Brighthand Bytes


December 23, 2011  9:26 AM

When Buying Mobile Apps You Get What You Pay For

Ed Hardy Ed Hardy Profile: Ed Hardy

I sometimes wonder if software for smartphones and tablets isn’t too inexpensive. How many great apps aren’t being developed because companies know people will complain if it costs more than $5? And all upgrades have to be free.

Good, powerful, and useful smartphone apps sell for a tiny fraction of what PC ones do, but development costs aren’t that much less. Companies have to take a big risk to release mobile software because there’s a good chance it won’t be profitable.

I know, there are 500,000+ items in the iTunes App Store so there are plenty of people willing to take the risk. But let’s face it, a good percentage of those apps are junk. There are huge numbers of flashlight apps, public-domain books released as ebooks, poorly written clones of Bejeweled, and other wastes of time put out with minimal efforts on the hope that enough people will pay 99 cents for them that it will be worth the few hours of time the developers put into them.

There are a few big-name PC software developers making iPhone apps, but many of these are classic PC and arcade games being ported to a new platform, rather than new games being developed. I suspect the situation would be different if these companies could charge more for their work, but the current economics of the App Store exert tremendous downward price pressure.

Tablets, Too
The situation is slightly different for the iPad. Companies regularly charge more for the tablet version of their apps, but that typically means they cost $3 instead of $1. The problem with this is tablet apps need to be nearly as powerful and complex as PC apps, not “dumbed down” versions.

Tablets are rapidly replacing laptops for many consumers. As such, they need to be relatively powerful, with robust third-party software. A simple smartphone app expanded to fill a large screen won’t do it. Developers aren’t going to do all the work required if they then have to sell their software so cheaply there’s little chance of recouping their money.

Some companies companies realize this, which is why the best and most capable iPad productivity apps aren’t cheap. The Quickoffice suite, which lets users work with Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files, is $20. Those who buy all of Apple’s iWork suite will pay $30. The new LogMeIn Pro is also $30.

I’m not saying that all iPhone and iPad apps should be $20. But people shopping on the Apple App Store should realize that the development of quality software takes a lot of money — $50,000 isn’t unusual. As such, not everything can cost 99 cents, and people shouldn’t complain when apps cost more.

What it really comes down to is, you get what you pay for. If the mobile software you’re buying costs 99 cents, odds are it has been developed on a shoestring budget. If you want something more robust, you probably should look around for an alternative with a higher price tag.

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December 20, 2011  9:42 AM

Samsung Galaxy Nexus Is Here at Last

Ed Hardy Ed Hardy Profile: Ed Hardy

In October, Google took the wraps off Android OS 4.0 and the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. This is a new version of the most popular mobile operating system in the world, and the first smartphone to run it. Verizon quickly committed to offering this handset, but that was the only quick part of the process. Two months later, this carrier has finally launched the latest Nexus model.

Samsung Galaxy NexusIn addition to running OS 4.0 (code-named Ice Cream Sandwich) this device has one of the largest touchscreens on any smartphone: 4.65 inches. And the resolution is impressive as well: 1280 by 720. Most tablets don’t have this many pixels.

The Galaxy Nexus is built around a 1.2 GHz dual-core processor, which means it is easily up to the job of running the latest OS from Google. This has been redesigned in many places. Most notably, the physical buttons that used to be a fixture of Android smartphones have been made virtual so they now appear only on screen.

Verizon customers are not the only ones who can get this cutting-edge device. An unlocked version that will work with AT&T and T-Mobile is also available from an online retailer.

Be sure to head over to Brighthand to read our first-look review of this model. A full review will be up soon as well.

Samsung Galaxy Nexus First Look Review: Android OS 4.0 and a Whole Lot More

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December 13, 2011  9:36 AM

Turn Off Your Phone When the Flight Attendant Asks

Ed Hardy Ed Hardy Profile: Ed Hardy

If you haven’t heard the story already, Alec Baldwin was on an American Airlines flight last week that was stuck on the tarmac for an hour. During this time, a flight attendant noticed that the actor was playing a game on his phone and asked him to turn the phone off. He refused and the situation escalated until Baldwin was thrown off the flight.

The plane in question was on the ground, still at the gate. At this point there’s no reason why passengers can’t use their phones, and the flight attendants generally announce this. So, was Baldwin correct in demanding that be able to keep playing Words with Friends?

DonkeyOf course not. He made a complete ass out himself.

The flight attendants are not there to be sky waitresses. Although they do serve drinks and snacks, their main role is to keep the passengers safe. As such, if a flight attendant tells you to do something, you should do it. It doesn’t matter if you think it’s stupid, you do it.

Baldwin was basically acting like a three-year-old who gets out of his car seat and ignores his mother telling him to sit down. Considering the actor flew into a temper tantrum when he didn’t get his way, both Baldwin and the three-year-old appear to be about the same emotional age.

In case some people need a reminder, air travel can be very dangerous. Having passengers acting like divas makes it more dangerous. It’s not up to the passengers to decide what is safe and what isn’t.

Like Baldwin, many of us depend on our smartphones to keep us entertained when we’re on the go. But there are situations when that’s not practical. If you’re going to fly, you need to bring something else with you — like a book or a magazine — because there are times you’re going to have to turn your phone off.  

Grow Up
Baldwin followed up his stunt by posting a number of snarky comments to Twitter. He then made a special appearance on Saturday Night Live to tell the world that he knows he was right. In short, he continues to pout like a sulky child.

American Airlines is not amused. It is considering taking Baldwin’s TV show 30 Rock off its in-flight entertainment system. Its Flight Attendants Union has requested that he never be allowed to fly on the company’s planes again.

I don’t think that goes far enough. I suggest that Baldwin be placed on the U.S. Do Not Fly list until he can prove he is mature enough to handle the situation. Or maybe he needs a baby sitter to go with him, or at least be required to ride in a car seat.

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December 12, 2011  2:24 PM

Is It Time to Get on the 4G Bandwagon?

Ed Hardy Ed Hardy Profile: Ed Hardy

When this year started, there were just a handful of 4G-enabled smartphones. Months later, there is a wide array available.

Motorola Droid RAZRThere are models from all of the Big Four U.S. carriers, and for half a dozen of so device makers. Anyone shopping for a handset these days has to ask themselves, should I go 4G? Or is 3G still good enough?

There is no easy answer, as there are trade-offs no matter which decision you make. But have no fear — Brighthand is here to help. 

We have prepared an analysis of the different varieties of 4G, and the pros and cons of using a smartphone that has one of these super-fast wireless connections.  To make things even easier, we included a list of some of the best 4G-enabled devices available today.

So drop by Brighthand today to learn more about 4G, and whether it is right for you!

Should You Get a 4G Smartphone?

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December 6, 2011  11:51 AM

Is Your Phone Spying on You?

Ed Hardy Ed Hardy Profile: Ed Hardy

One of the biggest news stories of the last week has been the revelation that many recent smartphones have an app called Carrier IQ pre-installed on them. This is either a simple diagnostic tool or a nefarious bit of spyware, depending on whom you ask.

Apple iPhone SpyingThe app is keeping a log of the phone’s activities and sending this information to wireless carriers. The companies who use it say this info is only being used to debug problems with the phone: dropped calls, battery failures, etc. Many users, however, resent that details like all the websites they visit was being collected without their knowledge, and with no way to opt out.

The company directly behind this app, also called Carrier IQ, has jumped to its defense, promising that what they do is completely innocuous. Nevertheless, lawsuits and a Congressional investigation are already under weigh.

Carrier IQ has been found on a wide range of devices — Android, iPhone, and BlackBerry. It has been estimated that it could be on as many a 140 million phones.

This issue is still playing out, so be sure to drop by Brighthand to keep an eye on the latest developments.  This story has been reported in the main-stream press, but not in the kind of detail we can bring you.

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November 18, 2011  10:44 AM

Has Apple Fixed the iPhone 4S Battery Problems?

Ed Hardy Ed Hardy Profile: Ed Hardy

When it launched, the iPhone 4S had a serious problem: it had terrible battery life. Even moderate users were lucky to get through a work day without needing to recharge. Apple quickly released an iOS 5.0.1 upgrade to remedy this problem, but does it do the job?

Apple iOS 5In my experience, it certainly does. Before this update was released, I’d gotten in the habit of keeping my iPhone 4S plugging in all the time at work so I would have more than a 40% charge when it came time to leave. Now I can easily go a couple of days without needing to charge.

To give you some hard numbers, one of my tests was an 18.5 hour day during which I used the smartphone for 2.5 hours and left it on standby for 16 hours. By the end, I still had a 68% charge. In a multi-day test, the iPhone 4S was used for 8 hours but was on standby for 48 hours. The result: a 33% charge.

These are quite good numbers. Above average, considering getting through two full days of heavy usage and still having a decent amount of power left over is something many smartphones can’t provide.

Not a Simple Answer
You’d think everything was cut and dried at this point — Apple has solved the problem — but it’s a bit more complicated than that. See, whatever bug it is that’s causing the iPhone 4S (and other devices running iOS 5) to having battery problems doesn’t act consistently from one device to another.  

Apple iPhone 4S ReviewSome people have never understood the furor, as their device has always performed fine. Consumer Reports is in this category, as it gave the iPhone 4S high marks in this area. Others have complained that the iOS 5.0.1 update actually made their battery life worse

Apple is reportedly working on iOS 5.0.2 that will help remedy this problem once and for all, for everyone. Only time will tell if this will lay the problem to rest.

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November 8, 2011  8:54 AM

iPhone 4S Faces Early Problems

Ed Hardy Ed Hardy Profile: Ed Hardy

Apple’s latest smartphone started shipping in mid-October, and in the weeks since then a couple of problems have come to light. The most obvious one is in its battery life, but the Siri voice-control system has had an issue or two as well.

Apple iPhone 4SSiri is possibly the best new feature in the iPhone 4S. It is a powerful and functional voice-recognition and control system… when it works. Last week it went offline for several hours, and Apple has yet to explain why. Siri is still a beta, and some of wrinkles have clearly not been ironed out yet, but it’s somewhat disconcerting that the feature can apparently shut down so easily and completely.

But a larger issue is the device’s battery life. There is a bug in the operating system for the iPhone 4S that doesn’t seem to affect everyone, but both I and Louie Tran, who reviewed the device for Brighthand, can’t go more than a few hours without needing a re-charge. Apple has promised a fix that’s likely to come in the form of an iOS 5.0.1. update, but in the mean time there are a few modifications you can make to the settings on your smartphone that an extend its battery life.

Check out this article for the details:

How to Increase the Battery Life of Apple’s iPhone 4S

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November 1, 2011  8:08 AM

AT&T Unveils Its First 4G LTE Smartphones

Ed Hardy Ed Hardy Profile: Ed Hardy

This fall, AT&T followed in Verizon’s footsteps  by launching LTE service. This 4G standard is significantly faster than this carrier’s previous HSPA+ network,  as much as three times faster in some situations.

Since the debut in late September, the only way to access AT&T’s LTE service has been through USB cards or a mobile hotspot. That changed yesterday, however, when the carrier finally took the wraps off a pair of smartphones that will be able to use this speedy wireless network: the HTC Vivid and the Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket.

Both will be Android devices with high-end feature sets. The Vivid is going to have a 4.5-inch qHD display and a 1.2GHz dual-core processor. The Skyrocket will have a display that’s the same size but lower resolution: WVGA. It is going to sport a faster 1.5GHz dual-core chip, though.

These devices are going to hit store shelves on Sunday, November 6. On that same day, AT&T is going to expand the reach of its LTE network. It’s currently available in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio, and coverage is being added for Boston, Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Indianapolis and Athens, GA this weekend.

If you’d like to learn more about the HTC Vivid and the Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket, or more about AT&T’s 4G offerings, head over to Brighthand‘s LTE page.

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October 18, 2011  10:46 AM

How to Build a Long Battery Life into a Small Smartphone

Ed Hardy Ed Hardy Profile: Ed Hardy

Design makers are facing great difficulties these days. The new 4G LTE networks that Verizon and AT&T offer bring incredibly fast speeds but also a significant battery drain. Fortunately there is a surprising solution to this problem.

The basic issue is that there hasn’t been a breakthrough in battery design in many years. Lithium-ion has been the state of the art for almost as long as I can remember. There have been refinements, but no dramatic improvements.

We’re used to electronic components getting smaller over time.  That’s not really happening with batteries. Until someone finds a significantly better option than Li-Ion, the only way to make a battery hold more juice is to make it bigger.

Motorola Droid Bionic vs Motorola Droid X2At this point, you might be asking, if we can’t make batteries smaller, how is it that the battery lives of the latest devices are going up without a corresponding increase in size? For example, the Motorola Droid Bionic comes with a 1735 mAh battery, while the Motorola Droid X2, which came out last spring, has a 1540 mAh battery. And our review of the Droid Bionic shows that the newer model has a better battery life than the earlier one. These two handsets are almost exactly the same size, so where is the extra battery life coming from?

And the Answer Is…
The solution is something I’ll confess I didn’t think of. As I said, we’re used to electronic components getting smaller. And that’s happening with all the parts that go into a smartphone… except the battery. So as the processor, internal storage, camera, etc. all shrink, that leaves room for bigger batteries. The percentage of the internal space devoted to batteries is going up, but the overall form factor of the handset remains the same, or in some cases is even getting smaller, like with the newly-announced Motorola Droid RAZR.

Motorola Droid Bionic ReviewThis is really only a stop-gap measure, though. I’m sure there are chemists out there working every day to come out with a better type of battery than lithium-ion. There’s billions of dollars to be made by the one that can significantly reduce the size requirements for batteries.

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October 3, 2011  1:44 PM

Don’t Buy an iPhone!

Ed Hardy Ed Hardy Profile: Ed Hardy

There’s only one piece of advice I can give the world: do not buy an iPhone 4 today. You’ll regret it.

This isn’t because there’s something horribly wrong with this device, but it’s about to be replaced with a better model. The long-delayed iPhone 5 is going to be officially announced on Tuesday, and when that happen you don’t want to be left holding last year’s version. 

Apple iPhone 5 -- Artists ConceptWe won’t have a definite feature list until Apple CEO Steve Cook takes the stage tomorrow, but unconfirmed reports say that this company’s fifth-generation smartphone is going to have a slightly larger touchscreen than the current one, while also being a bit wider and thinner. It will run iOS 5 on a dual-core 1 GHz processor and sport an 8MP camera.

If you’ve recently bought an iPhone 4 and are now kicking yourself, you can always return it or exchange it for the new version, as long as too much time hasn’t passed. And if you’re considering the iPhone 5, be sure to go to Brighthand tomorrow for the official announcement.

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