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Motorola won’t update Charm or Flipout beyond Android 2.1

As shown by this chart on Motorola’s support page, the list of phones getting left behind with older versions of Android grows by two with the Charm and Flipout.


Motorola has decided to pull back on plans to update its Charm (T-Mobile) and Flipout (ATT) handsets with Android 2.2 Froyo.

Of course, that means that the smartphones, which were released with Android 2.1 back in the fall, will remain on Eclair indefinitely. The handsets join a growing list of Motorola phones being left behind on older versions of Android. Most recently, the company decided that the Cliq XT would stay on Android 1.5 and never see features such as Google Maps Navigation or live wallpapers.

Looking at the list of devices represented on Motorola’s support page (see above chart), it’s apparent that the company doesn’t intend to spend much time or development on older devices. Let’s hope that new handsets such as the Atrix 4G or Droid X get more than one update.

As to why these handsets aren’t going to see much beyond Android 2.1 could be anyone’s guess. Motorola talks of wanting to provide an “optimal customer experience,” but that may be interpreted many ways. Perhaps the problems stem from having to work with so many form factors and hardware configurations.

On the other hand, the issues could stem from the Motoblur interface, which overlays Android. Perhaps Moto integrated the custom UI too heavily, which prevents it from acting quickly to roll out updates. Another likely scenario might be that these phones aren’t selling as well as anticipated and that it would be a waste of time and resources to work on updates for such a limited quantity of devices.

Samsung Suede with Muve Music (review): Slightly off-pitch

Samsung Suede, Cricket Wireless(Credit:
Josh Miller/CNET)

The Samsung Suede is attuned to music, that we know. In fact, its bundling with Cricket Wireless’ Muve Music service is what made us nominate it as a Best of
CES contender, and makes the Suede one of the best music phones around.

In terms of offering all-inclusive music for a great monthly deal, the Suede and Muve Music deliver. Yet the combination falls short on the finer points of speed, usability, and general luster. Check out our full review of Muve Music and the Samsung Suede–with video!–to see why.

‘National Day of Unplugging’–there’s an app for that


In case you haven’t heard, tonight is the start of the second annual “National Day of Unplugging”–a grassroots effort to get people to shut off our precious mobile devices, if only for a day. The 2-year-old project encourages all of us
iPhone addicts and CrackBerry enthusiasts to turn off our cell phones for 24 hours in an effort to reconnect with the world.

And yes, for those who need it, there’s an app for that. In a new twist this year, the backers of the event have created iPhone, Android, and Web apps that can both remind users to shut off their device as well as alert social media connections of why they will be offline. The apps were created by a team from Washington, D.C.-based Revolution Messaging. The Web app can even be sent to a device via text message by texting REBOOT to 738674.

Among those backing the project this year is Courtney Holt, who until recently was head of MySpace Music.

“You can’t always do it, but I think it is something worth trying,” Holt told Mobilized. Holt said he would have liked to take part last year but that the event conflicted with duties related to South By Southwest conference, which was taking place at the same time.

I teased him that perhaps it was easier for him to unplug this year since he is between gigs. He assured me that he is still plenty busy, but said he couldn’t really talk about what he is up to. That said, he said he is looking forward to taking part this year and hopes others in his social circle will do the same.

Holt also said he was aware of the irony of the fact that the company is using a mobile app to promote taking a break from mobile apps.

“As ironic as it is that we created an app to do it, sometimes you need a tap on the shoulder,” Holt said.

For National Day of Unplugging, people are being encouraged to turn off their devices from sundown on Friday until sundown on Saturday. The backers have also partnered with San Francisco Bay Area-based Volunteer Match to give people options of what to do with their hands when they aren’t texting or catapulting red birds into a pile of bricks.

It grew out of a larger effort, known as Reboot, which is pushing for more frequent downtime, encouraging weekly breaks as part of a “Sabbath Manifesto” designed to allow people to redefine the notion of a day of rest. Among the creators of the Sabbath Manifesto is Dan Rollman, who founded the Universal World Record Database, an online database that aims to do to the “Guinness Book of World Records” what Wikipedia has done to the encyclopedia.

Although the Sabbath Manifesto project has Jewish origins, Holt said tech addicts of all faiths (or no faith at all) can get something out of the act of unplugging.

“It came out of a Jewish conversation, but I don’t think there’s anything inherently Jewish,” Holt said.

Mobilized is strongly considering turning off the phone (well, all the phones) but not sure how that will go over with the BoomTown boss. Holt did say he’d write me a permission slip.

Story Copyright (c) 2010 AllThingsD. All rights reserved.

NextWorth values your cell phone

I spent time today playing with NextWorth, a Web site that will tell you the trade-in value of many electronic devices. The site covers everything from MP3 players to video games, but I went straight to cell phones, of course, to see how much I could round up for the handsets we have sitting around the CNET offices.

All you have to do is go to NextWorth’s site and plug in the name of your device. You’ll also have to answer a few questions such as if any parts of the handset are broken or water damaged, if it turns on, and if you happen to have the original box, battery, and user manual. You’ll then get an estimate of how much your phone is worth. To get your payment, you can mail in your handset using a prepaid shipping label or take it to a participating Target store.

I took 10 cell phones that we’ve reviewed over the past two years and plugged them in. A couple very recent handsets, like the Motorola Brute i686 weren’t listed, but I could find a match for most phones I tried. Not everything had a trade-in value, but I could get at least a couple of dollars for most devices. Here’s what I found.

On the whole, I’d say that most offers were pretty fair, but I was expecting more for the Droid Pro and the BlackBerry. Also, I was surprised I couldn’t get at least $5 for the MyTouch 3G. Still, NextWorth offers a good way for some consumers to get cash for their old devices. And considering how quickly some people switch cell phones, it’s a great way to make sure your cell phone ends up being recycled rather than ending up in a landfill.

Robo-signing slows Fannie, Freddie foreclosure sales

Loan servicers working for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac drastically slowed the pace of foreclosure sales during the fourth quarter, largely due to moratoriums on foreclosures initiated during the “robo-signing” controversy, federal regulators said in a report released today.

Third-party and foreclosure sales of Fannie and Freddie homes fell 44 percent from the third quarter to the fourth, to 76,645 homes, the Federal Housing Finance Agency said in the report.

Fannie and Freddie loan servicers also eased up on foreclosure starts, which fell 8 percent from quarter to quarter, to 309,976.

Impact of robo-signing controversy on Fannie and Freddie foreclosure starts and sales

Source: Federal Housing Finance Agency.

Short sales were also down nearly 13 percent from the third quarter, to 25,734. Fourth-quarter short sales were still up nearly 35 percent from a year ago.

For 2010 overall, Fannie and Freddie’s loan servicers started foreclosure proceedings on 1.17 million homes, up 12 percent from 2009, and completed 424,986 third-party and foreclosure sales, a 73 percent increase from the year before.

Fannie and Freddie’s loan servicers signed off on 107,953 short sales in 2010, nearly double the 55,447 approved in 2009. Deeds in lieu of foreclosure more than doubled from 2009, to 6,043.

Loan modifications more than tripled, from 163,647 in 2009 to 575,022 last year.

Reporting 2010 results, Fannie Mae said its real estate owned (REO) inventory of single-family homes totaled 162,489 at the end of 2010, nearly double the 86,155 homes in its possession a year ago. Fannie Mae valued those homes at $15 billion.

In its annual report to investors, Freddie Mac said its REO inventory climbed 60 percent from a year ago, to 72,079 homes valued at nearly $7 billion.

Fannie Mae said about 27 percent of its REO properties couldn’t be marketed because they were still within their redemption periods. About 40 percent of homes the company is unable to market for sale were occupied, meaning they are likely to remain REO for a longer period of time.

