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Posts Tagged ‘User Experience’

LG plans to launch a ‘thinking smartphone’

Friday, April 6th, 2012

LG has yet to find the same success in the smartphone market that Samsung, HTC and Motorola have seen, but the company’s managing director Kwon Bong-suk told a Korean news website that LG will soon introduce a game-changing “thinking smartphone.” The executive confidently stated that the next mobile innovation doesn’t necessarily have to come from Apple, saying that LG can identify with the “universal value” that all consumers seek. Unlike its competitors, LG will refrain from adding more features and entertainment options to its devices, instead looking to build a product that will be responsive to a user’s particular needs. Bong-suk also noted the importance of the low-end market and said the company is interested in releasing a smartphone for $100. Despite the low price, Bong-suk says LG won’t compromise on the quality of the user experience. The director concluded by saying that “preparations for the development of the thinking smartphone are underway.”

[Via The Verge]

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Mozilla outlines plans for Firefox in 2012: less emphasis on version numbers, more focus on user experience

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

We’ve already seen Firefox move to a more rapid release schedule, and it looks like we’ll soon also see far less emphasis placed on those rapidly increasing version numbers (much like Google has already done with Chrome). That’s one detail revealed by Mozilla in a blog post today, which recaps its activity in 2011 and outlines some of its goals for 2012. That includes silent updates in the background to counter what Mozilla calls “update fatigue,” as well as a number of efforts to make web apps more integrated into Firefox (and complement the Mozilla Marketplace). More on that and some additional technical details can be found at the source link below.

Mozilla outlines plans for Firefox in 2012: less emphasis on version numbers, more focus on user experience originally appeared on Engadget on Wed, 14 Mar 2012 22:51:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

Permalink The Next Web  |  sourceMozilla  | Email this | Comments

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Dear Microsoft: You’re doing it right

Tuesday, March 13th, 2012

Late last summer, I wrote an article titled Dear tablet makers: You’re doing it wrong in which I shared my view on what I believe to be one of the biggest problems currently facing tablet vendors. In this article, I postulated that most Android tablets failed to make a splash because, in a nutshell, they bring nothing new to the table. Of course Android offers a vastly different user interface and user experience as compared to Apple’s market-leading iPad, but in terms of true differentiation — unique and desirable features offered to tablet buyers that cannot be found on the iPad — Android tablets have historically been lacking.

This problem, I believe, stems from the early days of Android tablets. Everything has been rushed. The first round of Android tablets ran Gingerbread and, as far as user experience is concerned, it was a disaster. Hindsight is 20/20 and I have spoken off the record with executives at several consumer electronics companies who expressed remorse after having rushed these slates out the door. What’s done is done, however.

Unfortunately, the trend continued with early Honeycomb tablets. Android 3.0 offered the first Android experience that was created specifically for tablets. The UI was designed for larger displays and it was vastly improved compared to Gingerbread. But it still felt rushed.

BGR stated as much on a number of occasions, such as in our review of LG’s T-Mobile G-Slate. “Android 3.0, or ‘Honeycomb’ as Google affectionately calls it, is a stopgap build of the Android operating system,” I wrote at the time. “I am not implying that this version of the Android OS is a poor effort on Google’s part, I’m simply stating that it seems like a rushed effort intended to tide us over while Google prepares to put its best foot forward.”

Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich is still not the answer. While the UI has been further refined and new features have been added, ICS still fails to offer a truly differentiated experience. Of course Android affords a number of features iOS does not, and of course it provides flexibility that Apple’s closed platform never will, but true differentiation that appeals to the mass market is still not a part of the picture.

As it turns out, the few Android tablets that do offer some differentiation, such as Asus’s Transformer, have been well received. Unlike many of its rivals, Asus took it upon itself to create unique features where there were none. Rather than simply build a shell for Google’s tablet OS, Asus built a convertible slate that docks with a keyboard to create a netbook of sorts. Asus may have jumped the shark with its new Padfone tablet/smartphone hybrid, but the company clearly recognizes that acting as nothing but a vessel for Google’s platform and slapping on a thin UI layer is, for the most part, and exercise in futility.

At its core however, the user experience afforded by Android tablets — the look, the features, the apps, the hardware — does not deviate enough in the eyes of the general consumer. And with a few exceptions, namely Amazon’s Kindle Fire and Barnes & Noble’s Nook Tablet, Android tablets can’t beat the iPad in terms of pricing, either. Imagine the IWC Big Pilot and the Archimede Pilot XL were available at the same price. Which would you buy?

And so Microsoft is doing what Google and its Android partners have not: Microsoft is building a unique experience.

I spent about a week with Windows 8 on a reference tablet before Microsoft unveiled the Consumer Preview edition of its upcoming operating system at Mobile World Congress, and I was impressed. The Redmond-based software giant has plenty of work left to do, and I expect Windows 8 to still be a work in progress when it launches to the public later this year. Microsoft is doing a lot of things right with its next-generation OS though, and the unique Metro user interface is just one way Microsoft will distinguish its tablet experience from Apple’s.

In my earlier piece, Dear tablet makers: You’re doing it wrong, I noted that there are many ways tablet vendors might separate their slates from the iPad. I gave just one brief example, but it is one I feel could have a big impact on sales if positioned properly and marketed well: sharing.

Tablets are expensive, especially when one considers the fact that in most cases, they are a third wheel for the consumer. Today’s media tablets can’t replace a PC for many users, and they certainly can’t replace a smartphone or feature phone. For those without expendable income — most people fall into this category — a $400, $500 or $600+ tablet that can be shared between every member of a family might be far more appealing than a tablet that that can only be used by one person if privacy is at all a concern.

Personal computers support multiple user accounts. This is not a new concept. Each user can log in to a PC with a unique user name and password in order to be greeted by his or her own desktop configuration and programs. And unless there are some hackers in a household, personal files belonging to one user are not accessible to others.

This concept should have been carried over to tablets from the beginning, but Microsoft’s Windows 8 will be the first mass-market example of multi-user support. In fact, as Microsoft revealed on Monday, the company plans to take things a step further — apps purchased from Microsoft’s app store by one user on a Windows 8 machine can then be downloaded for free by other users.

