European standards groups agree on micro-USB


Two European standardization bodies have agreed to make micro-USB the standard interface port for smartphones in Europe.

Though Apple currently uses its proprietary 30-pin dock connector for transferring data and charging its
iPad, and iPods, CEN-CENELEC and ETSI announced yesterday they have agreed that an adapter is suitable for compliance.

The commission “made available the harmonized standards needed for the manufacture of data-enabled mobile phones compatible with a new common charger. This is the most recent development in the process toward a global common mobile phone charger initiated by the European Commission.”

Apple, along with mobile phone competitors RIM, Nokia, LGE, Qualcomm, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, and others are hoping to streamline mobile phone connectivity, at least as it relates to charging devices.

Said European Commission Vice-President Antonio Tajani, “The common charger will make life easier for consumers, reduce waste, and benefit businesses. It is a true win-win situation.”

With reports of Apple’s iPad receiving a USB port and speculation that yet another redesign of the iPhone for its fifth revision, due to widely reported issues with its antenna, is forthcoming, could this agreement signal the decline of the 30-pin dock connector?

Certainly the iPhone, iPad, and
iPod dock accessory industry is hoping that’s not the case. The more likely bet is that Apple will include, at least for now, a 30-pin dock connector-to-micro-USB adapter for European models of its mobile devices.

Should Apple abandon the 30-pin dock connector in favor of micro-USB? Why or why not? Let me know in the comments.

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Sync your ride from your phone

Fords new app give you real-time traffic information for up to 25 stored destinations.

Ford’s new app give you real-time traffic information for up to 25 stored destinations.


Ford released a free mobile app that gives drivers access to some of Sync’s travel features even when they’re not in the

The Ford Sync Destinations app is like a mobile version of the Travel Destination and Information (TDI) service available on Sync-equipped autos. The service, which is free for the first three years, provides turn-by-turn directions, traffic incidents, travel time to destinations, and other information.

Using the new app, drivers of 2010 and 2011 Sync-equipped cars will have that same information on their mobile device. In fact, the app is arguably better than what’s available in the car because it will show real-time traffic and route information for up to 25 stored destinations at once. However, it’s no substitute for the real thing–the app will automatically disable itself if it detects that the user is traveling at more than 5 mph, so you’ll still need to use Sync Services TDI while you’re in your ride.

But the app also solves another problem–it enables drivers to send destination addresses and directions from their phones to their car, even when they’re nowhere near them.

Last July, Google added a “Send to Car” button on Google Maps that enabled drivers to send destinations and custom routes to their car, including Sync-equipped vehicles. However, Google mysteriously deleted that functionality from its apps, and it’s now only available on the browser. This means that you could only use this feature if you’re planning well in advance from a computer and not if you’re already on the go.

Ford’s new app is a sort of workaround for that lost feature, and it also adds functionality. In addition to directions and estimated travel times, the app uses information provided by INRIX to provide estimates on how travel times will change depending on when you leave. And although I haven’t tried it, Ford says you can add destinations to the app using the device’s address book or through local business searches, although the carmaker didn’t say which search tools will work.

The downloadable app is available for
iPad, and Android devices, and you use your Sync account credentials to activate it. A BlackBerry app is also being developed, but is not yet available.

Ford Sync Destination uses INRIX to show estimated travel times that change depending on when you plan to leave.

Ford Sync Destination uses INRIX to show estimated travel times that change depending on when you plan to leave.


The new app is available for iPhone, iPad, and Android devices, and can show traffic incidents along a route. A BlackBerry app is being developed.

The new app is available for iPhone, iPad, and Android devices, and can show traffic incidents along a route. A BlackBerry app is being developed.


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Skype for iPhone adds two-way video calling

Skype for iPhone with two-way video calling

Two-way video chatting: it’s here.


The word you’re looking for is “finally.” As in, “Oh look, Skype has finally stepped up to the competition by adding two-way video chatting to its VoIP
iPhone app!” Indeed, this anticipated addition is one for which Skype-watchers and users have been thirsting since Fring’s two-way video calling app nosed into the iPhone app store this past July, following Apple’s introduction of its own Face Time video chatting software. But more on that later.

What iPhone users worldwide first need to know is that starting today, an update to the free Skype for iPhone will start being seen in the App Store. The global roll-out may take some time, so be patient if you don’t find it immediately.

The app contains many of the features you’d expect. You can use either 3G or Wi-Fi to place two-way video calls, and the technology works in both portrait and landscape modes. You can mute a call, place or answer a call with just audio or with audio and video, and swap between the front-facing or rear-facing cameras. The Skype for iPhone app retains its auxiliary features as well, like instant messenger and SMS to chat with friends before, after, or during a call; and status message updates. There’s also a history tab for reviewing recent communications with members of your buddy list.

As with the recently-released ooVoo Mobile (for Android,) Skype for iPhone will work for anyone on Skype’s network, be they desktop or mobile users. While you can only broadcast video on on Apple devices with rear-facing or front-facing cameras–namely the iPhone 4, iPod Touch 4, and iPhone 3GS, you can also receive incoming video broadcasts on the
iPad and third-generation
iPod Touch. As an extra bonus, desktop Skype users (Windows|Mac) can share a view of their computer screen with Skype users on iPhone.

