New Opera for phones and tablets/EVO 3D uses MHL port

March 23, 2011

I ran across both of these articles on AndroidPolice this morning and, rather than posting them individually, I figured I’d just roll them together.

First, Opera’s released new versions of both their Mobile and Mini. Mobile’s got a new UI for tablets but it’s also got Flash support as well as a few other new features (AndroidPolice article about both is here as well as download links for both) so if you’ve got the horsepower and download speed, go for it. If not, go with Mini which also has a new, tablet-friendly UI and some new features like pinch-to-zoom. If you just want to download them, here’s Market for Mini and Market for Mobile. Supposedly you can just go to http://m.opera.com in your mobile’s browser but when I tried it on my T-Mobile Nexus One, I got a message that there wasn’t an Opera Mini for T-Mobile and that I should try the public Opera build.

Next, Sprint’s newly announced HTC EVO 3D doesn’t have a micro USB port nor does it have an HDMI port (AndroidPolice link here)! Instead, it has an MHL (Mobile High-Definition Link) port. MHL is a new standard that can connect BOTH microUSB and HDMI on a single port. If you have a TV that has an MHL port (probably not at this point) you can plug it in and (get this) CHARGE YOUR PHONE VIA HDMI. The port supposedly is plug-compatible with microUSB so you don’t need an adapter for it but, until you get an MHL TV/whatever, you’ll need an adapter for HDMI. Yeah, it’s kinda cool and futuristic and I understand that devices must adopt new standards but, c;’mon, that means you need an adapter! OK, *I* probably won’t need an adapter because there’s very little chance I’ll plug it in to my TV anyway, but would it’ve hurt them to put an MHL *and* a microHDMI port on the thing?

The AT&T/T-Mobile deal changes everything

March 20, 2011

I decided to pass on the HTC Thunderbolt this past week when it was (finally) released because, frankly, I didn’t (and still don’t) think that it brings enough new stuff to the table. Sure, it’s Verizon’s first LTE phone. But there will be plenty of those. And unlike previous Verizon phones, it can do 3G data while you’re talking on the phone. But it’s a single-core phone at the beginning of the dual-core era and has an 800×480 display when 960×540 is the new resolution. If I’m going to lock myself in to a year long contract, I want to get closer to the cutting edge. Thunderbolt owners are able to get in on an unlimited 4G plan for $30/month and that attracted me, too, but there’s no guarantee it will be transferrable to another phone not that Verizon wouldn’t convert it to a tiered plan once they’re on the books.

So, after doing a Best Buy pre-order and waiting a month, I decided to pass. Yes, I went to the Verizon store and used the phone on launch day. For 40 minutes, no less! And it’s a great phone! But it’s not “not your next phone but the one after that” as it was advertised. It’s between my last phone (a Nexus One) and my next phone. And HTC has started locking their bootloader! C’mon guys!

I shifted plans. Rather than pick up last year’s phone, I figured I might get the USA version of LG’s Optimus 2X on T-Mobile, called the G2X. While it’s only 800×400 at least it’s got a dual-core Tegra 2. Rumor is it’ll be a “Google experience” phone and the G moniker sorta indicates it might be the next G phone (as in G1, G2, G2X).

But, now that I see AT&T is buying T-Mobile, I may have to go to Sprint or Verizon. I’ve already got the XOOM and I’m pretty happy with it (yes, I know I owe you a review … and it’s coming, I promise). But Verizon’s business practices bother me. Their coverage is excellent but, honestly, I’ve not had many problems with T-Mobile, even when I went to New York a few weeks ago. Sure, I get a few dropped calls but I’m not trying to impress anyone and a dropped call is just an annoyance to me, not something that’ll lose me business.

Stick it out with T-Mobile and see what happens or jump to Sprint or Verizon? Honestly, for me it’ll probably be a bit of both. Even if I get a phone on another carrier, I’ll probably scale back but keep my T-Mobile account. I’ll keep you posted.

Almost a week with the XOOM

March 9, 2011
I ordered a XOOM two weeks ago and it came while I was away on a business trip. When I got home last Friday I got busy with it. I promised myself that I wouldn’t post anything for at least a week so I wouldn’t post the usual crap you see when someone gets a new device and posts a review after a few hours or a day, still unused to the paradigm shift that’s typical with new hardware or software.

That said, I have to break my own rule to comment on the b XOOM’s battery life. One charge lasts me TWO days, easily! I power on my device in the morning while at home and use it on wifi for an hour or so, power it off and then turn it on again at the office where I use it on and off all day on Verizon 3G. It stays on for the trip home and, once home, I switch back to wifi for the evening. I turn it off before bed and then start the process over the next day. That means it’s on for about 14-15 hours per day, 5-6 of which is wifi. Pretty good if you ask me (note that I charge my phone each night). I’d guess I acttually use it about 8-10 hours each day.

Ok, that’s all for now.

Is Google Music the reason there’s no storage expandability in the Nexus S?

February 1, 2011

Back when it was announced, I wondered why the heck they would make a phone with no expandability. Sure, 16GB onboard storage is a lot but, for me (and, I bet, for a lot of other users), it’s not enough for backups, videos and music, Heck, I’ve got a 32GB microSD in my Nexus One and have only about 10GB left. Music and videos take up a little over 20GB (and I’ve edited the music files down quite a bit) and then there’re 3 or 4 ROM backups and 7 versions of backups from Titanium Backup. So, for me, the Nexus S wasn’t an option.

When the Nexus S was announced, they said it was the phone the developers would have on their desk and use on a daily basis. Perhaps that was to “help” them develop and streamline the Google Music experience? Sure, when I’m out and about I could stream my music from my home systems but none of the apps I’ve found will intellligently cache or let me select the songs I want to store locally. There are services available like MiMedia and MP3tunes that’ll let me store and stream my music but I’m not crazy about the ongoing cost nor their apps (well, MiMedia could be a winner — I’m currently trying it out). But a well executed Google Music could address that and also capture my online music buying. I probably buy 10 tracks a month from AmazonMP3.com, download them to either my phone or my NAS, make them available to my Squeezeboxes at home and also generally keep a copy on my phone.A good “cloud” service that integrates buying, storing, streaming and downloading would get my business! If it also let me upload my existing media collection, I’d be even happier and more inclined to pay an ongoing fee. Google Docs with media extensions or something else? I dunno but it’s gotta be in the cards, don’t you think?

New-ish “cloud” backup solution — MiMedia — also streams

January 31, 2011

This is my first real posting regarding cloud services. I’m no stranger, I just haven’t been altogether happy with what’s available. I’ve used SkyDrive, Dropbox and have done a trial with Carbonite as well as a number of the other online backup/file sharing providers and have accounts with streaming/storage providers like MP3tunes, Grooveshark and some of the other, lesser known services but, I have to say, I like MiMedia‘s prices and services. I got a MiMedia account because blueTunes folded and “gave” their users to MiMedia. All my music was transferred and I have a free trial for the service which I am exercising now.

So, what’s their deal? They provide both online backup (“cloud” backup) as well as the ability to stream/share your content with others (I’m streaming Bob Marley right now).

Via a Windows application (no Mac or Linux yet) you install on your computers ( — you can connect as many to your account as you want), you pick the files/folders you want backed up and they monitor for new files/updates/changes and upload them to their servers. One useful twist is that you can request they send you a USB drive onto which you place your first set of files (they pay the shipping both ways). Load it up with up to 250GB of pictures, documents, videos, music, applications, whatever, send it back and they’ll put it in your cloud. Then, as you continue about your work, all the stuff you’ve “tagged”  will have their changes sent to your cloud.

They don’t yet have an Android app but if you’ve got a Flash-capable browser, you can go in that way. And you can upload and download individual files.

Undiscounted prices are

  • 25GB for $5/month or $49/year
  • 100GB for $10/month or $99/year
  • 250GB for $20/month or $195/year

And they can provide more if you need it.

What’s powering your Android phone? Does it matter?

January 31, 2011

A few days ago Tested.com published a brief description of the the (now) 4 main vendors of CPUs/GPUs/SoC that power our Android phones and tablets. The players are Samsung (Hummingbird), Qualcomm (Snapdragon), TI (OMAP) and NVidia (Tegra 2) and the article is here. It’s relatively short and gives some good insights into the various benefits of each. Aside from battery life, it seems that NVidia is the clear winner but I think all of the vendors have multicore in their future.

New Android keyboard — Keypurr

January 4, 2011

I found this in the market today, gave it a try and I think it’s now my favorite keyboard! Here are AppBrain links to a trial and a purchase version.

What’s different? It doubles up a few of the keys so, instead of 10 (or more) keys taking up previous real estate, there are 6. It can “guess” what word you’re going for based on its dictionary but you can also force it to take a particular letter by swiping UP on the key. It’s really something that you should see so head over to the Keypurr site and take a look. It’s “on sale” until January 10 for about a buck (regularly around $4). I used it for a few hours and then decided to buy it.

Openness — whether to buy from Samsung?

January 1, 2011

Is Samsung for openness or not? I can’t make up my mind. They seem to be clued in to this whole Android thing, what with their Galaxy S phones, the Galaxy Tab and their partnership with Google on the Nexus S. Yet rumor is that the recent update to the Galaxy Tab will disable root and (try to) lock down the tablet (see this article from GottaBeMobile.com) which kinda indicates, to me at least, that they don’t get the whole “open” thing.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand about commercial realities. I understand that they need to protect their investment and keep their support costs low — the technical non-savvy can really put a load on your support line if they don’t understand what they’re doing, try to root their device and screw something up. But that’s recisely the reason I think the way to go it to make the root process easier and keep things more open. The Android community-at-large is a wonderful resource! By enabling them and even, dare I say it, reaching out to them, you can almost guarantee the success of your product, Witness the Viewsonic G Tablet. I bought this on November 2 (launch day) at Sears, of all places. The UI was horrible, it was laggy, it couldn’t remember my local time across reboots and it couldn’t maintain a WiFi connection. But the XDA-Developers community made the tablet usable. In fact, it was posting on XDA back on October 30 that clued me in to the tablet in the first place. I got involved early on, providing stock ROM images to the early crew so we’d all have a safe harbor to return to. Without doubt, it was my interactions with them that motivated me to keep the tablet and I’m convinced it was the efforts of all of us in the communiy that motivated Viewsonic to release their kernel source, allowing further development. And now we hear that Viewsonic plans to release more Android stuff at CES — phones and everything (see this WSJ article along with a host of others). My Nexus One is nearing it’s 1 year anniversary and I’m in the market for a new phone. Because of Viewsonic’s recent track record, I’m inclined to look very favorably on them for my next one.

So, Viewsonic managed to turn a “failed’ product around by cooperating with the community. And it seems like HTC has gotten it all along.

Samsung? Motorola?

Why would you get Sprint’s 4G service?

December 29, 2010

I’ve been hearing the hype about Sprint’s 4G service for quite a while, and I qualify for a pretty decent discount. So, now that they’ve officially turned it on here in the San Francisco Bay area, my interest has really been piqued. I spoke with a couple of friends who have Sprint 4G service and they tell me it’s GREAT outside but inside is another matter.

Now, why would I want a service that only gives me good speeds outside? Granted, the 4G radio supposedly takes quite a bit of power to drive so I suppose it’s best to use WiFi when I’m inside but, WiFI service is still too spotty for me to count on.

No, I’m gonna stick with T-Mobile. Speedtest.net tells me I regularly get a 3-4 megabits per second down when I’m on the HSDPA network (which is almost all the time nowadays). Maybe I’ll check out Verizon when we get LTE here.

Clearing up some misconceptions about the Viewsonic G Tablet

December 18, 2010

Lots of stuff circulating on the web about Android tablets of late. And, as usual, there’s a lot of truth and a lot of crap going around. I have some personal experience with one of the tablets so I thought I’d break my long silence (more about that in another post) and post some truth.

I make no secret of being … well, I guess I’d be called an Android fan-boy. I pre-ordered and received the G1 on launch day back in 2008 and have never looked back. Bought a Nexus One on launch day, too and am still using it. Friends say I have techy ADD — I can’t stay interested in anything that’s not new. Yet Android has held my attention fast since day 1. I unlock, root and install custom ROMs pretty much as soon as I can. I’ve been waiting for an Android tablet since this time last year. So, when I saw the Viewsonic G Tablet at Sears shortly before November 2, I was interested. Tegra 2 chip, 512M RAM, 16G internal storage, microUSB and full-size USB port for $379, I figured it’d keep me happy until Gingerbread’s Honeycomb’s released next year and the framework and UI can be updated for larger screens.

Before I go into the details, let me cut to the chase. This Android tablet isn’t an iPad killer. It’s not for moms and pops who want to charge it and go about their business. It’s for hacks like me who like to fiddle with things. It can do a LOT but it requires some work. So, don’t buy one if you’re not up for it. Wait until 2Q2011 and buy a fully-baked tablet, OK? Don’t buy one and whine because it’s not an iPad.

But, if you’re comfortable flashing ROMs and want a tablet with cutting-edge CPU hardware, plenty of RAM and loads of internal storage, don’t hesitate!

OK, now, the details. On Novermber 2, I walked into my local Sears store, grabbed (and paid for) a G Tablet and ran home. How bad could it be? Tegra 2, it’s gotta be a killer, right? So I powered it up and was incredibly disappointed! The UI was slow and laggy, it couldn’t remember the date and time and there was no Android Market! I turned to my friends at XDA and, sure enough, there was an active community there (albeit crowded into one thread in a general forum at the time). I found out that NVidia had lots of tools (notably, nvflash) I could use to work on Tegra tablets. I helped the crew at XDA by providing them with stock images from my tablet and was soon rewarded with new ROMs that removed or altered the UI and some of the other elements that were problematic. We tweeted to @Viewsonic and called their support line telling them of the problems and suggesting solutions. Some of the other members of the crew joined Chinese forums because, it turns out, the tablet is from Malata — the SMB-A1002 and there were lots of ROMs and hacks for it there. Another member began a port of Cyanogenmod but, since we didn’t have source for the kernel, it was less than stellar. Then, some enterprising soul saw the Advent Vega and everything changed. The Vega is based on the same tablet as the Viewsonic. A couple of folks got very busy and ported the binaries over to our tablet and, I must say, it’s makes the tablet great! Along with some mods to make the Android Market usable and I now have the e-readers Aldiko, Nook and Kindle on it along with Pulse, TapaTalk Pro, Google Voice, Google Reader, Fring, K9 Mail, Xfinity and, well, pretty much the whole suite of apps that I have on my phone. On a 10″ screen. I carry it with me to work every day. I watch movies and listen to music and read books and read news and email and surf the web with a screen I can easily read and type on a keyboard that I can easily type on.

Am I happy with it? Yeah, you can probably tell the answer is “yes”. And you can probably also tell that it’s not for everyone … hence, it’s not a iPad killer. But that’s OK. I don’t want an iPad killer. I want an Android tablet.