Despite what some folks would lead you to believe, sheer numbers are actually meaningless when it comes to app stores. That's just a marketing ploy. It's the quality that matters and not the quantity. After all, if you can't get the software that you need, does it really matter if there are 100,000 more apps out there? I'm inclined to believe that the answer is a resounding "No".
Windows Phone has this very same problem -- 145,000 apps available but major titles are still avoiding its Store (no, I'm not going to mention Instagram). Microsoft tried to fix this issue a couple of times before, including paying developers to beef up the ecosystem. Late-yesterday, the software giant has decided to step in again with the new Porting Challenge.
On Tuesday, two and a half months after the first beta was released, Opera announced that its new WebKit-based browser for Android is now available as a "final version". This is just one step towards a Presto-free Opera as, in mid-February, the Norwegian company revealed that it will slowly adopt the WebKit rendering engine across all of its browsers.
Opera for Android, among other new features, emphasizes content discovery by allowing its users to find (and read) various articles straight from the browser's homescreen. Folks simply have to select their areas of interest, such as arts or technology, and Opera displays a number of stories from "relevant global and regional sources". This is similar to what Flipboard and other apps deliver.
Flickr is the service Yahoo forgot about between its latest Mail and homepage redesigns. It's boring, outdated, bland, ugly and uninviting and these are just a couple of the words that cross my mind right now. Thankfully, Flickr wants to change all that with the latest revamped version, announced late-yesterday. You know, maybe the cool kids will want to hang out again.
The biggest change comes from the new website, which drops the old design. It's now fresh, simple and modern and gives the cloud service character. Big photos in the stream, menu bar on top and the usual suspects on the right -- Explore, Flickr Blog and a list of people you may (want to) know -- dominate the uncluttered experience. Friends get a similarly-styled profile page which emphasizes shared content.
Four months after Sony unveiled the Xperia Tablet Z, the Japanese maker announced that the fondleslab is now finally available to purchase worldwide through online and brick and mortar stores. Despite the fact that the Xperia Tablet Z hits the shelves later than initially planned -- March 1 -- the company says that this hasn't affected consumer demand.
"Xperia Tablet Z has received an incredibly positive response since it was announced and this is demonstrated by the strong pre-orders the product has received", says Sony's Tomokazu Tajima. The tablet touts some attractive specifications, namely the IPX5/7 and IP5X ratings for waterproofing and dustproofing, respectively, the low weight of only 495 grams and the 6.9 mm thickness.
On Monday, Finnish company Jolla announced its first smartphone running Sailfish OS, called Jolla. The handset, which features mid-range hardware specifications, is available to pre-order for EUR399 and will ship by the end of the year.
So what do you get for EUR399? The company refrains from providing detailed hardware specifications, but says that the Jolla packs a 4.5-inch display and is powered by a dual-core processor. The handset comes with 16 GB of internal storage alongside a microSD card slot, an 8 MP back-facing camera with autofocus, a removable battery and 4G cellular connectivity (only in supported markets). The Sailfish OS is "Android app compliant".
Little over four weeks ago, during an earnings conference call, departing Microsoft CFO Peter Klein revealed the software giant is working with OEMs on smaller and cheaper Windows tablets. The new fondleslabs are expected to be available in the coming months, but Acer decided to give itself a head start.
On its Finnish website, Acer unveiled the new Iconia W3 which is touted by the company as the first 8-inch Windows 8-based tablet. The device is powered by Intel's Atom Z2760 processor (codenamed "Clover Trail") and Graphics Media Accelerator 3650 GPU (Graphics Processing Unit). The Iconia W3 sports an 8-inch multitouch WXGA display and runs Windows 8 Pro.
I am not a die-hard Instagrammer, but every once in a while I feel a sudden need to upload a filtered view of the world on the popular photo-sharing social network. That's easy to do with Android handsets and iPhones, but in the Windows Phone realm things are not that simple as there is no official app waiting in the Store. That's not to say there is low demand for one, far from it.
Admittedly, Windows Phone is a smaller market for Instagram than Android and iOS but even so there are likely tens of millions of potential users waiting to grab that official app which never seems to come. Developer Daniel Gary, who is behind a third-party Pinterest app (no official offering available for this one either) called Pinsation, decided to cater to the Windows Phone users' needs for a fully-featured Instagram app and, yesterday, released Itsdagram. The names are quite similar indeed.
