Monthly Archives: May 2010

An App to Monitor Your Teen or Employee Driver

scr-app-safe-driver-300wMobile apps have infiltrated themselves into the auto industry and one of the newest, Safe Driver Program for the iPhone by Dangerous Decisions, is going to make most parents of driving teens pretty happy. Amongst other things, this app lets you know the moment your teen goes over a certain speed or acceleration that you’ve set (by utilizing the iPhone’s GPS and accelerometer). It also records a number of other bits of driving data, including braking and cornering. This trip report can be password protected.

The app gets installed on the driver’s 3G or 3GS iPhone. Parents can use this to monitor teens, or companies can monitor employees who drive regularly as part of their job. Visual and audio indicators can warn a driver if they’re getting close to some set limit such as speed. If the driver violates some limit, the trip log plots the location on a Google map. Text message and email notifications, if configured, are received in real-time by the person doing the monitoring. The

Cost: free for the basic app [iTunes] and US$24.99 for the pro version. [Via Mobile Weblog]

What’s not clear is how you get someone to run the Safe Driver app, since it’s on their phone, but it sounds like a great concept. (I suppose you could make running the app on every trip mandatory.)

Want to discuss a mobile Web or native mobile app for your business or projects? Feel free to contact us to discuss your app or mobile campaign needs.

Are E-Readers Doomed By Tablet Computers?

flickr-barnes+noble-nook-e-reader-300wThere’s speculation that the with the introduction of the iPad, netbook and laptop sales might be in danger. When you think about it, tablet computers have a different if overlapping purpose than netbooks and laptops. On the other hand, tablet computers can do what e-Readers such as the Nook and Kindle do, and witih more features. So if any type of device is doomed by the existence of the iPad and all the tablet computers that will follow, it’s the e-Reader.

The big bookstore chains even seem to be hedging their bets by introducing iPhone OS apps intended for people who don’t own their device. Barnes & Noble is the latest with their Nook app for the iPad. The app has several iPad specific features, including new fonts and customizable layout for readability, in-book search, bookmarks, cross-device syncing, ePub support. Crunchgear have published the full press release from Barnes & Noble, which says there’ll be an Android version this summer as well.

Amazon isn’t ready to give up yet, with plans to release a thinner Kindle reader in August. But it’ll have neither a touchscreen nor a color screen. I think about the beautiful Alice in Wonderland interactive book in full color on the iPad and ask myself why I’d ever want a non-color, non-touchscreen Kindle? Sure, the iPad might cost more than some people want to spend, but there are expected to be low-cost tablet devices appearing later this year which can double as both e-readers and mobile computing devices.

So why would you want to buy an e-Reader device? Well other than ZDNet’s finding that the iPad is poor for outdoor reading, and another experiment’s finding that suggest the iPad might disrupt your sleep habits because of its backlit IPS screen. E-Readers that use e-Ink technology (Kindle, Nook, Sony’s devices) are said to be less likely to do that.

Image: Flickr.

Is Mobile Computing Getting Too Fragmented Device-Wise?

If the increasing number of tablet computer options hasn’t caught your interest, maybe the one HTC is planning will. If you’re a woman. The idea is that women do a great deal of social networking, such as on Facebook, and HTC thinks this is something they might like to do while watching TV. They’re considering an Android-based HD tablet aimed at women.

Now does HTC really want to fragment their potential market share like that? I mean, I use my iPad to check email and Facebook while I watch all the programs recorded on my DVR — multitasking. Does that mean I need a special man-version? What about all the women who want a tablet computer but not for social networking while watching TV? What version do they use? Doesn’t it make more sense to have a single tablet but with specialized configurable features? Or special cases in different colors and patterns? What compelling features will such a female-specific HTC tablet have that would persuade the numerous women I know who use netbooks to check Facebook while watching TV?

While competition is always a good thing, it seems to me that HTC’s approach is just fragmenting the mobile computing market a little too much. What do you think?

Trying to make sense of your mobile device and apps options? Want to discuss a mobile Web or native mobile app for your business or projects? Feel free to contact us to discuss your app or mobile campaign needs.

