Boost Mobile introduced today the Samsung Factor, a no-frills, wallet-friendly cell phone for those who want to stick to the basics. The clamshell handset offers Bluetooth, a camera, Web and e-mail access, instant messaging capabilities, and text and multimedia messaging, but its main job is to make calls.
The Factor is available now at exclusive Boost Mobile retail stores, as well as online and at select independent dealers, for $49.99. It’s expected be available nationwide at the end of April.
Screenshot by Kent German/CNET)
iPhone finally went on sale last month, it bested its ATT cousin by offering a wireless hot spot that could support up to five devices. It was a welcome addition and, as we found in our Verizon iPhone review, the feature performed well. It wasn’t necessarily better than other smartphone hot spots we’ve tested, but it offered a simple and relatively speedy way to get online.
When ATT would join the hot-spot party became the next question, of course, but Apple offered an answer Wednesday when it delivered its latest software update a couple of days early. Though as iOS upgrades go, iOS 4.3 activates the hot spot on the ATT iPhone 4 (earlier iPhones will not support the feature). It’s almost the same experience as on Verizon’s device, but there are some important and disappointing differences.
What’s the same
As with Verizon’s handset, ATT users will need to activate the optional tethering plan to use the feature (if you don’t have the plan, the option won’t appear in your Settings menu). And, like Verizon, ATT charges an additional $20 for the plan. Though ATT’s data cap is 4GB per month for tethering and the hot spot (Verizon has a 2GB cap), the carrier requires you to select at least the $25-per-month Data Pro plan for basic data.
Once you’re set up, the interface is exactly the same as on the Verizon iPhone. You’ll find the hot-spot option under the main Settings menu. After you set a password and choose which connectivity options you’d like to use, you can get started. Here again, we’d like to see a list of which devices are connected at a given time in addition to the status bar at the top of the display, which conveniently tracks how many gadgets are linked up.
Screenshot by Kent German/CNET)
Though ATT also allows you to connect up to five devices to the hot spot, it limits the number you can connect through Wi-Fi to just three. You can connect an additional two gadgets through a USB cable or Bluetooth, but Verizon still holds the advantage there for the time being. When we tested the Verizon hot-spot feature, we were able to connect five devices via Wi-Fi. What’s more, other smartphones, like Sprint’s HTC Evo 4G, can connect up to eight devices.
The reason for the restriction is unclear at this point. Though some sources have blamed ATT, others suggest it’s coming from Apple. And if that’s the case, the Verizon iPhone could get the same limitation when it gets iOS 4.3 or the equivalent (currently, the update is for GSM iPhones only).
We tested the ATT hot-spot feature with an iPad, a Motorola Atrix 4G, an LG Optimus U, a Samsung Galaxy S 4G, a Samsung Craft, a T-Mobile MyTouch 3G, a RIM BlackBerry Curve 3G 9300, and a laptop PC. We were able to connect all devices via Wi-Fi, including the MyTouch 3G, which we never were able to pair with the Verizon iPhone hot spot.
All devices connected immediately after we entered the password, and they reconnected quickly and automatically the next time around. The connection mostly stayed solid as well, though the Optimus U dropped off a couple of times and we had to reconnect manually. If we tried using a fourth device via Wi-Fi, we were able to get as far as inputting the password before the connection would drop. Yet, if we then removed one of the original three devices, the fourth device would connect automatically. That’s a nice touch.
We also had no problems connecting to a laptop. As long as the hot spot was on, the computer was online just seconds after we plugged in the USB cable. As we found with the Verizon iPhone, however, the Bluetooth connection gave us more trouble. Though we could pair the iPhone with the Galaxy S 4G and the Atrix, for example, we couldn’t establish the final connection even though we had the correct PIN. After spinning for a couple of minutes, the iPhone finally gave an error message that the format was “not supported.” We’re checking this out and will report back.
Screenshot by Kent German/CNET)
Unfortunately, we also found that data speeds over ATT’s network weren’t as reliable. Unlike on the Verizon iPhone, we could barely get a signal in an interior room in CNET’s offices. We showed a full five bars on the iPhone’s display, but our connection usually timed out when we tried loading a Web page on the phones and on the laptop. The
iPad did better, but it still took over a minute to load CNET’s main site. We had the same experience when we tried loading Google Maps and the iTunes App Store on the iPad–the features took more than minute to load if they did at all.
