iPhone – Did I Make the Switch?

It’s been just shy of 3 weeks since I turned off the Blackberry and started testing the iPhone as a potential replacement.  In that time I’ve had the opportunity to install/uninstall software, test accessories, and perform an operating system update (all without issue or lost data).

Yesterday I wiped the Blackberry and turned it in (along with some ribbing from the guys at work).  I really didn’t think it would come to this but I’m going to admit it, I like the iPhone.

The iPhone is not perfect my any means (what piece of technology is?) but it’s preformed quite well during my testing phase.

While testing I made some mental notes along the way:

Pros:

  • Application Availability – If you can think of it there’s probably “an app for that”.
  • Build Quality – Solid with tight tolerances and attention to detail.
  • Screen Resolution – I can actually read PDF files now!
  • Overall Responsiveness – Very little delay between user input and system output.
  • Camera – Forget the Mega Pixel count, the optics are very impressive for a phone.
  • Audio Output – Loud and clear.
  • Messaging – iMessage, FaceTime & just about every Social App available.
  • Productivity – Full Exchange Compatibility (with the addition of a 3rd party application*)
  • Location Based Reminders – Arrive/leave a location and get reminded of something you need to do at that time (Example – Set the trash out every Wed when you get home from work).

Cons:

  • Battery Life – If you use the phone at all you’re going to have a hard time getting through the day on a single charge (I found a solution I’ll discuss below**).
  • On-screen Keyboard – I’m slowly getting used to it and the auto correct has not burned me (yet).
  • Data Network – I seem to lose 3G coverage more than I did with the Blackberry.
  • Software Limitations – Some Apps I could use (like a Wi-Fi scanner) are not approved for use by Apple Corp.  This is resolved by Jail Breaking, so I hear…
  • Siri – This has SO MUCH potential if it would just do more than basic functions.

* TaskTask a $4.99 app fixed the issue with Outlook Tasks not syncing with the iPhone.  This would have been a deal breaker for me if the app did not exist.  I live and die by my task list (Insert GTD fanboy laugh here).

** As discussed in a previous post the PhoneSuite Elite solved by battery issues.  I can use the iPhone all day without any worry of falling offline due to a low battery.

Some applications worth mentioning:

  • Remote Controls – I can now control Roku, iTunes, Media PC and the U-Verse DVR from the iPhone.
  • Games – Words with Friends is pretty addictive as are any of the EA Games titles.
  • Dragon Dictation – This app is built in and does an incredible job of turning spoken words into text.

So there you have it, yet another move to a new platform.  Let’s see, in the last 20+ years it’s been:

  • Pen & Paper
  • Casio Address Book
  • HP Palmtop
  • Motorola Pager
  • Motorola 2-Way Pager
  • Motorola Star-Tac
  • Palm (several models)
  • Windows Mobile (several models)
  • Blackberry (several models)
  • iPhone 4s

Who knows what the future will hold but it the past is any indication it’s going to keep getting better and better.

 

Can I Make The Switch?

Let me start off by saying I’m a BlackBerry fan(boy). I also like Apple. But I use a BlackBerry for my day-to-day tasks at work and personal stuff.  It’s been a great platform which has proven itself reliable, secure and fast.

Recently though with the latest software update I’ve had a lot of problems with my BlackBerry 9930. Frequent lockups, long reboots (15 minutes!), and poor battery life have led me to look for an alternative.

Earlier this week I received an iPhone 4s to try and so far it’s pretty interesting. Having used an iPod touch for years I’m very familiar with the Apple operating system. In fact an iPhone is just touch with a phone. (or so I thought).

I know there’s a bit more to it like processing power, battery life, screen resolution, and Siri, but other than that they’re very similar (ha).

The first thing I noticed when using the iPhone is its much faster than my fourth generation iPod touch. I mean it’s really fast!  It makes the applications that I’m used to much more enjoyable. They seem to launch faster, respond faster, and all-around give a better user experience.

I’m giving the iPhone two weeks to see if it can win me over. If not, I’m going to have to (shutter) look at an Android or go back to a Windows-based phone…  I surely hope the ghost of Steve will prevent that from happening.

Call Me a Fanboy but…

…OS2.0 for the Blackberry Playbook (released today) is a huge improvement over the Operating System that initially shipped with the Playbook.  We test a lot of gear at my company and luckily I get to be in on the action.  After playing with an iPad (1st gen) for a few months and using it more for games than work I decided to give the Blackberry Playbook a try.

I know a lot of people have given up on Blackberry (or actually Research in Motion).  A lot of those same people used to LOVE Blackberry.  The company has had its share of setbacks but honestly those issues have not affected me as an end-user.  I have a Bold 9930 and I think it’s one of the best phones I’ve ever had (you get the best of both worlds with a touch screen AND a keyboard).

I have nothing against the iPhone or the Android platform.  I have an 4th gen iPod Touch and use it daily.  I just have not found the need, or had the desire, to change to yet another platform.  I’ve already been through several Palm devices and multiple flavors of Windows Mobile.  Once I moved to the Blackberry I was a happy man.  So if I’m happy I’m not necessarily looking to leave just yet.

Te Playbook was pretty limited in its original version.  I did like the tethering feature that kept all of my corporate information on my phone vs. on the actual Playbook.  This has its advantages of not having to sync two devices and the data is encrypted throughout its journey from the server to your eyes.  Overall it worked well but there were things missing.

One thing that was missing were a large variety of applications.  The list was just too limited.  That’s ben fixed with OS 2.0.  developers were offered a free Playbook if they recompiled their Android apps to the Blackberry platform before a certain date.  Call it a desperate move (it may have been) but it definitely fixed the issue with a limited application catalog.

I used my Playbook for casual web surfing (it has a great browser) and for watching video.  Movies, TV’s and the 1080p HD videos the Playbook can record.  Given the right lighting the recordings are absolutely incredible.

Here the Playbook hardware specs for all the geeks out there (I highlighted the good stuff):

  • 7″ LCD, 1024 x 600, WSVGA, capacitive touch screen with full multi-touch and gesture support
  • BlackBerry Tablet OS with support for symmetric multiprocessing
  • Texas Instruments OMAP4430 Processor, Dual Core@ 1GHz
    • IVA 3 hardware accelerators enable full HD 1080p, multi-standard video encode/decode
    • Faster, higher-quality image and video capture with digital SLR-like imaging up to 20 megapixels
    • Dual-core ARM® Cortex-A9 MPCore with Symmetric Multiprocessing (SMP)
    • Integrated POWERVR SGX540 graphics accelerator drives 3D gaming and 3D user interfaces
  • 1 GB RAM
  • Memory: 16GB, 32GB and 64GB
  • 5300mAh battery
  • Dual HD cameras (3 MP front facing, 5 MP rear facing), supports 1080p HD video recording
  • Video playback: 1080p HD Video, H.264, MPEG, DivX, WMV
  • Audio playback: MP3, AAC, WMA
  • HDMI video output
  • GPS and Wi-Fi – 802.11 a/b/g/n
  • Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR
  • Connectors: microHDMI, microUSB, 3.5mm headset port, charging contacts
  • Open, flexible application platform with support for WebKit/HTML-5, Adobe Flash Player 10.2, Adobe Mobile AIR, Adobe Reader, POSIX, OpenGL, Java
  • Ultra thin and portable:
    • Measures 5.1″x7.6″x0.4″ (130mm x 193mm x 10mm)
    • Weighs less than a pound (approximately 0.9 lb or 400g)

I’m not trying to compare the Playbook to an iPad or any other tabled device.  I’m just reporting my experiences with it.  Performance is very fast and you can take advantage of true multi-tasking that allows you to run several applications at once and switch between them with a simple finger swipe.  In fact, the gestures are very intuitive and allow for a lot of control of the device.

OS 2.0 adds some much-needed software features to a strong hardware platform:

  • Integrated email client with a powerful unified inbox (nothing “new” but a different way of doing things)
  • Social Integration with Calendar and Contacts apps (links all of your contacts and social media services you use)
  • Updated BlackBerry Bridge app (remote control of the Playbook from your Blackberry phone)
  • Updated document editing functions (Docs-to-go baked in)
  • Print To Go (“print” documents to the Playbook wirelessly)

There are other enhancements as well but a lot of them are subtle (like a revamped keyboard layout) and notification method.

All in all I have been pleased with the playbook and it’s been a very useful tool for work.  OS 2.0 adds to that usefulness and I’m looking forward to seeing what comes next from RIM.  If the company eventually fails, it fails (I’m not going to save it by being a happy customer).  I’ll then have to move on to another platform.  I’m not sure which one though.  Maybe something new will come along by then.

Long Term Report – Blackberry 9930

Last month I posted my initial review of the Blackberry Bold 9930 and, at the end of the review, I promised a follow-up post once I had some mileage on the unit.  Well, after one month I think I have a pretty good handle on the pros and cons of Blackberry’s latest release.

Research in Motion (RIM) continues to slip in the industry and that’s a shame because, in my opinion,  they do make quality products and they work well, especially in the enterprise market.  The Blackberry Enterprise Server (BES) gives administrators the utmost control of their mobile fleet although I venture to guess very few take advantage of the power BES can offer.

I’m not an Apple/Droid/WinMo hater.  I think they all make solid products and their phones are selling like crazy so, if anything, their marketing dollars are being well spent.  Just like automobiles, we all have our preferences and needs.  I welcome the competition as it keeps the smart phone market fresh with new innovations released monthly.

The following are my impressions after a month with the Blackberry Bold 9930.

Spoiler alert…  I still love the phone but it’s not perfect.

The touch screen is responsive and works very well but I don’t find myself using it all that often. Maybe it’s the fingerprints on the screen or the fact I can do everything I need to do with the keyboard or the touch pad.  I have had an issue with my favorite shopping app, Our Groceries, randomly adding, deleting list items if I don’t lock the unit before placing it in my pocket.  I’m chalking this up to an application that has not been updated to version 7 of the Blackberry operating system.

When I need to reboot the phone, which is not very often, it boots quickly (less than a minute).  This is a HUGE difference from past units that could take 3-4 minutes to restart.

The battery life is acceptable and it gets me through an 8-10 hour work day.   It’s typically down to about 30% when I go to bed.  This is similar to what I was getting with my past two Blackberry phones (8530 & 8330) and the Windows Mobile phone before that.  I don’t know to many people who can get more than a day out of their smart phone these days unless they are just not using it.

They keyboard continues to shine for long emails or note taking sessions.  My only gripe, and it’s a small one, is that it’s a little “poppy” sounding.  I’m thinking it’s the membrane under the keys.  I’m curious to see if it gets quieter with age (or I just get used to it).

As far as build quality the Blackberry Bold 9930 is solid.  Everything fits nicely and the seams are tight.  I had a raised piece of trim near the keyboard out of the box but it’s stayed in place once I pressed it down a few times.  The touch screen and “glass” fiber back are fingerprint magnets but without a screen protector of any kind I can’t find a single scratch on the unit.  I was hoping the front screen would use the “Gorilla Glass” that’s showing up on more and more smart phones units but whatever RIM is using seems to work.

Overall I’ll have to say I’m really happy with the Blackberry Bold 9930.  It’s has some really nice features, solid build quality, and a powerful processor that keeps up with everything I ask it to do.

One nice thing about my job is I don’t have to pay Verizon $250 to own one (which I might if I had to)!

Hands On – Blackberry Bold 9930

Having practically grown up with technology (my first computer was an Apple IIc in the mid-80’s) I always get excited when I hear about new or updated products.  The mobile phone market, especially the “smart” phone, has exploded over the past few years and manufacturers are pumping out new makes and models at an astounding pace.

Once at the top of the mountain Research in Motion (RIM) has had it’s share of setbacks mainly from the folks at Apple who have found a way to brainwash people into thinking the iPhone is the only phone to have.  I don’t want to turn this into a manufacturer bashing as I feel the company’s at the top of the pile are there on their own merits.  I just feel like a physical keyboard makes the Blackberry feel more like a tool than a toy…  I do, however, love my iPod Touch and use it for all things media (and gaming).

