universal mobile phone chargerBy this time next year, people in the European Union who buy a new mobile phone will be enjoying the first universal phone charger that will work across brands.

As we reported back in February, it was announced at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain that mobile phone manufacturers have agreed to a plan to make chargers universal across handsets to reduce on the number of them that is thrown in to the world’s landfills.  The plan was to have this new policy in place by 2012, and all of the major companies had agreed to the plan with the exception of Apple.

Well, now news has come out that Motorola, Apple (yes, they have now joined in), LG, NEC, Qualcomm, Research in Motion, Samsung and Texas Instruments have agreed to move up the plan to 2010.  These companies represent 90% of the sales of data-enabled phones in Europe, and phones with data services represent 50% of the phones in all of Europe.  There is no specific mention of when we will see this policy come to the United States, but it is unlikely that the companies will make over version of everything for Europe, and another for the USA.

This new policy will allow consumers to share chargers, retain chargers after switching phones, easily locating a new charger at pretty much any store and so on.  This is nothing but a win for consumers, and one that has been a very long time in coming.

Categories: Mobile Phones   

blackberry tourResearch In Motion (RIM) is prepping the BlackBerry 9630, also known as the BlackBerry Tour, for release across multiple carriers in July.

While Apple gets most of the media attention with their iPhone updates, BlackBerry is still a strong contender in the smartphone market, and especially with business users.  And, yes, we here at StarterTech are prejudice as two of us carry BlackBerrys as we refuse to work with AT&T because of a long history of problems with them.

The BlackBerry Tour will be the successor to the Blackberry 8830, the last “world phone” the company released which will work pretty much anywhere in the world.  For those of you who have not travelled to other regions of the world, the United States went with a different cellular system than the majority of the world, so your mobile phone makes a nice paper weight while you are out of the country.  With the BlackBerry world phones you are able to use multiple cellular bandwidths to keep yourself connected as you travel throughout the various regions of the planet.

So what can you expect from this new model?

  • 3.2 MP camera with flash, variable zoom, image stabilization, autofocus and video recording(i)
  • Full HTML web browser, including support for streaming audio and video (RTSP)
  • Advanced media player for videos, pictures and music, a 3.5 mm stereo headset jack and support for the Bluetooth(R) Stereo Audio Profile (A2DP/AVCRP)
  • 256MB Flash memory
  • Expandable memory via hot swappable microSD/SDHC memory card slot, supporting cards of up to 16 GB today and expected to support next generation 32GB cards when available
  • Built-in GPS with support for geotagging, BlackBerry(R) Maps and other location based applications and services
  • BlackBerry(R) Media Sync allows customers to quickly and easily synch music from iTunes(R) and Windows Media Player with the smartphone(ii)
  • Premium phone features including voice activated dialing, enhanced background noise cancellation, a low-distortion speakerphone, and Bluetooth (2.0) support for hands-free use with headsets, car kits, stereo headsets and other Bluetooth peripherals
  • Preloaded DataViz(R) Documents to Go(R), allowing users to edit Microsoft(R) Word, Excel and PowerPoint files directly on the handset
  • Easy mobile access to Facebook(R), MySpace and Flickr(R), as well as popular instant messaging services including BlackBerry(R) Messenger, Yahoo!(R) IM, AIM(R), Google Talk and Windows Live Messenger(TM)
  • Support for BlackBerry App World(TM), featuring a broad and growing catalog of third-party mobile applications developed specifically for BlackBerry smartphones. Categories include travel, productivity, entertainment, games, social networking & sharing, news & weather, and more
  • BlackBerry(R) Internet Service allows access to up to 10 supported personal and corporate email accounts, including most popular ISP email accounts
  • BlackBerry(R) Enterprise Server provides advanced security and IT administration features within IBM(R) Lotus(R) Domino(R), Microsoft(R) Exchange and Novell(R) GroupWise(R) environments
  • Removable and rechargeable 1400 mAhr battery for 5 hours of talk time and 14 days of standby time

The only thing really missing from this unit is Wi-Fi, but from what we understand, there is a conflict between the wireless standard and one of the bands for the cell portion of the phone.  Reportedly this conflict will be eliminated in future editions, but that is currently unconfirmed.

Also unconfirmed are the release dates.  Rumor is that Verizon will get it on July 12th, and Sprint will see it on July 20th (how kind of them since that is my birthday!).  While neither of the dates have been confirmed officially yet, the pricing is known to be $199.99 with a two-year contract for either carrier.  I personally can’t wait to get my hands on this phone.

Categories: Mobile Phones   

iphone 3gsIt’s June, and in the land of Apple fans, that means it’s time for an iPhone update.

Today at the World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC), Apple took the wraps off of a new operating system for the existing phones as well as updating the physical handset itself.

iPhone OS 3.0

The features of OS 3.0 have been known for quite some time due to the iPhone OS 3.0 features announcement that Apple  did back in March of this year.  All of the features we expected were there such as cut, copy & paste, auto-fill for forms, Spotlight search to look through the entire phone for information and a whole lot more.

