Have you been waiting for weeks, just itching to get your eyes and hands onto the screen of the HTC Evo 4G LTE? Well, your time has come, and we don’t blame you. The smart phone – available on Sprint for 199 – has a kickstand, has a sleek aluminum design , and high resolution 4.7-inch display. It’s thinner than the HTC One X, and it’s camera has undergone upgrades, as has the memory and operating system. The dedicated camera buttons are “slick” says CNET, and the camera’s LED flash and kickstand allows you to seriously upgrade your photos.

After a week-long delay due to a patent spat with Apple, it began shipping to Sprint customers last week.

That’s after HTC announced that imports of the devices were being delayed indefinitely by U.S. Customs officials over unresolved patent infringement issues with Apple that originated with a December ruling by the International Trade Commission. The ITC ruled that HTC infringed on Apple’s patent for data detection, which allows a mobile device to recognize items like e-mail addresses, phone numbers, and addresses in text and automatically move them to a calendar, dialer, or mapping application. The panel said in its ruling that it would impose an import ban on some of HTC’s products if the feature wasn’t removed by April 19, 2012 – Not surprisingly, immediately following that ruling, HTC announced it would remove the feature from “all of our phones.”

If you weren’t pining away for the Evo 4G LTE but rather the HTC One X – hey, maybe you don’t feel you have to be a trendsetter and you prefer saving dough over having the latest gizmo – check out the ranks of refurbished used cell phones online – surely, they include some snazzy One X versions that are nearly as cool as the new blood.

 

The Federal Communications Commission, according to Politico, is aiming to use friendly back-slapping and incentives instead of the “regulatory hammer” to monitor the booming wireless industry.

It seems that members of Congress and the FCC have decided that the mass of regulations designed to govern land lines is too cumbersome for the mobile business and have abandoned many of them by getting wireless carriers to voluntarily self-regulate on some new issues. One obvious reason, in addition to delaying innovations, is that it’s less costly than the old way of doing things (waiting for legislation or new rules).

Politico: “Anytime you can collaborate and work together with industry and get them to buy into an agreement with regulators — that offers a quicker set of solutions,” Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) told POLITICO.

Udall was part of a vocal congressional contingent that persuaded the nation’s four largest wireless firms in April to voluntarily create a database of stolen cellphones to help cut theft.

That’s just one example of how Washington is trying to avoid the myriad of regulations and rules that have caused decades of legislation and litigation for land-line telephone companies. Other such agreements require wireless companies to notify customers if they’re about to incur big charges.

Of course, one way consumers can regulate the industry is to vote with their feet. Perhaps that’s the only way we can regulate it. And, if you feel hemmed in by carrier or you’re not happy with your contract, one way to vote with your feet is to buy used cell phones that are unlocked. You have more variety and lower prices with used cell phones, and if they’re unlocked you’re literally not locked into any undesirable long-term contract and can travel the world freely without having to swap SIM cards. If thrift and freedom get your vote, it’s a no-brainer.

Verizon and AT&T will roll out shared-data pricing plans this year, according to this story, which points out that whoever makes the first move will transform the way the industry charges for wireless service. The shared plans – likely announced in the next couple of months — would let customers split one quantity of Internet data between their phones, iPads and other wireless devices, giving families, small businesses or gadget collectors a more economical option.

The companies, and industry analysts, say getting the approach right could lessen customer turnover and get more users to choose data plans, which earned 62.7 billion last year according to data from trade group CTIA. It could lower the fees paid by subscribers, while increasing network traffic and the cost of maintaining networks.

Most likely, once one U.S. carrier introduces a shared data plan, the rest of the industry will follow. As it does, the iPhone will likely continue to fuel demand for data with its easy-to-use data-intensive features like online apps and the Siri voice-activated assistant. Those families who want to save through a combined plan and by buying used cell phones should visit an online retailer like CellularTrendz.

During the outbreak of a wildfire recently near Conifer, Colorado, emergency responders were hampered by faulty communications. The result? Dozens of homes burned down, and at least two people died. In one particularly drastic example of the bungled response, people out of state got calls to evacuate while those in the danger zone did not. Granted, not all of the problems were with mobile technology, but the disaster shows just how crucial communication is to saving lives.

M2M technologies like those manufactured and distributed by Global Relief Technologies are being used to increase first responders’ efficiency and decrease response time. The company’s Rapid Data Management System provides the ability to collect, analyze and share data quickly and securely, and it just announced that it was accepted into AT&T’s IMAP (Industry&Mobility Alliance Program, which means its RDMS solution will be available through the carrier. It operates on the Android, Windows and iOS mobile platforms and utilizes an integrated GPS and GIS mapping capabilities. Most importantly, it enables satellite communication when wireless isn’t available.

With this new availability, first responders and their agencies can take the opportunity to use it with used cell phones as a money-saving avenue, not to mention provide international responders means of efficient response via discounted devices.

The company will discuss the technology at the June 12 Connected World Conference.

 

Not surprisingly, one of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s biggest goals as the company went public included a big focus on the mobile sector. Explaining his growth strategy to investors last week, according to Reuters, he said transforming the company’s mobile and advertising experience are top priorities this year.

So, what does that look like? One aspect is integrating online apps more strongly into Facebook, he said at an event that capped the first week of Facebook’s cross-country “roadshow” to pitch its highly anticipated initial public offering, as well as improving its mobile application, building stronger ties and incorporating its social network with other online apps. He also mentioned creating a “transformative” advertising experience.

The company is “just getting started” with its mobile app, Zuckerberg reportedly said on stage in a grey T-shirt and dark trousers at Palo Alto’s Crowne Plaza, flanked by Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg.

Facebook has a whopping 900 million users, so as it improves its mobile technology and more consumers buy smart phones, that works out to huge numbers of people Facebooking around town on their devices. And those of us who use and rehab used cell phones are among them, since even the last generation of iPhones and other devices run the Facebook app well.

 

Enterprising journalists like Newsweek’s Rana Faroohar and lauded economists like Joseph Stiglitz have written extensively about the U.S.’s divergent wealth patterns, describing how the industries hit hardest by the recession were the territory of the middle class and exacerbated an already growing market trend since the 80s of a widening gap between rich and poor.

Now we’re hearing evidence of it from an unlikely quarter: the CEO of AT&T.  He tells Bloomberg BusinessWeek that  the spending patterns of wealthy and poor Americans are growing farther apart.

“An economy of haves and have-nots is evident in both the consumer and business sectors, Stephenson said in an interview last week at Bloomberg headquarters in New York. Companies and individuals with money are spending it, while the rest are more constrained than usual, he said.”

And nearly three years after the official end of the last recession, he says, the numbers of new businesses being created has lagged, a troubling sign. “I’ve never seen it like this,” Stephenson said. “Small business starts are still negative. That used to be the early warning indicator. When you saw small business starts turn positive, that was a great sign.”

Government spending and near-zero interest rates have helped keep the U.S. economy growing, even as Europe falls back into recession, but businesses are not growing fast enough to expand the telecommunications much. While larger corporations are spending more such services, those investments are going toward efficiency and not toward expansion. Smaller companies aren’t even beginning to upgrade or expand telecommunications.

The one sector who is buying up a storm is the rich, who are so eager to upgrade their iPhones and other devices that the carrier’s ability to keep up with them is being tested. When it comes to the poor, not so much. Those who are still pinching pennies three years after the recession would do well to consider buying used cell phones, which are proliferating as savvy refurbishers exploit a relatively new market. It might not save the economy, but at least it’s supporting a growing sector of small business while saving consumer money. A win-win.

 

In keeping with the larger-is-better screen trend, Samsung has just released its Galaxy S3, “designed by humans and inspired by nature,” so says this promo video (we’re not sure exactly what that means, but hey, it sounds cool). The video goes on to say that, “despite its large 4.8 inch screen, it fits perfectly in your hands.” Really? If you’re a 300-pound gorilla? Maybe they mean it fits perfectly because the phone, while wide, is very slim. Sure, that must be it. In any case, those who are fans of the big and bigger screen direction of smart phones in general will be stoked to pick up this new model.

On the other hand, some of us prefer a screen that’s more like 3.5 inches wide, in part because we like to put it a pocket or slide it into a purse without having to buy a purse with larger pockets (we all know what happens when women place their phone in the main compartment of their purse, which is akin to the Bermuda Triangle and three times as large). If you fit into that category of consumer – and you for some reason take issue with the Samsung Galaxy S3’s capacity to take 20 consecutive photos or execute a file sharing “bump” with one touch to another phone, you should stick with your current model.

