Ask Juan: Can Windows Phone Compete with Graphics and Gaming?

From the Twitters:

windows phone xbox live gamingHey Yasi,

So here’s the deal, long story short, current Windows Phone Handsets will run at a deficit compared to current Android handsets when it comes to gaming. Microsoft’s hardware mandate pretty much guarantees that all Windows Phones will rock similar hardware. To date, that means Qualcomm’s older dual core Snapdragon chipset. Even though Windows Phone 8 is a decently lean OS which runs more efficiently than Android, and for day to day tasks you’d be hard pressed to see much difference in operation between WP8 on dual-core and Android on quad-core, gaming is one of those phone taxing activities where the extra horsepower comes in handy.

It’s not to say that the gaming experience is bad, far from it. I’m having a blast playing Halo: Spartan Assault, and Where’s My Water 2 was released on WP before Android. All things being equal though, playing the same game on Android and WP8, like Asphalt 7, I find levels load faster, game play lags less, and newer Android phones tend to run a little cooler than WP handsets. We’re just running into the upper limits of what this older chipset is capable of delivering.

Other comparisons become a bit more subjective. Some claim that the 1080p resolution found on newer Android fare looks better than the 720p screens on Windows Phones. Also, that the better graphics hardware means fancier lighting and particle effects. Both are certainly true scientifically, but I’ve honestly had a difficult time seeing a tremendous advantage on screens smaller than five inches.

It’s not all bad news though, as the Nokia Lumia 1520 phablet is rumored to be the first Windows Phone featuring both a 1080p screen and Qualcomm’s new 800 series chipset, pretty much catapulting Windows Phone up to the current ranks of the premier Android ecosystem. On phones rocking a larger than five inch screen that resolution bump becomes a little more noticeable in fine detail and clarity.

Thanks for the question Yasi!

Softbank unveils Arrows A Smartphone, 10 minute “All Day” charge, coming to Sprint?

softbank arrows a colorsSo this was a small blip because of some impressive claims, but could we potentially see this coming to the USA soon?

Softbank took the wraps off of the Fujitsu Arrows A smartphone. On the whole we’re seeing pretty standard specs for a premier handset. A 5″ 1080p screen will be powered by Qualcomm’s monster Snapdragon 800 chipset. It’ll be joining the ranks of other phones like the LG G2 as a high end alternative to the Galaxies and the Ones in the Android ecosystem.

What was a little fresh however was the claim that thanks to its custom charger (and some internal whizbangery) the Arrows A can charge “a full days use” in about 10 minutes. The next audacious claim is that even though the phone has a decently sized battery (2600 mAh) Fujitsu says the device will run for three days on a full charge. That’s something I’d certainly be interested in testing, but even if it doesn’t meet that kind of run time, fast recharging could be a benefit to many mobile users.

Also of note, the Arrows A will include a fingerprint reader. It looks like even though it’s not terribly secure tech, biometrics will be coming to many smartphones over the next year.

Now. Why do we care about a Japanese phone announcement? Well, Softbank is the company which pretty much owns Sprint. They completed the merger back in July, and Softbank has poured Billions into Sprint’s coffers. In strengthening Sprint’s handset portfolio, we could maybe start to see a little cross-pollination of devices which used to be exclusive to specific countries/markets.

Likely? Probably not right away, but an interesting possibility to shake up the mid and high end smartphone segments. Expect to see Arrows A in Japan this December.

Hit the jump for the full PR (translated).

Continue reading “Softbank unveils Arrows A Smartphone, 10 minute “All Day” charge, coming to Sprint?”

Microsoft offering minimum $200 trade in for your iPhone towards cost of a new Windows Phone

iphone trade in windows phone microsoftCan’t fault them for trying.

Similar to their iPad trade in, if you’re carrying an iPhone, but you’re really curious to see how the other side lives, Microsoft is offering a minimum trade in of $200 for your “gently used” iPhone 4S or newer handset. Those folks I saw at Social Media Week rocking smashed iPhones need not apply (but seriously, how do people use phones like that without slicing their thumbs open).

While this promotional offer is  surely convenient, you’re apt to do better on the open market. The iPhone 4S is currently selling for around $250 on ebay, and if you throw in those accessories you don’t need anymore, like cases and old dock connector cables, some are even hitting $300.

Still, if this is your jam, the offer is good until November 3rd.

Microsoft iPhone Trade In Offer

Windows Phone hitting double digit market share in Europe

nokia lumia 920 windows phone 8 smartphone homescreen live tiles somegadgetguyI keep telling you people, the actual gadget matters less than the ecosystem of customers+hardware+software+accessories. You can’t fake that. Customers will not be impressed by one new handset no matter how good it is. Every manufacturer wants to jump into this market and sell as well as the iPhone does. It’ll never happen, and people forget that the iPhone didn’t just waltz into the smartphone market without some teething pains. Anymore, a company needs to show us at least three years of steady growth, refinement, and support before they’ll start to crack into consumer awareness.

Well wouldn’t you know it, Microsoft is getting to that three year point, and I’m starting to see the occasional Windows Phone out in the wild. Here stateside, MS is a distant third place competitor growing to only around 3% of the smartphone market, stealing the third spot from Blackberry. Recently announced by analysts at Kantar World Panel however, Windows Phone is cracking into double digit share in Europe. WP is within one percent of the iPhone in Germany, makes up 10% of the French market, and stands at 12% in Great Britain. Averaging the five largest European markets Windows Phone is currently at 9%.

