smartphone Archive

Xiaomi Mi Note – the best phone you can’t have

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The smartphone business is notorious for eating companies alive. Even giants of industry have fallen: Sony is on the cusp of throwing in the towel on its phone division, Nokia is now out of the game entirely after having been the largest manufacturer of phones in the world as recently as 2011, and even smartphone-centric companies like HTC are struggling. Yet somehow, there are a few upstarts that are navigating these treacherous, Samsung- and Apple-infested waters — sometimes with enormous success.

Somewhere in this technological New Wave lies Xiaomi, a Chinese firm founded in 2010 that has become impossible to ignore. That’s driven partly by its unapologetic Apple mimicry: its marketing, product strategy, and design aesthetic all borrow elements from Cupertino’s playbook. It’s also driven partly by the high-profile hiring of former Android boss Hugo Barra from Google. But increasingly, it’s driven simply by the fact that Xiaomi is making genuinely interesting products. And at a valuation north of $40 billion, it’s apparently doing something right.

Microsoft reportedly planning Windows 10 event for January

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Microsoft will hold an event this January to show off the new features of Windows 10, according to The Verge. Although January is traditionally dominated by the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Redmond is apparently planning a standalone event later in the month to create some buzz for the new OS away from the confines of a busy trade show.

Some facets of Windows 10 were detailed earlier this year, but next month’s event will apparently be “more significant,” with Microsoft laying out its plans for phones and tablets, and possibly detailing a new Xbox One dashboard update. The Verge says Microsoft should formally announce the event before the year’s end.

Automatic delays connected car platform until August as it seeks to perfect iPhone app

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It’s an age-old problem: do we clamor for a company to ship a product that’s not ready, or do we swallow delays with grace as it aims to deliver when things are good and ready? Such a choice has to be made when it comes to Automatic, the California-based startup which had originally hoped to start shipping its automotive dongle + app platform at the end of this month.

Those (including yours truly) who pre-ordered on day one received an email last night delivering the news that things were running a bit behind schedule. The hardware itself is actually already being manufactured, but stellar components are only a piece of the total puzzle. The software — an iPhone app, in this instance — still needs more time in the proverbial oven, and now we’re being told that packages won’t ship until “the end of August.”

A three-month hiccup is nothing to scoff at, and Automatic seemingly knows it. In order to sate those who were hoping to use the $70 product during their upcoming summer road trips, the company is giving early pre-orderers the option to beta test the app as it stands today.

Next Browser for Android mashes up its rivals’ greatest hits (video)

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When few (if any) web browsers do everything well, many of us have more than one client just to cover all the bases. The GO Launcher Dev Team’s just-launched Next Browser for Android tries to solve this in the simplest way possible: it cherry picks features from established rivals. Sharing extensions from Dolphin? Check. Chrome’s frequently visited pages? Check. Speed Dial from Opera? Check.

There’s even a Flipboard-style RSS reader. As there’s also bookmark syncing and voice search, Next Browser is theoretically the only client that Android users could want. How well that pastiche works is another matter, but those who’ve been pining for an all-encompassing browser can give the new app a try at the source link.

Samsung Galaxy S4 accessories: cases, calorie counting and gamepads

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What’s a fancy new smartphone without accessories? Don’t ask the Galaxy S 4 — it’s already planning to augment its software tricks with scales, fitness bands and of course, the requisite screen cover.

Samsung’s latest flagship won’t settle for a mere flip cover, however, its S View Cover features a window to the Galaxy S 4’s 5-inch Super AMOLED screen, allowing users to peek at the display and even answer calls without exposing their device.

There’s goodies for the health conscious to buy, too: the jawbone-like S band and a Samsung branded body scale, both of which sync with the device’s S Health software. The device even has gamers covered, teasing a prototype gamepad with striking resemblance to the beloved Xbox 360 gamepad.

“iPhone Killers” gird their loins for battle

As the launch of the 3G iPhone approaches, BusinessWeek reports that competitors face the same problem they did in July of last year.

“Most people want the iPhone, just as they want the iPod and not some other MP3 player,” says Gloria Barczak, professor of marketing at Northeastern University. “People want the real thing.”

The difference between now and then is that the real thing will cost less, at least up front. Higher costs for data plans and messaging actually means the 3G iPhone costs more over the life of the contract with AT&T.

Nonetheless, that new sticker price is putting pressure on rival carriers “to increase their own mobile handset subsidies, boost marketing budgets, and reduce prices on some services, analysts and industry insiders say—all likely to mean slimmer margins.”

Unfortunately, none of those business strategies are about the product and the user experience, which leaves it up to the handset makers to challenge the iPhone.

“We want to take the touch experience to a new level,” says John Wang, chief marketing officer of HTC. The Touch has sold more than 3 million units worldwide in the past year, which sounds great until you consider the iPhone has sold twice that many in the same period while limited to just a few countries.

Still, the Touch has sold more than the Centro. Palm’s last gasp has sold more than a million since its introduction in 2007, and the company is “confident” of reaching 2 million in 2008. Imagine what Palm could do if it actually created something new, instead of beating their dead horse of an OS at $99 a phone. Or maybe that’s not such a good idea.

The Sprint Instinct is new, though one could question its originality, at least in advertising. Sprint is spending $100 million in ads that compare the Instinct to the iPhone—the 2G iPhone, that is. Looking over reviews, they are mixed at best. At worst, Gizmodo lambastes web browsing on the Instinct as an “ABYSMAL failure of design.”

And regarding failures of design at web browsing, one could count the Blackberry firmly in that column, at least until the soon-to-be-released Blackberry Bold. Preliminary reports have a lot of good things to say about what will be the iPhone’s real competition among consumers, but that brings up the real question.

Carriers and handset makers had an entire year to get ahead of the iPhone, to create a true rival at a cheaper price. Now, a year later, they don’t even have the better sticker price.

Maybe you can’t beat the real iThing.

Source: Arstechnica.com