Yes, you can get a free cell phone with government assistance. If you make very little money, or you're part of other federal programs such as public housing, food stamps, SSI, or Medicaid, you can get a free mobile phone paid for by a fee on everyone else's phone bills.
This program has been around for years. According to the FCC, the government has been subsidizing landlines since 1984; the program, now called LifeLine, added mobile phones in 1997. LifeLine was enhanced in 2005 during the Bush administration, and TracFone's SafeLink, the first purely free LifeLine phone brand, started disbursing free phones in 2008.
"The telecoms haven't done a very good job promoting LifeLine, and the penetration rates have been dismal," said Jose Fuentes, Tracfone's director of government relations. TracFone operates SafeLink.
LifeLine is funded by the Universal Service Fund, which you see as a surcharge on your phone bill. Established by a 1996 law, the USF makes sure that people who live in rural and low-income areas, as well as schools and libraries can get phone service. It doesn't make a distinction between wired and wireless phones; you can get a subsidy for either, but you have to choose one.
I upgraded my MacBook Pro to Apple OS X Lion in a lunch hour. Okay, it wasn't a lunch hour—I couldn't wait that long—but even more astonishing than the expediency (30 minutes to download and 35 to upgrade) was the effortlessness of the process.
At 9am yesterday morning, I opened the Mac App Store, clicked purchase, and let the installer work its magic. When I returned to my machine, it donned a fresh new log-in screen and a new OS. As tech journalist, this ought to have delighted me. Instead, I was left hungering for more.
It's not that Lion isn't a graceful creature; Apple's latest OS adds poise to an already agile predecessor. The 250 new features—Mission Control has already changed how I work—touch every corner of the OS and surpass the 150 additions of the refinement-focused Snow Leopard. Yet I can't help feel that something important is happening—has already happened—to very concept of the OS.
Over the last few years, Apple has stockpiled cash in such huge amounts that investors often question Apple about its strategy of keeping so much money around. When asked about it, Steve Jobs and team always points out that the market is unstable and they need to have cash in place for good times and bad, as well as have money available for major acquisitions, as part of its growth strategy.
And even though this answer normally keeps its investors at bay, as Apple continues to grow its cash reserves, which currently sits somewhere around $70 billion, investors and media alike continue to tell Apple that perhaps it's time to release a dividend to shareholders. But Apple is steadfast about its position. An interesting post from an anonymous writer on Quora recently shared a fascinating view of why Apple keeps so much cash around.
Google+, the presumptive Facebook killer, shows tremendous potential. As someone who warms up to any social network with the alacrity of a Galápagos tortoise, this, for me, is saying something.
Yes, I'm one of the lucky ones who got a pre-over-capacity invite. I've tried to share a couple, but new Google+ users are only gaining entrance at a halting pace.
The service, which initially stuck me as a blatant Facebook rip-off, actually has many of its own charms, not the least of which is the useful, somewhat addictive Circles. I know this topic divides Google+ users. Some people do not like to spend time organizing their social contacts. I'm not sure I do either, but the method that Circles employs for discovery and organization (dragging and dropping people into actual circle graphics, for instance) is addictive and easily blows away anything Facebook ever developed.
Here comes the HTC Evo View 4G! And it's packing a lot of firsts for its Friday debut on Sprint: The tablet is Sprint's first 4G Android tablet to hit the market, period–that's the first tablet set up to work with the company's 4G WiMax network—around 5 Mbps downloads and 950 Kbps uploads.
Most importantly—for movie buffs—the HTC Evo View 4G is the first tablet to ship with built-in support for Netflix movie and video streaming. In doing so, it joins an exclusive club of Android devices that support the service: A sad list that's currently limited to just nine Android smartphones.
So what's the deal? Are other Android-equipped devices—both phones and tablets—just too slow to run Netflix? Not necessarily. A Sprint spokeswoman confirmed in an interview with Wired that the company performed plenty of testing to ensure that Netflix streaming would proceed smoothly across the company's network.
The more realistic answer as to why you can't yet get Netflix on, say, a Motorola Xoom tablet, is the ugly monster that often rears its head whenever Android upgrades are discussed: Fragmentation. In the case of Netflix, the company has to perform extra research and configuration to ensure that the digital rights management systems it employs work across a number of Android devices. And that's not just a work-once, works-everywhere kind of proposal.
Apple has been awarded its long sought-after patent on the iPhone. Intellectual property experts say it's so broad and far-reaching that the iPhone maker may be able to bully other smart phone manufacturers out of the U.S. market entirely.
Some three-and-a-half years after filing for a patent on the iPhone, Apple on Tuesday was awarded U.S. patent number 7,966,578 for "[a] computer-implemented method, for use in conjunction with a portable multifunction device with a touch screen display, [that] comprises displaying a portion of page content, including a frame displaying a portion of frame content and also including other content of the page, on the touch screen display."
That's just the beginning of the abstract for Apple's iPhone patent, which the company filed back in December 2007. It gets quite a bit more technical in its full form, but there's one thing patent experts consulted by PCMag agree on—Apple has been awarded an incredibly broad patent that could prove to be hugely problematic for other makers of capacitive touch-screen smartphones.
