Exclusive: Motorola Moto X Software Update Cures Its Wired Headset Headaches

Moto X lead small

The affordable, yet sophisticated Motorola Moto X succeeds in making life with a smartphone as simple, colorful and touch-free as possible, but until recently it stumbled with one of the most basic of all cell phone accessories: wired headsets with microphones.

Fortunately, a new Moto X system software update cleans up the glitch, allowing these headsets to work as they should. The free update is now being pushed out to AT&T and T-Mobile handsets. Moto X owners can wait for the notification screen to pop up or scroll through the phone’s settings to the “About Phone” section, where they can manually initiate the update.

When a Moto X with the original system software was tested with apps such as Skype and voice recorders, it often failed to recognize wired headsets with built-in mics. The earpieces would go silent and the mics wouldn’t transmit audio.

To see if your Moto X still has the original system software, download Skype and try this: Plug a wired headset with a mic to your Moto X and make a voice call to the “Echo/Sound Test Service” entry that’s preinstalled as a contact in Skype. Once connected, try to listen to the automated recording and try to record your voice when prompted.

If you have the original system software, you won’t hear and thing and won’t be able to make the recording. Try the call again without the headset–Skype should work fine. Skype and Motorola public relations representatives were contacted for comment about the wired headset problems; neither responded.

Screenshot_2013-10-04-17-49-17

A Moto X which once failed the Skype test now works perfectly after the five-minute software, which also cures other Moto X issues, was installed.

The wired headsets used for testing included Audiofly AF45 and Lenovo 57Y4488 earbuds and a Native Union Pop Phone handset. The above problems were limited to wired headsets with mics–they did not occur with wired headsets without mics or with wireless Bluetooth headsets.

The wired headset problems were ironic since the Moto X, which has three built-in microphones, actually works very well with voice-activated apps such as Google Now since one of the mics is used for noise cancellation. With the new software update, the Moto X becomes an even better value.

Moto X headset 1

Overall, the Moto X is a remarkable smartphone with good looks–which can be customized–and quality high-end features like a sharp, 4.7-inch display and a 10-megapixel camera. (Click here for full review).

Text and photos Copyright 2013, Robert S. Anthony, Stadium Circle Features

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Motorola Moto X: Fun, Friendly & Fast Enough

Motorola Moto X

Motorola Moto X

Motorola’s Moto X smartphone is an admirable balance of style and usability. It doesn’t try to outdo Samsung, Apple and others in the race to squeeze in as many high-tech features as possible but instead aims to please with its hand-shaped curves, cool voice-activated features and touch-friendly camera.

The Moto X succeeds as a sophisticated mainstream smartphone but is no speed demon. Its user-friendliness and simplicity are apparent from the start: Instead of a cluttered home screen, the Moto X offers pretty much a plain vanilla Android home screen that allows the new owner do the customizing. And that’s not surprising since Motorola Mobility is now a division of Google, the maker of Android software.

To start the camera, you pick up the phone and twist your wrist twice–that’s it; the Moto X immediately switches to camera mode. To take a photo you can touch any part of the screen–there’s no need to hunt for a shutter button. The Moto X’s 10-megapixel camera uses Motorola’s ClearPixel technology, which allows each sensor to gather 75 percent more light, thus making it possible to get clear photos even in low-light situations. according to Motorola.

The Moto X can be customized with numerous color combinations for its keys and shell (including an all wood case available later this year) by ordering the unit via the Moto X website, which only offers AT&T units at the moment. Since the Moto X is manufactured in Fort Worth, Texas instead of somewhere overseas, online buyers can expect to see their new phones–already initialized with their Google accounts–in four days or less, according to Motorola.

Motorola's Moto X can be ordered in a variety of color combinations.

Motorola’s Moto X can be ordered in a variety of color combinations.

“We think this represents a very interesting future,” said Rick Osterloh, senior vice president for product development at Motorola during a press event in New York. He said the Moto X is aimed at “the mainstream user,” not the feature-frenzied geek.

Rear of Motorola Moto X.

Rear of Motorola Moto X.

