Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Apple vs. HTC - The Patent War

It's official - Apple have taken HTC head-on and filed a lawsuit for patent infringement.


And I love what Apple CEO Steve Jobs said - "“We can sit by and watch competitors steal our patented inventions, or we can do something about it. We’ve decided to do something about it”

I've been seeing and hearing a lot about Apple actually wanting to hit out at Google for their Android Operating System through this suit. Android is awesome, has a lot to offer, and I find little or no similarities between the Android and iPhone operating systems. I find no reason why Apple would file a suit against HTC if it's Google they wanted to take on in the first place.

I just went through the 57 pages of lawsuit documents in detail. Take a look - http://bit.ly/clNSBv

The suit is directed at HTC’s “own inventions” like the Sense UI rather than Google's Android. If the patent violations were within Android, Apple’s legal board would have enough sense to fight Google instead of HTC. Conglomerates like Apple, Nokia, HTC, Google, etc don't file lawsuits just because they’re getting bored, or because they want a quick buck. They file suits to fight for their hard-work, and to keep their reputations intact.

Am I sounding too much of an “Apple Fanboy”? Thats because I am. Not because I love Apple. But because how one single, stand-alone phone from Apple has shaken the foundations of the smartphone market by grabbing a full quarter of the market share. Over 40 million iPhones sold worldwide. Like it or not, the iPhone revolutionized smartphones, and made Microsoft (and Google to an extent) come out of deep slumber. And having being the owner of an iPhone 3G and a HTC HD2, I can clearly see how hard HTC is trying to emulate Apple by using the iPhone as a yardstick instead of setting their own standards.

Monday, January 18, 2010

First few days with the HTC HD2

Take the big screen with you

That's what HTC has to say about this monster and by no means are they exaggerating. With a 4.3 inch display at a mind-boggling resolution of 480 x 800 pixels, this phone boasts of the largest screen on any handheld till date. The cinematic screen certainly is intimidating and it doesn't end just there. The list goes on with a powerful 1 gigahertz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, 448 MB of RAM, a 5 megapixel camera, dual LED flash and Microsoft's Windows Mobile 6.5 Professional operating system. The phone is definitely big due to it's screen, but is very slim at just 11 mm, 1.3 mm slimmer than the iPhone 3GS. While iPhone-killer it quite isn't (yet), it is a step in the right direction by HTC. It is evident a lot of hardwork is behind the device, and the HTC Sense UI is simply brilliant.

What is HTC Sense? Sense is essentially a user interface based on HTC's earlier TouchFLO 3D, developed for devices running Windows Mobile and Google's Android. According to a press release, HTC Sense is a “design experience, an architecture that is all about how people use the device, making their content personal to how they use the device.” HTC have built the Sense UI around 3 principles - Make It Mine, Stay Close, and Discover the Unexpected.

"Make It Mine"
The device can be customized to a large extent by adding phone features, favourite websites, applications and contacts directly onto the home screen. The phone also finds your location automatically and sets the weather and time accordingly.

"Stay Close"
The phone emphasizes on communication, and all e-mails, SMS, call-logs and Facebook updates are all under each respective contact card.

"Discover the Unexpected"
The ringer volume lowers itself once the phone detects that you've picked it up, the ringer volume increases if the phone is in your pocket or bag, the screen brightness adjusts itself according to your surroundings and turns it off when you're on a call. Yes... Discover the unexpected.

I was amazed with the first-time setup. As soon as the phone is switched on, it lets you setup the GPRS / EDGE data connection. Once this is done, the device finds your location, sets up the weather app AND it sets the local time and date as well. Moving on, you can add your e-mail, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter accounts seamlessly. So your phone is up and running almost completely once this is done at first-boot itself.

The phone is extremely responsive with absolutely no lag or sluggishness, courtesy the mighty processor and RAM. It maybe because of this that HTC have omitted the conventional task-manager tag on the top right of the phone. This cannot be added as a shortcut either and is sorely missed as there is no way of multi-tasking. A few other shortfalls need to be looked into, and fast. The default browser is Opera and not Internet Explorer (IE) which is a blessing in a way since IE does not support multiple tabs and pinch-to-zoom. However, Opera fails to completely display some websites which contain plain text, and it supports only a maximum of 3 tabs. The default e-mail client is Outlook and this is not customized by HTC at all except for the layout. It finds settings for Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo and AOL automatically, it still has a few issues with Gmail and Yahoo accounts (I haven't tried it with AOL as yet.) What happens is that it downloads all the folder headers like Inbox, Sent Mail, Drafts and Personal Folders from the server, but it fails to download the e-mails present within these folders. It grabs e-mails present only in the Inbox, and does not save even e-mails sent from the device itself which is very, very surprising. A few major fixes are needed quickly. Battery life is an issue as well, but hopefully a future firmware update should fix this.

