Tag Archives: Mobile

Lighter-Than-Air Material Could Drastically Change Tech

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German scientists have developed a sturdy material called Aerographite made mostly of air, opening up huge implications for the future development of electronics.

The jet-black, non-transparent porous carbon material — which was created by scientists at Kiel University and Hamburg University of Technology — was detailed in the July edition of scientific journal Advanced Materials.

Since Aerographite is electrically conductive and so lightweight, the scientists hope it could be used in the future as lightweight batteries. They believe these small batteries could be used in green transportation such as electronic cars and e-bikes in the future.

It weighs in at 0.2 milligrams for each cubic centimeter, making it the lightest material in the world. It’s lighter than a nickel material that was presented to the public about six months ago.

The news comes as researchers last year at the University of California Irvine developed a material as strong as metal while 100 times lighter than Styrofoam.

“Our work is causing great discussions in the scientific community. Aerographite weights four times less than world-record-holder up to now,” Matthias Mecklenburg, co-author and Ph.D. student at the TUHH, said on Kiel University’s website.

Made by developing a linked chain of carbon nanotubes onto a zinc-oxide template, it is extremely resilient. If you were to compress Aerographite, it would bounce back to its natural state without any damage. Most other materials weaken when they undergo such stress.

“It is able to be compressed up to 95% and be pulled back to its original form without any damage,” said Professor Rainer Adelung of Kiel University. “Up to a certain point, the Aerographite will become even more solid and therefore stronger than before. Also, the newly constructed material absorbs light rays almost completely. One could say it creates the blackest black.”

How do you think this new material will impact the tech world? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

BONUS: 10 Futuristic Products in Development Now

10 Stylish Cases for Your Nexus 7 Tablet

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15 Adorable Animal-Shaped iPhone Cases

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What to Expect From Apple’s iPhone 5 Event

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Here we go again: About a year ago Mashable ran a story with almost the exact same headline as this one. In October 2011, Apple unveiled its fifth-generation iPhone to the world, except it wasn’t called the iPhone 5. It was the iPhone 4S, an incremental update that had been predicted, although that was after many months of wild speculation.

Sound familiar? We’ve been hearing for months that we’ll see the iPhone 5 this fall. Except this time it’s the real deal — when Apple sent out invitations for its Sept. 12 event, the shadow of the “12” was clearly made to look like the number five, with the accompanying caption “it’s almost here.” As my colleague Chris Taylor observed, that may not be letting the cat out of the bag, but it’s kind of making the bag transparent.

By all reports, when we finally see the real iPhone 5 (technically Apple’s sixth iPhone), it’s going to be the biggest redesign of the product since Steve Jobs unveiled the first model way back in January 2007. It’s also going to be the most lucrative for the company, if past history is any indication — every new iPhone has outsold the previous by a wide margin.

THE LATEST: iPhone 5 Unveiled | iPhone 5 vs. Competitors | More of iOS 6 | Thinner iPod Nano | iPod Touch With Siri | New iTunes | New iPhone Dock Connector | New Earbuds, EarPods

But what features is iPhone 5 expected to have, and what else will be on deck for the event? Only Apple knows for sure, but based on online chatter, which has converged over the past few weeks, we can make some educated guesses. Here’s what’s (likely) on tap for Apple’s big iPhone show:

The Skinny on iPhone 5

The star of this event is obviously the iPhone 5, which reportedly brings a new design to the iPhone to accommodate a different-size screen. Reports and leaked images point to the new model sporting a 4-inch screen with an aspect ratio that will make the display longer. That would allow for five rows of apps (plus the “permanent” row on the bottom). The supplier is rumored to be Sharp.

Besides the large screen, the biggest new feature on the iPhone 5 will be LTE connectivity. There’s simply no way Apple won’t include this feature, and it’s been all but confirmed through leaked images of the phone’s motherboard and other reports. Add to that the simple fact that, thanks to progress, the design compromises necessary for LTE that Tim Cook used to be worried about have been largely eliminated.

So the iPhone 5 will have LTE, but what networks will it run on? Since there are versions of the iPad that run on Verizon and AT&T’s LTE networks, you can bet solidly on those being included, but Sprint looks just slightly less sure. If it’s so equipped, it will be Apple’s first LTE Sprint product. That said, Sprint just launched nationwide LTE on Monday, so the network is ready and waiting.

There’s been a lot of buzz around Apple shrinking the dock connector on future iOS devices, and it looks like the iPhone 5 will be the first one with a smaller, 19-pin jack. The current 30-pin dock connector is a holdover from the iPhone’s predecessor, the iPod (although the first iPods were FireWire-only). It’s also fairly large as connectors go — certainly compared with the micro USB ports on many of today’s phones — and its imminent replacement is likely a move to ensure Apple can make the iPhone even thinner than it is already.

One feature you can probably not expect in the iPhone 5 is near-field communication (NFC), which can enable mobile payments and effortless “touch” pairing with devices like Bluetooth earpieces (as long as they have NFC, too). While many Android phones now include it, Apple is said to be skipping the feature in iPhone 5. If that’s true, it’s probably because it’s still a relatively unknown (and unused) feature for many users, and Apple’s waiting to put its own mobile-payment strategy in place before including NFC.

Some rumors say Apple will make another dramatic improvement to a long-standing holdover from the iPod days — the widely derided earbuds that come with every iPhone. Apple could replace them with a new vented in-ear design, but there’s not much to go on here other than a patent Apple filed in April this year.

Finally, there’s the on-sale date, which we can say with almost complete certainty will be Sept. 21. When Apple unveils something on a Wednesday, the most common release date is the following Friday (almost every iPhone has launched on a Friday). Since all rumors indicate the iPhone 5 is now in production and about to ship, Sept. 21 must be the day.

Supporting Characters

New iPods: Apple’s September events have traditionally been about the iPod line, and there hasn’t been a significant upgrade to the lines since 2010. The iPod Touch typically mirrors design changes in the iPhone, so there’s a strong possibility of a new model with a larger screen and even thinner design. New iPod Nanos and Shuffles sporting the new dock connector are also possibilities.

iOS 6: Apple already unveiled iOS 6 back at its spring event, but now it’s ready for prime time. Apple will no doubt announce its general availability, which could be as early as today. There will also be some more detail on the features, Siri’s new abilities, and maybe even a small update about OS X Mountain Lion — we’re still waiting for that Facebook integration, after all.

Sprint iPad: Sprint didn’t get an invitation to Apple’s iPad unveiling in the spring, but that was before it had a full-fledged LTE network. Apple could finally let Sprint into the iPad club with a 4G LTE model today, though even if that’s in the works, the two companies might be saving it for another Apple event later in the fall.

One More Thing… Doubtful

That event being the unveiling of the iPad Mini, a smaller-screen version of the iPad. There have been a lot of rumors and alleged leaks about this product, so it’s extremely likely it exists, although most signs say the li’l iPad will headline its own show sometime in October. And the chance of a new Apple TV (either box or actual set) being unveiled tomorrow looks very small.

Still, you never know. Tim Cook could unveil one of those spider-like iPhone 5 wrist creatures. Or he could just walk out, shout “Syke!” and gleefully tell the world there will be no new iPhones this year before maniacally laughing as he exits the stage.

But probably not. As much as Cook promised to “double down” on secrecy last spring, Apple is the most scrutinized company in tech — if not the world — and that’s why we already know a good amount of what the iPhone 5 will be. We don’t know everything, though, and Apple will surely surprise us with a new treat, even if it’s minor.

What do you think it will be? Shout out your predictions in the comments.

BONUS: All the iPhone 5 Rumors That Might Be True

New NASA Satellites Have Android Smartphones for Brains

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NASA is aiming to launch a line of small satellites called “PhoneSats” that are cheaper to make and easier to build than those it has produced in the past. To achieve this, engineers are using unmodified Android smartphones — in one prototype, HTC’s Nexus One, and in another, Samsung’s Nexus S — to perform many of a satellite’s key functions.

As NASA explains on its website, these off-the-shelf smartphones “offer a wealth of capabilities needed for satellite systems, including fast processors, versatile operating systems, multiple miniature sensors, high-resolution cameras, GPS receivers and several radios.”

“This approach allows engineers to see what capabilities commercial technologies can provide, rather than trying to custom-design technology solutions to meet set requirements,” NASA adds.

