Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Amazon Introduces 70% Royalty Option For Kindle Digital Text Platform

Right off the heels of announcing an expansion of its Kindle Digital Text Platform to authors and publishers around the world, Amazon announced back in January that it would introduce a new 70 percent royalty option in the program that will allow them to to earn a larger share of revenue from each Kindle book they sell.

Well, it’s the middle of the year, and it has now landed.

For the record: the new royalty option comes will not replace the existing DTP standard royalty option but rather complement it.

As could be expected, option is currently only available for books sold to United States customers.

The new royalty option basically means that for each book sold from the Kindle Store for Kindle, Kindle DX, or one of the Kindle apps for iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, BlackBerry, PC, Mac and Android phones, authors and publishers who choose the new royalty option will receive 70 percent of the list price, net of delivery costs.

Those costs are based on file size (pricing is set at $0.15/MB), and Amazon claims today’s median DTP file size to be 368KB, which means delivery costs would be less than $0.06 per unit sold.

To qualify for the 70 percent royalty option, books must satisfy the following set of requirements:

- The author or publisher-supplied list price must be between $2.99 and $9.99.
- The list price must be at least 20 percent below the lowest list price for the physical book.
- The title is made available for sale in all geographies for which the author or publisher has rights.
- The title will be included in a broad set of features in the Kindle Store, such as text-to-speech. This list of features will grow over time as Amazon continues to add more functionality to Kindle and the Kindle Store.
- Under this royalty option, books must be offered at or below price parity with competition, including physical book prices.

In addition to the 70 percent royalty option, Amazon also announced improvements in DTP such as a more intuitive “Bookshelf” feature and a simplified two-step process for publishing.

Straight from TechCrunch

Sony to recall half a million 'too hot to handle' VAIO laptops

Well, this isn't good. Sony's issued a warning that about half a million of its VAIO laptops are at risk of seriously overheating, and could even cause burns. The company says that the heat-monitoring chips of its VAIO F and C series laptops (which were launched in January) could be defective, causing them to overheat and physically warp. Sony says it's received about 40 total complaints about the issue, and that affected customers will be able to download a software fix or contact the company directly to have the laptop picked up for a repair.

Sorry To Shatter Your Dreams, But Dreams of iPhone On Verizon Are Of The Pipe Variety

Tell me “I told you so” in six months, but Bloomberg’s exciting news that two dudes said something about the iPhone coming to Verizon is false until we see hardware and there has been no hardware.

Apple picked GSM because it is an international standard. CDMA, the system used by Verizon and Sprint, is about as international as American beer – both are considered weak and both are reviled. Picking AT&T in this case was the only way Apple could reach a mass audience quickly without having two separate phone SKUs on the books – one for us and one for the rest of the world. AT&T has also been a good partner in terms of odd pricing systems including a la carte data. From a business perspective, it made sense.

Apple doesn’t innovate, per se. They make existing technologies better. If you recall, the first iPhone wasn’t 3G even though 3G was popular. It’s because they wanted to first inject something good on the market. The next iPhone had no front-facing camera although they had existed for years. It’s because they wanted to perfect the process of face-to-face calling. Howl all you want about your janky Nokia from 2002 with face chat: how many wireless face-to-face video chats on a cellphone had you ever experienced before Facetime? Approximately zero?

To that end, the possibility of bouncing off into CDMA/LTE/WiMax is highly suspect. First, they’d never go 4G/WiMax until it’s an established standard available everywhere.

Consider, also, the audience for Verizon phones – an audience that rarely travels abroad and is looking for the lowest price possible. Verizon just slashed prices on Microsoft’s abysmal Kin phones without Microsoft’s input and I doubt Apple would accept that sort of guff from any carrier. AT&T, at the very least, has been very amenable to changes in the age-old structure of the carrier universe.

But look: you guys need a little cheering up. Here’s a rumor I heard from “two reliable sources:” the iPhone will come to all carriers! They’ll have two radios built-in and two SIM cards and a keyboard and come in multiple colors and include a bumper case! And they’ll be free with contract with all carriers! Take that to the SEC and smoke it, Bloomberg.

