Nokia Lumia Icon

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Brands keep pushing the limit on audio and video as we start to record more and more of our lives. Nokia’s new Lumia Icon has some impressive features, like four microphones to boost sound quality along with full 1080p HD, Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) and unpixelated zoom. Now we’ll see if this phone can make a dent in the market share for Apple and Samsung.

Roqbot Promises to be the Jukebox Reborn

In many ways, the jukebox hasn’t been a relevant or practical item for quite a few years now. Even before the advent of the iPod, many establishments that once used them prominently suddenly started preferring TV sets and house music to stand in for the old nickelodeon. Yet even though time has diminished the prominence of the jukebox, it has only added to the machine’s mystique. When imagining any good old time diner or gin joint, the jukebox is sure to spring to mind in its home right in the corner, as some classic tune frames another undisputed image of Americana.

It was only a matter of time, though, before the idea of a musical public centerpiece entered the digital age in full effect, and now it appears that thanks to a smartphone app called Roqbot, that time has come.

The idea is that a restaurant, bar or other type of patron establishment will register themselves as a Roqbot location and install a corresponding system. You can even help your favorite local joint become a member by recommending them on the Facebook campaign, “Jukebox Reborn,” Then, you can use your smartphone to check in to the affiliated location and see what’s playing, help create set lists, recommend the music, and even check out specials and other information about the place, thus allowing customers to truly set the music selection of their favorite hangouts like never before.

It’s an idea that’s time has come, and depending on the participation of venues and users, is one that could become popular fast. But I can’t help but lament that this is a clear sign the days of jukeboxes are truly done. Yes, their selection is very limited, and they’re extremely bulky and prone to break down, but besides the romantic aspect of seeing one, there is the fun of flipping through the sheets and finding that perfect song, or just knowing the number of your favorite by heart.

Also, the limited selection of a jukebox helps to truly define a good bar. I take comfort in knowing a little hole in the wall whose jukebox is loaded with Johnny Cash, The Rolling Stones, Lou Reed and Eric Clapton because I know that for the cost of some quarters, I have found a safe haven from club beats and dance music, and am around common souls whose heads start to nod and feet start to tap as the music fills the room, letting me know it was a good selection. I don’t know if an unlimited public playlist selection can offer that same kind of community.

But hey, maybe I’m just an old fashioned.

Even if the Roqbot is the wave of the future, though, I’m still going to go down to my favorite dives and give a quarter of tribute to one of the most pure fun inventions of all time.

CES kicks off

The biggest technology and gadget show, CES, just kicked off in Las Vegas, and as usual much of the talk surrounds Apple:

Apple is the only company that consistently gets big buzz out of the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas — without even attending.

This year will be no different.

Connected TVs — TVs that connect to and can access content from the Internet — will be a big part of CES this year. And just about everyone in tech expects Apple at some point to launch such a television — an iTV — that easily consumes and shares with other Apple devices content served from the company’s media-storing iCloud.

Microsoft made news earlier by saying this was the last year they would attend CES/ Why attend if Apple gets all the buzz anyways? Maybe Microsoft should focus on new products instead of protecting its Windows/Office cash cow? Or maybe not . . .

Headphone cords that don’t get tangled

I hate it when my headphones get all tangled up. Here’s a review of new headphones that have fettuccine type no-tangle cords.

MOG app for Android is TERRIBLE

MOG Music.

I’m seriously kicking around the idea of dumping my iPhone in favor of an Android device. I’ve been playing with the HTC Inspire for the past few days and really loving it. The notification bar alone could be reason enough to say goodbye to Apple for a while, at least anything running iOS. One of the things I loved about my iPhone was the ability to get any music, anywhere. The MOG app was amazing for streaming and allowed for downloads when I would be without a connection. The Android version does the same thing, just much more shittily.

This is one of the problems with Android in general – different apps will behave differently on different devices. That differentiation (wink wink) is good in some ways – there are a lot of options for users – but it can also be a bit painful. Right now my app has a constant “Artist Radio” overlay along the bottom of the screen, no matter which screen I’m on. It blocks the Download button. It blocks the Play Album button. It infuriates the hell out of me. The app also randomly starts playing any time I receive a notification on my phone. Yes, any notification will start whatever music MOG has loaded provided I’ve used MOG earlier in the day. I have to restart the damn phone to turn it off.

Speakal iPig: Impressive sound quality in a cute package

Shopping for a gift for Valentine’s Day can be a challenge if you’ve been with the same person for a long time. Holidays, birthdays and anniversaries add up, and it can sometimes feel like you’ve given that special someone everything they could possibly want. That’s obviously not the case, but if you’re completely out of ideas, you might want to consider Speakal’s iPig docking station for the iPod, which delivers surprisingly great sound in the shape of a bulbous little pig.

Available in pink, yellow, white and black, the iPig might look like something you’d pick up at the toy store, but it’s actually a pretty impressive piece of machinery – something you’ll quickly realize upon feeling the weight and durability of the system. The docking station can be used with any Apple iPod (there are six cradle pieces to choose from, but it even works without one attached) and though your iPhone will try telling you it’s not compatible, it actually is.

The system itself boasts five speakers with a total output of 25-plus Watts, including a 4-inch subwoofer on the bottom of the unit, two speakers on the front that double as the pig’s eyes, and two more underneath its ears. The ears also happen to include the docking station’s coolest feature: touch activated volume control that works better than I could have possibly imagined. Additionally, there’s a handy remote for all of the other controls like play/pause, fast forward/rewind, and bass and treble level adjustment, and you can connect the speaker to a TV or gaming console using the 3.5mm AUX input jack in the back.

Oh yeah, and not only does this speaker get loud (so loud, in fact, that I didn’t dare test to see how high the volume would go at the risk of blowing out my eardrums), but it doesn’t appear to lose any quality as a result. Granted, the cutesy pig design pretty much guarantees that no guy would want to purchase such a speaker system for himself, but between its impressive sound and portable, compact size, the Speakal iPig would make the perfect gift for that gadget-crazy lady in your life.

My open letter to streaming music services

I got a bug in my ear to listen to a song from Glee today. Stay with me; I know you want to click away but I promise this post is about streaming services. I looked up the song – an a cappella version of Katy Perry’s ‘Teenage Dream’ (again, please keep reading) – and was pleasantly surprised to see that MOG had it. I turned it on, turned it up, then realized I should be doing some dishes.

No problem – I’ll fire it up on my phone and run it through a Bluetooth speaker system in the kitchen. There’s just one problem with that – logging into MOG on my phone logged me out on my computer. Come back to the computer later and log back in, go out to get some coffee and log out and in on the phone for the car ride and then back home, log back in, blah blah blah, you get the picture. It’s too much, and it could be so easily solved. Build a feature into both the web app and the iPhone app that allows me to tie my account to my phone so that both can be logged in.

So begins my letter to companies that dream of providing a music streaming service. You absolutely have to make a smooth experience across devices. I’ve been so pleased with MOG that I’ve gone through and deleted a shload of my own digital library, the stuff I just didn’t listen to much or was so ubiquitous I could always get it on MOG (do I really need MP3s of Aerosmith’s Big Ones?). I’m so annoyed with the device situation, though, that I’m ready to jump the MOG ship the moment someone else can do it better.

Another simple thing – make the app more like a music player. I want access to my player all the time from anywhere. I don’t want to have to play a song to see my player, which already has songs queued up by the way. Yes, I could make playlists, but I shouldn’t have to. The whole advantage of the cloud isn’t a cumbersome experience. It’s the opposite. I want your streaming service because I don’t have to keep hundreds of gigs of music around in case my taste changes. I literally dumped 30 gigs of songs last night because the cloud is so convenient. I’d love to dump 30 more.

MOG is driving me crazy

MOG for the iPhone.About a month and a hlaf ago I decided it was time to give a streaming music service a shot. Rdio had just launched with a nifty little free trial so I jumped in there right away, but the selection was severely limited. I went to MOG, which started out okay, until I realized just how much better the Rdio service is.

For starters, Rdio has a vastly superior interface. Every god damn time I open MOG I have to sign in, which is bad enough, but then I can’t just open the player from that sign in page. Yes, I can point my browser to the player location, but I do not want to. I also do not want another browser window open. Seriously, what decade is this? For all the goodness that MOG brings – a nice library, good quality, sturdy streaming, the ability to download and play stuff later – they are way behind the times with regard to design.

The saddest part, much like the current TV streaming, is that MOG just might be the best around. From what I’ve seen of the other services, they’re just as bad, maybe worse, and that just isn’t going to cut it for a service I will use every single day.

The truth behind the new iPod Nano/Shuffle

iPod Nano cut. I love Reddit, especially for things like this. This image shows the real truth behind the iPod Nano and iPod Shuffle. Was it years of careful industrial design an planning? Nope. It was the scissors tool in Photoshop.

If you take a look at the two new music players it gets harder and harder to deny that it just looks like the old iPod Nano has been cut in half, leaving behind a screen (which is now touch sensitive) and a control scheme (welcome back, hardware controls – glad you’re off those headphones).

As good as Reddit is for these little gems, the discussion can be a bit polarized. Continue through those comments at your own risk.

New iPod Nano will be more ‘nano’ than ever

iPod Nano comparison.Do you remember your reaction when you saw the first iPod Nano commercial? Those two hands fought over something that seemed, at the time, ‘impossibly small.’ By today’s standards, that first Nano would look commonplace – some people might even mistake it for a new iPhone. All signs point to a Nano announcement at this week’s Apple event, and from all the leaked pictures and accessories, we know it’s going to be small.

This picture, which comes from Apple Insider, shows an old Nano up against a render of the new, touchscreen version. There have been some concerns raised about controls – that screen is awfully small to comfortably navigate your music library. Apple could be headed toward an inline control system, similar to that of the iPod Shuffle. Personally, I hate the idea. I want to be able to use my own headphones without worrying about a stupid control dongle.

From the looks of things, I’d say Apple also scrapped the crappy little camera it added to the most recent generation of the Nano. Thank god. That thing was the laughing stock of Flip SD owners everywhere, to say nothing of all the portable HD handcam owners of the world.