Monday, August 15, 2011

Grid 10 - The New Tablet from fusionGarage A.K.A. TabCo

So, TabCo appeared a few months back as a company aiming to change the tablet landscape. It appeared, as the writing in the sky suggested, that they were aiming to tackle Apple's iPad. Several other lucid videos appeared to take shots at Apple, so a lot of big talk needed to be backed up by a big product release.

The name fusionGarage has been outed now as the brand behind the pseudo-brand (TabCo was not a real company, and even had a fake CEO). Their first venture, the JooJoo (I laughed too) was not necessarily a tablet with a big splash, but given the fact fusionGarage was a small outfit in that day, we can overlook that into the tablet they unveiled today: the Grid10.

The Grid10 sports a 10.1", 4-way capacitive, TFT LCD screen with a 1366x768 display, driven by the Nvidia Tegra II and 512MB of RAM. The front-facing 1.3 MP camera is the only one on the device, and comes with WiFi and WiFi+3G models, and only storage option is 16 GB. HDMI out is supported with what appears to be a proprietary docking port for charging, USB, and HDMI. Bluetooth 2.1 and a microSD slot are also included. The device weighs in at just over 1.5 pounds (690g) and is powered by a 5,800 mAh battery, and included GPS, 3-axis gyroscope, accelerometer, and light sensor.

Based on "an android kernel", the Grid OS does away with "homescreens" and gives you one big span of a grid. Naturally, application shortcuts are arranged in the grid, and can be clustered together to form "folders" that are collapsible. There is also a grid map at the top-right corner (think of a SimCity-type overview) that allows you to quickly jump to the outer-reaches of your grid (and I now am convinced Tron had some influence, considering Tron: Legacy was a movie demoed).
The web browser is pretty nice; it essentially keeps your status bar (at the top) intact, and the browser consumes the rest of the screen. Gestures then bring up controls such as opening a new tab, switching to another tab (via a "wheel") and other wonderful browser things. One thing that stood out was the ability to split-screen browse, which looked to pop-up when you highlight text and choose an option from yet another wheel. The demonstration did show-off pinch-to-zoom in each split-screen, but no indication of Flash support (unless I missed it in a buffer).

Media looked so-so. Pictures were your basic photo gallery, swipe to your next picture, albums arranged like a rough stack of photos. Video player possessed the ability to show in-depth details and transitioning stills from the movie (in this case Tron: Legacy), and music was able to be controlled from a status bar tap (playback, volume).

A few weeks ago, when the N9 was announced from Nokia, TabCo "liked" via Facebook a post from Nokia about swiping, and it all made sense after we saw that the Grid10 is completely gesture-driven. Your basic swipe from this corner to do this, swipe with three fingers to do that is in play, and another thing that I saw missing (again, unless I missed it) was a multi-tasking option to show open applications. Music was playing in the background of one desktop call, but that was all I saw.

Bing search is the choice engine in the Grid10 because, according to fusionGarage CEO and founder Chandrasekar Rathakrishnan, "it is the best search technology out there", which is highly subjective, but their stance to go away from the Google approach with Android and make it truly their own. 

Calendar and contacts are also built-in, and a notifications application called "Heartbeat", activated by two-finger swipe from the right. Also, it displays local deals ongoing in your area, as well as Facebook and Twitter, which are tightly woven throughout the OS.

Also featured was the Grid4, the smaller version of the Grid10, except it is a mobile phone. Not much attention was paid to that in comparison to the Grid10, but one feature shown off was the ability for the Grid OS to sync information (bookmarks, resume playback of videos, and more) between the two devices (be it through a cloud or locally, I am not sure). The Grid4 is a 4" display using the same technology as the Grid10, sporting a 800x480 resolution, driven by a Qualcomm MSM8255 and 512MB RAM. A 5MP autofocus camera with LED flash, capable of 720p video paired with a 0.3MP front facing supports the Grid OS built-in video calling feature. Bluetooth 2.1, WiFi, and microSD are also present on the Grid4, and only has ports for micro USB, so no HDMI out for the Grid4.

If you live in the US, you can order the Grid10 today for $499 (WiFi-only) or $599 (WiFi+3G) with free shipping direct from fusionGarage.Accessories also available for purchase are a case, HDMI adapter, USB adapter, travel charger, and headphones, all maintaining the TabCo color scheme of black and red, and showing off a grid-shaped design.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

cuteBox - Symbian^3 Dropbox Client

I just stumbled across an article from about a Dropbox client for Symbian^3 devices developed in Qt. Yes, your dreams have come true. cuteBox, which is available in the Ovi Store, is a must-have for Symbian^3 users, as it is able to upload to and download from Dropbox, view photos on your Dropbox in full screen with Symbian's built-in photo viewer, open HTML documents, PDFs, spreadsheets and documents in their native applications.

