Tech culture is a funny thing. If you track tech news, releases and new ideas closely enough, you’ll notice there’s a very apparent trend that pops up all the time:
It’s funny and sad at the same time, and it’s the same thing that happens every time there’s a truly unique idea in the tech world.
The most recent example of this has been the ability for tech-happy smartphone owners to upgrade their phones far more often than once every two years. T-Mobile made a big splash in the mobile market last week when it announced ‘Jump,’ which would give customers two mobile upgrades every year for an extra $10 per month. (As a refresher to the new way T-Mobile sells smartphones since they no longer have mobile contracts, you can catch up here.)
Jump is a great idea! A truly original idea. People love upgrading their phones and hate having to wait 20 months two years for a new gadget. (Let’s put aside the fact that you don’t save a much money by constantly upgrading your phones and you no longer have back-up phones to give someone or use in case of emergency. It’s still a very original idea.)
You know what’s NOT original? The fact that AT&T just announced an almost identical program: Next. (All Things D notes that AT&T issued a memo teasing Next before T-Mobile announced Jump, so it’s unclear whose idea came first. The bottom line is still the same: derivative ideas.) Next would be slightly different from T-Mobile’s plans in a few ways: You’re eligible for an upgrade every 12 months, not six; you don’t need to put a down payment on your device; and there’s no additional monthly fee. It would be more forgivable of a copycat if it was better, but the numbers don’t add up. T-Mobile’s not scared, either, as an executive said it’s a “poor imitation” of Jump.
Want to hear a funny story? Verizon’s reportedly planning the same type of program, called VZ Edge, which would launch in August. The plan is almost identical to Next, which means it, too, is a slight derivation on Jump.
It’s just that type of copycat culture. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Sprint announce something similar, except Sprint seems to be doing its own thing over there, with Unlimited, My Way essentially giving you unlimited everything forever and ever.
Think back to the biggest tech breakthroughs of the last few years: iPhone, iPad, etc. Every major breakthrough has been imitated and copied and modded and tweaked by just about every company under the sun. I’ve just never seen it happen as quickly as we’ve seen phone carriers do their thing this week.
And this isn’t the last time we’ll see this type of behavior this year. The Pebble Smartwatch was last year’s Kickstarter darling, and recently hit store shelves. You know who else is interested in the smartwatch business? Oh, just about everyone: Google. Apple. Mozilla. Microsoft. TomTom. Sony. Dell. It’s amazing. For a while, I seemed to be posting a story about a new company wanting to enter the smartwatch business… and I know we’ll see the same thing once Google Glass becomes more prevalent.
Innovation breeds competition, which helps create better products for all of us to buy and use. I’d just like to see more unique ideas, rather than everyone piling on whichever bandwagon is hot this hour.
Shelly made an appearance on Always Mountain Time radio and hit on a wide array of topics in tech: the Connected World, how small businesses have had to change over the years and the different types of media that businesses have to deal with. He also talks about cell phones: why everyone hates the iPhone 5, why you should love the Galaxy S IV, why the Lumia 1020 matters, and why you’d want to buy the BlackBerry Q10.
If you’ve ever wanted to take massively-sized photographs without lugging around a DSLR camera, I’ve got a smartphone for you. Last week, Nokia unveiled the Windows 8-powered Lumia 1020, complete with a 41-megapixel PureView camera and Carl Zeiss optics. Yep, you heard me right - 41 megapixels. The massive 41-megapixel images are processed by new Pro Camera and Smart Camera software, which are also hitting other Lumias soon. Since a 41-megapixel image is far too big for a mobile upload, the Lumia 1020 actually saves two versions of each photo you take: the full 41-megapixel image as well as a 5-megapixel version, which is far more conducive to sharing on Facebook. The rest of the Lumia 1020’s specs are good, not great: it features a 4.5-inch AMOLED display, a dual-core processor and 32 gigs of storage. If you’ve absolutely got to own the phone with the best built-in camera on the market, the Nokia Lumia 1020 will hit AT&T store shelves exclusively on July 26 for $299 with a new two-year contract.
