From Phone to Phablet to Tablet-Phone

Smartphones have been growing, with 5 to 6 inch screens not uncommon….the bigger ones have been dubbed phablets….part phone, part tablet. Now, Samsung really goes big, adding 3G phone capability to the next generation of the 7 inch Galaxy Tab Mini. The price hasn’t been announced, but it’s widely expected to be less than the $329 iPad Mini. The Galaxy Tab mini will be out in May, with the 3G version available in June. Will Apple follow suit? All the 3G iPads already have a cellular number for data. An optional bluetooth headset would be mandatory….can you imagine holding a 7 to 10 inch tablet to your head, taking a call? Will people drop their smartphones and just carry a mini tablet that’s also a phone? That will be the real question for the market to sort out.


LinkedIn Contacts

LinkedIn, that social network for business that you posted your resume on and don’t visit very often, is trying to change that. They are releasing a new stand alone iPhone app for your LinkedIn contacts that serves as a personal assistant for managing and interacting with your work contacts. It plays well with Google, Yahoo, and Evernote. While LinkedIn has always let you…in fact, pestered you…to import your contacts to its platform as a one time thing, now you can integrate your contacts as live links. That way, when something changes about a contact on any of your other accounts, it’s automatically updated on LinkedIn. You can sort your contacts by company, location, and a number of other criteria, and there’s a notes section you can update like many free standing contact managers.


Google Now-Desktop Bound?

Google Now, the clever Siri-like assistant that looks at your search history and email and actually anticipates what you will need before you request it, has been one of the cooler apps on Android–helping tweak your directions, travel times, and much more. Some code just spotted in a sample page indicates that Google could be getting ready to make it available on desktops through the Google homepage…and not just on Chrome. Combining your desktop info should help Now to focus recommendations even more accurately. The trade off, as always, is more of your information for Google to use to serve up targeted ads to you. For those that have wondered what Google will do beyond search, this may be it.


Yahoo Mail & Weather Apps

Yahoo has just released a new mail app for iOS and Android tablets. The new version not only takes advantage of the large screen with a great looking display, you can now flip through your email messages like the pages of a magazine. All ‘starred’ messages pour into a folder where you can review them together…ignoring junk mail and other ‘it can wait’ messages. It’s an innovative new approach to mail that users should like. Yahoo also rolled out a weather app with localized background pictures, and recently revamped their home page, as new CEO Marissa Mayer pulls out all stops to reinvent Yahoo as a more modern, relevant tech company. They are supposed to be talking with Apple about partnering more on content, as Apple eases away from Google.


Samsung Goes Big on Phablets

With rumors flying that Apple may release iPhones in 3 different sizes, including one with a bigger than 4 inch screen, Samsung has announced a preemptive strike with the Galaxy Mega. The Mega..which is more of a phablet with a 6.3 inch HD screen…starting in Europe first in May, and hitting the US later. It will complement the Note in the phablet market…the niche between phones and tablets. The Mega will come in two models and be ‘ultra thin,’ fitting in a pocket…according to Samsung. Both have duel core processors, compared with the Note’s quad core, so they look to be more affordable. With a screen a full inch bigger than the Galaxy S-4, we may all need bigger pockets or purses before long!


Enter the Bike Spike

There are all kinds of chains, bars and the like to secure your bicycle, but nothing like what’s available for cars. That’s about to change. There’s a great Kickstarter project called the Bike Spike. It’s a small GPS you attach to your bike that works over cellular. When you electronically lock your bike, if it’s moved, the Bike Spike alerts you over an app on your Android or iPhone. You can track it, alert police with the touch of a button, and share the location with friends on Twitter, Facebook, or by text. It can help you track rides, if you are competitive. It also has an accelerometer, so if you crash, it will notify a list of contacts you choose automatically. You can preorder the Bike Spike for $155…it takes a cheap cellular data plan, but Kickstarter backers get a free trial on that.


Phone Features You Can Actually Use

A couple of innovations may be coming to smartphones that you can actually use…what a concept! First, several makers are looking at replacing Gorilla Glass screens with sapphire, which is three times harder and three times more scratch resistant…almost as hard as diamond. Apple already uses it in their camera lenses. If they can get the economics of scale to work, this will be a boon…no more tears from cracked screens due to dropped phones! The other is being pushed by T-Mobile, which rolled out better voice quality for calls. Now, AT&T is going to bring out what they call HD Voice. The phones have had the capability for some time…it’s the carriers that have dragged their feet on this.