The Moto X uses what computing power it has fairly efficiently. It runs Android version 4.2.2 and has a dual-core 1.7GHz Snapdragon processor. Other top-shelf smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy S4 have quad-core processors, but they also have more sensors and higher-resolution screens, making the additional processor muscle necessary.

Moto X Active Display

The low-power Active Display mode on Motorola’s Moto X.

The Moto X is built with what’s called the Motorola X8 computing system. It’s a set of eight processor cores assigned to different tasks. Why is this important? By using different cores for different tasks, the entire processor doesn’t have to be awake all the time–each core wakes up as it’s needed. This design extends the life of the Moto X’s 2200 mAH battery to a full day of average use, according to Motorola.

Two of the processor cores are used for basic application processing (this is what makes the Moto X a “dual-core” smartphone) and four are used for graphics processing, thus speeding up video and photo functions. The other two cores take care of voice commands and sensors like the accelerometer and the ambient light sensor and help the Moto X detect how fast you’re moving and what you’re doing with the phone.

When tested with voice commands, the Moto X worked very well and was able to verbally answer questions about the time, the weather, directions, baseball scores and many other queries. The quality of the speech detection is aided by the phone’s three microphones, which work together to cancel stray noises and enhance voices.

A useful Active Display shows notifications in a simple, low-power mode, thus letting you know if you have incoming e-mail, text messages or other items even when the phone is in standby mode.

The Moto X lists for $199 (16GB of user memory) or $249 (32GB) with a two-year plan and is sold by AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint and US Cellular and major retailers.

Do you have a Moto X? How do you like it so far? Comment or vote:

Text and photos Copyright 2013, Robert S. Anthony, Stadium Circle Features

Amazon’s New Kindle Fire HD Family: Take That Apple iPad!

Kindle Fire HD 8.9

Not many companies can make Apple sweat, but Amazon has just turned up the heat with the new Kindle Fire HD tablet/ereader family: The 7-inch Kindle Fire HD ($199 with 16GB of storage; $249 with 32GB), the 8.9-inch Kindle Fire HD 8.9 ($299 with 16GB; $369 with 32GB) and the Kindle Fire HD 8.9 4G LTE Wireless ($499 with 16GB; $599 with 32GB).

The classic 7-inch Kindle Fire, which recently sold out on Amazon.com, is back in the Kindle lineup with a faster processor, more memory and a really cool new feature: A lower $159 price tag.

New 7-inch Kindle Fire HD in portrait and landscape orientation.

The 7-inch Kindle Fire HD, which has a better display, more storage space and Dolby stereo audio but the same $199 starting price as the old Kindle Fire, is available for preorder now and will be in stores Sept. 14. The other models will be available Nov. 20.

As a family, the new color Kindle HD units are poised to make a huge impact in three key tech sales areas: the affordable entry-level tablet market, the muscle Wi-Fi tablet segment and in the do-it-all-always-connected-big-tablet competition. Apple may have something interesting in the works as it rolls out a new iPad or two this fall, but for now Amazon has delivered a stunning first punch to the 2012 holiday-season tablet market.

Aside from HD displays, the new Kindle HD units have two Wi-Fi MIMO (Multiple In/Multiple Out) antennas, which means that both antennas can receive data simultaneously on 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz Wi-Fi networks, thus resulting in better wireless Internet reception, according to Amazon.

Also included in the new units are front-facing cameras, a custom version of Skype videoconferencing software, free unlimited cloud storage for Kindle media, Bluetooth wireless adapters for wireless headsets, speakers and other accessories and an HDMI out port.

With a starting price of $299, the Kindle Fire HD 8.9 is far more affordable than the least expensive Apple iPad, but offers an admirable array of features, including its 1,920-by-1,200-pixel, 254-pixel-per-inch IPS display and a 1.5 GHz, dual-core processor. It has the same look as the smaller Kindle HD, which has a 1.2GHz processor, in terms of its dark case and thick border around the display area.

The Kindle Fire HD 4G LTE Wireless offers the same features of the Kindle Fire HD 8.9 plus high speed always-on LTE data service at a very competitive price: $50 a year for 250MB a month data, 20GB of additional cloud storage and a $10 Amazon app store credit.

