LG introduced us to two shiny new Google TV models at CES 2012 back in January in 47″ and 55″ variants. We came away fairly impressed at the show, though moreso for the Magic Remote than the actual TVs themselves, even though they featured 3D support.
We started to hear wind of possible price points for these bad boys last week, with the 47″ rumored to sell for $1,699 and the 55″ variant to go for $2,299. Turns out, those will be the final MSRP price for LG’s entrants into the Google TV platform, though you can find them a bit cheaper at Amazon. Amazon has the 47″ for $1,599, and the 55″ for $2,099. Reuters reported this morning that the TVs will be officially start shipping on May 21st, just two short weeks from today.
If you’re in the market for a new TV, and want your next set to incorporate the Android platform, you can do no better than the LG Google TVs. Anyone out there have their eyes on one of these devices? Sound off in the comments.
There’s no denying that the Sony Xperia S was one of our favorite Android phones at CES. The handset’s unique design certainly makes the phone stand out, but apparently Sony wasn’t ready to reveal all the handset’s secrets at this month’s trade show. According to a recent post on the company’s Facebook page, the Xperia S features an “anti-stain shell,” something we’ve already seen on the recently released Droid RAZR from Motorola. If that wasn’t enough, a rumor is floating around that suggests the Xperia S will have a fast charging feature which will allow users to get one hour of handset use with only 10 minutes of charging.
We’ve known that the Sony Xperia Ion would be headed to AT&T this spring, but it looks like the Xperia S may soon make an appearance in North America as well. The handset recently showed up at the FCC with support for AT&T’s 3G radio bands, Bluetooth 2.0, NFC, WiFi b/g/n, GPS and ANT+. While we’re excited to see support for AT&T’s 3G radio bands, we have a feeling our neighbors to the north will be seeing the Xperia S on Rogers long before the handset is spotted in an AT&T store.
Are any of you AT&T customers thinking about paying full price to import the Sony Xperia S, or will you simply wait to see what Sony and other manufacturers unveil at Mobile World Congress and CTIA this spring?
Earlier this month Qualcomm launched their GameCommand application into the Android Market to showcase all the titles that are optimized for their Snapdragon devices. The app couldn’t be installed on non-Snapdragon devices and the design of the layout was rather uninspiring, but Qualcomm is investing a lot of resources to make sure that GameCommand is a success.
Recently we had the opportunity to sit down with Dave Durnil, Director of Advanced Content and Gaming at Qualcomm, who provided a quick walk-through of the app and talked about the future of the program. He told us that the next version of GameCommand is already in development and it should launch next month around the time of Mobile World Congress. New features include the ability to add custom RSS feeds to the news reader, a landscape layout for tablets, and new filters to sort games by category, publisher, and more.
Dave also told us that Qualcomm now has an in-house studio dedicated to making Android games for Snapdragon devices. We don’t know the exact size of the team, but we were told their goal is to release one flagship title per year. Their first game will be a full blown sequel to the mini-game Desert Winds.
GameCommand already boast over 100 titles, which is more than NVIDIA’s Tegra Zone. Not every game is a blockbuster, but Qualcomm has already made deals with Gameloft and EA Mobile to release exclusive titles. Both Gameloft and EA Mobile were originally listed as partners for Tegra Zone, but we never saw any games come from that.
Qualcomm actually shipped more mobile GPUs than anyone else last year (thanks to the integrated Adreno GPU found in Snapdragon), so developers have a lot of reasons to target Snapdragon devices. GameCommand has yet to crack 5k installs, but if Qualcomm refines the app and pumps out some exclusive titles they might be able to catch up with NVIDIA’s Tegra Zone (currently 1 million+ installs) this year.
If you have a Snapdragon device, have you tried out GameCommand yet? Let us know what you think of the app and list the things that Qualcomm could do to improve it in the comments below.
Today we had the opportunity to sit down with NVIDIA CEO Jen-Hsun Huang, continuing our Android Insiders series from last year’s CES. Our time was limited, but we got to discuss the latest news surrounding the mobile industry, the next-generation of Tegra, NVIDIA’s possible entry into the connected TV market, Android updates, and Jen-Hsun’s favorite Android device. Check out the full interview below and let NVIDIA know how much you appreciate them taking the time to sit down and talk with the Android community.
