ShopSavvy may be the greatest mobile application ever.

Having just gotten a new HTC Hero running the Google Android operating system, I’ve been playing with the Market to find more apps. I came across ShopSavvy, which I had heard of, and opted to install it.

This may be the single greatest tool ever invented for the comparison shopper.

The application is available for iPhones, Android-based phones and Nokias for free, and it could change everything about how you shop.  Ever found a “deal” at a store, but wonder how it compares to the prices online?  You simply turn on this app, point your camera at the UPS bar code, the app reads it and then searches the Web for it.  You are then shown the name of the item to make sure it is correct, and it shows you results of where it found the item online and how much they are charging.  It will also aid you in going directly to that seller’s Web site.

For years my family and friends have called me while they are out shopping since they know I’m always near a computer.  ”Can you look this up on Amazon for me and tell me how much it is?”  Why bother any more with this handy little tool.

I tested it our with random items on my desk, and every item showed up properly and gave me prices I could find online.

The app itself is free, and I imagine they make some money on the links if you should happen to buy anything, but who cares?  If you have a phone that will support it, this is a must have application.

Categories: Cell Phones, Mobile Phones, Shopping   
 

After three BlackBerry models, I have to say I’m giving up on the platform.

I just got my BlackBerry Tour in Aug. of 2009, and I have pretty much given in two to three months ago that this would be the phone that would be the albatross around my neck until June or 2011 when I was eligible for another upgrade.  What was wrong with it?

  • The trackball was a nightmare to get to work properly
  • Slow to respond
  • The trackball was a nightmare
  • Seemed to take forever to download any applications or access any Web content
  • Have I mentioned the trackball was a nightmare?
  • E-mail was a pain to keep up-to-date with, and I rarely had less than a thousand e-mails I needed to be cleaning up
  • No Wi-Fi
  • No touchscreen
  • Laughable Web browser
  • Hey, did I mention the trackball was a nightmare?

I started off with a BlackBerry 7290 several years ago, moved on to a BlackBerry 8830 eventually and when the Tour was announced, I was more than a bit excited.  The problem was it arrived just as I was leaving for a vacation, and it’s slowness and lack of features quickly got annoying when trying to navigate around a city you aren’t wholly familiar with.  When my friend I was visiting asked to borrow it to look at a map and tapped the screen to expand it, I had to explain that it wasn’t touchscreen.  This was then I realized I had saddled myself with antiquated technology out of brand loyalty.

Thinking I would stick it out, I made it to Feb. of this year before I just finally had had it with the issues.  When it mysteriously nuked itself last month, I really was getting annoyed, but when my Mother’s BlackBerry Pearl nuked itself beyond repair this week, and it is only 18-months-old, I really had had it with the BlackBerry brand.

To replace her now dead handset,  she picked up an HTC Hero running Google’s Android OS, and long story short, my own Hero is on its way to me now.  (I was able to swing an upgrade by using one of our other lines with Sprint)  I was thrilled with the responsiveness, it has Wi-Fi, touchscreen, a healthy (and responsive) app store and just the overall feel of the phone was more what I was looking for.

The other thing that puzzles me is the seeming lack of app development.  Yes, there are apps coming out for the BlackBerry, but they always seem to be an after thought by developers to the iPhone and Android platforms.  For as big as the brand is — it is still the second largest platform in the smartphone market — it sure seems to get overlooked a lot.

It’s kind of sad I got fed up with BlackBerry, you would think with its enormous market, and huge brand recognition, that they would be working faster to innovate rather than trying to catch up to everyone else.  The quality of the phones seems to be dropping, and although they have released a couple of touchscreen phones, they haven’t received the best reviews.  I know they are switching out the trackball to a trackpad, but is that really going to matter?  I also know they are working on a better Web browser, but at this point the company is playing catch-up with just about every other phone out there.

I really have to wonder how much longer the BlackBerry can continue in its current format.  Yes, the physical QWERTY keyboard is a bonus over a touchscreen keyboard, but is that going to be enough to save it?

I don’t think the phones are going to disappear any time soon, but this week alone, the platform has lost at least two users.

(By the way, if you’re wondering why I didn’t go with the iPhone … as much as I love the iPhone, and would love to have one, my hatred of AT&T far outweighs my love for the device.  Sorry Apple, but until you get away from one of the worst phone companies ever, you won’t ever get my business.)

