4G EVO Offers Promise, Disappointment

At the Google I/O developer conference yesterday I encountered what can only be described as the “Android Wall,” a glass case containing all the in-market and yet-to-be released Android handsets. It was impressive and even beautiful in a way. Several things struck me as I looked over them:

  • The phones mostly look remarkably similar to one another
  • There are scores of them now
  • They all to some degree are iPhone knock-offs
  • The newer they are the more they look like the iPhone 

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Here’s a comparison of the relative sizes of the just-released HTC Incredible, with the new HTC EVO:  

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The EVO is of course the first US 4G handset, which has been given a mixed review by the Wall Street Journal’s Walt Mossberg:  

My verdict: The HTC EVO 4G, when used on Sprint’s 4G network, offers the highest consistent downstream data speeds I have ever seen on a cellular network. It also has a number of other strong features: a front-facing camera for video chatting, and the ability to serve as a Wi-Fi hotspot (for an extra fee of $30 a month) that can simultaneously connect up to eight laptops or other devices to the Internet. However, the data speeds I got in my tests weren’t spectacular, or anywhere close to the typical maximum Sprint claims, even in Baltimore, where the company’s 4G network is mature. And, when using 4G, the EVO’s battery runs down alarmingly fast.

In my tests, it didn’t last through a full day with 4G turned on. The carrier, in fact, is thinking of advising users to turn off the 4G network access when they don’t think they need it, to save battery life. This undercuts the whole idea of faster cellular speeds.

All this suggests that for most people the EVO will be yet another Android device in an emerging sea of barely differentiated Android devices. For Sprint it may sell well but it won’t be any kind of savior or “___ killer.”  

Local search application platform Aloqa has added some nice new features and content to its Android app (and I believe iPhone app). I typically don’t try and cover individual apps at this level of detail because there are just too many to keep track of. However I ran into Aloqa CEO Sanjeev Agrawal at the Google I/O developer event. He demo’d some of the new features launching today. 

Among them are the inclusion of the Like button from Facebook across channels and individual profile pages. There is also a range of new channels and content, including a Coupons.com integration with more to come.

He pointed out that, using the Android Widget Capability, users can create a homescreen widget for any channel of interest, including brands, fast food places and deals. Users can set notifications (for their phone to ring or vibrate) as well. Accordingly, you could set your phone to vibrate when, for example, you physically passed or were in close enough proximity to a Starbucks or local business with a coupon, etc.  

The screenshots below illustrate the new functionality. 

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Local product data provider Krillion is behind a new barcode scanning/local shopping capability integrated into Nokia’s Point & Find service. Krillion’s retailer (mostly big box) data now enables owners of Nokia S60 devices to “point” them at the UPC barcode of products in the store or in the kitchen and “quickly locate nearby retailers that carry a specific item, determine current availability at each store, and compare prices.”

Krillion provides this same data to dozens of sites online and is also doing something similar for the ShopSavvy mobile product search engine. There are a number of fairly obvious use cases for this capability. In addition, Krillion says that if there’s no local product availability to display it will show the same item from an online store. 

Other local product inventory data providers include NearbyNow and Milo. Google is also working directly with retailers to offer a similar capability in mobile and online. There are several other companies beyond Krillion and the others above, which have “proxy” information for local inventory data (e.g., what’s shipped from OEMs to stores, what’s on sale or special in local stores, etc.). 

The larger point reflected in this announcement is that smartphone cameras and barcode scanners will be used to gain product availability information, pricing and reviews — and eventually initiate to m-commerce transactions.