4G Cell Phone Network Coming to Central PA

Central Pennsylvania cell phone users see ad after ad about the amazing data transmission speeds of 4G wireless Internet phone networks that, apparently, are available everywhere in the United States. The reality is, 4G in Central PA is little more than marketing hype. While there may be a cell phone tower or two that handles 4G transmissions near a few large towns, even customers of national carriers could be getting only 3G performance—and sometimes slower—in most of central Pennsylvania.

Immix Wireless Announces 4G Coverage

On January 25, Immix Wireless and SEDA-Council of Governments (SEDA-COG) announced we have arranged financing that will let Immix begin to deliver 4G service in this calendar year. The Immix 4G cell phone network will be the only network that provides 4G wireless Internet coverage throughout ten counties of central PA.

Immix 4G Cell Phone Coverage

Immix Wireless serves Centre, Clinton, Lycoming, Sullivan, Union, Northumberland, Montour, Snyder, Schuylkill, and Berks counties. Our goal with this 4G network deployment is to provide nearly complete coverage throughout these ten counties.

Immix Wireless is a locally-focused wireless communications company. It was founded only to serve central Pennsylvania, and as such is intent on bringing the best cell phone coverage to the area. Large, national carriers focus network upgrades in major metropolitan centers first and only eventually get around to providing advanced services in rural areas.

Immix Wireless maintains retail outlets in Williamsport, Wyomissing, Lewisburg, Pottsville, Muncy, and Selinsgrove. We have authorized dealers to represent us in Lock Haven, Reading, and Frackville.

Of course, we are very excited to be investing in central Pennsylvania’s technology infrastructure and will provide updates about our 4G wireless Internet network as the project progresses.

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Smartphones Gots Smarter Alarm Clocks

Living in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania has brought me face-to-face with a difficult truth: My life is better when it involves a portable alarm clock. A portable calendar/appointment book also makes life better, but I’ve had one or another form of that for decades. The portable alarm clock is relatively new to me.

Cell Phone Alarm Clocks

My first feature-phone-style cell phone had an alarm clock capability built in. I wasn’t clever enough to think of it as more than a device to wake me up. However, some time after I switched to a smartphone, I finally got over my bias: I use an alarm clock app several times a week—more often for cooking than for waking up.

The alarm clock app frees me to work in my office (in the far back corner of my basement) even while things cook on the stove or bake in the oven. When I set an alarm, I can risk getting absorbed in a project at my desk with complete confidence I’ll get back to the kitchen before my food becomes charcoal.

Of course, even a feature phone alarm clock could have helped with my cooking problem. But smartphones have taken the alarm clock into new territory.

Weather-Aware Alarm Clock Smartphone App

The latest alarm clock app to get my attention goes by the name of Winter Wake-Up from BoondoggleBE. The idea is compelling: Set the alarm for a normal day, but rest assured that if there is freezing rain or snow overnight, the app will awaken you early; you’ll have extra time to shovel your driveway or scrape your windshield.

The app relies on your location information and an Internet connection to track weather so it knows whether to provide an early warning. It has mixed reviews, getting an average of three stars out of five in Android Market. With a very small feature set, it still gets some approval, and we can hope the developers add features in response to reviewer comments.

Wake up to Information

Take your chances on the overnight weather, and you can wake up to a voice reading the news. Sounds like a clock radio, but here’s the twist: an app named Smarter Alarm Free lets you choose what type of information you wish to receive first thing in the morning—weather, stocks, headlines, sports, RSS feeds, and even information from your Facebook and Google accounts. It awakens you by “reading” the information you’ve selected. This free version advertises at you and gets an average rating of 4.1. For $3.99 you lose the advertising and the approval rating jumps to 4.7.

 

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Camera-Killing Smartphones

Night out? Sightseeing tour? Landmark spotting? Unexpected view? You might encounter all these scenarios in a day in Central Pennsylvania.  And when you do, like so many people before you, you probably reach for your 126 film camera…. um, your point-and-shoot digital camera… no, your smartphone to capture the moment.

digitalcamera Camera Killing Smartphones

Yes, smartphones are quickly replacing cameras as the devices of choice to capture photographic records of our lives. NPD Group, a market research organization, recently reported that people capture fully 25% of all photos and videos using smartphones rather than dedicated cameras.

Quality Still Matters

The NPD study reports that people still prefer dedicated cameras to capture important moments—parties, family gatherings, and so on. However, for more spontaneous snapshots, people reach for their smartphones.

Especially for younger shutterbugs, the dispensation of photographs may continue to drive the move to smartphones. It is becoming common practice to send images via email, share photos on social networks, and post them with photo sharing services. Whereas using a dedicated digital camera introduces the need to transfer a photo to a computer, creating the photo on a smartphone makes it instantly ready for electronic distribution. What’s more, you can install photo-editing software on a smartphone and tweak images there before sharing them.

Even the Pros use Smartphone Cameras

It’s unlikely that smartphones will ever unseat dedicated digital cameras for serious photographers. Interestingly, however, many professional photographers admit that they resort to their smartphones to capture scenes at unexpected opportunities.

Perhaps for truly dedicated photographers and videographers, the future will see high-end digital cameras with built in cell phones.

 

Find Immix Wireless products and services at our stores in Lewisburg, Muncy, Pottsville, Reading, Selinsgrove, Williamsport, and Wyomissing. Our authorized dealers in Bellefonte, Lock Haven, and Sunbury can also help with your cell phone and smartphone needs.

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Pennsylvania Cell Phone Users: No Texting While Driving

It’s official: Pennsylvania cell phone users may no longer legally “text” while driving. Actually, the law doesn’t go into effect until March of 2012, so you still have time to tempt fate legally.

Legislators had no trouble signing a bill that prohibits texting while driving. However, they refused a provision that would have made conversing on a hand-held cell phone illegal. That leaves some serious gray area.

Rationale to Ban Texting While Driving

While some criticize the ban as government meddling, there is a strong public-safety rationale: when a driver becomes distracted while texting, the resulting accident can harm others and damage their property. It’s simple courtesy not to harm others with your  own irresponsible acts; people who lack regard for their own safety shouldn’t have a right to disregard the safety of others.

But what is Texting?

Further criticism of the texting-while-driving ban relates to simple logic: How can police enforce this law fairly? Texting is a specific activity involving a cell phone or smartphone. By definition, typing out a Google search isn’t texting. Neither is reading an email message or, for that matter, typing and sending one. Doing any of these activities while driving is just as dangerous as texting… but they clearly are not texting.

Equally puzzling: if someone is using a speech-to-text app to send messages, should that person be subject to the same penalties as a driver who punches a keyboard to send a text? Goodness, the simple act of keying in a phone number exactly resembles sending a text message, but a texting-while-driving law—particularly one that allows making phone calls—can’t curtail a phone-dialer.

Be Safe When You Drive

It seems likely that Pennsylvania’s new texting-while-driving law will cause a lot of confusion and it will likely lead to wasteful courtroom activity. How many cases will hang on whether the handheld activity was texting or merely asking your smarphone’s GPS-enabled mapping app for directions?

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Go to a Store to Shop Online with Your Smartphone?

While you’re not likely to encounter them yet in central Pennsylvania, some retail store owners have seen the wisdom in catering to smartphone users. Mobiledia reports that some retailers now provide smartphone apps that let shoppers pay for merchandise without going through checkout lines. Other stores have displays at which shoppers can simply scan QR codes to order and pay for products and have them shipped home.

From Cell Phones to Smartphones

We’ve advocated that retail stores should cater to cell phone users, and we’ve highlighted obstacles businesses erect that agitate rather than serve smartphone owners. It’s instructive to see how some retailers are evolving along with cell phone technology.

Mobiledia describes several retail operations at which customers browse as in any store—able to examine products, hold them, and maybe even try them—and then make purchases through apps installed on their smartphones. A customer might pick up the purchased merchandise to take home, or provide a shipping address and receive the products within a few days.

As close to 50% of cell phones in the United States are smartphones and the number is growing fast, retailers who don’t adjust their practices are simply going to lose out. An app that simplifies and accelerates customers’ in-store shopping can also reduce the number of checkout lines and cash registers needed to serve those customers.

Smartphones Transform Retail Spaces

When a retailer embraces smartphone technology, it won’t be just about an app. Businesses that rethink the retail experience may be able to provide a greater variety of products while significantly reducing operating costs.

For example, the retail space can become an “interactive catalog” where shoppers examine real products but use smartphone apps to fill electronic shopping carts and commit payment.

With this model, a show floor requires only one or two instances of each product rather than stacks of identical grab-and-go items. Instead of restocking shelves, workers will pick orders and deliver them to customer pickup desks—the bulk of a retail store’s activity will resemble warehousing, though the customer experience will be only a bit different than it is today.

At Least Do Something

You’re probably not yet ready to transform your retail operation so dramatically. In fact, with only 50% of cell phones being smartphones, such changes would alienate a lot of customers. However, at least do something to engage your smartphone-carrying shoppers. Businesses that delay will become less and less appealing to a population that is enthusiastically embracing this revolutionary technology.

Immix Wireless can help you mobile-enable your marketing and retail operations. Contact us to discuss your specific challenges and learn more about our services.

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Connect America Fund for Rural Broadband

In late October, the FCC established the Connect America Fund. This fund commits as many as 4.5 billion dollars annually to extend broadband Internet access to rural American communities where it is not yet available.

According to the FCC, 100 million Americans do not have broadband access at home. That’s nearly 33% of our population and it’s a disturbing statistic when you know that fully 90% of people in Singapore and South Korea have broadband at home.

Some Central Pennsylvanians Have no Choice

While 33% don’t have broadband Internet access at home, for most of those 100 million Americans, going without is a choice. However, depending on which FCC report you read, as many as eighteen million Americans live in rural communities where affordable broadband Internet access simply isn’t available. Central Pennsylvania happens to be home to many such communities.

For example, the FCC identifies larges areas southeast of Sunbury and others between Middleburg and State College that have no broadband service. There are also many areas north of Williamsport that have no service. The FCC provides an interactive map that reveals broadband coverage throughout the continental United States.

What Does Broadband have to do with Cell Phones?

While demand for broadband Internet access at home lags, people are passionate about cell phones. Growth in the cell phone industry is especially strong for smartphones; more than 50% of mobile phone users in the US have smartphones and Internet access is what makes smartphones so popular.

To serve the growing demand for smartphones, mobile phone service providers are running fiber-optic cables to cell towers and installing high-speed switching equipment capable of running 3G and 4G cell networks. Even if service providers never run wired broadband into your rural home, you’ll have broadband access available when a modern cell phone network reaches you.

In announcing the Connect America Fund, the FCC highlights the importance of the role cell phone service providers will play in extending broadband Internet access into rural areas. Especially in rural areas, it’s inevitable that cell phone carriers will offer broadband in your home as a separate service from a cell phone account.

The following links lead to further information about the FCC’s Connect America Fund and statistics presented in this article:

Broadband Adoption Challenge

FCC Creates Connect America Fund

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Pennsylvania Smartphone State Parks App

Back in July, Pennsylvania State Parks & Forests released a smartphone app that should appeal to everyone who enjoys outdoor recreation in PA. The Official PA State Parks Guide app is available for both iPhone and Android users.

There’s a PA State Park Near You

The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) reports that there is a state park within 25 miles of nearly every Pennsylvanian. Depending on which DCNR web page you read, there are 188 state parks.

stateparkteaberry Pennsylvania Smartphone State Parks AppTeaberry is among the diverse flora you can find at one of 188 Pennsylvania state parks.

In reviewing The Official PA State Parks Guide, our first thought was to find the state parks nearest to us. It wasn’t to happen. Every effort we made to find a nearby state park on a map resulted in the app telling us we needed to buy an upgraded version to use maps and GPS data. Frustrated, we used Android’s voice search and quickly found DCNR’s website where they map state parks by region.

Immix Wireless serves Berks, Centre, Clinton, Lycoming, Montour, Northumberland, Schuykill, Snyder, Sullivan, and Union counties. All (except for Mountour county) have state parks. Once we learned this from our browser, we returned to the PA State Parks Guide to learn how it might be useful.

Low-Value Free Smartphone App

Turns out, we couldn’t find much use for the app. It offers a nifty list of activities in which we might participate at a park. When we selected an activity, the app listed appropriate parks. However, the list of parks told nothing of the parks’ locations. These could have been destinations five hours away, or ten minutes down the street.

Likewise, a calendar of events listed programs at various state parks with no obvious way to learn where those parks are. A list of events within a specific distance would be useful, but sorting out nearby activities from all activities scheduled state-wide is impractical unless you’re planning a vacation. The Weather option led to a web page that wasn’t at all suited to review on a mobile device.

The PA State Parks Guide app can provide maps of the state parks and details about camping areas and hiking trails, but it’s best to have a specific park in mind before you start. Of course, if you’re interested simply in learning what the parks have to offer, the app can provide hours of entertainment. But there’s a catch.

The State Parks Guide is one of the largest (28 megs) and most resource-intensive (19 megs for data which I assume varies depending on what you do in the app) apps we’ve explored. It has no apparent option to save downloads on your smartphone’s SD card, so it’s especially touchy on Android 2.1. If you can install it on your SD card, it may not have the same performance issues that we saw.

Maybe Paid is Better

It’s easy to imagine that upgrading the app for $3.99 would provide a much more robust experience… and would probably make the app more useful. For example, having GPS-aware maps while hiking, and GPS tracking to know where all members of your hiking party are, seem like pretty useful features. Oh, yeah, and being able to find the nearest state park within the app rather than exercising other Android apps.

However, you’d best not acquire the PA State Parks Guide app unless you’re running Android 2.2 or higher (sorry, we don’t know how the app performs on any generation of iPhone). If you really want to try it out, you might install it for a particular trip, and then uninstall it when you’re not using it.

We’re glad to see Pennsylvania employing cell phone technology in innovative ways, and we trust that the PA State Parks Guide will improve with succeeding releases. This early version is a decent start, but it’s hard to commit when you see how memory-hungry the app is.

Find DCNR’s press release about their mobile phone app here.

The Android app: PA State Parks

The iPhone app: PA State Parks

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Find Your Way in PA with an Android Smartphone

I drove to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania some time ago, and had printed directions from Google Maps to assure I’d reach my intended address. As I made my final approach to the city, I suddenly realized that if I didn’t leave the Interstate at the next exit, I would end up in New Jersey!

The error I’d made would require retracing my route many miles before being able to continue with my printed directions… so I decided to “wing it” and approach the city on a different highway than the one Google Maps had intended.

The Smartphone Proves its Worth

As I exited the highway it occurred to me I had a smartphone in my pocket. I fished it out, powered it up and unlocked it. Then I tapped the search key followed by the voice button, and I told the phone the address of my destination followed by the word “directions.” Having never tried this, I didn’t know what the phone would do, but it quite quickly displayed a list of likely options, and I tapped one to confirm it was the correct one.

My cell phone loaded a map! But it wasn’t just a map; it was a GPS-informed representation of the world, and my car was in the picture! The phone knew where it was relative to my selected destination, and it was showing me the way.

At traffic lights I’d look at the phone to reassure myself I was on course and, with no hassles; no missed turns, I arrived at my destination on time (yes, I’d left extra time in case highway construction, traffic, or operator error somehow slowed me down).

When Isn’t There an App?

That trip cemented in my mind the awesomeness of smartphone technology. As installed at the factory, my Android knew exactly what I wanted when I asked for it, and it delivered. Of course, there are thousands of smartphone apps to handle just about any emergency, business, entertainment, data-management, or personal communications need that arises.

The world is switching to smartphones, with about 50% of cell phones in use in the US being smartphones (we’re well behind other countries, but catching up quickly). If you don’t yet have a smartphone, it may be time to take the plunge. Check out the Immix Store to see what smartphones and plans are available in your area.

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From Cell Phones to Smartphones

Wow! In August we asked the question, Are PA Cell Phone Users Average? Then we presented statistics about cell phone use and what people would be willing to give up instead of cell phones. In that article, we reported that the industry estimates 25% of cell phones in use are smartphones… how quickly things change!

Smartphone Use According to Nielsen

According to the trend-trackers, The Nielsen Company, fully 40% of mobile phones in the United States are Smartphones! We doubt that industry estimates we reported earlier were off by 15%. Rather, the numbers in our August post probably dated back to the beginning of 2011. Nielsen gathered their data in July.

In case you like to keep track, Nielsen also reported on the popularity of different smartphone operating systems. Android leads the pack, driving 40% of smartphones in the United States. Apple iPhone OS runs on 28%, and Blackberry accounts of 19%.

Nielsen’s research suggests that people still switching to smartphones are more likely to want Androids than iPhones while interest in Blackberry and Microsoft operating systems may be declining.

 

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Disaster Assistance for Pennsylvania Smartphone Owners

FEMA, last year, announced a mobile website where smartphone users can apply for federal disaster assistance. Such assistance becomes available when the President declares an area a disaster area.

Central Pennsylvania Is a Disaster Area

floodinglewisburg 300x236 Disaster Assistance for Pennsylvania Smartphone OwnersCell phone users in such communities as Williamsport, Milton, Lewisburg, Danville, Sunbury, and Selinsgrove—towns that sit on the Susquehanna river—were especially likely to have flooded while tropical storm Lee dumped on the region.

On September 12, the President declared Pennsylvania a disaster area. FEMA identified the following counties as included in the declaration:

Adams, Bradford, Columbia, Cumberland, Dauphin, Lancaster, Lebanon, Luzerne, Lycoming, Montour, Northumberland, Perry, Schuylkill, Snyder, Sullivan, Susquehanna, Union, Wyoming, and York.

While residents may be salvaging items from flooded homes, they might also be conferring with insurance companies to determine how much financial assistance they’ll receive. However, when insurance isn’t adequate, residents may be able to draw financial assistance from the government.

Try to Apply Via Smartphone

Being able to apply for aid via smartphone could prove useful especially at times when your home electronics aren’t functional because of power outages—or worse, because they were destroyed by whatever disaster was declared. Of course, central Pennsylanians may have lost home networks and computers in flooding caused by tropical storm Lee—the very tools needed to apply for relief funds.

However, if you have a smartphone, navigate to the address, m.fema.gov, and you can apply there for assistance.

 

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