[Special Feature]Fearless Predictions for 2013

Shawn and I thought it would be fun to do a predictions piece for 2013 so we would be able to come back and laugh at ourselves when none of it comes true.  These opinions are solely ours, and have not been put forth with any insider information from any OEM.  Most of these actually have no basis in fact whatsoever.  But with that in mind, here are our fearless 2013 predictions:

Sean’s Predictions:

1) Apple will release an iPhone 5S that looks virtually identical to the iPhone 5.  The internet will decry the  new phone and say Apple has lost its way.  Tech sites and blogs will write editorials expressing their disappointment.  Apple will sell as many as they can produce.

Shawn’s Response:
I’m probably on board with this one, considering the years and years of history we have of Apple to fall back on.  I’m really not sure where Apple takes their iPhone from here though…even thinnerer and lighterer?

World Exclusive: the iPhone 5S will look exactly like this

2) Google will release an updated Nexus 7 with a 1080p screen.  Pricing will be the same as the current Nexus 7

Shawn’s Response:
Not sure I agree here.  I think putting a 1080p viewpanel in a Nexus 7 drives the cost up past the point where Google is able to offer it at $249/$299.  I see the Nexus 7 as their “mid-grade” line of tablets, and the Nexus 10 as the high end tablets.  So I’m not sure I see this in Asus or Google’s future.

3) Samsung will release the Galaxy S IV with a 5″ 1080p screen, a quad-core Exynos 5450 CPU, 3GB of RAM, a 2600MAH battery and a 13MP camera.  It will inexplicably still have a home button.

Shawn’s Response:
Samsung has a real hit on their hands with the Galaxy series.  I think these specs could be dead on…but I’m predicting not only a physical home button, but also a total of 4 capacitive buttons as well, 2 on either side of the home button.  Samsung’s official stance:  “People love buttons!”

4) Microsoft will produce its own Surface Phone.  Nokia will continue to struggle until they are eventually bought.  Windows Phone 8 still won’t exceed 5% market share in the United States.

Shawn’s Response:
Microsoft does this only if they’re incredibly stupid.  The Surface (which may or may not be a great device) does nothing but put Microsoft squarely in the center of a war with their hardware partners which they can’t really win.  The phone space has enough dead or dying OEMs already (Nokia or RIM ring a bell?) for MS to really think they can jump in with a device that will move Samsung’s Galaxy S or Apple’s iPhone out from a top spot.  Also…Windows Phone 8 is not a good product.  Considering the amount of money that MS has spent on marketing for the Surface, they had better have a lot more cash reserves  if they want to make a move into the mobile phone space.  Then again..since Sean is predicting that Nokia will be bought – perhaps it will be Microsoft that buys them?

Microsoft should definitely copy this

5) Jony Ive will give iOS a major update which will include widgets and a new industrial look.  It’ll still be locked down and allow for little user customization.  Tech sites and blogs will give it rave reviews.

 Shawn’s Response:
While I’d be shocked and amazed if this actually happened, I don’t see it.  Ive is a great hardware designer (if you like the Apple products) but there’s a lot of change that would have to come to software side of Apple’s iOS that would make widgets in particular possible.  It goes against so much of the tradition of Apple and the iOS platform…I don’t know if it could be done in a year and I don’t know that Ive has the software chops to do it.  Perhaps 2-3 years out…but not in 2013.  

Shawn’s Predictions:

1) Motorola will produce a Google Nexus branded phone, with cutting edge (for the time) specs in processor, screen (non-pentile), and have a gigantic battery – probably called the Nexus Maxx HD.  This device will be sold with LTE through the Google store, unlocked, and be heralded as the greatest Android phone ever.

Sean’s Response:
I would love this so much, but I’m not sure I see it happening.  Google doesn’t want to risk alienating its partners and releasing a Motorola Nexus might do just that.  

This + 3300mah battery = win

2) Google will do “something” to further chip away at Apple’s dominance in the 10 inch tablet space.  Not sure exactly…but something good.  Like a massive public awareness campaign that will culminate in the launching of a Nexus 10 with HSPA+ wireless for $499.

Sean’s Response:
The Nexus 10 won’t sell in huge numbers.  While I think an HSPA+ Nexus 10 will definitely come out in the next year, I don’t see it “chipping” away too much at Apple’s dominance in the 10 inch tablet space.  If Google really wants to compete in the tablet space, they need to get a better tablet app infrastructure in place.  

