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07 Jun 12 HTC’s new One phones are worth a look

When it comes to smartphones, I’m an iPhone guy. But I’ve long appreciated HTC’s Android phones.

The first Android phone I really liked was the Google Nexus One, which was made by HTC. I also was a big fan of the Nexus One’s sibling, the Droid Incredible.

But in the past year or so, HTC has struggled to make phones that stood out in the increasingly crowded Android marketplace. It has lost share to Samsung, which has focused on phones with jumbo, brilliantly lit screens.

HTC is trying to stage a comeback. It announced a new flagship line this year of phones dubbed One. The first two models in the line, the One S and the One X, recently hit store shelves at T-Mobile USA and ATT, respectively.

I’ve been testing both phones and generally like what I’ve seen. I don’t consider either one a must-have, but they are worth a serious look if you are in the market for an Android device.

Of the two, I was immediately drawn to the One S. I’ve not been a big fan of phones with screens larger than 4 inches because they tend to be unwieldy to use with one hand. But the One S is supersleek.

Despite having the same 4.3-inch screen as Motorola’s Droid Razr, the One S is lighter. It’s also nearly as thin as the Razr without having a raised bump for its camera. Instead, the One S’s back is flat with rounded edges and feels great in the hand.

With a 4.7-inch screen, the One X is noticeably bigger than the One S. Although it shares the same basic design and is only slightly heavier, its bulk makes it feel clumsy.

The two phones’ screens differ in size and in underlying technology and resolution. The One S has an organic light-emitting diode, or OLED, display, which offers richer colors and deeper blacks than the One X’s LCD display, but looks a bit dimmer in bright light.

As one might expect from a bigger screen, the One X’s shows more pixels than the One S’s, but that’s not necessarily a good thing. Some apps designed for smaller displays appear stretched out or have ultratiny buttons.

Still, the One S and the One X have a lot in common. Both have fast dual-core processors, an adequate but not ample amount of storage — 16 gigabytes — and Ice Cream Sandwich, the latest version of Android.

On both phones, though, HTC has decided to forgo the virtual system buttons that Google built into Ice Cream Sandwich, which change in number and appearance from application to application. Instead, HTC is sticking with the permanent and fixed touch-sensitive buttons that used to be found on all Android phones. I think that’s a good choice; I’ve found the ever-changing system buttons in the latest version of Android confusing.

Both phones also run the latest version of HTC’s Sense interface on top of Android. I’ve always liked Sense, an easier-to-use interface than what ships with the standard version of Android. HTC streamlined the interface a bit in the new version and added one cool feature that helps its devices continue to stand out from other Android phones.

Recently used applications are displayed as cards rotated slightly. You can swipe left and right to access various apps. And you can close applications by swiping up. It looks a lot like the multitasking system of Palm’s webOS, which I loved, and I was happy to see HTC borrow the idea.

One of the key features HTC is touting in the One l phones is their superfast cameras.

I take a lot of pictures on cellphones, and it can be a frustrating experience. They tend to do a poor job in low-light situations, and many are too slow to capture pictures of fast-moving kids or animals.

But I was impressed with the cameras on the One phones, at least in terms of speed. They shoot photos almost instantaneously. And if you keep the shutter button pressed down, they’ll shoot continuously until you have no more storage space left, if you want to go that long. When you stop shooting, the phones will help you select the best shot; you can either keep all the ones you shot in a row, or simply the best one.

Neither phone is perfect. Thanks to its giant screen, the One X seemed to gobble up its battery power fairly quickly, even in moderate use.

Meanwhile, the One S suffers from its service provider; as I drove around the San Francisco Bay Area, I found numerous spots where I either couldn’t get T-Mobile’s service on the One S, or where I could only get its aging 2G network. The One S I tested also had a bug that caused it to mysteriously reboot several times, even when I wasn’t using it.

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23 May 12 HTC’s latest Android 4.0 device update list is Google’s signal to retake …

Google Android Bikes

HTC has published a detailed list of which of its phones will get an Ice Cream Sandwich update and when. With some updates not expected until September, Google needs to retake control of Android, and its rumored new store could be the prefect opportunity to do so.

HTC has published a complete list of all its phones that will receive an update to Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, along with approximate timings, and a projected completion date of late August.

