Weekly Review – 14th of August

Traditionally this time of the year is known as the silly season in news, where oddball news stories make the headlines instead of real news as there really isn't a great deal of news around. This is a result of the summer holidays being in full swing, where companies often hold back on big announcements for a number of reasons. Most of which, at the end of the day, boils down to a number of key people are away at certain points during this period and news is held back as result.

In saying that, it has been a busy week in the news with a theme that could very well show we're at the start of the silly season. A lot of the headlines this week really haven't been surrounding official company news - in fact, a lot of the news has come from leaks.

The week started with an official piece of news from Research In Motion, where they unveiled their entry level BlackBerry Curve 3G. This was followed by the start of all the leaks, with an HTC 4.3-inch screen device being leaked and on the Tuesday another HTC device was ousted in the form of an upcoming Windows 7 handset. The leaks didn't stop springing there, as an on-line mobile phone reseller announced the Nokia N8 shipping date before the manufacture had even made public that news. At the end of the week, Sony Ericsson made the headlines with news that they are developing a Sony PlayStation mobile phone that is due out around October this year.

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Over last weekend images appeared on forums of an HTC Android 4.3-inch screen handset, codenamed the HTC Ace that has also been dubbed by the media as the HTC Desire HD

The mobile phone was then caught on video showing irrefutably and undeniably it is an actual existing large screen HTC handset, and not just a photo-shopped device.

The image backs up it is a current model by running Android 'Froyo' 2.2 on a touch screen mobile phone, which has been reported to be 4.3-inches in size - the same dimensions as their HD2 and the Motorola Droid X. It has also been noted the phone will be accompanied by an 8 megapixel camera, capable of 720p video capture which is a feature of the latest version of the Google mobile OS.

HTC will neither confirm nor deny its existence officially, but it does appear to be a reality after all and is likely to be released around October time according to reports.

Following on from that leak was another, only this time it's an HTC Windows 7 handset codenamed Schubert and not an Android device.

The outted handset appears to have been made from a single piece of aluminium according to reports, in much the same way as their HTC Legend handset from earlier on in the year.

Shubert's display either has a 3.2 or a 3.7-inch screen, where the latter would make sense in an HTC flagship handset and as a first venture in a new platform.

It's likely to be shipped with the choice chipset at the moment - the1Ghz Qualcomm processor. However, that's only speculation at present where plans could change before its arrival this later on in the year.

The massive leakage from companies didn't stop there, as Nokia was in the news with online phone reseller MobileFun.co.uk releasing the shipping date of the upcoming Nokia flagship N8 handset.

The handset reseller let slip the N8 arrival day via the retailer's website page for selling that very handset, as August the 26th, SIM free and unlocked for £419.95 .

Nokia N8 is their flagship AMOLED 3.5-inch touch screen handset running the Symbian ^3 OS, with 16GB of memory and a 12 megapixel camera with a Carl Zeiss lens capable of HD recording - the highest quality camera seen on a Nokia handset to date.

It's been reported Nokia will be dropping the Symbian platform on their N series devices, to be replaced with the Intel-Nokia joint venture of the mobile OS Meego - with this possibly being the last handset running the solely owned Nokia operating system.

Finally, the last leak of the week came from a trusted source at Sony Ericsson who told tech-news website Engadget that the phone company is developing a Sony PlayStation handset.

The source informed the website that Android 'Gingerbread' 3.0 will be the platform of choice for the device. The hardware will be based around the 1Ghz Qualcomm chipset, with a 3.7-inch screen or higher and graphics in line with their existing portable gaming consoles.

The device itself is noted to include a Sony PSP style d-pad as a way of controlling the games, with a long touch pad as the replacement for an actual keyboard along with other traditional PlayStation buttons.

Sony Ericsson's PlayStation mobile phone in the Xperia range could be released as early as October this year according to rumours, just in time for the Christmas present buying rush to get under way.

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Towards the end of week news came from Russian Antivirus giant Kaspersky, who uncovered a virus for the Google mobile Android OS named Trojan-SMS.AndroidOS.FakePlayer.a, which contacts premium phone numbers and amasses a large phone bill for the mobile owner.

It's the first infection to be recorded on Android and arrives disguised as a media application for the OS, in an innocent looking 13KB .APK file. After it's been installed by the unsuspecting party, the handset starts to send text messages to premium rate phone number with nether the mobile owners consent, or knowledge.

Trojan-SMS.AndroidOS.FakePlayer.a has already reportedly infected a number of Android handsets, although it hasn't been disclosed by Kaspersky how many phones or what version of the platform, let alone what devices are at risk.

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Two mobile phone networks made the headlines this week, one for announcing the iPhone 4 on pay as you go and another for launching the UK's lowest tariff.

On Tuesday Apple's iPhone 4 arrived on pay as you go with Vodafone, with free Internet access for a year.

The mobile phone network now has the iPhone 4 on to a pay as you go deal, where the cost of the 16GB model is £480, where the 32GB version comes in at £570 and the network is even selling the older 8GB3GS at £385.

In stark contrast, Apple's own store has the 16GB iPhone 4 at £499, the 32GB version at £599 and the 8GB3GS is retailing at the largest margin of £419.

Included as part and parcel of the purchase price is a data allowance of 250GB a month, along with 1GB of free BT OpenzoneWIFI access a month. Calls and text messages are on their Simplicity tariff, with a charge of 20p a minute and 10p for a text message.

On Thursday, Tesco mobile unveiled a pay as you go monthly £6 tariff, with 100 minutes of calling and unlimited text messages.

The SIM only monthly contract comes in at the reported lowest cost of any tariff in the UK, where the unlimited text messaging will certainly be an attractive proposition for the younger generation along with the value for money

Tesco mobile is a MVNO running off the back of TelefónicaO2 network in the UK, whilst sharing its entire setup in 50/50 deal since Tesco Mobile first launched mid 2005.

The offer does appear to be very good value for a rolling monthly tariff, where even some of the £15 a month deals at over double the cost of Tesco's proposition doesn't offer the same benefits of this new tariff.

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Research In Motion unveiled at the start of the week their BlackBerry entry level Curve 3G - the latest consumer orientated Curve handset, succeeding the 8520 and is the first in the Curve series with 3G access.

Research In Motion's Curve 3G 9300 is their Qwerty keyboard based device that is remnant of the older BlackBerry handsets, with a very traditional BB look and feel. The phone ships with the BlackBerry 5 OS, but will be upgradeable to version 6 in due course - which now joins the Pearl 3G 9105, Bold 9700 with the Torch 9800 arriving with the platform.

The Curve 8520 that didn't have 3G access, where this model does and carries the same '3G' moniker in much the same way as the recent candy bar Pearl 3G did for that very same reason. Also brought in from the Pearl 3G is 802.11n, making this only the third phone in the BlackBerry range to include the latest WIFI specification.

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This week also saw our in-depth feature surrounding the new BlackBerry Torch 9800, which is their first ever slider handset.

The BlackBerry Torch 9800 is a full capacitive touch screen handset, with a physical Qwerty keyboard that slides out vertically in the same way as the Palm Pre Plus also functions. The keyboard has the look and feel of the same one accompanying the latest Bold 9700 handset.

The Torch stands 4.37-inches tall or 5.83-inches when opened, where their BlackBerry Storm 2 as a comparison is just 4.43-inches tall. Both devices have the same width of 62mm, where the 9800 is 14.6mm thick and the Storm 2 is slightly thinner at 13.9mm. It's a comfortable BlackBerry to use, with the width providing a good size for holding and also typing upon with a very similar feel to the Storm 2 only with the physical keyboard of the 9700.

BlackBerry Torch's 3.2-inch 480×360 capacitive touch screen has the same size display as that Storm 2 handset, where instead of pushing the screen inwards to action a task - the touch screen now operates in the same way as every other touch screen device. We found this is a much more preferable way of operating a phone than the way the Storms work.

The touch screen is very responsive and handles touch requests fairly well, where in the time we used the device we never saw a misinterpreted incident. Its new operating system really takes advantage of the new screen and in a way the previous OS never could, nor could any other RIM platforms.

The slide-out keyboard does appear to be a fairly exact replica to the one that accompanies the Bold 9700, if compared side by side most people would be hard pushed to tell any differences. Besides the keyboard that's easy and familiar to use, the call, menu, optical touchpad and end call button have also been brought across from the 9700 and the Curve 8250.

RIM's Torch runs with 512MB of RAM, where in the past BlackBerry's have only reached the lofty heights of 256MB. Applications now respond faster as a result, with better multitasking possibilities and switching between the apps. The native storage has also reached new heights as there is now 4GB built into the phone, with a further 4GBmicroSD card bundled in as part and parcel of the shipping product.

At the heart of the new BlackBerry slider phone is the new operating system - the BlackBerry 6 OS. The new user interface is very touch screen centric, where RIM has certainly taken note of Android and other touch screen based operating systems with the way they function.

The home screen on the BlackBerry 6 OS has the same initial look to version 5, with a few quick access icons to applications at the base of the screen. Instead of pressing the physical BlackBerry icon menu button to see all the applications - the quick access icon bar can be swiped up the screen, to show all the software on the phone. The screen can then be swiped across to the left, to show the individual category's of the apps, favourites and weblinks in a similar way to other touch screen handsets. All of which is very unlike the BlackBerry business centric operating systems of the past and much more like Android than anything else.

The new universal search tool is one of the most notable inclusions in the BlackBerry 6 OS. The search tool can be run from anywhere by typing on the keyboard, and not even in a specific application. The search is performed on the fly when typing, then brings back results not only relating to emails, IM's, text messages, but also music, RSS feeds and even from social networking sites. It's fast and the results are very thoroughly, where the task we found takes little time in running.

The Bottom Line

From the outset, the BlackBerry Torch 9800 does appear to be the best of both worlds - a touch screen device and also a handset with an actual physical Qwerty keyboard. It does appear as if the Storm2 and BlackBerry Bold 9700 have visited a chop-shop and the Torch 9800 is the result.

We're glad RIM has switched from the push-in-screen-to-action-a-task touch screen display of the Storm handsets, as the 9800 now works much better than any of those two previous devices. The Qwerty keyboard is a little on the small side for our liking, although the learning curve and adjustment process was nothing like what was seen with the Storm phones touch screens - we were used to the actual physical keyboard in no time at all.

The OS is a vast improvement over any RIM platform we've seen before, with a very consumer friendly feel along with managing to still retain the business elements needed to succeed elsewhere. Over all, we were fairly impressed with the BlackBerry Torch 9800 and we're keen to see if it wins over BlackBerry keyboard based users and also those who have come from a traditional touch screen environment.

Originally published at OneMobileRing.com

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