IPhone 6s Plus Unboxing

Let’s take a look at the new iPhone 6s

This is the new iPhone 6s Plus. The device comes in four color choices, Silver, Gold, Space Gray and Rose Gold. You have a choice of 16GB, 64GB or 128GB of on-board storage space. The 6s Plus, like the 6 Plus, has a 5.5″ LED-backlit widescreen display with 1920-by-1080-pixel resolution at 401 ppi, and a 1300:1 contrast ratio.

The new rear camera packs 12MP into its new sensor and features the same five element, f/2.2 aperture lens under its sapphire crystal lens cover. The biggest camera-based advantage in the 6s Plus vs. the 6s is the inclusion of OIS (optical image stabilization), that helps keep picture motion to a minimum while you take stills and more importantly, video. Since this is the camera that you have with you all day, every day, this is a huge addition and a clear advantage if you can live with the larger screen size.

The iPhone 6s/6s Plus also include 3D Touch. 3D Touch is an entirely new way to interact with your iPhone. The iPhone 6s and 6s Plus can sense how much pressure you apply to the display. Based on the amount of pressure you apply, the phone assigns different system events to that pressure. You get all of the familiar multi-touch gestures that your used to like tap, swipe, pinch, etc.; but now, you also get Peek and Pop.

3D Touch completely changes the way you interact with your iPhone. It completely changes the entire iOS user interface. I’ll have a great deal more on this in the review that I will be publishing on the iPhone 6s Plus later in the Month of October. I will also have some information on it in the first impressions document that I’m currently compiling that will compare, to an extent, the iPhone 6 hardware to the iPhone 6s Plus hardware (excluding the size difference, of course).

Did you get a new iPhone 6s or iPhone 6s Plus? How did you purchase it – via the Apple Upgrade Program, from your Carrier, or from Apple, but via a carrier upgrade? Did you purchase it new or as an upgrade?

What are you most interested in with the iPhone 6s/ iPhone 6s Plus? Is it the camera, 3D Touch, the improved specs and performance, a combination of these or other features? Meet me in the discussion area below, and let me know what’s got you interested in the latest flagship smartphone from Apple.

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So… Now Net Neutrality is In??

All of a sudden President Obama is jumping on the Net Neutrality band wagon?

I don’t get politics.

I really don’t. Perhaps it’s because at the core of everything in me, I think that (most) people are generally good and don’t want or have any desire to screw over the person sitting next to them. Maybe I’m naïve… or just stupid. Who knows.

A few years ago when SOPA had the internet up in arms, everyone was screaming about the internet, content rights, and net neutrality. Its counterpart, PIPA was just as bad; and thankfully, both of them died in committee. Through all of this, though, lobbyists for AT&T, Comcast, Cox, Verizon, Time Warner and every other cable provider have been spending big… and I mean BIG… dollars in Washington trying to keep the FCC from applying Title II telecommunications reclassifications to ISP’s.

Effectively, Title II classification would make all ISP’s a broadcast service and therefore, a utility, falling directly under the governments regulations. However, there’s a catch..

The problem is that the internet is both a telecommunications service and an information service. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 covers both, but there’s a huge loop hole. While the act does make provisions for the offering of a capability for generating, acquiring, storing, transforming, processing, retrieving, utilizing, or making available information via telecommunication – and includes electronic publishing – it does not include any use of any such capability for the management, control, or operation of a telecommunications system or the management of a telecommunications service. The distinction comes into play when a carrier provides information services. A carrier providing information services is not a ‘telecommunications carrier’ under the act.

Over the past few years lobbyists have been throwing money at law makers, trying to get them to allow for HOV lanes on the internet. For example, a few years ago, Comcast wanted Netflix to pay a premium to have their content streamed over the internet or Comcast would throttle Netflix content.

Netflix said, “no.”

