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Best of SPE, 17 May 2009

Each week we bring you the Best of SPE and this week is no exception. From Android to Windows Mobile and everything in between, we've got your smartphone news fix right here.

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Another Tech-Ed video: Making the UI better

Probably one of the larger complaints about Windows Mobile is how it's lacking a bit of the shiny. In other words, the user interface could use a little sexing up. In this session from Tech-Ed, Andy Wigley and Andrej Radinger talk a little about what developers can do to spruce things up.

Actually, we're being coy. The name of this video is "Can Windows Mobile UIs Look as Good as the iPhone? Yes, They Can!" And the description:

True, the standard controls in the Visual Studio Toolbox look a bit 'Windows 95-ish', but armed with some fairly simple programming techniques, a little knowledge of how controls get painted on the screen and the skills of a decent graphic artist, Windows Mobile developers can create applications that look great--and enjoy the far superior productivity that developing with the .NET Compact Framework gives you.

Interesting stuff. Give it a look-see here.

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Dashwire gets $1.6 million in new funding

Looks like Microsoft's going to continue to have some fairly major competition in the cloud. Dashwire, the popular sync service and a direct competitor to Microsoft's beta My Phone service, recently secured $1.6 million in funding. Dashwire syncs contacts, pictures and other PIM data to the cloud and can upload photos to various online services.

Said Dashwire founder and CEO Ford Davidson:

“We’re growing our business right now. We will hire a few more developers. We’ll have some new things released later in the year, and we’re cranking away on it.”

So we'll be looking for more from Dashwire in the future. Currently it runs on Windows Mobile and Symbian phones, and BlackBerry and Android clients reportedly are in the works.

Xconomy via mocoNews

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Official Firefox mobile Alpha release is out!

Work on the Firefox mobile browser — aka Fennec — has been marching steadily ahead, and the team has released an official Alpha build. The highlights:

  • New Add-Ons Manager
  • New Downloads Manager
  • New CSS based theme
  • TraceMonkey, Mozilla's new JavaScript engine
  • jemalloc, the memory management library used by Mozillla.
  • Faster application start-up time
  • Faster panning
  • Faster zooming
  • Initial implementation of bookmark folders and bookmark editing

Just like with the pre-Alpha and nightly build versions, this was built and tested on an HTC Touch Pro, so there's where you're likely to have the most success. That said, this is Alpha, and bugs are likely.

Says Mozilla's Brad Lassey (read our interview with him here) in his blog:

It is not yet recommended to use this release for daily browsing tasks. Certain performance problems will become immediately apparent to the user. Panning has a noticeable delay between the user first touching the page and the page moving. We are certain that other less obvious bugs exist and we invite you to help bring them to light. You can find detailed information on how to file a good bug in bugzilla , our bug tracking system, here .

So remember, folks. This isn't a finished version, but a pretty big step in the process. Get your download on here (or here directly from your phone), and let us know in the comments how it works for you.

Update: Video of the Alpha release after the break.

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We know there's a special breed of people out there who don't like touching the screen of their phones and instead stick to a stylus. (We're looking at you, Mal!) But what if Microsoft's trying to go one further in Windows Mobile 7 and make it so that you don't have to touch the phone at all?

ZDNet's Mary-Jo Foley has uncovered slides from a January 2008 internal Microsoft presentation that showed "non-touch" technology. Basically you'd put the phone on a flat surface and wave your hand over it in various motions to make it trigger various actions. (These are not the droids you're looking for.)

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SideSight: Multitouch on Steroids

We all know from the leaked info on WM7 that multitouch (already hardware capable on some HTC devices) is going to be a big part of the UI.

Word is MicroSoft is going beyond just aping the iPhone though and adding some further functionality, to wit: SideSight, as demonstrated above and described below

In this research project, dubbed SideSight, infrared sensors on the side of the device allow a user to, say, rotate an image, by making a gesture to the side of the device.

We have to admit, devices next year are going to be might-tee funky, between shaking them, touching them and in some cases...not touching them.

At least our Jedi-envy will finally be appeased by the tech gods!

Source: Cnet via SolSie

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Samsung Jack likely a U.S.-only phone

Bad news for those of you outside the United States who were hoping to get your hands on the Samsung Jack. It looks like it's going to be a U.S.-only phone.

Says Samsung Austria to TamsWMS:

Like the Propel Pro, you are looking at yet another US-only handset. This means that Samsung Austria has no pictures or samples…

The good news: There's always the HTC Snap for some Windows Mobile Standard fun.

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Our guesses for 'Project Charlie'

So three mysterious AT&T devices bound for AT&T have appeared in Best Buy's computer system. They're dubbed "Project Charlie," and that's all we know.