Taylor: I’m here at CES2012. We’re with Jen-Hsun Huang, CEO of NVIDIA. We’re here today to talk about all the latest NVIDIA news, especially what’s going on with their Tegra family of products. Just last year we sat down at CES, and you were just rolling out Tegra 2. We were seeing the first products come on to market. Looking back at last year, how do you think your Tegra business did? Are you satisfied with the progress that you’ve made so far?
Jen-Hsun: Well, as the CEO, I should always expect and always hope to have more progress, but we did great. Last year, we learned a lot about Android. We developed the Honeycomb operating system with Google, and we developed a whole lot of smartphones with Gingerbread and tablets with Honeycomb. We also, of course, introduced Tegra 3, and brought the world’s first dual-core to market. Now we’ve got the world’s first quad-core to market. And we surprised the world with a few more features in Tegra 3 that [are] designed to enhance performance while conserving energy. The technology for quad-core, as a surprise, turned out to be a fifth core. And the fifth core is there to deliver very, very efficient energy consumption while the quad-core can deliver that performance, so you get the best of both worlds. We introduced a technology called Prism, where we separated the color from the intensity of the backlight, and we can modulate the two of them separately, and by adjusting the pixel color for every single pixel and every single frame and doing the same thing for the backlight intensity, we could dramatically reduce the energy consumed by the display, which is the vast majority of our tablet power we run because the display is so bright, and we want it to be bright. That technology is called Prism. Yesterday, we announced a new technology in Tegra 3 called Direct Touch. By bypassing all the other chips and doing the touch processing on our little hybrid fifth core, which is already ten times the performance of any of these controllers, we can keep the sample rate over three times that of the best touch controllers. So, with a better sample rate, we can have better precision. There’s better responsiveness and so forth. So, Tegra 3 was a big thrill last year. Then at the show, one year later, we introduced — at this point we’ve announced a brand new processor, three new technologies, we went into production with Ice Cream Sandwich, and we announced both our Transformer class tablet, for people who like to have it all — a great tablet or a great notebook. And yesterday we announced the world’s first $249 quad-core tablet running Ice Cream Sandwich. So, that’s a lot of progress in a year. Not to mention all the Windows stuff.
Taylor: Now, last year, I know that you all had acquired Icera . Can we talk about how that plays into your strategy this year? And also, speaking to 2012, what do you see as the real opportunities for growth this year?
Jen-Hsun: Well, last year we spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to add value to the iPad and how to position around the iPad. The iPad is a great device. You know, it’s the fastest growing consumer electronics device in history, as you guys all know. Faster growing than smartphones. Faster growing than netbooks, than anything. MP3 players. It is the world’s fastest growing digital device. And so it’s a fabulous product. Now the question is how do we innovate around it? We know that there’s all kinds of opportunities to innovate around it, because one size doesn’t fit all. And so last year, we stumbled around what’s the right price point. And it’s now pretty clear that, with Fire and Nook selling like gangbusters — right? — just like gangbusters at $199 and $249, that if we could figure out a way to get a great tablet with Ice Cream Sandwich and quad-core down to that price range, we could allow consumers to have a flexible tablet — a rich tablet — and also a great price point. So, I think we’ve found the price point. I think this year, we’re going to see quite exciting growth at the $249 segment and at the $299 segment as we bring these great devices to market. Smartphones. This isn’t really the show for smartphones. Mobile World Congress is the show for smartphones. In the United States, LTE is important. Outside the United States, quad-core is the next major upgrade. So, in Europe, Latin America, China, quad-core is the next major upgrade. So, we’re exciting about all the phones that we’re in, and this year should be the year of quad-core phones.
Taylor: Another product category I wanted to ask you about. We’ve seen Google move their Google TV platform over to ARM. Samsung’s been talking about a lot about smart TVs. So, is that an area we’re going to see you try and enter this year?
Jen-Hsun: Well, we don’t have anything to announce at the moment. I think the smart TV and the connected TV market is still developing. And I think there’s quite a few things that it needs to get sorted out. I’m very enthusiastic about it. I think that the television is going to be a very large platform for our visual computing processors. So, we surely will participate in it. This year I think is a little bit too early to get in. The market that we’re really excited about is putting mobile processors in cars. Cars, connected cars and smart cars are going to be the next major consumer electronics marketplace, and I think Android is going to play a large role in that. I really, fully expect to see a lot of Android operating system cars, so they can be connected to all the great services that are available through applications via Google and others.
