Verizon is a bad company doing bad things

[Op-Ed]Rumored new Nexus program full of question marks and probably bad news for Verizon customers

There was some troubling info floating around the internets in the last few days; most notably this report from the ArsTechnica, wherein Verizon has basically admitted to doing “Verizon” things.  While the current FCC chair is very interested in making net neutrality a thing of the past, it is still the law of the land for now.  And under it, Verizon’s blatant throttling of a service like Netflix is in violation of it.

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[Podcast] Episode 6 – Verizon buys Yahoo

Episode 6 of the podcast is up and available via iTunes, Google Play Music, and SoundCloud.  Links are below.  We discuss (and rant) about why in the world Verizon would want to buy Yahoo, in an era where it would seem like the world and internet has passed Yahoo by.

Check us out – make sure to leave a 5 star review on your platform of choice to share Silicon Theory with more even more folks!

Cheers!

[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:

HTC Droid DNA
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]Verizon Galaxy Note 2 with home button branding official

Proving once again that it has no shame, Verizon introduced its variant of the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 (SGN2) today with its logo on the home button.

Verizon’s antics are getting tiresome.  Between the locked boot loaders, slow updates, expensive family share plans and now nonsense like this it makes it really hard to continue to support them.

While not a deal breaker the button branding is tacky and the fact that none of the other carriers felt it necessary to do something similar says a lot. 

The official Galaxy Note 2 press conference is this evening and launch details are expected to be announced then.  Look for the Verizon SGN2 to be released on November 15th with a $299.99 on contract price.

UPDATE:
It looks now like the official release date for Verizon will be Thursday, November 29th.  That’s a full month later than T-Mobile and Sprint, and over two weeks later than AT&T.  The reasoning for the delay is unknown, but it’s probably to give the RAZR HD/MAXX HD more time on the market without major competition. 

The good news is this gives those that pre-ordered plenty of time to cancel their orders if the HTC DNA or LG Nexus 4 end up being better options, or if they finally decide to leave Verizon because they’re sick of being treated like second class citizens.

[News]HTC 8X running on Verizon appears, release in early November

Last week rumors appeared that Verizon might cancel or delay the release of its Windows Phone 8 (WP8) handsets because the OS has no provision for remote access.  Apparently certain aspects of Verizon’s device management system necessitate remote access (anyone else find this kind of creepy?) in order to function properly.

Today however we have an image of the HTC 8X running on Big Red’s network with a rumored release date in early November.

Photo courtesy WPCentral.com

Obviously the rumors were wrong or a solution has been found for the remote access problem.

The 8X features a dual-core Snapdragon S4, a 4.3″ 720p RGB Super LCD-2 screen, 1GB of RAM, a 1800 non-removable battery, a 2.1MP wide angle front camera and an 8MP rear camera with ImageSense. The rumored price is a mere $99.99 on contract.
Somewhere all five Verizon WP8 fans are smiling.

[News]HTC DLX 5" 1080p superphone leaks for Verizon

Thanks to Androidcentral we have our best look yet at the forthcoming HTC DLX (pronounced Deluxe) on Verizon.

The HTC DLX features a 5″ 1080p Super LCD-3 screen.  This will be the first full HD screen released on any phone in the United States.  Although the benefits of 1080p screens are debatable, it’s still nice to see HTC pushing the technological envelope.  Look at this macro shot comparison with the iPhone 5, no slouch of its own when it comes to display quality, and the difference in clarity is immediately apparent:

Image courtesy theverge.com

The CPU is a quad-core Snapdragon S4 PRO paired with an Adreno 320 GPU.  The DLX has 2GB of ram, a 2500mah battery, and an 8MP camera.  The Japanese version of the DLX (the J Butterfly) has an SD card slot, but the leak doesn’t mention whether of not the DLX follows suit.

HTC is still using physical buttons and the front camera appears to be the same wide angle 2MP unit from the 8X.

The rear camera is the same 8MP unit out of the One X+ with a dedicated ImageSense chip.

The prototype unit is running Android 4.1.1 with Sense 4+.  Expect to see the DLX released around Thanksgiving.

