All posts in 2011

T-Mobile USA Posts Loss for Q4 2011, Blames iPhone 4S, But LTE Coming

T-Mobile girl with tip jarHow bad are things for fourth-place U.S. carrier T-Mobile? Apparently, so bad that they issue a press release to announce fourth-quarter operating results which mentions being “negatively impacted” by the release of the iPhone 4S on three other carriers, right in the first sentence.

T-Mobile USA parent Deutsche Telekom has announced their Q4 2011 financials, but the news isn’t all that fantastic for the nation’s fourth-place carrier. The failure of the AT&T marriage was certainly a blow, although ultimately T-Mo benefitted from the loss with a billion cash payment in December, plus additional spectrum and roaming for its customers.

The problem is one of diminishing returns, as T-Mo USA bled 526,000 customers in the fourth quarter after gaining 126,000 in the third quarter; the carrier only lost 23,000 in the same quarter a year ago.

“The sequential and year-on-year increase in customer losses is a result of intense competitive pressure from the launch of the iPhone 4S by three nationwide competitors in the fourth quarter of 2011,” the press release notes. “In addition, higher connected device deactivations contributed significantly to the net customer loss in the fourth quarter of 2011, including a nearly 265,000 deactivation related to one customer with a yearly service revenue impact of less than million.”

Revenue dropped from .69 billion a year ago to .57 billion, which doesn’t sound so bad considering the carrier is still serving 33.2 million customers. “However, not carrying the iPhone led to a significant increase in contract deactivations in the fourth quarter of 2011,” explained T-Mo USA president and CEO Philipp Humm. “In 2012 and 2013, T-Mobile USA will invest to get the business back to growth, including an incremental .4 billion investment in its network modernization initiative, which will total a billion investment over time.”

So how will T-Mobile USA get its mojo back? It’s all about LTE, which the carrier plans to start deploying in 2013 on the AWS spectrum it received as a bonus for the AT&T merger not going through as planned. “This anticipated network transformation will significantly enhance coverage and performance for customers,” the press release notes — assuming there are many left by the time it lights up.

Perhaps the real question is: Will the 2012 iPhone finally go pentaband (if not LTE) to allow for 3G/4G data on T-Mobile? If so, we can see a healthy market for unlocked iPhone 5 models later this year…

Follow this article’s author, J.R. Bookwalter on Twitter

(Image courtesy of CellularPCS.com)

 

News

Friday Recap: iPad 3 (and 4!) Rumors, Steam’s Boffo 2011, Target Apple Stores

Target store logoWow, another week has come and gone, just like that! By this time next week, the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show will be winding down in Las Vegas and we’ll all be giddy about the new stuff to look forward to later this year (or alternately, seriously depressed that we can’t afford it). But before you get a full-on dose of CES fever all next week, it’s time to hunker down and ingest some of the tech news that’s making waves on this fine Friday, January 6, 2012.

Yawn: Rumor Claims iPad 3 in March, iPad 4 in October

It would seem that the Apple rumor mill is ready to go into repeats of last year’s successful season prematurely. According to DigiTimes — whose track record with these things is spotty at best — Apple will apparently ship the iPad 3 we all want in March, including “a full HD display,” while saving an even better model they’re calling the iPad 4 for October to compete with Microsoft’s Windows 8 launch, which will be offered on a wide variety of tablets. This is almost exactly what the rumor mill called up last year, with claims that the iPad 2 would be released last March and an HD iPad 3 later in the fall, so you’d do well to take this with a heaping grain of salt to be sure. According to Taiwanese component makers, the iPad 3 “will come with a QXGA (1,536×2,048 pixels) display and longer battery life,” although little is said about the rumored iPad 4. The one thing in the DigiTimes report that does make sense is that Apple will keep the iPad 2 around at a lower price point (9) when the iPad 3 is introduced, which makes total sense to us.

Free iPhone 4S? China Unicom Has Them

Americans are used to free mobile phones when they sign a two-year agreement, but a brand-new iPhone 4S is just crazy talk… right? According to BusinessWeek, not really — assuming, that is, that you live in an area of mainland China covered by China Unicom, the country’s second-largest carrier. Beginning January 13, China Unicom is offering a free 16GB iPhone 4S for customers who sign up for a two-year agreement which costs as little as 286 yuan () per month. High rollers can also opt for a 32GB model, but you’ll need to commit for three years instead. Any way you slice it, that’s a pretty amazing deal, especially considering China Unicom is the only one of the country’s three wireless carriers to offer the iPhone — so it’s not like they have to compete with anyone on price.

Steam Closes 2011 with Seventh Year of 100 Percent Unit Sales Growth

The Mac|Life crew loves them some Steam, so we were encouraged to hear word from online gaming company Valve today that we weren’t alone. According to their press release, 2011 was a banner year for the Steam platform on the Mac and PC, with more than 1,800 games served up to more than 40 million accounts. For the seventh straight year, units sales increased by more than 100 percent, and during the company’s year-end Holiday Sale, Steam had more than five million simultaneous users playing at once. So how much data does all of this activity amount to? Steam doubled the amount of data served between 2010 and 2011 for a whopping 780 petabytes of data tossed all over the world. Thankfully, the company also doubled its service capacity at the same time, making tweaks to improve user download rates at the same time. The company is now looking ahead to 2012, when it undoubtedly hopes to top last year’s boffo figures.

Report: Target May Get Apple “Store Within a Store” This Year

Apple has apparently had success with their “store within a store” concept at Best Buy, with AppleInsider now reporting that Cupertino may introduce the idea to “select Target locations later thus year, enabling the company to expand its retail reach into smaller metro areas.” According to the usual “source familiar with Apple’s plans,” the mini-stores would launch in 25 larger Target stores “in locations which can’t support a standalone Apple Store.” Needless to say, that’s a drop in the bucket considering Target has 1,752 stores across the United States, but Best Buy currently has 600 locations with so-called “Apple Shops” out of its 1,000 total stores, so the concept could expand quickly if successful.

Study Shows Siri Doubling iPhone Data Consumption

A new report from Reuters is claiming that iPhone 4S data consumption is on average double that of the iPhone 4, with a study from “telecom network technology firm” Arieso pointing most of the blame in Siri’s direction. It’s no big stretch to assume that data use on a new smartphone is on the rise, with the research firm claiming that iPhone 4S users “transfer on average three times more data than users of the older iPhone 3G model.” That’s kind of a skewed metric if you ask us, since there were far less data-hungry apps when the iPhone 3G — and the shiny new App Store — were first introduced in July, 2008. But for whatever reason, Siri is taking the brunt of the study’s blame for sucking down bandwidth. “I use the iPhone 4 myself and when I first heard of the iPhone 4S features I was not compelled to rush out and get one. However, the data usage numbers I am seeing make me wonder what I am missing,” said Arieso’s chief technology officer, Michael Flanagan. Needless to say, the problem is only going to get worse as more and more smartphones are sold…

Follow this article’s author, J.R. Bookwalter on Twitter

 

News

10 Most Impactful Events in Tech in 2011

Technology moves faster than poop through a goose: New products crop up quickly, while established brands and well-loved hardware can disappear just as fast. The same goes for those that make new technology possible, with new entrepreneurs bringing their wares to the fore, and legends leaving us years before their time. This past year proved no exception. With the new year creeping ever closer, we submit to you ten of our picks for the most important tech stories of the year. Designed by Apple users for Apple users, we’re sure you’ll find yourself nodding in agreement at more than a few of our choices.