Windows 8 is not a media tablet killer and it most certainly is not an iPad killer. It’s not supposed to be. Microsoft’s next-generation OS may be the first platform to approach the tablet market the right way, however. Start with a solid foundation, focus on the user experience and a wide range of capabilities, and differentiate. This is how a new platform might find success in the tablet market moving forward, and it is the road Microsoft appears to be taking.

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Sony Tablet P available from AT&T on March 4th

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

AT&T on Tuesday announced the availability of Sony’s dual-screened, folding, Nintendo DS-inspired Tablet P — again. The Honeycomb-powered slate is equipped with two 5.5-inch displays, a dual-core NVIDIA Tegra processor clocked at 1GHz and HSPA+ connectivity. The device also comes with 4GB of internal storage, a microSD slot, a VGA front facing and 5-megapixel rear camera. Along with the Android Market, the Tablet P is PlayStation Certified and has access to the Sony’s entertainment suite and services. The device will be available starting March 4th for $399.99 with a new two-year agreement. Read on for AT&T’s press release.

Sony Tablet™ P Available on AT&T 4G Network

Unique Tablet Design Features Two 5.5 Inch Screens, Easily Fits into a Pocket or Purse

DALLAS, Feb. 28, 2012 /PRNewswire/ — AT&T* today announced Sony Tablet™ P, a dual screen, multi-functional tablet ideal for mobile communication and entertainment, will be available beginning March 4. The 4G tablet will be sold for $399.99 with a two-year service agreement in more than 1,000 AT&T company-owned retail stores and online at www.att.com.

The new Sony Tablet P pushes the design of a tablet even further by elevating the user experience to entirely new levels. The unprecedented dual-screen layout of Sony Tablet™ P allows its two 5.5-inch displays to be used for different functions such as playing video on one screen while using the other as a controller, or checking email on one screen while using the other as a keyboard. Customers can also combine the displays into a single large screen and its unique folding design means it can fit easily into a pocket or purse.

At launch, users will be able to download apps optimized for the dual screens of Sony Tablet P via Sony’s “Select App,” including games, entertainment and lifestyle applications. In addition to optimized apps, Sony Tablet P users will have access to the full suite of Android applications via Android Market. Like its predecessor, Sony Tablet P is PlayStation™ Certified and provides access to the full suite of Sony Network Entertainment services. Sony Tablet devices are distinguished by four key features that set them apart from any other tablets on the market. These include: uniquely designed hardware and software, a “swift and smooth” experience (which includes Sony original features, Quick view and Quick touch), network entertainment services and cross-device connectivity.

Running on Android 3.2, Sony Tablet™ P is 4G**capable and Wi-Fi compatible. With a qualifying data plan, users of Sony Tablet™ P also have access to AT&T’s mobile broadband network and unlimited access to AT&T’s nearly 30,000 hot spots nationwide. With both 4G and Wi-Fi, customers can browse the Internet, access digital content including videos, games, and check e-mail, while on the go, nearly anytime.

Data Plans
Customers who sign a two-year service agreement have two postpaid data plan options to choose from, including:
AT&T DataConnect 3GB: $35 for 3GB
AT&T DataConnect 5GB: $50 for 5GB

Customers may still choose from the existing monthly billing options, or prepaid options, with no long-term commitment. The Sony Tablet P without a long term contract will cost $549.99.
The prepaid plan options include:
AT&T DataConnect 250MB: $14.99 for 250MB
AT&T DataConnect 3GB: $30 for 3GB
AT&T DataConnect 5GB: $50 for 5GB

Specifications
Display
Resolution: 1024 x 480 (each screen)
Screen Size: 5.5″ (x 2 – dual screens)
Hardware
Camera: Front – 0.3 Megapixel Rear – 5 Megapixel
Inputs and Outputs
Headphone Output: 1
MicroUSB: 1
Memory
Internal Memory: 1GB
Power
Battery Life (Approx): Up to 7 hours (based on general usage)
Battery Type: Li-Ion
Processor
Processor Type: NVIDIA® Tegra™2 mobile processor, dual-core 1GHz
Software
Operating System: Android 3.2
Storage
External storage: microSD card slot (expandable up to 32GB, 2GB microSD card included)
Internal Storage Capacity: 4GB
Weights and Measurements
Dimensions (Approx.): Open – 6.23l x 7.09w x 0.56h (inches) Closed – 3.12l x 7.09w x 1.03 h (inches)
Weight (Approx.): 0.83 lbs
Wireless/Networking
Bluetooth® Technology: Bluetooth version 2.1 + EDR
Wi-Fi: IEEE802.11b/g/n

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Apple drops the ‘Mac’ from OS X Lion, Mountain Lion

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

Clearly, cats are in. But Mac, it seems, is out. Apple has quietly dropped the Mac name from its latest OS X Mountain Lion operating system, while also retroactively changing the Lion branding on its website. While it’s clearly a marketing move and won’t affect the user experience, it looks like Cupertino is further defining the line between hardware and software — Mac is hardware, OS X is software, and that’s the end of that. Apple purists will need to download the developer preview of Lion to see the change reflected on the OS side of things, though that could always change with 10.7.4. Hit up the source link to see for yourself.

Apple drops the ‘Mac’ from OS X Lion, Mountain Lion originally appeared on Engadget on Thu, 16 Feb 2012 11:39:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Gartner: Apple leads smartphone sales to new heights

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

Global smartphone sales increased 47.3% to 149 million units in the fourth quarter of 2011, according to market research firm Gartner. Total smartphone sales for the full year increased 58% to 472 million units and accounted for 31% of all mobile devices sold. The record sales were led by Apple’s iPhone, which sold 37 million units and helped the company capture a 23.8% market share in the fourth quarter. Apple was also the top smartphone vendor in 2011, with a 19% market share. “Western Europe and North America led most of the smartphone growth for Apple during the fourth quarter of 2011,” said Roberta Cozza, principal research analyst at Gartner. “In Western Europe the spike in iPhone sales in the fourth quarter saved the overall smartphone market after two consecutive quarters of slow sales.” Samsung continued its success with LG, Sony Ericsson, Motorola and Research In Motion recording disappointing results. Both ZTE and Huawei dominated the low-end to mid-range market and became — along with Apple — the fastest-growing vendors in the fourth quarter of 2011. “These vendors expanded their market reach and kept on improving the user experience of their Android devices,” said Cozza. Read on for Gartner’s press release.

