Entries Tagged as 'Cellular'

Droid Does

I purchased a used Motorola Droid this weekend — I couldn’t resist, the price was reasonable and it included an extra charger, the multi-media dock, and a 16GB µSD card.

I’ve played with Android both on other people’s phone, and a hacked version loaded on my HTC Touch Pro 2 (but there were a number of things that didn’t work, and because the phone is both CDMA and GSM I expected that there would always be a number of issues with Android on it until there were a reasonable number of CDMA “Worldphones” running Android).

By far my preference in handsets are those made by HTC — I just think they do a much better job designing the handset, and understand the features that consumers really want on a smart phone… but the Droid is sort of the standard; and it met my absolute criteria for an Android based phone, it had a slide out keyboard.

I just have zero interest in all the new whizzy phone that don’t have keyboards — I send too many emails not to be able to see a reasonable amount of the screen and type at the same time (and don’t even think about things like remote desktop with a virtual keyboard).

Using Android is interesting… many aspects of it are well engineered and simple to use — but just as you think the ergonomics have driven the design of the interface, the geeky techno thorns in Android rear their ugly head.

By far the iPhone has made the slickest interface — but without a keyboard all you really have is an expensive iPod that can make phone calls.  Windows Mobile (at least with the extensions HTC loads on their smart phones) has made using the features very friendly, but every time you want to stray from what 90% of the people with Windows Mobile handsets want to do — or do something “advanced” that doesn’t involve an Exchange Server or Outlook… it stumbles and makes you have to be both technical and clever.

Given the tender young age of Android it’s certainly very respectable how far Google has come; but in trying to make the handset easy to use, Google has required the use of Google services with the phone — no you don’t have to, but you’ll fight every feature of the phone if you don’t setup Google Mail, Google Voice, etc.

There are those who still seem to think that Google does everything they do for the good of the general public — rubbish!  Google makes money off advertising, and to do that effectively they need to target advertising by demographics, and they do that by tracking trends by mining data.

Everything Google does Google does to support their revenue stream.

That isn’t necessarily bad; it’s just something that users of Google’s services need to understand… and you do need to pay close attention to Google’s privacy policies.

I’m not saying you’d be any “safer” with an iPhone (Apple is certainly trying to do the same thing — and I always find it humorous that it seems every “cloud” service Apple introduces is tied into iTunes (a very poorly thought out name for that type of service — obviously it was initially intended to only provide music).

Bottom line; I’d say your best value in a smart phone today is an Android based handset, and I’d recommend you consider trying it out with a used handset that has the features you’re interested in.

Yeah — I could add a line about reduce, reuse, recycle — but in actuality this has more to do with figuring out how you’ll use a smart phone before you commit to spending a great deal of money or locking yourself into a long term contract.  And remember, phones will only get better over time — and we’re very close to really having 4G service (at least Sprint, Verizon, MetroPCS, and Cricket seem committed to roll it out — AT&T doesn’t seem to be in a hurry to do anything except rape iPhone customers).

Your world delivered

It appears that iPhone sales are responsible for increasing AT&T network utilization by 5,000%

You’d think that such demand would make AT&T happy; but in fact, AT&T might be enjoying the sales numbers; but they pay Apple a rather substantial portion of the monthly fees they collect on iPhone users and the networks in New York City and San Francisco have become so unstable due to high volume that their have been frequent outages.

I guess there’s no reason to ask if you can hear me now if you can’t even make a call… but perhaps AT&T might want to reconsider changing their slogan to “your world delivered, subject to network availability”.

Verizon Wireless is the largest cellular carrier in the US; and has higher customer satisfaction rating than AT&T according to several independent surveys.

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.

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.

iPhone on Verizon

Today Apple and Verizon announce the availability of the iPhone 4 for Verizon (CDMA upgradable to LTE)…

AT&T will attempt to point out to people that their network is faster than Verizon’s for data; though they are going to leave out that in major metropolitan areas there network is severely over-subscribed, and effectively much slower… and they will leave out that Verizon is actively deploying a 4G LTE network that is substantially faster than AT&T’s network.

Analysts are already indicating that AT&T profits are going to be down, and that Verizon is likely to make even more money.

I don’t get why anyone cares about the iPhone; but then again, I’m not sure I understand why people waste money on overpriced fashion accessories.

iPhone no longer #2

Well, in my opinion iPhones are definitely #2 (and I’m not talking second in sales)…

Market researchers are now indicating that Android based handsets have over taken the iPhone for second place in the smart phone race, Blackberry (RIM) are first in sales with about 35% of the market (though Blackberry owners indicate, by far and large, that they are not likely to purchase another Blackberry device).

It seems that Android in a very short time has been able to soar past Windows Mobile and iPhone handsets — hard to image what a “finished” phone operating system from Google might do.

Perhaps Apple made a fatal mistake not releasing the Verizon iPhone before Android over took them in sales — we’ll have to wait until early next year to see how the retail holiday sales go — but I’m betting this might mark the fall of the iPhone; but nothing will ever humble Steve Jobs.

evo

Android – Must Have Apps

So you have an Android device… and you haven’t figured out what all you can do with it… hopefully my short list of “must have” apps will help you.

  • Google Maps with Navigation – free application from Google that provides turn-by-turn directions.  Provided your Android device has a GPS receiver, and you either pre-plan your routes while connected to WiFi of have a generous (unlimited) data plan, this is definitely an app that’s hard to live without.
  • Google Voice – must have way to take control of your phone; used with a Google Voice number it’s a good way to give yourself extra features on your phone for free.  Also, you’ll want Google Voice Callback if you want to take advantage of any numbers you can specify free from airtime.
  • Google Music – good selection for most people for a streaming music service.  It’s totally free, allows up to 20,000 songs, and it works well.
  • Amazon MP3 – this is a good selection for people with a large amount of music who don’t mind paying $20 per year for the ability to store unlimited songs on Amazon.
  • Hacker’s Keyboard – free application that provides a very configurable on-screen keyboard.  While I prefer the slide out keyboard on my Droid, on my Xoom I don’t have that option.  Hacker’s Keyboard allows you to pick between several layouts, as well as control the height of the keyboard in both landscape and portrait mode.  Much better than any other free (or paid) keyboard I’ve found for Android.
  • Opera Mobile – the default (crippled) Chrome browser for Android is horrible, and FireFox for Android isn’t any better.  As bizarre as it might seem, Opera Mobile is by far the best browse I’ve found for Android.  It’ll operate in a desktop or micro browser mode, and while on a small screen it might not always be easy to view a web site, Opera Mobile will allow you to.  Opera Mobile does take a little getting used to — but it’s worth it the price (free).  Do not confuse this with Opera Mini, that’s not the version you want.
  • Amazon Appstore for Android – nice addition, and the paid app free every day often has a useful application.
  • Super Tool Box – a free (or paid for the pro version) application that provides a veritable Swiss army knife of functionality.  A good application to start with to see how many of your needs it addresses.  The pro version was offered as an Amazon paid app for free.
  • ezPDF Reader or ezPDF Reader Lite – very good PDF reader, and it was offered as an Amazon paid app for free.
  • ShopSavvy Barcode Scanner or Barcode Scanner – applications that allows you to scan the UPC code of an item on a store shelf and get competitive pricing locally and online.
  • netTALK Smartphone – free application that allows you to make outbound VoIP calls using WiFi or your data plan.  This app will not work with Honeycomb at the moment.  Using this app does not require a netTALK VoIP (TALK DUO) account, nor at the moment can you integrate it with a netTALK VoIP account
  • Dropbox – free application with free cloud storage that allows you to backup your configuration (also, Google backups up some of your device’s configuration when using Gingerbread or newer).
  • File Manager or Fiele Manager HD (Honeycomb) – great file manager’s; and I actually prefer the standard File Manager, but this is going to be somewhat a personal preference; both are free.
  • Gas Buddy – good tool for finding lower priced fuel when on the road, my only negative comment on this is that it doesn’t interface with Google Navigation (or any navigation), but does provide a map function.
  • GPS Test – great little tool to make sure your GPS is working properly.
  • Root Checker – simple tool to allow you to check to insure that your device is properly rooted.
  • FreeTethering or Wireless Tether for Root Users or Easy Tether or Easy Tether Lite – these apps provide the ability to tether a computer (laptop) to your device; check on which will work with your devices and check your carrier to see if there are any restrictions on tethering.
  • ClockworkMod Recovery – replacement recovery system for Android devices; this requires a rooted device, and allows the flashing of custom ROMs.  There are a number of recovery replacements for Android – ClockworkMod Recovery is one of the best, and free.
  • ClockworkMod ROM Manager – very nice tool to locate, install, and mange customer ROMs.  The free version will likely do all you need, but I recommend supporting the developer by purchasing the pro key (that also unlocks a few more capabilities).
  • Titanium Backup – great application for backing up and recovering applications (a must have if you’re going to flash custom ROMs).  The free version will likely do all you need, but I recommend supporting the developer by purchasing the pro key (that also unlocks more capabilities, and makes it a little easier for you to do restores and backups).

There are many other applications that you’ll probably find useful; but the above list should get you started.  I’ll probably add to this list over time and re-publish it.

I’ll also publish some additional Android resources on eBooks, CAN/ODB II (for your automobile), as well as some rooted device helpful hints.

Citi Mobile SM for Cards

Citibank has rolled out a mobile banking application for many phones on most major cellular carriers.

Personally I’m not sure why we’ve gone to a model where vendors seem to believe we need all kinds of applications to do simple things that could be done through a web browser… perhaps that’s an unfortunate side-effect of the iPhone craze (or perhaps better said as crazies).

I think it’s great that banking institutions are thinking about ways to provide services to individuals who have cellular data plans, but I think it’s unfortunate that we can’t just use simple standards — after all, the point is to enable the flow of information, not to make an application that people play with like a game.

To use the Citi Mobile application, you need a supported handset on a supported carrier, and you have to sign up, download, and activate it through the Citi “My Account” web portal.

Smart Phones

I have a great deal of respect for what Apple’s ability to re-invent itself and market form (over function) to the masses… and I’ve underscored many times that *nix based operating systems will likely never gain critical mass until they have a cohesive environment for the user (as Apple has done with it’s Unix based OS-X).

But respect doesn’t mean I’m going to “drink the Kool-Aid” and believe everything Steve Jobs tells me.

Clearly Jobs does an exceptional job creating devices with glitter and glitch and making the gullible believe that Apple pioneered the technology and that consumers simply cannot get along without purchasing it (and purchasing a new upgrade every time a new bell or whistle is added).

The bottom line is Apple creates nothing… Apple puts a shinny new coat of paint on existing technology, brands it, markets it, and calls it their own.

Apple isn’t driven by innovation, Apple is driven by greed — almost makes you wonder what inadequacies Steve Jobs is trying to compensate for.

And certainly (as I’ve posted) the iPhone is one of Apple’s greatest charades!

Serious smart phone users wouldn’t consider an iPhone as anything more than eye candy; both Windows Mobile and Android devices are far better choices for a serious user.

The next time you walk down the street and see someone sporting an iPhone don’t laugh too loud you might give them a complex — I fear most iPhone users are like Steve Jobs, and feel a little inadequate.

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.