Three Weeks After Launch, Google+ Now Available for iPhone

  • Google launched its new Google+ social network June 28th, and an Android app was made immediately available.
  • Three weeks later, Apple finally approved the official Google+ app for iOS (until Tuesday, iPhone users had to access a mobile Web version in Safari).
  • Similar to the Web version, Google+ for iPhone includes Circles (stream of updates from a user’s contacts) and Huddle (for group messaging within a user’s circles).
  • Google+ for iOS works on the iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4 (running iOS 3.1 or later). A dedicated iPad version has yet to be announced.

Samsung Patent Adds Depth-of-Field to Point-and-Clicks

  • Samsung’s recent patent application illustrates how it is possible to add shallow depth-of-field to a point-and-shoot or smartphone camera.
  • The approach makes use of a dual-lens setup (similar to what we’ve seen with 3D cameras lately), where one lens captures full resolution of the target image while the other calculates and records relative distances.
  • The camera then merges the data with the primary image in order to create a depth map. A graduated blur is applied, based on this depth map, adding simulated depth-of-field.
  • The concept is not found in any product; however, Engadget is optimistic: “No word on whether this neat trick will make its way to consumers’ hands — but with 3D still the reigning buzz, we’d upgrade that possibility to a very likely.”
  • The Photography Bay post includes a link to the patent application.

Review: Olloclip Three-in-One Lens for the iPhone

  • The “Olloclip” is a new iPhone lens attachment that features wide-angle, fish-eye and macro lens functionality cleverly designed in a single pocketable unit.
  • Engadget likes the $70 device: “The accessory brings the functionality of all three lenses to the iPhone 4, and it does so well enough to warrant leaving your pro kit at home on occasion — assuming, of course, that your photographs aren’t responsible for putting food on the table.”
  • Overall, Engadget praised the accessory in terms of design, ease of use and image quality, but expressed concern regarding shelf life since it is currently only tied to the iPhone 4. “We imagine the company will be able to adapt future versions to accommodate new iPhone models (and perhaps even smartphones from other manufacturers), but the current version will likely be replaced whenever the next iPhone is released. Keeping that in mind, we love the Olloclip, and plan on shooting with it as long as our hardware allows.”
  • The post includes sample images taken with the Olloclip and a hands-on video review.

Exclusive Look Inside RIM: Rise and Fall of the BlackBerry?

  • In the wake of recent negative press and pleas to management made public, BGR interviewed “multiple” ex-RIM executives and learned stories about the company’s overall “lack of vision and leadership.”
  • The two CEOs, Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis, are described as brilliant “irreplaceable leaders” who unfortunately did not listen to the marketplace over time. (For example: “There will never be a BlackBerry with an MP3 player or camera.”)
  • One significant problem involved the three-year roadmap that focused on refining technologies on existing phones, not on identifying or shaping future trends.
  • For example, one executive claimed RIM was proud of how LITTLE data a user would use so there was no R&D done on browsers.
  • Another claim suggests RIM views carriers, rather than the end users, as the customers.
  • In the tablet realm, execs claim the PlayBook was sold to carriers below margin and is not making RIM any money. Moreover, RIM did not reveal that the PlayBook would not have native email until the last minute. “RIM is notorious for dropping these bombshells at the 11th hour on the carriers, and the PlayBook not having native email was a shock to the carriers.”

Will Apple Offer a Free Version of its iPhone?

  • Apple may soon “amp up competition with Android” by offering its iPhone 3GS for $0 (with a qualifying service contract).
  • The iPhone 3GS was launched in the U.S. in June 2009.
  • RBC Capital Market analyst Mike Abramsky suggests the free phone will be made available the same time that Apple releases its successor to the iPhone 4, providing options for different demographics.
  • Abramsky also forecasts the free 3GS could “expand the iPhone’s worldwide marketshare from some 64 million users to more than 150 million users.”
  • Google’s Android is currently the top-selling smartphone platform in the U.S.

Will Video Games Drive 3D Mobile Phone Sales?

