The good: The Nokia Lumia 920 can hold its own against the current Samsung Galaxy S series and Apple iPhone.

The bad: The availability of apps designed for the Windows platform remains the single biggest hurdle that Nokia faces as it tries to jockeys for third position (amidst a very crowded race with BlackBerry, HTC) in the mobile hardware device race (do I have to spell out who is in first and second spot?)

The ugly: The truth is that financial analysts, industry analysts and the media are probably stacked up against Nokia ever regaining its lustre as the mobile phone for the in crowd. I am not even sure whether its partnership with Microsoft is a lifesaver or an anchor.

I am writing this review on July 7, 2013, nine months from the time Nokia announced the Lumia 920 and seven months since the product was released so this is to a certain dated. So why do the review? To be clear this is not a full review. Go down to the end of this article for some of the best reviews I’ve read.

I was handed a Nokia Lumia 920 and my first impression is that it is big! By this I mean it is bulkier (130.3 x 70.8 x 10.7 mm) than my SGS3 (136.6 x 70.6 x 8.6 mm) without the SGS3’s Otterbox protective case. When housed on the Otterbox Commuter case, the SGS3 is bulkier by a couple of mm. Its also quite heavy at 185g which makes the SGS3 a lightweight at 133g and you can feel it. Of course with weight usually it means it also feels more solid to the hand (its an illusion I keep telling myself).

This is a recap of my experience and experiments with Nokia and Microsoft Windows mobile. My favorite Nokia phone is the Nokia 8110 – the banana phone. To be honest while my wife adores her Nokia phones (she’s had about five over the years), I’ve never been a fan of the Symbian Nokia stuck with for many years. I have used Windows mobile OS (CE, pocket pc, Windows mobile and now Windows phone). I fell in love with the Windows Mobile 7 and its use of tiles – I actually thought it was not only cool but made navigation easy. A full generation and two years, the next generation Windows Phone 8 (Microsoft renamed Windows Mobile to Windows Phone – and yes it confused the heck out of me too).

HARDWARE

At the time that Nokia launched the Lumia 920, it boasted hardware comparable to any available from Samsung, Apple and HTC. In fact BlackBerry was still teasing the world with rumors of a re-engineered device and platform when Nokia unveiled its newest flagship. It comes with a 1.5 GHz dual-core Qualcomm Krait CPU and a 114 mm (4.5″ 1280 x 768 resolution) IPS TFT LCD display, capacitive touchscreen covered by curved Gorilla Glass. It supports inductive (wireless) charging, 8.7 megapixel Carl Zeiss lens-equipped PureView camera with optical image stabilization, 32 GB internal storage, and arguably the only touch phone that can be used with gloves worn by the user.

I am not a fan of bright colors but when you consider that every Tom, Dick and Harry phone comes in either black, white or silver, Nokia’s fresh coat of colors (cyan, yellow and red) are a welcome change. I bought a red sleeve for my Nexus 7 because I wanted to easily identify it from the pile of stuff on my desk. Nokia endowed the Lumia 920 with a unibody polycarbonate design,

The Lumia 920 connects via dual band WiFi 802.11b/g/n, Bluetooth 3.0, GPS and NFC. I own a Samsung Galaxy S3 and I can tell you that it is virtually useless the minute I step out into the sun. No amount of cupping will let me see what’s on the damn phone – thank you Samsung!

Thankfully, the Lumia 920 is a bit better to look out in the open thanks to polarizing filters and a very impressive 600 nits of max brightness. I love watching videos or looking at photos on the Lumia 920. With a 60Hz refresh rate and deep, rich blacks, the Lumia 920 beats phones equipped with AMOLED and Super AMOLED displays.

The Lumia 920 is heavy 185g and you can feel the heft even against the Samsung Galaxy Note II (183g). But its curves beat the shit out of the boxy Sony Xperia phones (one of the worst designs I’ve ever had the displeasure of trying out).

When I showed the Lumia 920 to my wife she was immediately drawn to the bright yellow polycarbonate shell. The high gloss hardened surface remind me of a high quality auto finish (it helps when you have a yellow that’s reminiscent of Lamborghini and a red that’s just a tad cooler than Ferrari red). To complement the auto finish shine are bottoms made with a ceramic finish.

SOFTWARE

I’d be lying if I said using Windows Phone is easy. If any it was traumatic and this is for someone like me who has used Windows CE, Android, IOS and Symbian 40. While I abhor Apple’s insistence of using iTunes to add or remove content from the device, I am at times at a lost trying to navigate the innards of my Android phone. I do love the use of Live Tiles and the fact that the tile sizes can be adjusted makes the user interface (UI) even more appealing. But beyond the Live Tiles, mastering the basics of a Windows Phone demands a concerted effort on the part of the user to learn something new.

Thankfully the partnership between Microsoft and Nokia included the integration of some of the best innovations from Nokia, including Nokia Maps and Nokia Drive Beta offering the option to download maps for offline use, as well as spoken turn-by-turn directions.

Nokia Music features a very cool “mix radio” feature where you can stream playlists across a wide variety of genres absolutely free. You can also download playlist tunes for offline listening. Microsoft music player, XBOX Music, is also included out of the box. If you have an iTunes library, you can load your own music via the included USB cable. The Lumia 920 can also be used as a mass storage drive in Windows to drag and drop music, videos and documents onto the phone. Forget iTunes!

The Lumia 920 is equipped with Dolby headphone software with EQ bringing the best in even in your expensive headphones: no distortion with clear trebles and full bass.

Like most Android phone, the Lumia 920 comes with email client support for most email types including Exchange, Gmail, IMAP and POP3. Synching with Gmail, Google Contacts and Calendar using IMPA push is a breeze.

Needless to say, this smartphone comes equipped with the mobile version of MS Office that works with Word, Excel, OneNote and PowerPoint files. It works with locally stored files, email attachments and documents on your Skydrive or Office 365 share.

When I met some executives from Nokia earlier this year they kept pointing me in the direction of the Nokia PureView Camera and the Lumia 920’s ability to produce clear, sharp photos even in dim light. The Lumia 920 can easily beat any photos taken by dedicated digital cameras. The rear camera includes a backside illuminated sensor, fat f/2.0 26mm Carl Zeiss lens with dual LED flash and optical image stabilization. The front f/2.4 1.2MP camera does 720p video for sharp video chat.

The Nokia Lumia 920 has a non-swappable 2000 mAh Lithium Ion polymer battery. During the test period, I managed to use the phone for a whole day without recharging. Like Android, it I capable of true multi-tasking (unlike the iPhone’s distorted interpretation of multi-tasking.

CONCLUSION

The Nokia Lumia 920 is deserving of its position as Nokia’s flagship Windows Phone. It feels solid to the hand.  The 4.5” IPS display offers crisp excellent contrast. Despite the lack of a SD card, its 32GB internal storage is more than sufficient to store your favorite movies, photos and music for those long or short trips.

I only have two gripes about it: weight and the steep learning curve re-adapting to the Windows OS; and the other the lack of apps. Otherwise this is a superb phone to own.

TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS

Display: 4.5″ capacitive multi-touch IPS display with enhanced sensitivity (works with fingernails and gloves). 60Hz refresh rate, Gorilla Glass. Resolution: 1280 x 728, 600 nits brightness, supports both portrait and landscape modes.

Battery: rechargeable 2000 mAh Lithium Ion with support for Qi wireless charging.

Processor: 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 dual core CPU with Adreno 225 graphics.

Memory: 1GB RAM and 32GB internal storage.

Size: 130.3 mm x 70.8 mm x 10.7 mm.

Weight: 185g.

Phone: GSM quad band with UMTS/HSPA+ and 4G LTE on AT&T Has mobile hotspot feature.

Camera: 1.2MP front camera and rear 8.7MP PureView camera with dual LED flash that can shoot 100p video. BSI, f/2.0 lens with optical image stabilization.

Audio: Built in speakers, mic and 3.5mm standard stereo headset jack.

Networking: Integrated dual WiFi 802.11b/g/n, Bluetooth 3.0 and NFC.

Software: Windows Phone 8. Internet Explorer 10 mobile with HTML5 support, MS Office Mobile, XBOX Music, XBOX video, full PIM suite (calendar, contacts, notes and email) with syncing to MS Exchange, Google services and POP3/IMAP email. Games hub, People Hub, Nokia Drive, Nokia Transit and Nokia Music.

Expansion: None.

Click here for more detailed technical specs

OTHER REVIEWS

Techradar

Brighthand

Digital Trends

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A couple of years back, my family got me a Canon G10. The retailer gave us a free third party camera. Then came the advice from Canon that I needed to bring my camera overto their service center for a firmware update to correct a software bug. At the service center the staff showed me a nick on the side of the G10. This was reported in the service slip so I cannot say Canon damaged my camera. I quickly realized I was at fault because I used a standard compact camera case that didn’t really provide complete protection for what was an expensive gear. It didn’t take long and I looked around for a much better case that was specifically designed for my G10. What am I getting here?
We spend a fortune on stuff that add bling to our life. Many of these stuff no matter how durable are not designed to withstand the wear and tear of every day use. And many times we plan to keep these expensive things with us for some time.
So that was the logic when I got myself a Samsung Google Nexus. From an industrial design standpoint, it was a feat of engineering marvel: a very thin (measurement here) that came with a slightly curve glass panel (not sure how they managed to do that). The first thing I did was look for a case for the Nexus (I christined it ‘Nikki Heat’ cause it gets warm for no reason). And to my disappointment the only case available that had the contour of Nikki H were variants of the rubbery or silicone cases that are made mostly for decorative purpose. There was a leather case but it left 60% of the phone exposed.
So my quest for a case went on for over two months. It included a run to the famed Ap Liu Street in Shamshuipo (sometimes referred to as the electronic street) and the Golden Computer Arcade where street stalls were filled with hoards of mobile phone and tablet cases. I reckoned there were three variants specific for the likes of Nikki H. There is the silicon/plastic case, some made from aluminum, and another claiming to be made of genuine leather. Alas for the price of between $60 to $210, I just didn’t see spending this kind of money for what looked like cheap stuff. In desperation I even went to the Internet where I found a brand called Otterbox. I read the reviews and decided this may be the case for me. I checked for distributor(s) in Hong Kong, founded two and called one for list of retailers.
It took another three weeks before I finally got one from a retailer at LCX in Ocean Terminal onTsim Sha Tsui (TST). Before the cashier could wring in the payment, I had Nikki H wrapped in the Otterbox Commuter and I knew my hunt was over.
The actual case is made of two parts: an inner, soft silicone wrap-around shell; and an outer polycarbonate shell. The silicone shell pretty much covers most of the phone except for the camera/led flash, rear speaker and top and bottom mics. The covering for the USB and 3.5mm audio jack can be raised (soft flaps) to reveal the ports easy enough.The rest of the physical buttons, including volume and power are nicely covered. What holds the silicone shell firmly together is the outer polycarbonate shell. This is important since the phone itself could come off most other silicone cases easy enough, leaving the phone vulnerable to scratches should it fall.
Instructions are provided inside the carton box in case you don’t know how to assemble the case together. In reality, its so simple even my wife (but not my mom) could do it.
I bought the case for HK$273 or US$35. This is not that far off from some of the so called high-end silicone cases available for both iPhone and Samsung phones. Without a doubt the Otterbox Commuter series is well worth it. Nikki H without the case may have been very slim but I always felt like I’d drop it anytime because it felt slippery in my hand. The Otterbox Commuter case gives it the heft and stiffness I appreciate in such an expensive device.
Overall, I like the design, fit and finish of the case. The pieces fit together perfectly giving it the feeling of total protection. Afterall this is what you want to have… the feeling that your investment is protected from the day-to-day trashing and bashing that comes with using a device so portable and so vulnerable.
PHOTOS

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I’ve been using my Blackberry Torch for sometime now and although I am happy with it (most times) there were a few quirks that annoyed me on a regular basis. So with my mobile phone provider reminding me I had a chance to try out their 3G service (I’ve been on 2G for a good part of 12 years) I agreed to the change.

