WGBH Innovation Hub Gadget Review – December 2013

Yet another installment of Boston Public Radio’s Innovation Hub‘s Gadget Guru, from yours truly. This is really quite fun. Check it out, two pieces of audio with the second being a web extra. They’re only a few minutes each, so give a listen. Hope you enjoy! Also, below the clips are my full reviews of each gadget; something I might do each time going forward. (Check out previous Gadget Guru segments here)

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Continue reading WGBH Innovation Hub Gadget Review – December 2013

WGBH Innovation Hub Gadget Review – November 2013

Another gadget review from yours truly on Kara Miller’s Innovation Hub program on Boston Public Radio. This time I cover the Parrot AR.Drone, the Meade LX90 telescope (Family Funtures), and the highly addictive game Dots. It’s a brief segment, only about 8 minutes long, check it out…

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You can also subscribe to the Innovation Hub podcast feed here on iTunes and hear my previous gadget reviews here.

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WGBH Innovation Hub Gadget Review – October 2013

My latest segment on Kara Miller’s Innovation Hub program on Boston Public Radio for another gadget review. This one was about household gadgets.  We discussed, and I reviewed, the Nest thermostat, the Fitbit Aria, and the Phillips Wake-up Light. It’s a short segment too, check it out…

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You can also subscribe to the Innovation Hub podcast feed here on iTunes and hear my previous gadget reviews here.

 

WGBH Innovation Hub Gadget Review – August 2013

Kara Miller invited me back to her Innovation Hub program on Boston Public Radio for another gadget review. This time we discussed the ThermaCell Mosquito Repellant, the ATN Night Scout night vision binoculars, and the Garmin Oregon 600 handheld GPS device. Certainly a strange variety of products, I’ll give you that, but that’s what makes this segment so much fun. Check it out…

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And in case you missed the last segment a few months ago, when we discussed the Fitbit One, the Kindle Paperwhite, and the Canon EOS M, check it out here.

Subscribe to the Innovation Hub podcast feed here on iTunes.

 

WGBH Innovation Hub Gadget Review – January 2013

After joining Kara Miller on her popular Innovation Hub radio program on WGBH Boston Public Radio in December to talk about mCommerce I was invited back to join her for a new periodic gadget review. We recorded a couple weeks ago at the WGBH studios in Boston and talked about six different consumer gadgets. Part one (of two) of the segment airs tomorrow morning at 10am and again Thursday at 9pm. In part one Kara and I discuss three gadgets: the Fitbit One, the Kindle Paperwhite, and the Canon EOS M. Please tune in to 89.7 FM or stream it live online. If you can’t listen live you can just listen to it below. In part two we discuss three other gadgets and I’ll share it here when it’s available.

I’m looking forward to continuing this but more importantly hopefully you will too.

Listen to the broadcast here: [soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/103716610″ params=”” width=” 100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]

And I highly encourage you to subscribe to Kara’s Innovation Hub iTunes Podcast feed.

iPhone 3G: One Month Later

So now that I’m a proud, card-carrying Mac dude, although a little embarrassed that it took me this long to see the light, it was inevitable that I was going to get the iPhone 3G. Last year when the first generation iPhone came out I was using a Blackberry Pearl, which I absolutely loved after overcoming some strange geek fears. I was skeptical of the iPhone for a few reasons and even swore that I’d never buy an iPhone. Goes to show you – never say “never.” And if you’re wondering, yes, my foot is deep in my mouth, thanks.

Here was my list at that time in order of importance:

  1. No enterprise email support. At CitySquares, we use a hosted MS Exchange service by a Canadian company called Sherweb (who’s fantastic by the way). If I can’t seamlessly sync my mobile device with my Exchange inbox, contacts, and calendar, than I’ve already lost total interest in the device.
  2. Battery. Early reports of the iPhone, even before it was officially released, were that its battery-life stunk. At the time I could get about 2 full days out of my Pearl, which was pretty good for all the abuse it took. Also, the fact that the iPhone’s battery is fixed (i.e., cannot replace/swap it when necessary) was just a philosophical thing for me. That level of proprietary hardware really annoys me. Sony does the same kind of thing with their hardware and that’s kept me from buying Sony products for the past 15 years or so.
  3. Keyboard: When I first saw the keyboard demo’d last year, I thought the iPhone would be a bust for sure. I just figured that no matter how intuitive the keyboard was people would still prefer buttons, something tactile. For example, when I’d drive around with my Pearl, I could actually type on it with one hand, using just my thumb, without looking at it, well, mostly (not recommended). But over time the critics were mostly silenced by the computer’s ability to interpret and correct your typing as well as the spacing of the virtual buttons.
  4. AT&T: I just had a religious epiphony when I switched from Verizon Wireless to T-Mobile. Was I supposed to just jump ship again? Where are my loyalties? Also, AT&T long had a bad reputation. Cingular stunk in many ways, then AT&T bought them. To me that seemed like buying rotten meat, not young and healthy cattle. I just wasn’t willing to switch providers again, especially AT&T. Ew!
  5. Bulk: The size of the Blackberry Pearl was just superior, and still is, naturally. It’s just tiny, but it packs quite a punch. The iPhone just seemed like a step backwards for me.
  6. Wow factor: OK, the iPhone had a cool touch screen but aside from that it just didn’t excite me. I really enjoy playing stupid little games on my pearl, like Blackjack, poker, tetris. I also liked some of the apps I could run like the twitter app, the Facebook app. It didn’t seem that I could do those things with the iPhone, unless I unlocked it.