“Given the large current and anticipated supply of single-family homes in the market, it will take years before Fannie Mae’s inventory of real estate owned (REO) properties approaches pre-2008 levels,” according to a press release.

Loan servicers, federal regulators and state attorneys general are reportedly negotiating a settlement that could help servicers put behind them allegations that they took shortcuts in preparing documents used in foreclosure proceedings.

Although a settlement is not imminent, statistics show foreclosure filings have already picked up again this year in nonjudicial foreclosure states that have been least affected by the crisis.

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Know the rules of real estate advertising

Flickr photo courtesy of a href= target=blankKarenLizzie/a.Flickr photo courtesy of KarenLizzie.

There is some grumbling in Minnesota in the real estate industry over how our state Department of Commerce has decided to regulate our use of social media. I have to admit I am not thrilled with some of the rules.

It has always been a rule that we disclose that we are licensees in any kind of advertising, and we are required to display the name of our brokerage prominently in that advertising.

If I put an advertisement in a newspaper, I am required to include the name of my brokerage in that advertisement and to identify myself as a Realtor. The very same rules apply to Internet-based advertising, and that includes agent blogs and websites.

My Twitter account is a personal account and I have never used it for advertising, though each day I do schedule a Twitter post that includes a link to my real estate blog, which I do use for marketing. So I decided to put my brokerage company’s name in the bio section on my Twitter page.

But displaying the brokerage name on the Twitter page is not enough for our Department of Commerce, which wants it in each tweet that is for advertising purposes. We have only 140 characters to work with, and out tweets will look so spammy with a brokerage name in them.

The rule gives brokerages with short names a tremendous advantage, and I would advise anyone wishing to start a brokerage in Minnesota to choose a name that is no more than three letters long if they plan to use Twitter for business.

Our Department of Commerce has decided, too, that it isn’t enough to have the name of our brokerage on our real estate blogs — we also need to include that information in every post just in case someone is reading it through an RSS feed and doesn’t see the actual blog where the brokerage name is disclosed.

This rule does not make sense because there are other ways to get the brokerage name in the RSS feed and it is possible to include the brokerage name in every post without having it show up in the RSS feed.

My business page on Facebook has to have the brokerage name displayed in a prominent place. The easiest way to accomplish that was to change the page so that the page title includes the brokerage name. I could not find a better way to make it prominent, and after playing around with it for an hour I decided that Facebook was not designed with the Minnesota Department of Commerce in mind.

My personal Facebook account is another matter. I do occasionally mention business, but it is a personal account and the Department of Commerce does not have access to it, so I am not planning on making any changes. My occupation and the brokerage I am with are listed in my bio, and that is all the Department of Commerce and the general public can see.

Not being a legal expert, I’ll have to assume that it’s OK to be a real estate licensee and have a personal Facebook account in Minnesota. After all, social media isn’t just for real estate.

It is sometimes difficult to decide where to draw the line between personal and business. Social media is a huge part of my business life and my personal life.

For example, I met a buyer through my Flickr account — does that make it a business account? My occupation is listed in my personal social media accounts — can that be construed as advertising?

As our society continues to change and how we buy and sell and communicate with each changes, our laws need to change to keep up with the times. Corporations have social media policies and so do some brokerages. As always, the government lags behind, handing down rules that don’t make a lot of sense and are tough to enforce.

I was not even aware about the rules impacting social media activities until recently. Please check with your Department of Commerce and know the rules regarding business uses of social media. Ignorance isn’t an acceptable excuse for violations.

Teresa  Boardman is a broker in St. Paul, Minn., and founder of the St. Paul Real  Estate blog.

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‘Zebra’ lawsuit ignites chain reaction in online real estate community

Real estate broker and trainer Denise Lones says she’s faced “a firestorm of retaliation” on the Internet over a trademark infringement suit she filed last week against real estate agent and blogger Daniel Rothamel.