Categories: Cell Phones, Opinion   
 

Over the past few days it has become pretty clear that the Palm company is doomed.

Palm, the maker of such phones as the Palm Pre and Palm Pixi, has had some analysts change its stock status to “Sell”, while at least two others have changed the value to $0.  This follows a 19% plummet in share prices yesterday, and a less than stellar earnings call on Thursday.

The company has been around for years, and for a long time was a staple of the business community, but its adherence to sticking with the original PalmOS was part of its downfall.  Once it finally came out with a new operating system, the webOS, they slapped it in to two very odd phones, and went exclusive with Sprint.  They also made it overly difficult for application developers to build for the new system, and while iPhone app developers could easily port their work over to Google’s Android OS, the same couldn’t be done with webOS, meaning entirely new development time.

In short, everything Palm could do wrong, it did.

Seeing as the current CEO, Jon Rubinstein, claims he has never even used an iPhone, something you would expect a competitor to have done at least once, you have to wonder about the entire thought process of the company.  You never once check out your main competition’s flagship product.  Seriously?

During the earnings call it was revealed that in the third-quarter of Palm’s financial year, 57% of their phone stock was left sitting on carrier’s shelves, and before any new shipments can happen, they need to help them lower those inventory levels.

In short, if you’re in the market for a new cell phone, I wouldn’t be looking at Palm handsets right now, because there is no guarantee they will be around to give service in a few months time unless something drastic happens.

Categories: Cell Phones   
 

AT&T is about to help you become a bit more green friendly by introducing a new phone charger that will turn itself off when you don’t need it.

Most people don’t realize that when you leave a recharged plugged in to the wall socket, even if you do not have anything plugged into it, it is drawing power.  So whenever you unhook your cell phone when you leave home, but you leave the charger plugged in for convenience, you are still drawing power the entire time.  It is estimated that Americans waste around $12 billion a year in electrical bills in this way according to a study by the U.S. Department of Energy.

Cell phone carrier AT&T has decided to do something about this by releasing a new phone charger known as the “Zero Charger.”  This new smart charger will cut off any electrical draw when it detects that there is no phone attached to it, completely eliminating what is known as “vampire draw.”

Because this device is essentially just a USB adapter, it should work with a wide range of phones as you will simply plug your USB cable into it, so it should work phones and devices that aren’t even carried by AT&T.  Just think about your iPods, cell phones, mobile gaming devices … you start to realize just how much power you may be wasting in your every day life to keep all of your devices juiced.

There is no word on how much this charger will cost as of yet, but I am definitely keep my eye on it.  Release is slated for May.

Categories: Cell Phones, Green Living   
 

Verizon customers are getting an extra big gift next month in the form of unlimited Skype calling over 3G connections.

A few months ago AT&T got pressured into allowing VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) calls over its 3G network, and now Verizon is following suit.  Users will be able to make unlimited Skype-to-Skype calls, Skype Out calls, instant messaging, text messages and more beginning in March whenever they have a 3G connection to the Verizon network.

At launch, nine phones will be supported:

  • BlackBerry Storm 9530
  • BlackBerry Storm2 9550
  • BlackBerry Curve 8330
  • BlackBerry Curve 8530
  • BlackBerry 8830 World Edition
  • BlackBerry Tour 9630
  • DROID by Motorola
  • DROID ERIS HTC
  • Motorola DEVOUR

More phones are expected to be added at a later date, but no time line was given.

The benefit to this is that these calls will not be deducted from your calling minutes each month, and only requires a data plan, which all of these phones already come with.

With AT&T and Verizon locked in an all out war with each other right now, the users are the ones that are benefiting.  Hopefully Sprint Nextel and T-Mobile will follow suit.

Categories: Cell Phones, VoIP   
 

Satellite radio company Sirius XM has had an application out for the iPhone and iPod Touch for some time now that allows you to listen to its stations over those devices, but the BlackBerry phones have received no love. Until today, that is.

Sirius XM announced today that owners of BlackBerry models Storm 9530, Storm2 9550, Bold 9000, Bold 9700, Tour 9630, Curve 9800, Curve 8520 and Curve 8530 can now enjoy streaming music from their service thanks to a new app. If you do not currently have a Sirius XM account you can get a free 7-day trial, but if you already have an account, you’re good to go.

