Category: Mobile

Verizon MiFi 2200 Review

MiFi 2200
MiFi 2200

MiFi 2200

You may have heard about getting your computer on the Internet with cellular service.  Yes, you can get a cellular card from your mobile phone company and use it in your computer to get on the Internet.  Another way to do it is with a special wireless router that you get from your mobile phone company.

I looked at the Mi Fi 2200 from Verizon. It is called an Intelligent Mobile solution and it is a really fresh way to get on the Internet. The MiFi 2200 is tauted as the world’s smallest wireless router. It is not only small, but it doesn’t look at all like a router. In fact, it looks like a shiny black credit card that is about ½” thick.

The MiFi accesses the Verizon cellular network to get you on the Internet, so you can get online wherever there is Verizon service, which is pretty much across America.

You can use the MiFi just like a modem that provides an Internet connection. Just plug it into a computer with the USB cable, configure the software and you are online. You can also use it as a wifi router, which can let up to 5 computers or other devices within about 30’ hook up to the Internet. It is really cool. Keep the MiFi in your shirt pocket and you are a walking WiFi center.

You get about the same speed as a DSL modem, so the Internet service is good. The MiFi is feature laden. It supports Wi-Fi encryption, port forwarding, port filtering, and other common router options.

In my testing, the MiFi worked seamlessly and gave me Internet access in areas where it would not have been otherwise available. It comes with a wall charger and lasts about 4 hours on a single charge. It can also plug into the USB port on a computer to be recharged.

The MiFi is a great option for anyone who lives or travels to areas where they cannot get good Internet connectivity through other methods.

There are however, two caveats. First, I found the Verizon, VZ Access Manager that helps you manage the MiFi really terrible. If you are used to working with networks, modems, and routers, you will be able to figure it out. If not, you will be at the Verizon store asking for help.  To their credit, Verizon has a video tutorial on their website that will also help get your through the software.  The good news is that once you figure out the software, you can manage the MiFi quite easily.

The second caveat is the price. The cost of the unit itself is not bad. It is $269.99 with a month-to-month Verizon data plan. It gets as cheap as $49.99 with a two-year contract. The service, however, is pricey. You will pay $39.99 for 250 MB of usage. This is good for only very, very  light use. The 5GB plan costs $59.99 a month. The problem is that heavy use can easily bring your usage over that. The Verizon software lets you monitor your usage quite easily, but I would like to see an unlimited plan so you wouldn’t have to worry about how close you are to your limit.

The good:

  • Very small and pocketable
  • Good design
  • Instant Internet almost everywhere
  • Good service and connectivity
  • Can be use for up to five connections
  • The device is inexpensive
  • Month-to-month data plan is available

The bad:

  • Expensive and limited data plans
  • Poor software

The bottom line:

If you don’t mind the costs and you can stay within the data plan limits, this is an excellent product that can get you on the Internet almost anywhere. The Verizon service is very good, but they need to revamp the software to make it easier to use.

Verizon Holiday Ads

Yesterday I spoke to a group of PC users at our local community college. When the topic of cell phones came up the crowd became quite animated. They wanted to talk about iPhones and Droids and why their calls get dropped. The thing that really amazed me was that even though some of them didn’t understand the concept of cell towers or how cellular communications work, they were all convinced that Verizon is better than AT&T because Verizon’s blue map has more dots than AT&Ts red map. This is a true testament to power of television advertising and the genius behind the current crop of holiday ads that Verizon is running. If you haven’t seen them yet, just surf over to YouTube and type in “Verizon Holiday Ads”. They each have a great holiday theme. They are not only cute, but, as my recent experience exhibited, they are positively memorable. How many times have you seen a commercial ad and not remembered which product it featured?  Not so with the Verizon ads. Everyone came off with a Verizon is good and AT&T is bad concept.  It doesn’t get much better than that for brand recognition!

Nokia Charger Recall

Nokia, the world’s largest cell phone manufacturer is recalling about 14 million cell phone chargers. Charges involved in the recall are labeled AC-3U, AC-3E, or AC-4U. These chargers were manufactured between April 12th and October 15th of this year (2009).

The outer case of these chargers is defective and can open unexpectedly causing a shocking effect. If you think you may have one of these, head over to  chargerexchange.nokia.com and enter the details in the form provided. Nokia is offering a free replacement.

Verizon BlackBerry Tour Review

BlackBerry Tour from Verizon
BlackBerry Tour from Verizon

BlackBerry Tour from Verizon

When Verizon sent me the new BlackBerry Tour to review, I was pretty excited. This phone has the traditional excellence of BlackBerry’s email and messaging, a QWERTY keyboard, and a sturdy build, but it is also updated. Although the changes are minor, some make a major difference. For instance, I really liked the new design — not too big and not too small, with rounded corners and a great feel in the hand.

All-in-all, it’s a capable phone. It has a really great screen and a good camera and music player. It even does a great job at playing videos, if you are able to watch them on the small screen. The biggest negatives are that the BlackBerry OS is getting a bit dated, especially when compared to newer smart phones like the iPhone and the Pre and the Tour does not have Wi-Fi. Here are my general conclusions and Pros and Cons:

Conclusions

The BlackBerry Tour is the best CDMA BlackBerry that I’ve tested. Even with an aging operating system, it is quite functional as either a personal or business smart phone. The poor browser is offset by applications like Facebook, Flick3r and MySpace that allow you to access much-used web applications without actually using the browser. Phoning, e-mailing, messaging, and other functions work well as does the visual voicemail. The Tour is an excellent choice and all of the things we found wrong with it are minor, except for the lack of Wi-Fi, which will be a deal-breaker for some.

Pros

  • Excellent screen
  • Good keyboard
  • Very Good Design
  • Great feel in hand
  • Good selection of apps for social networking, instant messaging
  • MicroSD Card
  • Good IM and social networking applications
  • Good camera and video
  • Accessories include a variety of plugs and a 2 GB MicroSD card

Cons

  • No Wi-Fi
  • Small screen
  • Aggravating nested menus
  • Inconsistencies in menu choices across the platform
  • Poor web browser
  • Keyboard needs dedicated @ and period keys

My full review including detailed pictures is at: Hardware Secrets.

Palm Pre – The iPhone Killer?

Palm Pre
Palm Pre

Palm Pre

The Palm Pre will not kill the iPhone, but it will give it a good dose of competition. It is a solidly built cell phone with a great, written-from-the-ground-up operating system. I fell in love with webOS, Palm’s new operating system. Although it is not always intuitive, this new operating system is easy to use. I can’t believe that I am advocating an operating system that is not intuitive, but I am. Here’s the reason.

If someone hands you a Pre and tells you to use it, you will most probably be baffled as to how it actually functions. It looks like a touch screen phone and it is, but it also has a slide out keyboard. In fact, it has three different input and control areas: the screen itself, the keyboard, and the small area below the screen which is called the Gesture area.

It this combination is what make the Pre so functional, but you may not be able to use it without any knowledge of how it works. However, that said, just have someone show you a few things or check out the Quick Start guide, and it won’t take you more than five or ten minutes to get going.

If you like to multi-task, this is the phone for you. It lets you fully  and easily control which applications are open and which you want to close. To give you an example of what I call “non-intuitive, but easy”, to close an application, you simply take your finger and swipe it in an upward motion to throw it off the screen. You might not be able to figure that out at first, but once you get it, it is very easy. As a matter of fact, it is also fun. The Pre has the same functionality as the iPhone with similar ways to expand and contract text, a screen that can be viewed either vertically or horizontally, but for some reason, it seems like more fun to use.

The Pre is easy to set up and uses an online system called Palm Profile to sync information, so you will spend less time with it tethered to your computer. It handles email beautifully and has all the other normal options like a camera, sms, mms, and cut & paste. It even has turn-by-turn navigation.

The Pre is perfect for information junkies and busy people. It has an excellent universal search. It also has a system called Synergy that congregates information from various areas and puts it all together for you. So if you have a contact in Facebook, and the same contact in Gmail and in your POP email, you won’t see him or her three times on your Pre. The Pre is smart enough to put all the info that you have on that person on one contact screen.

In fact, the Pre is one smart cookie. Although I think the keyboard needs improvement, this is still one to look at.

Here are my pros and cons:

Pros

  • Excellent crisp and responsive touch screen
  • Excellent webOS operating system
  • Handles multitasking applications beautifully
  • Synergy consolidates information very well
  • Very good universal search
  • Excellent email support
  • Slide-out keyboard
  • iTunes sync
  • Palm Profile for online backups

Cons

  • Keyboard slightly cramped and plasticy
  • Difficult to navigate through the Apps
  • Lack of Apps and App Store
  • Apps do not readily show their price

Right now the Pre is available only from Sprint, but Verizon will also carry it in a few months. My full review with pictures is at HardwareSecrets.com.

BlackBerry Storm Review

The BlackBerry Storm is BlackBerry’s answer to the iPhone — a touch screen smart phone. Although it is a viable option for business users, anyone who has had a previous BlackBerry will miss the keypad. This phone has some called SurePress. When you press a key or icon on the Storm’s screen you feel an actual sensation. There is a subtle click as if you were actually pressing a key. This gives you a reassuring confirmation that your input has been received, but I found it too much like typing on an old typewriter. It seemed to take a little more effort than typing on an iPhone.

The Storm has good call quality, cut & paste, excellent email functionality, an adequate media player, and a nice 3.2 megapixel camera with zoom, flash, and stabilizer. It can also take videos. It actually has a lot of great features, but over all, I’ll take a BlackBerry with a keypad or the touch screen on the iPhone. Here are my pros and cons:

Pros:

  • Excellent call quality
  • Good navigation
  • Enterprise email access
  • Good pictures and camera features
  • Included 8 GB memory card
  • Replaceable battery
  • Good battery life
  • Voice dialing
  • Set up wizards and online tutorials

Cons:

  • Text input somewhat difficult
  • Poor auto correction
  • Commands often too close together to press
  • No Wi-Fi
  • Slow camera focus
  • Browser not as good as some others

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

BlueAnt SuperTooth 3 Handfree Device

Everyone can attest to at least one situation where a driver talking on a cell phone has almost had or caused an accident. So there is little doubt that more and more states will follow the lead set by New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, and California in making it illegal to drive while talking on a hand held cell phone. A Bluetooth headset is one solution, but a better one is a mobile speakerphone. And the BlueAnt Bluetooth SuperTooth 3 Handsfree device is one of the best.

BlueAnt SuperTooth 3
BlueAnt SuperTooth 3

BlueAnt SuperTooth 3

The SuperTooth 3 that I reviewed mounts to the sun visor in your car with a strong magnetic clip. Full instructions are given on how to pair your cell phone with the device. Once paired, the SuperTooth will automatically upload your telephone book. It will also handle all of your calls.
The SuperTooth has only 2 buttons and a volume control. The Multi-function button (MFB) is used for power on & off, pairing, answer, voice dial, redial, and audio transfer. The second button is used to end and reject a call and to reload the phonebook.

The SuperTooth has a very useful auto-voice answer mode. Just press the VOL control button for 5 seconds. The SuperToothconfirms this mode by saying “Voice answer enabled”.

Once that is done, when a call comes in, it will be announced by the SuperTooth. Its built-in Text-to-Speech Technology that will announce the incoming callers’ name (if you have it recorded in your voice-calling-enabled cell phone) or their caller ID number. To accept the call you simply say “Accept Call”, “Accept”, “Answer”, or “OK” and you will be able to talk handsfree.

If you phone supports voice calling, making a call is also easy. Just press the MFB button and say the name of the person as you have it entered in your phone book.

The call quality is excellent. I tested the SuperTooth in several different cars. Even with the widows open, I could hear the caller and they could hear me.

Other good features include:

  • No installation required
  • Voice prompt guides the easy setup
  • The visor clip is magnetic on both sides so that you can easily switch its position. This is important if you need to put the sun visor down or prefer to make the SuperTooth a little more hidden when parking.
  • Talk time of 15 hours, with 800 hours of standby means you won’t have to recharge too often. When you do, you can use the included wall plug or the car plug.
  • You can pair up to 8 different devices.
  • When you get in the car and the Supertooth is on and the Bluetooth in your phone is on, the device announces that the connection has been made, so you are assured that the Suptertooth will take your calls.
  • You can easily transfer the call back to the phone if necessary.
  • When the battery is the LED on the SuperTooth which is normally blue, turns to red and the Supertooth 3 verbally announces “Low Battery”.
  • There are several languages to choose from: American English, Spanish, French, Italian, German and British English.
  • The noise/echo cancellation works quite well.
  • It comes with a two-year full replacement warranty.

MSRP: $129.95


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