Google Drive is official.

Big news for all you Google fans. The search giant has just announced its new service called Google Drive.

Google Drive is the company’s foray into cloud storage and sharing. Google coined the term “cloud computing,” and has been pushing the concept since the early 2000s, so it’s only fitting that they would jump into the cloud storage market.

Drive is quite similar to every other cloud storage service in nearly every way except a major one—seamless integration with all your other Google services. Google Docs, Gmail, Google+, YouTube, Google Calendar, etc.

All Google users will get 5GB of storage for free with monthly fees for anything more than that—25GB for $2.49/month, 100GB for $4.99/month or 1TB for $49.99/month. Folks who upgrade to a paid Google Drive account will also be rewarded with 25GB of Gmail storage, although Google also announced it’s now boosting the default Gmail storage from 7.5GB to 10GB for free.

So there you have it, folks. It’s been a long time in the making, but it’s finally here. Head over to the Google Drive website to sign up for an alert to let you know when your storage will be available.

And if you don’t have a Google account, why not? It’s free, and it opens up an entire segment of web functionality that you’ve been missing out on. Click here to create a new Google account.


Carrier Wars.

I’ve been doing a little research in the world of cell phones lately, and something I’ve noticed is the power of the cell phone contract here in the US. In Europe, cell phone plans are handled very differently than here in the States.

In America, you basically pick a carrier (be it Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, etc.), select your phone and a plan to match, and then sign a contract that locks you into that phone and carrier for an established period of time (2 or 3 years on average). While the initial price of the phone is relatively cheap here in the US, the real cost of ownership is found in the monthly charges.

Let’s use the Samsung Galaxy Note as an example. On AT&T, the Galaxy Note will cost you $99.99 to start. However, you must sign a 2-year contract and pay $60/month minimum. The phone is locked to AT&T for the duration of your contract as well. In other words, you cannot use the phone on another carrier for 2 years. If you terminate your contract early, you will be forced to pay a $325 deactivation fee (minus $10 for every month of the contract that you fulfill).

Let’s contrast that with Orange, a mobile cervice provider in the UK. The Galaxy Note will cost £399.99 ($644.88) at the start. However, you don’t have to sign a contract, and your monthly access plan starts as low as £10 ($16.12). If you decide you don’t like their service, you can jump to another carrier by simply going to a store and buying a new SIM card to put into your phone after you’ve exhausted your current SIM.

Why is there this difference? Well, it works something like this: a smartphone’s base value is generally around $650. Cellular providers like Verizon subsidize the cost of the phone, offering it to customers at a much lower price (usually somewhere between $100 and $300). The cost of the phone is made up for in the price of the service plan. The carrier locks you into the contract so that you are forced to pay for the remaining value of the phone.

European mobile providers don’t do that because they’re charging you the full cost of the phone up front. The cost of service is negligible to you in the end, and you can get more life out of your phone since switching carriers doesn’t require you to get a new phone (which is a problem with an entirely different set of reasons altogether).

There are two ways around this.

First, there’s T-Mobile. While T-Mobile is often criticized for their small coverage area and comparatively slow data speeds, they are the one American cellular provider (among the big names) that actually attempts to save the consumer all the hassle surrounding contracts, early-termination fees, and locked phones. They recently developed a new product called “Monthly 4G,” which is essentially a no-contract service plan.

T-Mobile is also the only “big-name” provider in the US that will sell unactivated SIM cards. T-Mobile is a GSM provider (unlike Verizon and Sprint), so any unlocked GSM phone will work with a T-Mobile SIM card.

Second, there’s the AT&T GoPhone option. While not quite as versatile as T-Mobile’s services, it provides you the opportunity to purchase a cellphone plan without being locked into a contract. Like T-Mobile, AT&T is a GSM provider, so you can remove the SIM from your GoPhone and use it in any unlocked GSM phone.

Personally, I’m partial to T-Mobile. They appear to offer the consumer a lot of freedom. They also appear to have the most competitive prices of all the major carriers. It’s unfortunate that the company hasn’t been doing so well, and is the smallest of the “Big Four” cellular service providers.

However, I’ve yet to test T-Mobile’s service. My first cellphone was on Cingular which was later bought by AT&T. I remained on AT&T throughout the iPhone’s exclusivity with the provider, but switched to Verizon fairly recently. In my area, service between AT&T and Verizon is quite similar, and they’re both very good. AT&T has better 4G coverage at my apartment, but Verizon has better 4G coverage 30 minutes away at my parents’ house.

According to T-Mobile’s coverage map, my apartment is in some good 4G coverage, so I hope the actual coverage lives up to their claim.

When I receive my HTC One X, I’ll use a T-Mobile SIM card and activate it with a “Pay-By-The-Day” plan. I’ll also post a video showcasing my discoveries.

Update: Unfortunately, I discovered a little too late that the One X is a quadband phone, not a pentaband. T-Mobile’s HSPA+ protocol is mostly on their 1700/2100 MHz spectrum while the One X receives data on the 1900/2100 MHz spectrum. T-Mobile’s 1900/2100 MHz spectrum is still just GSM/GPRS/EDGE in my area, so the One X was only getting 2G speeds on T-Mobile. Certainly not fast enough for a premium smartphone.

AT&T announces the HTC One X.

The much-anticipated HTC One X is officially coming to the US on AT&T May 6. Unlike its global twin, the US version will not feature Nvidia’s Tegra 3 quad-core processor. Instead, the phone will tote Qualcomm’s Snapdragon S4 dual-core processor. The reason for this change was that the Tegra 3 does not support LTE, and American markets tend to be more concerned with connectivity speed than with the speed of the phone itself.

The timing of this release works out well for US customers torn between the prospect of this device and the soon-to-be-announced Samsung Galaxy S3. Samsung will be announcing their new device just three days before the One X hits our shores, so you can still wait to see what the new Galaxy device looks like before deciding whether (or not) to get in line for the One X.

Of course, this doesn’t necessarily bode well for HTC.

If you think HTC Sense will bother you, there are some workarounds. While no custom ROM has been released just yet that will bring the stock ICS experience to the One X, there will definitely be one soon. Stay tuned to XDA Developers for updates. Bear in mind that this will require you to unlock the phone’s bootloader and root the phone.

If you’d rather not root the phone, I’m happy to say that there are some workarounds for you as well, though admittedly not as all-encompassing as a custom ROM would be. Apex Launcher is probably my favorite ICS-flavored launcher that creates the feel of the stock ICS experience on your homescreen and in your app drawer.

If the Sense keyboard becomes an issue, you can install this keyboard to your phone.

If you have the phone, let me know what you think. How does it measure up the the Galaxy Nexus? Does it surpass it? Or does it miss the mark just a bit?

The Samsung Galaxy SIII is coming.

According to a report from Crave UK, the highly anticipated Galaxy S3 by Samsung might not be the big deal we were all hoping for.

Samsung seems to be following in Apple’s footsteps with this one. According to the report, the phone probably won’t even be called the Galaxy S3. Much like Apple’s iPhone 4S with respect to the iPhone 4, the upcoming Samsung device (currently codenamed “Bali”) may turn out to be a minor upgrade to the Galaxy S2.

This report seems incongruous with what some others are reporting, but it’s just as feasible as the other rumors out there.

If this report turns out to be true, it could turn the tide in HTC’s favor for the tech year 2012. The One X seems poised to be the smartphone to beat this year, but we’re still less than halfway through. After the new Samsung device, Google will likely unveil a new Nexus phone, and Apple will introduce the next iteration of the iPhone, which will undoubtedly attract the largest number of consumers.

It seems we’ll have to wait until May 3 to find out who will be crowned the Android King for the first half of 2012.

Online streaming isn’t as big as we thought.

According to Fast Company, the numbers that online streaming services have been tacking onto their content are vastly inflated. Amazon boasts 17,000 movies and TV shows as part of their Amazon Prime online streaming service. They only telling part of the truth.

Amazon actually has about 17,000 different episodes of TV shows and movies. In other words, they’re counting each individual episode. For instance, Deep Space Nine consists of 176 episodes across 7 seasons. Amazon counts the 176 episodes as part of their total number of movies and TV shows.

In reality, Amazon has about 1,745 movies and only 150 unique TV shows.

But they’re not alone. Netflix is also inflating their numbers. Their 60,000 “Watch Instantly” selections actually boil down to about 13,000 titles—9,500 movies and 3,500 television series.

That explains why we can’t seem to find anything new to watch in these supposed “massive” libraries of movies and TV shows.

The new Google+

Google+ is growing in popularity. Google as as company already has gained quite a following. And unlike Internet giants like Facebook, hardware manufacturers like Apple, and software producers like Microsoft, Google is looked at in a favorable light.

And so along comes their foray into social networking. To be fair, Google+ isn’t their first attempt at developing a social network. The all-but-deceased Orkut garnered quite the international following in its day.

Just the other day Google+ users were met with a completely new interface. The “#whitespace” meme started along with it as users discovered that when their browser windows were maximized, an unusually large amount of white space appeared onscreen.

The new look cleans up the page, putting customizable buttons along the left, and devoting a lot more attention to media presentation. Chat has also moved over to the right, a move that’s reminiscent of Facebook’s chat client.

There’s also a much heavier emphasis on Hangouts. Google seems to really be pushing the concept of video-conferencing for the purpose of social interaction as Hangouts has taken a rather prominent place in the new layout.

As with the myriad changes to Facebook, there are many who like the change and many who don’t. But as with any kind of change, the ones who don’t like it are the ones who tend to be the loudest. Complaints about the new look for Google+ have hit the Internet by storm.

What do you think? Do you like the new look for Google+ or do you want the old one back?