T-Mobile’s Stupid, Stupid Upgrading Policy (pt. 2)

T-Mobile's Stupid, Stupid Upgrading PolicyAfter filing our complaint a few days, ago, we finally received a response from T- Mobile.

Feedback from other readers here and web reports already had our expectations running low, and they did indeed confirm that as loyal customers of 10 years standing, we could expect no discount at all on an upgrade to the G1 phone.

Worse than that, they insisted that our decade’s worth of loyalty would be rewarded with an additional charge of £305, while a brand new customer could pick up the same phone – on exactly the same contract – for absolutely nothing. How crazy is that?

The T-Mobile rep we spoke to certainly seemed to empathise with our position: reading between the lines he was well fed up having to tell long-paying customers that they’re going to be royally shafted by his company (he actually started the call saying that it ‘wasn’t a call he’d been looking forward to making’).

Continue reading T-Mobile’s Stupid, Stupid Upgrading Policy (pt. 2)

T-Mobile G1 Android Handset Offers Access To 6 million DRM-free songs on Amazon Music

T-Mobile G1 Android Handset Offers Access To 6 million DRM-free songs on Amazon MusicJust ahead of the eagerly anticipated launch of the T-Mobile G1, the first phone running Google’s Android mobile operating system, Amazon has just announced that its MP3 music store will be pre-loaded as an application on the handset.

Continue reading T-Mobile G1 Android Handset Offers Access To 6 million DRM-free songs on Amazon Music

FaceBook Touches Microsoft For $240 Million

FaceBook Touches Microsoft For $240 MillionMicrosoft have bought a teeny tiny piece of Facebook for $240 million, in return for they get 1.6 per cent of Facebook and the privilege of “expanding their advertising partnership.”

At those rates, Facebook is valued at $15 billion, not too shabby for a company founded in 2004, but reflecting their huge growth with around 200,000 new users registering daily.

The deal has been discussed by everyone, so it’s not really a surprise.

During Google’s Analyst Meeting yesterday, there were questions about if Google were planning to invest some money in Facebook. With this deal with Microsoft, it’s probably right to assume that Google will be shut out.

Mobile J/Speedy: NFC Payments Hits Amsterdam

Mobile J/Speedy: NFC Payments Hits AmsterdamAn NFC payment system is on trial in Amsterdam allowing people taking part to make purchases using their mobile phone.

We’re massive fans of NFC (Near Field Communications) and have been for close to two years. We see it as a significant way to enhance the function of your mobile phone (primarily), as well as a new way of getting content to your phone.

Eight companies are getting together for the latest trial, this time lead by Japanese credit card giant JCB and marks Europe’s first contactless international credit payment scheme using a Nokia 3220 with an NFC chip.

Selected JCB cardholders are provided with a mobile phone by Nokia, which are equipped with an NFC chip, developed by NXP and loaded with the JCB payment application developed by Gemalto.

The first transaction of the pilot was conducted at Sushi Time, the Japanese sushi restaurant in the World Trade Center in Amsterdam.

At selected PaySquare merchants, cardholders can securely purchase items by just holding their mobile phone close to ViVOtech’s contactless NFC reader/writer, which is attached to the payment terminal of CCV.

Mobile J/Speedy: NFC Payments Hits AmsterdamApproximately 100 selected JCB cardholders are now enjoying fast, easy, and convenient payments with Mobile J/Speedy at selected merchants, where they used to pay by cash.

Although it has only been one month since the trial was launched, the increasing number of repeat usage indicates a strong acceptance of the technology and a very successful pilot.

“Feedback from the first users of Mobile J/Speedy has been very encouraging and we are pleased to now be able to involve a wider group of customers,” said Hajime Matsuura, branch manager of JCB International’s Amsterdam branch.

The first European NFC-based public transport ticketing trials took place within the local bus network in the city of Hanau, near Frankfurt, Germany in 2005.

Expect plenty more news on NFC trials.

SanDisk Launches V-MATE Video Flash Memory Card Recorder:IFA

SanDisk Launches V-MATE Video Flash Memory Card Recorder:IFAAlthough there’s no shortage of gadgets like smartphones, PDAs, iPod and PSPs that are capable of playing back video, getting footage on to the fellas can be a bit of a pain.

“Today’s increasingly mobile consumer wants to be able to watch their favourite shows and videos, whenever and wherever they want,” insisted Wes Brewer, SanDisk’s vice president of consumer product marketing, and he reackons the new SanDisk V-Mate is a simple and practical solution to the problem.

Video hungry gadget freaks can simply hook up analogue audio or video outputs to the device, slap in the memory card from their multimedia handset and the Sandisk will record the content straight to the memory card.

