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The Tech Report

Which SmartPhone was Best of the Year: Apple, HTC, Motorola or Samsung?

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By BVN Staff

There’s no doubt 2011 marked a huge year for smartphone sales as these phones etched closer to overtaking average cellphone sales throughout the U.S. Of the biggest achievements this year, we saw the highly-anticipated release of Android 4.0, Motorola’s debut of its first Android-based RAZR and the long-rumored iPhone 4S – finally!

Apple, HTC, Motorola, and Samsung all earned bragging rights for contributions to the smartphone market. Each made notable and/or distinct products, but this tech writer wants to know from readers, which smartphone was the most significant in 2011.

Here’s a brief rundown of my top five choices for best smartphone of 2011:

iPhone 4S: Rumors about the successor to the iPhone 4 set the web ablaze, dominating tech and general news headlines. The rumors of a larger screen and 4G capabilities turned out to be nothing more than that. It was reported that many Apple enthusiasts initially felt let down by the iPhone 4S, but Siri, Apple’s voice-control software, turned into the talk of the town. Voice-control may not be anything new for smartphones, but Siri’s intelligence made it a standout feature on the iPhone 4S.

HTC EVO 3D: Think 3D is a fad that should be limited to your movie-going experience? The release of the HTC EVO 3D proved 3D isn’t just for theaters. Right now, it’s not clear precisely how much staying power 3D has considering the number of 3D-capable smartphones released in the U.S. can probably be counted on one hand, but it was good to see HTC taking another leap with its expansion of the EVO brand.

Motorola Droid RAZR: If you didn’t own or see a Motorola RAZR in the mid 2000’s, you were probably hiding under a rock – a very large rock. This super-slim phone was one of the most successful cellphones in history. Motorola resurrected the RAZR name in November hoping to reclaim some of the original RAZR glory, this time wrapped in Android 2.3. The latest RAZR is a formidable smartphone that won’t weigh you down at 127 grams, and most of the body comes in at a mere – and impressive – 7.1 mm thick.

Samsung Galaxy S II: This smartphone truly brought the trifecta of what premium smartphones should embody with a stunning design, high-end features and superior battery life. As such, this 4.5-inch smartphone didn’t get lost in a sea of Gingerbread smartphones.

Samsung Galaxy Nexus: Some people might sum up the Samsung Nexus Galaxy’s appeal in two words: Android 4.0. But The Samsung Nexus Galaxy has more appeal than its designated OS. The latest Nexus is a solid smartphone with its dual-core processor and 4G capabilities. Throw in a 4.65-inch display, an HD Super AMOLED screen, and a fortified glass display and you have a strong contender here in the Galaxy Nexus.

Honorable Mention: BlackBerry. RIM certainly had its share of woes in 2011 and a gray cloud still hovers over the smartphone giant. But RIM did get noticed with the release of the BlackBerry Bold 9930, Torch 9810 and Torch 9850 last Summer running OS 7. It wasn’t enough to completely turn RIM around, but it did illustrate that Blackberry is still competitive.

The smartphone and mobile computing marketing will continue to evolve, next year probably bringing exciting new ways to improve how we socialize and share information. However this year, I’d like to know which smartphone made the biggest impact in your view.

Debut of Galaxy Nexus and Android 4.0 Almost Here

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Galaxy Nexus finally drops … in the U.K.

By Corey A. Washington –

It seems like eons ago when Android 2.3, also dubbed Gingerbread, was so highly-anticipated that Android 2.2 owners were clamoring to be a part of the Gingerbread crowd. Arguably, no Android update has been able to reach a fever-pitch of anticipation like Android 4.0 on the brand new Galaxy Nexus.

For months Android fanboys have been left in the dark without an official release date of the latest Nexus successor. Rumors about the release date for the Galaxy Nexus were rampant, but at least one part of the globe is now enjoying delicious Ice Cream Sandwich since the Nexus landed in the U.K. November 17.

By leaps and bounds Android 4.0, Ice Cream Sandwich, represents an evolution for the Android platform. The user interface of the Android OS has been completely revamped, making certain actions easier to perform with less menu options to sort through.

Some of the most exciting new features also include:

• The ability to take panoramic pictures
• Advanced photo editing features
• Facial recognition to unlock the phone
• Re-sizable widgets, including third-party widgets

Although Ice Cream Sandwich is definitely enjoying the spotlight, the Galaxy Nexus is definitely no slouch. The Android smartphone field has some stiff competition from at least two very impressive contenders, including the HTC Amaze 4G and the recently-released Motorola Droid RAZR. Which smartphone can be declared the best remains to be seen, but the Galaxy Nexus has more in its corner than just the latest Android OS.

Processing power isn’t too far ahead of the curve as the smartphone runs on a 1.2 GHz dual-core processor. The Galaxy Nexus also carries 1GB of RAM and 16GB of internal storage. The phone also supports 4G.

The Galaxy Nexus sports a 4.65-inch display, an HD Super AMOLED screen, 1280x720 resolution, and something new added to the mix – a fortified glass display, bucking the trend of using the usual gorilla glass display.

The new Galaxy Nexus also has a 5.0 megapixel camera, a 1.3 megapixel front-facing camera and can shoot 1080p video. Users have the option of scaling down the resolution of both the videos and photos.

The Galaxy Nexus and Android 4.0 are both welcome additions to the smartphone world. Now, if only we could get an official release date here in the U.S.

Corey A. Washington is a contributing writer covering technology for Black Voice News. He can be reached at corey@blackvoicenews.com.

Motorola Tries to Dice Smartphone Competition with New Droid RAZR

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By Corey A. Washington –

Contrary to what some might say, thin is very much in – at least in the world of smartphones. Several times a year it seems the next “it” phone bursts onto the scene, hoping to make a dent in sales records and ascend to the upper echelon of smartphone glory. Arguably, no other name is more deserving of a shot at proving itself in the land of anorexic smartphones than Motorola as it resurrects the RAZR brand, à la Android 2.3 this time around.

More than five years ago, there was no phone as ubiquitous as the Motorola RAZR, a line of über slim phones that managed to sell more than 130 million units during the course of its run. The highly-successful RAZR grew into a suite of phones and became a spring board for successors. Now Motorola aims to capitalize on the skinny mobile phone movement it helped usher into the market with its latest offering.

In comes the Droid RAZR, touted as being 7.1 millimeters thin, or 0.30 inches, and weighing a mere 127 grams, or roughly 4.4 ounces. If weight matters most, the Droid RAZR loses that battle as the Samsung Galaxy S II weighs less at 116 grams, or 4.09 ounces. The new iPhone 4S falls behind both Android smartphones weighing 140 grams, or 4.9 ounces.

The new Droid RAZR will bring more than just a sexy form factor when it’s released. The new RAZR will sport a 4.3-inch Super AMOLED screen with 16 million colors, a 1.2 GHz dual-core processor, an 8-megapixel rear-facing camera and a 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera. Battery life is expected to be impressive with 12 hours of talk time. The Droid RAZR will be 4G capable running on Verizon’s LTE network.

The Droid RAZR’s storage will be on par with newer smartphones with 1GB RAM, 16 GB of internal memory and an external microSD that supports up to 32 GB of storage.

Pre-orders for the Motorola Droid RAZR on Verizon Wireless began yesterday and it is expected to ship November 10. Thin might still be in, but big smartphones will still get love – especially with the slightly "larger" Galaxy Nexus ushering Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich into the smartphone arena later this year.

For now, the Motorola Droid RAZR has the potential to be another dominant smartphone, but with a whole lot of sex appeal to boot when it hits store shelves.

Corey A. Washington is a contributing writer covering technology for Black Voice News. He can be reached at corey@blackvoicenews.com.

Amazon's New Kindle Fire: Exactly What Some Tablets Need to Be

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By Corey A. Washington –

Consumers intrigued by the emerging tablet market have something to rejoice about. It’s been tough for buyers to overcome their hesitation to purchase a tablet when considering the price point and overall usability of tablets. But finally, someone gets it. Amazon has single-handedly injected excitement into consumers with the announcement of its Kindle Fire – and they didn’t need to add an “i” in front of their latest device to do it!

Slated for release November 15, off the bat the Amazon Kindle Fire get’s something right – a price tag you can deal with. For $199, Amazon’s new 7-inch tablet darling packs just enough features and hardware backed by a reputable name. Does it have a front-facing camera? No. Does it have a rear-facing camera? No. And for these reasons already some tech reviewers are downplaying the splash the Kindle Fire could make. Still, the Kindle Fire has a wide array of positive attributes consumers won’t overlook in a $199 tablet.

The Ups:

Hardware – The Kindle Fire is powered by a 1 GHz dual-core processor, includes 8GB of internal storage and has 512MB of RAM on board.

Features – Users will be able to directly purchase digital books, magazines and Amazon movies and receive free access to Amazon Cloud Storage. Amazon is also reportedly throwing in a 30-day trial subscription to Amazon Prime, it’s own online movie streaming service.

Form Factor – In the battle for thin tablets, the Kindle Fire comes in with 0.45 inches and weighs just about 14 ounces. The tablet also has a Gorilla Glass screen and an overall attractive design that stands apart from other tablets.

Though the Kindle Fire makes a solid argument for its price, it isn’t without a few head-scratching flaws.

The Downs:

Apps – The Kindle Fire relies on the Android OS, but provides no direct access to Google’s Android Market. Users will still have access to the Android Appstore and a load of Amazon’s content, but this will drastically limit the Android experience.

Storage – Amazon is likely banking on its free Amazon Cloud Storage, hence the mediocre 8GB of internal storage – and no external microSD slot. While there’s a clear back up for content, this already feels like a sore spot.

There’s still much to learn about Amazon’s Kindle Fire, including how it handles and which previously-noted missing features are really missed. The Kindle Fire will certainly test the tech waters when it ships … and for that meager $199, we will see just what features consumers can probably live without in this age of giving us way more than what we really want or need and making us pay twice the price.

Corey A. Washington is a contributing writer covering technology for Black Voice News. He can be reached at corey@blackvoicenews.com.

BlackBerry Bold 9930, Torch Devices with OS 7 a Revival for RIM

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By Corey A. Washington –

It’s been a long time since the words “BlackBerry” and “excitement” could be found together in the same sentence. It’s no secret Research In Motion (RIM) lost much of its fanfare -- not to mention market share -- in the current Android-Apple dominated smartphone market. But for anyone counting RIM out of the game, low and behold three good reasons to take another look at the BlackBerry.

RIM threw heavy fire power into the smartphone war with the release of the new BlackBerry Bold 9930, Torch 9810 and Torch 9850 within the same week, all running BlackBerry’s newly-released OS 7, replacing OS 6.5. Many have considered OS 7’s upgrade from 6.5 to be mostly skin deep changes, but dive in further and you’ll see several improvements over the previous interface. Blackberry OS 7, however, isn’t a major leap forward. Sharp criticism has been aimed at RIM for not seriously overhauling the OS, but I can’t help but think why such a dramatic shift is necessary for such a capable OS. The upgraded OS 7 feels familiar to previous iterations, but still up to date. If the OS isn’t enough to move consumers, some of the hardware might do the trick.

BlackBerry Bold 9930: If sexy came in a phone, it would be the new 9930. It’s one of the sleekest, sharply-designed smartphones to ever hold the BlackBerry name -- and one of the most gorgeous of all the QWERTY’s on the market. If this handset’s sheer beauty wasn’t enough, RIM made a wise choice incorporating a touch screen into its traditional design of the 9000 series. This device sports a 640 x 480 pixel resolution on a 2.8 inch display. The resolution may not be ahead of the curve, but on such a relatively small screen, images come across fairly crisp and clear. The 9930 packs plenty of muscle too with a 1.2 Ghz processor and 768MB of RAM. It includes 8GB internal storage and up to 32GB of external store thanks to a MiscroSD slot. The phone also now captures 720p video with its camera. The phone lacks 4G, which you might expect on a high-end phone in this emerging 4G world, but its dual-band capabilities arguably make up for this shortcoming.

Torch 9810: If the new Torch seems like it could be confused for its predecessor, you’re not alone. Minor changes to the newest Torch include a metallic-brushed trim and pattern-design on the back cover. Both make for tasteful, minor improvements, but don’t make the BlackBerry Torch 9810 seem like its undergone a serious makeover. The smartphone employs the same dimensions as the previous Torch, including the 3.2 inch screen. The resolution has been bumped up, as it now uses the same 640 x 480 resolution found on the Bold 9930. It also shares the same processing power and RAM as its sibling, giving the phone more of a premium feel this time around. The similarities include 8GB of internal storage and external storage up to 32GB. It also shares the ability to capture 720p video. Clearly, while cosmetic changes to the phone aren’t aplenty, the Torch moves up the food chain with more hardware changes than expected.

Torch 9850: Call me clueless, but I’m still scratching my head trying to understand the reason for these two Torch phones. While it’s nothing new to have two phones share the same name brand, ala the HTC EVO and the HTC EVO Shift, it comes off as an odd choice since it seems more common for full-touch screen phones to later receive a QWERTY variant. My immediate reaction was “Is this the new BlackBerry Storm?”, followed up with “Hey, what happened to the BlackBerry Storm?”. It’s understandable if it doesn’t seem like it’s in the “Torch” lineage considering it carries almost no resemblance in design to the 9810 or the previous Torch. But, what’s in a name, I guess? The 9850 also doesn’t seem as grown up as the 9810 as it only includes 4GB of internal storage, but the same processor and RAM is carried over. Other differences include a 3.7 inch screen WVGA screen, which is relatively responsive to touch. It’s not quite clear where the Torch 9850 fits in the equation of BlackBerry’s new suite of phones, but it is still a solid showing by RIM.

RIM’s latest entourage of smartphones continues to show BlackBerry is relevant and capable in the smartphone war. Whether it's enough to put BlackBerry in a more competitive position remains to be seen.

Corey Washington is a contributing writer covering technology for Black Voice News. He can be reached at corey@blackvoicenews.com.

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