Where was I?…   Oh yeah, Blackberry!  After a long, and painful to watch, slide out global dominance the brainiac at RIM have a new line of phones rolling out to phone vendors all over the USA.  Will these new models help prop up the best thing to come out of the Great White North since Bob and Doug McKenzie and the Kids in the Hall?  Let’s find out…

First of all, I have to say the expanded keyboard of the 9930 is unreal.  It’s slightly wider than past 9000 series phones and a better fit for my hands than the Bold 9650 that I just retired.  Key travel & tactile feedback are exactly as they should be (present but not over done) & I see myself typing longer emails and blog posts with it.

This is the first Blackberry with a full time QWERTY keyboard and a touch screen (if you don’t count the Torch “slider” model).  Having used something similar in a last life (i.e. Palm Treo 700x) the idea of keyboard and touch screen is not new.  What is new is having the ability to use a track pad, and multi-touch screen that negates the need for a stylus (remember those?).

The Blackberry Bold 9930 is also the thinnest and lightest unit ever made by RIM.  The metal wrapped sides is slightly reminiscent of the latest generation iPhone.  RIM choose to locate the antenna on the bottom edge of the unit to avoid the dreaded death grip that had been an issue with past smartphone models.

Rounding out all of this Fan Boy praise I need to mention the lightning quick processor speed, OS7, built in compass and the HD video recording capabilities.

So, is there anything wrong with the 9930?  In a word, yes.  It’s nothing earth shattering and most of it will probably be fixed over time but this phone is not perfect.

One of my first complaints is the reduction of convenience keys to a single button placed awkwardly on the lower right side.  These keys on past units could be programmed for many functions including application launch and voice commands.  Third party tools extended this capability to allow for multiple functions dictated by the number of sequential presses.  One press for the camera, two presses for the calendar, etc.

The 5MP camera has whats called “Extended Depth of Field” and is fixed focus.  It’s not a show stopper but your pictures will definitely look a lot different with everything in front and back of the subject in focus.

The 9930 is the first Blackberry to incorporate Near Field communications (NFC).  It’s a newer technology that has a lot of potential for simplified transactions, data exchange, and connections with a touch of the phone to a special device or tag.  This is all great but Verizon has chosen to DISABLE this feature.  This reminds me of the days where they would disable Bluetooth on phones.  The good news is the NFC hardware is there and leaked OS upgrades appear to enable the feature so all is not lost.  The adoption of NFC is also still in its infancy so I’m not missing much.

Lastly, there are the non-working apps.  OS7 requires some modifications on the part of the developers and as of today about 15% of my installed applications are not functioning properly.  I’m hoping this is a short-term problem & anxiously await to get Pandora working again!  (ha ha).

Specs and pricing for the Blackberry Bold 9930 can be found here.  It’s also available on other carriers under the Bold 9900 model number (same phone, different carrier radio type).

I’ll plan on posting a follow-up in a few months after I get some 9930 time under by belt.  If it’s anything like the first 48-hours I think I’ll be back here singing it’s praises.

 

Mobile Blogging – SO Close!

Since the beginning of this blog I’ve been looking for ways to use technology to write more. I don’t always have the laptop with me but my Blackberry never leaves my site.  What else do you need, right?  well, it’s not that easy…

The folks at WordPress have released the latest version of their mobile application and it seems to resolve some of the issues I was encountering when attempting to update the Blog when on the move.  While the Blackberry app is functional I’m finding the iPhone (iPod touch in my case) is a little more streamlined for quick blogging on the go.  I just can’t quite get used to the virtual keyboard on the IOS devices…

With either mobile platform the addition of graphics to the post is more difficult and, unless you remember all of the HTML tags, formatting can be a little tricky.  There are ways to publish via email, and that might be worth pursuing more.

In the end, nothing really beats sitting down with the laptop and being able to visualize the blogging process.  I find myself using the mobile devices to capture blog post ideas and subjects and finishing/publishing the post from the laptop.  Perhaps that’s where I need to concentrate my efforts…

Hey Bloggers, what tools are you using?  I’m especially interested in hearing from the local food bloggers.  Are you writing your reviews while mobile or using the computer when you return from your visit?

 

Have a Blackberry & Travel? You Need This App!

The newly released Blackberry Travel App is based on the popular WorldMate app that’s been around for a few years now.  The Blackberry Travel App has been streamlined and a lot of tasks have been automated so you get the information you need when you need it.  Check out the video below for a good overview of the application.  You can download it here.