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Apple Retail Will Be the Last Tech Stores Standing (And That’s OK)

When I think back over the years, I can remember countless technology-focused brick-and-mortar stores I enjoyed shopping at. From CompUSA to Circuit City to the ridiculous number of other stores that came and went, there was a time when a large portion of my life was spent shopping in the brick-and-mortar.

[Image credit: Trey Ratcliff]

Nowadays, there’s only one brick-and-mortar electronics store I visit on a regular basis: the Apple Store. As for Best Buy? Well, I see no reason to go there, and judging by the company’s recent disappointing quarters, it appears many folks agree.

But I’ll take it one step further. At some point in the next several years, Best Buy will fail just as the many companies that came before it have. And Apple Stores will be the only electronics store left standing.

Now, I’m sure there are some of you who will say that retailers like Best Buy need to exist. You might reason that many folks still need to head to retail stores to research products or get accessories when in a pinch. But with Amazon and others shipping products to homes in just a day and the ability to return those products without any financial recourse, I’m not so sure I agree with that logic.

Others might question why I believe Apple Stores will succeed where other companies are destined to fail. It’s simple: Apple’s retail stores offer a different, more-rewarding experience.

Whenever you go to an Apple Store, you’re immediately welcomed to a different environment. You have the ability to surf the Web, check your e-mail, or quickly charge your iPhone without worry of the salespeople stopping you. And if at that point you decide to walk out the door without even considering buying something, that’s just fine.

"Apple’s stores are about an experience – not just shopping"

What’s more, the stores double as technical support locations, educational areas for those who are new to Apple products, and even fun places to bring the kids to try out the iPod Touch. Apple’s stores are about an experience — not just shopping.

Beyond that, I think Apple’s success will only further the company’s chances of succeeding in the brick-and-mortar. Consumers want to use the firm’s products, and they want to try them out as soon as they’re announced. There’s also a camaraderie that develops each year when consumers wait in line for hours just to be among the first people to have an iPhone or iPad.

Apple’s stores are, well, special.

So, as the chorus of critics who say that brick-and-mortar electronics stores will eventually die grows louder, it’s important to point out that Apple won’t be one of the victims.

You cay say what you want about Apple and what its current success represents to the industry, but if there’s one thing you can’t say about the iPhone maker, it’s that it doesn’t understand retail. As the last few years have shown, Apple understands it quite well. And the company will for the foreseeable future.

Apple Retail Will Be the Last Tech Stores Standing (And That’s OK) is written by Don Reisinger & originally posted on SlashGear.
© 2005 - 2012, SlashGear. All right reserved.

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iPhone 4S Up Close and Personal: Hardware

In this chapter of our “I’m switching to iPhone 4S for a week” experiment, we’ll be taking an up close look at the hardware that makes up the iPhone 4S. When I say up close, I mean macro photography close – so close you can see the tiny specs of dust and micro-grooves in the metal close. What you’re about to see will prove to you, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that the iPhone 4S is not just another smartphone, not just another hunk of plastic, metal, and glass that so many manufacturers toss out on what seems to almost be a weekly basis – the iPhone 4S is a precision built gadget masterpiece.

This smartphone came into my hands more than once before this week began, the iPhone 4 model being essentially the same I can safely say that I’ve seen and played around with this particular iPhone iteration in the past. This week represents your humble narrator’s first real extended hands-on look at the iPhone 4S. Here we’re looking at the device so close that the human eye wouldn’t likely have picked up such a collection of nuances. To get this close to a device is to know it all too well, and not many devices would hold up to such scrutiny.

At the top of the device is the power button, also functioning as the lock button when you’d like to shut the display off without powering the device down entirely. This button is one of several that sticks above the fold, just enough that you’re able to feel it with your finger to activate or de-activate your phone with ease. Similarly the two volume buttons and the screen orientation lock/volume lock switch are raised about the metal surrounding the device at precisely the same level. The volume buttons are marked with as simple a set of icons as possible: one + and one -, while the volume lock/screen orientation lock is marked only when activated by a small orange embedded mark.

The power button on the front of the device is depressed so that it allows your thumb to move into it with ease, and pressing the button does not reveal any open spaces even though it does remain a physical, moving piece of the machine. The square here remains another one of the simplest marks in the mobile world, a rounded-corner nondescript shape which signifies a return to the source from wherever you are in the device’s interface.

