Verizon Announces Motorola Droid 4 with LTE –

Not more than seven months after the Droid 3 was released, Verizon has announced the latest in what appears to be the longest lineage of a smarpthone brand ever. The Droid 4, which appeared on our radar in September, is the first LTE-capable original Droid (of the hardware keyboard variety). In a lot of ways, the Droid 4 reminds us of the Droid … Read More

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Verizon Samsung Galaxy Nexus Review –

While you may have already seen our extensive review of the GSM version of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, we’ve also got one that uses Verizon’s high-speed LTE 4G network. There aren’t a huge amount of differences, but we thought it would be good to give you a different perspective on Google’s latest flagship device and also their latest Android 4.0 … Read More

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Two iPhones Will Ship in September, Reports Wall Street Journal |

iphone5scoloursprimary

A new report from the Wall Street Journal says consumers can expect Apple to ship two brand new iPhones in September. The report states that Apple plans to release both a “high-end and low-end” model of its popular phone in order to make the iPhone more accessible. Rumours that Apple is producing a cheaper version of the iPhone have been circulating for some time now, but the WSJ report is the first hard evidence that Apple plans to ship both models at once.

The iPhone 5S is the expected follow-up model to the iPhone 5 released last year and will likely be made of similar materials and maintain the current design with the addition of several upgrade. For instance, a double flash for the camera and better specs are anticipated for the new phone. But Apple is also expected to present the iPhone 5C, which will have a plastic casing and be available in a variety of colours.

This September will be the first time in Apple history that two iPhone models are revealed at the same time. Typically, a single iPhone is announced and it is in the hands of consumers within two weeks of its reveal. Shipping two phones at once to be sold at different price points demonstrates a very different strategy from Apple, a company not formerly known for competing in the low-cost gadget market.

Another expectation for the September release is that, in addition to the black and white options for the iPhone 5, the iPhone 5S will be available in the colour gold.


The Story of Skout: From Deadpool’s Door to $22M Led By Andreessen Horowitz |

Andreessen-Horowitz

niklas-christian

Eighteen months ago, it looked like the location wars were over. Foursquare had just closed a $ 20 million Series B round and rivals like Gowalla, Loopt and Brightkite weren’t having the same buzz or traction. Meanwhile, Christian Wiklund’s company Skout was down to a skeleton crew of three people after burning much of the $ 4.6 million it had raised since being founded in 2007.

“We were close to going under. We had no traction,” Wiklund said. “But we were really stubborn and there was no way we were going to let that happen.”

A first-time entrepreneur, Wiklund and his co-founder Niklas Lindstrom put their heads down. Around that time, they changed the app to focus on a new demographic: young people who wanted to meet strangers and singles who wanted to flirt.

It hit a nerve and Skout’s new app came at a very lucky time in the market. It hadn’t yet become brutally expensive to climb the charts in the app store, so Skout was early enough to secure a top 25 place in the social networking category that persists even now.

After that, it saw “tens of millions” of downloads and the company shared some notable engagement stats. The app supports about 300 million messages per month. The average users checks in eight to nine times every day and spends an average of 45 minutes chatting, exchanging gifts and posting photos. When I used it over the weekend, I had more than a dozen messages within a few hours. Wiklund won’t say how many monthly or daily active users it has though.

And surprise, surprise. It’s signing up about 1 million users per month. That is the same pace at which Skout’s onetime rival Foursquare is growing.

On the revenue side, the company crossed over into profitability for four to five months of the past year. Its earnings have been enough to support a headcount of 50 including contractors, up from those dark days when Skout just had three people. It’s now intentionally dipping back into the red so it can focus on growth though.

So on the back of this turnaround, Skout is raising $ 22 million in a round led by Andreessen Horowitz. ”This is one of the very few VC firms in the world that we would want to work with,” said Wiklund.

Andreessen Horowitz is betting on Skout as a play in the mobile dating space, an area that is only just starting to be cracked, though are other mobile dating apps out there from sites like OKCupid, Flirtomatic and Badoo. Both Wiklund and the firm stress that this is “scaling” money.

“Everyone from Loopt to Whrrl was trying to dig for gold in the local-and-mobile space,” said Scott Weiss, a general partner at Andreessen Horowitz who co-founded IronPort Systems. “But the Skout guys did exactly that by finding the product-market fit in flirting and dating.”

He said that Skout and Foursquare are now differentiated enough from each other that there’s no conflict of interest for Andreessen to invest in both.

Weiss added, “Niklas and Christian are incredibly capable, smart entrepreneurs who have a lot of big ideas about how to crack this code.”

The interesting thing about Skout is that it monetizes differently from other apps in the social networking category. While other mobile apps like Instagram, Pinterest or Tumblr will probably rely on advertising, Skout has a healthy revenue stream from in-app purchases. Users can pay for points to send virtual gifts, see who is viewing their profile and send “wink bombs.”

“This type of gifting isn’t that dissimilar to what all the avatar communities have been experimenting with,” Weiss said. “It’s about going on with a persona and getting other people’s attention.”

That makes Skout’s revenue mix a little more like FarmVille, and a little less like Match.com. There’s also a paid app that users can download if they want to avoid ads. That said, Wiklund envisions a business that will rely on local advertising too.

One other thing that Skout did to nail the model was put a heavy emphasis on community management. The company bans more than 40,000 devices a month to make sure that new users feel comfortable. ”It needs to be a safe, clean healthy network,” Wiklund said. “I’m sure you remember how ChatRoulette scarred some people.”

With the funding, Skout plans to find a new office that will hold 120 people. Even now, it’s still about staying heads down.

“We have taken the humble approach. We haven’t even really celebrated,” Wiklund said. “It’s still sinking in. But once you take the money, you better deliver. Why take the dilution otherwise?”


The Phone Stacking Game: Let’s Make This A Thing |

phone_stacking_game

phonestack

So it’s Saturday night and you’re out with friend. Are they the inconsiderate jerk who can’t stop checking their smartphone? Or is that you?

Either way, here’s one way to make dinner a little more interesting.

I’ve seen/heard this described as both “The Phone Stacking Game” and “Don’t Be a Dick During Meals”. It’s been mentioned on a couple of blogs, but a quick  straw poll of my friends suggests that it hasn’t become widespread yet, at least on the West Coast. Which is a shame, because it’s perfect for folks in tech.

Here’s how it works: At the beginning of the meal, everyone puts their phone face down at the center of the table. As time goes on, you’ll hear various calls, texts, and emails, but you can’t pick up your phone. If you’re the first one to give in to temptation, you’re buying dinner for everyone else. If no one picks up, then everyone pays for themselves.

You can explain the game in a few different ways. Most obviously, it could be a protest against the incessant, unthinking use of cell phones during social gatherings. Or maybe it’s a game that acknowledges the new reality and tests your willpower accordingly. Personally, I like to think of it as a free market exercise. After all, people love to say, “Sorry, but I have to take this.” Do you have to answer it? Really? Is it that important to you? Great, then you can pay.

No matter what the explanation, it could make for a tense meal. And I look forward to defeating MG Siegler.


The Maker of BlackBerry Defends Its Smartphone |

BB_10

With more than 80 million customers globally, BlackBerry is growing and remains one of the world’s most popular smartphones. I’ve just come from visiting carriers and partners in all parts of the world, and they have told me that there are millions of BlackBerry fans out there who not only find great value in their device, but also pride in being a BlackBerry owner.

While any report of dissatisfaction among our users is a cause for concern that I take very seriously, the comments supporting BlackBerry both online and in calls we’ve received from our customers in response to your article are encouraging to me.

BlackBerry remains the leader in providing security for corporate customers, which is why more than 90 percent of the Fortune 500 rely on BlackBerry. It’s true that some companies put restrictions on accessing certain applications for security reasons, but applications like Yelp and OpenTable are, in fact, among the approximately 100,000 apps available in BlackBerry AppWorld.

We’ve received excellent feedback from carriers, developers and partners for our upcoming BlackBerry 10 platform and are on track to deliver it in the first quarter of 2013. We appreciate the customers who have remained loyal to the BlackBerry platform and look forward to winning back many who have left.

Source: NYTimes


The Future: VoIP or VoLTE? |

It’s 2012 now, we’re all driving flying cars, wearing reflective clothing, the world is scheduled to end in a few more months, and we’re all carrying around computers (called “smartphones”) in our pockets. With that backdrop, let’s look at our voice communications yesterday, now, and tomorrow. The Past Before we go back to the future, let’s look … Read More

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‘Stop the bullsh*t’ says T-Mobile CEO |

john-legere

T-Mobile CEO John Legere has made his opinion clear on the pricing systems in place for customers of his competitors. “Stop the bullsh*t”, Legere said at T-Mobile’s event in New York City on Wednesday. He is referring to the pricing models used by Verizon, AT&T and Sprint, which require customers to be locked into two-year agreements.

“Carriers are really nice to you…once every 23 months,” continued Legere. His aggressive presentation targeted customers of his competition. “Do you have any idea how much you’re paying?”

T-Mobile has abandoned the practice of forcing consumers into two-year contract with the introduction of its new “Uncarrier” rate plans. Legere continued on his rant about the contract-driven industry model he calls “smartphone hell” and promised: “If you come to T-Mobile, you’ve signed your last contract.” But Legere is confident that consumers will like the new contract-free arrangement.

Back in January, Legere delivered a similarly aggressive speech that promised changes to T-Mobile as well as the wireless industry. Tuesday’s passionate speech discussed the fruition of his promises by eliminating annual service contracts and simplifying its rate systems. He also said T-Mobile would have all the best handsets—including the FTC One, Blackberry Z10, several Samsung models and Apple’s iPhone 5—available at a reasonable upfront costs.

The iPhone has never before been included as part of T-Mobile’s device lineup, so the additional is exciting news for the company. The 16GB iPhone 5 will be sold from T-Mobile for $99.99 plus 24 monthly payments of $20. The 32GB and 64GB models will be available as well, for $199.99 and $299.99, plus monthly payments.

T-Mobile also launched a new 4G LTE network across seven major metropolitan areas in the U.S. Legere anticipates that the network will reach 200 million users nationwide by the end of the year.

 


T-Mobile HTC Radar 4G Review |

The HTC Radar 4G is the first new device available in the U.S. running Windows Phone 7.5. Sure, the upgrade has been available on existing devices for a while, but now we finally get to see some of the new enhancements and new hardware improvements. If you were to only go by the basic specifications list that accommodates the HTC Radar 4G, you … Read More

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Tagstand Relaunches NFC Task Launcher App, Makes NFC Way Less Geeky |

NFC

nfc-task-launch

YC-backed Tagstand, a company intent on helping make NFC more of a mainstream technology, is rebooting its Android app, NFC Task Launcher with a whole new feature set and user interface. The app was already one of the top NFC-based utilities in the Android Market Google Play store before coming under Tagstand’s control recently, when the app’s creator joined the team.

The company also says it saw a big uptick in demand for NFC tags when Google released the Galaxy Nexus, and it’s now selling as many tags in a day as it did during the entire month of June, when the service first launched.

Tagstand, you may remember, raised a $ 1.1 million funding round back in October which included many notable angels. The full list at the time: Yuri Milner, SV Angel, Naval Ravikant, Paul Buchheit, Yael Shazeer, Christina Brodbeck, Anand Agarawala, Mike Berolzheimer, Bee Partners, Quotidian Ventures, TEEC (Chinese angel network), Vaizra Investments (Israeli fund), Dean Smith, Christopher Morton, and Anand Swaminathan.

The company says that it’s since added new investors to its round, including YC partners Harjeet Taggar, Garry Tan, and Alexis Ohanian, and Kavin Bharti Mittal of Bharti Telecom in India.

At the time of the funding, Tagstand was focused mainly on offering tools and other special NFC-equipped stickers to individuals, companies and brands. But since then, the creator of the Android app NFC Task Launcher, Joshua Krohn, joined the team, bringing his experience on mobile with him.

Before the app, users would first visit Tagstand’s website to purchase NFC starter kits, tags or stickers. The NFC tags can be configured using a web-based control panel or, now, the Task Launcher app itself. For Android users familiar with the popular Automator application, NFC Task Launcher is very similar except that the tasks it automates are kicked off by scanning an NFC tag, rather than some other sort of pre-programmed event.

For example, Tagstand co-founder Kulveer Taggar tells me that he has a tag on his keychain that’s configured so that, when he enters a coffee shop where he wants to work, he simply taps that tag with his phone, and his laptop is instantly tethered to his phone’s Wi-Fi hotspot. When finished working, he taps it again to switch the hotspot off.

Meanwhile, co-founder Omar Seyal likes to use the app when cooking – he set timers for 10, 20 and 30 minutes, which he begins by tapping the phone to an NFC tag.

You could also use NFC Task Launcher to switch between “office” and “home” settings on your phone, turn on or off your ringer or alarm, instantly check-in on Foursquare, send tweets and about a million other things, many of which are detailed here on the app’s description page in the Android Market Google Play store.

With the recent relaunch of the app (version 3), the user interface has gotten a big overhaul to be more user-friendly and the app itself has seen a number of improvements. It now offers better saved task management, improved Switch creation, improved dialogs for writing tags (both for success and for errors), and it has added support for newer tag types. There’s also a new pack of tags designed especially for fans of the Android app.

If you remember what the app looked like before, this is great update. As for making NFC more mainstream, that may prove to be more of a challenge. NFC, while a promising technology, faces a number of adoption hurdles ranging from OEM adoption to business partnerships that encourage use (as in the case of mobile payments). And, of course, there’s always what Apple ends up doing – still a big unknown. But for those Android users already ahead of the curve, or who just like doing cool stuff with their phones, the NFC Task Launcher app is a good one to try.