How to make a DIY smartphone stand for under $1

7816754688_487dd75457_hSmartphone stands are a great way to watch content on your phone without having to hold the phone upright, and there are a ton of different DIY methods for making them. A lot of them are made so that they’ll hold your phone horizontally, but some users want stands that prop up their phones vertically, similar to an iPhone dock from Apple.

If you want to make something similar, I’ve discovered an insanely-cheap method for building a smartphone stand that will prop up your phone vertically. It’s cheap, but it does take a little bit of assembly. Here’s how to do it.

Supplies You’ll Need

  • MiniDV tape case or a regular cassette tape case
  • A handful of pennies
  • Hot glue gun w/ glue sticks
  • Rubber tape
  • Dremel power tool

How to Make It

Technically, just the tape case will do the trick if you want a barebones solution; just open up the case all way and stick your phone in the slot. A MiniDV tape case is the perfect size for most phones, but a regular cassette tape case will do the trick.

However, if you want to take the stand to the next level, you can add a few things to make it perfect:

1. Take your pennies and hot glue gun and glue the pennies inside the case. This adds weight to the stand so that it doesn’t slide around. Pennies aren’t the best option, since they’re currency and all, so if you have any other tiny objects that weigh a lot, you can use those instead.

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2. Next, use the rubber tape to line the stand so that the phone won’t slip around when it’s in the stand. Since my iPhone doesn’t fit perfectly in the slot, I cut out small strips of the rubber tape and glued them into the slot to add a little padding so that my phone would fit perfectly.

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3. Lastly, take your Dremel power tool and use a small drill bit to carve out a small hole on the bottom of the tape case slot so that the phone’s sound can exit through the speaker without it being blocked by the stand.

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Conclusion

It’s a pretty janky-looking smartphone stand, but it’s dirt cheap and it does its job. Plus, it still folds up just like cassette tape does so that you can toss it in your bag and take it with you on the go.

Of course, buying a pre-made smartphone stand may be a good investment if you plan on using it all the time. Good smartphone stands can cost as much as $30, but that’s a small price to pay for something that you’ll use every day into the future.

Government cell phone monitoring shouldn’t come as a surprise

recording callsIn a recent announcement, it was shown that the National Security Association (NSA) has been “secretly” obtaining private information via Verizon Wireless. With permission through something known as “the blanket order,” Verizon has been handing over a variety of call-related data, such as call lengths, locations, and other unique identifiers.

As of yet, it’s stated that the calls themselves are not being recorded; the public is turning an angry eye toward both Verizon and the government for this invasion of privacy.

But is this really such a shock? How many of us read those fine-print contracts wireless providers require to be signed? Companies are legally allowed to do a number of questionable practices, data collection included.

As the saying goes, “knowledge is power,” and it seems as though the government is willing to go to extreme lengths to get it. Ages, races, and other target demographics can be reached with the right info, and obtaining said facts is the first step in expanding political popularity. Other non-surprise factors include every political movie ever, which almost always host a widespread privacy invasion. Not to mention the ease in which spying can be done these days. There are practically invisible recording devices, and even lasers that can detect conversations by measuring window vibrations.

In this case, however, the victims of surveillance just happened to be the owners of the recording devices.

What’s Next?

While it’s likely Verizon will suffer some serious image backlash (like we needed another reason to hate the 4G-pushing giant), the information they’ve collected is already obtained. It’s also likely that the information collection will continue, whether or not the public is ok with it.

But what else can be released? Are there other networks doing the same recording and sharing practices? Are calls actually being recorded – stored and listed to for terrorist-like activity by some full-time operators? Or is this simply as “harmless” as it seems from the outside looking in?

While it’s unclear as to why the government wants to know why you made a 90-second call at Burger King May 4th, or how often you travel away from home on calls, the consensus remains that the compilation is mega creepy. A surprise, perhaps not, but a definite invasion of citizens’ privacy.

That just leads us to ask: what other data is the government collecting through our personal electronic devices?

A closer look at the iPhone 5 Mockup

With the release of the latest-generation iPhone around the corner, the web has registered numerous leaks about the device from multiple sources around the globe. The latest bit of information comes from a set of videos and still photos of a full mockup of the iPhone 5 at the 2012 IFA convention in Europe. The mockup was first spotted by GSM Israel field agents in a booth for an iPhone case maker.

