Entries in Cellphone (14)


Solar-Powered Cellphone Charging Stations Invade NYC

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- New Yorkers are currently adjusting to a spate of new amenities, such as Wi-Fi-enabled subway stations and a bike share program that residents in other cities have enjoyed for some time.

But new to the Big Apple this week, or anywhere else for that matter, are free cellphone charging stations in popular public places. The cool part? They’re solar powered and can charge a phone as fast as any wall outlet.

The portable chargers were purchased by AT&T and installed with the help of the city for a pilot initiative called Street Charge. According to Joe Atkin, CEO of Goal Zero, the solar innovation company that made the charger platforms with the Brooklyn design firm Pensa, Street Charge stations are in seven locations, including Central Park, Madison Square Park and Coney Island, and will soon expand to 25 locations across all five boroughs.

“We’re doing this pilot run through the fall,” Atkin said, “and we hope by that time it’s deemed successful.” If it is, Atkin hopes to roll out Street Charge across the U.S.

The Street Charge platform looks like a high-tech palm tree, with three long solar panels protruding from the top of a long metallic stem. Each platform has three charging stations and can connect with iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, micro-USB and USB devices.

Atkin first struck upon the idea of a portable, solar-powered energy source when Goal Zero was doing research in New York City after superstorm Sandy.

“We saw that so many people were left without power,” he explained, “and it gave rise to some innovation of how can we bring power to people in remote locations. And really, solar and portable battery systems are one of the best alternatives.”

Goal Zero heard that Pensa was designing the Street Charge platforms and asked if it could help. Pensa’s response, according to Atkin: “Yeah, how about build it?”

Mark Prommel, Pensa’s design director, said there was a dearth of options in between a folding panel on the side of a backpack and a hefty panel on top of a house: “There was a hole for something that was a simple and elegant solution that could be put in these different environments and feel comfortable there.”

Goal Zero contributed the battery systems and solar panels and, with the help of AT&T, brought it to market.

Why did they select New York City first?

“If you can make it New York, you can make it anywhere,” said Neil Giacobbi, AT&T’s New York public affairs director.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Is Your Cellphone Bill Costing You More Than Groceries?

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- With all the services you can tack on to your plan, your cellphone bill could run you well over $100 a month.  But are you spending more on texts and data than on food?

A new survey from finds that 21 percent of cellphone owners spend more money per month on their phone service plan than groceries.  Forty-six percent of cellphone owners surveyed pay $100 or more per month for phone service.  Thirteen percent pay $200 or more per month.

The survey of 2,310 U.S. adults was commissioned by and conducted by Harris Interactive.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Los Angeles Restaurant Discounts for No-Phone Dining

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) -- Do you know how attached you are to your cellphone?  If you don’t, then a new discount offered at Eva Restaurant in Los Angeles will help you find out.

The new policy offers 5 percent off the total bill to diners that leave their cellphones at the door.

Eva’s owner and chef, Mark Gold, said that policy was implemented to motivate diners to sit back and enjoy their food and the people that are actually there with them.

“We want people to try and connect.  Our restaurant is kind of like home and that is the experience that we want to give to our customers,” said Gold.  “The phone is a distraction.  We always see families and couples on their phones and they just aren’t in the moment.  We want people to enjoy their company.”

Gold said that about 40 percent of his patrons have taken advantage of his offer.

Recently, technology has become almost unavoidable in restaurants.  It seems like food paparazzi are always ready to take pictures of their food and upload it to various social media such as Instagram and Pinterest.  Not to mention legions of diners tapping away at their smart phones and taking calls, oblivious to those around them.

Other restaurants have implemented similar policies to try to hinder cellphone usage, but Gold hopes that his new policy will motivate people to stop doing something that he is also guilty of.

“I’m guilty of it as well.  When my wife and I go to dinner it seems like the cellphone is part of the table setting now.  Every table you look at, it’s a wine glass, the silverware and the cellphone,” he joked.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Ting Will Pay for You to Get Out of Your Cellphone Contract

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(TORONTO) -- Whether we like it or not, U.S. cellphone carriers, for the most part, require customers to sign two-year contracts. Signing that contract gets you a phone at a discounted price, but requires you to pay for service with that carrier for the next two years of your life. If you want out, you are forced to pay a sometimes-hefty termination fee.

