Thursday, April 28, 2011

Some cool new cases for your new white iPhone 4

So you bought or are going to buy the new white iPhone 4 that was released today? If you're considering wrapping your cute new phone in a case, let me suggest a few.

If you're into cases that will power your phone as well as protect it, which I like, click here for one of the older reviews.

Here's a few fun cases I've tried recently for Steve Jobs' favorite cell phone.

XtremeMac: I tried two from this company. One is a neat little leather sleeve, almost like a soft wallet the iPhone slides into. This one won't cover up your new beauty and gives you complete access when you pull it out.

The other was a rechargeable battery case. Like many of the others, I liked the universal mini-USB plug which opens up a lot more recharging options that Apple's proprietary 30-pin white connector. But this case tended to get a little warm and I didn't like the plasticky feel so much. The LED lights on the bottom to show how much charge is left and the on/off switch were features I've found in similar cases. Needed but not groundbreaking.

Verdict: the leather sleeve, while not original was cool. There are better battery cases out there. See my earlier review.

Ballistic HC: Very similar to the Otterbox Defender series, this case gives you major protection. If you had a younger teen or a preteen with an i4, this is the case I'd want them to have. It's got a holster to attach to the belt and a soft silicone layer to wrap around the phone and then a tough plastic outer layer. In all, you get five layers of protection, including a plastic liner for the glass.

It's not as bulky as you might think, and if you ever -- ever -- dropped your i4, this and the Otterbox are the cases you'd want it to be in.

Verdict: Winner.

Otterbox Reflex Series: A new case from Oterbox that is form fitting and snaps on in two pieces and gives easy docking access. It doesn't have the soft feel of some of the other cases in this line. I'm not a big fan of the plasticky feel (is plasticky a word?), but it gets the job done.

Verdict: OK. Good enough.

iSkin Revo4: Ooh, love the soft silicone skin and the yellow and black color scheme. It covers the buttons but gives easy access, same with the docking port. iSkin says it provides some shock and moisture protection too (it comes with a screen cover) but I wouldn't test it. But this case is antimicrobial. Bonus points for that.

Verdict: Solid pick.

iChair: My favorite current iPhone case has a little docking stand -- ala the HTC series of 4.3 inch Android phones. This allows you to prop i4 up in landscape or portrait mode. You can watch a movie, check email, even make a call on speaker much easier. I was in Subway last week and sat mine up and read the Observer online.

The two-piece case slides on easily. It's got a soft shell inside and a (not too) hard shell outside. It feels good in the hands and it's thin and doesn't bulk up the skinny phone. Right now, this is one of the best cases for any phone I've tried (along with the higher-end Otterboxes). And you can even buy a version with a white top portion.

Verdict: Big Winner.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

DirecTV, Dish deliver first run movies faster than ever. Is that good for the business?

Remember when you used to have to wait awhile for a first-run movie to be available via a PPV movie service?

Those days are gone.

DirecTV recently launched "Home Premiere" which will bring first run movies to its customers 60 days after they are released in theaters. Currently, DirecTV has Cedar Rapids and Just Go With It available to customers for $29.99 for a 48-hour rental.

Is $30 too much? Could you wait another four weeks for the Blu-Ray? Could you go to the $1 (or $2) movie instead? Those are individual questions, but at least having the option is intriguing, especially if you have a family. Have you tried taking, say, your family of four to the local metroplex? It can get expensive quickly, and that's before you buy a $5 soda.

For its part, Dish will premiere the new film Passion Play on the same it hits theaters May 6. The film is about an angel under the thumb of a ruthless gangster. It will be $5.99 for HD and $4.99 for standard def.

The film stars Mickey Rourke and Megan Fox ("Transformers" and "Jennifer's Body).

Wait for white iPhone is over. It hits stores tomorrow

Apple made it official today, announcing that the long-awaited white iPhone 4 will hit U.S. stores tomorrow. It'll be at Apple's online store, at Apple retail stores and at select resellers (think Best Buy) plus at AT&T and Verizon wireless stores.

“The white iPhone 4 has finally arrived and it’s beautiful,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing. “We appreciate everyone who has waited patiently while we’ve worked to get every detail right.”

White models of iPhone 4 will also be available in Austria, Australia, Belgium, Canada, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Macau, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, Sweden, Taiwan, Thailand and the UK.

Suggested retail price isCUPERTINO, California—April 27, 2011—Apple® today announced that the white iPhone® 4 will be available beginning tomorrow. White iPhone 4 models will be available from Apple’s online store (, at Apple’s retail stores, AT&T and Verizon Wireless stores and select Apple Authorized Resellers.

“The white iPhone 4 has finally arrived and it’s beautiful,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing. “We appreciate everyone who has waited patiently while we’ve worked to get every detail right.”

White models of iPhone 4 will be available in Austria, Australia, Belgium, Canada, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Macau, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, Sweden, Taiwan, Thailand, UK and the US, beginning Thursday, April 28 and in many more countries around the world soon. White iPhone 4 will be available for a suggested retail price of $199 (US) for the 16GB model and $299 (US) for the 32GB model with a new two year agreement.

With rumors that the new iPhone 5 is coming sometime in the next six to eight months, I wonder how sales will go for the white model. Apple appears to have addressed the tricky proximity sensor, which was more problematic for many users than the over-reported antenna issue. The sensor would cause calls to switch to FaceTime mode or other things like hang-up when users put the phone to their ears.

The latest on iPhone: White one on sale this week, T-Mobile version being tested, and is it really tracking you?

Busy week in iPhone land.

Let's review.

The new much-ballyhooed white version is widely expected to hit U.S. retail stores this week. Already, Macrumors is reporting that white iPhone 4s are being sold overseas.

Of note, the proximity sensor, which has caused many problems with people accidentally hanging up calls or starting other functions when pressing the phone against their faces, has been changed. It's now larger and placed above the earpiece.

Of course, I'm not sure I'd be buying a nearly year-old phone now with a new one almost assuredly coming to us by fall (at the latest).

NEXT: Tech sites are reporting that Sharp has been hired to manufacture new poly-silicon displays for the sixth generation iPhone in 2012. The technology allows electrical components to be integrated with the glass surface and is also thinner and lighter than current screens.

NEXT: A new federal lawsuit targets Steve Jobs' favorite company over privacy concerns. Reports say the iPhone tracks location information for up to a year. Jobs sent an email to a customer who asked about this and said the claim that Apple is secretly tracking customers is "false."

NEXT: Boy Genius Report says that Apple is currently testing an iPhone that would work on T-Mobile's network. Of course, AT&T is trying to buy T-Mobile and AT&T carries the iPhone, but this move could lead to iPhone hitting T-Mobile much sooner, maybe sometime this year. Could be good for customers who want to jump on T-Mobile's fast 4G network (OK, it's really, really fast 3G) and take advantage of T-Mobile's cheap(er) fees.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Nintendo to launch new Wii HD console system in 2012

The hottest rumor in the tech industry was confirmed by Nintendo Monday: we can expect a new Nintendo Wii unit, that will support high definition graphics, next year.

The current Wii unit, which was a smashing success, has sold more than 86 million units in five years. Of late, though, the Wii-mote motion sensor technology that helped fuel its popularity has been copied and surpassed by Microsoft (hands free Kinect) and Sony (PlayStation Move), and both companies offer HD graphics via their current console systems.

Nintendo announced via a news release that it will demo a playable version of the system at the E3 Expo June 7-9 in Los Angeles. Bloomberg quoted Nintendo President Satoru Iwata as saying the system will “propose a new approach to home video game consoles.”

Satoru said “it’s difficult to make 3D images a key feature, because 3D televisions haven’t obtained wide acceptance yet.”

So where does that leave us?

Well, along with the hot rumors of Nintendo’s new system have been similar rumors of a new Nintendo game controller. Just as it set the industry on its ear with the Wii-mote -- which allows you to use it to mimic real-life motions like throwing a ball or swinging a club -- several tech sites have reported on a new 8-button controller.

The new controller, reports say, would be 6.2 inches big -- bigger than those XL Android cell phones out there -- have two analog sticks and a camera. The new system would support the new controller as well as the old games and old Wii-mote joystick.

Using that big controller, gamers would be able to send and receive wireless data to the console, snap photos to put into games. It’s similar to what we saw years ago with Sega’s Dreamcast system. Imagine playing, say, Madden football and instead of the game play options coming up on the screen, allowing you and your opponent to see them, they would only pop up on your controller.

Having that kind of depth would add true realism to all games, and it wouldn’t be too hard to imagine that the controller could be a handheld gaming device of its own, though that might compete with the company’s 3DS hand held system.

And where does that leave Sony and Microsoft? The PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360 are getting a little long in the tooth now and there’s been no official word on an update. Rumor mills have speculated Microsoft plans to support 360 until 2015 but that doesn’t mean it will wait to produce a new console until then.

I can’t imagine those two giants would let Nintendo hit the market with a new whiz-bang gadget and get major developers behind them, delivering versions of games that Sony and Microsoft couldn’t match.

Should be an interesting next 12 months in the gaming industry.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Want to know how much your co-workers make? Just click here

A new online site, called SalaryShare, claims it can help you find out how much your co-workers make. This assumes, of course, that they are honest.

It works like this: you create a "pool" on the website and send the link to a few people who will anonymously disclose how much they make. Only people in your pool can see the link to the results. And you can do this with anyone really, even your social friends.

Of course, do it at your own risk.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Verizon Wireless providing free phones to domestic violence victims

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) and Verizon Wireless has a program called Hopeline, that provides refurbished phones for domestic violence victims.

