Monday, June 29, 2009

iPhone 3GS jailbreak is ready but you have to wait

By Benedict Wee

The Dev-Team have already developed a jailbreak for the iPhone 3GS but they're holding it back for now as they expect Apple to release an update soon to fix issues in the current 3.0 firmware.
Here’s the critical point, the reason why we’re delaying our version of the jailbreak: Once the jailbreak is out, Apple will fix the iBoot-family bug we use to accomplish it. They will simply stop signing the old iBoots and only sign the fixed ones. If you bought your phone after Apple has done this, there’s nothing you can do…the jailbreak isn’t going to work for you.

It is possible that Apple will find the bug we use without our handing it to them on a silver platter (via a public jailbreak). In that case, we will have delayed our jailbreak for “nothing”. But we’d rather be safe than sorry!

Apple is surely coming out with a 3.0.1 firmware release shortly. They need to fix ultrasn0w. They need to fix some UI issues. 3.0 is buggy and 3.0.1 is coming. We’re going to wait and see what 3.0.1 brings before figuring out the release date for our version of the jailbreak.
What it basically means is that we'll get it soon. If you're thinking about getting one overseas then it's a good time to go hunting seeing as the phone will probably take 6-10 working days to get to you.

Source: Dev-Team

HTC Hero: Better than the Magic. Costs the same in the UK.

By Benedict Wee

Those looking to pass on the crippled and expensive HTC Magic and have family/friends in the UK can purchase its successor and actual competitor to the iPhone 3GS at around the same price Vodafone is charging for the Magic. is selling the HTC Hero for 430GBP (NZ$1,100) without contract and will ship on the 15th of July, 5 days after the New Zealand iPhone 3GS launch though that date is subject to change.

Forex Rate: 1GBP = NZ$2.56

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Shopping for gadgets on a global market: a reflection on the price of the iPhone 3GS

By Benedict Wee

Our world has grown significantly smaller since the amazing military invention; the internets was brought to the public. In our current age we are communicating with people all over the globe and we never run out of people to talk to since someone, somewhere has just gotten up and logged on. News isn't something we get from a rolled up paper on our lawn in the morning or a show we watch at 6 pm anymore. We get information almost instantly when a major celebrity passes away, when a serious sounding virus spreads and when a communist country decides to be a jerk and test nuclear weapons.

Aside from the heavy/important stuff, we also have up to date information on things that we're interested in. Like knowing when a movie adaptation of a beloved childhood cartoon about vehicles and robots sucks so bad you might want to block out that 2 1/2 hours from your memory or when french rugby people lie about getting hurt on the street and then come out with some convoluted story that makes as much sense as aforementioned movie. Or weather.

My intrests are gadgets and videogames.

I like to know when new stuff about them is announced, its price and its availability. It's good to know what technological advancements the rest of the world is getting and if you're on the short end of the stick. The best bit about the internets are that not only do you know if you're at a disadvantage, you could be pro-active about it and change your circumstance. Like say if videogames are out in the US and won't reach our shores till over a year later (hello Final Fantasy XII) I could just purchase an american set and have the games sent to me when they are released.

The fact is our shrunken world brings people together faster which makes us want to have the same stuff at the same time. To be held back even for a month means that you're likely to miss out on the newer stuff people are getting (choughhtcmagicchough). Everyone is aware of who gets what and how much they're being charged and in our current economy, they do not want to pay boatloads when they can get the same thing for cheap out there. One of the other great features of the internet is that you're not confined to what is being sold at a mall. Shopping, like chatting, can be done 24/7 and there are great deals floating out there somewhere if you're willing to look. Let me provide an example: The iPhone 3GS (3GS for short).

Ooooh.. shiny..

Vodafone has just released the price of their phone here in New Zealand and it's pretty expensive. Instead of just giving in and shelling out the extra $200-$250 more than I was expecting to pay for the 3GS I decided to venture online to check if I could get a better deal since unlocking the iPhone is an easy task these days with simple video tutorials on YouTube (another fabulous feature of the internet). The first place I checked was ebay.

Now online auctions aren't alien to me. I used to do them quite a bit when I was a penniless student looking to score some dvds and videogames for cheap back in the day and I helped some of my mates in the UK to get cheap used iPhones last year, taking advantage of the new iPhone 3G launch. With the knowledge of how auctions worked I went online to take a gander at auctions on the phone specifically in the US since they were the first to get it (and because the exchange rate is lower than it has been for awhile).

What I found was a pretty good deal. I sampled the market to see how much both the 16GB and 32GB models were going online by putting multiple auctions on my watchlist and letting them end. In addition to that I calculated the shipping costs of the phone to New Zealand, first from the US Post Office, then the available quotes from the sellers themselves. The price from the Post Office:
  • Express Mail - US$32.50 (US$29.90 for online orders) taking 6 days to deliver
  • Priority Mail - US$26.50 (US$25.18 for online orders) taking 6-10 days to deliver

The quotes from the sellers were between US$30 and US$35.

