On Thursday June 14, late in the afternoon, Microsoft sent out invites to media for a special event in Los Angeles, CA which promised to be a major announcement not to be missed. Since it was so cryptic, it created a flurry of rumors, leaks and conjecture. Several pundits have written about what it could be, connected the dots and come to a conclusion and in fact this morning, one of those guesses was even shot down.
Instead of trying to think of what it could be, I am going to write about what I hope it will be. Based on the fact that this event is in Los Angeles, I am hoping it has everything to do with entertainment tie-ups. At E3 earlier this month, Microsoft took the wraps off their new entertainment brand (Xbox-everything) and showed some bits of their new (improved?) Xbox Companion app, Smart Glass. Also, Microsoft gave a glimpse of Xbox Music, their successor to the Zune Music service. However, neither Smart Glass nor Xbox Music were looked at in detail. What we do know is they said that the Xbox Music service will have a catalog of 30 million tracks (compared to Zune Music today, which is around 20 million).
So, here’s my list of what I hope may come today:
- Details of Xbox Music service: Additional deals to get the catalog from today’s 20 million tracks to the promised 30 million. Also, most importantly, access for the service from other platforms besides Windows (8, RT and Phone) – so, iOS apps and Android apps.
- Unveiling of Xbox Video service: While it was made clear that Xbox is the center of Microsoft’s entertainment strategy, not much was discussed about Xbox Video. I hope that Microsoft is able to cut some deals with Hollywood to get exclusive content built into Xbox Video. Hollywood has got to be scared of Apple (and Netflix), so a good tie up with Microsoft would of course make sense for them.
- Merge Zune Music Pass and Xbox LIVE Gold: The most ridiculous thing about Xbox as an entertainment device is that to access almost any entertainment service on the Xbox, you need an Xbox LIVE Gold account, listed at $60/year. Although there are a lot of promotions for the Gold account (Amazon routinely sells these for $45 or so), it is still an unnecessary cost for normal (read: non-gaming) customers to access services they already pay for. On the other hand, Zune Music Pass is an awesome subscription service which can be accessed over the Xbox in addition to the PC and Windows Phone. It is time for Microsoft to merge the two and call it the Xbox Pass which enables access to the video services on the Xbox platform, as well as unlimited music.
- Xbox Lite: The Xbox today is still seen as a gaming device which can also do entertainment, never mind the stats which show that Xbox users now consume more content on the device than play games. Also, a lot of households have multiple TV sets and getting a $200 Xbox for each TV may not be worth it just for say, Netflix and Hulu. What if Microsoft made a Xbox Lite which like Apple TV would have close to no storage and would not be used for gaming. This would work great for the non-gaming customers who want to consume the unlimited music catalog and also get access to the tons of video services now available on the Xbox. If it is priced at $79, it would be a super hit, I’d imagine.
- Announce global availability of all of the above: Most of the Zune/Xbox LIVE services are poorly represented around the world. It would be fantastic if Microsoft is able to get availability parity across the globe.
Note, I am staying away from tablets, phones and cellular stuff. I do hope that it is not about a Microsoft tablet or a Nokia phone. On the cellular front though, some random rumor about a Verizon event have some tie in to this Microsoft announcement intrigues me – Verizon is a huge hold out when it comes to Windows Phones and any partnership they have with Microsoft, I see it as a positive step.
What do you think? Too much to hope for?
When HTC unveiled the One X, it also announced that all One series owners are going to get 25GB of free space on Dropbox for Twitter. Samsung up’d HTC when it announced that all Galaxy S III owners will be getting 50GB of free space on Dropbox for two years.
Sadly, it looks like this offer from Samsung won’t be valid for the U.S variants of the Galaxy S III. Quite a few people in the United States who have already managed to get their hands on the Galaxy S III in the United States complained about not getting the free storage space after signing up on the Dropbox forums. This is when a Dropbox forum moderator chimed in and announced that some of the U.S carriers have opted out of this promotional offer.
For some unknown reason, Verizon and AT&T have both opted-out of this promotion offer with their variant of the Galaxy S III. It is still not confirmed whether Sprint or T-Mobile have also opted-out of this promotional offer or not. I am not really sure as to why AT&T and Verizon opted-out of this offer, when the promotional offer is still valid for the HTC One X in the United States.
Via – Droid-Life
Earlier today, Samsung announced that its latest and greatest flagship, the Galaxy S III will be hitting the five major operators in the United States sometime in June.Fast forward a few hours later, nearly all the major operators have announced their on-contract pricing and release date of the handset. While Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile will start accepting pre-orders for the handset as early as June 6th, U.S cellular will start the pre-order for the handset on June 12th.
The on-contract pricing of the Galaxy S III — $199 for 16GB variant and $249.99 for the 32GB variant on a two year contract – remains the same across all the three major operators – Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile. While Sprint and T-Mobile will start shipping the handset on June 21st, Verizon is yet to announce a proper release date of the handset. U.S Cellular did not announce anything about the pricing or the release date of the handset. The press release states that the carrier will do so when the pre-order for the handset begins. The handset will support the LTE network of all the carriers, including U.S Cellular’s nascent LTE network.
