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Month September 2010

Forget the BlackPad, RIM throws out BlackBerry PlayBook at DevCon

Color me surprised. Even with the rumors that RIM was using a completely new OS in its forthcoming tablet, I was expecting to be underwhelmed. But a 7″ 1024 x 600 capacitive multi-touch LCD powered by a 1GHz dual-core ARM Cortex A9 with dual HD cameras running on BlackBerry Tablet OS — a quasi iOS/webOS hybrid developed by RIM’s recent acquisition QNX — all in a package less than 0.5″ inches thick and weighing under one pound is a hard thing not to get excited about.

Then again, RIM’s PlayBook is not set for release until early 2011. By then, Motorola, HTC, and HP will probably have similar offerings — and, of course, the iPad 2 will redefine the tablet space again, too. For RIM’s sake, I hope the PlayBook lives up to its hype. Official preview and press release after the break.

New Palm phones, Touchstone pop up in TÜV certification

The evidence of an imminent release of the next webOS phone continues to mount. This time we have a certification from the German technical services group TÜV Rheinland that was discovered by WebOS Internals (@webosinternals on Twitter) and posted by rwhitby in the PreCentral Forums.

Two new models appear with a certification date of August 3, 2010, namely P102UNA and P102EWW — GSM and CDMA versions, respectively. Further digging on the site suggests a new Touchstone is also nigh. Given that the AT&T Pre Plus (P101UNA) was announced a few months after its certification date, expect the new Palm phone to be officially unveiled in early October with a launch date no later than November of this year. That lines up nicely with the Pre 2 surfacing on Verizon’s year-end lineup. No word on whether the GSM version will hit the US before the holidays, but with Palm backed by HP now, a multi-carrier launch is not out of the question.

Sources: TÜV Rheinland, @webosinternals via PreCentral, Engadget

Google Voice app GV Mobile + available for free in App Store

GV Mobile + has just been updated to version 1.0.2 — and for a limited time — developer Sean Kovacs is giving it away for free. Thanks Sean!

Source: @seankovacs iTunes link: GV Mobile +

No CDMA Windows Phone 7 devices until 2011

If you are on Verizon or Sprint and were planning on getting a Windows Phone 7 device for the holidays, it looks like you’ll be getting an IOU courtesy of Microsoft. Windows Phone 7 will be GSM only in 2010. Product manager at Microsoft Greg Sullivan recently spoke to CNET:

We had to make some trade-offs. Even Microsoft doesn’t have unlimited resources. We had to prioritize doing fewer things, really, really well….For the worldwide market, the vast majority of phones are GSM phones, so we focused on GSM first and then plan to deliver an update that will have great CDMA support in the first half of 2011.
The statement from Microsoft comes shortly after Verizon announced it would not have any WP7 devices in its lineup this year. AT&T has gone on the record stating it will be the ‘premier launch partner’ for Windows Phone 7. A T-Mobile WP7 device in 2010 is not out of the question, either. Expect Windows Phone 7 to launch worldwide on October 11 at an event in New York City.

Source: CNET via SlashGear

Google Voice apps return to App Store

It’s been a long, thorny road for Google Voice apps in the App Store. When Google initially launched the service, an iPhone app was on many a user’s wishlist. It wasn’t long before developers answered the call, most notably Sean Kovacs with his GV Mobile app. Shortly thereafter, however, Apple inexplicably pulled all Google Voice apps with no notice. Google itself had submitted an official one that has infamously been ‘in review’ for over a year now.

Even after an FCC inquiry into the absence of Google Voice on the iPhone, Apple provided little useful information stating it was still ‘pondering’ the matter. Speculation as to why Google Voice was banned from the iPhone included Apple’s anti-competitive stance towards Google, finger pointing at AT&T, and the App Store guideline that states that submitted apps shall not duplicate existing functionality.

Recently, however, Apple seems to have had a change of heart. Just this month, a controversial ban on third-party developer tools has been lifted and App Store review guidelines are freely available in all their candor. With guidelines in the hands of developers, Sean Kovacs sent an inquiry regarding GV Mobile. He was greeted with a favorable response to resubmit his app for approval. In the meantime, another Google Voice app GV Connect by developer Andreas Amann — in review for over 200 days — has recently been accepted and is available in the App Store for $2.99.

As of this evening, GV Mobile + has been accepted as well and will also retail for $2.99 when it hits Apple’s servers.

One more thing from Sean Kovacs: “I’ll be blowing away some promo codes via Twitter (@seankovacs) once I get them AND if #gvmobile trends on Twitter, I’ll set that bad boy to free for the night.” Thanks, Sean!

Sources: Andreas Amann, Sean Kovacs via TechCrunch, intomobile

‘Froyo is not optimized for use on tablets’

Hugo Barra, director of products for mobile at Google:

Android is an open platform. We saw at IFA 2010 all sorts of devices running Android, so it’s already running on tablets, but the way Android Market works is it’s not going to be available on devices that don’t allow applications to run correctly. [...] Which devices do, and which don’t will be unit specific, but Froyo is not optimized for use on tablets. [...] We want to make sure that we’re going to create a application distribution mechanism for the Android market, to ensure our users have right experience.

I really wonder if companies like Samsung aren’t jumping the gun with their tablet exploits after reading this quote. The Galaxy Tab is a nice piece of hardware, but how attractive will it be if it can’t run apps from Android Marketplace, especially when a proper Android tablet — presumably running Android 3.0, aka Gingerbread, or Chrome OS — pops up early next year?

