It is Now Legal to Unlock your Cellphone

lock with keyPresident Obama signed a bill into law that is going to make a lot of cellphone users very happy. The bill was called the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act. This bill was written in response to a We the People petition that was titled “Make Unlocking Cell Phones Legal”.

How does this affect you? It is now legal for you to unlock your phone so that you can change carriers without having to purchase a new device. It is also now legal for you to sell, or buy, unlocked phones.

There are some things to be aware of, however. The new law doesn’t override terms of service contracts that people have already signed with their carriers. In other words, if your contract said that you can’t unlock your device for two years after you purchased it – you are still going to have to abide by that contract. Details on contracts vary by device and carrier, though, so you might want re-read yours.

This new law does not legalize the unlocking of tablets or other devices – only cellphones. However, wording in the bill does instruct the Library of Congress to consider making exemptions for those devices when it reviews things next year. That brings me to the key thing to know about this new law. It is a temporary solution! The Library of Congress will be reviewing exemptions again in 2015.

Image by Joe Buckingham on Flickr.

Coming Soon – More than 250 New Emoji!

Smiling Face EmojiThey say that a picture paints a thousand words. Perhaps that is why many people adore Emoji. One cute, cartoon image can say a lot of things! They can also save people a little bit of time. Instead of typing out “I’m happy”, just use an Emoji smiley face. The person who receives your text will know exactly how you feel.

Have you gotten bored with the Emoji that you’ve seen (or sent)? Not to worry! More than 250 new Emoji are coming soon. They were released on June 16, 2014 as part of The Unicode Standard, Version 7.0. Support for the 2014 Emoji Additions may take some time. The support for the new Emoji characters is now reliant on software updates to include fonts that support Unicode 7.0 from Apple, Google and Microsoft. In other words, each company needs to create the actual icons that represent the new Emoji characters.

Some of the new Emoji for 2014 include: Military Metal, Studio Microphone, Joystick, and a “Raised Hand With Fingers Splayed”. I imagine that one will look like Mr. Spock’s hand when he says “Live Long and Prosper”. There’s also a “Reversed Hand with Middle Finger Extended” for those moments when a smiling face Emoji simply will not do!

Messy Apple Divorce

I have a older friend that just upgraded from an iPhone 5 to a Samsung Galaxy Note 3.

The iPhone 5 was his second iPhone and he liked it well enough until the 7.1 update, which made certain interface elements too small. The incoming call screen contact photos were reduced from being large and easily recognizable to a tiny little hard-to-see thumbnail sized bubble. Also the 7.1 update caused a couple of his fitness apps to no longer function properly — opening one of them would make it necessary to reboot the phone every time it was run.

So, after seeing my Note 3, he decided it was time to move up to a bigger screen and the much better battery life offered by the Note 3.

AT&T ported his phone number over to the new device. All seemed well, until his relatives (a son and a couple of grand kids) that still had iPhones using iMessages could not text his new phone. It seems that there is a well-known problem that happens when a phone number is ported away from an iPhone where iMessages has been used for texting with other iPhones.

Doing a Google search for the problem reveals that there are plenty of people experiencing this problem. If you have an iPhone and used iMessages for texting and port the number to a non-iPhone, regardless of whether it’s another smartphone or even a flip phone, iMessages will capture any text messages sent from any other iPhone where iMessages is still in use.

There are a few work-arounds and perhaps a definitive fix. The other people with iPhones with iMessages enabled can go into their settings and disable iMessages and use regular texting, and their texts to the ported number will go through to the non-Apple phone. Another suggestion is for the user that has ported their number to the non-Apple device log in to their Apple account and remove the old device from their list of Apple devices.

The third way, which may be the definitive solution, is to text “help” to 48369. This generates a reply from Apple, to which you reply “stop.” According to someone who spent time on the phone with Apple support this is supposed to take anywhere from 4 to 12 hours to resolve the issue.

As people move away from iPhones that use iMessages to larger-screened smartphones because of diminished ability to read tiny print, this is likely to become a more widespread issue, which is useful to be aware of even if you are a die-hard iPhone fan and have no intention of switching.

Voice Bridge by Swissvoice

Voice BridgeDoes your business require a landline number but you want the convenience of a mobile phone, well Swissvoice may have a solution for you.  Swissvoice is showing off the Voice Bridge at CES 2014. SwissVoice’s Voice Bridge links traditional land line telephones and mobile device. It allows you to carry on a call that comes in on your landline phone on your mobile device both smartphones and tablets. Now you can tell who is calling you on your DECT-phone . You can use your mobile device as a walkie talk for communication within a building at no additional cost. Employees can be added to conference calls by simply tapping on the app on their mobile device

The Voice Box is a small box like device which connects directly to any router and has an easy plug and play installation. Then you install the app on your iPhone, iPad or Android device and you are ready to go. You can assign a fixed line to up to five smart phones and tablet at one time. Perfect for a small office, allowing multiple employees to use one landline number, while having the convenience of using their mobile phone.

