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Saturday, August 31, 2013

Apple Offers New iPhone Trade-in Program

On Friday, the company began offering a new trade-in program that gives customers store credit for their old iPhones that can be used toward the purchase of a new phone. Customers can expect between $120 and $250 for each non-water-damaged device they turn in to an Apple store. 


"iPhones hold great value. So, Apple Retail Stores launched a new program to assist customers who wish to bring in their previous-generation iPhone for reuse or recycling," according to Apple's statement e-mailed to the Monitor. 
But the wording is important here: unlike other Apple trade-in deals, where you mail in your old phone and receive a gift card in return, this new program lets customers swap in their iPhone at an Apple store, but the gift card must be used toward the purchase of a new iPhone. That means you can continue with your old contract, get a new contract, or get an unlocked device. All options turn a nice profit for Apple.
If you're a devoted Apple user, this might be a good deal. The company is likely to unveil two new iPhone models: the 5S and the 5C on Sept. 10th, and if you want an upgrade, why not cut off some of the cost by trading in your old device? 
"If you look at Apple's overall business model, it's not just about the devices but the overall universe," Todd Day, a senior industry analyst for Frost & Sullivan told CNBC. Offering a competitive trade-in program helps ensure those customers stick around, according to CNBC. Since new iPhone upgrades usually run at $199 for customers, Apple's $120 trade-in minimum could be a major incentive to keep customers in its ecosystem.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Google Plunges Deeper Into Smartwatch Wars With WIMI

Google, oft rumored to be working on a smartwatch, quietly bought WIMM Labs last year to light a fire under the effort.
Google WIMM

A Google spokeswoman confirmed to CNET that Google has acquired smartwatch maker WIMM. The takeover was first reported by GigaOm.
Smartwatch maker WIMM went dark last year, posting a cryptic thank-you message on its Web site citing "an exclusive, confidential relationship" for its technology.
Similar to previous reports of a coming Google smartwatch, the latest says the company has the work on the product -- including WIMM's employees -- centered in the Android unit, rather than its X Lab. That could mean a Google watch comes to market faster than the wearable Google has been trumpeting all year, Google Glass, which was a product of X Lab.

Though upstart tech companies have already introduced a slew of watches, giants are lumbering into the field too. Samsung is expected to unveil a smartwatch on September 4 called Galaxy Gear, and Apple has been rumored to be coming out with one.

Apple Officially Launches iPhone Trade-In Program

It's been rumored for weeks and tested in some stores, but on Friday Apple officially launched its in-store trade in program for used iPhones. Under the program called "iPhone Reuse and Recycling Program," Apple will offer an in-store credit for used iPhones good towards the purchase of a new one.

CNBC broke the story, but Wired reported that Apple is working the program through BrightStar, a services company specializing in the mobile market. Apple Store retail employees will enter details about your iPhone into an Apple app on their iPhones and get a real-time quote from BrightStar.
If you accept the deal, your iPhone will be wiped on the spot in front of you. If you don't like the price, no harm and no foul, and you're free to leave and take your iPhone with you.
9to5Mac noted that current prices—and realize that these prices will fluctuate according to market conditions—are thus:
·         $250-$253 value for a 16GB iPhone 5 in good condition.
·         $120-$140 for a GSM 8GB iPhone 4
·         $80 for the CDMA version of the same phone
Apple's program launches just a few weeks ahead of Apple's rumored launch of the iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C. This gives Apple's retail staff time to get familiar with the program before being inundated with trade-in demand for the new devices.
One note: I've seen several pieces questioning whether or not Apple can be successful with this program considering the crowded space—Gazelle, Amazon, Verizon, AT&T, Best Buy, and many others offer similar services.
The problem is that those questions are idiotic. Apple is going to quickly become the biggest player in this market for two reasons.
The first is that we're talking about Apple, but the biggest reason is Apple's line of retail stores. Those retail stores see a ton of foot traffic already. On average, those customers will be far, far more comfortable trading in their iPhones in an Apple Store than they would be with any of the mail-centered operations.
No questions, no wondering, and no waiting. That's the makings of a solid customer experience.
This isn't to say that Gazelle can't continue to do well or that Amazon will be chased away, but Apple is going to do a very brisk business in these trade-in devices. More specifically, it will dwarf these competitors in little or no time.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Apple Buys Transit App Maker Embark

Apple's location startup buying spree isn't over yet — the company has acquired transit company Embark for an undisclosed sum.
The news, firstreported by Jessica Lessin, comes about a month after the acquisition of another transit app, HopStop.

