Tag Archive | "mobile internet"

10 Mobile Computing Reports

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I’ve written  lot of reports about ultra mobile computing, netbooks, segmentation, X86 vs ARM and other mobile computing topics over the 4 -year life of Carrypad/UMPCPortal and after doing some categorization and tagging today I thought I’d take the chance to highlight 10 reports that I recommend reading and, even better, commenting on.

First there’s the buyers guide. The most recent full buyers guide is from late 2008 (I’m working on a big 2010 update) and it’s the biggest report I’ve published. 28 pages of mobile computing information and tips.

After you’ve digested that, here are a bunch of other interesting reports. All free and open for comments. All produced in the last 12 months.

And finally, one that I published over at Carrypad which is relevant if you’re thinking about ordering the iPad this week.

All the UMPCPortal reports are here (and you can track future reports via RSS) If you have any suggestions for future reports, please let me know and I’ll consider your requests. Bear in mind that I’m still working on the 2010 Mobile Computing Guide and I want to get that finished before I take on any more projects.

Next-Gen Mifi Firmware Includes GPS and Apps. Demo Video.

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As promised at CES, Novatel are moving forward with their plans for the Mifi 3G personal mobile internet hotspot (that has been a life-saver for me at MWC) to include applications and software features. We spoke to the team at the Mifi booth at MWC a few days ago and got a nice demo of a GPS-enabled application. GPS is enabled in the next firmware but I’m getting the impression that it’s going to be a new model of the Mifi with slightly newer features which ‘might’ include, USB charging without becoming a device, better battery life and of course, the GPS. I’m hoping that the firmware comes to existing Mifi’s (or at least the ones with the application processor in them) to enable the GPS that’s already included in the unit.

In the video below, Gareth Davis talks about some of the things possible and demonstrates a nice GPS-enabled application served through the Mifi webserver itself.

We have also heard that the EyeFi (Wifi-enabled SD card) application is progressing and we’ll be sure to keep a close eye on it.  Clearly a web-based navigation service would be possible and there’s a ton of things that can be done with social networking. Can anyone think of other interesting apps that could be created on this platform?(Apart from the obvious ‘free wifi’ password-inspection app that would be sure to pick up some interesting information if you left it for a few hours in a press conference!)

What Devices do the TravelBlogCamp Bloggers Use?

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I wish I had heard about this event before today because I would have made an effort to get over to London for a chat and a few beers. I’m sure we could have a great conversation around the mobile computing devices and that I could learn a lot from the bloggers that are attending.

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If you’re attending TravelBlogCamp and want to share your mobile computing hardware experience, please please please drop us a line and let us know what device you use, the problems you’ve had and how you’d like to improve your mobile blogging setup.

Do you have enough battery life? Is the keyboard big enough? Have you ever had equipment failure? How much of an issue is cost? Theft? Customs? Have you ever used a solar charging solution?

We’ll gather any feedback together into an article.

In the meantime what would be your suggestion for the perfect travel blogging device? The keyboard requirement pushes us up to 10” screens unless you go with a modular, tablet-based setup. The weight needs to be kept low though. Battery life needs to be at least 4hrs and you need to be ale to buy a cheap spare battery. SSD would be ideal but there aren’t many devices out there with just SSD now. I would be taking a close look for offers on the ASUS S101. With SSD, draft-N support, good battery life, matt screen and 1.1kg weight it has a good set of specifications. Price is a little on the high side though. How about the MSI U115? It’s also light, has the OS on an SSD, a matt screen and has amazing battery life. Again, quite expensive though.

What good is a smartphone without cellular data?

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I fly to San Fransisco for IDF in about 24 hrs and I’ve been trying to work out what computing devices to take. Netbook, check! UMPC, check! Smartphone…not so sure.

I have two problems that mean my new and expensive smartphone will stay at home during my trip.

1) The touchscreen and camera will get scratched if I put it in my pocket. I’ve already got a horrendous scratch on it from finger-scrolling. The chances are that if I keep it in my pocket next week it will get trashed. At the very least the camera lens will be covered in dust just as I go to take an important picture.

2) Roaming data costs mean I will have no mobile internet connection.

