MediaFile

Verizon Wireless crunches numbers for you — or tries to

Verizon Wireless customers getting stressed out about whether they’d charge past their 2-gigabyte download limit? The company is here to help, at least in theory. 

 Tomorrow the company is eliminating its $30/month, unlimited data plans for new smartphone customers (existing users can keep their plans).

But long before the change, Verizon Wireless had offered something called the data calculator on its website, a handy service that estimates how much data you’d use if you send, say, 250 text-only emails a day (the answer is apparently 73.24 megabyes of data).  That sounds really helpful — but then it gets a little confusing. 

Apparently some of the data on Verizon’s online caculator is actually incorrect, so they’re planning to fix  it all tonight before they roll out tiered pricing: starting at a $30/month fee for 2 gigabytes of data use.  

Spokeswoman Brenda Raney said the company “found some issues on the back-end so “we’re correcting it and getting it in place for the new usage-based plans.” She added that the company wants its customers to “use the calculator to select the best plan.”

Tech wrap: Verizon ditches unlimited data plan

Verizon Wireless customers, say goodbye to the days of  unlimited Web surfing for a set fee on your smartphone. The biggest U.S. mobile provider will stop offering its $30 all-you-can-surf  deal later this week, replacing it with a new tiered approach to data pricing. Customers who keep their smartphone use to 2 gigbytes (GB) of data per month or under won’t see a change to their bill, but those who go over that limit will be slapped with an extra $10 charge per GB. Heavy mobile users will have the option of signing up for a 5 GB or 10 GB plan for $50 or $80 respectively. AT&T made a similar move last year, meaning Sprint is now the last major wireless carrier offering unlimited data use. CNET reports that Verizon will also start charging for access to its mobile hot-spot service, which up until this week has been free and without bandwidth restrictions.

Aspiring cord cutters across Latin America and the Caribbean, rejoice. Netflix is on its way. The company, which offers TV shows and movies over the Internet and DVD rentals through the mail, will be expanding its online video streaming service to 43 countries in the regions later this year. Shows and movies will be available to subscribers in Spanish, Portuguese or English on PCs, Macs and other mobile devices that are able to stream from Netflix, the company said in a blog post. The overseas expansion marks the company’s second foray outside the United States. It began offering its services in Canada last year.

You’ve heard it before and now you’ll hear it again – the next iteration of Apple’s iPhone is on its way this September. Supply-side sources told Asian IT industry newspaper DigiTimes that Taiwan-based notebook maker Pegatron Technology has received an order to make 15 million iPhone 5/iPhone 4 handsets that are set to ship sometime in September.  The iPhone 5 is not expected to differ much from the previous model on the surface, according to the report. As AllThingsD’s John Paczkowski points out, the real differences are expected to be “under the hood” where you’ll find a faster processor and better rear camera among other improvements.

AT&T’s ad spending outpaces Verizon’s — by a long stretch

Anybody who wondered how AT&T managed to stand up against the Verizon Wireless  February iPhone launch wasn’t paying much attention to their TV set.

AT&T had been assuring investors for much of 2010 that its numbers wouldn’t fall off a cliff  if  arch-rival Verizon Wireless got its hands on iPhone, ending its exclusivity.  The logic was that customers wouldn’t want to break their two-year contracts.  Most customers were also tied to AT&T via family plans, making it even more tricky for them to leave.

Still, AT&T wasn’t about to leave it to chance. So it went about things the old-fashioned way: it threw money into advertising.

Tech wrap: Myspace sale saga nears end

An investor group involving Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick is in final talks to take a controlling stake in News Corp’s social network site Myspace, according to a source familiar with the matter. Kotick’s involvement is personal and nothing to do with Activision at this stage, the source said.

News Corp, which paid $580 million for Myspace in 2005, had hoped to do a deal valuing Myspace at about $100 million, but sources said it was unlikely to achieve that target.

Major U.S. banks came under growing pressure from banking regulators to improve the security of customer account information after Citigroup became the latest high-profile victim of a large-scale cyber attack. While Citigroup insisted the breach had been limited, experts called it the largest direct attack on a major U.S. financial institution, and forecast it could drive momentum for a systemic overhaul of the banking industry’s data security measures.

Tech wrap: RIM’s Playbook recall

Research in Motion shares neared a two-year low after the BlackBerry maker said it has recalled about 1,000 of its Playbook tablets due to an operating system bug. Most of the devices affected remain in the distribution channel and haven’t yet been sold to customers, the Canadian company said in a statement posted on CrackBerry.com.

RIM said it will replace faulty tablets and prompted customers who had received one to contact the company for help. Engadget, the technology blog that first broke the news over the weekend, has compiled a spreadsheet of the 935 alleged serial numbers affected by the recall.

Sony began restoring access to its PlayStation Network games service over the weekend, nearly a month after it was shut down due to a massive security breach that exposed personal details of 100 million users. The Japanese electronics and entertainment company apologized to customers for the service disruption and said it had implemented a new early warning system that would help prevent similar attacks in the future. Sony will phase in service on a country by country basis with the aim of having the process completed by May 31.

Tech wrap: Facebook smear campaign blows up

Facebook admitted to hiring PR firm Burson-Marsteller to plant negative stories about Google, The Daily Beast reported. Burson urged journalists to investigate claims that Google was invading people’s privacy and offered to help privacy advocate Christopher Soghoian write an op-ed on the matter for national newspapers. The plot backfired when Soghoian rejected Burson’s offer and posted online an email exchange between them.

Facebook adopted a warning service to help users avoid clicking on dubious Internet links. The new warning service by Finnish startup Web of Trust calculates the reputation of 31 million Web pages and updates the ratings twice an hour, based on feedback from some 20 million users.

