Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year from your friends at Smartphone Fanatics!
May you have a year full a good fortune and lots of cool mobile gear!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Get Some "Love" From Research In Motion

Research In Motion, the Canadian company behind the BlackBerry family of smartphones, has been running an ad campaign this holiday season featuring the 1967 Beatles song, "All You Need is Love."

RIM is giving away free, no strings attached, copies of the song "All You Need is Love" as an .mp3 file. Just head over to the BlackBerry website and hit the download link. It's that easy! No forums to fill out. No accounts to create. No personal information to fork over. And while you're there, if you somehow managed to not see the current BlackBerry TV commercials, you can watch them on the BlackBerry site too.

Get some "Love" from the good folks at BlackBerry.com.

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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

iPhone Adventures

On Monday I picked up a used first generation 8GB Apple iPhone. (Thank you Shirley!) The phone is in good working condition. What I didn't know, is that that you must activate the iPhone before you can use it; even if you plan on using it, essentially, as an iPod touch.

So what did I learn with my adventures activating my iPhone? First of all, there is no problem with you walking into an AT&T store an signing up for a new service plan with the original G2 GMS iPhone. Secondly, you can use a pre-paid AT&T GoPhone SIM card in your iPhone. To use a pre-paid card, you will need to purchase and activate the pre-paid SIM card in a phone and then move it into the iPhone once it is setup and then activate the iPhone in iTunes as an existing customer. The CellFanatic blog has a good run down of how to do this.

But what if you are like me and don't want to have to deal with another monthly cell phone bill and just use the iPhone as a glorified iPod touch (with a camera), then you may want to go with the slightly shady jail breaking route. My SIM card was disabled because I hadn't used it in 6 months or more and I wasn't planning on throwing $15-30 away on a new one just to activate the iPhone. I used the Blackra1n jail breaking utility to by pass the activation process and make the phone available in iTunes. I did end up putting my "dead" AT&T SIM card into the iPhone to keep it from constantly reminding me that there was no card inserted.

The good news is that everything, minus the Phone and Messages applications, are working normally. If I change my mind, and want to activate the voice and SMS text messaging features, all I need to do is to put in a new, activated 3G AT&T SIM card and I'm ready to rock 'n roll.

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Palm Unleashes webOS 1.3.5 Update

Late in the day yesterday, Palm released the Palm webOS 1.3.5 update for Sprint branded Palm Pre and Pixi smartphones.

Late in the evening reports where coming in that it was slow going downloading the 13MB update. I for one found myself waiting quite a while for the update to be downloaded and processed on my Pre. Once the update was downloaded, my Pre took the usual 15 minutes to install the update.

This update is important for a number of reasons. The Palm App Catalog app received no less than 9 updates, one of which includes the ability to download apps in the background rather than forcing you to wait until the current app is downloaded. The Calendar app also received a performance update that allows you to swipe between days much faster than in previous releases of Palm webOS. This one is important to me since I use my Pre to help schedule my meetings and daily work. You can also now launch the Sprint Navigation application directly from a Contact record. (I haven't figured out how this feature works yet. When I tap on an address in Contacts, Google Maps is launched, just as it always has. I'll post an update later on reporting on whether or not I got this feature workings and what, if anything I had to do to make it work.)

Probably the biggest updates for Palm enthusiests in this release is the ability to use the Pre's and Pixi's USB storage space for applications, freeing many folks from the dreaded "too many applications installed" error that was popping up. Kudos to Palm for coming up with an elegant solution for addressing this problem. The Palm webOS 1.3.5 update also lays the ground work for some exciting possibilities for some new applications; games in particular. According to the folks over at WebOS Internals, Palm has delivered two package files that will make it possible for developers to access and use the Pre's and Pixi's Graphics Processing Unit, or GPU. This update should make it possible for high-quality games, the likes of which have been available on the iPhone for some time now, to be released for the Palm webOS platform. I'm really looking forward to seeing some of the Handmark/Astraware games to show up on webOS. I miss playing Bejeweled 2.

This update does not repair the iTunes Media Sync feature. At this time it is unclear as to whether or not Palm will attempt to reactivate this feature or if they can come to some kind of an agreement with Apple to allow the iTunes sync feature to work. If you want to sync iTunes content with your Palm webOS device, it is recommended that you use DoubleTwist.

Some of the highlights from the Palm webOS 1.3.5 update include:

  • App Catalog significantly improves the application download experience.

  • Users can now take advantage of the full storage capacity of the phone for downloading applications.

  • In Day view, switching between days happens more quickly.

  • A user can perform a full erase by pressing and holding Sym + the orange/Option key + power for 10 seconds.

  • A user can now edit forwarded text for all email account types.

  • When the user sets up more than one Yahoo! email account, the account names displayed in Account List view include the associated email address so that the user can distinguish them.

  • A user can launch Sprint Navigation from an address in an open contact entry in Contacts.

  • This update improves battery life in areas of poor wireless network coverage.
The complete list of software enhancements and bug fixes can be found on the Palm webOS software updates website. You can download the Palm webOS 1.3.5 update by launching the Updates application on your Sprint branded Palm Pre or Pixi.

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Sunday, December 27, 2009

BlackBerry Storm 2 Hands On Review

I have just wrapped up my test drive of the Verizon Wireless BlackBerry Storm 2 9550 smartphone. I’ve been testing out a selection of some of the more popular CDMA phones to help find the phone that will replace the corporate fleet of Palm Treo 755p’s that are in service at the company I work for.

The Hardware

The BlackBerry Storm 2, is Research In Motion’s second smartphone without a physical keyboard. The first was the original Storm. The BlackBerry Storm 2 measures up as being 4.43 x 2.45 x .55-inches and weighs in at 5.5 ounces. In practical terms, it is about the same size as an Apple iPhone. The Storm 2 has all of the standard hardware buttons that you would expect to find on any other BlackBerry smartphone. Unlike the buttons on the Tour, Bold, or Curve, the buttons on the face of the Storm 2 are concealed beneath a smooth sheet of plastic. The green, BlackBerry, escape, and red buttons are part of the bottom of the touch screen and the power and silence buttons are part of the top molding. Another nice touch is that there is a small, clear strip of plastic that protects the Storm 2’s 3.2MP digital camera lens and flash. The Storm 2’s battery door takes up the entire back of the device and snaps into place. Unlike the battery door on the Motorola Droid I recently reviewed, I don’t see the Storm 2’s door accidently being popped off during normal use.

One thing that I don’t like about the Storm 2 is that the bottom extends beyond the top of the device. This gives the Storm 2 a cool, rounded edge look, but I found it hard to reach up with my left index finger to turn the screen on when I was holding the device in my left hand. The uneven edges where less of a problem when I was holding the Storm 2 in landscape mode.


The Touch Screen

The big difference between the BlackBerry Storm 2 and the BlackBerry Tour is that the Storm 2 is a touch screen device. There is no physical keyboard on the Storm 2 and this may turn off some people who have used BlackBerry phones in the past and prefer the hardware keyboard. Part of the reason why I wanted to test the Tour and the Storm 2 was to compare the user experience between the two devices and to see if I could use a Storm 2 for the long haul.

The unique difference with the Storm 2 and other slate smartphones that don’t have hardware keyboards is that the Storm 2’s screen is “clickable.” Take for example the HTC Magic or the Apple iPhone 3G. Both of these devices have touch screens that dominate the face of the phone. When you tap an object on the screen, the screen remains stationary with virtually no tactile feedback. With the BlackBerry Storm 2, when you press down on the screen to tap an object, the entire screen presses down and clicks similar to the tactile feedback you get when you are clicking an icon or hyperlink on your computer with a mouse. You can hear and feel the click. It is a nice gimmick, but does it really help when you are trying to use an on screen keyboard?

After having played with the Storm 2, the Tour, and the Motorola Droid recently, I have found that the spacing of the keys on the keyboard are more important to me than whether or not the keyboard is virtual or not. I have found that keyboards on the Palm Treo Pro and Pre are very easy to use. Similarly, the keyboard on the BlackBerry Tour was a little too close – however, the shape of the keys did help improve my accuracy. For the Storm 2, Research in Motion decided to pack in four flavors of the virtual keyboard. They are: Qwerty portrait, Qwerty landscape, two-key portrait, and three-key portrait. I found the two and three-key portrait keyboards completely unacceptable. While I completely refuse trying to peck out a SMS or email message by pressing the same key two or three times to type a letter, the younger crowd who might buy the Storm 2 as their first smartphone may find these keyboard modes familiar, more comfortable even, if they are moving up from a flip phone. With the other two Qwerty keyboard modes available for use, I see professionals selecting the formats that more closely resemble the keyboards on their desks that the ones that resemble those found on flip phones.

After using the Storm 2’s Qwerty keyboards, I can say that I prefer the landscape keyboard the most. It offers the largest key cap clickable area of all the keyboards and the clickable screen did a good job tricking me into thinking that I was pressing a key on a physical keyboard. That isn’t to say that I didn’t make any typing mistakes, but I think that the Storm 2 offers the best on screen keyboard of all the smartphones I’ve tested so far. My one basic gripe about the landscape Qwerty keyboard is that when it is displayed, it takes up a significant portion of the screen; which can severely limit the space on the screen to see what you are doing.

The Software

The BlackBerry Storm 2 runs BlackBerry OS v5.0.0.320 (Platform 4.2.0.124), yet I didn’t find any noticeable difference from the BlackBerry Tour running BlackBerry OS v4.7.1.61 (Platform 4.1.0.81). One welcomed difference is that the Storm 2’s application launcher screen shows you the name of the application just below the icon. To see the name of an application on the Tour, you had to use the scroll ball to highlight the icon for the name to appear at the bottom of the launcher screen. For the most part, I didn’t see any major differences in the software bundled between the two BlackBerry’s I tested for this evaluation.

Conclusion

I have always stated that the decision to purchase a smartphone is very much a personal one. What works for me may not work for you. The BlackBerry Storm 2 is a capable BlackBerry smartphone that has many of the features made popular by Apple’s iPhone and you won’t have to jump ship from Verizon to AT&T to get a cool looking touch screen phone. As a BlackBerry, the lack of a physical keyboard may be a deal breaker for some corporate types, while others may welcome the increased screen realestate that comes from not having the keyboard. From a software standpoint, I found little difference between the Storm 2 and other recent model BlackBerry smartphones.

The BlackBerry Storm 2 is available now from Verizon Wireless for $279.99 when you purchase a qualifying two year service agreement. If you order the Storm 2 from the Verizon online store, Verizon will knock an additional $100 off the price tag. For more information about the BlackBerry Storm 2 9550 smartphones, please visit the BlackBerry website.

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Saturday, December 26, 2009

The FCC Isn't Happy With Verizon Wireless

In what was sure to take some of the "Merry" out of "Merry Christmas", DSLReports.com is reporting that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has responded to Verizon's explination of their early termination fees (ETF) for smartphones and charges of $1.99 for "phantom" web browser access without a data plan.

Karl Bode wrote the following for DSLReports.com:
"The problem is, the strange fee [$1.99 for simply launching the browser on a smartphone] has been documented for months by several customers, a number of newspapers, and even a Verizon whistle blower, who claimed Verizon knew about the junk fee but has done little to stop it because it generates millions in additional annual revenue. So Verizon's letter to the FCC denying all of this is raising a lot of eyebrows, as is Verizon's claim that a new $350 ETF for smartphones was to aid the poor (no, we're not kidding). In a response (PDF) posted this afternoon to the FCC website, [FCC Commissioner Mignon] Clyburn says Verizon's answers were "unsatisfying" and "in some cases, troubling".

The FCC document reads, in part:
"I am also alarmed by the fact that many consumers have been charged phantom fees for inadvertently pressing a key on their phones thereby launching Verizon Wireless's mobile Internet service. The company asserted in its response to the Bureau that it "does not charge users when the browser is launched" but recent press reports and consumer complaints strongly suggest otherwise. These issues cannot be ignored."

I'm glad to see that the FCC appears to be looking out for consumers. It is no secret that when you are dealing with the likes of the phone company or cable operators, or insurance companies for that matter, the consumer is on short end of the stick. Hopefully, the FCC will help balance the scales for consumers when dealing with not just Verizon Wireless, but also the other U.S. wireless carriers too.

You can read the full article on DSLReports.com.

"Can you hear me now?"

[Via BoyGeniusReport.com...]

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Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas from Smartphone Fanatics
















Merry Christmas and Season's Greetings from your friends at Smartphone Fanatics!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

BGR: BlackBerry Tour 2 Hands On

The folks over at BGR have gotten there hands on another BlackBerry. This time we get to eyeball the upcoming BlackBerry Tour 2 9650, which is a CDMA phone from RIM that will likely replace the BlackBerry Tour on Verizon Wireless and Sprint.

The big changes for the Tour 2 seem to be a track pad and a speed bump. I really like the look of the Tour 2, however, I like the keyboard layout of the BlackBerry Curve 8530 better. Still, the Tour 2 is a nice upgrade for CrackBerry owners who haven't upgraded to the Tour platform yet.

Get all the details over at the BGR website.

[Via BoyGeniusReport.com...]

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Research In Motion: YANO - Yet Another Network Outage

In case you missed it yesterday afternoon, CrackBerry users where all in a tussle because there devices temporarily transformed into door stops. Turns out that there was some more trouble at the BlackBerry network operations center (NOC), the massive data center where most BlackBerry Internet traffic is routed from.

CrackBerry.com provided a running commentary of what was going on:

"* Update 1: OK, preliminary word coming in is that it's a partial outage affecting North American carriers: BlackBerry Messenger and things like the web browser and apps that use a data connection.

* Update 2: BlackBerry data is no more. No emails, no web browsing, no BlackBerry messenger for it's North American users. Estimated time for a fix to come through is 3 hrs to a day, yes..a day."

At about 6:30pm last night, I had four "dead" BlackBerry phones in my house and four BlackBerry addicts roaming around the house in a daze. We where seeing the data outage on the Verizon Wireless and Sprint networks. Based on what CrackBerry.com was reporting, no carrier was spared in North America. The good news was that my Palm Pre was still working!

You can read the full article on CrackBerry.com.

[Via CrackBerry.com...]

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Monday, December 21, 2009

Engadget: BlackBerry Curve 8530 Impressions

Jacob Schulman has a first impressions review of the new CDMA BlackBerry Curve 8530 up over at Engadget.com.

Mr. Schulman writes:
"We don't know, but it seems like RIM has enlisted a couple more CDMA engineers because the gap between new devices launching on GSM and then making their way to CDMA has been getting noticeably smaller over time. The BlackBerry Curve 8520 was launched on T-Mobile only a few short months ago, and it's already made its way to both Verizon and Sprint. It's not the same powerhouse as its older sibling the Tour, but this device packs a heck of a lot of punch into a very pocketable package."

You can read the full hands-on review over at Engadget.com...

[Via Engadget.com...]

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Citrix Receiver Updated for iPhone, iPod touch

Citrix has released an update to Citrix Receiver for the iPhone and iPod touch. As you can see, there is literally a boat load of enhancements and fixes in the new release.

The things that I think users will like, include the seamless handling of Citrix accounts, the new user interface, and the ability to change session resolution.

You can read more about Citrix Receiver for iPhone OS on the Citrix website. You can download Citrix Receiver 2.0 for iPhone OS from the Apple iTunes App Store. [iTunes link]

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eWeek: Palm webOS One of the 2009 Products of the Year

The latest print edition of eWeek hit my desk today and they listed out the best products of 2009. Being a big fan of Palm, I was delighted to see that Palm webOS made this years list of outstanding products.

Andrew Garcia writes:
"From the way it integrates all like communication into a single interface, to the way it seamlessly moves from local search to Web search, to its intuitive gesture-based user controls, Palm webOS is a joy to use."

However, Mr. Garcia also warns that one of the biggest obstacles to the success of Palm's new mobile operating system is third-party developer support.

Again, Mr. Garcia writes:
"...I have my doubts as to whether third-party developers will create enough action on the platform to make it successful long term, Palm webOS is a thoughtful and well-designed mobile platform."

The complete list of eWeek's products of they year are:

1. AWS Toolkit for Eclipse
2. Microsoft Bing
3. RIM BlackBerry Enterprise Server 5.0
4. Cisco Unified Computing
5. Mozilla Firefox 3.5
6. Intel "Nehalem" Family of Processors
7. Palm webOS
8. SUSE Studio 1.0
9. VMware vSphere 4

Why 9? Usually at this time of the year, it is all about top 10 lists. Oh, well, let's just say that it has to do with the current year ending in '9'.

You can read eWeek Lab's full review of Palm webOS, written by Mr. Garcia, on the eWeek website.

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Time: Year End Numbers

I ran across some interesting numbers in the December 28/January 4 issue of Time magazine. In the Year in Briefing: Numbers section (page 35) there are two stats listed that I think you will find interesting. They are:

  • 200 million people joined Facebook in 2009.
  • 13,505 email messages received, on average, per person in 2009.

Wow! Those are both some amazing statistics. And to think, we couldn't have done it without our smartphones!

Don't have "time" to slow down and read the print publication? No problem, you can download the Time Mobile application for the iPhone and iPod touch. [iTunes link]

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Sunday, December 20, 2009

BlackBerry Curve 8530 Arrives on Sprint

BGR is reporting that the BlackBerry Curve 8530 has arrived at Sprint.
"Sprint has just added a new device to its BlackBerry family — the Curve 8530. Though this is on the low-end for BlackBerry devices, that doesn’t mean it skimps out on any features. Best of all, for those of you who want a smartphone but are on a budget, the Curve 8530 is only $49.99 after two-year contract and [mail in rebate]."

The good news is if you are looking to stick with Sprint, but don't want to have to re-up for another two years, the good news is that you can buy the BlackBerry Curve 8530 out right for $349.99. That is much better than the $500+ you have to pay for a BlackBerry Tour or Palm Pre without a service contract extension.

I have had my Palm Pre for six months now. Maybe it's time for a new phone. After all, I tend to be a bit fanatical about my phones.

You can check out the full Curve 8500 series specs over on the BlackBerry website. If you are ready to order, you should head over to the Sprint online store to get your CrackBerry addiction on.

[Via BoyGeniusReport.com...]

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Motorola Droid Print Ad

I am flipping through Entertainment Weekly magazine issue 1082/1083 and ran across an ad for the Motorola Droid for Verizon Wireless that I thought was a bit off the wall. The ad opens with this line of text:
"Jump from page to page like a caffeinated cricket in a room full of hungry lizards."

O-K, I'm not sure that imagery will make me go out an buy a new phone. Click the graphic to see the ad full size. And if you do decide to buy a Droid after reading the ad, don't forget to also pick up a good case. No need to have all that "grease-dipped lightning" getting all over that beautiful Droid screen.

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Saturday, December 19, 2009

Briefly Noted: Storm 2 Battery Life

It has been a full 48-hours since I fully charged up my demo BlackBerry Storm 2 smartphone. Two days later, the battery is still holding a 20% charge.

Now, before you get too excited, you should know that I have been testing the phone in a specific way. I have been using it to check my corporate email account and two of my personal Gmail accounts. I have also been using the BlackBerry to make a few phone calls and Wi-Fi has been turned off. Just like the people who would be using phone at the office if the BlackBerry Storm 2 is selected as the our new fleet phone.

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Up Next: BlackBerry Storm 2

I have received a Verizon Wireless BlackBerry Storm 2 for review today. As with the recent reviews of the Motorola Droid and BlackBerry Tour, I am reviewing the Storm 2 as a potential replacement for my company's fleet of Palm Treo smartphones.

The BlackBerry Storm 2, also known as the BlackBerry 9550, is a CDMA, GSM, Wi-Fi "world phone." My demo unit ships with a Vodafone GSM SIM card pre-installed. The Storm 2 is running BlackBerry OS 5.0.0.320 out of the box.

As is no doubt obvious from the picture, the BlackBerry Storm 2 does not have a physical keyboard. For this device, RIM has opted to include four variations on the soft keyboard. While I find the "full keyboard" usable in landscape mode, I'm not a big fan of the other three keyboard modes that can be used while the phone is held with a portrait orientation. The "clickable" screen does add a nice tactile feel that is missing from the iPhone and iPod touch, though I still much rather have that hardware keyboard.

In my initial testing, the device responded quickly and the screen is bright and readable. I also thing that it is easier to control the Wi-Fi radio on the Storm 2 verses Wi-Fi on the Droid. Oddly, this phone seems to be heavier than the other two I've looked at recently. While it doesn't bother me, it may be a deal breaker for some.

In short, if you are a 'Berry addict, the BlackBerry Storm 2 is your iPhone.

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Saturday, December 12, 2009

Troubleshooting a "Dead" iPod touch

I went to sync some new music and apps to my touch and was surprised to see that it didn't respond to being connected to the sync cable that was attached to my Mac. No problem, I'll just reboot the iPod and move on. Not so fast! The iPod was not responding to the reboot command either! I was sickened to think that my first generation 16GB iPod touch had just died on me. The holiday season is no time to have to make an unscheduled $400 purchase. And so began the long, drawn out, troubleshooting process.

The first thing you should do when you have an iPod that is misbehaving is to head over to the Apple iPod Troubleshooting Assistant web page. Here, you will be able to select your particular model of iPod and use Apple's easy to follow directions for setting things right.

In the past, rebooting my iPods has always resolved the issue. In this case, the touch was scrambled in such a way that I couldn't reboot it. But there is one other way to achieve a similar effect: drain the battery and recharge.

Draining the battery is an easy thing to do if you use your iPod all the time. But if you are a bit of the impatient type, like I am, you want something to help speed things up a bit. One of the apps loaded on my iPod touch is a flashlight application. It doesn't matter which of the dozens of flashlight apps you use because the end result is the same: start up the app, crank up the screen brightness, set the Auto-Lock feature to "Never", and wait for the battery to drain. Just to be sure that I drained the battery completely, I let my touch sit on my desk for an extra 2 hours after it would no longer turn on.

After that, I let my iPod charge up for 15-3o minutes on the wall charger and then connected it to my Mac. This time, iTunes quickly recognized it's missing friend and began to sync my new content.

At the end of the day, I was able to fix the problem, although I'm still not sure what went wrong in the first place. I also don't have to worry about getting a replacement iPod. That's good news because I expect that Apple will finally get around to releasing an iPod touch with a camera and 802.11n Wi-Fi in 2010. The only question I have is when? Will Apple refresh the iPod touch line in the first half of the year, or will they choose to focus on rumored Apple table in 1H and refresh the iPod line up in 2H, which typically happens in September in advance of the holiday shopping season. I'm not sure, but I'm looking to keep my G1 iPod touch running until then.

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Sprint: Android 2.0 Coming Hero, Moment in 2010

Sprint recently posted on their Twitter page that the Sprint Hero and Moment smartphones will be getting updates to Google Android 2.0 operating system sometime before the middle of 2010.

