Archive for the ‘Cell Phones’ category

Sony Mylo 2

January 24, 2008

With the “Put the fun of a PC in your pocket” tag line, Sony is going after the “young adults” crowd. The company thinks that there are not many devices that would allow students to have good “mobile entertainment” (as defined below), without paying an expensive wireless subscription fee. This is true and that’s the idea behind the Mylo 2.

Although the original Mylo did not have the success that was hoped by its maker, Sony has learned a lot, and it designed the Mylo 2 to address the weaknesses of the first one. In this review, we will put the Mylo 2 to the test and share our thoughts with you. Feel free to ask questions, share your opinion or write your review (if you own the Mylo 2) in the comments section at the bottom of the article page. Every device is engineered to solve a problem, and the Mylo 2 has been built to provide “good” mobile entertainment and communications. For Sony, that means:

  • Desktop-like web browsing
    • Including Flash games and web video
  • Good email support
  • Broad instant messaging support
  • Social Networks
  • VoIP

Improvements over the first Mylo

Mylo

Mylo 2

   

WiFi B (11Mbps)

WiFi G (54Mbps)

320×240 display

800×480 touch display

No back-lit keyboard

Back-lit Keyboard

No camera

1.3 Megapixel Camera

No customization

Removable faceplate

No file upload/download

File upload/download supported

No widgets

Widgets supported

No RSS

Intgrated RSS reader

$349

$299

 

5.16 x 0.82 x 2.55″

Physical description

First, let’s take a quick look at the device too see how it looks and what are its physical properties and functionalities. Mylo 2 has about the same size than its predecessor. It is slightly on the bulky side, and is even larger than a Nokia N93i, but it is a definitely a pocket device. [photo gallery]A few user interface (UI) elements are visible from the outside: a joystick on the right provides 4 directions + click on the left side of the screen. A microphone is located on the right. On each side of the display, there are a few touch elements:

  • Options: the equivalent of a “menu”
  • Disp: toggles the application UI elements (menus, buttons) to reduce the clutter on the screen
  • Back: go back to the previous screen
  • Info: opens a “task manager” to switch from one application to the next
  • Mylo: brings you to a Netvibes-looking page that contains Widgets
  • Home: back to the main menu

QWERTY keyboard

The keyboard slider feels solid, much more than most smartphones that I have seen, except for the i-mate 9502. The keys are flat, but surprisingly they have a good tactile feedback. The key spacing is large enough to avoid mistyping issues common to smaller keyboards. Finally, it is a backlit keyboard, which is indispensable when texting in dark conditions. Overall, I am happy with it.

 

The display is the computer

Someone I know used to say that, and it applies very well to the Mylo 2: You will immediately notice how awesome the display is, thanks to its 800×480 resolution – that’s 2.5 times the number of pixels of the iPhone’s display! (which has 480×320 pixels). With such a screen, “Desktop PC web browsing experience” starts to be true. The text on websites is readable without zooming in and out, but if you want to, it is possible to zoom. This unbelievably crisp display is the most important asset of the Mylo 2, in my opinion, and I can only hope to see more devices with a similar screen in the near future.

Computer Sync

The Mylo 2 connects to a computer as a USB Mass Storage device (like a Flash drive), or by using the Media Transfer Protocol (MTP), a protocol used by Windows Media 10 and above to access Media Players. Both protocols are mutually exclusive and in this review, we used USB Mass Storage.

Applications

Instant Messaging

Instant messaging is very well integrated in the Mylo 2. Four major IM clients are supported (AIM, Skype, YIM, Google Talk) and although MSN isn’t in the list, you can still chat with your MSN buddies from an Yahoo IM account, if you have one. All the IM clients have a similar user interface, which is convenient and consistent. I noticed that it is not always possible to filter-out the contacts that are not online, and that can be annoying if you have many of IM contacts.

RSS

A basic RSS reader has been included, and although it shows the headlines, it does not provide a preview/excerpt. You will have to follow the link and open the web browser to read the content. It is something that needs improvement. At the moment, I would still like to use Google Reader instead.

Web

Overall, the web browser is good. We have tested several popular sites like CNN, Facebook, MySpace, Yahoo, Google Maps, Digg and … Ubergizmo 🙂 Everything worked fine, without needing to zoom. Unfortunately, the current browser does not work with Google Reader and Google Docs. The server returned an “unsupported browser” error. That is probably due to the Javascript support, but it is just my guess.

