Tag Archives: phone

Android 4.0 – Ice Cream Sandwich: Hot or Cold?

After watching Google’s Ice Cream Sandwich / Samsung Galaxy Nexus launch live on YouTube last night (and providing running commentary in my Google+ Profile all the while), I’ve come to one conclusion: Android 4.0 (“Ice Cream Sandwich”) will be awesome. But, to that end, did anybody really expect it to be worse than what we’ve seen before? That would have been more of a surprise.

With any luck, carriers will push out the long-awaited OS update to capable devices within a short matter of time (and short, in this case, is extremely relative). It’s difficult enough for the average consumer to keep up with the cavalcade of new Android devices that seem to drop every other month; why must carriers further burden a customer’s decision-making process with a questionable software update calendar / no OTA updates?

So, yes – the bottom line? If you can get a phone with Ice Cream Sandwich on it today, you should absolutely do it. With it will come countless new features and refinements:

  • Easier way to manage your widgets
  • iOS-like folder creation
  • The ability to add “people” directly to your home screen
  • A Calendar app that enables you to zoom in to reveal appointment details
  • “Visual Voicemail” with an audio-speed slider
  • Easy screen shots (finally)!
  • Closer-to-real-time voice dictation feedback
  • Get up to 16 “tabs” in Browser.
  • Deep-level data usage charts
  • Android Beam – allowing you to share data with another Android Beam user

And Dan Morrill further goes on to highlight Upload Settings, Disabling Apps, Camera Controls, Improved Download Manager, Support for Encryption for Phones, and Audio Effects. Is that all? Hardly.

I hesitate to speak too much about the Samsung Galaxy Nexus – since I haven’t touched it or tried it, and I’d be hesitant to trust opinions from those who also have not – but the screen sounds delicious: 1280×720 resolution at 316ppi! Compare that to the iPhone 4/4S’s resolution of 960×640 at 326ppi. To quote Yoda: “Size matters not.” He never said anything about resolution or pixels per inch, though – and that’s what really matters with these pocket computers. That’s right: I called ’em pocket computers. If you’ve got a problem with that, take it up with the definition of “computer” and “pocket.”

For a healthy marriage, hardware and software must work together seamlessly. Theoretically, this is possible. What works well for some seemingly does not for others. Consider this thorn from ThisIsMyNext (don’t shoot the messenger with bigotry):

As to overall performance, we saw a good deal of stutter in the Galaxy Nexus before us. Taps were not always recognized and there were occasional delays in performing an instruction, though in Google’s defense, it was a phone fully loaded with running tasks and the software is being continually improved and optimized (i.e. it’s not yet fully baked). That having been said, it unfortunately remains the case that Android isn’t as swift and responsive as iOS or Windows Phone (or even MeeGo Harmattan on the N9). Or at least it wasn’t on the demo phone we got a look at. The subtle, pervasive lag that has characterized the Android UI since it inception is still there, which is not a heartening thing to hear when you’re talking about a super-powered dual-core device like the Galaxy Nexus.

Let’s hope they keep tweaking it to perfection. This industry needs healthy competition, and I’m happy to see Ice Cream Sandwich looking like a more-than-viable option.

How to Communicate With Others

When was the last time you actually made a phone call for no other reason than to simply talk to someone? How long ago was it that you sat down and wrote a letter to send through the postal service? These forms of communication were the way we connected with others for many MANY years, and they are apparently a dying art form these days. I admit that I haven’t done either of these things in far longer than I can really remember. There are just too many other ways for me to get ahold of someone, do business with them or reach out to make a connection.

Why would we send a hand-written missive and pay money for a stamp, only to have it arrive several days later – if at all? We can sign into our email program of choice, type out our thoughts and have the completed message show up in the other party’s inbox within seconds… for “free” (not counting the cost you already shell out for your Internet connection).

Even though most of us have cell plans which include unlimited calling (or at least during nights and weekends), it’s still easier to use other means of speaking with others. I’m sitting at my computer working most of the day, so it’s just simpler to click that button on Skype when I need to hear another person’s voice. Heck, I’ll admit it: I don’t much like having to voice chat anyway. If there is business communication to be done, I prefer handling it via email. This allows me to keep track of the prior portions of a conversation for future reference. It also lets me be in control of when I reply.

