Personalize Your Jambox Starting August 28, Jawbone Insiders and Klout Users To Get One Week Head Start


Everyone’s favorite portable speaker is getting a facelift later this month.

Beginning August 28, Jawbone will let you customize the grill and caps to its popular JAMBOX on You can mix and match between 13 grill and 9 cap colors for over 100 color combinations. (Maybe I’ll order a white and orange one in honor of CrunchGear! Or whatever colors those are on CrunchBase.) Your designs can be previewed on the site or shared to Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest for others to see.

A week prior to launch, Jawbone insiders and Klout users will have an inside track from August 21 to the 27th to customize and order before the rest of the heathens.

Pricing remains the same at $ 199.99. Jawbone says you’ll have to wait to customize the Big Jambox but that options for the behemoth are coming.

TechCrunch » Gadgets

The Zaphat Can Turn You Into A Zombie…Sorta


Here’s an interesting approach to Augmented Reality marketing: turn hats into Zombie heads.

The Zaphat (pronounced like Zap Hat, not Zafat) is a new line of fashion apparel where the logo on the accoutrement acts as the target for an iOS/Android app that uses Augmented Reality to transform the wearer into an avatar of their choice.

In other words, when you wear a special hat, people can look at you with an app and see a Zombie instead of your head and then take a picture of you.

This takes personal branding to a new level and is meant to be a fun experience and a way to create images for your social network.

As long as the hat is comfortable, stylish and competitively priced I find it hard to see what’s not to like here. Being able to make you look like a Zombie is icing on the cake.

The Zaphat (and accompanying app) all developed by Zappar, could easily be popular in youth markets, and is obviously expandable to different pieces of clothing, allowing for an entire doppelganger wardrobe to be associated with any clothing line. That’s an interesting idea.

It’s a novelty product right now but some could say much of fashion is novelty anyway. So really, this product could fit into the greater world of style with nary a dispute by the fanciful lords of fashion, don’t you think?

On a deeper level, as AR technology progresses toward the eyewear prototypes being developed by Google, Vuzix, Lumus and others, a real and alternate way to present yourself to others could become possible, even trendy.

Imagine an entire AR costume party, or an entire stage play occurring where the actors’ costumes are rendered by the eyewear of the audience. Concepts like the Zaphat could be a stepping stone in the path to a future state like this.

Or it could just be a cool hat.

It will be available in the coming months at and at other retail stores to be announced.

The Zappar app is available at iTunes and Google Play

TechCrunch » Gadgets

Apple And Samsung Bring Their Marketing Strategies To Court


Apple and Samsung are presenting their closing arguments today in one of the biggest U.S. tech trials in history. As the ball heads over to the jury’s court, it has become painfully obvious over this past month just how complex this case is.

The case involves more than a dozen different patents, more than 30 allegedly infringing devices, claims of all shapes and sizes (utility, design, trade dress, and standards essentials), and that’s just the beginning. Both sides are arguing their cases (and defending themselves) concurrently, and each have done their part to either submerge evidence or slip some to the press, all the while infuriating federal judge Lucy Koh.

Yet the nine relatively non-tech savvy jurors, including a social worker, an unemployed video-game enthusiast, and an electrical engineer, will decide the fate of the two of the biggest electronics makers in the world. It’s a lot of information to take in, and more importantly, understand, even for the most technical among us. In a situation such as this, it’s easy for the facts to blur in with things that shouldn’t be counted as evidence. And on top of that, one must understand the intricacies of IP law to come to a valid conclusion.

This case is just as much about the jury’s perception of the trial as it is about the law. Both Samsung and Apple know this, and they know that their stories are just as important as the facts themselves. And so it would appear that both companies have taken their respective brand identities (and marketing strategies) into the court room.

Apple sells products by eliciting an emotional reaction to simplicity. Samsung, on the other hand, sells products by popularizing best of breed technology. That sounds convoluted but just wait.

Apple Sells The Story Of Simplicity

When you think about Apple, you don’t just think about the iPhone or the iPad.