Is it possibly they're Windows Mobile phones? Sure. We're expecting new stuff from HTC — the Touch Diamond 2, Touch Pro 2 and the Snap — in the coming months. But HTC stuff generally doesn't get cloaked in that much secrecy.

The Phone Arena tipster thinks it could be placeholders for a possible upcoming iPhone, and that's probably a good guess. Us? We're hoping for a personally branded phone from one of our favorite Charlies.

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Spare Touch Pro battery takes its revenge

Look. We don't know PPCGeeks user kidmet. He's probably a pretty cool cat. But we can't imagine it'd be too much fun to ride around in his back pocket all day. We'd just assplode.

And that's exactly what his spare Touch Pro battery apparently did.

I walked into my house early this week to the smell of burning. I couldn't find where it was coming from. Last night as I was gathering my laundry I noticed a burn through the back of my jeans. A HUGE hole. I had a spare Touch Pro battery in my back pocket. It had expanded and obviously started a fire in my jeans. They were in a clothes pile and buried, so I assume that there wasn't enough oxygen to start a fire.

We don't know if this was an OEM battery or if it was straight from HTC. But we're glad your butt's OK, kidmet, and we're glad this isn't an everyday occurrence.

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Here's another video out of Microsoft's Tech-Ed conference in Los Angeles. It's just a 12-minute run-through of Windows Mobile 6.5. We see the lock screen, today screen, home screen, Office and My Phone. Nothing you haven't already seen before, just fresher. And some of the "finger-friendly" menus are still the same ol' thing, just a little bigger. (And can we get rid of radio buttons already?)

Check out the whole video here.

And speaking of Windows Mobile 6.5, the WM Dev Team on Twitter posted the following:

For the record, Windows Mobile 6.5 is DONE... complete... looks really good IOHO and every bit functional. ping us if u want to know more.

Here's what we want to know: Can we have it already?!?!?!? We kid, we kid. But not really.

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Under Pressure: WinMo Team explains UI changes in 6.5

Looks like Ars Technica has done a nice summary of the TechEd 2009 and depending on your thoughts and feelings about the new UI layout in WM6.5, you may find this admission from Senior Project Manager Loke Uei Tan either remarkable for the talent or shocking due to the obvious time constraints, which resulted in an uninspiring UI layout:

The reason why we couldn't complete the interface on Windows Mobile 6.5 is because of time. We only spend what, eight months, nine months, to build 6.5 from ground up and it's actually an amazing engineering feat. But, in order to do that, we had to do some prioritization and we had to cut certain features. Eventually, we will make sure that the UI capabilities are carried out throughout the whole platform.

This pretty much confirms what we already knew: WM6.5 was not really suppose to happen, that in effect it was a stop-gap till WM7 gets released.  Just how old is WM7?  Anyone remember a thing called "Photon" mentioned at the end of 2005Yeah.

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Verizon pushes LTE to second half of 2010

In a conference call late Wednesday, Verizon Wireless announced that it's shifting the planned rollout of its 4G LTE network to the second half of 2010, with national coverage in 2013 and complete coverage in 2015.

From Electronista:

Initially slated for early 2010, the Long Term Evolution (LTE) network is now said by wireless chief Lowell McAdam to be fully commercial for the second half of that year in 20 to 30 markets.

Also noted is that Verizon is scaling back its baseline speed to between 8Mbps and 12Mbps on average, which still should be faster than Sprint's upcoming WiMax network. But the near-term consideration is that as AT&T boosts its 3G network to HSPA+, Verizon and its EVDO Rev. A are going to be slower than its GSM competition.

And in other news ... We're still waiting on that promised GPS unlock. And, no, we haven't forgotten.

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Marketplace prohibited list explained

When Microsoft first released the list of what'll get an app blocked from Windows Marketplace for Mobile, some of the reasons weren't entirely clear. Now, we're happy to say, a number of them have been answered.

Microsoft's Loke Uei spoke on the Winmo World podcast (which features the guys from wmpoweruser, Unwired View and pda.pl) and cleared up some of our questions.

  • No VOIP apps using a carrier's data. (WiFi is just fine. But no Skype over 3G. Sorry, folks. Saw that one coming.)
  • No apps with an OTA download of over 10MB. (That's for the initial app download. So, no 800MB Myst games. Once the app's on your phone, it can suck in as much data as you want. Er, so long as it's not VOIP.)
  • No apps that change the default browser, search client, or media player on the device. (Admittedly, they need to define this a little better, but they're working on it, and apps like Opera, Skyfire, Kinoma and the like should be OK.)