The company has also partnered with the National Network for its Let Your Heart Rule program against domestic violence and sexual assault.

Nice to know the wireless companies do more than charge us every month.

Sprint launches its own mobile music service, Sprint Music Plus

Sprint has launched its own music service today, dubbed Sprint Music Plus. Users will access the application via their Android Sprint phones or at

Next month the service will come to Sprint's Blackberry and Java-based phones.

Via the service, users will be able to:

-- Create music playlists.
-- Assign ringback tones to play for different callers and times of day.
-- Search for music by artist, title or keyword.
-- Organize full tracks/albums by artist, genre and custom playlists using the music library manager.
-- Preview content – sample millions of music tracks and tones, which are updated daily.
-- Get new music recommendations based on their musical tastes.

Individual song purchases will start at 69 cents and go $1.29. You can also buy a song, a ringtone of that song and the ringback tone in one click. Users will be charged via their Sprint bill.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Want more Masters coverage? Hit mobile phone, DirecTV and the 'Net

If you want to see more Masters than ESPN and CBS can offer you this week, there's plenty of ways to get more.

DirecTV is offering multiple channels of coverage on Channels 701-707, all for free for the satellite company's customers. Coverage, which will also be included in HD, is scheduled to start at 3 p.m. toda (Thursday 4/7)

There will be two featured groups shown, so if you want to follow, say, Tiger or Phil, step for step, you can do that. There will be extended hours of coverage outside the TV windows on ESPN and CBS. You can also choose a channel that will focus only on two holes on the back 9.

DirecTV will also offer expanded players stats, on-demand links to highlights and video tours of each hole at Augusta National.

DirecTV will also have 3D coverage on ESPN 3D (Channel 106). To get the 3D broadcast, you'll need glasses, and compatible equipment.

Finally, the Masters Mosiac Channel will allow viewers to see multiple feeds on one screen, as DirecTV does with its popular NFL Sunday Ticket package.

-- Online, and will offer three channels of coverage: live streaming video of the 11th, 12th and 13th holes; live streaming video from 15 and 16; and the featured group coverage.

Here are CBS start times:
Featured Group*

Thursday, April 7: 12:00 PM - Completion of play
Friday, April 8: 12:00 PM - Completion of play
Saturday, April 9: 12:00 PM - Completion of play
Sunday, April 10:12:00 PM - Completion of play

Amen Corner*

Thursday, April 7: 10:45 AM - 5:45 PM
Friday, April 8: 10:45 AM - 5:45 PM
Saturday, April 9:12:00 PM - 5:45 PM
Sunday, April 10: 11:45 AM - 5:45 PM

15 & 16*

Thursday, April 7: 11:45 AM - 5:45 PM
Friday, April 8: 11:45 AM - 5:45 PM
Saturday, April 9: 1:00 PM - 6:30 PM
Sunday, April 10: 12:45 PM - 6:30 PM

-- Finally, you can get a Masters App on your Android phone or iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch. The Android app will only pass through scores. The iDevice app will pass through video feeds from Amen Corner, holes 15 and 16 and from the first featured group. Users can access this over 3G or Wifi.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Analysts: Xoom sales on target, but slow; iPad is selling big numbers

Deutsche Bank analysts say the Motorola Xoom tablet has sold about 100,000 copies in its first two months, getting the number by looking at how many people were using the Xoom's Honeycomb operating system via Android's developer side.

Deutsche Bank analysts believe the Xoom sales figures are line with their projections of 50,000 in the first quarter and 150,000 in the second.

Meanwhile, a Dow Jones analyst, Shara Tibken, said that Apple sold 300,000 iPad 2s of its first day of availability.

Taiwanese industry pub DigiTimes said Apple has shipped about 2.5 million iPad tablets to date and should sell about 4 million per month between now and June.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

New Madden NFL videogame to add focus on concussions

John Madden told the New York Times that this year's version of his popular video football game will have a special emphasis on concussions.

Any player who is hit hard enough to suffer a concussion will be sidelined for the remainder of the digital game. Announcers Gus Johnson and Cris Collinsworth will explain the seriousness of head injuries on screen.

If you ask me, it's a wonderful message to send to Madden's game players, many of whom are young and can use the instruction.

“Concussions are such a big thing, it has to be a big thing in the video game,” Madden told the New York Times. “It starts young kids — they start in video games. I think the osmosis is if you get a concussion, that’s a serious thing and you shouldn’t play. Or leading with the head that you want to eliminate. We want that message to be strong.”

The NFL is working closely with EA Sports on how to properly handle the presentation of concussions in the game. EA Sports officials have said they hope to use it as a teaching tool to their audience.

Common Sense Media CEO James Steyer, whose company seeks to provide honest advice and about media and technology's impact on kids, thinks the move is a "wonderful" idea.

“Video game technology grows more sophisticated and creative every year, and it’s wonderful to see a game developer use that creative energy to empower kids to make safe, smart, and responsible decisions," he said. "Video games provide not only entertainment, but also exciting opportunities for education, both in the classroom and in the living room. We commend John Madden and the team at Electronic Arts for recognizing the responsibility they have to help kids bring important lessons from the virtual field to the real one, such as concussion prevention and safety. This is a great step forward in demonstrating the immense possibilities of video games for learning and behavior change. We hope more game developers follow in their footsteps.”

Sony PlayStation users donate more than 1.3 million to Japan earthquake relief effort

Sony started "The Great East Japan Earthquake Relief Effort" on March 19 in North America and Europe. It expanded it to Japan and Asia on March 24.

Users of the online PlayStation Store can donate money, and the effort now is operating in more than 40 countries worldwide. To date, donations have topped $1.3 million.

Sony says the full amount will be donated to an organization in each region supporting the relief and recovery efforts in communities affected by the earthquake; American Red Cross - Japan Earthquake and Pacific Tsunami Fund for North America, British Red Cross for Europe, and Central Community Chest of Japan known as the Red Feather Community Chest Movement for Japan and Asia.

“We would like to extend our deepest sympathies to those affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake,” said Kazuo Hirai, President and Group CEO, Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. "While we continue to make every effort to help the recovery of the affected communities in the region, I would like to express our gratitude to every single PlayStation user across the world who made a contribution to the effort."

Digital Augusta National enhances new Tiger Woods videogame

The first thing you’ll notice about “Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12” is there’s no picture of Tiger on the cover. There is, however, a big Masters logo, indicating that for the first time Augusta National’s beautiful golf course has been digitized into a game.

Woods has said in interviews that EA Sports used digital lasers to replicate the course, so that the on-screen version mimics the real thing, minus the actual smell coming off the azaleas. I’ve never been to Augusta, but I’ve seen the TV version many times and this looks like its digital identical twin.

Playing the game has not changed much. You can pick clubs, choose which type of shot to hit and deal with weather and actual green speed and slope. And some of the greens at Augusta are downright maniacal.

Augusta National officials have said they’ve allowed the course to go digital to try to bring the game and the Masters event to a younger audience. If my two kids, ages 11 and 6, are any indication, they’ve succeeded. My kids are putting down NBA and NFL games to play digital golf, and they complain about how hard it is, and these two regularly beat most any videogame they try.

For me, I felt the difficulty settings were about right and the addition of a caddie made the game more fun. The caddies know the courses, and where you think you have 150 yards and should choose an 8-iron, the caddy will know this hole plays longer than it looks and you need a 7, or that the wind is blowing 15 mph in your face and you need a 6.

You can also let the game pick your clubs for you, which allows nongolfers to instantly jump in and play.

On the PS3 version, you can swing PlayStation Move remote like a real golf club, like with the Wii-Mote on Nintendo. A new feature called “True Aim” allows you to look down at the ball as if you’re actually playing golf and watch it fly off from the same perspective. The mode can be turned off or on, but adds realism to an already complete game.

I especially enjoyed the career mode, where you start in the amateur ranks and go to Qualifying School; then you play in pro tournaments until you win or are invited to the Masters. You can also play in nine “Masters Moments” where you play key shots from past Masters or play as Tiger during his four Masters wins, trying to match or beat his scores.

Graphics-wise, the PS3 version was spot-on.

The players look real and all of the famous championship courses included here, besides Augusta, are lovingly recreated. The new additions of CBS Sports’ announcers Jim Nantz and David Feherty also add to the realism. Nantz is the voice of golf for CBS Sports, which broadcasts the Masters, and listening to him set your character up while that famous Masters theme plays along really pulls you into the game.

EA Sports has a winner here.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Would you pay $30 for a PPV movie two months after it came out in theaters?

OK, let's say "Thor" hits the theaters May 6. Would you pay $30 to watch it at home on July 6, while it's still probably playing at the movies?

According to the Hollywood Reporter, four big time movie studios and DirecTV are all set to launch a premium pay per view service in April that will bring you this kind of deal.

In a few weeks, this will also become available to Wal-Mart backed VUDU -- a downloadable streaming service available on PlayStation 3, some Blu Ray DVD players and PCx -- plus Comcast cable customers in some parts of the country.

Warner Bros., Fox, Sony and Universal are on board, the Reporter says. The first titles to be offered are likely Sony's "Just Go With It," Fox's "Cedar Rapids" and Warner Bros.' "Unknown."

Fox Searchlight titles will be offered 60 days from the date that they release.

The movie studios are looking to replace some of the DVD business which is declining as people turn to streaming and downloading more. Paramount has concerns over piracy and apparently isn't participating.

Now is this good for the consumer?

On the one hand it would be great and economical for families, who fork over $10 or more per ticket (before you hit the concession stand) to be able to buy a (semi) first run film for $30 at home.

