Topic mobile

WiFi versus LTE to dominate the future of mobile services

in mobile on (#39V2)
The New York Times is asking what the primary wireless technology of the future will be: Traditional wireless carriers operate their services primarily with cell towers, but offer Wi-Fi as a secondary option to bear some of the load. Upstarts FreedomPop and Republic Wireless do the opposite. They offer services that rely primarily on Wi-Fi networks, and in areas without Wi-Fi, customers can pull a signal from regular cell towers. “They demonstrate just how disruptive a Wi-Fi-first operator can be, and just how much cost they can take out.”

Plenty of budget-conscious consumers want cheaper cellphone bills and do not mind making the leap to a phone service powered primarily by Wi-Fi. The majority of Republic Wireless customers opted for a $10 plan (a traditional wireless contract costs around $100 a month--comparison of family cell phone plan prices) which includes a combination of Wi-Fi and cellular services. In other words, the traditional cellular infrastructure will not go away, but may become the second option, not the first. “There are many, many implications to cellular being relegated to a backup position.”

In major cities, the Wi-Fi-first network makes sense. While sitting around offices and apartments, Wi-Fi can handle the job just fine. But once people start moving around, it is not so simple. The benefit of a cell service is that your phone can switch among multiple towers while you are on the go. This process is called handover, which Wi-Fi was not originally designed to handle. Although 802.11r, SyncScan, and other enhancements attempt to address this limitation.

Big players are looking to enter the fray as well: Last month, Cablevision announced a phone service that would be powered entirely by Wi-Fi, for $30 a month, while a traditional wireless contract costs around $100 a month. Google has also been working on a cellphone service that relies heavily on Wi-Fi.

Nokia's Here offline navigation for Android no longer in "beta"

in mobile on (#33B3)
story imageNokia's up-and-coming "Here" maps and navigation app, available for free for anyone running Android 4.1 or above, is no longer in "beta" hitting version 1.1, and has added 3-D venue maps and improved routing. It now displays 3D maps for shopping centers and airports in 70 different countries and allows navigating through multiple floors with a sliding bar. Nokia also dialed back the interface in several different areas to preserve the screen real estate for the map content.

Despite being in "beta" for several months, and only becoming available on the Play Store in December, Nokia’s Here maps and navigation has grown to be one of the best alternatives to Google Maps on Android. A big part of its popularity is due to including one-click region-wide downloadable offline maps, with turn-by-turn voice navigation, for free. Whether you are on a carrier with patchy coverage, use a cheaper cellular plan and depend on WiFi for data, or just want to be sure you'll get properly rerouted when you miss a turn in an area with little or no coverage, offline maps, points-of-interest and navigation can be a killer feature, which Google does not offer. When you do have data coverage, the Here app also offers reviews for restaurants and traffic information using Nokia's venerable own Navteq traffic information, similarly used by Google Maps and most other navigation services.

US mobile carriers must unlock wireless devices

in mobile on (#2X09)
story imageToday is the deadline for an agreement reached between the Federal Communications Commission and wireless carriers back in 2013. Starting today, once you've paid off your contract or owned a pre-paid phone (or other device, like a tablet) for a year, all major US carriers must unlock your phone for you if you ask. Carriers also have to tell you when your phone is eligible to be unlocked, and they have to unlock phones for deployed military personnel.

Rules around locking and unlocking phones have gone back and forth. For a while, it was illegal to unlock your phone without express consent of your carrier. In 2014, the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act made it legal again. And this latest deadline makes it illegal for providers to say no if you ask to unlock a phone you've already paid for. This change gives power back to the people to freely use the phones they already own.

Here’s more information on how to unlock your phone on the big four U.S. carriers, including how to verify that your device is eligible, caveats in the fine print, and alternative carriers you can bring your device to. The FCC also has useful information about the process.

First Ubuntu smartphone on sale in Europe, in limited numbers

in mobile on (#2WYV)
story imageThe world's first Ubuntu phone goes on sale next week in an attempt to carve out a place for the Linux-based OS in the mobile space. Canonical said the limited launch is aimed at "avoiding the pain faced by other platforms" that tried to push their handsets to the mass-market too early, and they must work hard to get the Ubuntu Phone noticed. It will also be giving handsets to a select group of "enthusiastic Ubuntu and bq users" in London today.

Unlike the failed Ubuntu Edge concept, which was sold as a desktop/phone hybrid, the Aquaris E4.5 is more typical smartphone hardware. Parrino believes the phone's selling point will be Scopes. Scopes are full screen menus that show content stored both on the phone and on services you use. "On Ubuntu content and services are delivered directly to the screen without hiding them behind apps and the app icon grid," said Parrino. He played down the prospects for Ubuntu for Android.

First Tizen Phone Released

in mobile on (#2WYS)
story imageSamsung has finally released Tizen OS on a phone, something they've been planning on doing since 2012. Tizen has a strange, strange history, half Intel, half Nokia, half Samsung, supported by the Linux foundation for reasons unknown. Now apparently its making its debut in India on a budget phone. Ars has a comprehensive review.

New app lets you rent a toilet

in mobile on (#2WRV)
story imageNew Yorkers are now renting out their toilets via an Airbnb-inspired app called “Airpnp” that shows the closest available commode and the price to use it, and instantly contacts the owner. Currently a handful of private addresses in the city offer their johns to any Johnny-come-lately.

