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Samsung Infuse 4G impression

After being disappointed by T-Mobile’s LG G2x, my search for a new phone continues. The selections outside US are grand, between the highly praised Samsung Galaxy S 2, or Sony Ericsson’s Xperia Arc/Neo, etc. Alas, NONE of those phones are being released in the US by their respective douchebag companies. Instead, what do we have? Samsung released a rehashed Galaxy S 1 phone on AT&T, called the Samsung Infuse 4G. Trying to import the Galaxy S 2 is prohibitively expensive and risky (at least $750, and it will have no warranty whatsoever). However, I’m too annoyed with my Nexus One already that I finally bite and checked out the Samsung Infuse 4G from the lovely AT&T.

First of all, it IS a re-hashed Galaxy S 1 phone. It contains the same single core processor as with the Galaxy S 1 phones, albeit at slightly higher clockspeed (1.2GHz vs 1GHz). While people outside the US are treated with dual-core goodness of the SGS2, US gets some leftovers. Performance wise though, it’s actually not bad. Despite the old architecture and Samsung putting their own skin on top of Android, the phone seems to perform fairly well. AT&T, as bad as they are, did a decent job by not overloading the phone with too much junk ware. Remember my review of the G2x, where T-Mobile put buggy old junkware apps in it that you cannot force-close? AT&T didn’t do that. Sure, the stuff that are pre-installed on the Infuse cannot be uninstalled, but you can easily force-close them if needed. This probably explains why the Infuse, despite having an older hardware, feels better and more stable than the G2x. The only glitches I experienced are mostly related to Froyo as I also experienced them when I had Froyo on my Nexus One. Gingerbread should take care of those, if AT&T is kind enough to update the Infuse.

Did I say Froyo? Yeah, in 2011, while other countries are getting Gingerbread phones, US gets old phones with old OS sold as new. Pathetic and sad. Even worse, it’s not even the latest version of Froyo, which is 2.2.2. It’s 2.2.1. You might think what’s the big deal. OS updates is a HUGE deal in modern smartphones because it doesn’t only give you new features, but also bug fixes and security fixes. Emphasis on security. There are serious security flaws that are fixed in Gingerbread, leaving tons of Android with Froyo vulnerable. It is extremely irresponsible of the OEMs and carriers for not pushing updates in a timely manner. Imagine if Dell or HP blocked service packs of Windows. There will be a huge outrage and security concern.

The main seller of the Infuse is its 4.5″ screen. Yeah, it’s massive! It puts my iPhone 3GS and Nexus One to shame. It’s even bigger than the LG G2x. The 4.5″ Super AMOLED screen is a beauty, bright and vibrant colors. Alas, it still has the same resolution as my Nexus One, 800×480. Definitely not “retina” resolution, and it kinda shows on some fonts and icons, aliased jaggies aplenty. Still, there are times now that I appreciate the larger screen. Maybe signs of my eyes getting old. πŸ˜€

Another main seller of the Infuse is 4G, or more like fake 4G. AT&T is marketing HSPA+ as 4G. This may make you think the Infuse is somewhat more “advance” than something like the Galaxy S2, even though the Galaxy S2 also supports HSPA+, minus the hype and marketing. Is it fast? It is. I can get 3 to 5mbps down and 1mbps+ up. This is a lot faster than my iPhone 3GS, which usually gets only up to 2mbps down and a lousy 50-100kbps up. A far cry for sure. Still, it’s not really 4G, and it’s unfortunate that everybody now is misusing the monicker, thanks to T-Mobile. Now, the Infuse apparently is not compatible with GoPhone for data, even if you have purchased data packages. I have a GoPhone pay-as-you-go SIM for backup, and it works fine for data on my Nexus One and 3GS, but it doesn’t work at all on the Infuse, not even reverting back to 3G or EDGE. It just doesn’t work.

The camera is sweet. It’s not as fancy as the G2x though. The G2x can do 1080p video while the Infuse is maxed out at 720p. Still better than my Nexus One and 3GS. The front facing camera on the Infuse is also 1.3MP, beating the VGA resolution on most other phones, including the iPhone 4. Photo is at 8MP on the rear facing camera. Nice.

Samsung is quite generous on the internal storage, 16GB partitioned into the usual ~1+GB for apps and the rest as internal “SD card.” There’s also a microSD card for even more storage. I’ve been downloading apps like crazy, finally being freed from the limited internal memory of the Nexus One. The SIM slot is located above the battery so you can replace it without having to take the battery out. However, the microSD card slot is located UNDER the SIM slot, and access to it is blocked by the battery. It’s not that easy to take it out either since, so if you are those people that like to change SD cards often, well, look elsewhere. The Infuse comes with a measly 2GB microSD card, but considering you already have ~16GB internal storage, it’s not a big issue.

One thing I immediately miss is the trackball on the Nexus One. As silly as it may look, the trackball on the N1 serves as a very useful notification light, so I can see if the phone need my attention without having to turn it on. No such thing on the Infuse, just like the iPhone.

Another surprise is that the Infuse actually supports 5GHz 802.11n, a nice update from most other phones that usually only support the crowded 2.4GHz band.

One drawback of Android is its media capability. Let’s face it, nothing beats the iPod integration on iPhones, and their ecosystem of accessories and support, especially in cars. My car has a USB port that supports my 3GS. As expected, the Infuse doesn’t work with it like the iPhone did, it only works for charging, no difference than the Nexus One. Sad. 😦

The Infuse comes with an HDMI adapter. It basically converts the micro-USB slot into an HDMI slot. However, you have to plug-in a power source on the HDMI adapter instead, making it a dongle-cable mess.

