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Google Buys GrandCentral

As expected, Google picked up GrandCentral, which is great news for GrandCentral users and potential future users. I said that my main concern with GrandCentral is whether or not they'd be able to keep the service running long-term - if you're going to consolidate your numbers into a single number you want to be darn sure that it's going to stick around for awhile. Now all Google has to do it get text-message forwarding working -- which I'm actually really optimistic about since they already have their fancy SMS search.

Being part of Google will helps us make our vision of improved voice communications one step closer to reality and bring innovative communications services to millions of users around the world. This will also ensure that your GrandCentral number is here for the long run, and that no matter how often you move, change jobs or phone providers, everyone can still reach you through the same phone number.

Read: GrandCentral: The New Way To Use Your Phones

Update: A little bad news - now that Google's messing with GrandCentral's innards, bringing them into the fold, they're limiting new sign-ups for awhile:

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Slick: "Oops, I'm Late!" GPS auto-alert app

Mobility Site points us to a press release for "Oops, I'm Late!." It's a Windows Mobile app that takes a look at your location via GPS, compares it to your appointment in Pocket Outlook, and then if things are going badly auto-sends an SMS message to attendees (or your secretary) letting them you know you're en-route but late. It's a little steep at $69.99 for the Standard and $99.99 for the Pro (the Pro lets you use email instead of SMS and also set a default contact rather than just the attendees).

I'm a fan of these auto-sms apps and I am a little surprised we don't see more of them. I like Mobile Secretary a whole heckuva lot even though I only use it for forwarding of texts. I suppose people are wary of auto-sending apps (witness automatic Out of Office's fall from grace, sometimes they're just too annoying), but "Oops I'm Late!" looks like it has some smart software built in to prevent false positives.

Next step for the program: get a better name that doesn't require me to put quotes around it.

Oops I'm Late! is a notification application for Windows Mobile (5/6) phones based upon GPS. Whether you are late, on-time, or early, let Oops I'm Late! keep in touch rather than be distracted while driving.

Read: www.oopsimlate.com - Oops I'm Late!

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HTC Omni Rendering and Specs

Some bits about the Omni rumors that hit over yesterday's holiday - 1) I used to think that artistic renderings of this sort were basically unreliable, but I've come around and so I think we're going to see a device that looks very much like this image. 2) It's going to be super small for what is going to be built-in, although sadly not thinner than the HTC Advantage. Just not as wide. 3) How long before video-out is standard on smartphones? 4) In the leaked HTC roadmap last month (the reliability of which I'm still not sold on), there was no mention of the Omni. 5) Oh, yeah, the specs are as hot as the device is cool-looking. Creating the relevant hot/cool pun is left as an exercise for the reader.

HTC Omni specs that we know about today are: - Windows Mobile 6.0 OS - UMTS/HSDPA connectivity - WVGA 4″ 800×480 px display, subdisplay - TV and VGA out - 256 ROM, 1280 RAM and microSD memory card slot - Wi-Fi b/g, USB and Bluetooth connectivity - GPS/A-GPS - Full QWERTY keyboard - Dimensions: 130 x 81 x16 mm

Read: HTC Omni pics and specs - Unwired View

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HTC Cavalier Clears FCC

Honestly, we've been waiting a long time here for the HTC Cavalier. Looong time. We heard about it first in January's HTC roadmap, then again in January when BGR fondled one. Heck, we even saw somebody else bury the Cavalier in the snow(!). So after all that, it's good to see the FCC will let it be used here in the US.

But will anybody pick it up? The Cavalier is essentially a T-Mobile Dash with HSDPA. But T-Mobile still hasn't gotten their 3G act together, so I wouldn't hold my breath that they'll do it. That leaves us with AT&T, obviously, but I can't really see them doing anything other than sticking with the Blackjack for their 3G WM Smartphone. And I have to say I can't blame them - I'll take a better keyboard over included WiFi any day - is that crazy?

Anyhow, maybe HTC will just release the phone on their own, unlocked and ready to rock, without any carrier support. I hope they do, actually. Wouldn't it be nice if all phones were sold that way instead of with the horrible contract system we're still saddled with?

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Spb Mobile Shell Updated to v1.5

When somebody asks me "What should I install on my Windows Mobile PPC / Professional" phone (well, they never ask like that, but you know what I mean) my default answer is always Spb Mobile Shell. It's a great all-in-one customizer app that gives you a lot of the most-wanted features (weather, nice thumb-able interface, and some good eye-candy) in a single, simple package. It looks like Spb Software House has just updated the sucker, adding a ton of requested features:

Professional layout for Now Screen
Spb Menu customization
Now Screen as lock screen
Easy pinning on Today
Integration API for third party programs

I'm a big fan of the menu customization and the API - it means that Spb shell is starting to look like a great platform that will be able to give you access to stuff that's not included by default by Microsoft on your device. Bravo, Spb.

Read: Press Releases - Press Information - Spb Software House via PocketPCThoughts

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In World of Warcraft (yes, I play), whenever you gain a new level you often get a whole slew of new abilities - your avatar can do more than it could before. When that happens, the standard thing to yell is "Ding W00T!" Well folks, this summer I think the Samsung Blackjack will be calling out Ding W00T!

When I loaded the hacked Windows Mobile 6 ROM on there, I noticed something very, very odd. There was a new setting and a hidden application that kept loading itself in the background no matter what I was able to do, and it was called "Video Share." So today Mobility site points us to an AT&T announcement that this summer they'll be rolling out a real-time video sharing service. The page that displays compatible phones on the Video Share site doesn't list the Blackjack (yet!), but it does list two other Samsung phones. The fact that Samsung is on board with Video Share and the fact that there's a funny little "Video Share" application on my WM6-hacked Blackjack tells me it will be added to the list.

It also makes me strongly suspect that my earlier doom and gloom about the Windows Mobile 6 date for the Blackjack was wrong. A late July release for Video Share bodes well for the new Windows Mobile 6 ROM that supports it on the Blackjack.

Ding W00T!

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First Look: HTC Touch Video

We weren't the first on our block to get an HTC Touch, but we may be the most excited. Check out the video first look, below.

Summary for those of you who can't watch the video at work: It's thin, light, and very good looking. Entering text is going to be a hassle without some 3rd party solutions, but the TouchFLO interface is really neat. I'm almost as enamored as this guy. Did I mention thin and light? I never thought a full-featured touchscreen device could be this small (iPhone notwithstanding). Oh, and it works just fine with the new mobile YouTube (thanks to Gwalio for the tip!)

One thing I didn't mention in the video, I really wish there was a 4th screen to TouchFLO. As it is, you get Contacts, a 6-panel app launcher, and a 3-panel media launcher. What I'd like is a 2nd 6-panel app launcher to "complete the cube", as it were, that I could customize with my own apps. Actually, in a perfect world, HTC would snap up the rights to Spb Mobile Shell and combine both TouchFLO and Mobile Shell into a super-launcher. Ah well.

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Open Letter to Warez Jerks

The president of WebIS, makers of great software like Pocket Informant and FlexMail, has posted an open letter to software pirate sites. I'm linking it for a few reasons:

  • It's very well-written
  • It's right
  • It brings up a very good point:
If you actually use our software please pay for it. [...] WebIS has always been extremely liberal in our licensing as well. We don't use activation (we've thought about it), we don't lock our license to your username, we don't do anything to make licensing hard. We let you run our software on as many devices that you personally use and we use the honor system. Heck, we even make 2-3 versions of our software in most cases and let you pay for one and get them all.

Indeed, I've trialed many of WebIS' products, probably all of them. A lot of them don't fit with my habits of using a smartphone, but many do. I wanted to point out that 95% of WM developers get it when it comes to shareware for smartphones. It's simple: charge reasonable prices and avoid don't have annoying methods for registration. That's a big deal - in the fight against software piracy it's easy to lose your way and get too restrictive with activations. Activation in itself is highly annoying to me personally as I find myself switching phones basically on a weekly basis for my job here.

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Yahoo Go! Graduates from Beta - Whither WM Support?

I really liked the first version of Yahoo Go on Windows Mobile. When the 2nd beta came out, that old version of Yahoo Go disappeared. It was replaced with the new! improved! Yahoo! Go! that was incompatible with all Windows Mobile phones except portrait-style smartphone-edition devices. Now a check of their Windows Mobile page drops compatibility for even those. They're all "coming soon." Yahoo says "Coming Friday" for the general, java-based, feature phone version of Yahoo Go.

I hope that applies to WM as well - Yahoo Go was (and would be) a great push email solution for the average joe. I'm guessing that "soon" doesn't mean Friday, but does mean fairly soon. They struck that that deal with HTC to pre-install Yahoo Go on HTC phones. It's taken way too long for all this to happen. What's the deal? Was their estranged CEO in charge of it or something? ;)

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SlingPlayer Updated for Windows Mobile 6

That was pretty quick! Just over two weeks ago Sling put out a call for Beta testers for a new version of their SlingPlayer Mobile client that would be compatible with Windows Mobile 6. And badda-bing, today Smartphone Thoughts reports that the client is ready to rock. Now, granted, Windows Mobile 6 isn't all that different from its predecessor, but this humble writer suspects that the SlingPlayer digs pretty deep into the OS to get its great video quality - so it makes sense that it would take some tweaking to make it work with the latest and greatest.

Now, I don't have a Slingbox myself just yet - but its definitely my plan to pick up one of those suckers just as soon as I get, you know, a TV. If you're one of those folks who happens to own both a TV and a Windows Mobile device (imagine that!), I heartily recommend you pick up a SlingBox posthaste.

Read: Sling Media - SlingPlayer Mobile

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Skweezer updated

Greenlight wireless announced earlier this week that they've updated and improved skweezer, which is at heart a proxy service that re-jiggers web pages so they look better on mobile phones. They have their work cut out for them when it comes to competing on Windows Mobile devices, and Microsoft's Live Search for mobile already does that (and does a fairly good job of it). Plus, on Windows Mobile 6, you can put a Live Search field right on your today screen. I do like that skweezer has a built-in "search within page" feature - that's a feature sorely lacking in most mobile web browsers these days.

Still, it's pretty ho-hum for me, but I have a few feature-phone-using buddies who will care. A few.

the user interface has been redesigned to reduce keystrokes and take advantage of "hot key" navigation that utilizes a phone's keypad. Skweezer will now also use a robust, new search system to provide highly relevant Web searches across multiple mobile device platforms. Skweezer's code-base and hosting infrastructure have been updated to provide the fastest Skweezer ever.

Read: Greenlight Wireless :: 06/18/2007 Greenlight Wireless Press Release

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HTC Product Roadmap Leaked?

There are a few surprises, though nothing earth-shattering, in this PDF of upcoming HTC Windows Mobile Devices. I wasn't expecting a CDMA version of the HTC Touch, much less one that includes EVDO Rev A with gpsOne.

Also new (to me, anyway) is the HTC Iris (s620), a Standard-edition CDMA phone with standard-edition specs, and the Volans, which appears to be the HTC Wings, aka the 3G successor to the disappointing* HTC S710/HTC Vox. And pictured at right is the Shangri-La, the slide-and-fold-up super-PPC (which will succeed the HTC Advantage). Had enough code names yet? Me too.

I put the question mark in the title there because a) the source site looks pretty new (even compared to us!) and b) the PDF slides look a little off to my eyes. On the other hand, all the info looks spot-on, so take my grain of salt with a grain of salt.

Read: CTI Miami’s Blog via BGR

*(What?! Disappointing you say? ...I'll explain in my review on Monday.)

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Amp'd Deathwatch: Brief Stay of Execution

Poor Amp'd. They are as deep in debt as a teenager who just got a new credit card and spent all their money on a new amp'd phone but can't actually afford to pay for it (see what I did there?). So Verizon told them to pay up the $33 million they owe - Now. Then their CEO was ousted. Finally a tiny glimmer of hope: Amp'd gets to use some of its cash to keep the company running for another few days, though June 25th.

Of course, that cash actually belongs to Verizon, who's none-too-happy about the judge letting Amp'd spend it on frivolities like keeping a network running. Actually, Verizon is worried that Amp'd will use the cash to pay for legal fees necessary to weasel out of negotiate their bankruptcy terms.

Not even 'Lil Bush (originally an amp'd cartoon, now headed to Comedy Central) can save them now.

Judge Brendan Shannon of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Del., Monday signed off Amp'd Mobiles's request to use Verizon's cash collateral to keep its so-called mobile virtual network up and running through June 25.

Read: Amp'd Mobile's Use of Lender's Cash OKed | Chron.com - Houston Chronicle

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Friday NerdFun: 3D Lawn Darts

Here comes the weekend and I'll be spending some of it working and the rest of it playing Concrete Software's 3D Lawn Darts (buy at WMExperts Store) - a fun little game that uses the camera on your Windows Mobile device to detect how hard and in what direction you're throwing the dart. It's a blast.

Below, for your viewing pleasure, is myself and Chris Kingree nerding it up with the Lawn Darts game. We're playing multiplayer over bluetooth, but it also comes with a fun single player mode that you can demo for free (choose "install now" at this link to have a link to the demo SMS'd to you auto-magically).


(Concrete Software also makes a Texas Hold'em game that's my favorite of the poker-on-your-WM device bunch.)

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Google Buying GrandCentral?

...that's what TechCrunch believes, anyway. Bully to Google, I say. GrandCentral is a great service (but I still wish it offered SMS forwarding) and a purchase by Google means that I would be much more likely to use it. Why? Because Google's backing allays my fear that the service would go belly up as soon as it ran out of Venture Capital funds.

In the meantime I'm still using Mobile Secretary for my SMS forwarding needs.

I'll tell you what, though, I'm starting to fear Google and their insidious tendrils. Microsoft used(still?) to be known for their "Embrace and Extend" policy of stealing aping other technologies and then adding their own services to it to force users to stick to their solution. Looks like Google's version of "Embrace and Extend" is "Just Freaking Buy It Outright."

Google is in acquisition discussions with telephone management startup GrandCentral, we’ve learned, and we have a high degree of confidence that the deal has actually been closed. We are trying to nail down the acquisition price.

Read: Google To Acquire GrandCentral

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Amp'd Deathwatch: CEO Peter Adderton Ousted

Amp'd recently declared bankruptcy - they owe Verizon (among others) a ton of money. Money that they don't have because those crazy rotten teenagers that make up the largest portion of their customer base haven't been paying their bills. You kids.

The latest bit comes via Engadget, who notes that Amp'd just gave their CEO the boot - he's apparently been replaced by Sue Swenson, who is now listed as the Chief Operating Officer over at the amp'd management bio page. Best of luck to you, Swenson. If you're looking for ways to make those crazy young'uns pay up, I'm told that grounding doesn't really work with teenagers. I'd suggest that you try taking away their cellphone, but that probably isn't a punishment you'd consider, is it?

the rumors that CEO Peter Adderton's days were thusly numbered have finally materialized into reality. mocoNews reports that the ex-chief is still Amp'd's largest single shareholder and maintains a position on the board,

Read: Peter Adderton out as Amp'd CEO - Engadget Mobile

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iPhone Watch: Microsoft's Response?

phone different's slices points us to a blog post over at ZDNet wondering why Microsoft doesn't seem to be out there talking about how they're not worried about the iPhone:

Where the heck is Microsoft? Earlier this year, Microsoft launched the newest version of Windows Mobile (version 6) and there’s a slew of devices built on the new mobile OS (we have video of them here) with more coming (like the new HTC touchscreen handset).

Read: » With respect to iPhone, Microsoft rolls over and plays dead

Well, Steve Ballmer's been talking plenty, thank you very much; not to mention the HTC Touch. But it seems to me that keeping a low profile isn't a horrible idea for now, anyway.

The blogosphere may be a constant and unabating stream of news, but to the larger public news comes in cycles. Apple is winning this cycle, but frankly that's ok. Horning in on this cycle would not only be difficult, it would probably be counterproductive. In a fight against an unreleased product, all you can do is speculate about how your product is different/better/etc. That sort of speculation would just be begging people to revisit it later to crow about how you were wrong. Much better to wait and see.

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HTC Kaiser Delayed

When the Boy Genius Report said that we'd see the cool flip-up slider in July, I was skeptical. Now that it's looking like I was right, I can't say I'm especially happy about it. The more I think about it, the more I think that flip up bit is cool, but not really what excites me. What excites me is the 3mp camera and the built-in GPS.

In any case, BGR says August. I'm going to stay mum on this one -- I don't want to be proven right again.

Read: HTC Kaiser delayed till August? : The Boy Genius Report

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HTC Touch "Viral" Campaign

Normally, the words "Viral marketing campaign" are enough to send me running to the hills, screaming about out-of-touch marketers and their misuse of catchphrases. HTC, though, seems to be getting their viral sea legs under them. Sorta. I wouldn't call their new video about the HTC Touch "viral", per se, but I would call it pretty funny. Not informative, mind you, just funny.

They've gone into this territory before, with a series of videos from the "DoS Clan" about the HTC X7500 / HTC Advantage that went over better than I expected them to. Somebody over at HTC has a sense of humor. Keep 'em coming, guys.

watch: HTC Touch Video

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Sprint's HTC Mogul (finally) released

Yeesh! After a rumored delay, an "update" to June, and even a "in the wild" shot over the weekend, we can finally say it: The HTC Mogul has been released. As expected, it has really, really good specs:

  • Windows Mobile 6 Professional
  • EVDO (Not Rev A, but it's upgradable. Thank you, Sprint, for not making us wait for it to release)
  • 2 megapixel camera
  • WiFi (b and g)
  • 400MHz processor
  • 64MB RAM, 256MB ROM

We'll pick one up this week to give you a hands-on and a review. The Mogul is probably the only thing out there right now that makes me regret being a GSM-man. In the meantime, Engadget Mobile has a gallery for you. Looks like you Sprint folks can finally take your old PPC-6700s out behind the shed and put them out of their misery.

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YouTube Mobile: WM still needs that hack

Bummer, YouTube finally gets around to launching a mobile version of their site that's free for anybody to use - http://m.youtube.com - and it won't work with Windows Mobile. As in, it won't work with the default Windows Media Player or even the fancypants CorePlayer. That's annoying. Look like you're still going to have to download that add-on to the venerable TCPMP to get your YouTube on.

Seriously, people, how hard can this really be?

The RTSP tested and working on Treo 700p phones. We don’t have it working on Windows Mobile devices yet as we have not yet found a 3GP player which supports RTSP (alas, CorePlayer won’t work).

Read: SolSie.com

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Palm Gandolf Specs: Believe it.

We saw the spy shot of the new Palm Gandolf and I suspected that they wouldn't call it a Treo since it wouldn't have a touchscreen. Shows what I know. Now specs for the device have been leaked and they look pretty darn plausible to me:

  • Naming convention will be Treo 5XX
  • One version with Windows Mobile 6 Standard, the other is a new non-touchscreen edition of the Palm OS
  • Multiple colors
  • 135 grams; 117 x 65 x 13.8 mm
  • 2.4 inch QVGA screen with 65k colors
  • 2 megapixel camera
  • Bluetooth 2.0 w/ A2DP support
  • 3G + HSDPA
  • 256 MB onboard memory with 64 MB of RAM

Palm still has a little usability "secret sauce" left in 'em - their Treo 750 really is nicer to use that your average WM5 phone. Apply that to Standard edition and give me those specs above and I'll drop my Blackjack like a bad habit - even with my hacked Windows Mobile 6 ROM on it.

Read: Exclusive: Palm Gandolf specifications - IntoMobile

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Verizon Q9M

Figures, the moment we make a "Nelson" joke the actual Nelson - AKA the CDMA version of the Motorola Q9 pops up over at The Boy Genius Report. Details look pretty good, as does the gallery. Big ups to Motorola for bringing back the scroll wheel.

On another note, this clears up the Motorola Q9 naming convention weirdness that confused us before. With the Motorola Q9h, the "h" is for HSDPA, as in: it'll work on GSM networks. I'm still hoping for that August release date The "M" in Verizon's version? ... Shoot, I have no idea. Maybe it stands for "Mighty tasty!"

Edit: Strike that last. Qusers grokked that the "m" is for "music edition." That makes sense. I still like "Might tasty" better myself. I can see the lolcat ad campaign now: the Motorola Q9M, Mighty tasty edition. It has a flavor.

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Jawbone Bluetooth Headset Price Drop

Oh, hello. I'm told that our peerless sponsor, the WMExperts Store, has just dropped the price on the Jawbone Bluetooth Headset down to 99 bucks. As in, $50 less than it originally cost back when I first reviewed (and loved) it.

The Jawbone Review is here, complete with all its heavy-metal-as-background-noise-getting-completely-cancelled video goodness.

Buy: Aliph Jawbone Noise Shield Headset >> WMexperts Store

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Opera Mini 4 Beta Released

Opera Mini's always been the go-to browser for the techsavvy-but-still-using a featurephone crowd. I've also found myself using it on Windows Mobile despite the fact that there are native versions of the browser available. It looks like that trend is set to continue with the latest Beta of Opera Mini, codenamed "dimension." It is, in a word, sweet. check out this feature list:

  1. "X marks the spot" — start at the right place. When you load a page, Opera Mini will automatically suggest a place to begin reading. When it's time to dive into the page, Opera Mini zooms in and cleanly focuses on the content you want.
  2. Opera Mini dynamically changes the size of text and images to make it convenient to read without a lot of unnecessary scrolling.
  3. A mouse! We included a virtual mouse to make it easy to scroll in any direction. The mouse cursor will look for content and links, and snap the view to them.
  4. Scroll faster using the keypad. Simply hit 2 to go up, 4 to go left, 6 to go right and 8 to go down. Opera Mini will snap the view to the content. Hit 5 to zoom in and out.
  5. Page loads more than 2x faster than other mobile browsers. Opera Mini speed comparsion
  6. CSS support

The big points to me are the PC/Zoom mode that's so popular with the kids these days (ex. from the Wii and the iPhone's browsers) and the full support for standard CSS. A mouse pointer is a neat idea, but I'm not really sold on it. There are plenty of other new features to the beta, so it's worth the download. More screenshots after the break.

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