Wednesday, December 31, 2014

HP Sells the Palm Brand to Alcatel Onetouch (UPDATED)

According to a recent post over on WebOSNation website, HP has sold the Palm brand to the Chinese firm Alcatel Onetouch.
"We've been wondering for a while what is up with domain, and it's looking more and more certain that HP sold the brand and trademarks to Alcatel Onetouch. The first hints of this came from the teaser when the website started redirecting to, with a looping video of the Palm logo with the text "coming soon" and "smart move" beneath. "Smart move," as it would be, is the slogan of Chinese smartphone manufacturer Alcatel Onetouch (a brand of Chinese electronics firm TCL). That's not exactly a lot to go off of though, but it was enough to raise suspicions."
The "coming soon" and "smart move" text and logo is actually a looping video file called "palm_animated5.mp4".  Oddly, the video didn't play on my iPhone 6 when I used it to surf to the website.  (It did work on my Mac with Safari 8.)

As a long, long time Palm fan boy I'm hoping that something good will come of the Palm brand.


Upon further consideration, there are a few things that are still up in the air for Palm webOS fans.

1. I almost forgot that LG has purchased WebOS to power their line of Smart+ television sets.

2. I wonder what impact the sale of the Palm brand on LG, the Open WebOS project, and Gram (which is still online at might be, if any.

3. What is to become of the HP/Palm webOS App Catalog store?  According to the WebOS Wikipedia page, the App Catalog site will go offline in 15 days on Jan. 15, 2015.


Some Thoughts About the Jawbone Up Activity Tracker

I was walking through my local BJ's wholesale club when I noticed that they are selling the Jawbone UP and UP24 for $30 and $40 off, respectively, and I thought it was time for a little experiment.

For those who don't know, the Jawbone UP and UP24 are fitness/activity trackers just like the Nike+ FuelBand SE (I wear the original FuelBand) and the Fitbit Flex.  Unlike the proposed Apple Watch and the Microsoft Band the Jawbone devices don't have a traditional "display".  On their website, Jawbone describes their UP system this way:
"UP® is a system that takes a holistic approach to a healthy lifestyle. The wristband tracks your movement and sleep in the background. The app displays your data, lets you add things like meals and mood, and delivers insights that keep you moving forward."
It's the "and sleep" part that piqued my interest in the device.  You see, my Nike+ FuelBand, while I do like it, can't track my sleep habits because it does not have actigraph sensor.  So, for $39.99 plus tax, I'm thinking about running a little experiment on myself to learn how well I sleep at night.  (I already know that I don't get anywhere near the recommended eight hours of sleep.)

As you would expect, the UP and UP24 come in three sizes and a variety of colors by way of rubber accessory bands.  The default color is black/onyx. Personally, I think after two years of wearing a black Nike+ FuelBand, I'd like a nice blue, red or orange band.

The since the UP and UP24 don't have any display, you can only see that data it has collected once the information is synchronized.  The data is transferred by way of a Bluetooth radio for an iPhone or Android 4.0 device on the UP24.  If you are like me and are considering the less expensive UP tracker, you will need to sync the data via your 3.5mm headphone jack.  It is unclear whether or not you have to plug your UP into your smartphone, the PC or if it doesn't matter which.  My guess is the phone.  Always bet on the smartphone.

Once the data is synchronized, you can view and analyze the information on your iPhone or Android smartphone with the freely available app.

On a side note, there are a few things that I'm keeping in mind.  First of all, Nike has been a little vague about the future of the FuelBand line, as seen in a report on Re/Code back in April 2014. (Since the report, Nike did release a new color variant of the FuelBank SE with the same specs the other SE devices.)

Secondly, in my opinion, the UP represents "last year's model" as it does not include Bluetooth connectivity.  At this point in the fitness tracking game, I see wireless connectivity as a must.  The trade of is that you can get the device for $40 and so, since I'm only playing with it from the onset, this isn't a deal breaker.  There are other activity trackers on the market that can do more and sync wireless to your smartphone for twice as much money.

And finally, there is the Apple Watch on the horizon.  Apple has told us a little about what to expect, but it breaks down like this - the Apple Watch is a watch, has grandiose smart device ambitions for the future, tracks your activity, needs to be charged daily and with the pricing starting at $349, the Apple Watch will be expensive.  (I fully expect that the configuration I want to be closer to $549-649 when you add in an extra band.)

For the time being, I think I am going to stick with the Nike+ FuelBand as my "official" device.  The Jawbone UP will be the device I use to track my sleep with and to generally play around with to see what other companies in the activity tracker field are doing.  And lastly, I will wait until we have more information about the Apple Watch pricing before I make a decision about what device will be my new "every day" device.

For more information about the UP and UP24 activity trackers, check out the Jawbone website.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Kinsa Smart Thermometer

I was just perusing the online Apple Store ahead of a trip to the mall and ran across the Kinsa Smart Thermometer.
"The Kinsa Smart Thermometer neatly plugs into your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch and takes rapid, 10-second temperature readings in conjunction with the Kinsa SmartHealth app. To make temperature taking as easy and enjoyable as possible, the app displays delightful screens that engage and calm your children."
Kids around the world hoping to stay home from school by faking a fever are now saddened.  The thermometer to the light bulb trick will no longer work.

For more information, check out the Kinsa thermometer page at the online store.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Rumor: Microsoft is Building a New Browser

A new report on ZDNet by longtime Microsoft watcher Mary Jo Foley, if true, suggests that Microsoft is cooking up a new web browser that is not Internet Explorer 12.
"It turns out that what's actually happening is Microsoft is building a new browser, codenamed Spartan, which is not IE 12 -- at least according to a couple of sources of mine."
Even if we ignore the "Spartan" Halo reference (Microsoft has chosen to name the Windows 8.1 digital assistant "Cortana" after the fictional computer AI character of the same name that helps Master Chief in their Halo video game franchise), this sounds like a pretty interesting move by Microsoft as Foley goes on to report that the new browser "will look and feel more like Chrome and Firefox and will support extensions."

So far, I've been a support of where CEO Satya Nadella has been talking Microsoft's products and services.  I've also been running the Windows 10 Technical Preview (in a virtual machine) for some time now and really like it.

Whatever "Spartan" turns out to be, I'm sure it will be part of the cloud services roadmap that Microsoft has been working steadily toward.


Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas from your friends at Smartphone Fanatics.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Apple Publishes OS X "Critical" Security Update

Earlier today, Apple published a "critical" OS X security update that closes a potential vulnerability in the Network Time Protocol service.

As is typical of Apple and other software vendors, the specifics of the vulnerability are not mentioned in the App Store Updates tab.  At the time we saw the update appear on our Macs, the Apple Security Updates web page had not yet been updated with the patch details.

The Network Time Protocol patch weighs in at 1.4MB and is available now via the OS X Yosemite App Store Updates tab.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Monument Valley: Forgotten Shores, Ida's (RED) Dream Review

Monument Valley is a 3D puzzle game from UsTwoGames that takes you on a visual journey with geometry art based on the styling of M.C. Escher.  You travel fanatically designed monuments with the game’s lead character, a little girl by the name of Princess Ida.

Monument Valley ($3.99) was originally released for iOS devices on March 12.  The game was also subsequently released on Android devices and the Amazon Kindle.  With only 10 levels, the first edition of Monument Valley was visually impressive and challenged you to look at each beautifully rendered level on multiple levels to help Ida navigate her way around each monument.  I really enjoyed playing Monument Valley, but I felt just as I really got lost in the art, the characters and the story, the game was over.

This November, just eight months after releasing the original, UsTwo released two add-on packs; Forgotten Shores as a $1.99 in-app purchase (IAP) to the original game and Ida’s (RED) Dream, a $0.99 IAP. 

Totem is back to help the Princess in Forgotten Shores
Forgotten Shores, released on November 12, adds eight new delightful levels to Monument Valley in which you are reunited with Princess Ida and Totem.  The levels are still interactive 3D works of art.  The difficulty of the new levels is balanced and delivers a mentally stimulating puzzle that is not overwhelmingly difficult.  Oh, and you still must deal with the pesky Crow People.

Ida’s (RED) Dream, the second IAP released on November 23, is billed on the Monument Valley website as “One final chapter to fight AIDS.”  100% of the proceeds from this $0.99 IAP level goes to (RED) to help fight for an HIV/AIDS free world.  Ida’s (RED) Dream is available for a limited time (December 7, 2014), and I encourage you to buy it while you can.

Taken together, Forgotten Shores and Ida’s (RED) Dream offer players nine new levels to explore and enjoy.  As you play, you get drawn into Ida’s world and her mission to return the stolen geometry to the various monuments.  As with the first game, there was one point in Forgotten Shores where I actually drew in a sharp breath and was saddened by what happened.  Not many games on iOS today have that kind of connection between character and player.

My two favorite levels have to be Forgotten Shores Appendix i The Chasm and Ida’s (RED) Dream.  I like both of these levels for different reasons. In The Chasm, I empathize with the silent princess when all hope appears lost and she is given the opportunity to escape.  Without spoiling it for future players, there is a collective sigh of relief near the end of the first room of The Chasm.  In Ida’s (RED) Dream, I feel as if all of the elements that make a great game come together: the colors of each level, the details in the architecture, the difficulty of the levels and the reward of completing them, the sound effects and last, but definitely not the least, the soothing background music that sets the tone for the chapter.

Things can get twisted around...
...and turned upside down quickly!

I’m not usually in favor of IAPs because they have become synonymous with power-up, “coins” or other “resources” necessary to play and win levels in “freemium” games.  But these IAPs are different.  They add levels, which you own outright, and can play and enjoy over and over again.  They continue the story of the characters you get attached too. Forgotten Shore and Ida’s (RED) Dream clearly demonstrates the high production value craftsmanship that goes into a game that you will remember long after playing it.

Monument Valley is available now and requires an iPad 2 and iPhone 4 or later to play.  Versions are also available for Google Android and Amazon Kindle devices.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone from your favorite turkeys at Smartphone Fanatics! Gobble Gobble!

(Please do make sure you spend the day with your family and loved ones.  Shopping can wait one day.)

App Store Goes (RED) To Help Fight AIDS

Apple has long been a supporter of AIDS prevention.  This year, Apple has launched a multi pronged event to help raise awareness of the fight against AIDS.

To start, Apple has posted a special (RED) page on their website.  There is also a link to the website where you can lean more about the work that is being done and the other companies that are helping fight this disease.

Apple also has a few other promotions going on for your favorite iOS devices.  As in years past, Apple is promoting their (PRODUCT) RED devices and accessories.  Current model iPods are available in (RED) editions as well as (RED) cases for iPhone and iPad.  I have a few of the (PRODUCT) RED cases for my iPhones and iPads.  They cost the same as other Apple cases and look great!  What's better, is that they are on sale all the time.  You owe it to yourself to pick one up and feel good that you are supporting a good cause all the while having a case that looks great on your device!

Apple is also running a special promotion on Friday (11/28/14) and Monday (12/1/14).  On Friday, when you purchase participating products, you will receive a special (Product)RED Apple gift card and Apple will donate a portion of the proceeds to (RED).  Similarly, on Monday, when you make a purchase at an Apple Retail Store or online, Apple will donate a portion of the proceeds from everything they sell to (RED).  That's pretty damn amazing when you consider that Monday is "Cyber Monday" and a lot of people will be doing online Christmas shopping that day.

New this year, is iOS app developer's involvement in the (RED) campaign.  From November 24 - December 7, either 100% of app or In-App Purchase item is donated to (RED)'s Global Fund.  There are some really fantastic apps that are part of the program.

For example, Apple has updated Garage Band with a special (GarageBand)RED Loop Pack.  Rovio has created three special (RED)'s Mighty Feathers levels to play.  My favorite iOS app that is participating in this year's campaign has got to be ustwo's Monument Valley.  With a $0.99 IAP, you can purchase one extra level - Ida's (RED) Dream.

If games and making music aren't your thing, there are still other ways to help.  In total there are 25 iOS app developers involved this year, with apps like 53, Clear, Kitchen Stories Recipes and Star Walk 2.  You can find the complete list of apps and IAP on the App Store.  If you would just like to make a donation you can do that too.  Just open the App Store on your iOS device and make a donation.

This holiday season, we have lots to be thankful for.  Please, make a donation to help fight HIV/AIDS by participating in one of these programs.