Near the home button at the bottom of the device is the Apple connector port in the middle of two screws and two speaker grills. These grills are below the surface of the metal and, along with the port for the Apple connector, are amongst the biggest dust-attractors on the device. These areas are ripe for collecting the nastiest bits of grime from your pocket and make a great case for picking up a cover for your device lest its beauty be lost to your own daily use of it. The close-up shots you see in this post were taken after I did a basic cleaning of the whole device – getting rid of the entirety of the dust on this device is essentially impossible.

The glass on the front and the back of the device is not just a flat piece cut in one – it’s got curves around its corners, rounded edges around their entirety, and have an added bump and platform before they go flat. This device is the first to take the number one flag away from my favorite glass treatment on a device of all time: the LG G2X. The curves on the glass of that device are nice, here the precision is completely unmatched.

The back of the device has the Apple logo, some information on the design and model, and all of it sits below the glass in reflective chrome printing so that it’ll never, ever get worn off. Also below the glass is the camera’s flash, and surrounded by a tiny silver ring next to the flash is another individually cut piece of glass in front of the camera. The camera itself is highly visible even without a macro view – but take a look at that perfect set of rings!

Up top of the device where we began this journey you’ll find one microphone hole and one headphone jack. When you get in close enough to see the details in the rings, you’ll find that each hole has been cut with tools so small it’ll make your eyeballs spin. Tiny instruments for perfect little holes.

There’s nothing like this in the smartphone world right now outside the iPhone 4S. This is but one of our explorations of the device, the display, the software, and the rest sitting in the rest of our week of hands-on looks at this device. When you hold an iPhone 4S, you know that it sits in a Sweet Spot, perfectly suited for an adult hand, your thumb able to access the entirety of the display without you needing to hold the device aside with two hands, the bulk of the device heavy enough that you know it’s high quality, not too light that you’ll accidentally toss it out with the newspaper.

This device is smaller than the bulk of the high-end smartphones on the market today, and Apple’s competitors have made no secret about touting that fact. A lesser company would falter under the pressure of having one phone size throughout their history – Apple will more than likely keep this size until the lines go down at the stores. The iPhone remains the world’s most popular smartphone for years and years running not least of all because its outer hardware is so precise. Follow the rest of this “I’m switching to iPhone 4S for a week” in the timeline below, and stick to the SlashGear main news feed for updates as they appear!


Story Timeline

iPhone 4S Up Close and Personal: Hardware is written by Chris Burns & originally posted on SlashGear.
© 2005 - 2012, SlashGear. All right reserved.

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NASA IBEX reveals composition of space matter from outside our solar system

NASA’s Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) spacecraft has been studying what lies outside our solar system and today researchers revealed that this space matter is quite different from what lies within. This interstellar material is considered to be what stars, planets, and people are made from and hence the importance to understand its composition.

IBEX has observed four separate types of interstellar atoms—hydrogen, oxygen, neon, and helium—which fill the space between stars. They blow across the galaxy as interstellar wind of flowing charged and neutral particles. Researchers discovered that this interstellar wind has much less oxygen atoms relative to neon atoms. The ratio is 74 oxygen atoms to every 20 neon atoms, whereas that ratio is 111 oxygen atoms to 20 neon atoms inside our solar system.

This could mean that our solar system developed in a part of the galaxy that was much more oxygen-rich than where it currently resides or that a lot of oxygen is trapped in interstellar dust grains and unable to move freely through space. Understanding this composition will help scientists understand how our solar system evolved. It’s believed that the big bang initially created hydrogen and helium, while supernova explosions spread heavier elements such as oxygen and neon.

The IBEX orbits at about 200,000 miles above Earth to study the edge of the solar system and to understand the boundary region called the heliosphere. The heliosphere protects our solar system and prevents dangerous cosmic radiation from entering.

[via MMD]

NASA IBEX reveals composition of space matter from outside our solar system is written by Rue Liu & originally posted on SlashGear.
© 2005 - 2012, SlashGear. All right reserved.

