Archive for the 'Gadgets' Category

Can Sprint Make a Cheaper iPhone?

Apr 01, 2008 in Business, Gadgets

Brian Dolan:

“Icon Mobile helped us with the icons and other parts of the UI, but Sprint took a more aggressive role than we ever have in designing this device,” Owens said. “It’s the most aggressive push into UI I’ve seen by a carrier, and I spent 18 years at AT&T.” Sprint conceded that the iPhone exposed a weakness in the market: user interface, so the carrier decided it needed to build a UI consistent with the iPhone experience, while creating a device that leverages the capability of Sprint’s Rev. A network. [Emphasis added]

You know, I thought one of the reasons for the iPhone’s success was that AT&T stayed the hell out of Apple’s way and had almost no impact on the UI development.

Vaguely Absurd

Dec 02, 2007 in Gadgets, iPod

BestSellers.pngI was popping around Amazon this afternoon and I decided to check out the best sellers list for MP3 players. At just after 4PM, the silver 4GB Nano was the top selling device. The black 8GB Nano came in at #2. In the top ten, iPods also filled slots 4-9.1

All told, 14 of the top 25 best selling MP3 players were iPods. There are only (only?, eh) 17 iPod variants and the Product (Red) versions are only available through Apple. Plainly, the silver 160 GB Classic is not carrying its own weight. Something must be done about this. Retribution will be swift and fierce.

As of 4PM on December 2nd, 14 of the 15 current generation iPods sold on Amazon were in their top 25 best selling MP3 players, at least. The Amazon best seller list may not be the most scientific of measures but, damn, that’s vaguely absurd.

  1. Yeah, these are all affiliate links. I didn’t conceive of this post to go affiliate farming; I was actually curious about the status of the best sellers list and amused by the iPod’s complete dominance. []

Free My Phone

Oct 22, 2007 in Gadgets, iPhone

Walt Mossberg:

A shortsighted and often just plain stupid federal government has allowed itself to be bullied and fooled by a handful of big wireless phone operators for decades now. And the result has been a mobile phone system that is the direct opposite of the PC model. It severely limits consumer choice, stifles innovation, crushes entrepreneurship, and has made the U.S. the laughingstock of the mobile-technology world, just as the cellphone is morphing into a powerful hand-held computer.

Nice article by Walt Mossberg concerning the state of the U.S. mobile phone industry. A little over a week ago, I was having this same discussion with several of my friends. We were trying to decide just how far back the U.S. mobile market has been set by the cellular providers. I think the consensus was at least 5 years. Even if we hadn’t all considered the iPhone an innovative device, we agreed it was good to see a phone manufacturer dictate terms to one of the cellular providers.

Sure, Now You Want to Buy Them

Sep 19, 2007 in Apple, Gadgets, iPhone

As part of today’s exercise in time-killing, I visited the Apple Store to and checked out the new offerings and get my first close-up look at the iPhone. While I was taking a look at the various toys, I heard several people ask about the availability of the 4GB iPhone.

Guess that clearance pricing makes the low-end model even more popular.

A Few Thoughts on Today’s iPod Announcements

Sep 05, 2007 in Apple, Gadgets, iPod

Chris Turner:

anyone else starting to feel like there are too many versions of the iPod?

I was slightly disappointed to see that there are now 4 entries in the iPod family. With the iPod touch, your iPod-buying decision is no longer simply a question of size/storage trade-off. Without a doubt, the iPod touch is a very interesting piece of hardware, but from an iPod standpoint, it has the same shortfall as an iPhone — limited storage. I’ve always been an iPod classic kind of guy because I wanted the hard drive space. I also enjoyed having access to all of the iPod features that the nano and mini lacked (thought the refurbished Nano’s have been tempting, if only to use with a Nike+). Now, among the screened iPods, the Classic appears to offer the the most storage space while offering fewest features. You obviously miss out on all the Touch’es iPhone-esque features while also missing the Nano’s Nike+ support (you do gain Search functionality, though, which I forgot about until visiting the new iPod classic’s features page).

Looking at the new offerings, I get the feeling that the iPod classic is not a long term product. Much like the Mac Classic marked the beginning of the end for the original Mac styling, I suspect the iPod classic represents the beginning of the end for the original iPod design. I think it’s just a matter of Apple not wanting to cede the high-capacity market while not compromising on the design of the Touch.

In addition to paying homage to a piece of Apple history, the iPod classic name rolls off the tongue better than the originally proposed name — iPod discontinued when flash prices drop.

I didn’t read anything one way or another, but it looks like the changes to the iPod OS are more than just cosmetic — according to the iPod Games section of the iTunes Store, games need to be updated to work with the iPod nano (video) and the iPod classic. Right now, Tetris, Ms. Pac-Man, and Sudoku are in-line for updates. Does this mean that the new models have made the jump to OS X? If it were simply a matter of updating the games to recognize the new iPods, I’d imagine all the games would be updated.

(Klondike, Vortex, and iQuiz have already been upgraded and come bundled with the Nano and Classic).

Follow-up thought — will Apple offer updates to anybody who already bought these games?

Mari Silbey:

Engadget is already calling the Starbucks feature weak, but I think I disagree. (How’s that for a strong statement?) Impulse music buying is still largely untapped. Sure you can bookmark songs with some services in order to buy them later, but we haven’t really seen an effective on-the-go version of this feature before.

I agree with Silbey’s assessment that the Starbucks features isn’t weak. Although I’m not the lounge-in-a-Starbucks type, plenty of people are. Starbucks has clearly found that it can make money by selling music, both in-store and via iTunes. I have to assume that Apple has found the existing iTunes-Starbucks partnership rewarding. The infrastructure costs for supporting the new integration can’t be that high. Given the number of people you already see in Starbucks with laptops and the number of iPhones and iPod touches you can expect to see, I think it’s reasonable to expect both sides to profit from this expansion to the Apple-Starbucks relationship.

Might be Time for a New Laptop

Aug 10, 2007 in Gadgets, My World

Busted Laptop

See that piece sticking out the back of the hinge? That’s supposed to be connected to the screen casing. Yeah, not really happy with myself right now.

Verizon Wireless and Broadcom in Deal

Jul 23, 2007 in Business, Gadgets

Verizon Wireless and Broadcom in Deal

Verizon Wireless will pay the Broadcom Corporation as much as $200 million to bypass a possible ban on some handsets that use Qualcomm chips.

Something tells me that Broadcom gained a little bit of leverage in these negotiations on June 29th.

One of my first thoughts when I read about this deal was that it sounded similar to last summer’s agreement between Microsoft and Universal Music Group. You know, the one where Universal gets $1 for every Zune sold. The need to get the iPod and iPhone competitors to market caused both Microsoft and Verizon Wireless to make the sort of agreements that previously weren’t seen in their respective industries.

You have to assume that $1/player issue came up in the recent Apple-Universal negotiations. It remains to be seen how the Verizon-Broadcom deal will effect the future of the wireless phone market.

Before the International Trade Commission ban went into effect, there were rumors that Verizon was going to market the LG Prada as their competition to the iPhone. Theoretically, the ban could have provided Verizon executives with some degree of coverage in the face the iPhone’s success — “We had a plan in place to counter the iPhone, but we could not bring our new phone to market due to the ITC ban.” If the iPhone continues to rewrite sales records even in the face of Verizon’s new handsets, executives at Verizon may have nowhere to hide when shareholders question the wisdom of passing on the iPhone.

Adding iTunes+ Support to TiVo

Jun 07, 2007 in Mac, Programming, TiVo

A little over two years ago, TiVo quietly enabled the ability to stream unprotected AAC to TiVos for use via the Home Media Option. I say quietly, because this feature required you to install lame and didn’t appear to be documented anywhere. At the time, I viewed this as a promising sign that TiVo was starting to make good on it’s then 2-year-old statement that they were looking to add AAC support to the HMO. However, it’s been another 2+ years since that time and not much has changed.

