Now Sleep Comfortably with your Headphones

Remember how annoying it is to have your headphones or earphones fall out or become too bulky while you are trying to sleep. SleepPhones is your answer to those problems. They are lightweight, washable, and removable from their fleece headband. They even come with a sleep CD for those of you who prefer to fall asleep to relaxing sounds instead of music.

The SleepPhone has just won a prestigious awards at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. It’s wireless version is set go on sale in April 2013. It comprises a fleece headband that has earphones embedded in it. The manufacturers claim that it will not cause your partner to wake up next to you. Its website also claims that it is safe to use while working out in an external environment as it allows you to hear traffic sounds along with your music.

This device can use either a wire or a bluetooth connection to connect to your phone or music device. Currently the wired device is available for $40, but the wireless version is expected to release in April retailing for $80.

Its creators are Wei-Shin Lai, MD and Jason Wolfe. 

The firm began selling the product in 2007. Dr. Lai has claimed that inspiration came as follows,

“In 2007, I had trouble falling back to sleep after patient phone calls late at night as a family doctor. ‘My husband suggested that I listen to something to take my mind off of patient concerns. Since I didn’t want to disturb my husband while he slept, I needed headphones or ear buds I could wear in bed. But there was nothing comfortable on the market so I came up with stuffing speakers inside a headband.”

The device can be used for sports, for sleep, and so on. They definitely need to come out as a stronger style statement though.

(Source: Reddit)

Smartphones Hit the One Billion User Mark

“A million dollars isn’t cool. You know what’s cool? A billion dollars.”

Apparently even that quote applies to not only dollars, but even users now. On the heels of Facebook announcing that it had hit the one billion users milestone, Strategy Analytics announced today that we will have hit a major milestone in Q3 2012. There are now more than a billion smartphones in active use, and the smartphone penetration continues to grow at an increasing rate.

The report didn’t delve into much detail, but most of the growth in the last couple of years would have to come from Samsung, Apple and then Nokia. The growing popularity of iOS and Android has led to the rapid acceleration in the use of smartphones. While it took 16 years to hit the first billion, we are expected to reach the next billion in just 3 more years.

One out of every seven people on the planet now have a smartphone. However, many more still have feature phones, but that is expected to change in the near future. China, India and other emerging markets are expected to be on the forefront of this smartphone revolution as markets like the US and UK already have pretty high penetration.

via Techcrunch

Gorilla Glass Makers Now Make “Willow Glass” That Can Be Rolled Up!

The people who made the superhard Gorilla Glass that you find on your smartphones have come up with a glass that folds! Yes, the smartphones of the future might be flexible enough to let the owner roll them up like a cigar.

Willow Glass (courtesy: Corning)

Rolling glass like paper

Christened Willow Glass, it’s more paper than glass. Corning, the company renowned for making Gorilla Glass, is taking a different route to new technology this time. Program director Dipak Chowdhury explains that any substance can be rolled up if made thin enough. Glass isn’t inherently hard, at least not a few atomic layers thick glass. Chowdhury says:

If you take glass as thick as a business card, it’s not flexible. Think about the same business card and make it seven times thinner — it works like paper.

The immediate next step is to figure out how to manufacture rolls and rolls of glass.

The future beckons

So here’s the plan for the future. A number of layers of Willow glass can form the display of futuristic smartphones. The top layer(s) will be present exclusively for protection and the layers beneath will hold the electronics. Behind this will be the silicon backpane.

However, this is quite a bit into the future. The technology needed to implant the electronic display components onto the Willow Glass isn’t here yet! To build a plant implementing that technology is still a long shot!

The first step in that direction has been taken by Dai Nippon Printing Co. They promise to demonstrate the touch sensors and color filters, two of the essential components needed in making electronic displays, and how they can be printed onto the microscopically flat Willow Glass.

Willow replaces Gorilla as their flagship product, as Corning chugs along as the pioneer in glass technology.

