbook' trademark declared void on the grounds of abandonment. Which struck me as a case of the big boys bullying little Psion.

Surprise, surprise Psion have responded in robust manner claiming clear evidence of 'multi-million dollar sales' in both the US and EU. Promising to disclose this evidence in their court filings in defence of their trademark Psion have firmly batted the ball back into Dell and Intel's collective court.

Full details of Psion's statement can be found at jkontherun (http://jkontherun.com/2009/02/27/psion-responds-to-intel-dell-trademark-scuffle-we-still-sell-the-netbook-pro-its-not-abandoned/) which seems to have become Psion's spokesman on the matter.

Maybe I Won't Try That 5800 After All

The new Nokia 5800 (aka The Tube) looks a pretty interesting device, even if early reviews have been mixed. Shaun at PDA 24/7 is currently in the throes of reviewing one though (http://www.pda-247.com/wordpress/2009/02/nokia-5800-xpressmusic-review-first-impressions/) and the opening salvos have been positive.

However this piece (http://palmmac.typepad.com/palmmac/2009/02/symbian-foibles.html) at Palm Mac sounds a very loud warning signal enough to persuade me that perhaps I don't want to give Symbian a go just yet.

And they say that Windows Mobile has a clunky interface!

Pocket Tunes 5 Windows Mobile Review

Anyone who has used Windows Mobile in anger will tell you that possibly the weakest tool in the default feature set is Windows Media Player - at least when used for music playback.

Fortunately, this being Windows Mobile, there are quite a few alternatives available. All of which have their strengths and vary between free and quite expensive to purchase.

One player that previously only available on the PalmOS platform is now also available on Windows Mobile too. Pocket Tunes has reached version 5 now, so should be quite a mature product. Given its impressive feature list (of which more later) I felt it was really about time to take a look at the latest version.

Pocket Tunes is a skinnable music player and although the choice of skins on Normsoft's website seems quite limited, there is something there to support pretty much every standard Windows Mobile device resolution. Also available is a tool for developing your own skins, if you can't find something to suit or want to develo…

Are App Stores Really Such A Good Idea?

The success of Apple's iTunes App Store has had everyone else scrambling to deliver the same functionality. Google already has one in place for Android, whilst Microsoft, Nokia, RIM and Palm are at various stages of their store launches.

I'm struggling to see this as a good thing, in spite of the success of the iTunes store. Every iPhone user will tell you that as the App Store has grown its utility has decreased. Its become more and more difficult to seperate signal from the noise.

Adding to the problem are reports of developers who have made unprecedented fortunes. Others chasing that dream have, on an average day, released more than a hundred new or updated applications.

Windows Mobile is a mature OS so there are unlikely to be floods of new apps to deal with. There are already working delivery methods for free and paid applications and major developers have enough recognition to be able to sell from their own stores. Yet Microsoft are suggesting that 20,000 apps will be ava…

Apple Hackintosh Objections And EU Trade Law

Apple's legal action against companies selling Mac clones is likely to stop you from buying a cut-price Mac over the counter, but I wonder how long it will be before the EU's free trade rules are used as a measure to render Apple's EULA unenforceable.

At the moment Apple's Mac OS X can't be installed on to non-Apple hardware as Apple prohibits this. Technically it is very easy to install onto just about any PC hardware, as numerous Hackintosh netbooks have proven over the last six months.

There's a good reason why Apple don't want OS X installed on non-Apple hardware and that's because of the incredible profit margins that Apple takes on its hardware.

However the EU has quite strict rules about just how much you can restrict the use of a product when its sold in the European market. And I suspect that were a reseller to bundle it (rather than pre-install) with a standard PC or laptop Apple would struggle to enforce its restrictions. All that remains is…

Samsung OmniaHD - Symbian's New Flagship

What to make of the new Samsung Omnia, a phone that proudly boosts HD in its title, presumably in an attempt to snare those who have recently rushed out to buy a HD TV and are now disappointed by the lack of content available for it. HD refers to the Omnia's ability to record 720p video at 24 fps - it can also play it back, but not on the internal screen which sports a 640 x 360 resolution.

However this Omnia has a bit of an identity crisis. Underneath the OS has jumped from Windows Mobile to Symbian S60, but for the user this remains hidden by Samsung's Touchwiz UI. I wonder how many users will find this out though?

When we start seeing the OmniaHD ship I suspect it will be the camera which sells it to potential buyers, who will no more care that it runs S60 than current Omnia buyers (the non-clued up ones anyway) care about Windows Mobile on those devices.

