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Google Earth dives into the ocean

The oceans star on the Google Earth for Android app.

This story is excerpted from Appolicious.com

Google has introduced a major upgrade to the Android version of its Google Earth app that is so cool it may sway your decision if you were to pick today between buying an Android phone or an iPhone.

With Google Earth 1.1 for Android, users can dive into the ocean to see what our planet looks like from below.

The updated app “introduces the ‘Explore the Ocean’ layer, which features hundreds of photos and videos from more than 100 contributors who are excited to share their stories of sea,” according to Google’s description on its mobile blog. One of those partners is Mission Blue, an organization dedicated to preserving special areas around the ocean. The group’s content includes undersea videos that can be accessed on the new version of Google Earth.

The complete story on Appolicious.com includes suggestions for other educational apps.

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Slacker iPhone app adds special Lollapalooza interviews

Arcade Fire, Lollapalooza 2010. Photo by Matt Ellis

I thought this was the year I was finally going to make Lollapalooza, a staple of Chicago’s summer. Alas, I didn’t.

Yet I’ve been able to catch up with the music and other cool stuff from the artists who played at Lollapalooza 2010. Slacker Radio created a special channel for this year’s show (the Slacker Radio app is free and available for the iPhone and Android phones) that includes artist interviews and special song introductions recorded at Lollapalooza 2010.

Another spot to find Lolla content is the Lollapalooza YouTube channel. Most videos are snippets from the show, but some of the fuller clips shouldn’t be missed. Example: Check out the crazy Lady Gaga video after the jump.

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A bigger Kindle isn’t better

The Kindle DX has a 9.7-inch screen, the same as an iPad

This story first appeared in Vegas Seven

Here’s the question I’ve been wrestling with regarding Amazon’s new lineup of Kindle eReaders: Can I recommend the Kindle DX, the textbook-screen-size model that costs $379, when the online retailer now offers a standard model for $139?

A week before Amazon announced availability of its slimmest Kindle (shipping soon), it sent the Kindle DX for review. The Kindle DX was recently remade with a better screen featuring excellent contrast. It is basically the same as the new Kindle—except the DX is really big. The Kindle DX weighs 1.2 pounds and has a 9.7-inch screen, like the Apple iPad.

The lowest-priced Kindle weighs a half-pound and has a 6-inch screen. It has two price points: Wi-Fi only for $139 and 3G plus Wi-Fi for $189. It will be a hit thanks to those prices.

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New touch screen defines light, bright Samsung Vibrant

The Samsung Vibrant from T-Mobile

Of all the gimmicks that phone makers use to sell smartphones, preloading a copy of Avatar may have the least impact. Indeed, the Samsung Vibrant from T-Mobile doesn’t need the sci-fi flick to catch one’s eye: it’s a beauty all by itself.

The Vibrant is part of Samsung’s Galaxy S line-up of Android phones that are starting to appear at all major U.S. wireless carriers. The Samsung Vibrant is sold at T-Mobile for $199 after contract, but I recently spotted a Web special for $99. It runs on version 2.1 of the Android operating system, features a 4-inch screen, 16GB of internal memory (upgradable with a MicroSD card) and a 5-megapixel camera. Oh, and a full copy of Avatar.

Other phones in the Galaxy S line-up include the Samsung Captivate at AT&T, Samsung Epic 4G at Sprint and the Samsung Fascinate at Verizon. (Check carriers for pricing and availability.)

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Wine Spectator’s new iPhone app late to party

Wine Spectator's Vintage Charts+ app joins a collection of wine apps

We are still very much in the early stages of the app development game, but sometimes you have to wonder about missed opportunities. Wine Spectator magazine, the elite title for wine snobs, just released an iPhone app. (And it’s not called Wine Snob.)

Welcome, Wine Spectator, and thanks for a free app. But here’s the problem: the app, called VintageChart+ By Wine Spectator, can be tough to find.

By my count, there are about 60-plus apps that use the word “wine” in the name. More broadly, hundreds of apps include topics relating to wine. Basically, the app store is swimming in wine apps.

Good luck finding the right vintage.

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A Hulu IPO: How much is TV worth?

I’ve been thinking about the potential of a Hulu.com IPO and I can’t get past three issues that make it a risky investment.  The issues boil down to a pretty basic question: How will Hulu make real money?

A Hulu IPO may come in the the fall, reports the New York Times, and could value the company at $2 billion. That’s an eye-popping number that makes no sense to my admittedly below-average math skills. The three problems I can’t get past:

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Put TV in your lap with EyeTV Hybrid

EyeTV Hybrid works with an antenna or cable TV

This story first appeared in Vegas Seven

I’m not an advocate of replacing a proper TV with watching shows on a computer, but sometimes watching TV on a computer is useful. Many options exist, including network programming—old and new—on Hulu.com, or live sports on ESPN3.com.

I’ve been playing with a third option, and it is pretty sweet and flexible, if somewhat flawed. This TV-watching gadget is called EyeTV Hybrid, and it’s a USB device that plugs into your computer and lets users tune in over-the-air channels and cable fare. For standard TV you need to attach an antenna—sadly, it doesn’t ship with one—and to get cable you need to connect the EyeTV Hybrid to your cable hook-up.

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Gmail’s improved contact tools ease newsletter creation

Improvements to Gmail made Contacts easier to find.

On Tuesday, I started noodling around MailChimp, a newsletter service, to start preparing for the eventual launch of a Bendable Media newsletter. (Send an email to Eric Benderoff if you want to be on the mailing list!)