The Nokia brand still counts for a lot in those markets, especially the blend of unique design and bleeding edge camera technology. Unfortunately Nokia somewhat abandoned us here in the States, so they’re pretty much rebuilding their consumer base from scratch. We do get to see some very general trends though, and from my anecdotal experiences, the push into entry level devices is serving Nokia very well. Doesn’t hurt that outlets like CNET can’t figure out the difference between a phone which costs $100 out the door, and a phone which costs $100 on contract. Surprisingly, Nokia’s 520 does a remarkably good job of competing against phones which cost four times as much.

Plus with a two faction war between Apple and Samsung, those consumers who want something a little different only have Microsoft to turn to. Never underestimate someone’s desire to go a little hipster. We live in an age where new smartphone consumers will know Apple like people from my generation saw Microsoft.

Read the full write up at Kantar World Panel.

(Video) Looking back at the Jawbone Jambox – Review and Audio Quality Test

jawbone jambox bluetooth wireless speaker audio quality test somegadgetguyMoving forward, I’ll be testing more accessories like I do smartphones.

You can find a collection of videos where I test the speakers on phones for example, using the same audio and video clips, so you can see and hear the differences between different phones. Bluetooth speakers are becoming very popular, and now I’ll be building that same audio test into my reviews. Starting with a speaker which really helped to popularize wireless audio, the OG Jawbone Jambox.

Coming soon, reviews on the HMDX Jam and Nokia Play360
Shop for the Jambox on Amazon.

Steam Unveils radical new Game Controller design for Steam Machine and OS

steam controller game pad steamos somegadgetguyHow crazy does this thing look?

Unveiled today, this is one of the major announcements coming our of Steam as they make a push to compete in the living room arena currently occupied by game consoles. Following the reveal on SteamOS and Steam Machine program, now we know how you’ll control and interact with your games from the couch.

This owl-like pad features two clickable high-resolution touch sensors in lieu of traditional analog joysticks. Traditional triggers and buttons flank the sensors, and new haptic feedback sensors should improve upon the current force rumble we’re used to today. Valve claims that this setup should be more sensitive and accurate than current controller tech, and should close some of the gap between controller gamers and the advantage that Mouse+Keyboard gamers enjoy.

A screen in the middle of the controller feeds info to the player, and the entire surface is one large button. Instead of a touchscreen which could be accidentally brushed by the player, to engage with single functions, the entire surface requires enough force to click it.

Lastly, Valve is touting a high degree of compatibility and  hackability. It’s currently compatible with any version of Steam, and will obviously work with SteamOS and Steam Machine products released in the future. A new set of APIs will be made available to developers once the controller leaves BETA. Plus Valve will make select tools available to consumers allowing them to participate in hardware hacking and design.

The design is already proving somewhat controversial in discussion online. I’ll be curious to try it out as I feel dual analog sticks slow me down (WASD FOR LYFE!), so if Valve as found the trick to smooth out that experience then sign me up!

(via Steam)

Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine buy Beats Audio back from HTC

dr dre jimmy iovine billboard beats audio

What we do know, is Dr. Dre and Mr. Iovine are looking to seriously expand the reach of the Beats brand to include more pro gear, speaker systems, in-car audio, and more consumer electronics. Maybe we could see Beats branding on other phones, tablets, and tech like we did back during their HP partnership.

What we don’t know, is why the pair of producers parted ways with HTC. We can speculate that the Beats brand is becoming a vanguard for a new crop of consumer designer audio, developing consumer mind share that rivals companies like Bose. Unfortunately HTC hasn’t been able to boost its own image in the world of smartphones. While delivering critically acclaimed handsets, they still haven’t cracked the consumer nut yet, with sales of their flagship and mid-range phone lagging.

HTC announced the sale should be finished by end of year, and that Beats will still be a valued partner, but we don’t know what this new relationship will resemble. While Beats is a popular brand, HTC has partnered with other audio companies in the past, like Dolby for the HTC Surround.

(via NASDAQ.com, pic via Billboard)

Google celebrates 15th Birthday with Piñata Doodle game and new Hummingbird Search Algorithm

google 15 birthday doodle pinata search hummingbirdHappy Birthday Google! Why didn’t I get a B-Day reminder on G+?

The present to open is an entirely new Search algorithm dubbed “Hummingbird”. This is a complete departure from their previous search updates. Instead of focusing on keywords and meta-data, the things SEO gurus always push, Hummingbird is Google’s first attempt at semantic search. Good SEO will still matter, but good content will matter more.

It’s an ambitious undertaking as computers aren’t always great at judging what we mean by what we say, but ranking content by what its made up of, instead of its keywords, should mean that organic search terms should provide more meaningful results. Users should get better hits now simply by asking the questions they would ask other people. Real live humans don’t like having to parse terms. Now typing “Where can I find the best pie in San Francisco?” should get us closer to eating good pie than before where keywords would’ve been pulled out of that query.  Hopefully in execution it should start to resemble the way IBM’s Watson is able to make meaningful responses to conversationally asked questions.

Get the full scoop at Inside Search, or hit up Google.com to try it out, and while you’re there play the Piñata Doodle Game! BIRTHDAY!