One of the most exciting new features had to be “Find My Phone”.  If you lose your phone, and you have subscirbed to the service which will be included with MobileMe, you simply go to a web browser and tell it to locate your phone.  It will show you on a map where it is and it will also begin emitting an audible beep in case it is in the cushions of your couch.  This audible feature will work even if you have the phone in silent mode at the time.

Even more exciting about this is if by some chance the phone is in some place you don’t recognize on the map, you can use a remote kill switch to wipe all of your email and contacts.  If you should happen to get the phone back you will simply need to hook the phone up to iTunes to get it running again.  A great piece of mind for everyone.

iPhone 3GS

The new version of the wildly popular phone is finall going to be adding the ability to record videos on its 3 megapixel camera.  The camera for still photography will have an auto-focus lens that will also have a tap-to-focus that will allow you to tap on the part of the photo you want to focus, and it will automatically do so. It will also be adding the ability to automatically handle exposure, white balance and better low-light sensitivity. If you want to get close to a photo subject, say up to 10cm away, the new camera will also have an auto-macro.

Video recording will also have automatic exposure, white balance and so on.  Once you have the videos you will be ale to do corrections on the phone and then email them to a contact, upload them to YouTube or even send them out attached to an MMS.

Other new features will include voice control for all the main functions of the device from making a call to controlling your music, a compass that can help orientate you in the Maps app and a longer battery life.

iPhone Pricing

The new iPhone 3GS will have a 16GB version for $199 and a 32GB version for $299, both of which require a two-year contract with AT&T (prices and carriers vary by country).  The most interesting announcement was that the 8 GB iPhone 3G will still be available for $99, almost guaranteeing Apple even deeper penetration into the mobile phone market.

iPhone OS 3.0 & iPhone 3GS Release Dates

Current iPhone users can expect their phones to be updated to the latest OS on June 18th, iPod Touch users will also get it the same day, but at a cost of $5.

The iPhone 3GS will be available on June 19th.

Categories: Apple, Mobile Phones, News   

zoho logoIt’s getting to be that your office can go anywhere you go, and all in a device that fits in your hand.

Zoho, a creator of an online office suite, announced today that they are finishing their integration of their applications in to some of today’s most popular mobile phone devices.  While iPhone and Windows Mobile users were already getting to use their favorite online office tools, now owners of some BlackBerry models, Android and Symbian S60 devices will get to do the same.

All you need to do is point your mobile browser to http://mobile.zoho.com/ and you’re go to go with using the following:

  • Zoho Mail
  • Zoho Calendar
  • Zoho Writer
  • Zoho Sheet
  • Zoho Show
  • Zoho Creator

Best of all, it is already available and it is currenty free of charge (no indication if that will change).

You can check out the embedded slide show for more details.

Categories: Mobile Computing, Mobile Phones   

hulu_logoIf the rumors are true, Hulu may soon be liquefying your brain on the iPhone and iPod Touch.

Silicon Alley Insider is reporting that Hulu, the popular video streaming service, is working on an application for the iPhone and iPod Touch.  Although the report states that the application should work over 3G or Wi-Fi, we find the 3G claim highly suspect as other video apps such as CBS’ TV.com (iTunes Link) have to work over Wi-Fi due to the bandwidth demands of streaming video content over a cellular network.

While the app has not yet been officially confirmed, it isn’t too difficult to imagine that this is indeed being worked on.  With their ad-supported revenue model, it only makes sense for as many eyeballs as possible to be watching their content.  And as for the end user, this will give you an enermous library of television shows and movies you can watch for free right at your finger tips.  The only possible downside to this whole scenario, and possibly the aspect that makes it untrue, is how this will effect iTunes store sales of their downloadable videos.

Only time will tell if this proves to be true, but I for one am hoping it is.

Categories: Apple, Gadgets, Mobile Phones, News   

wall street journal app

Normally the release of an iPhone application isn’t newsworthy, but when it comes from the Wall Street Journal, and it’s free, you tend to notice.

Released just today (the United States tax day seems appropriate day to release an app about financial news), the Wall Street Journal app (iTunes link) is a bit of a surprise in that it is free.  This is only surprising because the paper was one of the first on the Internet to charge for its content years ago, and they still do to this day.

So the question is why would they allow owners of iPhones and iPod Touches access their content for free while people who visit them on the Web are still paying?  The new application is ad supported, and you have to wonder if this is possibly a test for the future of their Web access, something you still have to pay $103 a year to subscribe to, or are they possibly just thinking that there won’t be that much access from the Apple devices?

Whatever the case may be, it is a welcome addition to the devices.  Users will get to enjoy full stories, exlcusive video and podcasts, the ability to share stories, tracking the stock exchange and more.  Possibly they will want to charge for the application down the road, but that never seems to go over well with users, so it’s probably safe to assume that this will remain a free application for however long they plan to support it.