Here’s the full specs breakdown based on what we know so far:

HTC Droid DLX (Also rumored as the Nexus 5)
All specifications based on current leaks/rumors
Release Date: November
Carrier(s): Verizon
Price: Unknown.  Likely $199.99 or $299.99 on contract
CPU/GPU: Quad-Core Snapdragon S4 Pro/Adreno 320
Screen: 5″ Super LCD-3 (RGB) 1920x1080p
Camera: 2.1MP(Fr)/12MP/1080p@30fps
Memory: 1.5GB
Storage: 16GB
SD Card Slot: No
Battery: Non-Removable/2500mah
Pros: A 5″ 1080p screen featuring a ridiculous pixel density of 440ppi.  Stylish design with typical HTC quality materials.  The S4 PRO is the most powerful CPU/GPU in the current Android universe.
Cons: Large for the average consumer.  No SD card slot.  Internal battery.
Outlook: The rumored specs of the Incredible X are as impressive as any phone on the market.  The 1080p screen would be the first of its kind on any smartphone and the quad-core S4 Snapdragon CPU is one of the most powerful available.  
Similar phones to consider: Apple iPhone 5, HTC 8X, LG Intuition, Motorola Droid Razr MAXX HD, Samsung Ativ S, Samsung Galaxy Note II, Samsung Galaxy S III

[Op-Ed]Rumored new Nexus program full of question marks and probably bad news for Verizon customers

Today Androidandme announced details of the rumored new Nexus program.  It’s a fairly massive shift from how Nexus phones have been done in years past.

Here are the highlights:
1) In November Google will announce the new LG Optimus G Nexus alongside Android 4.2 (which might be another version of Jelly Bean or possibly Key Lime Pie).
2) Any manufacturer would be allowed to produce a Nexus device as long as they follow guidelines set by Google.  These guidelines include specific hardware and storage requirements.
3) Manufacturers would be allowed to include custom skins that would be managed through a new customization center.  This appears to be Google’s version of a theme manager.

All in all, pretty exciting stuff, right?

The idea of multiple Nexus phones is an Android lover’s dream.  The LG Optimus G is a flagship product in every sense of the word.  Will HTC, Motorola, Samsung and Sony try to one up LG and produce their own phones through the Nexus program?  I don’t know the answer, but I’m eager to find out.

Total Nexus Overload!

I generally detest OEM skins, but as long as they are basically a theme and easily disabled they’re fine.  Different skin options could actually be a cool feature depending on how the customization center is implemented.

One critical area that isn’t addressed in the report is whether or not Google will require un-encrypted boot loaders to participate in the Nexus program.  Google needs to realize this is the single most important reason that people buy Nexus phones and needs to be a requirement.  The un-encrypted boot loader allows it to be unlocked so the user can load any custom ROM and kernel combination they select.  If the boot loader is encrypted the boot loader can’t be unlocked so the user is not able to load custom kernels.  It is still possible to load custom ROMS through various XDA developed workarounds, but loading a ROM in this manner without the intended kernel has distinct limitations.  A Nexus phone is supposed to be the embodiment of Android’s open source philosophy and coming with an encrypted boot loader would defeat the whole purpose.

It seems logical to conclude that the new Nexus phone(s) will be unlocked GSM units not tied to a specific carrier and sold through the Google Play Store.  This is probably bad news for Verizon customers.  Right now no modem exists that supports all the GSM and LTE bands.  Even Apple was forced to make different versions of the iPhone 5 in order to cover all the carriers.  Considering the way Verizon botched the Galaxy Nexus launch and its subsequent updates, it’s not far fetched to imagine them being excluded this year.

Once again Google has stuck to its open source roots and the end result is very exciting for users.  As long as Nexus phones are required to have state of the art hardware, stock android, and unlocked boot loaders everyone wins.  As a Verizon customer I just hope not to get left out of the fun.  November can’t get here soon enough!

[Special Feature]Holiday 2012 Smartphone buyer’s guide

The next couple months are poised to be very exciting for smartphone buyers.  Along with the recently released iPhone 5 and host of other great phones already released this year, a number of flagship devices are on the way.  Here’s a look at some of the devices broken down by operating system:

Android:

HTC Droid DNA
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
SD Card Slot: No
Battery: Non-Removable/2020mah
Pros: A 5″ 1080p screen featuring a ridiculous pixel density of 440ppi.  Stylish design with typical HTC quality materials.  The S4 PRO is the most powerful CPU/GPU in the current Android universe.
Cons: Large for the average consumer.  No SD card slot.  Internal battery.
Outlook: The specs of the DNA are as impressive as any phone on the market.  The 1080p screen would be the first of its kind on any smartphone and the quad-core S4 Snapdragon CPU is one of the most powerful available.  The relatively small battery may be cause for concern however.
Similar phones to consider: Apple iPhone 5, HTC 8X, LG Intuition, Motorola Droid Razr MAXX HD, Samsung Ativ S, Samsung Galaxy Note II, Samsung Galaxy S III

HTC ONE X+
Release Date: November
Carrier(s): AT&T
Price: $199.99 on contract
CPU/GPU: Tegra 3+ 1.7ghz quad-core/ULP GeForce
Screen: 4.7″ Super LCD-2 (RGB) 1280x720p
Camera: 1.3MP(Fr)/8MP/1080p@30fps
Memory: 1GB RAM
Storage: 64GB
SD Card Slot: No
Battery: Non-Removable/2100mah
Pros: Improved version of the already great One X.  The AP37 Tegra 3+ quad-core CPU is an upgrade from the dual-core S4.   The 720p Super LCD-2 is one of the best screens on the market.  Fantastic design with high end matte polycarbonate uni body.  Looks and feels premium.  Bigger battery.  Great camera.  More standard on board storage and any other phone (64GB).
Cons: No SD card slot.  Internal battery.  HTC ImageChip/ImageSource camera system doesn’t produce better pictures than the competition (though still very good).
Outlook: The One X+ is the best looking Android phone on the planet.  It has a powerful quad-core Tegra 3+ CPU, a beautiful screen, plenty of on board storage and a great camera. Unfortunately the Tegra 3+ chip is still the 40nm variety meaning it runs hotter and uses more battery than other quad-core processors. 
Similar phones to consider: Apple iPhone 5, HTC 8X, LG Optimus G, Nokia Lumia 920, Samsung Ativ S, Samsung Galaxy S III

LG Optimus G 
Release Date: November 2nd (AT&T), 11th (Sprint)
Carrier(s): AT&T, Sprint
Price: $199.99 on contract
CPU/GPU: Quad-core Snapdragon S4 Pro 1.5ghz/Adreno 320
Screen: 4.7″ IPS+ LCD (RGB) 1280x768p
Camera: 1.2MP(Fr)/13MP/1080p@30fps
Memory: 2GB RAM
Storage: 16GB/32GB
SD Card Slot: No
Battery: Non-Removable/2100mah
Pros: Top CPU/GPU available.  Flagship specs across the board including ram, camera, and screen. Back cover is a unique polarized jewel pattern.
Cons: No SD card slot.  Internal battery.  Glass back is fragile.  No front facing notification LED.  Launching with Ice Cream Sandwich instead of Jelly Bean.  Historically LG’s Android skin is among the worst.  LG doesn’t always update their phones in a timely manner.
Outlook: The LG Optimus G has a super powerful quad-core S4 Snapdragon CPU, a high resolution 4.7″ screen and a generous 2GB of RAM.  The only negatives are LG has a bad reputation for supporting their flagship phones and it’s launching with Ice Cream Sandwich instead of Jelly Bean.
Similar phones to consider: 
AT&T: Apple iPhone 5, HTC 8X, HTC One X, HTC One X+, Nokia Lumia 920, Samsung Ativ S, Samsung Galaxy S III
Sprint: Apple iPhone 5, Samsung Galaxy S III

Motorola Droid Razr HD and Razr Maxx HD 
Release Date: October 18th
Carrier(s): Verizon
Price: $199.99 (Razr HD) & $299.99 (Maxx HD)  on contract
CPU/GPU: Dual-core Snapdragon S4/Adreno 225
Screen: 4.7″ Super AMOLED Pentile Matrix 1280x720p
Camera: 1.3MP(Fr)/8MP/1080p@30fps
Memory: 1GB RAM
Storage: 16GB/32GB
SD Card Slot: Yes
Battery: Non-Removable/2500mah(HD)/3300mah(Maxx HD)
Pros: Above average(HD), and insane(MAXX) battery life.  Premium materials including Kevlar back plate.  On screen buttons.  SD card slot.  Very good HD screen.  Radios and call quality are top notch.
Cons: CPU and GPU  arenslightly outdated compared to other forthcoming flagships.  Pentile matrix screen.  Ships with Ice Cream Sandwhich instead of Jelly Bean.  Verizon charges too much for both.
Outlook: If you need a phone that gets serious battery life, both the standard RAZR HD and RAZR HD MAXX are excellent choices.  Owners of the RAZR HD MAXX are reporting  they get multiple days on a single charge with 7+ hours of on screen time.  Verizon charges too much for both phones, but Amazon is currently selling the RAZR HD for $149.99 and the RAZR HD MAXX for $199.99.  Do yourself a favor and spend the extra $50.00 to get the MAXX.  
Similar Phones to consider: Apple iPhone 5, HTC Droid DNA, LG Optimus G, Samsung Ativ S, Samsung Galaxy S III

Samsung Galaxy Note 2
Release Date: T-Mobile and Sprint – October 25th
                        AT&T – November 9th
                        Verizon – November 27th
Carrier(s): AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon
Price: $299 on contract
CPU/GPU: Exynos 4412 1.6ghz quad-core/Mali-400
Screen: 5.5″ Super AMOLED (RGB) 1280x720p
Camera: 1.9MP(Fr)/8MP/1080p@30fps
Memory: 2GB RAM
Storage: 16GB/32GB/64GB
SD Card Slot: Yes
Battery: Removable/3100mah
Pros: Very large RGB Super AMOLED screen (Samsung’s first non-pentile HD screen!).  Large removable  battery.  SD card slot support for up to 64GB.  S-pen functionality.  Excellent camera. Multi-window function is seriously cool.
Cons: Very large for the average consumer.  Looks like a very large Galaxy S III.  Physical home button.  Cheap feeling materials.
Outlook: The Galaxy Note 2 offers a powerful quad-core Exynos processor, the best Super AMOLED screen Samsung has produced to date, and a healthy 2GB of ram.  The S-Pen stylus and Note 2 specific software offers unique functionality.  The Note 2 is physically very large and not for everyone.
Similar phones to consider: 
AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile: N/A
Verizon: HTC Droid DNA, LG Intuition