As originally found on TechCrunch

eBay application for BlackBerry leaves beta, heads to Australia and Europe

eBay and RIM this morning jointly announced that the free eBay Application for BlackBerry smartphones is now available through BlackBerry App World in six more countries: Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK.

The application is also now officially available to BlackBerry smartphone users in North-America after a beta preview period.

The eBay application supports BlackBerry smartphones running BlackBerry OS version 4.5 or higher. With the app, users can search, bid, buy and check their eBay buying and selling activity on the go.

The application leverages the BlackBerry Push Service to allow users to be wirelessly notified of the status of eBay listings in real-time. With alerts, eBay buyers can be notified when they have won an item or have been outbid, or if a listing on their Watch List is ending soon.

In addition, eBay sellers can be notified when a sale ends and will be provided with buyer information and the sale price.

EBay expects to generate $1.5 billion in gross merchandise volume (GMV) in 2010 through its mobile platforms. The availability of the eBay app for BlackBerry smartphones in more countries aims to bring the company to this goal sooner rather than later. Already, eBay claims, over half of eBay’s mobile GMV comes from outside the United States.

Apple hiring iPhone antenna engineers for some reason

Three Apple job postings for iPhone / iPad antenna engineers to "Define and implement antenna system architecture to optimize the radiation performance for wireless portable devices." All three were posted on June 23rd, the same day that we started seeing widespread reporting of the left-handed reception issues. Coincidence?

Courtesy: Engadget

Friday, June 25, 2010

A look at some of Chrome OS's latest bits of polish

The release of Chrome OS looms ever closer, but still there are a number of enhancements and changes being rolled in that should make for a somewhat nicer experience, and TechCrunch has highlighted a few. Perhaps most major among those changes is the ability to browse the internet without signing in, but if you want to update your bookmarks or save any form data you'll still need a Google account. There's a new side bar that appears to give access to other apps, replacing tabs on top, and it also adds in battery and WiFi strength indicators. There's also something of a debate going on regarding whether Chrome OS should have support for compressed archives (.zip and .rar files and the like). Right now the OS has no support for those files, which, as one contributor points out, is rather unfortunate given that Gmail itself generates zip files when you click "download all attachments." Let's hope someone at the Googs finds time to add that in so that future users aren't locked out of the joys of extraction.

Courtesy: Engadget

Android 2.2 coming to Droid in 'late July,' Droid X in 'late August?'

Care for some more specificity on when exactly to expect the Droid X to become even awesomer? Well, according to one "very reliable" source over at Droid Forums, we can look forward to a late August landing for Android 2.2 on the X, which will be preceded by a late July delivery on the venerable Droid. Both dates are caveated with an ominous "currently planned" proviso, so don't consider them carved in (Mile)stone, but we're liking the idea of Motorola having both its flagship devices tasting of Froyo by summer's end. There's no mention of the Droid 2, however, which may mean nothing or might suggest that handset's still a fair way away from its release. We shall see.

As found on Engadget

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

HTC EVO 4G review -- Engadget

HTC EVO 4G review -- Engadget

Toshiba looking to standardize wireless memory cards, crash Eye-Fi's party

Toshiba looking to standardize wireless memory cards, crash Eye-Fi's party

We're big fans of Eye-Fi's wireless memory cards, which enable you to toss that card reader out the window and download all your pictures wirelessly. So far Eye-Fi is about the only player in that little niche, but Toshiba's looking to blow it wide open with charmingly titled "Standard Promotion Forum for Memory Cards Embedding Wireless LAN," which could be given the equally catchy abbreviation SPFfMCEWLAN (a name that is, thankfully, subject to change). Toshiba's forum, which also includes Singapore-based flash company Trek 2000, will look to create a standardized 8GB SDHC card with integrated 802.11b/g, able to transfer JPEG and RAW images either from camera to a server or directly to another camera. Toshiba is hoping other camera and flash manufacturers will join in the standardization fun and we certainly do too -- just like we hope they move past 8GB quickly.