The news caught up like wildfire after being translated and posted on The Verge, stemming a lively discussion about the real meaning of the mockup. Commenting on the same, a reporter said, “We are told volume production of the form-fitting cases have already begun, with a view to shipping to retailers in a week’s time.” He went a step further to state that, “The mockup we got to see today confirms absolutely nothing about Apple’s plans, but at least one company is confident enough in the dimensions on show to start producing accessories for the expected iPhone 5.”

The Verge claims to have stumbled upon the mockup that is shown below courtesy of the CEO to a major cover and case manufacturer. The mockup rhymes with all the iPhone 5 rumors floating around in the sense that the gadget is taller than existing iPhones and features a bottom-placed headphone jack and a two-toned back plate.

Among the expected upgrades on the iPhone 5 will be a larger 4-inch screen, a slimmer design, and a redesigned charging dock with fewer pins. Other features to expect in the new model will be 4G LTE connectivity, NFC capabilities and a longer-lasting battery.

With the launch anticipated to be a real game changer, other handset rivals are rushing to share the glory ahead of the iPhone 5. Nokia announced some new devices yesterday, including their new flagship Lumia 920, while Amazon is rumored to debut a new Kindle Fire on September 6th.

The scoop on the Nokia Lumia 920

Nokia will unveil its new flagship Windows Phone smartphone, the Nokia Lumia 920 at an event scheduled to be held on September 5th in conjunction with Microsoft. The smartphone has been designed to help Nokia maintain its place in the smartphone marketplace following the enormous challenge from the open-source Android-operated smartphone models that are flooding the market.

Rumor has it that the new Nokia smartphone will feature a 1.5GHz dual core processor, wireless charging capabilities, 1GB of RAM, 32GB of internal storage, a 1.3 megapixel front-facing camera and a 4.5-inch HD display. The primary camera is speculated to be a PureView camera of around 8 megapixels.

What we have for sure so far are images of what appear to be the Nokia Lumia 920 smartphone. They appeared last week with the only details being the name and that it will feature a 4.5-inch screen. Judging from the leaked images, the smartphone will most definitely come in a range of colors, a speculation that we can only confirm come tomorrow.

Reputed for its manufacture of hardware and software-reliable phones, Nokia must have put their best into designing and producing the Nokia Lumia 920. This is something good to the ultimate user of the phone. However, the rigorous testing and vetting of the phone design’s strengths and weaknesses is an expensive one, an explanation given by many techies as to why Nokia phones can be so high-priced.

The Nokia Lumia 920 will be released into a market flooded with relatively cheaper smartphones operating on Android and iOS. To gain a position in the gamble, the phone must have an extra software touch. For instance, Windows Phone has an edge over Android on multitasking, an edge that Nokia must exploit if they intend to shake the market.

Though the release date is on the first Wednesday of October, it is unfortunate that most of us will have to wait until late October or November before we can lay our hands on the gadget and try out the features and performance.

Samsung loses to Apple in patent infringement case; what’s next?

The lawsuit between Apple and Samsung is over, and the jury gave a decisive verdict in Apple’s favor: Samsung owes $1.05 billion to Apple for copying its intellectual property. This included Apple’s user interface software patents on iOS, Apple’s design patents and their trade dress on the iPhone brands. The jury found that several of Samsung’s phones had infringed on these patents.

What’s interesting is that Samsung’s infringements were ruled as deliberate and hence the huge punishment against the company. Apple’s arguments were quite valid to say the least. The iPhone was a revolution, five years in the making, according to Apple, and Samsung simply took it and copied it without bearing the costs and risks involved. The jury was simply not convinced of Samsung’s attempted demonstration of prior art.

So what happens next? For one thing, we can except Apple to seek injunctions against the sale of the Galaxy SII, which is one of the accused devices that is still on the market. We can also expect Samsung to make an appeal of the jury’s decision.

The dominoes will also likely start falling on the user interface behaviors across Android devices. The bounceback scrolling behavior that has been patented by Apple is one good example. Other behaviors included tap-to-zoom and multitouch scrolling that will have to change on new devices. Apple’s design patent and trade dress has likely shaken the industry and proven that these patents are strong enough to convince a jury.

Expect more litigation between Apple and Android phone makers like HTC and Motorola. Apple will also likely take another swing against Samsung and we can expect to see more devasting results in the courtroom. Most companies will likely not want to risk the huge amounts of money that Samsung has spent in the case. These companies are better off taking Google’s advice: let partners settle the cases and avoid keeping lawsuits open and running.

Buy a smartphone with a “bad ESN” for cheap entertainment

When scouring Craigslist or eBay for a good deal on a used smartphone, a lot of people avoid listings that say “bad ESN.” In the simplest of terms, this means that the phone is banned from being activated with a carrier, so it wouldn’t be able to make calls or send and receive text messages. It also wouldn’t be able to get any kind of 3G or 4G data access.

