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Inside Out: The Future of the Cell Phone February 21, 2010

Posted by Eli Blumenthal in Cell Phones, Opinion.
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From time to time, we’ll provide our thoughts as to where we think the industry is going, particularly as it relates to teens. We’re calling these posts, Inside Out, because we’ll be looking from where we sit into the outside world.


The future of the cell phone: the Windows Phone 7 Series, iPhone 3GS, BlackBerry Curve 8530, Palm Pre Plus and the Nexus One

Cell phones. We live by them. They’re by our sides 24/7, wherever we are. They are our ways of connecting with the world, through texts, IM’s, or just regular calls. Getting a new one is no longer just picking up a free phone, it’s a choice of style and design. Do we want a full keyboard, something that has a good camera and music player, a simple phone that doesn’t cost much, or something completely loaded with all of the latest features? The choices are endless, no matter what carrier you’re on– Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, or T-Mobile.

But recently there’s been a major shift in the cell phone market, led by new phones like the iPhone, Pre, BlackBerry, Droid and Nexus One. This is the rise of the smartphone (as those phones are called), phones that no longer just do texts but also email, internet, Facebook and Twitter. These phones are growing rapidly and more and more of us are switching to them when we look for new phones. Let’s take a look at why that is and where this is all leading.

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Skype and Verizon Join Forces to Bring Skype to Verizon Smartphones February 17, 2010

Posted by Eli Blumenthal in Cell Phones, Mobile World Congress.
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At first you might not think so, but this recent announcement at the Mobile World Congress is BIG news. Today, Skype and Verizon announced a new partnership and smartphone app that will allow Verizon users to chat– both through Skype IM AND through calling— to Skype users around the world. The free app, which will come in late March, will be available on the BlackBerry (models Curve 8830, Storm 1 and 2, Tour, Curve 8330 and Curve 8530), as well as the Android-running Motorola Droid, HTC Droid Eris, and the upcoming Motorola Devour (a phone we’ll have more on soon–think of as less powerful Droid with full keyboard and MOTOBLUR).

The name of the app is Skype Mobile and is an “always-on app,” meaning that it will constantly running in the background. Now here’s the big part of this partnership– the calls made on Skype Mobile are made over Verizon 3G data network and will NOT use your minutes. This is huge in multiple ways– 1) for those close to running over minutes and have one of these phones, you can use this to help keep you from running over. 2) Not only do Verizon users have unlimited calling to the 90 million customers on their carrier, but now they now can also call the 500+ million Skype  users, even if those users are online internationally!

Now you will need a data plan to use Skype Mobile (though since the application is only for smartphones, and that Verizon requires data plans for all the phones mentioned above, we don’t see this as much of a problem), and yes, AT&T has recently approved a Skype iPhone app that also allows calls over 3G and not just WiFi (which by the way, this app won’t be able to do)– but this is still definitely a big win for Verizon users if for no other reason than that Verizon is finally opening up their network for Skype and hopefully other services in the very near future.

Via Verizon Wireless and Skype

Pandora One February 16, 2010

Posted by Zev Rosenbaum in Computers, Music.
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Have you ever wanted your own DJ? One that is so smart that it can pick from literally thousands and thousands of songs, the perfect songs, customized to your music preferences? Imagine, a DJ that will create a whole playlist of songs based on songs you like, even comprehending the elements of the song that cause you to enjoy it so much. No I’m not talking about Genius, Apple’s attempt to create your own DJ, but something you can run entirely off the internet, for a mere price tag of $3 a month. I’m talking about Pandora One, which is an attempt to bring the very successful Pandora (known for their great iPhone, Android and other mobile apps), to your desktop.

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Microsoft Announces the Windows Phone 7 Series– WOW! February 15, 2010

Posted by Eli Blumenthal in Cell Phones, microsoft, Mobile World Congress.
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Microsoft today has finally announced the long awaited successor in it’s Windows Phone line, as was anticipated; and after watching the announcement unfold all I can say is– WOW! Yeah, if you were thinking this was similar to the tired and true Windows Mobile that we’ve seen over the years you’d be really wrong, like dead wrong. Take notice everyone– Microsoft is back in mobile, and it looks like they’re gonna be here to stay.

