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Archive for the ‘Gadgets’ Category

The (Growing) iPhone Feature Wishlist

Posted by g3tech on July 8, 2007

Got a suggestion for a new iPhone feature? Here’s a site that’s compiling a massive list of feature requests for the coveted handset; let’s hope the Macheads in Cupertino take heed. The litany of suggestions over at Mac blog Macenstein looks like it’s getting longer by the minute, and there are some excellent ideas in the list (besides the obvious, such as “add 3G” or “add instant messaging”). Among them:

  • An auto-dim/off control for the display (which, as it stands, stays lit unless you have “auto-lock” set to “on”)
  • An Address Book icon on the main interface
  • Room for more than one signature in the Mail app
  • A widescreen keyboard option for every iPhone app
  • Ability to browse the iPhone via Bluetooth
  • “Delete some” or “all” option for e-mail
  • Ability to send text messages to multiple recipients
  • Wireless contact/event syncing
  • Manual management of music and videos
  • A true RSS reader

Great ideas all, and there’s nothing here that couldn’t be fixed via a software update. And speaking of feature suggestions, it sounds like one of the most-requested features for the iPhone—Flash support for the Web browser—may indeed be coming to pass. Tech guru Walt Mossberg is reporting that Apple will be adding Flash support “through an early software update,” which means the iPhone’s Safari browser may be able to play Flash-encoded Web videos sooner rather than later.


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Microsoft lengthens the Xbox 360’s warranty

Posted by g3tech on July 6, 2007

No longer content adhering to the adage, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” Microsoft on Thursday announced that it will extend its Xbox 360 warranty coverage to three years from date of purchase. The warranty covers any consumer who experiences the general system failure indicated by three flashing red lights, more commonly referred to as the “red ring of death.” Both shipping and repair costs will be covered.

The new warranty will represent a $1 billion pre-tax charge on Microsoft’s earnings for the year’s final quarter. This marks a notable setback for the company’s Entertainment & Devices division, who reported a $315 million operating loss in the third quarter.

“The majority of Xbox 360 owners are having a great experience with their console and have from day one. But, this problem has caused frustration for some of our customers and for that, we sincerely apologize,” said Robbie Bach, president of Microsoft’s Entertainment & Devices Division.

The warranty also retroactively reimburses the small but vocal community of console owners who have already paid to get the error fixed. Though the company has not revealed the cause behind the hardware malfunctions, it claims to have “identified a number of factors which can cause general hardware failures” and “has made improvements to the console.”

The announcement is intended to soothe the tide of disgruntled gamers who have experienced the failure, many of whom have meticulously documented numerous failed attempts at getting it repaired. In a conference call, Bach acknowledged an increase in the amount of attention the issue has been receiving. Although he didn’t mention a specific number of problems, he called the rate of repair requests “too high for our liking.”

Peter Moore, corporate VP of Microsoft’s Entertainment and Devices division, has posted an open letter on the official Xbox site further explaining the decision.

Posted in Computers, Gadgets, Games, Gaming, Technology, Xbox | Leave a Comment »

Curious people disect their iPhones

Posted by g3tech on July 2, 2007

It took Apple Inc. more than six months to build the iPhone but curious gadget fanatics needed only minutes to tear one apart.
Within hours of the first iPhones going on sale on Friday, enthusiasts scrambled to be the first to discover what makes the devices tick, posting photos and videos of disassembled phones on the Internet.
The information is more than just academic. Apple keeps a tight grip on information about parts suppliers so “tear downs” of its products are closely watched by investors keen to figure out how to place their bets.

In the past, word that a particular part was being used in Apple’s popular iPod music players has sent that company’s shares higher.

“With every new release of an Apple product, the hype and interest ratchets up a notch,” said Andrew Rassweiler, an analyst with market research firm iSuppli.

Rassweiler and his team at iSuppli were working through the weekend to catalog the phone’s guts for a report estimating the cost of every component, crucial for figuring how much it cost Apple to make each iPhone.

“We have had more people thrown at it this week than any other previous product,” Rassweiler said.

Apple is offering the phone in two versions costing $500 and $600 depending on memory capacity, but the high price and limited availability wasn’t enough to stop some people from giving into curiosity.

Some dissected the phones with the clinical skill of a surgeon while others resorted to brute force, enraging those swept up in the hype and winning praise from those gleefully resisting it.

By Sunday afternoon, a video on YouTube showing two guys banging away at an iPhone with a hammer and nail had garnered 56,000 views and was the 13th most-watched clip on the site, prompting some extremely angry comments. Watching the clip, it is difficult to see what was learned from the destruction.

The creator, whose user page identified him only as Rob in Miami, Florida, posted a second clip defending his unorthodox methods.

“We didn’t smash it just to smash it. We smashed it to see what was inside. We were under a time limit,” Rob said. “We resorted to extreme measures.”

Ifixit.com, an Apple parts and repair guide site, conducted one of the most sophisticated dismantlings, posting dozens of high-quality photos alongside technical commentary.

“They’ve done some things that are above and beyond. They did some very innovative things,” site cofounder Kyle Wiens said of the iPhone’s manufacture.

Their efforts yielded a few nuggets of information. The iPhone boasts a main processor and memory chips from Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., an audio-processing chip from Britain’s Wolfson Microelectronics Plc and a Wi-fi wireless chip from Marvell Technology Group Ltd.

Opening the iPhone was the easy part. For many, the real prize is hacking the phone to get it to do things Apple never intended, such as run on networks other than that of AT&T Inc., the exclusive U.S. service provider.

Some programmers also want to find a way to run their own programs directly on the phone’s operating system rather than being limited to programs run through the Web browser.

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Last Minute iPhone News

Posted by g3tech on June 29, 2007

Here’s a roundup of what’s hitting the wires this morning, if the iPhone’s on your shopping list. First, Apple now says it may not have enough phones to meet demand. Early reports said Apple would have up to 3 million phones available on day one, but that appears to have been overstated. Now Steve Jobs is saying that the company might not have enough phones to meet demand. I’ve heard other comments (also unofficial) that stocks could run out by Monday. But there’s no need to stand in line for one: You can order the iPhone online for delivery to your home or office!

Curiously, reports are surfacing that AT&T has managed to boost the speed of its much-maligned EDGE network, possibly doubling it. At 200kbps, the service would still be fairly slow (only four times dialup), but easily twice what standard EDGE gives you. This has been a major complaint in early reviews of the iPhone. AT&T seems to have been taking a brute force approach to increasing the speed of the EDGE network by simply running more cable to its cell towers. The results aren’t the 3Mbps or so of real 3G services, but every little bit helps.

Business users who want to get work email on the iPhone can rejoice now, as the iPhone can indeed support Microsoft Exchange email, provided you make the appropriate arrangements.

Meanwhile, the “Apple Faithful” are lining up like lambs to the slaughter at Apple stores around the country. The scene at these stores is obviously expected to be a madhouse. If you want a better shot at a short wait for the iPhone and you absolutely have to have it tonight, then go to an AT&T store, which will almost certainly be far less crowded. 

I’ll post more iPhone reviews soon, so check back!!!

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The Phone in the iPhone’s shadow

Posted by g3tech on June 29, 2007

Meet the Helio Ocean: the best alternative to the iPhone.

Around the corner from Apple’s showcase store on Fifth Avenue in NYC, a new store is opening tomorrow. The Helio Ocean phone has arrived and the NY Helio store opens today. It is right around the corner from the Apple Store where people are already lined up to purchase their iPhones. Will the line extend around the corner?

The Helio Ocean does quite a lot for quite a lot less money. The phone costs half of what the iPhone does, but does more. It looks very Sidekick-like, but has dual keypads, a full QWERTY keyboard that slides out so you can type, and a numeric keypad for dialing phone numbers.

Equally important, it runs on the Sprint Network, a 3G network that’s much faster than the AT&T network that comes with an iPhone. You can expand the memory (again, something you can’t do with iPhone). It’s got fast Internet access, a 2-megapixel camera, text messaging, picture and video messaging, multimedia and music, and GPS. It costs $295, with Helio memberships starting at $65 a month.

The phone is targeted at the young and hip. As a Helio member with an Ocean phone you get a MySpace mobile capability that lets you update your profile info and use MySpace right from your phone. The Helio also has a built in Buddy Beacon which lets you broadcast your physical coordinates to your friends so they can find for you.

The Helio stores are more like a Starbucks than a store. You’re encouraged to try out all the new applications for the phone and hang around to meet other Helios. My hunch is that you’re going to see the crowd with graying temples on line at the Apple Store, but the connected kids might just wander around the corner to Helio.

Read Gizmodo’s feature-by-feature review of the Helio Ocean, here

Posted in Computers, Gadgets, Helio Ocean, iPhone, Technology | Leave a Comment »

iPhone Launch Day Arrives!

Posted by g3tech on June 29, 2007

After six months of hype, thousands of people will finally get their hands on the iPhone.