Twitter, web browser, active sync, email, RSS and podcast downloads will all stop working leaving me with a voice-enabled PIM and MP3 player. Quite frankly, I don’t need to be carrying over 400 Euro of large smartphone just for that. No, I’m afraid it’s time to choose the right man for the job. The Nokia N82 has no hinge, no touchscreen, a better camera (with real flash and lens cover) and smaller size will be a better choice. My UMPC will be with me all day so if I want to Web-it-up in a Wifi area, I’ll do it with that. Horses for courses as they say.

Kitlist for IDF:

  • Gigabyte Touchnote T1028M with 3G and Runcore SSD, extended battery.
  • Fujitsu Loox U/B50N with Runcore SSD, extended battery, docking station, VGA cable.
  • Nokia N82
  • Mifi (in case there’s a chance to get an AT&T 3G card)
  • Canon S2IS for photos and video. (This baby needs an upgrade very soon)

Opera Next. The next generation of mobile browsing?

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Update 18.: It’s Opera Mobile 5 Beta. I’m testing on an Omnia Pro right now. Fast, good features. No complaints yet! Have you tested it?

It’s a question that Opera is going to answer very soon. The next generation in mobile browsing. There are few clues from Opera as to what it could be but Will Park of Into Mobile has had a preview and he says that the headline will soon make sense. The puzzle is gradually being completed (the image is being completed) as time goes on at the Opera teaser site. Right now you can see the right-edge of a device being held in two hands. The ‘alt’ text for the image is ‘Opera Next.’

operanextgen

Is it going to be a new Opera Mini or Mobile product and what features would take it to the next level? Opera has already pushed the boundaries with their proxy, widget and sync features so what could be next? Touch friendly UI? Flash 9.5?

Support for more operating systems (Android has been promised) would be good but that’s hardly groundbreaking. How about location-enabled browsing? will the next Opera Mobile or Opera Mini app include the Geo API? Will Park says that there are clues in the teaser page and references ‘source code.’

Personally I think we’re looking at Opera Unite for Mobile based on what I read at GigaOM last week.

If Opera reveal one piece of the puzzle per day, we’re looking at a completed picture on Monday 28th September.

MiFi 2352 (European) Round-up Review

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mifi1 I could easily round-up the coverage of the European-focused MiFi 2352 by saying ‘buy one’ but that would be too easy. There ARE some things you need to think about before you take the plunge and buy one so here’s my final tests and thoughts on the MiFi 2352 personal 3G hotspot for European GSM and UMTS networks.

Announcement: JKKMobile and UMPCPortal will be available on the live page tomorrow (Wednesday 24th June) at 2100 CEST (Berlin) demonstrating the Mifi 2352 and answering questions.

Update: Live session videos are available now.

Also read:

Size

The device is easily pocketable, bag-able and even window-shelf-able. The Wifi range lets you put the device wherever it’s needed for the best 3G reception. Size-wise, you need not give it a second thought. Build quality is good although you might want to keep it in a little bag to avoid the ports getting dirty.

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More images in the Mifi Gallery.

Software

The software comes in three parts. The 3G software, the router and the web server. Each has it’s own little software stack and everything appears to work very smoothly together. Starting the device up is simple. Configuring the device is simple. Using it with multiple SIM cards is simple and sharing files from an SD card is simple. The file sharing function is limited to simple web-based downloads and uploads but we get the feeling that 3rd-party software, hacks or even official firmware upgrades could enhance this. At this point I’d like to point you to Slashgear who have also tested the Mifi 2352 and have a good set of images of the user interface.

Wifi sharing without 3G

This is the easiest way I’ve found yet to enable keyboard sharing between multiple devices. Of course, one of the devices needs to have an internet connection (or use the 3G on the MiFi) if you need internet access but it’s a great way to set up a mini network in the home, car or while on holiday.

Battery life

I hooked up my desktop, a UMPC, a netbook and my N82 mobile phone to the MiFi and hit it hard with continuous music streaming, two IM clients and my normal web-based working process which included browsing and a big set of image uploads. The result, a warm MiFi that lasted 3.5 hours. I’m quite impressed. In normal use I would expect 4hrs out of the device and as there’s a few easy ways to recharge the device (and the possibility of cheap spare batteries – I feel sure that Novatel are using a pattern battery that you’ll find in another device) I have no problem with the battery life. And another thing, I barely noticed any difference on my desktop. At HSPA speeds and with normal activities, the Mifi is as good as a cable internet connection.