So although this looks like a landmark device for Symbian I can't help thinking its a hollow accolade. What it says abo…

Windows Mobile Today Screen Guide Part 2. Wireless

The Wireless Today Screen panel is a quite recent addition to Windows Mobile's armoury and although it doesn't do a lot, what it does do is useful, which is why I think its a shame that it isn't enabled by default on most devices.

When enabled the Wireless panel displays the state and connection of your phone's wireless radios. For example the mobile network operator, the SSID of the wifi point to which you are currently connected and the state of your Bluetooth radio.

Useful stuff, but not really worthy of a Today Screen slot of its own. However as a click, tap or button press on this panel gives you direct access to the Wireless Manager its worth keeping enabled if you, like me, are constantly required to switch into flight mode and out again. Some devices have a dedicated hardware button for accessing the Wireless Manager. You may find that the Today Screen panel is still useful to free that button for another purpose.

Access Linux For Palm Reaches Version 3

Access has been showing off its newest version of ALP - the LiMo compatible mobile OS which maintains full compatibility with Palm software written to run on Palm OS 5/Garnet. Looking more like a traditional mobile OS than Palm's iPhone aping WebOS, the open source ALP platform comes with the latest version of the pretty impressive NetFront browser and also the Palm/Garnet emulator which has been extensively beta-tested on its behalf by large numbers of Nokia N8x0 Internet Tablet users.

The ALP homescreen is very similar to that of Android and
can be similarly customised with widgets, it even has an Application 'drawer' at the bottom of the screen (to match Android's) and supports multiple home screen pages. I particularly like the way that web pages are shown as mini-thumbnails, whether as home screen links or in the bookmarks drawer of NetFront. The other built-in applications look good and a comprehensive set are included by default, including threaded SMS and video …

iPhone Unwelcome In Casinos

A new application for the iPhone which helps to beat the house in a game of Blackjack has prompted at least one gaming board to warn its members to be extra vigilant.

The Card Counting application is used as part of the system developed by MIT undergraduates to determine when a deck of cards is favourable to a player, at which point the player can place large bets and walk away very rich indeed. For details of the system Google 'card counting' - the MIT team that invented it walked away multi-millionaires after just a few days.

The beauty of the system is its simplicity, when there is a high ratio of high value cards in the deck the dealer is more likely to bust and the player to win. The problem is that many people don't have the required concentration level to count cards and require assistance to do so. Which is where the card counting app comes in. But whilst card counting is not illegal, using assistance is and depending on where you try it, it is liable to get you sent…

Google App Arrives For Windows Mobile

Google has launched a mobile application for Windows Mobile which plays very well with the strengths of the OS and in particular its multi-tasking capabilities. However to get best use out of the app you will need to have at least one physical button on your device which you can remap to the application, not something that's necessarily true as manufacturers have moved away from buttons on their phones.

The application places a shortcut on your Today screen and can also be added to your Start Menu if you don't have an available hard key. Starting the Google application pops up a search bar over the application you are working in and then allows you to type your search into the window (you can also access things like maps, gmail and reader from here if you wish). Once you hit the search button the default web browser is opened populated with your search results or, if you chose maps with the location/location search that you requested.

A perfect illustration of why Windows Mobile…

Windows Mobile 6.5 Start Menu Doesn't Work

One of the major changes in the Windows Mobile 6.5 UI is the way that the Start Menu works. Up until now this has consistently been the second best thing about Windows Mobile's UI (after the Today screen). 
Why? Because the Start menu is absolutely brilliant for fast task-switching between applications. By clicking on the Start Menu you access the five last opened applications, your seven Start Menu programs, the Programs and Settings folders. There is no faster way of accessing task switching on any other mobile OS. Its always available and its consistent in its placement of the links, it works for button only access, stylus access or finger access. For newcomers to the operating system its familiar because it mimics the behaviour of the desktop Windows OS. Its an interface element brimming with positives and nobody else gets close.
But because Microsoft have bowed to the pressure of those who want everything to be touch and swipe based - because that's how the iPhone works - t…

Picsel Sues Apple, Seeks Halt On iPhone Sales

If you're a regular reader of this blog you'll know that I've been a long term supporter of Picsel's Browser, a web browser that pre-dated mobile safari by some years. Its never been something you could buy as a consumer, but certain Sony and Samsung PDAs and Smartphones came with it pre-installed. There were versions for Palm and Windows Mobile and whenever someone complained about the browser on either platform I'd point them in Picsel's direction.

