Mar 29 2010 3:36pm

Tech News for Nerds: Life Without Wires

Sprint HTC Evo 4GWelcome back to Tech News for Nerds. This week’s installment is for all the phone-loving nerds out there. That’s because the wireless industry’s major trade show happened last week: CTIA 2010. All the journalists who’d just gotten over the last trip to Vegas (for CES back in January) had to trudge out that way again for more cell phones, smartbooks, apps and more. Trust me, the lack of 3D TVs didn’t make it any less exciting.

We covered a ton of things over on Laptop Magazine’s blog and if you’re curious about what those things were, you can check it out here. For those of you just interested in the highlights, read on.

Let’s put phones aside for a second and talk about Smartbooks. What is a Smartbook, you ask? It’s like a netbook married a phone but genetically modified the baby in utero so it wouldn’t come out a tablet. Maybe that’s not helpful.

How about this: smartbooks are the size of netbooks (7 – 10 inches) but often thinner and lighter because they have solid state drives and run on chips that don’t require a fan. These are similar to the chips found in smart phones, and smartbooks will operate somewhat like smart phones in that they will turn on instantly, use little power, and run Linux-based operating systems. They also have built-in mobile broadband, so you can access the internet from anywhere, just like a smartphone.

Pretty cool, right? We saw a ton of smartbooks at CES (my favorite is the Lenovo Skylight. It’s soooo thin and beautiful), and an update on another favorite at CTIA.

Mobinnova BeamThe Mobinnova Beam is 8.9-inch multimedia-focused machine. It has Android, a slick UI, and thanks to the NVIDIA Tegra chip inside, plays HD video like a gaming machine. Check the video & hands-on here.

We’re not sure if the smartbook category will take off, but we like what we’ve seen so far. Check our other smartbook coverage here.

Another hot category we bumped into at CTIA is tablets. Other tablets beyond the iPad exist, and did even before the January announcement. I swear, I reviewed them. We saw two worthy of note this week:

OpenPeak OpenTabletThe OpenPeak OpenTablet device is designed to combine communications, entertainment, social networking, and home and energy management. And it will make your bed. Okay, it won’t. But it will have an app store to compliment its iPhone-esque appearance.

Marvell’s Moby tablet won one of our Best of CTIA awards because it’s fancy, runs Android, has Wi-Fi/Bluetooth/FM/GPS connectivity, can handle high-performance 3D graphics, and supports Adobe Flash. Take that, Apple! 

I’ll go more in-depth on the whole tablet landscape later this week when we talk about the iPad. Am I getting my hands on Apple’s magical tablet before you? Probably so. Neener.

And finally: Phones. I’m not much of a phone geek, I’ll admit. While I might spend my day daydreaming about the perfect netbook, I rarely give my poor phone a second thought. This shows as I have no clue where it is right now and haven’t for days. Still, phone geekery isn’t dead, just check out the fights going on in these two posts.

HTC Evo 4GAnyway, the phone we were most impressed with at CTIA was the HTC Evo 4G. “If you asked us to build our dream Android phone, it would look a lot like the HTC Evo 4G. This killer device boasts a huge 4.3-inch display, a blazing 1-GHz Snapdragon processor, and an 8-megapixel camera that can record 720p video. It’s the first 4G phone in the U.S., offering speeds between 3 and 6 Mbps in an increasing number of cities.” Yeah.

You know what impressed me the most? ThickButtons for Android. This app makes letters you’re more likely to use bigger so you make less mistakes with the on-screen keyboard. It’s not for you people who type with two thumbs like you’re on a BlackBerry. It’s for us sad people who still do it all with one finger.

Those are the highlights, but there's much, much more. Like I said, you can check out our full coverage of CTIA here.

How many of you out there are phone geeks? Is there love for gadgets other than the iPhone amongst the populace? Let me know in the comments.

Tech News for Nerds is brought to you by the letters K. T. and B. and LAPTOP Magazine, your source for all things laptop and smartphone and tablet and eReader. We just didn’t think we could fit all that in the title.

Marcus W
1. toryx
I'm an admirer of the Nexus One. I've never seen it, and I certainly don't have one (and am not likely to get one any time soon) but I still want it.
Jon Evans
2. rezendi
When not writing books or blogging for I write Android and iPhone apps for fun and profit.
3. Zardoz
There is much love for anything that can take down the iProduct. Moar plz!
Marcus W
4. toryx
I just read last night that there's talk about the iPhone being released for Verizon. If they add some other cool stuff to it (especially better call quality) I might consider taking the leap. I do love my iPod Touch.
Ethan Glasser-Camp
5. glasserc
Interesting to see this post. I have a netbook and love it but the use case that I really care about is trying to be productive on the subway. Something tablet-sized is probably the right form factor there, and it doesn't have to have cellular connectivity. In other words, smartbooks don't really appeal to me -- if I have to rest it on my lap, I'm much less interested -- certainly not interested enough to replace my $300 netbook.

I guess I'm a bit of a gadget nut. I replaced my Android-running G1 with a Nokia N900 because I didn't think Android was "open source" enough. (It's a pretty cool phone in every way except for maps and mapping which kind of suck.) Frankly I would like to see more gadgets and their makers not in bed with the telcos.

6. smitmk
I would LOVE to see a tor app on my Android, yes!!!

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