On Thursday, August 25, I raced from our office across town to attend tech blog Engadget’s NYC Reader Meetup. This open-to-the-public mobile communications event was scheduled for 6:30 pm at Gustavino’s, an elegant steel and glass meeting space built into the stone foundation of the Queensboro Bridge ––known to locals and 60s pop-culture fans (see Simon & Garfunkel: “Feelin’ Groovy”) as the “59th Street Bridge.”
When I arrived at 5:45, a line of mostly 20- and 30-something techies stretched around the corner onto First Avenue, under the bridge, and onto the next block. For those in line, texting and tweeting was, of course, the order of the day. Doors opened on time, and getting in was far more orderly and friendly than at the average music show or sports event.
Once inside, I found both floors dismayingly jammed—a condition that waxed to the extreme as time passed. But we’re used to crowds in New York, and I soldiered on, bellying up to various bars to ask questions about and briefly caress dozens of smartphones and tablets. Most of the major players, including AT&T, Samsung, HTC, Motorola, and RIM (BlackBerry) were in the house. Other exhibitors included: AC Gears, a Japan-based retailer of headphones and other mobile accessories; set-top media server maker Boxee; and Cadence, makers of the geek-chic 4-Bit Chrono Watch. Amidst the hubbub, two well-lit graffiti artists were for some reason creating a mural in real time, dispensing toxic paint fumes as they worked.
A tantalizing alcove into which I wandered turned out to host a popular, multi-outlet recharging station—essential with all the power-hungry devices in the house.
Steam tables and wandering, tray-bearing caterers supplied a better-than-average offering of complimentary food, including tiny “slider” burgers, chicken potpies, mac and cheese, and small squares of assorted diet transgressions. Several watering holes dispensed soda and juice. Skipping the alcohol option, whatever Engadget’s reason, helped keep the crowd just this side of surly-mob-hood.
Astute readers may be wondering: Where was the 700-pound gorilla on the mobile electronic scene, aka Apple Inc? It was absent and—sorry, fanboys and girls—not especially missed. RIM notwithstanding, this event was by and large a celebration of all things Android. I briefly wondered whether Apple’s absence might be due to lingering bad feelings over Engadget’s involvement, along with rival blog Gizmodo, in the affair of the iPhone 4 prototype left in a Redwood City bar by hapless Apple employee Gray Powell. But then I considered the balancing absence of Microsoft, together with a lack of direct presence by Google, and decided it was all good.
I’m more or less in the market for a phone to replace my one year+ ancient HTC EVO 4G, and a highlight for me among the many candidates on hand was the Motorola Photon—carried, like the EVO, by Sprint. Event swag, in my case, amounted to a couple of branded stress balls and a pair of cheap shades. But I didn’t stick around for the last two or three on-the-hour raffles and may have missed winning something that way. Apparently, the raffle did not include the way-desirable, all-electric Mini Cooper parked out front. I felt better about cutting out early after finding that out.
Everything displayed is currently available, and it occurred to me that one could try out nearly all of it in a much more relaxed milieu by visiting Best Buy, or even one’s chosen phone store, at an off-hour time of day. Admittedly, minus the “tribal gathering” vibe, many attendees no doubt enjoyed the Meetup at Gustavino’s. The product representatives didn’t seem able, or at liberty, to share any juicy factoids or prognostications that aren’t generally available. When I asked the otherwise friendly, helpful Motorola rep about a possible path forward for currently floundering Google TV via Motorola set-top boxes, he shrugged and said, “I get those kinds of rumors the same place as you … Engadget!”
Author: John Wehmeyer