Heat

As mentioned, the device gets warm but nothing you need to worry about. The Wifi has a good range (one concrete wall or about 20-30m in the open) which means you don’t need the device too close to the clients.

Speedtests

See my previous post. I don’t see the Mifi being the fastest but it’s stable and has excellent reception. A stable, lower speed connection is often far more useful than a spotty high-speed one. HSPA is supported and we’ve seen 2.1mbps download and 1.2mbps uploads.

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Price

If you’ve got a USB 3G stick and one computing device, you’ve got a tough choice today. 220 Euros is the same cost as an iPod Touch and you won’t be increasing your mobile internet capability by much at all. It certainly doesnt take much effort to plug a 3G USB modem in! If you’ve got multiple Wifi devices though, the MiFi starts to get interesting. You will be able to enable your own personal wifi hotspot and thus mobilise your wifi devices. The Mifi will save battery life (close-range wifi is often more efficient than a USB modem), and increase your security by giving you a private channel to the internet. If you’ve already got 3G devices, the MiFi can save you money and give you flexibility. In Germany and many other European countries, pay-as-you-go flat rate daily or monthly tariffs are common and by choosing one and sharing it between your devices, you can control your costs.

Issues

  • I would have liked to have seen the possibility to attach an external antenna to the MiFi for edge-of-cell use or even a permanent installation as a broadband modem.
  • Charging in use. By connecting the USB cable to a PC, you initiate the USB modem mode of the Wifi. To charge the MiFi while in mobile hotspot mode you need to either plug the device into mains via the supplied adaptor, use a power-bank with a USB output or make a cable modification. It would be nice to be able to disable the USB modem mode through software.
  • There is a surprising amount of heat generated considering the device is only using 1.5w of power under maximum load. This may be a consideration if you want to keep this in a pocket.
  • Indicators. I find the indicators confusing. There are no fewer than 14 combinations of colours and steady/flashing status indicators. It’s worth learning the combinations but it shouldn’t be this hard cnsidering the space available on the device.
  • Popularity is going to become an issue. Sharing a single connection with multiple devices means more devices per cell which effectively means more data on the same number of connections. Backhaul bandwidth (from the cell tower to the data center) is already an issue and major bottleneck. If the Mifi becomes popular for Wifi device owners (iPods, PMPs etc) then expect more congestion. This is another reason to be using pay-as-you-go services so that you can hop onto the best service providers network at very little cost.

Future products

Expect Huawei to come out with a competing device soon and expect to see these devices popping up all over the place on the city high-street. Also expect carriers to be offering the devices for free with contract lock-ins or even to enable ring-fenced TV or music services so yes, if you wait, you might find a good deal with your favorite provider but 24 months is a long time in mobile internet. 24 months ago, the prices were double and the bandwidths half of what they are today. In my opinion it’s better to buy a MiFi without commitment now and start enjoying the benefit.

Summary.

The Mifi is a groundbreaking product for anyone interested in mobile internet and there are very few issues to consider. It has the potential to save you money, increase your security and turn hotspot-bound device into mobile ones. It’s a shame that the battery life doesn’t last a full days activities but this is about as good as it gets from today’s technology. If you’ haven’t just bought a 3G USB stick, take a close look at the MiFi, the extra cost might save you money in the long run and simplify your mobile internet life.

We bought the Mifi from Mobilx.EU in Hungary who are an affiliate of ours and also pay for advertising on UMPCPortal. There are no affiliate links in this article and the article has been written without any external review or influence. We encourage you to visit the links shown at the top of this article for reviews and information from other websites and to view the live, recorded review and Q&A session. [Details here after 24th June]

Intel and Nokia Announce a Long Term Strategic Partnership.

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Don’t get too excited at this stage. No products. No software. But at UMPCPortal we’re excited to see these two huge mobile computing and communication companies work together on a mobile computing project that will create the next generation of mobile computing products.

Key elements of this ‘technology’ announcement:

  • Nokia and Intel want to co-develop a new class of Intel Architecture based mobile computing devices.
  • Collaboration in Open Source projects. (Maemo and Moblin)
  • Intel acquire Nokia HSPA device license.
  • “Leader in computing. Leader in mobile communications” coming together.

