Entries Tagged as 'Cellular'

SyncMate

Fairly often I get messages from vendors who’ve read a posting I’ve made on a “similar” product to one of theirs and they suggest that I take a look at their product… and I welcome these messages.

When I got such a request from Eltima Software on SyncMate a few months ago I read their web page and thought that their product sounded like it’d be worth taking a look at — so finally this week (mostly because I was talking through the issues of device synchronization with a friend of mine) I got around to testing out the software.

First, the software comes in a free edition as well as an “expert edition” (which isn’t free) — and I’ll go over the list of features and cost later; for now my review will cover only the free version and components.

Second, SyncMate runs only on a Mac; so if you don’t have a Mac, you probably won’t be interested (and SyncMate isn’t the killer app, it won’t justify you running out and buying a Mac to synchronize your devices).

Here’s my objective: keep my contact list and calendar synchronized on my HTC TouchPro2.

Thumbnail —

  • I have a HTC TouchPro2 [unlocked] running Windows Mobile 6.5
  • Over 500 contacts (many with detailed information and a picture)
  • I have several calendar events per week (with reminders); often multiple on a single day
  • I don’t use Outlook (and never will again)
  • I currently use Microsoft MyPhone (the basic features are free, and they are barely worth that price)

Criteria —

  • Sync needs to be “easy”
  • Sync needs to be “reliable”
  • Sync should work via Bluetooth, WiFi, Internet, and/or USB
  • Sync must include all information

And they’re off…

I first tried to get everything working with Bluetooth — that was a fricking night mare; so I dropped by and just plugged in a USB cable (which installed the sync component for SyncMate on my Windows Mobile device).

After that, I just followed the prompts on the screen to setup my device in SyncMate, decide what to sync, and what direction to sync it in (which for me was just syncing my phone to my Mac, since I didn’t really have any information on my Mac), and pressing a button — and then waiting patiently.

SyncMate was able to sync 100% of the contact information and calendar information from the phone to the Mac — and I was able to view that information in the Mac’s Address Book and iCalendar programs.

But wait… I’m not done.

Eltima also provides a sync component for Windows (desktop); so I installed that on a Windows 7 machine — and after a little fumbling around I was able to push the contact synchronization information from my Mac (which I’d gotten from my phone) to Windows 7 — the system Address Book; and then backup the .contact files to my RAID5 array!

A little background —

When I upgraded to Windows 7, Microsoft advertised the Windows 7 Sync Center — a way to manage and synchronize devices; silly me, I just assumed that Microsoft would support Windows Mobile 6.5 (their flag ship mobile phone operating system) out of the box.  They didn’t — you had the run the POS Device Center software that came out with Vista — which would have been acceptable, except it only synchronizes with Outlook and that POS ain’t happening on my computers ever again.

So began my quest began.

OK, so SyncMate works; and sSyncMate will do what I want… but now let’s really “talk” about it.

One of the first things I noticed after setting up the Windows sync component was that it crashed (often)… and it was difficult to convince the SyncMate on the Mac that the PC was alive again after re-launching the sync component.

The interface for SyncMate is a little clunky… it just doesn’t have a very well though out flow; and could definitely use some human engineering to improve it.  It’s usable, but far from ergonomic.

The free version of SyncMate is extremely limited; in fact, I wouldn’t class it as much a free version as I would a teaser version.  For me, it does 99.99% of what I want — it synchronizes my contact (and handles all the fields), it synchronizes my calendar, and it will read my SMS messages (but doesn’t allow me to do anything with them except view them in the free version).

The “Expert Edition” adds a number of features that you might want; but given that it’s $39.95 for a single license (plus $11.99 for lifetime upgrades — which I would say is an absolute requirement) I think it’s priced way too high; you can review the additional features (one of which is a SMS manager, which I think it’s a little retarded that they have two SMS plugins — one that reads, one that manages — I think of the two together).