Sony Xperia TL
Release Date: November 2nd
Carrier(s): AT&T
Price: $99.99 on contract
CPU/GPU: Dual-core Snapdragon S4/Adreno 225
Screen: 4.6″ LCD 1280x720p
Camera: 1.3MP(Fr)/13MP/1080p@30fps
Memory: 1GB RAM
Storage: 16GB/32GB
SD Card Slot: Yes
Battery: Non-Removable/1850mah
Pros: Quality screen.  Unique, clean design.  SD card slot.  On screen buttons.
Cons: Smaller internal battery/mediocre battery life.  CPU and GPU slightly outdated compared to other forthcoming flagships.  Launching with Ice Cream Sandwich instead of Jelly Bean.
Outlook: The Xperia TL has a nice 4.6″ RGB 720p screen, a 13mp camera, and a dual-core Snapdragon S4 CPU.  The $99.99 price point is a pleasant surprise and makes the TL a solid value.  Anyone looking for a budget friendly smart phone on AT&T should give it a look.
Similar phones to consider: Apple iPhone 5, HTC 8X, HTC One X, HTC One X+, LG Optimus G, Nokia Lumia 920, Samsung Ativ S, Samsung Galaxy S III

LG Nexus 4
Release Date: November 13th
Carrier(s): T-Mobile/Unlocked
Price: $299/8GB & $349/16GB
           $199 T-Mobile on contract
CPU/GPU: Quad-core Snapdragon S4 Pro/Adreno 320
Screen: 4.7″ IPS+ LCD (RGB) 1280x768p
Camera: 1.2MP(Fr)/8MP/1080p@30fps
Memory: 2GB RAM
Storage: 8GB/16GB
SD Card Slot: No
Battery: Non-Removable/2100mah
Pros: Top CPU/GPU available.  Flagship specs across the board including ram, camera, and screen. Nexus phone means non-encrypted boot loader and stock Android.  Nexus phones get updates as soon as they’re available. 
Cons: No SD card slot.  Internal battery.  Storage options are very limited.  Won’t work on Sprint or Verizon, and no LTE support for AT&T.
Outlook: The LG Optimus Nexus brings top notch specs, a non-encrypted boot loader and stock Android together in a tidy black package.  
Similar phones to consider: 
AT&T: Apple iPhone 5, HTC 8X, HTC One X, HTC One X+, Nokia Lumia 920, Samsung Ativ S, Samsung Galaxy S III
T-Mobile: Samsung Ativ S, Samsung Galaxy S III

Windows Phone 8:

HTC Windows Phone 8X
Release Date: November 8th
Carrier(s): AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon
Price: $99.99 on contract
CPU/GPU: Dual-core Snapdragon S4 1.5ghz/Adreno 225
Screen: 4.3″ Super LCD-2 (RGB) 1280x720p
Camera: 2.1MP(Fr)/8MP/1080p@30fps
Memory: 1GB RAM
Storage: 16GB
SD Card Slot: No
Battery: Non-Removable/1800mah
Pros: Fantastic Super LCD-2 screen with a very high 342ppi pixel density.  Unique and colorful design borrowed heavily from the Nokia Lumia line.  Solid polycarbonate body.  Beats audio integration.
Cons: No SD card slot.  Internal battery.  Thick compared to iPhone 5 and flagship Android products.
Outlook: The HTC 8X has a 4.3″ 720p screen and the same dual-core Snapdragon S4 CPU as all the competing WP8 flagships.  The design is similar to the Nokia Lumia 920 and appears to have the high build quality and solid materials that HTC is known for.  
Similar phones to consider:
AT&T:  Apple iPhone 5, HTC One X, HTC One X+, LG Optimus G, Nokia Lumia 920, Samsung Ativ S, Samsung Galaxy S III
T-Mobile: LG Optimus G, Samsung Ativ S, Samsung Galaxy S III
Verizon: Apple iPhone 5, HTC DNA, LG Optimus G, Motorola Droid Razr MAXX HD, Samsung Ativ S, Samsung Galaxy S III

