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Google Has an Ally in Broadcom on NFC Technology

Posted by admin | Posted in Cell Phones & Plans | Posted on 05-05-2011

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Broadcom Chip Broadcom, like Google, is betting big on near-field communication (NFC) technology for mobile devices like smartphones and tablets being widely implemented in the coming months.

While Google vice president of commerce and payments Stephanie Tilenius was touting NFC opportunities at TechCrunch Disrupt in New York on Wednesday, a group of Broadcom executives spoke with journalists about the technology and other looming mobile device trends in San Francisco.

Broadcom is a behind-the-scenes player in the eyes of most consumers, but the wireless and broadband chip maker wants to highlight four mobile technologies it expects to be widely adopted in handsets, tablets and the like over the next several months, said Mike Hurlston, senior vice president and general manager of Broadcom’s Wireless LAN Group.

In addition to NFC, which enables things like paying for groceries at a checkout stand with a mobile phone, Hurlston said Wi-Fi Direct, Bluetooth 4.0, and location-based services that work indoors would become “ubiquitous” on mobile devices in varying stages.

All are related to connectivity and communication between mobile devices or between those devices and computers, televisions, and various gadgets like fitness monitoring devices.

Some, like Wi-Fi Direct and Bluetooth 4.0 “are happening now,” noted Hurlston. With regards to NFC and location-based services that combine GPS and Wi-Fi, the Broadcom executive doesn’t see broad adoption happening until 2012.

“What you’ll see with these technologies is a trend line that’s similar to the way Wi-Fi itself was initially adopted, where it went from 1 percent [of devices] to 10 percent and then it really ‘hockey-sticked,’” Hurlston said.

“Between 10 and 15 percent of all phones will have NFC in 2012. That’s only at about 1 percent right now.”

Broadcom has an obvious stake in pushing this message. Though Wi-Fi Direct and NFC are standards-based and not proprietary to Broadcom, the company is confident it can gain share fast as those technologies are increasingly included in handsets and tablets.

Hurlston said Broadcom produces secure NFC-enabled chips both as a standard internal element for a mobile device and on a SIM card.

Already popular in countries like Japan, the technology has now cleared stricter security hurdles in the U.S. market put forward by credit card companies like Visa and MasterCard. Three of the major U.S. carriers last year outlined plans for Isis, a national payment network that would allow handset users to pay for things like groceries and subway tickets by waving their phone near an NFC-enabled machine.

Google and Sprint will reportedly announce an NFC-based payment system on Android-based Nexus S phones this Thursday, and Apple’s next-generation iPhone 5 is expected to utilize the technology as well.

Whereas NFC involves connecting computing devices at extremely close range, Wi-Fi Direct and Bluetooth 4.0′s Bluetooth low energy (BLE) feature offer longer range communication. Broadcom on Wednesday demonstrated a Wi-Fi Direct connection between a Motorola Xoom tablet and a television that enabled a driving game being played on the Xoom to appear with scarcely any lag time on the TV.

Though the demo required a stand-alone Wi-Fi Direct transmitter to work, as the technology is built into more mobile devices and television sets, such intermediary hardware wouldn’t be required.

In the meantime, Broadcom will produce a Wi-Fi Direct unit that plugs into televisions that would allow the owner of a Wi-Fi Direct-enabled handset to instantly stream a video or game onto a television with little latency and no wires.

Hurlston said Broadcom sees BLE being used for fitness monitoring devices in particular. The low-energy wireless technology could be used to enable smartphones to communicate more easily with disparate monitoring devices while chewing up a fraction of the battery life that older Bluetooth technology sucked up for such operations, he said.

Finally, Broadcom is touting location-based services such as ads and deals that pop up on a mobile device when a user walks by a retail outlet. Again, that’s not a new idea&#8212in fact, a debate over privacy issues surrounding the location-tracking methods used to provide such services has ratcheted up in recent weeks.

Still, Hurlston said providing such services to mobile device users when they’re indoors has been spotty because GPS doesn’t work well inside. Broadcom’s plan is to combine a device’s GPS and Wi-Fi capabilities to ensure that ads and the like get delivered whether a person is in the mall or at the beach.

