Motorola DROID

Motorola_DROID_Android_2_Multitouch_Smartphone

DROID by Motorola is epic. The Android 2.0-based multitouch smartphone from Motorola will certainly catapult up to the top as the most powerful Android-based phone and challenge Apple’s iPhone in many ways. I believe DROID is also Motorola’s modern RAZR and will become the company’s killer product of the year and hopefully get the company back up and running with the big dogs. Combine the most powerful smartphone from Motorola with Android, the most open mobile OS by far, from Google and connect it to Verizon Wireless, the most reliable cellular network in the US, and the DROID becomes very interesting.

Motorola’s DROID is the first Android 2.0 smartphone and according to Motorola it is the thinnest smartphone with a full QWERTY keyboard that slides out. In the video one of the couple of  voices of a woman states that this DROID smartphone is a “Google Experience Device”. So Motorola didn’t mess with anything and it seems neither did Verizon. A solid trend I hope continues with other Android phones.

Thankfully, Motorola went with a large LCD. It is a 3.7-inch LCD and sports a 854×480 pixel format. The DROID makes use of capacitive multitouch technology. The display looks to be very sharp and bright enough for most situations. “That big screen is killer,” is how Engadget describes it. With powerful chips running a better Android OS, operating the DROID via your fingers on the large LCD should be fantastic. Speaking of touch, there is a row of buttons on the bottom. These buttons (Back, Home, Search, Menu) are virtual buttons that respond to touch; they also give haptic feedback. I personally prefer real keys as they provide real feedback. The LCD is also capable of 16 million colors, the same number of colors that your monitor and TV shows.

Based on what you plug the DROID device into it will automatically show the appropriate apps. For instance, when docked into its “Multimedia Station” it brings up the clock and lets you dim the screen, has the option of using it as a digital picture frame, or a video player. When docked into its “Car Dock” it brings up the navigation apps with voice control. How does it do that? Magnetically! There will be third-party docks and there might be massive development in the associated interface modes: the first ones you saw in the video were created by Google.

I guess 854×480 on the DROID smartphone can be considered DVD resolution. In some cases it is a bit more and in others a bit less. In Europe, DVD in MPEG2 at 25 frames per second (fps) the resolution is 720 x 576 while in the rest of the world it is 720 x 480 at 23.976 or 29.97 fps. These formats are called D1 can be captured and played back on the largish 3.7-inch display. Just as a comparison, Apple’s iPhone sports a slightly smaller 3.5-inch LCD and has significantly less pixels at just 480×320. Motorola’s DROID has over twice the number of pixels! After taking the D1-quality video you can directly upload it to YouTube without need of a computer. I hope developers will code an app that can quickly add titles and transitions.

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Low light photography using a smartphone? If true, this will be great. But most likely it will fall short of its promise since even dedicated digital cameras including the newest ones from Canon (S90 for example) are much better but not perfect in low light. But as long as the DROID from Motorola beats the iPhone’s solid low-light performance, it can be called a success in my book. The 5 megapixel sensor has a lot more pixels than the 3.2 megapixel one inside the iPhone 3GS. But we all know that it isn’t the total number of pixels that determine the quality of the pictures but how effectively those pixels grab light and then how information is processed that make the difference. Here’s hoping that Motorola did a fantastic job: I don’t have to carry a dedicated digital camera that can take pictures and capture video. The dual-LED flash should make overblown photos the standard. I hope there is some type of connection with its ambient light sensor so the two LED light output is throttled to prevent blinding your family and friends.