You think about Steve Jobs standing on stage as CEO and hero after being excommunicated from Apple decades ago. You think of the commercials, like the “1984″ and “Think Different” ads, that made you feel special. You think about the beautiful retail stores and lit-from-above products. You think about that crazy new headquarters, and how engineers will soon migrate there to build more delight and surprise for us.

You think about the brand as a whole. Part of the reason that Apple has so many diehard fanboys is because the brand is a powerful story of simplicity, all the way down to retail.

And when a new product is announced, on stage in front of hundreds of salivating fans, Steve Jobs (or more recently Tim Cook) would refer to it as just “iPhone” or “iPad,” with no leading article. He made the iThing a being on its own, an individual entity. “This is iPhone,” he’d say.

Apple’s branding is so effective, in fact, that fanboys’ brains respond to Apple imagery the same way that the brains of religious people respond to religious imagery.

The Apple brand is a story: a story powerful enough to brainwash.

Samsung Capitalizes On Cheap Technology (And Bashing Apple)

Samsung, even with all the success it’s had, continues to blatantly attack Apple in its marketing. The latest run of ads for the Galaxy S II show Apple fans waiting in lines in the cold while perfectly content Galaxy S II owners live their lives. It shows GalPals poking fun at fanboys who are waiting for a small-screened phone without 4G connectivity, while one dude gets a date by using Samsung’s Siri competitor, S-voice.

Only recently has Samsung moved away from blatant Apple bashing to a more emotional form of marketing, but even that ad seems to try to beat Apple at its own game.

This is not to say it hasn’t been successful — Samsung is currently the king of mobile, holding the majority of the market both in the U.S. and globally. They know how to build technology quickly and cheaply and if it happens to look like a competitor’s device, well that was just top-of-mind. Why wouldn’t the electronics giant take the same strategy into the court room?

Apple In Court: Keep It Simple, Stupid

Apple has pared back its claims quite a bit, and chosen only the most simple and recognizable patents to assert. It approaches the jury with high-level executives, names that are closely associated with the brand, telling the story of how the iPhone came to be. There is talk of late nights and working weekends, pizza smell in Apple’s “purple dorm”, and inspirational movie quotes posted on the wall.

And more important than recognizable technology and tender stories of the iPhone’s origin, Apple has mastered playing the victim with the help of internal Samsung documents.

We, and likely the jury, forget that it is entirely legal for Samsung to be inspired by the iPhone. You can bet every other handset manufacturer was studying the breakthrough device, too, and Samsung has every right to use Apple hardware as inspiration for its next product.

Deleting evidence of that inspiration, however, doesn’t look favorable to the jury. Nor does mention of the iPhone alongside “crisis of design” within internal Samsung documents, or seeing Samsung emails describing the use of an Apple and Samsung device as “the difference of heaven and earth.”

Apple’s actual case, the claims it’s making based on the technology it owns, is very complicated. It includes many Samsung devices and quite a few technical conclusions, which are difficult to understand even when they’re reached. A patent expert could (and did) definitively say that Samsung is infringing Apple’s patents, only to have Samsung’s lawyer make said patent expert look like he’s contradicting himself. How is the jury supposed to know the truth?

Apple’s counting on the fact that they don’t need to understand the technicalities, as long as they feel how wrong Samsung is to have “purposefully” copied the iPhone.

Samsung In Court: Poking Holes With A Pointed Finger

Samsung, on the other hand, is banking on Apple’s mistakes, just as the company does in the real world. Instead of trying to prove that the firm didn’t infringe Apple’s patents, Samsung is far more concerned with proving that Apple’s patents are invalid to begin with, and that prior art voids the IP automatically.

Samsung is also asserting “standards essentials” patents, which basically means that Samsung is required to license the technology to Apple under fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms. The content of these patents is confusing and very technical, so Samsung would prefer to focus on the fact that Apple is using the technology for free rather than what the technology actually does.