The Voice Bridge will be available in the U.S, South America and Europe during March or April 2014 for $79 USD or 79 euro. Swissvoice will be at Booth 31417 in the South Hall during CES 2014.

Cell Buckle

Cell Buckle My husband and I share a car and he frowns on having anything on the dashboard including a phone holder, so I end up with the phone on the seat next to me. This is bad for many reasons, including safety. I am always on the look out for something that I can attach and remove easily, Cell Buckle shown in this video looks like a possibility.

The Cell Buckle can hold anything from the size of a lighter up to something 3 inches across. You simply clip the device into the buckle and then the other end on to the object you want the device to be on. You can get a Cell Buckle to use in a car, motorcycle, bicycle stroller, golf cart, ATV, boat or even a riding lawn mower.

The Cell Buckle is $19.95 and is available on the Cell Buckle website. It has a lifetime guarantee.

Interview by Don Baine, the Gadget Professor.

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UrbanHello Home Phone

Urban Hello Home Phone

It’s not often that technology is so new that it’s only a few hours old but in this interview, Andy McCaskey chats to UrbanHello about their Kickstarter launch for their Home Phone.

The Home Phone is a DECT-based cordless speakerphone designed for family group conversations where everyone can take part. The 360 degree HD speaker produces great natural sound and not only is the Home Phone functional, it looks modern and stylish. The coloured part at the bottom of the phone comes in a range of interchangeable colours to either match or contrast the interior decor.

Don’t take my word for it, the Home Phone took Design and Engineering Honors at CES 2013 and it’s 27% funded with about ten days to go.

Interview by Andy McCaskey of SDR News for the TechPodcast Network.

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SpareOne Shows off its Award winning AA Battery Operated Phones at CES 2013

SpareOne Emergency Phone SpareOne was Honored as Best of Innovation at CES 2013. It received this honor for being the world’s only mobile phone powered by a single AA battery. It will be inducing the SpareOnePlus at the show. The SpareOne Plus features a location-based cell ID service. This location-based service identifies the exact location of the cell ID. The phone also has an audible numeric feedback that reads both the number dialed and incoming call number. Both the SpareOne and the SpareOne Plus are made to be an ultimate safety and communication devices. If stored with the plastic tab inserted and in the off positions the SpareOne has up to 15 years of battery life. It has 10 hours of talk time when in use. There is a TorchLight on top which provides 24 hours of continuous light. It has a dedicated 911 button that works without a SIM card. There is the ability to set 9 speed dial numbers.

It includes an re-sealable waterproof bag with a humidity-proof seal. You can operate the phone through the bag. The bag floats and allows the phone to be operated in extreme temperature from–22 degree F to 140 degree F. The phone can be submerged in the bag to a depth of 1 meter for 30 minutes and still work.

Both the original SpareOne and the SpareOne Plus are designed to work without a cell phone carrier. You simply insert a SIM card with some credit on it and start making calls. It is an unlocked phone so it can accept any SIM card. There is even a micro SIM adapter so you can insert an iOS SIM.

The SpareOne is available now for $99.99 at the SpareOne website. The SpareOnePlus will be available in early 2013. There are two versions available one for the Americas and one for Europe/Asia/Oceania

SpareOne has been recognized for design and innovation by Popular Mechanics, Entrepreneur Magazine and PC Magazine among others. You can see their products at the Venetian Las Vegas Casino, Hotel & Resort, Suite #28–111.

Samsung Galaxy S3 Update

Samsung Galaxy S3About a month ago I retired my trusty Sprint Evo 4G (original Wimax version) and got a Samsung Galaxy S3.

My initial impression of the Galaxy S3 was quite positive. I’ve spent a considerable amount of time now with the Galaxy S3, so I want to give a bit of an update on my experience with it. I drive a truck over the road and also use it as a podcast aggregator and playback device, so I am spending even more direct time with my phone than the average consumer might.

The Sprint version of the S3 is currently using the so-called “Ice Cream Sandwich” Android 4.04.

Battery life is excellent compared to the three previous smartphones I’ve had over the past several years using the stock battery that came with it.

The large 4.8” inch AMOLED LCD high resolution touchscreen is superb, with excellent color saturation. The extremely thin form factor allows me to easily carry the phone around in a front pocket.

Performance remains excellent even though I’ve installed several dozens and dozens of apps. App performance is rock solid. I had many of the same apps on my HTC Evo that would sometimes crash or cause problems that run perfectly on the Galaxy S3. I attribute this performance increase to more primary phone memory and perhaps better overall hardware design architecture. It’ likely that people that experience problems with certain apps are really experiencing lack of enough physical memory in their device in the same way that desktop computers experience fewer crashes and more overall stability when they have more physical RAM in which to execute the program code.

The Galaxy S3 has excellent WiFi performance. Connected to a Verizon MiFi 4G WiFi hotspot the WiFi has no slowdown issues even when simultaneously using Bluetooth.

