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FAA to Finally Ease Up Electronic Usage, Agrees with Committee Recommendation

posted Friday Nov 1, 2013 by Nicholas DiMeo

FAA to Finally Ease Up Electronic Usage, Agrees with Committee Recommendation

Just five months after putting together the committee and only a month after the committee's recommendation, the FAA has actually agreed to ease restrictions on portable electronics during takeoff and landing. E-readers, MP3 players and other small devices have been approved by the FAA to be used during all phases of domestic flights.

From the FAA press release about the news,

Due to differences among fleets and operations, the implementation will vary among airlines, but the agency expects many carriers will prove to the FAA that their planes allow passengers to safely use their devices in airplane mode, gate-to-gate, by the end of the year.

The FAA based its decision on input from a group of experts that included representatives from the airlines, aviation manufacturers, passengers, pilots, flight attendants, and the mobile technology industry.

Delta and JetBlue will be the first two airlines to implement the changes, and both companies have said all of their aircraft are "ready to go" for use of portable electronic devices. JetBlue even said that, technically, they could make the change "today" but would wait until the FAA issued the guidelines for the new policy.

Obviously, the use of a cell phone or tablet for making phone calls will still not be permitted during any portion of the flight and connecting to the Internet will still not be allowed during times when a plane is less than 10,000 feet in the air. The FAA also mentioned that the group agrees with the committee's recommendation that devices can still be requested to be turned off by flight staff for safety. The administration cited one percent of flights operating in low visibility noticed significant interference in guidance controls from portable electronic devices, so in those circumstances, passengers would have to comply with instructions to turn the gadgets off.

Here's the ten things you should know, according to the FAA, about PEDs. And we're not talking about A-Rod stuff here.

  1. Make safety your first priority.
  2. Changes to PED policies will not happen immediately and will vary by airline. Check with your airline to see if and when you can use your PED.
  3. Current PED policies remain in effect until an airline completes a safety assessment, gets FAA approval, and changes its PED policy.
  4. Cell phones may not be used for voice communications.
  5. Devices must be used in airplane mode or with the cellular connection disabled. You may use the WiFi connection on your device if the plane has an installed WiFi system and the airline allows its use. You can also continue to use short-range Bluetooth accessories, like wireless keyboards.
  6. Properly stow heavier devices under seats or in the overhead bins during takeoff and landing. These items could impede evacuation of an aircraft or may injure you or someone else in the event of turbulence or an accident.
  7. During the safety briefing, put down electronic devices, books and newspapers and listen to the crewmember's instructions.
  8. It only takes a few minutes to secure items according to the crew's instructions during takeoff and landing.
  9. In some instances of low visibility - about one percent of flights - some landing systems may not be proved PED tolerant, so you may be asked to turn off your device.
  10. Always follow crew instructions and immediately turn off your device if asked.

So there you have it. We'll have to see how long airlines take to implement these changes, and if it's anything like the dreaded "carrier testing" for smartphone updates, it might take a while. The good news is that I finally have a use for Airplane Mode again.

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Softbank on a Purchasing Spree, Picks Up Majority Stake in Finnish Game Studio Supercell

posted Friday Oct 25, 2013 by Nicholas DiMeo

Softbank on a Purchasing Spree, Picks Up Majority Stake in Finnish Game Studio Supercell

What else can Japanese company Softbank get into? Apparently the gaming business. After picking up 70% of Sprint for $20.1 billion and then turning around to purchase wireless distributor Brightstar for $1.26 billion, the company has now looked overseas, to Finland's mobile game maker, Supercell.

Supercell, the up-and-coming gaming studio behind Clash of Clans and Hay Day has sold a majority stake, or 51%, of its company to Softbank for a total of $1.53 billion. Softbank has teamed up with entertainment company GungHo Online, a company that's been around since 2002, to invest the money, and the two conglomerates will work together on the investment, with Softbank putting in 80% of the total capital. The acquisition also values Supercell at right around $3 billion, and the company pulls in $2.4 million in revenue daily.

Here's the word right from the press release about the acquisition and business deal.

Supercell is a mobile game company headquartered in Finland. Their two game apps, Clash of Clans and Hay Day, reached the top position in Top Grossing ranking of Apple's App Store in 137 countries and 96 countries, respectively. From February 2013 to August 2013, Supercell was the No.1 publisher in the world among the apps in the Games category of the App Store. This new strategic partnership with SoftBank and GungHo will help accelerate Supercell's goal of becoming the "first truly global games company".

GungHo started its online game business in 2002, and it has since then accumulated significant expertise and produced notable results in the development and operation of online games. As its Puzzle and Dragons for smartphone has hit over 19 million downloads in Japan and over 1 million downloads in both North America and South Korea, GungHo is focused on expanding to other markets. Through the Transaction GungHo will leverage Supercell's position among the apps in the Games category of the App Store and marketing power abroad to enhance its global expansion.

The plan is to have all of the transaction closed out by the middle of November, so this looks to be a quick turnaround for Softbank. While all of these purchases seem to be surprising coming from a company not many North Americans may be familiar with, Softbank currently has the third largest market capitalization in Japan. And, with now owning a quickly-rising mobile game studio, the company clearly is looking to invest in highly profitable ventures.

Other studios have also been acquired by different companies in the past few years. Zynga picked up OMGPOP of Draw Something fame for $200 million, only to see stocks plummet, employees leave and Microsoft's Don Mattrick take over as CEO. On the other side, EA's acquisition of PopCap, while shutting down the PlayFish studio, has seen an uptick in sales of several titles and the newest rendition of Plants vs Zombies has been highly anticipated since its announcement at E3. With all of that considered, this could go either way for Supercell, however the company affirmed that it will keep its independence and the CEO, Ilkka Paananen, will remain on as the head of the company after the transaction is finalized.

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Nokia Emphasizes Its Future in Software With New Lineup

posted Wednesday Oct 23, 2013 by Scott Ertz

Nokia Emphasizes Its Future in Software With New Lineup

In what is expected to be the final hardware presentation from the company before joining the Microsoft family, Nokia showed exactly who they are and, more importantly, who they will be after the transition. At their Nokia World event in Abu Dhabi, Nokia showed off 6 new devices while still focusing on the software that will be their future.

Being a company on the transition from hardware manufacturer to software developer, Nokia wanted to make sure we all knew they had things well at hand. With a collection of new software services coming in the next few weeks and months, these were the 4 that really stood out.

Nokia Camera

This is a combination of 2 existing Nokia apps: Nokia Pro Camera and Nokia Smart Camera. The camera app offers easy automatic mode, but a full range of customizations, including focus, shutter speed and ISO. It also integrates the abilities of Smart Burst where you can choose the best of several rapid-fired shots, removing moving objects and action shots.

Nokia Camera also brings DNG or raw file, support to the Windows Phone platform. The app is available right now for all Nokia PureView camera powered Lumia phones and will be coming to the rest of the family during Nokia's Lumia Black update next year.

Nokia Storyteller

This odd app brings your photos and videos together with Nokia HERE location services to map your adventures. You can see your photos clustered together into areas you have frequented, or at least taken a lot of photos within, plus view the photos full-screen, and everything in-between.

Want to know what was around you while taking a photo? Simply zoom out from the photo and see the image mapped with HERE Maps, including point of interest. You can even view your SkyDrive and Facebook photos within the app, bringing all of your adventures, or misadventures, to life in a new and possibly interesting way.

Nokia Video Director

With the launch of Windows 8.1, Microsoft also launched Movie Moments, a Modern UI powered app designed for editing videos. The biggest limitation of the app is the 60 second timeline. Nokia decided that was unacceptable and brings us Video Director instead.

Import your videos to your Lumia 2520 and edit clips together or apart and add music to create family movies quickly. The app will be available on the 2520 at launch, but hopefully might become generally available to the Windows Store once Nokia's devices business joins Microsoft next year.

Nokia Beamer

This was the feature that I have waited for and never thought would arrive. Nokia Beamer allows you to share your Lumia screen to any Internet-connected device. The best part is the lack of required pairing - simply follow a link on the viewing screen and voila, a shared Lumia screen. Send the URL via SMS, Email, Twitter, Facebook or even QR code for nearby sharing.

The app will be coming soon to all PureView capable Lumia phones and truly positions the Lumia as the top phone for business. Combined with the included Microsoft Office, you can share Word, Excel, PowerPoint or OneNote screens with almost no hassle. Definitely a bright star in a sea of attempted business-focused products for other platforms.

