Pondering switching cell phone carriers

April 29, 2012

Up until 10 months ago, I’ve never owned a personal cell phone. I did have a phone, but it was a company phone which I used for both business and personal use. I started with a LG candy bar phone back in 2000 on Sprint, migrated to a popular Nokia phone, then a few Motorola phones, then over to my first smartphone, the Motorola Q running Windows Mobile 5 OS. At that point, my employer switched from Sprint to Verizon, and I finally got an iPhone 4 to use for about 6 months before I left that job for new one. My current position with my new employer doesn’t provide a cell phone, so I needed to venture out in cell phone land and make some decisions on which phone and carrier I should choose for my first personal cell phone purchase.

Since my wife had been using Sprint for the last 10 years or so, it made sense for me to just add a 2nd line to her account and get a shared minutes family plan, especially since Sprint offers offers unlimited data on smartphones. So I made my first cell phone purchase to be a Palm Pixi WebOS phone (mainly because I had planned to do some WebOS app development on the side). That worked out great, and I loved the cool animated windows popping up, and swiping them off the screen when done. I stuck with the Pixi for almost 2 years, and when Palm started to falter as a company I decided to switch to an Android smartphone (again, so I can do some Android app development) and I chose the best at the time which was the Nexus S 4G. Read the rest of this entry »

The death of Palm WebOS

August 21, 2011

Last week, HP announced that they were discontinuing the sale and development of HP/Palm WebOS devices. This includes both WebOS smartphones (Pre, Pre2, Pre3, Pixi) as well as the recently released Touchpad). The timing of this announcement was absolutely shocking, as even the direct Palm employees and management in the Sunnyvale, CA office didn’t see this coming. Aside from this, HP also is dumping their PC division which is also a shocker.

As a WebOS apps developer, I’m very sad to see this happen. I’ve been to two Palm Developers Day events in the Sunnyvale office, and I have to say that the Palm employees are great to work with. Palm really treated their developers well with support and hardware, so it’s a shame to see all of that disappear. HP is backpedaling a bit now, saying that WebOS will live on, but I highly doubt that. With no existing hardware, app developers jumping ship to Android, iOS, or Windows Phone 7 development, and Palm employees leaving for greener pastures, how will WebOS survive? It might go into hibernation, but over time that will most likely make it an extinct product.

This is unfortunate, as I believe that WebOS is the best smartphone OS currently available. It does do true multitasking, and their card concept works very well. Personally, I stopped my WebOS App development when Palm switched to the new Enyo SDK which required a fundamental shift in programming methodology from the previous Mojo SDK. In hindsight, it was a good move as it gave me time to spin up on Android OS development and get a head start in porting some of my existing apps to the Android platform.

Sorry to see you go, WebOS. RIP.

Syncing Apple iCal with Google Calendar

June 24, 2011

Now that I’m back to using my Palm Pixi smartphone, I’ve got to re-evaluate my personal and work calendar syncing options. I’ve got my Apple iMac (running the iCal app), my Palm PIxi smartphone, and two different calendars to sync (along with my contacts). So, what’s the best solution?

After exploring several different options, it seems my best solution is  product called SpanningSync for the Mac. This app runs in the background on my iMac system and periodically syncs my personal and work calendars in the Apple iCal app with two different calendars in Google Calendar in the cloud, of which my Palm Pixi has the ability to sync with. What’s nice about SpanningSync is that I can control which specific calendar in Apple iCal will sync with which specific Google calendar. I’ve setup 2-way syncing, so wherever I make an addition, deletion, or change all the calendars are updated. SpanningSync also will sync my contacts between Apple Address Book and Google Contacts, and subsequently the contacts on my Palm Pixi.

This system works surprising well. I’m currently running the 15-day trial version, but if all continues to go well I’ll pay for the $25/year subscription.

Smartphone Transition

April 16, 2011

I’ve been using smartphones for a number of years and find it valuable to have the Internet at my fingertips while on the go. Accessing my email, web pages, and GPS-enabled maps for navigation has been great while on business trips. I started off by using a Motorola Windows Mobile 5 device, then upgraded to a Palm Pixi WebOS, and now I’m using a Verizon iPhone 4. I really like my iPhone 4, but I may have to turn it in as I’m looking for a new job and this phone is provided by my current employer. So what new smartphone should I get?

The iPhone 4 is nice and I know I would be happy with it, however, it is on the Verizon network and my family currently uses Sprint. I’d prefer to stay with Sprint and get a new line on my family’s plan, so getting a Verizon iPhone with a new account, etc. has its drawbacks. HP/Palm has re-entered the smartphone market (after delays during Palm’s acquisition), but their new Veer and Pre 3 phones won’t be available until this summer. Besides, the Pre 3 is a bit too chunky for me and I’d prefer to not have a slide out keyboard. I’ve seen “spy photos” of a new Pre phone that looks appealing (it actually looks like my iPod Touch), but who knows when that will be released. Finally, there’s a bunch of Android phones available on the Sprint network including the Nexus S Google phone which looks really nice (with the new Gingerbread OS version).

Whichever phone I choose, I want to make sure I get the same functionality as my current iPhone 4. I started by examining the apps that I current use on my iPhone, and it turns out that they are all available for the Android smartphone as well. I’ve used the Sprint Navigation app in the past as well as the Verizon Navigation app (both I like), but I noticed that the Nexus S won’t have any Sprint apps loaded. Fortunately, it will have the new Google Nav app which apparently works just as well (or even better) according to the video I watched on Google’s site. So I think I’m covered there.

Finally, I really want a phone that will have enough juice to last me through an entire day (7 am through 7 pm). My iPhone 4 has great battery life, and if I switch to an HP Pre 3 or Nexus S Android phone I’ll need to have equivalent battery life. I have a feeling it will be close, so I do need to take that into consideration.

So for the moment, I’m leaning towards getting the Nexus S Android smartphone with the Verizon iPhone 4 closely behind. I’d consider the HP Pre 3 as well once it is released and I can check it out (although I still don’t like its slide out keyboard). Decisions, decisions…

I’m a new Verizon iPhone owner

February 18, 2011

For the last year and a half I’ve been using a Sprint Palm Pixi WebOS smartphone as my daily companion.  As a WebOS developer, I understand the internal workings of the Palm Pixi and really like a lot of its features. For my primary day job, my employer recently upgraded my cell phone to a Verizon iPhone which I gladly accepted. I’ve owned a iPod Touch for the last year and really like it, so I pretty much knew what to expect in a iPhone. Here are some quick observations:

In my opinion, WebOS is a more “polished” OS for smartphone users as it has a lot of small useful features. For example, in WebOS you can define multiple email accounts in the built-in mail app each of which can have a unique signature text block. On the iPhone, you can only have one signature block used for all email accounts.

WebOS has a very nice notification system where incoming emails, phone calls, messages, etc. are displayed in a small strip at the bottom of the screen. So, you can quickly at a glance identify when you have any new messaging. With the iPhone, you don’t have such a notification area except for a popup dialog window in the center of the screen as a message comes in.

When the screen is blank (or turned off) in WebOS, I am notified of new messages by a small flashing light. There is no such thing on the iPhone when the screen is turned off or blank. To check for new messages on the iPhone, you need to turn on the screen, unlock it, then look at the Email icon to see if there are any new messages (displayed as a number on the icon indicating the number of unread messages).

I sorely miss true multitasking with my WebOS phone. Being able to minimize a running app in the background and fire up another app is a great thing. The iPhone supposedly has “multitasking” but who knows what that really means. Does the app continue to run in the background, or is it suspended until you fire it up again?

So after beating up the iPhone, what do I like about it? First, there’s tons and tons of great apps written for the device. For business travel, I’m using one called TripTracker by PageOnce which is an excellent app for tracking all your travel reservations. I’ve got a lot of news-related apps (e.g., USA Today, Engadget, Macworld, Fox News, NBC Nightly News, ABC News) which come in handy for keeping me busy in-between appointments. Of course there’s Pandora for listening to free Internet radio stations, and Netflix video streaming.