 

News

Friday Recap: 2011, That’s A Wrap! Edition

Seas0nPassIt’s the last Friday of the year, and that means the final installment of our daily news recap for 2011. It’s been a busy year for Apple: From Thunderbolt Macs to the iPad 2, OS X Lion to the iPhone 4S and of course, the death of co-founder Steve Jobs, many of us are apprehensive about the future of our favorite tech company heading into 2012. For now, let’s sit back and reflect on the year with a few final news tidbits for this Friday, December 20, 2011.

Insync Goes Free, Encourages Google Users to Ditch Dropbox

Are you a Dropbox user still in search of a better way to sync your files? If you have a Google account (or are willing to get one), there’s now another option. TechCrunch is reporting that Insync 2.0 is now available and best of all, it’s totally free to use. Billed as “Dropbox for Google users,” the service uses only a Gmail address to join up and the Mac client software adds the contents of your Google Docs account to a sidebar folder in the Finder; anything placed there is synced to Google’s cloud, where all users have 1GB by default. GDocs storage is much cheaper than Dropbox — for example, 0 per year with Dropbox gets you a mere 50GB, while the same dough lands you a whopping 400GB from Google. To sign up, jump over to the Insync website and within minutes you’ll be ready to go.

Nokia Maintains Grip on Smartphone Market with Symbian OS

While the general consensus is that Nokia’s smartphone business is in the toilet, the numbers show a different reality. According to AllThingsD, recent metrics compiled by Pingdom show that the cell phone giant’s sagging Symbian OS actually holds 33.59 percent of the global mobile OS market — more than the sexier iOS with 22.56 percent and even more than Google’s Android freight train at only 21.74 percent. Even more bizarre, Symbian is actually grew in market share over 2011 after starting at 30.25 percent in January! So, next time you get into an argument with iOS or Android tech snobs over who dominates in the world market, just point ‘em back here and have their minds blown.

Samsung Now Aping Apple’s iPad Commercials, Too

There’s no end in sight for the patent battles between Apple and Samsung, who has been aggressive in recent months in their efforts to mock iPhone users on U.S. television commercials. According to MacRumors, it’s a very different story in Samsung’s home turf of South Korea, where the company is openly copying the look and feel of Apple’s iPad commercials for their own Samsung Galaxy Tab. As shown in the embedded video below, “the ad depicts a father and daughter playing with a Galaxy Tab in a sequence of shots reminiscent of Apple’s own iPad ads.” MacRumors even posted a rough translation of the narration: “You try to have fun with me, you try to win against me, you ask me millions of questions, you sit on my lap, you want to stay beside me all the time, strangely, when I stay with you time passes very quickly. This is a precious time.” It’s not likely that Apple will be able to sic their legal team against this kind of thing, but it’s fairly shameless on Samsung’s part…

 

comScore Data Shows Android, iOS Robbing RIM Market Share

While Nokia’s Symbian OS is kicking ass and taking names worldwide (see above), the aging platform is sagging here in the U.S., and it’s not alone. comScore has just released a Mobile Subscriber Market Share report for November which clearly shows Google Android and Apple iOS chewing away at the market share formerly dominated by Research in Motion’s BlackBerry. RIM dipped from 7.1 percent to 6.5 percent between August and November, while Apple rose from 9.8 percent to 11.2 percent during the same period. Symbian dipped by a lesser amount (1.5 percent, down from 1.8 percent) and Microsoft is clearly failing to gain traction with Windows Phone after slipping half a percentage point from 5.7 percent to 5.2 percent. It’s a pretty rough market out there if you’re not producing Android or iOS devices, that’s for sure.

Seas0nPass Goes Untethered Again for Second-Gen Apple TV

Right on the heels of the iOS 5.0.1 untethered jailbreak earlier this week comes news from FireCore, LLC that the same exploit has been introduced to its Seas0nPass Mac and Windows software for the second-generation Apple TV. Today’s update finally allows ATV owners to update to the latest 4.4.4 software (which is technically a variant of iOS 5.0.1) while remaining completely untethered — no more need to run Seas0nPass at each power up. The update supports all of the aTV Flash plugins with the exception of Plex, but those developers are hard at work on an update which will hopefully arrive in the near future.