Essentially, Samsung is calling Apple a thief in open court, though Apple argues the only reason it hasn’t licensed the technology is because Samsung wanted to charge an unusually high rate to its rival. Remember, Samsung and Apple have played nice for a long time with Samsung providing many components for the iPhone and iPad. Only now, in the midst of a fierce patent battle, has Apple’s refusal to license these 3G patents become an issue. Consider that hole poked.

In the end, Samsung is trying to tell a story very similar to Apple’s: that it was ripped off after working hard on original technology.

Unfortunately, the company is less practiced than Apple, and has reverted back to the same old attacks as a major portion of that story. Samsung has even gone so far as to leak evidence that Judge Lucy Koh deemed inadmissible in court. That’s far dirtier play than those hilarious anti-Apple commercials.

Case Background:

Apple is alleging infringement on eight of its patents, paired back from dozens after Judge Lucy Koh asked the electronics giants to at least make an effort to streamline their cases again stone another.

Four of Apple’s patents are design-related:

  • USD504,889: This covers the basic design elements of the iPad — rounded corners, thin bezel, edge-to-edge front glass display and the sleek, unadorned General aesthetic of the device.
  • USD604,305: This covers the layout of Apple’s iOS UI — a grid of home screen icons with a lower bar for “permanent” apps at the bottom.
  • USD593,087: Another design patent, but for the iPhone. It covers the home button, minimalistic front face of the handset and rounded corners like the iPad.
  • USD618,677: Similar to the previous patent, this covers the minimalistic face of the iPhone, the front speaker slot, and the edge-to-edge glass of the phone’s display.

The final of Apple’s claims come down to trade dress, which is less about intellectual property and more about the way that a certain brand is recognized by consumers. Think McDonald’s golden arches.

  • US 3,470,983: This covers the face of the iPhone and the grid layout of icons, which Apple intends to differentiate itself with in the market.

Apple is also alleging infringement on three of its utility patents, which cover different elements and functions of a phone.

  • US 7,469,381: This patent covers Apple’s famous rubber-banding when one element of the interface is stretched beyond its borders.
  • US 7,864,163: This patent covers the method of zooming into a certain portion of content while the screen is displaying multiple patches of content.
  • US 7,844,915: Apple knows the difference between one finger scrolling across the display and two fingers pinching to zoom. This patent covers that technology.

Apple is alleging infringement on approximately 25 Samsung devices, the most popular of which include the Galaxy S, Galaxy S II, and Galaxy Tab 10.1.

Samsung has a different case. The company is alleging that all of the iPads and iPhones infringe two 3G standards essentials patents and three utility patents.

What Samsung’s standards essentials patents cover isn’t all that important. What is important is that there’s no question Apple is using the technology — that’s why they’re called standards essential, because the technology is “essential” to 3G. However, any patents of this type must be licensed to any who asks under “Fair, Reasonable, and Non-Discriminatory” terms (FRAND), which Apple claims Samsung did not do.

The utility patents Samsung holds, however, are more understandable to a jury.

  • US 7,456,893: This patent covers switching back and forth between camera mode and viewing mode, displaying the most recently viewed image rather than the last photo taken with the phone.
  • US 7,577,460: This patent covers sending email messages, with or without embedded content, from a camera phone.
  • US 7,698,711: Samsung’s final utility patent covers multitasking at its most basic level, doing other tasks while music plays in the background.

No One Wins But The Lawyers

Who will prevail in the end remains to be seen. Chances are that both companies will secure a win over some, but not all, of their claims.

We’ve learned today that even the instructions for coming up with a verdict, as well as the verdict document, are both highly complex and haven’t even been agreed upon by both sides. The document could span up to 17 pages, if Samsung has its way.

The lawyers have and will continue to see a massive payout, as will the expert witnesses brought in to testify. And from there, it’s up to the jury and Judge Koh to determine any reparations and damages awards.

This lawsuit won’t change much in Cupertino or Seoul. Samsung and Apple will move on from this mess to keep producing their products on their own schedules. This will, however, discourage manufacturers from attempting to follow in each others’ footsteps, possibly to the detriment of the consumer. Sadly, when both of these giants stop following some grand “ideal” device, the possibility that we will see more iPads, GalTabs, and iPods coming out of these giants is diminished.

But, of course, all of that rides on the decisions of nine random jurors. And their decisions, as fair or unfair as it might be, will most likely be largely based on emotion elicited by the in court marketing tactics of Apple, Samsung or both.

TechCrunch » Gadgets

Ahead Of Droid Razr HD Launch, Verizon Slashes Prices Of Motorola’s Droid Smartphones

Screen shot 2012-08-20 at 1.28.20 PM

Motorola has a big push coming. We have an invite for September 5 to a some secret event, and even more evidence of a Droid Razr HD has hit the web, confirming that Google’s mobile hardware team is ready to go toe-to-toe with the Samsung Galaxy S III in a couple of weeks.

And just as the iPhone price gets slashed before the next-gen model hits the market, so shall Verizon cut the prices of all of its Motorola “Droid” branded handsets, including the Droid Razr, Droid Razr Maxx, and Droid 4.

Currently, the Razr Maxx is listed for $ 199 on Verizon’s website, while the Razr and the Droid 4 are going for $ 99. This is compared to their original pricing of $ 299 each for the Razr and Razr Maxx, and $ 199 for the Droid 4. It’s worth noting that this isn’t just a temporary sale — these are the devices’ new going rates, which leaves room for something shiny and new to occupy Verizon’s top tier.

The Droid line is far and away Motorola’s most successful smartphone line to date. We loved both of the Razrs, with obvious partiality toward the Maxx thanks to that huge 3300mAh battery. The Droid 4, on the other hand, has an excellent keyboard for those looking to move away from BlackBerry or simply prefer hitting physical buttons.

In any case, if you’re looking to get a nice handset on the cheap and don’t plan on waiting for the new iPhone or Droid Razr HD, we recommend heading over to Verizon and taking advantage of these deals.

TechCrunch » android

LittleBits Is A Nearly Perfect Electronics Discovery Kit


I’ve been hearing about LittleBits, an electronics kit for hobbyists and kids, for quite a while but I never got a chance to play with them until recently. The company recently announced a funding round with hardware manufacturer PCH and they launched their Extended Kit, a new box of bits.

The kit allows you to build simple circuits using a power source, a connector, and an output. For example, you can connect an LED directly to the 9-volt power supply or you can add a potentiometer or switch to turn the LED on and off manually. There are other bits that allow you to pulse the output devices and add light and motion controls.

Fans of old-timey electronics kits will find this whole setup quite familiar. The system is just complex enough to be interesting and simple enough for even young kids to use. My six-year-old son and I were able to build simple circuits and pretend, for example, we were making a trap for his sister’s dolls using a rolling switch and piezo buzzer.

The pieces connect with small, foolproof magnetic brackets and stick together even during rough play. You can power projects via a 9-volt battery or with a USB cable (included in the Extended kit) and the pieces are mostly kid-safe especially considering that the wee ones will probably try to put their tongue on the LEDs when unsupervised.

Now for the bad news. The Extended kit costs $ 149 and the basic kit – which I’d recommend – costs $ 89. It’s a bit pricey, and considering electronics kits like this one cost nearly the same, picking up the LittleBits is a bit of a stretch. I do believe the prices will go down over time and these are definitely far cooler than any 500-in-1 generic hobby kit, but sticker shock may drive parents away.

However, the kits are very clearly a labor of love and are great fun for geeks and geeks-to-be. The Extended kit adds USB power and a large USB fan to the mix as well as a plethora of momentary switches. You also get a piezo buzzer and long-lead LED for creating a buzzing, highly annoying light up bug.

The Starter Kit includes a pressure sensor and the aforementioned pulse bit that sends a regular pulse to the output, allowing you to create an intermittent flasher. You can also add a “bar graph” to a potentiometer in order to create a cool light readout.

Again, these guys are pretty expensive but they’re pretty cool. If your wee ones are into electronics they’ll love being able to mess with these kits and they are equally interesting as creative office toys. It’s a fun way to become acquainted with electronics from one of the most popular hardware startups in New York.

Click to view slideshow.

TechCrunch » Gadgets