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How Target’s Mobile Ecosystem works and how it could Improve

Welcome to Minnesota, Earth – Target Brand department store originating right here in my midwest place of birth, aiming for and achieving a spread across North America like a wildfire – and like any forward thinking place of business, they want to get in on the mobile business to keep their show on the road. Therefor they’ve created Target Mobile Store, or simply “mobile” by Target Brand and powered by Simplexity – this group, if you did not know, only handles online sales of cell phones and wireless service, thus you wont see “SIMPLEXITY” plastered all over the electronics department at your local physical Target location. Inside the store you’ll find an endcap with four devices, a wall full of display units, and several aisles away you’ll find two Apple displays, another aisle containing two Android tablets.

Nearly every single week, you’ll find a new set of devices on sale with a 2-year contract attached on any of the 4 contract-based brands working with the Target brand. All four of the biggest mobile carriers are included, blue, pink, yellow, and red, the lot of them, then Target also carries off-contract devices as well. These off-contract brands (Virgin Mobile, for example) are displayed to the right of the main smartphone wall in a separate section that lets the consumer know that these devices aren’t on par with the main four brands – not necessarily bad for either camp, but they certainly are separate.

The endcap generally holds four smartphones, though if you take a look today you’ll likely find three smartphones and an LTE USB modem from Verizon. At least seven manufacturers of devices are carried by Target, though those working with Android appear to be given the upper hand being shown at the top left of the cellphone collection, with brands like Nokia and BlackBerry being closer to the bottom right. As you browse the physical Target store (as we’ve been speaking about thus far) you’ll find little differentiation between carriers of devices, instead showing all smartphones in a mixed configuration on the whole. The iPhone 4 is featured amongst these Android devices with a slightly different display – note though that none of these smartphones are working units, having instead simple behind-display printed images or nothing at all to show on their screen.

The iPad 2 is prevalently featured one or two aisles in and away from the smartphones. Aside the iPad 2 display is a similar format display showing off several iPod devices. While the iPod display is the same as the iPad 2 display (the original iPad has taken a back seat since the iPad 2 was released, but Target does still sell them online), the iPad 2 display has a working unit playing a display-only in-store demonstration video. Another aisle or two away is a display of two Android tablets with one or both of them having a clear plastic shield over them so that they may not be worked with by customers. This is also true of the iPad 2 and all of the iPods, each of these Apple products being shown behind a large plastic cover.


As far as promoting the Target brand THROUGH Mobile, check out this excerpt from the Target Annual Report 2010 for stock investors:

We are rapidly expanding MOBILE AND WEB SOLUTIONS for our guests, giving them greater convenience by allowing them to shop from just about anywhere in the world. Mobile Commerce Daily named Target “2010 Mobile Retailer of the Year.”

In addition to being able to shop the Target Brand from the internet and have it shipped to your home, you can check out the Target Mobile app for several different platforms now, your Target addiction fully encouraged as the consumer grabs a weekly ad with little to no effort on their part. On this same note, the way the Target on mobile devices method is being promoted to stock investors, reports you’ll find showing only the iPhone and the iPad 2, while online, customers are treated to Apple iOS devices as well as Android in the main promo images.

Designers working for Target are given press images of all of the mobile devices they’ll be working with for advertisements and coupon announcements each week, and all devices are shown in their purest form with the carrier name of each device displayed on their screens — occasionally this rule is broken with a basic press-release-style homescreen shown off instead. On the whole, Target uses straight up Helvetica fonts in several different weights and colors (mostly red and black) to write about all of their products, mobile devices included.


Back in June, yours truly took some issue with the way the two Android tablets, Motorola XOOM and Acer Iconia Tab A500, were being displayed. You can read that story over on Android Community if you wish, but here’s the skinny: these two tablets were out, clamped by metal talons and available for the touching, but were not plugged into power sources of any kind. Thusly they were off, and if a person familiar with either tablet were to tap the power button they’d find that the tablets were either completely or nearly out of power, this resulting in what every Target electronics employee that I’ve spoken with over the past few months has described as little to no sales.

This is no way to promote any piece of gear, much more important is the on-state of these particular gadgets because tablet computing is still relatively new and, though everyone and their mother has likely touched an iPad before, Android tablets were (and still are) mysterious to the public. Since that time, Target has wised up slightly by actually having power cords running to both tablets. They now both show display-only videos – if you’re lucky – though now there are plastic covers over both tablets so that the consumer cannot mess around with the tablet at will. Of course they’ve not taken the time to cover the power buttons again, so any hooligan can turn the tablets off then on again if they wish, revealing a ready-to-use yet inaccessible tablet computer to cry over.