But I can't imagine the guy who runs your local 22-screen metroplex to be excited about this proposition. More people would just wait to see "Blockbuster X." Also the guy who shows those second run films for a buck or two won't be too happy either.

And I'd hate to see the theaters struggle. There's always something a little magical about going. It's date night. It's the big screen. It's the surround sound that rocks your seat.

And what happens when this $29.99 thing is uber successful and the demand grows to see first run films even sooner, and studios figure they can double their profits by offering these films one month after release for $60?

End of the day, studios are going to make some good cash off this because, even at $30 a pop, it'll be economical for some families who can wait a few weeks when the hot new film comes out. Others, of course, will just wait a little longer for the film to hit traditional DVD and pay-per-view windows.

This is another option for consumers, and one I'll be curious to see how they handle it.

Friday, April 01, 2011

AT&T to do major overhaul to Charlotte-area wireless network

Are you an AT&T customer in the Charlotte area? Your wireless service is about to get better.

AT&T officials held a news conference today to announce it was upgrading 178 sites around town to allow it deploy its HSPA+ cell signals, which the company says will be up to four times as fast as its current 3G network.

The upgraded set-up in Charlotte won't technically be a 4G network as HSPA+ is a variant of the current 3G used today, albeit a faster one.

AT&T also plans to install about 24 new sites around town to handle load and reliability.

Sprint and Verizon already have true 4G networks up in town and T-Mobile has its own version of HSPA+ up and running. T-Mobile advertises its service as 4G.

AT&T has a bid in to buy T-Mobile and plans to use T-Mobile's towers to improve signal quality and speed nationwide.

According to colleague Eric Frazier's report, AT&T officials said the upgrades will be just part of several improvements for this region. Also coming:

Replacing more than 400 antennas at more than 96 cell sites across Charlotte and along major highways to improve voice quality and reduce dropped calls -- a major source of irritation for many customers.

Upgrade wireless capacity at more than 259 cell towers across the area.

Install nearly 23 additional cells around the city.

Install smaller sites, inconspicuous cell sites called Distributed Antenna Systems at multiple sites to improve coverage during events. At least one of the sites is already in place on a light pole at McDowell and Third streets.

More from Frazier's piece:

Mayor Anthony Foxx said the upgrades couldn't have come at a better time, telling AT&T officials at the press conference that "about 35,000 of your best friends" will be descending on Charlotte for next year's Democratic National Convention, smartphones in hand.

Alison Hall, an AT&T vice president for consumer markets in the Carolinas, called Charlotte one of the company's most important cities as it strives to stay on the leading edge of the fast-moving wireless marketplace.

"We're going full bore, not just for the DNC, but that gives us extra momentum," she said.

AT&T officials said the "4G" service is available now in parts of Charlotte, and customers who buy the 4G Atrix or Inspire phones can receive 4G speeds when in range of an upgraded tower. Officials said they expect to have full 4G coverage in Charlotte by year's end.

The 4G speeds will initially come via an HSPA+ network, similar to signals T-Mobile uses for its 4G network. Some analysts have said those networks, while faster than 3G, aren't technically 4G.

AT&T officials said they will deploy LTE signals in Charlotte by the end of 2013. LTE is more broadly accepted as a fourth-generation technology.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Verizon's 4G LTE network is the real thing...and it's really fast, too

While we wait to see what AT&T has up its wireless sleeve locally tomorrow, Verion Wireless is already off to a big start in true 4G.

You'll see T-Mobile and AT&T advertising their current services as 4G. Think of them as a slightly faster 3G variant. They are not what you should think of as 4G. I think AT&T will announce its 4G LTE (long term evolution) plans for Charlotte tomorrow.

Verizon has been going here for a few months and last week announced support for most major cities in the Carolinas.

Recently, I was able to test the 4G LTE network courtesy of one of the company's 4G USB mobile modems, which run $50 to $100 with a two-year contract. And boy is it fast.

I got a consistent 4G connection all over Charlotte and the speed blew me away. I got faster download speeds via this USB than on my Windstream DSL which gives me about 13 Mbps download. With Verizon I got 18 down and about 10 Mbps upload, or five times as fast as my home network.

YouTube HD screamed, streaming anything screamed.

If all you do is email and check a few web pages, I'm not sure 4G is for you, but if you really like to work and send attachments and heavy surf on the move, this is the way to go.

It's night and day versus any 3G modem I've tried.

OK, so what does all this 4G goodness cost you? It's $50 per month for 5 gigs or $80 for 10 gigs. That's a lot of streaming and surfing and downloading. Go past those limits and you pay $10 per gig.

That's the same price Verizon charges for its 3G mobile plans, though it offers a couple cheaper options that aren't available with 4G: $35 for 3 gigs and $20 for one gig.

Here's why your next umbrella should be a golf umbrella

On this dreary rainy Wednesday in Charlotte -- with prospects of another dreary rainy Thursday in the Queen City -- many of us are digging up our umbrellas.

As I walked uptown this morning, I was quite dry underneath TaylorMade Golf's new Auto Open Double Canopy umbrella.

First thing you notice is the gel handle. Instead of being pre-molded to fit some generic hand, this thing conforms to yours and is quite comfortable. When you let it go, like PlayDough or TempurPedic beds, the gel returns to form.

It's got a 68-inch footprint -- so your back side and your pants legs won't get wet unless you plop in a puddle -- and the company said this model can withstand hurricane force winds.

I don't know about that, but I had it out a few weeks ago when we had that run of really bad wind. To test the theory, I walked down the street -- in dead sunlight. One of my neighbors came outside and busted up laughing at me.

The wind didn't bother this model a'tall. It kept its shape.

Then I took a very popular large model umbrella that I keep in the back of my car and walked down the same neighborhood street. It folded inward, snapped and yours truly was out $50. Wasn't too happy about that either.

If you're a golfer, you know that golf companies, like TaylorMade and Nike and Callaway, have done some downright ingenious things like creating apparel that is thin and light yet keeps you awful warm in the cold or keeps the sweat off your body and keeps your cooler (even wearing dark colors) in summer.

Their rain gear is second-to-none in terms of keeping you dry. Even if you don't play golf, it's worth a visit to a local golf store to check out this technology. Those little yellow raincoats you buy have nothing on this.

And as far as umbrellas go, I won't think about getting anything else anymore.

No more inward-folding, snapping expensive umbrellas for me.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Why bill H129 is bad for cable internet....and you

-- Image Source: IndyWeek

Our state is not looking so good this week.

A bill called H129 ("the Level Playing Field/Local Gov't Competition" act) passed the N.C. House of Representatives Monday by a count of 81-37. The bill's sponsor, Marilyn Avila, a Republican from Wake County told a Raleigh TV station that the bill protect businesses from what she called "predatory" local governments that want to build their own ISPs.

Excuse me?

This bill will make it really hard to provide competition to the big cable company and make it really hard for customers to have choice and make it really easy for the big cable company to set prices where they want.

Put simply, the bill says that the local government-owned cable company is unfairly competing against the big guys. Here's the catch. The local guy often offers better service at a cheaper price.

What's wrong with a little competition? That's good for consumers.

Orange County democrat Bill Faison told a Raleigh TV station that "this bill will make it practically impossible for cities to provide a fundamental service. Where's the bill to govern Time Warner? Let's be clear about whose bill this is. This is Time Warner's bill. You need to know who you're doing this for."

Ding. Ding. Ding.

Some of these smaller cable broadband networks run by locals offer faster speeds than the big boys for cheaper prices. And at a time when some behemoths like AT&T DSL are placing broadband data caps on some customers, the locals are lowering prices and telling your to surf and download to your heart's content.

In Chattanooga, Tenn., the city-owned EPB Fiber Optics will deliver uber-fast 30 Mbps internet, plus 194 channels of standard and HD plus video on demand services for $105 per month. Want to add phone? That'll be $120. And if you want, you can get delirious internet speeds, up to 1,000 Mbps.

Sound good to anyone out there?

In Wilson, NC, the Greenlight Community Network offers upload and download speeds of 100 Mpbs for $149 (most cable companies that even offer 100 down, only give you 5 up). In fact, all of Greenlight's options offer the same speeds up and down, meaning when you're sending email attachments or big picture or movie files, they move faster.

Greenlight offers tons of bundle packages running from $99 to $169 for "the ultimate" bundle of phone, TV with movie channels and internet. Locally in Charlotte, Time Warner cable offers 100 Mbps internet for $99 per month and has a "Signature Home Bundle" of its premier phone, internet and TV service for $199 for the first 12 months. The price increases after that and it does not include movie channels.

TWC has cheaper options, but going through Greenlight and TWC's offerings, I think given the choice here, which I don't have, I'd get Greenlight.

And as you wonder about this bill passing through our state government, also consider a study by GigaOM recently that showed our state holding seven of 10 places among the 10 most expensive broadband cities in the United States.

H129 has a lot of specifics -- requiring public hearings for cities that want to build their own networks and opportunities for private companies to offer proposals -- and has been so controversial that Raleigh, the state capitol, has come out against it.

Now, the state senate will decide whether to pass H129 and move the bill to the governor's desk. It's getting close to law.

Let's hope someone stops it before it gets there.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Amazon's new cloud drive gives PC and Android users music anywhere

Amazon debuted its new cloud-based music streaming service Tuesday. It's called "Amazon Cloud Drive."

What's "the cloud"? It's basically digital storage on an Amazon hard drive and you can access this drive from any PC, laptop or Android mobile device.

