Everything You Wanted to Know About the iPhone 5 But Were Too Afraid to Ask

With the first reviews pouring in today for everyone’s soon to be most bragged about toy, the iPhone 5, it’s time to take a step back and look at everything we know about the new iPhone, to date.

The Look

It’s thinner (the thinnest smartphone in the world according to Apple), it’s taller (a half an inch taller to be exact), it comes in black and white (though that doesn’t matter according to the late Michael Jackson), and of course it’s pretty sleek. Apple has had more than enough time in this business to know what works and what doesn’t and they aren’t messing with the formula now. The iPhone 5 looks like an iPhone, just better.

The Features

For the most part, all of the usual upgrades apply. The sound is better, the video is clearer, and everything is supposed to be faster. Of particular note, though, are the new 4G capabilities and Siri functions. The 4G is supposedly as quick as you need it to be, Siri is better than ever, and can perform an array of new tricks from pulling up apps on request, to providing sports scores. Also, the camera is supposed to work better in lowlight, and the battery life is cited as working up to 12-14 hours in some cases with normal usage, which would mean a great improvement over the previous models.  However, if you’re looking for the real new feature of the iPhone 5, you have to turn to the new iO6.

iO6

The biggest upgrade to i06 is the new Apple Maps features which opposes the popular Google Maps program. Reviews aren’t particularly flattering for the new app, as reviewers cite trouble using it practically in urban environments ,along with being generally behind Google Maps, but with things like Yelp integration, and Siri enabled GPS, a few updates could put the system on the right track. Otherwise, the new operating system is offering up increased Facebook functionality, Facetime compatibility, and a great all in one travelling app called Passbook that also works with some of your payment methods to help create a virtual wallet. Nice.

Read the rest of this entry »

The femtocell situation

Microcell 3G.After Gizmodo posted a quick review of AT&T’s upcoming Microcell 3G, I wanted to take a look at the femtocell situation as a whole. By and large I think femtocells are a great idea. They provide a relatively low cost method for increasing your cell signal at home. The cost could be lower though, as in free, and would breed a lot of good blood between provider and consumer.

As it stands there are a few options for a femtocell. There’s the AT&T Microcell 3G, which costs $150 plus $20/month if you opt for the unlimited Microcell minutes plan. Without a plan your femtocell minutes will be deducted from your monthly account as usual. You can get Sprint’s Airave, which runs $100 plus $15/month for unlimited calls on one line. MagicJack is also reportedly releasing a femtocell, which will likely be the most reasonable of the bunch, at an undisclosed unit cost and the $20/year service fee.

It’s hard to fault MagicJack for the yearly fee since it isn’t a service provider, and yet it provides the best service out of any of these solutions. It seems odd, in the case of AT&T and Sprint to pay to use your existing broadband connection to send data more reliably than over the cellular network for which you also already pay. It reeks of customer extortion.

Consider an alternative – AT&T says hey guys, we’re really sorry about our crappy network performance, but these femtocells will run you $50 one time, won’t count against your cellular minutes, and will drastically improve your home service since we’ve basically replaced your home phone anyway. Do you know how many people would buy one? Everyone. Every single person with a cellphone would get one of these things, and everyone would be a lot happier with their current service.

You can bet people will flee from AT&T once the iPhone is available elsewhere. This is just another reason to leave.

Palm’s still bleeding money at alarming rates

Palm lineup.I’ll start of on a positive note. This is no $500 million dollar hematoma, the likes of which we saw from Palm last year. That’s as good as it gets, though. When you look at the raw numbers, the situation is bad.

For Q2 of fiscal 2010 for Palm, the company sold just 783,000 smartphones, a decrease of 5% from last quarter. Just so you get that, leading up to the holidays and on the heels of the Pixi release, Palm sold fewer smartphones than it did last quarter.

Here’s CEO Jon Rubenstein:

We are continuing to execute strongly against our long-term strategy with the delivery of Palm Pixi, the new carrier launches completed this quarter, and the upcoming opening of Palm’s full developer program. We’re still in the early stages of a long race, and we’re energized by the opportunity to compete in this exciting market.