In addition, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 is now available at your local Target location, but you wont find it on display. You can find it down the aisle in the glass-fronted and locked cabinet with the rest of the electronics that, in contrast with the Galaxy Tab, are available for the browsing in the rest of the aisle. How many Galaxy Tab 10.1 units do you think Target has sold in-store? Though they’ve improved their situation with power feeds so that they can be ON during the day, how many XOOM and Iconia Tab A500 units do you think Target sells in-store?

The iPad is a different situation. Though the fault of almost certain lackluster current and future Android tablet sales rest on both the shoulders of the manufacturers as well as Target in this case, Apple has provided the world with much more than adequate incentive for people to purchase an iPad 2 or an iPod of any sort. Apple has promoted the iPad 2 (and the original iPad) not as a tablet computer, but as an iPad. You may have a tablet computer, says society at large, but if you don’t have an iPad, you simply do not have an iPad. The same is and has been true about iPods of all sorts since the beginning. An MP3 player is like wearing a piece of tire as a sandal compared to Apple’s iPod, much closer to a high-quality hightop or otherwise classy footwear – cool and recognizable.



This is the point at which I’m not sure of the logistics of the devices Target is able to display (or not), but the chain being the top-class brand that it is, I have a feeling some weight could be pulled to increase the likelyhood of the following situation. Target, you’ve got all four top carriers willing to show their devices in your store, then in your other hand you’ve got a perfectly legit and well-working Target app for multiple platforms. Why do you not have, first of all, working smartphone units in the aisle like each of the individual carriers do in their mobile stores? Second, why do you not have working units with the Target mobile app running on them?

My only hypothesis can be that Target isn’t making the revenue necessary to make these improvements to their smartphone section of the store, otherwise there’s no good reason why Target can’t pay for the insurance and training necessary to make these mobile devices display and work with the software they’re packaged with run to the fullest. I don’t buy a television from Target unless I see it showing me brilliant images on the wall, I’m certainly not going to buy a smartphone unless I can see it working in my hands at the tap of its display.



Target, you’re not the only retailer in the market that does this. Market, if you want the mobile business to grow at a rate that’s much greater than it is right this moment, you’ve got to show every man, woman, and child how these devices work, and you’ve got to do it at Target. Apple has taken the initiative and has working iOS devices in their Apple-centric stores, Android and the rest of the brands (for the most part) have working devices sitting in all manner of carrier stores, but to reach the everyday midwest-minded citizen, you’ve got to let them explore the devices inside their comfort zone, and their comfort zone is the big red living room: Target.

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How Target’s Mobile Ecosystem works and how it could Improve is written by Chris Burns & originally posted on SlashGear.
© 2005 - 2011, SlashGear. All right reserved.

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To Snark, or Not to Snark

I used to be the kind of guy who would yell at customer service representatives on the phone. I would call up my bank, or my airline, and scream at the person on the other end as if it were his fault that I had accidentally paid my electric bill too early, thus insuring the account had insufficient funds for the next 4 visits to Starbucks. I don’t think I ever ended one of those conversations without threatening to never, ever do business with that company again. I’m sure Delta was quaking in their boots thinking about losing the $389 in ticket sales I generate for them once a year. But somehow, they survived.

[Image credit: Scubaben]

I also used to be a smoker. I smoked the most pretentious smokes of all: clove cigarettes. I can tell you the exact day I stopped. I was hanging out with some friends in lower Manhattan, near Wall street. We were on a smoke break. Well, they were on a smoke break. I had already been laid off from that company, but it’s hard to find friends for a smoke break when you are unemployed, so I would still go and visit them from time to time for a 15 minute puff outside my old office.

"I’ve seen a few disturbing instances of snarky sites beating up on kids recently"

All the office buildings in that part of town are clad in mirrored glass. One day I caught a reflection of myself smoking. It was awful. I looked like an idiot. I looked like a pathetic loser trying to kill himself once drag at a time. I’m a big guy, and the proportion of the giant, hulking frame bent around the tiny, thin cigarette seemed so obviously wrong. I finally saw myself the way I should have seen myself all along, and I stopped there and then. I tossed the rest of the pack on my way home. That was 11 years ago.