Flash seems to be fully supported we tested YouTube and MetaCafe. Both worked fine, even if the video playback wasn’t as smooth as on a desktop PC.

Although it is mostly OK, links are sometimes hard to click on because of the small size of the characters (when no zoom is applied). It would be necessary to improve this in the future.

Music

A powerful device like the Mylo 2 can certainly play music files. I quickly dropped a few MP3 files via USB and voila. The volume was plenty loud (there’s an option to protect from hearing damages in the settings) and the sound quality is good. The sound quality is probably limited by the default earphones, but the point is that the Mylo 2 sounds like a good MP3 player. It supports MP3, AAC, WMA and ATRAC.

The Mylo 2 does not have a standard jack (!), so you will have to use the adapter found in the box. This adds additional cable clutter, unfortunately.

VoIP

Placing calls with Skype worked like a breeze, much better than on my Windows Mobile phone, for sure. It is best to use earphones because the speaker is a little weak even when you are indoors. With earphones, it works really well and it is comparable at what you would get on a PC. (The Mylo 2 had 3/3 bars of WiFi reception when I tried)

Photos ViewingIf you have some room to spare, you can copy your favorite photos to the Mylo 2. Given how good the screen is, this device is a very good photo viewer. There is no need to re-scale high-resolution photos. We tried to view a 1728×1152 photo and the Mylo 2 did a very good job at downscaling the photo to the native screen resolution. However, a 3504×2336 photo was deemed “unsupported” by the viewer application.

Camera

The 1.3 Megapixel camera will produce photos that are comparable to a cellphone camera – probably because it is a cellphone camera. At the moment, I have not been able to record movies, and I don’t know if there is a plan to support movie recording when the Mylo 2 launches.

Video Replay

The videos provided by default in the Mylo 2 were encoded in Mpeg4, 320×240, 29.97FPS, AAC audio 48Khz, Stereo. They play smoothly, although during fast action sequences, I could see compression artifacts. I wonder if the Mylo 2 could play Memory Stick movies originally intended for the Sony PSP. I’ll have to get back to you on that. Right now, you can expect video too look like the standard 320×240 videos on an iPod.

Text Editor

The integrated text editor works like Windows Notepad. It is simple and does not support formatting, but having a notepad is always a good idea for a QWERTY device

 

Homepage

The “Mylo” button in the (vertical) middle-right of the screen brings the user to a “home page” that looks like Netvibes or iGoogle. Third party applications can be installed, and it is not yet clear if Sony will tightly control the widget application distribution. What we can say is that Widgets are downloadable from the web, or installed from a Memory Stick card.

Developers: Sony will create a developer website and provide an SDK, we will keep an eye on the announcement, and we will let you know. This has not been confirmed to us, but because you can download a widget from your PC, it doesn not look like Sony is going to try to have a tight control over the applications.

 Networking

The Mylo 2 can connect to WiFi G networks. This is quite an improvement over the WiFi B featured in the first Mylo. The main drawback with WiFi is how scarce free hotspot are (remember, Mylo 2 was trying to avoid the data subscription fee). To avoid this, Sony Mylo 2 customers will have a free access to Wayport’s WiFi network that includes 9000 McDonald’s, hotels, airports and other venues. (wayport.net)

WiFi LAN

WiFi is easy to configure. By default, the Mylo 2 scanned and connected to an unprotected network, which is probably the best behavior if you are outside of your home. If you want to connect to a particular network, you just have to enter the Network settings, choose a network and enter the password. We tried it with a WEP-protected network and it worked.

WiFi AdHoc

The Mylo 2 can also be connected with other Mylo 2 to form a peer-to-peer network. That would allow a user to listen to someone else’s music wirelessly. We do not have more than one Mylo 2, so right now, we can’t tell you how well it works, but it is reasonable to expect it to work well.

Update 1/14:This section was based on an early unit and documentation and we have since learned that the AdHoc feature has been removed from The Mylo 2 (codenamed COM-2)

Storage

There is 1GB of built-in memory, and it is possible to extend the storage by using a Memory Stick flash card (about $50 for 4GB, 8GB is the largest capacity today).

Battery life

The Mylo 2 uses a 3.7V, 1200mAh battery. After 24 hours of playing and testing it (not continuously), Less than half of the battery remained. I would say about 30%. That’s equivalent to a busy day of use (for me), in my opinion.

Accessories

  • Charging Cradle
  • Color FacePlate
  • AC Adapter
  • Extra battery and charger kit
  • Screen Protector

Conclusion

I was not very excited by the first Mylo, but I have to admit that the Mylo 2 is a nice surprise. Technically, the display is brilliant and the device fulfills its goal. Creating a mobile device requires a concerted effort between hardware, software and design teams is really hard to pull off. The Mylo 2 brings a solution for having a better mobile entertainment, without paying hundreds of dollars in subscription pr year (for a slower network). The idea of cutting a deal with Wayport is excellent, because accessibility is WiFi’s weak point.

Sony has done a tremendous step forward from the original Mylo and now, we will see if consumers want to buy a connected device that is not a phone. I’m definitely not in the 18-22 group anymore, so it’s hard to guess. Although the cost of ownership of a Mylo 2 can be an order of magnitude less than using a “fruity phone” (over a couple of years), the “cool” factor of the competition should not be underestimated. Again, feel free to share your thoughts, questions and review in the comments section.

Note: this review was done with an engineering sample that uses a development version of the firmware. While I did notice that some function were slow, like the YouTube (flash) videos, I’ll reserve my judgment for now. Potential buyers should pay attention to the performance when the Mylo 2 comes on the market. We will try to follow-up as things unfold.

 

Availability: End of January 2008, $299

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Free games to play on your iPhone

January 22, 2008

Not all games have been optimized for the iPhone equally. In fact, I found quite a few clunkers that seemed to exist only to take your cash, advertise dubious services, or bombard you with cut-rate graphics. Shudder. These five games, added just this month, test your strategy and timing while offering above-average graphics. 

501 Darts

A two-player strategy game that pits you against your cutthroat iPhone. The goal is to roll down your points from 400 to zero by lobbing darts where it counts–in the highest point zones possible. Tap the red button once to set your horizon and once again to choose the vertical axis. Then watch the arrows fly. The game is fun, but lacks settings to change the game style, pause or save a game, or even reduce the points if you want a shorter game.

 501 Darts is free, supported by a banner ad that doesn’t obstruct the graphics, though it certainly won’t beautify them either.

The same publisher, Ion Games, brings you Golf Driving Range, which uses similar horizontal and vertical bars tirelessly vacillating between extremes to set the direction and strength with which you hit. It behooves players to also pay attention to wind direction and the course schematic while planning their shots. The iPhone’s timing eluded me for the first two games, but as I started getting the hang of how to plan my taps, frustration melted into personal challenge.

You can always tell Sudoku sovereigns by their intense, withdrawn stare. Addicts of the Japanese puzzle game can solve a daily conundrum for free, and ad-free, with Radworkz Daily Puzzles. Insert a digit into the appropriate square by tapping the square once and selecting from the number wheel.

Sometimes the simplest game is the most satisfying. Connect4 touch is one of those. The iPhone-generation’s high-tech take on the classic two-player game again matches wits with your Apple’s AI to see which player can line up four colored circles first. This one is ad-supported, but once you click the “play” bar below the ad, the game is nuisance-free.

A new day, a new puzzle–that’s iFreecell’s philosophy. Each day, tiles of three designs are shuffled into a 64-square grid. Your job is to remove the tiles by clicking the designs–but those social tiles only disappear when they have a companion. Use your noggin to click away the adjacent or stacked tiles without leaving any singletons behind.

Apple drops iPhone price by a third…Early buyers not amused

September 11, 2007

In addition to today’s iPod updates and the intriguing new iTunes Wi-Fi Store, Apple also made a controversial announcement concerning the iPhone. After nearly six months of hype and marketing to Apple enthusiasts, average Joes, and even your grandmother, Apple enjoyed a strong iPhone release at the end of June—only to retire the 4GB model two months later and knocked a third off the price on the 8GB. That’s right: instead of $599, customers can now pick up an 8GB iPhone for a mere $399. I sure hope Apple prepared their customer service reps with some great answers as to why the company just more or less flipped the bird to their early adopters, especially since the meaning of “early adopters” isn’t exactly what it used to be.