For the top stories in tech, follow us on Twitter at @PCMag.

 

Sidekick 4G Brings Legacy Smartphone Up to Speed, Sort Of

Posted by admin | Posted in Gadget Reviews | Posted on 04-05-2011

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You could say the original Sidekick was the first shot fired in the smartphone revolution.

With a flip of the thumb, you could expose the physical keyboard hidden behind the screen. It was aligned horizontally to make typing easier, but it wasn’t too bulky. And the large screen — bigger than most other phones in 2002 — made tasks like browsing the web and writing e-mails on your phone actually seem like ideas worth getting used to.

Over the years, the Sidekick and its successors ended up losing out to the newer breed of smartphones ushered in by the iPhone — devices with advanced operating systems and apps, and with touch displays in place of physical keyboards.

So, can the Sidekick make a comeback? Samsung hopes so: The latest iteration of the old classic, the Sidekick 4G for T-Mobile, stays true to its heritage while bumping up its specs and adding a host of media and entertainment perks.

It’s an Android phone built for the 4G now, but it has some hardware and software quirks that make it feel several steps behind.

Samsung stuck with the traditional Sidekick silhouette, with two buttons placed on either side of the 3.5-inch 480 x 800 resolution touchscreen. A Home button and Jump button grace the left side. A Menu key and Back key are situated on the right, with a small optical track button sandwiched in the middle.

Being right handed, it took a while to get used to this button placement. I really wanted the Home button to be on the bottom right when it’s held in landscape orientation, with the Back button above that and the Menu and Jump keys on the left. My thumbs got lost often.

The phone has about the same heft as an iPhone 4, but is slightly longer and about 50 percent thicker. It fits in a front pocket, but it is a bit chunky. That thickness comes from the physical keyboard under the screen. The Sidekick’s screen slides out using a unique “pop-tilt” mechanism, revealing the display’s sassy pink underside, after it’s snapped into a comfortable viewing angle.

Sliding the screen out takes a bit of practice: You need to use both thumbs, applying pressure to the crack between the screen and keyboard. But all you have to do is nudge it free of the body, and the screen springs out the rest of the way on its own. You can’t apply the force horizontally, which is a departure from other slide-out keyboards, and from the swivel screen on older Sidekicks.

Also, the volume rocker and power button sit just a hair below where you need to place your thumbs to push the display out. This leads to a lot of unintended volume adjustments, screen shut-offs and other accidental button-presses when flipping the screen up. Sliding the screen back in without pressing any of the buttons also takes some getting used to.

For my dainty lady thumbs, the QWERTY keyboard was a little uncomfortably spaced out, dropping my texting speed a few notches. Male friends with longer — normal-sized? — thumbs thought the keyboard size was just right.

The Sidekick 4G comes with Samsung’s Kick UX skin for Froyo onboard. It’s less than intuitive — there are three ways to access just about every app or feature of the phone, which can be a little confusing. But it’s fine once you find one method you prefer over the others.

The Jump key (a Sidekick legacy) was particularly handy in this respect: It lets you switch from one recently used application to another while bypassing the home screen. It’s not exactly multitasking, but it is a timesaver.

Once inside an app or widget though, you lose those options. With some apps, like the Facebook widget, you have no choice but to use the Back button (heavily) to navigate. That’s a bit of a shame on a touchscreen device. And although the handset is clearly meant to be used primarily in landscape mode, several apps and functions require it to be in portrait orientation.

The Sidekick 4G stays true to its chat roots with a slew of messaging options, including Google Talk and the phone’s signature Group Text and Cloud Text Features. Group Text provides functionality similar to that of other app- or web-based group texting services like GroupMe, allowing you to create and manage a group of contacts and send mass SMS messages. This is great for getting a message out to a specific group of people (your family, your co-workers, a circle of friends) speedily and easily.

But those subscribed to limited texting plans may not appreciate the barrage of texts that result from the reply-all nature of the service. Cloud Text is similar, but works across platforms, so you can text from your PC or the Sidekick.

