Great Background Images

December 8, 2013

I like to have different background images for my Android Smartphone, Tablets, and iMac computer screens to keep everything looking fresh. It’s amazing how changing the background to something you stare at frequently can affect your mood throughout the day! I have an app on my tablets and smartphone that will automatically change the background images on a regular basis which provides a pleasant daily surprise to start off my day.

Here’s a link to some great hi-res backgrounds available by Microsoft. During this time of the year, I like to rotate a series of Christmas-themed backgrounds to keep in the holiday spirit. Just something to help me prepare for December 25th!

Number of Apps – Really That Important?

November 2, 2013

images-1It seems the measure of how good a smartphone OS is, is tied to the number of available apps for that system. The Apple iPhone is considered the best smartphone because it has the most apps in its app store. Android follows behind with its massive number of apps, and in far third place is the Microsoft Windows Phone 8 with its small number of apps. But, does having say 1 million available apps make one smartphone OS better than another that only has 200,000 available apps?

In my opinion, no. It’s not the quantity of apps but the quality and depth that is important. If I have a smartphone that has all of the apps I need, then I should be content. Case in point, I don’t care about Facebook or Twitter, or any other social media apps. What’s important to me is a good news app, something for podcasts, email, and web browsing. I also want a good notification system so I don’t miss appointments, emails, or if my wife sends me a text message. So if I can satisfy my app needs, then I’m good with that particular smartphone OS.

In Microsoft’s case, I’ve found that WP8 has a good deal of solid standard apps available. They have Evernote, CNN, USA Today which I use on a daily basis. I also found a good podcast app, as well as the Weather Channel app. What’s also nice, is that Nokia offers numerous good quality apps with their WP8 smartphones. Apps such as Nokia Music, Mapping and Navigation apps, as well as an assortment of photo editing apps. Understandably, my app requirement may be different than your’s, but it does show to me that you can’t judge a smartphone OS by strictly the number of available apps.


Trade in your old phones to AT&T for $100 each!

May 19, 2013

Screen Shot 2013-05-19 at 11.49.40 AMAT&T has a new promotion running currently where you can trade in your old smartphones for $100 store credit. Even if your old phone is worth less than $100 in their system, they will round the value up to a minimum of $100!

After buying my HTC One recently, I was planning to send in my previous Sprint HTC 4G EVO LTE phone into HTC for their $100 Trade Up offer, but with that I would have to package up my phone for shipping, get postal insurance, etc. and I would need to wait 4-5 weeks before getting a VISA credit card back from them. It was much easier for me to just take my phone into my local AT&T Store and have them do the paperwork and give me $100 credit (which I had them apply to my AT&T cellular account).

I also rummaged through my desk drawer and found 4 other old smartphones that were eligible for trade in:

  • Sprint Blackberry Curve 8330 (The oldest phone of the bunch, which still powered up after charging)
  • Verizon Palm Pre Plus (which I got from a Palm developer’s conference)
  • Verizon Palm Pre 2 (another phone from a developer’s conference)
  • AT&T HTC Surround (which I bought off eBay a few years ago for testing Windows Phone 7 apps)

All of these phones were rather useless to me now, so it was great being able to trade them in completely hassle free to AT&T and get credit. In the end, I got a total of $500 which helped to offset the $150 ETF fee I paid to cancel my Sprint contract and jump to AT&T.

You can check out the value of your phone from this web link below. I think the $100 round-up offer will expire at the end of this month, so take advantage of it soon if you can.


May 4, 2013

wifiOne thing that I’m very conscious of since switching to AT&T’s 3 GB data plan, is the amount of internet data I download on their cellular network. With the unlimited data for my old Sprint network, I could stream Google Music, Podcasts, Pandora, etc. (albeit very slowly) without a care about how much data I was downloading. Now with a 3 GB per month cap, I’m very aware of how much data I’m downloading.

Although I’ve now got a data cap, I still try to go about my daily business using my Smartphone as I normally do. I’ve so far only made a few changes to my setup and usage:

  1. Instead of streaming music from my Google Music cloud account, I now download all my music files to my smartphone and play them locally.
  2. When possible, I try to download my daily podcasts while on WiFi instead of streaming on the cellular network.
  3. I’ve set the Google Play Store to not download updates for my apps unless I’m on a WiFi connection.
  4. I usually don’t stream videos unless I’m on WiFi.