The key point here is that Picsel worked in the same way as mobile Safari, downloading and displaying a whole page view of the destination and then allowing the user to zoom in quickly to the parts of the page of interest. The important bit was that Picsel used a scaled image to perform that zoom at speed, which is the bit of Picsel's technology that they claim Apple have 'stolen'.

Without knowing the internals of the programs in question I can't say whether that's true or not, however from a user…

Toshiba TG01 Gets Its Stripes

Toshiba's new TG01 was already a pretty exciting device, with its large screen, fast processor and ultra-thinness. Now that we've seen the 'Stripes' front end that Toshiba will install onto it there's good reason to ramp up the excitement another notch.

Another variety of Windows Mobile skinning, Stripes breaks the home screen into a number of vertical... well stripes, each of which will hold up to ten icons - three or four visible and the rest accessed via a vertical swipe. A horizontal swipe allows you to switch between pages of stripes, although you're going to need to be pretty fanatical about quick access icons to need more than the forty a single page offers.

At the top of the homescreen approximately a quarter of a page is given over to the sort of information you need on a home screen, with fast access buttons to allow you to switch between multiple information sets, such as call info, calendar, messaging, etc.

Its another good example of how Windows Mobil…

At least 6 New Android Phones Coming - Maybe This Year

Monday may have been Windows Mobile day at MWC but Tuesday was all about Android. Or at least that was The Plan. In reality it was about a little bit of delivery and a lot of promises.

Vodafone and HTC unveiled the new Magic handset, which had previously been expected to arrive on T-Mobile as the G2. However the company didn't have any actual handsets to show and were instead flashing around prototypes, with different hardware than the planned shipping device. Things were livened up by the first public appearence of Cupcake - the Android update prompted by feedback from G1 users. The Magic will be available from Vodafone from April.

Samsung, Acer and LG were all expected to launch new Android hardware this week, however none had anything to show and generally weren't committing to anything shipping except in a general 'in 2009' sort of way.

Samsung led the way with the promise of an Android phone by June, with two more to follow. Acer promised that along with their deluge…

QuickOffice Arrives For Android

Possibly the most exciting thing to happen to the Android Marketplace since Google launched it, QuickOffice has arrived allowing users to view Office files on Android handsets(!) for the first time.Whilst it's a major improvement over what was already there (i.e. nothing) and it's cheap, it's hardly a solution which makes Android a sensible choice for business users, or indeed anyone else who needs to edit Office documents on the go.Still, as a sign that the moribund Android software scene is about to burst into life it's great news and at least brings Android to a position of parity with the iPhone.Both platforms could desperately do with their own version of Documents To Go though, the sooner the better in fact.

Micro-USB To Become Charging Standard

Or at least its certainly looking like it. It appears that the five UK networks have signed up to the concept of a universal charger standard using the micro-USB connector as its interface.

Now I can see all the benefits of a single charger standard - in particular the idea of not having to put a charger in with every new phone that ships. But surely some common sense should have prevailed here. There is already a de facto standard supported by many smartphone manufacturers and even some feature phones.

Mini-USB.

Now if you add up all the people who already have mini-USB chargers, leads and mini-USB powered equipment I'm sure you'd find that actually there is a critical mass built up behind this type of connector already. So selecting micro-USB as a standard interface is an environmental and financial disaster. The only benefit is a slightly thinner connector and as most phones are no way slim enough to require the space saving slimmer connection no one is actually benefitting a…

Windows Mobile 6.5 - A Wrong Turn Down A One-Way Street

Microsoft officially unveiled windows Mobile 6.5 yesterday and the reception has probably not been all that Microsoft expected it to be. After all they've worked very hard to make the user interface look more... Well I guess iPhone-ish.

Which just goes to show that Microsoft don't really understand their product or customers at all. They certainly don't get why the iPhone has been so successful.

Microsoft's changes try to address the concerns of the iPhone-obsessed media, unsuccessfully as it turns out, without actually fixing the real problems that exist around the OS.

So why has the iPhone been so successful if its not the interface? Its because Apple have designed a device which attempts to do only a few things but does them very, very well. Its also got a tightly defined market which means that the iPhone's customers won't miss (or probably be aware of) the missing features on the iPhone.

For example: music playing. The iPod application makes managing, finding …

Has Anybody Seen That Android?

So day one of MWC is out of the way and its been a day for Nokia who announced many new Symbian devices; and Microsoft who announced an updated OS, a new partnership and some catch-up services. They also re-affirmed their partnership with Windows Mobile's most successful partner: HTC. Which probably explains why there was no sign of the Android-powered Dream's successor. In fact it was very quiet on the Android front. Samsung confirmed that they would build an Android powered phone, but not until later in the year. We heard a similar message from LG, who hope to have an Android based phone by the end of summer.

With sales of HTC's Dream (aka the T-Mobile G1) hitting around 600,000 last year, a figure believed to have been somewhat constrained by availability (although not in my neck of the woods) its clear that Android needs some hardware variety to start competing with the big boys.
And I believe that we will see some hardware variety arrive at MWC, possibily even a major l…

Acer, LG Join Windows Mobile Bandwagon

Its been a busy day for new Windows Mobile devices, kicking off with the new HTC Touch Pro 2 and Diamond 2, then during Microsoft's presentation came the announcement that LG had selected Windows Mobile as its first choice for smartphones and would be delivering up to 50 Windows Mobile handsets between now and 2012.

As if that wasn't enough choice Acer has announced four new handsets as its first salvo in the smartphone market since taking over E-Ten last year. Two are 2.8" VGA screen devices the others sport a 3.8" WVGA screen. All will be branded with Acer's new smartphone label: Tempo.

Fortunately there's no sign of the Frankenstein's monster dual-faced handset that leaked last week, perhaps Acer thought better of it. Wisely.

More details on the range can be found here.

Windows Mobile Or Windows Phone?

Microsoft 's MWC presentation gave us a lot to digest, in the space of just over an hour Steve Ballmer and sidekick Andy Lees delivered plenty of interesting Windows Mobile news.

First we had the news that we were going to be seeing Windows phones in the future. Now I'm a little unsure whether that amounted to a renaming of the OS or a little bit of branding, certainly at least one slide contained the words Windows Mobile 6.5. Whatever the case we will see 6.5 arrive in Q4 and no currently shipping devices will be seeing upgrades. A strange state of affairs and pretty much guaranteed to upset many current customers especially as we have already seen that the OS runs on the Touch HD and positively ancient Blue Angel.

The launch of the Windows Mobile Marketplace will coincide with the launch of 6.5 and it appears that older devices will again not be supported - another puzzling piece of news which makes little sense to me. Looks like 20,000 applications will be available at launc…

HTC Launches Revised Touch Pro And Diamond

HTC's MWC presentation didn't disappoint in terms of content or news. First off the blocks revised versions of the Touch Diamond and Touch Pro, snappily titled Touch Diamond 2 and Touch Pro 2. Both devices get some interesting upgrades and this time there is more to differentiate between them than just the sliding keyboard.

Both get new 3.6" WVGA screens, more ROM and RAM; and an off-screen touch area for zooming and scrolling. Touch Flo 3D makes an appearance on both, as does HTC's new integrated Talk concept. The Diamond 2 sees a bump in camera to the same 5 mpixel one that does service in the Touch HD, whilst the Pro 2 gets a new speaker phone mode for conference calling. Interesting how the Touch HD and Diamond 2 now overlap each other in terms of features. Either the HD is due a significant upgrade, or it isn't long for this world.

HTC also managed to confirm that Microsoft would be launching WM 6.5 this afternoon, as well as stating that both these new phones …

Microsoft Recite - Searchable Voice Notes

Microsoft quietly pushed out a technical preview of its newest Windows Mobile application and if it works as advertised it could revolutionise note-taking and reminders on mobile devices.

Recite is a voice note system with a difference: you can search your notes for specific words and phrases using audio prompts.

This works in a similar way to voice dialling solutions that require training, it doesn't attempt to recognise or convert the spoken voice note, its just stored as an audio sample. Then when you record your search term it tries to match it against the audio profile of your notes to find likely hits.

Its such a good idea that you have to wonder why no-one has tried it before. If you want to give it a go yourself the download can be accessed from here: http://recite.microsoft.com/Pages/index.aspx

Amazon MP3 Store Misses Opportunities

When T-Mobile launched the Android powered G1 late last year one of the interesting things included on the handset was the Amazon MP3 download store. Then when Palm announced its new WebOS and Pre handset last month the Amazon MP3 download store was there too.

Interesting strategy, especially as Amazon's biggest competition, Apple, has included the iTunes Music Store on iPhones since day one. Clearly the big two players in the MP3 download market feel that there's a market for downloads straight to mobiles.

You have to question whether Amazon have really followed though on that strategy though. After all having built a mobile store for Android and WebOS (presumably no more than a web page masquerading as an application) why have they not pushed it out to every other web capable handset out there?

