Thursday, December 22, 2011

Verizon offers double data for 4G LTE smartphone customers

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AppId is over the quota
Summary: If you have a 4G LTE smartphone on Verizon and are under a data cap, make sure to contact Verizon to take advantage of the double data offer.

I purchased my own Verizon LTE HTC ThunderBolt early this year and am grandfathered into the unlimited data plan. I actually paid a significant amount of money to buy the iPhone 4S and keep this unlimited plan. After Verizon killed off unlimited data those of us in the smartphone community warned people with LTE devices that you would eat through your data cap in no time at all. It seems that Verizon is having a slight change in heart now and is offering double date for 4G LTE smartphone owners.

This limited time offer lets you keep the same monthly fee, $30, $50, or $80, while doubling your data allotment from 2GB to 4GB, 5GB to 10GB, and 10GB to 20GB. This should hopefully let you use your LTE device without worrying about exceeding your monthly allotment. I no longer have a LTE device to track how much I use on a monthly basis, but image 10GB would be plenty. You can also add a 2GB mobile hotspot for $20, but I don’t see any details of that limit doubling.

Current 4G LTE smartphones on Verizon Wireless include:

Motorola Droid RazrSamsung Droid ChargeMotorola Droid BionicHTC ThunderBoltSamsung StratospherePantech BreakoutLG Revolution

You can always use their data calculator to see how much data you can anticipate using in a month.

Thanks to GottaBeMobile.com for the heads-up on this news.

Matthew Miller started using a Pilot 1000 in 1997 and has been writing news, reviews, and opinion pieces ever since.


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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Galaxy Nexus, RAZR, Nokia World, and Vox (MobileTechRoundup show #249)

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AppId is over the quota
Summary: The past week was primarily an Android week as we saw a couple big announcements. Next week we will see what Nokia has been working on for Windows Phone.

Listen here (MP3, 50 minutes)

Subscribe to the show with this link (RSS)

motr_cover.jpg

We spent the last show primarily talking about the Apple iPhone 4S and in MobileTechRoundup show #249 spent just a couple minutes on it before moving to the Google Samsung Nexus device and Android 4.0, Ice Cream Sandwich. We also talked a bit about the Motorola Droid RAZR. Next week I will be in London for Nokia World and it’s a safe bet I will see the Sea Ray Windows Phone device that has the same form factor as the Nokia N9. Kevin and I also chatted a bit about the Amazon Kindle Fire and new Kobo Vox eReader device.

Please let me know if you have any topics you want us to cover on a future show.

Matthew Miller started using a Pilot 1000 in 1997 and has been writing news, reviews, and opinion pieces ever since.


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Spotify tops the charts for multi-platform support

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AppId is over the quota
Summary: There are many competing streaming music clients, but Spotify is working hard to become the leader in a crowded market. You can rest assured your platform is covered with a Spotify client.

Readers know I use devices from nearly every platform, including my new MeeGo-powered Nokia N9, and thus it is important to me to find software and services across multiple platforms. This is especially true for subscription-based services, such as streaming music clients. Thanks to some fairly new releases, Spotify is now at the top of my streaming music chart and I subscribed as a premium user.

My T-Mobile SIM is currently residing in my cyan (blue) Nokia N9 and the hardware and slick OS are keeping the device in my pocket and out of my bag. There is an official Spotify app for MeeGo on the N9, but I prefer to use the 3rd party MeeSpot client that gives you a simple tap and hold option on a playlist to listen to that full playlist. You can also sync music for offline listening and even scrobble music to Last.fm. Spotify also just launched this week on Windows Phone 7/7.5 and it looks beautiful with the Metro UI fully integrated.

I was using Zune quite a bit, but that is limited to Windows Phone and streaming through a computer web browser. Slacker Radio was also one of my favorites, but there is no MeeGo client and the Symbian client constantly stutters when trying to do more than just listening to music. Spotify now runs on the following platforms, with dedicated clients for each:

Windows XP/Vista/7Mac OS XLinux (Preview build)Windows Phone 7/7.5Windows MobileiOSAndroidBlackBerryMeeGoSymbianwebOS

As you can see Spotify covers EVERY mobile platform and if you are a person who switches a lot or owns multiple devices on different platforms it is clear that Spotify is also the one for you.

I questioned if Spotify was the best mobile service when it launched and I was critical of it not having a radio or easy discovery method like other services. However, the integrated Facebook support with easy sharing of playlists has convinced me with just a bit of playlist setup the service is excellent.

Matthew Miller started using a Pilot 1000 in 1997 and has been writing news, reviews, and opinion pieces ever since.


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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Navigon for Windows Phone 7 provides turn-by-turn voice navigation

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AppId is over the quota
Summary: A weakness in the current version of Mango is the lack of a solid GPS navigation solution, but we now have Navigon coming to the rescue.

In early September I posted on the news that Navigon was bringing their app to Windows Phone 7 and then last night I saw that the folks at WPCentral.com spotted Navigon in the U.S. and European Marketplaces. This is pretty good news for Windows Phone owners since the Bing Maps implementation is lacking quite a bit, especially with the need to tap to hear directions for the next turn.

We should eventually see Nokia Windows Phone devices with Nokia Maps, but for now you may want to consider Navigon for Windows Phone. Navigon is available for Windows Phone 7.5 (Mango) devices and for the special introductory $29.99 price in the U.S. you get all the states that will consume 1.6GB (lets you use this for offline navigation) and there does not appear to be a way to just pick and choose what states you want to install. Thankfully, I have two 32GB Windows Phone devices so have plenty of room to try out Navigon.

Navigon for Windows Phone 7 includes:

Spoken turn-by-turn directionsVisual lane guidanceLive traffic information and reroutingSpeed AssistantPedestrian navigation optionsLive Tiles support

You will also find the augmented reality function Reality Scanner, which provides an instant and effortless way of identifying nearby destinations while on foot; an option to select address information directly from the phone’s contact list; and the ability to save a favorite or home address as a shortcut on the start screen.

I have tried Navigon’s application on other platforms and find features like the lane assist to be extremely useful when traveling in new cities. The full retail price will be $49.99, but is available until 15 November for just $29.99. There is a European purchase option as well.

Matthew Miller started using a Pilot 1000 in 1997 and has been writing news, reviews, and opinion pieces ever since.


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Monday, December 19, 2011

Microsoft goes big with Windows Phone 7.5 U.S. device launch

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AppId is over the quota
Summary: Microsoft is holding a major device launch event in New York today as we see Mango hardware finally appearing on two major U.S. carriers.

Those of us with existing Windows Phone devices were able to upgrade to WP 7.5 (aka Mango) over the last month and then a couple weeks ago we saw the new Nokia Windows Phones revealed for countries outside the U.S. Today in New York city, Microsoft is holding a huge (55 feet tall phone display) event announcing that we are finally getting some Mango devices in stores.

All the details on the new devices can be found on the Windows Phone team blog. I already wrote about the HTC Radar 4G on T-Mobile and may be picking one up for myself soon. New devices available now or coming soon include:

HTC Radar 4G (T-Mobile): This device is available for $99 after $50 mail-in rebate and looks like a little brother to the HTC Flyer with the aluminum shell.Samsung Focus S (AT&T): This flagship Samsung Windows Phone sports a 4.3 inch Super AMOLED Plus display and if I was on AT&T I would be jumping on this one. Cost is $199 with 2-year contract.Samsung Focus Flash (AT&T): This is the budget Windows Phone at just $49, but still sports some decent specs with a 3.7 inch display.HTC Titan (AT&T): This flagship sports a huge 4.7 inch display, but is so thin it still feels great in your hand. It is coming soon for $199.

We don’t see any news for Sprint or Verizon Windows Phone fans who only have a single device available even today. Hopefully we will hear something soon for these carriers.

In other Windows Phone news, Spotify is now available in the Windows Phone Marketplace. Windows Phone owners now have plenty of music options with Zune, Spotify, Slacker, and more. As a Zune Pass subscriber I am not sure I see the appeal of a 3rd party service, but I’ll have to check it out since I do have a Spotify Premium account to use with my Nokia N9 and iPhone 4S.

Matthew Miller started using a Pilot 1000 in 1997 and has been writing news, reviews, and opinion pieces ever since.