It didn’t want to pay for a virtual HOV lane on the internet. So, Comcast followed through and throttled their traffic, making the service pretty much unusable. This caused a huge problem for Netflix. Their stock tanked as users complained and left. In the end, Netflix relented, and paid for their HOV lane, and Comcast stopped throttling their traffic. The stock recovered and all was right with the world.

Net Neutrality would make this type of extortion illegal; and would require ISP’s like Comcast, Cox and Time Warner to treat all traffic like the 1’s and 0’s that they are.

President Obama appointed the most recent FCC Chairman, Tom Wheeler. Wheeler hasn’t had a great deal of success in addressing Net Neutrality. A federal appeals court struck down the previously proposed rules for net neutrality in January of 2014. The FCC has been trying to play politics since then and really hasn’t wanted to touch the hot potato that this has become.

In the end, both sides of this issue – the lobbyists opposing net neutrality and the content providers and the public who laud it – are pushing the FCC to make a decision. As Sean Connery said, “in the end, there can be only one.” At the end of the day, someone has to make up their minds – is everything just ones and zeros – or is some internet traffic more expensive to transmit?

At the end of the day, it’s really all about money.

The ISP’s want to be paid for the kind of traffic that flows more often over the internet – streaming audio and streaming video – from services like Spotify, Beats Music, iTunes Radio, Hulu, and Netflix. They see users moving all of their entertainment needs and wants to the internet as hard wires have a much farther reach than signals broadcast over the air. In other words, the change in infrastructure, equipment, type of traffic and the supply and demand for it… the entertainment and telecommunications lobbies want to be compensated for all of that. They want to tax the users and make them pay for their habits.

I recently saw an article that showed a Tweet by Senator Ted Cruz. He called Net Neutrality “ObamaCare for the Internet.”

I disagreed and tweeted back that Net Neutrality is really the internet’s Declaration of Independence.

net neutrality

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all [internet traffic is] created equal, that they are endowed by their [content] creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are [equality], [perpetuity] and the pursuit of [unmetered Bandwidth].

I’m willing to give a bit on the “unalienable rights,” part. If you have better suggestions, I’d love to hear them. I really did that off the top of my head, but the point is clear – all internet traffic should be treated the same, and none of it should be throttled or metered based on what kind of content it comprises.

Now, what Tom Wheeler decides to do… no one knows yet. I think I see him sitting on the sidelines watching which way the wind is blowing. He is clearly either a professional politician or is just afraid of standing up and making a decision.

The country – no… the WORLD – is watching Mr. Wheeler. What you decide will likely shape the next century or two. I know you want to get it right and you don’t want to create issues or problems for yourself, but it’s time to do the right thing. Put your big boy pants on and take a stand for Net Neutrality.

Do the right thing.

While I tend to be a conservative politically, I am not rich. I don’t want to pay MORE of a premium for the content I am already consuming. As entertainment – music and video – moves from broadcast and cable TV to the internet via Netflix, Hulu, iTunes and other on-demand services, I don’t want to have to pay more than I already am (which, by the way, is as much of a premium as it really needs to be for all of the movie channels, on demand channels and pay-per-view channels that are available and are used) for the stuff I ALREADY HAVE. In the end… the content providers are going to pass the cost of the HOV lane on to the consumer…

I work for a living! Cut me and my checking account a break and say yes to Net Neutrality!

What do YOU think? Am I too invested in this? Am I right about content being all ones and zeros and all ones and zeros are created a like? Is your internet bill really a UTILITY bill as defined by Title II of the Telecommunications Act of 1996? Why don’t you chime in, in the Discussion area below and let me know what you think? Anyone who surfs the internet likely has some kind of opinion about this. I’d love to hear yours…

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Ok, You can Unlock ’em Again

If you want, you can unlock your cellphone in the US again

When the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) came into play a few years ago, it changed the way many people looked at not only their websites, computers, books, etc., it changed the way they looked at their digital phones, too.  While it was ok to unlock cell and smartphones that were tied to one specific carrier, before its implementation, afterwards, you had to get specific permissions.  That was fine until about 18 months ago. After a January 2013 decision by the Librarian of Congress, it became a violation of copyright, and therefore the DMCA to unlock your phone.

unlockcell

Recently, with the passing of the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act in both the House and the Senate, President Obama signed the rapidly passed law which reverses that decision, until January 2016, that is.