From a sample of 6 16GB 3GSs I found that the prices the phones were sold for ranged from US$590-US$721. From a sample of 5 32GB 3GSs the price were between US$672-US$931 (the highest price included free next-day express delivery). This meant that the cheapest price I could get the iPhones from the past two days in the US were:
  • 16GB: US$590+US$25.20= US$615.20 (approx. NZ$953.56)
  • 32GB: US$672+US$25.20=US$697.20 (approx. NZ$1080.66)
Of course I do not expect to get the same price for the phone in my bidding but it was a mark to which I could start estimating how much I should expect to pay. One of the rules in auctions is to give yourself a gauge of how much you're willing to fork out. I'd give myself until NZ$1000 for the 16GB and NZ$1150 for the 32GB. That is still NZ$179 and NZ$229 lesser than what Vodafone is asking for which is a huge saving. There are other rules I should bear in mind too.
  • Always check the ratings of the sellers: This is very important, making sure the phone I'm bidding for is sold by a reputable person. I'll check his ratings and take time to read the feedback left by people he's sold stuff to. It's easy to spot the scammers as they've got low ratings and the same people leave feedback on his profile. I usually go for people with a rating of 250 or more and I prefer a Power Seller status which means he's a trusted vendor.
  • Ask questions: Also important. Finding out if the person selling the phone is willing to send it overseas and getting a rapport going with him. If he is willing to ship I will ask about the cost so I can always mentally insert it into the total price of the mobile when I'm bidding. If I really want a great deal, I'll offer him shipping alternatives that I've researched on. The US Post Office's online postal order for Priority Mail is US$25.18 and if he is willing to use that service I'll save around NZ$7.50-NZ$15 which could make a big difference when I'm bidding on the phone.
  • Expand your range: I do not focus only on one auction and put a couple on my watchlist. That way even if I do not win the phone I can gauge how much it's being sold for in that time period and if it's a good time to be looking for the phone as I will elaborate below.
  • Time and space: I usually look at US sites to get my mobile as they've got more sellers there. I also take into consideration the time zone difference and the weeks' schedule and plan accordingly. My sample size was taken across the weekend which meant that more people could be biding on the auction so a good day to look for a phone might be at the start of the week and the lowest price on the 16GB 3GS was sold at 5am US Pacific Time which meant that not a lot of people were up at that time to bid and that's why it was sold for cheap. Taking such things into consideration does help improve your chances on scoring a good deal.
  • Other stuff: The usual things to know are not placing a bid too early (I usually place my highest in the last 30 seconds) and not going over your intended price you're willing to pay. Knowing this I always give myself a generous yet sensible maximum price bid.
  • Finally, be patient and have fun: If I was not used to bidding for an item, it might take some time to get the mobile and it could get frustrating but I'll always remember to enjoy the adrenalin rush that comes from competing for an item and the satisfaction I'd get when I've gotten the phone for cheap.
By the powers of ebay. He has the powerrrrrr!

The world is full of opportunities and thanks to the internets, they are not only full but overflowing. Shopping for gadgets at great deals has never been this easy and anyone can do it. You don't need to be a gadget lover to be able to get such stuff for cheap, all you need is a bit of effort. Thanks to the web we can finally break free from the tyranny of companies that think that they can overcharge us because we live in one corner of the world and we can send a message out to them that we won't stand being taken advantage of. And who knows, maybe they'll listen.

Forex Rate: US$1 = NZ$1.55

Friday, June 26, 2009

iPhone 3GS available July 10th, more expensive than 3G

By Benedict Wee

Vodafone has just announced via Twitter that the iPhone 3GS will be launched in New Zealand on the 10th of July. What is kinda disappointing is the price of the mobile.

The 16GB iPhone 3GS will cost $1179 with the 32GB version at $1379. Both prices are without contracts and they will announce price plans as the launch date draws closer.

Last year, iPhone 3G cost $979 for the 8GB version while the 16GB was $1129 when it was first launched. This means a $200 and $250 increase in prices respectively. Isn't the Apple pricing structure supposed to remain the same despite the increase in storage space and functionality?

If you are however, interested in the phone you can pre register on their website.

Vodafone responds to 2degrees accusations, tells em to grow a pair

By Benedict Wee

Paul Brislen, Vodafone's External Manager has refuted the claim that there is a duopoly between them and Telecom evidenced by a research 2degrees commissioned which showed students in the Auckland and Dunedin region making a majority of calls and texts to phones of the same network.

He says that having a small sample size of around 100 people does not constitute a proper study and that student preference in mobile networks is hardly insightful as the majority of calls and texts are to fewer than a dozen numbers which will explain the high percentage traffic to the same network.

As for the duopoly allegations; Paul said that 2degrees is not only wrong, they're complete rubbish citing the recent incident where they took Telecom to court because they interfered with their network.

When addressing the lack of competition Paul claims that it is not only alive and well, you could argue that there are too many operators for a population our size as we've got 9 of them (Update: Vodafone, Telecom, 2degrees, TelstraClear, Black and White, CallPlus, Orcon, M2 and Compass Communications. Thanks Paul!) and not 3. He then ended the rebuttal with this:

Competition is alive and well and kicking up its heels in New Zealand. If NZ Comms (now know as 2degrees) wants to play there’s plenty of opportunity but can I just put out a heartfelt plea: Stop complaining and get on with it.

Alright then, ball's in your court 2degrees. Got a response?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Evidence of Vodafone and Telecom duopoly found by 2degrees

By Benedict Wee

We're still a ways off from hearing about new mobile telco 2degrees' mobiles and prices plans but it seems like they've keep run into barriers while trying to set up their network.

With Telecom resorting to bullying tactics and 2degrees leaving the self-regulatory forum that promotes fair competition between telcos claiming unfair bias from the three big service providers (Telstra, Vodafone and Telecom), the new company hasn't exactly gotten the warm Kiwi reception that this country is famous for.

To add to the list of the unfair advantages the current telcos have right now, 2dgrees has uncovered evidence of a duopoly between the two major companies; Vodafone and Telecom.

2degrees had commissioned a report (which was carried out by Phoenix Research) to survey calls and texts that began and terminated on the same network (also known as 'on-net' mobile traffic) amongst students in Auckland in September 2008 and Dunedin in May 2009.

What they found out was that rather than providing competition between the two carriers in each city, they have divided the regions between themselves with Vodafone dominating traffic in Auckland and Telecom in Dunedin. How much traffic did they dominate?

For Auckland students on Vodafone:
  • 93% of their calls were made to another phone on the same network
  • 96% of their texts were sent to another phone on the same network
For Dunedin students on Telecom:
  • 81% of their calls were made to another phone on the same network
  • 90% of their texts were sent to another phone on the same network
As for the market share of the two telcos in the different regions:
  • 97% of Auckland students who were surveyed are on Vodafone
  • 85% of Dunedin students who were surveyed are on Telecom

The research was done between 120 students in each region which were spilt equally between venues and call/text data collected was from logs stored in students' phones with Auckland results being final and Dunedin being indicative.

If the research is true it would mean that Telecom and Vodafone might have an under the table agreement to dominate a respective region thus allowing them to charge whatever price they want on their calls without needing to compete with the other telco. This would also explain why calls/texts to other carriers cost extra: they want people to use the provider that controls that region.

Looking at this research you can tell that the people who suffer from this tyranny is us, the consumer. Without actual full-on competition telcos have free reign to charge whatever they want on calls/texts/data and take their time to bring mobiles which the other parts of the world had months before while creating ridiculously expensive contracts for subsidized mobiles. It's the same problem with power, they're shortchanging us and taking our hard-earned money. We do not have to put up with this.