Taylor: Something else I want to talk about. One big advantage that we’ve seen with NVIDIA is just the cadence and how fast you’re rolling out these new controller processors. Last year you showed us the road map, talking about Wayne, Stark, and Logan. Do you know when we’re going to start hearing more about these? About the next generation of Tegra?
Jen-Hsun: Well, you start your question by saying that we have a really fast cadence. And you’re ending your question by asking me how much faster can it get.
Jen-Hsun: (laughs) Well. (laughs) You know, our basic rhythm is you should expect a new processor from us in the segments that we serve — a new processor each year. As we go forward, Icera for example, we’re building integrated Icera processors, and you shouldn’t be surprised to see a next generation type of processor integrated with LTE modem. You shouldn’t be surprised to see, you know, over the course of this year, surely, Icera modems coming into tablets. You shouldn’t be surprised to see Tegra phones with 3G Icera modems in smartphones, etc. So we’re gonna try to continue to add value to the segments we’ve chosen, which are the smartphone and superphone segments, the tablets and the notebook segments. And so, these three segments of mobile computing, we’re going to have a new product every single year.
Taylor: One of the other big differentiaters for NVIDIA and Tegra is your premium content strategy with Tegra Zone, where you’re highlighting all these premium games. Can you talk a little bit about what NVIDIA’s doing for other applications that are not games? How are you helping developers take full advantage of developing for mult-threaded applications that can really take full advantage of this Tegra 3 processor?
Jen-Hsun: Well, when we built these processors, the first question that people usually ask us is, “Why do we need so much performance?” When Tegra 3 first came out, it was, “Why do you need so much GPU performance?” “Why do you need quad-core performance?” The competition fields some of that. They tell people that the applications simply aren’t ready. Well, if the applications aren’t ready, you have to build a processor that inspires the applications to be ready. I mean, it’s a little bit of the chicken and the egg. And so, yesterday, we demonstrated the top selling application on the iPad running on Tegra. And the reason why they needed Tegra is because they needed a lot of the GPU horsepower to do the image processing that Snapseed does in real time. So, just by simply touching your display, you’re doing PhotoShop-quality image processing and photo editing, and it’s completely wonderful. You can’t do that without GPU performance. That’s one example. We also demonstrated yesterday Splashtop. The ability to be able to stream a full-powered, PC capable right into your tablet, and enjoy your PC right on your tablet as interactively as if you were just sitting right in front of it. That capability isn’t possible without the quad-cores and without the great GPUs and without the other processors that we have on the chip. And so, we need to develop the technology to inspire content developers and applications developers to create these amazing applications. Yesterday we showed a lot of really great stuff.
Taylor: The third real strength that I’ve seen with NVIDIA is your speed of software updates for Android tablets. That’s great for the tablets, but could you talk a little bit about some of the hurdles and maybe how you’re working with Google and the carriers to try and deliver that same, you know, same type of speed of updates to the smartphone? It seems we always have to wait six months, etc. on smartphones. What, really, are you doing to try to fix that?
Jen-Hsun: Well, the first… That’s really a good point. If you look at the nature of our company, we are a computer technology company at its core. And, as a computer technology company, with our core focusing on visual computing, operating system support and API support and [BSP] and device drivers and APIs and all that stuff — all that system middleware it’s complicated, but its our expertise. That’s what we do for a living, because we’re a computer technology company. We have more software engineers than just about any application processor company in the world. This is our focus. And so the — you mentioned, and I appreciate you recognizing that we were the first to Honeycomb, and we were the first, again, to Ice Cream Sandwich. Even though a lot of people said we weren’t working closely with Google on Ice Cream Sandwich, how was it possible that we announced it so quickly? Well, first of all, we do work very closely with Google. They’re a great team to work with. Secondarily, we have such a great team inside our company working on all these Android builds. Of course on tablets, because the OTA are done through WiFi, it is easier to get to the consumer with the latest build. And so, our focus is to shrink our latency. The moment that Google goes public with a particular version of Android, our challenge is to be able to deliver our version running on Tegra 3, fully optimized one day later. That would be what we’d call “speed of light” for us. Now, by reducing that — we’ve already reduced that from several months. For most people in the industry, that runs somewhere for four to six months. We’ve reduced it down to about three to four weeks. And so, if it wasn’t because of the holidays, who knows? It could have been two to three weeks. So, we’ve reduced it. We’ve pulled it in by about five months. Now, for mobile devices, we still have to work with the handset makers, integrate it with their BSP, and we also have to work with the carriers to get it out. But, you know, of course the goal is to deliver a really, really great Android release as soon as possible that, ideally, is top of the podium.
