Dan’s Tech Reviews - An archive

This site exists as an archive of my review work from 2005-2009.  I may write again but it’s just here to exist for posterity now.  If you’re reading this, follow me on twitter at @Dan_H.

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Apple Magic Mouse Review - October 31st, 2009
Apple’s never impressed me with a mouse. I join legions of others who feel like they’d never actually looked at someone using a mouse while they designed one. Most people I know ended up using a Logitech mouse with their Mac, because Logitech actually tried to design mice that people want to hold on to.
Today I went to the Apple Store near my home and tried the Magic Mouse ($69 MSRP). While first testing it out (for about 10 minutes), I felt like it was hard to figure out where to rest my hand, hard to scroll, and generally felt like the thing just wasn’t designed for humans to use it. Part of the problem I believe was Apple had a giant metal anti-theft button glued on to the middle of the mouse (where you would find the scroll wheel on any standard mouse), and it was making it really difficult to find a good place to do the gestures and scrolling function on the Magic Mouse.
Later on I tried it again at a MicroCenter (the midwest’s version of Fry’s Electronics), without the annoying anti-theft device latched on to it, and it actually felt very nice to use, tracked better, and scrolled better than the one I tried at the Apple Store. Chalk it up to the other one being a demo unit with an annoying cord on it, but it actually made me want to buy it. Back I went to the Apple Store and bought one.
The Mighty Mouse is Bluetooth (cordless) mouse, and as such, it uses two AA batteries. I am unsure how long they actually last, as Apple does not provide any battery life statistics, but it does say it has fairly aggressive battery-saving features. My current laptop mouse (A Logitech V270 Bluetooth) lasts several months on two AA batteries, time will tell how long the Magic Mouse lasts. It does have an on-off switch, similar to other “notebook” mice (although it is not billed specifically as a notebook mouse), which is a nice feature.
It has a “Multi-touch” surface, similar to the newer trackpads on the MacBook and MacBook Pro laptops, but more tailored to a mouse surface. It supports a regular old click (which does actually click down, something I was worried about with how the iPhone’s lack of tactile feedback rubs some people the wrong way) and can do “right-click” with the special Magic Mouse software loaded on the Mac (as of right now there is no special Windows driver).
Gesturing on the mouse surface gets you vertical and horizontal scrolling, screen zooming, and a two-finger horizontal swipe advances photos in iPhoto, for instance. It is an ambidextrous mouse as well, since it does not “lean” any particular direction and the button clicks can be reversed for lefties.
There’s not much else I can say about the Magic Mouse other than it will probably be another polarizing entry into Apple’s long history of mouse design. My suggestion is to try one for yourself in person before buying, but I was delightfully surprised that it actually felt like a mouse I’d use for a while.
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Apple Magic Mouse Review - October 31st, 2009

Apple’s never impressed me with a mouse. I join legions of others who feel like they’d never actually looked at someone using a mouse while they designed one. Most people I know ended up using a Logitech mouse with their Mac, because Logitech actually tried to design mice that people want to hold on to.

Today I went to the Apple Store near my home and tried the Magic Mouse ($69 MSRP). While first testing it out (for about 10 minutes), I felt like it was hard to figure out where to rest my hand, hard to scroll, and generally felt like the thing just wasn’t designed for humans to use it. Part of the problem I believe was Apple had a giant metal anti-theft button glued on to the middle of the mouse (where you would find the scroll wheel on any standard mouse), and it was making it really difficult to find a good place to do the gestures and scrolling function on the Magic Mouse.

Later on I tried it again at a MicroCenter (the midwest’s version of Fry’s Electronics), without the annoying anti-theft device latched on to it, and it actually felt very nice to use, tracked better, and scrolled better than the one I tried at the Apple Store. Chalk it up to the other one being a demo unit with an annoying cord on it, but it actually made me want to buy it. Back I went to the Apple Store and bought one.

The Mighty Mouse is Bluetooth (cordless) mouse, and as such, it uses two AA batteries. I am unsure how long they actually last, as Apple does not provide any battery life statistics, but it does say it has fairly aggressive battery-saving features. My current laptop mouse (A Logitech V270 Bluetooth) lasts several months on two AA batteries, time will tell how long the Magic Mouse lasts. It does have an on-off switch, similar to other “notebook” mice (although it is not billed specifically as a notebook mouse), which is a nice feature.

It has a “Multi-touch” surface, similar to the newer trackpads on the MacBook and MacBook Pro laptops, but more tailored to a mouse surface. It supports a regular old click (which does actually click down, something I was worried about with how the iPhone’s lack of tactile feedback rubs some people the wrong way) and can do “right-click” with the special Magic Mouse software loaded on the Mac (as of right now there is no special Windows driver).

Gesturing on the mouse surface gets you vertical and horizontal scrolling, screen zooming, and a two-finger horizontal swipe advances photos in iPhoto, for instance. It is an ambidextrous mouse as well, since it does not “lean” any particular direction and the button clicks can be reversed for lefties.

There’s not much else I can say about the Magic Mouse other than it will probably be another polarizing entry into Apple’s long history of mouse design. My suggestion is to try one for yourself in person before buying, but I was delightfully surprised that it actually felt like a mouse I’d use for a while.

—-

Support independent gadget review blogs like mine and buy through amazon.com.

Flip MinoHD Review - December 8th, 2008
There’s a new market emerging for cheap, YouTube-quality digital video recorders that are easy to use. That’s where this product comes in.
The Flip MinoHD is the successor to the Flip Mino, a standard-definition digital camcorder that recorded to it’s own internal memory and had a no-frills interface, making it easy for novice computer users (and novice directors) to take videos. The Flip MinoHD pretty much stays in that same vein but has some nice bonuses for the price it retails at ($229 retail, $207 on amazon.com at the time of this writing).
First Impressions
The MinoHD’s retail box immediately reminded me of an Apple product box; very sleek, refined packaging. The unit I received was gloss black. I was impressed by how little space the device takes up. It’s extremely small and light, and other than the springy USB trigger, has no moving parts.
Specs
The MinoHD differs from the earlier Mino models in that now it records video files in 1280x720 (referred to as 720p in the HD world). It uses the popular H.264 MPEG 4 codec to store video, which allows you to store approximately 60 minutes of video in it’s 4GB of fixed internal memory.
The device has a fixed lens that offers “digital zoom” (digital cropping, not an actual zoom). I’ve used hand-held recorders with optical zoom in the past such as the Sanyo Xacti HD series of digital camcorders. I really liked having that feature on those models, but this recorder is much cheaper than the best Sanyo Xacti model I’ve used, which is the Sanyo Xacti HD1010.
The device weighs only 3.3 oz, easily fits in a shirt or jacket pocket, and has a USB interface that flips out from within the device to make it easy to plug into any USB port and start importing your video files.
The rear of the MinoHD has a few touch-sensitive buttons for deletion and playback of videos, a physical (non-touch sensitive) record button, and a very small, non-widescreen 1.5” LCD. I was kind of disappointed in the LCD not being at least widescreen format, since the videos it takes are widescreen format themselves. Maybe this will be in the next incarnation.
Video Quality / Recording Video
The MinoHD’s video quality is variable depending on the level of light and how stable the camera is. I’ve found the MinoHD works best in good light (outdoors) and standing still while panning around and recording. Video taken this way looks pretty darn good. However, there’s no image stabilization to be found in this camera, which makes it really jarring to watch some clips that are recorded if you’re moving while filming.
The low-light performance was adequate, but washed out a lot of the picture and was noisy. I wouldn’t expect amazing low-light performance from a video camera this cheap, but it still is a bit annoying. The camera does have a standard tripod mount on the bottom for more stable recording.
The audio recording is also nothing amazing, but it works. The camera captures a lot of high frequencies, and the sound seems like it lacks depth. I’m not really hung up on this feature myself, though. There is not a separate place to plug in a microphone on the device, so you’re stuck with this mic if you decide to use this camera.
As stated earlier, it records video to 1280x720 H.264 MP4 files, which can be played in Apple’s QuickTime Player, VLC, or the bundled application with the camera. They are immediately compatible with YouTube or Vimeo without any software tweaking.
I tried taking a few short videos (under a minute) and uploading them to YouTube straight from the camera itself. The process is simple, I uploaded straight from the device to YouTube like it was a USB thumb drive. You can also use Flip’s built in software on the device (which works on both PC and Mac) to edit or manage your video files before uploading.
General Impressions / Final Thoughts
If I had to give a recommended buyer for this camera, It’d be a person who doesn’t have a lot of money to spend on gadgets, and who wants to take high-definition video on the go in a very portable way. I can see why this unit’s predecessor sold so well.
The MinoHD has the same feature set as a disposable camera (cheap, fixed-focus lens, very little control) in an easy to use form factor. It’s affordable, especially when compared to other digital video recorders in the market today.
For the price, I’d say to definitely give it a try if something like this sounds useful to you. You can even customize it with any graphic/color combination you wish when it’s ordered through the Flip website, which I found kind of neat.
If I had to give my own point of view on how I use the MinoHD, I find it to be a bit limiting - and for a few hundred dollars more (the price of say, a Sanyo Xacti HD1010, you can get much more flexibility, better overall video quality, and some level of image stabilization. But I’m probably not the target market for this product. Or am I?

Flip MinoHD Review - December 8th, 2008

There’s a new market emerging for cheap, YouTube-quality digital video recorders that are easy to use. That’s where this product comes in.

The Flip MinoHD is the successor to the Flip Mino, a standard-definition digital camcorder that recorded to it’s own internal memory and had a no-frills interface, making it easy for novice computer users (and novice directors) to take videos. The Flip MinoHD pretty much stays in that same vein but has some nice bonuses for the price it retails at ($229 retail, $207 on amazon.com at the time of this writing).

First Impressions

The MinoHD’s retail box immediately reminded me of an Apple product box; very sleek, refined packaging. The unit I received was gloss black. I was impressed by how little space the device takes up. It’s extremely small and light, and other than the springy USB trigger, has no moving parts.

Specs

The MinoHD differs from the earlier Mino models in that now it records video files in 1280x720 (referred to as 720p in the HD world). It uses the popular H.264 MPEG 4 codec to store video, which allows you to store approximately 60 minutes of video in it’s 4GB of fixed internal memory.

The device has a fixed lens that offers “digital zoom” (digital cropping, not an actual zoom). I’ve used hand-held recorders with optical zoom in the past such as the Sanyo Xacti HD series of digital camcorders. I really liked having that feature on those models, but this recorder is much cheaper than the best Sanyo Xacti model I’ve used, which is the Sanyo Xacti HD1010.

The device weighs only 3.3 oz, easily fits in a shirt or jacket pocket, and has a USB interface that flips out from within the device to make it easy to plug into any USB port and start importing your video files.

The rear of the MinoHD has a few touch-sensitive buttons for deletion and playback of videos, a physical (non-touch sensitive) record button, and a very small, non-widescreen 1.5” LCD. I was kind of disappointed in the LCD not being at least widescreen format, since the videos it takes are widescreen format themselves. Maybe this will be in the next incarnation.

Video Quality / Recording Video

The MinoHD’s video quality is variable depending on the level of light and how stable the camera is. I’ve found the MinoHD works best in good light (outdoors) and standing still while panning around and recording. Video taken this way looks pretty darn good. However, there’s no image stabilization to be found in this camera, which makes it really jarring to watch some clips that are recorded if you’re moving while filming.

The low-light performance was adequate, but washed out a lot of the picture and was noisy. I wouldn’t expect amazing low-light performance from a video camera this cheap, but it still is a bit annoying. The camera does have a standard tripod mount on the bottom for more stable recording.

The audio recording is also nothing amazing, but it works. The camera captures a lot of high frequencies, and the sound seems like it lacks depth. I’m not really hung up on this feature myself, though. There is not a separate place to plug in a microphone on the device, so you’re stuck with this mic if you decide to use this camera.

As stated earlier, it records video to 1280x720 H.264 MP4 files, which can be played in Apple’s QuickTime Player, VLC, or the bundled application with the camera. They are immediately compatible with YouTube or Vimeo without any software tweaking.

I tried taking a few short videos (under a minute) and uploading them to YouTube straight from the camera itself. The process is simple, I uploaded straight from the device to YouTube like it was a USB thumb drive. You can also use Flip’s built in software on the device (which works on both PC and Mac) to edit or manage your video files before uploading.

General Impressions / Final Thoughts

If I had to give a recommended buyer for this camera, It’d be a person who doesn’t have a lot of money to spend on gadgets, and who wants to take high-definition video on the go in a very portable way. I can see why this unit’s predecessor sold so well.

The MinoHD has the same feature set as a disposable camera (cheap, fixed-focus lens, very little control) in an easy to use form factor. It’s affordable, especially when compared to other digital video recorders in the market today.

For the price, I’d say to definitely give it a try if something like this sounds useful to you. You can even customize it with any graphic/color combination you wish when it’s ordered through the Flip website, which I found kind of neat.

If I had to give my own point of view on how I use the MinoHD, I find it to be a bit limiting - and for a few hundred dollars more (the price of say, a Sanyo Xacti HD1010, you can get much more flexibility, better overall video quality, and some level of image stabilization. But I’m probably not the target market for this product. Or am I?