By early evening Thursday, short lines of eager customers were camped out at Apple and AT&T stores across the nation. The gadget, which combines the functions of a cell phone, iPod media player and wireless Web browser, will go on sale in the United States at 6 p.m. Friday in each time zone.

At Apple’s flagship store in New York City the trickle of customers that began queuing up since Monday grew to about 50 people late Thursday, ready to brave yet another rainy night on the pavement of Fifth Avenue, outside the 24-hour Apple store.

“It’s pretty miserable sleeping in the rain, but it’s worth it,” said a tired David Clayman, who was second in line at the store and had gotten a total of eight hours of sleep over four days, awakened at times by TV camera crews shining bright lights in his eyes. The Chicago resident vacationing in New York planned to buy two iPhones — one to resell to raise money for a charity and another as a gift for his father.

Apple has set a target of selling 10 million units worldwide by 2008, gaining roughly a 1 percent share of the cell phone market.

And despite the handset’s price tag of $499 for a 4-gigabyte model and $599 for an 8-gigabyte version, on top of a minimum $59.99-a-month two-year service plan with AT&T Inc., the phone’s exclusive carrier, some Wall Street analysts have predicted sales could hit as high as 45 million units in two years.

“That’s nuts. Over-hyping this thing just puts it at risk of being seen as a failure,” said Rob Enderle, an industry analyst with The Enderle Group. “Apple will break (sales) records for a phone of this class, but selling tens of millions of units so quickly is going to be tough. First-generation products always have problems that you don’t know about until the product ships.”

In all likelihood, however, Enderle and other analysts think Apple will grow its iPhone sales, refining its models and improving its software features — much as it did with the iPod, which has fueled record profits for the trendsetting company.

Apple introduced the original iPod in 2001, but sales of the portable player did not skyrocket until a few years later, after the company debuted sleeker, smaller models and iTunes jukebox software that allowed the iPod to work with Windows-based PCs and not just Macs. Apple has now sold more than 100 million iPods, dominating the portable music player market.

Even a gadget-loving person like Gene Cram, who owns a BlackBerry Pearl smart phone from Research in Motion Ltd., and sometimes also uses an older Palm Inc. Treo phone or his Motorola SLVR, said he’s going to wait for customer reviews before investing in what appears to be the latest must-have piece of techno-wizardry.

“It’ll be interesting to see how well it really works,” Cram, a flight instructor, said Thursday at a cafe next door to the Apple store in Burlingame, where lines hadn’t yet appeared.

Apple has not disclosed how many iPhones will available at launch. But analysts expect it will sell out by early next week.

Posted in Computers, Gadgets, iPhone, Technology | 1 Comment »

5 Reasons Why Not To Get An iPhone

Posted by g3tech on June 28, 2007

Price/Storage: Probably the biggest reason to wait is the price. The iPhone will cost $500 USD (4GB) and $600 USD (8GB) AND you still have to sign a new two-year agreement. Don’t expect this phone to replace your iPod either. The top-of-the-line, $600, 8GB iPhone only holds 2,000 songs, and only a handful of videos and full-length movies. You could easily get an  80GB video iPod for almost half the price. There’s no reason to have to pay full price and sign an agreement.

Plans: As I mentioned previously, the cheapest plan is $60/mo for 450 minutes. And in two years, you’ll end up paying close to $2,000 for service alone. Plus there is the $36 activation fee, and a two-year contract on top of that. Those who already have an AT&T account can expect to pay an additional $20-$30 for the “iPhone plan” which includes Visual Voicemail, 200 SMS text messages, and unlimited data since there is no voice-only plan. And to top it all off, Apple’s web site says that a two-year agreement is required for iPhone activation.

Network: Surprisingly, the iPhone does not run on a third-generation (3G) network, instead it runs on the slower EDGE network. Forbes thinks Apple opted for the slower network because AT&T’s EDGE coverage spans across 13,000 cities and towns nationwide, compared with only 165 major U.S metro areas that have 3G coverage. Perhaps a second- or third-generation iPhone will have 3G capability. And while the iPhone may have Wi-Fi capabilities, realistically, looking for a hotspot when you’re out can be a challenge.

First Generation: A geek’s rule of thumb is to never get a first generation gadget. Apple is one of the few companies that revamps its products at such a quick pace, that in this case, they actually make it quite bearable to wait for the second revision. Look at all the improvements they’ve made on iPods and MacBooks. It may seem like waiting for a new iPhone will be an eternity, but I bet it’ll be a matter of months before we see a better, faster version.