2degrees News

Why you should download Internet Explorer 8

By Benedict Wee

Ah Dean Cain, you crack me up. O.M.G.I.G.P is a real problem though, thats not funny (Yes it is)

Source: Gizmodo

iPhone 3GS costs US$178.96 (NZ$277.39) to build

By Benedict Wee

Gadget teardown site iSuppli has revealed that the materials used to make the new 16GB iPhone 3GS costs US$172.46 (NZ$267.31). That with the manufacturing expense of US$6.50 gives Apple's new mobile a total cost of US$178.96 (NZ$277.39), slightly over US$4 more than the previous model. This does not include other costs such as software development, shipping and distribution, packaging, royalty fees and the accessories included (mobile charger, stand, usb wire etc.).

Andrew Rassweiler, iSuppli's director and principal analyst says that the RRP of the 16GB iPhone 3GS remains the same (US$199 with 24 month contract) as the previous 8GB iPhone 3G is because the actual price of the phone is paid by the service provider (AT&T) which reflects the common wireless industry practice of subsidizing the upfront cost of a mobile phone and then making a profit on subscriptions.

Forex Rate: US$1 = NZ$1.55

HTC debuts new Android phone: HTC Hero

By Benedict Wee

HTC has released details on their new smartphone, the HTC Hero which comes with the new Android interface; Sense. The specs are as follows:
  • Processor: 528 MHz with 288MB of RAM
  • Network: 900/2100 MHz
  • Capable of up to 2Mbps up-link and 7.2 Mbps down-link speeds
  • Other connections: GPS, Bluetooh 2.0 and WiFi
  • Camera: 5 MP with autofocus.
  • Audio: plays Mp3s and assorted audio files (AAC, AAC+, WMA, WAV, MIDI etc..).
  • Video: Plays Mp4s and Windows Media Video 9
  • Battery: Talk time up to 470 mins, Standby 750 hours.
  • Expansion Slot: microSD
  • 3.5 mm audio jack
The main differences between this and the HTC Magic (besides the new and very stylish Sense interface) are the 5 MP camera (from 3.2 MP), an audio jack (instead of having to use the included mini-usb headphones) and a better battery. These are the improvements I've been clamoring for and it significantly elevates the mobile to one-up the iPhone 3GS. From what I've seen from Sense, it's basically the Android OS with a different skin so people who've used this platform shouldn't have to re-learn anything.

Other points to note are that the phone will support Flash (but every Android phone will be able to do that come October) and that it will be released in Europe in July and in Asia later that month. I'm guessing that the phone should reach us around Spring.

This is certainly a better alternative to the Vodafone Magic and the iPhone 3GS, but of course we will have to wait for the price to be announced before making a definite conclusion. Till then I'm pretty excited about this phone. Take a look at the Sense interface in action.

Source: HTC

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Digital photo frame that supports facebook, twitter, flickr and iPhone?

By Benedict Wee

Our neighbors to the west have created a digital photo frame with WiFi support to stream photos from your various social networking accounts. The Kogan 8" WiFI LCD Digital Photo Frame will allow you to take your favorite photos from sites like facebook, twitter, flickr, photobucket and Picasa and stream them to the gadget. You could also choose to use a compatible RSS feed to stream said pictures or send them from an iPhone via the free SeeFrame application from the App Store.

Other features include:

• Direct Photo Emailing to Frame: Each frame has its own unique email address so that photos can be received from computers or mobile phones. A built-in email filter protects against unwanted photos. No setup is required for senders to send photos to the frame.

• Group Frames: Family and friends can set up a single email address that corresponds to multiple frames so that photos can be easily shared and displayed on those frames.

• Smart Photo Play List: Users can choose photos to be displayed on the Kogan frame on specified dates, such as displaying selected photos on a user's birthday or anniversary.

• Email Photos from Frame: A one-touch button allows users to send photos directly from their frames to a Web account and the email accounts of their family and friends.

• Dual Use Mode: If no WiFi connection is available, the Kogan frame can operate as a stand-alone digital photo frame with 256mb of Internal Memory

• Auto Power Saving: The Kogan frame can be programmed to turn-off automatically at night in order to save power and protect the screen.
The digital frame costs AU$169. Not a bad price if you've been thinking about getting one for your home.


Ghostwire, the game that might tempt/scare you into buying a DSi

By Benedict Wee

I love horror shows. I love augmented reality stuff. So what happens when you combine both of them together? A good reason to buy a DSi.

Well, when the game comes out of course. Right now we're still in "wait and see" territory and the DSi will probably get a price drop by then.

HTC Magic launches this Friday, pre-registers get $100 off with contract

By Benedict Wee

Vodafone has just sent an email to those who have pre-registered for the HTC Magic, the first 300 customers will receive $100 off the phone if they sign up to a 24 month contract. Also, the official launch date of the mobile is Friday though they'll only be selling the black versions with the white ones set to come early next week.

I would be more excited but since finding out about Vodafone crippling the mobile in my review I'm left with this negative taste in my mouth. It's still a good phone, just not good enough to compare with the other smartphone in the market that's launching soon.

Telecom reinvents the wheel, launches mobile music store

By Benedict Wee

Telecom has launched their mobile music store which claims to be have the biggest selection selection of music tracks (3.2 million) offered in New Zealand. Of course since there is only one other competing mobile telco (Vodafone), that doesn't really mean anything.

So what's new with the music store? Telecom mobile customers aren't required to pay data charges when browsing and previewing a track and Kiwi artists will be featured on the music homepage which is pretty cool as it'll showcase local talent. Just access TWorld (Telecom XT's internet portal) via your mobile and you'll only be charged when you download a song. Each track will cost $1.99, the same price as Vodafone's store and the middle point for iTunes which sells tracks between $1.79-$2.39.

Currently, the phones capable of downloading music are:

• Nokia 3120
• Nokia 6120
• Nokia 6600
• Nokia E71
• Samsung F480T
• Samsung 5220
• LG GM310
• Sony Ericsson W705
• Samsung S8300T
• Sony Ericsson C510a

Note that there is only one phone in that list that is branded as a music phone (SE W705). The store is of course targeted at people who cannot wait till they get home to download music and have to get the latest song while on the move which I'm pretty confident isn't a big number.

