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The iPhone is grand, but is AT&T reaping the benefits of a new Apple “halo effect”?

The iPhone is grand, but is AT&T reaping the benefits of a new Apple “halo effect”?:

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Right now our biggest stories are about the iPhone 2 and how it’s going to revolutionize mobile communications. Apple did it before with the original iPhone, setting the stage for a number of wannabes and imitators. This means the bar for the follow-up handset is high, though Apple is likely able to hit the mark. With its shortcomings, there’s plenty or room for improvement in the iPhone.

That means that all eyes this week will be on the company Steve Jobs founded. But what about the other half of the iPhone equation, AT&T Wireless? Most people forget that a cell phone, as a piece of hardware, is pretty useless without the wireless network to make it work. Sure, you can unlock the iPhone and use it on any GSM network, but as it is most iPhone users stay with AT&T, and it’s not just contractual obligations.

AT&T has quietly been transforming into a much maligned poorly rated carrier into the high-techest carrier in North America, and the iPhone has a lot to do with the transition. But is it all iPhone, or is AT&T just playing it smart?

AT&T before it was AT&T, but after it was the first AT&T

The original AT&T Wireless was a fully owned part of AT&T, after the telecom giant bough a smaller cellular carrier and absorbed it. Later, it spun it off as its own company to maximize profitability. When this happened it also acquired its own customer service team. Though it was far from perfect, the service provided was reasonable. Later it rolled out a nationwide GSM network, alongside T-Mobile and Cingular.

T-Mobile was known for having good customer service and poor coverage. Cingular was known for the opposite, crap service and good coverage. AT&T was a compromise so it became quite popular.

About five years ago, Cingular bought AT&T, who rolled out its ill-fated M-Mode EDGE system while deploying its fast, next-gen 3G system. The two companies combined, but not without many growing pains.

Customers who were formerly AT&T had an ultimatum: switch to new Cingular plans — with a contract extension — or be shut out of upgrading services or handsets. This upset many long-time, happy AT&T customers. It was also a prelude to things to come.

att store iphone line

Eventually all customers were “converted” to the Cingular fold, but customer service nightmares were rampant in message boards. When calling for service, a user wouldn’t have any idea if they were going to get AT&T support (Blue) or Cingular support (Orange). There was no cross training, leading to horrible support on both sides, though it wasn’t the fault of the service reps. This went on for months and months until the Blue side was finally integrated.

Cingular went on to have some of the worst customer service ratings of any carrier ever. It was hemorrhaging customers to T-Mobile, happy that they could unlock their handsets and get better service with comparable plans without much up-front cost.

Meanwhile, SBC, majority owner of Cingular, bought up AT&T Wireless’s former parent, AT&T, rebranding itself with the ancient moniker. The “New AT&T” as it was called then bought up the other major shareholder in Cingular, Bell South. Having complete control of the wireless carrier, it was rebranded as AT&T Mobility.

The good news is that the mergers brought a new focus to the company formerly called Cingular, with the new entity having high marks in service. But it’s what happened next that starting the ball rolling to make it the second largest cellular network in the US.

Enter the iPhone

Before the merger took place, when it was just rumors on forums, Apple had inked a five-year exclusivity deal with Cingular for its iPhone. Steve Jobs cited Cingular’s advanced network as the main reason, as no other US competitor had the technology in place to make the iPhone’s Visual Voicemail work, one of the key selling points. While the iPhone at first didn’t take advantage of Cingular’s 3G network, there were other factors at work that made it an attractive partner.

As the Cingular to AT&T transition finished, the iPhone became one of the new companies greatest sellers. Apple negotiated for special plans for the iPhone users, meaning people could use the hardware to its greatest extent.

At the same time, AT&T added many mid-to-high-end devices to its lineup, including several Blackberries, Windows Mobile smartphones, and other feature-rich handsets. AT&T was aiming at the top end of the market, and at first analysts were worried it would cannibalize its own iPhone sales.

But the iPhone sold well enough. Soon, AT&T introduced the nation’s first video chatting system for handsets for phone-to-phone video calls. This is something communications companies have been promising for years, and now people finally had it.

There was concern, though, that it was only on particular devices. There weren’t many, and other than the video features they paled in comparison to the feature-stocked and elegant iPhone.

This is where the iPhone 2, with its purported forward-facing iChat camera, comes in.

The iPhone had without a doubt the industry’s best handheld Web browser as well as the best music phone ever made. With the update expected Monday, the iPhone should get the video chat as well. This means that the iPhone will be the top choice for any AT&T subscriber.

AT&T goes next-gen

What AT&T is excited about, though, is the interoperability. The video chat on the iPhone will work with any other video chat-enabled AT&T phone. With users flocking to the carrier for the iPhone, others will be happy with standard phones with the feature.

The technology the carrier has in place for this kind of communication, as well as the improved customer service, means that many people are looking intently at AT&T. The question is this: Does AT&T owe its current success to Apple? Or, more to the point, does it owe its success to the iPhone?

att video share site

There’s a “halo effect” that many attribute to the spike in sales of Mac computers. The idea is that the iPod was such a hit that people started to consider Macs again, or, put more simply, iPod sales boosted Mac sales. Could the halo effect also apply to AT&T?

A good indicator would be Starbucks’s recent decision to choose AT&T over T-Mobile to run its in-store Wi-Fi networks. The Wi-Fi service difference between the two would be negligible, and T-Mobile already had hotspots in thousands of Starbucks locations across the country. So why change?

Sure, AT&T was rumored to offer special discounts on Wi-Fi to iPhone users, but it’s likely that was only part of the reason. AT&T, with the iPhone, video chat, fast 3G connectivity, and growing happy customer base, is probably the top carrier in the US right now.

You can’t attribute it all to the iPhone, but having the sleek black-and-chrome multipurpose handset as its flagship phone, and with all things associated with it, certainly helps in the cultural cachet department. With luck AT&T can continue to use this momentum to stay on top, and on Monday we should get some clue as to what the future holds.

(Via CrunchGear.)

June 8, 2008 Posted by | Technology | Leave a comment

Battlemodo of Highest Res Video Goggles: Zeiss Cinemizer vs. Myvu Crystal [Review]

Battlemodo of Highest Res Video Goggles: Zeiss Cinemizer vs. Myvu Crystal [Review]:

Despite the stigma I’ve always wanted a pair of video goggles. I never did mind the nerd factor accompanying any piece of gear, at least not after admiring sci fi heroes like Cyclops of the X-men and Jordie from ST:TNG. But they’ve never been cheap or high-res enough until now. The Zeiss Cinemizer ($400) and the Myvu Crystal ($300) both do 640×480 resolution, which is best in class. And so today I’ll try to figure out which one is better headset.
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Visual Quality
I watched lots of snowboarding videos on both setups. Both sets have the same resolution, but the screens look bigger and with less ambient light and distracting reflection in the Zeiss. It’s supposed to simulate a 45 inch screen at 6 feet away, but all I know is that it’s a lot more in your face than the Myvu. The Zeiss and Myvu’s brightness, contrast and black levels were on par with each other. I do wish they came in 16:9 versions, but the 4:3 ratio is probably more practical. There’s a 3D setting on the Zeiss, which is to be used with clips provided on their website, but as most content isn’t 3D, it didn’t factor into my testing.

Comfort
The Zeiss has adjustable head pieces, and a large and narrow nose piece. It’s a much heavier set up, however, and so the Myvu is much more comfortable, with its adjustable nosepiece. I’d be more likely to use the Myvu out of the house, given their weight.

Audio
The Zeiss has mounted earbuds on adjustable plastic sticks that don’t actually interface directly with your canals. (They float over them.) The Myvu’s buds go into your ears, isolate a lot more sound and produce better audio, although the dangly wires add to the clutter.

Jordie Factor
The Cinemizers are far uglier than the lighter Myvu Crystals, partially from the bulging faux-eye pieces packed with the eyesight correcting diopter glass (+/-3.5D) and knobs, partially from just being too damn far apart. The Myvus are also a lot easier to walk around with, as you can see easily above and below the screen making driving with these a lot safer. (I kid!)

Controls
The Zeiss has a really nice rubber remote with contrast/brightness settings, volume, FF/RW, Play/Pause buttons and a nice clip. That leads to the battery dock, which holds the iPod and has a power button. The Myvu’s controller has individual brightness and contrast settings, plus volume, but no navigation.

Compatibility and cabling
The Zeiss comes with a number of click in plastic holders for the touch, 3G Nano, Classic 80gb, 5th gen 60/80GB iPod, and Classic 160GB. There’s no case for an iPhone the Classic 160 fit fine. There’s a 1/8th inch jack for audio/video input, but a cable is not included. The Myvu comes in iPod or universal kits, but the universal kit excludes the iPod dock connection. The universal kit has adapters for regular composite jacks, Zune, Gigabeat, Archos, and 5th gen video iPods. The Myvu’s cabling is also a mess, since you’ve got a separate battery/remote jack which interfaces with the iPod through another cable. It’s messy. The Zeiss’s design bundles the battery with the already bulky iPod and so the only spare part is a remote. Very nice.

Battery Life
Both claim 4 hours of life. It’s worth noting that other headsets from Myvu with 320 pixel wide images can do 10 hours of battery life. Both charge via USB, with the Zeiss charging a minimum of 2.5 hours and the Myvu finishing in 4 to 12 hours. (Rated.)

Accessories/Extras
The Zeiss has a really nice case, while the Myvu has a mere bag.

If visual quality is your ultimate requirement, and you’re married to an iPod, the Zeiss makes better sense. But the Myvu’s ability to play with other video sources out of the box and its $100 cheaper price tag make it a little bit better for the general buyer. Both will give you a charisma penalty of 3-4 points, but you know, we don’t care about that kind of thing around here. [Zeiss and Myvu]


(Via Gizmodo.)

June 7, 2008 Posted by | Technology | Leave a comment

The Crowd Takes On Naming Consultants With NameThis

The Crowd Takes On Naming Consultants With NameThis:

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Let me just say before I begin that I think everyone should come up with their own names. I could never understand why companies pay naming consultants to come up with empty product or company monikers that nobody can remember anyway. (Unless you are Altria, and you just want people to forget that you are really Phillip Morris). Well, now companies can ask strangers on the Internet to name their product. I’m not sure this is a much better idea, but it is more fun.

Crowdsourcing startup Kluster (which launched in February), publicly opened up a new site today called NameThis. It works pretty much like Kluster, except it is only for coming up with names for products or startups. A company pays $99 to put up a challenge describing the product or entity to be named, the community suggests names and votes for the best ones by investing their allotted ‘Watts.” The people who come up with, influence, or invest the most in the top three names split $80 among themselves, and Kluster keeps the rest as its fee.

There are obvious problems with this and with crowdsourcing in general (for instance, read about the implosion at Cambrian House). But one thing this has going for it is simplicity. Anyone can come up with a name. (Anyone can steal a name too, but that is another issue).

The site just launched today, so most of the “namestorming” challenges are just for fun. They include thinking up a better name for the Verizon G’zOne, Hot & Crusty Bakery, the Chevy Nova, Wolf Blitzer, and the Microsoft Zune. Some contenders so far: Divr (for Verizon), the Chevy Supernova, Wülf Blitzkreig (sic), and the Microsoft Rune (spelled correctly, but would be more apropos if spelled Ruin). There is even one real company that needs a name for a universal inbox service.

Just to see what people would come up with., I asked Kluster to put up a challenge to rename our recently launched video site TechCrunch Elevator Pitches. We went through an internal debate of our own before settling on that name. And some of our rejected candidates, like CrunchTime and PitchCrunch, have already come up independently on NameThis. There are also some we didn’t think of: IdeaCrunch and LaunchCrunch. Most of the rest are subpar. But you only need one good name.

Did we pick the best name or is the crowd coming up with better options? (Not that we are going to change the name. This is purely an exercise.)

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Crunch Network: CrunchBoard because it’s time for you to find a new Job2.0

(Via TechCrunch.)

June 7, 2008 Posted by | Technology | Leave a comment

Stir Mug Does All Of The Work For You

Stir Mug Does All Of The Work For You:

By Luke Anderson

I don’t know much about coffee, or exactly how much it should be stirred, but I have it on good authority that if you don’t get it properly mixed up, it can taste pretty bad. You have a few options for stirring up your cup of Joe such as spoons, stir sticks and a self-stirring mug. That’s right, now you don’t even need to bother stirring it yourself.

This coffee mug comes with a special base that will keep things mixed up for you while you’re busy typing or playing solitaire at your desk. They’ve kindly included a clear snap-on lid that will prevent any spills, which is probably best for a drink that’s best served hot.  This cool little gadget can be had for just $19.

[ Gevalia ] VIA [ Coolest-Gadgets ]

(Via OhGizmo!.)

June 5, 2008 Posted by | Technology | Leave a comment

Blast Your Silverware Clean With This UV Disinfector

Blast Your Silverware Clean With This UV Disinfector:

By Luke Anderson

How many times have you sat down at a restaurant and wondered just how clean the silverware is? Honestly, unless it looks really bad, I don’t really notice much. However, even if it looks clean, there could still be plenty of germs just crawling all over it. If you’re really paranoid about that kind of stuff, here’s a gadget for you.

This little Zadro Nano UV Disinfection Scanner will blast your fork (and anything else you point it at) with UV rays. Just hold it over your silverware for 10 seconds and 99.99% of the germs will be dead. That, or you could just wipe it down with your napkin and be done with it. That would certainly be cheaper than footing out $80 for one of these.

[ Sharper Image ] VIA [ Dvice ]

(Via OhGizmo!.)

June 3, 2008 Posted by | Technology | Leave a comment

Alien Video Uncovered: Real or Fake? [Alien Video Proof]

Alien Video Uncovered: Real or Fake? [Alien Video Proof]:

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As you probably know, some guy claimed he had definitive proof of the existence of aliens. Apparently, this video is that proof. Proof that aliens exist (and that they are just a bunch of perverted Peeping Toms.) I mean, they haven’t returned our calls yet, and someone actually thinks they are snooping through our home windows on foot? Do you think this is real or more fake than alien sex doll? [Thanks Brent]

Update: Here’s the official still image alien picture:
alienpicture_t600.jpg [Rocky Mountain]


(Via Gizmodo.)

June 1, 2008 Posted by | Technology | Leave a comment

Urine-Off Lets You Find, Get Rid of the Many, Many Pee Stains Around Your House [Embarrassing Stains]

Urine-Off Lets You Find, Get Rid of the Many, Many Pee Stains Around Your House [Embarrassing Stains]:

urineoff.jpgIf you’re like me, there is urine all over your house. You know how crazy life can get, what with trying to juggle a career, a social life and a family. Sometimes you just don’t know where that pee will end up! For a guy on the go like me, there’s Urine-Off. It’s spray that gets rid of pesky piss from wherever you spray it. It also comes with a helpful black light to help you find those “party stains,” as they’re known in my household. Finally, you can stop feeling guilty about peeing all over the place! It’s a weight off my shoulders, let me tell you. Don’t wait, buy yours today! [Product Page via NerdApproved]


(Via Gizmodo.)

May 25, 2008 Posted by | Technology | 1 Comment

OLPC XO Laptop 2.0 Has Dual Touchscreens, Looks Amazing and Future-y (Matt Buchanan/Gizmodo)

OLPC XO Laptop 2.0 Has Dual Touchscreens, Looks Amazing and Future-y (Matt Buchanan/Gizmodo):

Matt Buchanan / Gizmodo:

OLPC XO Laptop 2.0 Has Dual Touchscreens, Looks Amazing and Future-y  —  At OLPC’s Global Country workshop today, founder Nick Negroponte unveiled the next-gen XO Laptop, and it totally blows the original away.  About half XO 1.0’s size and more like a foldable book, it does away with the keyboard …

(Via Techmeme.)

May 20, 2008 Posted by | Technology | 1 Comment

ESPN unveils The Ultimate Remote, is WiFi worth $300?

ESPN unveils The Ultimate Remote, is WiFi worth $300?:

Filed under:

ESPN’s unleashing The Ultimate Remote, developed by tvCompass, complete with 2.2-inch QVGA LCD screen and 802.11 b/g WiFi stuffed in a 6.5 oz package. It’s certainly a serious contender with the Harmony One — and priced like it, at $300. The marketing info claims no PC is required for setup, recharging via USB, an internet browser with real time access to scores, fantasy info and TV listings for broadcast, cable and satellite from click365’s wireless partners. There’s even a messaging feature for texting from remote to remote, email, or to a cellphone. We got a glimpse of it at Microsoft’s booth during CES, and while it claims “Advanced Microsoft Windows operating software” it’s not talking about SideShow. It reminds us a lot of the Ricavision VAVE100 MCE/SideShow remote, but with a slightly different feature set. Father’s Day is coming up and suddenly walking over to the computer (or keeping a laptop or PDA/phone on the couch) is sounding like a lot of unnecessary work. Check after the break for a bigger pic with keypad breakdown, or head to Amazon to preorder.

[Via Electronista]

Continue reading ESPN unveils The Ultimate Remote, is WiFi worth $300?

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(Via Engadget.)

May 20, 2008 Posted by | Technology | Leave a comment

Sony Rolly finally brings the party Stateside

Sony Rolly finally brings the party Stateside:

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Everybody’s favorite dancing robot of questionable utility from Sony is finally making its way across that big wet thing that divides the fair lands of Japan and USA. The Rolly, in case you missed it, is tiny little wheeled bot that can blast some tunes out of its built-in speakers, move its cute little appendages to the music and spin around for that full-on dancing robot experience. The bot comes with pre-choreographed songs (“Also Sprach Zarathustra,” Avril Lavigne’s “Girlfriend” and Earth Wind and Fire’s “Boogie Wonderland” — all particular favorites of the Engadget staff), or you can use the choreography software to generate a dance for own tunes, or even program the dance yourself. The 2GB bot comes in black or white, and is available now online or in Sony Style stores for $400.

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(Via Engadget.)

May 20, 2008 Posted by | Technology | 1 Comment