Last week, it came out that China Mobile and Apple had finally penned a deal to bring the iPhone to China’s largest mobile network, and now the Wall Street Journal reports that iPhone 5s pre-order sales begin this Thursday, with China Mobile’s new 4G services going live on Dec. 18.
The pre-order listing and advertisement for 4G and the iPhone 5s is already live on China Mobile’s official website, and China Mobile confirmed to the WSJ that it will indeed kick off pre-order sales officially starting this Thursday. There will also be an event on Dec. 18 at which the carrier intends to reveal its 4G network to global partners in Guangzhou, which should cover Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Tianjian, Shenzen and Nanjing before 2013 is out, with plans to expand coverage further in the new year. This would be the official launch building off of its existing 4G trial distribution.
China Mobile represents a massive potential new customer base for Apple, as it has a ridiculous 759.3 million users on its network. Only 23 percent of those are on 3G, however, according to Forbes, and a smaller percentage will be eager to upgrade to 4G and invest in an iPhone. Still, analyst predictions for how many additional iPhones Apple could sell in 2014 with China Mobile on board seem to begin at 10 million, and extend up to nearly 40 million. Either way, it’s nothing but upside growth for Cupertino, from a client pool that’s increasingly important to its bottom line.
China Mobile has been losing subscribers to its rivals China Unicom and China Telecom since they both offer the iPhone, and have for years, in a scenario that’s similar to what happened in the U.S. when AT&T had iPhone exclusivity for multiple years before it came to other U.S. carriers. Both it and Apple should benefit considerably from this new partnership, and for Apple in particular, this should help stave off critics who say it’s running out of market in general.
You’d better put that coffee down before you exhale it through your nose. Why? Because thanks to the very kind folk at Cartridge Discount, you could win a 3D printer. A second generation Cube by 3D Systems, to be precise. Not only would this make any …
Engadget RSS Feed
Happy Thanksgiving, dear readers. What are you thankful for?
My list is short, but sweet: I’m thankful for you guys, gaming consoles, and 3d scanners.
This week, on a very grateful episode of the TechCrunch Gadgets podcast, we look into the differences between the PS4 and the Xbox One, the latest generations of console gaming. Meanwhile, John’s excited about the new Sense scanner from 3D Systems, even though he can’t stop calling it “Scene”.
For our phone fans out there, we’re also chatting about the Moto G smartphone.
Intro Music by Rick Barr.
Motorola has done its best to deliver a premium experience with an affordable price tag with the Moto G, the little sibling to the higher priced Moto X. Both phones have Google’s stamp all over them, and share a surprising amount in common besides that, too. Best of all, the Moto G is a phone that mostly delivers on its marketing premise, offering an experience that’ll have many doing a double take at that price tag.
- 4.5-inch, 1280×720, 326ppi display
- 8 or 16GB storage
- 5MP rear camera, 1.3MP front-facing
- 802.11n Wi-Fi
- Pentaband HSDPA support
- Bluetooth 4.0
- MSRP: $ 179/$ 199 unlocked, off-contract
- Product info page
- Amazing price
- You cannot buy a better phone at this price
- Max value, but still cuts some corners
Motorola’s Moto G is a little on the pudgy side, but it feels at once comfortable and familiar. The matte finish back cases are great for grip, (though terrible for showing wear, as you can see from the photos), and it almost reminds me of the design of the iPhone 3G and 3GS. It also feels heavier than most modern superphones, but only just, and the weight isn’t necessarily a problem, as it adds a feeling of resilience to the Moto G. In many ways, the Moto G’s design harkens back to an era where phones were phones and meant business, and I found myself enjoying that impression.
The one big problem with the design is the mechanism for removing the “removable” back case. You essentially dig in at the spot where the case breaks for the micro USB port, and then pull. Hard. Too hard. My fingers are tender from switching the device between case types, and I really felt I had to go beyond the point of what you could reasonably expect an average consumer to be comfortable with. Still, I honestly don’t think most people will care about switching the backplates beyond maybe doing it once.
