John at myITforum.com

Mostly gadgets, but I'll occassionally get sidetracked...

May 2011 - Posts

My Top 5 Mobile Devices, Part 2

I blogged earlier about my top 5 devices from an Enterprise standpoint.  Does my list of top 5 phones change at all from a personal perspective?  If I could choose only one phone, which phone would it be?  Read on…

Since a lot of these phones are similar except for carrier, I’ll mention that when I get to them.  For example, the HTC EVO on Sprint and the HTC Inspire 4G are almost identical phones with similar functionality…

So…on to the list…

HTC Inspire/HTC EVO

imageI absolutely love this phone.  What’s not to like? I really enjoyed the EVO and always thought that if this phone ever ended up on AT&T, I’d move to it as my primary device.  Well, my wish finally came true and the HTC Inspire is available on AT&T.

Pros: Display is incredible; unified inbox similar to what Blackberry has done.  You can choose to look at individual items or group everything together.  From the front screen though in the unified inbox, very easy to see the different items because they are color coded; true multi-tasking capabilities and push notifications in the apps, I love the top notification bar and getting things always there (weather alerts, app notifications, etc.); apps galore in the Android Marketplace; HTC proprietary apps including the widgets.  call me crazy but I love HTC Sense; 8 megapixel camera takes amazing photos and doesn’t stop there…HD recording; amazing call quality (yes, believe it or not these are still phones); Outlook integration is terrific, including calendar (dialing from calendar appointments, seeing appointment conflicts, etc.).

Cons: AT&T has blocked the side-loading of apps (loading outside the marketplace).  I don’t understand this at all.  You should be able to uncheck the box to load trusted apps, install beta apps, recheck the box and be done.  Why restrict it?  This alone makes me want to root the phone to remove that.  If that’s a problem for you, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile all have top notch Android phones to choose from.  Still haven’t figured out how to sort contacts by last name…crazy.  Should sorting be this hard?  Lots are saying they miss a front facing camera…no need for that but is a con these days.  Phone is a little heavy.  No native tasks or notes syncing, no One Note client.  Yes, I know this is supposed to be a personal phone but I do everything in One Note.  Evernote just doesn’t cut it for me.

Samsung Focus

imageYes, I know there are a lot of Windows Phone haters. This device is a very, very close second. I switch back and forth between my Torch and my Focus a lot. There are a few things I still need. Other than some Windows Phones appearing on other carriers, take the plunge anytime. Over the air updates will keep you current.  If you aren’t on AT&T, the Sprint HTC Arrive, the T-Mobile HTC HD7, and the soon to be released Verizon HTC Trophy are available for your choosing.  HTC is making it happen!

Pros: Very tight integration with Exchange/Outlook, including Calendar, which is a must for me. I can see conflicts at a glance, accept, reject and propose new, email meeting invitee’s all at once if more information is needed or I’m running late, and can dial from the location field for conference calls. Very tight integration with Microsoft Office, including Microsoft One Note. I’ll talk more about calendar integration here in a bit. Social media integration (Facebook/Twitter) is also nice. And with the latest Windows Phone update, I have cut/copy/paste and a much faster phone getting in and out of applications. Lastly, why I prefer this device over other Windows Phone is purely the display. Samsung has this nailed!

Cons: No Notes or Tasks integration; removed capabilities to do Enterprise IM; some apps I use on a regular basis just don’t exist yet on the Windows Phone platform; apps I use on other platforms that are free are not free in the Windows Marketplace. I think they are figuring this out as it’s getting fewer and fewer. I don’t really like the tiles either. It’s a cool concept, particularly the live tiles, but they really need to take a hard look at navigation overall. Once you get past the front screen, depending on the number of apps you have loaded, you scroll forever. Apps are also missing multi-tasking and push notifications. I don’t want to have to launch anything to get information. I should have the option to multi-task and have information pushed to me. Lastly, they need to work on the app integration piece. I’ve blogged about that before. If I have to wipe my phone and start over, all my apps need to come back once I log in or connect to Zune. And please, I don’t mean restoring from backup. If the backup is corrupt and has issues (which is why most will reset), the last thing you want is a restore that is also corrupt. The app load needs to be separate.

