The wearables market is expanding, and we’re seeing more competition from tech companies trying to create fashionable accessories.
Primary in the Android Wear ecosystem, circular displays are becoming equated with “premium”. Leading up to MWC this year, Huawei took the wraps off their smartwatch solution. Huawei Watch will sport a higher resolution display than the LG G Watch R or Moto 360, but to keep the device slim, will use a smaller 300mAh battery. The smart guts powered by a Qualcomm 400, 512MB of RAM, and 4GB of storage.
It’s been a crazy start to MWC 2015 with a pair of killer announcements from Samsung and HTC! New smartphones, mobile payment systems, and a VR headset! What were your first reactions to the news? Drop a comment below!
Microsoft took the wraps off a pair of new Lumias in Barcelona. Unfortunately no flagship phones were to be had, but the former Nokia hardware team showed off handsets adding even more pressure to the mid-range market.
The Lumia 640 looks like it’ll be fairly standard Windows Phone fare. A 5″ 720p display will be paired up with a Qualcomm 400 and 1GB of RAM and a 2500mAh battery. The rear camera will be an 8MP shooter and the front will have a 1MP sensor for video chat.
The Lumia 640 XL takes the place of the 1320, moving the size up to 5.7″, a 13MP camera, and a 3000mAh battery. Both phones come with 8GB of internal storage with support for up to 128GB MicroSD cards. Both phones will ship with Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1, but will be updated to Windows 10 when available.
The design is plastic, polycarb shells in a variety of classic colors Orange, White, Yellow, and my favorite Cyan. The naming convention should be less confusing than the lower powered 1320, which had a higher number naming convention than Nokia’s flagship phones.
Microsoft also showed off a new fold-able Bluetooth keyboard specifically designed for phones.
Buying one of these new Lumias will come with a one year subscription to Office 365, which includes a license for a tablet or PC, 1TB of cloud storage, and 60 minutes a month for Skype. A one year Office 365 license sold on it’s own costs $70.
Not bad at all considering the 640 will retail for 139€ for a 3G version and 159€ for the LTE variant. The 640 XL will sell for 189€ for 3G and 219€ for LTE. Both phones should be available in April worldwide with partnerships already announced with AT&T in the United States.
We continue to see a battle between hardware and cloud solutions for how our data should be consumed. It’s great if you’ve got all your data backed up online, but if you don’t have an internet connection, having locally stored files is tremendously helpful.
As multimedia and gaming gets more storage intensive, popping in a larger memory card is becoming an attractive solution for those phone owners that have the capability to upgrade their storage. Now SanDisk is showing off the largest memory card on the market with their 200GB Ultra MicroSD.
Of course having HUGE storage isn’t particularly helpful if you have slow transfer speeds. SanDisk claims their card will be good for up to 90MB per second data transfer, which means you should be able to fill the whole card up in under 40 minutes on a solid USB 3 card reader. That speed is really helpful for app and camera performance, and is one of the reasons why Google does not provide memory card slots on the Nexus, to guarantee system performance. Sorry prospective Samsung Galaxy S6 shoppers… No memory card slot for you either…
While this is exciting, we’re still not entirely sure how well this card might work with phones that only outright support card capacities up to 64GB or 128GB. Also, having the biggest storage on such a tiny card means stepping up to a really big price tag. This Ultra Card will sell for $399, or four times the price of Sandisk’s $128GB Ultra card.
Being on the bleeding edge doesn’t come cheap. You can read SanDisk’s full press release below.
HTC took the wraps off their next flagship smartphone and showcased partnerships with Valve and Under Armour for a new VR headset and fitness tracker respectively.
The One M9 has been leaked and discussed, but we now have confirmation that the shell will be very similar to last years M8. We’re treated to the same 5″ LCD 1080p display covered in Gorilla Glass 4. We’ll get 3GB of RAM and 32GB of built in storage with an SD card slot which supports up to a 128GB card. Those BoomSound speakers return, everything we’ve enjoyed from the M8 is back.
What’s new is the Qualcomm 810 chipset will be powering this new phone. Should be interesting to see how performance is managed in an all metal phone with an HD display.
HTC has also updated the camera, walking away from the gimmicky dual sensor shooter on the M8, to a single larger 20MP rear shooter. It’s expected that this camera and chipset should deliver UHD video, 60fps 1080p, and a high speed slow motion mode, but we’ll have to wait for devices to confirm that.
Lastly, it looks like HTC has finally seen the light on ergonomics, and joined the rest of the Smartphone world in moving the power button to the side of the phone.
Partnering with Under Armour, HTC also took the wraps off of the Grip fitness tracker. Looking a bit like a Nike Fuel or Gear Fit. The P-OLED display should provide decent battery life, and the entire build is sweat and water resistant.
Perhaps the most exciting announcement from HTC however was watching them step into the world of Virtual Reality headsets with the RE Vive. Partnering with Valve, the headset is a high end competitor to Samsung’s Gear VR. Instead of using a phone as the display, Vive is a self contained unit with dual 1200×1080 resolution displays with 90Hz refresh rates providing smoother and faster responses than Oculus which pumps out 75Hz.
Over 70 sensors on board track not only movement, but when paired with a pair of SteamVR base stations, it will create a 15 by 15 foot action area. Instead of being tethered to one spot, Vive will track your movement.
Vive will ship with a pair of game controllers, but we still don’t have details on price, shipping dates, or how this unit will be powered. Will HTC require an HTC phone? Will this be a standalone product? We’re all waiting to find out!
You can catch the full HTC Press conference below!
Samsung is about to show off all the juicy details for their next flagship phone, and while the look of the phone has already leaked, there’s plenty more to discuss. Let’s look at some phones and new Gear smartwatches!
And here we get to the meat of the rumor and leak market, some decent pics of Samsung’s next flagship.
Following the design language of the Note 3, the GS5 is rumored to sport a 5.2″ display, which is creeping up on the 5.3″ screen of the original Note. Remember when we thought a phone that size was crazy? Yeah. Good times.
We still don’t know the full spec sheet, screen resolution, how many megapickles the camera will have, what the official battery capacity might be, but at least for now, we have a pretty good idea of what the phone will look like. We can also see a few new features like Download Booster which can use your LTE and WiFi at the same time, and there’s a covered USB port which might mean some kind of waterproofing is being used.
We can be thankful there will still be SOME discovery during Samsung’s event later today. Fingers crossed there might actually be a surprise or two…
In an interesting twist on the rumors, Nokia officially unveiled a trio of phones running the Android operating system.
The Nokia X and X+ feature four inch screens, while the XL has a 5″ display, all with a WVGA resolution. On board we’ll likely see dual-core Qualcomm processors, 512MB of RAM, and 5MP cameras. While the underlying core is AOSP, they’ll be heavily skinned with Nokia’s Fastlane UI found on their Asha devices. They’ll also heavily feature Nokia and Microsoft services like OneDrive, Skype, Here Maps, and Nokia Mix Radio.
Aimed at entry and developing markets, the Nokia X will be available intermediately, starting at 89€ (around $120US). The X+ will add more internal storage and a MicroSD slot for 99€, and will be available in the second quarter of this year. The Nokia XL will follow the X+ later in the year at an expected price around 109€.
Now these phones will likely not support Google Play, and I suspect the relationship will be more like Amazon and the Kindle. Developers will have to submit their apps to Nokia’s own standalone app store, but they wont have to rebuild apps from scratch so long as they’re compatible with low power Android hardware. It’s a curious thought that if these handsets find any market traction, Nokia’s app store could fill faster than Microsoft’s.
It’s also funny to think that Microsoft+Nokia might be able to succeed in producing popular low cost Android offerings which aren’t painful to use. The Moto G started a broader conversation in high quality phones for developing markets, and Nokia looks ready to continue that conversation. I wonder if there will be any demand for those Nokia services on traditional Android hardware, say Nokia Mix Radio for instance. I’m sure someone at XDA will grab the APK’s for us…
The exciting race this year is in low cost offerings. Nokia is taking a gamble by forking their OS, but they now offer several tiers of phones for a variety of different markets. This “X” line up slots in between Lumias and Asha devices.
Also announced was a new 29€ internet enabled phone called the 220 featuring a month of battery life, and a new touchscreen Asha 230 for 45€.