Tag Archives: Consumer reports

Your Cable Box is About to Die


Courtesy: BrandonSigma

Cable television has been under relentless pressure for quite some time now. More and more Americans are simply cutting the cord. Tired of the high cost of cable programming bundles and equipment rental many people are finding streaming to be a better option. This fact is especially true for black people, who according to Pew Research watch more television than any other group.

The Internet and streaming media services such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime have shown American television watchers there is a cheaper, easier and more convenient way to watch television. 

A new survey from ComScore revealed that among 18-34 year old viewers 24 percent don’t subscribe to a traditional pay TV service. This is a prime demographic for advertisers. Of that group nearly 46 percent of those viewers never had cable to begin with, while the rest simply cut the cord. And the number of Americans moving away from cable television has been steadily growing since 2009.

Now the F.C.C. has turned up the heat on cable companies further by deciding to kill the cable box as we know it.

On Wednesday the Federal Communications Commission announced a proposal that would allow cable and satellite subscribers to pick the devices they use to watch television. Currently nearly all cable customers must rent those set top boxes from their cable companies and pay, on average, $231 a year for these devices. Looks as if those days are coming to an end.

The move would save the consumer plenty of money because they would pay a one time price for the new device. The move would permit tech companies like GoogleTV, Amazon and AppleTV to expand their footprint in the television markets by introducing technology that blends television and Internet. As you can imagine the television industry has fought this move for some time.  The reactions to the announcement has been predictable. Technology companies love it. Cable television hates it.

With a focus on improving the overall television experience the  F.C.C. is looking to remove a prime source of consumer complaints; the set top box, cable company restrictions and expensive long term contracts.  Tech companies like Apple and Amazon make devices that connect to televisions and have new interfaces, but they provide streaming Internet video and do not replace the cable box. Many blue ray disc players and gaming consoles also provide streaming entertainment. The objective is to blend these devices into a more streamlined device that does it all…for less.

F.C.C. Chairman Tom Wheeler said; “It’s time to unlock the set-top box market. Let’s let innovators create, and then let consumers choose.” Wheeler  wrote of the proposal on the technology news site Recode. According to the F.C.C. prices for other consumer technology such as smartphones has been on a steep downward spiral while estimates for set top box and other cable technology devices rose 185 percent over 20 years.

Opponents of the proposal believe that the industry was already providing more streaming options. The opponents said that F.C.C. intervention was not needed to spur innovation.

Cable companies have been slowly coming to the realization that streaming media is taking over and have been trying to adjust. Last November Time Warner Cable began a trial offering of cable television lineups through devices made by Roku. Charter Communications also offered its subscribers streaming TV through a Roku App. Cox Communications, an Atlanta-based cable company, allows customers to view programming through TiVo.

Television networks like HBO, Showtime and CBS recently introduced new offerings of à la carte offerings allowing customers to subscribe to an individual network without paying for the traditional full cable bundle.

Advocates believe that if the F.C.C. announcement is approved, consumers will see immediate savings.  Consumers could begin using just one device to access video content whether its video streaming online or cable television.

President and CEO of Consumer Reports, Marta Tellado,  said the changes were long overdue.

“With the ever-increasing price of cable and all of the advances in technology,” she said, “why should consumers have to keep renting a set-top box?”



Teen Driving Worries? There’s an App for That

canstockphoto22566500Any parent will tell you their greatest fear is the day their child gets behind the wheel for the first time.  Their child is moving beyond their control and watchful eye. They are entering the jungle called life and the open road. They are driving. Fortunately there is technology and apps for that.

For parents, especially African-American parents, driving opens a terrifying stage in their child’s life. An encounter with the wrong police officer can be deadly. For those fears black parents with teen drivers, and themselves, there is the Driving While Black app. This app educates and prepares them and their child to survive encounters with police officers. It provides tools that allows them to document the encounter for later reference, immediately notify parents if they are stopped and legal information. Driving while black should not be a lethal task but we know it happens.

But we also know how teens tend to behave in a reckless manner and suffer from basic inexperience on the road. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety 16 to 19-year-olds are nearly three times more likely to have an accident than drivers ages 20 and over. In the U.S. most teens dream of the day they begin to drive. And eventually they will want a car of their own. So the IIHS offers this list of safest used cars for teens.

But as long as they are driving mom and dad’s car parents will want to monitor and educate their child about driving. Now General Motors is offering a new way for parents to track their child’s behavior behind the wheel.

GM’s new product, “Teen Driver,” and will be available in the 2016 Chevrolet Malibu.

Parents can program “Teen Driver”  to track how far their teen has driven,  how fast they drive, record any speed warnings issued during a drive, stability control events, anti-lock brake events, forward collision alerts and forward-collision braking events if the vehicle is equipped with that option.

To activate Teen Driver parents unlock the feature by creating a PIN in the “settings” menu of their available MyLink system. This then allows them to register their teen’s key fob. The system only records when that key fob is in use.

To download and review the full report parents just enter a password on MyLink. This tool can used to help a teen polish their driving skills. Parents could also spot potentially troubling behavior such as speeding and sudden hard braking.

But many parents can’t wait or afford a brand new 2016 Malibu. For those parents there are options available now.

If you currently own a late model GM car there is the OnStar emergency communications system. This service can locate their car on a map using GPS. OnStar will also inform the owner when the vehicle has an airbag deployment.