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Unlock your Windows Phone for full access to developer utilities

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AppId is over the quota
Summary: Microsoft does not give consumers the ability to capture screenshots in Windows Phone, but now you can easily unlock your device for development purposes.

I purchased my HD7 and Dell Venue Pro last year and when given the chance I updated the OS as early as possible while also installing 32GB microSD cards in both devices. Thus, I was interested in trying out the ChevronWP7 experience where I could unlock my device and side load apps.

The developers on the ChevronWP7 team worked with Microsoft to release a valuable tool that has little risk of damaging your device. You can now visit the ChevronWP7 Labs page and then pay $9 for each device token to unlock your devices. I unlocked my Dell Venue Pro yesterday, primarily so I could finally use a screen capture tool to take review screenshots.

You will need to use a Windows computer and have the free WP7 SDK loaded to use the ChevronWP7 unlock utility. After you unlock your device you can develop and test apps or find ones that others have created, such as:

Screen Capture v3 - Take screenshots from your Windows Phone 7 to share a funny SMS or illustrate an app on a blog postWebserver (Mango) - Why wouldn’t you run a web server on your phone? (be sure to download the “no-interop” version)Folders for Windows Phone Mango - Organize apps and settings into folders on the Start screenMango Battery Status - Check your phone’s battery stat in a Live Tile and graph your battery usage

Have any other readers tried out ChevronWP7? If so, do you have any other apps or utilities to recommend to me and the readers?

Matthew Miller started using a Pilot 1000 in 1997 and has been writing news, reviews, and opinion pieces ever since.


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Sunday, December 18, 2011

Humorous and effective ads appear for Samsung Galaxy devices

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AppId is over the quota
Summary: Samsung is the leader in Android smartphones and there are a couple new ads that show some compelling reasons to consider their products this holiday season.

A couple of years ago I wrote about the smartphone line experience and how for geeks like me it was a fun event. Samsung just starting showing some new ads and the one with people in line for the next iPhone is classic for those millions of us that have stood in line for iPhones over the years.

I wrote about my top 10 smartphones for 2011 and many readers stated their opinion that I was dead wrong about the Samsung Galaxy S II and that it should have been higher. That phone is actually the top vote getter in the poll too. I agree it is a great device and will do well on all carriers. The commercial below is hilarious and matches my experiences in iPhone lines. What do you think of the ad?

The Samsung Galaxy Nexus is also coming soon to Verizon and I have to admit it is going to be tough for me to resist picking one up with all of the excellent specifications and the fact it runs Ice Cream Sandwich. Samsung Google released this ad below for the Galaxy Nexus too.

This Galaxy Nexus ad seems effective to me and gets away from comparing specs or scaring the heck out of you (Why would you ever want a Motorola Droid robot weapon?) and does what Apple has effectively done by showing how seamsless things just work without detailed explanations.

Matthew Miller started using a Pilot 1000 in 1997 and has been writing news, reviews, and opinion pieces ever since.


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Here is why the Nokia Lumia 800 is the first real Windows Phone

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AppId is over the quota
Summary: Nokia Lumia 800 truly is the first Windows Phone built from the ground up to offer the best Windows Phone experience. They pulled off a great release in less than a year.

There are a couple of us from ZDNet here at Nokia World and I recommend you check out posts from Mary Jo and Larry. Similar to the feeling that many in the press seemed to have with the iPhone 4S (and we know how that turned out) I have been reading a lot of posts and Twitter updates complaining that Nokia could have done better with Windows Phone and included a front facing camera, NFC, on-device storage, etc. Actually, I think Nokia pretty much blew the lid off the current Windows Phone lineup and agree with Stephen Elop when he stated, “The Nokia Lumia 800 is the first real Windows Phone.”

There are several things to really think about before you make a decision on whether Nokia succeeded or failed here with the Lumia 800 and you may find you agree with me that they succeeded.

Nokia’s first Windows Phones: What’s there, what’s not | Photos: The Nokia World sales pitch | Nokia World: Live blogging the Day 1 keynote | Nokia’s new Lumia 800, 710 Windows phones | For outside the U. S. for now | CNET: Nokia’s Windows Phone push

Nokia just made the announcement that they were going to put Windows Phone on their future smartphones back in February and today at the keynote we saw them boxing up retail units at the plant in Finland for availability in November (that’s next week) which means they went from public launch to phones on shelves in about 9 months. That is an incredible pace since you know they have been testing them for a month or two as well. Shoot, Nokia has announced devices (not a major platform shift) and then not delivered this quickly in the past (look at the Nokia N8). This alone is quite a feat and shows me that Nokia is serious about taking Windows Phone to the next level.

Mango was complete several months ago so whatever Microsoft had done just after Nokia announced their switch was what Nokia had to work with. There is no NFC support in Mango so Nokia could not add it, even though they have it in the Nokia N9 and it works well. Front facing cameras are just starting to come out on new Mango hardware, but you can’t use it for anything yet and like all the other front facing cameras and software no one ever seems to use it anyway.

I think it is actually pretty amazing that Nokia was able to get their Nokia Maps software and the Nokia Drive application, along with the Nokia Music application on these devices so quickly and am sure consumers will appreciate the ability to get a Spotify-like service for free on the Lumia 800.

As much as I enjoy using Windows Phone, I have been complaining since day 1 about the rather lame hardware that had Samsung, HTC, and LG taking existing Android devices and slapping in Windows Phone. There was very little creativity by manufacturers of Windows Phone devices, which I personally think has had a significant impact on the lack of adoption by the new smartphone buyer.

Nokia changed that with the Nokia Lumia 800. I already told you how freaking amazing the Nokia N9 hardware is (I just ordered a blue one for myself on ebay) and Nokia was able to take it and put Windows Phone 7.5 inside. This is easily the most appealing Windows Phone device to launch and excites me for future devices. We always knew Nokia could make great hardware and now with Windows Phone inside we are going to see some amazing stuff in 2012 and beyond. Microsoft should be happy too since someone is finally taking advantage of their excellent camera software.

While I am excited for the Lumia 800 and am please people will be able to buy it in the next few weeks, the U.S. still seems to get no real attention from Nokia. I was really hoping that the U.S. would be a part of these announcements at Nokia World, but all we know is something is coming to some carrier at some future date in 2012. Thus, there is not much for anyone in the U.S. considering a new phone before the holidays to even look at here with Nokia and Windows Phone and I imagine the Apple iPhone 4S and Galaxy Nexus will be the primary hot sellers here.

I’m sure we will see some fabulous Nokia Windows Phone hardware in the U.S. eventually, but I am sad we didn’t here anything from Nokia here this week.

BTW, I am working on some other posts with hands-on experiences of the Nokia Lumia 800 and 710, but the connectivity here at Nokia World is horrid and it is a better use of my time to spend it with the devices rather than trying to beat the sites focused on posting things first.

Matthew Miller started using a Pilot 1000 in 1997 and has been writing news, reviews, and opinion pieces ever since.


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Saturday, December 17, 2011

Hands-on with the T-Mobile HTC Amaze 4G and Samsung Galaxy S II

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AppId is over the quota
Summary: T-Mobile is rolling out two powerful Android smartphones this week and I had the pleasure of using both over the weekend. Which one appealed most to me and might end up in my collection?

Regular readers know I have been very happy with Windows Phone 7 devices on T-Mobile for the past year, but I am always willing to try new devices and there are two new Android Gingerbread smartphones launching this week that have me seriously considering another SIM card switch on T-Mobile. I have been using the HTC Amaze 4G and Samsung Galaxy S II extensively since Friday and am ready to drop some cash this coming week, but on the device you might not have thought at first. You can check out several images of the devices in my image gallery and in my video first look below.

The Samsung Galaxy S II was announced at Mobile World Congress in February and then released outside the US starting in June after receiving pre-orders in excess of 3 million devices. It has been very successful outside the US and is just starting to roll out here with versions for T-Mobile, Sprint, and AT&T announced. After reading reviews applauding the device I couldn’t wait to give it a try on T-Mobile and was sure I was going to purchase one for myself.

Then I tried the HTC Amaze 4G that came out and slapped me upside the face with its incredible design. I was thinking the Amaze 4G was just another typical HTC black slab phone, but I have to say I think this may very well be the best designed HTC device I have ever had the pleasure of using as I will describe in more detail below.