Our suggestion is to go ahead and grab it, and then decide if you really need it on your phone, but so long as it is free, why not?

Categories: Apple, Mobile Phones, News   

dictionary.com logoThe popular online dictionary Dictionary.com, has launched their own iPhone and iPod Touch application that brings an immense amount of information to your gadget.

While there have been previous dictionary applications for the iPhone and iPod Touch, almost all of them have cost as much as $24.99.  Well, Dictionary.com has decided to ruin the party for all of those other applications by not only launching their app for free, but it is also amazingly full-featured.  They could have gotten away with just a few thousand words, but instead the app has full definitions for 275,000 entries, and they also included a thesaurus with 80,000 synonyms.  However, the features don’t even stop there.  They also include:

  • Alphabetical indexing
  • Similarly spelled words
  • Spelling and audio pronunciation
  • Example sentences
  • Non-standard uses
  • Word origin and history

All said, it is an amazing app, and made even more so due to the free pricing of it.  The only drawback is the size of the app is a hefty 35.6 MBs and they recommend you only install it when connected via Wi-Fi or your device is connected to your computer (iTunes link) because of the length of time it would take over cellular networks.  From our initial look at the app, it is well worth the time, effort and amount of space it takes up.

dictionary app

Categories: Apple, Mobile Computing, Mobile Phones   

harpers islandCBS has release an iPhone application which may spell out the future of television and mobile phone convergence.

Television shows being promoted via exclusive mobile phone content is not anything new, but having an entire application built around one show is.  Starting on April 9th, CBS will be launching a limited 13 episode series entitled Harper’s Island which is a murder mystery dealing with a series of deaths on a small island near Seattle, WA.

This is an unusual format for an American television series, and hence will require some unique promotion on the part of the network.  What the Harper’s Island iPhone application (iTunes link) does is provide viewers with extra information about the history of the island and its inhabitants via clippings from the fictions Harper’s Globe newspaper archives.  It also focuses heavily on a series of murders known as the “Wakefield Murders” that happened seven years before the happenings of the series.

While we are sure you will be able to enjoy the series without the information contained in this application, it does sound like it might enhance your enjoyment of the show.  What we think is interesting is that according to a quote in Broadcasting & Cable from Jeff Sellinger, Executive-VP and general manager CBS Mobile, this is but the first of many applications to come.  “We’re absolutely going to do more,” he said.  He also went on to add “the company is also exploring applications for Blackberrys as well as Apple iPhones.”  (although we wonder the confusion there at the end since this is for an iPhone…)  So this could be the first of many applications coming out that aim to enhance your enjoyment of various television shows.  Who wouldn’t want a 24 application that helps you track the number of people Jack Bauer has killed?

The application is available now in the iTunes store for free, and the television series premieres on April 9th.

Categories: Mobile Phones, News   

stanfordIf you’ve been wondering how an application gets built for the iPhone and iPod Touch, you can stop wondering as Stanford University is here to answer your questions.

Stanford on iTunes has offered copies of courses, faculty lectures, interviews, music and sports for some time, but now they are offering a free full course on how to develop applications for the iPhone and iPod Touch.  While this is a regular course at Stanford, all of the class materials will be available on their iTunes pages with a few days of the actual class meetings.  While students in the physical 10-week course will receive class credit, those online won’t.

Considering the proliferation of iPhone applications being produced by third-party developers, and no obvious end in sight of demand, those with an idea for an application couldn’t find a better bargain on learning how to bring their concept to fruition.  If you are interested in following along with the course, you will need an Intel-based Mac of some type and the Apple SDK.  If you would like to find out more about the course, you can check out the following links.

Categories: Apple, Mobile Phones   

skype iphoneIt has been a long time coming, but Skype has finally made its way to the iPhone and iPod Touch with an official application.

Ever since the iPhone came out, people have been waiting for a Skype application to make its appearance.  Over the past 24-hours the tool has finally made its way around all of the iTunes Stores.  People with second generation iPod Touch units can also use the app to make calls, but first generation users will only be able to do IMing with it.  (Although I actually did make a call with my iPod, but since there is no microphone, it was just a “proof of concept’ call that it did indeed ring a phone)

While this is a fablous addition to the iPhone, there is a rather large caveat to the entire deal: Calls can only be made over Wi-Fi.  Yes, it is a rather large problem, but as Skype themselves explain, it isn’t just them that is banned form making third-party calls over the 3G network, but all app developers.  You can use the application for IMing anytime, anywhere, but calls will require you to be near Wi-Fi unfortunately.  Luckily Wi-Fi is popping up in more and more places, but until you have something like the MiFi in your car, you won’t be making calls while driving down the road.

This is still a very welcome addition to the iPhone, and the addition of Skype calling ability should keep you well under your allotted minutes each month. It should also make international calling a lot simpler… when in range of Wi-Fi, we know, we know.

Categories: Apple, Mobile Phones, VoIP   
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