Taylor: Okay. Wrapping up here. I know we’re short on time. As the final question, some of our fans at home — we know you’re a huge fan of Android. Can you tell us, just like, what are some of your favorite Android devices? What do you use personally?
Jen-Hsun: Well, the single most popular device for me, the device I use the most — my personal favorite computer is the Transformer Prime. I use it all day long. I use it — it’s the first computer I turn on in the morning. Of course, it doesn’t need to be turned on; it’s on. And all my news is already aggregated and updated. I turn on Pulse. I use Google Currents and I catch up on my news. It takes about 45 minutes while I’m drinking a cup of coffee, and I capture technology news, the economy, politics — you name it. So, the industry business, everything, all in one shot. Throughout the day, I can use it for email. And with email running on my Transformer Prime, the battery never drains. From morning to night, I can barely see the battery change. And I think I’m just so happy with the Prism technology. I’m so happy with our quad-core — that it’s doing a great job conserving energy, and it’s just a wonderful device. When I get home, I disconnect it from the keyboard. I sit on the couch and chit chat with my wife, catch up on the day’s news and do a little bit of email on the side.
Everything is bigger in Texas. Take for example Samsung’s 1.6 million-square-foot manufacturing complex in Austin. The plant first opened in 1996, but Samsung just finished a $3.6 billion upgrade that added a 300mm automated S2 fab, capable of producing 40,000 wafers per month.
Rumors suggest that Samsung has been producing Apple’s A5 chip at the Austin fab, but earlier this month we learned that they are making other application processors there as well. Richard Yeh, Senior Director of System LSI Marketing, told me the S2 fab was now producing chips on their latest 32nm High-K Metal Gate (HK/MG) low-power process.
Apple’s A5 chip is produced on a 45nm process, but Samsung has several upcoming Exynos processor that will be built with the more efficient 32nm process. Those 32nm models include the already announced Exynos 4212 and 5250, and the rumored 4412.
This month at CES I met with Samsung System LSI, where they had the Exynos 4212 and 5250 on demo.
The move from 45nm to 32nm reduces power consumption.
The Exynos 4212 is an enhanced version of the 4210 found inside most models of the Galaxy S II. It features two Cortex-A9 cores running at 1.5 GHz that offer a 25 percent increase in processing power and an enhanced GPU that promises 50 percent higher graphics performance over the previous generation.
Also on display was the Exynos 5250, Samsung’s first processor to use ARM’s latest Cortex-A15 core. This demo featured a development kit that was hooked up to a HDTV to show off the support for WQXGA 2560×1600 resolution. They also had a Exynos 5250 tablet running Android 4.0.x, but I was politely asked to delete the pictures I snapped.
Exynos 5 could be the first mobile processor with the Cortex-A15 core.
Next to the demo area with the Exynos 4212 and 5250 was a second display closet that was covered with a large black cloth. The blogger in me wanted to peek behind the curtain, but I decided not to get myself in trouble. I asked if Samsung could share any information about the Exynos 4412, but I was told that they are not ready to talk about their quad-core plans quite yet.
I found all this very interesting because many of us have speculated which mobile processor Samsung would use in their flagship Galaxy S III smartphone. If history repeats itself we should see Samsung reveal the highly anticipated device at next month’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, but nothing is certain.
Samsung is endlessly trying to top the Apple iPhone, so I think we can rule out the dual-core 1.5 GHz Exynos 4212. I see that part as more of a minor bump of the 4210 in the Galaxy S II and doubt it will get used. Most likely we will see Samsung adopt the quad-core 4412, since Apple is also rumored to go quad-core with their upcoming A6 processor.
