Amazon Unbox Update

A quick FYI on Amazon’s Unbox service.  I had 7 rentals on my computer that I had not been able to watch yet, but I needed to downgrade my Vista install to 32-bit (from the 64-bit version).  So I copied off the Amazon videos and uninstalled the Unbox software.  Then after the new version of Vista was installed, I tried to re-import the videos into Unbox (they provide an Import function).  What I didn’t realize is that the Unbox agreement says you can’t move rental videos from your original download location…  I’m not sure if Amazon Customer Service is going to help here or not, but I think they will this one time.  Something to keep in mind if you’re thinking about getting a video rental.

Why I Purchased an iPhone

When the iPhone first launched, I posted about three reasons I would NOT be buying an iPhone…yesterday, I broke down and bought a 4GB iPhone.  So what changed?

1) Price

I have a 5th generation iPod – so I don’t need an 8/16GB+ player – so 4GB is just fine with me.  Apple decided to discontinue the 4GB model, so the price dropped to $299 from $499.  If you look at other smartphones out there, $300 isn’t a bad price at all.

2) Seeing is Believing (i.e. why the on-screen keyboard works)

One of my original concerns was the fact that the keyboard has no feedback at all.  After playing with the phone for a bit, it’s pretty obvious the keyboard is just fine.  There is a large keyboard for use with Safari for web browsing and that keyboard is great.  Then there is a small keyboard for SMS, e-mail, etc.  The small keyboard is usable, but it isn’t quite as good.  But when I thought about it, even the small keyboard is vastly superior to the other non-querty keyboards and it’s really not much worse than the hardware qwerty keyboards I’ve used on a Treo.

3) Did I really need GPS? No.

I originally thought I really needed GPS in the phone – and I admit, I think it would still be a great feature with the built-in Google Maps.  But after thinking about this for a while, I came to the conclusion that I would most likely use the maps to figure out what streets to take, finding where to connect to the interstate, etc and really didn’t need my position or real-time navigation.  I also have a Garmin GPS unit for times when I really do want a true GPS and I have a feeling it would work much better than anything they can cram into a cellphone anyway.

The one thing I’m still worried about from my original post is 3rd party application support.  The included applications are decent overall and I can certainly get the job done, but it would be nice to have the option to extend the functionality easily (e.g. adding a Pocket Quicken application).  I know it’s possible to do a hack on the phone to make this work (or was possible at one point), but this is still something Apple needs to address.

Amazon Unbox Video Rental Experience

I noticed Amazon had a $0.99 sale on a couple of new movies I had been wanting to see (Ghost Rider, 300, Shooter) so I decided to give it a try – after all, no shipping, no tax, means you can’t beat the price.  My setup is Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit and an Xbox 360 with wireless adapter (I stream the movies to the HDTV via the 360).  My initial impressions:

The Good
Install and movie purchase was quick and simple overall (however, it is a tiny bit less simple for 64-bit users…more on that later).  It was dead simple to stream to the 360 – if you already have the media center connection setup, then you’re ready to go.  The quality is on par with DVD – it’s certainly not HD, but I was watching on a 56″ HDTV and it looked as good as any DVD I have.

The Bad
When I first installed the software, I got a message saying something was wrong with my computer’s DRM configuration.  My only guess is that it has something to do with being on a 64-bit – but I really don’t know.  The Unbox software offers to help troubleshoot – so I did that and it found a patch to automatically install…after that, everything went fine.  The download speed is a bit slow – I rented 5 movies the first night (you can keep them for 30 days) at around 10pm.  By 8am or so the next morning, 4 of the 5 movies were downloaded.  The files are between 1.5GB – 3GB – so it’s certainly going to take a while to download them, but the speed could be just a tad better…but it’s not a huge issue – just realize that you’ll need to wait about an hour or so after you rent the movie before you can start playing it.  The biggest issue I have with Amazon’s Unbox service is the lack of 5.1 channel audio – the audio quality is decent, but it’s certainly not on the same level as a DVD and there is no true surround sound.

There’s no question that Unbox is a great deal if you find a movie you’d like to see for $0.99 – it’s the way to go at that price.  I’m not sure I’ll be using it for full price rentals though ($3.99) – for that price, I can get NetFlix or Blockbuster Online (and better sound quality).  If Amazon can drop the price to $1.99 for a one day rental, I’d be doing a lot more Unboxing.