Tuesday, September 21, 2010

MetroPCS Beats the Big Boys to LTE

Texas-based wireless provider MetroPCS announced Monday that it has turned on the firstLTE network in the U.S., beating upmarket rivals Verizon and AT&T (NYSE: T) in deploying what is widely expected to be the next generation of wireless network technology.
The company also announced a new Samsung LTE-enabled phone designed to feature LTE'sadvantages in carrying multimedia content as compared to existing 3G networks.
LTE, which stands for Long Term Evolution, is a standard produced by the 3rd Generation Partnership Project, a collaboration of telecommunications companies and industry groups. Verizon Wireless and AT&T have announced plans to deploy LTE-based networks this year and next.

Few Network Details

MetroPCS didn't release specific bandwith capabilities of its new network, which is rolling out first in Las Vegas, and it did not return a message seeking comment by press time. The company has disclosed that it plans to complete expansion into the remainder of the company's markets during 2011.
The company said that many of its customers rely on MetroPCS service as their primary means to access the Internet, and by upgrading to LTE from its current CDMA network, the company could offer offer better service.

Validating the LTE Promise

The promise of LTE has always been that it would enable carriers to provide a better user experience at a lower cost, said Chris Nicoll, a research fellow at the Yankee Group. Low-cost MetroPCS' decision to embrace the technology seems to validate that promise, he said.
"MetroPCS, because of who they are, is showing that some of the original hype around the LTE business model really is true," he said. "When the low-cost carrier says they're getting in, it means something."
That MetroPCS isn't releasing download and upload speed specifications isn't particularly notable, Nicoll said.
LTE is built from the ground up to provide better performance for multimedia viewing, which is of increasing importance to consumers, content providers and distributors.
And what about the new US$299 Samsung Craft, which Nicoll said is essentially a feature phone with a great display?
The phone features a 3.3-inch AMOLED display, a touchscreen and a slide-out QWERTYkeyboard. The 3.2 megapizel camera includes a flash. The phone uses Samsung's TouchWiz interface.
Metro PCS customers are used to paying larger price tags for their phones up front, and in fact they tend to upgrade to new phones more often than customers under contract at other carriers, he said.
For Metro's user base, they're used to paying for the phone and buying service as they go, Nicoll explained.
MetroPCS likely rushed to market with the Craft as its LTE phone to gain the distinction of being first to market with both an LTE service and phone, Phillip Solis, research director for mobile networks at ABI Research, told TechNewsWorld.
He expects the company's next LTE phone to be a true smartphone, but he noted that both the LTE base stations and the handset are from Samsung. Interoperability could potentially be an issue, he said.
"These pieces may or may not work with counterparts from other vendors," he said.
MetroPCS is offering the LTE service at $55 for unlimited talk, text and data. An additional $5 buys separate channels of video content.
The LTE switch likely won't draw off many traditional post-paid wireless customers, but it will help retain the company's existing 7.6 million customers and perhaps draw some from other pre-paid services, Nicoll said. For those customers, the multimedia upgrade might be worth the switch, he said.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

On Samsung Galaxy Tab: ‘Android Apps Are Going to Be a Little Ugly’

Surprise! It looks like the Samsung Galaxy Tab, which will be running the tablet-incompatible Android 2.2, or Froyo, OS, might have some issues with applications. Samsung already mentioned that some applications and features have been optimized for the 7-inch display tablet experience, so those of you waiting for the Galaxy Tab should know what you’re in for.
Have you ever used an iOS app for the iPad that wasn’t an “HD” version, or one that was optimized for the Apple tablet? It looks hideous when you blow it up to full screen, right? And using the app within the black box (i.e. using the app as it was designed to be used with the iPhone) makes it almost seem pointless. Well, that full screen experience is going to be similar to what we’ll see on the Samsung Galaxy Tab.
There is a reason that some Android tablets don’t have access to the Android Market. Some of those apps would look absolutely hideous on a huge screen, and the Galaxy Tab is no exception. Although the 7-inch display isn’t as big of a jump from the 3.7-4.3-inch displays we’ve been seeing these days, the quality degradation will be noticeable.
Analyst Rob Enderle of Enderle Group says, “Apps aren’t going to scale right and won’t be quite as pretty. The apps are probably going to be a little ugly.”
We’ve also reported that Hugo Barra, Google’s mobile product development director, made it very clear that the Android experience is just not meant for tablets right now:
Android is an open platform. We saw at IFA 2010 all sorts of devices running Android, so it already running on tablets. But the way Android Market works is it’s not going to be available on devices that don’t allow applications to run correctly. Which devices do, and which don’t will be unit specific, but Froyo is not optimised for use on tablets.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab will probably offer a pretty good reading, web browsing and video/multimedia experience, which might be good enough for some. Hell, it will even support video chatting – a feature which the Apple iPad sorely lacks. But if you’re looking for a decent experience with Android applications, you’ll probably have to wait until Android developers start designing or optimizing apps for the tablet market.
If you’re in the market for a tablet device, and you’re trying to choose between Android or iOS, be sure to take our Apple iPad vs. Samsung Galaxy Tab survey!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Super-light car wins $5m fuel efficiency prize

