Category Archives: EVO

Samsung Galaxy Note (N7000): My review

Once upon a time not so long ago, there was a phone called the HTC EVO 4G. When photos and reviews began appearing on the web, I scoffed at how impossibly huge the EVO seemed with its 4.3 inch screen. I went to see it at a Sprint store. I left, satisfied that I’d seen what I’d come to see. The next day though, I kept thinking about the EVO and how much I’d enjoyed using it at the store. I returned that day to buy it, and became a delighted, long-time EVO 4G user.

In 2011, Samsung released the Galaxy Note (international version) with its 5.3 inch screen. I didn’t become interested in the Galaxy Note until AT&T released the Note in February 2012, giving me an opportunity to see and handle it. I was surprised that it didn’t seem outrageously large when I handled it, and realized it might fit the sweet spot between the portability of a phone and the easy-on-the-eyes screen of a tablet.

I bought the white AT&T Galaxy Note (model I717) — I loved it for the beautiful, easy to read screen and S-pen (stylus). I realized, however, that the AT&T model had some features that I found to be impediments:

  • The LTE data capability would have been wonderful if I had LTE network coverage in my area. I don’t though, and was disappointed that I couldn’t find a way to turn LTE off! My battery life suffered, and I didn’t even get super fast data speeds to compensate 😉
  • I missed being able to wake up the phone easily by pressing on a physical home button. Instead, I needed to reach up, locate, and press the power key to wake the phone. Possible, yes. Convenient, not so much.

So I decided to return the AT&T Note, and bought the international version (model N7000) instead. It solved the two AT&T Note issues I’d experienced since it didn’t have an LTE radio but did have an easy to locate/press physical Home button.

Now that I’ve had the Note for about 6 weeks, is it right for me? Read on:

  • Screen: I still love the big, bright, easy to read screen. I haven’t normally been one to browse the web on my phone but the Note makes it such a pleasant experience that I’m doing more browsing on the go.
  • S-pen (stylus): My handwriting makes chicken scratches look good, it’s that bad! But the Note’s handwriting recognition software is good enough that I can use the S-Pen to take notes on my Note and accurately convert it to text. The S-Pen is fabulous for making annotations. And it’s also quite handy for playing “Draw Something.” 😉
  • Samsung TouchWiz interface: I actually like TouchWiz. It’s fairly customizable, and I love how it allows me to do two things not easily done on all Android phones:
  1. Take screen shots
  2. Change the system font
  • Battery life (on the International model): I’ve found battery life to be quite good. I tend to leave GPS & Mobile Data enabled all the time, although I do use WiFi for data at home.
  • Phone Audio & Voice quality: I’ve found Audio & Voice quality to be good. However, I should mention I normally use a bluetooth headset with mobile phones (including the Note).
  • Camera (Still & Video): Photo and Video quality is very good.
  • Easy to update firmware: Especially with the international model, it’s super easy to update the firmware using Odin PC software and firmware available on xda-developers.com. No rooting required!

I’ve found some excellent accessories which others may find useful as well:

  • Skque Clear TPU Gel Case: A no frills clear case that protects my Galaxy Note, but lets the lovely white Note finish shine through. (The white Galaxy Note does not provide a textured back, and it can be slippery without a case!)
  • Generic Horizontal Belt Clip Case: Nothing fancy, just a way to clip the Note to my slacks. Although no longer sold on Amazon, probably available on ebay and from other outlets selling Galaxy Note accessories.
  • Desktop Dock for Samsung Galaxy Note: Gorgeous charger dock that can be used in either portrait or landscape orientations. Expensive but worth it.

So, there you have it… my Galaxy Note review along with buying considerations if you’re trying to decide between the AT&T and International models. Questions? Don’t hesitate to leave a comment.

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Google Chrome OS Notebook (CR48): A few more observations

I was thrilled to receive a CR48 notebook a few days ago, and have used it intensively for the last day. (See my initial observations post.) It’s an interesting device and I’m finding it enlightening as it’s making me aware of how I extensively I use the web.

As a baseline, I should describe how I’m using the CR48 and the laptop it’s (temporarily) replacing.

  • Usage: Home power user. Because my job requires use of business and technical apps not available on the web, I would not be able to use a web-only notebook for work.
  • My own laptop: I have a Windows7 Sony Vaio Z laptop that I love — it’s small, light, and still feels powerful despite being 1.5 years old. After a hard drive failure last fall, I’ve preferred to use web apps (rather than installed apps) whenever possible. That approach saves me from having to maintain current version of installed apps (since a web app will always serve up the newest version), and frees up hard drive space. I use Google services extensively, especially since I’m an Android mobile user (HTC EVO, which I also love!).

Now, a few more Chrome OS observations:

  • Mouse-less: I use a laptop’s trackpad and keyboard extensively, rather than using a mouse. I find the CR48 supports this use case well — there’s even an interactive onscreen keyboard help to provide guidance about keyboard shortcuts. (I think the CR48 probably supports using a mouse, but haven’t plugged one into the USB port to check.)
  • Web vs installed apps: If you rely on installed apps for computing, you won’t like the CR48. Since I have a preference for web apps over installing additional software onto my laptop, the CR48 feels like a natural fit for me.
  • Singular focus: On my Vaio, I’ll generally have multiple windows open and more than one window displayed at any given time. With the CR48, I can have multiple tabs open but only one is visible at any time. I’m finding I really like this singular focus — it’s less distracting.
  • User experience: Despite the CR48 processor being slower than my Vaio (and thus I wait a bit longer for several pages to open at a time), I’m finding the CR48 to be fun to use. In fact, I used my Vaio for a few minutes last night, and found that I missed using the CR48!

I can definitely see using the CR48 as a lightweight mobile notebook. I also think there’s an interesting (and almost polar opposite) use case for the CR48 as a net device used by less tech savvy folks to check email, reading web pages, etc.

I’ll continue to post observations over the coming weeks. If you have a specific question, please let me know in comments and I’ll do my best to check it out for you.

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.

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

HTC EVO… two weeks in

evo I stopped by a nearby Sprint store on launch day to see this huge phone I’d been hearing about, the HTC EVO. I left impressed by what I saw… impressed enough that I came back the next day to buy it.

A caveat: I have used iPhones, Windows Mobile, Palm, Android. I love the rapid evolution of mobile tech in recent years — the resulting competition in the marketplace can only benefit consumers and business users. I don’t subscribe to “there’s one device/brand/os that works for everyone.”

Size:
Yep, it’s big. However, even as a reasonably petite person, it doesn’t feel too large when I pick it up and use it. Size was my primary concern and I actually expected the size to be a deal-breaker before I saw it in person. That leads me to…

Screen:
The extra real estate takes EVO from “squint so I can read the small type” to actually reading comfortably. (I confess, I’m one of those people who puts on glasses/contact lenses first thing after getting out of bed in the morning!) The screen is responsive and makes the EVO very pleasant to use.

Sense UI:
Although I’ve used Android devices previously (Moto Droid, Nexus One), I’d never used a phone with Sense UI. I expected to dislike Sense as an aberration of the stock Android UI, but actually am quite fond of it. HTC has done a nice job of adding customized apps that are quite attractive and useful, including Peep (which I use as my main Twitter client).

Camera/Video:
The 8 megapixel camera takes impressive natural light shots (I don’t like to use flash in any photography). It focuses quickly, so I can catch those “the cat is doing some cute that I want to share on Flickr” shots. It also offers “touch to focus” functionality (similar to iPhone 3GS), which makes it even easier to get good, well-focused shots.

Voice Recognition:
One of my favorite Android features is voice search, which I find amazingly accurate. I use it frequently – if you have an Android phone and haven’t tried voice search, you’re missing out!

Navigation Speed:
The EVO is zippy. Tap a shortcut and it opens quickly.

Google Apps:
Google apps are excellent across the board. I use Google Voice to provide visual voicemail for the EVO. I absolutely love Google Maps/Navigation which is easily as good (or better) than those expensive navigation packages I used to buy for the iPhone. A Google app that’s perhaps not so well known, Places Directory, is  another great way to use GPS to see what’s nearby.

Battery Life:
I’ve found EVO battery life to be as good, if not better, than I’ve seen with other smartphones like Nexus One and iPhone 3GS:
*  Yesterday I easily got over 10+ hours of active use (not standby) with GPS, wi-fi, and 3g on all the time, as well as live wallpaper and intensive data transfer activities (twitter, browsing, downloading audible.com audiobooks).
* On a recent work day, I had a few hours of conference calls along with data use and the battery was still at 50% even 15 hours after unplugging from charger.

Phone Voice/Audio Quality:
I’ve found phone voice and audio quality to be excellent. I live in a not so optimal cell phone zone (regardless of wireless provider), but haven’t dropped any calls. Nor have other parties complained I was breaking up (something I have experienced within the past 6 months with both AT&T & Verizon). It’s nice to be able to make cell phone calls from home. 🙂

Sprint apps:
Contrary to what you may have heard, the Sprint apps are actually quite good. I’ve used Sprint TV as well as Sprint Navigation (both free for EVO), and like them.

Favorite Android Apps:
Although not specific to the EVO, a few Android apps worth checking out (in no particular order)…

K9 Mail: Fast, full-featured mail client. (free)

Thompson Reuters News Pro: Full-featured news app. I especially like its stock portfolio feature. (free)

Evernote: I use Evernote as my digital brain and wouldn’t be without its mobile app. (free)

NYTimes: Well-done mobile app and great way to read NY Times content. (free)

ShootMe: A quick, easy way to snap screen shots. (free)

Swype: Excellent alternative keyboard, enables user to swype across virtual keyboard to type instead of tapping. See James Kendrick’s excellent review (including video) to see how it works. (free)

CallTrack: If you need to log/track your voice calls, Call Track is indispensable – it’s customizable and can automatically add each call to your Google calendar — incoming, outgoing as well as call length. (free)

DoggCatcher: Great podcast player. ($6.99)

aniPet Koi Live Wallpaper: Absolutely beautiful live wallpaper. ($1.99)