Courtesy: Engadget

iPhone 4 Arrives @ Walmart

Dont you love that? Yes folks, that seems to be the very first in-the-cardboard picture of the retail iPhone 4 out there in the public. We don't work at Walmart, so we can't really say for sure this is absolutely IT, but Engadget's tipster says Apple's latest phone has just landed in the big box retailer's storehouses.

P.S. -- Before you start frothing at the mouth, the CDMA coding on the box in the background relates to an LG 290C handset also stocked by Walmart.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Apple OS Drops By 33 Percent In May But iPad Impressions Grow 160 Percent

Mobile ad network Millennial Media, which claims that its mobile advertising network reaches 83 percent of 72 million mobile web users in the U.S., is reporting that iPad ad requests grew 160 percent from April to May with global Apple ad requests dropping 33 percent in May. Apple OS U.S. ad requests dropped by nearly 14 percent month-over-month after a 8 percent decrease in requests in April.

That being said, the Apple OS is still the leading mobile operating system in Millennial’s network, with a 48 percent share of Smartphone impressions. RIM’s BlackBerry remained the second largest OS on Millennial’s network for the tenth consecutive month with a 3% increase month-over-month and a 19 percent share of impressions. Android’s share rose by 5 percent to a 15 percent share of impressions for the month of May.

Source: TechCrunch

Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff Uses Twitter To Announce Execution

A sign of the times, although many may find it distasteful, or much worse: Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff used a mobile Twitter client to send out a tweet announcing the impending execution by firing squad of convicted murderer Ronnie Lee Gardner.

As the BBC notes, quite a modern way to announce a very old-fashioned death.

Source: Tech Crunch

New Xbox 360 gets a proper teardown analysis: power and noise reductions confirmed

it takes someone like Anand Shimpi, the man behind Anandtech who has personally suffered through four out-of-warranty Xbox 360 failures, to bring sage analysis to a teardown of the new Xbox 360. His reluctant sixth Xbox 360 is thenew slimster (codename Valhalla) which, for the first time, combines the CPU, GPU, and eDRAM onto a single chip -- previous Xbox 360 motherboards featured two discrete packages that split the CPU from the ATI designed Xenos GPU and eDRAM. The design allows for a single heatsink to be cooled by a single, larger fan making the new Xbox "noticeably quieter," measured at 45dB when idle or 51dB with the 1.5Gbps SATA Hitachi HTS545025B9SA00 with 8MB buffer spinning at 5400RPM -- that's down from 50dB and 54dB, respectively, as measured on late 2008 through 2010 Jasper-class 360s. Regarding power consumption, Anand measured a 50% reduction from the original 2005 Xbox 360 (25% less than Jasper-class rigs at idle, or 20% to 17% less under load) and pulled just 0.6W when "totally off" compared to the 2W of vampire power pulled by older 360s. Anand speculates that Microsoft might finally be using cheaper 40nm components. However, we shouldn't expect to see a price cut anytime soon as it will take Microsoft awhile to ramp up the material and manfucaturing cost savings. Regardless, with Kinect and several new game titles on the horizon, Anand concludes that there's still pleny of life left in the old Xbox 360 platform for those looking to make the jump.

Droid X gets real on Verizon 720p video capture, not display

Looks like Verizon and Motorola are coming clean with the Droid X a little earlier than planned -- it just appeared on the official Droid page, complete with confirmation of that 4.3-inch screen size. Interestingly, rolling over the image reveals a box that says it has a "720p screen," which would be crazy -- especially since the Droid X prototype we played with had what looked to be the same 854 x 480 resolution as the original Droid, although we couldn't confirm it at the time. A true 720p screen res would also be far denser than the 800 x 480 panel on the EVO 4G, so we're thinking Verizon actually means 720p out over HDMI, not anything else. We'll see though -- theofficial launch event is still set for June 23, and we're still waiting to find out about the slider Droid 2, so there are a lot of potential surprises still to come.

Update: We just confirmed that the Droid X prototype we saw had an 854 x 480 display, so we'll have to see if Motorola and Verizon have a serious surprise for us come Wednesday -- we know at least one Engadget editor who's crossing his fingers.