 

 

 

In case it isn’t obvious, I’m a bit stung by this move because I was right there in the lines on June 29th for an 8GB iPhone, right alongside Apple enthusiasts and regular John Does alike (hey, at least I had an excuse for being an iNerd that day: I write about this stuff for a living). Of course, in a big way I’m happy about the price drop because I really dig my iPhone, I want to see it gain traction in the industry—the new price significantly lowers the bar for more folks to pick one up.

 

But this isn’t about the enthusiasts who stood in line on June 29th—it’s about having a good business decision look bad because it came just a little too soon. A price reduction on a high end product that was so hyped to the general public (not just hard core fans) a mere two months after release reeks of the stereotypical Apple arrogance that so many have tried to diffuse and defend over the years. I understand that things change, costs lower and product interest fluctuates, but dropping the price by that much so close to the initial launch is going to hit a lot of customers the wrong way. The kind of customers who were willing to spend $600 on a phone, and who are also likely to warn their friends and family about Apple’s practices after getting stung like this.

 

Do I think Apple needs to do something for their early buyers? You bet. Do I think they will? Probably not, at least not unless those buyers work their way up the phone support tiers or make a scene in a physical store, but it shouldn’t come to that. Then again, Apple shouldn’t make promises, deliver a product and then pull the carpet out from underneath both their loyal customers and—in this new world where Apple is a household brand—the general public either. 

 

Update

A reader just e-mailed us to remind us of Apple’s return policy. If you purchased an iPhone from Apple in the last 14 days, you get a refund of the price difference:

Should Apple reduce its price on any Apple-branded product within fourteen (14) calendar days of the date of purchase, you may request a refund of the difference between the price paid and the current selling price. An original purchase receipt is required, and you must request your refund within fourteen (14) calendar days of the price reduction.

That’s small consolation for those who bought an iPhone prior to August 22, but those who have succumbed to the lure of the iPhone in the last 2 weeks can get $200 back.

 

Update 2

To clarify: this was more about the price drop happening a bit sooner than expected, and not at all surprise that a price drop happened in the first place. Tech products drop in price all the time, but two months simply felt a little early. 

By David Chartier

 

 

Convert movies for your iPhone (or iPod)

July 31, 2007

I’m not sure how you people can watch movies and TV shows on those little screens, but you sure are doing it! Every time I turn around on the bus or in the airport, somebody is watching video on her iPod. (If she’s supercool, she’s watching it on her new iPhone.)

 It’s easy to buy videos designed to view on those little screens, of course, but if you want to get your own DVDs and Web movies onto your iPod or iPhone, you’ll have to dive into the wide world of video converters 

The first thing you should know is that most commercial DVDs are copyright-protected and to break that copyright protection is a legal violation in many countries, including the U.S. None of the software on CNET Download.com will “crack” encrypted DVDs. 

The second thing to know is that iTunes itself is a decent converting tool. Simply select a file from your video list, right-click it, and choose “Convert Selection for iPod” to create an MP4 movie. If you’re dealing with Web video or DVDs, however, you’ll likely need another conversion tool. Also, in my experience, iTunes conversion is mighty slow. 

The iPhone and most video iPods support two basic video formats: MPEG-4 (.mp4 and .m4v) and MOV (QuickTime). The truth is that converting video files is all a matter of managing free codecs, and many programs will accomplish the same goal, but I’ve found a few interfaces and functionalities that I like.

One of the more interesting video converters I’ve seen recently is CinemaForgeLite, a tool for grabbing Web movies from sites like YouTube and transforming them into iPod-ready video files. A simple wizard walks you through the process, or an advanced interface lets you customize settings like frame size and bit rate. It seems to work best on YouTube and major video-sharing sites.

How much better will the iPhone be six months from now?

July 5, 2007

Like a big summer blockbuster, the iPhone hype peaked the moment the doors opened last Friday. The waiting was over, the mystique had lifted–and by the end of the weekend, hundreds of thousands of people realized that their really cool iPod phones were missing quite a few features found on competing (but admittedly far less sexy) cell phones. The good news, of course, is that Apple can continue to roll out software updates to the iPhone, improving it piecemeal as the weeks and months progress. The bad news is that some of the device’s drawbacks are hardware-based–so they won’t be fixed until the iPhone 2 is released (if they’re addressed at all).

 

Here’s a rundown of the iPhone’s main shortfalls–and my guesses as to the chances of them being added to the current model via a software update (the first number), or holding off for the inevitable iPhone sequel (the second number). And for the record, these are nothing more than guesses.

