HTC Touch Cruise: Expansive Connectivity in a Sophisticated Package

The HTC Touch Cruise is the third installment in the HTC Touch line and as with the previous versions, the original Touch and the Touch Dual, it features a touch screen user interface and the TouchFLO software application.

What’s good

The HTC Touch Cruise is enabled with expansive connectivity options and while its design isn’t as attractive as the first two versions, the Cruise sports a sophisticated finish that makes it equally appealing.  The device also comes with a GPS.

 What’s not

 Battery performance is below par and while the touch screen interface makes the phone easily navigable, it might not appeal to handset owners used to having a keypad on their phones. 

Conclusion 

Once mobile phone owners get used to the full touch screen feature of the phone, the HTC Cruise’s TouchFLO application renders the device extremely user-friendly.  Plus the phone features a complete suite of connectivity options that are sure to maximize the mobile handset experience. 

Features

The design of the HTC Touch Cruise comes in an elegant black coating and the front is surrounded by a shiny finish that adds to the sophistication of the phone.  It features a 2.8 inch LCD touch screen and directly below the display are the call and hang up buttons plus two additional shortcut keys.  You will also find a circular navigational pad that allows users to move up, down, left and right.  The center button of the pad is the select button. 

The Cruise boasts of an array of connectivity features that makes it a worthy rival to other high end handsets.  It is Bluetooth enabled and has Wi-Fi connectivity.  Additionally, it also comes with HSDPA capability as well as quadband GSM and triband UMTS connectivity.

Another noteworthy feature of the Cruise is its GPS.  Users can access Google Maps over the phone or use the QuickGPS feature that allows users to access the most recent satellite data and makes for speedier location of positions.  The phone comes with a built-in antenna and a slot where users can connect a separate or external GPS antenna. 

The TouchFLO technology of the HTC Cruise enables users to access functions with a tap of a finger.  The phone also has a speedy scroll feature and a virtual cube that allows users to access frequently used features no matter what screen they are currently on.  Other features include a 3 mega-pixel camera with auto focus capability and self portrait preview function, and an FM tuner.

Nokia Tube 5800: iPhone competitor?

Although Nokia hasn’t yet specified a release date for its first touch screen phone, dubbed the Nokia Tube 5800, some observers are already calling the phone a potentially worthy rival of the Apple iPhone. 

The Nokia Tube 5800, which closely resembles the iPhone in appearance, sports a 3.2 inch LCD screen capable of displaying 16 million colors.  The iPhone-like device also features a 3.2 mega-pixel camera with auto focus and a GPS.

The phone is the first to run on the S60, the operating system recently developed by Symbian.  It is Bluetooth and Wi-Fi enabled.  Other noteworthy specifications are 3G UMTS/HSDPA capability, quad-band (850/900/1800/1900Mhz) GSM/EDGE radio, and a TV-out port that allows users to switch to wide screen view.

Another edge to the Tube is that it will run Java software and other flash applications which Apple hasn’t currently incorporated on the iPhone’s Safari web browser.  The iPhone also doesn’t enable direct video uploading, a feature that the Nokia Tube reportedly has. 

The Nokia Tube 5800 was demonstrated at the recently held Evans Data Developer Relations Conference showcasing a promotional display for the movie Shrek the Third.

Forum Nokia Vice President Tom Libretto says that although the Tube is the company’s first touch screen interface device, it is confident that it can compete with the iPhone.  In a presentation made at the conference by Libretto, Nokia and iPhone delivery figures were compared and it was shown that iPhone shipments do not match the higher figures achieved by Nokia.  Libretto also says that the extensive influence that Nokia has over the market will also be the key in outperforming the Apple iPhone. 

Analysts and observers are impatiently awaiting the announcement of a release date, mounting pressure on the Finnish company to launch before Apple releases the 3G version of iPhone.

Some analysts are also skeptical about the performance of the Tube’s operating system stating that Symbian’s S60 might not efficiently enable multi-touch capability.  A research company official believes that over the S60, users will be able to use only one finger at a time in maneuvering the touch screen. 

