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Kindle 3 arrives looking mature and sophisticated

Kindle 3 in boxIf one thing jumps out about the new Kindle 3, it’s that it looks super-cool.  Kindle 3 has gone on diet, slimmed down and its new size-zero form factor now oozes sophistication.  The graphite coloring is smart and the whole package screams of a product that has matured. I don’t read many books, I think I’ve said that before, but this is the one site that will tell you just how good that ‘experimental’ new Webkit browser is.  And let’s be honest, we already know the Kindle is killer for books, so the Webkit browser is what we really care about on Kindle 3.  Stay tuned, the review is coming…

Neil Berman

Kindle 3

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Aug 31, 2010 Posted by | Hardware, Mobile | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Kindle 3 works with WordPress.com

The new Kindle 3 has arrived at theONbutton HQ (and this is the digital proof the Webkit browser works – painfully!! – with WordPress). Stay tumed for our review.

Aug 31, 2010 Posted by | Hardware | , , , | 1 Comment

Samsung WEP301 Bluetooth headset review

Samsung WEP301We recently reviewed the Aliph Jawbone ICON and BlueAnt Q1 Bluetooth headsets, which are both high end devices at the top of their game. While those headsets offer premium features they come with a premium tag. Some might say all they want from a headset is to sit in a room and talk hands-free without frills. Many others lose headsets so often they now limit their expenditure to the minimum (I wonder how many right now are under car seats?) At the more affordable end of the market Samsung has a range of Bluetooth headsets to meet these needs, and we’re going to look at their WEP301 model today.

First impressions of the Samsung WEP301

The first Samsung headset I ever used was the diminutive WEP200, which was a seven gram marvel of miniaturization way back in the day. The WEP301 feels just as light, although its construction feels less premium. From a distance the WEP301 doesn’t look cheap with an attractive silver color finish, but when you get up close it’s clear that the headset was made with a price point in mind.

I don’t have a problem with that, as long as you buy the WEP301 expecting a silver color plastic finish rather than a metal exterior.

Speaking of the exterior the WEP301 ships with a selection of patterned plates that can be affixed to the headset to create a personalized look, which is a fun addition by Samsung.

The other notable item in the box is the power adapter for charging the WEP301’s battery. Unfortunately the headset does not use the standard mini-USB charging port that the likes of Plantronics and Aliph have adopted along with so many cellphone manufacturers. So no brownie points to Samsung for this decision.

The WEP301 sports a multi-function button that acts as a on/off control, plus there are also dedicated volume controls. There is also a light that indicates connection status and reports when the headset is in pairing mode.

Using the Samsung WEP301

Pairing was straightforward with my BlackBerry Bold 9700 and I never found re-pairing to be necessary. Sound quality was very good indoors using the Samsung WEP301. I really didn’t feel like I was using a budget headset when making calls in a quiet controlled environment. Unfortunately there’s no fancy noise canceling technology that the more expensive Bluetooth headsets boast, so call quality on the WEP301 does suffer outdoors as with many other headsets.

There is a detachable earhook which I found to be a necessity as the WEP301 would not securely in my ear without using it. The earhook can be fitted for use on either ear and swiveled to fit different ear shapes. As with the construction of the headset itself, the earhook feels cheap. However it just about does its job; the headset never fell out of my ear but it didn’t feel super-secure either. The Plantronics 395 we reviewed recently does a better job of ensuring a secure fit, although it is slightly more expensive.

One excellent feature of the WEP301 is its long battery life. Samsung quotes 5 hours of talk time for the WEP301 and I did get close to that number in real life usage. I certainly found myself reaching for the charger less frequently than with many other headsets, but that doesn’t forgive the omission of the standard mini-USB charging port.

Does the Samsung WEP301 stand out from the crowd?

Overall the Samsung WEP301 is a good choice as a budget headset and the custom design plates are a fun touch. Those with a little more to spend should also consider the Plantronics 395, which is on a higher level in terms of both build quality and comfort.

Neil Berman

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Aug 31, 2010 Posted by | Hardware, Mobile, Reviews | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Does Apple finally mean business?

