Which mobile device is right for me?

Due to the nature of my work (IT Systems Engineer) and being the “mobile device guy” (BES admin, etc) I often get asked, “I am looking into buying a new phone. Which mobile device is right for me?”. “Well it depends”, is what I usually say.

If you saw my previous post, I carry around four mobile phones (plus I have an iPad). I have ready access to a blackberry 9700, an iPhone 4, WP7 (Samsung Focus), and an Android (Samsung Infuse). When I show people the different phones, they usually ask, “Which is your favorite?” This is the point where my likes might not be the same as the person asking. I am a geek at heart and like messing around with gadgets, so my take on things might be different than someone who just wants their phone to work without much fuss.

Here in no particular order are the pluses and minuses of the different phones. I am not breaking down every single detail of each type of phone OS/device. I am just hitting the high points.

iPhone :

+’s

· Lots of polished apps

· Great camera*

· For the most part it just works

· Pretty good phone sound quality

· Lots of peripherals

-‘s

A little restrictive (for example, try adding a custom alert tone like you can do on most any other phone).

Personal preference, but current hardware is not that great considering you need a cover to prevent the “death grip” reception issue. Also the phone is made with glass that is on the front and back making it easy to drop and crack. Plan on getting a case for the phone.

Lousy camera*

Recommendation:

If you are a diehard Mac fan, this is your phone. If you want a phone that pretty much works like you want it to, again this is your phone. If you like to “hack” your phone, you can always jailbreak it, but this will void your warranty. Why is “camera” listed as both a plus and a minus? The phone sensor is actually really good and takes crisp, clear pictures, but at the same time, it oversaturates the photos which is to me something that should be left to post processing a pic in say Light Room or another photo manipulation application.

Blackberry:

+’s

· Great physical keyboard (if you are into that sort of thing)

· Great messaging device

· Great phone sound quality

· Great reception

-‘s

· Applications aren’t that good and can be a bit expensive compared to the other manufactures

· Phones tend to be on the smaller side which makes the screen kind of tiny and hard to read

· RIM seems to be out of touch with its users and not really innovating for the consumer market

Recommendation:

If all you do is use your phone as a phone and/or for messaging purposes and don’t mind a smaller screen, then this is your phone. Most of the major apps like Facebook and Twitter are available and work ok, but honestly they aren’t nearly as polished as say the iPhone version of the application.  If a physical keyboard is a necessity, you can’t beat the keyboard on most blackberries especially their newer high end models like the Bold series, and the Torch.

WP7:

+’s

· Fast user interface (UI)

· Simple UI

· No crashes

-‘s

· Not as many apps as iPhone and Android

· Not as many phones to choose from compared to Android. For example at the time I am writing this there is only one WP7 phone on Verizon while there are over a dozen Android devices again on Verizon.

Recommendation:

WP7 is not like the older Windows Mobile OS that you might have remembered from a few years ago. It is a complete rewrite. Now that is a good thing and a bad thing. Good because they are getting rid of all the old code and starting over fresh. Bad because all the old apps no longer work and have to be rewritten. Right now there are close to 25,000 apps in the Windows Marketplace with the majority of the well known apps being there. The WP7 is a good OS for an OS that has only been around for less than 9 months.

Android:

+’s

· Plenty of devices to choose from on most carriers

· Lots of apps

· Customizable

-‘s

· Crash prone

· Malware, viruses on the upswing

Recommendation:

Google Android devices are currently the number one selling mobile phone. Many different companies make the devices and they are available on almost all of the carriers. If you like “hacking” your PC with different skins and launchers and what not, then Android is the mobile OS for you as you can hack it any which way you want.

Well Brady, this is all well and good, but if it was your money, what would YOU buy?

Ok, this is usually the second question I am asked after which device someone should buy.

First, I am not a big gaming fan especially on my phone. The screens are just too small and well I am 43 years old and not into gaming like I used to be ;-). I like to play the occasional game of “Go”, but that is about it. I also don’t browse the web that much on my phone. What I do care more about is email, text, phone sound quality, a good camera (like they say, the best camera in the world is the one you have with you and most people have their cell phone with them all of the time), and a few select apps.

I don’t care for Android as it crashes and locks up quite a lot. I shouldn’t have to hack my phone (“root it”), just to make the GPS, wifi, etc work properly. Also the UI is an absolute mess.

iPhones are a good phone, but they are too restrictive. If you want to change your alert tone, you had better like the built in selection because that is all you are going to get. To me it is just too much of a controlled environment.

Blackberry is a pretty decent phone, but it lacks a few apps that I like to use. For example I like going geocaching, but the geocaching app isn’t available for blackberry. Blackberry does a good job with every other function that I look for in a phone. I am looking forward when RIM releases their QNX based phones (maybe by this time next year).

This leaves WP7. My next phone will more than likely be a WP7 device. I really like the UI and the speed. They have all of the apps I need and email on the device works great. I think Microsoft is in this game for the long haul and have committed to a minimum of five years to the launch of the new mobile platform. From what I understand developing for the WP7 platform is relatively easy which should help increase the amount of apps available.

Summary:

In the end when purchasing a mobile phone is personal decision based on many factors like cost, performance, carrier choice, etc.  What is the best phone for one person might be the worst for another.  At the end of the day, you have to ask yourself what do you see yourself using the device for the most and make sure that the device you are purchasing is tops in that category.

 

 

 

 

 

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Too many phones

I think I have too many phones to lug around in my “man bag”. 

From left to right:

iPhone 4 with Mophie Juice Pack, HTC Thunderbolt, Samsung Focus, Blackberry 9700

DSC_1111

 

The iPhone is mine.  The Thunderbolt (Android OS) is on loan from the nice folks at Verizon.  I should be getting one permanently soon though.  The Focus is my Windows Phone 7 test device for work.  The blackberry is also for work as I am the “BES” admin.

Technology: Still amazed by it

While at work today I attended an "All Hands IT Meeting".  During the meeting a picture came up on the overhead in a PowerPoint slide that looked kind of like San Francisco.  The picture looked like you were standing on Jefferson or Beach Street and looking West up towards Ghirardelli Square.  Kind of bored and not being one to let things go, I quickly logged onto my iphone and brought up the Google Mobile app:   http://goo.gl/eO3q.  I took a picture of the PowerPoint slide and let the Google Mobile app do its thing.  Now understand I snapped the pic very quickly and was quite a distance from the wall that the PowerPoint was being projected onto.  There were also people in the way, so again this wasn’t the best of situations.

Once the Google App finished, it came up with a link:  http://goo.gl/QtkP2.  The shot I was looking for was in the “Images for traffic at night” link at the top of the results page:  http://goo.gl/lYRTo.   I clicked on that picture and found out that it was a picture of “Harrogate town centre”.  Realizing that it wasn’t a picture of San Francisco, I selected the text and copied and pasted it into the Google search engine.  I learned that this picture was actually in Harrogate, North Yorkshire England (if I had been more observant, I would have noticed the cars headlight trails were on the “wrong side” of the street.  Duh).  I then saved that Google link into another app called “Read it Later”:  http://goo.gl/KsDm.  When I got home at night, I did some reading about the area and learned something about Harrogate England.

This sequence of events utterly amazes me that things like this are possible.  I work around technology all day and stuff like this keeps me energized with the type of work I do.

Blackberry 9000 (aka bold) vs iPhone 3G

 

 image VS   image

 

First things first.  I realize that this “review” is about a year late as these two phones are one rev back from what is currently on the market or in the case with the blackberry bold, the bold “2” or 9700 is due to launch any day now on ATT (it already has launched on the T-mobile network).  I wanted to give my impressions of the two devices at a higher level with regards to the two product lines and not so much the individual units themselves.

iPhone:

I have had the iPhone 3G for about 9 months.  My previous phones before the iPhone were a couple of Winmo devices like the Samsung blackjack II and before that the Cingular 8525.  Both of these phones were actually pretty decent devices.  The 8525 was probably the closest to what I would call phone nirvana as it had it all at the time.  It was starting to show its age and the fact that I had to use the stylus for pretty much everything other than making phone calls got annoying quick.  It also didn’t have a built in GPS and being a geo-caching nut, I really wanted a device that had a GPS in it.  One day while logging into geocaching.com, I noticed they had an iPhone app for geocaching.  I resisted purchasing the iPhone on principle, but finally gave in after about 3 months.  I know, I know, I am weak.

One of the reasons I didn’t want an iPhone was the lack of a physical keyboard.  The blackjack and the 8525 both had a physical keyboard (the 8525 was a delight to type on for such a small device).  It took me quite a while to get the hang of the iPhones virtual keyboard.  The predictive typing helped out quite a bit.  I can still type faster on a physical keyboard though.

The user interface on the iphone is pretty slick.  The capacitive touch screen is a real engineering feat.  It allows for multiple fingers to touch the interface at the same time and allows for things like “pinching” to allow for zooming in and out for example.  The ability to finger swipe on the menu system allows for quick menu action.

Apps for the iPhone are done very well and is in my opinion one of the main selling points for the iPhone.  It is brain dead simple to find apps, buy them, download them, and start using them. 

The camera is pretty decent for a 2MP camera.  The colors are good and consistent.

Call quality is very good on both ends of the phone.

The music player on the iphone is somewhat confusing.  It just seems like it is trying to do too much.  Some people like it, I am not one of those people.

Email/SMS is done very well on the iPhone.  Exchange support is there if needed along with POP and SMTP.

Web browsing is outstanding on the iPhone.  With its large screen, it is easy to view web pages.

Some things I don’t like about the iphone are that it doesn’t have some sort of light to allow for notification of new messages.  I really wish they would have included this as I often set my phone in quiet mode and just want to visually look at the phone to see if I got a message or not.  I am really surprised they didn’t include a light around the circular button at the bottom of the phone that pulsed like on a Mac computer.  For me the jury is still out on the virtual keyboard.  I don’t like having to rely on a proprietary cable for syncing and charging.  The blackberry uses a standard USB charging cable and since I have a ton of those from various gadgets, there is always one at hand.

 

Blackberry:

I got a new job about 5 months ago.  Part of my new job responsibilities is being an Exchange/Blackberry Enterprise Server (BES) admin.  I haven’t played with a blackberry since they were a text only device.  I was able to get a blackberry bold 9000 and a blackberry curve 8320 for doing some testing.  These are the two most common devices deployed in my work environment.

The screen on the bold is incredible.  While not being as large as the iPhone and lacking the touch screen capabilities of the iPhone, it is absolutely beautiful.  I don’t care how good your vision is, I dare you to find a pixel on the screen.  It is like looking at a miniature hi-def TV.

I don’t know if I care for the scroll wheel.  On the newer blackberries, they moved away from this type of input device which is probably a good thing.

They keyboard is really, really good.  I had forgotten how much I missed typing on a physical keyboard.  The keys have the right amount of play and are spaced the right distance apart (at least for my somewhat large hands). 

The apps are OK.  Nothing special here, but there are some decent ones out there and blackberries “App world” is no Apple App store, but it does the job.  There aren’t as many apps for the blackberry as there are for the iPhone, but the most popular ones like facebook, twitter, etc are there.

The camera is not as good as the iPhone, but the phone does take videos.

Call quality is quite good and very comparable to the iPhone.

I like the fact I can use add on memory cards to the phone, so there is technically no limit of how much storage that is available.  With the iPhone, you are locked in to whatever you purchased (in my case 8GB).

The music player is quite nice.  The audio sound quality was superb. 

Web browsing is just so-so on the blackberry.  Navigating isn’t as easy as the iPhone because you have to use the scroll ball and the screen is smaller, so there is a lot of zooming in and out.

Email/SMS is the bread and butter of a blackberry.  It takes a while to become used to the combined inbox where your different emails and even facebook updates are kept. 

Things I don’t like about the blackberry are that the screen is somewhat too small.  If it was just a 1/4 of an inch bigger, it would be so much better (the newer blackberry 9700 has a somewhat larger screen.)  The build quality could be a little bit better.  The battery cover on the back comes off quite easily and while using it, I have had it pop off more than a few times and the battery falls out as a result.  Again the newer blackberries have addressed this issue (so the spec documents say).

Conclusion:

I wouldn’t mind using either phone as my primary phone (with google voice, I can have both phones ring depending on which one I have with me at the time). Both have their positives and negatives and in the end they end up being equal. 

Now if I could only get my hands on an android device…..hmmm…..

GTD: Where I am at

A long time ago I wrote a blog post about how I was progressing with my GTD (Getting Things Done) system.  I thought I would circle back to see how things have progressed.

I still don’t follow the GTD method that is laid out by David Allen.  I just couldn’t get it to work right.  I also found I was just making more time for me to do more work.  Not what I want to do really.

For one thing, I gave up on OneNote.  For me it is just to unwieldy.  I also now have an iphone and there is no OneNote client for the iphone.  Also, I could never get the OneNote mobile client to work the way I wanted it to when I had a windows based smartphone.  I do like the Evernote application.  It is a really nice desktop and iphone application that can do many things and does them well.  I use evernote to type up my notes and take pictures of things I want to remember like business cards and things like that.  It is easy to search for my information which is a key requisite in my system.

I also use the “Remember The Milk” (RTM) application.  It is a web based application.  It also has a really nice iphone application (paid version only).  I started to use the RTM application because I started to work somewhere where I didn’t have full control of my Outlook tasks and couldn’t sync to my iphone.  I use RTM to set up reminders and to remember things I might have to do for work or need to be done around the house.  I can be alerted via several methods whether it is an SMS text, email, or even by twitter.

I have started using a moleskine cahier as my catch all “to do list”. I take a cahier with me everywhere.  I don’t always carry my iphone with me wherever I go (I know blasphemy!).  I still haven’t gotten used to typing on the iphone and can write faster in the cahier.  I protect it with a leather cover from Renaissance Art.  The cahier has a very flimsy cover and while that makes it easier to carry in your pocket, it will tend to fall apart without this protection. 

I have a large moleskine notebook that I use to take notes in.  I keep the notebook in a Rickshaw folio.  I like this folio a lot.  It holds a few of my pens and pencils and some other odds and ends and isn’t too big.

I also keep a journal.  It is an Oberon Design Lotus Icon journal.  This is starting to go with me everywhere.  I might do a post later about this journal in more length.

All in all this system works for me.  Yes, there are a lot of “inboxes”, but it allows me to be flexible.  I have successfully dealt with the “What should I use, digital or analog for my GTD system?” by using both ;-).  I might have a few minor tweaks like using the new extra small moleskine volant’s instead of the larger cahiers for my catch all notes.

New job

I start a new job tomorrow.  I had only worked at my previous job for two months.  I believe that is a record for me.  I am not one to job hop from job to job.  I like to become part of “the gang” that has been there for a while and has a lot of knowledge of the position.  It is a double edged sword staying at one place for too long as you can get stuck in a rut and the routine can start wearing you down. 

I am excited about this new position as it has a lot of possibilities ahead of it.  My previous position was a contractor position which was technically a long time contract at times it didn’t feel like it.  This helped make the decision to go with this new position.

I do feel blessed that in this economy I was able to have a choice on where I work.  Many others are not so fortunate and I realize that.  Along with many others I am looking forward to when the economy picks up and the unemployment rate can go back down again.

Onwards and upwards!