  • 3G data (this generation: 0%; next-gen: 100%): Perhaps the biggest complaint with the iPhone is that it uses AT&T’s slow EDGE network, not the much faster third-generation (3G) HSDPA technology. Because this is a hardware limitation, the existing iPhone models are stuck with EDGE–but it’s all but guaranteed that when the next iPhone appears (it’s slated for European release), it’ll be a 3G model.
  • Bluetooth A2DP (85%/100%): The iPhone has Bluetooth 2.0, but–for reasons unknown–Apple didn’t include the A2DP (Advanced Audio Distribution Profile) that allows it to stream to stereo headphones and speakers. Perhaps the company is waiting to release its own version of one of these accessories–iHeadphones, or a second-generation Apple Hi-Fi–so it can hype iPhone compatibility. But adding it via a software update shouldn’t be a problem. Until then, you’re stuck with monaural headsets.
  • User replaceable battery (0%/5%): Like all iPods–and unlike almost every other cell phone ever made–the iPhone battery is locked inside the device. Apple rates it for 300-400 charges, after which–incredibly–you’ll need to ship it to Apple for a replacement ($79, plus $7 shipping). If that sounds like one of the most consumer-unfriendly moves you’ve ever heard, that’s because it is–but since people have pretty much bought into the idea of their locked-case iPods, don’t expect Apple to change its tune on this issue, even on the sequel models. (Overheard at the Genius Bar, 2009: “Instead of replacing the battery, how’d you like $150 off the new iPhone?”)
  • Nonrecessed headphone jack (0%/25%): Another major iPhone annoyance: the device has a standard 3.5mm headphone jack, but it’s recessed, so many current headphone models won’t work with it, simply because their jack casings aren’t narrow enough to fit. In other words, that $300 set of earbuds you bought for your iPod won’t work with the iPhone without you investing an additional $10 in an adapter. You’d hope Apple would fix this oversight in the design for the next model, but the conspirator in us suspects that the recessed jack involved some Faustian deal with headphone manufacturers to force yet another upgrade cycle–so maybe it’s here for good.
  • Expandable memory (0%/5%): The iPhone’s capacity–just 4GB or 8GB–isn’t much, especially when you want to watch a movie or two on that next cross-country trip. Larger capacity storage in future models is a given (and we can hope that 32GB and 64GB SSD drives will eventually make it on board sooner rather than later). But, like previous iPods, don’t expect a MicroSD slot on future iPhones.
  • GPS (0%/33%): The iPhone’s built-in Google Maps feature is great, but it would be even better if it the device knew where it was at any given time. I’d give it a one in three chance that we’ll see this feature in the next iPhone.
  • MMS (50%/75%): The iPhone offers SMS text messaging and e-mail, but not the Multimedia Messaging Service that allows for sending images, audio, and video to other phones. This would seem to be an easy addition for current and future models. Of course, if it was so easy, why wouldn’t it already be there?
  • Integrated chat clients (33%/66%): The iPhone makes it easy to get AOL, Yahoo, and Google e-mail service delivered on the phone–but those companies’ instant messaging clients are nowhere to be found. Supposedly, you can use Meebo on the iPhone’s Safari browser, but those looking for integrated access to AIM, Yahoo Instant Messenger, Google Talk, or MSN (ha!) don’t have any easy options. Again, this would seem like an easy software fix–but perhaps AT&T is frowning on such easy access to non-SMS messaging service.
  • Flash support (33%/75%): The iPhone is supposed to be a little OS X computer. The Flash plug-in is available for Safari on Mac computers, but it’s missing from the iPhone’s browser. This, too, would seem like a fairly easy fix–if not a top priority–but the fact that Google is converting all of its YouTube video to H.264 format makes me wonder if a Flash solution is coming later rather than sooner.
  • Landscape keyboard on other apps besides Safari (90%/100%): Prefer to type on the iPhone in landscape mode (horizontally) instead of portrait (vertically)? You can–but only when using the Safari browser. The extra room–and, for many people, comfort–offered by the horizontal orientation makes me think that universal landscape mode will be one of the most likely software upgrades to the iPhone. It’s already there–it just needs to be accessible in all of the applications.
  • Video capture via camera (33%/85%): As Michael Richards knows all too well, most phones can record short video snippets. This camcorder functionality is currently missing on the iPhone. Perhaps it will debut in concert with the MMS capability–or maybe Apple’s waiting for the larger memory capacity of a follow-up model before adding it.
  • Customized ringtones (95%/100%): This one’s as close to definite as there is. It’ll be added, to be sure, but I bet it won’t be the ringtone function you want (use any iTunes song as ringtone). Instead, it’ll probably involve you rebuying a snippet of your favorite song.
  • Third-party applications allowed (25%/50%): This would, in theory, offer a solution to most of the software-related problems above–but why should Apple let anyone else into its walled garden? Until it does, the only third-party apps you’ll find on the iPhone will be AJAX-enhanced Web sites available on the Safari browser.

