Saturday, December 31, 2011

Watch 2012 ring in via Live Streaming on Android, iOS and Web

If you can't be in Time Square in New York City to watch the ball drop as 2012 is rung in, there's always TV. However, if you can't get to a TV, what can you do? In this age of mobile broadband, it's easy: watch a webcast of the festivities.

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There are several of them available, but naturally, the caveat is that if you want to watch on an iOS-powered device like an iPhone or iPad, if the webcast is in Flash, you're out of luck (unless you use SkyFire).

Among the possibilities for viewing are:

The Official Times Square Ball Drop app:

The official app from TimesSquare.org. It comes in iOS and Android flavors. Yep, it includes live streaming.

MSNBC:

LiveStream.com:


Happy New Year, and start celebrating, but do so safely, perhaps with the aid of Webroot's Holiday Party Sobriety Test app.



Protect yourself from yourself on New Year's Eve with the Webroot Holiday Party Sobriety Test app

Just in time for New Year's Eve, security firm Webroot has unleashed its Holiday Party Sobriety Test app for both Android and iOS. It's intended to protect New Year's revelers from themselves.

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The app takes end users through a series of coordination and cognition tests on their smartphones or tablets. Finish with too low a score, and the app will warn you, and also give you the results of a query for nearby cab companies, using your phone's GPS functionality.

The Holiday Party Sobriety Test apps are Webroot's mobile "protection system." Last year, the company introduced its Social Media Sobriety Test, which is still available. It's a browser plug-in that helps prevent "PUI" or posting-under-the-influence, keeping users from posting embarrassing information on sites such as Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, etc. etc.

Users can also customize specific URLs to block, such as their Webmail of choice (Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo! Mail, etc.). To access these sites, users must pass one of a variety of randomly selected sobriety tests such as "type the alphabet backwards," "drag your mouse in a straight line," or "follow the finger." The Social Media Sobriety Test is compatible with Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Safari.

Webroot is a security firm that provides mobile and desktop security solutions. Earlier this year, it released a completely revamped cloud-based Windows security solution, using technology from their acquisition of Prevx. The company also released both Android and iOS security apps this year.



Amazon Appstore's free app of the day, 12/31/2011: Mahjong Solitaire

Amazon.com has promised to make a paid app free every day in the Amazon Appstore, and today's app is Mahjong Solitaire.


Mahjong Solitaire doesn't exist in the Android Market. It is normally priced at $0.99 in the Amazon Appstore. As we've noted previously, prices sometimes differ between the two marketplaces.

Mahjong Solitaire is described as follows:
Immerse yourself in the classic puzzle game of Mahjong Solitaire. Challenge yourself to clear the board as fast as possible and see if you can resist the addictive lure to play again and again.

Mahjong Matching Madness

Mahjong Solitaire is a matching game played with 144 Mahjong tiles arranged in layered patterns. Mahjong Solitaire – Classic Mahjong Strategy Puzzle Game includes more than 20 levels of complexity and five levels of difficulty: Easy, Medium, Hard, Crazy, and Insane.

Your goal is to clear all the tiles from the board as quickly as possible. To clear tiles, tap the first tile in the pair you want to remove and then tap the second tile. If the pair is a match, it will be cleared from the board. Only tiles that are not covered by other tiles and are free on either side can be cleared. Each successful match awards you 25 points. You can see your score, time, and moves left as you play.

Shuffles, Undos, and Stars

If no matching pairs are available, the board is automatically shuffled. If you make a mistake, simply tap the Undo button. Every shuffle and every undo will lower your score by 50 points.

In Career mode, try to get three stars by completing boards quickly and without using any shuffles or undos. The faster you clear a board, the more likely you are to be awarded the coveted three stars.

Wild Tiles: Seasons and Flowers

Season and flower tiles (four each) are unique in that they do not require an exact match; rather, they can be matched with any other tile of their same type. In other words, season tiles can be matched with season tiles and flower tiles with flower tiles. You can see what these tiles look like in the app's Help section.

Mahjong Solitaire – Classic Mahjong Strategy Puzzle Game provides hours of challenging entertainment for the whole family.
Mahjong Solitaire has a rating of 2.7 stars in the Amazon Appstore.

It's strange that Mahjong Solitaire isn't available in the Android Market (notably, there are other similarly named games, but not by developer Toy Studio --- the full name of this app in the Amazon Appstore is Mahjong Solitaire - Classic Mahjong Strategy Puzzle Game). It is in Barnes and Noble's market for the Nook, after all.

The majority of negative ratings are due to "permissions paranoia," but in this case we have to wonder ourselves. The app wants to start at boot, and we'd wonder why a game would need to do that.

Those who are considering "buying" a Free Amazon Appstore app might want to consider what it means to developers.

Amazon.com opened up the Appstore despite a lawsuit by Apple, which has previously trademarked the term "App Store." Microsoft has filed an appeal against that trademark, saying the term is too generic. Amazon.com has responded to the lawsuit in the same manner.




Amazon.com sells over a million Kindle family devices weekly in December

Amazon.com isn't one to give full, detailed information on sales (for example, it has never detailed Kindle sales figures before), so take this while it's hot. Amazon.com has released data on its 2011 holiday Kindle sales season.

