New phone

Samsung’s new phone a mixed bag.

The Galaxy S 4, Samsung’s latest and greatest, has a cute feature we’ll probably see in a lot of phones soon: You can shoot both yourself and your surroundings at the same time, using the front- and back-mounted cameras. It’s a bit like having a two-camera film crew follow you around.

But other than that, it’s hard to point to anything that will set the world on fire in the new phone, revealed Thursday at an event in New York. The S 4 has what you’d expect from a new smartphone: a bigger screen and a faster processor. It may prove to be unfortunate that didn’t stop there when it presented the successor to its hit Galaxy S III, because the phone has a grab-bag of features that don’t come together as a pleasing whole.

The phone will go on sale sometime between late April and the end of June, from Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile USA, US Cellular and Cricket, Samsung says. If history is any guide, even smaller phone companies will get it, if not right away. The phone companies will set the prices; expect this phone to start at US$200 with a two-year contract.

Samsung provided reporters with some hands-on time with pre-production units, which revealed the S 4 to be, in terms of hardware, a solid successor to the III. The screen is slightly larger, at 5 inches on the diagonal compared to 4.8 inches for the III and 4 inches for the iPhone 5. It sports a resolution of 1920 by 1080 pixels, as much as you’d find on a high-definition TV set. This should mean that the resolution chase is over in the smartphone area: the eyes just can’t discern any more pixels on these small screens. Competing top-line Android phones already have the same resolution, so Samsung isn’t breaking new ground here.

The bigger screen is crammed into a chassis that’s actually a hair narrower and thinner than the S III’s. This is quite a feat. Samsung shrank the frame surrounding the screen to make room. Shrinking other internal components allowed it to make the battery 20 percent larger than III’s, but Samsung isn’t saying whether that translates into longer battery life – the added battery power could be eaten up by software and hardware changes.

The body is still dominated by softly moulded plastic, and the S 4 doesn’t really advance the aesthetics of its predecessor the way competitors Apple, Sony and HTC have done with their latest phones. Apple and HTC, in particular, have put a lot of sweat into machining metal into jewel-like enclosures; Samsung doesn’t seem to care all that much about looks.

Touch screen

Samsung does care about trying to push the envelope on what the phone does, but it may have poked through the envelope, tearing a hole or two in it. It’s probably not a disaster, because most of its features can be turned off, but first-time users could be confused.

For one thing, Samsung is taking the whole “touch screen” thing further by now sensing when the user’s finger is hovering over the screen. In other words, you don’t even need to touch the phone to make it react. Hovering over a thumbnail of a picture in the Gallery will reveal a bigger thumbnail, and hovering over one email in a list will show a preview of its first lines.

The idea is similar to the “mouse hover” feature on a PC, which sometimes reveals things before the mouse is clicked. Implementing it on a smartphone is trickier, though. On the PC, you have to use the mouse, so you’ll discover the hover functions in the normal course of use. But since the feature is new in a smartphone and there’s normally no reason to have your finger hovering over the screen, users are likely to discover this feature by chance. That wouldn’t be so bad if all applications responded to hovering in a consistent manner, but very few applications react to it all. On the S 4, the “Email” app will show previews, but the “Gmail” app won’t. The built-in “Gallery” app will show picture previews, but other photo apps won’t. I suspect users will get tired of trying to hover with their fingers and give up on the whole thing.

The hovering feature also sets the phone up for another problem. In my testing, I found that the phone sometimes registered a close hover as a touch. In other words, the screen was overly sensitive, thinking I was touching it when I wasn’t. This may be fixed by the time the phone is in production, but it’s potentially an annoying issue.

Red sensor

The S 4 tries to divine your intentions in two additional ways. It has an infra-red sensor that looks for hand movements up to about 4 inches away from the phone, and it uses the front-side camera to figure out if it’s front of the user’s face. Thanks to the IR sensor, the phone’s browser responds to an “up swipe” in the air above it with by scrolling up, and to a “side” swipe by jumping to another tab. This could be pretty useful when the smartphone is the lunchtime companion and you don’t want to grease it up with foody fingers, but again, the “air swipe to scroll” shows up in only a few applications.

The camera is supposed to engage when you’re watching a video, pausing playback if it thinks you’re looking away. This didn’t work in the preproduction unit I tested, but it’s hard to imagine that this is a feature to die for.

The list of user interface innovations goes on, but they don’t amount to a coherent new way of interacting with the phone. Nor do they turn the phone into something that’s intelligently aware of what goes on around it. It’s more like Samsung is throwing a bunch of technologies into the phone to see what sticks. Sometimes, that’s how progress works, but consumers might not appreciate being guinea pigs.

The S 4 presents an interesting contrast to the BlackBerry Z10, which is coming out in a few weeks. Research In Motion Ltd. jettisoned the old BlackBerry software and rebuilt it from the ground up. The phone’s hardware isn’t as impressive as Samsung’s, but the software is easy to use, and it’s based on a strong idea: taking the pain out of communicating across email, text messaging and social networks. The S 4, unfortunately, doesn’t have the same clarity of purpose.


Fujitsu Takes Your Pulse With Your Phone.
Fujitsu says its new technology could have major health and security benefits such as telling when a person is behaving strangely.
Fujitsu said simply pointing a camera at a person’s face for as little as five seconds is enough to take their pulse.
The technology automatically filters out the effect of head movements or changes caused by standing up quickly.
“Even at a busy workplace, or any time a person is sitting in front of a PC, whether for teleconferencing or writing emails, their pulse can be measured during brief moments of quiet,” the company said.

“At home, a camera built into a TV can measure the pulse of people relaxing in front of it, or a mirror for when people are getting ready in the morning.”
There are potential health and security applications for the general public.Fujistsu said pulse detectors built into gates at event sites, such as concerts, could detect people in poor health.

Detectors could also be used at control points in airports to identify anyone acting suspiciously.Fujitsu said simply pointing a camera at a person’s face for as little as five seconds is enough to take their pulse.
The technology automatically filters out the effect of head movements or changes caused by standing up quickly.
“Even at a busy workplace, or any time a person is sitting in front of a PC, whether for teleconferencing or writing emails, their pulse can be measured during brief moments of quiet,” the company said.

“At home, a camera built into a TV can measure the pulse of people relaxing in front of it, or a mirror for when people are getting ready in the morning.”There are potential health and security applications for the general public.
Fujistsu said pulse detectors built into gates at event sites, such as concerts, could detect people in poor health.

Detectors could also be used at control points in airports to identify anyone acting suspiciously.

Phone Companies

For Apple and the Phone Companies, “All a Theft Means Is Another Sale”Are Apple and Samsung helping to prevent your tablet and smartphone from getting stolen? Not according to San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón, who last week accused mobile device makers and data carriers of doing little to nothing to fix a problem that costs their customers tens of millions of dollars a year in replacement costs.

“For the manufacturer and the carriers, all a theft means is another sale,” Gascón told me. “People are going back for a second phone; there is usually an up-sale, because the model that they had is generally no longer available—so people get sucked into new contracts. At least on the surface, [the companies] appear to be very mercenary, very profit-oriented, and not very socially conscious.”

Last year, cell phones were stolen in nearly 30 percent of all robberies, according to the Federal Communications Commission. Between 2007, when the iPhone was introduced, and 2011, thefts involving cell phones in Washington, DC increased by 54 percent. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg blamed iPhone thefts for single-handedly increasing the city’s major crime rate last year. In San Francisco, nearly half of all robbery cases last year involved a mobile communication device. “People get traumatized by this,” Gascón says. “At the same time, we’re seeing young people starting to accumulate very, very serious criminal records.”

Major wireless carriers say they’re working to prevent thefts through a national registry for logging the serial numbers of stolen phones. By April 30, customers buying a new phone will be informed of ways to remotely lock the device and erase its data.

Smartphone makers

But Gascón says those efforts fall far short. He points out that many stores will jailbreak a stolen phone “no questions asked,” at which point thieves could sign it up with smaller carriers that aren’t participating in the registry. Other critics of the approach say that bad guys will just ship the stolen devices overseas.

Gascon believes that if smartphone makers really cared about preventing thefts, they’d create a way to track or shut down their devices anywhere in the world, regardless of which carrier was being used.

“That seems like something that is reachable,” Kevin Mahaffey, the chief technology officer of Lookout, a maker of anti-theft smartphone apps, told me.

Indeed, after New York’s Mayor Bloomberg blamed Apple for fueling a crime wave, the company partnered with the NYPD to track down stolen iPhones using each phone’s unique tracking number, known as its International Mobile Station Identity. Using that number, Apple can locate a phone even if it’s registered with a different wireless provider. According to the New York Post, one stolen iPad was even tracked to the Dominican Republic and recovered with the help of a cop in Santo Domingo.

But apparently, New York is the only city where Apple offers this service.

Why? Apple didn’t return a request for comment, but a reader of the tech blog Slashdot had an idea: Tracking or locking stolen phones “would reduce the likelihood of theft,” he figured, “which would in turn reduce 1) Apple street cred; 2) The need to purchase another Apple device.”

New page on Apple

Apple answers Galaxy S4 launch with new iPhone campaign.
New page on Apple’s site provides a laundry list of things that supposedly set the iPhone apart. Is the company feeling the heat from Samsung?
Samsung’s just-launched Galaxy S4 is nothing special — it’s simply another member of the wannabe-iPhone crowd. At least that’s what Apple would have you believe by way of a new marketing effort for its storied handset.

“There’s iPhone. And then there’s everything else.” reads the headline on a Web page added to Apple’s site today — two days after Samsung trotted out the S4 during a splashy (and, to some, rather puzzling) event at New York’s Radio City Music Hall.

The Apple Web page — reachable by way of a button on the Apple home page and an e-mail sent to customers — amounts to a scrollable laundry list of the things that supposedly place the iPhone above the competition. And the list may well have been influenced by Samsung’s new gadget. Among other things, the rundown:

Seems to take a potshot at what some have called the Galaxy line’s “plastic-y” feel, saying that with the iPhone, “Every detail and every material — particularly the sleek aluminum enclosure — has been meticulously considered and refined.”
Touts the iPhone’s Retina display. Samsung’s smartphones have been dinged in the past for oversaturated, candied colors (though at least one observer says the S4 is a different animal in this regard).
Takes a swipe at “other smartphones” that, while discussing camera quality “simply tout large amounts of megapixels” (the iPhone’s shooter — “the world’s most popular,” Apple claims — is 8 megapixels; the S4’s is 13).
Trumpets the number of apps available for the iPhone, saying that the iOS operating system is “the platform for over 800,000 apps that let your iPhone do even more.” If nothing else, the S4 is jammed full of new software features.

Is the new Web page a sign that Apple is sweating a bit when it comes to how phone buyers will answer the question “Does the S4 make the iPhone 5 look lame?” We’ll let you be the judge of that. As for the S4’s features, check out CNET Reviews’ FAQ and Editors’ Take on the device.

Smartphone attracted

Samsung Galaxy S4 FAQ.
Besides attracting a lot of interest, the newly introduced Samsung Galaxy S4 is generating a lot of questions. In this FAQ, CNET tackles your top queries.After a blowout event and bizarre press conference yesterday, the much-anticipated Samsung Galaxy S4 is upon us. In the run-up to its introduction the smartphone attracted huge interest and plenty of hype, which is only going to grow in the weeks until its consumer release. CNET will render our full opinion in a rated review then, but we know that you have plenty of GS4 questions in the meantime. Below are the most vital details about the handset, where it will land, and when you can get it. If you have any further questions, leave them in the comments and we’ll do our best to answer them.

What are the GS4’s most standout features?
Believe me when I say that Samsung didn’t restrain itself when adding features to the GS4. The device has just about everything you’d ever need and then some. As for basic specs, the highlights include an IR blaster, a 13-megapixel camera with 1080p HD video, a 2-megapixel front camera, a SwiftKey-powered keyboard, a powerful processor (more on that below), a 2,600mAh battery, 2GB of RAM, 64GB of internal storage with another 64GB available through the microSD card slot, NFC, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, support for 4G LTE networks. There even should be some form of LTE interoperability, which is a big deal. Exact details are to come, but that’s something that the iPhone 5 doesn’t have.

Very respectable list

Yet, it’s the oodles of software that really set the GS4 apart. Go to the First Take for the full list, but the features will include a better S Voice (a Siri-like voice assistant), S Health (fitness tracking), Group Play (wireless media sharing), S Voice Drive (hands-free voice control), S Translator (instant text and voice translation), Samsung’s ChatOn messenger app, screen-sharing, video calling, and a ton of camera tools and editing apps.

All of that amounts to a very respectable list. But to quote CNET’s Jessica Dolcourt, very few of these enhancements — except, perhaps, the TV control app — stand out as killer, must-have, cannot-possibly-live-without features.What else can you tell me about the design?
Samsung didn’t deviate from its design fundamentals with the GS4, so the plastic body remains. Samsung says it uses plastic to keep its devices affordable and easy to produce in mass numbers. Personally, I don’t consider plastic to be a deal-breaker, and it can be pretty durable, but I understand if it turns you off. Fortunately, the display shows needed improvements over the GS3’s. It’s bright, the colors are crisp and rich, and you use the touch interface while wearing gloves.

What’s different from the Samsung Galaxy S3?
Lynn La details the major spec differences here, but the short version is that the S4 is a lighter and thinner GS3 with modestly upgraded specs and more specialized software. On the whole, it looks a lot like the GS3, but it has fewer curves and the display is larger and has a higher resolution (5 inches, 1080p). Also, the battery capacity is higher (2,600mAh), the processor is faster (see next question), and the rear-facing camera gets a boost from 8 megapixels to 13. In other words, it’s a firm stride forward from the GS3 rather than a giant leap.


Will it be four-core or eight-core?
Like the GS3, the GS4 will come in two different versions. One model will run on a 1.9GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 series processor and the other will have a 1.6GHz eight-core chipset, which is Samsung’s Exynos 5 Octa silicon. Samsung has not revealed which version will land in the United States or, for that matter, any other market.

Which Android OS does it use?
At launch, the GS4 will use the latest version of Android available, Jelly Bean 4.2.2. That’s great for now, but keep in mind that Google I/O kicks off in just two months. That’s when Google should announce the next version of Android, Key Lime Pie.

Sure, we had the same situation last year — the Ice Cream Sandwich-equipped GS3 landed just before we heard about Jelly Bean — but I hope that the GS4 will get fast-tracked for an upgrade. The S4 also has Samsung’s TouchWiz overlay. (I’m not a fan.)

How does eye-tracking work?
As expected, the GS4 does have eye-tracking technology. Though this feature is rare in smartphones, the GS4 builds on the eye-tracking features we saw in the GS3. On that phone, you could keep the screen from dimming when your eyes were on it. In the GS4, however, we get a bit more. For instance, tilting the screen up or down while reading a Web site will make the page scroll accordingly. Also, the Smart Pause feature halts a video you’re watching when you look away. When you look back it will resume again. The GS4 also responds to several gestures, which Jessica details in the First Take.

Which U.S. carriers will get it?
So far, Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, and Cricket Wireless have announced that they will sell the Galaxy S4. And oddly, Ting, an MVNO that uses Sprint’s network, said even before Samsung’s event that it would sell the phone.


What about carriers in other regions?
Nic Healey of CNET Australia reports that Vodafone is “interested” in the GS4 while allowing customers to register for updates. Telstra says the device is “coming soon” and Optus has confirmed that it will carry it.

In Europe and the United Kingdom, expect the GS4 to come to Deutsche Telekom, EE, H3G, Orange, Telenor, O2, Tesco Mobile, Three, T-Mobile, Virgin Media, TeliaSonera, Telefonica, and Vodafone (exact availability will depend on country). At this time, Samsung has not announced carriers for Singapore or elsewhere in Asia. It’s clear, though, that Samsung is doing one thing right: getting the S4 to as many carriers as it can.

When can I get it?
For the most part, Samsung has promised only that the S4 will go on sale in the second quarter of this year, which could mean anytime from April 1 to June 30. U.K. residents have a firm availability date of April 26, but other operators, including those in the United States, aren’t offering any specifics. As far as I can tell, U.S. customers should expect it to launch in very late April or the first part of May. That’s about when the Galaxy S3 launched last year.

If Samsung is smart it will launch the S4 as soon as it can and not stagger the launch by carrier or region. Customers, not to mention cell phone reviewers, are tiring of vague availability promises like “the coming weeks” or “second quarter.” What’s more, in the fast-changing wireless world, the longer Samsung waits, the more likely it is that the S4 will be eclipsed by whatever flagship phone is introduced next.
How much will it cost?
We don’t know right now. It won’t be cheaper than $199 with a contract, but I’d place it more between $249 and $299. That’s well within the range of what flagship phones cost these days. Of course, the exact price will vary by market and unsubsidized models and those on prepaid carriers will cost much more.


Will it support wireless charging?
Just hit us with the difficult questions, why don’t you? It was tough to get a straight answer out of Samsung on this topic at yesterday’s event. I can report, though, that the S4 can support wireless charging, but it will be an optional feature and you’ll have to pay almost $100 to get it. As we understand it, wireless charging will require a new back cover ($39.99) and a dedicated wireless charger ($59.99). The charger is said to be slated to hit stores in April, but the back cover may not go on sale until June.

Should I buy it or wait?
That depends on what phone you have now. If you own a GS3, I don’t think it’s worth it to upgrade, even if you can get the GS4 at the subsidized price (whatever that is). If your carrier is willing to really cut you a deal by trading in your old phone, then it may be worth it, but I’d still wait a bit to see how it performs. On the other hand, if you have a phone that’s more than a couple of years old and you’ve been pining for a new flagship Android handset, then I’d give it careful consideration. For more on this question, see the latest Ask Maggie column.

Alternatively, you could wait to see what comes — and rest assured something else will come — but I always liken choosing a phone to buying a plane ticket. The options and prices in both markets change daily. So, if you see something that you like at the right price, then you might as well buy it. You may find something better the next day. But then again, you may not.

Offers comparable specs

How does it compare to the HTC One?
HTC’s newest smartphone wonder, which only launched at the beginning of February, offers comparable specs and a gorgeous all-metal design that feels sturdier and more premium. HTC doesn’t throw in many software attractions, but the One has everything that smartphone power users will need. Here’s a handy spec comparison chart.

The One should go on sale before the GS4, probably by the end of the month, but at present it’s scheduled to arrive at fewer carriers (AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile in the United States). That last point speaks to a perpetual factor in the HTC-Samsung war. While HTC’s phones can hold their own against Samsung’s devices (the One X, for example, outdid the GS3 in some ways), Samsung can far outspend HTC on marketing, advertising, and distribution. In a perfect world that wouldn’t affect which handset eventually wins in sales, but we don’t live in a perfect world. And while HTC has accused Samsung of focusing more on show than innovation, HTC still has an uphill battle to fight.

Is it better than the iPhone?
Well, hello, loaded question. We haven’t tested the GS4 yet, so I’m not going to go there. But I can say that the GS4 will take the GS3’s place as the iPhone’s biggest competition. The point here is that Samsung is doubling down on making its phones as different as from the iPhone as it possibly can. The GS4 is the biggest and most powerful Galaxy ever, it’s packed with every kind of software you can imagine, and it diligently checks every box on the list of hot smartphone trends (a large screen, an eight-core chip, and so on). Unlike Apple, Samsung has never shied away from detailing every spec and including bleeding-edge technology in its devices. The GS4 is no different. In fact, you can call it the anti-iPhone.

Senior Editor Jessica Dolcourt contributed to this report.

The company support

Microsoft to end Windows Phone 7.8 and 8 support in 2014.

The company says that Windows Phone 8’s support will end in July 2014, while Windows Phone 7.8 will continue to receive support until September.
Microsoft has put an end date on its support for Windows Phone 7.8 and Windows Phone 8.
The company’s support page lists both operating systems, and says that Windows Phone 7.8 will be supported through September 9, 2014, while Windows Phone 8 will receive support through July 8, 2014. The difference is based on Microsoft’s life cycle start date and its decision to support platforms for 18 months. Microsoft pegs the Windows Phone 8 start date at December 14 and Windows Phone 7.8 at February 9.

Windows Phone 8 is the latest and most featured-packed version of Windows Phone. Windows Phone 7.8 was the option Microsoft offered to former Windows Phone 7 owners who didn’t want to buy a new device. There’s no clear upgrade path to Windows Phone 8 from Windows Phone 7, so Windows Phone 7.8 provides some, but not all, of the features in Microsoft’s operating system.

That Microsoft is ending support for its latest operating systems next year isn’t all that surprising. The mobile space is driven by rapid operating system updates. Apple, for example, launches a new version of iOS each year. And since most consumers update their devices every two years, needing to keep operating systems updated for several years doesn’t make much sense.


Wisbech musician launches mobile phone app to reach out to fans.

Matt McChlery, 33, has launched his own mobile app for smartphones which includes a selection of his songs and brings his YouTube videos, twitter feed, blog feed, photographs, biography and all upcoming events to your phone.
Matt, a primary school teacher, has been writing and recording songs since the 1990s and has received airplay on numerous UK and international radio stations.The singer, who moved from Zimbabwe ten years ago and now concentrates on writing Christian music, is excited about the potential of the app.He said: “I only set it up last week and a few people have downloaded it already.

“I think it’s quite a useful tool because it integrates your blog feed and Twitter and allows people to listen to your music, watch your YouTube videos and keep up with your schedule.

“It might be big in the future.”In 2010, Matt was a semi-finalist in the Rock/Indie category of the UK Songwriting Competition with his song ‘All Around’.The app is for the Android smartphone and is available as a free download.


Buying a new mobile phone? Best Buy will give you a $50 gift card.

Even if you’re not planning to get your phone right away, just reserve your card now and you’ve got until the end of 2013 to make your purchase.
Thinking of buying a new cell phone sometime in the next few weeks? How about the next few months? Before the calendar strikes 2014? If you’re willing to part with a few bits of information, Best Buy will give you a $50 gift card when you buy a new phone — even if it’s not for another 11 months.

Interesting, no? I’ve seen retailers offer gift cards for purchases made within a small window, but never anything quite like this. All you do is give Best Buy your existing and active mobile or landline number and your e-mail address, anytime between now and 10 p.m. PT on February 9. (Curiously, voice-over-IP numbers are not permitted.) That effectively registers you for the promotion.Then, when you buy a new phone from Best Buy (with a two-year contract, natch) and activate it for that existing number, Best Buy will send you a gift card good for $50.

This offer is good for any phone on any carrier with any service plan. The only catch is that you have to bring over that active mobile or landline number; this won’t work if you’re buying a new phone and getting a new number.

Thankfully, there’s no real commitment here, no obligation to actually follow through. You can register for the program and then not use it; no harm done. As Best Buy’s FAQ notes: “If you don’t activate a new mobile phone, the offer simply goes away at the end of the year.”

In other words, if you get a better deal elsewhere or don’t end up buying a new phone, you’re not on the hook for anything.

Given that this year will almost certainly bring lust-worthy new phones from the likes of LG, Nokia, Samsung, and perhaps even Apple, it almost seems crazy not to sign up for the promotion. After all, if you’re going to upgrade anyway, why not get 50 bucks’ worth of Best Buy mad money to go with it?

The product

Samsung: 5M Galaxy Note 2 units sold in 2 months.

The Galaxy Note 2 has hit a new sales milestone, almost doubling the 3 million units it shipped in the first 30 days after its launch.
Samsung said today it has sold more than 5 million Galaxy Note 2 devices worldwide, just two months after the product was first released.
The Korean technology giant said in a statement (Google Translate) that sales of the part-phone, part-tablet — a so-called “phablet” — hit the milestone around a month after Samsung sold 3 million of the devices in the first 30 days after its release.
The 5.5-inch device is selling at roughly three times faster than its predecessor, the original Galaxy Note, which took three months to hit the 3 million mark.

Earlier predictions by Samsung said the device could sell as many as 20 million units — around double that of its predecessor — thanks to a partnership with 260 carriers around the world.

Despite hitting the 5 million figure, the Note 2’s sales are way behind that of the Galaxy S3: Samsung sold 20 million of its flagship smartphone in the first 100 days after its launch. Nevertheless, the Note 2’s sales are still no mean feat considering that the demand for larger 5-inch to-7-inch smartphones is significantly smaller than that for regular-sized devices.
But it’s not all been smooth-sailing for Samsung with the Note 2. Apple recently requested that the Galaxy Note 2 be added to an ongoing patent suit against Samsung, along with the Galaxy S3, and the Galaxy S3 Mini.The case is set to go to trial in 2014.


Is Nokia Lumia 920 too popular in the U.S. or is it just short in supply?

When you say something is in short supply it does not necessarily mean that it is in high demand. For Nokia Lumia 920 we could be facing such a situation, as it appears it is difficult to determine whether the highly anticipated Windows Phone 8-powered device is selling like hot cakes in the U.S. or is in short supply because Nokia simply missed its production targets.

Currently, American customers thinking of buying a Nokia Lumia 920 should think again, as the device is sold out in most online and retail outlets. Or try AT&T, which is the only mobile operator carrying the handset in the region.

For example on Amazon’s online store the device is labeled as ‘backordered’ and the site is showing the shipping time of about one to two weeks for this particular smartphone. According to The New York Times, the Lumia 920 is not available even for those buyers who want to pick it up in person from Best Buy Manhattan locations.

Moreover, publication notes that Nokia representatives have already revealed that the company was having problems in providing the newly released smartphone to tech writers who wanted to review the device for their respective news organizations. One of the reasons behind the short Nokia Lumia 920 supply in the U.S. could be that Nokia is currently focusing on the European market that has proven more reliable in the past for the company than the U.S. market.

Nevertheless, the fact that Lumia 920 went from available to the status of ‘backordered’ on Amazon in just three days after it went on sale on November 7, signifies that the device has a demand in the U.S., which certainly was not anticipated by its manufacturer. This demand gives Nokia a new hope as it has been losing the smartphone battle to Apple and other Android phone manufacturers.

When contacted, Nokia’s Spokesman Doug Dawson declined to provide details on why Lumia 920 is in short supplies. He noted that his company is working hard to meet the demand for its Windows Phone 8-powered phone. Do you agree?

Nexus 4

Google’s slick phone is a sell-out.

GOOGLE’S latest phone can’t claim to be unpopular. It sold out in Australia in 22 minutes.

It is hard to pinpoint exactly why this phone was so popular – perhaps its software, its hardware or its low price.

Made by LG, the Nexus 4 is Google’s latest reference device for Android software and features the very latest version of Jelly Bean, v4.2, before any other phone. This update adds several useful if not major additions.

Drag two fingers down the phone and new software delivers a fresh shortcuts menu to popular settings. Swipe a finger to the left when unlocking it and you can add widgets for quick access to mail, messages or calendar.

The Nexus 4’s camera has also received software additions. Tapping a round icon delivers quick access to camera settings, while a new Photo Sphere mode helpfully stitches 360-degree panoramas together automatically. This mode rarely stitched photos together seamlessly in our tests, but it was fun to use.

Software aside, the Nexus 4 is instantly recognisable as a Google device, thanks to its curved form.

Unusually, though, it features Corning Gorilla Glass 2 on the front and the back, with the rear offered a sparkly treatment.

The 4.7-inch IPS screen is much more attractive, and clearly the reason Google tapped LG for this job. It features a 320ppi resolution that is sharper than its price point should allow.

On the downside, this phone’s storage cannot be expanded, its battery is about average, the glass facade is bound to unnerve clumsy users and, unlike some other Nexus models, it does not up the power stakes.

Priced under $400, though, this slick and powerful Google phone is bound to add to its early, keen following.