Follow this article’s author, J.R. Bookwalter on Twitter

 

News

Apple Posts 2011 iTunes Rewind Best of the Year

iTunes Rewind 2011Curious to know what Apple thinks is the cream of the crop in its own iTunes Store? Well, wonder no more: Cupertino has just posted its 2011 entries for iTunes Rewind, which celebrates the best music, apps, TV shows, books, movies and podcasts for the entire year. How many of them did you purchase?

Apple is winding down a banner year for iTunes with its selections for best of the year. iTunes Rewind is an annual showcase of the year’s best music, movies, TV shows, apps, books and podcasts and the winners for 2011 are now posted.

Of particular interest is the App Store selections, with this year’s nod for iPhone App of the Year going to Instagram, billed as “the year’s definitive photo-sharing app.” Standing tall alongside it is Tiny Tower, the iPhone Game of the Year. (Interesting anecdote: Both are free apps, which certainly says something about our culture, doesn’t it?) Runners-up include VidRhythm, Tiny Wings, Band of the Day and Touchgrind BMX.

On the iPad front, another photo app gets the nod for iPad App of the Year: Snapsneed, billed as an “astonishing standout” for making “jaw-droppingly gorgeous photos.” Dead Space for iPad grabs the nod for iPad Game of the Year, with the runners-up including djay, Contre Jour HD, Jamie’s Recipies and Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP.

Jumping over to books, surprisingly the Walter Isaacson-penned Steve Jobs official bio doesn’t rank for Best Nonfiction, even though it’s perched atop the iTunes best-seller list for that category. Podcast winners include The Jillian Michaels Show, NPR Programs: Fresh Air Podcast, Epic Meal Time and TEDTalks.

Now it’s your turn: How many of your favorites got the nod this year? Head over to Apple’s official iTunes Rewind 2011 link and find out.

Follow this article’s author, J.R. Bookwalter on Twitter

 

News

Apple Announces 2011 Black Friday Online Shopping Event

Apple 2011 Black FridayAre you ready for Black Friday? Apple sure is, with the company announcing on Tuesday that “every gift list has its day” — and that day is this Friday, when the company’s online store offers special one-day only discounts.

Apple has announced its annual Black Friday event, billed as a “special one-day Apple shopping event” this Friday, November 25. For those in the United States, that date is better known as Black Friday, the day many retailers count on for a huge surge in sales to get their fiscal bottom line into the black for the year in the wake of Thursday’s Thanksgiving holiday.

Even though Black Friday seems to be creeping earlier and earlier with many retailers pushing the celebration back into Thanksgiving itself, Apple is sticking with tradition for its annual online event.

“Mark your calendar now, and come back to the Apple Online Store the day after Thanksgiving for the special one-day event,” the website announced on Tuesday. “You’ll discover amazing iPad, iPod, and Mac gifts for everyone on your list. Until then, browse the Apple Online Store for great ideas.”

In reality, most of the Apple Black Friday discounts are usually quite modest, but since the company rarely discounts its products to begin with, let’s not look a gift horse in the mouth. If you’re in the market for anything in the three product categories listed above, it’s worth dropping by the Apple Online Store on Friday to check it out!

Follow this article’s author, J.R. Bookwalter on Twitter

 

News

Minecraft: Pocket Edition Coming to iOS in 2011, Video Released

Minecraft: Pocket Edition

The smash hit PC game, Minecraft, is now officially coming to the App Store this year. However, Mojang’s perpetual work-in-progress will land on the Android mobile platform first, with plans to launch September 29.

If you’re not up to speed on the whole Minecraft-phenomenon, the game is an open-world sandbox game in which players roam the world searching for minerals and other goods to build monuments, buildings, castles, anything they can dream up. Just run a YouTube search for “amazing” and “minecraft” and you’re bound to get a decent glimpse at what the game has to offer.

