Saturday, 19 December 2015

Android Circuit: Exciting Galaxy S7 Leak, Microsoft Invades Google Play, Nexus 6P Secrets Revealed

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CONTRIBUTOR

I look at the impact of  mobile technology and online media.

Taking a look back at seven days of news across the Android world, this week’s Android Circuit includes the force-touch enabled Galaxy 7 display, Samsung’s new hero handset for 2016, Microsoft’s Android app store, leaked images of the HTC One X9, fitness tools in Pebble’s latest smartwatch update, Fairphone profiled by the BBC, secrets of the Nexus 6P and 5X, and Google’s Android-powered lightsaber.

Android Circuit is here to remind you of a few of the many things that have happened around Android in the last week (and you can find the weekly Apple news digest here).

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge (image: Ewan Spence)

Samsung Follows Apple For Force Sensitive Display

If you believe some reports, we could be seeing the Galaxy S7 in a little over a month’s time, with a potential launch just after CES. Most people think the traditional pre-MWC slot in late February is more likely, but information on Samsung’s Galaxy S7 handset is already coming out. One interesting leak points to a new technological addition to the screen. Gordon Kelly looks at the reports from the WSJ and wonders what this will do in the long-runng Samsung/Apple saga:

 

Samsung BusinessVoice

Making The Most Of Mobility For Better Patient Care

So how will this pan out? Obviously the WSJ’s source will need to be on the money, but assuming the paper is correct (and it has a great track record in recent years) Samsung is likely to point to similar technology developed by Qualcomm as a defence. In fact using Qualcomm’s technology may well be the strategy, though it is impossible to imagine a world where Tim Cook isn’t furious and Apple’s legal team aren’t unleashed to start a new series of lawsuits that tie up the courts for years to come.

So what would Samsung get out of it? The fact that the lawsuits take years to be settled, nearly always for far less than the company makes from the tech in the intervening period, and that it gets a potentially major differentiator from Android rivals while keeping pace with Apple’s tentpole feature.


Read more about the pressure sensitive layer here on Forbes.

Samsung’s Hero Device For 2016… It’s Not The Galaxy S7

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There’s one other Samsung device of note that was revealed this week, and that’s the Galaxy A9. This is a mid-range device, sporting a SnapDragon 620 processor, 3GB of RAM, and 32GB of storage. Those are really good specs, and I’m expecting this mid-range device to be a popular seller. Given Samsung’s failure in 2015 to grow the sales of the flagship Galaxy S devices and a reliance on volume sales in the mid-range devices to keep its mobile revenues up, the A9 is arguably Samsung’s hero device for 2016.

As the flagship sales fall away, Samsung’s mobile division is becoming more reliant on these mid-range devices. These devices sell in large quantities, but at a lower cost. A manufacturer relying on mid-range devices to drive a division’s revenue is going to need to have high-specification devices at attractive price points, the ability to invest in marketing, and an efficient distribution network that keeps costs low.

…It may not be slick or sexy, but it will be competent, reliable, and functional. It will offer vendors a competitive flagship from a manufacturer that they all have a solid relationship with. No high-street sales assistant is going to be fired for selling a Samsung.


More of my thoughts on this handset here.

And One [Microsoft] App To Rule Them All

Microsoft continues to expand its portfolio of Android apps, and is now at the point where many of your day-to-day tasks on your Android smartphone can be achieved exclusively with Microsoft apps. Curiously the one area you’ll leave Redmond’s reach is browsing the web. Microsoft’s latest app is a simplistic work of genius… an app that lists all of Microsoft’s appsTechCrunch’s Alex Wilhelm:

There are two parts to this development. The first is that Microsoft’s cross-platform work continues, and that the company has yet to let up an inch on its work to bring its software and services to users on every rival operating system. And, the second point is that Microsoft has created an effective Android app store — catalog? — inside of the actual Android app store.


It might seem a bit pointless, but one of the biggest problems in the App Store is visibility. If a user cannot find your apps, they will never get installed. Microsoft now has a single point of focus that it can promote in its apps and externally to hook a user into its Android ecosystem. It’s like a little app store… inside the Google Play app store.