Verizon BlackBerry Storm 9530 Review - December 4th, 2008
I knew this was going to happen. Research In Motion (the makers of the BlackBerry series of smart phones) finally made a product that didn’t live up to my expectations.
I’ll tell you more in detail below, but first a bit of history: At my 9-to-5 job it is one of my roles to manage a BlackBerry server and 50-odd BlackBerry phones, so I’ve used every model of BlackBerry available in the US for the most part in some capacity or another.
Currently, I have a Verizon BlackBerry Curve at the office. My current home cell phone is an iPhone 3G. I asked our corporate Verizon representative to send me a demo of the Storm, because I’ve had a lot of BlackBerry users at work asking me when we were getting them (due to the media saturation of the commercials and the general coolness factor of how the phone looks). So I felt it was my duty to get one in for review so I could make an educated decision about recommending this thing to upper management and other people who may be interested in it.
A lot has been said about this phone in reviews by other technology journalists on the web (David Pogue of the New York Times for instance, and Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal), some positive, some negative. I used the phone for a solid 4 days of testing and one software upgrade (to try to fix an issue, more later on that) before deciding to write this.
I’ll go over some key items about the phone in a few sections, the stuff that’s important to me as a consumer. Things that have been in BlackBerry OS forever (such as push email, calendar sync, etc) are really not that noteworthy to me, and I won’t talk much about those. I can, and will compare this phone to the iPhone 3G though, simply because RIM was definitely aiming right at Apple when designing this, I have no doubts about that.
Phone Design
The BlackBerry Storm is a slick looking phone — which elicits the expected reaction from nearly everyone you show it to. It is very heavy feeling, about the same weight as the iPhone 3G. I would say it feels solid, but then you press down on the touchscreen itself (since it is one large button), and it wobbles and leaks light in from behind the screen. It is not the most comfortable phone to hold, but then again I don’t think the iPhone wins in that category, either. Both of them could benefit from the rubberized grip of the BlackBerry Curve (or other phones that actually seem like they’re designed to be held).
Underneath the black aluminum battery cover (yes, unlike the iPhone the battery can be removed - score 1 for RIM), there is a removable 8GB MicroSDHC card, which is a great thing for them to provide. The last generation of BlackBerry phones (The Curve and Pearl) include a MicroSD card slot, but they didn’t give you a card with the phones. 8GB is more than enough for a decent amount of media and pictures. It also included a Verizon SIM card (which I think is a placeholder, since Verizon doesn’t sell GSM phone service). I’ve been told that this can be unlocked just as easily as other BlackBerry phones so you can roam the world with it easily (this is another thing the iPhone 3G requires hacking to do.)
RIM abandoned the standard Mini USB port they’ve used for several years for a new “Micro” USB port for charging and connecting the phone to the computer. This means all your old BlackBerry chargers and any wired peripherals won’t work with the new phone. This is kind of a letdown for me as a BlackBerry administrator, simply because we have dozens of perfectly good spare BlackBerry car and home chargers that are now useless if we move to the Storm.
The Screen
The screen is one of the better things this phone has to offer. It has a 3.25”, 480x360 pixel screen, with very easy to read text and a very bright backlight, with a nice glossy sheen to it. I really have no gripes whatsoever with the actual screen in this phone by itself, if I don’t take into account the way or manner information is displayed on it or it’s “click” function. It is better than the iPhone’s screen in both clarity, size, and general readability.
The Accelerometer
This is the first BlackBerry with an accelerometer in the device. Again, another thing I believe RIM decided to copy from the iPhone (even though the iPhone is not the first device to use something like this, it’s the first one to do it right in my opinion.) I found the sensor had major lag issues (even after a software update to the 4.7.0.75 leaked firmware!) with moving from portrait to landscape. Sometimes it took up to 4 seconds for the phone to change back from landscape to portrait with nothing else going on. This is simply unacceptable. It would inadvertently switch screen orientation at random times when it wasn’t necessary to do so, and it confused all the users I gave the phone to. The final straw with the accelerometer is for some reason RIM believes that if you have your phone locked, it should still change orientation from portrait to landscape. I honestly can’t figure out why I’d want my phone sitting there in my pocket switching orientation when it’s locked and not being used. I hope they fix this in a software update.
The Keyboard
The screen being covered in its literal sense, I’ll discuss the biggest part of what makes the Storm the Storm: The keyboard and its role in the UI. RIM decided in the BlackBerry Storm’s development to eschew the traditional BlackBerry keyboard for two different “touch” keyboards. These both are familiar to older users of BlackBerry phones: The “SureType” style in the 7100 series and Pearl (2 letters per key), active while in Portrait orientation, or the QWERTY style (full keyboard), like in the Curve, 8700, and 8800 series, which is active in landscape orientation.
However, the old keyboard layouts work completely differently in the Storm — because they are now part of the touch screen and are activated by “clicking” in the entire screen while your finger is over the corresponding button. The screen acts as one giant button that you press in with every letter press, icon click, or menu selection.
I’ve found typing for any period of time becomes tiresome after only a minute or so, and it seems like way too much work even to just send off a small text message. The auto-correction software (SureType) seems like it isn’t as effective as it was in the BlackBerry Curve, and sometimes the phone simply types letters that I didn’t press, even though it looks like I’m pressing the right one due to the blue “halo” around my finger as I hover over the letters.
The keyboard isn’t completely missing. There are still 4 physical buttons on the front of the phone, which include the typical SEND and END keys, the “Menu” key, and the “Back” key, both of those last two are holdovers from previous BlackBerry incarnations. I’m kind of surprised they couldn’t find some way to integrate these into the touch screen.
If this review was trying to convince me to buy this phone, this keyboard would be the deal breaker. I can’t stand it. People who might peck one or two characters every 5 seconds might not care about how bad this is, but for me, it was infuriating to use it. I can type on my BlackBerry Curve at approximately 30 words a minute. The iPhone 3G? maybe 20-25. This was much, much less than that. I’m extremely disappointed; one of the huge advantages of BlackBerry was their highly efficient keyboard and the “Pearl” (or scroll wheel in the older generations), and that speed and fluidity is completely obliterated with a keyboard UI that just doesn’t work. I had several non-techie users at my office try to type on it who were BlackBerry users, and they either typed incredibly slow or were just confused by the new keyboard.
The Touch Screen, And It’s Role In The User Interface
In general, the touch screen functions are a good effort for a phone if you ignore one thing: the existence of iPhone. Apple clearly invested much, much more time into usability and interface design here than RIM did. A few things about the iPhone that you don’t notice you miss until you use the Storm are the ability to quickly “flick” through lists of items, multi-touch capabilities like pinch gesturing, double-tapping to zoom smoothly into/out of web pages, and smooth scrolling through websites. All of these things are not something the Storm does well (or at all in some cases), and I’m sure I’m missing a lot more here. Maybe its related to patent issues, but the touch screen in the Storm just seems dumberthan the iPhone touch screen. That’s about all I can say about it.
Research In Motion has not paid enough attention to the menu UI in regards to making it easy for people to “click” on menu items, either. They are too small for even my (not that large) fingers to consistently press in properly. Making calls from the old UI was simple: Start dialing from the home screen. Now you have to press the SEND button to get to the call area, or click on the call log, which wasn’t immediately apparent to any veteran BlackBerry user I showed it to.
The Apps
As of right now, there’s really little that is new or interesting about the applications bundled with the Storm. VZ Navigator is included, which is a turn-by-turn GPS application that has a lot of good Points of Interest and other neat features. Unfortunately Verizon charges $10/mo for this feature, which is really not worth paying a monthly fee for. There’s not a good turn-by-turn GPS on the iPhone right now, but if it cost $10/mo extra, I wouldn’t buy it anyway.
Refinements to BlackBerry OS 4.7 to make it look very pretty are great, but those were done in OS 4.6 already for the BlackBerry Bold (a far superior phone for people who might actually want to type out an email!). BlackBerry even created some sort of half-baked version of Apple’s App Store, but it simply forwards you to web pages to download applications. Not even close, RIM.
The development happening for iPhone right now is astounding. I’d be surprised if the Storm gets this level of interest, considering there’s already a huge glut of years worth of BlackBerry applications that still work on the Storm. There are a lot of great BlackBerry apps (A shining example is BeeJiveIM, which is also on iPhone), so it’s not all bad but it really doesn’t compare to some of the great stuff on the iPhone right now.
On a positive note, applications on the Storm (or any other BlackBerry) can run in the background, which is one thing about the iPhone that is a frustrating design choice apple made that they play off as a feature to save battery life.
The Web Browser
One of the biggest changes in the 4.7 BlackBerry OS for the Storm is the web browser. The web browser definitely benefits from the much higher screen resolution on this phone, and actually renders real pages in a very readable way. Verizon’s network is extremely fast (but not WiFi fast). The browser simply isn’t up to the level of Mobile Safari on the iPhone/iPod Touch, though. The gestures that are in the iPhone for web browsing are light-years ahead in terms of ease of use than in the BlackBerry browser. This version is a marked improvement over the BlackBerry OS 4.5 browser, though.
The Network
As the commercials state, Verizon’s data network is the fastest out there. Their voice coverage is arguably the best in the nation. The phone does not have Wi-Fi, though, which comes in handy when you’re somewhere that doesn’t have Verizon’s extremely fast Rev. A EVDO. This is the first BlackBerry on Verizon that supports tethering for internet on Rev. A EVDO, the prior ones only supported Rev. 0 (the slower EVDO speed).
Generally speaking, sites and downloads came through very quickly in my tests in my metro area. The phone supports both CDMA (Verizon) network, and GSM networks with a SIM (worldwide with an unlock which is something very easy to do on the BlackBerry and not something you can do on the iPhone without hacks.) This is one of the major advantages of having this phone on Verizon, their network is great. You pay for it, though.
Camera
It’s not all bad news. The camera is 3.2 megapixels, with an auto-focus feature. At this point this is the best camera I have ever used in a cell phone. As a disclaimer I must mention I haven’t used the Nokia N95, which has a 5 megapixel camera in it, or the new N97. The auto-focus feature is main reason I like this camera. Being able to focus on close items (e.g. a piece of paper) and still have the text on the page be sharp is a huge bonus; this is something you simply can’t do with the iPhone 3G’s camera. The camera’s lag time for the shutter and taking photos is brutally slow, especially in low light. The iPhone 3G’s camera has similar issues, though.
Battery Life
The battery life on the Storm seemed to be pretty decent; I don’t have any scientific estimates on how long it lasts under light or heavy use. One of my gripes with the iPhone 3G is you can easily drain the battery to nearly nothing within 3 hours if you use it heavily. I didn’t have anything worth using heavily on my Storm to really drain it, so I’m not a totally fair judge of this, but it seemed that the Storm’s battery life is quite decent, and probably better than the iPhone 3G for general use.
Additionally, having a removable battery is a very nice feature… albeit one I don’t really care much about, since I generally have some type of charger near me, whether it’s in a car, my desk at work, or an outlet at home.
General Impressions / In Closing
So, you’re wondering after reading this, do I recommend the BlackBerry Storm to anyone?
My short answer: No.
My longer answer: The phone isn’t refined enough. It lags doing simple things like orienting the screen and scrolling through the icons (even after their first firmware update), and needs more attention paid to the UI.
For consumers on Verizon who won’t leave (either due to loyalty or the other carriers not having good signal in your area), or corporate customers on Verizon: I’d say to either get a BlackBerry Pearl or Curve, or better yet, wait for Verizon to get the BlackBerry Bold (probably sometime in 2009). You don’t want this touch screen. Skip it. I haven’t personally reviewed the Bold yet, but it seems like it’s inherited all the best UI features from the Storm and a great input interface to use them with.
For consumers who want a cool phone right now and don’t care about what carrier it’s on: Get the iPhone 3G. Right now, overall, it is truly the best smart phone for the largest swath of consumers out there. Its flaws are overcome by an amazing development scene and a very well done user interface.
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Additional media: A short video I made documenting the lag in both the accelerometer interface and scrolling through the main screen’s icons.

Verizon BlackBerry Storm 9530 Review - December 4th, 2008

I knew this was going to happen. Research In Motion (the makers of the BlackBerry series of smart phones) finally made a product that didn’t live up to my expectations.

I’ll tell you more in detail below, but first a bit of history: At my 9-to-5 job it is one of my roles to manage a BlackBerry server and 50-odd BlackBerry phones, so I’ve used every model of BlackBerry available in the US for the most part in some capacity or another.

Currently, I have a Verizon BlackBerry Curve at the office. My current home cell phone is an iPhone 3G. I asked our corporate Verizon representative to send me a demo of the Storm, because I’ve had a lot of BlackBerry users at work asking me when we were getting them (due to the media saturation of the commercials and the general coolness factor of how the phone looks). So I felt it was my duty to get one in for review so I could make an educated decision about recommending this thing to upper management and other people who may be interested in it.

A lot has been said about this phone in reviews by other technology journalists on the web (David Pogue of the New York Times for instance, and Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal), some positive, some negative. I used the phone for a solid 4 days of testing and one software upgrade (to try to fix an issue, more later on that) before deciding to write this.

I’ll go over some key items about the phone in a few sections, the stuff that’s important to me as a consumer. Things that have been in BlackBerry OS forever (such as push email, calendar sync, etc) are really not that noteworthy to me, and I won’t talk much about those. I can, and will compare this phone to the iPhone 3G though, simply because RIM was definitely aiming right at Apple when designing this, I have no doubts about that.

Phone Design

The BlackBerry Storm is a slick looking phone — which elicits the expected reaction from nearly everyone you show it to. It is very heavy feeling, about the same weight as the iPhone 3G. I would say it feels solid, but then you press down on the touchscreen itself (since it is one large button), and it wobbles and leaks light in from behind the screen. It is not the most comfortable phone to hold, but then again I don’t think the iPhone wins in that category, either. Both of them could benefit from the rubberized grip of the BlackBerry Curve (or other phones that actually seem like they’re designed to be held).

Underneath the black aluminum battery cover (yes, unlike the iPhone the battery can be removed - score 1 for RIM), there is a removable 8GB MicroSDHC card, which is a great thing for them to provide. The last generation of BlackBerry phones (The Curve and Pearl) include a MicroSD card slot, but they didn’t give you a card with the phones. 8GB is more than enough for a decent amount of media and pictures. It also included a Verizon SIM card (which I think is a placeholder, since Verizon doesn’t sell GSM phone service). I’ve been told that this can be unlocked just as easily as other BlackBerry phones so you can roam the world with it easily (this is another thing the iPhone 3G requires hacking to do.)

RIM abandoned the standard Mini USB port they’ve used for several years for a new “Micro” USB port for charging and connecting the phone to the computer. This means all your old BlackBerry chargers and any wired peripherals won’t work with the new phone. This is kind of a letdown for me as a BlackBerry administrator, simply because we have dozens of perfectly good spare BlackBerry car and home chargers that are now useless if we move to the Storm.

The Screen

The screen is one of the better things this phone has to offer. It has a 3.25”, 480x360 pixel screen, with very easy to read text and a very bright backlight, with a nice glossy sheen to it. I really have no gripes whatsoever with the actual screen in this phone by itself, if I don’t take into account the way or manner information is displayed on it or it’s “click” function. It is better than the iPhone’s screen in both clarity, size, and general readability.

The Accelerometer

This is the first BlackBerry with an accelerometer in the device. Again, another thing I believe RIM decided to copy from the iPhone (even though the iPhone is not the first device to use something like this, it’s the first one to do it right in my opinion.) I found the sensor had major lag issues (even after a software update to the 4.7.0.75 leaked firmware!) with moving from portrait to landscape. Sometimes it took up to 4 seconds for the phone to change back from landscape to portrait with nothing else going on. This is simply unacceptable. It would inadvertently switch screen orientation at random times when it wasn’t necessary to do so, and it confused all the users I gave the phone to. The final straw with the accelerometer is for some reason RIM believes that if you have your phone locked, it should still change orientation from portrait to landscape. I honestly can’t figure out why I’d want my phone sitting there in my pocket switching orientation when it’s locked and not being used. I hope they fix this in a software update.

The Keyboard

The screen being covered in its literal sense, I’ll discuss the biggest part of what makes the Storm the Storm: The keyboard and its role in the UI. RIM decided in the BlackBerry Storm’s development to eschew the traditional BlackBerry keyboard for two different “touch” keyboards. These both are familiar to older users of BlackBerry phones: The “SureType” style in the 7100 series and Pearl (2 letters per key), active while in Portrait orientation, or the QWERTY style (full keyboard), like in the Curve, 8700, and 8800 series, which is active in landscape orientation.

However, the old keyboard layouts work completely differently in the Storm — because they are now part of the touch screen and are activated by “clicking” in the entire screen while your finger is over the corresponding button. The screen acts as one giant button that you press in with every letter press, icon click, or menu selection.

I’ve found typing for any period of time becomes tiresome after only a minute or so, and it seems like way too much work even to just send off a small text message. The auto-correction software (SureType) seems like it isn’t as effective as it was in the BlackBerry Curve, and sometimes the phone simply types letters that I didn’t press, even though it looks like I’m pressing the right one due to the blue “halo” around my finger as I hover over the letters.

The keyboard isn’t completely missing. There are still 4 physical buttons on the front of the phone, which include the typical SEND and END keys, the “Menu” key, and the “Back” key, both of those last two are holdovers from previous BlackBerry incarnations. I’m kind of surprised they couldn’t find some way to integrate these into the touch screen.

If this review was trying to convince me to buy this phone, this keyboard would be the deal breaker. I can’t stand it. People who might peck one or two characters every 5 seconds might not care about how bad this is, but for me, it was infuriating to use it. I can type on my BlackBerry Curve at approximately 30 words a minute. The iPhone 3G? maybe 20-25. This was much, much less than that. I’m extremely disappointed; one of the huge advantages of BlackBerry was their highly efficient keyboard and the “Pearl” (or scroll wheel in the older generations), and that speed and fluidity is completely obliterated with a keyboard UI that just doesn’t work. I had several non-techie users at my office try to type on it who were BlackBerry users, and they either typed incredibly slow or were just confused by the new keyboard.

The Touch Screen, And It’s Role In The User Interface

In general, the touch screen functions are a good effort for a phone if you ignore one thing: the existence of iPhone. Apple clearly invested much, much more time into usability and interface design here than RIM did. A few things about the iPhone that you don’t notice you miss until you use the Storm are the ability to quickly “flick” through lists of items, multi-touch capabilities like pinch gesturing, double-tapping to zoom smoothly into/out of web pages, and smooth scrolling through websites. All of these things are not something the Storm does well (or at all in some cases), and I’m sure I’m missing a lot more here. Maybe its related to patent issues, but the touch screen in the Storm just seems dumberthan the iPhone touch screen. That’s about all I can say about it.