There’s a VGA front-facing camera you can use to video-chat through Qik’s service. Around the back, there’s a heftier 3.2-megapixel camera. That’s subpar by today’s standards, but the software offers multiple settings that photo geeks can use to tweak images. You can shoot photos in black and white, sepia and panoramic modes, and adjust the exposure, white balance, contrast, saturation and sharpness. Video quality is nothing special.

If you actually use your phone to make calls, you’ll be happy to hear that the call quality is superb. The phone’s noise cancellation is so well-implemented that during a lull in conversation with my dad on my bus ride home, the line became so silent that he thought the call had been dropped.

During my testing, I found T-Mobile’s network speeds — HSPA+ 4G or otherwise — to be generally good. The latest episode of 30 Rock downloaded in minutes, and web pages loaded at least as quickly as on comparable smartphones. T-Mobile says you’ll get 5-to-10-Mbps download speeds wherever it can connect to 4G, and I found no reason to dispute that claim. The Sidekick will also act as a mobile hot spot for up to five devices.

Overall, the Samsung Sidekick 4G gives a modern update to the traditional look and feel of the old Sidekick handsets, but it suffers a bit from some odd hardware-design choices, and from software quirks. Viewed as just another Android phone, it’s tough to recommend it over other Android handsets out there. However, longtime Sidekick users or Blackberry owners transitioning to Android will like the Sidekick’s big keyboard, and they should be pleased enough with the user experience.

WIRED Physical keyboard will keep thumb warriors happy. Tons of media options and chat features keep you entertained and connected. Speedy 1-GHz Hummingbird processor gets things moving: Games like Angry Birds Rio don’t stutter in the slightest. Battery life easily lasts all day for normal mixed usage. Background noise? What background noise?

TIRED Screen-popping mechanism is a bit tricky. Button placement is downright poor. The mix of onscreen-touch and physical-button navigation is perplexing and redundant. It takes a lot of work to get a good photo –- if I wanted to mess with that many settings, I would have gotten an actual digital camera.

Photo by Jon Snyder/Wired.com

Comcast Test May Lead to TV Programming Delivered Via Laptop or Video Game Console

Posted by admin | Posted in Cell Phones & Plans | Posted on 04-05-2011

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ComcastComcast is testing a system that would let users replace their set-top box with any Internet-ready device, like a laptop or video game console.

This isn’t the same tech that lets you watch live TV on your laptop, or use your iPad as a program guide. Instead, it uses the Comcast broadband network to deliver a signal to your television via VoIP.

This adds flexibility and, potentially, mobility to cable, which has been hamstrung to date by its need for co-axial cable and a set-top box.

Comcast will use MIT as a testbed for the VoIP delivery system, starting this fall, The Wall Street Journal reported today.

The move is significant for a couple of reasons.

First, as Journal reporter Jessica Vascellaro notes, VoIP is the same technology that AT&T’s U-Verse and various smaller companies have used to make an end run around pay-TV providers. In other words, Comcast proposes to beat competitors at their own packet-switched game.

Second, although Comcast says it has no plans to offer the service in geographic areas where it is not currently the cable TV provider, using VoIP would make it technically possible. If this happens, Time Warner, Cablevision and other competitors could kiss their monopoly goodbye.

Third, it reflects what most TV fans seem to prefer, which is to watch TV in the time-honored place: On the couch, in front of the biggest tube we can afford.

That preference apparently extends beyond live TV to on-demand choices. Comcast said today that its Xfinity On Demand service serves up 350 million VOD programs a month from 25,000 “entertainment choices” (TV series, movies, sports and music).

Dan Frommer at Business Insider says that works out to about 8 hours 45 minutes of VOD per month, compared to Nielsen’s March numbers for streaming Netflix users (almost 10 hours per month) and Hulu (5 hours 15 minutes per month). “And all of these are still peanuts compared to the more than 150 hours of TV that the average American watches per month,” Frommer adds.

