Sunday, December 28, 2008

Thoughts regarding: The Blackberry Storm

I get asked my opinion on this handset a lot, so its probably due time I write something about it.

To be perfectly frank, I don't understand the reason for the Storm. RIM caters to a specific crowd of users who have stuck with them because they prefer the Blackberry platform. Clearly, touchscreens aren't particularly important to these users- Despite the endless models of touchscreen devices being released all around them, Blackberry users have remained glued to their trusty RIM handsets.
Because touchscreen or not, when it comes to messaging, blackberrys work well. Period.
They may not have the best multimedia options, or support mind blowing 3rd party applications, or even have many interesting features at all... but that's not why people buy Blackberrys. They buy them because they are a great email and messaging device. They are intuitive and straight forward and offer features like corporate email without getting too complicated.

Consumers who want fancy multimedia, games, and shtick are not looking at Blackberrys. They're looking at iPhones.
Consumers who want the most powerful and versatile devices in the world aren't looking at Blackberrys either. They generally prefer the more adaptive yet exponentially more complicated Smartphone platforms such as Windows Mobile, Android, or Symbian.
People buy Blackberrys when they want a no nonsense handset that consistently delivers a professional experience. This is where the Storm fails.

RIM, if you're reading this, why are you trying to fix something that ain't broke?
As I've blogged before, touchscreens are fun and gimmicky, but very often can't compare to good ol' fashioned buttons.

They're clearly trying to break out of their professional-oriented mold, and reach out to the people who are looking into other devices.
However, all it takes is a few moments with this device to realize their lack of experience is showing. It doesn't even approach the feature set and fluidity of competing products.
Meanwhile, they ruined almost all the things that make Blackberry great. They ditched their keyboard (something that was fantastic on almost every blackberry), and re-wrote their OS to be touch-sensitive and "fun".
The problem is that since this is their first foray into the world of Touchscreens, the new OS is buggy as all heck. Users have been reporting that the device doesn't always respond as expected (screen reorient to landscape didn't flip keyboard when I tried to type in landscape mode. I was stuck with a sideways keyboard).
Additionally, the big selling point, the "press-and-click" touchscreen, creates a very counter-intuitive user experience in my opinion. While playing with one, I found that pressing a letter on the keyboard only highlighted the area. In order to actually enter that letter, one must give an additional push downward to make the whole screen click like a button. Cute, but not practical. Sometimes you feel like you're typing because it is reacting to your keypresses, but unless you "click" as well, no text is being entered. Additionally, some things work without clicking (such as finger scrolling through menus), and other times a click is required (pressing a button).

All in all, it wasn't the WORST device I've ever used (the Moto Q still holds that crown), however it was dissapointing for a Blackberry. Its the sort of device someone could probably get used to, and learn the ins and outs over time, however people buy Blackberrys because they are not supposed to have learning curves. If you want to learn the ins and outs, you may as well buy a more capable smartphone, such as a Windows Mobile device.

So in the end of the day, what do we end up with? A Blackberry messaging device without a keyboard that pales in comparison to other touchscreen phones, AND to previous Blackberrys. A true Jack of all trades, but master of none.

The proof is in the users... a friend who works in a Verizon store told me that the Storm is the most returned handset on Verizon currently in his store, with new users showing buyers' remorse at an alarming rate.

Can RIM fix the Storm? Perhaps in the next version. But why? Why is this worth doing when there are plenty of touchscreen devices that offer the same push email experience and sync, but do a better job and have more features?

My personal opinion is that RIM should drop the storm, and go back to focusing on what makes their handsets great. Maybe they should work on fixing that firmware issue in the Bold...

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Sprint + Android = Ok, fiiine. Soon.

Well, Dan Hesse's arguments about Android not being ready for Sprint became quite the controversial topic.

I should have posted this earlier, but Sprint is now announcing plans to adopt an Android handset in the near future, as was always expected. Apparently, Dan's comments meant to illustrate that they were watching and gauging T-mobile's success with it before pulling the trigger themselves.

In fact, at Sprint's mobile developer conference last week, Google's VP of mobile technology, Rich Miner, was a keynote speaker.
So, it would appear that Sprint never turned their back on Android, as was speculated. They just decided to play it safe.

Given their current economic status, perhaps that was a smart move. Here's to hoping something turns up soon (HTC Pegassi, anyone?).

Monday, December 08, 2008

2G, 2.5G, 2.75G... isn't 2G DEAD?!

Most people know that 3G means faster than 2G.
The standard school of thought is that the older 2G data networks will give you roughly the speed of a dial-up modem, whereas the modern 3G can rival some broadband connections.
What people seem to forget is that we're not actually referring to the speed of the network, but rather the generation (hence the G) of technology.

This is why the latest news from Nokia Siemens Networks might seem puzzling to some:
"Nokia Siemens Networks has made the world's first Downlink Dual Carrier EDGE end-to-end call with mobile devices ... that can double data speeds to 592 kbps on existing EDGE-capable GSM networks, providing a user experience that is akin to 3G."

I'll bet many who read this are scratching their heads and saying "Isn't EDGE/2G dead?", I mean, why else would we have made such a stink about the original iPhone being only EDGE in a world of broadband data devices?

The problem is that many people equate EDGE, 2G, and Dial Up data speeds, and that is not necessarily true.
Anyone remember GPRS? It was the GSM data network that predated EDGE. It was the first data network to use packet-switching on a cellular connection, which meant data and voice were separate. The original 2G data was NOT packet-switched, and therefore data sessions exists as a phone call (you would "dial up" the Internet as a phone call much like a home dial up modem, and your line would be in use during the session, often using your cellular minutes), not to mention data speeds averaged around 9.6kpbs or a theoretical 14.4. Meanwhile, GPRS was able to rival dial-up modems, and reach speeds of 60kbps.

Before GPRS was around, the next (3rd) generation of cellular network was being planned, and hoped to offer higher data rates and packet switching, among other features. So when GPRS came around and offered packet switching on the current network without any major overhaul of the equipment, some people wanted to call it 2.5G. This was never an official term, and so it remained "2G" since the 3rd generation technology was almost ready to come out.

Then there was EDGE.
EDGE was supposed to further bridge the gap between 2G and 3G by offering 4x the data speed of GPRS (reaching a theoretical speed of over 240kpbs, although real-world use averages around 150kbps), once again without a complete overhaul of the network as the next generation 3G would require. Some people wanted to call this 2.5G, and those who referred to GPRS as 2.5G wanted to call it 2.75G, and the whole name game became a real mess.
Therefore, no new names were adopted, and the title remained 2G for all of these technologies since it still existed on the second generation network.

Now, Nokia Siemens is offering a theoretical 590kbps for towers using EDGE with little more than a software update. With the low end of 3G data averaging around 500kpbs, this seems to bring 2G hardware into almost the same ballpark as far as data transmission speeds!

This is sure to confuse the general public, not to mention it begs the question of what to refer to this as- 2.875G?

I'm laying claim to that title. If this tech becomes mainstreamed, I'm going to call it 2.875G, and think you all should too!

I wrote the following for first. I decided to go all Dave Barry at the end with a mock conversation. Well, I thought it was kind of funny... Hope you enjoy. -Mordy

Sprint adI’ve seen this ad all over the internet lately, and its really been bugging me (click image to view full size).

In it, Sprint claims that with their new Samsung Rant, I’ll be able to “Experience texting at 3G speed.”

Can someone please explain this one to me?

Maybe I’m missing something here, but doesn’t Text Messaging get ZERO benefit from 3G data?

Texting (or the more technical term, SMS) was created as a way to embed short messages of up to 160 characters into the same networks used to carry digital voice.

3G Data came much later, and was created to offer high-speed internet access. It actually works using a separate (but parallel) technology to the voice network.

This is why SMS rates and cellular data rates are usually kept separate when billing. (Side note: Sometimes when roaming or in spotty coverage areas, one may find the data network does not work, however SMS works fine wherever you have voice coverage.)

Everytime I see this ad, I wonder who thought this was a good idea for a catch phrase. Then, I wonder who at Sprint gave the OK for it. Does anyone in the marketing team know how their phones work?

I actually picture the conversation going something like this:

Marketing rep #1: “Ok, how should we advertise the Samsung Rant?”

Marketing rep #2: “Hey, isn’t that the one that’s replacing the LG Rumor as our flagship texting phone?”

Marketing rep #1: “Yup.”

Marketing rep #2: “Ok, so how about : If you liked the LG Rumor, you’ll LOVE the Samsung Rant.”

Marketing rep #1: “No, people hated the Rumor, look at the blogs. We gotta compare it to something the public LOVES”

Marketing rep #2: “You mean like the iPhone 3G?”

Marketing rep #1 (cringing): “Yes. Like the iPhone 3G. In fact, suddenly people who don’t even know what 3G means are jumping to replace their 2G iPhones for it.”

Marketing rep #2: “Ok, so how about we mention 3G and Texting on a keyboard in one sentence? Experience texting at 3G speeds!”

Marketing rep #1: “I love it!”

Marketing rep #3: “That doesn’t make any sense.”

Marketing rep #1: “Quiet you, when did you even get here? Look, we had another terrible 3rd quarter net loss, and we need some positive results. If it means we have to market ourselves to ignorant people, so be it.”

Marketing rep #3: “But its idiotic.”

Marketing rep #1: “I don’t recall asking you. Let’s print it!”

Marketing rep #2 (beaming): “Already sent.”

Marketing rep #3: “Well, there go our jobs…”

Well, something like that, probably.

Honestly, I love Sprint, and they’re still my favorite underdog carrier. But I couldn’t resist commenting on this ad- I see it everywhere.

Well, I guess it works. Here I am discussing the Samsung Rant to the public, and I may actually have to try it out. Why? Well, I quite honestly can say I’ve never experienced texting at 3G speeds, and I’d like to see what it is like.

Until next time…

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Shocking G1 bug found!

Chalk this one up in the history of classic OS bugs.

Everyone has been very excited about the fact that Android is based on Linux, however no one anticipated this would lead to the greatest bug ever found in a mobile OS.

Apparently, the G1's version of Android has been running a phantom command-line shell underneath the GUI, which has super-admin root access and receives a copy of all keystrokes entered.
What does that mean?
Well, in a nutshell, it means anything you type into the phone is ALSO being entered into an invisible linux command line- so you could be entering commands and messing with the system without even realizing!

In fact, this is how the bug was originally found, by user jdhorvat on Google's code board:
I was in the middle of a text conversation with my girl when she asked why I hadn’t responded. I had just rebooted my phone and the first thing I typed was a response to her text which simply stated “Reboot” - which, to my surprise, rebooted my phone.

Wow. Imagine what would happen if someone texted you, asking you for a reminder of some hardcore Linux commands!

Epic Fail.

Luckily, since Android is open source, the problem was found rather quickly and an update fix was pushed out over the air to users before this bug had a chance to be publicized.
Still, if you're running firmware version 1.0 TC4-RC29 and earlier, try typing these 8 keystrokes: -r-e-b-o-o-t-.

That's a pretty serious bug if you ask me, and this makes me wonder about Dan Hesse's comments about Android not ready for Sprint yet...

More on this here.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Sprint Touch Pro - Sluggish from the get-go?

Well, its been a very exciting week- The Sprint Touch Pro was available in third party retailers (read: Best Buy) since last Sunday, and is available in Sprint stores across the country as of yesterday.

I'll be honest, I've been looking forward to the Touch Pro ever since I found that the Sprint Mogul (HTC Titan / 6800) suffered from a lack of RAM. 64MB may have been enough for the days of WM5, however HTC's other WM6 devices all came with at least double that (AT&T Tilt, Sprint Touch/Vogue, Touch Dual, etc). The latest versions of Windows Mobile demand more resources, so its been sort of baffling to Titan users that we are stuck with a measly 64MB on this device (The "memory leak" due to OS and system caching has created a familiar outcry by Titan owners in the PPC world).

That alone would be enough of a reason to upgrade to the Touch Pro. However, initial reports by prominent users in the PPC Development community are NOT entirely positive.

If you've been following my blog, you may recall a post in which I held an early version of the HTC Diamond, and had mixed feelings about it:
However my personal opinion is that the HTC Diamond seemed to lag a bit in its responsiveness. Sure, it was pretty and full of eye candy, but it wasn't as smooth and quick as I would have hoped, in fact the Sprint HTC Touch next to it seemed to be faster despite being previous-generation hardware.

Now, many early adopters assured me that the later Sprint production models were better and not laggy at all, which was somewhat uplifting to hear. However, for the brief moments I've actually seen a Sprint Diamond/Touch Pro in action, I still felt the same way.

While some random users are claiming this is the best WM device in history, some respected members of the development community are agreeing with what I noticed:
User GGuruUSA of fame mentioned that "it's not super laggy on mine, but it is a little".
NueRom creator and Windows Mobile virtuoso no2chem of PPCGeeks fame also confirmed my impressions in a chat:
[16:40] even with some standard optimizations, etc.. this thing is still slow as molasses..
[16:40] there are some stupid htc apis for mutex that slow things down
[16:40] but.. shouldn't be that slow
[16:40] yet there is lag doing basic tasks like opening start menu

So very disappointing to hear. I was very much looking forward to this device to fix the performance problems of the HTC Titan/Mogul, however it looks like this device isn't the savior we hoped it out be.

I'd like to point out that since I don't own a Touch Pro for myself (yet)*, I can't verify this first hand. Its only an impression that I got which has been confirmed by people who's opinion I trust. Any Touch Pro users out there want to chime in? Anyone up for some comparison videos?

*I tried twice to buy a Touch Pro, however Sprint seems to be having a hard time selling me one. Not sure why they're being so difficult, but hopefully we'll get the ball moving soon so I can give you my full review on this highly anticipated device.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Sprint "Too good for Android"?!

Ok, this one gets a great big "You've got to be kidding me!"

Apparently, Reuters has quoted Sprint CEO Dan Hesse as saying Android is NOT ”good enough to put the Sprint brand on it.”

Back when the Open Handset Alliance was starting to make news, I remember feeling very excited to see Sprint's name on the list of interested carriers. Honestly, part of me sort of felt that this meant Sprint would be getting the first Android phone, since they could severely use some positive press.

I must give credit to T-Mobile for actually being the first with an Android product out the door, but I figured Sprint's Android phone was to follow shortly before the "big boys" ( AT&T, Verizon ) catch up.

Dan, Please... Sprint needs this. Sprint is currently my preferred provider for data services (with their liberal smartphone policy and 3G coverage practically everywhere), yet their smartphone lineup is dominated by Windows Mobile devices. Now, I'm happy enough with WM because I can make it do whatever I want, however the interface could use a makeover. I don't feel that WM is for everyone, and it'd be nice to see some options available on Sprint. However, since Palm OS is still stuck in the Dark Ages of an antiquated feature set, Symbian has thusfar ignored the CDMA market, and the iPhone being, well, by Apple (we're cool cuz we're exclusive!).... Android was poised to bring a breath of fresh air into Sprint's lineup.
Mr. Hesse, its been a shaky relationship, and you're new there, but I've grown to love Sprint. However, Windows Mobile is not the most intuitive platform, and many people consider the HTC devices "broken out of the box", only to be "fixed" with aftermarket software and ROMs. I've seen many people not willing to take the time to learn WM, and promptly return their devices for something simple, like a Blackberry. Yet, Sprint is usually the first to release the latest HTC devices while other CDMA carriers work the kinks out first. Android is still 1.0, and may not be perfect, however don't think for a second that Sprint is too good for Android.

If you can release the Mogul, which was released with a bluetooth problem at launch, and didn't have the promised EVDO and Rev A until half its life span had passed, not to mention the Moto Q (arguably the buggiest smartphone of all time) and others... and have no problem putting the Sprint brand on them... then I'm sorry, there's no excuse not to release Android.

I'm wondering if there's more to this story...

Thursday, October 02, 2008

More Android videos

Google's Android is a hot topic out here on the inter-webs.
Its not surprising: Between the Google brand name and the open-source business model, Android is poised to become a major player in the mobile market.

Youtube, the video-blogging medium of choice, has so many Android videos its dizzying and fascinating at the same time. I'm posting some of the ones I found interesting below, however I highly recommend flipping through youtube if you want to see where mobile OSs are going.

The first one is a simple walkthrough of the UI (via PhoneScoop):

This second one comes from Eric Lin, an HTC Rep (Who I had the pleasure of meeting in NYC at another event). Eric shows us a bit more first-hand UI details.

Finally, here we have a practical example of a third party application developed with the Android SDK. An impressive taste of more things to come:

Looking good, Google. Let's get a few more handsets and carriers announced, though. The OS looks good, but I have mixed feelings about the G1's cosmetic appeal and it'll take more than that for me to return to T-mobile...

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Android Launch Press Videos

Well, today was the big Android press conference in NYC that all the big bloggers have been talking about lately.

I unfortunately couldn't attend, however I followed the progress remotely... I was actually surprised to even find a few live feeds from the event made public via (GREAT software, by the way, more on that in a future post).

The most interesting bit?

