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Semi-Legal Bluetooth Call Recorder: Did The Wire Teach Us Nothing?

Your smartphone can do many things, but because of legal restrictions, it can’t easily be used to record a conversation. This Bluetooth handset happily will, though, documenting over 340 hours of calls, whether or not the other party knows it.

In most areas, the act of recording a phone conversation isn’t necessarily illegal. It’s when you do it without the other party’s consent that problems can arise. So this handset, which connects to any Bluetooth equipped phone like a headset, can be set to automatically play a custom “this conversation is being recorded” message before every conversation. But only if you want it to.

The $200 recorder has just two gigs of storage on board, but it uses enough compression to hold over fourteen days worth of conversations which can be annotated with comments to make sorting through them a little easier. For reporters the device is perfect for transcribing interviews, or finding a specific quote, but it’s also handy if your conversation has important legal implications. And since people tend to be more honest when they know they’re being recorded, it could even have the benefit of scaring off telemarketers who might not be on the up and up.

T-Mobile to Add 4G LTE to its 2G Networks

T-Mobile

T-Mobile isn’t slowing down when it comes to its network upgrade. The upstart wireless carrier said on Thursday that it plans to add 4G LTE to its slower 2G network, adding coverage and speed to additional customers. The company also reiterated its intent to use the wireless spectrum it is acquiring from Verizon to further expand its coverage later this year. Oddly enough, T-Mobile also said it was taking legal action against Verizon in an effort to get it to stop using its network coverage map in its advertising, which T-Mobile argues is “cherry-picking” a single technology (LTE) to illustrate its superiority. T-Mobile has long claimed broader 4G coverage than what is depicted because it also factors its larger 4G HSPA+ network. “Verizon’s ink blots massively understate our coverage and don’t begin to represent the actual customer experience on T-Mobile’s network,” CEO John Legere said in a statement.

Read the full story at CNET.

AT&T’s ‘Next’ Follows T-Mobile’s ‘Jump,’ Allows for Mobile Upgrades Every 12 Months

AT&T

Rather than “rethinking possible,” AT&T is rethinking its plans, as it becomes the latest wireless carrier to offer customers the option to upgrade their phones more frequently. Starting July 26, AT&T will offer new “Next” plans for smartphones and tablets, on a post-paid basis. The plan allows customers to trade in their devices (feature phones excluded) every 12 months, provided the customer pays a monthly installment fee based on a 20-month cycle. So, you would take the full retail price of a smartphone or tablet, divide it by 20 and add that cost to your monthly traditional or family-share AT&T plan. Twelve months later, you trade in that device for a new one, and a new cycle begins. If you decide you want a new phone before the 12 months is up, Next owners still owe the cost of the remaining months’ fees.

Read the full story at All Things D.

Report: Verizon’s ‘VZ Edge’ Would Let Customers Pay Monthly for Smartphones, Upgrade Early

Verizon

Back in April, after extending upgrade periods to a full 24 months, Verizon introduced a new device payment that would allow customers to upgrade phones by purchasing them at full prices with the payments spread out over a 12-month period. According to sources of ours, Verizon will introduce a new upgrade initiative on August 25 called “VZ Edge” that will allow customers to upgrade their phones much more frequently to “stay on the leading edge of technology.” In an training slide detailing the new plan, we can see that Verizon is offering up VZ Edge as a way for customers to avoid signing contracts and upgrade fees, while remaining on the “best network” and with the latest devices. All of the specifics are not yet available, but this slide does mention that if customers are on the previously mentioned monthly payment plan, that they can upgrade to a new device at any time once they have paid off 50% of their current phone.

Read the full story at Droid-Life.

The Copycat Culture of Tech Hits the Mobile World in Full Force

T-Mobile Jump

Tech culture is a funny thing. If you track tech news, releases and new ideas closely enough, you’ll notice there’s a very apparent trend that pops up all the time:

  1. Some company has a truly original idea.
  2. Every competing company copies that idea.

It’s funny and sad at the same time, and it’s the same thing that happens every time there’s a truly unique idea in the tech world.

A Truly Original Idea

The most recent example of this has been the ability for tech-happy smartphone owners to upgrade their phones far more often than once every two years. T-Mobile made a big splash in the mobile market last week when it announced ‘Jump,’ which would give customers two mobile upgrades every year for an extra $10 per month. (As a refresher to the new way T-Mobile sells smartphones since they no longer have mobile contracts, you can catch up here.)

Jump is a great idea! A truly original idea. People love upgrading their phones and hate having to wait 20 months two years for a new gadget. (Let’s put aside the fact that you don’t save a much money by constantly upgrading your phones and you no longer have back-up phones to give someone or use in case of emergency. It’s still a very original idea.)

… and the Rest Shall Follow

You know what’s NOT original? The fact that AT&T just announced an almost identical program: Next. (All Things D notes that AT&T issued a memo teasing Next before T-Mobile announced Jump, so it’s unclear whose idea came first. The bottom line is still the same: derivative ideas.) Next would be slightly different from T-Mobile’s plans in a few ways: You’re eligible for an upgrade every 12 months, not six; you don’t need to put a down payment on your device; and there’s no additional monthly fee. It would be more forgivable of a copycat if it was better, but the numbers don’t add up. T-Mobile’s not scared, either, as an executive said it’s a “poor imitation” of Jump.

Want to hear a funny story? Verizon’s reportedly planning the same type of program, called VZ Edge, which would launch in August. The plan is almost identical to Next, which means it, too, is a slight derivation on Jump.

