Verizon 4G LTE Review: the Good, the Bad and the Weird
Mar28

Verizon 4G LTE Review: the Good, the Bad and the Weird

I love to review products whilst travelling. I find that when I’m not at home, I rely much more heavily on the products I review and thus can give a unique perspective on those products. It’s not until you’re away from the comforts of your home and your own surroundings that you realize how much you take these kinds of gadgets for granted. Because I went to CTIA 2011 in Orlando, Florida last week, I knew this was the perfect opportunity to get some in-depth testing of some of my review products. There were two in particular I was extremely excited to check out: the HTC Thunderbolt and Pantech UML290 LTE USB modem. Why was I so particularly interested in testing these two gadgets? They’re both signature products on Verizon’s still-new LTE network, which is only available in certain cities across the country. Though Verizon announced expansion to a total of 147 US cities by the end of 2011, only 38 are covered currently, and my hometown is unfortunately not one of them. I was very excited at the prospect of taking my brand new Thunderbolt, the very first LTE phone on Verizon, and the Pantech USB modem, which has been out a longer period of time but still crucial for me to do some testing on. Orlando is one of the 38 markets blanketed by LTE, so I was ready for a smooth process and all of my data needs at CTIA would be totally covered by these two devices, right? Well, not so fast. You may have read my article that listed Verizon’s LTE coverage at CTIA as one of the worst parts of the show. But I must emphasize that I was referring to coverage I experienced at the show — which was swarming with other tech powerhouses that either have purchased LTE equipment on Verizon or were taking review units for a spin, much like I was — and not the LTE network itself. Regardless, I don’t think Verizon was quite ready for the onslaught of bandwidth hogs that a show like CTIA attracts. In general terms, the Verizon 4G network is the strongest and fastest at present time. Part of this is due to the LTE technology itself, which is indeed faster than WiMax and most of T-Mobile’s HSPA+ (though now that they are expanding out to speeds of 42 Mbps, this is a harder point to argue currently). It is what many tech gurus feel is true 4G, not “faux G” as Dan Hesse has called the competition. The other reason it’s strong and fast is the lack of market penetration the 4G...

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Contest: Win a Wrapsol Ultra Screen Protector for iPhone 4!
Mar28

Contest: Win a Wrapsol Ultra Screen Protector for iPhone 4!

Ready for the next contest? What, you’re always ready for the next contest? Then let’s get to it! This week our contest is focusing on a screen protector. But not just any screen protector — we’re talking the super-durable Wrapsol Ultra screen protectors here, not the dinky plastic films that try to pass as screen protectors. The Wrapsol Ultra wraps around the entire phone and not only prevent scratches, but are made of a special material that helps protect it from drops as well. Made from advanced high strength polyurethane and using a dry application process that actively releases air bubbles, Wrapsol Ultra installs quickly and easily and helps prevent everyday dings, dents and scratches, even damage from falls from up to 6 feet while preserving screen brilliancy and touch sensitivity. Not bad, eh? Who wants one? We have 11 Wrapsol Ultras for iPhone 4 to give away! And we’re going to give you until Friday, April 1, 2011 at 11:59 PM PST to enter to win. There are two ways to win, but you can enter multiple times: 1. Retweet this message on Twitter: “RT @unwiredtweets RT this message and enter to win a Wrapsol for iPhone 4! Visit http://wp.me/peL1j-cMB to learn more. #contest #free #iPhone” You can RT once a day, and each time will count as an entry into the contest. 2. Go to our Facebook page and comment on the contest page there. No multiple entries allowed here; only one comment will be counted. Not too difficult at all, and since there’s 11 of them to give away, you have a great chance of winning! The Wrapsol Ultra for iPhone 4 is normally priced at $29.99, which is still a great deal because of the high level of protection you receive for your hard-earned cash. If you don’t have an iPhone 4 but would still be interested in getting one for your phone, check out their website to see if your phone model has a Wrapsol made for...

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HTC Scribe Hands-on and First Impressions at CTIA 2011
Mar28

HTC Scribe Hands-on and First Impressions at CTIA 2011

“Wait – a tablet is coming out with a stylus? In 2011?” I asked myself that question upon hearing the announcement of the HTC Flyer, an Android Gingerbread-powered 7” tablet at MWC 2011 last month. I couldn’t bring myself to accept the idea that HTC actually expected anyone to use a pen this decade, but that’s exactly what it sounded like. At CTIA this week, I had the opportunity to use the aforementioned pen with the HTC EVO View 4G, Sprint’s newest Android tablet due to come out sometime this summer. The EVO View 4G is basically a Sprint-branded HTC Flyer with CDMA and WiMax built in. The feature that utilizes the pen is called HTC Scribe, and fortunately does not try to dominate the user’s experience with the Flyer by any means — and thank heavens for that. Instead of finding the Scribe experience littered all over the Sense UI like dust over an unused couch, the service is only available in certain applications. When I’m in an application that can use the Scribe, I’m not forced to use the pen. I can definitely use my finger whenever I want. So if I can use my finger like I normally could on any other tablet, what’s the point of the Scribe? The stylus was around for several years, and believe it or not, it actually stuck around for that long because it worked. And worked well. Palm was the master of the stylus, throwing in a special program on its hardware called Graffiti that gave us the ability to write notes or draw doodles or whatever else we wanted to do, because we used a stylus as a regular pen. When introduced, this electronic pen-and-paper of sorts was groundbreaking and incredibly helpful as a PDA/Organizer tool. Fast forward to 2011. The stylus was rapidly replaced by the capacitive screen, a type of touchscreen that made our fingers almost as accurate as a stylus; after that, using a stylus or pen of any sort on a touchscreen just felt cumbersome and unnatural. Which sums up my surprise upon hearing that the HTC Flyer was attempting to go backwards in time. It’s not going backward in time by any means; quite the opposite, in fact. The “stylus” in question is digital: it comes complete with buttons on the side that enable an eraser and a highlighter. To activate the feature, there is a red touch-sensitive “Scribe” button that appears next to the row of navigation keys (menu, home, back, and search). Touch that button, and a small menu shows up in the bottom right corner of the screen that offers...

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HTC Thunderbolt to Get Gingerbread Update This Summer
Mar27

HTC Thunderbolt to Get Gingerbread Update This Summer

The HTC Thunderbolt, the very first 4G LTE handset on Verizon, was launched 10 days ago with Android 2.2 aka Froyo in tow. We have learned that HTC is beginning to get the word out that we should expect to see 2.3 Gingerbread showing up sometime in Q2, which means we’ll see the update happen by this summer. This news comes to us thanks to a helpful HTC rep who sent a disgruntled Thunderbolt user an uplifting email to let him know the encouraging news about the update. Since the HTC EVO 3D and EVO View 4G are both coming out on Sprint this summer with Gingerbread and HTC Sense UI pre-installed, it comes as no surprise that the same UI will come to the immensely popular Thunderbolt at just around the same time. Here’s the rep’s email in full: Dear John, Congratulations on obtainng the HTC Thunderbolt. We understand how important it is that your device meets your needs. John, Bluetooth manufacturers make their devices to be compatible with our phones. We do not make our phones to be compatible with the thousands of Bluetooth devices in the market. Bluetooth manufacturers conduct the testing to see if complete compatability is achievable. It is the software in the Bluetooth devices which dictates whether they work or not. Our software in the phones, ensures that the phone can pair and turn on the Bluetooth. Anything else, goes to the Bluetooth manufacturer for troubleshooting. You would need to speak with the car manufacturer to ensure that full compatibilty is achievable. The Thunderbolt does have a text to speech feature. We are excited to announce that the Thunderbolt will receive the Gingerbread (Android 2.3) update in Q2 2011. Stay tuned for details as we get closer to the update availability. New User Features UI refinements for simplicity and speed Faster, more intuitive text input One-touch word selection and copy/paste Improved power management Control over applications Internet calling Near-field communications Downloads management Enhancements for gaming Performance Native input and sensor events Open API for native audio Native graphics management Native access to Activity lifecycle, window management Native access to assets, storage Robust native development environment New forms of communication Internet telephony Near Field Communications (NFC Rich multimedia Mixable audio effects Support for new media formats Access to multiple cameras New Platform Technologies Media Framework New media framework fully replaces OpenCore, maintaining all previous codec/container support for encoding and decoding. Integrated support for the VP8 open video compression format and the WebM open container format Adds AAC encoding and AMR wideband encoding Linux Kernel Upgraded to 2.6.35 Networking SIP stack, configurable by device manufacturer...