If such is the case, analysts say that it is essential that the Tube incorporate features that will compensate for this drawback.  While the design of the device is attractive enough to pit it against the iPhone, users might end up getting disappointed if the software performance isn’t up to par.The Nokia Tube is reportedly set to be released in the later part of this year. 

Opera Mini to Run on Android Handsets

Opera Software recently announced that its Opera Mini browser is now available for cellular phones that run on the Android mobile operating system. Opera Software CEO Jon von Tetzchner states that the company is happy to be providing the Android development team with the mass market browser.

The Opera Mini browser is set to be tested by the Android development team before the release of the beta, although the company hasn’t indicated a specific date for the beta release. There is no word as to when the software will be available commercially.

Opera Mini is a free Web browser that promises to deliver excellent Internet browsing experience – one that replicates desktop browsing over mobile phones. Handset users can now have access to the high speed Web browsing experience and adaptability that the Opera Mini is known for.

The mobile software compresses data before sending it to mobile phones so that data size is smaller and consequently browsing becomes a lot faster. And because customized viewing is a feature of the software, web browsing is tailor-fit to the type of device owned by users, including cellular phones with simpler designs.

Handset users will also be able to synchronize their favorite websites from their desktops to their phones. Opera Mini lends itself to adjustable web pages with its mobile view feature that adjusts the size of a web page to fit a phone’s screen size. Other ingenious features include integrated Google search and zoom capabilities.

Last year, Google launched its mobile phone platform, Android which is an open source software suite complete with middleware, operating system, customizable user interface and software applications.

Third party software developers can freely access the platform so that they are able to create programs and develop services without worrying about proprietary issues and whether or not the applications will run efficiently over the operating system.

Cellphone owners will be able to maximize the use of their mobile phones as they will be able to choose the features and applications on their handsets according to their preferences.

Google is a member of the Open Handset Alliance, an organization that advocates and initiates the creation of open standards for mobile phones. Other members of the alliance include some of the biggest players in the mobile and telecom industries such as HTC, Samsung, Intel Corporation, Motorola, Sprint, Qualcomm Inc. and LG Electronics to name a few.

Google stated that Android-enabled handsets will probably be released during the first half of this year.

Motorola Announces New Chairman

Motorola Inc. has announced it has appointed a new chairman, David Dorman, who previously worked as chief executive for telecom company AT&T. The announcement came following the conclusion of a dispute between the company and shareholder Carl Icahn.Motorola settled the disagreement by agreeing to appoint two of Icahn’s nominees as members of its board of directors. Dorman will take over next month when current chairman Ed Zander retires.

The position, however, is a non-executive one which means Dorman will head the board but will have no say in the daily operations of the company.

Dorman has been involved in the telecommunications industry for nearly 30 years. He served as business president at Sprint in 1994 and president and CEO at Pacific Bell from 1994 to 1997. When Pacific Bell was acquired by SBC Communications, he served as executive vice president until January 2008.

He was also CEO of Concert Communications Services in 1999 before working at AT&T for five years as president, chairman and CEO. He joined Motorola in 2006 as a member of its board. He is currently serving as managing director and senior adviser of Warburg Pincus and Co. and is a member of the board at Georgia Tech Foundation, CVS Corp. and Yum Brands Inc.

According to Motorola President and CEO Greg Brown, Dorman is an ideal choice for the position as his experience in the industry and familiarity with the company will benefit Motorola and its shareholders. For his part, Dorman expressed confidence in the direction the company is taking, stating that Motorola is composed of very capable people. He further states that he is looking forward to working in close collaboration with Greg Brown and the rest of the Motorola team in bringing satisfaction to its shareholders.

An analyst says that the appointment of Dorman is a good move as choosing a candidate that has worked in a similar corporate environment is vital to reorganizing the company and potentially improving Motorola’s standing in the industry.

Earlier this year, Motorola announced it will split into two separate companies following the lagging performance of its cellular phone division. Although the company had a big hit with its Razr line, it has since failed to sustain its efforts as it failed to come up with more innovative developments.

The split was deemed sensible as this will enable the company to concentrate on its more profitable business divisions. Meanwhile, as Motorola officially introduces its new chairman, the company’s share price plunged 18 percent to $9.31.