So, let’s recap.
The goods:
+decent performance for an old single core phone
+not too much junkware from AT&T
+other sources for apps is enabled
+beautiful huge screen
+tri-band HSDPA: 850/1900/2100
+HSPA+ is decently fast

The bads:
-4.5″ may be too big for some
-old hardware released as new, while other countries are getting the dual-core SGS2
-old outdated and buggy OS
-all the stuff one may not like on Android (eg. media capability, accessories support, etc)
-locked to AT&T
-fake 4G

If you’re on AT&T and you need a new phone, what are your options on the same price range? The main one will be the dual-core Motorola Atrix 4G, which is sold for the same price. Despite having dual-core, the Atrix has poorer screen, only VGA front-facing-camera, and at this point, I have a felling Samsung is more likely to pull through with updates than Motorola. The Atrix does have fancy feature like finger-print scanner and you could turn it into a linux netbook using an optional expensive dock. I’m not a fan of Motorola though.
Another phone on the same price range is the 16GB iPhone 4. At this point in time, however, I wouldn’t get the iPhone 4 as the iPhone 5 is near the corner.
Then there’s the cheaper Samsung Captivate, which is an AT&T variant of the Galaxy S. Cheaper, smaller screen, but no front facing camera.
There’s also the HTC Inspire, but since HTC only made it with dual-band 3G (850/1900), I’m not interested.

So there you go, a quick impression on the AT&T Samsung Infuse 4G.

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Apple 2010 September Music Event

So, yeah, something happened yesterday. Apple did their annual September music event to release new iPods. The keynote was available live, streaming for SL and iOS users. Yeah, Snow Leopard. I had to use my iPad to watch it. πŸ™„

Anyway, I’m just going through the keynote chronologically.

1. Updates on retail stores. Blah blah blah, nice stores. Update on iOS, blah blah, revolution, blah, blah, Google you suck, blah, blah, apps. Next.

2. iOS updates. Take home note is that 4.1 is coming next week with bug-fixes, and will feature HDR photo taking capabilities. I hope this feature will be available for the 3GS too, as we 3GS users have been gimped from iMovie already. New to 4.1 is Game Center, and Epic is showing their new game, powered by Unreal Engine 3, running on an iPhone. Pretty amazing, considering it’s running on a phone. Nintendo and Sony, be very wary. Hardware on mobile phones are advancing much more rapidly than the hardware on Nintendo DS and Sony PSP. iPad users will have to wait longer for iOS 4.2, coming in November, and it will feature wireless printing and AirPlay (AirTunes part deux), in addition to all iOS4 features.

Jobs demoed 4.2 on his iPad, showing the same old stuff such as “multi-tasking” (I rather call it task switching), threaded mail, folders, etc. One thin I notice in the 4.2 Safari browser on Job’s iPad, the “multiple tab” button seems to show a number now (can be handy to show you how many tabs are opened), and the “plus” icon is now an arrow “send to” icon.

3. Finally, the new iPods. Apple decided to renew all the iPod lineup (except the classic).
-First, the shuffle. The main complaint of the 3G shuffle is the fact that it has no buttons. Well, 4G shuffle brings back the buttons. So it looks like the 2G again, except that it’s square. Meh. At least Apple recognize that going obsessively minimalist doesn’t always work. It has all the voice over features from the 3G. 5 colors, 2GB, $50.

-Second: the nano. All the rumors were true. The 6G nano is square, has a clip, and uses a touch screen. It’s so small that it’s only a tad bigger than the shuffle. Sounds cool, right? Well, Jobs kept saying how it’s better, but he obviously skipped the features that are gone from the previous nanos. First, it’s a smaller and lower res screen than even the 3G nano. The video camera is obviously gone. Oh, and guess what, no video playback. Yeah, talk about going backwards. Also based on the demo screens, looks like the playback feature will mimic iOS, meaning no shuffle-by-album. The kicker? It still carry the same price as the previous nano: $150 for 8GB and $180 for 16GB. So, do you want to pay the same price and get less? Apple thinks so. We’ll see how the market responds. Pretty disappointing imo, and not even as much color options as the 4G/5G nano.

-Third: the Touch. Freakishly thin. It has the high res “retina” LED display, although Jobs conveniently didn’t say whether it’s the same IPS display as the iPhone 4 or not. My guess is that it’s not, and it won’t have oleophobic coating either. Looks like Apple really wants to make sure that the iPhone holds its value over the Touch. The new Touch will sport the A4 chip, although whether it runs as fast (or faster) than the iPhone 4 is not yet known. Gyroscope is included, and also a front facing camera for facetime. Rear camera is also added with HD (720p) video recording. The rumors are pretty much spot on. The pricing is a bit odd, with 8GB for $230, and jumps to 32GB for $300, and 64GB for $400. I guess Apple want to keep their good margin, not willing to reach the $199 price point, nor do a 16GB version.

Funny how Jobs demoed the nano, but not the new Touch. Also funny that Jobs went through the new iPods fairly quick, only halfway through the whole keynote. So what’s next?

4. iTunes. New iTunes 10, new icon, slightly updated UI, and Ping. Yeah, Microsoft has bing, and Apple now has Ping. It’s social networking inside iTunes. Errr, sure, that’s assuming that your friends are also using iTunes. Nobody I know uses or buy music from iTunes. They use bittorrent. πŸ˜› At best, Ping is probably just going to be a niche amongst hip Apple/iTunes users.

5. One more thing/hobby, a 2nd gen Apple TV. Super tiny, just HDMI and optical out (no component), ethernet, wifi. No purchases, just rentals. Err, yeah, not sure if that’s what people actually want (hint: bittorrent). HD movies is $5. Sure, it’s HD, but Red Box DVD rental is just $1 per day (bittorrent is free). At least the new Apple TV supports Netflix streaming, so Netflix users don’t have to spend more money. TV shows rental is 99c. Err, sure, they’re cheap enough, but I already have Netflix, and spending more money just doesn’t jive with me (again, bittorrent is free). You can stream content from Youtube (interesting since Google is doing Google TV), Flickr (alas, no Picasa, Facebook, or other online photo storage support), and mobileME. You can still stream from a Mac/PC running iTunes. No Apple, I want to be able to stream my own videos form a simple NAS/Windows Home Server. 😦 In addition, there’s still also the codec support issue. I’ll stick with my HTPC running XBMC.

The new Apple TV is going to be just $99, shipping in a month. So, who’s Apple competing with this new Apple TV? The obvious one is Roku, a netflix client at a similar price point. The upcoming contenders are Google TV boxes and boxee box. Add on top of this, a lot of devices and even TVs today have a netflix client built-in already, and some also offer youtube/Amazon video capability. It seems that the market feels too crowded for the wrong reasons.

…and that’s it. The keynote re-run cut off the Cold Play music.

So, what’s my take on the new iPods? How was my prediction?
1. iPod shuffle
Well, I only got the price right, 2GB for $50. Apple usually is pretty strong headed in terms of the design choice they did (button-less shuffle), so I wasn’t expecting they would go back to the 2G design. But I guess consumers win this time.

2. iPod nano
I did better this time, due to the leaked cases pictures. New form factor, touch screen, no camera, and same price points. One should question the value of the new nano. Sure, it’s smaller, but you’re basically paying the same amount of money for less (no camera, smaller screen, no video, presumably no shuffle-by-album). Also, the competitors are way cheaper than Apple now. Just for example, Sony’s entry level E-series MP3 player can be had for less than $100, and you’ll get 16GB! Previously, Apple has a reason to retain the higher price point with the video camera. I don’t know if the consumers are willing to shell out twice the money just to get something smaller (with less features to boot). Imo the only reason Apple could do this is simply because they owned the MP3 player market. iPod as a name has become the Kleenex of MP3 player. This also shows that a standalone MP3 player as a device is a dead end. There’s almost nothing else to innovate (to the point that Apple added a camera on last gen nano). Now the only way to go is backward, I guess. Disappointing. However, it is still tempting to get one just for the cute/collectible factor. I mean I have bought pretty much all generations of iPod nanos (all of them, 1G to 5G). I mean gotta catch ’em all, right? πŸ˜€

3. iPod Touch.
Most of my guesses hit the mark: retina display, facetime, front face and rear camera. I just didn’t expect Apple to completely replace the lower end with an 8GB version of the same generation (instead of using the 3rd gen Touch). The surprise is HD video recording. Sounds awesome right? You gotta wonder though, that new Touch is even thinner. How the heck Apple did it, considering that even the 3GS camera is too thick for the 2G/3G Touch. Well, looking at the spec, you’ll see the ugly side. Yeah, the new Touch can record 720p video, but it’s obviously a cheapo crappy sensor, as its picture taking ability is only 960×720 resolution. That is not even 1MP. I mean come one, find a dumbphone/cheap digicam that still do less than 1MP picture. Extremely pathetic. This is yet another Apple’s obsession with thinness, sacrificing feature. I rather have a thicker Touch with the 3GS camera in it. I guess Apple just want to make sure they have more stuff to roll out for September 2011. Still, it’s a good buy, especially 32GB for $300. Plus you can do facetime, and it’s iOS. There’s virtually no competition here, yet. Heck, Sony is still selling their 16GB X series for $300. The only contender is the ZuneHD, which is due for an upgrade too. Rumor is MS is going to do a Winpho7 Zune HD without the phone, but the bar is already set fairly high, with the Touch having Facetime, HD video recording, and retina display.

Oh, how about the iPod Classic? Jobs didn’t even mention it at all, but it’s still alive, 160GB, same price $250. Yeah, Apple is the only player in town here, so they see it they they don’t need to do anything.

In the end, the MP3 player is dying. Everybody is using their cellphones as their MP3 players. We already see this as Apple is now very confused on what to do with the nano. Heck, ever since I have an iPhone, I hardly use any of my iPods anymore. The only surviving market will be the low end cheapo MP3 player, and the “PDA” replacement like the iPod Touch, where it’s turning into a mini computer at the $200+ price points, where people is expecting more than just an MP3 player.

How about the Apple TV? Well, my kind of content is J-dorama and Tokusatsu, with Anime sprinkled all around. No content providers in the US, including Apple, offer those, so my only source is fansubs. The most common codecs use in fansubs are Xvid + .avi, or H.264 + .mkv. Neither of those are supported by Apple TV (or any Apple iDevices). So far my solution is a plain Windows HTPC with XBMC. The new Apple TV would be an interesting Netflix client though, and for people that like to rent movies. As for the 99c TV shows, well, it can be pretty expensive if you like watching TV shows. Paying $10 per month for hulu plus may be a better deal, unless you hate ads. Apple TV could’ve been more. Apple could’ve been more aggressive (apps). But I guess they have to play nice with the studios and network providers. Oh well, I’m not interested in it anyway unless Apple added more stuff later on. It seems nice to be able to stream videos from my iPad/iPhone to the Apple TV.

So there you go, my impression/rant of Apple’s 2010 September event. Will I get any of those new iPods. Well, the new nano is interesting for collecting sake. The new Touch is interesting also, as I cannot have iMovie on my 3GS. But I dunno. I rather save my money for a Canon S95. My guess is the big seller will be the new Touch as it finally has camera. People had been lusting over a camera, and the 3rd gen Touch disappointed. Now those people will get this new Touch. Also, there are people that don’t or cannot get an iPhone, so the iPod Touch is the obvious gateway for the app store. To be honest, I don’t think the shuffle and nano will sell much, especially at those prices.

 
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Posted by on September 2, 2010 in apple, event, impression, ipod, september

 

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Nexus One

I guess I haven’t updated my blog for quite some time. Too lazy as it’s easier to rant on twitter. LOL. Anyway, back to the topic at hand.