Long Lines: I love technology as much as the next guy, but no gadget is worth standing in line days in advance for, not even the iPhone. People have already started to line up, and some are even betting real money that someone will get trampled. I would add getting shot at, beaten, mugged, and possibly being hospitalized to the list. (Anyone remember PS3 sales?)

Posted in Computers, Gadgets, iPhone, Technology | 2 Comments »

Gadget of the day

Posted by g3tech on June 27, 2007

The APC UPB10 Mobile Power Pack allows you to charge your electronics while on the road. So if you realise you’ve forgotten to charge your cellphone, PDA or iPod, for example, but you have your UPB10, fully charged, then all you have to do if plug in your USB-based charger for whatever device you’re trying to charge into the UPB10, and voila! It’s lightweight and very easy to use.


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First iPhone reviews

Posted by g3tech on June 27, 2007

Walt Mossberg, of the Wall Street Journal, who I spoke about in a previous post, and David Pogue, of the New York Times, are the first people to review the iPhone.


Their verdict? They both love it.

Mossberg is the more ethusiastic of the two. He calls it a “beautiful and breakthrough handheld computer” (note: he calls it a computer, not a phone). He uses lots of big words (probably from a thesaurus), which all pretty much say how the phones (and its features) are the best he’s ever tested. At first, he had a lot of trouble, as many (or most) people will, with the keyboard, and after three days he was ready to “throw it out the window”, but after five days he had grown to love it. His only real drawback was that it’s an AT&T-only device. And AT&T’s EDGE service, he complains, is too slow for the hardcore user. (Note: It’s locked so that you can’t put in your own SIM card).

Pogue is a bit more negative, but says pretty much the same things as Mossberg. He says that the glass screen didn’t scratch as bad as he’d feared, but it’s fast and beautiful and he wants it to bear his children. He loves the voice mail system but complains that simple things (like making a call) take more button-pressing than usual. And, like Mossberg, he loves the web browser, but Pogue complains that the battery life isn;t as good as Apple promised, especially with video. He also complains about the lack of voice dialing, instant messaging, and a memory card slot (although no Apple product has EVER had a memory card slot). He also points out that when you buy a 4GB or an 8GB iPhone, not to forget that 700MB will be consumed by the iPhone’s operating system. (I don’t think anyone else even thought of that point). He continues, and complains about the keyboard (“The BlackBerry won’t be going away anytime soon”). And of course he absolutely hates the AT&T network.

So these two just say the same thing that everyone was thinking: about the keyboard and about the network. But just give the keyboard a week before you give up on it. But in the end, either you get it or you don’t.

For Walt Mossberg’s full review, click here (his site) or here (Wall Street Journal)

For David Pogue’s full review, click here (New York Times)

To read USA Today’s review, click here

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“Real” price of the iPhone

Posted by g3tech on June 27, 2007

Well, here’s the bad news: it’s $60 USD/month for 450 minutes, $80 USD/month for 900 minutes, or $100 USD/month for 1350 minutes. If that’s not enough minutes, then you can pay $220 USD/month for a crazy 6000 minutes!

The good news: ALL plans include unlimited email and web, rollover minutes, unlimited mobile-to-mobile, and 200 text messages a month. And, all plans, except the cheapest plan, include unlimited nights and weekends (the cheapest plan only gets 5000 minutes of those).

Is this a good deal? Let’s see. AT&T’s cheapest voice-only plan costs $40 a month for 450 minutes, 5000 nights and weekend minutes, and no data services at all. (And text messages are about 15 cents a pop.) Add $20 a month for unlimited web. For the $60 of the iPhone’s cheapest plan, you can get AT&T’s 900-minute plan with no data service.

Looking at it another way, AT&T’s Messaging Unlimited plan costs $20 a month extra. Its unlimited messaging and media plan (which gives you access to cellular video as well) costs another $40 a month. The company has a bunch of plans for web browsing phones. The closest to what the iPhone gets you is the SmartPhone Max, at $30 extra per month.

Putting it all together, designing  a comparable plan to iPhone’s $60 service on AT&T with a non-iPhone device would actually cost about $70 a month. Believe it or not, iPhone service is actually a bargain!

On the other hand, $60 a month or more isn’t cheap. Over the life of the phone that equates to $1,440. Add in the price of the phone and activation fees and the cheapest amount you’ll spend on an iPhone over the next two years is $1,975. WOW! (And don’t forget the cancellation fee you’ll pay on your old phone…)


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