The data isn't as detailed as you might receive from Apple, but it's enough to give people a sense for how well the Kindle family, which includes Kindles as well as the Kindle Fire, did this holiday shopping season.




Among the info dished by Amazon.com:
  • During December, more than one million Kindle devices (of all types, Kindle Fire, Kindle Touch, Kindle) were sold weekly.
  • The top three spots on Amazon.com's best seller charts were occupied by the Kindle Family: No. 1: Kindle Fire, No. 2: Kindle Touch, No. 3: Kindle.
  • Since its introduction, Amazon.com's Android tablet, the Kindle Fire, isn't just the best-selling product across Amazon.com's inventory, it's also the most gifted, and most wished for product.
  • The Kindle Fire was also the top selling product on Amazon.com's U.K., French, Spanish and Italian sites. It was also the best selling product on Amazon’s mobile site.
  • Gifting of Kindle e-books was up 175 percent during the period between Black Friday 2011 and Christmas Day 2011, year-over-year.
Some less statistical, but fun facts:
  • Amazon customers purchased enough copies of Walter Isaacson’s “Steve Jobs” book to create a stack taller than Mt. Everest.
  • The cumulative weight of the Bowflex 552 Adjustable Dumbbells purchased by Amazon customers would outweigh more than 70 adult elephants.
  • If you unfolded and stacked each pair of jeans purchased by Amazon customers this holiday, the height would be 2,500 times taller than the Statue of Liberty.
  • Amazon customers purchased enough sweaters to outfit each of Santa’s reindeer during Christmas Eve deliveries for the next 14,000 years.
  • Amazon customers purchased enough copies of Just Dance 3 to give 15 copies to each person who participated in setting the world record for simultaneous dancing.
  • Amazon customers purchased enough HeatMax HotHands Handwarmers to give a pair to each resident of Iceland.
  • Amazon customers purchased enough Rory’s Story Cubes to give a cube to each person watching the New Year’s Eve ball drop live at Times Square.
It appears that it was a great holiday season for Amazon.com, and we'll see how their bottom line reacts to it when they reveal their next quarterly results.



As letter that resulted in Mark Hurd's firing unsealed, details of harassment emerge

The letter that ended up getting then-HP CEO Mark Hurd fired has been made public, after Hurd's lawyers failed to convince a court that the letter should remain confidential. The court instead ruled that disclosing it would not violate California's privacy rights, because information that is only "mildly embarrassing" is not protected from public disclosure.


Mark Hurd resigned as HP's CEO and president in August of 2010 after being accused of sexual harassment by contractor Jodie Fisher. Not only did he received a severance package of $12.2 million from the company, he parachuted safely: Hurd is now working for HP's rival Oracle as one of its co-presidents.

The letter, from Fisher's high-profile attorney Gloria Allred was obtained by media outlets as soon as the ruling releasing it came down. It was addressed directly to Mark Hurd from Allred and dated June 24, 2010.

According to Allred's letter:
  • Mark Hurd's infatuation with Fisher began when he saw her on the NBC reality TV show "Age of Love."
  • Allred was quite clear, stating that Hurd had designs on Fisher from the start, intending to make her one of his female companions.
  • Fisher was taken aback by early meetings with Hurd, which she said felt more like dates than a dinner meeting.
  • Hurd intimated that he had at least one woman in New York and another in San Francisco who regularly spent time with him, during his travels. [Hurd was, of course, married with two daughters.]
  • The letter details overtures Mark Hurd made to Jodie Fisher in 2007 in which he said, while at the Ritz Carlton, "So, you'll stay the night, right? You'll stay?," intimating, of course, that Fisher sleep with Hurd that evening.
  • Hurd told Fisher that many women found him desirable, including, he said, singer Sheryl Crow.
  • At another event, this one in February of 2008 at Rancho Bernardo, CA, Hurd went to Fisher's room with her and tried to stay, but she made excuses to force him to leave.
  • Mark Hurd once stopped at an ATM in order to show Fisher that his checking account balance was in excess of a million dollars, in order to impress her.
  • Finally, after rejection after rejection after rejection, Mark Hurd gave up on Fisher, and gave her no further contracts. 
 In conclusion, Allred said:

Ms. Fisher has been very damaged. You treated her as a sex object, hand-picking her from a TV show, expecting sexual favors in return for giving her work. This is the most egregious type of sexual harassment and this situation is exactly what our laws are borne out of. Women should not have to "put ouC in order to keep their jobs. She refused your quid pro quo attempts at sex and has now been discarded by you and HP.

AmericanGreetings.com
Despite all this, HP's own investigation never uncovered evidence to support Fisher’s harassment claim, but it did find that Hurd filed inaccurate expense reports for his meetings with Fisher.

It's unclear if this will in any way damage Hurd's current employer, Oracle, but Ed Maguire, an analyst with Credit Agricole Securities said it was unlikely. Notably, Hurd helped grow HP's revenue to $114.6 billion from $80 billion in his time as CEO during fiscal years 2004 to 2009.