There's also a lot of talk about fragmenting the Windows Mobile application ecosystem with these rules, which will keep a number of apps out of the Marketplace. Our take on that:

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Oh, hello Samsung Jack on AT&T.  You'll be available on May19th for $99 after contract?  Sounds good!  You're actually a big upgrade to the Blackjack II?  How's that?  Oh, we see:

  • Windows Mobile 6.1
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g
  • Tri-band HSDPA (850/1900/2100) and Quadband Edge (850/900/1800/1900)
  • aGPS
  • 528 MHz processor, 256MB ROM/256MB RAM
  • Display: 2.4 inches, 65k, TFT, Color, 320 x 240 pixels
  • 5-way navigation with Turbo Scroll
  • 3.2MP camera
  • Dimensions: 4.4” L x 2.4 W x 0.5” D/Weight 3.6 oz.
  • 1480 mAh battery - Talk Time: 7 hours/Stand-by Time: 12 days
  • Connectivity options in Bluetooth 2.0 EDR and USB 2.0
  • 16GB external memory support via microSD
  • 3.5mm Headset Adapter
  • An arguably better keyboard
  • shorter than the BJII

Well, let's be fair, Jack, not all of those features are new.  But we're liking your looks and we're happy to see WiFi is in the mix.  Very happy to meet you.  Still no 3.5mm headset jack, Jack?  That's ok, we still think you look very svelte.  We're curious to hear about this "Turbo Scroll" thing too, do tell someday, ok?

What's that, you have a corporate-sponsored hands-on video?  Sure, we'll post it after the break. Anything for you, Jack.  A press release and a side shot too? Shucks, Jack, you bet.

(Update: Jack, you sly dog, the press release says you're upgradable to Windows Mobile 6.5.  We don't see a Windows Start flag button, though -- can you explain that one, Jack?)

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Official Facebook app gets bug fixes

Less than a week after it was officially announced, Microsoft has issued an update to the official Windows Mobile Facebook application. Here's what's fixed, according to the Windows Mobile Team blog:

This version should help anyone that was getting the “cannot install due to insufficient privileges” error and it should also help with some hanging errors.

If you've been having problems with the app, head over to WindowsMobile.com/facebook and try out the update. When you download it, it'll be identified as Facebook_v1.0.0.7p (the old one's just v1.0.0.7.). And here's another tip when upgrading:

You’ll want to uninstall the old application and then make sure that the facebook.vol and fbmail.vol files are deleted from your root directory before reinstalling.

And sure enough, that took care of all of my problems. (The ones I was having with the Facebook app, anyway.) Huzzah!

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Windows Mobile team talks app development

Members of the Windows Mobile team got together after the first day of Microsoft's Tech-Ed conference in Los Angeles to talk application development and discuss the upcoming Windows Marketplace for Mobile. It's an interesting video, albeit 42 minutes long, and well worth a watch. For you busy bees, a couple of interesting points:

  • Widgets will be exclusive to the Marketplace. Don't expect to be able to sideload widgets, because they have to be signed (read: certified), and that can only be done through the Marketplace certification process.
  • A widget, for all intents and purposes, has the same status as an app. That includes counting toward the first five apps submitted for $99.
  • Certification will give end users peace of mind that an app won't brick their phone.
  • No Silverlight on Windows Mobile 6.5.
  • They didn't get to do everything they wanted with Windows Mobile 6.5. Just ran out of time.
  • Marketplace will launch in 55 nations, 29 of which will have for-pay stores as well as free apps.

Check out the entire Tech-Ed video here.

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SPB Mobile Shell 3.0.1 Beta

SPB has released a Beta Update to their Mobile Shell 3.0, SPB Mobile Shell 3.0.1 Beta 1.  The update Beta fixes several "bugs" in the original and adds a few minor features. According to SPB, the release is not designed to add additional "standalone" features but rather to fix known bugs and add small features.

I installed the Beta update on the AT&T Fuze and the overall performance of Mobile Shell seemed to improve. The application felt more responsive to the touch. One fix was to resolve the tremendously slow screen rotation between portrait and landscape modes. The rotation speed was back to normal levels (maybe a hair faster) when you extend the keyboard of the Fuze. However, when you rotate the Fuze horizontally (without the keyboard extended) the screen no longer rotates. The fix is still in the Beta phase so I'm sure SPB will correct this.

A few of the more notable additions/fixes with the Beta include the addition of a "Show Today" widget; the addition of a "Remove All" command in the call log menu, and support for the "call" button in certain screens. From an individual contact screen, when you highlight the desired number to call and hit your "call" button the number is now dialed. In the original 3.0, the "call" button pulled up your dial screen.

There's no word from SPB when the update will be finalized and it's nice to see the prompt response SPB has made in addressing these issues. The SPB Mobile Shell 3.0.1 Beta can be downloaded here and for those interested, follow the break for the complete change log provided by SPB.

