Android News

What We’ve Learned from CES Days 1 & 2

January 6, 2011 | by Michael Heller

Android News


It’s been a busy day with a ton of pretty interesting announcements. So, what are the main points that we’ve learned?

1) The iPhone is going to Verizon

Granted, this wasn’t actually announced, but AT&T announced Android-powered phones from the big 3 manufacturers in the Motorola Atrix, HTC Inspire, and Samsung Infuse. But, beyond those announcements AT&T announced that there will be a total of 12 Android phones coming this year, plus HSPA+ and LTE tablets coming later in the year.

Considering that up to this point, the only quality Android phones in the AT&T lineup have been the Samsung Captivate and HTC Aria, this is a major push by AT&T, and the only explanation is that they no longer have to worry about keeping Apple happy, and giving the iPhone all the floor space.

Everyone is talking about how a Verizon iPhone will cut into Android’s growth, but that’s only within Verizon. There are plenty of AT&T customers who may not want to switch carriers, and will now finally have some quality Android phones to choose from.

2) The Big 2 are the big 2 for a reason

Verizon and AT&T didn’t just win the day, they dominated the day. AT&T had all the announcements mentioned above, while Verizon came out with the Motorola Xoom tablet, and the Droid Bionic and made a big splash with each. Meanwhile, T-Mobile had one announcement for the Cliq 2 (anyone excited on that?) and one teaser for the G-Slate tablet by LG. Sprint had the EVO Shift 4G, and then was absolutely nowhere to be found on day 2.

Maybe T-Mobile had their moment with the Nexus S, but even one HTC phone would have been nice to see today. Or, how about an actual picture of the G-Slate instead of repeated Honeycomb videos? I know that T-Mo and Sprint are behind for a reason, but a little bit of fight would have been nice to see.

3) Android Tablets need to differentiate

I really hope this doesn’t mean an influx of custom UIs to be put on top of Honeycomb, which looks great, but the hardware design on Android tablets seems like it’s the last thing on manufacturer’s minds. Almost every Android tablet announced was the same thing: a plain rectangle, either 7 or 10 inches, black or white. That’s it.

That’s what made the Asus Eee Pad MeMo seem even the slightest bit interesting is that it wasn’t quite the same thing again. This time there was a stylus! Sure, that’s probably not going to be much in the long run, but it’s something.

This is also one of the things that has swayed me back towards the Notion Ink Adam. Notion Ink may be unproven, and the Adam may be launching with Gingerbread and no Android Market, but, at least their hardware design has some actual thought put into it. At least Rohan Shravan stopped along the way and thought, “People will need to hold this for a long time… let’s put a kind of handle edge on it!” or “People may want to use this outside… how about using the Pixel Qi screen?”

These differences can be pretty big when everyone else is putting out the same design. It’s nice to see when manufacturers put actual thought into design and not just thoughts like “How many GBs should we stuff in this thing?” Apple knows how to design a product, so far Android manufacturers are still just pushing specs. I want to see hardware differentiation, not just custom UIs, because it looks like Google wasn’t lying when they said they were going to make custom UIs unnecessary, at least on tablets.

4) Nexus S is banking on the power of stock

As a Nexus One owner, I understand a bit what Nexus S owners must feel right now. The jump wasn’t as drastic after the Nexus One, as it’s going to be now, because these upcoming Tegra 2 phones look pretty impressive. But, I remember soon after I bought my Nexus One, I had a bit of buyers remorse on seeing the specs for the Droid Incredible and the Samsung Galaxy S line.

Luckily, stock Android is the great equalizer. Even though phones came out with better and better specs, having the newest version of Android, plus not having any slowdown from a custom UI like Motoblur or Sense or Touchwiz, meant that my Nexus One continued to be one of the best phones out there.

Time will tell if the Nexus S can repeat that story, and time is on the side of the Nexus S. Most of these Tegra 2 phones won’t be launching until around the middle of the year. Many of them are launching with Froyo, not Gingerbread. And, most don’t have the extra large internal storage which would make them able to take advantage of one of the biggest reasons for the Nexus S speed: the Ext4 file system.

Obviously, dual-core devices are going to become the norm over the next year, and I expect Tegra 2 phones to put up some pretty solid benchmark numbers. But, without all the optimizations, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Nexus S stay near the top of actual performance until close to the end of the year when it will be time for a new Google Experience phone.