Archive for August, 2008

// NTT Docomo Kinda Smart
As countless new 3G iPhones are sold and US users find themselves relying more on 2G than on intermittent 3G service, Japanese mobile communications giant, Docomo, decides to “stop accepting applications” for it’s 2G mova phone service. At least one country is operating in the right millennium. “Additionally, Docomo will stop accepting applications for its car phones by the end of November.” … Alright, well they will be in November anyways.

// Yer Mom Made This Mobile App!
Well, she could have anyways. Screen shots were released today, August 28th, of Google’s new Android App Store, er…. Market. Google is stressing the term “Market” rather than store and unlike iTunes will not require application approval to list apps. “We chose the term “market” rather than “store” because we feel that developers should have an open and unobstructed environment to make their content available.” Sounds like Google could be opening a GIANT can of worms by not offering oversight into the application listing process. Thoughts?

// Adobe Announces Mobile Beta
Mobile Beta is a Flash based mobile application allowing cell phone users to shoot, view and upload photos to their account. One point to note is that the Mobile Beta app will run “in the background” as photos upload allowing phone users to run other applications at the same time. Uploaded photos automatically sync with the Photoshop Elements 7 software, creating a seamless desktop and web experience. “The Mobile beta application is expected to be initially available on six Windows Mobile phones in the U.S. at the end of September 2008.” Oh Windows Mobile, I love how you run multiple applications. <3 LOVE <3

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Joe Pemberton

OAuth: One Step Closer to Convergence

OAuthOne of the tenets of modern convergence, or at least our version of it, is that portability of content — across sites, portable devices and applications — is paramount. The usefulness of all that personal information, user generated content and contacts can expand and create new or enhanced services when more of those services open themselves up.

Getting these services (sites) to talk nicely, and securely, to each other is where OAuth comes in. OAuth — the “open authorization” API standard — is essentially a push for the portability of digital content. The effort made headlines because a group of influential parties, Yahoo, Google, AOL, Twitter, Ma.gnolia, Citizen Agency, Wesabe, Pownce and Six Apart have signed an agreement not to sue.

The nuances get a bit technical, but ReadWriteWeb has a good primer on OAuth and a layman’s overview of today’s news.

The upshot is we’ll see more mashups (think Google Reader + Craigslist + Flickr) which is a step in the right direction for content portability across devices and services.

Joe Pemberton

iPhone UI Photoshop Template

Design company Teehan+Lax has released a robust Photoshop template to aid in the design and comping of iPhone applications. Download the template from their blog.

// Android becoming a Reality

The interwebs are abuzz this week with talk of the first Android phone to hit the market. Looks like U.S. carrier T-Mobile wins the race, with the HTC Dream approved by the FCC this week. ReadWriteWeb has the full story complete with speculated release date and features.

On the same note, Google pushed out a new release on Monday of the Android SDK Beta. This new version shows a lot of promise, with new features that start to suggest that the default state of Android can make for a viable mobile operating system. Gizmodo captured a video from the SDK emulator this week that gives an in-depth tour of the system that is definitely worth watching.

// Don’t Call it a Blackberry

The fact that people are calling it a Blackberry is only proof that the original RIM device created a category of its own. NY startup Peek is putting out a dedicated mobile device complete with QWERTY keyboard that is refreshingly focused when it comes to features. While the rest of the industry is churning out do-everything devices, Peek simply does email. Yes, you read that right. No calls, no text messaging, no App Store, not even a 2-year contract. Target will sell the device nationwide on September 14th for $99.95. It’s a big gamble. Will consumers find value in a dedicated email device? Would you?

// Talk to the Hand

Ski and snowboard glove maker Swany has developed the first hands-free cell phone ski & snowboard glove. Connected via bluetooth, incoming calls are felt by vibration in the wrist. Push a button on the back of the hand to receive the call. Voice command dialing, speak into the glove. Cool stuff, if you can swallow the $500 price tag. The question on my mind is: When will we see this technology in an everyday application?

// Worthy of Mention:

Intel is developing a technology to power your mobile devices by simply placing them on a table.

An App Store for the other 3 Billion.

Dan at MobileCommandos has got something to say to you about your mobile etiquette.

Aram Bartholl is collecting photos of jeans worn out by mobile phones.

Your future mobile device may run on Virus-Powered, Cell-Sized Batteries.

Yahoo! and Intel are turning their sights on your living room.

