MWC 2009

Android Community Week In Review: Week 8 2009

The Android platform finally got entrance of paid applications into the market this week, which many believe will finally give Android the edge it needs to compete with other smart phones. Purchase and payment takes place through Google Checkout. Of note, purchases can be "returned" within 24 hours of purchase (not of install) for a refund, something that the iPhone's App Store doesn't allow. Reports are that the paid apps have been trickling into users' Market apps over the past week, though availability at this time is limited to the US. Also being reported is that the Android Developer phones (identical to the G1 in functionality) do not have access to paid apps copy-protected apps from the market. The reasoning for this is not known at this time, and some users of these phones are still able to access paid apps copy-protected apps.

T-Mobile G2 (US-spec HTC Magic) outed by Google?

Google took to the stage to unveil GMail's offline functionality this week, but may have inadvertently announced something else, too: the T-Mobile G2.  Vic Gundotra, vice president of engineering, used the new HTC Magic to demonstrate the app, but rather than Vodafone branding the handset he brought out had T-Mobile's logo. Currently, the only announced version of the HTC Magic is Vodafone's exclusive European deal.  However HTC told Android Community at MWC this week that their deal with Vodafone only covers country-by-country availability, and that if a US carrier approached them regarding a version of the Magic tailored for US 3G they'd jump at the opportunity. This new branding certainly seems to suggest that rather than being a question of when a US carrier will pick up the HTC Magic, it's more a question of when T-Mobile USA will announce their sequel to the G1.  For the video of Gundotra's demonstration, click here. [via AC forums]

Week-old Android build demoed on TI uber-dev-device

Texas Instruments were demonstrating their Zoom OMAP34x-II Mobile Development Platform at Mobile World Congress this week, and among the software was a very recent build of Android.  In fact, according to the TI staff, the Android build they're running is only a week old.

The Zoom is intended for developers interested in coding for the OMAP3 chipset, and has a 4.1-inch capacitive touchscreen running at WVGA resolution, HDMI out, WiFi and optional 3G, together with 16GB of storage plus an SD card slot, a QWERTY keypad and an 8-megapixel camera.  TI will happily sell them to consumers, too, though you'll need deep pockets: the WiFi-only version is priced at $1,150 while the 3G-equipped Zoom comes in at $1,399. We asked TI whether they had forked from the standard Android build, and they were at pains to say no; they've been feeding back in their code developments to the Open Handset Alliance.  Check out the demo video, which shows just how well the TI Zoom runs the Google OS. [youtube][/youtube] [gallery]

HTC Magic hands-on: Gallery and Video

You've seen the preliminary video, you've read the specs; now it's time for the motherload of HTC Magic information.  We sat down with HTC's digital communications manager, Eric Lin, to talk Android, Vodafone and all things Magic. In terms of the hardware, under the hood there's little different to the G1.  What HTC have tweaked is the software, which has made the capacitive touchscreen more responsive and the smartphone as a whole speedier.  The Android software stack itself has few differences, the most obvious being the new on-screen keyboard.  80-percent of the time the Magic is used in portrait orientation, and the keyboard won't work in landscape orientation aside from with apps - such as the browser - that force the Magic to rotate the display. There's also now native video recording and playback, rather than requiring users to add their own media software.  The former offers two quality levels, one for MMS and the other slightly higher, while the latter is integrated with the photo gallery.  As you can see from the gallery, content is organized by photos and video in general, and those shot by the Magic's own camera. Since the announced Magic handset is dual-band 3G/UMTS (900/2100MHz), I asked Eric whether HTC had any plans for a US-spec version or if their agreement with Vodafone prevented that.  According to him, the carrier exclusivity is limited to country, not global, and HTC would jump at the opportunity to adapt the Magic for the US should they be approached by one of the carriers.  We also clarified the handset's name: despite what many sites have reported, the HTC Magic is not the "G2".  HTC named the smartphone, and Vodafone decided to use that title, whereas T-Mobile chose to use their own name when they launched the G1 (hence the handset being available as the HTC Dream elsewhere). Eric also showed us a black version of the Magic, though we were not allowed to photograph or video it as it's not intended for production.  HTC decided it looked too similar to other smartphones, and wouldn't be distinctive enough.  It's a shame, as the black version looked even smaller than the white, and with its curved edges reminded us a little of the Pre. There's still no flash to accompany the 3.2-megapixel autofocus camera (which is the same as on the G1); according to Eric, that's down to HTC prioritizing the areas in which they can make the most effective improvements in the timescale available.  HTC recognize that, as a company that not long ago only dealt with enterprise hardware, they're playing catch-up on some consumer functionality such as imaging; they chose to finesse the existing hardware, particularly the white balancing, rather than introduce a flash which wouldn't be best taken advantage of. In the hand, the HTC Magic is deceptively light and, although all plastic, feels great.  It's an altogether more tactile device than the G1, in no small part because of the reduction in bulk and sleeker casing, though obviously we're yet to play with the final-production button design. Touchscreen responsiveness seems on a par with the iPhone, at least during our relatively short time with the Magic, and the reduced thickness and less pronounced "chin" angle make it more comfortable to hold than the G1. Overall, the Magic feels much more like a consumer-ready device than the T-Mobile G1 did at its launch.  That's partly down to the extra maturity of the Android platform itself, but it's also thanks to a more attractive, perhaps more considered design.  Whether it's actually consumer-ready in practice depends on the final tweaks HTC make before the Q2 launch, and how robust Google's latest updates to Android are.  We've certainly left MWC with high hopes about the HTC Magic. Video is also available in HD - click the menu in the lower right-hand corner [youtube][/youtube] [gallery]

