Ep. 156: Android and 4G are big news at CESAndroid and 4G were the big themes here at CES, with several big smartphone announcements from Motorola, HTC, LG, and more. We go over the Best of CES nominees and also mention the Verizon event next week that may or may not feature a certain Apple product.
-Hi, I'm Kent German and I'm here at CES 2011 and this is Dialed In CNET Cellphone Podcast and I'm here of course with Nicole Lee, our associate-- or senior associate editor, excuse me. -Hello. -And Jessica Dolcourt. -Hey everyone. -And, joining us today also is Scott Webster. He writes for Android Atlas which is a CNET blog. He also runs AndroidGuys.com so he knows all about Android, everything we know there is to know, and considering-- -This is our show-- -He pretty much thinks he's the expert. -Just take it easy. -Well, considering cellphones is everything-- all of the cellphones here are about Android so we welcome him. Bonnie Cha, also is on our show usually but she is actually meeting with HTC at the moment about all of their very important announcements so she'll be around in a minute. So, this morning, our Best of CES finalists were announced, right? Or for the Best of CES category in cellphones. Nicole, what did you pick? -I picked the LG Revolution and the HTC Thunderbolt, both of which are-- each respective manufacturer's first 4G LTE smartphone which I thought was kind of a big deal, you know? Like the LG Revolution was the first LG LTE smartphone and HTC as well and they're both pretty good looking phones so...there you go. -And so what carrier are those coming to again? -They're both Verizon, 4G LTE, yeah. -We're good. Jessica, did you suggest anything? -Yes, I did. Cricket's Muve Music Service. It's one of a kind, industry first, where they basically include all-you-can-eat music, downloads, along with the service plans so that's texting, e-mail, you know, all of that stuff and then the music on top of it for $55 a month so that's pretty cool. It's brand new to Cricket, it's brand new, we haven't seen anything else like that. -Cool. And then, also, for Best of CES in the cellphone category, we have the Motorola ATRIX. Of course, that's a phone that's coming for AT&T. It includes the laptop dock, it includes that HDMI dock. We thought it was pretty cool 'cause I liked the dual core processor, personally, and you were saying, different than the Motorola Droid Pro, right, for the dual core processor? -Yeah, the-- -Oh, I'm sorry, Droid Bionic. Excuse me, I always get those mixed up. -The Droid Bionic has a dual core processor but the one on the ATRIX, even though it's a single core for the ATRIX 4G, it's the new NVIDIA Tegra 2 processor-- -Okay, so you're right-- -Which is the fastest, the latest-- -And the first. -It's the latest thing. It's not the first but it's the latest thing for the US market anyway. Yeah. -And then we also nominated the Motorola Droid Bionic. -The Droid Bionic. I mean, I like the name, Bionic, I don't know. It's kind of-- kind of brings-- -This remind you of-- Yeah, Farrah Fawcett and-- -Reminds me of like Lee Majors in the Six Million Dollar Man, I don't know. I kinda like it. -Perfect fit for the Droid theme. -Yeah, the Droid theme definitely fits the whole robotic theme for sure. It has the dual core, like I said, the dual core 1 GHz processor. Even has some 512 megabytes of DDR2 RAM and it's just overall a very sleek looking phone. It has HDMI mirroring, so it's a very multimedia heavy phone, too. -So, Scott, tell us what you've seen from Android. What phones were really exciting at the show? -The most recent one that we came from was the Sony Ericsson Arc and it's an Android 2.3 phone and that will be out, I think they said first quarter, they're gonna make global announcements for it and they didn't wanna say specifically any carriers but looking at it, it's nice to see that Sony Ericsson has a completely different approach this time around than with the X10. It's like rather than releasing gorgeous hardware with outdated software, this looks like it's gonna be both and-- -Yeah, 'cause the Xperia X10, when it first came out, the unlocked version, it was 1.6, wasn't it? -1.6 or 1.5-- -1.5, maybe. -Yeah. -Yeah. -It's like-- -And then they came out with the AT&T version which was a little upgraded so it's nice to see this Gingerbread really coming and put on the phone itself. -I would-- I've always said that the X10 was capable of being compared to phones like the EVO, the Droid Incredible, were it not for the software. So, what they have now is a combination of both hardware and software and I'll think they'll do very well, depending on where it ends up. -Okay. And Xperia X10 Arc, there's no carrier announcements yet so it's just gonna be out globally. I know they said, "Including Japan" which I thought was funny, just what they said, "Everywhere including