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Windows Mobile 7 Coming This Week? February 14, 2010

Posted by Eli Blumenthal in Cell Phones, microsoft, Mobile World Congress, Rumors.
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Rumored shots of Windows Mobile 7

This week is a big week for all things cell phone related with the Mobile World Congress (aka MWC) taking place in Barcelona, Spain. This event is seriously HUGE– think of it as a CES for cell phones. A lot of big stuff plan to be announced next week– newer, more powerful, and just plain better phones, new services for phones (such as TV, video calling), more info on the 4G that is set to begin being rolled out by Verizon and AT&T (as well as many other carriers around the world) later this year and early next year– but none of this seems to be as big as what Microsoft has in store.

According to the Wall Street Journal (note: subscription needed to read the whole article) and tons of other news outlets, Monday– which is the start of MWC– will finally be the day where Microsoft finally announces a truly new and much better version of Windows Mobile. We’re talking the release of Windows Mobile 7, not some small decimal point like last year’s Windows Mobile 6.5, where the OS was nearly the same as it was for most of the last decade, save for some nicer menus and an updated homescreen.

So what can we expect in this new OS that will keep it up to date with the likes of Android, webOS and the iPhone OS? If some of these rumors are true– then a lot. Everything from Zune and Xbox tie-ins (yes, Xbox– though to what extent is still very much up in the air) to a much, much better media and overall user experience (we love the Zune HD and it’s interface, which is said to play a pretty big role here throughout Windows Mobile 7). There is also talk that the Zune software will be where you sync your phone with your computer, similar to iTunes and the iPhone. There also is said to be better support for touchscreens (particularly capacitive/finger-friendly ones that don’t require a stylus, like the iPhone, Pre and most Android phones), multi-touch, a better version of Internet Explorer Mobile (which is much-needed as well), and just much more powerful hardware, which, supposedly, Microsoft is working more closely with device manufacturers to make sure all phones run this well. Heck, there is even talk Microsoft may release their own phones.

Whatever Microsoft plans to do, we’ll make sure you stay in the know. Their press conference is called for Monday at 9 AM Eastern time (or 3 PM Barcelona time), so make sure to check back Monday for all the news both and Microsoft and everything going down at MWC.

Pic from Engadget

More then Just Chips – Intel Youth Rock Stars Summit February 10, 2010

Posted by Chaim Gartenberg in Computers, Teen Info.
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Shiny.
So I, along with some other really smart bloggers, (was great to meet everyone, by the way), were at Intel HQ a few days back at the Intel Youth Rock Star Summit. Here’s a brief summary of what we’ve been up to:
We first had a discussion on netbooks, particularly in the role they provide in a school space as opposed to a full size laptop, particularly in regard to the Atom Processor. Basically, the idea there is that the netbook is meant to be an accessory to your main laptop – something portable for use on the go. Due to its high portability and low price points, it’s becoming an ideal option as a single laptop for note taking, provided nothing too heavy needs to run.
Next, we had a discussion and Q/A session with Intel Fellow and Engeneer Mario Paccania, regarding the new Intel Light Peak technology – basically, a new form of computer connection that is based on optical (fiber optic, or light-based) cables to transmit data. The cool thing? 10 GB per SECOND transfer speed – or insanely, insanely, fast. This is going to be huge when it launches. Also, it’s based on USB, so it’s fully backwards compatible with USB 3.0, 2.0, and 1.0 as well.
We heard about the new tech in the latest Intel laptops, particurly the Core i3, i5, and i7 devices; we saw the Dell XPS Adamo, the thinnest computer in the world – mind blowingly thin (seriously, you could cut carrots with this one). We also got to see WiDi – wireless display stuff: hook up box to TV. Press button on laptop. And magically the TV now wirelessly displays the laptop’s output. Sweet for watching stuff with friends. Just worked simply and easily, and was seriously cool to see.
Lunch was fun, with an interesting debate on Apple’s latest iPad – and the role of it, if any, in the student life, particularly related to content creation vs. consumption. Interesting to see different takes on that, and to discuss the role of content creation vs. consumption, and even the levels of it.
After lunch, we got to see two seriously, seriously cool things: Intel Dispute Finder, and Home Energy Management. Dispute Finder, designed as a plug-in, is meant to counteract the unfortunate problem  that among wealth of media that now people on the internet (like this blog, for instance), some of it is not true. Dispute Finder would highlight disputed information and point you towards a site that you trust to help you understand opinions and perspectives to that information. Quite cool.
Home Energy Management was also seriously impressive. Through one integrated box located on your wall, you can monitor numerous aspects of your home – heating, AC, security — in a simple, organized fashion. Trust me, this is cool – like sci-fi movie cool. It monitors energy use, makes suggestions to save you money, lets you turn on and off stuff, set up profiles for your HOUSE for different times, like you can with a phone.
Afterwards, we had an interesting discussion about marketing and outreach to teens and college students, concluding that Google and Apple are considered the best at getting the market attention of teens. How to get teens to notice stuff was the question, which got some interesting answers and ideas on.
Next, we visited Intel’s Tera-Scale computing lab, hidden deep in the Intel Headquarters. This place was insane – you’ve probably heard of dual core chips. Or quad core. The newest stuff right now has 8-core chips. In this lap – try 80-cores. That’s effectively 80 computers. On one chip. We saw some stuff running on the smaller 48-core chips, and it was sweet – stuff like automatically enhancing pixalated pictures – enough to read far away, blurry text, as well as smoothing jitterey cell phone videos, to digital 3D scanning and rendering for use in a game – from a dozen still webcam images. Live traffic tracking.
And of course, everyone’s favorite, the awesome augmented reality ball game – which took a bunch of bouncing Intel balls that you could interact with on webcam, in real time.
After that, we went over to the Gaming Benchmarking Lab, where they do benchmarking for the latest Intel chips. Pictures speak louder then words on this one – that’s a LOT of computers…
So, that’s it. All in all, an incredible experience. Got to see some seriously cool stuff, meet some seriously cool people, and if there’s one message I can give you guys that I took away from this, it’s that there’s a LOT more to Intel than just the chips.