Well, here I am, well over a year later, with an iPhone 3G. What got me excited about this generation of the iPhone? All of this, in order of importance:

  1. Enterprise email support: DONE! Totally solved in the new firmware. So whether you had the first gen iPhone or the new iPhone 3G, you could sync with your Exchange mailbox. It still needs a little work, like I can’t sync tasks, and I can’t contract folders when in my folder view, but those are very minor things. In fact, I get emails on my iPhone 3G quicker than I get them on my Microsoft Entourage email client. It works, and it syncs, wirelessly and seamlessly. Setting it up was no more than a couple minutes.
  2. Browser: It’s just so sexy. When I first really used the browser, in conjunction with the keyboard, at Gaslight next door on a colleagues iPhone, I was hooked. It worked so intuitively and so intelligently.
  3. 3G: What’s the use of a slick, sexy, and intuitive web browser if the network is slow? AT&T’s 3G network is fantastic. It’s actually 3.5G and it’s only going to get better and broader.
  4. Location Based Services: With the baked-in hybrid LBS technologies, using GPS, WiFi, or cellular triangulation, the iPhone is really the first device to be able to provide truly mobile applications, like its built-in Google Maps app, or the various location-aware social networking apps, or the geotagging photo features, and even local search – CitySquares bread and butter.
  5. App Store: This was really just the icing on the cake, especially once I saw the Monkey Ball demo on the WWDC 2008 broadcast. That was wild! So far I’ve downloaded (and removed) several apps. This was a pretty big reason for buying the iPhone 3G, availability of software to maximize my use and enjoyment.

On Saturday, July 12th, the day after the iPhone came out, Ali and I went to the Cambridgeside Galleria Apple store, stood in line and waited for about an hour. We walked out about an hour later with two 8GB iPhone 3Gs. I knew that if Ali wanted an iPhone something big, something revolutionary was taking place. I mean that too. Ali doesn’t like complication in her technology. She’s the typical user – neither a neophyte nor a geek. Just uses technology as it’s mean to be used – as tools to getting things done better and more efficiently. If her previous cell phone could place and receive phone calls from just about anywhere, than that’s just good enough. Ironically, though, what really got her excited about the iPhone was Monkey Ball. It was a silly game. That opened her mind up to consider it. Then once she realized she could use her gmail account on it, work email, browse the web, feed her zombie on Facebook, she suddenly leapfrogged the smartphone learning curve that I had to go through and just became an iPhone fanatic and expert!

When we brought the iPhone home, I was excited but hesitant. I was hesitant about the remaining concerns: battery, AT&T, and the keyboard. I actually kept my Blackberry Pearl activated for a few days before making the switch just to be on the safe side. My first couple of days with the device weren’t as amazing as I’d expected. It took me a little time to figure things out, customize things – I like customization. I want my own sounds, I want my own pictures, I want to fine-tune my devices. And after a few hours, I was doing just that.

30 days later…

KeyboardGrade: A.: In those first few days I was careful not to become so enchanted with some of the iPhone’s bells and whistles that with the keyboard I just settled for less. It definitely took me a couple days to get used to it. I don’t want to be a one-finger smartphone typist – I want to type with my thumbs, and fast. Now, one month later, I’m nearly as fast with the iPhone keyboard as I ever was with the Pearl. Furthermore, the intelligence of the iPhone computer, and its ability to guess what I’m spelling and correct frequent typos is unparalleled in any device I’ve ever used. It’s far superior to the RIM’s proprietary SureType (which I grew more annoyed with over time). In some ways the keyboard is actually better than other kinds, just because its a software keyboard and the available keys are much more easily accessible and there are more of them.

