Comcast is working to bring Skype video chat to their set-top boxes through the Xfinity service, and they've put together a video that gives the inside scoop on what it took to build the look and feel for Skype on your television. We've got the video for you above. No pricing or launch date has been announced yet, but we're curious what you'd be willing to pay for something like this from your cable TV provider. Hit us in the comments!
At the NCTA Conference in Chicago, Roberts characterized the demonstration as the next generation of Xfinity, the company's hybrid cable-based video/phone/data service. The company launched it two years ago as "Project Infinity".
First, however, Roberts showed off the future of the Comcast interface.
"What I want to show you today is not the future, but right here, right now," Roberts said, showing off the "Xcalibur" interface that is currently in trials in Augusta, Georgia.
Xcalibur is based on cloud computing - not clpoud storage, but cloud-computing. The guide actually resides in the cloud, Roberts said. Users can see a traditional channel view, or view programs by genre or for different users. An On Demand view also uses a similar format. The Xcalibur's new remote also uses RF technology, which is not limited by line of sight. Users can also type in "HBO" using numbers - like a phone number - and pulls in additional information via the cloud.
What does a wireless carrier do when it expects to cancel its unlimited data plan? Offer a data management service.
Verizon, which said in March that it plans to do away with its unlimited data plans by this summer, launched a Verizon Wireless Usage Controls service on Monday, with the ability to set usage allowances, place restrictions on when kids and other members can use their phones, and even block numbers.
Usage Controls is available for $4.99 per month per line, which is added to a customer's monthly service plan, Verizon said.
"Summer vacation means more time for the youngest customers who use Verizon Wireless phones to send and receive messages, download and use apps and games, surf the Web, and make calls on their cell phones," Verizon said. "But, with a few tools from Verizon Wireless, summertime doesn't have to mean unexpected high wireless bills."
The Samsung Nexus S 4G will be available from Sprint starting May 8, the carrier announced this morning.
Users can snap up the Android-based smartphone for $199.99 with a two-year contract in Sprint retails store, online, and at Best Buy.
Sprint and Samsung first announced plans for the Nexus S 4G in late March; it's Sprint's first pure-Google Android phone and the first stock Android phone with WiMAX.
The phone will run Android 2.3 Gingerbread and a 1-GHz processor. It features a 4-inch Super AMOLED 480-by-800 touch-screen display, a rear-facing 5-megapixel camera with camcorder and flash, and a front-facing VGA camera. The Nexus S 4G is Bluetooth-enabled, has stereo speakers, and a media player with 3.5mm stereo headset jack.
Sprint said the phone features a curved design that provides "a more comfortable look and feel," as well as a screen that "produces less glare than on other smartphone displays when outdoors, so videos, pictures and games look their best and the sun won't wash them out."
AT&T's bid for T-Mobile is now official. The carrier on Thursday filed the necessary paperwork with the Federal Communications Commission, kicking off what will likely be a in-depth review of the proposed merger.
In its filing, AT&T claimed that purchasing T-Mobile will allow it to deploy its 4G LTE network to 97 percent of the U.S. population, up from the 95 percent number it gave last month.
"After conducting a more refined analysis of the combined network, AT&T is increasing the scope of this commitment to 97.3 percent," the carrier said.
AT&T surprised the tech community recently when it announced plans to acquire T-Mobile for $39 billion. AT&T argued that the purchase will help stop the spectrum crunch and spur the companies's deployment of 4G service.
This will be the second LTE phone on Verizon's network, following the HTC Thunderbolt. The Droid Charge will be running Android 2.2 and powered by a 1-GHz processor. It will feature a 4.3-inch Super AMOLED screen, as well as an 8-megapixel rear-facing camera with LED flash, and a 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera for photos and video chatting.
The Droid Charge's Web browser will support Adobe Flash, and the phone will come loaded with Samsung Media Hub, which features movies and televisions shows to rent or buy.
Verizon claims that users can expect download speeds of 5 – 12 Mbps and upload speeds of 2 – 5 Mbps when connected to the 4G LTE network. The Droid Charge will also feature a mobile hotspot mode that allows up to 10 Wi-Fi enabled devices to tap into those 4G speeds, or up to five devices to connect when on the 3G network. Even better, Verizon is including the mobile hotspot feature at no additional cost for a limited time.
The Droid Charge will be available in Verizon stores and online for $299.99 with a new two-year contract. Verizon is also offering a $25 credit to the Samsung Media Hub for users purchasing the phone.
Gear Live has tested a number of devices on Verizon's 4G LTE network, and it is indeed fast. We will soon be testing the Droid Charge and will post a full review.
The image above is the result of a speed test using the HTC Thunderbolt on Verizon's 4G LTE network in Seattle. Techinically, Gear Live HQ is about a 20 minute drive north of Seattle, so even well outside the border of the metropolitan area, you still see speeds like this. Now, obviously Verizon isn't able to deliver this kind of speed everywhere that LTE is deployed, and as more devices are sold and the network gets more saturated, things will even out...but it shows the obvious potential that LTE has over other 4G technologies like WiMax. Now you can see why AT&T made the decision to buy T-Mobile. They have no way of competing with what Verizon is rolling out currently.
The first dedicated 4G LTE hotspot device is now available, as Samsung has released their 4G unit for Verizon Wireless. The hotspot will let you tether up to five devices over Wi-Fi, and in our 4G testing, if you're in an area with good coverage, you can see download speeds of up to 18 Mbps, and upload speeds of up to 10 Mbps. The devices will sell for $100 after $50 mail-in rebate (yeah, they still do those...) along with a two-year contract. Montly pricing starts at $50 for 5GB of data.
Sierra Wireless has a secret weapon in the hotspot wars: a booster dock for its new Sprint 4G Overdrive Pro mobile hotspot that can truly send its WiMAX reception and speeds into overdrive. Ensconced in the dock, 4G WiMAX reception jumps by 50 percent, a Sierra product demonstrator in the company's booth told me.
The $99.99 (minus $50 rebate) Overdrive Pro is better in every way than the Overdrive hotspot it replaced. It's smaller. It boots up faster. It has a bigger LCD screen to show status information. The back is a grippy, soft-touch plastic rather than the greasy, slick black plastic of the last model. It has easily accessible dual external antenna ports.
And it has that dock. The dock isn't very portable; it's about the side of an iPod dock. It's really made for your desk. Sprint is the only wireless carrier to offer truly unlimited 4G plans, so one of the aims may be for a docked Overdrive to double as an alternative to a home Internet connection.
Pop the Overdrive into the dock, and it can charge, tether to a PC as a modem, and gets that 50 percent signal boost. The dock will be available sometime in May, Sierra reps at the booth said. They weren't clear on the price.
The Overdrive Pro goes up against the new Novatel Wireless MiFi 4082, which I've been using at the show. The MiFi is smaller and classier-looking than the Overdrive; I suspect it will have slightly longer battery life, too, but that's without any real evidence. The MiFi's e-ink indicators don't give you nearly as much information as the Overdrive's LCD display, though, and it doesn't have the dock option.
We'll test both products as soon as we can get hold of them.
I'm addicted to 4G, and it could happen to you, too.
By now, almost everyone has seen TV commercials advertising 4G phones. Essentially, a 4G mobile hotspot lets you work anywhere as if you were at home or in the office with a fast broadband connection. With sustained average download speeds in excess of five megabits per second, it's likely you won't be able to tell the difference.
Granted, many felt the same way about the first 3G cellular modems released several years ago. But the Web has become much more advanced since then; all that extra AJAX and HTML5 code takes more bandwidth. People are also streaming more music and video these days. As a result, 3G no longer seems like enough.
In addition, the Apple iPhone 4 and Android smartphones running OS 2.2 (commonly known as Froyo) now offer mobile hotspot capability. That means that for an extra monthly fee, you can use your phone as a 4G hotspot for up to five devices—or even eight, in the case of the HTC Thunderbolt. You no longer need to buy a separate cellular modem, which was really just one more thing to carry around, charge all the time, and worry about losing. Mobile hotspot access averages $20 per month across the major U.S. carriers. That's not chump change, but it's a long way from the $50 to $60 per month a separate USB modem normally costs.
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