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HP's stock has declined 44 percent since Hurd left, it's discarded replacement CEO No. 1 (Leo Apotheker), and hired Meg Whitman as their current CEO. Meanwhile, Oracle's share price has risen 12 percent since Hurd joined the company in September of 2010.

You can read Allred's letter to Mark Hurd in full, here.



'Dump GoDaddy Day' falls flat as GoDaddy now 'opposes,' rather than just 'doesn't support,' SOPA

Domain name registrar GoDaddy.com has taken a stronger stance in terms of the "Stop Internet Piracy Act," or SOPA, saying that now, it doesn't just "not support it," it opposes it. Reading between the lines makes the opposition appear very weak, though, but it seemed to work: GoDaddy.com saw a net influx of domain name registrations on Thursday, Dec. 29, which was supposed to be "Dump GoDaddy Day."

GoDaddy's latest statement is:

"'We have observed a spike in domain name transfers, which are running above normal rates and which we attribute to GoDaddy’s prior support for SOPA, which was reversed,' said Go Daddy CEO Warren Adelman. 'Go Daddy opposes SOPA because the legislation has not fulfilled its basic requirement to build a consensus among stake-holders in the technology and Internet communities. Our company regrets the loss of any of our customers, who remain our highest priority, and we hope to repair those relationships and win back their business over time.'"

So GoDaddy has gone from supporting SOPA, which critics say could eventually lead to Internet censorship, sort of a U.S. version of the Great Firewall of China, to "not supporting it" (but not being against it, either), to opposing it. Read the statement above carefully, though.

The key point is "Go Daddy opposes SOPA because the legislation has not fulfilled its basic requirement to build a consensus among stake-holders." It doesn't oppose SOPA for any reason other than that there isn't consensus. It's not because it opposes SOPA per se, which organizations like the consumer-protecting EFF do.

That fine print seems to have been missed by most. GoDaddy had a positive day, and not narrowly positive, either. It gained 20,748 more domains by the end of the day than it lost. There were nearly twice as many incoming transfers as outgoing transfers (27,843 to 14,492) and more new registrations than there were deleted domains (43,304 new registrations, 35,907 deletions).

DEAL OF THE DAY at TigerDirect
SOPA, and its companion bill in the Senate, PIPA (Protect IP Act), are "blacklist bills," legislation that would "stop" piracy by blacklisting sites "accused" of such activity. However, as the EFF says:

"After all, these bills violate the Constitution, undermine your free speech, and threaten whistleblowers and human rights. The legislators don’t understand how the bills would modify the architecture of the Internet, but they won’t listen to the opposition of the architects who designed the network itself. Frankly, these bills are so bad they can’t be fixed: Internet blacklist bills must be killed."

The House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to take up SOPA again when it reconvenes in 2012; PIPA will be considered in the Senate in late January.



Friday, December 30, 2011

'Official' but fake: Siri for Android invades the Android Market

An "official" Siri app reached the Android Market earlier this week. Unfortunately, it was only official in that its developer is named "Official App."

Fortunately, it was booted from the Android Market just was quickly as it entered it. However, it was reportedly downloaded at least 1,000 times before it was pulled from the Market.

The app was really just a front-end. All it did was pass you on to Google's own Voice Actions app. While that app does allow you to control your Android device, it's missing a lot when compared to Siri.

The fact that this "do nothing" app made it into the Android Market shows the problem with the Android Market: since it's uncurated, just about anything can show up, including lame apps like this one, and even malware.

Meanwhile, folks who know something about Android wouldn't have expected much from this app anyway. We've said it before: the only way to clone Siri for Android --- properly --- is to incorporate the same sort of server support to be as effective as Siri (which even fans will admit is only effective about 60 percent of the time).

The only company that could REALLY do this for Android would be Google itself.

Measnwhile, there are still rumors flying about that Google is nearing such a clone, and that it is code-named Majel. When --- and if --- Majel reaches fruition remains to be seen, but we'd assume Google isn't going to let Siri go unchallenged.



RadioShack will be offering a New Year's Eve gift to those who want, but haven't yet jumped for, an AT&T iPhone 4S. The electronics retailer will be offering an instant $50 rebate for on all AT&T iPhone 4S models, while supplies last, of course.

Webroot
The promotion is only good on Saturday, Dec. 31, and only for AT&T models; with the rebate, customers can buy an AT&T iPhone 4S for $149 (16GB), $249 (32GB) or $349 (64GB). All pricing assumes a two-year service contract, naturally.

In addition, RadioShack is reminding customers that with the use of its Trade & Save program, which guarantees at least $100 to as much as $200 off with the eligible trade-in of an iPhone 3GS or iPhone 4, things could get quite cheap for those wanting Apple's newest smartphone.

Kaspersky eStore
It's also possible to save on an iPhone 4 at RadioShack. RadioShack is offering $30 instant savings, making last year's model with an 8GB storage tier $69.99 with a two-year contract (again, AT&T).

RadioShack has been running quite a few of these iPhone deals of late, but there's no guarantee it will happen again, so run, don't walk to "The Shack" on New Year's Eve.