The total cost for building one of these prototype satellites costs a mere $3,500. Three are expected to launch aboard the first flight of Orbital Sciences Corporation’s Antares rocket from a NASA flight facility at Wallops Island, Va., later this year.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/08/26/nasa-satellites-android/

LeapBand Is the First Activity Tracker for Kids

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The LeapBand is the first activity tracker for kids.
Image: LeapFrog

Kids love to get their hands on the tech their parents have — tablets, smartphones, cameras, cars — so it’s only natural they’d want what every adult seems to be tinkering with these days: fitness trackers. And with the wearables market heating up, it makes sense that the toy industry is ready to ride the wristband wave too.

The LeapBand (manufactured by toy company LeapFrog) is a watered down version of what you might see in an adult fitness tracker — the Fitbit, Jawbone and Nike+ Fuelband (RIP) devices of the world. It monitors and rewards kids for the activities they do and has a Tamagotchi-like virtual pet baked in. The more a child moves, the more points they earn to unlock new games or win treats for their on-screen cat, dog, dragon, penguin, panda or unicorn.

The LeapBand ($39), which hits stores in August, is specifically designed for kids ages 4 to 7. It comes with a built-in accelerometer, a rechargeable battery and a high-resolution (128 x 128) screen, with backlighting. It will be available in three flavors (pink, blue and green) and is made of plastic.

LeapFrog is best known for its tablets for children (the LeapPad line), so it’s fitting that it’s among the first toy companies to enter the wearables space. Earlier this year, VTech announced the world’s first smartwatch for kids, the KidiZoom Smart Watch. Although it doesn’t connect to the Internet like its adult-counterpart smartwatches (so it’s not technically a “smartwatch”), the 1.4-inch touchscreen device allows young users to snap photos, take video and play games directly through the watch. The device will hit the market this fall.

The growth of toys like this comes at a time when wearables as a tech category is still in its infancy, but it’s believed that the rumored Apple iWatch will launch wearables into the mainstream.

The iWatch is projected to have a huge fitness component; not only will it have a heart-rate monitor and other ways to track your body in real time, it will likely come with Nike’s Fuelband software built into the device.

BONUS: The Reinvented Tamagotchi: Bright, Flashy and Just as Needy

Sandy Prompts FCC Hearings on Communications Outages

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The Federal Communications Commission announced on Wednesday it will hold field hearings examining ways to keep communications systems up and running during natural disasters like Superstorm Sandy.

Lawmakers called for probes into communications outages after Sandy left as much as 25% of cell sites in its path inoperable when it hit the East Coast in October.

“This unprecedented storm has revealed new challenges that will require a national dialogue around ideas and actions to ensure the resilience of communications networks,” FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said in a statement.

The hearings will start in 2013, with the first round in New York and continuing in other disaster-prone areas of the country.

In the wake of Sandy, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called for the FCC to determine where system weaknesses exist and develop plans to make communications networks more resilient.

“Field hearings will increase our understanding of the problems encountered during Superstorm Sandy and harvest the best ideas to ensure that mobile phone service doesn’t fail after future storms,” he said in a statement after the FCC announced the hearings. “Mobile communication has become an essential part of our lives, and increasing its reliability must be a top priority.”

Several House Democrats have also called for a congressional hearing on the issue.

Harold Feld, senior vice president at the consumer group Public Knowledge, said he hopes the outages will lead to federal standards for communications networks.

“Hopefully, the experience with Sandy underscores how dependent we as a nation have become on these networks, and that the federal government does indeed have a role in setting minimum standards for preparedness and response,” he said.

Image courtesy of Flickr, edenpictures

This article originally published at National Journal
here

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/11/21/sandy-fcc-outages/

Why an Amazon Phone Makes Sense

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Image: Mashable composite. iStock, webphotography

Amazon is holding an event in Seattle in a couple of weeks, and everyone’s invited. Really — anyone in the world can theoretically sign up, although the company says space is limited.

Democratizing a tech launch event — typically a very insider-y affair — is an uncommon, if gimmicky move, although it suggests that what Amazon has up its sleeve is pretty big. Whatever Amazon will unveil, teased in a comically vague video, will certainly be aimed squarely at a mainstream audience, and the most credible report so far says it’ll be an Amazon-branded smartphone.

Rumors about an Amazon smartphone have circulated since the company unveiled its first Kindle Fire tablets back in 2011. For almost any hardware manufacturer, it makes sense to offer both a tablet and a phone — usually several.