I mean if you add up all the sales of Nokia-Symbian handsets, Windows Mobile and Blackberry devices; none of which have access to a competitive, DRM-free MP3 download store, that's a…

Copyright Nonsense - Don't Buy From These Idiots

Here's an interesting development from the strange world that Apple is more frequently visiting these days: jailbreaking your phone is illegal. So Apple have claimed in a submission to the US Copyright Office as a rebuttal to the EFF's request to have mobile phones excluded from the DMCA. In effect Apple are looking to make it illegal for you to modify a device that you own to better suit your requirements.

Apple are also pursuing copyright claims against a number of companies installing OS X on generic Intel PCs. The argument here is that OS X is sold with a license precluding its installation on non-Apple hardware, an attempt by Apple to protect its lucrative hardware business.

In another part of town the Author's Guild are getting hot under the collar about the Kindle 2 and its text to speech functionality. This they say constitutes an audio book and should be licensed seperately. This from the organisation that claims that the re-selling of secondhand books should be mad…

Palm OS R.I.P.

Ed Colligan switched off the life support machine which has sustained the long dead Garnet (aka Palm OS 5) for far too long.

Elsewhere on the web you'll find endless requiems to the strengths of the old Palm and the way the new Palm bungled its successor repeatedly.

Problem is that even when it was at its best it was never that good. Heresy I hear you say... Well I'm afraid its true. Much of Palm's success over the years has been in spite of its shortcomings rather than because of its strengths. For a while Sony produced some fancy devices, again in spite of the OS rather than because of it. Once Sony decided to move on stagnation became the name of the game.

So farewell Palm OS, we knew you far too long - lets hope that Palm makes a better job of Web OS.

Android Marketplace Open For Business

US and UK developers can now submit applications to the Android Marketplace with the intention of charging for them.

Given the rather pedestrian rate of growth of the marketplace I can only hope (on Google's behalf) that developers have been holding back until they can make some money from selling apps to Android users. If this is the case then expect there to be an absolute flood of new software over the next couple of weeks.

However I can't help but think that most developers have had their heads turned by the extraordinary success of the iTunes app store and tales of overnight millionaires on the back of amazing sales figures. With the result that everyone and their dog are now developing for the iPhone.

Must be a worry for Google - and I'm sure that Palm will be watching the success (or otherwise) of the Android Marketplace very carefully for indications of the feasibility of their WebOS strategy.

Windows Mobile Today Screen Guide Part 1. Date

There doesn't appear to be a simple guide to the Windows Mobile Today screen, which is a shame because it is one of the most powerful tools that Microsoft has brought to the handheld game and also the most imitated.

I suspect that Windows Mobile receives flak from users of other systems because they haven't been shown how key tools work. So in these guides I'll try to explain how to easily make use of the Today tools.

The top section of the default Today screen contains the 'Date' application. This shows you the current day, date and time. Clicking or tapping here takes you to a control panel where you can adjust the time, date and timezone; you can also set up to three independent recurring alarms.

Here's the first proof that Windows Mobile is easy to use: no other smartphone OS allows you such easy access to these important functions. For example the 'wonderful' iPhone UI requires that you make four seperate taps to change the time and date or timezo…

Two-faced Phones

Remember the Samsung music phone, which sported a regular telephone keypad and screen on one side and an MP3 player and controls on the other?

Acer Clearly does, as one of the new handsets its going to be unveiling at MWC takes the idea and applies it to a smartphone. One side of the DX650 sports an iPhone-esque full face touchscreen, whilst the other sports a telephone keypad and what appears to be a small OLED for call information.

Frankly it seems like a particularly daft idea -I mean its not like implementing a dial-pad in software has caused anyone any problems in the past. I wonder whether this handset is another throwback to the E-ten era, or whether this is Acer's idea of enterng the market with a bang.

Samsung Android Phone Delayed

Engadget is reporting that Samsung's Android-powered offering, due to appear at MWC, has been delayed and won't now see the light of day until late 2009...

That's disappointing, as the prospect of a second manufacturer joining the Android community has been appealing ever since HTC/T-Mobile flunked the G1.

Lets hope someone manages to get something Android-powered launched in Spain, otherwise Google's grand OS plan may start suffering from a credibility gap. And that may be a tough position to retrieve in this tough market.

The original Engadget article Can be Sound here: http://www.engadget.com/2009/02/11/samsungs-android-phones-delayed-wont-show-up-at-mwc/

Telenav Launches Android SatNav

Telenav have confirmed that Feb 24th will see the launch of their turn by turn navigation software for the Android platform. The service looks similar to that offered by Nokia, with a monthly fee and add-on services as part of the bundle. $9.99 doesn't look exorbitant if you're only looking for an occasional use service.