We had better luck when we moved next to a window, but even there the speeds were much slower than they were with the Verizon hot spot. CNET’s mobile site took 40 seconds to load on the Atrix, for example, and the full site took almost 2 minutes. A graphics-heavy site like Airliners.net loaded in 1 minute, 45 seconds on the Optimus U, while GiantBomb.com loaded in 1 minute, 50 seconds on the Craft. The iPad and laptop also performed better when we moved to the window, but we still waited a few minutes to browse the Web and it took about 30 seconds to upload a photo to Facebook. On the upside, the connection remained active up to about 25 feet away.
In contrast, we could load Web pages in under 30 seconds when we tested the Verizon hot spot and we uploaded a Facebook photo in 10 seconds. The Verizon iPhone had more trouble connecting to a couple of devices (like the MyTouch 3G), but its hot spot did offer better performance in our tests. Yes, we realize that ATT’s network is technically faster, and that ATT has more data-hungry users in play, but the hot-spot experience simply wasn’t quite as we’d hoped.
Google announced earlier this week that it has enabled Instant Previews for Android handsets running Froyo (version 2.2) or later. Like its desktop counterpart, it allows you to see search results in a handy image format before clicking blindly on a link.
The feature is perfect for a number of scenarios, such as step-by-step instructions and how-to guides. What’s more, providing a cached screenshot preview of the results is very convenient for smaller screens. I know I’ve grown frustrated by having to navigate the
mobile browser back and forth, looking for the right page.
Instant Previews does not require additional downloads or changes to the browser. All you have to do to is look for a magnifying glass to the right of search results. Tapping on the icon will bring up a sliding carousel of images that can then be clicked through to the link’s destination.
It’s worth pointing out that Instant Previews is not exclusive to Android, as it also works on iPhones with iOS 4.0 and above.
Call it valley between two trade shows, but the cell phone world is having a quiet week for a change. As we’re three weeks past Mobile World Congress and two weeks to
CTIA, cell phone makers must have their heads down planning what’s to come. Yet, there was at least one piece of news that brought out the CNET readers in force this week. Indeed, Android fans and detractors were abuzz over a ComScore report that found that Android had grabbed the largest market share in the United States smartphone market in the three months ending January. It’s quite the discussion so be sure to check it out. We also reviewed the changes form iOS 4.3, Kent dissed the Motorola Flipout, and Bonnie walked us through new announcements from Samsung. And Jessica said nothing because she as on vacation.
Android leaps beyond RIM to take top spot in U.S. market
Hot spot on the ATT iPhone remains easy to use, but not so fast
Rumor: LG Optimus 2X headed to T-Mobile as G2X
Motorola won’t update Charm or Flipout beyond Android 2.1
Boost Mobile goes simple with Samsung Factor
Samsung debuts Galaxy Pro
Rumor: Sprint to intro Nexus S, new Evos at CTIA
Samsung intros 3 new headsets
Google Maps Navigation for Android gets real-time traffic smarts
On Call: A bridge for T-Mobile and Sprint
This is a guest post by Ross Hudgens. If you want to guest post on this blog, check out the guidelines here.
There’s a common opinion that your businesses should blog. And that’s true – a lot of them should, but that doesn’t mean you should blog just to blog. Many businesses do the blog thing wrong, and apply it for the wrong reasons. This can create productivity gaps and areas where resources are allocated improperly. Blogging shouldn’t be done just to blog – there should be a clear focus, goals, and actionable metrics applied to it. It shouldn’t be done just because people do it – for the same reasons that Facebook and Twitter accounts shouldn’t be created because you heard “social media’s good”.
Blogging for SEO purposes. Business blogs can help you rank elsewhere in a few fashions – but they have to be used this way to matter. First, if you have a few products that remain pretty static, having a constantly updated blog can be the quality signal that indicates to spiders that they should frequently return to your site, which is always good. Secondly, by using intelligent internal linking practices, you can help improve the crawling process to deep links on your site, and also help indicate some relevancy with internal anchor text.
HOWEVER, if you have a pretty shallow site with only a few product pages, the benefit of this is negligible, and the benefit is really almost none. If you have a domain with pages in the multiple thousands, however, the benefit from this is real – if done properly.
The best benefit from this practice is interweaving the deep, internal linking practice with actually obtaining links – but this part can be difficult, especially for business blogs. You have to create truly great content to do this consistently. I would go as far as to say that blogging that creates real ROI needs to have someone almost dedicated to it full time – if not from one person’s full 40 hours, from the combined effort of a few.