Unlike Netflix and Hulu, Comcast’s on-demand programming doesn’t cost anything extra. It’s bundled free with a monthly cable subscription.

LG Pulls Out the Big Guns With Dual-Core Android Phone

Posted by admin | Posted in Gadget Reviews | Posted on 03-05-2011

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Like some geekier version of the Cold War, the mobile phone arms race of 2011 has manufacturers stockpiling as much brawn as possible into the limited space of a handset.

And with its G2x Android smartphone, LG has outed itself as a superpower.

LG’s flagship phone is running on Nvidia’s Tegra 2 dual-core 1-GHz processor. Are two cores really better than one? After playing with the G2x, I sure think so.

Right off the bat, the power of this chip is noticeable. Switching back and forth between different menu screens is seamless, and speedier than ever. Scroll downward through the pre-loaded catalog of apps, and the icons cascade like a waterfall. When I played the Halo-esque game that comes with the phone — a taxing first-person shooter in HD — it ran with minimal choppiness while handling some fairly intense animations.

With such a powerful processor at work, it’s a bit surprising the phone only comes with 512 MB of RAM installed. That might not prove to be enough for any especially resource-hungry apps and games that will arrive in the future. But for now, the phone ran the apps I threw at it like a charm.

One downside to all that power is that the back of the handset tends to get toasty after extended periods of use. So, unless you frequently suffer from cold ears, this is probably not a desirable attribute.

The phone’s 4-inch capacitive touchscreen displays color brilliantly, though I couldn’t help but wish for a larger screen for gaming. HDMI-out is always an option, and full HD mirroring lets you use the phone as a gyroscopically sensitive controller while playing on your big screen. But an extra half-inch or so of pixel real estate would have sated my thirst just the same.

The 8-megapixel rear-facing camera takes some of the clearest, crispest photos I’ve seen on a smartphone, while the 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera worked well enough for chats. My biggest camera gripe: The delay between hitting the photo button and the “shutter” closing is far too long to accurately capture that spur-of-the-moment goofy face your friend is making.

LG went with a stock version of Android 2.2 Froyo for the G2x. Frankly, not having to deal with another manufacturer’s skin is a big plus: Interfaces like HTC’s Sense or Motoblur just feel chunky compared to the bare-bones version of the OS (and to Android purists, they’re practically a sin). Although it’s not running the latest version of Android (Gingerbread) quite yet, this phone is slated to receive the OS update sometime this summer.

T-Mobile’s network performance on the phone was adequate, but left me wanting. T-Mobile markets its HSPA+ as “4G” — a term which has grown quite murky — with “theoretical peak download speeds reaching 21 Mbps and peak upload speeds of up to 5.7 Mbps.”

But you probably won’t be seeing those speeds. Over the course of two weeks of testing in the San Francisco Bay Area, I averaged download speeds ranging between 2.5 and 5.5 Mbps, and upload speeds anywhere from 0.2 Mbps to 2.2 Mbps.

My only major quibble with the hardware design is the phone’s backbone: It’s got too damn much of it. A thin metal strip tapers up the back of the handset into the edge of the camera. In theory, the edge works perfectly as a rest for your index finger while taking a call. In practice, it just feels freaking weird.

But my minor complaints about the G2x are far outweighed by its superior under-the-hood firepower. If this is the direction that LG is taking its phones — stock operating system, beefy hardware specs, peripheral-friendly — we’re eager to see more.

WIRED HDMI-out and DLNA compatibility make for cozy communication with peripherals and HDTVs. Expandable micro SD to 32 GB leaves room for tons of tunes.

TIRED Non-skinned interface without the latest version of Android (Froyo, not Gingerbread) makes us sad. Screen forebodingly froze up on us twice during testing, requiring reboot.

Photos: Jon Snyder/Wired.com

Let’s Get Small: HP’s Tiny WebOS Smartphone

Posted by admin | Posted in Gadget Reviews | Posted on 03-05-2011

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The Veer is ridiculously small. Almost Zoolander ridiculously small.

When you first grip the thing in your hand and try out the keyboard, you think, “Oh man, this is never going to work.” But after a few initial typos, it’s actually not that bad at all.