3) Google will release the Key Lime Pie version of Android, version 5.0, which will at last unify the mobile device platforms of phone, small tablet, and large tablet.  App developers will flock to it and scaling apps will no longer be an issue for Android ever again.  Apple users will deadpan it as being too complicated and lacking polish, claiming it feels like an unfinished product.  It will launch on the Nexus Maxx HD, and be on someone’s Galaxy Nexus two days later.

Sean’s Response:
We’ll definitely see Key Lime Pie this year and I expect it to continue the refinement Android has undergone under Matias Duarte.  If Google can solve the smart phone/tablet apps issue they’ll finally be able to really compete with Apple.  KLP will definitely show up on the Galaxy Nexus in a day or two, but not on the Nexus Maxx HD because it won’t exist 😉

4) RIM releases Blackberry 10 and their new hardware devices, to deafening silence.  Large corporations continue to shed Blackberries from their mobile device fleet, until in August of 2013, RIM files for the Canadian equivalent of bankruptcy protection.  This comes after months of trying to sell their portfolio to anyone who will buy them…with no takers.

Sean’s Response:
I think Blackberry 10 has a chance.  In fact, I think it will outsell Windows Phone 8 (WP8) in 2013.  Although Rim has been hemorrhaging customers, it still has a dedicated and loyal fan base.  The hardware looks nice and Blackberry 10 has some cool features.  The major carriers have thrown fairly large support behind WP8 trying desperately to establish a third mobile OS in addition to Android and iOS, but they’re backing the wrong horse.  Blackberry 10 will do better than WP8 and finish the year with greater than 7% market share

Best looking Blackberry ever

[News] Verizon Galaxy Note 2 spotted at Best Buy

A very lucky Droid-Life reader happened to be cruising through his local Best Buy store, and ran across the Verizon branded version of the Galaxy Note 2, as of yet not available on Verizon’s service.  The rumor is the launch will be on or around November 29th, but nothing official as of yet.  Unless you count photos of the device at a local retail store as being official of course.

I know Sean is very much looking forward to this device (except for the inexplicable VZW branding on the home button) but is anyone else out there considering this device?  Check out more details on the device here…but let us know if this is your next smartphone in the comments!

Photo Courtesy of Droid-Life

*Source:  Droid-Life

[News] Analyst claims only 3-4 smartphone companies are generating profits

In what is surely seen as bad news for quite of few companies, an analyst from Asymco by the name of Horace Dediu tweeted this morning that he believes only 3 smartphone manufacturers are actually turning a profit:  Apple, HTC, and Samsung.  LG also is turning a teeny-tiny profit, if you can call  a 0.01% of the 3rd quarter profits “making money.”  Apple and Samsung are the real players here, with HTC sneaking in with 1% of the reported profits, behind Apple’s 60% share and Samsung’s 39% share.  Plus or minus the usual margin of error, of course.  Monopolies in the tech market tend to reduce innovations, so here’s to hoping that other companies like Nokia, RIM, and LG can turn things around with new offerings at the end of this year, or early in 2013.

*Source:  BGR 

[News] HTC Droid DNA launches on Verizon, pre-orders begin today

Well folks…its officially official.  The HTC Droid DNA will launch on Verizon on November 21, 2012, with pre-orders via the Verizon website beginning today.  The device will be a nifty $199 with a new 2 year agreement.  Cutting edge specs and a 1080p screen make this thing a beast…the only thing that remains to be seen is how well the 2020mAh battery holds up powering the quad core processor and the 5 inch screen.  HTC claims 10 hours of moderate use – I’m looking to see more info from folks who’ve had a chance to review the phone in depth.  If you are on Verizon, and looking for the best of the best in an Android device, check it out in your local Verizon store.  Or go to Verizon Wireless.com

The full press release is copied below.

DROID DNA by HTC Introduced as The Ultimate Smartphone — Available Exclusively From Verizon Wireless

The first full HD 1080p display with the highest pixel density of any smartphone also features the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon quad-core processor, Verizon Wireless 4G LTE and HTC Sense 4+ with Android Jelly Bean