One not so far off possibility for the Galaxy S III could be the Exynos 5250. This part is slated for the second-half of 2012, but Samsung could leap-frog the competition with the first mobile device to feature the next-generation ARM Cortex-A15 CPU and ARM Mali-T604 GPU. This would require a delay of the Galaxy S III from its normal summer release schedule, but it’s the choice I’d make if I was in charge.
Hopefully we won’t have to wait too much longer to find out the mysteries of the Galaxy S III. Mobile World Congress kicks off on February 27th in Barcelona and Samsung has traditionally help their Unpacked events on the day before the big show.
Whatever processor Samsung chooses for the Galaxy S III, it’s still pretty cool to know it could be produced in my home state.
What’s next in Android gaming? Earlier this month Gameloft announced that they had partnered with Verizon to enable in-game voice chat over their 4G LTE network. The first game to receive this treatment should be the popular Ashphalt 6, which Gameloft was showing off at CES in Qualcomm’s booth.
“We are thrilled to be partnering with Verizon to illustrate the potential of in-game voice chat and multiplayer over the 4G LTE network,” said Baudouin Corman, vice president of Publishing for the Americas at Gameloft. “Gameloft seeks to provide gamers with a complete mobile gaming experience and feels that these features are at the forefront of the platform’s future.”
In Gameloft’s demo only three gamers could play and talk at the same time, but hopefully that number is expanded when this feature reaches consumers later this year. I was once an obsessed online multiplayer gamer (Unreal Tournament ’99), so I know how voice chat is essential to team-based match-ups. Check out Gameloft’s teaser video below for an idea of what to expect.
We were in attendance for the NVIDIA press conference at CES last week and while the $249 Asus MeMO stole the show a bit at the end, it was the capabilities of the Tegra 3 processor powering the MeMO and of course the Transformer Prime that were highlighted for the majority of the presentation.
While some other apps were covered, along with the new DirectTouch capabilities tied to that 5th “Ninja core,” there was a big focus on gaming which along with media consumption still seems to fall high on the list of priorities for tablet owners.
The first demo was of Shadowgun’s multiplayer streaming over WiFi and it looked really solid. (The game did anyway, the guys that happened to be playing were completely unable to find, let alone kill one another.) I’ll be interested to see how it does in a less controlled setting, over 4G for example, but it bodes well for multiplayer mobile gaming on Android coming into its own this year.
Splashtop Remote Desktop HD is a Tegra optimized version of the standard Splashtop screen sharing app that is generally available in the Market. What exactly the optimizations entail wasn’t clear and probably isn’t a huge concern to most users, but the basic claim was that running the app on a computer with any NVIDIA processor paired with the mobile app on a Tegra based device would result in superior performance.
Huang demonstrated the basic screen sharing capabilities before offering up the ultimate test of playing Skyrim and as you’ll see it seems to handle it with ease. (How many times did he say “it just works?”) Now everyone isn’t probably going to have a setup capable of running Skyrim so that specific application is a little more niche, but it’s fun to see what’s possible.
For the time being NVIDIA remains just a scrappy upstart in the mobile market, but they appear to be making the right moves to turn that around. Based on your reactions here Tegra 3 devices are at least hovering at the top of your lists. Based on the demonstrations at CES, we can’t wait to see how they perform in the real world.
One of the biggest concerns for Android users is battery life. We’ve taken many routes to make our devices last as long as possible. Viable options include carrying charging accessories, external battery chargers, use of multiple batteries and extended batteries (usually bulky). Wouldn’t it be nice if our phones could just last us all day? That’s what Samsung is promising for devices to come. This is what Kevin Packingham had to say during an interview at CES:
When you wake up to when you go to bed, we don't want you feeling anxiety about your battery life.Kevin PackinghamVice President of Product Innovation at Samsung
The latest phones are rolling out with bright, large displays, stronger processors, 4G connectivity and specs that are getting closer everyday to matching a PC. All these specs and features come with a substantial battery drain. Some of these smartphones cannot even make it a few hours without needing a charge.
Along with all the tips and tricks we already know, manufacturers are starting to include larger batteries in order to solve this issue. Take the Droid RAZR MAXX and its 3300 mAh battery as an example.