Motorola Atrix

imageAgain, what’s not to love.  This is a very fast, dual-core phone and with the recent update from AT&T, I now have true HSPA+ speeds with little impact to battery life.

Pros: Similar to Inspire above, lots of great features.  The laptop dock is a great addition, although pricey; Front-facing camera; Great display, dual core just makes this phone fast.

Cons: Similar to the Inspire above, AT&T has blocked side loading.  Incredible.  Don’t like the on/off switch and finger print sensor/reader.  Hard to get to and not designed well.  Doesn’t feel as well designed as other Motorola phones. 

 

Apple iPhone 4

imageYes, the iPhone 4 made my list at number four. Surprised? Apple has come a long way here. The display, user interface, and hundreds of thousands of apps just make this a great device. As most know, you may want to hold off here if you want an iPhone. With Apple’s WWDC coming up here the first of June, there are bound to be announcements that you’ll want to know about.

Pros: I’ve already mentioned it above. The user interface is top notch, the display is clearer than any other I’ve seen, and no matter what I want to run, the app is guaranteed to be there and not only THAT app, but many apps that do the same thing to choose from. It’s all about user choice. The phone is a breeze to use and figure out. Apps work generally the same regardless of what you load (navigation and operation). The addition of Microsoft One Note is a welcome addition. Apple has also nailed backup, restore, and app installation. Hard resetting the phone and starting from scratch is a total breeze. Lastly, many of the popular apps are getting push notification which is also a plus.

Cons: Yes, I’ve experienced the antenna issue. The case I bought (Otterbox) has reduced this problem. Outlook integration is also poor, particularly as it relates to the Calendar. You still can’t dial out from a meeting request when all other OS’s do this. Meeting invites just don’t cut it. They show up in email as an attachment, can’t see conflicts, have to open the attachment to do anything with it, and yet an additional step to actually look at your calendar for conflicts. Way too many steps. Lots of small buggy things with email and contacts too, including some missing fields to sync with Outlook. The lack of Notes and Tasks integration with Outlook is also problematic for me because I take lots of notes and manage via Tasks. Yes, I know Notes syncs but if you need a cable to do anything, your not mobile. Lastly, Apple needs a complete overhaul of their notification system. I hate the fact that once I unlock the phone, all the notifications disappear and can’t see them anymore. If Apple fixes the Outlook integration, this could easily be my number one phone. The pro’s are just too many.

HTC Thunderbolt

imageLest I be viewed as AT&T only, rounding out my top 5 is the Verizon HTC Thunderbolt.  With all the others on Verizon, why this phone?  One unique feature.  Simultaneous voice and data.  None of the other phones on Verizon will allow me to get email and browse the internet while on the phone.

Pros: In addition to what is noted above on other Android phones, this phone is just blazingly fast.  No matter what you do, it does it quickly.  The LTE speeds when you are in an LTE market are incredible to say the least.  This phone is a LOT like the HTC EVO and HTC Inspire.  I love what HTC has done with these phones.  Large, crisp display, HTC Sense, etc., etc., etc.  HTC has all the stuff you want your phone to do nailed down.

Cons: Verizon and HTC need to figure out the battery issue.  There is no way to toggle off LTE and it drains the battery FAST.  If we can figure out the battery issue, this could quickly top the list of favorite phones.  I can’t be stuck trying to find a battery charger after 3-4 hours in an LTE market.

So, that rounds out my top 5.  Sorry, no Blackberry’s or webOS phones on this list.  With Android, Windows Phone and iPhone, the others pack too many features and too much functionality to make the list.  Once webOS comes out with some different form factors, my list may change.  I’m not hopeful Blackberry will make the list anytime soon. 

Traveling with the Playbook is a little challenging

I have been traveling the last couple of weeks with my Playbook since I was able to figure out why my Blackberry would not allow the tether.  FYI, there are limits to the number of active connections to Bluetooth.  If you exceed those limits with more than 16 services attached to the Blackberry handheld, the Playbook will not connect.  Who really knows what I broke to make this work. 

image

So, why is it challenging to travel with this?  As I’ve posted before, there is no native mail client on the Playbook.  I know I hear it’s coming, but it desperately needs it.  Without a native email client, it is physically impossible to do email unless you use webmail, and if you use your Blackberry to get email, using other functionality on the Playbook is impossible.  Let me explain.

