The Best Free Phone on Every Carrier

Remember when the best free phone you could get was monochrome candy bar phone? And you were thankful because that Nokia phone had Snake on it. Things are better now—you can get an actual smartphone from a carrier for free (with the usual two-year contract). But which is the best one from each carrier? Let’s jump into the bargin bin and find out. More »

Label outs AT&T 4G LTE version of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 creeping through the FCC

If you’re in the crowd holding out until the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 hit Ma Bell’s 4G network, get ready to pull the trigger. The code-named SGH-I957 rolled through the FCC sporting a label for AT&T’s LTE service on its backside. It appears the carrier will offer the 10.1-inch slate alongside the similarly sized HTC Jetstream. Don’t forget, the latter of the two will set you back seven whole Benjamins… on contract. The AT&T Galaxy Tab should save you a few bills, though, if the pricing is comparable to VZW’s LTE offering.

Label outs AT&T 4G LTE version of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 creeping through the FCC originally appeared on Engadget on Tue, 01 Nov 2011 06:29:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Canalys: HTC nips Apple, Samsung to become top smartphone vendor in US for Q3 2011

Boo! No, that’s not your doorbell ringing again, that’s HTC popping out of nowhere in order to toss a Nah-nah-nah-boo-boo in the direction of Samsung and Apple. Just days after Strategy Analytics published a global smartphone shipment report for Q3 2011, Canalys — another formidable name in the sector — has pushed out a report of its own. Not surprisingly, the global figures line up almost precisely with what we’d already heard, with Samsung’s Q3 numbers rising above those from Apple, Nokia and the rest of the industry. The difference here, however, is the focal point on the US of A. Here in the States, Taiwan’s own HTC is pulling rank; the aforesaid handset maker edged out Apple and Samsung by shipping 5.7 million smartphones.

All told, it owned “around a quarter of the market,” with Samsung (4.9 million) claiming the second spot and Apple (4.6 million) pulling in for the bronze. Conspicuously absent from the leader board? RIM, which saw its volume decline 58 percent from a year ago and its US market share sink from 24 percent in Q3 2010 to just 9 percent this quarter. Our take? HTC (and Samsung, from a global perspective) best enjoy it while the quarter lasts — as soon as the iPhone 4S and Nokia’s spate of Windows Phone devices start figuring in, we’re guessing that the top spots will be completely up for grabs all over again.

Continue reading Canalys: HTC nips Apple, Samsung to become top smartphone vendor in US for Q3 2011

Canalys: HTC nips Apple, Samsung to become top smartphone vendor in US for Q3 2011 originally appeared on Engadget on Mon, 31 Oct 2011 18:14:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Consumers Covet 4G, the Tech No One Understands

The Epic 4G Touch is Sprint's flavor of the popular Samsung Galaxy S II 4G smartphone. Photo: Jon Snyder/

You want it. You want it desperately. You want it desperately, but you don’t even know what it is.

Such is consumer desire for 4G data connectivity in mobile handsets. Call it proof positive that the phone carriers’ marketing efforts have paid off — this despite slow 4G infrastructure roll-outs, and actual 4G data rates that fall far, far below the promise of the 4G spec.

In-Stat, a market research firm, recently announced that 75 percent of more than 1,200 surveyed consumers listed 4G as one of the features that an “ideal” phone would include. The survey also found that most consumers don’t know which carrier offers the fastest 4G speeds — immediately begging the question, “Would a consumer even recognize a 4G connection if it hit him or her in face?”

4G is definitely a relevant smartphone feature. But the disparity between consumer knowledge and consumer desire is troubling, and may stem from the way that 4G technology is being advertised.

4G networks are currently underdeveloped, but carriers have been strongly pushing their networks nonetheless. And although carriers are marketing their 4G networks and 4G handset offerings nationwide, the actual availability of 4G services varies widely.

For example, AT&T’s brand-new LTE network is only available in five urban markets (though the carrier does plan to cover 80 percent of the populace by 2013). Verizon’s LTE network, which currently features the fastest network speeds in the U.S., covers 88 markets. It’s a large number, yes, but Verizon’s LTE network is available to just 110 of the nation’s estimated 307 million people. That’s around 33 percent of the U.S. population, a far cry from the reported 75 percent who crave a 4G device.

CNET has compiled a useful chart of U.S. markets that are supported by at least one 4G provider. Coverage looks substantial at first glance, but for those in more rural areas — or even metropolitan locales like San Francisco, which suffers extremely spotty coverage — reliable 4G access is still a few years away.

