Antenna woes led all of us iPhone 4 buyers to enjoy a free case on Apple’s budget. In my case, I chose the Speck PixelSkin HD (value $29.95 USD, see: http://www.speckproducts.com/iphone/iphone-4/pixelskin-hd.html).
Compared to my Belkin Grip Vue, the feel of the Speck case is slightly less bulky/heavy, but at the same time seems a tad flimsier. The gaps around the speakers are tight and permit for great quality sound, while the opening for the 30-pin connector will allow for most chargers and docks to still connect. The backing of the case is great for gripping, with volume and power buttons completely covered on the sides. Openings are left for the silence/vibrate switch and the earphone plug which also does not conflict with most sets of audio cables.
The case arrived precisely within the window that Apple had stated and overall I am satisfied. Hope the rest of you are enjoying your cases, let us know what you got and how you like them!
RIM own’s a patent for a device which suggests a dual keyboard; alpha in landscape orientation and numeric when the keypad is flipped and in portrait orientation. The drawings don’t clearly show what I’m talking about so you can either take my word for it or try reading the the official patent yourself. Now just because RIM has secured this patent, doesn’t mean they will end up making this device. Companies like RIM secure patents all of the time for future possibilities. Then again if you go back over a year in time, many of us thought we would never see RIM release a slider like the 9800. Hey, you never know. More images after the jump.
Lately Mobilicity has seen its share of consumer criticism, but like most start-ups going through growing pains they have persevered and lasted in this Canadian cut-throat market.
Today, Mobilicity issued a press release on its 100th day live to let the people know how they are doing and their future plans, here are some of the key points shared:
- 30% growth in retail distribution
- 40 new GTA locations opened
- 300 points of distribution
Mobilicity’s President and CEO Dave Dobbin had this to say:
“We’re continuing to enhance our distribution to provide the most convenient customer experience around, with our extensive and growing network of locations, Mobilicity customers can easily shop for phones, pay their bills and receive customer support near their homes or workplaces.”
Glad to see Mobilicity doing well and look forward to seeing more good news come from them!
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Good news for Bell users with HSPA BlackBerry’s who recently upgraded and are salivating over the pending Canadian launch of the Torch 9800.
A tipster sent MobileSyrup an internal screenshot of both when they expect to release the update and the devices expected to be supported. Although, if you have been following BlackBerry news lately you would have already known these devices would get the update sooner or later, its always been a question of when.
With this little “leak” I guess it’s just a matter of time before Rogers and Telus drop the same information.Follow me on twitter
What was already a very useful app has now become even more useful. Google has updated Android’s voice search app to include support for regular phone tasks. Now, with just the touch of a microphone icon, you can tell your phone to call someone, text someone, email someone, play music, navigate you somewhere, write you a note, browse the web, and much more.
Where I find the most use out of this feature is in text messaging. Let’s face it, while driving; it’s pretty much impossible to text anymore, not to mention unsafe and increasingly illegal. I used to be a pro at it, but now with physical keyboards falling by the wayside, there needs to be a new solution aside from actually calling people (Who likes calling people anyway?). Google’s new voice actions are by far the best solution I have ever come across. Vlingo offers a similar service, but without as many actions, and with, in my opinion, inferior voice-recognition ability.
To send someone a text, you simply touch the microphone button on the Google search bar, or on your home screen (if you placed it there) and say “text [recipient name] [message]”. For example, I would say “Text Jimmy Smith, Do you want to play racquetball tonight?” Then a box comes up with the message, and after confirming the recipient and the message, you can just press send. Now you have successfully sent a text message while only touching your phone twice. Pretty cool, right? It gets cooler!
Say you feel like listening to some Pearl Jam. Press the microphone button and say “Listen to Pearl Jam”. Now a box will pop up asking you which application you’d like to use. I typically use Pandora, so I selected it as my default music program for Google voice actions. Now when I say “Listen to Pearl Jam”, Pandora opens and starts the Pearl Jam channel immediately. You can use this to play music stored on your device as well. It also supports last.fm, Slacker, and Rdio in addition to Pandora.
I did run into one problem with voice actions. When I first started using it, it failed to recognize names in my contacts list. After doing a little research, I found that others were having the same problem, and that it was easily remedied by backing up your contacts to gmail, completely erasing your contacts on your phone, then resyncing the contacts from gmail. After doing that, the contact recognition worked like a champ.
Using voice commands on your phone in public still feels very awkward to me, and as a result, I mainly use this feature in the privacy of my own home or car. However, I do feel that this technology holds a firm place in the future of smartphones. Someday we will all be walking around talking to our phones like it is second nature.
Voice search for Android is available for all Android phones, but the newest version, with the actions I talked about and more, is only available for Android 2.2 (Froyo). You can find out more about Google’s voice actions, including a list of all the actions you can utilize at Voice Actions.
Jesse is editor for iPhone repair techs at iFixyouri.
Oh how iPhone users are just loving multi-tasking. Even though it was possible in iOS 3.1.3 with Cydia hack “Backgrounder”, the new native environment for multi-tasking is so clean. But now there is an even fancier method for multi tasking, and it is called Multifl0w.
Multifl0w is an Expose-like backgrounding interface for iOS 4 and iPhone 4 (also works with iPhone 3GS and iPad). Multifl0w allows for a graphical display of open applications down to the last screenshot of that app loaded onscreen. This brings the true Expose feel one might be accustomed to on a Mac straight to their iDevice on the go.
You can find Multifl0w in the Cydia store for $4.99. Let us know what you think!
[video via adampollack]
Anyone who knows mobile in Canada knows that Rogers and Nokia have always had a good relationship, despite lack-luster sales.
Today, Rogers quietly launched another hand-set to the non-smartphone market with the Nokia 6700; a device packed with all the features you could ever need without the extra data cost. It comes loaded with Nokia’s S60 software and features the following specs:
- 2.2-inch display (resolution of 240 x 320)
- 2.5mm headset jack
- Holds up to 16GB with a microSD card
- Stereo FM radio
- 5 megapixel Carl Zeiss camera, auto-focus, LED flash and a front camera for video calling
Nokia devices have always been known for their reliability and sturdy build, so all this at a very reasonable $79.99 on a 3-year contract, or $229.99 off-contract isn a solid price point for the new gadget.
Check out more on the Nokia 6700 via Rogers.com
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There is one thing to say about the brand-new AT&T-powered BlackBerry Torch 9800: it starts up a hell of a lot faster than its immediate predecessor, the 9700. That’s kind of the theme of the entire operation: the Torch is a BlackBerry device, but faster, deeper, and similarly infuriating as any before it.
I have owned three BlackBerry devices in my time before using a Torch: a Pearl 8100, a Bold 9000 and its successor, the Bold 9700. Each device has its design advantages and its flaws, but the crown achievement of the the Torch is its “fullness.” Compared to the Bold 9700, which feels solid, but light, the Torch is a tank. It’s not that it is a heavy device, but it is certainly well-rounded.
My unit, like most BlackBerry devices I’ve used, has some seriously build quality issues. While the slider mechanism for the screen is solid (actually, it’s outstanding, and extremely satisfying) the screen wiggles like a little pig when the keyboard is exposed and you are interacting with the touchscreen. It pivots slightly back and forth. But that is probably not the rule, but the exception. Except that I’ve had about five “exceptions” in my time as a BlackBerry owner. Something’s gotta give, RIM.
The device layout is going to be familiar to anyone with a Bold 9700. The rubberized keys are the same as on the 9700, the lock and mute buttons on top are clicky, and the camera button is two-step perfection.
The interesting dichotomy of the device comes in the interaction between your fingers, the touchscreen and the trackpad. Most people upgrading to this device will be doing so from a non-touchscreen BlackBerry. That means, for Curve and Bold users, the trackpad will be second nature while using your fingers less so. When I first powered up the device, I began using it as I would my Bold, but after a few seconds, you realize that the build included on the Torch is not optimized for the trackpad. In fact, some functions work far better with your fingers. Scrolling works as it should, but at times using the trackpad to go from one text-input box to another does not work. You have to use your fingers instead to move up or down.