Nokia Lumia 920
Release Date: November 11th
Carrier(s): AT&T
Price: $99.99 on contract
CPU/GPU: Dual-core Snapdragon S4 1.5ghz/Adreno 225
Screen: 4.5″ PureMotion  HD+ LCD(RGB) 1280x768p
Camera: 1.3MP(Fr)/8.7MP/1080p@30fps
Memory: 1GB RAM
Storage: 32GB
SD Card Slot: No
Battery: Non-Removable/2000mah
Pros: The 4.5″ PureMotion HD+ screen looks fantastic and has Synaptic’s new super sensitive touch technology.  The 8.7MP PureView camera is superior for low light photography and image stabilization and generally excellent.  Solid polycarbonate uni body with unique and colorful Nokia design language.
Cons: No SD card slot.  Internal battery.  Even thicker and heavier than the HTC 8X.  The gloss back looks cheap compared to the matte back on the Lumia 900.  Camera is great in low light, but only okay during the day.
Outlook: This is the flagship Windows 8 phone.  The dual-core Snapdragon S4 CPU is the same as the HTC 8X and Samsung Ativ S, and is only outgunned by the quad-core Android CPU’s.  The 4.5″ HD screen is by all accounts excellent and is sensitive enough to be used with gloves.  Camera tests have shown superior low light ability and image stabilization compared to the iPhone 5 and HTC One X.
Similar phones to consider: Apple iPhone 5, HTC 8X, HTC One X, HTC One X+, LG Optimus G, Nokia Lumia 920, Samsung Ativ S, Samsung Galaxy S III

Samsung Ativ S
Release Date: November
Carrier(s): AT&T and Verizon
Price: $199.99 on contract
CPU/GPU: Dual-core Snapdragon S4 1.5ghz/Adreno 225
Screen: 4.8″ Super AMOLED (Pentile Matrix) 1280x720p
Camera: 1.9MP(Fr)/8MP/1080p@30fps
Memory: 1GB RAM
Storage: 16GB/32GB
SD Card Slot: Yes
Battery: Removable/2300mah
Pros: Much thinner body than either the 8X or Lumia 920.  Largest screen (4.8″) of the group.  Has an SD card slot and large removable battery.  Excellent camera.
Cons: Lower quality (pentile matrix) screen and cheap materials compared to the competition.
Outlook: Essentially a WP8 version of the excellent Samsung Galaxy S III.  The 4.8″ screen is the largest of the group, but the lowest quality due to being pentile matrix.  The camera is excellent and the battery is large and removable.
Similar phones to consider: 
AT&T: Apple iPhone 5, HTC 8X, HTC One X, HTC One X+, LG Optimus G, Nokia Lumia 920, Samsung Galaxy S III
Verizon: Apple iPhone 5, HTC 8X, HTC DNA, LG Optimus G, Motorola Droid Razr MAXX HD, Samsung Galaxy S III

Best Phones Already on the Market:

Apple iPhone 5
Released on: Sept 21, 2012
Carrier(s): AT&T, Sprint and Verizon
Price: $199.99 on contract
CPU/GPU: Dual-core A6 1.3ghz/Tri-core PowerVR543
Screen: 4″ IPS LCD (RGB) 1136x640p
Camera: 1.2MP(Fr)/8MP/1080p@30fps
Memory: 1GB RAM
Storage: 16GB/32GB/64GB
SD Card Slot: No
Battery: Non-Removable/1440mah
Pros: One of the thinnest, lightest phones on the market.  Very good battery life.  Screen is top notch.  Excellent camera.  High quality materials and classic design.
Cons: Screen is small at 4″ compared to other smart phones.  Non-removable battery and no SD card slot.  No notification LED.  Apple’s iOS allows very little user customization compared to Android. Proprietary Lightning port means more expensive cables.  Android flagships have caught up in the specs and quality department.
Outlook: One of the best all around phones on the market.  Powerful while also very thin and light.  Excellent 4″ screen and camera.  The best small phone available.
Similar phones to consider:
AT&T: HTC 8X, HTC One X, HTC One X+, LG Optimus G, Nokia Lumia 920, Samsung Ativ S, Samsung Galaxy S III
Sprint: LG Optimus G, Samsung Galaxy S III
T-Mobile: LG Optimus G, Samsung Ativ S, Samsung Galaxy S III
Verizon: HTC DNA, LG Optimus G, Motorola Droid Razr MAXX HD, Samsung Ativ S, Samsung Galaxy S III

HTC EVO 4G LTE
Released on: June 2, 2012
Carrier(s): Sprint
Price: As low as $49.99 on contract
CPU/GPU: Dual-core Snapdragon S4 1.5ghz/Adreno 225

Screen: 4.7″ Super LCD-2 (RGB) 1280x720p

Camera: 1.3MP(Fr)/8MP/1080p@30fps

Memory: 1GB RAM

Storage: 16GB
SD Card Slot: Yes
Battery: Non-Removable/2000mah
Pros: The 720p Super LCD-2 is one of the best screens on the market.  SD card slot.  Looks and feels premium.  Excellent camera.
Cons: Non-removable battery.  HTC ImageChip/ImageSource camera system doesn’t produce better pictures than the competition (although they are still very good).  Still on Ice Cream Sandwich, but Jelly Bean is rumored to be coming out soon.  Two-tone matte/gloss design is questionable and not as nice as the HTC One X on which the Evo is based.