BatteryGrade: B.: The battery isn’t great. And in those first few days I was actually really pissed off with the poor battery performance. One day I left the office at about 2pm for a string of meetings and networking events. When I left the office my battery was about 80%. When I got home that evening around 9:30 it was completely dead. I was really frustrated. How was I supposed to be truly mobile if I had to babysit this thing? Then I started researching how to optimize it. I figured out the following:

  1. Turn off WiFi scanning. I only use the iPhone’s WiFi at work and at home so why have it scan everywhere I am? Sometimes I’d be driving down the street and I’d look at my iPhone screen and it’d ask me if I want to connect to a network, and it’d list out a bunch of WiFi networks within range. What an annoyance but more importantly, what a drain on the battery! Turning that off boosted performance quite a bit.
  2. Lower the screen’s brightness. Out of the box the screen is quite bright, too bright IMHO, especially at night. So I took the brightness down quite a bit. Most devices like mobile phones and laptops can get a lot more juice from the battery if you just lower the brightness. It saves quite a bit of power. I believe the screen is the most battery intensive part of a device actually, but I could be wrong.
  3. Limit Email Pull/Push: I don’t need my gmail account checked every 15 minutes. In fact, I don’t need it checked unless I tell it to check. So turning that off helps too. Same with my MobileMe email, which I just don’t use.
  4. Turn off Location Services: You can turn it on from within an app, like Google Maps. Then turn it off later. If you don’t need it, turn it off. I don’t need it constantly, not at all, only on-demand.
  5. Turn off Bluetooth: If you don’t need it, turn it off. I use it in my car, but if I know I’m not going to be in my car for a couple days, then I just turn it off.

There are other things you can do to optimize the battery too, like turning off 3G if you don’t need it, among other things. But the above steps are the ones I took, and now I can get more than a full day out of the battery, which is all I need anyway. I just charge it overnight, like I did any phone prior to having the iPhone. I also have a car charger too, which helps when on the road for a while.

AT&TGrade: C. Verizon and T-Mobile are much better, no question about it, at least here in the northeast. At my house in Somerville where I’d typically have 4-5 bars on either of those providers, I only get 2-3 bars. If the weather is bad, like it was this weekend, I find myself with one bar, at times no bars, even on my porch. Then I experience dropped calls. Dropped calls has definitely been a theme with my new iPhone in the past month. In fact, one of my colleagues decided to opt out of her iPhone 3G and go back to her first gen iPhone because when she went home to the north shore she had no service at all! So I’m definitely disappointed. It’s not like that everywhere. I’ve driven quite a bit around New England in the past month and have largely been fine with the cellular service and mostly happy with the 3G service. When I’m not in 3G coverage, not terribly often, I’m on EDGE which is just fine for email and light browsing. So as it pertains AT&T’s cell network, I’m disappointed but I’m trying to be optimistic and I’m hopeful that it improves.

BulkGrade: B. I’m happy with the size of the iPhone 3G. I think the new curved backside helps too, as opposed to the more flat back in the first gen. I don’t find it a nuisance at all, like I did with all my prior smartphones, with the exception of the Pearl. I used to put my Pearl in the ashtray in my car when driving. It fit nicely in there and was easily accessible. My iPhone, however, does not. So I end up putting it in my cup holder, so it rattles around a bit more. Or I put it in a slot in the door handle, which I don’t like doing. I got myself a cigarette holder cradle for the iPhone but it’s far too tight and I can barely get it in/out of the cradle. Aside from those complaints, the size is not really an issue, especially because this device just packs such a punch. If it was just a regular, middle of the road smartphone, that’d be a different story.

Wow FactorGrade: A. It’s simple really – I love my iPhone! I’m totally blown away by the stuff you can do with it. This device is not a phone, it’s not a smartphone either, it’s a mobile computer. OK OK, I can’t create and save MS Word or Excel documents, but I wouldn’t do that on a device like this anyway. In fact I don’t know anyone that edits or creates documents on their smartphone. For those that do, well, my hat’s off to you. I can still review a document on the iPhone, no problem. I can even make changes to it and send it back, I just can’t save it to a local file system.

Aside from that, I’ve fallen in love with the iPod and the storage capacity that I still haven’t used up with all my media. I’ve got about 4 GB of tunes, a handful of CitySquares and family movies, and a good portion of my Aperture photo library on this baby! That’s a lot of media and I’m still not using 8 GB. In fact, I don’t think I’m using half of it.