Skype’s video calling on iPhone (photos)

While many have hammered Skype for being slow to develop this feature (us, included,) Skype’s timing is certainly salient. Its two-way video calling app is rolling out in time for cross-continental New Year’s Eve calls, but before the relentless noise of next week’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES). This gives Skype a head start on news that otherwise may have been swallowed up in the flood of flashy gadgets. Nevertheless, Skype does have a press conference schedules for CES, during which time we may see Skype’s two-way video calling come to select Android phones–we’ll guess the Samsung Epic 4G and HTC Evo for a start, along with any other Android phones that may come out of the show.

We’ve been waiting for Skype to release mobile video chat for a long time. One of the founding members of VoIP video calls should have also been the leader in bringing the technology to mobile phones. However, since the first murmurs of this type began, Skype has pointed to technical challenges in getting acceptable video quality to work over 3G to its millions of global users (124 million per month, according to the company). Since Skype certainly wasn’t the first non-Apple player; it’ll have to win market share by being the best. Or at least by being better than Fring, ooVoo Mobile, Qik, and others.

We’ll soon follow up with a hands-on review of Skype’s to see just how well Skype has tackled these issues with two-way video calling. In the meantime, here’s one last word from the sponsor. Skype is claiming frame rates of 12 frames per second when sending a video stream and 15 frames per second to receive a video; all while over 3G.

If you get a chance to download and use Skype’s two-way video calling on iPhone, tell us what you think.

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HTC Evo Shift 4G could get Jan. 9 release

Android Central)

Seeing that it’s already received the FCC’s blessing, the HTC Evo Shift 4G is hardly a secret, but in the days leading up to the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show more details are leaking out about the Andorid smartphone.

Android Central yesterday intercepted an upcoming Radio Shack newspaper ad that points to a Sunday, January 9, release date for the Evo Shift 4G. You don’t need a calendar to know that such a date makes sense. It’s the last day of CES, after all, which would give HTC and Sprint the time to formally announce the handset in Las Vegas. According to the ad, the listed price will be $149.99, which is about what we’d expect.

From the outside, the Evo Shift 4G looks not unlike Sprint’s original Evo 4G, though it should add a sliding physical keyboard. We’re still in the dark regarding the device’s specs, but we expect it to include at least an 800MHz processor, 512MB RAM, and a 5-megapixel camera.

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Kia to show KV7 concept at Detroit auto show

Kia Motor Corp.)

Last year Kia showed us how to roll, with hamsters in the commercials for its Soul subcompact.

Now, it hopes to turn heads with its newest model at the 2011 North American International Auto Show in Detroit next month. The Korean automaker last week released a photo and a few details in a two-sentence press release about the KV7 concept.

The KV7 isn’t just another boxy crossover. The company said it will make a “dramatic design statement” with gull-wing rear doors and hardwood floors.

Now, what little critters will be hawking the KV7, if the model makes it to full production? I’m thinking sugar gliders.

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Hands-on with Ford’s Sync AppLink and Pandora

Last week, Ford vehicles gained the ability to voice control apps on a paired smartphone through AppLink, part of a 4.0 update to its SYNC mobile connectivity package. This week, we found ourselves once again behind the wheel of the 2011 Ford Fiesta, the first Ford vehicle to gain the AppLink software, so we decided to stretch its new digital legs with the Pandora Internet radio app, the first application to tout AppLink compatibility.

Before we could start barking voice command orders to our paired phone, we had to first update the vehicle’s firmware through Ford’s Sync My Ride Web site with the help of a USB storage device. The update process–illustrated in the video above–was quick, mostly painless, and only involved rebooting the vehicle once.

With the new software in place, we Bluetooth paired the Fiesta and our Motorola Droid, started the Pandora app, and hit the road. The AppLink-enabled vehicle and application worked well together. We were able to tune to our custom Pandora stations by simply saying, for example, “Play station, Gorillaz Radio.” Other voice activated functions included skipping a track, assigning a thumbs up or down to the currently playing song, getting artist or song information, and creating a new station based on the currently playing song or artist. There’s not much that one could manually do with the Pandora app that can’t now be safely controlled through Sync via voice command.

In addition to voice commands, the AppLink function also gave us steering wheel controls for quickly skipping a song or assigning a thumbs up or down. The Fiesta’s small, monochromatic LCD also displayed the title and artist of the currently playing song, eliminating many of the “who’s that?” moments associated with listening to potentially new music.

By now, you’ve no doubt checked out the video above to see the Sync AppLink function in action. If not, then go ahead and hit Play. Pandora Internet Radio is one of two apps–the other being OpenBeak–that support the Sync AppLink service on
iPhone, BlackBerry, and Android handsets. In the coming year we can expect this functionality to spread to other Ford Sync enabled vehicles, along with a wider variety of applications.

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