At 3.25 inches long, the Veer is tiny, stealthy and unassuming. It’s so small, it’ll even fit in the coin pocket of your jeans. The back of the black model has a rubberized texture that keeps your brain from mistaking it for a large, smooth pebble.

The 2.6-inch touchscreen is minuscule compared to giant 4.3-inch stunners like that of the HTC ThunderBolt. But as long as you’re not dead set on streaming a lot of movies or TV onto your device, it’s just large enough to do most anything else.

The phone’s screen-sliding mechanism feels solid, but it is still easy enough to operate with one hand or one thumb. And although the super-small keyboard takes a bit of practice — and a lot of trust, because your thumb covers up half the keyboard — I was surprised at how often I was able to compose typo-free messages and e-mails on the raised keys.

Palm’s webOS really shines on a device with such a small form factor. Instead of the standard menu screens seen on other smartphones, webOS uses an array of cards that can be accessed with a single tap on the gesture pad, located right under the display. Opening a new instance of an application creates a new card. A swipe upward removes the card from the deck, otherwise it’s there waiting for you when you want to return to it. Related cards (like multiple Facebook pages, for example) stack on top of one another.

Unfortunately, the implementation suffers from a few unpleasant hiccups. Finger flicks need to be deliberate, or they won’t be registered by the device. While scrolling through the photo roll, images take a second to deblur. App loading occasionally stutters, and sometimes freezes — I found this particularly true when loading the web browser. Since games and apps functioned perfectly fine once opened, this seemed like more of a software issue than a problem with the Veer’s 800 MHz Snapdragon processor.

The HP Veer comes with a couple useful features baked in: integrated messaging and Just Type, which is standard to all webOS devices. Integrated messaging allows conversations with the same contact on different services, for instance, on Google Chat and SMS, to be synced up and displayed in the same timeline, providing a seamless record of your chats. And if you don’t feel like flipping through your cards or scrolling through your apps, you can use Just Type to begin typing an app name or search item, and the phone will bring it up for you.

The Veer can act as a Wi-Fi hotspot for up to five wireless devices on AT&T’s HSPA+ 4G network. It also takes decent photos with its 5-megapixel camera — as long as there’s not excessive sunlight, which made my shots look overexposed and washed out.

The HP Veer is a pretty great phone, despite its diminutive appearance. Wired’s first impressions of the device were spot on: This would make a great phone for a teenager or anyone who wants to stay connected, but doesn’t need a large, super-crisp display for video playback.

WIRED Fantastically small form factor fits comfortably in almost any pocket. Magsafe-style charger — why isn’t this standard on all phones yet?

TIRED If the box didn’t say 4G on it, I never would have guessed. Palm’s app store has a woefully dismal selection — only the biggest names are there. The battery is non-removable.

Photos: Jim Merithew/Wired.com

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Posted by admin | Posted in Cell Phones & Plans | Posted on 03-05-2011

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The likely cause for this is that your browser, feed reader, or email application is configured to not accept cookies, or your reader may launch an external browser to view links without sharing cookies.

  • If you’re using Internet Explorer, make sure your privacy setting is at medium or below. 
    • Select ‘Internet Options’ from the ‘Tools’ menu in your browser window
    • Click the Privacy tab
    • Adjust your privacy setting if necessary
  • If you’re using a reader that embeds Internet Explorer (examples: Microsoft Outlook, Outlook Express, Feed Demon), you’ll also need to select Internet Explorer as your default web browser.
    • Open Internet Explorer
    • Select ‘Internet Options’ from the ‘Tools’ menu in your browser window
    • Click the ‘Programs’ tab and check the box for Internet Explorer to check if it is the default browser and save your change
    • Close your browser, re-open it, and when prompted, select Internet Explorer as your default
    • You can then click on an ad in your newsletter and visit the site you wish to view

© 2011 Pheedo, Inc. All rights reserved.

How To Get Online Anywhere

Posted by admin | Posted in Cell Phones & Plans | Posted on 02-05-2011

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Graphic: Diego AguirreGraphic: Diego Aguirre

High-speed Internet access has become fairly ubiquitous in hotels, and not just major chains. You can usually check online to see if an establishment offers Internet access, but your research shouldn’t stop there.

Look into Internet options before you get to your hotel. Find out if the service is via Wi-Fi or ethernet, and whether it’s included with the room charge or costs extra (some places charge $ 10 to $ 20 a day).

If you’re traveling with a companion, you might also find out whether there’s any problem with two people from the same room using Wi-Fi. And if you’re stuck with a wired connection, you can probably share it with others by using a travel router to create a hot spot. Several vendors offer small, compact routers that support 802.11g; Trendnet’s TEW-654TR (about $ 50) is one of the first to back the faster 802.11n standard.

A mobile broadband Wi-Fi router lets you (and several friends or colleagues) tap into your smartphone data network with any Wi-Fi device. Novatel Wireless’s MiFi routers are barely larger than a credit card; currently you can get one for $ 100 with a Verizon Wireless data plan, or $ 150 for use with Virgin Mobile’s pay-as-you go service.

The NovaTel MiFi.The NovaTel MiFi.You can also get unlocked MiFi models for use with GSM networks. The latter cost $ 230, and you have to make your own arrangements for data plans and SIM cards. Unfortunately, you can’t use the same MiFi router in both North America and Europe–each continent’s 3G (HSPA) networks operate on different frequencies, so Novatel Wireless has different models for Europe and for North America.

A company called Cradlepoint makes a Wi-Fi router that’s meant for use with any activated USB Wi-Fi modem. However, not all modems work with the device, so check to see if yours is on the supported list.

If you do want to use a GSM-based smartphone overseas, look into prepaid international roaming plans. AT&T sells them in various sizes, from $ 25 for 20MB to $ 200 for 200MB. Without a plan, you pay $ 0.0195 per kilobyte, which comes to $ 19.50 for a single megabyte.

If all else fails, or you just need to log in to check a few e-mails, check out your hotel’s business center. Some hotels also have lobby stations that you can use to check in to a flight and print out a boarding pass. But be cautious in using a public PC. Try to find a machine that reboots and cleans up between guests; you don’t want your accounts hacked because you left login information or cookies behind. Ask a manager about security if you’re in doubt.

Staying connected can really help you get away from it all in style. Follow our other tech travel tips to really travel like royalty.

Franken Asks Apple, Google to Require App Privacy Policy

Posted by admin | Posted in Cell Phones & Plans | Posted on 02-05-2011

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senator al franken Senator Al Franken (D-Minn.) pinged Apple and Google Wednesday with a letter requesting that the two companies require apps distributed via their online marketplaces have “a clear, understandable privacy policy.”

In the letter addressed to Apple CEO Steve Jobs and Google CEO Larry Page, Franken writes that such a requirement “would not resolve most of the privacy concerns in the mobile market.

“But it would be a simple first step that would provide users, privacy advocates, and federal consumer protection authorities a minimum of information about what information an app will access and how that app will share the information with third parties.

Noting that Apple’s App Store and Google’s Android Marketplace are by far the two largest online app distribution outlets in the world, Franken contended that the two companies were “in a unique position to influence the market for apps and protect users’ privacy within the market.”

At a minimum, Franken asked that Apple and Google require privacy policies for apps that use location tracking, technology that came under fire from privacy advocates when researchers publicized the existence of an unencrypted file storing location data on Apple’s iPhones.

“Although I believe there is a greater need for transparency and disclosure for the collection and sharing of all personal information, at a minimum, I ask that you require all location-aware applications in your app stores to provide privacy policies that clearly specify what kind of location information is gathered from users, how that information is used, and how it is shared with third parties,” the first-term Senator wrote.

Franken last month penned a letter to Apple alone that asked about location tracking on devices running Apple’s iOS 4 mobile operating system.

Apple in early May issued an update to iOS 4 that fixed what it called a “bug” that was not allowing iPhone users to turn off location tracking, while also reducing the size of the cache storing location data and eliminating back-up of the cache on iTunes when users synced their iPhones.

