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Archive for January, 2007

I’m extremely happy today — I FINALLY got my Gmini back! As I mentioned in my first post, my Gmini 400 was in the service center since December due to a small crack in the LCD screen cover. Yesterday, they called and said that my unit was ready for pick-up. Guess what? They replaced the unit with a new one for PhP4,800 (around $95); to be honest, I’m not sure if it’s really a brand new unit or a refurbished one. Still, it’s in prime condition and it seems to have a different hard-disk – Toshiba MK2006GAL according to Windows Vista vs. MK2004GAL according to this old review. Here’s a picture of my “new” baby:

My Archos Gmini 400

To be honest, I was hesitant to spend the money, but when they informed me that the unit would be replaced, I was thrilled. Imagine, where can you buy a brand new 20GB DivX/XviD PVP for less than 5K? I know, the warranty for the unit is only 3 months, but the original warranty already expired months ago, so I’m not complaining. Now that’s customer service for you 8)

If you read the first paragraph above, you may have noticed that I mentioned Windows Vista. That’s right, my trusty Acer laptop is running Vista, though it’s only Release Candidate 1. I joined the Customer Preview Program last September and, for a pre-release product, Vista RC1 is quite good. I’ve used Windows 3.1, 98, ME & XP, and I’ve even gone through several Linux distributions (Red Hat, SuSe, Ubuntu) since the beginning of my tech life. The only one I haven’t tried at home is Mac OS – we used Macs in computer class way back in high school since our principal was a Machead.

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It’s been a sloooow week for yours truly in the blogosphere. I’ve been catching up on my uber-favorite animated series, Naruto – I can’t wait for February 15 when the so-called fillers will finally give way to Shipudden. I know that many Naruto fans will just tell me to read the manga instead, but it always gives me a kick seeing the hyperactive ninja “in the flesh” as he unleashes his mighty army of Kage Bunshin on hapless foes. Dattebayo!

Naruto on Wiki

Moving on, here’s a link to an article on All About Symbian about first impressions of Nokia’s N95. I envy Rafe Blandford since he has his hands on an actual N95 which, IMHO, is the ultimate smartphone available today. I still prefer my E61’s QWERTY keypad but I can’t help but want HSDPA, GPS and S60 3rd Ed Feature Pack 1. Actually, the first two features aren’t too important – just cool – but FP1 is definitely a must-have. I hope that Nokia will send an FP1-enabled firmware upgrade for E61 owners within the next few months. Please Nokia, please 😀

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I recently read this fascinating article on All About Symbian called “The Last Smartphone” which was written as a response to the launch of the “revolutionary” iPhone. I suggest you read it at least twice and let it sink in before you go any further.

Okay, there. Now that you’ve read the feature, it might be easier to digest my less ambitious morsel on what recent tech products may be considered revolutionary. Most of my assumptions are based on facts presented in Wikipedia.

First up is the Motorola Razr V3. I’m sure that, unless you’ve lived in a cave and subsisted on water droplets from ancient rock formations for the past three years, you know the extent of this phone’s popularity. When it was released in 2004, it was considered an expensive phone, at US$500 with a carrier plan and $800 without one. I remember that, here in the Philippines, it was initially sold for around PhP35K. When I bought my Xda IIs, my sister-in-law asked me why I didn’t buy a Razr V3 instead. Me guy, me no need slim girly phone! :mrgreen:

In 2005, the phone was repositioned as a mid-market phone; in July of that year, Motorola reported that it was the most popular clamshell phone. It even ranked #12 in PC World’s “The 50 Greatest Gadgets of the Past 50 Years”, a list released in December 2005. It’s the #2 mobile phone in the list, ranking behind its older sibling, the StarTAC. A LOT of people I know own a Razr and, more than 2.5 years after its launch, it’s still the 8th most popular mobile phone in a 2006 December survey by CNET Australia (as I mentioned in a previous post). Pretty impressive.

Motorola Razr V3 in Black

Still, good looks & popularity do not necessarily constitute a revolution. What truly makes the Razr “revolutionary” is the fact that it sparked a rethinking in mobile phone design for the masses. Motorola believed that a mobile phone could improve a person’s sex appeal, and people voted YES with their wallets. It was not the first “fashionista” phone – I believe the Nokia 8810 deserves that title – but it was the 1st affordable and widely available model. As mentioned in krisse’s article, affordability is a big characteristic of revolutionary products.

Until today, the effects of the Razr on mobile phone design are still apparent. Most major brands have slimphone models, and even the iPhone has been hailed for its anorexic design. For better or for worse, the Razr single-handedly transformed mobile phones from boring utilitarian devices into chic fashion accessories. It’s not surprising that Motorola became the world’s #2 mobile phone brand after the Razr’s release.

The second revolutionary product is Apple’s iPod. Okay, if you don’t know what the iPod is.. no no no, I will not be mean. Seriously, even though there are countless other MP3 players – some of which, I could argue, are better devices – none have captured the public’s imagination like the iPod. To the chagrin of other brands, the term “iPod” has almost become synonymous with MP3 player. It’s no surprise then that it holds the #2 spot on PC World’s list, behind only Sony’s classic Walkman.

1st Generation iPod

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Vox Populi & how the iPhone stacks up

I bet that all the phones from Nokia, Motorola & Sony-Ericsson are envious of the attention being heaped on the iPhone. Even the snooty smartphones from Palm & Windows Mobile can’t help but be jealous. Still, if I were them, I wouldn’t be too worried. People will always have a place in their hearts for phones without a multitouch interface or an iPod music player.

