sidekick3At last there is a silver lining to this T-Mobile Sidekick disaster: you can get out of your contract.

As we reported yesterday, it appears that T-Mobile not only made Sidekick users go without their data for a week, they ended up completely losing everything.

Originally T-Mobile was offering a free month of data services as an apology for the week long outage, but now at least one person is reporting to Gizmodo that you can get out of your contract for free due to the data loss.  According to the T-Mobile customer, they were offered a slightly discounted G1, a phone that runs on Google Android, told about BlackBerry units or apparently you can just leave the carrier all together.

The T-Mobile site is also currently showing all versions of the Sidekick as “Temporarily out of stock.”

No matter how you slice it, this was a disaster for T-Mobile and for their customers.  While it is understandable that some consumers didn’t have their data backed up locally, what possible excuse is there for people who work professionally in the data industry to have not done so?  One of the first rules of any upgrade is to back up your data, so why didn’t T-Mobile?

If I was a Sidekick user, I wouldn’t only be getting out of my contract, but leaving the carrier all together.  (I was with T-Mobile for one 2-year contract from 2005 to 2007 … that was enough)

Categories: Cell Phones   
 

sidekick3Never let it be said that you shouldn’t back up your data.

After a week of issues, T-Mobile and Danger (a subsidiary of Microsoft) have announced that users of the Sidekick cell phone have had all their data lost.  Apparently an upgrade was being performed on the network, and no one thought to make a backup before preceding.  After the upgrade failed, all contacts, calendars, to-do lists and so on that were stored on the servers was erased.

Sidekick users who do not power down their phones, pull the batteries for a reset or let their phones run out of power will still be able to backup the data locally on their computers, but if no backup is done, you will lose all of your information fairly quickly.

While storing data in a “cloud” is always convenient, this is exactly why you don’t want to rely on it 100%.  It never hurts to save your data locally as well as off-site.

T-Mobile released the statement below, and we are sorry to hear this has happened to so many people.

T-MOBILE AND MICROSOFT/DANGER STATUS UPDATE ON SIDEKICK DATA DISRUPTION

Dear valued T-Mobile Sidekick customers:

T-Mobile and the Sidekick data services provider, Danger, a subsidiary of Microsoft, are reaching out to express our apologies regarding the recent Sidekick data service disruption. We appreciate your patience as Microsoft/Danger continues to work on maintaining platform stability, and restoring all services for our Sidekick customers.

Regrettably, based on Microsoft/Danger’s latest recovery assessment of their systems, we must now inform you that personal information stored on your device – such as contacts, calendar entries, to-do lists or photos – that is no longer on your Sidekick almost certainly has been lost as a result of a server failure at Microsoft/Danger. That said, our teams continue to work around-the-clock in hopes of discovering some way to recover this information. However, the likelihood of a successful outcome is extremely low. As such, we wanted to share this news with you and offer some tips and suggestions to help you rebuild your personal content. You can find these tips at the T-Mobile Sidekick Forums (http://www.t-mobile.com/sidekick ). We encourage you to visit the Forums on a regular basis to access the latest updates as well as FAQs regarding this service disruption.

In addition, we plan to communicate with you on Monday (Oct. 12) the status of the remaining issues caused by the service disruption, including the data recovery efforts and the Download Catalog restoration which we are continuing to resolve. We also will communicate any additional tips or suggestions that may help in restoring your content.

We recognize the magnitude of this inconvenience. Our primary efforts have been focused on restoring our customers’ personal content. We also are considering additional measures for those of you who have lost your content to help reinforce how valuable you are as a T-Mobile customer.

We continue to advise customers to NOT reset their device by removing the battery or letting their battery drain completely, as any personal content that currently resides on your device will be lost.

Once again, T-Mobile and Microsoft/Danger regret any and all inconvenience this matter has caused.

Categories: Cell Phones   
 

at&t 3g femotocellIf you are an AT&T wireless customer, and get lousy reception in your home or office, then the new AT&T 3G MicroCell may be the answer to your nightmares.

The MicroCell is a new femtocell device from AT&T that will allow you to boost your voice and data connections in the places in your home or office that lack good coverage.  Essentially it is a miniature cell phone tower in your home that plugs in to your high speed Internet network, and it then routes your calls over the Web.  Due to your calls not being on the main cell network, you will get unlimited calls with the MicroCell, meaning that your minutes will only need ot be used when you’re out and about.

While AT&T is late to the femtocell party (T-Mobile, Sprint and Verizon have all released their own versions), that didn’t stop AT&T from deciding they should be the most expensive: T-Mobile is $10 a month, Sprint is $99 for the unit and $20 a month and Verizon is a one time purchase of $250.  Well, AT&T decided that the MicroCell should be $150 and then $20 a month.

While some argue that these devices shouldn’t even need to exist, and that the companies should just erect more towers, that simply isn’t practical in a lot of areas.  As someone who lives out in the woods, I never got angry with Sprint that I couldn’t get any bars in my basement, I choose to live out here, so that’s my fault.  I love my Sprint Airave, and love that I now have 5 bars in almost every room of my house, so it’s worth it to me, but I do have to agree that considering my calls now go out over the Internet instead of Sprint’s network, I really shouldn’t have to pay a monthly fee.  For the actual device?  Yes.  For the right to use it?  No.  Now add AT&T upping the price even more, and it just gets sillier.

