Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Archive: May, 2012

POSTED: Thursday, May 31, 2012, 4:30 PM

Been craving an iPhone, but resisted signing a long term contract? Regional carrier Cricket, owned by Leap Wireless, is coming to your rescue with the first pre-paid iPhone.

On sale June 22, the phone will cost customers a lot more upfront - $500 for a 16 GB iPhone 4S or $400 for the older iPhone 4, versus $200 or $100 in a subsidized iPhone purchase from Verizon, Sprint and AT&T when you're committing to a two year service contract at $70-$80 a month. 

 But over time, taking Cricket's contract-free service at $55 a month with unlimited talk and text,  the savings of a pre-paid iPhone add up.

POSTED: Thursday, May 31, 2012, 11:13 AM

Last time global internet service ratings came out, the U.S. ranked 25th in average speed and 15th in value. Verizon's new superfast FiOS internet may boost our rankings, though not by much.

Yeah, it's thrilling this fiber-optic cable-based service will soon deliver content at speeds up to 300 megabits per second (Mbps) - double the current top FiOS speed and capable of feats like pushing 20 high resolution photos to your inbox in 2.8 seconds  or downloading a two hour HD movie from VUDU in just 2.2 minutes. At the moment, the best that rival Comcast offers its' Xfinity internet customers is a 105 Mbps download (a 200 Mbps option has been talked about, futuristically.)  

Verizon left out an itty bitty detail in its grand announcement yesterday - the prices for this super service and other new options like a 75 Mbps download/35 Mbps upload "tier." 

POSTED: Wednesday, May 30, 2012, 8:27 AM

Ever wonder how the Philadelphia music biz "ticks" from a marketing/promotion and technical perspective? Some seasoned vets of the game will be sharing war stories in free events at Drexel University tonight (Wednesday) and then again next Wednesday.

Man With The Golden Touch: Kal Rudman, kingpin of the music industry tip sheet Friday Morning Quarterback, will tell tales out of school tonight about how he steered radio programmers to the next big things. Oh the stories he could tell – and we hope he will – about how record companies  would, um, improve their odds for success. Rudman also had a highly public persona as a music tipster on the Merv Griffin and Today shows, and in his youth as a “Big Beat” radio DJ. And wasn’t he  also a  color man for the WWF, for a while?

POSTED: Friday, May 25, 2012, 11:34 AM
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Is there really no such thing as a free entertainment lunch? Depends on who you're asking. Sony and Tivoli Audio have just introduced free (at least for a while) music streaming apps for the iPhone/iPod. But three broadcast networks yesterday filed suits against satellite TV provider Dish Network, to try and squash the "Auto Hop" feature on new DVR boxes that makes prime time viewing ad-free.

Radio  Free World: While Boston-based, Tivoli Audio sells 60 percent of its' stylish radio products overseas and has come to have a deep appreciation of global radio entertainment. The proof is in the free Tivoli Audio app for the iPod Touch, iPhone, iPad and Android that offers up push button access to 100 of the world's best stations, as defined by "quality of content,  streaming quality and reliability," said Tivoli Audio founder/CEO/designer Tom DeVesto. "There are now 40,000 internet radio stations worldwide, which makes searching for the best - in categories like rock, classical, folk and jazz - quite daunting. This is a great way to jump in with a positive experience."

Tivoli Audio makes a very nice stand-alone internet radio called NetWorks and built a good data base of audience favorites from it.  But it's frankly hoping the free mobile internet radio app will do more to sell its new Radio Silenz active noise-reduction headphones and forthcoming Bluetooth-enabled versions of its Pal portable and iconic Model One table radio.

POSTED: Thursday, May 24, 2012, 3:52 PM
Facebook has recently purchased the popular photo app, Instagram for $1 billion. (AP Photo)

Did Facebook buy Instagram to prevent a serious patent infringement suit?

