Category Archives: sprint

Apple Excitement? Not So Much.



I have a number of Apple products and I’ve been a bit of a fan in the past. Apple products of the past represented genuine value. Not only would the operating system continue to work well on aging hardware, but Apple products used to be repairable.

I’ve had a Sprint HTC Evo 4G for about two and a half years. The original Evo is still a great phone, but it obviously cannot work with Sprint’s new LTE network, so it was time to upgrade.

About a month ago I was seriously considering an iPhone 5. However, the details about the new iPhone 5 screen size began to emerge and I didn’t like what I was hearing – it was only a 4” inch screen. My Evo had a 4.2” inch touch screen, and I didn’t want to go to a smaller screen size – if anything I wanted an even bigger screen.

The original Evo was admittedly a battery hog – I knew that would be the case with it going in. Fortunately, the original Evo has a user-changeable battery. I changed batteries twice in two years. The way I use my phones, I destroy batteries – I MUST be able to easily replace them myself. So besides the smaller 4” inch iPhone 5 screen, it has a sealed battery. (Incidentally, the latest HTC Evo LTE also has a sealed battery, also making it a non-starter for me.)

So, I ended up getting a 16 gigabyte Samsung Galaxy S3 from Sprint. The S3 has a gorgeous AMOLED 4.8” touchscreen along with a user-replaceable battery, which tipped the balance for me in the end. I have the unlimited data “Simply Everything” plan, so I am able to use my phone as my podcast aggregator as well as the playback device. I transferred the 32 gigabyte Micro SD chip from the Evo to the S3 and can even go to a 64 gigabyte chip if the need should arise.

Apple revolved around Steve Jobs and his innovative brilliance. Steve Jobs had some serious personality flaws, but he was able to succeed in spite of those flaws. Now that Steve is gone, I fear that Apple as a company has embraced Jobs’ personality quirks as if they were the source of innovation.

Having high-priced products that cannot easily be repaired for me is a deal-breaker.

By the way, the Samsung Galaxy S3 is an awesome device and I could not be happier with my choice.


Not Just StuffIt! At Smith Micro



Smith Micro Mobile Network DirectorSmith Micro is best known for its Mac software and StuffIt! in particular but the company’s portfolio is much wider than that. Andy and Don chat to Carla of Smith Micro Software to find out what else the company does.

Smith Micro has a portfolio of products in the mobile wireless space, delivering solutions for telcos and cable operators. As Carla points out, if you’ve ever connected your laptop to a 3G network, you’ve probably used some of their software.

Sprint chose Smith Micro’s Mobile Network Director to intelligently manage traffic between 3G, 4G and Wi-Fi connections. A software client on the smartphone works with the carrier’s systems to select the connection technology that will give the best performance in the particular situation. For example, in a very congested 4G area, the software will transfer the data connection to a quieter and consequently faster 3G network.

From the interview, it sounds like Sprint has learnt from the CarrierIQ debacle and while the software on the smartphone works transparently, the owner can override the connection selection manually. Good.

Interview by Andy McCaskey of SDR News and RV News Net and Don Baine, the Gadget Professor.

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Laza HTC Evo 4G Extended Alternative Battery



Phones come and phones go. Our expectations change. Technology marches forward – well most of the time, except when it comes to the bane of wireless pocket tech – battery life.

I’ve had my Sprint HTC Evo 4G phone for more than a year at this point and I’m still very satisfied with its overall feature set as well as it’s performance. The big ongoing problem has been battery life. With the stock battery that came with the phone I have been lucky to get 5 hours out of it just on standby, perhaps extending that a bit by turning off automatic data synching. The original Evo 4G eats battery power like crazy. I knew this would be an issue going in, but unlike a lot of people I can keep my phone plugged into external power most of the time I’m in my truck, so the power devour issue mostly doesn’t cause me too much trouble. In all fairness, turning off data completely in the settings would vastly extend the Evo’s standby time, but this defeats the purpose of having a super smartphone.

There are times when the phone has to be running on it’s internal battery, and I need extra battery life. I got to searching for alternative Evo batteries on Amazon.Com, and I ended up purchasing this Laza HTC Evo 4G 3500mAh Extended Battery + Cover for along with Laza Sprint HTC Evo 4G Extended Battery Silicone Case Black. I was able to get both of these items along with three extra screen covers for $22.54 from Amazon, a real bargain compared to pricey alternative, less-capable batteries sold by Best Buy or Sprint.

The replacement battery is thicker, and therefore the new back is needed to accommodate the extra battery thickness. It makes the phone thicker, hence the need for the alternative extended battery silicone case.

As previously stated, it does make the Evo 4G thicker than before, but even with the extra girth it still easily fits into my pants pocket.

The new battery does vastly increase the phone’s standby time. In normal use it would probably last me all day. Of course, I’m not a normal user – most of the time the Sprint WiFi Hotspot feature is turned on and the phone is paired with my iPod and frequently with my Macbook Pro. Using the phone as a WiFi hotspot I can probably get about 5 to 6 hours of heavy data usage before pushing Android into automatic shutdown. Overall, I love my Evo 4G and would still buy one today were I in need of a new phone.

Laza also sells a variety of extended batteries, backs and accommodating cases in a variety of colors for other Android phone models – simply search Amazon for “Laza.”

If you want extra battery life from your Evo 4G, I recommend checking out Laza.


Movies & Documentaries On iOS Devices



Since getting the latest version of the 32 gigabyte iPod Touch a couple of months back, one of the uses that has surprised me has been late-night movie-watching after I’ve gone to bed but am not yet drowsy enough to go to sleep. The iPod Touch works extremely well for this task. I am able to pair the iPod to my Sprint HTC Evo’s WiFi hotspot feature and generally get very good Internet connectivity.

By far, Netflix is the best on-demand movie service available. Netflix has the most and best content available. The Netflix app for iPod/iPhone works great. It gives me the most relevant features of the full Netflix service in a tidy little package. So far, I’ve watched dozens of movies right on my iPod.

But are there other iPod/iPhone movie and documentary apps available? It turns out there are, though the quality can vary tremendously. One of them is called “NFB Films” which is an app created by the National Film Board of Canada. You can watch over 1,000 movies, including documentaries, animations and trailers.

Another app is called “Big Star TV.” The app itself is free to install, but if you wish to watch any content, like with Netflix, you have to pay a monthly fee. Big Star’s movies don’t seem to be up to the high quality level of Netflix.

B-Movies is a free app that presents Internet Archive (www.archive.org) films in an organized, easy-to-use format. It should be noted B-Movies is not associated or a part of the Internet Archive. Among other things, the Internet Archive contains an incredibly rich and diverse set of older classic corporate, school and government documentaries.

Apart from these choices of course is YouTube. Certainly YouTube has a tremendous amount of content, but therein lies the rub: there’s so much YouTube content, it makes it difficult for any single app to categorize, let alone try to catalog what’s available. With YouTube it’s best to simply search on a keyword or phrase that interests you and then start surfing.

The promise of the future that was held up when I was a kid has in many ways arrived, but as always there remains a lot of room for improvement.


Tech Serendipity



Sometimes things no one ever thought of simply seem to come together. Services and devices end up being used to do things the individual inventors and designers couldn’t have imagined.

For some time now, I’ve been thinking about attaching one of the new Mac Minis to one of my TV’s and utilizing it as a home theater PC as well as an over-the-air DVR to record high definition digital broadcasts from the local TV stations. A late Sunday afternoon trip to my local Best Buy and a Mac Mini was mine.

I sat the Mac Mini up with Eye TV and a USB HD tuner attached to my outdoor antenna. Depending on how I have the antenna rotated, I can receive upwards of 17 or more HD and digital broadcast channels. Of course, keep in mind that the Mini is on my home network, so I’ve got complete remote access in a number of different ways.

The Eye TV 3.4.1 software has easy iPhone/iPod/iPad/Apple TV file conversion, so I’m easily able to convert the files to the format of my choice.