The Librarian of Congress will again at that time review the DMCA, its previous decision to ban the unlocking, the law recently put into place by Congress and signed by the President and rule again if cell phone unlocking should be banned.

This effectively gives you an 18 month hiatus on unlocking your phone. If you want to do it, now is the time.  After that, it could become illegal again.

Congress wasn’t prepared to deal with the underlying issue of copyright that makes it otherwise illegal to unlock your cell or smartphone.  The issue is largely who owns the hardware and how owns the license to the software that runs on that hardware.  The problem stems from the way that cellphones are sold here in the US.

With subsidized phones, argument can be made that until the contract term is up and the phone is “off contract,” that the phone carrier really owns the hardware and holds the license to the software that runs the device.  In that case, making any kind of modification to any subsidized phone would be considered illegal until title for the device passed to the account holder.

With contract-less, financed phones (like those sold by T-Mobile USA), the issue isn’t any clearer.  There’s no clear sense of who actually holds the title to the device while it’s being paid off.  Like a car or any other financed property, the account holder may physically hold the device, but the title to the property is held by the lien holder until the note is paid in full and the lien holder relinquishes title to the property.  While the user may cancel service at any time, in order to do so, they must first pay off the remaining balance to the phone.  After that, the account holder can do what it wants to with the device, as the license for the software running the hardware passes to the account holder. At least, that’s the popular thought…

The problem here is that there’s no clear definition of who holds that title or when it is relinquished and by whom.  If those terms exist in anyone’s wireless contract, no one has brought them to light at this point.  And then there’s the possibility that the wireless carrier could maintain the license to that software even if ownership of the device passes to the account holder. Since the licensee can assert specific rights to protect their license (and therefore have some kind of hold over the condition of the hardware), they could theoretically prevent the account holder and owner of the device from making modifications to the hardware.  At that point, you have to consider who’s rights are more enforceable – the software licensee’s or the device owner’s; and that’s the rabbit hole that Congress doesn’t want to debate and get caught up in.

While the Librarian of Congress can reverse his earlier decision and allow cell and smartphone during the next DMCA review, I’d be surprised of that happened.  The review – as I understand what he does per the DMCA – is review the law, his previous decision(s), and if anything in the law has changed. Since there have been NO changes to the actual DMCA; and this temporary override expires before the January 2016 review takes place, I see no reason why the Librarian of Congress would reverse that decision, leaving us where we were before President Obama signed this temporary exemption.

For any permanent change to the process to come about, Congress would have to change the DMCA. If they did not do that here, then I see little chance of that changing.

This may be an interim election year where some Congressional seats change hands, but I don’t see this becoming a big issue.  While it might be a blip on the 2016 Presidential Campaign Trail, I don’t see this issue gaining enough steam to become big enough to be a huge campaign issue.

How big of an issues is this to you?  Are you a chronic iOS jail breaker or Android rooter?  Is unlocking your phone something that you need to do due to travel or are you just trying to figure out what carrier is the best deal for you without having to buy another cell phone? How important is this to you?  Why don’t you join me in the Discussion area below and give me your thoughts on this as well as the DMCA?  I’d love to hear what you have to say. If it’s compelling enough, I’ll expound more on the issue in a separate column and get your name up in lights.

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‘K… Unlock ‘Em if You Got ‘Em!