Note that this announcement has nothing to do with WiMax or Symbian or any part of the existing ARM relationships.

From the Press Release…

SANTA CLARA, CALIF., and ESPOO, FINLAND, June 23, 2009 –

Further uniting the Internet with mobile phones and computers, Intel Corporation and Nokia today announced a long-term relationship to develop a new class of Intel® Architecture-based mobile computing device and chipset architectures which will combine the performance of powerful computers with high-bandwidth mobile broadband communications and ubiquitous Internet connectivity.

Full press release is here.

‘No comments’ on specific products or timings.

For the end-customer, somewhat boring but clearly a significant boost to Intel’s Ultra Mobile ecosystem and something that will have significant impact on devices in 2010, 2011 and beyond. In terms of software, if Nokia move to Intel architecture then they will have to shift Maemo over to a Moblin core. Expect Maemo to branch into two within the next few years. This is all about high-end smartphones, social networking, video and back-end systems.

MiFi 2352 Personal 3G / Wifi Hotspot Video Demo.

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As always, respect to Mobilx for shipping the retail Mifi 2352 over in super-quick time. Their stock came in yesterday and I’m sitting here, 24 hours later, with one in my hand/pocket/rucksack.

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More images in the gallery here.

I’ll be heading out for a camping weekend in Holland in a few hours (yes, the Mifi is coming too) so I don’t have time to write too much at this stage but yes, it’s working as expected and I still think it’s the mobile computing  device of the year. I need to do some testing on battery life and reception quality and that will come next week. In the meantime, enjoy this overview unboxing and demo video. You’ll also see the built-in Micro-SD card slot in use.

Affiliate advertising. Click for info.

If the ‘HQ’ button is available on the player above I recommend clicking it for higher quality playback.

The unlocked Mifi 2352 is now available for 220 Euro (inclusive EU taxes) from Mobilx.eu. (Direct link) I’m not aware of any other resellers that have it yet but if you know of someone else selling it, let us know and we’ll happily add the details here.

Update: Expansys are listing it.

We’re happy to say that Mobilx is a long-term and trusted affiliate of ours. You can support UMPCPortal by buying your MiFi through the affiliate advertising.

Putting pressure on in the U.S. – Virgin Mobile USA Broadband2GO

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Lord knows the US data market needs a whack over the head and an injection of new ideas. WiMax is one pincer. Virgin Mobile could be the other.
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Virgin Mobile Broadband2GO is a pay-as-you-go broadband service on the Sprint EVDO Rev A network available in 10-day or 30-day long packages. Overall the cost per MB is probably higher than other services and certainly higher than in Europe but this is just the start of it. Giving flexibility to test out mobile internet or to use it when away for business trips and pressuring the big carriers to re-think their stupid $60 / 24-month contracts. It’s great news.

I hope it’s possible to buy a SIM without having to buy the dongle. A MiFi option might be interesting too. I’m over in the U.S. in Sept so I’ll probably be needing this.

From Mobile Crunch:

When the service goes live later this month you’ll be able to purchase a Novatel Ovation MC760 USB dongle for $150 sans contract. Pay-as-you-go VM Top-Up cards can be purchased in the following increments: 100MB, 250MB, 500MB and 1GB. Here’s where it gets a little confusing; 100MB will cost you $10, but you have to use that within 10 days. For $20 you get 250MB, 500MB for $40 and 1GB for $60, which have to be used within 30 days.

Maybe AT&T will reconsider a more flexible GoPhone option now.

Virgin Mobile USA offers Broadband2Go service with no contract.

Moorestown based Inventec MID looks solid [video]

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inventec_mid Jkk seems to be getting his hands on all of the cool stuff at Computex. Another short video showing a very solid looking Moorestown based MID. It seems to have a very sizable screen which covers much of the real estate on the front of the unit. It looks thin and well designed. Though the unit that jkk got to check out was just a prototype, I have to say that it is looking quite nice. I can’t wait for Moorestown devices to hit the market; we’ll be seeing great devices like this providing a wonderful FIE to users… as long as they nail the software, and I’m hoping that screen is capacitive!