Here’s a small Youtube clip about Willow Glass: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mAMZPXhxBxo

Lava S12 Review

Over the past couple of years, Android has been quite a revolution in the smartphone market. Android’s increasing popularity has meant that manufacturers have been churning out Android-based mobile phones at all possible price ranges.

Lava Mobiles, well known for their low-cost handsets, introduced their first Android based smartphone, the Lava S12 recently. Over the past 2 weeks, I’ve been using the Lava S12 as my primary phone and this gave me a chance to evaluate the phone. Let’s see how the phone fares.

 

Specifications

Being targeted at the low-end segment, the Lava S12 is powered by a 600MHz Qualcomm MSM7227 processor running on Android 2.2. The screen is a 262k color, 3.2HVGA LCD screen with 320×480 resolution and unlike most low-end phones, comes with a capacitive touchscreen.

The phone features a 5megapixel camera and comes with the regular connectivity options including WiFi(802.1 a/b/g) and Bluetooth on the wireless side and a microUSB port on the wired side. The internal phone memory is a paltry 120MB , but can be expanded with the help of a microSD card.

Bundle

The Lava S12 comes with a pretty impressive bundle & packaging.

lava-bundle Besides the phone, the bundled box comes with a microUSB cable, a stereo earphone headset, charging plug-point, a User’s guide, a leaflet highlighting the phone’s features, a leather pouch and a 2GB microSD card. The leather pouch is a pretty nice addition & feels good to hold.

lava-bundle-open

full-bundle

Build Quality & Hardware

The Lava S12 has a pretty nice feel to it. The phone has a curved front and back shape and feels very good to hold. Though the phone still has a plasticky-feel to it, it doesn’t look bad. The back cover has a pseudo-leather look and this helps in improving the look   feel of the phone. The sides of the phone have a very nice brushed-aluminum finish. Unfortunately the microSD & microUSB slots are covered with a rather flimsy plastic cover and gives the sensation that it might break anytime.

lava-side

lava-back

As mentioned above, the phone features a 3.2HVGA capacitive touchscreen. The top-left corner features the lock/power off button and volume control buttons. The right side of the phone features the headphone jack, the microSD &   microUSB slots. Rounding off the side was a dedicated button for activating the camera.

The capacitive touchscreen was fairly responsive, however, at times the phone failed to register my input. Though the phone has a dedicated camera button, more often than not, pressing the button would result in no action and I had to open the camera by launching the Camera app, rather than holding the button.

The phone features four dedicated buttons at the bottom of the screen the back button, the app launcher button, the home button and the search button. The home button is programmed to bring up the 3D UI, while the rest work as expected.

Software & Performance

The S12 runs on Android 2.2 Froyowith a custom spinning 3D UI that Lava touts heavily as it’s distinguishing feature. Hitting the home button brings up the 3D UI. The 3D UI feels like quite a novelty at first. However, with increased usage, the novelty factor wears off and the 3D UI feels gimmicky and isn’t really usable. To make things worse, the 3D UI is quite slow & navigating though the UI becomes a chore.

lava-ui

The S12 apparently comes with quite a few bundled applications including SlideIT keyboard(a keyboard replacement quite like Swype), a Lava service center app which will bring up a list of all Lava service centers that you can filter based on the city you’re in. The service centre app however doesn’t make use of the GPS to retrieve your location. Addition of this would have been a nice touch.

The bundled booklet mentions that phone also comes with Advanced Task Killer, Saavn, Facebook, Twitter, Times of India, Adobe PDF Reader, Hungama MyPlay, ngPay, Nimbuzz, Zenga TV and more. These apps were absent in my review unit and I couldn’t evaluate these. The Lava S12 also comes with Android Market app. However, my attempts to install some of my favorite apps such as twicca, facebook, GoSMS(amongst others) wasn’t  fruitful the market app refused to show these apps and trying to install the via the Market web UI resulted in a cryptic This item is not compatible with your deviceerror.