Major US carriers agree to unlocking principles.  Story at 11pm…

shutterstock_129802106I’ve been following this particular story for the past few weeks or so.  Quite honestly, this particular issue is near and dear to my heart as I cut my journalistic teeth on mobility – all forms of mobile computing to be precise – and its probably the one computing issue I really know the most about.  Today’s development is significant, as it brings the US closer to parity with other countries in the world when it comes to interoperability (but the true form of that is a whole other ball of wax for a later date…)

Anywho… the four major wireless carriers in the US – AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile, as well as fellow CTIA member US Cellular, have all agreed to the following:
1.    To post their device unlocking policies on their websites
2.    To notify customers once their devices are eligible for unlocking
3.    To unlock mobile devices for customers after their service contract has expired
4.    To unlock prepaid mobile devices no later than 1 year after their initial activation
5.    To respond to unlock requests within 2 business days
6.    Military customers who become deployed can have their devices immediately unlocked upon providing the appropriate deployment paperwork

According to former NFL wide receiver and current CTIA President and CEO, Steve Largent, “…this agreement will continue to foster the world-leading range of devices and offerings that Americans enjoy today.”

While I applaud not only the wireless carriers and the CTIA for coming together on this, let’s not forget that carriers in the European Union have had similar policies in place for a while now.  Technologically, the US is behind the curve. This is a catch up move.

However, it is a significant and important development; and its one that I’m very glad came about. While this doesn’t supersede the restrictions in the DMCA that prevents cell phone owners from unlocking phones on their own, it will give cell phone users a clear understanding of when and how they can get their phones unlocked and if they will have to purchase what is commonly called a “burner phone” if and when they travel internationally before they’re eligible to unlock their current phone with their home-based carrier.  (that still doesn’t sit well with me, but its much better than what we had before).

The six, adopted unlocking principles, in their entirety, are:

1. Disclosure. Each carrier will post on its website its clear, concise, and readily accessible policy on postpaid and prepaid mobile wireless device unlocking.

2. Postpaid Unlocking Policy. Carriers, upon request, will unlock mobile wireless devices or provide the necessary information to unlock their devices for their customers and former customers in good standing and individual owners of eligible devices after the fulfillment of the applicable postpaid service contract, device financing plan or payment of an applicable early termination fee.

3. Prepaid Unlocking Policy. Carriers, upon request, will unlock prepaid mobile wireless devices no later than one year after initial activation, consistent with reasonable time, payment or usage requirements.

4. Notice. Carriers that lock devices will clearly notify customers that their devices are eligible for unlocking at the time when their devices are eligible for unlocking or automatically unlock devices remotely when devices are eligible for unlocking, without additional fee. Carriers reserve the right to charge non-customers/non-former customers a reasonable fee for unlocking requests. Notice to prepaid customers may occur at point of sale, at the time of eligibility, or through a clear and concise statement of the policy on the carrier’s website.

5. Response Time. Within two business days after receiving a request, carriers will unlock eligible mobile wireless devices or initiate a request to the OEM to unlock the eligible device, or provide an explanation of why the device does not qualify for unlocking, or why the carrier reasonably needs additional time to process the request.

6. Deployed Personnel Unlocking Policy. Carriers will unlock mobile wireless devices for deployed military personnel who are customers in good standing upon provision of deployment papers

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Do Your Homework – T-Mobile Uncarrier Plans are NOT Harmful to Consumers

I can understand being confused by these new plans, but public figures, like an Attorney General, need to be informed before they make this kind of mistake.

Working and living without a smartphone in the United States is becoming harder and harder.  Nearly everyone that I know has one, and they are a huge convenience for getting in touch with someone.  The biggest problem, however, is usually the costs involved.

Unlocked phones can be very expensive, and even though many carriers offer subsidized prices for smartphones.  What isn’t very well known, however, is that even though you end up paying a little now, you end up covering not only the price of the device, you end up paying a higher price for the service plan over the life of your 2 year contract.

t-mobile-logo-huge

T-Mobile’s new “uncarrier plans” attempt to address this inequity.  You can either bring your own compatible device to the party, or you can purchase one from T-Mo.  If you purchase one from T-Mobile, they’re going to charge you full price for the device.  You make a down payment at the initiation of the contract and then pay it off in monthly installments or in dedicated payments, your choice.  However, once the phone is paid off, your overall monthly bill with T-Mobile’s Uncarrier Plans drops.  After the phone is paid off, you stop paying for it.