If you've been waiting for a mobile music store from Telecom XT (all three of you) then good on ya. If not then move along, there's nothing to see here.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Vodafone: $150 off 16GB iPhone 3G without contract, no announcement on 8GB

By Benedict Wee

Vodafone has just announced via Twitter that the 16GB iPhone 3G will get a price drop to $979 from $1129 without a 24 month contract starting June 24th. The prices for iPhones with contracts however will remain unchanged. The $979 price tag used to belong to the 8GB iPhone 3G so we're expecting a price drop on that too though Vodafone has not commented on what that price might be. Looks like they're trying to phase out the 16GB 3G model to get ready for the 3GS which is due to hit our shores in July and will come in 16GB and 32GB versions.

$979 is still a high price to pay for what will soon be a last-gen phone and if the contract-free prices of the iPhone 3GS are set to be the same, shelling out $150 more for a faster/better processor, compass, 3MP camera with autofocus and video, voice control and twice the storage space (not to mention it'll be future-proof for at least a year) is a no brainer. Best hold off on that impulse by.

Things to do with your Android phone #001: Get Layar

By Benedict Wee

We're having a slow news week. Now that we know how much Vodafone is charging for the HTC Magic, all eyes are poised at the iPhone 3GS (which the American's have gotten over the weekend, lucky bastards) and speculation of its price and release date.

Speaking of a release date, Vodafone's Magic still doesn't have one though a small number of Kiwis have gotten their hands on the mobile either by importers or Vodafone's treasure hunt which happened over the weekend. There is a party being held in Auckland tomorrow; The Vodafone Black and White Magic Party to preview the phone or something so hopefully we'll have a date then.

Meanwhile, those (few) who already have an Android smartphone should take a look at Layar, an augmented reality application that combines your GPS, camera and compass to identify your surroundings and provide an overlaid commentary on the screen. This would be really useful for tourists who want to holiday without a guide, real estate agents who want to showcase homes and the surroundings and people who just generally want to know about everything that surrounds them. The application is currently available only in Netherlands but as more information layers are created internationally expect the application to hit our islands soon.

Source: Layar

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Buying Guide: HTC Magic

By Benedict Wee

I've had enough time to spend with the HTC Magic which I got last week and I'm ready to post a review/buying guide to New Zealand's first Android mobile.

Why I like it

It's got Google's Android OS:
One of the main features that I'm excited about, the Android platform was created by Google for the Open Handset Alliance in order to create a standardized operating system for mobile phones. Because the source code for the platform is free mobile manufacturers are allowed to create phones in any size, form and design as long as they meet the needed system requirements to run Android.

What you'll get is a unified interface amongst the various brand mobiles that you'll only need to learn how to use once. Mobile companies like Samsung, LG, Motorola, Sony Ericsson, Toshiba and Acer will follow HTC in creating mobiles that run Android though mobiles aren't exclusive to phones alone as netbooks and even digital photo frames are being created to run Google's platform. I always parallel Android's use in portable devices/mobiles to that of PCs and notebooks; different computer makers (HP, Dell, Acer etc.) running the same operating system (Windows).

I don't want to go all gushy on the Android but another great point about the platform is that since it's open sourced people can develop any kind of application without having to go through stringent screening processes that Apple app developers are subject to because of copyright and trademark infringement. Sega and Nintendo Rom emulators here I come!

On to Android's actual interface. There is a learning curve to the OS and the only tutorial available on the mobile is how to use the on screen keyboard, the auto correct and dictionary. It's not rocket science however, so you'll be able to pick it up pretty fast and the quick start guide provided is useful. Here's a simple rundown on how to use the phone:
  • The main page is called Home.
  • Touch an icon to run the application.
  • Touch and hold the icon to move/drag the application to desired location.
  • Drag the icon to the bottom tab to remove the application from the Home screen. This does not uninstall the application. To do that you have to go to settings and remove the application from the phone permanently.
  • Icons and Widgets are different. Icons have to be activated by touching them while Widgets are applications that are run automatically. The analogue clock you see on the home screen is a Widget.
  • Different Widgets can be put onto the Home screen but they cannot overlap one another or over icons. You can insert a Widget by touching an empty space on the Home screen.
  • The home screen has more than one page which you can navigate by flicking left or right on a page. This allows you to put more icons and Widgets on the Home screens.
  • The tab at the bottom of Home is where all your applications are stored. Pull it upwards to access and scroll through the icons. Hold down on an icon and you can move it to the Home screen.
  • On top of Home is the Notifications bar. The right side informs you of the connection you're using, the strength of the connection, the amount of battery life and the time. The left side informs you of an incoming text, email and if a new application has been installed. The symbols of the notifications can be found in the Quick Start Guide. You can pull down the bar to preview the notifications you've received just like the bottom tab.
  • More applications can be downloaded from the Android Market. Currently the only applications you can download are those that are free. The paid applications will be rolled out soon. I'll be giving an applications review soon.

There is a trackball on the phone which is supposed to be the "mouse" but I don't see its use (being touch screen and all) other than functioning as shutter button and "glows when you got a text/missed call" indicator.
The last bit about the Android which I totally love is that your Google account is synched with the phone thus saving me the trouble of manually inputting contacts and calendar notifications. If you already have a contact list and calendar on an account other than Google you can easily sync them with the online/software program Plaxo. If you do not have your contacts/calendars online then I suggest you take some time to compile them on a Google account cause you'll only need to do it once and you're set for life. Also, Android comes with QuickOffice which allows you to access Microsoft Office documents which is pretty handy. Update: Well, turns out the HTC Magic does not have QuickOffice but only the HTML viewer to preview PDF and Office files. Also it doesn't have voice search. Wow Vodafone, I thought crippling your mobiles was a shallow thing practiced only by the american telcos. (Thanks Mike!)

A 3.2 megapixel camera with autofocus and video recording, an internal compass and GPS. No, that's not Apple's new iPhone 3GS I'm talking about. The Magic has these features too and they've had them since its predecessor, the HTC Dream was released. The iPhone 3GS claims to be fast (600 MHz CPU and 256MB RAM) but it's relatively the same as the Magic (528 MHz CPU and 288 MB RAM).

