Archive for November 18, 2009

Daily Dispatch: Top 10 consumer apps; iPhones can now scan bar codes

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The Daily Dispatch is a collection of interesting news about computing, consumer electronics, and other technology gathered from around the Web by Dirk Klingner, our technology-trend watcher, and other staffers. If you have a tip on news you want to share, leave a comment below.

Gartner Identifies the Top 10 Consumer Mobile Applications for 2012 (Gartner)

Gartner predicts the top 10 consumer mobile applications we will see in 2012, including mobile health monitoring, mobile payment and mobile search. Click through to see Gartner's full list.

Over A Year After Android Launch, ShopSavvy Finally Comes To The iPhone (TechCrunch)

…Developed by the guys at Big In Japan, ShopSavvy is an app that allows you to use your device as a portable barcode scanner. You point your phone’s camera at any barcode and it will read it, do a product look up, and give you information about the product, as well as where you can find it online or at nearby stores and for how much. Obviously, something like this is a window shopper’s dream.

Google Image Swirl (Google Operating System)

Google released a new Google Labs experiment related to image search: Google Image Swirl. The service "organizes image search results based on their visual and semantic similarities and presents them in an intuitive exploratory interface."

Who is paying taxes? (mintlife)

Mintlife, a blog from the creators of mint.com, an online money management tool, have put together an infographic that looks at who is paying taxes in the U.S.

The Google Phone is Real And Coming Early Next Year? (Android Central)

News of an impending Android phone produced by Google is making the rounds again today. Android Central raises a good point about its affect on sales of current Android devices:

Why would I buy a Motorola DROID or Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10 if I can get an official Google Phone built from the ground up for Android?

KidZui’s Newest Browser For Kids Is All About Sharing (TechCrunch)

…KidZui, the web browser that’s built for kids, is today launching KidZui 5.0, featuring more functionality for parents and children to discover and share the Internet together.

Lighter side: The Consumerist posts a unique exchange between an AT&T rep and a customer.

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Share your experiences with TV, Internet, and phone bundles

We’d like your help as we prepare our annual report, on bundled telecom services—those packages of television, Internet and telephone service sold by cable, phone, and satellite-TV companies.

Specifically, we’d like to know your experiences with, and some details about, your home telecom service. We’ve prepared a questionnaire that asks about how you get these services, whether they're bundled, and how easy or hard it was to sign up for them. The 20 questions—any or all of which you can answer—include queries about how you selected providers and whether you negotiated with them over prices.

Begin the quiz by clicking here. After you’re done, you’ll be taken to the results page, where you’ll get an early look at what other readers have reported.

Though this quiz lacks the scientific validity of surveys by the Consumer Reports National Research Center—including the one that yields our Ratings of TV, Internet, and phone providers, available to subscribers—your responses will provide useful additional perspective for me as I prepare the report. Thanks for your help.

The report itself will post to this website in January and also appear in the February 2010 issue of Consumer Reports magazine. If you're shopping sooner, use our current advice on bundled telecom services. —Tony Giorgianni

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Shopping online? Be wary of Web seals and user reviews

If you, like many Americans, plan to do a chunk of your Black Friday and holiday shopping online this year, here are two points to consider (and two new videos to illustrate them).

Don’t trust Web seals. You might think that the Web seal on a retail site is a sign of the merchant’s integrity. Not necessarily. The only “qualification” some seal issuers require—such as the “Online Business Bureau,” not to be confused with the Better Business Bureau—is that an online merchant pay a fee to display it. And more seals don’t equal better service. We found one seal-laden e-commerce site that received an F from the Better Business Bureau. (See our video, “Decoding Web Seals,” and our story, "Can you trust that Web seal?".)

Be skeptical of user reviews. Putting too much stock in user reviews can be dangerous. Some sites (like Yelp) will raise a positive review to the top of the stack if the manufacturer or company pays them a fee. Other companies have employees post paeans of their products in user-review sections, highlighting only the positive attributes. And you never know who’s trashing a product—could it be someone with a vested interest? (See our video, “Can You Trust User Reviews.”)

