An anonymous reader writes "During the 2010 Christmas shopping season, Steve Jobs famously dissed the 7-inch tablets being rolled out by competitors, including Samsung's Galaxy, as being 'tweeners: too big to compete with a smartphone and too small to compete with the [9.7-inch diagonal] iPad,' adding that 'the current crop of 7-inch tablets are going to be DOA — dead on arrival.' A year later Jobs was dead, and the iPad Mini, with a 7.9-inch diagonal screen, was rolled out under his successor Tim Cook in October, 2012. Looking at industry-wide tablet sales numbers for January 2013, which show that the iPad Mini surprisingly outsold its larger sibling by a substantial margin (as did 7-inch Android tablets from competitors), Motley Fool's Evan Niu thinks that the 7.9-inch form factor was the correct size all along, contrary to Jobs' pronouncements (which, of course, was partly marketing bluster — but he chose the larger size in the first place). Of course the Mini is cheaper, but not by much — $329 vs. $399 for the larger iPad, for the baseline model with WiFi only and 16GB storage. Had Apple introduced the iPad with the smaller size to begin with, Niu argues, competitors would have faced a much more difficult task grabbing market share. While the Mini is currently available only with 'Super VGA' resolution (1024x768), rumors are afloat that Minis with the Retina display (2048x1536) are close to production."
Edgewood_Dirk writes "In response to the recent White House petition, the FCC will be investigating the viability and possible harm of the ban on cell-phone unlocking. Gregory Ferenstein met with FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski at a TechCrunch CrunchGov event Wednesday, where the Chairman said the 'ban raises competition concerns; it raises innovation concerns.'" This line from the end of the article fails to inspire confidence: "Genachowski isn’t sure what authority he has, but if he finds any, given the tone of the conversation, it’s likely he will exert his influence to reverse the decision."
alphadogg writes "Google is open-sourcing a new general purpose data compression library called Zopfli that can be used to speed up Web downloads. The Zopfli Compression Algorithm, which got its name from a Swiss bread recipe, is an implementation of the Deflate compression algorithm that creates a smaller output size (PDF) compared to previous techniques, wrote Lode Vandevenne, a software engineer with Google's Compression Team, on the Google Open Source Blog on Thursday. 'The smaller compressed size allows for better space utilization, faster data transmission, and lower Web page load latencies. Furthermore, the smaller compressed size has additional benefits in mobile use, such as lower data transfer fees and reduced battery use,' Vandevenne wrote. The more exhaustive compression techniques achieve higher data density, but also make the compression a lot slower. This does not affect the decompression speed though, Vandenne wrote."
Jono Bacon writes "This week at Mobile World Congress both Firefox OS and Ubuntu have been wooing the audience with their mobile offerings. CNET reviewed both and felt that Ubuntu was 'the clear winner.' From the article, 'The team thought that Ubuntu Touch, the tablet version of which we got our hands-on for the first time at MWC, feels more like the complete package at this point. We liked its slick, elegant interface that makes use of every side of the screen and puts your content and contacts front and center, minimizing the time spent hopping back to a home screen.'" They still liked Firefox OS though, and the mere existence of multiple Free Software mobile systems with carrier support is a good sign if you ask me.
Deathspawner writes "Using a mobile device to control an application on a PC, media player or video game console, isn't too uncommon, but it is when the content being controlled is a game. Just how possible would it be to play a fairly fast-paced game on your PC via your mobile device? Google wanted to find out, so it crafted a game called Super Sync Sports, where you control an athlete on your desktop or notebook via controls on your phone or tablet. To make a game like this possible, Google turned to WebSockets for real-time collaboration between two devices, HTML5 for the audio, Canvas for the graphics, and CSS3 for the styling and transitions." It appears that it routes your controls through the Internet rather than locally. Something like this over bluetooth or wifi with a shared touch screen might be cool for electronic board games.
Last year Pwnie Express showed us their Stealthy Pen Test Unit that plugged directly into a 115 VAC wall outlet. This year at RSA they're proudly displaying their Pwn Pad, which is a highly-modified (and rooted) Nexus 7 tablet "which provides professionals an unprecedented ease of use in evaluating wired and wireless networks." They list its core features as Android OS 4.2 and Ubuntu 12.04; large screen, powerful battery; OSS-based pentester toolkit; and long range wireless packet injection. If you can't see the video (or want to read along) the transcript is below.
MojoKid writes "Aside from the terrible nickname (it sounds like a term for the spoiled offspring of fabulous people), phablets are somewhat controversial because they seem to be the epitome of inflated phone sizes. A lot of people wanted bigger, and this is 'bigger' to the extreme. A larger screen on a smartphone is attractive for obvious reasons, but surely there's a limit. So how big is too big? If you're not into parsing out the particulars of form factors and use cases, here's a really easy way to figure out if your phone or phablet is too big: Can you hold the device in one hand and 1) unlock the phone, 2) type out a text message with your thumb, and 3) adjust the volume with the rocker without using your other hand? If not, you might need a smaller phone."
