Sony Ericsson LiveView

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

I can’t decide if this is a really cool gadget, or completely misses the point.  The new Sony Ericsson LiveView allows you to connect the device to your mobile phone, and access key functions of the phone without actually using the phone itself.

It comes with a wrist strap, so I guess Sony Ericsson’s plan is for you to wear this instead of a watch, and have the ability to access information on your phone as well as having a clock.  It has a 1.3″ 128×128 pixel OLED screen, 4 touch buttons (on the edges of the screen) and 2 real buttons (power & menu), and supports a wide variety of phone functions:

Music player control Play, pause, next, previous track and volume adjustment. Track title display
Social Networking Services Display Facebook™ updates. Display Twitter™ updates
Messaging Display incoming texts. Display RSS feeds
Calls Show phone number for incoming calls. Mute ringer for incoming phone calls. List of missed calls.
Other Calendar reminders. Find your phone. Display time and date.
Connectivity Bluetooth™ technology. Micro USB connector. Bluetooth™ range approximately 10m
Screen 1,3”colour OLED display, 128×128 pixels
Compatibility Compatible with the Sony Ericsson Xperia™ X10, Sony Ericsson Xperia™ X10 mini and Sony Ericsson Xperia™ X10 mini pro and most other brands on Android 2.0 and above. For updated compability chart see www.sonyericsson.com/liveview
Facts 1)2) Size:3.5 x 3.5×1.1cm. Typical consumer battery usage time: 4 days
Availability and versions Available in selected markets from Q4 2010
Colour
  • Black
Standard kit content
  • Sony Ericsson LiveView™
  • Clip
  • Wristband
  • MicroUSB charger
  • User guide

However, instead of the usual “tied to their proprietary OS” nonsense, it appears this device is designed for Sony Ericsson’s Android phones (and more specifically their X10 Android phones); it also needs Android v2.2 or above, so is currently limited to the X10, X10 Mini and X10 Mini Pro.

Interestingly, Sony Ericsson will release the LiveView Android App, and have already announced the API which would allow other developers to link into the device via your phone (in fact Sony Ericsson has said the application will be able to notify you of other applications that take advantage of the LiveView APIs).  As a starting point, it will be able to control your music, read texts, see incoming calls, and allow you read your latest Facebook and Twitter news.

Don’t have a Sony Ericsson phone? Sony Ericsson have also stated that the device will also be compatible with the Samsung Galaxy S and the HTC Desire, making it even more interesting…

Due in Q4 (so just in time for Christmas), although with no pricing, it’s not yet clear whether this is a must have gadget or not.


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3UK confirm their Nokia plans for the next few months

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

3UK have formally announced that they will be selling the Nokia C7 from Q4.  However in informal chats with 3UK it appears they will also be selling the Nokia N8 when it finally is released next month.  It’s less likely (read very unlikely) that they will carry the Nokia E7 though (which given the likely price is understandable).

3UK will also be selling the BlackBerry Torch, and it’s likely at least one of the new HTC Android phones will be available from 3UK as well, so it you are in the market for a new phone, it looks like over the next few months, 3UK will be able to provide you with one of the latest phones whatever your OS of choice is.


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HTC also launch two Android Handsets

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

What a week last week was!  On top of the Nokia phone announcements, and the LG Optimus One phone we covered this morning, HTC also launched 2 new Android v2.2 phones last week.  Now, both of these look very interesting devices, so read on for more information on the devices…

(more…)


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A good week ahead for mobile devices?

Monday, September 13th, 2010

Although one can never be really sure about what is coming, and what’s going to be released, it’s fair to say that this week maybe a good week for people interested in hearing what’s coming in terms of services and devices over the next few months.

Firstly, and the biggest event, is the two day Nokia World, which is not just likely to include the announcement of at least 3 phones (I suspect a QWERTY touch device running Symbian^3, and a number of other mid-range devices), but is also their premier developer conference, and hence it’s likely we’ll see some hints as to any new directions and services from Nokia over the next 6 months too.  Nokia World runs from tomorrow (Tuesday) until Wednesday, although I expect the key announcement will be made today or tomorrow.  I’m meeting up with a large crowd of Nokia fans this evening, so it may take a day or two to research through the news from Nokia and post it.