Lones, whose company provides marketing and other business services to real estate agents, says supporters of Rothamel launched “one of the most aggressive online bullying campaigns I’ve seen,” after a Feb. 25 story about the lawsuit published by Inman News.

Lones and Rothamel both employ zebra-themed imagery on their websites. Rothamel authors the Real Estate Zebra blog and promotes himself as “Real Estate Zebra,” and Lones publishes “The Zebra Report” and writes the “Zebra Blog.” In her lawsuit, Lones claims her use of zebra imagery predates Rothamel’s, and that he is a direct competitor.

Rothamel said his “zebra” handle relates to his work as a high school and college basketball referee, and that he had never heard of the Lones Group before receiving a cease-and-desist letter from the company’s lawyer in July.

The lawsuit generated a flurry of blog posts and discussions among Realtors and other real estate industry professionals on numerous websites, including social networking sites Facebook and Twitter.

Many commentators questioned Lones’ decision to sue Rothamel, who is well known among real estate professionals for not only his blog, which he started in 2006, but as a frequent moderator and presenter at Inman News events. Numerous supporters of Rothamel have changed their social media profiles to display zebra photos.

Rothamel is one of several presenters scheduled to speak Wednesday at Inman News’ Agent Reboot one-day event in Seattle, where he will discuss topics including the use of blogging and Facebook as marketing tools (Rothamel received the cease-and-desist letter from Lones prior to the announcement about his appearance in Seattle).

Some of Lones’ critics said she should have known that suing Rothamel would generate bad publicity in the real estate industry that would harm her business, and that her decision showed a poor grasp of Internet and social media marketing techniques.

“I think it’s safe to say the Lones Group had no clue” what the reaction would be to filing the lawsuit “against a blogger as well known and respected as Daniel Rothamel,” wrote Drew Meyers, a former community relations specialist turned consultant, in a Feb. 26 blog post. “Doing what they just did is pure brand suicide in today’s social media world.”

Discussions about the lawsuits, including a Facebook page created by Rothamel’s supporters, now turn up prominently in search engine results for Lones’ business, The Lones Group.

“Several pages of (search engine) results are stacked with toxic, defamatory, misleading, and incorrect information about this woman and her business,” said Frances Flynn Thorsen, a former Realtor who who now works as a real estate writer, educator and consultant.

“The issue is not about the lawsuit anymore, it’s about cyber bullying and the mob mentality,” Thorsen told Inman News, elaborating on a blog post she wrote in Lones’ defense.

Miami Beach, Fla.-based Realtor Kevin Tomlinson, commenting on Meyers’ post, seconded Thorsen’s take that the flood of criticism directed against Lones amounted to bullying.

“You guys are out to teach her a Google lesson and you are taking part in bullying her yourself,” Tomlinson wrote.

Thorsen was particularly dismayed that Todd Carpenter, the National Association of Realtors’ director of digital engagement, chose to weigh in on the topic on Realtor Magazine’s “Speaking of Real Estate” blog.

In his blog post, Carpenter not only acknowledged that “thousands of comments and tweets have spewed from an angry mob,” but identified himself, tongue-in-cheek, as “a member of this angry mob.”

“Daniel is a friend of mine and that relationship biases my personal opinion about this situation,” Carpenter explained.

Relating a similarly awkward situation he’d found himself in several years ago, Carpenter advised Lones that “doing something magnanimous like dropping the suit with a humble blog post could do wonders.”

Carpenter acknowledged that The Lones Group “may decide the lawsuit is more important than the mob they’re facing right now. But I hope they understand that backing down could be the bigger win for them in the long run.”

Like Rothamel, Lones is a NAR member, Thorsen said, and NAR should not be seen as weighing in against Lones in a pending legal matter.

Thorsen said she thinks Carpenter, along with some Realtors who have been critical of Lones, may have violated the Realtor Code of Ethics, which prohibits Realtors from “making false or misleading statements about competitors, competitors’ businesses and competitors’ business practices.”