An anonymous reader writes "While speaking at the TED Conference in California earlier today, Sergey Brin seemingly tried to set the stage for a world where using Google Glass is as normal as using a smartphone. What's more, Brin went so far as to say that using smartphones is 'emasculating.' Brin said that smartphone users often seclude themselves in their own private virtual worlds. 'Is this the way you're meant to interact with other people,' Brin asked. Are people in the future destined to communicate via just walking around, looking down, and 'rubbing a featureless piece of glass,' Brin asked rhetorically. 'It's kind of emasculating. Is this what you're meant to do with your body?' Is wearing futuristic glasses any better?" Another reader sends in an article that also muses on our psychological connection to our devices. Or, as he puts it, the "increasingly weird and perhaps overly intimate relationship we have with our gadgets; the fist we touch when awake, the last at night. Our minds have become bookended by glass."
helix2301 sends this quote from CNET: "LG's reluctance to embrace Windows Phone 8 underscores the difficulties that the platform faces with both consumers and vendor partners. LG was one of the early partners that signed on with Microsoft, releasing the LG Quantum in the first wave of Windows Phone devices. Microsoft's has a great relationship with Nokia, which is considered in the industry first among equals when it comes to Microsoft partners, has some vendors reassessing their own support for the operating system. Over the past year or so, LG has been focusing on Android and has started building phones running on Mozilla's Firefox mobile OS."
pigrabbitbear writes "Even as we all love to debate the scholarly merits of Wikipedia, there's no denying that it's an immensely powerful research and learning tool. That goes doubly so in poor nations, where access to education materials can be limited to nonexistent. To that end, Wikimedia started the Wikipedia Zero project, which aims to partner with mobile service providers to bring Wikipedia to poor regions free of charge. It's a killer strategy, because while computer and internet access is still fleeting for much of the world, cell phones are far more ubiquitous. Wikimedia claims that four mobile partnerships signed since 2012 brings free Wiki service to 330 million cell subscribers in 35 countries, a huge boon for folks whose phones have web capability but who can't afford data charges."
The latest Firefox for Android nightly build now features a number of changes to the UI with the goals of "...keeping a clear distinction between different types of tabs; making better use of the screen real estate on different form-factors and orientations; and being more compliant with Android’s design language. ... the tabs tray is now divided into sections for each type of tab — regular, private, and remote — so that you always keep things separate and organized. Furthermore, once you select a private tab, the main toolbar becomes dark as a clear sign that you're in a different browsing mode. ... We now use a horizontal scrolling tabs tray whenever it improves our use of the screen space. This is achieved with a TwoWayView ... We've recently landed a new skin for Firefox for Android that is more aligned with Android's Holo design language. Almost all textures and gradients were replaced by flat colors giving a much lighter feel to the browser."
Even the most loving fathers tend to get upset when their kids destroy "...VCRs, DVD players, a Nintendo Wii, a Sony PS3, [and] numerous mobile phones." With smart phones costing lots more than older stupid phones, and most tablets costing even more, Greg Pilling decided to make aluminum and plexiglass smartphone and tablet cases strong enough to be, if not childproof, at least child-resistant. Since he owned an auto parts manufacturing company in Tucson, AZ, it was no big deal for him. So now he has SASCASE as a second business, and can make you a case for almost any kind of mobile device you might own. His cases look plenty tough, and they aren't cheap. But if you want to save money and make your own, Greg says plans for all cases he makes are open source (even though they aren't on his website yet). Also on the open source front, he is working on an open source "ruggedized" tablet he hopes to bring to market "in the $300-$400 range" to compete with the Panasonic 7” Toughpad that runs more like $1100.
adeelarshad82 writes "Needless to say, the march of processor speeds always continues. However, Nvidia Tegra 4's benchmark results are off the charts. Comparing the results against several other phones, it was evident that Tegra 4 will make for the fastest mobile phones yet. For instance when benchmarked against iPhone 5, results showed 1640 on Geekbench and 27 fps on GLBenchmark's Egypt HD offscreen benchmark. Whereas the Tegra 4 scores 4148 on Geekbench and 57 fps on the Egypt HD. Of course, the competition isn't standing still, either. Qualcomm is countering the Tegra 4 with its Snapdragon 800, which the company claims is even faster than the Tegra 4. And at the same time Samsung is readying the Exynos 5 Octa."
theodp writes "You know the old adage, 'Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me?' Still, even if you got bit by the HP TouchPad debacle, HP's newly-announced $169 Slate7 tablet could prove hard to resist. Specs-wise, the Slate7 sports an ARM Dual Core Cortex-A9 1.6 GHz processor, 7-inch 1024x600 HFFS screen, Android 4.1 (Jellybean), three-megapixel camera on the back, front-facing VGA camera, 8GB of on-board storage, HP ePrint, Beats Audio, and a micro SD expandable card slot. It measures 197mm x 116mm x 10.7mm thick, and weighs in at 13 ounces. It will be available in the U.S. in April. Engadget has some pics and their initial hands-on take."
Several readers sent word of a Mozilla announcement that 18 carriers have committed to launching phones running Firefox OS. The carriers are primarily from markets in South America and Europe. They include Deutsche Telekom, Telefonica, and Sprint. The devices running Firefox OS will be made by LG, ZTE, Huawei, and Alcatel, and all will be powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon chipset. The new mobile operating system is built to allow HTML5 apps to run directly on the device, a solution Mozilla thinks will give it an edge when playing catch-up to all the software available for Android and iOS devices. "Developers are busy and don't have time to learn a new programming language. We believe that the only remaining eco-system is the web and there are more developers for the web than for any other platform in the world," said Jay Sullivan. According to Reuters, "Mozilla will initially look to compete in so-called 'emerging economies' in Latin America, Eastern Europe and Asia, where many people still use older phone models and have yet to upgrade to more expensive smartphones that feature touchscreens and high-speed Internet connections."