Do Cloud Users Need Smartphone Data Recovery Services?

Just how much *is* that smartphone data worth to you? PocketMac thinks it’s priceless, and for some, that could well be true. That’s why the company offers their Recover My Smartphone service — as long as your handset powers up they can get the data from it for you. In the case of a broken screen, inadvertent water introduction or other injurious incident where you can’t pull your data, a service like this is useful. The PocketMac folks will either create a DVD of your data or they can recover the info and move it to another device for you.

But let’s get back to the original question: how much is your data worth? It had better be worth a bunch because the service fees start at $199 for basic data recovery and DVD creation. Another $50 puts data on a new device and in both cases, return shipping is included. PocketMac says that their process turns around your data within five to seven days, which is pretty speedy. It ought to go quick — the company has over 32,000 hours invested in reverse-engineering and dissecting smartphones to see what makes ’em tick.

While the service sounds useful, it’s unlikely that I’d personally use it. “But don’t you value your smartphone data?” you ask? Of course I do — no more and no less than most of you. My situation doesn’t really warrant such a service, however. My gradual move to the cloud over the past few years essentially provides me with a native backup service. Contacts, mail, calendar events, documents, media and more are already backed up on someone’s servers and are easily pulled back down. Even applications specific to devices and platforms can be restored — the Palm Profile on the Pre (s palm), for example, keeps track of what webOS software I’ve purchased and it re-downloads the apps in the case of a restore or new device. There’s still a need for PocketMac’s Recover My Smartphone service, but less of one of those who live in the clouds.

HP Mini Netbooks with CloudDrive Have Nearly Limitless Storage

I haven’t bumped into the ZumoDrive folks just yet, but they did give me a heads-up on some big news. The cloud storage and synchronization company worked a deal with HP (s hpq) to power the CloudDrive service on the HP Mini netbook line starting this month. Essentially, owners of HP Mini netbooks have built-in web storage that virtually expands the local, physical storage. All content is stored centrally on Amazon S3 servers and pulled down as needed.

What I like best about ZumoDrive’s approach is how data in the cloud has a local look and feel. When I last looked at the service, I used iTunes to listen to music files stored online, but you really couldn’t tell where the data was. This seamless blurring of local vs cloud storage is a key strength for mobile users as is the cross-platform support and mobile client.

Some of the key CloudDrive features include:

  • Seamless media integration – stream music, videos and photos to popular programs like, iTunes, iPhoto, Picasa and Windows Media Player.
  • Offline access enjoy frequently and recently used content.
  • Folder linking – link any folder to HP CloudDrive for automatic future importing.
  • Content autodetection –content is detected on devices by type (music, photos, etc.) for easy bulk importing
  • Improved iPhone app – move content seamlessly between an iPhone and one or more computers by storing it in HP CloudDrive.
  • Playlist syncing – listen to playlists on netbooks or smartphones, even if they were created on another PC.
  • File sharing – create a link to share a photo album, document, or entire folder for collaboration.

We’ll see if we can get a hands-on demo when meeting with either HP or ZumoDrive and report back on the experience. If it’s anything like what I’ve seen in the past, it ought to be good. The one outstanding question I have is the end-user cost — while CloudDrive will be bundled, the ZumoDrive service typically requires a monthly fee based on the amount of storage, although anyone can get 2 GB of storage for free.

How the Internet Changed Writing in the 2000s

With so much discussion about how the Internet is changing journalism and media, there’s surprisingly little said about how writing itself has changed. But as more people have spent more time writing on the Internet this past decade, the way we write has changed significantly.

Mint App to Account for Android Coming

The folks at Mint are working on an Android (s goog) version of their software, and I can’t wait. I’ve been using their service to help manage our home finances and investments for nearly two years, and the iPhone app is stellar. Since it’s all but certain that an Android device is in my future, Mint’s efforts (Intuit’s really) are timely. The company estimate for a software launch is by the end of the first quarter, says ZDNet, but the software won’t sacrifice quality for a schedule. That’s important when dealing with something as crucial as people’s financial information. Also in the works is a method for manual transaction entry at the point of purchase, making Mint more like a checkbook register.

The latest version of Mint for iPhone got a big boost when it hit a few months back. Alert notifications arrived, which give me a heads up when a bill is due or when I’m approaching my budget limit in a particular category. Clearly, I’m not doing too well from a budgetary standpoint this month — I’m over on three categories! And aside from basic tracking and reporting on all expense activities, the latest version allows for modification of transactions on the iPhone.