Japan," so, I don't know, including Japan. -Well, I'm glad they cleared that up for us. -Yeah, I know, in case we didn't know it's part of the world, right? -Right. -So a lot of big Android stuff, of course, and I know that we did see-- I saw the Xperia Arc today and one thing that was an achievement about that phone, too, is, you know, they still have the Timescape which is the UI to put over it and that still seems to be going on. There's MOTOBLUR, the UI-- or the Timescape, all of those things-- -I am not happy to see MOTOBLUR on the ATRIX. -No? -No. -Even the refined MOTOBLUR? -Yeah, no. I can leave it. I'm sorry, Motorola. I do not like. -I could expect it for the Cliq 2, you know, seeing that that was-- -Right-- -There's continuity as part of that family. -Right. -What did you think of the Cliq 2? I liked the-- I thought that the keyboard was kind of interesting because it had that sort of spiderweb-like design. -I liked the keyboard-- I think it's a big improvement over the previous Cliq keyboards. Nice and very intuitive, very-- they redesigned it in a way that really makes it really easy to use, I think. -But no Cliq and then, remember, the Cliq XT didn't have the virtual-- or had a virtual keyboard so this is back to that. -Yeah. -And I really liked the laptop dock which is what Motorola, you know, is going with the ATRIX. I though that was a really neat idea-- -That looks awesome, I cannot wait to try that out. -Yeah. I mean, the only thing, for me, would be if it's that much more expensive to get the laptop dock on top of the phone, then be like, "Oh, it's too much money," but again-- -But if you're a first-time buyer-- -If you're a first-time buyer-- -Then that makes perfect sense. What I'm thinking of is us at conferences like this next year, instead of having to carry around this hefty laptop, we might be carrying around our phone and a really-- -Lightweight-- -Shell. -Thin shell. -Exactly. -That's brilliant. That would make my life so much easier. -Yeah. -And we don't have pricing for that. -No pricing yet. -You know, a lot of these phones, there aren't really-- no pricing announcements for these phones which is a little bit-- -Convenient-- -It's a disappointment but, yeah, exactly, so... -And then, one thing I really liked about it is just that, you know, there is that whole idea where, I don't know, I'm on my phone a lot and I take it and I go home and I'm online and I just-- I'm too lazy to turn on my computer half the time so I'm on a couch and I'm-- I see something on TV I wanna look up and I-- -Yeah. -And then after a while, you know, your eyes hurt and then you're watching the small screen so I really think it is a good idea to just-- -And we've seen a lot of docks, too, that are separate so you can plug your phone on to it, you've got the keyboard in front of you and you can tap, tap away. -Yeah, right-- -Sometimes it feel really weird. -Yeah-- -But this is nice to have the big, large screen. -Yeah. -So, I heard that AT&T will be selling that along with Motorola, and, I don't know, what do you think the price will be? $129, maybe a little more than that or a little less? $79? -Since it's a 4G phone, it has the NVIDIA-- -No, I mean the laptop dock-- -Oh, with the laptop dock? -Yeah. -I don't know. -I think it's gonna be pricier than we think it should be. -Yeah. -Yeah, I think so, too. -Because it looks like a laptop, it is a dock, it's pretty involved, you know? -And they're probably marketing it towards the business side, too, a little bit, so I think it's gonna be kind of up there. Yeah. -I'd like to see it rolled out with other handsets, you know? And talking to them, they said this is specific to this phone but, you know, all they have to do is start to put those ports in the same spot across the board and it's-- you know, as you mentioned with the laptop, I carried a laptop around all day yesterday then never took it out of the bag. I did a lot of what I did from a Galaxy Tab and something like this would have been much better to sit down, really light, and be able to do-- -Your back would have thanked you. -Yeah, ask my wife about that. -So, and I know that you covered some ZTE stuff today, Jessica? -Yeah, indeed. ZTE, well, in terms of smartphone news, they told me about something that they didn't announce and it's basically, it's their first smartphone that has already been released globally. This is the ZTE Blade. It does run Android 2.1 currently but it is upgradeable to 2.2, possibly 2.3, no promises, so this has been released globally and they're shopping around for a carrier home in the US. They're talking to tier 1 and tier 2 carriers so it's national and regional carriers to see what can happen. ZTE has not had a smartphone in the US and what we found out is this is actually the first time that they're talking to US press which I think is an indicator of more