New standards were released in Europe this week for a universal USB phone charger that will let Europeans use one charger for different phones starting early next year.
The standards are based on MicroUSB and were embraced on Wednesday by the European Commission, which says they will be helpful to both consumers and the environment. Fourteen manufacturers have already signed on to use the new standards when producing data-enabled mobile phones, including Apple, Nokia, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, Motorola Mobility, Qualcomm, and Research In Motion.
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"I am very happy that the European Standardisation Bodies have met our request to develop within a short space of time the technical standards necessary for a common mobile phone charger based on the work done by industry,'' said Antonio Tajani, European Commission VP for industry and entrepreneurship, in a statement. "Now it is time for industry to show its commitment to sell mobile phones for the new charger. The common charger will make life easier for consumers, reduce waste, and benefit businesses. It is a true win-win situation."
Incompatible cell phone chargers are not only a nuisance for users but an environmental issue, because old ones are disposed when new ones are purchased, even if they are in good condition, the EC said.
The commission issued a mandate at the end of 2009 to the European standardization organizations CEN-CENELEC and ETSI, requesting development of European standards for the common charger. The standards allow for interoperability between different brands and also take account of safety risks and electro-magnetic emissions and ensure that common chargers have sufficient immunity to external interference, the commission said.
The other companies supporting the initiative are Emblaze Mobile, Huwei Technologies, LGE, NEC, TCT Mobile (Alcatel), Texas Instruments, and Atmel. Together the companies make more than 90% of the smartphones sold in the European Union.
The manufacturers are in discussions with other non-EU standards organizations to adopt the common charger specifications in other markets, the commission said. Compatibility of data-enabled mobile phones is expected to be "predominant in the market within two years," based on the MicroUSB connector, the EC said.
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More Smartphone Buyers Choose Android Over iPhone [STATS]
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In the past six months, smartphone buyers in the U.S. were more likely to choose Android-powered devices over any others, including iPhones.
The Android platform has been strongly challenging Apple’s mobile offerings for quite some time now, and the release of the shiny new Froyo (a.k.a AndroidAndroid 2.2) OS leaves little to be desired.
Software aside, Android-powered hardware is as diverse as it is impressive.
Android phones range from affordable models suitable for families with kids (e.g., Motorola’s Charm, a surefire winner for the teen girl set) to high-powered, 4-inch, 8-megapixel superphones fit to satiate the geekiest of gadget fiends (Droid X and Galaxy S, anyone?).
All of those reasons, coupled with network diversity and relative affordability, have catapulted Android phones to a leading position for new gadget-buyers this year — no mean feat, considering that the iPhone 4 produced the “most successful iPhone launch ever” — which was accompanied by as much media hype as fan frenzy.
Data from Nielsen shows that despite a successful launch for the iPhone 4, Android devices still rose to capture 32% of the market of new smartphone buyers between January and August 2010.
Now, that’s not to say that Android is the number-one mobile OS just yet. While it’s popular as a choice for new devices, the iPhone predated Android phones by a few years, and Android phones didn’t truly become competitive with iPhones until recently.
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Microsoft has licensed 74 patents from Acacia Research Corp. and Access Co. Ltd, giving it legal access to technology once used in Palm’s smartphones. The move could also fortify some of Microsoft’s legal flanks against the increasingly-endemic IP lawsuits flying around the tech industry.
“By focusing on efficiently licensing patented innovations from other companies, we’re free to develop great software and we’re able to provide our partners and customers intellectual property piece of mind,” David Kaefer, Microsoft’s general manager of intellectual property and licensing, wrote in a statement widely circulated Oct. 8.
Over the past few months, some of the biggest names in tech have engaged in a courtroom demolition derby over patent-infringement. Many of these battles have to deal with smartphones, with millions in potential profits at stake. In April, HTC acknowledged it would pay royalties to Microsoft in exchange for use of “patented technology” in its Android-powered smartphones; in October, Motorola may have been unwilling to make a similar deal, and Microsoft promptly filed an intellectual-property lawsuit against them.
Microsoft’s Motorola lawsuit alleges infringement of nine patents in the manufacturer’s Google Android smartphones.
