Verizon To Launch The Strangely-Named Pantech Marauder On August 2


It’s a sad truth of the mobile industry: sometimes perfectly good smartphones are saddled with silly, effete, or otherwise ridiculous names.

Take the new Pantech Marauder, which Verizon just revealed a few moments ago. The name conjures up images of bandits roaming the plains in search of lily-livered prey to accost, but what you actually get is a ho-hum Ice Cream Sandwich-powered smartphone.

The Marauder’s spec sheet doesn’t provide much to write home about, but those aching for a physical QWERTY keyboard could do worse — it packs (among other things) 1.2GHz dual-core processor of unspecified make, plus 1GB of RAM, an LTE radio, and a 5-megapixel rear camera. Meanwhile, 3.8-inch 800 x 480 display is nestled front-and-center over a quarter of Android navigation soft keys. Perhaps the most interesting part of the device (aside from its completely incongruous name) is the fact that it allows users to switch between what Verizon calls Starter and Standard modes.

While Standard mode is the lightly-skinned default version of Ice Cream Sandwich that most people will stick with, Starter mode provides first time users and all-around luddites a simplified interface. Specifically, that entails four homescreens (as opposed to seven) loaded up with preset widgets, and a quick dialer icon that’s apparently very hard to miss.

Pantech’s previous U.S. handsets haven’t exactly been hits, but they’re generally solid enough devices (my personal favorite was this little guy). The combination that the Marauder brings to the table isn’t awful by any stretch, but it’s purely an entry-level device and it has the $ 49 price tag to match.

TechCrunch » Gadgets

Android And iOS Still Lead In Smartphone Market Share, But The Race For Third Rages On


Nielsen released another of their periodic looks at the U.S. smartphone market today, and aside from the revelation that two-thirds of U.S. phone purchasers went for smartphones in Q2 2012, the results are as you’d expect.

Android still leads the pack in terms of pure penetration — as of this past June, it accounts for 51.8% of smartphones in use (up from 50.4% in Q1 2012) with Apple’s iOS right behind it at 34%. Don’t feel too bad for Apple though, as they still have the highest manufacturer share by far (34% in Q2), with Samsung at a distant second.

That those two platforms still hold first and second place shouldn’t come as surprise, and their slight gains come at a cost. Nielsen has RIM still clinging to third place despite another quarterly drop, as it now accounts for 8.1% of smartphones in use. Meanwhile, the rest of the competition languishes below 5% as of Q2 2012.

It’s that part of the market that seems the most interesting right now, as there’s still plenty of room in the market for a third strong mobile ecosystem to emerge while Apple and Google continue to slug it out. The question though is what that third platform will be, and there are no clear indicators to be found in Nielsen’s data.

RIM looks like a possibility, considering it has managed to hold on to a its tenuous third, though it’s tough to say how their recent performance will affect this figure going forward. CEO Thorsten Heins noted during the company’s somewhat contentious shareholders meeting that their current and forthcoming BlackBerry 7 devices would comprise the company’s low and mid-range product tiers until it can push out a full slate of BB10 hardware next year.

Still, RIM had best gird itself for a long(er) transition period, as its split focus between platforms may not do it any favors. The process of shifting users from older devices to new ones will take a considerable amount of time, especially as the company focuses on getting existing BlackBerry users to upgrade right now.

Of course, Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8 is set to make its official debut this fall, putting it well ahead of RIM’s nascent “computing platform.” That’s not to say a head start is all that it takes to win in a race like this — there’s something to be said for how well a company can capture new customers (or upgrade older ones), and Microsoft seems to have had some issues with that. Nielsen’s data still puts Microsoft’s aging Windows Mobile platform (3% of the market as of Q2 2012) ahead of the much-newer Windows Phone (1.3%). With any luck, Microsoft has learned a few things and garnered enough developer support to put Windows Phone 8 higher up in the rankings, but only time will tell whether or not either of these companies has the savvy to make real contenders of their forthcoming mobile operating systems.

TechCrunch » android

Behold, Early iPhone and iPad Prototypes


The iPhone’s design is iconic but the final version looked rather different from early designs. With sleek but simple lines, the iPhone set the bar for smartphone design. This bar was set so high that most agree the iPhone undeniably influenced other phones — a thought that Samsung is currently fighting against. However, as revealed by recent court documents, the iPhone we all know finally hit the market after several generations of wild concepts.