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Nokia Unveils 6 Devices During Hardware Swan Song

posted Wednesday Oct 23, 2013 by Scott Ertz

Nokia Unveils 6 Devices During Hardware Swan Song

In what is expected to be the final hardware presentation from the company before joining the Microsoft family, Nokia showed exactly who they are and, more importantly, who they will be after the transition. At their Nokia World event in Abu Dhabi, Nokia showed off 6 new devices while still focusing on the software that will be their future.

We saw 3 new Asha phones, 2 Lumia phones and the first Lumia tablet. While Nokia might have wanted us to focus on their new software offerings, the hardware certainly stole the stage.

Asha 500, 502, 503

The Asha series of handsets are designed specifically for emerging markets. Priced to move, the new additions to the Asha family feature a truly unique design. There is really no better way to describe the look than that of an iPod Touch in its retail packaging, only slimmer. A clear acrylic box surrounds the incredibly colorful body, adding dimensions to the appearance, but not necessarily comfort.

As Nokia has become synonymous with over the past 2 years, these handsets are available in a wide range of Nokia colors: yellow, red, green, white, blue and black. The new 500 features a 2.8" screen with 2MP camera, while the 502 and 503 both feature a 3" screen and 5MP cameras. All 3 models also offer both a single and a dual SIM option, specifically for people who change services by region or use one service for voice and another for data.

Lumia 1520

One of Nokia's worst kept secrets, the Lumia 1520 is the first full-HD Windows Phone, thanks to the GDR3 Windows Phone update adding 1080p capability. Sporting the first 6" screen on a Windows Phone, this device is pretty huge and the new WinPho takes full advantage of the extra real estate.

Adding a third column of live tiles, the Lumia 1520 allows for 6 units of width and 11 units of height worth of live tile. If all of your live tiles were small, you could access 66 individual tiles, as well as their individual notifications, from a single screen. Of course, customizing a screen like that would make it feel a little like Times Square, but the idea that you could is pretty exciting.

Following on the heels of the Lumia 1020, the 1520 has a renewed focus on photography, sporting a 20MP camera with ZEISS lens, making for great photos without the bulk of the larger lens on the 1020. Of course, it isn't the quality of the 1020, but you have to give something up in order to get a thinner handset. It also includes 32GB of internal storage, plus an additional 7GB of SkyDrive storage and MicroSD storage up to 64GB additional.

Lumia 1320

This one came as a bit of a surprise to me, mostly because I had little to no leaked information indicating it was coming. The Lumia 1320 is the cousin of the 1520, also featuring a 6" screen. That is, however, about where the similarities stop.

The screen, while being 6", is only 720p, meaning less clarity at the same physical size. It also features a 5MP camera vs the 20MP on the 1520 and also gives up the ZEISS lens. With a smaller camera comes smaller storage capacity, coming in at only 8GB, but still supporting 64GB MicroSD and adding 7GB of SkyDrive.

The 1320 also sacrifices performance at its lesser price-point. While the 1520 sports a quad-core 2.2GHz processor, the 1320 comes with only a dual-core 1.7GHz processor. The important thing to note here is that the 1520 has a quad-core processor, something that is also a new addition to the Windows Phone family.

Lumia 2520

If the 1520 wasn't the worst kept secret inside of Nokia, then that award goes to the Lumia 2520. This 10.1" Windows RT 8.1 tablet is a first in family for Nokia. While they have been known for wireless phones for many years, this is the company's first, and probably last under that name, attempt at a tablet.

The device will look very familiar to Nokia fans - it looks much like a very large Lumia device. I suppose if this event was about the Lumia family growing, you can't grow it much larger than a 10.1" screen. Sporting the same quad-core 2.2GHZ processor as its smaller cousin, the Lumia 1520, the 2520 still differentiates itself from the rest of the Lumia family, as well as its soon-to-be-family, the Surface 2.

Being the first tablet in the family, it is the first to offer a keyboard option. Nokia seems to have learned from the demands on Microsoft, as the Nokia Power Keyboard adds up to 5 extra hours of power, plus an additional 2 USB ports for extended connectivity. Like the Surface, however, it adds a full keyboard and a trackpad, making it a full computer as well as tablet.

Despite being a Windows RT device with a 10.1" multi-touch screen, the Lumia 2520 stands out from the Microsoft Surface 2 by including the capability for 4G LTE connectivity. Being part of the Lumia family would have been odd without a cellular data option, so it is good that there is an RT device out there offering it.

