Posts Tagged ‘smart’

The Motorola Droid Razr — Thin & Ultra-Capable

I loved my original Motorola Razr phone. So when Verizon announced the new Motorola Droid Razr, I was anxious to take a look.

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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.

Verizon Gets the iPhone

As you might expect, people ask me a lot of questions. Because I review a myriad of cameras, printers, and cell phones, I always get questions about these devices. For the past six months, the two questions that I have been asked the most are: “Will Verizon get the iPhone?” and “When will Verizon get the iPhone?”

My answers have been:  “Yes” and “Sometime this year.” This week proved my answers correct. Verizon just announced that they will be selling the iPhone starting Feb. 10th with existing Verizon customers able to start pre-ordering on February 3.

Those of you who were waiting for this announcement can immediately start cheering. There is, no doubt, a pent up demand for the iPhone on a carrier other than AT&T. This is especially true in our area where AT&T service is slow and spotty. So if you are thinking about getting an iPhone from Verizon, here’s what you need to know.

The Verizon iPhone uses a different underlying cellular technology. AT&T uses the GSM technology while Verizon uses a technology called CDMA. You really don’t have to worry about the underlying technology except to know that the AT&T iPhone has a SIM card while the Verizon iPhone does not. Since GSM is the technology that is used world-wide, but CDMA is not, the AT&T iPhone has world-roaming capabilities but the Verizon iPhone will have extremely limited capabilities for world travelers.

Because of the differing technologies, an iPhone that was purchased from AT&T cannot be used on the Verizon network. In reverse, if you purchase a Verizon iPhone it will not be able to be used on the AT&T network in the future. In the Verizon iPhone, Apple also rearranged the antennas to improve reception. Because of this, the volume rocker switch has been moved slightly. You may not even notice the difference, but if you have an iPhone case that had a cutout for the switches, even the AT&T iPhone case may not work with the new Verizon iPhone.

However the iPhone 4, which is the current version for both AT&T and Verizon, will pretty much look and act the same. They look almost identical with Apple’s slick, thin, high-tech appearance. They will both have the 940×640-pixel Retina display, 5-megapixel camera with HD video capture, and FaceTime. If you have purchased Apps from ITunes for an AT&T iPhone, all of those Apps can be used on your Verizon iPhone.

The actual price of the iPhone will be the same at AT&T and Verizon. Both are charging$199 for the 16GB iPhone and $299 for 32GB iPhone. In order to get the iPhone to work, in addition to your cellular talk and text costs, you must also purchase a monthly a data plan. This is true with all smart phones on all cellular networks. AT&T charges new customers $15 a month for 200MB; $25 for 2GB. Verizon has not made iPhone data pricing information available yet, but the company’s data plans for other smart phones are: $15 a month for 150MB; $29.99 for unlimited.

One other difference between the two iPhone is that the new Verizon iPhone will be able to act as a hotspot, meaning that with an addition monthly fee to Verizon, you will be able to use your Verizon iPhone to get up to five other devices like laptop computers on the Internet. This, however, is not a big drawback for the AT&T iPhone as it is scheduled to get the same capability with a software update that will be available soon.

This brings us to another important point – iPhone updates. The iPhone has gone through 4 generations with each new generation coming with a major release of the iOS operating system, which runs the iPhone. Each of these was introduced in June. Each generation ushered in huge changes. These included things like the 3G cellular network capabilities, a compass, the ability to take video, a second camera, and a higher-resolution display.

This leaves everyone wondering if they should jump on that Verizon iPhone now or wait until this summer to see if a new version appears? The other question that is being asked is if the Verizon network is strong enough to withstand millions of new Verizon iPhone users. Although Verizon says that they are prepared for this, it obviously depends on how many iPhones Verizon sells and how much people use their voice and data network.

In any case, this is a win-win situation for consumers. Those of us who want an iPhone now have a choice of carriers and more competition between the carriers is good for the consumer.

iPhone or Android

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 Galaxy S Fascinate Cell Phone Review

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.

Bottom Line:

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.

The Good:

  • Excellent screen
  • Good sturdy design
  • Good camera and video capability
  • Speedy
  • Wonderful camera features
  • Adequate battery life
  • Wi-Fi hotspot mode

The Bad:

  • Ships with Android 2.1 instead of 2.2
  • Poorly placed USB port
  • Voice commands through Bluetooth not available
  • Music player lacks sync’ing and playlists
  • Lighted keys turn off too quickly
  • Default search engine is Bing, not Google, and we couldn’t find a way to change that
  • Defaults to Verizon Navigator instead of Google Navigation in all areas

To read my more detailed review with pictures, check out Hardware Secrets.


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