It’s far from a scientific sample, but I noticed a lot of people in my Twitter feed over the past few weeks lamenting a lack of thorough media coverage surrounding the political crisis in Egypt. Certainly, when the George Zimmerman trial reached its apex, one might have assumed things in Egypt had reached a peaceful resolution, given how little news could be found in the mainstream US media.
It turns out that media companies are pretty astute at knowing what their audiences want to see, even if it doesn’t jibe with the smaller but more vocal Twitterati. Turn on your local network news for five minutes and you’ll figure out the formula: If people aren’t interested in a given topic, the media doesn’t spend a lot of time trying to change our minds.
Egypt seems to have all the makings of a sensational news topic, with its mass protests, violence, and intrigue. But do Americans really care?
We surveyed over 2,000 US adults over the past few days to gauge how concerned they were about the crisis in Egypt. Here’s how they answered:
Over two-thirds of Americans have some degree of concern, with a full 30 percent characterizing themselves as Very Concerned. Thirty-two percent don’t seem to care at all. When we looked at demographics, we found that women were much more likely than men to be Very Concerned, as were people over age 45, and those with an advanced education.
This doesn’t tell us much, though, without comparing Egypt to other issues. So, we looked at 19 other issues we’ve studied using the exact same question format, like this one:
Most topics we follow on a daily basis (for our long-term tracking questions, we looked at results over the past 3 months), but a few issues were timely, like last December’s Fiscal Cliff. We included a mixture of both for contrast.
To develop a consistent “Concern Index,” we took the percentage of people who said “Very Concerned” and multiplied it by two, then added the percentage of people who said “Somewhat Concerned” (this did NOT take a Carnegie Mellon-trained data scientist). Based on this system, the crisis in Egypt would have a score of 98 ((30% x2) + 38%). Income inequality achieves a score of 115.
Now let’s look at a litany of other issues to see how the crisis in Egypt compares:
Let’s first address the elephant in the room. No matter how we sliced our numbers, the public health implications of texting-while-driving (“TWD”) produced the highest concern score. These were all large samples sizes, over 5,000 respondents, reweighted to match the full US adult population. So we can’t argue with the numbers. TWD is a big deal to a lot of people.
The next items on the list should come as little surprise. Health Care and Public Education rank slightly above the Economy and Jobs, but within a thin margin of error. Consumer Privacy has surged in recent months, making it to #7 on the list, just behind Gas and Energy Prices.
It’s interesting to note that issues like last year’s Fiscal Cliff and Bullying in Schools rank so highly above Crime and Violence and Climate Change among the general population. Clearly, these numbers might be different among respondents across the socio-economic and ideological spectrum.
We don’t find the Crisis in Egypt until #17, ranking more highly than only Concussions in the NFL and last summer’s LIBOR interest rate scandal. These are niche topics, to say the least.
If the mainstream media is providing little coverage of the Eqypt dispute, they may know what they’re doing. Our data makes a pretty convincing case that most consumers are concerned more about issues that impact their everyday lives, like failing schools, out-of-control health care costs, tight job markets and, most importantly, that college kid in the car in front of them sending a text to his girlfriend.
Ready for today’s grain of salt? We just got handed imagery and specs of a possible HTC device in the works codenamed the Zeta. It’s a quad-core handset, much like the Edge that was leaked last week, but it has a much faster 2.5GHz APQ8064 CPU along with 1GB of RAM running the show, on a 4.5-inch 720p HD display. According to our source, the uniquely shaped smartphone will come with Ice Cream Sandwich pre-installed with Sense UI (version 4.0 wasn’t specified, but we’d be surprised to see it any lower on an ICS device) and have 32GB of internal storage space, an 1,830mAh battery, Beats Audio, Bluetooth 4.0, an 8MP rear camera with dual LED flash, 1080p video capture and a 1.3MP front-facing cam.
Dimensions? We have those, too: the Zeta is said to measure at 109.8 x 60.9 x 9.8mm (4.32 x 2.4 x 0.39 inches) and weigh 5.15 ounces (146g). Pricing and availability aren’t known, and we’re still digging for more info. It certainly has an intriguing look; the sharp corners would be a huge departure from HTC’s recent design choices, though it appears to have HTC’s signature unibody build in the back. So are we just looking at a cool concept or is this the next flagship phone? We’re hoping it’s the latter.
