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T-Mobile's Cameo picture frame will be better once glitches are fixed

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By Peter Svensson
Associated Press
Published:
  • The Cameo digital picture frame from T-Mobile can receive picture messages over the cellular network.

    Associated Press

    The Cameo digital picture frame from T-Mobile can receive picture messages over the cellular network.

NEW YORK -- Digital picture frames were a big item last Christmas. This holiday season, there will be an innovation on store shelves: a frame that can receive and display pictures straight from cell phones, (almost) no matter where they are.
It's called the Cameo, and T-Mobile USA is going to sell it for $100. In testing, it worked pretty much as advertised, but there were some hiccups that hopefully will be straightened out before it goes on sale in mid-November.
The usual way to get photos to a digital frame is to copy them to a memory card, then walk over to the frame and insert the card in a slot. Computer geeks call this "Sneakernet," because the information travels as fast as your shoes. You can do this with the Cameo. The cool thing is that it also has a built-in cellular modem, which talks to T-Mobile's wireless network. It even has its own phone number.
That means you can snap a picture on your camera phone, then send it as a picture message straight to the frame. This works, or at least should work, even if you're in Hawaii and the frame is in New Jersey.
Though it's the first frame sold in the U.S. that has a cellular modem, it isn't exactly the first one that can receive pictures straight from phones. Some others can connect to the Internet, usually through Wi-Fi. Once connected to your home wireless network, they can receive pictures via e-mail. And many phones can send e-mail with attached pictures.
I also tested one of these Wi-Fi-enabled frames, the $160 CeivaLife from Ceiva Logic Inc. The Cameo was much easier to use. You can feel comfortable sending it off as a present to people who don't use the Internet and don't have a computer. All they need to do is plug it in to a power outlet. They can hang it on the wall or stand it on a table in landscape (wide) or portrait (tall) orientation. The frame figures out which is which and displays the pictures correctly. Then you can send them pictures of the grandkids straight from the phone. As a bonus, the frame has an e-mail address as well, so you can send pictures from a computer.
Despite the convenience, the frame isn't expensiveAt $100, it's cheaper than most photo frames with comparable screens: a 7-inch diagonal and a resolution of 720 by 480 pixels.
So let's tackle the downsides.
First of all, the cellular connection costs $10 per month. It's billed through T-Mobile, and you need a monthly voice plan with the company to buy the frame (for this reason, the frames will be sold only in T-Mobile's stores). If you're buying the frame for other people, the monthly charge will still show up on your bill, unless your gift recipients are T-Mobile customers, in which case they can transfer the charge to their own bills.
But don't be too discouraged by this monthly fee: it costs almost as much -- $100 per year -- to keep the rival CeivaLife connected to the Internet, and that appears to be typical for Wi-Fi frames.
On the other hand, if you tire of T-Mobile and want to jump to another carrier, poof goes the connection. You can still supply it with new images from the memory card slot.
Then there's the issue of figuring out whether the network has coverage where you want to use the frame. This should be a problem only for a small number of users. The frame doesn't use a sophisticated data network, so anywhere you have voice coverage on T-Mobile should work. But it won't work where your T-Mobile phone roams on another network.
Story tags » Computers & Information TechnologyRetail

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