Verizon announed on friday that it was lowering its unlimited calling plan, and not to be outdone, AT&T quickly followed suit.

Even with reduced prices, cellular plan prices in the United States are outrageous compared to other parts of the world.  That being said, we should still be grateful for any prices breaks we receive, and due to Verizon lowering its prices on Friday, AT&T followed suit.  The best news is that current customers will get the new pricing without having to extend their contracts and will receive no penalties for getting this new pricing.

You can find the new Verizon plans here, and AT&T’s here.

While it is nice to see some sort of drops, you are still looking at prices like $1200 a year for unlimited voice and data on the iPhone via AT&T, and texting costs more on top of that, and is usually in the area of $2o a month.  Although it has been proven that texting actually costs carriers nothing, they still feel the need to charge us each month depending on the volume of messages we send and receive.

So, yes, yay for Verizon and AT&T getting in a price war!  Now they are robbing us slightly less then they were even a week ago!  Make sure you have the cheapest plan you can possibly have, and hopefully you can save at least some money, but just remember that you are still paying some of the highest cell phone rates in the world.

Categories: Apple, Cell Phones, Mobile Phones   
 

iPhone and iPod Touch owners rejoice that a physical keyboard is finally coming out for your favorite device … but try to keep yourself in check until you learn the details.

Ion, a company best known for its USB devices, has announced at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) that it is releasing a physical keyboard for the iPhone and iPod Touch, something users have been longing for since both devices first came to market.  Called the iType, the device will allow you to snap your Apple product into the top of the device and type on a nearly full-size physical keyboard while your device is in landscape mode.

While this sounds exciting at first, and you may have images of catching up on your emails dancing in your head, the keyboard will only work while you’re in the iType application.  You will then have to copy anything you write there and then paste it into the application you want to use it in.  A definite nuisance, and one that makes you wonder if the product will be worth it once it’s released.  No price has yet been announced which makes us even more suspicious that it is just not going to be worth the investment for being so limited in scope.

Categories: Apple, Cell Phones, Gadgets   
 

apple logoEvidence is mounting that not only is the Apple Tablet real, but that it will be named the iSlate.

Christmas has been a busy time for those in the Apple rumor game.  First, MacRumors did some digging and discovered that Apple owns a site domain name called “iSlate.com”.  (which currently does not point to a page)  This was followed up by TechCrunch doing some massive trademark digging, and finding overwhelming evidence that Apple does indeed own the iSlate trademark, albeit through a shell company.  This was followed up by even more digging by MacRumors and … yeah … Apple is totally behind the iSlate name.

Then comes this juicy news that Apple has booked the  Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA) in San Francisco for several days in late January.  Why is this exciting?  This is the venue Apple usually uses to make its annual iPod announcements every September.

You add up the domain name, the trademarks and the booking of the YBCA, and it looks like the iSlate (still not liking this name), and it looks like we will find out around Jan. 26th (it’s a Tuesday … Apple loves Tuesday announcements) if this thing is real.  Our money is on “yes”, and also on the tablet costing far more than we can afford.

Categories: Apple   
 

apple lalaReports indicate that Apple has purchased streaming music service Lala.

Apple isn’t usually known for purchasing other companies, preferring to build everything for itself, but news has come out in the past 24 hours that it has purchased Lala.  The company does sometimes buy smaller companies, most of which go unnoticed, but the possible implications of this purchase are staggering.

If you haven’t heard of Lala before, it is a streaming music service that some people have referred to as the iTunes of the Web.  It started off as a service where you could trade CDs with other users via the mail, and you could also “backup” up to 5,000 songs from your personal collection to its servers and then listen to the music from any computer with Internet access.

Late last year they added streaming capabilities that allowed you to stream any of the 8 million songs it had acquired a license to for one time, and then if you wanted to hear it again you could pay a minimal fee for unlimited streaming.

The news broke earlier today that the two companies were supposedly in talks, but by this evening it was being reported by The New York Times that the deal was actually completed.  Steve Dowling, an Apple spokesman, told the newspaper that the company “buys smaller technology companies all the time, and we generally do not comment on our purpose or plans.”

And that is where the excitement is coming from; what exactly are Apple’s plans for a streaming music company?

The reports say that Lala executives actually contacted Eddy Cue, Apple’s vice president in charge of iTunes, about the possible purchase over concerns that the small company was not going to be able to turn a profit in the short term.  Unconfirmed reports — which, really, all of this information is at this point — say that Apple got the company at a bargain basement price of $.50 on the dollar.