I’m a Mac and iPhone user, mainly. Apple’s ecosystem has been great and working for me. However, I’m thinking, what if sometime in the future, the iPhone is no more? I mean Steve Jobs is not going to man the company forever. Although I’m sure the rest of Apple will do fine, keeping the same Apple philosophy, but what if? So here I am, thinking the what if scenario. I love my iPhone, and I think it’s the best phone. Looking outside Apple ecosystem, what are the alternatives? Let’s see:
-Symbian: Yeah, right.
-WebOS: It’s great, but obviously it’s on life support.
-Windows Phone 7: This would be a great alternative, but it’s not out yet.
So, that leaves Android. Android seems to be the next best thing in terms of smartphone OS/platform. It has the same idea and UI concept as iOS. The downside is, at least in the US, all Android phones are carrier-controlled. This is in contrast of iOS where Apple is the one in control, not AT&T nor any of the carrier partners all over the world. There was one pure unadulterated Android phone, the Nexus One (N1). Yeah, was, because Google doesn’t sell the Nexus One openly anymore. Now, it’s only available as part of the dev program, and only the T-Mobile model (no 850 3G support). Luckily, I managed to get the AT&T 3G supporting Nexus One before it was too late. I was hoping Google would drop the price, but then decided to just get it. Lucky me, as now this phone is extinct.

Let’s go straight to the experience. While the iPhone is obviously designed around Apple’s ecosystem, the Nexus One is obviously designed around Google’s ecosystem. The first thing it asked was a Google account. If you don’t have one, you have to create one. Now, if you already use Google services for your contacts, calendar, and email, once you put in your Google account credential, the Nexus One is ready to go with all your contacts, email, and calendar all setup. It’s awesome! No need to “activate” the phone first, unlike the iPhone which needs to be activated with iTunes. Now, there’s something that’s even more awesome. Google Voice. I’m a Google Voice user since before it was bought by Google (it was called GrandCentral). Using Google Voice on the iPhone is very clunky as there is not a native app. You pretty much rely on the Google Voice website to make phone calls. Not intuitive. On the Nexus One, Google Voice is fully integrated. All you need to do is tell it to use Google Voice, and everything is transparent. You still use the phone’s dialer and contacts, and it will automatically route your call via Voice. Pure awesomeness!

The beauty of iOS is the app ecosystem. Android is not too far off. Most apps that I use on the iPhone are available for my Nexus One. Facebook, Twitter, epocrates (albeit beta and not updateable), Foursquare, Gowalla, etc. Unless you’re into games, you won’t find much problems finding the apps you want on Android. The only problem I see is the market app itself. Apple has designed its App store fairly well in terms of layout. The market app on the Nexus One is very basic, and it feels very difficult browsing the store. A lot of the apps don’t have much useful descriptions. Even worse, many don’t even include any screenshots, leaving you guessing what the app can do. The reviews are not helping either. Apple’s app store seems to have more helpful reviews, while the Android market reviews seem to be mostly people complaining about the app FC. FC this, FC that, one star. Not really helpful. Oh, and what’s FC? Yeah, at first I was like WTF? FC is a short for force close. Meaning the OS have to quit the app forcefully (aka, the app crashes). And these 1 star FC “reviews” are all over the place. Trying to get the gist of how good the app is becomes futile. Why? Because who knows whether these people having issues are using which Android phone/custom ROM/rooted phone/task killers, etc. But at least if you stick with the well known apps, you should be fine. I myself never experience a force close on my Nexus One.

Okay, most of the apps I would use are available. Great. I also use my iPhone as a calendar. The Nexus One sync its calendar with Google calendar. Pretty neat, but the calendar app itself doesn’t look great. It feels like a Winmo app for whatever reason. I do like the agenda view. One thing I was looking for on my Nexus One main screen and failed to find was anything that shows the day’s date. I was baffled at first. Why? Well, iOS made it simple, by making the calendar’s app icon to show the day’s date, just like in OS X 10.5 onward. Sounds simple, but it’s intuitive. Not the case on my Nexus One. The calendar icon is only a generic non-interactive icon. Well, that’s useless. On the bright side, there are widgets.

Ah, widgets. The Nexus One already come with various widgets, like weather, music playback shortcut, etc. Going through the Android market, and you’ll find even more widgets. So many that it’s ridiculously confusing. Just search for a weather widgets and you’ll find gajillions of them, although most of them are the same widget with different skins. I finally found a simple date widget that simply shows the day’s date.

One extremely under-rated feature on the iPhone is the silent hardware slider. Sliding this switch automatically silences the iPhone. There’s no such switch on the Nexus One. On the bright side, there are widgets that provide shortcut on the home screen to quickly toggle between silent/vibrate/normal mode. The downside is, since this is a software solution, you have to do it with the screen is accessible. Meaning if the phone is on stand-by, you have to push the power button, unlocked the screen, find the widget, and toggle it. On the iPhone, I simply switch the hardware slider. Much simpler huh, especially if you have your phone inside your pocket.

Another annoyance on the N1 is that the only way to activate the phone out of stand-by is with the thin power button at the top. This is annoying. The trackball button does nothing. The 4 “buttons” on the face of the phone are touch buttons, not physical buttons, thus won’t bring the phone out from stand-by. On the iPhone, I can simply press the home screen to activate the phone from stand-by, which usually is where my thumb is. Tiny details like this is what makes me appreciate Apple products.

One the the apps I use often on my iPhone is maps. The Nexus One obviously has Google maps built-in. One thing I immediately noticed is that even though the maps app on the N1 supports multi-touch, instead of being able to zoom-in/out smoothly, it seems that there are only several pre-set zoom levels. Although the zooming effect is smooth during pinching, after I lift my finger, the map snaps to the nearest pre-set zoom level. I find this very annoying as I’m used to the maps app in iOS where it simply stays to whatever zoom level I did after pinching. On the bright side, the navigation mode is better than iOS. The N1’s maps app allows showing directions as a list of text, something that sometimes is easier to read than tiny letters on a map screen. To top it off, the N1 has a its own navigation app, which providers GPS navigation, for free! There are nav apps for iOS too, but it’s hard to beat free. The nav app on the N1 pretty much turn the phone’s UI into a “car mode.” It replaces the home screen with several big icons, typical of a GPS navigation device. Also, using this mode is one way to quickly keep the phone’s screen from turning off without specifically changing the settings.

Android has a slightly different paradigm on showing apps on the home screen. In iOS, all the apps you have is on the home screen. That’s it. Pre iOS4, you can kinda pre-set specific home screens to contain specific apps for a bit of organization. iOS4 introduces folders to make organization more manageable, but the idea is straight forward, all you apps are all directly accessible from the home screen. Android took a more traditional desktop OS paradigm. The home screen is your desktop. You can put shortcuts, widgets, etc on it. Your apps are accessible through the program drawer, which will infinitely scroll through however many apps you have. Not that easy if you have a ton of apps, so most people would end up putting the apps’ shortcuts on the desktop to mimic iOS. You can also create folders on the Android’s desktop. However, it’s amazingly flawed, which made folders in iOS4, albeit late, is a ton more intuitive in terms of implementation. Why? Well, in Android, once you put a shortcut into a folder, you cannot rearrange the icons. Yeah, sounds stupid isn’t it, but that’s the case. The icons will simply be sorted based on the order you put the shortcuts into the folder. In contrast with iOS4, you can simply tap and hold, and you can freely re-arrange the icons in any order you want. Another drawback is due to Android using the paradigm of a desktop OS. Inside a folder, you have a bar at the top representing the folder’s name, and an X button at the right corner to close the folder. In iOS4, once inside a folder, you can simply close it by touching anywhere outside the folder. Easy. Not the case with Android. You have to touch that X button to close the folder, and the button is fairly small for my finger that sometimes I need to press it several time to close a folder. Not intuitive especially when you’re on the go and you want to do things quickly using one hand. Just another situation that makes you appreciate the tiny details in Apple products.

Okay, so what else do I usually use my iPhone for. Pictures. Putting pictures on the iPhone is actually a hassle, more than it supposed to. Unless you use 3rd party apps, you have to use iTunes to sync pictures to the iPhone. That may sound okay, but today, I have pictures all over the place. My computer, Flickr, Picasa, Facebook, etc. There’s no integration in iOS. You have to pretty much use one or more 3rd party apps outside the built-in photo app. This is true even for Apple’s own MobileME service. This going in-and-out apps just to view your pictures is not intuitive. On my N1, when I put in my Google account, its gallery app automatically pulls and sync pictures from the Picasa account associated with the Google account. Very nice! You can add more than one Google account too if you have more than one Picasa account. Also, this means the pictures are not stored internally, only downloaded on demand, saving storage space. The gallery app on the N1 is very nice, uses the accelerometer to simulate tilting the “photo album.” Of course, it’s not all perfect. The app only syncs picture with Picasa. You have to rely on 3rd party apps if you use other online services outside Picasa. One app that I like is called justpictures, an aggregator app for your pictures from various online services, including Facebook. Oh, and it’s free. This is something that Apple needs to re-think on their approach in iOS. Windows Phone 7 supposedly will offer even more integration as its default picture hub can aggregate pictures from various online services outside the box.

I use my iPhone heavily as an iPod. iTunes is just an amazing jukebox software, especially for podcast, and the integration of syncing music and podcast with the iPhone is just beautiful. So, how do I do this on the N1? Well, it’s a journey of frustration. The N1 doesn’t have any desktop client app. So, my first though is to download podcasts directly on the phone. Google has an app called Google listen. It’s a simple and straight forward app, allowing you to subscribe, download, and listen to podcasts. However, there’s quite a bit of downsides. Downloading podcasts straight to my phone is slow, even on wifi. To me, the iTunes approach is faster as the heavy duty lifting is done on the desktop, and iTunes simply copies the files to my iPhone. Also, Google listen is not integrated with the default music app, and doesn’t have its own widget for playback control. This means I have to go to the app for controls. Not intuitive. I rather have a solution that integrates with the default music app, which has a playback control widget. So my next idea is to simply have a desktop software solution. The first one that comes up to mind is doubletwist, an iTunes clone. But then apparently the Mac version doesn’t have podcast syncing. BOO! Next alternative is Songbird, but I find that its podcast support is fairly bare, not even supporting some feeds. I finally found a more straight forward syncing solution, Salling Media Sync, which is just a simple syncing program that syncs contents directly from iTunes to the portable device of your choice. Looks great, but you have to pay $22 for a fully syncing feature. Oh well, at least I can try it for free. It works okay. Since the N1’s music app doesn’t have a built-in podcast support, Media Sync simply creates a podcast playlist, and dumps all the podcasts you wanted to sync in that playlist. Not ideal, but I guess it works. At least this way I’m using the default music app.

As for using my N1 as an iPod, well, it’s like having a basic MP3 player. Luckily, my Apple earbud works with the N1. The microphone and play/pause button work fine. Only the volume buttons don’t work, and I have to use the volume button on the N1 itself.

But the journey of frustration didn’t stop there. My next step is to find a solution for listening to those podcasts in my car. My car is old, it doesn’t have an AUX input, let alone USB or iPod support. So the only way to listen to contents from an external device is via an FM transmitter. Sad isn’t it. So my first step is to find a universal FM transmitter, ideally the one that also providers USB charging so I can charge my N1 at the same time. Well, looking around, I realize that everything now is “Made for iPod/iPhone.” The proliferation of iDevices have been so significant that every company is focusing on accessorizing the iDevices, nothing else. What a bummer. 😦 Finally I found a solution from Griffin, a universal FM transmitter (out of dozens of models they make for iDevices). It’s a simple FM transmitter with a 3.5mm audio plug and a USB jack for charging. As for mounting, I got a generic mounting harness that attaches to the air vent in my car. Attaching my N1 to this setup, it’s cables galore since I have 2 cables hanging from my N1, the 3.5mm audio cable and the USB cable. This is also when I found out about the “car mode” of my N1, forcing the screen to remain on. The solution is not pretty, and it’s quite a hassle, especially compared to my previous solution for my iPhone, using this FM transmitter from Belkin. It’s a cleaner solution as it also acts as a holder for my iPhone with a built-in dock connector.