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Marketplace registration officially official

It's been more than a week since we first told you Microsoft had opened Windows Marketplace for Mobile to developers, brought you the first look at what's prohibited, and uncovered confirmation that Windows Mobile 6.5 will work on non-touchscreen devices.

Now, Microsoft officially has announced the Marketplace open for business on the Windows Mobile Team blog. Nothing new for the average user, however. No word on when the Marketplace (and thus Windows Mobile 6.5) will be available.

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Yet Another Zune Phone Rumor (Updated)

Just when you think the rumors of a possible Microsoft Zune phone has faded into the sunset, another one surfaces. This round can be credited to a Twitter update from the Microsoft Office 2010 team that hints "June 2009 will be an important month for Zune lovers." This alone is a fairly innocent statement and could simply mean a new Zune player could be launched.  As for why it's the Office 2010 team that is dropping hints, we can't say.

It's the second update on the same Twitter page that complicates things. The update simply states, "New product launch, that's all I'm allowed to say. Hold off from buying an iPhone/Pre." The iPhone and the Pre are obviously smartphones, so it's tempting to put the Zune Phone back into the rumor mix.  Us, though, we're remembering how strenuously Microsoft has denied rumors of being in the hardware business and of the Zune Phone specifically.  So whatever it is, we're not expecting a 180 on this one (but a 360, or more specifically something to do with Xbox 360, doesn't seem crazy).

Regardless, June will be here before you know it and absent a "launch delay" we will all find out soon enough what's up Microsoft's sleeve.

[Read: Neowin.net]

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Possible Required Specs for Windows Mobile 7?

Mary Jo Foley lets us in on some possible info about this "Pink" stuff.  First, there's these reported specs for 'Chasis 1' which according to Foley "seems to be the the heart of the rumored “Pink” Microsoft phone and possibly other Windows Mobile 7 phones made by Microsoft partners".

In other words, Pink may be a prototype/demo unit/scaffold for developers to model their next-gen WM7 handsets on--so Microsoft is setting the bar on what the minimum requirements will be and what they envision the ideal handset would be like.  Sounds pretty plausible to our ears.  Now onto those rumored specs:

WM7 Chassis 1 Specification

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HTC Snap: It's that Fast

Loke Uei Tan, Technical Product Manager for Microsoft was able to capture a short performance video on the HTC Snap at the 2009 TechEd Meetings in Los Angeles.  The video shows how fast the Snap can go from home screen to camera to taking the shot.

It's as fast as a snap and it will be interesting to see how the HTC Snap measures up to the pending Windows Mobile Professional phones that are coming up for release.  If you are already a Windows Mobile Standard fan, the Snap is sure to excite but will the Snap's speediness convert any Windows Mobile Pro users?

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Updated: ChangeSkin for Mobile Shell

A little while ago we told you about ChangeSkin, a utility that brings additional customizations to SPB's Mobile Shell 2.0. Well, the developers over at ChangeSkin has updated the utility to make it compatible with Mobile Shell 3.0. Follow the break for all the info on the update and some screen shots.

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Garmin Nüvifone G60 delayed

Earlier this year we reported on the Garmin Nüvifone G60, a collaboration between GPS giant Garmin and Taiwanese hardware manufacturer Asus. The G60 was first announced back in January of 2008 and slated for a third-quarter 2008 launch that would eventually be delayed until June of 2009. It now looks as if that delay wasn't the last one for the G60.

Engadget Mobile is reporting that the G60 has been delayed once again with an anticipated release sometime during the third quarter of 2009. The company is citing hardware/software complexities as the reason behind the pushed back release date.

The G60 was first thought to be a Windows Mobile phone but development has since gone the direction of Linux OS.  The Garmin M20 is a Windows Mobile based phone and is still slated for a Summer '09 release.

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Touch Diamond 2 gets Asian ROM upgrade already

Chances are this won't affect you whatsoever, but HTC has already released a ROM upgrade for the Asian variant of the Touch Diamond 2. This is especially interesting because the phone is just beginning to make it to market worldwide, and already we're seeing a major fix. This one involves the radio, which is what allows the phone to, ya know, be a phone. And that's pretty important.

The upgrade is free, but make sure you have an Asian version of the phone before trying anything. And we've said it before and we'll say it again: Back up yer schtuff before flashing anything.

HTC Touch Diamond 2 ROM upgrade [via XDA]

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Best of SPE, 10 May 2009

Each week we bring you the best of SPE. This week, The iPhone Blog brings you a gigantic Birthday Bash Contest with a grand prize of a Factory Unlocked iPhone 3G done up, Colorware-style. Crackberry.com had the WES 2009 Conference covered six ways from Sunday, too. Meanwhile, Nokia Experts stood out as the single best place to find out all there is know about the just-released Nokia E71x. There's much more, so read on!

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