This much hardware in compressed into a small and pocket-friendly size and it's pretty light (116 gm) which makes it easy to carry around. I also like the fact that the battery is removable which gives me the option of buying more of them should I need to travel without a power source available (i.e. camping, trekking, boating etc.).


Battery life:
Like all smartphones in the market now, expect to charge the Magic pretty frequently when you've got the whole shebang on. 3G, GPS and WiFi are your main culprits of battery drain though it is not terribly bad in my opinion. I've checked my Twitter, facebook and email while doing the odd surfing and map checking and I ended up having to charge the phone every two days. My first charge ended pretty quickly cause I had WiFi on to sync my Google account and download applications. If you're really concerned about battery life then there's always the option of buying additional batteries.

Storage Space:
The phone comes with an internal 512MB worth of space and you can expand it with a microSD card (Vodafone will provide an 8GB one upon purchase). This space might seem too little for people who want to use the Magic as a media player but for those who want to use it for standard phone functions it should be enough, which brings me to the next 'meh'.

Personal Media Player:
The Magic allows you to play audio in standard formats (Mp3, AAC, AAC+,WMA,WAV,MIDI OGG etc.) but I wouldn't use this as my main music player because there is no headphone jack (you gotta use the headphones provided with a mini-usb port) and there is not enough space to store all the music I have.

The video quality of the player is average. They support 3GP (standard video format mobiles shoot in) and Mp4 though they are pretty picky about what kind of Mp4 you're playing (just like the iPod).

The photo viewer is alright but the lack of multi-touch to zoom in out as well as flicking to browse though photos makes it clunky and similar to your standard mobile phone.

Overall I would say that if you're looking for your mobile to become your media player then you're in for a disappointment. I would suggest getting an iPod Touch for your portable entertainment needs and leave the Magic to do the other smartphone stuff. You'll save a lot on battery life in the process too.

Expect the phone to slow down when you wake it from its sleep or when you call upon the keyboard. This happens occasionally and it only lasts a second so it's nothing you should worry about.

Why I do not like it

There is nothing that brought out pure hate when using the Magic. The 'meh' bits didn't affect me that much and I'm really happy with the phone. Of course there'll always be room for improvement (better camera with flash, longer battery life) but for New Zealand's first Android mobile I would say that it is a great introduction to a platform that we might all be using in the future.

But, I do hate something that relates to the HTC Magic. Something that would turn me off purchasing the mobile. The price.

If you look at the HTC Magic by itself, you would not only see what an overall great smartphone it is, you would think that it is an essential gadget for anyone to have to keep yourself organized and in touch with the rest of the world. It is light, of an appropriate size and relatively easy to use. I would highly recommend this to anyone.

However if you compare it to another smartphone in the market right now you might think twice about purchasing the mobile.

As I've mentioned before, the price of the HTC Magic is steep and too close in comparison to the iPhone 3G and the future 3GS. Should the 32GB iPhone 3GS be sold at the same price as the current 16GB iPhone 3G is selling at ($1129) you would be paying $30 less for 23.5GB less of space (if you use the Vodafone provided 8GB card). And this is not factoring points like the iPhone is a great all round portable media player with a headphone jack (and of course it's the most popular phone around).

I also made the argument on a forum somewhere that Apple's hardware and OS were developed by in-house developers in the US which does explain the premium price we have to pay for the iPhone and its seamless interface. In the case of the Magic I made the PC/Windows parallel which meant that the phone should cost significantly lower since the developer is from Taiwan and they're using an the Android platform which is free. $30 is a tiny gap to separate both smartphones from each other.

Update: Also, the lack of QuickOffice and voice search is a kick to the balls Vodafone. Why?

My current verdict: Wait for the iPhone 3GS prices to be announced before making a decision. Chances are you'll get a better deal with the 3GS. If however you harbor an intense hatred for all things Apple then I would highly suggest you get the HTC Magic because it is a brilliant phone.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

iPhone 3.0 Update is out. MMS, tethering are go.

By Benedict Wee

Apple has released its annual firmware update today and all iPhone users can download it for free via iTunes. The update contains the following features:
  • Cut, Copy and Paste which works with all applications
  • Undo support
  • Landscape Keyboard in email, notes and messages
  • Spotlight: Search across your phone
  • Rent and purchase videos from the iPhone via iTunes
  • Parental Controls
  • HTTP streaming for audio and video quality adjusted to connection speed
  • Auto-fill in Contact Information
  • 30 language support including Hebrew, Arabic, Thai, Greek with landscape keyboards
  • Find My iPhone feature: Only for MobileMe customers. Shows you on the map where your phone is. Message your iPhone. People can pick up your phone and call the number you specify. 
  • Remote wipe command: Erase all of your data from a PC/Mac. Data is restored once your phone is returned by synching iTunes.
  • Peer to Peer support for multiplayer gaming.
  • Accessory support.
  • Google maps can be put into any application.
More importantly, firmware 3.0 allows you to send MMS messages as well as providing tethering (Share your iPhone internet connection with a PC, Mac over USB or Bluetooth). Bear in mind that you've got to reset your iPhone first before the settings take place. iPod Touches get the update too though features are confined to non-phone functions and you'll have to pay US$9.95.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

HTC Magic pricing is out. Commence daylight robbery.

By Benedict Wee

Vodafone has posted the price of New Zealand's first smartphone to run Google's Android OS, and man is it expensive. 

The phone by itself costs $1099, $30 lesser than a 16GB iPhone 3G. If you look at it in a storage perspective, you can get 7.5GB worth of space for the extra $30 (the Magic's internal memory is 512MB and it comes with an 8GB microSD card).

Should you choose to sign up for a 24 month contract you'll be able to get a mobile subsidy of 
  • $780 for $130/mth with 250 mins 600 texts and 500mb data (thus $319 for the phone),  
  • $580 for $80/mth with 120 mins 600 texts and 250mb data (thus $519 for the phone), 
  • $530 for $60/mth with  60 mins 200 texts and 250mb data (thus $569 for the phone), 
  • $480 for $40/mth with  20 mins 100 texts and 250mb data (thus $619 for the phone).
This is the same subsidy and price plans the 16GB iphone 3G currently has. 