This now leaves the iPhone as the only major mobile platform without true Satnav capability. Even Garnet (aka Palm OS) has this functionality (even if its only supported with bluetooth GPS dongles). What looked an innovative platform seven months ago is suddenly being exposed in lots of areas, Apple needs to address this if its to avoid a fall as spectacular as its rise.

Garmin Nuvifone Is A Looker

Looks like the tie-up between Garmin and Asus is going to poduce some interesting phones.

The new M20 marries a slick looking phone to some pretty decent specs and a little bit of GPS knowhow from Garmin.

A VGA screen, 8GB onboard storage and 7.2Mb/s HSDPA married with SatNav software from Garmin which gives real-time traffic weather and POI information, as well as a new friend locator service called Ciao (sound familiar?)

Availability is slated for Q2 this year and I wouldn't be surprised to see this picked up by at least one of the networks.

Pocket Gear Launches Windows Mobile App Store

With a launch portfolio of 1,500 Pocket Gear have beaten Microsoft to the jump with the first on device app store for Windows Mobile.

Given the poor reputation that mobile application ESD vendors have with developers I wonder if that low figure represents mobile developers waiting to see what sort of terms Microsoft will be offering.

For Pocket Gear losing out to Microsoft here would be seriously damaging. No longer part of the Motricity group, with lucrative ringtone sales to underwrite ESD, this has to be a successful venture.

At least they aren't going to suffer in the same way as erstwhile competitor Mobihand, whose deplorable treatment of developers is likely return to haunt them, as those same developers jump ship to just about anywhere else.

Tail Wagging the Dog

Sometimes its important to keep a sense of perspective and rise above the hype to see the real picture hidden behind it. In business that's also a vital skill.

In the world of the Smartphone there seem to be some business decisions being taken which are prompted by hype rather than sensible business thinking. In much the same way that the red-tops are able to focus a politician's mind on a particular subject so the actions of a few high profile blogs and technology writers appear to be affecting the strategies of Nokia, RIM and Microsoft.

Of course the source of all this unrest is the incredibly successful iPhone 3G. Since the arrival of this second version of the Jesus phone Nokia has abandoned its keypad/keyboard focused S60 interface and started announcing touchscreen devices left, right and centre. This despite the extraordinary success of Symbian as a platform. Last year alone 80 million devices sold across the world. Nokia's 5800 (aka Tube) touch screen phone was rus…

Windows Mobile 2003 - How Fast?

Here's a little aside to the Google sync post which shows perhaps we haven't come as far as we thought with mobile devices.

Not wishing to risk a dodgy sync screwing the calendar or contacts on one of my live devices I pulled an old Windows Mobile 2003 handheld from my 'graveyard' cupboard, charged it up and used it for testing the new sync software.

Since finishing the sync test I've been having a little play with it - one of my favourite PDAs the Toshiba e800 (400MHz). And by God its fast, compared to for example the iPaq 214 (624MHz) I have on my desk it's like somebody hit the fast forward button and everything is happening at double speed.

So much for progress, eh?

Google Plays The Syncing Game - At Last

If you've wanted to use Google's Calendar and Contacts tools alongside Gmail as the source of your mobile and desktop life organisation package its been a tough goal to achieve (unless you had a T-mobile G1 of course). There have been workarounds using SyncML, intermediate services and pointing your mobile device in the general direction of your nearest Google data centre.

But struggle no more - Google has finally seen the light and as from today you can now sync any device which supports Exchange Activesync directly to Google's own server.

At the moment I can report the service is bloody fast, but that may just be because no-one is using it yet.

Anyway, if this is what you have been waiting for, point your browser at http://www.google.com/sync/ and revel in the simplicity.

Kindle 2 Talks And Whispers

As expected Amazon launched Kindle 2 today, a sleeker, slimmer and altogether better example of what an eBook reader should be. Two major innovations stand out, new form factor aside. The first a computerised voice that will read the book to you, turning any book into an audiobook instantly - although I'm guessing it will struggle with some place and character names, unless Amazon is planning on inserting voice metadata into the raw files.

Second is cross platform reading, which, at the moment anyway, means that you can use the Kindle's Whispernet connection to store your book position in the cloud and then pick up reading on a completely different Kindle. Radical, not...

Its likely that this will be extended to allow Kindle books to be read on other platforms via the release of a new version of Mobipocket, the mobile device reader software and store available across just about every mainstream desktop and handheld platform.

