Monday, April 24, 2017

Samsung to issue updates to fix bugs on the just released Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+

After hearing a reasonable number of complaints from Galaxy S8 owners who noticed a red tint in their phone’s displays, Samsung will issue a software update to give them more control over display color settings. According to the Wall Street Journal, another update will aim to fix buggy WiFi in Korea. That’s two updates within the first couple of weeks of the Galaxy S8’s life, in case you were keeping track. 

The red tint issue (example) was reported almost immediately out of Korea when the Galaxy S8 and S8+ launched. I can’t say that we’ve seen many complaints from our readers, but the red tint was widespread enough out of the gate that you can find reports of it in various forums and news outlets. Samsung took notice and will push an update that lets users “adjust the color setting to their preference.” In other words, the red tint doesn’t mean you have a defective display, it just means that Samsung tuned it poorly and will allow you do take control going forward.

As for the other update that will address WiFi bugs, well, it should do just that – fix WiFi bugs. This update might specifically be targeting an issue in Korea, so it may not affect your unit at all. If you do have WiFi issues, be sure to let us know, though.

Verizon Fios now offers near-gigabit internet speeds for new and existing customers for $70 a month

Verizon announced that its Fios fiber optic internet offerings are getting a serious upgrade today with Fios Gigabit Connection.

Despite the “gigabit” name, the new service offers slightly less than gigabit speeds at a still impressive 940 Mbps down / 880 Mbps up, and serves as an upgrade to Fios Instant Internet, which offered 750 Mbps upload and download speeds.

Along with the faster speeds, Verizon is also simplifying its service offerings for Fios internet in areas where the new speeds are available, in what seems to be an effort to strongly push the new plan. Those customers will have a choice between just two tiers for standalone internet: Fios Gigabit Connection for $69.99 a month, and a comically slower 50 Mbps option for $39.99 a month. Customers with Fios Instant Internet will also be automatically upgraded to the faster speed.

Verizon will also offer a bundled option with a two-year contract that nets you Fios Gigabit Connection with TV and phone, set to cost $79.99 a month for the first year and $84.99 a month for the second.

According to Verizon, the new (almost) gigabit internet will be available to customers in the New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Richmond, Va., Hampton Roads, Va., Boston, Providence and Washington, D.C. areas, but you’ll probably have to check with your local Fios service given the historically spotty availability of Fios.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Best Buy to have limited quantities of NES Classic tomorrow (4.24.17)

The NES Classic is officially discontinued, and Nintendo has said that the final shipments of the mini-console are reaching stores this month. But April is nearing its end, and thus so are your chances of getting the Classic — even if there’s no good reason for this thing to be going away in the first place. Best Buy has announced that the NES Classic Edition will be available at its stores (not online) at start of business tomorrow. Some locations will be doing a ticketing process before doors open; that’s the case at several New York stores I’ve called.

A Best Buy spokesperson said that the NES Classic will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis. However, the company has a policy of not commenting on inventory, so it’s impossible to know whether this is really the end of availability at the electronics retailer or whether a few more units might sneak onto shelves between tomorrow and April 30th. Best Buy is also promising savings on Classic accessories, which makes sense seeing as no one will be able to buy the main item for much longer.

So what will you do? Get in line a few hours from now? Hey, at least temperatures are warming up for all of you on the east coast. Or will you ignore any desire to own the NES Classic as a statement towards Nintendo’s bizarre and terrible business strategy?

The end of this retro hit is near, my babies. After this, you can hold out hope for GameStop (probably only in expensive bundles), Walmart, Target, and Amazon. After that, it’s either eBay, Craigslist, or waiting for the SNES Classic.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Target and Nintendo team up to promote Mario Kart 8 Deluxe by daring customers to thrown shells and drop banana peels at each other

In this week’s edition of “How could this possibly go wrong”, Target announced today that more than 650 stores across the country will get a Mario Kart makeover in honor of the launch of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe for Switch on April 28th. The promotion will turn some shopping carts into “Super Target Karts” featuring Mario, Luigi, and Peach (sorry Bowser), and shoppers will be greeted by flashing lights and the Super Mario Bros. theme song as they walk past the checkered start line at the store entrance.

If you’d rather not get trampled by teens and/or grown adults racing through the store on their karts, you can catch a glimpse of additional decorations outside the store — Target’s will transform the big, red bollards into disembodied Mario and Luigi heads. Target did a similar promotion last year for the launch of Pokémon Go, painting the bollards like giant Poké Balls. Even better, when you enter a Target you get the "On your mark, get set, GOOOOOOO!" sound found at the beginning of every Mario Kart race.

The experience will only be around for the next few weeks, which hopefully shouldn’t cause too much store damage. I’m probably being overly pessimistic here, but this could be another short-sighted corporate marketing effort that ends up putting more strain on its retail workers — like how the limited-edition Starbucks’ Unicorn Frappuccino drove a fed-up barista to go on a passionate rant on a now deleted Twitter video: 

"I have never made so many Frappuccinos in my entire life. My hands are completely sticky. I have unicorn crap all in my hair and on my nose. I have never been so stressed out in my entire life!”

Turning shopping carts into Mario Karts and a store into a race track is practically daring shoppers to misbehave (myself included). If your local Target has a supermarket section, you should steer clear of it even more, unless you want to slip on an actual banana peel. Though if you do end up getting injured, Target always has band-aids in stock. Marketing!

Verizon announces a terrible quarter in which they lost hundreds of thousands of customers

For years, Verizon has been able to continue to add customers, even as carriers like T-Mobile and Sprint have offered comparable plans at rock bottom prices with free phone deals and other gimmicks. Verizon could always fall back on its network being the best, even if their plan selection wasn’t or their prices were much higher than others. Something seems to have changed in 2017, though, as the company just reported what may be their worst quarter ever, a quarter that was actually on pace to be even worse if not for the introduction of Verizon Unlimited

According to yesterday's Q1 earnings release, Verizon lost 289,000 postpaid phone customers, which are the really, really important type. So not only did they not gain any, they lost close to 300,000 of their most important customers. That’s insane. I can’t even tell you the last time Verizon lost phone customers. In Q1 of 2016 (just a year ago), they gained 452,000. If you need proof that people can vote with their wallets, this is it. Verizon is a multi-billion dollar company and people said enough is enough with the price hikes for no added value.

What makes this news even crazier is the fact that they had to openly admit that it was on track to be even worse had they not introduced Verizon Unlimited, their new unlimited plan. In mid-February, just before Verizon Unlimited launched, they were actually down 398,000 phone customers for the quarter, but managed to then add 109,000.

It’s a bit like Verizon’s bubble finally popped to start the year. As I mentioned, they have continued to ignore (or be really late in matching) industry trends as the #1 carrier because they always just assumed they’d be fine or that they network and experience was too good for people to look elsewhere. From carry-over data to unlimited, Verizon just didn’t think they’d have to adapt.

Their previous CFO,Fran Shammo, said just before he retired that people like you and I don’t actually need unlimited data. As it turns out, that doesn’t even matter now. But one thing is certain, Verizon sure as hell does.