Cell Phones un-leashed

T-mobile made some major announcements last week regarding the way their company is going to run, and as a long-time customer I am incredibly excited about it. The company has decided to go a totally new route in terms of payments and services, breaking away from the traditional two-year contract that has been used by cell phone companies for years.

The head of T-mobile making big announcements last week.

At most other services, including T-mobile until now, customers don’t pay face value for the phones they buy upfront. They instead end up paying off whatever they didn’t pay up front in their monthly bill..even after it’s been paid off. According to an article in the New York Times, T-mobile plans on putting an end to that. Customers can either pay face value of the phone right away when they buy it, or pay a minimum and then pay it off in monthly increments until the phone has been paid off. The company also plans on getting rid of the yearly contract, which would allow customers to leave at anytime without being penalized.

There are other big changes coming at T-mobile, one of the biggest being a simplification of their different plans. There will be 3 plans to choose from, all of which include unlimited calls, text and internet. The only difference between the three plans will be the amount of data you receive a month, which ranges from 500 megabytes to unlimited. And once you’ve used up your data for the month? You will no longer be penalized, but will drop down to 2G speeds for the rest of the month.

All of these changes are something that I am really excited about as a current user at T-mobile. I have long contemplated switching over to a different carrier that has better coverage and phones to offer. But with this new plan on it’s way, I am thinking twice about leaving T-mobile for good.

Pogue, D. (2013, April 3). Breaking free of the cellphone carrier conspiracy. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/04/technology/personaltech/t-mobile-breaks-free-of-cellphone-contracts-and-penalties.html?pagewanted=1&_r=2&adxnnlx=1365293596-DkdrqM3 AuU2/eggjb5AUg

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The New and Improved Self-Checkout Aisle

If this new application becomes successful for Walmart stores, self-checkout will never be the same. Walmart has announced that they will be expanding their “Scan & Go” program to more than 200 stores across the country, according to an article in the Chicago Tribune.

scan your items as you go

scan your items as you go

“Scan & Go” sounds like one of the most convenient applications in a law time in my opinion. Here’s how it works according to Walmart’s website: download the app, scan your grocery items as you shop, and then follow the steps at the self-checkout kiosk to pay. Sounds like a piece of cake to me! As a shopper, I hate both waiting in line to pay and having someone else try to bag my groceries for me. With this app, I could check myself out and waste no time waiting for my items to be scanned only when I’m standing at the registar.

This new way to shop has been introduced to Walmart stores quite slowly, and it appears that they will continue that way. While it appears to be successful so far, they plan on really paying attention to customer feedback each step of the way. If it continues to make customers happy, I would venture to guess that we will see this in all 4,000 locations.

One of the biggest drawbacks to this program at the moment is who can use it. Right now, there is an app that is only available to Apple product users, leaving anyone with an Android smartphone out of luck. According to the tribune article, Walmart plans on having an app for Android coming out soon.

The application also has features that allow you to do more than just make the checkout process quicker. It also allows you to keep track of your total price, a feature that could help costumers keep better track of what they buy and how much they spend.

An example of the typical shopping list on “Shop & Go”

If you’re a Walmart shopper, and are looking for a quick and easy shopping experience, this sounds like it has the potential to be everyones best shopping assistant.

Scan and go. (2013). Retrieved from http://wm5.walmart.com/scanandgo/

Wohl, J. (2013, March 20). Walmart expands iphone-based checkout. Chicago Tribune. Retrieved from http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/breaking/chi-walmart-expands-iphonebased-checkout-20130320,0,2847772.story

Use of New Media in the Vatican

As the Catholic church chose a new Pope this past week, there was a lot of attention on the use of technology in the Vatican. From the resignation of Pope Benedict in February to the selection of Pope Francis this past Wednesday, discussions of new media’s place in the Vatican have been circulating in the news.

Pope Benedict was the first to hold both a Facebook and Twitter account, showing the Vatican wanting to move into the age of social media. And in a smart move by Vatican officials, rather than closing out his twitter account fully after the announcement of his stepping down, it was changed to reflect the beginnings of the new selection process. (Kanalley)

Even with this new technology, the voting process for Pope Francis still upheld the traditions that have been in place since 1914, according to David Morgan of CBS news. Those traditions, which exclude the use of any technology within the voting process, were ironically enforced by the use of technology. Cell phone signal blockers were put in to scramble any messages the cardinals may have been tempted to send out prior to the white smoke billowing from the conclaves decision. (Morgan)

There were a whole host of apps created for those of us anxiously awaiting the announcement, according to Rosa Golijan’s article from NBC news. Your choices range from The Pope App, which sends you alerts and news from the Vatican, to Conclave alert, which tracked Tweets mentioning the conclave, as well as having information about possible candidates and the election process. (Golijan)

This story of the new Pope was told to the world through a whole host of different mediums, demonstrating transmedia storytelling. Whether or not the Catholic church wishes to keep up with the new way that people are getting and sharing their information only time will tell. But even if they wish to keep things as they are, the rest of us are going to continue on the path of new media and technology.