I don’t remember the moment I decided to start being nice to customer service reps, but I can tell you that it worked like a charm. Not every time. Often, the rep simply does not have the power to help you. Sometimes, the company is running a blatant scam, and the customer service reps don’t even realize they are caught in the middle, giving contradictory answers. But I can tell you that I have seen and heard reps do magical things when you are nice to them. I have seen store managers at expensive computer shops give a 50% discount to a kind, but downtrodden customer. I have seen 7 consecutive insufficient fund charges reversed at a bank. I have seen airlines . . . okay, airlines don’t budge. But everyone else is cool.

I’ve seen a few disturbing instances of snarky Web sites beating up on kids recently. A Gizmodo editor made a kid cry. Actually, that’s just the headline. There is no evidence in the story that the kid did actually cry. He said “I feel like crying,” but it would not be factually accurate to say he definitely cried. But it is ironic, and very snarky, to write a supposedly apologetic story about how an editor wished he did not make a kid cry, and then exaggerate in the headline to make it seem like the kid’s reaction was more inconsolable than it actually may have been.

"It’s only gadgets, after all"

TechCrunch, on the other hand, now uses social networks for comments. I like this system, because it removes much of the anonymity that can cause commenters to become toxic. Unfortunately, the link between social networks and public Web sites can be vague, which is probably why this kid’s mother used the TechCrunch comments board to ask him to call home. If poor Jeremy thought his mom was blowin’ up his spot, he had no idea what he was in for when it became headline news on the popular tech blog.

Now, let me say that I like both of these Web sites. Tech journalism is competitive at a business level, but on a personal level most tech editors get along very well. We like each other and help each other out all the time. I’ve seen competitors lend each other equipment to help them cover the exact same event. Heck, I lent Vincent Nguyen, who is a SlashGear partner, my laptop power cord at an event when I was working for a competitor. I could have refrained and hoped that his site lost its chance for coverage, but that’s not what we’re all about. It’s only gadgets, after all. If we’re not having a good time, we’re definitely missing the point.

I even like the snarky tone, from time to time. Tone is a way that Web sites covering the exact same information from the same sources can differentiate themselves. If you want snark, you know where to go (and it probably isn’t here).

But here’s the thing. Snark by itself isn’t funny. It’s just mean. Snark is a combination of the words “snide” and “remark.” Snide means derogatory or mocking, in an indirect way. So, like I said, it’s mean. If your writing is only snarky, you won’t be successful with your audience, in the same way that screaming on the phone at a customer service representative won’t get your flight changed (seriously, American Airlines, did you think I meant to book a 1 AM flight with a 2-year old?). But snark can be used to great comic effect.

I have a dark, sardonic sense of humor, but it works. It works because deep down, I’m really a nice, open-minded, peaceful guy. I love everybody. I don’t want to see anyone hurt. So, when I make a joke about killing my parents, it’s funny because it is so out of character. It’s me doing an impression of someone who is completely awful. It’s me voicing the darkest thoughts in my head, which is funny because even the nicest amongst us has the same dark thoughts. I’m sure the Dalai Lama thinks about killing my parents, too (he would if he knew them {zing!}). It’s funny because comedy, and irony, are about springing upon your audience the unexpected.

But, every once in a while, I have to take a step back and realize that humor isn’t always the best way to handle a situation, especially when my humor is snarky or sarcastic. Believe me, I learned the hard way. I’ve learned that when you are talking to friends about cancer, or attending a funeral, even though it is impossible to mute the twisted thoughts that pop into your head, it is easy to keep those thoughts from spilling out. The same is true when dealing with kids.

"You know what would have been a better story? A success"

Kids are like microcosmic adults, amplified. A kid lives ten years for every year of adult life. A kid feels emotional joy and anguish over and over again, instead of recalibrating to the same old blase that we all, um, enjoy. Kids are still developing, inside and out. They are still learning the rules. They do this by testing boundaries, and then pulling back when they have gone too far.

The Gizmodo story about making a kid cry was interesting, maybe even a little funny, especially to those of us on one or the other side of the PR / Journalist game (and I’ve been on both). But you know what would have been a better story? A success. A story about teaching that kid how the game is played, and then a follow-up on how well his app is doing, or what he learned from its eventual flop.

