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HTC’s Big Announcement: HTC To Acquire Majority Stake In Beats By Dr. Dre

Posted: 10 Aug 2011 08:10 PM PDT


Cat, meet the outside of the bag.

You know that “major announcement” that HTC has scheduled for tomorrow morning? The details have just made their way out a bit early.

HTC just confirmed that they will be entering a strategic partnership with Beats Electronics, a company best known for its Beats by Dr. Dre line of headphones. While they’re leaving some details for tomorrow’s call, it’s expected that HTC will announce that they’ve acquired a majority stake (at 51%) of the company.

The actual size of the investment varies a bit depending on who you’re talking to: CNET says over $500 million, while AllThingsD pins it at $300 million.

As you’d probably expect, HTC will be utilizing this investment to squeeze Beats technology (along with the “Beats” brand, of course) into their phones, with the first Beats-ified handsets hitting the shelves sometime this fall. At the very least, this means that the music that some people insist on blasting out of their phone’s crappy speakerphone while riding on public transportation might sound a wee bit less crappy in the future.

To celebrate, here’s a picture of a much younger version of me (and TechCrunch alum Peter Ha!) hanging out with a totally-excited-to-be-there Dr. Dre:

We’re still planning on liveblogging tomorrow’s event just in case any interesting details get tossed in the ring.

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HTC Corp, (TAIEX: 2498) produces smartphones running the Android and Windows Mobile operating systems for themselves and as an OEM to other manufacturers. Since launching its own brand in...

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HTC To Make “Major Announcement” Tomorrow Morning

Posted: 10 Aug 2011 05:15 PM PDT


The word is out, folks: HTC CEO Peter Chou has something big on the books for tomorrow. A live teleconference is scheduled for at 8:30 PT/11:30 ET, and while the email making the rounds offers no insight, you can rest easy knowing that people will be speculating the night away.

Given the email’s use of the word “major” and the fact that Chou himself is speaking, we expect the announcement will be more than, say, a new phone or tablet — perhaps something related to the ongoing patent dispute.

Our own Mobile Editor Greg Kumparak will be covering the event as it happens tomorrow morning, so tune in for the full scoop then.

First Windows Phone Tango Device (Sort Of) Goes On Sale In Slovakia

Posted: 10 Aug 2011 03:43 PM PDT


Today’s tidbit of Tango news comes not from the far-flung Asian shores it is expected to storm, but rather the small, landlocked nation of Slovakia. As it turns out, the first Tango device has gone on sale, but probably not the one you were hoping for.

A photo has gone up on computer forum’s Facebook page advertising a HTC HD7 for sale with three choices of software: 7.0.7392, 7.10.7720 (Mango), 7.10.8200 (“Tango”). Awfully thoughtful of the salesman, yes?

As it turns out, the rabbit hole runs a little deeper. The Pretaktovanie forums are where the world caught its first glimpse of Tango and its Content Search functionality, posted by a moderator named Snake. Judging by the size and placement of the Windows button in relation to the screen, the device used to show off Content Search is very likely an HTC handset, and may well be the same HD7 that’s gone on sale.

Long story short, we may actually have a legitimate Tango device waiting for the first interested party willing to fork over €150. If all goes well and the buyer feels chatty, there could be much more Tango insight soon.

I’m almost tempted to go for it myself, but I don’t think I could make it fly on an expense report.

UPDATE: That was quick — the picture was just pulled from Facebook.

“Android for Girls?” HTC Bliss Coming to Verizon

Posted: 10 Aug 2011 12:37 PM PDT


Verizon is preparing to launch an Android phone targeted towards women, the HTC Bliss. The device comes in a “pretty” seafoam-like green, and will include a dangling charm that lights up when you have a missed call or new message.

Oh, and here’s the best part – the phone is also rumored to ship with special women-friendly apps, like a calorie counter and an app for shopping.


In case you can’t tell, I’m not a fan of phones targeted towards women.

But first, the news: 

The fact that the phone exists is not new information. Designs for the device were leaked back in May, when This is My Next… cited sources who claimed the phone would be a midrange device, something of a cross between the HTC Desire S and the Desire Z.

Today, we have more information on the possible specs, which indeed confirms this phone is no powerhouse. The sources for these claims are anonymous leaks, however, reported via YouHTC and HTC Inside. So keep that in mind.