Due to the game’s ridiculous popularity, we’ve been anxiously awaiting news of the upcoming mobile version which was first betrothed to Xperia Play as an exclusive. Now we’re getting word that it will be out in just two days for Android, and sometime before the end of the year on iOS.

For those of you Minecraft-nuts, we’ve even got a glimpse of how the game will play on a touch screen. Just like the PC version, the controls are very simple, which fits a mobile game. We’re just hoping that the touch screen controls don’t hinder the play experience. Minecraft is a game that takes a lot of patience. And patience is something that can quickly be eroded by bad controls. Check out the video below:

News

PAX 2011: Hands-on with Counter-Strike: Global Offensive

 

Counter-Strike Global Offensive

Depending on how tolerant you are of the often-horrible denizens of online gaming communities, the name Counter-Strike probably fills you with either wrath or delight. Counter-Strike and it’s sort-of sequel Counter-Strike: Source are simple games, but also games that command a fan base of many millions of people. It’s one of the most hardcore shooters ever made, and it’s one of the most famous/infamous games of all time.

For years, the game had been quietly fading into the background of the video game industry as its technology aged and its players moved on to bigger and better things (like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare).

But now with a new installment, Counter-Strike is set to come back into the spotlight. The new game in the series, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is not a full-on sequel to the game, but most players won’t care. It promises new modes, new maps, new guns and basically better everything from graphics to gameplay. With all of that being considered, it’s hard to understand why Valve wont call this Counter-Strike 2.

If you’re not familiar with Counter-Strike, the concept is simple. There are the terrorists and the counter-terrorists. They try to kill each other. Some game types require quite a bit more finesse than that, and include much more complex objectives, but that’s the basic gist of it all. Depending on how well you do in a given round, you’ll get money that you can spend on equipment for the next round: a new gun, some grenades, a tactical vest, that sort of thing.

Where Counter-Strike gets interesting is in how it handles death. Rather than a normal shooter where death just means respawning in another spot, death is the end in Counter-Strike. At least until the next round. If you get shot, your team has to try to complete their objectives one man short. So throughout the game there’s a constant balance and tension where you must protect your life preciously while still achieving objectives (which tend to expose you and put your life in jeopardy.

It doesn’t look like CS:GO will offer very much to hardcore fans beyond some new content, and a visual overhaul (though, really, more of the same will be thrilling to them.) We got the feeling that this installment was being crafted as a way to get new people involved in the series. It’s more user-friendly and it’s being released on a multitude of new platforms (of which OS X is one.) The graphics are also being upgraded, which should help the new generation of CoD and Battlefield fans feel a little bit more at home.

We got to play close to 10 rounds with the new game and had a blast. The games were completely evenly matched between the two teams, and the game just got more and more interesting as we all learned how to play. In just a span of 10 games complex strategies were developed, teamwork manifested, and our skill levels skyrocketed.

The game is still pretty far away though, unfortunately, as Valve is leaning towards a 2012 release. And let’s face it, when Valve gives out a release date as vague as “2012″ (come on, we’re only four months away) that usually means “leave me alone, you’ll get it when I feel like releasing it.” They’re notorious for massive delays (that lead to incredible quality).

News

PAX 2011: A Visit To the GameBook Adventures Booth

Gamebook Adventures

We stopped by the Tin Man Games booth this year at PAX 2011 to gaze at their literary wares and geek out with the founder about mystical lands of magic.

GameBook Adventures is something of a choose-your-own adventure game for the iPad. However, it’s also a bit of an RPG, though it’s very light on those bits. From our demo with the software the system seems like an RPG without all of the boring combat bits. Imagine Final Fantasy if you didn’t have to spend 80 hours wandering around fighting random battles. 

All of the focus is on the story content rather than being bogged down with a ton of mostly inconsequential combat. There is a bit of combat in these books, but they’re conducted by way of quick dice rolls if you choose to battle a character in the book.