Research In Motion has not paid enough attention to the menu UI in regards to making it easy for people to “click” on menu items, either. They are too small for even my (not that large) fingers to consistently press in properly. Making calls from the old UI was simple: Start dialing from the home screen. Now you have to press the SEND button to get to the call area, or click on the call log, which wasn’t immediately apparent to any veteran BlackBerry user I showed it to.

The Apps

As of right now, there’s really little that is new or interesting about the applications bundled with the Storm. VZ Navigator is included, which is a turn-by-turn GPS application that has a lot of good Points of Interest and other neat features. Unfortunately Verizon charges $10/mo for this feature, which is really not worth paying a monthly fee for. There’s not a good turn-by-turn GPS on the iPhone right now, but if it cost $10/mo extra, I wouldn’t buy it anyway.

Refinements to BlackBerry OS 4.7 to make it look very pretty are great, but those were done in OS 4.6 already for the BlackBerry Bold (a far superior phone for people who might actually want to type out an email!). BlackBerry even created some sort of half-baked version of Apple’s App Store, but it simply forwards you to web pages to download applications. Not even close, RIM.

The development happening for iPhone right now is astounding. I’d be surprised if the Storm gets this level of interest, considering there’s already a huge glut of years worth of BlackBerry applications that still work on the Storm. There are a lot of great BlackBerry apps (A shining example is BeeJiveIM, which is also on iPhone), so it’s not all bad but it really doesn’t compare to some of the great stuff on the iPhone right now.

On a positive note, applications on the Storm (or any other BlackBerry) can run in the background, which is one thing about the iPhone that is a frustrating design choice apple made that they play off as a feature to save battery life.

The Web Browser

One of the biggest changes in the 4.7 BlackBerry OS for the Storm is the web browser. The web browser definitely benefits from the much higher screen resolution on this phone, and actually renders real pages in a very readable way. Verizon’s network is extremely fast (but not WiFi fast). The browser simply isn’t up to the level of Mobile Safari on the iPhone/iPod Touch, though. The gestures that are in the iPhone for web browsing are light-years ahead in terms of ease of use than in the BlackBerry browser. This version is a marked improvement over the BlackBerry OS 4.5 browser, though.

The Network

As the commercials state, Verizon’s data network is the fastest out there. Their voice coverage is arguably the best in the nation. The phone does not have Wi-Fi, though, which comes in handy when you’re somewhere that doesn’t have Verizon’s extremely fast Rev. A EVDO. This is the first BlackBerry on Verizon that supports tethering for internet on Rev. A EVDO, the prior ones only supported Rev. 0 (the slower EVDO speed).

Generally speaking, sites and downloads came through very quickly in my tests in my metro area. The phone supports both CDMA (Verizon) network, and GSM networks with a SIM (worldwide with an unlock which is something very easy to do on the BlackBerry and not something you can do on the iPhone without hacks.) This is one of the major advantages of having this phone on Verizon, their network is great. You pay for it, though.

Camera

It’s not all bad news. The camera is 3.2 megapixels, with an auto-focus feature. At this point this is the best camera I have ever used in a cell phone. As a disclaimer I must mention I haven’t used the Nokia N95, which has a 5 megapixel camera in it, or the new N97. The auto-focus feature is main reason I like this camera. Being able to focus on close items (e.g. a piece of paper) and still have the text on the page be sharp is a huge bonus; this is something you simply can’t do with the iPhone 3G’s camera. The camera’s lag time for the shutter and taking photos is brutally slow, especially in low light. The iPhone 3G’s camera has similar issues, though.

Battery Life

The battery life on the Storm seemed to be pretty decent; I don’t have any scientific estimates on how long it lasts under light or heavy use. One of my gripes with the iPhone 3G is you can easily drain the battery to nearly nothing within 3 hours if you use it heavily. I didn’t have anything worth using heavily on my Storm to really drain it, so I’m not a totally fair judge of this, but it seemed that the Storm’s battery life is quite decent, and probably better than the iPhone 3G for general use.

Additionally, having a removable battery is a very nice feature… albeit one I don’t really care much about, since I generally have some type of charger near me, whether it’s in a car, my desk at work, or an outlet at home.

General Impressions / In Closing

So, you’re wondering after reading this, do I recommend the BlackBerry Storm to anyone?

My short answer: No.

My longer answer: The phone isn’t refined enough. It lags doing simple things like orienting the screen and scrolling through the icons (even after their first firmware update), and needs more attention paid to the UI.

For consumers on Verizon who won’t leave (either due to loyalty or the other carriers not having good signal in your area), or corporate customers on Verizon: I’d say to either get a BlackBerry Pearl or Curve, or better yet, wait for Verizon to get the BlackBerry Bold (probably sometime in 2009). You don’t want this touch screen. Skip it. I haven’t personally reviewed the Bold yet, but it seems like it’s inherited all the best UI features from the Storm and a great input interface to use them with.

For consumers who want a cool phone right now and don’t care about what carrier it’s on: Get the iPhone 3G. Right now, overall, it is truly the best smart phone for the largest swath of consumers out there. Its flaws are overcome by an amazing development scene and a very well done user interface.

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Additional media: A short video I made documenting the lag in both the accelerometer interface and scrolling through the main screen’s icons.

Logitech G7 Laser Cordless Mouse Review - July 26th, 2008
This review of the Logitech G7 Laser Cordless was born out of necessity… a need for a new mouse due to me going insane from the last one. My trusty Logitech MX1000, after about a million left-clicks, started having issues with the left mouse button randomly dropping out while I was in the middle of a drag operation in Windows, and was losing me files and email in the process into who-knows-which folder. It was time for something new before I ended up throwing it against a wall. It had a good run and will receive a proper burial.
Since Logitech no longer makes the MX1000, I had to find a newer mouse, my only real requirements were that it was wireless, laser (not optical) based, not insanely expensive, and that it had a rechargeable battery. I ended my search with the Logitech G7 Laser Cordless Mouse (amazon.com, ~$79 retail).
As far as design is concerned, the Logitech G7 is less like the MX1000 and more like the G5 and MX900 series, which are more form-fitting for larger hands. I have long fingers, so it seems to work pretty well for me. It’s black with a sort of pseudo-carbon fiber checkered pattern on the top. There is a battery door underneath with a quick-release eject button (more on why this is used a lot later).
The Logitech G7 has a few buttons more than a standard mouse, the scroll wheel, which can rock left or right to click things, and a side button that activates the “Back” button in most browsers (I’m unsure why there isn’t a “forward” button next to it like on most of these mice, but I’m sure a reason exists somewhere… Logitech?). Additionally, there are two buttons below the scroll wheel marked + and -. These adjust the DPI sensitivity of the mouse. The highest setting is 2000DPI, and a LED that doubles as a battery meter on the mouse shows you when you adjust it by denoting a little running man with a meter next to him. The other settings are 400DPI and 800DPI. I found leaving the mouse on the middle setting (800 DPI) was good enough for me. Not too fast, not too slow. I suppose if I were gaming a lot, I’d like the higher DPI setting.
The mouse also includes a very small USB RF receiver. The battery charger is separate, and takes up another USB port. You can plug the charger in via USB and plug the RF receiver into the on board USB port on the charger if you wish, also. Two batteries are included.
On to the battery itself: This mouse eats batteries for breakfast, lunch and a light snack before dinner. On average, my Logitech MX1000 lasted around a week on a single charge. I’m lucky if I get two days worth of average computer use out of the battery in the Logitech G7 Laser. Normally I’d be pretty ticked about this, but they include two batteries with the device just for this reason, I think. When the battery dies, you can swap the dead battery into the charger and be back up and running in a few seconds. It takes about 3 hours to charge properly, there’s also a “burst charge mode” on the charger if you want quicker charging for immediate use, which I’ve never tried.
Overall, this is a pretty darn good mouse that I’d recommend for anyone looking for a better-than-average mouse with great tracking, especially for a wireless model. It works on many different types of surfaces due to the laser sensor, even glossier stuff that optical mice can’t track on. Don’t hesitate to buy one if you’re looking for a mouse in this price range.

Logitech G7 Laser Cordless Mouse Review - July 26th, 2008

This review of the Logitech G7 Laser Cordless was born out of necessity… a need for a new mouse due to me going insane from the last one. My trusty Logitech MX1000, after about a million left-clicks, started having issues with the left mouse button randomly dropping out while I was in the middle of a drag operation in Windows, and was losing me files and email in the process into who-knows-which folder. It was time for something new before I ended up throwing it against a wall. It had a good run and will receive a proper burial.

Since Logitech no longer makes the MX1000, I had to find a newer mouse, my only real requirements were that it was wireless, laser (not optical) based, not insanely expensive, and that it had a rechargeable battery. I ended my search with the Logitech G7 Laser Cordless Mouse (amazon.com, ~$79 retail).

As far as design is concerned, the Logitech G7 is less like the MX1000 and more like the G5 and MX900 series, which are more form-fitting for larger hands. I have long fingers, so it seems to work pretty well for me. It’s black with a sort of pseudo-carbon fiber checkered pattern on the top. There is a battery door underneath with a quick-release eject button (more on why this is used a lot later).

The Logitech G7 has a few buttons more than a standard mouse, the scroll wheel, which can rock left or right to click things, and a side button that activates the “Back” button in most browsers (I’m unsure why there isn’t a “forward” button next to it like on most of these mice, but I’m sure a reason exists somewhere… Logitech?). Additionally, there are two buttons below the scroll wheel marked + and -. These adjust the DPI sensitivity of the mouse. The highest setting is 2000DPI, and a LED that doubles as a battery meter on the mouse shows you when you adjust it by denoting a little running man with a meter next to him. The other settings are 400DPI and 800DPI. I found leaving the mouse on the middle setting (800 DPI) was good enough for me. Not too fast, not too slow. I suppose if I were gaming a lot, I’d like the higher DPI setting.

The mouse also includes a very small USB RF receiver. The battery charger is separate, and takes up another USB port. You can plug the charger in via USB and plug the RF receiver into the on board USB port on the charger if you wish, also. Two batteries are included.

On to the battery itself: This mouse eats batteries for breakfast, lunch and a light snack before dinner. On average, my Logitech MX1000 lasted around a week on a single charge. I’m lucky if I get two days worth of average computer use out of the battery in the Logitech G7 Laser. Normally I’d be pretty ticked about this, but they include two batteries with the device just for this reason, I think. When the battery dies, you can swap the dead battery into the charger and be back up and running in a few seconds. It takes about 3 hours to charge properly, there’s also a “burst charge mode” on the charger if you want quicker charging for immediate use, which I’ve never tried.

Overall, this is a pretty darn good mouse that I’d recommend for anyone looking for a better-than-average mouse with great tracking, especially for a wireless model. It works on many different types of surfaces due to the laser sensor, even glossier stuff that optical mice can’t track on. Don’t hesitate to buy one if you’re looking for a mouse in this price range.

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC7 QuietPoint Active Noise-Cancelling Headphones Review - January 16th, 2008
I had a problem. I ride the bus to work, and sometimes you just get tired of all the noise, sometimes from the other bus riders, sometimes from the engine, or maybe I just want to focus on something else for the commute, like a good song or two.
My search for a decent pair of these type of headphones started there. A set of headphones that don’t cost an insane amount of cash lead me to these, but before I pulled the trigger on the purchase, a friend of mine beat me to the noise-cancelling trend and got the Sennheiser PXC 250 noise-cancelling phones first, which I tried on a few times. They were good and the noise-cancelling feature worked well, my main gripe with those was that the battery is in a separate, bulky case down the headphone cord, they required two AAA batteries, and they don’t block as much noise as I wanted (i’ll explain this later).
I found the Audio-Technica QuietPoint ATH-ANC7 noise-cancelling headphones on amazon.com. I read lots of reviews that customers wrote about them and decided that the value was well worth it, and if I didn’t like them I could always return them. My main points about what makes a good headphone in this category are noise-cancelling ability, comfort, sound quality, and price. I’ll discuss each.
Noise-cancelling
This is the feature that’s been a buzz-word for a few years now in the headphone world. It was (purportedly) originally designed for use in airplanes. Essentially, the way it works is there are microphones on the outside of the headphone that listen for outside noise, then send the inverse of that sound wave to your ears, which cancels it out. This ends up sounding like a very light “hiss” to your ears as you turn the noise-cancelling feature on.
According to the website for the product, this feature works best at removing ambient sound that falls into the 500hz or below range, things like engine noise, fans, and vent noise. They do not filter things like human voices or loud, high pitched spikes of noise (such as a police siren or a PA announcement on a plane). The cups do block a mild amount of this type of audio on their own, though, simply because they cover your ears.
The noise-cancelling feature of the headphones requires a single AAA battery, which is hidden inside the left headphone cup, and also seems to give an extra “punch” to your music’s sound quality and volume (if you are listening to music, you can use these with or without music on and the headphone cord is detachable).
Comfort
Any set of headphones, noise-cancelling or otherwise, need to be comfortable. This point is really up to interpretation on the headphone wearer. Some people hate over-the-ear style headphones, some hate earbuds. I prefer either the earbud-style headphones (see my review of the V-Moda Vibe earbuds, for instance, not the iPod earbuds, which are terrible.), or over-the-ear style (like the headphones being reviewed or my set of Grado SR-60 open-air headphones). The ATH-ANC7 are very snug around my ears, I wear glasses so it can be a bit too snug at some points and can make my glasses shift a bit, but it’s a small sacrifice for having a decent amount of ambient noise blocked from the get-go, which only improves after the noise-cancelling function is turned on. They seem about as comfortable as this style of headphones gets, I can’t say I’ve worn better because I haven’t.
Sound Quality
I consider myself to be someone who isn’t exactly an “audiophile” per se, since a real audiophile prefers reference (read: flat) audio reproduction, with no sweetened highs or lows. I like my music punchy, so good (or “enhanced”) highs and lows are important to me, so a lot of audiophile headphones are disappointing. These headphones do a great job with music and movies. I wouldn’t say it’s the most bass-heavy set of headphones I’ve ever used, but they satisfy my desire for good quality audio. Background noise being filtered out helps you hear a lot more details of your music (like very soft passages), where with other types of headphones you would need to crank the volume even louder, destroying your hearing.
Price
These headphones carry a retail price of $219.95, but Amazon’s price is significantly less, and at the time of this writing they cost approximately $124, which is less than a third of the cost of the Bose version of these headphones. This is an amazing bargain for headphones of this quality. This is the ATH-ANC7’s best selling point over other noise-cancelling headphones in this style.
Summary/Conclusions
Overall, if you’re in the market for headphones with noise-cancelling, I won’t hesitate whatsoever in highly recommending the Audio-Technica QuietPoint ATH-ANC7 Noise-cancelling headphones. They are worth every penny of their price. As someone who primarily uses them on the noisy bus ride to and from work, I can’t stress how much sanity this can gain you some days. I’m writing this review on a plane with the headphones on, with music from my iPod cranked through them, and I can barely hear anything but a very slight rumble of the plane engines. This does wonders for concentration. Those stupid Bose commercials aren’t lying, it really is sublime, and paying one-third the price of the Bose version is even more sublime.
Review update, 2/2/2008: my recommendation of these headphones was featured on Leo Laporte's podcast “The Daily Giz Wiz”. Leo's a good friend of mine and I really appreciate the shout out! You can find the podcast these were mentioned on TWiT.tv.

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC7 QuietPoint Active Noise-Cancelling Headphones Review - January 16th, 2008

I had a problem. I ride the bus to work, and sometimes you just get tired of all the noise, sometimes from the other bus riders, sometimes from the engine, or maybe I just want to focus on something else for the commute, like a good song or two.