Huawei Android prototype at MWC09

Usually it's tough to get company reps to stop talking about their products long enough to escape from the booth, but someone seems to have failed to tell Huawei that.  The company announced back in January that it would be bringing its first Android phone to Mobile World Congress, but now that we're here trying to get information out of them is proving more than difficult. In fact, what Huawei failed generally to warn us was that the Android device they brought was just a dummy, locked up in a glass box and with no hardware details or even a screen mockup to entertain us.  That latter part is particularly key, given that according to the company's press release, they're working with an "established design consultancy" to develop their own custom interface, and hopefully get around the fact that there's a dearth of buttons on the current concept. It's tough to get excited about a device that, even in dummy form, you're not allowed to hold.  Huawei insist they're on course to launch the unnamed device in Q3 2009, and there's talk of being in negotiations with carriers. [gallery] Press Release:
Huawei Showcases its First Android Smartphone Commercial launch in Q3 2009 Huawei Technologies ("Huawei"), a leader in providing next-generation telecommunications network solutions worldwide, today showcased its first Android-powered smart phone at the GSMA Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. This smart phone will be commercially available in the third quarter of 2009. "Huawei is delighted to showcase its much anticipated first Android-powered smart phone. As a terminal solutions provider with all-round capabilities, Huawei has an acute insight into the drivers of the communications industry and in-depth understanding of operators," said Mr. James Chen, Director of Huawei Terminal Marketing Department., "A pioneer in mobile broadband devices, we look forward to expanding a compelling mobile communications experience for end-users whilst providing customized services to our operator partners via the Android smart phone." Huawei partnered with an established design consultancy to develop a robust and user-friendly interface, creating a powerful customer experience that is able to evolve with operators' differentiation requirements. Smart phones are expected to account for more than 24 percent of the global mobile phone market by 2011, and this figure is set to exceed 30 percent by 2012.

Google offline GMail webapp video demo from MWC09

Google have developed a webapp version of GMail for Android that supports offline use, demonstrating it at a Mobile World Congress panel this morning.  The app - which caches not only the user data but also an executable version of the software itself - relies on the AppCache and Database standards of HTML5, which are supported by the Webkit engine that the Android browser is built on. Because of the underlying standards, the app works identically on any device that supports HTML5.  That means developers need only create one version, which will have both the same functionality and GUI on any other device; Vic Gundotra, vice president of engineering, demonstrated the GMail app working on both the newly-announced HTC Magic and the iPhone 3G, which the Mobile Safari browser of which is also based on the Webkit engine. While Gundotra described the GMail software as "a technical concept" right now, it certainly looked ready to deploy.  As well as offline support, there is also a floating toolbar that follows email browsing and the ability to add labels. [youtube][/youtube]

