Entries Tagged as 'Smart Phones'

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.

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.

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.

Windows Phone 7

Today Microsoft hosts and “open house” in New York and London.

Rumor has it that it’s to showcase “toys” for the holiday season, and it’s likely to feature the Windows Phone 7.

There’s no confirmations from Microsoft on much of anything relating to Windows Phone 7 (except that it’s coming); but indications are the launch in Europe will be on 21 October, and in the US it will be on 8 November.

Also, it appears that only GSM handsets will be shipping this year; CDMA handsets will not be available until next year.

HTC, Samsung, and LG have all received FCC approvals for their upcoming Windows Phone 7 handsets and ads featuring the HTC Mondiran (for AT&T) have been leaked onto the web.

Microsoft has tried for nearly two decades to capture the hand held device / smart phone market; and to this point in time they’ve allowed two relative new comers to corner that market (Apple first, then Google).

Now Microsoft ships 7, not long after 6.5 — and what they’re telling us is that no current Windows Phone handset will be updated; and no current software running on a Windows Phone will work… or more clearly, forget the investment you’ve made in hardware or software.

If you’re going to buy something that’s totally new and different, and only leverages the Windows name… why go with what most of the world has chosen — Android.


Originally posted 2010-10-11 02:00:36.

Sprint 4G Surcharge

So I was looking at Sprint devices, plans and coverage — they have the Samsung Galaxy S 4G handset, and their model includes a slider qwerty keyboard (I really like keyboards on smart phones)… of course we’re talking about Sprint’s network, which has marginal service in this area and no 4G within about 300 miles (and likely no 4G for a very long time any where around here) but the interesting thing is they still insist on charging a $10 4G surcharge for plans on 4G phones even when the phone is used in 3G service areas…

Personally I feel that if a cellular company is going to charge me a surcharge for enhanced speed (and features) that I should be getting those features…

I don’t think I’d be too keen on Sprint for anyone of a number of reasons…

Let’s see, first and foremost would be a horrible experience with Sprint and Sprint’s billing practices when they first started.  And their CEO can keep apologizing about it, but the bottom line is I wouldn’t tend to try Sprint unless they offered me a deal that was just incredible (and charging me for a service I’m likely never to get isn’t a way to make me feel like it’s a deal I can’t refuse).

Then there would be the fact that their service and coverage here is abysmal — even worse than AT&T!!!  In fact, their service is so spotty they actually caution you about it on their web site when you go to browse phones and plans.

Then, they choose WiMax rather than LTE (like the rest of the world).  Though since they’re depending on Clearwire for WiMax services and Clearwire has been showing more and more interest in LTE (and ditching WiMax — which probably doesn’t make Intel happy) who know if Sprint will actually really keep rolling out WiMax or shift to LTE.

Anyway; I like the Galaxy S… but I’m holding out for HTC to make a high end Android phone with a slider and I’d prefer it to be a CDMA/GSM/LTE handset.

Originally posted 2010-10-15 02:00:34.

Grip of Death

The proverbial feces has hit the proverbial fan in iPhone 4 “antenna-gate”…

Personally I think it’s sad the way Apple CEO Steve Jobs treats his customer’s (and the world) with so little respect.

Jobs is now telling the world that all phones suffer from the same problems that plague the iPhone 4, and he’s showing numbers to prove it.  Now, Job’s hasn’t commissioned a large study performed by an independent testing firm; he’s not using numbers published by each phone’s manufacturer; he’s not basing his claims on customer complaints; he’s not performing tests of large statistically sound sample sets of handsets… he’s just (as usual) running off at the mouth and trying to tell his customers what they should be thinking and what they should be buying.

Well, I certainly don’t see any appreciable difference in my signal strength dependent on how I hold my HTC smart phone… in fact, I didn’t see any problem with the previous two HTC handsets I had either — so maybe Mr Jobs needs to consider the possibility that designing a phone based on aesthetics rather than performance might be the root of his problem; and that maybe some of his customers want more than just a fashion accessory or a “me-to” statement.  It’s funny that I really couldn’t find any Apple marketing material that was centric on signal performance of the iPhone 4 — of course, since Apple still only offers the iPhone on AT&T it might just be an assumption that anyone who buys an iPhone really doesn’t consider reception or network performance to be a real concern (remember, AT&T’s network has been plagued with over subscription, and their solution was to stop offering unlimited data plans).

The other absolutely ridiculous thing about Job’s is he can’t seem to get his story consistent.  I mean, is it a hardware design flaw correctable by a rubber phone bumper (which will increase the size of the iPhone), is it a software glitch that your programs will resolve (by what — removing the call to “if (grip-of-death) then drop-call” — or just changing the signal display so it’s less of a indication of reality than it is now), or is it just something that any and all smart phone users have to live with (why aren’t there lots of complaints from owners of other models, brands — and why didn’t previous iPhones suffer from this problem).

The really interesting thing is that “antenna-gate” has grown from a bit of grumbling by tech-savvy users online, to getting the notice of online tech magazines, to crossing over into mainline media, to now causing a stir by at least one elected official.

HTC, Samsung, and Research In Motion (RIM) have all categorically stated that the problems that the iPhone 4 are displaying are not an endemic problem with other smart phones in the market place.  And Consumer Reports stated that it couldn’t recommend consumers purchase the iPhone 4 (but their reports did indicate that a rubber bumper, or even a piece of tape placed over the “gap” between antenna sections would greatly resolve the issues).

And while Job’s might be trying to put any spin he can on this to make other smart phone vendors look bad — in the UK, Samsung is providing disgruntled iPhone 4 users with free Galaxy S Android based handsets (all they need to is post their displeasure with the iPhone, contact Samsung, and the next day they’ll have a Galaxy S handset).

My personal belief on this is that Apple is running scared.

They know that they’ve shipped over three million handsets that have a manufacturing defect; and that they realize that forcing individuals to accept a material different product than they purchased is going to end up backfiring.  I mean, let’s face it — iPhone 4 users purchases an iPhone 4, not an iPhone 4 with a rubber bumper around it (changing the size and aesthetics).

Apple’s based in Cupertino California — California is one of the states with a lemon law which clearly states that if the manufacturer is unable to fix the problem in three tries, they have to provide a full refund for the item.  And materially changing the size and appearance is probably not something they can choose to do… so I’m really surprised that the legal beagles aren’t initiating litigation against Apple for recovery of actual, consequential, and punitive damages.

But this isn’t a concern to me — since I’d never purchase a phone without a keyboard; so I’ll never have an iPhone — and I don’t think anyone who’s serious about a communications device would ever purchase one either.


Senator Schumer’s letter to Steve Jobs (at Apple):

July 15, 2010

Dear Mr. Jobs,

I write to express concern regarding the reception problem with the Apple iPhone 4. While I commend Apple’s innovative approach to mobile technology and appreciate its service to millions of iPhone users nationwide, I believe it is incumbent upon Apple to address this flaw in a transparent manner. According to Consumer Reports’ review, released Monday on its Web site, the iPhone 4’s signal-strength problem is a hardwire glitch triggered by gripping the device in a particular manner. This finding, according to Consumer Reports, “call[s] into question” Apple’s recent claim that the problem is “largely an optical illusion caused by faulty software.” Consumer Reports declined to recommend the iPhone 4 because of this hardware design flaw.

Given the discrepancy between Consumer Reports’ explanation of the reception problem and the explanation provided by Apple in its July 2 letter to customers, I am concerned that the nearly 2 million purchasers of the iPhone 4 may not have complete information about the quality of the product they have purchased. The burden for consumers caused by this glitch, combined with the confusion over its cause and how it will be fixed, has the potential to undermine the many benefits of this innovative device. To address this concern, I ask that Apple provide iPhone 4 customers with a clearly written explanation of the cause of the reception problem and make a public commitment to remedy it free-of-charge. The solutions offered to date by Apple for dealing with the so-called “death grip” malfunction–such as holding the device differently, or buying a cover for it–seem to be insufficient. These proposed solutions would unfairly place the burden on consumers for resolving a problem they were not aware of when they purchased their phones.

I also encourage Apple to keep its promise to provide free software updates so that bars displayed accurately reflect signal strength; I further urge Apple to issue a written explanation of the formula it uses to calculate bar strength, so that consumers can once again trust the product that they have invested in.

I look forward to Apple’s swift action on this matter, and once again laud Apple for its innovative efforts and service to millions of Americans.

Sincerely,

Charles E. Schumer

Originally posted 2010-07-31 02:00:45.

A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away

Today Verizon ships the latest edition in the Motorola Droid empire — the R2-D2; a skinned Droid 2 in a box that had to pay it’s share of licensing to George Lucas.

The only “hardware” differences between the R2-D2 and the 2 are purely cosmetic — there’s a jumble of software on the R2-D2 to appeal to the techno-geek (all of which will likely be available one way or another for virtually any Android phone fairly soon after the R2-D2 ships).

There’s a $50 premium for the R2-D2 over the Droid 2; and rumors are that the Droid 2 will be discontinued in favor of a newer model with a faster processor and GSM/Worldphone support.

If you’ve got the extra cash, and just can’t satisfy your need for gadgets any other way — go on, splurge — after all, it’s the two year contract that will end up being the gift that keeps on giving.

Droid R2-D2

Originally posted 2010-09-30 01:30:37.

MeeGo

Nokia has announced a launch of the MeeGo (N8) smart phone by the end of Q3 2010… and they stated that it will not be using Android, nor will they be shipping a tablet any time soon.

Nokia, once a dominant force in the cellular handset market, has seen it’s profits eaten away by Apple, HTC, and Motorola…

Here’s a bullet list summary…

  • On the N8: The N8 is more of a high to mid-range smartphone. It will be launched before the end of Q3. It will be available in the US, and carrier partnerships will be announced at a later date.
  • On MeeGo: The first MeeGo phone will be announced before the end of the year and will be a “milestone product” for the company. Nokia’s done a lot of work on the interface and done away with a lot of the “legacy” of Symbian.
  • On Android: Nokia has no plans to use Android on its smartphones. End of story.
  • On tablets / larger phones: The company’s made “no decisions” on entering the market. Savander seems to think larger screened smartphones are awkward.
  • On netbooks: The Booklet 3G was priced a bit high, but they are still in the market.
  • On 4G: Nokia has no plans to produce WiMax devices, but LTE will be a big focus.

One thing is certain, if Nokia doesn’t re-capture a larger part of the smart phone market soon, they may see the window of opportunity closing; and one has to ask the question why not capitalize off the Android hype?

Originally posted 2010-08-14 02:00:05.

DROID Doesn’t

Motorola has confirmed that the upcoming DROID X and the DROID 2, unlike the original DROID, will require digitally signed ROMs.

Great going Motorola; you may have killed one of the most successful handsets you’ve had in years.

The original DROID became almost an overnight sensation with the Android community because it was a well engineered smart phone, featuring Android — and a keyboard..

Many serious phone users and hackers alike purchased the DROID because they could use it as an Android test and development platform since they could flash their own custom built Android ROMs into the device — thus avoiding the need to wait for Motorola (and the carrier) to issue updates.

It looks like the Android community won’t be very accepting of the new DROID X or DROID 2, and they’ll purchase the DROID at fire-sale prices or all move over to the HTC handsets (including recycling HTC Windows Mobile handsets).

We understand there is a community of developers interested in going beyond Android application development and experimenting with Android system development and re-flashing phones. For these developers, we highly recommend obtaining either a Google ADP1 developer phone or a Nexus One, both of which are intended for these purposes. At this time, Motorola Android-based handsets are intended for use by consumers and Android application developers, and we have currently chosen not to go into the business of providing fully unlocked developer phones.

The use of open source software, such as the Linux kernel or the Android platform, in a consumer device does not require the handset running such software to be open for re-flashing. We comply with the licenses, including GPLv2, for each of the open source packages in our handsets. We post appropriate notices as part of the legal information on the handset and post source code, where required, at http://opensource.motorola.com. Securing the software on our handsets, thereby preventing a non-Motorola ROM image from being loaded, has been our common practice for many years. This practice is driven by a number of different business factors. When we do deviate from our normal practice, such as we did with the DROID, there is a specific business reason for doing so. We understand this can result in some confusion, and apologize for any frustration.

DROID X

Originally posted 2010-07-15 02:00:07.

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.