Performance-wise, I found the device to be quite average. Some of the basic functionality like going through the contacts(I have over 800 contacts in my address book), sending an SMS was alright, the device’s response in the Camera app was horrendous. The S12 took about 5 seconds to capture the image after pressing the button.

To test out something a little more stressful, I installed & played Fruit Ninja(oddly, I didn’t face the item not compatibleerror). Fruit Ninja hummed along just fine, with some occasional stuttering. Overall, the S12 works fine barring the occasional stutter.

Camera & Multimedia playback

The S12 comes with 5megapixel fixed focus camera with up to 2x digital zoom. The camera performance was rather average, nothing outstanding. At proper light levels, camera captures are fine, although they seem to have a little bit of a green tint. At low-light conditions however, the performance is rather poor & the pictures are quite noisy. The absence of a flash means that low-light photography is a no-no.

S12_IMG_20111211_171657

S12_IMG_20111211_171745

S12_IMG_20111208_102009The S12 features stock Android media players and has a FM radio app as well.The bundled earphones are supposedly Dolby SRS compliant. However, SRS logo doesn’t do any justice to the earphones the sound quality on the earphones was rather bad. It was almost like the sounds were being drowned underwater.

The bass & highs were nonexistent, the mids were muddy and had a strange echo-feeling the same feeling that you get when you try to put some decent earphones across some really bad software filters. At high volume levels, the earphones jarred excessively. I tried the earphones on my iPhone & my HP Envy laptop and on both, the audio quality was really, really abysmal. I’d strongly urge to dump the bundled earphones for a different set.

Lava Android Manager

Buried within Lava’s website is a download link to the sync software for the Lava S12, dubbed the Android Manager. The Android Manager is nifty little utility which handles the S12’s sync capabilities. The Android Manager looks very much like an iTunes clone and works as bad as iTunes.

lava-android-manager

The biggest problem with the sync tool is that it supports only WiFi sync, not wired sync. Why is it that Lava chose to implement only WiFi sync I’ll never know. WiFi-only sync would have been nice, if the sync software could manage to retain the connection long enough for you to choose the files to sync. However, trying to sync anything other than contacts was an absolute disaster. Half the time  the software would lose contact with the phone. Trying to select any music or videos would cause the sync tool to break the connection. To make things worse, this was often followed by a spike in CPU utilization and memory leaks. With these issues, it’s now clear why Lava has the Android Sync Manager hidden.

Battery Life & Conclusion

The Lava S12 comes with a 1300mAh Li-Ion battery with a rated standby time of 590 Hours(GSM)/650 Hours(UMTS) and talk time of 650 minutes(GSM)/485 minutes(UMTS). Practically, with my usage of couple of phone calls, some light web browsing, Mail, Calendar sync enabled and with Plume running and with 3G on, the phone lasted about 14 hours before needing a recharge, which isn’t too bad. The charging however took a long time well in excess of 6 hours to recharge it back to 100%. With the SIM removed and only WiFi enabled, the phone lasted about a day and half.

Lava’s first foray into the smartphone segment isn’t too shabby. The phone feels good, looks good and has rather okay-ish performance. The phone however has some glaring drawbacks from the pathetic Sync Tool to the laggy camera response time. If these could have been looked into,   the S12 could have been a lot better. Officially, the S12 retails at about Rs. 9,999. At this price rate it’s hard to recommend this phone since there are other better phones at this price range.

However, as of now, the phone is available for about Rs 8450 on Flipkart which isn’t too bad of a deal, especially if you’re looking for a low-budget smartphone.

Samsung Galaxy Note launches in India for INR 34,990; Hands-on Video

4.7HTC Titan. 5Dell Streak. And now, Samsung Galaxy Note at 5.3. To borrow Samsung’s tagline, Next is what?’. Samsung launched Galaxy Note, the 5.3display mobile device, today in India. This device probably creates a new category in the market as a hybrid between smartphones and tablets.