Starting at roughly the same time as the keynote speech is an event from LG phones.  This is likely to announce the launch of the LG Optimus One and the LG Optimus Chic, although at this stage there is little more information from LG about these phones, except I wouldn’t be surprised to see some mention of Android within the specs.

Finally, a big player in the mobile marketplace, both with a foot in the Windows Mobile camp as well as the Android camp is HTC, who have an event on Wednesday.  What’s interesting is that this event is being co-ordinated via Facebook, and is in London!  Although there are rumours of either a Windows Mobile 7 or Android phone launch, it’s a first come, first served event, and with over 700 people stating their intention to attend the event (and the venue not supporting that many people), some are going to be disappointed.

So, although I don’t yet have any confirmed information of the exact models of phones to be launched, it’s likely that there’ll be something of interest for most people launched this week…

More news as I have it.


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HTC Hero – the Good, the Bad (and the Ugly?)

Monday, July 12th, 2010

After a good few weeks of using an Android phone for the majority of tasks I perform (except receiving calls), how have I found the phone? Thanks to 3MobileBuzz, I’ve had an HTC Hero on loan, and although not the newest of phones, it’s still interesting to see whether it can handle all my needs.  In fact, just before the phone I wrote down the 30 most important tasks I currently use my Symbian for just to remind me the sorts of applications and tasks I needed the phone to perform.

So, a small caveat; as the phone came preconfigured with a SIM, Google Account and Spotify Premium account, I haven’t used the phone with my Google Acount (ie Mail, Calendar etc.) and I haven’t used it for receiving calls (as none of my friends know this phone’s number). Finally, as a loan phone, I have limited myself to *free* Android apps.

The Good – In nearly every task I’ve thrown at it (including a few extra ones), it’s excelled, and the phone has worked well.  Applications have been available to help with the task at hand.  Spotify (in both online and offline mode) proved to be a useful application (although quite why, when you have a track in the local cache, it continues to consume online data I don’t know).  In the majority of tasks I wanted to perform, there was a free app to help out (something that’s not true of Symbian, although it’s close), and in many cases, the best app appeared to be the free app too.  Apps were available to integrate into the phone; although it’s against the T&Cs to export phone numbers from the Facebook site, the Facebook widget was at least able to offer to dial numbers direct for you.  The phone was not too heavy, and easy to use one-handed as well as with two (and not suffering from the way I held the phone 😉  Many options were configurable, or 3rd party tools are available to help achieve a little tweak here or there.

The Bad – Not every app though performed well; a few have crashed regularly, making it feel a little like when you beta test software; some of the apps that crashed had 1 or 2 updates during the time, yet still continued to crash.  Whether or not this is a result of the phone still being on Android v1.5 I don’t know, but this is at least being fixed (hopefully) this month.  Another thing missing (not that Symbian is any better, but the iPhone is) was that there was little consistency in the UI between the different programs from different authors, and little consistency between the widgets available too.  Also, although everyone berates Symbian for constantly asking you which connection you want to use, there were a few times when I actively wanted to use 3G over Wi-Fi (accessing 3UK‘s Planet 3 website or knowing that I was too far from the Wi-Fi for it to work reliably), and this level of control is not available.

So, overall, I enjoyed the phone, and the Capacitive screen made me realise what an impact this has on the whole UI, and whether even the newest phones from Nokia which continue with Resistive screens can be as much as a success (of course, the new Nokia N8 is Capacitive).  Having said I enjoyed it, the third party apps crashing regularly did put me off a little.

The ugly? It may have been this particular phone, but it struggled to hold a connection to my Wi-Fi.  Whenever it lost it (even when in the same room), it brought home that the 3G radio signal was equally awful (The HTC Hero seems to have a reputation for having a poor 3G antenna design especially in poor signal areas), meaning I was often left without net access at home (although in many other areas where the 3G was stronger it performed well).

Would I buy an Android phone? Yes, but more likely the HTC Desire (also available from 3UK), which offers a later OS version and is more powerful, but I would like to see some improvements in the overall experience.

Thanks again to 3MobileBuzz for the loan of the phone.


