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Smartphones replace entire Radio Shack advertisement worth of gadgets
February 15, 2014 | 1:10 pm

radioshackadJust to show how far we’ve come in the last twenty-three years, a blogger recently came across a full-page Radio Shack newspaper ad from 1991, and noticed that all except two items on the ad have now been superseded by his iPhone. While a few of his comparisons are a little iffy (for example, the iPhone could be said to replace a CB radio inasmuch as you can chat with people on the go, but it doesn’t let you chat on CB radio on the go; and not everyone uses their phone as their full-time computer) most of them...

Kantar data emphasizes Android lead, Apple slide in smartphone sales
January 30, 2014 | 10:15 am

New 4Q 2013 data from Kantar Worldpanel ComTech backs up earlier IDC figures for 2013 smartphone sales that suggest Android is continuing to extend its lead across global markets, especially outside the U.S. According to the Kantar analysis, "the three-month period ending December 2013, shows that Android closed out the year strongly across 12 global markets including the United States.  The operating system ended 2013 with a sales share of 50.6 percent, a gain of 4.4 percentage points from the final three months of 2012." Android remained especially strong in Europe, "with 68.6 percent share, while Apple held second place with 18.5 percent."...

Wilson to Introduce Carrier-Approved Wireless Signal Booster at CES
January 7, 2014 | 4:20 pm

signal boosterby Joe Paone If you have problems receiving cell phone calls in your home, beach house, camping site, you name it, you need to be aware of wireless signal boosters. Wilson Electronics is one of the leading purveyors of this technology, which has long drawn the ire of wireless carriers because they believed many signal boosters caused interference on their networks. The company says it has worked closely with carriers to mitigate those problems, and it appears it has. Wilson just dropped us a note about its CES plans: As you may be aware, there has been an ongoing feud between manufacturers of...

Major cell phone companies agree to implement unlocking of paid-off phones
December 12, 2013 | 6:30 pm

Here’s good news for all those who do their e-reading on their smartphones or cellular-enabled tablets. Ars Technica reports that major carriers AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Sprint, T-Mobile, and US Cellular have “voluntarily” committed to unlocking customers’ phones or tablets so they can be moved to other networks once their contracts have been paid off. (Prepaid phones would be unlocked no later than one year after their original purchase.) In July 2010, we reported that a DMCA exemption for cell phone unlocking and jailbreaking had gone into effect. However, that exemption only lasted for two and a half years, expiring...

As first papal ‘selfie’ goes viral, camera extensions add depth
November 14, 2013 | 12:45 pm

camera With the first papal 'selfie' going viral earlier this year, Pope Francis has upped the  ante, and camera selfies  will never be the same. Not only is the word in the dictionary now, selfies are  getting some help from a likely place: Japan. Yes, leave it to the Japanese and their zest for inventiveness. Once again,  they've taken the ubiquitous cellphone camera craze with its massive online inventory of "selfies" shot by people holding the camera phone too close to their faces and taken the concept one step further -- into some ''outer'' space. Not that outer space, but the outer...

It might be smart to watch Google’s planned smartwatch
October 29, 2013 | 1:49 pm

smartwatchSmartphones already expanded into a bigger form factor with tablets, but shrinking into a smaller form factor has been giving it a little more trouble. While the Pebble e-ink smartwatch did well as a kickstarter and has been garnering good reviews, Samsung’s Galaxy Gear—a twice-as-expensive watch which only syncs with Samsung phones and whose internal battery is not sufficient to operate for even one entire day—has faced a return rate as high as 30% at Best Buy. But perhaps the best smartwatch may be yet to come. Gizmodo reports on the smartwatch that Google is developing, based on designs from a...

Motorola announces modular smartphone system similar to Phonebloks concept
October 29, 2013 | 10:28 am

ara1blogpostRemember that Phonebloks idea I covered last month, in which someone proposed a LEGO-style creation system for smartphones, in which people could build their preferred phones out of just the parts they wanted? The consensus at the time was that it seemed clever and creative on the surface, but wasn’t entirely feasible as suggested. But Motorola seems to have found something useful in the concept. It was apparently working on this idea before the Phonebloks people came along, but they certainly seem to have found some common ground. After taking a truck full of rooted smartphones and 3D...

Phonebloks proposes modular build-it-yourself smartphones—but is it feasible?
September 24, 2013 | 9:59 pm

phoneblok-concept-videoHere’s an interesting and creative idea: Phonebloks, a smartphone design that is entirely modular. You start with a base with a lot of pinholes in it, and attach components to it—a screen to the front, and components for storage, battery, GPS, camera, etc. to the rear. They stick in just like LEGOs. Components would be standardized and available from different companies so you could build your own phone out of the bits and pieces you wanted, and when a part goes bad or gets too outdated, you trade it out. No more throwing away a phone because you broke...

A Teenage Prank, a Text Message, and the Death of My Cousin Jacob
September 16, 2013 | 8:00 pm

jacob_meadowsA week ago tonight, my 17-year-old cousin Jacob Meadows, a high school student in Ashland, Missouri, died by his own hand as the end result of an unfortunate chain of circumstances that were touched off by an ill-conceived cell phone text message. What happened, as I understand it from a letter from Jacob’s father, my uncle John Meadows, is this: On the evening of Monday, September 9th, too keyed up to go to sleep, Jacob was chatting by cell phone text with a high school friend, and inspired perhaps by all the to-do about the September 11th anniversary on the horizon,...

Wireless Playing Field Finally Leveled in Canada
June 4, 2013 | 10:00 am

wirelessIn this era of cloud-everything, Michael Geist reports on a hugely important story for Canadians—the CRTC, the regulatory body that deals with telecommunications issues, has released a new 'Consumer Wireless Code' that addresses a number of consumer complaints about cell phones. Significantly, it effectively eliminates onerous three-year contracts by phasing out the cancellation fee for customers whose contract has lasted a minimum of two years. The new rules also put limits on fees for cell phone roaming and data overages, and require carriers to permit unlocking of any paid-for phone. From the article: "The issue of contract length was the top issue raised by...

BlackBerry 10 promo campaign features Neil Gaiman
March 7, 2013 | 10:54 am

Neil Gaiman "The new BlackBerry Z10 is designed to keep you moving," reads the copy on the website of a new promotional campaign for the recently-launched smartphone. "So we've given it to three people who never stop. These incredibly talented and ambitious people are always looking for the next exciting challenge." Yeah, that's pretty corny. But I was certainly surprised to learn that one of the three people involved in the Z10 campaign was the author (and longtime TeleRead favorite) Neil Gaiman. (The campaign's other two artists are the singer-songwriter Alicia Keys, and the filmmaker Robert Rodriquez.) But here's the interesting bit: As the promotion's website explains,...

White House Ready to Legalize Phone Unlocking
March 5, 2013 | 10:12 pm

Phone UnlockingThe White House is supporting the consumers' right to unlock their cellphones once they have fulfilled the terms of their contract. In response to a petition on WhiteHouse.gov, the executive branch has stated that “The White House agrees with the 114,000+ of you who believe that consumers should be able to unlock their cell phones without risking criminal or other penalties. In fact, we believe the same principle should also apply to tablets, which are increasingly similar to smart phones. And if you have paid for your mobile device, and aren’t bound by a service agreement or other obligation, you should be...