Using voice communication can actually be a burden. As I just mentioned, you have the burden of being “on” during every moment of a conversation. Your attention shouldn’t wander… you need to focus right then and there. If you’re buried in a project, having to stop and take calls can be a huge downer. With an email, you can put off your response until you have the time to dedicate to the person trying to get your attention.

How do you talk to others? I have a feeling that social networks will actually be near the top of the list for many of you out there, along with email and VOiP services.

Avoid Communication Overload

I am convinced that there are too many ways for us to communicate with each other. We have social media sites, text messaging, cell phones, land lines, snail mail and email – and likely a handful of ways I didn’t even remember to list. It can actually be annoying and time consuming trying to keep up with so many options. I actually had someone email me recently to ask for my phone number. I replied and received the phone call, only to find that the person was wanting my snail mail address. Seriously, people? You couldn’t have asked that in the original email? Having multiple ways of contacting others has its drawbacks, as well as being a good thing.

Step back a moment and think about all of the communication tools in your arsenal. I’m willing to bet you can name a person that you could contact at least ten different ways: and there are likely many people you could do this with. Is this the best use of your time, though? You have to decide which way to get ahold of them, hope they reply or answer and move on to a different way if the first doesn’t work. Tracking someone down isn’t always in your best interest. You should be asking each contact their preferred method of communication and stick with that unless an emergency arises.

Let’s say you need to contact me. I will tell you that email is your best bet. I have that open pretty much every moment I’m awake. I don’t like talking on the phone or Skype and I prefer to not use instant messaging clients. Those are fine for quick questions, but email provides a “paper trail” of sorts that we can refer back to if need be. Yes, there are times when we may need to connect on a call or in person, and that’s fine. But my first preference is always going to be my Inbox.

Instead of trying to send me an IM on every account I have, leaving me a voice mail I may not listen to for a few days or even trying to Skype me, why not just shoot me an email? You’re bound to get a much faster – and more detailed – response.

Now, everyone is different. There are people who may prefer a quick phone call, and that’s fine. My point is to ask people you regularly talk to which method they prefer. Keep other lines of communication as a backup. Heck, you can even break down your daily communications and organize them by type. Respond to and send emails first. Grab people you need to on IM after that and then perhaps schedule phone calls for the afternoon. Separate your correspondences this way so that you avoid overload.

Jumping back and forth between types all day long is going to drain you, frustrate you and maybe even confuse you at some point.

Do You Rely on Your Phone?

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Someone asked recently if I could live without my cell phone. Ten years ago, I could have. Back then, my phone wasn’t smart at all. It was big. It had a lot of buttons on it. But it didn’t really DO much.

These days, my smartphone has turned into the best computer I’ve ever had. It’s with me anytime I leave the room, let alone the house. I don’t (and can’t) always carry my iPad or laptop with me. I certainly don’t haul my desktop around. My phone is always in my pocket and I can use it to do nearly anything I can do with the other devices.

My phone allows me to stay better connected with the world around me. I’m able to do most of what I need to do from wherever I am – I’m even always online. This is a more powerful computer than what I had back in high school. I don’t need a physical keyboard or mouse for a device to be a computer. It’s a basic input/output device. That’s all I need.

I don’t know if – today – I could live without my phone. I truly don’t think I could. How about you? Could you live without your phone?

Do you Need a Land Line?

Craighton is a rather active member of our community. He volunteered at Gnomedex, and has performed a countless number of small tasks whenever my assistant Kat needs help. He raised a good question on Lockergnome earlier… asking whether we truly need a land-line phone or not.

Many people are reminding the young grasshopper that a land-line phone is the easiest way for emergency services to locate you. There are also other obvious advantages, including not having to deal with dropped calls. A hard-wired phone still works even if you don’t live near a tower of some sort. Should your beloved cell die run out of juice, you can always pick up that old cordless (or corded!) phone and dial up a friend. I know, I know… who calls anyone anymore?

Something else to think about… there are actually some places left on Earth which do not accept calls from cellular devices. When is the last time you were able to accept a collect call on your iPhone or Droid? I’m pretty sure the answer to that is a resounding “never.”

Do you still have a regular old telephone line? Do you think you’ll ever get rid of it?

7 Reasons why Windows Phone 7 Should be the Called the Xbox Compass

At one time, I carried a Pocket PC. That evolved into a Windows Mobile device – which made far less sense to me, given that “windows” didn’t exist on the platform. Now, we’re to understand that Microsoft is going to brand its next series of mobile devices as “Windows Phone 7” – huh?

Hell, I don’t even like taking phone calls on my phones, anymore. That’s not just because of AT&T’s crappy coverage in the Seattle area (or the iPhone 4’s questionable antenna reception) – but because I prefer emails, texts, tweets, etc.

After getting a personal prototype walkthru, I can’t wait to play with one on a regular basis – but I still don’t believe that “Windows” is the right brand to back this player. In fact, I believe Microsoft should give serious consideration to going with the “Xbox” brand, instead:

  1. Within days, I’m sure the average consumer will be referring to a “Windows Phone 7” device as a “Windows iPhone.” That’s bad. Watch it happen. Get the word “phone” out of its title.
  2. “Windows Phone 7” sounds so… plain. Not that I’ve been impressed with adjectives in titles (the “Droid Impressive” sounds like it has an inferiority complex), but let’s start moving past the idea that this is a device which is only good for making calls. It’s not just a phone – it’s a portable communications center. And please, for the love of God and all that is holy, do not call it the “Microsoft Windows Portable Communications Center.” Slap it with a brand we all recognize, add a word that describes its role… and we’ll have a label worth talking about.
  3. When I hear “Xbox,” I think of slick experiences that work out-of-the-box. When I hear “Windows,” I think I’m going to have a different experience than every other Windows user on the planet. You want me thinking about “Xbox.” I think less about the size and shape of an Xbox and more about the experiences it enables for me. Let’s evolve the “Xbox” metaphor and leave “Windows” to the desktop?
  4. I believe I’ve already stated this, but to hammer the point home: it’s NOT Windows. The Metro UI doesn’t even HAVE windows.
  5. The Xbox isn’t just a gaming console – it’s a true media center, rich with games, content, and communication tools. And if you’re one who believes that the Xbox is just for games, well… you’re wrong. And even if that was the case, have we not already learned that gaming is the killer app for just about ANY mobile platform?
  6. The phone experience looks more like an Xbox than it does Windows.
  7. Watch what happens with people’s eyebrows when you say “Windows Phone 7” versus “Xbox Compass.” If they remain still or furrow, the name has lost the game. I can’t find a SINGLE mobile enthusiast who was impressed with the (hopefully) working title for this new series of devices.

C’mon, Microsoft – the name should be equally as sweet as the product itself. At least make it sound like a tool that I’d be lost without.

World's Biggest Windows Phone 7 Device

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You won’t be able to get ahold of your own Windows Phone 7 device. I, however, am lucky enough to have one I can play with right now. The screen is ginormous… way bigger than that of my iPhone 4. It fits easily into your pocket, too – as long as you have seriously large pockets.

According to those in the know, Windows Phone 7 is going to completely change the game when it comes to productivity on our mobile devices. That’s a pretty high standard to set. I’m definitely looking forward to trying it out for myself later in the year.

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Microsoft Kin Dead in the Water

Just a few short weeks after launch, the Microsoft Kin is reportedly being killed off. Gizmodo reports that sources at Microsoft have confirmed the death of a device we all wanted to like. Why would a device die such a speedy death? Sales. Microsoft never has confirmed – nor denied – the fact that only a mere 500 Kin units have been sold since launch.

Sadly, the pricing of the phone plan that Verizon laid out is another reason for its demise. Verizon chose to price the phone as a smartphone, despite the fact that it isn’t one. The monthly plan was so high that Verizon drastically cut the price at one point. This did nothing to lure customers to form a line such as we’ve seen with other recent device launches.

Microsoft has issued a very vague statement on this matter:

“We have made the decision to focus on our Windows Phone 7 launch and we will not ship KIN in Europe this fall as planned. Additionally, we are integrating our KIN team with the Windows Phone 7 team, incorporating valuable ideas and technologies from KIN into future Windows Phone releases. We will continue to work with Verizon in the U.S. to sell current KIN phones.”

That says a lot without saying anything at all. Hopefully some of the parts of Kin that were good will be seen again in Windows Phone 7. At least support is still being promised to people who actually own the device. There’s no word on software updates for it, though.

Did you purchase a Kin phone? What are your thoughts on the device, and the news of its impending demise?

Which Camera Phone is Best?

I snapped a series of shots around the house this afternoon. Tell me which ones you believe came out better?

There’s a “Camera 1” and a “Camera 2” at play (with no post-processing done on any image). In each case, I embedded “1” above “2” on this page. I wish to refrain from telling you which camera is which – letting you judge for yourself, using these images as a guide. Other enthusiasts have run similar tests between “1” and “2” this week, like Macworld. If you want to ruin the surprise, you can always scroll to the end of this article. 🙂

Between these two popular smartphone cameras, I believe the lens (hardware) wasn’t as important as the software component. Regardless, I stuck with “auto” configuration for each phone’s default camera app for these tests. The results, as you can see below, are a mixed bag – which is a good thing for impartiality (given that I’d likely get blamed if the results skewed to my phone of choice versus yours).

As always, I’d recommend calibrating your monitors with a Huey before judging image quality. Otherwise, you can’t trust your eyes (or your screen, for that matter).

Outdoor Light, Indoors Test

It’s difficult to make a dreary Seattle day appear to have been more cheerful. There is no clear winner (to me) in this particular set.

Here, “Camera 1” is definitely more vibrant and sharper (although the sharpness could’ve been due to a different focal point in the capture).

The second image does have truer-to-life colors – but I’d also note that the cream blanket popping up to the right seems to have a slight blue hue to its overexposed area.

Phone Camera 1: Muted Colors and Saturation Test

Phone Camera 2: Muted Colors and Saturation Test

Artificial Light, Indoors Test

No doubt about it: “Camera 1” needs a little saturitalin! That’s not a real product, but how else would I correct the obvious overcompensation?

“Camera 2” was not only sharper in this setting, but more accurately reflected the colors in the room. A clear winner.

Phone Camera 1: Terracotta Wall Color Test

Phone Camera 2: Terracotta Wall Color Test

Pantry Test

It’s easy to see that “Camera 1” captured white better in my pantry (rather than erring blue, like “Camera 2” did).

Phone Camera 1: White and Color Test

Phone Camera 2: White and Color Test

Texture Test

It’s impossible to ascertain full perspective by only reviewing the thumbnails (versus the original, full-sized images), but I do believe this one is a draw for me… no pun intended.

If anything, there may be a small amount of texture in the shot from “Camera 1” – but its reds seem to have a magenta complex. “Camera 2” couldn’t get a focus – but its colors were slightly more accurate (blacks were blacker, too).

I tried a few times to capture a sharper image with “Camera 2,” but there was just something about this painting it didn’t like.

Phone Camera 1: Texture and Color Test

Phone Camera 2: Texture and Color Test

The Best Cameraphone

So, there we go – four scenes around the gnomestead on a Sunday afternoon. My final verdict? I don’t think I’ll ever have one, given that the results were mixed. Half of the time, “Camera 1” fared better – and the other half of the time, “Camera 2” fared better.

I may very well do another battery of tests involving the LED flash at some point, too.

And, if you didn’t already bother to peek at EXIF data: “Camera 1” is an iPhone 4, while “Camera 2” is an HTC EVO 4G. Hats off to both engineering teams for creating cameraphones that may render so many dedicated point-and-shoot cameras obsolete.

Unfortunately, the iPhone stomped the EVO 4G in my corresponding indoor video tests.

Idapt to Your Gadget Adapters

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While covering the recent CES conference in Las Vegas for us, Traci stopped by the Idapt booth and met up with company founder Jacques Guadamillas. Picking up a box from the table, Traci was astonished! She was certain that they had snuck into her home and taken a picture of the mess of cables and adapters she has lying everywhere. Thankfully, Idapt can help her!

IDAPT allows you to charge several portable devices at the same time, through a simple system of interchangeable tips. To change the tip, press the buttons on each side of the tip and replace it with a different one. It really is that simple to use!

The Idapt comes with several different tips, as well as different-colored bases. You can choose from silver, black or hot pink! I’m thinking the hot pink one might look pretty good here in my home office, don’t you agree?

In any case, stop throwing fifteen different cords in a drawer, or letting them stay scattered all over your desk. Just grab yourself an Idapt, and be done with it!

Thanks, Traci, for all of your hard work – and the awesome inside look! – during CES.

Thanks also to the folks at Creative for sending the Vado 3 to Traci for use in recording during the conference!

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