Can Android 4.0 replace a desktop PC? We have already examined that question, and now it appears Motorola believes the answer is yes. Their Droid RAZR is expected to see a software update to Android 4.0 as early as next week, which delivers a totally new Webtop experience.
Previously, Motorola’s Webtop software allowed a phone to plugin into a smart dock that launched a custom Linux desktop that featured Firefox for as the browser. We thought it was an innovative feature when it debuted at CES 2011, but the actual experience turned out to be pretty sluggish and frustrating.
We predicted that the Motorola Atrix 4G and Webtop software were a good indicator of where Android was headed, and now it appears that has come true.
A leaked copy of the Android 4.0 update for the Droid RAZR reveals a new “Webtop 3.0 beta” that does away with the limited Linux desktop and provides users with a full Android 4.0 tablet UI when a device is docked to a larger display.
I’m pretty excited to see that this different-UI-for-different-displays feature is finally coming to Android phones. Hopefully handset makers will enable it over HDMI, MHL, and eventually WiFi Display.
This is similar to the functionality of the new ASUS Padfone, but it’s interesting to see Motorola go this direction after the acquisition by Google.
We now expect that Motorola will include this feature on all their new high-end Android phones. Check out the quick video below to get a sneak peek of what it will look like.
Though Verizon was the first U.S. carrier to offer an Android 4.0 device, they will be the second carrier to push out an Android 4.0 updates to a couple phones in their lineup. A leaked picture of Best Buy’s computer system shows that Verizon will be releasing the Android 4.0 OTA update for the Motorola DROID RAZR and RAZR MAXX on April 4th, while the HTC Rezound will receive the update on April 6th.
In late January, we got a sneak peek at what Motorola’s Android 4.0 build would look like with their updated version of MotoBLUR. HTC’s Android 4.0 update will feature HTC Sense 3.6, similar to what we’ve seen on the HTC Vivid.
It’s encouraging to see Android 4.0 updates making their way to consumers’ handsets, but we’re only scratching the surface. HTC, Motorola, Samsung and others still have dozens of devices which are expected to be updated to Ice Cream Sandwich – a process that will most likely continue throughout the summer.
Do you plan on holding on to your current Android phone and waiting for your Android 4.0 update or will you move on to something new with Android 4.0 pre-installed?
J.D. Powers and Associates has just released Volume 1 of their 2012 biannual smartphone satisfaction study, giving us a glimpse into just how satisfied consumers are with their latest smartphone experience. The numbers haven’t changed all that much from last year, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Out of the top four companies ranked highest in consumer satisfaction, three are popular Android manufacturers. Including HTC, who is ranked number two overall.
In order to get an idea on how smartphone users rank their experience with new smartphones for the study, J.D. Powers surveyed 7,080 consumers, asking them to evaluate performance, ease of operation, physical design and features. Only two companies have managed to exceed the industry average of 774 (out of 1000) for consumer satisfaction in the July of 2011 to December of 2011 report: Apple, who takes the number one spot with 839, and HTC, who takes the number two spot with 798. Trailing Apple and HTC is Samsung and Motorola, with 769 and 758 respectively. HTC is also one of only three companies to improve on customer satisfaction from the January 2011 to June 2011 report.
As far as the industry as a whole is concerned, battery life satisfaction has taken a hit thanks to the introduction of 4G smartphones. 4G smartphone users gave battery life a 6.1 out of 10 on average, bringing the total average to just 6.7, down 0.2 points from the previous study. Overall though, software malfunctions had the largest impact on customer satisfaction. Those who experienced some sort of software malfunction, around 21 percent, recorded a 77 point gap in satisfaction from those who did not.
How would you rank your latest smartphone experience? Has battery life made a negative impact? Software malfunctions bringing you down? Be sure to share in the comments.
The Samsung Galaxy Nexus has been the best phone on Verizon since it launched last year, but the run could be coming to an end next month. Both HTC and Motorola have new devices coming to Verizon as soon as next month, and more details are beginning to leak out as we approach the launch dates. Read on to see if either of these phones can top the Galaxy Nexus.
Motorola Droid Fighter
First up we have the Motorola Droid Fighter, which appears to be the replacement for the RAZR MAXX. We first heard about this phone last month, but this week the Chinese blog PhoneHK posted the first picture of the device.