Gartner Says Worldwide Smartphone Sales Soared in Fourth Quarter of 2011 With 47 Percent Growth
Apple Became Top Smartphone Vendor in Fourth Quarter of 2011 and in 2011 as a Whole

Egham, UK, February 15, 2012—

Worldwide smartphone sales to end users soared to 149 million units in the fourth quarter of 2011, a 47.3 per cent increase from the fourth quarter of 2010, according to Gartner, Inc. Total smartphone sales in 2011 reached 472 million units and accounted for 31 percent of all mobile devices sales, up 58 percent from 2010.

Smartphone volumes during the quarter rose due to record sales of Apple iPhones. As a result, Apple became the third-largest mobile phone vendor in the world, overtaking LG. Apple also became the world’s top smartphone vendor, with a market share of 23.8 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011, and the top smartphone vendor for 2011 as a whole, with a 19 percent market share. “Western Europe and North America led most of the smartphone growth for Apple during the fourth quarter of 2011,” said Roberta Cozza, principal research analyst at Gartner. “In Western Europe the spike in iPhone sales in the fourth quarter saved the overall smartphone market after two consecutive quarters of slow sales.”

The quarter saw Samsung and Apple cement their positions further at the top of the market as their brands and new products clearly stood out. LG, Sony Ericsson, Motorola and Research In Motion (RIM) again recorded disappointing results as they struggled to improve volumes and profits significantly. These vendors were also exposed to a much stronger threat from the midrange and low end of the smartphone market as ZTE and Huawei continued to gain share during the quarter.

Worldwide mobile device sales to end users totaled 476.5 million units in the fourth quarter of 2011, a 5.4 percent increase from the same period in 2010 (see Table 1). In 2011 as a whole, end users bought 1.8 billion units, an 11.1 percent increase from 2010 (see Table 2). “Expectations for 2012 are for the overall market to grow by about 7 percent, while smartphone growth is expected to slow to around 39 percent,” said Annette Zimmermann, principal research analyst at Gartner.

In the fourth quarter of 2011, Nokia’s mobile phone sales numbered 111.7 million units, an 8.7 percent decrease from last year. “Samsung closed the gap with Nokia in overall market share,” said Ms. Cozza. “Samsung profited from strong smartphone sales of 34 million units in the fourth quarter of 2011. The troubled economic environment in Europe and Nokia’s weakened brand status posed challenges that were hard to overcome in just one quarter. However, Nokia proved its ability to execute and deliver on time with its new Lumia 710 and 800 handsets. Nokia will have to continue to offer aggressive prices to encourage communications service providers (CSPs) to add its products to portfolios currently dominated by Android-based devices.”

Apple had an exceptional fourth quarter, selling 35.5 million smartphones to end users, a 121.4 percent increase year on year. Apple’s continued attention to channel management helped it take full advantage of the strong quarter to further close the gap with Samsung, which saw some inventory build up for its smartphone range. Apple’s strong performance will continue into the first quarter of 2012 as availability of the iPhone 4S widens. However, since Apple will not benefit from delayed purchases as it did in the fourth quarter of 2011, Gartner analysts expect its sales to decline quarter-on-quarter.

After Apple, ZTE and Huawei were the fastest-growing vendors in the fourth quarter of 2011. “These vendors expanded their market reach and kept on improving the user experience of their Android devices,” said Ms. Cozza.

In the fourth quarter of 2011, ZTE moved into fourth place in the global handset market. ZTE posted a strong smartphone sales increase of 71 percent sequentially. The company was able to extend its portfolio to three CSPs in its home market and benefited from consumers’ interest in low-cost smartphones. Huawei moved ahead of LG in the Android marketplace to become a top-four Android manufacturer, thanks to strong smartphone growth in the quarter. Huawei has made significant progress in moving to its own-branded devices, and it has continued to expand its portfolio into higher tiers as its tries to build more iconic products.

RIM dropped to the No. 7 spot in the fourth quarter of 2011, with a 10.7 percent decline. RIM’s delay with its BlackBerry 10 platform will further impair its ability to retain users. However, RIM’s biggest challenge is still to expand the developer base around its ecosystem and convince developers to work and innovate with BlackBerry 10.

In the smartphone OS market (see Table 3), competition between Google and Apple intensified. Android’s share declined slightly sequentially. This was due to strong iPhone sales, driven in particular by the iPhone 4S in mature markets and the weakness of key Android vendors as they struggled to create unique and differentiated devices. Samsung remained the main contributor to Android share gains in the second half of 2011. iOS’s market share grew 8 percentage points year-on-year, but Gartner analysts expect Apple’s share to drop in the next couple of quarters as the upgrade cycle to the iPhone 4S slows. Nokia’s first Windows Phone smartphones, the Lumia 710 and 800, made their debut, but, as expected, sales were not enough to prevent a fall in Microsoft’s smartphone market share.

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Hands on with Cablevision’s upcoming Optimum App for Laptops

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

Last summer, Cablevision was one of the first cable providers to release an app for watching live TV on mobile devices. The Optimum App for the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch allows Optimum subscribers to watch live television when connected to their home networks. Cablevision is now testing the Optimum App for Laptops, which transforms a user’s laptop into an additional TV when connected to a home network. A beta version of the application is currently available to select customers for a limited time and we managed to put it through the paces on Thursday. Check out our hand-on photo gallery below and hit the break for some quick impressions.

After installing Microsoft Silverlight, we were able to jump right into the application. The program features a clean and simple UI, giving users the ability to quickly access the TV guide and jump between various channels. Available channels are dependent on a user’s plan, thus ensuring that users only have access to the channels included in their standard cable subscriptions. The program also allows users to enable closed captioning and various parental controls.

The app is still a beta, and unfortunately there are definitely some issues to be worked out. Changing channels was sluggish, buffering was very slow and on numerous occasions the application completely froze. By no means was it unwatchable, however the user experience clearly has plenty of room for improvement. Picture quality was decent though, and all in all, the app is a welcomed addition to Cablevision’s Optimum portfolio and we can’t wait to get our hands on the finished product.

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Nokia confirms AT&T Lumia 900 launch in March

Friday, January 13th, 2012

AT&T will launch Nokia’s highly anticipated Lumia 900 smartphone in March, Nokia revealed on Thursday. While the company failed to make any concrete release details available during its press conference at the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this week, preliminary launch details were included in a developer newsletter the Finnish vendor sent out on Thursday. “The Nokia Lumia 900 phone runs Microsoft Windows Phone 7.5,” the newsletter read. “It is the biggest and fastest smartphone yet. And it will become available exclusively through AT&T in March.” BGR took a hands-on look at the Nokia Lumia 900 earlier this week, and it is easily one of the best Windows Phone handsets we have handled to date. Beyond the sleek design, the Lumia 900 features a 1.4GHz Snapdragon processor, a 4.3-inch ClearBlack AMOLED display, 4G LTE and a user experience that ranks among the best available on a modern smartphone.

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Eric Schmidt: There is differentiation in Android, not fragmentation

Wednesday, January 11th, 2012

Eric Schmidt says differentiation not fragmentation in Android

At the Consumer Electronics Show, Google’s executive chairman Eric Schmidt spoke about the idea of fragmentation in Android. Schmidt argued that while there is a “differentiation” between Android devices, it isn’t the same as fragmentation. “Differentiation is positive, fragmentation is negative,” said Schmidt. “Differentiation means that you have a choice and the people who are making the phones, they’re going to compete on their view of innovation, and they’re going to try and convince you that theirs is better than somebody else.” Schmidt defined fragmentation as having an app that runs on one device but not another, with Android this is not the case 99% of the time. The differentiation between devices comes from the various skins that manufactures lay over the Android operating system. ”We absolutely allow [manufacturers] to add or change the user interface as long as they don’t break the apps. We see this as a plus; [it] gives you far more choices,” said Schmidt. While everyone who buys an iPhone receive the same user experience, Schmidt doesn’t think the same is necessary with Android. ”It’s not required that everyone use the same interface,” Schmidt said. “People are free to make the necessary changes. What’s great is if you don’t like it, you can buy the phone from someone else.” Android is all about choice, not every consumer is looking for a slide-out keyboard, a 4.65-inch display, or a dual-core processor, the different manufactures allow you to find a device that is perfect for you. Though those specifications sounds pretty good to me.

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Apple’s iTV could offer dynamic backlighting for improved picture quality

Thursday, January 5th, 2012

Apple recently filed for a patent called “Dynamic Backlight Adaptation for Black Bars with Subtitles” that may be used to provide improved picture quality in its rumored HDTV. Apple explained in the patent application that the black bars above and below video on widescreen televisions can make it tough for a television panel to display blacks properly. ”These non-picture portions complicate the analysis of the brightness of the video images, and therefore can create problems when determining the trade-off between the brightness of the video signals and the intensity setting of the light source,” Apple said in the patent. “Moreover, these non-picture portions can also produce visual artifacts, which can degrade the overall user experience.” Apple’s solution would be to dynamically change the backlighting. Read on for more.

“The system determines the intensity setting of the light source on an image-by-image basis for the sequence of video images, where the intensity of the given video image is based on the brightness setting and/or brightness information contained in the video signals associated with the given image,” Apple explained. ”Then, the system synchronizes the intensity of the setting of the light source with the current video image to be displayed.”

Apple’s Siri-powered TV is rumored to be launching later this year. While earlier rumors suggested that Sharp will supply 32-inch and 37-inch panels for the device, the latest reports suggest 42-inch and 50-inch models are in the works.

[Via AppleInsider]

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Intel’s Ultrabook portal jabs at limited functionality of tablets

Monday, January 2nd, 2012

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, there’s no question that tablets aren’t capable of handling the same rigors (with the same efficiency levels) as a full-on laptop, and Intel’s using that very point to promote the Ultrabook category as a whole. Given that we’re just days away from seeing what’s apt to be a flood of these things at CES, Intel’s new Ultrabook portal (and linked “Ultra Excited For Ultrabooks” preview paper) is priming the masses for what to expect. In the note, Intel Technical Marketing Engineer Shirley Chen notes the following:

“Tablets have introduced some great features that support some of these use cases with longer battery life and touch capabilities in order to provide a more enriched experience. However the screens are still small, local storage is generally miniscule and restrictive, and tablets lack performance compared to that of a traditional PC. At the other end of the portable scale there are laptops, which for many are just too big, and place power and performance above user experience, which both hardware and software play a part in. Ultrabook systems marry thin and light with the best in performance, responsiveness, security and battery life – filling the gap between desktop/laptop and tablet. We are reinventing the PC again. An Ultrabook device is ultra-responsive and ultra-sleek.”

Nothing here is truly groundbreaking, per se, but it’s the first time that we’ve seen such a giant company take a meaningful swing at a product sector that has caught fire for myriad reasons. 2012 is shaping up to be the year of the inexpensive tablet, but if Intel has its druthers, you’ll be shaking off the hype and picking up a full-fledged computing tool instead. Have a look at the rest in the PDF sourced below.

Intel’s Ultrabook portal jabs at limited functionality of tablets originally appeared on Engadget on Mon, 02 Jan 2012 13:19:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Apple reportedly has no plans for a 7-inch iPad, iPad 2 price to drop when iPad 3 launches

Friday, December 23rd, 2011

A number of reports have emerged in recent months claiming that Apple has a new smaller iPad in the pipeline set to launch in 2012. Scheduled to be released in the second half of the year, the slate will reportedly feature a 7.85-inch display and a lower price tag compared to the current iPad 2 model. A new note from Wedge Partners analyst Brian Blair suggests that Apple has no such plans, however, and it will stick to a 9.7-inch panel when it launches new iPad models next year. Read on for more.

“Don’t expect a 7-incher. While we believe Apple has tested 7-inch screen prototypes for over a year, we don’t currently expect the company to release anything in the 7-inch size in 2012,” Blair wrote in a note to clients on Friday. He is also one of a few analysts who dispelled iPhone 5 rumors and correctly predicted that Apple would launch the iPhone 4S with a faster A5 processor, an 8-megapixel camera and the same case as the iPhone 4.

Blair adds that former Apple CEO Steve Jobs was very vocal in his stance against 7-inch tablets, suggesting that they do not offer a large enough canvas for Apple’s iOS software in a tablet environment. It should also be noted, however, that Apple has made a number of similar statements over the years only to flip-flop later and make announcements in direct contradiction to earlier claims. One example is native app support, which Apple initially resisted out of fear it would sully the iPhone user experience.

