Gadgets in the USA: What you need to know

Our man overseas educates us on the tech world stateside

Spotify has finally launched in the US making T3's man stateside a very happy chap. That's not to say that all is well in his tech world in the USA...

The United States of America: A tech paradise home to cheap gadgets and great customer service. Well, that’s what we thought. But in fact, next time you complain about rip-off Britain you should take a westward glance because it turns out life in Blighty for a tech-head isn’t so bad after all…

From buying gadgets in the USA, to getting used to the differently named Android phones, click the link below to see what you need to know about living a tech life in the USA. You have been warned...

Android Confusion

Motorola launched a phone called the Droid in 2009 after tossing George Lucas a huge wad of cash to use the term, which is trademarked - who knew? They followed it up with the Droid X and the Droid 2. But wait, HTC has Droids too; the Droid Ennis and the Droid Incredible. Are all Android phones Droids now or just certain ones? As a Brit used to the far more mundane Motorola name choice, "Milestone", it's even more baffling...

Bill bamboozlement

This was a real conversation with AT&T: "Your internet is going to be $19.95 a month, but on your bill it'll show as $47.95. Don't worry because every month you'll have a $28 credit on your account. The modem is free, but we'll charge $10 a month to your bill to cover it, but don't worry because on the third bill we'll credit your account with $100." True, UK phone companies used to do similar things, but they never reached such heights of creative accountancy, and have now largely ceased.

Citizen Kane will be back after these messages

Watching a movie on US cable is like peeing, but having to stop every five seconds to hold it for three minutes. Cinematic masterpieces are crucified by ads for weight-loss drugs and Taco Bell that appear every ten minutes. Even ITV3, which will routinely interrupt Schindler's List, The Shining or Blade Runner with the storming anthems to cretinacy that are the 118 118 bumper ads, has nothing on American telly.

GSM/CDMA format war

Mobile tariffs

Unlimited talk and text on Verizon is $89.99 a month, unlimited data is an extra $29.99. That equates to about 75 of your British pounds per month. Basic. How they really get you though is with the extra 18.5 per cent "communications tax" on each bill which makes it just shy of 90 quid. If you want a top-drawer smartphone such as the HTC Incredible, that'll cost you another $200 (£130) on a two-year contract with a $35 activation fee. Land of the free? Er... no.

No UK telly

You don't know what you've got till it's gone, and missing out on Dave+1 wasn't high on the list of things to look back at with misty eyes. But those channels come in bloody handy when you come home ten minutes from the end of an Only Fools and Horses repeat. FoxSoccerChannel (aka Sky) shows some UK footie matches. If you want live UK TV there's always a Slingbox (£108) but you need someone in the UK to host it and due to the time difference any prime time shows are broadcast live at lunchtime.

Sub-standard def

Sky provides an incredible HD service, but crucially for those not addicted to nature documentaries and big-budget "prestige" dramas, the standard-def offering also serves up decent picture quality. By contrast, plugging a HD TV into the standard-def Comcast cable box in the US was a flashback to owning a 14-inch CRT TV with an indoor aerial in the bedroom. It's blurry, fuzzy, pixelated and mostly 4:3 native.

Xbox 360 = Useless brick

Repatriating the Xbox to its native USA was going to solve so many potential problems. Not only would it play the UK games library, but also region 2 DVDs. It would stream music online and play digital video downloads through the USB port. Not so fast. The UK power cable didn't even give me enough power to switch the thing on when plugged into an adaptor and those poxy two-pin sockets which always fall out. Grab a US power cable? Yet more expense at the hands of the US of A.

Your money's no good here

You could have Richard Branson's credit rating and still be a fiscal persona non grata when you enter the USA. No credit history = no mobile phone contract, no internet contract, and no cable TV, leaving you on expensive pay-as-you-go deals or having to pay for everything up front in order to get a decent service. This also leads to problems such as not being able to sign up with Mog, the American equivalent of Spotify...