January 6, 2012

Fun facts from Millennial Media's IPO filing

Did you hear? Baltimore's Millennial Media filed to go public yesterday, letting everyone know they hope to raise $75 million from Wall Street to fuel their mobile ad business's growth (and make its founders and early investors rich.)


Up above, those are co-founders Chris Brandenburg (left), chief technology officer, and Paul Palmier, chief executive officer.

Below are some fun facts from Millennial Media's S-1 registration statement with the SEC for its initial public offering:

* Quite literally, the money paragraph (note the improvement in gross margin) and the rapid closing of the gap from a $7 million loss in 2010 to a $417,000 loss in the first nine months of last year: "From 2009 to 2010, our revenue increased from $16.2 million to $47.8 million, or 195%, our gross margin improved from 29% to 34%, our net loss improved from $7.6 million to $7.1 million and our adjusted EBITDA improved from a loss of $7.0 million to a loss of $6.4 million. For the nine months ended September 30, 2011 as compared to the same period of 2010, our revenue increased from $29.1 million to $69.1 million, or 138%, our gross margin improved from 33% to 39%, our net loss improved from $5.4 million to $417,000 and our adjusted EBITDA improved from a loss of $4.9 million to earnings of $650,000."

* Employee growth: "We grew from 54 employees at December 31, 2008 to 190 employees at September 30, 2011." And more up to date: "As of December 31, 2011, we had 222 employees, of which 72 were primarily engaged in product and technology and 69 were engaged in sales and marketing."

* Fascinating chart of the ramp-up in spending among the top 100 advertisers with Millennial over the last three years:


* The top four executives at Millennial are all over 30 -- and the CEO Paul Palmieri and COO Stephen Root are over 40. (Sorry for pointing this out, Paul and Stephen. But I think it should be made clear Millennial's success as a startup so far is because of some relatively veteran executives, not fresh-faced kids out of college.)

* Those four executives earned this much money in 2011:


* Co-founders Paul Palmieri and Chris Brandenburg own 11.3 percent and 9.2 percent, respectively of outstanding shares in Millennial. Investment firms Bessemer Venture Partners and Columbia Capital are tied for the top shareholder spot, at 20.6 percent each.

* Millennial's five-year lease at the American Can Co. complex in Canton is up in July 2013. It's paying between $21 and $22 per square foot for 16,000+ square feet of space. It's annual lease has gone up from $201,000 in the first year, to $361,000 in its final year of the lease.

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:

December 20, 2011

Amazon Kindle Fire's impressions growing 19 percent a day on Millennial Media's network

Millennial Media, a top mobile advertising firm based in Baltimore, put out its latest monthly "Mobile Mix" report that updates trends in the industry based on what the company is seeing in its network. The early results are in: users of the Amazon Kindle Fire tablet are actually using the device! (Okay, we're not that shocked.)

Millennial reports impressions from the Kindle Fire grew at an average daily rate of 19% since its launch in mid-November. And, the Fire has slightly outpaced the impression numbers from the launch of the original iPad in early 2010, according to Millennial.

These are interesting times for the Kindle Fire. Clearly, there are people out there who really want the device. Yet it got knocked down a peg recently in a New York Times article for a number of hardware and software issues.

No doubt, though, Amazon and Jeff Bezos aren't going to be deterred. They're in it for the long haul.

Millennial put together this snappy graphic that shows the evolution of the Kindle line (see below). Sexy. Ahem. Kidding. Has anyone really thought of the Kindle as "sexy", the way Apple devices are often considered?


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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 3:40 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Smartphones

October 24, 2011

Stories of three entrepreneurs in mobile apps

This past Sunday, I wrote about the "mobile app economy," and told the stories of three Baltimore area entrepreneurs who are finding successful with building apps. Check out the story.

Thanks to Todd Marks, of Mindgrub; Shawn Grimes and wife Stephanie of Shawn's Bits and Campfire Apps; and Jason King, of Accella, for opening up to me and sharing some great details about their businesses.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:12 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Apps, Big Ideas, Smartphones

October 3, 2011

Apple iPhone 5 -- aka "iMaggeddon" -- tomorrow?

The next version or generation of the iPhone is expected to be announced tomorrow at Apple's headquarters, and it will likely go on sale in the next few weeks.

The likelihood that you'll be able to buy one before Christmas? Zilch.

Okay, maybe I'm being over-dramatic, but ... remember trying to get hold of an iPad, an iPad 2 or an iPhone 4? It wasn't THAT easy. You had to hustle and think ahead. And you usually had to have the stamina and patience to -- gasp! -- wait in a long line.

A survey last month projected unprecedented demand for the new iPhone. [CIO covered the survey here.]

So what is the tech media saying about "iPhone 5", aka "iMaggedon"?

Take a look:

* PCWorld's looks at the theories of what to expect.

* throws water on the iPhone "5" rumor and says we're really only getting a souped-up iPhone 4.

* This WSJ piece talks about what many others have speculated -- the newest iPhone will have enhanced voice and speech recognition abilities.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:46 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: *NEWS*, Smartphones

August 24, 2011

Baltimore's first earthquake tweet


We all know by now that social media, specifically networks such as Twitter and Facebook, played a big role in connecting people after yesterday's earthquake. [Note:Did you see my story about it?]

Well, the folks at Twitter sifted through all those messages yesterday and then emailed me with some interesting facts, including Baltimore's first earthquake tweet.

The tweet came from Verna-Catherine (@prettyinbluee_) Her first tweet was "Earthquake?" (see above)

At first, as you see by her tweets, she thought someone was breaking into her house. Then, she grabbed her dog and her TV.

Here's the tweeter -- she's fast with her texting. Someone in the media should think about hiring her!


My favorite tweet of hers: "People just happy that something interesting happened in MD."

Some other earthquake facts from Twitter, courtesy of PR person Jodi Olson:

* A Tweet can reach your followers in less than a second. So in areas far from the epicenter, some people read Tweets about the quake before they felt it.

* Within a minute of the earthquake, there were more than 40,000 earthquake-related Tweets.

* Twitter hit about 5,500 Tweets per second (TPS). For context, this TPS is more than Osama Bin Laden's death & on par with the Japanese quake.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 9:38 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: *NEWS*, Smartphones, Social Media

August 22, 2011

BestBuy offering free iPhone 3GS with contract

Word is out on the Internets [MacRumors] that Best Buy is offering the iPhone 3GS for free with a two-year contract with AT&T.

It's a "Deal of the Day" so this may mean it's only a one-day deal.

If you've never owned an iPhone before, should you jump on it?

My recommendation: If you must get an iPhone, save your pennies up and get the iPhone 4. Or at least wait another month or two for the next generation iPhone.

The iPhone 3GS was an excellent phone -- 18 months ago. But there's a lot you can do now with iOS that seems clunky on the 3GS, i.e. Facetime and Skype video chatting with ease. iPhone 4 is also a faster experience, and the retina screen causes far less eye strain. If you sign up for a two year contract with 3GS, that's a long time to go with yesterday's tech.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 12:44 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*, Gadgets, Smartphones

August 15, 2011

Survey: 13% of Americans use cellphones to avoid interactions

In a report today from the Pew Internet and American Life Project, 13 percent of Americans indicated that they use their cellphones to avoid real-life interactions with others.

The survey tosses out a number of statistics on the habits of American cell phone users.

Some more:

* Half of all adult cell owners (51%) had used their phone at least once to get information they needed right away. One quarter (27%) said that they experienced a situation in the previous month in which they had trouble doing something because they did not have their phone at hand.

* Cell phones can help stave off boredom – 42% of cell owners used their phone for entertainment when they were bored.

* One third of Americans own smartphones. And it's in that demographic's usage patterns do you have a window into our mobile future: Fully nine in ten smartphone owners use text messaging or take pictures with their phones, while eight in ten use their phone to go online or send photos or videos to others. Many activities—such as downloading apps, watching videos, accessing social networking sites or posting multimedia content online—are almost entirely confined to the smartphone population.

[Thanks to @johnbhorrigan, who tweeted out the Pew report.]

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 1:02 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*, Apps, Big Ideas, Gadgets, Smartphones, Wireless

August 9, 2011

Baltimoreans can rent out their parking spots thru Parking Panda

parking-panda-image.gifHey Baltimore: Here's your chance to make a buck off your own parking spot.

Parking Panda, a Baltimore web startup, recently went live with its website -- -- which can also be accessed by mobile phone browsers.

Parking Panda is kinda like the Airbnb (a site that lets people pay for or rent out homes and apartments for travelers) of parking.

People who are looking to make a little extra money off their unused or lightly used parking spot can list it for rent on the site. And people who are looking to park in city neighborhoods -- perhaps during big events such as baseball or football games, or the upcoming Grand Prix -- can turn to it to find a spot they can rent with their smartphone.

The site is the work of Nick Miller and Adam Zilberbaum, two young guys from Baltimore who won a startup competition in the city in the spring. They are currently working on their startup in New York City, at the Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator, but they plan on returning to Baltimore to jump-start their business.

[I wrote a story about Parking Panda and the trend of business accelerators recently.]

And they're hoping the Grand Prix, over Labor Day weekend, will generate demand for their app as people struggle to find parking downtown.

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:

May 26, 2011

Google: Hand over your wallet and no one will get hurt


The buzz for awhile now is that your smartphone will also become your wallet. That day is just about here.

Google today introduced what many had expected: a mobile payments system that marries a mobile phone, a mobile app, your credit card, and a new technology called "near field communication." (aka NFC)

The whole offering is called Google Wallet.

Basically, with phones that have the NFC chip, you'll be able to wave your phone -- like a magic spending wand! -- and plunk stuff on your virtual credit card. Google Wallet will also automatically ding you with coupons and loyalty points for whatever consumer programs you're signed up with.

Citi, Mastercard, First Data and Sprint are the partners on the effort with Google. If you use Mastercard's PayPass technology, then you can use Google Wallet, too.

Don't be surprised, dear reader, to see other mobile wallet solutions coming your way in the next year. Visa and AmEx have their own plans cooking. And who knows what Apple really has planned for its iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad junta.

Want to know more about the mobile payment scene? Here's a story I wrote last week about Micros Systems Inc. of Columbia, Md. rolling out a mobile payment app for restaurants.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 5:24 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*, Big Ideas, Gadgets, Smartphones

May 17, 2011

Paying with your iPhone, browsing menus with your iPad


In today's story about technology in the Baltimore area, we take you to two popular destinations in Howard County, Md.: Houlihan's and Victoria's Gastro Pub.

At Houlihan's, the Columbia restaurant has enabled a smartphone app called Tabbedout to work with its point-of-sale terminals, where orders are punched in and credit cards are run. Tabbedout is made by an Austin, Tex.-based company and it's being marketed in partnership with MICROS Systems Inc., a big player in POS terminals for restaurants.

Basically, you input your credit card info once into the Tabbedout app and then you can request the tab -- and pay it -- with a few swipes of your finger while at the restaurant.

