Verizon finally adds iPhone and more…

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Verizon announced its long awaited support for the iPhone. For the most part,the device and its features look the same whether you get them for AT&T or Verizon, but there’s one cool exception — Verizon says users will be able to turn their phones into five-person hot spots.

The idea is to turn your phone into the equivalent of a MiFi device, — personal WiFi networks that you carry around with you. No more struggling to find free WiFi, and it’s arguably an improvement on MiFi devices, since you don’t have to carry around an extra device. (In VentureBeat’s case, we try to work on-the-go by connecting my Verizon 3G modem to Owen Thomas’ MiFi device — now we’ll just make sure there’s someone with a Verizon iPhone in the car.)

Verizon hasn’t released any details about how much it will cost or how it will work. I don’t know, for example, how long we’ll be able to run the WiFi feature without completely draining the iPhone’s battery. But if Verizon can make this work in even a halfway decent fashion, that should give it bragging rights over AT&T, which struggled to support connecting one computer to the Internet via iPhone tethering.

Update: Here is a video of the Personal Hotspot in action.

Quicksilver’s New Flagship Store in Tokyo

Sairis Group and Activate team up to deliver an exciting new Quicksilver branded mobile game for the launch of Quicksilver’s new flagship store in Tokyo. The Quicksilver surfing game uses the latest patented Mobiactions mobile interactive video and voice response (IVVR) technology where users can “dial in” and immediately be immersed in a surfing game where they can move around on the wave and pick up prizes using their phone keypad.
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“With the advent of advertising in mobile games, consumers are now interacting with brands in a more engaging and meaningful way – something which youth marketers have found it increasingly tricky to do.” says Tim Smith of Sairis Group.

“Now we can enable advertisers like Quicksilver to engage consumers in a new and exciting manner, giving the consumer a unique and fun experience whilst at the same time the brand is remembered as an entertaining innovator”.

“In terms of memorability and value of experience this branded gaming concept far outranks simple web based, IM or SMS promotions.” says Gerald Gentemann of Activate.

“It is a totally non-invasive method of engagement, and we can provide a brand with an interactive experience that their consumer chooses to partake in. With over 100 million mobile phone users in Japan alone, we provide a key touch-point for a brand and literally put them in the hands of their target consumer.” says Tyron Giuliani, co-founder of Activate K.K.

The MobiActions patented platform seamlessly integrates synchronous call-to-action based game play, providing high levels of customer-brand engagement across multiple channels including mobile, PC and in-store. The experience is 100% “in call” and requires no downloads or additional applications on the handset.

The platform may be extended across any number of media, thus providing a 360 degree approach to brand campaigns. Users may experience the action on PC, mobile and in-store. At each point of contact usage statistics are gathered.

MobiActions also provides incentives to the customer since the ‘wins’ may be easily converted to in-store premiums. This makes it an ideal platform to enhance any loyalty or premium marketing program.

Mobiactions is built around specially integrated components and features the VEEDIA® Flash Gateway as one of the core systems. Sairis Group is an authorized reseller for VEEDIA® in Asia and Oceania.

The VEEDIA® The Flash 3G Video Gateway is a platform that permits mobile users to access Adobe Flash-based web applications with video and multimedia content by simply placing a standard video call from any 3G or SIP device. This means users can access live streaming webcams, pre-recorded and interactive video, games, animations and more. No WAP portal or installation is necessary.

More iPhone Hype! But Now I Too Have Fallen for It

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The killer app for the iPhone is actually the iTunes App Store.

Five months after Apple launched its online emporium, I believe it even more, my friends nd colleagues having downloaded a gaggle of programs, including some that transform the iPhone 3G into a harmonica, metric system converter and level.

There are now more than 10,000 of these applications for the original iPhone, its 3G successor and in most cases, for the iPod Touch. Many are free.

Because of the drain on the battery, Apple still won’t let developers produce apps that run in the background. So forget about listening to Internet radio while checking e-mail for now. The market is also waiting on an app that will let you shoot video.

That said, exploring the App Store on your handheld or via computer is a delight, and you can rely on fellow users for reviews. Some of my favorites:

Listening to radio. There’s a reason Pandora has emerged as the most popular free iPhone application. Type a song or artist’s name, and Pandora creates an instant radio station inspired by your selection, same as on a PC or Mac. Fine-tune stations by indicating whether you like what’s being played. In some cases, you can buy the music you hear through iTunes.

The iPhone, of course, functions as an iPod. But your storage is limited. If you have gobs of music on your computer, consider Simplify Media. The $3.99 program lets you stream (most of) your music collection and that of up to 30 friends.

Setup is simple, and though music sometimes is slow to start up, it sounds good. (It works on Wi-Fi, 3G or pokier Edge networks.) You can view song lyrics and artist bios. But Simplify can’t remotely play iTunes purchases that are DRM or copy protected.

How often have you heard a song on the radio or in a club but didn’t know its name? Hold the iPhone up to the radio, and let the free Shazam app identify the tune, usually within 20 seconds. Shazam doesn’t get it right every time. But it correctly tagged material as varied as Come On Over from Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan and Corcovado from Astrud Gilberto.

Making music. Smule’s addictive 99-cent Ocarina turns the iPhone into the ancient flute-like instrument. You softly blow into the iPhone’s microphone and play notes by pressing and holding your fingers over any of four virtual on-screen holes. There are 16 possible combinations, and you can alter the sound by tilting the phone. There’s even “sheet music” on Smule’s website to play anything from Over the Rainbow to If I Were a Rich Man. Ocarina is social. Tap a globe icon to rate performances from users around the world. They, in turn, can show you the love.

Or try developer Benjamin McDowell’s Harmonica app, also 99 cents. Sure, it’s odd putting your mouth on the screen. Fortunately, you can also play with fingers.

Diversions. Many have enjoyed racing games that take advantage of the iPhone motion sensor, including Vivendi’s Crash BandicootNitro Kart 3D ($5.99) and Pangea’s Cro-Mag Rally ($1.99). Glu Mobile’s recent release of a 3D marble puzzle called Bonsai Blast ($3.99) is also good.

But as a casual gamer, I gravitate to titles such as Brain Toot (99 cents), which serves up vision, memory and other mind exercises. In one, while being timed, you must pick out the highest or lowest numbers from a series of numbers shown.

Semi Secret Software’s $1.99 Wurdle is a wordsmith’s addiction, kind of like Boggle on the iPhone. Against the clock, trace your finger across a letter-filled board to spot as many words as possible.

Handy to have around. Want to convert kilometers to miles? Celsius to Fahrenheit? Fetch currency rates? Western ITS Limited’s simple a2z Pro Unit Converter is free and a boon to folks who travel overseas.

The iPhone lacks a voice recorder. The 99-cent Retronyms Recorder adds the capability. There are a few ways to save recordings to a PC or Mac. You can e-mail a link or sync up recordings via Wi-Fi to listen in iTunes or another player.

Worried about adverse reactions? The free Epocrates Rx database can clue you in. You’ll grapple with medical jargon, since Epocrates is aimed at health care pros. But the app can enlighten you about the drugs family members swallow. And if you’ve got a loose pill lying around, you might be able to identify it by entering its color, shape and other characteristics.

Looking for a new place to eat? Urbanspoon helps find restaurants near your GPS location. Shake the phone to spin three wheels, one representing neighborhood, the second, a food type, and the third, price. When the wheels stop, you’ve landed on a random listing with an eatery’s phone number, address and reviews. The app is free.

Rather dine at home? The 99-cent Grocery IQ shopping list might help you bag the right ingredients. It has a 130,000-item database, right down to brand-name peanut butter, pretzels and pasta. You can choose quantities and sizes, and check everything off as you patrol the supermarket aisles. Or e-mail your list to whoever is shopping for you.
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The free Google Mobile App has direct links to popular Google programs, including your Docs, News, Maps and location-aware search. Google also can search your phone’s contacts, calendars and so on. The gee-whiz feature is Voice Search. Hold the phone up to your ear and bark out a query. Results aren’t perfect. Google recognized a search for “child-friendly restaurants” as “cadence-friendly.”

As part of its free app, Amazon is experimenting with an interesting feature called Amazon Remembers. You snap a picture of a product with the iPhone camera; photos are stored at the Amazon site. Amazon will try to find a similar product for sale on the Web, even at rival sites.

Need help hanging a picture? PosiMotion’s 99-cent A Level utility works in landscape, portrait or face-up mode. As with a real spirit level, you try to position the iPhone so the bubble is aligned in the center of the screen.

Talk about not being on the level. You’re on a blind date that’s soured and are dying for an excuse to bolt. The aptly named 99-cent Fake Calls app from Magic Tap is your ticket outta there. You can select the time a fake call will come in, customize the “caller’s” picture and choose a ring tone. You’ll have to devise your own excuse for making an exit.

I heard that soon there will be a US$99 version!
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“White Space”

You’ve heard of Wi-Fi, WiMax and 3G wireless technologies. Add another oddly named wireless creation to the list: white space. White space is industry lingo for the unused airwaves that abut TV spectrum and provide a buffer from stray signals and other interference.
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On Tuesday, the Federal Communications Commission is scheduled to vote on a measure that would make white space available for wireless broadband. Under the proposal, these airwaves would be treated like Wi-Fi — unlicensed and free to everybody.

“It will be like the Wi-Fi you get at Starbucks, only a lot better,” says FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, who first proposed the idea four years ago. The FCC’s goal: to serve the expanding broadband needs of U.S. consumers.

“We are trying to make sure we’re using this spectrum in the most efficient way possible,” Martin says.

Activate Brings Real Interactivity to Mobile

This is only a test using simple flash animation but imagine playing a video game using your mobile phone on a LED screen in the city or even the screen at a movie theater before the main feature…I will share more with you later but this tech takes your mobile phone to a whole new level.

Apple’s 3G Instruction Video an Advertisement?

One of the most talked-about aspects of the Apple iPhone 3G is an approximately half-hour instructional video on Apple.com that lovingly details each new feature and function. But if you really think about it, it’s a 30-minute advertisement, said Charles Golvin, principal analyst at Forrester Research.
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“Even though it’s educational and you’re giving people an experience, it’s this really sort of deep immersion in Apple’s brand and approach and there’s huge value in that. How often do you get more than a minute of customers’ undivided attention?” Golvin asked.

The educational strategy is not the first time the company has done this, but it’s the longest tutorial to date for Apple.

The biggest takeaway may be in how effective it is at building interaction and engagement with customers who are either preparing to buy or are thinking about it.

“Anytime you have advanced technology it’s important to help consumers understand how to use it and the benefits you get from it. And I think this will be an important tool moving forward,” said Josh Martin, senior analyst within the media and entertainment unit at The Yankee Group.