A view of Vatican square as Pope Francis speaks for the first time.

Morgan, D. (2013, March 14). The new papacy and new media. CBS News. Retrieved from http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-205_162-57574283/the-new-papacy-and-new-media/

Kanalley, C. (2013, February 28). Pope twitter account transforms as benedict resigns, tweets deleted. Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/28/pope-twitter-account-tweets-deleted_n_2783825.html

Golijan, R. (2013, March 12). Apps keep track of conclave while the vatican’s under a tech lockdown. NBC News: Technology. Retrieved from http://www.nbcnews.com/technology/technolog/apps-keep-track-conclave-while-vaticans-under-tech-lockdown-1C8780236

Iphone users Play their Get Out of Jail Free Cards

Until recently, jail breaking an iphone to me always meant someone using an iphone on a network that doesn’t carry it. But I’ve learned there’s a lot more to jailbreak than the phone itself. Softwares are being created and updated constantly for users to “break free” of iOS software.

My question is, why would you want to jailbreak your iphone? A question I would say most people ask of those that choose to change the move away from the confines of iOS software. According to an article by Devindra Hardawar, jailbreaking allows iphone users to install unapproved software on their phones, as well as tweaks to the iOS interface. 

Most of these softwares aren’t compatible with the newest iOS 6 operating system, but first to successfully launch was Evasi0n, which came out early February. Evasi0n, whose icon is above, provides a jailbreak that stays with your phone even after a reboot, something that other jail-breaking systems had failed to do. (Hardawar) Evasi0n was used by over 7 million people in the first four days of it’s launch, but now may be facing push back from Apple software developers.

According to a Forbes article by Andy Greenberg, the latest update for iOS 6 looks to have patch many of the glitches Evasi0n takes advantage of in their software. These kinds of updates keep Apple products from being taken over by jailbreak softwares, and according to Greenberg, the fact that it took so long for a product like Evasi0n to become available shows that iOS may be becoming harder to crack. 

Even as Apple developers constantly update their work to fight the battle with the jailbreak, those on the outside say they will continue to be able to find the gaps and new ways to introduce their own software. (Greenberg) Obviously, I’ve learned through all of this that there is a lot more to jailbreaking a phone than I could’ve imagined. I’m excited to see whether Apple can keep up with the developers who at this very moment are finding a new way into the walls of the iphone 5. 

Hardawar, D. (2013, February 23). Apple’s latest iphone update could kill the popular evasi0n jailbreak.Venture Beat, Retrieved from http://venturebeat.com/2013/02/25/apples-latest-iphone-update-could-kill-the-popular-evasi0n-jailbreak/

Greenberg, A. (2013, February 25). Apple is beta-testing an update that kills evasi0n jailbreak. Forbes Magazine, Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/andygreenberg/2013/02/25/apple-is-beta-testing-a-fix-for-evasi0n-jailbreak/

The new “faces” of the Watch World?

There seems to be a growing trend today of all our technology and media becoming more and more connected. That idea has taken the traditional watch to a whole new level. There are many different models entering the market that allow you to synchronize your watch to your smartphone. The two examples I found show off the different directions that designers could take for this concept. One, takes on the appearance of a traditional watch, while the other looks anything but traditional.

The first watch I initially came across was the Citizen Eco-Drive Proximity Watch. The watch, which was being reviewed in an article by Damon Lavrinc from Wired Magazine, takes on the look of a traditional analog watch. What lies underneath it’s traditional exterior is quite an amazing technology. According to Citizen Eco Drive’s website, the watch has the ability to give the wearer alerts when they receive phone calls, emails, calendar notifications and even a loss of connection.(citizenwatch.com) What I thought was great about the way this watch was designed was that the alerts appear to the wearer on the outside band of the watch, which to me makes it a lot less obnoxious and more appealing to the everyday wearer. (Lavrinc, 2013)

There are some key features though that make this watch less than perfect. For starters the system only works with iphone software, which greatly limits their market for the product. Another major flaw pointed out by Lavrinc was the lack of text message alerts. A majority of people receive more texts than anything else, so it is a definite downfall that this technology can’t sync such an important aspect of communication.