So instead of having to load your music, videos and files onto all three, you free up that space and pull it down when you want to. If your computer crashes, all your music files and videos and photos are not lost with it. And even if you have a backup hard drive on site, here's a third backup for extra, extra security.

iPhone customers won't be able to use the service on their portable devices, though Apple is expected to launch its own streaming service later this year.

Downside to Amazon Cloud? On your portable devices, if you're using your data plan from your cellular provider, you can run up some expensive charges by always streaming music or especially watching videos (read: don't let your kids have at it all the time).

Also, if you don't have a great connection, you could be singing along with Janet Jackson or Lady Gaga or the Black Eyed Peas and kind of feel like I used to when my 45 records used to scratch. That is, the song will go in and out.

And I guess some folks will feel like Big Brother is watching -- or snooping around to see what you might be loading up in your digital locker.

Amazon will offer users 5 gigs for free. That's plenty for most folks. You can buy more starting at 20 gigs for $20 per year. You can get 1,000 gigs for $1,000. And if you buy an album through Amazon's MP3 store before Dec. 31, you get a one-time free updrade to the 20 gig storage level.

Users will access content through a web player that is compatible with most web browsers on PCs and Macs and there's a downloadable Android app that I pulled down and works easily.

As I said earlier, iPhone users can't use it and you can't access it through the web browser either.

If nothing else, it's a neat backup for files and a great reason to never buy a portable device with a huge hard drive and a huge price tag again. Just wish it worked with all mobile devices, including Blackberry and Windows mobile.

Wal Mart offering trade-ins for new 3D Nintendo hand held

Want that new shiny Nintendo 3DS hand-held device that dropped this week (it does 3D images, kind of, without glasses)?

N.C. and S.C. Walmart customers can receive up to $100 credit towards the 3DS by trading in their old Nintendo DS units.

The credit amount will be based on the model traded in and customers can trade in up to two old DS units at a time for a total maximum credit of $200. The 3DS is $250. Trade-ins must include the AC adapter.

The program runs through April 30 or while supplies last.

IDC: Smart phone growth exploding; Android growing the fastest

The International Data Corporation (IDC) released an interesting report on smartphone usage today.

It forecasts smartphone users to grow by nearly 50 percent this year and says manufacturers will ship 450 million smartphones in 2011 compared to 303.4 million last year.

Currently, Android has 39.5 percent market share for smartphones according to IDC with Symbian second at 20.9, Apple third at 15.7 and BlackBerry fourth at 14.9

By 2015, it expects Android to have captured 45.4 percent of the smartphone base, followed by Windows at 20.9 percent, Apple at 15.3 and BlackBerry at 13.7.

Windows growth, IDC projects, will boosted by its partnership with Nokia who will abandon its Symbian system for Windows. Those new devices will launch next year.

No iPhone 5 until fall?

The blogosphere -- and many national news outlets -- are buzzing about reports from trustworthy sources like the Loop's Jim Dalrymple that we won't see an Apple iPhone 5 in June like we've seen the last several years.

Apple sent out invitations to its June 6-10 Worldwide Developers Conference Monday and the event -- which costs $1,600 per pass -- sold out in less than 12 hours. But Apple made it clear on the invitations that the event was to talk about the future of its mobile operating system, iOS, and the future of its computer operating system, MacOSX.

Apple is expected to ship its new desktop and laptop operating system, to be called Lion, in the summer. Analysts are now expecting the new mobile operating system -- and the new phone hardware -- to come in the fall.


Assuming these rumors are true -- and we could still see Steve Jobs on stage with a new iPhone come June -- I could only guess that Apple wants to get into the 4G universe and wants to make sure its device isn't as battery hungry as some of the early 4G handsets have been, and not as buggy.

Remember, Apple execs said when the Verizon phone dropped in February that to make it a 4G model would've forced 'design challenges'.

That probably meant that they couldn't make a thin enough phone with a big enough battery, or something along those lines.

Again, if true, this could be a gamble as people who have waited on the sidelines for iPhone 5, like Verizon customers who have already waited for years, would just grab a Thunderbolt or other Android offering.

We'll know more come June.

AT&T plans to introduce "4G" to Charlotte Friday

Last week, Verizon added several Carolinas cities to its expanded 4G LTE network. Friday, AT&T will hold a news conference at 10:30 a.m. in Marshall Park to announce what it calls "key network improvements planned for Charlotte this year." The release also says it will bring 4G speeds here.

AT&T says those upgrades will focus on faster data speeds and extra mobile broadband capacity at key venues.

Charlotte mayor Anthony Foxx and Moira Quinn of Charlotte Center City Partners are expected to attend the event.

AT&T has said it plans to deploy its 4G LTE network later this year and into next year. Here's the confusing part: AT&T and T-Mobile are already telling customers they offer 4G, when what is being offered is, well, 3G.5. Technically it's called HSPA+ and the 3G variant does allow for speeds well above what you think of as 3G.

But it's not what you should think of as 4G.


Hopefully we'll find out more Friday, but I'd bet this is real 4G coming here.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Verizon expands its 4G LTE network in North Carolina

Early in the week, AT&T made news with its proposed acquisition of T-Mobile that would significantly bolster its coverage map in the state over the next few years.

Verizon apparently doesn't want to make its local customers wait.

It announced today an additional 59 markets that would benefit from its 4G LTE network that is currently deployed in Charlotte. Joining the Queen City with 4G today are Asheville, Fayetteville, Greensboro/Winston-Salem/High Point, Raleigh-Durham and Wilmington.

After today's announcement, Verizon claims at least 147 cities in the country will have access to 4G.

Currently, only the HTC Thunderbolt, released last Thursday, is the only consumer smartphone to take advantage of the new network. Previously, Verizon released two USB modems from Pantech and LG that use the 4G network.

Here are all the cities that now has some 4G goodness:

· Phoenix, Ariz.

· Los Angeles, Calif.

· Oakland, Calif.

· San Diego, Calif.

· San Francisco, Calif.

· San Jose, Calif.

· Denver, Colo.

· Washington, D.C.

· Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

· Jacksonville, Fla.

· Miami, Fla.

· Orlando, Fla.

· Tampa, Fla.

· West Palm Beach, Fla.

· Athens, Ga.

· Atlanta, Ga.

· Chicago, Ill.

· West Lafayette, Ind.

· New Orleans, La.

· Baltimore, Md.

· Boston, Mass.

· Detroit, Mich.

· Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minn.

· St. Louis, Mo.

· Las Vegas, Nev.

· New York, N.Y.

· Rochester, N.Y.

· Charlotte, N.C.

· Akron, Ohio

· Cincinnati, Ohio

· Cleveland, Ohio

· Columbus, Ohio

· Oklahoma City, Okla.

· Philadelphia, Pa.

· Pittsburgh, Pa.

· Nashville, Tenn.

· Dallas-Ft. Worth, Texas

· Houston, Texas

· San Antonio, Texas

· Seattle/Tacoma, Wash.

Additional areas to be covered by Verizon Wireless’ 4G LTE network in 2011 include:

· Decatur, Ala.

· Huntsville, Ala.*

· Mobile, Ala.*

· Montgomery, Ala.*

· Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers, Ark.

· Fort Smith, Ark.

· Little Rock, Ark.*

· Tucson, Ariz.

· Bakersfield, Calif.

· Fresno, Calif.

· Modesto, Calif.

· Sacramento, Calif.

· Salinas-Monterey, Calif.

· San Luis Obispo, Calif.

· Santa Barbara, Calif.

· Stockton, Calif.

· Colorado Springs, Colo.*

· Fort Collins, Colo.

· Fairfield, Conn.

· Hartford, Conn.

· New Haven, Conn.

· Daytona Beach, Fla.

· Fort Myers, Fla.

· Gainesville, Fla.*

· Lakeland-Winter Haven, Fla.*

· Pensacola, Fla.*

· Sarasota-Bradenton, Fla.*

· Tallahassee, Fla.*

· Augusta, Ga.*

· Hilo, Hawaii

· Honolulu, Hawaii*

· Kahului-Wailuku, Hawaii*

· Lahaina, Hawaii*

· Davenport, Iowa

· Iowa City, Iowa

· Boise-Nampa, Idaho*

· Bloomington/Normal, Ill.

· Carbondale, Ill.*

· Champaign, Ill.

· Rockford, Ill.

· Springfield, Ill.

· Fort Wayne, Ind.

· Indianapolis, Ind.

· Lafayette, Ind.

· Wichita, Kan.*

· Louisville, Ky.

· Baton Rouge, La.*

· Hammond, La.*

· Springfield, Mass.

· Worcester, Mass.

· Hagerstown, Md.

· Flint, Mich.*

· Grand Rapids, Mich.

· Lansing, Mich.

· Saginaw-Bay City, Mich.

· Starkville, Miss.

· Asheville-Henderson, N.C.

· Fayetteville-Lumberton, N.C.*

· Greensboro-Winston Salem-High Point, N.C.*

· Raleigh-Durham, N.C.*

· Wilmington, N.C.*

· Fargo, N.D.

· Omaha, Neb.

· Albuquerque, N.M.

· Las Cruces, N.M.

· Santa Fe, N.M.

· Reno, Nev.

· Albany, N.Y.

· Ithaca, N.Y.

· Syracuse, N.Y.

· Dayton-Springfield, Ohio*

· Lima, Ohio

· Toledo, Ohio

· Tulsa, Okla.*

· Portland, Ore.

· Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton, Pa.

· Erie, Pa.*

· Harrisburg, Pa.

· Johnstown, Pa.

· Scranton/Wilkes Barre, Pa.

