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   
 

google mapsGoogle has finally updated the Street View feature in Google Maps so that your finger won’t get sore clicking the mouse!

Street View, the feature that allows you to see addresses in Google Maps from street level, has always been useful, but a bit cumbersome to use.  When you wanted to move down the street you had to click arrow after arrow until your finger was sore.  Well, now thanks to new navigation items they are referring to as “pancakes”, you can zoom all over the map in a fraction of the time it used to take you.

All you need to do is point your cursor further down the map and you will see a circle, or “pancake” as Google is calling it.  Double-click on that circle and the map automatically will zoom you to that location. If you want to look at something on a building, look for the square cursor and again double-click to go there.

So far this only works on the Web version of Google Maps, and not in Google Earth. It’s a definite first step to improving the product, though! You can watch the full explanation video below to quickly pick up on how it works.

Categories: Google, News   
 

samsung spf-87hThe new Samsung SPF-87H digital photo frame does a lot more than just show you pictures of Uncle Joe.

Those of us around the StarterTech office have a bit of an obsession with digital photo frames.  The ability to display multiple photos, make them into slideshows and so on is just fascinating to us, but Samsung has really outdone themselves with the new SPF-87H model.  Thanks to a USB cable, you can place it just about anywhere near your computer and it turns in to a handy second monitor for your work.

Now, the screen isn’t huge by any means (800×480 Resolution), but it’s more than enough to move something like a Twitter application or the such over to it, and keep it off of your main desktop.  It will. of  course, also display photos on its 1 GB of internal memory, with room for more on SD cards thanks to its SD Card reader.  Power consumption also low if you choose to supplement it with USB power.

The frame is priced at $129, and is quickly shooting up my personal “Oh, I want this!” list for the monitor ability alone.

Categories: Gadgets, News   
 

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   
 

Twitter LogoWill wonders never cease? It appears that Twitter may finally be getting around to monetizing themselves.

Biz Stone, one of the founders of the popular Twitter service, has finally discussed what the company plans to do to monetize itself.  However, according to Reuters, it does not involve selling ads.  According to an address Mr. Stone gave to the Reuters Global Technology Summit via videolink, “There are a few reasons why we’re not pursuing advertising — one is it’s just not quite as interesting to us.”

What the company plans to do is by the end of the year they want to introduce add-on tools and services for the businesses and professional users of the service.  What these tools would be comprised of was not discussed in the chat, nor what they would cost.  He did hint that they are looking into analytics for heavy users, and possibly a directory of verified businesses that are using the service, but the main focus of the company would still be on the free aspects of the site.

This may be the long rumored “Twitter Pro” accounts people have mumbled for ages, but seeing as he specifically said “add-on” tools, it almost sounds like they will be actual software.  This of course leaves the question of what will happen to the ever growing community of third party applications built off of the Twitter API, but that seems to be a bit down the road still.

While selling ads would probably be the quickest way to generate a revenue stream, Mr. Stone just doesn’t see that as an area they want to focus on.  “There are no people at Twitter who know anything about advertising or work in advertising. So we don’t have anyone there to make or take those calls.”

Because, you know, hiring an experienced sales team is so difficult.

Categories: News   
 

napster-logoIt’s amazing how legal troubles can change a company.

Between June 1999 and July 2001, Napster was the scourge of the music industry.  It was the first peer-to-peer music sharing service that took off, and people traded music with one another, in violation of copyrights, with wild abandon.  After they were shut down due to numerous legal problems, mostly centering around the heavy metal band Metallica, the brand name was sold off to another company who recognized that the name had become synonymous with online music.  The site reappeared shortly after the company liquidation, but this time it was 100% legal.

Now in an odd move, they are offering a new subsctription plan that is only $5.00 a month and will give you access to unlimited streaming of their over seven million song library.  The oddness comes in that each month you will be allowed to download five songs at CD quality levels, and keep those forver.  Considering that $.99 is the average price of buying a song through stores like iTunes, this is somewhat of a bargain as you get the unlimited streaming thrown in on top of it.

Your subscription gets you”

  • Get five MP3s each month to download, with their choice of songs from the Napster MP3 library that covers all types of music from all the major labels and includes the largest catalog of independent artists available.
  • Listen to any track, as often as they like, in CD quality from Napster’s catalog of more than seven million songs.
  • Choose from more than 60 commercial-free radio stations and more than 1,400 expertly programmed playlists.
  • Discover new music and artists through personalized recommendation tools.
  • Enjoy the top hits from more than 50 years of Billboard charts. Want to know what was popular when you graduated high school? Now you can.
  • Play MP3s on any MP3 player, including iPod, iPhone and music-enabled MP3 mobile phones.

It seems like a pretty good bargain actually, but it is still a bit odd to think this is coming from the brand name that used to epitomize online music piracy.

Categories: News   
 

sling logoSling Media has finally made its way on to the iPhone and iPod Touch,but with a hefty price and several restrictions.

People have been anxiously awaiting the day they could use their placeshifting SlingBoxes with the iPhone and iPod Touch, and as of today they can download the SlingPlayer Mobile application (iTunes link) from the iTunes store.  Now, before you get excited, there are three caveats for you to consider.

AT&T has said the app can’t be used over its 3G network, but yu can use it over their Wi-Fi hostposts.  They did issue a statement regarding the decision.

