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Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Latest from TechCrunch

The Latest from TechCrunch

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The Age of the Mobile Mash-Up

Posted: 30 May 2010 08:57 AM PDT

A guest post by researcher Lars Erik Holmquist of the Mobile Life Centre, Kista, Sweden The rate of innovation in mobile services is just about to take a quantum leap. We are going from a divergent and messy ecosystem, where every new concept has to be made into a specialized "app" that works only on a small sub-set of mobile handsets (even the mighty iPhone only has around 3% of the global mobile phone market), to an environment much more like the web. Today, new services can easily be composed out of existing components and run on a common platform - the browser. We are entering an age where the creation of a new mobile service - taking advantage of such features as the user's location, social network, personal data, and even phone-specific functions such as the camera and accelerometer - can be mashed-up and put on-line just as easily as Web 2.0 services have been for several years already. At the Mobile Life research centre in Kista, Sweden, partners from academia and industry are working together to imagine this future of abundant mobile services. Fortunately, we are not working in the dark - we can build on a foundation of several decades of research. Some 20 years ago, Mark Weiser, a research scientist at Xerox PARC in Palo Alto, had a vision of the future: he called it ubiquitous computing. He imagined that dozens, even hundred of small computers would be available everywhere, and seamlessly support us in our everyday tasks. Unlike the personal computers at the time, these devices would be un-tethered, user-friendly, aware of their surroundings, and conducive to communication and collaboration in the real world rather than through a screen. To explore this vision, he and his team built a number of computing devices in different sizes - they called them Tabs, Pads, and Boards. Each was connected to a wireless network and aware of its location and other factors in the environment, the so-called context.

Android Fanboys Have Arrived. And That’s A Good Thing

Posted: 30 May 2010 08:07 AM PDT

By now, just about everyone on the planet has heard the term “Apple Fanboy.” If you’ve ever said anything good about an Apple product, you’ve likely been called one. But a new class of fanboy has emerged — one that, amazingly, may be be equally as passionate. The Android Fanboy. And it’s actually a good thing.

In case you missed my review of the new HTC EVO 4G phone yesterday, be sure to read some of the comments. As stated, I was coming at it from the perspective of a dedicated iPhone user. Long story short, I don’t really like the device. To the Android lovers, I might as well have killed Bambi.

Never mind the good things I said about the phone, or Android in particular. Never mind that I said that if you’re looking for an Android phone, try the Nexus One or Droid Incredible, because they’re both better devices. Never mind that almost none of the commenters had actually ever used the EVO (it’s not out yet), and plenty of them even admitted that. None of that matters. All that matters is that I said something bad about an Android device. RAGE!

In the Android Fanboys’ minds, I had just slandered the latest reincarnation of their savior. They had to respond. And they did. Hundreds of them. It was quite impressive.

So why is such zealotry a good thing? Because passion is important. If people actually care about Android that much, Google is clearly doing something right. Windows Mobile has never instilled this type of passion in anyone. Nor has Symbian. For a while, it seemed like the Palm Pre might. But it never did. But Android is.

As I described at length last week, the rivalry between Apple and Google is going to be a good thing for us all. Part of that is because the companies are largely equals, so the fight will be fair. But don’t underestimate the importance of fanboys in this equation. For too long, Apple has gotten a massive amount of free fanboy publicity while many of their rivals have gotten none. Android is now starting to get that kind of free publicity too. All of this plays into the idea that the two companies will push one another to make better products, because again, they’re on equal footing.

And Android Fanboys will make the Internet more balanced because they almost exactly counter the ideals (and now passion) of Apple Fanboys. Android Fanboys care about openness and choice. iPhone Fanboys care about presentation and experience.

The iPhone will likely never be able to match Android phones in their integration with Google products such as Gmail and Google Voice. Simply put, the integration is stellar and in my mind, the number one reason to use an Android phone. Something like Google Voice integration is powerful because you feel in control of your device in a way that you’ll never be able to with an iPhone.

But Android phones will likely never be able to match iPhones in seamless user experience because Apple, unlike Google, controls the entire ecosystem from the hardware to the software. As an iPhone user, when I switch to Android, something just feels off. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what is it because it’s dozens of little, subtle things that Apple is able to do because they have the luxury of knowing you’re going to be using their software on the one iPhone form factor (which, again, they also make).