While Blair doesn’t see a 7-inch iPad hitting the market next year, he does believe Apple will adopt an iPhone-like strategy with its iPad line in 2012. Rather than simply replacing the iPad 2 with the iPad 3 next year, Apple will continue to sell the iPad 2 at a reduced price as it now does with the iPhone 4 and iPhone 3GS.

“We believe Apple is highly likely to keep the iPad 2 on the production line after the launch of iPad 3 and offer it at a lower price point in an effort to address demand at the mid-tier, what we view as the $249 – $499 range,” the analyst wrote. “We believe iPad 2′s price could drop to the $349 to $399 range with Apple offering a single 16GB model.”

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Nokia re-enters U.S. market: $50 Lumia 710 for T-Mobile launches January 11th

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011

Nokia on Wednesday announced its debut Windows Phone for the U.S. market: the Lumia 710. First unveiled in October, the Lumia 710 features impressive specs in a solid package that will be very affordable when it launches next month as a T-Mobile exclusive in the United States. The inclusion of HSPA 14.4 also means T-Mobile will bill the Lumia 710 as the first 4G Windows Phone, and we’re told that the smartphone will be prominently featured in T-Mobile stores as Nokia prepares to re-enter the U.S. market. Read on for more.

While the Lumia 710 is Nokia’s first Windows Phone announced for the U.S., Nokia assured us that this handset is one piece of the Finnish vendor’s strategy. Company representatives wouldn’t elaborate for the time being, but we certainly expect to see more from Nokia next month at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Nokia did say that it is making a significant investment in marketing and advertising in the U.S., and early campaigns will include TV, print and digital advertising as well as cooperative efforts with carriers.

T-Mobile’s Lumia 710 is nothing to scoff at, and the carrier is setting its sights on first-time smartphone buyers with this Nokia smartphone. Like the Lumia 800 we reviewed last month, the Lumia 710 user experience is extremely fluid and simplistic, making it a terrific option for users upgrading from a feature phone. Specs include a 1.4GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, a 3.7-inch ClearBlack display, a 5-megapixel camera capable of recording 720p HD video at 30 frames per second, 512MB of RAM, 8GB of storage and a 1,300 mAh battery.

We took a hands-on look at the Lumia 710 in October and thought it was a great value, offering impressive specs and a wonderfully smooth UI in an affordable package. At $50 with a T-Mobile value plan, this phone will likely attract more than just first-time smartphone buyers.

T-Mobile will launch the Nokia Lumia 710 on January 11th in both white and black for $49.99 on a two-year contract after a $50 mail-in rebate. Nokia and T-Mobile’s full press release follows below.

T-Mobile Brings Nokia Lumia 710 to the U.S.  

Nokia and T-Mobile deliver a leading entry-level Windows Phone experience to the nearly 150 million Americans still to make the transition to smartphones. 

BELLEVUE, Wash., and SUNNYVALE, Calif. — Dec. 14, 2011 — T-Mobile USA, Inc. and Nokia today announced the upcoming availability of the Nokia Lumia 710, the first Windows Phone from Nokia in the United States. Targeted at the nearly 150 million Americans who haven’t purchased their first smartphones, the 4G-capable Nokia Lumia 710 delivers high-performance hardware, Nokia’s best social and Internet experience, and access to popular smartphone applications and services from Windows Phone Marketplace.

Running on America’s Largest 4G Network, the Nokia Lumia 710 benefits from the unique people-first approach of Windows Phone, bringing together all interactions with family and friends in People Hub. The Nokia Lumia 710 also provides one-click access to popular services, such as Netflix, T-Mobile TV with mobile HD1 and a leading mobile Web experience with Internet Explorer® Mobile, Bing Search with voice activation and Local Scout for locally relevant search results. The smartphone also brings access to signature Nokia experiences, such as Nokia Drive for voice-guided, turn-by-turn navigation and ESPN for exclusive sports content.

“We’re excited to team with Nokia in bringing its first Windows Phone to the U.S. with the elegantly designed Nokia Lumia 710,” said Cole Brodman, chief marketing officer, T-Mobile USA. “Windows Phone offers a compelling mobile OS choice for people who want a smartphone built around them, their family and friends.  We expect it to play a more prominent role in our lineup and marketing efforts in 2012.”

Today, people are increasingly upgrading to smartphones, and many are doing so for the first time. According to the NPD Group, U.S. smartphone sales reached 59 percent in the third quarter 2011, an increase of 13 percent since third quarter 2010. With an increasing demand for smartphones, the Nokia Lumia 710 offers a compelling experience aimed at addressing the needs of the nearly 150 million people in the U.S. who have yet to upgrade to their first smartphones.

“Our research shows nearly everybody in the U.S. wants a smartphone, but many believe they can’t afford it,” Brodman said. “That’s where T-Mobile shines. Our Unlimited Value and Monthly4G plans make it more affordable than ever to step up to mobile data on our 4G network.”

”The Nokia Lumia 710 is the perfect first-time smartphone: a well-designed product that delivers the most compelling Windows Phone experience in its price range and with access to great content and thousands of applications,” said Chris Weber, president, Nokia Americas. “This is the perfect first Nokia Lumia experience and the start of our re-entry into the U.S. smartphone market.”

Available in a black or white finish, the Nokia Lumia 710 features a 3.7-inch ClearBlack WVGA scratch-resistant display for outstanding outdoor viewing and a Qualcomm 1.4 GHz Snapdragon™ processor providing speedy access to entertainment and information on-the-go. It also features a 5-megapixel camera with Nokia’s leading camera technology, enabling people to take pictures in almost any light condition and share on social networks in seconds. With the most integrated work-life solution of any mobile platform via the Windows Phone Office Hub and an interactive mobile gaming experience via Xbox LIVE®, the Nokia Lumia 710 is the complete all-round first-time smartphone experience.

Availability

The Nokia Lumia 710 is expected to be available at T-Mobile retail stores, select dealers and retailers nationwide, and online at http://www.t-mobile.com starting Jan. 11. The Nokia Lumia 710 is expected to cost $49.99 after a $50 mail-in-rebate card, with a two-year service agreement and qualifying Classic voice and data plan. For more information, visit http://www.t-mobile.com/lumia.

