Tag Archives: sprint

Samsung Galaxy Tab: Initial impressions & comparison shopping

samsung-galaxy-tabIf asked a week ago, I’d have said the Samsung Galaxy Tab was the product I was least likely to buy. Although it looked interesting, I couldn’t understand why someone would buy a 7” tablet. Really, why?

Still, I’d been reading positive articles about the Galaxy Tab by James Kendrick and was intrigued. To learn more, I went to try the Galaxy Tab hands on. It’s a solid, well-built device with a beautiful, responsive touchscreen. I watched a YouTube video and surfed the web. Easy to handle. Text displayed clearly & crisply. I liked it, but wasn’t too sure about buying it @ $399 with 3G contract.

So, I visited some nearby stores to check out products that could be considered similar:

Huawei Ideos S7 7” tablet: Interesting feature set on paper (including Android 2.1), but I found the resistive touchscreen to be frustrating and not worth $299. Screen wasn’t responsive enough, and I didn’t like pressing so hard to activate a function.

Velocity Cruz 7” tablet: Another 7” tablet, but this time running Android 2.0. Build quality seemed cheap. Not compelling enough to spend ~$300.

Archos 7 Home Tablet: Cheaper than other 7” tablets at $199, and apparently running Android 2.1. However, read reports of poor WIFI connectivity. Why is it named the “Home Tablet”? Based on some reviews, apparently due to poor battery life.

I got to thinking, if my main use case would be as eReader, why not consider Kindle, nook, etc.? So I wandered over to see those. Both the Nook and Kindle are well-built quality devices (I owned the Kindle 2, and had used it day in and day out). The free 3G connectivity is enticing. However, while my main use was to read ebooks, I didn’t want a device limited to just one usage scenario. I also find E Ink’s reverse display during page turns distracting. (Note: There are rumors the $249 nookcolor will be hacked to enable broader use as an Android device. Stay tuned.)

Despite finding the Kindle and nook too limited, I realized I loved the device dimensions as a comfortable fit for an eReader. The roots of a Galaxy Tab were planted…

Before buying a Tab, I revisited the iPad as ebook reader. I love the iPad for bringing tablets to the masses, but find it uncomfortable to curl up with like a book. As an eReader, it is simply too big despite its other qualities.

Aside from the quality of the device itself, what finally compelled me to buy the tab-homeTab? RadioShack’s Sprint Galaxy Tab $350 sale (11/21 – 11/24/2010). I went with the 2GB $29.99 data package since I’ll generally use the Tab at home.

Now that I’ve had the Tab a few days, I’m finding I enjoy it even more than expected. I’m reading Keith Richards’ autobiography, Life, on the Kindle for Android app. I’m keeping up with news via the WSJ, NY Times, and Financial Times Android tablet apps. I’m reading PriusChat and AndroidCentral forum posts on the Tapatalk Pro app. I’m reading Twitter posts via the Toiuteur Premium app. I added the Clockr Evolution text clock widget. I’ve played chess on the SparkChess HD Lite android tablet app (requires Adobe Air) and honed my Angry Birds gameplay skills. I’ve taken screenshots by pressing the Back and power buttons simultaneously.

I love the apps that are configured for tablet display but haven’t had seen any display issues for apps not specifically intended for Android tablets.

For my usage scenarios (ebook reading and couch surfing), the Tab is perfect. Comfortable to hold with a crisp, easy to read screen. If your use scenarios are similar to mine, definitely recommend the Tab as an option.

HTC EVO, three months on…

I’ve had my HTC EVO for three months, having picked it up on  June 5th.That was the day after launch, and the store sold out their stock imgreswhile I was activating my account. Little did I realize how good my timing was, considering EVO remained out of stock at Sprint for months.

So, what’s the verdict? I still love my EVO. It’s easily the best smartphone I’ve ever used:

  • Big, easy to read screen
  • Despite size, comfortable to use
  • HTC’s Sense UI, which makes Android even more enjoyable to use
  • 8MP camera that’s good enough to leave my Point & Shoot at home
  • HD video recording
  • Wifi Hot Spot capability (requires Sprint $30 add-on fee)
  • The kickstand, which I mocked before getting the phone, is extremely handy for viewing/listening to media
  • Excellent call quality & data speeds, thanks to Sprint’s network and extremely affordable plans

Not to mention all the Android Froyo goodness… I love how Android is tightly coupled with Google’s other services, so it’s easy to set up email, calendar sync, upload video to YouTube.

Despite having fewer apps available than Apple’s iTunes, I don’t have any difficulty finding great apps in the Android Market. Here are my current favorites, in no specific order:

  • Dropbox beta (released 9/16/2010): Takes the original Dropbox app and adds Android UI elements such as long press. Not yet in the Android market — link points to Dropbox web page containing download link. (Free app)
  • Hurricane Hound Free: It’s hurricane season, so this app comes in very handy. Not only shows current location, but also path. (Free)
  • SlideIT Keyboard: I participated in the Swype beta and could use that swipe-to-type keyboard, but actually prefer SlideIT.  (Paid, €5.99)
  • EStrongs File Explorer: I used to use Astro but find EStrongs provides a more flexible, attractive UI. (Free)
  • SnapTell: There are lots of “snap to scan” shopping apps but I find SnapTell to be more accurate than most. It provides links to online sources, as well as local stores. I like it better than Google Shopper. (Free)
  • Angry Birds Lite Beta: I love this game on my iPad and I’m thrilled to see it come to Android. Thankfully, the 9/17/2010 release works well on EVO. If ever there were a game requiring  12-step program for addiction, this is it! (Free)
  • Multicon Widget: Multicon lets you display 4 apps &/or widgets in the space of one. It’s perfect for those apps that I need to have handy but don’t want cluttering up my home screen. (Free)
  • Barcode Scanner: Best scanner app I’ve found for QR codes. (Free)
  • FromWhere: Nothing fancy but works well… shows city for incoming calls. (Paid, $1.43)
  • TuneIn Radio: Surprisingly, I think this free version works even better than its “paid” sibling (RadioTime). Access to numerous local and online radio stations. (Free)
  • Toss It Pro: A great game and my favorite “kill time while standing in line” app. (Paid, £2.99; free version available)
  • Touiteur Premium: Easily my favorite Twitter app. Lots of features, easily customizable, stable and reliable. Note that you must also have the Touiteur free version installed, since the “Touiteur Premium” app in the Market just provides your license. (Paid, €1.99; free version available)
  • Finance: Google’s own Finance app, providing real-time quotes and ability to track your portfolio. Note: I believe this app only supports US markets. (Free)
  • Tapatalk Forum App (Pro): Provides an easy way to subscribe to and track your favorite online forums. Much easier than trying to view forums via the browser. (Paid, $2.99; free version available)
  • Movies: Great for finding local show times, browsing DVDs, reading Rotten Tomatoes reviews and managing your Netflix queue. (Free)
  • Pandora Radio: Everyone knows Pandora… a great way to personalize streaming radio. (Free)
  • StumbleUpon: Fun way to kill time and find new and interesting web sites. (Free)
  • Dilbert Mobile: For those of us who work for corporations, a refreshing dose of daily satire.  (Free)
  • Springpad: Similar to Evernote but increasingly more full-featured.  Syncs with Springpad web site. Note: Be sure to set your settings to private if you don’t want to share your content. (Free)
  • Kindle for Android: Easy way to read your Kindle library on your phone. (Free)
  • Zillow Real Estate: Was out dog-walking with a neighbor when we passed a house that had been for sale for months – we used Zillow to view the asking price and decided the house wasn’t moving because it was overpriced. (Free app)
  • Silent Boot: Love Sprint and their network but hate the loud startup sound? This app fixes that problem Smile (Free)
  • Google Chrome to Phone: A very handy app, especially when I find a cool app available online only and want to download/install it. (Free)
  • Audible for Android: If you’re an Audible subscriber, this is a must have app. Download your books or stream (handy for those WSJ / NYTimes morning podcasts). (Free)
  • Beautiful Widgets: Very customizable widget that displays time and weather on your home screen. Don’t have a Sense phone? No worries, you can use Beautiful Widgets to design a similar time and weather widget for your non-HTC Android phone. (Paid, €1.49; from LevelUp Studio, the maker of Touiteur)
  • IMDb Movies & TV: Love this app – perfect for the serious film buff. (Free)
  • DroidEssentials: Very handy – alerts you when your battery charge reaches 100% or when it drains to 10%. I find I get better battery mileage on my EVO if I unplug it from AC power just as soon as it reaches 100% charge. (Free)
  • Quick Settings: Easy way to revise your various settings, all on one screen. I notice that the changes are immediate, without the lag I’ve sometimes experienced when using settings widgets. (Free)
  • Google Voice: Love Google Voice and use it on my EVO  instead of Sprint voicemail. (Free)
  • Battery Status Bar (AD free): Want to easily view battery % remaining in the notification bar? This app is just the ticket. (Paid, $0.99; free version available)
  • CNET News: Excellent tech news source and great app. (Free)
  • Google Maps: Oh, Google Maps… how I love thee! When I started using your voice navigation feature, I kicked my Garmin GPS to the curb permanently. (Free)
  • Sprint TV: Sprint TV is available for free as part of the stock EVO ROM. I like it a lot, and actually subscribe to Sprint TV Extra for more channels. ($10 per month)

About the battery…
I find the whole “EVO battery is horrible” meme to be overstated. I’ve found my EVO battery life to be comparable to other smartphones I’ve used, including the iPhone 3GS. I believe the bad press is because Sprint sells the phone with every conceivable sync app/setting enabled. For savvy users, it’s a no-brainer to turn off sync for those apps one doesn’t use…. problem solved.

I’m a bit surprised myself that I like the EVO so much even three months in. Usually by now, I’d be checking out other phones to see what I wanted to upgrade to next. Not so with the EVO… great phone, great plan, great Sprint service. I’m a happy camper. Smile

AT&T’s Option Quicksilver USB vs Sprint’s Sierra598U USB (Cellular Modems)

I recently upgraded my laptop to a Sony Vaio VGN-Z610Y (which I LOVE, byz_gallery_two_comps    the way, but that’s another review).

In order to leverage the Vaio’s portability, I decided to get a cellular modem to enable mobile Internet access. But which device and carrier?

I have a generous corporate discount for AT&T via my employer, so AT&T was an obvious option. I had read a lot about Sprint’s data access, and found Gizmodo’s nationwide wireless provider comparison (using cellular modems) especially interesting, so Sprint appeared to be another good option.

Off to the wireless stores I went…

At AT&T, I picked up an Option USBConnect Quicksilver. quicksilver I was actually hoping to get an express card form factor, but AT&T is apparently phasing out them out. That left a PC card format (which my laptop doesn’t support) or USB. I went with the Quicksilver based on reviews I’d read online.

598u

At Sprint, I picked up a Sierra Wireless USB 598U based on online reviews. Also, Gizmodo’s nationwide comparison test was quite compelling since it showed Sprint as having the fastest cellular network, on average, nationwide. I confess, I’ve never been fond of Sprint as a wireless carrier (don’t prefer CDMA due to being “locked into” a specific device for the life of a 2-year contract and Sprint’s customer service and billing accuracy can be underwhelming). I was disappeared to learn post-purchase that although my employer has a corporate discount negotiated, Sprint does not apply discounts to their $59.99  data plan for wireless modems.

Well, what did I find once I got home?

During my at home testing, I felt underwhelmed by the AT&T Quicksilver – speeds were consistently slower than the Sprint 598U. I was disappointed to the point of packing the Quicksilver up for imminent return. Here are the metrics from my at home testing:

AT&T Quicksilver (at home, evening) –
Average download speed:  .97 Mb/s
Average upload speed:  .143 Mb/s

Sprint 598U (at home, evening):
Average download speed:  1.137 Mb/s
Average upload speed:  .243 Mb/s

However, I’m not really planning to use the cellular modem at home. Time to hit my usual haunts and check out performance.

How did these cellular modems/networks perform out and about?

AT&T Quicksilver (out & about, business hours) –
Average download speed:  1.82 Mb/s
Average upload speed:  1.213 Mb/s

PEAK download speed:  2.74 Mb/s
PEAK upload speed:  1.25 Mb/s

Sprint 598U (out & about, business hours)  –
Average download speed:  .829 Mb/s
Average upload speed:  .499 Mb/s

PEAK download speed:  1.77 Mb/s
PEAK upload speed:  .61 Mb/s

Clearly, the AT&T Quicksilver is faster in places I like to visit locally. I don’t travel a lot, so I’m satisfied with basing my purchase on network speeds where I live & work in Connecticut. If I traveled more, my choice might be different.

I’m also quite happy with AT&T as a wireless service provider, and have stayed with them longer than any other carrier (and I’ve tried them all). I logged into my AT&T account today and was delighted to find my corporate discount already applied to the Quicksilver’s monthly data plan. My experience with AT&T has generally been “no hassle”, and buying and getting up to speed with this device has been quick and easy.

Decision: AT&T Quicksilver

How I performed this analysis (for data geeks :-)
I ran Speedtest.net 3 times per modem in each location, and then averaged the results. When I had reason to think another process could be concurrently accessing the Internet, I re-ran the test.