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PERSONAL TECH

M-Wallet pays bills by phone

Wireless Payment
Motorola wants tomake it easier for us to buy stuff, not by infusing our bank accounts with cash, unfortunately, but by turning our mobile phones into payment devices. Motorola's new Java application for mobile phones and hand-helds, M-Wallet, promises to replace your credit cards and checkbook with icons on your device's screen. It will also work as a payment system at retailers partnering with your wireless carrier.

If your carrier decides to provide the M-Wallet service (three carriers are currently testing the Motorola software) you will be able to make that last-minute car payment with a few button pushes or to rush that emergency loan from your checking account to that of your kid at college.

But the benefits of M-Wallet seem to be greater for the carriers than consumers for now. If you decide to use M-Wallet to buy milk at the corner store, for example, you may also find yourself paying extra for the convenience. Your carrier will able to charge you a subscription fee for using M-Wallet and hit you up for individual transactions, not to mention any data-usage charges.

I also see a couple of potential privacy threats to users of the M-Wallet. One is data consolidation: All of your bank and credit account numbers need to be logged into your carrier's website. The other is eavesdropping: Rogue readers can snoop on the technology M-Wallet uses to transmit transactions.

Personal Tech

All-in-one: Mobile phone combines WiFi access with cellular service


Who knows when Boston will get its act together to become a WiFi city?

I'm not holding my breath. Even the ancient walled city of Derry, Northern Ireland, has just announced it will be providing complete WiFi coverage in less than two months. But when Boston finally does get WiFi service, I hope I'll be able to get my hands on something like the Nokia 6136 phone, which allows you to switch seamlessly between cellular and WiFi services. That means you can make calls on your cellphone at a WiFi hot spot, even when you are stuck indoors and unable to get a cellular signal.

The 6136 comes with a number of the bells and whistles we've come to expect, such as a speakerphone. It also has dual color displays and a 1.3 megapixel camera.

Here's the bad news, at least initially: The wireless carriers will program the hybrid phones to work only with their own hot spots, something the UK-based carrier Orange will be doing with the Nokia 6136.

Music

Status accessory lets you show off your podcast or music tracks

David Lu, a visual designer and software developer, has invented an electronic device you can wear without looking like an MIT nerd. Lu's iPod Status accessory prominently displays the artist and track playing on your iPod, just in case anyone is interested.

The iPod Status, encased in brown and pink wool felt, communicates with the iPod through the open source Apple Accessory Protocol. It was among the accessories featured this month at the Seamless V2 fashion show, held at the Museum of Science in Boston.

The iPod Status slips over the shoulder strap on a bike messenger bag. Its LED display is reminiscent of that classic kids toy, the LiteBrite. It could make an excellent conversation starter, Lu believes. Lu (david-lu.net) came up with his iPod Status idea last year while commuting with hipsters on the L train between Brooklyn and Manhattan. (He now lives in Seattle.) Lu said he saw all of those little white earbuds and thought, ''Wouldn't it be great if this information (what people were listening to) were exposed? Would people actually speak to one another as a result?"

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