Here are the pluses to the free edition:

  • Synchronizes contacts (their feature chart notes Entourage 2008 support, but in fact they don’t do anything but give you the instructions to make Entourage use the OS-X contacts)
  • Synchronizes calendar events (again with the Entourage support — see above)
  • Provided device information (handy but not essential)
  • SMS reader
  • Internet sharing (hmm… I thought OS-X could do that by itself)

The expert editions provide these features that I think would probably be nice:

  • Backup
  • SMS manager
  • Call history
  • To Do’s
  • Autosync

And the following are enhancements they should add:

  • Stable Windows sync component
  • Android support (without using Google)
  • Windows Live Mail support
  • Windows Live Calendar support
  • Windows Live synchronization
  • Windows version

Finally, they need to rethink the pricing model.  $39.95 for the personal license is just too much; I’d think $19.95 is more in keeping, particularly since a lifetime upgrade guarantee is $11.99 extra; and the business license is $49.95 (I don’t really why there’s a difference unless the business license included the one of the “priority support plans” they offer — and of course I didn’t see a guarantee on the “priority support” — like getting you money back if they failed to resolve an issue, or answer within a specified time period.

Here’s what I think they should consider:


Personal License $19.95
Family Pack (5) $39.95
Lifetime Upgrade Guarantee $9.95


So basically I think their prices are too high (and yeah, mine above are on the low side, and certainly $24.95 and $49.95 are not unreasonable amounts, but that’s about the limit in my mind, and I think the lower price would encourage a larger user base — and probably end up being more profitable); and I think their “family pack” being 6 units rather than 5 units like Apple is retarded; and I think the lifetime upgrade should be one price… I don’t have any comments on the pricing of the priority support plans since they don’t have any details on the plans.  As to corporate licensing, they can handle that on a case-by-case basis; but they definitely need to eliminate their distinction between a personal and business license; though I have no issue with excluding business use of the family pack.

I would have purchased a license right away (just because I like to support reasonably well done software) had it been priced right; but at the price they want to charge, they’re going to have to fix the Windows sync component, and actually make it have a reasonable feature set…

I am going to use the free version; and I’ll consider upgrading to the “Expert Edition” when they either add features (fix features) and / or address the pricing.

Eltima Software
SyncMate

Originally posted 2010-07-08 02:00:43.

Smart Phones

If you’re looking for a smart phone, you’ve got lots of great choices now.

Whether you’re interested in an Android based phone, a Windows Mobile 6.5 based phone, or holding out for a Windows Mobile 7 based phone you really want to take a look at HTC.

I believe HTC phones are available on all the major US carries, and most all the smaller regional carriers (your selection might vary).  Internationally you can purchase an unlocked GSM version — and several of the HTC handsets are multi-band, multi-format.

HTC innovated the smart phone interface; and the worlds most popular smart phone (the Apple iPhone) appears to have “leveraged” off the work HTC did years before.  What, you thought Apple created that gesture based user interface all by themselves?

HTC built the first Android based phone; HTC released the first Windows Mobile 6.5 phone (and supplied upgrades for a number of Windows Mobile 6.0 phones); and it looks like HTC will release the first Windows 7 phone (there are already rumors).

Other than the Motorola Droid (which HTC already had shipped a similar phone) HTC phones are the “hot ticket”.

I have an older HTC phone — the 6850, aka Touch Pro — and I love it.  It’s been upgraded to Windows Mobile 6.5 and works well.

A smart phone provides me with the ability to keep my contacts synchronized (without having to attach my phone to my computer), get quick answers on to questions on the Internet, be alerted to email (or read and send email for that matter), use mapping software (or act as a full blown GPS since I have Garmin loaded as well), check fuel prices, check the weather, and tether my laptop when I can’t get a free WiFi signal.  I guess I could use my phone for a multimedia player (video and audio); but that’s not a requirement for me (but you could — and I’ve played with streaming audio and video to my phone, so I wouldn’t be limited by the 8GB flash card I added to it).

Today smart phones are a viable solution for people who want more than just voice communications in their pocket, and don’t want to carry multiple devices.  Over a decade ago my friends and I “dreamed” of a convergence device that would give us PDA, data, and cellular all in one — today that dream is a reality.

Originally posted 2010-01-14 01:00:20.

Kit Kat – Android 4.4 / 4.4.2

My Nexus 4 and my two Nexus 7s updated to Kit Kat about a month ago and other than Google+ becoming far more pervasive I can’t say I’ve really seen any improvements that matter much to me (yes, I’m aware that “under the hood” there are some substantial changes)…

Some things I have noticed (that I’m not happy with) are:

  • Bluetooth shuts off and cannot be turned back on until you reboot the device.
  • Bluetooth will disconnect and reconnect (by itself) from devices that worked perfectly under Jelly Bean.
  • Devices reboot periodically by themselves (without asking for confirmation — probably more often than you realize since you’re not using them continuously).
  • Devices freeze; sometimes they respond after a couple minutes — sometimes you have to power cycle them (I haven’t had a case where I had to force a reboot yet).

I’m hopeful I won’t see this on my Nexus 5 (when I start using it after the first of the year), but from what I’ve read in the forums I’m not the only one seeing stability issues with Kit Kat, and it appears to be on all devices that have received updates — including the Nexus 5.

I’m afraid this is another case of people who work on Android not really using (or testing) the product well before it hits the street — and while I don’t feel that Google employees working on Android should be forced to trade out their iPhones, I do feel that a substantial number of the engineers working on Android should have to use the latest release (maybe replace their desk phones with cellular handsets that run the latest Android version to help debug the hardware and software).

Bottom line — you might want to hold off on your move from Jelly Bean to Kit Kat until Google releases a few more updates.


 

Android: Kit Kat

Originally posted 2013-12-30 08:00:58.

Hello… hello…… hello………

I just received my RMA replacements for three H700 Bluetooth headsets I purchased around the time California’s head set law went into effect (I used headsets before that point in time, but I wanted to make sure I always had a head set with me after that point even to answer a call and say that you’d need to get back to them could get you a ticket if a law enforcement agent felt like writing it).

The H700 was a great head set; but it wasn’t without problems.  And notably one of the major problems was that Motorola purchase a large lot of batteries all made around the same time.  In fact, the same time three years ago, and Lithium Ion only lasts about three years. 

Once the last of the three headsets died, I called up Motorola, provided them the information, gave them a credit card number since they wanted to do a pre-replacement on one (they would send out one replacement guaranteed by my credit card — which in fact they never authorized a charge against) and then I would return it and the other two and receive two more.

I recieved an H710 as a replacement model; some of the features of it was nicer, but one of the major downsides was that it used a micro-USB power connector, which mean it couldn’t share my the CLA I used for my phone, any of the phone charges I already had; and I wasn’t about to spend $20 on another CLA.

The first hitch… I never got an RMA number for the pre-replacement.  No information by email, no information in the package.

The next hitch… they sent the same RMA email and number to three different people (yep, three addressees on the email).

The next hitch… they still hadn’t sent me the RMA for the other two head sets (and I wasn’t about to pay multiple shipping charges).

The next hitch… I never received my two additional head sets.

The next hitch… I was advised they were sending out ONE more headset.

Finally… I was advised they were sending out the THIRD and final headset.

This took me almost two months to get the replacement; and sixteen phone calls, three supervisors, and one executive complaint.

Oh yeah, and it’s all over… including losing almost TWO MONTHS of warranty time.

Thanks Motorola — you’ve certainly convinced me that I need to look else where for cell phones and cell phone accessories.  Of course during these two months I’ve developed problems with my T815 navigation system — another nightmare I’m sure to get that fixed.

It’s easy to see why Motorola isnt’ making money with their cell phone and cell phone accessories even though they have some of the most popular phones and head sets made.  I mean think about their costs in manpower and shipping to resolve what should have been a simple RMA.

NOTE:  One solution for charging the micro-USB head set is to buy a mini to micro-USB adapter; or better yet, a micro-micro-USB Y cable and a mini to micro-USB adapter.

  • Motorola SKN6252A – mini-usb to micro-usb
  • Motorola SKN6222A  – mini-usb to mini-usb Y (one full usb one power only)

NOTE: Technically Motorola still hasn’t fulfilled my RMA(s).  The original headset they sent was a full retail package; but when I opened the two boxes arrived last Friday I found that they had sent me one more retail packaged H710 and the other box contained just a H710 in a bubble envelope (no charger or instruction manual).  Since the H710 uses micro-USB rather than mini-USB I’m technically short one charger; but after sixteen calls to Motorola I’m convinced that this will never be made right, and another forty minutes of my time is worth more than the charger.

Originally posted 2009-02-14 01:00:22.

Google Voice(mail)

I’ve already made a few posts that tell you how you can use Google Voice to make and receive unlimited free calls (provided your carrier allows you to specify at least one telephone number that’s air-time free), but here’s a way you can use an unlimited data plan to reduce your air-time fees for retrieving voice mail and totally eliminate any carrier charges for “visual voice mail”.

Verizon charges nothing for “Basic Voice Mail” per month; but they will charge you air time each and every time you call your own voice mail (evening and weekends are air time free on some plans, but you cannot put your own number in the air-time free call list [current called “Friends & Family”, it used to be called “My Circle” before the AllTel acquisition).

Verizon charges $1.99 for “Premium Voice Mail” .  You can read up on the features they’ll rape you for.

Verizon charges $2.99 for “Visual Voice Mail”.  Again you can read up on the features they’ll rape you for.

Or… you can just setup your Google Voice account to be your voice mail — and then you’ll essentially get all the feature Verizon would love to charge you extra for; plus be able to call your voice mail for free (assuming you have put your Google Voice number in your “Friend & Famly” list) or just read the SMS and/or email message that contains the voice mail transcription or play the voice mail over your unlimited data connection.

There are actually instructions on Google Voice for setting up Google Voice mail as your primary voice mail on your carrier (they will tell you for most any carrier), so this doesn’t only work for Verizon, this will work for pretty much any carrier…

Why throw money away?

While I might have reservations about letting Google have access to more and more of my information, I sort of lump them in the category that the people you don’t want to have access to your information had it before you did…

Anyway, Google Voice mail (and Google Voice) will work with any cellular phone (and actually you can use this strategy with landlines as well).

Originally posted 2010-10-17 02:00:07.

SyncMate 3

I’ve written about Eltima’s SyncMate before, but they released a new version about a month ago, and I’ve spent some time using it and decide that it’s well wrote revisiting.

SyncMate 3 is very similar to SyncMate2; it’s an excellent utility for keeping your Mac synchronized… particularly if you have an Android phone, Windows phone, Nokia phone, depend on Google for services, etc.

Like with the previous version of SyncMate you may find that the free version has all the features you really need; but the low price of the Expert Edition might make you just go ahead and buy it for one of the useful features included with it.

The only major disappointment I had with SyncMate 3 is that it didn’t migrate my sync accounts and setting from SyncMate 2.  That’s not really an issue for most people, but I had a large number of sync devices setup in SyncMate 2 and I had customized the icons and settings quite a bit for each of the test devices.

Beyond that… SyncMate 3 worked, and worked well.

I really couldn’t test the direct Android sync since I use Google to sync my Droid; and I highly recommend you do not try and sync both directly and via Google – you’re not going to be happy with the outcome (and I guess there isn’t any real way for SyncMate to detect you’ve entered the same device twice).

One of the things I use SyncMate for is to synchronize multiple Google accounts; actually I had one main account, and prefer to have the contacts from it pushed to the other account (which are used mostly for Google Voice).

The list of features is long, and you’re much better off to view them on Eltima’s web site than have me try and list them here.

While the software is very easy to use, you’ll find that it supports a number of sophisticated features — and really what you do with it is limited to your imagination more than the software.

This is a company and product that I believe is well worth taking a look at.

SyncMate 3

Originally posted 2011-02-19 02:00:59.

Goog-rola

What does $12.5 billion get you in today’s economy?

For Google, it just might get them Motorola Mobility.

For me, I’m wondering what’s going to happen to the Open Handset Alliance.

Motorola is a very large manufacturer of mobile devices (cell phones, smart phones, and tablets) — and it’s roots are over 80 years old.

Google’s CEO Larry Page stated that (at least for the time being) Google intends to run Motorola Mobility as a separate company, and that there will still be the exchange of license fees for Android, and that they will need to bid on manufacturing future Nexus phones just as every other vendor would.

Right…  I believe all that.

My gut tells me this is all subject to change (quickly) that Google will use it’s acquisition of Motorola to change the landscape of Android devices and they won’t be a separate company; while they might not be tightly integrated into Google they will be very coordinated with Google.

One has to wonder, what’s next for Google — a cellular carrier (or maybe a few)…

Originally posted 2011-08-15 10:00:59.

Microsoft MyPhone

I’ve been using Microsoft MyPhone for several months now; and I switched over to it not because it’s something I felt I really needed, but because Windows 7 doesn’t synchronize with Windows Mobile 6.5 devices using the new Windows Sync Center; it requires that I install the Vista (abomination) Device Center which replaced Active-Sync.

Why do I hate Device Center?  Well, I couldn’t really care whether I use the-man-in-the-moon or what ever to sync my phone, all I care is that I not have to use Outlook!  And you guessed it, Device Center will only synchronize with Outlook, Windows Sync Center allows synchronization with a number of sources (including Outlook if you use that POS).

The options I had were use third party synchronization software (which I was forced to use back when I had a Motorola KRZR — and I really didn’t want software to limit what I could sync), use Google (I really don’t want Google to have more of my personal information than they already have, or try MyPhone (not that I’m wild about Microsoft having my personal information; but I know that they’re a clueless company who wouldn’t know what to do with the information even if they realized they had it).

There are many things that MyPhone won’t do, and we might as well get those listed first:

  • It will not download ring tones
  • It will not synchronize to live contact, calendar, etc
  • It will not allow you to backup on your desktop

Things it will do:

  • It will limit you to 200 MB of storage
  • It will synchronize contacts (including pictures, but it does have some limitation with field sizes; so Garmin GPS points are a little problematic)
  • It will synchronize calendar (but it doesn’t allow notes or reminder, you have to enter those on the phone)
  • It will synchronize task lists (again see the above limitations)
  • It will synchronize text messages
  • It will synchronize browser favorites
  • It will synchronize photos
  • It will synchronize videos
  • It will synchronize music
  • It will synchronize documents
  • It will allow for deleting and archiving.
  • It will support multiple phone
  • It will support social networks (well, Live)
  • It will provide your phone’s last known location (last sync)

If you’re willing to pay for enhanced services:

  • It will ring your phone
  • It will provide your phone’s current location
  • It will lock your phone
  • It will erase your phone

Presumably these last services are targeted at lost phone (so you might wait until you’ve lost your phone to pay for the service, and I guess if it can’t do it you might be able to get a refund).

Currently MyPhone only supports Windows Mobile devices (so you can consider it’s something you get when you purchase a Windows Mobile phone), and most current Mobile 6.1 and 6.5 phones already have it pre-installed (but you can easily download it and install it on any Windows Mobile 6, 6.1, or 6.5).

To effectively use MyPhone you should have an unlimited data plan (or it might end up costing you quite a bit of money to do the synchronizations).

I don’t want to give anyone the impression that I think MyPhone is the best thing since sliced white bread (who came up with that expression — white bread is horrible), but it works, and it works well — and it provides a service for owners of Windows Mobile 6.x that Windows 7 doesn’t (so much for Microsoft’s flagship products, makes you wonder why you have to pay the big bucks for things that don’t work well, and don’t work together).

One of the nice features of MyPhone is that you can use it to sync information to you phone regardless of what desktop operating system you run (I believe synchronizing to Windows Mobile devices still requires a third party [extra cost] product on OS-X; Sync Mate or Missing Sync).

NOTE:  I believe Microsoft considers MyPhone to be part of the Windows Live offerings, but since it doesn’t inter-operate with Windows Live (at least in the current version) I don’t see how anyone can make that claim with a straight face (where do they get these programmers and program managers).

Microsoft MyPhone

Originally posted 2010-03-09 02:00:18.

Toshiba IS02

The Toshiba IS02 is a Windows Mobile 6.5.3 powered smart phone with a 1GHz Snapdragon processor and a 4.1″ AMOLED touchscreen sporting a 3.2MP digital camera, 384MB RAM, 512MB ROM, business card reader, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi with a GSM quad-band radio and 3G data.

It’s reported to be one of the slimmest WinMo phones available — and it has a full slide-out QWERTY keyboard!

Hopefully Toshiba will export the phone to the American market, and continue to innovate and push the competition.

Toshiba IS02

Originally posted 2010-07-19 02:00:11.

Verizon Wireless

Like most cellular communication companies, Verizon Wireless leaves it up to the consumer to find their billing errors.

Last month I called Verizon Wireless right after the AllTel/Verizon merge was complete; and I told the representative that at the end of the call I would have ONE Verizon account; and that that would be achieved either by combining my two numbers (one previously Verizon, one previously AllTel) into a single account without making any changes to the plans OR terminating the old Verizon account.

Originally Verizon had required all AllTel customer to convert to a Verizon account to make ANY changes to their account, but they softened that policy when they found it was just as easy (and cheaper) for many AllTel customers to switch to another cellular provider than switch their plans to a current Verizon offering (I for instance would have to pay more for what I have and would lose six of my eleven “My Circle” number [that’s the numbers I can call airtime free regardless of the network they’re on] and would have to pay for text messaging and data dongle use [Internet access for my laptop]).

The customer service representative was certain he could combine the accounts, because they’d been told they could; however, after several tries (and munging the information on both accounts) he was unable to combine the accounts and “terminated” the service on my old Verizon phone.

Well, I just received the bill for the service — and interestingly enough I was billed an entire month… not just a few days.  Why?  Well simple, they didn’t terminate the account, they suspended it in order to let it age out to the end of the billing period — of course I had no service from Verizon… well, unless you consider billing a service.

How horrible unethical (and illegal)…

Needless to say I just got off the phone with a Verizon representative and gave him two options — put through a bill adjustment, or I’d file a charge back with my credit card company (don’t think there would have been much of a problem with that).  I’m not sure how he arrived at the “adjustment” figure — but then again, I don’t have an advanced degree in cellular telephone billing mathematics… I seem to be getting about half my billed amount back rather than three quarters — but when they generate another bill I’ll review what they’ve done.

The thing I really hate about having to put so much time and energy into “fixing” problems that companies like this cause (and I believe it’s intentional since they know most people won’t put any effort into fixing these fraudulent charges) is that it costs time (which is money).  So the question is, why isn’t there a law that requires companies to PAY consumers for their time when a consumer invests their time to resolve an issue that a company has caused through no fault of the consumer at say two times what the consumer normally is paid (or at least two times minimum wage).  And, of course, these companies should have to pay 21% interest on any excess charges they’ve made.

Originally posted 2009-08-08 01:00:16.