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FCC Lifeline program for low-income telephone service overhauled

While normally reporting on government programs that have to do with low-income families wouldn’t be within the realm of news that we report, our environment containing gadgets, technology, and the like, this particular service fits right in: telephone service. It’s never a bad time to remember that not everyone in our vast human community has the same ability to enjoy the technology a lot of us take for granted, the news of the day centering around this “mobile” world we live in while many across the United States have trouble affording even a landline. What the FCC is doing this week is reforming and modernizing a service by the name of Lifeline, one that aims to keep low-income families connected to jobs, family, and 911 emergency services.

The Federal Communications Commission approved today a full overhaul of its universal service program which over the past 25 years has helped “tens of millions” of low-income American afford a most basic service: the telephone. In 1985 when the program began, 80% of low-income families had phone service – just this past year the rate was 92% due in no small part to the Lifeline project. This program is getting updated rules that address wireless phone service’s increased popularity as well as past perversions of incentives for some carriers.

Changes to Phone service

The changes the FCC is going through with will, as they say, “eliminate waste, fraud, and abuse, saving up to $2 billion over 3 years.” The first and perhaps most important item is creating a National Lifeline Accountability Database which will stop the biggest loss-leader in this program, that being users scamming the program by having multiple accounts on different carriers at the same time. Next, eligibility databases will be created from government data sources, this allowing fully automated verification for consumers and carriers. Stopping Toll Limitations, this being subsidies to carrier for blocking or restricting long-distance services, will take place, and Link Up will be cut everywhere except in Tribal Lands.

That’s an odd point there – Link Up is a set of subsidies that are given to carriers for initial connection charges. This will be cut everywhere except in Tribal Lands, this leading us to believe that landlines must still be much more prevalent in such areas compared to the complete lack of a need for such a program in more mobile-heavy areas.

Modernization with broadband internet

The biggest and broadest point here is the FCC expanding Lifeline to adopt an express goal for the program which will ensure availability of broadband for all low-income Americans. The cash for this adoption of services will come from “up to $25 million” in savings picked up from reforms to the landline services taking place now. Bundled plans for service will allow combining voice and broadband as well as packages that include optional calling features. Welcome to the connected future, for everybody!

[via FCC]

FCC Lifeline program for low-income telephone service overhauled is written by Chris Burns & originally posted on SlashGear.
© 2005 - 2012, SlashGear. All right reserved.

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Symantec says pcAnywhere safe again with new security patch

Symantec has released a security patch for its pcAnywhere application, declaring it now safe to use again. The patch follows Symantec’s warning last week for all users to disable the product after the company discovered that the source code had been stolen back in 2006, meaning users were at greater risk of being hacked.

According to Symantec, the software is safe to use again as long as customers apply all the latest updates and security patches. A patch was released last week for pcAnywhere 12.5 followed by patches for versions 12.0 and 12.1. You can download the patches here or you can contact Symantec at [email protected] for more information.

The security risk was exposed after a hacker by the name YamaTough released the source code of Symantec’s Norton Utilities PC software and threatened to publish the source code for the company’s anti-virus programs as well. Symantec then admitted that the source code for its Norton Antivirus Corporate Edition, Norton internet Security, Norton Utilities, and Norton GoBack had all been stolen when someone hacked into its network in 2006.

But unlike the antivirus products, which all have been updated since, the pcAnywhere software has remained relatively unchanged since 2006, making it more vulnerable. With the latest software patches, Symantec insists that versions 12.0 and 12.1 are safe to use again and it’s also offering free upgrades to version 12.5.

[via Reuters]

Symantec says pcAnywhere safe again with new security patch is written by Rue Liu & originally posted on SlashGear.
© 2005 - 2012, SlashGear. All right reserved.

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Amazon Appstore customers triple in Q4 earnings report

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Amazon has reported on their earnings for quarter four of 2011, and the results are nothing but positive for their growing Android Appstore. Customers were up triple from the previous quarter, the total equaling more than the rest of the year combined. The increased number of users can largely be attributed to the release of the Amazon Kindle Fire, an Android device that shirks Google’s Android Market in favor of the retailers own offerings.

Even without the Kindle Fire, the Amazon Appstore has been growing steadily since launching early in 2011 thanks to inking several exclusive deals with big name developers and offering features such as their free app of the day. Still, the boost brought about by the launch of the $199 tablet is just what Amazon had hoped for. With such a low price, the company was betting on increased digital content sales to more than make up for the profit margin.