Franken may not have endeared himself to Apple by referring to its competitor Google’s Android Marketplace as an “app store.” Apple is touchy about the name, last week stating in a court filing that it “denies that, based on their common meaning, the words ‘app store’ together denote a store for apps.”

Meanwhile, a reference in the letter to a story by PCMag’s Mark Hachman wrongly attributed the article to PCWorld.

For the top stories in tech, follow us on Twitter at @PCMag.

 

How To Keep Connected While Flying and At the Airport

Posted by admin | Posted in Cell Phones & Plans | Posted on 01-05-2011

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Airlines in recent years have taken to technology to help cut costs and long lines. Here’s a few tips for staying charged and connected.

  • Several airlines now offer Aircell’s GoGo Wi-Fi-based inflight Internet service (you can find a list of participating airlines on Gogo’s Web site).
  • Stay charged while at the airport. Keep a multioutlet travel power strip and surge protector with you, like the Targus Travel 4-Outlets Surge Suppressor, so you can plug in to a charging station and even share with others.
  • Make sure you have configurable plug adapters that you can use in several countries. While they’re rather bulky, buying one can be preferable to having to load up several different adapters if you’re going to be visiting countries that use different types of plugs.
  • That travel power strip mentioned earlier can also save you from having to buy lots of plug adapters: Use one to plug the strip into the wall, and then you can plug in four of your devices without other special gear. The strips can also come in handy in hotel rooms that have skimped on free outlets.
  • Check in early. Most airlines will let you check in online up to 24 hours before departure and print your own boarding passes. This gives you the opportunity to select seats and, in some cases, get upgrades at a cut rate: Virgin America, for example, offers any unsold business class seats for drastically reduced rates within a day of departure.
  • With some airlines and on some flights, you can even skip the printing part by using a smartphone to access the bar code that is scanned in at the departure gate. If this option is available, the airline will typically let you opt to have the boarding pass sent to your smartphone when you check in online (instead of printing it out). What you’ll get on the phone is a link to a Web page with your unique bar code. Note: This eliminates the risk of losing a printed pass, but be careful: You might run into other problems. What if poor connectivity at the airport prevents you from accessing the page? You could opt to save an image of the page as a screen shot, but now you still have to worry about keeping the phone charged. And we’ve also seen reports of problems trying to scan in an image on a cell phone screen. Still, the technology is coming into wider use and will doubtless improve over time.
  • Read Seat Guru’s guide to in-seat laptop power, which has links to comparison charts showing which airlines and planes have outlets. In many cases some, but not all, seats have easy access to power outlets. So it pays to click through to the seating charts for the airlines and planes you’re considering: Seat Guru shows exactly which seats have outlets and which don’t.

Staying connected can really help you get away from it all in style. Follow our other tech travel tips to really travel like royalty.

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Zuck: Kids, Smartphones Need Not Apply at Facebook

Posted by admin | Posted in Cell Phones & Plans | Posted on 01-05-2011

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Mark Zuckerberg Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Wednesday backpedaled on an earlier endorsement for letting younger children on the social website and said his company isn’t getting into the mobile device business any time soon.

Zuckerberg also joined former Google CEO Eric Schmidt at the e-G8 conference in Paris in warning governments not to over-regulate the Internet.

The Facebook founder last week said children should be allowed to create profiles on the site for educational purposes. But in a question-and-answer session at the e-G8 summit, Zuckerberg said those comments were taken out of context.

“We’re not trying to work on the ability for people under the age of 13 to sign up,” Zuckerberg was quoted as saying by Reuters.

Facebook requires users to be 13 or older, though millions of underage kids reportedly get around the policy to use the social networking site.

Making a smartphone or tablet is also not a priority for Facebook, Zuckerberg said in response to another question.

“I think there are good ones already,” he was quoted as saying. “That’s not our business. We get software development and social dynamics. I don’t think that we get hardware. So far, what we’re focused on is just building really good experiences for these things.”

