Those of you who follow me know that I recently moved from AT&T to Verizon and from an iPhone to a Droid X. Well, now that Verizon is selling the iPad, it looks like they will also be having the iPhone soon. Wall Street Journal and others are betting that the iPhone will make its appearance on the Verizon network in the first quarter of 2011.
I made it clear that I am happier with Verizon than I was with AT&T, so several people have asked me if I would want move back to an iPhone when Verizon gets it. Unless the iPhone has some updating, the answer is no. I find the Android phone easier to use and much more customizable.
The one place that the iPhone’s excels is that their dual cameras are better than any Android that I’ve seen. After that, Android phones compare admirably or come out on top.
For instance, the Retina display on the iPhone is fantastic. However, in a side-by-side comparison, the Super OLED screens on the Samsung Galaxy phones are almost equal. The iPhone is very thin and sleek, but it has a glass screen. Being just a tad clutzy sometimes, I would rather have a screen that is a little more drop-proof.
The Android phone’s let you organize things and let multi-task more easily than the iPhone. And for me, the bottom line is that the Android lets you customize everything. With the Andoid operating system you can have 7 home pages and you can put just about anything anywhere. That allows you to create a system of organization that let’s you access what you need quickly and easily.
I sure that Apple is working to improve the iPhone and in the future, it might be better than the Android phones. But for right now. Andoid is my choice!
Samsung has a new line of smart phones call the Galaxy S mobile phones. These include the Captivate from AT&T, the Epic 4G from Sprint, the Vibrant from T-Mobile, and the Fascinate from Verizon. These are phones that run the Android Operating System, have fast processors, and fantastic Super-AMOLED screens. They have a good design and sturdy built. All are candy-bar type phones with touch screens.
I took a close look at the Fascinate from Verizon and was blown away by the clarity of the 4″ screen. It was as clear and crisp as the iPhone 4′s Retina display. One big difference, however, is that the iPhone 4′s screen is made of glass while the Fascinate’s is plastic. When dealing with a device that can be easily dropped, I’ll opt for the plastic screen.
The Fascinate has a list of excellent features. The capacitive touch screen is quite responsive and is a joy to use. The battery life is adequate for a day’s normal use. Call quality on the Verizon network was excellent. The Fascinate has WiFi (802.11b/g/n), Stereo Bluetooth 2.1, and an AGPS radio. It can be used as a Wi-Fi hotspot. It takes 720p videos. The camera is especially nice for a cell phone. It has auto focus and an LED back light and you have more control over the settings than I’ve seen in any other cell phone.
I love the Android operating system. Although this is not a deal-breaker, I would have been happier if the Fascinate came with Android 2.2, which is the current version rather than the older 2.1.
So what’s else is not to like? Well, Samsung adds it’s own skin over the Android operating system and I am not a big fan of this interface they call TouchWiz. It gives you Bing as the default search engine and does not allow you to change that. It has a silly on-screen puzzle-piece that you slide across the screen to unlock it. It also defaults to Verizon navigation instead of Google Navigation, which I like better. I wish that if phone manufacturers were going to add overlays like the TouchWiz, they would allow users to turn them on or off at their discretion, but right now that is not the case.
There are many good smart phones to choose from right now. The Fascinate is certainly a quite capable phone. Up against competition like the Droid X, the Droid 2, and the iPhone 4, it can hold its own. All-in-all, with the smart phone arena becoming more and more crowded, it becomes necessary to decide what is important to you and to make a purchasing decision based on that criteria. If you are looking for a cell phone with a great screen and a great camera, and you are using Verizon, this may be the phone for you.
To read my more detailed review with pictures, check out Hardware Secrets.
Last month Google started a new Gmail feature called “Call Phones”. While you could previously use Google Chat to chat with online friends while using Gmail, this new feature allows Gmail users to call phones right from their email account. What a great idea! Not everyone is always online. So when you are checking your email and you want to discuss something in further detail, you can now reach your friends whether they are online or not.
You simply click on the “Call Phone” link that appears on the left side of the screen and Google will immediately place the call. Calls to anyone in the United States and Canada are currently free. This includes calls to landlines and cell phones. Calls to other countries are cheap, as little as 2 cents a minute for many. Check the Google Voice website (https://www.google.com/voice/rates) for rates. The new service even includes computer-to-computer video calls.
Gmail users took to this new feature by the droves. In the first week, they made more than 10 million calls using the new Call Phones Gmail feature. I was among the new users. I couldn’t wait to try out this new free service. Every landline, cell phone call, and International call that I made was crisp and clear. Like Skype, there was a slight delay on International video calls. I made some calls with Skype and immediately followed them up by making the same call with Gmail. I would have to do a larger sampling from various Internet connections to give call this a real test, but in my limited testing, the Gmail calls were equal to or slightly better than the Skype calls.
With Skype you get free computer-to-computer calling but have to pay a fee for calling land lines or cell phones. With Gmail even these calls are free. However, Google has only promised free calls for the rest of this year. After that, they may be charging for some or all of the calls.
If you already have a Gmail account, you can try out this new service right from your Gmail screen. If you don’t yet have a Gmail account, sign up for one at www.google.com/gmail. Once you install and open Gmail, you just click on the “Call Phone” link. You will be prompted to download the Google voice and video plug-in. Then a window with a dialer keypad will appear. Place the call by typing the names of a contact in your Google contact list or by entering a number clicking “Call”.
Of course, you must have a microphone on your computer to take advantage of this free calling. If you don’t have one, you can purchase one for just a few dollars or you can invest a little more and get a web cam that will sit on top of your monitor and act as both a camera and a microphone.
The Gmail calling feature works just as it is. But it can be augmented by another Google free service called Google Voice. If you have a free Google Voice account, you can also get incoming calls through Gmail. Once you set up Google Voice, you can have calls to your Google number, which they give you at no added cost, forwarded to your cell phone or other lines as well. To use Google Voice with Gmail you will have to click on the Settings in Google Voice and put a check mark in the box next to Google Chat in the list of forwarding phones.
Using Google Voice in conjunction with Gmail will also give you access to even more features such as call screening. With this you can send a caller to voicemail and listen while they leave you a message. You can click “Join” at any time to pick up the call.
With Google Voice, you can also get several other perks. Your voice mails can be turned into text and sent to you as email. You can record incoming calls. You can switch from a call that you took or placed while in Gmail to any phone that you have listed as a forwarding number in Google Voice. So you can start a conversation on your computer, but finish it on your cell phone. If you use the Google Chrome web browser, you can click on any telephone number you find online and have Google dial it for you. Google is constantly adding new features, so you can expect Gmail Calling and Google Voice to just keep getting better and better.
I only found two caveats when using Gmail to make phone calls. The first one is that the calling window comes up in the extreme lower right of the screen and may be obscured by other windows. The other is that your microphone may not be automatically recognized by Gmail. If that is the case, click on Settings, choose the Chat tab, and then choose the proper microphone.
Google’s free calling may not be around forever, so if you want to try it out, do it now. In today’s economy, any way we can cut costs is more than welcome.
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!