The Summer of Smartphones Begins
No question: We're in the midst of the busiest--and most exciting--time for smartphones right now. App stores are launching left and right, operating systems are being updated, and a plethora of intriguing phones are debuting. It is a bit overwhelming, so here is a recap of everything that happened this week and a preview of what's to come. Let the smartphone madness begin!
Nokia's Ovi Store launched on May 26 with a lot of unfortunate glitches. Users were confronted with slow response times, disappearing applications, and duplicate listings. The Ovi Store shows a lot of potential, though,so I hope these problems are worked out soon.
On Wednesday, May 27, Google announced the availability of the Android 1.5 OS update (codenamed "Cupcake") for T-Mobile G1 users at their Google I/O developer conference. The biggest surprise of the conference, however, was the goody handed out to attendees: An HTC Magic phone running Android 1.5 (otherwise dubbed the "Google Ion"). This slick smartphone is already available from Vodaphone overseas, and will be available soon on T-Mobile. Overall first impressions of the HTC Magic's hardware have been mostly positive, though our reviewer sorely missed the physical keyboard found on the T-Mobile G1 (also by HTC). Android 1.5 is a pleasing improvement, however. Google also demo'd Android 2.0 (with the delicious code name "Donut"), which will bring universal search, text-to-speech, and handwriting gesture capabilities to the OS.
BlackBerry Storm owners can look forward to an OS update of their own, coming this weekend. The update will be available on www.blackberry.com/update at 3 p.m. ET on Sunday, May 31. It will also be available through an over-the-air download from Verizon at 10 p.m. ET. Verizon says that the update will improve the Storm's overall user experience.
On June 6, the long-awaited Palm Pre will launch on the Sprint Network. You've probably heard a lot about the Pre and the webOS by now, but Palm unveiled a few other webOS surprises this week at the D: All Things Digital conference. Palm's media sync, as it's called, can synchronize with iTunes to transfer DRM-free music, photos, and videos to your Pre. You can also do USB file transfers and Wi-Fi downloads from the Amazon MP3 store with media sync.
Palm also announced the addition of Twitter search to the universal search capability. The universal search feature is pretty nifty: You start typing something, and webOS offers matches from your contacts or applications and then gives you the option to view search results from Google, Google Maps, Wikipedia, and now, Twitter. PC World will have a full review, a video, and a slide show of the Pre next Thursday, June 4.
A few other phones will also debut next week. The slick-looking HTC Touch Pro 2, running Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional, will be available unlocked through some third-party Web sites and will come to US carriers later this year. Look for a full review of an unlocked Touch Pro 2 early next week. Sony Ericsson also announced some enticing new additions to their PlayNow line-up, which we'll preview next week as well.
And just when you thought the madness had peaked, Apple's World Wide Developer Conference starts June 8, where the company may announce the third-generation iPhone hardware. Rumors of an OLED display, a 3.2-megapixel camera, a built-in FM transmitter, and 150 percent more battery life have surfaced across the blogosphere. I also expect more details about the iPhone 3.0 OS to emerge at WWDC.
New BlackBerrys are also rumored to be hitting stores soon, and Microsoft Windows Mobile 6.5 is scheduled for release this summer as well. There's no denying that it is going to be one crazy summer for smartphones.