Category: Mobile

iPhone 4 Review

There was a backlog of Verizon customers waiting for the iPhone 4 and now it is here. I took a look at the Verizon version and I liked what I saw.

The iPhone 4 is a design dream. It is small and sleek, yet very durable. The phone has everything that you have come to expect from a smart phone including two great cameras and a very responsive screen.  And the Apps — oh the Apps. There are hundreds of thousands of Apps to choose from and many are free. Whether you want to use your phone to play games, get organized, or read books, there is an App for you.

The Verizon iPhone is very similar to the AT&T iPhone with only a few small differences. The one thing that you should remember is that if you buy an iPhone from Verizon, it will won’t only on the Verizon network and won’t be useable on the AT&T network.

Also, remember that the iPhone 5 will be available pretty soon. iPhones are traditionally released every year in July. This year’s release may be a bit delayed, but a few months is not too long to wait to see what Apple has in store for its next version.

Summary

With the best industrial design of any smartphone, an amazing Retina display, a great camera, and useful updates to the operating system, the iPhone 4 is working hard to stay on top of the fray.   Yet, others are moving ahead with fresher operating systems, dual processors, and 4G and NFR support. Although iOS is useable, the Android and Windows 7 Phone operating systems have moved ahead with the use of widgets, improved notifications, and customization options.

While the AT&T iPhone offers better world-wide support, the Verizon performance was better in the areas of the US where we tested. AT&T also offers the ability to access voice and data simultaneously, but Verizon’s hot-spot feature seems better implemented.

Apple’s iPhone started a revolution in smart phones with everyone wanting one. Now, however, the competition has finally caught up with Apple. Even though the iPhone operating system has gotten a little old, the design of this phone is so good that if you buy one, you probably won’t care about that at all. All-in-all, this smartphone has some wonderful features and although it has some weak points, it won’t disappoint.

The Good

  • Fantastic screen
  • Very good rear-facing camera
  • Excellent design
  • Sturdy & stylish
  • Dual cameras
  • Very good accessibility options
  • AirPlay & AirPrint
  • Good noise-canceling microphone

The Bad

  • No user-replaceable battery
  • Non-expandable memory
  • Can’t do voice & data simultaneously
  • No 4G
  • No NFR
  • iOS need updating

My full review with pictures can be found at Hardware Secrets.

Mobile Edge ScanFast Checkpoint Friendly Bag

Mobile Edge ScanFast Bag
Mobile Edge ScanFast Bag

Mobile Edge ScanFast Bag

It wasn’t long ago that only business road warriors needed laptop computers and bags to carry them in. My — how things have changed! Now retirees are using laptops when they hit the road, and people of all ages are toting their laptops along  so so they can connect to the Internet when they travel.

With security screening at airports, toting a laptop has become problematic because with most cases, you must remove the laptop from the bag and put it on the conveyor belt. The new ScanFast laptop bags are different. They are TSA approved so you don’t have to remove the laptop from the case. You simply open the case and send it through the x-ray machine. It’s one way to make air travel easier.

Since this January, I have used Mobile Edge ScanFast Messenger bag for several flights. Each time it went through security quickly and easily without removing the laptop saving a lot of aggravation. Best of all, after you get through security, you can simply zip the bag and go. I feel a lot more comfortable about having control over my laptop when it travels down the belt.

I am using the Mobile Edge Checkpoint Friendly Messenger style bag. Mobile Edge has obviously put a lot of thought into the design of this bag. It has a small handle plus a comfortable shoulder strap.There are four outside zippered pockets. One is the perfect size for airline tickets and travel documents. The area for the computer is padded and marked “Computer Friendly”. The bag is not over-sized, but it can easily handle my 16″ Sony laptop. There are also several inside pouches and pockets, including ones that are perfectly sized for paper folders, USB drives, CDs & DVDs, pens, memory cards, and business cards.  Everything is easily accessible. I now have no excuse for not being organized when I travel.

I am also impressed with the quality of the bag, itself. It is sturdy. The zippers are strong. Best of all the bag is eco-friendly. It is made from corn. Specifically, it is made from DuPont Sorona, a material  derived from corn, requiring 30% less energy to manufacture and reducing greenhouse emissions by 63%!

This bag retails for $99 and is worth every penny. Mobile Edge also has a briefcase bag and a backpack in the same model line.

Let’s face it, I have a lot of laptop bags to choose from. I started off using this bag for air travel, but it has become my “go-to” bag whenever I need to take my laptop along!

Mobile Edge - Stylish Laptop Cases and Accessories

AT&T Says Their iPhone is Better

Since its inception in 2007, the iPhone has been exclusive to AT&T. So it is not surprising that recent news of the iPhone becoming available on the Verizon network piqued the interest of many. So many, in fact, that Verizon Wireless announced that the number of iPhones it sold in the first two hours of availability exceeded the one-day total for any other device’s debut in the carrier’s history.

Now AT&T is fighting back. Ric Whitman, the AT&T Area Retail Sales Manager, gave me a list of reasons why the iPhone on AT&T is better than the iPhone on Verizon:

1.     On the AT&T iPhone you can do simultaneous voice and data. On the Verizon iPhone you cannot.

2.     The AT&T iPhone has an International advantage. It can be used in 220 different countries. The Verizon iPhone cannot.

3.     AT&T has over 23,000 hot spots where AT&T subscribers can get free wireless access.

4.     AT&T has the lowest priced iPhone offering the 8GB 3GS for $49.

5.     AT&T has the nation’s fastest mobile broadband

So let’s look at these in depth to help those of you who want an iPhone decide which carrier to use.

The first point is well taken. Only the AT&T iPhone will allow you to surf the web or get directions while talking on the phone. If you are a heavy data user, this might be a big drawback, but most average users will only encounter an occasional situation of this type.

The second point is also very valid. The AT&T iPhone is a GSM phone which can be used internationally. The Verizon iPhone is a CDMA phone that will not be able to be used in most overseas countries. So if you plan to travel internationally, AT&T will be a better choice. Again, however, this will be important to only a small number of users.

AT&T hot spots are certainly a plus for AT&T users. They can not only give you faster data access, but they take some of the burden off the mobile network. AT&T has set them up in Starbuck’s and other establishments and also has many in a variety of Metro areas.

The cost of the current iPhone is the same at both AT&T and Verizon. $199 for the 16GB model and $299 for the 32 GB model,  along with a two-year contract. So to be able to get an iPhone for $49 with a two-year contract is a big savings. This is sure to appeal to users who want to get in cheaply. But by purchasing this older model, they will be giving up the iPhone 4’s retina display, dual cameras, HD video, and other perks. Although this older 3GS can run iOS 4, the latest operating system, some capabilities like the improved accessibility options will not be available.

Now we get to the last point. While AT&T may have the nation’s fastest access, it doesn’t do you much good if you don’t have good or fast coverage in the area where you live. This is the situation in this area of North Carolina. When I purchased my first iPhone in 2008, our area was on AT&T’s slower EDGE network. Although promises of an upgrade to the faster 3G network were made, AT&T never delivered. We are still on the slower EDGE network. So if you compare an AT&T iPhone to a Verizon iPhone in our area, the data access will be currently be much slower on the AT&T iPhone. AT&T again promises 3G in our area soon. And for the first time they have stated this in writing. Crystal Prince, AT&T’s public relations representative, writes in an email, “I’ve checked with our Network team regarding plans for 3G in Pinehurst-Southern Pines-Aberdeen. Rest assured it’s on the way.  The team is working very hard to get everything in place for a launch soon so we expect that it will in fact be up by EOY (end of year) 2011.”

Both Ric and Crystal also say that AT&T is working on covering “dead spots” that they now have in our area including many in the Pinehurst-to-Raleigh corridor. I know this to be a fact as they are constantly adding new equipment and towers, but again, “when” this will all be accomplished is an important question.

Two other recent offerings and announcements show that AT&T is really trying to get your business. This week, they announced that AT&T customers will now get free calls to any cellphone in America. The only requirement is that you have certain voice plans that include AT&T’s unlimited texting plan. That texting plan is $20 a month for individuals or $30 for families.

AT&T is also offering free microcells to current customers. These are small $199 devices that hook up to the broadband in a home or office and pull the 3G signal from the Internet. If you don’t get good cell reception indoors, this is the answer to your problem. Although, not highly publicized, these free microcells are available to most AT&T customers with an additional year on their contract.

If you are ready to move into the iPhone world, you have to make a decision between AT&T and Verizon. You cannot use a Verizon iPhone at AT&T or vice versa, so you will be making a sizeable investment. While Verizon has much better and faster coverage in our area, some are worried that the high sales of the iPhone at Verizon may put a strain on the Verizon network. So this decision is not as easy as it may seem.

To give you one more thing to think about, Apple traditionally announces new iPhones in June, so this summer there may be a better and more capable iPhone available on one or both networks. For me, the choice is easy….Just wait to see if AT&T delivers on their promises, to see if the Verizon network can handle that additional users, and to see if the next version of the iPhone is the one I can’t live without.

Shout Your Love from a Mountaintop

If you love someone so much that would like to shout your love from a mountaintop, but you don’t have a mountaintop handy, then check out this fun offer from AT&T. You post your shoutout at Facebook by going to www.facebook.com/att or put it in a Tweet with the hashtag #loveshout for the chance to have real mountain men shout these messages all throughout the day on this Valentine’s Day.

Each shouted messaged will be streamed live on Facebook, captured on
video and sent out to each consumer to share with their special someone.

It’s a great idea using social media to get the “Shout” out! Try it out and surprise your loved one! Post your shoutout this weekend. The messages will be shouted on Monday, the 14th.

Check out this video to see the mountain men. They might look old-fashioned, but they will be using the latest AT&T HTC Inspire 4G smart phone to receive messages  to shout throughout the day.

The Confession App Receives Pope’s Blessings

I recently wrote an article explaining “Apps” with info on what they are, how they work, and how popular they are. It seems that there is an app for everything. Yet, this latest development still surprised me. There is now an app titled “Confession” and it is sanctioned by the Catholic Church.

For $1.99 you can buy this App at the iTunes store and get help examining your conscience and getting through the process of confession. You still have to visit a priest to get absolution, but you can take your iPhone or iPad into the confessional to help you along. However, you may want to tell the priest that you are using the confession app on your iPhone so he doesn’t think you are playing Angry Birds while you are making your confession.

I don’t know how useful this app will be in getting Catholics closer to their church, but I think it proves two things:

1. The Pope is embracing digital technologies quickly.

2. There really is an app for everything!

Sansa Fuze+ Portable Music Player

Sansa Fuze+
Sansa Fuze+

Sansa Fuze+

If you have wanted to buy a portable music player, but were put off by the price, the Sansa Fuze+ may be your answer. The prices for the Fuze+ start at just $89. The Fuze+ is the newest version of the SanDisk Fuze line of players. It has some great features — especially the ability to play a variety of different formats. This allows you to drag your music right out of iTunes into the player. In fact, this is the most full-functioned MP3 player that I have ever reviewed. It can even play FM radio and record your voice and/or a radio show. It comes in great colors. The only drawback is an erratic touchpad that doesn’t always give you the proper response to your touch. If you can live with that, it’s a winner!

The Bottom Line:

The Fuze+ wins the prize for the music player with the most functionality at an affordable price. It includes an FM radio with the ability to record radio, a voice recorder, a photo viewer, good video playback, a MicroSD card slot for expansion, the ability to play slotRadio cards, good battery life, and the ability to play a wide range of formats (including MP3,FLAC, AAC, and OGG to name just a few).

All of this functionality comes at an excellent price. As we write this, an 8GB iPod Nano is selling for $149 while the 8GB Fuze+ costs only $89. The Fuze+ has similar audio quality to the iPod, but it also has a larger screen, video playback, more audio settings, removable storage capabilities, an FM radio, and voice recording. It even displays photos with better accuracy than the Nano.

While the interface is excellent, the biggest drawback of the Fuze+ is the erratic touch panel. It simply doesn’t respond consistently. After a few weeks of use, we got somewhat used to it, but still were sometimes annoyed while using it.

The ability to use slotRadio card should not be overlooked. You can purchase a slotRadio card that contains 1,000 songs for $40. It is an excellent way to get music into the player without ever having to use the computer or spend time downloading songs.

The Fuze+ delivers solid quality and great functionality at a very affordable price. If you can live with its erratic touchpad, it is a bargain. If SanDisk can make the touchpad more consistently responsive, it will have a real iPod killer in this product.
The Good

  • Solid build
  • Reasonable price
  • Excellent format support, including ACC
  • Expandable memory card
  • Lightweight
  • Plays slotRadio cards
  • FM radio
  • Voice and radio recording
  • Variety of colors and capacities
  • Good video playback

The Bad

  • Erratic touchpad
  • Small screen
  • No sync software included

You can read my more detailed review with pictures at HardwareSecrets.com.

The 8GB Sansa Fuze+ is currently on sale at Best Buy online for $79.99. Click the “BUY” link below to purchase.

SanDisk Sansa Fuze+ 8GB MP3 Player – Purple

Take your music, videos and photos with you when you’re on the go with this MP3 player that features a 2.4″ bright QVGA screen for an easy-to-see display and simple navigation. The rechargeable battery offers up to 24 hours of music playback.


Tablet PC Choices

The move to tablet computing and e-readers is coming quickly. The extreme popularity of the Apple iPad, which is both a tablet and an e-reader, has assured that this trend will continue. At CES 2011 there were no less than 80 tablets on display. Everyone is trying to best the iPad and to find the right price point. Many major manufacturers like Dell, HP, Samsung, Blackberry, Motorola, and Lenovo have jumped on the tablet bandwagon as have many small manufacturers who are looking to make a big splash. There are a variety of operating systems powering these devices, and they come in many different sizes and with many different features.

The Apple iPad, of course, works with the Apple operating system, iOS, which is made for mobile devices. Blackberry has a tablet called the PlayBook which uses their own new tablet OS. The Samsung Galaxy Tab runs on Android 2.2 and the new Motorola Zoom will run on Android 3.0, the new Android tablet operating system. Most of these tablets rely on small Apps rather than the full blown programs like those that run on a computer. Each of these operating systems has its own proprietary App store associated with it.

Most of these tablets will allow you to do email, browse the Web, read books, watch videos and TV shows, and display pictures. Some will also let you do GPS navigation and video conferencing.  So the hardware and basic software in a tablet will certainly be important, but the variety and quality of Apps in the OS’s App store may be even more important.  It is the Apps that will let you play games and perform all sorts of important functions. Right now, Apple has the most Apps, but Android is quickly catching up.

If you are interested in purchasing a tablet PC, 2011 is sure to bring a lot of choices. However, the decision of which to buy will remain difficult for at least the next two years. It is estimated that of the 80 or so new tablets that were shown at CES 2011, only 30% of them will be left after two years.


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