Archive for the 'Mobile Phones' Category

27
Jul
10

Droid X: Review

IMG_0002It was shaping up to be such a perfect situation.  I purchased an EVO 4G on launch day and life was good.  Yet, as I was nearing the end of the 30 day period after which I would be bound to a two-year contract, rumblings began about the release of Verizon’s entry into the 4.3-inch “super” Android phone.  Like many phones I end up owning, the Droid X wasn’t even a blip on my radar 3 months ago (and I’ve been known to plan tech purchases out for at least that long.)  Yes, it would have been perfect… My sister and a few other friends have EVOs.  We could have shared in exchanging handy tips and other best practices.  We’d be experimenting and learning the nuances of the device together.  And even now that I sit in front of what is essentially a phone running the same operating system in the Droid X (Android 2.1), I want to be able to tell the world that there is no difference… that somehow it’s just a matter of choosing between minor preferences.  The truth of the matter is that these phones – despite seemingly minor differences in form factor and chipset – do provide very different experiences.

(To get a better sense of my first impressions of Android going in cold with the EVO 4G, check out my comprehensive review of the EVO.  In this review, I largely be discussing my experience with the Droid X and how it differs from the EVO.)

Continue reading ‘Droid X: Review’

03
Jul
10

HTC Evo 4G Review (from an iPhone User’s Perspective)

evo-iphone After almost three years of exclusively using an iPhone, I’ve decided to purchase and bond with the HTC EVO 4G.  It’s been three weeks since I picked up the device and I’ve been tremendously pleased in some areas and downright frustrated in others.

So how does the EVO 4G shape up when evaluated by a seasoned iPhone user?  Read on.

(To learn more about my reasons for putting my iPhone aside and testing the waters with Android via the EVO 4G, read Part I where I detail how I arrived at this point.)

Hardware

A child can take look at the EVO 4G and the iPhone and tell you that ‘one’s a bit bigger than the other.’  And while many people think that a bigger EVO 4G screen (4.3 inches versus 3.5 inches on the iPhone) means it’s “better”, truthfully there are more important factors than screen size for me. Form-factor plays a small part in my decision about which device is right for me.  The phone that provides me with the most usable, functional experience will end up in my pocket. But there have been some things about the EVO’s form factor that have stood out since I’ve been carrying it.

Portability

The EVO has a pretty big footprint. When you lay it down next to whatever phone you have now, the EVO will probably dwarf it in size. At the same time, the EVO is not so big that you can’t conveniently carry it around with you.  For me, a 4.3 inch screen is probably as large a size as I’ll consider.  I always felt that my iPhone’s screen was sufficient (and I still feel that way.) But during the times when I was using both phones and went back to open my iPhone to get a contact that didn’t sync, I definitely missed the EVO’s screen real estate. The screen quality of both phones (I’m using the iPhone 3G, not the iPhone 4) is about even. The EVO definitely has the edge when it comes to screen size. Too bad they don’t use that size more to their advantage. (More on that in a bit.)

…But Is It Too Big?

A person with small hands might find the EVO a bit unmanageable.  A few of my female friends who handled the device had a hard time getting a comfortable position with it in their hands. I have relatively average sized hands. And the phone feels comfortable in my grasp. It’s not too heavy, yet it’s certainly not flimsy. But there were times when I was using the phone one-handed where I tried to use my thumb to push a button on the opposite side of the screen. Often, I’d find that my hand will glance past something and launch that instead of what I tapped with my thumb. With two hands, this isn’t a problem. So, as far as the size, it can be a pain depending on what device you’re coming from. The size factor basically comes down to whether you have activities like watching movies or web browsing where those extra pixels would come in handy.

The Wonderful Kickstand

The EVO definitely wins points by having a kickstand.  It sounds very rudimentary, but the kickstand combined with the EVO’s large screen is a dynamite combination. The kickstand works in landscape mode only.  (I kinda wish it worked in portrait mode).  It’s great to be able to use the kickstand to prop the phone up while watching movies. I like to use the kickstand while the phone is on my desk at work, turning it into an expensive desk clock. This is a great alternative to laying the phone down or having to buy an expensive docking station.