No notice of which platform will get the enhanced Mobip…

Into Cars? You've got to see this

Dave Ramsey appears to be some kind of US money guru and this looks like a pretty old presentation - certainly I doubt that many mutual funds are returning 12% in today's financial climate. Nonetheless, if you're the sort of person who loves new cars and doesn't mind paying the price of buying them, this will come as something of an eye-opener. If you've a weak heart then sit down before watching this, because the numbers are amazing.

My Phone Slip Points To New Microsoft Mobile Strategy

A 'slip' on the part of one of Microsoft's web teams gave us an early peek at what will undoubtedly be the cornerstone of Microsoft's new mobile strategy. The 'My Phone' website looks to be a direct competitor for MobileMe, giving Windows Mobile 6 owners access to a calendar service and backup storage for things like pictures and notes to the tune of 200MB.

Notice that email isn't specifically mentioned in there, however if this is to be a competitor to the iPhone and Mac MobileMe service then email must fit in there somewhere.

Now Microsoft already has a pretty serviceable email offering in Hotmail, so I wonder whether My Phone doesn't cover that aspect because Microsoft are going to build better integration between Windows Mobile and Hotmail?

After all adding the benefits of push email to Hotmail makes the Gmail/Android offering look weak for consumers; and whilst there are plenty of free Exchange Activesync services about, not many consumers seem to hav…

Samsung Brings New Meaning To Platform Agnostic

I think Samsung has made its intentions very clear as far as the Smartphone market is concerned. It intends to be riding a winner and to achieve this it is going to be riding every horse in the race.

Already a Windows Mobile licensee, with a number of very desirable handsets available, Samsung's new i8910 has been leaked ahead of MWC, this time with the screen turned on and, surprise, surprise: its running Symbian S60, fifth edition with touch, not Windows Mobile as first thought.

We know that Samsung has an Android phone due for launch sometime this quarter - maybe even at MWC - which gives Samsung a unique position in the market, as the vendor of all three major platforms.

I wonder what the chances are of Samsung discussing a WebOS licensing deal with Palm, even as you read this...

Amazon To Launch Ultrathin Kindle 2 Monday

With sales of the original Kindle pegged at somewhere between 380-500k its fair to say that the Amazon eBook reader has been something of a success. Not too much of a success for Amazon to be looking at other ways of improving the return on its eBook business.

Unlike other eBook hardware vendors (Sony, iRex) Amazon is a bookseller first and foremost, so its decision to support the iPhone and Android with software versions of the Kindle aren't hugely surprising - especially if you look a the multi-million download success of Stanza on the iPhone. Presumably Windows Mobile and Symbian devices will be included in this software revolution at some stage, given that their annual hardware sales are, conservatively, three and eleven times that of the iPhone and Android platforms combined.

Including software readers into its game plan hasn't stopped Amazon developing the Kindle hardware however, and on Monday we can expect to see the arrival of Kindle 2, an altogether more appealing gadg…

No Windows Mobile 6.5 Devices Until September

ZDNet's Mary-Jo Foley is reporting that new devices running Windows Mobile 6.5 won't be appearing until September, much later than an announcement of the new OS at MWC this month would suggest. At the same time Foley also reports that info from her sources suggests an April 2010 date for first device running Windows Mobile 7.

Now those two dates seem awfully close together to me - who's going to dropping money on a 6.5 powered device if 7 is following just a few months behind?

I'm hoping that Microsoft's keynote at MWC will announce WM6.5 and we'll see first devices based on the OS early in the summer, maybe by May. That would give a healthy year for the gestation and release of WM7...

Radio Station Fights Criticism With Copyright Claim

Boing Boing has an interesting story on how the current copyright laws are open to misuse - in this case to defend some rather crass scaremongering by an apparently ill-informed radio host.

LBC used to be a well-respected London based news radio station back in the seventies and eighties, even in to the nineties (although having moved out of London by this time I can't vouch for that) however after losing its licence in one of the auctions that usually brings worse service to the independent broadcasting sector, the station disappeared.

The licence winner performed so badly that they ended up having to buy the LBC branding in an attempt to relaunch and win back some of its lost market share.

This new LBC is the radio station in question in this sad story. One of its hosts was guilty of spouting a large chunk of nonsense about chilhood vaccinations and was rightly pulled up on the blog of Guardian science contributor Dr Ben Goldacre, who posted the whole 44 min segment to his blog by …

Bill Gates Releases More Bugs At TED

In this case though the bugs in question were part of a (small) swarm of mosquitos, part of Gates' talk about the problem of malaria in third world countries.