T-Mobile continues to use the durable well designed packages we have seen for a couple of years with high resolution glossy images of the device on the outside and a list of the main features on the back. You will find the device, battery, USB cable, USB charger, SIM card, wired stereo headset, and Quick Start Guide in the box.

I knew the T-Mobile variant of the Galaxy S II would come with the largest display of the variants at 4.52 inches, but when I pulled it from the box I admit I was shocked by how light the device was at only 4.77 ounces. Unlike some of the previous Samsung Galaxy devices it doesn’t feel cheap with a glossy black back and instead feels very well constructed with an attractive textured back. The display looks very nice, but doesn’t seem to “pop” out at me as much as other Super AMOLED Plus displays I have seen on Samsung devices in the past.

Specifications for the Samsung Galaxy S II include the following:

Android 2.3.5 GingerbreadSamsung TouchWiz user interface42 Mbps HSPA+ support on T-Mobile’s AWS network1.5 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon dual-core processor4.52 inch WVGA 480×800 pixels Super AMOLED Plus displayPreinstalled 16GB storage with microSD card slot1 GB RAM8 megapixel camera with LED flash and 1080p video recording capability2 megapixel front facing cameraProximity sensor, light sensor and digital compassIntegrated A-GPSWi-Fi (802.11 a/b/g/n)Bluetooth 3.0DLNA supportHDMI support via MHL adaptorNFC-enabled3.5 mm headset jack1850 mAh lithium-ion batteryDimensions: 5.1 x 2.7 x 0.37 inches and 4.77 ounces

The Samsung Galaxy S II has a large display, but does not feel that large in your hand due to the very light weight and thinness of the device. It is an impressive piece of hardware and I am sure those looking for the biggest screen on a T-Mobile Android phone will love it.

The front of the Galaxy S II is dominated by the 4.52 inch Super AMOLED Plus display. I find that Samsung’s AMOLED displays show vibrant colors and intense brightness, but even on maximum brightness this Galaxy S II just doesn’t seem to blow me away as much. There are four touch capacitive buttons (Menu, Home, Back, and Search), 2 megapixel front facing VGA camera, and proximity sensor.

The Galaxy S II minimizes the use of hardware buttons and ports with a single power/lock button on the upper right, a volume button on the upper left, a microUSB port on the bottom, and the 3.5mm headset jack on the top.

The 8 megapixel camera and single LED flash are found centered on the upper back with the Galaxy S II embedded in the center. The battery, SIM card slot, and microSD card slot are found under the back cover. I love the new textured back cover that gives the device a high quality feel and some grip in your hand.

I am not a huge fan of the TouchWiz user interface, but it is very snappy and customizable to a point. As an Exchange user I find that HTC Sense 3.0 blows away TouchWiz for email and PIM apps. There are several Samsung widgets on the device and I did find some to be useful.

There are several T-Mobile apps, such as Slacker, TeleNav GPS Navigator, T-Mobile TV, Qik Video Chat, and Visual Voicemail along with several Samsung apps. For some reason the version of Google Talk on the Galaxy S II does not support video chat using the front facing camera.

The Galaxy S II on T-Mobile has the fastest radio in the US, out of all SGSII devices, with support for T-Mobile’s 42 Mbps network. From my testing in Seattle I experienced a maximum download speed of 26.07 Mbps. Check out this post for details on my testing.

The Samsung Galaxy S II is available now for pre-order and available in stores on 12 October for $229.99 with a minimum voice and data plan with 2-year contract after a $50 mail-in rebate. The full retail price is $529.99 with no contract.

Let’s check out the details of the HTC Amaze 4G »

Matthew Miller started using a Pilot 1000 in 1997 and has been writing news, reviews, and opinion pieces ever since.


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Microsoft gets into a Farm Frenzy as they pass the Windows Phone Marketplace 1st birthday

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AppId is over the quota
Summary: It’s now been a year since Microsoft launched the Windows Phone Marketplace and they are going strong. There is a new deal of the week and a new Xbox LIVE game.

Distimo just released their latest publication that discusses the one year anniversary of the Windows Phone Marketplace. There are something like 40,000 apps in the Marketplace and Distimo’s report states that the U.S. sees 101,000 free downloads and 20,000 paid downloads per day in the top 300 apps. The most popular category is games, of course, and this week sees Microsoft bringing a new game and a renewed deal.

Stats show that paid apps have grown over the last year with about 1,300 new apps each month. On average there are also 1,650 free apps released each month. Back in January when I wrote my first Windows Phone Wednesday article there were about 5,600 apps.

You can pick up Tetris again for $2.99, vs. the full retail price of $4.99. The new Xbox LIVE game this week is Farm Frenzy 2 for $2.99. I always skipped playing Farmville on Facebook, but I plan to buy Farm Frenzy 2 since it looks interesting and is reasonably priced.

I also read on WPCentral.com that Microsoft is having an extended Xbox LIVE Black Friday sale on Sonic 4, Full House Poker, and Assassin’s Creed so there are plenty of low cost game choices available for you on your new Windows Phone.

Matthew Miller started using a Pilot 1000 in 1997 and has been writing news, reviews, and opinion pieces ever since.


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Friday, December 16, 2011

Nook Tablet, WP 7.5 launch, Lumia 800 thoughts (MobileTechRoundup show #252)

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AppId is over the quota
Summary: There were some major events held in New York early last week and Kevin scored an interview with Nokia CEO, Stephen Elop.

Listen here (MP3, 49.9 MB, 59:30 minutes)

Subscribe to the show with this link (RSS)

motr_cover.jpg

There were a few big events in New York held on Monday as we start off with on MobileTechRoundup show #252. While the Windows Phone 7.5 hardware launch and Nook Tablet were front and center, Kevin’s interview with Nokia CEO Stephen Elop was great too. We both have the Lumia 800 to test out and offer some thoughts. I have been living with the Jawbone UP for a week and will post that full review on ZDNet Mobile Gadgeteer tomorrow. Apple released an iOS update to supposedly help with reported battery issues.

Please let me know if you have any topics you want us to cover on a future show.

Matthew Miller started using a Pilot 1000 in 1997 and has been writing news, reviews, and opinion pieces ever since.


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MobileTechRoundup show #247: RIP Mr. Jobs, iPhone 4S, and T-Mobile Android rock stars

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AppId is over the quota
Summary: The mobile space doesn’t slow down, but this week we did pause for a day for Apple CEO Steve Jobs. Two new T-Mobile Android superstars appeared too and I need to figure out if one is staying.

Listen here (MP3, 55 MB, 63 minutes)

Subscribe to the show with this link (RSS)

motr_cover.jpg

It was an up and down week for Apple this past week as CEO Steve Jobs passed away at too young of an age and in MobileTechRoundup show 247 we started off with some thoughts on what Jobs meant to us and how much he impacted the products in our lives. We then went on to talk about why Kevin and I both ordered iPhone 4S devices. I have a couple of T-Mobile Android phones in hand and gave some initial impressions while Kevin talked about the likelihood that he will get a Samsung Galaxy S II on AT&T. Kevin also encouraged me to check out Minecraft soon on Android.

Please let me know if you have any topics you want us to cover on a future show.

Matthew Miller started using a Pilot 1000 in 1997 and has been writing news, reviews, and opinion pieces ever since.


View the original article here

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Tru SIM; peace of mind and significant cost savings for international travel

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AppId is over the quota
Summary: I enjoy overseas travel and after trying several methods for connectivity I now never leave the country without my Tru SIM. There are so many advantages, including significant cost savings, that it really is a no-brainer for the international traveler.

I enjoyed a nice conversation over coffee with my friend Andy Abramson on Friday and he showed me video that he has been working on with his clients (embedded below) that is now live for all to enjoy. I travel out of the country a couple times a year and have tried multiple ways to stay in touch with clients, family, and friends and after discovering the Tru SIM solution in 2010 my world travel communications are simple, inexpensive, and effective.

In the past, I tried just paying my cellular carrier’s roaming rates and for emergency calls and very short conversations I could stomach the high cost per minute for calls. Data was out of the question though and with smartphones today I was constantly worried about turning my phone off and on to limit how much data was being consumed. Calls to check your voicemail were also charged to your carriers roaming plan. In many cases you have to setup the ability for international roaming before leaving the country as well and there really is just too much to worry about with this strategy.