Again, it’s a great rivalry because the two sides offer two completely different executions of the same idea. And they have legions of fans who are positive that each way is the right way. This balance is good for us all — even if individual fanboy comments read like they’re from bat-shit crazy zealots.

[image from AndroidGuys - You Might Be An Android Fanboy If...]

GeeksOnAPlane at the GMIC And CHINICT Tech Conferences In Beijing: Learnings From China

Posted: 30 May 2010 12:54 AM PDT

After exploring the mobile and Internet landscapes in Shanghai and Beijing, the GeeksOnAPlane (GOAP) group (30+ techies mostly from the Silicon Valley) continued their Asian field trip to Korea today. In Beijing, the GOAP attended two of China's largest tech conferences: CHINICT, "the largest conference on China tech innovation" (which was livestreamed on TechCrunch), and the “Global Mobile Internet Conference” (GMIC), both of which are held in the city every year.

The GOAP got in touch with and gained unfiltered insight from dozens and dozens of local entrepreneurs, VCs and industry observers during the conferences and the events that took place around them. What follows are just a few learnings and impressions the GOAP group picked up during their China web crash course in Beijing (the size of the tech landscape is summarized in my previous post).

Innovation & Adoption of Business Models: The Chinese way

Before CHINICT and GMIC took place, Benjamin Joffe from Asia-based digital strategy consultancy +8* | Plus Eight Star delivered a primer during the Startup2Startup Beijing event on how innovation in China works, and how local companies adjust proven business models from abroad to meet the peculiarities of the Chinese market.

There’s a ton of valuable information on these and other topics in Joffe’s presentation (embedded below):

A lot has been written about how quickly China’s web entrepreneurs rip off successful concepts from the US and elsewhere, with one local VC half-jokingly at some point telling the GOAP group: “Every site that gets on TechCrunch is sure to have at least one Chinese clone a week later!”.

But there are some startups that don’t just churn out 1:1 copies. Instead, a few clever entrepreneurs find twists to make concepts working abroad more China-friendly or mash up existing, successful ones to create original offerings. One case in point is a startup called Lashou whose eponymous service marries Groupon with Foursquare-like mobile mechanics. I had the chance to talk to Lashou CEO Bo Wu during the Startup2Startup Beijing event, and according to Wu, user numbers are currently exploding.

This presentation provides more insight on how Lashou works:

China’s mobile web: The three finalists of the GMIC startup competition

CHINICT and GMIC were held at the same time in Beijing (Thursday and Friday), forcing the GOAP to choose between the two conferences and me to decide about which event I should report back (I attended both). I have a personal penchant for covering yet unknown startups (and CHINICT was livestreamed on TechCrunch), so I decided to cover the launch pad that took place at the GMIC.

Find short profiles of the three finalists below. The selection highlights three mega trends that can currently be observed in China’s mobile scene: the fragmentation in hardware and software, the rise of mobile gaming, and the low number of people who are ready to make payments over the cell phone.

Multi-platform solution by Crossmo
Crossmo is a "cross-mobile" solution that has already been licensed by a number of top tech companies, including Motorola, Orange, Baidu and a number of Chinese operators. Orange, for example, runs its Chinese App Store based on Crossmo, basically as a white-labeled, generic “iTunes” for non-Apple platforms.

For end users, Crossmo intends to solve the fragmentation problem in the mobile space by offering an online data management and synchronization tool for cell phones that's completely hardware agnostic. Just connect your phone to your PC, and the service backs up, synchronizes and pushes all mobile data (music files, ringtones, wallpapers, and other content) into your own personal online “Crossmo Space”.

Cross platform engine by Softgames
Alexander Krug, CEO of Berlin-based Softgames, said that when it comes to offering mobile content across different platforms, his company has an edge over established gaming giants such as Zynga or Playfish. The Softgames game engine apparently makes it possible to “rapidly” design a social mobile game and then distribute it across a total of six platforms (i.e. iPhone, Android, or Java). SoftGames also pitched CrimeCity at the GMIC, a browser-based mobile RPG that’s available on “all devices and platforms”. Like many foreign mobile content providers, Softgames is currently looking for distribution partners in China and other Asian markets.

2C2P Mobile by 2C2P
Market research firm Gartner expects the number of mobile payment users worldwide to ballon to 190 million in 2012, up from the 70 million counted last year. And since 85% of those 190 million people will be based in Asia/Pacific, Singapore-based e-commerce payment solutions provider 2C2P is looking at a huge future market for itself. The core offering in the mobile area is 2C2P Mobile, a solution for cell phones that uses QR codes, Bluetooth, BUMP and other technologies to transfer money between different credit/debit cards without friction. The company was selected as the winner of the GMIC startup competition.

Find a larger cross section of local mobile startups in my previous article on the 3G Industry Summit in China from last year.

Many thanks to the CHINICT and GMIC organizers for the special treatment the GOAP group received.

Challenges for China’s web and mobile companies

China’s high-speed Internet industry is already huge, still offers plenty of room for even more growth, produces one startup after the other, is eager to globalize quickly, and has – unlike its counterparts in many other Asian countries – an iron grip on the domestic market.

But Silicon Valley and the planet’s other technology hotbeds still have a bit of time to breathe before the dragon takes over, as even in China’s web market all’s not well. The GOAP heard local mobile and web entrepreneurs and VCs deploring the

  • lack of valid industry data across a number of tech sectors
  • strict legal and political frameworks (one industry veteran told me he checks if his popular micro-blogging service is still online every morning, as Twitter is blocked by the government)
  • low online spend (just one telling example: the ARPU in China’s social gaming sector is said to be 5-20 times lower than in the US and other regions)
  • insufficient online payment systems (still low circulation of credit cards hampers growth in e-commerce and other areas)
  • overheated VC market
  • trouble for young startups to find seed capital and angel investors
  • lack of competent staff (especially engineers)
  • propensity of highly skilled team members to quickly quit even successful startups to join others or set up their own
  • lack of innovative power in the industry (Korea invented the virtual goods-based business model, Japan invented the mobile web, and China?)
  • rampant copycat culture (which is not really a China-only phenomenon)
  • fierce domestic competitive environment in the mobile and web fields
  • and other factors (for example, copyright problems or the fact that no foreign entrepreneur- with one exception – has realized a sizable exit in China so far).

After gaining a 10,000 foot overview of China’s tech scene, it’s now time to explore what’s currently hot in Korea, the next stop of the GOAP Asia tour. The GOAP will be attending a Korean startup pitch event and the Startup Weekend Seoul (the country’s first ever), before moving on to echelon 2010 in Singapore.

For information in real-time, follow the adventures of the GOAP via the #goap hash tag (the official Twitter account is here). GOAP pictures are being uploaded regularly over on Flickr.

Photo credit: Craig Fisk

Guy Who Copied Digg Slams Digg For Copying Twitter

Posted: 29 May 2010 03:37 PM PDT

One of the founders of Reddit, a Digg-clone, openly criticized Digg founder Kevin Rose yesterday for his plans to implement “me-too” features into the new version of the service. We consider this to be absurd and rather impolite.

Yesterday we discovered a video showing some of the features of the upcoming relaunch of Digg. In a nutshell, Digg has been trying to find a way to leverage social sharing to make the site more relevant, and users will soon see links to interesting things based on the what people and entities they choose to follow are voting on.

That goal isn’t anything new, founder Kevin Rose has been talking openly about it for more than a year now.

Will it help save Digg, which has been stuck in a no-growth cycle for years now as services like Twitter and Facebook have surged? I have no idea. I do know that Digg will now become much more personally relevant to me, and TechCrunch will certainly be auto-publishing to Digg and adding a Digg button to posts.

I love nothing more than shouting my opinion on things, and I’ve been particularly harsh on Rose and Digg over the last several months. But opinions are one thing. Rewriting history is another.

Hypocrisy Alert

Reddit, a site for discovering and sharing new things, was launched in mid-2005, more than six months after Digg. There were very few differences between Reddit and Digg then, and they haven’t diverged all that much since then, either. Both sites allow users to vote on submitted stories/links, and the most popular stories are on the home page. Reddit ripped off the core Digg idea when it launched. Which is totally fine in my opinion, since the Internet has evolved in this way from the beginning. You take someone else’s ideas and you try to improve on them.