The Bliss will reportedly ship with a Qualcomm MSM7x30 processor, likely the MSM7630 (due to Verizon’s CDMA network), running at 800 Mhz. This puts it in line with other HTC phones like the Desire Z and the T-Mobile G2. The Bliss’ GPU will be the Adreno 205 and it will run Android 2.3.4 (Gingerbread).

The only standout feature, if you can even call it that, is HTC Sense 3.5, the newest version. HTC Sense is an overlay that attempts to provide a more attractive and user-friendly interface to Android, and is one HTC’s key selling points, or key drawbacks, depending on your personal opinion. I’ve found Sense to be slow, and typically swap it out for an alternative like LauncherPro or the GO Launcher instead. You may disagree.

According to the leaked Verizon roadmap, posted here by IGN, the Bliss is due to arrive next month.

Appealing to the Ladies?

What bothers me about the idea of a “girl’s” Android phone is that somehow my gender has different needs and expectations than their male counterparts do when it comes to smartphones. Colored devices and cell phone charms are not necessarily “womanly” things – they may appeal to a younger demographic, or to those who concern themselves with appearances, perhaps. But that doesn’t mean only women.

What I take issue with is the gender-biased marketing tactics Verizon has chosen to engage in since day one one, starting with its Droid campaigns, featuring robots and comments about “racehorses duct-taped to Scud missiles.” So stereotypically male.

Why does Android have to be pitched differently to men and women? Last time I checked, women want the same things men do in their devices: power, performance, great hardware, great software, plus lots and lots of apps.

And not just the dieting ones.

Image credit: Mockup of HTC Bliss by This is my Next

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HTC Corp, (TAIEX: 2498) produces smartphones running the Android and Windows Mobile operating systems for themselves and as an OEM to other manufacturers. Since launching its own brand in...

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CDMA and 4G Connections Compromised At DefCon 19?

Posted: 10 Aug 2011 10:38 AM PDT


While Mike Tassey and Rich Perkins were showing off their impressive GSM and WiFi-hacking drone, it seems that other mobile networks may have been under a silent siege. Word over on the Full Disclosure mailing list is that CDMA and 4G networks were locally compromised, allowing for a full-on man-in-the middle attack to take place.

According to a report by Coderman, a DefCon attendee reportedly who saw the attack unfold, whoever was behind it really brought their A-game: they attacked over CDMA and 4G connections at full power, looking to gain root or ring 0 access on Android devices and connected PCs respectively.

The system started off by looking for open doors, like checking for SU or superuser access on affected devices. Once it had run through all the obvious options, it began to try some more “novel attacks.” Once the devices in question were compromised, the attackers were able to access user data and even monitor conversations, although Coderman doesn’t mention whether this extends to phone calls.

One would hope that such a complex attack would leave some telltale signs of intrusion, and Coderman is quick to list some possible indicators. Some of them seem woefully pedestrian — if you accept an update notification at DefCon of all places, you probably had it coming — but some masquerade as everyday network or device wonkiness. Personally, I wouldn’t think much of my Android phone being unable to connect to USB debugging, but then again there’s a reason I don’t go to DefCon.

Without further confirmation from attendees, it’s tough to say how real a threat this attack posed. A hack of this magnitude almost seems unreal, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see at it DefCon. It was highly local in nature, so affected users wouldn’t have much to worry about once they checked out of the Rio, but it could spell real trouble for the carriers involved. Though the report mentions no names, Verizon, Sprint, and MetroPCS are the only CDMA carriers with honest-to-goodness 4G services. With 4G network technologies like WiMax and especially LTE gaining widespread adoption, network operators will need to make efforts to up their security in coming months.

Foodspotting Hits A Million Downloads, Celebrates By Upping The Gluttony

Posted: 10 Aug 2011 10:00 AM PDT


I remember when I first wrote about Foodspotting a year and a half ago. At the time, nearly everyone I knew was using various social networks to share pictures of their food. Foodspotting was a service built around that very idea. That alone may have been enough, but the broader goal behind the photo-sharing was always food discovery.

Today, the service has hit one million downloads of their food discovery applications. And to celebrate, they’re upping the social connections within the app with a new “Follow” tab. From here, you’ll be able to more quickly find and follow your friends (and food experts) who are also using Foodspotting. And you’ll also be able to follow specific foods and restaurants all in one stream.

