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Brier Dudley's Blog

Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

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December 10, 2012 12:01 PM

T-Mobile upgrades Seattle network, ready for iPhone

Posted by Brier Dudley

T-Mobile USA today announced upgrades to its network, in several cities, including its hometown Seattle region.

The company said the upgrades will improve voice and data service, signal strength and coverage inside buildings.

T-Mobile's making the upgrade in part by reallocating spectrum that had been used for 2G service. It's still supporting 2G phones, but customers are moving toward 4G smartphones.

Specifically, the upgrades are providing 4G service on PCS 1900 spectrum that had been used for 2G.

"We've got a critical mass of coverage we feel really good about in terms of quality and consistency," said Mark McDiarmid, vice president of radio network engineering.

T-Mobile's clearing a path for customers switching to its network. The upgrade will particularly benefit former AT&T customers who bring their phones to T-Mobile's network.

T-Mobile said its testing found that unlocked iPhone 4S models running on the upgraded HSPA+ network saw download speeds increase by 70 percent on average compared with AT&T's network.

This comes just a few days after T-Mobile disclosed plans to begin selling Apple phones directly next year.

Bellevue-based T-Mobile USA last month upgraded its network in Oakland, San Francisco and Silicon Valley. Today it's announcing upgrades in Seattle, Atlanta and Minneapolis, plus additional Bay Area cities.

Locally, areas affected by the upgrade include Seattle proper plus Lynnwood, Bothell, Mill Creek, Edmonds, Redmond, Kirkland, Woodinville, Bellevue, Issaquah, Sammamish, Kenmore, Mercer Island, North Bend, SeaTac, Burien, Tukwila, Renton and Lake Stevens.

T-Mobile's been working on the upgrade for months - even extending fiber to towers in the Cascades during Thanksgiving week.

"What we're doing today is basically unlocking it," McDiarmid said.

Still in progress are 4G HSPA+ network upgrades in metro areas such as Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and New York.

Simultaneously, T-Mobile is preparing to roll out 4G LTE service in 2013. T-Mobile plans to reach 200 million people with LTE service by the end of 2013.

The "refarmed" PCS 1900 spectrum is being used for HSPA+ service that supports download speeds up to 21 megabits per second. T-Mobile's also offering HSPA+ service on AWS spectrum that supports up to 42 megabits per second. But only some recent, higher-end phones have radios capable of those speeds.

Here's a list - provided by T-Mobile - of phones that can take advantage of those speeds on the company's network:

1900 MHz (AWS & PCS) Devices:

Samsung Galaxy Note, Samsung Galaxy S III, Samsung Galaxy S II, Samsung Exhibit 4G, HTC Radar 4G, Nokia Lumia 710, and HTC One S.

HSPA+ 21

Smartphones: LG Optimus L9, Nokia Lumia 810, Nokia Lumia 710, T-Mobile myTouch & T-Mobile myTouch Q, T-Mobile myTouch by LG, HTC Radar 4G, Samsung Galaxy Exhibit 4G and the BlackBerry Bold 9900.

Tablets: the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and the T-Mobile SpringBoard with Google.

Laptop Sticks & Mobile HotSpots: T-Mobile Sonic 4G Mobile HotSpot, T-Mobile 4G Mobile HotSpot, the T-Mobile Rocket 3.0 and the T-Mobile Jet 2.0.

HSPA+ 42

Smartphones: the Windows Phone 8X by HTC, HTC One S, Samsung Galaxy S Relay 4G, Samsung Galaxy S Blaze 4G, Samsung Galaxy S II, Google Nexus 4, Samsung Galaxy S III, Samsung Galaxy Note II and the Samsung Galaxy Note.

Tablet: Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1

Comments | Category: 4G , AT&T , Broadband , Gadgets & products , Phones , T-Mobile , Telecom |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

December 6, 2012 11:09 AM

T-Mobile finally getting iPhone, inks Apple deal

Posted by Brier Dudley

T-Mobile USA will finally start offering Apple products in 2013.

T-Mobile's parent company, Deutsche Telekom, confirmed today that the companies have reached a deal after years of effort by T-Mobile.

The news was released at an investor conference in Bonn where the company said Apple products and a massive investment in LTE wireless broadband are part of a broad plan to reinvigorate growth at Bellevue-based T-Mobile USA.

Details of the Apple hardware weren't included but T-Mobile has upgraded its current network to accommodate current iPhones that customers bought elsewhere. More than 1.7 million iPhones are now on the network.

T-Mobile is preparing to launch LTE service next year, which could support the iPhone 5 unless Apple reserves its latest model for larger carriers.

Reports today said the deal will involve a new, unannounced iPhone model.

That would track with deals T-Mobile has made with other handset makers. Nokia, for instance, provides T-Mobile with the Lumia 810 - a variant on the Lumia 820 series that larger carriers such as AT&T offer. Perhaps T-Mobile will get the iPhone 4T.

It could also mean that T-Mobile won't get the iPhone until Apple releases the next model, which tends to happen in the fall.

T-Mobile USA Chief Executive John Legere told investors in Bonn that the carrier suffered because a "certain number" of customers wouldn't come to its stores if it didn't have the iPhone.

Legere said the company won't see cash flow benefits from the deal until 2014, but T-Mobile didn't bet the farm on the iPhone like Sprint did with a $15 billion commitment to Apple.

"This is not a volume commitment the size of what Sprint agreed to or anything close to it," he said in the presentation, which was shared via YouTube.

Legere said he can't discuss details of the Apple device coming to T-Mobile but said it "will be a dramatically different experience," adding that "it is different, it is unique."

Perhaps it comes in magenta?

An Apple spokeswoman confirmed the deal but declined further comment.

Of greater importance than any particular handset are plans to boost capital investments "considerably" over the next three years. This includes increased spending by T-Mobile USA following its merger with MetroPCS, which DT expects to close within the first half of 2013.

Overall DT expects capital investments of 9.8 billion euros next year, up from previous plans to invest 8.3 billion. That's mostly for wireless broadband in the U.S. and Germany.

Specifically, the company plans to spend around $4.8 billion next year on T-Mobile USA's network modernization and blending of the MetroPCS network. It plans to investment $3 billion in 2013 and again in 2015.

Here's the Apple mention in the DT release:

T-Mobile USA has entered into an agreement with Apple to bring products to market together in 2013.

A T-Mobile USA spokesman in Bellevue said the company won't be expanding upon the statement.

Here's a slide from Legere's presentation:

tmoiphone.jpg

Here's a video of Legere's presentation:

Comments | Category: Apple , Gadgets & products , Nokia , Phones , T-Mobile , Telecom , iPhone |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

November 20, 2012 9:36 AM

Sievert named T-Mobile marketing boss

Posted by Brier Dudley

Mike Sievert is returning to the wireless world, again.

The longtime area marketing executive is the new chief marketing officer at Bellevue-based T-Mobile USA.

Sievert held a similar position at AT&T Wireless before joining Microsoft in 2005, to lead Windows client marketing during the Vista era. He left Microsoft in 2008 and went to Clearwire until an executive shakeup in 2011.

sievert.jpg
Most recently Sievert was chief executive of Seattle's Discovery Bay Games, which makes gaming accessories for the iPad and other devices. He took that job in May and will remain a major shareholder.

T-Mobile's marketing group has been in flux as the company's executive leadership was sorted out. Andrew Sherrard, a senior vice president, has been acting chief marketing officer since the spring. He's going to back to his old job, leading marketing for the company's contract business.

Another AT&T veteran, John Legere, became T-Mobile's chief executive in September.

"Mike is a unique creative genius, and his track record as a disruptive force in tech and telecom couldn't be better suited to our plans to redefine wireless as America's un-carrier," Legere said in a release. "This is a critical and incredibly exciting time for T-Mobile as we race forward with our network modernization and LTE launch in 2013, ramp up investments in re-launching our brand, and begin to shake up the U.S. wireless market."

Comments | Category: T-Mobile |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

October 3, 2012 7:23 AM

With T-Mobile / MetroPCS deal, Puget Sound lands another giant

Posted by Brier Dudley

T-Mobile USA finally found a dance partner.

The Bellevue-based company today confirmed that it's merging with Dallas-based MetroPCS in a deal that will speed T-Mobile's rollout of a 4G LTE network and strengthen the bargain section of the wireless market.

It will take a few years to see whether the merged company overtakes Sprint and poses a major challenge to AT&T and Verizon Wireless.

T-Mobile HQ (2).jpg
T-Mobile customers won't be affected much, other than quicker access to a wider LTE network after the deal closes sometime next year. MetroPCS customers will be encouraged to migrate to T-Mobile's network by the end of 2015, which will enable the merged company to use common network technology.

But in the meantime a tremendous change will take place in the Puget Sound region, where there's suddenly another giant public company. The merged company will be headquartered in Bellevue and have $24.8 billion in annual sales.

To put that in perspective, by sales the company is more than twice the size of Starbucks or Nordstrom. It will be the state's fourth largest public company behind Costco, Microsoft and Amazon.com. (It would be the fifth if you count Boeing, which is now based in Chicago.)

This won't replace the loss of Washington Mutual or Safeco but it will help, especially since the deal solidifies the concentration of wireless employment in the region at a time when the industry's surging and -- with LTE technology -- building a new foundation for the technology industry.

The deal makes T-Mobile a more autonomous, U.S.-based company traded on the New York Stock Exchange. That's a long-term enterprise and ends the uncertainty that hung over T-Mobile as a subsidiary of Germany's Deutsche Telekom, especially since DT began shopping it around.

From this angle, the MetroPCS merger is a far better deal than last year's attempt to sell T-Mobile to AT&T, which would have shifted the corporate headquarters to Texas.

That's not to say there won't be some pain. T-Mobile is saying it expects to find $6 billion to $7 billion in cost savings through the merger with MetroPCS, which means there will be job cuts across the companies.

At the same time, the new T-Mobile believes it's positioned to grow and win a larger share of the U.S. wireless market, which would lead to continued expansion in Bellevue.

"This combination of T-Mobile USA and MetroPCS means we are here to compete," Deutsche Telekom Chief Executive Rene Obermann said on a conference call this morning. "We are here to unlock value and we are here to win. This deal has the potential to be a game changer."

The deal was announced today after it was approved by the boards of DT and MetroPCS. It still needs regulatory approval, but the companies believe it could be finalized in the first half of 2013. It's not likely to raise the same competition concerns as AT&T's attempt to merge with T-Mobile, which was scuttled after drawing antitrust scrutiny.

T-Mobile is the fourth largest wireless carrier and MetroPCS is the fifth. Together they'll still trail third-place Sprint, but it's a much closer race.

Today's deal is structured as a recapitalization of Dallas-based MetroPCS. MetroPCS is splitting its stock and paying shareholders a one-time dividend of $1.5 billion, or about $4.09 per share. DT is getting 74 percent of MetroPCS common stock, rolling in $15 billion in debt and providing $500 million in revolving credit to the combined company. It's also providing a $5.5 billion backstop for previous deals made by MetroPCS.

Combined, the companies are expected to have 42.5 million subscribers this year and $6.3 billion of earnings before interest, taxes and depreciation. It's expecting to spend $4.2 billion on capital expenditures -- mainly building out its network -- and have $2.1 billion in free cash flow.

DT will end up with 74 percent of the combined company and MetroPCS shareholders will hold 26 percent.

Employees of T-Mobile - including nearly 5,000 in the Puget Sound region - may benefit from stock grant programs.

T-Mobile's new chief executive, John Legere, said being public will enable the company to offer more competitive compensation programs to attract and retain employees. A plan for stock awards hasn't yet been formulated but he favors the approach.

"We can use ownership in our company to motivate employees," he said in an interview.

Legere will lead the combined company that will be called T-Mobile. J. Braxton Carter, vice chairman and chief financial officer of MetroPCS, will become CFO of T-Mobile.

T-Mobile and MetroPCS customers will continue to be served separately, at least until MetroPCS customers are upgraded to T-Mobile's network by the end of 2015. Jim Alling, a Starbucks veteran and current chief operating officer of T-Mobile, will lead T-Mobile's customer unit while Thomas Keys, MetroPCS president, will lead MetroPCS's customer unit.

Although it will be headquartered in Bellevue, the combined company will "retain a significant presence" in Dallas, its release said.

In a conference call, Legere said the merger will provide T-Mobile with a 40 percent increase in contiguous spectrum for LTE and provide particularly dense coverage in major metro areas such as New York and Los Angeles.

Addressing concerns about the different network technologies used by MetroPCS and T-Mobile, Legere said they will not attempt to mash the older, legacy networks together. Instead, they'll move MetroPCS customers using its older CDMA network onto T-Mobile's network as they renew and upgrade. T-Mobile's current, HSPA Plus network has capacity to accomodate MetroPCS subscribers, he noted.

The networks' incompatibility will soon be a moot question. Both companies were in the process of shifting their networks and eventually customers to the same LTE technology that's becoming the new industry standard.

Legere said they expect "a rapid migration" to LTE "as part of the normal upgrade cycle."

As for its pricing strategy, the new T-Mobile will continue to emphasize value, with unlimited 4G plans. It's also going to be the largest provider of non-contract wireless phone services.

"We'll be able to deliver the best value across the board and that means in both contract and no-contract offerings," he said.

It's natural for this to happen here. The modern wireless industry was born in the area, with McCaw Cellular establishing the first national, roaming network in 1990. Two years later McCaw began selling the company to AT&T, beginning decades of mega mergers of the region's wireless companies.

That generated wealth and insight that led to the founding of Western Wireless in 1994. It became VoiceStream, which was sold to Deutsche Telekom in 2001.

Comments | Category: T-Mobile , Tech work , Telecom |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

October 2, 2012 10:37 AM

T-Mobile may merge with MetroPCS, go public

Posted by Brier Dudley

It looks like Bellevue-based T-Mobile USA is about to get much bigger.

Parent company Deutsche Telekom today confirmed that it's considering merging T-Mobile USA with MetroPCS, a move that would increase T-Mobile's reach by nearly a third and speed up its rollout of 4G LTE service.

Dallas-based MetroPCS began offering LTE service on its network in January 2011. T-Mobile has been working toward the launch of its LTE network in 2013.

T-Mobile USA is already one of the largest tech companies in the Seattle area, with 36,000 employees, including about 4,800 in the Puget Sound region, and about 33.1 million subscribers. MetroPCS has about 3,700 employees and 9.3 million subscribers.

Consolidation in the U.S. wireless industry has been expected, with smaller carriers bulking to help them better compete against dominant carriers AT&T and Verizon Wireless. The MetroPCS deal would significantly narrow the gap between T-Mobile and Sprint, the third-largest wireless carrier in the U.S.

The deal could also turn T-Mobile USA into a publicly listed company. MetroPCS is publicly listed and its shares are up about 18 percent on word of the potential deal.

DT has been wheeling and dealing to improve its position with T-Mobile. Last year, it attemped to sell the company to AT&T, and last week it sold about 7,200 of its towers for $2.4 billion to tower operator Crown Castle.

DT's supervisory board is meeting Wednesday to consider the MetroPCS deal, according to Bloomberg, which broke the merger story and prompted DT to confirm the deal is in the works.

Here's the DT statement, which is all the company's spokesman would provide:

Deutsche Telekom is holding talks with the listed company MetroPCS with the aim of operating its subsidiary T-Mobile USA and MetroPCS within one company in which Deutsche Telekom would hold the majority of shares.

The talks are at a stage where significant issues have not yet been finalized, contracts have not yet been signed and the conclusion of the transaction is still not certain. The Board of Management and Supervisory Board of Deutsche Telekom have therefore not yet taken the resolutions necessary for such a transaction.

MetroPCS also confirmed the talks with a brief statement:

MetroPCS today confirmed that it is in discussions with Deutsche Telekom regarding an agreement to combine T-Mobile USA and MetroPCS. There can be no assurances that any transaction will result from these discussions, and the Company does not intend to comment further unless and until an agreement is reached.

Like T-Mobile, MetroPCS is known for lower-cost plans, including unlimited plans that cost $40 to $60 per month. Its service is largely concentrated in the metro areas of New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Atlanta, Boston, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Sacramento, Orlando, Tampa and Dallas.

Comments | Category: 4G , T-Mobile , Telecom |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

September 19, 2012 9:06 AM

T-Mobile USA names new CEO, an AT&T veteran

Posted by Brier Dudley

T-Mobile USA announced today that it has a new chief executive - John Legere, the former chief executive of Global Crossing, a network provider that was sold last year.

Legere, 54, starts his new job Sept. 22, taking over from interim CEO Jim Alling, who is returning to his position as T-Mobile's chief operating officer. They replaced Philip Humm, who resigned in June after two years in Bellevue to take a job at Vodafone.

IMG-5CVZ7JZ5410KQ34B.jpg
Bellevue-based T-Mobile is the nation's fourth largest wireless company and employs around 36,000 people, including around 4,800 in the Puget Sound region.

Legere arrives as T-Mobile is in the midst of a massive network upgrade to 4G LTE technology and simultaneously overhauling its business operations, following a failed merger attempt with AT&T last year.

Legere began his career at New England Telephone in 1980 then spent much of his career at AT&T, including stints as president of its Asia operations and its outsourcing business. Later he worked at Dell, where he was president of the company's operations in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

"John is a talented and proven executive who brings a successful track record of leading and operating consumer- and business-focused telecommunications and technology companies," Rene Obermann, chief executive of T-Mobile's parent company Deutsche Telekom said in a release.

"As T-Mobile moves forward with its strategic initiatives to improve its market position, including expanding its network coverage and initiating LTE service, John has obviously the right skillset to lead the business into the future."

Legere is a competitive runner -- like Humm -- and a Massachusetts native who received degrees from the University of Massachusetts and MIT.

Comments | Category: 4G , Phones , Sprint , T-Mobile , Tech work , Telecom |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

July 23, 2012 10:19 AM

Wireless bills biting into consumer spending?

Posted by Brier Dudley

Here's my theory on the ominous decline in consumer spending, the widening crack in the economy that suggests leaner times ahead.

When the Commerce Department reported the spending slowdown last week, unemployment and stagnant wages received the blame.

But I think there's another reason Americans are cutting back: They're trying to pay their enormous bills for wireless phone service.

Consumers may be spending less overall, but they're still trading up to smartphones with more expensive service plans. Those who already own smartphones are adding iPads and other gadgets that increase their monthly bills.

These gadget sales aren't turning the economy around, but they're doing wonders for the wireless industry.

A few days after the consumer-spending news, Verizon Wireless said half of its customers are now using smartphones. It also surprised analysts by reporting that it's now making $56.13 per month per customer, up about 4 percent from last year.

Samsung Galaxy S II (1).jpg
AT&T may bring even more surprises Tuesday when it reports earnings.

Broadly, global wireless revenues should reach $1.5 trillion this year, tripling over the past decade, according to Chetan Sharma, an Issaquah-based industry analyst.

"Astronomical" sales of data -- largely since the iPhone's debut in 2007 -- have more than offset declines in voice and message services, he noted in a report last week.

AT&T -- the largest beneficiary of the iPhone effect -- saw data sales grow from $689 million in 2004 to $22 billion in 2011, he noted.

To maintain profit margins and keep a handle on surging data usage, the leading carriers have moved from unlimited data plans to tiered plans.

Now, to encourage the use of multiple devices, AT&T and Verizon are rolling out shared-data plans. This new billing approach may bring the average monthly revenue per smartphone user to $90 or more.

The cost per gigabyte may go down for some, but the carriers will do fine. That's because overall usage continues to grow as people use faster, higher-resolution devices to access more video and other content via wireless networks.

Sharma expects carriers will see strong growth in data-access sales for several years. He believes this will peak in three or four years, after which the industry will look to services and applications for its next wave of growth.

So will industry sales triple again over the next decade?

"I wouldn't be surprised," Sharma said. "There's a tremendous amount of growth left in the developing markets."

Where this money will come from is the big question.

Households typically spend around $1,000 a year on technology, including their phone, cable and Internet bills. In general, tech has taken about 4 percent of disposable income over the last decade, Sharma said.

As people spend more on wireless, they reallocate and cut back on things like wired phone service, he explained. Consumers are now spending about 43 percent of their tech budgets on wireless and he expects that to reach 50 percent early next year.

"The spend on cable and Internet is growing but slowing, and the majority of the growth is coming from the spend on cellphones -- that is, on both voice, as well as data," Sharma said.

This has to be consuming a larger share of Americans' disposable income. Consider the new Verizon and AT&T plans. For smartphones, they charge a minimum of $90 to $95 per month, with 1 gigabyte of data access. That's close to $1,200 per year.

Yet if wireless costs are affecting overall consumer spending, this isn't yet apparent in national spending reports, according to economic consultant Joel Naroff in Holland, Pa.

Naroff said spending on services isn't rising much. In fact services -- which includes real estate and health care, and accounts for about 65 percent of spending -- is seeing weak increases.

"More than likely it's putting pressure on people's budgets and they've cut back in other places," he said.

New devices and online services will also encourage people to spend even more on wireless data services in the next few years.

Apple's "retina display" technology started a race toward devices with higher density displays, which consume more data. Just around the corner is ultrahigh definition video with 4,000 lines of resolution.

The push toward online "cloud" services also will increase wireless data usage.

As people embrace online services that store and stream content, they'll depend even more on carriers to provide constant, fast service. And it's going to cost them.

I've been thinking about this while testing new Android phones that come preloaded with Dropbox, a service that automatically uploads photos and videos to an online storage locker.

It also struck me when testing Microsoft's upcoming version of Office. By default, it stores copies of all files online in the SkyDrive storage service, though Microsoft has also built it in a way that minimizes the amount of data that's transferred.

A bigger concern is the potential cost of streaming video services like Netflix, which uses up to 2.3 gigabytes per hour to stream a movie in high-definition. That means watching one could cost $60 if you're streaming it over AT&T and you've used up the data allocated by your "Mobile Share" wireless plan.

That would definitely lead to reduced consumer spending in my household.

Comments | Category: 4G , AT&T , Broadband , Gadgets & products , Netflix , Phones , Sprint , T-Mobile , Telecom , Verizon , Windows 8 , iPad , iPhone |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

June 18, 2012 11:33 AM

Review: Samsung Galaxy S III, the smartphone to beat?

Posted by Brier Dudley

Be thankful that Samsung's new Galaxy S III is fast, powerful and gorgeous.

I say that because there's a good chance it will be your next phone.

Samsung Galaxy S III_front.jpg
Samsung has become the world's leading phone-maker, surging past Nokia and Apple largely on the strength of the Galaxy S line, which debuted in 2010.

The third version goes on sale later this week on every major U.S. carrier, starting at about $200, plus a voice and data plan.

After testing a Galaxy S III on T-Mobile USA's 4G network last week, I'll bet it further extends Samsung lead. I found the phone hard to resist, despite software that's not as elegant as the gleaming new hardware.

The Galaxy S III uses carriers' latest 4G technology and has a ridiculous list of features, including most every new wireless trick for transferring files, photos and videos.

Samsung seems to have added every feature it could think of to be sure its flagship stacks up against any other phone in the store.

If you're intrigued by the iPhone's Siri voice-control system, for instance, a phone salesperson may suggest you check out the "S Voice" controls on the Galaxy S III.

No wonder Apple tried to block its importation with a patent lawsuit.

The Galaxy S III is a big phone, which won't appeal to everyone. At times it felt like I was talking into a shaving mirror held against my cheek.

It's basically a 4.8-inch diagonal screen, behind which Samsung stuffed a 1.5 gigahertz, dual-core processor, an 8 megapixel camera and a big battery.

Yet it's just a third of an inch thick -- about the same as a ballpoint pen -- and weighs about 5 ounces. Overall it's 5 3/8 x 2 3/4 inches.
samgalside.jpg

It feels well balanced and light for its size. Curved edges make it look smaller than it is, and the glass face tapers smoothly into its frame.

There's just one physical button on the front, a home button. It's flanked by hidden, touch-sensitive "menu" and "back" controls.

The high-definition display uses Super AMOLED technology. In other words it's strikingly vivid, though it's a bit hard to see the display in bright sunlight.

The battery, which can be replaced by users, kept my test model running on a single charge for two days of moderate use. Samsung claims 11 hours of talk time and 463 hours of standby.

On T-Mobile, the phone uses an HSPA+ network with theoretical download speeds up to 42 megabits per second. On my bus commute, without all bars of reception showing, I saw download speeds of 9 to 11 Mbps and uploads above 2 Mbps, using Speedtest.net.

High-def YouTube videos played with no buffering on or off the bus.

Calls were clear and the phone keypad was large and easy to use.

samgaldoubletap.jpg
There's a fun mix of gesture controls, such as shaking the phone to slide icons around the screen, or tapping the top the case to jump to the top of a list of emails. But it may take awhile for users to learn them all.

Like other Android phones I've tested recently, the Galaxy S III comes packed with apps, including competing media stores run by the carrier, the handset maker and Google.

This doesn't feel like a bonus. It's more like a strip mall and contrasts with the minimalist hardware design. Buyers will need to set aside time to clear this clutter after they've figured out which of the pre-loaded apps are worth keeping.

You'd think Google and its partners would share credentials, so you only have to sign in once, when you first turn on the phone and link it to a Google account. But you've got to set up a separate account to use Samsung's media applications.

I'm not a fan of Android's interface, which still feels dated and clumsy compared with Apple's iOS and Windows Phone. But people don't seem to mind and buy more Android phones than any other kind. I wouldn't be surprised if Samsung announced a Windows version of the Galaxy S III, perhaps later this week.

Samsung is among the tech companies exploring ways to incorporate mobile devices into home entertainment, using them as auxiliary screens and remote controls. With the Galaxy S III, Samsung added multiple ways to get video and photos on the phone onto larger screens nearby.

Video and photos can be played back wirelessly on a networked PC or TV or via an HDMI cable. I wonder how many people will bother, since there are so many devices connected to TVs nowadays.

samgalmediahub.jpg
I didn't have time to test the video sharing but was able to use a Samsung app for mirroring phone content on a PC over Wi-Fi. It worked fine, but required a Java download on the PC and the interface was clunky. It's still easier to simply connect to a PC with a USB cable.

Many buyers may look past these advanced connectivity options and buy the Galaxy S III simply because it's one of the best-looking phones in the store and loaded with most every gee-whiz feature they've heard of.

It will come in white and metallic blue finishes. T-Mobile hasn't yet disclosed pricing but it will probably be comparable to Verizon Wireless, which has said its LTE version will start at $200 for a model with 16 gigabytes of memory and $250 for 32 gigabytes. T-Mobile's sales begin Thursday.

Galaxy phones have been the best-selling models at T-Mobile for the last two years, according to the product manager, Brenda Fisher.

"Collectively they've done better than any other brand T-Mobile has sold," she said. "Consumers just keep coming back for it."

They'll probably find that, on the third time around, the Galaxy's even more charming.

UPDATE: Initial supplies of the Galaxy S III are apparently limited. T-Mobile's releasing the phone in 29 markets to start on the 21st and will extend it to other markets "over the coming weeks," a spokesman said.

T-Mobile's also charging more than some for the phone. It's charging $280 for the 16 gig model and $330 for a 32 gig model, after $50 rebate and with a "classic" voice and data plan. With a "Value" plan the phone's up-front cost will be $230 or $280, depending on storage size - plus another $400 that's paid in 20 installments of $20 per month.

Unboxing:
samgal3.jpg

Hello Google:
samgal7.jpg

T-Mobile is using the controversial CarrierIQ diagnostics technology on the phone. If you're concerned about the privacy implications, uncheck the "diagnostics" in the settings menu:
samgal10.jpg

Hay fever sufferers may want to change the default desktop image:
samgaldandelion.jpg

A photo I took with the phone:
samgal12.jpg
Here are specs, as provided by Samsung:

Dimensions: 5.38" x 2.78" x 0.34"

Weight: 4.7 ounces

Battery standby time: Up to 12.5 days

Battery usage time: Up to 8 hours usage time

Battery type and size: 2100mAh

Platform: Android 4.0, Ice Cream Sandwich

CPU / Processor: 1.5 GHz dual core

Display resolution: 1280 x 720 pixel

Main display size: 4.8"

Main display technology: HD Super AMOLED

User interface features: TouchWiz; Smart Unlock; Accelerometer; Motion Gestures; Smart Stay; S Voice; S Suggest; Kies Air; Pop Up Play; Share Shot; AllShare Play
Camera: 8.0 Megapixel

Front-facing camera resolution: 1.9 Megapixel

Digital optical zoom: 4x

Features: Auto Focus; Shot Modes, Auto, Cloudy, Daylight, Fluorescent, Incandescent; Camcorder; DivX; HD Recording; HD Playback; Video Share; Zero lag shutter; Burst Mode; Best Shot; Share Shot; Smile Shot; Buddy photo share

Audio features: Music Player; Compatible Music Files, 3GP, AAC, AAC+, eAAC+, M4A, MIDI, MMF, MP3, PMD, QCP, WAV, WMA; Audio, Streaming; Ringtones, Polyphonic; MP3/Music Tones

Video features: Video Player; Compatible Video Files, 3GPP, H.264, MPEG4, WMV; Video, Streaming

Games and entertainment: Downloadable Content; Animated Wallpapers; Samsung Widget Gallery; Samsung Media Hub; Google Play Books; Music and Movies; Google Talk; Flipboard; T-Mobile TV

Productivity: Microsoft Office-compatible; Voice Memo

Messaging options: Email; Corporate Email; Picture Messaging; Text Messaging; Instant Messaging; Threaded / Chat-style Messages; Predictive Text (T9/XT9); T9 Trace
Connectivity features: Bluetooth; Bluetooth Profiles, A2DP, AVRCP, HID, HFP, PBAP, HSP, OPP, SPP; Wi-Fi; Wi-Fi Hotspot; HTML Browser; Flash; GPS

Internal memory: RAM (2GB), ROM (16GB

External memory/microSD Capacity: Up to 64GB microSD

Calling features: Speakerphone; Voice Recognition; Voicemail; Visual Voicemail; Text-to-speech; Music ID; Picture Caller ID; Multitasking; Call Restrictions; Hearing Aid Compatible (HAC), M3; TTY; Airline Mode

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May 21, 2012 10:24 AM

Q&A: T-Mobile CEO on layoffs, iPhone, mergers and more

Posted by Brier Dudley

After a detour through Dallas, Philipp Humm is finally getting to reshape T-Mobile USA.

Humm reinvigorated T-Mobile's German business before parent company Deutsche Telekom sent him to Bellevue in 2010, to rev up America's fourth largest wireless company. But before Humm could make his mark here, Dallas-based AT&T moved to buy his company for $39 billion.

That left T-Mobile in limbo and hemorrhaging subscribers through much of 2011, until the merger collapsed under regulatory scrutiny in December.

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Before it was over, T-Mobile took another hit from the new Apple iPhone, which launched in October -- on the networks of T-Mobile's three large competitors.

Once the dust settled, the athletic German sprung into action.

In February he announced a $4 billion upgrade to LTE network technology going online in 2013. In March he consolidated call centers, closing seven of 24 In April, the company began re-branding itself as more aggressive and tech-oriented.

May's initiative -- announced last week -- is a broad restructuring that includes flattening management and cutting slower-growth areas of the businesses. About 900 layoffs resulted, but Humm said 550 positions will be added through the year.

Combined with an effort to build up T-Mobile's business sales, the company should end up with a much larger presence in the Seattle area, Humm said in an interview last week.

Here's an edited version of the conversation.

Q: It has to be tough leading a company through the roller coaster of a failed merger, followed by restructuring. How is morale?

A: I'm very proud about the way, in particular, our management and our employees have taken the news, taken the information and also the feedback we've received, the way we handled it and the way we supported our employees.

Q: What exactly is happening?

A: What we are really doing right now is we are trying to restructure T-Mobile to be ready to invest in different growth areas.

Q: Can you clarify the layoff numbers?

A: There will be about 900 positions which will be eliminated on one side, but at the same time we're creating 550 new positions, which means that we have a net reduction of 350 positions, which I think was often misunderstood.

Q: There are also "business to business" jobs being added?

A: We are creating on top of it another 1,000 jobs, but they will all be in B2B. They will be nationwide and that's a program which will probably take between two and three years to be completed. If you add that into it, we will, at the end of the day be net positive, but we will look very differently.

Q: What areas have less growth potential now?

A: We have looked at different areas where we can improve, for example, our expense or controls or reduce numbers of layers between the chief and the customer so we are more agile as an organization. I don't want to go into specific functions.

Q: Where do you see growth?

A: The business area. We're also investing in different paths of marketing. We simply need new employees with new skills.

Q: What's changed?

A: We have not in the past really focused on the B2B segment per se. That's why we have only a market share of 5 percent in B2B. Obviously, we have different ambitions and want to significantly grow our market share.

Q: For residential customers, will T-Mobile seem different?

A: If you contrast our advertising a year ago with the current advertising, we're really evolving the brand by making our spokeswoman also evolve. We're trying to evolve from "more affordability" to being known for cutting-edge 4G and affordability.

So we want really to make sure that customers start to understand T-Mobile is a very serious tech brand, which has a very strong 4G network, which has a very strong 4G device lineup.

Q: Will affordability continue to be a hallmark of the brand?

A: Yes.

Q: Will there be less affordability -- or price increases?

A: I don't think there is a need for less affordability or changing our price positioning. We have good price positioning now. It's really adding the tech aspect to our brand and really restarting the brand.

Q: Was the restructuring planned before the AT&T deal?

A: Yes and no. Being a challenger in the market, strategically you need to have an organization that is aligned with our strategy. We would have done the restructuring independent of the AT&T merger. Probably the same as we did or a little bit more.

Q: Do you need to sell the iPhone?

A: At the end of the day the iPhone is a good and important smartphone. The question is, do we need to carry it and subsidize it or do we simply open up the network to let people bring the iPhone with them?

We have been quite successful very quietly in really offering unsubsidized rate plans. If you look at our growth ... 45 percent of our growth adds are unsubsidized rate plans. We already shifted the model at T-Mobile quite significantly.

Q: Will you add shared data plans for families, like Verizon is planning?

A: We have a little bit different belief. We have family plans out today which are where, when you add a line, you get a discount or you get tethering included in your main rate plans.

We think that the industry -- that's our opinion -- is probably doing a mistake by trying to copy a very old fashioned voice model for data and now trying to pool data.

Imagine the situation: three people in the house, one of them is a teenager. You have a family rate plan -- say, a rich plan of 5 gigabytes -- and the teenager, girl or boy, watches an HD movie. Your family rate plan is gone. You are at work trying to download data and it suddenly says sorry, game over. You can get for another 10 bucks another half a gigabit or whatever.

I don't think that is a model that really applies to the modern world, and I wouldn't want that to be a rate plan we are putting forward because it will create negative customer perception.

Q: T-Mobile made a commitment to push Windows Phone this year. How is that working out?

A: I think we have a very good relationship with Microsoft, and we discovered that, in particular, for customers who are new to smartphones, they really enjoy the simplicity of the Microsoft [user interface], so they like the design and the ease of it.

Q: Are Windows phones selling as well as you hoped?

A: We are so far quite pleased and I think Microsoft, if you talk to them, [is] quite pleased with T-Mobile.

Q: There have been reports that T-Mobile may merge with a smaller carrier or go public. Will something big happen to your company?

A: We are pretty sizable company; we are profitable and we are on the right path to growth. ... That's really our main point of view, to strengthen our own business and come back to growth.

Beyond that we will always look at opportunities to gain additional scale or additional spectrum or strengthen capital structure in the U.S. market. Those are always things we will be looking into.

Q: Are there too many wireless carriers in the U.S.?

A: Overall we are in the infrastructure business. Infrastructure business always leads to a certain consolidation as a matter of principle. Based on today's model you would expect some sort of consolidation in the years to come.

That being said, if the government throws lots and lots of spectrum into the market, the barriers of entry for new people to come into the market would be lowered and you would have new competition.

Q: Isn't the market saturated, with subscription growth cresting last quarter?

A: We will continue to move customers from nonsmartphone rate plans to rate plans, which is accretive. So data is really the big driver. That's something everybody is doing.

Q: Will T-Mobile's local stature change?

A: The region is a very dynamic region for our industry and associated industries. Just look at Amazon, Microsoft, T-Mobile, all very big and important companies in their respective sectors and working all different forms together. The region itself will continue to be a very vibrant and important region.

Also if you look at our restructuring, the net effect of the restructuring will not lead to a decrease of positions in the Puget Sound area, but actually lead to an increase of positions in the Puget Sound area.

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May 15, 2012 10:53 AM

Broad new layoffs at T-Mobile USA, 900 jobs cut

Posted by Brier Dudley

T-Mobile USA Chief Executive Philipp Humm warned employees a few months ago that more layoffs would happen by the end of May. It's happening right on schedule.

Today, the company is informing employees of "a series of organizational changes," a spokeswoman said.

A net loss of about 900 jobs will result. But even more jobs are likely affected by the changes, which include layoffs and shifts to outsource more work.

(Update: The day after the layoff announcement, the company said hiring planned through the rest of the year will offset some of the cuts.)

These layoffs are a major blow to the largest remaining wireless company in the Seattle area after a series of mergers over the last two decades.

The industry took off after McCaw Cellular established the first national cell network in the 1980s. It was sold to AT&T in 1994, and the cluster spawned other carriers that became T-Mobile.

Even if the layoffs restore T-Mobile's footing, its future remains unclear, especially given the likelihood of further consolidation in the wireless industry.

T-Mobile's parent company, Deutsche Telekom, is looking at combining T-Mobile with MetroPCS or perhaps spinning it off as a public company, according to a Bloomberg report last week. T-Mobile is the nation's fourth-largest carrier and MetroPCS is the fifth.

Reducing costs through layoffs and outsourcing could better position T-Mobile for another merger attempt or improve its balance sheet for presentation to potential investors.

Industry consultant Chetan Sharma expects industry shuffling in the next 18 to 24 months as the carriers adjust to slowing growth of pre-paid subscriptions in a saturated market and challenged economy.

"My theory is the market is desperately asking for consolidation," he said.

If T-Mobile is able to cut its costs and keep its network upgrades on track, "they still have a fairly good shot at being competitive," said Issaquah-based Sharma, who is not consulting for T-Mobile.

It's unclear how many of the affected jobs are at the company's Bellevue headquarters. It employs around 4,800 people in the area. Nationwide the company employs around 36,000.

The state Employment Security Department had not yet received notification of a mass layoff at T-Mobile on Tuesday afternoon. Such notifications are required before 50 or more employees are laid off in a single location.

The layoffs are in addition to the 3,300 call center layoffs announced in March as part of the company's effort to improve profitability after customer declines while the company was in the limbo of AT&T's attempted merger last year.

The new layoffs are affecting "all departments," spokeswoman Michelle Taylerson said via e-mail.

"The restructuring was based on a thorough review of our entire organization, at all levels. The degree and nature of impact varies - but every function was reviewed," she said.

The cuts won't affect technicians in engineering, customer-service representatives in remaining call centers or "front-line" retail employees in T-Mobile-owned stores.

Details of which jobs are being outsourced isn't being provided.

"In developing the new structure, we evaluated every aspect of our business - including which activities would be best reassigned to outside business partners that are experts in their given fields," Taylerson said.

T-Mobile's business picked up last quarter, when it added 187,000 subscribers. That was a sharp reversal from the holiday season when it lost 526,000 customers.

Simultaneously, T-Mobile has been hiring about 1,000 people to pursue more business customers while spending $4 billion on its upgrade to 4G LTE network technology.

But there will still be the net reduction in employees.

"It's not going to be easy," Sharma said, "but they can survive."

The company issued the following statement:

"T-Mobile previously announced its intent to restructure and optimize operations throughout the company in order to best reposition the company, given today's demanding and rapidly evolving marketplace. This week we are communicating to our employees a series of additional organizational changes to best position T-Mobile to powerfully compete and return to growth. We are restructuring the organization and optimizing operations so that we can make critical decisions better and faster in response to market and customer demands. Further, by reducing our cost structure and streamlining operations, T-Mobile will be able to invest in areas where we anticipate the strongest return: modernizing our 4G network; aggressively pursuing the B2B segment; and re-launching our brand. These changes resulted in a restructuring of key functions and departments across the company including the elimination of some positions and the outsourcing of others. While difficult choices had to be made, restructuring our organization will help us better respond to market and customer demands and bring opportunity for continued career development and growth for many of our employees. We appreciate the contributions of our affected colleagues and will provide them with assistance and support during this transition."

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March 26, 2012 10:17 AM

Clearwire, layoffs and the future of 4G wireless service

Posted by Brier Dudley

Garet Martin is ahead of the curve.

The Portland resident experienced the future of 4G wireless service last week, and it wasn't pretty.

Martin gets wireless home broadband and phone service from Bellevue-based Clearwire.

She's generally pleased with the $63-a-month package, even though she has to move her modem when a particular tree gets leafy in the summer and interferes with the signal coming across the Willamette River.

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It was all fine until earlier this month, when she lost access to her voice-mail box. She called me after she had been stuck for nearly two weeks, only getting a recorded message saying her voice mail "is temporarily unavailable."

A series of calls to Clearwire's customer-service numbers went nowhere. Visits to a Clearwire outlet in Portland led to more dead-ends, but she did learn others were having the same problem with their voice mail.

Martin's situation was a little unusual, but I'll bet customer service will be a growing challenge over the next year or two for wireless companies.

A storm is brewing: Phone companies are rushing to build-out fourth-generation wireless networks better able to handle the crush of data from smartphones, tablets and other mobile-computing devices.

Consumers have become dependent on wireless devices, and most are upgrading to smartphones that are more complex.

To cover the cost of their network upgrades, phone companies are making some changes. They're moving toward more complicated pricing plans that meter data service.

At the same time, phone companies are diverting resources away from customer service and toward network upgrades. As we've seen over the past month, this has led to huge layoffs at call centers.

T-Mobile USA last week said it's closing seven centers, cutting 1,900 jobs so it can afford a $4 billion upgrade to 4G LTE technology. Verizon earlier said it's closing three centers, including one with 850 employees in Bellevue.

These follow a string of layoffs at other companies, including Clearwire.

In some ways Clearwire is a bellwether. It was the first company to offer true 4G wireless broadband, but the expensive network project led to sweeping layoffs and restructuring in 2010.

Clearwire's shifting strategy led to the problems Martin encountered this month. But she didn't learn that from the company she's been supporting for several years.

Customer-service reps were stumped with her problem, and her extended waits on the phone ended in frustration.

"Frankly, all the people I reach in the Philippines and India ... they all say how sorry they are, but they can't really do anything -- they can't or won't give me a supervisor or tell me where I can call in the United States," she said.

The reps told Martin "they know there's a problem and they told me there are a lot of people who are calling, but they just can't help me."

Martin isn't your ordinary frustrated customer. She said she used to head the Better Business Bureau's complaint department in San Francisco. After moving to Portland, she became a community activist.

"I love handling disputes," she said.

It makes you wonder what a less-motivated customer would have done. I'd have thrown my Clearwire modem out the window after those calls.

Instead, Martin drove to a Clearwire retailer in Portland. A person there gave her a number for a corporate office, which was always busy when she called, and for a regional office in Portland that turned out to have been vacated.

The sales outlet had a Clearwire sign but stopped selling Clearwire service and now sells other plans. Still, an employee told her other Clearwire customers had come to complain about the voice-mail problem.

Finally Martin began calling reporters.

I contacted Clearwire last Tuesday and asked if there were any service problems in Portland or Seattle. The initial response was that there were no network problems, outages or service disruptions.

Martin was still stuck, so I tried again with Clearwire, explaining that some customers were apparently unable to access voice mail.

A spokesman then replied that Clearwire is shifting the operation of its home-phone service to a third-party vendor. Customers who try their voice-mail password repeatedly during this process could get locked out.

Clearwire no longer sells this phone service to new customers. It's now mostly focused on providing wholesale service that larger companies use to supplement their networks.

Still, it continues to support 1.3 million retail customers, including perhaps 100,000 using the home-phone service.

"The service didn't really make sense as a long-term product for us," spokesman Mike DiGioia said.

Most customers didn't notice the back-end provider changed, he said. But some were caught in the migration and had their mailbox PIN codes locked up.

I guess that's understandable, but Clearwire dropped the ball by not informing its call centers of the issue. After our exchange, it set up a process for call centers to resolve it, DiGioia said.

But after I passed this on to Martin and she tried again with customer service Thursday, it still didn't work. DiGioia noted the fix could take 24 to 36 hours to take effect, but offered to intervene.

"We're sorry it happened, but we're working to make it right for them," he said.

Martin opted to have me share her name with the company, rather than wait another day. That afternoon she was on the phone with Geoff Levy, Clearwire head of customer care, and a product manager, who immediately fixed the problem.

"I'm getting two months of free service, but I still gave him hell," Martin said. "I told him I can't believe you treat your customers this way and you weren't more proactive."

Even so, Martin will keep using the wireless service she's grown to depend upon.

"I'll probably stick with them for quite a while, unless I have more problems," she said. "There really isn't anything competitive now."

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March 22, 2012 2:59 PM

T-Mobile layoffs - more to come, CEO says

Posted by Brier Dudley

It turns out the end of the AT&T merger didn't mean all the jobs would be spared at T-Mobile USA.

The Bellevue-based company today announced that it's laying off 3,300 workers at seven of its 24 call centers, including one in Redmond, Ore.

Those workers are being offered the option to transfer to 17 remaining call centers, including centers in Bellingham; Salem, Ore., and Meridian, Idaho. The 17 centers will add 1,400 positions, for a net loss nationally of 1,900 positions.

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Chief Executive Philipp Humm (left) warned employees that additional cuts are coming elsewhere in the company. In a memo, he said most of the changes will be announced by the end of May.

The next reorganizations won't hit the remaining call centers, engineering technicians or front-line employees in corporate-owned retail stores, he said.

At the same time, the company's gearing up for a $4 billion update of its network, including the launch of 4G LTE service in 2013. Also planned is a brand overhaul and the addition of 1,000 business sales positions.

Here's Humm's memo:

T-Mobile CEO on Call Center Consolidation


March 22, 2012

Dear colleagues,

I have difficult news to share today: we are consolidating our call center operations and closing seven of our 24 facilities. This decision was not easily reached, but it is a necessary measure. The reality is our cost structure must be better optimized to match our customer base and call volumes.

The affected Customer Service facilities are Allentown, Pennsylvania; Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Frisco, Texas; Brownsville, Texas; Lenexa, Kansas; Thornton, Colorado; and Redmond, Oregon. The consolidations will result in 1,900 net job reductions. Approximately 3,300 employees at the seven impacted facilities will be affected, and we will begin hiring immediately at the remaining 17 call centers to fill as many as 1,400 positions.

Impacted call centers will remain open for three months following this announcement. Affected customer service representatives will have the option to transfer to any of the remaining 17 call centers. Employees who choose not to transfer and are employed on the date the center closes, will be offered transition packages with severance pay and outplacement support. T-Mobile is partnering with an outplacement firm to provide on-site career centers at all seven facilities. Every employee will have access to a personal career coach and be offered job search training and tools. In addition, T-Mobile will pay for two months of continued health care coverage under COBRA (which is available for up to 18 months for eligible employees who elect this option).

Looking ahead, we will also be restructuring other parts of the company. It is important to note this will not include our customer service representatives in the remaining 17 call centers, technicians in engineering or front line employees in our T-Mobile corporate-owned stores. In other parts of the organization, the majority of changes will be announced by the end of May 2012. Senior leaders are intently focused on making the best possible choices standing on the foundation of our shared T-Mobile Values. The outcome will be an organization that is structured efficiently and closer to the customer. Leaders will share more information as plans evolve.

These are not easy steps to take - or, I know, to read. We must address our business realities so we can focus on getting T-Mobile back to growth.

Our commitment, as we go through this process, is to provide clear perspective and understandable rationale, be forthright in our communications regarding our decisions, and be respectful and compassionate in our treatment of affected individuals.

Thank you for your ongoing commitment and support.

With sincere appreciation,

Philipp Humm
CEO & President
T-Mobile USA

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October 26, 2011 10:59 AM

T-Mobile's Wal-Mart 4G smartphone, starts at $29.99

Posted by Brier Dudley

Any lingering questions about whether smartphones are going mainstream should be put to rest by T-Mobile USA's newest offering - a 4G Android model that's debuting next week at Wal-Mart for $29.99.

That's after a $50 rebate and with a two-year contract. T-Mobile's also going to offer the Samsung Exhibit II 4G contract-free for $199.99.

Wal-Mart's getting first crack at the phone starting Oct. 27. It will be available in other stores starting Nov. 2.

The Exhibit II 4G has a 1 gigahertz Snapdragon processor and a 3.7-inch touchscreen. Costs were cut on the camera - it uses a 3 megapixel sensor. There's also a front-facing camera for video chat and a spiffy "marine blue" case.

It's also not getting the fastest wireless radio. It's billed as a "4G" device because it will connect to T-Mobile's HSPA+ network, which is capable of download speeds up to 42 megabits per second. But the Exhibit II will have maximum download speeds of 14.4 Mbps.

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October 17, 2011 12:00 AM

Verizon flies past other carriers in Seattle speed test

Posted by Brier Dudley

Verizon and its new LTE network walloped other carriers in a new survey of Seattle-area wireless network performance.

The survey (posted below) was done by Bellevue's RootMetrics, which did more than 27,000 call, data and text tests in September to gauge speeds and performance of the different carriers in the area.

It found that Verizon's average download speed was up to 21.5 times faster and its average upload speed was 20 times faster than previous tests in February, which didn't test the latest 4G networks.

Verizon's average download speed of 14.5 megabits per second was faster than the maximum speed Root recorded on any of the other carriers, and its 9.6 Mbps upload speed was eight times faster than T-Mobile, its nearest competitor.

Verizon also topped its ranking of overall performance. Second place went to AT&T, followed by T-Mobile and Sprint.

Root also found that AT&T more than doubled its average download speeds since its previous tests, moving it from third to second place in its speed ranking. T-Mobile also showed faster downloads but they "increased at a less drastic rate, while Sprint's average download speed actually declined."

T-Mobile was the quickest to deliver text messages.

When it came to dropped calls, all four carriers "delivered statistically equal performances" the report found, with drop rates of 0.1 to 1.6 percent.

But data transmission failures were higher in Seattle than in other markets that Root has tested recently. AT&T had the lowest data failure rate - with failures in 6.2 percent of its tests - and Sprint had the highest rate, with failures in 14.2 percent of its tests.

Root did the tests with off-the-shelf Android devices. From the description of the devices and methods:

The HTC myTouch 4G Slide (T-Mobile 4G), the HTC Thunderbolt (Verizon 4G), the Samsung Epic 4G (Sprint 4G), and the Samsung Infuse 4G (AT&T 4G). During the Text test, SMS messages were sent from each phone to an in-market receiver kit holding mobile devices for each of the carriers. The phones used in the receiver kit were the HTC Droid Eris (Verizon), the HTC Evo (Sprint), the Samsung Captivate (AT&T), and the Samsung Vibrant (T-Mobile).

A few graphics from its report:

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September 1, 2011 4:00 PM

Mass layoff at Bremerton call center, hello AT&T?

Posted by Brier Dudley

If AT&T wants to start hiring more U.S. call center workers to win support for its proposed acquisition of T-Mobile USA, it should try the 360 area code.

A call center in Bremerton today informed the state that it's laying off 240 employees by Oct. 31. Last year the center's biggest client was Sprint.

The state disclosed the layoff today. If I'd known about it sooner, I would have mentioned it in today's column on the AT&T deal, which looks at AT&T's job creation pitch.

Englewood, Colo.-based TeleTech is doing the layoff in Bremerton. For a call center company, it's surprisingly hard to find someone to answer the phone there -- the media contact didn't respond to phone or email requests for comment.

TeleTech received a warm welcome in Bremerton, especially after it disclosed plans last year to hire 250 people.

That was supposed to bring its total workforce to around 675, according to an article in the Kitsap Sun last summer. The article said employees started at $9.75 an hour. That's nearly $2 lower than the median pay such workers receive across the country and close to the state's minimum wage of $8.67.

Before the layoff, about 1,100 people in the Bremerton area worked as customer service representatives, according to the state Employment Security Department.

Statewide there are about 30,000 people employed in that job category, which includes call centers and other customer service jobs.

UPDATE: Apparently another company at the Bremerton call center may hire the laid off workers.

TeleTech lost its contract to operate at the center, which is run by IBM, and the new contractor -- Manpower -- is offering jobs to those laid off, according to Peggy Barnett, Employment Security's business services manager for the area.

"That's my understanding -- that everybody has an offer to move over if they'd like, to their same positions," she said.

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September 1, 2011 10:07 AM

Q&A on T-Mobile deal now: effect on jobs, customers, 4G

Posted by Brier Dudley

The surprise decision by the U.S. Department of Justice to fight AT&T's takeover of T-Mobile USA raises all sorts of questions for wireless customers, employees and the Seattle area.

Hanging in the balance are more than 5,000 T-Mobile workers in the region, plus thousands of contract employees and vendors whose jobs are tied to T-Mobile's headquarters in Bellevue.
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Here are some opinionated answers to some of those questions.

Q: I'm a T-Mobile customer. What's going to happen to me?

A: Things should stay the same for a while -- perhaps a year or more. Under the original merger plan, T-Mobile would continue operating independently until the deal closed in 2012. AT&T promised to honor T-Mobile contracts after the deal was done.

The federal case is likely to delay the merger, if not stop it altogether. That means T-Mobile will continue operating independently longer. That will postpone any changes for customers.

Q: What if the AT&T deal falls through?

A: T-Mobile will continue to operate, but its parent company, Deutsche Telekom, may try to find another buyer, such as Sprint. That would mean a few more years of uncertainty.

Q: Should I hold off renewing my T-Mobile contract?

A: If you like your current phone and T-Mobile service, you may want to renew your service.

The DOJ lawsuit argues that T-Mobile provides better deals and innovative products. If that's correct, and you renew, you'll continue to get those deals through the life of the contract, even if AT&T takes over T-Mobile.

Q: What about the 4G stuff?

A: All the major wireless companies now offer fourth-generation, or 4G, wireless service that's faster than 3G but doesn't have as much coverage area yet.

T-Mobile and AT&T tweaked their 3G networks to provide 4G speeds.

Meanwhile, the industry is moving to a fast, robust new 4G technology called LTE, or Long-Term Evolution. Verizon and AT&T already offer LTE service in some areas. Sprint offers another wireless broadband technology called WiMax, but it's eventually moving to LTE as well.

Although the DOJ lawsuit says T-Mobile's innovation pushes the industry forward, T-Mobile is unlikely to join the others and move to LTE without hooking up with another company. So customers with the latest T-Mobile phones will get fast downloads where its souped-up network is available.

Q: What if I want the new iPhone/Android phone/BlackBerry/Windows "Mango" phone?

A: If you're shopping for a new phone and can wait a month or two, you'll have a bunch of new options, regardless of T-Mobile's situation. This fall we'll probably see a new iPhone and new Windows phones. A batch of more powerful Android phones is expected in time for the holiday season, and several new BlackBerry devices just surfaced -- at T-Mobile and other carriers.

Q: Why is the government getting involved?

A: The administration is gung-ho for technology and wireless progress in particular. The DOJ believes the merger will reduce competition, resulting in higher prices and less innovation. The deal also needs approval from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which is still reviewing AT&T's plan.

Q: What's next?

A: The DOJ's case will be heard by a U.S. District judge in Washington, D.C. AT&T plans to fight the case, and ask that it be expedited.

Q: What will happen to T-Mobile employees?

A: They may get a reprieve, but not forever. AT&T is likely to cut overlapping jobs after the merger closes, but the company isn't providing specifics. For now, the federal lawsuit extends the uncertainty hanging over T-Mobile employees. If the AT&T merger is blocked, T-Mobile will continue to operate, but it's not likely to remain independent forever.

Q: What about the 5,000 jobs that AT&T promised to create?

A: Late Tuesday, AT&T announced that it would move 5,000 call-center positions from overseas to the U.S. if the deal closes. It also said there would be no layoffs at any of AT&T or T-Mobile's call centers (AT&T operates two call centers in Bothell).

This looks to me like politicking. AT&T presumably received a courtesy notice of the impending DOJ lawsuit, and made a pre-emptive move to cast the merger as creating jobs. This provided fresh talking points to unions representing AT&T workers. They already had sided with AT&T on the deal, and may put some pressure on regulators.

Creating more jobs is a good thing, but AT&T appears to be pandering and creating a diversion.

T-Mobile employs 42,000 people across the U.S., including more than 5,000 in the Seattle area. AT&T hasn't said how many non-call center jobs will be cut, and whether the merger will result in a net gain or loss of U.S. jobs.

Until that bottom line is disclosed, nobody can argue that the deal will create jobs.

Q: Hey, America needs jobs, now.

A: Yes, but before anyone's swayed by the 5,000 jobs, they should put AT&T's offering into perspective.

The latest federal figures say 437,890 people were working at U.S. call centers as of May 2010. That workforce will increase by about 1 percent if AT&T shifts 5,000 jobs back to the U.S. It's almost negligible when you consider there were 13,931,000 unemployed Americans in July.

The median hourly pay for those call-center workers was $11.84. Their mean annual salary was $30,940, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Those are hardly family-wage jobs. Many call-center workers would be eligible for food stamps under federal poverty guidelines: The cutoff is $27,214 for a family of two and $34,281 for a family of three.

Meanwhile, AT&T is likely to cut higher-paying T-Mobile management and administration jobs that duplicate what AT&T has at its headquarters in Dallas. In Washington state, the mean salary for management jobs was $112,290 last year.

Q: With so many people unemployed, who is going to buy all these new 4G phones?

A: Good question.

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August 31, 2011 2:20 PM

Internal memo: T-Mobile boss on merger news

Posted by Brier Dudley

T-Mobile USA isn't saying anything about the Department of Justice opposing the AT&T merger.

But in an internal memo to employees today, Philipp Humm, chief executive of Bellevue-based Tmo, told employees to stay the course.

Here's the memo:

Aug. 31, 2011

Colleagues,

By now you have heard the news that the Department of Justice (DOJ) has filed a lawsuit to block the AT&T and T-Mobile merger in U.S. District Court. We were surprised by this sudden announcement, and DT [Deutsche Telekom, T-Mobile's parent] will join AT&T in challenging the DOJ's case in court.

DT and AT&T believe the DOJ has failed to acknowledge the significant consumer benefits of this deal. DT remains convinced that bringing together these two world-class businesses would create significant benefits for customers and the country.

While this action is addressed in Federal court, the best thing you can do is continue to focus on strengthening our business and offering world class customer service.

Customers have many reasons to choose T-Mobile -- from the great value we offer, to compelling devices running on America's largest 4G network and our leadership in customer service and satisfaction. Working as a team, we will continue to prove there's no better time to be a T-Mobile customer.

Let's build upon the positive momentum we've created in recent months. We have a great team here at T-Mobile, and I know you will join me in ensuring that, no matter what, "I Am T-Mobile Count on Me."

I promise to make more information available to you in the coming days and weeks on OneVoice and through your leaders as this news develops.

Thank you for your ongoing commitment and support.

Regards,
Philipp Humm

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August 31, 2011 10:32 AM

T-Mobile and AT&T fight: The dueling press releases

Posted by Brier Dudley

It will take awhile for a federal judge to rule on the feds lawsuit, attempting to block AT&T's purchase of T-Mobile USA.

In the meantime, the companies involved are duking it out with press releases. Here are the dueling statements issued today.

AT&T issued a statement of surprise and disappointment, attributed to Wayne Watts, senior executive vice president and general counsel:

We are surprised and disappointed by today's action, particularly since we have met repeatedly with the Department of Justice and there was no indication from the DOJ that this action was being contemplated.

We plan to ask for an expedited hearing so the enormous benefits of this merger can be fully reviewed. The DOJ has the burden of proving alleged anti-competitive affects and we intend to vigorously contest this matter in court.

At the end of the day, we believe facts will guide any final decision and the facts are clear. This merger will:

-- Help solve our nation's spectrum exhaust situation and improve wireless service for millions.
-- Allow AT&T to expand 4G mobile broadband to another 55 million Americans, or 97% of the population;
-- Result in billions of additional investment and tens of thousands of jobs, at a time when our nation needs them most.

We remain confident that this merger is in the best interest of consumers and our country, and the facts will prevail in court.

Sprint's statement calls it a win, even before the feds' lawsuit is resolved. It's attributed to Vonya B. McCann, senior vice president of government affairs:

"The DOJ today delivered a decisive victory for consumers, competition and our country. By filing suit to block AT&T's proposed takeover of T-Mobile, the DOJ has put consumers' interests first. Sprint applauds the DOJ for conducting a careful and thorough review and for reaching a just decision -- one which will ensure that consumers continue to reap the benefits of a competitive U.S. wireless industry. Contrary to AT&T's assertions, today's action will preserve American jobs, strengthen the American economy, and encourage innovation."

AT&T followed up by passing along a statement of outrage from the Communications Workers of America, which represent workers at AT&T but not T-Mobile:

The decision by the U.S. Department of Justice to seek to block the merger of AT&T and T-Mobile USA is simply wrong.

In today's sinking economy, where millions of Americans are looking for work, the DOJ has filed suit to block a merger that will create as many as 96,000 quality jobs. In the U.S., where too many Americans, especially in rural areas, don't have access to the tools of Internet technology, the DOJ is looking to block a plan to build out high speed wireless access to 97 percent of the country should be opposed.

In a nation where workers' rights are routinely violated, as occurs every day at T-Mobile, the DOJ apparently believes that workers should be on their own instead of having a fair choice about union representation.

More will come later today. A group of consumer organizations are gearing up for a teleconference where they'll speak out in favor of the feds' move.

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August 31, 2011 10:00 AM

Feds say: T-Mobile sale would raise prices, lower innovation

Posted by Brier Dudley

Here's the complaint the U.S. Department of Justice filed to block AT&T's acquisition of T-Mobile USA. The link below is to a PDF version and a scrollable version is embedded below.

ATT-TMO DOJ.pdf

A few excerpts:

att1.jpg

Seattle would be particularly affected by the market concentration:

att2.jpg

AT&T has been feeling heat from T-Mobile's innovation:

att3.jpg

T-Mobile has pressured other carriers to invest and improve:

att4.jpg

The DOJ's summary:

att5.jpg

Here's a version of the filing that's easier to scroll through:

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August 31, 2011 9:00 AM

Sprint president on AT&T, T-Mobile merger, LTE

Posted by Brier Dudley

Steve Elfman seems pretty relaxed, but maybe that's because he's in the eye of the storm.

As president of Sprint's network operations, Elfman, 56, is in the middle of most of the big, emerging stories in the wireless industry.

He's also part of the local wireless mafia, a veteran of AT&T Wireless from the old days in Redmond. He went on to Bellevue's InfoSpace and Motricity before joining his old boss, Dan Hesse, at Sprint in 2008.

Although he's based at Sprint's headquarters in Overland Park, Kan., Elfman kept his Redmond-area house and still calls himself "a Seattle guy."

The network he runs is powered in part by Kirkland's Clearwire, which is largely owned by Sprint. Both companies are moving toward LTE technology, which is emerging as the standard for mobile broadband.

Sprint also is a likely beneficiary of the new LTE network Clearwire announced Aug. 3.

Sprint's product lineup has set the pace for advanced smartphones, launching the first 4G model in 2010 and a 4G model with a 3-D display and camera in June.

Sprint also reportedly is going to carry the new iPhone debuting in October. Elfman wouldn't discuss the Apple deal, but Sprint is holding a big media event Oct. 7 to talk about the company's direction.

At the same time, Sprint is the leading opponent of AT&T's proposed acquisition of T-Mobile USA, which would further extend its lead over third-place Sprint.

As part of Sprint's merger attack squad, Elfman flew into Seattle Tuesday -- on a float plane from his summer place in the San Juans -- to drop a few bombs in meetings with the media and others in the area.

Here are edited excerpts of our conversation Tuesday:

Q: You're in the middle of a lot of the big wireless stories now.

A: We've been really against the AT&T/T-Mobile merger for a few good reasons, and personally there are a couple of reasons, because I'm a Seattle guy.

I started at AT&T Wireless some years ago, and we've seen that go away from here. We've seen Western Wireless leave here, and now my old friend [John] Stanton's VoiceStream [which became T-Mobile USA].

You don't want to see that go and it not be a hotbed any longer of telecom. There's that personal side of it; it really changes to me the landscape of what Craig McCaw started here some years ago.

Q: T-Mobile has been the lower-cost carrier, and Sprint also fills that role, by positioning itself as a value option. Won't Sprint continue to do that if the merger happens?

A: We'll try and do it. T-Mobile and ourselves, we went after similar demographics, but different ones. They were really leaders in driving the price down. What we've been more is the value (option) -- you get more for the same price or a slightly better price.

Between the two of us, we kind of kept the market having reasonable prices, both value and low price. So I think that is another one that starts to go away and that will drive prices up. We will try our best to be the alternative, but when you're only 15 percent share it's going to get pretty hard for us.

Q: You say AT&T has enough spectrum already. How does that track with the industry's broader complaint that there's not enough spectrum available, and it needs more spectrum freed up from TV broadcasters?

A: Having more spectrum is a good thing. But having spectrum and using it is an important thing. These guys ... they've got more spectrum in their warehouse than I've got and they're not using it.

But the need for more spectrum for all of us over time continues to be important because of data usage. We will all need more spectrum, but the argument that they needed T-Mobile to give them more spectrum to be able to serve rural [areas], that is totally bogus. Five years from now, they'll probably need more spectrum. I would agree with that.

Q: What about their argument that this will accelerate their build-out of LTE, by using one network for LTE while operating the other in its current setup?

A: They can do that now. They can even do it with the stuff they've not got warehoused. I'm doing that kind of stuff right now with our network vision. ...

T-Mobile has done an awesome job of going to HSPA+ [network technology T-Mobile markets as 4G] and they have been spectrum-constrained, but they've really done a great job. Even though I don't believe it's 4G -- it's faux G -- but they've still done a very good job of having a good performing network.

Q: A year or two ago you wouldn't have praised them. Your network was your big selling point over T-Mobile.

A: I think that ours is still an advantage because we've got a real 4G network, the WiMax network we've got with Clearwire.

Q: Everyone was expecting T-Mobile to make some kind of move, and perhaps hook up with Sprint. What if the AT&T merger falls through? They'll still have to hook up with someone, won't they?

A: I think T-Mobile will need to hook up or do as we do -- partner with a Clearwire or others, or (LTE provider) LightSquared, as we have done. The smaller guys like us and them -- and I know it seems odd to call ourselves small, but when you're around the monopolists you're quite small -- you've got to do some creative things.

Q: What I'm getting at is that some consolidation was inevitable.

A: Yeah, I think there's inevitability in this industry, like others, to get some consolidation.

Q: Five years from now, what's it going to look like? Will 3G be gone, and will there be three big players in the industry?

A: I don't think 3G will be gone. It's unclear to me what the landscape in five years will look like if this [merger] goes through. I do think if this doesn't go through, consolidation and strengthening a third player is a fairly good option.

Q: What about the networks in five years? Will LTE be dominant and WiMax just supplementing it?

A: I think LTE is showing itself globally to be pretty much the dominant standard so I think that's probably a yes.

WiMax is still a great product and working very well for us. We're not at this point in time announcing anything other than what we're doing.

But our network vision build-out is one that allows us to use the different types of spectrums, different technologies and will determine the right time to use the right technology.

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July 11, 2011 9:45 AM

The 2012 Audi A6: Loaded and connected

Posted by Brier Dudley

Please excuse any typos here. My fingers are still tingling from an incredibly fast wireless device I tested last week.

This one costs nearly $60,000, plus $30 a month for a data plan, and it weighs 4,045 pounds.

It's the 2012 Audi A6 sedan that went on sale last week.

A6100012_large__mid.jpg
Audi provided a fully loaded model with a supercharger, eight-speed transmission and a wireless system that turns the car into a rolling Wi-Fi hot spot that connects up to eight devices at once.

The wireless system -- called "Audi Connect" -- is available with a $4,220 option package on the A6, which starts at $41,700.

Earlier this year, Audi became the first carmaker to offer a factory-installed hot spot. Previously, cars connected to information services via satellites, embedded wireless devices or drivers' phones.

Audi's A6 and A7 are also the first cars to use Google Earth in their navigation systems. They display the search giant's aerial imagery and use its local search to provide details on restaurants, hotels and other points of interest; there's even a touch-screen input system. (Here's a video I shot of Audi's Google system in action.)

Automotive electronics are going through a surge of innovation, parallel to what's happening with smartphones and Web tablets.

The number of cars shipping with factory-installed telematics systems will leap from less than 10 percent last year to more than 62 percent in 2016, according to an ABI Research report in January. Analyst Dominique Bonte said in the release that carmakers are "borrowing the hugely successful application store paradigm from the mobile industry" to release products more quickly and at lower costs.

Audi is extending its wireless technology from higher-end models down through its product line, but it's still a pricey system. There's convenience in having a connected car, but there are other options, including new phones that function as Wi-Fi hot spots and portable, puck-sized modems that connect multiple devices to the latest wireless networks.

My guess is that systems like Audi Connect won't take off in the U.S. until the prices come down further and wireless companies move toward pay-as-you-go metered data plans, similar to those in Europe. Under that approach, customers use the same data plan for multiple devices -- phones and cars -- instead of paying $30 a month for each one.

The Audis connect to T-Mobile's 3G wireless network, using a SIM card that fits into a slot on the dashboard. After a six-month trial period, "unlimited" data plans cost $30 a month or $324 for a prepaid yearly plan. T-Mobile doesn't specify a usage limit, but the contract says the carrier reserves the right to throttle your data throughput in a given month if usage is excessive.

IMG_1662.JPG
The taut and sprightly A6 showed two to five bars of 3G coverage while driving around Seattle and Bellevue. The Speedtest site measured download speeds of 267 to 798 kilobits per second.

Most important, the A6 passed the Netflix test: In an experiment, a passenger could watch a movie streamed to an iPad over the Wi-Fi connection while driving. It took a while to get started, but then played without a hiccup at a decent resolution.

Google Earth imagery is fun but nonessential. The navigation system gives you the choice of displaying regular maps or Google's aerial photos on a 7-inch diagonal color screen that slides out and flips up when you turn the car on. The computer uses an Nvidia processor and middleware from Ottawa-based QNX.

Spinning a control knob on the console, you can zoom out to see the entire globe or down to a particular block. Audi and Google are working together to eventually display "Street View" street-level images as well.

The aerial imagery is realistic enough that you may be fooled into thinking it's a live image, but your car's not on the screen and things outside the window don't look exactly the same. It also made one of my passengers feel a little queasy, watching aerial images scroll around as we drove.


Applications on the system include a Wikipedia search and news feeds, which can be customized via an Audi website. It also provides real-time weather, traffic and nearby gas prices (provided by Kirkland's Inrix). The system is also used to choose music from the radio, an attached device or the car's hard drive, but it won't play video content.

There are multiple ways to control the system -- too many, perhaps. You'd probably settle on a preferred control method after driving the A6 for a while, but several days of testing made me think the interface isn't yet as smooth and refined as the rest of the car.

The primary control is a large knob on the center console that you twist and press. It's encircled by 11 buttons -- four for navigating on-screen menus and four for launching primary functions: navigation, radio, hands-free calling and stored digital media. There's also a back button, one for car settings and one that calls up on-screen menus. I was grateful for the "back" button.

Nearby there's another knob and buttons for controlling the music volume and track selection.

IMG_1700.JPG
The touch pad on the console is about the size of a credit card. When I first heard about it, I thought it would be like a touch-screen PC or phone that reads handwriting, but it only reads one letter at a time and works best if you write carefully with capital letters. It reminded me of the game where you write with a finger on someone's back and they guess the words.

You can also select letters using the knob and an on-screen menu. Either way, it's too tedious to use while driving.

The touch pad can also be used to enter radio stations or navigate maps with a fingertip, but I kept changing stations when trying to use the map, and ended up mostly using the knob.

That's not all. The system also works with voice commands and buttons on the steering wheel.

IMG_1703.JPG
Fortunately, there are detailed instructions: The A6 manual is 295-pages long, plus a 106-page supplement for its Multi Media Interface.

That's another way connected cars are just like computers and smartphones: By the time you've figured out all their tricks, a more powerful model will be on sale. Audi is testing a new version that connects to faster 4G LTE networks, for instance.

In the meantime, A6 buyers who pony up for the wireless option will probably use it mostly to keep passengers occupied with gadgets, so they can enjoy the drive.

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June 28, 2011 9:39 AM

myTouch 4G Slide, T-Mobile's new flagship, for shutterbugs

Posted by Brier Dudley

Bellevue-based T-Mobile USA today unveiled the myTouch 4G Slide, a new flagship Android phone for its HSPA+ network.

The phone will go on sale in July with a khaki or black case. UPDATE: T-Mobile disclosed the price - it's $200, after a $50 rebate and with a two-year contract and data plan.

It's positioned as a phone for photography enthusiasts, which may help it compete with new photo-friendly models offered by Sprint and coming soon to AT&T that take 3-D photos and videos but don't have as many 2-D photo capabilities as the Slide.

myTouch 4G Slide_khaki_closed back (2).jpg
The myTouch 4G camera has an 8 megapixel sensor and a new "zero shutter lag technology." The latter that begins recording as soon as you push the shutter button and stores the content in a memory buffer, T-Mobile explains in the release.

"When you snap the camera button, rather than waiting for a mechanical shutter, it looks at the time stamp of when you pressed the button and pulls the photo from the cache," it said.

Other camera features include a backside illuminated sensor and wide aperture lens for improved low-light performance. It also has a "sweep shot" feature for taking panoramic shots with one click, and a burst mode for taking multiple shots simultaneously.

The phone also functions as a 1080p video recorder and can be used to edit video on the device. It also has a front-facing camera for video chats, full HTML browser, support for Adobe Flash and Swypte text input.

Inside the phone has the HTC Sense 3.0 interface on top of Android 2.3 -- the Gingerbread version. It has a a 1.2 gigahertz dual-core Snapdragon processor, a 3.7-inch diagonal WVGA touchscreen and a slide-out keypad.

myTouch 4G Slide_khaki_camera_horz peak_HERO 1 (2).jpg

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May 23, 2011 9:01 PM

T-Mobile doubles network speed, going out with flash

Posted by Brier Dudley

T-Mobile USA isn't act like a lame duck. The company on Tuesday is announcing that it has doubled the speed of its HSPA+ network, boosting peak theoretical data transfer speeds from 21 megabits per second to 42 Mbps.

The upgrade was largely done with software, but it also leans on the fiber optic lines that T-Mobile has been installing to improve backhaul to its cell sites. T-Mobile is basically multiplexing together 21 Mbps carriers with "dual cell" technology.

New hardware is required to get the maximum speeds, but T-Mobile said other users should see speeds increase, because the upgrade is improving the overall network.

The only way to get the fastest speed possible on the network now is to use a new "Rocket 3.0" USB modem [pictured], which T-Mobile will begin selling Wednesday for $100, after a $50 rebate.

rocket30.jpg
A new phone capable of 42 Mbps will be released "before the end of the year," said Eric Schlumpf, T-Mobile's vice president and general manager for the Pacific Northwest.

"We think that this reflects our continued investment and continued emphasis on speed and affordability in the market," he said.

Its current phones capable of 21 Mbps include the Galaxy S 4G, MyTouch 4G, G2, Sidekick and G2X. The upcoming Sensation and BlackBerry Bold 9900 are also 21 Mbps capable.

T-Mobile began HSPA+ service in late 2009 in Philadelphia and rolled it out in stages starting in March 2010.

With the 42 Mbps upgrade, it's launching 52 markets at once, including Seattle, Spokane, Olympia, Bellingham and Portland. In the Seattle area, T-Mobile claims more than 80 percent of the service area has 42 Mbps coverage.

In its announcement, the company said it spent about $50 milloin on network upgrades and improvements in the Seattle area through 2010 and more than $4 million so far this year.

Schlumpf said T-Mobile's plan is to remain competitive with Verizon's LTE network, which doesn't yet have the reach or variety of phones of Tmo's HSPA+ network.

"Our expectation and our pace is to match Verizon's LTE speed as we roll out our HSPA+ network," he said.

T-Mobile USA is being acquired by AT&T in a deal that's supposed to close in 2012. So why upgrade now?

"The network's not going away; we're going to continue to work together," Schlumpf said.

He added that with the typical lifecycle of cellphones, "the typical consumer will see no change whatsoever."

UPDATE: A spokesman for T-Mobile wanted to be clear that T-Mobile's an "independent competitor" to AT&T until the merger closes.

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May 23, 2011 10:48 AM

Wireless update: T-Mobile drops unlimited data, LTE in Spokane

Posted by Brier Dudley

T-Mobile USA is dropping its unlimited 3G/4G data service, replacing it with a tiered pricing system.

The company simultaneously announced new plans that it's saying are unlimited with no overage fees. That sounds compelling, but it's a little misleading.

Customers will pay for a finite, limited amount of data transferred at regular speed on its 3G/4G network. After that monthly allocation is used up, the data transfers are throttled down to a slow speed -- 2G -- for the rest of the month.

A spokeswoman said it's not really a change: "The previous $30 unlimited plan reduced speeds if the customer reached 5 GB of data in a billing month so the plan is technically the same, just a new name."

T-Mobile is offering these "unlimited" plans with monthly allocations of 200 megabytes, 2 gigabytes, 5 GB or 10 GB at 4G speeds.

The new rate plans "put us in an excellent position to capitalize on the 80 percent of wireless customers in America who want smartphones," Cole Brodman, chief marketing officer, said in a release. "We're providing customers with the 4G coverage they need, an exciting portfolio of 4G smartphones, and the value and flexibility to meet the diverse desires of their entire family."

Meanwhile, Verizon Wireless today announced that it's launching 4G LTE service in Spokane on June 16.

Since it began offering LTE service in December, Verizon has extended it to 55 areas -- including Seattle -- and plans to have LTE available throughout its current, 3G service area by the end of 2013.

Verizon charges $20 to $80 per month for LTE data plans that range from 1 to 10 gigabytes per month. After the limit is exceeded, it charges $10 to $20 per gigabyte, depending on the plan.

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May 4, 2011 4:39 PM

AT&T deal to buy T-Mobile brings flood of public comment

Posted by Brier Dudley

If the FCC gives much weight to public comments, AT&T is going to have a tough time getting approval for its $39 billion acquisition of Bellevue-based T-Mobile USA.

Poking around the 4,227 public comments submitted so far, it was hard to find people supportive of the deal.

The opponents aren't all T-Mobile employees. Only 190 of the comments as of Wednesday afternoon were submitted by people in Washington state, which has a huge concentration of wireless industry employees.

Texas -- home of Dallas-based AT&T -- generated 352 comments, but that includes filings by AT&T.

Comments can be submitted through a form on the FCC's website, at FCC.gov/ecfs. You'll need to enter the proceeding number, which is 11-65.

Here's a sample of comments by Washingtonians.

"As a T-Mobile customer of approximately eight years, I am vehemently opposed to the AT&T acquisition of T-Mobile from Deutsche Telekom," wrote Aaron Burke of Everett. "If the deal is approved, it will sponsor massive anti-competitive behaviors, increased prices, and lower quality of service."

Trent Gillespie of Seattle identifies himself as the chief information officer of a midsize company who has worked with different phone companies.

"In my experience, AT&T has the worst customer service of any of the wireless providers I have worked with. I believe they also use their predominant position in the market place to keep rates artificially high (especially texting and data rates), limit devices that come to market, and essentially act as an obstacle to competitiveness that would be had in a more competitive environment. On the other hand, T-Mobile is the largest U.S. cellular provider who is pursuing new ways of conducting business, a focus on customer service, and quickly bringing new technologies and devices to the market."

Seattle's Deepak Sukumaran cited the Clayton Antitrust Act and wrote: "In any other environment and time, this type of acquisition would not even be attempted because it is
clearly illegal and violates antitrust law. It is my opinion that given no effective regulations, these companies have and will keep consolidating and strive to re-form Ma Bell, and in so doing overturn over 100 years of progressive antitrust, anti-competitive legislation and the progress we have made."

Triet Nguyen in Bellevue was a T-Mobile customer "until I got jealous of my iPhone friends telling me how great the iPhone is. I switched to AT&T and it was the worst mistake of my life. I regret and am counting down the days when I can switch back. AT&T has horrible phone service. I have dropped calls DAILY. I hate it when I'm talking and then find out my phone is ringing me from the person I was talking to. Their data coverage has a lot of dead spots. I never had these issues with T-Mobile. I think the merger will degrade phone service and worse, get rid of competition."

But T-Mobile's not perfect.

Separately, I received a copy this week of an internal memo sent to employees, after the company miscalculated severance benefits and significantly overestimated what some will receive. The memo was an apology from Larry Myers, chief people officer at T-Mobile, who said the severance estimates are being corrected.

It sounds like an awkward accounting error that's being fixed. What's surprising is how far along the discussion of severance has come, since the merger still needs regulatory approval and isn't expected to close until early 2012.

A T-Mobile spokeswoman wouldn't say much about the memo but provided a statement confirming that a mistake had been made.

"T-Mobile USA has a long history of open communication with our employees, which is why when we discovered a data error, we promptly advised our employees of the situation and provided them with updated information."

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March 29, 2011 4:19 PM

Q&A: More on AT&T buying T-Mobile USA

Posted by Brier Dudley

Here are a few more answers to questions people had during Tuesday's online chat about AT&T buying T-Mobile USA.

I asked AT&T to respond to a few specific questions. A spokeswoman answered most but not all. The company also prepared a list of answers to common questions from consumers that's located here, at a special site it created to explain the deal.

Here you go:

When will AT&T LTE be available in the Seattle area?

AT&T: We haven't announced the timing of specific markets, but nationally, it's planned to be largely complete YE 2013.

What will happen to T-Mobile prepaid plans - will AT&T offer something similar? Also, will T-Mobile prepaid minutes continue to be usable after the merger, as long as they haven't contractually expired yet?

AT&T: T-Mobile customers will be able to keep their existing price plan. It's too soon to comment on what any new plans may look like but AT&T offers a pay-as-you-go plan called GoPhone.

How seamless will it be to move phones from T-Mobile to AT&T? Don't AT&T and T-Mobile use different frequencies? Will new phones have to be built to take advantage of both networks?

AT&T: After the deal closes, T-Mobile customers' current phones will work fine. Any details further out than when the deal closes is too soon to speculate on.

"I heard my T-Mobile 4G phone will no longer work on the merged network once AT&T takes over. Is this true?"

AT&T: No. Their current T-Mobile phone will continue to work fine once the transaction is complete.

Are all T-Mobile handsets supported by the AT&T network?

AT&T: Yes.

Will AT&T and T-Mobile allow data and voice roaming on each other's networks, at least as a show of goodwill before the deal closes?

AT&T: AT&T and T-Mobile will continue to operate as fierce competitors until the deal is approved. (so the answer is apparently no ...)

How will the merger affect users of unlocked phones who want to use the network without a contract?

AT&T: It's too early to speculate on policies such as this.

What's Bellevue doing about this? Several people asked if the city of Bellevue is going to get involved. It's probably going to lose a number of jobs since T-Mobile USA is based in the city's Factoria neighborhood. I've asked the mayor but haven't heard back. Either way, residents can let their city officials know how they feel directly - their contact info is here.

What about Congress? It's a federal issue, so residents may also want to engage with their representatives in Congress. Here is a nice application for getting their contact info.

How do I contact the FCC? Chairman Julius Genachowski is at Julius.Genachowski@fcc.gov. Contact info for the agency and commissioners is here.

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March 29, 2011 1:26 PM

Rewind: Chat session on AT&T buying T-Mobile

Posted by Brier Dudley

Here's the transcript of today's chat session the AT&T deal. There were additional questions that I'll be answering and posting later in a separate blog entry.

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March 22, 2011 12:25 PM

AT&T deal poll: Nearly half of T-Mobile users may bail

Posted by Brier Dudley

Nearly half of T-Mobile customers polled over the last 24 hours said they may switch providers now that AT&T is buying the Bellevue-based company.

That's according to a poll that ran for 24 hours on this blog. Thank you to those who participated.

Asked about how the deal will affect them, the largest percentage of respondents - 37 percent - said they are T-Mobile customers and will just see what happens with the merger.

But 30 percent of the respondents said they are T-Mobile customers now thinking about switching providers.

Among respondents who said they were T-Mobile customers, about 45 percent said they may switch.

(I initially led with the 30 percent figure from the survey; thanks also to the readers who helped clarify this one.)

It wasn't a very scientific poll but the results are still interesting. If 45 percent of T-Mobile's subscribers leave, AT&T's new market share won't be quite so dominant.

Asked generally if the $39 billion deal is good for consumers, two-thirds said no, it will make things worse for them. Only 14 percent said the deal will result in better service and coverage.

Of the nearly 1,500 participants in the poll, 53 percent believe the deal will be approved and 11 percent expect it to be blocked by regulators.

Here are the poll results; click the images for a larger version:

surv1.jpg

surv2.jpg

surv3.jpg

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March 22, 2011 10:54 AM

Photos: Bigger, faster superphones in 4G, 3D and dual-core

Posted by Brier Dudley

Every time you turn around nowadays there's another huge tech trade show, at which a bunch of new phones and tablets are announced.

Here's a sample of the cool new gadgets surfacing at the CTIA wireless conference this week in Orlando. Some of the devices were already announced, and some still don't have prices and specific ship dates yet.

Sprint was the first to offer a 4G phone in the U.S., and now it's offering a 4G phones with glasses-free 3D displays, available 2U this summer for a price to be announced later. It's an Android-based device built by HTC, with the "Sense" interface designed in Pioneer Square.

The HTC Evo 3D has a 4.3-inch, 960 by 540 pixel 3D display. Inside it has dual-core 1.2 gigahertz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, 4 gigabytes of internal memory and 1 gig of RAM. It functions as a 3G/4G hotspot supporting up to eight devices at once over WiFi and outputs 720p video via HDMI. On the back it has dual 5 megapixel cameras for taking 3D images and videos.

HTC-EVO-3D-angle.jpg

HTC-EVO-3D-back.jpg

Sprint's also going to sell a tablet-sized version of the device, called the HTC Evo View 4G. It has a 7-inch diagonal, 1024 by 600 pixel touchscreen (without 3D). The tablet runs on a 1.5 GHz Snapdragon dual-core processor with 32 gigs of internal memor and 1 gig of RAM. It also uses HTC's "Scribe" system for input with a digital pen and works as a hotspot.

HTC-EVO-View-4G-vert.jpg

Yesterday, Sprint announced that it's also going to sell Google's new flagship Android device, the Nexus S 4G. The Samsung phone has a 4-inch Super AMOLED screen, 1 GHz processor, a dedicated graphics processing unit and Android version 2.3 ("Gingerbread"). Sprint and Google also said they're connecting Google Voice, so Sprint customers can use their phone number with Google's calling service. The phone's coming this spring.

Nexus-S-4G-angle.jpg

AT&T yesterday announced that it's also selling a glasses-free 3D phone, the LG Thrill 4G, with a 4.3-inch screen, dual-core 1 GHz processor and Android version 2.2. The Thrill comes with 16 gigs of memory - 8 onboard plus an 8 gig memory card - and records 3D video at 720p and 2D video at 1080p. It also plays back high-def video thorugh an HDMI port or streams it to DLNA devices.

LG_Thrill_Right.jpg

AT&T's also going to sell a version of the Windows-based HTC HD7, which it's calling the HD7S. It's going to use the HSPA+ network and have the updated software with cut-and-paste when it's released in a few weeks.

T-Mobile also introduced several new phones, including the "G2x with Google by LG," or the G2x for short. It's based on a dual-core 1 GHz Tegra 2 processor and Android 2.2. There's also an 8 megapixel camera that takes 1080p video and front-facing 1.3 megapixel chatcam.

T-Mobile announced that it's boosting the maximum speed of its HSPA+ network in a handful of markets - Las Vegas, Orlando and New York - to 42 megabits per second. To get those speeds, you'll need a new device, though - namely the "Rocket" stick modems announced at the show:

T-Mobile Rocket 3 0.jpg

The Bellevue-based company also introduced a "value" smartphone, the Nokia Astound, that will cost $80 (after a $50 rebate) when it goes on sale April 6. It has a 3.5-inch AMOLED touchscreen, free turn-by-turn navigation and an 8 megapixel camera that takes 720p video. The Astound is based on Nokia's Symbian operating system that's going to be displaced starting next year by Windows.

nokia-astound-combo.jpg

Comments | Category: 4G , AT&T , Adobe , Android , Broadband , Gadgets & products , HTC , Microsoft , Nokia , Phones , Sprint , T-Mobile , Tablets , Telecom |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

March 21, 2011 10:28 AM

Wall Street likes AT&T buying T-Mobile, how do you feel?

Posted by Brier Dudley

AT&T and Deutsche Telekom stocks are up today on news that AT&T is buying T-Mobile USA for $39 billion.

I wonder if consumers and employees are as enthusiastic. Here's a quick poll; I'll publish the results here when it's done.

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March 14, 2011 9:01 PM

T-Mobile's new Sidekick 4G: Touch, Android, Samsung

Posted by Brier Dudley

Here are a few pictures of the new Sidekick 4G that T-Mobile USA and Samsung are unveiling Tuesday. Black and magenta models will go on sale this spring, at a price the companies will disclose later.

It still has the flip-up screen and five-row keyboard, and now has a 3.5-inch touchscreen display.

The Sidekick no longer has the Danger software inside. Instead it's running Google's Android operating system (version 2.2), with a few special applications.

They include "Sidekick Group Text" -- for starting and managing reply-all group text conversations and "social planning" -- and "Cloud Text" for texting friends or groups across platforms and from PCs as well as Sidekicks.

Preloaded on the devices are Twitter, Facebook and "Media Room," a media player, radio and store.

A front-facing camera can be used for video chat with the Qik application. Inside, the device has a 1 gigahertz A8 Hummingbird processor. Using T-Mobile's upgraded HSPA+ network, it has a theoretical peak download speed of 21 megabits per second.

Sidekick 4G_back_open_pearl magenta (2).jpg

Sidekick 4G_front_open_menu (2).jpg

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March 14, 2011 1:49 PM

Could Seattle become the Detroit of wireless?

Posted by Brier Dudley

It's looking more likely that T-Mobile USA and Clearwire could get swallowed up by Sprint.

Which raises the question, will Seattle become the Detroit of the wireless industry?

Not too long ago this was Wireless City, the heart of the industry. It started when McCaw Cellular assembled the first nationwide cell network in the 1980s.

McCaw sold to AT&T in 1994, but AT&T Wireless kept a presence here and more huge companies were formed.

The McCaw network spawned Western Wireless and VoiceStream, which became T-Mobile.

It also controlled Nextel, before it was sold to Sprint. Then Craig McCaw started Clearwire in 2003, pursuing his vision of wireless broadband.

Now what's left is in play.

T-Mobile has to decide whether to stay independent or join forces with Overland Park, Kan.-based Sprint, to better compete with AT&T and Verizon Wireless, said Chetan Sharma, an Issaquah-based industry consultant. Major markets around the world eventually end up with three large players, he said.

Sprint and T-Mobile would have 83 million subscribers -- heft comparable to AT&T's 95 million subscribers and Verizon's 103 million, he said.

There's been speculation that Clearwire could be rolled in, but its chairman and acting chief executive, John Stanton, doesn't foresee a sale.

"I expect that Clearwire will continue to be here and continue to be independent and continue be an important employer," he said.

Stanton, a McCaw veteran who led VoiceStream through its sale, doesn't see a wireless Detroit here.

"It still is the capital of wireless," he said.

The region still has the largest percentage of population working in the industry, he said, including 4,500 AT&T employees still here and 3,000 to 4,000 more at T-Mobile.

The wireless industry contributed to hundreds of smaller companies, several venture firms and mobile efforts at Microsoft and other tech companies, he said.

But from a software perspective, the epicenter has shifted to Silicon Valley, Sharma said.

"If Seattle's going to stay relevant, it's going to have to do more on the software side of things," he said.

That could happen, if Microsoft gets traction with its phone platform. Nokia is also likely to expand its presence in the area as its Microsoft partnership gets rolling.

Amazon.com could increase its mobile business. Sharma said it's likely the company is exploring the potential of new mobile devices based on Android or other operating systems.

Even if T-Mobile and Clearwire are sold, they'd likely remain big employers for perhaps five years, Sharma said.

In the meantime, Seattle needs to see more development in wireless applications, operating systems and services to stay relevant, he said.

"It does need to reinvent itself if it still wants to be considered a wireless hub," he said.

It's probably too soon for an inspirational Super Bowl ad, like Chrysler's spot talking up Detroit's history and skill.

If it gets to that point, call Stanton for the voice-over:

"This is Wireless City, and this is what we do."

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February 28, 2011 9:01 PM

Any Danger Sidekick users left? T-Mobile, Microsoft shutdown looms

Posted by Brier Dudley

If you stuck with a T-Mobile Danger Sidekick phone after the 2009 data crash, it's probably time to shop for a new phone.

Danger data services for Tmo Sidekicks will stop working after May 31, the carrier announced tonight.

Microsoft has run the services since it acquired Danger. It's been rocky for Sidekick customers, some of whom suffered through the 2009 system crash and were compensated with $100 gift cards.

T-Mobile set up a tool on its website to help Sidekick users export personal data, such as photos, contacts, calendar items and bookmarks to a new device, a computer or an e-mail account.

The company's also going to provide special offers to Sidekick holdouts. Details about the offers will be provided in a few weeks.

I'm guessing T-Mobile is going to encourage the customers to upgrade to the new Android-based 4G Sidekick that the company's releasing this spring, if it ever comes.

Microsoft has run the Danger Sidekick services since it acquired Danger in 2008.

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February 2, 2011 9:18 AM

T-Mobile mocks Verizon, adds G-Slate to tablet fray

Posted by Brier Dudley

It may be overshadowed by the scintillating announcement of Verizon's latest mobile billing options, but T-Mobile today is announcing a new tablet computing device based on Google's new Android "Honeycomb" software.

T-Mobile G-Slate_font angle.jpg
The G-Slate is supposed to be released this spring at a price T-Mobile isn't disclosing just yet. Built by LG, the device has an 8.9-inch diagonal, 3-D capable touchscreen.

It also has a rear-facing stereoscopic video recorder that captures 3-D, 1080p video - the kind that requires special glasses for the 3-D effect. The 5 megapixel camera also takes regular video and stills, and there's a front-facing camera for video chats over T-Mobile's network.

Inside there's a dual-core Nvidia Tegra processor with full Adobe Flash support, plus 32 gigabytes of internal memory, a gyroscope, accelerometer and adaptive lighting.

It's one of the first tablets using Honeycomb, which Google's going to talk up at a press event today at its Mountain View headquarters.

T-Mobile was the first carrier to release an Android phone, and the G-Slate is among a handful of Android devices its announcing this week.

It's also jabbing Verizon, mocking it for offering the iPhone only on its slower network.

The company's position, according to a statement relayed by a spokeswoman's message, is "why upgrade your smartphone and downgrade your network? It's no fun having a great device running on slow network."

T-Mobile today also began selling the Dell Streak, a small tablet with a 7-inch diagonal touchscreen, 16 gigabytes of internal memory and cameras on the front and back, capable of video chat and 1080p video recording.

The Streak costs $200 with a two-year service plan or $450 by itself. Monthly plans range from $25 per month for 200 megabytes per month (for current customers; $30 per month for others) to $40 per month for 5 gigs a month ($50 for new customers).
streak.jpg

T-Mobile today also announced that it's going to offer the Galaxy S 4G this month, a version of Samsung's popular Galaxy smartphone with radios capable of downloading at speeds up to 21 megabits per second on T-Mobile's HSPA+ network.

It's coming preloaded with the movie "Inception" to showcase its video capabilities.

The company's being coy about the Galaxy price as well, perhaps hoping for another round of stories when that crucial detail is disclosed. But it will be a non-starter if it costs much more than $200 Sprint is charging for its Galaxy - dubbed the Epic - that runs on its 4G WiMax network.

Galaxy S 4G from T-Mobile_front (1).JPG

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January 20, 2011 10:07 AM

T-Mobile to grow with $10 data plans, $100 smartphones, LTE next

Posted by Brier Dudley

Lots of news came out of an investor meeting T-Mobile had in New York today.

T-Mobile USA Chief Executive Philipp Humm said sales growth should resume this year, in part because of aggressive moves to court the 150 million Americans interested in upgrading to smartphones.

The strategy includes offering smartphones for under $100 and $10 data plans, according to Bloomberg's account of the meeting. (The company now offers a 200 megabyte data plan as a $10 add-on to voice plans).

Humm didn't announce plans to carry the iPhone. He did say about 10 percent of customers that leave the carrier are going to companies that carry Apple's device; I wonder what's drawing the other 90 percent.

Executives said the company has enough resources to develop a 4G LTE network, which may cost $1 billion to $2 billion and come online in a few years. It could raise capital by selling its cell towers, then renting back space on the towers that it needs, Reuters reported.

But it doesn't have enough wireless spectrum for the LTE project. Chief Technology Officer Neville Ray told investors the company will need a partner by 2014 or 2015, Bloomberg reported.

Kirkland-based Clearwire is an obvious choice but it apparently wasn't specified by Ray or Humm.

It sounds T-Mobile won't be buying Clearwire outright, at least not for cash.

"We won't be pursuing large-scale cash acquisitions," Deutsche Telekom Chief Executive Rene Obermann said, according to Bloomberg.

Simultaneously, the company announced that it's going to carry the Samsung Galaxy S Android smartphone later this year. It's the first phone capable of the 21 megabits per second "theoretical peak download speeds" of the company's current network. Pricing wasn't disclosed, but it would be surprising if this one costs less than $100.

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January 19, 2011 3:44 PM

T-Mobile offers app to block DWT - driving while texting

Posted by Brier Dudley

T-Mobile USA today announced that it's offering a new application for preventing people from driving while texting, which dramatically increases the risk of accidents.

The app may draw parents concerned about their teens texting in the car. But it's only available on one phone so far and the full version is pretty expensive - $4.99 per month for all lines on a family account. The phone also requires a data plan.

There are many similar apps already available for most smartphones. Some cost less and don't have recurring charges, such as the Otter application developed by a Seattle parent that I wrote about last April.

Here's another story that covers some of the apps available and challenges they face.

Google also offers sample code to help develop your own texting safety app for Android phones.

T-Mobile chose to resell an app developed by Location Labs, a well-financed San Francisco startup that counts Intel and Qualcomm among its backers and provides services to major wireless carriers.

"This one allowed deeper levels of integration into the phone itself," T-Mobile spokesman Matt Wakefield said.
DriveSmart_Plus_screencap.jpg
Location Labs' "DriveSmart Plus" app blocks most texting and calling capabilities on a phone when it senses that the user is driving, using the phone's GPS system, and sends incoming calls to voicemail.

The app doesn't totally lock things down. Users can override the block. Parents can set up the phones so they receive a notification if the service is overriden.

T-Mobile has been preloading a barebones version of the app - "DriveSmart Basic" - on the LG Optimus T phone since Nov. 3. That version requires drivers to manually initiate driving mode and doesn't include parental notifications.

The company said it will also be available on additional devices being launched soon.

T-Mobile 's announcement may help build awareness among parents of the risks of texting while driving - which increases collision risk 23 times, according to a 2009 Virginia Tech study - and the availability of applications to improve safety.

But there's a better way for T-Mobile to stand out as the best option for parents with teen drivers.

Instead of asking parents to buy a particular phone and pay a hefty monthly charge, T-Mobile ought to build or buy its own version of the full application and make it a free or nearly free feature of its smartphones.

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January 11, 2011 3:02 PM

T-Mobile: We'll take the iPhone, too

Posted by Brier Dudley

Now that AT&T's exclusive hold on the iPhone in the U.S. is over, with Verizon announcing that it will start selling Apple's device on Feb. 10, other carriers are ready as well.

Bellevue-based T-Mobile USA would like to offer the phone on its network, which uses the same sort of wireless technology as AT&T.

T-Mobile USA's new chief executive already has a relationship with Apple. Philipp Humm previously led T-Mobile's business in Germany, where he introduced the iPhone in 2007.

"We would be interested in offering the iPhone, but ultimately it is Apple's decision," a T-Mobile spokeswoman said.

I've asked an Apple representative whether the iPhone will come to T-Mobile and haven't heard back yet.

My guess is Verizon has an arrangement with Apple giving it premium play until it begins offering the iPhone, after which we'll hear about other carriers.

T-Mobile accepted this sort of second position during the Windows Phone 7 launch last fall. AT&T ponied up to be the official launch partner and not a lot was said about T-Mobile options until the AT&T launch event took place.

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December 1, 2010 10:05 AM

Dell Venue Pro out, Windows Phone 7 on T-Mobile

Posted by Brier Dudley

It's funny timing with today's Verizon LTE announcement, but Dell today is finally launching the Venue Pro, its first Windows Phone 7 device.

The BlackBerryish device has a hard-button keyboard that hides behind a 4.1-inch AMOLED touchscreen that slides up vertically.
VenuePro.jpg
The groaner release quote from Michael Tatelman, general manager of Dell consumer sales and marketing:

"No matter how you slide it, the Dell Venue Pro with Windows Phone 7 brings a fresh new approach of doing more with less."

I've talked to a few people who were holding out for the Venue Pro, which looks like the most enterprise focused WP7 device yet. It runs on T-Mobile's network and is being sold directly by Dell and through Microsoft stores.

An 8 gigabyte version costs $100 with a new, two-year contract and data plan. A 16 gig model is $150. Upgrading to the phone will cost existing Tmo customers $200 or $250. It's also available without a contract for $450 or $500.

The phones have a 5 megapixel camera that records 720p video, a 1 gigahertz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, WiFi (b and g), Bluetooth and radios capable of network downloads up to 7.2 megabits per second.

Dell lists the dimensions as 2.5 by 4.8 by 0.6 inches and the weight as 6.8 ounces.

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November 11, 2010 12:01 AM

Report: AT&T better than Verizon in Seattle

Posted by Brier Dudley

Local iPhone owners grousing about AT&T and pining for Verizon may want to check out the latest report from Root Metrics.

The Bellevue company charts real-world performance of the major 2G and 3G wireless networks, using "crowdsourced" data pulled from a network test application Root offers for mobile phones.

AT&T's service in the Seattle area -- where the company's wireless business originated -- fared well in Root's latest report, covering the period from February 2009 to October 2010.

It actually provided better coverage than Verizon, Sprint or T-Mobile USA, posting the best "RootScore" based on voice service, signal strength and data rates.

T-Mobile also fared well in the report, probably reflecting the Bellevue company's push over the past few years to upgrade its network. T-Mobile and AT&T both showed better-than-average data download and upload speeds.

The report is based on 450,408 samples on AT&T, 457,239 on T-Mobile, 453,189 on Sprint and 475,053 on Verizon. The samples were from apps running on BlackBerry and Android devices, plus some Windows Mobile samples in 2009.

Skeptical iPhone users may want to check out Root's new app. The company is releasing a version for the iPhone 4 that displays AT&T's signal strength and data transmission speed where they're standing. It also displays Root's network mapping service in real time.

For comparison, the app also displays how other major networks are performing at the user's current location.

Here are excerpts from Root's latest report showing average carrier performance:

root1.jpg

Another excerpt, with more details for Seattle coverage:

Root2.jpg

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October 19, 2010 11:15 AM

T-Mobile shuffles execs, Humm officially CEO

Posted by Brier Dudley

T-Mobile USA today said Philipp Humm (pictured) is now officially its president and chief executive officer, completing a transition that began when Robert Dotson announced his resignation in May.

Hummcropped.jpgIt's simultaneously shuffling senior executives at the headquarters in Factoria. Chief Technology Officer Cole Brodman is now chief marketing officer, and Neville Ray, formerly chief network officer, is now CTO.

The switch is happening sooner than planned. It was originally going to happen in February, but Humm's been working with Dotson for months on the transition.

Rene Obermann, chief executive of parent company Deutsche Telekom, said in the release that Humm and Dotson "have chosen the right timing for this change."

Humm was formerly chief executive of T-Mobile Deutschland where he introduced the iPhone in Germany in 2007.

Earlier worked for Amazon.com, McKinsey & Co. and Procter & Gamble.

Dotson is moving to vice chairman of the T-Mobile USA board of directors.

Here's the company's executive leadership team, reporting to Humm:

- Cole Brodman, chief marketing officer, T-Mobile USA
- Jim Alling, chief operations officer, T-Mobile USA
- Neville Ray, chief technology officer, T-Mobile USA
- Brian Kirkpatrick, chief financial officer, T-Mobile USA
- Larry Myers, chief people officer, T-Mobile USA
- Dave Miller, general counsel and chief legal officer, T-Mobile USA
- Peter Ewens, chief strategy officer, T-Mobile USA


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October 11, 2010 6:30 AM

T-Mobile's big Windows Phone 7, plus a WP7 Dell

Posted by Brier Dudley

AT&T may be the carrier on stage with Steve Ballmer at Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 launch, but T-Mobile's got a bigger WP7 phone.

T-Mobile today is unveiling the HD7, a Windows Phone 7-based touchscreen phone with a 4.3-inch diagonal screen.
HTC HD7_TMobile_Front (2).jpg

T-Mobile is calling it "the largest screen available on a Windows Phone in the U.S."

The HD7 also has a 1 Gigahertz processor, 802.11n WiFi, GPS navigation, 16 gigabytes of internal memory, FM radio and an HD camcorder. It comes with pre-installed media services, including Netflix and the new T-Mobile TV. The latter provides live and on-demand TV content from ABC News, Fox Sports, PBS Kids and other channels.

It weighs 5.71 ounces and comes with a "kickstand" for propping it up to watch video.

Also premiering on the HD7 is T-Mobile's new "Family Room" application for families to connect and coordinate activities. It includes a virtual chalkboard where family members can share notes, a shared calendar and automatic notifications when family members post something.

Pricing and the exact ship date isn't available yet but T-Mobile said the HD7 will be available by mid-November and the price will be comparable to its other high-end smartphones.

You could say the HD7 is the WP7 triple-play phone for Seattle. It's made by HTC, which has its U.S. offices in Bellevue across Interstate 90 from T-Mobile USA, and not far from Microsoft's headquarters (and offices along I-90).

T-Mobile's also going to be the carrier for Dell's new Windows Phone 7 device, the Venue Pro, that will be sold thorugh Dell.com and some retailers. It has a slide-out keypad, a 4.1-inch screen, 5 megapixel camera and 1 Gigahertz processor.

A few pics of the Dell:

Dell1.jpg

Dell2.jpg

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October 6, 2010 4:39 PM

Comment of the day: Wireless coverage 101

Posted by Brier Dudley

A reader submitted a pretty broad take on wireless options, in a comment on today's Verizon LTE-4G story.

Anyone else care to share their experience and expectations?

Apparently Cdbtx928 in Monroe isn't a big fan of Clearwire:

The realities -- I've been a customer of all the major provides and to sum it up.

Sprint -- bad coverage, customer service is horrendus and the 4G network is very limited based upon their choice of technology. It will never roam on other carriers thus you're forever committed to your device. Sprint is the only US Carrier that has elected to take their 4G path, AT&T, T-Mobile, and VZW have all elected to migrate to the same 4G platform that 99% of all carriers in the world have chosen. Simply another dead end for Sprint.

T-Mobile -- They own very little spectrum in the U.S. thus your likely to be roaming outside of your home area. The majority of their coverage is 1900 PCS which offers much less propagation than 850 or 700 (AT&T and VZW). Thus if you except to roam and receive the same data service forget it. Customer service has always been excellent and when you're on their network it performs well.

AT&T -- Find a map of their network without roaming partners -- it's filled with holes. AT&T has too many moving technologies -- GSM/GPRS, EDGE, UMTS, HSPDA and soon or not 4G. High Speed data is limited to Major Metro areas. AT&T is also very slow to react -- IPhone is a classic example.... underbuilt network so Nice Phone - but does it work. I'd rate them #2 though for voice coverage and quality. Uses 1900 and 850 -- poor coverage and performance with the 1900. 4G will likely be launched on 700Mhz -- great propagation and performance.

VZW -- Will beat AT&T to market with 4G by at least a year. 4G network will be launched on 700Mhz which means great in-building coverage.
Look for them at the 2011 CES and I'll suspect you'll toss the IPhone.
I live in a very rural area and even the EVDO often gives me speeds exceeding my Hughesnet.

T-Mobile and Sprint require me to walk outside to use the phone. AT&T works well with voice but limits me to the brutally slow GPRS (Non-functional). VZW 1mbs > 50% of the time.

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August 30, 2010 2:05 PM

Samsung Epic 4G, Galaxy S cost comparison

Posted by Brier Dudley

If you're interested in the different flavors of Samsung's hit Galaxy S phones -- including the new Epic 4G that Sprint is releasing Tuesday -- here's an infographic from BillShrink.com comparing features and costs.

samsunggalax.jpg

Comments | Category: Android , Clearwire , Gadgets & products , Phones , T-Mobile |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

August 2, 2010 10:22 AM

Android phone sales up 886%

Posted by Brier Dudley

Today's jaw-dropper is the amazing growth of Android-based phones - up 886 percent in the second quarter, according to research firm Canalys.

The surge also made Android the largest smartphone platform in the U.S., where it took 34 percent of the market in Q2.

Crazy growth in the overall market for smartphones continues as mobile phone buyers, especially in the U.S., upgrade to the more capable devices. Canalys reports that smartphone sales grew 64 percent in the quarter.

Worldwide Nokia still leds with 38 percent of the smartphone market in Q2, with its shipments growing 41 percent year-over-year to 23.8 million in the quarter, Canalys reported.

RIM's BlackBerry grew 41 percent, holding second place with 18 percent of the global market, while Apple's iPhone sales grew 61 percent after the iPhone 4 launch and it now has 13 percent of the smartphone market, according to Canalys.

"Expect to see smart phones accounting for a growing proportion of the wider mobile phone market as they become increasingly affordable to more customers," Canalys Senior Analyst Pete Cunningham said in the release. "By 2013, smart phones will grow to represent over 27% of shipments worldwide, with the proportion in some developed markets in Western Europe surpassing 60% and 48% in North America."

The chart - with U.S. and China stats only - included in the Canalys release:

r2010081.gif

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May 26, 2010 9:21 AM

T-Mobile boss stepping down, how about Microsoft next?

Posted by Brier Dudley

Is it coincidental that T-Mobile USA Chief Executive Robert Dotson resigned the same day Microsoft abruptly had key openings in its Entertainment and Devices division?

T-Mobile's announcement said Dotson (below) will "transition to new opportunities in 2011."

R_Dotson_resized.jpg

Meanwhile Microsoft is still trying to figure out how to reorganize the E&D group. One option would be to split the phone and mobile devices business into a separate unit, apart from the games business.

A standalone Microsoft phone business could be run by Andy Lees, senior vice president of the company's mobile business. He's a 20-year company veteran who previously led server and tools marketing.

Or perhaps the phone business will be led by a newcomer. Like Dotson, who has been Bellevue-based T-Mobile USA's chief executive since 2003.

Dotson is the most connected wireless guy on the market right now, he's in town and he's got the consumer savvy, industry respect and sense of urgency that Microsoft's phone business needs.

T-Mobile's business has had a tough go lately, but it's been scrappy and innovative. It has experimented with new calling and data plans, goosed its network to produce near 4G speeds and kept pace with the surging smartphone business by releasing a stream of leading edge devices, including the first handsets running Google's Android software.

Has anyone seen Steve Ballmer's Lincoln in Factoria today?

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April 22, 2010 9:55 AM

Dell Windows 7 phone appears, 4" OLED slider

Posted by Brier Dudley

The parade of "leaked" phones to Gizmodo and Engadget is getting ridiculous. Do they have a deal with PR Newswire?

Anyway, the latest instalment is a batch of images and specs for upcoming Dell phones. Engadget's touting it as "the mother of all Dell leaks" but it's still no iPhone bar edition.

It does give an apparent early peek at several Android phones and the "Lightning" Windows Phone 7 coming to market in the fourth quarter, if Engadget's info is correct.

Lightning has the standard 1 gig processor, FM radio and Flash support, plus a 4.1-inch OLED display that slides up to reveal a qwerty keypad. The info said a 3G Lightning is coming to AT&T and T-Mobile first and an LTE version will be available in fourth quarter 2011 (which seems like a long wait for 4G ...).

A screen grab from the page:

dell.JPG

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April 20, 2010 9:00 PM

T-Mobile launching Garmin navigation phone

Posted by Brier Dudley

With some 45 million people expected to buy automotive navigation devices this year - not to mention upgrading to a smartphone - T-Mobile USA saw a new opportunity.

The Bellevue-based wireless company is preparing to launch its first "Garminfone," combining an Android-based smartphone with a Garmin voice navigation system.

"It's really about getting both of those in one," said Saj Sahay, T-Mobile's director of product marketing and innovation.

garm3.JPG
A price hasn't been set yet for the phone, which will go on sale in late spring.

Made by Asus, the 3G device has a 3.5-inch screen, 3 megapixel camera, GPS, dash mounting bracket and driving, walking and public transit maps for North America stored on the device.

Because maps are on the phone, rather than streamed over the Web, the navigation system will work even in areas where there is no wireless signal, using GPS, according to Sahay.

That also differentiates the phone from other Android devices that come with Google's Web-based navigation system.

There won't be additional service fees for the Garmin service but the company will charge for additional maps, and more frequent updates of the U.S. map than the one annual free update provided with the phone.

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March 29, 2010 10:09 AM

Review: HTC HD2, the supersize smartphone

Posted by Brier Dudley

After spending a few days with the latest phone that Steve Jobs doesn't want you to have, I'm not sure what all the fuss is about.

I'm talking about the HTC HD2, a striking gray slab with an enormous 4.3-inch display - the largest touch-screen of any phone now available in the U.S.

HD2 pic.jpg

Continue reading this post ...


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March 23, 2010 3:05 PM

T-Mobile CTO: Superfast 3G coming to Seattle by year-end

Posted by Brier Dudley

T-Mobile USA is apparently taking the Clearwire approach to rolling out its fast mobile broadband network, offering most everywhere in the country before launching in its hometown.

Is it the challenging topography that's keeping Seattle from getting T-Mobile's HSPA plus service until later in the year?

Philadelphia has had it since last fall, and today the company said "plus" is now in New York City, New Jersey, Long Island and suburban Washington, D.C., and "coming very soon" to Los Angeles.

It turns out the timing has to do with connecting T-Mobile's cell sites to the Internet with fiber optic cable so they can handle the faster speeds. It's taking a little longer to get fiber backhaul to the Seattle-area sites.

"We've already got the software essentially in the network," Cole Brodman, T-Mobile's chief technology and innovation officer, said by phone from the CTIA show in Las Vegas.
"It's not so much the software capabilty but to truly unlock the performance you've got to have the backbone. That's where we have some regional differences."

HSPA plus will be a nice bonus for current T-Mobile subscribers with 3G devices. The early run in Philadelphia is seeing average speeds between 5 and 8 megabits per second with peaks over 10 Mbps. The system can support peaks up to 21 Mbps, and it's backward compatible with current 3G devices.

Customers may not need that kind of speed on their current phone, but new models with bigger screens, better cameras and video services are on the way. For instance, next week T-Mobile releases the HTC HD2, which has a 4.3-inch screen and comes loaded with Blockbuster video service.

T-Mobile has found that the average user with a 3G Android device is consuming 20 times the data capacity of 2G smartphone users, Brodman said.

The HSPA plus speed will be especially noticeable for people using the network to connect netbooks and laptops, which won't see buffering of online video, Brodman said. (T-Mobile also announced today that it's selling its first netbook, the Dell Mini 10, with mobile broadband service.)

Will all these devices bog down T-Mobile's network, the way AT&T's network was slammed by the iPhone?

Brodman said they won't, because the company bought plenty of spectrum and it's using only one channel for its 3G network. "That channel is nowhere near being fully utilized," he said.

Usage also becomes more efficient as speeds increase, he said, explaining that it takes people less time to download files. As people move to 3G smartphones, they also free up spectrum used by the older network.

Still, Brodman couldn't be more specific about the Seattle rollout. The city "is one of our top metropolitan markets we'll be rolling out in 2010. It will be there this year," he said.

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March 18, 2010 10:37 AM

T-Mobile CEO: Talking to Clearwire about hookup

Posted by Brier Dudley

Move the story about Clearwire and T-Mobile USA hooking from "rumor" to "maybe."

Speaking to investors in Frankfurt today, T-Mobile Chief Executive Robert Dotson confirmed the company's been talking to Clearwire and other companies about joint ventures that would give T-Mobile additional spectrum, Reuters reported.

"We continue to look at JV opportunities for additional spectrum... there are a number of different options we look at, (we) have been talking with cable companies, with Clearwire," Dotson said.

Bloomberg reported in September that T-Mobile's parent, Deutsche Telekom, was in talks with Clearwire and others, but it was using unnamed sources and the companies would not comment at the time.

In clarifying the status today, Dotson also downplayed the chances of a merger with Sprint, saying, "What you never want to do is take one company that is going through challenges and take another company going through challenges."

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February 4, 2010 2:24 PM

Bellevue's T-Mobile USA may have IPO, $20 billion equity value

Posted by Brier Dudley

Deutsche Telekom is considering an IPO for its U.S. subsidiary, Bellevue-based T-Mobile USA, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.

Other options being considered include spinning the U.S. unit off into a separate company or merging it with another U.S. carrier, although that's less likely, the report said.

T-Mobile USA would have an equity value of around $20 billion, the Journal said.

DT will spend the next few weeks discussing T-Mobile USA's fate internally and decide on a plan within two months, the report said.

An excerpt:

T-Mobile USA has languished under perceptions that its wireless network is inferior and lacks reach, a major shortcoming as customers turn to their cell phones to surf the Internet and stream video. In the third quarter, 77,000 users walked away from T-Mobile USA, while AT&T and Verizon Wireless added millions of customers.

Taking T-Mobile USA public would be a way to fund the build-out of new wireless technology that will keep its services current without relinquishing control of a business that had long been a corporate growth engine for Deutsche Telekom.

A spokesman in Bellevue declined to comment.

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January 14, 2010 11:15 AM

Clapton pitching T-Mobile Fender phone, Beyonce with Nintendo

Posted by Brier Dudley

T-Mobile this morning said Eric Clapton's lending his name to the company's new myTouch 3G Fender Limited Edition - the one with a sunburst wood-grain, guitar like design.

Thumbnail image for 161342.jpg

Clapton's appearing in the company's ads and his songs "Layla," "My Father's Eyes," "Rock 'N' Roll Heart" and "Wonderful Tonight" will be preloaded on the HTC device. Also included are songs from Wyclef Jean, Avril Lavigne and Brad Paisley and the "Guitar: Solo" and "Musical Light" applications.

T-Mobile is also contributing Clapton's Crossroads Guitar Festival, which benefits a drug treatment center in Antigua. I wonder if they thought it would be held at the shopping center near T-Mobile USA's Bellevue headquarters?

The phone goes on sale for Jan. 20 for $180 with a two-year service plan.

It's the second Eastside company to lasso a celebrity spokesperson this week.

On Tuesday Nintendo - which has its U.S. headquarters in Redmond - said Beyonce will do more promotion of the DS and its "Style Savvy" fashion game.

Beyonce last year pitched "Rhythm Heaven" for the DS. For "Style Savvy," she's providing downloadable designs from the Dereon clothing line she and her mother, Tina Knowles, created.

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January 5, 2010 3:17 PM

Superphone bills: Cost of Google Nexus vs. iPhone, Droid and Pre

Posted by Brier Dudley

BillShrink.com updated its handy dandy phone cost comparison chart, adding Google's Nexus One.

Bottom line: It'll cost you $2,579 over two years, a hair more than a Palm Pre but less than an iPhone or Droid.

nexus-one-total-cost.jpg

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December 29, 2009 11:38 AM

Report: T-Mobile to support new Google mobile phone

Posted by Brier Dudley

The nexus of Google's mysterious new Nexus One phone is apparently Bellevue.

TmoNews is reporting today that T-Mobile will be the network powering Google's new phone, which is apparently going to make its debut on Jan. 5.

A T-Mobile USA support page found by the blog says Google will sell the new Android-based device directly via the Web, confirming the story that emerged a few weeks ago in the Wall Street Journal. Bellevue-based T-Mobile will handle billing and rate plans for the device.

Manufacturing the new Google phone will be HTC, the Taiwanese phone maker with U.S. headquarters in Bellevue and its software lab in Pioneer Square.

The trio introduced Google's first Android phone, the HTC-manufactured G1, in September 2008 but it was sold by T-Mobile.

Google also scheduled an announcement at its headquarters on Jan. 5, the day before the Consumer Electronics Show begins in Las Vegas.

Google's boldly making an end-run around wireless companies with its own device, even though it's simultaneously working to get more of its software and services onto their devices and networks.

But it's also using old-fashioned P.R. tricks by launching just ahead of the show, forcing its new device into the conversations people will have about the array of new gadgets debuting in 2010.

Although initial reports characterized Google's phone as an assault on the iPhone, it's also a challenge to a wave of new devices built on Microsoft's Windows Mobile 7, the software that's now Microsoft's big chance to regain its footing in the phone market. Google's announcement takes place the day before Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer presents the opening keynote at CES.

UPDATE: More details are flowing out. Gizmodo received what looks to be leaked details of the Nexus One pricing: $180 with a two-year, $80 per month T-Mobile contract, or $530 for one that's unsubsidized and contract-free.

The Gizmodo screenshots also have a tagline explaining the Nexus One name, if you couldn't figure it out already: "Web meets phone."

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December 2, 2009 10:41 AM

Best wireless carriers & phones, according to Consumer Reports

Posted by Brier Dudley

A big batch of information about mobile phones and carriers is appearing in the January issue of Consumer Reports, including results of a survey ranking the top carriers in 26 U.S. cities.

Verizon is tops -- nailing customer support, voice and data service -- "but it tends to be costly," with one in five saying high cost is their top complaint, the mag's release said.

T-Mobile USA was the next highest rated provider "in overall satisfaction, and worth considering as a good value for some. However, the carrier received lower marks in voice, messaging, Web and e-mail services."

Sprint and AT&T were ranked lowest, taking hits for customer service. "While AT&T's main weak spot is voice connectivity, they also scored below average in every attribute except Web access and texting," the release said.

"America is in love with the cellphone, but they are lukewarm about cellphone service," said Paul Reynolds, electronics editor at Consumer Reports. "They're especially concerned about its cost in these tight economic times."

Yet the magazine and its survey respondents are still huge fans of the AT&T exclusive iPhone. Here's a summary of its phone picks, by carrier.

On Verizon: The $100 LG enV Touch is "an impressive phone and multimedia device enhanced with touch-screen navigation and a Qwerty keyboard for easier e-mailing and texting." The $40 LG VX8360 "is a very good, straightforward cellphone at a bargain price."

Verizon's $147 Samsung Jitterbug has "large buttons, free directory assistance and a comfortable earpiece. Negatives include pricey service and a thick phone that lacks common features."

Among Verizon's smartphones, the mag likes the $200 HTC Touch Pro2 and $50 BlackBerry Storm 9530.

On T-Mobile: Consumer Reports especially likes the $200 Samsung Memoir with its 8 megapixel camera and the $130 Samsung Comeback "with a keypad that facilitates phoning and a 2.6-inch screen and keyboard to satisfy texters."

Among Tmo's smartphones, it called out the $150 myTouch 3G as "the best choice for multimedia use with intuitive navigation, easy access to main functions and direct downloading of music, games, applications and services."

(I'm partial to the T-Mobile BlackBerry Bold 2 9700 I began using a few weeks ago, and found out yesterday that its power cable -- which I'd misplaced -- uses the same connector as Amazon's Kindle.)

On Sprint: Consumer Reports calls out the $80 Samsung Exclaim as "a good bargain" with a "dual-slider design that slides up to reveal a keypad for phone calls and slides right to reveal a keyboard for e-mail and text messaging." Sprint's $150 Palm Pre "is a good bet for multitaskers with the ability to link contacts, calendars and messaging."

On AT&T: The magazine recommends the $150 LG Xenon, $125 Samsung Impression and $100 Samsung Solstice, which all have "large touch-screen displays and are compatible with AT&T's Video Share, which streams live, one-way video to a compatible phone."

The magazine said the $200, 16 gigabyte iPhone 3G S and $100 iPhone 3G from AT&T "ranked highly for multimedia use, with the best MP3 player Consumer Reports has seen in a phone to date." Its survey found a "staggering 98 percent of iPhone users were satisfied enough that they would buy the phone again, despite below-par ratings for AT&T."

Only 54 percent of readers it surveyed were completely or very satisfied with their mobile phone service, and 38 percent had switched carriers in the past two year to get a specific phone.

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November 17, 2009 10:28 AM

AT&T boosting 3G network in Seattle region

Posted by Brier Dudley

Relief is coming to iPhone users and others using AT&T's heavily used 3G wireless network in Seattle.

The company today announced a "substantial upgrade" of its network in the Puget Sound region from Everett to Tacoma, using additional wireless spectrum in the 850 MHz band.

"While specific benefits of the additional spectrum will vary by location, AT&T 3G customers should see improved quality and coverage throughout Seattle, Tacoma and surrounding markets," the release said.

The company said the upgrades are happening in Seattle, Tacoma, Everett, Renton and Auburn and Pierce and King Counties.

This comes as AT&T faces new competition in the region, where Clearwire is on track to roll out its faster, 4G network starting next month, and Verizon Wireless has been testing a new 4G service in Seattle with plans for service by next year.

The company's also in a spat over Verizon ads poking fun at AT&T's smaller 3G coverage in the U.S.

Meanwhile, AT&T's wireless traffic has quadrupled in the last year, driven by the iPhone and other smartphones used for Web access as well as calling.

The company's also providing 3G access to other devices such as the electronic books sold by Amazon.com and Sony.

Seattle-area upgrades have been made to its current 3G network using the 850 spectrum. They begin next year on a faster, HSPA 7.2 version that will be done in 2011.

The company's simultaneously adding nearly 1,900 cell sites nationally and new backhaul connections to support the mobile data traffic.

With one of AT&T's former lawyers now the incoming mayor of Seattle, the company may not expect much trouble getting permits for the new towers around here.

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November 4, 2009 7:13 PM

T-Mobile says software glitch jammed network Tuesday

Posted by Brier Dudley

Bellevue-based T-Mobile USA today blamed a "software error" for a network outage that affected voice and messaging services for about 5 percent of its customers - including many in Seattle - on Tuesday.

"After investigating the cause, we have determined that a backend system software error had generated abnormal congestion on the network. T-Mobile has since implemented additional measures to help prevent this from happening in the future. We again apologize to those customers who were affected and may have been inconvenienced."

No word yet on whether customers will get a one-day break on their Tmo bills.

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October 30, 2009 11:22 AM

Comparing cost of Droid vs iPhone, Palm Pre & MyTouch 3G

Posted by Brier Dudley

Here's a great chart from BillShrink.com comparing total cost of ownership for the Motorola Droid versus the iPhone, Palm Pre and MyTouch 3G.

Something to think about while Christmas shopping -- the cost of smartphones smarts.

The bottom line: Ouch.

Motorola Droid vs iPhone 3GS vs Palm Pre


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October 14, 2009 4:20 PM

Report: Microsoft, T-Mobile sued over Sidekick glitch

Posted by Brier Dudley

It didn't take long for lawsuits to be filed against Microsoft and T-Mobile USA by Sidekick owners furious about last week's data loss, according to Cnet's Ina Fried.

Two were filed in Northern California, she reports. An excerpt:

One suit, filed on behalf of a Bakersfield, Calif., man "and all others similarly situated" charges that, among other things, Microsoft and Danger failed to use reasonable care in handling Sidekick owners data and that the Sidekick was falsely advertised. That suit seeks monetary damages as well as an order requiring the companies to fix the Sidekicks and service or offer a full refund.

Time to read the contract's fine print.


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October 14, 2009 1:26 PM

Microsoft, Apple shift backup awareness month to October

Posted by Brier Dudley

Backup Awareness Month is usually in June, but I think Apple and Microsoft must have decided to move it to October.

Both companies are giving users spectactular reminders of why you must regularly backup important files.

Microsoft's getting most of the attention for the glitch that lost contacts and other files stored online by users of the Sidekick mobile phone, which its Danger unit developed and powered for T-Mobile USA. It began with an outage last week and is still being analyzed by the companies.

Microsoft should check and see if its $500 million purchase of Danger -- which closed in April 2008 -- is still under warranty.

Meanwhile, Apple acknowledged Tuesday that some people who upgraded their Macs to Snow Leopard, then logged into "guest" accounts they had created earlier on their computers, had their personal files erased.

Apple told InformationWeek the company is "aware of the issue that occurs in extremely rare cases, and we are working on a fix" but didn't specify when it will be ready.

From the story:

According to Apple discussion forums, the problem is related to a change in the way Snow Leopard handles guest accounts. Users who upgrade from Leopard to Snow Leopard with guest account enabled have found that opening the guest account in Leopard can destroy personal data.

I wonder which glitch erased more files. Either way, it's time to save your stuff somewhere safe.

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October 7, 2009 11:28 AM

T-Mobile's G2 Fender edition

Posted by Brier Dudley

T-Mobile USA today announced its holiday phone lineup, including the Android-based Samsung Behold II and Motorola's Cliq. The company also said its 3G USB stick is now Mac compatible.

But the coolest thing in the batch may be the new Fender Limited Edition of the myTouch 3G, with a "guitar-inspired wood-grain finish."

161342.jpg

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September 22, 2009 12:55 PM

Report: T-Mobile may use Clearwire spectrum for 4G

Posted by Brier Dudley

Bloomberg is reporting a potentially huge cross-town collaboration: T-Mobile USA is interested in using Clearwire's spectrum for its 4G service.

The move would help T-Mobile catch up with other U.S. carriers' 4G efforts. It shouldn't be too hard for the Bellevue-based company to work things out with Kirkland-based Clearwire, which needs a cash infusion to finish its initial buildout.

Deutsche Telekom, T-Mobile's Germany-based parent company, is also talking with MetroPCS about spectrum, the report said.

Bloomberg also has a source downplaying the Deutsche Telekom-Sprint merger story that came out last week; maybe that was related to the Clearwire talks.

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April 16, 2009 9:00 PM

T-Mobile releases 3G Sidekick, first Danger phone via Microsoft

Posted by Brier Dudley

You can't call it a big screen, but T-Mobile USA is excited about the relatively big display its using on the 3G Sidekick LX that's going on sale May 13.

At 3.2 inches and 854x480 resolution, it's the biggest, brightest screen yet on a T-Mobile phone.

sidekick1.JPG

sidekickpurpside.JPG

The company's talking the Sharp Aquos-powered screen up in part because the LX is aimed at young social media fans. It comes set to display video on sites such as YouTube and MySpace and preconfigured to work with Twitter and Facebook.

Users can also record and share video or stills - the LX has a 3.2 megapixel camera with autofocus and flash - and a browser.

More than a million people use current versions of the Sidekick, and 75 percent of them are using the devices to check social media sites at least once a week, according to T-Mobile.

But the device could end up appealing to an older demographic - namely mobile workers - after T-Mobile adds Exchange Active Sync via a download "shortly" after the May 13 launch.

The LX is also the first Danger phone developed entirely since the Palo Alto-based mobile company was acquired by Microsoft in February 2008. The original Sidekick was Danger's marquee product.

Microsoft isn't any more prominent on the device than YouTube, although one button on the carousel menu is a Live location search that uses the phone's GPS radio to show what's nearby.

I spent a little time trying out a demo unit that Leslie Grandy showed at T-Mobile. The screen looks good - though not as bright as an OLED display - and the device feels solid. I'm especially partial to the keyboard, but I didn't spend enough time to get the hang of the Sidekick's controls and shortcuts.

T-Mobile's selling the LX for $199 after rebate and with a two-year contract. It's taking pre-orders starting Friday.

Here's the feature list:

Integrated social networking application bundle includes Facebook, MySpace and Twitter
High-speed Web browsing with 3G support
Built-in GPS support with Live Search
3.2-megapixel camera with autofocus and an LED flash
Ability to record, play and share videos
Share recorded videos via e-mail and upload videos to social networking sites
Watch videos on YouTube via the web browser or on MySpace
Carbon or orchid finish
Music player with streaming audio and streaming RTSP video
3.2-inch F-WVGA screen with high-definition LCD technology with 854x480 resolution
Support for personal e-mail, SMS, MMS, instant messaging (IM)
Built-in IM clients include AOL Instant Messenger, Windows Live and Yahoo Messenger
Iconic swivel design and full QWERTY keyboard (manufactured by Sharp)
Intuitive user interface with Quick Find to search across all applications
Network Address Book
Included 1GB microSD memory card
Bluetooth 2.0 with A2DP supports stereo Bluetooth and Bluetooth file transfer to other Bluetooth devices including photo printers
Dimensions: 5.1 x 2.4 x 0.6 inches; 5.7 ounces
Quad-band GSM world phone (850/900/1800/1900 MHz)
Dual-band UMTS/HSDPA/HSUPA (850/1700/2100 - AWS Bands 1, IV, V)
1250 mAh Lithium Ion battery
Battery: 3G -- 3 hours talk time, 6 days standby; 2G -- 5.5 hours talk time, 8 days standby

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March 24, 2009 9:01 PM

T-Mobile launches 3G USB modem

Posted by Brier Dudley

Bellevue-based T-Mobile's introducing a new device taking advantage of its new 3G network: A nifty little USB stick modem for laptops with capacity for up to 8 gigabytes of storage.

It includes a slot for a micro SD memory card, plus a SIM card in a finger-sized black dongle.

T-Mobile webConnect 1.jpg
The "webConnect USB Laptop Stick," made by Huawei Technologies, is handsome but not cheap. It costs $49.99 with a two-year contract, $99.99 with a one-year contract or $249.99 by itself. The micro SD card isn't included.

Service costs $59.99 for up to 5 gigabytees of data over 3G, plus unlimited data through WiFi hotspots (any hotspots, not just those operated by T-Mobile). Additional 3G time is billed at 20 cents per megabyte.

To warn customers before they start facing overage charges, T-Mobile added some nice software features, including a usage meter and a notification system that sends a message when you've used 80 percent of your 5 gigs.

Jeremy Korst, director of broadband products and services, said the device provides download speeds of 600 kbps with peaks over 1 megabit per second.

"For the majority of customer use cases around web browsing, social media, MySpace, checking email - all those typical things we see our customers doing more and more while on the go, the speeds we're providing now are more than sufficient to provide that customer experience,'' he said.

T-Mobile's hoping the software and overall polish of the product will help it compete against similar USB modems offered by Sprint, Verizon and Clearwire.

Software comes in the stick and unpacks and installs when you plug it into a laptop. It took me about 15 minutes, including a restart, to get going with a test unit T-Mobile provided - I used it to write this blog.

The "connection manager" software gives you three big buttons - WiFi, Broadband and VPN, so you can choose which way to connect.

I haven't tried this yet, but Korst said the system will alert you when WiFi becomes available so you can switch over and save your 3G time.

In an unscientific, quickie test with the modem showing four out of five bars of 3G reception, I played a YouTube clip at regular resolution with no buffering interruption. In high def, the clip buffered about five or six times.

Korst said there are no bundle offers or discounts for customers with other T-Mobile plans. Maybe that will change after Clearwire's new service is widely available.

As for T-Mobile's 3G network, Korst said it should reach an additional 100 cities - in addition to the 130 served at the end of 2008.

T-Mobile previously offered a USB modem that used its slower EDGE network but that device has been phased out.

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March 11, 2009 11:11 AM

Phone deals: T-Mobile's G1 Google phone at $98, G2 soon?

Posted by Brier Dudley

The Brighthand blog today called out the latest deal on the G1 -- $97.99 for new T-Mobile customers buying through Amazon.com.

T-Mobile is still charging $179.99 if you buy direct.

Doesn't it seem like the G1 just launched?

Before you jump at the bargain, consider that the G2 is apparently just around the corner. In January Gizmodo published alleged images of the G2 -- which is thinner and doesn't have a physical keyboard -- and suggested that it's coming in May.

My guess is that T-Mobile will announce the G2 at the CTIA Wireless show starting March 31 in Las Vegas.

In other words, if you're shopping for a new phone, there are deals to be had if you don't need the latest and greatest, and new models coming soon if you do.

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February 17, 2009 1:44 PM

Photos: Awesome new phones you can't get here, yet

Posted by Brier Dudley

These won't be your next phones, unless you live in Europe, but they give you an idea what's coming eventually.

Both were announced today at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

Samsung's new W7900 has a built-in Texas Instruments Pico projector that can project images or videos onto a wall - displaying images up to around 50 inches in diameter, depending on lighting conditions. The WVGA display has better than 1000:1 contrast ratios, TI says.

You can also use the W7900 as a flashlight. Or as a phone, with an OLED touchscreen and a 5 megapixel camera.

Korea's getting the W7900 in February and Europe's getting the similar I7410 shortly. No word on prices or U.S. availability, but you can bet other phone companies will start adding projectors. The W7900:

SamsungW7900.JPG

Then there's the HTC Magic, the new Google Android-phone that Vodafone and HTC unveiled today. It looks like a curvier version of T-Mobile's G1.

Vodafone's taking orders now for spring delivery in Europe. Gizmodo has a nice hands-on, and here's the supplied pic:

Magic_3v.png

HTC's latest Windows Mobile phone, the Touch Diamond 2, also won't be available in the U.S. initially.

The TD2, announced yesterday and shown below, is coming to Europe and Asia in the second quarter "with broader global availability coming later in the year," according to HTC's release. It's running Windows Mobile 6.1 but apparently upgradeable to 6.5; maybe it will have 6.5 by the time it gets to the U.S.

T_front.jpg

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February 3, 2009 11:35 AM

T-Mobile updating G1: Fixes glitches, adds "spam tapper"

Posted by Brier Dudley

T-Mobile's issuing a big update to its G1 mobile phone, fixing a few unpleasant glitches in the Android firmware and adding a couple of features.

The update (1.1 RC33) began streaming automatically to customers this week. All G1 users should have it within a few weeks.

One of the new features stands out - the ability to mark obnoxious comments in its Market service as spam, by tapping the screen.

Every computing device should have a "spam tapper" like this, although it may test the strength and durability of their displays.

Here's a screenshot T-Mobile shared on its G1 support forum:

Thumbnail image for tmobspam.png


Other new features, and the fixes for the G1, include:

Continue reading this post ...


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Gadgets and games | Fun stuff I've written about lately includes Apple's iPhone, Hewlett-Packard's HDX laptop and Microsoft's Halo3. Also on the radar are new digital video boxes such as the Tivo HD and the Vudu.