Category: Mobile

Comparing Verizon to AT&T

It’s about three weeks since I decided to give up my iPhone for a Droid X and to move from AT&T to Verizon. So it is a good time for a comparison of AT&T and Verizon.

The bottom line is that ALL American cellular providers have the consumer dancing on their strings. We need to eliminate their “subsidized phones”  and their enormous cancellation fees. We need to have an open standard so that all phones could run on any service. The way the system is set up right now, the cellular providers are not really crooks, but they are getting away with murder. And they are all doing it.

That said, it is not unusual that I had to pay AT&T an extra $80 to move one of my phones that was not yet out of contract. Actually, that was not much compared to some.

Now for the nitty-gritty. There are always lines at our local AT&T store. There are always lines at our local Verizon store. The difference is that the people at Verizon are definately more knowledgeable and more helpful. The move of our four lines and our four telephone numbers went pretty smoothly. Even so, there were glitches.

In making the decision to move, I was in the Verizon store talking about the details no less than 7 times. No where during that time period did anyone mention that there would be a $35 activation fee per line. With four lines, this first bill was much more than I expected. There were also data charges on two lines that were to have no data packages. Receiving a bill that was more than $150 over my expectations was a bit unnerving to say the least.

The good news was that although it took more than an hour at the store to straighten out, the charges were removed after I simply explained the situation. As I said, the folks at the local Verizon store are pretty accommodating.

My first month’s bill at Verizon was comparable to AT&Ts. They all charge about the same amount. So far, however, I have been much happier with Verizon. The coverage in the places that I frequent is much better and while the data plan is the same $30 a month that we were paying at AT&T, the Internet is much faster and much better on the Verizon network. So far, so good!

Droid Address Book Problems

It was supposed to be easy. You just transfer all of your contact information from your old phone to your new Droid and everything is dandy. Well, that’s in a perfect world, which this certainly isn’t.

When we got the new Droid X, we set up our Google account and the Verizon rep transferred the contact information from the old phone to the new one. Everything transferred over, but we were left with a problem. We knew that all of the contacts were there because when we searched for any of them, they appeared. Yet they did not all appear in any of our contact lists. All Phone Contacts only had a handful of contacts. Google Contacts had more, but not everyone.

No one at the store could help. No one at Verizon tech support knew the answer. We were sent to Motorola tech support. They set up a time to call us, but they never called. In the meantime we found the answer ourselves. For some reason, the Google contact list has two different areas: My Contacts and All Contacts. When we moved everyone into My Contacts, everything worked as it should.

One caveat — the All Phone Contacts list in the Droid was still incomplete. This may cause a problem down the road, but for now…all is well.

FYI — Google seems to be constantly changing the way they handle the contact file. I am sure this is because of the syncing problem with Droid phones. So if you have a problem with your contact on a Droid phone, make sure they are all in My Contacts in Google.

LG Accolade — A Basic Cell Phone

LG Accolade 5600
LG Accolade 5600

LG Accolade 5600

Smartphones like the iPhone and the Droid are great, but some of us just want a basic phone that can keep our telephone numbers handy and can easily make and receive calls. One such phone is the LG Accolade SX5600, which is sold through Verizon. I say it is sold through Verizon, but the fact of the matter is that if you sign up for a two-year contract, you can get it online through Verizon for free. You can probably also talk the Verizon store into doing the same thing. Oh, and you can get this phone from Verizon on a pre-paid basis, as well.

The LG Accolade VX5600 is a good basic phone. It only has a numeric-type dialing keyboard, so it is not great if you want to text all the time. However, it will do for an occasional text message. The dialing keyboard has big white letters and white backlighting. Pressing each key gives a nice tactile feedback. It’s easy on the eyes. The menus are easy to navigate. I advice going into the Settings & Tools menu and choosing Main Menu Set, then choosing the “Tab” layout for the Menu Display. This makes the phone much easier to navigate and I wish that LG had set it as the default menu setting. The phone itself is pretty easy to use.

This Accolade is small and lightweight and fits easily into your pocket. Although made of plastic, it is a sturdy phone that feels good in the hand. Call quality is excellent and so is battery life. It also has an excellent keypad with good backlighting. It is both easy-to-see and easy-to-use. You can also set the text to a slightly larger than normal size, so it’s a pretty good phone for those of us with aging eyes.  The feature set that focuses on the basics and provides everything you need to make and receive calls including voice dialing, speed dialing, Bluetooth, speakerphone, and a good phone book. While you can use this phone for email, Internet, and texting, other phones may be better for that functionality.

The Accolade has a 3.1 megapixel camera, but the internal memory is so limited that it won’t hold many pictures. You will only want to use it to snap an occasional picture. Also, there is no easy way to get the photos out of the camera. Yet, the camera is there if you happen to need it in a pinch. No music player. No video camera. Yet, this is what you expect from a basic cell phone.

This is an inexpensive phone that gives you all the fundamental features you need to make and receive calls. It’s a good choice for those who don’t need more.

Pros

  • Small and comfortable in the hand
  • Large lighted  numeric keypad
  • Good voice quality
  • Excellent battery life
  • Two screens
  • Configurable menus
  • Easy to navigate
  • Good address book
  • Inexpensive
  • Loud ringer

Cons

  • Very little internal memory
  • Could be easier to open
  • Poorly placed camera button
  • No easy way to transfer photos

If you want to check out another easy-to-use phone simply for making calls, see my review of the Jitterbug phone.

Move from AT&T to Verizon

Those of you who know me know that I love my iPhone, but I decided to give it up to move to another phone that I love even more. Yes I made the move from AT&T to Verizon and moved from an iPhone to a Droid X.

This decision had as much to do with the cellular service as it does with the phones themselves. You see I live in an area where AT&T only has the much slower “Edge” system. For more than two years, they have promised that we would have 3G service in our area “very soon”. Several times they have even given me a date when the 3G service would be available, but they never came through.

Although the iPhone 4 has an excellent camera and the best screen I’ve even seen, I don’t think that Apple added anything that I couldn’t live without. I was really put off my Steve Jobs’ response to the iPhone 4 antenna problems. I can accept that the phone has a slight flaw. I cannot accept that the president of the company tells you there is nothing wrong with the phone, it is just that people are holding it the wrong way.

I have reviewed several cell phones with the Android operating system and feel that it has now surpassed the Apple OS.  So I looked for the best Android phone out there. My decision — the Motorola Droid X from Verizon. Verizon has good cellular service in my area and their prices were comparable to AT&T’s.  Not only does the Droid X have the Android operating system, but it has a big 4.3″ screen that is perfect for my aging eyes.

I have four telephone lines, so making the move to Verizon was not easy. I wanted to wait until the contracts were expired on all the phones so I didn’t have to pay those outrageous “get-out-of-your-contract-fees”. This month, the contracts on three phones expired and I only had to pay $60 on the last one, so I decided it was time to go.

Making the actual move was easier than I expected. I wanted to keep all of my phone numbers the same. I only wanted to purchase two phones and sign two contracts. So I had Verizon port (move) over all four telephone numbers. Two of my numbers went onto the two new phones that I purchased.  Then I had Verizon set it up so that the other two numbers forwarded to those two phones.

All my telephone numbers were ported over within 10 minutes. When that happened the AT&T service was automatically cut off and the Verizon service began. The folks at Verizon set up my new phones. Everything looked great. That is until I found that my 400 contacts had not moved over correctly. Oh well,I guess I had to expect something to go wrong. More on that in my next post.

iPod Touch Review

iPod Touch
iPod Touch

iPod Touch

By now everyone has heard of an iPod. It’s the digital music player that has transformed the world of digital music. You have also heard of a smartphone, a device that now has as much functionality as a gaming, information, and web surfing device as it does as a telephone calling device. An iPod touch is a small device the size of a cell phone. It can play music like an iPod and it can surf the web like a smart phone, but it cannot make phone calls.

The iPod touch can run apps from the iTunes store. There are over 150,000 apps to choose from so you can do just about anything with these mini-programs. You can play games, watch your calories, check the weather, take notes, read a book, get a recipe, and much much more.

Although you can use an iPod touch anywhere, when you want to access the Internet on the touch, it works off a wireless network. So be sure that you have wireless in your home, office, or the places you visit before you purchase a touch.

I reviewed an iPod touch 3rd generation model with 8GB of storage, which sells for $199. The other models have 32GB and 64Gb of storage and sell for $299 and $399 respectively. While I really liked everything about the 8GB model, including the price, I cannot recommend that you buy one. You see the 8GB model doesn’t take full advantage of the new OS 4 operating system. The 32GB and 64Gb models do. Yet, they are a little overpriced right now.

Also, if Apple sticks to their normal roll-out schedule, there will be a new iPod touch coming some time in September. So it might be worthwhile to wait and see what they have in mind for this year. My suspicion is that they will at least add a camera to the touch and perhaps will also make it a little larger.

To learn more about what the current iPod Touch has to offer, read my full review at the Hardware Secrets website.

Droid X Review

Droid X
Droid X

Droid X

The Droid X is an amazing smartphone. It is a well-built Motorola cell phone that uses the Google  Android operating system and the Verizon cellular network. What a great combination!

The hardware is excellent. The Droid operating system makes the Apple iPhone operating system look a little long-in-the-tooth and the Verizon network gave me a great signal just about everywhere.

The Droid X is a really big Daddy. At 5.02 x 2.58 x 0.39 inches, it is bigger than most. That is because it has a 4.3 inch screen, which is larger than any other current smartphone. Yes, that means it will take up a little extra space in your pocket, but you may be willing to put up with that to get the larger screen, especially if you have aging eyes like mine.

Besides the screen size, there are several other things that I appreciate about the Droid X:

  • Three  microphones, two of which are used for noise cancellation make calls very clear
  • A 16-GB micro SD card is included
  • Two antenna’s — one on the top and one on the bottom — no repeat of the iPhone antennagate problems here
  • A good 8-megapixel camera with zoom and flash
  • Good quality videos
  • A good music player
  • An FM radio
  • Bluetooth, including using voice dialing over Bluetooth, a feature missing from many other smartphones
  • For an extra monthly fee, the Droid X can be a Wi-Fi hotspot for up to five other devices

The Android operating system also has a lot to offer. The Droid X has great turn-by-turn instructions complete with verbal announcements and street names. It has excellent voice search and voice recognition that allows you to speak your message without having to type. It also has Swype — a new way to type on a touch-pad that is easy to use and has excellent results.

Because of the bigger screen, surfing on the Droid X is more pleasurable than surfing on a smaller phone. The Droid also has all of the other bells and whistles that you would expect, like caller ID, speed dial, conference calling, and hearing aid compatibility.

It’s one very cool smartphone! As you can see my list of Good features significantly outnumbers the Bad.

Conclusions

Verizon’s Droid phones just keep getting better and better. The Droid was good. The Droid Incredible was better. The Droid X is now the best. Its larger screen, better camera, Bluetooth voice dialing, and Wi-Fi hotspot feature will make it the current Android phone of choice for many. If you want a smaller phone, the Incredible or the new line of Samsung Galaxy Android phones may be a good choice for you, but if you can manage the larger size, the Droid X is an excellent phone.

Performance, call quality, and the camera are all excellent. Its features and performance will set the standard for other Android phones. So you can expect to see these phones keep getting better and better. But if you need a phone now, and you like the larger size, the Droid X is an excellent choice.

The Good:

  • Large screen
  • Excellent design
  • Fast Processor
  • Excellent call quality
  • Voice dialing over Blue Tooth
  • Wi-Fi hot spot
  • Excellent customization options
  • 16 GB Micro SD card included
  • Very good camera with flash
  • Great GPS Navigations
  • Will be upgraded to Android 2.2 and Flash 10
  • Good voice recognition
  • Swype
  • HDMI
  • Good variety of Apps
  • Very good noise cancellation
  • FM radio

The Bad:

  • Gets warm with constant use
  • Verizon’s VCAST Media Manager can’t be used on 64-bit computers

My more detailed review including pictures can be found at Hardware Secrets.

Smartphones for Everyone

Smartphones
Smartphones
Gartner, a leading information technology research company, recently reported that smartphone sales to end users reached 54.3 million units in the first quarter of 2010. That is an increase of 48.7 per cent from the first quarter of 2009. As smartphones become more and more popular, we get more and more competition. Many large companies like Apple, Google, Microsoft, Samsung, Motorola, Nokia, AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon have a stake in the smartphone market so competition is especially fierce.

Luckily, for the average consumer, that means more choices, more new features, and better prices. It also means that the average cell phone user will have more and more computer power in his pocket. You see smartphones are much more than cell phones, they have become so powerful and feature-filled that they are really small computer that also make phone calls. In fact, the name smartphone is already obsolete. We should be calling them superphones or maybe super-duper-phones.

Perhaps the smart phone that carries the most “must-have” appeal right now is the Apple iPhone 4. Not only does the iPhone 4 let you surf the web, play music and movies, and check email, but it will accurately pinpoint your current location. It has two cameras, so you can take pictures and video of others and you can also project a live view of yourself to others when you call them using the video conference software. The iPhone 4 runs the Apple OS 4 operating system and is currently only available on AT&T’s cellular service.

I just reviewed another smart phone, the Droid X, which is competitor to the iPhone. This is a smart phone that has Motorola hardware. It uses the Google Android operating system and the Verizon cellular network. The Droid X has all of the above mentioned features except that it has only one camera. However, it adds several other features including a large 4.3” screen and an FM radio. It can also be a Wi-Fi hotspot that lets you connect up to five other devices to its cellular service. That means that you can use the Droid X to get your laptop or other Internet device on the Internet wherever you have cellular service. The Droid X also has an HDMI port so you can show your movies or pictures on your television. You can also do voice searches on the Droid X and dial by just saying a person’s name. You can even dictate email verbally. It can also double as a GPS giving you a map and clear audio instructions which even announce the street names for you. Yes, the iPhone can do some of these things too, but I really like the Android interface better than the iPhone’s

Samsung recently released a smartphone called the Galaxy Beam which has all the other bells and whistles, plus a projector that can beam your presentations to any flat surface when you want to do a presentation or show off some photos or movies that you have taken. Right now the Beam is only available in Singapore, but it is sure to be here before long. In several other countries, they are also using smartphones to pay for purchases.

These smartphones can do some amazing things. They can be your pedometer. They can count calories for you. They can hook up with Facebook and Twitter and other social networking websites. They can check prices at local stores. They can turn your cell phone into a gaming machine. In fact with hundreds of thousands of available apps from the Android Market (Android phones only), the iTunes App Store (iPhones only), or the BlackBerry AppWorld (Blackberries only), these smartphones can do most anything. My iPhone can be a flashlight, a level, a light saber, or an ebook reader at the touch of a button. I can get the name and artist of any music that I hear. I can play Internet radio. I can play the piano or guitar. I can get a recipe for dinner. Well, actually, I could go on and on. And all the smartphones that we talked about can do the same or similar things.

The amazing thing is that these smart phones are getting better and better. There is no doubt that we will soon be able to use a smart phone to make purchases. They are also sure to become a digital wallet where we can store all the things we now carry in our wallets.

I am not sure what they will think of next, but there is little doubt that you will want a smartphone before long. Owning a smartphone is already a status symbol.  In fact, Frost & Sullivan analyst Gerry Purdy predicts that in the U.S., where smart phone growth is particularly vigorous, virtually all phones sold will be smartphones within five years.

For the last three years, since the introduction of the original iPhone, AT&T has had the stranglehold on the smartphone industry because the iPhone was the cat’s meow, and it was only available on AT&T. But times have changed. There are now great choices on all carriers.

Apple’s OS4 operating system is actually getting a little long in the tooth.  Google’s Andoid operating system has surpassed it in many ways. The Android operating system can be found on many smartphones from manufacturers like HTC, Samsung, and Motorola. The most well-known of these may be the Droid series from Verizon. Sprint has a great smartphone called the EVO that runs the Android OS. Samsung has already started introducing their Samsung Galaxy series of Android phones. There will be Galaxy phones available from all the major carrier including AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon.

In the mean time, Blackberry is not sitting still. They will soon release a new version of their Blackberry operating system. Microsoft is also working on a completely revamped Windows Mobile version which is sure to be announced in the next few months.

It already seems like a new smartphone is being rolled out every week and we have just barely reached the back-to-school selling. We have yet to get to the holiday season, when even more new smartphones are sure to be announced.

The big brouhaha over the iPhone 4’s antenna problems plays right into the hands of other manufacturers and other operating systems. In the near future you will probably find that owning an iPhone will not be as important as owning a smartphone.  Stay tuned to the smartphone market for the next few months. We are in for a wild ride!


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