The ability to follow people, places, and foods has existed on Foodspotting’s website for a while, but the apps are the keys to the service. Foodspotting co-founder and CEO Alexa Andrzejewski says they noticed people weren’t just launching the app when they were hungry, they were launching it all throughout the day. Yes, the app now encourages more gluttony!

Of course, Foodspotting has a different take on the update. “People don’t trust apps, people trust people. Our goal was never to create another social network or photo sharing app. Instead, we’ve designed Foodspotting’s social elements to support the food-finding experience,” Andrzejewski says. “When you visit a new city or walk into a restaurant, you can see what a friend — or the Travel Channel — recommended there. With a growing user base and these social features, our vision of a lens-like app that reveals interesting things around you is becoming more and more real each day,” she continues.

Alongside a million downloads, Foodspotting now has over 720,000 reviews/photos on the service, we’re told.

The latest version of the app (2.5) is now live in the App Store here. And in the Android Market here. Foodspotting notes that they’re also beta testing a BlackBerry app built with a partner.

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Foodspotting is an angel-funded startup that enables people to stumble upon good things in the world around them. The Foodspotting website and mobile apps make it easy to find...

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T-Mobile Changes Mind About Low-Use, “No Overage” Data

Posted: 10 Aug 2011 08:46 AM PDT


T-Mobile customers have gotten quite a bit of mileage of out their No Overage data plans: while everyone’s careful not to use the word “unlimited”, T-Mobile’s approach still let users gobble up as much data as they wanted so long as they didn’t mind a (pretty drastic) speed decrease.

At 200 MB and 2 GB, T-Mobile’s smartphone data tiers look familiar, but the No Overage gimmick gives customers the best of both worlds: tiered data pricing and unfettered usage.

Actually, let me rephrase that: the No Overage gimmick gave customers the best of both worlds. According to a report from T-MoNews, T-Mobile will very shortly be changing the terms of their 200 MB data feature. Instead of letting customers continue to use their data connections at reduced speeds, T-Mobile is returning to the classic overage fee model.

Going forward, Classic plan customers will be charged for overages at $.10/MB, with the charge topping out at $30. Customers with Value plans will have to deal with the same, save for a maximum overage charge of $35.

The reason? Apparently, demand for the 200 MB feature has “exceeded T-Mobile’s expectations” and they will be reverting to charging overage fees starting August 13. No word yet on whether T-Mobile’s other No Overage data plans will suffer the same fate, but it’s certainly something to keep your eyes peeled for all the same. Worry not, existing T-Mobile customers: if you’ve got the feature currently, then you’ll be grandfathered in for the foreseeable future. If you were planning to jump on the T-Mobile bandwagon, you may want to do it soon, before this deal goes the way of the Dodo.

Introducing The Amazing, Magical HiPhone 5

Posted: 10 Aug 2011 08:31 AM PDT


If you’ve got $30 burning a hole in your pocket you can be the proud owner of a brand new HiPhone 5, a knock-off iPhone 5 modelled – we presume – on the leaked pictures of the iPhone 5. The phone, which features Wi-Fi, a micro SD slot, and a GSM cellular radio, is standard Shanzai material. It also requires a stylus to use the touchscreen and call quality, according to a buyer, is pretty bad.

A typical buyer comment, Google translated:

Phone looks good, is the reaction a little slow, but cheap for the Shanzai is so good, sometimes the touch screen with either hand, must use the stylus, there is the call quality is not very good, very big noise, playing music, they also have noise, because just received the goods, just one day, other effects do not know

Luckily this isn’t a real Apple product so importers don’t have to shoot the thing across a river using a crossbow. They just sell it on Taobao.

Also not that our buddy Stagueve from NoWhereElse’s altered photo is currently the product photo for this magical product, proving that we bloggers are so ahead of the curve that we’re predicting the future.

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HTC’s First NFC Phone “HTC Stunning,” Launching in China

Posted: 10 Aug 2011 08:29 AM PDT


Smartphone maker HTC has committed to launching its first NFC phone, the HTC Stunning, which will debut in China sometime later this year. The phone will be an 4-inch, Android-based device, and will support bank card network China UnionPay’s mobile payment standard.

This will enable the phone to perform mobile payments at point-of-sale, using the contactless technology known as NFC, or “near field communication.”