For now the device is being tested only in Charlotte, NC, but it should be available nationwide down the road somewhere.

Categories: Cell Phones   
 

tmobilesprintThe cellular provider market in the United States may be shrinking in the very near future if Deutsche Telekom has its way.

Deutsche Telekom (DT), the parent company of T-Mobile, is reported to be looking into the possibility of purchasing Sprint Nextel according to The Daily Telegraph.  Apparently DT has been looking at this possibility for close to a year now, but got serious about it three months ago, and has now gone so far as to start talking to Deutsche Bank about funding.

This is quickly following on the footsteps of the announcement that T-Mobile UK and Orange will be merging over the next 18-months.  Apparently the UK and US divisiongs of DT have been dragging down the overall corporation, and turning these two divisions around has become the primary focus of the company efforts for the moment.

What will this potential merger mean for consumers?  Well, it would end up being a fight for second place in the cellular market between the combined T-Mobile–currently in fourth-place–and Sprint Nextel–currently in third-place–to go up against AT&T which is currently in second-place.  Verizon would still maintain its position as the number one carrier in the USA.

While T-Mobile is smallest of the big four carriers in the United States, overall Deutsche Telekom is one of the biggest carriers in the world.  Hopefully they would leave Sprint alone for the most part, but if it is a full integration, customers may see some improved coverage as the network of towers of both are combined, but beyond that it looks like it would eventually mean Sprint customers would become T-Mobile customers.

Sprint Nextel, Deutsche Telekom and Deutsche Bank are all refusing comment on this story at this time.

Categories: Cell Phones   
 

iphone 3gsWhen cell phone carriers and handset manufacturers make exclusive deals there are always losers. Sometimes it is consumers, sometimes it is the handset manufacturers, and the only solid winner is the carrier.  However, it is beginning to look like these sorts of deals may become more and more a thing of the past, but expect the carriers to fight it tooth and nail.

While this has been a common complaint of cell phone users for years now, it has picked up some significant momentum ever since the initial release of the Apple iPhone in 2007.  With AT&T having already extended the exclusive deal to 2010, and now looking to extend it even further, Senators have requested that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) look into the impact of exclusie deals on consumers as well as cell phone manufacturers.  The three biggest areas of concern are:

  • Are rural users being shut out of the latest technology because the majors’ networks don’t reach them?
  • Do exclusive deals limit access to technology?
  • Do they discourage innovation?

While all are good questions, there are also questions of pricing being effected by the lack of competition, and the current question of overall service issues.

We already covered how AT&T was lagging behind other countries in adding MMS and tethering for the iPhone, but now the biggest complaint is just a general level of sub-par service.  MG Siegler of TechCrunch, who is possibly one of the biggest self confessed Apple/iPhone fan boys on the planet, is saying that if Apple does not break away from AT&T at the end of the current 2010 exclusivity that he will either change phones or hack his phone to work with another carrier.

Earlier this week it seemed like there was a light at the end of the tunnel as Verizon said it would end exclusivity deals after six months, but after you got past the headline you discovered it was about the most empty gesture in history.  While it is true that Verizon will allow other cellular carriers sell its exclusive handsets after only six months, it will only apply to carriers that hae 500,000 or less subscribers.  Seeing as the four major carriers (AT&T, Sprint, TMobile, Verizon) control 86% of the market in the United States, this basically that Cecil’s Rural Cellular and Bait Shop will be about the only carriers able to take advantage of this decision.

Hopefully this is something the FCC will look into, although it is surprising it hasn’t done so sooner than this.  While it is certain that the iPhone is the most obvious example of the problem, there are plenty of other exclusive phone deals that are just as infuriating, such as the Palm Pre only being on Sprint.

The best way for consumers to let the world know how you do feel about this is to simply vote with your pocketbooks.  On a personal level, I’ve wanted an iPhone since the day it was announced, but due to my deep hatred of AT&T, I carry a BlackBerry on Sprint’s network along with an iPod Touch.  Who loses here?  Well, me on one level, but also Apple as they have lost a sale.  I am not alone in my feelings so by Apple or any other handset manufacturer signing these deals, and while there is no doubt that they have made a tremendous amount of money from the device, but couldn’t they be making more if it was offered to more carriers?  Sure it was a nice deal when the iPhone needed to gain ground in the highly competitive market, the same for Palm signing with Sprint, but the launches are over, it’s time to move on, and it’s time to end those sorts of deals as a whole.

Categories: Cell Phones, Mobile Phones, Opinion   
 

skyfire logoThe Skyfire mobile web browser has finally left Beta testing, and is available as an official 1.0 for you to download.

While most mobile phones come with a built-in web browser, the majority of them are not very friendly to your normal web browsing experience.  This browser gives you the ability to use Flash animation and Ajax tools, something that has been lacking for a long time on cell phones.  Not even the iPhone has yet to be able to use Flash. (and no, Apple does not allow other browsers to be added to their devices, so you’re stuck with mobile Safari for the time being.)

