Saturday, February 21, 2009

T-Mobile tries $50 unlimited cell plan and $135 rebate to switch carriers

T-Mobile has rolled out an interesting new promotion in San Francisco: a $50 unlimited usage cellular voice plan. Also the company is offering customers in the Bay Area a $135 rebate to switch carriers, essentially eliminating the early termination fee costs.

T-Mobile says the new %50 rate plan is only available to customers who have used the service for 22 months. The new plan would allow T-Mobile customers to have unlimited data and voice for $85. AT&T, for example, charges $99.99 for unlimited voice, $30 for data and anywhere from $5 to $20 for texting.

The good news for consumers is if T-Mobile rolls this plan out nationwide and does well, it could force other carriers to react. A national analyst, John Hodulik, predicts we'll see T-Mobile make such a move next month.

Why? T-Mobile is struggling to keep up with AT&T and Verizon and Sprint in the cell phone wars.

With its best-selling iPhone spearheading purchases, AT&T added 2.1 million customers in the fourth quarter of 2008. Of those, 1.9 million were iPhone users.

Verizon added 1.4 million new users, but T-Mobile added far fewer: 621,000. That was down from 670,000 new customers in the third quarter and down from 951,000 new subscribers in the fourth quarter of 2007.

Sprint/Nextel lost 1.3 million customers in the fourth quarter as cell phone users seem to be choosing sides: AT&T or Verizon.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A cheaper $99 iPhone by summer?

RBC Capital Markets analyst Mike Abramsky reports today that consumers can expect a $99 iPhone this summer.

The current iPhones cost $199 for an 8-gigabyte model or $299 for a 16GB model with a two-year agreement with AT&T. Abramsky thinks a cheaper iPhone might increase Apple's global market share for smartphones from 12 percent (currently) to as much as 19 percent.

Abramsky said the new iPhone will not run on AT&T's faster 3G wireless network, instead using the older 2.5G version. But the $99 phone is expected to have Wi-Fi and Bluetooth compatibility, as well as the same size screen. He predicts the new phone will have a lower resolution, but also a cheaper data plan -- one for $15 per month, half the current rate.

Apple doesn't comment on products in development.

The report says the current iPhone will keep its pricing while possibly adding new features like a better-looking screen, a video camera and more memory.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

How to be a movie director...and Vista's not all that bad after all

I love good party games, and Microsoft's latest – which relies on the included Xbox Live Vision camera to “film” scenes featuring you and your friends – is a pretty good one at times.

Here's the basic premise: The camera captures players as they participate in mini-games that basically have them moving around as though they have no sense of rhythm. Then you can edit these performances down to make short clips for everyone to laugh at, and you can even put the finished product on YouTube or DVD.

The good news is that setup is easy, and players can select everything from characters to how to light the scene. Unfortunately, the graphics aren't the best, you'll need a lot of room to film, and the camera has a hard time making people out sufficiently unless you're filming against backgrounds that are as blank as possible.

Also, while “You're in the Movies” is fun with a group, it's terribly boring – unless you want to play long enough to unlock enough scenes to edit and do voiceovers – by yourself. Even that's not much fun.

Still, when I played with a few friends, everyone was cracking up. This one's at least worth a rental.

Microsoft Windows Vista Ultimate


When Microsoft Vista debuted two years back, I basically ignored it. I heard what many people were hearing: that Vista wasn't a worthy successor to Windows XP.

So I was a little surprised when I popped in a version of Vista Ultimate with Service Pack 1 last week. Security out of the box is solid, and the operating system – like most Windows setups – is easy to use and understand.

Ultimate comes with some pretty powerful backup tools to help you recover lost data, a much-needed and useful feature. There's also a heavy-duty data-encryption system, which can protect your personal information if your computer is lost or stolen, plus a super-easy way to search for files on your hard drive.

My favorite Vista feature was the redesigned Windows Media Center, which connects wirelessly to your Xbox 360 so you can enjoy photos, movies and music on the family TV.

I'm not saying this is a Mac OS X killer, but until Windows 7 (in beta testing) officially comes out later this year, it'll suffice.

Both the PC and the Mac handled the upgrade flawlessly (I used Boot Camp on the Mac). In the first few weeks of hard use, I suffered no crashes and it ran games very smoothly. My only quibble was that Vista initially didn't work with many of my programs – as you may have read – although in most cases I was able to update drivers and get everything going again.

Overall, Vista Ultimate does hog a lot of resources, but it is a bit better than XP.

Want more Games N Gadgets news? Visit http://langstonwertz.blogspot .com. Langston Wertz Jr: 704-358- 5133;

Video of Windows 7 in action

Looks pretty swift and slick to me. I can't wait to try it.

What do you think?

Original Video - More videos at TinyPic

Sunday, February 01, 2009

And the first new "Madden 2010" feature is

As promised EA Sports revealed one of the new features in the new Madden football game at Super Bowl halftime. The new Madden is due out about six months from now.

That feature is "procedural awareness" and it should add a great deal to the realistic feel this new Madden team is promising.

Now, game developers have figured out how to tune how fast players switch between targets -- and make them behave accordingly.

Imagine really being able to "look off" a safety while controlling your quarterback and if the defensive back has his head turned, he's not going to react to make a specatular, if unrealistic interception on you anymore. Including in that feature is something EA calls "procedural attitudes," basically a player's face model changing realistically. So you'll see players' react more like their real-life counterparts.

Here are several videos to illustrate.