Sprint Will Also Offer MiFi. HSDPA Version With Telefonica.

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mifi_full Following the much-blogged, much twittered news of Verizon launching their MiFi product last week, it’s now Sprint’s turn. There doesn’t seem to be a day plan, only a $60 5GB plan and a bundle which includes a phone. Availability is ‘June’. More details here.

It’s no secret that Telefonica have already announced the Mifi 2352 HSPA version in Spain (under the Movistar brand) and I’m hearing ‘days’ rather than ‘weeks’ for availability which means I’ll probably be able to get hold of an unlocked version for testing. Can’t wait!

movistar_es_novatel_mifi_2352“Among the key attributes of MiFi 2352 is an on-board Linux based operating system capable of delivering mobile software applications and media. These advanced capabilities add to the intelligence of MiFi and will enable future support for applications such as automatic VPN connectivity and automatic email synch. The combination of internal (ROM) storage, up to 16 GB of expandable memory via MicroSD and on-board GPS capabilities make MiFi 2352 a flexible and robust platform capable of supporting a variety of location-based applications and enabling the storage of personal content such as music, video and pictures.” [Source]

The MiFi is clearly going to be a very popular product this year so excuse me if I don’t report on every carrier deal across the world!

Mobile Dev Camp: What drives a Developer and how does it affect MIDs

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segmentation The iPhone and Android devices were the obvious leaders at the well-organised and very informative Mobile Dev Camp in Amsterdam this week but it was very interesting to throw the MIDs and UMPCs in to get feedback from ‘mobile’ software developers. When developers talk ‘mobile’ they are invariably talking about mobile phones but when I put the 4-segment diagram up on the board (right), there were a lot of questions and lot of interaction.  For most, it brought home the fact that ‘mobile’ goes way beyond the phone.

I also presented the MIDs and UMPCs for them to get some hands on and to explain the major differences and it was interesting to see which devices people were interested in. At the end of the day, as with the demo work I did with MIDMoves in SXSW, the UMID MBook won the most praise. As people gravitated towards it, I asked ‘Why.’

The two most important elements of the hardware that made it a winner amongst the UMPCs and MID devices, based on the feedback and questions I got were:

  • Keyboard
  • Pocket-size

Battery life was a secondary question, as was price. People assumed it had Wifi and BT of course but were more interested when I talked about 3G. Its interesting to note that the keyboard piqued so much interest touch at a time when on-screen keyboards are considered acceptable by many.

So if that’s a hardware template that interests mobile software developers, what operating systems and APIs interest them? Clearly, Windows XP is not in the top 5 of mobile device operating systems (sidenote, it seems that most mobile software developers don’t really consider anything outside their own ‘top three’) so I asked developers what the most important elements of software are.

  • Developers want a platform (or are stimulated by a platform) that allows them to utilise existing or easily-available skillsets – Java for Android, Objective C for iPhone for example.
  • Developers will balance the cost of development (ease of API, cost of developers, stability of poatform) with perceived customer base / earning potential.
  • Developers are creative people that don’t enjoy being bound by rules so an API that allows or even stimulates creativeness by exposing hardware and features is a big advantage. New hardware with new or advanced features, stimulates developers.

Clearly it’s not only developers that make the decision as the process of creating and selling software needs to be a controlled business process but it does appear to me that in the mobile world where a team of two can create a compelling app or service in a very short time, the developer has a big say in what platform(s) is used.

A healthy development community is critical to any platform and as the rules of mobile software development change, as time-to-market and cost-to-market reduce, there’s one thing that’s clearer to me than it ever was. A desktop operating system may allow one to use a device without any restrictions on software but the NEW mobile-focused software, the social networking and location-based services, the easy-to-use photo publishing services, the mobile gaming software, the internet-connected personal information management software, the live video and image publishing services and whatever comes next in the mobile world, will appear on these developer-friendly platforms first. That’s where the buzz is and so if MID manufacturers want to seed their new devices in the new world of mobile apps, they will need to be using a mobile and dev-friendly operating system.

My research into the world of mobile software development and mobile operating systems is teaching me a lot about different ways MIDs could position themselves but there’s a lot more to learn. Feedback from you mobile devs out there is more than welcome.



Top 10 Ultra Mobile PCs