Outlook: Based on the HTC One X, the EVO 4G adds a removable battery and SD card slot at the expense of design asthetics.  Although the phone was released in June, it still sports competitive specs.  Can be had for as low as $49.99 on contract (Amazon). 

Similar phones to considerApple iPhone 5, LG Optimus G, Samsung Galaxy S III

HTC ONE X
Released on: May 6, 2012
Carrier(s): AT&T
Price: As low as $49.99 on contract
CPU/GPU: Dual-core Snapdragon S4 1.5ghz/Adreno 225
Screen: 4.7″ Super LCD-2 (RGB) 1280x720p
Camera: 1.3MP(Fr)/8MP/1080p@30fps
Memory: 1GB RAM
Storage: 16GB/32GB
SD Card Slot: No
Battery: Non-Removable/1800mah
Pros: The 720p Super LCD-2 is one of the best screens on the market.  Fantastic design with high end matte polycarbonate uni body.  Looks and feels premium.  Excellent camera.
Cons: No SD card slot.  Internal battery.  HTC ImageChip/ImageSource camera system doesn’t produce better pictures than the competition (although they are still very good).  Still on Ice Cream Sandwich, but Jelly Bean is rumored to be coming out soon.
Outlook: The best looking Android phone available.  The One X is still competitive from a specs standpoint even though it was released in May.  Can be had for as low as $49.99 on contract (Target). 
Similar phones to considerApple iPhone 5, HTC 8X, HTC One X+, LG Optimus G, Nokia Lumia 920, Samsung Ativ S, Samsung Galaxy S III

Samsung Galaxy S III
Released on: June 21, 2012
Carrier(s): AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon
Price: As low as $149.99 on contract
CPU/GPU: Dual-core Snapdragon S4 1.5ghz/Adreno 225
Screen: 4.8″ Super AMOLED (Pentile Matrix) 1280x720p
Camera: 1.9MP(Fr)/8MP/1080p@30fps
Memory: 2GB RAM
Storage: 16GB/32GB
SD Card Slot: Yes
Battery: Removable/2100mah
Pros: Large 4.8″ screen.  Super thin body.  SD card slot and large removable battery.  Excellent camera.  2GB of ram.
Cons: Lower quality (pentile matrix) screen and cheap materials compared to the competition.  Still on Ice Cream Sandwich, but Jelly Bean is rumored to be coming out soon.
Outlook: The Galaxy S III is a great all around smartphone.  It has a dual-core Snapdragon S4 CPU, a 4.8″ 720p screen, 2GB of ram, an SD card slot and a large, removable battery.  Prices are currently in the $99.99 range (Amazon), but Sprint will be selling the Galaxy S III for $49.99 on Black Friday.  Other carriers will likely drop the price during the holidays too.
Similar phones to consider:
AT&T: Apple iPhone 5, HTC 8X, HTC One X, HTC One X+, LG Optimus G, Nokia Lumia 920, Samsung Ativ S, Samsung Galaxy S III
Sprint: Apple iPhone 5, LG Optimus G, Samsung Galaxy S III
T-Mobile: LG Optimus G, Samsung Ativ S, Samsung Galaxy S III
Verizon: Apple iPhone 5, HTC DNA, LG Optimus G, Motorola Droid Razr MAXX HD, Samsung Ativ S, Samsung Galaxy S III

[Op-Ed]HTC is back to making great phones, so why are they still struggling?

HTC ruled Android phones in 2010.  They started the year off by releasing the Nexus One and then followed that up by releasing the Droid Incredible on Verizon in April and the Evo 4G on Sprint in June.  The Droid Incredible and Evo 4G in particular received significant advertising support from their respective carriers and were massive hits.  It seemed like HTC could do no wrong and the record profits they turned in seemingly every quarter reinforced this notion.

Then 2011 came around and HTC’s fortunes changed dramatically.  HTC starting falling behind the competition in a number of crucial areas.  Performance benchmark scores, battery life, reliability and stability all seemed to lag behind the competition.  The proprietary skin HTC put on Android called “Sense” was continually getting more system intensive and started negatively impacting the speed of the devices it was on.  On top of all that, Samsung released the Galaxy S II and dramatically raised the bar for Android hardware.