A thought popped into my head. What if I converted the files to the iPhone format and put them into my Dropbox? I also have the Dropbox app for Android installed on my Sprint HTC Evo phone. Since I have an 8 gigabyte SD card installed with the possibility of going all the way up to a 32 gigabyte card if I wish, could I synch the exported iPhone files from my Dropbox on the computer to Dropbox on my phone?

To my surprise, I don’t even have to synch the exported iPhone videos to my phone – once they are synched to the Dropbox server, all I have to do is open the file from Dropbox on my phone and the file immediately starts streaming. If I’ve got a decent 3G Sprint cell signal, the video plays perfectly without a glitch.

So, I’m taking multiple different technologies, and using them in a way no single inventor or designer ever envisioned. I can record local TV programming from home, export it as an iPhone format file into my Dropbox folder, and stream the files to my phone. Pretty phenomenal stuff if you ask me.

For sure, there are other ways to accomplish the same end result, particularly if one has adequate bandwidth. For situations where bandwidth is limited and more variable, this solution works surprisingly well.


Twonky Mobile Server



It’s always fun when technology intersects, and it becomes possible to do something cool that was previously not possible and/or was never thought of.

Such is the case with my Sprint HTC Evo smartphone. Sure, it’s a pocket computer. Sure, it has WiFi. As such, sure, it’s a network device with a potential node on my home network.

Rewind. What was that last bit again? My phone is a network device with a potential node on my home network. Let’s see – what can I do with network devices – share resources, share drives and therefore share files.

Enter the free Twonky Server Mobile for Android. Twonky Server Mobile is a free piece of software available in the Android Marketplace that shares audio, video and photos from the phone to UPnP and DLNA certified receiving devices on a home network. This includes software such as Boxee and UBMC among others.

I had a copied a number of videos to my Evo’s 8 media card so I’d have them available to watch if and when I had time. Hummm – with the Evo’s WiFi turned on and connected to my home network, if I ran the Twonky Server Mobile software, would I be able to see Twonky Mobile Server as an available network share with my Western Digital TV Live Plus boxes? If so, how would it work?

I’m happy to report that the free Twonky Mobile Server for Android works flawlessly. Simply start the app and there’s nothing else to do on the phone. Twonky Mobile Server shows up as an available server on the network, and the audio, videos and photos show up and play with UPnP and DLNA certified receiving devices such as WD TV Live Plus boxes.

Twonky also offers a small array of inexpensive server software products that make it possible to easily share audio, video and photo media from your Windows or Mac computer via UPnP and DLNA to certified devices such as Playstation 3, many digital photo frames, many Blu-ray players, and other devices and softwares.


Smartphone Interfaces and Uses



If today’s smartphones are as powerful as our desktop machines were 5 years ago, the question emerges – why do smartphones have all of these apps written for them, whereas traditional desktop and laptop computers usually have a much smaller number of more generalized, less specialized programs installed?

Compared to the traditional laptop or desktop computer, the smartphone is with the user much more of the time. The smartphone has built-in location awareness, which the typical full-fledged computer does not have.

The smartphone has a very different interface than the full-fledged computer, dictated by its pocket form factor. That pocket form factor dictates a different interface interaction that demands bits and pieces of software to make specific uses easier. Because of always-on Internet access, smartphones can easily pull just the data they need instantly on demand for very specific purposes.

Here’s what can be surmised about the ideal future smartphone devices:

Ultimately, it’s a phone slash computer that fits into a pocket with an always-on connection to the Internet. The touch screen should be as large as possible, but still be able to fit into a shirt pocket. The battery life should be as good as possible. The memory should be as large as possible, the Internet access should be as fast and as reliable as possible. The processing, camera and phone performances should be as good as possible. The device should contain all of the current popular consumer wireless protocols. Overall the device should be as light as possible, and be as rugged and durable as possible.

In short, the smartphone should be able to do everything we expect, and do it well. Surprisingly, some of these devices are getting closer to meeting some of these ideals.