Google is offering over-the-air-sync with a supposed full two way push with Google Apps. That's right, push Gmail, Google calendar, contacts and Google Talk, all built right in.

This is the sort of thing people pay tons of money to have a Blackberry Enterprise Server for, or Microsoft Exchange with a WM device. Heck, even Apple has been trying to offer this with Mobile Me for a yearly premium, and it doesn't even work properly.

Google is just giving it away, and let's face it, who doesn't have a google apps account already?

That's just the tip of the iceburg. Check out more in this informative video:

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Joss Wheadon deems the iPhone "Horrible"?

I think Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog is becoming one of my favorite short films of all time.

I was slightly amused to find a scene in the first act in which Dr. Horrible (Neil Patrick Harris) uses an iPhone as a remote control to drive a van.

Does this mean Joss Wheadon and his brothers (who wrote and created the internet phenomenon) consider the device "horrible" enough for their evil character?

Well, as I wrote on MoPocket, there is a later scene in which he answers his phone, and it is NOT an iPhone, but rather a simple looking flip phone. So, are they trying to say Dr. Horrible uses an iPhone or not?

After doing a little curious researching, it turns out co-star Nathan Fillion owns an iPhone, and someone had decided it was a good idea to use it as a prop for a remote control.
The fact that it was recognizable may have been a technical goof.

What do you people think? Did the writers perhaps think this was a clever gag (a character who sings about anarchy and social change uses the most overhyped social status device ever), or is it just that the iPhone makes a pretty darned cool looking capacitive remote control?

Read more here.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

For the sake of development, stop stealing other people's work!

The Development Community is arguably one the biggest reasons Windows Mobile is still a popular platform.

Forums such as XDA-Developers and are teeming with brilliant minds who create applications that not only add new features to a WM device, but even change the interface itself.

Lately, one of the most buzzed about projects is the s2 series, developed by an XDA regular who goes by the username A_C. The s2 series started with a simple screen-unlocker, S2U2, which was clearly inspired by the iPhone's "Slide to Unlock" screen.
However, it mutated into much more than a simple lock screen, and now offers customized real-time information as well as integrates with his media player, S2P (slide to play), which is a graphically beautiful finger-friendly music player and browser. A_C then went on to create S2V (Slide to View), which is an image viewer in the same graphical vein as his other S2 applications.

Although all of the S2 applications are still considered unfinished "works in progress", many users claim that they are more stable and have better features than some commercial applications on the market.

It should also be recognized that A_C never planned to make money from these applications. He does not it for a living, rather he creates them in his spare time because it is how he beleives a Windows Mobile device should work. As such, he has clearly stated numerous times that his applications are totally free.

My opinion is that A_C is a good guy. The problem is, good guys often get taken advantage of.
According to this thread, A_C was appalled to find the s2 applications have been bundled and sold as part of "iPhone themes for Windows Mobile", without giving him a penny or even asking permission.

Many sites, including, as well as countless ebay auctions are trying to sell the s2 software for their own profit, which of course is very frustrating for A_C to see.
In vain, he has tried to report every auction to ebay, contact the authors of the sites selling it, etc... however they seem to not care, offering petty excuses or ignoring his requests.

The end result? A_C has decided to halt all development of the S2 series for the time being.

Nice work, fellas. It looks like a couple of unscrupulous idiots have ruined it for everyone else.

Spread the word. Boycott sites that are selling this stuff, send them angry emails, etc. This is not the first time such a thing has happened, but in order for it to end everyone must voice their opinion. For the sake of the development community and coders/users everywhere.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Sprint HTC Diamond and Touch Pro Official Release Dates!

Well, the speculation can end now. Sprint has made the announcement official on their web site.
Also, the pictures that appear in their image gallery (which can be found here) confirm the color situation that we mentioned earlier, as well as the official launch names of the devices (thankfully not Herman and Victor, as speculated).

In a nutshell:
Sprint Touch Diamond: Will be released on Sept. 14th for $249 with a new contract. Device is two-toned, with a burgundy back side.

Sprint Touch Pro: Qwerty-version will be released on Oct. 19th, for $299 with a new contract. Device is solid black.

There, that settles that. Now let's see how they are in person...

Friday, September 05, 2008

Chrome: The color of world domination.

I wrote this to appear elsewhere, however it was not ready so I'm just posting it here instead.

Well, it certainly seems Google is no longer satisfied with simply living inside your web browser.

No, Google wants a more serious relationship with you than that.
Sure, they've virtually led the pack as far as Web 2.0 and application-driven websites (Gmail, Google Maps, Google Docs, etc), but now they want to also BE your web browser.
Google Chrome is a new open source and powerful web browser that is the first to be designed around JavaScript and Web 2.0 applications. In other words, instead of offering an HTML text-and-image based browser that has support for higher-end application driven content, Google has actually designed a mini-platform the other way around- designed for running content first, that happens to also support plain-old html.
Its all explained in this nifty comic-book style write up, quite effectively I might add.
The concept is quite simple: Google has been trying to play nicely within the limitations of current web browsers, so why not just invent your own that runs your applications smoother?

Flash back to the mobile industry for a moment. If you recall, Google has always focused on being mobile-web friendly, offering special versions of their Gmail, Google Maps and search engine pages optimized for mobile web browsers or WAP. However, since mobile web browsers are so severely limited in features, Google decided to break free of the browser and write stand-alone applications for Google Maps and Gmail that run on compatible phones.
However, since not all phones offer the same features or APIs, the Google applications differed slightly from device to device (some devices don't support satellite imagery, others support voice-recognition for search).
So, Google took the next bold step and challenged the entire mobile industry by creating its own entire mobile Operating System, Android, instead of conforming to what is already out there.

That makes many people such as myself wonder- how far will Google go with this on the desktop? They've already created a Google Earth downloadable as well some other apps to break free of the confines of the web browser. Now, they have their own browser.
Many conspiracy theories emerged years ago that Google is planning its own desktop OS to rival Microsoft and Apple. This has mostly been dismissed as rumor long ago, however that was before Android and Chrome were announced. This could change things.

If Android had never become a reality, I would have said that Google doesn't have the gall to attack the desktop market. But Android is already a big slap in the face to popular Smartphone platforms like Windows Mobile, Palm, Symbian, Linux Mobile, and Apple, all of whom Google has actually written applications for in the past. The announcement of Android left these folks in a state of denail and/or confusion... If I were them, my thoughts would be "but I thought we were friends?"
The desktop market COULD be next.

The interesting thing about all this is that I think this marks the first time that the desktop industry can look to the mobile industry for a possible taste of things to come. Chrome team consulted with the Android team about their use of the Open Web Kit system when designing the engine for their browser. If Chrome and Android hit off with the success that they have potentially, I'd say a Google OS is around the corner.

Google. First you lived in my webbrowser. Tomorrow, you may own the world. Lookout...

Thursday, September 04, 2008

The problem with Windows Mobile

WM fanboys, be still! This post is part of a bigger article which I will go up when finished. To get straight to the point, start at the line which reads "Too many cooks".

Windows Mobile, love it or hate it, is still one of the most popular mobile operating systems to date. Looking at the specs on paper, this OS has every reason to be great; Not only does it have an integrated familiar set of Microsoft productivity tools (Outlook, Word, Excel, etc), it is also a versatile and open platform that is capable of running virtually infinitely complex and advanced third party applications.
It also has to its advantage a legacy of mobile operating systems dating back to the 90's, which means that countless seasoned developers and applications already exist for it, as well as a bit of a cult following. Combine this with the size and scope of the OS, and Microsoft should have a clear winner here.

However a large percentage of first time Windows Mobile users return their handset after trying it out, and market analysts say WinMo is far from "winner" material. Some even predict its impending doom. Why?

A few moments with the stock OS is all takes to understand. For all the words people can use to describe Windows Mobile, the adjectives you won't hear are "easy" or "user friendly". In fact, for every WM user that loves the platform, you're bound to find ten others who found it confusing, unstable or downright maddening.
The hardcore WM fanboys will tell you that Windows Mobile is far too powerful and therefore too complicated for some to comprehend. It would seem that the users who prefer standard feature phones or Blackberry OS fit that theory, since RIM spoon-feeds the user basic features such as messaging without much support for a real mobile computing platform.
The same could be said about Palm OS, since palm does not support as much development or even basic multi-tasking. Less features theoretically equal an easier to understand phone.

I don't think that's the case. Personally, I think Symbian and the upcoming Android OS at least match if not outshine Windows Mobile in power and function, as well as support for advanced development and UI tweaking... yet average folks who've tried it don't find it as maddening as Windows Mobile for daily use.
While we're at it, even the iPhone OS (which officially reached the status of Smartphone with its app store) has some fairly advanced features, especially when "jailbroken", and people absolutely LOVE that UI- in fact, they love it even more than simpler phones with less features. The iPhone, while not as versatile and developer friendly as other smartphone operating systems, showed the world that clearly you can have a phone with advanced features that is still easy for the masses to use.

