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Android This Week: ThunderBolt Strikes; Wi-Fi Xoom; iPod Touch Rival

The newest Android (s goog) phone in the U.S., the HTC ThunderBolt, finally launched on Thursday after weeks of expected availability. The new handset is similar to prior Android devices from HTC with a 4.3-inch 800×480 display, 1GHz processor and HTC’s Sense interface atop Android 2.2. However, this phone is the first that can run on Verizon’s (s vz) fast LTE mobile broadband network, which based on my tests, can offer download speeds up to 20 Mbps; faster than many home web connections.

The 4G speeds come at a price however: not in terms of the data plan, as Verizon has continued its $30 monthly plan, which is the same charge for a 3G handset. No, the price of fast connectivity comes in the form of a fast battery drain. The first reviews (ours is forthcoming next week) show the ThunderBolt’s battery running dry at little as three hours if used continuously on 4G speeds. And a few early tweets confirm similar battery drains.

Further challenging the issue is the lack of a toggle switch on the ThunderBolt to disable 4G for a fallback to 3G. Such a widget is available on Sprint’s 4G phones and I anticipate one appearing for the ThunderBolt in the very near future. For the time being, users can type in the following code on the phone’s dialer and then choose CDMA Auto to manually make the switch: *#*#4636#*#*

This week also saw the official announcement of Motorola releasing a Wi-Fi only model of its Xoom tablet. The contract-free device arrives later this month at a suggested retail price of $599, although it’s likely that retailers such as Wal-Mart, Target, Costco and others will discount the Android tablet. That may help boost sales of the Motorola Xoom (s mmi) as people are looking for a lower cost device that carriers no ties to 3G network operators. However, the Xoom still lacks in the applications department for tablet optimized software. At launch, only 16 tablet specific titles were available and at last count, that number is only up to 46 applications. For that reason, among others, the Xoom doesn’t yet appear to be a contender against Apple’s new iPad 2 (s aapl).

But Apple may face competition against its iPod touch in the new Samsung Galaxy Player devices: two new Android media players that double pocketable web browsers. The new 4- and 5-inch Players build off momentum from Samsung’s Galaxy S phone line and share many of the same features. Both have large touchscreen displays, dual cameras, fast processors and access to the Android Market. Without a cellular radio, these handhelds use Wi-Fi for connectivity, which limits where they can be used, but also eliminates carrier contracts and monthly service bills. Samsung is even challenging Apple’s iTunes ecosystem with its own digital stores for music, video and e-book content, all of which make the Galaxy Player a potential alternative to the iPod touch.

11 Responses to “Android This Week: ThunderBolt Strikes; Wi-Fi Xoom; iPod Touch Rival”

  1. Well, I like this thread because it has a lot of good point/counterpoint despite the voluminous approach. I want to chip in on a different angle. I run a SaaS compay and without going into all the details, I would say that I think Apple may be painting itself into a corner now with their desire to garnish subscription revenues. The turning point is when Apple starts making decisions on reviewing apps less on technical merits and their guidelines, and more on whether the app is constructed properly to allow them to get a fee for subscriptions – – in effect starting to tell iphone app developers that Apple wants in on defining their business strategy. My thought process includes the idea that there may be some small differences in technologies between vendors (e.g. Human DNA and Mouse DNA are VERY similar, etc. etc.) but Apple may well create a opportunity for the rest of the market big enough to drive a truck through.

  2. Gotthumbs

    ?? Wow!! I’m continually amazed at how the media spins things towards the ipad. The ipad runs on the same IOS as the iphone and itouch, so the apps are not specific to “tablets”. So why does this story exclude the fact that the android market exceeded 200,000 apps as of December 31, 2010? The Xoom os is honeycomb, but it still runs many of the apps designed for earlier android OS versions. The media loves comparing apples to oranges…but doesn’t let the general public know the key important items. Their feeding ignorance with half-truths. If you want an ipad…buy it, but I for one prefer more options. I don’t need to be spoon-fed and don’t like to be nickel and dimed like apples does. how many accessories (USB, SD Card, etc) do you end up buying for that ipad? They even tell you how to hold the iphone 4. What a joke.

    • Clearly, you’ve never owned an iPad if you can make a statement like, “The ipad runs on the same IOS as the iphone and itouch, so the apps are not specific to ‘tablets’,” which is flat out wrong. One of the biggest annoyances of many iOS apps is that they aren’t specific to tablets. As one of many examples, the app is still iPhone-only. You can run it on the iPad, but only with pixel doubling, which looks awful, and only in portrait mode; and you have to use the iPhone keyboard, which is terrible for touch typing compared to the iPad layout. Both devices use the same OS, but the iPad uses an additional API for screen elements that take advantage of the larger size. The differences are subtle, but significant in terms of user experience. Phone-native Android apps are theoretically able to rescale to tablets with less customization than iOS requires, but as Kevin’s Xoom review points out, many apps like Twitter and Facebook still end up with unbalanced portions of whitespace.

  3. Honeycomb Apps

    If you are going to post statements about Android Honeycomb apps every time you mention anything about Honeycomb or tablets then at least tell the full story. It’s a little disingenuous to say their are only X number of Honeycomb apps by only looking at the Android market.

