FreedomPop offers up totally free Smartphone Plan

freedompop free smartphone plan screenshot somegadgetguyOk. This is a pretty significant shot across most of the other MVNOs out there.

FreedomPop has been working for a while now to popularize entry-level free data. You buy a relatively inexpensive portable modem, and you get a small pool of data every month for free. Need more data, pay extra. They’re bringing that same business model to smartphones starting today.

The phone isn’t the most exciting handset ever, the HTC EVO Design 4G, but it does come with actual 4G in the form of Sprint’s aged (but still pretty quick) WiMAX network. The good news is it’ll only run you $100 to pick it up. For that price it’s REALLY decent hardware.

FreedomPop has built all of its services off of that network, so I would image that if you’re not in good WiMAX coverage that you’ll fall back on to Sprint’s improving 3G infrastructure. As Sprint has been going through their “Network Vision” clean up, I personally saw a decent little bump to network speed and reception in LA.

The FreedomPop plan starts you off with 200 voice minutes, 500 texts, and 500MB of data per month. Stepping up to unlimited voice and texts adds $11 a month. You can bump up data as well, 2GB for $20, 4GB for $35, even 10GB for $90.

We’re starting to see some pretty cut throat competition from the smaller virtual carriers, with Republic Wireless recently scoring the Moto X, but no one has had the guts to offer up a free plan yet. Now if only we could start talking about some LTE FreedomPop…

(via FreedomPop)

IKEA to start selling Solar Panels in the UK – Weird Little Wrenches Included

solar panelsOk. I don’t actually know if those awkward little hex wrenches will be needed to install these panels on your home.

IKEA will soon begin offering solar panels at stores in Great Britain as a test market to see if this program can be expanded worldwide.  Great Britain was selected as it offers a good balance of energy pricing and state programs designed to offer consumers incentives when investing in solar.

Manufactured by the Chinese company Hanergy, the panels being offered will cost around $9200 for a 3.36 Kilowatt system, and IKEA estimates that it should take around seven years to pay them off. During that time, consumers should enjoy reduced energy pricing. In select markets, where IKEA can offer those services, any excess energy created might be able to feed back into the local energy grid. Depending on market pricing (which I’m sure will drop quickly if many people start producing excess power) you could even turn a profit faster than seven years.

While other big box consumer home improvement companies have offered panels before, IKEA looks to be taking a slightly more proactive approach to aiding consumers in the consultation and installation of their products.  That, and you can get some delicious meatballs while shopping for those panels. Lowes and Home Depot should really look at partnering up with some gourmet food trucks…

(via AP)

Etsy Find: Tablet Stand – Birch – Bent Plywood

Tablet Stand - Birch - Bent Plywood etsy

I’m a sucker for clean, fashionable gadget accessories and bags. Geek is chic, and we’re seeing some really cool ways to incorporate technology into our daily lives. If you can add in things like natural fibers, leather, or wood I’m sold.

Scouting the Etsy, I stumbled onto this simple piece from Ciseal, a bent wood tablet stand. It’s simple, attractive, unadorned, and very clean looking. Also, happily, it’s not custom built for any one specific tablet, looking like it’ll handle just about any iPad sized slate.

The $80 price tag might be a bit steep, but if you’re into supporting you’re local craftsman, and you want something which looks a little nicer than the overseas plastic we can get for cheap, it could be worth checking Ciseal out.

Tablet Stand – Birch – Bent Plywood

Ask Juan: Can Windows Phone Compete with Graphics and Gaming?

From the Twitters:

windows phone xbox live gamingHey Yasi,

So here’s the deal, long story short, current Windows Phone Handsets will run at a deficit compared to current Android handsets when it comes to gaming. Microsoft’s hardware mandate pretty much guarantees that all Windows Phones will rock similar hardware. To date, that means Qualcomm’s older dual core Snapdragon chipset. Even though Windows Phone 8 is a decently lean OS which runs more efficiently than Android, and for day to day tasks you’d be hard pressed to see much difference in operation between WP8 on dual-core and Android on quad-core, gaming is one of those phone taxing activities where the extra horsepower comes in handy.

It’s not to say that the gaming experience is bad, far from it. I’m having a blast playing Halo: Spartan Assault, and Where’s My Water 2 was released on WP before Android. All things being equal though, playing the same game on Android and WP8, like Asphalt 7, I find levels load faster, game play lags less, and newer Android phones tend to run a little cooler than WP handsets. We’re just running into the upper limits of what this older chipset is capable of delivering.

Other comparisons become a bit more subjective. Some claim that the 1080p resolution found on newer Android fare looks better than the 720p screens on Windows Phones. Also, that the better graphics hardware means fancier lighting and particle effects. Both are certainly true scientifically, but I’ve honestly had a difficult time seeing a tremendous advantage on screens smaller than five inches.

It’s not all bad news though, as the Nokia Lumia 1520 phablet is rumored to be the first Windows Phone featuring both a 1080p screen and Qualcomm’s new 800 series chipset, pretty much catapulting Windows Phone up to the current ranks of the premier Android ecosystem. On phones rocking a larger than five inch screen that resolution bump becomes a little more noticeable in fine detail and clarity.

Thanks for the question Yasi!

Softbank unveils Arrows A Smartphone, 10 minute “All Day” charge, coming to Sprint?

softbank arrows a colorsSo this was a small blip because of some impressive claims, but could we potentially see this coming to the USA soon?

Softbank took the wraps off of the Fujitsu Arrows A smartphone. On the whole we’re seeing pretty standard specs for a premier handset. A 5″ 1080p screen will be powered by Qualcomm’s monster Snapdragon 800 chipset. It’ll be joining the ranks of other phones like the LG G2 as a high end alternative to the Galaxies and the Ones in the Android ecosystem.

What was a little fresh however was the claim that thanks to its custom charger (and some internal whizbangery) the Arrows A can charge “a full days use” in about 10 minutes. The next audacious claim is that even though the phone has a decently sized battery (2600 mAh) Fujitsu says the device will run for three days on a full charge. That’s something I’d certainly be interested in testing, but even if it doesn’t meet that kind of run time, fast recharging could be a benefit to many mobile users.

Also of note, the Arrows A will include a fingerprint reader. It looks like even though it’s not terribly secure tech, biometrics will be coming to many smartphones over the next year.

Now. Why do we care about a Japanese phone announcement? Well, Softbank is the company which pretty much owns Sprint. They completed the merger back in July, and Softbank has poured Billions into Sprint’s coffers. In strengthening Sprint’s handset portfolio, we could maybe start to see a little cross-pollination of devices which used to be exclusive to specific countries/markets.

Likely? Probably not right away, but an interesting possibility to shake up the mid and high end smartphone segments. Expect to see Arrows A in Japan this December.

Hit the jump for the full PR (translated).

Continue reading “Softbank unveils Arrows A Smartphone, 10 minute “All Day” charge, coming to Sprint?”

Microsoft offering minimum $200 trade in for your iPhone towards cost of a new Windows Phone

iphone trade in windows phone microsoftCan’t fault them for trying.

Similar to their iPad trade in, if you’re carrying an iPhone, but you’re really curious to see how the other side lives, Microsoft is offering a minimum trade in of $200 for your “gently used” iPhone 4S or newer handset. Those folks I saw at Social Media Week rocking smashed iPhones need not apply (but seriously, how do people use phones like that without slicing their thumbs open).

While this promotional offer is  surely convenient, you’re apt to do better on the open market. The iPhone 4S is currently selling for around $250 on ebay, and if you throw in those accessories you don’t need anymore, like cases and old dock connector cables, some are even hitting $300.

Still, if this is your jam, the offer is good until November 3rd.

Microsoft iPhone Trade In Offer

Windows Phone hitting double digit market share in Europe

nokia lumia 920 windows phone 8 smartphone homescreen live tiles somegadgetguyI keep telling you people, the actual gadget matters less than the ecosystem of customers+hardware+software+accessories. You can’t fake that. Customers will not be impressed by one new handset no matter how good it is. Every manufacturer wants to jump into this market and sell as well as the iPhone does. It’ll never happen, and people forget that the iPhone didn’t just waltz into the smartphone market without some teething pains. Anymore, a company needs to show us at least three years of steady growth, refinement, and support before they’ll start to crack into consumer awareness.

Well wouldn’t you know it, Microsoft is getting to that three year point, and I’m starting to see the occasional Windows Phone out in the wild. Here stateside, MS is a distant third place competitor growing to only around 3% of the smartphone market, stealing the third spot from Blackberry. Recently announced by analysts at Kantar World Panel however, Windows Phone is cracking into double digit share in Europe. WP is within one percent of the iPhone in Germany, makes up 10% of the French market, and stands at 12% in Great Britain. Averaging the five largest European markets Windows Phone is currently at 9%.

The Nokia brand still counts for a lot in those markets, especially the blend of unique design and bleeding edge camera technology. Unfortunately Nokia somewhat abandoned us here in the States, so they’re pretty much rebuilding their consumer base from scratch. We do get to see some very general trends though, and from my anecdotal experiences, the push into entry level devices is serving Nokia very well. Doesn’t hurt that outlets like CNET can’t figure out the difference between a phone which costs $100 out the door, and a phone which costs $100 on contract. Surprisingly, Nokia’s 520 does a remarkably good job of competing against phones which cost four times as much.

Plus with a two faction war between Apple and Samsung, those consumers who want something a little different only have Microsoft to turn to. Never underestimate someone’s desire to go a little hipster. We live in an age where new smartphone consumers will know Apple like people from my generation saw Microsoft.

Read the full write up at Kantar World Panel.

(Video) Looking back at the Jawbone Jambox – Review and Audio Quality Test

jawbone jambox bluetooth wireless speaker audio quality test somegadgetguyMoving forward, I’ll be testing more accessories like I do smartphones.

You can find a collection of videos where I test the speakers on phones for example, using the same audio and video clips, so you can see and hear the differences between different phones. Bluetooth speakers are becoming very popular, and now I’ll be building that same audio test into my reviews. Starting with a speaker which really helped to popularize wireless audio, the OG Jawbone Jambox.

Coming soon, reviews on the HMDX Jam and Nokia Play360
Shop for the Jambox on Amazon.