Apple and Samsung are currently locked into several brutal court battles. Apple is winning some individual conflicts while Samsung wins others but neither side is absolutely dominating the other. However, for us bystanders, the court proceedings are turning out to be a rather entertaining sideshow that randomly turns out nuggets of fun Apple and Samsung trivia with the latest being these fun iPhone and iPad prototypes

The latest court documents tell a rather wild story. The iPhone was influenced by Sony products. Apparently, Tony Fadell, known as the godfather of the iPod, circulated an interview with a Sony designer and then instructed a 2006 industrial designer Shin Nishibori to develop an iPhone prototype with some serious nods to Sony’s design language. The rendered device looks an awful lot like an iPhone 4, while other prototypes (like one code-named N90, which BuzzFeed points out means it was likely an iPhone 4 prototype) go in different and sometimes whimsical directions.

The Verge points to court documents that also revealed early iPad models. Some pics show prototypes with kickstands (a common feature on HTC devices) while others show widescreen models. There are even some that show large handles flanking the screen.

It’s hard to look at these images and not see Steve Jobs’ influence. The late founder of Apple was notorious for his obsession over minutiae. His biography explains that his adoptive father explained to a then young Steve Jobs that the backside of a product is as important as the front even if no one sees it. It’s clear Jobs passed on that lesson to Apple designers; even early Apple products looked just as good from the back as they did from the front.

These images are a rare treat for Apple fanboys and critics alike. It’s rare for any company, especially one as secretive as Apple, to reveal early prototype designs. Although these models failed to make it to market, they might still hold design cues and decisions for future products — and they might not be protected with patents. But don’t worry. Apple and Samsung are going at it hard in several courts around the world. We might get see even more prototypes and early designs before the two sides call it quits.

Click to view slideshow.

TechCrunch » Gadgets

Google Launches MyTracks 2.0 GPS App For Hikers, Bikers & Runners

My Tracks_android

MyTracks for Android is one of Google’s lesser known mobile apps, but it’s actually a pretty useful tool for those who would like to keep a record of their bike rides, runs, hikes and other outdoor activities. Google itself is actually using it together with Team HTC-Columbia during the Tour de France to track the team’s riders during the event. Today, the company is releasing version 2.0 of the free app, which introduces a new interface, as well as support for playing back data in Google Earth for Android, improved charts and additional statistics for evaluating performance trends.

The app made its debut in 2009 and Google open-sourced the code a year later.

There is obviously no dearth of GPS apps for most mobile platforms. Google’s offering is pretty competitive, though, and the fact that it’s designed to work for multiple sports gives it a leg up over some of the more specialized apps in the Google Play store.

Just like many of its competitors, the app is compatible with a number of third-party sensors, including the Zephyr HxM and Polar WearLink Bluetooth heart rate monitors. The app also supports ANT+ compatible sensors (though you need to own one of the few ANT+ compatible phones to make this work)

Users can export their data as standard GPX, KML, CSV and TCX files and also see their data in Google Maps, Google Fusion Tables and Google Docs. Users can also share their routes via Google+, Facebook and Twitter.

TechCrunch » android

As Mountain Lion Crosses 3M Downloads in 4 Days, Apple Deems The OS “Most Successful OS X Release” Ever


Despite early hiccups Apple’s latest OS X release was downloaded more than 3 million times during its first 4 days of availability. The $ 20 upgrade brings a host of new features to compatible Macs including Airplay Mirroring, Game Center, system-wide sharing, and beefed-up iCloud integration, which now syncs iWork documents, notes, and reminders.

While Apple doesn’t speculate the reason for the huge download numbers, several factors likely led to the quick adoption rate. First, Apple priced OS X 10.8 to move. At only $ 20 the new operating system is a rather good bargain even if it doesn’t boast a lot of new features. Apple also made upgrading to Mountain Lion rather easy, which also likely led to more users jumping onto the system.

Thanks to the Mac App Store, upgrading to OS X 10.8 is downright easy. Users simply buy the new OS as if it was another application. From there, the update downloads in the background and prompts users to restart the system when its ready to install. It’s as painless as a system update.

“Just a year after the incredibly successful introduction of Lion, customers have downloaded Mountain Lion over three million times in just four days, making it our most successful release ever,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing said in a released statement today.

Mountain Lion was released last Wednesday on the Mac App Store for just $ 19.99. Read our review here.

TechCrunch » Gadgets