RIM’s own navigation app, BlackBerry Traffic, is getting a few new features in the Beta Zone. The biggie is voice navigation, so turn-by-turn directions are read out loud to you in a friendly robot voice, which is standard for most nav apps. Voice guidance includes a bunch of options, including standard and high-quality audio, as well as setting the frequency of assistance. On top of that, users can now drill down into specific road data and see if there are blockages, construction, or tolls to pay (and avoid them when routing, if desired).
BlackBerry Traffic is a little bit different than most GPS navigation services in that it uses anonymous traffic data farmed up from BlackBerry devices currently on the road, as well as other sources. By piling that information on top of standard turn-by-turn directions, BlackBerry Traffic aims to provide the fastest travel route possible. This is a scheme RIM picked up when they acquired Dash Navigation awhile back.
With this feature, BlackBerry Traffic feels a bit more like a grown-up navigation app, but I’d still much prefer an updated version of Google Maps with Navigation. Unfortunately, Google’s interest in developing much of anything for BlackBerry has been waning for some time, and with RIM’s Bing partnership, that’s unlikely to change anytime soon.
Head on over to the BlackBerry Beta Zone to try out BlackBerry Traffic 3.0 and the new voice assistance feature.
Google has quietly patched a Glass security exploit that could have allowed hackers to take control of the wearable by showing it a QR code, the researcher who identified the flaw tells SlashGear. The exploit, discovered by Marc Rogers, Principal Security Researcher at Lookout Mobile Security, took advantage of Glass’ streamlined setup process that saw the camera automatically - and transparently to the wearer - spot QR codes in images and use them to trigger WiFi connections and other configurations. By creating malicious codes, and hiding them in images, Rogers was able to get Glass to connect to a compromised network, show details of all network traffic from the wearable, and even take full remote control. The exploit - which we referred to in our June interview with Rogers, though without specific details as Google and Lookout were still addressing the fix at the time - has been fixed as of Glass firmware XE6, released on June 4.
Read the full story at Slashgear.
While Google Glass’s arrival date as a consumer-facing product remains something of a mystery, as does the final pricing structure, we do know it’s in the hands of only a few developers and it currently costs $1,500. This obviously set a challenge for a startup in Italy that thinks it can do better, and at a cheaper price point of just $300 with a March 2014 delivery date. They’ve just kicked off a $150,000 Indiegogo campaign to fund the devices, but claim also to have already found private backing. GlassUp is the name of this AR device and it promises a laundry list of services: Through its tiny on-glasses projector unit it will display: Emails, texts, and other status updates like calendar events and calls, Breaking news, Real-time feedback for sports activities, Turn-by-turn navigation instructions, Translations and more.
Read the full story at Fast Co. Labs.
If you’re using Google’s “back up my data” feature for Android, the passwords to the Wi-Fi networks you access from your smartphone or tablet are available in plaintext to anyone with access to the data. And as a bug report submitted by an employee of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) on July 12 suggests, that leaves them wide open to harvesting by agencies like the NSA or the FBI. “The ‘Back up my data’ option in Android is very convenient,” wrote Micah Lee, staff technologist at the EFF. “However, it means sending a lot of private information, including passwords, in plaintext to Google. This information is vulnerable to government requests for data.” The Backup Manager app stores Android device settings in Google’s cloud, associated with the user account paired with the device; the Backup Manager interface is part of the core Android application API as well, so it can be used by other Android apps.
Read the full story at Ars Technica.
Poor Apple Maps. While we see very minor improvement from Apple’s year-old Maps application, Google continues to improve its world-class offering pretty rapidly. Why, Wednesday, in fact, Google launched an update to the Google Maps for iOS app, adding support for the iPad, indoor maps, and a slew of other features that were released with the recent Android Google Maps update. Google Maps 2.0 now fully supports the larger screen sizes of the iPad and iPad mini, as well as offering indoor maps with walking directions for transit stations, airports, malls and other large buildings. Past that, you’ll also notice that the Google Maps iOS app now offers better navigation with live traffic updates and incident reports. Meanwhile, Apple Maps still hasn’t figured out transit directions.
Read the full story at TechCrunch.