June 29, 2011
When the network goes down, restart your phone or switch to 2G
Last night, many AT&T wireless customers in South Florida had service trouble as some 3G and 4G networks went down. A switch in Broward County caused the issue, according to AT&T. But the slower 2G ("Edge") was still working.
Whenever you have service trouble, try the following:
1. Your settings may have a place to turn off the 3G network, so that it switches to the slower backup 2G network, known as Edge on AT&T. In the iPhone's settings menu, go to General > Network > Turn off Enable 3G (pictured here).
2. Just restart the phone. Sometimes a reset can help the phone reconnect with a working network, if it doesn't fix itself automatically or takes too long to switch to 2G. It worked for me late last night, bringing me back to full bars on 3G after getting a "No Service" message.
June 23, 2011
AT&T U-verse adds self-help troubleshooting television app
If you hate calling your television provider when there's a service problem... well, I can't promise this will be much better: AT&T U-verse is giving customers the option to first try fixing problems themselves through a television app. Listed under "Help" in the AT&T U-verse TV menu, the Troubleshoot & Resolve app has a library of common questions and answers, as well as a self-diagnostic service check tool.
But if that doesn't help, users can use the app to request a call from a customer service representative.
In September, AT&T launched a similar self-service U-verse television application that lets customers change their monthly service subscription using the remote.
The Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach markets are the first to get the free self-help television app, which is rolling out over the next few weeks.
June 22, 2011
Dude, this is such a manly Groupon clone
The latest Groupon clone in Miami offers "insane" tours in the Everglades, mixed martial arts classes and Key West fishing trips. Huge.com, a weekly deal website for men, sells discounts that may help you "hook up with the ladies" -- or so they say.
Founded by Aventura-resident and Internet entrepreneur Mike "Zappy" Zapolin, the service was designed to stand out from more than a dozen South Florida competitors by showing deals men would purchase. (Warning: Signing up may fill you with manly urges to shoot somethin', fix things... perhaps even cook outdoors.)
It's not as if women are discouraged from buying discounts for fishing or taking up a sport; in fact, Zapolin says 40 percent of the buyers thus far have been women. Rather, Zapolin wants men to sign up knowing they can avoid an inbox filled with discounts on yoga and keratin hair treatments, which tends to be a regular feature with competing sites.
Huge is the masculine counterpart to Miami-headquartered CoupTessa.com, the first women-focused daily deal site (where, um, you can get nailpolish-friendly Everglades tours?). Another local niche competitor is DealDaisy.com, which centers on deals for mommies.
Zapolin says Huge.com has five full-time employees and 15,000 registered users since it launched in April, and he plans to expand next to Los Angeles. The internet entrepreneur found previous success in buying and selling generic domain names, making millions off sites like beer.com, computer.com and creditcards.com.
Savored adds Miami: Restaurant discounts without showing a coupon
Miami's thrifty foodies can get fine-dinning discounts with a new reservation website, Savored.com. Spending $10 on Savored will book you a reservation at one of the featured Miami-area restaurants. In return, they automatically take 30 percent off your entire bill.
The concept allows diners to save money without flashing a printed-out coupon – and without mentioning an online discount in front of a date or business client.
Formerly known as VillageVines.com, Savored has partnered with Zagat to feature restaurant reviews and ratings. The year-old website also expanded this week to Atlanta Boston, Denver and Philadelphia. It already served the areas of New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Washington D.C.
Currently it is featuring 16 restaurants in Miami-Dade, including Shula’s Steak House, Escopazzo, Fratelli Lyon and George's in the Grove.
The company predicts it will generate more than $25 million in sales for its restaurant partners this year. In the last six months, it has grown its staff from six to nearly 50 full-time employees.
June 10, 2011
Broward libraries use QR code posters for eBook downloads
Visitors to Broward County libraries can browse and download electronic book titles by scanning a QR code. (See: How to use QR codes) The code is featured on posters in the library. To scan the code, you'll need a smartphone or tablet computer with a camera, and you'll also need to download a free QR scanning app.
The code will take you to the public domain eBook section of the Broward County Library website. From there, you can see the 15,000 free .epub files. And because the books are public domain, there's no library card required to download.
It's a creative way to advertise the eBook service. But not every smartphone may be able to download the books. I couldn't get it to download the .epub file using the web browser on the Verizon Droid Charge phone I've recently been testing. Most folks might be better off going directly to the library's eBook website on their computer, and then loading the files manually on the phone or eReader.
June 03, 2011
TV check-in apps make watching more social
We use social media to tell the world what we’re up to, and smartphone apps have taken that to a new level. For the past year, the trend has been to use apps like Foursquare to broadcast our locations to Facebook and Twitter friends.
For those who would rather stay home, a new trend emerges: apps that share what TV show we’re watching. For a full breakdown of the different apps, check out my story that overviews the top apps in this trend. These apps are constantly adding new features to keep you hooked on sharing. For example, Miso added a new feature last week where superfans can apply to be a Miso show host and get perks to pick poll questions.