While that might not sound like much, it comes in handy for check transactions in particular. I often see transactions listed as “Check 123” for example — that doesn’t tell me who the check was made out to, nor does it specify what expense category the amount is associated to. With support for manual modification, I can make the appropriate changes right on my phone and have them sync back up to my Mint account on the web. Not everyone wants to trust their data to Mint, but for me, it’s a must-have app on my handset.

Will Add-ons be the Secret Sauce of Success for Mobile Firefox?

Add-ons in Firefox Mobile on Nokia's N900

The release of Firefox Mobile should be under the Christmas tree very soon, but some are already looking at the add-ons that will work with the browser. Liz Gannes at GigaOm runs through a bunch of the early extensions that can be installed on the mobile browser that behaves like a desktop client. I didn’t realize that there’s already 42 extensions available, just waiting for the final release of Firefox Mobile.

Of course, the first device to see the production version of Firefox Mobile is the Nokia N900, which I currently have under evaluation. I’ve installed the most recent beta build of Mozilla’s browser, but I’m withholding judgment until I see the final release. As such, I haven’t installed any add-ons just yet, although I’m tempted to install Mozilla’s Weave Sync — that extension synchronizes bookmarks between the full version Firefox and Firefox Mobile.

After releasing the browser for Nokia’s N900, Windows Mobile (s msft) will see it and then Google’s Android platform after that. With each platform already offering or supporting reasonably good mobile browsers — Opera Mobile and Android’s native browser come to mind — Mozilla is banking on desktop features like extensions to win over mobile fans. Extensions have helped make Firefox a success on full computers and it’s reasonable to assume that it will help strengthen their position in the mobile space as well.

Are you patiently waiting for Mobile Firefox or are you content with your current mobile browser?

Verizon, Bing Make Google Go Boom on BlackBerry

Last month Verizon (s vz) and Microsoft (s msft) entered into an agreement to push the Bing mobile app onto BlackBerrys. It was a standard agreement of this type — owners got pushed a Bing icon that let them download and install the Bing mobile app simply. Not a big deal in itself, but some strange things are now happening to some BlackBerry owners on the Verizon network that have people up in arms. It seems that many Verizon BlackBerry owners have seen all search provider options except Bing disappear from the browser, and they are not happy about that.

The way it works is this: In the BlackBerry (s rimm) browser when you select the Go To option, you get a screen like that on the right. It allows easy searching using one of several different search engines, Google (s goog) among them. Yesterday some BlackBerry owners accessing the search as always discovered that the only search option was now Bing. Gone was Google, Wikipedia and the others. This change had apparently been pushed to the phone by Verizon at some point.

Phone owners are used to being jerked around by the carriers, but no one likes simple options removed like this. It’s one thing to force users to use a new default search provider, but it is another thing entirely to remove all other options that were previously available. Customers are complaining on enthusiast forums, the BlackBerry forums and on Verizon’s forums. Will these companies never learn?

My own Storm still shows the multiple provider options as always, as others are reporting. But something is definitely afoot, as folks are reporting that the change gets pushed seemingly randomly to the phones.

The Case for an AOL Renaissance

Now that AOL has been spun off from Time-Warner, it can write a new chapter for itself. If AOL does several key things right, it has a chance of being successful again. We look at some opportunities, along with the risks each one entails.

Does Google Even Understand What News Is?

Google CEO Eric Schmidt, in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece this week, set out to argue what has been said a million times before: The Internet isn’t killing news. But while he was stating the obvious, some of his points didn’t exactly help Google’s case.

Layers.com: The Web, Now With Context

layers_logoHave you ever wanted to do more than just send someone a web page, or post a link on Twitter? If I could, I would present every link I ever wanted to share in person, so I could explain to the person I was sharing with exactly what it was I wanted them to see, and why I thought they might enjoy it or find it useful.

You can always provide a covering letter in the body of your email when you send something along, but a recently launched web app provides a tool that’s much more useful in sharing that context along with the web content you choose to share. Layers.com allows you to layer images, text and video on top of any site of your choosing, and then to share your annotated version with whomever you choose. Read More about Layers.com: The Web, Now With Context