Pricing the Magic at this high a mark up could be dangerous for Vodafone. Should the new iPhone 3GS models be released with the same price point as the 3G models you'll be looking looking at the 7.5GB worth of extra storage space expand drastically to 23.5GB (with the 32GB iPhone 3GS) for just an extra $30. Thus my advice is to wait till Apple's next-gen iPhones to be released (somewhere around July) before considering getting a new smartphone. 

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

PSP Go's battery worse than PSP 3000, mystifies everyone.

By Benedict Wee

When Sony's first portable gaming system was released way back I chided the handheld for choosing to use discs instead of carts as they were noisy when running and because they took a considerable effort to read (they used lasers), the battery life was short (3-6 hours) and thus not very portable-friendly. 

Jump to a couple of years later when the 2000 model (aka Slim and Lite) was released and we find that the new battery gave the same amount as its predecessor, however if you used the old PSP battery (which would give a slight bulge to the back of the gadget) you would get 8-10 hours of playtime while the Sony stamina battery would give over 10 hours which made it a decent competitor to the DS lite. 

Last year's introduction of the PSP 3000 gave us a slightly longer battery life (4-6 hours) which was pretty alright. 

It would be logical to think that the PSP Go would have an improved battery life because games would run from the 16GB hard drive instead of using UMDs. Unfortunately Sony is beyond petty things like logic. Siliconera has found out that the newly announced portable will have the old PSP's 3-6 hours of battery life. Bear in mind we might be paying $485 for this new handheld and combine that with the fact that it has the same functions the older models posses and you'll get one more reason why you shouldn't be buying this gadget. 

Monday, June 15, 2009

HTC Magic un-delayed?

By Benedict Wee

Tech blogger Ben has received an invite for the HTC Magic launch party on the 24th of June. So the word "launch" in launch party should be the day the Android mobile is released yeah? I've got some theories:
  • It is not really a launch, more of a preview so Vodafone can wave the phone in front of the media to get them hyped up thus making it more of a "tease party" which is pretty cruel to those who have been anticipating the mobile.
  • It is a launch party but only for a select few so only certain people will be able to get the phone early. Maybe this has something to do with the pre-registration
  • It is the actual launch date and all of NZ can rejoice because they won't be Android deprived any longer!
Personally I hope it's the latter but chances of the first two are more likely. This doesn't really matter for those who really wanted the Magic cause they probably found another way to to purchase the phones. Still it would be nice to see Vodafone getting their act together and giving us an actual launch date so the other Kiwis can wait in anticipation. 

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Saturday Edition: WWDC and the HTC Magic

By Benedict Wee

Apple's yearly WorldWide Developers Conference was a roller coaster of emotions for me. On one hand, I was excited about all MacBooks going Pro and the new OSX -Snow Leopard- costing only US$30 to upgrade for Leopard making it the cheapest operating system upgrade ever. On the other I was disappointed at the "upgrades" in the new iPhone 3GS which brings it to the same standard most smartphones in the market already posses. More ups and downs here

We find out what's inside the new iPhone 3GS and how they'll be able to play better videogames the older models can't

On a more local note we find out that the HTC Magic from Vodafone has been delayed and will release in the same month as the iPhone 3GS though there is no confirmed launch day. Those who are interested can sign up on Vodafone's site as they've started pre-registration. I (and a couple of others), not wanting to wait for an ambiguous date and being tempted by Vodafone reps, Ben and other people who already have the mobile (or at least tried it out) have taken the initiative and bought it from an importer. My first impressions of New Zealand's first Android phone are here.

A more pressing matter is new mobile service provider 2degrees resigning from the TCF (Telecommunications Carriers Forum) which is supposed to promote healthy competition between telcos and thereby allowing us to benefit with cheaper call/text/data costs. They claim that the forum is headed by the three big providers (Telecom, Vodafone and TelstraClear) which is counterproductive to the cause and might explain why we our services are still at an all time high. Something smells fishy here. 

And what do we have to look forward to next week? 

Well I'll be concentrating heavily on my newly bought HTC Magic so expect a review soon. More Magic news includes Paul Brislen (Vodafone's External Communications Manager) releasing more details on the phones launch, including when paid apps in the Android Market will be available. I'll also be checking out the free apps in said Market and will be posting a list of recommendations for Android users. 

Also, update 3.0 for the iPhone and iPod Touch will be released on the 17th. Will give a review on that too.

That's about all we have for this week. Have a great weekend everyone! 

Friday, June 12, 2009

HTC Magic: First Impressions (Updated, full)

By Benedict Wee

The courier just dropped by and delivered my HTC Magic which I ordered from a 3rd party supplier because I wouldn't wait for Vodafone's non-existent release date. Will be positing my impressions as I start using it:

9.13 am: It's arrived!! Yay!!

9.14 am: Hmm, the box the phone came in looks cheap and badly designed. Like those China phones you get on Trademe. But it's what's inside that matters no?

Phone has a plastic protector surrounding it with an amusing caution on the front:

"... Please remove the device from your pants when sitting down..." 

9.15 am: Argh.. trying to open to back of the mobile but don't know how to. 

9.16 am: Oh, looked at the Quick Start Guide and it comes off the same way most phones do.

9.17 am: Took out charger and starting to charge the phone. Oooh! It comes with a 2GB micro SD card! Good thing cause I thought I had to go search for one online. Other stuff that came with the phone: Data cable to connect to PC, Pouch, mini-USB 2.0 Earphones (they do not have a standard headphone jack so don't expect this to be your mp3 player), warranty statement and a list of international HTC care numbers (there is one for New Zealand).

9.20 am: Reading the specs of the Magic:
  • Processor: 528 MHz with 288MB of RAM which is pretty good since the new iPhone 3GS's is 600MHz and 256 MB RAM. 
  • Network: 900/2100 MHz which means it'll work perfectly on Vodafone, not so much Telecom whose network is 850/2100 MHz.
  • Capable of up to 2Mbps up-link and 7.2 Mbps down-link speeds which doesn't really mean anything since our connection doesn't go that high.
  • Other connections: GPS, Bluetooh 2.0 and WiFi.
  • Camera: 3.2 MP with autofocus.
  • Audio: plays Mp3s and assorted audio files (AAC, AAC+, WMA, WAV, MIDI etc..).
  • Video: Plays Mp4s and 3GP (the video format most mobiles use).
  • Battery: Talk time up to 450 mins, Standby 420 hours.
  • Expansion Slot: microSD (Which they included in the package).
9.33 am: Going to start prepping my Google account to sync with the phone. More impressions later. 

