Tag Archives: mobile

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.

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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.

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.

From iPhone to Moto Droid

Today, I took the plunge and moved on to an Android OS phone, Verizon’s new Motorola Droid.

droid

I like my iPhone 3GS, but have been feeling disappointed in how Apple keeps the phone OS and app store so locked down. I recently “jailbreaked” my iPhone, and it only served to reinforce my feeling that the phone is capable of so much more than Apple enables users to leverage. So, I read a few Droid reviews this weekend and wandered over to a nearby Verizon Wireless store today.

I confess, I didn’t expect to like the Droid. Recent iPhone competitors haven’t really turned my head (e.g., Palm Pre). However, picking up the Droid and navigating around, I liked what I saw. No stock Verizon apps, seamless Google app integration (not surprisingly), and a useful notification bar at top. Apps, while not as numerous as the iPhone app store, are certainly numerous enough to fill my extensibility needs. I’d read that the touchscreen and navigation seemed to lag at times, but I haven’t experienced that.

droidcardock

The screen is large and gorgeous! There are 3 options for entering text: a physical keyboard and 2 virtual keyboards (portrait and landscape). I’m especially intrigued by the docking accessories — both the desk dock and car dock change the stock user interface to better reflect navigation choices for those scenarios. Those accessories weren’t available in-store (apparently most stores were understocked), so I’m awaiting their arrival via mail — look for a review on those coming soon.

DroidDeskDockIt’s still early but so far I like what I see. Verizon coverage isn’t quite as good as AT&T’s where I work and live, but it’s not horrible so I don’t foresee returning the phone for that reason.

I’m excited about Google’s innovation in the online and mobile space, and think I’ll really enjoy the new Droid.

If you have any questions about it, feel free to leave a comment and I’ll respond with what I know — I definitely have more to learn.

I was wrong about the Kindle…. musings of a new Kindle 2 owner

B000FI73MA In June 2008, I posted an article entitled Kindle: Still too expensive at $359. I shunned the original Kindle as too expensive and frankly, too ugly. As much as I love books and reading, I couldn’t imagine spending $359 for a device that looked so dated.

There, I’ve said it. Even with my affection for shiny, new gadgets, what’s on the inside counts but what’s on the outside counts, too.

Flash forward eight months to February 2009, when the Kindle 2 was announced….kindle2

Suddenly, what I’d previously thought was overpriced became quite compelling. Was it the addition of text to speech? Was it the prettier design? Was it the influence of my Kindle-owning friends? Those answers and more below, in my initial impressions as a Kindle 2 owner.

What I like about the Kindle 2:
Solid, quality construction: My initial impression upon removing the Kindle from its shipping carton was, “Wow, this is really solid.” Of course, it requires the same care in handling as any electronic device. However, it’s thin but doesn’t feel fragile.

Text to speech: It doesn’t quite sound natural but yet isn’t so digitized as to be unlistenable. This feature will be handy for those times when my eyes are tired from gazing at a computer screen.

Intuitive navigation: I confess, I took a quick look at the user guide but didn’t pay attention to navigation instructions. I just picked up the Kindle 2, and started using it.159175-kindle2-350_188

The screen: Crisp and easy to read. It has a matte (not glossy) finish to reduce glare when reading outside. 

On board dictionary: What reader doesn’t at times encounter a word they’d like defined? With the on board New Oxford America Dictionary, one doesn’t even have to put down the book to look up a definition. Nice!

 

Amazon’s eBook selection: I’m a long-time Audible.com (audio book service) subscriber. As wonderful as Audible.com is, sometimes I want a book that’s just not available in audio format. Enter Amazon’s Kindle book store which offers great variety, and pricing (many at $9.99) is still far less than buying the physical book.

3G wireless connectivity without monthly subscription: Considering the cheapest cellular data plans cost an average of $20 to 30 per month, the Kindle’s always on wireless helps justify the device’s pricing. Of course, this always on wireless has its benefits for Amazon – it makes it incredibly easy to buy books.

What I’d like to see improved:
Variety of Kindle newspaper subscriptions is too limited and most are too expensive considering their digital format: I set up a Kindle subscription to The Irish Times since I love the perspective non-U.S. press offers and I thought the subscription pricing was reasonable at $5.99 per month. I love the Wall Street Journal but my current annual online subscription costs less than twelve times the Kindle WSJ $9.99 monthly subscription – I’ll keep my web-based version, thanks.

And, frankly, that’s all I can think of that I’d change. I am delighted with the Kindle 2, and very impressed with its quality and the attention to detail that has gone into its design and implementation.