A Student’s Take on the iPad February 5, 2010

Posted by Eli Blumenthal in Apple, Opinion, tablets.
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Since Apple announced the iPad last week, opinions are abound, with many predicting failure for a device whose capability seems to lie somewhere  between Apple’s  MacBook and iPod Touch in the company’s attempt to replace or reinvent the traditional computer. In that regard the iPad isn’t well suited in its current stage: it lacks a video camera so you can’t iChat, there is no iLife for content creation, for some reason multi-tasking is still a no-show even with the iPad’s bumped-up specs, and in terms of using this for browsing the web, it’s good but not great, lacking the Flash support that is used on many web sites across the web, like ESPN and Hulu.

As a student, though, even with all these flaws I see a lot of potential for the iPad. I actually believe that this could be a great device, and am really eager to pick one up for this reason alone—this could finally be the perfect school computer.

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iPad Accessories—The Break Down February 4, 2010

Posted by Eli Blumenthal in Apple, tablets.
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Last week we covered exactly what the iPad is, now let’s take a closer look at some of the accessories Apple plans on rolling out alongside the new device. Apple announced 5 main accessories along with the iPad; let’s take a close look at what exactly they are:

  • Keyboard Dock— This is a must have add-on in my book—a dock that props up your iPad for ideal vertical view, as well as including a full-sized, physical QWERTY keyboard. The dock, which comes with a keyboard very similar to the Apple wireless Bluetooth keyboards for Macs, also gives you a iPod 30 pin connector for syncing with your computer, charging, or using other add-ons like the ones below, as well as an audio jack let’s you connect to better speakers if you want. If you plan to use the iPad as, say, your computer in school for taking notes or writing papers (for example, using the Pages app), this truly is a must-have, even at it’s price of $69.

  • iPad Case— This is Apple’s case for the iPad, that not only protects the screen while keeping it usable for typing and, well just using the device, it also has a built-in stand that can be used in many different ways, such as setting on a table for viewing slide shows or videos. The iPad Case will be priced at $39, though we’re sure there will be many other cases coming out for much less than that.

  • iPad Dock— Pretty much the Keyboard Dock, minus the keyboard. It’ll cost $29.

  • iPad Camera Connection Kit— This takes the regular iPod dock connector on the iPad and turns it into either a USB port or SD card slot for importing pix from your digital camera right to your iPad. This is some of the most basic functions found on even the cheapest netbooks and we would’ve really liked Apple to have put both of these into the iPad from the outset, but I guess thinness has it’s price. The price for this add-on kit is also $29.

There also is an extra power adapter for charging off of a regular outlet (with a greater range, thanks to a 6-foot cable) and a VGA connector for hooking this up to a computer screen or TV with a VGA port available.

So there you have it—a round-up of all the iPad accessories Apple plans to sell alongside the new iPad. The big thing here of course is the new keyboard dock, which should definitely throw a whole new dimension on what this device can do (we all know how much people wanted a real keyboard on the iPhone).

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