Now begins the speculation of what Apple with do with Lala’s technology.  Many people have said for some time now that Apple should get into some sort of cloud computing based version of iTunes that would allow a user to play their music across all of their computers and mobile devices without needing to sync data constantly.  Will they strip Lala down to its assets and do such a thing?  Who knows, it is anyone’s guess at this point, but it would make sense.

Hopefully there will be some sort of official announcement soon, but this is Apple we are talking about here, a company famous for its secrecy.

Categories: Apple, music   
 

iphone 3gsIt’s only a rumor at this point, but it is quite possible that Apple is preparing to break its exclusivity with AT&T in 2010.

According to rumors reported by AppleInsider, Apple has contracted for a version of its popular iPhone to be built with both UMTS/CDMA bandwidths, meaning that it would work with every carrier in the world. This would reduce the cost to Apple of having to produce different handsets for different markets, and it would also open up the possibility of the iPhone coming to Verizon in the USA.

Does this mean that Apple is for sure severing its exclusivity ties with AT&T in the USA?  No, of course it doesn’t.  While the new iPhone is scheduled for release in the third quarter of 2010, and that is close to when the AT&T contract ends, that doesn’t mean anything is written in stone.

Would it be smart for Apple to get away from AT&T?  Yes, it would be considering the numerous complaints users have had with the carrier, it has reflected badly on Apple in turn.  But, just because a phone has the capability to do something doesn’t mean it necessarily will.  This change to the iPhone’s construction solves a lot of problems for Apple in numerous markets, not just in the USA.

Another portion of the rumor is that Apple is looking at reducing the screen size from 3.5″ to 2.8″.  I find it difficult to believe that Apple would do this across the board, it sounds more to me like the oft-rumored “iPhone Nano”.  People have speculated for years now that Apple would come out with some smaller, cheaper version of the phone to capture more of the market.  A screen reduction of that magnitude would be very odd if it was an “all or nothing” scenario.

What I find most amusing is that we are already in rumor mode for iPhone 2010 … I bet the 2011 rumors will start fairly soon too …

Categories: Apple, Cell Phones   
 

apple app store LogoWith all of the hoopla made over every time Apple denies an application access to the App Store, you have to wonder how ones that illegally harvest cell phone numbers make it through.

An iPhone user in Washington state named Michael Turner is looking to start a class action lawsuit against iPhone app developer Storm8 according to MediaPost.

The company is the maker of popular game apps such as “Vampires Live” and “Zombies Live”, and it is now known that their applications have been sending user’s phone numbers back to their central office.  The company claims that this was a bug in their games and that it has now been fixed.

Mr. Turner claims that this action actually violated the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, and that is what he is seeking to sue the company under.  Unfortunately Mr. Turner may have a long road ahead of him due to the fact that particular act states that the act must have “impaired the integrity of the data stored on a protected computer.”  Also, legal experts are saying that the collection of the phone number is not that sensitive as other data.

Either way, win or lose, Mr. Turner is correct to have at least brought this to everyone’s attention.  Sure what Storm8 did was improper, but not necessarily that harmful.  What is harmful is when you start to wonder that if this got past Apple, what else is lurking in those other 100,000 applications they are so proud of?

Categories: Apple   
 

apple app store LogoApple has announced the the iTunes App Store has now passed 100,000 available apps, but we have to wonder why this is seen as a good thing.

All of us who work around mobile news have known this day was coming, the day that the iTunes App Store passes 100,000 available apps, but it leaves me to wonder why this should be something that should be celebrated.

Have you ever looked through the App Store in-depth?  As someone who has written more articles about the marketplace than I care to remember, I have, and I can’t say that I always walk away impressed.  Sure there are some monumentally fantastic apps out there (the app for online music site Pandora springs to mind), but there are also a ton of really horrible applications.

The App Store is becoming a victim of its own success.  As people have heard all of these stories of people making tons of money from producing an app, people that have no business even trying to build an app have gotten involved.  As the number of apps has grown, it has become impossible to secrete the wheat from the chaff, and the good apps, the ones deserving of success, are becoming fewer and further between because you simply can’t find them.

A lot of the problem stems from the overly broad categories inside of the store.  While sections such as games, probably the most popular category,  has sub-categories, other sections are just too generic.  Take music for instance, anything even barely related to music gets lumped into one gelatinous group.  Why aren’t there sub-categories like “Streaming Music”, “Radio Stations”, “Music Games”, etc?  No, it’s just all “Music”.  There are currently 182 pages in the Music category with 20 apps per page … do you want to browse 3,640 apps without any additional guidance beyond … “Music”?  Yeah, I didn’t think so.