Verizon reverses field in one day; eliminates proposed $2 payment convenience fee

Just a day after confirming it was going to be adding a $2 "convenience fee" for customers who choose to pay via the Internet or phone, Verizon Wireless has cancelled the move. The company cited negative subscriber reaction for its decision to table the measure.


Indeed, what could Verizon have been expecting? While other payment methods such as check, or autopay were exempt from the fee, it should have been clear to the nation's No. 1 wireless carrier that reaction to this would be negative. Change.org, for example, created an online petition, one that no longer needs signing, but that had already reached 65,000 signatures by noon PST Friday morning.

It's reminiscent of the earlier victory by consumers over Bank of America. In that case, BofA had planned to charge customers $5 a month for making debit card purchases, a plan that was quickly shelved after similar backlash.

It's unclear if Verizon's decision was made based solely on consumer fallout. Prior to Verizon's reversal, an FCC spokesperson said on Friday that "on behalf of American consumers, we're concerned about Verizon's actions and are looking into the matter."



Parents' Facebook images prompt arrest for child abuse

People love to post everything about their lives on Facebook and Twitter, but there is a limit to what people should --- and should not --- post. While much of that time that sort of warning applies to, say, comments that might get you into trouble or drunken images, advertising criminal activity isn't the best idea either.

Frankie Almuina, 20, and Kayla Almuina, 19, were arrested on suspicion of two counts of child abuse on Wednesday at their northern Arizona home after being alerted to the photos by an anonymous tip. The tip came from a caller who saw Facebook posts including images of the couple's children, an infant and a toddler, bound with duct tape.

The children were a 2-year-old toddler and a 10-month-old infant. Not only were they bound with duct tape on their wrists and ankles, their mouths were taped shut, and one of the children was shown hanging upside down on an exercise machine.

Commander Rex Gilliland said, that the parents told authorities that the images, which were posted to Kayla Almuina's Facebook account, were meant as a joke and that the children were not harmed.

Unsurprisingly, the Facebook images are gone (or at least hidden by privacy controls). Surprisingly, the account is still there.

While the Almuina's claim the posts to be made in jest, it's hard to align that with images of children being duct-taped and hung upside down. Gilliland added "It's clear in our minds that these children were placed in a very extreme situation. By the look on their faces, they were in sheer terror. I don't know how this could have been a joke."

Investigators seized about a dozen similar photos from the couple's home north of Williams, Arizona, about 175 miles north of Phoenix. At least some of those images were not posted online.

As of late Thursday, the couple was still being held in a county jail. The children have been turned over to another family member, authorities said.



Amazon Appstore's free app of the day, 12/30/2011: Warp Dash

Amazon.com has promised to make a paid app free every day in the Amazon Appstore, and today's app is Warp Dash.

Warp Dash doesn't exist in the Android Market, but it's easy to explain for once: it is launching exclusively on the Amazon Appstore, which means it will be available for two weeks only on that Android marketplace. It is normally priced at $1.99 in the Amazon Appstore. As we've noted previously, prices sometimes differ between the two marketplaces.

Warp Dash is described as follows:
Speed into the future with Warp Dash, a challenging arcade endurance racer game for Android. Once you enter the super-cool landscape of Warp Dash, you won't want to leave. Power up your navigation skills and see how long you can survive.

Mission Gameplay

Select your ship and tune into the techno-dubstep soundtrack to get psyched for your mission. Tilt your device and grab as many triangles as possible to earn points and speed. Multiply your score with warp jumps. Be careful to avoid the obstacles - if you don't, your ship will disappear in a blaze of fire.

No Boundaries

Race through a never-ending game grid that is limited only by your gaming skills. Navigate an always-changing environment; no two racing experiences will ever be the same. Unlock Beginner, Intermediate, and Expert leagues for faster play, more points, and bigger air as you defy a relentless onslaught of obstacles.

Achievements and Leaderboards

After each run, you can see how long you played, how many triangles you delivered, the number of jumps you made, your top speed, and more. Try for achievements like double jumps and aim for the top of the leaderboards. Collect and deploy powerful boosters to become the grand champion, including Phase, Slowdown, Radar, Shrink, and Score boost.
Warp Dash has a rating of 3.8 stars in the Amazon Appstore.

Interesting gameplay: you tilt the associated device to steer. We prefer to buy only apps that rate at least 4.0, but since this is "free," and also a launch, we'd give it a shot. After all it can only (we assume) get better.

Earlier this month, another game by the same developer, Night of the Living Dead Defense, was another Amazon Appstore FAOTD.

Those who are considering "buying" a Free Amazon Appstore app might want to consider what it means to developers.

Amazon.com opened up the Appstore despite a lawsuit by Apple, which has previously trademarked the term "App Store." Microsoft has filed an appeal against that trademark, saying the term is too generic. Amazon.com has responded to the lawsuit in the same manner.




Don't look for two, or even one iPad 3s to be intro'ed at iWorld or CES

Apple is rumored to be launching two --- not one --- new model of iPad in January, but although there is much in the report that seems "reasonable" there is also quite a bit that seems questionable.

