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Gadgets

gROM on my LG Optimus S

I got tired of running out of room for apps on my phone, especially with some of the sweet games I wanted to play.  So I figured I’d go for a custom ROM finally, that gets rid of the pre-loaded Sprint junk and otherwise just works fine.  gROM fits that bill nicely, while adding some nice features (overclocking, Flash).  I won’t bore you with the details, only link you to this step by step guide on how to root and flash a new ROM.  It worked perfectly for me.

My impressions so far – I can definitely feel the slight speed increase from the overclock.  After restoring all of my apps, and adding back a few I had been forced to uninstall to save space, I still have 75mb of app space free.  That’s a far cry from bouncing between 15-20mb free and having to clear app cache all the time to get rid of the ‘you are running low on storage’ message.  I haven’t noted any issues with the various apps I’ve tried running since the switch (Plume, Gmail, Facebook, Draw Something, Fruit Ninja, G+, Nook, Llama, and others).  I haven’t tried anything that uses Flash, but really, I didn’t need that on this phone.

I last rooted my Hero, and this was even easier.  I highly recommend this to any Optimus S owner who is trying to make their phone feel useful for a few more months, while awaiting Sprint’s new LTE 4G phones.

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Gadgets

Gingerbread on my LG Optimus S

Woke up this morning and was quite surprised to see a major update for my phone waiting – Gingerbread!  That’s Android 2.3 for the uninitiated.  I was a bit surprised, as I figured it had been long enough that I probably wasn’t getting it.  I fired up the install and am now running from the new build.  The first thing you notice will be the notification bar and interface.  It’s no longer white but black, with green and gray.  I know some people were bothered by the white bar, so there you go.  It is supposed to run faster and be a touch better at saving your battery – that remains to be seen for me.

There are a few quirks.  I charge my phone at work via the USB cable.  I had to install drivers for this to work after the Gingerbread update.  This may not be possible for all of you in a corporate environment, so be aware you may want a wall plug option.  Some others have noted other charging issues, but I haven’t yet.

The new keyboard – be aware you won’t see all the new features unless you select the Android keyboard from input method (in settings or long press on a field you can type in).  I like Swype, so I’m sticking with that myself.  Unfortunately the new copy/paste kind of takes over there as well, I will see if I can get rid of that.

The phone and some of the slower apps do seem a bit snappier in response, though whether that is just me looking for them to be faster since that’s part of the update, I can’t tell.  Fruit Ninja seems to lag less, and the Yahoo! Fantasy Football app seems light-years better, so take from that what you will.

Should you do this update?  My answer would be a qualified yes.  The charging thing is annoying, as the less tech savvy people out there will have a difficult time getting the drivers installed, and the keyboard quirks could confuse.  For me, though, it seems to be a pretty solid upgrade for my LG Optimus S.

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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.

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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.

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Gadgets

Android 2.1 on the Hero

The Sprint Hero recently got the official Android 2.1 update, and I was running it via the DamageControl ROM before that.  Some thoughts:

  • It’s fast – you don’t see as many little hiccups when scrolling through apps or switching screens.
  • Google Navigation is legit.  Need to play with it more, but seems more user friendly. Better integration.
  • Battery life – I know there’s an app or two I didn’t reinstall, but I seem to get MUCH better battery life with similar use.  Normally, with heavy use during the day, the battery bar is yellow.  I’ve yet to see yellow in that situation since.
  • Shake Awake actually works pretty consistently.
  • I think this is new, being able to bring in two Google accounts in the GMail app is great.

I liked my Hero before, but it’s even better now.  Just wish we hadn’t had to wait so long!  Hopefully 2.2 won’t be another 6 months off.

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Gadgets

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.

Categories
Life

Sprint Steps Up (after a bit of coercion)

So, my wife was paying our Sprint bill the other day for our cellphones, but on the page to submit the payment, got an error. Unbeknownst to her, it went ahead and processed the payment with the account info that was on the page, but we had wanted to change the account it pulled from first. The end result was 2 charges, one to a near empty account, and one to the right one. She called their ‘customer support’ immediately in hopes they could reverse or block that additional charge. No dice. Basically gave us the ol’ eff you, thanks for the credit which we will hold onto until your next bill. Jen escalated it up the chain, speaking with someone on the financial department who reiterated all that, with the added bonus of being exceedingly rude.

Frequent readers here know I check out some of Gawker Media’s blogs (mostly Gizmodo and Lifehacker). I encountered (and blogged about) the Consumerist’s guide to fighting back against Corporate America. I knew Sprint had info in their list of executives, so I mailed a few of them (the ones with titles most likely to help in a situation like this) on Monday. Today, the payment is not only returned to us, but sent straight back into the bank account! Which the phone monkeys had claimed was not possible for them to do. GG Sprint for taking your medicine and keeping a customer, I didn’t want to have to cancel with them as their service in this area has been light-years better than some of the other companies we’ve tried. And thanks to the Consumerist.