There’s been a lot of hubbub in the news lately about T-Mobile’s new plans. They buck the system and unfortunately many people are so used to the subsidy model of purchasing a smartphone they don’t understand how these new plans are structured.

Case in point, after reading a press release from the Washington State Attorney General, I hung my head and nearly cried.  The guy just doesn’t get it.

When you buy a phone for service at T-Mo, you buy the phone. Period. You can buy the device out right or pay for it over time. If you cancel your service, you don’t get to return the phone. You have to pay it off. T-Mo won’t allow you to “return” the device.  This seems like standard practice to me. You buy something, you have to pay for it.

The WA AG accused T-Mobile of deceptive practices and filed an injunction against them, stating the following:

“After an investigation of the company’s practices, the Attorney General’s Office learned that the company failed to adequately disclose that customers who purchase a phone using the 24-month payment plan must carry a wireless service agreement with T-Mobile for the entire 24 months— or pay the full balance owed on phone if they cancel earlier.”

Here’s the kicker –

“Consumers who cancel their wireless service face an unanticipated balloon payment for the phone equipment – in some cases higher than termination fees for other wireless carriers depending on how early they cancel. Instead of a “two-year sentence” for wireless service, consumers face a different two-year “sentence” to avoid a lump-sum balloon payment for the phone.”

Right. Hello!  You still have to pay for the phone you bought. It’s not a subsidized phone. The phone was purchased at full retail price and got you reduced SERVICE pricing.

It’s clear that the WA AG just doesn’t understand how this “new” pricing plan works, and T-Mobile did the wise thing and just signed whatever the AG put in front of them to make the issue go away. Otherwise, the AG would have been totally embarrassed.

I’m embarrassed; and I wasn’t even involved!

T-Mobile later released a response –

“As America’s Un-carrier, our goal is to increase transparency with our customers, unleashing them from restrictive long-term service contracts – this kind of simple, straight forward approach is core to the new company we are building,” T-Mobile said in a statement. “While we believe our advertising was truthful and appropriate, we voluntarily agreed to this arrangement with the Washington AG in this spirit.”

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Unlocked Phones and the DMCA

The DMCA

There’s a lot of hub-bub around the whole unlocked phone issue and the DMCA in the States. I’ve broken it down for you here.

There’s a lot of confusion around unlocked phones right now. Recently, the Library of Congress Librarian, who has jurisdiction over expectations in the DMCA removed an exemption related to removing a carrier lock on a cell phone; but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Here are a few important factoids around the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, or DMCA.

  • Put into effect 12-Oct-1998
  • Portions adopted by the EU in the Electronic Commerce Directive 2000. The Copyright Directive 2001 implemented the 1996 WIPO Copyright Treaty in the EU.
  • Amends Title 17 Copyright Laws in the States and criminalizes the circumvention of DRM protecting copyrighted works.
  • It also criminalizes the act of circumventing of DRM or other controls regardless of  whether or not copyright is actually infringed.
  • Heightens the penalties for copyright infringement on the Internet[citation needed].

When you think of the DMCA, think MP3’s and digital music. That’s what legislators had in their heads when they wrote the law. The whole Napster fiasco had the RIAA spitting nails and they were a powerful enough lobby to get Congress to pull together modifications to copyright law that addressed pirating digital music Well, that and software, which is where the whole locked phone thing comes into play.

IMG_20130311_121205

Previously in 2006 and again in 2010, the Librarian of Congress exempted the circumvention of methods around removing the carrier lock in a cell phone’s firmware.  This lock is nothing more than software preventing the use of that phone on a competing wireless network.  As of 27-Jan-2013, it is now illegal to unlock any cellphone purchased after that date without the expressed permission of the device manufacturer, the wireless carrier, or both.