DigiTimes, which sources its information from the upstream supply chain, said that Apple is set to unveil its next-generation iPad at iWorld, which is scheduled for January 26, 2012. Not only that, Apple will unveil two new models, not one, and keep the iPad 2 around as a lower-cost option, much as the company has done with the prior generation iPhone when it unveils a new model.

According to the report, the iPad 2 will compete with the Kindle Fire in the low-end market. The two new iPads, which we assume will be called iPad 3s, will continue with the same 9.7-inch screen as before, but come with double the resolution of prior iPads (2048 x 1536), allowing Apple to claim a "retina display." Dual-LED light bars will light the screen, for beter brightness.

The new iPad 3s will also sport high-capacity batteries offering about twice the mAh as current ones.

The report continues: Samsung will continue to be Apple's processor supplier, manufacturing the new quad-core A6 SoCs. The only differentiating factor between the mid-range iPad 3 and the high-end model that the report listed was a 5MP rear-facing camera on the mid-range, and an 8MP camera on the high-end.

There are a number of things in the report which ring true, and some which have even been rumored previously: the A6 processor, the dual-LED light bars, the higher resolution. It's been suggested that Apple keep the iPad 2 around when the iPad 3 arrives, for just the reason given in the report: to compete with lower end models like the Kindle Fire, though it would be hard to see how Apple could reduce the price from $499 to $199 for the iPad 2, even if it cut internal storage to 8GB.

Amazon.com is fine with losing money on the Kindle Fire, as it's not just a device for the Internet retailer to sell; it's an introductory portal to the Amazon.com website and to Kindle e-books.

So, all that seems reasonable.

What seems more questionable is Apple continuing to use Samsung as a SoC manufacturer. It's no secret that Apple has made moves to divest itself of dependence on Samsung for key components; one need only look at the legal battles between the two to see why. Reports are also that TSMC has already initiated trial production runs of the A6 SoC.

Second, iWorld is the renamed MacWorld. Since Apple decided to leave that trade show after the 2008 show, does it make sense that it would go back in 2012? Not really. Apple said then that in the New World Order that is journalists falling over themselves for any Apple press conference, there was no need for it to leverage someone else's trade show (which includes CES as well as MacWorld / iWorld).

Admittedly, the report may be leaving out a lot, but the only list differentiating factor would seem to be the camera resolution. It would actually make more sense to have a mid-range model in the 8-inch range. Apple also hasn't been exactly worried about the iPad's cameras; not only was the first model launched sans cameras, the iPad 2 has cameras which were highly criticized for their lack of oomph.

So it's unclear that Apple cares enough about sheer MP to even bother with a 5MP and 8MP camera in the device. After all, the iPad models have sold less on specs, and more on what they can do, which is the magic of Apple marketing: focusing on what consumers understand instead of specs they don't, as Android ads tend to do.

Finally, January seems a little early. Most rumors, and there have been plenty already, have pointed to a February launch as more likely.

So, iWorld will be Apple-less again, and so will CES, and no, we won't be seeing an iPad 3 there, and certainly not two. An iPad 3 launch in February and release in March, right on track for the one year refresh? Now that seems very plausible.



Big Red to add $2 fee for online, phone payments: Verizon autopay anyone?

One would assume it's a lot easier and cost-effective for someone to pay their bill over the Internet --- both for the payee and the payer. Apparently that's not enough for Big Red (Verizon), as starting on January 15, you'll be charged a $2 fee for paying over the Web or via phone.

To be clear, it doesn't apply to those who pay using a monthly autopay option (credit card / debit card / ACH transfer / e-check). Most folks tend to opt-into these setups nowadays, but it still seems egregious to charge for something that really requires little more than a click on a Web site or an automated phone call.

In addition to the autopay exception, those using Verizon Wireless gift cards or Verizon Wireless device rebate cards, as well as customers using standard paper check or money orders made payable to Verizon Wireless will also not be charged the $2 fee.

Those attempting to make a one-time payment online or over the phone will be notified of the fee before the transaction is complete.

Information regarding the fee was leaked via internal documents, but it was easy enough to confirm via a quick call to Verizon customer service, as well.

Why add such a fee when there are so many ways "around it?" We'd guess that's the point. Most people are probably using autopay or regular old checks and snail mail to pay their bills. It's possible that the company that clears the payments for Verizon is charging enough for these rather limited number of online and phone payments that Verizon believes it's starting to affect the bottom line.

SmartBargains.com
On the other hand, it's hard to understand how it would affect the bottom line enough to make that much of a difference, but remember: this is a corporation, and by law it has to maximize profits for its shareholders. It's also true that for stocks nowadays, if your company isn't showing more than just profits, but increasing profits and revenue, and beating the Street, too, you're bound to see the stock drop.

Verizon hasn't officially given a detailed reason for the fee, yet.  However, the documents do say that Verizon needs to take this step to "balance the support costs" of providing the online and phone payment options.



Thursday, December 29, 2011

Samsung retains top spot among U.S. handset manufacturers for quarter ended Nov. '11

It's that time of the quarter again, and comScore has released its latest numbers for the U.S. mobile market. These are the average for the three month period ending with November, so we don't see numbers that include the Samsung Galaxy Nexus (shown, the first Ice Cream Sandwich device), but we do see numbers for half a quarter's worth of iPhone 4S sales (Apple's latest smartphone was released on Oct. 14, 2011).