My search for a decent pair of these type of headphones started there. A set of headphones that don’t cost an insane amount of cash lead me to these, but before I pulled the trigger on the purchase, a friend of mine beat me to the noise-cancelling trend and got the Sennheiser PXC 250 noise-cancelling phones first, which I tried on a few times. They were good and the noise-cancelling feature worked well, my main gripe with those was that the battery is in a separate, bulky case down the headphone cord, they required two AAA batteries, and they don’t block as much noise as I wanted (i’ll explain this later).

I found the Audio-Technica QuietPoint ATH-ANC7 noise-cancelling headphones on amazon.com. I read lots of reviews that customers wrote about them and decided that the value was well worth it, and if I didn’t like them I could always return them. My main points about what makes a good headphone in this category are noise-cancelling ability, comfort, sound quality, and price. I’ll discuss each.

Noise-cancelling

This is the feature that’s been a buzz-word for a few years now in the headphone world. It was (purportedly) originally designed for use in airplanes. Essentially, the way it works is there are microphones on the outside of the headphone that listen for outside noise, then send the inverse of that sound wave to your ears, which cancels it out. This ends up sounding like a very light “hiss” to your ears as you turn the noise-cancelling feature on.

According to the website for the product, this feature works best at removing ambient sound that falls into the 500hz or below range, things like engine noise, fans, and vent noise. They do not filter things like human voices or loud, high pitched spikes of noise (such as a police siren or a PA announcement on a plane). The cups do block a mild amount of this type of audio on their own, though, simply because they cover your ears.

The noise-cancelling feature of the headphones requires a single AAA battery, which is hidden inside the left headphone cup, and also seems to give an extra “punch” to your music’s sound quality and volume (if you are listening to music, you can use these with or without music on and the headphone cord is detachable).

Comfort

Any set of headphones, noise-cancelling or otherwise, need to be comfortable. This point is really up to interpretation on the headphone wearer. Some people hate over-the-ear style headphones, some hate earbuds. I prefer either the earbud-style headphones (see my review of the V-Moda Vibe earbuds, for instance, not the iPod earbuds, which are terrible.), or over-the-ear style (like the headphones being reviewed or my set of Grado SR-60 open-air headphones). The ATH-ANC7 are very snug around my ears, I wear glasses so it can be a bit too snug at some points and can make my glasses shift a bit, but it’s a small sacrifice for having a decent amount of ambient noise blocked from the get-go, which only improves after the noise-cancelling function is turned on. They seem about as comfortable as this style of headphones gets, I can’t say I’ve worn better because I haven’t.

Sound Quality

I consider myself to be someone who isn’t exactly an “audiophile” per se, since a real audiophile prefers reference (read: flat) audio reproduction, with no sweetened highs or lows. I like my music punchy, so good (or “enhanced”) highs and lows are important to me, so a lot of audiophile headphones are disappointing. These headphones do a great job with music and movies. I wouldn’t say it’s the most bass-heavy set of headphones I’ve ever used, but they satisfy my desire for good quality audio. Background noise being filtered out helps you hear a lot more details of your music (like very soft passages), where with other types of headphones you would need to crank the volume even louder, destroying your hearing.

Price

These headphones carry a retail price of $219.95, but Amazon’s price is significantly less, and at the time of this writing they cost approximately $124, which is less than a third of the cost of the Bose version of these headphones. This is an amazing bargain for headphones of this quality. This is the ATH-ANC7’s best selling point over other noise-cancelling headphones in this style.

Summary/Conclusions

Overall, if you’re in the market for headphones with noise-cancelling, I won’t hesitate whatsoever in highly recommending the Audio-Technica QuietPoint ATH-ANC7 Noise-cancelling headphones. They are worth every penny of their price. As someone who primarily uses them on the noisy bus ride to and from work, I can’t stress how much sanity this can gain you some days. I’m writing this review on a plane with the headphones on, with music from my iPod cranked through them, and I can barely hear anything but a very slight rumble of the plane engines. This does wonders for concentration. Those stupid Bose commercials aren’t lying, it really is sublime, and paying one-third the price of the Bose version is even more sublime.

Review update, 2/2/2008: my recommendation of these headphones was featured on Leo Laporte's podcast “The Daily Giz Wiz”. Leo's a good friend of mine and I really appreciate the shout out! You can find the podcast these were mentioned on TWiT.tv.

Aliph Jawbone Bluetooth Headset Review - January 1st, 2008
So. I’m not the first tech reviewer on the block to do this, but I finally procured myself one of the oft-talked about Aliph Jawbone Bluetooth headsets. The Jawbone is a MSRP $129 Bluetooth headset which has been much-heralded for it’s ability to “shield” your calls from noise.
My first impression of this device was near the release of the iPhone, back in July 2007. A friend of mine who I was traveling around San Francisco with had one of them, and in the car I was driving we had a bit of a challenge. He wanted to test how good the Jawbone’s noise-shielding technology really was. We were driving about 60-70 MPH on the 101 freeway over the hills North of the Golden Gate Bridge. I rolled all the windows down in my rental car, we turned the radio up, and he placed a phone call. He then asked the person on the other end whether he could understand him properly and if it was noisy. The person on the other end said they could only hear his voice, and the distant sound of the radio. I was impressed to say the least, but didn’t get the chance to actually use one myself until now.
In The Box
The Jawbone is a well-built, almost art-like device, the packaging borrows a lot from the book of Apple. Clean box art, clear acrylic plastic, and something that almost looks like it belongs in a museum (the headset) is contained in the box. It also includes 4 different ear loops and 4 different ear bud attachments to try to secure a better fit. It includes two charging cables, one that connects to a computer via USB and another that plugs into an AC outlet, which requires the same USB cord. The device in the box was gloss black, one of three colors.
I found the box almost impossible to get back together properly after opening it, similar to when you buy an iPod. It was an interesting puzzle to try to figure out the proper way to remove the headset from the box without feeling like you were about to break something.
Connection
Being someone who hates reading directions, I tried to figure out how to get the Jawbone into “paring mode” (for non-techies, this is the mode where the headset is open to accept Bluetooth wireless connections from your phone or computer). Since the device itself doesn’t have traditional buttons (they are actually part of the design itself), it works by certain points in the Jawbone’s frame being buttons. I eventually found which of the two buttons I needed to press to get it into pairing mode (and for how long) after that it was quite easy for my BlackBerry Curve to find it.
Using The Headset
Most current generation phones use Bluetooth headsets the same way, and this was no exception, I could initiate a call to the last number dialed by pressing the button on the outside of the Jawbone. I could also pick up or hang up on someone using this same button. The noise shield technology is active on the device automatically but you can disable it if you wish by pressing in a button on the top of the unit.
The Jawbone seemed to have a better signal and less connection issues than two other Bluetooth headsets I’ve tried, a low-end Motorola HS820, and a Jabra BT250. The Jabra especially had signal drop even when the phone was in my pocket or a few feet away. The Jawbone didn’t have this issue.
Comfort/Fit
Even though the Jawbone includes 4 different ear loops and 4 different earbuds, I couldn’t find any combination of these that made the device comfortable for me to wear for more than a few minutes. I wear glasses, and the Jawbone’s earloop kept catching on my glasses and just generally didn’t fit snugly. The Jabra BT250 was definitely more comfortable in that regard.
Sound Quality
Naturally when using a Bluetooth headset it’s easy to make a comparison to the cell phone’s speaker when referencing quality. I was using mine with the T-Mobile BlackBerry Curve 8320, as mentioned earlier. I found the sound quality through the Jawbone to be very cheap sounding versus the built-in speaker on the phone. This isn’t really anything surprising to me, as I’ve found most Bluetooth headsets, especially ones that don’t fit your ear snugly, to have poor sound (not that a cell phone has great sound quality in general, but there has to be some kind of baseline here).
"Noise Shield" Technology
This is the feature that sets the Jawbone apart from the other Bluetooth headsets I’ve used. In my extremely unscientific testing, I tried calling people while watching noisy TV and listening to noisy music and when asked how it sounded they said they couldn’t hear anything but me, which is great. I think this feature makes up for a lot of other things I mentioned in the review regarding sound quality. I would like to see more scientific data on it, but as far as I’m concerned it works very well.
Battery Life
I didn’t use the Jawbone enough to kill the batteries, but it lasts several days without charging on standby. It’s very convenient to be able to charge it off a computer’s USB port as well.
Summary and Conclusions
How do I feel about this device after using it? Is it worth $129? It depends. If you get an opportunity to try one of these before buying it, you should. My gripe isn’t necessarily with the Jawbone itself, but I’ve found out after using these that I don’t think I’m the target market for them. I find it annoying to have to remember to bring it with me, and to charge it every few days. I have enough trouble remembering to bring my keys and cell phone with me places. I’d rather just use my cell phone’s built-in speaker. Not to mention you (and I) look like a fool walking around in public with one of these.
There are certain scenarios which I like it, and if it’s around I use it. I do laundry on Sundays and use it while ironing my shirts for my 9 to 5 job. It’s nice for that because you can work without having something up to your ear. If you have it in your car, it would also be useful so you could concentrate on driving, but I always forget to bring it with me.
If I was asked to make a recommendation for people who use Bluetooth headsets a lot, I’d have no hesitation to recommend this device, I think it’s the best Bluetooth headset I’ve used overall. It’s a bit expensive, and the fit is a bit iffy on my ear, but it does seem like the creators of the unit spent a lot of time developing it. It oozes quality and attention to detail in design, which is more than I can say about all the crappy Motorola Bluetooth headsets I’ve seen over the years.
Pros:
Noise shield technology is unique and works well!
Very classy looking design.
Easy to charge with two charging options included.
Cons:
Pretty expensive for a Bluetooth headset.
May not fit people’s ears with glasses without a lot of effort.
Aliph’s Jawbone website: www.jawbone.com

Aliph Jawbone Bluetooth Headset Review - January 1st, 2008

So. I’m not the first tech reviewer on the block to do this, but I finally procured myself one of the oft-talked about Aliph Jawbone Bluetooth headsets. The Jawbone is a MSRP $129 Bluetooth headset which has been much-heralded for it’s ability to “shield” your calls from noise.

My first impression of this device was near the release of the iPhone, back in July 2007. A friend of mine who I was traveling around San Francisco with had one of them, and in the car I was driving we had a bit of a challenge. He wanted to test how good the Jawbone’s noise-shielding technology really was. We were driving about 60-70 MPH on the 101 freeway over the hills North of the Golden Gate Bridge. I rolled all the windows down in my rental car, we turned the radio up, and he placed a phone call. He then asked the person on the other end whether he could understand him properly and if it was noisy. The person on the other end said they could only hear his voice, and the distant sound of the radio. I was impressed to say the least, but didn’t get the chance to actually use one myself until now.

In The Box

The Jawbone is a well-built, almost art-like device, the packaging borrows a lot from the book of Apple. Clean box art, clear acrylic plastic, and something that almost looks like it belongs in a museum (the headset) is contained in the box. It also includes 4 different ear loops and 4 different ear bud attachments to try to secure a better fit. It includes two charging cables, one that connects to a computer via USB and another that plugs into an AC outlet, which requires the same USB cord. The device in the box was gloss black, one of three colors.

I found the box almost impossible to get back together properly after opening it, similar to when you buy an iPod. It was an interesting puzzle to try to figure out the proper way to remove the headset from the box without feeling like you were about to break something.

Connection

Being someone who hates reading directions, I tried to figure out how to get the Jawbone into “paring mode” (for non-techies, this is the mode where the headset is open to accept Bluetooth wireless connections from your phone or computer). Since the device itself doesn’t have traditional buttons (they are actually part of the design itself), it works by certain points in the Jawbone’s frame being buttons. I eventually found which of the two buttons I needed to press to get it into pairing mode (and for how long) after that it was quite easy for my BlackBerry Curve to find it.

Using The Headset

Most current generation phones use Bluetooth headsets the same way, and this was no exception, I could initiate a call to the last number dialed by pressing the button on the outside of the Jawbone. I could also pick up or hang up on someone using this same button. The noise shield technology is active on the device automatically but you can disable it if you wish by pressing in a button on the top of the unit.

The Jawbone seemed to have a better signal and less connection issues than two other Bluetooth headsets I’ve tried, a low-end Motorola HS820, and a Jabra BT250. The Jabra especially had signal drop even when the phone was in my pocket or a few feet away. The Jawbone didn’t have this issue.

Comfort/Fit

Even though the Jawbone includes 4 different ear loops and 4 different earbuds, I couldn’t find any combination of these that made the device comfortable for me to wear for more than a few minutes. I wear glasses, and the Jawbone’s earloop kept catching on my glasses and just generally didn’t fit snugly. The Jabra BT250 was definitely more comfortable in that regard.

Sound Quality

Naturally when using a Bluetooth headset it’s easy to make a comparison to the cell phone’s speaker when referencing quality. I was using mine with the T-Mobile BlackBerry Curve 8320, as mentioned earlier. I found the sound quality through the Jawbone to be very cheap sounding versus the built-in speaker on the phone. This isn’t really anything surprising to me, as I’ve found most Bluetooth headsets, especially ones that don’t fit your ear snugly, to have poor sound (not that a cell phone has great sound quality in general, but there has to be some kind of baseline here).

"Noise Shield" Technology

This is the feature that sets the Jawbone apart from the other Bluetooth headsets I’ve used. In my extremely unscientific testing, I tried calling people while watching noisy TV and listening to noisy music and when asked how it sounded they said they couldn’t hear anything but me, which is great. I think this feature makes up for a lot of other things I mentioned in the review regarding sound quality. I would like to see more scientific data on it, but as far as I’m concerned it works very well.

Battery Life

I didn’t use the Jawbone enough to kill the batteries, but it lasts several days without charging on standby. It’s very convenient to be able to charge it off a computer’s USB port as well.

Summary and Conclusions

How do I feel about this device after using it? Is it worth $129? It depends. If you get an opportunity to try one of these before buying it, you should. My gripe isn’t necessarily with the Jawbone itself, but I’ve found out after using these that I don’t think I’m the target market for them. I find it annoying to have to remember to bring it with me, and to charge it every few days. I have enough trouble remembering to bring my keys and cell phone with me places. I’d rather just use my cell phone’s built-in speaker. Not to mention you (and I) look like a fool walking around in public with one of these.

There are certain scenarios which I like it, and if it’s around I use it. I do laundry on Sundays and use it while ironing my shirts for my 9 to 5 job. It’s nice for that because you can work without having something up to your ear. If you have it in your car, it would also be useful so you could concentrate on driving, but I always forget to bring it with me.

If I was asked to make a recommendation for people who use Bluetooth headsets a lot, I’d have no hesitation to recommend this device, I think it’s the best Bluetooth headset I’ve used overall. It’s a bit expensive, and the fit is a bit iffy on my ear, but it does seem like the creators of the unit spent a lot of time developing it. It oozes quality and attention to detail in design, which is more than I can say about all the crappy Motorola Bluetooth headsets I’ve seen over the years.

Pros:

  • Noise shield technology is unique and works well!
  • Very classy looking design.
  • Easy to charge with two charging options included.

Cons:

  • Pretty expensive for a Bluetooth headset.
  • May not fit people’s ears with glasses without a lot of effort.