· State College, Pa.*

· Charleston, S.C.*

· Columbia, S.C.*

· Greenville-Spartanburg, S.C.*

· Hilton Head, S.C.*

· Sioux Falls, S.D.*

· Chattanooga, Tenn.*

· Clarksville, Tenn.*

· Cleveland, Tenn.*

· Dyersburg-Union City, Tenn.

· Jackson, Tenn.

· Kingsport-Johnson City, Tenn.-Bristol, Va.*

· Knoxville, Tenn.*

· Memphis, Tenn.*

· Beaumont-Port Arthur, Texas*

· Bryan-College Station, Texas*

· El Paso, Texas

· Temple-Killeen, Texas

· Provo-Orem, Utah*

· Salt Lake City-Ogden, Utah*

· Olympia, Wash.*

· Centralia, Wash.*

· Spokane, Wash.

· Charleston, W.Va.*

· Madison, Wis.*

· Milwaukee, Wis.*

* Indicates a metro area previously announced in 2011

Apple removes controversial anti-gay app from App Store

Under pressure from several gay rights groups, including Truth Wins Out, Apple has removed a controversial app from its App Store called "Exodus International."

Created by an organization of the same name, the app was billed as something for people looking to cure themselves or someone else of homosexuality. The app claimed to provide a chance of "freedom from homosexuality through the power of Jesus” and released last month.
Now, Exodus has been exodus-ed.

Truth Wins Out had started a petition that had reached 150,000 signatures denouncing the application. Truth Wins Out claimed the app used bad science and research as it claimed that homosexuality was curable.

Exodus International president Alan Chambers tweeted, "It’s official, the @ExodusInl App is no longer in the @AppStore. Incredibly disappointing. Watch out, it could happen to you."

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

TW Cable adding more HD channels

Continuing on a year of constant innovations, Time Warner Cable is adding a few more HD channels for its customers beginning tomorrow.

WMAX (Cinemax) HD
@MAX (Cinemax) HD
OuterMax HD
Starz Edge HD
Starz Kids & Family HD
Starz Comedy HD

Time Warner Cable is also launching Brigham Young University TV (BYU TV) on digital channel 287.

Time Warner Cable says it now offers more than 130 HD channels in the Carolinas.

New Samsung tablet thinner than iPad 2, priced similarly

Back when Apple announced its razor thin iPad 2, some Samsung execs felt they needed to go back to the drawing board with their new tablet.

Looks like they came up with something pretty special.

The company plans to release a 10.1 inch version and an 8.9. Both measure .33 inches thick, slightly thinner than the .34 inch iPad2. The comapny also said both models are lighter than iPad 2: the 10.1 weighs 1.31 pounds and the 8.9 just 1.03.

Pricing is also aggressive.

A WiFi 10.1 model arrives June 8. The 16 gig version will match iPad 2 at $499 and the 32 gig is $599. The 8.9 inch model will cost $469 and $569 for 16 or 32 gigs.

The WiFi 10.1 will hit on June 8th -- the 16GB version will cost you $499 and the 32GB $599. The 8.9 is $469 and $569 for 16GB and 32GB, respectively.

Both models are packed with features: 3 megapixel camera with LED flash on the back; 2 meg shooter on the front for video chat; 1 gig dual-core processors and battery life good for up to 10 hours of video playback.

The Samsung tablets will use the Android Honeycomb operating system that is in the Motorola Xoom and its own TouchWhiz system overtop of that.

Does this whet your appetite or are you sticking with Xoom or iPad 2?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Could Panther Jordan Gross be on the cover of Madden 12?

EA Sports is allowing fans to select the next cover athlete for its upcoming Madden NFL 12 videogame.

Beginning today and running through April 27, fans can use the bracket-style voting campain at and choose among 32 candidates, one from each team.

Offensive lineman Jordan Gross is the Carolina Panthers candidate.

The winner will be revealed on ESPN's SportsNation April 27

Candidates from each NFL team were selected and seeded based on a variety of criteria including on-the-field performance during the 2010 NFL season, their visibility within their franchise and community, and their personal career journey.

How AT&T's T-Mobile acquisition could affect N.C. coverage

After the big announcement that AT&T plans to swallow T-Mobile USA (click here to read more), the company has sent out some images to help show what it might mean for customers.

The “before” map shows AT&T's projected LTE 4G coverage in Nouth Carolina at the end of 2013 without T-Mobile. The “after” shows the total area covered by LTE with the combined company in 2017.

AT&T plans to acquire T-Mobile, improve cell coverage

It's been a bit of a long running (if sometimes flawed) joke in the cell business that AT&T Wireless service is the pits.

That joke could be getting really old fast now that AT&T has officially announced plans to acquire T-Mobile USA in a $39 billion cash and stock deal. The agreement, which needs federal approval, was OK'd by both companies board of directors.

The acquisition should be complete within 12 months and make the combined company the nation's largest wireless group. AT&T currently has about 96 million subscribers and T-Mobile nearly 34 million. The combined company would capture 42 percent of all U.S. wireless subscribers. Verizon has 31 percent, according to industry analysts.

AT&T says the potential merger would allow it to bring true 4G (LTE) mobile broadband speeds to 95 percent of the U.S. population, reaching 46.5 million more Americans than AT&T's current plan will allow for. Current T-Mobile subscribers will get access to the true LTE 4G network when it's deployed. T-Mobile currently advertises its network as 4G, but it's really more of a 3.5 G network, operating on current 3G technology, technically called HSPA+.

AT&T -- which could be on the hook for a $3 billion breakup fee to T-Mobile if the deal doesn't go through -- said the new spectrum it gains will help improve signal strength and voice quality in existing markets and help it grow. It says its mobile data grew 8,000 percent over the past four years. In four years, AT&T said it will take six or seven weeks to reach the amount of data its networks carried in all of last year.

What will this mean for the consumer? Hopefully better cell coverage via the new AT&T, hopefully super fast and reliable 4G speeds, but hopefully not at significantly higher costs. T-Mobile's forum page about the changes is already lighting up.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Jailbroken Verizon iPhone 4 on Cricket

Appears it's possible to have a pay as you go iPhone already, even as rumors of Apple releasing a new cheaper version in June continue to bubble.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Steve Jobs makes suprising appearance to introduce iPad 2

Despite being out of work on medical leave, Apple's Steve Jobs took the stage at a San Francisco news conference to introduce the new iPad 2 Wednesday.

The new device hits store March 11.

Jobs said Apple has sold more than 15 million iPads in 2010, from April to December accounting for nearly $10 billion in revenue.

"More than every Tablet PC ever sold," Jobs said.

The new iPad will be, Jobs said, up to twice as fast on CPU performance. He said graphics are nine times faster while not increasing power consumption from the first iPad. Battery life remains at 10 hours.

It will use a dual-core processor (Apple's new A5 chip). It comes in white and black. It's got front and rear facing cameras. It's got the same gyroscope that is in iPod and iPhone. It's also 33 percent thinner than the first iPad, thinner than the iPhone 4. The device -- which weighs 1.3 pounds, down from 1.5 -- will work on AT&T and Verizon's networks.

There's also HDMI out with 1080P video support. And iPad will do mirror video so you can see what's on the TV screen and the iPad at the same time. A special $39 cable will be needed for HDMI usage.

Pricing will remain the same as the current iPad: $499 for 16 gig Wifi, $599 for 32 gig Wifi and $699 for 64 gig Wifi. The 3G models add a $130 price premium on top of that.


--Apple is designing what it calls "Smart Covers" for the iPad. They will use magnetism to cover the front of the device and will also prop it up for reading and light typing.

A microfiber lining will clean the screen when in use and the iPad will go to sleep when covered and wake up when uncovered.

There will be five poly and five leather versions, in multiple colors, for $39 (poly) or $69 (leather).

-- Apple also released its latest mobile software, iOS 4.3. Releasing March 11, it allows home sharing of iTunes content via WiFi and faster browser performance. Ir will also bring the Wifi hotspot capabilities to all iPhone 4s. Currently, Verizon iPhones can do the hotspot, turning the phone into a internet connection for up to five devices.

-- The new iPad 2 cameras will take advantage of a photo software called PhotoBooth that allows users to manipulate images, and they will allow FaceTime video calls between iPhone 4, iPad 2 and Mac users.

-- Apple also is bringing its popular GarageBand music app and its iMovie editing suite to iPad as $4.99 apps.

-- Jobs said Random House will bring 17,000 books to Apple's iBooks store today and that makes more than 2,500 publishers distributing through the e-retailer.

-- Jobs said more than 200 million people have iTunes accounts used to buy music, videos and books through Apple's e-stores.

-- He said Apple recently shipped its 100 millionth iPhone.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Jillian Michaels' Fitness Ultimatum could use a little less drama

I was a little skeptical about the new "Jillian Michaels Fitness Ultimatum 2011" video game for the Nintendo Wii before I tried it.

When, I looked on the back of the box cover, I read that this was not your standard-fare exercise video game with a virtual celebrity coach pushing you through a routine. This game is built around a story line.

Call it an exercise role player.

Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to become a super spy who tries to help Jillian destroy one evil corporation that pushes processed food to the public and another one that makes what sounds a lot like soda to me.

You begin by training for your missions. The stretching stuff is good. It felt pretty good. If you have a balance board, you can use it a lot here and it will help track stats. Using those, you can set up workout routines for the week.

As with most of these exercise games, you have an on-screen avatar (that also holds a Wii-Mote). This helps you do the exercises properly during training. The remote will turn yellow (caution) or red (stop and do it better) when you do the exercises incorrectly. Do them properly, and it's green. That's a neat way to stay on cue.

