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Monthly Archives: March 2013

Think about all the ambient radio waves in our environment: 2.4 and 5Ghz WiFi, similar wireless home phone frequencies, terrestrial radio and television, cell phone frequencies, etc. There’s a lot of waves in the air and these waves carry energy. What if we could harvest them.

This is exactly the tech that Nokia is developing according to the MIT Technology Review. The tech is similar to already existing RFID tags, which harvest electromagnetic waves and convert it to an electrical signal. All that needs to be done is ramp up the conversion efficiency.

Currently Nokia claims their prototypes can harvest about 3 to 5 milliwatts of power from ambient RF frequencies, which isn’t very much. However, they are working on new prototypes that will harvest up to 50 milliwatts, which is enough to slowly charge a phone which is in a power saving mode.

Unfortunately, the biggest hurdle for this project is enabling the antennas to harvest enough frequencies to gain that much power. They need a wide band antenna that can pick up hundreds of different radio frequencies so they could generate enough power. Such an antenna would drain power and also lose capturing efficiency due the amount of frequencies it would be looking for.

But regardless, the research sounds promising and if Nokia can do it, they would revolutionize the way think about smartphone batteries. This combined with their recent research into solar powered smartphone screens could spell the end of charging cables forever (army least for Lumia phones). This tech is estimated to be available to the mass market in about 3 to 5 years.

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All this week, people were up in arms about the Google CFO laying the smackdown on Motorola. Patrick Pachette was recently quoted as saying:

“Motorola has a great set of products, but they’re not really like ‘wow’ by Google standards. Dennis Woodside [CEO of Motorola Mobility] and his team have inherited 18 months of pipeline that we have to drain right now.”

Ouch. This leaves most wondering what’s wrong with Motorola. With the Razr series, they’ve been making some surprisingly good devices lately.

However, I’m more interested in what Google thinks is “wow” by their standards. Because I haven’t seen it.

Now before you flame me about being this or that fanboy/Google hater, let me first say that we’re talking about hardware. Google’s software and services are always innovative or at least interesting. But they are a terrible OEM.

The Nexus One was the first and, to me, the last really good and high quality Nexus device. It was built by HTC in their hayday and it ws beautifully crafted (for the time), durable, and ran Android better than anything else (at the time). But since then, nothing has really wowed me. And I don’t beleive I’m alone. Both Samsung Nexi have been frought with aweful battery life, bad cameras, connectivity issues, cheap plastic shells, and delayed updates. To make matters worse, Samsung one-uped both devices with the well regarded Galaxy S II and III.

The Nexus 4 was another exercise in mediocrity. Yes its cheap and off contract, but it has a terribly cheap plasticky shell, an even worse camera, a lack of a what-should-be-standard 4G, and a mediocre battery. While a quad core for the cost is cool, talking about phone performance these days is about as useful as talking about console performance.

And then there’s the Nexus tablets. Not that there’s anything really wrong with them, mind you. The Nexus tablets are well built, they have decent screens, and good battery life. Asus does a decent job given the cost.

But that’s really the catch with Nexus devices, isn’t it? The Nexus One did not sell well because it was exhorbinantly expensive given the lack of carrier contracts. Google has always been about value, something that Apple makes secondary to at least giving the illusion of premium quality.

And then there’s the Chromebook Pixel. Finally, Google builds a premium device with a premium price tag but it’s so compromised by the anemic ChromeOS, so filled by stupid decisions (terrible battery life, lack of USB 3.0, square screen, cheap metal), and such a blatant failure of a MacBook rip-off that nobody will ever buy it. So once again, what exactly is “wow” by Google standards?

So what’s so bad with Motorola? Nothing. Kevlar backing is genius. Nobody has been able to best the MAXX battery life. They’ve even added value to Android with their software. What’s more relevant is to ask what Google is looking for from Motorola.