I also tried just picking up a local SIM in the country where I landed. This worked reasonably well, but you have to find a place to buy the SIM, often leave a photocopy of your passport with the reseller, contact all the people you need to stay in touch with to give them your new temporary number, and then try to use up all the credit you pay for or you could end up losing it if you don’t return to the country before it expires. I also found that the data speeds were not that great with some carrier SIMs and calls made outside the local country were often charged at a very high per minute rate.

If you travel overseas, then I highly recommend the Tru SIM for several reasons:

You can buy it now before you travel and get a local US number on it so that clients, family, and friends can have the number in advance and know how to text or call you. It is $29.99 and comes with $15 of credit loaded onto it.You can also get multiple numbers on the Tru SIM (US, UK, and Australian at the moment) so if you need a local UK number to stay in touch with clients there you have that option on the same SIM. There is an $8/month fee for these additional numbers.You can load it up with credit before you travel and even set it up to autofill when it reaches a certain level so you never have to worry about not being able to connect.You can use the rate checker in advance so you can plan a budget for travel. UK rates are dirt cheap and I doubt you can find any deal better than this Tru SIM plan.You can simply put the Tru SIM in your phone, turn it on, and go about your business or vacation without worrying about extremely high carrier roaming rates. The peace of mind I get with a Tru SIM alone is worth the small cost to buy one.You can add as much credit to it as you want and rest assured you can use it on your next trip without having to “use it or lose it.”

Check out this video of Savvy Sue and Premium Paul that matches my exact experiences while traveling overseas.

I wrote about SIM unlocking the new Verizon iPhone 4S and on my recent trip to London for Nokia World I popped in my cut down Tru SIM (I made it a microSIM for the iPhone 4S) and was able to call, text, and even use my iPhone 4S as a WiFi mobile hotspot for connectivity. While many others at Nokia World were having major connectivity issues with local SIMs, my Tru SIM was able to maintain a decent connection and keep me connected most of the time.

The great thing about traveling to the UK is that incoming text messages from my family are free so they can text a local Seattle number I have all they want at no cost to me. I topped up my Tru SIM with $45 before I left and ended up only using about $15 over the three days in London with texts, calls, and data being used on a regular basis.

Tru advertises that you can reduce international mobile roaming costs by 30-90% with the Tru SIM and as I mentioned above there are many other benefits in addition to just the cost savings. They also have business plans for the serious international traveler, but I have only used the individual plans for myself. I am a true believer in this solution because I have tried multiple methods and find this to be the best for me.

Matthew Miller started using a Pilot 1000 in 1997 and has been writing news, reviews, and opinion pieces ever since.


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Siri, why can't you help me? Tip to get more crazy answers

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AppId is over the quota
Summary: Siri is a pretty amazing AI service on the new iPhone 4S, but remember it is in beta and not yet perfect. You may lose your connection to the service so here is a tip to reconnect.

There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of posts on the Internet this weekend about all the crazy things people are asking Siri on their new iPhone 4S. I am loving my new iPhone 4S and doing all kinds of testing on it, including unlocking it for international SIM card usage, but this morning Siri stopped answering my questions. Now, it may be that she is just tired of answering my stupid questions, but it seems to be a network/application issue.

I made sure I had both a WiFi and strong Verizon signal so I could rule out network connectivity. Siri requires a network connection to work, but I ruled that out. I then thought that maybe the Apple Siri network was down, but there were no reports of that on Twitter. I then found this website tip and after performing the steps below Siri is back answering my questions in a nice Australian female voice:

Click on Settings>General and then slide the toggle to Off with a confirmation to DisableReboot your iPhone 4SNow again Enable Siri back in Settings>GeneralTry it out again and you should be back in business

I am not sure why Siri “lost” the connection to the service and will keep an eye on how often this happens. BTW, you can choose from these four language for Siri:

English (Australia): Female voiceEnglish (United Kingdom): Male voiceEnglish (United States): Female voice you have seen in most all the videosFrench: Male voice where you need to speak French and then see and hear your response is in French.German: Female voice where you need to speak German and then see and hear your response is in German.I started out with the English (US) voice, but prefer the Australian female voice myself. What voice/language do you have Siri set to?

Matthew Miller started using a Pilot 1000 in 1997 and has been writing news, reviews, and opinion pieces ever since.


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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Here's the Nokia N9 MeeGo phone and you can't have it (review)

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AppId is over the quota
Summary: The Nokia N9 MeeGo-powered smartphone is starting to ship in select countries and I’ve had the chance to spend a bit of time with it.

I have been a Nokia fan for years and in late 2009 I bought the Nokia N900. This device is a bit clunky, but it is extremely powerful and does an excellent job with online service integration and communications. Earlier this year Nokia announced, and then shortly after effectively killed, the Nokia N9 MeeGo device that is now shipping to people outside of the United States. You can check out several photos of the device and some MeeGo screenshots in my image gallery along with a hands-on video and some initial thoughts below.

The Nokia N9 was announced in Singapore in June and then just a few days later Nokia CEO Stephen Elop announced Nokia would not return to MeeGo even if the N9 is successful. Nokia is committed to Windows Phone for the high end and it seems the N9 and MeeGo is another one of their experiments like the N900 and Maemo was a couple years ago. Unfortunately, if you think what I showed you looks attractive and something you might want to try it isn’t going to be easy or cheap to get one in the United States. Here is the official Nokia statement regarding the Nokia N9:

After the very positive reception to the launch of the Nokia N9, the product is now being rolled out in countries around the world. At this time we will not be making it available in the US. Nokia takes a market by market approach to product rollout, and each country makes its own decisions about which products to introduce from those available. Decisions are based on an assessment of existing and upcoming products that make up Nokia’s extensive product portfolio and the best way in which to address local market opportunities.

The N9 is selling in 16GB capacity for EUR480 (about US$650) and 64GB capacity for EUR560 (about US$755). It feels like a very high quality device, but these prices are even out of my price range for a device with a limited ecosystem and support.

The Nokia N9 comes in a simple blue box with a full scale image of the device and application launcher page on the front. Inside you will find the N9, USB cable, USB a/c charger, stereo headset, and Quick Start Guide.

After pulling the N9 from the box, I was immediately impressed by the sleek feel of the N9 including the high quality feel of the plastic. The display is soft and smooth and I can’t stop myself from rubbing the display with my finger. The glass on the display is curved and molds around the edges into the front shell. The design is fantastic and if Nokia brings a Windows Phone device in this form factor I know what device I am going to buy.

Specifications for the Nokia N9 include the following:

MeeGo 1.2 (Harmattan) operating systemPenta-band 3G radio and quad-band GSM radio1 GHz Cortex A8 processor3.9 inch FWVGA 854×480 pixels AMOLED displayAntiglare polarizer and Gorilla Glass integrationPreinstalled 16GB or 64GB storage1 GB RAM8 megapixel camera with dual-LED flash and Carl Zeiss opticsProximity sensor, light sensor and digital compassIntegrated A-GPSWi-Fi (802.11 a/b/g/n)Bluetooth 2.1NFC-enabled3.5 mm headset jack1450 mAh lithium-ion batteryDimensions: 116.5 x 61.2 x 12.1 mm and 135 grams

The battery is non-removable and there is no expandable storage capability. A microSIM card form factor is used in the N9. TV out is functional through the 3.5mm headset jack and Dolby Mobile sound is present. It is nice to see integrated WiFi hotspot capability, but the HSDPA radio looks to be limited to 14.4 Mbps.

The Nokia N9 hardware is absolutely beautiful and I am having a hard time putting it down. The glass on the front is curved and designed to give it a wonderful feel. The back is angled nicely at the four corners and it is tough to stop rubbing such a nice back design.

The front is dominated by the 3.9 inch display and unlike every other mobile phone there are no physical or touch capacitive buttons on the device face. Everything is controlled via touches and swipes. There is a front facing camera down in the bottom right corner, but I have yet to figure out how to access it.

There are volume buttons and the power/lock button on the right side of the N9. You will use the power/lock button quite a bit since there are no other buttons on the front to turn on the display.

There is nothing on the left side and the only thing on the bottom is the mono speaker.

The 3.5mm headset jack, microUSB, and microSIM card slots and openings are found on the top of the N9. You press down on one side and let the door open straight up to access the microUSB port and then slide the other door over to have the microSIM card try pop out.