Another synchronizing watch I came across was the Pebble. This watch carries many of the same ideas as the Citizen Watch, but takes a much different approach to style. The Pebble’s design take a much more modern approach, with everything about the watch being completely digital. According to Pebbles’s website, the Pebble is customizable, and runs on downloads that the user chooses, including things like email, message, and incoming call alerts. There is also the option of syncing your music, and gps to the watch. (getpebble.com) The Pebble has the ability to sync with both Android and iphone systems, making it a viable options for most of the smartphone user market. 

I’d say the choice between the two watch comes down mostly to what style of watch your looking for, as well as what operating system your phone has. No matter which watch you choose though, this is a great example of the way our technologies ever converging. 

Lavrinc, D. (2013, February 23). Citizen eco drive proximity: That syncing feeling. Wired Magazine, Retrieved from http://www.wired.com/reviews/2013/02/citizen-eco-drive-proximity/

Citizen Eco-Drive Proximity: http://www.citizenwatch.com/en-ir/watches/watch-detail/?model=AT7030-05E

Pebble Watch: http://getpebble.com/

Skype bought Out by Microsoft

This past weekend I had wandered into the Nordstrom on Michigan Avenue to escape the cold, and I walked straight into a huge display of Microsoft’s new Surface tablet. But this wasn’t what caught my attention. The woman assisting those of us testing the new tablets suddenly asked, “Do you use Skype?”

This question struck me as odd, considering that I was there to look at a tablet, not to talk about a video calling service. But as she handed out free Skype calls for one month to myself and the two others who raised their hands, she told me that the company was now owned by Microsoft. This merger actually occurred in May of 2011, but apparently it went unnoticed by people like me. 

According to an article from Mashable, Microsoft acquired the company for $8.5 billion, quite a hefty price for the addition to the Microsoft family. Microsoft has made plans to incorporate the system into their existing devices and systems, things like Xbox and Kinect, the Windows phone, Xbox live and Outlook. (mashable.com) 

Although the company is now associated with Microsoft, they don’t plan on discontinuing it’s development outside of the company. This merger to me shows just how much convergence of media has begun to happen for technology user today. We now have the ability to make video and landline calls from our gaming systems, mobile phones and computers. We now even have the ability to do so across different operating systems, from Windows to Apple iOS.

In an article on Wired.com, this decision to merge has come under the criticism of whether it was really worth the money for Microsoft. The question posed is really whether the long-term payout for Microsoft will be worth the purchase. The addition of Skype to their products will certainly be advantageous for consumers, but perhaps not so much for the companies finances. I will be interested to see if this convergence of these two companies has all the benefits Microsoft was hoping for. 

Bright, P. (2011, May 10). Microsoft buys skype for $8.5 billion. why, exactly?. Retrieved from http://www.wired.com/business/2011/05/microsoft-buys-skype-2/

Indvik, L. (2011, May 10). Microsoft acquires skype for $8.5 billion. Retrieved from http://mashable.com/2011/05/10/microsoft-acquires-skype/

E-books on a whole new level

The concept of sharing our favorite books, music and movies just took on a meaning. This past week, Amazon was able to secure a patent for the resale of its digital goods. According to an article in The Washington Post, e-books could now have the possibility to be re-sold much like multitudes of college textbooks are every semester.

The process of reselling e-books sounds promising, but there are some elements that could be received quite negatively. One part that I thought sounded particularly concerning was that fact that when you sell a song, you lose it from your library as it transfers to the other person. It would be interesting to see the reaction people had to this concept, as most have become accustomed to keeping our digital music in our computers forever.  

Amazon has only just received approval for this patent that was submitted in 2009, but that doesn’t mean this will be available in the near future. This would be a huge undertaking for Amazon and the future of the digital market, and though it’s an intriguing concept, I think it could potentially cause more problems than it’s worth. 

The idea of sharing this extensively between digital users could also change a lot of privacy policys, something people have already become concerned with on other social media sites. In order for users to be able to share content, they’re going to have to share access to files, which would inadvertently give Amazon more access to user files. File sharing is a good idea to a point, but some amount of privacy is necessary for users to feel comfortable on a site and buying products.

It doesn’t sound like this service is one that we’ll be able to use anytime soon, but the existence of such an idea is cause for a lot of excitement. Being able to share things that we enjoy is always a positive thing, but when do we cross the line to the point of too much? The answer to this question will come with the acceptance or rejection of these kinds of services.

Dewey, C. (2013, February 06). Amazon patents resale marketplace for used e-books, songs and other digital goods. The Washington Post. Retrieved from http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2013-02-06/business/36946353_1_amazon-patent-patent-office-digital-music