Wednesday, January 30, 2013

BlackBerry comes out swinging with Z10 and Q10 smartphones

The new BlackBerry Z10 and BlackBerry Q10 smartphones were officially announced today as the company's first smartphones powered by QNX technology, which has also been used in the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet, as well as in the auto and health care industry.

The BlackBerry Z10 is the touchscreen device with a textured surface, a slight curve on the back and a 4.2-inch display. It also has a 1.5 gigahertz dual-core processor, 2 gigabytes of RAM and 16 GB of internal storage, with an expandable memory slot and micro HDMI out port. Near Field Communication, or NFC, is included to support the emerging mobile payments technology.

The BlackBerry Q10 comes with a physical QWERTY, Bold-style keyboard that has been so popular with BlackBerry fans over the years. It has the same specifications as the Z10, along with a glass-weave cover that is pitched as being stronger than plastic.

Both devices will come in white and black and have a removable battery.

BlackBerry fans will find many new features, such as the BlackBerry Hub and BlackBerry Balance. The latter allows users to balance their work and personal information.

There are 70,000 applications available, including popular apps like Skype, and Amazon Kindle. In the social media arena, Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and LinkedIn are on board.

The new BlackBerry 10 devices will be available in the U.S. on AT&T, Sprint, Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile. In statements released by AT&T and Verizon, plans to offer the BlackBerry Z10 are in place and fans can sign up to "be among the first to know when it arrives." Sprint has released plans to carry the BlackBerry Q10 later this year..

According to BlackBerry, there are around 650 carriers that are considered to be partners in the launch of the BlackBerry 10 platform.

Bell and Rogers Communications, who are both Canadian communications and media companies, announced plans to offer the new BlackBerry Z10, Rogers will offer the device on February 5 at $149.99 with select three-year plans. Bell is taking pre-orders and also will launch on Bell Mobility on February 5. Virgin Mobile Canada is also planning a February 5 launch of the BlackBerry Z10.

The carriers in the United Kingdom should see availability before everyone else, with devices ready for purchase tomorrow on all their carriers, such as O2, Vodafone, Phones 4u, BT, 3UK and the Carphone Warehouse. EE, a digital communications company in the UK, will launch the BlackBerry Z10 for £49.99 ($67.82 US) on a £41 ($55.52 US) per month on a 24 month package. Pricing for the U.S. debut of the new phones have not been set and will likely come from the individual carriers. According to BlackBerry, the Z10 will available around March.

In other surprise announcements, Research In Motion, or RIM, will be re-branded as BlackBerry. The company says it will adopt the name of its revolutionary BlackBerry smartphone to coincide with the launch of its new mobile computing platform. The company’s website,, has changed to

"From today on, we are BlackBerry everywhere in the world, " said BlackBerry President and CEO Thorsten Heins.

Heins also announced Alicia Keys as the new Global Creative Director. Keys is pitched by BlackBerry as a 14-time Grammy Award winning singer, songwriter and entrepreneur.

Heins said Keys is an original BlackBerry power user who believes in the product and will lead an array of business initiatives to drive engagement and perception of the brand.

Keys is expected to work closely with developers, carriers and entertainers to enhance the BlackBerry 10 platform.

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Monday, January 21, 2013

Nokia Lumia 822 showcases Windows Phone 8 from Microsoft

I've had another experience where a particular smartphone was just a joy to carry around. This time, it was the Nokia Lumia 822 from Verizon Wireless.

Maybe it was the live tiles of Windows Phone 8 or the seamless integration with everything Microsoft, such as Windows Live and all the features surrounding it. Whatever it was, I took a likening to the Lumia 822 and now I must say "well done" to Nokia and Microsoft.

Nokia has been around for the long term and most of us remember them as always having quality hardware. Although the Finnish crew have been making mobile phones since the early 1990s and used to be the King of cell phones, the smartphone craze from Apple's iPhone and Google's Android platform caused Nokia to fall by the wayside.

Microsoft has been around since 1975 and needed something significant and exciting in the mobile communications arena.

So these two giants teamed up in 2011 to create market-leading mobile products. Before the year was out, the Lumia 710 was announced as being the first Windows phone from Nokia in the United States, but it was running Windows Phone 7. About a year later in September, the Lumia line of devices was announced for Windows Phone 8.

