Archive for the ‘Windows Mobile’ Category

If I could only keep one device (aka toy), it would be the Dell Streak

Sunday, December 5th, 2010

If you have followed my posts, you know I am a gadget geek, and am the perfect example that “the only difference between a man, and a boy is the price of his toys” is definitely true. I enjoy the gadgets I use, they all have strengths / weaknesses, and are best for certain tasks while not so good for others.

After having used my current crop of toys extensively,  which device would I keep if I could only have one device?

I love the Samsung Tab, it is great for videos, web browsing, and all apps look great on its quality 7″ screen. It also fits in my winter jacket pocket for easy mobility. The Tab supports Flash, and does a fine job displaying Flash videos as long as you have a good cell connection, or WiFi. I do feel like I have full web access with the Tab unlike another device which claims full web access, but does not support Flash.  I take the Tab with me every day to enjoy videos, browsing etc. while out.

The Samsung Sprint Galaxy S Epic 4G is definitely one of my favorites as well. I love the physical keyboard, the Super AMOLED screen is fantastic, 4G is superfast, and the phone is very stable / reliable.  When / if this device is upgraded to Froyo with Flash support, it will be superb.

The Nexus One is, dare I say, elegant. I am impressed with its overall feel / looks, its speed, and I do like the trackball as well as the pure Froyo experience. Like the Tab, the Nexus One plays Flash videos fine as long as you have a good cell connection, or WiFi. I have two Nexus One’s, one I take with me everyday, and one in my bedroom for mobile access while upstairs.

The HD2 / HD7 are impressive as well. The 4.3″ screens are great for videos / browsing, both devices are well built / feel good in the hand even with the large screens, and both have been stable / reliable. The HD2 has all the classic power user features I crave, while the HD7 has the nice Metro UI which is fluid, smooth, and fast. Unfortunately, the HD7, like all WP7’s, is missing too many features I require.  Hopefully, Microsoft will soon rectify this dearth of  power user features as I feel WP7 has the potential to return Microsoft to prominent mobile player again.

The Samsung Vibrant is similar to the Epic 4G but has no keyboard, and of course, no 4G although HSPA+ has been very fast in certain Boston locations even approaching the speeds of the Epic 4G at times, but not consistently.

Now the iOS devices. – Although well made, the iOS devices are too restrictive to be my daily drivers. I need file access in order to easily transfer files among my plethora of devices, and iOS does not allow this without jailbreaking. I also dislike using iTunes as the main conduit for the various iOS devices, and want a microSD card slot. The iPad is nice, but its lack of Flash, restricted file access, and overall bulk / cumbersomeness prevent it from being the mobile device I take with me for videos / web browsing while out. The iPhone 4 is nice as well, but its restricted nature, and small 3.5″ screen prevent it from being my daily mobile driver. After using larger screen devices, the 3.5″ screen on the iPhone 4 seems small almost toy like in spite of its acclaimed Retina display. Ditto for the iPod touch 4G. The SIM (with adapter) from my iPhone 4 has found a home in the Dell Streak for the last two months.  All of the apps I desire (and more) are available on the Android Market as well.

Now my choice for the one gadget I would keep if I had to discard all others, the Dell Streak. Although I prefer videos / web browsing on the Tab’s 7″ screen, the Streak is my next best device for watching videos / web browsing. The Streak fits in all my pockets unlike the Tab which only fits in my winter jacket pocket, and weighs quite a bit less than the Tab. The 4 / 4.3″ devices are nice for video / web browsing as well, but the Streak is one step better due to its 5″ screen. The Streak also fits in my hand well, and makes phone calls unlike the US based Tabs which do not. Although I use my devices primarily for data, I do make the occasional phone call. All my current devices have nice screens, but I am really impressed with the Streak’s screen. It is a joy to use for videos, web browsing, and all my favorite Android apps look great. I make my choice while the Streak is still at Android 1.6 with the Dell UI enhancements (which I like). When / if Froyo / Gingerbread are officially released for the Streak, its ratings will skyrocket particularly if it plays Flash videos as well as the Tab, and Nexus One currently do.  The best overall device for me from connectivity, usability, form factor, weight, video viewing, web browsing, quality of screen, app availability, and pleasure to use perspectives is the Dell Streak.  If I could only keep one device, it would be the Dell Streak even with 1.6.

Fortunately, I do not have to make the choice, and can continue to use all the devices for the tasks they are best at performing. My choice is based on the features, performance level, and form factor that are important to me as well as the tasks I wish to accomplish on my mobile devices. Your opinions, desired features, required tasks, and ratings may be different.

Although I would welcome your comments, I have comments turned off because I was being inundated with spam replies.

I resisted all of one day, I bought a Windows Phone 7 (HD7)

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

If you have read my earlier posts, you know I am disappointed that Microsoft has removed many of the power user features I liked in Windows Mobile.  I initially decided I would not buy a Windows Phone 7 until Microsoft added back the missing power user features.  I resisted all of one day. 😉

I am impressed with the 4.3″ screen on the HD7 as I was with basically the same screen on the HD2. The interface is smooth with plenty of animations, transitions etc., and the responses to inputs have been almost immediate with no noticeable lag.  However, I am not sure if the Metro UI is the next leap forward in interface design, or the next Edsel (massive model failure for Ford in the late 50’s despite intense market research).  Although the transitions look nice at first, I suspect the animations, and scrolling dots will get old after a time.  Microsoft has promised copy / paste soon, but multitasking, or at least save state, is desperately needed.  Already, I am tired of programs having to reload each time you return to them after you switch to another app. for a few seconds. On a positive note, videos look nice on the 4.3″ screen, and Netflix is impressive as well. After using the HD7 (and HD2 as well) for awhile, the iPhone / touch 3.5″ screens seem too small even with their “Retina” displays. Of course, your opinion may vary.

If Microsoft returns the power user features, listens to early adopters, markets extensively in the mainstream media, and doesn’t let the platform stagnate like they did with Classic Windows Mobile, Microsoft has a good shot of returning to major player status in the mobile space.   If they play their cards right, and have some good luck, they may do to Apple in the mobile space what they did to Apple in the Desktop OS arena (to a lesser degree).  If Microsoft lets WP7 flounder like they did with Classic Windows Mobile, and Zune, it will be failure time.

I will try the T-Mobile SIM to ensure the phone part works, but the HD7 is quite a distance away from becoming my daily driver; it is missing too many features / apps I use daily. Before I consider using the HD7, or any other Windows Phone 7 as my daily driver, I need the following apps / features that I use on Android, and Classic WM (or a good quality alternative):

HanDBase database.
MBTA app which tracks subway train / bus actual locations, and accurately predicts when the bus / train will arrive at your stop vs. what the schedule anticipates.
Dropbox.
File Explorer / FTP client.
User access to file system.
The promised copy / paste
The aforementioned save state minimum, or true multitasking.

The browser is fast, and does an overall fine job of displaying the content. I am disappointed that IE does not wordwrap when you pinch zoom. The font size increases almost instantaneously, but no wordwrap. If I pinch zoom because the the font is too small, I want a new wordwrap so I can read the page with a comfortable text size sans horizontal scrolling.  IE on the HD2 did not wordwrap with zoom either, but Opera Mobile on the HD2, and the stock Android browser do a fine job (on most pages) of automatic wordwrap when you zoom a web page. IE, and Safari do not, and for me, this lack of wordwrap is a major deficiency.

You may be wondering why I bought the HD7 if it is missing so many of the features / abilities I need. I initially was going to pass on WP7, but after some deliberations, I decided to purchase it so I could gain extensive experience with what may become another major player in the mobile arena.   In addition, the only difference between a man, and a boy is the price of his toys.

Windows Phone 7 hardware looks real nice, now add in the power user features!

Monday, October 11th, 2010

If you have read my Windows Phone 7 page, you know I had initial disappointment when WP7 was introduced. The Metro UI is certainly unique, and is a refreshing change from the icon grids on other smartphones. I am still unsure whether it is the next best thing in smartphone UI design, or the next Edsel. I will not make my decision until I actually use a device extensively. All the reviews indicate that the UI is very fast, and smooth which is certainly a nice start.

I am impressed with the plethora of choices in hardware design – landscape / portrait physical keyboards, screen sizes, and even Dolby Surround if desired. Choice is good for the customer rather than the one size / feature set fits all philosophy of some competitors.

Windows Mobile Classic still meets my needs the best of all Mobile OS’s including iOS, and Android. Microsoft has announced Copy / Paste will be added in early 2011. Now, add in other missing “power user / technogeek” features like open file system, true multitasking, sideloading apps, etc., and you may just win me back. Because I do like Classic Windows Mobile so much, I do have a soft spot for Microsoft Mobile. I wish them well, intense competition is good for customers of all brands.

I am sure I will purchase a WP7 device because I am a tech geek, and I suspect WP7 will return Microsoft to major player status in the mobile game. I will purchase a T-Mobile, or AT&T device so I can use my traveling SIM on T-Mobile, or the iPhone 4’s SIM (with proper adapter) on AT&T. The T-Mobile HD7 looks impressive with that huge 4.3″ screen, and  nice form factor. The Dell Venue Pro looks very interesting as well with the 4.1″ screen, and portrait slider. I am a fan of physical keyboards.  Maybe, just maybe I will get as excited about WP7 as I am about Classic Windows Mobile after the power user features removed by Microsoft reappear in future updates.

Good luck with Windows Phone 7 Microsoft, I do genuinely wish you much success with your new Mobile OS.

Goodbye Windows Mobile, Hello Android

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

If you have read my prior posts, and my Windows Phone 7 page, you know I am very disappointed that Microsoft abandoned the poweruser with their new phone OS.  Today I abandoned Microsoft’s mobile OS.  I upgraded my Sprint Touch Pro to a new Sprint Epic 4G Android.  With Microsoft’s abandonment of the poweruser, Android is the logical choice since the iPhone is so restricted.  Boston does not have 4G yet, but is scheduled for the 4G upgrade next month.

One of the reasons I delayed switching from Windows Mobile to Android was the lack of a HanDBase database client for Android.  I update several databases daily, so HanDBase is a critical app for me.  Although not available yet, the HanDBase site indicates an Android client should be available in the near future.  That is all the info I needed to cement my platform switch to Android.  In the interim, I will use my current Windows Mobile devices to update the databases.

I am familiar with the Galaxy S devices since I have a Vibrant as well.  I am impressed with the hardware keyboard on the Epic, and as with the Vibrant, the Super AMOLED screen is exceptional.

More updates to follow.

New Windows Phone 7 is a disappointment for me

Saturday, March 27th, 2010

Last Update – July 1, 2010

Original Post – February 16, 2010
I am, or was until today, a big fan of Windows Mobile based on the following features which are important for my mobile needs:

  • easy UI customization
  • multi-tasking
  • plethora of business class 3rd party apps
  • available alternate browsers which did both the full / mobile web well
  • the ability to purchase apps from multiple places
  • open file system with included file explorer
  • a wide variety of screen sizes / physical keyboards
  • Copy / Paste

I will reserve final judgement on Windows Phone 7 until the specs are finalized, and I have a chance to play with the new OS. I like the current 6.x and earlier WM interface customized with utilities such as Pocket Plus, and I multi-task applications daily. I have tried the slicker UI shells for WM, but usually return to the standard UI utilizing Pocket Plus enhancements. Since I prefer the larger screen devices (Toshiba e830, Dell X51v, HP210, Samsung Mondi), I rarely use a stylus. Even the standard Windows Today screen is finger friendly on a large screen.  With Pocket Plus, I can customize the Today screen to allow easy access to frequent tasks with a minimum of steps.  Both Resco Keyboard Pro, and SPB Keyboard are easy to use, and finger friendly particularly on the larger screen devices. Although both are finger friendly, and easy to use, SPB Keyboard is now my preferred input method because it is more customizable.

