Toshiba announces first Snapdragon-powered smartphone on modified Windows Mobile 6.1 platform
February 2009 -- A full year ago we excitedly reported on the Sony Ericsson XPERIA which a lot of the press had touted as an "iPhone killer." Well, it's a year later, the iPhone is more dominant than ever, and the XPERIA is still barely available. However, it's clear that copying the iPhone look and then trumping Apple's little marvel in this feature or that is guaranteed to get press coverage. Toshiba knows that and decided to make a splash, too, with an early announcement of its TG01.
Right upfront, the Toshiba TG01 does have some legitimate bragging rights, and they're not of the "most like iPhone" variety. Instead, the TG01 is the first smartphone based on Qualcomm's Snapdragon platform. Snapdragon is the name of a chipset that combines a 1GHz processor core, digital signal processing circuitry and 3G connectivity functionality all into one small chipset specifically designed for what Qualcomm terms "Pocketable Computing Devices" (PCDs) and "Mobile Computing Devices" (MCDs). Snapdragon tech features include high-def video decoding, speedy 3D graphics, and just generally everything a snazzy smartphone is supposed to have these days. With the smartly named "Snapdragon" Qualcomm therefore hopes to grab business away from the XScale/Omap/Samsung chip establishment, and Toshiba bit.
As for the TG01, with a footprint of about 2.65 x 5.0 inches it's quite large -- larger than the iPhone or the XPERIA X1 by quite a bit. It is, however, stunningly thin. With a thickness of just 0.36 inches it's flatter than the iPhone and just over half as thick as the X1. It also weighs a bit less than either of them. Like Apple and Sony Ericsson, Toshiba came up with an attractive design. Reminiscent of the iPhone (of course), the TG01 has a plastic body with chrome strips along its sides. It's sleek and sparse with just a very few hardware controls (just camera, volume rocker on the side and power) and few interfaces (a micro USB port under a plastic cover on the side).
Where the TG01 really shines is its display. It measures a full 4.1 inches diagnonally, making it signicicantly larger than the 3.5-inch iPhone screen or the X1's 3-inch display. It also sports 480 x 800 pixel resolution. That's about 230 dots per inch and thus significantly sharper than the iPhone with its 480 x 320 pixels, at least in theory. From the looks of it, the display is a smudge and fingerprint magnet.
Like the XPERIA X1, the Toshiba TG01 trumps the iPhone again with 3.2 megapixel versus 2.0 megapixel resolution in its integrated digital camera. Unlike the X1, however, there is no photo light, and we haven't seen specs on digital zoom or video recording. Resolution, of course isn't everything, so we'll reserve judgement until we've had a chance to see actual pictures taken with the TG01.
Underneath its shiny exterior and high-res display, the TG01 is a Windows Mobile phone. It's based on Windows Mobile 6.1, a tried-and-true mobile platform that's been around for 13 years, going all the way back to Windows CE 1.0. Which means that TG01 users will probably find a lot of the familiar WinMo apps in addition to the sleek new interface sitting on top of them. There's reportedly ample memory: 256MB of RAM and 512MB of ROM, though we're not sure how much is actually available to users. A micro-SD slot allows for storage up to 32GB. In the power department, Toshiba allocated a 1,000mAH battery good for five hours of talk time and 11 days of standby.
Those who expected a capacitive multi-touch display on the first Snapdragon smartphone will be disappointed. The TG01 makes do with a simple resistive screen that can be operated with a finger or a stylus. There is, however, one neat new feature: an integrated accelerometer/G-sensor is used to allow shaking gestures to answer the phone and to perform other tasks. Unlike the iPhone, the TG01 will support Flash using Internet Explorer Mobile 6. Snapdragon-powered multimedia support includes H.263, H.264, MPEG4, DivX WMV video formats as well as audio in MP3, AAC, AAC+, AMR-NB, AMR-WB, WMA, and WAV. The TG-1 interface is said to be highly customizable. Early demo models and a Toshiba teaser video showed a multi-pane rotating interface. Typing is via a portrait-oriented QWERTY onscreen keyboard with predictive pop-ups. The TG01 is also touted for its high-res, high-speed gaming quality. And, of course, it includes HSDPA, GPS, Bluetooth, and WiFi.
Below is what Toshiba had to say:
"Our challenge was to provide an innovative product that goes beyond today's needs to anticipate tomorrow's capabilities. In creating the TG01, we've integrated the very best of our mobile and LCD technologies in an attractive, premium quality multimedia handset with internet access capabilities. TG01 represents Toshiba's commitment to excellence in an exciting new category, and we look forward to launching it in the global market," he also added.
"Toshiba's TG01 device leverages Snapdragon's unprecedented capabilities to deliver a truly innovative user experience with nearly twice the processing power, more advanced multimedia, and thinnest form factor compared to today's smartphones." said Steve Mollenkopf, executive vice president of Qualcomm. "We are pleased to be working with Toshiba to deliver Snapdragon in the TG01 to the industry, demonstrating how evolutions in wireless technology are redefining what it means to be mobile."
The device is said to be available in the summer of 2009. We're cautiously optimistic as the Snapdragon platform's potential speed may be a game changer, but other than that it may prove difficult to base tomorrow's handsets on yesterday's OS technology. -- by Conrad H. Blickenstorfer