Nokia has a solid 8 megapixel camera with Carl Zeiss optics on the back of the N9, about 1/3rd of the way down from the top and in the center. Two LEDs are placed near the camera lens with at least one app present to use it as a flashlight.

MeeGo reminds me a lot of Maemo and webOS with a similar application launcher, visual task manager, integrated service functionality, quick launch bar (brought up like the webOS bar with a swipe from below), and more. Swipes similar to the QNX OS are used too. You swipe from off the display to the center to unlock the screen and to go back to one of the three home screens when you are in an application.

The three home screens consist of the application launcher, task manager, and notifications/feeds. You can move app shortcuts around the launcher page and scroll up and down to view the apps you have installed. The task manager shows you live thumbnails of open apps and I was able to run 27 apps at once (I’ll test it out and see if I hit a limit) with very little impact on the device (shown in my video). The notifications/feeds screen show you new text and IM messages, email, missed calls, social network updates, and news service updates in one easy view.

I have only been using the N9 for a few hours so cannot comment on battery life, camera performance, and a host of other functions, but will be spending more time with it and report back on my findings. It really is a slick device with a nice OS, but it is also sad that so few people will ever be able to experience it.

Please let me know if you have any questions on the Nokia N9 and I’ll work on a follow-up article after spending more time with the N9.

Matthew Miller started using a Pilot 1000 in 1997 and has been writing news, reviews, and opinion pieces ever since.


View the original article here

Nokia N9 MeeGo phone; tips, tricks, and FAQs

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AppId is over the quota
Summary: The Nokia N9 is a beautiful piece of hardware with a pleasant operating system. There are not many out there yet, but there are some cool functions and features to explore.

I posted my first impressions of the Nokia N9 a few days ago and have been using it extensively since that time. The more I use it the more I love it and I don’t know if I can resist picking one up after I send this evaluation unit back to Nokia in a week. Like the N900 before it, there are a ton of “hidden” features and functions in the N9 and I wanted to share some with you and also answer your questions from my earlier post.

I discovered some of these and others were sent to me via Twitter or comments:

Swipe to view notification: You have likely seen the Android and now iOS home screen notifications and like the new iOS 5 notifications (I believe they passed up Android) you can swipe the notification to the side to launch right into that notification from a locked screen.Swipe to close: By default (there is a setting to change it) you can swipe from off the screen down and towards the center to close an application. I also recommend you get the free SwipeManager utility in the Ovi Store to give you control on swiping from all sides.Leave the power button alone: I found it a bit of a hassle to tap the power button to unlock the screen, but then a follower mentioned all you have to do is double tap on the display to turn on the display. This is also in the settings with a toggle to turn off.Quick Launch Bar: With behavior very similar to webOS, you can swipe up and hold your finger in place from the lock screen or from within an application to open the Quick Launch Bar that gives you four app icons to launch. If you get the free Shortcuts utility in the Ovi Store you can then customize what those four selected apps are if you don’t like the default ones.Task manager zoom: One of the three primary screens in the task manager that shows thumbnails of open apps. You can pinch and zoom on this to show more or fewer application icons.Swipe through inbox: Rather than going back out to the full inbox view, you can simply swipe left and right to move through your email inbox with ease.

A few questions asked me to show some things so I included the video below that covers some of the tips above, some questions, and some other cool things in the device.

Can you show the Ovi Store and video playback (In the video below). Is there a Shazam type app? (Not that I could find in the Ovi Store.)How do you make calls? (Shown in the video below).You mentioned in your review that Google has options for ‘mail chat and calls’ could you elaborate a bit on that for me? How is the voice integration specifically? Could you post pictures of the interface? Ive looked everywhere on the web and haven’t found any answers. (Shown in the video below)I wish you showed how fast the browser is and also if it is capable of “flowing” the text on webpages. Also, it would be great to know what the actual battery life is. (Shown in the video below)Max number of apps I was able to run? I tried running everything I had loaded and was able to run 23-27 apps at one time.I was fiddling with a N9 and saw a documents app. It claims to be to read opendoc format and Microsoft documents and pdf. will you be able to review that? Does it include powerpoint and excel format as well? (Shown in the video below)Is there any app for ereading? such as sony reader, amazon, or kobo? or something that at least handle epub? How about library books like overdrive? (The Ionic E-book Reader app allows you to read EPUB formatted ebooks and is available in the Ovi Store for FREE. I could not find any Overdrive support. See my video for the EPUB reader.)Lastly, are there any Bible apps? (Yes, see my video for a look at MiniBible, which is a SWORD project work.)

I have the Nokia N9 for one more week before I have to send it back so if you have any questions feel free to ask. The hardware is FANTASTIC and I don’t think I have held a finer smartphone in my hand. MeeGo is fun to use and a pleasant operating system too.

Matthew Miller started using a Pilot 1000 in 1997 and has been writing news, reviews, and opinion pieces ever since.


View the original article here

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

MixRadio on Nokia Lumia is powered by EchoNest

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AppId is over the quota
Summary: We saw Nokia Music as a differentiator on Nokia Windows Phone devices and today we learn a bit more about what powers the MixRadio part of the utility.

After attending Nokia World and checking out the new Lumia 800 and Lumia 710 devices I wrote about why Nokia Windows Phone devices are unique and included a discussion of Nokia Music and MixRadio. Today, we received details that EchoNest powers MixRadio on these Windows Phone devices.

Nokia Music is currently not on the evaluation Lumia 800 devices we have and the service is dependent on the geographic region where the phones are available. I had the chance to use the Nokia Music and MixRadio features at Nokia World and MixRadio is a lot like Spotify, Slacker Radio, Rdio, and others where you can stream or download music for offline listening. The MAJOR difference is that these services each cost $10/month while MixRadio will be available for free on Nokia Windows Phone devices.

Here is what the experience is like when you first get a Lumia smartphone:

After a customer unboxes a Nokia Lumia smartphone, MixRadio analyzes the customer’s digital music collection with a lightweight browser app to generate custom streaming radio stations on the phone. MixRadio builds an ever-evolving user taste profile to sculpt programming from Nokia’s catalog of over 15 million songs. Based on the Taste Profile, MixRadio offers personalized stations in a variety of genres and allows users to make customized stations based on any artist or song. Under the hood, all of these features are powered by The Echo Nest’s music intelligence platform.

You can download about 15 hours of music for offline listening with MixRadio.

Matthew Miller started using a Pilot 1000 in 1997 and has been writing news, reviews, and opinion pieces ever since.


View the original article here

Nokia N9 PR 1.1 update rolling out with Swype keyboard

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AppId is over the quota
Summary: One reason I pulled the trigger on my own N9 at Nokia World was the demo of the PR 1.1 update that added several new features and the Swype keyboard. The update is now rolling out to handsets.

After checking out the PR 1.1 update that was loaded on the white Nokia N9 at Nokia World a few weeks ago I ordered my own cyan (blue) N9 on ebay right there from the show floor. I was impressed that Nokia was adding features and fixing things so quickly on the N9 and it gave me the confidence boost I needed to buy the N9 on ebay. Nokia announced that the PR 1.1 update started rolling out today across the world. My battery will probably go dead today as I hit the software update refresh button every few minutes.

I am very excited for the N9 update primarily due to the addition of the Swype keyboard, Twitter photo upload support, and music controls on the lock screen. I find the keyboard on the Windows Phone Lumia 800 to be better, but I can also fly with Swype so am looking forward to switching to this input method soon. Othere features in the change log include:

NFC tag reading to instantly interact with NFC tagsMusic controls on lock screenPhoto and video shooting with color filters: black & white, sepia, vivid, negative, solarizeMore powerful multitasking with improved memory handlingSwype for fast typingFaster MfE synch, synchronizing only active foldersNoice cancellation reduces background noise so that your friends hear you betterClose apps easily with swiping down (You can toggle this on and off now, but will be on by default now)New indicators for standby screen like charging and calendarYou can now upload pictures to Twitter directly through the ’sharing’ function

What are you looking forward to seeing in this latest update?

Matthew Miller started using a Pilot 1000 in 1997 and has been writing news, reviews, and opinion pieces ever since.


View the original article here

Monday, December 12, 2011

HTC Radar 4G is first Windows Phone Mango device in U.S. (review)

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AppId is over the quota
Summary: The HTC Radar 4G will be available at T-Mobile on 2 November and is the first Windows Phone Mango device to hit the U.S. It is a good device at $100, but not the top dog with this OS.

I purchased the T-Mobile HTC HD7 on launch day last year and have been using it and the Dell Venue Pro as my main Windows Phone devices for the last year. This year we see T-Mobile getting another new Windows Phone device, the HTC Radar 4G, and it is one to consider if you are looking for a WP device. You can check out several photos of the device in my image gallery along with a hands-on video and my experiences with the device below.

The HTC Radar 4G comes in the same type of rock solid box we are used to seeing from T-Mobile with a glossy image of the device on the front and a list of features on the back. Inside the box you will find the device, battery, USB to A/C charger, USB cable, SIM card, and Quick Start Guide.

The very first thing I noticed after taking the Radar 4G out of the box was that is looked just like a smaller brother of the HTC Flyer as you can see in my image gallery. It has a sleek unibody aluminum design with a white plastic upper piece around the camera and a lower plastic piece at the bottom. The front face is white with silver around the body and it feels and looks great in your hand.

The HTC Radar 4G will be available at T-Mobile retail stores and through select national retailers and dealers on Nov. 2. The HTC Radar 4G is expected to cost $99.99 after a $50 mail-in rebate card with a two-year service agreement and qualifying T-Mobile Classic voice and data plan, plus taxes and fees.

Specifications for the HTC Radar 4G include the following:

Windows Phone 7.5 (Mango) operating system14.4 Mbps HSPA+ radio1 GHz Snapdragon processor3.8 inch WVGA 800×480 pixels LCD displayPreinstalled 8GB storage with no expansion capability (about 6GB user accessible)1 GB RAM5 megapixel camera with single LED flash and f/2.2 apertureIntegrated A-GPSWi-Fi (802.11 b/g/n)Bluetooth 2.13.5 mm headset jack1520 mAh lithium-ion batteryDimensions: 4.7 x 2.4 x 0.44 inches and 4.83 ounces

The battery is non-removable and there is no expandable storage capability. I was disappointed to see only 8GB in the device (only about 6GB is actually usable though) and believe that all Windows Phone devices should have a minimum of 16GB, especially given how cheap flash memory is today. I am not that concerned about the 1 GHz processor since Windows Phone has been shown to fly with minimal processor specifications.

I also understand there is no digital compass in the HTC Radar 4G (kind of ironic given the name) and thus there will be limits on some app usage, such as augmented reality.

The front of the HTC Radar 4G has a 3.8 inch WVGA 800×480 pixels LCD with the three capacitive Windows Phone buttons below the display. You will find a front facing camera on the upper right front, but at this time there is no application that can use it so it’s value is a potential value and not something that can be realized now.

There is a large volume button and camera shutter button on the right side with a microUSB port on the left side. The power button and headset jack are found on the top with just a mic opening on the bottom

On the back you will find the 5 megapixel camera, single LED flash, and speaker grille inside a white plastic area that is not removable. The rest of the back has the unibody aluminum finish with HTC branding. The bottom part is also white plastic and can be removed to access the SIM card slot. Every review I read after I finished writing this one confirmed that the back bottom piece doesn’t seem to fit up and in place as securely as it should and could have been better designed. There is no removable storage card or battery on this device.

Even though the Radar 4G has a 1 GHz Snapdragon processor, it still flies like all the other existing devices upgraded to WP 7.5 (Mango) so I am not concerned at all with the processor. The 5 megapixel camera takes much better photos than the 5 megapixel camera on the HD7 and I do not see any of the pink camera problem found on the HD7. It is not as good as the Amaze 4G though and I am thinking I may hold out for a Nokia WP with Carl Zeiss optics.

The WiFi hotspot function, new to Mango, is in this device and works well. Unfortunately, the “4G” is limited to the 14.4 Mbps speed and not up to the full 42.2 Mbps found in the T-Mobile network in many locations and with the latest Android devices. Unfortunately, I found the RF reception to be a bit disappointing and in areas where I normally have a solid 3G signal I was seeing the words “2G” appear on the Radar 4G, which is something I haven’t seen in a long time.

Phone call quality sounded OK, but also sounded a bit hollow and was not as solid and clear as other phones I have tested recently on T-Mobile. Mobileburn.com also noted there was some hissing noise in calls.

I personally like the form factor and still enjoy using the Windows Phone operating system. However, the limited selection of devices on all carriers, but AT&T, is not a good thing and IMHO is one major factor keeping Windows Phone down in market share figures.

I have only been using the Radar 4G for about 4 days and am finding the battery life to be quite acceptable and much better than the HD7 or Dell Venue Pro I have been using over the past year. It also seems to be beating out my new iPhone 4S.

My wife has been using a blue Nokia N8 since last year and won’t give it up because the camera is fantastic and that is something she values. She doesn’t particularly like the OS though and is tired of lockups, misdialing, etc. I was hoping to see a Windows Phone similar to the HTC Amaze 4G with a great camera since I know she would like WP on a device. The 5 megapixel shooter on the Radar 4G is OK, but as soon as I gave her the device she handed it back and said she did not like the feel of it and wouldn’t consider it.

I love my HTC Flyer Android tablet with very similar form factor and design so I am considering the Radar 4G for myself. However, the limited 8GB internal storage, lack of battery replacement, and camera that is just OK and not super are causing me to hesitate a bit. If I end up being eligible for the full upgrade price of just $100 I will likely pick one up on Wednseday, but I am not going to pay the $450+ that it will probably cost for the unsubsidized phone.

First time buyers who are eligible for the $100 price will like the solid design and form factor and smooth operation, but there are some compelling Android devices on T-Mobile too that do offer more.

The opinions above are mine alone and I always recommend you check out other reviews. You can find a couple others online here:

Matthew Miller started using a Pilot 1000 in 1997 and has been writing news, reviews, and opinion pieces ever since.


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After the iPhone 4S, Windows Phone 7.5 still feels right

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AppId is over the quota
Summary: The Apple iPhone 4S is being purchased at a fast pace and I am enjoying mine. However, Windows Phone 7.5 is still my preferred platform and just needs better hardware.

My fellow ZDNet blogger and friend, James Kendrick, put up a post comparing his Android and iOS 5/iPhone 4S experiences and I agree with his take on the two. Since he has been a much more regular Android user while I have been focusing more time on Windows Phone 7 I thought you might enjoy hearing my thoughts on how the new iOS 5 OS on my Apple iPhone 4S compares to the Windows Phone 7 platform.

A person who has used Windows Phone 7 even more than myself is Paul Thurrott and on his http://www.winsupersite.com/article/windowsphone75/windows-phone-75-ios-5-140947">SuperSite for Windows he offers some thoughts on Windows Phone 7.5 versus iOS 5 and comes the conclusion that his AT&T SIM belongs in his Windows Phone 7.5 device. Paul emphasizes what I talked about when Windows Phone 7 was first released in 2010 and that is the philosophy of an application based system versus a task based system. In Windows Phone 7/7.5 you don’t generally think of apps as much (except for Xbox LIVE games) as you simply perform tasks to get things done, such as call a friend or look at your photos.

iOS 5 and the Apple iPhone 4S may change all of that as Siri grows up, but right now Siri is still a bit limited on what you can do and I personally find it most useful for creating reminders and calendar appointments. Since Siri is a beta, I am hoping to get more integration into 3rd party apps and even Apple apps. I would love to just say something like “Download the latest MobileTechRoundup podcast and start playing it.” It is not yet that advanced though and as I mentioned in an earlier article the Windows Phone 7.5 Tellme voice integration is excellent and deserves consideration.

Apple rules the smartphone world with the number of applications, but I personally find all the apps I want and need on Windows Phone 7 in their catalog of 30,000+ applications. I find the notifications in iOS 5 to blow away what limited notifications we see on Windows Phone and would love to see a bit more work in this area.

Speed and consistency has always been a hallmark of iOS, but Windows Phone 7.5 beats Apple here with an extremely snappy performance even on old hardware. Windows Phone 7.5 is as consistent as iOS and maybe even more so with less menu options and settings available to the end user. Windows Phone 7.5 does an excellent job with service integration while Apple forces you into the idea of working with specific apps, such as separate Facebook and Twitter apps.