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Tesla and AT&T Team Up to Bring Wireless Connectivity to the Car

posted Sunday Oct 20, 2013 by Nicholas DiMeo

Tesla and AT&T Team Up to Bring Wireless Connectivity to the Car

Tesla is in the news again this week, and this time it's not for the car that caught on fire. The company has partnered up with AT&T to take connectivity to the next level.

AT&T's SVP of emerging tech, Chris Penrose, announced at GigaOM Mobilize that AT&T services will be available in a Tesla. AT&T will be powering all two-way communications for the vehicle, along with access to the engine's diagnostics and tweaks, and all information and entertainment apps and features. The car will then also be able to actively monitor a driver's habits, speed and other driving information you'd usually only find on a small screen in a car.

On stage, he said,

We believe that our ability to bring total solutions into the space is something that is being demanded, and something that we can excel and differentiate. Not just being a connectivity partner.

For this to work, the Tesla will have to have a built-in modem installed, as well as an AT&T SIM card, which will allow the vehicle to connect to AT&T's towers. The connection will also allow the car to have access to real-time traffic data and the navigation system can adapt to the data and change routes on-the-fly. Active monitoring of the transmission, brake system, engine and more can all take place, letting the driver know the instant the car should be taken into the shop. The same software can also be used to track down the car if it's stolen. Obviously the possibilities are almost endless.

Tesla is already working with the Qi Wireless Power Consortium to wirelessly charge the vehicle and now, with the addition of AT&T, Teslas are now wirelessly connected to all the information in the world, literally. This is a great step for all types of communication in vehicles, though, not just for Tesla and AT&T. If this ends up working extremely well, we can probably see a Verizon Wireless partnership in the near future. Perhaps they'd like to power Ford cars that already come loaded with a feature-rich Sync by Microsoft system. But until that happens, I'll just be waiting for my phone call from Tesla extending an invitation for me to drive one of these cars.

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Apple Cuts Orders of iPhone 5c as Fans Only Want Premium Model

posted Sunday Oct 20, 2013 by Nicholas DiMeo

Apple Cuts Orders of iPhone 5c as Fans Only Want Premium Model

In the past, we've talked about the flurry of problems Apple has had with iPhone launches but nobody else seems to talk about. Fortunately, we're here to break the conformity barrier, and with the iPhone 5s and 5c launches, we covered the sensor issues of the 5s and sales failure of the 5c. This week it continues, as it's been reported that Apple has requested a cut in production on the iPhone 5c.

Before the phone even came out, we predicted the phone would be a failure, if not for anything else than Apple bashing Samsung for using plastic, claiming it makes Samsung phones appear "cheap." Well, keeping with the "cheap" moniker, the 5c was apparently no different and the citizens of Appledom did not want to associate with a lesser model of the newer iPhone. For the final three months of the year, Apple has asked one of the company's largest manufacturers, Pegatron Corp, to raise the production of the 5s while sharply cutting production of the 5c.

Pegatron has reported that orders for the iPhone 5c have been cut by more than 20 percent in the past two weeks, which is huge for a company that bolstered this phone as a premium, yet affordable option. Hon Hai Precision Industry Co is another assembly plant for the 5c, and that group has seen orders drop by over 30 percent in the same couple of weeks. However two executives from the company also confirmed that Apple has raised orders for the 5s for the fourth quarter. Analyst Michael Walkley has estimated that sales for the 5s could be up to 2.5 times more than the 5c.

Morningstar analyst Brian Colello even said that Apple's marketing towards emerging markets would have been great, if the iPhone 5c wasn't so expensive.

We're not especially concerned with 5C order cuts at this point because they appear to be offset by strong demand and increased production for the 5S. As far as emerging markets, the 5C is simply not cheap enough to gain traction with customers that can buy $150 Android devices.

As we predicted, the fact that the phone is not much different than the iPhone 5 would prevent adopters from switching over to the 5c, with some owners only being ten to twelve months into their contract. That, on top of the not-so-cheap price point of $649, leaves the Apple iPhone 5c to be but a mockery of a plastic Galaxy S phone trapped in a colorful Lumia shell. Do you disagree? Why or why not? Tell us in the comments section below.

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