The Moto G has a number of unique features, though most of the development of the phone was based on stripping out the inessential and making a phone that just performs well despite a lower cost to build. There’s Moto Care, for instance, which offers instant access to tech support from Motorola staff via instant message or phone; Assist, which offers special modes for Driving, Meeting and Sleeping that change your phone’s behavior with one tap to suit different contexts; and Motorola Migrate, for bringing your old settings, text messages, call history, media and more with you when switching devices.
These features are excellent compared to most glommed on by Android OEMs, if only for the fact that you wouldn’t even know they were there unless you were actively seeking them out. The service app is a genius move considering the audience is likely to be people new to smartphones or advanced mobile devices, and the Assist function is a very handy shortcut for what’s often an arduous series of steps. Migrate isn’t something I got the chance to try out, but it definitely sounds like a value-add for people jumping on the Android bandwagon for the first time.
The Moto G isn’t a $ 600 superphone, but the times you’re aware of that while using it are surprisingly rare. It moves around the OS smoothly and quickly, for instance. Likewise, it quickly calls up Google Now and delivers speech recognition with the same accuracy and speed as its more expensive cousins. The only place I noticed some lag and slowdown was in the browser, where image-heavy content can cause some stuttering, but only in extreme cases: even photo heavy tumblrs, which are otherwise pretty sleek, behaved well.
The camera on the Moto G isn’t wonderful, but it’s fine for general use, and much better than you’ll find on most other budget smartphones. In a device like this, what I’m expecting from a camera is a workmanlike charm, and that’s what Motorola delivers. It’s a phone where you have to continually call to mind that absurdly low price tag – and when you do that, the photos the Moto G takes look plenty good.
Motorola has done a terrific job with the Moto G’s screen, which is saying a lot coming from me. I’ve never liked how Moto tunes their screens – too contrasty, too saturated for my eye. But this time they haven’t gone overboard in that regard, and they’ve even managed to achieve the same high bar for pixel density that Apple does with its iPhone 5s (326ppi for those paying attention). It’s not full HD, the clarion call of the current crop of Android superphones, but it’s a far sight better than anything even in the same ballpark pricewise, and at any rate, text and images are still going to appear stunningly crisp on that screen.
Again, it still goes a little too hard on the color saturation and the excessive contrast, but it’s a big improvement for Motorola devices in general, and a true feat on a device at this price.
The Moto G earns its stripes with the battery, leaving aside its other nice attributes. It’s got “all day” life, according to Motorola, and that can translate to a lot depending on your usage patterns. I found that with light usage, I was getting around three days out of a single charge on average, which, in the age of smartphones, is just crazy.
The battery life on the Moto G makes it a great candidate for a “throw it in a bag, forget about it until you travel” phone, since in low power mode it can stretch its standby life to around a week. Under heavier use it returns to the realm of results achieved by other devices (but still beats most of them) and will definitely get you through the day. But again, in a budget phone, to have this kind of battery power is amazing.
The Moto G is remarkable device. It’s arguably the less talented sibling of the flash-bang Moto X released by the Google-owned smartphone maker earlier this year, but it’s more noteworthy because it offers so much at such a stunning price point. Make no mistake: I’ll still be going back to a top tier device as my everyday phone of choice, but if I didn’t prioritize tech in my personal budget, or if I didn’t have the means, I’d be more than happy to use the Moto G day in and day out as my daily driver.
The contents of your wallet are under attack. Earlier this month Coin swept in threatening to eliminate the need for all of your beloved non-cash payment methods and now Google Wallet is making it even easier to capture your plastic with its latest Android update. Along with the introduction of its very own physical debit cards, Google added the ability to upload your debit and credit cards to Wallet by simply snapping a picture with your smartphone — similar to the recent addition to the Dropbox Android app. Instead of entering your card numbers manually (such a drag, we know), those users who see a camera icon in the “card number” field of the Wallet mobile app, can capture both the card number and expiration date with a photograph.