But Reddit cofounder Alexis Ohanian says Digg needs new ideas. From his post:

…this new version of digg reeks of VC meddling. It’s cobbling together features from more popular sites and departing from the core of digg, which was to “give the power back to the people.”

Those are your words from that aforementioned 2004 video segment.

Now what matters is how many followers & influence a user has and how many followers & influence they’ve got.

Where have we heard this before: Twitter? Facebook? GoogleBuzz?

Kevin, you absolutely deserve all the credit for starting the movement — fascinating things happen when online communities can efficiently share content. Whales get silly names and we can expose the tragedies our fellow man endures faster than ever before.

It’s a damned shame to see digg just re-implementing features from other websites.

Is it reasonable criticism? Absolutely (although I disagree with it). And when it’s being said by someone who cloned the site that he is now complaining is copying features from others, it becomes absurd.

But hold on just one minute – Ohanian says he never even knew about Digg when he decided to build Reddit half a year after Digg launched:

Funded by Y Combinator, Steve Huffman and I started work on reddit in June 2005, which we launched a month later. A month after that, we learned about digg and realized this was going to be an interesting new space — we had some catching up to do.

Is that possible? Did they really invent the Digg idea completely independently from Digg six months after Digg launched? And no one at Y Combinator pointed out that there were similarities?

Paul Carr put this best when we were discussing this post internally on Yammer: “So at best they did zero research before they launched Reddit into a space that kinda relies on the founders knowing where to find cool new stuff online.”

At worst of course he’s simply lying.

Everyone knows that Digg needs to do something to find relevance again. This new version looks as good to me as anything else I’ve heard suggested, and it certainly doesn’t smell like something the venture capitalists forced down their throat. Kevin returned to a full time role at Digg earlier this year and clearly wants to prove that he can bring this company back to life. He’s excited about Digg, clearly. He may succeed. He may fail. But at least he’s in the arena and fighting valiantly.

An iPhone Lover’s Take On The HTC EVO 4G

Posted: 29 May 2010 03:17 PM PDT

Back in January, I wrote a post entitled An iPhone Lover’s Take On The Nexus One. At the time, the Nexus One was soon to be released as the latest and greatest Android phone, and a number of iPhone users were wondering whether it was worth it to switch for the benefits of Android (and perhaps more importantly, another network besides AT&T). My take: it was the best Android phone yet, but it wasn’t better than the iPhone. Now I’m going to do the same type of review for the new HTC EVO 4G phone, which Sprint is launching next week.

At Google I/O, the search giant gave the phone away to every attendee complete with one month of service to try it out. Just as with the Nexus One, I’ve decided to use it as my primary phone for the past week or so to get a real sense of the pluses and minuses of the device. Just as with my Nexus One review, this isn’t meant to be an all-encompassing review or roundup (for that, see here or here or here). Instead, this is just my reaction to the device as an iPhone user.

So, I’ll start off with what you really want to know: is the EVO 4G an “iPhone Killer“? No way. Not even close. Does it have some advantages over the iPhone? Of course. But it has more disadvantages. And, in fact, this isn’t even the best Android phone I’ve tried. Both the Nexus One and the Droid Incredible are better. If you want details about some of that, read on.


Let me lead with a big caveat: I haven’t been using this thing on an actual 4G network. Sadly, neither San Francisco or New York City (the two cities I’ve used the device in) have Sprint 4G yet (both should get it later this year). That said, as just about every other reviewer has pointed out, the 4G is almost more of a detriment to the device because while it does offer faster download speeds, they’re not that much faster than 3G — and 4G usage destroys the battery life of the device worse than even 3G does. Also, I have used Sprint’s 4G network before, in Austin, Texas, and I can confirm that it is faster but not that much faster that I would consider it a killer feature at this point. Hopefully that will change as the network matures.


And let’s start with the battery. Simply put: it sucks. Again, I’m not using the 4G network (and yes, I have the 4G radio turned off), and it absolutely blows. My iPhone 3GS is about a year old now, so its battery isn’t at the peak condition that it once was. Still, it almost always lasts me for at least a full day doing what I would consider to be moderate usage of the web, texting, taking pictures, etc. The EVO? Good luck getting more than 4 hours of moderate usage out of this bad boy.

