Monday, June 27, 2011

Quick Reviews On Some Of The Top Phones And Tablets

I finally got around to heading out and sampling some of the better devices out there and to be honest I found some really nice devices. Below is a quick synopsis of each device along with its pros and cons.


The G2X is fast. Really fast. It was one of the more smooth and buttery feeling phones available. While there have been a lot of complaints of reboots (never happened while I had it) and screen bleeds (did not really notice it) I found the phone to be one of my favorites. It is also getting a tremendous amount of dev love, so you should look for really great things from this phone in the future. The ROM is stock Android and there is very little bloatware, but that is easily removed with rooting.


Dev Devotion


Reported errors like reboots and screen bleed
LG is untested as a company
T-Mobile could become AT&T

Kyocero Echo

The Kyocera Echo is a standout for being a dual screen smartphone. Unfortunately, it also stands out for being a horrible smartphone. The dual screen is an interesting concept, but I found it to have very little practical use and the big line down the center of the dual screens made it impossible to use. Moreover, I found the phone to be very sluggish when compared to the other phones mentioned here.


Interesting design
Greater screen space


Line in the middle of the two screens is intrusive
Does not work well for all apps

Blackberry Playbook

I was talking with a friend earlier today and the only comment we could come up with for the Playbook was that it is an outstanding failure. I use this description because there is a part of me that honestly believes that the Playbook is the best tablet on the market, but the OS is a bit of a dying platform that is loosing its identity and the fact that it does not have email is ridiculous. If it had email it would be sitting next to me now. The Playbook is incredibly smooth and fast, but it is too bad that such a great device got botched by RIM's failure to include email and keep Blackberry as a viable competitor. Look to see RIM fall behind WebOS and Windows Phone later this year.


Best tablet out there
Super fast
Buttery smooth


Dead platform
No email client
little to no app support

HTC Sensation 4G

The Sensation was awesome. It was really nice to hold and easy to use. Sense 3.0 has clearly made some huge adjustments and was very speedy. Not much lag, if any. On T-Mobile this would probably be my next choice. Locked bootloader is deal, but not a big one since HTC is saying that they will unlock it. This is a great phone for any user, but it is apparently having some wifi issues.


Great device in the hand
Beautiful display 


Presently locked bootloader
Sense 3.0 (I just don't like it)

HTC Evo 3D

The Evo 3D is basically the same phone as the Sensation. Yes, the outside is a bit more boxey, but all in all it really felt the same (although a little clunkier to hold). The 3D is much ado about nothing. I barely noticed it. The 3D pictures and video are annoying to look at, but the 3D movies are pretty awesome. If you want to watch, and will watch, 3D movies on your phone then I would grab it for that, but outside of this one feature it is not different than the Sensation.


3D Movies


Presently locked bootloader
Sense 3.0 
Gimmicky 3D


I tried a lot of phones recently and they all were very good. In fact, most consumers would be happy to have any of the above and I would not discourage them (except for, perhaps, the Kyocera Echo). They are all very solid devices. With that said, however, not one of them can replace the Nexus S. I am waiting for a device to wow me enough to let it go, but it is just not happening. The Optimus 3D? Not likely. The Nokia N9? I am buying it (MeeGo OS), but it will not replace the Nexus S as my daily. It is just too good a phone and even though some might say the specs have been passed up, and they have, the phone is just that good. Now, the upcoming Nexus Prime might just do the trick . . .

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Ultimate Xoom Review! (But, Perhaps I Am A Bit Biased.)

Look, I can sit here and write a bunch of sunshine about the Xoom, but, quite frankly, little of it would be true. The Xoom is quirky. As has been reported some apps force close, it can lag a bit, and twice I’ve gotten it to freeze so bad I was not sure that it was coming back. All of that said the Xoom is the best tablet on the market. 

How could such a faulty device be the best tablet on the market? Well, the Xoom represents what makes Android great. The Xoom, and Honeycomb, are both only beta products at best. There is no SD card or LTE functionality on the Xoom and Honeycomb is really a hackjob waiting to be cleaned and toned up (which is presumably going to result in Ice Cream Sandwich). But let’s look into my Android history a bit and see how this band-aid device and OS surpass the other tablets on the market.

I started Android with the MyTouch3G (HTC Magic). It was an awesome little device, but by the time I got it the phone was already behind. I then purchased a Samsung Vibrant, then the Nexus S and Nexus One, next the Samsung Galaxy Tab, the LG G-Slate, and finally the Xoom. Each and every device had issues. The MyTouch3G was slow. The Vibrant was laggy and the GPS failed miserably. The Nexus S would routinely reboot (sometimes during a phone call) and even to this day I will get calls and the screen will freeze and not let me answer. The Nexus one’s buttons are not exactly set correctly, so you need to actually press above the symbol to get it to work. The Galaxy Tab’s email app will not allow you to accept invitations. The LG G-Slate has a whole set of issues that can be found here. The point here is: Android, no matter the product, is always full of problems.

Review after review written about the Xoom discussed how it was going to or did fail. It is too expensive. It is not finished. But everyone is missing what the Xoom is, and frankly what Android is, entirely. The Xoom is not finished and no one pretended it was; rather it is the promise of something greater than an enlarged phone, a la iOS. Android and the Xoom are betas that are in constant transition to be something better. As that journey progresses there are laggy hiccups and reboots, but always, always moving forward.

The Xoom, along with its bluetooth keyboard, are the closest one can get to replicating the laptop (Transformer notwithstanding). It is remarkably easy to be productive on the device. Rather it be blogging, checking Twitter (I prefer Plume’s Honeycomb setup), or utilizing the amazing email application--the Xoom makes life much easier. For every insignificant failure one can find ten things about the device that are veritably awesome or at least show such promise that it keeps one coming back again and again. Reading the news is pure joy and Google Books works wonderfully. The GMail app is one of the most stunning and by far the best email app available on any OS working on any device. Scrollable and resizeable widgets (Honeycomb 3.1) make organizing the screen easy, and the USB connectivity is something that has been missing for far too long--and Apple is to afraid to make that happen. And in line with it's namesake the Xoom is fast! 

Oh, and there is one other thing that sets the Xoom apart--a functionality completely foreign to all other tablets on the market, and for the time being the only tablet to even be considered for this option. I am, of course, talking about the unlockable (and relockable) bootloader. This has sparked a heavy dose of development, even if the source is being withheld from us. For any Android enthusiast there is nothing sweeter than plugging in a device, typing in that little phrase Fastboot oem unlock, and voiding that warranty. You cannot get that on any other tablet, save the Xoom.

There are some really great tablets coming out, especially notable are the Samsung devices, but the Xoom is certainly Google’s baby--one need only look to IO to realize that. The Xoom is going to get upgrades for a substantial amount of time and the development community is very strong already. If one is going to make an investment buy the Xoom so you can experience progress, however if one wants to look cool while spending a lot more money, then I would suggest the iPad. (Yes, after buying all of the apps needed to make iOS actually be compatible with anything it will inevitably cost you more money). 

We can all be sure that there will be something better that comes along eventually--the quadcore Xoom is already rumored for this summer--but the Xoom will do just fine for a long time, especially a consideration for those locked in for two years on Verizon. There are very few times that I would tell a person not to hesitate when it comes to tech devices, but the Xoom (and I have to plug the Nexus S as another worthwhile device) is worth the money and worth the risk.