Monday, October 20, 2014

iOS 8.1 Rolls Out Adding New Features to iPhone, iPad

Earlier today Apple released iOS 8.1 for all current model iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch devices.

The new features included in the iOS 8.1 update are:
  • Apple Pay for iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus
  • Photos app now includes the Camera Roll
  • Enables support for the iCloud Photo Library (beta service)
  • Enhancements to Messages for iPhone users to send SMS and MMS messages from an iPad or Macintosh running OS X 10.10 Yosemite
  • Fixes for Wi-Fi performance issues when connected to certain base stations/access points
  • Fixes and issue connecting to some Bluetooth hands-free devices
  • Fixes an issues that can cause screen rotation to stop working
  • Adds an option to select between 2G, 3G or LTE networks for cellular data
  • Enables HealthKit applications to access data in the background
The iOS 8.1 update on both of my iPhone 6 units (Sprint and Verizon) ran about 30 minutes from start to finish.  The update package was 126MB.

All current model iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch devices already running iOS 8 can upgrade now, for free, to the iOS 8.1 release.

Earlier this month, Apple released iOS 8.0.1 that caused some iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus customers (about 40,000 customers in total) problems with using their phone to make calls.  iOS 8.0.2, which corrected the problem and iOS 8.1 do not suffer from the same issue as the original iOS 8.0.1 update did.  In other words, iOS 8.1 is safe to download and install.

For more information, see Apple's support website.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Apple Store Grand Opening, Trumbull Connecticut

This weekend, Apple opened another store in Connecticut, this time in the well known Westfield Shopping Town, Trumbull mall.  My father and I were just crazy enough to get out of bed early on a rainy Saturday morning to stand in line to celebrate the opening of the new store - and to score free t-shirts!

The Trumbull Apple Store at 7:45am

We arrived at the mall at about 7:35am.  It took us about 10 minutes to park the car and make our wall through the virtually empty, cavernous mall.  As we turned the corner we could see the security guards standing around and knew that the new geeky playground was just ahead.  We took our places, twelve and thirteen, in line.  As you can see from the photo above, the store looks identical to all of Apple's other in mall stores.

The line at 7:55am

There where several points during the morning when the Apple Store employees would come up to the doors and check out the growing line.  We started taking them pictures of them and they did the same to us!

 Employees taking pictures of us taking pictures of them at 9:15am

Another Apple Store selfie

To help past the time, my Dad and I started taking more Apple Store selfies.  My daughters have informed me that we are definitely not cool.  By 9:40 the line had gotten pretty long.  While it looks like the line only goes to the mall doors, the line actually breaks to keep the doors clear and then continues down the hallway to the left.

The lines goes to the end of the hall and then breaks to the left

Chants of "Trumbull, Trumbull, Trumbull!" could be heard from inside the Apple Store

The staff really started getting psyched up in the final 15 minutes before the store opened for business.  You can see from the picture inside that the main house lights were turned off and that something was being projected inside (You can see a reflection of sorts on the ceiling).  Just before the lights came back on you could hear the staff getting super excited - clapping, whooping and chanting "Trumbull, Trumbull, Trumbull!"  All of this got the crowd that was gathered out side super excited.  Everyone who had been sitting on folding chairs or the floor was now standing with anticipation.  The people in front of the line had big smiles on their faces.  We couldn't hide it.  I don't know what special magic is contained in the Apple Retail Store employee handbook, but I do know that whatever is says about the procedure for launching a new store and getting customers excited to go in and spend their money was clearly, clearly, working.

High fives and smiles all around

Seconds after the lights came back on and the chanting stopped, the employees exploded from inside the store and started running down the line high fiving the customers who had been standing in line for hours.  It was hard to remind myself that this was the opening of a high-end electronics store and not the pep rally just before a high school football game.

Once back inside, there was one more last minute team meeting and then the doors slowly began to part and lock into their open position as the crowd heard the familiar 6...5...4...3...2...1... and then everyone lost their minds and went nuts with an excitement - an excitement you can watch in an Apple keynote but just don't understand until you've participated in it live and in person.

