Tag Archives | Wireless Carriers

Samsung's Galaxy S Phone: Wireless Freedom of Choice

Now that the proverbial dust is starting to settle around the Samsung Galaxy S and its six known variants for major US wireless networks, how does the latest smartphone stack up against its many Android rivals–and against Apple’s iPhone 4, for that matter?

It all depends on who you ask. With smartphones getting announced in such rapid-fire succession, it seems to take less time than ever for opinions to start flying. Samsung only officially launched the Galaxy last week, at a press event I attended in New York City. Granted, a lot of details had already leaked out even before the launch. Already, though, the phone is getting analyzed and compared across every conceivable dimension.

In a presentation at the start of the launch on Wednesday, J.K. Shin, president of Samsung’s Mobile Communications Business, tried to keep things simple by citing three key differentiators for Samsung’s phone: screen, speed, and content. If onlookers were asked to put together the same list, they’d undoubtedly come up with all kinds of answers.

Personally, I’d keep the three factors Shin mentioned on my list, because the Galaxy S does have merits in all of these areas. But I’d also add two other factors–freedom of choice in wireless networks and smartphone form factors–and I’d place these two way above the other three.

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Phones: Less Talk, More Data

Speaking of the New York Times, here’s a nice story on the inevitable transformation of wireless phones into tiny computers that happen to be able to make phone calls. Maybe it’s time to come up with that new name for these gadgets. (I keep advocating for “PC,” but I seem to be alone…)


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Phones on Planes? No Thank You!

BlahI think of myself as not having a Luddite bone in my body. But there’s one example of American technological backwardness that I’m extremely comfortable with: the fact that we can’t use cell phones on planes. When I sit near someone–or, more typically, multiple someones–making a deeply personal and/or deeply boring call before takeoff or after landing, I always feel like I’m being held hostage. The notion of being subjected to six hours of such stuff on the way across the country is downright scary.

The New York Times has a story about the fact that there are now 15,000 flights a month on which use of cell phones is permitted–none of which are operated by U.S. airlines. The FCC still forbids them to let passengers use their phones, and as with many rules related to air travels, the reasons are somewhat murky. It’s only partially because phones might interfere with planes’ navigation equipment–wireless carriers are also worried that calls from 35,000 feet would screw up their roaming agreements. Widespread opposition by both the traveling public and flight attendants presumably doesn’t help the cause, either.

The Times quotes executives involved in in-air calling saying that fear of phoning is misplaced–the engine noise makes it hard to hear strangers’ calls, and it’s all supposedly a lot less obtrusive than you’d think. Maybe so. And while the Times story doesn’t make clear whether callers on international flights are paying a premium vs. calls they make from terra firma, I’d like to think that in-flight calling is costly enough to keep conversations brief and to the point. (I don’t remember being annoyed by my fellow travelers’ calls back during the golden age of Airfone, and even made an Airfone call or two myself in a pinch.)

Look, I’m willing to confront the possibility that I’m being an old fogy. The worst thing about calls made when a plane’s on the ground is their sheer obviousness to those who overhear them–how often have we all heard the words “Hi, we haven’t taken off yet” and “Hi, we just landed”? Maybe in-air calls would be less grating. I suspect that it’s inevitable that they’ll come to domestic flights, and I’m willing to wear industrial-strength noise-shielding headphones and to direct my attention to my laptop if need be, (My laptop will be online via in-flight Wi-Fi if it all possible–I told you I’m not a Luddite.)

Anyhow, let’s wrap this up with a T-Poll:


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5Words: AT&T’s Dead Spot Cure

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AT&T, give customers free MicroCells.

Apple investigating iPhone battery complaints.

Dell buys Ross Perot’s company.

FCC actively boosts net neutrality.

Google loves H.G. Wells.

A history of DEMO winners.

An MP3 player for bikes.

Windows 7’s gonna make history?

High-definition Wii coming soon?


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5Words for Monday, September 14th, 2009

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Will T-Mobile pick up Sprint?

NYTimes.com delivers ad-based malware.

FTC stops Sears, Kmart spying.

AT&T starts iPhone MMS early.

Dell discounts the Zune HD.

Apple’s hogging all the flash.

Apple chops Apple TV price.

Here’s your Atari 800 laptop.

Eee Keyboard PC: October arrival.

Nokia’s Booklet: priciest netbook ever.


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Free Cell-to-Cell Calls From Sprint

TechVi broke this news, which is now official:

Any Sprint customer on the base $70 / month plan, which includes unlimited data, text and MMS messages, and 450 minutes, will be able to call any other cell phone on T-Mobile, Verizon, or AT&T without using plan minutes.

That’s not unlimited calling, but for some people, it would be darn close. I wonder what percentage of the average American’s cell phone calls are to another cell phone, and how that figure has changed in the last decade


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AT&T Beefs Up New York and New Jersey Coverage

AT&T LogoFrom its press release:

AT&T today announced a substantial strengthening of its 3G mobile broadband wireless network where it has deployed spectrum in the 850 MHz band across large portions of metro New York City, Long Island and New Jersey. As a result, customers in these areas should experience better connectivity, performance and enhanced in-building wireless coverage.

[snip]

The 850 MHz spectrum was deployed for 3G use at more than 1,600 cell sites in metro New York, Long Island and New Jersey. It is considered a high-quality spectrum, which generally results in better in-building coverage. While specific benefits of the additional 3G spectrum will vary by location, AT&T 3G customers should see improved quality and coverage throughout New York City, Long Island and New Jersey where 850 MHz spectrum has been deployed. AT&T technicians nationwide responsible for monitoring network performance for service quality and coverage have seen significant increases in total 3G data traffic in areas where the 850MHz spectrum has been deployed.

Good news about AT&T coverage is…good news. (Betcha that the company’s reputation is a lagging indicator–it’ll take awhile for its customers to realize that the situation has improved, even after it’s achieved respectable nationwide broadband coverage and reliability.)

My personal benchmark for AT&T reliability is San Francisco’s South of Market area–and most specifically the lobby of the Marriott Courtyard on Second Street, which in the past has been a Bermuda Triangle of AT&T coverage. TechCrunch’s MG Siegler recently reported that things were looking up in this neighborhood; it’ll be a thrill once I’m confident that I can take calls without rushing outside and/or knocking my iPhone 3GS back into 2G mode.


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Zer01: Unlimited Calls and Data for One Low Price

Zer01 LogoAnnounced at the CTIA Wireless trade show in Las Vegas yesterday, a new wireless company called Zer01 Communications offers the entire connectivity package–unlimited calls and data–in one package, starting at only $69.95 a month. The solution could attract lots of interest if the ongoing economic recession forces people to re-examine how much they’re paying for utilities such as phone service.

PCMag.com broke the story last month after talking with ZER01 CEO Ben Piilani. According to Zer01, “using proprietary technology and infrastructure as never before, it can provide affordable, unlimited mobile service.” But Zer01 isn’t really a wireless carrier. It’s really a VoIP company that piggybacks on top of traditional networks such as AT&T, as PCMag.com reported.

Unlike most U.S. carriers, Zer01 doesn’t do contracts–service is pay-as-you-go. But unlike other pre-paid plans, which typically charge you by the minute or kilobyte, Zer0 says that its domestic plan includes ‘unlimited minutes, any time from anywhere in the continental U.S.A and Canada,’ for $69.95 per month, while its international offer, for $10 more, includes the domestic service. For its international connectivity, the company claims partners, in South America, Europe, Asia, and elsewhere. But it has kept the names of its domestic and international partners secret so far.

Despite Zer01’s claim of “no other fees and taxes,” there is also a one-time, $30 activation fee, and parental controls are available for an extra $4.99 a month. So the subscriber’s first payment is at least $99.95.

It remains to be seen just how reliable Zer01’s VoIP is. If there are problems, customers might regret having chosen to pre-pay for Zer01’s service.

If a subscriber doesn’t already have an unlocked GSM phone to use with Zer01, he or she can buy one from Zer01: Options include HTC’s TyTN II (also sold by AT&T as the Tilt), Touch 3G, and Diamond, and Pharos’s Traveler 117 and Traveler 127. It hasn’t yet set prices for any of these models. It also sells various other optional services and accessories, such as a two-year protection plan for the HTC TyTN II for $69,  a battery charger for $29.99, and a Bluethooth headset for $79.99.


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