To create a newsletter you first need a list. So as I was culling through my Gmail account for contacts to ask if they want to receive my newsletter — a work in progress — I realized that it was a real pain to sort through contacts. I had so many contact duplicates that it was annoying to determine the correct email for each. I really hadn’t noticed how bad my contact organization was until I took that deep look.

Lo and behold, Wednesday morning Google introduced a spanking new system to manage contacts.

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Back to school apps for the iPad and iPhone

A screenshot from Math Games - Free Addition and Subtraction Edition

The app recommendation site Appolicious (a client) is a great resource for parents looking for apps to educate and entertain children. I used the site as a key reference for this tech-oriented back-to-school story.

Appolicious offers several user-generated back-to-school app lists — or “Curated Apps.” (The site is filled with app lists on a variety of topics, such as photography, word lists, travel, etc.) Better, a number of these education app lists come from teachers or involved parents. Indeed, there are a number of app lists for teachers to help prepare for the coming school year.

Here are six lists of education-specific apps I included in the story:

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Going to Lollapalooza? Don’t forget the iPhone

Screenshot of Slacker Radio's Lollapalooza channel

This story was excerpted from a piece I wrote for Appolicious (check out the new home page!) Read the entire story here.

If you’re going to the Lollapalooza music festival in Chicago this weekend, here are some handy tools for your iPhone.

The official Lolla app offers a list and schedule of when and where bands are playing. The app includes a map of the venue’s stages, an integrated Facebook app to post pictures, and a channel from Slacker Radio that plays music from the acts.

That Lollapalooza channel is also available on the standard Slacker Radio app, by the way, and a recommended listen. (I’ve been playing it all week.)

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Superb sound, fresh cable design define new Shure SE535 earphones

Shure's new SE535 headphones fill your ears with crisp sound

There’s a certain serenity to listening to music. I’m not talking about having music playing in the background while you work or read (although I enjoy both), but just listening to music while you do nothing else. I did that a lot back in the day, as I’m sure most of us have. But it can be tough to find the time to just listen today, with kids, work and the non-stop array of errands and tasks that need our attention.

Well, I’m starting to carve out time to just listen and it’s been easier than I thought. That’s partly because I’ve been trying to write this review of Shure’s newest high-end earphones (music required!) and the sound is so good, so rich and so fills my ears, that it’s hard to concentrate on the words. I must stop and listen, so much so that this piece should have been finished two days ago.

The Shure SE535 Sound Isolating Earphones recently went on sale for, gasp, $499. Yes, that’s a price that makes one choke but if you can afford such a luxury, you will not be disappointed.

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Three tipping points leading to mobile explosion

A guest post by Andrew Crestodina,  Strategic Director, Orbit Media Studios Inc.

As usual, times are changing.  But there is one change that is about to reach its inflection point: mobile computing.  New research shows we’re about to reach critical mass on several mega-trends.  So as a follow up to our post on Mobile Marketing 101, here’s an update on 3 mobile milestones coming up…

Tipping point one: Most phones are smartphones

You may have already heard people mumbling excuses for their old flip-phone, or defending the Motorola Razr in their pocket. (“Hey, it’s a great phone!”)  But these conventional phones (aka “dumb phones”) will likely be in the minority some time next year.

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Will Ferrell stars in exclusive iPad films

Will Ferrell stars in 4 films for the August iPad issue of Wired

Yes, that headline was written to improve SEO.

Nonetheless, Will Ferrell is (usually) funny and I’ve never written about him before. So when Ferrell pops up on the print cover of Wired Magazine, I noticed. Better, if you’re an iPad owner, you get that story and four exclusive short films only available on the iPad.

The Ferrell films “spoof once-anticipated inventions for the 21st century, like ray guns and jet packs. The films are tied to the August cover subject, ‘The Future That Never Happened’,” according to MediaWeek report.

The issue is now available for $3.99. (Note: I used a version of this item in Monday’s App Industry report for Appolicious.com)

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Why get a bumper when cool iPhone 4 cases are available?

The $17 Vent Gel Case for the iPhone 4

This story first appeared in Vegas Seven

Unless you live in a cave with poor Internet service, you know that Apple gave case makers a very big gift in the iPhone 4. The iPhone 4’s antenna wraps around the outside of the phone, so if you touch it in the wrong spot, the signal weakens significantly.

Admitting the problem, Apple is providing iPhone 4 buyers a free “bumper” to wrap the phone. Problem solved!

But who wants a bumper when there are cool cases to be had? There’s an interesting pricing trend, too. Of the cases available right now—the market for Apple accessories is valued at about $3.7 billion worldwide, so you know the explosion of options is just getting started—most are priced at less than $30.

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Why I’ve tired of running a ‘jailbroken’ iPhone

Cydia offers apps for jailbroken iPhones

To jailbreak or not to jailbreak? Just because you can jailbreak an iPhone and run unauthorized software, should you? Many people already do this and there are ardent fans, but in my experience, it is more of a pain in the butt than a nifty tech trick.

I’ve been operating a jailbroken iPhone for more than a year and I’m sick of it. The iPhone appears sick of me too, as it no longer works like a phone; rather, it has become — perhaps temporarily, perhaps not — an iPod touch.

I was running an iPhone 3G on T-Mobile instead of AT&T. Hence, I was running an unlocked and jailbroken iPhone. The ‘unlock’ refers to running it on a carrier other than AT&T, while jailbroken software means I downloaded apps and other goodies not approved by Apple.

You can read the rest of my jailbroken iPhone story on Appolicious.com.

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