smartphones to come so maybe they'll be able to put their name on the map a little bit in terms of American market share and knowledge. -They have been talking a lot about definitely getting more to the US market so this is a big-- -And they've been staffing up. -This is a big sign, for sure. -Yeah, exactly, so... -And we don't have-- Have we seen Android phones from them? I don't think we have, ZTE. -No this would be their first-- -Not in the US. Not in the US, yeah. -And they released the same phone in Japan, including Japan, and-- -Right. -Including Japan. -Including Japan, so that was their first smartphone there as well so that seems to be ZTE's strategy. -Yeah. -So, now 4Gs are also a big theme here at CES. We had all the 4G phones for us from Verizon to go with their brand new LTE network. Now, AT&T seemed to be playing a little fast and loose with 4G. They say their LTE is coming but they say, well, right now, it's HSPA+-- -Which is also 4G-- -But they haven't done a lot to really upgrade their network and I know that other carriers are a little, I don't know, I don't think they're too happy about that. -And then T-Mobile went ahead and announced that they were going to release at least 25 4G devices for 2011. -Yeah. -What do you guys think? Do you think-- I mean, are we too loose with our definition of 4G and what it is and what it should be? Or is this just, I mean, in terms of marketing thing in some ways. -I feel like this is one that we've kind of beaten to death. You know, we've talked about it. We've talked about how, according to at least the first iteration of rules and specifications and proposed standards, 4G is not really anything that we've seen. We haven't even come close to 4G. -Right. -However, didn't the FCC just sort of re-jigger-- -I think-- -Yeah-- -The International Telecommunications Union, yeah-- -Yes, that one. -Well, they basically said, "Well, we said it wasn't 4G but, you know what, it's-- it might as well be so we're just gonna say it's 4G." -Because this is kind of what we have now and let's not get into an argument about it and overlook the actual processing power that these phones have achieved. -I do have to say since HSPA+ and LTE, the current technology that we know, they're almost about the same speeds and HSPA+, according to our tests on T-Mobile's network, is almost on par with LTE and WiMAX. I think we can kinda call it the same technology, even though it's not really the same and, you know, but the speeds are on par, so, I think it's okay. -It's interesting to watch these guys play things out publicly on Twitter and Facebook and talk about each other's networks now as far as yours is not 4G, ours is. -Yeah, I know. -We've been around longer, ours has got more promise, ours is-- we have more coverage. It's...Everybody's got a faster network than they did, you know, a couple years ago so I guess-- -At the end of the day, the end user, all they want is a fast phone. -Right. -They don't really care if it's LTE or HSPA or anything like that. -So I'm willing to loosen my personal standards a little bit. -Well, I think it's kind of a nerd argument, though, in some ways, because about what it really is and I don't know if consumers really care 'cause I just think they want their phone to be fast and as long as it's fast, you can call it whatever you want. -Right. -It's gotta be used to 4G device from Verizon. -I have not. I'm not even-- I'm from Ohio so I've got very few 4G networks so I haven't had a chance to in the field but I've got friends that I talked to that have had chances to do with T-Mobile and Sprint but I think Verizon's gotta come to Akron which is about 30 minutes away from me so I'm gonna try it if I can to see how fast it really is. -Yeah, and we'll see how they roll out their network so, at the beginning-- on Tuesday and-- on press day of CES, AT&T said they were launching LTE in middle of this year and then they would be done by 2013, I think. We don't know any details yet as far as rollout cities or pricing or anything like that. Do you think that 4G, like 4G carriers are-- or the 4G pricing, how do you think it's gonna go? Do you think it's really gonna be all you can eat or do you think it's gonna be, you know-- -I hope so because that is the-- that's the biggest barrier, really, like the whole controversy over Sprint's WiMAX was that they charged $10 extra if you wanted to use the WiMAX and not all-- -Nobody likes being nickled and dimed. -Nobody likes being paid extra for what's may not be there so I just hope it'll be the same 3G plan as everything else, you know, data plan. They might cap it, you know, 5 gigabytes or something, but that's, I think, a little better than just charging more for something like that so... -That's another nerd argument, too. You hear a lot of people, I want unlimited, I need to have unlimited but when