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Apple leads in loyalty: 84% of iPhone users, 60% of Android users plan to stay loyal, study finds

Friday, November 25th, 2011

Wireless users who currently own an iPhone are more likely to stay loyal to their current smartphone platform than owners of any other OS, a recent study found. Market research firm GfK conducted a survey of 4,500 consumers in various regions around the world and found that 84% of current iPhone owners plan to purchase another iPhone as their next handset. 60% of Android users plan to stay loyal according to the study, and 48% of BlackBerry owners intend to purchase another BlackBerry smartphone as their next device. ”Apple is clearly ahead of the game, but developments next year will challenge that,” GfK analyst Ryan Garner told Reuters without elaborating. The consensus at GfK paints a slightly different picture, however, as the firm suggests that loyal customers are difficult to sway. ”The scope for brands to lure customers from rivals has diminished and the richest rewards will go to those providers that can create the most harmonious user experience and develop this brand loyalty,” the firm said in its report.

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Windows 8 will be huge for Microsoft and PC industry, Acer CEO says

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

Microsoft’s upcoming next-generation operating system will be the driving force behind the company’s triumphant “re-rise” according to Acer chairman and CEO, J.T. Wang. While Microsoft maintained a 91.86% share of the global operating system market in October according to Net Applications — Apple’s OS X was No. 2 with just 6.94% of the market — the company’s mind share is still in decline along with its mobile business. In an interview with DigiTimes, Wang said Windows 8 will reverse this trend while also greatly improving the Windows user experience on PCs. Microsoft is directly addressing consumer demands with Windows 8, Wang said, rather than adding “unnecessary functions” that users openly objected to. The Acer chairman sees Windows 8 as not only a big boost for Microsoft, but also for the PC industry in Taiwan and abroad, which has seen slowed growth in recent quarters. Microsoft said it will release its new PC operating system some time in the second half of 2012.

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HTC Titan review

Thursday, October 27th, 2011

Microsoft’s Windows Phone platform is in a peculiar place right now. Those who use the year-old mobile operating system typically offer glowing accounts of their experiences, but adoption has been anything but brisk. Carriers aren’t pushing Windows Phones with any effort worth noting — in fact, retail staffers at U.S. carrier shops have been known to steer customers away from the platform according to various reports — and in the second quarter of 2011, Microsoft’s share of the mobile market may have hit an all-time low. Microsoft’s deal with Nokia finally bore fruit this week however, and the second wave of Windows Phones has begun trickling out into the market. Among the Windows Phone 7.5 “Mango” devices that have been announced to date, one in particular stands taller than the rest, both literally and figuratively. In this review, we take a look at the AT&T-bound HTC Titan to see if it’s worthy of its grandiose moniker.

The Inside

Ever since Microsoft first took the wraps off its next-generation mobile platform “Windows Phone Series 7″ in early 2010, I’ve been intrigued. Like webOS, Microsoft’s operating system appeared to offer a fresh take on the smartphone user experience. When handsets finally started shipping ahead of the holidays last year, Windows Phone delivered. It was fresh, it was unique and it was a pleasure to use. Unfortunately for Microsoft and its partners, however, consumers didn’t seem to care.

Windows Phone was truly a pleasure to use, but it was also quite clearly rushed. I can’t really blame Microsoft for rushing its new mobile platform out the door, of course, as Windows Mobile had effectively been dead for some time already. Android and iOS were crushing the market and Microsoft needed something to lure its vendor partners away from Android. And so Windows Phone 7 was born, but almost immediately dropped off at the orphanage. Vendors didn’t bother promoting the devices, carriers didn’t bother promoting the devices… even Microsoft fell oddly silent as its new platform was cast aside.

Enter Windows Phone 7.5, code-named “Mango” after a fruit so sweet when it’s ripe, it is almost impossible to resist. This was to be the company’s opportunity to regroup and deliver a series of blistering fastballs after a bases-loaded balk saw its opponents’ lead grow wider. All eyes were on London this week as Nokia unveiled its first two Windows Phones, but HTC’s Titan is already upon us, carrying Microsoft’s latest mobile OS on what is likely the largest display it will ever see.

The HTC Titan is a beast. Its 4.7-inch display gives Windows Phone a canvas that is nearly tablet-like, and the 1.5GHz Snapdragon processor driving the device makes one of the world’s smoothest operating system even smoother. In the two weeks I have been carrying the Titan, I have yet to see a crash, bogging, lag, or anything else of the sort. I can’t even say that about iOS.

Animations flutter about on the Titan, and native apps open into a usable state in the blink of an eye. The user interface is unbelievably smooth, and the UI “sticks” to one’s finger during navigation just as well as iOS. Scrolling in apps is also lag-free, though inertia scrolling is still a bit off. When the user releases a finger following a flick, the scroll seems to accelerate at the same rate regardless of how hard the user flicks. It’s awkward but hardly a major problem.

My biggest performance-related issue is the amount of time it takes most apps to refresh with new data. On AT&T’s HSPA network, data speeds are fast and latency is quite low. I regularly saw download speeds of between 2Mbps and 4Mbps during my tests in and around New York City, and upload speeds hovered between 1Mbps and 1.5Mbps while connected to HSPA. Even still, it can take 5, 6 or even 10 seconds or more for an app to refresh with even the smallest amount of new data. I haven’t quite pinpointed the culprit yet — different developers tell me different things, though everyone I’ve spoken with recognizes the issue — but I suspect that it’s often a combination of the OS and developers’ inexperience with coding apps for it.

Beyond that, I can’t stress enough how much I’m enjoying Mango. The “tombstoning” feature akin to application state-saving in iOS is implemented quite well, and apps that take advantage of it load from the background almost instantly. Enhanced multitasking features in the next major Windows Phone release will bring even more capabilities to developers and users alike, but the current solution is fast and elegant.

The Outside

The Titan is huge. There’s no reason to beat around the bush.

Supersized smartphones are becoming more popular each month — probably due in large part to the fact that vendors are flooding the market — and there are definitely advantages and disadvantages to carrying a phone this massive.