While Samsung does plan to include bigger batteries, that is not the only solution to be included in its future devices. Samsung also plans to improve battery life by better managing the way our smartphones act. Optimizing the way the device searches for WiFi connection and more efficient 4G LTE management are included in the list. After all, Samsung devices are known for being thin. Many users would like to keep that feature.
This does not mean that every user will be able to enjoy a full day of juice, though. Packingham emphasizes the fact that power users will probably need to rely on ulterior methods for keeping their smartphones alive. But Samsung’s plan is to have the average and moderately heavy users covered for a full day.
As mentioned by our colleague Android sites, it is hard to define what an average or moderately heavy user is. Many factors contribute in the equation. Samsung has not had a bad start, though. Reports are proving that most Samsung Galaxy Nexus users are going through a full day without needing to resort to battery-saving/charging tactics.
The Galaxy Nexus does use 4G LTE and all the other great features. And we have to remember that having Vanilla Android makes quite the difference. The fact that the offered extended battery is not as huge of an impact in size is also great.
We look forward to seeing Samsung make big steps in battery efficiency and hope that they can deliver on their promises. Do you guys think Samsung will prove to be successful in this area?
While most of the new handsets we played with at CES were running on dual or quad-core processors, the new Lenovo K800 proudly sported a single-core chip. The Lenovo K800 will be the very first Android powered phone to run on Intel’s new Atom Z2460 chip which is clocked at 1.6 GHz. The handset features a gorgeous 4.5-inch 720p display, an 8 megapixel shooter capable of recoding video at 1080p, front-facing camera all running on Android 2.3. Lenovo was being a little sly when we asked about Android 4.0, but we got the feeling that the K800 may be getting an Ice Cream Sandwich flavored update before it hits the Chinese market this spring.
The Lenovo K800 demo unit we played with was skinned to match Lenovo’s other Android devices. The home screen leaves a lot to be desired, but the custom media and gallery applications offered a unique experience which stack pictures, music and videos into different piles for easy sorting and custom organization on the fly.
The standout feature of the Lenovo K800 is the Intel Atom Z2460 chip which keeps the device running smooth even during benchmark testing. The unit we played with just happened to have Quadrant installed on it, so we launched it up and discovered that the Intel Atom Z2460 chip on the Lenovo K800 scored a 3489. Naturally, we’d like to stress that benchmark numbers don’t necessarily reflect real-life use scenarios, but they do give us an idea of what kind of performance we can expect from a handset. Since Quadrant is only optimized for single-core devices, we’re not surprised at all to see that the Intel Atom Z2460 scores a lot higher than the quad-core NVIDIA Tegra 3 powered devices.
Overall, the Lenovo K800 design and performance left us smiling. We’ve excited to see Intel finally getting into the Android segment with a chip that can keep up with the competition. For now, the handset is only scheduled to launch in Asian markets in Q2, but Lenovo is looking at a global launch for the K800 later this year.
Note: The specs mentioned in the video are a bit off since I was going off of memory since there was no spec card next to the handset at the Intel booth.
As we suspected, Google TV had a fairly strong presence at CES this year. LG, Sony and Vizio all showed off new products which run on the Honeycomb update of Google TV. At the LG booth, we got to spend some quality time playing around with LG’s 3D 55-inch Google TV which features support for the new LG Magic Remote QWERTY.
If you’re already familiar with Google TV, you may notice the the UI on LG’s television is a bit different. LG has taken the liberty to customize the home screen so that it matches the UI from their other smart TVs. The main screen features a library for your 3D content, your most recent applications, a panel for your TV settings and your bookmarked TV shows or websites. But things get pretty standard once you hit the application button and jump into the standard Google TV UI. The LG Google TV has access to the Android Market and all the applications which developers have made compatible with Google TV.
What really makes the LG Google TV stand out from the competition is its compatibility with the LG Magic Remote QWERTY which features air-mouse (similar to the Wii) motion controls, a scroll wheel and a full QWERTY keyboard on the back for easy text input. The Magic Remote QWERTY isn’t the most elegant remote we’ve seen, but it allows users to use the LG Google TV without having to have a full keyboard as a permanent fixture on the coffee table. Pricing and availability details for the LG Google TV have not yet been released, but we’re hoping to see a few different models available for purchase by the middle of 2012.