“The patents at issue relate to a range of functionality embodied in Motorola’s Android smartphone devices that are essential to the smartphone user experience,” Horacio Gutierrez, Microsoft’s corporate vice president and deputy general counsel of Intellectual Property and Licensing, wrote in an Oct. 1 statement, “including synchronizing email, calendars and contacts, scheduling meetings, and notifying applications of changes in signal strength and battery power.”
Since the launch of its IP licensing program in 2003, Microsoft has entered into more than 600 licensing agreements with companies ranging from Apple to Hewlett-Packard. Those types of licensing deals allow companies to not only create partnerships, but also avoid costly patent-infringement suits.
Apple and Oracle have also launched recent courtroom attacks against Android, which has been steadily gaining smartphone market-share over the past few quarters. “It’s disappointing that after years of supporting open source, Oracle turned around to attack—not just Android—but the entire open-source Java community with vague software patent claims,” Google wrote in a public statement. “Open platforms like Android are essential to innovation, and we will continue to support the open-source community to make the mobile experience better for consumers and developers alike.”
Apple has also sued Nokia and HTC for patent infringement, alleging that both those manufacturers’ devices violate intellectual property associated with the iPhone. Not to be outdone, Nokia has turned and fired off its own patent lawsuits against Apple. And at least some of the intellectual-property attorneys involved in these interlocking battles, by this point, are probably wondering whether they should use all these billable hours to purchase the regular old Bentley, or the Bentley with the calf-leather seating.
Given how some of Microsoft’s newly licensed patents are apparently at issue in an Acacia-filed lawsuit against Apple, Samsung, Motorola and other smartphone makers, Redmond could soon find its lawyers dispatched on yet another IP-related mission. In theory, the patents might also protect Microsoft from any future lawsuits from Hewlett-Packard, which acquired Palm, and is reportedly planning a series of tablets and smartphones that use the Palm webOS operating system.
AT&T customers, who decide they want a new smartphone while their contract is still running, will have to pay a lot more to do so now. This will be on top of a new 24 month contract price.
Christina Warren of Mashable is reporting that the early upgrade fee has gone up from $75 to $200. This is when you upgrade before 18 months in a 24 month contract. An AT&T internal document stated the new pricing policy was due to the rising prices of smartphones. The new policy does not affect the iPhone.
The network provider used the BlackBerry Torch as an example, as this costs $199.99 with a 24 month contract, and is now $399.99 if you want to upgrade early. Buying the device contract free is $499.99 so customers save $100, but have to extend their contract to do so.
Customers who lose their phone or have their device break down are probably the ones to be affected the most by this new policy, as a lot of people should be fine keeping the same device for 18 months.
Microsoft paid royalties on smartphone patents held by Access Co. Ltd., according to an announcement issued on Thursday.
The patents involved weren't disclosed. The news came via a jointly issued press release from Tokyo-based Access Co. Ltd. and Newport Beach, Calif.-based Acacia Research Corp. It's not clear why Acacia Research was involved in the settlement since the patents were held by Access. However, Acacia specializes in partnering with inventors and patent holders and licensing those technologies to corporations.
Some of the patented technologies were originally devised by other companies, including "Palm, Palmsource, Bell Communications Research and Geoworks," according to the announcement. Apparently, HP, which announced the acquisition of Palm Inc. in April, doesn't hold the patent that was licensed. An HP spokesperson explained that "when Palm spun off PalmSource the patent portfolio was split up as well. ACCESS eventually bought what was left of PalmSource, including the patents it held."
Microsoft confirmed on Friday that it had paid the royalties.
"By focusing on efficiently licensing patented innovations from other companies, we're free to develop great software and we're able to provide our partners and customers IP peace-of-mind," stated David Kaefer, general manager of intellectual property and licensing at Microsoft, in a prepared statement.
Microsoft settled a patent dispute in April with its partner HTC, which makes mobile devices. This month, Microsoft announced that it is suing Motorola over patents allegedly used by the Android Linux-based mobile operating system. The Motorola dispute mirrors Microsoft's claims in the HTC lawsuit, which also targeted Android.
Mobile litigation and settlements have seemingly hit a fever pitch as Microsoft prepares for an unveiling of Windows Phone 7-based devices on Oct. 11. Horatio Gutierrez, Microsoft's corporate vice president and deputy general counsel of intellectual property and licensing, has indicated in statements that mobile lawsuits have moved beyond disputes over the radio component, especially as smartphones have begun to take on the functionality of PCs.