Yesterday’s research note from Needham suggests that Mac sales growth to businesses far exceeded that of PC makers. We’re not talking a few percentage points here and there; Needham estimates that even in large enterprises where Apple has traditionally struggled, Mac growth ran at 100% in Q2 compared to 20% for PC makers.

Why is this happening?

The easy money is on iPhone or, less likely, iPad adoption within businesses encouraging IT departments to move into the Mac space. While this may be happening in small companies, I doubt that this is a significant driver for adoption in large corporations.

I believe the answer lies with virtualization and the cloud. Increasingly enterprises are moving to virtualized desktop environments, where end user Windows environments are hosted on remote servers and accessible through a web browser. Therefore they can be client-side agnostic, meaning that just like when accessing a website, the user can happily tap away on a Mac or PC. Cloud services like Google Docs work the same way of course.

Large companies still prefer to manage end user computers using a limited number of vendors for ease of support, but Apple is now one of those vendor options for enterprises that have fully virtualized their end user computing platform. Issues regarding uncertainty about Apple’s Mac roadmap remain, but in a virtualized environment the end user hardware roadmap becomes less important since minimal horsepower is needed at the client side. Accessing a virtual desktop can work just fine on a netbook after all.

Neil Berman

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Aug 25, 2010 Posted by | Analysis, Computing | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

EFO iPazzPort review (3rd generation)

The EFO iPassPort is now in its third iteration and it’s been great to see how this HTPC keyboard/trackpad combo controller has developed over the past year.  In my review of the version 2 iPazzPort, I had some lingering questions about the typing experience and said that “…I’d actually love EFO to take something like one of the larger BlackBerrys…and place the left and right buttons where the call buttons normally live.” Well that’s exactly what EFO appears to have done, fitting the new iPazzPort with a keyboard that looks very similar to that of a BlackBerry 8800 series smartphone.  So let’s see if third time’s a charm for the iPazzPort.

At first glance the 3rd gen iPazzPort looks similar to previous iterations, but this version has some significant enhancements.

The keyboard design and layout has been completely reworked. Keys are now closer together and with better ergonomics. Whereas the previous gen iPazzPorts had keypads arranged with flat horizontal key rows, the new model is far easier to type on if you’re used to typing on a BlackBerry-style smartphone.

The keys themselves offer slightly better feedback than previous versions of the iPazzPort, although the experience is still far from a BlackBerry for example. I was able however to type far more fluently with this iPazzPort compared to previous ones. The backlight is still present which means typing in a dark home theater living room is no problem.

The key layout is also a big step up from the previous model, with media keys now included as well as all the useful secondary keys such as Ctrl, Tab and Fn 1-12. There are also dedicated page up & down buttons that make webpage navigation much easier. Most of the important keys now feel like they’re in the right place, although I’d love to see standalone up & down keys or support for two finger scrolling, which leads me to…

The trackpad – no changes here unfortunately. There’s nothing specifically wrong with the trackpad; it works perfectly well, is a good size and support tap to click as previously. However in a world of multitouch trackpads it would be great if the iPazzPort offered two finger scrolling for effortless webpage navigation. There might be a hacky way to enable this, I’ll let you know if I discover anything.

The third gen iPazzPort now has a red laser pointer built-in, which makes it ideal as a presentation device. The pointer light is bright and is easily viewable in well-lit rooms. It also doubles as the most amusing toy my cat had ever seen, he chased the thing around the apartment non-stop for an afternoon.

The build quality of the iPazzPort seems largely unchanged. It feels light and well put together but lacks the premium feel of something like the Logitech diNovo Mini. It also costs a fraction of the price, so that needs to be taken into account.

The iPazzPort retains the mini-USB charging port and internal lithium-ion rechargeable battery of its predecessor. It comes with a USB charging cable. The iPazzPort goes to sleep after a few seconds if not used to save battery, and consequently the device gives plenty of use between charges. Whereas the 2nd gen iPazzPort used Bluetooth, the 3rd gen model goes back to RF transmission. This might also contribute to the good battery life of the device.