The Post located one porcelain throne that bills itself as a “charming Carroll Gardens commode” in a “cozy loft-style bathroom” on Smith Street, Brooklyn, at the OrangeYouGlad graphic-design studio. “You’re our first!” yelled art director Connie Leonard excitedly when The Post walked in and asked to use the advertised WC. The OrangeYouGlad crew doesn’t charge latrine users — unlike a toilet shark in Little Italy who was charging $20 for people who “really need to go and this will have to do!” The bathroom doesn’t even have a sink. A toilet in Woodside, Queens, is more affordable at just $1.

Cell phone battery that fully charges in 2 minutes demonstrated at CES

in mobile on (#2WQ2)
story imagePeople want their mobile phones and tablets to last a week from a single charge. But sadly we’re still no closer to that goal. At CES this week, StoreDot—an Israeli technology company, has demonstrated a battery that fits inside a Galaxy S3 and can charge from dead to full inside two minutes.

How does it work? Researchers discovered tiny naturally occurring crystals that were able to store a charge or emit light. The crystals - dubbed NanoDots - are two nanometers in diameter and contain short chains of amino acids called peptides. They cover 'cavities' over an electrode in a standard battery. This extends how much of the battery can be used to create a reaction, which leads to a charge. Through the addition of the NanoDots, the electrode becomes "multi-function" — at one end, the electrode stores electrical energy creating a capacitor, and at the other, lets it flow into the battery's lithium.

In layman's terms, StoreDot has created a 'buffer' that stores electrical current coming from the wall socket over a period of around thirty seconds, then letting it flow slowly into the lithium. Myersdorf says that eventually, the company plans to get rid of the lithium in the battery altogether. The battery life of the cell is just five hours, according to StoreDot, obviously way behind existing Li-Ion batteries. But this doesn’t matter when the unit can be charged so quickly; you just give it a quick top up whenever it needs one and within seconds you’ll have a full charge.

ChromeOS and Android to remain separate for now

in mobile on (#2TS3)
CNET just interviewed Brian Rakowski, Google's vice president of product management for Android, who has confirmed that the two teams in charge of the Android mobile device software and the Chrome OS software for PCs [should] work together much more. But that won't mean sweeping changes, at least for now.

"There's no plans to change the way the products work," said Rakowski. That might be disappointing to fans of Android who were hoping to see convergence of the two product lines as a result of internal reorganization that sees both Android and Chrome being developed under the same division.
Android and Chrome, both headed by Google Senior Vice President Sundar Pichai, are important businesses to Google. The company's cash cow is still search and advertising -- now a $50 billion a year business -- but Google CEO and co-founder Larry Page has called Android "the future" of the company.
There's some more, related commentary at OSNews.

FCC Postpones Auction Of Broadcast TV Spectrum To 2016

in mobile on (#2TQT)
The FCC has been working on a voluntary auction of broadcast TV frequencies for years, with plans to have it take place in mid-2015. But today the agency says it will postpone the sale to early 2016 as it grapples with a lawsuit from the National Association of Broadcasters complaining that many TV stations would end up with reduced coverage areas. Supporters of the auction say that unless wireless service providers have more spectrum, the fast-growing ranks of consumers using smart phones, tablets, and other mobile devices will face dropped calls, dead zones, slow speeds, and high prices. The Obama administration is eager to free up 300MHz of bandwidth over five years, and 500MHz over a decade. That will be hard to accomplish without help from broadcasters – the biggest users of spectrum outside of the military, and operating on frequencies with propagation characteristics that are particularly desirable for mobile service providers.

The FCC has also said that its auction could be a windfall for some stations because they would share some of the proceeds. In fact a full-power TV station in Los Angeles could get as much as $570 million for its spectrum in the federal incentive auction. It's little wonder, then, that Los Angeles area public broadcast stations KCET and KLCS already announced joining forces to split a single over-the-air broadcast television channel, even as their business and programming operations remain separate, in order to free a channel for auction.

This delay comes shortly after the FCC pushed back the digital switch-over date for translators and low-power TV stations (from September 2015) allowing them another year to see how the auction results will affect their licenses, but now may require yet another delay. Which seems just as well, as the spectrum auction actually gives no consideration to their facilities at all, likely repurposing their channels, with no guarantee there will be any others slots left available for them to switch over to. This has some lawmakers taking-up their cause trying to ensure the survival of small community TV stations, and all broadcast TV in remote areas.

Blackberry's new Passport is unlike any other

in mobile on (#2SWV)
story imageBlackberry has released a phone that either pushes the boundary of phone design in useful ways, or proposes a new and unusable form factor, according to your personal pre-inclination. The Register reviews it and calls it crazy, but full of great ideas. It's square, for one, a radical departure from the candy-bar form factor so prevalent in modern smartphones. It's also sporting improvements to its QNX-based new OS, a great screen, and reportedly a 30 hour battery life. It runs Android apps natively, with no apparent lag or problem. Lastly, the keyboard doubles as a trackpad - something you'll either love or hate. The Guardian takes a look at it here, and offers some other insights. There are some lovely pictures at The Verge, who conclude, by they way that they don't like it.

[Ed. note: Me, I want one.]