Slingbox, which would use large amounts of wireless network capacity, could create congestion and potentially prevent other customers from using the network. The application does not run on our 3G wireless network. Applications like this, which redirect a TV signal to a personal computer, are specifically prohibited under our terms of service. We consider smartphones like the iPhone to be personal computers in that they have the same hardware and software attributes as PCs.

That said, we don’t restrict users from going to a Web site that lets them view videos. But what our terms and conditions prohibit is the transferring, or slinging, of a TV signal to their personal computer or smartphone.

The Slingbox application for the iPhone runs on WiFi. That’s good news for AT&T’s iPhone 3G customers, who get free WiFi access at our 20,000 owned and operated hot spots in the U.S., including Starbucks, McDonalds, Barnes & Noble, hotels, and airports. AT&T is the industry leader in WiFi

So there was one hope squashed rather quickly.

The other issue is that the application does not support all models of the SlingBox.  The Classic, AV and Tuner models are all out of luck.  You can do an upgrade program that will give you a $50 discount on changing to a newer model, but it definitely feels like a slap in the face to the earlier adopters of the technology.

And the last problem is the price.  No matter how nice the app may be, it costs $30.  So, you’re paying $30 for an app you can only use around Wi-Fi, thanks, but I think I’ll pass.  It just isn’t an enticing offer to pay that much for an app you can only use at certain times.  Maybe it will change down the road, but for now it’s just handicapped in its abilities.

Categories: Mobile Computing, News   
 

rupert murdochIt would seem that Rupert Murdoch feels the time has come for people to stop freeloading on the Web.

Perhaps due to an astronomical drop in News Corp profits ($216 million last year down to $7 million this year in year-over-year reports), founder Rupert Murdoch announced via a conference call the Guardian was on, that within the next 12-months he expects to be charging for access to his corporations news websites.  

It seems that his thinking is based on one lone example of success, that being of the Wall Street Journal website.

That it is possible to charge for content on the web is obvious from the Wall Street Journal’s experience.

What he seems to be forgetting is that the New York Times used to charge access for their website, but they are now an open site with ad-support.  While the Wall Street Journal is enjoying success, it is also highly specialized news source, and not a generalized newspaper site like those of Mr. Murdoch.  Unless he can find some miraculous way to get every current free news source to charge for access at the exact same time he starts charging for his, he will find himself a very lonely individual with a huge lack of subscribers.

While what he says makes some sense, what he is missing is that people will simply turn to the numerous free resources that will still remain online before they pay for that exact same information.  While there is no doubt that print newspapers are suffering, going to subscription based online sites is not the answer.  All it will do is drive people away from your site, and with reduced visitors, the sites will look less appealing to advertisers.  It is an almost guaranteed lose-lose situation at this point.

There is no doubt that Rupert Murdoch is a smart man, just look at the media empire he’s built, but it is obvious that he is another in a long line of people who doesn’t get the inner workings of how the Internet works.  The genie was let out of the bottle a long time ago, and subscriptions are a thing of the past, so best of luck to him on trying to shove it back in to its bottle.

Categories: Internet, News, Opinion   
 

mpaa logoThe Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) sure knows how to send some mixed signals to the general public.

The MPAA is well known for being like rabid dogs in protecting the copyrights placed on films.  Two of their biggest fights in recent years has been that you shouldn’t video record movies, and you shouldn’t copy (better known as ‘ripping’) DVDs to your computer.  However, now it seems they have figured out a way to somehow confuse the public even more by suggesting you video record a DVD.

huh?

According to a video posted on Vimeo, every three years the Copyright Office at the Library of Congress holds a hearing to review exceptions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). In 2006 there was an exception granted to film and media professors to rip DVDs to show scenes of a film in their class. Now it is being proposed this exemption be extended to all teachers and students that are using the clip in an educational setting. Well, the MPAA just can’t have that, so they have decided it is okay if you set up a video camera pointed at a flat screen TV, play the scene you want, and record it with the camera and then show that in your class or project.

Their reasoning is that this keeps you from breaking the copyright of the DVD (yet it is a violation of copyright if you do it in a movie theater…), and by using this method you can shoot one scene, pause while you change scenes, and then unpause and record the next one so you can just show them one after another with no editing.  They also try to convince you that this will be just as good quality as if you ripped the DVD!  Yeah… right.

This is the MPAA at its absolute best, which is to say when they are bing incredibly idiotic.  The video proof is embedded below, and it’s quite amusing in some twisted way.

MPAA shows how to videorecord a TV set from timothy vollmer on Vimeo.

Categories: News   
 

lg connected tvIt would appear Netflix is taking their video streaming service very seriously.

According to Video Business, Netflix has revealed they spent $75 million on their streaming service in 2008, and that the amount wil increase to $100 million this year.  These funds will be used to acquire more titles for the service, one of the areas that has kept many people from getting excited over the offerings from the streaming service.  (We here at StarterTech are thrilled with the selection, but we’re unclear what that says about us…)  They will also be looking into better technology to improve the user experience with the service.

It is also expected that some time before the end of the year the company will introduce a streaming only subscription plan.

With the expected addition of new titles to the service, and no requirement to also rent physical DVDs, it isn’t hard to anticipate a sharp increase in the number of subscribers to this program.  While they do have to pay for the bandwidth to deliver these titles to customers, it has to be a fraction of what they spend on their physical operations with mailing costs, price for the envolopes, replacing damaged discs and so on.

Expect to see a lot more emphasis put on this category of their business as it seems to only be going up and up for them.

Categories: Home Electronics, News, Video   
 
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