Source: Engadget

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Samsung Galaxy S Preview

Just because the US has gone gaming crazy these past couple of days doesn't mean the smartphone world has stopped turning. Samsung trotted out its Galaxy S handset last night in London, and we were naturally there to try and glean a better understanding of where this 4-inch Android 2.1 device fits in our wishlist hierarchy. It's quite the stat sheet stuffer, as we're sure you're aware, and it strikes an alluring figure for those looking to get on the true do-it-all smartphone bandwagon. 

Come back for more juicy details.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Nintendo 3DS in the flesh and hands-on! (updated!)

That Nintendo announced the 3DS was not a surprise -- that they had a couple-dozen of these things to try out, that was. We elbowed our way to the front of the line to try one out, and the effect is actually not bad. It's not great, but the 3.5-inch screen on top certainly gives a firm illusion of depth without resorting to glasses -- or eye crossing. The feel is definitely reminiscent of those 3D cereal box prints, and as soon as you turn the device from left to right to try to look around anything the effect is immediately lost. You need to stare at the screen for a moment for your eyes to adjust and then not move around too much. If you do you'll need to adjust again. But, stay reasonably still and it's a compelling effect.

The new analog slider on the left feels a lot like the PSP's analog nub, but larger and without the texture. It's a bit easier on the fingers, and comfortable. Overall the device feels just like a current DS or DSi, though we couldn't get a good feel for the weight thanks to a bulky tether attached on one end to the device, and on the other end to the row of ladies who were surely told to not let the gadgets out of their hands or face certain doom. The only thing we could do here is rotate along a still frame -- Pikmin in a field, for example -- and play with the 3D slider. It is a pretty convincing effect, but it's hard to tell at this point if it's at all compelling -- it wasn't anything more than novelty in this demo, and we still don't know how it stands up to fast-moving footage.
Courtesy: Engadget

Nintendo 3DS is Official: Set to Blow Your Mind

We've been reading about it for what seems like ages, looking over images of the FCC prototypewith a magnifying glass, and now Nintendo is showing it off at its E3 press conference. Nintendo is trumping up how superior its glasses-free technology is better than others, "a solution that lets you take 3D gaming along with you wherever you go" according to Reggie. The upper screen is surprisingly only 3.5-inches, not the wider that we'd expected, There is a slider on the side that lets you tweak the 3D effect, seemingly enabling you to tweak based on your distance from the screen -- or turn it off entirely. As with the current DS, the bottom is a touchscreen, and is not 3D.

That's what looks to be an analog stick on the side there, as well, that Nintendo is calling a "Slide Pad." There is a gyro, motion sensor, compatible with DSi games, and two cameras enabling 3D photos. Nintendo is also talking up partnerships, including Disney, games that are said to be playable today, at the show, with one of the highlights being a new Kid Icarus game which looks quite action-packed to say the least and, has better graphics than most of the Wii games Nintendo has shown thus far.

Nintendo is also talking about how the system will seek out WiFi hotspots or other 3DS systems "without you knowing," which sounds a bit ominous, to be honest. Systems can communicate regardless of which games are being played. It can even pull in new DLC directly from other consoles, all without a monthly fee.

Courtesy: Engadget

Samsung SE-S084D : world's thinnest external DVD drive, SH-B123 the fastest Blu-ray drive

At an intimate press conference yesterday, Samsung unveiled its newest SE-S084 external DVD as well as its 12x SH-B123 Blu-ray drives. The former is pretty much a standard external 24x CD-ROM / 8x DVD-ROM peripheral, except it's only 17mm thick. Samsung is claiming it's the world's thinnest. At .5 pounds it was incredibly light in hand -- we actually thought the model on display was a dummy at first. Available in seven colors that apparently match Samsung's netbook line up, the drive should be available just about now for $69.99.

On the total opposite end is Samsung's new 12x SH-B123, which it's claiming to be the world's fastest BD-ROM/DVD writer. The player packs DVD up-scaling technology and uses an aerodynamic design for lowering acoustic spinning noise. There's no pricing details on the SH-B123 yet though it should hit stores in July.

