This week in mobile – February 11, 2011

This has been another big week in mobile! Let’s get into it…

Mobile World Congress

MWC, the big tradeshow for the mobile industry, was held this week in Barcelona. Although a lot of interesting mobile announcements were made in at CES in January, there was still plenty of news here.

Tablets

More news came out about the wave of Android tablets coming to market. Two of the more interesting ones were:

HTC showed their 7″ Flyer tablet. This tablet is unique in that it includes a stylus and some custom software to take advantage of it for note taking and such. It looks interesting, but it isn’t clear that there will be enough developer interest to make this a success. Kudos to HTC to doing something different than all the rest of the me-too slates.

We now have more information about pricing and availablity of Motorola’s Xoom tablet. Xoom will cost $800 for the 32GB 3G model which makes it a little more expensive than the 32GB iPad 3G. Motorola says that the ability to upgrade to 4G makes it worth the extra cost. Moto also said there will be a wifi only version which will cost $600 which is inline with the 32GB wifi iPad. No date for when the wifi only version will be released.

New Phones

There were lots of new Android phones showed off in Barcelona, but two stood out as being different than the rest.

HTC showed off two “Facebook” phones. These are Android phones (one with a keyboard and one without) with a dedicated Facebook button. The button is context sensitive, so it will perform an appropriate Facebook action depending upon what the user is doing. For example, if you are using the camera, the F button will offer to post the picture to Facebook. These phones appear to be low-end models with an emphasis on Facebook integration. AT&T will have an exclusive on them in the US. HTC will not be the exclusive maker of Facebook enabled phones, but they are the first.

Sony Ericcson showed off the Xperia Play, which was formerly known as the PlayStation phone. The Xperia Play has a slide out game controller. It will run PS One software as well as a new Android based game architecture. Expect to see it available on Verizon soon.

Nokia/Microsoft

Some more news came out about the Nokia/Microsoft partnership. Rumors started circulating that Microsoft is paid Nokia billions for the contract. That is not so clear now. Stephen Elop did say that the decision to go with Microsoft did go to the last minute as Android and MeeGo were considered.

Nokia will be contributing to the WP7 ecosystem. Ovi maps, one of Nokia’s strong features, are a most likely addition.

Microsoft shared some news about where Windows Phone 7 is going. A minor update will be released in March which will provide the much needed copy/paste functionality.  A more substantial update (codenamed Mango) will come out in the fall adding multitasking for third party apps as well IE9 compatibility. The latter adds HTML5 compatibility which, in my opinion, is a must have feature on a phone today.  Supposedly the rendering engine is the same as IE9’s including use of hardware acceleration. It is really important for Microsoft to get these updates out as soon as possible as iOS and Android are moving ahead quickly and Microsoft is still playing catch up.

Not surprisingly, Nokia did not show a WP7 phone but did say they will have one by the end of the year. I suspect that will happen after the fall update to the OS.

Apple News

Apple’s Subscription Model

Apple released their subscription model this week. In a very aggressive move, Apple is requiring that apps make subscriptions available as in-app purchases of which Apple will take 30%. This applies to all types of digital media including audio and video. Publishers can also make subscriptions available through their websites, of which Apple will not get a cut, but they cannot provide a link to the site within the app. Apple will not provide information about subscribers to the publishers. Apple is requiring apps adhere to this model by June 30 or they will be removed from the app store.

Apple justifies this in two ways. First, they claim this is consumer friendly because in-app purchases provide a better user experience and they are protecting the user’s privacy by not giving subscriber info to the publisher. Second, Apple claims they are bringing a large number of users to the publishers and thus deserve a cut of the action.

Not surprisingly, many publishers are quite upset by this. The president of Rhapsody, which sells a subscription to an audio streaming service, said that they cannot afford the 30% premium and they will be “collaborating with our market peers in determining an appropriate legal and business response.” Talk of an anti-trust suit is already flying around.

Google also announced their subscription model called One Pass. In this model Google keeps 10% for processing overhead. Google will also provide subscriber info to publishers.

My Take: This move by Apple is surprising at a time when a bunch of new tablets are about to hit the market. Publishers could be forced to pull their content from iDevices and you can bet Google will not miss the opportunity to market the message that their devices support all the content that Apple does not. The loss of content makes the whole iOS ecosystem less desirable to consumers. If there is such a rebellion, Apple could always back off on the policy. Either way, they are not getting positive press about this.

Here are some other takes on this by TechCrunch and Gizmodo.

iPhone 5 rumor round up.

A new rumors that iPhone 5 will a 4″ display made the press. For those keeping score, here’s a summary of rumors of iPhone 5 features:

  • 4″ display. No word on whether the number of pixels will go up.
    Likely, as all other high end smartphones have 4″ or larger displays.
  • NFC chip for contactless payments.
    Almost certain! All high end phones in 2011 will have NFC.
  • All new design.
    I wouldn’t be surprised but if there is a 4″ display this is certain.
  • Both GSM and CDMA:
    Possible. This would allow Apple to only have to build and distribute one SKU.
    instead of two. The current Verizon iPhone has a dual mode chipset. I am still hoping for HSPA+ support.
  • Dual Core A5 processor:
    Almost certain.

iPhone nano?

Rumors were going around that Apple was going to introduce a low cost smaller iPhone. These rumors were debunked by an NY Times story. A smaller iPhone is unlikely, but a less expensive one may be possible.

My Take: A less expensive phone would bring a good deal of money to Apple, but another form factor will break existing apps which is one of the key features of iPhone. A less expensive phone with existing form factor seems a better way to go.

Verizon iPhone sales disappoint?

Verizon started selling iPhones on Feb 10, and sales may not have met up to expectations. Any other phone with these sales would be thrilling, but expectations were pretty high for iPhone.

My Take: Actual numbers were not shared, but it is not surprising that the Verizon iPhone did not bring in buyers like other iPhone releases.  The February release comes in the middle of the cycle for iPhone buyers whose contracts will not be up until June. Also, it is well known that iPhone 5 is around the corner so may would be buyers are waiting for that.  Sales numbers for Verizon vs AT&T for iPhone 5 will be interesting.

And that’s the news…

 

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About Lee J.

Mobile Guy!
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