Digital Zone 219: Who Honketh My Horn?

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In this edition of the Digital Zone, we talked about:

  • Jailbreak your iPhone
  • Android sales outpacing iPhone
  • New iPhone factory being built
  • Data consumption is on the rise
  • Android sales outpacing iPhone
  • Defective iPads
  • Bait and switch data plans
  • AT&T fixes their upload speed problems
  • Droid X sells out
  • There’s an app for your car
  • Tracking pre-paid cell phone users
  • Office for Mac 2011 pricing announced

Owners of the iPhone will be able to legally unlock their devices so they can run software applications that haven’t been approved by Apple, according to new government rules. The decision to allow “jailbreaking” comes from one of a handful of new exemptions from a 1998 federal law that prohibits people from bypassing technical measures that companies put on their products to prevent unauthorized use of copyright-protected material. The Library of Congress, which oversees the Copyright Office, reviews and authorizes exemptions every three years to ensure that the law does not prevent certain non-infringing uses of copyright-protected works. For iPhone jailbreakers, the new rules effectively legitimize the practice and exempting it from liability. Apple says that jailbreaking is an unauthorized modification of its software. Apple currently uses software upgrades to disable jailbroken phones and the new government rules won’t put a stop to that. That means owners of such phones might not be able to take advantage of software improvements and still run the risk of voiding their warranty. In addition to jailbreaking, other exemptions announced include:

• allow owners of used cell phones to break access controls on their phones in order to switch wireless carriers.
• allow people to break technical protections on video games to investigate or correct security flaws.
• allow college professors, film students, documentary filmmakers and producers of noncommercial videos to break copy-protection measures on DVDs so they can embed clips for educational purposes, criticism or commentary.
• allow computer owners to bypass the need for external security devices called dongles if the dongle no longer works and cannot be replaced.
• allow blind people to break locks on electronic books so that they can use them with read-aloud software and similar aides.

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According to an upcoming study, Verizon smartphone users consume the most data. Validas, a wireless bill service provider for consumers, businesses, and government agencies, recently finished an analysis of more than 20,000 consumer wireless bills collected between January and May 2010. According to its study, Verizon Wireless smartphones consumed an average of 421MB per month versus the iPhone’s 338MB per month. Validas compares general “smartphones” from Verizon Wireless to just AT&T’s iPhone. There are slightly more Verizon Wireless smartphone owners who use less than 200MB per month than iPhone owners—54 percent versus 52 percent, respectively and Verizon Wireless smartphone users and AT&T iPhone users consume “no data” over their networks in a given month—3.4 percent and 2.9 percent, respectively because of Wi-Fi connections. While iPhone users edged out Verizon Wireless smartphone users for consuming more than 200MB each month (48 and 46 percent, respectively), Verizon Wireless smartphone users hit the network the hardest when it comes to “power user” territory. Nearly twice as many Verizon Wireless smartphone users (or 11 percent) consume 500MB-1GB each month, and more than twice as many (four percent) use more than 2GB per month. Verizon leads the pack in terms of growth with a mean increase of 48.2MB to 147.2MB used per customer per month, as 42.9 percent of its customers opted into new data plans versus 33.4 percent a year ago. T-Mobile followed with a data usage increase from 44.6MB to 120.6MB, though it had virtually no growth in the number of new data plans. Sprint was in third place with an actual decrease in mean data usage of 166.5MB to 133.4MB, even though new customers opting into data plans increased from 36.9 percent to 49.9 percent. AT&T came out on top with the greatest number of customers with data plans at 71.2 percent, which was up from 58.4 percent a year ago. Mean data usage per user is also up from 111.9MB to 149.6MB.

Bloomberg is reporting there is a new lawsuit accusing Apple of producing defective iPads. The suit alleges that the iPad “does not live up to the reasonable consumer’s expectations created by Apple,” because it “overheats so quickly under common weather conditions.” Under direct sunlight, the suit suggests, an iPad may shut off in as little as a few minutes. Class action status is being sought. In a related story, there’s another lawsuit accusing Apple and AT&T for abandoning unlimited iPad data plans. The companies “baited” the public into buying 3G iPads only to take away one of the advertised features in just a few weeks. Apple originally promised that people would be able to opt in and out of an unlimited plan on a month-to-month basis.

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PODCAST SPONSOR: The Digital Zone is sponsored by Bluehost.Bluehost.com Web Hosting $6.95

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AT&T is patching software in its network to fix a bug that kept iPhone 4 users from getting the full upstream speed on their handsets. The fix will be fully rolled out in the next two to three weeks. The problem only affects devices that use HSUPA (High-Speed Uplink Packet Access), the fastest mobile upstream protocol on AT&T’s network. That means Laptop Connect cards for PCs and netbooks and the iPhone 4. The glitch doesn’t affect downstream performance. To cope with the problem, AT&T has limited the available upstream speeds of HSUPA devices to regular 3G speeds. AT&T says the problem only affects 2 percent of AT&T’s subscribers because it only affects Alcatel-Lucent equipment.

Verizon Wireless estimated to have sold 300,000 Droid X smartphones. Verizon posted on a web page a video of the Droid X supposedly having its own signal problems when held the same way that causes the iPhone 4 problems — with fingers touching the edge of the device. The Droid X, which has a 4.3-inch display, a one-gigahertz processor. It’s being reported that some X phones arrived with flickering problems.

Beginning with 2011-model-year automobiles, OnStar is bringing their service to cell phones. The app will allow users to start a car, honk the horn, turn on lights, and lock/unlock doors and it won’t require the driver to be within a certain distance of the car. All features are are password protected. The app will also allow users access to diagnostic information, get mileage, fuel, and tire pressure data. The app and service will be available for iPhone and Android handsets on most 2011 Chevrolet, Cadillac, Buick and GMC vehicles.

FBI Director Robert Mueller has endorsed anti-terrorism legislation that would require prepaid cell-phone sellers to keep records of buyers’ identities. The bill would require purchasers to present identification at the point of sale.

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PODCAST SPONSOR: The Digital Zone is sponsored by LegalZoom.com.
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