Jailbreaking a device, or removing the lock preventing sandboxing of applications is still permitted.  So, you don’t have to worry about your rooted Android phone/tablet or jailbroken iDevice violating the law. You can still do that for now.

Come back next time and I’ll dive into some of the details around what you can and cannot do, and what many – myself included – recommend you do.

next page

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Samsung Galaxy Note – the link between Smartphone and Tablet

Galaxy Note has been released internationally since autumn, by skipping the US market. Only now at the Consumer Electronics Show 2012, Samsung decided to announce its product for the AT&T carrier in US. It is the third 4G smartphone announced to be available soon in the States after Nokia Lumia 900 and HTC Titan II.

Based on consumer research, Samsung decided to create a brand new type of smartphone that brings diverse mobile utilities while maintaining the smartphone portability. With its 5.3 inches HD AMOLED display (1280 x 800), the Note looks to be a hybrid between a smartphone and a tablet. Many of you will say that this is nothing else but a mini tablet. But this is not necessarily true. The Note comes also with an Stylus-Pen that widens the functionality of this device.

The S Pen is combined with the full touch screen to create a best-in-class mobile input experience. It is the most advanced pen input technology featuring an array of functions including pressure sensitivity, preciseness, speed and more. With the S Pen, you can easily sketch drawings or write notes with increased accuracy and ease. Also, the S Pen functionality is deeply integrated into the GALAXY Note’s native applications to provide a richer interactive experience.

The device runs Android 2.3.6. on a 1.4GHz Dual Core Processor with support for 4G LTE, EDGE/GPRS networks. Its huge 5.3 inch multitouch display is capable of 1080p Full HD video playback, adding support for an Advanced smart pen. The 16GB Internal memory plus microSD slot for up to 32GB makes the Galaxy Note a hyper gadget for the business class and for the ones that have big pockets…to stuff it in.

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Legacy Devices & Android 4 – Why your Ice Cream Sandwich is Gonna Melt

I’ve seen this over and over again – I’ve got a Samsung Galaxy.  Will I get the new upgraded OS for it when it’s released?

I remember back in the day when I had a Samsung i700 on Verizon Wireless here in the US.  Windows Mobile 2003 was about to come out, and the device was fairly new, and should have received the update for it fairly quickly. Samsung came out and stated that the device would get an update; but this was the early days of true smartphones – and apparently, the driver development wasn’t going well.

The device eventually got the upgrade that was promised, but it took Samsung over 18 months to deliver it.  Eighteen months…Eighteen months?!  Are you serious?  Yes, it was well into 2004 by the time the Samsung i700 WM 2003 upgrade was delivered.

Google just released the source code for the latest version of their Android 4.0, code named Ice Cream Sandwich. As such, Samsung, HTC and others are in the process of working on Android 4.0 powered devices. Some of their flagship devices, like Samsung’s Galaxy S II, and HTC Sensation 4G may or may not see some ICS love.

At the end of the day, kids…It’s up to the manufacturer or the carrier, not Google.

This is somewhat different than my experience with the i700 and Verizon.  While it took Samsung a while to get it together, Verizon also did a great deal of “testing” with the new OS before it released it.  While the OEM and the carrier are supposed to partner together to manufacture the device, in the end, the carrier has the final say.  They’re the ones you call when you have a problem – not Samsung…not HTC.  You call Verizon, AT&T…whomever you have your mobile contract with. In the end, they really don’t want you to upgrade, however. They want you to buy a new device.  Think about it…it’s part of how they make their money.

However, I know that both Samsung and HTC have already announced a starter list for devices that will definitely get ICS.  Those lists can be found at the manufacturer’s web site, and should be easily located, so if you’ve got a Samsung, HTC, Motorola, LG, etc. device and want to know if you’re going to get the upgrade, the best place to look is their home page.

If your device isn’t going to get an automatic upgrade, it’s not over. You can always root your phone and check out XDA Developers or CyanogenMOD.  More than likely, you’re going to be able to find a version of Ice Cream Sandwich that will meet your needs at either of those two sites.

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