Why the Verizon Hub Just Might Work


In the CE world, success is all about timing. Verizon debuted its Verizon One gadget years ago, but that was before the widget craze, before FiOS was a household word, and before streaming radio and digital photo frames raised the profile of non-computer, Internet-connected devices.

In its latest form, the Verizon One is now called the Verizon Hub, and Dave and I got a chance to see it during our recent visit to Verizon HQ. I love this thing. In brief, it’s a cordless-phone-plus-widget-station that lets you make calls, get news, weather and traffic, share photos and control your FiOS TV (Motorola) set-tops. There are plenty of things it doesn’t do, like let you surf the Web, but that’s what your computer is for. And with the Verizon Hub you won’t get distracted by all of the unread emails in your inbox when you just want to check traffic.

The Verizon Hub has a gorgeous display, a POTS connection (no VoIP), Wi-Fi and an Ethernet port. I’m drooling over the device, but ultimately I think its success will depend on cost. This is a whole new gadget category and it will take a reasonable price point to get the unwashed masses to try it out. That said, if there was ever a time when the Verizon Hub could be successful, it’s now. Lots of people use widgets and RSS feeds, and lots of people like to show off photo slideshows. This isn’t a complete paradigm shift anymore. — More pics after the jump.

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Verizon Customer Service Not As Bad As I Feared

verizon-logo.jpgI was all set to blast Verizon for manipulating my parents into buying their DSL service when my dad gave me the surprising update: Verizon had admitted to making a mistake and fully refunded my parents’ money. Yup, you read that right. Full refund.

Here’s the story in brief. My parents have had trouble with Comcast in their neighborhood (it works great in mine) and decided to make the switch to DSL when Verizon told them it was available. Unfortunately, when they made the switch, Verizon’s broadband proved flakier than Comcast’s. They lost their Internet connection constantly and nobody could explain to them why the service was so unreliable.

Fast forward to a few weeks later and some savvy support technician finally figured out that my parents’ house was outside the recommended distance from a Verizon hub. In other words, they’d been sold a service that was virtually guaranteed to fail.

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Uninterested in A La Carte

Forrester Research just released the results of a survey showing that consumers don’t care that much about a la carte channels and wouldn’t be willing to pay very much for the privilege. I might not have agreed a few years ago, but here’s why my opinion has changed:

  1. Better shows on more cable channelsforrester-survey.jpg
    ESPN and Comedy Central used to be the only networks I watched on cable, but now I regularly tune in to FX, TNT and the SciFi network at the very least.

  2. On-demand viewing
    By ordering Netflix DVDs or downloading shows from the Web, I can get access to almost any content I want. If I wanted to drop my cable subscription, I’d virtually be able to get a la carte viewing through other distribution sources. (ESPN being the big exception)

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New TV Stats

Because there’s nothing like an official study to make us think we know which direction the market will go… A study conducted by Canalys (reported on ZDNet) found that 51% of the European adults surveyed were interested in mobile TV. However, the content they reported being interested in varied widely, from live sports events to … Read more

Comcast Launches TVplanner

There was a fair bit of conversation at the recent Cable IPTV conference around how Comcast is approaching competition from online video services. Part of the approach involves having its own online video destination, (see news about the upcoming launch of Fancast), and the other part involves using the Internet to push subscribers to cable … Read more

Criminals & Comcast

In the category of you can’t make this stuff up, the Jackson Mississippi ABC.com affiliate site had the headline yesterday: Meth Addicts Posed As Comcast Workers. My first reaction – couldn’t they have found something more exciting to pose as? Of course, it turns out they were pretending to be Comcast workers to rob someone’s … Read more

How Fast Doth Your Broadband Go

Here I thought my hefty monthly cable bill paid for a broadband connection, but it turns out we haven’t yet decided what broadband is. Congress is in the process of defining “true broadband” and Om Malik is surveying actual broadband users about what constitutes high speed. (So far 6 Mbps is winning out – See … Read more

Fed Up with eStarling; A Win for Westinghouse

I do not bash products lightly, and I feel I have been extraordinarily patient with the eStarling digital photo frame. However, there is a limit. It is now mid-May, five months after the eStarling debacle started, and my parents’ main Christmas present is still not working as promised. Actually, it’s not working at all.

After running the netconfig utility at least half a dozen times, the newly shipped version of the eStarling frame still will not connect to the Internet and therefore will not operate. The folks over at Gizmodo apparently got their unit to work (though they still didn’t like it), but we tried connecting ours to two different wireless networks (in two different states!) with no luck at all. That’s it. I’m done.

While I’m still yearning for the advertised eStarling feature set, I have in the meantime taken a Westinghouse digital photo frame for a spin and found it very satisfying. My mom was on hand when I took the Westinghouse frame out of the box and her first reaction was that she couldn’t imagine hanging such a thing in her house. Then she saw the photo resolution.


I have the 14.1″ Westinghouse model for review and the picture quality is beautiful. (My lame photography doesn’t do it justice.) If you have a half-way decent digital camera, the photos fill the frame in slideshow mode. You can also choose mosaic mode for four photos at once, set photo transitions, save favorite photos and watch MPEG videos.

Best of all, the product is dead simple to use. There are three steps on the box: Plug in frame. Insert memory card. Turn on frame. And it’s literally that easy. The frame comes with 128MB of internal Flash memory and has ports for several card types (specs after the jump) as well as USB connections. I successfully tested file transfers from a PC and connection with a Flash drive. For general use, I’d suggest stocking a large Flash drive with gazillions of photos and keeping it plugged in. It’s easy enough to update a Flash drive with new photos when needed.

I’m definitely planning on writing in for a refund on the eStarling frame, and I just may put the proceeds towards a purchase of the Westinghouse 14.1″ digital frame model. The only thing possibly holding me back is the Westinghouse price: $349. Ouch. If you’re interested, Westinghouse does offer frames in different sizes. And the Live Digitally blog likes the 8″ version. But I have to admit, the large screen is delicious.

Want specs and more photos? Keep reading.

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