Carpenter told Inman News that his post did not discuss the legal merits of Lones’ case, only the social media reaction, and that the Realtor Code of Ethics did not apply to the post. Those who have criticized Carpenter for offering his opinion are “making a mountain out of a molehill,” he said.

Calls for boycott

While some who have commented on the lawsuit said they wanted to help Lones with damage control, some agents stated they would never do business with her, and some have called for a boycott of her business.

On the Google place page for The Lones Group, one anonymous commenter also threatened to boycott other companies that hire Lones.

“Want to be boycotted? Hire them,” an individual stated. “There is currently a boycott of them and anyone who hires them being planned by the most influential real estate professionals and consumer groups.”

A Denver-based consultant who offers website design services to real estate professionals, Knox Richards, created a fake Lones Group website that featured zebra imagery and used the URL of one of his own businesses.

“Welcome to our Zebra News blog focusing on real estate marketing,” the fake Lones Group website stated. “We revolutionized the world of real estate marketing but have no idea how the Internet works.”

The site was taken down Wednesday evening, but was still available for viewing in a Google cache.

“What’s coming up when people search ‘Denise Lones’ is all these negative articles,” said Marlow Harris, a Seattle-based Realtor. “They are not well measured. They’re not calm. They’re calling for a lynching.”

Harris, who has attended seminars conducted by Lones and also met Rothamel, said she doesn’t want to be seen as taking sides in the dispute, but said many who have commented on it seem to too quick to dismiss Lones’ right to have her day in court.

Harris said she herself was confused by the similarity of the “zebra” branding employed by both Lones and Rothamel. When Rothamel first launched his Real Estate Zebra blog, Harris assumed it was Lones’ and tried to send her a note of congratulations through a contact form on the blog.

“When Real Estate Zebra appeared, I said, ‘Denise, welcome to the blogosphere, so glad you’re joining us,” Harris said. “Daniel e-mailed me back and said, ‘No, it’s my blog.’ “

Each might have still been unaware of each other, Harris said, because “I never said boo to either person about it.”

“It seems to me it’s a business disagreement that’s not anybody (else’s) business,” Harris said. “I’m sure Daniel is a nice guy, but it’s kind of irrelevant — its going to go to the courts, let them decide.”

Statement from Lones Group

Lones did not respond to requests for comment. But in a statement on her website, the real estate broker and trainer said she has spent years building a strong brand and has a legal right to protect it.

“While we understand that Mr. Rothamel’s friends and social media contacts have a right to their opinion, the actions taken by these individuals are inflaming the situation, and detracting from the actual issue at hand,” Lones’ statement said. What started as a trademark infringement issue “has now turned into full-scale social media bullying.”

Lones promised that her company would not “engage in slander or do any damage online” to Rothamel, or “leave unpleasant messages” on his phone or website contact forms.

She also stated, “In spite of the negative publicity this situation has generated, we are adamant about our right to protect our brand,” Lones said. “We encourage members of the real estate community to be prudent in their reaction to the lawsuit.”

Rothamel said he, too, has been surprised by the level of interest in the lawsuit and the outpouring of support for him, and said he did not orchestrate or coordinate the response.

Asked if he had seen any actions by his supporters on his behalf that concerned him, he said he hadn’t.

“My preference is always that people are positive, but people are going to have their reactions, and I can’t control their reaction,” Rothamel said. “I can only control my reaction.”

One of Rothamel’s most ardent supporters, Phoenix-based broker Jay Thompson, said that in writing about the lawsuit, he did not intend to harm her business, though he said he believes Lones was wrong to sue Rothamel.

Thompson said Wednesday that he was working on a follow-up post to his initial take on the lawsuit, which he said he had de-indexed in order to reduce its prominence in Google’s rankings.

Thompson’s Feb. 25 post, “The Lones Group v. Rothamel: A case study in destroying your online reputation,” quickly rose to the first page of results in Google rankings of keyword searches for “The Lones Group,” generating more than 200 comments.

“There is little doubt that posts like you are reading now will get indexed in Google — forever,” Thompson wrote at the time. “Even those agents who aren’t active in the social media space are likely to Google The Lones Group.”

Thompson said he is not de-indexing the original post out of any fear that Lones will sue him, but wants to make it clear that it was never his intent to harm her business.

(In his follow-up post, published after he spoke to Inman News, Thompson said, “It is my hope that no one attacks Denise or her company. ‘Attack the idea, not the person,’ debating in an open, honest, non-adversarial way is a good thing.”).

Although he originally praised Richards’ parody Lones Group site — “Knox, you are THE man” Thompson said in an exchange with Richards in the comment section of a blog post — the site was “not as spiteful” when he commented about it, Thompson said.

Thompson said he has asked Richards to remove a link connecting the parody site to Thompson’s site.

Richards, who also claimed credit for the parody Lones Group site on the Facebook fan page created by Rothamel’s supporters, did not respond to a request for comment submitted to his firm’s website. The link to Thompson’s site was removed Wednesday, and all references to the Lones Group were removed later in the evening.

Thompson deplored anonymous sniping at Lones, but said he and other prominent figures in the “” — as the real estate blogosphere is sometimes called — aren’t to blame for the actions of others.

“If you don’t have the guts to put your name behind what you have to say, you should shut up and not say anything,” Thompson said.

Anonymous threats are uncalled for, Thompson said, and “I personally feel bad if someone took the post I wrote about the suit and twisted it into something bad for Denise.”

Thompson said he hopes his follow-up blog post “will make some people think about what they’ve done.”

But, he said, “I’m not their father and I can’t make them do things. There are people who listen to my opinion, so I do have some obligation to clarify the article that I wrote,” he said.

Thompson, who is a friend of Rothamel’s, has also started a legal defense fund for Rothamel that he said has raised more than $2,000 to date.

“It’s a very emotional situation,” Thompson said. “Daniel is such a good guy — so well-liked by people. I’m defending a friend, is what it boils down to. I take my friendships very seriously, and when someone attacks a friend of mine, I’m going to do what I can to help them — but not at the expense of Denise’s business.”

The trademark issues in dispute are obviously important to both Lones and Rothamel. Lones said in the online statement, “We will pursue whatever course of action our attorneys recommend to appropriately resolve this issue,” and Rothamel says that for his part, “I know what my brand is, and this situation has made it even more clear to me than it was before.”

Power of social media

But the lawsuit seems to have touched a larger, collective nerve, illustrating of the power of the Internet as a tool to not only build, but also to potentially damage reputations and brands.

Carpenter recalled another incident that took place nearly three years ago, in which Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman defused a flap that erupted when one of the company’s “contract bloggers” likened San Diego-based broker Kris Berg and her husband to a pair of toy dolls.

Berg — who is a prominent blogger and an Inman News columnist — had taken a swipe at a new Redfin home-tour service, and what Berg described as the “wacky goings-on at the Redfin think tank.”

The Redfin blogger published an item on San Diego Sweet Digs, one of several localized Redfin company blogs, that criticized Berg and belittled a food drive that she and her husband, Steve, had organized in their community.

Kelman promptly fired the blogger, apologized to Berg, and issued “an apology to everyone else in real estate, many of whom have reacted to more than just what we said about Kris,” he said at the time.

Kelman used the rest of the post to discuss the tensions between traditional brokerages employing traditional commission-based models and Redfin, which pays agents salaries and customer-satisfaction bonuses.

He said the post about Berg had made him “physically ill” — not only because Berg was a “wonderful person, a total pro and a darn good blogger,” but because it deepened the “brainless, destructive division between Redfin and our peers” that had caused him great anguish.