Embark currently has transit apps for 10 different transit systems in the App Store. The startup has received money from Y Combinator, SV Angel and BMW.
According to Lessin, Apple will integrate some of Embark's subway mapping technology into the next version of Apple Maps. Direct transit map integration is a feature Apple declined to add to the initial version of Apple Maps that launched last fall. Instead, Apple made it possible for users to open third-party apps (including HopStop and Embark) from the main mapping interface.
As someone who uses public transit every day, I can say that the de-coupling of built-in transit directions is one reason I almost always use Google Maps for iOS.
Apple has had a busy summer on the location acquisition front. In addition to HopStop and Embark, the company also acquired location data company Locationary.
When reached for comment, Apple gave Mashable its boiler-plate statement about acquisitions:
"Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans."
It's interesting that Apple would acquire Embark in addition to HopStop, given the similarity in purpose (and considering HopStop has a much larger user base and supports more transit systems). We look forward to seeing how this will impact Apple's future mapping plans.
What do you think of Apple's Embark acquisition? Let us know in the comments.

Facebook Now Gives More Control Over What You Share

Facebook announced on Thursday that the site's two-step app permission process has been fully integrated with users worldwide. The feature, which was first announced in April, allows users to have more control over the content they share to Facebook through third-party applications.

When users sign in to an app like Lyft or Words With Friends using their Facebook login credentials, they can now specify exactly what they would like to share with Facebook in a two-step process. The first step asks for "read permisasions," which dictate the information from the app accessible to Facebook. The second step presents "write permissions," which if accepted, allow the user to post directly back to his news feed through the app.
Previously, the two permissions were a package deal, meaning you couldn't agree to one without also green-lighting the other. The update in April granted users more control and enabled them to accept just one or the other if they weren't comfortable accepting both, according to Chris Daniels, director of business development at Facebook. The update is now fully available to all users, and a recent study of certain "high quality" apps by the social network found that 
Facebook benefits from users logging in to third-party apps using their Facebook profile. Those who log in with Facebook count as "active" users for the platform — more logins mean more content shared back to the site. Facebook has more than 850 million login events per month, and 81 of the 100 top-grossing iOS apps support Facebook login features, according to the company's blog post. On Android, 62 of the 100 top-grossing apps support Facebook logins.
The new permission option was based on feedback from users and developers who felt they needed more control, Daniels said. Often, users timid about sharing back to Facebook saw the permissions page and simply elected to bypass logging in altogether.
"We understand people’s concerns about apps posting on their Timeline or to their friends," Facebook posted on its blog. "The recent changes to Login are just the beginning of more improvements you'll see as we continue working to provide useful services for developers that are easy for users to understand." 
Have you ever skipped logging into an app because of Facebook permissions? Tell us in the comments below.

I have been very happy with my Nokia Lumia 1020 and the 4.5 inch 1280x768 resolution display. Nokia recently released their largest display in a Windows Phone device, 4.7 inches, on theNokia Lumia 625. However, the affordable cost means most of the internals were cut down to support the large display strategy.


The Nokia Lumia 625's primary focus is the large display. It comes in at 4.7 inches with a resolution of 800x480 pixels (201 ppi), which is the resolution of the first generation of Windows Phone devices. It is an IPS LCD with super sensitive touch technology. Windows Phone displays have always looked great, even at this resolution. I've been spoiled lately by higher res displays and we expect that even higher resolution displays are around the corner for Nokia and Windows Phone. While the large display doesn't have very high resolution, it is still well designed with glass that curves down all the edges to give it a great look and feel.
I was sent an orange Lumia 625 to check out and note that you can also buy them in black, white, yellow, and green. The color is only on the back shell piece that also wraps around all the edges. Starting from the bottom front you can pop off the back and see that you can exchange the one that comes with the device with another color if you want to change out the look of your device. The plastic shell feels quite durable and gives the device a rather rugged appeal.

When you pull off the back you will see that there is an interesting SIM card and microSD card slot arrangement where they are stacked on top of each other on the right side. The battery is not removable, but I see a few screws on the back and imagine you may be able to take it apart to replace the battery down the road.
Nokia has a focus on imaging, but the camera is pretty basic on the Lumia 625. It comes with a 5 megapixel camera without Carl Zeiss optics or anything too fancy. The front facing camera is also a measly VGA quality camera. Photos from the rear camera don't look bad though and are perfectly acceptable for social networks and digital sharing.
All the traditional Windows Phone buttons are on the right side, the headphone jack is on the top, and the microUSB port is on the bottom. There is nothing on the left side. The small flash is found just to the left of the camera lens centered on the upper back.
Like original Windows Phone devices, the Lumia 625 is responsive and I did not notice any lag or performance issues. With just 512 MB of RAM though, I wouldn't count on being able to play lots of high end games. You are limited by the integrated storage of only 8GB, but you can store media on a microSD card.