Next OLPC Not a Laptop, Not a Netbook

pic-OLPC-XO-3-tablet-computer-300wRemember the OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) campaign aimed at providing children in developing nations with affordable computing devices? It ended up costing way too much, but there’s a new, relatively inexpensive option. The next version of the campaign’s device won’t even be a laptop, it’ll be a tablet computer.

According to specs in Fortune, the XO-3 will be a 9-inch, Android-based tablet made by Marvell. It’ll have one or two cameras, Wi-Fi, and a multi-touch screen. It’ll also work with a plugin mouse and keyboard. Apparently it’ll be capable of playing HD video, too.

One of the benefits of this device is that it’ll be easier to support a variety of languages than was the case with the previous OLPC because of the physical keyboard. A virtual keyboard, on the other hand, can be switched, for example, to non-Latin characters on the fly.

The hardware is expected to cost $99 initially, but drop to $75 by 2011. Sounds pretty cheap, but at least one Asian manufacturer is planning Android-based tablet computers for $100-150, to be released by the second half of 2010.

Who knows? They might even have a similar deal as with the old OLPC, where you could buy two devices for a fairly reasonable price — by N. American standards — and one device would be given as a gift to a student in a developing country. If they manage the $75 price tag, I’m looking forward to getting a couple of these for my twin nieces — who were addicted to my iPad within minutes of trying it — as well as maybe contributing some.

Apple's iPhone Manufacturer to Increase Wages

Foxconn, the Chinese company that manufactures Apple’s iPhone has had over a dozen suicides either on its premises or from the homes of workers. The why of this is still being investigated, but so far it’s chalked up to high-pressure, low wages. As a result of this, Silicon Valley Watcher’s Tom Foremski asks whether it’s time for a “Fair Trade” iPhone

Foxconn’s Taiwanese parent company Hon Hai has promised a 20% raise to all 420,000 employees, but says that this has nothing to do with the suicides and does not address the reportedly sweatshop-like work conditions at Foxconn. Foxconn had been playing Buddhist music, presumably to soothe workers, and apparently went as far as sending a letter to employees asking them not to kill themselves, which they retracted. In addition to manufacturing iPhones for Apple, it produces devices and components for Dell and HP.

Mobomo Mobisphere Roundup — May 29, 2010

The mobile tech rumor mill suggests that Apple might open up iPhone/ iPad development to tools on the Windows PC environment, and for that reason, Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer will appear at Apple’s WWDC keynote next week. But Microsoft’s officially Twitter channel says it’s not true. What might be true, on the other hand, is that Microsoft’s Bing search engine could become the default one for the iPhone OS.

Meanwhile, a U.S. Justice Dept probe is looking at how Apple does business with non-music media businesses. Apple’s market capitalization just passed Microsoft’s this week, and a recent complaint from Adobe has already triggered an anti-competitive practices probe.

Probes take time and in the meantime, it’s pretty clear that Apple will be announcing a new iPhone some time in June — an iPhone that’ll be leaps and bounds, technologically, ahead of the last generation, in order to support all the new features that appear in iPhone OS 4.x.

Digitimes Research has a Q&A with senior analyst Ming-Chi Kuo about some of the iPhone rumors, but the existence of a new phone is not a rumor. In fact, BGR says in two-line post that AT&T has already confirmed to their employees that there is a new iPhone in June.

Unfortunately for consumers, AT&T seems to be upping the cost of ownership. While the new phone itself is possible going to cost only $18 to upgrade to from an older iPhone, AT&T’s ETF (early termination fee) for all smartphones has increased from $175 to $325.

BGR also says that AT&T is launching a new iPhone insurance plan that costs a ridiculous $13.99 and launches in June. That’s nearly half the cost of the data plan. There’s also a deductible fee to be paid, for some claims. Are they expecting an increase in thefts and planning to capitalize? Or are they losing exclusivity and trying to come up with new revenue streams?  Or maybe both? Considering that AT&T claims that 40% of iPhone sales are to business users, businesses might in fact approve the insurance rates and write them off against profits.

Oddly enough, this insurance is supposed to be available in the Apple App Store, but you have to sign up within 30 days of purchasing or upgrading to a new iPhone. In case you don’t feel like doing the math, that’s nearly $170/year in premiums.