you look at what they really use and a lot of people are 1, 2 gigabytes at the max but it's the principle of I need to have unlimited so... -Or what do you mean I can't have anything I want. -Right. -I'll pay for it. -They tell us we can't have it then we actually really want it, right? -Obviously. So another thing that I've noticed in addition to dual core trends and 4G trends, of course, just bigger screens in general. So many more phones have-- -The minimum used to be 4 inches, like the LG Optimus Black and LG Optimus 2x were 4-inch, they looked beautiful. The Motorola Droid Bionic was like 4.3, I think. Revolution was 4.3. So, yeah, it seems to be like bigger is better in the Android world. -Yeah. And for touch-only phone, I think people want that 4 and I think Samsung has a 4.5 now on one of their phones-- -Yes. -So I mean, and then you're getting into Dell Streak, 5-inch-- -Yeah, it's like territory almost, kind of interesting. -'Cause we have-- excuse me. We have the all-you-can-eat plans in some ways and then, it'll be interesting to see as AT&T and all every carrier really gets on it. I know that when we used the Verizon service so far as we used the modem, the wireless modem, I forgot what it is, burn through the cap really quickly in CNET Labs. Yeah, it was just so fast that it was pretty amazing so I can see a lot of people actually kind of hitting that top. -That could be a legitimate argument at that point. -Yeah, that's true. -But, I'm sorry, back to screens. So do you think there is big screen, could have too big? -Yes and no. My hands aren't huge and I know that some of those phones I was holding, it would take a while to get used to it. Eventually I did but I kind of do sometimes prefer, I would want the opportunity to pick up a phone that's a little bit more bite-sized, but it sure is beautiful. -Definitely. So, another thing we saw, Bonnie actually saw today, is Acer is introducing Liquid Mini Android phones. I don't know if you'd checked that out. So-- -I actually spoke to a complaint that I've had lately. Oh, no, wait-- Yes. She's spoken to a complaint I've had lately about all the phones looked the same and her first line in her write-up was, "If you're tired of the same boring black phones, have some color." So-- -Black is still on one side-- -I'm glad Acer's fleshing out. -Yeah? -Yeah. -Yeah, that was-- Yeah, they-- I think it comes in purple, blue, yellow, and-- or another color like-- -Lime green, light pink, piano black, and jet silver. -No Hello Kitty? -No Hello Kitty-- -But this kind of plays into your, the theory that you've had, Jessica, for a long time, that you think that, cheaper Android phones are kind of hurting the Android brand in some ways. -I did mention that, floated through my head. It was at some point, you know, it seems to be that entry-level Android phones are replacing the midrange and higher end feature phones-- -That's true-- -And with specifications really fast and loose at Google, you can really do almost anything you want and still call it an Android phone so other people, other readers have written in and they've mentioned this, too. "Oh, I want an Android phone," they're expecting really high quality because they see the super high-end premium phones and then they get something with, you know, lower camera resolution, sort of a cheaper body, and to be frank, they're disappointed or it doesn't have hotspot support so they're like, "Oh, but I thought I could get an Android phone," so there are differences that you don't see in some of the other carriers that have a little bit more standardization across the board, but the specs on this one, yeah, I know, they're pretty midrange. 3.2-inch screen-- -Well, it has DLNA support which is a pretty high-end feature. -Five-megapixel camera, 600 MHz Qualcomm processor, so it's definitely not-- -It's a little slower-- -High-end-- -But the-- -Super premium-- -The media support is definitely there. -It's there. -Yeah. -It makes me think of the LG 1 series with the Optimus T, Optimus M, it's-- -Yeah, all the Optimus TS series, yeah-- -Right, at $30, $50, free after rebate, it's hard to go to the store and buy a feature phone for more than a smartphone so it helps the carriers but as far as what they've come to expect out of Android, you know, that might be the type of phone as, you know, we wanna buy one for my mom and a couple for the family, it's a cheap way to get out, but-- -And I'd be curious to know, for the manufacturers, what the pricing breakdown is, if it is actually much, much cheaper to develop an Android phone because the Android operating system is open-source or if it turns out to be about the same if they're working on their proprietary operating system. -Right. -So, maybe I'll ask that next time. -Okay, we're good. Sorry. Just a little technical difficulty there. So I know that we got-- we