    First, Android devices can install from other markets and not every developer puts their apps in the Android Market. It’s not Android’s fault that Apple does not allow this.

    Second, with flash now enabled for Honeycomb users have all flash apps available via the web–they will run just like they do on your pc. How many apps? Thousands? Again, it’s not Android’s fault that Apple does not allow flash on iOS devices.

    Third, Honeycomb used Google Chrome as the browser which allows the user to use all Google Chrome web apps (~3.5K) and all extension (~13K)–if fart apps and turn your device into a mirror are apps for iOS extensions that actually increase functionality are every bit as much an app. Again, it’s not Android’s fault Apple did not use a full web browser for their tablet.

    Not to mention all the web apps users can use–Google apps, Zoho, Office live, web email, etc–many of which require flash to work properly as it is used for minor things but still required often.

    Finally, you know full well that Honeycomb can use Android phone apps and many scale properly as opposed to how iOS apps scale, especially games and those apps that generally use the full screen–text editors, word process, etc. Though they may not be “optimized” for honeycomb they ARE fully functional in the majority of cases and look just fine.

    When you make statements like,
    “However, the Xoom still lacks in the applications department for tablet optimized software. At launch, only 16 tablet specific titles were available and at last count, that number is only up to 46 applications.”
    you only confirm that you are an Apple fan an incapable of objectivity when it comes to tech devices and are not serious about educating you readers.

    Furthermore, some apps, such as Kongregate, are actually hundreds of apps in one. Kongregate brings 400+ apps to Honeycomb.

    Your statement is very misleading at best.

    • you poor android nerds want so desperately to ‘beat’ apple and iOS. we iOS users are GLAD we get screened, quality apps through a single market. you love to play up how that’s a failing or limitation of apple’s app store. sorry, it isn’t. we don’t want crappy Flash on our devices. you can have it for yours.. so it can further decrease the already crappy battery life on those big, waffle-sized devices you call phones.

      the author was referring to ‘pad optimized’, ‘pad specific’ applications… of which there are 65,000 in apple’s app store and 46 in the droid marketplace. sorry the facts bother you.

      and stop complaining that all the useless apps in the apple app store are ‘fart’ apps. it’s getting tiresome and it’s not true. there are significantly more poorly-written, buggy, useless, trojan-carrying apps in the droid marketplace than there will ever be in apple’s app store. that’s the price you pay for using android.

      wish in one hand and crap in the other… and see which one fills up faster. android is the hand full of… you know.

    • That’s a fair point, but here’s how I look at the app situation: where will most potential Xoom customers look for tablets apps? In the Android Market, of course. And that’s what shows the small number. OK, so next, they’ll look at standard Android apps: some of them do look fine, but some look totally ridiculous (Facebook and Twitter are good examples and these are very recognizable brands / titles). Let’s move on to your point – a good one, by the way – about Flash and Kongregate. Yup, it brings a few hundred Flash games to HC *IF* consumers know about it.

      First, Flash only became available the day prior to my weekly column and it’s not an auto-install, so most Xoom tablets wouldn’t like have it. And if / when they do: how would customers know to then manually install Kongregate for the Flash apps? I’m not arguing over the number of apps; I’m pointing out that there’s an relative lack of apps. Your points are well taken, but it’s hard to count 400 additional apps that few will know about. ;)

      The last point to make here is regards to your comment “you only confirm that you are an Apple fan an incapable of objectivity when it comes to tech devices and are not serious about educating you readers.”

      Really? In an article where I also pointed out that the Galaxy Player running Android has the first real shot at taking on the iPod touch? And I suppose that’s why this “Apple fan” dumped the iPhone for a Nexus One in January of 2010 and still uses it as a primary phone today (I don’t own an iPhone). I’ve written countless articles praising the Nexus One and the various (over 100) times I’ve flashed custom ROM, tweaks, etc….

      And most recently, this “Apple fan” dumped the iPad for a…. wait for it…. Samsung Galaxy Tab Android tablet to help educate readers on how the size of a mobile device is actually a feature that needs to be considered:

      I could offer countless examples that refute your statement, but I think you understand where I’m going. At the end of the day, I *always* tell folks to use the right tool for their mobile computing tasks, regardless of the brand, logo, or platform. That’s not a statement; that’s a fact.

      • Honeycomb Apps

        “Apple Fan”
        You have stated numerous times that you would drop the Tab for a 7″ iPad. The products you utilize & praise demonstrate which ecosystem you are a fan of–Mac, Apple TV, iPad, iPod, etc. ;)

        Yes, Kevin I’ve followed your writing and podcasts for a while ;)

        The constant praise you give for Apple products while rarely mentioning their shortcoming demonstrate this same thing. You can say you are a user of whatever platform “works for you” however it’s the admiration and praise that says whether or not your a fan of a platform. If you were as harsh on apple products as you are on non-apple products then you would be a true platform agnostic–you aren’t.

