When Google launched its first smartphone and called it Nexus there was much hype and anticipation for a smart device that could effectively compete side by side against the IPhone 4. Whilst the interest on the Android operating system continues unabated with analysts predicting Android to become the dominant smartphone OS eclipsing IOS, Windows and any other mobile platform (Symbian being all but dead and WebOS DOA), the success of Nexus remains largely niche. The Nexus has not gained the wide success of the iPhone as the chic phone of the cool masses. Instead Google’s strategic pullout in the direct sale business and limited marketing of the Nexus has relegated it to the realm of the geeks, nerds and experimenters daring to be different.

On 26 June 2011, I opted to get myself a Samsung Galaxy S2. Months earlier I was content to use my BB Torch. Owning an iPhone was never in my radar but having read so much about Android, including the much hyped and anticipated Nexus 3, I was waiting anxiously for a chance to try out an Android phone. So the SGS2 was a welcome replacement for my Torch. To be honest I was still hooting for the Nexus 3 even as I was signing on the dotted line to fork out my hard-earned dough for the SGS2.

Five months later, I was helping a cousin buy a Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 when the store sales clerk said I could trade in my SGS2 for the new Nexus 3 and pay only HK$1,500 for the upgrade. Without thinking (also called impulse buys) I decided to make the trade. But as I headed home that night I realized I was duped into buying the Nexus 3 so early in its Lifecycle.

While the three button device with a curvaceous frame certainly was very appealing I very quickly discovered somethings I’ve grown accustomed to on my SGS2 were missing and I want them on Nexus 3 (more on that later).

The Nexus 3 uses the same curve glass top design concept as the Nexus S (its predecessor).  Somehow Samsung and Google decided not to use Corning Gorilla Glass and instead opted for a no-brand glass top. Does it make it inferior? You be the judge watch this video.

The back cover uses the so-called Hyper Skin finish giving it a nice grip – which I felt was missing with the SGS2. The rest of the body is made entirely of plastic – a let down if you consider how much you have to fork out to get this phone (PRICE).

The Nexus 3 screen is a large 4.65 inch with an HD resolution of 720×1280 pixels and pixel density of 316 ppi. The phone sports a HD Super AMOLED screen using an RGBG PenTile matrix for pixel arrangement. The AMOLED screen means you get high contrast levels, wide viewing angles and very saturated colors, which results is very sharp vivid images.

The Nexus 3 comes with the usual ports, buttons and switches: a standard microUSB charging/sync port, 3.5, headset jack, volume rocker and power key. There is also a three-dot connector on the right side of the device. What’s it for remains a mystery to me. The buttonless glass is partly attributable to the Google Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) OS used on the Nexus 3. The biggest physical let down for me on this phone is the 5MP camera. At a time when 8MP is almost standard, Google allowed Samsung to fit this phone with a mere 5MP camera. That said, this is one of the fastest camera I’ve had the pleasure of using.

Unlike the iPhone which uses static homescreen, on the Nexus you can have widgets as well as apps, meaning you can access features like email, weather, etc., without launching a separate application. Yes this approach adds complexity to the environment and additional system resources. And that is the trade off when you want customizability as that which comes with Android – something lacking on the iPhone. As with the current versions of IOS, you can now create folders where you can group like-minded applications.

On ICS, navigational keys “Back”, “Home” and “Multitasking” form part of the interface. The latter allows you to move back and forth between running applications. The notification dropdown is transparent; plus the addition of the ‘swipe away’ gesture to remove unwanted items.

The Nexus 3 is by far the fastest phone I’ve ever had the pleasure to use. I suspect it may be because the ICS software was optimized for the duo-core TI OMAP 4460 processor running at 1.2 GHz.

The most common apps I’d use with a smartphone are messaging, contacts (People) and calendar. On the Nexus the apps are optimized for clean interface and fast access. The Calendar is swipe-enabled, so you can now use gestures like pinch-to-zoom to get details and swipe between days, weeks and months.

With affordable mobile broadband Web browsing on the smartphone has become a common pre-occupation. On the Nexus 3, browsing is fast and almost flawless. Navigation is fast and browsing even better when the website is optimized for mobile devices. As with the calendar app, scrolling, panning around, zooming in using pinch-to-zoom and double-tap work very smoothly. Did I tell you there is an offline viewing feature for those times when you expect to be out of Internet connection.

The Nexus 3 is built for connectivity, including Wi-Fi b/g/n/a and Bluetooth 3.0, NFC and MHL. I use the NFC feature to scan my Octopus card’s stored value. The Nexus 3 comes with a GPS.

While the Nexus 3 came with a 5MP camera which is disappointing when you consider that many of the high end smartphones are equipped with at least 8MP. The camera interface itself is simple and easy to use, and comes with white balance, exposure and scene modes. Video recording comes with a set of fun face-detection-based effects like Squeeze, Big Eyes, Big Mouth, Big Nose, etc. I particularly like the built-in panorama model – it works very efficiently. The biggest plus for me when it comes to the camera is its shutter speed. It even beats my Canon G1 X – how is that for speed? Word of warning… the continuous auto focus feature sometimes acts up and doesn’t want to shift from one target to another. Outdoor shots are reasonably sharp but low light situations are bad (but most phone cameras and even some dedicated compact cameras do the same thing). The Nexus 3 comes with a tiny flash so don’t expect much.

To complement the camera is Gallery, a photo app with built-in image editor. It comes with some decent tools like adjusting exposure or saturation, fixing the red-eyes, and applying other effects.

Listening to music is nothing average but watching videos is a pleasure largely due to the Super AMOLED screen – at times I think it’s better than some of the TVs I see in the market.

WHAT I DON’T LIKE

Apart from my disappointment with the camera, I’ve discovered an anomaly that exists on the Nexus 3 as it does on the SGS2. The back of the phone around the camera heats up intermittently. I can only attribute it to some software acting up but to date I’ve not discovered what is doing this. Going to Samsung tech support hasn’t been easy either – um sek yin man (no speak English)!

CONCLUSION

This is my first Android phone with no custom interface developed by the vendor that has been the stumbling block to OS upgrades. Having tested Gingerbread earlier on HTC, Dell, Sony Ericsson and Samsung mobile phones, I have to say that ICS is, by far, the best iteration in the Android line.

As of this writing there are newer phones out in the market that still use Gingerbread – for whatever reason I’ve been reading about ICS coming to some existing HTC, Sony Ericsson and Samsung phones but with no definitive dates, I can only say to the owners of these devices: tough!

I promised earlier on that I am not writing this as a tribute to Google or to Samsung. It isn’t! It’s a review of a product – good and bad. In fairness I think I was dupe – to some degree – into buying this phone. Largely because I’m the kind of person who will never be happy with the version of the device I bought. But owning a Google phone is way better than owning a SE or iPhone or HTC – at least the next iteration won’t be six months from release of the previous version. Other vendors produce new models every 4 to 6 months – and that just riles me up! I bought an iPad and three months later Apple released iPad 3. @$^#@%&$^*#!

Technical Spec
OS: Android 4.0.1
Dimension: 135.5 x 67.94 x 8.94 mm
Weight: 135g
Display: 4.65 inches, 720×1280 pixels Super AMOLED, multi-touch capacitative
Sensors: light, proximity, accelerometer, gyroscope, compass, barometer
Battery: 1750mAh
Processor: dual core 1200 MHz TI OMAP 4460

System RAM: 1024MB
Built-in storage: 16GB
Rear-facing camera: 5 megapixel with LED flash
Camcorder: 1920×1080 30 fps
Front-facing camera: 1.3 megapixels
Connectivity: Bluetooth 3.0, 802.11 b/g/n/a with mobile hotspot, micro USB 2.0 and HDMI via micro USB, NFC, MHL, OTA sync
Voice: quad band GSM/UMTS
Data: HSDPA+, HSDPA 14.4 Mbits/s, UMS, HSUPA 5.76 Mbits/s, EDGE
Satellite: GPS, A-GPS
Navigation: Points of Interest, Turn-by-turn navigation, Voice navigation

Photos

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I will be the first to admit that Research In Motion is having problems… from reliability of service, to aging technology, and a loyal customer base that is starting to question the extent of its loyalty. But this is not what I’m here to talk about.
My first encounter with the BlackBerry Bold was with the 9700. Back then I was unimpressed. I found the 9700 to be too big in my palm and too heavy in my pocket. I also found it clunky when it came to Web surfing but then again all BlackBerry devices including my favorite, the BlackBerry 9800 Torch, appeared to be designed with zero intention to surf the Web. Its saving grace is the same as with all BlackBerry devices, including the Bold and Torch, its single-minded focus on messaging.
So it is that this time around I am reviewing the new BlackBerry 9900. The spec says its not much small than the original 9700 but for my money it is a slick, solid device that feels good in the palm of my hand.
OBSERVATIONS
The 9900 is taller than the original 9700 but not as wide making it a better fit for small hands like mine. I like the stainless steel band that wraps around the 9900. The carbon-fiber-lace back cover reminds me of one of the newer Montblanc pens. This phone exudes quality and a solid high-end product.
There are five metal buttons – one on the top and four on the right side. The slightly recessed top button is the lock/unlock button. The mute button (middle) is flanked by a volume up button (top) and volume down button (lower). The buttom-most key is the camera shutter button.
On the right side there’s a volume up button up top, a mute key in the middle and a volume down button — all made out of metal, I might add. Below that you’ll find the camera shutter key.
The micro-USB charging/sync port is just below the 3.5mm headset jack on the left side of the phone.
I did a little research and apparently RIM has a charging dock for its BlackBerry phones and the two charging contacts at the bottom of the phone are just for that purpose. I’ve never seen the charging dock though.
The 9900 comes with a 2 MP, 1600×1200 pixels rear-facing camera with a tiny LED flash. Like its predecessor, the 9900 doesn’t have a front-facing camera so forget about video conferencing service on this device.
The 9900 comes with a 1.2GHz processor, 768MB of RAM, 8GB internal memory, and support for microSD cards up to 32GB. This is my first review of a BB device running on OS7. To be honest I am not overly amazed at the new GUI but, admittedly, the enhancements are everywhere.
WHAT I LIKE
I don’t know how RIM managed to shave off 4mm from the previous model. It made it easier to grip the device. RIM chose to stay close to its heritage of great typing experience with the 9900. It feels very comfortable thumb typing on this device – with one hand or two.
Speaking of typing, the 9900 follows the design and layout of its predecessors, including sculpted keys making for easy text entry and chrome bars that divide the rows of buttons. The addition of a capacitative touchscreen makes for significant improvement in navigator to specific parts of the screen especially if you are typing a long email message and want to do some touch ups.
With a screen resolution of 640 x 480 pixels on a 2.8-inch display you get a pixel density of 285ppi. I remain an admirer of the the Bold series despite the small screen. The screen is bright with very respectable viewing angles, and I didn’t squint whilst typing a message outdoors.
One of the biggest enhancements that came as part of OS7 is the universal search which starts working the minute you start typing.
WHAT I DON’T LIKE
I am not sure what RIM chose not to have an autofocus function for its camera so forget about taking portrait shots with this phone. But then again, this is not really a camera so the photos are decent if you need to take a quick snap of something but not meant for quality archiving.
More serious problem is the touch-trackpad combo. You can use the touch function for instant navigation around the visible area of the screen and the trackpad to screen to areas not immediately visible. At times I often mistakenly try and use both and it gets annoying sometimes.
One of my favorites about early BBs is the battery life. Somehow you don’t get as much out of the BB9900 as you do with earlier versions. I am guessing it may have to do with the faster (and usually more power hungry) processor. I also suppose its all the added software features that come with the OS 7.0.
Its odd to put the mute button between the volume up and down button. The tendency, especially when you are not looking or in a hurry, is to either increase or decrease the volume, accidentally of course.
ONE MORE THING
The back plate hides the antenna for NFC-based (near field communications) applications. I’venot had a chance to use this feature so I won’t say more than this.
RIM continues to refine the first and foremost strength of all BB devices: messaging workflow. The menu system remains very intuitive with a laser-like focus on text or/and email messaging.

The best BlackBerry Bold ever? Perhaps it is. The core features of BlackBerry are still compelling, the keyboard will let you skip over keys rattling out messages, with a rock of the thumb here and a glancing prod there, in ways that only BlackBerry users understand.

The addition of a touchscreen does make a difference, but the overall experience isn’t a huge evolution from BB6. Whilst BB7 is familiar, there isn’t much here that really drives things forward into the competitive arena. The camera results are behind the rivals, the app offering still has holes in it and sometimes the touch response slopes off. It isn’t a multimedia timewaster in the way that the latest phone from Samsung or HTC is, it’s core offering is communication, in which it mostly excels, but it’s in the extras where it doesn’t make huge progress.

The BlackBerry Bold 9900 is a device that will appeal greatly to die hard BlackBerry fans, returning the Bold to a premium look and a size that makes a little more sense than the 9700 models. Business users will find themselves with a more interactive device and a better browsing experience, but outside of keyboard and email experience, consumers may find they get a lot more smartphone for their money elsewhere.

CONCLUSION
The experience you get with the BB9900 follows the tradition handed down from the very first BB so long ago. RIM continues to refine the performance of the OS and thus enhances the experience you get using this device. Make no mistake, this remains a BlackBerry and therefore it would be unfair to compare it to the new generation of Android, IOS or Windows smartphones. The BB remains a category all it’s own. If you ever own an IPhone or Android or Windows 6.5 device, you won’t like the BlackBerry unless all you really do, apart from making calls, is sending messages either through SMS or email. If you are doing a lot of emails, the BB9900 is the device you got to have. All these touch phones have typing accuracy close to that of a drunk.
Technical Spec:
Other Reviews

Mention ‘Smartphone’ and the products that come to mind are hand-sized devices about the size of your hand. Most weigh in excess of 180 grams. Most will show a bulge when placed inside your front jeans pocket, and I’d be very concerned about putting them on the back pocket.

The Sony Ericsson (SE) breaks this Smartphone tradition by coming in at a miniscule 83 x 50 x 16 mm. In fact the closest Smartphone rival of comparable capability is the larger and HTC Wildfire (106.8 x 60.4 x 12 mm).

Using the X10 mini can take getting used to. The UXP interface is an acquired taste (but don’t let my hesitation fool you, it doesn’t really take that much time to learn how to use the phone and most of its features).

Sony Ericsson X10 mini home page

Sony Ericsson X10 mini home page

Sony Ericsson X10 mini timescape

Sony Ericsson X10 mini timescape

Sony Ericsson X10 mini size relative to palm

Sony Ericsson X10 mini size relative to palm

 

WHAT I LIKE
In my view, four things combined to make this worth buying: (1) Android + UXP; (2) battery life in a small package; (3) reasonably good camera; and (4) size.

If you are a little overwhelmed by HTC Sense, you will likely appreciate the simplicity and capability of the UXP (UX platform). On the HTC Sense you can add widgets on each of seven home screens. But this is only possible because the phone’s display (say HTC Wildfire) is large enough to hold more than one widget. On the SE x10 mini, this is impossible given the 2.5″ (diagonal) display. But SE conceded this limitation by allowing you to post one widget on any of the 20 home pages. The one app per page actually minimizes the clutter I often find distressing as you start using the phone more frequently.

A phone of this size that supports 3G, GSM and Wi-Fi would surely conk out the battery even before eight hours is gone. SE continues its traditional of good battery life per charge with the X10 mini. I get about two days worth of calls, SMSes, emails via Wi-Fi, a few hours of music and one episode of a favorite TV series. The screen may look ridiculously small at 2.5″ but mind you I managed to comfortably watch a movie on the phone whilst I traverse the MTR stations in Hong Kong. No, I didn’t stay in the MTR station for the entire length of the movie. Instead I continue what I was watching each time I ride the train. All the HTC Android phones I tested don’t remember where I stopped the movie before stepping out of the train. As I result, I avoided using the phone. Yey, SE!

The SE X10 mini comes with a 5MP camera. I’ve tested the cameras on the HTC Desire, HTC Wildfire, and BlackBerry 8900, and I can tell you the X10 mini’s 5MP is a great little camera for taking shots outdoors. The photos are nice and crisp. You can’t this kind of quality from the other phones equipped with similar camera configs. SE also added a video light feature when you want to take videos with the phone.

Sony Ericsson x10 mini - outdoor shot of building

Sony Ericsson x10 mini - outdoor shot of building

Sony Ericsson x10 mini - outdoor shot of park

Sony Ericsson x10 mini - outdoor shot of park

Sony Ericsson x10 mini - outdoor shot of space-museum

Sony Ericsson x10 mini - outdoor shot of space-museum

Sony Ericsson x10 mini - outdoor shot of garden at  night

Sony Ericsson x10 mini - outdoor shot of garden at night

While I carry a backpack everyday to work, I usually keep my phone in the front pocket of my jeans (left or right). With my trusty old BlackBerry 8900, its almost impossible to get the phone in, much less out of my jeans (I usually hold my breath and tuck my tummy in as I attempt to pull out the phone out of my pocket). The HTC Desire was just as tight. The HTC Wildfire was a little kinder to my pocket. The X10 mini fits in there and I can still cram a headset or a pack of tissue.
 

WHAT I DON’T LIKE
If there is anything to be learned from the Apple iPhone series is that simplicity of use is very important. Owners of Windows-based PCs, digital video cameras, digital cameras and DVD recorders don’t read the user manual that comes with their device. So it was for me that when I got the X10 mini to try out, I discovered that this is a complicated product to use. In fact I had to download the user manual from the Sony Ericsson website in order to learn enough about the phone to make practical use of it, like navigating using the UXP. Of course, once you get past the nuisances of the interface, everything else becomes simple.

Google Nexus One owners have likely upgraded to Android 2.1 or 2.2 by now. Some HTC phones are shipping with Android 2.1 with a few already earmarked for a 2.2 upgrade. Unfortunately for the X10 and X10 mini series, upgrade to 2.1 won’t come until the last quarter of 2010 (and likely it will be in the December timeframe). http://blogs.sonyericsson.com/products/2010/05/05/sony-ericsson-xperia%E2%84%A2-x10-to-get-uxp-upgrade-in-q4-2010/

I am not altogether sure why but after a week’s use I started to notice a lag when using the X10 mini. Whether its trying to switch on the phone to make a call, or send an SMS, or read my email, I notice a lag of a couple of seconds before the phone switches to the app I want to use. This is particularly annoying because Sony Ericsson has added a sensor that detects if the phone is next to your face, indicating that you making a call. What happens is the phone screen blanks out. I understand this is to make sure that you don’t accidentally press a button while on the phone. But if you need to quickly press a button (say if you are on an IVR call), the time it takes for the screen to come back up is very annoying).

MY FINAL THOUGHTS

I’m a long time SE handset customer for many years from my favorite T91 to my P810 and P900. I loved those phones. They worked as advertised and almost all cases I only have to take out the charger twice a week. This is a big difference compared to my wife’s experience with her Nokia phone. She’s a die hard Nokia customer despite the fact that (1) the Symbian interface lacks intelligence; and (2) the phones simply leak battery power big time.

Would I trade my BlackBerry 8900 for an X10 mini? Probably not! Why? I text a lot. I also read and respond to my emails on my BB. Nothing beats a physical keyboard for this kind of job.

I will be testing the X10 mini pro after this. Who knows? I just might change my mind.

Other reviews:
TechRadar
Pocket-Lint.com

Engadget
ITPro
Metro

Technical Spec
Sony Ericsson
Network: quad band GSM, 3G
Data: GPRS, EDGE, 3G, WLAN, Bluetooth, USB
Dimension: 83 x 50 x 16 mm
Weight: 88 g
Display: 240 x 320 pixel, 2.55 inch capacitative screen
Internal storage: 128MB
Camera: 5MP with VGA video @30 fps, video light and geo-tagging
OS: Android 1.6
CPU: Qualcomm MSM7227 600 MHz
External storage: microSD up to 16GB
Completer spec here: http://www.gsmarena.com/sony_ericsson_xperia_x10_mini-3125.php

My earlier brief experience with the HTC Desire and HTC Legend tell me that HTC is maturing as a manufacturer of high end smartphones. The days when HTC rolls out cheesy, toy-looking, cheap phones are coming to an end. I think HTC is discovering what Apple has learned, you can make good margins with quality phones. Market researcher iSuppli estimates that the bill of materials for the latest Apple iPhone comes comes to US$187.51. At US$699 for a 32GB no contract phone, that is a whopping 274% market. Of course this percentage profit is wrong as it doesn’t include the software cost of the device as well as whatever Apple estimates is the cost of keeping iTunes up and running to make the iPhone the much sought after platform by developers and customers alike (ok I exaggerate on that last part).

Stay focus on the review

HTC Wildfire

HTC Wildfire

The HTC Wildfire (Wildfire) looks like a slightly smaller version of the HTC Desire. It is  12.2mm shorter (by length). The form factor is pocket friend for both sexes. The devices feels as solid as the Desire.

HTC Desire

HTC Desire

Where you start to see the difference is when you turn on the screen. The Desire uses an AMOLED display compared to a standard TFT screen for the Desire. AMOLED gives you better colors and sharper contrasts. Ove the two weeks I used the HTC Wildfire though I can’t really complain much about the reduced contrast or less vibrant color compared to my earlier experience on the Desire (even when I was watching Star Trek on Wildfire). But for those who like to compare spec, the Wildfire has a resolution of 320×240 pixels versus the Desire’s 480×800 pixels.

HTC Sense is the only reason why you’d ever keep using an HTC phone powered by Windows mobile operating system. Can HTC smartphones running Android OS run without Sense? I understand this is possible and hackers are using this to bypass the official approach to upgrading the HTC phone. But for the average user, HTC Sense just makes it easier to use the phone – irrespective of whether you got Android or Windows Mobile as the operating environment.
WHAT I LIKE
Android 2.1 is a saving grace for this phone. Despite a less powerful proecssor compared to its bigger sibling – the HTC Desire, the Qualcomm MSM7225 528 MHz gives the Wildfire just enough uummph to run your favorite apps like video, music, browsing the Internet or any one of those free games available on Andrioid market (Google’s answer to Apple‘s priorietary appstore). But set your expectations, the slower processor will mean that launching apps will take a few milliseconds slower than on the Desire. If you want to bitch about it, you can always say that the WIldfire comes with only 384MB RAM compared to 512MB on the Desire (but does it really matter? I can’t be certain).

A common occurance in my line of business is people waving their iPhones in my face swearing by the ease of use, the thousands of apps available online, and the great experience they have browsing the Internet. Most of them get stump though when I ask them to go to Wall Street Journal website, and play one of the video interviews for me. Fortunately this is not a problem on phones running Android or Windows Mobile – just devices made by Apple (everything from computers to mobile devices). (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…)

I have this standing policy which I’ve developed over the years – where possible never buy first generation electronic products. Why? Its simple! Most first generation electronic products have an invisible sticker on them that shouts – ‘our experiment. your risk’. What I mean is that most first generation of any electronic product will likely have a number of flaws in them. Whether its the iPod, iPhone, or Asus EeePC model 700 – to name a few – all lacked a number of features that eventually creeped in on succeeding generation. In my opinion, it is a tactic to subtly coerce early adopters to get hooked on the first generation and move on quickly to the second generation.

Awhile back I hinted about my disklike for the BlackBerry Bold (first generation). While the first BlackBerry Bold had leather upholstery on its back panel, I found it heavy (136g versus 109g for BlackBerry Curve 8300). While the screen on the Bold was great it wasn’t a compelling enough feature for me to give up the smaller, lighter and almost the same feature-set Curve 8300.

That said I know many executives who do love the Bold because it felt very solid and truth be told, the leather exterior made it scream – luxury! The Bold also stayed true to its tradition of physical qwerty keyboard because working executives don’t want to waste their time thumbing three times to get to the character they want or even more time retyping a character because the iPhone keeps sensing the wrong key being pressed. After testing HTC, iPhone, Nexus, LG and Samsung touch phones, I can tell you, it pisses me off trying to send an SMS on any of these touch phones because people can’t decipher my short messages or complain how long it takes for me to send a short message.

There is a lot of things to be thankful about the BlackBerry Bold 9700 (I personally prefer to call it Bold 2). RIM took great pains to make this light (16g), smaller (6mm narrower, 5mm shorter, 0.9mm thinner). This last bit tells you the vendor had a hard time trying to figure out where else to trim the phone off. The only thing that the Bold 2 lost out to the Bold 1 is the smaller keyboard. I’m still trying to adjust to this change and it shows because I still fumble when sending sms even though I have a physical keyboard on the Bold 9700. That said the prismic design of the keys may help you adjust faster to the narrow but taller keys.

If there is any feature on the BlackBerry that has kept it the envy of Nokia and other contenders to the business smartphone device is the qwerty keyboard. Thankfully despite some experiments in the curvature and texture, RIM has kept the keys intact.

One thing I am grateful that RIM has finally decided to throw out is the trackball. If you’ve ever used one of those early mouse pointing device (or trackball in my case) you soon discover that the ball collects dust, dirt and introduces these to the contact points inside the device itself. I’ve had my Pearl jam on me many a times – often when I am in harried situations.

Apart from this, the Bold 9700 is a Bold 1 on steroids. It’s got a faster processor, and is a 3G phone so now I can use it in Japan and maybe Korea. Its got one of those HVGA-class screens only found on the HTC Magic. (more…)

I’ve observed that people’s choice of mobile phones is largely associated with what they intend to use it for. My wife, for example, prefers the simple Nokia phones – she has four of them over the years. For her, its the ability to make calls and send SMS or text messages. My daughter is into SMS herself but wants the option to have a camera nearby. So she tends to favor her BlackBerry Curve.

However, the nature of consumer electronics is such that we don’t necessarily know what we are getting until we’ve made the purchase. Take my brother who bought a Samsung Omnia i800 last year. Today he uses it mostly to play Solitaire (an expensive toy if you ask me). As for me, I want a device that can (1) make reasonably good calls; (2) keep all my 2,300+ contacts on Outlook; (3) send SMS; (4) I don’t have to charge every day; (5) easily syncs with my Google calendar; and (6) browse the web (for those occasions when I want to check something quickly.

Arguably, Taiwan’s greatest contribution to the world is its engineering prowess. One company that exemplifies this is HTC. In my opinion, HTC has managed to successfully corner the OEM market for windows-based smartphones. In this review I will give my impression of the HTC Hero – one of HTC’s first ventures into the Android operating system. The Hero is not a new phone. It was first reviewed way back in October 2009. I’ve posted the comments of other reviewers at the end of this blog should you desire to read other people’s thoughts.

The Hero is not my first HTC phone. I bought a HTC Touch years ago and have tried my hand on the HTC Diamond as well. The Touch is my first failure in identifying a good phone for my personal use. Its best attribute was being slim. Its worst attributes were everything else.

Likewise I wasn’t too happy with the HTC Diamond. In fact I was pleased that when Diamond 2 came out, HTC did away with the uneven back plate of the previous model. It was just way too uncomfortable to hold and also annoying when stored in your pant pocket. While both phones were endowed with TouchFlo as a way of introducing us to an iPhone like experience, I found TouchFlo to be a pain in the neck to use. Together with the Windows mobile operating system TouchFlo simply made navigating the phone cumbersome. I attributed this to the choice of underpowered processors used in both models.

To say that the Hero comes from the same family as the Touch and Diamond is a sign that HTC is maturing as a manufacturer. Despite what I think is its mistake of using a less then powerful processor, the combination of  Android 1.5 and HTC Sense gives consumers a near iPhone-like experience without the proprietary technology and design that is the hallmark of most Apple produced devices. (more…)