Tag Archives: PDAs/Smartphones

Rolling Into Traffic With a New Partner

A couple Saturdays ago, I got a familiar itch that needed scratching — the good ol’ gadget itch. It’s an itch that can often be expensive.

I got this itch for the first time in 2005, when I coveted a Motorola MPx220. After waiting for several months, still hearing from Cingular that they were on “backorder” (read: they were never coming back), I went out on eBay and grabbed one — in black, no less, which wouldn’t have been available with Cingular. I stuck with that phone for about a year and a half, but with the advent of Windows Mobile 5.0 and my increasing text message habit, I was looking to move up to something else with a QWERTY keyboard. Unfortunately, the Motorola Q was not available on Cingular yet, but the Samsung BlackJack was. I waited patiently for my upgrade eligibility, which came roughly last March. I then nabbed the BlackJack on a nice discount. Finally — QWERTY and reasonably reliable — and fast — Internet access. I even had 3G for those times I traveled out of state or to Columbia.

However, some issues in the BlackJack crept up. I had to restart my data connection on a daily basis, and there were some things that I could not do — no GPS, and terrible support for Java apps. I lived with it, though.

In the last couple months, though, I’ve been intrigued by the BlackBerry platform and what it can provide. I’d never used a BlackBerry before but had a basic understanding on how they work. Everyone I’ve talked to has absolutely raved about them. Naturally, my interest was piqued; could this be a more efficient way for me to get stuff done on the road?

A couple Saturdays ago, I wondered what kind of money a BlackBerry would command on eBay. I was thinking about getting one of the older models; I would have been happy with an 8700c, with one important exception — no extended memory support. That was an issue. I also noticed that the newer BlackBerry models, namely the Pearl, 8800, and Curve, used a trackball, which seems to be better than the thumbwheel traditionally found on BlackBerry models in the past. I was used to the thumbwheel on the BlackJack, but it was limiting in that it only went up and down. The keyboard was also way too easy to fat-finger; BlackBerry keyboards are also known to be way better than most others out there.

Curiosity turned into an impulse buy of a used BlackBerry 8800 that Saturday. It arrived this past Saturday, and I see what all the rage is about. I have learned quite a bit, and it’s already become the best device I’ve used. The phone portion is fantastic, and the organizer is top notch. I’ll need to get hooked up to the Enterprise Server at work to get over-the-air synchronization of my organizer data and push e-mail, but that will be worked out. Messaging will rock when everything is set up properly. I have also grown addicted to BrickBreaker, the game that is bundled with BlackBerry OS.

My favorite feature is that I can holster the phone and have the keyboard lock and the notifications change. This way, when the phone is out of the holster and a call or message comes in, it won’t vibrate off the table. There are so many little usability things built in that I can’t even begin to break them down in a weekend.

It’s a great phone experience, and I highly recommend it to anyone who needs a lot of power out of their mobile device.

A dose of reality on the iPhone

With all due respect to those disrespected by Geico, you’d have to be living in a cave if you didn’t realize the iPhone is being released tomorrow. The press coverage amounts to a giant puddle of drool over this thing — I can’t say I’ve ever seen so much excitement for a phone before. You know AT&T is happy, seeing how they’ve got the exclusive.

Paul Thurrott aims to balance things out a bit. He’s right, too — in essence, the iPhone is a $500 phone that, if it weren’t for the touchscreen and Apple-ness, would be given away for peanuts. EDGE data? Ridiculous. I realize that AT&T’s 3G network doesn’t have much of a footprint yet (trust me, I lament it daily), but that’s no reason for Apple to just omit it from the phone. To use that phone’s strengths effectively, it clamors for 3G. Yes, it’s got Wi-Fi, which is cool, but what good does that do on the go?

I think it’s neat how Safari on the iPhone can browse the Internet proper without having to worry about “mobile versions” of pages. However, there’s a reason for mobile versions of pages, because no matter how wide the screen is on the iPhone, it’s still small. Period. The fact that I’d have to zoom and scroll and scroll and zoom doesn’t really attract me all that much. There are other advantages to well-created WML pages, too: they will generally perform better, will be less taxing on the phone, and quite frankly I would not be too crazy about having the full flash and pomp of the Internet on my phone. My fear is that the advent of Safari on the phone may make designers lazy and not provide good alternatives for the 99% of the Web-on-phone-using population.