So, who can you trust? Regarding Web seals, the great arbiter of a business’s integrity is the Better Business Bureau. If you aren’t familiar with a Web retailer, check out their report at bbb.org. And don’t base your purchase on a small sampling of user reviews. In general, user reviews are most helpful in the aggregate, when there's a decent number of reviews, and a majority of buyers appear to lean heavily in favor of or against the products they’ve bought.

Always check an e-retailers return policy. And if you feel like you just need a little more tactile input before you buy, go to a store. Many will offer you a deal if you show them proof that you can get the same product for less online. —Nick K. Mandle

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Daily electronics deals from The Consumerist

Today's deals, courtesy of The Consumerist:

  • Sixth Avenue: Pioneer BDP-120 BD-Live Blu-ray Disc Player (PIOBDP120) for $125.02 w/ coupon BONUSBUY w/ free Shipping
  • Electronics Expo: Polk Audio PSW-10 Subwoofer for $93.39 w/ coupon JKL33X + $19.99 Shipping
  • Best Buy: Kodak Zi8 1080p HD Pocket Camcorder + 4GB Card $150 Shipped at Best Buy
  • Buy.com: MSI Wind 10-inch Atom Netbook PC $270 Shipped
  • AT&T Wireless: Apple iPhone 3GS REFURB at $149, iPhone 3G REFURB at $49, Free 2 Day Shipping
  • Newegg: Western Digital WD TV Mini Media Player + Passport Elite 320GB Portable Hard Drive $99.98 Free Shipping
  • Sears: Vizio VL320M Eco Series 32 inch LCD HDTV (720p) $399.99
  • TigerDirect: Toshiba Regza 40XV645U 40-inch 1080p 120Hz LCD HDTV w/ Blu-ray Player $750 Free Shipping
  • TiVo.com: High Definition TiVo HD DVR $200 Shipped & SD Dual Tuner DVR $80 Shipped
  • Walmart: Planet Earth: The Complete Collection (Blu-ray) (Widescreen) for $38.86 w/ Free shipping
  • iTunes Music Store: All Konami iPhone / iPod touch game downloads for 99 cents

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Daily Dispatch: Google offers legal research; Surgeons tweet in the OR

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Daily Dispatches are a collection of interesting pieces of news regarding computers, electronics, and technology gathered from around the Web by Dirk Klingner, our technology trend watcher, and other staffers. If you have a hot tip, leave a comment below.

Finding the laws that govern us (Official Google Blog)

…Starting today, we're enabling people everywhere to find and read full text legal opinions from U.S. federal and state district, appellate and supreme courts using Google Scholar. You can find these opinions by searching for cases (like Planned Parenthood v. Casey), or by topics (like desegregation) or other queries that you are interested in.

Are tweeting surgeons a step too far? (BizReport)

…Surgeons, along with many in the medical profession, are tweeting on the job, usually via nurses present in the operating theater, to anxious relatives and friends about the progress of the surgery and the state of the patient.

MasterCard to authenticate online transactions by phone (ComputerWorld)

The added layer of security comes from a one-time password that the user is asked to enter when approving a transaction. The password is either sent via an SMS (Short Message Service) or created by an application that runs on a smartphone or a phone that supports Java.

Just The Facts: Factery Labs Trims The Web Down To The Important Bits (TechCrunch)

…Factery is a new search engine/API that uses advanced language processing to sift through content on the web to identify the most factual statements — in other words, it takes news articles and webpages and breaks them down into a handful of bulletpoints on the fly.

An update to Google Earth for the iPhone (Google Mobile Blog)

…We've added some exciting new features, including the ability to view maps that you create on your desktop computer right from your iPhone, explore the app in new languages, and improved icon selection and performance.

Lighter side: YouTube sensation Sam Tsui talks with Time.

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