The Lumia 822 is the upgraded version of the 820, which was announced in September along with the flagship Lumia 920. Now I'm pretty familiar with Android devices and I carry the iPhone 5, but the live tiles on the WP8 devices, such as the Lumia 822, are pretty ingenious.

You can make your start screen as personal as you like, with your favorite things just a touch away. That's why so many WP8 fans are having so much fun with their devices. The live tiles work very well giving the very latest updates and information. Live tiles are a winner. Simple as that.

The other feature I found really enjoyable on the Lumia 822 is the integration between the phone and your Windows Live account. Every photo taken with the 8 megapixel camera goes to Windows Live without a hitch. Your email account is just a tap away, along with any calendar appointments.

Then you have the People tile that pulls in all you social networks into one list. This became my favorite morning pastime with a cup of coffee — just seeing what's going on in Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn — all in one stream.

When you compare my iPhone with it's 4-inch display to the Lumia 822's 4.3-inch display, I found typing and texting to be much easier. Having the extra space around the characters makes a difference and the suggested words feature on the Lumia speeds things along by saving keystrokes.

The Lumia is a little heavier at 4.99 ounces compared with my guy at 3.65 ounces, but the extra weight didn't bother me all, mainly due to the rounded corners and quality feel of the Nokia hardware. It simply feels good in your hand.

The 1.25 gigahertz processor of the Lumia 822 falls right in line with some of the other WP8 devices, such at its sibling, the Lumia 920, and the HTC 8X. But the latter devices trump the Lumia 822 with better screen resolution and the 920 has a higher-rated camera at 8.7 megapixels. During a surprise snowfall in my town, I had fun with the Carl Zeiss lens on the Lumia 822's 8 MP camera. Nice pictures is what I can say.

As for apps, the Lumia 822 comes with ESPN, My Verizon Mobile, NFL Mobile, The Weather Channel, Nokia City Lens and a few others. Then you can shop among the 120,000 or so in the Windows 8 store. That's nowhere near the 600,000 to 700,000 apps found in the Google Play and Apple stores, but I found a few of my favorites that worked well on the Lumia 822.

The Nokia Wireless Charging Pad allows you to put your phone down on a plate to charge the battery.

The Lumia 822 can be made even better with accessories, such as a Nokia Wireless Charging Cover or Charging Pad and a JBL Wireless Speaker.

You would think you might need a couple of hundred bucks to snag a Lumia 822, especially after considering all the features I've mentioned, but it's a bargain at $49.99 with a contract.

For the past of couple of years, the smartphone arena has been ruled by the iPhone and Android, while other platforms revamped their offerings. Things are changing now.

At this point, the Lumia 822 could be the deal of the year, as we wait on Samsung's next move with the Galaxy line of devices and the upcoming new BlackBerry 10 smartphones that will be announced on Jan. 30. Let's also not forget that Google made a $12.5 billion play for Motorola about a year ago and we're yet to see what they're up to for a new smartphone from the twosome.

The Windows Phone 8 devices are off to a good start while things are calm and the Lumia 822 is one good example of what's available.

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Thursday, January 17, 2013

PayPal is letting the numbers tell mobile payments success in 2012

PayPal likes the numbers coming from their 2012 balance sheet. The online mobile payment company is reporting $14 billion in customer payments, compared with a projection of $10 billion for last year.

According to PayPal, during the holiday season from October to December, 692 million payments were processed, making it the busiest three months in the company's 14-year history.

PayPal's growth continues with 123 million active accounts, driven by the addition of more customers in the last three months of last year than at any time during the past eight years.

"To all of our customers, both old and new, I’d like to say thank you...for your loyalty, your enthusiasm and for your valued feedback, said David Marcus, president of PayPal. "We are committed to making 2013 a great year for you."

PayPal has been turning their attention to offline retailers and small business. According to PayPal executives, this market is 17 times larger than the online sector.

They launched "PayPal Here" in March as a mobile payment solution that allows small business to accept almost any form of payment by using a free app and a small credit card reader for the iPhone and Android devices.

The online payment sector will get increasingly crowded, as key players explore banking on NFC, or Near Field Communication, to entice consumers to pay for merchandise and services with their smartphones. Google has Google Wallet, Mastercard has PayPass Wallet and Visa is pushing their digital wallet service.