It’s almost unfathomable how bad the battery is in this thing. Why? Well you might assume it’s the massive 4.3 inch LCD screen. But according to the Battery usage area in the Setting menu on Android, the display is only eating up 5% of my battery on average. Instead, it’s “Cell standby” (again, I have 4G off), “Phone idle,” and “Android system” that eat up over 75% of the life. Am I doing anything odd that makes it drain faster than an average user would? I don’t think so, and talking with others who have the device, all report the same awful battery performance. I have no doubt that “regular” users are going to bitch about this as well.

I’m terrified to think what this thing would be like if I were using 4G. A mobile phone that lasts for 2-3 hours? Ugh.


Speaking of the massive screen, there’s no denying that it’s beautiful. Rather than using the same OLED screen that the Nexus One uses (which you can barely see in daylight), this uses a standard TFT display, so it’s easy to see at all times. The 480×800 resolution is great, and everything looks crisp. That said, this (and the HTC HD2 — the WinMo phone with the same size screen) proves that bigger isn’t always better.

The screen is too big. Or maybe a better way of saying it is that the screen makes the device too big. Mat Buchanan of Gizmodo has called this the “Escalade of smartphones,” and it’s a perfect moniker. For people with huge hands, and huge pockets, this thing will be great. For everyone else, I have little doubt they’ll find this too big. There’s a reason many smartphones tend to hover around the same 3.5 inch screen (iPhone, Nexus One, etc): it works.


The camera on the EVO is great. And there are actually two of them. The one in the back is 8 megapixels and destroys the iPhone’s 3 megapixel camera. The front one is a lower resolution (1.3 megapixels), but is convenient for vanity pictures and video chatting if that’s your thing. The back camera also can take 720p HD video, which again destroys the iPhone (there’s some debate as to just how good the “HD” bit-rate quality is — to me, a novice, it looked very nice).

Of course, the new iPhone is expected to be unveiled in just about a week. And it too is likely to have two cameras (one front and one back). I doubt the back one will be 8 megapixels, but it should get a boost to 5 megapixels. And the front one will undoubtedly be fine-tuned for video chatting as well. And the rumor is that it will take HD quality video as well.

Meanwhile, the photo-taking software on Android continues to lag behind the iPhone’s. And I do mean lag — often times it would take up to a minute for the controls to show up onscreen. And oddly, they can only be oriented to take pictures in landscape mode. And it’s far too many clicks to switch between the front and rear cameras (this is buried in the camera settings area). But all of that is somewhat excusable – what’s not is that more than half the time while trying to take a picture, I would get the message “Unable to save file to SD card due to insufficient file permissions.” I have no idea what that means, nor did I care enough to figure it out. Nor will most users when they get the same message. It worked sometimes, and sometimes it didn’t. I’ve never had this problem with the iPhone — nor is it possible since there is no SD card slot.

The photo browsing element of the EVO, meanwhile, is better than other Android phones I’ve used. But it’s still not nearly as good as the iPhone.

The EVO has a pretty good flash — something the current iPhone doesn’t (but again, the next one likely will). But it’s pretty poor compared to a regular camera flash. Point is, if you’re buying this thing to get a good camera, you should probably just invest in a good camera.


The exterior of the EVO is pretty nice. As I said, I prefer the size of the Nexus One (and iPhone), but the EVO feels just as solid (unlike many other Android phones). Taking off the back to access the battery is a bit wonky. The entire back faceplate is removable, but each time I did it, I was sure I was going to snap off one of the clips that holds it in place. I was also sure I was going to snap off my fingernail at one point (which they suggest you use to open it up — brilliant).

There’s also this rather odd kick-stand on the back of the EVO. Presumably, it’s to make watching media on the huge screen more appealing (so you don’t have to hold the big, heavy thing). It’s also probably good for video chatting. But it’s a gimmick at best. And my colleague Jason Kincaid actually almost broke it off when he thought that was the way you get to the battery.