So what is is that keeps Windows Mobile from being great?

Too many cooks.
I beleive that WM suffers from "too many cooks spoil the broth" syndrome. In other words, there are too many different people with different goals involved from the moment the software is designed until it reaches the user's hands. This leads to a complicated web of counter-intuitive interface design.
Take this example of a typical WM handset:
-Microsoft designs a general use OS based on a vague set of hardware.
-Hardware OEMs target a specific audience and create a device with hardware capable of running windows mobile.
-Software development team writes drivers for hardware, and tweaks parts of the OS to properly utilize their hardware configuration, often in ways Microsoft didn't anticipate.
-Carrier gets a hold of device, pre-installs certain software applications and tweaks certain features and UI to support their services.
-User buys devices, and gets thoroughly confused with what he/she is presented with.

A practical example of this is the microsoft X button. They decided, for one reason or another, that the X-button closing applicaitons would make the device harder to use. So they made it minimize instead. The result is that people who think they've closed the media player by clicking the X still hear music playing in the background. They frantically try to figure out why and eventually pull their battery. Now, let's say a third party designs their own media playing application, and decides to do users a favor by hard-coding it to close when someone presses on the X are instead of minimizing like the system would by default.
Meanwhile, phone manufacturer HTC steps in to solve that problem on its own, and introduces their HTC X-button software, which changes the behavior of the X button system-wide to what you determine (close, minimize, press-and-hold, etc), and gives you a list of what is running on the main screen so you can close something that didn't close like you thought it would.
What is going to happen to that media player when they press the X if someone is running on an HTC device with their X-button software pre-installed, such as the HTC Touch?
The user may be presented with some unexpected behavior other than what they think will happen.

Then there was the Palm hardware running Windows Mobile- they added their own threaded text messaging system, which was signature Palm until Microsoft decided to add their own and have it built-in to the OS in version 6.1. However, the Palm version was a little bit different, and when they embraced 6.1 for the new devices, they were faced with a user interface decision: Keep their threaded app on the phones so that people who enjoy how it works or are used to it can continue to, OR switch to the new standard threaded app for compatibility. Some people like the new native one because it seems more integrated into the system. Other people preferred the functionality of the old one. Either choice you make, Palm is going to annoy and/or confuse one set of users.

In contrast, take a competing device like a RIM Blackberry- designed completely by RIM, core OS, hardware and software, and RIM hosts its own servers for messaging. Then, they offer the device to be sold through a carrier for service. The end result is a smooth and consistent interface because this single company was responsible for quality control the entire time. The same can be said for Apple.

Now, that doesn't mean Windows Mobile is doomed to be always be difficult, however it just means that you won't get that polished experience out of the box- you'll have to work for it. Thankfully, since WM is an open platform, there's no shortage of third party applications and customized UI tweaks that the end user could install to make their device work better for them. Once you've learned your way around the OS, you'll actually find it very efficient, powerful, and even surprisingly stable. The problem is that you shouldn't be expected to learn all this in the first place. Ultimately, the perfect OS would be one that is as open and powerful as Windows Mobile, but with the finesse and user-experience quality control of Apple's.

My hope for the future is that Windows Mobile 7 will introduce a platform that is more user friendly out of the box, leaving less that needs to be modified by third parties. It'll be difficult, but if MS plays its cards properly, it's possible. In this world of open-source startup mobile OSs and Apple's UI dominating the market, MS needs to find a way to do this.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Windows Mobile Must-Haves

Every hard-core smartphone user has a list of applications that they wouldn't be caught dead without.
As a mobile enthusiast, I don't actually have such a mental list- I keep a directory of installation files on my storage card so that I can share my list with other enthusiasts that I meet from time to time.
The problem with this is that since any good list will change with the times (new apps come out, others become obsolete), my directory has become an awful mess.
So, I've decided its time to go over it and write up a quick list of what I consider essential for my Windows Mobile devices. Note that since I am currently using a "Professional Edition" device (aka, Pocket PC edition), many of these links are for touchscreen Pocket PC's only. Sorry, Standard (Smartphone) Edition users!

Perhaps some of you will find something new and useful here.
If you find anything essential to add to this list, please let me know!
  • TCPMP (+ Flash Video Bundle) - TCPMP (aka The Core Player Media Player) is the free, open-source predecessor of the commercial CorePlayer app. This relatively low-footprint app can play just about any audio/video format that you throw at it. The fact that it is open source means that people are always adding new formats and developments to it. My personal favorite is the Flash Video Bundle (linked to above), which acts as a Pocket IE plugin to recognize a link that contains embedded flash video (such as YouTube, GoogleVideo, Megavideo, etc) and gives you the option to play it in TCPMP. So, in other words this package enables your device to play divx, xvid, mpeg4, etc, as well as streaming web-based content. And its free. That puts it at the top of my list.
  • Quick Menu - A running application manager/enhanced start menu. Qmenu addresses one of the biggest problems plaguing WM devices- controlling and closing your running applications. Microsoft decided, whether they had good reason or not, to do away with the taskbar concept that desktop windows uses to show you what's open, and further complicated matters by making the X button minimize your program instead of closing it. This created an OS that is infuriatingly confusing to use out of the box, and I'm fairly certain this is one the biggest reasons people return WM devices after trying one out for the first time. Luckily, there are dozens of third party applications to give the user control over what is running, switch to different programs and close them when done. I found QMenu the best personally, because it places the running tasks on your start menu, so they are accessible from anywhere without taking up any space on your screen. It also takes over the X-button and changes its behavior (short press to close, long press to minimize, or vice versa, etc), gives you a cascading start menu (sometimes useful, but you can actually choose to have the old start menu come back when you prefer), and places some useful tools on its start menu such as bluetooth toggle, and memory hibernate command (run this to force apps to release any held memory when available RAM is low- VERY USEFUL!).
  • FtouchFlo - Finger scrolling throughout the entire OS. This is great for those that prefer the iPhone-style flick of the finger to scroll around the screen without having to tap and hold the scroll-bars. The problem with this, however, is that some apps offer finger scrolling of their own (such as google maps, opera, etc), and ftouchflo will need to be disabled to use those properly. Luckily, you can rather easily add programs to exclude from ftouchflo using Schap's Ftouch configuration tool.
  • MochaFTP - This is a real gem that many people are not aware of. It turns your device in to an FTP Server. Yeah, you heard me... a SERVER, not a client. I blogged about this one over here.
  • WMWiFiRouter - If you have a cellular data plan and your device supports WiFi, this nifty little app will turn your PDA into a portable WiFi router. Great for road warriors who want to connect their laptops, skype phones, PSP, or anything that supports peer-to-peer wifi networking. The latest 1.0+ verions of the application are commercial, however pre-1.0 versions work well and are available as freeware.
  • Opera Mini - The fastest desktop-view web browser there is currently- loads full scale web pages that you can zoom in and out of in a matter of seconds. How? With the help of a little server-side compression. In other words, when you request a page, Opera's servers render it first, then compress the result and send it to your phone where it is rendered the way you'd expect it to look on your desktop. This means even a 2G phone can offer an experience similiar to browsing on a desktop with adequate speed. I should just add that many who are concerned with privacy aren't fond of the server-side model, since your data is going to someone's third party server first. Personally, I find this browser too good to let pass- but maybe avoid using it for bank accounts, etc. NOTE: This program runs in a Java Environment, and needs a runtime such as Esmertec Jbed to run. If you don't have Java, and/or don't like the idea of server-side compression, there is also Opera Mobile, which is a native WM app, and is very nice. However, it is not free nor as fast.
  • Palringo - Instant Messaging, supports all the regulars (AIM, MSN, Jabber, Gtalk, Yahoo, ICQ, etc) in addition to offering their own voice client as sort of a Push-to-talk. Best feature? Insert a live pic taken with your phone's cam into an IM. Better than trying to describe something you're seeing in text...
  • MS Voice Command - A commercial voice recognition app that goes far beyond dialing contacts. Without any prior training, VC allows you to ask your phone to play music by artist name, for example. Or, you can ask it when your next appointment is, and it will read it to you, or allow you to launch any program in your start menu by name. Heck, you can even ask it what the time is if you're too lazy to check your watch and have your headset on. This is roughly the same technology MS developed for their new MS/Ford Sync that is coming with new Ford stereos in cars. The Problem: MS seems to have stopped selling the PPC version, although it is still being developed and comes built into the rom of very specific devices. You can still buy the older obsolete version for $40, however it has compatibility problems with newer handsets and does not work properly with Bluetooth. The updated versions which worlk FLAWLESSLY have been extracted from the few Windows Mobile devices that come with it (the HTC Diamond, for example), and spread around all over forums and blogs for free. However the fact that MS still sells the old version for $40 means the distribution of the newer extracted versions are questionably software piracy. Therefore, I prefer not to link to it, however a good Google search will probably find you what you are looking for. I seen some people who want a clear conscience buy the $40 version and install the extracted update. I recommend you do what you feel is right.
There are many, many more applications that I use on a regular basis (slide2play, skyfire, mapopolis, Total Commander, etc) however they are not "essential", and some of them are still in beta and not worth posting about until complete. I will try to update this list or add another list of Recommended (vs Essential) Apps in another post.

But before I finish this post, I would like to add one more thing that I consider essential however did not list with the others because it does not apply to everyone.
As a "good Jewish boy" (in addition to being a Mobile Enthusiast), having access to a digital Siddur (prayer book) and Chumash (Bible) for Windows Mobile are essential. These and much more Judaica are available for free from The software there is very simple, however, and actually requires you to install your own fonts for it work.
Thankfully, this is actually really easy- just find a unicode compatible font (I picked Arial), and copy it from your desktop windows/fonts dir into the windows/fonts dir of the Windows Mobile device. Then run the application. Done.

Have anything to add to my list? Leave a comment...

Sunday, August 31, 2008

HTC Diamond and Touch Pro Dates Leaked

I've held an HTC Diamond and played with it, in GSM form.
My initial reaction was that it was nice, but not amazing as I had hoped. Could be because it was a demo unit, but I'm wondering how the CDMA model will compare, what with all the rumors of various flavors being released on a multitude of CDMA carriers states-side.

Well, thankfully I won't have to wait too much longer- or rather, at least now I have a better idea how much longer I'll need to wait thanks to some supposed leaked internal Sprint documents.

As always, take these with a grain of salt, but it seems to be on par with many of the current release date rumors for Sprint.

More on this over at wmpoweruser.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

New Instinct vs. Iphone 3G videos

I gotta admit, I really enjoyed seeing Sprint's aggressive marketing of the Samsung Instinct, especially since it combined my two passions: Mobile tech and film making.

I'll be honest:
I'm not the biggest fan of the Instinct.
However, I do appreciate seeing someone else try to promote an iPhone competitor.

Do I expect the Instinct to be an "iphone-killer"? Not a chance.
Apple is a marketing machine, and they sure do know how to push that "reality distortion field" into making consumers believe this is the greatest thing since sliced bread. Just look at how much carriers in other countries are charging for the 3G. But, I don't believe the iPhone deserves the pedestal it has been placed on, and so I appreciate seeing others take a stab at it.

The stuff that really made me chuckle was Sprint's Instinct vs. iPhone ads made at the new Samsung's launch.
At the time, they showed the Instinct up against the original iPhone (2G), with such examples as:
  • Showing the Instinct finish loading a page while the iPhone continues to chug along at what appears to be excruciating Edge speed.
  • Showing location based services on the GPS enabled Instinct while the iPhone showed you "somewhere in this ginormous circle" with triangulation and Google Maps.
  • Downloading music over the air with the Sprint store, vs iPhone requiring WiFi to access iTunes
All these videos were well made and perfectly executed with movie narrator voices and witty body language by the fingers demonstrating.

However, now that the iPhone 3G is out, which introduced GPS and 3G, they had to pull some of their older ads.

Thankfully, they managed to cook up some fresh new ones.
These include some stuff STILL not fixed in the new iPhone, such as replacing a battery, turn-by-turn GPS routing, and some network comparison stuff showing 3G coverage (which Sprint has plenty of) and a features/price comparison with the plans.

In any event, its worth checking out these videos, even if you LIKE the iPhone. They're pretty funny.

Follow the link:

Monday, August 25, 2008

T-Mobile 3G - Compatibility?

As I mentioned recently here, T-mobile USA is FINALLY rolling out 3G in 27 cities by Oct 1 of this year, just shy of that 2009 prediction.

But before you start fantasizing about unlocking that iPhone 3G, Nokia E71 or Blackberry Bold, I forgot to mention its not compatible with other 3G networks. That's right, you heard me.

Yep, since T-Mobile had to buy that unused 1700mhz spectrum from the FCC to make 3G happen, it will be working on frequencies completely different from AT&T, which in turn are completely different from GSM elsewhere in the world.
Anyone who's ever bought unlocked phones is already familiar with the difference between Europe's 3G UMTS vs. United States versions of the phones.

But now, you'll also need to consider special T-Mobile USA edition phones if you want 3G. There are 3 primary versions of GSM 3G: UMTS 3G for the rest of the world, and 850/1900 AT&T or 1700Mhz T-Mobile USA. This is going to make handset purchases very difficult, and further complicated one of the greatest benefits of GSM: compatible portability.

I'm not the biggest fan of CDMA, but at least their network technology is far less confusing!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Sprint HTC Diamond (Victor)- RED?

Back in June, some blurry photos were released online of the new Sprint Diamond (or HTC Victor).
Than, in July, this same user (ksemt7781) posted:
"To answer one question I saw come up in the forums, The back of the diamond is burgandy and ruberized like the palm 755 was. "
Interesting- With the exception of the metallic-blue T-Mobile Wing, you don't normally see HTC devices branded in colors off the gray-scale spectrum. But, since these were all rumors from an as-of-yet unverified source, there's no reason to really believe any of this...

Until now, anyway. Over at, a user has posted a photo gallery of what appears to be a Sprint branded HTC Diamind, with Victor-style curves and... a "burgundy" back.

There is no connection between this and the previous user as far as we can tell, so its possible that these are two independant sources pointing to the same thing- the red Spring Diamond is real.

Its also possible, as speculated, this is an elaborate photoshop job.

I think this is the real deal, personally. What I'm wondering is, will only the Sprint one be red, and is Telus really going to get this first?

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

T-mobile USA: Officially the last major network in US for 3G

Once upon a time, I loved T-mobile.

In fact around the start of this blog, actually.

This was not without good reason- T-Mobile may be struggling now, but they used to be the TOP of their game when it came to wireless data not too long ago.
Now, they are officially the last major network to roll out 3G data service.

Oh, the irony.

Just after the turn of the century, when Deutsch Telecom bought out VoiceStream to create T-mobile USA, the country was introduced to many new exciting data services and devices.
T-mobile USA had an advantage over the other new budding GSM networks because T-Mobile in Europe was already one of the leading wireless providers in the world, and brought some of that experience to the States along with mass-produced GSM phones.
The end result was T-mobile was the first to offer many bleeding edge data handsets, such as the first Blackberry with integrated voice (Blackberry 5810), the first Pocket PC Phone (XDA), and Danger's HipTop (Sidekick).

But, it seemed T-mobile was more interested in flashing their new handsets than improving their network. Meanwhile, GSM competitors AT&T and Cingular were slowly gaining subscribers by adding towers and rolling out their faster data networks.
By the time T-Mobile said they were rolling out EDGE (2.5G) data services, Cingular and AT&T had combined into one company, and had already announced their 3G network plans.
Meanwhile, CDMA providers Verizon and Sprint had already had their EVDO 3G network running. Somehow in the mix of things, T-mobile had fallen to the bottom of the pack.

T-mobile was my service of choice for many years; they had an open network design that allowed 3rd party handsets, super competitive data pricing, and always treated me well as a customer. I almost felt bad leaving them, as if I'm somehow cheating on a loved one. But, in the summer of 2007 when I heard that T-mobile's plans for 3G might take them into 2009 before full rollout, I decided it was time to jump ship. EVERYONE had 3G by then, except T-mobile USA. It was time to give up.

I'm now with Sprint, who has excellent 3G coverage.
Now, I'm not going to lie to you and tell you that Sprint is the best network out there, however I have 3G in places AT&T does not, and although Sprint has its infamous customer service snafoos, I've been thoroughly impressed by their network services.
Between their competitive services and pricing, and the fact that they've been in talks about 4G WiMax (Xohm) for a while already, I've never looked back to T-mobile since making the move.

T-mobile has recently announced it is rolling out 3G by Oct 1 in 27 major cities. While its good to see that they're going to make it 3 months shy of the 2009 prediction, its very possible it will be well into 2009 before a more national rollout is complete.

Once upon a time, I would have been ecstatic to see this news. Now, I can only sigh and feel bad for all those still stuck with the big pink T. I'm really, really, glad I left. *sigh*

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

More new HTC handset news...

According to this engadget post, there is now some more evidence to point to my theory of the HTC Diamond coming to CDMA will in fact be the HTC Victor, and the Diamond Pro most likely the HTC Herman.

In my last post, I mentioned that Telus seems to be getting the phone first, however an article from the China Post has mentioned that Sprint should be getting the new HTC phone some time in August- which we are already in!
Telus has been advertising the phone for some time already, but who will get it first?
It's still entirely possible that the China Post published a typo, since all evidence until now pointed to a Telus release first.
Meanwhile, I had pointed out that pictures on the Telus site indicate the Victor version (curved corners, non-angled back) as opposed to the sharp corners and oddly angled back of the GSM Diamond.

In fact, a leaked picture of the supposed HTC Diamond with Sprint branding has emerged and has been circulating the internet (see image on right).

Note the curved bottom on this handset- that's one of the telltale signs that this is a Victor-styled device, and not the original GSM Diamond style.

So, it would appear that all hands are pointing to the sleek and professional-looking Victor/Herman style handsets in store for the new bread of HTC north-american CDMA market.

Now, that doesnt mean that all cdma diamond-class devices will look the same- according to the engadget post linked above (as well as the phone arena article it sources), the Verizon version of the Diamond will be different from the rest of the pack.

Sporting a stainless steel case and "wimpier" specs (less CPU mhz and memory), the Verizon Diamond will likely look very different. At this point details are still scarce, but the VZ version may look more like the GSM Diamond in all its angled glory (or lack thereof)... We shall see.
Predictions anyone?

Monday, July 28, 2008

HTC Diamond is coming... to TELUS first? And its a VICTOR?!

The HTC Diamond, one of the most talked about Windows Mobile handsets currently, is finally making its CDMA debut under carrier branding here in North America.

However, its not coming first to Sprint (as many of us hoped/thought), or even to the US for that matter... No, the first CDMA Touch Diamond will make its debut in Canada, on the Telus network.

Rumors that Telus might get it first have been circulating for a while now, however they appear to be confirmed as it appears on the Telus website as an upcoming handset!

In case you haven't seen or used an original HTC Diamond, it sports a thin body style with a glossy finish, flat sides and sharp edges. To finish off this angular design, the back of the Diamond has a rather odd array of triangle/diamond-ish shaped angles, apparently to promote its namesake:
I'll be honest, when I first saw this design, I didn't much care for it. I was excited at the specs (VGA screen, beefed up CPU & memory, touchflo 3d, motion sensors...), however less excited about the actual look, even when I held one in my hands.
It felt like they are trying too hard to be something new and different with the hard angles and backside (my guess is they were afraid some might say it looks too similar to an iPhone... *gasp*).

I rather liked the older HTC Touch minimalist design, with its rubberized surface and easy-on-the-eyes curves (If I didn't feel I need hardware buttons so badly, I would probably use one), and I would have preferred something a bit less, well... loud.

In steps the HTC Victor.
This oddly named device has the same hardware and specs as the Diamond, however with softer curves and a more simple surface.

If I had to pick between the two, I'd rather have the Victor version than the original GSM Diamond.

The Victor was an odd announcement, however. It got very little press coverage, and it seems no one said much about it at all.

Rumors began to emerge that the state-side CDMA version of the Diamond and its slide out keyboard-toting Diamond Pro (HTC Raphael) would actually be the HTC Victor and the HTC Herman, respectively.
(I'm not making those names up, but I sure do hope they have a darned good reason to call a phone the Herman!)

In any event, after some pictures of the new Telus Diamond, I was pleasantly surprised to see some very similar curves to the Victor. (see pic on the left)

Looks like they figured the North American demographic would be more interested in the classic and elegant Victor design rather than the angled and odd-backed GSM Diamond that is doing so well in Europe. I think they're right.

I haven't yet seen any shots of the back of the device, but here's to hoping it really is the HTC Victor. The front clearly looks like it.

There's still a chance it will look different once it hits Sprint/Verizon (the Titan has a color difference from Telus to the Sprint Mogul version, and the Mogul and Verizon xv6800 look totally different), but I'm excited to see there's a chance we'll get "the good one"!

I'm curious- does anyone think the GSM version with the angled back looks better?

Monday, July 21, 2008

Mobile ME doesn't work?

Ok, so there's marketing hype, and then there' s lying.
Apple claimed its new MobileMe service is supposed to be a push email and information sync for consumers as an alternative to an Exchange Server.
Any Windows Mobile user will tell you that they'd love to be able to get push email without an Exchange Server, however some sort of server is needed to make all this "push stuff" work (much like a Blackberry needs BES to push).
Thankfully, there are alternatives to Exchange Servers (such as funambol), and I'm always on the lookout for others. This is initially why I was interested in hearing more about MobileMe and how it works.

Apparently, with version 2.0, Apple recognized the only way to target the Blackberry, WinMobile and SideKick users was to include push email and OTA real-time information sync. For the corporate users, the iPhone now supports Exchange Sync in real time via Activesync, which is a good move on their part.
But for the rest of consumer America who don't have access to their own Exchange Server, Apple offers Mobile Me.

Only, you don't get your own email address... you have to use a .mac address. Oh, and its not actually Push.


Yeah, according to this writeup by Fabrizio Capobianco on his Mobile Open Source blog, the MobileMe system claims to be push, but actually works on intervals.

Wow. Did Apple lie?

Follow the Link for more info.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Treo 800w mini review

As I mentioned earlier, Palm just released its latest Treo device- the 800w.

The W means its a Windows Mobile OS device as opposed to the Palm OS. Its an interesting move that their only new handset with the "Treo" branding is running WM.

Palm appears to be rethinking its handset strategy: the sleek new Centro running Palm OS is being marketed towards younger audiences, while devices with the name "Treo" are more full-featured devices for working professionals (or gotta-have-it geeks).

While its smaller and lighter than previous Treo models, the 800w unfortunately appears not as thin and sleek as the Centro handsets. It does however includes much more hardware: a WiFi radio, aGPS receiver capable of stand-alone mode, and more memory and CPU power than any previous Palm device, yet it's still trying to mimic the Centro's styling and button layout.

Sounds like a nice package to me. Here's what we've found after a day with the device:

A classic Treo layout, the 800w is a square-shaped screen atop a full Qwerty keyboard. Now, I'll be honest, I never cared much for this design in the past. My philosophy has always been that if you need a device this big, at least use the real estate for a large display and hide the 30+ keys away when not in use (My personal favorite smartphones looked like regular phones, actually). I've had the same complaint with Blackberry devices as well. However, I know some people prefer this layout for one-handed use, so to each their own. Still, it'd be nice to see Palm do something different once in a while.

Back to the 800, it's noticeably lighter than the 700w, and appears to have solid build quality.
The keyboard is slightly different than the older model as well- buttons are a little less raised and the keys a little closer together - but it's still easy enough to use and works well for one handed operation.
The stylus, however, has a very cheap feel to it. It's plastic and flimsy, especially when compared to the one that came with the 700w. Again, I'm sure there will be replacements available but Palm should have included a better one.

Call quality seems fine, no complaints so far.
Screen resolution is once again a non-standard square of pixels (instead of the QVGA standard). However, with WM6.1, Palm managed to squeeze out a higher res 320x320 instead of the older 240x240. The result is very nice.
Lag in navigating menus is much improved over the 700w, as is the camera quality (although the pictures still leave a bit to be desired).
Voice dialing over BT works out of the box, although I have not used it a lot yet.
The GPS adds a nice touch and works well, and searches made from the today screen panel are very easy to use to find places or businesses nearby.
Data speed was average for a smartphone in my area. Using the 1MB test on dslreports, I got 832 kbit/sec. This is in an area with great reception, but no Rev. A yet.

Potential Problems
Battery life is clearly going to be an issue. The 700 came with 1800mAh battery, the 800 with an 1150mAh. Extended batteries are available, but it's a little disappointing that they included such a small one. Its too early to tell what average use it like, but I'm not crossing my fingers.
At least they allow swappable spare batteries, unlike certain "other" phone manufacturers... *cough* APPLE *cough*

All in all, its a solid offering. Personally its not my style, but I do admit that its the most compelling Treo I've seen to date.

The question is, will this be enough to save Palm?

(Special shoutout and thanks to Y. Haas for supplying a device and his opinions)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Android working on HTC Titan!

I already mentioned this over at Mopocket, but I'm excited enough that I'm writing about it here too...

The big brains over at XDA-Developers and PPC Geeks have been working on ways to port leaked versions of Android to current HTC phones. They've been doing some pretty amazing things so far, but due to technical reasons, it required a lot of RAM to boot.

More specifically, this "hack" required the OS to load from RAM over Windows Mobile, since it needs the hardware drivers.