have to mention this a minute. I know this isn't Scott's territory but, so, the press release went out a few minutes ago, about an hour ago, that Verizon is having an event Tuesday in New York City to share the latest news. Any guesses? -It's a new case. No. -You really think they'd haul everyone out to New York for that? I don't know. -After this-- -I mean, the obvious answer is that it's-- -Could it be the long-awaited-- -It could be the Verizon iPhone, right? -Which would be weird. -Nicole, I've never even heard that Verizon iPhone could exist, I don't know what you're talking about. -Wait a second-- -Oh, the sarcasm-- -It could be-- -Dropping on the floor everywhere-- -It could be. -That's still with AT&T only? What-- What am I missing? -At the same time, though, it's very typical of Apple to have their own events so I think it's in line-- -Unless this is breaking the mold. I mean, unless Apple's finally starting to play ball with the other carriers now that exclusivity with AT&T is over. I mean, this is sort of the speculation. We're waiting for it to happen. We've seen some possible other iPhone cases here at CES. -Oh, yeah. -So, there's definitely momentum. There are definitely hints and whispers and something is gonna happen but what would they possibly do? What could Verizon possibly show that they wouldn't be showing here? -Yeah. So, if you haven't heard, it is-- there is an announcement in New York City on the 11th, Tuesday, at 11 a.m., in 2011, so they're clearly going with a "1" sort of theme here, or 1/1/11, and it's at Lincoln Center so CNET will definitely be there. None of us at this desk will be there, we're from San Francisco so all our New York team will handle it, we'll have a live blog, of course, so certainly check back and watch what's happening. -It'll be exciting. -But, maybe, I don't know, it's a question we can answer is that, so we do get this, Verizon-- of course, Verizon has invested really heavily in Android. I mean, they've gone big, they have the Droid series, they have these new phones-- -So they've invested in Motorola and Motorola has invested heavily in Android. -Right. -Verizon and Android-- -So what do you think that means for Android if we do see it? -I mean, I think Android is still trucking. It has such great momentum that I really can't see how it would suffer drastically because, right now, it's just poised to eat up tremendous amounts of market share. -I think it does mean that Verizon will be probably, might be the biggest adopted carrier because it has all the hot Android phones, it might have the iPhone. I mean, those are the two biggest smartphones at the moment and it's gonna be like huge market, huge Verizon market if that's the case. -I think we'll see people leave AT&T just to go to Verizon for the more reliable network. -And then all of a sudden, AT&T's network will drastically improve. -Right, and I'd like to see AT&T, if this happens, step up and say, "Okay, it's time for us to get really serious about Android," which we did at, you know, at CES this week, we've seen three really nice phones. -The ATRIX 4G, yeah. -Absolutely. -Sure. -Things that we weren't even expecting to see necessarily. -Yeah, absolutely. -So maybe-- -We know AT&T can do it. -I think a good theme of this show and even if we don't see the mythical device, even if we don't see it, even in the show in the first few months is that it seems to be like Verizon ascendance, you know? They really-- -Yeah. -They've made such a big splash here. I mean, they've-- I think they've had a booth her before, I don't even remember, but the booth they have here now is just gigantic. I don't know if you've been back to it but you should check it out if you have-- -I got lost in it, I had to GPS my way out. -Oh, good-- -The press-- -Did it work-- -On a Verizon device, right? -The Verizon press conference was like a dog and pony show with thunder and lightning. -Yes, when they introduced the Thunderbolt, they had thunder, lightning, fireworks, all sorts of things. -So, yeah, they're definitely making a big splash. -And, you know what it means for the other carriers 'cause I always thought, think about the carriers' images and so, you know, you have Verizon, they sort of, you know, have-- they have-- I mean, you know, independent test of proving they have a great network but they sort of, they have the cache behind it and they certainly have the marketing message and the message of that, but then, and then you bring in AT&T, they've always said the iPhone that came out was some of the first device like the Razr 3, V3, they had the first device, so what does this mean for, you know, Sprint had 3G first but-- or 4G first but not anymore, or not-- -Sprint needs some catching up to do. -Yeah. -So we wonder what's really gonna happen-- -Have you seen the latest Sprint commercials that are basically