The only problem is just good old greed.  The Weather category has 22 pages of applications … 22 PAGES!!  Does anyone really need more than one or two weather apps?  Well, here is part of the problem in a category such as this, you have people that release specific apps for cities.  On the front page of this section alone you have “iWeather Oklahoma City”, “iWeather Seattle”, “iWeather Phoenix”, “iWeather Philadelphia”, “iWeather St. Louis”, “iWeather San Antonio” and so on, with each of these apps selling for $.99.  Or you could, you know, download the Weather.com app for free, enter multiple zip codes for it to install and be done.

You have app developers cranking out silly specific apps, choking the store to the point of being unusable, and Apple just seems to sit back and not care.  No, no, instead lets just keep approving app after app after app after app …

Part of the problem is that Apple does have to approve every app, and every time they deny one, there is a huge stink in the tech blogosphere with people decrying how unfair this is, and Apple shouldn’t be the gate keepers and yada yada yada.  So they keep approving the vast majority of apps that come in, no matter how lame they are, and end up choking the store so that customers can never find what they are looking for, and this results in reduced sales for the developers.  It is a vicious cycle that seems to have only Apple coming out a winner in the end.

I know it’s not an easy predicament to get out of.  Who is to say which apps are worthy, and which aren’t?  Perhaps a limit on the number of apps any one developer can release in a certain time?  I.E. “You get to release 2 apps a month”  I am sure people would complain, but something has to be done.

In the meanwhile, could we please get some more sub-categories?  Please?  Pretty please?

Categories: Apple, Opinion   
 

xmen iphoneDownloadable comics just got a huge boost in the arm with the addition of Marvel Entertainment to the fold.

Comixology, the maker of several iPhone and iPod Touch apps for purchasing and reading comic books, has announced the addition of one of the “big two” comic publishers to its stable of publishers: Marvel Entertainment.

While the catalog is currently limited to the titles of Astonishing X-Men (the first 24 issues written by Buffy, the Vampire Slayer creator Joss Whedon), Marvel Zombies miniseries, Captain America, X-23 and X-Men: Age of Apocalypse, this is surely not the end of what the House of Ideas will be offering.

As the former manager of a comic book store (from Aug. 1986 to Dec. 2001), I have been interested in how this would work, so I dove in and downloaded Astonishing X-Men #1.  I have to say, it works surprisingly well.  You are presented with one panel at a time, and the “camera” zooms in to the word balloon of the person talking, when you hit next, it pans to other side of the panel on very wide panels.  It felt a bit more like watching TV than reading a comic book to be honest, and I kind of liked it.

However, there is a rub here.  The issue I bought cost me a $1.99, a fairly high price I feel for a digital comic that was only 22-pages in length to begin with.  True, comic books now run you $2.99 to $3.99 on the stands (sometimes even as high as $4.99), but at least those you get to keep those for your collection.  As someone who used to have over 10,000 comics in his personal collection, I can see the appeal of this for the casual reader, though.  One of the reasons I dropped out of comics for the most part was that I simply couldn’t go on storing them, and I sold off about 8,000 of my books.  I miss reading comic books, but I could never allow myself to buy one and throw it away.  This method will allow me to buy issues I am interested in and not have the storage or guilt concerns.

Will this ever replace the printed form of comic books?  Highly, highly doubtful.  Could it bring back some old readers?  Quite possibly.

If you have an iPhone or iPod Touch, I say treat yourself to at least one issue, it was a worthwhile experience to be sure.

Categories: Apple, Gadgets, News   
 

09imacIt seems the new 27″ iMacs are good for a lot more than just running the latest version of Mac OS X.

While it isn’t news that the new iMacs are widescreen with a 16:9 aspect ratio (the same as high definition televisions), what is news is what you can do with the 27″ version.

Thanks to the addition of a Mini DisplayPort connection port, the new model iMac is capable of being used as external screen for any computer (i.e. all of the current Mac products) that has the same style port.  So say you want to work on your MacBook Pro with a bigger screen, just use a DisplayPort cable and you can be viewing your laptop on the 27″ iMac screen in no time.  Of course this means you can’t use your iMac’s computing prowess at the same time, but it still makes some sense.

Where it gets even more intriguing is the other devices out there that are using the same connection technology.  There are now TV tuners and Blu-ray players being released with DisplayPort connections, so you could use your iMac as an HD widescreen monitor for watching television and movies.  Thanks also to a VESA mounting adapter you can purchase, you could mount your iMac on a wall and use it just like you do any other flat screen television.

With the available wireless keyboard and mouse for the iMac, you could still work away from the comfort of your favorite chair with your iMac on the wall when not in use to display entertainment, so you do not lose the computer aspects of the device at the same time.

Very intriguing, and it makes you wonder if Apple has some other tricks up its sleeves for the future of this technology.

Categories: Apple   
 

09imacWhile iMac updates were expected from Apple this week, we aren’t sure anyone was real close on the displays going to the widescreen aspect ratio of 16:9.

The iMac update happened today as many expected (funny how it happened only two days before Microsoft launches Windows 7 …), but the widescreen format was a really nice extra touch as more and more people turn their computers into entertainment cents for DVDs and streaming online videos.

The specs for all of the new models are below, and it looks like Apple is finally realizing how to get slightly more consumer friendly as their new prices reflect slightly better as to what you are getting.

The new 21.5-inch 3.06 GHz iMac, for a suggested retail price of $1,199 (US), includes:

  • 21.5-inch 1920 x 1080 LED-backlit display;
  • 3.06 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor with 3MB shared L2 cache;
  • 4GB 1066 MHz DDR3 SDRAM expandable to 16GB;
  • NVIDIA GeForce 9400M integrated graphics;
  • 500GB Serial ATA hard drive running at 7200 rpm;
  • a slot-load 8x SuperDrive with double-layer support (DVD±R DL/DVD±RW/CD-RW);
  • Mini DisplayPort for video output (adapters sold separately);
  • built-in AirPort Extreme 802.11n wireless networking and Bluetooth 2.1+EDR;
  • built-in iSight video camera;
  • Gigabit Ethernet port;
  • four USB 2.0 ports;
  • one FireWire 800 port;
  • SD card slot;
  • built-in stereo speakers and microphone; and
  • Wireless Apple Keyboard, Magic Mouse.

The new 21.5-inch 3.06 GHz iMac, for a suggested retail price of $1,499 (US), includes:

  • 21.5-inch 1920 x 1080 LED-backlit display;
  • 3.06 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor with 3MB shared L2 cache;
  • 4GB 1066 MHz DDR3 SDRAM expandable to 16GB;
  • ATI Radeon HD 4670 discrete graphics; with 256MB GDDR3;
  • 1TB Serial ATA hard drive running at 7200 rpm;
  • a slot-load 8x SuperDrive with double-layer support (DVD±R DL/DVD±RW/CD-RW);
  • Mini DisplayPort for video output (adapters sold separately);
  • built-in AirPort Extreme 802.11n wireless networking and Bluetooth 2.1+EDR;
  • built-in iSight video camera;
  • Gigabit Ethernet port;
  • four USB 2.0 ports;
  • one FireWire 800 port;
  • SD card slot;
  • built-in stereo speakers and microphone; and
  • Wireless Apple Keyboard, Magic Mouse.

The new 27-inch 3.06 GHz iMac, for a suggested retail price of $1,699 (US), includes:

  • 27-inch 2560 x 1440 LED-backlit display;
  • 3.06 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor with 3MB shared L2 cache;
  • 4GB 1066 MHz DDR3 SDRAM expandable to 16GB;
  • ATI Radeon HD 4670 discrete graphics; with 256MB GDDR3;
  • 1TB Serial ATA hard drive running at 7200 rpm;
  • a slot-load 8x SuperDrive with double-layer support (DVD±R DL/DVD±RW/CD-RW);
  • Mini DisplayPort for video input and output (adapters sold separately);
  • built-in AirPort Extreme 802.11n wireless networking and Bluetooth 2.1+EDR;
  • built-in iSight video camera;
  • Gigabit Ethernet port;
  • four USB 2.0 ports;
  • one FireWire 800 port;
  • SD card slot;
  • built-in stereo speakers and microphone; and
  • Wireless Apple Keyboard, Magic Mouse.

The new 27-inch 2.66 GHz Core i5 iMac, for a suggested retail price of $1,999 (US), includes:

  • 27-inch 2560 x 1440 LED-backlit display;
  • 2.66 GHz Intel Core i5 quad-core processor with 8MB shared L3 cache;
  • 4GB 1066 MHz DDR3 SDRAM expandable to 16GB;
  • ATI Radeon HD 4850 discrete graphics; with 512MB GDDR3;
  • 1TB Serial ATA hard drive running at 7200 rpm;
  • a slot-load 8x SuperDrive with double-layer support (DVD±R DL/DVD±RW/CD-RW);
  • Mini DisplayPort for video input and output (adapters sold separately);
  • built-in AirPort Extreme 802.11n wireless networking and Bluetooth 2.1+EDR;
  • built-in iSight video camera;
  • Gigabit Ethernet port;
  • four USB 2.0 ports;
  • one FireWire 800 port;
  • SD card slot;
  • built-in stereo speakers and microphone; and
  • Wireless Apple Keyboard, Magic Mouse.

Categories: Apple   
 
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