Opinion: Big hit to middle class

// June 14th, 2012 // No Comments » // Weird or Interesting News

Opinion: Big hit to middle class: “Dean Baker says it’s no surprise that the average American family lost almost 40% of their net worth. Blame it on Alan Greenspan

Opinion: Pols too rich to understand us

// June 14th, 2012 // No Comments » // Weird or Interesting News

Opinion: Pols too rich to understand us: “Tim Stanley says D.C.’s power elite have so much more money than the average American. How can they comprehend the concerns of their constituents?

Apple signs deal, goes with TomTom for iOS 6 mapping functions

// June 13th, 2012 // No Comments » // iOS

Apple signs deal, goes with TomTom for iOS 6 mapping functions: “

It’s not you…it’s me.

Per Macworld, digital maps provider TomTom announced on Tuesday it has signed a global agreement with Apple for maps and related information.

Apple announced Monday at its World Wide Developers Conference that an upcoming version of its iOS mobile operating system will feature a rebuilt maps app with Apple-designed cartography, turn-by-turn navigation, and interactive 3-D views, placing the company in competition with Google’s Maps product.

Apple demonstrated some of the capabilities of its rebuilt Maps app for iOS 6 at Monday’s Worldwide Developers Conference.
TomTom already supplies its maps and related data to companies including Samsung, Research In Motion, and Google, but expects its relationship with Apple to be deeper, said company spokesman Taco Titulaer on Tuesday.

TomTom claims up-to-date digital maps that cover more than 200 countries and territories. Headquartered in Amsterdam, the company also offers an up-to-date route planner, including live traffic information. Other products include portable navigation devices, in-dash infotainment systems, and fleet management services. Its customers include Internet companies, mobile handset makers, and network operators, besides government and enterprise, the company said on its website.

TomTom will be the primary but not the only supplier of maps and related data to Apple, as the company does not have mapping data for some countries such as China, Titulaer said.

The upcoming iOS 6 includes vector-based map elements that make graphics and text smooth, and panning, tilting and zooming fluid, according to Apple. The maps app will also feature turn-by-turn navigation with spoken directions, interactive 3D views, realtime traffic information with alternate time-saving routes if traffic conditions change significantly, and local search for over 100 million businesses.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Verizon to begin shared data plans starting June 28th

// June 13th, 2012 // No Comments » // iPhone

Verizon to begin shared data plans starting June 28th: “

verizonlogo.jpg

Maybe shared data plans will come into vogue this year.

Per AppleInsider, wireless carrier Verizon has announced that it will be initiating shared data plans later this month, making it the first of the ‘big-three’ U.S. telecoms to offer such a program.

The company announced the new ‘Share Everything’ option on Tuesday, which includes unlimited talk, text and tiered shared data plans for both smartphones and tablets as well as data-only plans, is slated to start on June 28.

Up to ten devices can share data under the new plan with varying pricing for device type. For example, line access for a smartphone like Apple’s iPhone is US$40 per month while a tablet adds on US$10. Mobile hotspots are also included in the Share Anything plan and can be added for an additional US$20 per month.

The carrier is introducing a number of new data tiers to its existing one-line offerings, and shared data users can now select one of six levels ranging from US$50 per month for 1GB of bandwidth to US$100 per month for 10GB. Data overage is still in place and looks to be US$15 per gigabyte across the board but users can opt to up their data plans in 2GB intervals before reaching their limit.

As an example, Verizon offers a US$180 access plan that includes two smartphones at US$40 each, one feature phone at US$30 and 4GB worth of shared data which carries a cost of US$70 per month.

Data-only customers have four tiers to work with starting at US$30 per month for 4GB and topping out at US$60 per month for 10GB. Mobile hotspots and tablets with mobile hotspot functionality are included in this pricing model.

The new Share Anything plan is a step in the direction of what many believe is the future of wireless in the U.S. In an early June report, AT&T chief executive Randall Stephenson said that his company was also working on rolling out a shared data plan, though that plan has been in the works for over a year.

Verizon was recently the target of a media blitz when CFO Fran Shammo said ‘when [customers] migrate off 3G they will have to go to data share,’ which caused a fracas because many thought the company would forcibly move unlimited data users to more profitable tiered pricing. The issue was quickly clarified in a Verizon statement that said only customers who choose to take carrier subsidies when upgrading to another smartphone will be forced out of out of their unlimited plans. In either case, it is clear that the telecom is pushing for tiered pricing, a trend that has become increasingly popular as wireless providers acknowledge the profitability of soaring data use.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Verizon Introduces ‘Share Everything’ Service Plan for Up to Ten Devices

// June 12th, 2012 // No Comments » // iPhone

Verizon Introduces ‘Share Everything’ Service Plan for Up to Ten Devices: “Verizon today announced the launch of a new ‘Share Everything’ pricing structure designed to allow users to share monthly data allotments across multiple devices. The plan, which is rolling out on June 28, includes unlimited voice and messaging across all devices, with an overall data cap and number and type of devices being the only differentiating factors among pricing tiers.