New Xbox 360 Guide: Microsoft's New Console in Details

It may not have a new name, but the Xbox 360 certainly has received quite a facelift on this the fifth anniversary of its unveiling. The new Xbox 360 (aka the "Xbox 360 250GB") makes up for its familiar name by offering a starkly refreshed and, in our eyes, significantly sexier design than its predecessor -- which honestly was quite the looker in its day. Despite only just being made official, we've already had time to unbox and play with one, a dizzyingly fast-paced unveil that might have left you with some questions about just what here is new and what here is old.
Obviously a lot of things have changed in the last day since the new Xbox came to town. Let's take a look at the details.

The most striking difference between the two is the new, taught design that looks like an F-117 Nighthawk to the original Xbox 360's rather more Boeing exterior. There are massive vents on nearly every side, a giant (and, presumably, low-RPM) fan hiding on the right side, and that new piano black gloss sheen that Sony ditched for the PS3 Slim. It looks lovely fresh out of the box but should be covered in fingerprints in no time flat. It's also small enough that it fits right inside the old Xbox 360 -- or at least an empty shell made to look like an Xbox 360.


The new buttons, which we'll talk about in a moment, left us wondering sometimes whether or not the unit was on or off. That we were having such a problem says something about how much quieter this new design is. With the old Xbox 360, you always knew exactly when it turned on -- even if you were in another room you could feel the vibrations from that DVD-ROM spinning up. The new 360 model is far, far quieter. The drive still hums a bit and there is certainly some fan noise to be discerned, but overall it's a huge improvement to even the more recent, more muted 360 models.


Biggest news on the connectivity front is 802.11n WiFi built-in. Interestingly the system detects it as if it were connected externally, but it's right in there, meaning no dongles for you (unless if you want 5GHz 802.11n, this one is single band 2.4GHz). Also new is an integrated Natal connector on the back, something we're told will be provided on older Xbox 360's via a Y-cable. USB port count is up to five (from three), the optical audio connector is onboard the console, instead of on the A/V connector, and there are no more memory card ports... so if you've saved all your custom Forza layers externally, you're going to have to dump them to USB thumb drive and then over to the new machine. Not ideal, but better than nothing.

Kinect-optimized Xbox 360 Dashboard preview

In some ways, it's pretty charming, with fun, jazzed up icons (when you hover over them they tilt and show off depth), a simplistic layout, and some great voice controls. The downside is this all comes at the cost of a brand new, fairly redundant interface for accessing functions that are already available with your Xbox 360 controller in the regular Dashboard. Still, there's no denying the joy of waving a hand to log in, hovering over icons to select channels (though the wait-to-click mechanism strikes us as eventually frustrating), and scrubbing through media with very intuitive gestures.

The best part is the voice control, however, allowing you to speak "Xbox" and then a command like play, pause, back, forward, stop, Zune, etc. It's ripe for abuse (pausing your S.O.'s seventh Netflix screening of The Constant Gardner ad nauseam), but Microsoft says it's working on eliminating random commands that might seep into conversation. Our biggest worry is that we're going to see confusion and fragmentation of functionality with the divergent UI requirements that Kinect apps and regular Dashboard apps require -- we can't imagine the Facebook or folks being super thrilled at creating an all-new app just to support Microsoft's whims, but we're told just such apps are in the works. Is the existing Dashboard really so complicated that Kinect couldn't control it?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Vodafone Shows Up iPhone 4 Earlier Than Expected

Earlier than expected, UK Vodafone subscribers can expect to have their iPhone 4 plans soon enough.
the UK carrier gave the world a quick glimpse of its iPhone 4 pricing today, before promptly removing the data sheets from the ether. Thankfully, a fast-witted reader by the name of Liam Gladdy captured the incriminating data. So heads up UK, you can expect your iPhone 4 very soon

Finally, Microsoft Kinect's Here

There she blows. Microsoft's Kinect (formerly known as Project Natal), real at last. Of course this unit isn't on or doing anything, but it is striking a sexy pose next to some other black Microsoft hardware. Hopefully it'll have an Xbox 360 Slim to hang out with after this keynote is over!