Aliph’s Jawbone website: www.jawbone.com

Apple Keyboard (2007 Model) Review - August 18th, 2007
Introduction
Apple released new iMacs at a media event on August 7th, 2007. With them came a new keyboard. Since I didn’t have a grand laying around to buy a new iMac, and my PC suits me well, I decided to purchase this new, “revolutionary” keyboard that Apple included with the iMac for myself so I could use it on my PC.
The keyboard retails at $49 from any Apple store by itself. There is also a bluetooth wireless version available, which for some reason does not include a number pad. If I find a use for the wireless model I will be purchasing one of them as well to review. This review will focus on the wired model.
As I said a bit earlier, I purchased this keyboard not to use with my MacBook (or any other mac), but instead for use with my 3 year old Windows XP PC. Previously I had been using an Apple Pro keyboard, which is the keyboard that came with old G4 PowerMacs, and was quite happy with that keyboard. Apple does not officially state that this keyboard works with Windows XP/Vista, but I knew from previously using a Mac keyboard with my XP machine that they do work, with a bit of tweaking. This is done with a program called SharpKeys, which allows you to re-map any key on your Windows keyboard to do something else. An example: since the Mac keyboards don’t have a PrintScreen key, I used SharpKeys to map F15 to use as PrintScreen.
Review
The keyboard itself is a very svelte, all aluminum design with chiclet-style keys similar to the MacBook laptops. It takes up a very minimal amount of space on a desk, almost the smallest you could possibly get a full-size keyboard while still retaining the number pad keys. The angle the keyboard uses is a bit less than most keyboards that have legs to prop themselves up on, and it isn’t a height that you can configure. This is a minor nuisance for me, but it may be a big deal for people with carpal tunnel issues.
The feel of the keys is very nice. I’ve been using the MacBook’s keyboard for a while and I enjoy typing on it. The keys bottom out with much less work than a regular keyboard, which I find makes it a lot easier to type faster. The extended keyboard layout has special function keys for Mac features like screen brightness, volume, eject, play/pause, and Expose. It requires an update on Mac OS X to get them to work, as some of them have changed locations from the earlier Mac keyboards. None of them work properly on Windows, until you throw SharpKeys into the mix. I was able to program other keys for Volume Up/Down/Mute and Stop. You can get a lot crazier with this if you wish.
There are two USB 2.0 ports, one on each side of the keyboard, which are an upgrade from the USB 1.1 ports in the old Apple Pro Keyboard. However, they are still unpowered and won’t work with your iPod, which is something apple claims works (?). You can plug your mouse or other less-demanding (or self-powered) USB1/2 devices into these ports.
Closing Comments
Overall, I really like this keyboard, and at $49 retail, it’s well worth the price if you’re looking for something new to type on. As I’ve stated in my review, the Apple Keyboard (2007) works with Windows XP and Vista with some tweaking with SharpKeys.
I definitely recommend buying one, but try it in the store first.
Key Positives:
Sturdy aluminum casing
Thin, small profile
Volume/Media controls
Has two USB 2.0 ports
Key Negatives:
May put off people who like keys that are more tactile.
USB 2.0 ports are un-powered and located under the keyboard, so you have to lift up to plug anything in. - Keyboard height is non-configurable

Apple Keyboard (2007 Model) Review - August 18th, 2007

Introduction

Apple released new iMacs at a media event on August 7th, 2007. With them came a new keyboard. Since I didn’t have a grand laying around to buy a new iMac, and my PC suits me well, I decided to purchase this new, “revolutionary” keyboard that Apple included with the iMac for myself so I could use it on my PC.

The keyboard retails at $49 from any Apple store by itself. There is also a bluetooth wireless version available, which for some reason does not include a number pad. If I find a use for the wireless model I will be purchasing one of them as well to review. This review will focus on the wired model.

As I said a bit earlier, I purchased this keyboard not to use with my MacBook (or any other mac), but instead for use with my 3 year old Windows XP PC. Previously I had been using an Apple Pro keyboard, which is the keyboard that came with old G4 PowerMacs, and was quite happy with that keyboard. Apple does not officially state that this keyboard works with Windows XP/Vista, but I knew from previously using a Mac keyboard with my XP machine that they do work, with a bit of tweaking. This is done with a program called SharpKeys, which allows you to re-map any key on your Windows keyboard to do something else. An example: since the Mac keyboards don’t have a PrintScreen key, I used SharpKeys to map F15 to use as PrintScreen.

Review

The keyboard itself is a very svelte, all aluminum design with chiclet-style keys similar to the MacBook laptops. It takes up a very minimal amount of space on a desk, almost the smallest you could possibly get a full-size keyboard while still retaining the number pad keys. The angle the keyboard uses is a bit less than most keyboards that have legs to prop themselves up on, and it isn’t a height that you can configure. This is a minor nuisance for me, but it may be a big deal for people with carpal tunnel issues.

The feel of the keys is very nice. I’ve been using the MacBook’s keyboard for a while and I enjoy typing on it. The keys bottom out with much less work than a regular keyboard, which I find makes it a lot easier to type faster. The extended keyboard layout has special function keys for Mac features like screen brightness, volume, eject, play/pause, and Expose. It requires an update on Mac OS X to get them to work, as some of them have changed locations from the earlier Mac keyboards. None of them work properly on Windows, until you throw SharpKeys into the mix. I was able to program other keys for Volume Up/Down/Mute and Stop. You can get a lot crazier with this if you wish.

There are two USB 2.0 ports, one on each side of the keyboard, which are an upgrade from the USB 1.1 ports in the old Apple Pro Keyboard. However, they are still unpowered and won’t work with your iPod, which is something apple claims works (?). You can plug your mouse or other less-demanding (or self-powered) USB1/2 devices into these ports.

Closing Comments

Overall, I really like this keyboard, and at $49 retail, it’s well worth the price if you’re looking for something new to type on. As I’ve stated in my review, the Apple Keyboard (2007) works with Windows XP and Vista with some tweaking with SharpKeys.

I definitely recommend buying one, but try it in the store first.

Key Positives:

  • Sturdy aluminum casing
  • Thin, small profile
  • Volume/Media controls
  • Has two USB 2.0 ports

Key Negatives:

  • May put off people who like keys that are more tactile.
  • USB 2.0 ports are un-powered and located under the keyboard, so you have to lift up to plug anything in. - Keyboard height is non-configurable
BlackBerry 8300 Review - July 25th, 2007
Introduction
I was promising myself I would get around to writing this review and frankly, I should have had it done BEFORE I did the iPhone review, since I still have this phone and the iPhone was returned to the store. Despite the fact that traditionally the BlackBerry platform is thought of as a business phone with email, I think that these two phones should be directly compared. BlackBerry has been moving away from pure business with the release of the 8100 (Pearl) and now the 8300 (Curve) phones, with multimedia functions and cameras. I will write this review on the merits of the BlackBerry and assume the reader (you) knows something about what the BlackBerry platform is and why you should care. I have a pretty comprehensive background with BlackBerry on a corporate level. I manage around 50 BlackBerry devices on a corporate network at my job and work a lot with the less interesting models of BlackBerry (7100t, 7105t, 7130e, 8700g for instance).
I’ll go over the basic functionality any blackberry possesses, and then build on that with information about what the Curve does that other models of BlackBerry don’t do, or don’t do as well. I will also throw in a few tips about very useful 3rd party software you should install that will make your BlackBerry truly useful as a consumer device, and perhaps maybe an iPhone killer… it was for me.
Review
The BlackBerry Curve was released at the beginning of June 2007. At the time of this writing it is an AT&T exclusive device, but rumors on the internet claim a T-Mobile version with Wi-Fi (the 8320) is on the horizon soon. I bought mine without a contract at an AT&T store for $449+tax. Since it is a GSM phone it can be unlocked for use on other GSM carriers that offer a BlackBerry data plan. I am currently a T-Mobile subscriber, so I then paid a service advertised on blackberryforums.com $20 to send me a SIM unlock code and off I went on T-Mobile’s network. I had some difficulty with the web browser not immediately showing up, but found out this is an issue with T-Mobile not having this phone yet, not so much with the phone itself. There were workarounds to get it back which I also found on that forum (it’s a great resource!).
BlackBerry OS / Software
The BlackBerry OS 4.2’s key functions include best-in-class (in my opinion) push email, an address book, a web browser, a calendar, a task list, and lots of configurable user options. A few things the BlackBerry Curve has in it’s OS that most older corporate BlackBerry phones don’t have are the ability to do MP3/WAV ringtones, a media player, and a 2 megapixel camera. The BlackBerry 8100 (Pearl) has similar functionality, only it has the less-useful abbreviated keyboard other BlackBerry models in the 71xx series have, and has a 1.3 megapixel camera.
The preferences/options area of the built-in apps in the phone allow you to get extremely granular with almost every option. Especially complicated (if you want it to be) is the area of the OS related to sound Profiles. You can change so many options here with how you wish the phone to behave when it rings, receives a text message, or many other alert noises, similar to the “Sounds” control panel in Windows. When you install new applications, they add new options here to configure.
Themes are a great way to change the entire look of your device. The Curve includes 3 themes, the AT&T default theme is very nice, but there are several other great ones, including hacked ones from other BlackBerry models on BlackBerryForums.
Most internet functions on the BlackBerry are controlled by BlackBerry Internet Service, otherwise known as BIS. As a consumer, you pay for BIS as part of your BlackBerry data plan. On T-Mobile, BlackBerry unlimited data costs $19.99 a month on top of your included plan minutes. It costs $29.99 on most other phone providers but may be bundled with additional items such as text/picture messaging, which is not included on T-Mobile without paying extra.
Reviewing this device as a consumer, I’ll focus on performance with BIS, not the BES (BlackBerry Enterprise Server) corporate product, which syncs a lot more of what you do with the device than BIS can.
BlackBerry Hardware
The BlackBerry Curve 8300 comes in at a very svelte 4.2 x 2.4 x 0.6 inches. It is shorter in height than an iPhone, and the smallest and thinnest BlackBerry with a full keyboard. It looks similar to the BlackBerry Pearl, only it is silver in color and has the wider, QWERTY “Curved” keyboard (hence the name, Curve). The sides of the device are rubberized making it easy to hang on to, which is one thing the iPhone sorely needs. It shares the white, illuminated Trackball with the BlackBerry Pearl and 8800 series. Personally, I think this is the best designed BlackBerry, period.
The screen on the BlackBerry Curve is bright and very sharp. Text is clear and readable. It is not amazingly easy to see in direct sunlight but how many phones really are?
Battery life on the device is better than my Sidekick 3, but not amazing. With heavy use the battery needs a good charge every 2 days or so. On standby when the device is not constantly seeking new wireless towers, the device can go 4 days or more without a recharge. The battery is user-replaceable and cheap. Lots of eBay knockoff batteries available for $1+shipping for this, and it uses the same BlackBerry battery as all the current generation models.
Software - Email and Address Book
The email software within the BlackBerry is the same across the entire platform. It has some small enhancements in OS 4.2 (which is used by the Curve, Pearl and 88xx series) and adds the ability to email your camera photos and multimedia items to emails as attachments. The integration with the address book here is vital, as you only need to type a few characters of someone’s name to get their information to appear in the fields. You can have an email sent within a few seconds with a 1600x1200 (2 megapixel) photo attached.
This is one current limitation of the iPhone I spoke about in the earlier review, the ability to only send one photo per email and only at 640x480 pixel size, with no EXIF data attached to the image.
There is one feature here that the iPhone wins at over the Curve, which is the ability to render “rich text” email. Currently the BlackBerry only supports plain text email, so any email composed entirely of HTML code with no alternate text version is very difficult to read on the BlackBerry, but most emails come through fine, (and with lightning speed I must add). The email client supports viewing of several popular attachments.
The Curve can handle up to 10 personal email accounts at once. BIS also allows you to create a special BlackBerry email address just for your device. On T-mobile, it takes the form of (name)@tmo.blackberry.net.
Software - Web Browser
After testing the iPhone’s “full” web browser and coming back to my BlackBerry Curve, one one think a person would be a bit disappointed in the rendering of websites, but I really wasn’t. The BlackBerry makes most websites quite usable and many popular websites have specific mobile/blackberry versions that load in a snap on the BlackBerry browser. There is also a 3rd party version of Opera, Opera Mini, if you find you don’t enjoy BlackBerry’s browser. Web browsing speeds on EDGE data are much faster when you’re not loading a full website, but T-Mobile’s EDGE loads a lot of sites at a semi-respectable pace… certainly good enough for mobile browsing.
BlackBerry’s browser supports JavaScript and can browse to secure sites. I’ve used it to order pizza before while I was on the bus ride home from my job, ain’t the internet grand?
BlackBerry browser also supports a neat feature that will go refresh your bookmarks automatically, on a specific time interval, similar to how an RSS feed operates (there are 3rd party RSS readers also, and the Browser does support RSS). I use this feature to do a 1-hour refresh on Weather Underground for current Minneapolis, MN weather.
I think this is the best browser on a BlackBerry yet and the trackball is much better for navigating around large websites than the older scroll wheel.
Software - Phone
The phone features of the BlackBerry handhelds are at least a part of the reason why I find Windows Mobile based devices to be so crappy. I haven’t personally used Windows Mobile 6 yet, but Windows Mobile 5’s phone was really poorly integrated into the device. the iPhone’s dialing interface is definitely on par and even exceeds the BlackBerry in simplicity in some ways, but I still think this is a more friendly phone overall.
Dialing out of the phone book is simple… just start typing someone’s name on the full QWERTY keyboard and it will find them in the phone book, click on their name and it will give you options or just dial them. Simple as that. Works like a charm. Calls, missed calls, and voicemails all show up in a central history area.
One feature I am loving more and more on this particular BlackBerry is the Voice Dialing function. You press a key, it asks you to say a command. You say “Call [whoever]”, adding “Mobile” or “Work” if the have multiple numbers (it will ask you which if you don’t). This function requires no recording of people’s names and works almost every time if spoken clearly to. It can also be used to check things like signal level or battery status without actually looking at the phone itself, which would be very useful while driving. The phone supports Stereo Bluetooth if you desire that feature (I don’t have a use for it just yet).
Software - 3rd Party Applications
The BlackBerry’s biggest advantage, right here. This is the reason I went back to the BlackBerry Curve after buying an iPhone (more on that in my iPhone review).
Since BlackBerry has been popular for several years now, there is a very large development community dedicated to making applications for the device. The BlackBerry is written in a form of Java, which almost anyone can learn with enough effort, but there are some real great apps being developed and supported by programmers worldwide. I’ll list a few of my favorites below:
Google has developed 3 very good BlackBerry programs:
- Google Maps - hands down, the most useful and best program on the BlackBerry. Very similar to the iPhone version, it allows you to set favorite addresses, do turn-by-turn directions on the go, and supports Satellite view and Traffic. - Google Talk - a great, free version of Google Talk for BlackBerry. Has 90% of the features of the real PC client for Google Talk and is similar to the web version. Even allows you to store active conversations in the messages list with your email, keeping them all in one place. - GMail- a great interface directly to your google mail messages.
Other great applications I use (free, unless noted):
- JiveTalk - hands down the best combined (multiple services in one buddy list) instant messaging client on BlackBerry, period. It costs $19.95 but has a 30-day free trial (in which I guarantee you’ll get hooked). It supports AIM/Google Talk/Yahoo/MSN/ICQ and Jabber. The interface is similar to the Mac OS X IM app called Adium or functionally equivalent to something like Miranda IM or Trillian on PC. - JMirc - A very stripped down, basic IRC client. Not the best I’ve ever used, but it’s free, and I use IRC all the time. - Beyond411 - Beyond411 provides free and convenient mobile search on your Blackberry. It’s cheaper, more effective, and more complete than calling 411. - FreeRange - FreeRange is a free RSS reader for BlackBerry. - TwitterBerry - TwitterBerry is a mobile client for posting/reading updates to Twitter. - JaikuBerry - JaikuBerry is a low-bandwidth, very basic way of posting presence updates to Jaiku - Opera Mini- has web page zooming and other features not present in the BlackBerry Browser.
This is a very short list, but there are thousands of programs, games, and other software written for BlackBerry. Some free, some not. Lots of other programs exist to do many things that the base operating system applications can’t do, and these 3rd party applications do it very well in most cases. To me, this is the reason the BlackBerry is a better platform for people who want to get the most out of their mobile phone than the iPhone is.
Multimedia Features
This is a multimedia-focused BlackBerry, but it is not even close to the iPod features in iPhone. The media slot in the Curve supports MicroSD cards up to 4GB and supports SDHC. It is inconveniently located UNDER the battery, so if you want to change cards, you have to power off (hey, at least you can remove the battery!). I currently use a 2GB MicroSD card in the slot and store a few mp3 ringtones and lots of photos on it.
The Camera is a 2 megapixel sensor and has a cheap flash. It takes very nice photos for a cell phone camera — look at some of the skyscraper photos on my flickr page for examples.
The Curve supports mass storage mode, so you can connect the device and download/upload your photos/music/ringtones back and forth between the device and your computer. The device comes with a Roxio application for converting video and other media for use on the unit but I haven’t bothered using it as of yet, as it doesn’t have any use for me.
I’ve read in other reviews that if you are an AT&T customer you can stream XM radio to this device through the AT&T Media center. Since I am not on AT&T I was unable to test this feature.
Additionally, you can transfer and receive files to/from this device over Bluetooth to many other popular phones. I transferred a ringtone in WAV format from my Curve to a friend’s Motorola Q over bluetooth and it worked like a dream.
Keyboard
Elaborating a bit more on the Keyboard. The Curve has a keyboard no other BlackBerry has at the time of this writing. It is full QWERTY and curves to make it easier for thumb typing (and probably easier for them to fit more keys on the small frame of this phone). I find I can type about 20-30 words per minute with two thumbs, and without even looking at the keys, which is nearly impossible with the iPhone or the earlier, SureType-based BlackBerry products. It does take a few days to get used to how small the keys are, but I was typing fast in no time with occasional errors. I don’t have extensive experience with the 88xx series keyboard, but I find this one to be much better.
Trackball
The trackball is new to the current generation of BlackBerry, previous to the Pearl, BlackBerry devices had a scroll wheel and a “back” soft button on the right side of the device, making them pretty much a right-hand only device. It worked well, but not nearly as well as the trackball does overall. Scrolling through E-Mail messages and webpages can be just as fast (if not faster) than the old scroller. Holding in the ALT key on the device in some areas of software lets you scroll in a page by page view which is a lot faster. I find the trackball to be just sensitive enough for me, but it is configurable in the options.
Conclusion
The BlackBerry Curve is a pretty awesome smart phone. It’s not too expensive if you wish to lock into a service contract on AT&T, and is still $150 cheaper with no contract than a 8GB iPhone costs with a 2 year lock-in.
Overall, I feel like this is the best cell phone I’ve ever used (right now). I switched initially from the T-Mobile Sidekick 3 to this device, and thought I’d feel like I was missing something… and I really don’t. Having the ability to freely install software is very liberating, and the MP3 ringers are great (why this isn’t on either the sidekick 3 or the iPhone I have no idea).
The downsides to the Curve are few, but the ability to read Rich Text email would be nice. Wi-Fi would also be a welcome feature for web browsing and larger picture transfers. The web browser could render as well as Safari in another generation or two, but right now is only decent. Rumor has it the Curve 8320 on T-Mobile will support T-Mobile’s new HotSpot@Home service over Wi-Fi, who knows if there’s any truth to that at this point.
I recommend this phone to anyone who wants a smartphone that really gains additional value from 3rd party software, and isn’t locked into an over-simplified set of applications, like the iPhone is. That is where this device excels. If you’ve never tried a BlackBerry before, this is the one to get. You may not care about all the stuff I talked about in my article and think the iPhone is good enough, but for me, it was enough to return it. I’m staying with the Curve for now.
Photos: I have photos of the phone (and photos taken by the phone) on flickr.