Verizon Files Case Against Time Warner Cable

Verizon Communications, Inc. has filed a lawsuit against competitor Time Warner Cable for false advertising, claiming a TWC ad made false claims about Verizon’s FiOS offerings.

The ad in question features a Verizon salesman asking a customer if he heard of fiber optic technology. The customer responds saying Time Warner Cable has been using fiber technology for a decade, then proceeds to ask, “Don’t I need a satellite dish just to get TV from you?” According to Verizon, the ad misleads the public about the quality of services offered by the company as it implies that TWC’s network is better than Verizon’s.

The telecom company also says the TWC ad implies that FiOS customers need a satellite dish just to set up TV services, that TWC used fiber optic technology first and that Verizon can not offer Web, video and phone capabilities as one service bundle.

Contrary to what the ad suggests, Verizon says that it has been using fiber optic technology in certain networks since the 1970s and that the fiber-to-the-home network used by the telco is better than cable. The telco is also claiming that the TWC ad deceptively mixes up the FiOS service with its DirecTV/phone/DSL bundle, which are two different services. Verizon says the latter is offered only in locations where FiOS isn’t currently available.

A consultant says that the FiOS network is certainly faster than the ones currently being utilized by other cable companies. And although another rival company, ComCast, has announced plans to offer upgraded services, the consultant says Verizon’s connection is still speedier.

When Verizon found out about the ads, it requested TWC to stop airing them. The cable company refused, stating that it intended to continue broadcasting the said ad. A spokesman for TWC states that the lawsuit is “without merit” and that the company intends to defend itself against the case.

Verizon is asking the court to prohibit the airing of the ads and to order Time Warner Cable to rescind the false statements via amended ads. The company is also seeking undisclosed damages as part of the lawsuit, stating the allegations made in the ad negatively impacts on Verizon’s profits as the ad discourages customers from switching to the FiOS service.

But even as the telco is filing suit over the TWC ad, it said earlier this week that it will stop airing a Verizon ad that inaccurately quotes from A CNET news article, making it appear that CNET was reviewing the FiOS service.

Fairpoint Acquires Verizon Phone Lines

Fairpoint Communications, Inc, a telephone service provider based in North Carolina, has acquired Verizon’s landline telephone operations as well as its Internet business in New England.

Following the purchase, Fairpoint’s stock suffered a ten percent drop when the stock market opened. By the end of the day, stocks were being traded down at 12 percent. Verizon shares, on the other hand, gained a two percent increase.

The deal, which was valued at $2.3 billion, includes the acquisition of around 1.6 million telephone lines and 230,000 Internet customers in the Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont areas. Under the agreement, Verizon will own 60 percent of the company, leaving Fairpoint shareholders with 40 percent.

The company will also take on the Fairpoint brand name. Verizon Communications, Inc. announced over a year ago its plans to sell its landline operations to Fairpoint. The deal was originally priced at $2.7 billion.

Despite the dismal performance of company shares, Fairpoint Communications, Inc. CEO Gene Johnson appeared pleased with the deal, which makes his company one of the largest telephone service carriers in the United States. Some analysts however, say the purchase is a huge risk for Fairpoint seeing that the company has acquired a huge amount of debt to seal the deal.

There are also concerns about Fairpoint’s ability to generate revenues as utility companies rarely get a ten percent return on investments. Other observers are optimistic about Fairpoint’s chances, with some even forecasting a 55 percent return on investment.

There were rumors that Fairpoint’s interest rates had increased and as a result, the deal was being closely observed by regulators. The hearing in Maine were scheduled Thursday while the New Hampshire and Vermont hearings were schedule just the day before the negotiations came to a close.

Although the three states approved the deal, New Hampshire imposed certain conditions on Verizon. One is that Verizon is to help set off expenses - amounting to around $17 million a year for a period of five years - brought about by the increase in interest rates.

Verizon said it will pay Fairpoint $15 million dollars after a year’s ownership of the phone lines, plus an additional $15 million on the second year should Fairpoint be unsuccessful in satisfying certain standards.

