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Innovators Shine At CTIA Wireless Conference

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the must-be-all-those-bubbles dept.

Cellphones 29

CWmike writes "The CTIA Wireless conference this week brought in larger crowds and more vendors than last year's event, but that probably isn't saying much, considering the recession had begun to hit hard in early 2009, Matt Hamblen reports from Vegas. The uptick pleased vendors exhibiting at the event, especially some of the smaller, lesser-known companies that sometimes offer the most interesting products, even if they never go gangbusters with the public. Matt highlights top innovative firms and products from the show, including W PhoneWatch (yes, a GSM phone watch for $199; see video), AT&T's Zero Charger (ends 'vampire draw'), Connectify (turns your laptop into a hotspot), and Line2, a Wi-Fi calling app for iPhones and iPod Touches (look out cellular voice service revenues)." Android made quite a strong showing at the conference as well.

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Line2 will be pulled I'm sure. (2, Insightful)

Kenja (541830) | more than 4 years ago | (#31633312)

Just like the last round of VOIP apps for the iPhone, AT&T said "no" so Apple pulled them from the app store sticking the developer with the rebate expenses.

Then again, Apple has been less then consistant with the app store so far. So perhaps this one is OK while the last ones where "bad".

Re:Line2 will be pulled I'm sure. (1)

davester666 (731373) | more than 4 years ago | (#31635274)

Was there anything as brilliant as the company that advertised their cell phone was unbreakable, and a reporter broke the screen in 20 seconds with the CEO standing next to him. That was hilarious.

You practically saw the value of the company drop to zero, given how the CEO looked at the end of the interview.

Re:Line2 will be pulled I'm sure. (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 4 years ago | (#31637144)

From the article it sounds like the app is basically a wifi only VOIP app. There are LOTS of those in the app store, and there always have been. Apple has apparently even decided to allow VOIP over 3G now, and some apps that do that, in the store.

Re:Line2 will be pulled I'm sure. (1)

phrend (690126) | more than 4 years ago | (#31638450)

It does VoIP over WiFi and 3G... and it's interface is near identical to the native iPhone apps is "replaces." I can't see how they can let Line2 stay, but not allow a Google Voice app?

Re:Line2 will be pulled I'm sure. (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 4 years ago | (#31639104)

They might kill it for the interface all right. That was a stupid move, copying Apple's interface exactly.

Hotspot? (1)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 4 years ago | (#31633316)

Connectify (turns your laptop into a hotspot)

I thought it was /. that turned my laptop into a hotspot ... oh wait, not /., p0rn.

Re:Hotspot? (1)

Itninja (937614) | more than 4 years ago | (#31633642)

No, no...that's the exploding battery. Which, depending on how liberal one is with symbolism, could also be caused by pr0n.

Innovate The (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31633382)

end of double billing on cell phone calls in North America.

Have a weekend.

Yours In Yellowknife,
Kilgore Trout

The watch (1)

floppyraid (1756326) | more than 4 years ago | (#31633446)

Looks really, really, really tempting... but for even less I can get an unlocked HTC G1.... Hmm.. I don't wear watches anyway.

"Zero charger" defies the laws of physics? (3, Interesting)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 4 years ago | (#31633452)

The only way I know of cor the so-called "vampire draw" to be "100% eliminated" is through a mechanical switch. Any circuit that detects the presence of a device on the other end must necessarily draw power from somewhere, and the device sure isn't going to provide it over USB. That's a violation of the spec. AFAIK, the USB device doesn't output any signal on the wire until interrogated by the host.

And even if you got past that somehow, you would still have some sort of trickle power available to power the power-switching circuit itself.

So basically the only way I can imagine this working is if they did something like putting a microswitch inside the USB connector, which is fine as long as you remember to unplug the cable at night, but that's hardly any different than unplugging the charger. You're just moving the problem a little farther down.

Am I missing something, or are these claims exaggerated somewhat?

Re:"Zero charger" defies the laws of physics? (1)

Microlith (54737) | more than 4 years ago | (#31633528)

So basically the only way I can imagine this working is if they did something like putting a microswitch inside the USB connector, which is fine as long as you remember to unplug the cable at night, but that's hardly any different than unplugging the charger.

Actually that's hugely different. Instead of having to take the secondary action of unplugging the charger after unplugging the phone, detaching the phone cuts the charger out completely. One action, instead of two.

If this is what they're doing, it's pretty smart.

Re:"Zero charger" defies the laws of physics? (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 4 years ago | (#31633614)

If this is what they're doing, it's pretty smart.

And should have been made common place well over a decade ago.

Re:"Zero charger" defies the laws of physics? (1)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 4 years ago | (#31633636)

Only if the phone has a built-in USB connector. For most phones, you have to unplug the phone from the cable and the cable from the brick, which is not significantly different from unplugging the phone from the cable and the brick from the wall.

Re:"Zero charger" defies the laws of physics? (1)

Animaether (411575) | more than 4 years ago | (#31633664)

I can't find a site that actually details how it works, etc. It's certainly entirely possible for a charger that is already active (power is flowing through it) to shut itself off, mechanically (a relais will do) once current draw drops below a particular level - this would make it shut itself off when the device is fully powered as well (presuming it's not using the charging power source as its main power supply while connected).

The problem is - once it -is- shut off, you can't just connect a device again and have it magically start back up *unless* that device itself provides the power to the charger to initiate this logic. I can't think of device that does this on purpose.. some leak current might be expected, I suppose, but that should be -very- low.
So I would think that there's still a switch on the charger itself to turn it on.

Regardless, it looks like it has a nice shiny blue LED going on when it is on, which may very well be more of a vampire draw than a well-designed charger that's not 'smart'.

Re:"Zero charger" defies the laws of physics? (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 4 years ago | (#31633556)

Perhaps they use a wooden or stake or silver bullets or something. Or maybe they use garlic. I know! It must be solar-powered!

Re:"Zero charger" defies the laws of physics? (1)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 4 years ago | (#31633648)

They could store some power while it's charging things and use that to turn it off. Say a big capacitor - which is holding the output at +5, with the +5 shutting things down by biasing the gate of a FET or IGBT. Nothing but leakage currents (which can be too small to measure) until the charge finally leaks away and it turns on long enough to reestablish it.

Or it can charge its own internal battery when it's charging something else and shut down its draw for months at a time. (Of course this takes the "vampire current" it would have drawn over months and concentrates it during the period the device is charging the external load...).

Combine the ideas: A battery to hold the output at +5ish for years without drawing line power. A sensitive relay with its coil in series with the output (or controlled by a low-leakage transistor ditto), drawing no power when it - and the line - are off. Relay turns on the charging circuit which refreshes the battery while charging the load.

Or put a mechanical switch in the socket where you plug in the charging cord of the device. B-)

IMHO "vampire currents" are blown far out of proportion. We're talking pennies a year of electricity even with most of the existing devices. While making them a true zero (without a mechanical switch) is nice, something that makes their load very small is just about as nice. But if the premium price for the device is more than the cost of the power the cheaper device would burn in a decade it's a financial loss. Also it's likely an energy loss, once you count the energy to make the extra components to cut out the vampire draw. So you don't even get feel-good-I'm-so-green benefits.

Re:"Zero charger" defies the laws of physics? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31633692)

Also it's likely an energy loss, once you count the energy to make the extra components to cut out the vampire draw. So you don't even get feel-good-I'm-so-green benefits.

Wait, things have to actually conserve energy in order to get people to feel good about saving energy with them? When did this happen?

Re:"Zero charger" defies the laws of physics? (3, Insightful)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 4 years ago | (#31634156)

Wait, things have to actually conserve energy in order to get people to feel good about saving energy with them? When did this happen?

When some nerds accepted the global warming and/or other green rhetoric - but still were nerds enough to demand more than just claims for the remediation schemes.

Re:"Zero charger" defies the laws of physics? (1)

Itninja (937614) | more than 4 years ago | (#31633730)

And didn't I hear a while ago there was a move to make all phone chargers universal? Does that mean that this funtionality would eventually apply to all new phone chargers. Also, why do I care about the $0.15/yr extra I spend to keep a charger plugged into the wall....when many, many more higher juice devices have been plugged in for years (i.e. TVs, stereo systems)?

Re:"Zero charger" defies the laws of physics? (1)

snowraver1 (1052510) | more than 4 years ago | (#31633948)

I calculated it out to 30 cents per year, where vampire = .5 watts (a href=http://www.itworld.com/green-it/58062/mobile-phone-chargers-are-energy-vampires>a poor rated charger) and electricity is 7 cents per kilowatt hour (what I pay). My clothes dryer uses that much electricity in an hour.

Re:"Zero charger" defies the laws of physics? (1)

Itninja (937614) | more than 4 years ago | (#31634010)

I think my hot water tank, which certainly doesn't have to be heating water all night long, is using a couple orders of magnitude more than that.

Has nobody heard of a "normally-open relay"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31638152)

The little device that all you ignorant kids have never heard of that's "something like [...] a microswitch" is called a RELAY. It's an electro-mechanical device where an energized coil generates a magnetic field that pulls a solenoid that moves the leaf contacts of the switch.

These ingenious devices come with two kinds of switching: normally-open and normally-closed. That refers to the default state of the switch contacts. No power is required to return the switch contacts to their default state; mechanical springiness does it.