Malaria is one of the high priority causes backed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, with Gates recently pointing out that current half-assed efforts to reduce the occurrence of Malaria are doomed to failure. In Bill's view only a concerted and broad-ranging effort to eliminate Malaria has any chance of success.

None of the mosquitos released into the TED crowd carried Malaria by the way, but I'm sure that the audience had a few heart-stopping moments nonetheless.

Google's Latitude (Nearly) Pointless On iPhone

Google's new Latitude service looks to be half Big Brother tracking tool and half useful impromptu meet-up tool. However I can see a number of show-stopping problems which will stop this and other similar programs achieving their primary goal of real-time location availability.

For the iPhone there's the complete lack of background tasks, meaning that Maps will need to be your active application all the time you're distributing your location. Then, even for phones where this will happily run in the background, there's the issue of battery life, GPS sucks battery life at incredible rates, I would imagine that 90 minutes would see a full charge emptied on the phone, whilst even the mammoth battery on the HTC Advantage would struggle to deliver more than 2-3 hours of real-time GPS data - especially when you remember that this all has to be fed back to Google's servers over a live data connection.

In principle the Latitude Service has much going for it, not least the l…

Motorola Probably Off Steve Ballmer's Christmas Card List

Motorola CEO Sanjay Jha is probably not the most popular person in Redmond right now. In a conference call with members of the tech press yesterday he managed to expose Microsoft's hitherto secret Windows Mobile roadmap and push out some very negative spin at the same time.

Jha announced that Windows Mobile 7 - which analysts are suggesting could be Microsoft's first real shot across the bows of its competition - won't be released until 2010. Now its not hugely surprising given 6.5 is still un-announced, yet I'm guessing that Microsoft would probably have rather kept that information to itself.

Rather more surprising was the kick in the teeth that Jha delivered to WM6.5, which he suggested would offer little more than WM6.1 and wouldn't be something that Motorola would be troubling themselves with.

How to win friends and influence people?

Jha did confirm that Android would be Motorola's main focus for 2009 with WM7 devices to follow in 2010. Given Motorola'…

Toshiba Takes Windows Mobile To A New Level

A new level of processor speed that is... Tosh have just pre-announced (what?) a new Windows Mobile 6.1 ultrathin, WVGA device that will be powered by a 1GHz Qualcomm CPU. That's an awful lot of power. So lets hope the battery is up to to the job.

Other details worth noting are a claimed 1cm thickness and 4.1" screen, putting this very much into competition with the Touch HD.

The new TG01 will be me display at MWC and is slated for a summer launch, which makes no wonder when WM6.5 is going to drop, as that's the second time today I've seen a device that seems a prime candidate for the new OS launched with the current one. It would seem to me that if 6.5 is going to launch at MWC then Toshiba would have waited a fortnight and announced the TG01 with the latest and greatest...

First Acer Smartphone Breaks Cover

Acer will be looking to cause something of a splash at MWC when it launches its first smartphones. The first of these has already been outed and if the rest of the range match up to this then Acer will be a major player in the smartphone marketplace.

The DX900 is a dual SIM Windows Mobile phone, with VGA, GPS, 3 megapixel autofocus camera, a secondary video calling camera and 3.5G. It also appears that the two SIMs can be concurrently connected to seperate networks. Impressive.

This is the first product of the Acer purchase of E-ten and is probably 99% E-ten, which probably explains why it sports WM6.1 as opposed to the imminent 6.5 that is expected to arrive at MWC, but as a harbinger of things to come its a very promising start..

Photo and pre-order into at Clove

MWC Looks Promising

The GSM Mobile World Congress in Barcelona later this month is looking more and more like a Smartphone lover's dream, with all manner of new kit on its way to launch.

As previously blogged, it looks as if Microsoft will drop its latest windows Mobile update - Steve Ballmer is keynoting so I would expect that he'll have something impressive to show off.

T-Mobile is likely to give us a first look at the new G2 Android phone, whilst on the subject of Android, Samsung are likely to give us a first glance of its first Android device. Another new device likely to make its debut in Spain is the GSM version of the Palm Pre although I suspect it will still be some time before we see one in the plastic.

Finally, a long shot, but reports are rife around the tech blogs that Dell will launch its first Smartphone at MWC - although no-one is able to confirm its OS, possibly Android, possibly Windows Mobile. If forced to make a prediction I'd say that Dell's close links with Microsoft…