Even Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said at the company’s Kindle press conference that Amazon was willing to lose money on hardware since it could make up the loss selling content in the Kindle Store.

The new Kindle units can take advantage of new Amazon content services, including Kindle FreeTime, which lets parents set time limits on content for their children. FreeTime will be available in October.

Also introduced Thursday were other Kindle devices, including two monochrome devices using new Kindle display technology:  the $119 Kindle Paperwhite and the $179 Kindle Paperwhite 3G.

Of course the best feature about all Kindle devices is easy access to Amazon’s huge arsenal of ebooks, audiobooks, MP3 music downloads, Android apps and other downloadable media. Amazon tries to make things easy on technophobes by providing a simple interface.

At Thursday’s unveiling in Santa Monica, California, Amazon CEO and founder Jeff Bezos readily admitted that Amazon was willing to lose money on hardware since it could make up the loss with content sales from its Kindle store.

In boxing, the best punch is often the one you get off just ahead of your opponent: Even if it doesn’t floor him, you have his attention. Apple, are you listening?

Images and video courtesy of Amazon.

Text © Copyright 2012

Robert S. Anthony, Stadium Circle Features

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Motorola Sharpens Droid RAZR Lineup with RAZR HD, RAZR MAXX HD and RAZR M

Motorola Droid RAZR HD

Motorola tried to snatch the smartphone headlines from Apple and Samsung Wednesday by introducing three robust additions to its Android lineup: The muscle-bound Droid RAZR HD and Droid RAZR MAXX HD and the affordable, but still power-packed Droid RAZR M.

The Droid RAZR M, which has a 4.3-inch display, is available now for $100 when purchased with a two-year service plan. No specific dates or prices were announced for the Droid RAZR HD and Droid RAZR MAXX HD, which have 4.7-inch screens. All come with 1.5 GHz dual-core processors, 1 GB of RAM and front- and rear-facing HD-video-capable cameras. [Update: The Droid RAZR HD is now available for $200 and the Droid RAZR MAXX HD is $300, in both cases when purchased with a two-year service plan.]

“I’m here to tell you that the new Motorola starts today,” said Dennis Woodside, CEO of Motorola Mobility, now a part of Google. “In many ways, Google and Motorola have only just begun.”

Motorola Mobility CEO Dennis Woodside talks to the press as the image of Martin Cooper, who led the Motorola team which invented the mobile phone in 1973, looms behind him. Cooper was in attendance at the New York press event.

Motorola’s three new RAZR models offer 4G data speeds via the LTE network from Verizon Wireless, long-lasting batteries and are the first to ship with Google’s Chrome for Android Web browser, which has a handful of finger-friendly features.

For example, to switch between tabs on Chrome you simply swipe your finger from one side of the screen to the other. A swipe to the side also gets rid of a tab while you’re looking at a group of them. Users also have the option of synchronizing bookmarks with Chrome browsers on other devices. Unlike the standard Android Web browser, Chrome has no limits on the number of tabs you can have open at once.

According to Motorola, the Super AMOLED displays on the Droid RAZR HD and Droid RAZR MAXX HD have 78 per cent more pixels than the original DROID RAZR, resulting in a sharper, smoother-looking display. The key difference is that the Droid RAZR HD, available in black or white, comes with a lithium-ion battery which provides 24 hours of battery life while the thicker RAZR MAXX HD (black only) has a larger battery which promises 32 hours of phone use per charge.

Droid RAZR M

The Droid RAZR M, which is available in black or white, has a 4.3-inch Super AMOLED screen and a narrow bezel, which allows it to offer the same size screen as phones with larger bodies, including the original Droid RAZR. Its 2,000 mAH battery provides 20 hours of battery life, according to Motorola. The new RAZR phones also offer power-management controls that can further enhance battery life.

Like its larger siblings, the Droid RAZR M has an 8-megapixel camera on the back but has a lower-resolution, 0.3-megapixel front-facing camera while the other two new RAZR models have 1.3-megapixel front cameras.