So after you've completed enough training, you can begin your "mission" and try to stop a company that makes processed food that makes people sick, and then makes medicine to make them feel better (sound familiar?). I was fine with this game until I got to the Mission Mode. There's nothing wrong with the exercises really, and there are enough variations to give a pretty decent workout to the general population.

But there are problems trying to make exercises fit into an RPG (role-playing game). Why do you have to do jumping jacks to make a door pop open? And we could've used a little on-screen help, like the training avatar, to know how to do some of the movements required during the mission - and to know at which pace to perform them.

There are nine missions plus one "ultimate mission." You have to do 20 minutes or so of exercise in each one, to allow your on-screen character to accomplish goals. And you can't skip to the next mission unless you complete your current one.

However, the game could provide a little help in what you're supposed to accomplish. And I got a little upset that as I got halfway through a mission and didn't perform an exercise properly, Jillian would send me back to training and I had to start the whole process over again.

There are a lot of exercise video games on the market, and I think many of them can help you get into a little better shape. I wouldn't rely on them solely.

I think that "Fitness Ultimatum 2011" is trying to go about it a different way, with the story mode, and with a little tweaking here and there - and a little more instruction in the Mission Mode itself - the next version could be the hit D3 Publishing hopes it to be.

Monday, February 14, 2011

A half-size iPhone on the way?

When the Wall Street Journal reports Apple rumors, it seems they always come true, so keep this one in mind:
The WSJ says Apple is readying an iPhone nearly "half the size" of the current models that will have an edge-to-edge touchscreen and could be free with a two-year commitment.

That iPhone Nano as some call it would sell alongside the new iPhone 5 this summer.

Sources told the WSJ that the new iPhone is significantly lighter than the current model. Again, this smaller iPhone would go for sale alongside the a revamped more traditionally sized iPhone 5 this summer.

Now a comment on the half-size thing. Can't see that. I think you can remove the top and bottom parts of the phone and leave a narrow strip around the screen and make the phone significantly smaller but with the same screen real estate. You could also enlarge the screen up and down and add a narrow strip and enlarge the screen, especially when held vertically.

Either scenario would keep the current form factor.

Friday, February 11, 2011

AT&T offers unlimited mobile to mobile calling in US

Perhaps in response to Verizon's new Apple toy, AT&T has launched unlimited mobile to mobile calling and texting, on any cell network.

So you can call your Verizon or Sprint or T-Mobile or Cricket friends and have it not count against your plan minutes.

Sprint has offered a similar plan for some time now.

The feature, on AT&T, is included for customers with unlimited messaging plans ($20 for individuals; $30 for families) who subscribe to $39.99 and higher Nation individual plans or $69.99 and higher Family Talk plans.

Current customers can change their accounts online or by calling a rep. New customers have to request the option when signing up.

Happy chattin'.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

TW Cables launches "Whole Home" DVR in Charlotte

For an additional $19.99 per month, plus equipment fees, local Time Warner Cable customers can sign up for TWC's new Whole House DVR.

With Whole Home DVR, customers can watch programming recorded in one room while in another room, so long as it is properly equipped. This way, you can start watching, say, "American Idol," in the downstairs family room, and finish in the master bedrooom.

Whole House was previously offered in TWC's "Signature Home" bundle of phone, ultra high speed internet and Whole Home DVR/TV service.

With whole home, DVRs are networked together with traditional set top boxes. Satellite provider DirecTV and AT&T U-Verse also offer similar features.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

iPad 3 to come this fall? And HP's killer new touch tablet

We haven't seen iPad 2 yet, but folks are expecting it in a few weeks, and the Wall Street Journal has reported that the new iPad is already in production. The WSJ says it's thinner, lighter and has at least a front-facing camera for videochat.

But today's rumors -- on the heels of a killer debut of a new HP tablet -- has Apple dropping a new iPad version, version 3, this fall.

There are also rumors that Apple will introduce a new Verizon iPhone 5 in June and a whole lot of Verizon customers are about to sign new two-year deals on iPhone 4 tomorrow. Maybe there will be some type of upgrade program, but I can see where Apple is making the moves it's rumored to be making.

A host of tablets, many running Android, are due out in the coming months, and right now iPad is released in spring. If you're thinking of buying an iPad as a Christmas gift, you may think twice knowing a new one is coming out just a few months after Santa. And I could see two releases per year, too, in order to better deal with all the new Android offerings that are released every month or so.

Will any of this happen? I don't know.

I do know the new HP Touch Pad, which looks a lot like iPad, is awful impressive. It's got the same 9.7 inch screen as iPad, plus a front 1.3 megapixel camera and a super fast 1.2 gigahertz processor. Screen resolution is a neat 1024x768.

It also runs Flash, unlike iPad. You can charge it wirelessly on the dock. And you can start an email by simply typing on the screen. You don't even have to launch an app.

It's an impressive package and the WebOS operating system it uses is a proven winner, too. This looks like a Super Tablet. We'll find out this summer.

WSJ: new "thinner, lighter" iPad in production, coming to Verizon & AT&T

The Wall Street Journal reports that iPad 2 is in production now and will be thinner and lighter than the current model.

Sources tell the WSJ that the new iPad will have at least one camera for videoconferencing and will be available for Verizon and AT&T but not Sprint or T-Mobile (which may not bode well for a new iPhone to appear on T-Mobile or Sprint, either).

Since the first iPad was released last April, nearly 15 million have been sold. In Apple's December quarter, the tablet accounted for $4.6 billion in sales. Analysts believe Apple could sell between 25 and 35 million iPads in 2011 when the new device debuts this spring.

Verizon iPhone goes live Thursday

N.C. Verizon stores will open at 7 a.m. Thursday as the company officially begins selling Apple's iPhone in its stores. Stores will allow customers to line up as early as 5 a.m. Thursday

Existing Verizon customers were able to pre-order last week online and some have already received their phones, including some locally who have reached out to us via email. Verizon said that the pre-sale was the largest single phone launch in its history, and the launch window officially lasted about 5 hours, from 3 a.m. to 8 a.m.

Thursday's sales figures will be much bigger.

Currently, all customers can pre-order on Verizon's website. But expect many long waiting Verizon customers to line up for the Apple device.

More than 600 Walmart stores will also carry the Verizon phone and accessories beginning Thursday. Best Buy will also carry the Verizon device at launch.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Sprint introduces dual screen smartphone

Sprint's big surprise at its news conference Monday night was not an iPhone, as some had predicted, but a rather Nintendo DS-looking Android smartphone called the Kyocera Echo.

It's got a dual 3.5 inch LCD touchscreens. That's right. Two.

Fully opened they measure nearly five inches diagonally.

The phone runs the Android OS and has a 1 gigahertz processor and a five megapixel camera with flash.

The device will be at the uber-popular $200 price point with two-year contract.

The dual screens allow you to view a YouTube video, for instance, while seeing other videos available, or have Facebook on one screen and email on another. This takes multi-tasking to a new level.

Or you can close one screen behind the other and get a traditional thin phone experience. Games are already being developed for the game that will take the DS approach, taking advantage of both screens during game play.

One caveat: the phone will come with an extra battery in the box. Guess we might not get much life running two screens at once. We'll have to see when the phone debuts in the spring. This is definitely one we hope to review.

Innovation in the smartphone industry, true innovation, is rarer and rarer these days and Sprint has come up with something completely different.


Monday, February 07, 2011

Cell phone cases that recharge the battery are worth a look

Nowadays, we use our cell phones for much more than making calls, and one of the biggest things is playing games.

Only a lot of heavy duty gaming can suck up your battery pretty quickly. That’s why, as a heavy cell phone gamer, I was excited to test three phone cases for iPhone 4 that actually can recharge the phone and extend your battery life. There are similar cases available for other cell phone models.

The first was the Case-Mate fuel lite. It’s $59.99 or $99.99 depending on the size battery you chose. Case Mate says the $100 version, with the bigger battery, can add up to nine additional hours of talk time to the iPhone 4 and up to seven additional hours of internet use and up to 10 additional hours of video playback. These kinds of times were consistent on all three cases.

I couldn’t go through the iPhone battery and the Case-Mate backup, even while watching movies, playing games, making long calls -- basically doing all the heavy lifting I could do.

The case is comfortable, soft and very much like the industry best Otterbox cases I’ve tried for this product. The Case-Mate is a big case and will add considerable size and bulk to the thin device (think Otterbox “Defender” series).

The Case-Mate, like the other two cases, allows you to use a mini USB cable instead of the Apple white charging cable. The mini-USB is a standard port used by lots of devices, so if you do need to charge up at the office, one of your co-workers is more likely to have that cable. Better, the Case-Mate passes iTunes and in-car iPod through the cable.

And lack of that feature was my only complaint about the Energizer "Energi To Go" cases. I tested one for the iPhone 3 and 3GS that was hard plastic and only covered the lower 2/3rds of the phone. It did the job but was not pretty at all. The iPhone 4 case ($69.99) was silicon, slim and absolutely elegant. It’s easy to toggle between using the battery or not, but it doesn’t pass through iTunes or in-car iPod through the mini-USB cable.

It’s a minor annoyance I guess, to slip the phone out of the case to mate with iTunes or listen to your songs in the car, but that’s why it’s No. 2 in this review.
The best charging case was the Mophie Juice Pack air ($79.95). It passes iTunes/iPod like the Case-Mate and it’s thin like the Energizer. It feels good in the hand.

A toggle button on the lower left, makes it easy to switch between charge modes, and you can press a button of the bottom to see how much charge is left in the case. I ran the iPhone battery to zero and the Mophie charged it back to 80 percent. When I drained the iPhone battery to 20 or 25 percent, the Mophie would get it back to 100 percent easily.

