Monthly Archives: November 2010

iPad vs. Galaxy Tab: Which tablet is right for you?

Recently, a new tablet was released that finally seems a worthy competitor to the iPad: The Samsung Galaxy Tab. Up until now, the iPad was the tablet to get — partly due to its inherent quality and great user experience but also due to lack of competition.

So, choosing a tablet has become more difficult… which is right for you: Apple’s  iPad (size: 9.56” x 7.47” x .5”; weight: 1.5 pounds) or the Samsung Galaxy Tab (size: 7.48” x 4.74” x .47”; weight: .08 pounds)?

Let’s walk through questions you’ll want to consider:

Do you have a mobile OS preference: Android (Galaxy Tab) or iOS ( iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch)?

  • iOS (iPad)ipad_image
    • Apple is legendary for product ease of use, and the iPad continues that tradition.
    • If you (or the person you’re buying for) currently use an iPhone or iPod Touch, they’ll immediately feel right at home with the iPad.
    • Even if the prospective tablet user hasn’t used iOs previously, they should be able to pick up the iPad and quickly feel comfortable.
  • Android (Galaxy Tab)samsung-galaxy-tab
    • OS doesn’t require a degree in rocket science but is more complex than iOS.
    • I have non-techie friends who’ve bought Android phones and then felt overwhelmed, confused.
    • If you consider yourself (or the person you’re buying for) a geek who likes to try new things, you’ll feel comfortable mounting the Android OS learning curve.

How important is a large catalogue of apps available for download?

  • iPad is the clear winner if
    • You’ve owned other iOS devices and invested a lot of money on iOS apps
    • You want the largest possible catalogue of apps available to download to your iPad. See my post listing favorite iPad apps here.
  • Galaxy Tab is worth considering if
    • You like the ability to obtain apps from the official Android Market as well as downloading apps directly from web sites. NOTE: AT&T Galaxy Tab doesn’t currently support installing apps from non-Market sources; all other carrier Galaxy Tabs allow you to install apps from a variety of sources as long as you go to Settings > Applications and select the option for “Unknown Sources”.
    • You prefer to download free apps. Not sure why, while many apps I’ve installed for iOS were paid apps, it seems many more (although not all) Android apps are free. See my posting listing favorite Android / Galaxy apps (so far) here.

How do you plan to use your tablet?

Caveat: The best way to determine which is best for you (or the person you’re buying for) is to go to a local store. No amount of reading can replace checking out a device hands on.

  • Viewing movies: Supported by both devices
    • iPad users can buy and download movies from iTunes
    • Galaxy Tab users can download movies from the Samsung Media Hub app, or load the movie onto their SD card.
  • Watching Hulu / Hulu Plus: iPad is clear winner as Android does not yet have a Hulu Plus app, and you cannot successfully view Hulu / Hulu Plus video content via Android browser.
  • Watching Netflix: Again, iPad is clear winner as Android does not yet have an app supporting Netflix streaming video.
  • Watching TV shows on web sites using Flash: Galaxy Tab is the clear winner here as iPad does not support Flash in the iPad Safari browser.
  • Reading eBooks: Both the iPad and Galaxy Tab offer ebook software (e.g., apps for Kindle, Barnes & Noble nook) but where do you plan to read?
    • At a desk with tablet in stand: Both the iPad and Galaxy Tab work well in this scenario.
    • Lounging on the sofa: I’ve found the Galaxy Tab to be more comfortable to use in this scenario since it’s the size of a Trade paperback book.  The iPad is simply a bit big and heavy, and I wind up feeling distracted by having to hold / balance it.
  • Browsing / web surfing: See eBook reading scenarios, above.
  • Information at a glance: While the iPad offers many more apps, Android (Galaxy Tab) offers the ability to add widgets to your home screens. I find the ability to get information “at a glance” to be extremely handy, especially when I have limited time.
  • Games: Both devices are great for game play and have a variety of good games available.
    • Flash games: If you like to play flash games on the web, Galaxy Tab is the clear choice (Flash not supported by iPad).
  • Mobile use:
    • Tablet as laptop replacement / netbook: iPad
    • Tablet as mobile device to slip into your handbag: Galaxy Tab
      • As they say with cameras, the best mobile device is the one you have with you. I found that I left the iPad at home frequently just because it didn’t fit in my handbag.

Do you want to avoid wireless carrier charges?