That’s a stab at some–but not nearly all–of the iPhone shortcomings. There are plenty of others, including true Exchange Server e-mail access, video output, and modem tethering. And in addition to the ones I’ve missed, I’m sure plenty of you disagree with the odds I’ve given–or even that some of the items mentioned above are even relevant. So fire away in the comments below, and let me know what you think.

Frontline: iPhone Shows Need for New Wireless Network

July 3, 2007

Complaints about the speed of the network that Apple’s new iPhone connects to points to the need for a new broadband wireless network in the U.S., said a businessman proposing one. 

Complaints about the speed of the network that Apple Inc.’s new iPhone connects to points to the need for a new broadband wireless network in the U.S., said a businessman proposing one. The iPhone uses AT&T Inc.’s EDGE network, which AT&T says averages speeds of 100 kilobits to 150 kilobits per second. But one review in the Wall Street Journal called the network “pokey,” and a review in the New York Times called the network “excruciatingly slow,” saying users may “almost ache for a dial-up modem.” 

With new wireless spectrum scheduled to be auctioned by early next year, the launch of the iPhone demonstrates the need for a faster new network, said Reed Hundt, a former chairman at the U.S. Federal Communications Commission and vice chairman of Frontline Wireless LLC. Frontline has asked the FCC to set aside 22MHz of spectrum out of 84MHz available for a national wireless broadband network, to be built by the highest bidder for the spectrum. 

“The connection service is a bridge back to the 20th century,” Hundt said Monday. “The iPhone is like the guy who invented the Ferrari and found out he was selling into a country of dirt roads.

 Apple selected the AT&T network in part because it covers 90 percent of the U.S. AT&T has been pleased with the iPhone launch, said spokesman Todd Smith. There are faster networks in the U.S., but they do not have the geographic coverage that EDGE provides. 

“We believe the EDGE network was designed for a product like the iPhone,” Smith added. “We’re confident with its ability to support the device.” 

Hundt doesn’t blame AT&T for the network speeds, he said. Instead, the U.S. government has so far failed to provide spectrum available for faster new networks, he said. “It’s not AT&T, its not Apple, it’s the government that arranged things so there’d be only one national network,” he said. 

The FCC has a chance to change that when it sets the rules for the auctions in the 700MHz band being abandoned by U.S. television stations, Hundt said. “There’s one last chance for the government to take a new course, and create an open, truly national … wireless broadband network,” he said. Frontline and other supporters of an open-access broadband network say the 700MHz spectrum auctions represent the last chance for the U.S. to create a new broadband network to compete with cable modem and DSL (digital subscriber line) providers. In late 2005, the U.S. Congress passed legislation that requires U.S. television stations to move to digital broadcasts and abandon spectrum in the 700MHz band by February 2009.That spectrum allows broadband signals to travel three to four times farther than signals transmitted in higher bands.

The Frontline plan would require the winning bidder of one chunk of spectrum to build a dual-use commercial and emergency response network, with priority network use for police and fire departments. Frontline is asking the FCC to require “open access” rules, allowing wireless and broadband providers across the country to buy wholesale access to the network. 

CTIA, a trade group representing wireless phone providers, and the Hands Off the Internet coalition, representing AT&T, Alcatel-Lucent SA and other groups, have opposed open-access rules, saying consumers already have many choices in the wireless market. 

FreedomWorks, a conservative advocacy group, said in a paper released last week that too many questions about the Frontline proposal still exist, such as who will finance the network and how much public safety agencies will have to pay for access.