like remember, everybody loved the EVO. Remember we were first. But, so, the thing is, one of the biggest complaints about AT&T was when they took on iPhone, they really weren't prepared in their network for all of that load and for the popularity. Is the same thing going to happen to Verizon if Verizon gets the iPhone and has all these awesome Droid devices and other things, are they gonna suffer? Is everybody going to repeat what they were saying about AT&T except inserting Verizon's name instead. -Yeah, we'll see-- -One thing that has been interesting is there was a story that came out a little while ago that Android users on Verizon, I think they're using more data than iPhone AT&T users so you could make the argument that maybe Verizon has used Android as, you know, a little bit of a way to kinda test their network and say, okay, you know, we can be ready, we can have this. They don't quite have the numbers, of course, as far as subscribers as when you compare just the device, you know, general devices, but, I mean, that could happen, they could be doing that. I think the danger is you don't want-- we don't want people to pretend that the Verizon iPhone will be this sort of mythical white horse that will just cure everyone's reception problems and that's-- -Right. -And that seems to be what, whatever you think, so... -I mean, if/when Verizon does get the iPhone, they're gonna be, there will be an exodus but I think that there's still gonna be plenty of people using the iPhone on AT&T. -Right. -So-- -Lot of people. -There might be a little bit of a spread. -There is the perception, also, that Verizon will suffer under the load and some people say, "Oh, I won't move to Verizon just because I suspect it might be overloading Verizon," so... -I think if anything, one of the questions I have in my mind goes back to something that Kent once said which is, "Are there too many smartphones out there?" If people are gonna be switching phones, you know, if power users are gonna be switching phones every 6 to 9 months, then is it going to be, "Here, I'm gonna stick with my carrier and now I have 20 smartphones to choose from, and 15 of them are Android." -Right. And, also, a thing to remember is, it's gonna continue to innovate with hardware with Google, and any of the other handset makers, they're gonna continue to push out things. This is the same iPhone, just on a different network so the people who really wanted to buy it because of the hardware may have already done that and there are people, of course, that are saying, "I'll wait until the Verizon one." I mean, you hear people at the barbershop saying, "Did you hear Verizon's getting an iPhone?" so it's, you know, public awareness. -There's a lot more word of mouth cliche behind it, the whole Verizon iPhone thing. -So-- -That's true. -Sorry we had to have that break into that 'cause that just came out today, we thought that we were gonna-- of course, everyone-- some people thought we might hear it-- -It's the biggest non-CES CES news. -Yes. -Yes, sort of like when we had that Nexus 1 last year and that was the biggest non-CES news at CES, but-- -Who do Apple and Google think they are? -I don't know, but, so, it has been a really interesting show for phones. You know, CES has been sort of like hit or miss for phones, you get the Palm Pre 2 years ago and then last year was really quiet but big year this year. -This year is big. -4G, Android, huge themes. -Yeah. -And then, of course, so-- we took the time, our best of CES nominations for the cellphones category are ATRIX, I nominated the Motorola ATRIX. Nicole, you nominated the... -The LG Revolution and the HTC Thunderbolt. -And then we also nominated the Motorola Droid Bionic so we will have-- we will be choosing those. We will be choosing the best of CES winners, that is tomorrow at 10 a.m. right at this stage so-- Oh, 11 a.m., sorry-- -All come and check it out-- -11 a.m. -11 a.m., sorry, right at this stage, so be sure to check back. You'll see who makes it in the cellphone category and who makes the best of CES overall-- -And you can actually vote if you're here, or if you're not here-- -People's choice. -You can vote for people's choice winner if you've seen something that you really like, through the power of your vote behind it. -Okay. So, thank you, Scott, so much for joining us-- -Thanks for having me on. -This is your second best of-- second CES or...? -First CES. -Oh. -CTIA was first time here last year. -Okay. -And it's insanely big. -But be sure to check out Android Atlas, it's at CNET and where all Scott's stuff ends up and then, of course, he runs AndroidGuys as well, so, thank you, Nicole and Jessica. Sorry Bonnie couldn't make it but she's off meeting with HTC, so, that's all for us so we're gonna take a little break. Stick around and Brian Tong and 50 Cent are coming up next.