iSuccumbed

August 12, 2010

Yes, I succumbed. Or more accurately, iSuccumbed.

I’ve been a loyal Palm fanboy for more than a decade. I’ve had a series of Palm devices, including the Palm VII, several Treos, and finally the Palm Pre. I’ve touted Palm for years and even converted numerous (but not countless, I admit) folks to the Palm mentality.

When the iPhone was released several years ago, I was quick to disparage it. It lacked a physical keyboard. It didn’t sport a visual notifications that would linger after the screen shuts off. Its vibrate alert was dweeby. Its push email, other than for its own me.com emails, is half-hearted. Apple is resistant to hacky-innovation. Heck, at that time, the iPhone didn’t even have copy-and-paste.

So, as millions upon millions of iPhones were sold in its various incarnations, I continued to resist its siren song. I fought the lemming lure and stayed steadfast to Palm (now HP/Palm) and its wonderful WebOS devices.

And yet, earlier this week, I succumbed.

I ordered an iPhone 4, and it’ll arrive soon. I cannot wait.

So why did I succumb? Two words: FaceTime and Apps. (Ok, so that’s three words – but somehow “and” just doesn’t count.)

FaceTime

Using FaceTime, two iPhone 4 users can hold a two-way videophone conversation. FaceTime also takes advantage of several iPhone 4 features: a camera in the front, and another in the back. And FaceTime makes it possible for the user to “flip” the view from front to back without having to flip the camera – a very useful feature.

Videoconferencing via a smartphone ain’t new. Not much innovation there. Yet, Apple is able to come up with hardware that works well and sell enough units that they become part of the mainstream. And because of the sheer number of devices with these features, developers and businesses take heed and develop nearly countless (ok, over 200,000) related apps.

Take, for example, ZVRS – a video relay interpreting service for people who are deaf or hard of hearing or have communication disabilities. ZVRS partnered with Apple and built an app in which iPhone users can make “phone calls” while communicating via sign language through ZRS’s interpreters. Niiiiiiiiiice.

ZVRS iPhone app

The iPhone hardware and its associated (and massive) ecosystem are the two main reasons why iSuccumbed after so long. At this time, Palm simply does not have the numbers (both smartphones and apps) to keep me. I’m certain that with HP’s recent acquisition, Palm will release new hardware – but it has waited too long, and I am moving on.

Don’t get me wrong. WebOS, I firmly believe, is still superior to iOS. I particularly love how WebOS multitasks (and the fact that it has multitasked from day one). I adore the gesture areas outside the screen on the Pre and Pixi! Yet the numbers and new hardware simply aren’t there (yet?).

No, wait. I’m at least giving the iPhone a 30-day trial period to see if I truly like it (and AT&T) enough to abandon Palm altogether.

Stay iTuned.

Truly Trulia

July 29, 2010

I’m on the road, and I see a house I like. I check Realtor.com or HomeDatabase.com on my Palm Pre smartphone. And I don’t like what I see.

I don’t like the house? No, that’s not what I meant. I don’t like how Realtor and HomeDatabase’s websites appear on my smartphone. To my dismay, these two web leaders in home searches are not optimized for smartphones such as the Palm Pre / Pixi, iPhone, or various Android phones. Even up-and-coming contender Zillow.com does not have a mobile version. Rather, their webpages are the full version, which can still be seen on these smartphones but are bulky and slow to use. No fun while looking at potential houses on the road.

So it’s truly a relief to discover Trulia.com.

Trulia.com logo

Trulia.com automatically displays its mobile version on smartphones, and the web version is jam-packed with features. To begin with, you can either do a simple search using a zip code / city name, or an advanced search with a good number of criteria. It even provides a list of neighborhoods that’s automatically configured for the city (not zip) you provide. And you can sort the resulting list different ways, including most expensive to least expensive, newest listings first, and more.

Trulia advanced search (1/2)

Trulia advanced search (2/2)

You can search for homes for sale or for rent, and Trulia displays the results either as a list (including a pic of the exterior of the home) or as a map. The map doesn’t seem to be zoomable in the mobile version, though. Selecting a home displays its details, photos, and a map of where the home is. It even displays how long the home has been on the market, recent sales information on the home and whether the sale price has been reduced (and from what) – a very useful feature!

Trulia.com details

Trulia.com details

Trulia.com photo view

You can create a “My Trulia” account – again via the mobile version – and save specific searches as well as your “favorite” listings. A nice touch for when you do repeated searches over time for new listings, and you can save favorite homes for easy reference later.

Obligatory feedback: I wish there was a way to search for homes near a specific address rather than within a town or zip code. And when viewing all pictures (rather than individual ones), it’d be nice to be able to customize the thumbnails so that they can be larger.

So, there you have it, folks. I recommend Trulia.com for its mobile site, and the full web version also holds its own versus its more established competitors.

Obligatory pun time: Trulia.com truly shines.

Introducing The BarackBerry

January 23, 2009

Unlike McCain, who allegedly does not use a computer, President Obama is addicted to technology and especially to Blackberries.  And he allegedly was very reluctant to give up his Blackberry upon being sworn in as President.

Do do?

Give him a BarackBerry, of course!

Here’s what he most likely will receive: a Sectéra Edge by General Dynamics.

According to General Dynamic’s product details page, here are some of the features that makes it different and more secure than our typical Blackberries:

  • Secure phone, email, and web browsing via several different secure networks
  • Designed to withstand rigors of everyday use
  • Capable of connecting to GSM, CMDA, and WiFi networks
  • Accepts various security network cards / keys
  • Has classified serial and USB ports as well as unclassified ports
  • Has an additional “trusted” display
  • Sports a stylus (have you seen another Blackberry with a stylus?!  I think not!)

How much?  Ah, cheap at $3,500 (or so).

I want one.  NOT!

(Click for a larger photo)

The Palm just announced its next big thing, and it’s a BIG THING:

The Palm Pre.  (Not to be confused with the Palm Treo Pro.)

It has almost everything I want, and more:

  • Large 3.1 inch touchscreen — 320×480 resolution HVGA display
  • Slide-out physical QWERTY keyboard (and if you complain about old Sidekick-like sliding keyboards, wait till you SEE this!)
  • GPS
  • WiFi
  • EVDO via the Sprint network
  • Integrated IM, SMS, and email
  • 3 megapixel camera with flash
  • Three sensors: ambient light, accelerometer, and proximity
  • 8gig storage (but no SD card slot)
  • Wireless charging dock (yes, I said wireless)
  • … and it feels like a smooth pebble in your hand …

I’ve looked at the iPhone and found it wanting for several reasons.   I’ve been waiting with bated breath for an Android smartphone running on the Verizon or Sprint network that looks and acts better than Tmobile’s new “brick.”  

But the Palm Pre might win my heart quicker than a beautiful Android phone.  Since the Sprint Palm Pre is coming out the first half of 2009, and since rumors have it that a Sprint Android phone will come out around the same time, it may be a true race to see which one I pick.

There are some things I really like about my trusty (but becoming ancient) Palm Treo 755p that I hope will carry over into the Palm Pre.  Let’s call it a Deaf Geek Wishlist:

  • Chatteremail was hands down the best email program I’ve ever used.  It was ultimately bought by Palm.  Will it be used as the default email program in the new Pre?  I hope so.
  • I loved the Palm’s LED notification that lights up (or blinks, depending on how you set it) if you’ve got new email.  Will the Pre have this too?
  • Via Chatteremail, I could set the Palm Treo 755p to vibrate up to 9 times for a new email.  I could even set it to vibrate 5 times for email from my partner and 3 times for anybody else’s.  The iPhone and the Android G1 only vibrates one time for new email etc.  Will the Pre be able to vibrate multiple times (ok, I know this isn’t sounding right, but stay with me please), and can this be customizable?
  • I must have an IMAP connection that works in the background while the smartphone’s screen is off.  Yes, like Chatteremail (again, that program!) does.  Emails must be fetched from my IMAP account (like Gmail) nearly as quickly as they arrive — and not 5 or 10 or 15 minutes later via polling.  And this must be done without having to set up or sign up for an Exchange server.  If this cannot be done on the Pre, then the deal’s off and I’m running off with an Android phone.
  • Will the Pre have videocamera capability?  I hope so.  I like recording quick video messages and sending them to my love and our children.  I just wish there was a videocamera on front of the Pre as well so I can have a videophone conversation.  Ah well, can’t have everything!

I’ve been waiting for a smartphone to come out with a videocamera installed in the front — rather than in the back.

Looks like I’ll be getting my wish.  The new HTC Touch HD is now being sold in Europe, and it has a videocamera in front AND a 5.0 megapixel camera in back as well.  Wow.  It looks like an iPhone and runs on Windows Mobile.  Has WiFi and wireless as well.

Wonder if I would be able to use it to do video relay and video-phone’ing with my friends and family?  Hmm.

More info at Treonauts.  Rather than repeat anything in that very informative review, just hop over there.  I’m too sick and lazy to say anything more … :-P

… about the first phone to come out using Google’s Android platform:

(Click image for a larger version)

I’ve already blogged some preliminary thoughts about the Tmobile G1, the first Android phone.  I want it so bad that it aches!  However, I don’t like the phone unit itself that Tmobile used for its first Android phone.  I’m waiting to see if Sprint or Verizon comes out soon with their own phones running on the Android platform.  I’m curious if those phones would have built-in keyboards that you don’t have to slide out to use.  See what happens (hopefully soon) …

The first “Google Phone” has been announced!  It’ll be released on October 22nd.

Google designed a new smartphone interface system called Android, and it will be available to just about any telephone network who want to use it on smartphones / phones.  This would be similar to Palm’s operating system, Apple’s iPhone, or Windows Mobile — except that, of course, it’s from Google.

The real test is whether the Android operating system would be better than what is being offered on the iPhone.   The iPhone has captivated the market, and Android phones would have a way to go to catch up.  However, Android’s appeal would be its (future) availability on a variety of phones by different telephone companies (rather than just from AT&T / Apple), its variety of applications that can be easily approved and then downloaded onto any Android phone (rather than put up with Apple’s strigent and lengthy approval process for new applications), and its low price (Google isn’t charging much if at all for this new system, and as a result, Android smartphones will be comparatively low-priced).

The first Android smartphone is the G1, from T-Mobile.

If you’re thinking this looks like the Sidekick, you’re right.  It does!  There are some key differences:

  • Touch-screen!
  • WiFi built-in
  • A much wider variety of applications that can be downloaded onto the smartphone
  • GPS
  • Listening to music
  • Watching videos (YouTube and similar)
  • 3G network

And some similarities:

  • Screen that swivels or slides open to reveal keyboard
  • Camera (a good 3.1 mp resolution, but no video)
  • Push email (Gmail account required)

It’ll have the usual Google features – maps, gTalk (dunno about AIM but the user should be able to download an application for that), YouTube, web browsing, Gmail, etc etc.

How much?  $179.

Yes, $179!

I’m thinking of getting one.  Hmmmmm.  Only problem?  It’s T-Mobile.  I think I’ll wait a bit longer.

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