Frontline asks both U.S. taxpayers and public safety agencies to become its business partners, its first and largest investors,” wrote study author Jeffrey Eisenach.

First Look: Does the iPhone Work With Current iPod Accessories?

July 3, 2007

The iPhone is indeed an iPod, but not all iPod accessories are compatible. We show you which ones are.

 When first announcing the iPhone back in January, Apple touted the phone’s 30-pin dock connector–the same one present on every non-shuffle iPod since the 3G iPod debuted back in April 2003. The implication was that, by using this connector, the iPhone would be compatible with many accessories for the iPod. Of course, “many” means different things to different people, so you’re probably wondering exactly which of the iPod gadgets you’ve spend so much money on over the years will work with your shiny new phone. Here a rundown based on a few days of plugging the iPhone into anything shiny we could get our hands on. 

Speakers: In terms of “dockable” iPod speakers–those that connect via the iPod’s 30-pin dock-connector port–the iPhone has worked with every system we’ve tested, and sounds great. You just place the iPhone in the dock cradle (you may need Apple’s Universal Dock Adapter to get a perfect fit), or connect the appropriate dock-connector cable, and press play. On those speaker systems that automatically start playback when you turn them on, the iPhone’s iPod section does indeed begin playback automatically. If your speaker system includes a remote, that remote will control playback; in fact, remotes designed to let you navigate an iPod’s menus, such as the one included with JBL’s excellent Radial, also let you navigate the iPhone’s iPod menus. (More on remotes below.) And contrary to a few reports we’ve seen around the Web, in our testing the iPhone was able to play audio and charge at the same time.’  However, there are a few caveats here. The first is that when you connect the iPhone to one of these docking speaker systems, a message appears on the iPhone’s screen letting you know that the iPhone’s wireless features may cause audio interference with the speaker system and asking if you want to switch to Airplane Mode (which disables those wireless features). If you press Yes, you won’t get any interference, but you also won’t be able to make or receive phone calls or use any Internet features of the iPhone. If you press No, the iPhone will still play through the speakers, but you may hear varying amounts of static and buzzing, especially when a call comes in. (That said, I’ve personally been using the iPhone with dockable speakers without enabling Airplane Mode–because I want to know when someone’s calling me–and, depending on the speaker system, it can be quite usable.)A more minor issue is fit. If your speakers don’t use Apple’s Universal Dock, the iPhone will fit loosely in the dock cradle due to the phone’s slim profile. And you may find the iPhone itself to be too tall for some systems that aren’t open on top; for example, JBL’s Radial Micro is a tight fit. Of course, you can also plug any “computer” speaker system–one that connects to a standard headphone jack–into the iPhone and then control volume using the iPhone’s own volume level. However, as I’ll get to in the next item, you may need an adapter. 

Headphones: The iPhone has a standard 1/8-inch stereo headphone minijack, so any headphones with a standard miniplug will work–assuming you can plug them in. The problem is that the iPhone’s headphone jack is recessed considerably into the phone’s body, so headphones with thick plugs, or with short L-shaped plugs, won’t fit. If you’ve got such headphones, you’ll need an adapter such as Belkin’s $11 Headphone Adapter (pictured at right) or Shure’s $40 Music Phone Adapter; the latter includes a microphone and control switch, so you can use your favorite headphones as a wired phone headset.  

Cables and Adapters:Standard iPod dock-connector cables and adapters have worked fine for us. For example, I was able to use Fruitshop’s excellent Bone iLink to sync and charge the iPhone via a USB port on my Mac. 

Chargers and Batteries: Physically, iPod chargers that connect to an iPod’s dock-connector port will plug into the iPhone, and do power and charge the iPhone; in fact, the AC-to-USB power adapter Apple promotes for the iPhone is the same one the company sells for charging standard iPods. That said, we obviously haven’t tested every third-party device to make sure it’s actually safe to use for charging the iPhone. The same goes for external iPod batteries, which connect and power the iPhone. For example, I tested Griffin Technology’s TuneJuice 9-volt battery pack for the iPod; when connected, the iPhone’s battery icon switched to “powered” mode, indicating that the iPhone was being powered by an external source. However, inappropriately enough, the iPhone also popped up the “Would you like to turn on Airplane Mode?” message about possible audio interference. 