For now the new browser is only available for Windows Mobile 5 & 6 devices and Symbian Nokia N and E Series phones.  BlackBerry devices are said to be getting their own version “shortly”, but no definite release date has been mentioned.

Categories: Cell Phones, Web Browsing   
 

itunes tvIf the rumors are true, you will soon be able to download TV shows and movies directly to your iPhone and iPod Touch.

While nothing is set in stone yet, rumors are swirling all around the Internet of what we can expect from the next iteration of the iPhone and its accompanying software.  The majority of the rumors have focused on the hardware aspects of the new iPhone, but not much has been learned of what the actual software powering the device may deliver in the ways of tweaks.

Open Salon thinks they may have stumbled across something, and they have numerous pictures to back up their claims.  It is a tad odd that they are said to have been found by following an advertisement in an application, but the images do appear legitimate to everyone that has commented on them, and they even appear to be a work in progress.

This seems like a natural extension for Apple, and a bit surprising that it hasn’t been available before now.  It will be interesting to see if these downloads will be allowed over carriers cellular networks, although my personal guess would be a big “no” to that.  While it would still be somewhat useful over Wi-Fi (say while travelling and you want to add a movie during an airport layover), it would still be somewhat slow compared to doing it on your computer when you are near it.  A reenue stream is a revenue stream, though, and it would be silly for Apple not to offer this to their customers at some point.

The next iPhone is expected to be announced on June 8th at Apple’s WWDC event, so that will probably be the day we find out if this new software feature is legitimate or not also.

Categories: Apple, Cell Phones   
 

skype-logoIn a move that is sure to send fear into the hearts of cell phone executives, Skype is prepping to come to the BlackBerry.

In an announcement on the Skype forum, the company has announced they have launched their closed beta test of a Skype appication to work with various models of BlackBerry smartphones.  Unfortunately they have already closed the test to new applicants due to the overwhelming number of responses, but this is a good sign that an official application is not far off.

The question now is if this will work only over Wi-Fi, or will it also work over cellular networks?  The number of BlackBerry devices that offer Wi-Fi is fairly limited, so it is doubtful Skype would put a lot of work into a product with such limited appeal, but cell phone carries don’t exactly thrill to their bandwidth being used for calls they make no money from.  When Skype on the iPhone launched, it was Wi-Fi only for calls, but seeing as every iPhone has that built-in, it wasn’t such a big deal.  There is a third party application called iSkoot which can handle Skype calling on the BlackBerry, but seeing as it isn’t official, it is doubtful the issue has been adressed yet.

Either way, Skype is preparing for their launch, and soon BlackBerry owners everywhere could be enjoying Skype calling on the go.

Categories: Cell Phones, News, VoIP   
 

appsApplications has been the hot word for awhile now, but how do you know when you finally have enough of them?

While applications have existed for a long time for various computer and mobile phone platforms, they didn’t really get all that much attention until the iPhone added support for third party produced apps.  The iTunes store now has over 20,000 different applications available, and they have been downloaded over 500 million times.  While it is obviously tempting to keep downloading the seemlessly never-ending stream of free applications that come out, you have to finally draw the line somewhere.

Pictured in this post is page 2 of my 5 pages of apps on my iPod Touch.  I am a music junkie, and as you can see, I have 9 apps installed just to feed my music additiction.  Besides this, I’ve got 2 apps for Twitter, 4 apps for weather forecasting, 3 for instant messaging, basically I am pushing the limits of what makes sense to have.  And while these apps are small, each of them is taking up space on my device.  The same goes for my BlackBerry, I downloaded several apps that I don’t think I’ve even looked at a second time after the initial install.

While these not only take up space, they also take up usable memory while your device is running.  Basically, while the apps may be free, you are paying a price in storage and possible lag time in your devices response time by just having too many items running.  Essentially you just need to think before you install, “Do I really need this?  Is this truly going to improve my experience on this device?”  True you can always delete later, but why go through the hassle if you think you might.

Just remember, the more apps, the slower your device may run.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I need to delete some apps.

Categories: Apple, Cell Phones, Mobile Computing   
 

3gmicrocel

It seems the rumors of AT&T Wireless prepping an in-home femtocell device are indeed true.

We reported recently that AT&T has been testing their own femtocell device to be released at some point in the future, but all of a sudden the device seems much more real with the launch of an informational page on their website.  The most shocking revelation is that opposed to the Sprint AIRAVE and Verizon Network Extender, this device will work only with 3G phones, such as their exclusive iPhone.

Other tidbits of information that have been revealed is that it will handle up to four calls at once, there will be individual and family plans for service (meaning Verizon is alone in not having you pay a monthly fee to use their device), will cover the standard 5,000 square feet of space and more.  The biggest omissions in the information is the release date, the cost of the unit and the costs of the different monthly service plans.

Soon everyone will be able to have one of these cell phone extenders in their home or office, meaning companies will never need to build another tower at this rate.

Categories: Cell Phones   
 
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