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New phones on 3UK

Friday, July 9th, 2010

3UK have announced this week that they now have two new Android smartphones that you can purchase on 3UK, and not just that, but you can get them on the new One Plan we covered here which offers fantastic value for money if you are a heavy mobile user.

Firstly, they are now offering the HTC Wildfire, which is a cut down version of the HTC Desire.  Although cut down might imply “cheap”, and it’s fair to say it doesn’t have the spec (or the price) of the HTC Desire, but it’s actually still a very capable Android device; in fact the only compliant I’ve heard about it is that moving forward over the next year or two, the screen maybe too small to allow major OS upgrades, as Google has now specified a minimum spec (including display resolution) for the future, and the HTC Wildfire falls a little short.

Having said that, it still rivals many other phones, and is still a better display than many other phones of last year! The 3.2″ screen is still a good size, and the 5 megapixel camera is still better than many, and it offers Android v2.1 with HTC’s Sense UI too.  All the usual Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, etc. are there too.  Also interestingly, although it’s available now in “Metal Mocha” colour, it will also be available on 3UK in Red from August, and the Red colour will be exclusive to 3UK.

If you aren’t an HTC fan, then there’s always the Sony Ericsson X10 Mini Pro, which again, is a smaller smartphone (the “X10 Mini” part), but features quite a key differentiator; the “Pro” means it also features a QWERTY keyboard!  This is a slide out keyboard (in the same way as the Nokia E75, Nokia C6 or Nokia N900), and although it blatantly doesn’t feature the HTC Sense UI, it does feature some key Sony Ericsson UI customisations instead.  These include the ability to specify 4 corner navigation and 3 homescreens, and it also features Sony Ericsson’s Timescape, which brings together your Facebook, Twitter, email, text messages and calls into one place.  This sounds an interesting feature, although with many of these manufacturer applications, it may be a little limiting to the “serious” social networker, especially if it can’t be expanded to support other social networks.

The Sony Ericsson X10 Mini Pro is available in Black from 3UK, and also in White, which will (like the Red HTC Wildfire) be a colour exclusive to 3UK.

If you want either of these phones on the new One Plan, they are available for £30 per month (24-month contract), and remember that comes with 2000 cross network minutes, 5000 3UK3UK minutes, 5000 texts and 1GB data; if you want to buy them on PAYG, the HTC Wildfire is £199 and the Sony Ericsson X10 Mini Pro is £249, both very competitive prices in their own right!

I like the way that whilst historically 3UK were not able to arrange model exclusivity agreements, they are now sufficiently recognised by the manufacturers to at least able to negotiate colour exclusives, and you never know, maybe this time next year, we’ll see a worthy smartphone launch exclusively on 3UK


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Three launch The One Plan

Friday, July 2nd, 2010

3UK have launched a new phone tariff, The One Plan.  This is a very interesting move by 3UK.  It’s available on all their phones, and they claim it should be big enough for everyone!

The plan (a 24-month contract) comprises:

  • 2000 cross network minutes
  • 5000 3UK3UK minutes
  • 5000 texts
  • 1GB Internet access

Having 2000 cross network minutes was something we first saw on the Apple iPhone 4 plans launched last week, and although none of these values are being stated as “unlimited” (for which we are very supportive), it’s also fair to say that most people will actually have a challenge getting through any of this limits, except maybe the 1GB Internet data, but even that is more generous that many of their competitors (Vodafone offer 500MB with most phones, as does Orange).

This plan will cost from £25 per month (*), depending which phone you get it with, so, for example, the iPhone 4 will be between £35 and £45 depending on the model and how much you pay upfront for the phone.

3UK have also announced that as from July, they will no longer use the word “unlimited”, something Vodafone announced last year (but only for data), and let’s hope this is the catalyst to encourage all networks to remove this misleading term from their marketing and actually compete with each other on quality and measurable quantity.

On top of that, they have massively clarified their old Internet tariffs too.  Since the introduction of the 24month contracts, they offered “unlimited” internet, which was really “only” 500MB.  To start, they will be converting that 500MB into 1GB for all existing customers on Internet Texter 500 or 900 plans and the Internet Talker 900 plan (over the next few months; you’ll get a text telling you what’s happening).  For elder contracts, although occasionally bundled into a deal, the majority of people pay £5 per month to get 2GB of data (at times it was sold as “unlimted” or 1GB, but in most cases it was actually 2GB); now this option still exists today, so people who were on 2GB per month will remain on that; no sly reductions here, and even better, 3UK have confirmed that the customers who are getting 500MB or 1GB free with their new contracts can still pay the £5 per month to add an additional 2GB of data to their contract.

So, it would appear you could take the new One Plan, and for £30, get all those minutes listed above and have a total of 3GB Internet allowance per month too!

Yet again, 3UK are leading on their tariff options, and these internet options make 3UK a very realistic option for many.

(*) We should point out that at the time of writing, the One Plan seems to cost at least £28 buying the cheapest phone, so although in time it will be offered for £25 with certain mobiles, it seems to cost a little more right now. The £25 per month option is for the SIM only 12 month option, offering the same level of contract, but for just £25 per month, and only on a 12-month contract.

So, looking at some popular phones right now, these are all free on a 24-month One Plan contract, with a monthly cost:

Given the phone is free, these are all very good value, especially given the amount of service you are buying.  The Internet Texter and Internet Talker plans still exist for those who don’t need this amount of minutes / texts.

As always, these offers are available from the 3Store.


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Looking for a cheap smartphone…?

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

3 logo

3UK have updated their selection of refurbished handsets that are available for purchase.  The current range includes (of note):

  • Nokia 5800 XpressMusic
  • Nokia 5230 (although announced, it was not available on the website at the time of writing)
  • Nokia E71
  • HTC Hero

In my opinion these are all good phones (although in different ways), and if you don’t need the latest greatest device, but are looking for something cheap, then you might well want to consider one of these devices.  Although they are generally available with a new contract, some are available on PAYG, such as:

These are also very good value options for someone who has a simpler phone today and is looking for something a bit more special.  Don’t forget you really need an Internet connection to get the most out of these phones, especially the HTC Hero.


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HTC Hero firmware update now starting, but not for all

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

Last week we mentioned that there was a minor firmware update coming to prepare HTC Hero devices for the Android v2.1 firmware.  Well, that firmware (which was not needed for all UK variants) has been released and now the v2.1 full firmware has started to arrive on European devices, but it appears that, as we predicted, it won’t be arriving for all devices.

HTC have confirmed that in the UK only SIM-free devices will be seeing the firmware in the coming days / weeks (it does take time to roll it out to all devices), with some of the networks apparently not yet approving the firmware for release at all.  The networks who have approved the device should have their branded firmware release starting in the next few days, whereas there is no ETA for the update on the other networks; I would like to suggest which networks this is likely to be, but I’ve received conflicting information from different sources, and hence I’m not confident about which we’ll see, only that I do know we won’t be seeing all network branded versions receive the firmware update this month.

Remember that the delays are caused by the network who either have to make or request changes to the stock firmware and then test both those changes and the overall package on their network; some networks are fast at this process, and some don’t even seem to bother with it at all, so whether your device will ever see the v2.1 firmware is down to the network who supplied the device.

This is the same situation we’ve seen for years with Nokia devices (many other brands don’t release any firmware updates to the public so get away with not having this problem), and as we’ve commented before, the only exception to this is Apple, who force firmware updates onto the networks (and generally prevent operator branding in the first place).


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HTC Hero 2.1 definitely coming soon

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

Although it’ll be no surprise that a firmware update was coming to the HTC Hero (we covered it here), and last week the Android v2.1 update started to roll out in Asia, HTC have now confirmed that the Android v2.1 update for the European HTC Hero will start (but not complete) this week.

The firmware update will be a two stage process.  The first stage, a small minor update, should start appearing on HTC Hero devices over the next few days, and will be followed by the main update “towards the end of the month”.  This second update will wipe the phone (so you’ll need to backup your data beforehand) and is sufficiently large that HTC are recommended you use a WiFi / Broadband connection to download the update.

Overall, this is good for the HTC Hero, and will of course allow access to many application which are Android v1.6 or higher, and give access to many of the latest applications of which some even require v2.x, however, what is currently unknown is how quickly the operator specific firmwares will be released.  I would hope to see these be available in a similar timeframe, but as with Symbian branded firmwares, you may see a delay between the HTC release and the update being available for any individual device.


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