Okay, after all these, I took a step back and realized, why am I doing this. I mean why went through all these hassle just so I can listen to podcasts in my car? I already missed the ease of iTunes syncing with my iPhone. I miss the smoothness and polished feel of iOS. Also, I have to remember that epocrates on Android is not updateable. Finally, I gave up, pulled out the SIM card from my N1, and put it back in on my iPhone 3GS. After waiting for the Apple logo to finish booting iOS, I felt a huge relief. LOL. Yeah, it’s true. Using my iPhone again feels like a blessing. I felt like a lost lamb, going back to the comfort of Apple’s bubble after being lost in the woods of Android. Don’t get me wrong, I love a lot of things on my N1. Google Voice integration is a huge one. Another thing I like is the notification system. Let’s face it, notification on the iPhone is at the level of a dumbphone. However, there is this level of comfort when using iOS. I cannot describe it, but I know I feel this surge of relief when I returned to using my iPhone after a mere ~3 days using my N1 full time. It made me laugh.

My N1 will be a backup phone from now on. Android is marching on, getting more polish with each version. My only worry is that we will never see a pure Android experience anymore, with all Android devices are pretty much OEM customized (HTC, Motorola, Samsung, etc) and/or carrier controlled. The next excitement will be Windows Phone 7, and maybe it will be the better alternative. In the meantime, I’m back at the comfort of the church of Apple. LOL. πŸ˜€

 
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Posted by on August 12, 2010 in android, apple, comparison, google, iPhone, review

 

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iPhone 3GS Impression

Well, tomorrow is WWDC 2010, and the 4th gen iPhone is expected to be announced. I guess it’s a good time to write up my impression of the iPhone 3GS.

So, what made me bought the iPhone 3GS in the first place? If you read my tweets and blog postings of the past, I always criticize the iPhone for being locked to AT&T in the US. Yes, the iPhone 3GS is the first phone I bought that is locked. All of my previous phones were unlocked phones. Why the change of heart? Well, it occurred during the Apple Special Event in September 2009, where Apple introduced the 3rd gen iPod Touch, sans the expected camera. I was so ready to purchase that iPod Touch if it had a camera, but it did not. So I was so upset that I decided to just get the full experience with the iPhone 3GS instead. Yeah, I’m so vain. πŸ˜›

Turn out, having an iPhone really change my digital life. I think it is, and still, the phone with the best user experience. I’m going to go through the devices I brought with me all the time. In the beginning, I always carry a dumbphone, a music player (portable CD player, MD, Sony Walkman, etc), a PDA, and a video player (Cowon). Yes, a PDA, remember those? LOL. I always have my Handspring Palm OS PDA with me. At this point, there were times where I even carried multiple audio players. The iPod changed that, being the best music player imo. At least now I’m sticking to 1 audio player. But then I wanted more on my phone. I want to be able to take pictures with it. I bought a Sony Ericsson Cybershot phone (the K550i). It has a decent 2MP auto-focus camera. Being an SE phone, it has a decent music player software on it, so I thought I would be able to use the phone as a music player too. That didn’t pan out, as the experience on the iPod is way better. On the PDA side, I upgraded to the Palm Tungsten E. I also tried to use it as an audio player, but it never worked out. So there I was, still carrying at least 3 devices with me at all times.

Then came the iPod Touch, and the app store. It blew the Palm OS PDA away. I immediately recycled the Tungsten E the minute the iTunes app store opened as the apps that I needed on the Palm OS are available on for the iPhone OS too. It’s also an iPod, and a video player. So, my carry-on devices went down as now I have consolidated the music player, video player, and the PDA with the iPod Touch. But then I wanted to do more on my phone since I started doing tweeter and using google maps. Yeah, the K550i is only an EDGE phone, but it has google maps and tweeter apps. However, the experience is very poor due to the slow data connection, the small screen, and the fact you have to use the phone’s keypad to navigate. My next phone was the Nokia E51. It has 3G, wifi, larger screen, and Symbian, a smartphone OS. Google maps experience is way better thanks to the larger screen. Twitter experience is better too thanks to the larger screen and faster data. Using more and more of the smartphone feature, I feel the phone is extremely limited in terms of usability, and I always wished the screen was larger. Even worse, the camera of the E51 doesn’t have auto-focus, so in the end I was still carrying my old K550i for taking pictures. In the end, I was still carrying at least 3 devices.

The iPhone 3GS changed everything. It has an auto-focus camera, smartphone OS with the apps I use, and it’s an iPod too. Having the 3GS allowed me to just carry one device that does everything. πŸ™‚ The only catch is, now I’m on contract with AT&T. Before, I was always on prepaid, only spent about $25 every 3 months. Now I have to spend ~$75 every month, but at least I have unlimited data (I don’t plan to fall into AT&T’s trap of the 2GB cap).

So, how’s the iPhone? It’s just great. Actually, I wasn’t really surprised as I’ve been using the iPod Touch, but the constant data connectivity really changes the way you use the apps. The experience using the iPhone is just great. The maps app is extremely useful, and the constant data connectivity made it highly usable. The camera is great. Sure, there are other Nokia/SE phones having better cameras out there, but the integration with the apps on the phone made it much easier and usable to use the camera and upload the pics quickly to places like Facebook/twitter. The various Twitter apps (I use Echofon myself) are a ton more usable than on phones with keypads due to the multi-touch screen. Coupled with various location-based apps, social networking apps, mobile Safari, etc, it really changed the way you’re interacting with a phone. Imo it’s phenomenal.

Sure, smartphones are not new. There are Palm OS, Symbian, and Windows Mobile. But the iPhone is the first one that actually makes every feature that it has highly usable. Example, taking picture and uploading it to tweeter. I can do this already with my K550i, but the experience is extremely poor. No difference on the E51. Doing the same activity is a breeze on the iPhone. Maps, email, I can go on and on. You just cannot beat the iPhone experience, yet. It’s not until recently that we see the competitors are turning around. Android OS 2.2, Symbian^3, Windows Phone 7, etc. Things will be very exciting.