BELLEVUE, Wash., Nov. 13, 2012 /PRNewswire/ — HTC Corporation, a global leader in mobile innovation and design, and Verizon Wireless today announced the exclusive DROID DNA by HTC, the ultimate smartphone and the first with a full HD 1080p display. The DROID DNA by HTC will be available exclusively through Verizon Wireless through pre-order starting today and at retail stores nationwide Wednesday, November 21st.
“It’s no secret that people depend on their smartphones more and more every day which rightfully raises expectations for performance, speed, and design. The DROID DNA by HTC embodies a smartphone that pushes the envelope in all of these areas with the first true 1080p HD display, latest quad-core processor, and Verizon’s 4G LTE network, all wrapped in a beautifully crafted design,” said Jason Mackenzie, president, HTC Corporation. “The DROID DNA by HTC is sure to top wish lists this holiday season.”
The Ultimate Smartphone
With technology rivaling the latest HD TV’s, the DROID DNA by HTC is the first smartphone to feature a true 1080p HD super LCD 3 display with Corning® Gorilla® Glass 2 protection. It boasts an extraordinary 440 pixels per inch (PPI) on a 5-inch screen for unprecedented in-hand HD experiences that delivers the maximum pixel clarity available on a smartphone.
Designed to accentuate the incredible display, the deep black, soft-touch back is understated, with the exception of a metallic red camera bezel, while the red microgrill pattern of the sidewalls hint at the phone’s DROID heritage and the power inside. The beautifully crafted smartphone feels thinner than other devices of a similar size as the edges of the curved back taper to a mere 4mm for a comfortable feel in the hand or pocket.
The Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ S4 Pro processor, featuring a quad-core 1.5 GHz CPU and high-performance GPU, paired with America’s largest 4G LTE network from Verizon Wireless and a full 2G of RAM enable the seamless use of multiple apps simultaneously. With HTC Sense® 4+ and Android™ 4.1.1 (Jelly Bean), you get great software experiences including Google Now. HTC Sense 4+ offers a wealth of easy-to-use and customizable features bringing highly sought after personalization to your phone and placing the most important content front and center. A series of intelligent features powered by HTC Sense 4+ also provides a number of improvements to the camera.
Amazing Camera
The DROID DNA by HTC has a world-class camera that delivers fast image capture, great images even in low-light and an easy interface to capture stills and video. With an 8-megapixel f/2.0 28mm wide-angle lens, 5-level automatic flash, backside illuminated sensor (BSI), and superfast autofocus, you’ll capture amazing moments without the worry of missing a single one. Instead of choosing between photos and video, HTC VideoPic™ allows you to capture video and still images at the same time. And by simply holding the shutter button, Continuous Shooting takes multiple photos at up to four frames per second to catch all the action.
It also includes a new best-in-class 2.1-megapixel, f/2.0, 88-degree, ultra-wide angle, front-facing camera that allows more to be captured in self-portraits, and up to four people for group shots. Auto Portrait makes it easier to take photos of yourself and your friends with automatic face detection and a countdown timer so you can focus on your pose and not the shutter button. Capable of capturing 1080p HD video, the front-facing camera also provides a sharper picture during video chat.
Authentic Sound
The DROID DNA by HTC has a unique, 2.55-volt, built-in headset amplifier and dedicated amp for the external rear-speaker to help boost the audio signal to deliver crystal clear sound with less distortion, even at maximum volume. The combination of amplified hardware and the rich, authentic, studio-quality sound of Beats Audio™ allows music to be heard the way the artist intended, and enhances the sound quality while playing games or watching video.
Additional Features
The DROID DNA by HTC is equipped with a 2,020 mAh battery and power saving software that enables long-lasting endurance. In addition, the embedded wireless charging makes it easy and convenient to top off power throughout the day or fully charge overnight, simply by setting the phone down. Finally, with near field communication (NFC), you can use the DROID DNA by HTC to share music and videos, add someone to your social networks, or download apps by tapping other NFC-enabled devices.
The DROID DNA by HTC will be available exclusively from Verizon Wireless through a pre-order starting today at http://www.verizonwireless.com/droiddna, and in-stores nationwide beginning Wednesday, November 21st for $199.99 with a two-year customer agreement.

[Special Feature] Hands on with the Nexus 4 & Nexus 10 **UPDATE**

The chaps over at Droid-Life managed to lay hands on both a Nexus 4 and a Nexus 10 and very generously did a walk through unboxing and hands on with these two devices ahead of launch day, which happens to be today.  If you are interested in picking up either of these devices, and were looking for some more info on them, check out the below video.  I will advise you up front – its a long video from a Google Hangout, so its not HD quality or anything…and some of the jokes are silly, nerdish, or just plain weird.  If you can get past that, there’s some good info on both of the new Nexus devices being released by Google, LG, and Samsung today.  For those looking to buy right away, head to the Google Play store here.

