There’s a lot to look forward to in Android’s next major update, but hardware nerds are focusing in one one key feature: official support for 64-bit mobile chips. It’s the mobile OS’ inevitable future, and chip-makers have been preparing for it for quite awhile. Now app developers can jump in, too: Google announced today that a x86 64-bit Android L developer preview emulator image is available for developers that want to take their apps to the next generation. Not every dev will need to rebuild, however — apps built in Java will automatically benefit from the 64-bit release’s increased accessibility to memory and registers. Choose another language? Well, you’ll need to recompile: head over to the source to start testing your apps in 64-bit.
It’s official: HTML5 is a standard.
The World Wide Web Consortium today has elevated the HTML5 specification to ‘recommendation’ status, giving it the group’s highest level of endorsement, which is akin to becoming a standard.
But Jeff Jaffe, CEO of the W3C, was quick to point out that work on the Web is far from complete.
HTML5 is a critical piece in terms of importance to the next generation of Web technology in general, according to Jaffe. “I think back to what the Web originally was, which was accessing static documents from Web pages. Today, it’s what we call the Open Web Platform for building distributed applications, characterized by rich media – video, audio and graphics – natively available in browsers,” he said.
The Web, he pointed out, not only works on desktop and laptop computers, but is also doing well on television sets and eBook readers, and will be an automotive experience in the not-too-distant future. But, he cautioned, the Web only works well “if there’s interoperability, and you get there through the standards process.” Acknowledging that that can be a lengthy process, Jaffe said some organizations will implement the specification before it’s a standard, and the standards body learns from those implementations in advancing the specification.
One of the major hang-ups during the development of the HTML5 specification was the inclusion of a video codec for decoding video. Jaffe said the W3C did not select a mandatory codec for inclusion in HTML5. “H.264 is widely used but has a patent pool that is the complete opposite of royalty-free,” he said. “So to select something less popular [the WebM, or VP8 codec endorsed by Google and others] would be awkward.”
Jaffe went on to say he’s still negotiation with MPEG LA, holders of the patent behind the h.264 codec, to come up with a baseline interoperability level commitment that is royalty-free that could serve as a loss leader for their higher profiles for performance or clarity of image, but has not as yet made any progress. That royalty-free version, he said, would be extremely helpful for “people developing solutions in developing countries who are more sensitive to cost.”
Along with the announcement of the HTML5 recommendation, Jaffe introduced Application Foundations, to help developers writing applications for the Web. “At the end of the day, we still have a little bit of an engine room mentality,” Jaffe said. “We’ve been working up from the Web instead of down from the developers, and we ask if we’ve given them what they need to create these rich Web applications.”
The W3C has identified eight foundation areas: security and privacy, application lifecycle, media and real-time communications, core Web design and development, device interaction, performance and tuning, usability and accessibility and common services. Jaffe goes into detail on each of these topics in his blog.
Interestingly, work being done for real-time communications is driving the need for a standard codec, explained Ian Jacobs, communications director for the W3C. “When people take their own videos, they need a standard way to encode the video, not just decode videos. This is driving the push for a standard codec.”
So, in the 25th anniversary year of the Web, Jaffe gave credit for its development to the Web community. “For people who say we’ve done a good job, we love that. But it’s just the beginning. There’s a lot more to go.”
In: Mobile Technology · Tagged with: API, HTML5
Lisa Eadicicco, Business Insider, 10/27/14
Back in June, Google unveiled what’s being called the biggest Android update yet. With Android 5.0, or “Lollipop,” Google is adding a bunch of changes that are both physical and internal.
One of the biggest alterations will be the introduction of Material Design — a new design language that puts more of an emphasis on shadows and colors. There are a handful of under-the-hood improvements, too, such as Project Volta, which is a collection of back end enhancements meant to improve battery life.
But, unlike the iPhone, Android devices don’t get major software updates all at the same time. It depends on which type of phone you have and which carrier you’re on.
There are also tons of Android phones that are left out of major carrier updates too.
We still don’t know exactly when Android 5.0 will be released for every phone, but here’s a roundup of what we know so far.
Google’s Nexus 6 will come with Android 5.0 already installed, and both the Nexus 4 and Nexus 5 will receive the update too. Google hasn’t announced when it will launch, but Google has reportedly given developers a date of Nov. 3, according to blog Android Police.
HTC’s One M8 and previous-generation One M7 will both get Android 5.0 as well. Jeff Gordon, the company’s global online communications manager, tweeted that both phones will get the upgrade within 90 days of the software’s final release.