Tango to FaceTime, “Move Over”



There’s a new cross-platform video calling app that just became available called Tango. There are versions for both the iPhone as well as Android. Tango does what Apple’s FaceTime does, except it also does it cross-platform as well as via 3G. Apple’s integrated video calling app FaceTime works only with iPhone 4’s and via WiFi data network connectivity.

I called a friend that has an iPhone 4 with my Sprint HTC Evo via Tango. Both of us were in moving vehicles in different parts of the country, and both of us were on 3G networks – my friend obviously on AT&T with his iPhone 4 in the Miami, Florida area, and me being on Sprint 3G on I-81 in Virginia. Tango took advantage of the forward-facing cameras both in my friend’s iPhone 4 as well as in my HTC Evo.

Overall the experience was quite impressive. If you have either an iPhone or Android phone, download the free Tango app and give it a try.

One really strange quirk with Android phones is that there can be two phone books – the “phone” phone book and the Gmail phone book. Tango relies exclusively on the “phone” Android phone book, so keep that in mind when looking for and/or setting up contacts to work with Tango.


Fun With Android – “Camera 360”



A few months have passed since getting my Sprint HTC Evo. I’ve had a chance to try out a number of different apps. I’ve finally found one I liked well enough to buy. “Camera 360” is a full-featured software camera that can be used in addition to or as a replacement for the stock camera software that ships with different Android phone models.

Camera 360 offers many more features and user controls than come with the standard stock Android camera software. One of the features that sold me on the idea of paying the $3.99 for the ad-free version of the camera is the inclusion of high dynamic range or HDR photo simulation. Camera 360’s HDR simulation modes offers the ability to generate some very interesting photo results.

Here are some before and after HDR simulated images taken with Camera 360. Camera 360 can be set to automatically save the original non-processed JPEG file if that is your preference. The HDR effect works great for some images and not-so-great for others.

Camera 360 is an extremely fun application that has gotten me to the point where I’m constantly playing with my phone’s built-in camera. I haven’t had this much instant gratification fun from a digital camera in a number of years. Camera 360 is an Android app worth paying the $3.99 for.


Do Frequent Phone O/S Updates Make Sense?



I’ve had my HTC Evo for a couple of months or more at this point. When I first turned it on, there was an update waiting. The update installed. So far, so good.

Over the next few weeks I heard there was another update available, but it turned out there was a problem with the update. It took HTC and Sprint about a week or more to fix the problem update, but since the Evo was still in very short supply, I chose not to update it right away. What if there was a problem with the update and it bricked the phone? How would I get an immediate replacement? Better to wait.

A few days ago, Sprint and HTC started releasing the “Froyo” or “Frozen Yogurt” Android 2.2 update for the Evo. I decided it was time to take the plunge and accept the update.

There were two updates. The first one downloaded and installed, and then the second. No problems.

Now I’m asking myself, did the upgrade to Android 2.2 live up to all the hype? Android 2.2 on the Evo might be a little bit more snappy, but it’s hard to tell since the Evo already had excellent performance with the version of Android it shipped with. There are a few changes here and there that improve usability, some of them somewhat worthwhile, but was it really worth the trouble? The phone was a great device before the update. It’s a great device after the update.

Are updates to existing smartphones enough reason for consumers to get really excited over? As I see it, if lots of new basic usability and reliability can be added with a particular update, then it’s likely worthwhile. Smartphones are still evolving devices.

It seems to me that the job of adding new functionality to smartphones falls primarily to apps, and not necessarily the operating system itself. The operating system should be a stable, functional platform that offers basic functionality and services to those apps.

Once smartphone operating system design begins to mature however, the danger of updating and changing things just for the sake of change is always a potential risk. Also keep in mind that on average people replace cell phones about every 18 months, which is a much more frequent replacement cycle than desktop and laptop computers.

In the realm of desktop computer software, Microsoft Office is a great example of mature software design. There are only so many things word processing software can do. Microsoft Word and Excel both had good design and usability for me starting way back with Office 95. With subsequent releases, Microsoft seemed to sometimes arbitrarily change things just for the sake of change, which is a huge usability mistake. Computer software design is not the same as car styling design.