T-Mobile just changed the way customers can buy new phones, and Verizon is following suit. Under a two-year contract, Verizon used to let you upgrade your phone after a mere 20 months. Verizon would re-up you for another two years, you’d get a shiny new toy … it was a win-win all around. But the company got rid of that early upgrade program and now requires you to wait a full two years before you’re eligible for a new discounted device. That doesn’t just apply to new contracts – any contract set to expire after January 1 of next year has had the extra four months tacked on. But Verizon also created a Device Payment plan for “some devices” it carries, letting customers buy a new device and spread that payment out over 12 months … plus an added $24 finance charge. Your monthly rate won’t go down in year two like it does on T-Mobile, but at least you’ll have more flexibility in upgrading your device.
Got some stuff lying around the house that you’re not using? Kill two birds with one stone by donating it to Goodwill and getting a bit of cash in return! Goodwill recently teamed up with eBay for a program called “Sell it Forward,” which lets you send items you don’t want any more to eBay in a postage-paid bag. eBay forwards your stuff to Goodwill in San Francisco, which then puts your goods up for auction. If they sell within two weeks, you get 50 percent of the final price. If no one wants your stuff? You get a receipt for tax deduction purposes. Goodwill seems most interested in fashion items like purses or clothing in new, like new or good condition. The program is currently only available in three California counties, but looks to expand its reach soon. It’s a win-win all around: you make a few bucks, clean out your closet and help charity. It’s all good.
What’s the best way to curtail crime in New York City? Give NYPD officers Android devices, of course! Over the past year, the New York Police Department gave out 400 Android smartphones to officers. The phones aren’t used to make or receive calls, but instead use a data connection and a custom app to look up arrest files, criminal histories, police photographs and even information from the DMV. The phones give officers quick access to look up anyone with an arrest warrant, police summons or other information they might need. How’s it work? An officer simply types in a street address in the app and all relevant information will pop up. Officers say they can use this information to notice arrest patterns and figure out crime hotspots they might want to spend extra time in. It’s a great example of New York’s Finest using technology to help them fight crime, and a great tool to help us succeed in a connected world.
It’s a rainy Saturday afternoon and you decide you can’t sit at home anymore, so you decide to go to see a movie. But as you turn to go, you see your puppy staring at you, sad you’re leaving him. What’s the solution? Turn on DogTV, coming soon on DirecTV. That’s right, the satellite TV provider will soon offer a channel with programming catering exclusively to dogs. In just a few short months, you’ll be able to fork over an extra six bucks a month to make sure your dog has something to watch at all times. So what does your six dollars get you? The channel will primarily show scenes with other animals as well as cartoons and a variety of moving objects. There will also be relaxation segments, in case your dog wants to meditate and find himself. What’s next for DogTV? The channel’s founder said that cats have been seen watching the footage as well, so CatTV isn’t out of the question. Me-ow.
When it comes to browsing the Google Play store for new apps to download, it can sometimes feel a little bit like the Wild West. Sure, there are the big names – your Angry Birds, your Evernotes, and so on – but there seem to be ten times as many apps you’ve never heard of or could potentially harm your phone or risk your data. Google is stepping up to do its part, as over 60,000 ‘low-quality apps’ were removed from the Google Play store in February alone. Historically, Google has removed apps from the app store for violating its Terms of Service, such as spreading malware or risking user data. It’s clear that with a re-launch of the Google Play store, a few new major Android phones and Key Lime Pie, and a new version of Android all on the horizon, Google wants to raise the bar when it comes to quality in its app store. It’ll take everything Google has, to keep up with Apple’s app store.
Have you ever been outside, taken a picture with your phone only to be horrified by how over-exposed the image are? We’ve all been there. For such a simple interface, most smartphone cameras actually have quite a few settings you can play around with to change how your photos will turn out. A new patent by Google, however, could make this a thing of the past. Google would use your phone’s GPS to automatically tune a camera based on a few factors, like what the weather is like and whether or not you’re inside. What kinds of settings could it change? Think about how much more light you need on a rainy April day than on a bright sunny day in mid-August. Most of us take pictures using our phone’s ‘auto’ setting, but a technology like this would make tinkering with manual settings a thing of the past. Plus, if all else fails, we can continue to blame technology for ruining our pictures.
If you love reading and love sharing book recommendations with your friends online, chances are you’ve heard about – and probably used – the site Goodreads. Goodreads lets you keep track of what you’ve read and what your friends are reading. After being independently operated since it began in 2007, Goodreads was recently bought by Amazon, a partnership good for authors and book lovers – especially Kindle users. Both services have helped authors get their books out to a wider audience, and Goodreads has pledged to make Kindle support one of its top priorities. But Goodreads users are up in arms not only for fear that they’ll lose the sense of community they’ve built but because they’ve become the product, and they were just sold to Amazon. When you’re on a site and you can’t figure out what the product is, the product is you. As we see more and more every day, we’re all just data and ways for companies to make more money. We better get used to it.
If you haven’t noticed, Nintendo and Amazon don’t play well together. When Nintendo’s newest console, the Wii U, could first be pre-ordered last fall, stores like GameStop and Best Buy jumped at the opportunity to make a quick buck from gamers eager for the first new console in years. But Amazon didn’t, and to this day doesn’t sell the Wii U. Sure, you can buy one of the consoles on Amazon.com, but they’re all sold by third parties. The same thing is mostly true of Nintendo’s newest handheld console, the 3DS: only one of the many colors Nintendo makes is sold by Amazon, while the rest are left to third parties. Even weirder is the product listings for the 3DS suggest you check out Sony’s portable system, the Vita, while the Vita page makes no mention of the 3DS. Why is this? No one knows for sure, but with Nintendo’s Wii U struggling in terms of sales, it isn’t doing the company any favors.
We’re still months away from the general public getting their hands on Google Glass, but that hasn’t slowed efforts to make using the product as safe as can be – or to put limits on where people think it should be used. Gary G. Howell, a member of the West Virginia House of Delegates, recently introduced a bill that would make it illegal to wear Google Glass while driving a car. Afraid Glass would cause similar problems as texting and driving, Howell saw it as his duty to protect himself and others from potentially distracted drivers on the road. Howell said it’s unlikely that the bill would pass legislation this year, but this is a battle that Google is eventually going to have to fight down the road. When will wearing Glass be okay? Where will it be prohibited? With the first round of Glass users receiving their units shortly, we’ll be hearing more stories like this in the coming months. I wonder if Mr. Howell actually knows what a heads-up display is?
Barnes & Noble is doing whatever it can to get Nooks and its digital content into the hands of the masses. After running a March promotion where buying a Nook HD tablet got you a Nook Simple Touch e-reader for free, the company is now pushing its presence in Windows 8. Nook Media, a subsidiary of Barnes & Noble that is partially owned by Microsoft, recently announced that people who download the Nook app for Windows 8 will get five books and five magazines for free, chosen from a select list. This is in addition to the over one million free titles already available in the Nook store. Barnes & Noble is also enhancing the apps on its Nook devices by incorporating in-app purchases in the coming months, putting its tablets in line with those from Amazon and Apple. With all of the effort Barnes & Noble is putting into its digital media branch, can it step up and challenge the market’s big dogs?