However, for those looking for a mobile device just to play games, listen to music or surf the web over Wi-Fi, buying a smartphone with a bad ESN actually isn’t a bad way to go.

Every smartphone has its own unique ESN (Electronic Serial Number) and it works just like any other serial number for any product, except that an ESN is embedded into a chip inside the phone and can be deactivated at any time – sort of like a kill switch. When a phone is either reported stolen or the owner doesn’t pay his phone bill, the carrier can ban that phone’s ESN so that it’s unusable on the network.

A device with a bad ESN is pretty much considered useless in some ways. That’s why you can usually find great deals on smartphones with bad ESNs on eBay or Craigslist.

However, for those just wanting an iPod Touch-like device for super cheap, buying a used smartphone that has a bad ESN is the perfect way to go. Just like an iPod Touch, you can still download and install different apps and games, listen to music, surf the web over Wi-Fi, get turn-by-turn navigation using an offline maps app, and even take photos and video. I actually recently snatched an HTC EVO 4G in great condition with a bad ESN for $50. That’s a not a bad price for all the things it can still do. Plus, I can just grab a 32GB microSD card and load it up with all sorts of music, movies, and games.

Image Credit: Miki Yoshihito

Verizon’s “Share Everything” data plans actually aren’t that bad

Verizon recently announced their Share Everything mobile plans and are set to put them into action on June 28. The company says that it’s a great way to easily share a bucket-full of minutes, text messages, and data amongst a family, but some users are skeptical.

If you’ve read the internet lately, many people have been giving Verizon a lot of grief about these new plans. But after looking everything over myself, Share Everything data plans are actually not a bad way to go. Let’s break it down and compare some things.

First though, let’s look at the details of these new plans:

Okay, let’s begin comparing Verizon’s current FamilyShare plans with their upcoming Share Everything plans. First, we’ll see what the monthly cost is of a FamilyShare plan with two people with smartphones:

  • 700 Anytime Minutes – $70
  • Unlimited shared messaging – $30
  • Two 2GB data plans – $60
  • Additional line for 2nd person – $10

Total cost per month: $170

If these same two people wanted to go with the Share Everything plan, this is how it would look:

  • Line access for two smartphones – $80
  • 4GB data plan (w/ unltd. min. and msg.) – $70

Total cost per month: $150

The Share Everything plan is $20 cheaper and includes unlimited minutes instead of just a limited 700. Seems like a better deal to me. Now let’s bump it up to a family of four where all of them have smartphones. Here’s what a normal FamilyShare plan would look like:

  • 700 Anytime Minutes – $70
  • Unlimited shared messaging – $30
  • Four 2GB data plans – $120
  • Additional lines for 3 people – $30

Total cost per month: $250

This is what the monthly charges would be if that same family went with a Shared Everything data plan:

  • Line access for four smartphones – $160
  • 8GB data plan (w/ unltd. min. and msg.) – $90

Total cost per month: $250

It’s the same cost! But yet again, you get unlimited minutes with the newer shared plan and you have a whopping 8GB of data that you can share amongst the entire family. So if mom hardly uses any data, then all the better for the rest of the family.

However, Verizon’s Share Everything plans still don’t solve the one problem that most carriers are guilty of with contractual plans: There’s no middle ground. Carriers only offer their customers either too little or too much with their plans, intentionally not including any kind of middle ground. Why? Because the middle ground is the sweet spot that’s of greatest value to the customer. And when the customer gets the greatest value, the wireless carrier loses in a way.

And Verizon really isn’t doing anything revolutionary with these new shared plans. Sure, depending on how big of a family you have and how much data you use, the Share Everything plans could save you a few dollars and simplify things a bit, but it’s all simply just a reworked way to divvy out minutes, messages and data.

In the end, just by looking at the charts above I can see how users would scoff at Verizon — $40/month just to add a smartphone line to a plan? That fact alone seems like highway robbery, but you have to look at the whole picture and do the math. Verizon’s Share Everything plans certainly aren’t any worse than what they’re offering now, and in some cases, it could be a better way to go.

Nokia Loses Mobile Phone Crown To Samsung After 14 Years On Top

Nokia has finally succumbed to pressure from the leading smartphone handset manufacturers and lost its crown as the leading cellphone vendor in the world. Samsung has taken its place at the top, while Apple remains in third place. Focusing in on just smartphone sales reveals Apple is still number one, with Samsung a very close second, and Nokia a long way behind in third.