        Example: referring to the new iPad 2 cover–“it just works” and other companies need to get this?!?!? Sorry, but that cover is a joke once you start using the device–it’s just in the way. However, your admiration for everything apple demonstrates that you are an apple fan and not really capable of objectively reviewing devices and seeing their flaws. Your belief that “apple gets it” pushes you to view the devices in a much more positive way than other devices and you don’t see that in yourself.

        Seriously, OS X is not in any way better than Win7 and I would argue that it is years behind Win7 . . . but what do you use? And no doubt it’s much better–I see it in the videos ;)

        It seems that comment hit a sore point with you. Usually that’s an indication of a truth you don’t want to face ;)

        While you may have a Nexus One and even like it does it garner the same fanship that your other Apple devices do? Do you find yourself able to point out its flaws easier than your apple device’s? That’s the main point–can you be just as critical with an Apple product as you are with a non-apple product. Sorry, I don’t see that taking place.

        Xoom/Honeycomb apps
        The comment was mainly directed at your constant statements to the “lack of apps” while not telling the full story to “educate your readers” which implies that you would rather compare apples and oranges and not educate your readers.

        Your statement about apps is tantamount to saying there are no Window 7 apps because the windows 7 app market doesn’t have any. True, as there is no Windows 7 app market yet there are ~1 million Windows 7 apps available throughout the world and people are accustomed to finding them without an app market/store.

        This example again demonstrated your inculturation and “fanship” of iOS–you seem no longer capable of viewing a device as it stands without insisting it must do it “apple’s way” and constantly comparing it in such a way. Therefore, if it isn’t in the app market it doesn’t exist for you as Apple only allows a single app store for everything and you seem unable to view the orange as an orange and an apple as an apple.

        Sorry Kevin, they are two different ecosystems/platforms and to treat them in any way shape or form as the same demonstrates only a favoritism towards one over the other regardless of your arguments/excuses for doing so. This often leads to pointing out the strong points of one while constantly harping on the negative points of the other and neglecting its strong points–that’s what beliefs do to people without them realizing they are even doing it.

        Amazingly enough the Windows ecosystem has done very well over the years without an app store–how have us stupid users been able to get software all these years without an “app store”??!?!?! Because they use Android they are now incapable of finding apps in a similar way and must do it only via an app store or being able to using the internet in a similar way as we do on a desktop? While this may be true for iOS users I don’t think you ought to assume the same for Android users ;)

        Kevin, I’m not trying to be mean or condescending toward you in any way whatsoever; however, you do need to look at how you write & talk about non-apple products in general. While you may use some non-apple devices you are very consistent in saying you would quickly jump to an apple device of the same nature quite often and don’s seem nearly as harsh toward’s apple’s products.

        You aren’t alone in doing this. It seems tech blogs these days are so pro-apple that objectivity has left any site of significant size–maybe major tech site reviewers are just to inculturated into the apple ecosystem to get that others prefer a different way. To find good objective reviews, in-depth analysis, etc. it seems we must seek out small sites and reviewers that are NOT heavily invested in the “apple ecosystem.”

        Best of luck Kevin. I think you truly are a good person and wish you the best in your career. However, as a reader I’ve just gotten weary of reading articles and reviews that are overly pro-apple and whether you believe you are doing it or not as a reader of yours for some time now I certainly observe that you are significantly more pro-apple than any other platform/ecosystem thus not truly objective when dealing with non-apple topics and its injected into your writing, reviews, and podcasts quite frequently.

        • Appreciate the lengthy feedback. Long story short, I think you’re pointing out examples that only prove your case and have overlooked the many examples that prove otherwise. And that’s OK. We can agree to disagree. ;)

          I put my money behind my beliefs and the last few mobile device purchases have been Android devices. Not to mention the recent debate where I called iOS notifications atrocious. Feel free to ignore that or say you see bias for Apple; that’s up to you.

          Regardless, as long as we have great choices and choose what works for us, we all win in my opinion. Thanks again for the feedback!

  4. I am seeing many post about battery life around 2 hours + for the TB. I don’t think the average user will be using the phone for a straight 2 hours downloading or browsing on the phone, maybe streaming music but you should have it plugged in for that in the car or at home or office. Maybe I am wrong, but I don’t use my Atrix for that long periods of web browsing on it. I will get my review TB on Monday; FedEx didn’t drop off yesterday, and will test as a regular user would normally like maybe a few hours worth of calls, some browsing, look up for locations, etc… and see how long battery last. I get all day battery on my Atrix. Of course I will have it tethered to my SGT for mobile hotspots testing. ;)

    • Just got the New TB, yesterday after getting full charge i removed from charger @ 8AM. used it all day setting my apps and settings to mirror my original droid set up(i would say medium to heavy use). i stayed up a little late and when i went to put it on the charger @ 12:30 at night the phone was literally just powering down. i do have many of my setting set for optimum battery usage such as: WIFI,Bluetooth off, a task killer killing every hour, high time between syncs, and low screen power. but all that said i think 12 plus hours of time with plenty of data usage is a great battery. its all in the usage and settings.
      on a second thought phone has been off the charger today since 6AM, 5 hours later (no usage) just idle sitting, it still has full battery display.