Continue reading ‘HTC Evo 4G Review (from an iPhone User’s Perspective)’

21
Jun
10

Using An iPhone… (but getting an Android ‘Jones’)

evo-iphone Since I stood on line that fateful Friday June 29, 2007 inside the Short Hills Mall at the Apple Retail Store, I haven’t known much else on a mobile device except for the iPhone’s OS.  After two years of owning the original iPhone, I bought a 3GS in 2009.  All in all, the iPhone has been a stable, dependable and extensible device.  Calling it a ‘phone’ is almost too limiting and reductive.  For me, the iPhone serves as my everything, do-it-all device. It’s my calendar, occasional video playback screen, audiobook, music player, shopping assistant, GPS device and e-mail tool to name a few of my uses. When I’m out and have moments where I’m waiting on line or just plain waiting, this phone makes those waits so much easier. In short, after nearly three years of steady use, the iPhone has exceeded my expectations in just about every category that matters.

If this were a talk show, Maury or Jerry Springer would be standing off in the studio audience right now, turning towards me, holding up the microphone to their mouth and asking me, “Well, why are you cheating then?”  And truthfully, I’ve pondered about this thought for some time.  And my reasoning is simple: I’m a technologist.  By definition, I’m always looking at newer, more elegant ways of doing things.  While the iPhone has been an ideal match for me in many areas, in several others, it’s missed the mark.  Here are my five key gripes with the current iPhone experience:

    • Information-Rich HUD – When the iPhone originally made it’s debut in 2007, waking the phone to a screen full of icons was acceptable.  Three years later, it’s just getting stale.  As much as I applaud the iPhone OS (now, simply called “iOS”) for it’s ease of use and application availability, at the end of the day, you will always pretty much be looking at rows of icons.   The HUD (Heads-Up Display) is very boring and not at all functional.  Just icons. And after hearing the iOS presentation at the beginning of the year, it doesn’t look like this will be changing anytime soon.  I’m not quite sure whether the interface been revised to add more functionality because doing so would require the OS to be completely re-written or because stylistically Apple doesn’t want to tamper with the iconic iPhone home screen.  Whatever the reason, the UI needs to grow beyond what I’ve been using. ‘Widgets‘ may come across as minor or optional, but they can serve an important role on a mobile communications device.

      I remember one of my first assignments as a manager.  My boss asked me to turn a 12-page monthly report into a one page, glanceable, information-rich tool that could be used to keep our client aware of what was happening in their business.  What we developed from that 12-page report (which ended up being very useful for my client) is the same simplicity that I’m looking for here.  Rather than rows of icons, why not show me the weather?  Maybe the score of my favorite sports teams?  A list of the most recent e-mails I’ve received?  That real estate on the iPhone’s home screen can be used much more effectively than it is now.

Continue reading ‘Using An iPhone… (but getting an Android ‘Jones’)’

19
Nov
09

Early Droid Impressions…

I’ve been dying to get my hands on the Motorola Droid and recently I spent some time with it and wanted to share some early (as early as 20 mins of use can buy me) impressions:

  • The shape is rather uninspired.  I passed right by the phone… In a way, it’s an unfair assessment.  The iPhone is recognizable, but for the most part it’s a big screen and a curved shiny back.  At the same time, other touch screen devices appear to have some personality.  (The new HTC HD2 comes to mind.  That seems to be the kind of sleek, slightly wider screen device that geeks lust over.)  The overall feel of the Droid, however, seems to be a bit… well, the word ‘uninspired’ keeps coming to mind.
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  • The phone definitely has a heavy feel to it… very study.  When I held the Pre for the first time, it felt kinda cheap.  This isn’t cheap.  This is a big metal slab.  But not too heavy.  Just heavy enough.
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  • The most disappointing thing about the phone (and I was really surprised) is the keyboard.  It’s really bad.  It’s the opposite of ergonomic.  Keys have almost no feedback.  The placement is kinda weird (this seems to be due to the shift of the keys over to the left to compensate for the directional pad.)  I was really amped about this device, largely due in part to the fact that I’m excited about Android.  But I was hoping this would give me an iPhone like experience, only with a physical keyboard.  My early experience with it really left a lot to be desired.
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  • It’s really snappy once you get into Android.  It”s as responsive as my iPhone and the interface feels like a whole different world.  I can get used to this!
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    Really that’s it.  Just wanted to get out some early feelings after touching the phone that is depicted in ads as being shot out of bomber into a midwestern city, disturbing all of the common folk.  But now that I had the chance to play with the phone it’s been brought down to earth a bit.  I am pretty sure in 2010 that I will own an Android at some point.  But the Droid will not be my gateway drug.
13
Apr
09

20 Reasons Why I’m Leaving My iPhone for the Palm Pre

Having been an iPhone owner since it launched in June of 2007, many who know me assumed that I would be upgrading to future releases of the iPhone.  (After all, isn’t that what an Apple Fanboy would do?).

I skipped the iPhone 3G.  And although there are some pains associated with not having some of the features, I am sure that I made the right decision.  There are few differences between the iPhone 2G and 3G.  The cases are slightly different — the 2G shedding the silver backing for a shiny plastic one with the 3G.  The only other differences are a GPS radio, connectivity to the AT&T 3G network, a 16GB version and a non-recessed headphone jack.  Everything else is practically the same.  Same processor, same architecture — same everything.  None of these additions were tantalizing enough to make me consider extending my AT&T contract another two years.

In December when Palm sent around teasers to the technology press inviting them out to experience “Palm’s Newness”, I was intrigued.  But I never even considered the thought that anything they would have to say would make me consider leaving what has been a great experience with my current iPhone.

That was until I watched the keynote.

I watched the entire hour long keynote when I got home after the presentation – twice.  At first, I was simply impressed.  I didn’t expect much from Palm and any device that pushes the envelope and gives other competitors a reason to stay on their toes and not play it safe benefits us all.  And certainly with the announcement of the Pre, Palm was doing just that.

In the weeks that would follow after watching countless hands-on videos and imagining the possibilities, I began to consider the phone more and more.  (I’m at the point now where I can probably do the demo that they have scripted for the press myself.)

Make no mistake about it — barring any monumental announcement made by Apple between now and June 29, the Palm Pre will be my next phone.  And having made that decision, I realize that potentially there’s a lot that I’m losing.  But for me, there’s so much more that I believe I’ll be gaining.

Before I get into the reasons why I’m probably going to buy the Pre, I want to state that it has nothing to do with some flaw or huge dissatisfaction in my iPhone experience.  There are areas with my iPhone where I feel that I could have been better served.  But overall, I have never had as seamless an experience as I have had with this device.  All of my data (provided I have a connection to the web) is in one central location.  My music, pictures, emails, contacts and calendar are all replicated from my PC on my phone.  The battery life could be better, but considering how much I use it as my primary media player, I really can’t complain.

Also, before reading the list, please consider the fact that I would be coming from the 2G version of the iPhone to any 3G device (Palm Pre or iPhone 3G).  There are some benefits that I’d gain by simply buying a 3G device.  But casting aside the iPhone 3G, everyone knows that the smart money says between now and June, Apple will announce the next version of the iPhone.  So this is a decision I’m making having not seen the next iPhone.  If Apple addresses many of the benefits I outline here having observed the Pre, my decision could change.  However, looking at the iPhone 3.0 press conference, I don’t think it will.  Regardless of how improved the new iPhone’s hardware is and whether it has twice or three times the existing memory or a forward-facing camera or any of the other rumors I’ve heard, my concerns are largely with the software and the overall experience.  The 3.0 press conference didn’t impress me at all.  The benefits discussed were largely targeted towards developers, with a few bones tossed out to consumers like “Cut and Paste” and “Search”.

But I need to preface this discussion by saying that I am rather pleased with my current phone.  The iPhone is still a revolutionary device when compared to other phones, and this is without any of the benefits brought in by the App Store.  The addition of applications last year has really expanded the ability of the device and I would recommend the iPhone to almost anyone looking for a great multimedia phone.

