The Tech News Blog

February 29, 2012

New Asus Tablets May Preview iPad 3 Screen

Asus Transformer Prime

BARCELONA—Want to see how much better the iPad 3's screen will be than the iPad 2's? We can't see an iPad 3 yet—Apple's new tablet is probably coming next Wednesday, March 7—but today at Mobile World Congress I got to hold an Asus Transformer TF700 side-by-side with an Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime. Together they show the kind of improvement you're likely to see with an iPad 3 over an iPad 2.

(Yes, I know the iPad 3 may not be called the 'iPad 3.' I just don't have anything else to call it.)

The Asus TF700 is Asus' next-generation Android 4.0 tablet, with a quad-core Nvidia Tegra 3 processor and 4G LTE. Most importantly, though, it has a 1920-by-1200, 10-inch screen. The older Transformer Prime has a 1280-by-800 screen of the same size.

The current iPad 2 has a 1024-by-768 screen, while the new iPad is rumored to have a screen that doubles the resolution in every direction to 2048-by-1536. So take note: the change is going to be even more dramatic than it is between the two Asus tablets.

February 29, 2012

Microsoft Releases Windows 8 Consumer Preview

Windows 8 Consumer Preview event

BARCELONA - Microsoft on Wednesday officially unveiled the consumer preview of Windows 8, its next-generation operating system.

The updated OS preview is available now for download via in English, French, German, Japanese, and simplified Chinese languages.

Microsoft unveiled the Windows 8 preview in Barcelona during Mobile World Congress, where Redmond is also pushing its Windows Phone platform. Windows chief Steven Sinofsky took to the stage at a press event here to talk up this "bold re-imagining of Windows."

"Our goal with Windows 8 is to deliver PCs without compromise," Sinofsky said, which means that the OS scales with you depending on how you want to use the OS and with what gadget - tablet, PC, or touch-based PC.

February 28, 2012

Hands On With Novero (Who?)’s Laptop-Tablet

Hands On With Novero (Who?)

The Solana's info screen showed a 2.9 Windows Experience Index, running an Intel Atom N2600 at 1.6GHz on 2GB of RAM. There's a 32-128GB SSD for storage. OS was Windows 7 Home Premium, 32-bit, and the laptop will be compatible with Windows 8. Other specs include a 3-megapixel camera, two USB ports, an HDMI out and a MicroSD memory card slot. It connects to the Internet with Wi-Fi 802.11n (with Intel's WiDi) and AT&T-compatible HSPA+ 21. The tablet runs for about four hours in Windows mode on its 32 watt-hour battery, Novero told me.

I opened PowerPoint to browse through Novero's marketing deck. The Solana is about as responsive as my Samsung N310 netbook–that is to say, it isn't fast, but it'll get the job done.

I double-tapped an icon on the Solana's screen to reboot in Android mode. The tablet restarted, showed some Linux code on the screen, and then popped into Android 2.3. I swiped the screen to unlock and launched a Solitaire game. I could play the Solitaire game, but I couldn't get out; the home button doesn't work on Android yet, a Novero rep said apologetically as he turned the device off.

February 28, 2012

RIM Touts PlayBook Apps, Actively Courting Bigger Players

BlackBerry PlayBook

BARCELONA - Research in Motion today touted its app eco-system and denied that recent delays and missteps deterred developers from investing in the platform.

"You always end up with people who jump in early and those who wait and see," Alec Saunders, RIM's head of developer relations, said during a press roundtable here at Mobile World Congress.

RIM finally took the wraps off its long-awaited BlackBerry PlayBook OS 2.0 last week. Marty Mallick, vice president of global alliances and business development at RIM, said today that that the number of apps in BlackBerry App World have increased by the thousands since the launch of the updated OS. RIM is also seeing a "significant number of PlayBooks" coming online after the 2.0 release, he said.

The PlayBook hasn't exactly been a huge hit for RIM. In early December, the company announced a $485 million hit related to lackluster sales of the tablet.

During today's roundtable, RIM talked up the benefits of launching an app within BlackBerry App World, bringing in execs from Zinio, Marmalade, and 100 Milligrams to sing its praises.