Top 10 UK Android Market apps revealed by T-Mobile

T-Mobile UK have released a list of the top ten most popular Android applications, as downloaded to the T-Mobile G1 by users in the UK.  The list, which spans backup apps, shopping comparison search engines and horoscope information, have all been available free through the Android Market.  Top of the ranking is The Weather Channel, which offers customizable weather maps and alerts. A similar list, for US downloads, was published back in December 2008.  Google recently announced an update to the Android Market, which will allow developers to charge for their applications rather than give them away free.  It's expected that this will drive coding for the Android platform.
1. The Weather Channel – Provides customizable weather maps and alerts 2. MySpace Mobile – Allows MySpace users to keep connected via their T-Mobile G1 3. ShopSavvy – Allows users to scan a product’s barcode and compare prices online 4. Daily Horoscope – Offers a daily fix of astrology 5. Free Dictionary Org – Works just like a traditional dictionary 6. Ringdroid – Allows users to create their own ringtones using MP3 tracks, or by recording their own 7. Backgrounds – 50,000 backgrounds available to customise your T-Mobile G1 8. Barcode Scanner – Similar to ShopSavvy, allows users to scan a CD or book’s barcode to look up prices or reviews 9. Save MMS – Allows users to save images, video or audio from MMS text messages directly to the G1’s memory card 10. Compare Everywhere – Another shopping comparison service that uses the G1’s camera to scan a product’s barcode to find out more information and comparative prices
Earlier today, Vodafone and HTC announced the new HTC Magic, which will be the second phone to go on general sale with the Android OS.  You can find out more about the HTC Magic here, and see the first of our demo videos here.

HTC Magic Android phone hands-on

We know we said that HTC weren't allowing live shots or video of the HTC Magic, but we couldn't leave it at that. Non-final hardware or not, we know you guys are as excited by the Magic as we are, and still want to see it. Hands-on, the HTC Magic is everything the G1 was not: thin and lightweight, with none of the bulk G1 owners have complained about.

It also has more RAM - 192MB - so it should run quicker and be able to multitask more comfortably than the G1. The on-screen keyboard - which is only available in portrait orientation, not landscape - has letters which pop-up when you press them, as on the iPhone, which makes text entry much easier.

In the non-final hardware we've played with, the key change are the hardware buttons on the HTC Magic's "chin" section. The prototype has thin, sliver-style keys running under the capacitive touchscreen, together with a single button ("Menu") to the left of the trackball. The final hardware will have four square keys under the screen, with functions switched around to leave call send/end on keys either side of the trackball. According to Vodafone Spain, the HTC Magic will be priced between 99 Euro and 199 Euro when it launches. Still no word on pricing outside of Spain, nor when the HTC Magic will be available in the US. We've got a full 1-on-1 hands-on session with the Vodafone HTC Magic tomorrow, so expect plenty more photos and footage after that! [youtube][/youtube] [youtube][/youtube][gallery]

Vodafone HTC Magic confirmed as second Android handset

It's been all quiet on the Android front here at Mobile World Congress, and for a while we worried we might end up leaving the show without seeing anything other than reference platforms and non-functional dummy phones.  All that has changed with the news that Vodafone have clinched a deal to launch the second Android handset, in the shape of the HTC G2, which will go on sale in Europe as the Vodafone HTC Magic.

Full details on the handset won't be available until after a press conference later on today- which you know Android Community will be attending - but Vodafone CEO Vittorio Colao did confirm that the HTC Magic would be an exclusive to the carrier in Europe "for a limited period".  Availability beyond that point is unclear, though it's likely that just as the HTC Dream (aka T-Mobile G1) has gone on sale under HTC's brand elsewhere in the world, so will the Magic. Although there are no official shots of the HTC Magic yet, Pocket-lint managed to snap a few pictures of the handset prior to the official announcement.  It certainly bears a strong resemblance to the non-QWERTY G2 that we saw leaked images of back in January. [gallery]

Samsung Android phone delayed until 2H 2009; no show at MWC

Samsung will no longer be bringing an Android-based device to Mobile World Congress next week, and has reportedly delayed the release of its first Android smartphone to the second half of 2009.  The company was originally expected to showcase at least one new device, running the open-source platform, in Barcelona, prior to a release tipped for Q2 this year. According to Younghee Lee, head of marketing at Samsung's mobile device division, the company is "planning internally" for a release in the second half of the year, and that Samsung is in negotiations with a number of operators interested in carrying the phone.  Younghee Lee also confirmed that there would be nothing Android-based demonstrated at MWC from the company.  Samsung originally claimed that their Q2 2009 target release was the result of carriers requesting the Android handset earlier; as a result, the company's development team scaled up to bring forward the smartphone's availability.  We're waiting on an official comment from our sources at Samsung as to what they can tell us over the cause of the delay, and we'll update once we hear back.
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