Motorola announced last week that its first and second generation Moto X and Moto G will get Android 5.0, along with the Moto G LTE, Moto E, and Droid Ultra, Droid Maxx, and Droid Mini phones.
Samsung hasn’t made any official announcements regarding updates for its line of smartphones, but rumors suggest the Galaxy S5 will be able to upgrade come December. Samsung also teased an Android Lollipop update for its new Galaxy Note 4 via Twitter. It’s likely that Samsung’s other popular phones, such as the Galaxy S4 and Galaxy Note 3, will also get the upgrade, but we haven’t heard anything just yet.
LG hasn’t revealed which of its phones will get Android Lollipop yet either. However, rumors from tech blogs such as GSM Arena and PhoneArena suggest the LG G3 will get the update before the end of the year, and the G2 will receieve the upgrade in early 2015.
In: Android, Mobile Technology · Tagged with: HTC, Motorola, Samsung
Mike Elgan, ComputerWorld, 10/26/14
Gmail represents a dying class of products that, like Google Reader, puts control in the hands of users, not signal-harvesting algorithms.
I’m predicting that Google will end Gmail within the next five years. The company hasn’t announced such a move — nor would it. But whether we like it or not, and whether even Google knows it or not, Gmail is doomed.
What is email, actually?
Email was created to serve as a “dumb pipe.” In mobile network parlance, a “dumb pipe” is when a carrier exists to simply transfer bits to and from the user, without the ability to add services and applications or serve as a “smart” gatekeeper between what the user sees and doesn’t see.
Carriers resist becoming “dumb pipes” because there’s no money in it. A pipe is a faceless commodity, valued only by reliability and speed. In such a market, margins sink to zero or below zero, and it becomes a horrible business to be in.
“Dumb pipes” are exactly what users want. They want the carriers to provide fast, reliable, cheap mobile data connectivity. Then, they want to get their apps, services and social products from, you know, the Internet.
Email is the “dumb pipe” version of communication technology, which is why it remains popular. The idea behind email is that it’s an unmediated communications medium. You send a message to someone. They get the message.
When people send you messages, they stack up in your in-box in reverse-chronological order, with the most recent ones on top.
Compare this with, say, Facebook, where you post a status update to your friends, and some tiny minority of them get it. Or, you send a message to someone on Facebook and the social network drops it into their “Other” folder, which hardly anyone ever checks.
Of course, email isn’t entirely unmediated. Spammers ruined that. We rely on Google’s “mediation” in determining what’s spam and what isn’t.
But still, at its core, email is by its very nature an unmediated communications medium, a “dumb pipe.” And that’s why people like email.
Why email is a problem for Google
You’ll notice that Google has made repeated attempts to replace “dumb pipe” Gmail with something smarter. They tried Google Wave. That didn’t work out.
They hoped people would use Google+ as a replacement for email. That didn’t work, either.
They added prioritization. Then they added tabs, separating important messages from less important ones via separate containers labeled by default “Primary,” “Promotions,” “Social Messages,” “Updates” and “Forums.” That was vaguely popular with some users and ignored by others. Plus, it was a weak form of mediation — merely reshuffling what’s already there, but not inviting a fundamentally different way to use email.
This week, Google introduced an invitation-only service called Inbox. Another attempt by the company to mediate your dumb email pipe, Inbox is an alternative interface to your Gmail account, rather than something that requires starting over with a new account.
Instead of tabs, Inbox groups together and labels and color-codes messages according to categories.
One key feature of Inbox is that it performs searches based on the content of your messages and augments your inbox with that additional information. One way to look at this is that, instead of grabbing extraneous relevant data based on the contents of your Gmail messages and slotting it into Google Now, it shows you those Google Now cards immediately, right there in your in-box.
Inbox identifies addresses, phone numbers and items (such as purchases and flights) that have additional information on the other side of a link, then makes those links live so you can take quick action on them.
You can also do mailbox-like “snoozing” to have messages go away and return at some future time.
You can also “pin” messages so they stick around, rather than being buried in the in-box avalanche.
Inbox has many other features.
The bottom line is that it’s a more radical mediation between the communication you have with other people and with the companies that provide goods, services and content to you.
The positive spin on this is that it brings way more power and intelligence to your email in-box.
The negative spin is that it takes something user-controlled, predictable, clear and linear and takes control away from the user, making email unpredictable, unclear and nonlinear.
That users will judge this and future mediated alternatives to email and label them either good or bad is irrelevant.
The fact is that Google, and companies like Google, hate unmediated anything.
The reason is that Google is in the algorithm business, using user-activity “signals” to customize and personalize the online experience and the ads that are served up as a result of those signals.