This is your gold medal winner from a group of three strong challengers. If I were a heavy iPhone user, I’d definitely grab one of these.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Report: Sprint to announce new Android phone Monday

A Bloomberg report says that Sprint will announce a new Android phone at its big N.Y. news conference Monday morning.

The new Kyocera phone, called Echo, will feature a full Qwerty keyboard and cost $249.99 with a two-year contract.

Magician David Blaine is expected to give a brief performance at the event.

There's also been rumors that Sprint might unveil an iPhone for its 4G network.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Verizon iPhone tops AT&T iPhone in reliability, not speed

I have not had a chance to get my grubby little hands on the Verizon iPhone, but some journalists have had the opportunity to test the VeriPhone for a few weeks and the results are pretty much the same:

AT&T is faster in download speeds for data (webpages, email) but Verizon is much more reliable. Some of the writers have even canceled their AT&T contracts, or not renewed them, and write that they are signing up with Verizon to get iPhone.

Beginning at 3 a.m. Thursday, existing Verizon customers can get iPhone after four years of waiting. The rest of the U.S. can get one Thursday Feb. 10, beginning at 7 a.m. Verizon stores will open early and allow customers to line up outside at 5 a.m. in North Carolina.

AT&T has bumped up its data packages and all but revealed it will match Verizon's best new iPhone feature -- the ability to make the phone a WiFi hotspot for up to five devices.

AT&T is also trumping the ability of its phones, which run a different operating standard than Verizon, that allows you to make voice calls and surf the web or download email at the same time. You can't do that on Verizon.

On Verizon, if you're using the HotSpot (or data at all) and a call comes in, you can choose to take it, but your data session disconnects. Not really cool if you have others using it at the same time. And as an iPhone owner for two years, I use voice and data quite a bit. But there are 90 million Verizon customers who have no idea what I'm talking about and won't care when they are holding the Apple device in their hand.

And the flip side of this is reliability. A lot of readers here are turned off by AT&T's coverage, saying they drop calls often and can't get service often. I think some of that is true.

I rarely have dropped calls, but I do have them.

Driving up Independence Boulevard, near Matthews? Drop.

Driving anywhere along 485 going from south Charlotte to north? Drop.

Sometimes between my bedroom and living room, in the middle of a really important call?


And there are weird places uptown and along Sardis Road or Harris Boulevard that, for me, you can just forget about it.

But AT&T is fast over 3G when you get it. A lot faster, the testers report, than Verizon.

...Decisions. Decisions.

I've gotten a lot of email recently from Verizon customers asking whether they should switch to iPhone or just get a Droid. I have AT&T folks asking if they should break a contract to switch.

I've never had Verizon service here, but have many friends who swear by it. I have used their phones in small towns and gyms and airports where my iPhone just wouldn't work. I believe the service is better. I also believe the iPhone is clearly superior to any Droid I've tested, and I've tested all the exotic Droids that have been released up to now.

Android packs a lot of specs and features. A new one coming out for AT&T will even power a laptop computer. I just can't figure out why I'd want my phone to morph into or power a laptop. I'd just use the laptop.

What makes iPhone superior and clearly so, is the user experience. Android is different on many devices you try and it's kind of techy. It can be hard to figure out and often, for many of my Droid-using friends, it's been buggy (reboot, reboot, reboot).

I can give my iPhone to my decidedly ungeeky 72-year-old Mom and she can navigate around.

It's easy to use and it works and there's a reason, way beyond the "look at me I have an iPhone" thing, that makes people so loyal to it and makes them line up before stores open. I don't see people lining up for the new Droids, many of which are killer devices that will be better than most anything before it.

But my iPhone advice is this: if you are in contract with AT&T, wait. I believe a new iPhone 5 will come out for both AT&T and Verizon in June. If I'm wrong, you'll stay in contract for a few more months which will bring down your early termination fee by then.

If you're AT&T and out of contract and don't mind that a new phone may come soon, go ahead and jump.

If you're Verizon existing, think the same as the out of contract AT&T guy.

Ultimately, I think it may be best to wait. If rumors are to be believed, iPhone 5 will use Verizon's super fast 4G network and allow voice and data at the same time -- and be faster than AT&T.

That's the girl, the gold watch -- and everything.

Can you wait a little longer?

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

iPad only newspaper, The Daily, launches

Rupert Murdoch's latest media venture, an iPad-only newspaper called the Daily, has gone live in the App Store.

It's a digital news publication with original content created exclusively for iPad. It covers the world, USA Today style, with news, sports, pop culture, entertainment, games, tech, gossip, the works.

Pricing is $0.99 per week or $39.99 per year.

Murdoch promised, at Wednesday's New York news conference, to "bring the magic of newspapers to The Daily, and we must make the business of news gathering and editing viable again."

The Daily hopes to deliver on many promises: 360-degree photos, audio, video clips and easy sharing via Facebook, Twitter and email.

Sports fans will be able to add custom features for their favorite teams. Weather would be customizable by city. And your paper would never get wet.

I hope most newspapers at least offer some form of this going forward. I'll subscribe to this national paper, but I'd love to get local publications in this format as well.

There's a free two-week trial for the Daily, so you can try it out. Let me know what you think.

AT&T adds 2 GB to tethering plans ahead of Verizon iPhone

Today, AT&T announced it would finally support a wireless hotspot feature -- on the upcoming HTC Inspire 4G phone. The Android phone will be released Feb. 13.

The company will also change its current data allowance to 4GB for customers who pay $45 for data plus tethering.

Previously, the data was capped at 2GB.

So if nothing else, if you're a heavy data user, you can now get a 4GB plan for $45.

Of course, it's natural to assume this is a reaction to Verizon's upcoming iPhone. Thursday morning (2/3) at 3 a.m. current Verizon customers can start to order Apple's phone and everyone else can get one on Thursday Feb. 10.

Verizon stores will open at 7 a.m. and allow lines to form by 5 a.m. on the 10th. The Verizon iPhone will come with unlimited data plan for $30 and WiFi hotspot for an additional $20 per month. That hotspot will have a separate 2GB bucket of data. Go beyond that 2GB bucket and you'll incur an overage fee of $10 per gig.

AT&T stopped unlimited data for its iPhone/smartphone customers, allowing legacy owners to keep the plan but forcing new customers into one of two new options: $25 per month for 2 GB or $15 per month for 200 MB.

AT&T has forced its unlimited legacy customers into the 2GB plan in the past if they wanted to add tethering.

No word on whether AT&T will allow its iPhone customers to use the HotSpot fuctionality, which will be included in the next Apple software update. But iPhone owners who want to tether their device to a single other device could adopt the new plan.

The hotspot feature would theoretically allow multiple devices to get onto the internet with the phone.

iPhone lands on Verizon at 3 a.m.

Tomorrow morning (Feb. 3) at 3 a.m., Verizon customers will be able to preorder the iPhone 4. This is for existing customers only. The general public can get one on Thursday, Feb. 10.

If you want to get a Verizon iPhone and are leaving another carrier or starting fresh, stores will open throughout the state on Feb. 10 at 7 a.m. Lines cannot form until 5 a.m.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Madden videogame predicts Super Steelers

Every year, Electronic Arts uses its Madden football game simulation to predict the winner of the Super Bowl.

Don't laugh. A preseason dry run predicted the Packers to reach Sunday's game and the game has correctly predicted six of the past Super Bowl champs with surprising accuracy (see below).

This year, Madden says the Steelers win a record seventh Super Bowl ring. A simulation of Sunday's game shows a 24-20 Steelers win with Pittsburgh scoring the game-winning points with 80 seconds left.

This year's Super Bowl simulation was done using computer artificial intelligence powered by real-life data from each team to determine player ratings, and includes variances, such as injuries, to predict the outcome. Six out of the last seven Super Bowl champions have been accurately predicted by Madden NFL. Previous results include:

Super Bowl XXXVIII – Patriots 23, Panthers 20
Actual Score: Patriots 32, Panthers 29
Super Bowl XXXIX – Patriots 47, Eagles 31
Actual score: Patriots 24, Eagles 21
Super Bowl XL – Steelers 24, Seahawks 19
Actual score: Steelers 21, Seahawks 10
Super Bowl XLI – Colts 38, Bears 27
Actual score: Colts 29, Bears 17
Super Bowl XLIII – Steelers 28, Cardinals 24
Actual score: Steelers 27, Cardinals 23
Super Bowl XLIV – Saints 35, Colts 31
Actual score: Saints 31, Colts 17

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Verizon iPhone hotspot $20/mo and paying $212 for iPhone 4 trades

Verizon will allow customers a $212 credit for a 16 GB iPhone 4 if AT&T customers are so inclined to trade their phones in via Verizon's online trade-in system.

The 32 GB iPhone 4 will bring in $285 and an iPhone 3GS 16 GB will bring $116.

Even a now very old iPhone 3G will get you $36 for an 8 GB model. So in many cases, AT&T customers can get their new iPhone covered if they're willing to switch and sign a new contract with Verizon. Of course, that's before any early termination fees you might have to pay.

Verizon also announced that its prices for the new hotspot feature for iPhone 4, delivering wireless internet for up to 5 devices. It will be $20 per month on top of your $30 unlimited data bill. And the hotspot will have a limit of 2 GB per month. Go over and you pay $20 for another gig. One caveat, the 2 GB data is separate for your unlimited data for activities directly on the phone.

