Mark Shuttleworth has published a new blog post in Ubuntu Insights, and this is not all good news, as the title “Growing Ubuntu for Cloud and IoT, rather than Phone and convergence” implies. Canonical has decided to drop Unity8, and replace it with Gnome in Ubuntu 18.04, and by extension stop any investment in Ubuntu phone and convergence.
The main reasons given for the drop were that few commercial partners were interested in the project, preferring to stick with the most popular mobile operating systems like Android, and the community did not see the work as innovation, but instead fragmentation, probably referring to the Mir vs Wayland saga.
On the better news, Canonical is still committed to work on Ubuntu desktop, and will focus on the Cloud and IoT applications such as automotive, robotics, networking, and machine learning, for which the company has gone well so far with multiple commercial partners.
The video below shows the work done so far on Unity8. Sadly it will never be used in a meaningful way.
Qualcomm has just introduced Qualcomm 205 “Mobile Platform” designed to bring 4G LTE connectivity and services to entry-level feature phones to emerging regions, such as India, Latin America, and Southeast Asia. The SoC features a dual core ARM CPU, an Adreno 304 GPU, and an LTE Cat 4 modem.
Qualcomm 205 SoC specifications
CPU – Dual Core ARM Cortex A7 processor at 1.1 GHz
GPU – Qualcomm Adreno 304 GPU supporting OpenGL ES 3.0
Memory I/F – LPDDR2 & LPDDR3 up to 384 MHz
Storage I/F – eMMC 4.5 flash
Display – MIPI DSI up to 480p60
X5 LTE modem supporting LTE Cat 4 with up to 150 Mbps download, 50 Mbps upload;
Dual SIM card
2G, 3G and 4G support
Connectivity – Support for 802.11 b/g/n & VoWIFI, Bluetooth 4.1, ANT+, FM radio, GPS/GLONASS/Beidou
Camera – Dual 3MP camera support (rear + front) up to 480p60
Video Codecs – H.264 (AVC), MP4, VP8 decoding up to 720p
Smartphone displays are getting bigger each year, but at the other end of the spectrum, LONG-CZ J8 phone could the world’s smallest at just 68 x 23 x 11 mm, and 18 grams. It takes micro SIM card to make calls, but also doubles (triples?) as a Bluetooth headset and FM Radio.
LONG-CZ J2 specifications:
Processor – Mediatek
Display – 0.6″‘ OLED display
Cellular Connectivity – GSM 850/900/1800/1900 via micro SIM card slot
Connectivity – Bluetooth 3.0
USB – 1x micro USB port for charging
Battery – Capacity TBD; Up to 5 hours talk time, 96 hours standby time.
Dimensions – 68 x 23 x 11mm
The phones ships with a data cable, a user’s manual in English and Chinese, a strap, one ear loop, and two ear caps. Nine languages are supported: English, French, Italian, Russian, Hindi, Russian, Thai, Portuguese, and Spanish. The phone is not quite new, as it has launched in 2014 with a few videos showing the device in action.
I could find LONG-CZ J8 on Aliexpress for $23.99 shipped (and a bit less with Aliexpress app), as well as Amazon US and Amazon UK. It’s allegedly popular with inmates as it can easily be sneaked into prisons, and there seems to be a few other models with the same name but a different case. Do you know an even smaller phone (watch phones excluded!)?
I bought ThL W200 last year as my main (and only) phone, and my review was rather positive, because after testing the phone for a week or so I did not encounter some of the issues. After a short while I found GPS was not working very reliably, so I had to find instructions to fix GPS on Mediatek phones, then the first battery died after about 8 months, maybe that’s normal for my usage, but I was expecting it to last longer. Finally, after a while both front and rear cameras started to have issues such as green screen, color lines, or simply refusing to work with the message: “can’t connect to camera”.
In all of this the good news (for me) was I was not alone, and I saw some instructions saying, you had to terminate the camera app, clear all data, and restart the phones. It seemed to somewhat work, but not reliably, and sometimes I rebooted the phone several times without success. Finally, people figured out it was most certainly and hardware issue with the camera connectors becoming a bit loose resulting in bad contacts, and it’s fixable (more or less permanently) by disassembling the phone and adding some paper/cardboard to apply pressure on the camera connector in order to ensure good contacts. But since I did not feel like doing this procedure, I’ve come up with my own little technique…
Panasonic has just introduced KW-PRX120 a cordless phone (DECT) running Android 4.0 on a 3.5″ display. It just looks like your smartphone, but you can only use it within your home.