Based on recent surveys from CNET Asia & Australia, which cover December 2006, slider & flip handsets rule the roost. In the survey by CNET Asia, 5 of the top ten phones are sliders and 1 is a flip-phone. In the survey by CNET Australia, sliders and flips are 3 each. The top phone in the Asian survey (which is based on data from Singapore) is the SE W850i, a sliding music phone with 3G and a 2MP camera. The top phone in the Australian survey is the Nokia N95, a do-it-all slider device – 3G HSDPA, GPS, 5 MP camera, Wifi. In other words, it truly is a smart phone – take that iPhone!

Nokia N95 (Courtesy of CNET.com.au)

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One of the key features mentioned by Steve Jobs (and some folks in the blogosphere) is the enhanced Web experience on the iPhone courtesy of Safari. A demo is also available on the Apple website which shows how Safari renders web-pages on its screen. It’s clear that Apple believes that the an iPhone user should have a very similar browsing experience to a Mac user. This approach is akin to the one implemented by Nokia in its OSS browser, found in S60 3rd Ed phones (like the E61).

It is interesting to note that both the Safari and OSS browsers are based on Webkit, an open-source web browser engine. The differences lie in the interface; Apple uses a touchscreen while Nokia relies on either phone or QWERTY keypads.

One of the main limitations of the mobile web experience is the use of small screens in most mobile phones. Notable exceptions are “smartphones” like the Treo 650/680/700, SE P990 and Nokia E61/62 with approx. 2.8-inch screens. Phones based on Windows Mobile also use large screens, since a fair number of them are closer in design to PDAs than to phones. The iPhone sports a fairly large 3.5-inch screen, just like the Xda II/IIs series. In general, a bigger screen can offer a better web experience since more data can be displayed at one time.

However, the software also plays an important role. Based on my experiences with the IIs and E61, browsing on the E61’s smaller screen was much better mainly because the OSS browser trumps Pocket IE. I was never truly comfortable surfing with Pocket IE, even when using landscape mode and adjusting zoom settings. With the OSS browser, I’ve literally spent hours on the Web without missing my laptop. If the Web experience manages to be just as compelling on the iPhone, if not more so, than I’m sure that owners will be thrilled.

Of course, since most web pages are still optimized for large screen viewing, zooming is definitely a crucial function of mobile web browsers. In the case of Apple, zooming is performed using finger movements. It seems intuitive enough, and the zoom motion looks pretty smooth in the demo. As for Nokia, zooming is done in increments of 25 percentage points. On the E61, I often use 50% or 75% zoom. Most regular pages display nicely with these settings. Here are some screenshots:

nytimes.com on E61 OSS at 50% Zoom

nytimes.com on E61 OSS at 75% Zoom

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iPhone iLike

Apple iPhone (www.apple.com/iphone)

Mama mia! The iPhone has finally been revealed.

At first, I thought it was just a nasty rumor to whet the appetites of Apple fanboys. But, as Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone in this year’s Macworld Expo, even I felt a slight flutter in my stomach. My first impressions were:

  • Cool touchscreen interface
  • Amazing form factor
  • Beautiful screen
  • Incredible proximity sensor

After reviewing the specs on the Apple website, I was less impressed. Here’s the list:

Technical Specifications
Screen size 3.5 inches
Screen resolution 320 by 480 at 160 ppi
Input method Multi-touch
Operating system OS X
Storage 4GB or 8GB
GSM Quad-band (MHz: 850, 900, 1800, 1900)
Wireless data Wi-Fi (802.11b/g) + EDGE + Bluetooth 2.0
Camera 2.0 megapixels
Dimensions 4.5 x 2.4 x 0.46 inches / 115 x 61 x 11.6mm
Weight 4.8 ounces / 135 grams

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I’m an addict

Hi! I’m filjedi, thirty-something, married with 1 child, and I’m an addict.

It all began in 1993 when I got my first laptop, a Compaq 386 with an amazing 8 MB of RAM; I wanted 20 MB, but the salesman said, “No one uses 20 MB!” It was running Windows 3.1 (remember that?) and it booted up to DOS. A year later, we added a desktop, a 486 with 16MB of RAM. After that, I upgraded the processor of the desktop every 2-3 years (Pentium 90, Pentium 200 MMX, Celeron 400) with the necessary increase of RAM. Also, I went through a slew of video cards (Riva 128, Voodoo 2) during that period.

By the time the Internet was available in 1996, my desktop was the Celeron-Voodoo 2 combo. I tried out Netscape 1.2, went to yahoo.com and was instantly hooked. I said, “Wow, this is so cool! I’m looking at a web page hosted half-way across the world!” After a few years, I went the AMD-Nvidia route and got hooked on Diablo II (still the best game.. EVER!).

Once I started working, I had less time for games, so the Internet became the primary use for my PC. I’d play the occasional game, but I found the information highway more captivating. I started reading about different kinds of gadgets (PDAs, mp3 players, mobile phones) and this became my new obsession.

My first PDA was a Cassiopeia E-100; it had a touchscreen (grin,grin) and I could finally store important info electronically. Then, I switched to a Palm m125 after realizing that the Windows CE platform was still not ready for the prime-time. I loved how the Palm was simple and powerful at the same time (even without a color screen).

In the same year that I got the E-100, I bought my first GSM cellphone as well, the Nokia 1600 on Globe. I know it wasn’t powerful, but it satisfied my main criteria for a phone: low price. I didn’t think much of mobile phones then, so even after dumping the 1600, I went through a couple of low-end phones from Siemens and Bosch. After that, I got my first camera phone, a Nokia 7600; I was elated when I held it for the first time in my hands. Here was a winner!

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