Sprint writes:
"Happy to announce Android 2.0 is coming to Sprint’s Hero & Moment. Date TBD, but roughly 1H 2010."
6 - 7 months is a long time to wait for and update, but owners of the Hero and Moment should be still be excited. At least it isn't a full year like Microsoft fans will have to wait for Windows Mobile 7.

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Windows Mobile 7 Delayed Until "Late Next Year"

"Delayed until late next year." Those are the works that fans of technology hate to hear. But fans of Microsoft's Windows Mobile platform are going to have to learn to live with them for the next 12 months. At least we have some nice screen shots to look at.

Phil Moore, who heads up Microsoft's UK mobility unit was on the hot seat during a Q&A session at the Connect! technology summit, which was held in London recently.

Reporting on the event, the Mobile News website, based in the UK, quotes Mr. Moore as saying:
"We’re still playing catch-up. When Apple came on to the scene a couple of years ago, it threw away the rulebook and reinvented it. We unfortunately don’t have that luxury. It’s true, Apple caught us all napping. It launched something that was very iconic, new and unseen with a very good user interface."

Mr. Moore continued stating that one of the goals for Windows Mobile 7 is address the massive gap (my words) between the Windows Mobile experience and the iPhone experience. Mr. Moore continues:
"It [Windows Mobile 7] has been put back until late next year but it is definitely coming. You’re going to see a lot more on Windows Mobile 7. Giving the enterprise users and consumers what they want will be part of Windows Mobile 7. You’ll get flexibility on a much easier touch UI."

Ouch! Being a long time fan of Palm, I can surely relate to what Windows Mobile fans are feeling right now. It was a good 5 years between the release of Palm OS 5.0 and Palm webOS. Microsoft is going to have to fill a tall order if they are going to try to take on Apple for the hearts and minds of mobile users.

You can read the full article on the Mobile News website.

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Friday, December 11, 2009

CW Opinion: Droids in the Enterprise

As you know, I'm currently working with a team to select the next smartphone for our corporate mobile phone fleet. One of the devices we are reviewing is the Motorola Droid for the Verizon Wireless network.

Computer World ran an opinion piece last month about some of the corporate short comings of the new Google Android 2.0 device. Author Michael Gartenberg writes:
"While there's a lot to like about the Droid, it's not the phone that most businesses are going to turn to. The hardware is good, including a lovely high-resolution screen, but the keyboard is definitely something you will want to try before you buy. For me, the keys are way too close together and much too flat to promote good typing. (Oddly, the virtual on-screen keyboard works much better for me)."

Mr. Gartenberg also has some issues with the Droid's built-in Microsoft Exchange support (via Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync), remote management, and device security.

You can read the full opinion piece on the CW website.

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

PC Magazine: Palm Pre Most Innovative New Platform of 2009

It must be that time of year again...where everyone feels compelled to pick Top 10 lists for everything. Following up on Time's declaration that the Motorola Droid is the top dog for their Top 10 Gadgets of 2009 list, PC Magazine has come up with their own list of top picks.

This year, PC Magazine has selected the Palm Pre as the Most Innovative New Platform of the year, writing:
"Palm has returned with the coolest handheld device we've seen in a long time. The Palm Pre has the same exhilarating sense of possibility as the iPhone—and it's even worth switching to Sprint for. The Pre is the start of something genuinely new: Palm's webOS, an innovative operating system that's benefited a lot by what the company has learned from Apple's smartphone successes."
The iPhone 3GS did take the top spot for Best Consumer Smartphone.

You can check out PC Magazine's top smartphone picks on the PC Magazine website.

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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Time: Droid Bests iPhone 3GS for Gadget of the Year

Ok, I really wasn't expecting the iPhone 3GS to get knocked off it's perch by a publication, especially by the likes of Time Magazine.

Apple fan site AppleInsider is reporting that Time has named the Google Android powered Motorola Droid the top gadget of 2009, beating the iPhone 3GS and the Palm Pre.
"The Droid is a hefty beast, a metal behemoth without the gloss and finish of the iPhone, but you don't miss it," the magazine said. "The Droid's touchscreen is phenomenally sharp and vivid, it has an actual physical (not great, but good enough) keyboard, and best of all, the Droid is on Verizon's best-of-breed 3G network. It's Android's first credible challenge to the iPhone."

Not to worry iPhone fans, the 3GS ranked number four on the list. The Palm Pre didn't even make Time's list.

You can read Time's full Top 10 Gadgets of 2009 list on Time.com.

Related Posts:

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Monday, December 7, 2009

Palm webOS Tip: Pref Shortcut

Over the weekend I stumbled across a new shortcut for Palm webOS. Using the Universal Search feature, you can type "pref" to see all of the preferences applications that Palm preinstalled on your Pre or Pixi smartphone.

This is especially handy if you have added a ton of the great Palm App Catalog or homebrew applications to your phone and don't feel like flipping through pages of application launcher pages.

Disclaimer: I'm using a Sprint branded Palm Pre running Palm webOS 1.3.1. I don't have access to any other versions of the Pre or the Sprint Palm Pixi. Mileage may vary.

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Sunday, December 6, 2009

BlackBerry Tour Hands On Review

As with the Motorola Droid that I recently reviewed, I had the opportunity to take Research In Motion’s BlackBerry Tour 9630 out for a few days for a test spin. The following is my hands on review of the Tour.

The BlackBerry Tour 9630 is a CDMA/GSM “world phone” that works on popular wireless networks both in the United States (CDMA and EVDO Rev A) and aboard on 3G networks (GSM/GPRS/EDGE). The Tour is currently available on the Verizon Wireless and Sprint networks. My demo unit is from Verizon and has been loaded with a Verizon/Vodafone SIM card. As far as I can tell, the Verizon and Sprint handsets are the same, however, the service terms will likely vary. There is also a version of the Tour available for sale without a digital camera.