Overall the 3rd generation iPazzPort represents a bigger leap than the changes between the 1st and 2nd gen models. The redesigned keyboard, inclusion or media keys and laser pointer now make the iPazzPort even more compelling as a great HTPC or presentation controller. Now if EFO can get two finger scrolling going in the next version and reverse engineer the key feel of a BlackBerry Bold, this will become a truly great product.

The EFO iPazzPort 3rd generation costs $45 and is available here.

Neil Berman

Aug 19, 2010 Posted by | Hardware, Home Theater, Photo & Video, Reviews | , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Virgin Mobile BlackBerry 8530 review

Virgin Mobile BlackBerry 8530

Virgin Mobile BlackBerry 8530

Last month we reviewed the Virgin Mobile LG Rumor Touch and concluded it worked well as a smartphone for newbies or light data users. We suggested at the time that Virgin Mobile’s BlackBerry 8530 might be a better bet for those looking for a more rounded smartphone experience and promised a review, so here it is.

We covered Virgin Mobile’s Beyond Talk plans in our review of the LG Rumor Touch, but the one difference with the BlackBerry 8530 is that Virgin Mobile asks for an extra $10 per month. This is presumably due to costs associated with

Virgin Mobile BlackBerry 8530 back

Back

BIS usage and the higher volume of data that the BlackBerry 8530 will likely consume compared to the other Virgin Mobile data phones. This extra amount brings the base Beyond Talk plan to a still very reasonable $35 with unlimited data, texts and 300 minutes, or $50 for 1,200 minutes. The unlimited minute plan becomes $70 including data and texts. At the time of writing the same situation still applies regarding taxes which is that, in New York at least, the only tax applied is sales tax.

Now back to the BlackBerry 8530. While being a new addition to Virgin Mobile, the BlackBerry 8530 has been on the wider market for a while now. At $299.99 it’s the most expensive phone in the Virgin Mobile line-up, and twice the price of the LG Rumor Touch. So is it twice as good?

First impressions of the Virgin Mobile BlackBerry 8530

When the 8500 series was announced I was skeptical about it during a BerryReporter podcast. My feelings at the time were that BlackBerry already had the 8900 Curve series and should have made the 8500 Curve series more teen orientated with a more obvious social networking focus and fewer traditional BlackBerry menus. RIM chose not to do that and released the 8500 series with the same OS as the rest of the range. While I remain unconvinced of this strategy on most carriers, I think it works well on Virgin Mobile since the 8530 is the only BlackBerry available on that network. More on the software later.

Virgin Mobile BlackBerry 8530 battery and micro sd

Battery, micro SD and camera

Looking at the hardware, the BlackBerry 8530 comes in any color on Virgin Mobile as long as it’s black. I was somehow expecting a red option since that is the color I associate with Virgin Mobile and I thought that would be a distinctive tell for the carrier but black it is. The casing is shiny black at least and does look smart. There’s a small, subtle Virgin Mobile logo beneath the keyboard.

The keyboard is a similar design to the 8900, with mildly ridged keys in the standard BlackBerry layout. The 8530 has the optical trackpad of the newer BlackBerrys, rather than the trackball which was famous for needing regular cleaning art best or occasional replacement at worst.

Above the trackpad is the screen, which is one of the newer dazzlingly vivid BlackBerry screens. Unfortunately the resolution is only 320 x 240, so it lacks the stunning pinpoint resolution of the higher end BlackBerry models. The result is that small OS text can look a little pixelated although still perfectly readable.

The left side houses a standard 3.5mm headphone socket, micro-USB charging port and assignable button. The volume controls and a second assignable button are on the right side.

On the top of the 8530 there are track skip and play/pause buttons, the latter of which also serves as a mute button.

There is a two megapixel camera on the back without a flash and a micro SD card slot hides under the battery cover. Thankfully the micro SD card is accessible without needing to remove the battery.

As with the rest of the BlackBerry range, the 8530 feels very well built. It might not ooze the enterprise class quality of the Bold 9000 or 9700, but it feels like it’s built to last.

Using the Virgin Mobile BlackBerry 8530

The Virgin Mobile BlackBerry 8530 runs version 5 of BlackBerry OS, which is pretty vast so I’ll concentrate here on some of the main features.

Virgin Mobile BlackBerry 8530 App World

BlackBerry App World

The Virgin Mobile BlackBerry 8530 is able to access BlackBerry App World, which is RIM’s equivalent of Apple’s App Store. There is a wide range of BlackBerry apps available now, and since the OS is able to multitask it’s perfectly possible to have Facebook and IM or RSS apps running in the background while you’re watching a YouTube video or writing an email.

On the subject of YouTube, the BlackBerry 8530 was easily able to stream YouTube videos over the Virgin Mobile network, which actually uses Sprint for cell service. I preferred using the Player for YouTube app which I downloaded from BlackBerry App World, to browse and stream videos rather than the YouTube website but that’s purely a matter of personal preference. The message here is that while I struggled to stream YouTube videos consistently with the LG Rumor Touch, the BlackBerry 8530 worked perfectly every time.

The BlackBerry 8530 has 256MB for app storage, which is a decent amount since BlackBerry apps are generally pretty small in size. The micro SD card can only be used for media files, so if you run out of space for apps you’ll need to clear some out before installing more.

Speaking of media files, the media player on the BlackBerry 8530 is good to use. Videos look fine using the onboard player, although I missed the crystal sharp resolution of the screens on the Bold 9000 and 9700. Pictures can be browsed using a finger swipe across the trackpad.

Music is easily searchable and searches are instant. Playlists can be created on the phone itself and skipping within tracks is simple. There are repeat 1 and All settings as well as shuffle. The speaker is decently loud, although completely

Virgin Mobile BlackBerry 8530 browser

Browser

lacking in bass definition; it’s better suited to spoken podcasts than music playback. For music the headphone socket delivers excellent sound quality and the top-mounted playback control buttons are a useful feature.

Something I always look for in a smartphone is whether it supports Bluetooth A2DP stereo audio streaming and AVRCP playback remote control. The BlackBerry 8530 supports both of these and happily streamed music to a Plantronics BackBeat 903 stereo headset with full remote control capabilities. Incidentally this streaming also works fine with downloaded apps that are enabled to use it, such as Pandora and Stitcher, which is handy to know.

The web browser on the BlackBerry 8530 is okay, although nothing special.  It is able to render pages fairly well but lacks Flash and any sense of speed.  It is usable however for basic web surfing and the trackpad serves adequately as a mouse.  Serious surfers may want to look at a downloadable browser such as Bolt.

If you’re considering the Virgin Mobile BlackBerry 8530 over the LG Rumor Touch it may well be to take advantage of the renowned BlackBerry messaging capabilities. The 8530 does not disappoint in this regard offering an excellent keyboard, BlackBerry Messenger and downloadable clients for the major IM platforms. Virgin Mobile includes a Twitter app straight out of the box. The BlackBerry 8530 also supports multiple email inboxes and handles email far better than the LG Rumor Touch.

Photo taken on BlackBerry 8530

Photos taken on the BlackBerry 8530 are passable for occasional use, although Halo looks unimpressed

The two megapixel camera of the BlackBerry 8530 is passable but a weak point of the device. By modern standards the resolution is too low, with five or at least three megapixels now being the minimal standard. The camera does take decent shots though and is good enough for occasional use, but with its lack of flash don’t count on using it in low light environments.  There’s a second photo below taken at close range which reveals issues for macro shooting.

Many of the other drawbacks of the Virgin Mobile BlackBerry 8530 are common to the whole BlackBerry range. The 8530 takes a long time to boot up if it crashes, so we’re thankful that the platform is relatively stable. You will probably need to reboot once every couple of weeks though to give the 8530 a fresh start if you typically have a lot of apps open simultaneously.

The screen of the BlackBerry 8530, like most other BlackBerrys, is not touch enabled. However the BlackBerry 8530 is very quick to navigate using the optical trackpad. If you’re dying to get a touchscreen phone though, look elsewhere.

Call quality of the BlackBerry 8530 was good with no significant issues. It was able to pair with Bluetooth headsets if you prefer to talk hands-free. Battery life was fine, with two days being achievable with light voice and data use. Heavy users will probably want to juice up the BlackBerry 8530 every night.

Summing up the Virgin Mobile BlackBerry 8530

Overall the Virgin Mobile BlackBerry 8530 is an excellent choice if you’re looking for a proper smartphone for a low monthly cost. It’s definitely worth the extra over the LG Rumor Touch if you’re planning to be a heavy data or want a more robust messaging experience. There is the extra $10 monthly to consider above the normal Virgin Mobile Beyond Talk plans plus the initial outlay for the phone is high, but it works out favorably over two years when compared to buying the same phone on a contract with some other carriers. However the market is no longer standing still and MetroPCS has also recently launched the BlackBerry 8530 at a lower device price point but a higher minimum monthly cost. As ever, check out all the deals in your area before you jump in!

Neil Berman

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Aug 15, 2010 Posted by | Hardware, Mobile, Reviews | , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

A new design for Windows Phone 7

Microsoft declared minimum hardware specs a while ago for Windows Phone 7 but the company also has a design opportunity beyond bits and bytes.

The look and feel of Windows Phone 7 is distinctive; its ‘Metro’ UI, carried over from Windows Media Center and Zune and augmented by the home screen tiles is modern, angular and sharp. Unfortunately the early prototype demo devices shown so far have failed to capture this exciting aesthetic in their hardware design. That’s ok for now of course; these devices were created to test and prove the software with reference internal hardware specs, rather than being intended for retail sale.

We’re constantly seeing that the bar is being raised in the smartphone space. Nokia, RIM and Microsoft have all been victims of the sector-leading hardware and software design combinations from Android and Apple. It’s only August, so there are still a few months to go until we see Windows Phone 7 devices hit retail channels. Please Microsoft, encourage OEMs to deliver us phones that go beyond the specs to look as stunning as the OS promises to be.

Neil Berman

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Aug 15, 2010 Posted by | Analysis, Hardware, Microsoft, Mobile | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hands-on with the BlackBerry Torch 9800

BlackBerry Torch 9800 slide-out keyboard

BlackBerry Torch 9800 slide-out keyboard

The BlackBerry Torch 9800 has been eagerly anticipated by BlackBerry fans for a long time, but early reviews have left some disappointed.  After getting some hands-on time with RIM’s latest smartphone, here are my initial impressions:

BlackBerry Torch 9800: Build quality and looks

The BlackBerry Torch is small and well formed.  This smartphone could have been a large brick, but it’s almost the same size as a Bold 9700.  The Torch is slightly thicker but at a glance the two BlackBerrys share very similar dimensions, which is remarkable when you consider that the Torch has a slide out keyboard.  The Torch feels as solid as one would expect from an enterprise class BlackBerry.  Fit and finish seems to be top notch and the sliding keyboard has a satisfying click when it engages.

BlackBerry Torch 9800: Keyboard

BlackBerry Torch 9800 alongside Bold 9700 keyboard

BlackBerry Torch 9800 alongside Bold 9700 keyboard

A BlackBerry is only as good as its keyboard, and the one on the Torch is okay.  Since it has to slide under the main body of the device, the keys cannot be raised as high as the Bold 9700 or 9000 and consequently it can be hard initially to type quickly.  The Palm Pre and Motorola Droid have the same issue and each of those smartphones handled the problem in their own ways; the Pre has little bobble keys and the Droid went completely flat.  The Droid 2 has adopted slightly raised keys, similar to the Torch 9800.  I did find that typing became fluent after a few minutes but the edges of the chassis, as with the Palm Pre, do sometimes get in the way of quick typing.

There’s also an on-screen keyboard, with which I really struggled.  I couldn’t get into any kind of fast and accurate typing rhythm with the on-screen keyboard, and always reached for the hardware keyboard when I became too frustrated.

BlackBerry Torch 9800: Touch screen and general speed of operation

The Torch has a regular glass touch screen, unlike the Storm which has SurePress to register screen inputs, and for general navigation and opening apps I found the touch screen to be perfectly responsive.  Much hasbeen said about the Torch being slow due to the extra demands of OS 6, but in my limited time with the Torch I didn’t really experience slowdown issues.  I don’t feel that the OS makes efficient use of touch in the same way as Apple iOS or Android, but RIM has created that issue for itself by releasing the Torch with an OS that is also destined for its non-touchscreen devices like the Bold 9700.  So the touch efficiency of OS 6 only goes so far before it feels like an add-on.

Neil Berman

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Aug 14, 2010 Posted by | Hardware, Mobile, Reviews | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The cost of iTV

A rumor circulated this week on Engadget that Apple might be planning to rebrand Apple TV as iTV. As someone who grew up in the UK this looked immediately problematic for ITV, which is one of the larger UK television networks.

ITV subsequently announced that it has “vigorously defended” its IP in the past, which signals that it may be ready to do so again if necessary.

Let’s look at this another way: Business is all about money. While customers often become emotional about products, the Mac vs PC phenomenon being a recent example, companies are more concerned about maximizing shareholder value.

There is intangible value that can be crystallized out of brand IP in the form of goodwill, estimated loss of future opportunity and rebranding costs. If Apple does choose to go ahead and use the iTV name for Apple TV then any discussions with ITV about taking over the brand name would most likely include a quantification of these items. The outcome of those discussions would probably be determined by whether each party felt satisfied by the investment required (Apple) and compensation received (ITV) to make the trade.

So while ITV has made comments about its IP, I expect these are probably aimed at setting a starting point for negotiations if Apple elects to make a play for the iTV brand name rather than an outright dismissal. Everything has its price.

Neil Berman

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Aug 14, 2010 Posted by | Analysis, Home Theater, Photo & Video | , , , | Leave a comment

Halo reads iPad, wants to learn swipe gestures?

cat ipad

Halo, you geek!

Neil Berman

Aug 10, 2010 Posted by | Apple | , | Leave a comment

Steve Jobs at CES 2011?

There’s a perfect storm of rumors in rumorland which is making me think we might see Steve Jobs at CES 2011 in January. Firstly, stories have been doing the rounds about the possible launch of a CDMA iPhone early next year; now Verizon has just announced it will be delivering a keynote at CES and recently AT&T has been talking about how it is preparing for the end of exclusivity of certain unnamed devices.

So will Verizon use that keynote to announce a CDMA iPhone? If so, surely Steve Jobs would be on stage to enjoy the moment? I’d love to say “stay tuned to find out”, but you’d need one heck of an attention span – CES is still five months away. But if this all comes together, you heard it here first!

Neil Berman

Aug 9, 2010 Posted by | Hardware | Leave a comment

RIM caught between a rock and a hard place

RIM has increasingly found itself in the crosshairs of governments who want to have greater insight into BlackBerry data traveling across RIM’s bespoke network.

While other platforms tend to rely more upon less secure cloud services for content, the BlackBerry platform routes email, BBM and some other traffic through RIM’s network. This has the advantage of keeping it safe from prying eyes, but some governments are worried the internal security issues of not being able to view that data.

Without its strong data privacy and encryption, RIM’s BlackBerry would be a far weaker platform in the Enterprise space. Ironically in some of those emerging markets where governments are challenging RIM, having data privacy at an Enterprise level is all the more important since there might be fewer internal corporate controls regarding information dissemination, compared to more developed economies.

So while Enterprises in those countries are likely to be highly reliant upon privacy to guard their internal knowledge and competitive advantage, they are likely to lose some of that privacy if a country’s security is believed to be at risk.

What does this mean for RIM? Tough times ahead. I’d say it’s pretty certain that as more countries jump on this one it will become increasingly difficult for RIM to maintain lock and key over its data network. That doesn’t bode well for RIM’s competitive advantage at all.

Neil Berman

Aug 8, 2010 Posted by | Analysis, Mobile | , , , , | Leave a comment

Apple Store Covent Garden: The calm before the storm

Apple store Covent GardenThis is Apple’s latest store, in London’s Covent Garden, getting prepped for its opening at 10am tomorrow morning. The photo shows its sidewalk entrance at its final desolate moments before the deluge commences. In terms of design, the exterior is in keeping with Covent Garden and resembles the understated look of Manhattan’s 14th St store rather than a landmark like the 5th Ave glass cube.

