No Static At All

Do you own an iPhone or iPod Touch? Did you know the devices have FM radio capabilities Apple has yet to activate?

So says tech blog, which recently reported Apple is developing an FM radio app for the devices. But integrating tags so radio listeners could purchase songs they hear on the radio directly from iTunes is more complicated than previously thought, and is holding up the app’s completion.

One of the major criticisms directed at the iPhone and iPod Touch is that the units lack an FM receiver. That the company integrated FM into the latest version of iPod Nano means Apple is thinking FM but is still trying to work it into whatever grand plan Steve Jobs has charted for the consumer electronics behemoth.

FM may be the last dividing line between Microsoft’s Zune and Apple’s various iPod lines. It’s thought the inclusion of a FM receiver in Zune was the tipping point luring some consumers to purchase Microsoft’s gadget over Apple’s gizmos.

According to, this wouldn’t be the first time Apple has quietly placed hardware on one of its devices to be activated at a later date. The second-generation version of the iPod Touch had Bluetooth capabilities that weren’t activated until nine months after the device landed in stores. The tech site also says the latest iPods and iPhones have 802.11n +5GHZ wireless networking features, but evidently Apple hasn’t yet decided the time is right to activate those capabilities

Dre’s HP Envy

If you’ve been holding your breath waiting for a computer partially designed by Dr. Dre, you can now exhale.

The HP Envy 15 Beats is a limited edition notebook PC resulting from a collaboration between HP engineers, Dre and Interscope Geffen A&M Records chairman Jimmy Iovine.

It’s all about the beats as in Beats Electronics, the company Iovine and Dre founded in 2006 to develop and sell headphones so good that listeners would think they were in the actual recording studio. When Iovine and Dre decided to add computers to Beats, they turned to HP.

“We found that most PCs downgrade sound to unacceptable levels and when you reduce it further to a limited platform, like an MP3, the music doesn’t stand a chance,” Iovine said. “If music is an emotion, if it sounds better, then the emotion is better. With HP, we found a partner willing to take the steps to improve the overall sound in the PC and to bring it up to the level that musicians hear in the studio.”

Of course, any notebook PC sporting a Dr. Dre connection must be stylish and the Envy 15 Beats is no exception. Described as featuring a high-gloss “piano back” finish, the computer’s overall look was designed to fit in with Beats Electronics’ headphone line and comes bundled with Beats Audio software.

But Dre and Iovine weren’t the only music pros contributing to the computer’s specs. Wil.I.Am, Timbaland, Polow Da Don and Pharrell were also instrumental in bringing the Envy 15 Beats machine to life.

“Beats is about sound,” Dr. Dre said. “That’s all it’s ever been about, starting with the headphones and now moving to the Beats Envy computer we’re doing with HP. The laptop is the new stereo for a lot of people and that’s why we’re putting out this computer with incredible sound.”

Pepsi App Fails To Score

Need a quick reference for pickup lines to use on women as well as conversational subjects like indie bands, movies and local vegan restaurants? As Apple might say, “There’s an app for that.”

The free iPhone app – Amp Up Before You Score – is from PepsiCo and is meant to promote the company’s Amp energy drink. However, since its release earlier this month it has been getting more criticism than accolades.

The app, which is limited to users 17 and older, gives users several stereotyped representations of women, including “artist,” “aspiring actress,” “athlete,” “rebound girl” and “political girl.” Picking one of those selections gives you a list of items, including pickup lines and possible conversation starters.

For example, picking “sorority girl” gives you several pickup lines, including, “So what did you do today aside from being awesome?” “You’re by far the hottest in your pledge class,” and “Can I tappa your gamma?”

Yes, it’s that bad.

Each category of woman also comes with several items that could best be described as conversation starters. For instance, the sorority girl category includes a quick reference list of Greek letters, and “rebound girl” lists motivational quotes of the day.

But aside from the sheer tackiness of the app, PepsiCo is also getting flak for including a feature that allows male users to keep track of their sexual exploits and include, along with the woman’s name, the date of the of conquest and comments about the experience, which can be shared on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

So you have an app designed for picking up women and then bragging about it on the Internet. Needless to say, PepsiCo isn’t exactly receiving any praise for it.

On Oct. 12 social networking blog Mashable ran with a piece about the app titled “Alienate your female customers? Pepsi has an app for that.”

On the other hand, John Sicher, editor and publisher of trade publication Beverage Digest didn’t go as far as to criticize PepsiCo, but did offer up a somewhat lukewarm supportive response.

“PepsiCo as a company has a culture that’s respectful of women,” Sicher said while noting the soft drink manufacturer’s CEO is a woman. “It’s attempting to be edgy and humorous with this app and nothing more.”

So far PepsiCo has continued to defend the app. Spokeswoman Nicole Bradley said the app is only available to users 17 and older who “choose to opt in to the experience.”

“The application was designed to entertain and appeal to Amp’s target,” Bradley said. “We’ll continue to monitor the feedback from all parties and act accordingly.”

Along with “acting accordingly,” PepsiCo may want to rethink its digital strategy. Although the company is standing up for the app, the actual brand it was used for – Amp Energy Drink – tried to apologize via its Twitter page, saying the app is simply about the “humorous lengths guys go 2 pick up women.”

However, it included the tag “pepsifail” on its apologies, which linked the entire Pepsi empire to the problem, with the “fail” tag implying the corporation did something wrong.

Plus, the apology also appeared on Twitter pages belonging to other PepsiCo brands, including Mountain Dew and Pepsi itself, making sure everybody knew about Amp’s public relations problem.

But sometimes there really is truth in that old public relations saying that says one shouldn’t care what people say as long as they get the name right. The talk may be negative, but people are talking about Amp, which is more than anyone could say a week before the app came out.

Or, as Kevin Dugan, director of Empower Media Marketing in Cincinnati said:

“I think their goal was to get noticed and, well, it looks like that strategy has paid off.”