Blogging to show expertise. For service providers, blogging is one of the most critical activities. Even if many leads come from referrals or networking, starting that spark and ensuring expertise can be guaranteed with a strong blog. Many service-based businesses thrive by creating great content revolving around their vertical, content that sets them apart from the crowd. Again, if you simply create throwaway or average content, it’s likely that the ROI you see from blogging would be better invested elsewhere – especially with limited resources.
It shouldn’t surprise you that creating standout content, here, would also obtain you more links – helping you on the SEO side as well.
Blogging to attract traffic. This is best utilized on the software side, because you can talk about one-offs in the industry in an interesting way, and by doing it compellingly, many will end up signing up for your service and hanging around. Similar with service providers, but with likely signups further down the line – and more sporadically, so conversions are low. In E-Commerce, it’s more difficult, and it’s my recommendation that you most likely avoid blogging – because the point of purchase is later down the line, it’s hard to retain users (because there is no real “interest” segment generally in the blog category), and the amount made per customer is almost always incredibly low.
For this reason, I have difficulty citing even one e-commerce blog that utilizes blogging effectively to primp their products. However, these sites sometimes also have incredibly large
The Ultimate Checklist
When we look back at the three points before, you can ultimately boil it down to a checklist of whether or not you should consider blogging for your field. You don’t have to hit every point – besides the great content part – but I would suggest only not checking one, if possible. If you hit them all, what are you waiting for? Get to blogging!
- Ability to write unique and revolutionary content
- Business in service/software industry
- Exists on a large website (1,000 pages)
- Exists in a somewhat social-friendly vertical
- Exists in a large enough vertical to obtain an audience
- Website has a clear SEO strategy/need for SEO
Can you think of any more points that might make a business want to start a blog? Add them in the comments!
About the Author: Ross Hudgens is the Marketing Manager for BI.org. He enjoys content, but BI does not have a blog.
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Android is the now most popular mobile platform for smartphones in the United States, says a study released yesterday. According to the ComScore survey, Google’s OS powered nearly a third, or 31.2 percent, of all smartphones during the three-month period ending January 2011.
Gaining 7 percentage points from the previous quarter, Android now surpasses mobile operating systems from both RIM and Apple. RIM dropped more than 5 percentage points and now sits closely behind Android at 30.4 percent while Apple’s share rose ever so slightly to 24.7 percent. Microsoft (8 percent) and Palm (3.2 percent) rounded out the top five, with both dipping from the previous three-month window. ComScore did not indicate whether the Microsoft handsets included in the survey were running Windows Mobile,
Windows Phone 7, or both.
Smartphone use as a whole rose 8 percent over the three-month period that ended in October 2010. Based on ComScore’s findings, there are now more than 65 million such devices in the United States. Look for that number to continue to shoot skyward as smartphone prices continue to drop over the next few months.
ComScore also tracked the market share of device manufacturers in the quarter ending in January. Samsung maintained the top position for all cell phones with 24.9 percent of the U.S. market. That was a 0.7 percentage-point change from the previous three months.
LG followed with 20.8 percent and Motorola assumed the third spot with 16.5 percent. Motorola also saw the biggest market-share decline (1.2 percentage points) from October to January. Finishing out the top five were RIM (8.6 percent) and Apple (7 percent).
You can listen to Google Voice messages from your smartphone, can dial out using your Google number on an Android phone, and can finally port your own cell phone number to Google Voice. But if you’re not quite ready to cut the cord with your carrier, you don’t have to.
Google Voice has a vast number of benefits, from managing voice mail in an inbox to placing free texts. However, it’s still sees some flaws–barely legible voice transcription and mobile app SMS delays to name two (I know, I know, not everyone experiences the same issues)–and the way I use it for work, it frustrates my friends). I’m also hesitant to leave the reliability of my monthly cell phone service and my special rate.
The middle path
There is, however, a third way, one that lets you ease into Google Voice–or ease out of your monthly service–before completely ditching your carrier plan. I discovered it accidentally when calling T-Mobile to cancel a service I now rarely use. I was adamant about canceling service, until the tenacious customer service rep offered me this: temporarily suspending my plan for a nominal, $10-per-month holding fee while I decided what to do. (If you already knew about this, good for you.)
As it turns out, T-Mobile will hold a phone number and rate plan for six months. In my case, the T-Mobile rep said, suspending my plan will also count toward my contractual obligation, a cheap way for me to pay out the remainder of my agreement without handing over a stiff early termination fee.