Don't Hold Your Breath for a Verizon or Sprint iPhone

A lot of changes are happening in the iPhone area, and there’s a ton of speculation about what’s coming for the 4th-gen iPhone.

Firstly, the 8GB iPhone 3GS might be on it’s way out of production. The Apple.com site no longer allows it to be selected as an option to view details about. Speculation is that it will be replaced with another $99 iPhone, possibly a version of the upcoming 4th-gen iPhone. However, Wal-Mart plans to sell the 16GB model at $97, starting yesterday.

Of course, there’s also speculation about whether any other American carriers will get the iPhone. First it was Verizon getting it,and now rumors suggest that Sprint might get the next-gen iPhone, aka iPhone HD, in June. However, an analyst at Piper Jaffray says that this is unlikely. Apple Outsider also gives an interesting technical explanation for why a Verizon iPhone is probably unlikely any time soon. (Note: Apple Outsider’s Matt Drance is, if I’m not mistaken, a recently former Apple employee who appeared in some of the iPhone development how-to videos.) AT&T’s exclusivity contract is said to be ending, but I believe it’s not for a couple of months yet.

Mobomo Mobisphere Roundup — May 26, 2010

pic-iClothing+iTee+iDressAT&T customers in New York City will be able to access free WiFi in and around Times Square. This is the company’s temporarily solution to data congestion. This will of course be great for New Yorkers with iPad WiFi-only models. Just don’t go near Yankee Stadium, as iPads are banned there since they’re being classified as laptops. On the other hand, if you do go to Yankee Stadium with an iPad, you might want to put on iClothing‘s iTee ($44.95) or iDress ($89.95), right, both of which have a pocket which will hold an iPad. Given how heavy the iPad is, I’m assuming the stitching on these clothing items is strong. Let’s just hope stadium security doesn’t search your body.

Planning to travel and need worldwide Internet data plan? XCom Global is offering unlimited data in any of 21 countries, including USA, Canada, Mexico and the UK, for $14.95-17.95/day. Access is provided through either a USB broadband stick or a Novatel MiFi. Sounds expensive, but apparently Vodafone’s rates, which are by the megabyte, could be considerably higher if you plan to be online a lot.

Unlocked smartphones are in enough demand that AT&T will provide unlocks for most of their handsets, with the exception of the iPhone, thanks to the pre-trial settlement of a class-action lawsuit.

The Android-powered Dell Streak 5″ slate computer/ GSM phone launches in the UK in June. It has two cameras (to support video chat), amongst other features. The device, which was formerly known as the Mini 5, will make its U.S. appearance in late summer. I don’t know; this former factor seems a bit large to use as a phone, unless you utilize the speaker or earbuds.

Android-based smartphones are selling at about 100K units per day, though given there are over 60 different handsets, that’s not too surprising. What is surprising is that Android phones outsold iPhones in the U.S. in Q1 2010.

If you think the iPad is too costly, take note $100-150 Android-based tablets could hit the market by the second half of 2010. While I think Apple will drop the price of the iPad next year when newer models come out, I doubt they’ll go as low as they devices, which will be powered chips from Via Technologies. I’ll have seven, please — one for each day of the week.

10 Confirmed or Possible Features for 4th-Gen iPhone

pic-iphones-600w

We all probably know by now that another generation of iPhone is coming and that it’ll have numerous new features. Some of these features will catch Apple up with other handset manufactures, but other features will put them ahead of everyone else.

Foxconn, Apple’s Chinese manufacturer of the iPhone, will apparently ship 24M units of the next generation of the smartphone. The new phone is likely to be announced on Jun 7, 2010, during Apple’s WWDC (Worldwide Developers Conference), and Foxconn will ship close to 5M units before H1 2010, with the rest of the units from July-Dec. Given that the 1st half of 2010 ends Jun 30th, I’m guessing that there’s an expectation of selling 5M units in June. Given that AT&T is offering an $18 upgrade fee from older iPhones, I wouldn’t be surprised if they exceed 5M units. Note: Unwired View thinks
the phone will be announced Jun 22nd, but that leaves a little over a week to move 5M units. I’d put my money on Jun 7, with a faster release to markets outside the U.S. than is the case for the iPad. (The iPad becomes available in Canada and select other countries this Friday, May 28th.)