Source: TechRadar via Engadget

Samsung Galaxy Tab headed to all four major US carriers

Officially unveiled at IFA at the beginning of the month, it was only a matter of time before Samsung gave us details on the US launch of its Android-based iPad competitor the Galaxy Tab. At a press conference in New York City on Thursday, Samsung revealed just how seriously it wants to be a player in the tablet market, announcing that it would release a version of the Galaxy Tab on AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile in the coming months. It performed a similar feat with its Galaxy S line of Android smartphones, bringing slightly modified versions to each of America’s four largest mobile service providers within the course of a few months.

The Galaxy Tab is a 7″ 1024 x 600 TFT LCD capacitive display running Android 2.2 (Froyo) overlaid with a TouchWiz skin and has a 1GHz Hummingbird SoC under the hood. Each carrier will get the same hardware minus the cellular radio inside, although there will be several software tweaks to differentiate each version. The Galaxy Tab will support Adobe Flash Player 10.1 out of the box and includes Samsung’s Social Hub application designed to keep users connected. Launching alongside the device will be a new service dubbed Media Hub — Samsung’s attempt at an iTunes rival — that will serve as a competitively priced content portal for movies and TV shows. Media Hub will also allow up to five enabled devices to share purchased content.

No price has been announced for any US version of the Galaxy Tab. Unlocked versions around the world seem to be selling for around $1000, though carrier subsidies should take a hefty chunk off that price tag here in the States. Even still, it would require an additional contract and monthly fee to own a Galaxy Tab unless carriers announce some sort of phone/tablet package deal. You can also forget about using the Galaxy Tab as a phone since all US versions will have their cellular voice capabilities blocked. And for those on Sprint, there’s no WiMAX radio in yours and Qik will only run over WiFi.

It should be noted that a WiFi-only version of the Galaxy Tab is also planned to launch stateside for those averse to signing another contract. However, it remains to be seen whether Samsung can price it competitively enough to stave off would-be iPad owners this holiday season.

Samsung’s official press release is available after the break.

ChaCha set to dump T-Mobile over ‘Twitter tax’

I have worked as a guide for ChaCha off and on since January. The premise of the service is simple. Users text questions to the short code CHACHA (242242) and receive realtime SMS responses from live, independently contracted ‘guides’ around the clock. Virtually any question can be asked, and answers — many of which require efficient online research by real human beings — are usually provided within minutes. The service is provided for free to all users and is funded by serving targeted mobile advertisements to them.

Notwithstanding certain issues such as usage limits and inaccurate or outdated information, ChaCha has seen phenomenal growth in use and popularity since it first unveiled its text answering service in January 2008. Currently, they rank sixth in volume of SMS messages sent in the US after Twitter, Facebook, ESPN, 4INFO, and Fox. According to recent figures revealed by the company, “ChaCha has more than 15 million monthly unique users for whom we answer over 2 million questions every day.”

A text messaging service like ChaCha relies on fixed pricing per unit time to remain sustainable, let alone profitable. This is what the nation’s fourth largest carrier is proposing to change on October 1 of this year. T-Mobile is looking to charge all businesses $0.0025 per text sent instead of a flat fee per month. This so-called ‘Twitter tax’ amounts to variable and likely untenable costs to SMS services that send text messages in bulk.

The result is that ChaCha — and some if not all other companies listed above — will pull its services from T-Mobile entirely to remain cost effective. This could potentially be a serious inconvenience for T-Mobile’s existing customers, and may deter others from signing with a carrier that already has problems gaining subscribers. 4INFO also reminds us that “Verizon Wireless considered a similar charge in 2008, but relented under consumer and industry pressure, helping to enable the vibrant mobile service programs that exist today.”

Source: ChaCha via TechCrunch

iOS 4.2 beta 1 available for developers, brings multitasking to iPad

Apparently, IE9 wasn’t the only notable beta release announced yesterday. With iOS 4.1 going public only last week, Apple has taken the initiative to seed developers with the fruits of its next labor. Announced at Apple’s media event on September 1, iOS 4.2 will be available for all iDevices come November save for the original iPhone and iPod Touch.

iPad owners, however, have a special reason to rejoice over iOS 4.2′s imminent release as it will finally bring the iPad on par with its brethren. That’s right, the iPad will finally get multitasking, folders, a unified inbox, threaded messaging and Game Center, the first four of which have been available for iPhones and iPods Touch since iOS 4.0 was released back in June.

Also coming in iOS 4.2 will be two new wireless services dubbed AirPrint and AirPlay. As their names suggest, AirPrint will enable iOS devices to directly print mail, photos, web pages and more over a wireless network, while AirPlay will allow them to wirelessly stream and share multimedia with other AirPlay supported devices, including but not limited to Apple TV and AirPort Express. Subtler enhancements that have been gleaned in iOS 4.2 include the ability to search within a web page in Safari and the option to use Helvetica in lieu of Marker Felt in the Notes app.

Developers can get in on the action now by clicking the source link below. For the rest of us, though, November can’t come soon enough.

Source: Apple via Gizmodo

IE9 beta ready for download

Internet Explorer has come a long way. Yesterday, Microsoft released the public beta of version 9 of the once de facto standard in web browsing. Although Internet Explorer still maintains market dominance, in recent years, it has seen its lead rapidly decline to more efficient, extensible, and web-compliant competitors such as Mozilla’s Firefox and Google’s Chrome.

Gone are the days of bloated UI, frustrating performance, and egregious lack of compliance to modern web technologies. IE9 seeks to remedy everything that went wrong with Internet Explorer and appears to do so splendidly. IE9 was designed with speed and efficiency as its primary goal and leverages the freshest web standards, including HTML5, while employing a much cleaner interface. IE9, of course, defaults to Bing for search.

You can give IE9 beta a test drive by clicking the source link below. Sorry Macheads — Windows only, for now.

Source: Microsoft via TechCrunch