Yesterday, French consumer electronics company Archos unveiled a new 8-inch Android tablet called Xenon 80. The fondleslab runs the first Jelly Bean iteration and will cost $199.99 -- which is in line with Google's Nexus 7 pricing -- once it arrives in stores next month.
The Xenon 80 features support for 3G cellular connectivity and is SIM-unlocked, meaning that it can be used with any mobile operator in the world (as long as the network runs on the 2100 MHz band). The hardware specifications reflect the budget-oriented approach of the tablet.
Little over a week ago, Microsoft released a native YouTube app for Windows Phone 8 which replaces the old iteration that displayed a mobile view of the popular video sharing website. The app, however, doesn't show ads, which generate major revenue for parent company Google.
As a result, the search giant is not overly keen about the implementation and sent Microsoft a letter demanding it to remove the YouTube app for Windows Phone 8. The complaints focus on the ability to download content, the lack of ads and the removal of playback restrictions on "certain platforms". I reached out to Microsoft for a comment on Google's claims and here's the software giant's response:
Change the rules of the game and you change the hierarchy. Two days ago research company Gartner released its latest report on the state of smartphone market which, based on sales, places Windows Phone in fourth place, just behind BlackBerry in terms of share. Today, IDC also released its latest report for Q1 2013, that measures shipments, and the two smartphone operating systems trade places -- Windows Phone now surpasses BlackBerry for the third spot in the charts.
That switch means Microsoft and Nokia have a reason to celebrate, in spite of numerous barbs coming from pundits. "Windows Phone claiming the third spot is a first and helps validate the direction taken by Microsoft and key partner Nokia", says IDC's Kevin Restivo. But the research company suggests that the operating system still has a long way to go: "Given the relatively low volume generated, the Windows Phone camp will need to show further gains to solidify its status as an alternative to Android or iOS".
Verizon customers, it's time to stop feeling envious of folks on AT&T who can get the Lumia 920. Today, Nokia's new Windows Phone flagship, the Lumia 928, is available exclusively at the big red's online and brick and mortar stores.
Verizon's pricing for the Lumia 928 may lead to sales cannibalization of HTC's Windows Phone 8X. The latter finds itself in a difficult spot as it has to compete with a newer smartphone that is available for roughly the same money and with similar, if not better, hardware specifications.
Today, alongside the Windows 8-based Split x2 which I detailed earlier, HP also announced the Slatebook x2 hybrid. The US maker touts it as "the first Android detachable device with the Nvidia Tegra 4 mobile processor". The SlateBook x2 shares some hardware and design traits with the ASUS Transformer tablet lineup.
The SlateBook x2 ships with the latest version of the green droid operating system available today, Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean, and sports a 10.1-inch touchscreen display with a resolution of 1920 by 1200. The device comes with 64 GB of internal storage. But the biggest highlight is the keyboard dock.
Yes, that's right, there is no typo. The Dell XPS 10, which runs Windows RT and came to market sporting a $499 price-tag, is now available for purchase at a very affordable $299.99. Clearly, the US computer manufacturer no longer has its eyes set on Apple's fourth-generation iPad, one of the most popular fondleslabs available today.
So what do you get for $299.99? For the money, the XPS 10 packs a 10.1-inch multitouch display with a resolution of 1366 by 768, a 1.5 GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor and 32 GB of internal storage. And, for just $50 more you can up the internal storage capacity to 64 GB.
On Wednesday, US manufacturer HP unveiled a new Windows 8-based hybrid dubbed the Split x2. The company touts the device as being able to deliver the best of both worlds -- works as a tablet and doubles as an ultraportable with the keyboard dock.
The Split x2 packs a 13.3-inch HD display and is powered by a third generation Intel Core processor (known under the "Ivy Bridge" codename). The device comes with 128 GB of internal storage. Users can also choose to add a 500 GB HDD inside the keyboard dock, which brings the tally up to 628 GB.
BlackBerry had a pretty busy day at its Live conference in Orlando. The Canadian manufacturer announced the new Q5 smartphone, introduced the updated BlackBerry 10.1 operating system, released Enterprise Service 10 version 10.1 and detailed plans to bring BBM to Android and iOS.
My colleague Larry Seltzer, who was at the BlackBerry Live conference, briefly went through a couple of the announcements, but let's take a more in-depth look at what the new products bring to the table.