Tucows, an Internet service company based in Toronto, is going to war against service contracts with its Ting cellular service. The company, like U.S. Cellular, NetZero and Virgin Mobile, provides cellphone service without tying you to a network or a contract. And the company is so passionate about contract-free cell service that this month it is even offering to get some people out of their contracts by paying their termination fees.

In what it is calling “Dump Your Contract Month,” the two-month-old company offers to pay the early termination fee -- which ranges from $150 to $350 at carriers like Verizon and AT&T -- for one person every day in May.

“The promotion is to get people talking about the whole idea of going with a no-contract option,” Michael Goldstein, Tucows’ vice president of marketing, told ABC News. “People can submit, and we will pay the fee for 30 people.”

Ting doesn’t even require those who win to buy a Ting phone and sign up for a month of service. But Goldstein said the company hopes that those who do win will be interested in signing up for Ting. “You probably have some intention of signing up if you’ve entered,” he said.

Ting’s network is actually Sprint’s 3G or 4G WiMax network.  Ting, known as a mobile virtual network operator (or MVNO), doesn’t own the wireless network or spectrum, but rather has an agreement with Sprint to offer the service. Ting offers a selection of six Android phones, ranging from $190 to $580, and then has monthly service plans. The phones are pricier than equivalent ones at Verizon, AT&T and other networks, since they are unlocked.

The plans aren’t structured like the ones from Verizon, AT&T or Sprint. They are more like a la carte menus; you can mix and match different text message, voice calling, and data offerings. And the plans are affordable: 1,000 minutes cost $18 for a month, 2,000 text messages cost $8, and 2GB of data cost $42. Included with any service are voicemail, picture and video messaging, and tethering/hotspot functionality, so you can use your phone’s Internet connection on your laptop or tablet.

Ting’s “Dump Your Contract” promotion is up and running on its site now.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Motorola Droid Razr: New Smartphone Revives Old Name

Verizon(NEW YORK) -- In its day, the Motorola Razr was the cellphone to have.  From 2003 to 2007 it was by far the best-selling cellphone in America.

Then came Apple with its iPhone, and since then Motorola has struggled in the cellular business.  The original Razr was overrun by smartphones, which browse the Web, send texts and emails, tell you where you are and, in the case of the iPhone 4S with its Siri "virtual assistant," talk back to you.

Now, Motorola is back with a new Razr, trying to recapture the magic of the original.  The new phone is sleek and thin, much like its predecessor.  And it's a smartphone, running on the Android software powered by Google -- which, as you may recall, announced in August was buying Motorola Mobility.

Will it succeed?  Early reviews are positive.

"Yes, it's another Android phone," writes Kevin Kelleher of Fortune, "but it's one that incorporates the sleek design elements in the hardware that made Motorola's Razr line of clamshell phones the last iconic phone before the rise of the smartphone."

But plaudits don't necessarily sell phones, as Kelleher agrees.  "So it's just as easy to say Google will regret buying Motorola as it is to say it will look back on the deal as a shrewd move," he writes.

Others have their doubts.

"It's a solid Android device, but it's not going to be that blockbuster that the original Razr was," said Roger Entner of Recon Analytics.  "The huge difference the original had was its thinness.  It's just that everyone else has it now too."

The new Razr is expected to roll out around Nov. 10.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Sprint to Start Selling iPhones in October?

DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Sprint Nextel Corp. will reportedly become the latest wireless provider to carry Apple's iPhones, joining the ranks of AT&T and Verizon.

Citing people familiar with the matter, the Wall Street Journal says the iPhone will be available to Sprint customers come mid-October.  The nation's third largest wireless carrier will get to sell the iPhone 4 -- Apple's current model -- and the new version of the cellphone, the iPhone 5.

AT&T and Verizon will also begin selling the iPhone 5 at the same time, two people with knowledge on the matter told the newspaper.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Verizon: Biggest Users of Mobile Data Will Pay More

Verizon Wireless(NEW YORK) -- Say goodbye to "all you can eat" pricing plans that let mobile device users send and receive unlimited amounts of data for one flat monthly fee.

Verizon, among the last providers to offer such a plan, will start charging by use later this month. Use a lot of data, and you'll pay more; use a little, and you'll pay less.

The company says in a statement that its new, usage-based pricing will allow customers, regardless of the kind of device they have, to select a level of payment suited to their data use.  The company says the new pricing will create more options for users of smartphones, and will provide "updated options" for users of regular phones, tablets, and notebooks.

Verizon spokesperson Debi Lewis says the philosophy behind the change is simple: "You pay for what you use."