Still, the litigation hasn't always trended in Microsoft's favor. Microsoft's court losses to Toronto-based i4i led Microsoft to argue that the standards for disproving patents are too high. In that case, Microsoft disputed i4i's patent on "custom XML" technology, which was found to have been used in Microsoft Word.
About the Author
Kurt Mackie is online news editor, Enterprise Group, at 1105 Media Inc. 
Editors of Apple iPhone sites like TiPB must be heaving a great sigh of relief knowing that they only have to cover one major smartphone release per year after seeing that Android site editors just heard about a whopping 12 new Android smartphones coming from five carriers in the last 24 hours. If you look at all the other recent and currently shipping products, not to mention some coming soon, Android site editors like my buddy Phil are having to work like mad to stay on top of everything. I felt overwhelmed just seeing the news of all these Android devices coming through my email and Twitter feed so I turned to Android Central, who are on site at CTIA, to read all about the new devices and even see some hands-on video with devices.
Three new Motorola handsets are coming to AT&T, the Motorola Bravo, Flipside, and Flipout. These three are entry to mid-level Android devices, which seems to be the standard for AT&T in almost all cases, except for the Samsung Captivate.
The Bravo has a 3.7 inch display and will be available for $129.99. The Flipside has a slide-out full QWERTY keyboard and 3.1 inch display with a price of $99.99. The Flipout has a funky flip out QWERTY keyboard and small 2.8 inch display with a price of just $79.99.
You know a platform is getting popular when the smaller regional carriers start picking it up and now we see Cellular South getting ready to offer their own Samsung Galaxy S variant, the Samsung Showcase. There is no pricing or available date, other than before the holidays, but it does have the 1 GHz Hummingbird CPU, 4 inch Super AMOLED display, 5 megapixel camera, and Android 2.1 operating system.
Sprint also announced three new devices, the Samsung Transform, Sanyo Zio, and LG Optimus S. The Sanyo Zio has a full 3.5 inch touchscreen and mid-level specs with a price of $99. The Samsung Transform looks similar to the Sprint Samsung Epic, with lower specs and the same kind of slide-out QWERTY keyboard at a price of $149. The LG Optimus S is a fairly traditional looking device with a 3.2 inch touchscreen with Android 2.2 and a price of just $49.99. Again, these three are low to mid-level Android device for Sprint.
T-Mobile USA only announced one device in the last 24 hours, but this follows their current rollout of the T-Mobile G2 and future myTouch device. The LG Optimus T looks to be similar to the Sprint version (note the T for T-Mobile versus the S for Sprint) with very few details released. It will have a couple of colors, be loaded with Android 2.2, and a 3.2 megapixel camera, but we do not have a price or solid release date.
I previously took a look at the excellent HTC Desire on U.S. Cellular and was very impressed with the device and their service offering. In another great move for this regional carrier, they are rolling out the Samsung Mesmerize, which is another of the Samsung Galaxy S devices. The Mesmerize will launch on 27 October for $199.
The Motorola Droid Pro is a sweet looking front facing QWERTY keyboard Android device with good specifications and an appealing form factor. The Motorola Defy is a semi-ruggedized Android smartphone with a 3.1 inch touchscreen and Gorilla glass on a water and dust resistant shell. The Motorola Citrus is an entry-level Android device powered by Android 2.1.
No assigned carrier
Motorola also announced the Motorola Spice device with no news of a US carrier. It may be headed to Brazil and actually has a cool form factor, vertical QWERTY slider like a Palm Pre Plus, that many here would probably appreciate.
It is pretty amazing to see all of these devices announced on all the carriers at one event and shows you how flexible Android can be in covering the entire spectrum of smartphone buyers.
Matthew Miller started using a Pilot 1000 in 1997 and has been writing news, reviews, and opinion pieces ever since.