(Photo courtesy of almostlikeeverything.com)

Looking back at the phones HTC released in 2011 it’s hard to say that any of them were terrible.  However almost all of them could be described as underwhelming.  The Thunderbolt, Sensation, Sensation XE, EVO 3D, Vivid and mid-range models like the Incredible 2 and female targeted Rhyme all seemed to fade away quickly and quietly (or in the case of the Thunderbolt maybe not so quietly).  Reviewers liked the phones, but complained about bad battery life and noted how HTC had fallen behind in screen quality.  They tried differentiating their phones by adding features like Beats Audio, but features like Beats didn’t seem to resonate with consumers.  The HTC design aesthetic had also grown stale.  Their phones were virtually indistinguishable from one another and were heavier and thicker than the competition.  Can you tell the difference between these three completely separate models on completely different carriers?

(Photos courtesy of htc.com)

At the end of the 2011 HTC released the Rezound on Verizon.  The Rezound got lost under the massive hype of the Galaxy Nexus and the massive marketing behind the Droid Razr, but was an excellent phone in its own right.  It had the best screen and camera of the trio and also had an SD card slot the others lacked.  The battery life was at least equivalent despite having the lowest capacity.  HTC also gave users the ability to unlock the bootloader through their development site.  The phone was still quite a bit thicker than the others, but it was definitely a step in the right direction.  

As 2012 rang in, how would HTC respond to the rise of Samsung and their own sagging market share?  The answer came with the announcement of the HTC One line at the Mobile World Congress in February.  HTC announced a trio of new smartphones: the low-range One V, the mid-range One S, and the flagship One X.  The One S and One X were stunners.  The One S had a super thin body (7.9mm!), a dual-core Krait S4 processor, and a 4.3″ qHD Super AMOLED screen.  The One X featured a super thin (8.9mm) Polycarbonate Unibody with a 4.7″ RGB Super LCD 2 screen, a quad-core Tegra 3 processor (dual-core Krait S4 in the U.S.), and 1GB of ram.  Both phones also featured a dedicated camera chip called ImageChip that HTC claimed greatly improved image quality.  Finally, both phones featured the newest version of Sense (4.0) which was much less of a resource hog and a generally “thinner” skin.  
The designs were a huge departure from what HTC had been doing and both were gorgeous.  Almost a year later the One X is still one of the best looking phones on the market. 
(Photo courtesy of htc.com)
So, HTC learned its lessons from 2011, introduced fantastic products for 2012 and triumphed, right?  Well, not quite.  T-Mobile got the One S in April.  The One X was released by AT&T on May 6, 2012.  Verizon passed on the One X and eventually got a heavily modified One S variant called the Droid Incredible 4G LTE in July.  Sprint got a heavily reworked version of the One X that they called the Evo 4G LTE in June.  The Evo 4G LTE variant added in an SD card slot, a removable battery, and a lot of questionable design choices.  They took one of the most beautiful phones on the market and gave it a bizarre two tone gloss/matte backing with a red kickstand in the middle.  
(Photo courtesy androidguys.com)
While all these different variants were slowly trickling out, Samsung unleashed the Galaxy S III on May 3rd. A single version of the GSIII was released on all major carriers on June 21st and it has sold over 20 million units worldwide.  Meanwhile the One series has been a sales disappointment and is now getting price drops to move inventory.  Obviously the Galaxy S III was a major improvement over the One X and that’s the reason it was so much more successful, right?  Well, actually no.  Both screens are 720p, but the RGB Super LCD-2 unit on the One X is superior to the 720p pentile Super AMOLED unit on the GSIII.  The cameras are both 8mp and are pretty equivalent.  Battery life is similar.  The GSIII has an SD card slot and a removable battery, neither of which the One X has.  The GSIII also has 2GB of ram while the One X has 1GB.  The dimensions are similar.  From a materials perspective the One X makes the GSIII feel and look cheap.  
Both phones are excellent products and choosing between them could easily come down to user preference. So why has the One series disappointed while the Galaxy S III soared?  Distribution.  Samsung was able to get all the carriers to release an identical product a month and a half after it was announced.  HTC announced the One series in February and it took them 5 months to get something on every carrier.  The only stock variants of One series phones on U.S. carriers are the One X on AT&T and the One S on T-Mobile. Verizon and Sprint got heavily messaged variants that were both inferior to the design they were based off of.  
The One X is a fantastic phone and it’s a shame it only made it to one carrier intact.  Under different circumstances it could have (and probably should have) been a massive hit.  
Over the next couple months it looks like HTC will unleash a One X + (featuring a quad-core Tegra 3+ processor) and a 5″ 1080p quad-core monster that may or may not end up being a Nexus phone. Going forward HTC needs to handle releases like Samsung (and Apple) does.  Get one version of their phone released on all carriers within a month or two of announcing it.  If consumers get to compare the new HTC phones against other Android handsets, I believe they compare favorably.  Consumers will buy great products given the chance, and HTC is back to making great products.
(Photo courtesy droid-life.com)

[Op-Ed]Pentile screens have no place in flagship phones

I’ve been using a Motorola Droid X on Verizon as my primary phone since July of 2010.  Its been a great phone, but its locked bootloader makes flashing custom kernals impossible and running custom roms an inconvenience.