Ford Motor Company sponsors the RoadReady app. The app is an extension of The Parent’s Supervised Driving ProgramThe RoadReady app allows parents to track and log driving habits during their child’s learner’s permit process and is available on Apple devices.

Travelers Insurance offers IntelliDrive a plug-in device that records driving behaviors. Parents can see  the location and driving history of their teen. Parents get a weekly report on their teenagers driving habits that include speed, acceleration, braking, and driving hours. Most importantly parents will be alerted via text or email of unusual activity such as when their child goes beyond set boundaries. The technology is limited and is only available in several states.

Progressive Insurance Snapshot is also plug-in device that records driver behavior such as acceleration and braking as well as daily miles driven and the time of day the driving takes place. Progressive does not market the device as a way to monitor teens but it could certainly be used that way. But there are a few things you need to know about Snapshot.

Cellcontrol blocks your teenagers cell phone while driving. If someone tries to tamper with the device  it sends a text or email alert to a designated administrator. Cellcontrol is currently available on BlackBerry, Android, and Windows Mobile 5 and 6.

Parents can learn about other technology for monitoring their teens driving habits by visiting these sites.

USA Today: Apps Etc. Monitor Teen Drivers

Consumer Reports: How to Track Your Teen Drivers

Now you know

Bad Fruit Spoils Apple’s Party


Courtesy of Samuiblue

Apple started the week on top of the world. The release of the new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 plus exploded with sales that topped 4 million in a matter of days. Demand was so high for the new iPhones that the iPhone 6 Plus sold out within hours and the phones have sold 10 million units in a week. Many people who pre-ordered their iPhone 6 will get them quickly but many others won’t get their iPhone delivered until next month. Another unqualified Apple success. Even though the new iPhone 6 is not really that much different from the iPhone 5 gadget hounds could not resist pouring billions more dollars into Apple’s bank accounts.

And with every party comes the hangover. Apple has some major explaining to do. Reports are coming to light that the new iPhone has an interesting curve, literally. Customers are reporting that the phone bends when it is placed in the owners pocket.

Apple’s new iPhone has a thinner design with a bigger screen than the previous model iPhone. As a result the phone bends under pressure.  The iPhone 6 plus is made of a secret aluminum alloy and milled as a single piece. The weak point of the phone appears to be around the volume buttons. This is where the aluminum is the thinnest. This creates a fulcrum point where the phone bends but the screen does not crack or break unless you try to flatten it out again.

Many people say the bending occurs when the phone is placed in the back pocket and sat on.  Brandwatch, a social media monitoring company said only a few people tweeted about the bend originally. But after the release of the video showing the phone bending that number jumped to 75,000. Click here to see the YouTube of the iPhone bending.

However tests done by Consumer Reports revealed that the iPhone 6 plus is stronger than the iPhone 6 and not as bendable as reports suggest. Consumer reports testing revealed the phone was as strong or stronger than some of its competitors.

Apple after first stonewalling the issues finally issued a statement saying that the phone is made form the highest grade materials and the strongest glass in the industry.

Apple went on to say; “We also perform rigorous tests throughout the entire development cycle including 3-point bending, pressure point cycling, sit, torsion, and user studies. iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus meet or exceed all of our high quality standards to endure everyday, real life use.”

According to Apple after six days of incredible sales only nine customers have contacted Apple about bent phones.

Apple’s problem did not stop at their hardware. The normal super quality of their software and updates also seems to be lacking. Apple launched then recalled an update for the iOS software running the iPhone on Wednesday after users complained of bugs, including one that disabled cellular service.

Apple called the release iOS 8.0.1, then pulled back the software following complaints that it disabled cellular service and Apple’s touch-identification system.

Apple released a statement saying, “We have received reports of an issue with the iOS 8.0.1 update. We are actively investigating these reports and will provide information as quickly as we can. In the meantime we have pulled back the iOS 8.0.1 update.”

Apple did issue a work around for iPhone users. In a statement Apple said affected users could reinstall iOS 8 using iTunes. “We apologize for the great inconvenience experienced by users, and are working around the clock to prepare iOS 8.0.2 with a fix for the issue, and will release it as soon as it is ready in the next few days,” read the statement.

On Thursday Apple released iOS version 8.0.2, a patched version of the flawed  iOS 8.0.1 software update for iPhones.  According to PCmag.com 40,000 Apple users were affected.

Breaking it down

This was a big week for Apple. But Apple is not the first company to stumble coming out the gate with a new product. And nor are they the first tech company to have software bugs. My question is; is it really a problem? After all only nine people complained to Apple about bent phones. Why? Because its possible many realize its their own fault. The iPhones that were tested by Consumer Reports bent and fractured at about 110 pounds of force. So how many Apple customers weigh more than 110 pounds? And why are they abusing their phones by placing them in their pockets knowing they bend and twist and sit over an over again all day? I’m not surprised that some people have had the phone bend in their pocket. Apple has always built quality products. So this is not all Apples fault. But at the same time the buyers of these devices should expect them to be fairly rugged. Its a fine balancing act between the two. I would expect the people who waited in line for hours to pay top dollar for the right to be the first with the new iPhone to be more careful with their purchase. As for the software glitch; that one is all on you Apple.