At 5.18-inches tall by 2.78-inches wide by 0.39-inches thick, the Titan is even bigger than the Samsung Galaxy S II. At 160 grams, it’s also more than 20 grams heavier. I like a heavy phone, and the Titan’s solid build and high-quality materials are more than worth the added heft to me. The majority of the smartphone’s case is comprised of beautiful brushed aluminum, save for a small rubber-feel area near the top of the rear case and a larger one at the bottom where the antenna sits.

Across the top of the phone sits a power/lock/unlock button, a small hole for the noise-canceling mic and a 3.5-millimeter audio jack. The right edge of the device is home to a slim two-stage camera button that sits beneath an equally slim volume rocker, and the left edge sports a lone micro-USB port. The bottom houses only the phone’s main microphone and a battery door release button.

On the rear of the device is a sizable camera lens flanked by a dual-LED flash and a speaker. I’ll discuss the camera more extensively a bit later. The face of the phone is made up almost entirely of smooth, oil-resistant glass. Three customary capacitive Windows Phones buttons sit across the bottom, and a front-facing camera is positioned near the top below the phone’s ear speaker. Voice calling is quite clear on the Titan, and the speaker gets loud enough to be used comfortably in noisy environments.

One thing that should not be overlooked about the exterior of the Titan is the design. Like the Sensation, HTC’s Titan features a unique unibody design that has the rear case of the device wrap around the side and top. The “guts” of the phone then sit inside the case, creating a design that positions all seams directly around the display. The result is not only gorgeous, it also means there are no uncomfortable seams to be felt by the user’s hands.

The Upside

As a complete package, the Titan is easily one of my favorite Windows Phone to date. The build is phenomenal and the Windows Phone 7.5 operating system is like greased lightning. I’m also a huge fan of live tiles.

Microsoft’s home screen UI, for those unfamiliar with Windows Phone, is tile-based. It is comprised of a grid of square and rectangular tiles that cascade endlessly. The result is a tidy home base that provides a welcome alternative to static icons. These tiles, if enabled, provide the user with information dynamically and can be updated frequently.

For example, my favorite simple weather app WeatherLive displays the current temperature, the temperature range for the day, and a graphical representation of the current weather conditions. When it rains, I see a storm cloud and rain drops. When it’s sunny, a big sharp sun covers the bulk of the tile. Another example is my favorite Google Reader-compatible RSS Reader, Wonder Reader. When enabled, the app periodically flashes headlines across the tile to let me know I have new articles waiting to be read. Messaging apps display unread counts, the Photo Hub cycles through images stored on the device, my Xbox Live avatar dances around the Games tile, and so on.

Beyond the tiles, there are a few other new features in Mango that I really enjoy. First and foremost, tombstoning and basic multitasking support are implemented quite well. Enabled apps close in a frozen state and holding down the back button for a second quickly brings up the task switcher UI. Transition animations are subtle but appreciated, and jumping between apps is lightning fast.

I also like that Mango brings Wi-Fi tethering to Windows Phones. The Internet Sharing service on the Titan is buried in the system settings in Windows Phone rather than being granted a dedicated app that I might be able to pin to the home screen, but I still appreciated having one less device to carry while testing the Titan. Wi-Fi tethering is available on a number of smartphones these days, but I typically find it unusable due to the inevitable battery drain. The Titan’s 1,600 mAh battery held up nicely even after about 30 minutes of Internet Sharing, however, and Mango includes a nifty feature: if no devices connect to the phone after a few minutes, tethering is automatically turned off. Also, if you’re tethered and then you disconnect all devices from the phone, Internet Sharing will automatically turn off after a few idle minutes. It’s one less thing to worry about.

The camera on the Titan shocked me. This has traditionally been a very weak point for HTC phones — very, very weak — but the 8-megapixel camera on the Titan captures terrific still images. The color and clarity in photos taken by the Titan is on par with the likes of Zeiss-equipped Nokia handsets and the iPhone 4S, and future Titan owners can certainly plan to ditch their point-and-shoot cameras. It also captures high-quality 720p HD video content, though the lack of an HDMI-out port or even an adapter is something of a disappointment.

Finally, Windows Phone still provides what, in my opinion, is the hands-down best email experience on any mobile platform. The UI in the email app is gorgeous and lightning fast, and it’s simple to drill down to unread items, urgent items or flagged items with a quick flick. On the Titan, the humongous display only makes things better. Productivity is the same story. Microsoft’s mobile Office suite is a joy to use for creating and editing Word documents or Excel spreadsheets, and the SkyDrive integration provides easy access to remote files to ensure that the same documents are available on your phone and your computer.

The Downside

Again, the Titan is huge. While I have gotten somewhat used to the mammoth device over the course of the the past two weeks, it’s just still too big for me.

Consumers love giant smartphones. Vendors keep cranking them out and people keep buying them. While there are numerous and obvious advantages to big smartphone displays, there are also several drawbacks and the negative outweighs the positive for me.

On the one hand, the huge screen affords a great canvas for emails, web pages, images and video. On the other hand, stretching 480 x 800-pixel resolution over a panel that measures 4.7-inches diagonally means clarity and sharpness suffer. Usability suffers as well, and a perfect example is the back button. On Windows Phone devices, the back button is extremely important. There is often no way to navigate back one screen from within the UI, and holding down the capacitive back key also brings up the application switcher. While holding the device in my right hand, however, I cannot reach the back button at all. Not even close.

I also can’t reach the lock/unlock button without repositioning the device in my hand, though this is infinitely less important than the back key. This button is crucial to the operation of the device, and one-handed use is often my preferred method of operation. It just doesn’t work. Samsung solved the problem by repositioning the back button on its giant Galaxy S II smartphone to make it accessible during one-handed use. This of course left the menu key just out of reach, but better that than the back button.

Somewhere around 4-inches lies the sweet spot for me, and a scaled down device like the Titan with a display around that size would likely be my ideal Windows Phone.

My only other serious complaint about the Titan applies to Windows Phone in general rather than to this particular smartphone, and that is the third-party app situation. It’s improving every day, and Nokia’s arrival on the scene will only help accelerate developer adoption. Today, however, things are not where they need to be.