100 Milligrams has an app called Pacemaker, which essentially turns the PlayBook into a live DJ booth, complete with two turntables and a mixer. Pacemaker founder Jonas Norberg said the PlayBook was "the most responsive tablet out there. As a DJ, you want immediate action."

Still, the PlayBook lacks some of the more popular apps found on iOS and Android, like Skype and Netflix. Last week, Netflix said it had no plans to develop an app for the PlayBook, though it later noted that "our plans can change."

February 27, 2012

Samsung ‘Not Doing Very Well’ in Tablets, But Eyeing New Options

Samsung Galaxy Note (AT&T) BARCELONA—Samsung execs today talked up the new additions to the company's tablet lineup, particularly the "phablet" Galaxy Note, but despite the overall success of the Galaxy smartphone line, Samsung admitted to having some struggles in the tablet market.

"We are not doing very well in [the] tablet market," Hankil Yoon, vice president of product strategy for Samsung Mobile, said plainly during a press roundtable here at Mobile World Congress. "But we want to do something new with that new product category."

That new category includes the 5-inch Galaxy Note. While marketed as a smartphone, it pushes the boundary between phone and tablet, with PCMag mobile analyst Sascha Segan dubbing it a "phablet." Yoon admitted that the Galaxy Note is "something close to a tablet," but said after using it for some time now, "I'd never go back to a smaller smartphone or tablet."

"Once I start using this, then I grab the Galaxy S II - it's just too small; because I'm getting old, probably," Yoon joked.

How do you get consumers to agree? "I think it's just a matter of educating customers and getting used to the new product," Yoon said.

Despite this barrier to entry, Yoon said Samsung is looking to sell at least 10 million Galaxy Notes. That likely includes the newly introduced Galaxy Note 10.1, a 10-inch Android tablet that incorporates a pressure-sensitive Wacom stylus. For more, see PCMag's hands on with the device.

In a separate interview with PCMag here at MWC, Kevin Packingham, senior vice president of product innovation for Samsung Mobile, said the Galaxy Note has been a "tremendous success" in Europe, but admitted it might take awhile to catch on in the states.

February 27, 2012

Intel Inks More Phone Deals, Unveils New Chips

Orange phone

BARCELONA—Intel on Monday announced plans to expand its smartphone lineup via several partnerships with global carriers and handset makers.

The chipmaker also unveiled two new Atom processors, the first of which doubles the performance of the "Medfield" chip and another aimed at budget devices.

Intel will team up with carrier Orange*, handset makers Lava International and ZTE, and Visa for Intel-based mobile devices and solutions.

The Orange* device, made by Taiwanese company Gigabyte, was previously announced and PCMag mobile analyst Sascha Segan got some hands-on time with the device here at Mobile World Congress.

But Intel has also teamed up with Lava International for the XOLO Smartphone by Lava. It will be available in India, the first Intel-smartphone to be released in the region. The XOLO is based on the Intel Atom processor Z2460, formerly known as Medfield, includes hyper-threading technology, and supports HSPA+ with the Intel XXM 6260 platform.

February 27, 2012

Android Activations Hit 850,000 Per Day

BARCELONA—Android activations have now topped 850,000 per day, Google's senior vice president of mobile announced today.

"At Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Enjoying watching the ecosystem at work. 850k activations a day now!" Andy Rubin tweeted earlier today.

The news comes about two months after Rubin revealed that Android activations had topped 700,000 per day.

Days later, things got even busier. On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day alone, there were 3.7 million Android activations, which helped contribute to the 1.2 billion iOS and Android apps that were downloaded between Dec. 25 and Dec. 31.

Back in November, Google announced at its music event that there were 550,000 Android activations each day. In June, Rubin said that number was at 500,000, up from 350,000 in April.