The system is inspired by an old series of fantasy books called Fighting Fantasy (in fact some of the creators of those books have signed on to create for GameBook Adventures) in which light role-playing elements were mixed in with storytelling.

The concept of this type of story may not be new, but it’s being reinvented for the modern era with the help of the iPad 2. The only unappealing aspect of those original stories is that you had to draw up your own character stats and keep track of all your own data. Here the iPad takes care of that for you in its usual sleak and sexy glory.

Right now, the stories of GameBook Adventures occupy a consistent universe that intertwines between the stories. The app even comes with a map of the realm (which we learned was originally drawn up in its rudimentary form) by the company’s founder when he was 15. It also features a full, up-to-date companion encyclopedia of the names and places of the series.

But Tin Man Games doesn’t seem content to rest on their laurels with what they’ve achieved so far. The gamebooks seem grea thus far, but they want to continue pushing the genre. Which they’re planning to do with a set of new sci-fi themed gamebooks, as well as a potential upcoming deal to create gamebooks about a “major comic book character.” They weren’t able to elaborate on what that means, but obviously that could have a huge impact on the popularity of these apps.

News

PAX 2011: Hands-on with Jetpack Joyride, Out this Thursday

Halfbrick has been responsible for some of the more memorable iOS hits to date — notably Fruit Ninja and Age of Zombies — and their latest, Jetpack Joyride, looks to make another strong impression on iPhone and iPad gamers when it launches this Thursday. I had a chance to play the universal app this weekend at the Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) in Seattle, and while the speedy side-scroller is based in the self-propelled running genre popularized by Canabalt and Halfbrick’s own Monster Dash, the addition of the titular object really gives this high-strung adventure a fresh new feel of its own.

Jetpack Joyride again stars Barry Steakfries, hero of both Monster Dash and Age of Zombies, as he attempts to break free from a lab after stealing a jetpack that fires machine gun bullets towards the ground (hence the original title, Machine Gun Jetpack). What results is a seemingly endless sprint towards the right side of the screen, in which your goal is to stay alive — and maybe collect some shiny coins along the way — amidst hazards like energy fields and rockets. Since Steakfries runs on his own volition, your only task is to touch and hold the screen to fire the jetpack, bobbing and weaving around the various obstacles in an effort to survive.

Jetpack Joyride

Adding to the mayhem are various vehicles and suits, which can be picked up along the way and even upgraded as you collect coins and log accumulate time within the app. Included in the bunch are the Stomper mech, a Gravity Suit that lets you run across the ceiling, and a Teleporter that can beam you around the screen and safely through hazards, provided you know how to use it properly. And it’s difficult to ignore the pointed humor of the Profit Bird, a robotic flight suit that sheds dollar bills as it glides through the air — and amusingly pokes fun at one of Halfbrick’s biggest App Store competitors.

Each new run varies thanks to randomly generated stage segments, but Jetpack Joyride also attempts to keep players constantly engaged with three active missions available at any given time — such as notching a certain amount of coins in an attempt or high-fiving the running scientists as you spin through the levels. Plus, numerous jetpack variations (some of which affect gameplay) are available for purchase using in-game coins, along with vehicle/suit upgrades and other cosmetic enhancements. And if you happen to collect tokens during your attempt, you’ll toss them into a slot machine upon death, giving you an opportunity to earn a huge coin bounty or possibly even be revived within your just-ended game.

Jetpack Joyride’s slick hand-drawn animations are the best Halfbrick has produced to date, and the play experience is livelier and sillier than any side-scrolling running game on the market, which makes for a thoroughly riotous time. It feels like the kind of polished and constantly compelling game that players will sink hours into, and I came away from the demo thinking I’d seen what will likely be one of the top iOS games of the year. Jetpack Joyride is due out this Thursday as a universal app on iPhone and iPad for .99.

 

News