What has changed is that Apple unveiled iTunes+, complete with unprotected AAC files. In theory, these files should “just work” with TiVo’s existing AAC support. Of course, as is true of many things, the transition from theory to reality did not go as planned. As reported by The Apple Blog, iTunes+ still are not playable through HMO.

We come here not to bury TiVo, but to fix it.


Slingbox Info?

Jan 31, 2007 in Entertainment, Gadgets, Internet, Sports

Any Slingbox users out there? With the MLB Extra Innings package likely moving to DirecTV for the 2007 season and beyond, I thinking about installing a Slingbox Tuner at my parents’ house so I can get the Red Sox games down in DC (or wherever I end up).

The other option would be another year of, but that offering left me thoroughly unimpressed last year. Supposedly, the stream quality will improve to 700 Kbps for next season (versus 350-400 Kbps last season), but you still have to contend with the blackout issues.

I have two main questions/concerns about the Slingbox.

1) How’s the video quality when streaming over the Internet?

2) What’s the impact on the location you’re streaming out of? For example, would my parents notice a slowdown if I was streaming a video off of their internet connection?

Yes, moving to DirecTV would be another option, but it’s not an idea I’m particularly fond of for several reasons. Right now, I live in an apartment, so the dish is a no-go. I like the option of having the TiVo UI, either through dedicated TiVo hardware or the upcoming TiVo software offered by Comcast. I don’t want to use satellite internet and it’s generally cheaper to bundle Internet access and television (since I don’t have a landline, DSL isn’t a real option).

Adventured in Porting

Oct 06, 2006 in Gadgets

cough… cough… sorry about that. I was trying to clean off some of the dust around here and I guess some went down the wrong pipe.

Last year or so, I saw an article in the New York Times about the growing disconnect between area codes and physical location. With the advent of cell phones and nation-wide calling plans, people have been keeping their existing phone numbers when they move to new areas.

I’ve certainly seen this at since I started business school. I can think of only one classmate who switched to a local number when he moved out here. For the most part, it’s easier to keep your existing number since so many people already have it.

I seem to have found one place where this technique falls short — porting a number once you’ve moved to a new area.

I’ve been less than thrilled with T-Mobile, both in terms of coverage and in terms of phone selection. For the past few months, I’ve considered moving to Cingular, going so far as to buy a Cingular phone a few months back, only to return it due to my dis-satisfaction with some of the phone’s features. When Cingular started carrying the Sony-Ericsson w810, though, I decided to give them another shot.

I ordered the phone through and indicated I wanted to port my Massachusetts number. I received an error massage saying that my number wasn’t eligible, but no explanation as to what this meant. I’d already ported my number once in the past, so I just figured this was a temporary glitch and that I’d handle the situation with customer support once I received the phone. That’s how I handled porting my number the previous time.

Of course, it’s never this easy. When I called Cingular, I was told that I couldn’t port a Massachusetts phone number to a DC-based account because it was out of area. This explained why my port attempt failed when I was using the web site and, had indicated as such, I could’ve avoided most of the issues that arose during this whole process. To keep my Massachusetts number, I’d need to have a Massachusetts-based account.

“OK”, I said. My folks still live in Massachusetts, I can just set up my account at their place, then move the billing address down to DC. This’ll take what, 10 minutes? Of course, it wasn’t this easy. To have a Massachusetts-based account, I need a different SIM card. That’ll take 3-5 days to arrive. Then I need to active the Massachusetts account and cancel the DC account. Then I finally get to port over my existing phone number.

Had I realized all this at the beginning (or had the error message on been more informative), I could’ve avoided this situation by setting up a Massachusetts account at my folks place but shipped the phone to DC.

So, while the area code may be losing some of its meaning in today’s increasing cellular-dependent world, there are still some geographic hang-ups in the system. I don’t know if all carriers work this way, but it’s something you should keep in mind if you ever find yourself wanting to port a number outside the area where you originally got the number.