Let’s just go ahead and get the Apple items out of the way…

// iPhone 3G speed issues

If your ‘twice as fast’ iPhone 3G isn’t - you’re not alone. No official word from Apple yet, but a number of interesting theories out there. Wired has a pretty good rundown of the prevailing notions, including an interactive map showing upload and download speeds at different locations.

// More Mobile Video Streaming

Mobile video streaming company Flixwagon has released an app similar to Qik for 3G iPhone, but only for jailbroken devices. Here’s hoping Apple eventually opens the door for more applications like this that access currently verboten parts of the iPhone functionality - clearly developers feel there’s a demand but that’s not to say they are abandoning iPhone app development for Android….

// Android Issues

On the contrary, it appears developers increasingly favor Apple’s devices, due to flaws with Android. Apparent favoritism on Google’s part coupled with new competition from the open-sourcing of Symbian have certainly contributed to developers’ doubts about Android, but we’re not convinced this will result in much of a shift in developer priorities. We expect to see multiple players in this field for a while yet. And with clear suggestions T-Mobile will launch an Android device this year, it’s definitely too soon to write any Android epitaphs.

The rest of the news…

// iKitchen?

Miele’s showing a kitchen concept with a touchscreen on one side and a stovetop on the other. Looks intriguing but you definitely want to remember which side of the range you’re on. Take a look at this hypermodern design (and a bonus image of what looks like a phone being cooked).

// Braille Camera Concept

Unfortunately it’s just a concept for now, but this camera with 3D braille display is a really interesting idea. Not only that, but the associated research mentioned (around displays for the blind and how the blind judge distance) provides some fascinating hints at how perception and cognition may differ for those who cannot rely on sight.

// More Non-Food Uses for Corn

Samsung has introduced an ‘eco-friendly’ phone whose case is entirely made of bioplastic, and Nokia has also announced plans for ‘green’ phones as well. Another Samsung device reportedly notifies the user when it is fully charged to avoid wasting extra electricity. Clearly we still need to develop environmentally friendly materials that don’t impact the world food supply so dramatically, but this is still a step in the right direction.

// New Intel PCs Wake Up for Phone Calls

Intel just announced new PCs that can wake up from a sleep state to receive internet phone calls. Current PCs have to be fully on (thus drawing more power) in order to receive these calls. This removes a significant obstacle to computers as a viable phone communication medium.

// Fingerprint Biometrics Come to Mobile

Atrua Technologies just announced a partnership with Lenovo to bring to market the first commercial mobile phone with fingerprint technology built in. This extends a technology already used in laptops to the mobile space, but this solution uses less power, memory and processing power.

// Microsoft Provides More Information About the Sphere

Microsoft has provided a new movie of their Sphere concept, providing a bit more perspective about what the interface will do. While it’s an interesting new form for interaction, it’s not yet tied to any application so compelling it has to be made. As several commenters have pointed out, this device may get more interesting when combined with other technologies, like eye-tracking (providing full 3D for one viewer) or holographic imagery within a more transparent dome. So far - just not exciting enough for prime time.

Missy Kelley

The iPhone 3G Speed In Real Life

A side-by-side comparison of Apple’s iPhone 3G advertisement versus what the rest of us can expect.

The speed Apple portrays in this commercial is just laughable. There are only 30 seconds to show off the new features of the 3G network, but don’t they stretch reality a tad? You wouldn’t be able to match the network speed in the commercial shy of living on top of a network tower… and even then…


Idle Bites // August 8th, 2008

// Intelligent Textiles: Your Wardrobe of the Future?

Scientists at the Wearable Computer Laboratory at the University of Australia have confirmed that it is possible to embed cameras, microphones, accelerometers, and GPS units into clothing. Over the last ten years, researchers have been exploring the implications of different kinds of sensors inserted in clothing—smart clothes that repel insects and odors, garments that prevent the flu and do not require laundering, and a smart bra that can detect breast cancer early on.

// Legislators Close a Door, Delta Air Opens a Window

Amid news that a bill (aptly titled the HANG UP Act) could prohibit mobile phone use on planes, Delta has announced that it will outfit its entire domestic air fleet with Wi-Fi. Delta expects passengers will be able to get internet access on wireless-enabled laptops, PDAs, and smartphones by the middle of next year. Passengers can fly with Wi-Fi for $9.95 on flights shorter than three hours and $12.95 on longer flights. Better yet, American Airlines, Virgin America, and Jetblue to follow suit!