Indoors the blue shirted Apple folks are getting their final pep talk inside in preparation for tomorrow’s frenzy. So if you’re in London and ready to splurge on a new Apple-thing, head on over there tomorrow. The excitement of splurging at a store opening event sometimes help to ease the wallet pain!

Btw, is it rude to say I snapped this shot with a BlackBerry?

Thanks for the tip Dave.

Neil Berman

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Aug 6, 2010 Posted by | Apple | , , , , | Leave a comment

Dummy phones are dumb

I’ve recently noticed that my local T-Mobile stores have taken away their demo cellphones and replaced them with non-functioning replicas. This seems like an effective way to make products look boring and empty a store.

While the local Sprint, Verizon and AT&T stores are packed at lunchtime with deep-pocketed office workers trying out those carriers’ latest smartphones, the nearby T-Mobile shop assistants look lonely.

In the universe of silly ideas this sounds like a biggie; I mean what kind of mainstream consumer is going to switch to T-Mobile if they can’t even try the goods before they buy.

Motorola Milestone DroidBut then on my current visit to London I wandered through Brent Cross shopping mall and the stores there had dummy models too! What the heck? Even worse, although there was a dedicated Android feature at one store with real smartphones, the devices were half-covered in tape, were totally unusable and looked super-ugly!

This situation is all the more painful for Android because it is a new platform that should be encouraging consumers to give it some hands-on time. The growth rate of Android is clearly phenomenal but, with some more polish around the sales technique, the unit volumes would surely be higher.

Of course this was happening right next door to a busy Apple store full of iPhones that were switched-on *gasp*, fully functional *shock* and beckoning customers to play with them.

So if Apple is able to have working iPhones on display why is it so hard for dedicated cellphone shops to have Android phones on display, and why do Android handset manufacturers allow stores to turn their latest hero device into a non-functioning dummy?

Neil Berman

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Aug 5, 2010 Posted by | Apple, Hardware, Mobile | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Where next for Kindle?

Down and across. That’s the answer for those who like to read the end first.

Down: The price of the Kindle hardware looks to be in a race to the bottom with the Nook and every other eBook reader out there. I’d say that’s just fine for Amazon, and I reckon the Kindle’s selling price is almost inconsequential to the e-tailer. Kindle is all about wrapping the consumer up in its online store, after all Amazon is perfectly happy for you to read Kindle books on your compatible smartphone or computer. The overriding priority is probably to ensure that consumers choose Kindle over competing ecosystems, and in the standalone eBook reader market I’d say that means selling the Kindle hardware as cheap as chips if necessary.

The iPad has created some downward pressure since its perceived value as a multi-function device is significantly higher than that of the Kindle, which is designed to do one thing well. It’s nice that Kindle 3 will have a Webkit internet browser and some other candy on the side, but its core competency is presenting books from a huge library, which leads me to…

Across: Well, “Smooth” might be a better word. One of the things that makes companies like Netflix attractive is their smooth and partially predictable revenue stream, due to their subscription model. I think Amazon may move to offer an x-books-at-a-time tiered subscription model for Kindle alongside the existing buy-once model. This would be perfect for pulling bookworms into an unlimited plan, while Kindle newbies could experiment with a one or two books per month plan. Plenty of similar models exist for digital content distribution; Zune Pass, Rhapsody and of course the aforementioned Netflix.

Perhaps the most compelling example is the cellphone contract model. Consumers buy a cellphone for a fraction or sometimes 0% of its full MSRP and the hardware cost gets recouped by the carrier over the life of the contract. Whether Amazon would follow a contract or no-contract model is a pointless discussion since this whole article is pure speculation but, if you’re waiting for a $99 Kindle, I think it will come. Heck by my logic it may end up even cheaper than that.

Thanks to Eytan and Charlie for helping to trigger my thoughts about this.

Neil Berman

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Aug 3, 2010 Posted by | Analysis, Mobile | , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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