Aside from telephone services such as local and long-distance calls, Fairpoint Communications, Inc. also offers Internet, cable TV, data and broadband services. Verizon, which is based in New York, provides wireless communications services.

Apple to launch 3G iPhone in May?

Although Apple and AT&T haven’t said word about the exact release date of the 3G version of the iPhone, a report made by Bank of America states that the 3G iPhone will be launched in May of this year. Scott Craig, author or the BOA report, said that the 3G-equipped iPhone will be gradually introduced in May, but Apple will boost manufacture by June.Craig had initially predicted that Apple will sell eight million iPhones by the end of 2008. He now says that production of iPhones in May will go over three million and before the year ends, production will go up to an additional eight million iPhones.

The upgrade of the iPhone to make it 3G capable spells positive results for Apple. For starters, this allows Apple to penetrate the enterprise market more completely as the iPhone now becomes a more attractive option for users that rely heavily on their smartphones for business use.

iPhone users will now be able to send and receive large files. Apple may also gain considerable lead in other markets such as Europe and the Asia Pacific as 3G is more commonly used in these regions. 3G capability affords users a much faster connection and therefore better access to websites that are media-heavy. It even enables independent software developers to produce speed-intensive applications and have users run them on the iPhone.

The second beta version of the software developer kit was released just recently by Apple and companies are now creating a variety of applications that are compatible with the iPhone. Microsoft has already partnered with Apple to enable iPhone users to receive data via Microsoft Exchange. Some analysts believe this is a smart move for Microsoft as this will expand the company’s customer base as well.

Another analyst has predicted that upgrades to the iPhone will be added this year but couldn’t mention exact dates, saying only Apple know what these schedules are. Apple has so far sold 4 million iPhone and is targeting a sale of 10 million units before the end of 2008. Analysts believe that Apple may well reach this target with the upgrades that have been done to the phone so far. In June, new firmware will be released and the iPhone developers’ conference will be held. To some observers, this is seen as the perfect timing for the release of the 3G version.

Sony Films to Go Mobile

Sony Films is planning to offer movie viewing over cellular phones as it signed an agreement with AT&T and MediaFlo USA. The movies will be shown over the Sony channel, called PIX, which will be available only to subscribers of AT&T Mobile TV.

PIX is one of two exclusive channels that AT&T Mobile TV has announced will be part of their viewing options.

Sony is intent on offering film viewing via mobile phones. In the United States, it was the first company to offer phone memory cards that have built-in full length movies in them. In 2006, it was one of the film studios that worked with MSpot and Sprint to offer pay-per-view movies via mobile phones. It is also in talks with other US carriers although the company hasn’t announced which companies they are negotiating with.

Cellphone manufacturers continue to address the issues of screen size and display quality by developing devices that are more conducive to film viewing. Still, some analysts are skeptical about movies via mobile phones driving demand from consumers. For one thing, cellular phone owners are almost always on the go and will probably be too busy to catch a movie on their handsets. Scheduling is a concern as cellphone users may not be able to watch movies from the beginning.

There are reports that Sony might eventually offer movies on an on-demand basis, which will probably interest viewers more as this option accommodates their schedules. There is also the possibility that PIX will be offered online.

The movies that will be offered by Sony Pictures Television cover varied selection of genres from such film companies as Sony Pictures Classics, Columbia Pictures, TriStar and Screen Gems. Films that are currently on the PIX list of offerings include “Ghostbusters”, “Stand by Me”, “Philadelphia”, “The Karate Kid”, “Resident Evil”, “Memento”, “Roxanne” and Layer Cake.” Movies will run for a month with additional titles to be offered on a weekly basis.

There is no word from Sony about pricing although they may be different schemes implemented depending on the carriers that will include the PIX channel in their lineup. For instance, some carriers may offer advertising spots over the PIX channel and offer it to subscribers for free or some may go the pay-per-view route.

