Tagged: mobile

CES: ION spawns a whole iCade family

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Here’s the back-story: A few years ago, uber-geeky gadget site ThinkGeek.com ran one of their annual April Fools Day gags – they prominently displayed a product on their homepage called the “iCade” claiming it would turn your Apple iPad into a full-on classic gaming arcade experience.

Naturally the product was completely fictitious, but that didn’t stop tons of fans from writing in and declaring their enthusiasm for such a device.

Within the year, ThinkGeek had partnered with ION Audio, then a company best known for their USB Turntables and the iCade had gone from creative nerd-joke to a real-life product at CES.

We got our hands on the iCade earlier this year and enjoyed it thoroughly.

It wasn’t long before the imitators started to appear and I suppose that got ION thinking that they had indeed stumbled onto a good thing.

So it wasn’t all that surprising to see that at this year’s show, they were showcasing three new iCade products: the Core, the Mobile and the Junior – all of which stick to the essential formula of giving gamers physical controls for their favourite i-devices.

The iCade Core directly attacks Atari’s own iCade-like product, the Atari Arcade which itself undercut the original iCade by almost $50.

The Core is a stripped-down iCade offering all of the functionality with virtually none of the nostalgic style.

The iCade Mobile is easily the most innovative of the three new products, and does a superb job of converting an iPhone or iPod Touch into a Nintendo DS/i. With its full compliment of buttons and a slick turntable feature which lets you alter the orientation of your device, this could be the hardware add-on that convinces iOS game developers to abandon touch-only control schemes for their games, which would inevitably lead to better, more immersive games on a device that has more than enough horsepower to handle them.

Finally, the iCade Junior – it’s the cheapest of the bunch, but frankly I doubt it will succeed. Awkward to hold and not as satisfying as either the Core or the Mobile from a control-scheme point of view, this member of the iCade line-up is cute, for sure, but little more than a curiosity.

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CRTC to make switching broadcast, telco services as easy as one call

image (c) Getty ImagesWhile I’ve never experienced any hassles when switching providers for any of my services, I know that this has not been the case for many Canadians. And clearly that’s the message the CRTC has been receiving, because today they have announced a new process whereby consumers can place a single call to their new provider and from there the new provider will make all the arrangements for the switch, including service cancellation, with the old provider.

In a press release sent out today, Konrad von Finckenstein, Q.C., Chairman of the CRTC said, “In a competitive marketplace, consumers are always encouraged to explore different options for their broadcasting and telecommunications services. The new rules will make the transfer process a seamless and convenient experience, while enabling Canadians to benefit from receiving retention offers from their current providers.”

Along with the new, simpler switch procedure comes new requirements for how long any switches should take: “The CRTC requires that customer transfers be completed within two business days, except for wireless service where transfers must be completed within 2.5 hours.”

2.5 hours? That’s seems like a tall order… we’ll see if that ends up being the reality or not.

The new rules don’t prevent you from doing a regular cancellation, if that’s what you want. In fact, it may arguably be a better way to go about switching, especially if you’re planning to move for pricing reasons. By calling your existing provider to cancel in-person, you’ll likely be offered any number of incentives to stay, which will not happen if you use the “one-call” technique.

The CRTC is warning Canadians that these new procedures do *not* help get you out of any early-cancellation fees that your current provider might charge you depending on the nature of your contract, so don’t be surprised if you get a bill in the mail following the switch-over process.

Finally, near the end of the release, the CRTC mentions that it “has established safeguards to prevent service providers from sharing confidential customer information with their internal sales and marketing groups during the transfer process,” presumably as a way to prevent the old provider from placing calls to the customer in an attempt to lure them back before they leave. Interestingly, the Commission isn’t completely convinced that this decision is in the best interest of consumers and is seeking comments on the issue.

Do you think these changes are good for consumers, or will you still use the cancel-and-switch-yourself technique the next time you decide to move?

Bell TV launches remote PVR programming

Bell-TV-remote-PVRGood news for PVR addicts who find themselves away from home when they suddenly realize there isn’t enough room on their hard drive to record that show coming on in a few hours. Bell TV has launched a remote PVR management system that can be accessed online via a web browser or via a compatible smartphone.

Here’s how it works:

  • You need to have either the 9242 or 9241 Bell PVR Plus receivers (with or without an external HD)
  • You must have broadband internet access (min. of 256kbps)
  • You need to be able to connect your PVR via an ethernet cable to your home router or…
  • you can buy a HomePlug adapter (known as a Home Connect Kit) from a Bell World Store, or online at Bell.ca for about $50

To access your PVR from the web, you need to log into your online account at http://www.bell.ca/recordnow.

samsung-omnia-2If you want to use your smartphone, you’ll need the corresponding app.

For BlackBerry models 8830, 8330, 8530, 9630, 9000 & 9700 or the Samsung Omnia 2, you can download the app OTA (over the air) by pointing your mobile browser to www.bell.ca/rpvr
(BlackBerry owners – check your home screen, you may already have the Remote PVR icon there)

There is an app coming soon to the iTunes App Store for the iPhone 3G and 3GS, but in the meantime, you should be able to just use the built-in Safari browser. The same goes for the Palm Pre – just use your browser and head over to http://www.bell.ca/recordnow.

Once you’ve got it all set up, you should be able to manage the entire contents of your PVR, including deleting recorded events, scheduling new events, check remaining disk space, adjust the priority of recordings and manage any conflicts.

Here’s a few things to keep in mind:

  • The remote PVR system will not work with “PVR-ready” systems like the 6141, in other words, you must have one of the receivers that already has PVR functionality “out of the box”
  • When connecting the 9242 or 9241 receivers via the Home Connect (HomePlug) kit, you only need one side of the typical two-sided HomePlug system, because these receivers already have HomePlug chips embedded – but you will need to ensure they are plugged directly into an AC wall socket and not a power bar or other surge-supressing equipment (these devices interfere with the HomePlug signal)
  • If you have an external hard drive connected to your PVR for additional recording space, you can see the recordings that you have on it, but you cannot manage them remotely

Disclosure: Sync blog is owned and operated by Bell Canada