So why the switch?  (So glad you asked.)

Continue reading ’20 Reasons Why I’m Leaving My iPhone for the Palm Pre’

30
Jul
07

iPhone: Review

Preface

This is probably one of the longer reviews that I’ve written — and purposefully so. My intent is to give the reader a complete, full and fair account of my experience as a tech enthusiast who’s experimenting as the owner of a new iPhone. (This is one reason why I’ve waited almost a month after picking up the phone to complete the review. If you’re going to make an educated decision about whether or not to own this very different and very expensive piece of technology, you need to understand how it stands up under normal use.)

If you want a quick no-frills, “bottom-line” account, I don’t think you’re in the right place. We’re talking about a $600 phone that you’ll probably be using until 2009 (2-year contract) — I think it’s worth the investment to know what you’re buying.

I think one of the major challenges with a device like this is that it makes you completely rethink some of the ways that you are accustomed to using a phone — and not always in a good way. It’s like getting a next-generation stove. There are going to be some phenomenal features, but what good is it if heating up left overs turns into a chore. While writing the review, I was trying to contrast this experience with that of using a traditional Nokia or Motorola-interface mobile phone.

I hope what I’ve written makes your decision to buy (or not to buy) the phone one that is based more on fact and less on impression and speculation. (Cause there’s certainly a lot of that going on these days.)

. Continue reading ‘iPhone: Review’

12
Jul
07

AT&T and Apple: Strange Relationship?

There seems to be quite a bit of murmuring around town from folks about the fact that Apple chose AT&T as their wireless partner for the iPhone. As a disclaimer, I was an AT&T Wireless customer way back in the mid-early 90s when mobile technology was just starting to come into it’s own, so to say that “there were problems with the network” probably wouldn’t be a terribly meaningful criticism since just about every carrier had problems in the early stages of the technology. I do question whether the current Cingular-now-AT&T has the best wireless network. I had Verizon and despite the fact that they were ridiculously and needlessly expensive and always nickel-and-diming me, they truly did have the best network. I can’t say that there was ever a time when I was complaining about conversations disconnecting. My reasons for leaving Verizon (already well documented) had to do with their lethargic response to new devices (and their need to control the phone’s interface.) Which brings me to why I believe Apple chose the folks from AT&T…

It’s simple. Apple had a vision for a mobile phone experience — and AT&T agreed stay out of the way.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to come to this obvious conclusion. Going with multiple partners would not have given Apple the control over the interface that they desired. The huge market for mobile phone carriers is with the network downloadables. The ringtones. The games. The extra stuff. While lucrative, these downloads detracted from the vision. For one, they decrease what may prove to be an already unstable experience on a fairly new and untested mobile platform. One thing about the iPhone is that from the start-up menu to the shut down screen, the experience screams ‘Apple’. From the font to the icons. Everything. Opening the phone to multiple carriers means that everyone wants their little “store” application on it.

Another big issue is branding. Try to find a mobile phone that doesn’t have a Verizon or Cingular or Sprint logo somewhere stamped on it. Imagine an iPod with a huge T-Mobile icon on it. It detracts from the simplicity.

Most importantly, the reason why this phone has people as crazy as it does is largely due in part to the quiet hype that was created. You had Stephen Colbert doing a sketch begging Apple to send him one. We saw “iPhone sightings” on tech rumor sites. Most of the buzz had to be created around just wanted to experience this thing. AT&T was probably the only company trusting enough of the company that created the iPod to let them just run with their vision and not interfere with the experience they were after. It’s widely known that until the very last stages of design, even Cingular/AT&T executives didn’t have any details about the device design, interface or even a mock up. They were handed the info on a need-to-know basis. And look — it worked. Even the most prying of Apple conspiracy theorists were blown away by the announcement of a phone.

And so after we understand the “why”s, it’s natural for people to speculate as to whether this was beneficial decision. And if so, for whom. Continue reading ‘AT&T and Apple: Strange Relationship?’