Now, why didn’t I go with Android? During that time, the latest Android phone on the market was T-Mobile’s myTouch 3G, aka HTC Dream, using Android 1.5. I played with it, and although it’s a decent phone (and also brought a new paradigm of touch-screen UI and apps to those coming from dumbphones), the overall experience is not up to the iPhone’s level yet. Everything is laggy. This experience is consistence across the various Android devices I tried (the motorola Cliq, and the Droid). I have a friend with a Droid, and when we’re trying to add each other as friends on Facebook, it was a breeze for me on my iPhone while she was having a hard time (mainly due to the laggy and unresponsive UI). Obviously things have improved today with Android 2.2, but seeing how no devices other than the Nexus One are guaranteed to receive 2.2, I was glad that I went with the iPhone 3GS.

Tomorrow, iPhone OS 4.0 will be introduced, and it will increase the usability of the iPhone 3GS even further, with multi-tasking, better mail app, and folders. As for tethering, I gave up. Obviously AT&T doesn’t want anybody to tether. We’ll see what will happen tomorrow, or maybe I’ll get the Nexus One (I hope Google drop the N1 price tomorrow).

 
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Posted by on June 7, 2010 in apple, impression, review

 

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Ponyo, Kamen Rider W/Decade Movie War 2010 Movies Impressions

I’ll start with Ponyo.
I finally got the chance to watch Ponyo on DVD, an anime by Hayao Miyazaki. Looking at the DVD released by Disney, I see Japanese audio being available, so that’s good. Now, this is Disney, which if you realize, changes a lot of the dialogs in Miyazaki’s movies for the English dub, and even add dialogs not in the original Japanese version. Sure, some of them are subtle, but I think many of the changes make the scenes and characters have different feel and mood than the original. Same thing with Ponyo. When I first watching it, I picked Japanese audio, but the subtitle chosen was for the English dub. I immediately noticed how the subtitle said different things than the audio. I mean one example in one scene, Sousuke says how Ponyo likes ham, and Lisa, Sousuke’s mom said “Just like me” in Japanese, but the English dub said “So she thinks she’s human?” WTF? Another scene, Sousuke said “Yokatta,” but the dub said “It’s my fault.” Again, WTF? Yeah, that’s Disney changing stuff around. More proof that US localization have close to zero respect to the original sources.

Now, switching to the real subtitle for the Japanese audio, it actually is pretty good. I’m biased towards fansub a lot of times because official licensors usually “localize” the subtitle too much, but this one is very good and accurate, other than missing honorifics.

As a movie, Ponyo is the typical cutesy and the innocence of kids. There’s no good guys vs bad guys. All you feel is how cute Sousuke and Ponyo from start to finish. Some say there’s an environmental message. Sure, but it’s not really played out in a significant way (unlike Avatar). The focus remains on how cute the kids are.

So, I’m enjoying the movie. Cute movie, good subtitle, all is great, until the credits roll. Instead of the cutesy Japanese song, I’m listening to the English dub of the song. WTF? I thought I push a button that changed the audio to the English dub. But no, it’s still on the Japanese audio track. Yeah, Disney CUT the Japanese song out, replacing it with the English dub song, coupled with the horrible remix version in the end. WTF? This is a big FAIL! So legally, there’s no way for you to enjoy a complete Japanese Ponyo movie per the original. This is like Disney saying, hey, go pirate the movie instead. Finding Ponyo on bittorrent is not that hard at all, and there are HD uploads too!

Buying Disney’s Ponyo on DVD:
Pros:
-Very good subtitle quality for the Japanese audio
Cons:
-You’re paying for an incomplete movie, with the Japanese song cut out completely
-It costs you money
-The subtitle placement is a bit obnoxious. Too high up and the fonts take quite a bit of screen space.

Downloading Ponyo from Bittorrent:
Pros:
-Cost you nothing
-You get a complete movie. Japanese song intact.
-Subtitle font and placement are ideal, just like most fansub.
Cons:
-The subtitle quality may vary, but still doesn’t stray far from the original dialogue.

Yeah, there you go. You can pay for an incomplete version of the movie, or download a complete one for free. Which one would you choose? Disney, you suck. What’s wrong with the Japanese song? Are you afraid that people will find it to be superior than your lame remix? Ponyo is an awesomely cute movie, but huge FAIL on Disney.

Next is Kamen Rider W/Decade Movie War 2010.
LOL. Yeah, a stark contrast to Ponyo. I literally watched this right after Ponyo. Kamen Rider W/Decade Movie War 2010 is a double movie featuring the latest Kamen Rider W and the conclusion of Kamen Rider Douchebag… I mean Decade.

Anyway, this movie is set up to be the conclusion for Kamen Rider Decade after the cliff-hanger ending on the series, and the movie starts off with Decade kicking SkyRider, Super 1, and Kabuto’s ass. Wait, WTF? Yeah, that’s not how the series ended. In the series, it ended with Decade fighting the original universe’s (sans the original Kuuga) Riders. So, were SkyRider, Super 1, and Kabuto original or alternate versions? It doesn’t make sense, and throughout the movie, it seems that they were alternate versions as Seto Koji (original Kiva) appeared after Decade destroyed all the alternate Riders (so presumably the original Riders were not destroyed by Decade). If you’re not confused enough, none of the teased scenes shown on the last episode of the series (Tsukasa drowning, Natsumi with a machine gun, etc) were actually in the movie itself. LOL.

So, wait, what happened then between the series end and this movie? Who knows. My speculation is that when Decade was fighting with the original Riders, he was probably told again by Seto Koji that in order to revive everybody and restore all the universes, he needs to destroy all those alternate Riders (creation cannot come without destruction), with the consequences of Decade himself cease to exist once everything turned back to normal. And Tsukasa decided to take that risk, and then pretended to be the “bad” guy as the destroyer so Natsumi would hate him and finish him off.