February 27, 2012

Hands On With the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1

Hands-On With The Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1

BARCELONA—Now I get the whole stylus thing. Samsung today announced the Galaxy Note 10.1, a 10-inch Android tablet which includes the pressure-sensitive Wacom stylus technology from the Galaxy Note 5-inch "phablet," but with a large-enough display to actually use it well. I spoke to Samsung product manager, Sun-Ok Kim, and got a few minutes with the tablet here at MWC.

The Galaxy Note 10.1 isn't a design star: It's a plastic-backed, 10-inch tablet that's thin at 8.9mm, but isn't on the cutting edge. The way the Note 10.1 stands out from other Android tablets is by being built specifically to draw or write on—and unlike the 5.3-inch Galaxy Note, it actually offers a sufficient-sized surface to realize your artistic dreams.

The pressure-sensitive "S Pen" is one of the best things about the Galaxy Note, but it's knocked out by a lack of supporting apps and by the Note's generally odd shape. On the Note 10.1, the new S Pen—a little thicker, more solid, and able to detect harder pressure on the screen—compels. The Galaxy Note also lacked software that showed off the S Pen. The 10.1, on the other hand, will come with special pen-friendly versions of Adobe Photoshop Touch and Adobe Ideas (which is like Illustrator) and will ship with available drawing apps: Zen Brush and Omni Sketch for adults, and Hello Crayon for kids.

I was fortunate to have PCMag's former editor-in-chief and amateur cartoonist, Lance Ulanoff in my briefing. He doodled on the screen for a while and found it to have good pressure sensitivity and iPad 2-like responsiveness. I tried it too, and I agree; there's none of the lag that so frustrated me when I was trying to test styli on Android tablets recently.

The Galaxy Note 10.1 will also probably work with any other Wacom-compatible stylus, Kim said.

February 26, 2012

Hands On With the HTC One X, S, and V


BARCELONA—HTC is simplifying. The smartphone company last month announced a plan to radically cut down the number of models it releases, and today at Mobile World Congress it's rolling out its three major Android phones for 2012: the HTC One S, X and V. I spent some quality time with them and came away impressed, but powerful partners could still kill HTC's branding revolution.

First, about S, X, and V: They're supposed to be the HTC One S, X and V everywhere in the world. No matter what carrier you buy them on, you're supposed to be able to buy an HTC One S, X or V. Are you starting to see the problem? If you haven't figured it out yet, I'll get to that later. First, the phones.

The HTC One X, pictured at the left, coming to AT&T, is the big one. This is a monster with a 4.7-inch screen; I think it's a hand-buster, but I hate those super-huge phones. It's well-designed for something with gigantism, though. Its standout feature is the 1280-by-720 Super LCD 2 screen, which is almost entirely non-reflective, looks great even outdoors and seems to bring the image right to the front, with no glass layer visible between you and the screen. It really pops. The white plastic body is solid and clearly made from the highest quality materials, with a big silver bullseye on the back for the camera.

February 26, 2012

Hands On With the Samsung Galaxy Beam

Hands-On With The Samsung Galaxy Beam

BARCELONA—Will the Samsung Galaxy Beam be the projector-phone to finally crack the U.S. market? I got a little time with it today, and the company hopes the new smartphone's thinness and brightness will have us all projecting our videos onto the ceiling.

The Samsung Galaxy Beam is a good-looking, midrange Android smartphone with one special thing: a Cyclopean eye up top that beams a 15-lumen image out the front onto whatever surface you can find. It isn't thick, at 12.5mm, and its soft-touch gray back is accented with a bright yellow band around the edge. The lens doesn't get in the way of slipping the phone into your pocket.

The phone's LED projector, which promises two years of nonstop playback and three hours of video on a charge, shot small but bright images around the conference room where the demo was held. Videos were sharp, and while the 15-lumen brightness didn't stun, it was more than viewable in a dark room. The projector has 640-by-360 resolution, which is a 720p video reduced by half.

To help people get started projecting, the phone will come with mood-maker animations including jumping sheep and constellations, Samsung Product Manager, Will Bin said.

Keeping the phone steady is a real problem, though, and the built-in speaker is far too weak to play a movie to a crowd. Samsung will offer dock and speaker accessories which will stabilize and amplify the phone, Bin said.