Brighthand Bytes


November 30, 2010  10:57 AM

The Smartphone Market Is Far from Mature

Ed Hardy Ed Hardy Profile: Ed Hardy

There is a trap that too many people are falling into. I know, because it’s one that I have to be careful to avoid. The trap I’m talking about is the belief that the smartphone market is now mature enough that we can easily predict who the winners and losers are going to be.

This is something I’ve read or heard many times, “_____ is wasting its time with _______, because Google and Apple have the smartphone market wrapped up.” There are a range of options for those blanks:

  • HP, webOS
  • Microsoft, Windows Phone 7
  • Nokia, Symbian

But this statement just isn’t true. As evidence, I submit the newly-released results of a survey which found that the vast majority of smartphone users are open to switching to another operating system if they see a good reason to (read more).

Apple did best in this survey, but it still found that over 40% of current iPhone users have no loyalty to this company. And Google’s Android OS did even worse — just 28% of current users of said they were definitely sticking with it. 

A Lack of Maturity
The PC market is mature, and after someone has been a Windows user for a decade or more, they are unlikely to go out and buy a Mac. The reverse is also true: long-time Mac users aren’t likely to get a Vista PC.

But the mobile device market is not mature. A great many smartphone users are still on their first device. After someone has been using a BlackBerry for 6 months, if they see a really cool Droid or Palm or Windows phone, they are open to switching.

An important part of this is the fact that the mobile platforms themselves are still immature. Really important features are still missing or have weak support. Fonts, printing, and Adobe Flash are just a few examples.

The operating systems that offer the best support for the features users want are the ones that are going to draw in customers. If HP can bring in important features faster than Google can, then customers are going to switch to Palm devices. The same is true of Microsoft and Windows Phone 7.

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November 5, 2010  9:38 AM

T-Mobile Really Does Have a 4G Network

Ed Hardy Ed Hardy Profile: Ed Hardy

T-Mobile USA began running a TV commercial advertising its 4G cellular-wireless network this week, which set off something of a firestorm on the Web with many people asking,  Does T-Mobile really have a 4G Network?

While the answer can be either Yes or No depending on who you ask, by the criteria most people use it’s undoubtedly Yes.

Officially, No 
According to the International Telecommunication Union, the answer is No. In fact, according to the ITU, no U.S. carrier has a 4G network — or even anything close.

Its official definition of a 4G network requires a mobile device to be able to exchange data at 100 Mbit/sec, much faster than anything currently available. That’s about five times faster than the LTE networks that Verizon and AT&T will deploy in the coming months. 

The ITU is not a quick-moving organization. It only recently defined 4G, while the definition of 3G was codified when EDGE was an up-and-coming new technology. To give you some idea of what that means, a 3G device can offer data speeds as slow as 3.84 Mbit/sec.

Unofficially, Yes
The wireless carriers as a group have clearly decided that the ITU is overly conservative in its definitions. And there’s justification for this — not many people would agree with the ITU that a network that is 10 or 20 times faster than its predecessor is still part of the same generation of technology.

That’s why some telecoms have begun saying they offer 4G networks. This is a marketing term, but it does the job of letting consumers know that they can expect much faster data speeds than were available in the past.

The first company to do this was Sprint, who says its WiMAX network is 4G. Very few people have argued this point, even though WiMAX is not 4G by the ITU definition — it offers peak download speeds of up to 12 Mbps, and average download speeds of 3-6 Mbps. Still, WiMAX passes the basic test of being significantly faster than its predecessors.

What about T-Mobile 4G?
Although there was no protest about Sprint saying it has a 4G network, there was quite a bit when T-Mobile said this week that its nascent HSPA+ network is 4G. These protests have little justification.

In real world tests by a variety of third parties, T-Mobile’s HSPA+ service has performed close to Sprint’s WiMAX service in downloads — sometimes doing a bit better, sometimes a bit worse. When it comes to uploading data, the HSPA+ network is generally faster, sometimes twice as fast.

Considering T-Mobile offers a wireless service that’s much quicker than 3G networks, and roughly as fast as a rival network that most people agree is 4G, then this carrier clearly has a 4G network.

No mater what the ITU says.

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October 31, 2010  5:03 AM

The Best Option to Replace Your Palm OS PDA is a Dell Streak

Ed Hardy Ed Hardy Profile: Ed Hardy

I know a great many long-time Palm OS users felt abandoned when this once-popular operating system was replaced by the webOS. And there are still plenty of people holding on to their Palm TX because they haven’t yet made the switch to another platform.

A webOS-based device would be a good replacement if there were any with a screen close to what Palm’s PDAs offered, but there aren’t. 

Dell Streak Tablet Phone with Google Android OSTo me, the best option currently available for a Palm OS user who wants to switch to something more up to date is the Dell Streak.

This a smartphone, but you don’t have to use it that way. This device is available without a contract, and Google’s Android OS works wonderfully over a Wi-Fi connection. (You can even use push email.)

It’s true, the Streak is somewhat expensive: $550 without a contract. But those who bought a Tungsten T5 back in the day paid $400 for it, and that’s about $450 in 2010 dollars.

For the extra money you get a much, much better mobile computer. Dell’s mini-tablet has a 5-inch, WVGA touchscreen and a 1 GHz processor. It has Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, and unlike your old PDA, you can put in a SIM card and use it as a phone if you want.

Its software, especially the web browser, is vastly better. Plus, there are loads of third-party apps: games, productivity tools, etc.

This device is big, but it still fits in a pants pocket. That’s a decent description of many of the Palm OS devices, too.

All of this makes the Dell Streak a very good option for someone who has realized it’s time to give up their old PDA. If you want to see this device before you buy, it’s available in many Best Buy stores. Or you can get it off the Web.

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October 29, 2010  12:53 PM

Sony PlayStation Phone Will Be a Hit

Ed Hardy Ed Hardy Profile: Ed Hardy

I’m going to go out on a limb and predicting big things for the PlayStation Phone. It’s going to sell well, even if some other people are quite skeptical about it. 

Don’t apologize if you haven’t heard of this Android OS-based smartphone — it hasn’t actually been announced yet. Still, details and images of it surfaced this week.

Sony PlayStation PhoneMuch of the doubt about thus upcoming model comes from people who believe that Apple has already sewn up the market for phone-based gaming.

While it’s true that the iPhone (and iPod touch) has become popular a portable gaming console, and it offers many thousands of titles, it appeals only to people who are willing to play without physical buttons.

Sony’s smartphone, on the other hand, is supposedly going to include the buttons millions of gamers have have become familiar with on the PlayStation Portable and PSP Go.

It’s also going to have an advantage over Nintendo’s DS platform: because it will be a smartphone, users will only have to carry around one device, not a phone and a mobile console. And the applications that come with Google’s Android OS will make it useful for many things, like web surfing, email, ebooks, and much more.

An Important Requirement
If Sony hopes to go head-to-head with the iPhone, it’s absolutely going to have to offer one thing: LOW-PRICED GAMES.

An expensive game for the iPhone is maybe $10, but most run under $5, and a great many sell for just 99 cents. PSP games, on the other hand, often run $20 – $30 or more.

By virtue of the physical buttons, I’m willing to bet playing games on Sony’s new offering is going to be a better experience than on an iPhone, but not so much better that people are willing to pay gobs more money for it.

What We Know about the PlayStation Phone
The design for this upcoming device will supposedly be a slider, but with a set of game controls instead of the traditional keyboard. The exact size of the touchscreen is not yet known, but it will be between 4.1 and 3.7 inches with at least an 800 x 600 (WVGA) resolution.

The sliding panel will be very similar to the one on the PSP Go, but with a large touchpad added.

According to details that have leaked out, this smartphone will run the next version of Google’s Android OS (code-named Gingerbread) on a 1 GHz Qualcomm processor with 512 MB of RAM.

Rather than Sony’s usual Memory Stick slot, this smartphone will reportedly include a microSD card slot.

A 5 megapixel camera is supposedly on the specifications list, but the remaining features are still unknown.

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October 23, 2010  11:42 AM

Apple iPad vs. HP Slate: Which Is Better?

Ed Hardy Ed Hardy Profile: Ed Hardy

This week was the debut of the much-anticipated HP Slate, a device that’s likely to be the best tablet PC running Windows 7.

Many people are very excited about this launch, most of them because they think there’s finally a tablet computer on the market that’s capable of getting real work done. Generally speaking, this group has dismissed Apple’s rival iPad tablet as being much too limited for anything useful. (I feel comfortable making this generalization because there are people in my company who feel this same way.)

HP Slate 500Speaking as someone who has gone on several business trips carrying an iPad instead of a laptop, I have to disagree with this basic premise. The iPad is more than a toy, and is quite capable of standing up to the HP Slate in a head-to-head competition.

When deciding between these two, you have to ask yourself, do you absolutely need the full power of Windows or can you get by with the slightly lesser capabilities of the iOS? Keep in mind when making this decision, the Windows-based tablet offers slower performance, a higher price, and shorter battery life, while the iPad has very quick performance, an affordable price, and long battery life.

Design
When talking about tablets, the screen is obviously very important, as these devices are basically just screens with cases around them.

The HP Slate has an 8.9-inch, 1024 x 600 display, while the iPad has a larger, higher-resolution one:  9.7-inch and 1024 x 768. Both support multi-touch. Early reviews of HP’s screen indicate that it’s not a responsive as Apple’s.

Apple iPadThe Slate is generally smaller than the iPad, but it’s thicker and weighs the same.

  • HP Slate: 9.2 x 5.9 inches, 0.6 inches, and 1.5 pounds 
  • Apple iPad: 9.6 x 7.5 x 0.5 inches and 1.5 pounds

Obviously, neither of these devices has a built-in keyboard, but if you wish you can connect an external one. The iPad has to use Bluetooth for this, but the Slate has a USB slot.

Otherwise you are using the on-screen keyboard. The iPad’s is surprisingly useful, but early reviewers have not been kind to the Slate’s, saying that it’s small enough that it requires a stylus to accurately hit keys.

Performance
The HP Slate runs Windows 7 on a 1.86 GHz Intel Atom Z540 processor. This device has been out for such a short time there’s aren’t any in-depth reviews yet, so exactly what it’s performance will be like hasn’t been established. That said, the Atom Z series was developed to emphasize battery life over performance, so it’s safe to safe to say that the Slate won’t be blazing fast.

The iPad, on the other hand, is blazing fast. It uses a stripped-down operating system that can run well on significantly slower processors than it has. Apps open virtually instantaneously, the device awakens from sleep in a heartbeat — everything is quick, quick, quick.

At this point, the iPad has a significant performance disadvantage: most apps can’t run in the background. But Apple’s going to change this next month with the release of iOS 4.2. This will also add support for wireless printing.

Internet Access
Apple’s tablet has an outstanding web browser which handles the basic task of rendering web pages as well as any Windows browser.  True, it lacks support for Adobe Flash, but web sites are increasingly turning to HTML5 for streaming video — YouTube and DailyMotion, for example.

The iPad has decent email software. You can easily check your personal or work email through either a dedicated app or through a Web interface. Still, it’s weak when it comes to attaching multiple files as attachments.

Social networking gets more popular every day, and the iPad can update any service I can think of.

Because the HP Slate runs Windows 7, it allows you to run whatever browser you want, as well as use any email app your heart desires. I’m looking forward to a comparison between the browsing speeds of the Slate and the iPad. I suspect they’ll be close.

While we’re on the topic, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that while both devices offer Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, some versions of the iPad include support for 3G cellular-wireless networking, something that’s not an option for the Slate. Still, Slate users are able to hook up a wireless broadband card — not possible with its rival.

Getting Work Done
For you business users, there are a range of quite capable Microsoft Office suites available for Apple’s tablet, allowing you to work with Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files. These generally cost $30 or less.

HP Slate 500

Slate users obviously have the option of getting Microsoft Office, but keep in mind this software isn’t bundled with HP’s device, so you’re going to be out at least $100.

If you need a Windows device to run a propriety application your company has developed, obviously you’re going to have to get HP’s device. But that’s a special circumstance.

Having Fun
When on a trip, many people spend much of my time in transit reading. For this, the iPad is a better option than an actual paper book. I can bring along two or three books with no hassle, and even buy more in a few minutes if I run out.

Of course, the same is true of the HP Slate, but not a laptop. I read a book on a laptop once. Once.

Should you want to watch a movie when on the go the iPad is a good option. Storage capacity depends on which model you have, but even the smallest is sufficient for carry along 2 or 3 full-length movies. That’s probably enough for all but the most serious movie junkie. True, you have to go through the hassle of converting these ahead of time, but you’ll have to do that with the HP device, too.

The Slate’s USB port and SD slot allow you to easily carry around additional movies, but the smaller, lower-resolution screen means they won’t look as good.

Apple iPadIf you’re a gamer, there are more titles available in the App Store than I think any one person could ever play in their lifetime. This is an area where the HP Slate and iPad probably come out even, but keep in mind, many PC games have been designed for use with a keyboard and mouse.

Camera
The HP Slate includes and VGA webcam on its front and a 3 megapixel camera on it back for stills and video.

Apple’s tablet, on the other hand, includes neither. The front-facing camera is the only one of these I think is a serious lack, as using FaceTime would be nice.

Battery Life
Based on my long experience with laptops, I’m willing to bet money that HP’s promise that its tablet can go 5+ hours on a single charge is fiction. It’s more likely to be somewhere south of 4 hours in real-world conditions.

On the other hand, one of the real strengths of the iPad is its battery life. In my daily use, I find that Apple’s assertion that this device has 8 hours of battery life is possibly a bit low. If I’m just reading an ebook, it can go over 12 hours.

If you want details, HP’s device has a 30 WHr battery, while the iPad has a 25 WHr one.

Price
The iPad starts at $500 for the version with 16 GB of storage — that’s the most popular option. If you want a 64 GB version with 3G, you have to put down $830.

The HP Slate costs $800. For that price you get 64 GB of storage and no 3G. You do get a cradle, though.

Conclusion
My intent with this wasn’t to convince everyone to get an iPad. I’m well aware that the HP Slate is a better option for some people.

What I set out do is make people realize that Apple’s tablet is far more than just a toy or an over-sided iPod — it’s a good option for those who want a very useful, portable, and affordable computer when they are on the go.

It certainly stands up well against the first Windows 7-powered tablet — something that HP seems to be aware of, as it’s not going to put the Slate in retail stores next to the iPad.

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October 22, 2010  7:10 AM

Palm Pre 2 Is Not What HP Needs

Ed Hardy Ed Hardy Profile: Ed Hardy

HP took the wraps off the Palm Pre 2 this week, giving the world its first official look at the next smartphone running the webOS. I think it’s safe to say that this device won’t be what a lot of people are hoping for… including me.

Palm Pre 2The Pre 2 is going to be a moderately updated version of its predecessor. It will have the same basic design, but with a faster processor and a few other tweaks.

To understand my unhappiness with this device, you only have to look back at the fate of the original Pre, a smartphone that sold so poorly that it forced Palm to do something it had been hoping to avoid: sell itself to HP.

Great Software, Bad Hardware
What makes this situation frustrating is that HP has a great product: the webOS. But this operating system is being totally hobbled by bad hardware.

The Pre doesn’t offer two of the most important features customers are looking for these days: a large screen and/or a keyboard that’s easy to type on. And the Pre 2 won’t either. A device with a 3.1-inch HVGA display and a tiny keyboard simply can’t compete.

This model has to go up against the Motorola Droid X, which has a 4.3-inch WVGA display. It also has to face off with the Samsung Epic 4G, which has a keyboard about twice the size of Pre’s.

Palm should have tossed out the entire design for the Pre and gone with a slider with a landscape-oriented keyboard and a screen that’s at least 3.5 inches… and preferably larger.

Looking Ahead
There’s little room for doubt that the Palm Pre 2 is going to be a dud, but I still have hope for the future of the webOS.

Rahul Sood, the head of HP’s gaming business, has become the company’s chief evangelist for this platform. He said recently that HP “is committed to delivering webOS on a wide range of devices” over the next twelve months.

Sood went on to say, “The stuff that excites me the most are the new form factors.” I have to agree with him, I’m also excited about seeing the webOS running on devices other than the Pre 2.

Palm did a great job with the webOS. It’s both very powerful and easy to use. I’m looking forward to the day it’s not hobbled by a small screen and an almost unusable keyboard.

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October 15, 2010  9:27 AM

Windows Phone 7’s Lack of Cut-and-Paste: Not a Good Sign

Ed Hardy Ed Hardy Profile: Ed Hardy

Unless you’ve been living in a cave, you’re aware that the first set of Windows Phone 7 models was unveiled this week. Generally speaking, I like Microsoft’s new mobile operating system, but there’s one feature that notably absent: cut, copy, and paste.

The good news is that Microsoft says it’s going to add this early next year. The bad news is that it is launching a new operating system without an important feature. The fact that it left out something so basic seems like a sign that Microsoft is out of touch with what users want.

Imagine a auto company that introduced a new line of cars in which the windows can’t be opened, and when asked about this, the company said “According to our research, a majority of drivers rarely roll the windows down, so we decided to leave this feature out.”

True, we don’t cut, copy, and paste every day (or roll down our car windows). But when we want to, it’s very frustrating to not have such a basic feature.

Windows Phone 7 PreviewI’m not saying Microsoft should add every possible feature to Windows Phone 7. That was actually one of the problems with Windows Mobile — it was so powerful and feature rich that it was overly complicated, bloated, and full of bugs. I’m OK that the company decided to create a “lean and mean” operating system. But even when you’re cutting something to the bone, you have to stop when you get to the bone.

Some features are critical, and cut-and-paste is on that list; that’s something Microsoft should have known.


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September 30, 2010  8:25 AM

Star Wars Characters Show Up for the Launch of the Motorola Droid R2-D2

Ed Hardy Ed Hardy Profile: Ed Hardy

The Motorola Droid R2-D2 went on sale at midnight last night, and I attended the launch event in Atlanta. Also in attendance were several Stormtroopers, Princess Leia, and a Jedi. Darth Vader couldn’t make it, though. You know how unreliable those Sith can be.

Boba Fett with Motorola Droid R2-D2Far and away the best costume was the steampunk Boba Fett, who you can see at left holding the new Droid R2-D2.

There was also a trivia contest, from which I was eliminated almost immediately. I thought I was a big Star Wars fan, but I wasn’t even in the right league. I was expecting questions like “Name Han Solo’s Wookie first mate,” and instead the questions were more like “How tall is Admiral Ackbar’s mother-in-law?”

More about the Motorola Droid R2-D2
Last night’s event was all about a special version of the Motorola Droid 2. This has a new look to match the lovable little astromech from Star Wars, but inside is one of the latest Android OS-based smartphones.

It’s a slider with a 3.7-inch WVGA display and a landscape-oriented keyboard.

Because it has the latest version of Google’s operating system, the web browser supports Adobe Flash. This OS also comes with email software, music and video player, and other communication and entertainment applications.

Motorola Droid 2, R2-D2 EditionThe Droid R2-D2 comes pre-loaded with some Star Wars-related apps, themes, and sounds — yes, the default ringtone is R2-D2 beeping for attention.  

This smartphone can connect to Verizon’s 3G (EV-DO Rev. A) network, and it includes Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

It also has a 5 megapixel camera with a flash, 8 GB of on-board storage as well as an 8 GB microSD/SDHC memory card.

Get It Now
The Motorola Droid R2-D2 costs $250 after a $100 mail-in rebate and with a two-year new or renewed contract. This includes a Star Wars-themed media dock and wired stereo headset.

Motorola Droid 2 ReviewVerizon has ordered a limited number of these devices, and when they are gone, they are gone. So if you want the world to know how big a Star Wars fan you are, get your Droid R2-D2 today in a Verizon store or this carrier’s website.

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September 27, 2010  11:24 AM

Some Experiences with the Samsung Galaxy S GPS Bug

Ed Hardy Ed Hardy Profile: Ed Hardy

For the last couple of months, I’ve been trying to understand how Samsung put out the Galaxy S series of smartphones without noticing how deeply flawed the GPS software is. Today I finally understand.

I’ve spent the last couple of weeks in Michigan, where I tested out the Epic 4G, Verizon’s version of the Galaxy S. While I was there, this device would not get a GPS satellite lock on, no matter what.

Samsung Epic 4G from Sprint

I’m back in Atlanta now, and the Epic 4G just got a GPS lock in less than 10 seconds.

I’m not sure what the problem is, but it’s clearly linked to geography. So if Samsung didn’t test its models in the right locations (or the wrong ones, depending on how you look at it) the developers wouldn’t have seen the problem.

Not that I’m excusing Samsung. If it expects to do well in this business, it needs to fully test its smartphones before releasing them.

And those of you who live in areas where your Galaxy S model’s GPS is useless, you have my sympathies. Here’s hoping Samsung gets its act together and releases the fix it promised soon. AT&T’s Captivate has it already, but the other devices are still waiting, including the aforementioned Epic 4G, Verizon’s Fascinate and T-Mobile’s Vibrant.

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September 8, 2010  3:15 PM

The Problem with Unconfirmed Reports

Ed Hardy Ed Hardy Profile: Ed Hardy

For many years, one of the mainstays of Brighthand has been reporting on leaks, rumors, and other pieces of unconfirmed information. Most of the time, I sincerely believe that this coverage is very valuable to our readers, but there are occasional exceptions.

As Site Editor, it’s critical for me to give you good advice on your smartphone purchases. This includes reviews of current models, but also warnings of devices that are coming down the pike. Just as an example, if any Brighthand readers had bought an iPhone 3GS in May without realizing that the iPhone 4 was coming in about a month, I would have failed them.

But covering products that haven’t been announced yet isn’t always an easy task. A surprising number of early reports are on the mark, but not all of them.

The best example of can think of in some time is the description of the HTC HD3 that appeared earlier this week on Brighthand and a great many other websites. As it turns out, these specifications and the associated image are a total fabrication.

They were created as someone’s wish list, but somehow made the jump from speculation to alleged leak. This is unfortunate, but not unheard of.

Separating the Wheat from the Chaff
Now that we know that the widely-reported description of the HTC HD3 is not real, what do we do?

One option is classify all the previous reports on this model as fakes. But I think this is too extreme. It’s not unheard of for real leaks to get mixed up with false information.

It’s quite possible that HTC is working on a successor for the very popular HTC HD2. If it is, it’s virtually certain his model will run Microsoft Windows Phone 7.

A report that came out today saying that this model is headed for T-Mobile USA in November is reasonable. This carrier has been successfully selling the HTC HD2 for many months.

But we’re clearly going to have to wait a bit for confirmation of this.

Looking Ahead
Most false reports aren’t this spectacular. Generally they are predictions that a particular model is going to be released on a certain day.

In most cases, I strongly suspect that these turn out to be incorrect because the launch day for that product got moved back. Smartphones are very complex devices, and if significant bugs crop up in a model at the last minute, wireless carriers are wise to push the release back until everything is running smoothly.

So please don’t dismiss all unconfirmed reports as bogus, just use a grain of salt when reading them. I know I do. And I always do my best to make it clear when an article is based on leaked information.

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