Google exists to mediate the unmediated. That’s what it does.
That’s what the company’s search tool does: It mediates our relationship with the Internet.
That’s why Google killed Google Reader, for example. Subscribing to an RSS feed and having an RSS reader deliver 100% of what the user signed up for in an orderly, linear and predictable and reliable fashion is a pointless business for Google.
It’s also why I believe Google will kill Gmail as soon as it comes up with a mediated alternative everyone loves. Of course, Google may offer an antiquated “Gmail view” as a semi-obscure alternative to the default “Inbox”-like mediated experience.
But the bottom line is that dumb-pipe email is unmediated, and therefore it’s a business that Google wants to get out of as soon as it can.
Say goodbye to the unmediated world of RSS, email and manual Web surfing. It was nice while it lasted. But there’s just no money in it.
In: Mobile Technology
, Engadget, 10/21/14
We’re barely seeing 4G take hold here in the States and the FCC has begun the process to push into 5G for mobile data. The government’s communications council voted unanimously to start looking into accessing the higher-than-24GHz frequency spectrum that was previously thought to be, as Reuters notes, unusable by mobile networks. So what are the benefits? Gigabit internet connections on the go, for starters — something our current sub-3GHz spectrum can’t quite handle — similar to the ones Samsung just tested. Yeah, now you’re excited. The feds believe that using these “millimeter waves” would allow for higher bandwidth for more people and devices at speeds that outclass most homes’ broadband.
However, these waves only work over short distances for now and require line of sight for their point-to-point microwave connections. And that, my friends, is what the FCC is hoping to fix in the interim. What the vote means is that the groundwork is being laid, and research to make sure the tech is actually feasible now has the green light. For now it’s anyone’s guess (some estimates say by 2020) when we’ll actually start surfing the mobile web at Google Fiber speeds while we’re out and about — millimeter waves may be fast, but the wheels of bureaucracy are not.
In: Mobile Technology · Tagged with: 3G, 4G, 5G, FCC, Samsung
Phil Goldstein, FierceWireless, 10/17/14
Samsung Electronics said it has developed Wi-Fi technology using the 60 GHz WiGig standard that can transmit data at 4.6 Gbps. That is around five times faster than existing peak 802.11ac Wi-Fi speeds of around 866 Mbps.
Samsung said the technology will let users transmit a 1 GB movie between devices in less than three seconds, and that uncompressed HD videos can be streamed from mobile devices to TVs in real time without any delay. Samsung plans to commercialize the technology as early as next year.
The 60 GHz WiGig specification was developed by the WiGig Alliance, which subsequently merged with the Wi-Fi Alliance, making WiGig part of the Wi-Fi family of specs. WiGig is standardized as IEEE 802.11ad.
Samsung said its 802.11ad technology maintains maximum speed by eliminating co-channel interference, no matter how many devices are accessing network. Thus, the conglomerate said the technology removes the gap between theoretical and actual speeds.
In a statement, Samsung noted that there are challenges in commercializing 60 GHz Wi-Fi because millimeter waves that travel by line-of-sight have weak propagation characteristics and are susceptible to path loss, resulting in poor signal and data performance. However, Samsung said that by leveraging millimeter-wave circuit design and high performance modem technologies, and by developing wide-coverage beam-forming antenna, it was able to produce high-performance 60 GHz technology.
Chipset companies, from behemoths like Qualcomm down to small, fabless semiconductor firms like Nitero, are developing 802.11ad chipsets for commercial smartphones for next year.
Samsung said it plans to put its 802.11ad technology in a variety of devices, including audio visual and medical devices, as well as telecommunications equipment. The company also said it will be important in the smart home and Internet of Things markets.
In: Mobile Technology · Tagged with: Samsung, WiFi
In: Android, Mobile Technology
Michael Carroll, FierceWireless, 10/9/14
IP Exchange (IPX) will play a crucial role in enabling voice roaming on LTE networks, panellists at the LTE Voice Summit said here.
Maria Cuevas, head of core mobile networks research at BT, said the operator already has many of the elements to offer voice over LTE (VoLTE) roaming, but conceded that IPX players have a large role to play in making roaming a reality.
“From a network to network perspective we think that IPX providers have a huge role to play and can actually help overcome…problems of interoperability between IMS providers be it at the signalling level, be it transcoding in the network, be it quality of service end-to-end, and things like multimedia routing and how to…route the media through the optimal path through the network. Those are value added features that an IPX provider can…help operators with,” Cuevas told delegates.