There is no question that the hardware of the iPhone 4S blows away anything we currently see in Windows Phone. Hopefully that changes very soon when Nokia joins the picture and if they release a device as amazing as the Nokia N9 I am looking at then we’ll have a real competition going on. HTC, Samsung, and others need to step up their Windows Phone game and I think a couple of the upcoming Windows Phone 7.5 device look to do that.

As regular readers know I have been a major fan and advocate for Windows Phone 7 and still am a strong believer that you need to try it before tossing it out for consideration. My daughter liked it so much that she helped pay for her own unlocked Samsung Focus to use on T-Mobile and said the same thing.

I really enjoy my new Apple iPhone 4S and love that you now get a rock solid zippy experience with a ton of tweaking options, similar to the Android platform, and a platfom that is consistent like Windows Phone. The iPhone 4S hardware is awesome and with a camera that performs as well as anything on the market I recommend the iPhone 4S for many people. However, like Paul I still find I enjoy using Windows Phone 7.5 even more than my iPhone 4S. Windows Phone 7.5 is my primary phone on T-Mobile and the iPhone 4S is my primary on Verizon and there is nothing I see from Android that will knock either one of those out. I am enjoying the Nokia N9, but with a dead end software platform that is a tweakers device and not for the masses. I cannot wait to see what Nokia announces next week at Nokia World, I will be there covering the event, and hope to soon replace my aging HTC HD7 and Dell Venue Pro.

Matthew Miller started using a Pilot 1000 in 1997 and has been writing news, reviews, and opinion pieces ever since.


View the original article here

Sunday, December 11, 2011

SuperTooth HD Bluetooth speaker (review)

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AppId is over the quota
Summary: It is important to me to not have to touch or mess with my phone in the car. The SuperTooth HD gives me a truly handsfree experience that performs flawlessly.

I try to limit calls when I am driving and I refuse to use my phone in my car without a headset or speakerphone. I am not a huge fan of headsets since I don’t make that many calls and have transitioned to using Bluetooth speakerphones since I also use them to listen to podcasts. I’ve been using a Jabra SP700 that I picked up cheap on Amazon, but after testing out the SuperTooth HD speaker I am getting one for myself and not looking back. You can check out several images of this Bluetooth speaker in my image gallery and read about my experiences below.

The SuperTooth HD comes with a car adapter and now standard microUSB cable for charging. It measures 125 x 59 x 22 mm and weighs in at 135 grams (with the visor clip). It has a square end and a rounded end with the square end housing the two speakers. The casing consists of high gloss black plastic and brushed silver plastic with a large rubber coated dial and two main buttons.

The front of the SuperTooth HD is covered by the external controls and two indicator lights. The large volume control knob/multifunction button is used to answer and end calls, initiate voice dialing, and spin for volume control. Other Bluetooth speakerphones I have used have all had buttons on the side for the volume and they never were super easy to find and control. Spinning the big knob on the SuperTooth HD is quick and easy. The left indicator light is a Bluetooth indicator with the following colors and status:

Steady blue: Bluetooth is being used for communicationsBlinking blue: connected/paired/onRed: low battery warningBlinking red & blue: pairing mode is active

The right indicator light is the charging indicator with stead orange during charging and steady green when fully charged.

There is a power on/off button below the main control knob, but I have to say I never use it because the device does so well managing connections itself (I discuss this in more detail below). Lastly, there is a rather large button in the center of the unit for the HandsFree Assistant number that is programmed into the speaker.

There is a durable metal visor clip that attaches to the back of the SuperTooth HD with a strong magnet so it stays mounted even on bumpy roads. You can leave the visor clip in place and easily pop off the SuperTooth HD to hide it when you leave your car or take it a long for conference calling with your phone.

Specifications for the SuperTooth HD include the following:

Bluetooth 3.0 technologyA2DP, headset, and hands-free BT profile support10 meter operating range2.4 GHz frequencyTalk time of up to 20 hoursStandby time of up to 1000 hoursCharging time of 3 hoursCan be paired with up to 8 devices, 2 at the same time5.4 watts class D amplifierDual microphones (front and back) with DSP noise/echo cancellation

The battery life really is outstanding and I end up charging the speaker up about once a month after several days of podcast listening and phone calls throughout the month.

You can also upgrade the SuperTooth HD via a computer and the included USB cable.

When you first turn on the SuperTooth HD by pressing the power button for 1 second it will ask what your preferred language is an you can choose from one of six, including British English (my favorite), American English, French, Italian, Spanish, and German. It will then attempt to pair with a phone that you already have in discovery mode and once it finds it will pair up. You may have to enter the 0000 pin code, but most modern phones today do this automatically. The SuperTooth HD will then attempt to perform an automatic contact transfer, so just listen to the voice prompts as it starts up.

Once you are connected then you can use the center of the volume knob (multi-function button) to perform the following:

To answer or end a call: 1 second press when call is incoming or activeReject a call: 3 second press when incomingRedial: 3 second press when in standbyActivate voice commands: 1 second press when in standby

The best thing about the entire SuperTooth HD experience has been that I never touch the power button and by simply getting into my car with my Windows Phone Bluetooth radio on my phone and the SuperTooth HD connect automatically every single time I travel. It has been the most flawless and carefree experience I have ever had with a Bluetooth accessory and experiences like this are what appeal to the masses who don’t want to mess around with this mobile gear.

Voice commands are available in English and French and if you want to know what all of the available commands are then press the multi-function button for 1 second and say, “What can I say?” Your phone must support voice commands, but most iOS, BlackBerry, Android, Symbian and Windows Phones support this so it shouldn’t be a problem for the smartphone owner. With my Windows Phone 7 device I actually can carry on text message conversation without ever touching the speaker and cannot wait to try this speaker out with my new iPhone 4S and Siri.

The SuperTooth HD speaker is also preprogrammed with the envelope button to call their HandsFree Assistant that is powered by Dial2Do. You may recall that Dial2Do is also partners with Jabra, Jawbones, Plantronics, and others to provide hands-free functionality such as sending texts, listening and responding to email, setting up a reminder, and working with Twitter. You get 6 months of Dial2Do service for free with your SuperTooth HD purchase (activation code is on your unit). After the 6 months, there are two pricing options for continued service. I don’t spend that much time in my car so I personally do not get much value out of these services and figure calls alone are all the distraction I need in a car.

You can find the SuperTooth HD online for as low as $65 with the full MSRP of $129. I highly recommend this Bluetooth speakerphone and have found it to be an invaluable addition to my mobile collection.

Matthew Miller started using a Pilot 1000 in 1997 and has been writing news, reviews, and opinion pieces ever since.


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Windows Phone: Marketplace passes 40,000 and Amazon may join smartphone race

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AppId is over the quota
Summary: Microsoft’s Windows Phone still hasn’t gained much market share, but the Marketplace continues to grow at a fast pace. Amazon just launch an Android-based tablet and are they now thinking of getting into the smartphone race too?

I tracked and wrote about the quickly growing Windows Phone Marketplace in my WP Wednesday posts for months and will get back in the groove again soon. The great news is that development continues at a great pace with new hardware hitting the streets as there are now over 40,000 apps to choose from. There is also a rumor that Amazon may launch a WP smartphone in late 2012. Mary Jo also mentioned some updates for existing devices and last night I gained WiFi tethering capability on my first generation HTC HD7.

Microsoft launched the new Windows Phone 7 operating system and devices in October 2010 and at the one year anniversary they had about 35,000 apps. I have every app I need on my Windows Phone devices and am really not missing anything I can think of with most apps looking spectacular with the Metro UI. All About Windows Phone estimates that Microsoft could pass the 50,000 mark in January at the rate that apps are hitting the market right now.

Games are always the hot sellers and look to be the top category for Windows Phone too. There are several plots of the data on the AAWP site so check it out if you are interested in the fine details.

Amazon just release their first Android-based tablet with the Kindle Fire and now there are rumors that they may be considering the launch of a smartphone. Accoridng to the rumor on Forbes.com a hardware research analyst made the claim so I am not ready to line up for a phone or anything right now. Looking at the Foxconn Technologies manufacturing channels, it seems this device may have a 4 inch display, 8 megapixel camera, and Windows Phone OS with a TI OMAP4 processor.