NFC, for those unfamiliar, is a short-range, high-frequency wireless technology, which is now being used as the backbone in both current and forthcoming mobile payment and mobile wallet services, such as those from mobile operators (e.g., Isis), tech companies (e.g., Google Wallet) and credit card providers (e.g. Visa, MasterCard, etc.).

In order to work, phones have to either come equipped with a special NFC chip, like the one found in Samsung’s Nexus S, or they can be made NFC-enabled through the use of stickers or specialized cases, like those from DeviceFidelity.

While some smartphone OEMs, like Nokia, for example, have included NFC in their handsets for years, others are just now jumping on the trend, thanks in a large part to the NFC initiatives mentioned above, as well as support from nearly all major players, from banks to carriers to mobile operating system makers, like Google’s Android and RIM’s BlackBerry.

While it has been rumored that HTC would soon introduce an NFC-based handset, this news now (reportedly) confirms it. The news was first published by Focus Taiwan and China Daily, citing statements made by Chai Hongfeng, Executive Vice-President of China UnionPay at a news conference.

“Mobile phone users no longer have to bring their bank cards in the future because their smartphones can provide the same function,” Hongfeng said.

China Daily also reports that the mobile payment handset has been in development for over a year. There is no exact launch date for the phone, but it should arrive sometime in September.

Additional Sources: NFCWorld; Image credit: China Daily

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HTC Corp, (TAIEX: 2498) produces smartphones running the Android and Windows Mobile operating systems for themselves and as an OEM to other manufacturers. Since launching its own brand in...

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Metaio’s Augmented City Demo May Answer The Question Of AR’s Utility

Posted: 10 Aug 2011 06:27 AM PDT

Screen shot 2011-08-10 at 7.52.01 AM

Augmented Reality veterans Metaio are announcing some more details about their upcoming insideAR conference scheduled to take place in Munich, Germany on September 26 – 27. While the speaker list for the event has been available since July, the greater theme for the conference is being updated via press release today. That theme is: "From a Vision to a Roadmap".

To help illustrate this thematic announcement, Metaio have release a video that shows a small scale demo of their vision for the "Augmented City". This demo was created by Metaio and the Media Processing Division of ARM—makers of the Mali family of GPUs essential to the demonstrated rendering ability of Metaio's software.

The demo is cool and illustrates their vision well, but it's important to note that, strategically, the focus of the insideAR event also seems to be tied to revealing their roadmap for reaching this vision. That information will be shared publicly and also in more detail with select business partners during the second (and private) day of the insideAR conference.

For if ever a technology needed a roadmap for practicality, it is Augmented Reality. I mean, I am one of the believers, but in many a conversation about AR with colleagues and clients alike, the dialogue often strays to "Yeah, but how is that going to be realistically implemented" or "how do we get from A to B". These are legitimate questions.

So the simple format of sharing the vision but also sharing the practical, tactical and technological steps to reach the vision seems like a clean and clever way to break the content up and attempt to deliver actionable results. I plan to be in attendance and will let you know if the concept lives up to the hype.

But back to the Augmented City demo…
It looks cool but I admit at first I thought it might be a bit gimmicky. I mean, what is this tiny city? What is it trying to show?

In this video, I think Metaio CTO Peter Meier does a good job of explaining the roll of hardware and software to create best-of-breed AR experiences and also describing how Metaio's optical recognition (for which they are field leaders) will enable experiences.

So after watching in its entirety, I began to see where they are headed with both the vision and the technology. Rather than viewing it as an animation or a cartoon, I imagined some of the examples within it at normal scale in a real city and myself in that city and subject to the meta information at hand. I began to imagine some real world scenarios of my own:

  • What if I worked at an architecture firm and the virtual facade of our building could be changed to the firm's best known designs?
  • What if I worked at an ad agency where client reels could be displayed on the outside walls of the office building?
  • What if a new breed of car advertisements were actually driving on the road (that one's probably a legal or compliance nightmare but cool nonetheless).

There are many possibilities if the practical hurdles can be jumped or removed. Let's hope that practical approaches can be found for implementing these "natural" AR experiences without overwhelming users.

That seems to be the one of the goals of Metaio's approach with the insideAR format. It's a good idea to try to show vision and action and that seems more realistic than the typical “whizz-bang-look-how-cool-my-tech-is” approach to gain attention for marketing reasons. My fingers are crossed.