Over 30,000 U.S. mobile subscribers were surveyed, and Samsung was still the top handset manufacturer overall with 25.6 percent market share. It saw its market share grow, but up only 0.3 percent from the quarter ending in August. In May, Samsung had 24.8 percent of the U.S. mobile market (which includes both smartphones and non-smartphones).

Of the other manufacturers in the top 5, LG (No. 2), Motorola (No. 3) and RIM (No. 5) all saw percentage market share drops of 0.5 (to 20.5 percent), 0.3 (to 13.7 percent) and 0.6 (to 6.5 percent), respectively. Apple (No. 4) joined Samsung in seeing its market share rise, from 9.8 percent in the quarter ended in August to 11.2 percent.

In terms of smartphone platforms, Android continued to rise. It now owns 46.9 percent market share among smartphone platforms, up from 43.7 percent in the quarter ending in August. iOS also rose, from 27.3 percent to 28.7 percent.

Meanwhile, the other three smartphone platforms all saw drops. RIM dropped from 19.7 percent to 16.6 percent, Microsoft dropped from 5.7 percent to 5.2 percent, and Symbian dropped from 1.8 percent to 1.5 percent.

It has to be disappointing to Microsoft to see it's platform market share continue to drop. Even with Nokia in the fold for Windows Phone, the Redmond, Wa. based company may not see much improvement in the U.S.; Nokia has always had with getting U.S. carrier support for its handsets.

Symptomatic of that, perhaps, are Nokia's Lumia Windows Phone handsets, which are still missing-in-action from the U.S. market.

In addition to missing out on any sales of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus and Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0), the report does not include the huge activation numbers for Christmas Day, which Flurry Analytics said hit 6.8 million devices, across Android and iOS.

We don't know how the activations were split, but we have an idea. However, it's just a guesstimate, and the Flurry data is global, not U.S.-only, as well. We'll have to wait for the next comScore report to see if that huge day affected market share at all.



HTC delivers its promised bootloader unlocking tool

HTC has delivered on its earlier promise. It's delivered unlocked bootloaders, or at least a tool that will unlock the bootloaders on all HTC devices that were released after September of 2011.

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The company added that it continues to work on making the bootloader unlock tool work on earlier devices.

On its HTCDev site, the bootloader unlocking tool now works on devices (it was there, but didn't previously), and HTC said the following devices / carriers / ROM versions were currently supported.

Amaze 4G (Mobilicity) ALL
Amaze 4G (T-Mobile) ALL
Amaze 4G (WIND) ALL
EVO 3D (EMEA) 1.20.401.2
EVO 3D (Rogers) 1.20.631.2
EVO 3D (Sprint) 2.08.651.2
EVO 4G+ (Korea Telecom) 1.47.1010.4
EVO Design (Sprint) ALL
EVO View 4G (Sprint) 2.23.651.1
Flyer (Brightstar) 2.27.1540.31_R
Flyer (TUR Wi-Fi) 2.27.1127.31
Flyer (TUR) 2.27.468.1
Flyer (WWE Wi-Fi) 2.27.1114.31
Flyer (WWE) 2.23.405.3_R
myTouch 4G Slide (T-Mobile US) 1.55.531.3
S710d (China Telecom) 3.06.1401.0
Sensation (Arabic) 1.45.415.4
Sensation (Bouygues FRA) 1.45.483.1
Sensation (EU) 1.45.401.2
Sensation (SKT Korea) 1.45.911.2
Sensation (TUR) 1.45.468.1
Sensation (Vodafone) 1.45.16x.1
Sensation 4G (T-Mobile US) 1.45.531.1

[It's also said the Rezound can be bootloader unlocked, at least for now.]

Unlocking the bootloader enables the abiliy to flash custom ROMs on the device. Other than that sort of thing, there really isn't a good reason to unlock your bootloader, esp. when your read the list of caveats. In other words, a "typical" user probably wouldn't want to unlock their bootloader.

The list of caveats is quite daunting:

a) As it had said before, HTCDev listed a number of possible issues that users needed to remember, including the possibility that unlocking the bootloader could eliminate the ability of an owner to apply for a warranty claim.

b) HTC said that unlocking the bootloader will change the software load on the device, with possible unexpected side effects. HTC warned that in the worst case scenario, it is possible that the device may be physically damaged due to overheating. It is also possible that the behavior of the device may be altered including, but not limited to, hearing aid compatibility (HAC) and specific absorption rate (SAR) values.

c) Some content on your device may be invalidated and be inaccessible due to invalid DRM security keys. This includes content that an end user may have bought from a 3rd party vendor, as well as through HTC.

d) You will still be able to receive updates to your device OTA ("over the air"), but HTC will not guarantee that updating your device via FOTA will not render your device unusable.  Yep, you're taking a big chance (or at least, HTC is executing a CYA maneuver).

e) Once unlocked, you won't be able to return your device to its original, locked state. HTC said it bears no responsibility if your device is no longer usable afterwards.

