Android this week: LTE for Nexus 4; Skype 3.0; Google’s AirPlay

android-this-week

Many reviewers of Google’s Nexus 4 smartphone have appropriately pointed out the handset lacks support for fast LTE networks. Some have called this a fatal flaw, but as I explained in my own Nexus 4 review, the phone still provides a fast mobile broadband experience in certain coverage areas. It turns out that in very particular regions, the phone actually does work on LTE networks.

Nexus 4 in handA teardown of the phone by iFixit showed a 7-band Qualcomm LTE chip inside the Nexus 4. But the chip alone won’t bring speedy LTE service to the handset that’s otherwise limited to HSPA+. It turns out that there are power amplifiers for one particular LTE band, however.

AnandTech noticed this and did some additional testing: Indeed, on the 1700 / 2100 MHz ranges — AWS or Band 4 — the Nexus 4 does work with LTE when users switch a single setting. That doesn’t really help Nexus 4 owners in the U.S. but some in Canada will benefit as some carriers there use the AWS band for LTE.

While not everyone gains LTE on their Android phone this week, they do get a Skype update. Version 3 improves voice quality thanks to Skype’s SILK codec and tablets gain an optimized interface for larger screens. The tablet version is limited to landscape use only and in my testing I had some issues using the app in portrait mode on my phone, illustrating the challenge to create Android apps that work across the entire range of available devices.

Google can’t do much about that, but it can help Android devices stream media content to large screens. The company is working on an AirPlay-like feature that has already been implemented in part: You can now shoot YouTube videos from a Android device to a Google TV. But there’s more to it than just that as my colleague, Janko Roettgers, explains:

“And it’s not just about remote control functionality and beaming a video from your mobile phone to the TV we are talking about. The new protocol makes it possible for data to flow in both directions, Drayson explained, which would enable developers to build second-screen experiences that correspond to what’s happening on live TV as well. Also on the roadmap: beaming content from your laptop to your TV screen.”

I like the idea of second screen experiences as I often use two, three, or even four screens, when watching sports, for example. Enjoying the actual content is great, but having supplemental content on a phone or tablet can enhance the experience.

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