FM Transmitters: When it comes to iPhone compatibility, FM transmitters are a mixed bag. We tested several transmitters that connect to the iPhone’s dock-connector port but provide their own screen for choosing an FM frequency, and all were able to successfully grab the iPhone’s audio signal and “broadcast” it. However, as with speakers, we received the message on the iPhone’s screen about audio interference, offering to switch to Airplane Mode. When we enabled Airplane Mode, the signal was relatively clear; if we declined to use Airplane Mode, the transmitters were still able to broadcast the iPhone’s audio, but we experienced a good deal of interference. A number of recent dock-connecting FM transmitters for the iPod actually use the iPod’s screen to display information such as the current FM frequency and presets. Unfortunately, in our testing, these accessories don’t work at all with the iPhone. When you first plug them in, you get the familiar Airplane Mode warning, but even if you turn on Airplane Mode, all that happens is the iPhone displays a screen indicating that some kind of accessory is attached.Finally, many FM transmitters not made specifically for the iPod connect to an audio source via a standard headphone minijack. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to test any of these products yet, thanks to the aforementioned headphone-jack size issue. Once we receive an adapter that lets us use larger headphone plugs with the iPhone, we’ll test several of these transmitters. We suspect that performance will be similar to that of the first group of transmitters mentioned above: if in Airplane Mode, audio quality should be fine, but if not, you’ll likely get some amount of interference. 

Remote Controls: As with speaker systems that can also control your iPod, several wireless remote-control accessories we tested worked perfectly with the iPhone; those designed to let you navigate an iPod’s menus also work with the iPhone’s iPod menus. (You can’t navigate non-iPod menus, however.) We also tested the iPhone with Chestnut Hill Sound’s George stereo system, which lets you view and navigate your iPod’s contents via its screened remote; the George worked perfectly, displaying the iPhone’s contents on the remote, as expected. (We haven’t yet had a chance to test the iPhone with standalone remote controls that display an iPod’s menu on the remote’s screen.) On the other hand, Apple’s Radio Remote doesn’t work as an FM radio or a remote; connecting it results in a “This accessory is not supported by iPhone” error. 

Microphones: Unfortunately, current iPod microphone attachments aren’t compatible with the iPhone, resulting in the same “not supported” image you see if you connect the Radio Remote. Coupled with the lack of built-in voice-recording functionality, this means that the iPhone can’t currently record audio at all. 

Audio/Video Docks:There are plenty of docks out there that let you get your iPod’s audio and video into your home stereo and onto your TV. The good news is that, in our testing with several such products, the iPhone sends its audio through, and can be charged by, such docks; again, as with speakers, you may need Apple’s Universal Dock Adapter (pictured at right) for the best fit. The bad news is that, despite being the best video-playing iPod yet, the iPhone offers no video-output features–neither through its dock-connector port nor via its headphone jack. So, unlike the 5G iPod, you can’t view your photos or video on a TV. (My colleague Christopher Breen even tested the iPhone with DLO’s HomeDock Deluxe; he was able to navigate his iPhone’s audio content via the HomeDock’s on-the-TV-screen menus, but was not able to navigate videos or view them on his TV.) Cases: Cases for iPods, other than generic fabric or foam pouches, won’t fit the iPhone. Not to worry: there are plenty of iPhone-specific cases out there already, and we’re sure to see scads more before long. And the good news is that, according to our sister publication, PC World, the iPhone is much more scratch-resistant than any iPod. 

Miscellaneous: We also tested a few other popular accessories with the iPhone. Unfortunately, Apple’s iPod Camera Connector, which lets you import photos directly from your digital camera to an iPod, doesn’t work with the iPhone. Similarly, the Nike+iPod Sport Kit doesn’t work with the iPhone; despite being a 4GB or 8GB, flash-based iPod, the iPhone works more like a full-size iPod in this respect.  

Automobile Integration: We haven’t had a chance to test the iPhone with in-car integration systems, such as those from Alpine, Harman Kardon, and BMW. Given the success we’ve seen with dockable speaker systems and remotes, we don’t expect problems, but we’re contacting vendors and will be doing some testing of our own to determine compatibility.Testing, testing… We’ll be covering the imminent deluge of iPhone accessories here on Macworld and iPhone Central. And over the next few weeks, we’ll be updating the reviews of many older products in the Playlist Product Guide to reflect iPhone compatibility. Stay tuned. 

Dan Frakes, Macworld

Christopher Breen contributed to this report.