No Canada: Cool tech stuff not available north of the border

By Brian Jackson

Your Twitter stream is lighting up with buzz, tech publications are examining every rumour with a microscope, and your office bandwidth is getting bogged down as everyone tunes into the live stream. It’s time for the latest cool tech product announcement, and you can’t help but get swept up in the hype around it. Until you remember that you live in Canada, and that product probably won’t be getting to a retailer near you until weeks or months later – if ever. As Amazon’s recent product launch reminded Canucks, we’re often second-rate consumers when it comes to getting the opportunity to buy the newest tech stuff. Here’s some products and services Canadians still can’t get a hold of.

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  • Amazon’s Kindle Fire

    Announced by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos in New York on Sept.28, Amazon’s first full-featured tablet runs on the Android OS, is a portable 7-inch screen size, and is powered by a dual-core 1GHz processor. It’s also loaded with Amazon cloud services such as MP3 and video delivery. Attractively priced at $199, Americans can now pre-order the device and deliveries begin Nov. 15. For Canadians interested in buying this tablet, patience will be a virtue – there’s no indication when it will start shipping north of the border.

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  • Amazon’s Kindle Touch

    That’s not the only new Kindle Canadians will have to wait for. Those more inclined towards e-readers with e-ink displays might be interested in the $99 (that’s an ad-supported price, it’s $139 otherwise) Kindle Touch. This multi-touch device promises two months of battery life, and enough storage for 3,000 books. It starts shipping to the U.S. Nov. 21, but there’s no notice yet for Canada. But Canadians can buy the new base-model Kindle priced at $79 in the U.S. (ad-supported, $109 otherwise). The new Kindle does away with the keyboard for a more compact device.

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  • Good Netflix selection

    When Netflix came to Canadian computers, tablet screens, and consoles in September 2010, it felt like our country was graduating out of its digital ghetto. That was until we realized we were missing out on all the best content offered up in the U.S. because of licencing agreements. Canadian Netflix subscribers miss out on the Harry Potter movie series while Americans can stream it instantly, at any time. Of course, Canadians still pay the same $7.99 per month price as Americans for access to the service. To be fair, Netflix has recently struck more Canadian-content licencing deals and has significantly improved its lineup since launching.

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  • Google Voice

    Americans can freely set up a Google Voice account to have one phone number that friends can use to reach them anywhere – whether they’re at their home, office, on their cell. The service offers voicemail you can access online and automatically transcribes voicemails for you, as well as offering free calls and texting within the U.S. and Canada and very cheap rates everywhere else. There are mobile apps that allow users to integrate all this right into their smartphone. But in Canada, the service isn’t officially rolled out yet. Though some blogs offer workarounds involving the use of a proxy to fake a U.S. IP address to register with the service.

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  • 4G smartphones

    In Canada, several carriers have come forward with their 4G network plans and have started turning on their new cell towers and offering devices for use. But Sprint in the U.S. has a head start and therefore some more cool smartphones on offer. Take for example the Motorola Photon, an Android-powered 4.3-inch phone with dual cameras, a 1GHz dual-core processor, an 8 megapixel camera, 1GB of RAM and 16GM of internal storage. Still, many comparable smartphones are on offer in Canada.

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  • Pandora Internet radio

    Pandora has been operating in the U.S. since January 2000 and counts 80 million users in the U.S., and became a public company on the NYSE earlier this year. But Canadians still can’t listen to the personalized streaming services it offers because of licencing issues. That also means Canadians miss out on the mobile apps Pandora offers for iPhone, Android and BlackBerry. But similar Internet radio services can be accessed by Canadians, including Slacker and Rdio. Pandora says it’s “deeply, deeply sorry” they can’t offer service to Canadians that visit its Web site, and offers to let you know when the situation changes via e-mail.

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  • Hulu

    For Americans looking to watch their TV shows online, Hulu offers a one-stop shop. It streams everything from Alf to Yu-Gi-Oh! It’s where you can watch the latest episode of The Office, or choose from a back catalogue of movies and TV series that span the decades. In short, a couch potato’s dream. Canadians can stream television on many other sites such as Rogers On Demand Online, CTV’s Web site, and the sites of many other broadcasters. But the one portal for premium content still eludes the Great White North. Hulu says it is committed to making its content available worldwide, and is working to attain international streaming rights. It offers to keep you in the loop via e-mail.

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  • Spotify

    Similar to Pandora, U.K.-based Spotify offers music streaming over the Internet. With millions of tracks to choose from, it promotes itself as a replacement for your own music library. Spotify is loaded with social features to let your friends know how awesome you are at making playlists, too. But Canadians can’t get the service, despite its hop across the pond to the U.S. this year.

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  • Apple’s newest gadget

    While Canadians do eventually get their hands on the latest Apple gadgets, it’s not until a few weeks after the initial U.S. launch. This inevitably sends many Apple-fanboy Canucks driving across the border to the nearest Apple Store, ready to shell out for that white box so he can show it off to all his friends first.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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