  • Nintendo introduced autostereoscopic 3D gaming with its 3DS system earlier this year, but it failed to gain significant traction.
  • In his Forbes Tech column, John Gaudiosi suggests the availability of new top-tier 3D games and a drop in price may help turn that around.
  • The drop in price may come sooner than expected, now that Sprint’s $200 Evo 3D (from HTC) – the first glasses-free 3D phone for the U.S. – is available. Plus, later this summer AT&T will enter the 3D market with its LG Thrill 4G.
  • “While some have called 3D phones gimmicky, these devices are already commonplace in Asia. And with an influx of new 3D phones entering the market this year, coupled with the Nintendo 3DS, Jim Cameron recently told me that he sees these glasses free devices as being key for the adoption of 3D TVs in the homes.”
  • Gaudiosi’s column features several interesting video reports and interviews about the direction of 3D.

Nielsen Reports TV Viewing Increase Across All Platforms

  • Americans are watching on average 22 more minutes of television per month than last year, according to Nielsen’s cross-platform video report.
  • The average viewer watched more than 158 hours a month of television content on a TV set in Q1 2011.
  • Viewing has increased across all platforms, with Internet and mobile devices seeing increases of 34.5 percent and 20 percent, respectively.
  • However, a subset of viewers who access video via their PCs tend to watch significantly less traditional TV (especially in the 18- to 34-year-old demographic).
  • Nielsen credits the surge to increased amount and diversity of content in addition to the ability to view content based on viewer’s convenience.
  • Another factor is the rise of the tablet, which offers a bigger and better viewing surface than smartphones.
  • According to Peter V. Dobrow from Comcast, families are increasingly adopting mobile devices for TV viewing. “Families use them, if the adults want to watch one thing, then the kids can watch another on the iPad and the whole family can still be in the same room,” Dobrow said. “We’re pulling together different apps and trying to make it easier to use and more consumer friendly.”

Smartphone Data Usage Hits All-Time High

  • It should come as no surprise that Nielsen’s monthly analysis of cellphone bills for more than 65,000 lines indicates that smartphone users (which comprise 37 percent of U.S. mobile subscribers) are consuming more data than ever before on a per-user basis (especially those with app-friendly iPhones and Android devices).
  • The average smartphone user is accessing 89 percent more data per month than last year’s figures, growing from an average of 230MB per month to 435MB per month in the first quarter of 2011.
  • Nielsen reports that “data usage for the top 10 percent of smartphone users (90th percentile) is up 109 percent while the top 1 percent (99th percentile) has grown their usage by an astonishing 155 percent from 1.8GB in Q1 2010 to over 4.6GB in Q1 2011.”
  • As data usage dramatically increases, most users are paying approximately the same amount they did a year ago for data, translating to a lower cost per unit of data consumed.  According to Nielsen: “The amount the average smartphone user pays per unit of data has dropped by nearly 50 percent in the last year, from 14 cents per megabyte (MB) to a mere 8 cents.”

3D Phones: Next Big Thing or Next Big Gimmick?

  • Recent product announcements indicate 3D technology may not be just for cinema releases and home theaters, as the technology is beginning to make its way to mobile devices.
  • The first significant 3D mobile device was the Nintendo 3DS (launched in March). The $249 3DS features a 3.5-inch glasses-free 3D screen. However, sales so far have been disappointing. NPD Group reports that Nintendo sold almost 400,000 units in the first week following its U.S. launch (100,000 units less than sales of the original DS in November 2010).
  • Now, tablets and smartphones are in the 3D spotlight.
  • Rumors are surfacing that the next iPad will feature 3D capabilities – and two new Android smartphones, the LG Thrill and the HTC Evo 3D, are already touting glasses-free 3D.
  • Manufacturers hope these devices will make watching movies, playing games, and sharing photos more of an immersive experience.
  • The LG and HTC phones include special 5MP dual-lens cameras for shooting 3D photos and videos.
  • It is too early to tell whether 3D technology for mobile devices will be the next big thing or merely the next big gimmick. However, the much lower cost of mobile devices could make adoption more swift than its been for comparably higher priced HDTVs.
  • According to Ross Rubin, director of industry analysis at NPD Group: “Handsets by themselves are typically not as strong a voice for developers to create 3D applications. If someone the likes of Apple or Google get into 3D, then there will be a large enough base.”

Sharp Announces New Smartphone-Linked TVs

  • Sharp announced it will launch new Internet-ready TVs next month in Japan that can interact with its smartphones.
  • The new Aquos L Series will enable Internet access via a new online platform called Aquos City.
  • The platform plans to offer “news, entertainment and weather forecasts, among other content and services.”
  • The TVs will also link with Sharp’s Aquos cellphones and smartphones (but not with non-Sharp handsets).
  • “Users will be able to take videos with their mobile handsets and send them to the TV, for example.”
If successful, will we see this in the US? Or will adoption be contingent upon interaction with other devices?

Verizon Wireless will Offer PlayStation Phone this Month

The long-awaited Sony Ericsson Xperia Play — or “PlayStation Phone” as it’s been popularly dubbed — will finally be available starting May 26 for $199.99 from Verizon Wireless (with two-year service agreement). Pre-orders for the PlayStation certified smartphone began yesterday.

The Play features a 4-inch 854 x 480 multi-touch display, 5 megapixel camera on the back (plus front-facing VGA camera for video chats), and runs on a 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon II processor with 512MB of RAM. The system is based on Android 2.3 “Gingerbread” with some Sony Ericsson customizations. The specs also list support for Google Mobile Services, including Google Maps, Gmail, Google Talk and access to 200,000 apps in the Android Market. The phone will come preloaded with seven games, including: Bruce Lee Dragon Warrior (check out the video demo), Madden NFL 11Asphalt 6: Adrenaline, Star Battalion, The Sims 3Crash Bandicoot and Tetris.

The Play device features a sliding screen that reveals touch-sensitive directional pads, a dual analog touch joystick and shoulder buttons for playing games. Verizon says more than 50 games will be available at launch time from the V CAST app store.

Related Los Angeles Times article (including Bruce Lee Dragon Warrior video demo): “Sony Ericsson Xperia Play, a.k.a. the PlayStation Phone, hits Verizon on May 26” (5/17/11)

Related IntoMobile review (including 11-minute video demo): “Hands-On: Sony Ericsson Xperia Play” (5/20/11)

Related Sony Ericsson press release: “Sony Ericsson Xperia PLAY to be the official mobile handset of Major League Gaming” (3/1/11)

Related In-Game article: “Sony’s PlayStation phone is for real” (1/26/11)

Which Smartphone OS will Come Out on Top?

Nick Nero provides some interesting perspective in this month’s Connected World Magazine regarding which smartphone OS will become the dominant global platform by the end of the year. The short answer according to Nick: Google’s Android.

The article provides an interesting overview regarding the progression of RIM’s BlackBerry, Apple’s iPhone, Windows Mobile devices — and the growing worldwide adoption of Android devices. It further points out that Android will continue its dominance throughout 2011 based on several key factors: Open Software Architecture (“arguably Android’s biggest competitive advantage”), Open Marketplace (consumers recognize “the benefit of a free-market approach to smartphone apps and this will continue to push Android to the head of the pack”), and More Partners (Android “is available on devices from practically every carrier in the country”).

Nick offers these final thoughts: “By the end of this year I expect Android to have a very comfortable lead in the smartphone OS market unless Apple begins to open up its model a bit. I wouldn’t bet on that happening given that a very pretty walled garden is essentially Apple’s business model. I don’t feel too sorry for Apple though — it does extremely well in the high-quality experience niche it occupies in the Macintosh space.”

Related CNET article: “Gartner: Android leads, Windows Phone lags in Q1” (5/19/11)

Related ReadWriteWeb article (including videos): “The Future of the Smartphone: Holograms & Folding Screens” (5/18/11)

Related Gadgetbox article: “PlayStation phone coming to Verizon Wireless” (5/17/11)

Related Mashable article: “Smartphone Sales Up 85% Year-Over-Year” (5/19/11)

Related ReadWriteWeb article: “iOS Ad Impressions Up Nearly 50% this Year, says Millennial Media” (5/19/11)

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