“… DROID will get you turn-by-turn directions from Google Maps, with spoken directions, showing real time traffic and 3D-imagery of the destination.” Motorola’s DROID device has a built-in GPS chip as well as an e-compass. You need two to do turn-by-turn. This feature called “Google Maps Navigation” will rock the GPS world: there is now very little reason why you would want a separate GPS unit (including the separate additional cost) when you can have it in your smartphone that you carry with you all the time, and for free. Thank you Google! Motorola’s DROID device is the first to offer this feature but I am absolutely sure that it won’t be the last. The iPhone by comparison is getting to be relatively quite expensive if you had to buy the Tom Tom GPS holder and the software. You can control Google Maps Navigation (GMN) with your voice, as you should expect it to. GMN was built from the ground up to work with Internet-connected devices. You never have to download massive updates for businesses and maps; it happens in real time from Google Maps. Here are some things you can do with GMN:

  • Search in Plain English: You can just say where you want to go and GMN takes care of the rest. Address, place, name of business, kind of business… just enter as if you’re entering a search phrase in Google.
  • Search by Voice: Typing isn’t always easy. Uses Google Search by Voice.
  • Traffic View: Live traffic data. Information is updated every ‘few’ minutes. You can also choose an alternate route.
  • Search Along Route: Search for gas stations, parking, ATMs & banks, etc. on your way.
  • Satellite View: Helps visualize your route. Downloaded as needed.
  • Street View: Actual street-level photographic images. Shows actual street view of your destination.
  • Car Dock Mode: Some Android phones have specifically-designed docks for your automobiles that automatically goes into Car Dock Mode.

Because I am an iPhone user I consider the ability to replace your battery a wonderful feature. The one thing I would like to see is something like an instant-on for smartphones so you don’t have to be down for too long when you’re replacing the battery. With a tiny built-in rechargeable battery that can be used to keep juicing flowing through the system for about a minute, you could be back in business as soon as you replace the main battery: instant-on! I hope Google is working on supporting something like this.

The process is TI’s OMAP 3430 CPU running at 550MHz. The CPU is certainly quite capable. What makes Motorola’s DROID the most advanced Android smartphone are the additional specs: PowerVR GPU, 256MB RAM, WiFi BG, Digital Magnetometer, Accelerometer, Proximity Sensor, etc. “Speed is noticeably improved–particularly when moving from app to app,” is how Engadget’s Joshua Topolsky described his experience. Topolsky did mention that the home screen scrolling looked a bit laggy.

Boy Genius Report (BGR) thought the quality of Motorola’s DROID smartphone was quite good. Most of the chassis is made of metal, making it heavy, but providing a high-quality solid feel. I don’t like light, cheap-feeling plastics and would rather carry around a device with a few more ounces that I know will last. The mechanism by which you push the large 3.7-inch LCD is non-spring-assisted and provides a solid ‘click’ when in position. The bezel surrounding the display is also metal. cnet’s Kent German and Bonnie Cha comments that the sharp angles make the DROID look a bit boxy. Looks are subjective and in my subjective opinion I would rather have angles than curves and boxy rather than candy-bar. German and Cha also notes that the “front face doesn’t really lock into place on either end,” which is contrary to what BGR experienced.

Android 2.0 seems to have caught up to Safari on the iPhone. The browser has been significantly improved and loads up pages in fully zoomed-out mode. To zoom in you double-tap. I am not sure there is support for multitouch gestures such as pinching for browsing webpages. The time it takes to load pages have been reduced and scrolling is much more responsive.

BGR mentions that the keyboard doesn’t provide as much feedback as he would have liked–probably a small compromise that Motorola had to make to thin-down the DROID. The keys are a bit too close but did not get in the way of cranking out emails, text messages, etc. Compared to the G1? “Definitely better.” How do you position your hand with the top-heavy G1? The same question applies to DROID. There are dozens of answers and they depend on the size of your hand and how you like to type. Topolsky from Engadget seems to think the keyboard is “fairly usable.” With Android 2.0 there are virtual keyboards that you can use in both portrait and landscape positions. cnet’s German and Cha echoed some of BGR’s concerns: “The keys are flush and squashed next to each other, which makes it difficult to text quickly or by feel… they’re a bit slick and we were thrown off by the ‘dummy keys’ on either end of the bottom row.” They concluded the keyboard was better than the G1’s but not as good as the CLIQ or Samsung’s Moment.

