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…)

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Hands up if you carry more than a phone with you when you are out and about!

Apart from keys and wallet, my pockets hold a BlackBerry 8900 and an iPod Touch. Most executives I met have with them a phone and a BlackBerry (in this case used primarily for emails).

My wife has, would you believe it, three cell phones (no BlackBerry) everywhere she goes. These are all stuffed in her bag which if used properly can knock the wind out of you very easily (I think her bag weighs about 3 kg).

Every piece of portable electronic device requires regular battery charge depending on usage. At home we’ve got 2 sets of charges for my wife’s Nokia phones (all 3 of them) and I’ve got one charger for the 4 iPods I’ve collected. My daughter has a charger for her HP TX2 tablet PC, her mobile phone and her iPod nano. My son has a charger for his Nintendo DS Lite as well as his mobile phone. Between us, we’ve amass quite a collection of chargers. At times the collection of chargers can be very annoying as these tend to tangle every time.

I’ve always wished to have one appliance that would charge all of our devices regardless of make and model. The problem is that most devices don’t have the same power requirements and the makers also have different ideas when it comes to designing how to charge these devices.

A number of vendors like Targus, ESI and Griffin have come up with portable charges primarily designed for laptops and devices with USB connectors. But in most cases you can only charge 1 or 2 devices at a time. To do this, they also have to provide as many ‘tips’ as possible to match the various devices out in the market, including those for the Apple, Creative Technologies, Blackberry, LG, Motorola, Nokia, Samsung, and Sony Ericsson. For mobile phones the end to these different ports may be in sight.

The European Commission has managed to get agreement from 10 companies, including Apple, LG, Motorola, Nokia and Sony Ericsson, to agree to manufacture future phones based around an inter-chargeable design. But what about your MP3s, video players, portable video game consoles, laptops, and now ereaders?

 A few vendors have been working on a universal charger for as many devices as possible. One such vendor is Powermat with its Powermat Home & Office Mat and Powermat Portable Mat. Both models include a Powercube with includes 8 ‘tips’ for the most common mobile devices, including DS LIte, DS, Sony PSP, Samsung, LG and Apple. It also includes tip for a micro USB and mini USB. Optional accessories include receivers (adapter may be less confusing) for BlackBerry, iPhone and iPod (dock). (more…)

If there is ever any word that best describes Apple it’s showmanship. And Steve Jobs is master at this craft.  With the iPod, Apple re-defined an existing market and launched a product that created the illusion that it would alter the way we did things. In reality, the iPod (including iPod Touch) and all the MP3 and MP4 players that came before and after it, is a music/video player. What differentiated it was the user interface (or software) that made it easy (and sticky) to transfer music, videos and applications (the last two on the iPod Touch). Apple also made it easy to acquire music by creating the iTunes ecosystem – and this is where the real money for Apple comes in – through gut-wrenching profit-sharing agreements with content creators. What’s more, Apple also opened up iTunes for you and me to create content and allow us to be potential “stars” in the Internet. Youtube saw it too (but that’s another story).

Also, Apple didn’t really invent laptops. Its MacBook and MacBook Pros belong to the same family of computing devices that allow users to write, work on spreadsheets, create slide presentations (we call them PowerPoint slides), create home movies, watch movies, listen to music, and surf the Internet. If you have the computing power, you can play nerve-wracking games or designwork. As with the iPod, Apple created this very consumer-friendly user interface – the OS X operating system – that made it almost intuitive to use the device (I say almost because no matter how much she tries, my wife still can’t use the iMac we have at home to do her work. She is Windows-bound forever!).

Apple saw an opportunity when Amazon launched Kindle with some degree of success. This brings us to January 27 at 10am PST when Steve Jobs unveiled the newest offering from Apple – the iPad. In truth, it looks like a very large iPod Touch dressed like a MacBook Pro. What it dropped off from the Touch series is the camera. Instead we have this 9″ screen that allows you to do almost everything else the Touch can do – listen to music, surf the Internet, watch movies, and most importantly, read an electronic book in comfort (something the Touch tries to do miserably) although I have reservations about the reading issue as proponents of eInk say people can’t tolerate the current generation of LCD and OLED for long-term reading. A friend says he can read reasonably well on his iPhone. Personally I would find it hard moving left to right, up to down on my Touch – so I never really use it as a reading device. In fact I can’t watch movies with sub-titles on the Touch – so no original Japanese animae for me.

And as with the Touch and iPhone, Apple created an ecosystem it calls iBooks that allows iPad customers to consume hordes of electronic books offline by buying these online. This is Apple genius repeating itself. For sure, it will create tons of money for Apple from online book sales. If the newspaper content generators can do it right, it should also allow the millions of newspaper readers to consume their daily thirst for news online with the iPad. Sports Illustrated’s purported egazine is a very nice piece of software engineering if they can get it out the door.

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