If you’re in the market for a new one and admire the Samsung but don’t want to drop the full price tag for the new model, browse the inventory of an online retailer that offers refurbished used cell phones. There are lots of lightly used Samsungs out there – not to mention iPhones – that are nearly as cool and not as pricey. And if you must have the new S3 and its 4.8-inch screen, then by all means, go buy one!

So, who’s using smart phones and who still hasn’t graduated from the ancient, barnacle-covered legions of so-called “dumb phones?” It may not be who you think it us. Check out this recent story from the Washington Post regarding a new Nielsen study:  

The smart phone revolution is definitely here, but it’s leaving some users behind. According to a Monday report from Nielsen that asked whether users were carrying smart phones or feature phones, minorities are more likely to adopt smart phones than whites, and women are slightly more likely to carry a smart phone than men.

Asian-Americans far outstrip other ethnic categories when it comes to smart phone adoption, with 67.3 percent reporting that they own a smart phone, as compared to 44.7 percent of whites. Hispanics were next, with 57.3 percent saying they owned a smart phone; 54.4 percent of African-Americans said that they had taken the plunge.

Fascinating. It seems that not only are white folks becoming the country’s minority (and those in places like, say, Arizona are none too happy about it), they’re also falling behind when it comes to adopting technology. Perhaps the explanation is age break-down, since our population is aging in general, but Latinos and other minorities have higher birthrates and thus younger ranks of shoppers. Maybe if you interviewed Gov. Jan Brewer’s white, aging peers, most of them would be using used cell phones from 1999.

Not that we’re against white people, or used cell phones. Not at all. The thing is though, these “dumb phone” owners should be reminded that you can have a less expensive phone and still have a used one. CellularTrendz and other online dealers provide a large selection of used smart phones for nearly half the price.

It was pretty cool when the iPhone’s touch screen appeared on the market. But what about touch-free screens? That means you could issue commands to your phone and open, close and run apps with mere gestures that your phone would read, a la Star Wars. Huawei Technologies is on the case. Aiming to bring touch-free smartphones and more inexpensive cloud storage to users, the Chinese company is boosting its research and development spending in order to bring what it refers to as “disruptive” technologies to market.

Last year, says the above story, the company spent US$3.76 billion on research and development, resulting in 11,000 new employees hired for the company’s R&D efforts. For this year, Huawei’s R&D spending is expected to grow by 20 percent to about $4.5 billion.

From the above Network World story: One technology the company has been working on is touch-free smartphones, allowing the devices to read users’ hand gestures in order to initiate commands. “What if you use the camera of a tablet or a smartphone and use it to capture the visualization of your hands,” he said. “So imagine instead of touching a smartphone, you can actually have a three-dimensional interaction with it.”

Touchscreen smartphones and tablets currently allow for the use of several fingers to issue certain commands when pressed on the display. But users only have five fingers on a hand, limiting the number of commands that can be made, Roese said. Using hand gestures, however, would allow users to more easily bring objects forward, push them back or rotate them within the smart phone’s graphical user interface, he said.

That’s a market development that anyone in the industry, whether you sell or buy tablets, iPhones or used cell phones, should keep an eye on.

 

Chris over at CNET.com has a good point about the shifting wants of moms on Mother’s Day. Apparently, they’re getting a bit weary of the unsurprising bouquets of flowers delivered to them on that particular day. Tablets and phones are inching their way up on the wish lists of mothers ’round the world, according to a survey by Harris Interactive on behalf of Ebates.com.

As Chris says, “It contained within it so many poignant revelations that it almost brought me to tears, depressed at the misunderstandings that plague human relationships. Here is what men think women want for Mother’s Day, in order: Flowers, Jewelry, Spa Day, Candy. Yes, candy. Here is, according to this survey, what women (with kids under the age of 18) really want, in order: “Spa Day, Flowers, Jewelry, Tablet/Smartphone. So you see how little women are understood by members of the opposite sex. Women want a rest from being mothers. They want to be indulged.”

He also points out that while it may seem that the tablet/smart phone desire came in a distant fourth on the list, there was only a 6 percent gap between the devices and jewelry.

Not to make an obvious statement, but we all know that an iPhone costs just a tad more than a dozen roses. And for some folks, a $650 phone isn’t exactly in the budget. Perusing the online selection of used cell phones is a great way to find a high-level smart phone that Mom would love, without spending nearly $1,000. And she’ll still love it legions more than the usual bunch of flowers or box of chocolate.

 

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