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?