Apple rolled out their Passbook app with iOS 6 in September, which will organize gift cards, coupons, passes, tickets and more, with the idea of making your wallet a lot thinner and lighter. But Apple has stay away from the NFC technology, while it can be found several iPhone competitors, such as the Samsung Galaxy S III and Victory, the Nokia Lumia devices, Motorola RAZR i and the HTC 8X.

Several of the mobile carriers, including AT&T, Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile, are exploring mobile payments services using the Isis Mobile Wallet, which is underway in Salt Lake City and Austin.

While the mobile payments technology continues to emerge, Paypal is banking on introducing their customers to new ways to shop and pay in the years ahead.

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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

TechRadar editors select Best of the Best at the 2013 CES

The winners of the first annual TechRadar Best of CES Awards 2013 were announced today. TechRadar editors touched, played, used and reviewed the hottest and newest items the Consumer Electronics Show has to offer and named their top choices direct from the show floor at the convention center in Las Vegas.

Winners of the TechRadar Best of CES Awards 2013 include:

Best in Show: Sony Bravia 4K 65-inch Television

Peoples' Choice Award: Steam Console Concept – Valve

Best Cell Phone: Sony Xperia Z

Best Tablet: Razer Edge

Best Laptop: Lenovo ThinkPad Helix

Best GPS Device: Bad Elf GPS Pro

Best Digital Camera: Fuji X20

Best Audio Accessory: MUNITIO PRO40 High Performance Headphones

Best All-in-One Computer: Lenovo IdeaCentre Horizon Table PC

Most Unique Product: Panasonic 20-inch 4K Windows 8 Tablet

Best Car Tech: Lexus Self-Driving Car

Best Home Theater Product: Sony Bravia 4K Television 65-inch

TechRadar, owned by Future U.S. media group, is the United Kingdom's biggest technology website and launched a U.S. focused site in April 2012.

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Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The 2013 CES is a haven for gadgets and technology enthusiasts

Members of the media enjoy a sneak peak of what's to come at this year's CES event.

The 2013 International Consumer Electronics Show is underway and Las Vegas is the place to be this week for gadget lovers.

The keynote addresses will kick things off today, with Kazuhiro Tsuga, president of Panasonic Corp. leading the way. Tsunga was to share to his vision for the future and elaborate on how Panasonic is engineering a better world for us all.

We'll also hear from Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of CEA, and Lowell McAdam, chairmen and CEO of Verizon.

As we know from previous years, Apple Inc. will not be in the house and Microsoft was on tap on a keynote appearance, but I hear that Chairman Steve Ballmer worked in a few comments on the new Windows RT and Windows Phone 8 devices.

It didn't take long for gadget news to start filtering out from the convention booths at the Las Vegas Convention Center/Hilton and The Venetian.

Huawei, a leading global information and communications technology company, has already primed the pump, with their announcement of the world's largest smartphone. It's called the Ascent Mate and sports a whooping 6.1-inch display, a 1.5 GHz quad-core display and a 4050 mAh battery under the hood. We'll learn more about this trend-setter in the coming months.

The Near Field Communication technology is also on the move, with early announcements coming Samsung on NFC Bluetooth speakers and Asus rolling out their 10.1-inch VivoTab Windows 8 tablet.

Sprint is also using CES to announce their Microsoft Windows Phone 8 plans. They'll have two WP8 devices coming this summer — one from Samsung and another from HTC. So get ready for Live Tiles and SkyDrive features from the guys in yellow.

Let's also not forget the auto makers, as Ford and USA Today have teamed up for an app and Ford SYNC integration to allow drivers to just tell their car to listen to sport stories or the latest news. I imagine we can expect similar technology from other auto manufacturers.

The fitness craze is continuing to spark innovation with the announcement of the Fitbit Flex, a Bluetooth wristband that help track the progress of your workouts to help meet your goals. According to the company, it'll also monitor your sleep quality.

Another early mover out of the gate is Coby Electronics Corporation, with their LED TVs, Bluetooth speakers, headphones and earbuds. This New York company has been making consumer electronics products since 1991 and continue to carve out a place in the industry.

This is just the first day of CES and the best is yet to come. It's going to be a good week for technology.

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