David Hutton, technical director of the GSMA’s Network 2020 Programme, noted that IPX providers will be critical to offering international VoLTE roaming. “An operator would find it very difficult to have relationships with each one of their partners, or each of the other 799 operators around the world. To set up all those routing and signalling establishments, particularly the routes that you use internationally, is very complex,” he said.
However, Hutton also noted that there are different ways operators can utilise IPX providers. “One is a hubbing model, in which case you have a one-to-one relationship between yourself as the operator and the IPX provider and that IPX provider then determines how to route it to all the other 799 operators around the world.”
IPX providers may also offer varied capabilities, said Steve Heap, CTO of Hot Telecom. “You’ve got IPX providers coming from different backgrounds–you have two on the panel here. One, Syniverse, coming from a roaming background…another [iBasis] coming from more of a voice and transmission background and both are going into the same space.”
Heap noted: “Why would Syniverse want to generate enormous billing systems to create this per minute [billing] model? Similarly, why would iBasis want to have the same model for signalling? So you’ve got two people coming in with nothing to lose into the same market place.”
Kees Hol, business strategist at iBasis, said the implementation of VoLTE seems more imminent than it did a year ago. “I have the feeling there is a more positive vibe on VoLTE and I believe…that we all are aware it will come.”
For Syniverse senior technology program director Pradeep Bhardwaj, IPX is the glue that will provide the interface between elements including IMS and signalling. “IPX is very very fundamental,” he said.
In: Mobile Technology · Tagged with: LTE, VoLTE
Tammy Parker, FierceWireless, 10/3/14
Mobile operators offloading their data traffic to Wi-Fi need the latest and greatest testing and monitoring solutions to ensure the Wi-Fi networks being used meet carrier-grade quality requirements, and that will drive continued growth in the market for Wi-Fi test equipment, according to a new study from Frost & Sullivan.
“More than 55 percent of all mobile data is expected to be offloaded to Wi-Fi networks in 2017, making it imperative for mobile operators to ensure that Wi-Fi networks are of carrier-grade quality,” said Frost & Sullivan Measurement and Instrumentation Program Manager Olga Yashkova-Shapiro.
The firm said the global Wi-Fi test equipment market generated revenues of $528.9 million during 2013. Revenues are expected to more than double, reaching $1.09 billion in 2020.
Test equipment for the latest generation of Wi-Fi, 802.11ac, is currently used in the research and development (R&D) and quality assurance (QA) testing phases. “However, as the market shifts towards manufacturing and field tests, a new set of intelligent testing solutions is required to address the performance and testing of .11ac products for consumers,” Frost & Sullivan said.
The firm noted, however, that 802.11ac’s features pose testing challenges. “For instance, the multiple-input and multiple-output (MIMO) antenna used in .11ac products requires channel emulation for testing radio performance. Vendors will need to set up a testing chamber for controlled RF conditions,” Frost & Sullivan said.
The firm also cited testing problems caused by changes in Wi-Fi gear as a standard develops. It noted that the final standard the Wi-Fi Alliance approves is often very different from earlier drafts used to develop many products, making it difficult for test equipment vendors to manufacture compliant test platforms. Frost & Sullivan suggested test equipment vendors either ensure their products can be updated continuously or hold off on releasing products until a final standard is released.
In: Mobile Technology · Tagged with: WiFi
Phil Goldstein, FierceWireless, 10/3/14
The FCC is going to start exploring whether and how wireless services can be used in extremely high-band spectrum frequencies above 24 GHz, potentially presaging work carriers will engage in to develop “5G” networks.
In announcing its agenda for its Oct. 17 open meeting, the FCC said it will vote on a Notice of Inquiry to “explore innovative developments in the use of spectrum above 24 GHz for mobile wireless services, and how the Commission can facilitate the development and deployment of those technologies.”
In a blog post, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler wrote that the inquiry is aimed at broadening the FCC’s “understanding of the state of the art in technological developments that will enable the use of millimeter wave spectrum above 24 GHz for mobile wireless services.”
He noted that “early studies show that these new technologies–what some are calling ‘5G’–can ultimately facilitate a throughput of up to 10 Gigabits/second, a speed that is orders of magnitude greater than that available today. Our effort here is to learn about the technology and ensure a regulatory environment where these technologies can flourish.”
It’s unclear exactly what the scope of the inquiry will be, but it could be related to multiple technologies or potential future wireless use cases. BTIG analyst Walter Piecyk said it could be related to line of sight and to point-to-point connections, or point-to-multipoint.