Enough said about the niggles, more about the bling-bling now. And trust me, it doesn't disappoint in this department. The features are exhaustive, the OS is much lighter on the CPU and faster compared to it's predecessors, and HTC have added some amazing stuff to complete the experience. The weather app needs to be seen to be believed. It is so realistic with thunder, rain, snow, wind and sun all over the screen to make you actually feel the weather around you. The music is good with a landscape interface thats better than the iPhone's, and what needs to be said about watching videos on a screen this big? Internet browsing is a pleasure and Opera hides out the menu bars to take full advantage of a full screen experience. YouTube is a native application in the HD2. Speeds over Wi-Fi and even EDGE are great, and I rate the browsing experience better than the iPhone's. This is largely due to the fact that the 1 GHz processor and 448 MB RAM together prevent any sort of chequered or distorted pages to create a beautiful browsing experience. While the touch isn't as sensitive as the iPhone, it's almost as good and it feels good to create or reply to e-mails from the phone. A large virtual keypad in both potrait and landscape with XT9, full QWERTY and Compact QWERTY support make fast typing a breeze, even if the almighty has blessed you with large fingers. Spell-correction and Word-completion help things along and the absence of a real keypad is rarely felt. Microsoft Mobile Office (Word, Excel, Powerpoint and One-note) lets you create, view and edit documents with the pinch-to-zoom interface.

HTC have added a very interesting Digital Compass. All you have to do is tap on "Set Destination" below the compass, up pops Google Maps, click on your desired destination and follow the green dot on the compass. Apart from Google Maps there's GPS with Co-Pilot for navigation. Yet another cool feature is the Wi-Fi router. Other laptops and wireless devies can connect to the phone and use it's data connection for the internet, and this is definitely useful if you're on 3G. There are a whole lot of other goodies in the phone like Remote Desktop Mobile to view and control your PC from the phone, MP3 Trimmer for making ringtones, Audio Booster, etc. that make things exciting. As Windows Marketplace gets bigger and more exhaustive, a lot more applications and games will be available but as of now there really isn't anything much there though third party websites do offer a lot of stuff.

I'll soon be covering the camera, camcorder, HTC Sense UI and other features in the phone I've mentioned earlier. Until then, enjoy a host of pictures of this revolution. See you soon...

Photos from the SE Aino U10i

Few camera samples from the 8 megapixel

Thursday, January 14, 2010

My first post - The Sony Ericsson Aino U10i

This latest gadget from the Sony Ericsson (SE) stable is one of the two phones running on the Symbian OS, the other being the Satio. The Aino boasts of a fairly big 3 inch, 16-million colour TFT capacitive "limited" touch screen. A massive 8 megapixel camera, wi-fi, GPS, accelerometer sensor, 8 GB micro SD card, stereo bluetooth headset and a dock stand for phone and headset are some of the other highlights of this innovation. I'll further elaborate on the camera in a while.

Now, why Sony specifically shouts out limited touch-screen functionality is because the touch-interface is designed only for multimedia, i.e. camera, saved photos, music, videos and radio. As funny as this peculiarity may sound, once you actually get your hands on the device, it suddenly all makes sense. The phone has a slider form factor which helps the device maintain its big screen, with a full 23-key traditional cell-phone keypad that reveals itself under the screen. So you can take photos, listen to music, watch videos, etc without having to open the slide everytime. There are no keys at all around the screen, and almost the entire area is covered with an awesome display. Its quite an experience watching movies on the go, and the audio clarity on the stereo bluetooth headset is simply superb. Another useful bit is that the battery level of the bluetooth headset is also displayed along with the phone battery level.

The camera, with a very efficient LED flash takes photos in 3, 6, 7, 8 MP, and last but not the least - FULL HD in 16:9 aspect ratio. This was missing in the earlier C905 which was SE's flagship cybershot, and SE have done well to add this in. Apart from the auto, macro and infinite focus modes, there's face-detection and an exciting touch-focus as well. Tap anywhere on the screen to focus on a point you wish to, and the camera concentrates on the selected area. We also have the conventional scene modes found across most cameras like portrait, twilight, sports, snow, etc. A self-timer is available as well, should you want to take photos by keeping the phone on the stand, or on a shelf or table. The LED flash doubles up as a torch as well. Video recording is in VGA at 30 frames per second (fps) and the clarity is good, even if you're trying to shoot fast moving objects. You also have the nHD mode at 640 x 360 pixels, and an MMS mode. The LED flash can be used as a video light, a very useful feature.

The voice quality over calls is great, with absolutely no echo or ear piece vibrations, and the loudspeaker is clear even at a high volume. Calls can be answered, muted and rejected without having to slide open the phone. Battery stand-by times are good considering the large display, though it does tend to drain out quickly when used on wi-fi. The phone certainly packs in a lot of punch for its price. At about Rs. 25,000/- it certainly is a great package, and with its camera, audio, 8 GB memory, wi-fi and the stereo bluetooth headset, it looks like the guys over at Sony Ericsson have finally struck gold. My only grouch with this device is that the keys feel a little sticky at first and take some getting used to, but with all the other great things in there, this certainly isn't going to bother me too long.

For full specs, log onto http://www.sonyericsson.com/cws/products/mobilephones/overview/aino?cc=in&lc=en