Matthew Miller started using a Pilot 1000 in 1997 and has been writing news, reviews, and opinion pieces ever since. He is one of three hosts on the MobileTechRoundup podcast and runs the Nokia Experts website. Matthew started using mobile devices in 1997 with a US Robotics Pilot 1000 and has owned over 100 different devices running Palm, Linux, Symbian, Newton, BlackBerry, Mac OS X (iPhone), Google Android, Palm webOS and Windows Mobile operating systems. His current collection includes a Nokia N900, Nokia N97 mini, Apple iPhone 3GS, Google Nexus One, HTC EVO 4G, Apple iPad, MSI Wind, MacBook Pro, and many more, along with tons of accessories and classic devices like the Apple Newton MessagePad 2100 and Sony CLIE UX50. Matthew co-authored Master Visually Windows Mobile 2003, was a member of the Nokia Nseries Blogger relations program, and is a member of the invite-only Microsoft Mobius mobile device evangelist group. He can be found on various discussion forums under the user name of "palmsolo".
�Motorola has shown off five new Android based smartphones.
"The mobile landscape at work has changed. Employees and IT departments have made it clear that they want other options and solutions," said Alain Mutricy, Senior Vice President, Portfolio and Device Product Management, Motorola Mobility, Inc. "Today's announcement underscores that Motorola provides the most comprehensive line up of smartphones for consumers and business. We don't take a one-size-fits-all approach. Motorola sees a market opportunity by empowering people with choices over the single device that will meet their needs for work and play."
CITRUS delivers "all the benefits of a full-featured smartphone in a compact and affordable device".
SPICE is "a perfectly packaged smartphone with a full QWERTY keyboard and the power of Android".
BRAVO is "a big-screen, touch tablet smartphone with a slim design".
FLIPSIDE enables "users to seamlessly manage their work and personal life".
FLIPOUT gives Android customers "something new to flip over with a unique pivot design and enhanced user experience".
The company didn't offer any suggested prices - most of the devices will be released before the end of the year.
Motorola has announced three new smartphones running Android OS for the U.S. mobile operator AT&T – Motorola Bravo, Flipside and Flipout.
The Flipout has been introduced earlier, but now it’ll be released in the US. The devices don’t run the latest version of Android, but Android 2.1 and support Motoblur interface.But most likely an upgrade to Android 2.2 will happen soon.
Motorola Flipout is a compact smartphone with a touchscreen that rotates and is equipped with a QWERTY-keyboard. It’ ll come to AT&T on October 17 $79.99 with a contract.
Motorola Bravo was formerly known as Motorola MB520 Kobe/Diablo. It’s pretty advanced candy bar with a 3.7-inch display with a 854×480 pixels resolution and multi-touch support. It is based on 800-MHz chip, TI OMAP 3610, supports 3G networks, is equipped with a GPS-receiver, Wi-Fi module with DLNA, 3-megapixel camera, a slot for microSD memory cards and FM-radio. The cost of the device is $129.99 with a contract, the smartphone will be released closer to Christmas holidays.
And finally, the smartphone Motorola Flipside, rumored as Sage, will come to the end of the year for $99.99 with a contract. This is a slider with 3.1-inch HVGA-touchscreen (320×480 pixels) and a sliding QWERTY-keyboard. Among its features – 3G, Wi-Fi, GPS, 3-megapixel camera and microSD-card slot.
If you bought a smartphone in the first eight months of 2010, chances are pretty good that you picked up an Android device. The Nielsen Co. reported today that roughly one in three (32 percent) of smartphones purchased from January to August were powered by Android. In the same time period, Apple's iOS and BlackBerry's RIM platform were virtually tied for second with 25 percent and 26 percent, respectively.
Although Nielsen doesn't explain why Android did so well, I have my hunches. It most likely has to do with "superphones" like the Galaxy S series and the endless onslaught of HTC devices (Droid Incredible, Evo 4G, MyTouch 3G Slide) from the top carriers. Indeed, it feels as if we get a new Android phone every week.
Nielsen's data also published a chart showing total market share among all smartphone owners from January to August. Not surprisingly, BlackBerry is still the overall dominant platform at 31 percent of the market. Apple comes in second with a declining 28 percent, and Android continues to shoot skyward with 19 percent.
It will be interesting to see how this report looks six months from now. Though Android will continue to launch new devices, BlackBerry has a new OS ready for a host of phones. Apple, on the other hand, is likely nine months from another handset.