The user interface is stupid. No really, it’s stupid. It’s elementary. It’s so intuitive that if you can’t figure it out, than something is wrong with you. It’s that easy. It just makes sense. Flicking your finger across an app scrolls it left, right, up, down. Double tapping fits something to your screen, in most apps. Pinching your fingers together zooms in, and the opposite zooms out.

Customizing the iPhone 3G leaves little to be desired, although I still wish I could change some of the native sounds, like for new emails. I found a cool piece of software that allows me to create my own ringtones outside of iTunes, which is great. It’s called iToner (Mac only). I mean, screw you Apple if you think I’m going to pay a buck everytime I want to make a ringtone out of a song I purchased! Just, screw you!

AppstoreGrade A+. The Appstore is just terrific, especially if you’re not a dickhead who spends $1000 on an app that does nothing. I’ve spent less than $40 on apps and that alone is a good thing. I remember with my Handspring device, or any of the smartphones I’ve had in the past, I could easily spend $40 on a piece of software that helped me track my travel expenses. The Appstore has seemingly commoditized mobile software. Most apps are free, some you pay for. Here are the apps I’ve installed and my rating and review of them:

  • NetNewsWire – Free RSS reader that syncs with your subscription. What that means is this: I have the desktop version of NetNewsWire that syncs with my NNW account and hence my iPhone app. This way the two are always in sync, which is very nice. The UI is OK, could use some work, but it’s an iPhone app and I’m really not complaining – it’s better than any other mobile RSS reader I’ve seen on any other device, by a mile. Grade: A
  • NYTimes – Call me old fashioned but I still read the paper, specifically on Sunday mornings, the New York Times. I love it. I also love the NYT website. It’s my homepage. The app is OK, the UI could definitely use some work, and it doesn’t seem too stable. It crashes sometimes when I’m just scrolling through an article – the most basic function of the app. That’s really annoying. Also, I don’t understand why I don’t have an “Email this article” button or anything similar. There’s nothing – no calls to action. I hope this improves. Grade: D
  • Bloomberg – It does what it’s supposed to – shows me domestic and international stock exchange updates, and shows me my own portfolio updates, as well as finance news. It crashes once in a while, but it’s slick and I use it often. Grade: B
  • Twinkle – I just started using Twinkle after my friend Ryan Sarver at Skyhook Wireless showed it to me. I quickly moved from Twitterific, which I liked, to Twinkle. It’s just got a better UI and the location stuff might come in handy. Grade: A
  • WordPress – Pretty lame. I’m able to review posts on this blog as well as the CitySquares blog (both use WordPress.com), but it shows my content in HTML, which stinks. I can’t review drafts that are on the server either, so that also stinks. But I can create local drafts and publish them. It needs a lot of work and I’m optimistic cuz WordPress rocks. Grade: C
  • Mobile Fotos (previously Mobile Flickr) – It’s a good solid app that runs well. Yet to crash on me. I can upload/download to/from my Flickr account. It’s got some nice little bells and whistles and it keeps improving. I dig it but I’m hearing good buzz about Exposure and I may give that a try. Grade: A
  • Facebook – Frankly it’s pretty lame. It’s exactly like the Blackberry version – just allows me to see status updates, view messages, profiles, and that’s mostly it. I can’t see any of my Facebook apps or do much more than communicate with friends. I’m already growing tired of Facebook, and it’s becoming nothing more than a way for me to keep in touch with long distance friends. They need to release a better iPhone app soon, especially if they’re worth that $15 billion valuation. Grade: F
  • Pandora – This rocks. My friend Randy Parker tuned me into Pandora and I’m hooked! Great app! Listen to Internet radio from where ever you are. Create your own stations based on your favorite music and just listen. I love plugging my iPhone into my car stereo and driving around town listening to Internet radio – very cool! It does drain that battery though, but that’s what the car charger is for. Grade: B
  • Salesforce – I have a big problem with this app – I’m paying a monthly fee for the salesforce training experts information in this app and I can’t view the company dashboard! All I can see is my own account. I don’t have much of an active Salesforce account but I’m constantly checking in on the company dashboard. I should have access to that through the iPhone app. Grade: D
  • Google – It’s installed but I’ve yet to use it. I suppose I should just remove it. I just end up going to Google.com directly in Safari. Grade: N/A
  • BofA – Bank of America app. It’s OK. All it really lets me do is check balances, make transfers and find locations. Once you’re signed in to the BofA app all it really does is take you to its mobile banking website, which is pretty basic. I suppose that’s a very good thing though, for security, so I appreciate that. I will say that the ‘find locations’ came in really handy a couple weeks ago with a friend. He needed a BofA banking center and I was able to quickly find one with the BofA iPhone app and then map ourselves to it with the iPhone Google Maps app. That was a nice surprise! Just handy stuff that you don’t realize how useful it is until you actually need it and use it. Grade: A
  • Monkey Ball – I’ve played it like twice. I suck. I thought I’d like it better but when you suck you suck! I like to show it to people who’ve never seen it though. Grade: A
  • HoldEm – Just a great app if you like poker. I wish I could play other poker games, but HoldEm seems to be such a big deal this decade that ya can’t get around it. The graphics are absolutely stunning! If you like poker as much as me, you’ll love this iPhone app! Grade: A
  • BrainChallenge – I think this is my favorite iPhone app. It’s a nice little program that’s packs quite a punch. It’s got all sorts of brain tests you can take the help you stay sharp. I don’t know if it’s doing that for me, but it’s fun to take the daily brain tests in the morning and see how I progress in certain areas. I’m not very strong in logic and math, but I’m very strong in memory, vision and focus. So I can train in my weaker areas and hone my others. It’s actually a very intelligent little app and I use it daily. Grade: A
  • MLB At Bat – Handy, but not overly impressive. I can see realtime boxscores and so forth. It updates at any frequency I specify (1 minute) automatically. I can even see video replays. But that’s about it. I expected more for $10. Grade: C
  • Units – Helps me convert liters to pints, or miles to kilometers, dollars to yen, etc. But I don’t do that often. I look forward to needing it, cuz it looks promising. Grade: N/A
  • Morocco – I grew up playing this game in school and I loved it. I’m on the expert level and I’m close to beating the computer. It’s a fun game, great for killing time at a doctors office or just for relaxing. Grade: A
  • FiatLux – Silly, just a blank white screen (or whatever color you choose) in the event you need a light. This actually came in really handy a couple weeks ago in the dark while trying to unlock a bike. Grade: A?
  • PhoneSaber – Silly, fun, dorky, fun, nerdy, fun, dweeby, fun, pointless, fun. Grade: A
  • eBay – I don’t use eBay often, but when I do I’m all-in. I’ve yet to use the app. Grade: N/A
  • iBeer – Silly, fun, sad, fun, signs of a problem, fun, obnoxious, fun, pointless, fun. Grade: A
  • Bubblewrap – a screen of bubblewrap, pop them. Stupid. Removed it.
  • Loopt – I want to use it, I really do, but no one does and it’s buggy and cumbersome. Gave up, removed it.
  • More Cowbell – A cowbell you tap on. If it wasn’t for the guys voice I’d still have it installed. If it was Will Ferrel especially. Removed.