UPDATED:  For those who were interested in buying the Nexus 4, it appears that all of the initial stock of both the 8GB and 16GB devices have sold out.  The device went on sale at 9:00am, and in less than a half hour, Google had updated the Play Store with the dreaded “Coming Soon” instead of the pricing and “Buy Now” button.  Sorry folks…we’ll stay on top of this to see when they come back up.  In the meantime, you might be able to pick one up at your local T-Mobile store. 

[News]Verizon to officially announce HTC DROID DNA tomorrow, November 20th release date likely

Verizon will officially announce the HTC Droid DNA tomorrow at 11:00 EST in New York.

The technical specifications for the DNA are as follows:

Release Date: November 20th
Carrier(s): Verizon
Price: $199.99 on contract
CPU/GPU: Quad-Core Snapdragon S4 Pro/Adreno 320
Screen: 5″ Super LCD-3 (RGB) 1920x1080p
Camera: 2.1MP(Fr)/8MP/1080p@30fps
Memory: 2GB
Storage: 16GB/32GB
SD Card Slot: No
Battery: Non-Removable/2500mah

The rumored November 20th date seems to be confirmed based on the post to the right from Verizon’s official Google+ page.

Many potential buyers will be cross shopping the DNA with the Samsung Galaxy Note 2.  The DNA has a slightly better CPU and GPU, is made of more premium materials, and has a much higher resolution screen.  It also has a smaller non-removable battery though.

The Note 2 has a larger screen, a bigger/removable battery, an SD card slot, S-Pen and some cool proprietary features like multi-window.

If the battery holds up the DNA is a very compelling device, but I have my doubts and that’s why I’m still leaning towards the Note 2.

What do you guys think, Note 2 or Droid DNA?

[News] Blackberry 10 debut officially scheduled

According to The Next Web’s Daily Dose, RIM has officially announced a launch date for their Blackberry 10 operating system as associated devices:  January 10, 2013.  This falls in line with RIM’s own admissions that the debut of their new OS and hardware would come in Q1 of 2013.  Most Blackberry enthusiasts were probably hoping for sooner rather than later, but hey its on the books at least.

Going into next year and missing the holiday rush is probably not going to do wonders for RIM’s sales numbers.  However, doing anything to right the ship could help RIM’s failing stock prices significantly.  I’m sure the whole world will be anxiously awaiting the end of January to see what Blackberry 10 has in store for us.

*Source:  TNW’s Daily Dose

[Review] 32GB Nexus 7 tablet

The Nexus 7 isn’t new to the market, nor is it the most technically advanced Android tablet out there…but what it is, is one fine device for the money.

Way back in September, I made a decision to purchase a tablet for my own use around the house.  I have a burning desire to surf the web, check my fantasy basketball team, post on the Facebook, and blog all from the comfort of my couch.  Sure I could do this on my netbook, and I bought it with that in mind, but the idea of using a tablet for these endeavors seems darn near perfect.

The 16GB version now costs a mere $199, the 32GB w/WiFi only is $249 (plus applicable tax) and on November 13th, 2012 the 32GB version with HSPA+ will launch for $299.  I decided to pull the trigger once the 32GB WiFi only version arrived in a local retail store.  Since I had a few gift cards laying about, I picked it up last Wednesday night for exactly $41.36…and even as a fan of Android, I can easily say I’m impressed with this device.

How It Looks:

Front of the Nexus 7

All the descriptions of the Nexus 7 are spot on, and still really don’t do it justice.  The front of the device without buttons of any kind is a sweet look, reminiscent of my Galaxy Nexus.  The soft touch dimpled rubber back with its minimalist “Nexus” and “Asus” logos is understated but cool.  The bezel is the right width to add to the look but not overpower it.  The position of the power button and volume rocker is a little too far down on the side for my taste, but isn’t annoying by any stretch.  I do find myself pushing the volume rocker instead of the power button from time to time, but with a little practice I’m sure I’ll get this sorted out.  I’m sure I’ll want a screen protector and a case at some point, but for now, this thing just looks so nice I probably want to keep it the way it is.

Back of the Nexus 7

Its only got the front facing camera, located in the dead center of the top of the bezel.  This works for me, as using it for Skype calls is probably the only reason I’d need a camera in this thing to begin with.  I’m not the type to be out taking pictures with a tablet…and honestly, I laugh at the people who do.  There’s the micro USB connection and headphone jack on the bottom right and that’s it.  The screen is beautiful, and as clear and sharp as one could hope for.  Due to the size of the all glass screen, it does tend to pick up fingerprints quickly.  A good screen protector will fix that, or do like I do and keep a nice eyeglass cloth handy to wipe down the front from time to time and you’re set.