Source: Google Play
Major League Gaming’s been tinkering with better ways to show and monetize its Call of Duty and Starcraft battles for years, occasionally showing up on ESPN and utilizing myriad online streaming solutions to get its premium content to the people. However, MLG decided that YouTube and its ilk aren’t enough, and so has launched its very own online network, MLG.TV, to better cater to e-sports fans (and pull in bigger ad dollars, of course). TechCrunch reports that this new platform, aside from streaming up to 1080p video, will also have social sharing capabilities and Twitter-based chat. While exclusively an online portal, MLG.TV is borrowing some ideas from broadcast television. It’ll have weekly shows (like the recently debuted SportsCenter-esqe eSports Report) at specific times, and the plan is to build out a TV-like programming schedule as new shows are created.
When Google bought Motorola there were plenty of theories about why it wanted the mobile maker. Patents, being named chief among them. But today’s launch of the low-cost Moto G smartphone suggests the strategy was – or has certainly become – multi-faceted.
If there’s any kind of wall between Google and Motorola it’s definitely a porous one. Motorola’s Punit Soni took the stage in São Paulo to discuss what the Google-owned mobile maker was trying to achieve on the software front with the Moto G. Soni went to Motorola from Google last year, where he’s now VP of product management.
His on-stage session cheerleading the Moto G at turns resembled a strident lecture – which in turn sounded very much like Google chiding and schooling its Android OEMs on what it takes to make decent budget handsets. Subtext: stop making awful Android phones and using ‘budget price-point’ as your excuse.
“I came from [Google to Motorola],” said Soni, during the Moto G launch. “I can vouch for the fact that Android is the best mobile operating system in the world bar none. It is progressive, intuitive, it’s gorgeous and it’s very high performance. Not only that it updates itself at regular intervals; it only gets better. A device that’s built on pure Android with minor optimisations is going to have an incredibly high performance. That is the crux of our software strategy.”
Android’s low end has clearly become an embarrassment to Google, dragging the platform’s reputation down by pairing it with cheap, underpowered hardware – which inevitably results in a laggy, frustrating user experience.
Even though the huge reach of Android – which runs the gamut from high end flagships to ‘cheap as chips’ mobiles – is a strength when it comes to talking about marketshare; Google monetises the platform via its own software services. So if those services are absent because an Android OEM made too many changes to the platform, or rendered it frustratingly laggy because of bad hardware/bloated software, then it’s Google’s business that suffers.
Seen in that context, the Moto G looks very much like Google’s answer to cleaning up Android’s low end.
Soni described the current crop of Android OEMs as having a “confused” relationship with Android – because in trying to differentiate their handsets, they’re either slowing Android down with skins or duplicating Google’s own services and cluttering the user experience.
“In today’s ecosystem, mobile manufacturers have a very confused relationship with Android. They build on top of it but then they add on all these custom skins which detract from the user experience and hog resources,” he said. “Then they go and put duplicated software on top of it which basically competes with Google’s mobile services and you have a situation where you have homescreens with multiple mail apps, multiple app stores, multiple video players and music players and so on.”
“The result of all of this is you have devices with very non-intuitive, cluttered user interfaces, with apps that actually slow it down and make it worse than they need to be – the phone much slower than it needs to be. Now there has to be a better way to do this,” he added.
Soni said Motorola had focused on “complementing” rather than “competing” with Android – and singled out aspects such as the display, the battery life and the camera as areas where OEMs should absolutely be sweating to produce a decent smartphone experience for a low-end price.
“We didn’t build TouchWiz UI and Sense UI, and all of these other custom skins,” Soni said, referring to tweaked Android interfaces offered by Samsung and HTC, respectively. “We didn’t duplicate Google mobile services; we focused our energies into building things that have real value to the user. And that actually means the fundamentals. So we spent time optimising the device so that it has an extended battery life, so that it boots faster.
“We’re talking about obsessive attention to the basics. Whether it is audio, whether it is data, storage, memory, touch sensitivity, connectivity, you name it. We focused on those aspects which make the phone a joy to use. And because we did that we believe that Moto G actually punches way above its weight, in terms of performance, given its price category.”