As you can see from the picture above, this device is almost identical to the RAZR MAXX. About the only difference that we can spot is the subtraction of the capacitive buttons below the display. PhoneHK says the device will feature a 4.6 inch HD display (vs. 4.3 inch on the RAZR), so it will feature on-screen buttons like the Galaxy Nexus. It was also mentioned that the Droid Fighter features the same 3300 mAh battery as the RAZR MAXX.
The RAZR MAXX just went on sale a couple months ago, so it’s a little weird for Verizon to replace it already. However, the RAZR MAXX was available just months after the RAZR, so who knows what their strategy is.
Hopefully the Droid Fighter will see a boost in CPU performance as well. Motorola has been sticking with Texas Instruments processors lately, so there’s a chance this could be one of the first phones with the new dual-core 1.8 GHz OMAP4470 that features the faster PowerVR SGX544 GPU.
Recent leaks suggest the Droid Fighter could debut around April 12, but we all know how Verizon likes to push back launch dates.
HTC Droid Incredible 4G
Next up we have the HTC Droid Incredible 4G. This device has been around since last year under the names HTC Fireball and Incredible 3.
Rumored specs of the Droid Incredible 4G include a 1.2 GHz processor Snapdragon S4, qHD AMOLED display, 1 GB of RAM, 8 megapixel camera with LED flash, front-facing VGA camera, 4G LTE, and Beats Audio. It will also run Android 4.0 and should feature the latest version of HTC’s Sense UI.
This week the device appeared on the benchmark site Nenamark, which confirmed the Snapdragon S4 processor with Adreno 225 GPU.
According to a leak from Droid-Life, we expect the Droid Incredible 4G to be available sometime around April 26th.
Even though details are scarce, I’m thinking the Droid Fighter could be the better of the two. I like that Motorola is sticking with the huge 3300 mAh battery, and this should be their first new device to launch with Android 4.0. If you are on Verizon and looking for a new phone, let us know which device you prefer.
The Q4 2011 results are in, and it paints a potentially bleak picture for Android. Looking in depth at the numbers provided by AT&T and Verizon, Apple sold about 3 times as many iPhones as all Android handsets combined in the quarter. This could simply be a fluke, as Apple released the iPhone 4S in the quarter, and Apple’s sales tend to spike in the few months after a device is released.
There are certainly some positive signs for Android in the Q4 data; the percentage of new smartphone buyers in the United States last quarter choosing Android over iPhone was 57% to Apple’s 34%, according to the NPD. Samsung sold over 300 million phones last year, with a good chunk of those being Android smartphones, and manufacturers such as Samsung, HTC, and Motorola are betting the farm on Google’s operating system.
Still, the potential for danger is there, and unless things take a turn in 2012 and 2013, then iOS may once again overtake Android as the leading smartphone platform.
The Paradox of Choice: Why too much of a good thing is not a great thing
Though the fluke effect certainly could play a role, there is at least one other explanation that could be driving sales away from Android; a phenomenon explained by Dr. Barry Schwartz in The Paradox of Choice. If you’ve walked into any carrier store recently, you’ve certainly experienced the abundance of choices available in choosing Android smartphones.
Handset makers and carriers have gotten a bit carried away with the sheer number of devices being released, and there are simply too many Android options for consumers to make an educated decision as to which smartphone is going to end up in their pockets.
According to Dr. Schwartz, when individuals are presented with more and more choices, the negatives associated with choosing (increased time to make a decision, increased energy expended, self-doubt, anxiety, and dread) increase the stress we experience until we become overloaded.
Though some choice is good, more choice isn’t necessarily better. As a society, our satisfaction with things decreases as the number of choices available to us increases. We’ve all felt that frustration of buying a new Android smartphone, only to feel buyer’s remorse when a newer and better model was released merely months later.
We have an abundance of choices when it comes to smartphones. To demonstrate this idea, one needn’t look further than Motorola and Verizon, arguably the worst offenders of the bunch. On Verizon’s network alone, Motorola currently offering the Droid 3, Droid X2, Droid Bionic, Droid RAZR, Droid RAZR Maxx, Droid Pro, and the Droid 4, with 6 of these 7 devices all launching over the course of a 9 month period. Adding to these offerings, Verizon sells the LG Spectrum, Samsung Galaxy Nexus, Samsung Illusion, HTC Rezound, Samsung Stratosphere, HTC Thunderbolt, LG Enlighten, LG Vortex, Pantech Breakout, Casio G’Zone Commander, HTC Rhyme, Samsung Droid Charge, Sony Xperia Play, and the HTC Droid Incredible 2.
