June 2010

Product testing is a common practice for many manufacturers. In the enterprise space, vendors refer to them as beta testers – people or companies who agree to test an indevelopment product to check it for usability (or lack thereof) and help fine tune the product. The benefit of being a beta tester is you get to be at the cutting edge of the market with influence over the course or development of a product.

A more common name that has cropped up in recent years is early adopter. TechTarget defines an early adopter as a person who embraces new technology before most other people do. Early adopters tend to buy or try out new hardware items and programs, and new versions of existing programs, sooner than most of their peers. According to a theory called Diffusion of Innovations (DoI) formulated by Everett Rogers, early adopters make up 13.5 percent of the population.

While bragging rights and the envy of all are qualities that come with being an early adopter, it is well known that the risks associated with being first to own are real. Software may be buggy, as in the recently launched 15-inch and 17-inc Macbook Pros. Apple published a 256MB patch as part of its software update 1.3 (http://www.theinquirer.net/inquirer/news/1600979/apple-microsoft-patch-buggy-products).

When Apple released its new toy – the iPad – I was one of those who posted an early look at the device.

Back then I was merely trying to set straight what the iPad was, and what it wasn’t. At the time of writing, the iPad was touted as a tablet PC in the vein of tablet PCs running Windows 7 and Linux. For a couple of months I resisted getting the iPad for a number of reasons:

First generation Apple consumer products usually are feature poor. In the case of the iPad, it lacked any USB ports, no memory slot card reader, does not support multi-tasking, and no camera.

But my wife decided to get one for me as a birthday present. Within one week from unboxing the iPad, I discovered one more flaw – a very severe one, in my view. The WiFi stopped working! I really mean stopped working. The iPad could not pick up any WiFi signal whatsoever. Apple tech forums offered a number of suggestions and I tried all of them but my iPad – which I dubbed iGor – remains unable to connect to anything other than the laptop.

Before Steve tells me I am stupid, yes, Apple. I restored the software (three times). I reset it several times as well. I turned off the auto brightness control. I set the brightness to maximum. I even called the vaunted Apple Tech Support and after almost 30 minutes of fiddling around with iGor, the technical on the other side of the phone suggested I bring it to the nearest Apple Store for repair.

There was one small catch! The iPad is not yet available in Hong Kong. I was given a choice: fly to the nearest country that has the Apple locally available – that would be either Japan (five hours away) or Australia (8 hours away) or wait until it becomes available in Hong Kong (no idea when that will be).

Being in the media, I thought I’d try to use my media charm and cry ‘help’ to the local Apple PR contact. I was not surprised when I didn’t get any response (not even an email bounce).

Scouring through the Internet, I came to this article about the vaunted iPad WiFi problem. (http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/ipad_hits_a_bump_wi-fi_woes_point_to_apple_bug.php) But none of the fixes were of any help for me. I am resigned to the idea that I will have to wait until when Apple decides to make the iPad available in Hong Kong.

What I am left with today is an oversized iPod Touch (minus WiFi).



Both phones were released and quite a bit of reviews are available in the market. So as always I will provide you with links to some of the best reviews I’ve read on both devices.

This write-up is more about my experience using the two phones.

Much to Desire

The HTC Desire is billed by some as the top of the Android line for the phone maker. It resembles the Google Nexus One phone, and why not? Google commissioned HTC to build the Nexus One.

Physically the Nexus One is smoother and looks a little sleeker than the Desire. The sharp edges on the Desire are not good for your pocket if, like me, you have a tendency to slip your phone into your front pocket. Both phones have the same processor and battery rating.

As a communications device, Google got it right to include built-in noise reduction technology on the Nexus. This is very important since most mobile phone mics pick up literally everything around you, making it often hard to listen to the person speaking. So I wonder why HTC would want to drop this one technology so many other phone makers seem to ignore but is a common concern across all mobile phone users (Nokia, Sony Ericsson, LG, Samsung, Apple, HTC – are you guys listening?).

Anyway, let me go back to the HTC Desire. I observed that the back of the HTC Desire gets very warm very fast if the screen is on. So if you are surfing the Internet on the Desire or watching a movie, chances are you will need to buy a case to wrap the Desire in… Otherwise be prepared to get first degree burns if you hold the phone long enough. The only other phone I’ve ever handled that does this even worst is the Samsung Omnia i800 – in my view one of the worst phones I’ve ever had. I did speculate that the use of a plastic backing meant the Desire had no way to dissipate heat. You really must like what you are doing to keep holding the phone when it’s scorching your hand.

The second and only other, real gripe I have with the Desire is the lack of option to upgrade the OS. Apple may not listen to its customers when developing new products but once you’ve invested in one, Apple lets you upgrade the operating system as and when it becomes available, as long as the hardware supports it. In practical terms this means that you don’t necessarily have to upgrade to the next iteration of the same series unless you have a very compelling reason to – like you got money to burn. In contrast, with HTC to experience Android 2.2, I will have to buy a new phone. And when Android 2.3 (or whatever next iteration after Froyo), I will have to throw away my just recently bought phone to get an OS upgrade.

How stupid is that?

I understand that with the Nexus One, you can upgrade to the next OS. (more…)