Taking a look back at the week in news across the Android world, this week’s Android Circuit takes in the new Amazon Fire smartphone, the update to the Samsung Galaxy S5, Microsoft’s upcoming Android handset, thoughts on hardware and software to be announced at Google I/O, BlackBerry’s work with the Amazon App Store. and a review of the Frenzy 8Z tablet. Android Circuit is here to remind you of a few of the very many things that have happened around Android over the last seven days.
Amazon Is Not Quite Ready To Set Fire To The Android World
The biggest news in the Android ecosystem this week has to be the announcement of Amazon’s first smartphone, and Forbes’ Ryan Mac live blogged the launch from Seattle. Rather than go for an aggressive pricing strategy that would match the Kindle Fire and Kindle Fire HD tablets, the Fire smartphone is priced at a similar level to high-end smartphones such as the Galaxy S5 and the iPhone 5S. At $199 and a 24 month contract, or a contract-free price of $649 for the basic model, there’s not a lot on offer that should threaten either Google’s Android ecosystem, or Samsung’s stranglehold on handset sales. The big selling point is the ‘Firefly’ feature which allows you to buy items easily from Amazon. Noted tech blogger MG Siegler takes a look at arguably the most disruptive feature on the handset, but it’s going to disrupt retail, not other smartphone manufacturers.
Pre-orders are being taken now via Amazon and AT&T, and the Fire smartphone will ship on July 25th this year.
The Galaxy S5 Is Already Out Of Date, Blame The S5 LTE-A
The Fire is not the only new handset announced this week that is raising eyebrows in the Android world. Samsung has announced the Galaxy S5 LTE-A is only available in South Korea (for the moment) and marks a number of first. It’s the first Samsung Android device to use the Snapdragon 805 processor (which makes it the second Android device to use it, after the OnePlus One), an increased pixel count on the 5.1 inch screen (2560 x 1440,compared to the original’s 1920×1080), 3 GB of RAM, and the Adreno 420 replaces the Adreno 330 for graphics.
It’s just four months since the Galaxy S5 was announced, and many of Samsung’s customers are locked into two year contracts. This rapid refresh cycle is great for technology, but perhaps not for the consumer. Forbes’ Gordon Kelly looks at this issue, as well as the new handset:
But there is a flip side to all this specification flag waving: existing Galaxy S5 owners are likely (and rightly) going to feel short changed. Especially those just starting two year contracts. Technology famously moves quickly, but making such major upgrades after just two months borders on ridiculous.
What’s more Samsung isn’t alone. HTC is rumoured to have a ‘One Prime’ up its sleeve and if manufacturers aren’t careful these cutting edge handsets are going to alienate more owners than they win.
Microsoft Set To Release An Android Handset
There’s an interesting countdown that has appeared on the Nokia Conversations website. Now managed by Microsoft, the former Devices and Services department of the Finnish company appears to be continuing the work on an own Android distribution forked from the Android Open Source Project with Microsoft’s cloud services replacing Google’s. The countdown points towards an announcement on June 24th, and the green colour has been used in the marketing of the previous Nokia X Android devices.
Those devices were released before the takeover of the department by Microsoft, so arguably at that point they were still Finnish phones. If the 24th does see the Nokia X2 arriving, this will be Microsoft’s first Android smartphone.
Android 4.4.4 Update Rolling Out
With ROM images for the Nexus handsets available to download and through the over-the-air mechanism, the next point update to Android is here. Android 4.4.4 is a small update focusing on security issues around OpenSSL and the Heartbleed bug.
How Long Until Google Switches Dalvik For ART?
‘How long will the Dalvik runtime engine remain part of Android?’ asks The Register. With the Android Runtime (ART) available in Android 4.4 to developers and those wishing to experiment with their handset, the process of testing and evaluation is approaching the end game. A switch away from Dalvik to ART will likely improve the speed of any code being run, and a more efficient runtime will have a positive impact on battery life. It will also bring up a lot of compatibility issues for third-party developers.
It’s likely that we’ll hear more about ART at Google’s conference for developers, Google I/O, which takes place this Wednesday and Thursday (25/26 June). Forbes will be there to bring you news, reaction, and analysis.
What’s Will Be On The Wrist At I/O?
With the rise of wearables in 2014, and Google’s previous announcement of Android Wear, it’s likely we’ll see Google’s vision of wearables at the I/O developer event. Glass may feature briefly, but wrist computing is expected to be a big feature, with Samsung, LG, and Motorola, all expected to present hardware (CNet).
BlackBerry Bring The Android Powered Amazon App Store To The BB10 Platform
BlackBerry will be boosting the number of applications available to users of the BB10 platform when the next version of the OS (10.3) is released. The company has signed a licensing agreement with Amazon to bring the Amazon Appstore to the BlackBerry platform, and over 200,000 Android applications.
While BB10 is based around QNX, the handsets do have the ability to run Android applications. While it reduces the perceived app-gap on the platform, it does nothing to bring more developers and native experiences to the platform. Given the sales and market share figures of the platform, that’s not surprising, so bringing in one of the largest third-party app-stores should give consumers and enterprise buyers some confidence in the platform, although you have to wonder if the BlackBerry platform has enough unique selling points to make it more attractive than a job lot of Galaxies.
Is The Frenzy 8Z The Lightest And Thinnest 8 Inch Android Tablet?
Of course there are a lot of Android devices coming out each week. If you’re looking for a thin Android tablet in the 7-8 inch space, you might want to consider the Frenzy 8Z. Manufactured by Canadian company Western Leaf Electronics, I reviewed the unit at the start of the week.
‘Android Circuit’ will round-up the news from the Android world every weekend here on Forbes. Don’t forget to follow me so you don’t miss any coverage in the future, and of course the sister column in Apple Loop! And if you have any news and links you’d like to see featured in Android Circuit, get in touch!