WP_000876WP_000881WP_000877

Featuring a 5.3HD Super AMOLED display, this Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) device provides an immersive experience and brings an advanced pen-input technology to the table. Samsung calls the stylus, the Smart Pen.   While most people have relegated stylus to be an old-world input technology, Samsung insists it has many interesting use cases specially to unleash your creativity and impulsive ideas.

The 1.4 GHz processor and 1GB RAM are packed in a nice looking device that is only 9.65mm thick and weighs 178 gms.   It features an 8MP camera with LED flash as well as a 2MP secondary camera. Samsung also announced the launch of a new S-Choice category under Samsung Apps. It features applications specially designed for Galaxy Note’s Smart Pen feature. Here’s a quick hands-on that I did at the launch event held at New Delhi, India.

The MRP of the device is INR 34,990 and it will be available in Indian market this week.

Best Android Phones of MWC 2011

If there was one theme that dominated the Mobile World Congress this year, it was Android. Android reigned supreme at MWC 2011, with a series of Android powered devices including smartphones and tablets being launched by almost every major player in the industry.

MWC 2011 also saw the unveiling of some of the most highly anticipated Android smartphones of 2011. Many impressive Android phones were showcased there, but these three are definitely the best Android phones which were announced at MWC 2011.

Samsung Galaxy S II

The Samsung Galaxy S was the most popular Android smartphone of 2010. Samsung was expected to launch the successor to the Galaxy S at MWC 2011, and it did.

The Samsung Galaxy S II is twice as better as the Galaxy S and is bigger, faster and slimmer. It comes with a 4.3 inch SuperAMOLED Plus display with a resolution of 480 x 800 pixels, a 1 GHz dual core processor, 1 GB RAM and is powered by Android 2.3 Gingerbread. It also offers 32 GB internal storage and comes with 3G HSDPA, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n with DLNA and Wi-Fi Direct, Bluetooth 3.0 and GPS. It is also slimmer, at just 8.5 mm and has a powerful 1650 mAh battery. It comes with an 8 MP camera with autofocus and LED flash and is capable of recording 1080p videos.

Samsung Galaxy S 2

LG Optimus 3D

The LG Optimus 3D was the best LG Android smartphone unveiled at MWC 2011. As the name suggests, it comes with a 4.3 inch, 3D capable capacitive touchscreen display with a resolution of 480 x 800 pixels. It is the first phone to support a 3D display and comes with a dual core 1 GHz processor and 512 MB RAM with 8 GB internal storage.

It has dual 5 MP cameras which can capture 3D videos at 720p. It can record 1080p HD videos at 1080p. It comes with Android 2.2 Froyo and has 3G HSDPA, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth as well as GPS support. It comes with a 1500 mAh battery.

LG Optimus 3D

Sony Ericsson Xperia Play

Besides these two, there was another mind blowing announcement at MWC 2011, but this one was no surprise. It was the Sony Ericsson Xperia Play, or the Playstation Phone, details of which had leaked out way before MWC started.

The Xperia Play is modeled after the PSP Go, and comes with a sliding gamepad with gaming controls, and a 4 inch capacitive touchscreen display with a resolution of 480 x 854 pixels.

It comes with a 1 GHz Snapdragon processor and 512 MB RAM, along with the Adreno 205 GPU. It runs Android 2.3 Gingerbread with a custom UI and has a 5 MP camera with autofocus and LED flash.

It is a Playstation Certified smartphone, and will come with a library of more than 50 PSP games, exclusive to the Xperia Play.

Xperia Play

California says “All Your Phones are Belong to Us” – No Warrants Needed

scales-justiceMonday, The California Supreme Court decided to allow police to search arrestees’ cell phones without a warrant. The ruling of the 7 Justices was a 5 to 2 vote in favor of this. The majority said that defendants lose their privacy rights for any items on them when taken into custody. (Source SF Chronicle)

cali-state-flagThe dissenting opinion was voiced by Justice Kathryn Mickle Werdegar. She says this allows police “to rummage at leisure through the wealth of personal and business information that can be carried on a mobile phone or handheld computer merely because the device was taken from an arrestee’s person”.

Under current guidelines from the US Supreme Court, police are allowed to go through your wallet and other items. Should this right be extended to the data we carry on us? What happens when you are carrying not only a phone, but a laptop or tablet? Can they dig into these now without a warrant?

The American Civil Liberties Union hasn’t issued a statement concerning this decision yet. However, they have previously defended the rights of students in schools not to have their phone data seized by school officials. If they don’t defend the rights of an arrestee in this case, can they be taken seriously?

ohio-flagThe Ohio Supreme Court reached the opposite opinion in 2009, which forced police to get a warrant to search cell phones or other portable devices.

What do I think about this?

I now have one more reason to be proud that I live in Ohio, a state that defends my rights to carry personal data. I feel sad for the people of California. If taken to extremes, anyone there can now have all of their personal data seized, simply by being given a speeding ticket or jay-walking.

People of California read this post at eHow.com: How to Encrypt a cell phone.


Microsoft to Bring Windows to ARM Processors at CES

Intel leads the processor market in terms of sales by a huge margin. With the success of the Core 2 Duo, and then the Core i7, Core i3 and Core i5 line of processors, AMD has been completely relegated to the sidelines.

However, when it comes to mobile, Intel is still trying to get a foothold in the processor market. The majority of mobile processors are based on the ARM platform, mainly because its architecture is much more power efficient, which is a very important requirement in smartphones. ARM based platforms are also being increasingly used in tablets, a relatively new market which Intel is desperately trying to corner.

With Microsoft’s latest move though, the fight may get even tougher for Intel. Microsoft may be planning to launch an ARM based version of Windows at CES 2011, according to a report by Bloomberg. Such a move would be very beneficial for Microsoft which is trying to make a dent in the tablet market, as well as ARM which will cement its position in the mobile processor segment.

via Bloomberg

Dell To Launch Smartphones In India Later This Year

During a press event with journalists, Steve Felice (President of consumer and SMB, Dell) talked about the company’s plans for Europe and India.

Dell has been working on a tablet and cell phones for quite some time. Felice, confirmed to journalists that Dell will be launching their 5tablet computer in Europe and cell phones in India later this year.

HP’s acquisition of Palm and subsequent news of a WebOS tablet will put pressure on Dell who so far have focused on computers. HP has been in the smart phone market since years and as such isn’t new to the territory. Dell, is looking at Asia, especially China and India as potential markets. Nokia still dominates India and pricing the phones will be crucial for Dell.

Other OEMs like Acer and ASUS have been dabbling with phones as well. This expansion to phones for primary computer manufacturers signals a clear market trend, people want small form factor devices. India’s successful completion of 3G auctions, government’s directive to ban cheap Chinese knock-off handsets are some positives for Dell.

Details about Dell’s Windows Phone 7 devices had leaked earlier, whether this will be part of Dell’s India portfolio remains to be seen.

via WSJ

HTC HD Mini Launched In India For Rs. 23,490

HTC has launched the HD Mini phone in India for a affordable price of Rs. 23,490. HTC HD Mini will run Windows Mobile 6.3 and is a 3G phone with Wi-Fi support.

HTCHDminiBlack_thumb[1]

HTC HD Mini comes with a Capacitive touch screen, 512MB ROM, 384MB RAM, 3.2″ HVGA display, 5MP camera. The HD Mini also comes with the popular HTC Sense. Last year, HTC launched two phones in India, including the HTC HD2 for Rs. 36,990 and the HTC Touch2 for Rs. 24,490.

This year, HTC has launched the cheap HTC Smart for Rs. 9,990 with many new phones including the HTC Desire slated to launch in India in the near future. India has now become one of the top destinations for launching new smartphones and considering that there are around 600 million subscribers, it would make more sense for manufacturers to penetrate the rural markets with cheap smartphones.

HTC HD Mini can be purchased for Rs. 23, 490 from HTC authorized stores across India.

[via Cell Bharat]