Digitimes Research is saying that the gen-4 iPhone will boast a screen resolution of 960×640, which if correct is 4 times that of the current iPhones (480×320). Inside will be an “Arm Cortex A8 processor and a 512MB memory module.” However, other sites have speculated on the same A4 chip that is inside the iPad, as well 256MB of RAM, and possibly 128MB of storage, thanks to recently available, less expensive 64GB flash memory modules. It’ll like have a longer battery life as well — which will be necessary to power video chat on the go.

Confirmed New Features

Now in addition to features on the next-gen iPhone that we’ve recently discussed, and other openly confirmed and discussed features such as app folders and third-party multi-tasking, here are some recently revealed features:

  1. Utilities folder on the default home screen containing the clock, calculator compass, and voice memo apps.
  2. Tethering support. This was available in OS 3.0 but never offered. While the ability is there again in OS 4.0, AT&T or other carriers will not necessarily offer it. But if they do, you can finally connect your iPad WiFi-only model, or any WiFi device, for that matter, when you need to get online. That’d be a definite plus, as the Palm Pre Plus Mobile Hotspot feature that I use currently for my iPad is only as good as the battery life, which is maybe 2-2.5 hours while in use. If the new iPhone’s battery has a longer life, that’ll be a huge plus.
  3. Screen lock, just like on the iPad, so that the screen doesn’t rotate on you if you’re lying down.
  4. CDMA version, presumably for Rogers Canada, but possibly also for Verizon USA.

There will likely be many other features revealed this week and next — or until the phone gets announced.

Potential New Features

By “potential feature” I mean that a feature is either supported by evidence but not confirmed by Apple, or it’s a feature that may not be available in OS 4.0 but rather in upgrades down the road, or finally a plausible feature that has been rumored by one site or another.

  1. Colors. Possibly as many as 5 case colors, though pictures of rumored prototypes show only black and white so far.
  2. Video chat. Apparently the director of the movie American Beauty (Kevin Spacey, Mena Suvari), Sam Mendes, will be directing a series of commercials for the next iPhone, and Engadget says that a “trusted source” that one scene will have a simulated video chat between a mother and a daughter. It’s not like we didn’t already know it was coming, with all the evidence out there (including a video calls debugging feature), but this sort of thing helps cement the reality.
  3. Front- and back-facing cameras, to maintain current camera abilities and to support video chat.
  4. Camera flash, to light up dark environments.
  5. Redesigned architecture and footprint: Thinner frame, larger battery, larger screen resolution.
  6. Contextual advertising, local coupons, temporary location apps.

Of course, some of the above is still essentially speculation until the official announcement. We’ll all just have to wait and see.

Netbooks Still Favored Over iPads? [Updated]

chart-retrevo-netbook-or-ipad-2-300wAre netbooks still favored over the Apple iPad? According to a survey by Retrevo, almost a third of U.S. consumers who had planned to buy a netbook ended up with an iPad. The survey further indicates that the most desirable netbook feature is it’s portability.

I’d have to agree with the portability. I gave my wife an HP netbook to supplement her older MacBook 15″ and she loves it, despite that it’s not a Mac. If she’s on the go, she tends to favor the netbook because it slips easily into her handbag. It also has 3G Internet, whereas if she took the Mac, she’d need to find a wireless network to get online — which makes up the bulk of the work she does on a computer.

On the other hand, I favor my iPad, despite that it’s a WiFi-only model. But one is not a replacement for the other. Using an iPad is an experience that’s hard to describe. You have to try it to understand; don’t listen to people who put the iPad down without actually trying it. I was skeptical because its touchscreen-based computing has some limitations that a netbook does not, which is why the two types of devices are not interchangeable. What an iPad offers is a wholly different experience.

Still, despite the survey results, netbook sales are down and, in comparison, iPad production could increase from its current rate of 1-1.5M units/month to 2.5M units/m. So maybe what the survey failed to ask was how many people who intended to buy an iPad bought a netbook?

Update: After posting this, I found the Retrevo survey summary link, and it appears that they did ask people whether they were leaning towards a netbook or iPad, and nearly 80% said the latter.