More Pictures from Microsoft's E3 2010 Conference

And also good news for ESPN



Live Pictures From Microsoft's E3 2010 Conference

Pictures of the XBOX 360 playing Call of Duty Black Ops

Courtesy Engadget

The Full Nokia E73 Review

Some two years after its release, there are still plenty of people who'll swear up and down that the E71 is the finest phone Nokia has ever produced -- and for good reason. As a platform, S60 was the product of a simpler time when the smartphone market was dominated not by touchscreens, but by numeric keypads, and the E71 was arguably the last of a string of bona fide successes that Nokia enjoyed in the platform's heyday alongside pioneering handsets like the N82 and N95. Thing is, the E71 was different than those other models in a very important way: it was elegant. Historically, Nokias have typically favored function over form and saved the highest-quality materials for the Vertu line, but the E71 bucked that trend -- it was slim, sexy, chock-full of metal, and curved in all the right places. In fact, to this day, it remains one of the best-looking, best-feeling smartphones ever made.

Customers (and reviewers) made their love for the E71 clear, and Nokia sought to recapture the glory with the introduction of the refined, upgraded E72. For Americans, of course, the biggest problem with the E72 was that you couldn't buy it from a carrier -- and unlike the E71, it never got much traction as an unlocked purchase. That's where the E73 Mode comes into play, a mildly reworked version of the E72 with T-Mobile branding and, of course, support for 3G on T-Mobile's AWS bands. Put bluntly, though, this is still just a warmed-over E71 -- and in 2010, is there a market for that? Let's have a look.

Having been nearly a year since we'd used an E71, we felt right at home the first time we wrapped our hand around the E73 -- it's obvious that Nokia put effort into preserving the magic that made the E71 such a great piece of hardware. For those of you who haven't played with an E71, though, you don't know what that means -- so allow us to wax poetic for a bit. The E73 clocks in at just over 10 millimeters thick, but for some reason, it feels even thinner; that's probably a result of some creative curves along either side of the back, a trick similar to the E71's. The battery cover is a solid piece of metal that looks and feels great, though it has a tendency to smudge and oil up very, very easily, so you'll want to keep a lint-free cloth (or, you know, a shirt sleeve) handy for when you're trying to keep appearances.

The E73 also shares what might be its single most important trait with the E71: rock-solid construction. Nokias -- even modern devices like the N97 and N900 -- have a tendency toward the plastic end of the spectrum, and creaks, squeaks, and wobbles aren't out of the question (the N95 was particularly notorious for feeling a little cheap). That might all change with the N8, but for now, the kind of monocoque shell employed by the E73 is still a bit of a rarity. It feels absolutely fantastic in the hand, perfectly weighted and contoured.

If there was a complaint to be levied against the E71's design, it'd have to be the keyboard; the rows were straight across rather than being curved upwards like most well-regarded portrait QWERTY handsets (BlackBerrys, for instance), and the keys -- while well-contoured -- didn't have quite enough "click" to them. The E73 adds a hint of curve, but the key design and feel remain the same. We're not huge on portrait QWERTY keyboards in general, admittedly -- but whereas we'd be able to get proficient on a BlackBerry Bold within a minute of picking it up, we never stopped regularly making typos on the E73. It wasn't disastrous enough to break the deal, but we do think Nokia could've made some minor changes here that would've helped immensely.

Similarly, the navigation keys above the keyboard are a little weird (albeit for different reasons). This is actually an area where the Mode has taken a small step backward from the E71, because the shortcut keys for Home, Calendar, Address Book, and Mail are no longer delineated. Instead, they share the same piece of plastic as the soft keys and the Send / End buttons, giving the functions far less positive feel than we'd like -- especially since they're mushy, to boot. The center is dominated by the d-pad, a four-way rocking ring with an optical pad in the middle. It seems Nokia got a little too ambitious here with the spec sheet; they should've picked a rocker or an optical pad, not both, because we found the pad uncomfortable to "swipe" when it's surrounded by a raised ring. It's not a huge problem -- we just turned off the optical pad and used the ring the same way you would on an E71 -- but we would've been fine with a properly-designed optical pad alone, too.