During a demonstration at Wednesday’s press event a Droid RAZR HD unit provided remarkably sharp and smooth HD video playback even with bright ambient light. As expected, the new RAZR models are thin. The RAZR M comes in just under a third of an inch, the RAZR HD is just over a third of an inch thick and the RAZR MAXX HD is slightly fatter at 0.37 inches thick.

Woodside noted that not only will all of  the new RAZR phones be upgraded from Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) to Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean) later this year, but added that all Motorola smartphones capable of handling the new software will get it as well. Owners of Motorola smartphones that can’t be upgraded to Jelly Bean can get a $100 credit toward a new phone, he said.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt at the Motorola RAZR product launch in New York.

“They really shouldn’t be called smartphones, they should be called mobile computers,” said Google CEO Eric Schmidt, who led off the press event.

How will the new RAZR entries compete with the Samung Galaxy S3, the current and future Apple iPhone and recent entries from Nokia, LG, HTC and others? The holiday shopping season will provide the answer soon enough.

Text, video and images © Copyright 2012

Robert S. Anthony, Stadium Circle Features

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BlackBerry PlayBook: A Few Kind Words for a Forgotten Tablet

A year ago the BlackBerry PlayBook could have been a contender. The seven-inch tablet from Research in Motion could have carved out a nice market niche for itself if RIM could have delivered useful apps to go with the PlayBook’s sleek hardware and user-friendly operating system (OS) software in a timely fashion.

Unfortunately it wasn’t until a few weeks ago that RIM finally delivered the PlayBook 2.0 OS, which included top-notch e-mail, calendar and contacts apps. Unfortunately it all comes very late in the game, maybe too late. Now we have a brand new, hot-selling iPad from Apple and a raft of new, powerful Android tablets. The PlayBook is now deeply discounted, and is not exactly on the top of most tablet buyers’ wish lists.

Still there are some good things to say about the BlackBerry PlayBook and in a recent interview with radio host Mark Laiosa on WBAI-FM in New York, I go over some of the aspects of the new apps and the new PlayBook 2.0 operating system.

Link to audio clip: http://www.box.com/embed/tl9v4ztitlpt8a6.swf

Text Copyright 2012 Stadium Circle Features
Audio clip courtesy of WBAI-FM

Will Amazon Silk Stoke Kindle Fire?

Amazon’s new Kindle Fire Android color tablet succeeds at shaking up the tablet and eBook reader market with its powerful processor, sharp display and affordable $199 price tag, but don’t be fooled: It’s what’s going on in the background that’s more interesting than the tablet itself.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos shows off Kindle Fire tablet

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos shows off Kindle Fire tablet

What may make or break the Kindle Fire is Amazon Silk, a new generation of mobile Web browser that’s indeed different from what you’re using now, but more on that in a second.

The Kindle Fire has a sharp, 7-inch, 1024-by-600 dot-per inch color display with a pixel density of 169 pixels per inch, which is significantly denser than the 132ppi screen on the market-leading Apple iPad 2. It also has a dual-core, but unnamed 1GHz processor, which is good news for video-heavy and otherwise sophisticated Android apps.

But don’t mistake this for an iPad 2 killer. It has only 8GB of storage, uses Android 2.3 instead of the tablet-friendlier Android 3.x and has no camera. It’s not a pure Android tablet either, which means that getting new apps won’t be as simple as pulling them off of the Android Market.

However, looming ominously behind the Kindle Fire is Amazon’s massive collection of text and video content, its vast Web services and almost unlimited online storage capacity.

Like the other Kindles, everything you put on your Kindle Fire is backed up on Amazon’s cloud. Unlike any Kindle or any other tablet before it, however, the Kindle Fire has Amazon Silk, a new, forward-thinking Web browser that splits the Web surfing work between the tablet and the many servers that make up the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud, otherwise known as Amazon EC2.

So what does that mean? It means that the Kindle Fire’s Web browser can potentially speed through the Web much faster than other tablets with similar hardware simply because it has less work to do.

When you access a web page with a conventional Web browser, it often has to make multiple requests to multiple points in the Internet for things like images, video streams, Twitter feeds and other content that appears on a single page. Waiting for all of these requests to be fulfilled can make a Web browser seem sluggish.