KW-PRX120 specifications and features:
Display – 3.5 inch TFT colour LCD (HVGA) with capacitive multi touch screen
Connectivity – Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS
Camera – 0.3M pixel Front Camera
Battery – 1450mAh Li-ion Battery
Storage – microSD / microSDHC Card Slot on Handset
USB – micro USB Charging Port
Incoming/Outgoing Call Barring to help minimise unwanted or nuisance calls
Caller ID, Caller ID memory
Answering Machine (40min)
Key Finder accessory (Optional)
Up to 6 handsets (Optional handset or GAP supported DECT handset) can be registered
The company did not mention details about the processor, RAM, or storage in the device, but it comes with Google Play, so you’ll be able to install (most of) the apps you’re alreading using on your smartphone.
I’ve actually wanted smartphones that can also connect to a DECT base, and switch between DECT and GSM modes, depending on the location of the person I call, but it does not seem to exist just yet. You can already do something similar with Skype via Wi-Fi, but it tends to discharge the battery relatively quickly.
Rockchip is currently at the Hong Kong Electronics Fair showing off their RK3188 quad core processor, and corresponding products such as tablets, gamepads, HDMI TV dongles, etc… Business seems good as they already received orders for 800k pieces in about a month, and they expect to sell 10 to 15 millions over the course of the year.
The company had also a few RK3066 devices on display, but more interestingly they announced RK3168, which also a dual core Cortex A9 processor, but with lower power consumption thanks to 28nm HKMG process, instead of the 40nm process used for Rockchip RK3066. They have a tablet prototype without battery connected to a power supply to show the power consumption, and the tablet under test consumes 280mA @ 3.8V (About 1 Watt) when decoding 1080p videos with the display brightness set to about 50%.
Chen Feng, Vice President at Rockchip, explains that with a 3,100 mAh battery, you can play full HD videos for 10 hours. I don’t have further details about RK3168, but I would assume it’s just a low power version of RK3066 and everything else is basically the same (TBC). He also quickly mentioned RK3028, a dual core processor pin-to-pin compatible with RK2928 single core Cortex A9.
The company also had a few demo to show some new features for Android such as multiple windows support, hand writing recognition, and Miracast with Android 4.2.2 with about 80ms lag. Chen Feng, Vice President at Rockchip, explains that 720p is working fine but 1080p may be more challenging for both the Miracast source and display.
Linux based Miracast Adapter Powered by RK2928
Speaking about Miracast, they also have an ultra-low cost Miracast dongle built around RK2928 running Linux with 16MB RAM and a small NOR flash that can be produced for as low as $10 US. This is obviously the manufacturing price or possibly just BoM cost, but it still means we should be able to buy Miracast adapters for $20 to $25 in a few months.
You can watch Charbax video interviews (about 22 minutes) below to see more products and demos based on Rockchip devices.
Near the end of the video, they talk about Linux and the open source community, Chen explains they already have Ubuntu and Chromium OS running internally, and although they focus on Android, they let engineers have some free time to play around, and that’s how they ported Chromium OS to RK3066 within 3 weeks. He also admitted that Rockchip was not so open until now, but this will change. However, when asked when this would be available, he just answered everything is already available out there in the public domain…
M3 Electronics (HK) showcased an Android VoIP phone they designed for Nakamichi at HKTDC Electronics Fair on April 13-16, 2012.
Nakamichi Android VoIP Phone
The current model based on Rockchip RK2818 (Cortex A8) features a 7″ resistive touchscreen and a camera for video conferencing and runs a customized version of Android. This VoIP phone is especially targeted at home use as it offers multimedia functions such as Internet Radio, music playback and YouTube, as well as Calendar and Contact applications. You can make calls via PSTN or Internet (e.g. Skype or some SIP clients). Nakamichi VoIP phone currently sells in Europe and the US for 259 USD, and should be sold in China via China Telecom this year.
A new model of the phone powered by Freescale i.MX535 is currently designed with a capacitive touchscreen and a 5 MPixel camera, USB host port for external storage and HDMI output. This VoIP phone can also come with an external Bluetooth handset. It will sell for about 299 USD later this year.
You can watch the below shot by Charbax at the Hong Kong Electronics Fair 2012.