blackberry · rim

Get Some "Love" From Research In Motion

Research In Motion, the Canadian company behind the BlackBerry family of smartphones, has been running an ad campaign this holiday season featuring the 1967 Beatles song, “All You Need is Love.”

RIM is giving away free, no strings attached, copies of the song “All You Need is Love” as an .mp3 file. Just head over to the BlackBerry website and hit the download link. It’s that easy! No forums to fill out. No accounts to create. No personal information to fork over. And while you’re there, if you somehow managed to not see the current BlackBerry TV commercials, you can watch them on the BlackBerry site too.

Get some “Love” from the good folks at BlackBerry.com.

apple · att · iphone · itunes

iPhone Adventures

On Monday I picked up a used first generation 8GB Apple iPhone. (Thank you Shirley!) The phone is in good working condition. What I didn’t know, is that that you must activate the iPhone before you can use it; even if you plan on using it, essentially, as an iPod touch.

So what did I learn with my adventures activating my iPhone? First of all, there is no problem with you walking into an AT&T store an signing up for a new service plan with the original G2 GMS iPhone. Secondly, you can use a pre-paid AT&T GoPhone SIM card in your iPhone. To use a pre-paid card, you will need to purchase and activate the pre-paid SIM card in a phone and then move it into the iPhone once it is setup and then activate the iPhone in iTunes as an existing customer. The CellFanatic blog has a good run down of how to do this.

But what if you are like me and don’t want to have to deal with another monthly cell phone bill and just use the iPhone as a glorified iPod touch (with a camera), then you may want to go with the slightly shady jail breaking route. My SIM card was disabled because I hadn’t used it in 6 months or more and I wasn’t planning on throwing $15-30 away on a new one just to activate the iPhone. I used the Blackra1n jail breaking utility to by pass the activation process and make the phone available in iTunes. I did end up putting my “dead” AT&T SIM card into the iPhone to keep it from constantly reminding me that there was no card inserted.

The good news is that everything, minus the Phone and Messages applications, are working normally. If I change my mind, and want to activate the voice and SMS text messaging features, all I need to do is to put in a new, activated 3G AT&T SIM card and I’m ready to rock ‘n roll.

pixi · pre · web os

Palm Unleashes webOS 1.3.5 Update

Late in the day yesterday, Palm released the Palm webOS 1.3.5 update for Sprint branded Palm Pre and Pixi smartphones.

Late in the evening reports where coming in that it was slow going downloading the 13MB update. I for one found myself waiting quite a while for the update to be downloaded and processed on my Pre. Once the update was downloaded, my Pre took the usual 15 minutes to install the update.

This update is important for a number of reasons. The Palm App Catalog app received no less than 9 updates, one of which includes the ability to download apps in the background rather than forcing you to wait until the current app is downloaded. The Calendar app also received a performance update that allows you to swipe between days much faster than in previous releases of Palm webOS. This one is important to me since I use my Pre to help schedule my meetings and daily work. You can also now launch the Sprint Navigation application directly from a Contact record. (I haven’t figured out how this feature works yet. When I tap on an address in Contacts, Google Maps is launched, just as it always has. I’ll post an update later on reporting on whether or not I got this feature workings and what, if anything I had to do to make it work.)

Probably the biggest updates for Palm enthusiests in this release is the ability to use the Pre’s and Pixi’s USB storage space for applications, freeing many folks from the dreaded “too many applications installed” error that was popping up. Kudos to Palm for coming up with an elegant solution for addressing this problem. The Palm webOS 1.3.5 update also lays the ground work for some exciting possibilities for some new applications; games in particular. According to the folks over at WebOS Internals, Palm has delivered two package files that will make it possible for developers to access and use the Pre’s and Pixi’s Graphics Processing Unit, or GPU. This update should make it possible for high-quality games, the likes of which have been available on the iPhone for some time now, to be released for the Palm webOS platform. I’m really looking forward to seeing some of the Handmark/Astraware games to show up on webOS. I miss playing Bejeweled 2.

This update does not repair the iTunes Media Sync feature. At this time it is unclear as to whether or not Palm will attempt to reactivate this feature or if they can come to some kind of an agreement with Apple to allow the iTunes sync feature to work. If you want to sync iTunes content with your Palm webOS device, it is recommended that you use DoubleTwist.

Some of the highlights from the Palm webOS 1.3.5 update include:

  • App Catalog significantly improves the application download experience.
  • Users can now take advantage of the full storage capacity of the phone for downloading applications.
  • In Day view, switching between days happens more quickly.
  • A user can perform a full erase by pressing and holding Sym + the orange/Option key + power for 10 seconds.
  • A user can now edit forwarded text for all email account types.
  • When the user sets up more than one Yahoo! email account, the account names displayed in Account List view include the associated email address so that the user can distinguish them.
  • A user can launch Sprint Navigation from an address in an open contact entry in Contacts.
  • This update improves battery life in areas of poor wireless network coverage.

The complete list of software enhancements and bug fixes can be found on the Palm webOS software updates website. You can download the Palm webOS 1.3.5 update by launching the Updates application on your Sprint branded Palm Pre or Pixi.

blackberry · blackberry os · rim · verizon

BlackBerry Storm 2 Hands On Review

I have just wrapped up my test drive of the Verizon Wireless BlackBerry Storm 2 9550 smartphone. I’ve been testing out a selection of some of the more popular CDMA phones to help find the phone that will replace the corporate fleet of Palm Treo 755p’s that are in service at the company I work for.

The Hardware

The BlackBerry Storm 2, is Research In Motion’s second smartphone without a physical keyboard. The first was the original Storm. The BlackBerry Storm 2 measures up as being 4.43 x 2.45 x .55-inches and weighs in at 5.5 ounces. In practical terms, it is about the same size as an Apple iPhone. The Storm 2 has all of the standard hardware buttons that you would expect to find on any other BlackBerry smartphone. Unlike the buttons on the Tour, Bold, or Curve, the buttons on the face of the Storm 2 are concealed beneath a smooth sheet of plastic. The green, BlackBerry, escape, and red buttons are part of the bottom of the touch screen and the power and silence buttons are part of the top molding. Another nice touch is that there is a small, clear strip of plastic that protects the Storm 2’s 3.2MP digital camera lens and flash. The Storm 2’s battery door takes up the entire back of the device and snaps into place. Unlike the battery door on the Motorola Droid I recently reviewed, I don’t see the Storm 2’s door accidently being popped off during normal use.

One thing that I don’t like about the Storm 2 is that the bottom extends beyond the top of the device. This gives the Storm 2 a cool, rounded edge look, but I found it hard to reach up with my left index finger to turn the screen on when I was holding the device in my left hand. The uneven edges where less of a problem when I was holding the Storm 2 in landscape mode.

The Touch Screen

The big difference between the BlackBerry Storm 2 and the BlackBerry Tour is that the Storm 2 is a touch screen device. There is no physical keyboard on the Storm 2 and this may turn off some people who have used BlackBerry phones in the past and prefer the hardware keyboard. Part of the reason why I wanted to test the Tour and the Storm 2 was to compare the user experience between the two devices and to see if I could use a Storm 2 for the long haul.

The unique difference with the Storm 2 and other slate smartphones that don’t have hardware keyboards is that the Storm 2’s screen is “clickable.” Take for example the HTC Magic or the Apple iPhone 3G. Both of these devices have touch screens that dominate the face of the phone. When you tap an object on the screen, the screen remains stationary with virtually no tactile feedback. With the BlackBerry Storm 2, when you press down on the screen to tap an object, the entire screen presses down and clicks similar to the tactile feedback you get when you are clicking an icon or hyperlink on your computer with a mouse. You can hear and feel the click. It is a nice gimmick, but does it really help when you are trying to use an on screen keyboard?

After having played with the Storm 2, the Tour, and the Motorola Droid recently, I have found that the spacing of the keys on the keyboard are more important to me than whether or not the keyboard is virtual or not. I have found that keyboards on the Palm Treo Pro and Pre are very easy to use. Similarly, the keyboard on the BlackBerry Tour was a little too close – however, the shape of the keys did help improve my accuracy. For the Storm 2, Research in Motion decided to pack in four flavors of the virtual keyboard. They are: Qwerty portrait, Qwerty landscape, two-key portrait, and three-key portrait. I found the two and three-key portrait keyboards completely unacceptable. While I completely refuse trying to peck out a SMS or email message by pressing the same key two or three times to type a letter, the younger crowd who might buy the Storm 2 as their first smartphone may find these keyboard modes familiar, more comfortable even, if they are moving up from a flip phone. With the other two Qwerty keyboard modes available for use, I see professionals selecting the formats that more closely resemble the keyboards on their desks that the ones that resemble those found on flip phones.

After using the Storm 2’s Qwerty keyboards, I can say that I prefer the landscape keyboard the most. It offers the largest key cap clickable area of all the keyboards and the clickable screen did a good job tricking me into thinking that I was pressing a key on a physical keyboard. That isn’t to say that I didn’t make any typing mistakes, but I think that the Storm 2 offers the best on screen keyboard of all the smartphones I’ve tested so far. My one basic gripe about the landscape Qwerty keyboard is that when it is displayed, it takes up a significant portion of the screen; which can severely limit the space on the screen to see what you are doing.

The Software

The BlackBerry Storm 2 runs BlackBerry OS v5.0.0.320 (Platform 4.2.0.124), yet I didn’t find any noticeable difference from the BlackBerry Tour running BlackBerry OS v4.7.1.61 (Platform 4.1.0.81). One welcomed difference is that the Storm 2’s application launcher screen shows you the name of the application just below the icon. To see the name of an application on the Tour, you had to use the scroll ball to highlight the icon for the name to appear at the bottom of the launcher screen. For the most part, I didn’t see any major differences in the software bundled between the two BlackBerry’s I tested for this evaluation.

Conclusion

I have always stated that the decision to purchase a smartphone is very much a personal one. What works for me may not work for you. The BlackBerry Storm 2 is a capable BlackBerry smartphone that has many of the features made popular by Apple’s iPhone and you won’t have to jump ship from Verizon to AT&T to get a cool looking touch screen phone. As a BlackBerry, the lack of a physical keyboard may be a deal breaker for some corporate types, while others may welcome the increased screen realestate that comes from not having the keyboard. From a software standpoint, I found little difference between the Storm 2 and other recent model BlackBerry smartphones.

The BlackBerry Storm 2 is available now from Verizon Wireless for $279.99 when you purchase a qualifying two year service agreement. If you order the Storm 2 from the Verizon online store, Verizon will knock an additional $100 off the price tag. For more information about the BlackBerry Storm 2 9550 smartphones, please visit the BlackBerry website.

verizon

The FCC Isn’t Happy With Verizon Wireless

In what was sure to take some of the “Merry” out of “Merry Christmas”, DSLReports.com is reporting that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has responded to Verizon’s explination of their early termination fees (ETF) for smartphones and charges of $1.99 for “phantom” web browser access without a data plan.

Karl Bode wrote the following for DSLReports.com:

“The problem is, the strange fee [$1.99 for simply launching the browser on a smartphone] has been documented for months by several customers, a number of newspapers, and even a Verizon whistle blower, who claimed Verizon knew about the junk fee but has done little to stop it because it generates millions in additional annual revenue. So Verizon’s letter to the FCC denying all of this is raising a lot of eyebrows, as is Verizon’s claim that a new $350 ETF for smartphones was to aid the poor (no, we’re not kidding). In a response (PDF) posted this afternoon to the FCC website, [FCC Commissioner Mignon] Clyburn says Verizon’s answers were “unsatisfying” and “in some cases, troubling”.

The FCC document reads, in part:

“I am also alarmed by the fact that many consumers have been charged phantom fees for inadvertently pressing a key on their phones thereby launching Verizon Wireless’s mobile Internet service. The company asserted in its response to the Bureau that it “does not charge users when the browser is launched” but recent press reports and consumer complaints strongly suggest otherwise. These issues cannot be ignored.”

I’m glad to see that the FCC appears to be looking out for consumers. It is no secret that when you are dealing with the likes of the phone company or cable operators, or insurance companies for that matter, the consumer is on short end of the stick. Hopefully, the FCC will help balance the scales for consumers when dealing with not just Verizon Wireless, but also the other U.S. wireless carriers too.

You can read the full article on DSLReports.com.

“Can you hear me now?”

[Via BoyGeniusReport.com…]

blackberry · rim · sprint · tour · verizon

BGR: BlackBerry Tour 2 Hands On

The folks over at BGR have gotten there hands on another BlackBerry. This time we get to eyeball the upcoming BlackBerry Tour 2 9650, which is a CDMA phone from RIM that will likely replace the BlackBerry Tour on Verizon Wireless and Sprint.

The big changes for the Tour 2 seem to be a track pad and a speed bump. I really like the look of the Tour 2, however, I like the keyboard layout of the BlackBerry Curve 8530 better. Still, the Tour 2 is a nice upgrade for CrackBerry owners who haven’t upgraded to the Tour platform yet.

Get all the details over at the BGR website.

[Via BoyGeniusReport.com…]