And spotty coverage isn’t the only factor contributing to consumer confusion. Get this: A significant portion of people who own a 3G device mistakenly think they have 4G hardware. A July survey by Retrevo found that an astonishing 34 percent of iPhone 4 owners thought they had a 4G phone. These customers were probably confused by their iPhone’s “4″ designation, as well as the fact that the official definition of 4G is a moving target, and Apple has claimed “4G-like” speeds.

But iPhone owners aren’t alone in their misconceptions. In that same Retrevo survey, a quarter of BlackBerry owners thought they had a 4G phone, when at the time of the study, there was no 4G BlackBerry handset yet available!

“To be quite frank, there is no definition for what 4G is,” Gartner analyst Michael King says. “Most LTE networks are pretty new, and there’s not much to compare it to.” This leads to even more confusion, particularly regarding what levels of speed users should be expecting from 4G service (which we’ll get into soon).

Regardless, carriers have successfully managed to brand the term “4G” into our brains through successful advertising techniques.

“The industry has done a great job of associating 4G with the things a customer wants to do, but haven’t been able to accomplish with 3G,” iSuppli analyst Francis Sideco says. Those things include real-time gaming, streaming video and the ability to make video calls. “Marketing has focused on what you can do with it, rather than on technology for the sake of technology,” Sideco says.

This approach stands in stark contrast to the confused messaging of 3G rollout campaigns, circa 2008. Back then, carriers touted improved data speeds, but many consumers didn’t understand what those data rates could be used for — completely understandable considering the relatively small installed base of smartphones in that quaint era of feature phones.

But that was 2008. Today, a boatload of 4G phones are now available, with new ones popping up with increasing frequency. This morning, AT&T announced its first two LTE handsets, the Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket and HTC Vivid. The HTC Vivid has a 4.5-inch, 540 x 960 display and a dual-core 1.2 GHz Snapdragon processor. The Skyrocket is AT&T’s version of the popular Galaxy S II, which has a 4.5-inch, 480 x 800 Super AMOLED Plus display, and a 1.5 GHz Exynos chip. Both run Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) and will be available Nov. 6.

With consumers clamoring for 4G handsets, carriers must be able to follow through with their 4G promises — and that means improving on two key 3G performance pain points: throughput and latency.

Throughput is the spec everyone usually talks about. Measured in bits per second (or megabits per second in the case of 4G), this spec describes just how much data can be sent through a carrier’s network in a fixed time period — that is, a second. This number refers to pure network speed — and everyone wants speedier data service, hence everyone’s preoccupation with throughput.

Latency, meanwhile, describes the time delay between when a mobile device “pings” a network and when that network actually responds. High-latency networks cause a host of problems — most significantly, streaming video that stutters along in fits and starts. When network latency is low, however, real-time applications like video chat really begin to sing.

Bottom line: Even if you’ve got the fastest throughput imaginable, high latency levels will prevent you from enjoying video calls and and other types of streaming video.

The HTC Vivid and Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket, two of the latest 4G LTE devices.

Current 4G throughput speeds — whether you’re talking about LTE, WiMax or the not-quite-4G HSPA+ — are definitely slower than what could be theoretically accomplished, but Sideco says that will always be the case. The theoretical speeds of 21 Mbps for HSPA+ and 70 Mbps for LTE could only be achieved in absolutely ideal conditions (for example, if you’re standing right next to a cellphone tower, or you’re the only one using the network).

But that’s OK, as carriers aren’t even saying they can achieve these spec-topping speeds. On Sprint’s WiMax network, you’re promised 3- to 6-Mbps download speeds; on Verizon’s LTE, 5- to 12-Mbps download speeds; and with HSPA+, 5- to 10-Mbps download speeds (AT&T specifies 6 Mbps).

All of these real-world numbers fall far short of 4G’s theoretical benchmarks. But don’t stress out. As long as consumers know what they’re really getting, they can make the informed decision to upgrade to a 4G phone and network.

Or not.

HTC Rezound ad pays Verizon stores an early visit, soonish launch likely

The above image isn’t a leak — it’s a dye-in-the-wool, true-blue LTE poster that a few Verizon stores have preemptively hung up. We’re pretty sure these adverts aren’t supposed to be displayed for our eyes to see since they feature the HTC Rezound, a forthcoming 4G device that hasn’t even been announced yet. Oops. Additionally, the handset — featured front and center on the ad — shows off a pair of Beats headphones dangling out of its 3.5mm jack. Are there any naysayers that still think the Rezound won’t get its official outing at HTC’s event this week? Count us amongst the believers.