At Victoria's, also in Columbia, management there is allowing its restaurant to be used as a test bed for MICROS's iPad menu app, which is under development. The app allows beer and wine drinkers to browse the restaurant's extensive libations selection (250 beers enough for you?), and keep track of the beers you drink as a beer club member.

It remains to be seen in which direction MICROS will go with the iPad app, but don't be surprised if one day soon you're able to download your favorite restaurant's iPad app and interact with it, say, as a member of a diner's club, even when you're not there.

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:

May 9, 2011

Powering a cellphone with your voice?

Today, the UK's Telegraph reports on a new effort by South Korean scientists to convert sound waves into energy, with obvious uses for mobile phones.

If this piece of science ever gets fully developed, my gosh -- people will never shut up on their cellphones and they'll use the excuse of saying they're charging their batteries!

The writer quotes scientist Dr. Sang-Woo Kim as saying:

"Sound power can be used for various novel applications including cellular phones that can be charged during conversations and sound-insulating walls near highways that generate electricity from the sound of passing vehicles.

"The latter development would have the additional benefit of reducing noise levels near highways by absorbing the sound energy of vehicles."

Here's another idea: can scientists convert the physical pressure that we exert on our phones for texting into energy? Can you imagine if we harness the national potential of all 13-year-olds engaged in texting everyday? I'm sure we could power cities across the land!

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:39 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*, Big Ideas, Smartphones

April 22, 2011

Mobile apps, mobile work, mobile life: the rise of digital nomads

There are tons of success stories of developers who've built killer smartphone apps into thriving little businesses. But I'd bet there are fewer stories out there like the story of Jen Harvey and Steven Hugg.

This couple helped me kick off the beginning of my story about the rise of digital nomads, or people who increasingly work and live wherever they choose, thanks to mobile connectivity and the Internet. Harvey and Hugg run Voxilate, a company whose had great success with an iPhone/Android app called HeyTell.

Harvey and Hugg ditched their Bethesda lives early last year and went completely mobile, living in short-term rentals and traveling the country whenever they felt the urge to visit a place or visit with friends and family. And they've managed the sharp growth of their successful app (5+ million downloads) and their business while on the road. They're currently in San Diego.

I spoke with other traveler/workers, too, including Heather Van De Mark, a designer with Groove Commerce in Baltimore. She started traveling in August, and works on website designs for Groove from wherever she chooses to open up her laptop.

I also spoke with Cherie Ve Ard and Chris Dunphy, two very experienced digital nomads -- or technomads, by their term -- who've been working in software and traveling the U.S. for the past four years.

It's becoming more viable to do this kind of work/travel arrangement, thanks to advances in Internet and mobile communications. But do you have the boss -- or the business -- that will enable you to do it? What's more: is constant travel really appealing to you?

Below: Heather Van De Mark in Chapel Hill recently, where she is house-sitting.


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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 1:50 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Big Ideas, Entrepreneurs & Risk Takers, Smartphones, Startups

March 14, 2011

Buy back programs: Buy. Sell. Repeat.

This past weekend, I took a look at the proliferation of "buy back" programs in the consumer electronics retailing industry with this piece, which appeared in the Sunday paper. Best Buy is the latest retailer to come out with a program. Walmart, Target, Radio Shack and various wireless carriers have their own, too.

Personally, I find myself taking care of my gadgets better knowing that there's a market for them. It also gives me some buying comfort knowing that there's a multitude of ways to sell "old" gadgets to help fund the purchase of new ones. What are your thoughts on this trend? Which buy back programs do you think are the best right now?

Best Buy employee Rustam Ibragimov, left, explains the company's buy back program to customer Robin Wilson, from right, and husband Roger, of Frostburg who are buying a laptop computer. The couple purchased the buy back program and an one-year repair service warranty on the computer. (Baltimore Sun photo by Kenneth K. Lam / March 10, 2011)

Go-go gadget buy back
Retailers want to sell you gadgets, buy them back later, and then sell them again

By Gus G. Sentementes, The Baltimore Sun

You know that shiny smart phone you bought six months ago? There's an even better one hitting the market right about now. Or how about that flat-panel TV you bought last year. Now they come in 3-D.

With the ever-quickening pace of technological advances, you can be left in the digital dust.

Retailers now have a solution for consumers — and for themselves. They will buy back your old gadget in hopes that you turn around and buy the next best gadget on their shelves.

Under these "buyback" programs, big-box retailers and online merchants give cash or credit for a piece of used electronics. Best Buy, the world's largest consumer electronics retailer, launched its program earlier this year.

"Technology is changing so fast that the consumer a lot of times feels they're being left behind, so they'll postpone buying," said Cynthia Jasper, an expert in buying behavior and chair of the consumer science department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. "So it's a way to make the consumer feel at ease."

For retailers, buyback programs are another way to lure customers into stores to spend on pricey gadgets such as smart phones, laptops, tablet computers and televisions. Retailers also see buyback programs as an alternative revenue stream because they can sell used products through online outlet sites.

One California start-up has put its own twist on the concept. Its vending machine model, called the "ecoATM," is an automated kiosk that accepts used gadgets and pays the consumer in cash or gift cards. The company behind the Redbox movie rental kiosks, Coinstar, has invested in ecoATM, which has already deployed some of the machines in California.

Retail industry experts say the consumer electronics market is evolving the way markets in used cars or used textbooks did. And if consumers believe their gadgets will retain some value, they might be more willing to upgrade sooner rather than risk the device becoming outdated and worthless, industry experts said.

For years, early adopters of gadgets have used eBay and other online outlets to eventually sell them and use the cash to defray the cost of the latest models. With the new buyback programs, that kind of electronics consumerism could become the norm.

Many consumers already trade in — and up — their cell phones, as those who lock into contracts are often given credit to upgrade to newer models. Sprint, AT&T and Verizon have introduced their own buyback programs, some of which aim to lure customers from other carriers.

"The electronics business is built on people upgrading their products," said Stephen Baker, vice president of industry analysis at NPD Group, a technology research firm. "Anything to increase the turnover is a benefit to the industry."

Consumer electronics retailers typically have thin profit margins, but some are finding a lucrative market in buying and reselling lightly used gadgets.

Dale S. Rogers, a logistics and supply chain expert and professor at Rutgers University, estimates that the secondary market for consumer electronics is worth about $13 billion in annual sales — or about 10 percent of the total consumer electronics market in the United States.

Rogers said that brick-and-mortar retailers increasingly feel threatened by online commerce and are strategizing ways to keep consumers coming through the doors. Best Buy's program, for one, requires customers to come into the store to sell back products.

"The brick-and-mortar, big-box retail store is experiencing some difficulty these days," said Rogers. "It's real easy to buy online, so these buyback programs are really a great way to get you into the store."

Under Best Buy's program, the consumer who buys a gadget pays an upfront fee, which varies on the type of product, to participate and is guaranteed a resale price of 10 percent to 50 percent of the item's original price. Most gadgets, except for televisions, have to be sold back within two years to qualify for a resale. Televisions have a four-year window for re-sale.

Best Buy then resells the products through its outlet center, through other online channels, or recycles them.

Robin Wilson of Frostburg, who purchased a buyback plan from the Best Buy store in Timonium when she purchased a new laptop recently, said it was the first time she had ever considered selling back a gadget. She liked knowing she would get at least some money back. She and her husband bought a used Apple MacBook Pro for $975 and a 1-year warranty for $139. Buying the warranty allowed them to get a discount on the usual "buyback" rate of $69.99 for laptops, for $25, she said.

With the buyback plan she purchased, Wilson is guaranteed to get back anywhere from $195 to $487.50 in Best Buy store credit, depending on when she trades in the laptop over the next two years.

"You usually can't do anything with [computers] because they're not worth anything after a couple years," Wilson said. "This seemed like a pretty good deal."

Some consumer advocates are critical of Best Buy's program, saying consumers have other options for selling their used electronics without paying an upfront fee.

Best Buy officials say that with the fee, consumers are guaranteed a minimum return. The company also promotes the convenience of in-store resales as a key benefit.

"Let us take care of it for you," said George Creighton, operations manager at the Best Buy store in Glen Burnie.

TechForward, a start-up company in California, has been offering this "guaranteed buyback" model for several years, partnering with clients such as Radio Shack and CompUSA, which offer the option to consumers. The terms of TechForward's program are similar to Best Buy's.

It had partnered with Best Buy to develop the retailer's own program, a federal lawsuit filed last month in California alleges. TechForward contends that Best Buy stole its trade secrets and launched its own program — with a major commercial on Super Bowl Sunday this year — and ultimately cut out the small company.

Best Buy representatives declined to discuss the lawsuit.

As part of the lawsuit, TechForward revealed that one of the ways it makes money is by closely tracking the rate of return for different gadgets. The company can turn a profit from those who never take advantage of the buyback plan., a Boston-based company founded in 2006, gives consumers the going market price for a gadget, whether it's a smart phone or an Apple iPad.

It has also developed its own technologies for quickly assessing the worldwide market for electronics. Gazelle users can get an online price quote for their equipment, ship the product for free to the company and get paid within two weeks.

Some of Gazelle's retail partners include Walmart, Costco and Kmart. Consumers can trade in electronics through these retailers' websites and get store credit, or they can opt for cash back.

Kristina Kennedy, a Gazelle spokeswoman, said the company calls the nascent industry "recommerce." The March 2 announcement of the Apple iPad 2 led to a watershed moment for the online service. Owners of the original iPad flocked to the website and sold 2,400 units on the day that Apple CEO Steve Jobs announced the second version.

"That became the biggest day of business for us in the company's history," Kennedy said.

"What's really spurred our business is the pace of innovation," Kennedy said. "The last couple years have seen some very exciting products to come out in consumer electronics."

Baltimorean Dawn Ward has sold two smart phones, including an iPhone 3G in October for $80, through She's excited about all the options she now has to sell her gadgets.

"For the consumer, it's awesome," Ward said.

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:34 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: *NEWS*, Gadgets, Smartphones

March 9, 2011

Seeking recent users of "buy back" programs for gadgets

Hey gadget lovers: have you recently sold back a digital gadget (cellphone, tablet computer, laptop, iPod?) to an online "buy back" program? Did you purchase the new buy back program from Best Buy when you bought a gadget from them recently?

I'm researching a story about consumers using buy back programs and web sites to get money back for their used devices. I'm looking for Maryland consumers who've sold back their devices this way (or on eBay/Amazon) for some differing perspectives on the practice. Why do you do it? Is this part of your normal routine as a consumer? Are you an early adopter?

If you wish to share your thoughts on this, email me directly at and we can chat. You can also leave your commentary below! Many thanks.

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:10 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Gadgets, Smartphones, Wireless

February 17, 2011

The smartphone/dumbphone digital Baltimore?

A commenter over on our Google Moderator page left a story suggestion that he'd like to see us cover: what is the state of the digital divide between smartphone and other cellphone users? Here's Craig's comment:

"There's an app for almost everything, but does everyone have a smartphone? What's the digital divide for smartphone users vs. non-smartphones. What's the real market for apps?"

