Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Omegacell Communications - not a rip-off

On browsing for a new phone (yes, I still have my Xperia X10i), I realized that I never posted any feedback about where I bought it.

I got my Xperia from Omegacell Communications.  I checked them out beforehand, and they had a decent physical store and all the phones physically in stock (i.e. in hand, you can pick them up and use them). 

I was initially leery because they appear to sell 'grey market' phones.  These phones don't seem to be distributed in Canada, but they get them anyway.  Which probably means they're not "sanctioned" by the manufacturers.  However, I took the chance after seeing that they actually had a phone to sell.

The advantage is that they sell several leading-edge AWS compatible phones.  Good news for those of us who like WIND Mobile, but don't like the WIND Mobile phone selection.  They also correctly identify the 2100 MHz band as being completely unnecessary, kudos for that.

Anyway, I did end up buying from them, and everything was exactly as advertised.  My phone did indeed come with a European charger (plus American adapter plug), a multilingual manual and a web browser preloaded with bookmarks for Belgian sites, so it is obviously intended for European markets.  But it works fine except for a couple of minor, Sony-related glitches that were fairly easy to sort out.

Caveats:  The warranty is not factory, so if you run into problems you may be SOL.  They have a limited return policy, so be sure you are buying what you want.  And all the phones are (obviously) unlocked, so the prices are the full, unsubsidized price, which can result in sticker shock for the inexperienced.

Also, you will have to do some of your own technical support.  To be fair, WIND was exceedingly helpful and did a great job supporting my "non-WIND" handset when things were not working so great.  But they can't solve everything, so off the Google you may have to go (once in a while) to figure out what is what.

Anyway, I just wanted to mention that although this outfit appears small, and a touch sketchy, they did deliver the goods.  Their Amazon ratings also look solid, so presumably my experience is not the only good one they have delivered.

They now carry the Samsung Galaxy S II (AWS model) with that huge 4.52" screen on it.  I mocked up a 5.0" Dell Streak (too big) and the 4.0" Xperia X10 (no problem).  I wonder what the 4.52" would be like...

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Steve Jobs: 1955-2011

Steve Jobs is dead.

Much will be made of his accomplishments, followed (inevitably) by much being made of his shortcomings.

He may be the best example possible of how enormously successful people are still - well - people.  Like you and me - only human.

The great cable swindle continues

So today I receive an email from My Cable Mart, a cable vendor in the USA that I used some years ago.  I used them because I needed long HDMI cables (50') and they were one of the only places that had them at a reasonable price.

The email was punting a 15% off sale they are having.  It's been a long time since the last promo email - I can't even remember when that was - so either this is something unusual or times are tough (or both).

Looking back, I paid $105 ($USD) for a 50' HDMI cable back in 2007 - same cable is now $102, with a much better exchange rate.  A quick check shows Future Shop selling them - finally - at $200 now, for their "house brand" no-name cable.

I have nothing against no-name cables.  I love them.  They work, and you don't pay for all the marketing and other bullshit.  But it's pretty plain that the markup on cables is still huge.

And why not?  When I worked in retail, we sold camera filters worth $1 to people for $15-$30.  And people bought them.  Cables are no different than other "accessories", except for the fact that you HAVE to have them.  Which makes them easier to sell than filters, which are ultimately optional.

But it is still sad to see this level of gouging.  And that's not even beginning to mention the "premium" brand cables, which are much more expensive.  All they are is a bunch of the same wire, made with a touch of thicker insulation and put into a pretty package that will get thrown away the instant it's installed.

Future Shop doesn't even sell Monster cables any more, or at least not the more expensive ones.  I guess that sort of crap isn't exactly flying off the shelves in recessionary times - who wants to spend $200 for a three-foot cable when you're unemployed, anyway?

Unfortunately, even My Cable Mart has cottoned on to price differentiation.  They offer various "grades" of HDMI cable, with different wire gauges and so forth.

Well, here's news: all the cables get tested the same way.  And since they're for digital signals, they either work or they don't work.  Period. 

So, barring any special features (like right-angle connectors, which can occasionally be very handy) a cable is a cable is a cable.  You don't need to punt up for the "premium" brand from anybody - not even the discount vendors.

Now, I suppose that the "high-speed" cables might find some future use.  Maybe.  Somehow.  That is, if Blu-Ray somehow gets replaced by something even MORE high-def, that needs to carry even MORE data. 

Somehow I doubt it - HD was always a solution looking for a problem, and Blu-Ray has not decimated DVD sales like the studios hoped it would.  Nor have HD channels replaced standard TV en masse.  With 1080p being the 'gold standard' of video - and enjoying less than stellar uptake - why would anyone care for even more resolution?

3D TV is the same way.  Nobody wants 3D TV.  The industry created it because it was the only thing they could think of to get more profits.  Pretty much.  Sure, there's the odd 3D movie - Disney is reportedly coming out with several  3D remakes - but that doesn't demand any kind of special high-speed cable.

This one is not even worth linking about - there is information all over the net on cables.  Linking would be futile.

Times are tough, and most people are more careful with money now.  Maybe - just maybe - we'll see more people doing their homework in the next few years.  Then people will start to realize what is worth paying for - and what isn't.