After all, the technologies are virtually identical, so why only make one or the other when you could have a hand in both markets?

Not your father’s Amazon

But Amazon isn’t a typical hardware manufacturer. The company doesn’t make the Kindle Fire tablets because it excels at building devices — it makes them solely for the purpose of putting the company’s digital services, such as Amazon Instant Video and the Kindle bookstore, front and center in a customer’s tablet experience.

“With their tablet product, [Amazon] undercut the competition and did very well,” says Tuong Nguyen, a research analyst at Gartner. “But I don’t know what they can possibly offer me … that would be compelling enough that would make me want to have an Amazon phone.”

For a company that’s all about selling content, building a device that consumers want to use to consume that content (i.e. a tablet) is a logical move, and the strategy has worked pretty well so far. Apple’s iPad is the clear leader in the tablet space, but Amazon’s Kindle Fire devices have done very well by all accounts.

Smartphone owners use their devices differently from tablets, though, so the content-consumption logic doesn’t translate so well to that device. Add to that a market that’s already extremely crowded, and the headaches of dealing with wireless carriers and technologies, and you can see why Amazon has ignored the smartphone space so far.

But there are two major market forces that could be factoring into Amazon’s decision that now is a good time to enter the smartphone market. The first is that tablet sales have flatlined: People aren’t buying them at the same clip as they used to, even though prices are at an all-time low.

“If Amazon is trying to gain a bigger footprint, then tablets have limits,” says Harry Wang, director of mobile product research at Parks Associates. “The next frontier is the shift to smartphones, because that’s a bigger market.”

Second is the rise of the phablet. Smartphones with big screens have been popular for a while, with the average size of a flagship Android phone now a little over 5 inches. Some are over 6, and there are rumors of even 7-inch phones on the way. With larger screens and ever-faster processing power, today’s phablets are almost as good as tablets at “consumption.”

If Amazon is feeling the squeeze on tablet sales, it would likely see the smartphone market next door — an order of magnitude larger — and decide it couldn’t ignore that opportunity any longer. Building the hardware would be relatively easy, given its Kindle legacy.

Standing out from the crowd

Of course, in today’s smartphone market, hardware’s the easy part. What’s hard is differentiation — giving customers a reason to pick your phone over competitors. Amazon’s teaser video appeared to imply that some kind of visual feature (3D holograms, perhaps?) would make its new smartphone stand out.

Whatever the novelty is, it’s almost definitely not what people will buy an Amazon phone for. Innovative hardware might generate headlines, but it doesn’t sell phones, where people mainly care about design, user experience and app availability.

A hologram that moves with your head will get pretty old by the second day, and competitors would soon replicate the feature anyway. “We’re not about hardware anymore,” says Nguyen. “It’s all about eyeballs.”

Amazon has other ways to differentiate its smartphone, however. It could offer an new kind of app or service that’s exclusive to owners. An Amazon phone could offer a custom-designed mobile shopping experience, which would be attractive to many users. Parks Associates says 39% of all smartphone owners use retail apps — and that they’re used, on average, only slightly less than video apps such as Netflix and YouTube.

More likely, Amazon will launch its phone with a new pricing model. The company has always been aggressive in pricing its Kindle tablets, and it’ll no doubt do the same with a theoretical smartphone.

What would really take things to the next level, however, would be if Amazon offered its smartphone with a free (or nearly free) data plan. The company already sells LTE versions of its Kindle Fire tablets with free limited data. What if it convinced just one carrier to extend that model to a phone?

Whatever the pricing model ends up being, you can bet Amazon Prime membership will factor in. Chances are high that any owner of Amazon hardware is also a Prime member (Kindle e-readers excepted). The service will likely come bundled with the smartphone in some way; perhaps Prime members will get discounts on wireless services.

“They already have about 22 million prime members,” says Wang. To those members, he adds, “Amazon could offer a great value in a smartphone.”

Will creative pricing be enough to convince people to buy Amazon’s smartphone? If the hardware is good enough — and there’s no reason to believe it won’t be — there’s a good chance. In any case, Amazon is feeling enough desperation and hubris (if those delivery drones are any indication) to make a go of it.

