Mobile Phones

LG 150 recall

So my my cellphone has been recalled, owing to some mysterious non-compliance with some radio standards. Despite this, it still won’t give me cancer, apparently. Virgin Mobile is running an exchange program that is making it more difficult for me than it should: the web form doesn’t recognize my address, the phone queue is very long, and the phone reps a mite bit clueless. And in the end, my phone is not even from the batch that LG is worrying about, so I’m feeling a bit, shall we say, unnecessarily hassled.

Palm’s comeback

Palm Pre (thumbnail) Palm’s upcoming Pre is the first smartphone I’ve seen since the announcement of the iPhone that I might actually consider getting instead of an iPhone. (Not that I need a smartphone right now, but in the event that I do.) Watching the CES announcement drove home the fact that, for the first time, a competing smartphone manufacturer has actually tried to do the iPhone one better, rather than just play catchup. The Pre’s multitasking is an order of magnitude better than the iPhone’s: switching applications on my iPod touch suddenly feels clunky. (Ironically, the lack of true multitasking was one of the major problems of Palm’s last OS.)

Early reviews and first impressions are extremely positive — see, for example, Boing Boing Gadgets, CNet, Cult of Mac, Electronista, Engadget’s first impressions and interface tour, Gizmodo’s first look and look at the user interface, Scoble and especially Newsweek’s fine in-depth article — if not outright joyous that (1) beleaguered Palm is not yet dead and (2) finally, someone might actually give Apple a run for its money. But there’s still a lot we don’t know yet, such as what the Pre is going to cost, and how it’s going to work as a phone. Whether the Pre will turn out to be as good as it looks at first blush. The stakes for Palm are high: they’ve bet the company on the Pre, and if it fails, that’ll probably be it for them.

Previously: The Egregious Incompetence of Palm.

Rogers iPhone data usage less than expected

I don’t know, maybe the reason that iPhone users on the Rogers network are using far less data than expected is because Canadian customers, remembering stories of monthly phone bills running four or five figures thanks to data usage, are terrified of going over the limit, and are holding back accordingly.

In the first four weeks after the iPhone launched in Canada July 11, Rogers says 95 per cent of customers used less than 10 per cent of their plans’ data allotment. … In the first four weeks of usage, 95 per cent of customers used less than half a gigabyte and 91 per cent used less than 200 megabytes. Only a single customer exceeded the 6 GB threshold, [Rogers spokeswoman Liz] Hamilton said.

People scared of exceeding the limit will generally buy more than they need. But changes are afoot to address these usage patterns: Rogers’s iPhone plans will become less generous in the fall, but they will cap data charges at $100 a month no matter how much you use. And data plans will be unlimited for the first three months, and can be changed, so that people can find out for themselves how much data they would normally use if they weren’t holding back. Both go some ways to addressing the problems with limited data plans I outlined two months ago. Unlimited data would still have been easier for all concerned in practice, even if Rogers has a corporate allergy to it: it would not have saturated the network — not on a device with WiFi — and it would have put users at ease. Via MacNN.

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The problem with limited data

The iPhone 3G is coming to Canada this month, and Rogers posted its iPhone rate plans last week. As Richard (among many others) notes, unlimited data — taken for granted on U.S. iPhones and other smartphones — is nowhere to be seen. Data caps range from 400 MB to 2 GB, with overages costing 50¢/MB for the first 60 MB, then 3¢/MB after that. This has caused a considerable uproar, including an online petition site that has since gone 404.

Not everyone who wants unlimited data wants to use it in an unlimited fashion; indeed, I would imagine that the majority of Rogers subscribers will not exceed the data caps. The problem is, people imagine that they could, and worry what would happen if they did. It’s easy to avoid exceeding your monthly minutes: you call less. But data is charged by the megabyte, not the minute: when you check your mail, you don’t know if someone just sent you a 20-MB attachment or if you’re downloading a pile of spam; you don’t know how much bandwidth you’re using when you download a single page. You don’t have the same direct control over your data usage as you do over your voice usage.

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iPhone questions

iPhone The iPhone is one of those gadgets I’m awfully impressed by, and I certainly lust after, but I know full well that I do not need: I’m simply not out of the house enough to warrant owning a mobile phone of any sort at this point, and GSM coverage barely qualifies as marginal where we are. So I’m safe. But I’m still interested.

Two questions that came to mind yesterday while absorbing the information on this thing.

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Camera phone hysteria

You may have noticed a certain amount of hysteria out there about the presence of camera phones — cellphones with a built-in digital camera. Apparently they could be used for all sorts of malfeasance, from pantsuto fetishism to industrial espionage. Case in point: at the Newmarket reptile show last month, there was a notice on the community centre banning digital cameras in PDAs and phones. This was a community centre where selling reticulated pythons was legal, but they were deathly afraid that someone might use their phone to surreptitiously take a picture of you taking a pee.

The reaction to camera phones is not unlike what happened when the inexpensive Kodak film camera was introduced in 1888 (via Kottke).

All hail Bluetooth

A man, an unlimited data plan, and a whole whack of devices and software: Matt’s a convert to Bluetooth, using his PowerBook and his T68i to connect anywhere there’s a GPRS signal, among other things. His mind boggles at the idea of ubiquitous net access. It’s something I’ve been coveting for a while, and something I’ll make a priority when I safely re-ensconce myself somewhere urban.

Sony Clié UX-50; slow Nokia cameraphone

Mobitopia has a couple of interesting recent articles. One is a rather gushing review of Sony’s top-end Clié, the UX-50, which includes a built-in camera (640×480), Bluetooth and WiFi, but not a cradle or a portrait-mode option for the screen. And it’s pricey. The other article is a complaint about the Nokia 3650’s built-in camera. Apparently its advantage is ubiquity, not speed: you may have the camera with you, but you might not be able to take the damn picture fast enough.

Signal strength in Quyon

In Quyon last night to cover a public meeting regarding a proposed engineered landfill site, about which I hope to have a nice article next week. Quyon has a good spot for cellphone signal strength by the Lions Club and ferry dock: I was able to call home without difficulty. But by the time I hit Clarendon Street (Quyon’s main drag), the call began cutting out. In the Pontiac, at least as far as Rogers AT&T Wireless’s network is concerned, all cell towers are on the Ontario side; it may be a matter of being on the wrong side of buildings — something that is less prevalent in cities where there are more cell towers in more directions. Or does that make any sense? I’m just guessing.

Note: Entries prior to November 2003 did not have categories assigned to them, and are not included in category archives; please consult the monthly archives.