Sure, I’ve had some issues with the iPhone too, but they’re small, nothing that’s ever caused me to curse loudly or feel my blood pressure rise. Mainly that includes the occasional app crash. I’ll be in Bloomberg looking at my stock prices, or in Facebook looking at status updates, or in MLB looking at scores, and bang – it just crashes. But starting up the app again and going through the same process doesn’t result in a crash, so it’s sporadic. I tolerate it because, well, it’s tolerable.

I’m impressed with the push services built into the iPhone too. I can see when I get Facebook messages even though I’m not in the App. I can get emails and SMS when I’m on the phone. But I can’t swap from one app to another without killing one to get there. That’s a little annoying, but it helps a lot with the performance of the device. On a typical Windows Mobile smartphone you could have 10 programs open, and when you do that the device just slows to a halt. The iPhone doesn’t allow you to get there. Still, though, I wish I had some flexibility with being able to run more than one app at the same time.

Well, this was a very long post but I needed to get all that up here! I feel much better now!

Do you know of any other iPhone apps I should look at? Am I missing anything?

Do you have an iPhone? What do you think?

What about AT&T?

Mobile Evolution & Revolution

When the first iPhone came out last year I stayed away mostly because of price, and because I was warned by numerous people, websites and blogs that a) any first generation device from Apple is for die-hards and early-adopters and b) it wouldn’t be enterprise friendly (e.g., no push email, no syncing, no Exchange support, etc. etc.) and c) AT&T stinks. These first two points seem to coincide with Steve Jobs’ analysis of iPhone barriers to entry at yesterday’s WWDC keynote. Aside from those technical details, I didn’t see the iPhone as something that was going to revolutionize the mobile landscape, not yet anyway. In fact, I was quite the skeptic about user adoption, beyond my own, and I think I was right. I was also in love with my Blackberry Pearl, which totally seemed like a mini-revolution all on its own. I am, today, in love with my MacBook Pro, after being an extremely loyal Windows guy since MS-DOS (OK, MS-DOS isn’t Windows, but you get my point) and here and now I find myself ready to make another jump across the street and sell my Pearl (with it’s SureType), then stand in line on July 11th to get my paws on the new 3G iPhone.