Note that unlocking your bootloader is NOT the same as SIM unlocking the device. Frankly, if you didn't already know that, you probably shouldn't be trying this.

To be honest, it's great that HTC is doing this (are you listening, Motorola), but it's clear from all their T&Cs that the consumer is taking a chance by unlocking their bootloader. Once again, the typical consumer shouldn't pursue this.

If you want a custom ROM, have at it.



NASCAR driver Kasey Kahne becomes the latest ensnared by Tweet-in-Mouth disease

NASCAR driver Kasey Kahne, who finished fourth overall in points this season, has become the latest celebrity to become ill with foot-in-mouth disease, or rather, Tweet-in-mouth disease. A Tweet that he posted on Tuesday about a breastfeeding mother as well as a later Tweet calling a Twitter user a "b*tch" has the driver putting his Twitter account into full reverse.

Kasey Kahne was taken not happy to see a mother breastfeeding while he was grocery shopping. He Tweeted, in separate posts:

“Just walking through supermarket. See a mom breastfeeding little kid. Took second look because I was obviously seeing things. I wasn’t!

"One boob put away one boob hanging!!! #nasty

"I don’t feel like shopping any more or eating.”

That was just the start of Kasey Kahne Tweet-in-mouth issue. Kahne was taken to task by Twitter user @KnittingRad, whose profile describes her as a mother of three, caffeine junkie, knitter, liberal, and a feminist, who said, "I hope someday you have a kid and someone tells your wife that feeding your child looks nasty."

Kahne replied to that, "And your a dumb b*tch."

In case you're looking for these Tweet, they appear to be (wisely) deleted by Kahne. All this Tweeting apparently got Kahne in trouble with a sponsor, Great Clips, who apologized for Kahne to blasting @KnittingRad and @BridgetCusick, saying "Our apologies for this. Please know that response was uncalled for & does not reflect our organization." We have reached out to Great Clips for more comments.

Later, possibly prompted by his sponsor and PR firm, Kasey Kahne took to both Twitter and Facebook to apologize. On Facebook, he said (in part),

"I understand that my comments regarding breastfeeding posted on Twitter were offensive to some people. For that, I apologize. It was in no way my intention to offend any mother who chooses to breastfeed her child, or, for that matter, anyone who supports breast feeding children. I want to make that clear."

No, he did not mean to offend any mother who chooses to breastfeed. Funny how that entire post seems like it was written by a PR firm (because it was, obviously). In addition, nowhere in that FB post does Kahne mention the two women he harangued, so it seems that while he didn't mean to offend any breastfeeding mothers, he certainly meant to offend the women he called "b*tch" on Twitter.

We will note Kasey Kahne reached out to @KnittingRad on Twitter to apologize, but it seems hollow. It's hard to defend calling someone "b*tch." We also did not see any Tweets on his Twitter account apologizing to @BridgetCusick.

Kasey Kahne has a strong set of supporters on the social networking site, including a number who continue to harass @KnittingRad. Some commented on his FB "apology," saying there "is a time and a place to breast feed."

It's interesting, because we would want to know how many of these people would be upset if dinner wasn't on the table when they came home? This is a baby. You don't tell it to wait until they get home. We'd also wonder how many folks, who suggested the woman take the kid into a public restroom, would like to eat lunch there?

It's another lesson: don't Tweet something without thinking. It's happened to too many people and Tweet-in-mouth disease is far too common.

It's a bumpy beginning for Kasey Kahne with his new team, Hendrick Motorsports. At Hendrick, Kahne will be part of a four-man team that includes Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr., as he takes over the spot previously occupied by Mark Martin.

In 2011, Kahne drove for Red Bull Racing, but Red Bull closed its NASCAR program following the season.



Did iOS out-activate Android during the Christmas Day activation rush?

Flurry Analytics said earlier that, combined, there were 6.8 million iOS and Android devices activated on Christmas Day alone. It didn't break that number down into platform-specific numbers, however, but it seems that there are some clues that can be extrapolated upon, coming straight from Google.

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Google's Andy Rubin (Senior Vice President of Mobile), said on Google+ that 3.7 million Android devices were activated on Christmas weekend. Now, just a few days prior, he also said that 700,000 Android devices were activated daily. Assuming there was no spike or drop on Christmas Eve, that would mean 3 million Android devices were activated on Christmas Day.

Doing the math, that would mean that 3.8 million iOS devices were activated on Christmas Day. Ouch, a win for Apple?

This is all based on "not enough information," as Flurry Analytics numbers derive from the 140,000 apps that use its analytics service. However, it's the best information we have for now, unless Apple comes forward with a press release, which it would normally have done by now if it were going to do so.




Amazon Appstore's free app of the day, 12/29/2011: Hot Donut (Paid Version)

Amazon.com has promised to make a paid app free every day in the Amazon Appstore, and today's app is Hot Donut (Paid Version).

Hot Donut (Paid Version) doesn't exist in the Android Market, but the free version does. It is normally priced at $2.99 in the Amazon Appstore. As we've noted previously, prices sometimes differ between the two marketplaces.