This is the first time that Samsung has managed to launch the Galaxy S III in the United States simultaneously on five different carriers, and most importantly with no design modifications. The original Galaxy S had nearly 5 different variants, while the Galaxy S II had nearly 4 when it was launched in the United States. This time, except for a change in SoC and a bump in the RAM to 2GB, the European variant and the U.S variant of the Galaxy S III are similar to each other.
It is just a matter of time before the AT&T’s PR team wakes up, and sends a press release announcing the release of Galaxy S III on their network.
Back in early May, Google and Verizon had started rolling out the Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich update for some of its business customers. Now, nearly a month after the initial roll-out, Verizon has updated its support document pages to reflect the roll-out the Android 4.0.4 update for the “general” users will begin “soon”.
The Android 4.0.4 update for the Verizon’s Galaxy Nexus will bring with it tons of bug fixes, improved performance and stability and a new radio to fix the poor 4G network reception and data drop issue that some users are facing. Below is the full change-log of the update -:
Email, Messaging & Data
- Email messages will display properly when the text size is set to large.
- When sending a multimedia message to an Outlook email address, the file extension will send, allowing the recipient to successfully open an image.
- Successfully deleted emails on the device will be deleted from the desktop as well.
- Successfully send text messages without experiencing network connectivity issues.
- When viewing a Calendar reminder or appointment, you will now be able to view the full notes associated with the appointment.
- A down arrow has been added in the Calendar application that will expand the calendar message body, allowing you to view the entire message.
- Successfully turn on Wi-Fi using the Power Control widget.
- Updates have been made to prevent the display from freezing or becoming unresponsive.
- Complete calls without experiencing choppy audio, clicking noises and one-way audio noises.
- Successfully access Voicemail and other automated systems without error.
The update is not yet live, but Verizon representatives state that the update should go live “soon”. The Android 4.0.4 update will be first software update the handset will receive in nearly six months after its release. So much for being a Nexus handset, eh?
It appears that sales of the Nokia Lumia are continuing to be rather strong, with sales of the device “outpacing” supply, according to Nokia U.S. President Chris Weber.
Demand has been outstripping supply for the first couple of weeks, and we’ve been working hard to rectify that,” he said. “The demand for cyan [phones] is significantly outpacing supply. When you give people something different from a design perspective—colors, etc. —it really stands out, and consumers want that.”
Like you may expect on an episode of Undercover Boss, Weber has personally visited many AT&T stores over the past few weekends to monitor how the salespeople take to and promote the Lumia. The verdict? Support has been generally “very good”, but it’s overall still a “work in progress”, he said. Whatever the case, the Lumia does seem to be selling out quite rapidly at many AT&T stores; my Twitter timeline can attest to this, with people all over the country saying that their local store was either running low on or completely out of the Lumia.
“Selling out” is definitely a refreshingly new thing to hear with the Windows Phone, platform, however. But despite these not-too-shabby sales — Lumia sales topped 2 million in the first quarter of this year — the launch wasn’t without problem. A data connectivity bug plagued the device initially, resulting in Nokia/AT&T offering a $100 credit to those who purchased defective devices. This in turn prompted Nokia’s share price to hit a 16-year low, unfortunately. Some other quirks seem to also effect the device, such as a purple tint on the screen (as Mr. Rafael Rivera has encountered with two Lumias already.)
It’s also far too early to deem the platform a complete success; Windows Phone still has ways to go before it can catch up to iOS and Android in the marketshare leaderboard. And to help the platform grow and find its way into the hands of more users, Weber commented saying that the company is working hard to join forces with the CDMA carrier:
“We’re not making any announcements, but we understand the importance of Verizon and we’re working hard to make that a reality.”
Verizon did recently admit that it too had a crush on Windows Phone during an earning’s call late last month. Hopefully the two can proceed to copulate and put more Windows Phones in the hands of consumers
Verizon and HTC have announced a new Droid branded handset for the big Red’s LTE network. The Droid Incredible 4G is the successor to the original Incredible and its less popular successor, the Incredible 2. Like the previous two Incredible’s, the latest Incredible also has red accents all over it, including a red earphone grille, a red chrome ring around the camera and a red beats audio logo at the bottom right of the handset.
The Droid Incredible 4G LTE specs are similar to the European variant of the HTC One S, which makes it an upper mid-range device. The 4-inch qHD (960×640) Super AMOLED display is backed by a 1.2GHz Qualcomm S4 processor, an Adreno 225 GPU, 1GB of RAM, 8GB of internal memory, and a 1700mAh removable battery.
At the back of the handset is an 8MP snapper with zero shutter lag with an aperture size of f/2.2 (28mm lens) that is also capable of recording videos in 1080p resolution. The Incredible 4G LTE uses a new 28nm baseband from Qualcomm, which should make sure that the handset lasts much longer than the previous generation 4G LTE handsets from HTC and Motorola.
Other key features of the handset include HTC Watch, NFC, MHL port, Bluetooth 4.0, Beats Audio and a bunch of sensors. The Incredible 4G LTE runs on Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich right out of the box with Sense 4.0 on top of it. Verizon did not announce an official release date of the handset but rumors suggest that it will be available by the end of this month for $149 on a two-year contract.
