Archive for the 'Technology News' 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’

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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’)’

29
Jan
10

Musings on the Announcement of the Apple iPad

It’s been about 24 hours since the long anticipated keynote address and unveiling of the Apple iPad.  I’ve had some time to reflect on what this announcement will mean for Apple, for consumers and for my own personal use. 

Mixed Reactions
On Wednesday morning, it seemed like even the least tech savvy folks knew that ‘Apple was announcing a tablet!’.  (Major props to those sites that were gracious enough to cover this event via liveblog – it made the situation easier to follow.)  Getting bits and pieces of information and trying to digest them while on the telephone and working with customers, I found it difficult to process the facts.  A lot of what Steve Jobs says gets lost in translation in the liveblog.  I was in a room filled with tech savvy co-workers and just about everyone was underwhelmed.  While the announcement was, in fact, a “tablet-shaped device,” the details were significantly less impressive than the grandiose expectations that analysts and random tech followers (like myself) had ascribed to it.  Nobody I spoke to seemed genuinely excited and as I collected feedback (most of it unsolicited), it largely consisted of exclamations about the poor marketing behind the name and what the iPad couldn’t do.  Overall, people seemed generally confused about what makes this product offering so special.

It’s important to point out that after years of speculation about what an “Apple Tablet” would look and behave like, the expectations were almost impossible to meet.  (It was actually a bit anti-climactic to actually see and hear this announcement since it was so much fun to pontificate over the years about what such a device might be.) 

The Keynote is the Key
The key to understanding this product lies not in reviewing the specifications and comparing it to other offerings in the market.  For those who are considering the iPad, my best suggestion is to actually invest an hour and half of your time before you spend $499 – $830.  Watch the keynote and observe how Apple is marketing it to consumers.

Unlike many other product unveilings, Apple devoted almost the entire hour and a half to explaining just one product.  (The keynote is long – if you can’t watch the entire thing, check out just the first 15 – 30 minutes of it.  (It’s available now on the homepage at Apple.com or via iTunes via podcast.)  But for the benefit of those that will only read this, I’ll do my best to share Steve Jobs’ sentiment.) 

The most critical piece of information during the keynote was explained in the first 15 minutes.  Steve showed a slide with an iPhone on the left, a MacBook on the right and and empty space in the center.  He talked about the thought that went into deciding whether there was room for a product between those two devices.  The philosophy he outlined was, ‘If we’re going to announce a product in between these two offerings, it has to be better than the phone and better than the MacBook at some things.’  He then hypothesized about whether the netbook fits in this category.  (He actually put the word “Netbook” in the empty space between the MacBook and the phone.  He explained that the company’s conclusion on netbooks is that they aren’t better than laptops or phones at anything.  He dismissed them as “slow, cheap laptops”.  It was only after going through this explanation that he unveiled the iPad that almost everyone has seen by now.

Continue reading ‘Musings on the Announcement of the Apple iPad’

21
Nov
09

Here’s what’s going on at the Microsoft Store!!

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.
21
Aug
09

The Palm Pre and Me – Where did love go wrong?

gallery-pre-10Earlier this year in March – just five short months ago – I was about as excited as I’ve ever been for a new gadget.  After writing Palm off as a ‘has been’ for years, I found my attitude changing after watching the keynote for the Palm Pre in January at CES.  And like any lusting affair, the more I read about it the more I wanted it.  Gadgets are an obsession for me to begin with. However, my obsession with the Pre was starting to become unhealthy.  I recall thinking to myself before the final pricing was set, “I’m sure Palm will price this competitively, but I’ll go as high as, say…five…no, six hundred.  But that’s my final offer!”

But unlike many other situations of longing desire, I knew why I wanted the Pre.  And even after having left it for another phone, I still know.  The Pre promised something that my iPhone never gave and as far as I knew, never planned on giving.  At the top of the list was a physical keyboard – something that the writer in me had been missing ever since I stood on the iPhone launch line.  But it was more than the keyboard.  It was the promise of an untethered experience where I didn’t sync to a desktop but wirelessly with the cloud.  One where I didn’t have to worry about going home to plug in and sync my music and where I’d have a replica of my home digital life in my mobile device.

I didn’t sleep at all on the night before it launched.  I was too afraid of ‘falling asleep and missing the launch line’.  And so, like a love struck fool, I stood on line for four hours at the Sprint Store in Valley Stream and traded text messages with my sister (who had the Pre bug too).  And when I first held the phone in my hands, I can’t deny how happy I was… the phone felt so incredible.  Some areas were lacking, but I knew it would take some time before I got accustomed to it.

The scene now is not very different from many other breakups.  There seem to be regrets on both sides of the table.  Here I sit in one room while the Pre sits in another (probably making calls to it’s girlfriends remarking at how much of a liar I was and how full of it I am.)

What’s worse, my new girl…uh…phone… well, it’s a lot like my old phone.  The iPhone 3GS sits at my side.  Yes, that iPhone 3GS.  The one I laughed at Apple for releasing with few additional features than the previous version.  The one that was playing it safe.  Well, in the end, it turns out that ‘safe’ is probably what I need at this point.

But the question that I’ve been getting from everyone who knew how in love I appeared with the Pre remains the same… where did love go wrong?!

Well, let me explain…

Continue reading ‘The Palm Pre and Me – Where did love go wrong?’