Friday, March 29, 2013

Is a smartphone the next milestone for social media giant Facebook?

The big question is whether Facebook, the king of social media, will unveil a smartphone during an April 4 shindig? Will it also be powered by Android, the king of mobile operating systems.

The invitations have been sent out and all eyes are on Facebook's headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., where attendees will find 1 Hacker Way and get inside by 10 a.m. PST to see Facebook's "New Home on Android" announcement.

From the day Facebook was founded in 2004, they have reached one milestone after another, such as adding photo uploading in 2005, launching music listening applications in 2011 and taking the big, big step of going public in the fall of 2012.

A lot of fans must have been thrilled with their growth, as Facebook reached one billion users in September. That a lot of updates, photos albums, music apps, messages, likes and just overall spending a bunch of time on Facebook.

If a Facebook-branded smartphone does come true, I wonder how Facebook will make it unique from all the other iPhones, Androids, Windows 8 and BlackBerry devices.

I imagine the smartphone market is pretty saturated now, because everyone I know already has a mobile phone of some flavor, whether smartphone or feature phone. Then we have those contract things that make us pretty loyal to one particular carrier for a couple of years.

But who is to say there is not room in the market for a Facebook device, or to speculate further, a HTC device running Android that been tweaked by the Facebook team.

So I say bring it on. We'll be checking our Facebook pages for new friends and updates while watching to see if the social media giant can deliver something really special, whether it's a phone or something else.

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Friday, March 22, 2013

Verizon Wireless rolls out integrated messaging on multiple devices

If you're like me, you dig in your pocket for your smartphone numerous times each day to check your text messages. Or maybe it's on your desk while you're working on the PC and you reach for it each time your hear a beep.

This little routine is getting easier with Verizon Wireless's new messaging service announced on Thursday that'll allow messages to appear simultaneously on your Android smartphone, an Android or iOS tablet and the PC.

The messages on mobile devices will use an app available in the Google Play and Apple App Store, while the messages routed to the PC can be accessed through the Web browser after logging into a "My Verizon" account. Verizon will use their cloud storage to keep messages for 90 days.

A video explains how the whole humdinger of technology works. Our digital lives just got simpler and more efficient.

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Monday, March 18, 2013

C Spire's new 4G LTE mobile hotspot packing power, speed

The mobile hotspot devices just keep getting better and better. It was only in November that I wrote about a wireless USB modem and said it was good and very handy to have around. Earlier in May, another review of a mobile hotspot also left me with a favorable impression of reliable Wi-Fi signals from these small devices.

This latest 4G LTE, or Fourth Generation Long Term Evolution, Mobile Hotspot from C Spire Wireless is even better. The design has changed from a flip-like device that plugged into an electrical outlet via a USB port to a digital device that can be placed on a desk or simply stays in your pocket or purse.

This new hotspot, manufactured by Franklin Wireless, looks like a smartphone without a keypad, with a round LCD digital display that shows your signal strength, battery status, the number of connections, any alerts or messages, and most important of all in my mind, whether or not you're connected to a 4G LTE or 3G network. Another indicator shows when you are roaming.

During my time with the device, the 4G LTE blue status light was always showing, backed up by four bars of network connectivity and a signal strength of excellent.

There are three buttons on the side for power, messages and data usage. A removable 1800 mAh battery is rated at five hours of continuous use and 18 hours of standby time. When it's time for charge, just connect the included USB cable to the travel charger and to a mini USB port on the hotspot device.

At only 3.6 ounces, this mobile hotspot does not weigh down your shirt pocket. It's well-designed, user friendly and ready for on-the-go wireless broadband connections.

The maximum number of connections to the hotspot has been bumped up from five to 10, for devices such as laptops, tablets, smartphones and even desktops not using a wired connection. As a matter of fact, it went way beyond the number of devices I have available and I could envisioned the C Spire 4G hotspot being used in a work-group or club-meeting environment. It would be a snap to set up a Wi-Fi security password in the Web user interface that could be shared with others.

This device joins C Spire's other 4G LTE-capable devices that have been available since a mobile broadband network upgrade in September.

I'm thumbs up on this one and it's worth a look at $29.99 under contract in all C Spire retail stores and more information is available on their website. After choosing a data plan, your mobile broadband needs will be in good hands at home, in the office or on the go.

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Thursday, March 14, 2013

Samsung unveils the Galaxy S IV in a show-like performance

Update: The Samsung Galaxy S IV is coming to AT&T, Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile and possibly Verizon Wireless soon. T-Mobile is offering an early-bird "sign up now" option to be notified for updates about the Galaxy S IV.

The long-awaited Samsung Galaxy S IV finally took the stage tonight at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.

While the BlackBerry 10 platform had the spotlight for a while, The S IV will now bask in the limelight with a long list of innovative features. It did not disappoint us.

Right off the bat at the Radio City Music Hall event, Samsung President of Mobile Communications J.K. Shin took the stage and pitched the innovative feature of automatic scrolling and Smart Scroll/Pause using eye tracking, a unique feature among smartphones currently on the market. For example, a video you're watching will pause when you look away.

According to Shin, the Galaxy S IV is slim at 0.31 inches, or 7.9mm, and he refers to it as a "life companion." But it's still not quite as slim as the iPhone 5's 0.30-inch depth. It missed being among the thinnest smartphones by a hair.

But with a five-inch display and weighing in at around 4.6 ounces, 2.7 inches wide and 5.4 inches long, the Galaxy S IV joins other big-screen smartphones, such as the Motorola Droid DNA and the Sony Xperia Z. Only the Samsung Galaxy Note devices have larger displays at well over five inches. It has a 13 megapixel main camera and a 2 megapixel camera on the front. Both cameras can shoot video simultaneously, which might be an industry first and unique to the Galaxy S IV. Under the hood, you'll find a 2600 mAh removable battery that powers Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean, running alongside two gigabytes of RAM and 16 GB of storage that can be expanded by adding a micro-SD card for up to 64 GB.

A unique photo-mortising feature will allow anyone taking a picture with the rear 13 MP camera to also insert themselves in the picture, which would be taken with the 2 MP front camera. Along the same lines, if someone walks through the background of your photo, they can be erased.

An S Translator feature on the Galaxy S IV will convert languages for travelers or anyone unfamiliar with a foreign language. The Galaxy S IV understands nine languages and supports text-to-speech to speech-to-text. It has translations for French, German, Italian, Chinese and other languages. Over 3,000 common and "useful" sentences also are included in the translation database that are not depended on a wireless connection if you're out in the boondocks.

Just like the BlackBerry 10 platform, the Galaxy S IV has a work space and personal space known as Samsung Knox that will separate business information from personal files.

This new device has a big bag of goodies and tricks. A Group Play music feature allows music sharing among eight devices. Air Gesture lets you navigate the phone without touching the screen. Air Call Accept allows a call to be answered by waving your hand. Adapt Display will adjust screen brightness based on what you're viewing. The build-in Near Field Communication, or NFC, works with HomeSync for cloud storage of all your stuff. Just a tap will keep the Galaxy S IV in sync with all the content.

The Galaxy S IV will come in Black Mist and White Mist colors and is expected to be available this spring on most of the major carriers.

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Video: The debut of the Samsung Galaxy S IV smartphone

The Samsung Galaxy S IV was unveiled tonight at Radio City Hall in New York City. Watch how the live events unfolded.