I had a choice of iPhone 4 or any other phone and opted for an Android phone. I looked at the specs of available phones from HTC since I have a couple of old HTC phones lying around and instead opted for a Samsung Galaxy S2 (SGS2). Why? If I use the simple basis of technical specification, at the time of shopping for a new phone – 26 June 2011, the SGS2 was the most advanced phone in the market – whereas everyone was a single CPU device, the SGS2 was dual core. I hear rumors of the upcoming Nexus S3 phone will carry quadcore but who knows if the phone will come out in December 2011 or 2012? And while I am at times called the master of the waiting game, in this instance, I thought I’ve waited too long already. So move on.

Packaging

Firs thing first. The SGS2 in the box follows the minimalistic packaging of the iPhone (small box cramed with cable, charger, small manual and headset). Not surprisingly there was a tiny user’s guide with the bare essentials to powering up and using the phone. This is where the difference lies between an iPhone and everyone else in the smartphone market.

External Look and Feel

The SGS2 comes with everything standard to a 2011 smartphone: high-speed processor (1.2 GHz Dual Core Application Processor), decent in-built memory, long battery life, dual high resolution cameras with flash, touch screen, dual-purpose standard USB port. It can be argued that Samsung borrowed from the minimalistic design of generations of iPhone (although I’d say the current generation of iPhone (version 4) looks like it got its inspiration from the candy-bar phones of HTC. At115 grams, it is surprisingly light if you consider the size of this thing (125.3 x 66.1 x 8.5mm).

A friend of mine commented that the SGS2 feels plasticky. And while it is true that the back panel is a thin plastic, Samsung is not the only one doing this. HTC has a number of phones using concept. Should it bother you? How else do you keep the weight light. In my case it doesn’t although to protect against scratches, dent and shock (from dopping) I bought myelf a cheap plastic/rubber shell (HK$20) and a screen shield (HK$15). Now its protected and is still almost as slim as without the casing.

Screen

At 4.3 inch diagonal, this is one of the largest smartphones available as of writing. It may not have the pixel density that iPhone 4 carries (640×960-pixel screen), nonetheless, the choice of AMOLED lends credence to the user comments I’ve read elsewhere that the SGS2 has one of the best displays in the market today (even against the iPhone). Before I forget, the SGS2 comes with a 480×800-pixel screen. Again don’t be fooled by the numbers. Apple’s marketing of its 640×980-pixel screen as Retina display is just a creative play on the part of marketing.

If there is any concern I have for the screen is whether Samsung has solved the heat problem associated with backlighted AMOLED. I first encountered this on the Samsung i900. Back then when you are using the i900, the phone gets so hot in mintes that you can be forgiven to thinking it was radioactive (and heat is a form of radiation). Fast forward today, the SGS2 comes with a Samsung numerical designation: i9100. And true enough it still has a heat problem (though not as intense as the i900). Its not hot enough to cook an egg on the surface of the screen but if you happen to type a short message (or browse the Web for a couple of minutes), you will feel the heat from the screen easily.

Samsung – please solve this problem!

Bottons, holes and camera

The SGS2 comes with three physical buttons. Looking at it from the front, there is a rocker switch on the left which is for volume control. On the right is the power on/off/lock/unlock combo button. As the universal home buttom on the bottom middle part of the front panel. It comes with two mics (on the top right next to the 3.5 inch audio jack and on the bottom to the right of the micro USB port. It comes with two speakers – on the top front of the phone where you expect to press your ear when you are making a call; and on the bottom back panel. Speaking of back panel, there is an 8.0 megapixel camera next to an incredibly small but very bright flash). The front facing camera is a decent 2-megapixel camera (compared to the iPhone 4’s 0.3megapixel VGA standard).

Operating System

The SGS2 comes with Android 2.3.3 (Gingerbread). Like all Android phones (except the Nexus), updates to the OS happen as and when the phone manufacturer decides to make the upgrade. This is by far (IMHO) the biggest let down. Doesn’t matter if you use Sony Ericsson, Samsung, HTC, etc. They are all the same – they won’t let users upgrade the phone OS until months or even a year or two has passed. I suspect part of the strategy is to force the customer to buy a new phone. Don’t you just love these people? For example I got this SGS2 on 26 June. Android 2.3.4 came out in May.