This sets up a couple of interesting questions that will be answered over the coming years and beyond: Who will win in the titanic battle between Apple and Samsung for smartphone sales? Will Nokia be able to recover from this position, with Microsoft as its partner and Windows Phone as its operating system of choice?

Nokia Knocked Off Perch

For as long as I have owned a mobile phone Nokia has been the number one seller of the form factor. It has held the number one spot as mobile phone vendor since 1998, and in that time managed to see off plenty of competitors. Unfortunately that reign at the top of the pile has now come to a crashing end, with the news that Samsung has succeeded it as king.

According to data from IHS, Nokia’s handset shipments dropped from 114 million in Q4 2011 to 83 million in Q1 2012. That’s a drop of 27 percent. To be fair both Samsung and Apple also took a hit, with drops of 13 percent and 5 percent respectively. But that leaves them on 92 million and 35 million, meaning Samsung has hurdled Nokia to take the number one spot.

Apple Vs. Samsung

The smartphone sales figures are also interesting. Again, all three have taken a hit, with Apple dropping from 37 million to 35 million, Samsung from 35 million to 32 million, and Nokia from 20 million to 12 million. Apple has actually increased its lead over Samsung during the last quarter.

However, that doesn’t mean the titanic battle is over. Far from it, in fact. Samsung is expected to unveil its latest smartphone (almost certainly the Galaxy S III) at an event in London on May 3. Apple will then launch the iPhone 5 by October, although there is increasing speculation that it could arrive much sooner, possibly during WWDC in June.

Either way the scene is set for a huge fight between the two leading vendors of smartphones. The Galaxy S III is garnering almost-iPhone levels of anticipation and speculation, and I suspect many Android users will be looking to upgrade to it at the earliest opportunity.

Any Chance Of A Comeback?

This leaves Nokia in an awkward position. It has finally made the move to smartphones, partnering with Microsoft to offer Windows Phone on all its handsets, but reception to both the handsets and the OS that powers them have been mixed. To say the least. If Nokia wants to gain ground back on Samsung then it needs not only to produce compelling hardware but also for Microsoft to keep plugging away with Windows Phone. Perhaps Windows Phone 8 will be the turning point.

Image Credits: John Karakatsanis, Cheon Fong Liew, Maurits Knook

Super Bowl XLVI: The Year of Connectivity

Super Bowl XLVI is almost here, folks. The New York Giants will face off against the New England Patriots in Indianapolis, Indiana for the title of NFL champion. However, if American football isn’t your thing, there’s still a reason to be interested in the single largest American sporting event  of all time. This year’s Super Bowl is all about staying connected over the web. Here are some fun facts that will surely tickle the whiskers of any technology geek.

Lucas Oil Stadium, home of Super Bowl XLVI, will house around 85,000 spectators during the big game. There will be even more people in the surrounding area. To handle the inevitable high demand of cellular data traffic, Verizon will be setting up three cell-on-wheels (COWs), as they’re called, in extremely high-demand areas around the stadium. There will also be 400 3G and 4G LTE antennas spread out throughout the inside of the stadium, as well as 600 free WiFi hotspots that can handle 28,000 simultaneous connections. All of this is expected to handle 2.5 times the traffic of a normal NFL game.

Cell-on-Wheels (COW)

This is the first Super Bowl that will have 4G LTE connectivity in the area, so Lucas Oil Stadium, as well as 30 other downtown venues will be packing the latest 4G LTE antennas and technology.

The cost of all this? A cool $69 million.

The best part is, all of the upgrades made to the stadium and downtown will be left in place (except the COWs). So, the next time you’re in Indy, expect to get crazy fast speeds.

There’s no estimate as to exactly how fast the 4G LTE will be for spectators during the Super Bowl, but GottaBeMobile.com was able to sneak inside the stadium before gameday and run a few speed tests. They ended up hitting 46 Mb/s download speeds. Not too shabby, but they were one of the only ones using it at the time, so don’t expect to get that kind of speed come Super Bowl Sunday.

Super Bowl XLVI will include the first ever social media command center used at a Super Bowl. A team of reps will be on hand to help you out via social media if you need it. They’ll be constantly looking for certain words or phrases that pertain to the Super Bowl. For example, if you tweet that the parking garage by the stadium is full, they’ll tweet back to you saying where more parking can be found based on other tweets. The social media command center will also be used to send out alerts if there would be any kind of emergency.

Lucas Oil Stadium image credit: Shawna Pierson