Last Friday I decided to put the Blackberry down for a week and use a new phone for seven days. If you know me, you’ll know I’m an avid Blackberry user. I pretty much don’t need a laptop, on my Blackberry I’m nearly as efficient as I am when I’m sitting at my desk at my computer. For this test, I chose a Samsung Focus, a Windows Phone 7 device with the stock operating system (no Mango) and used it for a week. Here are some of my observations:
- The screen is beautiful. Inky blacks, vibrant colors, everything looks beautiful on the device.
- The UI. For the iOS diehards out there, you might find Windows Phone’s animations a bit over the top but I’m absolutely in love with them. I found myself often swiping the UIs to just play with the animations.
- The phone feels alive with data. It does a fantastic job integrating my Facebook, Google and Windows Live accounts and giving me a holistic view of my friends and contacts.
- Live tiles. I wish there was more of this, but the live tiles as the app icons is sexy. They pulse with information that’s hiding under them. Some of them aren’t really that useful or interesting like the Zune app or the Photos app (I don’t need to see Lady Gaga’s for two straight days — show me my album art).
- The browser. Before you jump down my throat, remember I’m coming from a Blackberry. Even though it’s IE7, the browser to me is a huge step forward from what I’m used to.
- The camera. Beautiful photos and great videos. Love taking photos with this phone.
- Windows 7 Phone Connector for Mac. I was surprised to see how much care and attention went in to making the phone work on the Mac. Music syncs seamlessly over from iTunes (altho there’s no audiobook suport and the Zune app keeps forgetting my location within a podcast).
- The keyboard. Oy, I miss a real keyboard. Of course compared to a Blackberry keyboard, the on-screen keyboard holds no salt. On the other hand, I also own an iPad and I have an iPhone, and I feel that I’m 10x more accurate typing on iOS devices and it’s 100x better at making suggestions than Windows Phone. This, more than anything, holds me back from making it a full time phone. I constantly found myself having to backspace because I accidentally started a new line, pushed space by accident, or something else equally obnoxious. I never had these issues typing on an iOS device.
- Windows Live, Twitter, Linkedin. You can’t turn off the Windows Live contacts. Once you hook your device up to your Windows Live account, you can only turn off email sync from Hotmail but you can’t disable Contacts sync. Come on guys. My Hotmail address book is so dated and unused so showing me all those contacts is silly. Let me turn it off. No Linkedin app, which is a minor annoyance, but the Twitter app is a trainwreck. It’s slow, buggy and doesn’t integrate at all with the phone well.
- Apps. The Marketplace has a dearth of content, and half of it seems like it’s made by Microsoft. In addition, navigating the Marketplace is impossible and it seems totally chaotic and disorganized.
There were other minor annoyances, such as there being no unified Inbox (e.g. my Sencha email and my personal Gmail have their own icons), but that’s more on the minor side. My understanding is a lot of this is fixed up and better in Mango, so I’m looking forward to that.
Overall, I think if I were to buy a phone, it’d be a two horse game between Windows Phone (assuming Mango is all that) and iOS. I haven’t spent a ton of time with Android, but based on what I’ve seen and having now used Windows Phone, I think the experience of Windows Phone is far better than Android’s.
Mobile World Congress starts today, it’s my first time here. This place is pretty impressive. The Fira, the conference center in Barcelona, is built to match the architecture style of the city and blends right in to the fabric of the area. It’s impressively large and as you walk in you’re accosted by all the biggest names in the industry, mobile and general technology both. It feels a lot like the first Comdex I went to in the 90s. It also feels like Burning Man for tech geeks. In the entrance pavilion (which is outdoors) are huge 20 foot TV screens showing interviews, etc and race cars and booth babes. And that’s just outside.
Our hospitality suite — which is basically an office building that was shipped and built here — is amazing. There’s a full kitchen, stocked with food and drinks for the employees. And that’s completely hidden from the meeting rooms that our awesome admin and show staff run with full coffee and food service. As one of the companies I met with in the morning said, “this temporary office is better than our regular offices on the peninsula!” Needless to say, it’s quite cool.
Adobe’s booth is in Hall 1, and I’ll be manning it for various hours of the day from today until Thursday. I’ll also be doing two presentations at the theater at our booth, “Delivering the Most Complete Web Experiences Across Devices” and “Deliver Seamless Experiences With Flash”. Come check them out if you’re here.
Last week I upgraded my Blackberry Curve from OS 4.3 to 4.5. The upgrade process ran only in Windows took about an hour. I ran it in Fusion, but was generally painless and worked without issue. I’m sure there a ton of new features and bug fixes but here’s my hit list of what I like.
- HTML email! Tables work, replies don’t break formatting. Colors, bold, underline, and all that goodness renders on the phone.
- You can see Exchange availability in the calendar. When you type in somebody’s name, it shows you the free/busy for that person.
- Multiple and colored calendars. If you have more than one service that supports a calendar, the Blackberry will overlay them with colored views now. It works a lot like Windows Live Calendar does.