In other words, the Moto G is basically a lesson in what it takes to make a decent Android handset for sub-$ 200.
TechCrunch asked Motorola Canada’s General Manager, Odile Guinot, whether or not the Moto G was a proverbial gauntlet thrown in the direction of other Android OEMs.
“We feel it’s an unserved part of the market,” she said. “It’s not like we’re the only person that can do it, it’s just that we’re the only company that wants to right now, and the only one that is doing it.”
To make this device, Google surveyed 15,000 smartphone users and focused on their priorities, among which was customization, according to Guinot. It was higher on their list than other features some might have expected to place high, including LTE support.
“That’s just not what the customers were looking for,” Guinot said of LTE. “They did not prioritize that when they talked about an affordable phone. They wanted to have a big display where they could watch their videos and view their pictures, etc. They wanted to have the latest Android.”
Do less with Android, and your devices stand a better chance of being updated to the latest version of Android, was another point made by Soni – referencing (in so many words) Android’s ongoing fragmentation problem. More evidence, if it were needed, that Motorola is acting as the mouthpiece of Google – telling Android OEMs what to do and what not do. And then hammering that lesson home by unboxing a $ 179 “premium” smartphone that has to potential to cut a swathe through the low-end Android pack, decimating the businesses of sub-par OEMs.
With the Moto G, Motorola is making the rare claim that devices will receive a guaranteed update to Android 4.4. Guinot told TechCrunch that carrier partners are on board with getting the update out on time, and that in fact, it’s in their best interest to do so, so they were happy to help. Google has worked with them to make sure all testing required is completed on time, she added.
“A pure Android strategy allows us to shine a light on Google services,” added Soni, continuing to sing from the Google hymn sheet. “Google has some of the best software services in the world. Whether it’s Gmail, Hangouts, YouTube, you name it; the list goes on.”
As well as taking out Android’s low-end trash, it’s possible Google also has Samsung in its sights with the Moto G. If the handset lives up to the promise of a premium experience for sub-$ 200 it could give consumers pause for thought about picking up another budget Samsung device that’s been compromised by a cramped, low-res screen and puny processor. Samsung’s flagships are excellent phones but the company plays at all price-points and makes more than its fair share of sub-par ‘Droids.
Motorola name-checked two Samsung devices during the Moto G presentation – the Galaxy Fame and the Galaxy S4 – the only Android OEM singled out in this way for explicit criticism, unless you count the passing reference to HTC’s Sense UI. (The other non-Android device mentioned was the iPhone 4/4S – and eating into Apple’s ‘past years’ discounted iPhones’ lunch is evidently also on Moto/Google’s mind.)
When it comes to Samsung, the Korean mobile maker’s dominance of the Android ecosystem has certainly made life tough for other Android OEMs. Motorola’s own position in handsets was looking shaky at the point when Google stepped in to buy it/save it. And today HTC continues to struggle to keep its handset business out of the drink. Bearing that in mind, doing what it can to dilute Samsung’s Android marketshare may also be on Google’s mind – as it puts Moto to work outshining the low-end competition.
That said, the Moto G may well make life harder for HTC which is apparently gearing up to shift its focus to more affordable smartphones. At $ 179 for a quad-core 4.5-inch device, Google-owned Motorola looks set to squeeze handset hardware profits ‘til the pips squeak. The profits it is making off of these phones might actually be in the accessories: those are traditionally high-margin, and Google has made sure to make this the most moddable phone possible, with a huge line of in-house cases, a Bluetooth headset called Buds and lots more in terms of launch accessories.
But, at the end of the day, growth in smartphones is coming from the low-end segment – as emerging markets switch from basic feature phones to smartphones. Which was a point Soni reiterated several times. And with Moto G, Google is putting Android in a plum position to “on ramp” those newcomers, and steer them away from alternatives that are offering a better experience at the low end than sub-par Androids. Notably Microsoft’s Windows Phone has been gathering some momentum in markets such as South America with its budget handsets – like the Nokia Lumia 520. They may not have access to a million apps, but the basic experience is solid – and you can’t say the same for every budget ‘Droid.