When asked when the change will occur, she replied, "Shortly, in July."  July 7 has been widely reported as the date.

Craig Moffett, a telecommunications analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein research, thinks consumption-based pricing is fundamentally fairer for the consumer.  Heavy users, he says -- people watching videos, playing online games or holding video conferences -- send and receive data that is "orders of magnitude" greater than data sent by people who limit themselves, say, to sending email.

Without consumption-based pricing, light users wind up subsidizing heavy users.

The industry's move away from flat-fee pricing started, says Moffett, with AT&T's struggle to deliver better service to users of the iPhone, which "by its very nature, its sheer usability, drove enormous data usage."  AT&T was forced, he says, to do everything it could to increase capacity, including adopting a pricing plan that would "reign in the heaviest users."

Is the switch good news for consumers?

"It depends," says Moffett.  "If you're in the small minority of superheavy users -- and that's a very vocal community: the bloggers of the world -- it's bad news.  It means the days of you getting a free ride are just about over, and that you'll be paying more.  But for smaller users -- the average consumer -- it's not bad at all.  Some will save."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


iPhone User Sues AT&T Over Data Charges

DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images(MIAMI) -– If you're an iPhone owner on a limited data plan, keeping track of your monthly usage can be a tricky task -- one extra email here, an impulsive app purchase there, and you could find yourself facing an unwanted overage fee.

Now, a lawsuit filed by an iPhone owner alleges that AT&T makes monitoring data usage more difficult by not only overbilling its customers for data transactions, but also charging for so-called "phantom" traffic -- actions the customer did not initiate.

The lawsuit, filed by AT&T customer Patrick Hendricks in the Northern District of California and seeking class action status, accuses AT&T of breach of contract and fraud for systematically overcharging for data usage.

Barry Davis, an attorney with Thornton, Davis & Fein, P.A. in Miami, the firm representing Hendricks, said the suit was filed after an independent computer engineer verified the overcharge claims made by AT&T customers. The engineer spent two months testing about a dozen different smartphones and found that AT&T iPhones and iPads consistently overstated data usage and billed for "phantom data traffic," Davis said.

On average, the devices overstated usage by 7 to 14 percent but, in some cases, he said the average was as high as 300 percent. When the engineer left the phones completely untouched for 10 days, Davis said AT&T billed the phones for 35 transactions.

Davis said AT&T has until later this summer to submit a formal reply, but in a statement the company refuted the lawsuit's allegations.

"Any claim that we overbill our mobile data customers is absolutely false," said Mark Siegel, an AT&T spokesman. "We properly charge for all data that our customers send and receive."

As referenced in the company's wireless customer agreement, AT&T said that data charges on smartphones apply not just to customer-initiated activities (like emailing, downloading applications, Web browsing, and music and video streaming) but also background activities related to software updates or diagnostics.

As for the so-called "phantom" charges, AT&T said it records data activity nightly to create a record of each customer's bill in its system. The action may appear on a monthly statement as a mysterious late night charge, but the company said that's because time stamp corresponds with when the device connected with the network, not when the customer sent or received data.

If AT&T customers want to keep tabs on their data usage, they can track usage on or dial #DATA# to get a text message updates. The company also says it sends customers three messages a month warning them as they approach the monthly data usage limit.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


HP Veer 4G Hits Stores Sunday: 'Lets You Multitask...Plays Flash'

PRNewsFoto(NEW YORK) -- The first device to come out of of the HP Palm merger goes on sale Sunday.

The HP Veer is small but, the Wall Street Journal's Katie Boehret said, the phone's operating system is really what sets it apart.

"WebOS lets you really multi-task," she said. "You can very easily see all of your programs running at the same time. It plays Flash in the browser, which is something that Apple's operating system does not do . . . and webOS is really just designer focused.

"It's smooth, it's pleasing to use, it doesn't feel geeky," Boehret said.

The Veer costs about $100.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Google, Apple Testifying Over Cellphone Tracking Claims

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Following reports that their phones are tracking users, Apple and Google will testify before a Senate committee on Tuesday to answer questions on smartphone privacy.

Both companies have told lawmakers that their phones are not spying on customers but rather keeping track of Wi-Fi hot spots and cellphone towers used in figuring locations.  They say the data collected is sent to the company in an anonymous and encrypted form so it cannot be used to track where you go.

In related news, The Detroit News reports that two Michigan women have filed a $50 million lawsuit against Google, demanding the company stop selling phones that can track your location.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio