Entries Tagged as 'Cellular'

Smartly Made Smart Phones

I’ve owned a Windows based smart phone for around a decade; when I first saw and played with the iPhone I thought it was interesting, but it really brought little more to the table than HTC had already done with their UI on top of Windows mobile had… with one notable exception — the app store.

I’d probably have been willing to try the iPhone except for a number of characteristics I found totally unacceptable.

  1. The iPhone was only available on AT&T (I’ll choose my carrier, thank you very much);
  2. The iPhone didn’t have a keyboard (and I mean a real keyboard, not a virtual keyboard that takes two thirds of the screen);
  3. The iPhone was a closed platform totally under the control of Apple; and
  4. The iPhone was overpriced.

Any one of these would have likely prevented me from buying an iPhone, but in total it was a no-brainer.

Then, a little over two years ago (23 September 2008); Google released a handset manufactured for them by HTC running an open source version of Linux specifically designed for use on portable devices.

That was the T-Mobile G1 running Android (aka HTC Dream)…

Today there are a large number of Android based handsets on the market — and the number grows almost daily — and we’re not limited to just a single vendor or single carrier… almost every cell phone handset manufacturer has at least one Android based handset, and every US carrier supports Android handsets.

The official release of Android is version 2.2; and while some manufacturers have not provided that updates to older handsets, the open source community has put a great deal of effort into providing custom builds of Android that bring the newer features to older handsets (including many phones originally intended to run Windows mobile).

Android is a revolution in smart phones.

Not necessarily because Google has done everything right, but because Google has leveraged many parts of the development and manufacturing communities and allowed each to do what they do best.  These contributions push Android in multiple directions simultaneously; allowing Google to use the best and most promising along with their own ideas to pave a path for Android.

Now it’s worth noting that Google didn’t do this because they’re philanthropic and just want what’s best for everyone — they did it because having control of the smart phone market (and tablet market) or at least not being locked out of it; allows them to generate a revenue stream through advertising and collecting demographics to target that advertising.

But are they any different from cellular carriers and other companies offering smart phones — not really; but they are better at doing what they do (and I don’t mean developing technology, I mean making money with advertising).

As consumers we’re not really interested in the technology under the hood; we’re only interested in what it does for us, what it costs, and the eye candy it presents.

To me, though, what we should praise in Android is that it will not be a platform that limits, but rather accommodates.

Originally posted 2010-10-09 02:00:43.

Can You Hear Me Now?

And who else can hear me or can see my cellular phone records?

Verizon Wireless informed the Obama transition team, the US Secret Service, and law enforcement agencies that a number of Verizon employees had improperly and illegally accessed cellular phone records for a phone belonging to Barrack Obama.

The employees have been suspended without pay while the investigation is conducted.

So it’s great that a high profile individual like the president elect gets swift action from Verizon, but the question in my mind is why aren’t they just as quick to act when I call?

Over all I would say that Verizon’s customer service is better than most companies; but I don’t get this kind of attention when they screw up — and I dont’ recall seeing any clauses in my contract about getting a higher grade of customer service if elected to public office…

Originally posted 2008-11-21 18:00:44.

I don’t recommend “The OEM Shop”

On 22-Sep-2010 I placed an order for a “Motorola DROID and DROID II 1300mah Standard Battery” from “The OEM Shop” through Amazon.

I really hate dealing with Amazon Marketplace Merchants since my personal history of such dealings indicated that the likelihood of being disappointed is very high; and this occasions was in perfect keeping with my expectations.

The item was to have shipped by 24-Sep-2010, so when I didn’t see a change in status by close of business that day I sent an inquiry to the vendor.  I received back an automated reply that indicated that they were “on vacation” — and that they’d been on vacation even before my order had been placed (so I immediately considered the “contract” for purchase of an item had been entered into under fraudulent terms — ie, they knew before accepting an order that they would not meet the shipment commitment).

I immediately sent another message via Amazon requesting that the order be canceled.

The following week I got a reply from the merchant indicating that they had shipped the item on Saturday (the day after I’d sent a message to cancel the order — but within the time frame of the first message of their vacation).

I wasn’t sure I believe them; but I told them that I’d been refusing the item and it would be returned to them.

I also contacted Chase to open a charge dispute on my Amazon VISA for the item.

The item never showed up — and two days after I got the replacement item I’d ordered from another Amazon merchant (the order was placed on 27-Sep-2010) I requested that they provide me with the tracking information (which they had never posted to Amazon).

I haven’t heard back from The OEM Shop, I haven’t gotten the item, and I suspect they never shipped it.  I have gotten a permanent credit from Chase for the item so after posting negative feedback and this BLOG article I consider the matter closed.

My advice — don’t do business with “The OEM Shop” — there are too many good alternatives to them, and absolutely no reason to support questionable etailers.  If my experience isn’t enough to convince you — read the other recent feedback posts on 5-Oct-2010 and 4-Oct-2010 on Amazon.

“The OEM Shop” Storefront on Amazon

NOTE: I was notified by Amazon late this evening that a refund would be posted to my account (actually, since the charge-back had already been made permanent there isn’t any change from my perspective).

Originally posted 2010-10-05 14:25:36.

The Super-Sized iPhone

The iPad is no longer a rumor — Apple’s put a stake in the tablet market.

The one thing Apple seems to be very good at is coming out with an extremely weak offering and making the world thing it’s technology they created and it’s technology you can’t do without…

The iPad isn’t available yet — it’ll be over a month before the WiFi only model ships and over two months before the WiFi + 3G model ships (unlocked, UMTS/HSDPA and GSM/EDGE — no cellular support).

When I read over the press announcements and the specifications on Apple’s site (and looked at the price) my reaction was — it’s slow, has no substantial storage, uses an Apple proprietary processor (derived from an ARM core), has no USB ports, and it’s way too big to fit in my pocket and doesn’t have a keyboard.

I’ll pass.

The press is saying how it’s an Amazon Kindle killer — well, if that’s the best thing that can be said about it maybe Apple has really missed the mark this time.

iPad

Apple iPad

Originally posted 2010-01-29 01:00:07.

iPhone 4

Yesterday (Monday) Apple CEO Steve Job unveiled the iPhone 4 — you know, the phone that his arrogance and ego caused a reporters home to be raided and computer and media to be confiscated (enough reason in itself that I would never buy one).

The iPhone 4 itself is thinner, lighter, able to multi-task, shoot reasonably high quality video and stills, has a font and rear facing camera — and tons and tons of limitations.

To coincide with the release of the new iPhone 4 AT&T eliminated their $30 flat rate data plan; but of course Apple is sticking with AT&T as the exclusive American provider for the iPhone 4 (which probably has a great deal to do with the fact that it didn’t get the name iPhone 4G since AT&T doesn’t have a 4G network).

I personally just don’t get it — if what AT&T says about how little most of their customers use data is true, then why do they sell so many iPhones?  Do people really doubt their self worth so much that they feel they need to carry around a shinny gadget to try and make others think better or them (the joke would be on them — watching someone fumble with an iPhone and barely able to make or receive a phone call with it certainly doesn’t improve their images).

And remember, AT&T maintains that iPhones cannot be unlocked (though iPhones purchased through other providers get unlocked directly by Apple once customers have satisfied their contractual commitments all the time).

It’ll be interesting to see how the Apple -HTC lawsuits play out — I think it would be all too sweet if the big bully in Cupertino got bitch slapped a few times.  And I wouldn’t lose any sleep when AT&T finds themselves in hot water over the issue of “unlocking”.

Most people don’t have a clue what to do with a smart phone, so I’d suggest you purchase something practical that meets your needs, and not treat your phone like a fashion accessory.

You’ll have to wait until 24 June for the launch — like most every Apple announcement, they’re just baiting the trap at the moment.

Originally posted 2010-06-08 02:00:07.

Open Source Mobile Operating System

So everyone knows about Google’s Android effort to develop an open source mobile operating system; but there’s competition in that market.  In fact — Google wasn’t there first.  LiMo was.

With players like Motorola, Samsung, LG, Nokia, NTT DoCoMo, NEC, Panasonic, Verizon Wireless, SK telecom, and Vodafone the list of supporters was a who’s who in the cellular industry… and what you might not know is that there have been a number of LiMo handsets; many of which were fairly successful.

  • Motorola: ROKR EM30, MOTO U9, MOTO Z6w, MOTORAZR2 V8, MOTORAZR2 V2 Luxury Edition, MOTOROKR Z6, MOTOROKR E8
  • NTT DoCoMo/NEC: docomo STYLE series N-01B/N-03B/N-08A/N-02A, docomo PRIME series N-02B/N-07A/N-06A/N-01A/N-03A, docomo SMART series N-09A/N-04A, docomo FOMA N706ie/905ip/N705iu/N705i/N905i
  • NTT DoCoMo/Panasonic: docomo STYLE series P-02G/P-10A/P-08A/P-06A/P-02A/P-03A, docomo SMART series P-03B/P-09A/P-04A, docomo PRIME series P-01B/P-07A/P-01A/P-05A, docomo FOMA P706ie/P906i/P905iTV/P905i/P705i/P705iu
  • Samsung: SCH-M510
  • Vodaphone/Samsung: 360 M1, 360 H1

Android is, of course, currently the second largest operating system for smart phones (behind RIM’s Blackberry OS); I’ve never seen LiMo listed in the rankings.

LiMo Platform

LiMo Platform

Originally posted 2010-08-15 02:00:45.

Smart Phones

Early last month Sprint shipped a 4G Android based smart phone made by HTC — it sold out; they receive more from HTC — they sold out; they can’t keep them on the self.

Late last month Apple shipped the iPhone 4 (not a 4G phone), and AT&T sold out the first day in many metropolitan areas.

The day before Apple shipped the iPhone 4, Motorola shipped a new Android based smart phone — sales were brisk.

I’ve had a smart phone for many, many years — and frankly I’ve been amazed at how many people have been buying them in the last few years, so I did a little research.

I figured a good place to start would be to see what kind of applications people where downloading for the iPhone — well I was totally shocked.  On almost every list I could find the top applications were games (and people were paying for them).

I’m not even going to waste my time writing what I think this says about Americans (and we probably shouldn’t limit it to just Americans)… obviously the economy must be doing fine if people have several hundred dollars to throw away on a cellular handset to just enable them to play games — and have a fashion accessory (which must be meant to indicate that they have money to throw away).

I always considered my smart phone a tool; but I guess in the age of PSP and Wii it’s just another electronic toy to keep mindless people entranced so they don’t need to think or pay attention to their surroundings.

Almost enough to make me toss my smart phone in a trash can and get rid of my unlimited data plan.

Originally posted 2010-07-01 02:00:46.

Google Music – Release

Back on the 17th of November Google announced the generally availability of Google Music…

We’re excited to announce that Music Beta by Google is officially graduating from beta today! Google Music will remain a free service, and you can continue to store up to 20,000 songs in your personal music library.

As well as an updated terms of service, and a music store (that works via Android Market).

The terms of service clarifies that each individual uploads and maintains his individual copy of a music file (unlike Apple’s service which may well substitute your copy with one from the iTunes store).

And while I think Google Music is a great value (it’s free), I think it might still be a little buggy…

My music library has in excess of 30,000 MP3 files, and while I understand that Google will not upload all of them, and that I might not be able to control exactly which 20,000 songs they upload without creating a copy of the songs I have in a separate directory structure, I’m at a loss as to why I only have 19,088 from my collection uploaded — and the error I see in the load is “too many files in account”…

While I wouldn’t have been shocked if I got 19,999 songs uploaded, it seem to me that there’s definitely a deficiency in Google’s uploader and it’s logic for determining when you’ve reached 20,000 songs in your library.

Like I said, I think the Google Music service is a good value; but it does lack the ability to use it as a “backup” of your music library (there’s really no facility to retrieve the music you upload, other than the very painful, manual effort you’d have to put into retrieving files from the cache it builds as you play them and renaming them).

An alternative is the Amazon Music service; they only provide 5GB free, but for a modest yearly payment they do allow unlimited (Google hasn’t even set pricing for raising the limit on their service); and with both the song you purchase don’t count toward your limit.  The upside of the Amazon service is that it does work nicely as a backup; you can retrieve the music you upload.

For the time being, I’ll use the Google Service; but my guess is that I’ll just migrate to Amazon if Google doesn’t really focus on making the service work correctly, and provide for additional storage.

Originally posted 2011-11-25 02:00:48.

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.

Can you hear me now?

Does it occur to you that if a company has a slogan like “Can you hear me now?” perhaps that’s because it’s a question many of their customer have to ask over and over…

I’ve had Verizon Wireless service since the late 90s — and except for a two year period where I had a flat rate regional service in San Francisco I would say I was relatively happy with them.

Two years ago, when I started to make preparations to move, I opened an account with AllTel.

In San Francisco, I roamed on Sprint with my AllTel phone, but I still had my two Verizon phone.

I have to say, in San Francisco there’s no question that Verizon offers far superior service to Sprint.

However now that I don’t live in San Francisco, and Verizon has purchased AllTel I’m just not that happy with service any longer.

Frequently I have cases where my phone doesn’t ring… I don’t get a SMS message or voice mail notification for a day (or more)… in the middle of a call the other party can’t hear me, or I can’t hear the other party for thirty seconds (or so) and then it’s fine… twice I’ve been the unwilling participant in conference calls (right in the middle of talking to someone I wanted to talk too, suddenly I had two strangers on the call instead of who I’d called)… constantly I have issues with data connections.

The funny thing is everything worked just fine here before Verizon took over AllTel — but the cellular service is getting to be extremely unreliable, they’re closing several of their stores, and they keep trying to coerce old AllTel customers to change over to Verizon plans and pay more for less.

Well — I’m tired of it… and I’ve started looking around.

I pay about $110 [including fees and taxes] month for 350 minutes of voice, unlimited data, unlimited text, free nights starting at 7:00 pm, free weekends, free mobile-to-mobile, eleven air time free numbers I designate, and nation wide roaming (of course they did try and charge me $86 for roaming in my home area and that took three months to correct).  For that I use about 2.5GB of data and 3700 minutes per month; and don’t incur any extra airtime charges (but it does require being cautious and having to plan ahead; I have to put customer service number I intend to call in my air time free number the day before I call them).

For about $90 [including fees and taxes] per month (with a regional carrier) I can get unlimited voice, unlimited data, unlimited text, and nationwide roaming — no games, no need to plan ahead, simple.  I’m asking myself could service be any worse?

The only down side is a new two year contract.

Originally posted 2009-10-09 01:00:25.