HTC Rezound ad pays Verizon stores an early visit, soonish launch likely originally appeared on Engadget on Mon, 31 Oct 2011 11:24:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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AT&T to expand 4G coverage and launch first LTE smartphones November 6th: HTC Vivid, Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket

Well hello gorgeous — both of you! AT&T’s starting to catch the LTE fever, as the carrier’s announced that its first two devices with the true 4G will be ready to grab as of this upcoming Sunday. First we have the Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket: the long-rumored device can be yours for $250 with a two-year commitment and will offer a 4.5-inch Super AMOLED Plus display, Android 2.3.5, 1.5GHz dual-core CPU, 8MP rear camera with a 2MP front-facing cam and 16GB of internal storage space. Next up is the HTC Vivid (Holiday), which will be offered in both black and white for $200 and appears to match the specs leaked to us a couple months ago: it uses a 4.5-inch qHD (960 x 540) display, 1.2GHz CPU, 8MP rear camera with f/2.2 28mm wide angle lens and 1080p HD video recording. What about the “4G” branding? Contrary to the carrier’s HSPA+ devices, neither device will have LTE or 4G as part of their official name. Both phones will be reverse compatible with AT&T’s HSPA+ network, in case you’re not using the phone in an LTE-capable area; speaking of which, AT&T also announced that the November 6th launch will also bring four additional markets live, including Boston, Washington DC, Baltimore and Athens GA. Data plans for AT&T’s LTE smartphones will remain the same, with $15 getting you 200MB per month, 2GB going for $25 and 4GB with mobile hotspot connectivity for $45. Check below for a press gallery and the full press release.

Continue reading AT&T to expand 4G coverage and launch first LTE smartphones November 6th: HTC Vivid, Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket

AT&T to expand 4G coverage and launch first LTE smartphones November 6th: HTC Vivid, Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket originally appeared on Engadget on Mon, 31 Oct 2011 10:01:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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HTC releases Q3 earnings report: profit up 68 percent, shipments soar 93 percent

It’s been another stellar quarter for the folks over at HTC. According to the company’s Q3 earnings report, released today, net income rose to NT$18.68 billion (about $624.6 million) this quarter — a 68 percent increase over Q3 2010 and a seven percent bump over last quarter, when HTC reported record profits. Revenue, meanwhile, rose by 79 percent on the year to NT$135.8 billion (around $4.54 billion), which the manufacturer attributed to “strong brand recognition, leading product portfolio and expanded distribution channels.” On a regional level, HTC saw the strongest growth in China, where sales increased by a factor of nine over the past year. This undoubtedly helped the company boost handset shipments, which increased by a whopping 93 percent over the year, to 13.2 million units. For more details and crunchy numbers, hit up the source links, below.

HTC releases Q3 earnings report: profit up 68 percent, shipments soar 93 percent originally appeared on Engadget on Mon, 31 Oct 2011 04:39:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Refresh Roundup: week of October 24, 2011

Your smartphone and / or tablet is just begging to get updated. From time to time, these mobile devices are blessed with maintenance refreshes, bug fixes, custom ROMs and anything in between, and so many of them are floating around that it’s easy for a sizable chunk to get lost in the mix. To make sure they don’t escape without notice, we’ve gathered every possible update, hack, and other miscellaneous tomfoolery from the last week and crammed them into one convenient roundup. If you find something available for your device, please give us a shout attips at engadget dawt com and let us know. Enjoy!

Official Android updates

  • Guess which phone’s finally getting Gingerbread: the HTC Thunderbolt. Yes, we’re being serious. [Thanks to everyone who sent this in, and thanks Eddie for the image!]
  • Gingerbread is now rolling out to the Motorola Droid Pro and Droid 2 Global. [PhoneScoop]
  • The HTC EVO Design 4G wasn’t out for very long before it was ready for a maintenance release. It’s called version 1.19.651.0, and no change log was found right away.
  • More HTC stuff: the EVO 3D also offers a small bug fix in the form of a security update under the name of version 2.08.651.3. [AndroidCentral]
  • The LG Revolution on Verizon’s also officially gaining Android 2.3. [Pocketnow]
  • In the UK, HTC Desire S owners are now finding themselves beneficiaries of the Android 2.3.5 firmware update as well as Sense 3.0. [AndroidCentral]
  • How about a couple for the little guys? CSpire, formerly known as Cellular South, is pushing Gingerbread to its Samsung Galaxy S and Motorola Milestone X. [AndroidCentral(1) and (2)]
  • Sony Ericsson announced this week that Android 2.3.4 is rolling out to the 2011 Xperia lineup around the world. Additional enhancements include 16x video zoom, WiFi DLNA, screen capture capability, ability to attach USB peripherals to Sony Ericsson LiveDock and more.

Unofficial Android updates, custom ROMs and misc. hackery

  • The Samsung Stratosphere on Verizon has been successfully rooted. [AndroidCommunity]
  • HTC devices receiving the official Gingerbread kernel source from HTCDev this week: The Evo Shift 4G, the Thunderbolt and Droid Incredible. [AndroidCentral]
  • When it rains, it pours — the Thunderbolt, on top of receiving Gingerbread and its accompanying kernel source, has also found itself on the receiving end of an Ice Cream Sandwich SDK port. As can be expected, it’s still in prealpha stages and has a few bugs to work out. [AndroidCommunity]
  • If you’re a CM7 user, there’s now a file available that will turn your lock screen into one that resembles Ice Cream Sandwich’s style. [Droid-Life]

Other platforms

  • Microsoft’s pushing a firmware upgrade to the LG Optimus 7 Windows Phone which seems to grace the device with WiFi tethering and the ability to locate hidden WiFi networks. [WMPowerUser]
  • It’s not a BlackBerry firmware update, but many people still have a soft spot for BBM and will be interested to know that RIM is putting out version 6.0.1 with a few enhancements. Head to the source to check it out. [MobileTechReview]

Refreshes we covered this week

Refresh Roundup: week of October 24, 2011 originally appeared on Engadget on Sun, 30 Oct 2011 11:41:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Mobile Miscellany: week of October 24, 2011

This week was packed with news on the mobile front, so it was easy to miss a few stories here and there. Here’s some of the other stuff that happened in the wide world of wireless for the week of October 24, 2011:

  • Fan of white phones? Here ya go: the BlackBerry Bold 9900, Curve 9360 and Torch 9810 can be pre-ordered on Phones4U. If white doesn’t do it for you, the Curve 9300 will be available in pink. [Stuff]
  • HTC has announced its partnership with Dropbox, which means you can get 5GB of available storage on any of the company’s Android devices. [Twitter]
  • A few customers on Verizon’s family plans have noticed a peculiar addition to the company’s #DATA service; when the text showing the data usage arrives, it now mentions “shared,” which may be an indication that Big Red’s on its way to offering shared data plans in the near future. [Droid-Life]
  • Rumors have flown for some time about LG’s attempt at reviving the Prada series by introducing the K2 (aka the P940), and now we’re finally starting to see images of the Android device leak out. Apparently, it’ll be less than 9mm thin, offer an 8MP camera, 1.3MP front-facing cam, 21Mbps HSPA+ and have a 4.3-inch display with 1,000 nits of brightness. [PhoneArena via UnwiredView]
  • Research in Motion announced BlackBerry Business Cloud Services for Microsoft Office 365, which extends Microsoft Exchange Online to the BlackBerry lineup. It’s geared toward midsized businesses and enterprises. Head to the source for the details. [Microsoft-News]

Mobile Miscellany: week of October 24, 2011 originally appeared on Engadget on Sat, 29 Oct 2011 09:33:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Bendy Nokia Phone Prototype and 8 Other Bizarro Cell Phone Concepts

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Today’s smartphones all seem to share the same silhouette. You’ll find a large, flat touchscreen on the front, and maybe a few buttons across the bottom. The form factor will be thin enough to fit in your pocket, and it might include a slide-out QWERTY keyboard. Snooze. But it doesn’t have to be that way, as futuristic cell phone concepts constantly remind us.

At the Nokia World Conference in London — the location where Nokia’s Windows Phone handsets made their debut — a new flexible handset was being demoed. It’s called the Nokia Kinetic Device and, yes, the entire phone is being flexed in the photo above.

The entire device is made of plastic, right down to the AMOLED display on the front. Rather than using swipes and pinches to navigate the UI, you would use bends and twists. To zoom into a page, you bend the phone so its center buckles towards you; zoom out by doing the opposite. A twisting action is used to scroll through photos or adjust the volume.

Since it is all plastic, and all bendy, the prototype lacks a number of features that would allow it to be a true smartphone — or even a cell phone, if we’re being honest. The touchscreen isn’t capacitive, there’s no camera, no GPS and no actual phone functionality. We said it was a prototype, right?

So it clearly has a way to go before it starts landing in consumer hands. Here’s a collection of eight other concepts and protypes that push cell phone design to the limit.

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