It’s just that type of copycat culture. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Sprint announce something similar, except Sprint seems to be doing its own thing over there, with Unlimited, My Way essentially giving you unlimited everything forever and ever.

Not an Isolated Incident

Think back to the biggest tech breakthroughs of the last few years: iPhone, iPad, etc. Every major breakthrough has been imitated and copied and modded and tweaked by just about every company under the sun. I’ve just never seen it happen as quickly as we’ve seen phone carriers do their thing this week.

And this isn’t the last time we’ll see this type of behavior this year. The Pebble Smartwatch was last year’s Kickstarter darling, and recently hit store shelves. You know who else is interested in the smartwatch business? Oh, just about everyone: Google. Apple. Mozilla. Microsoft. TomTom. Sony. Dell. It’s amazing. For a while, I seemed to be posting a story about a new company wanting to enter the smartwatch business… and I know we’ll see the same thing once Google Glass becomes more prevalent.

Innovation breeds competition, which helps create better products for all of us to buy and use. I’d just like to see more unique ideas, rather than everyone piling on whichever bandwagon is hot this hour.

Shelly Palmer Radio Report – July 17, 2013

If you’ve ever wanted to take massively-sized photographs without lugging around a DSLR camera, I’ve got a smartphone for you. Last week, Nokia unveiled the Windows 8-powered Lumia 1020, complete with a 41-megapixel PureView camera and Carl Zeiss optics. Yep, you heard me right – 41 megapixels. The massive 41-megapixel images are processed by new Pro Camera and Smart Camera software, which are also hitting other Lumias soon. Since a 41-megapixel image is far too big for a mobile upload, the Lumia 1020 actually saves two versions of each photo you take: the full 41-megapixel image as well as a 5-megapixel version, which is far more conducive to sharing on Facebook. The rest of the Lumia 1020’s specs are good, not great: it features a 4.5-inch AMOLED display, a dual-core processor and 32 gigs of storage. If you’ve absolutely got to own the phone with the best built-in camera on the market, the Nokia Lumia 1020 will hit AT&T store shelves exclusively on July 26 for $299 with a new two-year contract.

Shelly Palmer Radio Report – July 18, 2013

T-Mobile made waves in the mobile market recently when it ended cell phone contracts and changed the way you bought new phones: no more subsidies, but rather a down payment and small monthly installments. Its new program, ‘Jump,’ takes that strategy to the next level and gives you the option to get a new smartphone twice a year. While T-Mobile customers could already buy a new phone whenever they want, they’d be on the hook for the rest of the payments on their old device. Jump waives all future payments on your old phone and lets you start fresh with a new device. For ten bucks a month – plus a trade-in of your old device – Jump lets you get a shiny new phone twice a year. The new program won’t save you much – if any – money, and you can’t gift your old phones to family or friends once you upgrade. But if you want to make sure you always have the best phone on the market, hey, you might as well Jump.

HTC Unveils the One mini: A Cheaper, Less Powerful Version of the One

HTC One mini

Responding to the call for smaller flagship-caliber smartphones, HTC is today introducing the One mini, a 4.3-inch version of its leading Android handset, the One. The physical design and onboard software remain unchanged, however HTC is aiming to price the One mini “two price points below the HTC One” and making a few downgrades en route to that goal. Among the tradeoffs you’ll have to make with the One mini is a step down to a 1.4GHz dual-core processor (Snapdragon 400), 1GB of RAM, 16GB of non-expandable storage, and the loss of NFC and optical image stabilization for the camera. The One’s IR blaster is also gone, however none of these alterations amount to a materially different user experience when the One mini is in your hands. HTC has cut corners, but done so intelligently enough to deliver “exactly the same experience” as on the company’s current Android flagship.

Read the full story at The Verge.

Verizon ‘Edge’ Gives Customers Early Upgrades on Mobile Phones

Verizon

Verizon has echoed the new pricing models of rivals T-Mobile and AT&T with its very own, called Edge. The plan will offer customers more frequent upgrades, and also ease the cost of smartphone subsidies on Verizon’s balance sheet. Verizon says the Edge device payment plan spreads the retail price of a smartphone over 24 months, and allows customers to upgrade their phone after just six months, if they’ve paid 50% of the retail price of the phone. The 24-month payment period then begins again. The program works with all of Verizon’s available smartphones, including the iPhone, and becomes available to its Share Everything customers on August 25. Shares of Verizon were down 1.7% to $49.87 on Thursday afternoon in New York. On a conference call Thursday Verizon’s chief financial officer Fran Shammo described Edge as “yet another choice” for Verizon customers, though he was light on details about how the plan would work.

Read the full story at Forbes.

Nokia Chose Windows Phone Because it Feared Samsung Would Rule Android

Nokia

Nokia’s decision in 2011 to pin the future of its smartphone business on Windows Phone has been heavily scrutinized over the years, but the reasoning behind that choice is only becoming fully clear now. When asked last week if he regretted not choosing Android, CEO Stephen Elop told reporters that he’s “very happy with the decision we made.” He added, according to The Guardian, that “What we were worried about a couple of years ago was the very high risk that one hardware manufacturer could come to dominate Android.” At the time, Nokia “had a suspicion of who it might be, because of the resources available, the vertical integration.” That company, of course, is Samsung. Elop continued, “Now fast forward to today and examine the Android ecosystem, and there’s a lot of good devices from many different companies, but one company has essentially now become the dominant player.”

Read the full story at The Verge.

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