A Sony flip phone from 2000 running Android 9

State of the art. Kinda.

A remarkable feat:

Of course whatever processor and electronics the phone came with are long gone, and instead the phone sports the internals of a modern Chinese watch-smartphone grafted in in place of the original. The whole electronics package fits in the screen opening, and though it required some wiring for the USB-C socket and a few other parts it looks for all the world from the outside as though it was meant to run Android. You can take a look in the video below the break.

Makes me miss my old rooted Nexus One.

(via Hackaday)

Huawei to release HarmonyOS 2.0

HarmonyOS 2.0 will be available to smartphones in December but how will it fare in the market?

Consumer business CEO Richard Yu announced a plan to bring Huawei’s HarmonyOS 2.0 to more devices, including smartphones, at Huawei’s developer conference in Shenzhen, China today.

From The Verge:

Huawei will make a beta version of the HarmonyOS 2.0 SDK available to developers today, though it’ll initially only support smartwatches, car head units, and TVs. A smartphone version of the SDK will follow in December 2020, and Yu hinted that phones running HarmonyOS might appear next year.

We had reported the possibility of Huawei using Sailfish OS for their devices in 2019 but moved towards Harmony OS in August 2019.

HarmonyOS only supports devices with 128MB of RAM or below at the moment, but that’ll expand to 4GB in April 2021, and no memory limit at all by October 2021.

The obvious question is how will HarmonyOS fare against Android and iOS but should they focus solely on that competition? Of course, Huawei can’t ignore the two biggest operating systems in the market but given its lower stature, they should make sure its current customers are happy with the new version and branch out from there.

They also need to contend with the sanctions against them doing business with American companies, which this will help to overcome.

I’m so used to seeing companies chase newness without caring for the existing customers and it’s a foolish way to lose an ethos of loyalty. So fingers crossed they can succeed and gain as much market share as they can without compromising their core base.

The Pixel 4 is dead—Long live the Pixel 4

The Pixel 4 has been discontinued. So what of the Pixel 5 and the future of Google’s flagship line of smartphones?

In November last year, I decided to upgrade a month early and get a new phone. Rather than get the then-new Google Pixel 4, I opted for the Pixel 3A XL as it was significantly cheaper and offered the specs I needed. I feel like my decision was a good one as yesterday, the Pixel 4 was discontinued after just 9 months.

What the hell happened?

According to a Google spokesperson, the Google Store “sold through its inventory and completed sales of Pixel 4 [and] 4 XL”. Pixel 4s are still available through third-party vendors while stocks last and the device will continue receiving updates for the next 3 years but that’s that for Google’s 4th flagship phone.

Given the phone’s poor reception from consumers and reviewers and two Pixel executives quitting after its launch, the phone’s short lifespan is not surprising. Reviews of the Pixel 4 included phrases like:

Even the good reviews had significant caveats, noting how bad the battery was. Many people working on the phone took issue with its internals, including Rick Osterloh, the head of Google Hardware, who said he “did not agree with some of the decisions made about the phone” and “in particular, he was disappointed in its battery power”. If your head of hardware isn’t happy with your “best flagship phone yet”, what do you expect?

The 4A lives on

The 4A is on its way and will carry on the “4” legacy in name only. Google’s A phones seem to be better value for money and will likely perform better than the 4, if reviews are lead to be believed.

The Pixel 4A raises the bar for how good a budget phone’s camera can be.

Lynn La for CNET

All the phone you need, none of what you don’t

David Ruddock for Android Police

Does Google have 5 on it?

But this is about the Pixel 4. It’s been a dead phone walking and Google has finally put it out of its misery. The Pixel 5 doesn’t have a concrete release date and has been hampered with leaks, a common issue with technology of this era.

Despite the catastrophic failure of the Pixel 4, Google remains undeterred. According to a leaked internal document, the company will release its first foldable Pixel phone in Q4 of 2021, codenamed “Passport”.

Personally, I don’t know why tech companies are trying to make foldable phones a thing again and I don’t see Google’s reported attempt making waves in the market either. Maybe Google likes failing in the smartphone sector. I guess they have the money to try.

Consumers SHOCKED That Expensive iPhone Still Breaks

I don’t know what people expected from a device made of plastic and glass but here we are. Videos and tweets have been published showing the fragility of the iPhone X. Apple claimed their iPhone X was “the most durable glass ever in a smartphone”, but SquareTrade put that to the test and it didn’t work out so well. After a few 6ft “drop and tumble tests” they concluded it was “the most breakable, highest-priced, most expensive to repair iPhone ever”. Well, colour me surprised! These tests seem redundant; of course, if you drop your phone it’ll break. But the thought is it shouldn’t break so easily. If you’re prepared to pay £1000 on a mobile phone (that figure still blows my mind), you’ll be hoping it can survive a drop without malfunctioning. Water damage used to be the main avoidance for iPhones as many insurance companies didn’t pay out if it went for a swim in your toilet bowl. Now you have to beat the power of gravity in all its 20mph speed.

Or you could get a Nokia.