From my perspective, the pendulum has swung way too far in the direction of how pretty, animated, and slick the UI’s are vs. does the device do what you want easily, quickly, reliably, and with the minimum number of inputs. It seems that no matter how feature deficient a device may be, how “locked down” the device is, or how many more steps it takes to perform a task, it is ok with the tech press as long as there are multiple animated transitions, and it looks “cool”. Whenever the iPhone is mentioned in the mainstream, and tech press, the comments range in tone from salivating to orgasmic with barely a mention of the features missing that other smartphones have included for years.  Safari is regularly praised as the panacea of mobile browsers without any mention of Safari’s difficulty displaying some single column webpages.  With some single column pages, your choice is to read the page with too small a font, or use pinch zoom  which requires horizontal scrolling to read each line.  Bookmarklets help but can be time consuming to use.

The iPhone is definitely a slick / nice device, but like all platforms, it is not perfect, and has limitations which the tech press rarely mention.  I do care about aesthetics, but it is more important for me that the device can do the tasks I need quickly, and easily.  Unfortunately, this media  infatuation over all things Apple is partly responsible for the current emphasis on over-controlled, feature deficient, “locked down”, overly intuitive (at the cost of the ability to do things), limited form factor devices with mandatory capacitive screens.  Yes, I know the iPhone sells well;  however, it is also the most advertised phone in the mainstream media.  I must see a dozen iPhone commercials a week on network TV, and numerous kiosk advertisements vs.  let’s see – zero for Windows Mobile.  Add in all the positive free press Apple receives from the mainstream press whenever a new product / version is announced, and you have a marketing juggernaut.

I realize MS had to make a major change to keep pace with the more modern, finger friendly, eye candy centric phone OS’s, and I do not have a problem with that per se. Non-tech consumers today expect eye candy, finger friendly UI’s, and Microsoft desires to focus on consumers with Windows Phone 7 rather than their traditional business / enterprise focus with older WM versions. Unfortunately, IMO, they went too far, and threw the baby out with the bath water, Based on the limited info available, the things I liked about WM such as multi-tasking, and customizable UI’s have been discarded for extensive social network integration, and slickness.

The Metro UI is certainly different, and less flashy than some other UI’s. Although not a huge fan of eye candy interfaces, Metro almost looks a little too bland aesthetically. With prior WM UI’s, if I wanted a different look, I could change the interface easily with numerous 3rd party options which will no longer be allowed with Windows Phone 7. Maybe Metro will look better when I see it on a device vs. the video demonstration. The Hub concept is also interesting, but I reserve judgement until I use it. Not sure whether the hub concept is the next step forward in UI design, or the next Edsel (for younger, and international readers, the Edsel was a late 50’s car that did not sell well, and was cancelled quickly).   I know I am probably in the minority, but I am disappointed with Windows Phone 7.

I will reserve final judgement until the Windows Phone 7 specs are finalized; however, based on the initial info available, this long time WM fan (over a dozen WM PDAs / Smartphones) may switch to another platform, probably Android since the iPhone is too limited for my needs. I hope MS announces that many of the features power users like with WM are still there, and they only showcased the new features in their Barcelona presentation.

Update March 15, 2010
The news posted on the gadget sites from the MIX10 Conference are not encouraging (from my perspective). Yes, the interface is cool, and the hub concept is certainly unique, but (and these are just the big negatives):

  • no / limited multitasking
  • no UI customization
  • no external storage cards
  • all apps must be purchased from the Microsoft Marketplace
  • no user accessible file system (apps can only see their directory) – this is the killer for me

A further expansion of that last bullet point is needed. I use multiple HanDBase databases daily, and several spreadsheets. Due to the plethora of mobile devices I have, I always keep the latest version of data files on my home NAS, and on my website. With files in both locations, I always have access to the latest versions of all files no matter where I may be located,  no matter which device was used to perform the latest update, and regardless of which device I am using at the time. With the iPhone, and now with Windows Phone 7, I may be able to download the latest version to the device using a third party app, but the app on the phone may not be able to access the file due to the restricted file access.  I know HanDBase on the iPhone can not see / use HanDBase files that are loaded via a 3rd party FTP application from a NAS, and initial info indicates Windows Phone 7 may not be able to either.   I need the ability to upload / download files directly to a mobile device without being tethered to a computer, and all apps on the mobile device need the ability to see / use associated data files no matter which directory they are located in, or how they were loaded.   In addition to using a NAS and my website as repositories for the latest versions of data files, I frequently exchange files / CAB’s  between mobile devices, or between a PC and a mobile device using Bluetooth.  It is essential that my mobile devices offer a robust, non-restricted Bluetooth stack.

Goodbye WM, it was nice while it lasted. I may purchase a HTC HD2 with WM 6.5.3 while they are available, and (if I purchase), the HD2 will be my last WM device unless I purchase a used Classic WM device from eBay. Another option is to skip the HD2, and go directly to Android when my current contract is finished since the iPhone is way too feature deficient for my needs. If I wanted  an iPhone like “smartphone”, I would have already purchased the iPhone.

Update March 17, 2010
The final straw was announced today by Microsoft at MIX10, no copy / paste. Unless Microsoft comes to their senses before I need another smartphone, definitely hello Android, goodbye Windows Mobile. In fact, their stripping of all the features I liked about WM from Phone 7 has disappointed / annoyed me so much, I am not sure they could win me back even if they returned all my favorite features.

Update March 26, 2010
Still have not changed my mind about how disappointing the new Windows Phone 7 is for me. MS basically threw out, or severely restricted the features I like while adding in the features that are of little interest to me. My current Sprint contract is up the end of October, and my Touch Pro is still running fine. I have not decided whether to purchase the HTC HD2 (probably the best WM Classic phone every made), or go directly to Android possibly the new Sprint HTC Android EVO 4G that should be available this summer. Fortunately, I have 7 months to make up my mind, and maybe Microsoft will have come to its senses by then, and restored the features us power users cherish. Since I am already a Sprint customer, I could probably upgrade to the EVO when it is released in the summer rather than waiting until the end of October.

Update April 5, 2010
I have decided not to purchase the HD2, at least in the immediate future for the following reasons:

  • I already have the Samsung Mondi which has a resistive 4.3 inch screen, and a physical keyboard. Capacitive screen is nice, but a quality resistive screen with a physical keyboard is better.
  • As nice as the HD2 is, I definitely want a physical keyboard for any data input over one sentence.
  • Still like the Toshiba e830’s 4 inch VGA PDA’s, and use them daily.
  • Still have about 7 months on my phone contract, and would pay full price for the HD2 which I know would not see much use after the “newness” wore off. If I did purchase the HD2, I would not be cancelling my current Sprint contract.
  • Since Microsoft abandoned my needs in the mobile space, it is time to abandon them for a platform that still has the features power users require, welcome Android. I am still a fan of Microsoft Windows desktop, and will continue to be unless Microsoft does the same thing to their desktop platform that they did to their mobile platform.
  • The HTC EVO 4G looks fantastic, has Android, will be released close to my current phone contract expiration, and will be exclusive to Sprint, my current carrier which I like. The only drawback to the EVO is no physical keyboard. Hopefully, a phone with similar specs, and a physical keyboard will be released as well.

Update May 22, 2010
Just finished watching a video podcast on Windows Phone 7 Backstage hosted by one of the Windows Phone 7 team. My worst fears have been confirmed – the poweruser items I need in a mobile OS have been removed, or restricted, and the new items are not important for me. There is absolutely no way I will be purchasing a Windows Phone 7, at least version 1. It was hinted, but not promised, that some restrictions may be loosened a bit after the phone is released, but again, nothing specific promised. Well Microsoft, it has been nice, but Windows Phone 7 is not in my future. Hello Android.

Clarification
Although I probably will not buy another Windows Mobile device after Windows Phone 7 is released, I will still use Windows Mobile devices. Since the “Classic” Windows Mobile meets my needs better than any other platform, I will continue to use my current devices until the hardware fails, or a killer app I can’t resist is released on Android. Although I have newer devices, I still use two 2004 era Toshiba e830 WM based PDA’s daily for browsing, database entry, calendar, contacts, spreadsheets, and exchange sync.