BlackBerry for WM6 and an iPhone thought

BlackBerry for Windows Mobile 6

Soon, Windows Mobile 6 users will be able to get their CrackBerry fix with a new package to be introduced later this year by Research in Motion. I think it’s cool that RIM is going to bring BlackBerry push e-mail — unparalleled in the market — to Windows Mobile devices. Exchange Direct Push, what I use, is good, but still nowhere near the reliability or speed of RIM’s software. (Perhaps Exchange 2007 and Windows Mobile 6 may improve this even further, but right now I have neither at my disposal.) This is a nifty, shrewd way for RIM to give Windows Mobile users a taste of the BlackBerry experience and, ideally, convert a few more people over to its hardware, which is, in my mind, the centerpiece of the whole experience.

Target iPhone to Corporations? Are they MAD?

Neowin reports that Cingular The New AT&T wants to target the Apple iPhone to business users, presumably because of the cost of the device (i.e. Joe Schmuck will have no way of affording its expected $579 price tag). I don’t understand how the iPhone was ever meant to have a business application, though. Mac OS X, for all its strides within the last decade, is still an inferior business client OS when compared to Windows. In some ways, it’s gone backwards — for example, Entourage is no Outlook replacement, that’s for sure. Why would the iPhone be any different? Take into account the fact that Apple will not permit third-party applications, the lack of broadband support via AT&T’s 3G BroadbandConnect, and the largely unproven nature of the touchscreen (which I would expect to be a bear with e-mail), I can’t see how any sane enterprise would touch this phone. Again, Apple’s penchant for closedness and exclusivity is going to hurt it. For enterprise, BlackBerry or Windows Mobile really are the only ways to go at this point. If AT&T wants to see iPhone get into the mix, it needs to pressure Apple to open iPhone to the world; otherwise, it’ll just be a status symbol for the likes of Paris Hilton, while everyone else talks away on their RAZRs.

An idea for RIM

So it seems Research in Motion, the company that brings you CrackBlackBerry, is working to prevent another outage like was experienced last week.

I argue that these outages are good for the populace. Check out this NYTimes article — particularly this little snippet:

Barry Frey, a senior vice president at Cablevision, stepped off an airplane on Tuesday night to find that his in-flight e-mail exile had been extended.

His reaction was BlackBerry blasphemy. “I took a deep breath and finally enjoyed the feeling,” he said.

The less frenetic world he describes may not only be saner, but safer. Peter Crist, an executive recruiter in Chicago, admits to occasionally steering his car with his knees while he thumbs his BlackBerry. Tuesday night, he put both hands on the wheel and said he had a quiet, uninterrupted dinner with his wife and son — for a change.

You know — and this comes from a technophile with the same always-tethered e-mail setup — it’s a sad commentary on the state of the 24-hour workforce that this guy would steer a car with his knees and constantly check his phone at dinner with his family in the name of work.

Therefore, I propose that RIM implement BlackBerry holidays — a day where they decide to bring the system down and help the always-connected disconnect, if only for a few hours. It sounds like it was an unexpected, welcome break for more than a few folks…

Anniversaries and more

So today marks thirty years of marriage for my mother and father. Pretty impressive, I must say. We went out to dinner tonight (I was a half hour late after passing out in my reading chair upon my arrival home — oops) and had a great time. I couldn’t be more thrilled for them — thirty years is a long time.

On a side note, there’s nothing quite like a bacon-wrapped filet from Longhorn. I rarely eat steak these days (in sharp contrast to two years ago) and so this was a real treat.

Aside from the lovely dinner, today was a very weird day. I rolled out of bed, still suffering from writer’s block on the paper, and put it on hold. The full deal isn’t due until next month — the professor just wants milestones (I don’t really blame him). I just couldn’t wrap my head around it just yet. It’ll come to me in time — and hopefully well before the March 22 due date. ;)

Work brought along its own sets of challenges — namely server hiccups that prevented me from getting a lot done for an hour and a half. There’s nothing more frustrating than the lovely Windows networking stack (and this is in Vista, too — some things seem to never change) causing system lockups because my home network drive became unavailable off and on throughout the day. Dreamweaver, which I have to do a lot of work in for the IT pages, went haywire and I was about to smash it with a ten megaton uber-brick. Here’s hoping tomorrow is a smidgen more productive.