Since I have an EyeTV HD device connected to my iMac for recording TV shows, I can use the associated iPhone app called EyeTV which allows me to fully control the EyeTV HD hardware remotely as well as stream recordings (and live TV) to my iPhone.

Of course, I have the ability to play music and videos through synced files from iTunes. So in all, I’m happy with my iPhone and think it will be a great business companion but I do miss some of the small features found in WebOS.

What’s up with Palm WebOS?

February 5, 2011

Since HP started the process of acquiring Palm, there has been little activity in the release of new Palm smartphones. Palm came out with the Palm Pre and later the Palm Pixi, but the next few releases were just enhancements of those two models. More memory, slightly faster processor, the inclusion of WiFi is nice, but users want NEW handsets released on a regular basis. Six to eight months seems to be the usual life cycle for smartphones these days, and Palm is way behind in that respect.

What’s even worse, is that the big cell phone carriers (Sprint, Verizon, AT&T) have all but stopped selling the Palm WebOS smartphones (no doubt, because they are “old” in the consumer’s eyes). Sure, Palm has release the Palm Pre 2 to some carriers, but that phone is just a slight variation of the original Palm Pre.

As a developer, I find that I want to write apps for the smartphone platform that I currently own and carry around with me. For the last year and a half that would be the Palm Pixi smartphone. But I’m coming up on my 2-year contract date and will need to decide what to do. At this moment, I’m waiting for Microsoft to release versions of the Windows Phone 7 smartphones on the Sprint network (CDMA). The WP7 OS looks really fresh to me, and I think there’s a lot of opportunity in selling apps for that platform. Microsoft announced last month that CDMA versions of their WM7 phones will be out sometime in  the “first half of 2011”, and I’m hoping it will be sooner rather than later.

The big red herring is what HP/Palm will be announcing next week on February 9th. They have some big news they plan to release, which has been speculated as new smartphone handsets and/or WebOS tablets. The HP CEO stated that people will “drop their iPhones and iPads” when they hear the big announcement, so we shall see. I’m hoping they don’t simply announce a WebOS tablet since that is something every electronics company has already announced and would be a big disappointment. Nor, do they announce another WebOS smartphone which is simply a repackaged Palm Pre design. If they come out with some revolutionary, new hardware with a revamped WebOS that would really catch my attention. Especially if they have plans to sell the hardware through several different cell phone carriers and within 4 weeks of the announcement. That, would be truly remarkable.

Thumb board typing

January 2, 2011

I’m a keyboard touch typist (and that’s a physical keyboard) and I don’t do much thumb board typing. By that, I mean typing on a handheld device keyboard like a smartphone. If I had a choice over a real thumb board (with raised keys) or a virtual screen keyboard I would normally choose the physical raised keys. I guess that goes back to using a real physical keyboard with my desktop/laptop computer. Nevertheless, I always avoid typing emailsor messages on my Palm Pixi WebOS smartphone because I’m prone to spelling errors and being slow at pressing down the physical keys.

Lately I’ve been using my Apple iPod Touch for writing notes to myself and I’ve found the iPod’s virtual keyboard remarkable easy to use. It must be the auto corrective spelling checker on the iPod which corrects nearly all of my miss-spelled text. As such, I can really fly at typing messages on my iPod Touch making it totally acceptable and actually fun! It is amazing how quickly I can type text using the iPod Touch, making me a believer in virtual keyboards.

I do have to remember that the technology which I based this opinion may only apply to the Apple iPod and iPhone products, so typing correction may differ on other devices (like the Android and Windows Phone 7 devices). This really makes me want to get an iPhone when they are available on the Sprint network (hopefully not too far in the distant future).

FYI, I typed this entire posting on my iPod Touch using the WordPress app and it was effortless and quick using the virtual keyboard.

Angry Birds is everywhere!

December 28, 2010

Angry Birds is a game that seems to be everywhere these days. I originally heard about it for the Palm WebOS device, but learned later that it was available on nearly all mobile and smartphone devices. So, I decided last week to download the “lite” version on my Apple iPod Touch and give it a whirl.

The game involves a set of bird characters who are “angry” because some green pigs have stolen their eggs. To get back at these pigs, the birds are launched in a sling-shot by the player at the pigs to eliminate them. In each round of the game, the pigs are usually protected by wood or stone structure and you are limited to the number of birds you can use per round.

What’s interesting is that the game is physics-based, so the flying birds, wood beams, stone blocks, etc. all move in a very realistic fashion. The sound effects are good too, as well as the high-graphics. All-in-all I’ve found the game to be pretty good, and I’ve got it loaded on my Palm Pixi WebOS phone as well. Now, I usually don’t play games on my iPod Touch or Pixi phone other than the simple Sudoku or Solitaire card games. I’ve learned that playing a high-graphics game like Angry Birds really zaps my battery big time. It seems that after playing Angry Birds for about 1-hour my iPod Touch’s battery goes from a full charge down to 20%, so it is apparent that the physics-based game must really tax the CPU. What’s amazing, is that I can watch 3 or 4 hours worth of videos on my Touch and still have 50% or more battery life, but 1 hour of Angry Bird game playing just drains my battery.

So if you want a challenging (and addictive) game to play on your mobile device, check out Angry Birds. I went ahead and purchased the full version (for 99 cents) for my iPod Touch which provides many more levels and rounds, which is a bargain considering what you’re getting. My wife has Angry Birds loaded on her Android phone, and I’m sure it’s available on the Blackberry as well. Just be aware, that you shouldn’t play Angry Birds on a plane trip without an AC charger nearby afterwards!

Sprint dropping the Palm Pre smartphones

November 15, 2010

This posting on precentral.net seems to indicate that the wireless carrier Sprint will be dropping the Palm Pre from their lineup of smartphones. Sprint was one of the original carriers of the Palm Pre line of phones, and now it seems to be dropping them completely. Sprint began selling the original Palm Pre over one year ago and later sold the Palm Pixi, but never carried the improved Palm Pre Plus and Palm Pixi Plus phones.

I have a Palm Pixi phone that I got it when the device was first released (over a year ago). That’s a long time for a cell phone, as new designs seem to come out on a 6-8 month cycle. Of course, the delay in providing new and different phones is understandable since the sale of Palm this summer to HP was a big distraction. Palm seemed busy improving the WebOS operating system (now close to releasing 2.0) but their handsets seemed to have suffered. Maybe HP has high hopes of using WebOS on a new tablet device and that took priority over the smartphones?

I’ve used a few different smartphone OSes and I have to say that the Palm WebOS is one of the best. The true multitasking and “card stacking” is a great feature, and if they are able to improve the performance and speed with the WebOS 2.0 version that’s even better. Hopefully, HP will put out some new and exciting phones within the next 6 months and we’ll see them appear on Sprint and other networks early next year.

Microsoft Windows Phone 7 Selling in US tomorrow

November 7, 2010

Well, tomorrow is the big day for the new Microsoft Windows Phone 7 to debut in the US. With all the great reviews, I bet the phones will sell out fast at the various AT&T and T-Mobile outlets, especially since they are already announcing possible shortages of the phones. I certainly would consider switching handsets if they were released on the Sprint network (since that is what I’m using currently). Time will tell if developers decide to write apps for the WP7 platform, and how long it will take for high-quality apps to appear on the Marketplace.

I hope the new WP7 devices really make a big impact, as the reviews I’ve read really look good. It’s a shame that one of the original “smartphone” developers, Palm, seems stuck in the sand with just four handsets released to date with the WebOS operating system. They have announce a new “WebOS 2.0” device coming out soon, but it just looks like a souped-up Palm Pre Plus with a flatten screen. HP/Palm needs to come out with much better handsets to really compete with Apple and Microsoft followed up with a big marketing blitz. Palm could have the best OS in the world, but very few will realize it if they don’t create new handsets, promote their OS, and give Microsoft, Apple, and Android a run for their money.