This is fine for devices with 128+MB of ram, that give you plenty of space to load into even after Windows boots. However for devices like my trusty Sprint Mogul (HTC Titan) with only 64MB, this was filed under "not possible".

But some PPCGeeks forum members (l33tlinuxh4×0r and dzo) have managed to get it to boot and be functional despite the limited RAM.

“Android boots, The touch screen works. You can make phone calls. You can browse the internet.

This will NOT mess up your phone. It runs from ram and there are no permanent changes.”

(Copied from original thread here)

The needed files and instructions to make this work can be found here.


Now to try some of the community Android projects such as Funambol...

Monday, July 14, 2008

Palm Clinging to Life with the Treo 800w?


The classic "we used to be giants" story. Once upon a time, Palm was the undisputed king in the mobile computing market, in both hardware and software.

They showed the world that touch screen handhelds were not limited to science fiction, and enjoyed their status despite the often more powerful alternatives that hit the market.
That was all before they made some rather, well, nearly fatal business moves in the last few years.

The first big mistake, in my opinion, was their lack of OS development.
After no major advances were made in the OS department, people started looking elsewhere- When the the color Palm IIIc came out, sporting its 8-bit palatte of 256 colors and simple beep-tone generated alarms, Windows Mobile already had high-end multimedia and digital music features, supported full 16-bit (32k+) colors, could multi-task and gave developers to power to create high end applications like VoIP.

When Palm realized they were falling behind, they desperately tried to keep the OS and their hardware caught up, although they always seemed to be just one step behind.
Nevertheless, fearless fanboys stood by them, hoping the next Palm announcement would place them on top once again.

Then there was the Palm Folio. Possibly the biggest disappointment in the history of mobile computing. The fanboys started to dissipate, and Palm was quickly loosing their status.

However, even before they dropped the Folio, Palm started embracing Windows Mobile, a move that shocked many fans and non-fans alike. Oh the irony!
Little known fact: Many of the behaviors considered odd of Windows Mobile are because MS made their interface less desktop-like and more simplistic, in an effort to mimic the success of the non-multitasking Palm OS. Windows CE (which looked remarkably similar to Windows 95/98) was not received as well as they had hoped. Later becoming Pocket PC and finally changing names to Windows Mobile, the lack of taskbar and misunderstood X button are still in use today because of the influence Palm had on the market.

The move led many to thinking-
Does this mark the end of Palm? Are they now to fall back and join the ranks of HTC and other manufacturers who simply develop hardware and license an OS from Microsoft? With so many manufacturers who sell Windows Mobile (Samsung, Motorola, HP, etc), will that even be enough to save them?

Just when we thought Palm was going to disappear, they released the Palm OS Centro. The Centro was geared at a younger crowd, with fun colors and a slick new design (especially when compared to the bland older, bulkier Treos), and a cheap $99 price tag.

At that price, you could buy a smartphone for about the same price as a middle class feature phone.
The Centro became wildly popular with the young crowd, thus breathing at least a bit of new life into an otherwise dying platform. With the release of the iPhone, however, there was only so much of the younger demographic to share.
Sure, Palm isn't down for the count yet, but the Centro alone probably wouldn't be enough to keep them going.

Enter the Treo 800w.
The Treo 800w is designed as a high-end smartphone device, trying to gear towards power-users / corporate business.
They packed just about as many new features as they possibly could while still trying to look more like the Centro in style than the older brick-shaped Treos.

Its got Windows Mobile 6.1, WiFi, GPS, EVDO Rev. A (like the Centro, it's released as CDMA on Sprint first), 128 Mb of Ram, and some special UI customizations to make the whole thing run all shiny.

I'll be honest, I haven't been the biggest fan of Palm's Treo line, but this is the first of their devices that interests me personally. I'm still not a fan of always-there-Qwerty devices with tiny keys, but if I had to get one this would be my choice.

The question is, will this be enough to save Palm?
My opinion is that hardware developers are going to have some good times soon- Open Source systems such as Symbian, Android, and LinuxMobile are all the talk now, and any manufacturer can release any number of devices with their choice of these platforms royalty free. If Palm can stay afloat long enough for this new wave of device to become a reality, then perhaps they can survive as a hardware manufacturer alone.

I'm curious to hear what others think...

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Happy iPhone day!

Well, love it or hate it, today is a big day for Apple fans.

The new 3G iPhone is released, which takes care of the top item on the complaint list from the original iPhone, AND firmware 2.0 is release, effectively classifying the iPhone as a smartphone.

Yes, the iPhone now officially supports third party software, albeit via Apple's iTunes store (so it still needs to be sanctioned by Apple, not a totally "open" system- but a start).
That takes care of my biggest complaint with them, and while its still not my platform of choice (by a longshot), I recognize it in the ranks of Smartphones everywhere.
Its graduation day, folks.

I therefore have decided to call today iPhone day.
Seriously, lets see if we can get this name to stick. Who's with me? Spread it!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Thoughts regarding Apple's 3G phone

Well, I've successfully avoided the subject of the new 3G iPhone so far. Most of the folks who read this already know I'm not the biggest iPhone fan, and unless you've been living under a rock, chances are you already know everything about the new one.

I did have a conversation with some other Mobile Technology enthusiasts recently, and felt like sharing a thought I had.

The original iPhone had many pros and cons, the cons usually involving missing features considered "standard" on most phones, especially ones at this price point.

An editorial column on has posted a bluntly truthful writeup about all things wrong with the new iPhone, and it basically reads as a list of things that are still not fixed from the original.

    Some of the items that many of us will recognize are:
  • No support for Video recording

  • No support for MMS

  • No support for Stereo Bluetooth (the quintessential music phone doesn't have this?!)

  • Non-removable battery

  • Lack of expandable storage

  • Lack of any kind of Voice Command (Can anyone recommend a touch screen while driving?)

That top of that list used to be 3G. It looks like they addressed that biggest complaint with a new model, but what about the rest of these features? Most of them can already be found on phones that come free with a new plan, so how can Apple have overlooked them?

People used to say that these are all things Apple will fix in the next version, and I'm still hearing that now.
The problem is, this IS the next version! They've only addressed ONE complaint.

To me, this looks like the work of a sinister (if not brilliant) marketing strategy. Look how many people bought the iPhone at its full price despite the fact that it lacked the 3G that was already standard for high end phones.
Now, look at how many people are going ga-ga over the NEW 3G model, and are willing to drop all that money again.

What if a year from now, we see Apple saying "You want expandable storage? Here's a NEW iphone! Come spend your money AGAIN!" and then a year after that "The first iPhone with video recording capability! Come, sign a new contract!".

I'm interested in hearing what you all think. Is this part of a brilliantly deceiving Apple marketing strategy, or did they have some other reason to leave out those features? Or do you think Apple didn't do it on purpose at all, and it was merely an oversight?

Friday, June 27, 2008

HTC @ Digital Experience!

*For those that weren't aware, has recently asked me join their team. I'll still be posting more of my personal opinions and more technical thoughts here, but much of my writing will be posted in both places. So, in case you see an identical article under someone named "Mordy" over there, yes... it's THAT Mordy.

Thanks to my recent connections with and its creator Justin Oberman, I was invited to attend the "Digital Experience!" technology showcase in NYC this past week.

I was particularly excited to hear that HTC was showcasing some of their new handsets at this event, especially since the “underground” Pocket PC community has already aquired the unreleased rom for the new cdma Diamond and extracted the software. I was playing with some of the unreleased apps on my handset, and I wondered what HTC would think of that if I showed them...

So, the day of the event I flashed my phone with the latest "bleeding edge" firmware (at the time, the rom I chose was no2chem's 5069k from, expecting to wow the HTC reps with what the underground development community has done with their hardware.
Instead of shocking the HTC reps, however, I was thrown off guard by actually recognizing the rep behind the table- It was Eric Lin of Phonescoop review fame.

I've actually seen Eric's mug on many youtube phone reviews, sometimes posting my own counter-video to comment on something he said. I wasn't exactly expecting to meet this guy in real life, much less find out he now works for HTC!