[Amazon via IntoMobile]

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Two mystery Samsung tablets pass through the WiFi Alliance with model numbers P5100, P3100

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It is expected that Samsung will unveil a new tablet or two at Mobile World Congress, an almost obvious assumption prodded along by rumors of a device running a 2GHz quad-core Exynos CPU. While the Korean manufacturer has done a pretty good job of keeping their exact plans under wrap (the even is less than a month away and we have seen very few leaks), a recent set of devices newly certified by the WiFi alliance suggests at least two tablets could be on tap. The Samsung GT-P3100 and GT-P5100 could come in any combination of specs and sizes, but it is safe to assume that Samsung will be aiming to take on competitors at all levels. A refresh to the Galaxy Tab 10.1 seems like a sure thing, while a smaller, cheaper device that could battle the Amazon Kindle Fire head-to-head also makes sense. Whatever we see, we expect Samsung to accompany the announcement with a few surprises, whether that be a high-res display unlike any we have seen on a tablet before or something a bit less obvious.

[via Androinica]

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Firefox 10.0 now available, improves Sync, WebGL rendering

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Mozilla has been on quite the roll since releasing their Firefox browser to the Android Market. A little over a month after the version 9.0 update graced the Android Market, the new Firefox 10.0 is ready to roll with plenty of improvements in tow. Users can now more easily setup Firefox Sync to share bookmarks between a desktop and mobile device and should see an overall improvement in the rendering of sites using WebGL. Otherwise expect a number of smaller tweaks that will provide a refined experience as the folks behind Firefox continue to improve the mobile version of their highly popular desktop web browser. An exhaustive changelog can be found over at the Mozilla site. Firefox 10.0 can be found at the Android Market link below.

Android Market Link: Firefox

[via Mozilla]

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Steam Mobile now open to all, Beta testing complete

Last week we let you in on a few bits of functionality that sat inside the mobile version of the gaming giant Steam – this week the beta period for testing of that app is done and everyone is allowed to join at will. This application may have mobile-based games in the future, but for now acts as a companion application for the browser-based interface for PC and Mac computers. You are able to purchase items for future playing from this mobile application, and community engagement is currently the biggest selling point for Steam fans.

You can grab the application from the Android Market right this moment for free and will be able to sign in with your regular Steam account. From here you’re going to be exploring the same world of friendly or not so friendly gamers you know and love and will be able to check out gaming information galore on the go. The reason Steam has this application set up is to keep their friendly customers at home in the same community wherever they go, even if they’re not able to play the games as they drive to the bakery.

This application can also be downloaded from the iTunes App Store for your iOS devices, it ready to go for all manner of iDevices from iPhone to iPad and back again just so long as you’re running iOS 4.0 or newer. This application is, again, free for download and you will need your own Steam name and login to enter the community. For support on this and other Steam applications, head to the Steam Support page and find your way around!

Steam Mobile now open to all, Beta testing complete is written by Chris Burns & originally posted on SlashGear.
© 2005 - 2012, SlashGear. All right reserved.

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Nokia hints at Windows Phones with NFC sans ports

Nokia’s design chief Marko Ahtisaari discussed the direction of future Lumia Windows Phones in an interview with The Guardian, hinting at NFC and wireless charging. Ahtisaari has been at the helm of Nokia’s design team since 2009, during which the company developed the Nokia N9, Nokia Lumia 800, and the Nokia Lumia 900.

Ahtisaari has been alluding to NFC in Lumia devices for some time now and it certainly won’t be any surprise since a few Nokia devices, such as the MeeGo N9, already support NFC. Nokia will have to wait until the Windows Phone platform is ready to support NFC, which Microsoft had confirmed previously would be ready in 2012.

Additionally, future Lumia designs will strive to be even more minimalist, eliminating as much as possible any moveable parts, such as the flip-up plastic tab that’s currently covering the micro-USB charging port for the devices. Ahtisaari hinted at having no ports whatsoever on the device, suggesting the possible integration of wireless charging in future Lumia devices.

“If you can take away a moving part and make it [the phone] more beautiful in the placement of the components, we’ll do it, so that’s something where we can certainly keep improving,” said Ahtisaari. “Take it to the extreme, and why are there any connectors?”

[via The Guardian]

Nokia hints at Windows Phones with NFC sans ports is written by Rue Liu & originally posted on SlashGear.
© 2005 - 2012, SlashGear. All right reserved.

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