Unlike the Nexus One, the EVO has no trackball. I think that’s a good thing. Some people seem to like it (I assume ex-BlackBerry users), but I never understood the point of having it on a touchscreen device. Good riddance.

My biggest gripe about the exterior though has to be the top on/off button. It lays way too flush against the actual top of the device itself, making it very hard to click. I endured much frustration when I would pull the thing out of my pocket and would try to turn it on quickly. Sometimes I was hitting the button, sometimes I was hitting nothing — and it was hard to tell.


All the other problems aside, the software may be what really kills the device — for now, at least. The EVO out-of-the-box runs Android 2.1 with the HTC Sense UI. Android 2.1 is far too slow. Even running on these devices with 1 GHz chips, there’s noticeable lag when doing things such as simply scrolling through your apps. It’s unacceptable.

The good news is that Android 2.2 mostly fixes this. I have been using 2.2 running on the Nexus One, and it’s much, much better. The bad news is that it’s not yet clear when 2.2 will come to the EVO because HTC has to update Sense to work with it.

Speaking of Sense, some people love it. I do not. While I find Android’s standard UI to be a bit bland, Sense is almost too much of the opposite — it’s garish. It also takes up way too much screen real estate with things such as the default time/weather widget. Do I really need the time taking up half of the main screen? No. I want apps there. Luckily, it’s easy enough to delete those default widgets.

The EVO does come with some pretty nice ways to integrate your Twitter, Facebook, and Flickr accounts when you set it up. And then you can easily see friends’ activity from the nice Friend Stream widget they provide. Sadly, this widget loads way too slowly. I also like the Twitter widget they give you. It’s a very simple way to update your Twitter status without even launching a client.

HTC also has a brilliant pinch-to-zoom mechanism to access each of your 7 main Android screens. In fact, it’s exactly like the Expose feature in OS X. You pinch on the EVO (or if you’re on the main screen, hit the home button) and the screen you’re on zooms out to reveal thumbnails of all of the screen you have, and shows what’s on each of them. Apple should consider copying this for the iPhone because it’s much better than the current scroll from page to page method.

The worst part of the software though is the keyboard. It’s laughably cluttered. The soft keyboard built into Android is bad enough — mainly because it lags (which again, Android 2.2 fixes). This Sense one is much, much worse. It’s set up in a way so that you can access things such as numbers on the top row of keys, but you have to hold them down to do so. And actually, numbers are also found if you hit the “12#” button at the bottom of the keyboard. It’s redundant and confusing.

And the cursor movement keys at the very button of the keyboard are one of the dumbest things I’ve ever seen. Again, this is a touchscreen device, why do I need touchscreen soft keys to move around whatever I’m writing? Just touch where you want to go.

WiFi Hotspots

Okay, I’ve been fairly hard on the device so far. But there is one thing that despite all its problems, would make me consider it: the WiFi hot spot feature. It’s hard to explain how awesome this is. But there are a few big catches.

I’ve tested out a Sprint Overdrive (mobile hotspot creator) before, and it’s great. But it’s also yet another device you have to carry around, and it’s somewhat of a pain to boot up, get connected to the service, etc. The EVO is like an Overdrive that you’re going to have on you at all times. And turning it on is one touch of a widget on the screen. This creates a new WiFi hotspot that up to 8 people can connect to. You can set the password right from the included software.

The other day, I was in a cafe in New York City but only had one hour of free Internet access. When I ran out, I turned on the EVO Hotspot and was up and running again in seconds. And it was fast (again, even without 4G).

Yes, the battery issue remains — this thing may work for a couple of hours as a hotspot, maybe less — but there is no disputing the ease-of-use.

Mobile hotspot creation is being built-in to Android 2.2, but it will be up to the carriers to decide how they use it (meaning, they decide whether or not to turn it on, and how much to charge for it, if so). This Sprint version is different (it’s not the built-in Android version) — and right, now entirely free. But that is expected to change following the actual launch. Reports indicate that Sprint will offer the Hotspot feature for free through July, but only to those on 4G networks. After that (and for other users) it will cost an extra $30 or so a month, apparently.

That’s a buzzkill.

Of course, next to the iPhone, which still doesn’t have any tethering option in the U.S. thanks to AT&T’s inability to maintain their network, this is still a great feature.