Just a month after announcing its intent to buy the social photo site for a cool billion bucks, Facebook today launched a new application for iPhones (3GS and forward) and the iPod Touch called Facebook Camera that performs many of the same functions in similar fashion.

This dedicated app offers Facebook users a feed focusing solely on pictures. It lets you upload or download a bunch of images at a time, super fast, and at much higher resolution than the conventional Facebook app allowed. You can then scroll down a single feed to see all your friends' photos, even if they're coming from different apps.

POSTED: Thursday, May 24, 2012, 11:06 AM

While the media focused on the new Wi-Fi hotspot roaming agreement announced this week at The Cable Show, there was lots more innovation popping up at the Boston trade event - new platforms, apps and services. And in panel discussions, chief technology officers from Comcast and Time Warner  kept pushing the message of change and innovation to deal with the evolving needs/tastes of customers  and the strategies of rivals. 

Comcast's Slant: "I think the whole world's moving faster," said Comcast Chief Technology Officer Tony Werner in his comments to the cable community. "We have to step it up," citing Comcast's new forays into Skype on TV, home security and energy management and monitoring, plus its new X1 cloud-based Internet Protocol video platform. "We'll see which ones have stickiness," he said.

Rolling out soon in Boston and coming to "5 to 10 more markets" by year's end, X1 looks even spiffier than its prototype predecessor, Xcalibur, which Comcast showed me last year. While offering users the chance to multi-task - simultaneously watching a TV show while also checking out news headlines, ball scores, weather and messages from Facebook and Twitter friends - the screen never looks too cluttered. The graphic layout is very clean, with an easy-on the-eyes typeface, charcoal-toned backdrops and just tasteful splashes of color.  Comcast also seems to have fine tuned/narrowed the X1 search engine, so it looks for stars, movies, directors etc. within the mega-company's own universe of content already recorded on the DVR, available on demand or coming up soon in the program guide listings.  I'd previously been told it "could" also locate  content from sites like YouTube, though that option seems to have been eliminated in Comcast's new (Apple-like) walled gatden content approach.

POSTED: Tuesday, May 22, 2012, 10:49 AM
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We should all hit the pause button for a second for Eugene Polley, a tech innovator often called the  czar of zapping, father of the couch potato and first beach boy of channel surfing.

Polley, who died of natural causes on Sunday at age 96, was best known as the inventor of the first wireless remote control for television, during his long stint working for Zenith Radio Corporation (now called Zenith Electronics and a subsidary of LG Electronics).

 His brainstorm was a space age styled zap gun that sent light signals to four photo cells placed in the corners of the TV screen. "A flash of magic light across the room (no wires, no cords) turns the set on, off or changes channels . . . and you remain in your easy chair," touted an advertisement  for the device, a feature of Zenith sets from 1956 forward priced at $149.95 and up.

POSTED: Monday, May 21, 2012, 9:29 AM

If you travel, your high speed Internet account may have just gotten more useful. This morning, five major cable companies - Bright House Networks, Cablevision, Comcast, Cox Communications and Time Warner Cable -  announced a joint partnership to enable free access to local WiFi hotspots for customers of any participating provider. 

To simplify access, a new unifying network brand "CableWifi" has been created for subscribers to identify on signage at available locations, sending the message "This hotspot's for you." At first, they'll sign on with the same credentials used on home turf. In a few months, users will be able to have their devices auto-connect to the internet whenever they're located in a "CableWiFi" zone, for free e-mailing, photo sharing, web searches, gaming, etc.

The system actually expands on a 2010 WiFi sharing agreement between Comcast, Cablevision and Time Warner Cable that covered Philadelphia, New Jersey, New York City, Long Island and Connecticut. The hotspot sharing will now grow to more than 50,000 locations with added service areas of Bright House Networks and Cox Communications.

About this blog
Jonathan Takiff covers all manner of high tech gadgets – and the entertaining stuff you play on them.. Reach Jonathan at takiffj@phillynews.com.

Jonathan Takiff Inquirer Columnist
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