The screen is a landscape QVGA unit, a relic of days gone by -- but that's just a reflection of the underlying operating system as much as anything else. Using the E73 is a serious time warp, though it does at least manage to use S60 3.2, a bump up from the Eseries-customized build of 3.1 used on the E71. In practice, that means you'll enjoy some quaint screen transitions (which look pretty awful compared to the transitions on any current Android device or iPhone), a clock and third soft key on many screens, a new gallery app, and other refinements sprinkled throughout. The browser is typical S60 fare, which is to say quite good -- by 2007 standards, anyway -- employing a WebKit rendering engine along with Flash Lite 3.0 support. Sure enough, Engadget's full site, our gold standard for this sort of test, rendered just fine -- but it was painfully slow to complete and actually continued to periodically freeze up while scrolling even after loading had completed (probably Flash's fault, if we had to guess). Indeed, the E73's processor, just like the platform itself, is straight out of yesteryear.

On the bright side, T-Mobile has done a marvelous job of staying hands-off with the E73's software build, leaving it nearly bone stock (compare that to the debacle of AT&T's butchered E71x, for instance). Don't get us wrong, there's quite a bit of software in ROM, but it's actually all stuff you probably would've downloaded anyway, believe it or not -- no, seriously. Stuff like Google Mobile, YouTube, Adobe Reader, QuickOffice, Psiloc's Wireless Presenter, and Ovi Maps with free turn-by-turn nav is all bundled, and about the only two things you'll find with a whiff of T-Mobile influence are TeleNav and access to visual voicemail. Good stuff.

Nokia isn't really playing up the E73's front-facing camera, and it turns out there's a good reason for that. Strangely, this is one place where T-Mobile's ROM customization actually didn't go far enough, because the E73 lets you try to place video calls as though you were connected to a network that supports them (T-Mobile's network -- just like AT&T's -- does not). You do this just as you would on any other modern S60 phone, so it's obvious that someone just forgot to take out this menu item; clicking on it tries to make a call, followed by an error message a couple seconds later. Not a big deal, but it's a little sloppy. What bothers us more is that there's no great way to video call on the phone over Skype or a similar service; Fring is the only viable option that we're aware of, but it's awkward to use and (in our case, anyway) extremely buggy. We'd recommend sticking with voice until Fring gets better -- way, way better -- or another player like Qik gets into the game.

Speaking of the camera, the E73's primary shooter -- a 5 megapixel unit with LED flash -- wasn't half bad, especially considering that the phone is far from a multimedia-centric device. We'd love to have had a dedicated two-position camera key, but in lieu of that, we found autofocus and shutter lag to be pretty minimal. Picture quality was pretty solid, with little noise and a JPEG compression rate high enough to keep visible distortion to a minimum. Macro mode was a bit weak -- we couldn't focus nearly as close as we can on most modern handsets with dedicated macro modes -- but it still gave us an advantage for close-up shots over the standard setting.

As audio quality goes, the Mode's earpiece was crisp and very loud at the maximum setting; the loudspeaker less so, which surprised us considering the large three-hole grill to the left of the camera lens. It's usable in a room with little to moderate noise, but recently, we've noticed a trend toward very loud speakerphones on these devices that can nearly hold their own against traditional desk phones -- and needless to say, the E73 doesn't fall into that category. That might not be a big deal for many potential buyers, but considering the Eseries' traditionally business-heavy leanings, it's more of a consideration than it'd be otherwise.


Unlike T-Mobile's other recent Symbian offering -- the forgettable Nuron -- we're inclined to think that the E73 has earned its keep, and there are people out there for whom this phone legitimately makes sense. Don't get us wrong, anyone coming from a G1, myTouch 3G, iPhone, Pre, or the like is going to be troubled by S60's aged, tired feel, but at the end of the day, this is still a very capable, versatile platform that can do pretty much anything you need it to -- as long as you know how to coax it, you can figure out what software to download, and you've got enough patience to let that geriatric silicon plod along

This Article was originally posted at Engadget

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