Of course we need to make sure the DROID is a solid phone and BGR thinks so: “The Droid sounds great as a phone.” Calls are dialed and connected quickly to Verizon Wireless’ voice network. Google Voice also worked without any problems, as expected.

FaceBook is fully integrated into accounts and gives you the option of pulling all the information and contacts from FB or just the ones related to your existing contacts. Nifty.

Motorola_DROID_Verizon

November 6, 2009 is the day when Motorola’s DROID device will be hitting Verizon Wireless stores. The price will be US$199 with $100 MIR. That price includes a bundled 16GB memory card. $199 for the most capable Android smartphone with full GPS capabilities running on Verizon: I am very tempted to ditch my iPhone…

Source:

  • “Google bringing free turn-by-turn navigation to mobile Maps [w/ VIDEO] – Autoblog
  • “Motorola DROID first hands-on! (update: video, impressions, more pics) – Engadget
  • “Droid from Verizon Wireless” – Verizon Wireless
  • “DROID by Motorola – Android phone – Motorola USA” – Motorola
  • “Motorola Droid live review” – cnet

Android 2.0 Eclair: SDK Officially Supported

Google announced the Android SDK now supports Android 2.0. a.k.a Eclaire. Here are the main updates to Android 2.0:

  • Multiple Google and Exchange email accounts
  • Quick Contact: Allows quick communications using multiple services.
  • Third-party sync services
  • Quick contact menus
  • Unified email inbox: Browse email from multiple accounts in one page.
  • Expanded search to include SMS and MMS
  • Improved camera controls: built-in flash support, digital zoom, scene mode, white balance, macro, color effects, etc.
  • Browser: Double-tap to zoom, , bookmarks with webpage thumbnails, HTML 5 support
  • Calendar: Agenda view (infinite scrolling), events (each invitee attending status), invite (new guests to events)
  • Bluetooth 2.1: Peer-to-peer connectivity, proximity-based social interactions, gaming, OPP (Object Push Profile), PBAP (Phone Book Access Profile)
  • Graphics: Better acceleration and rendering for different resolutions.

I like the very last bullet where different resolutions can be rendered equally well on Android smartphones. This feature does not require multiple versions of an application and utilizes the Android UI Toolkit. A single binary can support multiple display sizes and resolutions. Maybe this will foster competition and bring about higher resolution phones for other platforms as well.

Source:

HP Pavilion dv3: Multitouch

Engadget posted up a video showcasing the multitouch feature on an European HP Pavilion dv3 running Windows 7. The dv3 is a 13.3-inch notebook PC sporting a LED backlit LCD with 1366×768 resolution. Both the LCD and trackpad are multitouch capable. In the video at around 38 seconds, the user tries to rotate the picture of the koala. In vain… Just watching it frustrated me to no end! It was simply painful. My question is: why would you go to the trouble of putting two fingers on the LCD and doing a rotate gesture and having it work about 10% of the time?!? The trackpad worked much better. I would either use the trackpad or if I had a mouse simply go over to the rotate button and click it. Once.

At 1 minute 30 seconds, Windows Media Center is loaded. I get that you can browse through multimedia with your finger but when you’re trying to watch some TV or a movie you’d have all those fingerprints to wipe off from the entire LCD screen. No thanks! I’ll stick with my multitouch trackpad and only when I have no mouse. I also like my LCD to be fingerprint-free. For the most part I think Windows 7 is best utilized with a keyboard and a mouse.