A sample phone scoop video with Eric, maybe some of you recognize him:

Eric knows his phones, but since he's only been with HTC about 6 months, he didn't seem to be able to offer much more than the normal "scripted/canned" answers that I knew and expected to my questions. In fact, when I pointed to the Sprint Mogul on display and called it the Titan, he wasn't familiar with the name.
For those that don't know, HTC creates OEM devices that get repackaged under various names and outer guises, yet are often the same phone under the hood. For example, the Sprint Mogul, Verizon VX6800 and P4000 are all really the HTC Titan, only resold with different names and often modified outer casing. The development communities tend to call devices by their internal HTC name since its the easiest way to keep track.
At first he thought I meant the Tilt on display, offering to correct me in calling it the Kaiser, or TytnII, sucessor of the original HTC Tytn.
Being the mobile enthusiast that I am, however, I pointed out that yes, the Tytn is an older GSM device, but the Titan is a current CDMA phone, closer to the Kaiser in generational hardware, although often confused with the Tytn due to name similarity.
HTC devices get rebranded all over the market, so its not surprising that people get them confused or that even HTC employees can't keep track. But I would have thought they'd know their own internal names of hardware.
But enough about Eric, he's a great guy and I hope to bump into him again soon.

Meanwhile, I got to play with the REAL HTC Diamond instead of just using parts of its software on my device. I gotta say, its pretty. If you're a Windows Mobile fan, you've already heard about its new touchflo3D eye candy, fabulous VGA (640x480) screen, touch-scrolling d-pad which can be used as zoom controls, and gyroscopic level sensors (which apple calls "accelerometers") that not only detect orientation, but can be used to play a nifty little virtual labrynth-style marble game, where you tilt the phone to navigate a marble with simulated gravity. That's cool.
The phone is actually smaller than it seems in pictures, has a nice glossy finish, and a crisp screen.

However my personal opinion is that the HTC Diamond seemed to lag a bit in its responsiveness. Sure, it was pretty and full of eye candy, but it wasn't as smooth and quick as I would have hoped, in fact the Sprint HTC Touch next to it seemed to be faster despite being previous-generation hardware.
Now, in defense of this device, it WAS a demo unit, and it appeared that someone had already loaded up a pop3 email address with over 200 new emails waiting. Floor models always get a bit abused, so its possible (especially with Windows Mobile) that the lag and slow downs were caused by someone messing around a bit.

I would like to share one more thing that Eric told me. Before I moved on to see more of the show, I asked him about the HTC Dream and the conceptual Android devices.
He wasn't allowed to share much information with me, but he did tell me that he played with one, and that it WAS in fact very cool. He seemed pretty enthusiastic about that, so here's to hoping HTC cranks out a real winner when Android launches...

For more of my take on the Digital Experience! show, check for an entry on this coming week.

Monday, June 16, 2008

What makes a smartphone “smart”?

(The following is a copy of something I wrote for another blog. -Mordy)

What makes a Smartphone "smart"?

The term Smartphone is thrown around a lot in current marketing, but how many people can actually peg a definition to it?
Personally, coming from a background in Windows CE development, I usually hear the term Smartphone to refer to the following:

A low-profile Windows Mobile device that incorporates a phone module and does not include a touch screen.

These devices, which originally resembled standard phones with numeric keypads (such as the HTC Tornado, HTC StarTrek, and Motorola MPX200) ran an OS Microsoft called Smartphone Edition, which was optimized for key navigation as opposed to touch screen input. They were for people who wanted a “phone first, and a PDA second”, or rather a PDA that looked and operated like a phone.
Microsoft’s full blown touch screen handsets that resembled a PDA were referred to as Pocket PC Phone Edition in contrast.
(I say this in past tense because MS decided recently not to call them Smartphone and Pocket PC Phone anymore. They are now Standard Edition and Professional Edition, respectively)

On the other side of the playing field, however, Palm refers to their Treo line of handsets as “Smartphones”, despite the fact that they all have touch screens and look like PDAs, including even their wx models (which run Microsoft’s Windows Mobile)!

Clearly Microsoft’s definition of a Smartphone is not shared by the rest of the industry.

So, perhaps a Smartphone refers to the marriage of a well known PDA (such as Palm or Windows Mobile) with phone components?

Most people in the market for a “Smartphone” want to be able to replace their tried-and-true PDA and phone with one device. So, perhaps the term refers to a familiar PDA Operating System merged with a phone?

This can’t be the case since there are many devices on the market called Smartphone, many of which are not running Palm or WM.
Nokia, who offers a wide variety of handsets for various markets, calls their high end phones running the open Symbian OS Smartphone. The belief is that the term actually originated from their Communicator line of handsets, which was marketed as being “a Smart Phone”, since it offered smarter features than the rest of their handsets at the time.
Nokia’s Symbian handsets, which run on non-touch screen devices that resemble phones, seem to agree with Microsoft’s definition of the term. They are phones that look and work like phones, however underneath the hood they have the power of a full blown portable operating system.

To complicate matters, you must also consider Sony Ericsson with their P900 series of phones that runs Symbian… but with a touch screen!
These SE devices are also called “Smartphone”, despite looking like a full blown touch-screen PDA.
Clearly the definition needs to be less specific.

Perhaps a Smartphone refers simply to a phone with PDA features?

That may have been in the case in the late 90’s, when phones that carried the title Smartphone clearly had features which differed radically from standard features phones of their time. The problem now, is that most modern phones have PDA features.
I used to sync my Sony Ericsson T610 with my outlook calendar and contacts, send and receive email, and browse the mobile web as well as play games. The T610 was a fairly standard feature phone in Sony Ericsson’s lineup, yet only the P900 series was worthy of the term “Smartphone”.
Same story with Nokia phones, with some of their low-end s40 handsets offering roughly the same set of features out of the box as their Symbian counterparts.
So what, in the eyes of Nokia and SE, is the difference between devices labeled “smart” vs. the others?
Perhaps a Smartphone refers to a phone with an Operating System that allows third party development?
This is the definition that always made the most sense to me, and the one I used to live by.
A standard feature phone has a limited set of features that it can do out of box (for example: music player, calendar, contacts, java games, email, etc).
A Smartphone is a phone with an open architecture OS, which allows third party applications to add new features or even change the very user interface. These devices can grow and evolve with the user’s needs, therefore it makes sense to call a phone that can learn new tricks “Smart“, or at least smarter than the average handset.

But don’t all phones these days allow you to download and install little programs?

Yes, average phones such as even the Motorola Razr can have some degree of third party development, in the form of Java applications installed that add new features. The difference is that they run in what is referred to as a “java sandbox”, that is, it has to play within the confines of the limited control Java gives the developer. The Java environment does not allow the feature-altering power that a real development API offers.
You don’t get access to the hardware features within Java, instead you get a limited set of commands such as drawing graphics on the screen, playing tones, interpreting keys, etc…
The result is that simple applications that can run inside the sandbox, such as games or shopping list calculators, are available but you can’t change the user experience of the phone (for example, a new voice command to control how you dial contacts) or develop code that takes control of the hardware (for example a VOIP application like Skype).

Although this definition makes the most sense to me, sadly, it doesn’t fit with all the devices currently being marketed as a Smartphone.

RIM’s Blackberry, the LG Instict, and the first edition iPhone (before being opened up with the new SDK) were all touted as “Smartphone” even though the development support was severely limited, if existent at all.

So, then perhaps the definition of a Smartphone is simply a phone that has high-end computer like features (email, html web browsing, etc)?

The problem with this is that most of those “Smart” features are now available on even standard fare phones!

Applications such as Opera Mini, which despite running inside the Java sandbox, can be installed on almost any standard device supporting Java, and manages to deliver full blown html web pages on any size screen. In fact, many users claim that Opera Mini is better than the browser that comes with their Smartphone.

Then there’s Funambol, an open source startup that focuses on data synchronization across any platform and device. So you can synchronize your PIM with your home computer, office computer, and many common phones. It even has a system to support Push email on almost any device, something the Blackberry is famous for.

If Blackberry style email and iPhone style web browsing are what make those phones “Smart”, then all current phones can be considered Smartphones!

Sadly, the conclusion is that there is no industry standard definition of a Smartphone.

The term appears to have changed with the times, and is now sadly lost to marketing jargon. Whereas once upon a time “Smartphone” implied certain features, now you can have two phones with identical features yet only one is marketed as a “smart” device.

If I wrote the book on the mobile industry, I’d have clearer suggestions for device titles:

Smartphone: A phone device that has an open platform Operating System that allows full development to create and change the software, similar to a full blown mini computer. Examples: Palm Treo, HTC’s WM lineup, OpenMoko, Symbian OS, and the upcoming Google Android.

Advanced MultiMedia Phone: A platform that offers glitz and glam high end features, especially multimedia, while not offering the full flexibility of a Smartphone. Examples: iPhone, LG Voyager, etc.

Portable Internet Messaging Device: Devices that offer smart features such as web browsing, push email, and other business class capabilities. Examples: RIM Blackberry.

I think that would solve a lot of the confusion, such as “Why can’t my blackberry run skype like that WM phone” or “how come the iPhone doesn’t have a keyboard?”.

Sadly, for now we’ll just have to make our own definitions.