On government regulation of the Internet, Zuckerberg was joined by Schmidt in advising against legislating controls that could have unforeseen effects.

“Technology will move faster than governments, so don’t legislate before you understand the consequences,” Schmidt said, according to BBC News.

Zuckerberg added that it wouldn’t be wise to try to control certain parts of the Internet while letting other parts remain openly available.

“People tell me on the one hand, ‘It’s great you played such a big role in the Arab spring [uprisings], but it’s also kind of scary because you enable all this sharing and collect information on people’,” he said.

“But it’s hard to have one without the other. You can’t isolate some things you like about the internet and control other things that you don’t.”

For the top stories in tech, follow us on Twitter at @PCMag.

 

Curvy, Slim Xperia Arc Is the Leggy Supermodel of Smartphones

Posted by admin | Posted in Gadget Reviews | Posted on 01-05-2011

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Undeniably attractive and super skinny, Sony Ericsson’s Xperia Arc is ready for a career as a runway model.

This fashionable specimen measures a mere 0.46 inches thick at its thinnest point, the middle of the concave arc that runs vertically down the back of the phone. It manages to make my iPhone 3GS look almost obese in comparison.

Slimness is a virtue in devices, as it reduces that embarrassing Visible Phone Line in your pocket. But premium phones usually have a bit of heft to them, and in that respect, the Xperia Arc feels a little too thin. Flimsy, even. At 4.13 ounces, it’s incredibly lightweight, thanks mostly to the removable plastic rear cover that gives access to the battery, SIM card and SD memory card.

Fragile as it seems, it’s a solid, well-performing Gingerbread phone with an excellent camera and a beautiful screen. There are some problems with the software, and a few head-scratchers in the design, but overall, I can recommend it. The phone is scheduled to arrive in the United States this summer, most likely on AT&T or T-Mobile networks.

The design generates plenty of interest during bourgeois dinner parties when it’s time for the ubiquitous “pull out your iPhone” ceremony after you run out of HBO shows to talk about. The Xperia Arc isn’t an iPhone, and its looks are definitely eye-catching.

Cool tooling aside, the backlit 4.2-inch “reality display” is reason alone to consider the Xperia Arc. The LED touchscreen is powered by Sony’s mobile Bravia engine, a descendant of what the company uses in its HDTVs. It has excellent color reproduction and brightness, even during sunny days.

The iPhone 4’s screen has better resolution — 960 x 640 pixels compared to the Xperia’s 854 x 480 pixels — and is better overall, but the Xperia Arc screen is lovely to behold. When you need a bigger screen for gaming or watching movies, the Xperia Arc has enough power to drive an HDTV using the HDMI connector that Sony Ericsson supplies with the phone.

The camera was probably my favorite feature. The phone sports a Sony Exmor R sensor for its camera and a bright, f/2.4 lens. The images it produces are sharp, fairly noise-free and have great color and contrast. Overall, it takes some of the best photos I’ve seen from a mobile phone.

I shot some test images to compare the Xperia Arc to the current cellphone camera king, the Nokia N8. With its 12-megapixel sensor and f/2.8 Carl Zeiss lens, the Nokia should win this match. But images from the Xperia Arc have better contrast and richer colors. The Xperia’s camera is quick too, unlike the N8s, which needs thinking time as it processes images.

Thanks to the Exmor sensor, the Xperia Arc does very well in low-light situations. This is great because the LED flash is too powerful, often bleaching out the subject you’re photographing, and should be used with caution.

Video clips look good in 720p HD, but the Xperia Arc’s microphone picks up sound in the opposite direction of where you’re pointing the camera, so you’ll get a lot of extraneous noise in the recordings. What a shame.

Another failure with the camera is the shutter button. It’s stiff and small with very little travel — a bit like the Power button, which also suffers from the same awkward size and action. It’s easy to blur images because you have to press so hard on the button, so I resorted to tapping the screen to take pics instead.

Camera-lens placement is also an issue. It’s easy to cover it up with the fingers of your left hand because the lens is right where you’d hold the phone. And where’s the front-facing camera for video calling?

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