Dell Latitude XT2 XFR: Rugged 12.1-inch Multitouch Tablet

Latitude XT2 XFR Notebook

Ruggedized Anything portable has a high probability that it will break, thanks to human error. A lot of us like to sip on something (coffee, tea, Coke, etc.) when we work or play. A few of us have had the unpleasant experience of spilling some of that unto our computers. Heck, many of us have spilled the actual PC onto the floor! Not only that, we all know what happens with our fragile computers when our kids (and their friends) who love to play with the keyboard and touch the screen. Dell‘s Latitude XT2 XFR might have had Verizon Wireless field engineers or the military in mind, but I think a lot of moms and dads would appreciate a ruggedized multitouch tablet PC. Continue reading →

Large-Area TFT LCD Shipments Increase 2% M/M in September

Oversupply? According to DisplaySearch, September 2009 large-area TFT LCD panel shipments increased 2% M/M and 25% Y/Y to 52M units and setting a new monthly record. Revenues increased 6% M/M and 15% Y/Y to US$6.8 billion. LCD monitor panel shipments declined 8% M/M but increased 2% Y/Y to 16.8M units while LCD TV panel shipments increased 11% M/M and 49% Y/Y to 15.6M units. Notebook PC panel shipments were up 6% M/M and 38% Y/Y to 18.6M units in September. It is interesting to see that LCD TV panel shipments actually rose 11% M/M. I hope there isn’t an oversupply situation that is developing in the fourth quarter. My guess is that most of the LCD TVs that will be in store shelves are being integrated, shipped and distributed to retail channels the world over. The LCD TV panels that were shipped in September will probably end up in LCD TVs that will be in store shelves after the holiday season.

Area Over Unit Samsung led in unit shipments with 24.3% market share followed by LG Display with 24.0%, AU Optronics (AUO) with 17.9% and Chi Mei Optoelectronics (CMO) with 14.1%. Of course, unit shipments isn’t a really good measure since a single LCD TV panel is much much larger than a notebook PC panel. The press release does’t mention anything about who was the leader in area shipments, but that is what I am more interested in. Overall large-area TFT LCD panel shipments in terms of area increased 6% M/M and 28% Y/Y to 8.1M m2–looks like more/bigger LCD TV panels were shipped.

Mini-note (or netbook) panel shipments were 4.4M units in September and includes sizes 5.0- to 11.6-inches. AUO and HannStar were the leading suppliers with each shipping more than 1M units.

Lenovo IdeaPad U150: 11.6-inch Notebook Official in Japan

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Weak Pixels Lenovo‘s IdeaPad U150 is a 11.6-inch notebook powered by Intel’s 1.2GHz Core 2 Duo SU4100 ULV CPU and features 2GB RAM, 250GB hard disk, a multitouch trackpad running Windows 7. The glossy 11.6-inch LCD sports a 1366 x 768 resolution and is LED backlit: that’s a lot of pixels in such a small LCD. Integrated graphics is a bit disappointing with Intel’s GMA 4500MHD, but it should be good enough for most simple graphics tasks; just don’t expect it to give you high FPS (Frames Per Second) on your favorite FPS (First Person Shooter) games. You can output video via HDMI or VGA.

Diet? Interestingly the maximum RAM is quite high at 8GB and it is of the faster DDR3 type. There is an integrated 1.3MP webcam, WiFi N, Gigabit Ethernet, Bluetooth 2.1+EDR, three USB ports (with one shared with eSATA) and a multicard reader. The 6-cell battery is good for 7 hours and the U150 weighs  3.3 pounds (1.5kg). It’s not an apples-to-apples comparison but the larger 13.3-inch MacBook Air (which lacks most of the connectivity options mentioned on the U150) weighs just 3 pounds, but doesn’t last as long at about 5 hours.

Source:

  • “Lenovo IdeaPad U150 is official in Japan, not very big” – Engadget
  • “11.6” Lenovo IdeaPad U150 Goes Official in Japan” – netbooked

LG XNOTE R590: i7 Notebook

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i7 LG announced its XNOTE R590, i7-powered notebook. I’m sure sooner or later, all high-end notebooks from all the major brands will be sporting an i7. The R590 sports a 15.6-inch LCD with LED backlight, 4GB RAM and NVIDIA’s GeForce CT 230M with 1GB. Note that the 15.6-inch LCD features a nicely divisible but otherwise useless 1600 x 900 resolution. Other specs include a 500GB hard disk, WiFi ABGN running Windows 7 Home Premium.