Good question, Craig. I know in Baltimore there are the usual telecom wireless operators, i.e. Verizon and AT&T. But we're also seeing a company called Cricket getting in the action, offering smart and feature phones for cheaper prices. Sprint has a subsidiary called Boost Mobile. These companies offer monthly plans and alternative pricing options.

I haven't poked around yet to see if there are breakdowns of smartphone/feature (or dumb) phone users by geographic region. That would be an interesting stat. If anyone finds any data, please drop a link in the comments below.

That said, I'd like to start a Google Doc Spreadsheet where we can all document examples of a "digital divide" in Baltimore, whether it's for businesses, or schools, or government.

Please add your ideas or examples here.

FYI: About a year ago, I wrote about the broadband digital divide in Baltimore when compared to other East Coast cities. Here's the story:

Baltimore City struggles to play catch-up with its suburbs and other U.S. urban areas in broadband Internet access

Access to faster broadband Internet service is increasingly viewed as an economic imperative, and not just a privilege for those who can afford it. But many rural and some urban communities, such as Baltimore, are worried that they're being left behind as commerce, innovation and prosperity are increasingly intertwined with the Internet."My take on it is that Baltimore is not equipped for the future," said the Rev. Johnny Golden, past president of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance and an advocate for improved access to technology in the city. "We have a decent broadband system for today, but it does not have the infrastructure to take us into the future where we need to go."

Continue reading "The smartphone/dumbphone digital Baltimore?" »

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 12:54 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Big Ideas, East Coast, Smartphones, Wireless

January 31, 2011

AT&T, the iPad and the mysterious 3G data usage

Is something hinky going on with AT&T and its iPhone/iPad data usage and billing practices?

Electronista posted a story about a new federal class action lawsuit that claims AT&T is over-stating the data that iPhone/iPad users on its data plans.

The reason this story jumped out at me today is that I ran into a similar problem with my iPad using AT&T's 3G service. I signed up for the 250 MB plan a little more than a month ago and I started getting alerts as my coverage was starting to run low.

But what I found was that my 3G data plan, for which I was paying $15 monthly for, was apparently consuming data even while I was in the Wi-Fi hotspot zone of my house. In fact, my iPad was often less than 10 feet away from my Wi-Fi router as the data plan was winding down.

I didn't understand this behavior then, and I still don't. Somehow, my 3G data plan was being used even while I was clearly on my Wi-Fi network. I did not renew my 3G plan because of the mysterious data usage leak.

So, AT&T (and other iPad/iPhone users): is this really a problem?

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 3:06 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: *NEWS*, Smartphones, Wireless

January 25, 2011

Use your next generation iPhone, iPad as a digital wallet?

The buzz today is that Apple is reportedly planning to include Near Field Communication technology (NFC) into the next generation of its iPhone and iPad.

NFC, in case you don't know, enables devices to share information between each other at close proximity, around 4 inches. In practical scenarios, your iPhone could become your digital wallet, using NFC technology that links to your bank account and can be used at point-of-sale terminals. Imagine swiping your iPhone at the WalMart register.

For some quick and dirty background on NFC, check out this wiki.

NFC has possibilities for improving ease-of-use in mobile and electronic ticketing, electronic money payments and transfers, and multi-device communications.

Some wonder if Apple is making a play for the mobile payments market, in a way that could cut out the credit card companies. Apple has millions of subscribers to its iTunes service, and it wouldn't be a huge technological leap to use NFC and connect their users via their accounts on PayPal. MG Siegler of TechCrunch, hypothesizes.

I'm sure Visa and Mastercard would remain on the cutting edge of NFC technology, too.

But imagine a world where you're using an iPhone to buy real stuff, not just virtual goods such as music and videos, and Apple becomes the entity that's enabling the purchase. I don't know how I feel about that.

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:03 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: *NEWS*, Big Ideas, Smartphones

January 5, 2011

Millennial Media, hot on mobile ad trail of Google/Apple, raises $27.5 million

Pictured: Millennial Media co-founders: Chris Brandenburg (left) and Paul Palmieri

Millennial Media, a Baltimore startup that's a top player in the growing mobile advertising industry, said Wednesday it raised $27.5 million in new investments from several venture capital firms, which it will use to continue to fund its growth.

The new funding round was Millennial's largest since it was founded more than four years ago. It has raised more than $65 million from investors. The new money comes from several existing investors in Millennial, including Bessemer Venture Partners, Columbia Capital, Charles River Ventures and New Enterprise Associates.

The company said that it plans to use the new equity investment to fund the company's global growth plan this year. It also plans to build on its acquisition of TapMetrics, a mobile analytics company it acquired last year, and consider additional acquisitions this year.

The new funding comes as Millennial, which is competing toe-to-toe in the mobile display advertising market with Google Inc. and Apple Inc., said it tripled revenues last year, though the privately held company does not disclose specific revenue figures.

A recent report by market research firm IDC showed that Millennial had 15.4 percent of the mobile display advertising market, behind Google (19 percent) and Apple (18.8 percent). Mobile display ads are showed to cell phone users while they are perusing other content, usually on mobile websites.

The company says its mobile ads reach more than 85 percent of mobile users in the United States. The total mobile ad market was estimated at more than $1 billion last year, and is expected to grow quickly over the next few years.

The mobile ad market attracted Google and Apple, who have both bought competitors of Millennial for hundreds of millions of dollars. Several months ago, Millennial was rumored to be in acquisition talks with Research in Motion, maker of BlackBerry smart phones, but the negotiations reportedly fell through.

Paul Palmieri, Millennial's chief executive and co-founder, sees the mobile advertising industry applying to many different kinds of devices, from smart phones and tablet computers to appliances.

"The mobile model continues to expand beyond the phone, and is becoming the new, device based Internet via apps on everything from refrigerators to tablets to televisions," Palmieri said in a statement to The Baltimore Sun.

Millennial currently has offices in New York, London, and San Francisco, plus sales offices in Detroit, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas and Atlanta.

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December 8, 2010

Xipwire: The lone U.S. company standing with Wikileaks?

Some well-known American businesses have ostracized Wikileaks, even though the secrets-spilling organization has not been criminally charged for its leaks of classified U.S. State Department cables. Grounds for legal action against it remain murky, but that hasn't stopped some companies of accusing it of engaging in illegal activity as an excuse to dump Wikileaks as a customer.

Amazon shut down server access to secrets-spilling website Wikileaks, after pressured by Sen. Joe Lieberman. Next, PayPal, Visa and Mastercard cut off the group's ability to raise money from donations. A small New Hampshire company, everyDNS, cut off ties with the website, allegedly to protect its own network from crashing.

In all the hubbub, however, a Philadelphia startup has seized an opportunity to support Wikileaks -- and, of course, it's now getting some free marketing in the process. Ah, the land of the free -- and capitalism. (Facebook and Twitter, to their credit, have made statements that they are not closing off the site from its services -- for now. But financial support for Wikileaks, (what Xipwire is enabling) in some ways, is perhaps even more critical at the moment.)

XipWire Inc. allows people to transmit cash using their mobile phone's text messaging capabilities. The company has waived any fees associated with its service to support Wikileaks. People can make donations in $10 increments either from their website or from a mobile phone running their application.

Here's a statement from Xipwire from their Website:

While people may or may not agree with WikiLeaks, we at XIPWIRE believe that anyone who wishes to support the organization through a donation should be able to do so. We are waiving all fees so that 100% of the donations collected will be directly passed on to WikiLeaks.

I'm waiting to hear back from Xipwire folks; hoping to interview them soon for some more details. Stay tuned.


Just got off the phone with Sharif Alexandre and Sybil Lindsay, of Xipwire and here are some more details:

Presently, Xipwire has received hundreds of donations to Wikileaks. The company has yet to establish formal ties with Wikileaks, so it is keeping the money in an account, and will transfer it when they connect with someone from the Website.

"They've been a little hard to get ahold of directly," Alexandre said.

Alexandre said Xipwire works with several charitable organizations and he believes people should have the right to donate to the causes they believe in, without interference from corporations.

"It's a completely different story if they (Wikileaks) were illegal on some level, then definitely that's a line we would not cross," Alexandre said. "But they haven't done anything different than The New York Times and The Guardian."

Alexandre said that the notion of his firm, which launched in May and has raised $500,000 in startup angel funding, is getting free publicity for its stance was a secondary concern. He said he is just as concerned about receiving negative publicity, since many believe Wikileaks is engaging in at least improper activity.

"We're fully aware that not everyone likes what Wikileaks is," Alexandre said. "But we are prepared to accept the consequences."

[FYI: I first learned about Xipwire's involvement from The Raw Story.]

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:29 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*, Big Ideas, Smartphones

November 5, 2010

BlackBerry under assault in corporate America


A pair of stories emerged today that demonstrate how Research in Motion Ltd., maker of the BlackBerry smartphones, is under attack from all sides. For some time, RIM's position as one that satisfied corporate clients with its smartphones was unassailable.

But now with iPhone and Google's Android eating up market share, and Microsoft's Phone 7 coming around the corner, RIM's bread and butter is being threatened, some think. The latest comScore market report shows RIM still holds the market lead over iPhone and Android, but it's lead is slipping.

The news today: First, sources tell Bloomberg that Bank of America and Citigroup -- two of the biggest U.S. banks -- are testing iPhones for corporate use as an alternative to BlackBerrys.

Second, Dell, which is in the smartphone business itself, told the Wall Street Journal that it plans to ditch RIM's BlackBerrys for its 25,000 employees, and switch them over to their phones, which would run Microsoft and Android software.

Corporate I.T. departments are under pressure from employees to support their personal devices, which are often iPhones and Android devices -- so RIM's competitors are slowly creeping into the workplace. Will there be a tipping point soon?

[Thanks to Cult of Mac for image]

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:14 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Smartphones

October 21, 2010

Windows Phone 7: the reviews are coming

Windows Phone 7 mobile handsets are making their ways into the hands of the technology press, and the reviews are dribbling onto the Internet.

For those Microsoft fans who've been waiting to see the software giant's new mobile phone platform, the time is nigh. The phones will debut Nov. 8 on AT&T and T-Mobile. The phones are the Samsung Focus (AT&T) and the HTC HD7 (T-Mobile), both for $199.

Will Microsoft's offering compete with Apple's iPhone, Google's Android and even Research In Motion's BlackBerry?

So far, the reviews seem pretty good, not stellar. But good. The key will be how quickly Microsoft iterates and updates the platform to truly compete with the other heavyweights and attract developers who can build sexy apps for consumers.

Here are a few I've read so far:

* Windows Phone 7 review, Engadget's take, by Joshua Topolsky

* Microsoft's New Windows Phone 7: Novel, But Lacking. By Walt Mossberg, of All Things D and the Wall Street Journal.

* A Windows Phone 7 'review' by a non-reviewer, by Mary-Jo Foley of the All About Microsoft blog.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:07 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*, Gadgets, Smartphones

October 18, 2010

Data-thirsty smartphones lead wireless companies to prep 4G networks


Many consumers today use a 3G, or third-generation, wireless network to make calls, watch streaming video, use maps and access the Internet – all on their mobile phones.

But now, to keep up with demand, major wireless providers are pouring billions of dollars into their networks to upgrade them to a new, faster, fourth-generation service known as LTE, for Long Term Evolution. For many of these companies, Baltimore will be among the first areas in the country to get a taste of 4G, possibly by the end of this year.

Several companies are using Baltimore as a pilot city for their roll-out of 4G networks, mainly because the city offers a mix of demographics, landscapes, building architecture and waterways. AT&T and Verizon are both building 4G networks in Baltimore. Another little-known but well-funded competitor, LightSquared, has raised more than $2 billion to build a combination satellite-LTE network. It plans to launch in Baltimore and three other cities next summer.

“I would say we’re at the very early stages” of 4G LTE networks, said Christian Dippon, vice president and telecommunications expert with NERA Economic Consulting, a global research firm.

Continue reading "Data-thirsty smartphones lead wireless companies to prep 4G networks" »

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Posted by Liz Hacken at 12:53 PM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Big Ideas, Smartphones, Wireless

October 11, 2010

The Microsoft Phones: Here they come

Microsoft today unveiled a bunch of smartphones from different manufacturers that will operate on its Windows Phone 7 mobile platform.

This, my friends, is exciting news in the smartphone wars. Many of us are eager to see how Microsoft's smartphone platform stacks up against Apple's iPhone and Google's Android and RIM's BlackBerry. The showdown is coming.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Microsoft "unveiled seven handsets planned for its global launch. Marquee partner AT&T Inc. showed off three of the devices, the Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. Focus, the LG Electronics Inc. Quantum, and the HTC Corp. Surround, which are priced at $199.99 with a two-year service contract. They will go on sale during the week of Nov. 8."

T-Mobile will also be launching a Windows Phone 7 device.

C-NET reports there are nine Windows Phone 7 devices that will hit the United States. CNET's article contrasts the iPhone, which is one device, to the Microsoft approach, which will offer a common software platform for multiple phones to use.

Microsoft's buzz phrase for the platform is "always delightful and wonderfully mine," which is meant to convey that it offers an environment that's "highly customizable yet uncluttered and stitched together with a common feel," according to CNET.

We'll see if Microsoft can pull it off.

At least one analyst quoted by the WSJ is skeptical: "We don't see any dazzle that would pull customers to the phone immediately," said Dazhi Chen, an analyst at Tribeca Insights. "By the first quarter of next year, it'll probably be forgotten."


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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 11:10 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Smartphones

October 6, 2010

Apple giving Verizon the iPhone next year: report

The Wall Street Journal is reporting through anonymous sources (because Steve Jobs would otherwise obliterate them) that Verizon will "begin mass producing a new iPhone by the end of 2010 that would allow Verizon Wireless to sell the smartphone early next year."

Here's the short story.

I'm a little surprised by this news, since rumors of this happening have been struck down in the past. But maybe Apple is spooked by the growth of Google's Android platform. It's also odd since Verizon and AT&T are starting to work on their 4G LTE networks, in Baltimore, D.C. and elsewhere. From a Verizon press release that hit my inbox at 2:12 p.m. today:

Verizon announced today that it is bringing the world’s first large-scale 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) network to the DC and Baltimore metropolitan areas. The initial availability of a 4G LTE wireless network is part of the company’s major network launch in 38 major metropolitan areas by the end of the year. In addition, the company is launching 4G LTE in more than 60 commercial airports coast to coast – including the airports within the launch areas, plus airports in other key cities.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 2:15 PM | | Comments (6)
Categories: *NEWS*, Smartphones

October 1, 2010

Happy Hour Baltimore: the app that helps you find post-work nirvana

:: Become a friend of BaltTech on Facebook::

happyhour_1.PNGThere's a new app in Baltimore that is targeting the city's bars and restaurants, and the happy hour deals they're offering.

It's called Happy Hour Baltimore, and it's available for free in the Apple App Store. (The creators are working on an Android version.) Here's its website.

The two guys behind the app are Brian Champlin and Tom Camposano, who got the idea about a year ago while lounging in hammocks at Camposano's home in Southeast Baltimore.

After a year of development, planning and investment (the guys pumped in about $20K to get the app and website off the ground), they launched it about three weeks ago.

The app does a couple things well. It allows you to browse a map of the city with bars and restaurants that offering specials.

It enables each establishment to post up-to-the-minute offers and deals through the "dispatch" section.

It can connect you with a taxi cab (Raven, Yellow or Blue cab companies) by phone.

And it allows you to share these happy hour spots with friends on Facebook and Twitter, or by email.


"Even the old school baltimore bars that have been there forever, even those guys are going for it," Champlin said. "They get to pull in some of the younger crowd."

Now, what's most impressive, in my book, is that Champlin and Camposano have hammered out a nifty business model. For $250 a year (introductory offer), a restaurant/bar can be included in the app, and they get access to the Dispatch section. That means each restaurateur or bar owner can control the message he/she wants to put out through this app.

This is smart on two levels: it gives the establishment full editorial control over the advertising content they're putting out to consumers. And it means Champlin and Camposano don't have to have a staff manually inputting new happy hour information into the app every day or week.

Right now though, the tough part for the pair, whose business is called Dilly Dally Apps, is getting the word out on the app to establishments and to iPhone users. It's a marketing challenge. So far, they've gotten about 70 bars and restaurants as subscribers (which is pretty good so far, I'd say) and hope to break even this year, and turn a profit next year.

"We basically are in the process of covering the entire city on foot and showing them the app, and selling bars and restaurants on the service," Champlin said. So how'd they build the app and website? Champlin tells me that he and his partner don't have much web design/programming experience, so they hired to computer/Web geeks to build the iPhone app and the website. (Geeks make the world go round.)

Word of mouth works, especially in Baltimore, where people who love this city can be quite chatty. I first learned about the app from following The Falls, a Mt. Washington restaurant on Facebook. That restaurant (full disclosure: which is owned by some friends of mine) put out to their Facebook followers that they were offering specials through the Happy Hour Baltimore iPhone app. Smalltimore. :-) 

happyhour_3.PNG happyhour_2.PNG

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 9:00 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Apps, Smartphones, Social Media, Web Dev & Apps

August 4, 2010

BoxTone secures $7.5 million in financing, pushes for profitability

boxtone_logo.jpgBoxTone, of Columbia, Md., said today it secured $7.5 million in financing, which the company plans to use to hire more workers and increase product development efforts in a push for profitability.

BoxTone employs 80 workers and sells software that helps companies manage smartphones and cellphones for their workforce. The company is one of the few players in the burgeoning industry of mobile services, and claims one-third of Fortune 100 businesses as clients, according to Alan Snyder, chief executive officer.

BoxTone was founded as a technology company in 1999, and re-focused on the mobile industry in 2005. The company's software works to manage several different mobile phone platforms for corporate use, including iPhone, BlackBerry, Android and Windows. So far, the company's software covers more than 550,000 users.

BoxTone does not release financial results, but Snyder said the company is "well on the path to profitability."

Last week, the company announced 40 percent sales growth in the first half of this year, compared with the similar period last year.

With the latest investment, "what we decided to do was increase investment in R&D to accelerate product to market," Snyder said. "In all likelihood, this will be the capital to get us to profitability."

Snyder said the new funding will help the company hire another 15 to 20 workers this year. The investment comes from its sole investor, Lazard Technology Partners.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 9:21 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*, Smartphones

August 3, 2010

BlackBerry Torch unveiled -- iPhone, Android competitor?


The next-generation touch screen BlackBerry Torch was just unveiled today on AT&T's network, for $199 for a two-year contract (no firm date on when device goes on sale). It sports a portrait slider/pull-out keyboard, 5 MP camera with flash, souped-up touch Web browser, and integrated messaging and social networking features.

Perhaps the most important thing you need to know is that this phone features Research in Motion's new BlackBerry 6 operating system -- which is meant to compete with iPhone and Android.

From AT&T's Website, one of the selling points is a "Full HTML tabbed browser for "PC-like" Web browsing with tabbed browsing for access to multiple web pages at the same time and pinch-to-zoom capability."

Take a look at the full specs here -- is anyone impressed?

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 11:11 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Smartphones

July 16, 2010

Apple press conference: Free iPhone 4 cases for every owner, says Steve Jobs

At Apple's iPhone 4 press conference today in Cupertino, Calif., Steve Jobs declared that iPhone 4 owners will receive a free case for their handsets in what is widely regarded as a cheap fix to the antenna problems that have surfaced with a tiny percentage of users, according to the AP and other news sources.

Jobs said the company has sold 3 million iPhone 4's in three weeks, with a complaint rate of only .55 percent.

iPhone 4 owners will have a choice of an official Apple bumper case, but the company can't make enough of them, so it will allow consumers to buy cases by other manufacturers and receive a refund from Apple.

Apple will make a Website available for the cases late next week.

Tune in to GDGT or Engadget for their live blogs. (BaltTech, unfortunately, wasn't invited to the event... :-( Whattup, Steve Jobs?!)

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 1:00 PM | | Comments (6)
Categories: *NEWS*, Gadgets, Smartphones

July 12, 2010

EVO 4G in Baltimore: Who's got one and how is it?

HTC-EVO.jpgBaltimore is one of the lucky areas of the country that has access to Sprint's new 4G network. And the first smart phone to tap into that network is the Sprint HTC EVO.

But the Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that Sprint and HTC have fallen behind in the phone's production, leading to widespread shortages.

About 300,000 of the EVO phones have been sold. And I'm sure a few thousand or more were sold in the Baltimore area.

So, if you're an EVO owner in the Baltimore area and you're using 4G, please drop a note in the comments of this post to let us know how your phone and the 4G network are performing.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 9:00 AM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Smartphones

July 2, 2010

Apple's iPhone 4 antenna reception explanation: "We were stunned"

Apple finally addressed complaints about the iPhone 4's alleged reception issues in a statement today:

From Apple:

Upon investigation, we were stunned to find that the formula we use to calculate how many bars of signal strength to display is totally wrong. Our formula, in many instances, mistakenly displays 2 more bars than it should for a given signal strength. For example, we sometimes display 4 bars when we should be displaying as few as 2 bars. Users observing a drop of several bars when they grip their iPhone in a certain way are most likely in an area with very weak signal strength, but they don’t know it because we are erroneously displaying 4 or 5 bars. Their big drop in bars is because their high bars were never real in the first place.

To fix this, we are adopting AT&T’s recently recommended formula for calculating how many bars to display for a given signal strength. The real signal strength remains the same, but the iPhone’s bars will report it far more accurately, providing users a much better indication of the reception they will get in a given area. We are also making bars 1, 2 and 3 a bit taller so they will be easier to see.

We will issue a free software update within a few weeks that incorporates the corrected formula. Since this mistake has been present since the original iPhone, this software update will also be available for the iPhone 3GS and iPhone 3G.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 9:02 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: *NEWS*, Smartphones

July 1, 2010

Mobile HD TV just around the corner?

In case you missed it, I wrote a preview of some new technology that consumers should expect to be hearing more about over the next year or so: mobile high-definition TV.

In Baltimore, one of our TV stations -- Fox 45 (WBFF) -- is already broadcasting the signal, while in Washington DC, there's a little consumer trial going on among TV stations there. (That's Mark Aitken, VP of advanced technology for Sinclair Broadcast Group, owner of WBFF, demonstrating the devices to me.)

Basically, if a group of broadcasters and other big tech companies have their way, you'll be able to watch HD TV on your cell phone, lap top or other mobile device.

Now, some of you uber-geeks will say: Gus, but we can already watch HD TV on our laptops using a plug-in dongle that catches the HD signal. To that, I say, mobile HD TV is actually a whole new standard that allows for interactivity and for picking up the signal while you're traveling in a speeding car or train. It's designed for users in the mobile world.

Oh, and P.S. many other countries, i.e. Japan and S. Korea, have had this capability for awhile now on their mobile devices.

Hit the jump for the full story on mobile HD TV:

Continue reading "Mobile HD TV just around the corner?" »

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 9:35 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: *NEWS*, Smartphones

June 23, 2010

iPhone 4 early reviews

The usual roundup of tech writers got hold of the latest iPhone, which goes on sale tomorrow. Generally, the reviews are positive, if not glowing as bright as the phone's fancy new screen.

From what these reviews say, I'm excited about a few things, but mainly a very durable exterior and HD video capability.

* David Pogue's New York Times review

* Walt Mossberg's Wall Street Journal review

* The Engadget blog review

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 8:22 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*, Smartphones

June 22, 2010

Top honor for Millennial Media CEO

palmieri-pic.jpgPaul Palmieri, co-founder of Millennial Media, was yesterday named the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year in technology for Maryland in 2010.

Palmieri is the CEO of Millennial Media, which is based in Canton in Baltimore.

The firm is one of the largest, independent mobile advertising networks, focusing on selling ads for mobile devices. He and co-founder Chris Brandenburg started the company in 2006, launching a business that would take advantage of early, steady growth in mobile advertising.

The company has seen two of its main competitors recently got bought out -- for hundreds of millions of dollars each -- by Google and Apple.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 9:46 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*, Smartphones

June 8, 2010

IPhone 4: Through the prism of capped data

Apple showed off its fourth version of the iPhone yesterday and there were few surprises--thanks in part to Gizmodo's recent outing of an iPhone prototype. The phone has a new tough metal and glass design, perhaps the sharpest smartphone screen on the market, hi-def video recording, and a video chat program called FaceTime.

But I couldn't help thinking about what AT&T's new data caps will mean for the future of iPhones and other super smart phones, if other carriers follow AT&T's lead and set tiers on data plans.

For example, I currently shoot a lot of short video clips of my young daughter on my iPhone 3GS and email to family. I can send about 45 seconds worth of non-HD video via email this way. Now imagine having to send HD video clips via an iPhone 4. Would the clips have to be shorter? How many HD clips could one reasonably send in a month and still stay within bounds of AT&T's 2gb plan (at $25 a month)?

Apple's FaceTime program -- which enable video chat via wifi on iPhone 4s -- also don't have a chance in a 3G world dictated by tiers, since video chat is a serious data hog.

My point: tiered plans such as what AT&T has modeled aren't what customers of super smart phones will want in the future. Sure, admittedly heavy users may opt to pay more for unlimited plans. But tiered plans, I think, will constrain the rapid growth and adoption of the mobile web.

You don't have data tiers on your home Internet connection, but you do have differentiation based on speed. Should wireless networks adopt the same approach?

That's why, at the of the day, I'm afraid that the technology of super smart phones, such as the iPhone 4 threatens to outpace the capacity of the networks. Some might say that's already happened.

This is why, as an aside, people interested in a next-gen network and smart phone might check out the HTC EVO phone on Sprint in Baltimore. The EVO is the first smartphone built for use on a 4G network. We should all be watching closely how it performs in Baltimore and other parts of the US where 4G is offered.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 9:10 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Smartphones

June 4, 2010

Next-generation iPhone coming Monday?

iphone-4g-gizmodo.jpgOn Monday, Apple's annual Worldwide Developers Conference will be taking place in California, and the company's CEO, Steve Jobs, is scheduled to speak.

Everybody is predicting that he will introduce to the world a fourth-generation iPhone, one that's got a new look and new hardware features, such as a front-facing camera for video-chat conversations. (PC World has its own prognostication list of Five Best Bets of news to come out of the conference.)

As you may know, the tech blog Gizmodo got hold of a lost iPhone prototype and dissected the thing for the world to see, which took some of the energy out of Apple's super-powerful marketing machine.

The question now is: Can Mr. Jobs deliver a new iPhone that wows the crowd after consumers may have already sneaked a peek of it via Gizmodo?

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 2:12 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*, Smartphones

April 27, 2010

Gizmodo editor's house raided as part of "stolen" iPhone probe


 It's the geeky, Silicon Valley version of "COPS." Sadly, however, to our inappropriate amusement, no Tasers were used.

The drama deepened yesterday when Gizmodo reported that its editor's house was recently raided by California authorities investigating the case of the missing 4th generation iPhone.

In case you've been unplugged for the past week, Gizmodo was approached by a dude who claimed he may or may not have had a missing iPhone prototype. So Gizmodo decided to pay him $5,000 to see if what he had was indeed an iPhone prototype.

After taking the phone apart and writing numerous posts about it, Gizmodo returned the phone to Apple. All along the tech blog has claimed it didn't know it was Apple's until they pretty much confirmed it was, and then promptly made moves to return it.

That's Gizmodo's story and I'm sure they'll be sticking to it. Everyone's watching this case and wondering if Gizmodo and its owner, Gawker Media, will successfully protect themselves under the journalist shield law. But John Gruber, of Daring Fireball, puts it succinctly when he says the state of California's argument might be: "Hey, you committed a felony."

Now, some have raised questions about the validity of the search of the editor's home. Wired has a story that points out journalists must be subpoenaed, and that they're not subject to unannounced searches.

Meanwhile, I can't help but wonder if Gizmodo routinely pays thousands of dollars for gadgets that may or may not be authentic. If that's part of their normal business practice, then I could see their defense holding water.

But really -- who pays thousands of dollars for a "prototype" if they're not sure it's the real thing? And if they're sure it's the real thing, then they probably shouldn't be buying it in the first place. "News" orgs shouldn't be buying things that are known to belong to someone else.

This whole thing is a mess and, right now, I don't really feel sorry for Gizmodo. What do you think?

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 8:55 AM | | Comments (11)
Categories: *NEWS*, Geeks, Smartphones, West Coast

April 20, 2010

Hey CrackBerry lover-lovers: OS 6.0 got leaked

Tech blogs were abuzz today with news of a BlackBerry OS 6.0 leak -- the latest operating system for the popular handsets.

:: InformationWeek calls it a "major revision" that will offer multitouch, a new browser, and an updated inbox. Hooray for BlackBerry.

:: Boy Genius Report, I think, got the scoop earlier today on the new OS that reverberated across the Web. They've got some pretty slick screen shots of the new OS in action. Makes me definitely want to put down my iPhone and play with a BlackBerry as soon as this new OS comes out.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 4:44 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Gadgets, Smartphones

Gizmodo's scoop: new iPhone revealed?

Gizmodo paid a source an undisclosed amount of money $5,000 to gain possession of an Apple phone that was found in a California bar. The blog has covered it a bunch of times already this week.

Here's the supposed "full" story about how the phone was found and ended up in Gizmodo's hands -- but without the interesting details on how much El Giz paid for it. Giz also has an official-looking letter from Apple asking for its property back. I'm convinced that Giz has a real Apple iPhone in its posession.

I'm just not sold on the fact that this is anything but a working model used by engineers. I think the one that ends up in consumers' hands will just look better. Guess we'll find out in a few months if the version Gizmodo had was the real deal.....

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:14 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*, Gadgets, Smartphones

April 19, 2010

True story? Top-secret next-generation iPhone 4G found hanging out in a California bar

Over the weekend, the gadget blogs absolutely lit up with speculation that an iPhone 4G -- the rumored next-generation handset expected this summer -- was actually found in a San Jose, Calif. bar. (This sounds like a geek joke: "Two iPhone 4Gs walk into a bar and one turns to the other....")

Of course, images and videos of it have filled the Web. So far, gadget-blog Gizmodo seems to have it in hand, while Engadget has followed the news, too. It's rumored, btw, that Apple Inc. did lose a prototype and wants it back.

It'd be interesting to see if Apple DOES move to try to claim this phone, if it is indeed theirs. In the meantime, for a company that loves secrecy as much as Apple, if this indeed is the iPhone 4G, that's gotta be a major gaffe on their part.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 11:11 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Gadgets, Smartphones, Wireless

April 12, 2010

Microsoft's new Kin phones -- a semi-smart social phone


Partners Microsoft, Sharp and Verizon announced a new pair of phones today called Kin, which are built around social messaging services like Twitter and Facebook. The phones are really geared toward people who are constantly chit-chatting via such status services and text-messaging. They won't run third-party applications.

(Whuh? A phone making news because it won't try to have a huge app store?)

Here are some links to learn about the Kin: Engadget's hands-on; CNET's article; BetaNews' take on it; and Microsoft's official news release on the devices.

Watch this video of the Kin demo from Engadget. Notice the new style of user interface for the Kin. Could you see yourself using a phone like this?


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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 4:19 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: *NEWS*, Apps, Gadgets, Smartphones

March 31, 2010

Verizon iPhone: would you buy?


Are there thousands -- perchance millions -- of people out there who have refused to buy an iPhone because it's only available on AT&T's network? Well, what if the news gods were to tell you, in unconfirmed/ anonymous reports, that the heralded iPhone would be coming to a Verizon store near you in less than a year's time?

That's what the Wall Street Journal reported this week -- and it set the tech world a-Twitter. The WSJ was short on details, but everyone speculates that AT&T exclusivity deal with Apple to market the iPhone must be close to expiring. And Apple is probably looking to keep the iPhone revenue train rolling ever onward.

So an Apple/Verizon arrangement for the iPhone makes sense. (Thanks to ZDNet for the image, left.)

But what I want to know now is if a Verizon iPhone is something you would finally buy. Take the poll below:

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 8:49 AM | | Comments (33)
Categories: Smartphones

March 23, 2010

Dell's smartphone


The Dell Aero looks like it'll be pretty cool. It'll run the Android operating system and be on AT&T's network.