If this had been published six months ago, with an end of January finish date, it would have been acceptable; but instead some devices will still be waiting for Android 4.0 when Android 5.0 has been announced.

According to the list, owners of the Amaze 4G, Evo 4G+, Velocity, Vivid, Sensation, Sensation 4G, Sensation XL and Sensation XE all should be running Ice Cream Sandwich by the end of June, if they’re not already.

Then, before the end of July, the Desire S, the Evo 3D, Evo Design 4G, Incredible S, Rezound and Rhyme will join them. Bringing up the rear is the Thunderbolt, Desire HD and the Droid Incredible 2, all of which should have the update by the end of August.

All of these approximate dates should then have 45 days added to them, as according to HTC, that’s how long it’ll take the networks to test and approve the new software.

A long time coming

Here are some dates for you, as it has been a while so the exact amount of time this has taken may have slipped your mind. Android 4.0 and the Samsung Galaxy Nexus were announced on October 19, and HTC first started talking about updates just a few weeks later.

We can call that seven months ago, and the worst case scenario is that phones such as the Thunderbolt may still be waiting for Android 4.0 in September 2012, nearly a year afterwards.

HTC’s not the only one, as Motorola released a similar list a few days ago, and the majority of eligible devices can expect an update between July and September. Sony and Samsung haven’t done much better, but at least the Galaxy S2 saga is almost at an end.

Jelly Bean and the new Google Store

In just over a month’s time the doors to the annual Google I/O conference will open, so we’ll probably get our first look at Jelly Bean, the codename for the next version of Android, and the cycle will start all over again.

But if the rumors of a Google store with a collection of Nexus devices for sale pan out, the misery of waiting for software updates may be about to end, and the company could be preparing to start afresh.

The prospect of a new Google store with, for example, three phones at different price points and two tablets with different screen sizes, all running Jelly Bean and all with guaranteed updates for the foreseeable future, is a tempting possibility.

It could be Google’s chance to retake control of Android, embrace its fans, and leave those who don’t care about software updates to happily enjoy their manufacturer user interfaces.

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15 May 12 T-Mobile’s Free Tethering Ending with ‘Ice Cream Sandwich’

HTC’s upgrade of the HTC Sensation on Wednesday to Android 4.0 will be bittersweet, as a T-Mobile representative said that the company will begin enforcing its $14.99 per month wireless hotspot plan.

That probably means that the carrier’s policy of letting some customers use the feature for free will end, making a Wi-Fi hotspot subscription mandatory for those who want the “Ice Cream Sandwich”/Android 4.0 upgrade, and wish to keep using the phone as a wireless hotspot.

T-Mobile’s support document on the HTC Sensation upgrade on Monday came with a caveat: “HTC Sensation 4G will be required to add Wi-Fi Mobile Hotspot feature in order to use the service after completing this update.”

T-Mobile also indicated that ICS would be coming to the HTC Amaze 4G “in the coming weeks”. However, that document lacks the Wi-Fi Mobile Hotspot caveat that T-Mobile included on the HTC Sensation page. On the other hand, users have reported that T-Mobile has also previously blocked the Wi-Fi tethering feature on the Amaze.

T-Mobile has always officially charged $14.95 per month for Wi-Fi hotspot access. However, some users were given a free pass, leading to confusion about whether T-Mobile actually charged for the feature. Users needed to buy the package, whether or not they used a USB cable to tether the phone to their computer, or a Wi-Fi connection.

“T-Mobile began offering a Smartphone Mobile Hotspot plan in November 2010. However, due to technical limitations with software, customers were not being charged for the feature on select T-Mobile products,” a T-Mobile representative said. “Customers who choose to upgrade their HTC Sensation 4G to the optional Android 4.0 (ICS) software update will be required to sign up for the $14.99 Smartphone Mobile Hotspot plan.”

Furthermore, some users were also given a grace period of sorts. “T-Mobile may not immediately block you from Wi-Fi sharing until it is verified that you are using your device as a modem…and at that time you may be blocked and then required to purchase a feature to continue using it,” a T-Mobile customer support representative wrote last year. “That said, there may be a period of time where you are able to tether without having the feature added on the account.”

Although a T-Mobile representative confirmed that HTC Sensation 4G customers who wish to continue using the hotspot feature would need to pay the extra fee, all HTC Sensation owners will be able to upgrade to Ice Cream Sandwich for free – it’s just the hotspot feature that will cost extra.

HTC has a total of 16 phones lined up to get ICS updates, as it said in March, including the Droid Incredible 2 by HTC, HTC Amaze 4G, HTC Desire S, HTC Desire HD, HTC EVO 3D, HTC EVO Design 4G, HTC Incredible S, HTC Sensation, HTC Sensation XL, HTC Sensation 4G, HTC Sensation XE, HTC Raider, HTC Rezound, HTC Rhyme, HTC Thunderbolt, and HTC Vivid.

For more from Mark, follow him on Twitter @MarkHachman.

For the top stories in tech, follow us on Twitter at @PCMag.

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08 May 12 Droid Incredible

$199 Samsung Galaxy Nexus may hit Verizon on April 5th

Samsung’s Galaxy Nexus on Verizon costs a steep $299 even after commitment to a two-year contract. If you’re willing to live with half the internal memory, a 16GB model could be heading to Big Red on April 5th for $100 less.

According to Android blog Droid Life, this lower-priced GNex will feature many of the same tasty features of its more expensive sibling including Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, an AMOLED screen, and dual-core processing, along with Verizon LTE 4G data.

It all sounds great but when you consider the Galaxy Nexus lacks a microSD slot and relies entirely on internal storage, this might not be such a sweet deal. This is especially true if you plan to fill the phone up with tons of audio tracks or high-quality video.

Another device is rumored to arrive a few weeks later, on April 26th, is the HTC Droid Incredible 4G. The handset is likely based on the previously reported HTC Fireball, another 4G LTE phone.

Originally posted at Mobile

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03 May 12 What Android might bring us from CTIA

Next week as wireless fans descend on New Orleans for the annual
CTIA Wireless how, we’ll get one more peek at how the mobile landscape will unfold over the coming months. Previously held in March, but moved to May for 2012, the three-day event takes a North American focus while including the wireless movers and shakersfrom aorund the world.

At previous shows, carriers have pulled back the curtain on high-profile
Android smartphones and
tablets. In 2010, for example, Sprint announced the HTC Evo 4G and last year we got the slimmed down Galaxy Tab 10.1. So considering the rapid clip of mobile development, it stands to reason that this year will be no exception, right?

Well, maybe not. I’d love to be proven wrong, but I don’t look for too much out of Android when the fun kick off May 8. In fact, in the four year history of Android products at CTIA, this may be the least eventful conference yet.

Perhaps it’s because of the show’s later time frame, but then again Samsung decided to hold a separate press event tomorrow, May 3, to announce what should be the Galaxy S III. Sammy hasn’t said why it’s holding its own party, though maybe it just didn’t want to share the stage.

Whatever the company’s reason, I will have to watch the fun from this side of the pond. But that’s not to say that there isn’t anything to look forward to in The Big Easy.

HTC Droid Incredible 2

Will Verizon unveil a successor to the Droid Incredible 2?

Josh Miller/CNET)

Big Red
Verizon Wireless may come away with the show’s biggest new Android announcement if it gives us the Droid Incredible 4G LTE. As the third release in the series, this model builds on its predecessors with a faster processor, more memory, and support for 4G LTE.

Considering just how fast Verizon is growing its network, last season’s edition looks more antiquated by the day. Specifications for the Droid Incredible 4G are said to include a 1.2GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor, 1GB RAM, a 4-inch qHD display, 8-megapixel camera, and NFC support. Set to run Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, the smartphone also should feature HTC Sense 4.

Turning to handsets without launch dates, we already know that Sprint plans to offer the HTC EVO 4G LTE at some point in the near future. Recent rumors have tapped the One X variant with a May 18 debut, just one week after CTIA wraps up.

Priced at $199, Sprint’s flagship device boasts a 4.7-inch Super LCD screen, dual-core Snapdragon processor, 16GB storage, and 1GB RAM. I might look for CEO Dan Hesse to announce a shipping date as part of his keynote roundtable on day one of CTIA.

Will any one of these vendors steal the show with an Android announcement?


Keeping with Sprint, there’s a small chance that the carrier will unveil its Motorola Photon 4G successor. Known as the Photon Q 4G LTE, the details for this model are very light. Considering all that we don’t know about the handset, however, I suspect the debut could be a few months off.