The Hardware

The BlackBerry Tour is a candy bar styled smartphone similar to the BlackBerry Curve. The Tour’s dimensions are: 4.4 x 2.4 x 0.6-inches and weighs in at 4.58 ounces. To put that in perspective, it is slightly thinner, taller, and wider than the popular BlackBerry Curve 8330. The Tour has a half VGA+ 480x360 pixel display; which I found very easy to read; and is powered by a removable 1400 mAh battery.

All of the familiar BlackBerry hardware buttons can be found on the Tour. Just below the screen, is the button bar that is home to the call send/end buttons, the BlackBerry button, and the escape button. Nestled in the middle of the device is the trackball. After spending a few days using the trackball on the Tour, I thought it felt much sturdier than the one on my Curve. That said, I have heard reports from a local cellular retailer that their store has had a number of returns of the Tour early on in its distribution run due to faulty trackballs. The review unit that I used had no such trouble with the trackball. Below the button bar is the hardware Qwerty keyboard. Since this BlackBerry is slightly narrower than the one I’m used to using, I found the keys to be tight initially. The keys on the Tour, for all intents and purposes, have no space between them. After using it for about a day, I had gotten my keyboard bearings and was happily emailing away.

Walking around the smartphone, you will find the camera convenience key and the volume up/down buttons, the 3.5mm headphone jack, and the microUSB charging port. On the top of the Tour, is the ringer silence and screen lock button. On the left of the Tour is the voice command activation button and the speaker. On the back of the phone you will find the 3.2MP, auto focusing digital camera lens and flash. The phone’s mic is located on the bottom left of the phone.

Inside the Tour is 256MB of RAM, a microUSB card slot, a Bluetooth v2.0 radio supporting A2DP, and a GPS receiver supporting assisted, autonomous, and simultaneous modes. The GPS module also supports e911 and digital camera image geo-tagging.

Interestingly, unlike the Apple iPhone and Motorola Droid, the BlackBerry Tour does not feature a capacitive touch screen or a Wi-Fi radio. This could be a deal breaker for some, however, in my opinion, you get much better battery performance without those two features.

The Software

The BlackBerry Tour 9630 runs RIM’s Java based BlackBerry OS 4.7.1.61 (Platform 4.1.0.81). If you have used a previous BlackBerry running OS 4.3 or 4.5 you will have little trouble using OS 4.7, however, for this edition of the OS, there is a wire frame style to all of the icons. They are easy enough to figure out and the icon’s name appears at the bottom of the screen when you use the trackball to highlight and icon. Personally, I liked the old style icons better. The good news is that there are literally tons of themes for BlackBerry available for download from the Internet.



I was able to quickly and easily connect all of my Google Gmail accounts with the Tour. I was also able to use Notify Corp’s NotifyLink 4.5 client without trouble on this BlackBerry. If you want to sync the BlackBerry’s calendar with anything other than Microsoft Outlook, or a corporate messaging system like Microsoft Exchange using a BlackBerry Enterprise Server or Notify Corp’s NotifyLink Enterprise Server, you will need to get a third-party tool like GooSync for your Google calendar. Mac OS X users will need to download the BlackBerry Desktop Software for Mac or purchase Mark/Space the Missing Sync for BlackBerry.

Research In Motion has also opted to bundle DataViz Documents To Go Standard Edition on the Tour. Unlike the view only editions that come bundled with the Palm Pre or the Motorola Droid, the BlackBerry Standard Edition allows you to view and edit Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files. You can also transfer files to and from the smartphone using the BlackBerry Desktop Software. I was able to read and update the same files that I used during my Motorola Droid test.

If you plan on using Documents To Go on your BlackBerry, you will want to install the free maintenance release from version 1.006 to 2.0. Heavy users will want to consider purchasing the Documents To Go Premium upgrade to gain access to the stand alone Documents To Go desktop synchronization application, native Adobe Acrobat viewing, the ability to create new Microsoft Office documents directly on the Tour, the ability to spell check Word documents, and additional document formatting features. One thing that I did find annoying about the upgrade process to version 2.0 of Documents To Go was the requirement to uninstall the bundled version and reboot the phone prior to the upgrade. While it isn’t the end of the world, it bugged me to have to leave the browser, uninstall the phone, and then return to the upgrade web page. (You did remember to bookmark the upgrade page before uninstalling Documents To Go, right? See how annoying that is!) Documents To Go 2.0 Premium for BlackBerry retails for $69.99, and is on sale for $29.99 until December 20, 2009. For more information about DataViz Documents To Go for BlackBerry, visit the DataViz website.

Just for the Fun of It

All work and no play is boring. So I also played with some of the fun aspects of the BlackBerry Tour. Social media junkies will be happy to hear that the Tour comes included with a Facebook and My Space clients. (Facebook users will want to upgrade to the latest mobile client version right away.) The camera took nice pictures at a resolution of 2048 x 1536 pixels. The music player application worked well and I was able to watch Iron Man which I converted from DVD to an Mpeg-4 file.

I also installed some other free applications from the BlackBerry App World, including USA Today Mobile, The New York Times Global Edition, Google Maps, TweetCaster, UberTwitter, The Weather Channel, and Fictionwise eReader. (Fictionwise eReader can be downloaded from the eReader.com website.)

Conclusion

The BlackBerry Tour is a great upgrade for previous BlackBerry owners. If you are looking to upgrade from another smartphone platform to the BlackBerry, you will want to sync your old phone to Microsoft Outlook before making the jump to BlackBerry to ensure that all of your data makes it over. The BlackBerry Tour, like most other BlackBerry phones does not have a touch screen. That detail, and the lack of Wi-Fi may be a deal breaker for some, however, you will be repaid with longer battery life. If I don’t charge my Palm Pre, or the Motorola Droid I was testing every night, I would wake to find two phones with dead batteries in them while the Tour was still ready to work with about 45-50% battery life left in it.

The BlackBerry Tour is a solid business smartphone, however, if you are using a Microsoft Exchange email server, you will need to install a BlackBerry Enterprise Server or other third-party middleware server such as Notify Corp’s NotifyLink Enterprise Server since the BlackBerry does not support the Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync protocol as do most of today’s other smartphones.

Pricing and Availability

The BlackBerry Tour 9630 is available now from both Verizon Wireless and Sprint for $149 with a qualifying 2-year service agreement. For more information about the BlackBerry Tour, visit the BlackBerry website.

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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

BlackBerry Tour On Deck


Following closely behind the Verizon Motorola Droid, I have gotten my hands on a BlackBerry Tour 9630!

The BlackBerry Tour is currently available from both Verizon Wireless and Sprint. Unlike the other CDMA/EVDO smarphones in their line ups, the Tour is considered a "World phone" because it also has a GSM radio and SIM card slot. The demo unit that I have from Verizon was shipped out with a Vodafone SIM card in it.

Just like the Moto Droid, I'll be testing this phone out as a replacement phone for my company's fleet of Palm Treo 700p and 755p smartphones. I'll have a short review of the BlackBerry Tour 9630 ready at the end of my demo period.

If you are interested in digging into all the details about the Tour 9630 now, you will want to check out the BlackBerry website.

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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Astraware Releases Police Range for iPhone/iPod touch

Astraware, the gaming branch of Handmark, has released Police Range for the iPhone/iPod touch.
"Put your skill and accuracy to the test as you train on the shooting range to become a crack police marksman. Compete against your friends or others worldwide to post the best scores on the online high score table and show off your shooting skills!"

Police Range offers two modes of play: Target Practice and Crime Alley. Use the Target Practice mode to improve your accuracy and reaction times on the shooting range. And when you are up to the task of taking out the trash, and change over to Crime Alley to take out targets of potential perps lurking in windows and doorways. Just be sure not to accidentally shoot any civilians.

Police Range is available now for $0.99 from the iTunes App Store (iTunes link). For more information, or to watch a YouTube video of Police Range in action, visit the Astraware website.

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Documents To Go for iPhone/iPod touch 2.1 Update Released


DataViz Documents To Go for iPhone and iPod touch has been updated to version 2.1 and is now available for download from the iTunes App Store.

The 2.1 update is the result of customer feedback and adds a number of refinements to the PDF To Go application, which includes the following enhancements:


  • "Go to" page
  • Maintaining last viewed location
  • Opening password-protected PDFs
  • Thumbnail, Fit To Screen, Fit To Width & Actual Size views
  • Full screen view with floating navigation controls
  • Tap zooming
  • File opening speed improvements

“Documents To Go” (iTunes link) and “Documents To Go with Exchange Attachments” (iTunes link) are available for $9.99 and $14.99 respectively from the App Store on iPhone and iPod touch or at: www.dataviz.com/itunes. All customers who purchased a previous version of Documents To Go for iPhone/iPod touch will receive a free update to version 2.1.

“Documents To Go with Exchange Attachments” has the same functionality as “Documents To Go” and includes a Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync client for sending and receiving Exchange email WITH attachments.

For more information, visit the DataViz website.

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Verizon Motorola Droid Hands On Review

The Motorola Droid is the latest Google Android powered smartphone being offered by Verizon Wireless. The Droid went on sale back on November 6, and joins Verizion’s other Google Android phone, the Droid Eris, in their smartphone line up.

The Droid is the first Google Android smartphone that I’ve used and I was interested in seeing what this phone is capable of doing and to see how it would measure up to other smarpthones that I’ve used in the past.

The Hardware

The Motorola Droid is a 6oz 2.4 x 4.6 x .5-inch slider smartphone. The face of the Droid is dominated by an expansive 3.7-inch 480x854 pixel WVGA display, that is formatted to support 16:9 widescreen video. (I watched about 15 minutes of Iron Man on Droid and the display looked crisp and clear.) The capacitive TFT touch screen is both bright and easy to read. Along the top of the device are a standard 3.5mm headset hack and the power on/off button. On the left side is the microUSB port used to charge the phone or connect it to your computer as a USB mass storage device. On the right side, you will find the volume up/down buttons and the camera application button. Below the screen is the mic, and on the back you will find the 5.0MP camera sensor and the speaker.

Moto Droid next to a Palm PixiTucked away inside the Droid are the EVDO Rev. A, Bluetooth v2.1 + EDR, and a Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g radios. The Droid also sports an assisted GPS receiver. Powering the smartphone is a 1400 mAh removable battery. There is also a microSDHC card slot at the top of the battery compartment where you will find a 16GB microsSDHC card pre-installed. If you plan on swapping out microSDHC cards or batteries regularly, or if you tend to toss your phone in a pocket, purse, or messenger bag for example, you will want to keep an eye on the battery compartment door. Unlike other smartphones I have used in the past, the Droids battery compartment door does not latch lock into place. I can see a lot of people loosing their battery doors and Verizon should be keeping their spare parts inventory well stocked.

Similar to other recent smartphones, Motorola has included an accelerometer, proximity sensor, ambient light sensor, and an e-compass.

The Droid features a physical keyboard which I prefer over on screen keyboards like those used on the Apple iPhone and BlackBerry Storm 2. That said, the keys are, for all intents and purposes, completely flat. In my opinion, this makes the keyboard harder to use than it needs to be. I much rather have a physical keyboard that has raised or rubberized keys like those on the BlackBerry Curve, the Palm Treo, or the Palm Pre. At the end of the day, the best keyboard layouts and orientations are a personal choice. I would recommend that you stop at a local Verizon retail outlet and play with the keyboard before you buy so you know you will be able to live with this phone for the next two years.

The Software

The Motorola Droid, as stated earlier, is powered by the Google Android 2.0 operating system. Because the operating system was written by Google, it should come as no surprise that Droid supports most of Google’s web services, including: Gmail, Calendar, Maps, Talk (Instant Messaging), Search and Search by Voice, and YouTube. Support for Google Voice is not included on Verizon’s phone.

Main app launcher screenAndroid Phone appDroid software stackThe Android contacts and calendaring applications worked as you would expect them to and I did not experience any problems using them. On the demo unit that I was working with, I did not see a dedicated tasks or memos application. Since the Droid is the first Google Android phone that I’m using, I’m not sure if Google just didn’t include those applications, tucked the functionality into the email and/or calendar applications, or whether or not Verizon chose to not include those applications. A quick search of the Android Market provided me with a number of free and commercial replacement tasks and memos applications. I just find it odd that these applications aren’t included by default on the phone.

I was happy to see that Android 2.0 supported not only Google Gmail accounts, but also POP, IMAP, and Microsoft Exchange accounts. Additionally, you can also sync the Droid with a Google or Microsoft Exchange calendar. There are a few things that I though where confusing and annoying about email and calendaring on Droid. The first is that the Droid has two email and two calendar applications. The application “Corporate Calendar” is the application that you use to configure a Microsoft Exchange server calendar using Exchange ActiveSync. You use the “Calendar” application to access your non-Exchange calendar. For this test, I used one of my Google Calendars. I was surprised to learn that I was unable to add a second or third personal calendar. I have three calendars that I look at throughout my day: business, personal, and family. I configured the Droid to primarily sync with my “business” Gmail account and Android automatically linked the same account’s calendar to the phone. I was able to add additional Gmail and POP email accounts, but I was unable to add a second or third calendar. Researching this issue in online Android discussion forums, it appeared that this could be a bug in the calendar application. I would like to see Google fix this limitation in the near future.

I’m a heavy user of email, calendaring, web browsing, and word processing. The browser that has been included with Droid rendered pages as well as Safari on my iPod touch with iPhone OS 3.1.2 and my Palm Pre with webOS 1.3.1.

DataViz Documents To Go 2.0 for Android

No Smartphone Fanatics smartphone review would be complete until I take DataViz Documents To Go out for a test drive.

Docs To Go launcherDocs To Go File menuDocs To Go File Open windowUnlike other smartphone platforms that you may have used in the past, Motorola’s Droid does not ship with Documents To Go pre-installed on the device. You will have to use the Android Market to download and install the free Viewer Edition of Documents To Go. The free version of Documents To Go allows you to view any recent Microsoft Word and Excel documents that you receive as an email attachment or side load on your microSD card. When you step up to the Full Version of Documents To Go 2.0 for Android, you gain the ability to view Microsoft PowerPoint documents and Adobe Acrobat documents. You also gain the ability to create and edit Microsoft Office documents. DataViz gives you the flexibility to choose the file format for your new Office documents: Office 97-2003 or Office 2007. (The file format selection is an application preference that effects new documents and is not selected when you perform a File > Save As… command.)

Another nice feature included in the Full Edition of Documents To Go is DataViz's implementation of predictive word look ups. Typing ‘fi” in a new Word document causes Word To Go to pop open a small row of possible words that start with the letters “fi” and I can quickly pick “first” form the list of words that I wanted to type. I like this implementation because the possible word selection list is not popping up in front of what you are typing to type. In other words, in my opinion, this is a much cleaner, less annoying way to work with predictive word look ups. The Full Version of Documents To Go also did a fantastic job of loading and rendering my test Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Acrobat documents. You can purchase the full version of Documents To Go for $29.95 in the Android Market, however, after registering the free Viewer Edition, I received an email from DataViz inviting me to upgrade to the full version for $9.95. If you are going to be using the Motorola Droid to work with Microsoft Office and Adobe Acrobat documents, you will want to purchase this upgrade. At $10, the full featured version of Documents To Go 2.0 is a bargain price for all the functionality you get.

All the Rest

I also spent some time playing with the fun aspects of Droid. The 5.0MP digital camera takes some nice pictures once you get used to the auto-focus feature. The picture viewer and music players worked well. I was able to play all of the non-DRM’ed iTunes purchased tracks that I loaded on the Droid's microSDHC card. (I sided loaded the music. If you want to sync playlists right out of iTunes, you will need to install a third-party application like DoubleTwist.)

I also loaded some of the free news applications like The New York Times, USA Today, and The Weather Channel; all of which worked well. Android comes pre-loaded with a native Facebook client (I didn’t test Facebook) and a free Twitter client, TwitterTweet, kept in up to date on all of the mobile computing Twitter-ers that I follow. I also downloaded and installed the free WiFi OnOff widget which saved a lot of time, and screen taps, to turn Wi-Fi on and off quickly. And lastly, avid readers will be happy to learn that the Fictionwise eReader Pro application works on the Android 2.0 platform, however, you will need to manually install the software from the eReader.com website, not the Android Market.

Conclusion

After spending a little more than a week getting to know the Motorola Droid and the Google Android 2.0 mobile operating system, I feel that the Droid is on par with the Apple iPhone 3G/3G s, BlackBerry Storm or Storm 2, and the Palm Pre. Based on the way I used the phone, I feel that it could tackle all of my business, personal, and social mobile computing needs. Google Android 2.0 is easy enough to use and the installation of third-party applications over the air (OTA) from the Android Market worked without any trouble at all.

Pricing and Availability

The Verizon Motorola Droid smartphone is available now at Verizon Wireless retail locations, online from the Verizon Wireless website, and through corporate inside sales reps. Consumers should expect to pay $299.99 with a new 2-year contract or with a 2-year contract extension. If you order the Droid from the Verizon Wireless website, you will receive a $100 discount. You may be able to find even better pricing from Amazon or Best Buy if you are willing to put the time in comparing online and brick and mortar retail location pricing.

For more information about the Motorola Droid, please visit the Motorola website. For pricing and service contract information, please visit the Verizon Wireless website.

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