Verizon is expected to change its plans to tiered plans, similar to AT&T in the near future. No word is the company will grandfather existing unlimited users when that happens, as AT&T did.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

TW Cable adds more ESPN access for PC users

Beginning today, Time Warner Cable customers in Charlotte will be able to watch ESPN2, ESPNU and ESPN Buzzer Beater on their computers, so long as they have video subscriptions to those services.

Eligible customers can already see ESPN and online.

The new choices are accessible via

While there, users will have the option to view the main channels in several views, including picture-in-picture, simultaneous viewing of more than one channel and full-screen viewing of a single channel. Access through certain other Internet enabled devices such as mobile phones and tablets is expected in the near future.

Customers can go to to register or sign in and view the programming.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Verizon's first iPhone commercial hits the air: "It begins"

Remember when Droid Does took swipes at the iPhone? Now iPhone appears to be Verizon's feature phone.

Here's big Red's first i-commercial, essentially thanking subscribers for waiting for it.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

TW Cable adds new HD Channels

Time Warner Cable has been on a roll adding HD channels, playing catch up to offerings from satellite services.

TWC added six more HD channels today and says it offers more than 120 currently.

These are channels added today:

Nickelodeon HD
Spike TV HD
Disney XD HD
Showtime Next HD
Showtime Women HD

For a complete list of all HD channels visit

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Michael Jackson's videogame is definitely not a thriller

Michael Jackson was the greatest entertainer who ever lived, and he made some of the best pop music ever made, but Ubisoft has not done well by his legacy with the Nintendo Wii version of “Michael Jackson: The Experience” videogame.

The game is, to be honest, a hot mess.

The biggest problem is, for a dance game, especially one with probably the best collection of dance music you could ever want, it just doesn’t work well.

For starters, the Wii-mote only maps the motions of the hand holding the controller. Ever tried doing Michael’s famous leg kick or moonwalk with your arm? OK you don’t have to, but the point is, even if you work yourself into a mad sweat trying to do the steps from “Billie Jean,” the game won’t begin to know how well (or how terribly) you moonwalked, because it can really only follow your arm swinging back and forth.

At first glance, this game is a can’t miss.

You take some of Mike’s greatest hits, like “The Way You Make Me Feel,” “Smooth Criminal” and “Beat It,” and incorporate them into a game where you try to dance like the best dancer we may’ve ever seen. And it is a little fun just to try to channel your inner Mike in your living room.

But in a dance game, I’m not sure why slow songs like “Heal The World” on on here. And there are too many slow songs.

Worse, real dancers mimic Mike’s moves on screen against some really bad backgrounds and their faces are washed out, in an effort, I guess to make you think that’s the real Michael dancing on screen. The dancers, though, are really good and do a great job of performing the famous moves.

You can get points by mimicking the moves, and there are small portraits on the side of the screen -- sometimes -- that try to help you teach moves. And it’s just flat hard to do Mike’s dance steps. You’ve seen enough bad impersonators to know that.

Still my biggest complaint is you can play about as well by sitting on your bottom and playing.

I hope to get a chance to review the Kinect version, which graphics aside, should provide a more realistic experience, since the Kinect maps your entire body, which would make trying to follow along with the moves, and scoring a few a lot more fun.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Details on next iPhone (iPhone 5) and iPad (iPad 2) leak

Engadget reports some big rumors on the expected iPhone 5 and iPad 2 due later this year:

First the iPad 2:

-- Engadget sources say the iPad 2 will come out around April and will be thinner with a new screen technology that is a lot like iPhone 4's excellent "Retina" display.

Sources say the size will remain the same, around 10 inches, and front and rear cameras will be added along with a dedicated SD slot built in (but no USB port).

The device will also feature a new chipset that features the technologies that power AT&T and Verizon wireless products (GSM for AT&T; CDMA for Verizon). The new chipset, the blog reports, will be made by Qualcomm.

This will allow Apple to make one iPad that will work for Verizon and AT&T (and possibly Sprint, too, since Sprint and Verizon both use CDMA).

Now the iPhone 5

-- For all of you who are anxiously waiting to buy the current iPhone 4 in a few weeks on Verizon, just know there's a strong possibility Apple will deliver a new phone in June. Engadget says to expect a completely redesigned model, one that's being secretly tested by senior staff at Apple.

The new device will use a multi-core chip that will double its processing power. It will also run multiple wireless technologies but there was no word on whether it would work with Verizon and AT&T's new 4G LTE (Long Term Evolution) networks.

-- Engadget also reported its sources saying a new Apple TV will process 1080p video easily, something the current model won't do.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

New Google app translate speech in real time (video)

Holy Star Trek! Google's new Translate App build for Android is one of the best apps we've seen in awhile.

The new build includes a "conversation" mode that will record speech and translate it in real time. So I can say I would like the bacon to the guy in the German grocery store in English and the phone will translate to German. Then when he answers it'll translate back to me in English.

Kind of neat to take with you out of the country somewhere, huh? Best of all, it's free in the Android Market now.

Now who needs Captain Kirk's voice transcoder anymore?

Here's a video to help

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Sprint plans major announcement Feb 7? iPhone?

Hot on the heels of Verizon's big iPhone announcement Tuesday, Sprint has sent out invites to its own New York shin dig next Monday, where illusionist David Blaine will be on hand.

Journalists are invited to see what "Sprint has up its sleeve." The event takes place Feb. 7, just three days before the general public can order Verizon's iPhone.

The company promises to show that the impossible is possible. Well, Apple COO Tim Cook did say Verizon had a non exclusive CDMA agreement for iPhone and Sprint's network is CDMA. Could this be a 4G iPhone to run on Sprint's WiMax network? Could it be a new Android 4G phone, though Sprint did show a HTC Evo Shift 4G and the BlackBerry playbook at the Consumer Electronics Show.

Should be fun.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Next iPad to be Verizon compatible, too

Fresh on the heels of today's iPhone to Verizon launch, it appears that the next iPad, due this spring, will include a version that connects directly to Verizon's 3G network.

Verizon sells the current iPad but sells a MiFi device that must be carried separately to use the iPad with Verizon's network. AT&T sells a version with a built in chip that gives users access to its 3G network.

Bloomberg reports that Francis Shammo, chief financial officer of Verizon Communications Inc., the parent of the wireless unit, confirmed the upcoming Verizon iPad today. According to Bloomberg, Shammo declined to say when the change may happen.

Fight: AT&T vs. Verizon iPhone

A quick look at strengths and weaknesses of the AT&T and Verizon iPhone.

The phones look virtually identical with the Verizon version earning new antenna notch placements on the aluminum shell that holds the phone together.

NETWORK STRENGTH: AT&T has taken a beating from users who say the network is unreliable. It's fast, offering theoretical download speeds of up to 7 MB compared with 3 MB theoretical for Verizon 3G, and in many major markets, including Charlotte, AT&T is quite good. But if you've ever been staring at 1 bar or no bars inside a gym or a mall or a bank while you watch a Verizon customer chatting away, well, you get the picture. Winner: Verizon.

USABILITY: AT&T uses GSM technology that allows users to make calls and use data at the same time. Ever been talking to Grandma and needing to get directions at the same time? This is a feature you might not use a lot, but it's neat to have it when you do. AT&T's faster network also delivers information faster. Winner: AT&T.

PRICING: We have yet to see what Verizon's monthly plans are for iPhone, but both carriers typically have similar calling plans. Verizon, however, still offers unlimited data for $30 per month, which is big when all these new services are debuting, like video chat, that are data hungry. AT&T allows legacy users to keep unlimited plans but new users must choose between 2 GB ($25) and 200 MB ($15). Winner: Verizon.

FEATURES: Most people know what the iPhone can do. It's the world's most popular smart phone for a reason. AT&T, though, currently doesn't allow users to make FaceTime video calls over 3G and only allows users to tether the iPhone to one device. That allows you to, say, share you iPhone internet connection with your computer.

But to do that, even legacy unlimited data users on AT&T have to switch to the 2GB or 200 MB plan, and the tethered data usage comes from that bucket. One trip to Netflix can get your monthly bill zooming. Big fail.

If Verizon keeps unlimited data, it will have a huge advantage here, and Verizon is bringing hotspot capabilities to iPhone. You can give signal to five devices at once (though you can' t make a call while "hotspotting"). So if you're considering a tablet computer, for instance, and you have iPhone, you might not need to pay for a 3G/4G plan for the tablet and can choose the cheaper WiFi version of your chosen tablet if available. Winner: Verizon.

Both iPhone 4s will be excellent phones for the near term. However, I might be a little timid about settling into a new 2 year deal with Verizon for this one when Apple normally releases a new iPhone in June. That one might be compatible with Verizon's faster 4G network (which would also cost more). An LTE Verizon phone would allow simultaneous call/data usage and eliminate any speed advantages AT&T might have.

AT&T has recently completed its higher-speed 3G network, called HSPA+, which offers theoretical download speeds of up to 21 MB or more. It is beginning to roll out devices that will take advantage of those higher speeds (the current iPhone 4 will not). Unfortunately, AT&T is confusing customers by labeling this improved 3G as 4G. AT&T is also going to launch its LTE (long term evolution) network -- what most folks think of when they hear "4G" -- later this year. If nothing else, the guess here is that iPhone 5 will work with the faster version of AT&T's 3G network and possible its new LTE network, too.

Apple traditionally has waited for networks to mature before jumping in. It waited a year to make an iPhone 3G when 3G was available when the first iPhone hit stores. Of course, Android wasn't around then providing worthy competition.

The guess here is that iPhone 5, which will hit stores in June, will work with Verizon LTE and AT&T's higher speed 3G and 4G. Winner: EVEN