I hate to be the one to tell you, Jon, but this won’t be a long race at all if you keep losing money and market share. There is no long-term plan. You need to get app development going in a big way. You need to get your devices into the hands of three times as many consumers and hope that half of them like what you sell. You need to have thought of this a year ago, long before the Pre launch.

Unless, of course, your long-term strat is to get bought. That I can actually see happening.

Source: AllThingsD

Handset Review: Motorola Debut i856

Motorola-Debut-i856I’ve spent the last two weeks with the Motorola Debut i856, a feature phone on the Sprint network that makes use of iDEN tech with push-to-talk. It’s the slimmest push-to-talk phone I’ve seen and has solid voice quality and a decent music player. Unfortunately, the keypad makes texting feel like a chore and with increasingly cheap smartphones, the i856 might not have enough features to keep your interest.

Design
The i856 is definitely a good looking phone. I’ve always preferred sliders to clamshells, and again, the thin body is a nice addition to the world of iDEN devices. At 4.19 inches long by 2.0 inches wide by 0.59 thick, it’s small enough to tuck into a pocket or a small purse. The front of the phone has a ring with four navigation buttons and a selection button. The left, right, and selection buttons control the media player whenever you have music playing. The rest of the time they’re used for standard browsing. The side of the phone has your volume rocker, the push-to-talk key (which also pulls up the contacts page) and a volume toggle. You also get a 3.5mm headphone jack, allowing the use of your headset of choice.

One confusing design feature is the placement of the microSD slot. It’s inconveniently tucked under the battery cover – not a huge deal, but a pain if you like to switch out your music regularly.

The keypad design is where the i856 suffers most. It looks good, but the buttons are spongy and close together, making it almost impossible to text with two hands. The keys are raised, so it’s easy enough to dial by feel with one hand, but doing anything else is an exercise in frustration.

Features
With any feature phone, I look for it to do one thing really well. If I wanted something that could multi-task well, I’d step up to a smartphone. The i856 actually has a great little media player. It organizes tracks by artist, album, and genre, and (my personal favorite feature) it supports podcasts. You can set the phone to play music in the background while performing other functions, and the keys that toggle on the front of the phone make it easy to control what you hear. The player supports a wide range of formats, so you shouldn’t have trouble getting what you want on the phone.

The i856 also has a 1.3MP camera. It takes pictures of about the quality you’d expect, worse in low light. There’s a 600 capacity contact list with the ability to group contacts for push-to-talk and customize caller ID photos and ringtones. Beyond that you get the basic downloads for wallpapers, ringtones, and games.

Quality and Performance
I was really impressed with the call quality on the i856. It’s crystal clear on both ends, so much so that my friend thought it was a VoIP call. Speaker phone was good enough for occasional hands-free use. Again, media features are strong and easy to control, just make sure you’re using a headset. The external speakers sound tinny and thin.

Overall, this is a decent phone if you’re really committed to push-to-talk. Beyond that, your $100 could get you a Palm Pre if you’re committed to Sprint (the i856 is also available through Boost), which is a much more flexible device.

Giveaway!
Motorola has offered us two of these handsets for a giveaway. As soon as we have details for the contest I’ll post them here. Don’t forget to check out our other reviews at the Gadget Teaser Reviews section.

Sprint Drops The Pre Deal

Sprint's Palm Pre.A couple days ago I posted the latest deal from Sprint – a $100 credit over three billing periods if you bought a Pre and ported your number. Well the deal’s over. In fact, it wasn’t even supposed to begin.

Sprint issued the following statement on the matter:

After further internal review today, the offer of a port-in service credit of $100 to new customers who buy the Palm Pre has been pulled because it was put into the system in error.

That’s a hell of an error. Sprint did say that it would honor the deal for anyone who signed up while it was live, but after that, no dice. I’d be curious to see what the subscription numbers looked like while the deal was running, and whether they looked any different from the usual.

On the upside, maybe Sprint doesn’t need as many customers as I thought it did.