Apple's patent essentially gives it ownership of the capacitive multitouch interface the company pioneered with its iPhone, said one source who has been involved in intellectual property litigation on similar matters. That's likely to produce a new round of lawsuits over the now-ubiquitous multitouch interfaces used in smartphones made by the likes of HTC, Samsung, Motorola, Research in Motion, Nokia, and others that run operating systems similar in nature to Apple's iOS, like Google's Android, said the source, who asked not to be named.
Yesterday we told you that Apple started selling unlocked iPhone 4s here in the U.S. We do have to admit that the move leaves us scratching our heads a bit. The iPhone 4 is a year-old device at this point. That leaves the question: why?
The GSM iPhone 4 only works well on AT&T. Sure, you can run it on 2G EDGE with T-Mobile, but that's a lousy user experience, and Apple is all about providing smooth user experiences. I just can't accept that T-Mobile users want the iPhone so desperately that they're willing to give up 3G for it, although I may be wrong about that, too.
Boy Genius Report's Jon Geller is right when he says that Apple sells unlocked iPhones in 85 other countries. But those countries all have more than one GSM iPhone-compatible 3G carrier. Canada has three. Dave Zatz points out this morning that for Americans, the "unlocked" iPhone will cost $450 more over two years than the locked model, because AT&T doesn't give any discounts for bringing your own phone. That's "an extra $450 mostly for the privilege of feeling more liberated and fancy free," he concludes.
I've long since stopped kvetching over the number of things Apple chief executive Steve Jobs can attach an "i" to and call his own. The maverick CEO's track record is just too darn good. Now that we know that Apple's iCloud is a real thing, there's no sense in wondering how Jobs can have the gall to rebrand cloud computing. I'd rather focus on what Apple will do with the cl...er... iCloud now that Apple has adopted it as its own.
Is Apple new to the cloud? If you accept that at the most fundamental level, cloud computing is simply a matter of thin clients (hardware or software) accessing Internet-based services and intelligence, then the answer is no. Consider Apple's reliance on streaming services for Apple TV's TV show and movie rentals, or the way genius playlists work.
iCloud, which Apple will officially unveil at next week's World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC), will be more, and streaming content is only the beginning. Obviously, we expect some sort of cloud-based, access-anywhere music library. Apple may even cave and offer a subscription-based music service. These plans will only succeed if Apple has done what Google failed to do with Google Music Beta: convince the major labels to let consumers store and access purchased (and rented) music from central servers.
I think music labels fear this not only because they worry about losing further control of the digital bits that make up their vast song libraries, but because no one will ever buy more than one copy of a song again, and if they get subscription access, they're done buying music—period.
Just under a year from when Google and Logitech first unveiled the first Google TV, otherwise known as the Logitech Revue, Google I/O 2011 is this week in San Francisco with some real hope for the platform. Google just signed a deal that brings thousands of videos YouTube.
Content, content, content. Without it, you're as dead in the water as the some extended cable channel at 3 a.m. The only reason that fools like me own one is the vague hope that Google might see the light, open its pocketbook, and perhaps give us some real content to watch.
It's odd, in a way, that consumers could even gripe about such a thing. A few bucks to Netflix or to Hulu opens up a wealth of fresh and archived content that should keep the most devoted couch potato rooted for weeks. But there's something inutterably frustrating about visiting a website and seeing content blocked—blocked!—just because you own a particular piece of hardware.
It seems likely that Samsung will announce its Google TV devices this week, in addition to a Chrome OS netbook. With Logitech reporting just $5 million in sales for the Revue, it would seem that the supply will outstrip the demand.
But with Google's deal that brings rentals to YouTube, there's hope for the platform yet. While Google TV doesn't look likely to dominate the media streamer market, let's look at what Google could do to make the next generation of Google TV succeed.
At this week's BlackBerry World trade show, everyone expected the top headliner to be the company's just-released PlayBook tablet and its new software offerings. As it turned out, the gadget ended up taking second spot to a surprise guest: Microsoft boss Steve Ballmer.
Ballmer came out during RIM co-CEO Mike Lazaridis' keynote yesterday morning to announce a partnership that would bring Microsoft's Bing search engine to BlackBerries. Search is a big deal in mobile devices, so it's fitting that a heavy hitter from Microsoft came to give its blessing, but many took the appearance of the CEO as a clear sign of bigger things to come.
Does RIM know what it's in for, though? There's considerable doubt over whether the company's strategy and platforms can be successful over the next couple of years. If they're not, Microsoft could end up owning RIM.
"Will Microsoft buy RIM? That is a possibility and a fast track for Microsoft to gain a foothold in the mobile hardware business," says Harry Wang, director of mobile research at Parks Associates. "RIM's market capitalization is only $25 billion and Microsoft has $48 billion in cash. If RIM's value drops to $15 billion, it will become an attractive target for Microsoft. Maybe Steve Ballmer was planting that seed during his keynote appearance at Blackberry World."
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