Off Center I’m not a fan of off-centered keyboards and would without hesitation sacrifice the numeric keyboard for one that is centered. And since we’re on the subject of the keyboard, I would think that a high-end model like the R590 would sport some high-end features like a chiclet-style keyboard. Backlit? Probably not. The trackpad is old school too: a non-button-integrated two-button style.

Gaming The 15.6-inch LCD with LED backlight is nice and it seems LG is gearing the R590 for consumers that game from time to time. If that is true, what is with the awkward 1600 x 900 resolution? I’m sure there are significantly more games that support 1680 x 1050. And if high-end is your game, wouldn’t it be nice to have 1920 x 1200? But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe LG is focusing on the HD viewing capabilities of its R590. But even then what good is 1600 x 900? 720p content will be scaled up and 1080p content will be scaled down. Either way you’re losing quality. But I don’t think it has a Blu-ray drive… Continue reading →

Chi Mei Optoelectronics (CMO) Third Quarter Revenues Up 27%

Chi Mei Optoelectronics (CMO) announced third quarter results on October 26, 2009. Net sales for TFT LCDs increased 27.3% Q/Q to NT$89,439 million. Gross margin was 12.4%, a substantial improvement over -3.5% in the second quarter. Operating margin in Q3’09 was 7.4%, a reversal of fortunes from -10.6% in Q2’09. Net income turned positive to NT$5,149 million from a net loss of NT$8,780 million in Q2’09. CMO shipped 21.7M large-area TFT LCD panels in Q3’09, up 13.2% Q/Q. Blended ASP also increased 13% Q/Q to US$120.

Source: CMO

Samsung 40-inch LCD Panel Just 3.9mm Thick, World’s Thinnest

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Samsung is touting that its 40-inch LCD TV panel is the world’s thinnest at just 3.9-mm. Samsung will almost always have the thinnest 40-inch LCD TV panel because it is the only LCD manufacturer that makes 40-inch panels. I think. But there is still merit: LG Display’s 5.9-mm 42-inch and 47-inch LCD TV panels are slightly bigger in diagonal size but also quite a bit thicker. Now if Samsung came out with a 46-inch LCD TV panel that was just 3.9-mm, that would be something. Other specs include: edge-lit LED backlight, 120Hz fequency, and 5000:1 contrast ratio. I wonder how thin these LCD TV panels can get…

Source:

  • “Samsung’s 40-inch LCD is world’s thinnest at 3.9-mm, attracts magic pencils” – Engadget
  • “Samsung Unveils Their 3mm thin 40″ LED Backlight TV” – Akihabara News

HDTV: Plasma vs. LCD

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Dr. Raymond Soneira, President of DisplayMate Technologies, in collaboration with Insight Media took some high-end HDTVs for a spin to figure out what technology offers the best TV-viewing experience. There was one plasma TVs, three LCD TVs and one CRT Sony Professional HD Trinitron Studio Monitor that was used as the reference standard.

Here is the list of models:

Dynamic Off One quick observation was that these HDTVs “delivered their best picture quality with all of their much-hyped advanced features… turned off.” Any function that dynamically processed images were disabled including: dynamic backlight, dynamic contrast, dynamic black, dynamic white, dynamic color. Ugly image artifacts were introduced when these features were used. Also, the specifications that you see are are “actually marketing tools rather than a set of scientifically objective tests and measurements.”

Setup Identical 1080p signals were piped through digital HDMI connections into the HDTVs. All calibrations were completed with DisplayMate Multimedia Edition test patterns. Photometry and colorimetry measurements were conducted via a Konica Minolta CS-200 Spectroradiometer.

Worst Let’s start from the bottom. Sharp: “… including the reference Studio Monitor, it looked significantly worse than all of the other units. The colors, hues, saturations, and intensity scales were way off and there were lots of noticeable ugly artifacts.” Continue reading →