So far, my plan seems to be working ok. I can still access news feeds, forums, email, via the AT&T Network, and do any high-bandwidth data transfers while on WiFi. And if I go over my 3 GB limit for the month, I’ll only be charged $10 US for another 1 GB of data transfer (which is about the cost of a single average lunch). Can’t complain!

I Just Love AT&T’s 4G LTE!

May 2, 2013

imagesIt’s so great to have switched from using Sprint’s 3G (really, 2.5G) data speeds to AT&T’s 4G LTE. I almost always have the “4G LTE” logo lit up on my phone, and if not it drops down to 4G (which is still pretty fast). With this kind of great speeds I feel like I’m at home on my WiFi network. No more waiting for browser web pages to load, etc. It just works, always!

I also like AT&T’s nice feature where my smartphone will automatically connect to any AT&T WiFi Hotspot I come across. This means for example, whenever I walk into a Starbucks or McDonalds restaurant my phone will automatically connect to their WiFi system (for free) without me having to deal with bring up my web browser, tapping an “I agree” authentication button, etc. I’m just connected!

It’s the little things like this that reinforces my belief that I made the right decision to switch from Sprint to AT&T. Sure, Sprint might have 4G LTE in my area someday, but that probably won’t happen for another year or longer at the rate they are deploying their upgrades.

HTC One Smartphone – Best I’ve Ever Owned!

April 28, 2013

imagesI’ve had a number of smartphones over the years (Palm, Android and Apple), and I have to say my new HTC One is the best one I’ve ever owned. It is a finely crafted device, machined milled from a single block of aluminum (similar to the latest iPhone). The phone is quality constructed, and has a much richer feel than the plasticity Samsung Galaxy Smartphones.

I’ve had mine for about 1 week now, and it has performed fantastically. Very speedy processor, super crisp and bright screen, and the battery will go through my 9 hour work day with 60% power still left. The camera is also great, with cool software features like object removal and multishot editing. It’s just an all around great phone, and I’m glad to have one based on GSM technology running on the AT&T network.

I highly recommend you check out the details on HTC’s web site.

LTE Coverage in Seattle

April 28, 2013

If you compare the most current LTE coverage in the Seattle area (as of April 28th, 2013), you’ll see the following:

Sprint 4G LTE Coverage


So, the 4G LTE coverage for Sprint should be the orange colored regions on the map. Did you notice something? There is no orange colored regions! So, there is no LTE coverage in the Seattle area.

The map below shows the AT&T 4G LTE coverage in the same Seattle area:

AT&T 4G LTE Coverage


The dark blue regions have 4G LTE coverage, and as you can see that is almost the entire Seattle area! The light blue regions are 4G coverage, which is still pretty fast for data speeds. Quite a drastic comparison between Sprint and AT&T 4G LTE coverage in Seattle. So, does it make sense for me to keep paying for unlimited but very slow data speeds for the next year or more when I can have very fast data speeds (albeit 3 GB capped) for nearly the same monthly charges?

A note about data coverage for Sprint and AT&T:

With my HTC 4G EVO LTE Sprint phone, I could only get the very slow 1xRTT data connection, 3G, or 4G LTE connection. The “4G” data connection (called WiMAX) was not available to me since my Sprint phone didn’t have a radio that could connect with it. And rightly so, since WiMAX is now a defunct protocol in lieu of LTE. So the best I could do in the Seattle area was a 3G connection, with the 1xRTT as a fallback when the 3G wasn’t available.

With my AT&T, they have several levels of fallback for data connections. First is 4G LTE which is the fastest, and then if that wasn’t available it would fallback to 4G (which is also fast). 3G would be next, then there’s the slow 1xRTT equivalent. With AT&T’s 4G there’s actually two different levels of connections, so you have several different tiers you can fall back with and still have good speeds. With Sprint, it’s either 3G or the 1xRTT for the HTC EVO phone.

Now, maybe Sprint will have their LTE up and running in 2014-2015 and it could be great. But I would guess it might be until the end of 2015 before they work out all the kinks and have a good portion of Seattle adequately covered. Until then, I’ll stick with AT&T and enjoy the consistent faster speeds.