Hot Donut (Paid Version) is described as follows:
How hot are you, little donut? Are you sizzling hot, just warmish, or downright soggy? Find out when you roll, jump, and dash your way through four awe-inspiring worlds in the fun Android game, Hot Donut.

Meet Hot Donut

This pastry-turned-action-hero obviously means business. He's dressed for success in his purple cape, red gloves, and Superman stance. He also has large eyes meant for spying ... fireflies, which, if you're lucky enough to catch, give you extra points.

Colorful Worlds and One-Touch Controls

The fun begins in an idyllic mountain scene with plenty of hills and valleys to traverse, chasms to jump, clear skies to fly through, and shimmering fireflies to catch. Simple one-touch controls are easy to learn. Just touch anywhere on the screen to increase gravity and roll down hills; let go at the top of a hill to fly. Touch two thumbs to dash and float over those big gaps.

Hints, Power-Ups, and Gifts

Great for kids, the app also provides written hints as you play, which will save you from getting fried or otherwise spinning to your death.

You can also earn free power-ups that allow you to dash upward, float in mid-air, or get a spontaneous boost of speed. Gather gifts too and enjoy upbeat music as you play. See how many dozens of levels you can polish off and watch as your score heats up.
Hot Donut (Free Version) has a rating of 4.1 stars in the Android Market, and the Paid Version has 2.6 stars in the Amazon Appstore.

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It's hard to consolidate the two ratings between the different stores. In the Amazon Appstore, many say it's boring or buggy. But the ratings in the Android Market don't state that information.

The two versions do differ in version number ... 1.8 is in the Android Market and 1.8.9 in the Amazon Appstore. Generally, we'd attribute that to any necessary changes for the Amazon Appstore, but it's also possible bugs were introduced during the modification process.

We'd at least give it a shot based on the Android Market ratings.

Those who are considering "buying" a Free Amazon Appstore app might want to consider what it means to developers.

Amazon.com opened up the Appstore despite a lawsuit by Apple, which has previously trademarked the term "App Store." Microsoft has filed an appeal against that trademark, saying the term is too generic. Amazon.com has responded to the lawsuit in the same manner.




Galaxy S III, Galaxy S 3D headed for a Q2 2012 release?

Customers in the U.S. have just been treated to the Samsung Galaxy S II (on only three of the four carriers: Sprint, AT&T, and T-Mobile), but the Korean giant is apparently ready to unveil the Galaxy S III at Mobile World Congress in February.

The news comes from Korean website ETNews. Although the U.S. has just recently seen the Galaxy S II introduced to its shores, that would be almost exactly a year since the company launched the Galaxy S II, which became the world’s most successful Android smartphone until now.

Samsung will have high hopes for the Galaxy S III, after the continuing "win streak" of the Galaxy S and Galaxy S II devices. The III is expected to sport a quad-core processor, and perhaps even 3D technology, and once launched in February, may hit retail shelves in parts of the world in Q2.

We might hope that the U.S. wouldn't get this latest entry in the Galaxy S line so late this time. It's hard to say, though, since an early intro of the GSIII in the U.S might upset recent buyers. Time will tell, of course.

In addition, the report adds that even if the Galaxy S III doesn't get 3D, there is a 3D device on Samsung's horizon, called the Galaxy S 3D. Once again that device could launch in Q2 2012.

While unconfirmed, the timing of the introduction as given in the report make sense, since the GS2 was introduced at the same time last year. It's still just a rumor, though, but one that fans of Samsung's latest hardware will be poring over.



Facebook post proves key in rescue of kidnapped woman, toddler

Facebook was key in the rescue of a Utah woman and her 17-month-old son after a post on the social networking site attracted the attention of a good samaritan who called the authorities. After the call, police went to the home to check, rescuing her and possibly saving her life.

Police arrested Troy Reed Critchfield, 33, and charged him on Tuesday with 12 counts, including investigation of aggravated kidnapping, forcible sodomy, aggravated assault, domestic violence, child abuse, animal cruelty and a number of other charges.

As of Wednesday, Critchfield remained in jail on $1 million bail.

According to Police Sgt. Jon Arnold, the unnamed woman hid in a closet with a laptop and posted her plea for help on Facebook, saying that “I am having a serious problem, and me and (my son) will be dead by morning” if they were not rescued.

It's unclear why the woman would use Facebook to try to get help, when she could have emailed someone, or even sent a text message via email, by using the associated email address (for example, you can text a Verizon phone using phone-number@vtext.com).

The woman told police she and Critchfield had been in a relationship for three to four years. During the incident, among the events that led to his multiple charges were he strangled his girlfriend until she lost consciousness, hitting her toddler in the head, refusing to let his girlfriend feed her dog, and sodomizing the woman.

Interestingly, Critchfield had previously been jailed, but for only 120 days, in a similar incident involving the same woman. In that casen, he pleaded guilty to charges of aggravated assault and obstruction of justice, and in February he was sentenced to 120 days in jail and three years of probation.

It doesn't take a brain surgeon to see the probation has been violated, and that he will likely get a much sterner sentence this time.