Also, just like all the other Dropbox clients, you are able to copy the public links of files in your Public folder for sharing (sharing inside the application is limited to email and SMS). Also, bulk operations are available, such as copy, move, and delete, just in case you need something in a public folder, or to take it out of the public eye. Adding files does not take long at all. I was able to upload a high-res image from my N8 and copy the public link in less than 15 seconds.

The user interface is very fluid, all the buttons and menus are easy to use as well as easy to press. Transitions are very snappy and smooth, and scrolling through long lists of files is very easy. The upload menu is straight-forward, and none of the notifications that pop-up are intrusive of the main view. The application uses a mock-up of a status bar (with time, battery, and data connection indicator) but is not an interactive status bar.

One small quirk was backing out of a file info page. By selecting a file, it automatically retrieves it (which can be changed in the settings) and gives you a few options: open the file in an application, share the file via email or SMS, and copy the public link (if it is in the Public folder). There is no option to delete the file when viewing info on it. You have to back out by swiping left to right, and then selecting the bulk operation icon, selecting the file you want to delete, pressing delete, and confirming your delete. I like the ability to check multiple files, but when I want to copy, move, delete one file, that process takes just as long. Backing out a file view, again, is a swipe, so there is no "Back" button to get back to your file list view. You do have a home button to take you back to the top directory, but that only shows up in the file list view, not the file info view.

All in all, this was a much needed application for Symbian, and although I have only used it a few minutes, I find it very easy to use, functional, and from what I can tell, Genera Software spared no expense in creating a very good Dropbox client for Symbian.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Nokia: No N9 for USA, but Plenty of WP7

So August 9 might not be as drastic of a day as February 11, but it was still not full of good news. Firstly, @engadget reported that someone from Nokia confirmed that the N9 was not going to be released in the United States (possibly all of North America). So I don't get thought of as spinning the story, here is the exact quote:

After the very positive reception to the launch of the Nokia N9, the product is now being rolled out in countries around the world. At this time we will not be making it available in the US. Nokia takes a market by market approach to product rollout, and each country makes its own decisions about which products to introduce from those available. Decisions are based on an assessment of existing and upcoming products that make up Nokia’s extensive product portfolio and the best way in which to address local market opportunities.
 Now, my pal @mikemacias of Mobile Fanatics pointed out a few key phrases that indicates the N9 will eventually come stateside, just not under any carrier subsidy.

At this time we will not be making it available in the US
Meaning, it could very well come two, three, six, or twelve months after its initial release (looking to be slated for mid- to late-September in most Euro markets). However, just like three (E73 Mode, Astound, and Nuron for T-Mobile) of Nokia's previous 13 smartphones (E6, X7, E7, C5-03, C7/Astound, C6-01, X6, X5-01, E73, E5, C6, N8, and 5230 Nuron) released have been picked up by a US carrier, I don't find it surprising the N9 slipped through the radar of the US cellular carriers. However, I buy all my phones unlocked, dating back to my feature phone days with Nokia, to my first smartphone (E61) and now with my N8. I don't mind paying for unlocked, but I do mind paying for unlocked, overseas prices (rumors are the N9 will debut around 599 GBP!!) and the hassle with buying from overseas. I see it as Mike does now, I feel the N9 could make its way to the states eventually, and as an unlocked, unsubsidized device via Amazon.

Decisions are based on an assessment of existing and upcoming products ...
 Another key phrase Mike pointed out, simply stating that Nokia is likely clearing the tables for a Windows Phone 7 device to be Nokia's sole phone entering the USA before the end of this year. It makes some sense, considering Nokia has often flooded the market before surrounding releases of flagship devices (N97 was surround with flurry of E-series devices, the N8 was surrounded by its lower-end cousins, the C6-01 and C7, not to mention budget devices like the E5, C3, and Touch-and-Type phones). So, by leaving a void, the US market could jump on Nokia's next big thing once it released, without the discernment of cluster and logjam with other Nokia devices looming.

The N9 is still a magnificent device, from the countless hands-on videos I have seen. I would love to develop for the MeeGo community and contribute to a platform that will be short-lived in the eyes of Nokia, just to have a sense of building a better gateway to the ecosystem for other users, but without an official release into the USA, I can't say the N9 will be a device I purchase unless the price is reasonable.