Apple intros 'Try Before You Buy' on App Store

If the approximately 250,000 reviews of the Angry Birds game aren't enough to help you decide whether to spend 99 cents, head over to Apple's newest category on the App Store: Try Before You Buy.

Apple recently introduced the category, which brings together the free or "lite" versions of some popular iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad apps, perhaps for those who may experience app-buyer's remorse.

The move to surface these free trial apps is being interpreted by some as a way for Apple to show that it's unnecessary to jailbreak an iPhone to use … Read more

How to text without a cell phone

Kids, of course, come in all varieties, and their interests run the gamut. But when it comes to 10-year-old girls, I dare say, there are two ubiquitous desires: getting one's ears pierced and getting a cell phone.

And you may as well let go of that ol' school stereotype of a preteen--phone glued to ear, gabbing on and on with friends about inanities--the phone is not really for talking. It's for texting.

This is why my own 10-year-old daughter--too young in her stodgy mom's eyes for piercings or a cell phone--was ecstatic to have found a work-around for the latter. Earlier this summer, a friend told her about an app for her iPod Touch called Textfree, which assigns her a real phone number, and lets her send and receive texts for free.

In other words, "She's in," said Pinger CEO and co-founder Greg Woock, whose company makes the Textfree app and who, too, has a 10-year-old daughter. "If you have a phone number, now you're cool, even if you don't have a phone. No one knows you don't have a phone."

And the trade-offs are minor, especially by the standards of a 10-year-old. To text, she needs to be connected to Wi-Fi (which she says "is basically everywhere"), and she needs to deal with ads bannered across the bottom of the app. (She says she doesn't "even notice.")

So my now-cool daughter, at the very least, is helping illustrate a trend among tweens who are turning their iPods into texting devices. Unbeknownst to her, however, she might also be helping shake up traditional wireless-carrier models as we know them.

In the roughly two months since users of Pinger's Textfree app started getting assigned actual phone numbers, Pinger has handed out 1.6 million. That's as many wireless numbers as AT&T gave out to net new subscribers in April, May, and June, according to the company's second-quarter filing. Pinger is now sending out about 630 million text messages per month; 70 percent of those are sent from iPod Touches, and 30 percent are sent from iPhones. The median age of the app's users is 18.

Textfree is one of a handful of mobile-texting apps that you can find in Apple's App Store, Gogii's TextPlus among the higher-ranked ones. But only Textfree (for now, anyway) hands out an actual phone number, which can later be ported, as required by law. Other apps send texts from an e-mail or short code.

The handing out of phone numbers was part of Pinger's preannounced plan to start offering voice-calling options--"Textfree with Voice"--slated for a beta launch at the end of September. Users will have the option to pay for voice minutes, or they can earn minutes by doing things like downloading free apps, filling out surveys, or performing other tasks that don't seem to bother youth already accustomed to having their consumer habits tracked.

In other words, using Wi-Fi on her iPod Touch (along with microphone-equipped earbuds), my daughter will be able to actually call and talk to me.… Read more

Lollapalooza phone apps integrate with Facebook

Every major rock festival now features an iPhone app to help you navigate the grounds and find out when your favorite bands are playing, but Lollapalooza, which happens this weekend in Chicago, has a couple of unique wrinkles.

The Coachella iPhone app that I used earlier this year had a friend finder and the ability to post photos, but AT&T's network had trouble sending regular SMS messages, so I didn't even bother trying to use these data-intensive features. To try to get around this problem, the Lolla organizers have teamed up with AOL Lifestream to provide … Read more

Music locker smackdown: mSpot vs. MP3tunes

If you're looking to get your music collection stored in the cloud, two of the best options out there are MP3tunes and mSpot.

Both services offer a free starter plan capped at 2GB. They both integrate with iTunes or can be configured to manually upload music from specific folders. You can stream over any browser, or by using their dedicated mobile apps. The two services have so much in common, actually, that it can be hard to decide which one to use.

So, if you're sick of waiting around for Google or Apple to create their own long-rumoredRead more

Captain's Log: I just wasted 99 cents on a lame 'Star Trek' app

Let me preface this review by saying I'm a lifelong Trekkie. While I've stopped short of attending conventions, I have purchased posters, novels, and even the CD soundtracks from several of the movies. Sometimes I'll listen to James Horner's "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" score just driving around town. That's right: I'm a big enough Trek nerd that I know who the composer is.

Consequently, I was excited--OK, geeked--to check out Star Trek Captain's Log, a new "official" app from Paramount Pictures. After all, is the iPhone … Read more

Introducing the CNET News iPhone app

We're often so busy looking at other people's iPhone apps we don't have time to take a break for self-promotion, but this is big.

We're happy to introduce CNET News' very own iPhone app. It became available as a free download on the App Store on Tuesday, so you might have already downloaded it and begun reading CNET News articles (including this one) from it.

CNET News has long had a mobile browser friendly version of its home page, and that will still live on. But our new app brings several new features to the table … Read more

Digital natives hold on to Polaroid

Since it was rescued from extinction, Polaroid's look has been transformed into something everyone can have right on their computers or mobile screens. Free applications like Poladroid and Polarize bring Polaroid's feel to the digitally inclined.

Once you open Poladroid, a picture of a Polaroid camera will show up on your desktop. To start converting your pictures into retro gems, drag and drop any JPEG file onto the Poladroid icon. The loading time for the application is a bit slow, but at least the sound effects are realistic. The final image does not show up right after you … Read more

Thin Samsung TV fat with features, Hulu Plus

Samsung's ultra-thin edge-lit LED-based LCD TVs created quite a stir last year, and in 2010 numerous other makers have followed the Korean giant's lead with inch-or-so-thick panels of their own. Samsung's are generally still the thinnest, however, and on models like the UNC6500 series the company manages to pack more features and extras--the latest being Hulu Plus--into its TVs than just about anyone else. In terms of picture quality, as expected, the UNC6500 doesn't offer a significant improvement over standard LCDs, but it is mighty efficient as well as oh-so-sleek, which might be enough to justify … Read more

BlackBerry Torch 9800 is official

Links from Wednesday's episode of Loaded:

Blackberry Torch is official Details on Blackberry OS 6.0 Middle Eastern countries ban Blackberry phones Google rolls out multiple log-ins raises security eyebrows Facebook updates Android app

5 killer apps for jailbroken iPhones

So you decided to jailbreak your iPhone using the fast and easy browser-based method that's been making headlines all week.

Now it's time to stock up on the apps Apple doesn't want you to have, mwa ha ha! (Don't you just love thumbing your nose at authority?)

As a first-time jailbreaker (finally got the aforementioned JailbreakMe to work early this morning), I've been test-tapping some of the most popular apps on my newly liberated iPhone 3GS. And already I'm wondering how I got along without them. Here are my five must-haves.

(Note: the links … Read more