Once I got inside, the store was instantly flooded wall-to-wall with customers, employees, hardware and what I can only describe as amazing party atmosphere! As we all poured in there was even more shouting, clapping, and high fives for everyone.  Store employees where handing out special commemorative t-shirts and greeting customers with warm hellos, welcomes and smiles.

While inside, I did manage to buy a new black smart case for my iPad Air

I can't adequately explain the excitement of being at the launch of an Apple Store.  Being a major tech nerd, my family expects me to wait up late at night to buy the latest shiny new gadget, software (boxed or download - yes, I was at the midnight launches for both Windows 98 and Windows 98: Second Edition) or get up early on a day I should be sleeping in to go stand in a long, long line.  This time, I knew it was worth it from the smile on my Dad's face.  And while I was one of the lucky first 1,000 people to get a free t-shirt, I just couldn't leave the Apple Store without picking something up, so my iPad Air, which I had with me, went home with a new black Smart Case to match the black leather case on my iPhone 6; which I was using to shoot these pictures and video with.

Once I got home, I unboxed the t-shirt.  I almost forgot to take the unboxing photos as evident by the cut in the box's silver tab seal.

The first 1,000 customers to the Trumbull store each received a large commemorative t-shirt
It's not every day that you get to buy a new major piece of hardware, such as an iPhone 6, or are able to be literally one of the first two dozen people to walk into a new Apple Store.  If you get chance to go to a product launch or a store opening, you should do it.  Even if you aren't an Apple fan boy, clearly I am, or a tech nerd, or don't know everything about Apple's stuff.  It's a pretty amazing experience to hang out with other customers, fans, and staff who truly "get" what makes Apple's products so amazing, transformative, and simply delightful to use.

But the best part was that I got to experience all of this with my Dad, who bought me my first Apple //e all of those years ago that eventually led us to this point - together.  Thanks, Dad!  (And Mom, too!)

Friday, September 19, 2014

Happy iPhone 6 Day!


Today, September 19, Apple released the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus to the cheering legions of Apple fanatics around the world!  Today, I was lucky to be one of them.

I don't think all of these people are here for L.L. Bean.

The day started off with my arrival at the Danbury Fair Mall.  I didn't think all of these cars were here for L.L. Bean.

The mall opened it's doors at 5:00am to accommodate the crowds.  I think being inside really helped keep people calm and comfortable with easy access to food, drink, and restrooms!

At least this couple has breakfast.
This is not the line you are looking for.
Fortunately for me, I pre-ordered my iPhone last Friday in the 3:00am Internet shopping frenzy and this is the line that I got to stand in.  Sweet!

iPhone 6 reservations line is much, much more manageable!
There wasn't as many lunatics who stayed up 'til 3:00am last Friday night to spend money on a phone smart people as I expected who pre-ordered their new iPhone.  After we saw the really long walk ins line, we were all pretty glad that we did pre-order last week.

I arrived at the store with Dad at 7:00am.  Waiting wasn't going to be hard with Amber keeping us informed and the Coca-Cola vending machines stocked chuck full of cold bottles of Diet Coke!

Two knuckleheads in line.

Amber kept everyone updated.

Go figure, I was standing next to a case of Coca-Cola!

Just before 8:00am local time, all of the Apple Store employees were called inside for a pre-sale briefing meeting.

As you might have expected, the store staff came running out and counted down the final seconds until 8:00am!  While I was waiting to go in, I managed to get in a few selfies.

As with all product launches, Apple put up new window signs.  This one was a metal spiral ring around the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.  You can see the first batch of people getting their iPhones inside the store.

Once inside, you were paired up with an Apple specialist who helped you get your new iPhone, make sure you understand the new Apple Care rules (you now have 60 days to buy the additional coverage rather than last year's 30 days), point out accessories if you needed them (I have my cases delivered to the house) and generally be there to answer any questions you may have.

Because I was crazy enough to stay up until the middle of the night to order a new phone, I was able to get a new iPhone 6 on launch day.  If you didn't get a chance to buy an iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus today, you'll be able to get one in the coming days and weeks.  The iPhone 6, as cool as it is, is still just a phone at the end of the day.

And now, for your viewing pleasure, the unboxing photos.

I'll see you again next year.  Stay hungry, stay crazy!  Thank you, Steve.