(via The Guardian)

Apps – The Real iPhone Killer

There are countless articles asking whether the latest phone is an “iPhone killer.” Android phones are more globally abundant than iPhones but that hasn’t impeded their dominance. Apple has created a cult around their products for years, and the iPhone is no exception. But you can’t “kill” anything Apple makes. The iPhone will be ever popular until Apple decides to bring in a new product. It’s about co-existence.
 
The closest thing we have to an “iPhone killer” is the software on the iPhone itself. Wired published an article on 10th October discussing whether Apple makes their own iPhones “obsolete”. This would create a demand for their expensive supply. The truth is, they don’t. At least not through reduced capability. That’s the fault of the apps.
 
Apps need more resources from your phone as time goes on. They demand more CPU, GPU power, RAM, battery power, permissions. We also want more from the apps themselves and developers try to answer those questions. Apple – and other phone manufacturers – cater for this with increased power and newer devices. Android devices are said to “suffer more from a related but different problem. Developers rarely optimize for all devices and some older smartphones don’t even receive OS updates.
 
Does that mean you should never download apps to preserve your phone? No. That’s not workable anyway. Like us all, your phone is going to die at some point or become obsolete beyond repair. Are you still using Windows 95? Or a rotary telephone (unironically)? Question whether you need so many apps. Reduce your phone usage. Turn your phone off at night or turn airplane mode on. Battery life is a major concern for phones as they grow old. Don’t forget, these devices are about the size of your PALM. They compute millions of calculations every second. They can only last so long with the demand we put on them.

Danish Students Create A Phone That Dials Up The Internet

We all remember dial-up internet (some people still use it today, or at least have the same speed).

Students James Zhou, Sebastian Paul Hunkeler, Jens Skoug Obel and Isak Frostå from the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design have built an “internet phone” using a classic rotary telephone. It allows users to “call” websites, with each dial inputting the IP address necessary to access a website. A voice then reads the website down the line.

I like the custom Yellow Pages they made featuring different websites. There’s also a developer mode that reads out the code and an incognito mode that reads out a site in the Apple whisper voice. Clever.

A fine mix of sophistication and limited technology.

(via Dezeen)

Android Didn’t Kill Windows Phone, They Let Themselves Die

The death of the Windows Phone is often attributed to Android’s market dominance. But is that really true?

The Verge recently wrote an article claiming Android killed Windows Phone. I disagree, as a former Lumia 800 owner. This is my story.

*cue dramatic music*

I’ve had my fair share of phones. My favoured OS had always been Android but when the Lumia 800 came out in 2011, I decided to take the plunge. The phone itself had a great build. My previous handset was a Nexus One which had been my favourite phone at the time. The trackball was a nice quirk and an overall improvement on the abominable HTC Wildfire.

With a new OS came new adjustments. The Lumia 800 was one of the first Nokia Windows phones. It was Ballmer’s attempt at carving a way through the market, dominated by Android and iOS. The partnership with Nokia was a logical move. Windows needed a manufacturer with a strong history in the market and Nokia needed an opportunity to rejuvenate itself after a string of poor Symbian-based phones.

The basics were done well on the 800. It came with an 8-megapixel rear camera, autofocus Carl Zeiss optics, and 720p video capture. The battery life was great (even greater considering I didn’t use it for much as I’ll explain later.) The internal storage was also a bonus at 16GB – more than I had any use for besides storing loads of music and photos. But that’s where the pleasantries ended.

Coming into the mobile party late without bringing any refreshments meant they had to fashion things together quickly or find themselves ostracised. Many Android/iOS apps weren’t transferrable to Windows Phone and the alternatives weren’t all that great. The Foursquare substitute was alright but not a patch on the original. The games – which should have been top-notch given Microsoft’s stature in that market – were lacking in quality and diversity.

Then the annoying bombshell. The phone I had taken out on a 24-month contract wasn’t compatible with the new OS upgrade a year later. It came with 7.5 but apart from a minor iteration to 7.8 (which just copied the cosmetic changes from 8) the train stopped there. I was stuck with a phone I didn’t like anymore with no way of changing. The advantage of an Android was the possibility of using a mod like Cyanogen. Ironically, the Lumia 800 shared something with the iPhone in that regard.

The better apps never came. By Autumn 2012, WP8 was released in competition with Android’s Jelly Bean 4.2 and iOS 6. Who am I kidding, there was no competition. Microsoft did little to put up a fight against the Big Two. With a mediocre app selection, the gulf between them grew larger. Q1 2013 saw their market share increase and cement their place as the third-largest mobile operating system by usage ahead of Blackberry. But a year later, it had dropped by 2.7%. I had already changed my phone by then.

It was another example of a major corporation looking at the market and assuming their clout could get them in and keep them stable. They were Microsoft. They owned the personal computer market. Why couldn’t they make it with mobiles?

They neither had the customisation nor the style to compete. The minimal OS design was quaint but nothing to write home about. The app situation was the real killer. The problem with the statement “Android killed Windows Phone” is it gives the notion WP was a threat at all. Android concentrated on improving their product with each iteration. So did iOS. WP didn’t and died of dehydration.

Had they focussed on improving their computer OS’s (because nobody has really liked or cared about any since XP), they might not have wasted so much time and money. But I did have some fond memories. Zune was a great alternative to iTunes and I enjoyed listening to music on the Lumia 800. And it took great photos. Just a shame there wasn’t anything more.