Microsoft Slide (images: Microsoft App Store Listing)

Early Images Of The HTC One X9 Leak Out

Cam Bunton reports on HTC’s next smartphone, the One X9. Another mid-range device, fighting for the same market space as the Galaxy A9, the One X9 sports a look that could be considered ‘iPhone-like’ and while it might not be flagship-levels, the construction has many advantages:

Although it may not seem it, I think the most important detail here is the panel surrounding the camera module on the back. As you can see from the images below, it’s clearly a different material from the rest of the housing. That, along with the antenna bands on the edges, clearly indicates that the One X9 will be made primarily from metal. While it will gain the One-series moniker, it’s clear to me that this phone is a replacement for (or upgrade to) the HTC Desire range. It’s a mid-ranger with decent specs, but made from metal instead of plastic.


Read more at 9to5Google.

Fitness To Pebble

Android Circuit has two items from smartwatch start-up Pebble this week. The first is my look at the changes Pebble has brought to its latest device, the Pebble Time Round, along with an interview with CEO Eric Migicovsky:

Pebble Time Round is an attempt to move the conversation into a new space. “Existing smartwatches do not fit on many wrists”  Migicovsky pointed out to me, “and that influences how people think about smart watches. Pebble Time Round weighs half the weight of the smallest Apple Watch. When you have something this light, with a long battery life, it becomes something that is approachable.”


Pebble has also updated its software platform, with both the smartphone client and the various smartwatches. The older models pick up the timeline interface, while the Pebble Time family can now use the hardware in the watch as an activity and fitness tracker:

We’re thrilled to share some fantastic updates to Pebble’s software and smartphone apps today, with something for every Pebbler to enjoy. On top of bringing timeline to Pebble Classic and Steel, Pebble Health makes its debut on our Pebble Time lineup. It’s a brand new, fully native activity tracking experience with timeline integration.


There are more details on these updates at Pebble’s blog.

Gallery

The World's Most Expensive Watches

Launch Gallery

12 images

 

Fairphone Reaches The Mainstream

The story of Fairphone is one that we’ve talked about here on Android Circuit before, but the company that has looked at ethical sourcing for components and has made a commitment to user-replaceable parts in its handsets is picking up interest from the mainstream media. This week saw the BBC cover the Amsterdam-based manufacturer:

Bas and his colleagues launched Fairphone in 2013, running a crowdfunding campaign that was so successful it took even them by surprise. They pre-sold 25,000 handsets before a single device rolled off the production line: people were buying into a concept.

“I was crying to my wife in bed, like how am I going to do this?” he says. ”I’d never made a phone before and all these thousands of people had put their faith in me, I was afraid I would let them down.”

He needn’t have worried. His company has now sold more than 82,000 phones. The company’s main focus is to make sure that it sources its materials from non-conflict mines.


You can watch the feature at the BBC News website.

Nexus 6P (image: Google PR)

The Story Of The Nexus 6P And 5X

Sometimes the story behind a smartphone is just as important as the device itself. Redditor sylocheed attended Google’s Nexus Open Studio Event in New York City and has written up the experiences in this post:

there were representatives from seemingly all of the disciplines at Google involved with the new Nexus phones: Android UX design, software product managers for Nexus, Nexus industrial design, Nexus hardware engineering, and others. And they were all super friendly and surprisingly open to answering all kinds of questions, from the mundane to controversial. In the end, whether or not we might agree or disagree with their product and design decisions, I came away with a clear picture of how passionate and thoughtful the folks at Google are.

Apologies for the dreadfully long post, but I wanted to share some of my experiences and the really interesting things I learned chatting with the Google staff about Nexus, Android, and technology.


Part report, part stream on conscious, it’s a great look at Google’s hardware and the people behind it.

And Finally…

Google decided to showcase the use of WebRTC and WebSockets in a demo this week, and like almost every other company, decided the best way to do so would be to tie it into Star Wars. In Google’s case your desktop browser acts as the view on the world, while your phone, which links to the browser instance with no extra code or connections, is the handle of your lightsaber. Now it’s just a matter of swinging away and reflecting the blaster shots as you play ‘Lightsaber Escape’

YOUTUBE https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=LPd0w3pVQVI

Android Circuit’ will round-up the news from the Android world every weekend here on Forbes. Don’t forget to follow me so you don’t miss any coverage in the future, and of course read the sister column in Apple Loop! Last week’s Android Circuit can be found here, and if you have any news and links you’d like to see featured in Android Circuit, get in touch!