Archives For Mobile

Anker Saves The Day (Again)

Dave Zatz —  January 18, 2014

anker-drawer

As I’ve yet to find that perfect gadget caddy, we’ve gone ahead and implemented Plan B. When picking out a new bedroom set about 18 months ago, we went with a collection that we otherwise may have passed over due to tricked out nightstands housing a power squid in the top drawer (and undercarriage lighting). Turns out, the AC adapters were way too bulky to be practical. But what else could I do with the pre-drilled holes and drawer organizer? Enter Anker’s $20 5-port USB charger. I still need to tidy things up and would prefer most of these gadgets live on/in my dresser or the kitchen, but this seems to be a good solution for the time being.

Cisco hosted tech reporters at its annual CES press reception last week and took us through a whirlwind of company news, vision-speak, and proof-of-concept demos. The best of the demos was an app giving users the ability not only to control TV from a mobile device, but also to share related secondary content between different screens. For example, execs showed how to bring up detailed program information or social networking content on a tablet, and then transfer that information in widget-like tiles to the television display.

On the tablet, meanwhile, the app kept a strip of video from the live program streaming at the top of the small screen, while still leaving the rest of the window open for browsing Internet content. The idea is that the video strip gives you the feeling that you’re still attached to a TV show even when you’re looking down at your mobile device. It sounds a little ridiculous, but it works. And, if you want, you can drag the strip down to see the full-screen video. Continue Reading…

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The end of smartphone subsidies may be upon us, given T-Mobile’s uncarrier moves and AT&T’s new Mobile Share Value plan:

With the ‘No Annual Service Contract’ options, smartphone customers can save $15 a month on Mobile Share Value plans. Customers can receive these monthly savings when they: Get a new smartphone for no down payment with AT&T Next; bring their own smartphone; purchase a smartphone at full retail price; or when their smartphone is no longer under contract and they switch to the new plans.

Indeed, my mom received a letter from AT&T illustrating some of their new offerings. And, as CTO of the Zatz family, I reviewed her service and usage… then flipped the account to a new Mobile Share Value plan, cutting her bill nearly in half from $85 a month down to $45. The savings come via two mechanisms. First, given her limited data usage due to iPhone 4 screen size, I was able to put her on a tier that replaces 900 minutes with unlimited talk (and adds unlimited texts) but restricts data access to a mere 300mb. (I imagine many of her generation remain more interested in using phones for voice.) Oddly, the additional savings is not reflected as you’re evaluating plans, but only after you enroll – and an out-of-contract phone reduces the advertised monthly fee by $15. Continue Reading…

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As the story goes, Beats acquired the music streaming service MOG in 2012… and 18 months later, we’re days away from the launch of Beats Music — based on MOG, with custom interface, a few clever new additions, and day 1 availability on Sonos. Of course, the headphone company is banking on their brand to drive subscriptions in a way largely unfamiliar competitors like Rdio can’t. Interestingly, Beats appears to forgo the traditional streaming-only plan in the $4 – $5 range and only offer the $10 ad-free tier, that includes the ability to create and download custom playlists. Further, Beats offers a genre-based presentation and curated playlists – perhaps similar to Slacker, which I’ve successfully replaced Sirius XM with nearly a month ago. Given the small investment of cash, I’ll certainly check Beats Music out for at least month. But luring a percentage of folks like me away from the Spotifys of the world isn’t enough, and I assume their intention is to take this mainstream. And we expect a variety of product and service tie-ins as we’re already seeing with a launch day AT&T family plan.

Hands On Asus Padfone Mini

Dave Zatz —  January 12, 2014

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From CES, Asus continues to introduce hybrid devices to accommodate a variety of use cases – from dual OS laptops to “convergent” smartphone-tablet devices as seen from the new Padfone Mini, which mates a 4″ Android smartphone to a 7″ screen. Despite a modest 800×480 resolution, the phone itself looks and feels quite nice — it’s what I imagine a better constructed second generation Moto X could be. Beyond the handsome hardware, the Padfone Mini runs Asus’ ZenUI experience on top of Android – bringing flat, soft visuals, more akin to iOS7 than the Samsung’s garish TouchWiz presentation. In addition to interface customizations, there are plenty of software enhancements – including an superfluous selfie feature and the more practical “What’s Next” that mashes up your calendar, tasks, and location, viewed within a dedicated app or integrated into live wallpaper.

padfone-selfie

Of course, the main feature and selling point here is being able to transform a smartphone into a tablet and waiting about 2 seconds after  simply sliding the handset into the back of the “station” is all it takes. It’s not the most sleek tablet you’ll encounter, but in theory you’ll save a few bucks by only funding a single processor, 8 megapixel camera, 4G plan, and such. Also, there’s some benefit to managing a single device when it comes to apps and customization. Lastly, both phone and the tablet sled contain their own batteries… which can be charged simultaneously when docked. It’s a clever solution, which may or may not make it to American shores. And I’m still pining more for a next gen Motorola Atrix smartphone/netbook sort of hybrid.

Initial partners, pricing, and timing will be revealed next month at Mobile World Congress.

Sirius XM Raising Rates In 2014

Dave Zatz —  December 18, 2013

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It’s that time of year. No, not holiday shopping. Rather, annual rate increase notices. And, next up is Sirius XM, who just hit me with a letter that indicates my online streaming add-on will increase from $3.50/mo to $4/mo. A fifty cent increase is pretty insignificant, yet these sorts of notifications may motivate folks such as myself to examine our usage scenarios and competing offerings. As it turns out, I mostly listen to Sirius XM in the car and would probably get more phone, tablet, Sonos enjoyment by re-upping with a more customizable Internet Radio service like Slacker… for the same $4. (It also looks like my satellite rate will eventually go up, but not quite yet as I agreed to an annual package.)

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Those of you who follow me on Twitter are most likely aware of my recent move from Verizon Wireless to T-Mobile. While I’d been very satisfied with Verizon’s coverage the last couple years, their egregious recurring $2.99 fee for visual voicemail (on Android) stuck in my craw every month… and basically pushed me into the arms of T-Mobile with, what I like to call, more “humane” pricing. Having said that, I wasn’t motivated to actually pull the trigger (and incur a substantial early termination fee) until T-Mobile introduced possibly insane International perks: Unlimited and free texts and EDGE data while overseas, paired with 20 cents/minute calls. Continue Reading…