  • iPad: You can buy either a WIFI-only iPad or an iPad that offers both WIFI + 3G connectivity (3G data provided by AT&T, with multiple price tiers). If you buy the WIFI only iPad, you will not need wireless carrier data access (and thus will not incur any related charges).
  • Galaxy Tab: Currently in the U.S., the Galaxy Tab is tied to wireless carriers and can be purchased at a discount with wireless contract, or at a higher price without contract. It’s a little confusing to describe, and I recommend reviewing PCWorld’s pricing comparison here. Note: A WIFI only Tab is set to become available via Best Buy but its release has been delayed – my guess is Samsung will release it after the holidays, to ensure the WIFI only version doesn’t cannibalize wireless carrier sales.

There you have it… questions I suggest considering before making your tablet purchase. Did I miss a usage scenario that you’d like to see covered? Leave a comment to let me know.

Samsung Galaxy Tab: Some favorite apps & resources

After picking up my Sprint Samsung Galaxy Tab last weekend (see my initial impressions post), I’ve had a chancesamsung-galaxy-tab to play and get some interesting apps loaded. Since I’ll primarily be using the Tab at home, you won’t see driving or navigation apps listed below. Also most apps are not specifically designed for tablet unless noted.

The first thing I did to customize my Tab was to install a new font (since Samsung’s TouchWiz UI allows font customization): Humana Sans ITC FlipFont ($0.99)

Then, I got busy installing apps…

News:

  • The Wall Street Journal: This app is specifically designed for Android tablet use. I’ve long had an online subscription to WSJ to keep up with business and financial news. I like the UI and how the app refreshes each morning at 4:30, so I can read news updates when I get up. Note that a $3.99 weekly subscription will apply after the trial period. (free during trial period)
  • Bloomberg: My favorite app for following stock prices & corresponding news. (free)
  • NY Times: A favorite news source made even better by making an Android tablet version available. To download, visit http://nytimes.com/androidtab from your Galaxy Tab. (free)
  • Financial Times: An excellent (and highly recommended) source for business and financial news. (free)
  • Mediafly for tablets: An interesting and varied source for news audio & video. I haven’t used this app much yet but so far find it interesting. (free)

Media (audio / video / ebook readers):

  • Radio 104.1 WMRQ: One of my favorite alternative rock radio stations. (free)
  • TuneIn Radio: A full-featured, free radio app that provides access to hundreds of radio stations. (free)
  • KCRW Radio: Probably my favorite NPR station – love their music and feature programming. (free)
  • Pandora Radio: I love Pandora’s “Spa Radio” enough to ante up the $36 annually. (free)
  • TV Flash: A work in progress app that provides ability to stream (over WIFI) a variety of TV stations  (U.S. & non-U.S.). (free)
  • Kindle: The Tab form factor makes it an excellent ebook reader, and I find the Kindle app pleasant to use. Another benefit of the Kindle app? Ability to download free ebooks from Amazon – some are basic fiction, but sometimes there are some nonfiction gems – list available here: Limited-Time Offer ebooks.
  • Aldiko Book Reader: If you’d prefer not to use the Kindle app or Amazon store, the Aldiko reader is well done. (free, paid version available)

Games:

  • Angry Birds: This fun and incredibly addictive game works well on the Tab. (free)
  • DroidWords: Looking for a Scrabble clone that doesn’t require other players? DroidWords is what you’re seeking. Get the  paid version to avoid the annoying ads inserted into the free version. ($2.99)
  • Sheep Run Beta: Another fun and addictive game. Not sure though if it’s still available in the market since, sadly, my search this morning didn’t find it. (free)
  • Droid Odyssey BETA: A fun side-scroller, the developer warns it’s has problems on the Galaxy Tablet. However, I’ve been able to play it on the Tab. (free)
  • Shortyz Crosswords: Perfect for folks who like to do crosswords and prefer free (vs. subscription) content. (free)

Other:

  • Palmary Weather Pro: In my opinion, the best weather app for Android. Widgets available, too. ($2.99)
  • Springpad: A great place to save stuff you want to remember – I like it better than Evernote. (free)
  • Touiteur Premium: My favorite mobile twitter client. I prefer the Premium version although a free version is available. (free. paid version: ~$2.73)
  • Beautiful Widgets: These are beautiful on the Tab, too. (paid: ~$2.04)
  • Dolphin HD Browser: Of all the browsers available on Android, this is the one I always return to based on ease of use and speed. (free)
  • Bookmarks to SD: After installing Dolphin HD, I use this add-on app to import my desktop bookmarks to my mobile device. (free)
  • WolframAlpha: A great reference tool. (free)
  • Dropbox: A great file archive tool. I frequently save nonmarket apps to Dropbox to put them onto my device for install. If you haven’t tried dropbox yet, here’s a referral link: https://www.dropbox.com/referrals/NTIxOTYzMDA5?src=global (free app)
  • Google Chrome to Phone: If you use Chrome as your desktop browser, this app is a no brainer… allows you to push urls from your desktop browser  to your Android device. (free)

Galaxy Tab enthusiast web sites & forums:

So, there you have it… my favorite Android apps & online resources for Tab to date. If you’ve found some good apps / references, please leave a comment to let me know!

Hulu Plus: Now cheaper

hulu

I’ve used Hulu since it came out and love how it lets me catch up on recent episodes I’ve missed. However, it doesn’t help when I’ve found a show I like and want to catch up on a larger back catalogue of episodes:

  • Comcast pay per view sometimes only lists 4 – 5 recent episodes (like Hulu)
  • Often Netflix has the series available for streaming, but not every season
  • For seasons / episodes not available on Comcast pay per view or Netflix, I’d wind up going to iTunes or Amazon Video on Demand (VoD). Unfortunately, that approach can get expensive quickly.

I happened across an article yesterday that mentioned Hulu Plus recently had a price drop from $9.99 to $7.99. That price drop coupled with the week-long free trial convinced me to give Hulu Plus a shot.

Getting set up was easy. I entered my info onto the Hulu Plus web page and then added Hulu Plus as a channel on my Roku XR box. Roku directed me to a web page to activate my Hulu Plus subscription on that box, and I was able to start watching TV instantly.

If you don’t have a Roku box, there are other devices you can use to watch Hulu Plus, including iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch and several other listed here.

From what I’ve seen so far, the biggest benefits to Hulu Plus are:

  • HD quality streaming (vs SD quality offered by the free Hulu subscription). Picture quality is very good, especially considering my Roku box is connected wirelessly to my router.
  • Large back catalogues for many shows, and in many cases, the full back catalogue (all episodes for all seasons)

And here are the downsides that I’ve noticed so far:

  • Not all U.S. TV series are available via Hulu Plus. My recent favorite, Sons of Anarchy, is nowhere to be found. But series such as The Office (both US & UK versions) are available, and there’s enough variety that I’ve been able to watch shows that I wouldn’t have had access to otherwise.
  • Unlike Hulu, Hulu Plus lists only TV series. You won’t find movies listed in the Hulu Plus catalogue. EDIT: Actually, the previous sentence is incorrect — there are both TV series and movies available for viewing on Hulu Plus.

For me, being able to catch up on back catalogues of interesting TV series is worth $7.99/month and I’ll continue to pay for Hulu Plus after my trial ends.

Interested? Use this referral code for a free 2-week (vs only 1 week) trial: http://hulu.com/r/VD6hSw (Updated: Sorry, all the referral codes have now been used)

A kid, an off-duty cop, and a community’s outrage

henry dangA few days ago, I wrote about teen Henry Dang’s tragic death and disturbing details about the actions of the off-duty cop who hit him and others on the Windsor Locks police force.

This case continues to unfold. Initially, the off-duty cop’s lawyer stated his client hadn’t been drinking. This assertion is clearly disputed by witness accounts and tavern surveillance video.

Now, the Hartford Courant is reporting the off-duty cop’s lawyer has said the accident was “unavoidable” and that whether (the off-duty cop) was intoxicated or not was irrelevant.

Really? I wonder how well that rationale will work for other drivers stopped for driving while impaired. Is the fact that State Police investigators determined the off-duty cop was driving 73mph, over twice the posted 35mph speed limit,  irrelevant? How does this assertion reconcile with the fact that a witness driving the opposite direction on the same street at the time, was able to see Henry on his bike, and then heard the collision?

During the off-duty cop’s initial court appearance today, “Not Guilty” pleas were entered, as well as request for a jury trial. These pleas seem routine, and it’s difficult to see how the abundance of evidence uncovered by the State Police outlined in the arrest warrant can be ignored once the case goes to trial.

According to the Hartford Courant, , the case has been assigned to Judge David P. Gold. From the Courant: Gold [ ] handles the most serious crimes in the Hartford Judicial District. Most defendants are arraigned in a lower court and then Gold reviews the cases and decides whether to advance them to the more serious docket. But the seriousness of the case propelled it immediately to Gold’s courtroom.

This case is reminiscent of the recent Hayes trial in the way the community has responded with intense passion. News videos feature comments from community members questioning why the off-duty cop was treated differently by police than other drivers.

Online articles posted by news outlets like the Hartford Courant and WTNH receive hundreds of comments questioning the actions of the off-duty cop and decrying suspected cover-up by the Windsor Locks PD.

The online comments are intelligent and thought provoking. Here are excerpts from just a few:

A new police candidate who admits to abusing drugs or alcohol or worse, driving impaired is disqualified from the process. There are certain actions that are auto DQ such as domestic violence, drug sales, or other acts that would reflect a negative image. During the interview process you are questioned on situations where your actions could be compromised. This event is text book on what not to do. (Excerpt from comment posted by West Haven Drunk Cop @ wtnh.com)

If the public sees this case as more than just great blog material we MUST stay with this story until the very end. Why? Because the defense is already setting up the playing board so that his client will suffer as little damage as possible when this is said and done. (Excerpt from comment posted by Chucky @ wtnh.com)

I guess that’s why I’m blogging about this tragic story. I can’t do anything to help bring Henry back, but I can blog in an effort to ensure his story doesn’t fade away.

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.

Disturbing allegations emerge following investigation of Windsor Locks accident that left 15-year old bicyclist dead

henry dangI normally write about movies and mobile tech. But sometimes a story is so heartbreaking that writing is the only way to process it emotionally….

Henry Dang, the 15-year-old Windsor Locks boy hit by a car when riding his bicycle home from a friend’s house, is one of those stories.

It would be easy to dismiss this story as simply a car vs bicyclist collision on a darkened roadway late one October night. And, not surprisingly, the driver’s lawyer has apparently made statements questioning the safety of a boy riding his bike home in the dark. Those questions seem reasonable.

However, serious and troubling allegations are being made about the driver’s behavior that night and suspicions that his police colleagues may not have investigated this accident strenuously as it involved one of their own.

Questions arose as news of the fatal accident started to become public – questions that would make any reasonable person revisit their initial impression of this fatal accident:

  • The driver who hit the boy happened to be an off-duty Windsor Locks policeman. The officer’s father was Windsor Locks PD’s highest-ranking officer at the accident scene that night.
  • A breathalyzer test was not administered, and apparently the driver would not consent to having his blood drawn once at the hospital.

Sadly, the boy died that night. And his family questioned whether there would be a fair investigation, considering the driver was an off-duty policeman in the town where the accident occurred.

From the Hartford Courant:

Hartford State’s Attorney Gail Hardy removed the regional team from the case two days later and turned the case over to the state police because of concerns about how the accident investigation was handled.

Perhaps she was just doing her job but I consider Ms. Hardy a hero… nothing will bring the boy back, but at a minimum, the boy’s family deserves to know the facts of the case. And if there was wrongdoing, the person responsible should be held accountable.

The driver has been arrested on several charges, including manslaughter. The investigation findings outlined in the arrest warrant make this case even more troubling:

  • Despite the posted 35mph speed limit in the residential area, state police investigators estimate the driver’s speed at 73mph at the time of the accident.
  • Apparently, the off-duty officer’s father refused to allow a regional accident investigator interview his son in the hospital that night.
  • Witnesses are confirming that the off-duty officer had apparently been drinking for several hours up to the accident. There is surveillance video showing him drinking at a tavern up to a half-hour before the accident.
  • The driver was witnessed by a nearby resident tossing something out of his car immediately after the accident – that object apparently was a bar glass. When the object was located by investigators, it still contained some beer.

There is more in the arrest warrant.

Aside from the obvious tragedy of a teen killed riding his bike home one night, Henry Dang seems to have been a good kid. In a region where the news is full of stories about kids who’ve gone astray, Henry Dang was apparently on the right path. And that just makes this accident all the more tragic.

Henry’s family wants (and deserves) answers about what happened that night. And thankfully, it appears they will get them. From the Hartford Courant:

Sources said state police are conducting a two-pronged investigation. The first part centers on the crash itself – with an emphasis on establishing a timeline of (the driver’s) actions in the hours before his car struck the teen.

The second aspect deals with how the initial investigation was handled.

My deepest sympathies to Henry Dang’s family.

HTC HD7, from an EVO user’s perspective

htc-hd7

Once upon a time, I was a windows mobile user. I loved my Samsung Black Jack, among other windows mobile phones.

Fast forward to today, past Nokia (S60) use, Blackberry use, iPhone use, Android use…. Finally Windows Phone 7 has arrived.

I picked up Windows Phone 7 today in the form of the HTC HD7 from T-Mobile. I still have my Sprint EVO – I need to be sure T-Mobile’s network works well for me where I live & work before considering porting my number.

I’ve only just picked up the HD7 today, so these are very early impressions.

Hardware: The HD7 hardware is attractive and easy to handle. It has an EVO-esque look but seems even thinner. It has a kickstand, which comes in handy when viewing Netflix.

Navigation: Coming from Android, the Home, Back and Search capacitive buttons were intuitive and I found it easy to move between apps and screens.

App availability: While I think apps are interesting, I am more interested in the basic functions of a smartphone: Call voice/audio quality, data speed / availability, GPS, maps, mail, browser. Based on what I saw in the Windows Phone 7 marketplace, the basic apps I’d install on a new phone are all available (and free):

  • Twitter
  • Flixster
  • IMDb
  • Last.FM
  • News360
  • Stocks
  • Twitter (basic app; wasn’t able to determine  how to set notifications for @ mentions & DMs)
  • Weather (The Weather Channel)

Of course, these are in addition to software already loaded on the HTC HD7 by HTC & T-Mobile:

  • The basics (Alarms, Calendar, Calculator, Camera, Contacts, Email, SMS, Browser)
  • Netflix (not yet available for Android)
  • HTC Hub (HTC-specific market)
  • Maps
  • Marketplace
  • Music & Videos (Zune. I’d love to see podcast and channel subscriptions sync to the cloud, to remove need to connect to computer via USB)
  • Office
  • Slacker
  • TeleNav GPS Nav
  • T-Mobile TV

Most interesting app: Netflix, which enables subscriber to not only view their queue but also watch movies. Interestingly, it doesn’t seem to require WIFI (appears to be available via 3G).

Most disappointing apps:

  • Camera: I’m finding it difficult to get well-focused photos. I realize I need to press down the shutter button half-way, but find I’m struggling to apply enough pressure to trigger the shutter to go off.
  • Maps and TeleNav GPS Nav. Not sure if it’s something about my specific phone but GPS wasn’t always accurate and the maps sometimes indicated one street name while the TeleNav voice prompt stated a different street name. (In all fairness, I’ve noticed some disparities in my street name on different maps. However, I’ve found Google Maps to be consistently accurate.)  EDITED TO ADD: I just read that Phonescoop.com also experienced GPS accuracy problems with the HD7. Interesting.

More first impressions, in no particular order:

  • Call quality: Okay, but not stellar; I noticed some audio breakup during calls. This may be due in large part to my location (weak TMobile network coverage area) rather than the phone itself.
  • Messaging (SMS): App UI is attractive. The layout makes it easy to follow conversations and fun to use.
  • Calendar, Contacts, Mail: While I have a Windows Live account, I turned off sync and will sync Mail Calendar & Contacts with my Google account instead. I appreciate that Microsoft provided robust support for Google accounts since most of my personal data (calendar, mail, etc) leverages my Gmail account.
  • Mail: Loads quickly & is easy to use. I like how the sender name & received time are displayed along with a brief preview provided in smaller font.
  • Marketplace: There seem to be quite a few apps available already, although I wouldn’t expect to see more specialized apps to become available until Windows Phone 7 has been out a while. There is a “free” section, although it did take me a few minutes to find it.
  • Hubs: I like how recent activity in a similar app is displayed in the related Hub. Example: I streamed music via the iheartradio app for a few minutes. Later, when I opened the Music & Video tile, I found a reference to the radio station I’d played in the iheartradio app.

Will I keep the HD7 and kick the EVO to the curb? Not at this point. While I like Windows Phone 7 and the promise it shows, I am reliant upon my mobile for accurate gps/navigation and point & shoot camera capabilities. Could I work around these shortcomings? Sure, but why when my EVO already supports these needs?

However, I’ll be keeping an eye on Windows Phone 7. I like what I see – Windows Phones will only become more refined / improved in coming months. Kudos to Microsoft for breaking the old mold and offering an OS/UI that’s fresh and innovative.