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Walmart gets into wireless business

 by John Moe // Posted: 09/14/10 05:34 PM

Walmart will begin offering their own branded wireless service (partnered through T-Mobile) starting next Monday. The retailer already offers cell plans through AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile. This will add a service option for a plan under its own name.

You’ll have to pay for the phone, but they’re relatively cheaper - you can get a Nokia for $35. And it’ll cost $45 each month for unlimited calling and texting. But data is insanely expensive. $40 for 1gb, which compares to AT&T’s $25 for 2gb or T-Mobile’s own $30 for unlimited. The data can be shared among multiple phones in the same family but still that’s a ton of cash.

Comments | Filed Under: walmart phones mobile business

FCC takes a look at cell phone use in prisons

 by John Moe // Posted: 09/14/10 12:12 PM

Last month, President Obama signed a law that bans cell phone use by prisoners. But, phones apparently keep finding their way in facilities - hidden in packages. One facility has phones in footballs thrown into the prison exercise yard. A corrections department captain in South Carolina was shot in his home several months ago - it was an action ordered by an inmate from a cell phone. He and others would like to see Congress allow the use of technologies that would prevent cell use in prisons - jamming signals or other tech.

Comments | Filed Under: law phones

Your car and your concentration are at issue in Washington

 by John Moe // Posted: 09/14/10 06:00 AM

The U.S. Department of Transportation will hold a Distracted Driving Summit next week. Tomorrow, OnStar is expected to announce new connectivity features for its service. And today, Representatives from Ford and a tech company called Nuance are in DC urging congress to be cautious in crafting new distracted driving laws. They say narrow legislation could stifle new technology that could make cars safer.

But while congress debates law, technology marches on and the car of tomorrow will be able to do things the car of today can only dream of. As connectivity becomes easier and more ubiquitous, our cars will be able to talk to each other and avoid accidents. That’s according to Raja Sengupta, a professor at UC Berkeley, with whom we speak today. We also check in with Marketplace reporter Alissa Roth who fills us in on the lack of legislation presently covering this issue.

Comments | Filed Under: transportation mobile phones law government science

Gmail now makes phone calls

 By Larissa Anderson // Posted: 08/25/10 01:43 PM

Google announced today that Gmail accounts can now take phone calls. For the rest of the year, you can use your Gmail account to call people in the U.S. and Canada for free and pay $.02 per minute to call Germany, France, Japan and other countries. If you have a Google Voice number, calls you receive on that number show up in your inbox.

Comments | Filed Under: Google email phones Google Voice

Toss out your wallet, keep your phone

Posted: 08/03/10 06:00 AM

There are a few things you always make sure you have when you leave the house: keys, wallet, phone. What if you could skip the wallet?

Imagine going to the grocery store, getting all the stuff you need, and then, when you’re at the cash register and it’s time to pay, you don’t need to bother digging up your debit card. Instead you reach your phone, waggle it around a bit, and you’re on your way.

And hey - why stop there? If your financial information can be on there, why not your driver’s license too? Why not your ID card at work? Your library card?

Sounds futuristic but it may be fast approaching. Wireless carriers AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile are reportedly about to start testing a technology known as Near Field Communications or Contactless Payment in a few different cities. Everything you would need from your wallet would be on your phone.

We talk to Marc Rysman, Associate Professor of Economics at Boston University, about how the technology works. We also speak to Rachel Schneider, Innovation Director at the Center for Financial Services Innovation, about how the technology could be made even simpler, maybe just a sticker on the outside of a phone or anywhere you cared to put it.

Comments | Filed Under: phones wireless at&t verizon t-mobile

Shhh: Google quietly fails at something (else)

 By Jeff Horwich // Posted: 07/19/10 01:06 PM

Powerful as it may be, and as much as it continues to absorb, amoeba-like, the collected knowledge of the world, Google has its fair share of failures under its belt. Digital services tend to fade quietly and blow away with the wind (Google Wave? Google Buzz? Google Fizzy-Wizz? — OK, I made that last one up) and many technically remain Google Labs “beta” products for their entire lifespans. (Hey, they’re not flops! Just Google tryin’ stuff out, like Google does.)

But when the failure is a physical product — Google’s first real physical product, in fact — perhaps it makes a larger “thud.” Google’s own cell phone, the Nexus One, is about to become very hard to find. The cell-phone-with-a-shampoo-name was reasonably well-received when it launched in January, but sales never took off and never really made the case for itself in the smartphone arms race. Google announced on its blog that it is receiving its last shipment of phones.

Nexus One is arguably a casualty of Google’s success with its open-source Android smartphone operating system. Few wireless carriers wanted to sell the actual Nexus One, but other Android-based phones have proliferated and pushed the OS into first place in the U.S. (yes, way more people use Android than have an iPhone). With so many Android-based phones to choose from, why would one expect the Nexus One to prosper?

Sorry, Google. Guess it’s back to the Labs for the next attempt at One Device to Rule Them All.

Comments | Filed Under: google phones

Tech News In Brief - 5/27/10

 by John Moe // Posted: 05/27/10 11:16 AM

Another suicide at Foxconn . And why stopping it is so hard.

Google goes to war with Germany over collected data.

Yahoo plans to go big on local

Ballmer at WWDC? Will June 7th be upside down bananas day?

Well, looks like I won’t be reading on the bus anymore. I’ll be watching TV.

Americans get cell phone bills. “WHAT THE—?!” say Americans.

“Play videogames, kids!” says lightened up former Supreme Court Justice.

The internet is getting crowded - we’re running out of IP addresses. Also glaciers.

Comments | Filed Under: china apple google yahoo microsoft phones video games

Mobile Transactions and Africa

Posted: 05/18/10 06:00 AM

So last week we ran across this report about how the market for mobile transactions is about to explode, increasing from about 68 billion dollars in 2009 to about 633 billion by 2014. Entrepreneurs are salivating about this possibility and we recently saw the launch of Square . Then there are online services like Venmo and Zong , which were not named by grabbing Scrabble tiles out of a bag, contrary to appearances.

But the idea of a bustling mobile phone based economy is nothing new if you’ve paid attention to how day to day transactions are handled in Africa. In several developing nations there, people who don’t have access to checks or credit cards have evolved a robust and versatile economy built around simple cell phones.

Ethan Zuckerman is a senior researcher at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society and he’s lived and traveled extensively throughout Africa. He’s closely followed technology in that continent. We talk to Ethan about what the cell phone economy means.

Comments | Filed Under: mobile phones africa

today's show

What will we do with all this "white space"?

09/26/10 11:15 AM

There’s a vote coming up this week in Washington that will have a big impact on how you use the internet, what’s available to you, how much faster you’ll be able to get things online. On Thursday, the FCC is expected to open up unused parts of the broadcast spectrum, a lot of people call it “white space”. This is space that was positioned to be something of a buffer between television stations but such padding is proving less essential since the conversion to digital TV.

On today’s show, we talk to Glenn Fleishman from Wi-Fi Networking News and The Economist about how the spectrum works and what kind of new space we’re talking about. We also check in with Tim Wu from Columbia Law School about the companies that will look to use the space and what it all might mean for you and me as internet consumers.

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