The makers of a futuristic-looking vehicle that weighs half as much as a Smart Car today won the main prize of a $10m challenge to design a car capable of 100 miles per gallon (mpg).
The contest, the Progressive Insurance Automotive X prize, was meant to spur the development of a new generation of super-efficient cars with mass-market potential. A Toyota Prius hybrid can get to about 51 mpg, but the main prize went to a design that opted for an internal combustion motor, rather than an electric engine.
The Edison2 Very Light Car Number 98, made by a Virginia company, took home $5m for its use of lightweight materials and superior aerodynamics.
The car is powered by a single-cylinder motorcycle engine, which burns a mix of 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline, mounted at the back of an extremely lightweight frame. The designers, mainly former racing-car drivers, opted for an internal combustion engine rather than an electric car, because batteries add weight.
The Edison2 blog said: "Electric cars have real issues. Batteries are heavy, big and costly ... cars get heavier, performance suffers and costs go up".
The entire car, which some have likened to a helicopter or an egg on wheels, weighs 377kg (830lb). The Smart Car is about 726kg. The four-seater is entered via the window, like a racecar.
It has the basics: a top speed of 100mph, enough acceleration to cope with traffic, a heater and basic air conditioning, great fuel economy and, according to Edison2's owner, a realistic price tag. Oliver Kuttner, a race car driver, said it is made of low-cost and recylcable materials and could potentially go on sale for $20,000.
But Consumer Reports, which rates cars, said the Very Light Car was still very much in the development stage, with work needed on braking and handling.
The other two winners took home $2.5m each for electrive drive vehicles. Team X-Tracer from Switzerland won for a car that got more than 197 mpg — the highest rating in the competition.
The car, which sits low, looks like a motorcyle with a cab on top.
The final winner, made by Li-Ion motors from North Carolina, is a two-seat electric vehicle called the Move2, which gets 187 mpg on a single charge with a maximum range of 200 miles.
Both companies say they are taking orders for their cars. But Felix Wagner, the leader of the X-Tracer team, told the award ceremony they will not suit every pocket book. "We can not mass produce. We are a small company. The real thing is we are here."

Tuesday, September 14, 2010



The 2011 Chevrolet Volt makes its debut as General Motors' first plug-in gas/electric vehicle. It is slated to see limited production in calendar 2010, with launches in California, Connecticut, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Texas, and Washington, DC. Nationwide availability is slated for late-calendar 2011. GM calls this 4-passenger, 4-door hatchback an "extended-range electric vehicle" in that it does not work like most hybrids. With many hybrids, their gasoline engines and battery-powered electric motors can provide power to the drive wheels. With Volt, the wheels are always driven by electricity, provided either by the onboard battery or gasoline engine that powers a generator. The car can plug in to a standard household outlet and charge overnight. A high-output 240-volt charging station will be available that should cut charging time roughly in half. Chevy claims a range of 40 miles solely on a fully charged battery and about 340 miles when the gasoline engine is used. The gas engine is an 80-horsepower 1.4-liter 4-cylinder. Available safety features include ABS, traction control, antiskid system, curtain-side airbags, front-side airbags, and driver and passenger knee airbags. Among the available features are a remote-charging and vehicle-control program that owners can download and run from Blackberry and Apple iPhone cell phones. A navigation system is standard, as is a hard drive for storing digital-music files. Leather upholstery, heated front seats, front- and rear-obstacle detection, and a rearview camera are optional. We have not yet tested the 2011 Chevrolet Volt.