Back in October last year, Google and Samsung announced that the Galaxy Nexus will be coming to the United States and will remain exclusive to Verizon’s network for the first few months. This new definitely got a lot of Verizon customers happy as the big Red will finally sell a Nexus device that runs on stock Android.
Sadly, ever since the phone was released and a few minor updates were released by Google, people realized that the Verizon’s Galaxy Nexus is just another Android handset in the carrier’s range of handsets that don’t get timely Android updates. The Android 4.0.3 update never showed up for the Galaxy Nexus, and now nearly a month after the Android 4.0.4 update was released for the GSM variant of the Galaxy Nexus and a couple of other devices, Verizon has started rolling out the update for the GNexus under its network.
Considering the random reboot issue and other bugs present in Android 4.0.2, Verizon and Google should have rolled out the update ASAP, but the carrier took its own sweet time. The Android 4.0.4 update brings with it quite a lot of under the hood changes and bugfixes, including a fix for the random reboot issue, performance and stability improvements, faster auto-rotation and more. The update also contains a new radio which should improve the 4G LTE network reception and the 4G to 3G hand-off on the Verizon’s Galaxy Nexus.
Verizon is first rolling out the update for Galaxy Nexus owners on the corporate plan, and will roll out the update to other GNexus owners sometime from this week’s end.
Via – Droid-Life
Verizon and Sony have started rolling out a new software update for the Xperia Play (R800i) in the United States. If any Xperia Play owners are expecting that this update brings Ice Cream Sandwich to their handset, since Sony has already started rolling out the Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich update for some of its Xperia branded handsets then get ready for some disappointment.
The software update carrying the version number 4.0.2.E.0.57 brings Android 2.3.4 to the handset, along with certain new features including the ability to record videos in 720p resolution and bug fixes. Yes, Android 2.3.4 when Sony is releasing Ice Cream Sandwich to Xperia owners in rest of the world.
Below is the change-log of the update -:
- Verizon Wireless Video on Demand now comes preloaded.
- Improved user experience and new delivery method of preloaded games.
- When connected via Bluetooth®, the Music Player now supports Fast Forward and Rewind.
- VZ Navigator® has been updated with the latest 3D map improvements.
- Upgraded to Gingerbread 2.3.4 operating system.
- A long-press of the power button will successfully capture a screen shot.
- Charging issues forcing device to remain in landscape mode have been resolved.
- Recommended contacts now populate correctly when using the dialpad.
- Camera Improvements:
• Right trigger successfully captures a picture.
• Record video in 720p with continuous auto-focus.
- Device is now enabled with the Wireless Emergency Alerting System.
- Mobile Hotspot ID broadcast can be turned off to increase security.
Sony had rolled out a similar update
for the global version of the Xperia Play back in late November last year. I am not really sure what kind of testing the Verizon testers were doing that it took them nearly 6months to roll-out the same update.
Motorola had promised to release the Ice Cream Sandwich update for the Droid RAZR sometime in late Q1 or early Q2. However, there are just a couple of days left before April ends and Motorola misses its promised roll-out timing. Motorola is the only Android device maker that still has not updated any of its phone to Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, other than LG.
A couple of Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich firmware did leak for the Droid RAZR back in early March, but they were clearly a work-in-progress. Today, the folks over at DroidRzr.com have managed to get their hands on a new Ice Cream Sandwich build for the Droid RAZR, which is a ‘near’ final build. The build could have very well been the final build, but it has some minor bugs, due to which Verizon will not release it to the general consumers.
Anyways, interested Droid RAZR owners should head over to DroidRZR forums for the download link and installation instructions. Please make sure you have the latest OTA update (v6.12.181) installed, otherwise you won’t be able to install this leaked ICS update.
Via – Droid-Life
Out of all the U.S mobile carriers, Verizon is probably the one to demonstrate the least amount of enthusiasm for the Windows Phone platform. While AT&T and T-Mobile have began to embrace the platform — particularly with the addition and heavy promotion of Nokia devices, especially from the former carrier — the old, pre-Mango HTC Trophy is the only Windows Phone available on Verizon.
However, it appears that the company may be interested in changing this attitude towards the platform. During its Q1 2012 earnings call on Thursday, the company stated that it is looking to do the “same thing” that it does with Android with Windows Phone, going on to stress the importance of a third ecosystem:
“It is important that there is a third ecosystem brought into the mix here,” said Verizon CFO Fran Shammo. “We are fully supportive of that with Microsoft. … We helped create the Android platform from the beginning and it is an incredible platform today, and we are looking to do the same thing with a third ecosystem.”
Considering the fact that the company still sells only one — first-generation at that — Windows Phone device, surely they intend to add newer Windows Phones to their portfolio. But which device(s)? Surely they will go the route of a Nokia Lumia. But when? I wonder if they’re going to wait until Apollo before beginning to heavily back the Windows Phone platform.
Still, it’s nice to see that the company is at least slightly interested in Windows Phone. I just hope that their actions soon begin to back the bold statement issued at the earnings call.