SanDisk Launches V-MATE Video Flash Memory Card Recorder:IFAUsers can connect the V-Mate to the AV output of their video recorder, set-top box, Freeview, DVR, DVD player, TV or other device and use the V-Mate’s remote control to configure the device, plus record and access content via a TV-based interface.

The SanDisk offers multiple programming slots for entering channel, date and start/stop times to schedule recordings, with users being required to select their playback device to ensure the recordings are playback compatible.

The box also comes with an infrared emitter which can automatically turn on the TV tuner box (cable/satellite/terrestrial receiver or VCR) and select the right channel when programmed to record.

There’s also a mini-USB port on board for connecting the unit to a desktop/laptop PC.

Being designed for the wee small screen of portable multimedia devices, the SanDisk offers a maximum recording resolution of just 640 x 480 – perhaps not great for your 72″ HD plasma screen at home, but just dandy for yer average smartphone.

At this low resolution, punters should be able to grab around three and a half hours of video footage per gigabyte – ample time to keep you entertained on even the most delayed of commuter journeys.

“We are hoping to replace the VCR with this product,” a Sandisk spokesman enthused. “It will be like having a video recorder in your pocket.”

The 5.1″ x 2.6″ x 0.8″ V-Mate is compatible with a ton of memory card formats: SD, MMC, MMCplus MMCmobile, SDHC, MiniSDHC, MicroSDHC, Memory Stick PRO, Memory Stick Duo and Memory Stick PRO Duo, and the device is expected to go on sale in October for $130 or so.

Brando 52 in 1 USB Bluetooth Card Reader

Brando 52 in 1 USB Bluetooth Card ReaderIf – like us – you’ve been using digital cameras and electronics gizmos for years on end you might now be the proud owner of a huge pile of memory cards in a host of different formats, with a ton of cables scattered around the office.

With limited USB ports available on laptops, most of us have had to invest in a card reader, and although we were pretty impressed with the Targus 14 in 1 USB Card Reader we reviewed last year, compared to Brando’s brand new, read-anything-that-moves USB Bluetooth Card Reader, it’s positively Spartan.

Brando’s new reader manages to accommodate an astonishing 52 formats and, for your enlightenment and enchantment, here’s the full list:

CF I, CF II, Extreme CF, Extreme III CF, Ultra II CF, HS CF, XS-XS CF, CF Elite PRO, CF PRO, CF PRO II, IMB MD, Hitachi MD, MagicStor, MS, MS PRO, MS Duo, MS PRO Duo, MS MG, MS MG PRO, MS MG Duo, MS MG PRO Duo, Extreme MS PRO, Extreme III MS PRO, Ultra II MS PRO, HS MS MG PRO, HS MS MG PRO Duo, HS MS PRO, HS MS PRO Duo, MS ROM, MS Select, SD, *MiniSD, HS Mini SD, Extreme SD, Extreme III SD, Ultra II SD, SD-Ultra-X, Ultra speed SD, SD PRO, SD Elite PRO, HS SD, MMC, MMC 4.0, HS MMC, HS RS MMC, RS MMC, RS MMC 4.0, DV-RS MMC, SM, SM ROM, XD, *T-Flash.

Brando 52 in 1 USB Bluetooth Card ReaderThe USB 2.0 reader also conveniently doubles up as a Bluetooth hub, allowing you to wirelessly transfer data between Bluetooth devices such as mobile phones and PDAs.

Being a device from our favourite weird’n’wonderful gizmo makers Brando, there’s also some totally pointless eye candy on offer, with the device cycling through “multi moody colours” – perfect if you’d like to host a mini disco by the pencil sharpener on your desk.

Brando claim a receiving/sending range of 20m, with the supplied cable measuring in at 64cm.

Brando 52 in 1 USB Bluetooth Card ReaderCompatible with Windows 98/98SE/ME/2000/XP, the 63x63x15mm reader weighs in at 76g and is powered by the host computer’s USB slot.

It’s as cheap as chips too, priced at just US$25.

We only wish that electronics manufacturers would stop inventing bloomin’ new formats every other day and made these multi-readers obselete….


Targus 14 in 1 USB Card Reader Review (78%)

Works without a problem, doing all you’d expect – 78%

US Street Price $25

Targus 14 in 1 USB 2.0 Card Reader ReviewAs your collection of digital devices grows, you’ll probably find it near-impossible to stick with just the one memory card format as the pesky things keep on changing.

Looking around our office workspace we can see a depressingly long list of electronic gizmos all using different cards, including SD cards ( Pure DMX-50 DAB/CD system and iMate JAM smartphone), Sony Memory sticks (Sony V3 camera and Sony PDA), XD picture card (Fuji F10 camera) and compact flash (Nikon D70).

