Over the years, a lot has been said about Android’s fragmentation problem. Manufacturers and carriers often took months to deliver operating system updates, if they delivered them at all. Thankfully, the Android update scenario seems to have taken a turn for the better. Manufacturers like Sony Ericsson have cleaned up their act in a big way, and have promised to deliver quick updates. Google has also begun to wield its influence to nudge manufacturers and careers in the right direction. However, now that the software fragmentation problem is showing signs of settling down, another major issue is rearing its ugly head hardware fragmentation.
Google has very little say over the hardware configuration of Android devices. Current generation Android handsets run on everything from ARM A9 to ARM A6 and ARM A11. Google wants Android to be ubiquitous. It wants Android handsets to dominate every segment from basic low-end devices to cutting edge high-end smartphones. This is in stark contrast to the approach taken by Apple and even Microsoft. Apple restricts iOS to handsets manufactured in-house (i.e. iPhone). Microsoft on the other hand has laid out stringent minimum hardware specifications that all Windows Phone handsets must satisfy.
In theory, Google’s approach has some significant advantages like affordability and diversity. It allows for healthy competition between hardware manufactures, and it fosters innovation and rapid improvements in hardware capability. Hardware fragmentation by its own isn’t a major headache. However, as always, vested interests have found ways to exploit the freedom offered to them by Google to gain unfair competitive advantages.
Hardware manufacturers are tying up with game developers to artificially restrict games to their own platforms. The biggest culprit is probably nVidia, which has roped in several big names to launch Tegra exclusive titles (often called Tegra HD or THD games). Quite obviously, no one expects a budget handset to be able to run graphics intensive games like Riptide GP. However, thanks to the Tegra exclusive tag, even beasts like the Samsung Galaxy S II aren’t capable of running the jaw dropping ski racer from Vector Unit. Imagine shelling out big bucks to purchase the latest and the greatest Android smart phone in the market, and then discovering that you can’t play most of uber cool games for Android, as you have an Exynos chip instead of Tegra 2. This is an entirely artificially imposed restriction that if not checked will be a major deterrent for mobile gaming enthusiasts.
It is one thing to optimize a game for a specific platform, but it is quite something else to cripple it or make it unplayable on other equivalent platforms. Unlike in the PC gaming segment where games are often optimized for either nVidia or ATI (AMD) graphics cards, but run pretty well on both, nVidia is making some games simply unavailable for other platforms.
Earlier this month, an enterprising developer at XDA found a way to fake the graphics capabilities of the handset. His app, called ChainFire3D, can manipulate OpenGL feature identifiers with the press of a button. With the help of proper plugins it can run Tegra 2 exclusive games like Samurai Vengeance 2, Guerrilla Bob THD, and Riptide GP on several non-Tegra handsets including Samsung Galaxy S, Samsung Galaxy S II, Sony Ericsson Xperia X10, HTC G2, HTC Desire, and Nexus One.
Sony Ericsson has also been doing something similar with its Xperia Play exclusive games (mainly published by Gameloft). Sure some of the games require hardware keys for full gratification, but most of them are perfectly enjoyable even without dedicated hardware keys.
Tegra Zone Games on Nexus One with ChainFire3D
Google has indicated in the past that it is serious about Android as a gaming platform. However, if Android wants to take on iOS in the mobile gaming segment, then it will have to deal with this artificially created hardware fragmentation problem. The purpose of the operating system and graphics libraries like OpenGL is to abstract the hardware from the software. Whether a game runs on a given handset should be determined by the capability of the hardware, and not some other superficial restriction. If Google wants to retain even a semblance of openness in the Android ecosystem, then it must step in, and prevent this artificial fragmentation.
Video via Android Police
Lodsys, the patent troll which has been in the news all month after sending patent infringement notices to many iOS and Android developers over in-app purchasing is back.
After a brief period of silence, and probably many visits to their lawyers, Lodsys is back to refute Apple’s claims that its licences to the Lodsys in-app purchasing patents extend to its developers as well.
Lodsys has published a series of blog posts on their website explaining its position on the lawsuit.
First of all, it claims that Apple’s license to its patents doesn’t cover its developers
“On May 22nd, Apple’s chief lawyer Bruce Sewell unequivocally announced that Apple’s license to the Lodsys patents gave Apple’s 3rd party developers complete and undisputablefreedom to use the covered inventions without paying royalties or fearing lawsuits. There was a very positive reaction in the press and blogs. Apple appeared to give the Developer community what they wanted. Unfortunately for Developers, Apple’s claim of infallibility has no discernable basis in law or fact.”