BlackBerry 8300 Review - July 25th, 2007

Introduction

I was promising myself I would get around to writing this review and frankly, I should have had it done BEFORE I did the iPhone review, since I still have this phone and the iPhone was returned to the store. Despite the fact that traditionally the BlackBerry platform is thought of as a business phone with email, I think that these two phones should be directly compared. BlackBerry has been moving away from pure business with the release of the 8100 (Pearl) and now the 8300 (Curve) phones, with multimedia functions and cameras. I will write this review on the merits of the BlackBerry and assume the reader (you) knows something about what the BlackBerry platform is and why you should care. I have a pretty comprehensive background with BlackBerry on a corporate level. I manage around 50 BlackBerry devices on a corporate network at my job and work a lot with the less interesting models of BlackBerry (7100t, 7105t, 7130e, 8700g for instance).

I’ll go over the basic functionality any blackberry possesses, and then build on that with information about what the Curve does that other models of BlackBerry don’t do, or don’t do as well. I will also throw in a few tips about very useful 3rd party software you should install that will make your BlackBerry truly useful as a consumer device, and perhaps maybe an iPhone killer… it was for me.

Review

The BlackBerry Curve was released at the beginning of June 2007. At the time of this writing it is an AT&T exclusive device, but rumors on the internet claim a T-Mobile version with Wi-Fi (the 8320) is on the horizon soon. I bought mine without a contract at an AT&T store for $449+tax. Since it is a GSM phone it can be unlocked for use on other GSM carriers that offer a BlackBerry data plan. I am currently a T-Mobile subscriber, so I then paid a service advertised on blackberryforums.com $20 to send me a SIM unlock code and off I went on T-Mobile’s network. I had some difficulty with the web browser not immediately showing up, but found out this is an issue with T-Mobile not having this phone yet, not so much with the phone itself. There were workarounds to get it back which I also found on that forum (it’s a great resource!).

BlackBerry OS / Software

The BlackBerry OS 4.2’s key functions include best-in-class (in my opinion) push email, an address book, a web browser, a calendar, a task list, and lots of configurable user options. A few things the BlackBerry Curve has in it’s OS that most older corporate BlackBerry phones don’t have are the ability to do MP3/WAV ringtones, a media player, and a 2 megapixel camera. The BlackBerry 8100 (Pearl) has similar functionality, only it has the less-useful abbreviated keyboard other BlackBerry models in the 71xx series have, and has a 1.3 megapixel camera.

The preferences/options area of the built-in apps in the phone allow you to get extremely granular with almost every option. Especially complicated (if you want it to be) is the area of the OS related to sound Profiles. You can change so many options here with how you wish the phone to behave when it rings, receives a text message, or many other alert noises, similar to the “Sounds” control panel in Windows. When you install new applications, they add new options here to configure.

Themes are a great way to change the entire look of your device. The Curve includes 3 themes, the AT&T default theme is very nice, but there are several other great ones, including hacked ones from other BlackBerry models on BlackBerryForums.

Most internet functions on the BlackBerry are controlled by BlackBerry Internet Service, otherwise known as BIS. As a consumer, you pay for BIS as part of your BlackBerry data plan. On T-Mobile, BlackBerry unlimited data costs $19.99 a month on top of your included plan minutes. It costs $29.99 on most other phone providers but may be bundled with additional items such as text/picture messaging, which is not included on T-Mobile without paying extra.

Reviewing this device as a consumer, I’ll focus on performance with BIS, not the BES (BlackBerry Enterprise Server) corporate product, which syncs a lot more of what you do with the device than BIS can.

BlackBerry Hardware

The BlackBerry Curve 8300 comes in at a very svelte 4.2 x 2.4 x 0.6 inches. It is shorter in height than an iPhone, and the smallest and thinnest BlackBerry with a full keyboard. It looks similar to the BlackBerry Pearl, only it is silver in color and has the wider, QWERTY “Curved” keyboard (hence the name, Curve). The sides of the device are rubberized making it easy to hang on to, which is one thing the iPhone sorely needs. It shares the white, illuminated Trackball with the BlackBerry Pearl and 8800 series. Personally, I think this is the best designed BlackBerry, period.

The screen on the BlackBerry Curve is bright and very sharp. Text is clear and readable. It is not amazingly easy to see in direct sunlight but how many phones really are?

Battery life on the device is better than my Sidekick 3, but not amazing. With heavy use the battery needs a good charge every 2 days or so. On standby when the device is not constantly seeking new wireless towers, the device can go 4 days or more without a recharge. The battery is user-replaceable and cheap. Lots of eBay knockoff batteries available for $1+shipping for this, and it uses the same BlackBerry battery as all the current generation models.

Software - Email and Address Book

The email software within the BlackBerry is the same across the entire platform. It has some small enhancements in OS 4.2 (which is used by the Curve, Pearl and 88xx series) and adds the ability to email your camera photos and multimedia items to emails as attachments. The integration with the address book here is vital, as you only need to type a few characters of someone’s name to get their information to appear in the fields. You can have an email sent within a few seconds with a 1600x1200 (2 megapixel) photo attached.

This is one current limitation of the iPhone I spoke about in the earlier review, the ability to only send one photo per email and only at 640x480 pixel size, with no EXIF data attached to the image.

There is one feature here that the iPhone wins at over the Curve, which is the ability to render “rich text” email. Currently the BlackBerry only supports plain text email, so any email composed entirely of HTML code with no alternate text version is very difficult to read on the BlackBerry, but most emails come through fine, (and with lightning speed I must add). The email client supports viewing of several popular attachments.

The Curve can handle up to 10 personal email accounts at once. BIS also allows you to create a special BlackBerry email address just for your device. On T-mobile, it takes the form of (name)@tmo.blackberry.net.

Software - Web Browser

After testing the iPhone’s “full” web browser and coming back to my BlackBerry Curve, one one think a person would be a bit disappointed in the rendering of websites, but I really wasn’t. The BlackBerry makes most websites quite usable and many popular websites have specific mobile/blackberry versions that load in a snap on the BlackBerry browser. There is also a 3rd party version of Opera, Opera Mini, if you find you don’t enjoy BlackBerry’s browser. Web browsing speeds on EDGE data are much faster when you’re not loading a full website, but T-Mobile’s EDGE loads a lot of sites at a semi-respectable pace… certainly good enough for mobile browsing.

BlackBerry’s browser supports JavaScript and can browse to secure sites. I’ve used it to order pizza before while I was on the bus ride home from my job, ain’t the internet grand?

BlackBerry browser also supports a neat feature that will go refresh your bookmarks automatically, on a specific time interval, similar to how an RSS feed operates (there are 3rd party RSS readers also, and the Browser does support RSS). I use this feature to do a 1-hour refresh on Weather Underground for current Minneapolis, MN weather.

I think this is the best browser on a BlackBerry yet and the trackball is much better for navigating around large websites than the older scroll wheel.

Software - Phone

The phone features of the BlackBerry handhelds are at least a part of the reason why I find Windows Mobile based devices to be so crappy. I haven’t personally used Windows Mobile 6 yet, but Windows Mobile 5’s phone was really poorly integrated into the device. the iPhone’s dialing interface is definitely on par and even exceeds the BlackBerry in simplicity in some ways, but I still think this is a more friendly phone overall.

Dialing out of the phone book is simple… just start typing someone’s name on the full QWERTY keyboard and it will find them in the phone book, click on their name and it will give you options or just dial them. Simple as that. Works like a charm. Calls, missed calls, and voicemails all show up in a central history area.

One feature I am loving more and more on this particular BlackBerry is the Voice Dialing function. You press a key, it asks you to say a command. You say “Call [whoever]”, adding “Mobile” or “Work” if the have multiple numbers (it will ask you which if you don’t). This function requires no recording of people’s names and works almost every time if spoken clearly to. It can also be used to check things like signal level or battery status without actually looking at the phone itself, which would be very useful while driving. The phone supports Stereo Bluetooth if you desire that feature (I don’t have a use for it just yet).

Software - 3rd Party Applications

The BlackBerry’s biggest advantage, right here. This is the reason I went back to the BlackBerry Curve after buying an iPhone (more on that in my iPhone review).

Since BlackBerry has been popular for several years now, there is a very large development community dedicated to making applications for the device. The BlackBerry is written in a form of Java, which almost anyone can learn with enough effort, but there are some real great apps being developed and supported by programmers worldwide. I’ll list a few of my favorites below:

Google has developed 3 very good BlackBerry programs:

- Google Maps - hands down, the most useful and best program on the BlackBerry. Very similar to the iPhone version, it allows you to set favorite addresses, do turn-by-turn directions on the go, and supports Satellite view and Traffic. - Google Talk - a great, free version of Google Talk for BlackBerry. Has 90% of the features of the real PC client for Google Talk and is similar to the web version. Even allows you to store active conversations in the messages list with your email, keeping them all in one place. - GMail- a great interface directly to your google mail messages.

Other great applications I use (free, unless noted):

- JiveTalk - hands down the best combined (multiple services in one buddy list) instant messaging client on BlackBerry, period. It costs $19.95 but has a 30-day free trial (in which I guarantee you’ll get hooked). It supports AIM/Google Talk/Yahoo/MSN/ICQ and Jabber. The interface is similar to the Mac OS X IM app called Adium or functionally equivalent to something like Miranda IM or Trillian on PC. - JMirc - A very stripped down, basic IRC client. Not the best I’ve ever used, but it’s free, and I use IRC all the time. - Beyond411 - Beyond411 provides free and convenient mobile search on your Blackberry. It’s cheaper, more effective, and more complete than calling 411. - FreeRange - FreeRange is a free RSS reader for BlackBerry. - TwitterBerry - TwitterBerry is a mobile client for posting/reading updates to Twitter. - JaikuBerry - JaikuBerry is a low-bandwidth, very basic way of posting presence updates to Jaiku - Opera Mini- has web page zooming and other features not present in the BlackBerry Browser.

This is a very short list, but there are thousands of programs, games, and other software written for BlackBerry. Some free, some not. Lots of other programs exist to do many things that the base operating system applications can’t do, and these 3rd party applications do it very well in most cases. To me, this is the reason the BlackBerry is a better platform for people who want to get the most out of their mobile phone than the iPhone is.

Multimedia Features

This is a multimedia-focused BlackBerry, but it is not even close to the iPod features in iPhone. The media slot in the Curve supports MicroSD cards up to 4GB and supports SDHC. It is inconveniently located UNDER the battery, so if you want to change cards, you have to power off (hey, at least you can remove the battery!). I currently use a 2GB MicroSD card in the slot and store a few mp3 ringtones and lots of photos on it.

The Camera is a 2 megapixel sensor and has a cheap flash. It takes very nice photos for a cell phone camera — look at some of the skyscraper photos on my flickr page for examples.

The Curve supports mass storage mode, so you can connect the device and download/upload your photos/music/ringtones back and forth between the device and your computer. The device comes with a Roxio application for converting video and other media for use on the unit but I haven’t bothered using it as of yet, as it doesn’t have any use for me.

I’ve read in other reviews that if you are an AT&T customer you can stream XM radio to this device through the AT&T Media center. Since I am not on AT&T I was unable to test this feature.

Additionally, you can transfer and receive files to/from this device over Bluetooth to many other popular phones. I transferred a ringtone in WAV format from my Curve to a friend’s Motorola Q over bluetooth and it worked like a dream.

Keyboard

Elaborating a bit more on the Keyboard. The Curve has a keyboard no other BlackBerry has at the time of this writing. It is full QWERTY and curves to make it easier for thumb typing (and probably easier for them to fit more keys on the small frame of this phone). I find I can type about 20-30 words per minute with two thumbs, and without even looking at the keys, which is nearly impossible with the iPhone or the earlier, SureType-based BlackBerry products. It does take a few days to get used to how small the keys are, but I was typing fast in no time with occasional errors. I don’t have extensive experience with the 88xx series keyboard, but I find this one to be much better.

Trackball

The trackball is new to the current generation of BlackBerry, previous to the Pearl, BlackBerry devices had a scroll wheel and a “back” soft button on the right side of the device, making them pretty much a right-hand only device. It worked well, but not nearly as well as the trackball does overall. Scrolling through E-Mail messages and webpages can be just as fast (if not faster) than the old scroller. Holding in the ALT key on the device in some areas of software lets you scroll in a page by page view which is a lot faster. I find the trackball to be just sensitive enough for me, but it is configurable in the options.

Conclusion

The BlackBerry Curve is a pretty awesome smart phone. It’s not too expensive if you wish to lock into a service contract on AT&T, and is still $150 cheaper with no contract than a 8GB iPhone costs with a 2 year lock-in.