Current Analysis analyst (and FierceWireless contributor) Peter Jarich said the traditional use of spectrum in those high bands has been for backhaul or narrow-beam technologies, because of the spectrum’s weak propagation characteristics. He also mentioned point-to-multipoint as an option.
Wireless carriers and network vendors have consistently discussed high-band spectrum and millimeter wave technologies as two fronts in the development of next-generation 5G networks. Jarich said the FCC’s inquiry could be based on how to use very-high-band spectrum in the radio access layer of networks for expanded capacity.
In a statement, CTIA President Meredith Attwell Baker said the trade group is “pleased the FCC will open a proceeding to investigate the use of non-traditional spectrum bands for mobile wireless services.”
“The mobile broadband ecosystem continues to evolve to include new services and technologies, making it essential for policymakers to identify new sources of spectrum, and we look forward to working [with] the Commission as it starts this inquiry,” she said.
Meanwhile, the FCC also said it will consider a Report and Order to promote the deployment of wireless infrastructure. Wheeler wrote that Distributed Antenna System networks and other small-cell systems “use components that are a fraction of the size of traditional macrocells and can be installed–unobtrusively–on utility poles, buildings, and other existing structures.” He noted that the draft order crafts “a far more efficient process for small deployments that do not trigger concerns about environmental protection or historic preservation.”
Wheeler also wrote that the draft order implements “federal statutory directives that are intended to make state and local review more efficient for wireless deployments and modifications that are highly unlikely to affect local communities. At the same time, it preserves our commitment to safeguarding the essential roles that state, local and tribal governments play in this process.”
Baker said the CTIA welcomes “the FCC’s efforts to streamline this process. I am pleased that the FCC will be taking this important step to help boost America’s economy by providing shovel-ready jobs and meeting consumers’ demands for mobile Internet anytime, anywhere. “
In: Mobile Technology · Tagged with: 5G, FCC
Jef Cozza, Mobile Tech Today, 9/25/14
Hoping to claw its way back into the palms of enterprise users who long ago switched to Android and iOS devices, BlackBerry released its new Passport smartphone Wednesday. Although once the most ubiquitous accessory for business executives, the company now holds only 0.5 percent of the smartphone market as of the second quarter of 2014, putting it behind Android, iOS and the Windows Phone operating system.
The Waterloo, Ontario-based company highlighted the phone’s distinctive design, saying that the device would stand out in a “sea of sameness.” The name itself, “Passport,” was chosen to reflect the device’s unusual shape, about the size of an actual passport.
Tactile QWERTY Keyboard
The handset features a 4.5-inch 1440×1440 square touchscreen and a tactile keyboard with a full QWERTY layout. It runs on a quad-core 2.26-GHz processor that comes with 3 GB of memory and 32 GB of storage, along with a microSD slot for additional space, a 13-megapixel camera and the BlackBerry 10.3 operating system.
The company said its reputation for security relative to mobile operating systems such as iOS and Android would once again make BlackBerry an attractive device for enterprise customers. It also comes with a 3,450-mAH battery, which the company claims gives it 36 hours of life, a considerable advantage over the iPhone 6’s 1,810-mAH battery.
Although at 4.5 inches, the Passport is smaller than the 4.7-inch screen on the new iPhone 6, BlackBerry says the screen can display up to 60 characters across for users hoping to use the device to work on spreadsheets and other business documents. In addition, users can navigate through screens by swiping across the physical keyboard. The handset maker has also added compatibility with Android apps to the latest version of its operating system. Amazon’s App Store will also come installed.
Priced at $599 without a contract, the Passport comes in below the new iPhone 6, which starts at $649 for users without a contract.
Too Little, Too Late?
But the question remains whether the Passport can return BlackBerry to its former glory, or indeed, even compete against Android and iOS phones. The company said that business users account for 30 percent of the smartphone market, and pitched the device specifically to enterprise users such as mortgage brokers and stock traders. It also highlighted use cases such as looking at blueprints or X-rays. And the BlackBerry platform is still valued by government clients due to its strong security technology.
But Passport will have its work cut out for itself if BlackBerry hopes to recover from the disastrous reception it received for its last major product launch, the BlackBerry 10. And the handset’s unusual square screen might make it a hard sell to executives accustomed to having just one phone for both work and personal use. Execs who prefer the more popular form factors of Apple and Android phones may find themselves wondering if it makes sense to carry two separate devices for work and pleasure.
The launch may also prove too little, too late for enterprises that long ago switched platforms, despite the company’s insistence that the Passport is “designed from the ground up for the working professional in mind.” The company has already been forced to lay off 60 percent of its workforce earlier this year as core enterprise partners switched to other manufacturers.