What Amazon Silk does is analyze the “aggregate behavior” of Kindle Fire Web users to determine what Web content is in heavy demand. That content is then cached on Amazon’s servers and, if needed, rendered into a form more suitable for the Kindle Fire’s screen. The result is that when a Kindle Fire user hits a popular website, much of the data needed can be retrieved at once from Amazon’s cache, thus speeding up the loading of the page.

If the website has a multi-megabyte image that would look just as well on the Kindle Fire’s screen if it were compressed, Amazon’s servers could intelligently scale the photo down.

For example, if Amazon Silk had detected that a lot of Web traffic was being aimed at web pages covering the heated Major League Baseball battle between the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays for the last American League playoff spot, that content could have been cached by Silk for fast access by Kindle Fire users.

Journalists at the unveiling of the Kindle Fire weren’t allowed to touch them.

Journalists at the unveiling of the Kindle Fire weren’t allowed to touch them.

So does Amazon Silk work as smooth as silk? It’s much too early to say since the journalists at Wednesday’s unveiling of the Kindle Fire in New York weren’t allowed to touch the units.

To be sure, Amazon Silk is a ground-breaking concept which could potentially allow a tablet—or other device—with modest hardware to perform like it had higher-end components inside. The proof is in the pudding, but we haven’t seen it yet.

So what do you think? Chime in if you like.

Text and images Copyright 2011
Robert S. Anthony
Stadium Circle Features
info@paperpc.net

Lost in Manhattan: One Library and One Post Office

NYPL Battery Park City Branch
Text and photos Copyright © 2011 Stadium Circle Features

How do you lose an entire library? What happens when the postal service can’t find its own post office? Just call them lost in cyberspace.

Blocks from each other in lower Manhattan is a New York Public Library (NYPL) branch that the library system’s new smartphone app didn’t know about and a U.S. Postal Service location that the USPS website can’t find.

The NYPL recently released iPhone and Android smartphone apps that allow library users to manage their accounts, reserve books, check on fines and otherwise make good use of the library’s many online resources. To use the new apps NYPL users need to register with the library’s new online catalog.
The apps also provide listings of the NYPL’s branches, which are spread out over Manhattan, The Bronx and Staten Island. However if you were one of the first to download the new Android NYPL app and wanted to locate the Battery Park City Library, guess what? It wasn’t listed.

The listing jumped from “Allerton” to “Baychester” with nary a mention of the airy Battery Park City branch, which opened last year. 

The temporary oversight was ironic since the Battery Park City branch is one of the most cyber-friendly public libraries in the city. The branch, located at 175 North End Ave. at Murray St., offers free Wi-Fi across its two floors, 36 public computers and plenty of desks with top-mounted AC outlets for laptops.

Fortunately an update which appeared in the Android Market Wednesday addressed a number of bugs, including the branch listing, which now includes every branch, including Battery Park City.

While the updated NYPL app was able to locate its library, the recently freshened-up U.S. Postal Service website doesn’t seem to know about a small, but useful Automated Postal Center (APC) site located just south of the World Trade Center site.

Nestled in a small storefront at 88 Greenwich St. is an APC location with lots of tabletop space for preparing packages and a single APC kiosk providing self-service postal services. There are many post-office-based and standalone APCs, which look like bank ATMS, scattered around the city. However, while the APC locator on the USPS.com website can locate most of them, this one is invisible.

Even if you enter “88 Greenwich St.” in the box that pops up after using the “Find USPS Locations” link on the USPS website–making sure to change “Post Office Locations” to “Automated Postal Centers”–the USPS website directs you across Manhattan to a post office at One Peck Slip more than half a mile away. Other suggestions listed by the locator included an APC site across the Hudson River in Jersey City, New Jersey and another across the East River in Brooklyn. Rowboat anyone?

Will the USPS website ever deliver the 88 Greenwich St. APC? Stay tuned: I have an e-mail in to the USPS media relations office.

Text and photos Copyright 2011 
Robert S. Anthony, Stadium Circle Features
USPS.com website image Copyright 2011 USPS