In order to use the Playbook for email, you have to bridge the Playbook to the Blackberry.  While traveling, this is a challenge.  First, let me start with traveling by plane.  In order to do email and stay connected on a plane, I’ve been using GoGo.  So, I turn on WiFi on my Blackberry, connect to my GoGo account, and WiFi starts working.  I then bridge the Playbook to my Blackberry.  Now, on the Playbook I’m now doing email.  I try to launch other apps.  Let’s say I try to use Twitter, use App World, check the weather, look up directions with Bing maps, etc.  Guess what happens?  I get prompted that I need to connect to a WiFi network.  So, I launch the browser and try to log in to GoGo, and it wants to disconnect my Blackberry from GoGo in order to connect the Playbook.  I can understand one login, otherwise the whole plane can connect with one account in flight.  So, what a mess to use the Playbook.  I have to use all the apps on the smaller screen Blackberry to do anything.

Next, move to a hotel.  Yeah, I have to connect the Playbook to hotel WiFi, or a mobile hotspot (like a MiFi), in order to get the Playbook to do anything other than email.  Unless I bridge the Blackberry, I can’t do email.  Right now, this is just very cumbersome to use while traveling.  No one works this way.  OK, maybe some diehard Blackberry fans work this way, but I don’t.  The other tablets (iPad, Tab, Xoom) don’t work this way.  I have native email support and can completely forget my PDA and Computer. 

Time to mothball the Playbook until the updates are there.  This just isn’t a usable device for me right now, and the apps are still a limiting factor.  I personally think they released it before it was really ready, my again, that’s just my personal opinion.

I know I JUST published my top 5 devices, but I’ll be updating that shortly.  I started that blog post a week and a half ago, and after a solid two weeks of using the Blackberry as my primary device (with no other devices to back me up since I traveled without them), and using my Playbook, I’m finding many more issues with the Blackberry, and it’s now slipping in the polls.  I’ll update the post later for exactly what I mean, but needless to say, the pro’s (namely the unified inbox) is not enough to keep it at the top of the list with the additional con’s I’ve discovered.  That’s always the way it is isn’t it?  As soon as you say something or publish something, it’s outdated.  No spoilers on how far down my Torch slid after two weeks.

My Top 5 Mobile Devices, Part 1

I get this question all the time.  What device do you recommend?  What should I get?  Should I wait a little longer or get a phone now?  I’ll answer the last question first, then list my top 5 phones.  Please bear in mind…I’m approaching this from an ENTERPRISE standpoint, not a personal standpoint.  I’ll blog later how my list will differ if I didn’t need enterprise functionality. 

So, for the last question.  Bottom line, it’s NEVER a good time to get a new phone with carrier contracts.  Most ask for a 2yr contract with 2yr device refresh.  Whenever you get a phone, you’re locked for 2 years.  With the rate at which new phones are being announced and delivered, as soon as you commit, next month something will be released that you want.  I’ll fill in some gaps below with my top 5 phones and whether I’d wait a little longer or go now.

RIM Blackberry Torch

imageYikes!  A Blackberry?  Gasp!!  Really?  Blackberry is dead, going nowhere, is the next Palm…I’ve heard them all.  Really I have.  But, from an Enterprise perspective, the good outweighs the bad.  If you are in the market for a Blackberry, this summer will be a good time to take the plunge.  Don’t go now, wait until end of summer.

Pros: In a word, unified inbox.  Everything I load, from multiple email accounts,Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Blackberry Messenger, SMS Text, it all ends up in one place, in one unified inbox.  If someone sends me something, no matter what they use, it ends up in my inbox to read and respond.  I don’t have 5 or 6 apps to check, and multiple notifications to dismiss to get me moving on.  The closest anyone else has to this is Android.  It’s close, but not quite there yet.  More on Android later.  Apps are not an issue for me either.  Everything I want to do, including Enterprise Instant Messaging, is available and just works.  The only integration I’m looking for is Microsoft One Note.  All of this tips the scale for Blackberry.

Cons: User interface is very outdated, even on OS 6.  I’ve seen the web stuff on what OS 7 looks like and well, underwhelmed.  If they don’t do something quickly with the interface, they aren’t going to sell more phones.  The other cons?  I occasionally experience reboots.  The device will just periodically reboot.  I don’t know why, but when I pull the device out of the holster, I can see that it has completely restarted.  The touch screen on the Torch is still a bit “touchy” in that I end up in screens I didn’t mean to be in but due to the sensitivity of the screen and touch pad, the device has a mind of it’s own.  I also experience occasional glitches with GPS/Location Services.  Sometimes I see an “unable to determine current location” error.  Lastly, they really need to address not being able to access more than one Exchange account.  Every other OS out there today can now access multiple Exchange email accounts.  RIM needs to address this quickly with the proliferation of shared mailboxes.  This may seem like a lot but again, the pros outweigh the cons at this point.

Samsung Focus

imageYes, I know there are a lot of Windows Phone haters.  This device is a very, very close second.  I switch back and forth between my Torch and my Focus a lot.  There are a few things I still need.  Other than some Windows Phones appearing on other carriers, take the plunge anytime.  Over the air updates will keep you current.

Pros: Very tight integration with Exchange/Outlook, including Calendar, which is a must for me.  I can see conflicts at a glance, accept, reject and propose new, email meeting invitee’s all at once if more information is needed or I’m running late, and can dial from the location field for conference calls.  Very tight integration with Microsoft Office, including Microsoft One Note.  I’ll talk more about calendar integration here in a bit.  Social media integration (Facebook/Twitter) is also nice. And with the latest Windows Phone update, I have cut/copy/paste and a much faster phone getting in and out of applications.  Lastly, why I prefer this device over other Windows Phone is purely the display.  Samsung has this nailed!

Cons: No Notes or Tasks integration; removed capabilities to do Enterprise IM; some apps I use on a regular basis just don’t exist yet on the Windows Phone platform; apps I use on other platforms that are free are not free in the Windows Marketplace.  I think they are figuring this out as it’s getting fewer and fewer.  I don’t really like the tiles either.  It’s a cool concept, particularly the live tiles, but they really need to take a hard look at navigation overall.  Once you get past the front screen, depending on the number of apps you have loaded, you scroll forever.  Apps are also missing multi-tasking and push notifications.  I don’t want to have to launch anything to get information.  I should have the option to multi-task and have information pushed to me.  Lastly, they need to work on the app integration piece.  I’ve blogged about that before.  If I have to wipe my phone and start over, all my apps need to come back once I log in or connect to Zune.  And please, I don’t mean restoring from backup.  If the backup is corrupt and has issues (which is why most will reset), the last thing you want is a restore that is also corrupt.  The app load needs to be separate.

HTC Surround

image

I won’t repeat everything above but yes, I have two Windows Phone 7’s on my list.  HTC really makes some great phones, and the stereo sound out of this phone has to be heard to understand what they did.  It is the exact same OS (with different manufacture apps) as any other Windows Phone.  This is the best part of the new platform.  The manufacturer’s were allowed to do stuff to the OS once Microsoft released it.  That’s changed now and no matter which phone you pick up, menus, operation, navigation, etc., are all the same.  It’s the native apps that change.

Pros: Other than what’s noted above on the Samsung Focus, purely the sound of the device.

Cons: Same as listed above, except for the display.  Not sure what happened here but moving from the Focus to the Surround, the display is the weak link.  Not only is it just not as clear, but it just isn’t the same bright display.  Seems dull.  I’ve tried to find settings to improve the display but can’t seem to find it.

Apple iPhone 4

imageYes, the iPhone 4 made my list at number four.  Surprised?  Apple has come a long way here.  The display, user interface, and hundreds of thousands of apps just make this a great device.  As most know, you may want to hold off here if you want an iPhone.  With Apple’s WWDC coming up here the first of June, there are bound to be announcements that you’ll want to know about.

Pros: I’ve already mentioned it above.  The user interface is top notch, the display is clearer than any other I’ve seen, and no matter what I want to run, the app is guaranteed to be there and not only THAT app, but many apps that do the same thing to choose from.  It’s all about user choice.  The phone is a breeze to use and figure out.  Apps work generally the same regardless of what you load (navigation and operation).  The addition of Microsoft One Note is a welcome addition.  Apple has also nailed backup, restore, and app installation.  Hard resetting the phone and starting from scratch is a total breeze.  Lastly, many of the popular apps are getting push notification which is also a plus.

Cons: Yes, I’ve experienced the antenna issue.  The case I bought (Otterbox) has reduced this problem.  Outlook integration is also poor, particularly as it relates to the Calendar.  You still can’t dial out from a meeting request when all other OS’s do this.  Meeting invites just don’t cut it.  They show up in email as an attachment, can’t see conflicts, have to open the attachment to do anything with it, and yet an additional step to actually look at your calendar for conflicts.  Way too many steps. Lots of small buggy things with email and contacts too, including some missing fields to sync with Outlook.  The lack of Notes and Tasks integration with Outlook is also problematic for me because I take lots of notes and manage via Tasks.  Yes, I know Notes syncs but if you need a cable to do anything, your not mobile.  Lastly, Apple needs a complete overhaul of their notification system.  I hate the fact that once I unlock the phone, all the notifications disappear and can’t see them anymore.  If Apple fixes the Outlook integration, this could easily be my number one phone.  The pro’s are just too many.

Palm Pre

image

Wow, are you serious?  The Palm Pre?  Well, I’m not a fan at all of the Pre form factor but absolutely love the webOS.  I can’t wait for HP to release other devices this year, including their tablet.  Let’s see what HP/Palm releases this summer!

Pros: The webOS is slick.  They have done so many cool things with the OS.  The card navigation, the Palm Synergy, the ability to just swipe to do things with the phone (closing apps, deleting emails, moving from app to app) make this phone fun to use.  I have full email, calendar, contacts, and task over the air synchronization.  The integration is nice, with most features I need in Outlook, particularly with the calendar, working on the webOS.  App switching and multi-tasking are also very compelling.

Cons: I just don’t like the form factor.  Sliding the phone open and closed is nice, but the lack of an on screen keyboard (unless you hack it) make the phone a little troublesome.  I don’t like having to open the device just to type one or two words.   Apps are also an issue.  While most apps may be there, some just don’t work well and produce errors when running, like not being able to contact the GPS/Location services when launching FourSquare.  There are others, and overall most of what I want to do is available, but I think HP/Palm needs to now start focusing on the quality of the apps rather than the quantity.

So, why no Android devices on my list?  Do I not like Android?  Again, this is an Enterprise list.  There are many things missing on Android that just makes me want to leave the Android home when I leave.  Security is poorly integrated.  Some don’t enforce basic security like simple PIN and inactivity timer, most don’t encrypt, and most don’t completely remove your date when a remote wipe is issued.  Then there’s the overall wild west attitude to the Marketplace that makes Android very scary.  It’s only a matter of time before we discover all of our personal and corporate data are sitting on servers overseas and that data is being used to destroy people and companies.  Removing the apps after the fact and only when enough users complain is not the way to run an app store.  They need serious quality control and minimum standards in code before allowing the apps in the store.  I really don’t care about all the stuff being said about the sheer number of apps in the store.  Let’s look at quality apps.  There aren’t many, and certainly no “game changing” apps like Apple and Microsoft have already. 

And yes, I realize Touchdown is there but it is NOT enterprise ready.  Yes, it sandboxes the device, yes it enforces standard server security, yes it fully syncs Outlook data and the interface is nice, but it stops there.  There are no enterprise controls that ensure all the settings, including remote wipe settings, stay where they need to be.  One check box not where it is supposed to be and not locked down will leave data on the device on remote wipe.  Not preventing native app sync when Touchdown is loaded is also a pain.  Data can still be exposed because users sync both native apps and Touchdown.  It still requires an enormous amount of work on the backend to administer.  Some of this doesn’t matter to corporations.  I’m not real sure why they think they can compromise security here.  They think they can install Touchdown and they’re done.  Good for them.  The phones are getting too much storage, too much processor, and too fast of a network to increase the risk of data loss and Google and Android just don’t get it.  Fortunately some of the device manufacturer’s DO get it and these issues are being addressed.  Touchdown is also making some changes that may fix some of this.  We’ll see.  Once security is addressed, the list will change.

For now, the fragmentation in the Android market overall (everything from 1.x to 3.x and lot’s of flavors in between), the lack of quality controls in the Marketplace, and poor security around Android in general keep Android off my list.