Windows Phone 8 – Nokia Lumia 920

Okay, so not feeling that cutting edge with my Windows Phone 8 – Nokia Lumia 920 atm. I swapped out my beloved Motorola Atrix 2 (which I described fully in “My Shiny New Toy” in July 2012) for this device, and found a lot of things to be rockin’ with the WP8 device .. however, I’m writing this JUST as Microsoft and Nokia are releasing the Windows Phone 8 – Nokia Lumia 1020 (41-mp camera .. wowza!).

So .. feeling a tiny bit behind the times. That said, let’s cover what I found to be cool in my WP8 / Nokia experience:

  • LOVE the text-to-voice interface .. texts are read to me and I can respond in voice.
  • LOVE the Metro Tiles. Wonderful to be able to place the applications I use the most within easy reach for one-handed operation.
  • LOVE the ability to use Lync (meeting and collaboration software) while holding meetings on the Microsoft Corporate Network .. that was reason alone for me to switch.
  • 32GB RAM .. wahoo!

Some bits I found to be not-so-hot:

  • Metro tiles: not happy they are not more customizable. I have multiple email accounts, and there is only one icon (that I found) .. which is which?
  • Text-to-voice: there doesn’t appear to be reliable ‘learning’ in the device. It doesn’t recognize / remember various bits of slang that I use.
  • Text-to-voice: the TTV interface simply ‘gives up’ if I’m in a noisy environment, even on an earbud.
  • The Bluetooth stack is oddly unreliable .. multiple earbuds will simply ‘forget’ they are connected, which forces me to the handset to complete a call. When the earbud fails, it must be power-cycled to reconnect. Further, it doesn’t accept the first attempt to PC the device (this makes me think the earbud internal system needs a reboot after connecting with WP8).
  • The lack of applications. I cannot use Schwab, Alaska Airlines, Chase, BECU and so on (YMMV).
  • The lack of functionality in WP8 applications: missing hardware components (barcode scanner, audio) in apps that are available.
  • The lack of Google Maps. In my experience, Bing Maps and Nokia “Here” are very poor substitutes.

IMHO: the WP8 platform still has a way to go. Maybe some of these things are resolved in the 1020 .. let’s dig about and see what we find.

Motorola LapDock 100

A few purposes for this post:

Lapdock™ for  MOTOROLA ATRIX™ 4GWrite a post on the My Shiny New Toy (the Motorola Atrix 2 4G) using the the LapDock.

Talk about the WordPress for Android application on the LapDock.

Talk about some of the other applications on the LapDock.

Talk about the LapDock.

Pretty clever device, overall. A nice keyboard (even though small, it’s bigger than the one on the device) and a 10.1" screen. Very handy. The device feels a lot like my Acer and Dell 10.1" notebooks; a tiny bit lighter as no hard drive.

Things that rock:

  • Having a screen
  • Having a keyboard
  • The battery (the battery charges the phone to capacity while connected)
  • Some applications, most notably, Firefox and QuickOffice
  • Other applications: The Email client, the WordPress
  • Keyboard navigation between applications is decent .. once you figure out the Function-row keys (hint: hold F1 to get back to the phone Home screen .. that was a seminal moment for me in application navigation).
  • Speaking of function row keys: the other icons on this row let you dim the screen, navigate media, audio volume and so on. Very nice.
  • The sync feature between the LapDock, WordPress and Windows Live Writer on my PC. While not perfect, the content flows between the applications rather nicely.
  • The Print Screen button works nicely.
  • The USB port (there are two) recognized my wireless mouse. Very nice.

Not so much:

  • Alt-Tab doesn’t work as expected when working with phone applications. The LapDock sees the phone as a single application.
  • To the point above, there are some inconsistencies as how to switch between applications .. in some cases, the Escape button takes you to the home page, in others, it acts as a ‘back’ button in the current application.
  • To that point, the Escape key may exit the current application.
  • Holding the F1 (Home) screen is manna to switch between applications. It’s reliable, and brings you up a list of currently-running applications.
  • I’d like to have more control over the battery; I can carry a spare phone battery, or charge my phone on my laptop .. I’d rather have more time on the LapDock and a dead phone battery than less time on the LapDock with a full one.
  • Speaking of battery, why doesn’t the LapDock charge from a micro-USB like the phone? I’m carrying yet another power brick.
  • The Delete key functions just like the Backspace key, removing the character to the left (instead of the character at the cursor). Ick.
  • Control-keys on the keyboard don’t quite behave as expected; Control-right arrow doesn’t leap from word to word.
  • Function keys on the keyboard don’t quite behave as expected; Function-page down, doesn’t. Function-Home takes you to the phone home screen; a bit annoying whist typing until you get used to it.
  • The Firefox browser is ‘seen’ by many applications as a mobile browser, and while powerful enough to function fully (including Adobe Flash), there doesn’t seem to be a way to override this perception on certain sites (Microsoft: I’m talking to you).
  • The USB port didn’t recognize my USB headset; while I get this, some device recognition (so I could search for a driver) would be nice.
  • The battery meter on the LapDock is a press-and-hold of the power button .. seems like there should be an app with a UI for that.
  • NO clue as to firmware updates for the LapDock on the Motorola site.

The LapDock is a new application platform and as such, is lacking in applications at the moment. The home page points you to a YouTube application and several others, but not as many as I’d like. The LapDock can run applications installed on the phone, but it does so in a stretched-screen view; usable, but not optimal, as the text is LARGE, and only allows for about a dozen lines. Let’s hope that the platform catches on, or that it is easy enough to write for the platform by managing the form factor.

On to WordPress. It’s great to have a keyboard and a full screen. It’s also great that WordPress saves drafts to my account when online .. this makes it handy to stub a post from the LapDock, save it to draft and then tidy it up in Windows Live Writer when back on the PC. I need to play a bit with this; for an archival post, I’d probably run it through WLW before posting .. for something of a more whimsical nature, this client would work just fine. Note: this is an archival post .. so I will pass through WLW.

I’m not as impressed with the editing experience of the WordPress application served into the Lapdock on the phone. As above, it runs well enough, but it lacks a number of features that would make it world-class. While Bold, Italic, Underline, Strikethrough, Links and Quoted content is supported, bullets aren’t. What the heck?

A bit more annoying: there doesn’t seem to be a way to double-click on a word to select it; instead, it’s a right-click and ‘select word’, but then, no way to click one of the buttons to modify the formatting. The only way seems to hold the shift key while arrowing over the word to select it, then pressing the button. It’s a shame that Control-B (bold), Control-I (Italic), Control-U (underline) and Control-K (link) aren’t supported.

My gut tells me:

  • 60% of the Atrix-bearing population could use this device and be very, very happy with it. With a bit of workload adjustment and some laptop sync magic, it will far surpass trying to do any serious work on the mobile device by itself.
  • The other 40% will find they cannot do required things like write code, work on complex spreadsheets and play Facebook games with any performance. To this group (I’m one of them), the LapDock is a way to lighten my load while running errands, save some laptop battery on a long flight, and so on.

All in all, it’s an interesting device, and if you make the effort to work with it, you may find it meets your needs as a very portable option for light workloads.

My Shiny New Toy

Well, not exactly a toy .. my mobile phone is my life device, to be sure. However, if you’ve followed me for long .. you know I’m always ready to share about exciting bits and pieces as I encounter them.

MOTOROLA ATRIX 2The flavor of the week / month / year (my last mobile device performed for 2-1/2 years) is the Motorola Atrix 2: dual-core processor, larger-than-life (and pocket) screen, and best of all (tonight, anyway): wireless hotspot.

Handy?

Yes: it boasts all the usual applications, all the Google services, 8GB of onboard RAM, can hold a 32GB microSD AND supports multiple Exchange ActiveSync (EAS) profiles .. now I have no excuse to escape from work, customer or personal email.

On handy: the Atrrix ships with QuickOffice, which recognizes all my Microsoft Office formats .. and now I can even get Microsoft Office OneNote for Android .. which (happily) synchronizes via SkyDrive to my PCs and other devices. This is huge. It doesn’t support Live Mesh, though .. this would be cool for file management and backup across all my devices (I used it on all my PCs and servers .. even cloud servers).

Speedy?

Yes: 4G speeds, thanks to AT&T, plus Wi-Fi.

How fast?

Right now, I’m getting 5 down, 1 up; very nice as the Wi-Fi in the restaurant isn’t working.

On to other toys:

  • The device has a standard dock for charging. Boooring.
  • Wireless keyboard with touchpad. Yawn.
  • Vehicle dock. Snore.
  • Warming up: the Multimedia Dock that connects the device via USB to mouse and keyboard AND a video interface to an external monitor. Wayy coool.

Coolest: the Lapdock.

Lapdock™ for  MOTOROLA ATRIX™ 4GThis spiffy (and expensive!) little device is what caught my eye a year or so ago (the Atrix 1).

Drop the phone into the Lapdock and you have a keyboard and monitor at your beck and call.

The real key here: will the software on the phone support enough tasks that this is a viable laptop replacement for email, browsing, blogging, editing and such for short trips?

In a word: maybe. I am looking to buy one on the cheap to give it a good test.

I’ll let you know what I find.

But .. it’s only three hours ..

image

Whoops. Note the system time (upper right-hand corner) versus the BIG display time (the one I actually use) .. fortunately, the alarms appear to be connected properly.

I think I’ll set my night stand alarm .. just on case.

HTC Aria on ATT with 2.1.

Google + Motorola = Pre-Apple?

Possibly.

By now, you’ve heard that Google plunked down US$12.5 billion to purchase handset maker Motorola Mobility .. both boards have approved the purchase, and regulatory bodies aren’t far behind.

Now that this story has been echoed and re-echoed, one must ask: what does it mean?

  • Better Android devices? Sure. A deeper level of cooperation / collaboration across mobile and tablet devices just spells feature goodness for the consumer.
  • A Motorola-only (like Apple) manufacturing monopoly? No. Google claims Android will remain open; current manufacturers (including my favorite, HTC) can still build for the platform.
  • Better price competition? Don’t bet on it. Here in The States, pricing tends to land in the mobile carrier’s domain.

So, except for service, the consumer should do well: better devices, better features .. I doubt we’ll get much love from the carriers .. remains to be seen.

Despite a public altruistic sheen, Google didn’t make the buy for the consumer. While the hardware and feature opportunity will likely make for a better device, Google had all the device manufacturers clamoring to provide devices, at ever-shrinking margins. What were they thinking?

In a word: patents. The purchase brings a portfolio of an additional 17,000 patents under the control of Google, significantly diversifying their IP and creating myriad opportunities for them to capitalize on others’ efforts.

The best article I found supporting this story was one of the first to be released. ExtremeTech: “Google buys Motorola Mobility, begins transformation into Apple” .. well worth a read.

Google and Motorola Mobility

Google made the news today, grabbing Motorola Mobility, an OEM of Android devices. This means Google may exert more control control over the device platform, driving features to further enhance the Android operating system.

But, what of the other OEMs? Per CRN, “Google: Motorola Mobility Acquisition Won’t Close Off Android”. That is, Android will remain an open-source platform, leveraging a growing community of software developers writing for the platform. Further, Andy Rubin (Google SVP, Mobile) pledges the same support to the current group of OEMs who build the hardware.

Android currently holds about 40% of the mobile market, per ComScore, leading iOS (26%), RIM (23%) and Windows Phone (just under 6%).

In the news:

Interesting (and exciting) times for the mobile market.

WordPress Android Blog Client

Pretty spiffy, actually; taking it for a test drive tonight.

While it supports text formats, like bold, italic and underline, getting to those enhancements is a little kludgy. They work nicely though, even in edit mode. Drafts can be saved locally and uploaded in a review state (online, but not public). Once approved on WordPress, review posts are visible to all.

Categories are supported, as well as text to voice. Media and images, too .. but I don’t see a way to do formatting on the device. Links are also supported as well, requiring a bit of fine fingering.

What about quotes? yes.

Uploading as review to finish online.

As expected, the image just positioned itself .. in this case, the top of the post at the center. I removed it, but I do see the ability to send the post to the blog as a draft that includes an image as a good thing; gives the author the opportunity to capture the image on the device and position it in the post on a PC later on.

Saving as online draft in the WordPress web client (WordPress calls this ‘pending’). Opening in Windows Live Writer to complete.

I was able to open the online draft, but it was slightly tricky: click the ‘Open Recent Post’ button, and when the ‘Open’ dialog appears, click on the blog on which the draft is saved .. this gives you a list of any ‘pending’ posts you’ve saved. Note: when opening a ‘pending’ post, the content comes down to the device in HTML format .. may make positioning images a bit easier (fine fingering challenges apply).

I’ll do another test when I’m off-offline and send up some text-only posts.

All in all, a very nice tool. Available on the Android Market, and the version I am using is free.