What To Consider Before Buying An Electric Car

Two new electric cars are scheduled to hit dealerships this fall. The much-anticipated Chevy Volt is expected to be available in November and the Nissan Leaf will go on sale in December. But before you get all charged-up to go electric, there’s a lot to consider.
Douglas Stansfield was so eager to own an electric car, he converted his 2003 Hyundai Tiburon. Stansfield can go 20 miles on a charge, so he plans his trips carefully.
"Overall, I use it for my local travel back and forth to the doctor’s office, to the dentist’s office, to the kids’ school," he told Consumer Reports.
Electric cars' limited driving range is a key consideration.
The Chevy Volt can go 40 miles on a charge, but it also has a small gas engine that can go another 300 miles on a full tank.
The Nissan Leaf, powered solely by an electric battery, has a 100-mile range before it has to be plugged in.
But driving isn't the only thing that's going to drain the battery. Conditions here in the northwest, especially during the winter, will tax electric cars because headlights, windshield wipers and heaters all use electricity--so do air conditioning and playing the radio. As a result, how far you can actually go on a charge will vary.
Recharge time is another important consideration. On a regular household 110-volt outlet, the Chevy Volt takes about 10-hours to recharge. The Nissan Leaf's larger battery needs about 16-hours. You can cut down the recharge time on electric vehicles by installing a 220-volt circuit in your home, but that could cost about $2,000, according to Consumer Reports.
Then, of course, there's the cost of the vehicles themselves. The Chevy Volt will sell for around $41,000. The Nissan Leaf will cost about $33,600. There is, however, a $7,500 federal tax credit available for both.
"Electric cars hold a lot of promise,” Consumer Reports’ Jake Fisher said. “Clearly, two big pluses are the ability to reduce gasoline consumption and run cleaner cars. But there’s a lot to consider before you know they’re right for you."
The Volt and the Leaf are just the first of many electric cars due out soon. Within the next year and a half, Ford, Honda, Mitsubishi and Toyota will all introduce new electric vehicles.

Tesla Roadster qualifies for Japan EV rebates

The zero-emission sports car, which can accelerate from 0 to 100 km per hour (62 miles per hour) in less than four seconds, costs more than 12.8 million yen ($152,100) in Japan. Mitsubishi Motors Corp's (7211.T) i-MiEV electric car, by comparison, costs 2.84 million yen after government subsidies.
Tesla, which tied up with Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T) this year to cooperate on the development of electric vehicles, has been selling the Roadster in Japan since May, taking orders through its website. Tesla is scheduled to open a showroom in the world's third-biggest car market by the end of this year.
A spokeswoman said Tesla does not disclose the number of cars sold by market. The Roadster has sold more than 1,200 globally, she said. (Reporting by Chang-Ran Kim; Editing by Chris Gallagher)

Monday, September 13, 2010

Memolane Raises $2 Million To Become Your “Digital Memory”

Memolane, a San Francisco-based startup that is currently keeping a low profile, has raised a $2 million funding round led by August Capital and Atomico, the venture firm run by Skype founders Niklas Zennström and Janus Friis.
Memolane was initially created during a Startup Weekend event in Copenhagen last April, where it won a 10,000 DKK prize (around $1725), prompting founder Eric Lagier to quit his job and work on the project fulltime. Details on the company are still pretty vague —here’s the description that’s currently on Memolane’s homepage:
Memolane is your digital memory – your tool to rediscover your social life on the Internet. Memolane is a digital platform collecting and connecting your thoughts, pictures, messages and music yesterday, today and tomorrow.
In other words, it sounds like this is going to aggregate your social media content into a single place and then somehow find relationships between that content. This sounds different fromEvernote, a service that lets you “remember everything” by saving it online. We expect to have more information on the company in the next few weeks.
One interesting note about this — Howard Hartenbaum is leading the deal for August Capital, and he was the first investor in Skype, so this is a reunion of sorts between him and Skype’s founders, who are also investing.