Carpenter said that by admitting that the blogger had made a mistake and apologizing, Kelman “completely turned around the situation. People went from going, ‘I can’t believe Redfin is doing this,’ to ‘Glenn is a stand-up guy.’ “

Thompson, who blasted the Redfin blogger on his own site, praised Kelman as “a stand-up guy” for firing the blogger and issuing an apology.

Thompson recalled another incident in which a property management firm in Chicago sued a tenant who had complained about her moldy apartment on Twitter. He also blogged about that case, calling it a textbook example of “how to royally screw up your reputation via social media.”

Thompson said he thinks one reason people have reacted so strongly to the Lones Group’s lawsuit against Rothamel is that “we’re a very litigious society, and that annoys a lot of people, including me. Pick up the phone and talk before you get the lawyers involved.”

Thompson said he resolved an issue with another agent, who was using “Phoenix real estate guy” as a byline on blog posts, by picking up the phone.

“He was very cool about it — he knew about the blog and changed his byline,” Thompson said. He said he also avoided picking a fight with an agent who has registered the website URL

“I could argue that’s infringing on me — we’re in the same market,” Thompson said. “If I had a problem with it, I wouldn’t go to an attorney, I’d call her up. And if she said, ‘Screw you,’ I wouldn’t sue her.”

Carpenter, who noted wryly that “I’m employed by this organization that every once in awhile gets criticized,” said sometimes it’s best to just stay on the sidelines.

When NAR comes under fire in the blogosphere and facts are misrepresented, it’s sometimes necessary to engage in the conversation, Carpenter said.

“Other times, when people state an opinion, they are welcome to state it,” he said. “If we engage, we are actually bringing more of an audience to them. Just because somebody is criticizing you doesn’t mean you are going to engage with them. Trying to argue with them online doesn’t always work.”

Rothamel said of the online reaction to the lawsuit, “there’s a lot to be learned from this entire situation. That’s one of the things I do hope comes out of this. My hope is if we can learn from this, we can avoid this type of situation in the future. I don’t want to have anybody to have to go through this.”

And Thompson said the online response has been “a fascinating thing to watch. It’s a very interesting look at the impact of social media. That’s why I’m watching it, and a whole lot of people are watching it.”

Contact Matt Carter: E-mail E-mail Letter to the Editor Letter to the Editor

T-Mobile to shut down Sidekick data service May 31

T-Mobile Sidekick LX

As of May 31, the Danger service for T-Mobile Sidekicks will be no more.

Corinne Schulze/CNET)

It’s the end of an era. T-Mobile announced this evening that it will discontinue its Danger data service to all Sidekick models starting May 31, 2011.

At that time, you will no longer be able to access data stored on Danger’s cloud-based service, including contacts and photos. Internet and e-mail service will also be cut off. If you wish, you can still use the Sidekick for calls and text messaging.

T-Mobile will begin sending out letters to current Sidekick owners tomorrow to alert them to the change and provide information about transferring data and transitioning to a new device.

If you’re one of the affected users, the first thing you’ll want to do is get all of your personal data from the Danger service. T-Mobile provides a couple of ways to do this.

The first is through; there you will find a Web tool that can export your information, including contacts, appointments, photos, and bookmarks, to a new device, computer, or e-mail account.

The second method is to use the data transfer application, which is available from the Sidekick app catalog, and export all your data onto the Sidekick’s memory card. You can then bring that card to a T-Mobile store and have a representative transfer the information onto your new phone.

The carrier said it will provide special offers on devices to Sidekick owners but didn’t provide any specifics at this time. More information is expected in the coming weeks. It is T-Mobile’s goal, however, to have the new Android-based T-Mobile Sidekick 4G available by spring, ahead of the May 31 cut-off date. Old phones can be returned to T-Mobile for recycling.

T-Mobile told CNET in a phone interview that the decision to shut off service was made jointly by Microsoft and Danger as a reflection that older devices must be replaced with newer ones. The carrier added that it was a natural evolution as the market transitions to new operating systems.