11.30 am: Found a program that syncs contacts and calendars between OSX (Mac), Google, MSN Hotmail (Windows Live), Outlook (and Express), Windows Mail and Yahoo onto one site. It's pretty neat and very convenient. It's called Plaxo

12.15 pm: Put in my SIM and microSD card. This phone is pretty light (116 gm) and slightly shorter than the iPhone. Its screen is smaller though. The Magic is taking me through the keyboard tutorial, it's pretty much the same as the iPhone except there are more options of words to use from if you type wrongly. Also a neat feature, should you choose to use the wrong word you keyed in because it might be text language or slang (i.e. yup) it will be saved in the dictionary for future use. It's started to ask me for my Google account. Will skip it cause I don't wanna use my mobile's 3G network. Went to Settings and configured WiFi connection and logged in with my Google account..

My home screen

12.17 pm: .. and my contacts, calendar and email are synced. That was pretty fast. The interface is smooth like the iPhone's; homepages are navigated with finger swipes while moving app icons are done by holding them down. There are slight differences, like a tab containing all the apps on the phone at the bottom which you pull up. Sorta like accessing Program Files from the Start button on Windows. If you want to remove the icon on the screen hold and drag it into the bottom tab which turns into a bin symbol. This does not delete the app however, it just removes the shortcut. The other difference is a drop down notification bar on the top. If you see icons on the upper left of your mobile it means that you have received something (like a text or email or finished downloading an app). Just pull down the bar like you did with the bottom tab to preview and access the thing you were notified of and to clear all notifications. Heading into the Android Market to download apps now. 

The bottom tab pulled up

The notifications tab pulled down

12.30 pm: Have downloaded most apps I researched on but can't find the others. Curious that the apps I could find do not require payment, in fact all of the apps I see on the Market are free. Will do some research online and ask Ben on his blog if he's got the same problem. Meanwhile arranged the phone lock security feature from Settings. It looks pretty cool (circles are arranged 3x3 and you trace a figure on them to form an unlock key) but at the end of the day it's just a glorified keypad. 

The unlock screen
1 pm: Oh alright, turns out that paid apps on Android Market will be rolled out region by region because of exchange rates (USD) and is dependent on the carrier of the country. Since ours is Vodafone and they've yet to release the Magic, I won't be able to download paid apps till they launch phone. Poo. 

Meanwhile I've learnt the difference between an icon app and a widget. The icons have to be touched before an application is run (e.g touch the Messaging icon to access the texts) while widgets (similar to the ones on Windows Vista and Mac) are applications that are run from your home screen and usually take up more screen space than an icon does. Google has included widgets like an analog clock and the Google search bar with others like Google Calendar and a music player which can be accessed by touching an empty space on the home screen then choosing 'Widgets'. Other widgets like weather can be downloaded from the Market.

2 pm: Been trying out the Camera and Camcorder functions. Works pretty well and makes me wonder why these were touted as new features for the iPhone 3GS when they've been around for a long time now (the compass was present in the Magic's predecessor, the G1). 

The Digital Compass app.

9 pm: Drove 4 hours to Christchurch and played with the Digital Compass and Google Maps, it's pretty cool the way the map orientates itself with the help of the compass so you know which way you're heading. However the No Signal Alert app got a tad annoying beeping in and out of reception so I turned it off. Text messaging is the same with the iPhone, messages are displayed in a conversation method (Your text, replier's text, your reply text etc.) instead of individual text boxes.  

My first impressions of the HTC Magic are pretty positive and I do like using the Android OS, it feels like I'm using a mobile version of Windows (the actual WindowsMobile OS is crap). Will continue to use the phone for awhile before posting a review which will come up in a couple of days.  

Free music video streaming available for PS3 Kiwis

By Benedict Wee

Sony's music video streaming service is available for free for Playstation 3 owners in PAL countries (this means us in New Zealand). Vidzone allows you to not only stream videos from your favorite artists but create playlists as well. The service can be downloaded from the Playstation Store now. 

Thursday, June 11, 2009

2degrees: I will not be part of the Empire!

By Benedict Wee

New mobile communications company 2degrees has resigned from a self-regulatory group that was supposedly set up to promote competition amongst New Zealand telcos. The Telecommunications Carriers Forum (TCF) works collaboratively on the development of key industry standards and codes of practices that underpin the digital economy of New Zealand. In short, they ensure that no one network provider has a stranglehold on the market and that there is fair competition amongst the other telecommunication companies. 

But 2degrees claims that TCF is set up and largely controlled by Telecom, Vodafone and Telstra, the three major players in the industry which means that they are financially inclined to support their own personal causes. Bill McCabe - 2degrees' Chief Commercial Officer- believes that the lack of effective competition and consumer choice continue to be the most pressing concerns of the Telecommunications Industry and that the TCF is not best placed to promote it:

"The stated goal of TCF is to promote competition for the long term benefit of New Zealanders, but its board is dominated by the three biggest incumbent networks whose financial incentives will be to maintain their dominance of the market. Any real promotion of competition by these firms would be counter-intuitive. TCF membership is therefore an unnecessary and time consuming distraction for 2degrees,"

With 2degrees accusing Telecom of employing bullying tactics previously, one can't help and come to the conclusion that the current telcos are trying to gang up to force 2degrees out of the telco business. It could be possible that they've seen the new company's price plans and are viewing them as a credible threat. 

2degrees News Site

iPhone 3GS: Faster, better looking graphics and will have games that the iPhone 3G can't play

By Benedict Wee

Those people who are thinking of purchasing the cheaper 8GB iPhone 3G might want to think twice if they're planning on playing games on their mobiles. AppleInsider has found out that the new iPhone 3GS will have a more powerful 3D chip that will allow an improved experience of games and applications. 

In addition, the guys at Gizmodo have uncovered the new iPhone 3GS's hardware configuration; a 600 MHz CPU and 256MB of RAM. This is a significant improvement to the 3G model's 412MHz CPU and 128MB RAM. 

