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Kyocera Echo

The dual-screen Kyocera Echo smartphone will be available on Sprint starting April 17 for $199.99 with a two-year contract, the carrier announced Monday.

Sprint will allow customers to start reserving the Echo on March 26 via sprint.com/echo, for pickup on April 17. On that day, the smartphone will also be available in Sprint stores and online.

The Kyocera Echo was announced in February. It features two, 3.5-inch 800-by-480 LCD touch-screen displays that can operate side-by-side, independently, or together via a 4.7-inch integrated display.

Click to continue reading Kyocera Echo dual-screen smartphone hits Sprint April 17


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T-Mobile announced a new 10GB cellular data plan for heavy modem and tablet users today, but obsessive downloaders will pay a high price of $84.99 per month.

As wireless carriers have sped up their networks, data caps have remained firmly in place. The industry standard is 5GB, after which you're either charged overage or your speed gets choked down for the rest of the month. Fast new networks make it easier to reach that cap; we once proved that in an extreme circumstance, you can download 5GB with Verizon's new LTE network in 32 minutes. Of the major wireless carriers, only Sprint, on its 4G WiMAX network, currently offers a truly unlimited laptop modem plan.

Less than 5 percent of wireless data users exceed 5GB, T-Mobile spokesman David Henderson said - but it's not clear whether that's because they don't actually want more data, or if that's their limit.

Click to continue reading T-Mobile offering 10 GB data plan for $85 a month


Zune is Dead

Dear Microsoft: Manage your message or someone will do it for you. Case in point: the recent, none-too-surprising news that the lovely Zune HD will meet a timely death. Within minutes of the news breaking, stories and tweets flooded the Internet declaring, "The Zune is Dead." This was followed by people asking if everything "Zune" was gone or just the hardware. I assured people that the obvious answer was the hardware only, but is it that obvious? And why wasn't Microsoft out in front of this information?

Yes, the fact that Microsoft is giving up on music player hardware is bad news for Microsoft and good news for Apple, but it's up to Microsoft to stand up and explain its decision and strategy. In the absence of clear information from Microsoft, everyone else can and will shape the message. So now, even though most within the industry are quite sure that the Zune software and service, which lives on in phones and PCs, is in no danger, average consumers are no longer certain. They could at this very minute be making plans to switch to Apple, iPods and iTunes.

If I were Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, I would have stepped forward and explained the shift away from music-only hardware (leaving aside the fact that most music players do a whole lot more). Then, while wiping away one single tear, I would have quickly shifted gears to a clear strategy, which isn't even new: "For mobile devices, we're focusing our attention on Windows Phone, which already has Zune and Xbox Live functionality." Then I'd add, "This, friends, is not a loss. Lessons we learned from Zune hardware's five-year life have given us invaluable insight and made it possible for use to deliver the Windows Phone platform and some truly stellar partner-driven hardware to wrap around it."

Click to continue reading Zune Death: Why no word from Microsoft?


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White iPhone Twitter schiller

It looks like Apple executive Phil Schiller let the cat out of the bag on the white iPhone release date over the weekend. He promised a spring release date for the white iPhone. Apple has delayed the launch of the white iPhone 4 several times for various reasons. The problem with the device was "light leakage" from around the edges of the glass. The white paint on the iPhone was causing light to leak, and Apple developed a special manufacturing process to combat the problem. There were also rumors that Apple was not happy with the original shade of white that was being produced at the manufacturing plant.

Click to continue reading Phil Schiller confirms white iPhone 4 set for Spring launch


When Google talks, people listen. That is why 3,000 people crowded into a ballroom on the first day of SXSW to hear Marissa Mayer, Google's vice president of consumer services, give her keynote. Her talk focused mostly on Google Maps for Mobile, and didn't do much more than outline the new features on the service. Even so, it should give serious pause to all of the companies currently offering location-based services, from Yelp to Foursquare. And it should give dedicated GPS vendors nightmares.

Google Mobile for Maps recently hit more than 150 million users, adding more than 50 million users since last summer. "Forty percent of all Maps usage is mobile," Mayer said. In fact, there have been days this year where mobile usage was actually greater than the desktop usage for the application.

Google Maps has always had driving directions, but by adding Street View and turn-by-turn navigation, it is fast becoming the go-to source for directions. "People drive more than 35 million miles a day while being assisted by Google Maps Navigation," Mayer said.

And those directions are becoming much more dynamic. The Route Around feature, for example, presents users with three routes to a destination and then overlays current traffic patterns. Users can select the route with the least traffic; Google said recently that Android users have the option to be automatically routed around traffic jams. This kind of real-time traffic advice is something for which GPS vendors like Garmin and Magellan traditionally charge users a monthly fee—Google offers it for free.

According to Mayer, the Route Around feature saves users two years of drive time every day, or about 12 million miles per year.

Click to continue reading Marissa Mayer talks up Google’s location dominance at SXSW


Sony Online Entertainment is officially flipping off the servers for its Final Fantasy XIV, Final Fantasy XI, and PlayOnline games and services. Don't worry, they'll be back online in short order. The move comes as a result of Japan's Friday earthquake—and the temporary loss of massively multiplayer online gaming is just one of the fallouts.

"Due to the continuous earthquakes occurring in the eastern regions of Japan since Mar. 11, 2011, the power companies in Japan have encouraged everyone to cooperate by conserving as much energy as possible as it is feared there will not be enough power supply," reads a Sony blog post, published today.

Accordingly, Sony is suspending service for its two Final Fantasy MMOs and PlayOnline starting at 3 p.m. PST today. There's been no indication as to how long the servers will remain offline, though Sony promises that it will update players with additional information as soon as it comes in. Sony plans to leave the servers offline for at least a week, possibly more—the company indicates that it will not be billing players for any time the servers are offline.


AUSTIN - Just as SXSW attendees were landing in Austin and heading to their first conference sessions, news and images of the terrible tsunami that hit Japan were hitting the Web. Organizers acted quickly to create a site (sxsw4japan.org) that not only accepts contributions, but also enables attendees to do what they do best, share the news and create their own support networks.

The goals of sxsw4japan.org are simple:

  1. DONATE: Make a donation or text your donation to 90999
  2. SHARE: On the Web, on Twitter, mention it in your SXSW talks with #sxswcares and #sxsw4japan
  3. CREATE A FUNDRAISING PAGE: Start a page so your friends/family can donate to disaster relief.

The original goal of $10,000 has been doubled to $20,000. So far the site has raised more than $15,000 with two days remaining.

SXSW organizers are also encouraging attendees to like the Facebook page of DogBlessyou.org. The site, which is affiliated with the Annenberg Foundation, is donating $1 for every person who "likes" they page over the next few days.

Click to continue reading SXSW organizers rally to collect tsunami relief


As the devastating images of the earthquake and subsequent tsunamis in Japan come in via cable news, newspapers, blogs, and homemade videos, tech giants like Google, Apple, Twitter, and more are donating funds and using the power of tech to help those in need.

In the wake of the earthquake, Google set up its Person Finder Web site to help people locate the missing or post data on those who had been found. In a Saturday blog post, Google Japan's Ken Miura said his team started working on Google's Crisis Response page within minutes of the quake.

Miura was in Tokyo, about 250 miles away from where the first quake hit, but the Google Japan office – located on the 26th floor – "started shaking slowly," he wrote.

"Although alerts from the building urged us to evacuate via the emergency stairs, I couldn't help but stay and search for information about the earthquake's epicenter and scale," he wrote. Miura said he was a university student when the Kobe earthquake hit 16 years ago and he recalled "the immediate desire for information."

With that in mind, the team launched Person Finder in Japan within an hour of the earthquake, pulled together public information from local governments about affected areas, and posted tsunami warnings on the Google homepage.

Miura also said Google will donate $250,000 to Japanese relief agencies.

Click to continue reading Tech companies accepting donations for Japan quake relief


iphone 5 display

Although we're probably months away from any type of iPhone 5 announcement, a Chinese site claims to have new pictures of the rumored product.

Engineering images obtained by iDealsChina show iPhone 5 to have a much larger, edge-to-edge screen that covers most of the front of the phone. However, besides the bigger screen, the device looks much like the iPhone 4.

"We just got what appears to be mold engineering drawings for iPhone 5," the site says. "These would be used by case designers to create plastic, TPU, aluminum, silicone, and leather cases. A while back we [heard] rumors that iPhone 5 would have a curved back but these images show iPhone 5 with the same form factor as iPhone 4 but with an edge-to-edge screen."

Click to continue reading iPhone 5 rumored to have edge-to-edge display


iPad 2 sxsw

SXSW 2011 brings 20,000 early adopters to downtown Austin, Texas every year, but this year the Apple iPad 2 was going on sale at the exact same time. What is a gadget-loving, Web professional to do? Apple made things a little easy by opening a temporary "pop-up" store just a few blocks from the convention center. On Friday, the lines were around the block. Today, it is just another busy, Apple retail store.

Sales at the pop-up store were brisk despite the fact there are two other Apple stores in Austin, which do about $30 million in combined annual business. The demand for the iPad 2 is driven partly by the fact that Apple didn't accept pre-orders on the device, forcing would-be early adopters to brave the lines at retail stores.

Click to continue reading iPad 2 is the star gadget of SXSW


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