Check out the Engadget's writeup. And here's AT&T's teaser web page for the phone. No hard date yet on its availability, other than it's "coming soon," according to AT&T. Kinda looks like a more rounded iPhone, no?

Is Dell just too little too late to the smartphone game?

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Categories: Smartphones

January 21, 2010

Apple working on parking app for mobile devices

One of the Apple patent applications made public today details the company's efforts to create a useful parking application that mashes up a user's geo-location data with information about parking garages and parking regulations.


The methods described in the application include using GPS and triangulation to help users locate themselves on a map. Then, using a computer algorithm, the application could send you automatic alerts to warn you if you're about to violate the parking regulations.

It's interesting to note that this isn't just about making your iPhone or whatever other Internet-connected portable device more useful. It's also about creating a venue for potential advertising revenue.

The patent filing states about the invention: "It has been considered to provide advertisements and other information pertaining to a present location of a mobile device. For example, detecting a present location of a mobile device, and providing information, including advertisements, about restaurants in that vicinity is an application that has generated interest."

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 8:46 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: *NEWS*, Smartphones, West Coast

January 15, 2010

American Red Cross, others raise millions via texting

juliestrange.jpgThe mobile giving phenomenon -- people donating money in small increments via text messages -- seems to have come into its own with the earthquake disaster in Hait.

Take a look at my story below about the topic. Mobile giving right now is breaking all sorts of records.





Haitian disaster makes mobile giving take off
Wireless customers' response called a record

by Gus G. Sentementes

For Julie Strange, helping the victims of a devastating earthquake in Haiti was just a text message away.

The 27-year-old Towson librarian read on Twitter of an American Red Cross campaign to raise money for disaster relief in the shattered country through text messaging.

Within a few minutes, she made a $10 donation by texting the word "HAITI" to a five-digit number - an act of mobile giving that she's done for other charities for a couple of years now. "It's definitely starting to get a little mainstream now," Strange said.

In a tough economy where people have been guarded with their wallets, organizations such as the American Red Cross are finding thousands of donors who are more willing to text-message for charity, often giving in small dollar increments.

After launching the mobile giving campaign early Wednesday, the Red Cross raised more than $3 million through text-message donations within 31 hours - or more than one-third of the $10 million in total donations collected by the organization in the early hours of the disaster.

For many involved in the fundraising, the Haiti disaster is now being hailed as a milestone for mobile giving. Both online and mobile giving have been fueled by the rise of social media Web sites, such as Twitter and Facebook, with users all over the world quickly sharing information on ways to help and donate money. (For the rest of the story, hit the jump)

Continue reading "American Red Cross, others raise millions via texting" »

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 8:09 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: *NEWS*, Smartphones

November 19, 2009

Why are utility apps so juicy for advertisers?


One of the more interesting nuggets to come out of Millennial Media's latest monthly report (called S.M.A.R.T.) on smartphone ad-market analystics was this above chart showing average click-through rates in five (not four) app categories: games, social, entertainment, utility and navigation.

The chart above compares the smartphone platforms of Apple, Google's Android and Research in Motion's (RIM) BlackBerry.

A click-through rate of 2 percent for ad campaigns is considered "very successful." So which category blows the others out of the water? That's right: utility. All three smartphone platforms showed a high click-through rate for advertisments that ran in utility apps.

I'm a newbie to these ad analytics for mobile, but I'm very curious to peel back a few more layers of this onion, to see why smartphone users are more inclined to click on in-app ads in the utility apps, compared to the other categories.

So how about that Millennial and MobClix? What are your theories on what's going on with these utility apps and why are smartphone users more inclined to click on in-app advertising with them?

(Note: Millennial's monthly S.M.A.R.T. report was put together with statistics from MobClix. The above data are year-to-date figures.)

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 9:15 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Apps, Media, Research, Smartphones, Wireless

November 16, 2009

Millennial Media scores new round of funding

millennial-media.gifToday, Baltimore's Millennial Media, which started up in 2006, announced it raised $16 million in new financing from some venture capital firms, including New Enterprise Associates. (Check out my story here.)

Last week's news that Google was buying mobile advertiser AdMob for $750 million probably didn't cause venture capitalists to throw money at Millennial (such deals usually take more than a week to put together), but it also probably didn't hurt the growing little firm.

The conventional wisdom now is that Google's purchase of AdMob "validates" the nascent mobile advertising industry. When a big company like Google drops a ton of dough on a small company in a still-emerging market, you know that will attract many more serious investors and players to the industry.

According to eMarketer stats via the Interactive Advertising Bureau, here's what the mobile ad market looks like:  



I'm gonna bet that the Google-AdMob acquisition, though the first big one in the mobile ad space, won't be the last. My guess is we may be a few months, perhaps even weeks, away from similar acquisitions of smaller mobile ad firms by big Google-esque-like competitors. What do you think?

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November 6, 2009

The new Verizon Droid: perfect for the AT&T haters?

 Verizon’s new high-powered smartphone, the Motorola Droid, is a fun little device and a worthy opponent to Apple Inc.’s hit iPhone.

The Droid, which went on sale today for $199, is the first smartphone to incorporate the latest version of the Google Android operating system. Motorola did a fine job of integrating the operating system with the phone’s hardware, making phone-calling, emailing, Web-surfing and media playing all fairly intuitive -- though ultimately not quite as slick as what the iPhone offers.

For Verizon, the stakes are high as AT&T has posted a growing subscriber base, thanks to the new iPhone 3GS, which also sells for $199.

Verizon is widely considered to have a very good network, while Motorola has had strong-selling phones in the past. But both companies have struggled in recent years to come up with a response to the popular iPhone – that is, until this Droid.

I got a demo unit today and have played with it for several hours. Sure, the Droid is boxy and slightly thicker and heavier than the sleek, svelte iPhone. But it’s a solid device with an easy-on-the-thumbs touchscreen and user interface.

It has a five megapixel camera, with a flash and zoom function and which also shoots video. The iPhone’s camera, by comparison, is 3 megapixels and has auto-focus, but it doesn’t zoom. Yet the Droid’s camera moves too slow in taking a picture after you press the touch-screen button.

Moving through the screens and opening up the applications, the Droid feels almost as fast as the iPhone 3GS, Apple’s latest model. In a side-by-side comparisons of the Droid and the iPhone 3GS, the YouTube app actually opened a few seconds quicker on the Droid than the iPhone, and streamed a high-definition video in crystal clarity.

The Droid connects to’s digital music offering. The iPhone, however, tightly integrates with iTunes and, has the edge in user interface for media playback. Same with Web browsing: Apple’s Safari browser on the iPhone is a little more snappy than the Droid’s browser. But honestly, expect Web browsing on the Droid to get better as Google updates the platform.

Perhaps the killer app that defines the Droid right now is Google Maps and its new navigation offering. This free functionality turns the phone into a virtual GPS unit, giving the user turn-by-turn voice navigation. No longer do you have to take your eyes off the road to look at a small screen -- all you have to do is listen to the guiding voice. motorolaDroid.jpg

An optional bracket allows you to mount the Droid in the horizontal position on your windshield, for easy use while driving.

It remains to be seen if Google will make the same navigation app available for free on the iPhone. If so, such a free app would undercut other, pricey paid apps that offer similar GPS functionality through Apple’s App Store.

Some more features that help it stand apart from the iPhone: The Droid offers a replaceable battery and a slot for removable memory card. So the phone comes with a 16 gigabyte SD memory card, but you can expand it to 32 gigabytes with a new card.

The iPhone 3GS comes in two models – a 16 gigabyte and a 32 gigabyte – and their memory is not removable.

The Droid has a slide-out QWERTY keyboard, while the iPhone does not have a physical keyboard. The Droid’s keys however, are a little small and flat – for those of you with chubby, stubby thumbs and fingers, beware. It can get cramped when you’re typing. The iPhone's touch-screen keyboard has a better feel and responsiveness than the Droid's offering.

Perhaps the big difference between the two phones: their respective application offerings. Apple now offers around 100,000 applications through its App Store. Google’s Android Market, by comparison, has around 10,000. But you can expect more and more developers to fill in the Android Market with their app offerings.

For many consumers, 10,000 apps may be more than enough to convince them to buy a Droid.

(photo credit: AP)

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 1:47 PM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Smartphones

October 19, 2009

iPhone creeping into the workplace?

Have you bought yourself an iPhone for personal use, only to find that you want to use it for work too? Have you been bugging the I.T. guy (or gal) at your office to let you sync your iPhone with your work email?

Apparently, this phenomenon is happening with increasing frequency -- and Columbia-based Boxtone is trying to get ahead of the curve. My story today about them showed that Boxtone, whose bread-n-butter has been helping companies manage the BlackBerrys they give to employees, is now offering iPhone support, too.

The iPhone hasn't had a history and reputation for being enterprise-worthy, like the BlackBerry -- but that doesn't matter for consumers who fall in love with the gadget and want to be able to use its email and Web browsing for their day jobs.

Tech watchers think that companies are going to have to respond to their employees by supporting the smartphones they want to use -- which could mean bad news down the road for BlackBerry, but good news for iPhone, Palm Pre and other competitors.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 11:16 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Smartphones

September 16, 2009

Would you pay for the mobile version of the WSJ?

The_Wall_Street_Journal_app_270x404.jpgI never understood why the Wall Street Journal, which charges for its online edition, launched an iPhone app (two, if you count All Things D) that gave away its content for free.

Now we know that free doesn't mean free forever.

The Journal's owner, Rupert Murdoch, said the news publisher plans to charge non-subscribers $2 a week for the mobile version (on BlackBerries and iPhones), and $1 per week for online-only subscribers.

Subscribers to both the print and online editions would get it for free, according to this <ahem> free report from Reuters.

I used to have a WSJ online-only subscription, until they more-than-doubled my rate over the course of two years.

I was stupefied they gave away their content on the iPhone for free. But now that experiment in free appears to be over.

And I, of course, wonder how many people who are not already subscribers will be willing to pay to read it on their smartphones.

The truth is, though it was free, I didn't really use the WSJ iPhone app that much. The content that was funneled through it was good, but not overwhelmingly special.

All Things D satisfied my tech itch, and I hope that stays a free app. But even if not, there are still numerous sources on the Web and on my iPhone that will fill the gap.

What do you think? Would you pay for the WSJ app now that you've had a chance to experience it for free for so many months?

(photo credit: Image of WSJ via CNET)

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 8:26 AM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Apps, Gadgets, Media, Smartphones, Web Dev & Apps

September 3, 2009

Baltimore police with smartphones: a good idea?

Did you catch Justin Fenton's story about the Baltimore Police Department wanting to roll out BlackBerries to its 2,000 officers? It's an interesting one, talking about how Commissioner Bealefeld hopes cops will use these smartphones to check warrants, retrieve drivers license photos and stay better connected with each other.

Before the Baltimore Police Department decided to give BlackBerries to police officers to do their jobs, I was using my iPhone to do my job as a crime reporter.

The department's top brass can also use the phones' built-in GPS to track the beat cops as they're deployed on the street. Not a bad idea, one might think.

Before I started covering technology earlier this year, I was a crime and breaking news reporter, doing my time on the Sun's city desk for the previous four years.

I had used a mobile laptop and a video camera in the past to do my work from the field. But I really wanted an iPhone because I knew it would help me work faster, because I wouldn't have to wait for a laptop to boot up and I could transmit photos more seamlessly and instantaneously from the device.

So, here's how I ended up used a smartphone to report on crime in Baltimore: (hit the jump for the rest)

Continue reading "Baltimore police with smartphones: a good idea?" »

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 8:32 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Government Tech, Smartphones

July 22, 2009

Tweeting dads in the delivery room

To Tweet or not to Tweet during your wife's labor? That is the question.

Back in October, I used Twitter to post 9 or so updates throughout the day as my wife went through labor. It gave me something to do with my fidgety fingers in my downtime, and some friends and relatives found it useful. (I informed my Facebook friends I'd be Tweeting and sent them a link to my Twitter page.)

Twitter, in effect, was really the sole efficient way to communicate in a "one-to-many" way to people outside the comfortable bubble we were in at the hospital. My pleasant wife only begged me to not Tweet anything gross, which I obliged.

At the end of it all, we brought home a healthy, gorgeous baby girl. A few days later, I went back through my Tweets and compiled them, and saved them in a screen-shot on my computer, for posterity. It's now a cool little digital memento for us that I can print out and add to our family photo album.

My colleague Joe Burris says in a story today that Tweeting dads are becoming more common.

Of course, there's a debate on how to use such technology during such a sensitive time as a child's birth. I guess all I can say that I think it's really up to the couple to come to an agreement and set some ground rules. You both should feel comfortable about what it means to Tweet the delivery. And Dads, it goes without saying that you shouldn't let it get in the way of any of your fatherly duties.

So what do you think? Is live-Tweeting your kid's birth a ridiculous idea or just another sign of the times in our texting/Twitter digital lives?

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 8:34 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Apps, Good Reads, Smartphones, Social Media

July 2, 2009

The fake iPhone phenomenon

Fake iPhones and iPods: Is this a problem in the U.S.? 

Over the weekend, Dana Stibolt of MacMedics in Millersville, Md., tipped me off to a video he shot of an ingeniously faked iPhone that a customer brought into his shop for servicing. (The customer claimed he bought it off eBay.) The belief was that it came from China, where there is a white-hot market for fake and look-alike phones and other gadgets.

I got to thinking: how big of a problem is this? So, as any good hack journalist sniffing for a trend story would do, I worked the phone, the Google, the Nexis, the Twitter, and the other secret sources I turn to, a.k.a. photog/gadget wiz Jerry Jackson in the newsroom. (Oh wait, I forgot to use Bing!)

And yes, I watched the Youtube videos of people showing off their fake iPhones, like this one.

I left messages for Apple, eBay and Craigslist (which can be another online market for knock-off/counterfeit products). I'm waiting to hear back from them on the topic of iPhone/iPod fakes in the market place. I'm wondering: should I hold my breath?

I chatted with Leander Kahney, editor of, about the prevalence of fake Apple products in the American market. He's written about this stuff before. (Funny aside: I could barely hear Kahney, who was talking to me on an iPhone during our interview. The call was dropped and he had to call back.)

So, here's what I now know:

Continue reading "The fake iPhone phenomenon" »

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 8:40 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Smartphones

June 27, 2009

Local Apple consulting firm inspects fake iPhone 3G bought on eBay

MacMedics, a Mac consulting and repair firm with offices in the Baltimore, Washington and Philadelphia area, tipped me off to the latest curiosity to hit their shop: A fake iPhone 3G that almost looks convincing, but not quite.

A customer bought it on eBay, thinking it was the real deal -- and quickly discovered it wasn't when he started handling it. Dana Stibolt, founder of MacMedics, took a video of the fake and explained in a blog post that the customer needs an authorized Apple service provider to inspect and document its fakeness, in order for the guy to try to get his money back from PayPal.

There's a good chance the fake came from somewhere in Asia -- just watch the vid below:


Update: Dana tells me he'd never seen a fake iPhone before.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:54 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Gadgets, Smartphones

June 26, 2009

Selling your iPhone 3G: Cha-ching!

japanIphone.jpg Apple and AT&T aren't the only ones who can make a little money off selling iPhones. You can, too.

Apparently, there's still a fairly robust resale market for the iPhone 3G -- even after Apple dropped it's price by a $100 a few weeks back.

Just check out eBay: you'll see prices all over the map -- yet pretty generous -- for used 3G phones. Some are even making a profit on selling their used iPhones.

Mind you, Apple cut the price of the 3G version to $99 for the 8GB model, while the new 3G S phone (the faster one, with video recording capability) is now $199 for the 16GB version.

For some of you who are trapped in an AT&T contract, aren't eligible for the $199 3GS price, and don't want to pay the $399(oops, thanks, Jeff S.) $499 to buy the new handset, then selling your iPhone may help you recoup some money to put toward the new one.

Heck, you may even make a profit on selling your iPhone, if you're lucky. Hit the jump for details on how to do it, and more:

Continue reading "Selling your iPhone 3G: Cha-ching!" »

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:12 AM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Smartphones

June 22, 2009

An iPhone crusader's tale of retrieving his stolen phone

You should read this tale of a man using the new iPhone's "find me" feature to locate his stolen cell phone after attending a Lego convention in Chicago. It's a great tale. (Gosh, I just hope it's true!)

A snippet:

So I felt like about zero cents, but then we giddily realized that I had *just* activated the brand-new Find My iPhone service. Even better, Mark had a Sprint (yes, Sprint) USB dongle giving him Internet access over 3G on his MacBook Pro. Excited to try it out, we hopped onto and clicked the Find My iPhone link.

Wonder if Apple realizes that they could have legions of iPhone vigilantes who'll be going off hunting their stolen handsets with the help of GPS technology and mobile web connections?

Do you see a potential problem here -- or does this just mean more power for the consumer and the victimized citizen?

(FYI: This story was originally featured on SlashDot; I got tipped off to this tale by @justinemaki)

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 3:30 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Smartphones

June 19, 2009

Lines at the nation's Apple stores

Welcome to BaltTech. I'll periodically post some updates today on people's experiences with the new iPhone 3G S today. Particularly interested in short user reviews and demos of its video camera, like CharmCityGavin did below with 12seconds.

UPDATE #2: @charmcitygavin got his iphone from the Towson Apple store and posted his first 12seconds video clip with it. Check out the quality: good enough for you?

Recording my first iPhone 3G S video! on

Update #1:

(UPDATE: Below, scene at Apple store at Columbia Mall, taken by @jflanigan, via Twitter)

Line for iPhone 3G S @ Columbia Mall on Twitpic

Thanks to Twitter, those of us who aren't the kind to wait in line for a new Apple gadget can experience the geekdom from a safe distance. Today is the day that the new iPhone 3G S handset goes on sale.

Some gadget reviewers, such as WSJ's Walt Mossberg, call it an "evolutionary" model not a revolutionary one. It's supposed to be a much faster user experience, it can shoot video, and it's got voice command features that I suspect will play a greater role in the mobile device world.

Generally, it seems people who pre-ordered the device could have chosen to pick it up at the store today. There will also be phones for sale to walk-in customers, too, apparently. Though I'd imagine in some locations, they'll probably sell fast.

Here in the Baltimore area, it seems the Apple store at the Towson Town Center is the place to be if you're looking for a line. See some tweets below:

@ScottCastro Waiting in line at the Apple Store in Towson for the new iPhone 3G S

@kbilly21 @Towson Apple Store about 200 people waiting for iPhone 3Gs

@charmcitygavin Apple Store employees just brought up coffee and doughnuts!!

I'd like to hear from people who've maybe forgone going to an Apple store and instead, gone to an AT&T store. Is that a more low-key buying experience today?

I searched and filtered for iPhone tweets within a 25-mile radius of Baltimore. Check out these results. Pretty fascinating.

Elsewhere, Etan Horowitz, a tech blogger with the Orlando Sentinel, is covering the experience. There's a Twitter hash tag for that scene down in Florida: #3GSOrl Where else are the long lines? And where are there no lines?

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 7:41 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Smartphones

June 18, 2009

iPhone 3.0 round-up for dummies

iphone3GS.jpg Apple released the new operating system for the iPhone yesterday -- 3.0 -- and presumably millions have downloaded it by now.

The techie blogger crowd certainly has done so. I've had other balls in the air this week, and I'm just catching up on some iPhone/3.0/AT&T news.

If you're also super busy, here are a few good links for catching what people are talking about re: iPhone's new 3.0 operating system (which, incidentally, I'm happy with) and the new handset, the iPhone 3G S (@jjthomas: I await your anti-iPhone mocking.):

:: The iPhone for business: "From a corporate point of view" and why your IT department still won't be satisfied.

:: Mashable and Business Insider cover AT&T's decision to drop the price of the iPhone 3G S (the new handset debuting this Friday) to $199 for current 3G customers who would have been eligible for upgrading through September. So instead of paying $399 (the unsubsidized price of the new iPhone 3G S), these customers who are close to qualifying for the new iPhone could get it for the subsidized price of $199. In a nut shell, according to AT&T: "We’re now pleased to offer our iPhone 3G customers who are upgrade eligible in July, August or September 2009 our best upgrade pricing, beginning Thursday, June 18."

:: The highly-craved feature of MMS messaging will come to the iPhone and it will not cost extra beyond whatever text messaging plan you may have, according to AT&T(PDF). (Thanks to @paulcapestany and @esquiremac for pointing this out to me yesterday) And personally, I say: big whoop. If everybody's gonna be on Web-enabled smartphones that can blast emails with photos, share photos on Facebook and Twitter, etc., tell me again what's the big deal about MMS?

:: The Wall Street Journal's Walt Mossberg gives a good review of the new iPhone 3G S -- but also says many will just be happy with the 3.0 OS upgrade because the new handset is more evolutionary than revolutionary. His quote: "...I don’t think this latest iPhone is as compelling an upgrade for the average user as the 3G model was last year for owners of the original 2007 iPhone."

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 9:03 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Smartphones

June 17, 2009

Quick: your first impression of Apple iPhone's new 3.0 OS

I've been itching all day to upgrade my poor, outdated iPhone 3G (yes, I still have 3GS envy but still can't get outta my contract till October 2010), but I didn't have time to do it this morning and I'll be at work for awhile.

So, I'm turning to you, BaltTechies, to give me your early, first impressions of the new operating system. Are you ga-ga over cut-n-paste? Are you uber-jazzed over the new universal search?

What is your favorite new feature, or features? Does your phone feel faster or slower or about the same?

Give me your quick take here. I'd like a heads up on what to expect.

:: Here's where to go to upgrade on Apple's site.

:: And here's what people are saying about it on Twitter.

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Posted by Gus Sentementes at 1:36 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Smartphones

June 9, 2009

Why Apple and AT&T now have legions of disgruntled iPhone customers

This may be my last iPhone/AT&T post of the day and week, maybe even month or year.

I bought an iPhone 3G in January from an AT&T store. The helpful AT&T salesman told me, when I asked him point-blank, that I would be able to upgrade to a new iPhone handset if one debuted during my contract period, without paying a marked-up price.

I wanted to believe him. I did, in fact. But really, he was just a sales guy -- his word was not bond. Not when big corporations are involved. And deep down, there was a little voice, which I muffled and ignored, which kept saying: Fat chance, Sentementes. You're gonna pay...and pay again.... and again.... and again.

Fast forward six months: Yesterday was a banner day for Apple. They introduced new MacBook Pros, a new Safari browser, some new functionality to MobileMe, highlighted the new iPhone OS 3.0, and of course, the new iPhone 3G S.

Loyal customers of Apple can buy every single one of those products for the price listed by Apple. Except for the new iPhone 3G S. For this new handset, if you're a current iPhone 3G customer with an AT&T contract, you have to pay at least  a $200 premium to get the new phone.

This is the reality of wireless economics -- since AT&T has to buy each new handset from Apple for something like $600 a pop, and then subsidize it to attract new subscribers. I get it. There are apparently millions and millions of early- and late-adopting iPhone 3G customers who are going to have to "get it", too. Though across the Web's social networks, the vehemence that many are showing toward AT&T and, to a lesser extent, Apple, which sets the price of the handsets, is pretty deep. (Here's a Twitter petition to sign if your hackles are still up.)

If you're a cheery optimist, though, you might say that this is the kind of dilemma that most companies could only dream of having: consumers clamoring for product and demanding better pricing. Better than not clamoring at all, right?

But what bothered me most was that the millions and millions of iPhone 3G customers had to essentially find out that via word of mouth and on Twitter -- or in the very fine, faint print on Apple's website -- that they would have to pay the loyal customer premium. Or perhaps they logged in to their AT&T account online to discover the news. (I can't give AT&T my $199 until September 2010, my account says.)

New iPhone 3G S/AT&T customer: you get it (the 16GB version) for $199.

Loyal/current customer: you get it for $399.

This pricing approach was not mentioned by Apple at their big developer's conference yesterday (where, incidentally, developers booed AT&T every chance they could, according to the LA Times.) Indeed, the pricing for current iPhone 3G customers wasn't even an asterisk or footnote in the day's festivities.

This pricing approach also was not mentioned in the press release that AT&T sent over to me yesterday. An AT&T spokeswoman emailed me the pricing for existing customers in response to my email query.

We're all adults here. Why is it so difficult to be upfront right out of the gate with these costs? Especially to customers who are already paying some of the highest wireless costs around for the privilege of using Apple's iPhone?

Furthermore, in an era now where smartphones seem to be developing radically new features every few months, does this type of business model offer the best solution for consumers and companies?

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 9:21 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Smartphones

June 8, 2009

iPhone 3G vs iPhone 3GS -- Which will you buy?

Apple today announced a new iPhone 3GS, with new features and functionality that include video recording and editing, voice commands, better data security and more. All for $199 for a 16GB version. On sale: June 19th.

They also announced that their current iPhone, the 3G, will immediately sell for $99, for the 8GB version. You'll get the new OS 3.0 software, which is a significant upgrade, but it can't do all the things the newly equipped iPhone 3G can do.

So which one will you buy (if you're a non-iPhone owner whose now interested)?

And, if you currently own a 3G, is the new 3GS compelling enough and feature-rich enough, to justify another $200 on a new iPhone?

What will you do?

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 3:04 PM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Smartphones

You want press? Do it on a Monday!

You've got a sexy new product! You want buzz! You want journalists covering it when they're well-rested and not working overtime on a weekend!

You want all of the above? Well here's what you do: You kick it off on a Monday. Not a Saturday.

Everyone expects Apple to announce some cool new things today at the kickoff to their Worldwide Developers Conference. The Twitter is already buzzing about #WWDC! People are Facebooking it! My grandma is calling me up every 8 minutes wondering what Apple's gonna do next! (Okay, that part's not true.)

It's the first day of the work week and all across the land, right at this very moment, people are rolling into work with their thermal coffee mugs, unplugging their ears from their iPod Touches, and firing up their desktop PC in their cubicle. They're wondering -- that is, if they have any room left in their household budget -- can I afford a new, better, slicker iPhone if Apple debuts one today?

Tech journalists across the land are also rolling into work right about now -- and they've got blogs to fill, updates to post, Tweets to Tweet. It's Monday, after all -- the beginning of the work week, and potential big new news from Apple could carry us (ahem, them) for at least a day or two of blog posts and news updates.

My point: Palm Pre launched on a Saturday, and sure, it got decent coverage. But most journalists don't work on Saturdays (I don't, usually). Apple, on the other hand, is kicking off their WWDC event today. If they launch a new iPhone (big rumor), they'll get HUGE coverage, with legions of tech reporters and bloggers across the land clickety-clacking away on their keyboards all day and night.

Just an observation from a guy in the trenches.

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 8:43 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Smartphones

This is where you talk Pre

This isn't a gadget blog, per se -- there are just billions and billions of them being served out there on the Internet every day. But it's fun to get Marylanders' take on the new Palm Pre, which may be the slickest piece of pocket plastic to debut since the Blackberry Storm iPhone 3G.

I'm starting to hear from Baltimoreans/Marylanders about how they bought the Palm Pre over the weekend, and what they think of it. Since I haven't been able to get my palms on one, I'm really appreciating the reviews and commentaries I'm picking up from these proud new owners.


Adam Greivell (left, @esquiremac on Twitter), a Maryland criminal defense and civil litigation attorney, was one of the excited souls to run out and buy a Pre -- and he's written a thoughtful review of it on his blog, EsqMac (get it? Esquire and Mac.)

Adam writes in "Two days with my Palm Pre":

"The main factor that drove us to purchase the Pre was the price, however. It looked like the Pre was a good enough phone that the money we would save over going with the iPhone would be worth it - even if it ultimately didn’t turn out to be as good as the iPhone."

Adam leaves us with a bit of a cliffhanger. I'm interested to see what he thinks of the Pre in a few weeks.

If you're from Maryland and now own a Pre, leave us your initial impressions down there in the comments and/or a link to your blog with your review. Let's see what Maryland thinks of it.

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 8:19 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Smartphones

June 6, 2009

Palm Pre launched today

Do you care? Anybody in the Baltimore area buy one? What was your experience like at the store today? More importantly: What's your first impression??

Let us know in the comments -- or just tweet it using the #prelaunch hashtag. Here's what people are tweeting about on the Palm Pre today:

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 1:39 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Smartphones

June 4, 2009

Palm Pre video reviews


Everybody's talking about the Palm Pre -- which debuts this Saturday -- as being a serious competitor for the iPhone and Blackberry smartphones. (Aside: Note how I didn't use the oft-over used phraise "iPhone Killer." Thank you, thank you.) Silicon Alley Insider's Henry Blodgett, however, in a contrarian piece today, thinks it'll "bomb.")

It's easy to describe some of the innovative new software features that Palm has rolled out in the Pre, but what you really want to see is someone handling the device. You can't find one of these babies out in the stores yet.

So, for now, you've gotta watch the tech media-herd groping at them with their fingers. At the very least, you'll get a feel for the smoothness of the interface and how you can move between the apps. Some of the excitment around the Pre is the fact that it will have a touch screen PLUS a pullout QWERTY keyboard.

Personally, for me, I think the fewer moving parts on my cellphone, the better. One less thing to break. I like the iPhone's virtual keyboard and have learned to type pretty quickly with it. And, when I don't need it, it goes away and I could do other things with the screen, like watch videos. A CNET reviewer (watch the third video on the jump) makes a key point about how if you're viewing a web page in landscape mode, you'd still need to turn the device to input text -- no virtual keyboard option.

Another huge hurdle Palm is perceived to be facing is attracting the developer community to work on apps and populate its own app store. So, some seem to think that'll be a big problem but I'm not so quick to count Palm out. Developers who are first to market with a killer app on a powerful smartphone could end up making a lot of money. The iPhone app store is a pretty crowded, competitive space. Easier for a cool app to stand out on the Pre, no?

Anyhow, I'll stop yammering. Check out some Palm Pre videos below. Are you gonna be waiting in line this weekend to buy one?

*From the Associated Press.

Continue reading "Palm Pre video reviews" »

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 4:25 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Smartphones

My iPhone experience

Reader BryaninTimonium asked yesterday if I could give ya'll an update on my experience with the iPhone 3G so far. Back when I was blogging over at Consuming Interests, I did a bunch of posts on the iPhone in January, shortly after I bought it. Now, it's been almost six month that I've had it. Is the honeymoon over? Not quite.


As someone who transitioned from a bare-bones cell phone to an iPhone, it was like fast-forwarding from a black-and-white televsion on a tiny set to high-definition color on a 50-inch flat-panel TV. It's still a fun, easy, exciting device to use, and one that helps me discover all kinds of new content every day -- and occasionally, I'll even buy stuff with it.

I have an 8GB version and I'm not too keen on loading it down with apps and other content. I'd estimate that about 1/4 of the apps I download I end up deleting (mostly free games I get bored with quickly.) 

That said, I keep a few hundred photos, several hundred songs, a couple videos and all my address and calendar contacts on it. Apple's built-in calendar is easy to use and it has become my trusty repository for every event in my life I don't want to miss. My long-term memory is practically shot, and now, my short term memory seems to be going too (fatherhood?). So it's helpful and easy.

I've used some great little apps along the way: FStream, to listen to police and fire scanner frequencies; GoogleMaps, for GPS-enabled directions;, to post short clips on news events; iDicto, to record audio that I can then email to people; a host of news apps, from AP to WSJ; Pandora; Amazon's Kindle app; and -- my daughter's favorite -- the "I Hear Ewe" app, featuring animal sounds from barnyard to jungle. It's actually pretty cool!

Perhaps the biggest sign of the iPhone's likability: my wife digs it. My wife, who for years has insisted on only wanting a barebones cellphone without a camera, is hooked on my iPhone. This is great news, because I was starting to worry that she was getting jealous of all the attention I paid to my iPhone. Now, she wants one, too. Whew.

Now, some critiques:

Continue reading "My iPhone experience" »

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 8:12 AM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Smartphones
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About Gus G. Sentementes
Gus G. Sentementes (@gussent on Twitter) has been writing for The Baltimore Sun since 2000. He's covered real estate, business, prisons, and suburban and Baltimore City crime and cops. He was one of the first reporters at The Sun to use multimedia tools and Web applications -- a video camera, an iPhone -- to cover breaking news. He hopes to cover Maryland geeks and the gadgets and Web sites they build, and learn -- and share -- something new every day.

Gus has a wife, a young daughter and two feuding cats. They live in Northeast Baltimore.
This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:

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