The first T-Mobile Sidekick (aka Danger Hiptop) debuted in 2002 with a 240×160-pixel-resolution, 4-bit monochrome screen. The most recent model was the T-Mobile Sidekick LX 2009.

T-Mobile Sidekick retrospective (photos)

Before there was the Xperia Play

Sony Ericsson’s Z600a inside the Gameboard

Sony Ericsson)

Sony Ericsson is betting big that its Xperia Play will offer a new way to bring gamers and phone users together, but it’s not the first time that the company has tried to do so.

Seven years ago, just as Sony Ericsson was getting into a groove with notable handsets like the P910 and S710, the company rolled out one of the more interesting mobile accessories I’ve ever seen. The EGB-10 Gameboard allowed you to play games on selected Sony Ericsson handsets while using controls that were more comfortable than a standard navigational keypad.

Though its design was a far cry from a
Sony PlayStation controller, the Gameboard had most of the essential gaming elements, including a circular toggle on the left and four function keys on the right. As it didn’t have a power switch, it would work only when you snapped a handset into the frame in the center. You’d still use a phone’s display to see your game, but the Gameboard’s controls would take over.

I couldn’t find CNET’s original review of the Gameboard (here’s the First Look featuring our long departed Cell Phone Diva Joni Blecher), though I remember using the accessory with Sony Ericsson’s Z600a flip phone (it also was compatible with the Sony Ericsson T630 and K500).

Though the Gameboard was a neat idea and the controls were easy to use, it was ahead of its time given the poor quality of mobile gaming in 2004. Indeed, I used it for a only few minutes before moving on. What’s more, I found that even my avid gamer colleagues and friends felt the same way.

Now with the Xperia Play, Sony Ericsson is back for another try. I’m intrigued by what I saw of the Xperia Play at Mobile World Congress and remain floored that it will come to Verizon Wireless (Sony Ericsson has few CDMA phones). We still don’t have an availability date or a review model, but we’ll get some more time with the device as part of the Game Developers Conference. Check back for more hands-on impressions.

When ER doc consults iPad, don’t panic

Screenshot by Elizabeth Armstrong Moore/CNET)

Nobody likes a conversation interrupted by the mobile-device grab, that increasingly familiar maneuver by which someone betrays a total lack of interest in said conversation and searches for whatever else might be going on in the world instead.

But when your physician gets device-happy in the middle of your next doctor’s visit, even in the ER, chances are it’s for a good cause, such as looking up the latest on your condition in a reference guide.

Rosen and Barkin’s best-selling 5-Minute Emergency Medicine Consult has, for years, been a six-pound, 1,300-page clinical reference tome designed to support urgent care providers. Now, Unbound Medicine is releasing the new-and-improved fourth edition for mobile devices (including iOS, Android, BlackBerry, etc.) in a “proven, rapid-access format.”

At $99.95, the price tag is heftier than it is for the paper product (at the time of this posting the hardcover is $81.64 on Amazon), but it features not only the guide’s 600-plus urgent care topics and updated protocols and treatment guideline, but also personalized “favorites” (perhaps not the best word) for symptoms and conditions a user might encounter more frequently.

For those with a little extra cash ($159.95), Unbound Medicine is also offering up the Emergency Central package, which includes not just the 5-Minute Emergency Medicine Consult but also the Diagnosaurus DDx (1,000-plus quick-reference diagnoses), Davis’s Drug Guide (almost 2,000 monographs covering 5,000 trade and generic drugs), and the Pocket Guide to Diagnostic Tests (including more than 350 laboratory, imaging, and microbiology test monographs). The package also includes a year of online access to MEDLINE Journals.

There are already several emergency room reference guides and glossaries for mobile devices (Emergency Room Glossary, iTriage, Medical Reference, etc.), but Rosen and Barkin’s gold-standard 5-Minute Emergency Medicine Consult raises the bar.

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