Lots of people have asked us (CitySquares) to build a mobile app. One of our board members asked Bob and I this last week actually, at the TieCon East conference, after a panel on mobile. He turned to us and said, “So, when is CitySquares going to build a mobile app?” Bob and I looked at each other, and almost in sync we answered, “when we can free up some resources and when the mobile interface problem is solved.” Here and now I find myself ready to find an iPhone app developer to build one for CitySquares.

It’s my opinion that what we’re finally seeing is a real convergence, for real now. I remember back in the 90’s the buzz and hype (and the underlying cause of the bubble) was the convergence and voice and data. Everyone and their grandmother seemed to be dropping cable in the Earth’s crust, or talking about running voice over the same line you run data over, like a T-1. Wow! Imagine that. Data and voice, on the same pipe? Do you remember that? People were talking about digital voice lines, VoIP, video over ISDN. The Internet, on every computer! Some places were doing it, and they were nuts for it too, cuz it cost so much money. I remember very well!. Anyway, we’d been talking about it for so long that it seemed over-hyped. Then, the bubble burst, the shakeout occurred, and here we are today with Comcast (or insert cable co) digital voice, bundled with HDTV services, bundled with DVRs. Analog? What’s that?! I digress, as usual.

We’re totally there again, here and now. OK, maybe not to that degree, but this is just as exciting to me! We find our ideas of media being challenged every day. Be it YouTube, Last.fm, or the iPhone, it’s converging man! Mobile has clearly already converged with data, that’s nothing new, but now that resulting product is converging with the Internet. This is nothing new to those who’ve thought about it, but if you haven’t – think about it. And I don’t mean that Treo running PalmOS, or Windows Mobile with some WAP browser. I mean, the iPhone + Internet + 3G + social media (to grow your account visit The Marketing Heaven) + local and the revolution that combination is about to ignite. iPhone 1.0 was cool, but it was barely the tip of iceberg. In fact, it was just a glimpse. With the iPhone SDK, the new firmware, the new hardware, 3G capability, that sweet interface, the Internet, plus social media, plus local, we are at the dawn of a new era.

Afterall, social is dynamic, it’s transient, not static. Local is relative and it’s medium is mobile (it’s just not there yet). These concepts are often discussed at the conferences I attend, but the 3G iPhone makes this reality. With the price drop, and with Apple introducing this into 70 countries, I don’t think it will be an explosion however, but a slow and steady trickle that carves a wide canyon. I know, I know, mobile in other parts of the world is way more advanced than it is here in the US, I get it, but I think the convergence that we’re about to see hasn’t even begun, the revolution is just beginning, and it will be global. That’s for another blog entry.

I will be getting a new iPhone on July 11th. I will be switching to AT&T. I will be browsing web pages on my mobile device like never before. I will be watching video on it, and interacting socially through apps I install, among other apps, and geotagging my location and sending geotagged pics to the web. My wife will be joining me too. She’s finally upgrading from her ancient LG VX8100. She’ll be playing MonkeyBall on it, and she’ll be using Facebook to chomp zombies and update her friends, and she’ll be taking pictures and emailing them to her family. Afterall, if my wife wants an iPhone, it’s gotta be cool.

Check out what Walt Mossberg says about the 3G iPhone, already.

Check out what Engadget has to say, they got their hands on it.

Gadget Disease, Part II

Well folks, I said I wasn’t going to do it, but I did it. I did it and so far I’m not regretting it. In reference to my Gadget Disease post, I am, in fact, now a T-Mobile customer. After years and years of being a loyal customer of Verizon Wireless, and after years and years of shamelessly promoting them, I’ve jumped ship. I will confess that I feel like a mutineer. It’s like I told my barber of 20 years to go take a hike, and went to the salon down the street. That’s really what I feel like, especially with Verizon’s great commercials, superior CDMA network, EVDO, strong brand, good customer service, and cool brand versus T-Mobile’s rather unimpressive position in the US cellular market, their pink brand, sheek commercials with the lovely Catherine Zeta Jones, and their inferior EDGE network. Ah, but alas, I am now one of those guys – a ship jumper, a traitor, a pinko. And ya know what? I don’t care! I’m happy so far! It will take a few days for me to get over my shame and adjust to the new reality of my daily mobile life, but I’ll get by.

Here’s how it went down:

After my Gadget Disease post I saw Mike Orren’s comments and suddenly I thought – hey, there’s a guy who’s happy with is choice and is saving a bundle of Washingtons. That, my friends, was compelling. Upon further research and investigation, about 6 hours worth, I quickly deduced that Verizon is ridiculously expensive. But here’s the kicker: I called Verizon. Explained how long I’ve been a customer (umm… Bell Atlantic Mobile anyone? Circa 1997?). I told them how shocked I am at the competitions rates and selection of phones. I went on about a few other details that I shall forgo here, and their answer (twice) was “I’m sorry sir, I wish there was something we could do.” Now, keep this in mind too: this is a corporate account, with a few lines on it, not just me. So they basically told me I’m free to leave and they won’t try to stop me. Wow!

So, I did. After looking into T-Mobile’s packages and pricing, and going online to read what the masses had to say about EDGE, about the BlackBerry Pearl, etc etc, I contacted a local T-Mobile store, in Cambridge (at the Galleria Mall – ask for Ralph or Christina). Ralph spoke to me on the phone, and put up with my fast talking, my fumbling of plan configurations, and my many call backs. He was patient, kind, easy-going, and most of all – no b/s. He gave me the best possible price for our new account, and gave me an unbelievable deal on the phones. I was very very pleased. That evening Chris and I went there, and spent a good hour with Christina, who took very very good care of us.

Long story short, I’m now about 20 hours into my T-Mobile contract (as are Chris and Bob) and not only are we paying less with T-Mobile, but we’re paying less money per month for a whole bunch more! Unlimited this, unlimited that, MyFaves, great deal on the phones, no activation fees, a credit on our account, yada yada yada. Just a no-brainer!

Onto the Pearl – I’m thrilled. I can’t believe all the emotional abuse I put up with using Windows Mobile for so long. All three of us have the Pearl now, and we’re like kids on Halloween. I couldn’t be more pleased with the performance of the phone and the availability of software, information, tips, etc. However, two things I’m annoyed by right now:

  1. User Interface. I rather like the Windows Mobile UI. BlackBerry is nice… it’s lightweight – I like that a lot. But for messaging, the UI is a little clunky. Sort of like looking at lines of code or something. Takes getting used to, that’s for sure. Not too clean, at first anyway.
  2. Email syncing. This is, after all, BlackBerry’s thing isn’t it? Yes, well, it’s a piece of cake if you have BlackBerry Enterprise Server running. But come on! We’re a small company, we can’t shell out $1500 for that baby. We have Exchange, but we use that for mailbox redundancy and for basic calendar and contact sharing. We actually POP our emails into our Exchange mailbox. I like that approach. But without BES, you’re left with three options:
    1. Just use your BB to pop your email. Problem: Must have outlook closed, or not popping at the same time (sure sure, have Outlook leave mail on the server – no thanks.) Plus, I want emailed PUSHED to me, not popped. That’s the point!
    2. Use BlackBerry Desktop Redirector. Well, I would if I could – it won’t work for me. I’ve spent too much time reading forums and reading whitepapers and still can’t get it to work. Keeps saying “Disabled” and “Verifying forwarding address” Ay yay yay.
    3. Use Mail Connector. Got that working nicely. Very nicely. Got it going through the T-Mobile website (which, by the way, is amazingly sophisticated. Very impressed with my.t-mobile.com. It was working last night, then it stopped. I restart it and it works for a little bit, then stops.So, I arrived at the following solution:We use webmail.us for our hosted email, for many reasons. Anyway, I just have a copy of each email forwarding to my blackberry email address. So, it comes to my Outlook InBox, and my BB. That’s fine. Works fine. Minor concerns about that, but so far, whatever – it’s doing just that.

Oh, and one last thing – EDGE? Highly under-rated. I’m quite impressed. Sure it’s only 144 kb/s, but ya know what? EVDO is very VERY fast – but what does it matter if you can’t use it? Any Windows Mobile phone I had, whether I was using IE or Opera Mini, it would either crash my phone, freeze it, or just take too damn long. The BlackBerry browser and Opera Mini work exceptionally well with the EDGE network. I’m both shocked and in awe!

All things considered – very pleased. A smart choice. Mike, if you read this – thank you!

All things considered, I’m happy with my choice. Laughing

Gadget Disease

Thanks in part to this year’s annual CES and all the Apple iPhone hype, I’ve got the phone bug. I must I must get a new mobile phone and if I don’t get one now I’m going to suffocate. How can I keep functioning with my $500 Treo 700w? I simply cannot. I’m stuck in the dark ages. And with all the damn hype around this silly iPhone (pending Apple’s arrogant but unsurprising Cisco trademark infringement matters), and with the problems I’m having with my Treo, I simply must have a Blackberry Pearl. Problem is, Verizon doesn’t offer the Pearl yet and I’m not willing to switch providers.

So what’s going on here you ask? Aside from my neurotic must-have-new-gadget syndrome? Nothing. I’m simply neurotic and I must have a new gadget. I could just as easily be in the market for a new Luxury PC or this flat screen monitor, or an Infinity M. But at this very moment in time, I’m totally and utterly fed up with my Treo.

Ok, I’ll get totally real for a moment – it’s not that I hate my Treo, it’s just that I really dislike it. Ultimately, I’m really sick and tired of Microsoft’s mobile software. I first experienced Microsoft on a mobile device back in like 1997 when I had my first iPaq. At the time it was a really great calculator on steroids and it displayed Word documents, Excel spreadsheets on a really tiny screen which was like, so cool. But then I said to myself, holy moly – this will be integrated with a phone some day! Well, cell phones were still the size of tug boats then, but sure enough I soon had a … a SMARTPHONE. And WOW was it cool. Yes, I could finally make calls AND sync my calendar and Outlook contacts. But then I said, wait, I want to surf the web too. Oh, Verizon offers that? Oh I gotta have that. So $40/month later and I had my smartphone browser surfing Verizon’s limited selection of websites (cuz others would not work on this device – but at least I could check Sox scores in the middle of a wedding). Money very well spent of course. Well, as time went on, and EVDO came to Boston, and smartphones kept coming, and Microsoft kept updating their UI, I kept upgrading. I last had a Samsung i730 – I hated it with a passion. What a clunky piece of hardware. Who needs a phone that has a processor that rivals some small laptops, with an expanding keyboard that’s more like a kitchen drawer in your pocket? You look like you have a brick in your pocket with this ridiculous monster! So, 6 months later I had the Treo. My first Palm in several years, and I loved it – but it runs Windows Mobile. Like all my other Windows Mobile devices, it freezes at least once per day, and right when I need it most – like when I need to answer a call. Or like, when I need to make a call. Or when I’m driving and need to read an email. There’s nothing like having to pull the back cover off this sexy looking, but poor performing, device, pull out it’s, eh hem, stylus, and insert it into the, um, reset button. Yes, a hard reset is what it needs, often in fact. Oh but I can write Word documents on it! I can take pictures! Review Excel files! Watch videos! I can surf the web – wait no, that freezes my phone too. I sound like this device is evil, it’s not. It’s much much better than the Samsung, but still – what’s with all these bugs man? I mean come on! Every single time I have to reset this baby I curse Microsoft. Finally – I’ve had it. I’m done with it. I WANT THE PEARL AND I WANT IT NOW! Because I can do all those things without the stress – right? I will be able to do all those things without the stress right? And it’s a cool device, right? (cool people should not answer that)

Ah, but alas, I will have to wait. Apparently Verizon is not talking about the Pearl, but rumors say it’ll be just a little while longer (sorry, no link – took me an hour just find something online that gave me hope). And when that happens, I’ll find something else to fall in love with. But if the Pearl was available today in CDMA, I’d buy it right this second. I would not even be here typing – I’d be on my couch reading every word of fine print in the various documents and wondering why it took me so long to become enlightened and becoming amazed by the backlight settings that are some how better than any other backlight I’ve ever seen. Then I’d be customizing my theme, and wallpaper, and then I’d be looking for new ways to enhance the device like buying software I don’t need and will never really use, and installing blackjack or tetris, and then I’ll screw the device up and have to reset it and start all over. Ah, you see – but now I’ve learned it’s weaknesses. AH HAH! It was strategy! I learned, now I start anew and better – and soon I will be in control of my life again.

But, now I must wait, in frustration and sadness, while Verizon takes it’s time figuring out how best to release the Pearl – and surely with some limitations that will leave me salivating for the next new phone that can tell me when my milk is expiring (cuz my fridge can’t yet). Hey, it’s nice having a new toy to look forward to.

Lastly, mark my words right now friends and observers: I will never – NEVER – buy the iPhone. I won’t, I simply won’t. Why? So I can experience the proprietary purgatory that is Apple, Inc.? (watch, they’ll probably sue me now for saying disparaging things about them. But hey, it’s not like I’m creating an iPhone theme for my Treo or something! I mean sheesh!)

Ok, I’m done. Maybe I can find some cool accessories while I wait for Verizon.