Amazon launching a smartphone would be unusual, risky and probably gimmicky, but there are ways it could work. And if Jeff Bezos has that market in his sights, a year from now it may be hard to imagine a world without a Kindle phone.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2014/06/05/amazon-phone-sense/

NASA, ‘Angry Birds’ Team Up to Explore the Red Planet

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There is life on Mars — and it’s out for revenge against some nasty pigs!

Angry Birds creators Rovio announced a new chapter to Angry Birds Space will come out Thursday. The update is titled “Red Planet”, and will send players to the fields of Mars for more bird-on-pig rivalry.

NASA helped Rovio create the trailer by giving them footage taken by the Mars Rover Curiosity from the planet’s surface. In addition, the additional levels will include NASA vehicles as part of the architecture.

“Rovio is teaching huge new audiences about NASA’s missions to Mars thanks to this collaboration,” said David Weaver, associate administrator for communications at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “It’s a great way to introduce both kids and adults to the wonders of the planet in a fun and entertaining way.”

It’s not the first partnership between the two. When Angry Birds Space debuted in March, NASA Flight Engineer Don Pettit demonstrated the physics behind Angry Birds — while in space.

“We’re huge NASA fans, and we were all cheering the Mars Curiosity rover as it touched down,” said Peter Vesterbacka, chief marketing officer of Rovio Entertainment. “So, working together on the Mars update was a perfect fit.”

Players can download the updates for the iOS [iTunes link] and Android [Google Play link] versions right now.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/08/23/angry-birds-mars/

Get Up to $400 For Your iPhone 4S

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Interested in trading in your iPhone 4S for an iPhone 5? Most of the popular smartphone-buyback services are offering good prices for Apple’s previous generation smartphone.

This can be a great way to recoup the cost of a new phone — especially if you aren’t eligible for an upgrade or are switching to another carrier.

The iPhone 5 announcement means that tons of older iPhone devices are about to hit the secondary market. As we’ve seen in the past, that flood of devices can lower the buyback amount companies are willing to pay for your device. If you’re interested in selling your device to a buyback service, lock in now, rather than later.

THE LATEST: iPhone 5 Unveiled | iPhone 5 vs. Competitors | More of iOS 6 | Thinner iPod Nano | iPod Touch With Siri | New iTunes | New iPhone Dock Connector | New Earbuds, EarPods

We looked at what the most popular buyback services are paying for the iPhone 4S. As of 8:30 p.m. ET, this is what we found:

iPhone 4S 64GB, AT&T or Unlocked

The 64GB iPhone 4S is the most expensive model, and that’s what we used to base our pricing on in this test.

The best offer we saw for the 64GB iPhone 4S is courtesy of eBay’s Instant Sale.

Instant Sale will pay $400 for a working, fully functional 64GB iPhone 4S. The device needs to be fully functional, have no physical damage and include the charger.

The popular trade-in service Gazelle will pay $350 for a 64GB iPhone 4S on AT&T. Earlier today, Gazelle was offering $400 for the same unit, which means that trade-in volume is already impacting buyback offers.

Like Gazelle, NextWorth is offering $350 for a 64GB iPhone 4Sat&t/). The device needs to be working and cannot have a cracked display.

Amazon’s Trade-In program will pay up to $391 on an Amazon gift card for a 64GB iPhone 4S. Amazon will actually pay $460 on a gift card for a “like new” iPhone 4S, but Amazon’s requirements for what constitutes “like new” is stricter than most other companies. It needs the original packaging and should be presentable as a gift.

At Apple’s Reuse and Recycle website, powered by PowerON, the company will offer a $345 gift card for a 64GB iPhone 4S.

Note: With the exception of Amazon and eBay Instant Sale, Sprint and Verizon iPhone 4S models go for significantly less than their AT&T counterparts.

Other Models

The buyback price for other models will depend on carrier and location. eBay Instant Sale, at the time of this writing, is offering the highest cash buyback amounts for most phone models.

Amazon.com is offering a better buyback price for some models; however, users need to keep in mind that they will be paid with an Amazon gift card, not cash.

Gazelle, NextWorth and Apple all vary depending on when you lock in your deal and what model you are trading in.

A number of services are also offering good rates for iPhone 4 trade-ins.

Are you going to sell off your old iPhone? Let us know in the comments!

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, hocus-focus

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/09/13/iphone-4s-trade-in/