Smart Phones and the Accommodation Industry

Most of us (in the 13-55 range) are carrying nifty little digital devices that keep us connected most everywhere we go. Of course exceptions occur: I go off the grid in August to hike in the weeds .. but the rest of the time, my mobile is a life device, keeping me in touch wherever I go.

I was blogging in my favorite sushi bar the other day. I noticed patrons occupying themselves with their toys .. oblivious to a severely impacted level of service during happy hour. Not a complaint, mind you (the kids take very good care of me). However, it raised this thought:

Is the service community (the great folks who handle our food and beverage requests) delighted or disturbed by the preponderance of smart phones .. are they a bane or a blessing? Let’s ponder:

  • Blessing: Customers had something to do whilst waiting for their order to be taken and delivered.
  • Bane: Customers are spending too much time posting to Twitter, Facebook and He-knows-what-else, preventing them from sorting their order..

We are now connected .. anywhere, everywhere, and wherever we may be .. what do you think?

iPad – iOS + (HTML5 + Safari) x Facebook =

Developer opportunity!

Hmm .. someone should check my Algebra. Moving on.

In light of Android’s sales figures outpacing the iPhone (ZDNet), it’s no surprise that “iPhone Developers start to work on Android” (Mobile Dev Pro Online). Advanced skills may be necessary to put your apps on the map.

It’s not the first time developers have looked at other platforms. In the past few years, they chased iPhone projects to ride the consumer wave. Prior to that, they moved enterprises to the Windows platform (see “How to store and access (a lot) of protected content” for my thoughts). Developers have gone from moving the enterprise market to chasing the consumer .. with that kind of motivation and a decent universe of reasonably-priced devices, an Android option could really move the needle.

Other motivators? Well, Facebook, Planning an iPad App, Looks to Work around Apple. Their 700 million users (aka, consumers) could establish a significant beachhead on the iPad device. Rather than coding in iOS (Apple’s mobile operating system), Facebook is encouraging developers to write HTML5 code that will run in the Safari browser .. a nifty way to get dynamic code onto the device. When you leverage HTML5 and the Facebook platform, you have a ‘runs-on-PC and runs-on-Apple’ code line for the target market.

The target market? In a word: Huge.

Note that the lack of Flash support on earlier iPad devices may have impacted sales .. without Flash, the iPad could not run FarmVille (or my favorite, Mafia Wars). In the news: iTunes now offers a version of FarmVille by Zygna (the release date was June 2011) for the iOS devices. Somebody got wise.

In the realm of “follow the money”, HTML5-plus-Safari may pilfer sales and the margin Apple collects from the AppStore.

In the realm of breaking chokeholds, leveraging the popularity of the device and combining it with the reach of Facebook gives game and application developers a whole new playground in which to play.

Another reason to use hands-free devices

Besides using a cell phone against your ear is illegal in Washington State:

Not just Washington .. most states around the country agree, per USA Today: “More states say cellphones and driving don’t mix”.

Note that these articles were from 2008 .. when the law was first enacted. At the time, it was a ‘secondary offense’ in Washington state .. that is, you could not be pulled over for using a cell phone without a hands-free device, but using one while committing another offense (speeding, moving violation) would result in a far stiffer fine.

As of March 26, 2010, using a device to text or talk is a primary offense, per the Driving Laws site: “Washington – 2010 Update – Governor Signs New Bill into Law”. The Hands-Free Info site reprints the restrictions for us in “Washington state: Cell phone laws, legislation”, summarized here:

  • Drivers are prohibited from holding cell phones and other wireless communications devices to their ears.
  • Teenage drivers are barred from using all cell phones and other wireless communications devices.
  • Drivers are prohibited from text messaging (mc: this just seems like common sense).

So .. don’t do that stuff here, please and thank you.

Let’s pile on, shall we? The Washington Post reports lawmakers are pushing for federal review of cell phone usage .. seems it’s been ten years since the last review, and the radiation from the device is still at issue. Motivation includes the World Health Organization, statements from Motorola and citations taken from the Blackberry manual:

(devices) “SHOULD NOT be worn or carried on the body” without a BlackBerry-approved belt clip.”

.. this doesn’t sound like they’re trying to sell belt clips.

So, hang up and drive .. get yourself a hands-free device as soon as you can.

Read more from the Post: “Lawmakers urge federal review of cell phones”.

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