Samsung Galaxy Rugby Pro

AT&T to sell rugged flip phone with push-to-talk Dec. 14 for $100.

The Samsung Rugby III will sell for $100 with a two-year contract.
Computerworld – In a sign that the flip phone and walkie-talkie functionality are still popular with some workers, AT&T announced Thursday it will sell the rugged Samsung Rugby III exclusively for $99.99 with a two-year agreement starting Dec. 14.
The flip form factor and compatibility with AT&T’s Enhanced Push to Talk (a walkie-talkie service) create a sweet spot for businesses trying to equip field workers in a range of industries as well as outdoors enthusiasts.

The 2.4-in. touchscreen display on the Rugby III is small compared to many of today’s smartphones, such as the new 4-in. iPhone 5. But screen size isn’t the priority for potential users, who AT&T thinks will want the military ruggedness, which makes it waterproof, dust proof and shock resistant.

There’s a dedicated button for access to PTT, which AT&T boasts allows communications with larger talk groups than before. There’s also one-touch access to GPS navigation through AT&T Navigator, and a 3 megapixel camera.

AT&T also sells the Samsung Galaxy Rugby Pro.

iPhone 5

Unlocked iPhone 5: Apple To Sell Smartphone Without Specific Carrier, Only Works With GSM Networks, iPhone 4, 4S Already Unlocked.

Apple has started selling an unlocked version of their iPhone 5 smartphone on their company website for the first time. This means if you purchase the phone, it will be without a specific network carrier.

Apple has previously released unlocked versions of the iPhone 4S and iPhone 4 in the past, both of which can still be purchased online. The company held true to their word when they said in September that they would be releasing an unlocked version of the phone but not for another couple months after it had been on the market through Verizon and Sprint providers already.
Apple urges customers to do their homework before purchasing the phone, because it won’t work with specific cellphone providers. The new unlocked phone will only work with supported GSM networks according to The Washington Post, and won’t work with through Sprint or Verizon. T-Mobile doesn’t currently sell the iPhone 5.

“The unlocked iPhone only works on supported GSM networks, such as AT&T in the U.S.,” Apple says on the Apple Store website. “When you travel internationally, you can also use a micro-SIM card for iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S or a nano-SIM card for iPhone 5 from a local GSM carrier. The unlocked iPhone will not work with CDMA carriers such as Verizon Wireless or Sprint.”

T-Mobile has expressed interest in selling the iPhone 5 recently as the phone has been the top-selling smartphone for the past two months. Company CEO Jim Alling said in a press release that they are waiting for “the economies to be right for us” before they consider it anymore.

T-Mobile may have to wait for the next iPhone if that is the strategy they’re going to take since rumors have circulated around the web that an iPhone 5S could be in production as early as next month.

The phone wouldn’t be on sale until probably towards the end of winter if those reports are correct, but most iPhone 5 users will probably be annoyed considering most have spent a lot of money on the current iPhone to make sure they have the latest device.

You can purchase the 16GB unlocked iPhone 5 on the Apple store for $649. The 32GB iPhone will cost users $749 and the 64GB version is going for $849.

Nokia Lumia 920

Nokia Lumia 920 ‘Sell-Out’ Claims Questioned.

One analyst thinks Nokia is keeping U.S. supplies low.
Smartphone buyers looking for the Nokia (NYSE:NOK) Lumia 920 are having a hard time finding the device. Most online vendors list the phone as “back-ordered,” and few bricks-and-mortar retailers have any in stock.

The company says it’s struggling to meet demand for the smartphone. While the apparent success of the Lumia 920, which runs Microsoft‘s (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows operating system, has raised some analysts’ hopes, another analyst says the short supply may be the result of Nokia’s distribution strategy, rather than soaring demand, The New York Times notes.
Tero Kuittinen, who studies the mobile industry, suggests that Nokia planned to distribute the phone in Europe first, leaving a lower supply for the U.S. market. He notes that the phone, which sold out on Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) within 72 hours of launching, has remained back-ordered since Nov. 7. That suggests Nokia may be constricting its supply of Lumia 920s in the U.S. due to low sales expectations.

A Nokia spokesperson told the Times that it wasn’t ready to release any U.S. sales data for the Lumia 920 and declined to comment on supply issues.

The Finnish handset maker has bet heavily on the success of its new Lumia line, hoping to fend off competition from Apple‘s (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone and phones running Google‘s (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android, which have taken an enormous bite out of Nokia’s market share.Nokia shares fell almost 2% in early Friday trading in New York.

Great start

Microsoft: Sales of Windows Phone-Based Handsets Quadruple with Windows Phone 8.

Sales of smartphones based on Windows Phone operating system have quadrupled compared to the same time last year thanks to the launch of Windows Phone 8 platform. Moreover, in many countries WP8-based handsets from Nokia and HTC are sold out. With strong sales of Windows Phone 8-powered devices, Microsoft may be able to challenge RIM in terms of market share.

“Windows Phone 8 has been on sale for a few weeks and is off to a great start. Handsets made by HTC and Nokia are getting rave reviews and have initially sold out in many countries,” said Steve Ballmer, chief executive officer of Microsoft, at Annual Shareholder Meeting, reports Bloomberg news-agency.

Actual sales of Windows Phone 8-based smartphones are still pretty low, which is why Microsoft does not disclose actual number of devices sold. Nonetheless, the company claims that shipments of Windows Phone 8 smartphones in November ’12 were four times higher compared to sales of Windows Phone 7 phones in November ’11. Provided that shipments of products powered by Windows Phone 8 continue to be strong, Microsoft will be able to significantly boost its smartphone market share.
According to Gartner, sales of Windows Mobile and Windows Phone 7 handsets were 2.759 million units in Q4 2011, which represented 1.9% market share. In case Microsoft and its partners manage to sell 10.8 million WP8-based smartphones in Q4 2012, the company will be able to challenge Research in Motion’s Blackberry platform both in terms of sales as well as market share.

Theoretically, Microsoft Windows Phone 8 may become the No. 3 smartphone operating system already this quarter provided that it leaves RIM’s Blackberry behind. Still, Windows Phone will be considerably behind Google Android and Apple iOS.

Microsoft selling

Ballmer: Microsoft selling four times as many phones as last year.

And how many is that?
Microsoft held its annual shareholder meeting this morning and while we’re sure it was exhilarating to hear CEO Steve Ballmer rattle off cash flow figures, there were some interesting tidbits to pick up.
Notably, Ballmer told the gathered group that Windows Phone 8, though young, is already helping the Softies sell four times as many phones as it did this time last year.
What Ballmer didn’t specify was exact figures – something we’ve been lacking from the company in general when it comes to its new Windows 8 platform and the hardware packing it.
We learned Tuesday that Microsoft managed to sell 40 million Windows 8 licenses since the OS’s debut Oct. 26, but other than that, the numbers for devices like the Surface tablet are missing.
Growing Ballmer also reported that the number of Windows 8 PCs has grown to 1,500, with new devices scheduled to go on sale “in the coming weeks.”
He claimed that the Windows Phone Store has more than 120,000 apps and that soon the company will hold 46 of the top 50 apps people use.Windows 8 is apparently also outpacing Windows 7 upgrades and with all the mud being slung at W8 from nearly every angle, it’s good to hear some positive news coming out of Redmond.

Windows Phone 8

Sales have quadrupled since Windows Phone 8 was introduced, says Microsoft’s Ballmer.
Steve Ballmer has said Windows Phone sales have quadrupled over last year since the introduction of Windows Phone 8. Although he didn’t provide any further information, research from 2011 can give us an idea of what that figure may be.

Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer has been talking up Windows Phone 8’s initial sales performance, saying that now the new OS has been introduced, the company is selling four times as many Windows Phone handsets than it was this time last year.

Ballmer was singing WP8’s praises at a shareholders meeting yesterday, where he was quoted as saying despite only being on sale for a few weeks, Windows Phone 8 was “off to a great start,” and handsets were “getting rave reviews.” So as not to be left out of the who’s got the least amount of stock game, he proudly added that several of the top phones have “sold out in many countries.”

What Ballmer didn’t do is put an actual number on all this, so as good as “four times the sales” sounds, it’s not quite so impressive if, say, only 54 units were sold last year. Microsoft has always been tight-lipped over Windows Phone sales figures, so we’ll have to look back at some analyst research for a clue as to its recent performance.

Strategy Analytics had Microsoft down as selling 2.7 million Windows Phone units during the September to December period of 2011, a figure with which Gartner agreed. Multiply this by four and you’ve got a figure somewhere around 10.5 million to 11.5 million, taking into account that the analyst’s figures are usually rounded for convenience.
Nokia Lumia phones prove popular

If this is an accurate estimate, it’s a distinct improvement over last year, but when Samsung sells 18 million Android-powered Galaxy S3 devices alone during a single quarter, it illustrates Microsoft still has some distance to go before the competition sweats too much. With more than $1 billion invested in its celebrity-driven marketing campaign though, expect Windows Phone 8 to be everywhere you look in the run up to Christmas.

It seems to be the fashion to have a new smartphone and/or tablet sell out as fast as possible this year, after all, the iPhone, iPad Mini, the Nexus 4, and the Nexus 10 have all done so. Nokia’s flagship Lumia 920 seems to be the WP8 phone most in demand. AT&T reported that it had sold out shortly after launch, as have carriers in Australia. In the UK, online retailer Clove Technology tweeted on November 22 that “To say Lumia 920 stock has been selling like hotcakes this afternoon would be just a bit of an understatement.” It has since said the first run sold out overnight.

Windows 8 was also briefly mentioned in amongst all the phone-based adoration, with Ballmer saying there are now 1,500 touchscreen devices – which includes both PCs and tablets – running the new desktop operating system on sale, up from the 1,000 offered at launch.

The company says

Google: Nexus 4 on sale, but high traffic causing purchase errors.

The company says heavy demand to the Google Play store is creating problems for shoppers once again trying to buy the company’s newest flagship phone.
Google’s newest flagship smartphone went back on sale this afternoon, but heavy traffic to the Google Play store caused errors for many shoppers attempting to purchase the Nexus 4.

The Nexus 4, which starts at $199 with a two-year contract, went on sale November 13 and sold out within the hour. Google did not say how many units it had made available. The phone can be purchased directly through T-Mobile or without a contract from Google Play starting at $299. The unlocked phone can also run on AT&T’s network.

Shoppers who had signed up for notification when the device went back on sale received an e-mail letting them know the Nexus 4 would be back in stock and on sale starting at noon Pacific time today. But within a minute, the device appeared to be out of stock. Some users who managed to get the Nexus 4 into their shopping carts were unable to finish checking out.

In response to questions from CNET, Google said that heavy traffic to the Google Play store had created errors for users. The device is not sold out, Google said, and the company encouraged would-be Nexus 4 owners to try again later. As of 1:05 p.m. PT, the device was still showing a “sold out” message.

Reported sold

iPhone 5 Expected to Sell Out Before Christmas 2012.

Those Tech Guys have researched the iPhone 5 and its sellout of initial stock in September. Over 5 million units were reported sold during the initial release and new units have been manufactured. While no sales data has been released for Christmas, the iPhone 5 is expected to sell out again before the end of the holiday season. Those Tech Guys found that one retailer online had these phones in stock and at a lower price than the Apple online store.

The iPhone 5 is superior to the earlier versions according to reports online. One of the the most commented on features by actual users online is the dual core processor. This technology has been used inside of other Apple products for the past 7 years.

Apple decided to upgrade its processor in the iPhone 5 to the new dual core processor to speed up this phone.

Those Tech Guys reviewed the iPhone 5 features and found that the size of the storage space has increased from earlier versions. The ability to stream movies and audio over a mobile broadband connection does require a device with sufficient storage space.

The size of the storage has been upgraded from 8 GB in earlier models to 16 GB in the basic edition to ensure sufficient space is available.

High definition video is one of the features that users of the iPhone 5 receive. HD video is becoming more popular in both online and offline applications. The 4-inch retina display offers viewers of video or applications a clearer viewing area compared to other models. Those that are searching for a replacement for an iPhone 4 are likely to find the specs of the new iPhone 5 to be appealing.

The 225 hours of standby time for the new iPhone battery is one of its highlights apart from technological advancements according to Those Tech Guys. This extended up-time for a smartphone is not found on similar devices.

Some users of the iPhone 5 report this feature is one that has helped to resolve a tough purchasing decision between the iPhone, Samsung or Google Nexus phones.

The retail list price remains at $199 according to Those Tech Guys. The report released revealed that some dealers sell locked and unlocked iPhones. This feature provides the flexibility to switch phone carriers regardless of a person’s current provider. The prices were found to fluctuate with these models although top retailers typically sell locked iPhones.

Those Tech Guys are scheduled to continue to monitor the sales of the iPhone 5 for Christmas and add last minute price reductions or inventory changes to help consumers buying gifts online.


HTC, Nokia Windows Phone 8 Devices On Sale.

Microsoft’s latest smartphone platform, Windows Phone 8, is now available as several carriers start selling devices from HTC and Nokia.It’s finally here. Windows Phone 8. The latest and greatest mobile operating system from Microsoft is available for sale in the U.S. Here’s where and when you can get your hands on the new platform.

Windows Phone 8 is debuting first at the nation’s two largest wireless network operators, AT&T and Verizon Wireless. Both have started to sell several different models. T-Mobile USA is following up with its own device launches next week. Sprint is sitting Windows Phone 8 out for the moment. It is taking a wait-and-see approach to the newest platform from Microsoft and hasn’t committed to selling it.There are three main devices hitting stores this week and next: the HTC Windows Phone 8X, and the Nokia Lumia 920 and 820.

AT&T — AT&T is selling the HTC Windows Phone 8X, the Lumia 920 and the Lumia 820 in its stores. They are also available for purchase online.The HTC 8X comes in several color and storage variants. The device is being sold in California Blue and LimeLight Yellow. The blue can be purchased with 8 GB or 16 GB of storage, and the yellow can be purchased only with 8 GB. The 8-GB models cost $99.99 with a new contract and the 16-GB model costs $199.99 with a new contract.
The Lumia 920 is sold in several different colors as well, but 32 GB is the only storage option. AT&T has priced it aggressively at $99.99 with a new contract. The Lumia 920, Nokia’s flagship smartphone for the rest of the year, is exclusive to AT&T.

The Lumia 820 only comes in black and costs $49.99 with a new contract.T-Mobile USA — T-Mobile is offering the HTC 8X and the Nokia Lumia 810, which is a variant of the 820. It is launching both devices on November 14. The prices below are the final cost after applying a $50 mail-in rebate.

The HTC 8X costs $199.99 with one of T-Mobile’s standard post-paid plans. It comes with 16 GB of storage.The Lumia 810 costs $149.99 with one of T-Mobile’s standard post-paid plans.

T-Mobile is also offering both with what it calls a “Value Plan.” The Value Plans require a down payment on the device and then a $20-per-month payment toward the cost of the device in addition to the cost of the plan itself. Using this method, the 8X requires a $150 down payment and the 810 requires a $100 down payment.

Verizon Wireless — Verizon Wireless has made its version of the HTC 8X and the Nokia Lumia 822 (also a variant of the 820) available for preorder. You can’t pick one up in Verizon’s retail stores this week, but if you preorder the device it will ship November 13. Prices for the Verizon models falls in line with that of other carriers.The HTC 8X is being sold for $199.99 with a new contract. It comes with 16 GB of storage, in black, blue, and red variants.
The Lumia 822 is being sold for $99.99 with a new contract.
All the phones run Windows Phone 8 and have most of the same software features. The Nokia WP8 handsets have access to some features the HTC don’t, including the ESPN Hub, Nokia Drive, Nokia Transport and other Nokia-made navigation tools.


Internet Explorer 8, Windows XP Get The Boot From Google.

We know YOU are a tech-savvy individual with recent and modern versions of your software. It keeps you buzzing along in the fast lane of the internet and safe from spammers and crooks hiding in the sidelines.

However you probably know of someone who refuses to click the upgrade button, ignores the pleas to join the 21st century and is blind to modern software long after everyone else has moved on. Well maybe Google can help you see the light, err, I mean help your friend that is.

Fans of Google’s web-based apps who insist on operating IE8 will, as of November 15 of this year, be left in the dust. So say goodbye to Gmail, farewell to Docs, and arrivederci to Calendar.

“As we announced last year, we support the latest version of Google Chrome (which automatically updates whenever it detects that a new version of the browser is available) as well as the current and prior major release of Firefox, Internet Explorer and Safari on a rolling basis,” wrote a Google representative in a Friday blog post. “Each time a new version of one of these browsers is released, we begin supporting the update and stop supporting the third-oldest version.”

Google doesn’t note the compatibility issues that could happen following the transition but users accessing Google apps with IE8 will start to see messages indicating that they should upgrade their browser, writes David Murphy for PC Mag.

Unfortunately for them, IE8 is the most up-to-date version of IE that can run on Windows XP, an operating system that some corporate environments maintain. According to the latest global numbers from StatCounter, IE8 still has a market share of 13.7 percent as of August, almost double the market share of IE7 when Google killed off support for that browser in July of last year.

In doing so, writes Zack Whittaker for ZDNet, Google is challenging the IT departments of colleges, schools, businesses and even government departments to modernize.

This modernization however may inadvertently boost Google’s competitor Microsoft, by pushing Windows 7 sales, seen by many as safe middle-ground between Windows Vista and the forthcoming game-changing Windows 8.


Apple’s Lightning Connector Heralds the End of Docks.

Apple’s (AAPL) announcement that it is abandoning its 30-pin connector—first introduced on the original iPod all the way back in 2001—has got some users and media types in high dudgeon. Why? The new connection standard—called “Lightning” by Apple—is incompatible with the older cable.

It’s never awesome when a manufacturer or industry switches standards and makes people spend money to move to the new one. It also happens all the time: Records begat cassettes, which begat CDs, which begat downloadable music files. Floppies gave way to thumb drives and downloads. Fortunately, the republic seems to withstand such changeovers.

Apple will be including a free Lightning-to-USB cable with all new iPhone 5s, so you can still plug the phone into electrical outlets, PCs, and other devices with a USB port to charge it. On the other hand, all those docks, speakers and other bases for an iPhone will be useless with an iPhone 5 unless you buy a $29 adapter or a $39 cable.

Still, the switching of a connection standard raises a question beyond “How will I get my iPhone to work with all my docks?” That question is: “Why am I docking my iPhone at all?”

For starters, you haven’t had to connect an iPhone to a Mac or PC to sync or back it up since iOS 5 came out last October. A feature called Wi-Fi Sync means that if your phone and computer are on the same Wi-Fi network (and iTunes is running on your computer), your phone can automatically sync to it wirelessly (go to Settings/General/iTunes Wi-Fi Sync).

If you have an iCloud account, you can back up your phone to the cloud so long as your phone is connected to a power source, is on a Wi-Fi network, and its screen is locked (go to Settings/iCloud/Storage & Backup).

So that takes care of the important stuff—making sure your data is secure should something happen to your phone. But what about other issues such as playing music?

It’s easy enough to buy music from iTunes on your iPhone. And with apps from Pandora (P (P)), Spotify and others, it’s also easy to stream music without a PC as well. Even if you don’t keep all your music on your phone, Apple’s free remote app lets you control iTunes on a computer from your phone when they’re both on the same Wi-Fi network.

Then there’s the matter of speaker docks, which have been popular for years. But the latest speakers dispense with a dock entirely, connecting wirelessly to your iPhone or iPod Touch via Bluetooth or AirPlay, Apple’s proprietary wireless standard. The advantages to this are many: Your phone is not anchored to a device, so it’s as much a remote control as it is a source of music. Some wireless speakers feature controls on the speaker itself. Jawbone’s Big Jambox, for example, has volume and playback controls on the top of the speaker; the phone can be in your pocket, but anyone can change tracks or adjust the volume from the speaker itself. There are plenty of other wireless speakers, from such makers as Bose, Bowers & Wilkins and Bang & Olufsen.

If you have an Apple TV, you can send video content from your iPhone to a large LCD or plasma display. The iPhone becomes a sort of super-remote control, and none if it requires a cable. (It does, to be fair, require an Apple TV, which costs $99.)

Really, about the only place where a wired connection is totally necessary is the car. While the iPhone can use Bluetooth for its phone capabilities, music functions still have to go through a wired connection. But that seems likely to change—the trend here is for more things to become wireless, not fewer.

So if you don’t have to plug in to sync, backup, play music, or watch video, what do you really need to plug in for? Apple gave its new connector a jazzy name by calling it Lightning, but its purpose is far more ordinary than that. With almost all connections becoming wireless ones, Lightning is little more than a very well-designed power cord.


Consumer conundrum: Recycling old cell phones.
Nine in 10 American adults own a mobile phone, according to the Pew Internet Project, and of those nearly half own smartphones.

But with Apple (AAPL) and other phone makers constantly upgrading their models, you’ve probably got an older mobile phone — or several — gathering dust in a desk drawer.

What to do with it?

Electronic waste, known as e-waste, is a growing problem. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates American consumers discarded 2.37 million tons of e-waste in 2009. Roughly 25 percent was collected for recycling; the rest was disposed in landfills or shipped overseas to developing countries.

Now several companies are trying to help consumers responsibly dispose of their old mobile phones. Each has a slightly different business model, and some still ship the phones or some components overseas. But whichever company you choose for recycling your old phone, make sure to erase any personal data and terminate the service contract before you drop it off or mail it in. is a Web-based company that buys old gadgets, including mobile phones, and tries to keep them working for as long as possible. Gazelle either resells the gadgets through retail channels like eBay or turns them over to wholesale partners. Consumers ship old phones to Gazelle, and the company

determines if it has any value. If it does, it pays consumers via check, Amazon gift guard or PayPal. Based in Boston, Gazelle estimates that the worldwide market for “re Commerce” will be $100 billion by 2014.

San Diego-based ecoATM has installed kiosks in local malls to collect cell phones and MP3 players. If it decides a device has value, the kiosk pays cash for it on the spot. EcoATM has about 150 kiosks in malls nationwide, including 60 in California and six in the Bay Area.

Roughly 25 percent of what ecoATM collects is no longer useful and destined for smelters, who melt the gadgets down and extract the precious metals, according to Mark Bowles, chief marketing officer for ecoATM. The other 75 percent is refurbished and finds a second life. Of those, ecoATM sells about half in the domestic market and the other half abroad.

“The whole world is moving up the smartphone chain,” said Bowles. “Most of our competitors are focused on a handful of models. We take back anything that we recognize as a phone, even if its broken or old.”

I recently tried ecoATM’s kiosk in the food court of the NewPark Mall off Interstate 880 in Newark. My husband’s ancient Palm Treo had been sitting in a drawer in our home office for years, and we didn’t know what to do with it.

EcoATM asked me to swipe my driver’s license to verify my identity — the company doesn’t want the kiosks to become a dumping ground for stolen phones. Once that was done, I placed the Treo into a drawer. EcoATM scanned the device and searched for the highest price on the worldwide market.

Alas, the kiosk said that my husband’s old Palm Treo had “zero” value. But that was partially my fault. The Treo has been turned off for ages, and ecoATM, which offers device-compatible cable connections which allows it to analyze whether or not the device boots, may not have been able to fully recognize the Treo without the battery charged.

One good thing about the ecoATM process is you can cancel it at any time, so I kept the phone and am still trying to figure out how to dispose of it. Of course, I can try ecoATM again and decide to donate it to them, even if the Treo is worthless.

Barbara Kyle of the Electronic TakeBack Coalition, which promotes green design and responsible recycling in the electronics industry, warns that many companies that reclaim old devices often end up dumping them in developing countries, where there are fewer environmental regulations governing the safe disposal of toxics and e-waste.

Cell phone

 insurance outside carriers’.

Q: James Temple’s cautionary tale in The Chronicle last week about the theft of his iPhone convinced me that I need insurance for my smartphone. But when I called Verizon (my carrier), they said I would have had to sign up for insurance at the time I got the phone earlier this year. What other options do I have?

A: Phone insurance, like most other insurance, falls into the category of necessary evil. It protects you from loss or theft, and it covers you if you drop your phone, mortally wounding Siri and the rest of the device. These things are not covered under phone warranties, which generally are limited to manufacturing issues.

With most carriers, you must opt for insurance within a month of buying or upgrading a phone. So in a case like yours, the solution is insurance from a company like They charge $8 a month – about a dollar more than carrier prices – for comprehensive insurance that includes loss and theft coverage. And you can sign up any time during the first year you own your phone.

Now, here’s a caveat that applies to every insurance plan that I’ve found, carrier or not: If your phone is lost, stolen or damaged beyond repair, the insurer reserves the right to replace it with a refurbished model instead of a new one. How’s that for cheeky?

Q: The price of ink for our printer is killing us. We buy cartridges by the set to save a little money, but a set of color cartridges can cost upward of $70, and that doesn’t even include black. How we can reduce the cost without having to drastically reduce the amount of printing we do?

A: Like razors and razor blades, companies make little profit on printers but a tremendous profit by gouging consumers on ink. The printer manufacturers insist that their ink is the best for their printers, and third-party cartridges might not even work.

The fact is that third-party cartridges generally work as well as their brand-name counterparts. But I have what I think is a better option for you. When your printer cartridges run out, take them to Costco or Walgreens to have them refilled. You could save more than half the price of new cartridges, and the refilled cartridges should work just like new ones.

However, before you leap for your car keys, be aware that the aforementioned stores don’t refill every brand of cartridge. You can take Dell, HP and Lexmark cartridges to either Walgreens or Costco, and Costco also does Canon. But neither store will handle Epson cartridges, which contain chips that prevent them from being reused.

Q: We recently retired our old PC and bought a Mac, which we love. Because we are of the senior generation and both of us suffer from arthritis, we were using an ergonomic keyboard. The problem is that Apple doesn’t make one, so we’re looking for an alternative ergonomic keyboard we can use with the new Mac. I probably should add that neither of us speaks computer, and when we need something to be set up or fixed we ask our kids. Also, we have always used wired keyboards, and wish to continue doing so. What do you recommend?

A: Ironically, the solution to your dilemma comes from the company that once upon a time was Apple’s arch enemy – Microsoft. The Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000 is the latest version of the keyboard you probably were using with your PC. It lists for $50, and yes, it is wired, not wireless. You will need a Mac OS driver for the keyboard, which you (or one of your kids) can download for free from

Q: Do you think the Windows Phone will ever get mentioned/compared favorably with Android or iPhone?

A: Sure. In fact, the first smartphones based on Microsoft’s Windows Phone operating system have drawn favorable reviews. I would expect that the next version of the OS, Windows Phone 8, also will elicit smiles when it debuts later this year on phones made by Nokia, Samsung and HTC.

The question is whether Microsoft has sat on the sidelines too long to mount a comeback against Android and the iPhone, which now dominate the mobile phone market. Windows Phone 8 – which will share the look and feel of the new Windows 8 OS for computers and tablets – will succeed only if app developers take a shine to it. Plus, handset makers will have to embrace and promote it. We’ll have to wait and see.


570-megapixel camera to study dark energy.

The first images from a phone-booth-sized 570-megapixel camera mounted on a telescope in Chile were released Monday as part of a five-year survey to help scientists figure out why the universe is speeding up.
The Dark Energy Camera is able to see light from over 100,000 galaxies up to 8 billion light years away in each snapshot. It has an array of 62 charged-coupled devices.
The camera CCDs are constructed specifically to be sensitive to longer wavelengths of light (the red end of the spectrum) from distant galaxies and stars, which will help astronomers probe the nature of dark energy and the accelerating expansion of the universe.
The fact that the expansion of the universe is accelerating, rather than slowing down, remains one of the biggest mysteries of physics. According to Einstein’s theory of relativity, gravity should lead to a slowing of the expansion.
The speedup is thought to be due to an exotic form called dark energy that fills approximately 75 percent of the universe and exerts a gravitational force that works in opposition to gravity. But what, precisely, dark energy is and why it’s causing cosmic expansion, is unclear.
Over the next five years, the Dark Energy Camera at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile will create detailed color images of one-eighth of the sky to discover and measure 300 million galaxies, 100,000 galaxy clusters and 4,000 supernovae.
Members of the Dark Energy Survey will use the images to study the nature of dark energy via handful of technique that allow them to measure the expansion of the universe and the forces at play.Scientists first learned of the accelerating expansion in 1998 thanks to studies of supernovae light that appeared to have been stretched on its way to Earth, suggesting the universe had also stretched.
The findings have been backed up with studies of galaxies and galaxy clusters showing they are receding from each other.
The Dark Energy Survey will, for the first time, make all four techniques used to probe dark energy possible in a single experiment.
The “first light” images released Monday illustrate that the camera is working. After a few months of testing, the experiment will get underway in December.
John Roach is a contributing writer for NBC News Digital. To learn more about him, check out his website. For more of our Future of Technology series, watch the featured video below.

Sell your cellphone

Say hello to a new way to sell your cellphone.
Been thinking of upgrading to a new cellphone? You may be in luck. Almost 150 new, artificially intelligent kiosks that buy back people’s old cellphones have been installed in malls in several U.S. states. Users get cash for their phones, while the unwanted devices get a second life, which keeps the phones’ toxic metals out of landfills.

EcoATM founder Mark Bowles came up with the idea after reading that only three percent of people worldwide have ever recycled a cellphone, he told InnovationNewsDaily. “I thought about my own case. Why didn’t I do it?” he said. “I didn’t know where to do it and I didn’t have an incentive.”

EcoATM aims to answer both problems by putting recycling kiosks “in people’s normal paths” and by giving people an alluring reward: “Immediate cash, on the spot,” Bowles said.

To use an ecoATM machine, users place their unwanted devices on the machine’s scanner. EcoATMs deploy computer vision and artificial intelligence to recognize more than 4,000 makes and models of phones, chargers and other accessories. The machines also assess damage to the devices, sorting them into one of eight categories of conditions. [Do-It-Yourself Cat Door Recognizes Your Feline]

From there, the computer system estimates a value for the device. Possible payouts range from $1 to $250, according to the ecoATM website. Users who want to go through with the trade choose either cash or store credit, or donate the value to one of several charities.

On the other end of the trade, ecoATM has relationships with international companies that have pre-bid on phones in different conditions. Those partners resell phones in good condition, mostly to American customers, Bowles said. Three-quarters of the phones ecoATM processes are reused, according to the company. The other 25 percent are recycled for their precious metals and electronic components.

“The ecoATM project is an extremely innovative way to motivate the public with an incentive to do the right thing with discarded electronics, both socially and environmentally,” Glenn Larsen, an officer who oversees National Science Foundation grants to ecoATM, said in a statement. The foundation has supported ecoATM with two grants for small businesses. EcoATM is otherwise funded by private investors.

Getting a computer program to distinguish between phones was no easy feat, Bowles said. “A lot of these phones are just a dark sheet of glass that’s a rectangle,” he said. In addition, blemishes to the phones’ screens, such as smudgy fingerprints and cracked glass, will look similar to a computer program, even though they mean very different things for the valuation of the phone, he explained.

To make its judgments, the ecoATM kiosk subjects each phone to a series of visual tests, lighting the phone in different ways. It also asks users to plug in their phones for an electronic evaluation, after automatically offering users the correct plug.

EcoATM’s computer algorithms accurately recognize phone models and classify damage 97.5 percent of the time, according to the National Science Foundation. The algorithms are able to learn from mistakes, so that number may improve in the future. The company plans to continue researching how to improve accuracy.

EcoATM’s kiosk locator lists almost 150 locations in Washington, California, Colorado, Texas, Georgia and on the East Coast. The company plans to have 300 machines in place by the end of the year.

New models

Cell phone makers unveil new models for holidays.

Cell phone makers are vying for attention this week as they unveil new models for the holidays. The rush is on this week because Apple will debut its next iPhone next week in San Francisco. Most people think of their cell phones as indispensable because they’re a lot more than phones these days. They play music, work as alarm clocks, take photos, and run all kinds of applications. And, the battle for supremacy has launched a cell phone war.

There are plenty of choices for cell phones and smartphones, yet everyone seems to have a preference. iPhone? “Yeah,” Lauren Mitchell says. Android? “Nay,” she says. Nokia? “Eh,” the San Jose State University student replies.

That’s not what Nokia wants to hear. It just unveiled two new models in New York called the Lumia 920 and the Lumia 820 as it claws its way back to the hearts of consumers. It used to be a dominant brand. Today, it’s not even in the top five. An explosion of new cell phone models is under way. Samsung and Sony showed off new phones last week. It was Nokia and Motorola on Wednesday. Apple’s turn is next Wednesday for the iPhone 5. Asked why she gave a “yeah” to the Apple iPhone Mitchell says, “Because everybody has one.” Tech blogs have been speculating the next iPhone will have a larger screen and a new connector for charging and synching. Following the crowd appears to be a compelling reason shy brands are bought. conducted a survey of 1,300 people who indicated that 45 percent of them will buy the new iPhone 5, while 31 percent won’t. After that, 24 percent are undecided.

Art education major Hannan Towles is among the those who won’t upgrade from her iPhone 4S. “Usually, it’s just a few tweaks that they change in the newer version, so I’m pretty happy with the version I have,” she says.

Jake Achee is an Android user but he too tries to restrain the urge to buy the latest models. “As much as I have that kind of feeling to go buy the new one, I have to sit back and say OK, is my current device, is it meeting my needs? And it usually is,” he says.

Cell phone makers recognize that new technology tends to unleash consumer spending. “They seem to be completely open to spending more money for technology. They’re lacking in price sensitivity when it comes to improving the technology that they use in their life,” consumer psychologist and professor Kit Yarrow says.

Some of the new models will begin hitting stores as early as late next week. Look for plenty of advertising, promotion, and buzz.


NFC: What’s the Use?

I tried to find a use for Samsung’s TecTiles, I really did.
But after weeks of futzing with the NFC tags, the only practical application I found was using them to automatically set the alarm clock on my smartphone before I went to bed. And even then, it only saved me about seven seconds worth of effort.
TecTiles are practically a case study of a solution looking for a problem.
I ran this critique past Ryan Bidan, director of product marketing at Samsung. Instead of trying to convince me of the NFC tags’ utilitarian functions, he conceded that “it’s really just about this idea of people having their phone, and getting used to having it interact with the physical world.”
“As it relates to usability and practicality, it’s a work in progress,” he said.
TecTiles are NFC tags that can be affixed to various objects and then programmed to perform a certain function. The app that manages the stickers offers assorted functions that control phone settings, place phone calls, send pre-set text messages, share contact information and check in to Foursquare or Facebook, among other capabilities. TecTiles work with an assortment of Samsung Android smartphones with NFC, including the Galaxy S III.
For instance, a business could place one of the NFC stickers on a store counter, allowing customers with compatible phones to check in to Foursquare simply by placing their phone over the tag.

Product executive

When I first spoke with Samsung about its TecTiles shortly after their launch in June, product executive Nick DiCarlo told me the stickers were aimed at familiarizing consumers with the act of using their smartphone to interact with NFC tags. A laudable goal, for sure, especially given operators’ designs on NFC-based mobile payments.

The problem is that the TecTiles don’t have much to offer in the way of convenience. Most of functions they replace – launching apps, checking in to social media sites, changing phone settings – take just seconds to perform normally, so there’s not really a compelling reason to find a whole new way to do them.

Sure, I could program a sticker to automatically send my fiancé a message that I’m home from work. But it takes just a couple seconds to text “I’m home,” so why bother? Yes, being able to set my phone’s alarm clock just by placing it on the nightstand was nice, but mainly because I’m extraordinarily lazy at bedtime.

If my experience was any indication, the average consumer is going to struggle to come up with reasons to use TecTiles, especially reasons that justify their $3-per sticker price. The industry might want to look for additional ways to spread the word about NFC.

Bidan said Samsung is looking at ways to increase TecTiles utilitarian value and will update its Android app to reflect feedback from users. He declined to provide sales numbers for the tags.

“We took the first path, now we’re letting the community drive what those use cases will look like,” Bidan said. Samsung has already refined the TecTile app for AT&T subscribers with a new user interface, simplified language and the ability to change multiple phone settings simultaneously, and the update is slated to roll out to additional operators in November.


Given that NFC is the core technology behind operator’s mobile payment schemes and mobile payments are seen as a potentially huge growth opportunity for the industry, just how worried should we be that NFC stickers aren’t exactly the hottest new thing in mobile accessories? Not very.

Unlike the mobile wallet, which offers immediate value to the consumer in the form of convenience and instant discounts, TecTiles are more of a novelty. They provide a new way to do things that consumers were already accomplishing just fine without the stickers. Once I send the Galaxy S III and leftover TecTiles back to Samsung, their absence won’t leave a void in my life.

But if I had been using that phone as my mobile wallet, especially one that automatically handled all my rewards programs, you bet I’d want to keep it around.

Consumers don’t tend to adopt technology if it lacks tangible value, whether that’s in the form of convenience or entertainment. Think back to the early days of wireless: people bought hideously expensive phones the size of bricks because the value of mobile technology was so compelling. Once those phones shrunk to candy-bar size, even grandma got on board.

If operators are lucky, that’s what will happen with NFC-based mobile payments. TecTiles just might not be the way we get consumers comfortable with NFC.


Game machine, phones, tablets for the holidays.

Makers of consumer electronics have been refreshing their products for the holiday shopping season. Apple unveiled a new iPhone, while Amazon started selling new tablet computers and e-readers. Nintendo offered details for the first major game console in years.

These are some of the gadgets to expect in the coming months:


Orders for the iPhone 5 started last week. The new phone is bigger, but thinner than previous models and works with faster cellular networks known as 4G.

Apple Inc. began taking orders at 3 a.m. EDT Friday, promising delivery by this Friday, when the new phone also goes on sale in stores. Within hours, the expected delivery time had grown to two weeks. Apple said Monday that orders topped 2 million in 24 hours, more than double the amount for last year’s iPhone.

Apple is also updating its phone software and will ditch Google Inc.’s mapping service for its own. Besides appearing on the new phone, the new iOS 6 software will be a free upgrade for older devices, including the past three iPhones and the past two iPads. That upgrade will be available starting Wednesday.

Sales of Apple’s iPhones are still strong, though the company lost the lead in smartphones to Samsung this year. Samsung Electronics Co. benefited from having its Galaxy S III out in the U.S. in June. A new iPhone will allow Apple to recapture the attention and the revenue.


Apple has done well selling its full-sized tablet computer, which has a screen that measures nearly 10 inches diagonally. Many companies have come out with iPad alternatives, but the ones that have had moderate success have tended to be those with smaller, 7-inch screens and lower price tags.

There’s speculation that Apple will come out with a mini iPad — possibly with a 7.85-inch screen — to maintain its dominance. Although Apple said nothing about it last week when it revealed the iPhone 5, the belief is that it will come this fall.


— REKINDLING THE FIRE Inc.’s 7-inch Kindle Fire is one of the smaller tablets with decent sales. On Friday, it started shipping an updated version with a faster processor, more memory and longer battery life. It also cut the price to $159, from $199, making it far cheaper than the iPad, which starts at $399 for the 2011 version still on sale. (The most recent ones start at $499.)

Amazon is also releasing higher-end models under the Kindle Fire HD line. A 7-inch one goes for $199 and an 8.9-inch one for $299. There’s also a $499 model that can use the 4G cellular networks that phone companies have been building. A data plan will cost an extra $50 a year. The smaller HD model started shipping Friday, while the larger ones will be available Nov. 20.

Buyers of the Fire HD will get the option to turn off the advertisements that appear on its standby screen for $15.

Amazon also refreshed its line of stand-alone e-readers, offering the Paperwhite, with its own light source. Tablets such as the iPad and the Fire don’t work as well in bright light because they are lit from the back. Amazon says the light on the Paperwhite is directed down at the display.

Barnes and Noble Inc., which makes the 7-inch Nook Tablet, may have an update this fall as well.

Toys R Us, meanwhile, is making a 7-inch tablet aimed at children. The Tabeo will go on sale Oct. 21 for $149.99.


Though it’s a pioneer in the cellphone industry, Motorola hasn’t had a hit since the Razr phone came out in 2004. Under new owner Google Inc., Motorola Mobility is trying to change that.

This month, Motorola announced three new smartphones bearing the Razr name. The $99 Droid Razr M is now on sale. Two high-end models, the Razr HD and Razr Maxx HD, are coming this year.

These are the first major products from Motorola since Google bought the company for $12.4 billion in May. Google, meanwhile, continues to sell a 7-inch Android tablet, the Nexus 7, made in partnership with AsusTek Computer Inc.

New version


Microsoft Corp. will release a new version of the Windows operating system on Oct. 26, one that’s designed to work on both traditional computers and tablet devices. A new version of the Windows Phone system is coming out, too.

Once-dominant phone maker Nokia Corp. has been struggling in the shadow of Apple and Android, and it’s counting on the new Windows system for a revival. This month, Nokia and Microsoft unveiled two new devices under Nokia’s Lumia brand — the 820 and the 920.

Nokia CEO Stephen Elop says the new phones will go on sale in the fourth quarter in “select markets.” He didn’t say what they will cost.

Samsung, which surpassed Nokia as the world’s largest maker of mobile phones in 2011 and overtook Apple in smartphones this year, showed off a Windows 8 phone late last month. It didn’t announce an availability date either.


Microsoft plans its own tablet computer, too. It’s new territory for Microsoft, which typically leaves it to others to make devices using its software. Now, it will be competing against its partners.

The Surface tablet will come in two versions, both with 10.6-inch screens, slightly larger than the iPad’s. One model will run on phone-style chips, just like the iPad, and will be sold for a similar price. A heavier, more expensive version will run on Intel chips and be capable of running standard Windows applications. The Surface will go on sale on Oct. 26.



A year ago Research In Motion Ltd. disclosed that it was working on a next-generation phone system for the BlackBerry, which now looks ancient next to the iPhone and Android devices. It was supposed to be out in time for this year’s holiday season. That won’t happen.

In June RIM pushed the release of BlackBerry 10 devices into early next year, saying it wasn’t ready. That means RIM will not only compete with the new iPhone and Android devices out this fall, but it will also have to contend with the new Windows devices.


Nintendo’s new Wii U game machine will go on sale in the U.S. on Nov. 18. A basic, white model will cost $300. A deluxe version, which comes in black and sports extra features, will cost $50 more. The GamePad touch-screen controller for it will offer new ways to play.

In “New Super Mario Bros. U.,” for example, players holding the old Wii controllers control Mario, Luigi and other characters. The person with the GamePad can help them along by using a stylus to create stepping stones for the characters or stun enemies.

Players can also turn off the TV entirely and play on the GamePad.

Nintendo Co. has been trying to drum up excitement for the Wii U, the first major gaming console to launch since 2006.

The company also announced new entertainment features for the console. Called Nintendo TVii, the service collects all the ways users have to watch movies, TV shows and sports. This includes pay-TV accounts along with services such as Hulu and Netflix. The GamePad works as a fancy remote controller and will let viewers comment on what they are watching.

TVii will be available Nov. 18 as well, at no extra cost.


T-Mobile launches campaign to lure iPhone users.

T-Mobile USA, the only “Big 4″ phone company that doesn’t sell the iPhone, now wants to snag used ones from AT&T.
Starting Wednesday, when Apple is expected to reveal a new iPhone model, T-Mobile will start advertising that AT&T iPhone owners who are out of contract can switch to T-Mobile.
“We expect that consumers will start trading in older devices,” said Harry Thomas, T-Mobile’s director of marketing. “For every person waiting in line for the next model, a lot of them have to find a secondary market for that older device.”
Apple Inc. hasn’t said anything about a new iPhone, but it is expected to announce the iPhone 5 at an event it has scheduled in San Francisco on Wednesday. Sales would likely start later this month.
Signing an iPhone up for T-Mobile service has been possible for years, and the company says it has more than a million iPhones on its network. But they suffer a big penalty in data speeds, taking about 50 times longer to download files than on AT&T Inc.’s network.
This year, T-Mobile is reshuffling the frequencies on its network, which will let it match or even exceed AT&T’s data speeds on iPhones. For now, that will be evident only in a few spots here and there in such cities as New York, Seattle, Las Vegas and Washington.
Sprint and Verizon iPhones of the “4” model won’t work on T-Mobile’s network at all. The later iPhone 4S will work if it’s been hacked, but that’s not something T-Mobile wants to get into.
AT&T iPhones have to be unlocked using codes that AT&T will supply after the customer’s contract is up.
T-Mobile, the U.S. cellphone business of Deutsche Telekom AG of Germany, has bought 3,000 iPhones and spread them out in its stores, so salespeople can demonstrate the iPhone working.
T-Mobile’s pitch will center on its unlimited data plan, which it reintroduced last week. AT&T stopped signing up new customers to unlimited plans two years ago, and now slows down service drastically for the rest of the billing cycle once those still on old unlimited plans reach a certain level of data usage.
In Atlanta and New York, T-Mobile will be giving away $100 gift cards to customers who sign their iPhones up for two-year contracts.

New cell models

New cell models to cut radiation.
If you buy a new-model mobile handset that comes to the market after September 1, rest assured it will emit much less radiation, thanks to the new norms for such phones. However, the existing handset models, introduced on or before August 31, will remain in the market for one more
year.Reduced radiation cuts the chances of various diseases, including cancer.
The rate at which radiation is absorbed by the body is measured by the specific absorption rate (SAR). From September 1, 2013, only handsets with an emission level of 1.6 watt/kg (watt is a unit of power) or less can be sold. Ordinarily, a mobile phone weighs about 250 gm.
In a notification, the department of telecommunications said: “All the new designs of mobile handsets shall comply with the SAR value of 1.6 W/kg… with effect from September 1, 2012. However, mobile handsets with existing designs that are compliant with 2.0 W/kg … may continue to co-exist up to August 31, 2013.”
Pankaj Mohindroo, national president of the Indian Cellular Association, said: “Already, new designs are being launched with the new norms… the bulk of models of good brands are compliant with the new radiation norms.”