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Hands-On with Griffin’s TuneBuds Mobile 01 December 2008 at 9:57 am by

Tunebuds1

Apple has been dragging its feet with the release of its new iPod Touch compatible, remote control headphones with mic. Neither the in-ear nor the regular earbuds have yet made it into the stores, which has given the third-party makers a head start. Grifin sent us a pair of its TuneBuds Mobile earbuds to try out. Here’s how they fared.

Tunebuds5

The TuneBuds are of the in-ear type, and will work with many new iPods. The iPhone gets to take advantage of all the features. The inline button will answer and hang up calls, pause, play and skip songs, both forward and back, and the microphone will also let you record sound.  The 2G iPod Touch gets all of this except the part pertaining to telephone calls, and the 4G iPod Nano will work with the mic, but not the remote controls, as will the 120GB Classic.

Tunebuds6

So, how does the hardware shape up? There are three different sized rubber grommets which push onto the plastic inner section, so unless you are a ninety-year old man with big flapping lugs or a mewling babe, you should be able to get them to fit. One in, the buds stay put. This is their greatest advantage over normal earbuds, which require constant – and annoying – readjustment. The rubber doesn’t seal out external sound completely, but I like that — I listen to podcasts while riding a bike and I like to hear the traffic.

The headphone cords are particularly nice. They have a woven sleeve which feels tough and prevents tangles — you can throw these in your pocket and they won’t turn into a rats’ nest of knots. The switch, too seems solid yet still light. The switch and mic are both housed inside a small cylinder which sits inline with one of the two cords which go to your ear. This means that the mic is right by your mouth for phone calls.

The call quality is, I think, fine. I didn’t try them out with an iPhone, but the TuneBuds turn an iPod Touch into a VoIP phone. That’s right. Using VoIP software like Fring, you can make Skype calls direct from your iPod over WiFi. It works great, although the Fring call quality was a little shaky. Here’s how the conversation went:

Me: Can you hear me?

The Lady: Of course. You’re in the next room.

Me: Yes, but can you hear me on Skype?

The Lady: It works!

Recording voice notes also works great. I tried it with Griffin’s own iTalk, which is designed to, well, record your voice. Despite having a terrible cold, I sounded clear and free of background noise.

Next, music. The TuneBuds sound a lot better than the earbuds that ship with the iPod, but that’s not hard. In fact, when we first tried them out, the Lady and I both heard a dreadful hissing. This turned out to be on the MP3 track, and I hadn’t noticed it before with the Apple ‘buds. The Griffins won’t replace your high-end cans, though. While not tinny, there is a rather lot of shrill top-end to the music. Treble can sound harsh. A quick trip to the iPod’s EQ screen is in order. The "Treble Reducer" setting takes care of everything.

Tunebuds4

The Remote control works fine. One click for play/pause; two clicks to skip forward and three to skip back. It’s simple and easy. But it brings us on to the fatal flaw with the review unit. If you jiggle the mini-jack in the socket, the iPod pauses. Or starts up. It’s completely repeatable, and renders the headphones unusable for anything other than listening at a desk, or while carefully cradling the rig in your hands. This could, however, be a fault with this particular unit.

How annoying is it? Aside from music cutting in and out at random, the worst part is that the iPod can switch itself on. This may kill the batteries, and it may also leave you a few minutes or a few hours ahead in podcasts or in audio books.

To be fair, I have only tested these properly with the 2G iPod Touch, so they may fare better with the iPhone or the new Nano. I have some suspicions as to the problem. Take a look at this closeup:

Tunebuds8

Do you see it? Of course you do, you smart, observant reader. The iPod’s jack socket is rimmed with metal, and the shape of it doesn’t really hold a jack plug steady. I suspect that the plug is bending in my pocket and metal is touching metal, causing a short. That’s speculation, but it seems to fit the facts.

So, should you buy them? Aside from the weird bug, they’re fine. They sound better than the $30 Apple buds, and they’re certainly better put together (my Apple ‘buds usually only last a few months). Until Apple actually releases its new mic-equipped earbuds, we can’t compare. We can take a look at the prices, though. The TuneBuds are $40. The Apple in-ear cans will be $80. They also come with a neat little case, which I will probably have lost by the time I finish writing this review:

Tunebuds9

To sum up. A good, cheap alternative to Apple’s own headphones. They also have the advantage of not being white. The TuneBuds are sadly crippled with the iPod Touch, though, due to the weird, and almost random, track skipping error. We’ll be looking into that. Until then, if you want remote control and a microphone for your iPod, you don’t have much choice.

Product page [Griffin]

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Black Friday Giveaways (part 10): the LG Prada phone By 28 November 2008 at 11:59 pm and have No Comments

We’ve decided to end the Engadget Black Friday Giveaways with a blast from the past. Remember this guy? It seems like only a week ago that Apple was being accused of ripping off this LG and Prada collaboration with the iPhone. Ah… memories. Well, you can at least still impress some folks down at the local discotheque with this one — just make sure no one accidentally pours a vodka and Red Bull on it. Here’s how we do it.

We’ll put up a gadget on the site, and you can only enter it until the next gadget lands (usually within a couple of hours). If you miss your shot, sorry, we’re moving on to the next gadget. Good luck! Oh, and don’t forget the rules. (Yeah, there are always rules.)

  • Leave a comment below. That’s it! Who loves you, baby.
  • You may only enter this specific giveaway once. If you enter this giveaway more than once you’ll be automatically disqualified, etc. (Yes, we have robots that thoroughly check to ensure fairness.) You can enter different giveaways in today’s Black Friday giveaways, but you can only enter this one once.
  • If you enter more than once, only activate one comment. This is pretty self explanatory. Just be careful and you’ll be fine.
  • Contest is open to anyone in the 50 States, 18 or older! Sorry, we don’t make this rule (we hate excluding anyone), so be mad at our lawyers or US contest laws if you have to be mad.
  • Winners will be chosen randomly.
  • Entries can be submitted until the next contest goes up. After that we’re all done. Good luck!
  • Full rules can be found here.

Last round’s winner: Apitt! (Remember, winners are selected at random.)

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Black Friday Giveaways (part 10): the LG Prada phone originally appeared on Engadget on Fri, 28 Nov 2008 23:59:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Linux hits the iPhone! By 28 November 2008 at 7:04 pm and have No Comments

We knew this day would eventually come, but somehow we’re still misting up a little — Linux has been ported to the iPhone and iPod touch. Dev Team member planetbeing is the mastermind in charge of bringing everyone’s favorite open-source OS to Apple’s handhelds, and while it’s a little rough around the edges (read: no touchscreen drivers, sound, or WiFi / cell radio support), it’s definitely the first step on the road to hacking nirvana. The team is hard at work, and it even sounds like they’re thinking about porting Android in the near future (!), so hit the read link to try it out and lend a hand if you can — or just head on past the break for a quick vid of the port in all its text-scrolling glory.

[Via iphone-dev.org; thanks to everyone who sent this in]

Continue reading Linux hits the iPhone!

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Linux hits the iPhone! originally appeared on Engadget on Fri, 28 Nov 2008 19:04:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Black Friday Giveaways (part 6): Zune 120 and premium earbuds By 28 November 2008 at 6:56 pm and have No Comments

Don’t be crazy alright? Just get your comment in below, because if you win this one, you’re walking away with a totally boss Zune 120 plus a sweet pair of those premium earbuds. You’d have to be crazy, stupid, or some lethal combination of both not to jump at this one. Now here’s how it’s done.

We’ll put up a gadget on the site, and you can only enter it until the next gadget lands (usually within a couple of hours). If you miss your shot, sorry, we’re moving on to the next gadget. Good luck! Oh, and don’t forget the rules. (Yeah, there are always rules.)

  • Leave a comment below. That’s it! Who loves you, baby.
  • You may only enter this specific giveaway once. If you enter this giveaway more than once you’ll be automatically disqualified, etc. (Yes, we have robots that thoroughly check to ensure fairness.) You can enter different giveaways in today’s Black Friday giveaways, but you can only enter this one once.
  • If you enter more than once, only activate one comment. This is pretty self explanatory. Just be careful and you’ll be fine.
  • Contest is open to anyone in the 50 States, 18 or older! Sorry, we don’t make this rule (we hate excluding anyone), so be mad at our lawyers or US contest laws if you have to be mad.
  • Winners will be chosen randomly.
  • Entries can be submitted until the next contest goes up. After that we’re all done. Good luck!
  • Full rules can be found here.

Last round’s winner: hammerhead_12! (Remember, winners are selected at random.)

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Black Friday Giveaways (part 6): Zune 120 and premium earbuds originally appeared on Engadget on Fri, 28 Nov 2008 18:56:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Nokia 5800 XpressMusic launch dubbed ‘stunning success;’ 120 Russians can’t be wrong By 28 November 2008 at 9:31 am and have No Comments

Nokia 5800 XpressMusic launch dubbed 'stunning success;' 120 Russians can't be wrong

We love covering the antics of gadget-crazed buyers on launch day as much as anyone, whether it be die-hard gamers waiting for a PS3 or international fanatics clamoring for Apple’s latest. Sometimes, though, these big launch sellouts feel a bit… contrived. Such is the case with Nokia’s 5800 XpressMusic, dropped first in Russia on Wednesday ahead of its worldwide release yesterday. An internal memo (conveniently posted onto the Mobile-Review forums by a Nokia employee) talks up the usual release day shenanigans: buyers camping for days, bribery attempts for spots in line, inventory disappearing in minutes, and an inevitable prediction that this thing will be bigger than the iPhone. However, while the memo liberally quotes from the LiveJournal musings of Mobile-Review editor Eldar Murtazin, it skips over one choice bit of information he provided: a measly 120 phones were available at this “flagship” location in Moscow.

[Thanks, pops]

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Nokia 5800 XpressMusic launch dubbed ‘stunning success;’ 120 Russians can’t be wrong originally appeared on Engadget on Fri, 28 Nov 2008 09:31:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Battech rolls out long-lasting iPower SX solar charger By 28 November 2008 at 9:06 am and have No Comments

It’s getting increasingly more difficult for solar chargers to distinguish themselves from one another these days, but it looks like Battech’s new iPower SX has a few somewhat unique things going for it, the most notable of which is a beefier than usual 2200mAh battery (compared to 18000mAh or less on most other units). That should be enough to keep an iPod Classic going for a full 50 hours, as opposed to 18 hours using something like the Freeloader. The device also boasts a few other nifty touches like a battery status indicator (which all to often goes overlooked) and, like other similar devices, you can also simply top off the battery by plugging it into a USB port. No word on a release ’round here just yet, but folks in the UK can apparently pick one up right now for £40, or about $60.

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Battech rolls out long-lasting iPower SX solar charger originally appeared on Engadget on Fri, 28 Nov 2008 09:06:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Unlocking iPhone 3Gs–the Vietnamese way By 28 November 2008 at 7:00 am and have No Comments

Tuan Anh Do shows off an unlocked iPhone 3G at one of his cell phone repair shops in Hanoi.

(Credit: Dong Ngo/CBS Interactive)

Editor’s note: CNET editor and Crave contributor Dong Ngo is spending the next month in his homeland of Vietnam, and plans to file occasional dispatches chronicling his impressions of how technology has permeated the culture there. Click here for more of Dong’s stories from abroad.

HANOI, Vietnam–Every obstacle presents an opportunity. I saw this firsthand in Hanoi.

Tuan Anh's shop on Nguyen Du street.

(Credit: Dong Ngo/CBS Interactive)

The obstacle in question: the iPhone 3G. Since its launch, it has proven a much tougher nut to crack than the original iPhone. Without a viable software-based unlock solution, the only way to make the phone work with any GSM carrier has been the use of a proxy SIM. Put this piece of very thin circuitboard in the iPhone 3G atop the carrier’s SIM, and you can make calls and text on a new network.

(I did experience some problems using the proxy SIM, including short battery life, instability, and, most seriously, incompatibility with iTunes.)

Unfortunately, the recently released 2.2 software update, for now, has made the iPhone 3G impossible to unlock–unless you happen to be in Hanoi. Here, I met a man who takes the job quite seriously and gets it done the hard way, literally.

His name is Tuan Anh Do, and he’s a 29-year-old businessman who owns five cell phone repair shops. A big part of his business is servicing the iPhone and iPhone 3G, and that often involves getting those devices unlocked at the hardware level.

One of his shops is on Nguyen Du street, a relatively small, quiet block in Hanoi. It’s located in a typically narrow four-story house, with one floor serving as a reception area, and another holding the accounting department. The top floor is the workshop, where the magic happens.

Here I witnessed a brand new iPhone 3G getting its hardware unlocked and was really impressed. This is how it happened.

Cellphone boarding pass gets tested, experience gets journaled By 27 November 2008 at 7:04 pm and have No Comments

The biggest problem with a new scheme — particularly one involving you, technology and the TSA — is the very real fear that introducing something fresh into a traditional system will create more havoc than good. As Grant Martin of sister blog Gadling discovered, there’s a reason that belief exists. Upon realizing that he could utilize a mobile boarding pass on his flight from Detroit to New York, he excitedly pulled up a one-time use QR code on his iPhone and shuffled through to security. Upon reaching the checkpoint, he was greeted by a less-than-enthusiastic boarding pass checker who seemed to take entirely too long to send him onward; at the next step, the agent seemed miffed and discomposed by the fact that the passenger couldn’t simultaneously rid himself of all electronics and keep his boarding pass on his person while passing through the metal detector. In the end, Mr. Martin concluded that the system holds a lot of promise, but it’s still going to take some time before everyone else working at the airport adjusts to the year 2008.

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Cellphone boarding pass gets tested, experience gets journaled originally appeared on Engadget on Thu, 27 Nov 2008 19:04:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Hidden TV out features discovered in iPhone 2.2 SDK By 27 November 2008 at 3:05 pm and have No Comments

So, get a load of this. While tinkering within the iPhone 2.2 SDK, ArsTechnica discovered a neat little tidbit that could lead to some pretty extensible applications. In essence, the MPTVOutWindow class enables your iPhone to beam out video to a connected TV rather than the built-in screen. Of course, dock-connecting iPods / iPhones have been sending out videos for ages now, but this could actually enable applications to be used on the big screen. Sadly, the current code won’t allow screen interaction while the TV out function is active, but the accelerometer is still a go. Check out a short demonstration clip after the break, and feel free to let your imagination run wild after peeking the read link.

[Via AppleInsider]

Continue reading Hidden TV out features discovered in iPhone 2.2 SDK

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Hidden TV out features discovered in iPhone 2.2 SDK originally appeared on Engadget on Thu, 27 Nov 2008 15:05:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Keepin’ it real fake, part CLXIX: the iPhone gets flipped By 27 November 2008 at 9:31 am and have No Comments

What would you get if you combined an iPhone, a unibody Macbook, a strobe light out of a smoky, drugged-out disco, and a shelter from pesky copyright infringement? We guess you’d get something like this, the creatively-named “iPhone V126″ that you’ll find floating around the streets of Shenzen these days. The QVGA display shows off a reasonably faithful reproduction of the iPhone’s UI (for a non-touch device, anyway), but the similarities end there considering that you’re going all the way down to a useless VGA cam paired with an Apple logo on the front cover that emanates entrancing pulses of searing white light every time you get a call. We’ll take two in gold, please.

[Via PHONE Magazine]

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Keepin’ it real fake, part CLXIX: the iPhone gets flipped originally appeared on Engadget on Thu, 27 Nov 2008 09:31:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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