Motorola didn’t say what the ‘G’ in Moto G stands for – and it could well refer to several things. ‘G for Growth’, say, or ‘G for Global’ – with the phone set to go on sale in more than 30 countries, with 60 partners by 2014. Europe, Asia, South America and North America are all set to get their hands on this handset, with both the U.S. and Canada included in the rollout.
But really who are we kidding? This phone has been branded ‘G for Google’.
TechCrunch’s Darrell Etherington and Chris Velazco contributed to this article
Apple is said to be working on two curved display iPhone models for the “second half of next year,” according to a source speaking to Bloomberg, with a likely released planned for the third quarter, and building better touchscreen sensors that introduce fine pressure sensitivity for later devices to be introduced after that.
These new iPhones for 2014 would come in 4.7 and 5.5-inch flavors, according to the report, meaning that Apple would be introducing not one, but two different models at the same time, in theory. We’ve seen reports of Apple working on different models of large-screen devices in the past, including one from the Wall Street Journal that suggests it’s been working on different tests of devices with screen sizes between 4.8 and 6 inches. This is the first time we’ve really heard firm information about a possible release date for said devices, from a source as generally reliable as Bloomberg. A Japanese iOS rumor site claimed a September launch for a large-screen iPhone late in October, however, and two reliable analyst sources predict a 4.7-inch iPhone 6 bound for stores in late 2014.
Apple also introduced precedent for doing two models of new iPhone at once this year with the iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c, so the idea that it could do so again in the future makes some sense. But two new larger-screened devices at once does seem like a stretch – thought if Apple retained an iPhone 5c as its third, budget device and added two more to the mid-tier and high-end range, that might allow it to do so without adding crazy complexity to its product lineup.
The sensor developments are potentially more interesting to those who find the current screen size of the iPhone adequate; true pressure sensitivity (currently, some crude extent of that is possible via the iPhone’s accelerometer) would make drawing and handwriting applications on the iPhone and iPad much, much better. Apple could sell the devices as professional-level artistic devices if it introduces those kinds of features, in addition to just making things better for everyday users who want to jot notes and doodle, for example, or perform minor photo touch-ups.
It’s very early days to make any kind of judgement about the likely accuracy of these claims, but the source gives it some weight. Apple’s iPhone joining the ranks of bigger-screened devices definitely makes sense as a next move for the lineup, but curved glass manufacturing also seems quite expensive at this point for Apple to be considering launching two new devices with that feature at once.
Highway 1, an incubator/accelerator run by Brady Forrest and underwritten by electronics powerhouse PCH International, is beginning its Spring Applications process and will close applications after TC’s Hardware Battlefield in Las Vegas.
“Our goal remains the same: to teach startups how to be hardware companies,” said Forrest.
The incubator helps build businesses by supplying funds, introductions, and an education in design, prototyping, and mentorship. The group is looking for international teams.
“Our Fall class is comprised of 11 teams with members from China, Portugal, Ireland, South Africa, US, & Canada. We want this expansion to come internationally. To that end we’ll be doing a tour US, European and Asian cities this year. I am personally going to be visiting visiting maker spaces in Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Tokyo, Seoul, Beijng, Shanghai, Paris, London, Los Angeles and Seattle.”
This session they are looking for 15 companies. Each company receives seed Funding of $ 20,000 in return for 3-6% equity. “I am looking for more companies that are going to use hardware as a platform. We’re also doubling down on wearables and health tech. We’re looking for non-profits this time as well.” You can apply here.
The Real Slim Shady’s back with another album, titled The Marshall Mathers LP2. And if you’re a fan of Eminem and have access to iTunes Radio, then there’s a way to listen to his latest work in full without going the, well, shady way. Starting today in the US, Eminem’s MMLP2 (as it’s known for …
Engadget RSS Feed