Overall, I feel like this is the best cell phone I’ve ever used (right now). I switched initially from the T-Mobile Sidekick 3 to this device, and thought I’d feel like I was missing something… and I really don’t. Having the ability to freely install software is very liberating, and the MP3 ringers are great (why this isn’t on either the sidekick 3 or the iPhone I have no idea).

The downsides to the Curve are few, but the ability to read Rich Text email would be nice. Wi-Fi would also be a welcome feature for web browsing and larger picture transfers. The web browser could render as well as Safari in another generation or two, but right now is only decent. Rumor has it the Curve 8320 on T-Mobile will support T-Mobile’s new HotSpot@Home service over Wi-Fi, who knows if there’s any truth to that at this point.

I recommend this phone to anyone who wants a smartphone that really gains additional value from 3rd party software, and isn’t locked into an over-simplified set of applications, like the iPhone is. That is where this device excels. If you’ve never tried a BlackBerry before, this is the one to get. You may not care about all the stuff I talked about in my article and think the iPhone is good enough, but for me, it was enough to return it. I’m staying with the Curve for now.

Photos: I have photos of the phone (and photos taken by the phone) on flickr.

Apple iPhone Review - July 1st, 2007
I just returned from the Apple Store tonight after returning my iPhone (Yes, returning the iPhone, you read that correctly). On Friday, June 29th, the launch day of the iPhone, I walked in an Apple Store at 8PM (not expecting to buy it, just try it), tried the floor model, and said “Yeah, get me an 8 Gig one.” I never really thought I’d cave in to the hype. Honestly, a lot of the hype is warranted, but I’ll tell you in my review why I returned my iPhone. I’m going to cover each of the main buttons on the iPhone screen (in order) and positives and negatives (if any) and give a final summary of what I liked and what I didn’t. Additionally, I will give an overview of the features in general and the physical device, the screen etc.

In the interest of full disclosure, I recently bought a BlackBerry Curve 8300 and am on T-Mobile - so I had to break a contract to get this phone. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it?) I will compare a lot of features the iPhone has to the BlackBerry Curve (and other BlackBerry phones) and also the T-Mobile Sidekick 2 and 3, two devices I like a lot. This review is the result of 2 solid days of use.

- Button Overview-

Phone

I feel that the basic phone features of the iPhone are probably the features it is best at. The dialing is simple, the speakerphone is pretty good (needs to be louder!), the conference calling is great - although I’ll never use that feature. The random access voicemail is revolutionary. Not having to dial a voicemail system to listen to messages and also the ability to fast-forward and rewind voicemail as you listen to it is awesome. Everything is done from the phone itself, not a phone number you dial into. This feature by itself is truly a milestone for cell phones.

When you are on the phone for a call, the phone senses it is near your face and turns the screen off. When you pull it away and need to hit “Mute” or another button, the screen is back on in an instant.

The call quality seemed on par with other cell phones I’ve used. No surprises here. Integration with my Outlook 2007 address book/contacts was seamless and I had all my friends there in an instant to call. You can assign photos to contact cards, as you’d expect in most phones these days.

I can’t say there’s anything about the Phone area of the iPhone I don’t like.

Mail

Apple’s Mail application on the phone as it stands currently is actually pretty decent. I tested it with both POP and GMail… but since my real world email is on POP servers, I settled on that. One of the features of iPhone Mail is It has “real” html rendering of messages (the BlackBerry and Sidekick only do plain text), and supports a few document formats for viewing, there are a few flaws, though. First of all, there’s no screening of messages with large content. I had an email on my POP server that had a 10MB attachment and iPhone downloaded the entire thing without asking, with the equivalent of a beach ball while I waited. I just wanted to see what the body of the message said, not download everything attached to it. The BlackBerry devices and Sidekick filter very large emails before they make it to your device… and give you a choice of what you want to do with attachments. iPhone Mail does not allow saving of attachments of any sort that reach your inbox.

Scrolling through mail is simple, and actually works amazingly well. However, panning around in big HTML messages with images and zooming in and out is tedious. One of the nice things about having just plain text mail is there’s nothing to navigate around.

Additionally, I found sending an email to Flickr with a photo from the camera attached downsized the 2 megapixel (1600x1200) photo to 640x480, and stripped it of all of it’s EXIF data information (stuff like the camera maker, which is really a neat thing to have). It makes it impossible to send photos on the go to Flickr at any decent resolution. I believe you can do it from the computer with iPhoto on Mac, but I found this to be absolutely absurd. Why have a 2 megapixel camera if you can’t email photos at that size on the go?

Additionally, copying and pasting doesn’t exist on the iPhone. Quoting people’s messages either means you have to quote the entire thing or nothing at all.

Typing out emails was really difficult… I ended up using one pointer finger to do typing, which is not the most comfortable way to write email. I’m used to two-thumbing it with the Sidekick 2 and 3, and the BlackBerry. The keyboard is actually not as bad as some people say it is, it’s just not that good for thumb typing. More on that in a bit.

Hopefully the Mail program will have some improvements in later releases.

Web

The iPhone comes with a WebKit (Safari) based browser. This browser renders all pages as close to their original web counterparts as possible. It does not however support Java or Flash. Neither the BlackBerry nor the Sidekick support either of these, so I didn’t miss not having them, but the iPhone displays REAL websites, in their native size, which makes you think it should have support for what’s on a lot of these types of sites. It does support JavaScript (like the BlackBerry and Sidekick), but this limits a lot of what you can do with the design of web apps.

The ability to zoom in and out of websites so they scale to the phone is kind of hit or miss for me. I found myself constantly zooming in and out and pinching and dragging instead of just reading the website. It became extremely frustrating and I felt like I was using a 320x240 screen on a laptop and trying to view pages optimized for 1024x768 screens. Text-heavy sites like the New York Times rendered very clearly and easy to read at most text sizes - a big plus.

I did most of my web browsing over the WiFi at my house. It was pretty darn speedy, especially for a mobile phone. I’ve used one other phone that had WiFi in it (The T-Mobile MDA, which I hated), but Apple’s WiFi integration on this device is extremely well done. The positives end there for browsing, though. Navigating to non-mobile versions of websites on AT&T’s EDGE platform is painful. I’ve used EDGE a lot on T-Mobile, as the BlackBerry uses it, but there’s one difference. The BlackBerry browser isn’t trying to render every detail of the page as it is on the web, and there are mobile versions of pages that it handles a lot better. I tried to load Apple’s iPhone page (one of the default bookmarks on the browser) over EDGE with a strong signal and it took over a minute to load. Not impressed.

iPod

This is the best iPod Apple has designed. Hands down. I love the screen for watching videos as I do this a lot with my 5th-generation iPod while I commute on the bus to and from work. This will be a great addition to an iPod with more storage later this year, hopefully. I’m not a fan of the Cover Flow feature (sorting through your albums by their front covers), but that’s not a nitpick, it just isn’t how I like finding music to play.

The only thing negative about the iPod software in this is the tiny size of the storage on the device. There’s a reason I have a 30GB iPod, I have 80-90GB of music and tons of video files. Here’s to hoping there’s a 100GB 6th generation Video iPod this fall.

I wont go to much further into this feature as I don’t have much to say about it other than I liked it, for the most part… the problem is I did not pay $600 to get an 8GB iPod, it was for an internet-enabled phone.

-

Application Overview-


SMS Text

The SMS Text application is the first icon you see on the iPhone’s application list. This application acts very similarly to Apple’s chat program on the Mac, iChat. Since there is no chat client support currently on the iPhone (more on that later), this is all there is for chatting. I found the “Conversation” view of SMS messages was easy to read — the BlackBerry devices do something similar with SMS messages as well. iPhone does not support MMS (multimedia) messaging, but as someone who usually emails pictures instead of sending them to phones, I really don’t care about this omission. With the paltry 200 text messages included with the iPhone data plan, you better upgrade your SMS to the next level if you plan on doing any significant amount of texting.

Calendar

Calendar is pretty basic. Not much to talk about here. It syncs well with what’s in iCal or Microsoft Outlook, but I didn’t explore this feature much while I had the phone as it’s not something I use a lot on smart phones. I do know there is not a To-Do list to go with the iPhone’s calendar, which I may care about at my job, but as a personal phone it doesn’t bother me that it’s not here.

Photos

This application is a lot like Apple’s iPhoto program on the Mac in execution, and it would be quite useful for someone who enjoys showing their photos off to their friends with their cell phone. I am not one of those people. Photos are something I could care less about storing (and displaying) on a phone, as I never used the Photos function on my iPod Photo or iPod with Video. I just don’t find viewing photography on a cell phone screen that appealing.

Additionally, this application shows you the photos you’ve taken with your iPhone camera, but other than that I don’t really find it useful for my purposes. I’m a heavy flickr user, and love viewing photos in at least a decent resolution for detail. Call me elitist, but I really enjoy photography and detail from the higher-end cameras out there and want the photos to be shown in as much detail as possible.

Camera

This is an area of the phone I feel needs improvement. The iPhone’s camera is a 2-Megapixel (1600x1200) camera with no flash. I almost never use the flash on my cell phone (or regular camera) but the omission seems odd. The interface consists of one button on the touchscreen. There are no controls for cropping, sensitivity, digital zoom, brightness, picture size, or anything else for that matter. In my tests the photos looked very similar to the ones taken by my BlackBerry Curve’s 2 megapixel camera, but seemed a bit noisier (this is totally subjective on my part). As I said earlier, you can’t email photos from the iPhone at their native resolution, only a smaller thumbnail version (640x480). If you stick to taking photos outdoors in sunlight, this camera does quite well. There is no support for video capture via the camera.

YouTube

YouTube was a late arrival on the iPhone and was announced around the same time that they added the feature to the AppleTV. This one is another one that’s really great on WiFi, but I wouldn’t even bother trying to use it over EDGE. It’s really fun to watch videos from this on the huge screen on the iPhone, though. A great addition but the time it took to implement it could have been better spent elsewhere.

Calculator

Nothing to talk about here. It adds, it subtracts, it dices, it slices… where’s the “Tip” button?

Stocks

A bit of a disclaimer, I have no interest at all in stocks. This is essentially the same Yahoo Widget that exists on Mac OS X for viewing stocks. I wished I could delete it from my screen, but I can’t.

Maps

Google Maps is a welcome addition to this phone and was one of the big features that Apple showed off when I saw it at MacWorld in January. I love this implementation of the program and have to say that it’s really well done. As with the other data-heavy features on the phone, it runs a LOT better over WiFi, but I really like it. It is extremely similar to Google Maps for BlackBerry.

Weather

Weather is another almost direct port of a widget for Mac OS X. I can’t complain, it works and does what it’s supposed to, and it’s pretty. Good addition.

Notes

Notes is an extremely stripped-down note-taking application. It uses a child’s handwriting font similar to MS Comic Sans (anyone ever heard of www.bancomicsans.com?) which is harder to read than the font used on other screens in the phone. Not much else to say here.

Clock

A world clock. Another widget from OS X.

Settings

This is where the small amount of configurable items for the iPhone are housed. Here you can set up your email accounts and email preferences, configure wallpapers, change ringtones (there are 25 ringtones, 3-4 of which I felt were good enough to use and the rest were annoying). You can’t use MP3s as ringers - which is surprising for an iPod phone. Within this section you can also turn on Bluetooth, turn on “Airplane Mode” to squelch your wireless signals, and other settings.

—

This about covers the actual soft buttons on the phone. On to the hardware and general opinions.

—

The Keyboard

The keyboard. Oh the Keyboard. This has been written about in a lot of technology publications already so I won’t get too wrapped up in this one. I found the keyboard to be decent. It’s not as good as a BlackBerry’s keyboard (either the two-letter-per-key version on the Pearl/others or the QWERTY type), and the auto-correction is not entirely that bad (again, not as good as BlackBerry’s SureType), but these things seem minor to me. It does bother me that the keyboard only allows you to do landscape mode in the Web Browser, as it is much easier to thumb-type with more space between the keys. I hope they iron all these bugs out in a later update.

Overall I still prefer a hard keyboard — the Sidekick 3 keyboard is the best phone keyboard I’ve ever used, I rarely made errors on that and I didn’t need fancy text-correction. Text input is a big part of any communication device so this is a big deal for me.

The Screen

The screen… is beautiful… and amazing. Video looks amazing. It’s readable even in sunlight. The touch sensitivity is (for the most part) dead on. Scrolling through lists and websites with your finger is very slick. Some tasks the iPhone does though aren’t well-suited well to a touch-screen. I found deleting emails to be extremely tedious, for instance… swipe, click Delete, swipe, click Delete… blargh! Panning and zooming in Google Maps could use the standard bars like Google Maps on the PC has, you could slide those. Panning and zooming in/out on the web browser also gets quite tedious after a while. Overall this is a revolutionary way to use a phone, and I’m sure it’ll be improved as the phone ages. For the most part it’s quite awesome.

The Design

iPhone is approximately 5oz (yes, I weighed it for this review on my postal scale… how real is that?). It feels heavy in your hand, and is extremely thin and slick. So slick that it’s easy to drop it if you aren’t careful. I didn’t drop mine, but I felt like I was handling a precious gem the entire time I had the thing. The Sidekick and BlackBerry Curve have rubberized sides for a reason, people need to grip them! I can see the lawsuits coming already.

—- Conclusions: —-

+ Positives:

This is an amazing looking phone. Amazing, huge touchscreen with little refinements that are so cool, great sound, it has a speakerphone for video/music, it is an extremely solid phone in the classic phone sense - the phone features work seamlessly and impressively! The iPod functions are awesome. The applications it does have are for the most part pretty well done (some updates may help a few). Very easy to activate through iTunes. No high-pressure sales staff at the store.

- Criticisms and Final Opinions

I returned the iPhone for the time being and took my number back to T-Mobile. It’s tough to leave my BlackBerry Curve 8300. While I had the iPhone, I felt like I was missing something… having the ability to install 3rd party software (which can use Java, a much more powerful application language than JavaScript). I had applications like JiveTalk (an Adium-like instant messaging client that supports AIM/Google Talk/ICQ/MSN/Yahoo/Jabber), programs that allow me to use Internet Relay Chat (jmIrc), and the ability to email photos at full resolution from my phone to Flickr. The abilities of the BlackBerry are almost limitless, and much less locked down than the iPhone is. I felt like I had an arm cut off the entire time I used the iPhone. I do a lot less calling with my phone and a lot more chatting, IMing, IRCing, and sending photos… all of which the Sidekick 3 and BlackBerry Curve (and Pearl) do extremely well. There’s also no USB hard disk support for downloading or storing data on the iPhone, which seems odd. Features as simple as a “Copy and Paste” function are simply not on this phone. There are other things missing, but these are the really big ones for me.

My feeling as of this writing is that this device has a lot of potential. I feel like Apple oversimplified this phone in a lot of areas, and things lack configurability. You do it Apple’s way or you don’t do it at all - that’s the Apple way I guess. On OS X you have a choice, you can use Apple’s application, or you can use a better one written by someone else. Adium and Firefox on Mac OS X are both great examples of 3rd parties writing better software than Apple on it’s own platform.

I also have real questions about the legitimacy of developing every program for this as a so-called “web app”. The entire concept of this seems extremely hacky and unrefined. I sincerely hope Apple is interested in homebrew development for the iPhone and development of real, full-featured applications. This is the reason Mac OS X is great, anyone can write a real and full featured program for it. Apple should pay attention to so called “real geeks” and not just the people looking for another flashy phone to replace their dated Motorola RAZR. I want customizability and options in my phones. One nice thing about the Sidekick phones is that even though they’re locked down, for some reason everything I wanted on it was already there. Ditto for the BlackBerry and it’s open-ended design. if I didn’t have an application I wanted, someone developed it already. I kind of feel like if I hadn’t used a BlackBerry or Sidekick before maybe I wouldn’t be this disappointed.

