You may have noticed a reduction in my blog posting last week, that is because I was attending Mobile World Congress, getting interviewed for German tech TV and learning lots about the next generation of mobile networks, 3D phones, and the rise of dual core ARM chips.
3D Phones from LG
At the show LG showed off some phones which supported 3D displays, ones that do not require glasses. It sounds really cool, but I don’t think it really worked. The 3D displays use a software controlled grid of filters which allow specific pixels to be directed left and right. This allows the screen to shine one image to the left, and one image to the right eye. When you hold the device in its sweet spot the 3D image works. However moving the device away from the sweet spot and you end up seeing a blurry image. One a few of the applications on the handset support 3D – it is not supported completely on the device, there is no 3D call button for instance.
Switching to 3D a few of the handsets on display appeared to crash – this is to be expected as I am sure LG are still working on polishing off the software. The down side of switching to the 3D was that when turned on the grid basically reduces the resolution of the display – each eye gets 1/2 the pixels. On top of this moving the device away from the sweet spot resulted in blurry images – the over all affect was more like being a kid again and looking an one of those old hologram stickers, I know I couldn’t use it for any length of time.
The LG device uses similar techniques to the Nintendo 3DS which is due to be released soon. After playing with the LG device I can only hope that the 3D display works better on the 3DS. However 3D appears to be all over the place at the moment and this is only the first 3D phone, I am sure as more devices go 3D that the technology will improve.
LTE (Long Term Evolution)
LTE is the next generation of mobile network. No more cellular specific standards, with LTE all devices become IPv6 devices connected to an all IP network. In non-tech speak this means that they become small computers all connected to the internet. All phone calls over LTE are done using voice of IP – protocols like that used in Skype. For application developers it now means that the networks can offer additional APIs and functionality. – You want to know if a user is online, you can using LTE. You want to make a video call – you can using LTE, you want to send notification messages directly to the handset – you can using LTE.
The notification technology is interesting, this is a move away from one is currently being provided by device manufacturers. RIM, Apple, Nokia, Microsoft have all created platforms with backend server notification frameworks. These allow application developers like me to send messages to the phone telling the phone to “call home” or contact my server to pick up new data. With LTE mechanisms like this are built into the network. The mobile industry is working on standardise the APIs to ensure that as a developer we don’t have to create network specific versions of our applications.
Bondi – Jil – WAC
The large mobile networks have joined together to produce a development environment, and a developer ecosystem which allows application developers to write applications for all devices. This technology is called WAC, it was once called “JIL”, and before that “Bondi” . As a developer this provides me with a web browser with extended capabilities allowing me to access the handsets native functionality – things like the phone book, the camera etc. Opera have created the initial technology for this and during MWC 5 handset manufacturers signed up to produce devices, and in fact I saw two devices from LG which already supported WAC. The mobile networks are creating this technology because they are worried that us as consumers will become locked into a specific handset because there is a killer application on it which we must have. They really want to avoid having customers who become hooked on only one handset. They also want to start selling applications directly to us consumers and getting a cut of the action – as a developer I’m all for it. As long as they also put in place all the stores / shops , advertising to make everyone aware of the new platform and to sell the apps – and it is as if telefonica (O2) had read my mind! – On day 2 of the show O2 announced they were launching a store to sell WAC applications!
Dual core devices were all over the place at MWC. I saw handsets from LG and from Motorola. The handsets from Motorola were really interesting. Dual core phones are fast enough to run standard desktop applications, full web browsers, word processors etc. So Moto has produced a set of devices that can be plugged into a docking station and used as a normal PC! – You get a full keyboard, mouse and a monitor. When you are finished with you work you can simply unplug the phone and walk off. This is brilliant – the phone becomes your laptop and your desktop! – While using the phone as a PC you can still send and receive calls and text messages, even while you are editing a word document.
I was grabbed for a voxbox by a Germany TV station as I walked through the show. They wanted me to provide them with my view of Nokia’s move to use Windows Phone…. well… I tried to make my comments as short as possible, but as you can probably tell from my blog I could have talked for a while. If anyone in Germany see’s me on TV let me know!