Targus 14 in 1 USB 2.0 Card Reader ReviewGetting data off these various cards usually means a trip to the back of the PC to install the various cables that came with all your camera/smartphone etc (when will they standardise all the ruddy USB connecters?!).

Things get more complicated away from home when filling your holiday bag with a lasso’s worth of different cables isn’t an attractive option.

So here’s where a USB Multi-card reader comes in handy.

Targus 14 in 1 USB 2.0 Card Reader ReviewWith most memory card readers offering support for a huge variety of memory cards, all you need to take on the road is a single USB lead to connect the card reader to your laptop and you’re sorted!

Moreover, if you forget your camera’s battery charger while you’re away, you’ll be able to save precious battery life by using the card reader, instead of having to turn the camera on to transfer pics.

Targus 14 in 1 USB 2.0 Card Reader ReviewWe were sadly guilty of leaving the charger for our Nikon N70 back in Blighty during out recent jaunt to NYC, and after seeing the battery levels accelerating downwards as we transferred zillions of images to our laptop, we shelled out for a cheap’n’cheerful Targus card reader, the TG-CRD14 ($25 street price).

As its name suggests, this compact little feller (9.4cm x 5.5cm x 1.9cm) can read and write to 14 different formats, including CF I&II, IBM Micro Drive, SM, SD, MMC, MS, XD and MS Pro.

Installation was a breeze – just plug in and go, with no drivers or power sources needed. Simple. And there’s even a pretty flashing LED to look at when the reader is being accessed!

The USB 2.0 interface guaranteed that files flew across to our desktop, and the reader’s multi card support, backwards USB 1.1 compatibility and Windows XP & Mac OSXM support should see us in good stead for the future.

Works without a problem, doing all you’d expect – 78%

US Street Price $25


NBC Take First Pop At TivoToGo Enhancement

NBC Take First ‘Pop’ At TivoToGo EnhancementAs we predicted last week, the US TV networks are not taking the new TiVo enhancements to its TivoToGo lying down.

NBC are making the early running, with a spokesman telling the Hollywood’s Daily Variety trade paper, “TiVo appears to be acting unilaterally, disregarding established rights of content owners to participate in decisions regarding the distribution and exploitation of their content. This unilateral action creates the risk of legal conflict instead of contributing to the constructive exploitation of digital technology that can rapidly provide new and exciting experiences for the consumer.”

Legal types though, are quoting the landmark Sony v. Universal Studios case of 1984, citing it as a precedent where time shifting was expressly found to fall within fair use. Although this particular case has come under the microscope recently, during the Grockster case, where the the US Supreme Court ruled that companies could be liable if they deliberately encourage customers to infringe on copyrights.

NBC Take First ‘Pop’ At TivoToGo EnhancementIt could be, that time will prove TiVo have announced prematurely this new augmentation, without fully taking account of the wide ranging business and legal implications. But in this fast moving sector, innovation is a necessity rather than an option.


TiVo: PSP/ iPod Downloads Planned

TiVo Enhanced For PSPs And ipodsTiVo have announced the release of new software, slated for the first quarter of 2006 that will let owners watch recorded television shows on their Sony PSPs and video iPods.

It doesn’t stop does it? Boy, is this technology disruptive.

What’s that sound? The sound of TV legal types rubbing their hands together as TiVo’s press release hit the ‘wires’.

TiVo’s software will enable subscribers to easily transfer recorded television programming, in MPEG-4 format. Other capabilities include auto-sync, letting TiVo users choose if they want new recordings of their favorite programs transferred to their portable devices via their PC. Recharging content onto their devices overnight, ready for the next days commute. It is expected to be priced as a one off of around $30 (~£17, ~€25).

TiVo Enhanced For PSPs And ipodsThis development is a further blow to TV network schedulers and their much-relied on conventional prime time programmes. This theory is torn apart when mobile viewers are able to watch programmes recorded the previous night, on the go.

The US networks are unlikely to take this lying down. Companies like ABC (part of media giant Disney) have been keen to generate additional revenue from download deals of their premium shows like Desperate Housewives – as offered by Apple through their online store, to their video iPod.

This TiVo development sees that particular rug being pulled from under them, and we suspect that they won’t be won over by TiVo’s promises to employ “watermark” technologies on programs transferred to a portable device.

TiVo’s share price has initially climbed, having faltered due to the perceived weakness in TiVo capabilities for both dual recording and HD use.

Some commentators are warning of the practical problems, expecting only the technically adept to be able to handle the transfers and pointing out that the enhancements will only be available to a subset of TiVo’s 3.8 million subscribers.

We think that while this could be the case for now, we don’t see this particular genie jumping back in the bottle.