Pocket IE is constantly maligned in the tech press because it does not display full pages well. My personal preference is to view mobile sites on screens < 7 inches. The older versions of Pocket IE are excellent for mobile sites, forums, and popular single column pages like Craigslist that I prefer to view when using a small screen device. Pocket IE allows you to increase the text size to a comfortable reading size, and flows the text properly to eliminate the need for the dreaded horizontal scrolling. This ability to increase text size with proper text flow is essential as you get older. Fortunately, the new Opera Mini 5 (which runs fine on the PPC2003SE e830’s) properly reflows text with a comfortable text size on most single column pages. Unfortunately, Mobile Safari, although excellent for most full webpages, still displays some single column pages with too small a font size to read comfortably even after using double tap zoom. If you pinch zoom, the text does not reflow, and you are forced to horizontally scroll to read every line which gets very old very quickly.

I use my Archos device daily for watching video while away from home so media playback on a phone is a low priority for me.  I have used Coreplayer on Windows Mobile, and it is an excellent media player which plays most codecs without conversion.  There are a plethora of setting available, yet it plays fine without changing any settings.  I do sometimes use Coreplayer to stream videos from a NAS to a WM device, but since I can stream the same videos to the Archos device, I usually use the Archos since it has a larger screen.   I do highly recommend CorePlayer on Windows Mobile for its codec support, and overall quality.

Since my latest Archos device has Android, I am able to experience Android before I purchase an Android based phone. Overall, I like Android, and it seems to be the closest platform to WM in terms of features power users require. I purchased the Archos device because IMO Archos makes the best portable playback devices, and I usually have their latest model since I use a portable video device daily. The inclusion of Android in the latest model is a nice bonus for me since I will probably be abandoning WM for Android after Microsoft abandoned me to focus on the non-tech consumer. The Archos 5 Android allows me to experience Android before committing to a two year contract Android based phone. Before I commit to a 2 year monogamous smartphone / gadget relationship with an Android phone, I want to be sure Android is the best replacement platform for power users.  By the time I am ready to make the switch, Windows Phone 7 specs should be finalized, and maybe already released.  It would be difficult to leave Windows Mobile, and I hope Microsoft loosens some of their restrictions.  If they don’t, it will be a difficult goodbye, but it will be goodbye, it was fun, and nice knowing you.

Update July 1, 2010
Although I resisted for close to two months, I took the plunge, and purchased the HTC HD2 since it is the last great “Classic” WM device. I did purchase the T-Mobile version via eBay. The last thing I need is another 2 year contract, so I purchased a contract free phone, and got a better price on eBay. I just received the device today, and did not unpack it until I got home from the movies. My first impression is very positive – the 4.3″ screen is great, the Sense UI is smooth, video looks fantastic, and the browser(s) both do a fine job. As I use the HD2 more, I will post updates, but I am very impressed with the device based on my first few hours with it.

The new Droid phone looks nice

Saturday, November 7th, 2009

Between eating dinner, and the movie Friday night, I stopped in BestBuy to see the new Motorola Droid, the first Android 2.0 phone.  BestBuy did not have a working model on display, but did have a model on display that you could handle to get a “touch and feel” for the hardware.  The phone seems very well built, and the slide-out keyboard felt solid.  I am a big fan of physical keyboards.  I have tried just about every virtual keyboard on a multitude of devices, and just do not like virtual keyboards.   I had read in reviews that the key travel on the Droid is minimal probably to keep the device as thin as possible.  Initially when I typed on the Droid’s hardware keyboard, the lack of key travel felt weird.  The key travel was much less than my WM Touch Pro.  However, after about two minutes or so, I got used to the smaller key travel when typing, and feel I could adjust to this keyboard easily if I purchased this phone, or another phone with a similar limited key travel keyboard. 

I love my Windows Mobile phone, and am not in the market for a new phone at this time.  If I were to purchase a phone today, it would probably be the new WM based HTC HD2 if I thought I could live without a hardware keyboard, or the HTC Touch Pro 2.   I intend to stay with WM;  however, if I were to change platforms, I would probably purchase an Anroid based phone, the iPhone is just too limited for my needs.

Older Windows Mobile, and other gadget posts can be seen on my old dedicated gadget blog

Sunday, November 1st, 2009

To view older Windows Mobile, and other gadget posts, please click this link
http://www.jimtravis.com/gadget.html