I think for the moment, If I was someone looking at buying the iPhone, I’d say to wait a bit. Maybe even in the first few weeks (or months) of the iPhone’s release Apple will take the suggestions of the masses (and all the reviews I’ve read) and listen to them, instead of ignoring them. Then again, maybe they won’t. Or maybe my standards are just too high.

-Dan

- Apple iPhone currently retails at $499 for 4GB and $599 for 8GB. A 2-year contract with AT&T is required.-

Related Link: photos on my flickr account page of the short romance I had with the iPhone, and photos of when I saw it at MacWorld in January 2007 when it was announced.

Apple iPhone Review - July 1st, 2007

I just returned from the Apple Store tonight after returning my iPhone (Yes, returning the iPhone, you read that correctly). On Friday, June 29th, the launch day of the iPhone, I walked in an Apple Store at 8PM (not expecting to buy it, just try it), tried the floor model, and said “Yeah, get me an 8 Gig one.” I never really thought I’d cave in to the hype. Honestly, a lot of the hype is warranted, but I’ll tell you in my review why I returned my iPhone. I’m going to cover each of the main buttons on the iPhone screen (in order) and positives and negatives (if any) and give a final summary of what I liked and what I didn’t. Additionally, I will give an overview of the features in general and the physical device, the screen etc.

In the interest of full disclosure, I recently bought a BlackBerry Curve 8300 and am on T-Mobile - so I had to break a contract to get this phone. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it?) I will compare a lot of features the iPhone has to the BlackBerry Curve (and other BlackBerry phones) and also the T-Mobile Sidekick 2 and 3, two devices I like a lot. This review is the result of 2 solid days of use.

- Button Overview-

Phone

I feel that the basic phone features of the iPhone are probably the features it is best at. The dialing is simple, the speakerphone is pretty good (needs to be louder!), the conference calling is great - although I’ll never use that feature. The random access voicemail is revolutionary. Not having to dial a voicemail system to listen to messages and also the ability to fast-forward and rewind voicemail as you listen to it is awesome. Everything is done from the phone itself, not a phone number you dial into. This feature by itself is truly a milestone for cell phones.

When you are on the phone for a call, the phone senses it is near your face and turns the screen off. When you pull it away and need to hit “Mute” or another button, the screen is back on in an instant.

The call quality seemed on par with other cell phones I’ve used. No surprises here. Integration with my Outlook 2007 address book/contacts was seamless and I had all my friends there in an instant to call. You can assign photos to contact cards, as you’d expect in most phones these days.

I can’t say there’s anything about the Phone area of the iPhone I don’t like.

Mail

Apple’s Mail application on the phone as it stands currently is actually pretty decent. I tested it with both POP and GMail… but since my real world email is on POP servers, I settled on that. One of the features of iPhone Mail is It has “real” html rendering of messages (the BlackBerry and Sidekick only do plain text), and supports a few document formats for viewing, there are a few flaws, though. First of all, there’s no screening of messages with large content. I had an email on my POP server that had a 10MB attachment and iPhone downloaded the entire thing without asking, with the equivalent of a beach ball while I waited. I just wanted to see what the body of the message said, not download everything attached to it. The BlackBerry devices and Sidekick filter very large emails before they make it to your device… and give you a choice of what you want to do with attachments. iPhone Mail does not allow saving of attachments of any sort that reach your inbox.

Scrolling through mail is simple, and actually works amazingly well. However, panning around in big HTML messages with images and zooming in and out is tedious. One of the nice things about having just plain text mail is there’s nothing to navigate around.

Additionally, I found sending an email to Flickr with a photo from the camera attached downsized the 2 megapixel (1600x1200) photo to 640x480, and stripped it of all of it’s EXIF data information (stuff like the camera maker, which is really a neat thing to have). It makes it impossible to send photos on the go to Flickr at any decent resolution. I believe you can do it from the computer with iPhoto on Mac, but I found this to be absolutely absurd. Why have a 2 megapixel camera if you can’t email photos at that size on the go?

Additionally, copying and pasting doesn’t exist on the iPhone. Quoting people’s messages either means you have to quote the entire thing or nothing at all.

Typing out emails was really difficult… I ended up using one pointer finger to do typing, which is not the most comfortable way to write email. I’m used to two-thumbing it with the Sidekick 2 and 3, and the BlackBerry. The keyboard is actually not as bad as some people say it is, it’s just not that good for thumb typing. More on that in a bit.

Hopefully the Mail program will have some improvements in later releases.

Web

The iPhone comes with a WebKit (Safari) based browser. This browser renders all pages as close to their original web counterparts as possible. It does not however support Java or Flash. Neither the BlackBerry nor the Sidekick support either of these, so I didn’t miss not having them, but the iPhone displays REAL websites, in their native size, which makes you think it should have support for what’s on a lot of these types of sites. It does support JavaScript (like the BlackBerry and Sidekick), but this limits a lot of what you can do with the design of web apps.

The ability to zoom in and out of websites so they scale to the phone is kind of hit or miss for me. I found myself constantly zooming in and out and pinching and dragging instead of just reading the website. It became extremely frustrating and I felt like I was using a 320x240 screen on a laptop and trying to view pages optimized for 1024x768 screens. Text-heavy sites like the New York Times rendered very clearly and easy to read at most text sizes - a big plus.

I did most of my web browsing over the WiFi at my house. It was pretty darn speedy, especially for a mobile phone. I’ve used one other phone that had WiFi in it (The T-Mobile MDA, which I hated), but Apple’s WiFi integration on this device is extremely well done. The positives end there for browsing, though. Navigating to non-mobile versions of websites on AT&T’s EDGE platform is painful. I’ve used EDGE a lot on T-Mobile, as the BlackBerry uses it, but there’s one difference. The BlackBerry browser isn’t trying to render every detail of the page as it is on the web, and there are mobile versions of pages that it handles a lot better. I tried to load Apple’s iPhone page (one of the default bookmarks on the browser) over EDGE with a strong signal and it took over a minute to load. Not impressed.

iPod

This is the best iPod Apple has designed. Hands down. I love the screen for watching videos as I do this a lot with my 5th-generation iPod while I commute on the bus to and from work. This will be a great addition to an iPod with more storage later this year, hopefully. I’m not a fan of the Cover Flow feature (sorting through your albums by their front covers), but that’s not a nitpick, it just isn’t how I like finding music to play.

The only thing negative about the iPod software in this is the tiny size of the storage on the device. There’s a reason I have a 30GB iPod, I have 80-90GB of music and tons of video files. Here’s to hoping there’s a 100GB 6th generation Video iPod this fall.

I wont go to much further into this feature as I don’t have much to say about it other than I liked it, for the most part… the problem is I did not pay $600 to get an 8GB iPod, it was for an internet-enabled phone.

-

Application Overview-

SMS Text

The SMS Text application is the first icon you see on the iPhone’s application list. This application acts very similarly to Apple’s chat program on the Mac, iChat. Since there is no chat client support currently on the iPhone (more on that later), this is all there is for chatting. I found the “Conversation” view of SMS messages was easy to read — the BlackBerry devices do something similar with SMS messages as well. iPhone does not support MMS (multimedia) messaging, but as someone who usually emails pictures instead of sending them to phones, I really don’t care about this omission. With the paltry 200 text messages included with the iPhone data plan, you better upgrade your SMS to the next level if you plan on doing any significant amount of texting.

Calendar

Calendar is pretty basic. Not much to talk about here. It syncs well with what’s in iCal or Microsoft Outlook, but I didn’t explore this feature much while I had the phone as it’s not something I use a lot on smart phones. I do know there is not a To-Do list to go with the iPhone’s calendar, which I may care about at my job, but as a personal phone it doesn’t bother me that it’s not here.

Photos

This application is a lot like Apple’s iPhoto program on the Mac in execution, and it would be quite useful for someone who enjoys showing their photos off to their friends with their cell phone. I am not one of those people. Photos are something I could care less about storing (and displaying) on a phone, as I never used the Photos function on my iPod Photo or iPod with Video. I just don’t find viewing photography on a cell phone screen that appealing.

Additionally, this application shows you the photos you’ve taken with your iPhone camera, but other than that I don’t really find it useful for my purposes. I’m a heavy flickr user, and love viewing photos in at least a decent resolution for detail. Call me elitist, but I really enjoy photography and detail from the higher-end cameras out there and want the photos to be shown in as much detail as possible.

Camera

This is an area of the phone I feel needs improvement. The iPhone’s camera is a 2-Megapixel (1600x1200) camera with no flash. I almost never use the flash on my cell phone (or regular camera) but the omission seems odd. The interface consists of one button on the touchscreen. There are no controls for cropping, sensitivity, digital zoom, brightness, picture size, or anything else for that matter. In my tests the photos looked very similar to the ones taken by my BlackBerry Curve’s 2 megapixel camera, but seemed a bit noisier (this is totally subjective on my part). As I said earlier, you can’t email photos from the iPhone at their native resolution, only a smaller thumbnail version (640x480). If you stick to taking photos outdoors in sunlight, this camera does quite well. There is no support for video capture via the camera.

YouTube

YouTube was a late arrival on the iPhone and was announced around the same time that they added the feature to the AppleTV. This one is another one that’s really great on WiFi, but I wouldn’t even bother trying to use it over EDGE. It’s really fun to watch videos from this on the huge screen on the iPhone, though. A great addition but the time it took to implement it could have been better spent elsewhere.

Calculator

Nothing to talk about here. It adds, it subtracts, it dices, it slices… where’s the “Tip” button?

Stocks

A bit of a disclaimer, I have no interest at all in stocks. This is essentially the same Yahoo Widget that exists on Mac OS X for viewing stocks. I wished I could delete it from my screen, but I can’t.

Maps

Google Maps is a welcome addition to this phone and was one of the big features that Apple showed off when I saw it at MacWorld in January. I love this implementation of the program and have to say that it’s really well done. As with the other data-heavy features on the phone, it runs a LOT better over WiFi, but I really like it. It is extremely similar to Google Maps for BlackBerry.

Weather

Weather is another almost direct port of a widget for Mac OS X. I can’t complain, it works and does what it’s supposed to, and it’s pretty. Good addition.

Notes

Notes is an extremely stripped-down note-taking application. It uses a child’s handwriting font similar to MS Comic Sans (anyone ever heard of www.bancomicsans.com?) which is harder to read than the font used on other screens in the phone. Not much else to say here.

Clock

A world clock. Another widget from OS X.

Settings

This is where the small amount of configurable items for the iPhone are housed. Here you can set up your email accounts and email preferences, configure wallpapers, change ringtones (there are 25 ringtones, 3-4 of which I felt were good enough to use and the rest were annoying). You can’t use MP3s as ringers - which is surprising for an iPod phone. Within this section you can also turn on Bluetooth, turn on “Airplane Mode” to squelch your wireless signals, and other settings.

This about covers the actual soft buttons on the phone. On to the hardware and general opinions.

The Keyboard

The keyboard. Oh the Keyboard. This has been written about in a lot of technology publications already so I won’t get too wrapped up in this one. I found the keyboard to be decent. It’s not as good as a BlackBerry’s keyboard (either the two-letter-per-key version on the Pearl/others or the QWERTY type), and the auto-correction is not entirely that bad (again, not as good as BlackBerry’s SureType), but these things seem minor to me. It does bother me that the keyboard only allows you to do landscape mode in the Web Browser, as it is much easier to thumb-type with more space between the keys. I hope they iron all these bugs out in a later update.

Overall I still prefer a hard keyboard — the Sidekick 3 keyboard is the best phone keyboard I’ve ever used, I rarely made errors on that and I didn’t need fancy text-correction. Text input is a big part of any communication device so this is a big deal for me.

The Screen

The screen… is beautiful… and amazing. Video looks amazing. It’s readable even in sunlight. The touch sensitivity is (for the most part) dead on. Scrolling through lists and websites with your finger is very slick. Some tasks the iPhone does though aren’t well-suited well to a touch-screen. I found deleting emails to be extremely tedious, for instance… swipe, click Delete, swipe, click Delete… blargh! Panning and zooming in Google Maps could use the standard bars like Google Maps on the PC has, you could slide those. Panning and zooming in/out on the web browser also gets quite tedious after a while. Overall this is a revolutionary way to use a phone, and I’m sure it’ll be improved as the phone ages. For the most part it’s quite awesome.

The Design

iPhone is approximately 5oz (yes, I weighed it for this review on my postal scale… how real is that?). It feels heavy in your hand, and is extremely thin and slick. So slick that it’s easy to drop it if you aren’t careful. I didn’t drop mine, but I felt like I was handling a precious gem the entire time I had the thing. The Sidekick and BlackBerry Curve have rubberized sides for a reason, people need to grip them! I can see the lawsuits coming already.

—- Conclusions: —-

+ Positives:

This is an amazing looking phone. Amazing, huge touchscreen with little refinements that are so cool, great sound, it has a speakerphone for video/music, it is an extremely solid phone in the classic phone sense - the phone features work seamlessly and impressively! The iPod functions are awesome. The applications it does have are for the most part pretty well done (some updates may help a few). Very easy to activate through iTunes. No high-pressure sales staff at the store.

- Criticisms and Final Opinions

I returned the iPhone for the time being and took my number back to T-Mobile. It’s tough to leave my BlackBerry Curve 8300. While I had the iPhone, I felt like I was missing something… having the ability to install 3rd party software (which can use Java, a much more powerful application language than JavaScript). I had applications like JiveTalk (an Adium-like instant messaging client that supports AIM/Google Talk/ICQ/MSN/Yahoo/Jabber), programs that allow me to use Internet Relay Chat (jmIrc), and the ability to email photos at full resolution from my phone to Flickr. The abilities of the BlackBerry are almost limitless, and much less locked down than the iPhone is. I felt like I had an arm cut off the entire time I used the iPhone. I do a lot less calling with my phone and a lot more chatting, IMing, IRCing, and sending photos… all of which the Sidekick 3 and BlackBerry Curve (and Pearl) do extremely well. There’s also no USB hard disk support for downloading or storing data on the iPhone, which seems odd. Features as simple as a “Copy and Paste” function are simply not on this phone. There are other things missing, but these are the really big ones for me.

My feeling as of this writing is that this device has a lot of potential. I feel like Apple oversimplified this phone in a lot of areas, and things lack configurability. You do it Apple’s way or you don’t do it at all - that’s the Apple way I guess. On OS X you have a choice, you can use Apple’s application, or you can use a better one written by someone else. Adium and Firefox on Mac OS X are both great examples of 3rd parties writing better software than Apple on it’s own platform.

I also have real questions about the legitimacy of developing every program for this as a so-called “web app”. The entire concept of this seems extremely hacky and unrefined. I sincerely hope Apple is interested in homebrew development for the iPhone and development of real, full-featured applications. This is the reason Mac OS X is great, anyone can write a real and full featured program for it. Apple should pay attention to so called “real geeks” and not just the people looking for another flashy phone to replace their dated Motorola RAZR. I want customizability and options in my phones. One nice thing about the Sidekick phones is that even though they’re locked down, for some reason everything I wanted on it was already there. Ditto for the BlackBerry and it’s open-ended design. if I didn’t have an application I wanted, someone developed it already. I kind of feel like if I hadn’t used a BlackBerry or Sidekick before maybe I wouldn’t be this disappointed.

I think for the moment, If I was someone looking at buying the iPhone, I’d say to wait a bit. Maybe even in the first few weeks (or months) of the iPhone’s release Apple will take the suggestions of the masses (and all the reviews I’ve read) and listen to them, instead of ignoring them. Then again, maybe they won’t. Or maybe my standards are just too high.

-Dan

- Apple iPhone currently retails at $499 for 4GB and $599 for 8GB. A 2-year contract with AT&T is required.-

Related Link: photos on my flickr account page of the short romance I had with the iPhone, and photos of when I saw it at MacWorld in January 2007 when it was announced.