When rumors of a Samsung made Verizon Nexus phone started floating around at the end of last year I followed them with great interest.  I had read all the fantastic reviews the Galaxy S II had received and when Verizon passed on it the only logical reason was because a Samsung made Google flagship was on the way (or because Verizon felt like screwing their loyal customers yet again, but I digress).  I was positive the Galaxy Nexus would be my next phone.

When the phone was announced it checked off the flagship phone feature boxes one by one.  The Galaxy Nexus had an OMAP 4460 dual-core processor, an overclocked PowerVR SGX540 GPU, 1GB of ram and a 4.65″ Super Amoled 720p screen.  Flagship specs by any definition, and yet I couldn’t help but be disappointed.

Why?  Because of the 720p Super AMOLED screen.  The 720p resolution was great, but the lack of a PLUS at the end of the Super AMOLED meant the screen had the dreaded pentile matrix sub-pixel arrangement.  What is pentile matrix you might ask?  On a conventional screen each individual pixel is made up of a red, green, and blue sub-pixel.  On a pentile matrix screen each pixel only has two subpixels.  The subpixels generally are in a red, green, blue, green arrangement spread across two pixels.  Here is an illustration of the two arrangements:

What this means is that if you want to display white text on a traditional RGB screen it only take one pixel to do it.  Alternatively if white text needs to be displayed on a pentile matrix screen, it requires 1 and 2/3 pixels.  Here is an example of what this looks like:
(Photos courtesy of GSMArena.com)
Why does this matter?  Put simply the image quality is inferior on a pentile matrix screen as a result of subpixel sharing.  Text looks less sharp, images have a strange greenish tint to them, and viewing angles are reduced.  It also makes screens look dimmer and whites look grey.  Personally I would describe the effect as looking at something slightly out of focus.  Here is an example of the greenish tint a pentile matrix screen produces (the Galaxy Note is the only pentile matrix screen in the shot):
(Photo courtesy of phonearena.com)
So, the Galaxy Nexus was released and I passed on it.  Pentile matrix screens bother my eyes and since I spend the majority of the time on my phone using the screen, it was an easy decision.  As 2012 progressed we saw the release of a new generation of flagship phones starting with the HTC One X.  The One X has a Super LCD-2 720p RGB screen.  To my eyes it is one of the best looking, if not the best looking, screens on the market.  It would probably have been my next phone if not for Verizon passing on it.
The next Android flagship phone to be released was the Samsung Galaxy S III.  The rumor mill pointed to a 720p Super AMOLED Plus RGB screen.  Once again I was sure this would be my next phone.  Announcement time came and again disappointment.  The Galaxy S III also had a pentile matrix Super AMOLED screen.  I passed on it.
No flagship phone on any platform should have a pentile matrix screen.  It’s simply not as good.  No iPhone has ever had a pentile screen.  The Windows phone flagships Lumia 900 and 920 both have excellent RGB LCD screens.  In fact, the only two companies still producing pentile matrix flagship phones are Motorola and Samsung.  Samsung explained they used pentile matrix screens for technical reasons.  They said that blue subpixels in Super Amoled screens burn out faster than the red and green subpixels.  Of course, this didn’t stop them from using an excellent true RGB Super AMOLED Plus screen on the Galaxy S II. The excuse thus rings hollow.  Motorola has offered no such explanation, so one can only assume it’s a cost saving measure.
Some will argue I’m being overly picky.  Some will argue that pentile matrix screens, especially high resolution ones, look fine.  They’re right.  They do look fine and many users probably would be satisfied with the quality.  But a flagship phone should look better than fine.  If you put a pentile matrix screen up against a true RGB screen the difference is absolutely noticeable during typical use.  This is unacceptable.  
About a month ago Samsung announced the Galaxy Note 2, their next flagship phone.  I barely paid attention because they announced the screen would be yet another Super AMOLED (not Plus) screen.  Everyone assumed this meant pentile.  I was thrilled to find out that this was not the case.  Although the arrangement of the subpixels on the Note 2 is atypical, it is a true RGB screen.  
Samsung has finally relegated pentile screens to the past where they belong.  Hopefully Motorola follows suit.  I am happily buying a Note 2 the day it’s released.  The flagship phone from Samsung finally has the screen it and every other flagship deserves – a true RGB matrix.