It's very easy to place the normally-open contacts of a relay in the path to the power supply of a circuit, and to have the coil energized under the control of the switched circuit. Then you also wire a pushbutton or similar across the relay contacts. Press the button, current circuits past the relay, energizes the circuit and hence the coil; now the relay turns on, and current continues to flow (now through the relay contacts) into the circuit, and the coil stays energized and the relay contacts closed when you release the button. The circuit has now stably latched itself on. To switch it off, you need only briefly interrupt the supply to the coil - for example, by having a transistor, or even another relay (this time with normally-closed contacts) in the circuit path to the coil and sending it a switching pulse. The coil de-energizes, the contacts spring back open, current stops flowing in the whole circuit, it latches itself right back off again.

This is really basic electrical circuit design stuff, it was already old tech when I was reading about it in Practical Electronics magazine as a kid in the '70s. How dare you call yourselves geeks without knowing this kind of basic Electricity-and-what-to-do-with-it-101 stuff?

Re:Has nobody heard of a "normally-open relay"? (1)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 4 years ago | (#31641568)

I assumed that the device detected not only the absence of a phone, but also its reattachment. A latch circuit occurred to pretty much all of us; the idea of the consumer manually tripping it didn't. I suppose pushing a button to start is slightly better than pushing a button to start and stop (a mechanical switch), though not a lot, and certainly not a lot when you consider how much less efficient it is. It doesn't really solve the problem. Well, it does, but only if you don't care how much more current it drains when not idle.

Assuming you can even find an electronic relay circuit that can handle 110VAC, the lowest-current 5V electronic relay circuits I've seen (which still can't handle the switched voltage required) draw on the order of 2 mA+ for the "coil" current (not counting any dissipation from the 110VAC lines you're switching). That's 10 mW, which is equal to the maximum total power that the new EU rules allow for cell phone charger standby power when plugged in and unused. Thus, for most people (who unplug their cell phones when they leave for work and plug them in when they get home), this actually is worse than a normal charger.

If you use a mechanical relay (e.g. a reed relay) instead, you're looking at about 10 mA coil current minimum, 50 mW power minimum, which means that the average person is more than 5x worse off than with a standard charger.

Now maybe they've found a way to do the switching more efficiently, but even if they did, this is still a pointless gimmick. Even if it were perfectly efficient (e.g. a mechanical switch), it would save a mere 10 mW of idle power when compared with a new charger that complies with the new EU rules. If you left such a charger plugged in 24x365, you would save a whopping 0.0876 kWh, which is less than three cents annually even at our exorbitant $0.33/kWh PG&E rates, or 0.85 cents ($0.0085) at the national average power cost. Thus, this circuit, even if it used precisely zero additional power, cannot realistically pay for itself over the expected lifetime of the product or even over the lifetime of the end user even in the most expensive retail power markets in the world.

Re:Has nobody heard of a "normally-open relay"? (1)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 4 years ago | (#31641668)

One other problem. You would have to use a 110VAC mechanical switch to drive an additional transformer-based power circuit to provide the initial control voltage. You can't use a low-voltage switch because then you would have a power supply generating that low voltage constantly, so you would have so-called "vampire draw". A 110VAC switch is large, expensive, and failure-prone, a mechanical relay doubly so.

The electronics industry moved away from mechanical switches for very good reasons.

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HTC Devices (1)

TheRealJobe (1125771) | more than 4 years ago | (#31636932)

I'm more interested in Sprint's EVO. Assuming the pricepoint is right that is. It's a real step towards video conferencing as a common form of communication. Plus the 8.1 Megapix camera that can record up to 720P and has HDMI out means I can lighten my load by about 3 devices...

Just like the last round of VOIP apps (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31637186)

Just like the last round of VOIP apps for the iPhone, AT&T said "no" so Apple pulled them from the app store sticking the developer with the rebate expenses.

Then again, Apple has been less then consistant with the app store so far. So perhaps this one is OK while the last ones where "bad".
China Mobile Phones [chinamobilephones.org]

Hello, Line2Phone. Skype calling, Vonage holding (1)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | more than 4 years ago | (#31638146)

Seriously, Skype already offers WiFi calls for a lot less, and works well. I used it recently overseas via free hotel WiFi and it worked great. It's a lot cheaper if you don't want a Skype in number. Vonage has a plan as well but costs a lot more. Both are Wifi only, unless you have a jailbroken iPhone. The question is will Apple allow VOIP via 3G; if so I think the current crop of VOIP apps will quickly add that feature, making Line2Talk yet another me too app without the name recognition of the bigger players.

Of course, once Apple and ATT sort out the issue (which they seem to be doing) I expect one (probably Apple) to bring out their own VOIP via 3G app. Apple could easily integrate that into its phone App, if they could do so in a way that lets the phone know it's making a VOIP call then ATT could even add that as an extra cost feature. Being able to ID when an app wants to do VOIP would be, for ATT, a double win - more money for them as well as a way to block other VOIP calls via 3G unless they are paid for them. I don't like that idea, but ATT must be looking at ways to monetize VOIP using their phones. I realize many calls are already VOIP, but that's at ATT's end where tehy decide how to haul the traffic; this would put a meter on the consumer end.

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