The Bluetooth functionality works pretty well overall, but not quite as good as the HTC Evo. I have a JVC Stereo-Bluetooth-capable stereo in my pickup that functioned just fine with the Evo in speakerphone mode that doesn’t work properly with the Galaxy S3. I can hear callers through the stereo speakers but they cannot hear me through the return channel microphone. I don’t know if there is a Bluetooth version number conflict that could possibly resolve the problem via a JVC firmware upgrade, or if the problem might be resolved when Sprint and Samsung release the next “Jelly Bean” version of Android for the Sprint version of the Galaxy S3.

This problem with the S3’s Bluetooth not working properly with my JVC stereo is even more perplexing, since it works perfectly well with the other Bluetooth devices that I own, including a Tango TRX high fidelity Bluetooth stereo speaker that also can work as a speakerphone.

Overall I’m extremely pleased with the Galaxy S3. This is one of the most amazing pieces of technology I’ve ever owned.

In my opinion, the Galaxy S3 is currently the best phone on the market today.

A Review of the Galaxy Nexus HSPA

I had been an owner of an iPhone since the first one came out. This past March, my iPhone died and I needed something new and inexpensive. I picked up the Motorola Atrix 2 for less than $100.00. After the I got a new phone feeling wore off, I almost immediately regretted the purchase. I didn’t like the bloatware that AT&T had added to the phone. It also quickly became clear that it was not going to be updated and I would be stuck on Gingerbread until I brought a new phone. I thought about waiting for the new iPhone in September, but that would force me to sign up a new 2 year contract with AT&T and the phone would still cost me over $400.00. The answer clearly was an unlocked phone. I wanted something with the latest build and without the carrier bloatware. That is when I started looking at the Galaxy Nexus HSPA, which had been dropped to a price of $349.00 ($381 with taxes and shipping) for the unlocked version through the Google Play Store. Then I discovered it would work with my AT&T sim card and was scheduled to be upgraded to Jelly Bean from Ice Cream Sandwich. I ordered one this past Tuesday and it was in my hand Saturday morning.

The first thing I did was transfer the Sim card from the Motorola Atrix 2 to the Galaxy Nexus HSPA and it worked fine. Once I powered up the phone it had me sign into my Google Account and synced the information to the phone. When I checked for a system update, Jellybean was available for download and install. Once I finished charging the phone, the download and installation of Jellybean went fine. I installed some of the apps I had purchased from the Google Play store previously. I then started to play with the phone. It is slightly taller than the Motorola Atrix 2, but much thinner and lighter. I think the screen is gorgeous. I especially notice it when looking at text.  The text is so clear and crisp. Some people say the image is grainy at full brightness, but to be honest I haven’t noticed it. Everything moves smoothly, there is no herky-jerky motion when you open an app or move from page to page. Google Now came with the installation of Jellybean. I still learning how to use it and I realize that there are privacy concerns involved with it for some, but I love it potential.

The Galaxy Nexus HSPA is has its downside. First the back cover is very flimsy and hard to put back on. I didn’t get a full day out of the battery today, so I have downloaded a battery widget to see what is draining it. The camera is not the best, but it is pretty good. Despite these small and solvable problems I love the Galaxy Nexus HSPA so far. I love having no bloatware and in 15 months I will finish with my contact with AT&T, assuming I don’t pay to get out earlier. If you are looking for an Android phone with no contract, then the Galaxy Nexus HSPA is worth a look.

SoftBank Unveils a Radiation-Scanning Phone

SoftBank,the third largest Japanese phone carrier, is releasing something new for its Summer of 2012 lineup. The new Pantone 5 SoftBank 107SH Android smartphones will have integrated radiation detectors. It is able to detect estimated gamma radiation of between 0.05 and 9.99. Press a button to activate the radiation detection feature. Wait ten seconds for it to take a reading. It will place the location that the reading was taken onto a map.

SoftBank is debating on whether or not to add a social aspect to this, for people to share their radiation readings. This is because the readings can vary, depending on how they are taken. Another issue is that there isn’t a hard definition of a minimum dangerous level of this type of radiation. These phones will go on sale in Japan in July of 2012. A price has not yet been set.

There is a lot of concern in Japan about the harm that can come from high radiation levels. This is especially worrying for parents of young children. There has been a call for radiation monitoring at schools and other public facilities in the country. Parts of northeastern Japan are still off-limits because of the high radiation levels after the Fukushima nuclear power plant was devastated by a huge earthquake and tsunami that occurred in 2011.

The Pantone 5 series of SoftBank phones come in eight bright colors. The advertisements show the phones with an image on their screen of ice cream cones that match the color of the phone it is being displayed on. The phones have a 3.7 inch screen with 854 x 480 pixels resolution. They are powered by a 1.4 GHz single-core processor. The phones also have a 4-megapixel rear-facing camera, Bluetooth 3.0, and will run Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich.