Saturday, January 28, 2012

Check out these winter related apps for your Android smartphone

Ski & Snow Report
Ultimate guide before you hit the slopes: ski reports, cams, weather, & more! brings you the ultimate ski guide on your Android before you hit the slopes...
- Your favorite ski areas at a glance
- Locate nearby ski areas
- Powder points highlighting new snowfall
- Live ski cams!
- 5 day weather forecasts
- View first hand reports from other skiers!
Winter Wake-Up
Never be caught off guard by winter again.“The Winter Wake Up” works like an ordinary alarm clock, but wakes you up earlier if there has been freezing weather or snow the night before. That way, you’ll have plenty of time to clear your driveway, defrost your car and still leave for work on time.
Winter Survival Kit
The Winter Survival Kit app can be as critical as a physical winter survival kit if you find yourself stuck or stranded insevere winter weather conditions. This app will help you find your current location, call 911, notify your friends and family, calculate how long you can run your engine to keep warm and stay safe from carbon monoxide poisoning.
You can use the Winter Survival Kit app tostore important phone and policy numbers for insurance or roadside assistance. You also can designate emergency contacts you want to alert when you becomestranded.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

AT&T's increase in data rates may be a sign of the future

Attention future AT&T customers: Your data plans just got more expensive.

You're safe if you already have a contract, but the ever-increasing cost of owning a cell phone just got a little pricier for new buyers.

The lowest tier data plan will now be $20 per month, up from $15 ... and you get a boost from 200MB to 300MB. This increase is negligible, as this much data will be used up in no time.

The next level -- which was $25 for 2GB of data -- is now $30 for 3GB of data. This is more substantial, but the extra cost will still sting some buyers.

If you have a tablet, you can pay $15 per month for 250 MB, $30 a month plan for 3 GB or a $50 a month plan for 5 GB.

What do I think about this?

Well, it might not seem fair, and I certainly sympathize with all new customers who have to pay more. But unfortunately, I believe it was inevitable.

Between the introduction of AT&T's faster new LTE 4G network and the costs involved, and the bath they just took on that ill-fated T-Mobile takeover, the writing was on the wall -- rates were going to go up.

Some people might go elsewhere due to this hike, but I doubt it will be in droves. Verizon's rates aren't any better, and Sprint and T-Mobile are options that not everyone will want to consider.

AT&T says its data plans are still a "great value", compared to the 2GB offered by Verizon for $30. But don't be surprised if Verizon changes their plans to match this in a competitive move.

Bottom line: Buckle up smartphone customers: The sad truth is that it's likely going to keep getting more and more expensive to use our smartphones -- whether you're on AT&T or its competitors. And I'm not sure what we can do about it, except not get a data plan (and how likely is that?).

Matt Myftiu can be reached at

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Indycar drivers will visit North American International Auto Show in Detroit Friday; fans can get autographs

DETROIT, Mich. – The weather may be cold and the calendar may say January, but it will feel like race time in Detroit this Friday as seven drivers that will be competing in the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix will visit the city to promote the June 1-3, 2012 event.

Some of the top road racers in the world will cruise into the Motor City on Jan. 20 and they will meet with media and fans at the 2012 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) at Cobo Center. IZOD IndyCar Series drivers Will Power and Ryan Briscoe of Team Penske and JR Hildebrand of Panther Racing will visit the show along with GRAND-AM Rolex Series drivers (and brothers) Ricky Taylor of SunTrust Racing and Jordan Taylor of Autohaus Motorsports. Two of the top drivers from the Pirelli World Challenge Championship Series – Johnny O’Connell and Andy Pilgrim of Cadillac Racing – will also be in attendance on Friday.
All of the drivers will compete in their respective series when world-class auto racing returns to Detroit for the first time in four years on the first weekend in June.
This Friday morning, the drivers will appear at the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix (CDBIGP) display at the show on the main concourse of Cobo Center as they celebrate Family Day at the NAIAS. The CDBIGP display features a 2012 Chevrolet DP12 IndyCar, set to make its debut in competition this season – the only new generation IndyCar that is featured at the auto show.
From 12-1 p.m. on Friday, all of the drivers will be available to sign autographs for fans at the WXYZ-TV autograph area located on the main show floor. All auto show ticket holders will be able to access this area. After the signing, all of the drivers will participate in a Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix panel discussion on the WXYZ-TV stage. This discussion and Q&A session with fans will also include GM Racing Director Mark Kent, Cadillac Global Marketing Director Jim Vurpillat and Grand Prix Event Chairman Bud Denker.
“We are proud of the diverse racing series lineup that will be competing at the 2012 Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix and we’re excited to welcome some of the top drivers in each series to Detroit this Friday,” said Denker. “This is truly a world-class lineup of racers and we look forward to hosting them at the North American International Auto Show as we build the excitement for our event in June.”
The Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix is a 501(c)3 organization and a subsidiary of the Downtown Detroit Partnership. The event will be held June 1-3, 2012 and will include the Chevrolet Indy Grand Prix featuring the cars of the IZOD IndyCar Series, the Chevrolet GRAND-AM 200 at Belle Isle with the sports cars of the GRAND-AM Rolex Series, the Cadillac V-Series Challenge featuring the cars of the Pirelli World Challenge Championship Series and the Firestone Indy Lights Series. For more information, visit, or visit or

Sunday, January 15, 2012

SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) should not be allowed to pass without major changes to protect freedom of speech rights

So what's the deal with SOPA?
Well, it's officially called the Stop Online Piracy Act, it is currently being debated in Congress, and is being widely panned by everyone from prominent Internet websites to President Obama.

In short, the act aims, in its own words: "To promote prosperity, creativity, entrepreneurship, and innovation by combating the theft of U.S. property, and for other purposes." —H.R. 3261

Sounds noble -- in overall concept; but what's not noble is that under the law, the government basically has the right to shut down access to any website if it is determined that site is hosting pirated content.

Sites that are accused of showing pirated materials could face court orders barring advertisers and companies like PayPal from working with them, prevent search engines om linking to their sites, and -- the real kicker -- force Internet service providers to block access to these sites.

You read that correctly; they wouldn't just order the content removed; they could go beyond that and prevent access to the entire site. Oh, and there are also criminal penalties too, jail and fines, etc.

A bit much, don't you think? That's just stupid; and unconstitutional.

I'm not against a rational law that would allow for better policing of pirated content online, but this is an extreme law, and when the president even says it needs to be tweaked, and not just whiny internet folks, you know something is up.

I predict changes will be made -- after all, Obama has to sign it for it to become law -- before some version of SOPA becomes a reality -- if that even happens. And if it does, let's hope it's stripped of all language that tramples the freedom of speech we enjoy in this country.

What all these people supporting the bill don't realize is that the Internet isn't a place that can be regulated as severely as the rest of the business world. Video, audio and other forms of media often go viral and are streamed on so many sites across the Web that realistic enforcement of such laws is just ridiculous. The internet is just too big to micromanage like this.

It's also the kind of thing that comes along when you have legislators who know nothing about technology trying to pass laws controlling it.

Many people, of course, are not happy with this power grab attempt by the government, and protest efforts are taking shape.

To learn more about efforts by prominent Internet sites to fight SOPA, click here

Thursday, January 12, 2012

TECH TIME REVIEW: Verizon's long-awaited Galaxy Nexus Prime smartphone ushers in impressive new Android 4.0 system WITH VIDEO

There are a ton of Android-based smartphones released on the market each year, so when one comes out there’s usually not a lot of fanfare.
The opposite couldn’t be more true with the Galaxy Nexus Prime — the newest superphone from Verizon that boasts an extra-large screen and the debut of the Android 4.0 operating system, aka Ice Cream Sandwich.
With all of the hype it’s gotten, literally for months, it’s going to get a lot of looks from potential buyers. I recently gave it a trial run and I’ll fill you in on all the details and who might be interested in taking it home.

Phones are getting bigger and bigger these days, but the Nexus Prime takes the cake in this category. Forget 4.3 or 4.5 inches, this one tops the charts at 4.65 inches, making it a really big boy.
For the crowd not into huge phones, this will be a disqualifier for sure. But for the crowd who likes as much real estate as possible for viewing movies, playing games and other media viewing, it’s a big plus. Despite the large size (official dimensions are 5.33” x 2.67” x .37”), its thinness helps it keep the weight down, and it’s only 5.1 ounces. So while it is large in width and depth, it’s not a heavy load to carry.
The Galaxy Nexus Prime features a textured back cover with a decent grip, but still felt kind of plasticky to me, and had a lower quality feel than some other smartphones I have tested. (This, unfortunately, is a trend with Samsung products, and Samsung makes this one too.)

With all that real estate, you would hope for a high-quality screen, and you get it. The Galaxy Nexus Prime delivers an HD Super AMOLED screen with bright and stunning visual quality in 720p HD. Whatever you do on this phone will look very, very good.
The large screen provides room for an ample-sized on-screen keyboard for all your messaging purposes.
The phone features options for text, picture & video messaging, has threaded messaging to keep conversations together, and has a Speech to Text feature.

Yes, some people still do want to talk to people and not just text them. For those folks, I’m happy to report that I had no issues with disrupted or weak connections or call quality during my time using the Galaxy Nexus Prime.

While the Galaxy Nexus Prime isn’t the ultimate champ in this category (some other smartphones go even farther and have a 1.5 GHz processors), its 1.2 GHz dual-core processor is very impressive and will provide you with fast and problem-free multi-tasking. Web browsing was very fast and easy.
One minor issue I have with the phone is that it takes too long to start up, which can be annoying if you want to do something real quick and it’s off.

The operating system on this phone is one of its selling points – as it is the first Android phone with Ice Cream Sandwich.
Before I get into the upgrades in ICS, I have to note that this is a phone with the plain, ‘vanilla’ Android OS, meaning no user interface from Samsung has been put on top – which is a good thing.
Android 4.0 upgrades include:.
— You get Near Field Communications sharing with Android Beam, making it easier to share between Android phones with this feature.
— The lock screen now offers you a choice between opening to the full phone, or opening to the camera function.
— The phone app features new options such as “frequently called” and a list of all your contacts with phone numbers.
— The apps list now includes all of your widgets too, in a separate list.
— The user interface features software navigation buttons, as well as a “recent apps” button to make multi-tasking easier.
— Face Unlock allows the usue of facial recognition to unlock the phone, which increases security.
— Android Beam allows you to share content with others by tapping two compatible phones together.
— Google+ integration is new on this phone, and will become a staple on future Android phones, as they hope to grow that social network, which lets you divide your friends into circles.
This was my first experience with Ice Cream Sandwich, so I didn’t have too much time to explore, but as it reaches more phones I’ll give it a closer look. Upon first glance, it’s a very cool upgrade with some impressive features.

4G network
Verizon’s 4G LTE network was very fast as always. There have been reports of some recent outages, but I wouldn’t be too concerned in the long run. The network is getting more and more traffic, but they should be able to figure it out and get the bugs out. Downloads and uploads are extremely fast (5 to 12 Mbps download speed, 2 to 5 Mbps upload speed).

The Galaxy Nexus Prime comes with 32GB of internal storage. There is no removable SD card or upgradable memory, but I don’t think most customers will need any more storage, as 32GB is a lot of space.
There’s not a lot of preinstalled programs -- often referred to as “bloatware” -- from Verizon here, so you have more room to play with

There are some pretty good camera specs on this phone.
The rear camera is 5 megaapixels, which is short of the 8 megapixel offerings on other phones, but still takes very clear and impressive shots. It features auto focus and a LED flash.
The front facing camera is 1.3 MP and is used for video chat primarily. I used Skype and it looked pretty good.
In terms of video, the rear camera shoots 1080p full HD video, and the front camera shoots 720p HD video
My favorite aspect of the cameras on this phone is the panorama feature. Simply move the phone across a wide area, and the entire area will be captured in a photo. This is very cool, and could be great in situations like nature photos or a sports event, allowing you to capture large areas.

The Galaxy Nexus Prime can serve as a mobile hotspot for an extra monthly fee (providing a 4G or 3G connection to up to 10 other devices). This is good for people on the go who aren’t always in areas with WiFi, but it’s not cheap.
You get a ton of Google stuff built in, including Google+ integration for those who have embraced the new social network. You also get Google Books, Google Earth, Gmail, Google Latitude, Google Maps, Google Music, Google Navigation, Google Places, Google Search, Google Talk, Google Videos, YouTube.
The phone is also WiFi and Bluetooth capable.

The integration of Google Music was a favorite of mine. That meant all the thousands of songs I have uploaded to my Google account were instantly accessible on this phone. That’s a big score for a music lover.

Google’s Android market offers hundreds of thousands of apps, so basically anything you want – from games to business apps – is here for the finding.

The battery life was decent, but not what I would have liked – apps such as Skype and Pandora drain it quickly.

The Galaxy Nexus Prime will cost you $299.99 with a 2-year contract; this is on par with other top new phones on Verizon. A data package, which start at $30 monthly, is required.

Android phones have come a long way in a short period of time, and have grown to take the lead in the smartphone market. The first phone with Ice Cream Sandwich is an impressive one that offers lots of cool new features, for a price of course, but you won’t be disappointed with the latest version of Android.
Despite some small flaws, the Galaxy Nexus Prime is a true superphone that can compete with the best of them, and should be a hit for Verizon.

Matt Myftiu can be reached at or 248-745-4617. Follow him on Twitter @MattMyftiu or become a fan of the Facebook page “OPTechTime”.

On the Web
For more information on the Galaxy Nexus Prime, visit

TECH TIME REVIEW: Canon PowerShot ELPH 510 HS may be small, but this camera is still packing some features

Point-and-shoot cameras are a mixed bag. We all love the convenience of a small camera that can fit in our pocket or purse, but those seeking great photos also realize that many features and capabilities are usually missing compared to more advanced cameras like Digital SLR machines.
This is usually especially true on the smaller, slimmer models that are released – a little camera often means little to be excited about as far as features and capability.

With the PowerShot ELPH 510 HS camera, Canon tries to shed that image, offering some very impressive specs in a tiny package. I recently tested one out, and I’ll let you know how it performed.

As I mentioned, the PowerShot ELPH 510 HS is slim and light, and has an attractive look to it. You can get the camera in three color options – red, black or silver.
The camera’s official specs for size are 3.9 inches wide x 2.32 inches tall x 0.86 inches deep. The depth is a most notable number there, as you’ll be hard-pressed to find another camera this good that is that thin.
In terms of weight, the PowerShot ELPH 510 HS weights roughly 7 ounces with the battery and memory card inside. It’s not heavy at all (not much more than the weight of a cell phone), and won’t weigh you down. The camera features a metal body that has a high-quality, solid feel to it. You aren’t afraid that it’s going to break on you and it doesn’t feel cheap.

The most important aspect of a camera is the picture quality. Canon has done a great job with the PowerShot ELPH 510 HS in this area, as the photos I shot with it came out with great detail.
The camera offers 12.1 megapixel photos, which is a good number. But it’s not just about numbers. The real ability to take such great photos comes from the combination of technology in this camera — such as the 28mm Wide-Angle lens and optical image stabilizer.
One very cool thing in terms of picture quality is that the camera takes decent pictures in low-light, a feature you won’t find on basic point-and-shoots and one which will come in handy in a lot of situations.
Only downside I saw in terms of picture-taking was a somewhat slow shutter response time. You have to wait a few seconds for the photo to be taken, and other cameras I have tried do it quicker.

The 3.2-inch color Touch Panel LCD monitor on the PowerShot ELPH 510 HS features a wide viewing angle and is very responsive.
The on-screen menus take a little while to learn, but after a little practice they’re very easy to use.
You’ll need to learn them though, as there are almost no physical buttons on this camera – the touchscreen is how you operate it. This may annoy some people, but it’s something you can get used to.
The touchscreen can also be tapped if you want to take a photo, a very cool feature.

As all top cameras do these days, the PowerShot ELPH 510 HS films HD video. It is very high quality, full 1080p HD, and I was not disappointed with the videos I shot. The sound was good, in addition to the high-quality visuals.
You can zoom in while shooting video, and an HDMI output on the camera lets you view the videos on a big screen HDTV. One cool feature is the “movie digest” option. This records short video clip before you take each photo, and then combines one day’s worth of clips into a video.

When you get a camera, you want to be able to take pictures from far away. The PowerShot ELPH 510 HS features a 12x digital zoom, making it a camera that can be used from an impressive distance.
This is especially impressive considering how small and thin the camera is, and one of the factors that distinguishes it from the other cameras on the market.
There is no viewfinder to spy into to see what your image will show; just look at the touchscreen and you’ll see your image as it will come out. This is fine, though there are some people out there who prefer a viewfinder

With high-speed burst mode, you can take several shots in a row … then go through and pick the best one.
Slow motion movie recording is available too.
If you want to jump into the picture after setting up the shot yourself, there is a timer with preset 10 second and 2 second delays, or you can set up your own customizable delay in 1-second increments.
The PowerShot ELPH 510 HS accepts a variety of memory card options, including SD Memory Card, SDHC memory Card, SDXC Memory Card and Eye-Fi.
When going over the photos you’ve shot, you can do a lot of manipulating of them – such as rotation, red-eye correction, resizing, etc. You can also view them as a slideshow
The included USB cable allows you to connect the camera to your computer, where you can store your photos and do what you will with them from there (I’m a big fan of to make prints and other products from my photos). You can also connect the USB cable directly to some Canon printers if you have photo-quality paper at home.

With this camera, you can let the machine do the work or do it yourself, in terms of settings.
Smart AUTO finds best settings if you don’t want to figure it out yourself. (The camera will choose from a list of 32 preset options)
If you like to tinker with your settings, everything from aperture to shutter speed to white balance can be adjusted as you wish.
A variety of shooting modes are built into the camera and can be chosen, including: Portrait, Kids & Pets, High-Speed Burst, Handheld Night Scene, Low Light, Fish-eye Effect, Miniature Effect, Toy Camera Effect, Monochrome, Super Vivid, Poster Effect, Color Accent, Color Swap, Beach, Foliage, Snow, Fireworks and more.

You’ll get the PowerShot ELPH 510 HS camera, a charger, a battery pack, a wrist strap, a USB cable, and a CD-Rom.

While not the greatest, battery life on the PowerShot ELPH 510 HS is decent at about 170 shots. I’ve seen better, but I’ve also seen worse. Charging of the battery is pretty quick.

The retail price of the PowerShot ELPH 510 HS is $349.99 if you buy direct from Canon. But it can be found for less than $300 if you buy it elsewhere online, such as and other similar sites.

Canon has done a good job with the PowerShot ELPH 510 HS in terms of packing a lot of great options into a very portable package. You won’t be able to be as artistic with your photos as you could with a DSLR, but that’s understandable, as that is comparing apples and oranges, plus this model is several hundred dollars less than most DSLR models.
It’s no stretch to call this model one of the best point-and-shoot cameras on the market. It’s got an attractive look, great zoom ability, a responsive touchscreen, produces high-quality photos and video, and should definitely be considered by anyone who wants a compact camera but doesn’t want to sacrifice on specs.

Matt Myftiu can be reached at or 248-745-4617. Follow him on Twitter @MattMyftiu or become a fan of the Facebook page “OPTechTime”.

On the Web
For more information on the PowerShot ELPH 510 HS, visit

TECH TIME REVIEW: LG boosts smartphone reputation with impressive Nitro HD

AT&T is in the process of rolling out its faster 4G LTE network, and in the process has been unveiling some new phones that are capable of accessing the network.
Among these offerings is the LG Nitro HD, an extra-large phone with some impressive specs, and I recently had the chance to spend some time with one. I’ll let you know how it stacks up against the other AT&T smartphones, and the smartphone market in general, and whether LG has finally produced a phone that can hang with the big offerings from other makes like HTC, Samsung and Apple.

Before I delve inside the specs, let’s get looks out of the way. This is a big phone, with a 4.5-inch screen. This amount of real estate is great for people who want a big screen to play their games or watch videos and movies. Others will find it just too big and uncomfortable to hold. It’s a matter of personal preference, and those seeking a smaller screen have other options. I don’t mind larger screens, I like them actually, so I was not concerned with this design. The weight is low at 4.5 ounces, and the official specs are 5.27 inches x 2.67 inches x 0.41 inches (a nice, thin depth).
The back of the phone has a unique feel to it, kind of a textured or ribbed plastic, but is still pretty grippy and isn’t prone to slipping out of your hands. It’s not the best materials I’ve seen used on a phone, but not as cheap feeling as some other phones I’ve tested. In terms of overall look and style, there’s nothing that really wows about this phone, as it’s pretty standard in its design.

Regarding the touchscreen itself, you get a very good high-definition resolution – 1280x720 pixels. This is becoming the standard that new phones must meet to be considered with the best, and the Nitro falls into this category. This level of resolution means super-sharp images of your movies, games, video calls or whatever else you are watching on the phone.
In terms or responsiveness, the touchscreen on the LG Nitro HD responded well to touch commands, and important factor since everything on phones now is controlled via the screen.

Considering the size of the phone, the on-screen QWERTY keyboard seemed a bit small to me in the vertical position, but the keys are bigger and more accessible in the horizontal position. All the usual forms of messaging – text, photo, video, IM – are offered on the Nitro.
Predictive texting is included, which can help you get your messages out quicker.
I had no issue with the calls I made on the LG Nitro HD, as they all sounded clear and I experienced no dropped calls or similar concerns.

The LG Nitro HD is one of AT&T’s new phones that is compatible with its new 4G LTE Network. AT&T’s phones up until now have been capable of the slower 4G HSPA+ speeds, so this is welcome news. By all accounts, AT&T’s 4G LTE network has download and upload speeds on a level with the best networks out there – even Verizon’s LTE network, which up until now has been called the fastest.
The problem is that the LTE network is not offered in a ton of places right now, compared to competitors. This means that I did not have access to it in Southeast Michigan, where I tested the phone. So I can’t tell you from personal experience how good AT&T’s LTE network really is. Instead, I was still using the HSPA+ 4G network, which was still fast – just not AS fast.
Some people might decide to wait until the LTE network arrives in their area before springing for an AT&T phone that can access it.

In terms of the processor, you get top-notch specs. The LG Nitro HD comes equipped with a 1.5 GHz dual-core processor, on par with the best phones on the market. This means you will not have any slowdowns when multitasking, and operation of the phone is very fast overall.
Memorywise, you get 4 GB of internal memory, and a preinstalled 16 GB microSD card. You can expand the memory to 32GB with a larger microSD card.

This is another area where the LG Nitro HD keeps pace for the most part with the ever-improving phones on the market. You get an 8-megapixel rear camera, the ability to shoot full HD 1080p video (which looks very good due to its 30 frames per second video capture ability), and you get the obligatory front-facing 1.3 MP camera so you can engage in video chat.
The only thing it really lacks is some of the more advanced camera features I’ve seen on some other new smartphones that have been released recently.

The LG Nitro HD features the Android 2.3 operating system. It is very easy to use, even for people who have no Android experience, and includes the usual Google integration, with services like Google Maps, Gmail, YouTube and much more built into the phone.
There is a newer and better Android system out (Android 4.0, aka Ice Cream Sandwich) and an upgrade to Android 4.0 is in store for the LG Nitro HD in the near future, according to LG.
Changing the icons that fill your homescreens, wallpaper, widgets and more is a very simple process on the LG Nitro HD.
The Optimus user interface LG uses on top of the stock Android system is not my favorite, and I prefer the stock Android UI on some other phones, but it didn’t bother me that much and most people won’t mind it.
You get some preloaded AT&T apps, but those are easily ignored if you don’t want to use them.

The LG Nitro HD is a world phone, so if you’re going to travel and have the appropriate international plan, the phone can travel with you.
The phone is also Bluetooth capable.

While it wasn’t the worst I’ve seen on a 4G phone, I would have liked to see a little better battery life on the LG Nitro HD. It should get you through the day, just be careful about using more intensive apps that will suck the battery fast.

The LG Nitro HD will cost you $199.99 with a 2-year contract. This is slightly less than some new phones available on AT&T and elsewhere, in part likely because LG is not as big a name in the smartphone market as its competitors. And if the past is any indicator, the price will drop in the near future if you’re looking to pick it up down the road.

With specs mostly in line with other top phones on the market, it really comes down to taste. This is a strong addition to the AT&T phone lineup, but there are a lot of other strong options too from other companies. If you’re going to pick this one up, you’ll have to like the design and feel of it, be a fan of really big touchscreens, and the people who will get the most out of the LG Nitro HD are those who live in areas where AT&T’s 4G LTE network has already reached.
It’s not going to be a runaway hit and grab headlines, as LG still is not considered by everyone in the same level as its competitors, but this phone does have the goods to compete so AT&T customers should give it a shot along with the competition and see if it satisfies their wish list for their next smartphone.

Matt Myftiu can be reached at or 248-745-4617. Follow him on Twitter @MattMyftiu or become a fan of the Facebook page “OPTechTime”.

On the Web
For more information on the LG Nitro HD, visit

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Sprint unveils three Initial 4G LTE Devices — Galaxy Nexus, LG Viper and Sierra Wireless Tri-Network Hotspot

LAS VEGAS — Sprint has announced the initial group of devices that will operate on its 4G LTE network – Galaxy Nexus, boasting a pure Google experience, LG Viper 4G LTE with eco-friendly features and Sierra Wireless Tri-Network Hotspot, 3G, 4G and 4G LTE mobile hotspot. Full product specifications, pricing and availability will be shared closer to each device’s launch date.

“The first three products that will run on the Sprint 4G LTE network exemplify the cutting-edge technology our customers can expect from Sprint as we progress with our 4G LTE rollout,” said Steve Elfman, president of Network, Wholesale and Product Development for Sprint. “Galaxy Nexus packs industry-leading features and the best of Google into a beautiful design while LG Viper 4G LTE continues Sprint’s commitment to green devices that don’t sacrifice speed or technology. These products combine with our unlimited data pricing plans to give Sprint customers a powerful wireless experience.”

On Jan. 5, Sprint CEO Dan Hesse announced that customers in Atlanta, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio are expected to be among the first to benefit from 4G LTE and improved 3G coverage in the first half of 2012. Additional areas that will receive 3G enhancements and 4G LTE expansion in 2012 will be announced later in the year.

Approximately 15 4G LTE devices are currently on track to be launched in 2012 including handsets, tablets and data cards.

— Pairing the beauty of Samsung hardware with a pure Google experience, Galaxy Nexus on Sprint is built on Android 4.0, Ice Cream Sandwich. Ice Cream Sandwich brings an entirely new look and feel to Android. It has a redesigned user interface with improved multi-tasking, notifications, Wi-Fi hotspot, NFC support and a full web browsing experience. Galaxy Nexus features software navigation buttons, a first for Android smartphones. The lock screen, home screen, phone app and everything in between has been rethought and redesigned to make Android simple, beautiful and useful.

Ice Cream Sandwich introduces innovations such as Face Unlock, which uses facial recognition to unlock your phone. Using NFC (Near Field Communications) technology, Android Beam allows users to quickly share web pages, apps and YouTube videos with friends by simply tapping phones together. Users can even video chat with up to 10 friends with Google+ Hangouts for mobile. Galaxy Nexus will also be Sprint’s second smartphone enabled with NFC supporting Google Wallet, enabling the phone to be used like a wallet to make safe, secure purchases at hundreds of thousands of participating retailers.

— LG Viper 4G LTE brings customers the benefit of eco-friendly features without missing out on speed or the latest technology. Initial eco-friendly features include a charger with a no-load consumption rating of .03W, which exceeds the EC Code of Conduct on energy efficiency and the casing is made of 35 percent recycled plastics. Additional details will be provided closer to availability.

Powered by Android 2.3, Gingerbread, LG Viper 4G LTE is equipped with a 1.2GHz dual core processor and two cameras – a 5-megapixel rear-facing camera and a VGA front-facing camera that makes face-to-face video calls a fun and easy experience. It offers a 4-inch WVGA NOVA display, hotspot capability and a microSD slot supporting up to 32GB. It is also compatible with DLNA-capable devices.

As a Sprint ID smartphone, LG Viper 4G LTE allows users to cut through the clutter of more than 400,000 apps in Android Market by selecting from a variety of mobile ID packs featuring apps, ringers, wallpapers, widgets and more. Currently available Sprint ID packs include Green, Fashion and Beauty, E!, MTV Music, CMT and NASCAR Sprint Cup. In addition, LG Viper 4G LTE is NFC-enabled and capable of providing Google Wallet.

Sprint expands its mobile broadband portfolio with its first 4G LTE mobile broadband device, Sierra Wireless Tri-Network Hotspot. It will be the first tri-network (3G, 4G and 4G LTE) mobile hotspot and will easily allow families, small businesses and traveling co-workers to share their high-speed connection.

For the most up-to-date details on Sprint’s 4G LTE rollout, please visit

AT&T unveils a boatload of new smartphones, new tablet

LAS VEGAS — AT&T showed consumers a glimpse into the future of communications and high-speed mobile broadband at, unveiling seven new 4G LTE smartphones, a $299.99 4G LTE tablet and streamlined tools for "app" or application inventors to more quickly launch their ideas.
The new devices, all powered by the company's 4G LTE network, were announced at the AT&T Developer Summit one day before the opening of the 2012 International Consumer Electronics Show, which started Monday. The new smartphones and tablet will all operate on either the Android or Windows platforms and are expected to be available to consumers early this year.
"Delivering a first-class mobile broadband experience to our customers is at the forefront of everything we do," said Ralph de la Vega, president and CEO, AT&T Mobility and Consumer Markets. "To achieve this, we're bringing together the industry's best 4G smartphone portfolio, a blazing fast LTE 4G network, and innovative applications that stem from our collaborative relationship with the developer community."
The annual AT&T Developer Summit is a two-day event for software developers to hear the latest news on AT&T 4G devices and network and get technical news and marketing insights from industry experts. More than 2,000 developers attended this year's event.
Joining de la Vega in announcing the new smartphones and tablet were Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and other top executives from leading communications technology companies such as Samsung, Sony, Nokia, HTC and Pantech.
In the coming weeks, AT&T will begin offering the Samsung Galaxy Note, which features the world's first 5.3-inch HD Super AMOLED screen (1280x800) for sharp, clear colors and readability. It also features the S Pen, giving users the ability to easily sketch drawings, jot down notes, or write emails and texts quickly and easily in free-form handwriting.
AT&T also unveiled the Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket HD, a 4G LTE smartphone with a 4.65-inch HD Super AMOLED screen and 1.5GHz dual-core processor for smooth game play and video playback.
The first 4G LTE smartphone from Sony, the Xperia ion, will support access to the richest entertainment experiences from Sony Entertainment Network, such as a global music catalog, the latest Hollywood blockbusters and TV shows from all major studios. Xperia ion is also PlayStation Certified, offering a high-quality gaming experience.
Other upcoming devices announced by AT&T were:
— The Pantech Element, an LTE-connected Android tablet available exclusively at AT&T company-owned stores and online for $299.99 with a two-year contract on Jan. 22.
— The Samsung Exhilarate, a smartphone constructed from 80 percent recycled post-consumer materials with access to AT&T U-verse(r) Live TV.
— The Pantech Burst, which combines 4G LTE speeds and the latest Android functionality in a slim, affordable package - just $49.99 with a two-year contract.
— The HTC TITAN II, a Windows Phone with a 16-megapixel camera and a 4.7-inch screen, making it perfect for watching movies, playing games, emailing and surfing the Web.
— Nokia's first-ever 4G LTE Windows Phone.
For a limited time, customers may buy the Pantech Element and Burst together and get $100 off the total price, resulting in a combined $249.99 best price for both the tablet and smartphone with a two-year agreement on both devices.
The two-day AT&T Developer Summit underscored AT&T's commitment to opening up its network to developers and creating opportunities for collaboration.
"Applications are one of the primary reasons people buy smartphones and tablets," said David Christopher, chief marketing officer, AT&T Mobility and Consumer Markets. "With that appetite, we need to have the world's greatest apps - running at their best - on our network. Collaborating with developers and supporting their creativity through the AT&T API Platform and other best-in-class tools is the best way that we can make sure our 100 million-plus wireless customers have access to the best apps and mobile experience."
For example, Christopher said, AT&T is opening up AT&T U-verse receivers to developers to enable development of multi-screen applications that interact in the home with U-verse TV, the fastest-growing TV provider in the United States over the past 11 quarters combined, with 3.6 million subscribers and $7 billion in annualized revenue as of third quarter 2011
"We're taking the hottest TV product and we're marrying it with the hottest mobile technology," Christopher said. "This will create great opportunities for developers and benefits for our customers."

Verizon Wireless unveils Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 at CES

At the 2012 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Samsung announced that the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 will be available on the Verizon Wireless 4G LTE Mobile Broadband network in the coming weeks.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 boasts a Super AMOLED Plus touchscreen display, allowing customers to watch movies, view pictures and play games that come to life in high-definition 720p (1280x800) resolution. The Galaxy Tab 7.7 features a 1.4 GHz dual-core processor and HTML 5 Web browser to quickly access the Web, stream music and more at blazing speeds using the Verizon Wireless 4G LTE network. The Galaxy Tab 7.7 measures just 7.9 millimeters thin (less than half an inch) and weighs only 340 grams (roughly 12 oz), making this tablet one of the most portable premium and stylish tablets available.

The Galaxy Tab 7.7 features Peel Smart Remote that allows customers to find and watch their favorite TV shows and discover new shows based on their preferences through built-in infrared blaster. Customers can also control their home entertainment system using Peel Smart Remote regardless of manufacturer with the Tab 7.7, all with the tap of a finger. Additionally, the Galaxy Tab 7.7 will launch as a SAFE™ certified device. The SAFE certification signifies that the Tab 7.7 is equipped with an exclusive suite of security features that deliver enterprise-friendly capabilities to help safeguard sensitive data and communications, including Mobile Device Management (MDM), on-device Encryption, Virtual Private Network (VPN) and corporate email, calendar and contacts.

Additional features:

— Samsung TouchWiz - Designed with Live Panels for customizing the home screen with digital pictures, favorite Web sites and social network feeds.

— Mobile Hotspot capability – Share your 4G LTE connection with up to 10 Wi-Fi enabled devices or 3G connection with up to 5 Wi-Fi enabled devices

— Android 3.2, Honeycomb – Supports Google Mobile Services including Gmail, YouTube, Google Talk, Google Search, Google Maps, and access to Google Books, movie rentals, and more than 400,000 apps on Android Market

— Samsung Apps – Samsung Apps is a recommendation engine that aggregates over 50,000 apps from the Android Market that are optimized for Honeycomb. Samsung Apps also adds a social element by allowing consumers to share the apps they like with friends on Facebook.

— Samsung Media Hub – Offering a vast lineup of critically acclaimed films and TV programs for rent or purchase (TV content can only be purchased)

— Samsung Social Hub – Built around messaging, which allows customers to send and receive information, whether it is email (Exchange, POP3/IMAP), social network updates (Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn)

— 3-megapixel rear-facing camera with LED flash and full 720p recording and 1080p playback (1080p playback through HDMI dock or adapter)

— Front-facing 2-megapixel camera for video chat

— Wi-Fi Direct – Customers can connect to their Wi-Fi-enabled portable devices and transfer music, videos and other data over an adhoc Wi-Fi connection

— AllShare App – Enables inter-device connectivity through Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA), so customers can send multimedia content wirelessly to other DLNA-enabled devices such as TVs and laptops

— Wi-Fi Connectivity (802.11 a/b/g/n)

— 16 GB on board storage (actual formatted capacity is less)

— Support for up to 32 GB microSD™ card


— Keyboard Dock – Full-size dock with tablet hotkeys that activate key features of the Galaxy Tab 7.7 including Internet, email and music/video controls; charging and data sync capabilities (cables not included); 3.5mm stereo audio output for connection to external speakers (cable not included)

— Multimedia Dock – Portrait viewing format for desktop display; fitted cradle and weighted base to keep your Galaxy Tab in place; built-in HDMI out port; 3.5mm stereo audio output for connection to external speakers (cable not included) and charging capabilities

— USB/SD Adapter Connection Kit – 30-pin to SD adapter for sharing multimedia files with your Tab via an SD or microSD device. USB adapter allows customers to connect an array of USB capable devices such as a mouse, keyboard, thumb drive, camera, Samsung printers, and more

— HDTV Adapter – Powered HDMI cable for video and audio streaming from your Tab to a compatible HDTV; support for HD video up to 1080p; simultaneous charging while streaming

— Book Cover Case – Ultra-slim fit with full access to all buttons and ports. Stands the tablet in landscape for optimal media viewing or as a keyboard stand for typing.

For more information about Verizon at CES, visit or follow Verizon Wireless news on Twitter at @VZWnews.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

TECH TIME REVIEW: Summer Infant video baby monitor impresses with its high-tech touchscreen

When it comes to baby monitors, every parent has their preferences. For some people, just an audio monitor will do, and if they hear their baby crying they’ll head into the room to put baby back to bed. To other parents, audio is not enough, and they require a video monitor so they can see exactly what their baby is doing. There are a lot of monitors on the market, and often parents will buy and return several before settling on one they like, so it’s a big timesaver if you know you’re getting something good on the first try.

Video monitors have come a long way, and what was once barely viewable grainy black-and-white video has now grown into top-notch color technology that will satisfy almost any parent wanting to keep track of their child. I recently tested one of the newer models in this area, the Summer Infant BabyTouch digital color video monitor, and found it to be an impressive option among the many video monitors on the market.

The monitor comes in two parts – the camera, and the monitor (aka the parent unit). The camera is very light and portable, and can be set up on the wall or just placed on a dresser or other location in the room.

The color LCD monitor, which the parent keeps in their room, is a good size at 3.5 inches. In addition to crisp color images, it also features automatic black and white night vision. There is a docking station so you can leave it sitting on a dresser or elsewhere comfortably.

What is most impressive about the monitor is the vast array of control options you have, all controlled easily via the responsive touchscreen. From afar, you can move the camera up and down, or left and right, to get a better view of the baby. You can also adjust the brightness of the screen. I used the monitor to regularly to watch my baby in the other room, and was always able to keep a good eye on her, even if she got a bit fidgety. You can also zoom in and out to get a closer, or farther, look at your baby.

It can’t be overestimated how convenient it is to be able to control the camera from the other room. This is a great feature and very helpful to the parents.

Visually, in both daytime and nighttime, the quality of the images transmitted to the monitor is pretty good – though it’s not HD quality and images can appear grainy if the camera is too far away.

One of the coolest features is the Talk Back button, which allows you to speak into the monitor and have your baby hear you. So if the sound of your voice or a lullaby via the camera is enough to soothe the baby to sleep, you might save yourself a trip to the other room to rock the baby back to bed.

Even if you have a long distance to your baby’s room, you’re covered with this monitor, which provides a secure digital connection up to 400 feet away. I experienced no interference or interruption of the feed when I was using the monitor.

The volume on the unit is impressive. You can adjust it from the parent unit, and it comes through pretty loud. If your baby is crying and wants your attention, you will definitely hear it.

You have the ability to add up to 3 additional cameras (which must be purchased separately), if you have several areas where baby will be monitored. All cameras will be controlled by the same parent monitor unit. This expandability is also nice if you have more than one baby to monitor. If you expand, “scan” mode bounces between the camera shots.

The suggested retail price of the Summer Infant BabyTouch Digital Video Monitor is $250, but it is available for just under $200 at and other websites.

This is a decent chunk of change, but the technology and capability of this unit is among the best on the market, so it’s not too hard to justify the cost – especially when you consider who they are designed to protect. If there is one thing I’ve learned as a father, it's that when it comes to your child you’re often willing to spend more, when you wouldn’t on yourself.

If you want to hear and see your little one when you’re not in the room, the Summer Infant BabyTouch Digital Video Monitor is one of the best high-tech options out there. There are monitors that are less expensive, but they don’t offer all the features that this one does, so you’ll have to decide what features you need in a monitor and whether this is the one for you.

On the Web:
For more information on the Summer Infant BabyTouch digital color video monitor, visit

Contact Matt Myftiu at Follow him on Twitter @MattMyftiu. Check out the Facebook page "OPTechTime" for more reviews.

TECH TIME REVIEW: New Striiv pedometer offers unique forms of motivation to exercise

When you think of pedometers, fun is not the word that usually comes to mind. I mean, they count steps – how fun could one be?

Well, the Striiv is a new device that attempts to take the pedometer to new levels, by including games, goals and other features that aim to motivate you to become more and more active.

It’s a novel idea, and I recently tried one out and will let you know what the Striiv offers and who might want one.

If something is going to go with you everywhere you go, it has to be small and portable. This is the case with the Striiv, which fits on your keychain. The full dimensions are 2.75 inches by 1.7 inches by 0.5 inches, and it weighs just 1.4 ounces


The Striiv is very effective in its main goal, counting steps. Whether it’s hung on your belt and sitting in a purse, the steps will be counted. And it will tell the difference between your walking steps and your running steps


Rather than just count your steps, one trick the Striiv uses is to offer your challenges, kind of like an electronic personal trainer.

Sample challenges are: “run 250 steps in 20 minutes” “climb 100 stairs in 15 minutes” “exceed 2.4 miles today” “walk 0.25 miles in 20 minutes” “run 2001 steps in 30 minutes”, etc. You get the drift. You can spin a wheel to determine the challenges offered. This is a nice feature, and can spice up your workout routine.

As anyone who works out knows, it’s sometimes hard to get motivated. Having something on your keychain that can contribute to that motivation with some workout suggestions could end up being a good thing.


One thing about working out is you want to see proof it’s doing something for you. The Striiv offers “trophies” to motivate you, such as “burn a sundae” “burn large fries” , etc. It also tells you when you set a “new personal best” and lets you know when you break milestones such as the 10,000 step mark.

You can also keep track of what your activity has been via the “charts” and “stats” buttons on the touchscreen.


Much of the operation of the Striiv is done through the touchscreen, but you also have physical “home” and “back” buttons on the bottom of the device. You can adjust the brightness and volume of the device from the on-screen menus.

Battery life was good, lasting several days before you needed to recharge the Striiv. And charging didn’t take too long either.


Striiv’s makers claim that the average user walks twice as much as the national average, though we all know it all depends on how much you’re dedicated to your fitness program and can’t all be attributed to a little device. It might help, but you have to do your part too.

One phenomenon I noted when I used the Striiv is that I was often trying to outdo my previous best number of steps, and achieve more trophies. Maybe it’s part of the human psyche that we want to get better at things, but whatever it is, the more you move the better so the end result is a positive change.


There is also another unique way to encourage fitness on the Striiv – a game called myland which allows you to fill an island with wildlife and plants as your steps increase. As you walk, you earn points that can be used in the game, which is played directly on the Striiv’s touchscreen. If you get into the game, that might make you want to walk some more and have more points to use in the game. It’s kind of a strange motivational tool, but it might work for some people.


The Striiv is priced at $99, which at first appears kind of high for a pedometer – even one that’s spruced up like this one. But if the Striiv does get you involved more in fitness and improves your health long-term, well that is definitely worth $99.


Motivation is a funny thing. For some people, it comes from odd sources. The Striiv could be one of those if you’re wanting a little motivation in your pocket as you continue your fitness quest.

Through its unique offerings such as challenges and games, the Striiv turns a pedometer into a fun motivational device in your fitness quest. Its price might be a bit high, and those who already are dedicated to their workout routine don't need one, but those seeking motivation who pick up a Striiv might end up finding it useful in their quest to get more exercise.

For more information, visit

Matt Myftiu can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @MattMyftiu, and check out the Tech Time Facebook page called "OPTechTime".