Customers who walk into a Verizon store are presented with 21 different options for Android smartphones, and that doesn’t even count the number of customizations (16 vs 32GB options, multiple color choices, etc) offered by some of the devices. This compares to 2 models of iPhone (4 and 4s, each with a few layers of customizability), 4 different Blackberry devices, and 1 Windows Phone device.
The number of Android devices available outnumbers all other smartphone platforms by a factor of 3 to 1, though they were outsold by the iPhone by at least a few hundred thousand devices last quarter. This is despite Verizon heavily pushing their 4G LTE service, which currently only Android phones are able to take advantage of.
Adding to this problem, carrier stores are generally a big ball of disorganization, with high-end devices mixed in with entry-level phones, the iPhone generally off on its own display, and no clear signage telling people what’s what. I’ve walked into multiple carrier stores recently, and can see how easily people can get confused in these places. With confusion comes the feeling of being overwhelmed, as the choice of which smartphone to purchase is a long-term decision, with customers being locked in to that phone and cell service for multiple years.
Adding the abundance of choice problem to the disorganization in most carrier stores, one can see the potential of a problem spiraling out of control.
Who’s Buying Smartphones in the Next Few Years?
Android’s choice problem gets a bit more important when you consider the people most likely to buy a smartphone in the next several years. Though there will certainly be several folks upgrading to newer smartphones, these users are generally tied to their respective ecosystems. Several of them drop hundreds of dollars (or more) into applications that would need to be repurchased if they decided they no longer wanted an iPhone or an Android device.
The biggest potential for growth then comes from customers who still own feature phones. These laggards have largely stayed away from the smartphone market, either not wanting to complicate their lives with being connected to the internet 24/7, or they are older or technologically-averse individuals who don’t want the complications associated with learning new technology. These individuals have largely stayed away from the smartphone market, but will likely adopt the technology soon as the cost of these devices drops to the point of mass affordability. People in this category outnumber the current number of smartphone users, making this market the key to determine the market leader in smartphone OSes.
If Android doesn’t solve some of the perceived issues with the platform now, it runs the risk of losing out in this important battle for the mainstream customers.
Over the next few years, the smartphone market share battle will be waged over those customers who still own feature phones, and unless Android manufacturers change the way they do business, Google runs the risk of its Android platform on the losing end of this fight.
Solution 1: Remodel Carrier Stores to Provide Clearer Choices
One of the bigger problems is the sheer lack of organization (or, perceived lack of organization) in most carrier stores today. Sure, there’s a display for the iPad and iPhone, as well as one for other tablets, but when it comes to handsets, all bets are off. Phones are generally spread out throughout the rest of the store or, worse, lumped together so that all smartphones (and perhaps smartphones and featurephones) are placed side by side with little other than a little placard to tell them apart.
In a recent TED Talk, Dr. Sheena Iyengar highlights the choice issue further, and shows how businesses can make choices easier on customers by limiting the number of similar items they put on their store shelves. Though Dr. Iyengar mostly focused on retail and the number of brands of olive oil certain stores sell to customers, one can easily make the parallel to the cell phone market.
Carriers could even the playing field and help differentiate their products in an important way if they choose to lay out their stores differently. In a nutshell, carriers should section their store off into 5 different categories:
High-End ($200+) Smartphones
Mid-Range ($100-200) Smartphones
Budget ($0-100) Smartphones
Placing phones into these categories would allow customers who want to purchase a smartphone to isolate their choices based on how much they’re willing to spend on a product. This will also keep the number of choices a consumer must make to below or around 10, which is approximately the number of choices we can actually rationally decide from.
Verizon is making progress here, as their new store layout somewhat splits devices off into categories. 4G/LTE smartphones have their own display sections, as do tablets. Still, though, as the number of 4G LTE smartphones explodes, we’ll likely have the same problem on our hands unless action is taken.