It seems that Amazon succeeds in large part due to their ecosystem so I don’t really see how they can integrate this into a Windows Phone ecosystem. Right now, Amazon products work well on Android devices where there is no single ecosystem, but then again Microsoft has been fairly open with Windows Phone and allows competing music clients and streaming video services so they may be open to things such as the Amazon MP3 store and more. Do you think there is any merit to this rumor?

Matthew Miller started using a Pilot 1000 in 1997 and has been writing news, reviews, and opinion pieces ever since.


View the original article here

Saturday, December 10, 2011

T-Mobile's Bobsled service enhanced with mobile clients and free landline calling

AppId is over the quota
AppId is over the quota
Summary: T-Mobile launched their Bobsled service in April and now they are rolling out mobile clients and the ability to call landlines and mobile phones through the browser on your computer.

I have to admit I never paid much attention to the April 2011 Bobsled service announcement since it looked like a way to just call Facebook friends and I thought it had limited functionality. T-Mobile just announced some major enhancements and advanced functionality so you can now call any mobile or landline number in the U.S., Canada, and Puerto Rico for free from the Bobsled application loaded on your PC or Mac browser.

T-Mobile also released apps for Android and iOS that let you call or send a voice message to your Facebook friends. These mobile apps are free and do not support the same service functionality as you can get through your computer. Bobsled is a VoIP service and should not be used as a full phone replacement, but could save you quite a bit of money if you have an iOS or Android device.

Matthew Miller started using a Pilot 1000 in 1997 and has been writing news, reviews, and opinion pieces ever since.


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Samsung overtakes Nokia and Android rules smartphones (Gartner quarterly report)

AppId is over the quota
AppId is over the quota
Summary: It is clear that Android is becoming the OS platform of choice for smartphone buyers and with Samsung overtaking Nokia for all mobile phones they look to be the top choice for consumers.

According to the latest analyst report from Gartner smartphone sales to end users increased by 42 percent in the 3rd quarter of 2011, compared to 2010, and with the significant recent announcements and upcoming holiday season I imagine that will increase even more in the 4th quarter. Smartphone sales accounted for 26 percent of all mobile phone sales, which is fairly consistent from the previous quarter too.

Nokia still leads the world in mobile phone sales with 23.9 percent, but has seen a 4.5 percent decrease from 2010 as HTC, Huawei, Apple, and ZTE have increased in this area. Samsung is now the number 1 smartphone manufacturer with triple sales to end users compared to last year.

Despite a drop in market share, Nokia continued to be the worldwide leader in mobile device sales as it accounted for 23.9 percent of global sales. The second quarter of 2011 was the low point for Nokia, and the third quarter brought signs of improvement. Dual-SIM phones in particular, and feature phones generally, maintained Nokia’s momentum in emerging markets. Heavy marketing from both Nokia and Microsoft to push the new Lumia devices should bring more improvement in the fourth quarter of 2011. However, a true turnaround won’t take place until the second half of 2012.

In terms of operating systems, Android went from just 25.3 percent in Q3 2010 to an astonishing 52.5 percent in 2011. Symbian dropped from 36.3 to 16.9, iOS went down from 16.6 to 15.0, RIM went down from 15.4 to 11.0, Bada went up from 1.1 to 2.2, and Microsoft went down from 2.7 to 1.5.

Matthew Miller started using a Pilot 1000 in 1997 and has been writing news, reviews, and opinion pieces ever since.


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Friday, December 9, 2011

Oink vs. Nosh; Which is best for a smartphone foodie?

AppId is over the quota
AppId is over the quota
Summary: There are a couple of new services designed to help you find the best food when you are at a restaurant. Both come from new startup companies and are available for iOS.

Using the GPS location and social networking functionality in smartphones is leading to innovate applications and services to help out your fellow human being. Two new services, currently both running on iOS, created from startup companies are now available to help you find the best food to eat and drink to consume. Nosh and Oink integrate social networking and an awards system to encourage you to participate too. You can check out several screenshots from both applications in my image gallery.

Nosh launched a couple of months ago from Craig Walker’s Firespotter Labs, who brought us GrandCentral (now Google Voice), and is available on both Android and iOS platforms. Nosh is fun and easy to use with a focus on restaurant food and drinks. The folks at Nosh gather real menus from around the world and import them into their database so you can find a place in the application and then select items to share with others from the list of the actual menu. You can take a photo, write some comments, and rate the specific food item on a 5 star basis.

You can view your statistics, manage your profile, find friends, and more right from their web page too. On your iOS or Android device you can choose to view the feed of nearby locations to see what people recommend are best for you to try. You can also view Nosh posts for those you are following, featured items, and the latest posts.

You can search for places if they don’t show up in the default list and even add a place if it is not found in their database. You can add menu items too if they are not in the database. You can check out a promotion video below.

Nosh: Three Dinners from Firespotter Labs on Vimeo.

As TechCrunch posted Oink just launched yesterday and is currently available via invite-only. This is the first service/application to launch from Kevin Rose’s new Milk company.

You can download the free iOS app and then fill out a form to be added to the service as they make invitations available. After signing up, I was given an invite within a couple hours. So far Oink seems to be a bit of a processor and network hog and is a bit slow to respond at times. The application is well designed with easy buttons along the bottom to jump between following, discover, Oink, fred, and your profile.

When you select the discover button you will see a list of things people are liking with options for popular, places (local to you), and live. You can also earn “cred” by using the Oink Builder to share things. Unfortunately, I see that people are including websites, apps, movies, actions (getting up at the crack of dawn), devices and more so it is already getting away from being a foodie application.

Both services are young and as users join and participate we will see where they go, but so far I would have to recommend you focus on Nosh for true sharing and discovery of food at restaurants you visit. Plus, Nosh is available on both iOS and Android where Oink is reported to be coming sometime in the future to Android. As I said, Oink is already taking off in liking and disliking other areas and losing focus, but maybe people will want to earn street cred.

Matthew Miller started using a Pilot 1000 in 1997 and has been writing news, reviews, and opinion pieces ever since.


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Is the Amazon penny smartphone sale too good to be true?

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AppId is over the quota
Summary: The Amazon penny smartphone sale sounds incredible, but it has limitations that severely limit who can actually take advantage of such a sale.

I was at the Windows Phone Inner Circle event in Seattle last night and several folks mentioned they were going to try to pick up one of the new AT&T Windows Phones through Amazon for a penny. You have probably heard of this penny sale, but if you are reading this blog, or were at the geeky phone event last night, it is highly likely that it doesn’t apply to you or millions of other Americans. You see, the big caveat here is that you must be a new subscriber or add another new line. In looking at the recent CTIA report that states the number of subscriber connections has surpassed the U.S. population it seems to me there are not that many new subscribers or new lines left. Thus, Amazon is getting lots of press for this penny sale that is extremely limiting.

New customers those of you that have a family plan and then add a new line (remember you are limited to five) can get the penny phones, but keep in mind that Amazon shows adding a line creates a new contract and any grandfathered deal you have goes away. I am grandfathered into unlimited data on Verizon Wireless so I pay full price for my phones now to keep that contract intact. If you are already a subscriber then you need to agree to a contract extension and pay a much higher price (dependent on how much time you have left on your contract) for a new phone. The deals sound amazing considering that just about any smartphone other than an iPhone is covered. Also, there are no deals for new T-Mobile subscribers.

While it is great to save a couple hundred dollars on a phone, keep in mind the cost of the phone is just a small percentage of your 2-year committment. I recommend you try not to worry too much about saving $50 to $100 and instead buy the best phone you can that you can count on lasting for the two years of your contract.

If you are upgrade eligible than also make sure to check out sales at other online vendors such as Wirefly (I bought a couple phones from them and have been very happy with their service and support) and RadioShack (they perform upgrades through the carrier backend and offer free phones too).

I would love to see a carrier or online retailer step up and offer some deals for existing subscribers that could include a contract extension too. As fast as the mobile space moves, those of us who enjoy using our smartphones like upgrading every 6 months, one year, or in my case even every couple of months. I understand that they would have to subsidize such offers, but they make most of their money in the monthly fees we pay and offering early upgrade deals helps keep customers with the carrier.

Matthew Miller started using a Pilot 1000 in 1997 and has been writing news, reviews, and opinion pieces ever since.


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