Back to Samsung
I’m not holding my breath, but I’d love to see Samsung bring the Galaxy S III to New Orleans. My gut tells me that it will, but may keep it behind glass and just out of reach. Much of this will depend, of course, on when Samsung expects to ship the handset.

Since its debut in January, the Galaxy Note has been rumored to be coming to additional carriers. Whereas CTIA would be a great venue for Sprint or T-Mobile to announce support, nothing I’ve seen lately indicates there will be noise around the subject.

Given that there have not been any major “save the date” emails sent out ahead of CTIA this year, I can’t imagine any major surprises or announcements. Generally speaking, though, the conference usually acts as a smaller follow-up act to Mobile World Congress and 2012 should be no different.

Even with the later show this year, it’s only been two months since we visited Barcelona. Judging by the companies giving keynote addresses at CTIA, I’m guessing that we’ll be getting more software, services, and industry trends than products.

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05 Apr 12 iPhone users: Android is ruining our Instagram club

My favorite Instagram pic sent in by a CNET Crave reader.

Instagram user mrluke)

commentary Since Instagram became available for
Android users yesterday, a lobby of “but that was OUR app!” tweets are starkly highlighting the rift between iPhoners and Androiders.

Vocal iOS fans are unhappy that Instagram is no longer exclusive to them. Suddenly, their club is letting Android users in!
How could it be?

The allure of exclusivity is understandable. As a Droid Incredible owner who sat on the sidelines as the Instagram app became increasingly popular, I felt a pang of jealousy and longing whenever I looked at my iPhone-owning friends’ beautifully saturated pictures. I can only imagine that they felt a similar little pang of satisfaction knowing their pictures were “special” in that they weren’t replicable by everyone.

In some ways, this reminds me of my junior year of high school, when I’d fallen in with a group of cool alternative kids. It was so exciting! Their tastes were so…cultivated! They introduced me to this awesome new band that sang this sad, beautiful song, “Yellow.” Oh, how we loved it. We sat on the subway, each listening to it on our separate Walkmans (this was right before the
iPod came out), and it was our music. It got us.

Then suddenly, Coldplay took off and my friends were disgusted that “Yellow” was being piped through the speakers at Barnes Noble! Ew! Now EVERYONE could listen to it? At that point, it was taboo for me to like it.

But for the most part, that’s just cultural elitism; it’s annoying and off-putting, but not especially harmful.

However, the Instagram-on-Android outrage has taken on an insidious undertone. This tweet, sent in reaction to the uproar, captures it well.

Read through a few of the “Eww, Android users in my Instagram feed!” tweets, and there’s no denying the response is classist. The use of the term “Section 8″ is undeniably so. That the underlying assumption there is wrong doesn’t seem to matter.

Choosing which smartphone to buy is a profoundly “first-world” problem. Anyone with a smartphone is paying a huge monthly data rate; to accuse Android users as a whole of government-assistance-level poverty is ridiculous, and potentially hurtful. Even more so because there may in fact be a real — albeit slight — difference in the average incomes of Android and iPhones users.

Consider this Hunch survey that Buzzfeed points out, which suggests that though Android users are in no socioeconomic way “poor,” they may be less likely than
iPhone users to be “rich,” if we define rich as making more than $200,000 a year.

Really, people? An app is bringing out the disdain of the “haves” to the “maybe-have-a-little-lesses”?

References to people not being allowed into country clubs hits home with me as an American Jew. And though the iOS/Android rift is obviously nowhere near as destructive or serious as that exclusion, the similarities bear noticing. These iOS users are upset that Android users are suddenly joining them inside the cool, wonderful walls of Instagram, presumably not because they think the iPhone is better than Android phones, but because they think iPhone owners are somehow superior to Android owners.

And that’s the most remarkable takeaway of this phenomenon, I think: that which smartphone we own has begun to inform our identities. In our gadget-filled lives, our phones have become another way for us to organize ourselves into separate groups, to label each other as “other” and “apart.” Our tech has come to define us.

Is it naive of me to point out that all we smartphone-toters are basically the same? We use our phones to text, get on the Web, check Facebook, take pictures, find our way to new locations, get out of awkward situations. Maybe it is naive to point it out, but I’m going to anyway.

Let’s just all get along, guys, and share pictures of beautiful sunsets.

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