Solution 2: Commitment from Handset Makers to Reduce the Number of Devices Being Released
Though the carriers’ getting their organizational acts in order does much to reduce the problem, they represent only one side of issue. Handset manufacturers must also commit to reducing the number of devices they churn out in a given period of time. Ideally, instead of releasing multiple devices and hoping one is able to stick and penetrate the market, handset makers should focus their efforts on releasing no more than one entry into each of the above named categories in a 6 or 12 month period, with the possibility of releasing a 4th in the alternative form factors (slide-out QWERTY, Blackberry-like device, dual-screens, etc.).
This solution would have a dual-impact; not only will there be a more reasonable set of choices for smartphone devices, the quality of the phones being released should increase as research and development teams will be able to focus the same amount of effort on fewer devices.
Some manufacturers have already indicated that they are headed in this direction; HTC has recently announced that it will focus on quality over quantity in 2012, but have not yet given details into what that declaration entails. We hope that HTC sees the writing on the wall as well, and wants their bet on Android to continue to be successful in the long-term. HTC has taken some significant steps with the One series it launched at Mobile World Congress, and we hope these devices (and a de-cluttering of HTC Sense UI) are what HTC chooses to focus on this year.
But HTC is just one of the major players out there. Motorola, Samsung, and LG all should focus on quantity over quality, and release fewer devices in 2012. This will (should) allow these companies to spend more time and energy on UI development, and less thinking about bigger and better devices to release 3 months after their last great device (looking at you, Moto).
2012 has started off on the right track. Verizon and T-Mobile are rolling out new stores that they hope will better enhance the customer experience. We obviously hope that they take some of our suggestions and section off their stores so that they are better organized, allowing their customers to better make their phone purchasing decisions.
While HTC is leading the way in reducing the sheer number of devices available to customers, Mobile World Congress brought news of multiple new devices from the likes of LG and Huawei, and about 15 tablets from Samsung (okay, a slight exaggeration). Instead of releasing three 10″ tablets, we hope that Samsung puts all of their favorite features into one flavor of 10″ tablet and support the heck out of it. Similar too with cell phones.
Sure, choice is a good thing, and helps Android stand out from the few devices competitors offer, but when it comes to the significant (and sometimes stressful) choice about which device ends up in our pockets for too years, too much of a good thing does not amount to a great thing.
It appears Apple is having a bit of a change of heart when it comes to the excessive amounts of litigation they’ve been unloading against Android handset makers lately.
According to a report in The Dow Jones, Apple has offered both Motorola Mobility and Samsung Electronics Co. a licensing deal ranging from $5 to $15 per device sold as a means of settling pending patent litigation with these companies around the world. The royalty fees represent 1 – 2.5% of device sales, and are on par with the fees Motorola is seeking to charge Apple (2.5%) for Apple’s violation of certain Motorola patents.
The licensing deal talks come in the midst of court victories on both sides, with Apple winning an injunction against HTC per an ITC ruling, as well as a victory against Motorola for devices that infringed upon one of Apple’s Slide to Unlock patent. Motorola has secured a victory or two against Apple as well, most recently against Apple’s iCloud and MobileMe push email for iOS devices, forcing Apple to shut down these services in Germany.
While we hope that Apple, Samsung, and Motorola can figure out some way to play nice and let the patent madness stop, we have a hard time believing we’ll see that vision become a reality. All parties involved seem to be bolstering their patent portfolios, and we’ll likely see Google venture into the lawsuit foray once they’ve secured Motorola’s patents in their acquisition of Motorola Mobility.
We’ll bring you all the patent news that’s fit to print as more information comes out. In the meantime, let’s get a discussion going in the comments. How crazy do you think all this patent litigation is? Will we ever see a revamped patent system in the U.S.?
Mobile World Congress is chock full of device announcements and product details, but as with any trade show, the most interesting news always comes from the CEOs and Vice President-types behind the biggest names in the industry. Google’s Andy Rubin sat down with reporters at MWC this year, the topic of the day being Google’s acquisition of Motorola. Rubin wasn’t shy when it came to sharing his feelings on the acquisition, leaving the press with a handful of quotes on how Google will manage their newly acquired company.
Andy Rubin was, and still is, a supporter of Google’s acquisition of Motorola. But now that the deal is nearing completion, he doesn’t want anything to do with the big M. Speaking with reporters at Mobile World Congress yesterday, Rubin said he “sponsored” the deal in its earlier stages, but has completely backed away at this point. In turn, Google will essentially take the same route.