The new chip will complement the new hardware upgrade which means faster rendering of graphics, a better frame rate and more detailed lighting. 

To explain things in a simpler way, the new iPhone will be able to run better looking games and applications. This means that developers will have the opportunity to create games with more depth that look pretty and because they are using an improved version of the program (OpenGL ES 2.0), it means that all previous generation iPhones and iPod Touches won't be able to run the aforementioned new games and applications. Also, developers might be able to create location-based games with the addition of the digital compass on the iPhone 3GS. 

This change won't happen immediately of course as there are many out there with previous generation iPhones and iPod Touches and developers will still want that share of the market but it will happen somewhere in the near future so signing up for a 24 months contract to get the 8GB iPhone 3G might not be the best of ideas. 

My advice is to get it without signing up for a contract but before all that we'll have to see if NZ gets the price drop first. 

HTC Magic delayed, releases same month as iPhone 3GS

By Benedict Wee

Paul Brislen -Vodafone's External Communications Manager- has mentioned on the Vodafone forums that the HTC Magic's launch date is now in July;

This happens to be the same month where the iPhone 3GS is expected to be released too. Looks like smartphone users will be torn between two of the best phones in the market next month. 

iPhone 3GS release dates from WWDC

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

HTC Magic now available for Pre-registration on Vodafone

By Benedict Wee

Vodafone's long awaited iPhone competitor; the HTC Magic is available for Pre-registration on their website. You'll get a pre-registration offer when you register though they did not specify what the offer was nor when will the phone be available but I guess they'll update you with news when it is available so I've signed up even though I'm expecting my imported Magic to arrive later this week.  If you're interested in an alternative smartphone without all the pretentiousness of Apple give the phone a look.

By iPhone competitor I meant Google's android operating system against the iPhone's. Not the actual phones themselves (even though the Magic is better in that department too). The android OS will be available on other mobile developer's smartphones (i.e Samsung, LG, Sony etc.) in the near future as well so if you don't like the look of the HTC model you can wait for the other companies to launch theirs. More info here

WWDC: What I loved and what I didn't

By Benedict Wee

Yesterday's keynote by Phil Schiller at Apple's WWDC brought about a mixed bag of surprises and disappointments for me. Waking up at 5 am, I didn't posses the mental capacity to give my thoughts of the conference but after a quick reset of my internal sleep clock I'm ready to talk about the highs and lows of yesterday's revelations. I believe in ending on a positive note so I'll be talking about the bad/meh stuff first. 

What I didn't like:
Different only on the inside

The iPhone 3GS
Firstly, it has a really confusing and silly name. There was a period where I was wondering if it's typed as 3G*space*S or just 3GS so I've decided to go with the latter even though there might be a problem pluralizing the name in the future or people wondering why I keep asking for $3000. Aside from that (petty) point, I was hoping for better upgrades in the Apple's new mobile. Video recording, a 3MP camera and voice control are features that other mobiles have had for a long time now and it should have been on the iPhone 3G -or even the first one- since many Apple users are in the art/design/photography/media industry and would depend on a decent camera. After that the only upgrades you get is a faster device and an electronic compass (which android phones had since day 1) which doesn't really make a significant difference to people. I wouldn't mind waiting a second more to start an application and I could get a compass anywhere.

What I would've liked to see was a front camera for video chat (and an ichat app to go along with it), bigger space (64GB) and probably come in a matte model to distinguish it from the previous generation's phone. I can't fit much into my 16GB iPod Touch anymore so if I were to buy an iPhone I'd probably have to get the 32GB one which still will not be enough for my videos and music and apps.

Firmware upgrade 3.0 for the iPhone/iPod Touch
There is no MMS support for iPhones when the firmware update hits which kinda sucks since it's been a standard function for mobiles for a long time now. The last I've heard on the Vodafone forum they have no news about supporting this function too. It's pretty ridiculous that they're taking so long just to get a simple program like this to work. Also, charging US$10 to upgrade your iPod Touch's firmware is pretty expensive (iPhone gets it for free).

MacBook Pro Battery
All new macbook pros will have in-built batteries which means that they're unremovable and for people (like me) who use their MacBooks as a desktop it means having to leave my notebook charged constantly or face the tedious act of scheduling charges just in case I need to travel. 

What I love:
Snow Leopard OSX
We've known about Apple's new OSX for their Macs and Macbooks for awhile now. The new user interface is pretty to look at, easy to use and it finally provides Exchange support. It also frees up 6GB of storage space which is a pretty neat feat to do when the logical train of thought is that it should take up more space when you upgrade.

I never paid too much attention to the specs and functions of this new operating system because I was attracted to Windows 7 and I didn't want to think about a new Mac OS which I'd have to pay over a hundred dollars for. It was a huge (and very pleasant) surprise when Phil announced that Leopard users only need to fork out US$30 for an upgrade to Snow Leopard and that is a price that I could get on board with. I don't think Vista users would be afforded a similar discount when 7 rolls out. 

MacBook Pro Family
Apple's announcement of the new 15" macbook pro and the 13" macbook upgrade to 'pro' status means that they might eventually phase out its white predecessor making all MacBooks equal. Besides that surface improvement, they'll all come with SD card readers and are upgradable to at least 8GB of memory which will set you up with a decent notebook for years to come so buying one of these new bad boys when they are released is a worthwhile investment. 

US$99 iphone 3G 
I've noticed that Apple is applying their MacBook/MacBook pro pricing models on the iPhone 3G and 3GS receptively which might prove successful in gaining converts to their brand. By allowing the previous 8GB model to stay at a reduced price, people who would never think of getting the expensive US$199 and US$299 models might consider getting its cheaper counterpart to try it out and once they've gotten familiar and comfortable with how to use the mobile's functions and OS they might purchase newer versions of the phone in the future. Brilliant marketing strategy Apple. 

Overall I would say that though the new iPhone announcement was disappointing, Apple made it up with their new line of MacBook Pros and the affordable OS. Right now I'm putting off a purchase of an iPhone till next year's WWDC but I am looking forward to getting that OS upgrade and possibly a new MacBook Pro for my partner who's in the market for a new notebook.