Sounds kinda deep huh, for a franchise targeted towards kids. Alas, this is the weakness of the movie itself as there are too many holes in the plot. How did Tsukasa befriended the Yuriko/Tackle? How did Yuusuke (alternate Kuuga) regained his consciousness after being bitten by Kivala at the end of the series? Oh, and no cameos from the original Riders other than Seto Koji. Yeah, poor fanservice imo, and certainly doesn’t help the Swiss cheese plots and story.

Mid-way through the movie, they switched to W. On W, it gave us a background on the events before the first episode of Kamen Rider W, and a super cool fedora-wearing-Rider called Skull, which is actually Shotaro’s mentor himself. W’s segment in this movie is well done. It offers quite a bit of backstory to W (eg. the origin of Shotaro’s one liner “Count your sins”). I’m liking W more and more, as it doesn’t seem to leave as many holes in their plot/story as previous Kamen Rider series.

The last part of the movie, where W went to the middle of Decade’s battle and teamed up, is obviously just a last attempt for fanservice. Decade separated W into 2 individual form (Cyclone-Cyclone and Joker-Joker), and did a triple Rider kick. Not that satisfying really.

In short, just a so so attempt to finish Decade, but a great backstory for W.

 
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Posted by on May 31, 2010 in DVD, impression, movie, review

 

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Iron Man 2

Just got out from watching Iron Man 2, IMAX lite. In short, pretty good movie, and stay for after-the-credits scene.

*Warning* May contain spoiler.

One thing Iron Man 2 is better than the first one, the action scenes. It’s upped a notch or two for obvious reason, Tony Stark is already Iron Man, while in the first movie, it’s the origin story. The progression of the movie felt a bit rushed though since the studios are trying to push in SHIELD and The Avengers into the movie. Robert Downey Jr’s performance is great, as usual. He just nailed Tony Stark’s character. Now in Iron Man 2, Rhodey is a different dude, Don Cheadle instead of Terrence Howard. For whatever reason, I always felt the character Rhodes in both Iron Man movies to be a bit off, despite him being War Machine in Iron Man 2. There’s no back story, not much characterization, not much story, other than being Tony’s friend, and voila, next thing you know he’s War Machine. I just don’t feel the connection between Rhodes and Stark, and the change in the actor didn’t help.

Samuel L. Jackson has more screen time now as Nick Fury, since SHIELD is obviously taking a significant part of the story. Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts is, well, is fine. They did cut one scene that was in the trailer, where Potts kissed Iron Man’s helm and throwing it overboard with Tony jumping and flying to get it while saying “You complete me.” Yup, that scene was completely gone, which is kinda disappointing as that scene seems to give a better mood to the relationship of Tony and Pepper. Oh well, obviously a DVD extra.

Now, many reviewers online are not too happy with Iron Man 2 having “multiple villains.” Well, to me there’s only one villain, Whiplash (Mickey Rourke). Sure, there’s the obviously corrupt senator (which didn’t seem to get any repercussion in the movie, obviously portraying real life situation), and the “evil” competing company CEO (Hammer), but I don’t count them as villains. In a super hero movie, the villain should be a super hero too, thus Whiplash. I actually like Whiplash’s part in Iron Man 2. He went through pretty much the same turn of events as Tony Stark, starting with a self-made reactor with limited resources, tricking his captor’s resources for his own purpose, and upgrade his weapon to make a comeback. Very focused single villain, unlike Spider Man 3. The climax fight, however, is both refreshing and disappointing. I made my case that I wasn’t too happy with the climax fight in Iron Man 1, where the girl saved the powerless hero. In Iron Man 2, Tony is still fully functional as Iron Man, and saved Pepper, but the fight with Whiplash is very short and not too exciting. Oh well, at least this time Tony used an upgraded reactor for the final fight (I guess it explains why Iron Man’s reactor chest is a triangle instead of a circle. Seeing that in comics and cartoons, I always thought it was just cosmetic), unlike the first movie where he relied on the 1st gen reactor.

Now, let’s talk about the gadgets. Other than Tony’s home computer, in Iron Man 1, Tony used a stupid Verizon LG phone, which magically worked in the middle east (come on, at least use a GSM phone). Iron Man 2 did a better job by giving Tony a small transparent tablet thingy with touch interface. Pretty awesome. Speaking of touch, that’s the main meme in Iron Man 2. They showed Tony doing a search on Black Widow on his table with multi-touch to boot. Then there’s the whole room virtual reality that Tony used to discover a new element. Steve Jobs is right, touch is the next step.

All of those are nice and futuristic, but then there’s a step back. Tony Stark uses Dell XPS. Yeah, Dell. A billionaire uses Dell, while a hacker working at a convenience store (Falcon) has an iMac and a Mac Pro. LOL. Yeah, I’m comparing the techs of Iron Man 2 with Bloody Monday 2. Sure it’s nice seeing the futuristic stuff, but we know those things don’t exist for consumers. It’s more appetizing to see today’s real products. Oh, and don’t even compare the US government vs the Japanese government. In Bloody Monday 2, the Japanese government are all Apple. πŸ™‚ Then there’s a scene of Tony “hacked” the court’s computer using his transparent tablet, but the “hacking” process is just some lame ASCII of his name. They should do it like Bloody Monday 2, where Falcon uses his USB key to boot any PC into Linux, doing command lines. Now that’s more geeky.

As for spoilers, Captain America and Thor. Nuff said. My wish list for the next Iron Man movie? Extremis, which allows Tony to call up the Iron Man suit on command (it will be ultra cool if he yelled “Henshin!” LOL).

Overall, Iron Man 2 is a good action super hero movie. It doesn’t disappoint nor exceed expectations. It’s what it is, a fun movie to begin the summer season.

 
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Posted by on May 7, 2010 in impression, movie, review

 

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