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Report: iOS 5 Postponed Until Fall?
Mar27

Report: iOS 5 Postponed Until Fall?

Add this to the rumor list, but TechCrunch is throwing its two cents into the iPhone and iOS rumor pot. They are reporting that the next-generation version of iOS will not be coming out this summer as originally assumed, but is being pushed back to sometime in the fall for release. If this is the case, expect iOS 5.0 to be unveiled at WWDC in June, most likely with a developer-friendly download available at that time. Naturally, if this rumor is true, that more than likely means the iPhone 5 will be pushed back until fall as well. We can’t imagine the newest iPhone coming out without the next OS version already on it, as has been the tradition every year up until now. Certainly this would correspond with previous rumors reported that mentioned the new iPhone being pushed back until this fall, so these reports are gaining strength by numbers. The new 5.0 update would be a major revamp of the OS, adding a significant amount of focus to cloud-based features, such as Music Locker and Find my Friends. These cloud features will likely be discussed in June at WWDC, integrated with OS X Lion, and heavily used on all iOS devices — the list of which may include a new type of iPad expected to come out in September as well, according to TechCrunch. The MobileMe event originally planned for April will probably not happen now, but get pushed back to the June event instead. This is still a rumor and has not been confirmed officially by Apple. Source: TechCrunch...

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The Worst of CTIA Spring 2011: 4 Losers Below the Rest
Mar26

The Worst of CTIA Spring 2011: 4 Losers Below the Rest

Earlier I covered the best of CTIA Wireless Spring 2011, and where there are winners, there must be losers. Today let’s discuss the companies that definitely did not bring their A-game to this week’s show. 1. AT&T/T-Mobile Merger This was the big elephant in the room for the entire show, so let’s get it out of the way: the talk of AT&T acquiring T-Mobile in a $39 billion deal began on Sunday and didn’t let up for the entire show, the buzz overshadowing any other significant announcements that were made this week. Everybody was talking about it, because everybody had an opinion — and most opinions were geared toward the negative. Heck, even Dan Hesse, CEO of Sprint got in on the quotable comments, saying the deal would “stifle innovation”, his company pledging to fight the merger to the bitter end by submitting its concerns to Congress. Some in the industry may argue that this merger actually belongs in the “Best of” article, and I’m not trying to persuade them otherwise. However, the buzz about this deal took the wind out of the sails of every other product announced at this show. Including some products going directly to AT&T, as it would seem. Though the company was in everyone’s conversations the whole week, the company itself did not demand much of a presence at this year’s CTIA. While AT&T announced the upcoming launch of the Thrill 4G, HTC HD7S and Acer Iconia A501 Honeycomb tablet, only the HTC HD7S was available for pictures. They put on a meet-and-greet with the press where the Thrill 4G and Iconia were supposed to be shown off, but instead we saw an unbranded LG Optimus 3D seen at MWC and a Froyo-powered Iconia A500 tablet that debuted at CES. 2. Motorola Talk about a turnaround — Motorola was arguably the best of show at CES in January and also put on a very strong showing at MWC, but they had absolutely zero new products to show off this week at CTIA, even though they had a pretty nice booth set up. The Motorola Xoom, Atrix 4G and laptop dock were on display, and even a DROID Pro for good measure, but little else. Motorola could be considered one of the casualties of a crammed schedule during the first 3 months of the year, with 3 trade shows happening during that time. Motorola had enough groundbreaking new stuff to bring with it to the first 2 shows, but appeared to run out of gas after MWC. 3. Verizon LTE I went to CTIA eager to test out the brand-new, still-in-diapers Verizon LTE network. I...