Left side
Right Side
Right Side (angled)

How It Feels:

The size of the device is perfect for one handed holding (in portrait) and in landscape its definitely a two handed hold but its not in any way uncomfortable.  Having my fingers on the rubber back gives an impression of grippyness, and in either orientation you don’t ever feel like you’re going to drop the tablet.  It’s large enough to view just about anything you’d be likely viewing easily, from web pages to YouTube videos to eBooks and more.  When I showed Sean the device the other day, his exact words were “this is the perfect size.”  I’d agree.  I wanted something portable and felt good enough to hold it for long periods of time – the Nexus 7 hits those marks without breaking a sweat.

How It Works:

My 32GB version shipped with Android 4.1.1, and within a few minutes of connecting to WiFi updated itself to 4.1.2.  Jelly Bean is the best version of Android yet, and its performance is smooth and polished.  What’s a little odd is the Google Play store advertises that the Nexus 7 ships with Android 4.2, but this clearly wasn’t the case with my device.  I’ve flashed a few elements of 4.2 onto my Galaxy Nexus, and I can’t wait for the official version to come out, as just the camera and keyboard bits are fantastic upgrades.

Even so, I buy Nexus products for their ability to be unlocked and rooted, and the Nexus 7 is no exception.  After a few days and with a few minutes work, I had the tablet unlocked and rooted, and a few minutes after that, I had a custom ROM flashed onto it.  I use a custom launcher as well, so transitions between home screens are smooth and quick, and rotations from portrait to landscape and back again are snappy.  I only experienced some choppiness when using the Chrome browser, specifically when scrolling up or down on web pages.  To me, this isn’t really acceptable from a hardware or software standpoint, and the lag isn’t crippling, just annoying.  Which honestly makes it even less acceptable.  There’s really no reason I can think of for it at all.  

Real world battery tests included me using the tablet to watch a YouTube video for a half hour (which I streamed from my phone’s mobile hotspot) where the battery went from 100% to 93%.  Web use over WiFi makes barely a dent, and you have to work hard to drain the 4325mAh battery with mostly web based usage.  Google claims 10 hours of web surfing – I believe they are right.  As of the writing of this article, I’ve been on battery for 1d 7h 51m, with a little over 5h 22m of screen on time.  Chrome has used the cpu for 2h 10m, and Google Music about 27m of  usage.  And there’s still 30% of the battery left.  I’d expect to go about 3-4 days between charges with light to moderate usage, and 2 days pretty easily with normal use.

The Final Word:  

The Nexus 7 (in a word) is awesome.  I had a odd circumstance that forced me to wait for one of my gift cards, so while I had originally settled on purchasing the 16GB version of the Nexus, I’m glad the delay allowed me to get the 32GB version.  Now I can download as much content as I want, and not worry about running out of storage.  I can use the cloud if I need to, but I have the storage space to do as I please. The limited 8/16GB versions initially launched made me wary about buying one, but I’m very pleased with this purchase.  It’s size, features, Nexus qualities, and price point really do make this the best Android tablet out there.  You can take my word for it…or go check it out for yourself.  I promise you won’t be disappointed.

[News] Samsung Galaxy Note 2 now available through AT&T

If you are an AT&T customer and have been waiting for a 5.5 inch phone+tablet to arrive, you need wait no longer.  As of today, the Galaxy Note 2 is now available for purchase through AT&T for $299 with a 2 year contract agreement.  As this phone boasts some of the best specs in the phone world right now (see the full review of this beast here) its worth a long look.  Now admittedly…if you’ve seen the Galaxy S3, this phablet is bigger (by almost a full inch) so make sure you test it in  before you buy.  But if the size doesn’t bother you (as it surely doesn’t bother my partner here on the site) this is a great phone.

If you’ve got spare cash and need a new phone (and are with those AT&T people) check it out.

*Source: Droid-Life

[News]Select T-Mobile Samsung Phones Free with rebate November 16th and 17th

T-Mobile is running a promotion November 16th and 17th where select Samsung smart phones are free with rebate on a two year “classic plan” contract.

It’s unclear exactly what Samsung phones are eligible for the deal, but the Galaxy S III (GSIII) is featured twice on the flyer, so it would be a pretty dick move if it wasn’t included.

It also appears the Galaxy S II (GSII) is part of the promotion, but if both phones are free why would anyone buy a GSII over a GSIII?

Despite these questions marks, if you’re a T-Mobile customer or looking to become one, a free Galaxy S III is a nice incentive.