Each device carries a base monthly access charge ranging from $10 for a tablet to $40 for a smartphone. A single data charge is then applied on top of that base amount, starting at $50 for 1 GB and ranging up to $100 for 10 GB. Mobile hotspot functionality within the data cap is also included at no extra charge.



Compared to Verizon’s existing plans, the new Share Everything plan appears to represent a solid value even for single-device customers interested in unlimited minutes and texting, but less so for other customers.

Under Verizons current pricing, a customer would pay a total of $120 per month for unlimited minutes ($70), unlimited messaging ($20) and 2 GB of data ($30). Adding mobile hotspot functionality costs an additional $20 but increases the total data cap to 4 GB.

With the new Share Everything plan, a customer would pay $100 per month for the same service: $40 smartphone access and $60 for unlimited minutes and messaging and 2 GB of data. With mobile hotspot functionality included at no additional charge, stepping up to the 4 GB plan would cost just $10. In addition, a user could add an iPad to his or her account for just $10 per month with no contract requirement, as long as it was drawing from the same data allotment as the users phone.

The plans are not as good of a deal for users with packages of lower numbers of minutes. A user with 450 minutes, unlimited messaging and 2 GB of data would pay $90 under current plans, compared to $100 under Share Everything, although the new plan does offer mobile hotspot at no additional charge. Current plans also offer a range of messaging options from pay-per-use up to unlimited, allowing lower-use customers to cut their monthly bills even further.

As the balance of smartphone usage shifts increasingly toward data and away from voice minutes, carriers are seeking to simplify the voice and messaging aspects of their plans to focus on data allotments as the primary differentiator among their plans. The shift is a reversal from the previous model in which customers selected from a number of options for voice minutes and then received unlimited data for a set monthly charge. In addition to Verizon, AT&T has also expressed its preference for this new model, while Sprint, the third major iPhone carrier in the United States, has indicated that it remains committed to its unlimited data offerings.

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AT&T CEO states data-only plans could become “inevitable” with next 24 months

// June 5th, 2012 // No Comments » // iPhone

AT&T CEO states data-only plans could become “inevitable” with next 24 months: “

attlogo

One day, AT&T will provide something for everyone.

Per the Associated Press, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said on Friday that data-only wireless phone plans are likely to arrive within the next two years, marking a dramatic shift away from traditional cell network usage toward VoIP and text-as-data solutions like Apple’s iMessage.

Speaking at an investors conference, Stephenson said that while AT&T had no plans in place to offer an all-data subscription model, the industry is trending in that direction as smartphones continue to gain popularity led by Apple’s iPhone and handsets running Google’s Android mobile operating system, reports the Associated Press.

‘I’ll be surprised if, in the next 24 months, we don’t see people in the market place with data-only plans,’ Stephenson said. ‘I just think that’s inevitable.’

Under a data-centric plan users would have to use VoIP solutions like Skype to hold voice conversations, changing Internet calling into a necessity rather than an option to save on billed minutes. The switch would also be disruptive to the installed system in which telecoms monetize voice calls by charging each other to connect to cellphone numbers. This is one of the reasons why voice and data charges are billed separately.

Stephenson recently bemoaned AT&T’s decision to offer unlimited data with the original iPhone and iPad, adding that Apple’s iMessage is also a source of concern because it takes away from the company’s texting revenue.

While it may seem ironic that texting is quickly moving the industry away from voice technology toward a style of communication seen in pagers during the 1990′s, the reality is that modern data exchanges offer a much richer and more immediate experience than their obsolescent counterparts. Smartphones give users the ability to be in constant contact with each other, and new data-driven apps like Sounder literally keep an open connection to friends and peers.

As telecoms move to 4G LTE, an increasing amount of consumers will use an increasing amount of limited bandwidth which could force carriers to raise prices or find alternative solutions.

For now, AT&T is hoping to introduce a shared data plan similar to how the company offers shared voice plans for families. The initiative is a long time coming and the carrier has been ‘working on it’ for over a year, presumably to find a way to implement such a service without losing profits.

With shared data plans essentially representing a discount for users that would normally buy separate plans for each device they owned, the prospect of the pricing structure would seemingly be damaging to telecoms’ bottom lines. Stephenson pointed out that AT&T is looking to make more money from shared data, not less.

When you have millions of devices such as tablets that lack cellular data plans, Stephenson said, ‘it seems to me it’s a lift, not a deterioration’ to get them connected. The chief executive is referring to users who may not be using the cellular capabilities of their iPads or other tablets and are instead operating solely on Wi-Fi.

To make data plan pricing more attractive to consumers Stephenson noted that the wireless industry will experiment with charging content providers for the data used to access their websites in a type of ‘800 toll-free number’ system. Critics say this would give the upper hand to well-established companies that can afford to pay the instituted subsidy and squelch competition from cash-poor startups. The experiment will likely start within the year, though it is unknown which carriers will be taking part in the initiative.

‘It’s not us going out and mandating this. The content guys are coming in asking for it,’ Stephenson said. ‘If you don’t allow those kinds of models to flourish, you’re going to inhibit the potential of these services.’

Something for everyone somewhere down the line.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Mormon.org Widget

// May 31st, 2012 // No Comments » // web site ideas

Mormon.org Widget: “

Mormon.org has announced a new tool for bloggers and website owners to help them easily share the gospel online. The Mormon.org web widget was created to provide a simple way to engage others in learning about the Church and highlight some of the unique members of the Church. It also includes a function that allows those learning about our faith to chat online with the full-time missionaries. You can embed this widget on your blog or personal website. For more information and to get the embed code, visit the Mormon.org Widget page.

Mormon.org Widget

iPhone Coming to U.S. Prepaid Carrier Cricket on June 22

// May 31st, 2012 // No Comments » // iPhone

iPhone Coming to U.S. Prepaid Carrier Cricket on June 22: “Cricket Communications today announced that it will begin offering the iPhone on June 22, becoming the first U.S. carrier to offer the device on a prepaid basis with no contract. Service will cost $55 per month and include unlimited voice and SMS, as well as ‘unlimited’ data with a soft monthly cap of 2.3 GB after which speeds will be throttled.

Cricket Communications, Inc., a leading provider of innovative and value-driven wireless services, and a wholly-owned subsidiary of Leap Wireless International, Inc., announced today that it will be the first pre-paid carrier in the US to offer iPhone to its customers. Beginning on Friday, June 22, Cricket will offer iPhone 4S and iPhone 4 with its $55 per-month, all-inclusive unlimited talk, text and data plan. […]

‘Our customers want the best products available and we are excited to bring iPhone to our pre-paid consumers with an industry leading $55 per-month service plan,’ said Doug Hutcheson, president and chief executive officer, Leap Wireless International, Inc. ‘Launching iPhone is a major milestone for us and we are proud to offer iPhone customers attractive nationwide coverage, a robust 3G data network and a value-packed, no-contract plan.’



Interestingly, Cricket appears to be offering a partial subsidy on the iPhone hardware, with the iPhone 4 priced at $399.99 and the 16 GB iPhone 4S priced at $499.99. The discounts of $150 off of Apples standard pricing for unlocked handsets are in place even though customers are not required to sign service contracts.

The iPhone will be offered in Cricket’s existing core markets covering over 60 million people. The full list of iPhone markets is included on the carrier’s iPhone site.

Cricket has entered into a three-year deal with Apple with a commitment to purchase at least $900 million worth of iPhone hardware over that term. The carrier also intends to carry new iPhone hardware as it becomes available, although company executives were unwilling to directly address whether Cricket would be able to offer new hardware at the same time as other carriers.

Cricket is generally considered one of roughly half a dozen ‘super-regional’ carriers in the United States, with just under 6.2 million customers as of the end of the first quarter. The carrier offers a nationwide network through roaming agreements and its prepaid model offers simple pricing with no activation fees or overage charges.

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Does iPhone’s Siri have loose lips?

// May 23rd, 2012 // No Comments » // iPhone

Does iPhone’s Siri have loose lips?: “If you work for IBM, you can bring your iPhone to work, but forget about using the phone's voice-activated digital assistant. Siri isn't welcome on Big Blue's networks.

Report Claims 7-Inch iPad in August, New iPhone in September, New 10-Inch iPad by End of Year

// May 9th, 2012 // No Comments » // iPad, iPhone

Report Claims 7-Inch iPad in August, New iPhone in September, New 10-Inch iPad by End of Year: “Digitimes has had a hit-or-miss track record when it comes to Apple rumors, but with the site having offered some accurate information in the past, its claims continue to be closely watched. In its latest report, the site lays out a timeline for Apple’s iPhone and iPad plans for the remainder of the year, basing its claims on sources within Apple’s supply chain.

The report focuses on Pegatron, which has served as an alternate assembly partner to Foxconn for a number of Apple products. According to Digitimes, Pegatron has landed orders for both a new iPhone planned to launch in September and a new iPad scheduled to debut ‘in the fourth quarter’.

The iPhone claim appears to be a reasonable one given current thinking that Apple will return to a roughly one-year interval between iPhone updates, with a September launch coming just under a year after the early October introduction of the iPhone 4S last year.

But the iPad claim is a more troublesome one, as Apple has so far stuck to a yearly schedule for iPad hardware updates centered around the March-April timeframe. A late 2012 release of a new ’10-inch iPad’ presumably arriving as a next-generation version of the current device would mark a significantly shorter lifecycle for the current model than would be expected.

Similar rumors of a late-year iPad update surfaced last year before being quashed amid reports that work on the new Retina display would keep Apple on its yearly update cycle.



Mockup of 7.85-inch iPad next to an iPhone (courtesy of CiccareseDesign)


Digitimes makes one final claim in its latest report, indicating that Foxconn will be a manufacturing partner for a smaller 7-inch iPad, which is planned for release in August. Claims of such a device have been circulating for some time with some reports similarly pointing to a Q3 launch, and it seems likely that Apple has at least toyed with the idea. It is unclear, however, whether the company truly has any intentions of bringing it out of its design lab.

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