Sony hopes to create more demand by offering varied options. By partnering with AT&T, it has the opportunity to be viewed over one of the largest carriers in the US. AT&T rival, Verizon has also been offering similar services but its service doesn’t include the PIX channel.

iPhone Drives Smartphone Sales, Analysts Say

The launching of the iPhone seems to be having a positive effect on the smartphone industry. Analysts say that since Apple introduced the iPhone in June, the sale of smartphones has increased, as predicted, and continues to induce consumer interest to this day. Last year, ARM Holdings CEO Warren East made the same prediction, saying the iPhone will help push smartphone sales further.

In the United States alone, the number of people that bought smartphones the previous year went up to about 14 million. Smartphones have seen a significant lag in sales over the past few years but with the advent of the iPhone, smartphone purchase has been increasing much faster than the total sales for all mobile phones.

Analysts say that the iPhone’s revolutionary user interface and Web browsing technology helped spark enthusiasm in the smartphone market. The influence of the iPhone is so extensive it even reaches countries where it isn’t officially available. Apple hasn’t done any promotional campaigns in these places, yet iPhone’s are being sold anyway.

During the recently held Smartphone Summit in Las Vegas the iPhone was yet again the favorite discussion topic despite the fact that Symbian was a major sponsor of the event. Symbian, along with Blackberry has been a major player in the smartphone market for many years but the entry of the iPhone may change this.

Symbian has sold over 180 million units since it was first introduced into the market, yet Apple has already sold over 3 million iPhones in less than a year. Some analysts say the iPhone may not even fall under the category of smartphone. Even with the addition of the software developer kit, the applications that will run on the device may be similar to the functions which are already seen on simpler handsets.

Still, analysts believe that the entry of new competitors will continue to create a dynamic environment for the smartphone industry. Instead of the expected consolidation, the smartphone market is now characterized by competition that is more intense than ever.

But while the iPhone is becoming increasingly popular in the US and in Asia, it still hasn’t completely penetrated the European market. The price of the phone may be an issue plus the iPhone currently is not equipped with 3G which is more commonly used in the EMEA region.

According to analysts, the demands of European consumers when it comes to mobile phone usage differ from that of US users so Apple will have to alter their approach to penetrate the market.

Ipass Offers Mobile Services to Individuals

Ipass, Inc. has announced that the company is offering its IpassConnect service to business travelers and individual consumers. The IpassConnect service is a host of mobility services that includes access to Wi-Fi hotspots, wired hotel broadband, 3G connectivity and worldwide dial-up connection.

These services were previously available only to companies and corporate entities. It is now being offered to individual users via a monthly subscription.

IpassConnect affords frequent business travelers a one-stop connectivity suite which now eliminates the need for them to pay for different kinds of subscription plans for different connectivity options. At affordable rates, businessmen and consumers sign up for one account only that will allow them to access Ipass’ expansive network.

This network includes over 70,000 retail areas, more than 20,000 hotels and almost a thousand hotspots in more than 500 airports in the US alone. Travelers can now easily get a connection in locations such as McDonald’s restaurants, Starbucks and the Hyatt and Hilton hotels, among others. Its 3G network coverage extends to over 230 million people nationwide.

For those traveling overseas, Ipass has a network of 80,000 Wi-Fi hotspots in Europe and Asia. As an alternative, IpassConnect customers can use the dial-up network which allows them use a local modem connection in more than 160 countries. IpassConnect also offers its users additional assistance such as access to hotspot locator tools, maps of 3G coverage as well as helpful tips and guides about the mobile lifestyle.

Another company that also offers unified mobile access, Boingo Wireless, currently offers its consumers access to 100,000 Wi-Fi hotspots. However, Boingo Wireless doesn’t offer 3G connectivity like IpassConnect does. Users who sign up for IpassConnect’s 3G service will be able to access Sprint’s EVDO network without having to sign up or paying any additional fees at Sprint offices.

IpassConnect is now available for laptops using the Windows XP, Windows 2000 and Windows Vista operating systems. Subscription rates start at $29.95 a month. To sign up, users can visit the IpassConnect website to register and install the IpassConnect software. A 3G card – which users can put into and play in their laptops - will be sent to users who opt for both Wi-Fi and 3G services. Plans of Ipass, Inc. include the release of a version for handheld devices within the year. The company is also working on the possibility of adding Wimax wireless services.