Secondly, it is offering $1000 to each developer they have sent the infringement notice to, if it turns out that Apple’s license does indeed protect them.
“While it is true that Apple and Lodsys have an obvious dispute about the scope of Apple’s license to the Lodsys Patents, we are willing to put our money where our mouth is and pay you something if we are wrong. Therefore, Lodsys offers to pay $1,000 to each entity to whom we have sent an infringement notice for infringement on the iOS platform, or that we send a notice to in the future, if it turns out that the scope of Apple’s existing license rights apply to fully license you with respect to our claim relating to your App on Apple iOS.”
This battle is going to be quite interesting. If its claims do turn out to be valid, Lodsys could make millions or even billions of dollars in the coming years, however unlikely it may seem now.
The Samsung Galaxy S II is the best smartphone in the market right now. The handset is feature packed to the brim, and hardly has any major issues.
The Galaxy S II is also among the first few handsets to record videos in 1080p (1920 x 1080) resolution. The handset records full HD videos with 64kbps AAC mono audio quality, at 16Mbit/s bitrate.
Now, two different camera mods for the Galaxy S II have been developed. One mod increases the video recording bitrate to 24MBit/s, and the second one increases the audio quality to 192 kbps/44.1Khz. .
Below is a video of the Samsung Galaxy S II recording full HD videos with 192Kbps audio bitrate:
The first mod is by the popular HyperX, while the second mod is by Potatoman. The former mod still has not released for fellow SGS II owners, because he is still testing it.
However, the mod by Potatoman is already available for download over at XDA forums. This mod will also allow Galaxy S II owners to record videos and click photos even when the battery life is <15%. Galaxy S owners need to root their phone, before they can install this mod on their phone.
Samsung had launched the Samsung Galaxy S Player 4.0 and 5.0 in the beginning of May, but they hadn’t announced any pricing details.
Today, the price of the 8 GB variant of the Samsung Galaxy Player 5 was revealed through the Best Buy Mobile app.
The Galaxy Player 5 is priced at $269.99 for the 8 GB version. It is exactly identical to the original Galaxy S, except that it doesn’t support any calling features and doesn’t offer EDGE/3G. It also has a bigger 5 inch S-LCD display and comes with 2 cameras – a 3.2 MP primary camera and a VGA camera for video conferencing. It also has Bluetooth, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n.
It comes with Android 2.2 Froyo, but will be updated to Android 2.3 Gingerbread. It will also offer support for Android Market.
There is also the 4 inch version available – the Galaxy Player 4, which will likely be priced lower.
With the Galaxy Player, Samsung will compete directly with the iPod Touch. It will probably be available soon now.
MSI is showing off a lot of new devices at Computex this year. We already posted about the WindPad Enjoy 7 and Enjoy 10 budget Android tablets, but they weren’t the only launches by MSI today.
MSI also unveiled two more tablets – the MSI WindPad 110W, a 10 inch Windows 7 tablet and the MSI WindPad 100A, a 10 inch Android tablet.
MSI WindPad 110W Windows 7 Tablet
The MSI WindPad 110W has a 10.1 inch IPS display with a resolution of 1280 x 800 pixels. It runs Windows 7 and is powered by the AMD Brazos processor with Radeon HD 6250 graphics. It has 2 GB RAM and offers a 64 GB SSD. Its battery lasts for over 6 hours and it has dual cameras. It weighs 850 gms and comes with Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n and USB ports.
MSI WindPad 100A Android Tablet
The MSI WindPad 100A has a 10.1 inch, 1280 x 800 pixel IP display as well. It is powered by a dual core ARM Cortex A9 processor and has 1 GB RAM. It will come with 32 GB internal storage and offers 8 hrs of battery life. It has a weight of 720 gms and comes with SD card support and USB ports. It will likely run Android 3.0/3.1 Honeycomb.
No pricing details have been revealed yet.
MSI hasn’t seen much success with its tablet offerings, or its line of laptops for that matter, but it looks like it’s trying hard to change that.
A lot of new Android devices have been launched this year, at Computex, including the Viewsonic ViewPad 7X and 10Pro.
Today, MSI also launched two new tablets – the WindPad Enjoy 7 and the WindPad Enjoy 10.
The WindPad Enjoy 10 is a 10 inch tablet with a display resolution of 1024 x 768 pixels. It has 4 GB internal storage and is powered by a 1.2 GHz ARM Cortex A8 processor. It also offers 512 MB RAM. It has dual 2 MP cameras and can play back 1080p video. It will be priced at $299.
The WindPad 7 is a 7 inch tablet with a resolution of 800 x 480 pixels. It has the same specifications – 1.2 GHz processor, 4 GB internal storage and 512 MB RAM. It will be priced even lower, possibly around the $249 mark.
Both the tablets run Android 2.3 Gingerbread, which is surprising considering that every new Android tablet is running Android Honeycomb. They say that they preferred Android 2.3 Gingerbread over 3.0 Honeycomb for its broader compatibility, but both the tablets don’t even support Android Market, so I’m confused. The tablets are good, and they might even include some workaround to install apps, but the lack of Android Market support is a big downer.
The Asus Transformer is a pretty popular Android Honeycomb based tablet, thanks to its dock able keyboard. The tablet is out of stock at almost all major stores and online retailers.
When Google announced the Android 3.1 Honeycomb update, Asus stated that the Transformer will get the update sometime in early June. Now, for the impatient Transformers users, the Android 3.1 update has leaked on the Internet. Apparently, the leaked update is the final build!
Asus Transformer users, who flashed the update on their tablet, report an increase in performance, some bug fixes, and major improvement in the 3D performance of the tablet. The Android 3.1 update for the Transformer will also bring USB host capabilities, better HTML5 rendering, resizable widgets on the home screen and the task switcher is not limited to just five apps now.
The process to update the tablet to Android 3.1 is a pretty simple one. The required steps can be found here. The problem is that Asus has requested majority of forums to remove the leaked update. The update is still available in quite some websites, and a simple Google search will lead users to the required file.
HTC recently launched the Android powered Wildfire S in India. This handset is the successor of the popular HTC Wildfire smartphone. The HTC Wildfire S was first showcased at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2011 in Barcelona. It features a 3.2 inch touchscreen display with 600 MHz processor, 5 megapixel camera and more. HTC Wildfire S is one of HTC’s smallest phones ever.
The HTC Wildfire S is a stylish looking smartphone, offering fantastic value-for-money and great features, and we are delighted to launch it in India,said Faisal Siddiqui, Country Manager, HTC India. The HTC Wildfire has been among our best selling devices in India. Hence, we are extremely excited and positive that the HTC Wildfire S will garner a tremendous response from Indian mobile phone users, he added.
HTC Wildfire S features a 3.2 inch touchscreen display, 320 x 480 pixels resolution, 600 MHz processor, Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) Operating System, 5 megapixel camera with auto-focus and flash, Bluetooth 3.0 with FTP/OPP, Wi-Fi connectivity, Internal GPS Antenna, 512 MB ROM, 512MB RAM, G-Sensor, 3.5mm headset jack, micro-USB 2.0, microSD card slot, up to 430 mins talk-time, up to 570 hours stand-by time and a 1230 mAh battery.
HTC Wildfire S comes with the new HTC Sense, which offers a variety of enhancements that improve how people capture, create, share and access multimedia content. HTC Sense also includes a new integrated online e-reading experience utilizing a new e-book store powered by Kobo. This handset comes with a price tag of Rs.14,700.
At the beginning of this month, we reported that the Samsung Galaxy S II has already been ordered in excess of 3 million units by carriers all over the world. Sammy also managed to sell 120,000 units of the Galaxy S II in Korea in just 3 days.
Today, Samsung has announced that they have managed to ship more than 1 million units of the SGS II in a month of its public availability. The original Galaxy S took nearly 70 days to reach the same milestone.
This also makes the Samsung Galaxy S II the fastest selling phone in Korea, ever! One major reason behind this is that the handset was available at all major carriers right from its first week of launch.
The Samsung Galaxy S II has been getting ravishing reviews by reviewers all over the Internet, and is being dubbed as the best *smartphone*. I am pretty sure the handset is selling like hot cakes in other regions of the world, where it is already launched.
Looking at its popularity, the Samsung Galaxy S II is going to be one of the highest selling Android handset this year.