With long time Googler Dennis Woodside taking control of the reigns over at Motorola, Rubin said he was “painfully aware” of doubts that Google and Motorola will still operate as two separate entities, but that Google has “literally built a firewall” between the companies. Rubin continued on to say that he has absolutely no idea what Motorola is doing hardware or software wise, saying “I don’t even know anything about their products… They’re separate from me, and I’m going to continue to do my thing.”
Of course, Google’s decision to operate the two companies apart from each other has a lot to do with fostering a competitive environment with other Android manufacturers. Fierce competition is what’s led Android to where it is now and what’s put Motorola into the position it’s in today. Rubin wrapped up his time with reporters by saying that, “Even if I was completely insane, it wouldn’t make any sense for me to think that we could get Motorola to be 90-plus percent marketshare. It just isn’t gonna happen.” Well said, Andy. Well said.
There has been a lot of discussion on our site about Siri, Iris and even Google’s upcoming Majel, but how does Android’s current version of voice recognition software stack up against the competition? Motorola seems to think that Google Voice Actions is already better than Apple’s Siri and has a few videos to prove it.
The video below goes through a series of voice commends with an iPhone 4S and the Motorola Electrify. Even though Siri might have a bit of an advantage in recognizing conversational language, Google Voice Actions comes out on top when asked to send text messages, find driving directions and load a web page.
We’re sure the folks over at Apple are not going to be impressed with Motorola’s videos, but the reality is that Google Voice Actions works really well and is available on all Android phones running Android 2.1 or higher. The only real issue with the service is that most Android users are not aware that it even exists. It’s a little ironic that Google (an advertising company) has such a hard time telling its consumers about Android features which are hidden in plain sight.
Google Voice Actions may be fast at sending out a text message or getting you from point A to point B, but we do enjoy the ’human’ or ‘natural’ input that Siri provides. Would you use Voice Actions more if it was more conversational or was able to answer random questions like Siri does?
Sounds like our man Sanjay Jha is out. Bloomberg News is reporting that Google will announce Dennis Woodside as the new CEO of Motorola Mobility. Three people familiar with the matter confirmed the news with Bloomberg.
Previous rumors had suggested that Google would appoint Nikesh Arora to run Motorola after their acquisition deal closed. In that scenario Woodside would have taken Arora’s job, but it appears that he somehow leapfrogged him.
We are learning that Woodside is a longtime employee of Google, having joined the company in 2003. He has held the roles Director of Business Operations, Managing Director of Emerging Markets, Managing Director and VP of Google UK, President of Google Americas, and Senior Vice President of Google.
Most recently, Woodside oversaw the merger and reported directly to CEO Larry Page.
Omid Kordestani, SVP, Global Sales & Business Development, described Woodside by saying, “Ever since I met Dennis in 2003, I have been impressed by his combination of entrepreneurialism and operational excellence. He’s never afraid to try new things and always ready to roll up his sleeves and pitch in.”
The United States Department of Justice and Europan Commission recently granted approval for Google’s acquisition of Motorola, but at last count China, Israel, and Taiwan were left to weigh in on the deal. This recent news that Google will replace the CEO of Motorola Mobility could signal that the merger is virtually complete.
In a recent interview with The Verge, former Motorola Vice President Marty Cooper had suggested that Google should leave Motorola alone after the deal closed. Marty warned, “As soon as Google starts treating them like their child and puts constraints on them, they’re going to have trouble competing.”
It remains unclear what role Sanjay Jha will take, but a report from The Times of India says that he will be working with Woodside. Previous reports said that Jha would receive a $66 million golden parachute as part of the acquisition, so maybe he won’t miss his role as CEO.
Are you jealous of the Verizon employees who were offered a limited edition of the Droid RAZR? Starting tomorrow, Motorola will be giving away a special edition “Red Carpet” Droid RAZR MAXX to five lucky people who retweet the hashtag #RedCarpetRAZR.
As you might have guessed, this giveaway is to promote the 84th Annual Academy Awards. Motorola says that nominees for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress will receive the phone within a gold sequined pouch and nominees for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor will get the device with a high-end shaving kit.
For more info on the Droid RAZR MAXX, but sure to check out our full review.