- The address book now uses two lines per contact. The first line is the name and the second is the company. Not a huge fan since now I can see half the contacts at one shot. I wish they had an option to disable that.
- The new default font, BBAlpha Sans, is really pretty. It’s easy on the eyes, has really nice font hinting. The problem is that it slows the phone down. I have a feeling rendering that font on the Curve is a bit much and adding a touch of sluggishness to the device. Switching the font to any of the old ones picks the speed back to the 4.3 OS.
- In call audio enhancement is supported, so you can add bass or treble boost in the middle of a call if somebody is hard to hear. It’s moderately useful.
- The media player app is pretty much the same, except there are now voice notes. It’s a bit hokey and I’m not a huge fan of it. More on that in a later post.
Overall, it’s a really good upgrade. Makes the phone feel like it’s a new device and the HTML support is awesome.
Today at Adobe MAX in San Francisco, my colleague Matt Snow did a sneak peak of a product I’ve been working on for some time now: Adobe “Nitro”. Nitro is a framework that allows developers to design, build, distribute Flash widgets on multiple screens. Take your widget from the web and distribute it to desktop and to your mobile phone. Developers and designers can create widgets in Flash for many targets, widgetize their existing content and make them viral and portable.
Pretty cool, eh? Matt also showed a early build we had as a demo where he showed widgets staying in sync between your phone and your desktop and an RSS and YouTube widget running same binaries on both the phone and desktop. I’m pretty excited it all went off without a hitch. The demo gods were on our side, even more so given our dry run late last ran in to some hiccups.
Most of what we’re working on I can’t share now. The details we’re releasing at the moment are basically what we showed in the sneak peek, but we’ll have a great set of features and products in the coming year and I’m looking forward to sharing as it becomes available.
P.S. shout out to all other sneak peek presenters. As somebody on Twitter commented, some of the demos are like sci-fi, but real. Also, the production quality of the main hall at Moscone SF was out of this world. I’ll post videos soon. You might also want to check out some of the live blogs of the event, too.
I’m pretty sure mobile broadband is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen. I’m on CalTrain, riding down the Peninsula at 80+ MPH, and online! My speed test showed 296 kbps downstream and 105 kbps upstream, with a 265 ms ping to LA. Pretty sweet. I can’t wait for WiMax and true 3G to start showing up in the marketplace.
I don’t think I’ve ever liked a phone this much. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever liked nearly any gadget I’ve owned this much. Only my iPod is in the race. I recently (off of Craigslist) bought a Blackberry 8830 on Sprint. It has 3G (EVDO), it’s a CDMA phone in the states, and has unlocked GSM capabilities when you take it overseas. Did I mention it has GPS? And Sprint lets you thether for free?
The interface isn’t pretty, but it works so well that who cares about pretty. All my messages (text, email, Google Talk IMs, voicemails, missed calls) are integrated in to one messages view. The phone application keeps a history of who I talked to. The browser is great (okay, it’s no Safari, but still it works really well). Plus, there are a ton of 3rd party applications that can be downloaded to the phone that work with the same UI model, so they feel consistent across the RIM made and 3rd party made apps.
I’m a Blackberry convert. After using the Moto Q, a RAZR, a Sony Erickson set of phones, Samsung phones, Audiovox SMT, even a NeoPlanet smartphone, this is hands down the best phone I’ve owned. Only the Sony Erickson comes close in how it “felt” to use, that I enjoyed using the phone, and didn’t find it a chore.
Being back in SF and wanting to be part of the hip and cool crowd, I went out and purchased a Blackberry-esque phone, the Motorola Q on Sprint. I can’t actually get a Blackberry since Microsoft’s mail system does not run a Blackberry Enterprise Server, which is required to have them work with Exchange email (and running the desktop client breaks company policy of having company data pushed outside the org).
At first, I was overjoyed to have my email, my calendar and contacts all on phone at all times. Having the Calendar was fantastic, it let me keep myself up to date with my life and update things as I needed to. I use my Calendar religiously to keep track of my work and personal lives so having it with me was very valuable. After about the first hour of using the phone, the joy wore off and reality sunk in. The phone barley works.
The list of the problems is too many to enumerate, but I’ll give the highlights. The buttons would stop responding. I would click something, the UI would flash that it received the press and then it did nothing. Clicking “Home” would at times do nothing. I could type faster than the screen could draw. It would send 200 text messages when I wanted to send one. The right thumb scroller just doesn’t work. Pushing the “Talk” button to pick up the phone would hang up on the caller half the time. The battery didn’t charge half the time. I would leave it in the charger overnight only to find it give me an a battery empty alert within minutes. The UI for Windows Mobile 5 is inconsistent, unreliable and non-predictable. Each part of it would act in a different way. It was never able to coordinate the vibrate and ring function (e.g. it would start vibrating a full 5 seconds before the ringer started). I could keep going ad infinitum.
End of the story is I returned it this weekend and I’m back to a non-smart, very-dumb, but at least it works Samsung flip phone.