The Nokia Lumia 625 ships with Windows Phone 8 and the latest Nokia Amber update. This includes software such as Nokia Smart Camera, HERE Maps suite, Nokia Music, FM radio, Nokia Video Trimmer, and Nokia Video Upload to YouTube.
The device is currently not available in the US, but is being sold as an international unlocked device. With the evaluation AT&T SIM card in the device, AT&T featured apps appear in the Windows Phone Store so you can install them if you desire. There are no AT&T apps installed by default though.
I have covered Windows Phone quite a bit over the past three years and there is nothing particularly new or unique in the Nokia Lumia 625.

Pros and Cons

To summarize my experiences and the specifications of the Lumia 625, here are my pros and cons.
·         Affordable price
·         MicroSD memory card expansion slot
·         Latest Windows Phone 8 software
·         Excellent Nokia apps and services
·         Durable and colorful shell
·         Low resolution display
·         Limited RAM
·         Low internal storage memory
·         No wireless charging

Pricing and availability

The Nokia Lumia 625 is not being sold in the US by any carrier. However, you can find it from importers, including for just $342.50 at Negri Electronics. It is not yet available in other countries, but is coming soon.

The competition

Most Windows Phones are 4.3 or 4.5 inches in size and the Lumia 625 is the largest display device so far. There are plenty of large screen Android devices, but few that are as affordable as the Lumia 625. If you need a large display for viewing content then the Lumia 625 is a good low-priced option.


As you can see in the raw specifications, there were several trade-offs made to lower the price of the Nokia Lumia 625.
·         Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 dual-core 1.2 GHz processor
·         512 MB RAM
·         8GB internal storage and microSD card slot
·         4.7 inch 800x480 pixels resolution IPS LCD
·         5 megapixel camera and VGA front facing camera
·         802.11 b/g/n WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0 + LE
·         2,000 mAh removable battery
·         Dimensions of 133.2 x 72.2 x 9.2 mm and 159 grams


The Nokia Lumia 625 isn't going to blow you away and isn't going to compete for the best Windows Phone title. However, it is designed to be a low cost Windows Phone with a large display and it succeeds in that regard. I am giving it a rating based in large part on the low price that goes along with the device. If we look at the Lumia 625 across the entire Windows Phone spectrum, not considering price, then I would give it a 5 out of 10.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Google and Microsoft Spar Again Over YouTube Windows App

 Redmond, Wash., and Mountain View, Calif., are at it again, leaving Windows Phone users inconvenienced. 

Just two days after a new YouTube app for the Windows Phone debuted, Google has blocked the app — again. Google, which owns YouTube, confirmed to Mashable in a statement that it has disabled the app over grievances with a terms of service violation:
We’re committed to providing users and creators with a great and consistent YouTube experience across devices, and we’ve been working with Microsoft to build a fully featured YouTube for Windows Phone app, based on HTML5. Unfortunately, Microsoft has not made the browser upgrades necessary to enable a fully-featured YouTube experience, and has instead re-released a YouTube app that violates our Terms of Service. It has been disabled. We value our broad developer community and therefore ask everyone to adhere to the same guidelines.
A Microsoft spokesperson also told Mashable the app has been blocked but did not elaborate: “Google is blocking our updated YouTube app for Windows Phone. We are working with them to resolve the issue.”
This is not the first time this has happened. Earlier this year, Google and Microsoft bickered over Microsoft failing to include advertising on the YouTube app for Windows Phones. Google then demanded that Microsoft take YouTube off the Windows Phone OS because of its lack of ads. The tech giants eventually made amends in May, and Microsoft released its latest app Tuesday.
Thursday's new inconvenience appeared to baffle and irritate some Windows Phone users: customer reviews on the app's page in the Windows Phone store clearly showed customer frustrations. "Pathetic," said user Matthew. "Not working after last update," user Sara said. "Waited ages for this app and it doesn't work ... Thanks Microsoft. It just says 'something went wrong ... We don't know what,'" said user Stanley.