Showing posts from January, 2011

Nostalgia trip - all the cellphones I have ever owned :)

It's January 2011 and approximately a decade since I bought my first mobile phone. Looking back, it's amazing to see how much technology has changed in these 10 years!

This is a companion post to the piece I wrote about portable music devices that I have owned through the years. I have a lot of fun making these nostalgic, trip-into-the-past kind of posts and I hope you enjoy them too!

Cellphones were around in 1998, when I just started working. I remember doing a market research project for BPL Mobile which was then India's leading cellphone company. The outgoing call rates were then Rs. 16 to Rs. 25 per minute, depending on which plan you were signed up for. Incoming call rates were Rs.8 to Rs.12 per minute. Needless to say, only businessmen/doctors/ lawyers etc. who really needed connectivity, would buy cellphones and of course, so did the ultra-rich status-seeking types. Handset costs were also high - initially Motorola and Ericsson handsets were available at prices sta…

Help, I have an extra cellphone tower! Anyone wants it?

We complain that we have poor connectivity because there aren't enough mobile towers, but I have a problem that is exactly opposite; I have an extra tower!

The Airtel network on my cellphone keeps dropping, and when I registered a complaint last year, the engineer came to check the signal strength. He confirmed that the signal from the nearest tower was weak (I live on the 12th floor and face a hill, so the problem was compounded). He promised that a new tower would be set up, and sure enough, within a month, the network strength really increased. I was happy for a few months, then the problem came back. Again, I registered a complaint. This time, the Airtel engineer presented a different reason for my problem.

According to him, my house picks up a network signal from two towers which are roughly equidistant from my house. As a result, a section of my house - the kitchen and part of the living room - form a sort of 'dead zone' between the two towers. This causes the signal…

bada apps that I would pay good money for

I read a couple of thought provoking posts (links below) which point out that in the iOS/ Android marketplace model, app developers make very little profit per app given the expected pricing varies from free to 2-3 dollars. If consumers are not willing to pay for apps, this poses a serious long term challenge to the viability and growth of the app developer community. Unless they see the potential to make sufficient income, why would they be motivated to spend time and money in creating apps?

I have been thinking of my own experience with my mobile phone vs. laptop. I realise that I am more conditioned to pay for services on my mobile, than I am on a PC/laptop. This may be a function of how the mobile industry/ Value Added services have developed in India. For instance, I once paid Rs. 10 per month to subscribe to BBC News Voice blog on airtel. It was only temporary, because I was curious but I honestly cannot imagine paying to access any blog on my laptop! Also as I find myself using…

Google vs. Apple - two different business models

Too often, when people discuss Android phones on the Net, things degenerate into a smackdown contest between iPhone and Google. Actually, when you step behind the stereotypes and look at each company's business model, it's hard to say that they compete directly. Yes, in a sense you can say that they both create operating systems used by the end-smartphone user, but that's it. Their business motive, business model and sources of revenue are widely divergent.

As we know, Google does not make money off Android, because it is an open-source, free software. In fact, it probably costs Google big money to keep developing the numerous iterations of Android that come out each year. The company has a long term strategic reason to invest in Android, in addition to the short term financial gains.

The long term reason is simple to understand - it centers around Google's search monopoly, which drives their enormous advertising revenue. In this YouTube video Google CIO Douglas Merril…

Inside your smartphone - component manufacturers

Confession - I do read my blog stats religiously to see what search queries brought you here and which posts have gotten the maximum hits. I noticed that a lot of people have been searching to find information about smartphone component manufacturers which led to this post I made in August 2010.

Behind every smartphone are several manufacturers, and hundreds of different components put together to work in harmony. 

If you are really interested in what's inside your phone, you should type the name of the phone+teardown to get the gory details. My post just skims the surface...

1. ARM - the king of mobile processors
At the heart of your smartphone is a processor with ARM-based architecture. This architecture is owned and licensed by Arm Holdings , a UK based company, which however does not manufacture the processors themselves. Whether your mobile phone processor is manufactured by QualComm, NVidia, Samsung, TI or Apple, they have paid ARM to use their technology.

2. Assorted chip…

It's official - tablets fall below Rs 30,000 barrier in India

Today, E-zone is carrying two separate ads in the Times of India, Mumbai for its electronics sale. Amidst the fridges and washing machines, two rather delectable items are on sale; the Apple iPad, and the Samsung Galaxy Tab.

Pllease note that these prices are for Mumbai and I have no idea what they may be in other parts of the country.

1) Apple iPad (which was officially launched in India last week) is available at the following prices:

2) Samsung Galaxy Tab prices have been slashed (no doubt to keep up with Apple) and the Tab is being offered at a 22% discount at Rs. 28,990 for the 16GB Wi-Fi + 3G model. Incidentally, the compatible iPad is Rs.34,900, which makes the Tab a good deal if you want a 3G tablet. I do think that the price differential between the wi-fi only iPad and the 3G version is too large. 3G is a default option on phones nowadays and should be on tablets too.

I expect to see a few more tablet-touting geeks around now. The Rs.30,000 barrier was a psychological one f…

Intel's new chips will be in your laptop but not your mobile

From February 2011, Intel will start shipping the 2nd generation (Sandy Bridge) Core i3/i5/i7 processors for laptops and PCs. SandyBridge was exhaustively previewed by AnandTech last year, and praised for the enhanced speed, better graphics, gaming performance and lower power consumption. It's a worthy upgrade to the current range and best of all, the first wave of new processors will be affordable mid-range ones aimed at performance mainstream notebooks/ PCs.

Intel continues to superpower our laptops and netbooks, but why are there no Intel chips in mobiles and tablets? Why has the company stayed out of this rapidly growing, dynamic market segment?

Intel is a monopoly market leader for processors manufactured on x86 architecture. But currently, mobile devices use processors based on ARM architecture which is favored for its high performance to power ratios. ARM gained a big edge because of its adoption by Apple for iPhone and iPad; other manufacturers followed suit.

The source …

Data plans for 3G - which is best for me?

With faster 3G networks, we are all looking forward to doing more surfing on our phones and thereby consuming more data! It appears from the trickle of 3G plans we have seen so far, that none of the operators are feeling very generous. Plans are stingy, the charges are an average of Re.1 per MB and therefore pretty expensive compared to both GPRS and broadband. So, which data plan would be best for you on 3G?

There are two ways to use the internet connection on your mobile - untethered (only on your phone) and tethered (using your phone as a modem for your laptop/netbook). Obviously, tethering will lead to significantly higher data consumption. Certain operator plans do not permit tethering - for instance my current GPRS plan is Rs.99 for 2GB but I cannot tether.

When you use your phone untethered, data consumption will tend to be low, as most sites and services are automatically optimised for your mobile. A lot of international norms are available to understand how much data you will…

MTNL offers MNP with free 3G in Mumbai

MTNL has a full pager in today's Mumbai Mirror, wooing new prepaid and postpaid subscribers with the very tempting offer of 3G on the MTNL network, while retaining your old number.

MTNL has waived the porting charge of Rs.19.

Pre-paid  users will get 200 MB data and 100 min. of video calling free for the first month. Postpaid users get 50 MB per month free for the first 4 months, and 25% discount on rentals for the first 3 months.

You can read the full details of the offer here

When I posted about the nationwide MNP rollout last week, I had mentioned that good 3G schemes would be an incentive for me to shift. MTNL has a first mover advantage here, with Airtel and Vodafone not giving an clear launch date for their 3G services.

So, are  any of you in Mumbai tempted by the MTNL offer? What schemes are being offered under MNP by the operators in your circle?

Will you buy a tablet in 2011?

According to IDC estimates, 17 million tablets were sold in 2010. Nearly 15 million of these were iPads, reports techcrunch and around a million were Samsung Galaxy Tab. IDC projects that approximately 44 million tablets will be sold in 2011 and judging by the number of tablets showcased at CES this year, we should see Apple's dominant market share challenged with a lot of competition from Android-based devices.

These are looking like the top devices of 2011 but of course, it's a dynamic world and several more may come in;

1) Motorola Xoom (which won the Best Gadget Award at CES) 2011) is launching in the US in mid-February, priced at $800. If that's steep compared to the iPad, consider that it's the first tablet out there running Android Honeycomb. It has a 10 inch screen, dual core NVidia Tegra processor and 1 GB RAM and it looks quite gorgeous.

(image from fonearena)

2) At under $500, Notion Ink's Adam tablet represents serious competition for the Xoom, as it tak…

Why I will never use a Mac

So many times I've gotten suggestions from my friends to 'just try' using a Mac, promising that I will have a superb user experience. Nor am I blind to the benefits of MacBooks - stable and mostly trouble free performance, long life, good service, no need to use Anti-Virus - the list goes on and on. And if this were not enough, the compatability between Mac and Microsoft has improved steadily over time. As a friend pointed out on Twitter, I can boot a Mac into Windows, run Office programs and generally use it just like I use my PC.

There was a time when I would have not been able to afford a Mac - but that is not the case now, when Apple is discounting aggressively and giving great promo offers. And yes, I can afford to splurge now, which I would not have earlier.

Also there is a part of me that feels, if I love tech, I should be able to use and learn all platforms. I believe that a blind bias or refusal to learn something new, limits me and my knowledge.

In short, I have …

Mobile Number Portability rolls out today, but will it change your life?

And about time too, given that it's been around in Haryana since end November. Vodafone took the full front page of Times of India in Mumbai today, to announce that it's MNP ready, nationwide. Airtel and other operators have also updated their websites to announce the launch of MNP.

The key highlights of MNP are:

1. Both pre-paid and postpaid numbers can be ported. For postpaid numbers, you have to ensure that you do not owe any money to your existing operator. For pre-paid numbers, your credit/balance amount with your current operator cannot be carried forward.
2. You can only port a number within your current circle (obviously). However, you can shift from a CDMA to a GSM network.
3. The porting of a number takes 2 days and the maximum charge for transfer as fixed by TRAI is Rs.19. Vodafone is levying the fee currently, but operators also have  the freedom to waive the fee.
4. After porting your number there is a lock in period of 90 days  before you  can shift to a new pro…

the downside of high performance laptops

This post has been inspired by a friend who purchased a 15 inch Inspiron notebook. She is an Art Director using Photoshop/ Adobe Illustrator and her machine is fully loaded - Core i7 processor, 4GB RAM, 512 MB ATI Radeon graphics card. Recently, this 1 year old machine became unstable and started shutting down unexpectedly. We diagnosed overheating and called Dell. After troubleshooting, Dell has replaced the heatsink, motherboard and optical drive. Luckily, the machine is under a comprehensive 3 year warranty! I estimate that the parts replaced would be at a value of not less than Rs.30,000. I told my friend that the replacement is equivalent to a heart, lung and kidney transplant!

But this incident has made me aware of a serious problem that attends high powered laptops - rampant overheating. Unfortunately, this is a natural fall-out of the extra power. Overheating can reduce the machine performance and also cause shutdowns, eventually even damage the body parts. And my guess is, it…