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The Tech Report

Say Farewell to Unlimited Data Plans on Verizon Wireless

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Sprint the last of major U.S. carriers to offer unlimited data plans

By Corey A. Washington –

Hungry for data? Well, if so, the largest wireless carrier in the U.S. won’t be offering any handouts after July 7.

Verizon Wireless is bidding its unlimited data plans adieu, replacing those plans with tiered data plans, capping usage. Like the current unlimited data plans, such plans will start at $30 for 2 GB of data. Other plans include $50 for 5 GB, and $80 for 10 GB. Customers who exceed their data caps will be charged $10 for each additional GB of data.

The change applies to new customers or existing customers who want to upgrade their phone to one that requires a data plan.

Verizon is the third of the big four to scrap unlimited data plans in favor of data caps. AT&T reigned in on its unlimited data plans last year, followed by T-Mobile which lowers data speeds for customers who go over their data plans. Sprint hasn’t announced any plans to follow suit, but the carrier has not committed to always offering unlimited data plans.

It’s a shame to see Verizon throw out the unlimited data plans. The wireless carrier has racked up three impressive 4G phones this year, with more on the way before 2011 closes. The shining opportunity for new customers to let those bad boys loose on Verizon’s lightening-fast LTE network grows dim by the minute, unless of course you’re willing to pay the price.

Before you scoff at Verizon for being the latest to shut out new customers who don’t want to feel constrained by limited data plans, AT&T, which was the first to implement capped data plans, has said a whopping 90 percent of their customers never go over their capped data plans.

Still, perhaps you are a power user like some, or you feel the data limitations might get expensive because of overage charges. There's still time to run to Verizon and sign up. Verizon will honor its unlimited data plans for customers who sign up before July 7. If you still need time, there’s always Sprint, which still offers unlimited data plans to new customers.

Corey Washington is a contributing writer covering technology for Black Voice News. He can be reached at corey@blackvoicenews.com.

Budget and Entry-Level Android Phones: Smart Bet or Poor Start?

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Android handsets from LG and Samsung are great contenders for Android first-timers

By Corey A. Washington –

It’s no secret smartphone adoption is on the rise. Consumers are ditching their dial-or-text-only ways to stay more connected and use more features than ever before.

If you’ve ever taken the leap into the smartphone world before, you know it can be a confusing and off-putting experience. Consumer fear is usually the same: Choosing a poor performing smartphone. Having to make this choice on a budget may seem as though you leapt from a plane without a parachute. But there are some capable, well-performing Android smartphones out there right now that can allay your fears.

The Android market continues to surge, making it now the most used mobile platform with 35 percent market share, according to Canalys. And by next year, at least half of all cell phones in the U.S. will be smartphones, according to In-Stat. If you’re one of the many consumers who are ready to join in the smartphone race and want to join the Android fanboy crowd, here are five things to take into consideration before you make your purchase.

Storage: Regular use of any smartphone can take its toll on available memory. E-mail attachments, photos, videos and apps slowly -- if not quickly -- pile up. Most Android smartphones to date can accommodate at least 16GB of storage. Of course, there are those lesser-known Android handset manufacturers and occasional poor attempts at creating an Android product … they’re out there! Don’t be tempted to go below 16GB.

Multi-tasking: You may not use your phone to capacity, but it’s normal to have your Android phone taking on more than one process at a time. One of Android’s claims-to-fame has been its multi-tasking ability. Test a demonstration model at a retailer as you would if you owned the phone. Watch for sluggish performance and latency to ensure your Android phone can keep up with your lifestyle.

Consumer reviews: Some smartphones pass the initial test. Days or weeks later they slowly but surely fall short of your expectations. When purchasing your first smartphone, avoid buying the newest phone to hit store shelves. Wait at least a month to see how the phone fared with consumers. Bugs can happen and it‘s better someone else discovers it than you.

OS Version: Anything less than Android 2.1, Éclair, is a big fat “no no.” While Google is making attempts to clear up fragmentation of its Android handsets, there are some newer handsets using versions under Android 2.1. It’s important to stay ahead of the curve, especially with new app requirements calling for Android 2.1. Performance enhancements with 2.1 and higher make an even better reason to stay as high up the Android food chain as possible.

User Interface: While Android is Android, different manufacturers have their own versions of a UI on top of their Android 2.1 phones. Test multiple Android smartphones from different manufacturers to find out which UI makes the best Android experience for you.

Top Three Recommendations Under $50 (With Contract):

LG Optimus (Sprint, T-Mobile, Virgin Mobile)

Samsung Captivate (AT&T)

LG Continuum (Verizon Wireless)

Corey Washington is a contributing writer covering technology for Black Voice News. He can be reached at corey@blackvoicenews.com.

Five Ways to Choose a Solid Android Smartphone

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OPINION-EDITORIAL

By Corey Washington –

With the ever-expanding sea of Android handsets manufacturers are pumping into the smartphone market, there still remains some confusion on what Android is, how these smartphones are different and most importantly, which one is right for you.

Based on Linux, the Android platform is an internet and multimedia powerhouse with Google applications tightly integrated into its operating system. While the Android operating system is the OS more than two dozen smartphones currently share in common, its user interface varies from phone to phone, and is a major deciding factor among smartphone buyers. From HTC’s Sense UI found on the HTC EVO to Samsung’s TouchWiz on the Samsung Galaxy S II to Motorola’s Motoblur on the Motorola Atrix 4G, there are several UI options that can shape our Android experience. (Reports surfaced last week that Motorola will drop the Motoblur brand name.)

Now at Android 2.3, also known by the moniker Gingerbread, Android is currently on it’s sixth iteration of its popular OS. There’s no doubt Google has come a long way since it’s introduction of Android with the iconic G1 made by HTC and running Android 1.0.

Android has garnered its share of love from the developer community for its open source platform. But because many smartphone consumers will never think, or care, to root their Android smartphone or tweak an app, here are some basic points that may help speed along your decision on which type of Android phone is right for you. Here are five things to take into consideration when choosing your Android phone today.

Processor: Welcome to the 1GHz and dual core processor age, bringing lightening-fast performance to many new Android smartphones. While 1GHz phones began to hit the market more than a year ago, manufacturers are still cranking out 1GHz phones like the HTC Thunderbolt. Dual core smartphones are increasing, but a lot of smartphone buyers may find adequate power by sticking with 1GHz.

3G or 4G: 4G is here, and it’s real -- and in some cases, real fast! There are 4G capable phones that download and upload faster than what you may experience on a desktop. The downside is 4G can hamper battery life and may carry an additional charge. Evaluate if 4G is right for you or if 3G is still suitable.

Data storage: Many Android handsets can go up to 32GB of external memory with a Micro SD card. But internal memory is still important. A phone with at least 1GB storage and 512MB of RAM should help those who want to run a lot of apps or multi-task at a high rate.

Battery life: There are some top-tier Android handsets loaded with power, but fall short on battery life. No one wants to have their phone die every 3 hours or live with their phone tied to a charger. Look for phones that have a healthy amount of battery life and stand up well in comparison tests.

Screen Size: Android handsets have grown to massive smartphone proportions, with phones such as the Samsung Infuse 4G rocking a 4.5 inch screen. Several new phones are sporting 4.3 inch screens. Thinking that’s too big for your hand? Some consumers might let up on the overall size of the phone because the screen size enhances the multimedia experience, making videos more enjoyable to watch and touch screen buttons easier to press with accuracy.

Choosing a great Android smartphone doesn’t end there. Depending on your preferences, criteria such as camera quality, screen resolution and HDMI output could make or break your final choice, but you have to start somewhere. With Android now commanding the lead market share of any mobile OS with 35%, according to Canalys, Android phones are aplenty and the time for you to decide which Android phone is right for you may come sooner rather than later.

Corey Washington is a contributing writer covering technology for Black Voice News. He can be reached at corey@blackvoicenews.com.

Study Shows Black Children Consuming More Media; Mobile Tech Contributes

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By Corey A. Washington –

As if black parents didn’t have enough to worry about, a new study finds that in some areas, black children are consuming more media than any other racial group.

A new study compiled by Northwestern University was released June 8, focused on children who consume several types of media. Researchers say the study, titled “Children, Media and Race: Media Use Among White, Black, Hispanic and Asian American Children,” is the first national study focused specifically on media consumption by race and ethnicity.

The findings show black and Hispanic youth consume more than three hours of television daily. Whites and Asians consumed more than two hours. Technologies such as DVDs, TiVo, and mobile and online viewing increased television consumption to 5 hours and 54 minutes for black children, 5 hours and 21 minutes for Hispanics, 4 hours and 41 minutes for Asians, and 3 hours and 36 minutes for whites.

On a typical day for 8- to 18-year-olds, blacks consumed one hour and 28 minutes of media on cell phones compared with one hour and 11 minutes for Asians, 1 hour and 4 minutes for Hispanics and 26 minutes for whites.

In several parts of the study, Hispanic children trailed right behind black children in media consumption. Researchers say black and Latino youth consume an average of four hours of more media every day than white children do, especially television, music, and video games. In addition, that the differences in media consumption by race have dramatically grown in the past ten years.

The study was co-authored by Northwestern Professor Ellen Wartella and Northwestern post-doctoral fellow Alexis Lauri. Wartella has co-authored several studies that document electronic media use among children and infants.

Race data from the 2010 “Kaiser Family Foundation Generation M2” study on media use among 2,000 8- to 18-year-olds was analyzed along with its “Media Family” study on another 2,000 children from birth to 6 years old in 2006.

The study will be presented today at the Pew Charitable Trusts Conference Center in Washington, D.C.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

Corey Washington is a contributing writer covering technology for Black Voice News. He can be reached at corey@blackvoicenews.com.

As Blackberry Loses Ground, Will African-Americans Shift Too?

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OPINION-EDITORIAL

Even President Obama, one of the most noted public figures with a RIM device, adds Apple to his repertoire

By Corey A. Washington –

RIM’s suite of Blackberry devices were once the smartphone of choice for African-Americans. It’s no secret that these once-highly successful smartphones boasted some of the best messaging features, putting the right amount of emphasis on text, chat and email access.

But things have inevitably changed with Blackberry now dethroned as the touted smartphone of choice as Apple and Android handsets take messaging features to a new level, coupled with multimedia features galore. Apple seems to have a chokehold on the tech media world, with the iPhone taking its spot as the new media darling among smartphones since its debut in 2007. And manufacturers such as HTC, Motorola and Samsung have released some of the most coveted Android handsets that rival the iPhone in features and hardware specs.

Analysis shows Research In Motion’s market share fell last year to 14 percent at the end of 2010. In 2009, the company held 21 percent of the market. At the end of the first quarter of this year, the company held steady with 14 percent.

African-Americans, however, were faithful through it all to Blackberry as the smartphone market began to evolve, but ownership has recently taken a dramatic drop. According to the Nielsen Company, African-American Blackberry owners have fallen from 38 percent in 2009 to 20 percent as of late 2010.

Much attention was paid to President Barack Obama and his Blackberry after he took office in 2009. While the President hasn’t ditched his Blackberry yet, various media sources have spotted him traveling with an iPad.

Arguably, Blackberry’s greatest appeal to African-American consumers had been the smartphone’s clean approach to messaging with enhanced options that don’t complicate its use. But how consumers communicate has quickly changed, which may have had a large impact on why Blackberry’s relevance among African-Americans is now in question.

Blackberry seemed to define the Qwerty keyboard among smartphones, with its claim to fame being its tactile keys, well-organized layout, and the infamous trackball to help navigate through the OS. But increasingly new smartphones incorporate -- if not fully utilize -- touch screens and capacitive touch buttons, which are in the minority of phones RIM produces.

RIM is still no slouch, even as it continues to grapple with showing the tech market it can change with last year's introduction of the Blackberry Torch, a hybrid of a touch screen and Qwerty keyboard, and the newly released PlayBook.

The key to RIM retaining its stronghold of African-American buyers may hinge on how well it balances the evolution of Blackberry phones with new messaging features while adopting the multimedia features attributed to pushing Apple and Android smartphones to the top.

Corey Washington is a contributing writer covering technology for Black Voice News. He can be reached at corey@blackvoicenews.com.

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