I cannot for the life of me find a decent Twitter app, for example. There are a handful of usable options — I’ve landed on Seesmic for the time being — but they’re all slow and clunky. This goes back to my earlier note that data calls take entirely too long. Microsoft needs to fix this problem because it can be quite off-putting, especially in areas with sparse cellular coverage. The Metro interface is beautiful, but it loses its allure quickly when a data refresh takes 10 seconds.

Today, Windows Phone is often an afterthought for developers and the selection in the Windows Marketplace reflects that. This will change, and Mango introduced new APIs and capabilities that afford developers more flexibility. Right now however, there are many go-to apps that I simply can’t find in the Marketplace, and I suspect many users coming from more established platforms will make the same claim.

The Bottom Line

HTC’s Titan is a smartphone worthy of its name. More importantly, it is also worthy of consumers’ consideration because it really is a fantastic device. The hardware and build are class-leading, the display is bright and clear, the 8-megapixel camera captures gorgeous images, and the Windows Phone 7.5 operating system is a breath of fresh air.

Size matters. For me, bigger isn’t always better and the Titan’s towering stature is a turn off. Many smartphone buyers enjoy large handsets however, and if you fall into that category I sincerely doubt you’ll be able to find a better Windows Phone anywhere in the world right now.

AT&T will launch the HTC Titan some time this fall.

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Nokia unveils ‘Asha’ family of Series 40 phones

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

Nokia fans around the world may be focused on the company’s two new high-end Windows Phone devices unveiled during Nokia World in London on Tuesday, but that didn’t stop Nokia from revealing a handful of Series 40 devices, too. The Finnish phone maker revealed its “Asha” family of phones on Wednesday, which includes the Asha 200, Asha 201, Asha 300 and Asha 303. The higher-end Asha 303 is equipped with a 2.6-inch display, a full QWERTY keyboard, a 1GHz processor and more. The 300 offers an alphanumeric keypad, a 1GHz processor, a 5-megapixel camera and support for 3G networks. Nokia expects both phones to begin shipping during the fourth quarter of this year. The Asha 201 and 200 are very similar, both offer full QWERTY keyboards, but the Asha 200 also supports dual SIM cards. Both phones will ship during the first quarter of next year. Read on for the full press release from Nokia.

Nokia showcases bold portfolio of new phones, services and accessories at Nokia World

Introduces a range of stylish, smart mobile phones, superior Nokia Maps, partnership for co-branded accessories with Monster, and more

Asha: A new family of smarter mobile phones

Nokia continues its mission to deliver high quality, stylish devices that provide the best access to social networks, the Internet and information, and offer the best overall experience and value proposition for the next billion mobile phone users. These consumers want access to innovations such as easy-to-use dual-SIM, local services and content, and third-party apps, all with a superior user experience for which Nokia mobile phones are known.

These devices comprise the new Asha family of Nokia mobile phones. Derived from Hindi – meaning ‘hope’ – Asha signifies Nokia’s focus on positive user experiences and connecting millions of people to new opportunities that help them reach their aspirations.

The Asha mobile phone family includes:

Nokia Asha 303
The Nokia Asha 303 is a stunning phone designed with sophisticated materials and metallic finishes. It combines a large 2.6″ capacitive touch screen with a high quality QWERTY keypad. The Nokia Asha 303 is built with Internet and social networks ease in mind.

The device harnesses a powerful 1Ghz engine, 3G and WLAN to deliver a fast Internet experience. Social networks, email and IM are at the center of the experience, easily accessible from the homescreen. The Nokia Asha 303 is powered by the cloud-based Nokia Browser, which by compressing the web by up to 90%, provides higher speeds and a more affordable access to the Internet.

Entertainment and applications are also a core part of the Nokia Asha 303 offering. Angry Birds Lite, the popular mobile game, comes preinstalled, together with support for other globally relevant applications such as Facebook Chat, Whatsapp messaging and the latest release of Nokia Maps for Series 40 (in selected markets). The price will vary from market to market and operator to operator. The estimated retail price for the Nokia Asha 303 will be approximately 115 EUR, excluding taxes and subsidies. It is expected to start shipping in the fourth quarter of 2011.

Nokia Asha 300
The beautifully designed Nokia Asha 300 is a touch device which also offers the convenience of a keypad. The Nokia Asha 300 has a powerful 1GHz processor and 3G to deliver a faster Internet and social networking experience. The Nokia Browser allows for fast, affordable and localized Internet access by compressing  web pages by up to 90%.

Users have fast access to messaging, email and instant messaging from the home screen and can swipe to access apps, music or games from the Nokia Store. The Nokia Asha 300 also arrives preloaded with the popular Angry Birds game.

The Nokia Asha 300 comes with a 5 megapixel camera, a music player, FM radio, Bluetooth connectivity and can handle memory cards up to 32GB.  The price will vary by market and operator. The estimated retail price for the Nokia Asha 300 will be approximately 85 EUR, excluding taxes and subsidies. It is expected to start shipping in the fourth quarter of 2011.

Nokia Asha 200
The Nokia Asha 200 is Nokia’s latest dual SIM phone with Easy Swap functionality, allowing consumers to easily change their second SIM without switching the device off.

It is a fun and colorful QWERTY phone designed to meet the needs of young, urban consumers who want to constantly stay in touch. The Nokia Asha 200 features integrated social networking, email and IM, adding RenRen, Orkut and Flickr support. Nokia Asha 200 makes it possible to carry thousands of songs with support for 32 GB memory cards and providing a battery for an amazing 52-hour playback time. The price will vary by market and operator. The estimated retail price for the Nokia Asha 200 will be approximately 60 EUR, excluding taxes and subsidies. It is expected to start shipping in the fourth quarter of 2011.

Nokia Asha 201
The single SIM version of the Nokia Asha 200, the Nokia Asha 201 is ideal for young consumers who wish to stay socially connected, are price conscious and like listening to music. The Nokia Asha 201 has great music features including a high performing loudspeaker, enhanced stereo FM radio and ringtone tuning. With the Nokia Browser you get even faster, even better and more affordable access to the Internet. It supports up to 32 GB memory cards and provides a battery for 52 hours of music playback time. The Nokia Asha 201 also supports push email as well as the popular Whatsapp messaging app. The price will vary by market and operator. The estimated retail price for the Nokia Asha 201 will be approximately 60 EUR, excluding taxes and subsidies. It is expected to start shipping in the first quarter of 2012.

 

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