May 31, 2011
T-Mobile doubles theoretical speeds in its Miami 4G network
I always find it refreshing to unplug from all-things-Internet while on vacation. But after a week away I'm back to blogging, and I came across this announcement from T-Mobile in my inbox:
T-Mobile has increased its download speeds for the Miami 4G network to nearly double. It's new theoretical peak download speed is 42 Mbps in South Florida. Theoretical peak... that's kind of like saying in an ideal environment with no one else on the network while standing next to a cell site on a clear day standing on one leg wearing a foil hat when the planets are aligned (or something scientific like that), you could get up to 42 Mbps.
When it comes to the downloads speeds customers could expect on an average day in Miami, T-Mobile didn't say in the release. But it is now selling a T-Mobile Rocket 3.0 laptop connection stick that could take advantage of those potential faster speeds on the network.
Since launching 4G service in Miami last year in June, T-mobile has activated 554 cell sites with 4G service and invested $37 million in South Florida since January 2010.
Aside from South Florida, T-Mobile also increased its theoretical downloads speeds in 51 additional markets, including Florida areas of Gainesville, Jacksonville, Tallahassee and Tampa.
May 16, 2011
BlackBerry PlayBook Review [with updates]
A few weeks back, you might have caught my review of the BlackBerry PlayBook:
But since that review, BlackBerry has made a few updates: It added a Video Chat application that works over a Wi-Fi Internet connection with other BlackBerry PlayBook users (didn't get a chance to test that, as I don't personally know anyone with a PlayBook). It's also added a pretty decent Facebook app. And the BlackBerry App World itself has gotten stronger, as it naturally would.
It also added a way to edit documents on a BlackBerry phone on the tablet, using the Blackberry Bridge Bluetooth connection. So you can use the tablet's large screen to edit something and save it right back on your phone.
If you're thinking about getting a PlayBook, it's going to be the kind of device that will get better in time, you'll just need a good deal of patience. For example, this summer Android apps will be featured on the PlayBook to give a serious boost to the app store offerings. (But, as you can see from the Android Player demo video, only one Android app can be open at a time.)
It's a shame they rush to release, leaving early adopters (and testers like me) with an incomplete experience. But I'm glad to see though that within a few weeks since the review they've added some more perks. It's a powerful tablet with a great processor in a convenient size. Now if they would only launch a native email and calendar app that didn't require a BlackBerry Bridge connection... ah yes, that's also coming this summer.
I have a feeling this will be a much stronger competitor in the tablet market once these features are rolled out.
May 10, 2011
Product Review: Sprint Kyocera Echo
The Kyocera Echo ($199.99 at Sprint after rebate and two-year contract) is an Android smartphone with a touch screen that flips open to reveal a second 3.5-inch touch screen.
It can operate at a tilt or snap flat. Loaded with Android 2.2, it’s built with a 1GHz processor and a 5 megapixel camera and with flash and autofocus. An 8GB microSD memory card is included, as well as a spare battery with portable charger that can tether to the phone as an external power supply. The Web browser supports Flash videos.
Seven core apps can work on separate screens at the same time, including e-mail, messaging, Web browsing and viewing YouTube videos through VueQue is great for a super multitasker. There are a few games available that incorporate both screens. But when not in that mode – or when using an app that wasn’t programmed specially for the Echo – the dual screens act like one larger screen.
The second screen comes in handy most often when typing: a large keyboard is on the bottom screen, allowing for more viewing space above. Overall, the performance is smooth and glitch-free. It also is quite sturdy; the dual-screen hinge gives the impression it is easily breakable, but it seems to be well made.
But the black line separating the two screens detracts from the joy of a bigger screen. And if you’re reading, that screen gap interrupts text. One could fold it back into one screen, but that takes away from the point of getting this phone.
Having two screens means it’s tempting to always have both on – and two screens drain the battery faster. (That’s why the Echo includes an extra battery and charger.)
Bottom line: Dual screens have a big wow factor – and it’s a neat tool for multitasking work e-mail with the Web on another screen. But it’s not going to be a good fit for every personality – especially since it needs more frequent charging.
April 19, 2011
Florida Grand Opera billboard uses QR code [Plus guide to using QR Codes & Microsoft Tags]
Today the Miami area got its first billboard featuring a QR code. The Florida Grand Opera's code takes smartphone users to a website for buying tickets to the show. The ad is located on the corner of Biscayne Boulevard and NE 55 Street. (Photo by Carl Juste/Miami Herald Staff)
[Update - Personal note: Please people, use some common sense and don't scan this billboard while driving. Unfortunately, smartphone apps continue to give us more temptations to drive distracted. But the mystery of what's behind the code isn't worth a life! (It's a behind-the-scenes video and a link to buy tickets.) There is no safe way to scan this in the car on this road -- you would have to pull into a parking lot. Below is a Google StreetView map that shows you the area where the billboard is located.]
So if you're dining at a nearby restaurant or walking in the area, you know what to do with the code? For today's Miami Herald, I wrote a quick digest of the new trend popping up in print advertisements and in stores, like Macy's, Lowe's, Best Buy, and the Gap, to name just a few. Although many techies have heard about QR codes for a few months now, most folks I come across still aren't sure of how to use this new breed of barcode that's popping up everywhere. Here's a quick how-to video for those of you unfamiliar with QR and Tags: