Featured Gadgets

HTC Rhyme – This Really Bothers Me

Take a look at that phone.  It’s got a lot going for it.  Verizon will probably be pricing it low, and it would fit very well at the low to mid-range of Android handsets.  No 4G, but a better processor than my Optimus S, front-facing camera, a dock with speakers.  Color is odd but hey, if it’s in a case who would know?  I had a purple phone for a year before my HTC Hero because I broke mine and the purple one was the only suitable refurb I could get on the cheap.

But this, this is going to be marketed to women.  It’s not released yet on the Verizon site, but I can imagine it already.  The copy will talk up the ‘charm’ that you can hang on your purse to see when messages come in.  The color will be ‘plum’ or ‘dusky rose’ or some such.  But most of all, it will be clear that this is the phone for women.  Nevermind that women who’d actually use the features of an Android phone to their fullest extent would be better served getting something different.  Can HTC and Verizon not imagine a woman whose choice in phone is not primarily based on color?  While there are ladies (my wife among them) who like to have a phone that is a ‘girly’ color, she also wants it to do the things she needs.

Stop marketing stuff ‘to girls’ or ‘for guys’, and just make good stuff.  If you need color options, take the Dell example and make the backplates swappable.  You can include it as a pre-installed option during purchase at your website, or aftermarket at your partners like Best Buy or Radio Shack.  But to have a completely different, less feature packed phone for women is doing them a disservice.

End rant.

Featured Review

Review: Sprint LG Optimus S

The time came this month, where I could get a new phone.  I wasn’t really planning on it, considering I loved my Hero and there’s no 4G here yet via Sprint.  However, I kept hearing AWESOME things about the LG Optimus S, and when it went on sale basically for free this past weekend, I couldn’t pass it up.  I’ve been playing around with it for a while now and thought I’d give some impressions.

First – it’s fast.  The processor isn’t near the EVO or anything, but it DOES have the same graphics chip as the EVO while still being faster than the Hero.  The end result (with a smaller screen compared to the monstrous EVO) is zero lag between screens, and quite solid performance in games (such as Angry Birds).  I’ve never once been left waiting long enough that I’d consider tapping an option or an app again, not sure it started.  Smooth.

Another improvement over the hero is buttons – the Optimus S has a whole mess of ’em, 4 on the face (Home, Settings/Menu, Back, Search), On the left is the slot for the SD card, the right has the volume up/down, a dedicated camera button (YES!) and a dedicated speakerphone button.  The top has a dedicated power button, along with a headphone jack.  For me, the buttons are a huge selling point, especially a quicker way to get the camera app open.

The experience is standard Android, rather than HTC Sense.  I thought I’d miss it, but I don’t.  The five home screens are plenty, and a year of experience with Android let me figure out what I really need on screen and what is fine to use a few taps and swipes to get to.  I LOVE the look of the interface, from the fonts used, the white color, the smooth animations, it all just feels above and beyond other phones I’ve used.

One thing I miss from the Hero is the LED notification light.  Seems like such a minor thing to not put on.  Beyond that, I could not be happier with the device.  I put my 8gb class 6 microSD card in, loaded it down with my typical apps (Angry Birds, AK Notepad, barcode apps, TweetDeck, Handcent, Yahoo Football and Hockey, SportsTap, and so on) and it’s been smooth sailing all the way.  Battery life seems solid, going to see what a full workday is like but normal weekend use has been what I’d expected from previous Android experience.

Listen, if you don’t have an Android phone, and Sprint is good in your area, get this phone.  Especially if you don’t yet have 4G, or don’t want to pay the extra per month.  Even without the discount, the $50 pricetag it carries for new service or an upgrade is super-cheap, and worth every penny.
Here’s a link to accessories for your Optimus S if you need them.

Gadgets Review

Sprint Hero on Android 2.1 – One Year Later

In case it’s useful to you, I thought I’d go over how the Hero I bought just about a year ago has held up.  I know it hasn’t been on 2.1 for that whole time, but I upgraded a few weeks early with a custom rom (on stock now), so close enough.

Overall, I’m extremely pleased with the device and how well it’s held up.  There’s one pixel (at least I think it’s the same one each time) that seems to get stuck once in a while, but otherwise, the screen is still in fine shape.  I don’t use a screen protector, just a soft rubber case for the occasional drop.  The only other cosmetic complaint are the home and back buttons, where there is some peeling, making it hard to tell what the icon originally was.

Android 2.1 is quite responsive on the Hero, even now, though there’s definitely lag with some more intensive apps (like Angry Birds).  Maybe twice a week, the phone will drop me to the white HTC screen when exiting an app, which forces you to wait to load the Sense interface back.  No other issues, really.  Very solid.

For the apps I use, other than the standards GMail and Google Calendar, are Handcent SMS, TweetDeck for Twitter (Seesmic was good too), AndroZip, Yahoo Fantasy Football and Hockey (although they take up a TON of the limited app space on this phone).  For games, beyond Angry Birds, I have mostly stuck to puzzle games and word games.  Other than that, I use Tasker to manage the volume of the alarms in the morning and the ringers at work.

I know the phone is being surpassed by many more models, and I drool over having and HDMI out or 1ghz processor, but the Hero served me well.  HTC definitely seems like they have some solid hardware.

Gadgets Software

Android Apps

As a follow-up to my review of the HTC Hero, the notable apps I have installed:

  1. Locale – Lets you change your phone’s behavior based on numerous factors, including location, time, and more. I love it, I can turn off my ringer automatically when I get to work or turn it on automatically when I get home (more important, as I use my phone for an alarm clock).
  2. ShopSavvy/CompareAnywhere – I use ShopSavvy myself, but there are several barcode scanning apps out there, for when you want to be sure that the DVD or book or cereal box you are holding isn’t cheaper down the street (or at Amazon). Handy.
  3. TwiDroid – Just a slick-looking Twitter client. Buttons to do replies/retweets if you are not a fan of the long press.
  4. Toddler Lock – Not for everyone, but gives a screen where kids can draw and tap and make noise while not shifting around all of your icons.

Now, for fun stuff. Games are spares for the Android platform, compared to the iPhone anyway, if only for the fact that you can’t yet store apps on the SD card without hacking. You can play Doom, which is cool if hard to control. There are plenty of time-wasters, like Bejeweled (and many clones), WordUp! (sort of like Boggle), and so on. For paid games, there’s a SimCity game available at HandMark, though I’d like to be able to try it first. Looks really cool though. One other thing – there’s a WordPress app (WPtoGo or some such), that is neat, even if you aren’t using it for creating new posts, it’s nice for quick spelling fixes or approving comments. Any other app questions, hit me up in the comments.

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Review: HTC Hero It Is

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Yes, I upgraded my phone, and I went with the HTC Hero (via Sprint). Here is Gizmodo’s take on the Hero. I am having a TON of fun with this thing. Let me try and break this thing down in a semi-organized fashion:

  1. The Hardware: Physically, it looks like a typical touchscreen phone. As mentioned in the Giz article, they got rid of the ‘chin’ HTC is known for when bringing the phone to the US. I don’t honestly care about that, but there you go. The screen does show some smudges, but you can’t tell when the screen is on, so no biggie to me. And that screen – videos look great, text is sharp and readable down to very small sizes, it’s great.
  2. The Software: It’s currently running Android 1.5, but HTC let it be known that Android 2.0 is forthcoming, as soon as they port the SenseUI over. That, by the way, is beautiful. It looks modern, and the seven screens you have or widgets and buttons come in very handy. Heck, I could use MORE.
  3. The Speed: This was a concern with the European version, but I can confirm it’s not here – apart from a few isolated times (usually when doing something really intensive like watching a movie while goofing with the screen a lot) things are snappy. Remains to be seen how well it works with 2.0, though.
  4. The Keyboard: Okay, it doesn’t have a real one, just a virtual one. And you know what? I don’t care. That was my biggest concern, but I am doing pretty good with the VK. Just let the autocomplete help you, it’s pretty darn smart.

Is there anything I don’t like? It’s a bit clunky to find the speakerphone while I’m on the phone, but part of that was me jumping right in before I read the book. ;) I wish the battery lasted longer, but I am fixing that up a bit – more to come on that. I’m going to do a seperate post on the apps I’m using. If you have any questions about the Hero or Android in general, comment away – I may take them and answer in that next post though, FYI.


HTC Hero or Samsung Moment?

The date upon which I can trade in my phone is rapidly approaching, and i’m seeing enough from the current crop of smartphones to at least look into getting one. I don’t want an iPhone, and WinMo is kind of a joke, so I’ve been investigating Android. Since I’m on Sprint, there are two options in the near future: the HTC Hero (out now) and the Samsung Moment (out November 1st).

Since the Hero is out now, I got to play with it a bit at the Sprint store. The Sense UI HTC developed for it is nice were can i download the chronicles of narnia the voyage of the dawn treader the movie

. I enjoyed paging around and operating it – I haven’t liked many touchscreens before. It feels like a solid device, not plasticky or cheap. It’s got a nice 5mp camera. HOWEVER, it is without any sort of physical keyboard, and I do a decent amount of texting/tweeting. I feel like I could adjust to it, but having no fallback in case I can’t gives me pause.

That brings me to the forthcoming Samsung Moment. Also Android-based, but without the prettier UI HTC developed. It has a slide-out keyboard, although the layout is a bit odd compaired to my Rant. The one other thing that has me interested is the fact that the Moment has a more powerful processor – something you need when you are trying to browse with Flash or have a bunch of apps that are updating in the background.

I guess I’m going to wait for some reviews of the Moment, though it’s odd that I haven’t seen any previews out there yet for it.