What does this dual core processor mean? For one thing, you can run several applications in the background experiencing any significant performance lags. On most other smartphones, the devices starts to choke after you power-up a couple of applications – say Web browsing, downloading, watching a movie and Facebook. The iPhone doesn’t suffer this because despite marketing claims it doesn’t really do multi-task1. Is this important?

User Interface

Traditionally iPhones were the equivalent of a dummies phone for cool people. And I mean this with all due respect. What I mean is you don’t need to read the manual to learn to use the device. You touch your way to learning how to use the device. The learning curve is when you start using more esoteric features like equalizers, screensavers, wallpaper, and the essentials of iTune (for my money, the single piece of software that locks you into Apple (period).

For Android, you need to be a smart person to use devices built on this platform. Making the Android platform even more complex is the way device manufacturers create user interfaces and add-on apps they claim are designed to make the experience of using the device more pleasurable (ton of bull IMHO).

Like the HTC smartphones using Android, Samsung wasn’t content to leave users with the official Gingerbread UI. Samsung preloads the TouchWiz 4.0 skin onto each SGS2. I’ve used Nexus some months back and I can tell you there isn’t really much of an improvement so I don’t know why users can’t disable this skin without rooting (jailbreaking on iPhones) the SGS2.

The SGS2 also comes with a few Samsung-specific software preloaded. Perhaps the most important you should remember is he Task Manager, a software which allows you to kill apps you don’t want hogging precious CPU power, memory and battery (since high CPU usage means high battery consumption).

The other app worth looking into is Polaris Office. Developed by Infraware (of Korea), its not as powerful as the original Microsoft Office Suite but it does Word, Excel and PowerPoint. So why complain?

Samsung must have also picked something from Microsoft Zune with the use of Hubs (or bundling of applications/services that do similar things). For example there is the Game Hub which a small gaming apps. More importantly (IMHO) is the Social Hub (which allows you to bring pull together all your favorite instant messaging apps, social networking services including faceboo, linkedin, twitter and plurk), and of course email. There is also the Samsung Apps Hub but with the abundance of software on the Google Apps Market, why even nother with Samsung Apps Hub. The one Hub I couldn’t find was the Music Hub. Although I wouldn’t be surprised if this was something the local mobile operator (in my case Three) would change.

The most loathed application in the Apple arsenal of products is iTunes. It is a slow clunker that hogs memory. Unfortunately it is the only way to connect your Apple mobile device (laptop, iPod, iPad, iPhone) is via iTunes. Samsung saw that Apple used iTunes to lock consumers to the company. Enter Kies – an application which mimics iTunes (all the way down to how irritating it is) with one exception – you can still load photos, music, videos and ebooks on the SGS2 without using Kies (they are not as maniacally obsessive as Apple). Samsung put one up Apple by also creating an app called Kies Air

As if admitting Kies is rubbish on the desktop, Samsung’s preloaded the S 2 with an app called Kies Air. This lets you explore your phone’s contents over a Wi-Fi connection. It’s very simple to use — when you open the app from the phone you’ll be given an IP address to visit. Type this out on your PC or Mac, and you’ll see an exploded view of your phone in your browser, from which you can upload or download media, stream music saved on the phone and even send text messages.

Camera

The SGS2 comes with an outward facing 8 Megapixel auto focus digital camera that shoots great outdoor picture but starts to wear down your patience when medium- to poorly lit scenes. It also shoots p1080. The video shots are decent but don’t expect the SGS2 to replace a standalone digital camera. Then again, this applies to all other devices. Its a great feature to have but don’t quit your day job (as it were).

Web Browsing

Yes loading a website is reasonably fast on the SGS2 but unless the website is designed for this formfactor, I’d stick to using a screen size of 7 inch or more for browsing websites.

Reading ebooks

I installed Amazon Kindle, Adobe Acrobat Reader and Moon+Reader (epubs and cbr). The Kindle worked as advertised as did the Acrobat Reader. My experience with Moon+Reader is a mix bag. It has all the features you’d expect from a decent ereader but some minor flaws not worth wasting my breathe on. I’d say ‘live with it until a better one comes.’

Battery

The bane of every portable device is battery life. So far Apple has done a decent job with living to its promise of longer battery life (of course it had to compromise on things like multi-tasking). I charge my SGS2 every day because I love watching videos on it and I keep my SNS accounts alive throughout most of the day and parts of the night. At least the battery is user replaceable so I don’t have to bring it to a service center to get a new battery.

Extended Memory

The SGS2 I got comes with 16GB of memory. I was surprised that the box didn’t include a complimentary micro-SD card. So I got myself a 16GB HS Kingston card for HK$185. The SGS2 does support 32GB but the price is still over HK$400 so I’d pass for now.

What I liked

This is really one of the slimmest mobile phones I’ve had the pleasure of using. The screen is big making the phone too big for my hand to comfortably hold. But it doesn’t feel like its going to break in my hand or slip (for that matter).

What I don’t like

I started this review with a story about smart devices for dummies using the iPhone as the benchmark of how to make a complicated device so simple to use, you literally don’t need a manual to use it. I haven’t read the SGS2;s 164 page manual and I am scared because I think it will only tell me half of the story.

For example, I was stumped for a week trying to understand why I can’t adjust the volume of phone calls when using the headset. Only after Googling did I find out about a workaround on this. Its not difficult to implement but then again it shouldn’t require me entering an odd set of numbers and special characters. How many more of these hidden tweaks do I have to discover?

Conclusion

Do I regret getting the SGS2? I have this tendency to lament spending money on something expensive. I could have waited for the Nexus 3 but with so much uncertainty about who is going to build it (rumor is LG and if that is true, I’d be concerned). I could have also opted for an iPhone4 but given that I really loathe using iTunes I think I am happy with the choice of Samsung Galaxy S2.

Photos

 

Other people’s review of the SGS2

I don’t suggest relying on one person’s opinion to make a decision. So here are a couple of other people’s review of the SGS2 to help you make an educated decision of your own. Good luck.

WJTech

TechRadar

 

 

 

It’s been awhile since I last tested an Android phone so it was with anticipation that I unwrapped the HTC Desire Z that was delivered to my desk. My anticipation quickly dissipated when I unwrapped a dirty, smudged-ridden grey-silver bodied smartphone.

I knew this unit to have a physical keyboard because of the two thin slabs of plastic that seemingly looked stuck to each other. But for a few minutes I could not separate the two slabs to expose the keyboard. Then something happened – my two thumbs working instinctively flipped the one side of the upper slab and voila, the keyboard laid bare before me. For a moment, it was like magic.

The HTC Desire Z is one of more attractive phones I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing. HTC’s designers are starting to get good at industrial design. An odd design I found wanting in most HTC phones is the way to access the battery and SIM slot at the back of the phone. It usually involves prying lose a plastic cover. In the Desire Z, HTC introduced a back cover lock that unlatches the brushed aluminum cover to expose the battery, SIM and micro SD card slots.

At 164g this is not a light phone but you’d expect that given it has a full qwerty keyboard (with a solid feel to it – more on this later). I was expecting this to be using a 1GHz snapdragon given the speed with which it handled my fingered commands (that didn’t sound right) but the spec says its uses an 800MHz Qualcomm processor. I am sure the 1.5GB User memory ROM has something to do with the speed.

The round edges of the phone means you can slip it in and out of the pocket without worrying it will punch holes or poke your leg unduly. I found it interesting that the optical trackpad is clickable, offering a tactile response to specific commands.

A distinguishing feature of the Desire Z is the slideout keyboard. I had some initial concerns with the slide-out keyboard but these were soon dispelled. The gray rubber coating around the aluminum battery door offered a secure and comfortable grip when typing on the keyboard.

Like most mid- to high-end smartphones, the Desire Z is equipped with a 5-megapixel digital camera that can also shoot 720p HD video. For dimly situations, there is a LED flash. The camera is actually not that bad. Zooming, focusing and shooting is very smooth and the quality of the shots are surprisingly ok for a camera phone.

As with the best of present-day smartphones, the Desire Z is built for connectivity – HSDPA, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and A-GPS.

I’m going to refer back to what Apple claims is a key selling point of the iPhone 4 – a high resolution display that can show the details of freckles. But as I wrote in my report on the HTC HD7 – who would want to do that? As long as you can comfortably watch a video or see photos clearly on such a small screen, that should be enough.

WHAT I LIKE

The HTC Sense is the software that makes for easier navigation and access to some of the features of this smartphone. Of the many Android phones out in the market, HTC Sense is one of my favorites. I’d argue that its probably one of the most tweaked since it’s one of the earliest user interface created for the Android operating system. I do confess, however, that I was never a fan of the HTC TouchFLO, the predecessor of the Sense.

The 3.7″ screen is not AMOLED but don’t let that distract you from the quality of the display. You can watch any movie or surf a website with reasonable quality and comfort.

I like the fact that this phone is priced much lower than the HTC HD series but still performs almost on par with its much more powerful siblings. While I also like to have a physical keyboard as I still make too many mistakes typing on a touchscreen, I think you will see from my comment below that my experience with the keyboard isn’t exactly what I’d call a running success.

WHAT I DON’T LIKE

The qwerty keyboard looks solid and impressive. HTC raised the keys slightly to make typing more efficient. But my experience typing on it is less than satisfactory. I actually found it easier to type on the screen even though I prefer a physical keyboard when typing messages. I also found the the position of the tab key on the left very annoying as I often pressed it mistakenly for the “a”. I also found myself pressing harder than expected to enter a key. This action becomes annoying if you consider that typing a short SMS message should’t take too long. One thing to note is that using the keyboard the Desire Z, you can’t type on the keyboard with one hand. On the BlackBerry Torch 9800 (and most other BBs) I can still type with one hand albeit a little slower than I’d like.

I wrote praises for the Desire Z’s camera but I have to tell you that despite the quality of the shots, I still find it difficult to take those candid shots with ease and speed. This, like most smart phones with cameras, is not your standard point and shoot camera. A steady hand is definitely a must as is more time to set the scene for the shot.

One thing that annoys me consistently with all touch devices (with the exception of the BlackBerry 9800) is the lack of way to lock the screen. For instance, when watching a video I almost always accidentally touch the screen resulting in the video pausing. On the Torch 9800 the buttons that appear to be sensitive to the touch are the mute and power buttons. On most touch other touch phones, this is anything on the screen. In all the tests I’ve conducted, this is a consistent experience. Very annoying if you like to have a quiet time between you, your player, and the video you are trying to watch. (more…)

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…)

Its probably difficult to figure when the concept of touch computing first came about. History tells us that as far back as 1980s, there was fascination with the idea of entering data into computers outside of the keyboard and mouse, in particular – using a pen.

Conrad Blickenstorfer, publisher of the website Rugged PCs, , and the long-time editor-in-chief of Pen Computing Magazine, wrote that early efforts by software giant, Microsoft, as well as other vendors like GO, Nestor and CIC, did not produce the expected influx of demand for pen-based. Blickenstorfer wrote that by 1995 pen computing was all but dead. The idea of using anything other the keyboard to interact with a computing device did not die though. The market for such technology survived in niche vertical applications like digital design. Even today, there are still lots of pen-based digital devices from pocket digital dictionaries and personal digital assistants, and smartphones.

Bill Gates, co-founder and ex-CEO of Microsoft, has been a staunch supporter of the concept with various generations of the Microsoft Windows operating system being embedded with the technology (did you know that Microsoft introduced pen extensions into Windows 3.1?). But while there was enthusiasm for such as technology that would allow you to input data into a computer from anything other than a physical keyboard, the actual software and hardware technologies present at the time did not make the experience worth engaging users.

Next came Tablet PCs.

Even when Microsoft launched a tablet edition of its very popular Windows XP Professional operating system, the popularity of tablet PCs didn’t really catch on. Pundits like Steve Jobs of Apple Computer claimed the technology would never fly – that the product use was limited to surfing the web. Of course Steve Jobs should never be taken seriously when it comes to lambasting technologies Apple does not currently market. He is using what every militarist and aspiring business strategist uses – misdirection.

The launch of the iPhone and iPod Touch revived interes in the technology using the human fingers as the primary medium for entering data. But where Apple presented us with the notion that it is possible to use your fingers to enter data into a computing device, I’d argue that it was Microsoft’s development of the Surface Technology that gives us a glimpse of what is possible (in the future).

In the here and now, though, the arrival of touch-ready Microsoft Windows7 signals a commercial revival of the notion of pen computing or tablet computing or touch computing. In 2009, pundits and analysts predicted that 2010 will be the year of the tablet PC (or touch depending on who you talk to). True to form, we are starting to see new generations of computers that either have touch screens or trackpad that support multi-touch. But this only where the operating system is either Windows7 or Apple OSX. The Linux variants have yet to respond.

But let me make it clear. If you are interested in buying a new PC because you like what you read about multi-touch technology, if the software application you plan to use extensively on this new PC does not support the technology, you won’t benefit from its feature until the software developer makes it happen.

Side note: I bought my daughter an HP Touchsmart TX2 in 2009. It was running Windows Vista Home. It was both pen and touch base. And while it had its kinks (occasional software and hardware glitches), it worked for the most part. I made a mistake of buying Microsoft Windows7 Professional edition with the understanding that Microsoft put a Vista to 7 migration path. Little did I know that this only worked if you bought the same version of the next generation OS (ie., if you have Vista Home, get 7 Home. If you have Vista Professional, get 7 Professional). So I ended up doing a full install of Windows7. What both Microsoft and HP failed to tell me on their website though is that I would lose a lot of the original add-on software that HP created for the TX2 in the process.

So now I am tempted to do a full recovery on the TX2 just to get back most of the software that came with the original HP Touchsmart TX2. Bummer!

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Bold by any other name

What’s in a name? As a former marketer I have learned to understand and believe the power of brands. Take away the shareholder equation ($$$) associated with brands and what you have at the very core of a brand is Trust. The old adage in IT was “no one ever gets fired for buying IBM”. While this may still hold true in some business quarters in many parts of the world, the “trust” a brand builds over time can easily be thrown out by a single, badly managed incident.

But that is not my point here. My point is that sometimes marketers can get carried away with the exercise of creating a brand name that they lose sight of a deeper goal – maintaining the level of trust a brand has established over the years.

Anyway, you’ve probably read two of my product reviews (Samsung Omnia and HTC Touch Diamond). I would not be surprised if after reading both you’d think of me as being patently pro-BlackBerry. I can assure you that while I like some of the technologies that RIM has created over the years, I am still very much not in favor of some of their current business practices. But this is a another product review so let me get that off the table and come back to my RIM issues towards the end.

I use a BlackBerry Pearl (8120). I’ve used a BlackBerry Curve (8310) earlier this year – sorry it got stolen during a holiday in Manila. Recently I was loaned a BlackBerry Bold (9000) to try out. As before, this is not an exhaustive review. If you want a technical dissertation, click on the list towards the end of this blog.

Likes about the BlackBerrys

  • Rugged form factor (I’ve dropped each model on a few occasions – unintentionally of course – and each survived mostly unscathed – yes, minor scratches – you should see what a 3 foot drop can do to an iPhone 2G – the model with an aluminum case. Imagine what would happen to the plastic iPhone 3G)
  • Simple to understand user interface plus the ability to hide functions you don’t need or don’t use. (I firmly believe that a true test of a consumer device is to use it effectively without ever reaching for the manual)
  • Syncing with MS Outlook is easy as is installing/uninstalling the software – BlackBerry Desktop Manager
  • Screen is crystal clear – but the Bold beats everyone – iPhone, all previous BBs, SonyE, Nokia, HTC, MotoQ, in fact everyone except the Samsung Omnia i900 series.
  • Power-up is almost instantaneous (except when you remove the battery)

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