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Tag Archive for 'mobile'

Love Google’s new Moble Product Search!

Google just announced an update to its Product Search. It is now optimized for smartphones and other mobile devices. I gave it a spin today and I love its clean and simple interface. Here are a few screenshots to give you an idea. By the way, this is the first time I am taking screenshots from my G1, here is a very good blog post describing how to do it.

Search results

I took Jabra SP700 Speakerphone for an example. This is how the search results screen looks. The Options menu allows sortiing by price, product rating, and also offers a few basic filters.

Product overview

Clicking on the first entry in the list will open this overview screen. The overview is not available for all products and I can’t figure out what the criteria is. For example Nintendo Wii has it but iPod Touch doesn’t.

Product details

This screen opens when you click on the product image/description on the overview screen (if there is one). It shows a bigger product image and the complete product description.

Product reviews

This is a list of all the product reviews aggregated from different sources. I find the reviews summary with the bars very easy to read.

Technical Specifications

Not much to say here. This is just a list of basic technical details about the product. I usually don’t trust these and make sure to re-check the specs at the store before I but the product.

Optimizing Product Search for mobile devices is a very timely step for Google. Mobile web use is growing strong and missing out on that growth would be very unfortunate for the company.

t-Mobile + GrandCentral = unlimited free calls

I won’t claim I invented this hack. It has been discussed a couple of times on bargain forums but I believe it is not getting the attention it deserves.

My cell phone has long become my primary way of communication and while I do believe we are slowly getting to the point when a phone will become just a VoIP platform and wireless providers will just sell data service so we all can enjoy unlimited voice calls and mobile internet (think WiMax), I also think we are far from being there and this hack brings me one step closer to this goal. Let’s see what combining GrandCentral and t-Mobile in order to get unlimited calls from/to your cell phone is really worth.

How does it work?

First ingredient you need is myFaves which is a t-Mobile feature that allows you to add up to 5 numbers to your “myFaves” list and make free unlimited calls to/from these numbers. If you don’t already have it, it costs extra $10 a month to enable it with your regular service. Alltel has a similar thing called “My Circle” and I believe it is free with any plan over $59.99

Second ingredient is GrandCentral, a service owned by Google which gives you a free local phone number to use as a relay to the other numbers you have. It is a very useful service on its own (I blogged about it last year) but for the purpose of implementing this hack you really only need a subset of the functionality it provides.

Steps to implement the hack

Inbound calling

  1. Sign up for an account at GrandCentral. You will need an invitation for that. I have several that I can give to the first people who reply to this post.
  2. Add the phone number you get from GrandCentral to your myFaves list (or My Circle if you use Alltel).
  3. Configure GrandCentral to redirect all calls to your cell phone number.
  4. Change GrandCentral Caller ID settings to “Display my GrandCentral number”. Now every time you get a call to your GrandCentral number it will be treated by t-Mobile as if you received a call from GrandCentral and counted against the pull of unlimited myFaves minutes.

Outbound calling

There are really two ways you can implement unlimited outbound calling. First is to ask your friends call your GrandCentral number and leave a short message. Once you have them all, you can listen to them by calling your GrandCentral number. One of the options GrandCentral offers as you are listening to a message is to return the call. So when you want to call one of your friends, simply call your GrandCentral number, skip to your friend’s voice mail message and then select “Return the call” option from the phone keypad.

This will work well if you have relatively few friends and becomes really inconvenient if the list of your friends grows.

The alternative way is to use Yak4Ever which is a free service (read about it here) that lets you register up to 10 numbers and call them for free. If this is the way you want to go then you will have to add Yak4Ever number to your myFaves list as well.

I have not had much experience with Yak4Ever but it did seem to have worked the last time I used them and the voice quality was decent.

Update: Just as I wrote this, Yak4ever shut down the service, but you can still use GrandCentral for your free outbound calls as described above.

What are the benefits & drawbacks?

The main benefit is that you can have unlimited calls to and from your cell phone, something that is easily worth over $100 a month. The benefit however comes at a cost. First, you will have to ask everyone to use your new phone number (the one you obtain from GrandCentral). Second, you lose Caller ID functionality. GrandCentral will announce to you who is calling but I find it less convenient than seeing the person’s name and photo (yeah, I have a picture assigned to each of my friends).

For outgoing calls the inconvenience is in the extra steps you need to make to setup the call by either returning the voice message or by dialing Yak4Ever number and selecting the appropriate entry from your list of registered numbers.

Conclusion

So is it worth the hassle or not? For me it is. I still can assign 4 of my remaining myFaves numbers to my close friends and family, but I did reserve one for GrandCentral. I plan to use it with certain people who I don’t call very often but when I do my conversations tend to take a while. Think about your far-away relatives or anyone else who you sync up with on a periodic basis.

Tell me what you think about it. Are you planning to use this hack or is it just a waste of time? One thing I keep wondering about is how long is it before Google plugs this back door. Or will it?

Source: discussions at FatWallet and SlickDeals forums

Internet stays tax free, Amazon redesign, etc

Senate passes Internet tax moratorium

Are you used to the idea of not paying sales tax on things you buy online? The fun could be over end of this month if senate and congress didn’t pass an extension to the bill that exempts Internet retailers from sales tax. Although the extension was widely expected, I can’t stop wondering what would happen if this bill didn’t get passed

The two chambers will have to reach a compromise on the length of the ban and other differences before the bill can be sent to the White House for President Bush’s signature.

Amazon redesigning the website

ReadWriteWeb reports that Amazon is in the process of redesigning their main website. You can read what changed and why they are doing it from a page Amazon set up just for this. Here is what it basically boils down to:

  • More use of javascript pop-up menus. The shopping categories currently occupy entire left side bar and Amazon had to do something to make the menu more manageable.
  • More stress to bargain hunting. A special popup menu is added to the top menu that will have links to Gold Box, Today’s Deals, Outlet, and the Friday Sale sections of Amazon.
  • Better Wish Lists integration. Wish lists popup menu is added to the top and will have search and other links available

New Amazon.com design

You may not see the new design on your computer yet because Amazon is rolling it out in stages. If you do however, check it out and let me know what you think about it in the comments.

NPR launches a mobile site

National Public Radio has just launched a very nice site optimized for use on mobile devices, your phones and PDA’s. I gave it a try over this week and I absolutely love the new functionality it offers. The best of all is the ability to listen a missed show from my phone using streaming audio. Alternatively I could call a dedicated number for each program however I prefer streaming audio because my cell minutes are limited while my internet access is not.

If anything, this makes my favorite radio station more available than ever. Use this URL to open the site from your phone: http://m.npr.org. Read this post for even more useful links to use from your smartphone or PDA.

Useful links for your Pocket PC or smartphone

What websites do you go to from your Pocket PC / smartphone? What URL’s do you have bookmarked? Here is the collection from my iPAQ. These all are mobile friendly sites that help me with my daily routine when I am on the go. Please add your favorite sites in the comments.

Portals & Search

E-Mail

News

Stocks / Market

Shopping

Travel

Free international calls

I marked a couple of links with (?) because they don’t load on my iPAQ however I strongly suspect my outdated Pocket PC software is the root of the problem (yeah, an upgrade for my iPAQ h5315 is long overdue :-() since others are able to open them.

Also, there are many more links can be found here but this page seems to be outdated and some links are broken while other newer websites are missing.

iPAQ




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