The tentative world in which this BlackBerry exists, then, is untenable. The device can be used as you would a non-touchscreen one, and most of the experiences with the new BlackBerry 6 are going to be the same as they would on the old OS. In fact, you can tell that BB6 is based largely off OS5 code, since the BlackBerry button menus are identical. The inclusion of long-press on the screen to select context options are an added bonus, but offer nothing essential to the experience. I still prefer using that annoying button to the left of the trackpad to do most of my context selections.
The app menu has been tweaked for gesture usage, too, and apps are no longer downloaded to a Downloads folder. Instead they populate the “All” portion of the home screen, and you can choose between Favorites, Frequent, Downloads, Media and All, with a flick of the finger. It works extremely well, in fact, and is one of the nicer inclusions to the OS overhaul.
The home screen is going to seem very familiar to anyone who has used OS5, but the fact that you can click on the 3G symbol to quickly get into Manage Connections, or start typing on the keyboard to activate Universal Search, makes using a BlackBerry one of the easiest ways to ascertain information on a smartphone.
Tapping right below the clock will pull down a list of your latest emails, SMS messages, calendar entries and missed phone calls, another easy way to achieve information overload. A lot of the interface is quite busy, and since you often don’t know whether to use your finger on the trackpad or on the screen itself, I find it difficult to decide how to obtain the information I need.
The keyboard is nice and clicky, and feels a lot like the Bold 9700 but, because it is more recessed, a little less reliable when touch typing. The phone is weighted quite well when the slider is open, but that doesn’t mean that it is entirely perfect. I often found it difficult to pull off perfect sentences the way I do on the Bold, but that will likely come in time. The quality is second to none, and right up to RIM’s standards of excellence.
The on-screen keyboard is another matter, and not one I would really recommend getting too chummy with. While there is on-screen error correction, it is unreliable, and, especially on portrait, the keys are spaced very close together. In fact, I would never recommend using the virtual keyboard in portrait mode, for obvious reasons. The landscape virtual keyboard is much more spacious, and as a result, more usable, but still, because the backspace key is right above the enter key, most of the time, when trying to touch-type, you end up pressing enter when you meant otherwise.
The aggravation doesn’t stop there. BlackBerry 6 messes with your brain. You don’t know whether you want to use touch or the trackpad, and as a result you end up using both. It’s awkward and clunky and there are still too many menus.
The phone runs relatively well on the 126.96.36.199 build I am running. That isn’t to say it’s a smooth experience, because it isn’t, but if you used the BlackBerry Bold 9000 when it first came out, you understand that as the OS matured, the performance increased dramatically — so much so that it was like running a completely new phone. The problem with the device is that it runs the same processor as the Bold 9000 and the 9700. That is to say, the hardware has not kept up with the industry. There are Snapdragons and Hummingbirds, and this feels like an Emu. Hardy, but flightless.
Upping the ante on the camera, however, was a nice touch, and boy does the Torch take pretty pictures! The 5MP camera is much more responsive than previous builds, and the flash is bright and capable. With the Torch you can likely leave your point and shoot at home. That is, unless, you decide you want to take some video, as the Torch only shoots at an inexcusably pitiful 640×480 resolution.
Media and video has been given an overhaul, and the apps work as expected. Sound is clear and video playback smooth. Too bad there is no xVid or DivX playback out of the box, but with the proliferation of BlackBerry apps in the near future, I have no doubt the choice for media players will grow. Update: there is native DivX playback out of the box, so maybe it was my files that weren’t working. Keep it to a low enough bitrate and they should work fine. Nice one, RIM!
There is a bit of slowdown on the device on occasion; the clock will appear at the most random places. I have had an app or two crash on me, but overall the device feels smooth. Startup is down to around 45 seconds, which is an enormous improvement over its predecessor.
The browser is another area that the performance could be improved, but that will come with time. As mentioned before, the very fact that all web pages are accessible now is a huge boon to the device.
Call quality is excellent, too. Using the device as a phone is relatively painless, especially now that BIS has integrated Google Contacts syncing. Next we need calendar syncing, which should come in a future BIS upgrade, and you will never need Desktop Manager again. Thank goodness.
BlackBerry App World 2.0 debuted with the Torch, and it is a nice improvement over 1.0. Apps can be priced at $.99 or $1.99 now, and there are more ways to incorporate existing APIs into the function of the OS. RIM has been heavily promoting its Super App contest, hoping to get developers excited to build for the platform, but so far, I haven’t seen any need-to-have apps coming from the App Store that weren’t already there with OS5. Give it time, and BlackBerry 6 will become more app-centric.
There are a lot of good things to say about the Torch, and of Blackberry 6. It is smoother, faster, more touch-friendly. The keyboard is a dream and the device is well designed. Everything you could already do with a BlackBerry is still here, just refined, improved, and sped up. The browser is essential, and absolutely welcome. You can use it like an old BlackBerry, with the trackpad, or like a Storm, using only the touch screen. The new hold-to-activate menus are attractive, and while not necessary, a natural evolution. Gesture support and universal search are brilliant.
The screen, at 480x360px, is sharp and easy to read in the sun. But it’s still low-res compared to the iPhone 4, and is disappointing when reading text on the new WebKit browser. Going from a Samsung Galaxy S to the Torch is like taking off your reading glasses: everything is a blur. But I like the screen, and the touch response is excellent. Smooth and very little lag.
The manufacturing process is still quite weak, or maybe I just got a dud, but the build quality is relatively weak. The on-screen keyboards are a waste of time, especially in portrait, but who cares, right? The trackpad/touchscreen paradigm is still extremely confusing, and you’re more likely to use a unique mashup of both than stick to one or the other. As a result, accessing the menus become a frustrating exercise where you don’t know what’s going to pop up. There is significant slowdown at times, due to the relatively slow processor. There is 512MB RAM, but something’s gotta give. The browser can be painfully slow loading or scrolling through heavy web pages, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it won’t get better in a future OS release.
This is an evolutionary product, and indeed the best BlackBerry ever created. That doesn’t mean it’s enough to keep RIM from falling flat, nor does it mean that they can rest on their laurels and not try to significantly improve the user experience in future OS iterations. BlackBerry 6 is a worthy upgrade, and if Bold 9650 or 9700 owners ever get a chance to install it, do not hesitate. I too believe that because they were fashioning the new OS for non-touch legacy devices, they had to make some design decisions to appease both. As a result, touch does not seem entirely smooth or natural on the Torch.
The battery life has also been an issue: compared to the Bold 9700, for which I could eek out two days without charging the phone, I am getting around 5-6 hours of life use on the Torch. It’s still better than any Android phone I’ve used, but that isn’t an endorsement. I have heard, however, that because I am using the AT&T firmware on a Rogers SIM card, there may be reasons why my battery life is lower than it should be, and once the Rogers Torch is officially released, the firmware should be optimized for Rogers’ 3G network, and use less battery constantly searching for towers. I also hope it fixes the intermittent loss of BIS service I’ve experienced over the past four days.
I hope this isn’t the last I write on the device. I really enjoy using it, but not enough to want to run out and buy one. It’s a great phone, and if you’ve never owned a BlackBerry, this is likely going to be the one that tips you over the edge. It’s not an iPhone, though, and you have to understand what you’re getting with it. BBM is the same as it always was; for those who rely on your manic fingers to communicate with friends and family, there is no better device on the market than a BlackBerry.
If you want apps, stay far, far away.
Personally, I’ve never gotten a 507 error without forcing it, but I know people who have ended up with 507 errors or bricked BlackBerrys and had no idea why. One of RIM’s weak points has been educating carriers and subscribers on the 507 error. Pretty much anyone who calls their carriers tech support when their device is bricked, is quick to believe them when they are told their device is ‘broken’ and needs to be replaced. It’s a shame that countless people have waited a day or two to receive a replacement device when they could have easily brought their bricked berry back to life.
At some point, Desktop Manager has been updated to connect and reload software on a bricked devices which makes the process more straight forward for the average user. In the past, Apploader had to be used which some people still prefer, but was limited to PC’s. RIM has finally provided simple detailed instructions on how to recover a bricked device with both PC and Mac on their official website. The average BlackBerry user isn’t going to look on RIM’s site for this so I hope tech support agents at all carriers will be trained to walk users through this process. See the guides listed below>>