The TechCrunch story started with a tweet, and that was probably enough. Put the incident in front of a few thousand people, instead of a few million. Some kids can laugh off the foibles of their parents, but for some, those problems fester in their minds and hurt not only their relationship, but also their psyche as they become adults. It’s funny to see a parent make a mistake with technology. Follow @oldmansearch on Twitter and thank me later. But embarassing the kid for it? That might be going too far.

I hope these sites continue with the snark that gives them their voice. But occasionally, I hope they also take a step back and see themselves reflected in the windows of the giant buildings all around them. It’s only technology, after all. If we’re not having a good time, we’re definitely missing the point.

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To Snark, or Not to Snark is written by Philip Berne & originally posted on SlashGear.
© 2005 - 2011, SlashGear. All right reserved.

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Sonic the Hedgehog Coming to Android, iOS, Xbox 360, PlayStation, and MORE!

It appears that the strangest of all Sonic the Hedgehog titles: Sonic CD, will be the first title to grace the gears of Android, iOS, Xbox 360, PlayStation Network, Windows PC, and Windows Phone soon. While we’re certainly excited that everyone’s favorite hedgehog will be coming to a whole mess of platforms, we’ve got to jump back at the idea that it wasn’t Sonic and Knuckles, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, or even Sonic Adventure that came out first, we’re glad that at least one of the THIRTY Sonic the Hedgehog titles will make its way to every single one of our favorite platforms – we can play anywhere!

While the fact that this game is being re-configured for our modern world of mobile would be good enough news as it is, there’s also news that the “Japanese soundtrack” will be included in the release. Whether this just means it’ll come with downloads for PC and consoles OR if it means it’ll come in a package download for iOS, Windows Phone, and Android too is still a mystery – app bonuses? We’d love that!

This game includes such fan favorite characters as Amy Rose, Sonic, and of course the alter-ego of our hero: Metal Sonic – blast through enemies with the greatest of ease until you grab victory with a duck and zoom action! This entire game has been re-mastered for our updated consoles and platforms across the board, yet each level is made up of all of its original components. The original storyline remains in tact as well, as Sonic CD finds the evil Dr Eggman attempt to steal the Time Stones from the Little Planet – Sonic must beat down enemies all along his path as he attempts to recover the Time Stones and save his lady Amy Rose from the uniquely hardcore Metal Sonic.

Special iOS features, Xbox LIVE Achievements, PSN Trophies, PC Achievements and more will be included in this special release. Looking forward to its drop on all systems soon!

Original intro below:

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Sonic the Hedgehog Coming to Android, iOS, Xbox 360, PlayStation, and MORE! is written by Chris Burns & originally posted on SlashGear.
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iPod Touch White Next Generation Device Parts Photos Appear

It would seem that as Apple is certainly one of the most ravenously sought-after brands in the world, their under-wraps projects have one of the hardest times staying completely hidden. Case in point: the newest version of the iPod Touch. What we’re being told here is that the folks at iFixDirect have gotten their hands on a couple of pieces of the 5th generation of iPod Touch, this one showing a color change to reflect what we’ve seen in the most recent generation of iPhones (that being WHITE, of course,) and otherwise not not much else on the surface.

It would be a rare occasion indeed if Apple did end up changing one of their most successful versions of the digital music and apps player, especially since all rumors leading up to this point tell a story of only hardware changes, nothing much doing on the inside. The white coloration would of course follow as the newest generations iPhone and iPad have both offered a white choice aside their classic black, and it does appear that the 4-inch display remains the same size.

What we’re almost certain to see here is a sort of silent release of this color device as the iPhone 4S or iPhone 5 releases this Autumn in a massive display, whatever it ends up being in the end. We’re expecting the iPod Touch to last for some time now even though Apple’s mobile operating system has clearly been more successful on their iPad and iPhone lines. Whether or not the white color is meant to increase sales for this upcoming season is certainly a moot point, though a possibly upgrade to an A5 chip, as we’re expecting in the next generation if iPhones, may not be out of line.

[via AppleInsider]

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iPod Touch White Next Generation Device Parts Photos Appear is written by Chris Burns & originally posted on SlashGear.
© 2005 - 2011, SlashGear. All right reserved.