So, that a lot of words about what, as an iPhone user, I like and don’t like about the EVO 4G. Would I give up my iPhone for this? Not a chance. Hell, I wouldn’t give up a Nexus One or Droid Incredible for this, even with 4G. The battery life is simply too poor, and the whole device is too large.

The Android software continues to make steady improvements, but Sense, in my opinion, doesn’t help it at all. Instead, Android 2.2 is the thing to get, and that won’t be available on the EVO at launch.

The EVO has many of the strengths of the Nexus One — mainly, the way Google services interact with the phone (Google Voice, Gmail, Maps, etc), but it adds a bunch of weaknesses.

If you’re a fed-up iPhone user looking to switch to an Android device, there are better options. If you’re a happy iPhone user that is interested in Android devices, you probably won’t like this one much at all.

And no matter what camp you’re in, if you do buy this thing now, you’ll probably be kicking yourself in a couple of months as better 4G devices hit. Or you’ll be kicking yourself in a couple of months when better Android devices hit. Or you’ll be kicking yourself in a few weeks when the new iPhone HD (or whatever it will be called) hits.

Forgive me, but: this is probably not the Android device you’re looking for.

Update: A few commenters noted I should try out one of the task-killing apps to improve battery life. It’s pretty ridiculous that I might have to install a third-party app to manage the system, but whatever, I gave it a try. The result? Two things.

1) Yes, the battery life is slightly better, but still unacceptable. For example, I left the device on overnight with the screen off (just as I normally do with the iPhone), with just two apps running (Twitter and Gowalla) and it was completely dead less than 6 hours later.

2) How many regular users are actually going to install a task managing app? I don’t mean early adopters, I mean people who are average consumers. I bet hardly any will. And I suspect those who buy the EVO will start bitching out the battery almost immediately.

Further, here’s an update from Mike, who also has an EVO now. Remember, this is iPhone-quitting, Android-loving Mike. “I went on a bus today with a fully charged battery on evo, took it off the charger. Three hours later after using it the whole time, but no calls, it was just about done.” Also, there are no shortage of complaints here.

BeThere Deals Brings (More) Time-Sensitive, Local Deals To SF

Posted: 29 May 2010 11:05 AM PDT

It’s no secret that mobile, hyperlocal advertising is poised to grow into a massive market in the next few years, spurred by the proliferation of GPS-equipped smartphones. Earlier this week we saw the launch of another competitor called BeThere Deals that’s hoping to crack the nut. The service offers a self-serve platform for local businesses, who can quickly deploy time sensitive deals that are limited in quantity.

While it’s focused primarily on time sensitive, local deals, BeThere Deals isn’t really in the same vein as GroupOn and LivingSocial — it doesn’t have a ‘group buying’ mechanic, and it features many deals in an area, rather than one or two. Instead, it’s more competitive with apps like Yowza!!, Mobile Coupons, and Mobiqpons.

The service is pretty straightforward: you download the free iPhone app, then open it up when you’re in a supported city to find some regional deals. At this point the service is only available in San Francisco, but it will be expanding to Los Angeles and New York City in the near future.

So how is BeThere going to survive when there are already some bigger players in this space? The company says it has a few key differentiators. First, it says that it’s primarily targeting local, independent businesses, rather than chains (they say that one goal is to make the application useful for discovering interesting new mom-and-pop stores and restaurants). Second, the application is exclusively for time-specific deals that are deployed in real-time by merchants — BeThere could be used by a local bakery, for example, that’s looking to sell excess pastries at a discount before the end of the day. The service will make money by charging merchants on a per-conversion basis.

The app still has a ways to go. For one, it badly needs push notifications — right now users have to manually open the app to see new deals, which isn’t much help when some of the deals are only available for a few hours (the startup says the feature is on the way). And the service obviously needs to get traction with users before it will be very appealing to many businesses (it’s the classic chicken-and-egg problem). The app is also going to see plenty of competition. Aside from the services mentioned above, location-based services like Foursquare have already started to enter this space.

One thing to note — the iPhone application currently has a pretty low average rating (though most of the written reviews are positive). The company says this is because users outside of San Francisco are downloading it, only to find that they can’t access any deals.


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