// IKEA Mobile Phone Service (No Assembly Required)

This week, IKEA is expanding it’s offering to shoppers in the United Kingdom with the launch of its Family Mobile phone service. Now in addition to purchasing the usual bookshelves, bureaus, and bedspreads, loyalty card customers can take advantage of a pay-as-you-go service run on the T-Mobile network.

// Is Apple Up to No Good?

Apple reportedly has the ability to remotely deactivate unauthorized iPhone applications. This is enabled through a blacklisting mechanism included in iPhone OS 2.x, according to Jonathan Zdziarski, who performed a forensic examination of iPhone 3G. According to Jonathan:

“This suggests that the iPhone calls home once in a while to find out what applications it should turn off. At the moment, no apps have been blacklisted, but by all appearances, this has been added to disable applications that the user has already downloaded and paid for, if Apple so chooses to shut them down.”

So, is this remote ability a necessary precaution to prevent malicious applications or a disturbing invasion of privacy? While Apple has not actually confirmed the intended use of this kill switch and the possibilities are merely speculative at this point, discussion boards are buzzing.

// IBM Open Sources Supercomputer Code

At this week’s Linux World Conference and Expo in San Francisco, IBM launched its first certified open-source software for supercomputers based on Linux. IBM also dropped a not so subtle hint to Microsoft by announcing it will partner with Canonical/Ubuntu, Novell, and Red Hat to develop a “Microsoft-free” PC slated for next year.

// 8 “Rich” iPhone Owners Paid for the Red Ruby Reminder

It turns out that within 24 hours of the I Am Rich iPhone app release, 8 people actually paid the $1000 to get it. The app, which is literally just a picture of a red ruby, has since been removed from the App store, but not before the developer Armin Heinrich racked in about $6000 in proceeds.

Joe Pemberton

The first cell phone commercial?

Dan Harrison

Idle Bites // August 1st, 2008

Editor’s note: Each week someone will run us through the noteworthy headlines in mobile and convergent device user experience. This week: Dan Harrison, Developer, Punchcut.

// Early termination “fees” ruled illegal in California.  But how about termination “rates”?

California Superior Court ruled against Sprint Nextel this week, making early termination fees illegal and asking Sprint to cough up millions in reimbursements to its customers.  Although similar lawsuits have taken place in other states, this the first one to make these kinds of fees illegal.  However, the big carriers have the FCC on their side: now that they all offer coverage nationwide, the FCC feels that the federal government should be making these decisions, not individual states.  To fix the problem, the carriers could reclassify these fees as “rates”, since a fee that falls under the word “rate” is subject to federal government regulation.

While the case is likely to be appealed, some argue that consumers may have to pay a lot more up-front for a new handset in the future:

“AT&T’s two-year contract is the only reason the iPhone 3G costs $199. If subsidies vanish, what happens to hardware lock-in? Could an era of expensive, but unlocked, hardware be just around the corner? It’s highly probable.”

In any case, it may turn out to become less of an issue, as most carriers have changed their termination fee policy so that the longer you maintain your contract, the less of a fee you’ll have to pay when you try to get out of it.  Maybe in the future new phones will be subsidised separately -you could pay for your phone like you buy a car: no money down, 0% interest and maybe even a cash back bonus!

// Cracks in the 3G

Hairline cracks have been showing up on the iPhone 3G as of late, and Apple seems to be telling customers that the problems are cosmetic and not covered under warranty.  This seems reasonable for iPhones that have been dropped of scuffed up, but some users are reporting that scratches are appearing mysteriously on their own.  While there’s no official word on the problem from Apple, some are speculating that the plastic fits too snugly around the metal edges of the phone, and others say that as the battery warms up inside the phone the plastic expands, leading to the mysterious marks.

// Popular iPhone game to spark adolescent romance?

The Guitar Hero-like iPhone game Tap Tap Revenge, which is ready to hit 1 million downloads any day now, has raised the interest of all kinds of people including record companies seeking to get people to tap tap to their artists.  But the CEO of Tapulous, the company who makes the game, says Tap Tap Revenge can also be the modern answer to a first date.  During a demonstration, where he was playing the game in two-player mode with the interviewer, he said,  “Look how close we are… If I were a 14-year-old boy playing with a girl I liked, this game would be the best chance to kiss her.”