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Samsung Galaxy S II LTE and Galaxy Tab 8.9 LTE Made Official Today

After weeks of hypothesizing, days of great guessing, and minutes of clicking alerts from Samsung, we’ve got it officially: IFA 2011 will be the home of Samsung’s new Galaxy S II LTE as well as their brand new Galaxy Tab 8.9, also with LTE. While we’d guessed that the Galaxy S II might make an appearance at the event, we’d not yet officially heard that the Galaxy Tab 8.9 would be present – now we’re sure and wow! LTE as well!

Confirmed as well is this new Galaxy S II’s ability to work with LTE / WCDMA / GSM multi-mode. This means that even MORE people around the world can roll out with one of the quickest selling Android devices of all time. The Galaxy S II LTE is set to launch formally on September 2nd, 2011 at IFA 2011 in Berlin. Note also that we’ll be there in Germany to give you the full scoop on all devices released by Samsung and beyond!

Next we find that not only is this Galaxy S II enhanced in its ability to connect, it’s enhanced in its display as well: a 4.5-inch Super AMOLED Plus display will be blasting your eye sockets from here to next year. Its processor is enhanced as well! Now at 1.5GHz and dual-core strong, you wont find another handset with such instant GHz our of the box. Also under the hood is a massive 1850mAh battery so you’ll be charging only once every couple of days (probably,) NFC for tag scanning, an 8-megapixel camera on the back, and more!

Next there’s the Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9, the new mid-sized Galaxy Tab from Samsung, this time with LTE right out of the gate. We already know of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 Wi-Fi and the Galaxy Tab 10.1 LTE (already carried by Verizon,) and Samsung’s original Galaxy Tab 7 which came out quite a few months ago, now we’ve got the mamma bear: an 8.9 inch display at 1280 x 800 pixel resolution, 8.6mm thick and 455g in weight, plus a 1.5GHz dual-core processor inside. This device is set to formally launch on the 29th of August (tomorrow, that is.)


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Samsung Galaxy S II LTE and Galaxy Tab 8.9 LTE Made Official Today is written by Chris Burns & originally posted on SlashGear.
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GameStop tries to Make it Right with “Coupon-Gate” Customers

Not even a week has passed since some heavy controversy surrounding GameStop and “Coupon-Gate” and they’re already aiming to patch things up with customers with a coupon and a gift card – nice of them, yes? It was less than a week ago that Gamestop discovered one of the PC games they’d been carrying, “Deus Ex: Human Revolution”, had inside its box a coupon for OnLive, one of GameStop’s newest competitors. What ensued was a series of actions that, in the end, (or at least we hope this is the end,) had GameStop apologizing to their customers and offering them both a $50 gift card and a Buy Two, Get One Free used game purchase coupon. Will this be enough?

What happened was that when GameStop discovered the OnLive coupon in the boxes for the PC game in question, they ordered employees to open all boxes and remove the coupon before they were sold. OnLive is a service that’ll soon be competing with GameStop’s own similar streaming gaming project. This resulted in a sort of gamer uproar amongst those who’d purchased the game and would have loved to have used the coupon. The developers of the Deus Ex game took some of the responsibility for not having told GameStop that they’d be including this competitor’s coupon in their game’s boxes, agreeing to take back unsold copies to remove coupons (then re-ship them back re-sealed, we can only assume.)

Now comes the next step, a move which GameStop hopes will help users gain back any trust they lost in the company during this whole evil affair. In this email (text included below) you’ll find the coupon information – note that it is customers that purchased the game via the online GameStop store as well as those who are members of the chain’s Power Up Rewards card program.

Dear GameStop customer,

Earlier this week, GameStop removed a competitor’s coupon from standard edition PC versions of Deus Ex: Human Revolution, a recent release by Square Enix. We were not aware that the product box would contain this competitor’s offer. We regret the events surrounding this title release and that our customers were put in the middle of this issue between GameStop and Square Enix, the publisher of this game. And for this, we are truly sorry.

For your inconvenience, we would like to offer you a free $50 GameStop gift card and a Buy 2 Get 1 Free pre-owned purchase. We want to earn back your trust and confidence in the GameStop experience. Please bring in this email and your store receipt or order confirmation from and present it to a Game Advisor.

Paul Raines
CEO, GameStop

We can only assume that this offer will be good for anyone who purchased the standard edition of the game, but only a visit to the store you purchased the game from with the receipt from the game will let you know for sure.

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GameStop tries to Make it Right with “Coupon-Gate” Customers is written by Chris Burns & originally posted on SlashGear.
© 2005 - 2011, SlashGear. All right reserved.

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