Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Starbucks now lets you pay for your caffeine fix with your iPhone in New York City

Source: MobileCrunch
Here’s how it works: First you buy a Starbucks gift card. Then you load up the free Starbucks Card Mobile app on your iPod Touch, iPhone, or BlackBerry (Starbucks says 71% of their customer base carries at least one of these), punch in the details from the gift card, and you’re all set. The barista scans a code of your device’s screen when it’s time to pay, and your daily dose of caffeine is one the way. When the funds run low, you can refill the card right from the handset. Pretty nifty.

Read the full article here.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Color Nook Could Be The Tablet Tipping Point

Both Amazon and Barnes & Noble have downplayed actual e-reader device sales numbers, instead crowing about the number of ebooks sold in the past year. This is an important distinction because it shows few things about the Nook/Kindle audience. First, e-readers (dedicated e-readers, mind you, not tablets) are popular with heavy readers and, as a corollary, most e-reader owners buy a lot of books. However, the real value has been in the e-book format itself, as the popularity of the Kindle and Nook e-book stores can attest. Since the first e-readers trickled out of Sony in about 2006, the general audience has complained about the lack of a color option and their interest has been consistently drawn to tablets like the iPad, the Playbook, and the HP Slate. What’s an e-reader manufacturer to do?

Read the entire story at Crunchgear.

Falling in love only takes about a fifth of a second, research reveals

Falling in love can elicit not only the same euphoric feeling as using cocaine, but also affects intellectual areas of the brain. Falling in love only takes about a fifth of a second. The findings raise the question: "Does the heart fall in love, or the brain?"
Read the rest of the story at ScienceDaily.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Future of Credit Cards - Card 2.0

With most people having more than one credit and/or debit cards, carrying all your cards can be quite cumbersome, let alone the fear of losing all of them. To tackle this some people carry just a couple of cards leaving the others behind. But what if you are out shopping and need the one you left behind?

Dynamics, Inc. has come up with a brilliant solution for this problem with their programmable cards. So basically, while our conventional card has a one time loaded magnetic strip, the card from Dynamics comes with a programmable magnetic strip to communicate dynamic information. Although it looks like a normal card, it can do much more.

Currently they have two types of cards based on the nature of the consumer.

  • MultiAccount - The device includes two buttons on the face of a card. Next to each button is a printed account number and a light source. A user can select an account by pressing one of the buttons. The card visually indicates the selection by turning ON the light source associated with the selected account. Additionally, the magnetic-stripe information associated with the account is written to the Electronic Stripe™. The card can then be swiped at any magnetic strip reader. You can have a combination like credit/credit, debit/credit, debit/debit, credit/gift card, etc.
  • Hidden - The device includes five buttons on the face of a card and a paper-thin flexible display. The display hides a portion of a cardholder's payment card number. To turn the device ON, a user must enter a personal unlocking code into the card. If the user enters in the correct unlocking code, the card will then visually display the user's payment card number so that the user can read the number for online transaction. The magnetic stripe is then populated with the correct magnetic data such that the card can also be used with magnetic stripe readers. After a period of time, the display turns OFF and the Electronic Stripe™ erases itself - thus removing all critical payment information from the surface of the card. If the card is lost or stolen, the card is essentially useless. 
Other areas where this card can be used is institution identity cards, medical cards, security cards, etc.

The CEO of Dynamics, Jeff Mullen demoed the technology at Demo Fall 2010 in Silicon Valley, CA. Even though it is packed with a lot of electronic components, it is completely water proof, as shown by Jeff.

I feel this technology has a very bright future and can only wait to see what more can come out of it.

Source: Demo Fall 2010, Dynamics, Inc.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Google TV Announced - How many TVs do we need?

Only last week Apple announced it’s newly revamped Apple TV, which will allow users to stream movies and TV shows through iTunes,  stream web based videos from Netflix and YouTube, and also connect to various Apple handheld devices using Airplay. Many critics have said that this is a me too approach, since similar options like Tivo and Roku are already available.
Earlier this year in May 2010, Google had demonstrated a service for accessing the internet and other applications on the television and indicated that it will be available sometime this year.  At the IFA consumer electronics trade show in Berlin, Google CEO Eric Schmidt has reiterated its Google TV plans and said that the service will be available in the United States this autumn and worldwide in 2011.
Like the other players in the market, this service will be working with content providers for delivering content, and not be actually creating content. This just adds up to the list of me too services, although it’s more ambitious than others, and will eventually be available to consumers as part of their default TV experience.
It looks like with Apple’s announcement last week and the Logitech Revue set-top box (based around the Google TV experience) coming out this fall, Google had to launch its service during the fall season.
With quite a few existing players, and a whole lot of new players planning to bring the internet to the television, the battle for the $180 billion global TV advertising market is surely heating up.
 Source – Reuters, VentureBeat

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

3G in India may not be affordable for many


The Indian Government is all set to allocate the 3G spectrum to successful bidders from tomorrow, and we can now hope to get faster mobile internet services sometime soon, but not without a premium.

Sanjay Kapoor, CEO Bharti Airtel, India and South Asia, has indicated that India will not be getting the unlimited 3G data plans that consumers in most of the western countries enjoy. He elaborates that the potential of these unlimited plans to clog the networks and spectrum constraints, are the primary reasons why these services will have high costs. He goes on to say that although India has cheaper voice call rate compared to other countries, the data rates will be relatively higer. 

Sanjay says that users can get reasonable pricing if they use the 3G service in small packets, or adopt a sachet approach as opposed to heavy downloading, which he says is true even for the current 2G platform.

Sanjay also says that if the government sticks to the september deadline for allocation of the spectrum, we could see 3G services in some parts of the country by the end of the year.

Read the entire article by Economic Times here.

I think I will go for the wait-watch-adopt strategy rather than being one of the early adopters of the 3G services.

Source - Economic Times

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Are Most Indians Smart Enough for a Smartphone?

While going through my RSS feeds, I came across a blog published on WATBlog, which gives some interesting numbers justifying how smartphones will be the future of mobile phones. I strongly believe this is true, since these phones have empowered us to do things, we would only wish we could after watching sci-fi movies (something like facetime).

Yesterday my friend asked me which phone should he buy - an iPhone 3GS or a Blackberry Bold 9700. I told him both phones are different and it all depends on what you need from a phone (I did not call it smartphone, as I was sure that would have confused him even more), what features are you looking for, etc. He interrupted me and told me that features and all are ok, tell me which phone will be better for "show". I was silenced, and asked him to go for the iPhone 3GS (traits of a fanboy).

Two plus two - I realized an average person does not care about the true potential of a smartphone (android phones substituting supercomputers), the built in apps, the best of apps available in the app stores which can make life much easier. I know a few friends who have never used their smartphones for anything other than instant messaging, accessing social media sites, basic email - what about editing documents on the go or using location based services (for the GPS enabled phones), using business intelligence apps, RSS reader apps, and a gazillion other things these phones are capable of. On the flip side I know some people who are using regular phones for feeding blogs to their phones.

People may say that an average Indian may not need to use such high end features in a phone. In arguement an average Indian may not even need these high end smartphones, since most of what they want will be fulfilled by most average feature phones (interesting article on the difference between smartphones and feature phones).

Is an average Indian just happy by the "show" factor of these phones or is he smart enough to use these phones to an extent that their existence is justified?

Source - WATBlog, blog.itechtalk.com

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Blackberry-Government Issue

I use a Blackberry Bold 9700 and have got addicted to the chat and email service. I do not remember the last time I used gtalk on any other instrument. So when there were rumors of possible shutdown of Blackberry Services (BBS) in India, I was a little worried, not because it would be the end of me, but because I would have to give up something which I use almost every minute. I actually thought about making my old iPhone 3G the primary phone of use. But since RIM was still negotiating with the Indian Government, I put this issue aside, but kept an eye on it.

A few other nations have also pinned RIM for similar issues, which I truly think is a chain reaction, each one trying to show they have a good Telecom Department which is on top of all things related to national security (or maybe it's true). When Saudi actually shutdown BBS, I was kind of convinced that India will follow suit. But the services were restored in a few hours, and I just laughed.

Now Reuters have reported, that on Thursday, the Indian Home Ministry will give RIM a deadline to grant the Indian authorities encryption access details, to use it in case of an emergency. But looking at what happened in Saudi, I am sure the Canadian company will work out a deal with the authorities.

Just yesterday a friend told me that he wants to get a Blackberry, but now he will not because like Saudi and Indonesia its going to be banned in India. I actually had to explain to him that the BBS is up in Saudi, and India is still in talks with RIM, and that they will not be banning the phone but just suspend the service. He then I asked me what phone to Blackberry and we had a discussion around that.

All of this made me wonder that does an average Indian know about BBS? Do they know how it is different than getting an ordinary data plan, or what encryption is,  (I am not an expert on either of these)? Or he/she is just happy with the Blackberry Messenger and other social activity tools for as low as Rs 299/month (Vodafone India) and feel like they would lose an arm if these services were to be shutdown?

I think RIM is doing a really bad job or keeping existing/potential customers in the loop. Their Facbook Page is full of upcoming products and OS 6 and similar discussions are happening on Twitter. I am sure there might be some forums where these government related issues are being discussed, but how many Indians google for these things?

Well what do I know. Let me know what you think.

Source - Reuters, Techtree.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Motorola Mocks Apple....Again

Motorola's earlier ad for the Droid X claimed that “it comes with a double antenna design.  The kind that allows you to hold the phone any way you like and use it just about anywhere to make crystal clear calls.” This was a jab at Apple which claimed that smartphones have weak spots and in areas of relatively weak signal strength, gripping them in certain ways attenuates the signal strength. Clearly Motorola doesn't feel the same.

Apple bounced back with a video showing that the Droid X also has the same signal issues the iPhone 4 has, although when held in the right hand (the other videos demonstrated the problem when the phones were held in the left hand). 
The latest ad for the Droid X is titled as "No Jacket Required", which doesn't seem to be a response to the Apple video, but clearly mocks Apple that has advised iPhone 4 users to use a case ("Jacket") if they are experiencing low signal strength (Apple is actually giving out free cases).

The ad has a catchy title, but I am not convinced that it has what it takes to lure people into choosing the Droid X over the iPhone 4.

Source - Droid-Life, Engadget.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

OlivePad-VT100 India's First 3.5G Tablet

On Thursday July 22, 2010, Olive Telecom unveiled India's first 3.5G Tablet, the OlivePad-VT100, running on the Android Operating System (doubtful if it will be 2.2). Notable features include
1. 7-inch capacitive touchpanel with a resolution of 800x480.
2. Supports 3.5G HSUPA, WiFi, Bluetooth and GPS.
3. Flash Support.
4. A 3-megapixel camera and a front facing camera.
5. An SD card slot, 512MB of internal memory (plus 512MB ROM).
6. Mini USB Port.
7. 3240 mAh battery.

The company believes that the above features will make the device ideal for - "browsing, Multimedia, Instant Messaging and easy access to the world of social networking, GPS for maps and turn by turn directions, gaming console, an e- book reader, Television and it is also a Smart Phone allowing voice and Video Calling".

The tablet is expected to go on sale from August and will be available at Croma stores across the nation.

The device has some features that are missing from the acclaimed Apple iPad, like - flash support, camera, SD card support, USB port, GPS radio, etc. It will be interesting to see how this device will fair compared to the iPad. Although the iPad has not been officially launched in India, it is very much available in the Indian grey market.

The OlivePad priced at Rs 25,000 will be a viable option for the tech savvy Indians who were unable to afford the more expensive iPad (starting at Rs 40,000, ebay.in).

Other successful products of Olive Telecom include the OliveFrvrOn (India’s 1st Hybrid Phone), OliveZipbook (India’s 1st 3G embedded Netbook), OliveWiz (India’s 1st Triple SIM Qwerty device), OliveGenie (India’s 1st 3G Music Modem) & OLiveNexus (India’s 1st Pocket Router).

Source - Olive Telecom, Engadget.

Skype iPhone Update

On Wednesday July 21st, 2010, Skype announced a minor update to their iPhone app (now version 2.0.1).

New features include:

1. Multitasking - Now you will be able to receive Skype calls while other apps are running or when the phone is locked. You call also access other apps while in a Skype call.
2. App's graphic support for iPhone 4's retina display.
3. Calls with high sound quality.

In May Skype has released a major update (version 2.0) which allowed users to make free Skype-Skype calls over 3G, a feature which was to be free until at least August 2010. But with the release of version 2.0.1, Skype has announced that they no longer plan to charge a subscription fee for calls made on 3G.

We may have to wait a bit longer for the video calling feature, since Skype has already pushed it on the "Fringe".

Multitasking requires iOS 4 and an iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, or a third-generation iPod touch (32GB and 64GB models from late 2009).
Source - Skype.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

"Antennagate" Issue – A Self-Test

After viewing the Apple press conference on the ”antennagate ” issue I wanted to do some experiments myself, since I am currently using a Blackberry Bold 9700, which was one of the phones Apple used to prove their point. I had full signal (5 bars on the Vodafone India Network). I held the phone in all ways possible – both hands, up side down, front side back, but did not see a single bar drop. I repeated the same experiment on my iPhone 3G (Airtel India Network) and got the same result – no visible signal attenuation. This made me doubt the information provided by Steve Jobs in the conference.

I was curios to know what I was doing wrong, so as to not being able to get signal attenuation. I then realized that Steve had mentioned more than once that smart phones have weak spots and in areas of relatively weak signal strength, gripping them in certain ways attenuates the signal strength. I was annoyed because my ten-minute experiment with full signal strength gave me no worthwhile results, but decided to sleep over it.

Yesterday I was out for lunch. I was waiting for my cousins in a lobby, which was a huge room with two sides open. I happened to look at my phone and saw that I had only 4 bars on my Bold. I got excited because maybe I was in an area with relatively low signal strength. I held the phone in my left hand like demonstrated in the video. Two bars dropped. I got even more excited, and kept thinking why did I ever doubt Steve. I played around a little and tried different grips. From 3-4 bars my signal dropped to about 2-3 bars, and I never saw a drop of more than 2 bars. Unfortunately I did not have my iPhone this time around. I wonder what I would have observed.

All in all there was some metal in what Steve said, but I am not entirely convinced, since I did not observe significant signal attenuation. Maybe I need to experiment in an area of even weaker signal strength to be able to get the results Apple got.