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Solar-Powered Screens May Soon Charge our Phones
Mar26

Solar-Powered Screens May Soon Charge our Phones

Until this week, French startup Wysips was not well known to the general public. They sure made their mark at this year’s CTIA Spring show by showing up to one of the show’s big press events with a very intriguing prototype in hand. Wysips has found a way to shrink a solar panel into a light transparent film that is applied onto the screen of your phone. The idea of this film is to capture energy from either the sun or a nearby light source (such as a lamp), convert that energy into power, and make it so your phone does not even require a large battery. A battery would still be required because the solar power just simply would not be enough to power a fully-functional smartphone. The power coming from light would be equivalent to a trickle-charge; directly in the sunlight it would take 6 hours to completely charge a regular battery, and indoors it would take even longer than that. However, the hope is that these solar-powered screens would make it possible to limit the bulkiness of today’s batteries, and improve their efficiency. Imagine how much thinner phones could be if the thickness of the battery could be trimmed down. This particular film is superthin at less than 100 microns, transparent, and flexible. It won’t affect the sensitivity required to touch your screen so you can still use the touchscreen as normal. Wysips is currently working to woo OEMs, phone carriers, and mobile display companies and is confident that this technology will be ready to ship and/or integrate with phones and tablets within the next 12 months. It will be a race to see if they can beat the AT&T/T-Mobile merger! This concept, if accepted and integrated into phones, could significantly reduce the thickness of phones and tablets; it can also help bring down manufacturing costs by trimming the battery, and we hope that any cost savings with this would bring down product pricing. Cheers to Wysips and we hope to see this come down the pipeline very soon. via Laptop...

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The Best of CTIA Spring 2011: 5 Winners Above the Rest
Mar25

The Best of CTIA Spring 2011: 5 Winners Above the Rest

As another CTIA Wireless comes to a close, we pause not only to rest and relax from walking 20 miles in 2 days, but also to reflect on the things our hands played with and our eyes beheld. In retrospect, there were very few big surprises we weren’t expecting to see; most of the big phones, tablets, and other products/services were all leaked ahead of the show. But that doesn’t mean we were any more or less impressed with the aforementioned items than we would have been if no leaks had occurred. So what new things at the show captured our hearts and minds? Keep reading on for a list of the big winners of this Spring’s CTIA Wireless. 1. Sprint True to everyone’s expectations, Sprint was a powerhouse this week. After Sunday’s news that AT&T is planning to acquire T-Mobile, Sprint had to work a little harder than planned to be the most buzzed-about part of the show. The EVO 3D and EVO View 4G were definitely on the schedule and the most anticipated announcement of CTIA, but Sprint didn’t stop there. The Nexus S 4G was announced, the Blackberry Playbook will be getting WiMax built in, and Sprint’s integration of Google Voice may be the single most significant announcement at the show (besides the merger, of course) because of its importance to how it will shape the future of the mobile industry. And finally, Sprint CEO Dan Hesse was the hero of the show, leading off Tuesday morning’s CEO keynote address with a Chuck Norris-style roundhouse kick to AT&T’s and Verizon’s face, firing off the best one-liners against his competitors. But he didn’t stop there. Hesse made more quips at the EVO press event later that day, referring to his 4G competition as “faux G”. Hesse clearly was the most outspoken person at the conference, and we appreciate the fact that he did not try to hide his feelings and opinions, or beat around the bush on the major issues. 2. T-Mobile Talks of being acquired didn’t stop T-Mobile from releasing an onslaught of devices and services. You couldn’t tell just by stopping by their booth at the show since it was rather small and unimpressive, but several press announcements and releases came from T-Mobile this week that confirm that the fourth largest wireless carrier isn’t rolling over and playing dead yet. This week T-Mobile launched the LG G2X, the company’s first dual-core phone; the G-Slate Honeycomb tablet, their first Android 3.0 tablet and first device with 3D capabilities; the Sidekick 4G, the first Sidekick running on Android; the affordable Nokia Astound; its very first MiFi hotspot,...

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Kyocera Releases Developer Kit for Echo’s Dual-Touchscreen Tablet
Mar24

Kyocera Releases Developer Kit for Echo’s Dual-Touchscreen Tablet

In my earlier post about the dual-touchscreen nature of the Kyocera Echo, I mentioned that the opportunity was strong for developers interested in taking advantage of both screens. I think it could be very innovative to see what developers can come up with, and see how it can benefit our lives. Fortunately, yesterday Kyocera formally announced immediate availability of its developers kit so you will able to do just what I hoped it would be used for. Just check the link above to get to the right website. I’m glad to see the developers kit launched a few weeks prior to launch, to give some devs enough time to write some good quality games and other apps. Here’s the video I shot of the Echo and its dual-touchscreen capabilities.   Full press release below: Kyocera Launches Android Developer Program, Attracts Leading Application Developers to Support the New Dual-Touchscreen Kyocera Echo Smartphone First Dual-Touchscreen Smartphone to Debut at Sprint on April 17 with Optimized Applications Available from Industry Leaders Including EA, Gameloft, Namco Bandai, MobiTV, Jibe Mobile, Telenav and More CTIA WIRELESS 2011 ORLANDO, Fla.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Kyocera Communications Inc. today announced the formal launch of the Kyocera Android Developer Program at the CTIA Wireless 2011 trade show. The announcement follows last month’s introduction of the Kyocera Echo™, the first dual-touchscreen smartphone, which will launch exclusively at Sprint (NYSE:S) on April 17. The Developer Program, hosted at www.echobykyocera.com/developers, includes a software development kit (SDK) and additional materials to support the creation of Android™ applications optimized for Echo’s dual-touchscreen platform. “Kyocera Echo’s unique design gives third-party developers a new opportunity to enhance and showcase the full functionality of their applications, without being restricted by screen space.” Kyocera already has received strong support from many well-known members of the Android developer community. The developers are creating and/or optimizing applications and features spanning across multiple popular categories including gaming, social networking, location-based services (LBS), mobile entertainment and productivity. * Gaming – Kyocera Echo’s dual touchscreens are ideally suited for action-packed mobile gaming. Game play can span the top 3.5-inch display with controls accessible through the bottom display or a game can expand over both displays in “Tablet Mode” for double the fun. Kyocera is working with some of the industry’s most popular companies to create unique gaming experiences, including: o The Sims™ 3 from Electronic Arts: Bringing the worldwide popularity of The Sims™ franchise to the Kyocera Echo gives consumers instant access to the award-winning The Sims 3 from Electronic Arts. The Sims 3 is preloaded on the Kyocera Echo allowing players to bring their Sim instantly to life with a customized personality that can...

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AT&T Acknowledges Amazon Appstore Obstacle, Working on Clearing it
Mar24

AT&T Acknowledges Amazon Appstore Obstacle, Working on Clearing it

Are you an Android user on AT&T’s network? Have you been upset or at least a little perturbed that you haven’t been able to download Angry Birds Rio onto your phone because it’s technically third-party software that cannot be downloaded or installed on your phone? We had a hunch that AT&T would begin looking into getting rid of this block as soon as the Amazon Appstore proved popular enough, and it turns out we were right. AT&T appears to be focused on a solution, and has just come out with a sign-up page that will keep you posted on any updates regarding the Amazon Appstore situation. On the official site AT&T says: AT&T is working on allowing purchases and downloads from the Amazon Appstore for Android in the near future. Please select your AT&T Android smartphone from the list below and provide your email address so we can notify you after we have finalized our plans to bring the Amazon Appstore for Android to AT&T customers. If it does happen, it most likely means this would come as an update to your Android phone. But will it come to every Android phone AT&T has sold, or only the latest and greatest Androids? We’re very happy about this news, and hope that this opportunity will come soon rather than later. Go to AT&T’s official sign-up...

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