This isn’t always the case, I found out–your expiration date may or may not move depending on a number of factors that the T-Mobile rep did not disclose, so you’ll need to check with your carrier to see if you can dodge a termination fee should you bail before time’s up.
T-Mobile isn’t alone in this provision. Verizon, ATT, and Sprint also offer temporary plan suspension.
Verizon will suspend a phone line without billing for up to 180 days–as long as you’re all paid up. That means you can pick up on your plan where you left off, including the contract termination date. It’s ideal for long vacations. You can also suspend with billing, which will work toward the end-of-contract date.
Sprint will extend a Seasonal Standby mode for customers who have been paying their plan for a minimum of 3 months. You pay $8.99 per month for up to 6 consecutive months. You can’t string these back-to-back, you’ll need to wait another three months before asking to get back on. This will not advance your contract termination date, meaning you’ll still have to fulfill the remainder of your contract to avoid the early termination fee (ETF).
ATT charges $10 per month for subscribers to temporarily suspend their contract. You’ll have had to be paid up for six months first.
T-Mobile (See above.)
Not just Google Voice
There are other reasons to suspend your phone line; Google Voice just happened to be my spur. Regardless of your scenario or country of residence, if you find you need to give your cell phone a rest but want to avoid losing your number or plan, and skirt a re-activation fee should you change your mind, it’s a good idea to check with your carrier’s customer service reps to see what they can do for you. It may be more than you thought.
I would guess that most of you guys have been to DoshDosh.com in the past. Maybe not recently, but certainly a couple of years ago. The Internet marketing blog was authored by a friend of mine called Maki, and it was one of the most popular around. In fact if you check the lists with the best Internet marketing blogs you probably find it mentioned.
Around 18 months ago Maki got tired of publishing content on the blog, and decided to take a break. We exchanged some emails about it, and he told me he would focus on his niche websites and on finishing his Psychology degree. Despite that the blog kept received a large amount of traffic from search engines, and given the amount of useful content already published it remained a good resource for people wanting to learn about Internet marketing.
I am guessing that even without any updates the blog was receiving some 200,000 monthly visitors and probably making $2,000 monthly from AdSense and affiliate offers (though it could be more than that). Not a bad asset to have, if you ask me.
Then a couple of weeks ago I typed DoshDosh.com on my browser to see how the site was doing, and to my surprise I found a blank page (that is why I am not linking there, as Google wouldn’t like it). I figured it could be a normal downtime, so I checked again on the following day, and it was still giving a blank page. I checked the domain name, but it was not expired. I checked the web hosting, but it seems that the the website is up, only displaying no content. It looks like someone uploaded a blank HTML page and left it there.
I tried to email Maki, but got no answer, so at this point I don’t know what is going on. I don’t think he would just erase the website, as he could easily have sold it for $100,000 or so if he didn’t want to keep it anymore. I also hope nothing happened to him, but it could be the case.
Anyway I just figured posting about it could help solve the problem, in the case someone knows him or what is going on. Do you?
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Screenshot by Bonnie Cha/CNET)
CTIA show is just a couple of weeks away, and rumors and teasers are starting to bubble up about what might be unveiled at the show. We already know that at least two
tablets will be unveiled, one being from Samsung, and now, we may be looking at two new smartphones and a tablet from Sprint.
According to Engadget Mobile, the carrier will introduce the Nexus S 4G, the HTC Evo 3D, and the HTC Evo View at CTIA, and Sprint wasn’t exactly vigilant about hiding its secret.
Earlier this morning, if you entered now.sprint.com/nexus into your browser, it would take you to a placeholder site (shown above) with a message to come back soon. Going to that URL now takes you to a 403 Forbidden page, but we were able to take a screenshot of it before it was taken down. Meanwhile, now.sprint.com/evoview and now.sprint.com/evo3D simply takes you to Sprint’s home page.
Details are pretty slim on the three devices, but it’s believed that the Nexus S 4G will be similar to the GSM version of the Gingerbread-based Nexus S, except it will be compatible with Sprint’s 4G WiMAX network, whereas the HTC Evo 3D will add 3D capabilities of some sort to the carrier’s Evo model. Finally, the HTC Evo View is said to be the CDMA version of the HTC Flyer tablet, which was unveiled at Mobile World Congress 2011.
Sprint has already sent out invites for its CTIA press conference, which is scheduled for March 22 from 4:30 to 7 p.m. PT. Of course, we’ll have a full crew there to report on the event, as well as all the latest news from CTIA, so be sure to tune in then for the all the details.