Rumor Mill Churns Again

Here’s one for you to chew on this weekend. Dialphone has some mock-up pictures of an alleged Alienware handset due out this year which will be running Android. No, seriously. That’s what it looks like.

For those of you calling hoax on this, might I remind you of something? Alienware was acquired by a little computer company named Dell. If that name rings a bell, you might also remember some rumors flying around just before the Mobile World Congress. Something to the effect of “Dell to create gPhones.”

This has to be the most unique looking phone we’ve seen in a while. Would you carry one of these around?

This Week in Open Handset Alliance News (February 15th Edition)

We changed the title of our Friday round-up article but not by much. Formerly “OHA News”, all we really did was add a few words to the beginning so prospective readers get a better idea as to what’s in store when they open the article up. So how about that MWC/3GSM show, huh? All kinds of goodness came out of it. There was plenty to report on in or out of Barcelona. Without further ado, here’s a handful of things that went down this week for the members of the Open Handset Alliance

Motorola and Nortel have been making eyes at each other (Wireless Week)
Nokia likes Google a whole bunch (Uber Phones)
Piracy suit names eBay in case (TopTechNews)
nVidia potential buyer for AMD? (Engadget)
Intel offices raided by EU (Pocket Lint)
Network interoperability from Sprint (PhoneScoop)
LG reading minds with new phone (Just Another Mobile Phone Blog)
Review of HTC Touch Cruise (GSM Arena)
T-Mobile waiving activation fees through the 18th (T-Mobile)
Starbucks will let you keep using your T-Mobile HotSpot account for 5 years (Information Week)

Judging a Book…

Now that two completely different versions of the software developer’s kit (SDK) have been released, it’s time to assess what’s being said about Google’s foray in the mobile arena. Did it improve on the initial offering? What changes were made? Does Android look like it’s going to live up to its hype?

Around 4-6 weeks ago, there was a lot of backlash surrounding the SDK and how it was buggy, missing vital information, and not quite what was expected. Google’s name was being tarnished by bloggers and tech sites as word quickly spread that they were “being unresponsive to the developers” working on Android. After a week or so of hype, the consensus among bloggers and fanboys was that people were just expecting way too much out of a pre-release SDK.

Fast forward to Mobile World Congress (MWC) and the public unveiling. The first few days of MWC had almost all interested parties singing Android’s praises as they found it to be considerably fast and intuitive, even on phone technology that was two generations old. “Imagine how fast it will be on new hardware!” A couple days later, Google drops the new SDK on the masses and all of a sudden, everyone divided themselves like some kind of Lord of the Flies tribes. Those who love it and see the future capabilities and those who loathe it and feel like it will end up being an also-ran in the cell phone market.

Did people really like the initial version that much? Why don’t they like the new version? I have my reasons and I’d like to share them with you. No matter how hard people try not to, they are going to subconsciously compare every other operating system to Apple’s iPhone. For this specific reason, they will be wrong in their assessment of Android.

See, the iPhone is not so much about what you can do with a mobile device. Rather, it’s about how it looks doing it. For those who understand and see the potential, Android is a completely different animal that, in concept, offers more. Android is about what mobile devices and phones will be capable of first. How it looks will be secondary. Having an open source OS, you’ll see skins and graphical user interfaces all the live long day. Like snowflakes, no two Android phones will look the same.

One must remember that an SDK is only the backbone for how things will operate. A good comparison would be to picture Windows on your desktop without any customization or programs installed. It’s up to you to make it run the way you want and look the way you like. And for those talking about all of the security concerns, stop worrying. Linux has proven to be a lighter, more secure operating system than Windows.

Potential for 2D Barcodes is Limitless

As individuals and teams are busy plugging away with their current Android projects, I’d like to appeal to them. In fact, it doesn’t matter what platform you are writing for. Symbian, Apple, RIM, Windows Mobile, or Linux. All can take advantage of this. The technology behind the 2D barcodes has been largely ignored in the United States.

2D, or Quick Response (QR) barcodes have been around for over 13 years yet essentially nobody can tell you how they work. Most people haven’t seen them before and the few that have will most likely just say “Oh yeah, I’ve seen them before. What do they do again?”

Here’s a quick primer: They were initially designed for tracking parts in auto manufacturing, but they’re now used in a much broader commercial context. Aimed at mobile phone users, the codes often store text and links to URL’s. You’ll find them in magazines, on signs, business cards or pretty much anywhere you can put a sticker. A user with a camera phone equipped with the right software can scan the image of the QR Code and their phone will respond accordingly, often taking the user to a website.

So where in your daily life could you find it beneficial to use this stuff? Here are a couple of examples that could really benefit from this technology. Real estate agents could put barcodes on their fliers and sheets with houses listed. Rather than just seeing one picture with a price, imagine being directed to a site that has an entire gallery, video walk-through, and FAQ’s.

If you’ve ever stopped at a car lot late at night only to find a sheet of paper stuck to the window of a locked car, you’ll see where I am going with this. Mileage, available features, and warranty information might be provided to you simply by scanning the sticker on the windshield. And you don’t have to stand there and talk to high pressure salesmen!

Perhaps you’re at an amusement park and you need pointed to the nearest restroom. Click the sticker on your map and get turn by turn directions. Looking for your doctor at the new facility and aren’t quite sure where to go? You can see what I’m getting at.

Getting back to those who are developing for Android I’d like to say this. Your entry into the Android Developers Challenge is sitting right here in front of you. If I knew how to write a program, here’s what I would do: Write an application where a user can scan the front of their ATM card and be directed to the nearest ATM location, taking advantage of the GPS or tower-based location features.

Unfortunately I’m only a blogger.

Mixed Reactions for New Android User Interface

We were looking at an article on Gizmodo this morning that has a short video showing how the new SDK looks running basic functions like making a call. After watching the video, we glanced through some of the comments from readers as they reacted to how it looks. It seems like this UI is polarizing people. Either it’s loved, or hated. We’d like to point out one thing. This is a bare bones developers kit, designed for people to ‘sex up’ however they see fit. It can be equated this way. CSS and HTML are the backbone for most websites today. It can be very basic when left alone, or it can be some of the most practical and beautiful stuff you’ll encounter. It’s up to the person using the basic rules and code.

If you were here last week and saw the article on The Astonishing Tribe, you saw one of the companies involved in the Open Handset Alliance. TAT specifically designs user interfaces (UI) for mobile devices and their work is among the best in the world. We know we sound like unapologetic Android enthusiasts at times, but we sincerely think a lot of these detractors will be eating their words within the year.

What do you think of the video and Android’s basic design so far? Leave a comment below.

TI Closer to Releasing Android Device

Take a look at that picture right there. See that? It’s the closest thing to an actual device running Android yet. That is, aside from the prototypes we’ve been seeing all along. Incredibly bulky and completely un-sexy, we’d still rock the crap out of it. Why? Because nobody else has one yet. Imagine the looks on faces when you break that bad boy out. “Oh this? Well, it’s the future my good man.

For a more complete gallery of the device, head over to Engadget Mobile. Apparently, Texas Instruments is slated to start shipping this thing to developers within the next two months. Specs include their OMAP 3430 CPU running at 600 Mhz and video output at 720p.

Android Goodies

While stumbling around the Google Android code page, I noticed a link not yet mentioned anywhere else. It seems our good friends at Google have put together 6 wallpapers based around Android. We’re definitely gonna keep our eye on this page as we’re curious what other ‘goodies‘ will pop up.

Go download a new wallpaper for your (soon to be) favorite mobile platform!