The recent hacker attack at Sony and other corporate data breaches are attracting more class-action lawyers eager to score a payday, though huge monetary settlements may be elusive, writes Dan Levine. At least 25 lawsuits have been filed against Sony in U.S. federal courts over the theft of user data from the PlayStation game network, according to Westlaw, a Thomson Reuters legal database. The challenge for plaintiffs’ lawyers lies in establishing a loss of value or additional costs suffered because of a hack, Levine adds.

Tech wrap: New Apple iMacs built for speed

Apple refreshed its lineup of iMac computers with new Intel processors that it says are up to 70 percent faster and with USB-like ports that are up to 20 times as fast. Thunderbolt ports support displays and devices. The new iMacs also feature a new HD Web camera. Apple said the iMacs are on sale online and at its retail stores starting at $1,199.

Sony CEO Howard Stringer faced harsh criticism of his leadership after the company revealed hackers may have stolen the data of another 25 million accounts in a second massive security breach. The breach of the Sony Online Entertainment PC games network may also have led to the theft of 10,700 direct debit records from customers in Austria, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain and 12,700 non-U.S. credit or debit card numbers, Sony said. Investors said Sony and Stringer had botched the data security crisis. “The way Sony handled the whole thing goes to show that it lacks the ability to manage crises,” Michael On of Beyond Asset Management in Taipei said.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer announced that RIM will use Microsoft’s Bing search engine and maps as default options on its new BlackBerry devices. RIM’s move, coupled with its close partnership with Adobe Systems, sketches out a strategy of cooperation in a mobile market now dominated by Apple and Google. The strategy illustrates that the mobile market is entering a new phase that focuses on feature consolidation and “co-opetition,” writes GigaOM’s Kevin Tofel. The old strategy, which lasted from 2007 until recently, focused on new platforms, user interfaces and the emergence of the mobile app economy, Tofel adds.

Tech wrap: Apple beats Google to the music cloud

Storm clouds gather over Hanoi's skyline September 21, 2009. REUTERS/KhamApple has completed work on an online music storage service and is set to launch it ahead of Google, whose own music efforts have stalled, according to several people familiar with both companies’ plans. The sources revealed that Apple’s plans will allow iTunes customers to store their songs on a remote server, and then access them from wherever they have an Internet connection and that Apple has yet to sign any new licenses for the service and major music labels are hoping to secure deals before the service is launched. Amazon.com launched a music locker service earlier in April without new licensing agreements leading to threats of legal action from some music companies.

Verizon gained wireless subscribers with Apple’s iPhone, but the device’s affect on its financials failed to impress investors. Verizon Wireless posted 906,000 net new subscribers, roughly in line with expectations. That was much better than AT&T, which added only 62,000 net subscribers in the quarter as it lost iPhone exclusivity. However, a key sticking point for investors when comparing the two operators was the fact that AT&T won more new iPhone customers in the quarter than Verizon. Verizon announced that it would sell a new version of the iPhone later this year that, unlike its current iPhone, would work globally.

The risky attempt by The New York Times to charge fees to website readers looks to be paying off, although it still faces stiff challenges in turning around a fall-off in print advertising revenue at its core business. The company gained more than 100,000 new subscribers since it introduced its digital subscription service on March 28, representing at least an estimated $26 million in annual revenue and trouncing early expectations for the service.

Tech wrap: Apple raises the earnings bar

A shop assistant in Sydney gestures in front of an advertising sign moments before Apple's iPad 2 became available for direct purchase in Australia March 25, 2011.  REUTERS/Tim Wimborne Apple reported quarterly revenue of $24.67 billion on strong iPhone and Mac sales, racing past Wall Street estimates. In the quarter, the company sold 18.65 million iPhones and 3.76 million Macintosh computers. Analysts expected 16.3 million and 3.64 million, respectively. Sales of iPads and iPods fell short. The number of iPads sold was 4.69 million, shy of the 6.3 million expected. Sales of iPods were 9 million, versus expectations of 9.85 million.

Analysts said that the weaker-than-expected iPad sales will not detract from strong long-term demand. “We can attribute some of the weakness to stocking issues at some of the retail outlets and obviously the supply chain issue in Japan,” said Capital Advisors Growth Fund’s Channing Smith.

The next-generation iPhone will have a faster processor, look largely like the iPhone 4 and will begin shipping in September, three people with direct knowledge of the company’s supply chain said.

Tech wrap: Microsoft cries foul

Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer addresses a news conference in the northern German town of Hanover March 3, 2008. REUTERS/Christian CharisiusThe hunted became the hunter when Microsoft filed its first-ever complaint to antitrust regulators, claiming that Google thwarts Internet search competition. Thomas Vinje, who led a coalition that won EU fines against Microsoft said the software maker “has learned from its own unpleasant experiences how to cause maximum disruption for its competitors via competition law”. Google controls over 90 percent of the Internet search advertising market in Europe, well ahead of Microsoft’s Bing. And browsers such as Firefox and Google’s Chrome have eaten away at the market lead by Microsoft’s Internet Explorer.

Google is tightening control over its “open” Android operating system to reduce fragmentation and restrict additional partnerships that it doesn’t understand, Bloomberg’s Ashlee Vance and Peter Burrows writes. Google says its procedures are about quality control, early bug fixes, and building toward a “common denominator” experience, Vance and Burows add.

Small-budget film producers have nearly perfected a slick, courtroom-based business strategy that’s targeted suspected movie downloaders, writes Wired’s David Kravets. One lawsuit alleged 5,865 illegal downloads of the film Nude Nuns With Big Guns, asking a federal judge to order ISPs to dig into customers’ records for names. It was the first step in a process that could lead to each defendant receiving a letter suggesting they settle the case, lest they wind up named in a public lawsuit having downloaded Nude Nuns With Big Guns, Kravets adds.