You will need to go to the Sirius XM On Your BlackBerry page, select your model, enter your email address and a link will be emailed to you so that you can download the app.  No word as of yet if this will end up in the BlackBerry App World store for easier download, but we imagine it will at some point.

We’ve already downloaded this to a BlackBerry Tour (mine) and got it up and running.  The app seems pretty responsive, and allows you to easily mark the various channels as “Favorites” for quicker access.  So far I have only heard it through the built-in speaker, which of course sounded a bit tinny, but it was passable.  In my car I tend to stream musical content from my BlackBerry through a cassette adapter, which always sounds fine, so I am sure this will also.

The channel list includes 120 channels, so it isn’t the complete line-up, but there is a good mix of stuff in there.  Not sure why the Bollywood channel is missing, but oh well.

If you already have a Sirius XM account, especially one with online streaming, there is no reason not to get this.  If you do not yet have streaming, it will be an additional $3 a month.  A streaming only plan will run you $13 a month.

Categories: Cell Phones, Mobile Phones   
 

After ages of discussions and rumors, Mozilla has at long last launched the first mobile version of the Firefox Web browser for mobile phones.

Mozilla has announced that the first version of Firfox for mobile phones is ready to launch.  So far the browser is only available for Nokia phones running the Maemo platform, specifically the N900, but more phones are planned for this year.  (don’t get your hopes up for iPhones folks, because there is no way it’s going to happen.)

One of the most interesting aspects of this version is that even on a browser screen of this size, Mozilla found a way to retain tabbed browsing.  The tabs are kept on a slide-out screen on the side, so they are hidden when not in use, and you only bring them out when you ned to see them.

Firefox is well0known for its multitude of extensions that allow it to do a multitude of things it isn’t built to do originally.  How many you can install depends on the amount of memory of your phone, and how well they will run on limited memory remains to be seen.

At long last, a true use for Mozilla Weave has been included.  Save a browsing session on your computer, and thanks to Weave you can reopen it on your cell phone.  Looked up information on a theater you want to go to?  Now you can bring that information with you easily.

Here is a video explaining some of the features in more detail.


Categories: Cell Phones, Web Browsing   
 

Have you ever wondered which of the big four cell phone carriers in the United States was actually the cheapest? Well, thanks to BillShrink.com, we now have a pretty good idea.

Yesterday, the money saving Web site BillShrink.com released a graphic that compared the major cell phone plans of AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon so you could see at an easy glance how they stacked up against one another.  You can click on the image for a much larger version, but we’ll give you the short version … it appears Sprint wins.  This isn’t to say that Sprint is dirt cheap, but compared to the other three big carriers, it pretty soundly trounces them on every type of plan.

Depending on if you need a specific phone, or you live in an area that they don’t cover that well, this chart pretty much says there is no reason not to go with Sprint, especially if monthly fees are your primary concern.


Categories: Cell Phones   
 

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   
 

It seems there was one aspect of selling its own cell phone that Google did not take into account: Dealing with customers after you sell them a product.

Complaints are popping up all over various blogs of how the customer support for people who have purchased Google’s Nexus One phone is totally non-existent.  Apparently no phone number is provided and buyers are directed to a forum where they can try to get assistance.  Even once they do go to the forum, they are finding that replies from official Google employees are few and far between.

Now customers are threatening to send back what they consider to be defective phones and finding out that they will be charged a $45 restocking fee for sending the phone back.

And it isn’t just the users who have things to complain about.  Application developers are apparently unhappy with the fact that no SDK (Software Development Kit) has yet shipped for the new phone, meaning that while some apps may work with the new phone, that can’t be guaranteed as the nexus One is running a new version of the Android operating system.

In short, as the first venture into hardware sales, Google is not doing well.

Up until now the company hasn’t had to do much in the way of customer service as most people found it silly to complain about products they get to use for free.  However, this is a different ball game once money begins changing hands.

Even though the Nexus One is being handled though T-Mobile, and the handset is being built by HTC, this is Google’s phone all the way and all customer service is supposed to be done through them, including returns.

With Google planning at least one more hardware release of a netbook by the end of this year supposedly, it may be time for the company to get some lessons in how to deal with customer service issues.  Step one?  Open up a phone center, and do it immediately.  The rest will come to you naturally over time.

Categories: Cell Phones, Google   
 
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