One thing that I’ve come to really love in the last couple days is something called Outlook Anywhere — known in geeky technical terms as Exchange RPC over HTTP. This is a complex system that basically permits me to use my account on the College’s Exchange server in Outlook 2007 at home just as if I was connected in the office — WITHOUT establishing some sort of VPN connection. It works by routing the Exchange calls over HTTP via the Outlook Web Access server. It’s bloody brilliant. Typically I’d have to log into the Outlook Web Access server and have a very clumsy, limited interface to work with my Exchange calendaring and e-mail. Now I can use the full capability of Outlook 2007 (really, a dream to work with — it’s easily the best Outlook ever) at home. It even downloaded all my categories for my flagged e-mails and tasks. It’s quite awesome, and I can finally properly synchronize my phone at both home and work with the same server.

Speaking of phones…the announcement of the Motorola Q9 makes my decision over getting the Blackjack in a few weeks not so crystal-clear. The Blackjack isn’t getting Windows Mobile 6 as an upgrade (at least not as of now), and the Q9 has that. The Q9 also can do 3G data at double the speed (the Blackjack does 1.8 Mbps while the Q9 is capable of up to 3.6 Mbps) and…well…it’s Motorola. I know with the Motorola I will get good reception in most places that the Samsung is sorely lacking, and I know Motorola will have a competent Bluetooth stack (another weakness exposed in the Blackjack). These are two things that are pretty important to me. The keyboard on the Q9 appears to kick the Blackjack and original Q’s ass as well. One thing is for certain: I am in a bind here. Should I wait, or should I just go for the Blackjack now? I do like Samsung — I used an N625 for several years and thoroughly enjoyed it — but some of the things I’ve heard about the phone are starting to make me take pause.

What’s the song for the day? I’m not sure. There were a lot of songs. I do believe it will be yet another Incubus cut — “The Warmth” has been stuck in my head pretty much all day, and thus got several plays on the iPod today. It’s a great song.

Windows Mobile 6 announced…but…

Microsoft has officially announced Windows Mobile 6 today. All indications are that it is a home run in terms of reliability and usability over previous versions of Windows Mobile. T-Mobile Dash users are lucky, too — they’ll get an upgrade. Sadly for those who own or are looking to own a Samsung BlackJack (like myself), there are no indications that an upgrade will be available.

So what do I do now? I want to upgrade my phone to the BlackJack, but now that it appears WM6 isn’t coming to the hardware, I’m really feeling as if I should hold out until the end of this year to upgrade my phone. This is disappointing and may — and you know, I think it should — ignite quite a firestorm in Samsung and Cingular’s direction. The device is only four months old; why not offer an upgrade? Hell, I’d gladly pay for it, and I know I’m not the only one. Sadly though, this is a cell phone carrier we’re talking about here.

A saner, post-geekgasm look at the iPhone

Yesterday I made a very impulsive post about the iPhone, going nuts over it, etc. Now that I’ve had a chance to settle down now that I’m over the ridiculous excitement I had yesterday, I have a few things that very well could keep me from buying the phone.

  • Up to $599 and no 3G?!? It may be a “revolutionary Internet device” but it needs 3G, which offers broadband speed over wireless, to work to its full potential, IMO. EDGE just won’t cut it. For $199 I could land the Blackjack, with smartphone functions as well as 3G support.
  • I have serious worries over a device that shiny getting scratched to the dickens. Has Apple learned from the first-gen Nano experience?
  • How is this going to work with Windows machines? Will it have Outlook integration? I’m sure it’ll work fine with Windows iTunes, but that’s just a quarter of the functionality. Address book synchronization is critical to me, and a showstopper if it doesn’t work with Outlook, IMO. Again, ActiveSync…erm…excuse me, Windows Mobile Device Center, is just an incredibly elegant solution, and can be had for much less.
  • I’d like to see how they pull off the purported five hours of talk time…and very curious to see the standby time. The fact that they haven’t released that yet kinda worries me.

It’ll be a cool phone, to be sure, but the real killer for me is that it’s far from futureproof. EDGE will hamstring this device bigtime in a year or so, and I would not be surprised to see a slow launch, at least until the prices go down.

PDA Blogging

I’m on the Cistern right now, blogging from an iPAQ PDA. I’m putting it through its paces and so far it isn’t bad. The mini keyboard that I have attached to it does not lend itself to typing with any sort of reasonable speed, that’s for sure.

Other than that, this post is largely useless. I did manage to crash my MPx220 today doing a Bluetooth file transfer. Lame.

Later folks…