kindle touch

12 August, 2012 § Leave a comment

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my new friend, with his purple neoprene case (that was a steal at 47% off)

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Closer picture of the snugness. Looks comfy inside there.

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disturbing how crisp typography can get me excited.  sometimes i am conscious of how i am running my eyes by the edges of the letters and punctuation without reading a single word whatsoever.  that ever happen to you?

my very own teapot

9 May, 2010 § Leave a comment

HTC HD2 (HTC Leo) impressions

4 May, 2010 § Leave a comment

HTC HD2 (HTC Leo) impressions

After three months with the iPhone 3GS (16GB), I decided that I did not want to be compelled to use iTunes; the rather dismal battery life was also starting to make me paranoid about not being able to have a mobile on hand in situations when one was most needed.  I considered just using my Sony P1i as my mainstay mobile again, since it has a sterling record, but with the recent slew of touchscreen phones and new operating platforms available, I was tempted to try something new.

Whilst Windows Mobile has been around for a long time, it was new to me coming from UIQ and the iPhone OS.  Mentally, I told myself to be prepared for it not to be as user-friendly out-of-the-box as the iPhone, but I was looking forward to customising it after witnessing all that was possible at xda-developers.

So I traded in the iPhone 3GS for a HTC HD2 and some cash.  Life with the HTC HD2 has been pretty rosy so far, though it didn’t quite have the oomph effect which I experienced when I held the P1i in my hands.

The aim of this post then is to share my experience with the HTC HD2 so far.  It does not contain a blow-by-blow comparison or review of all the out-of-the-box features.  What it is, is a snapshot of the things which I encounter on a day-to-day basis using the HTC HD2.

Note: The impressions in this post are based on a HTC HD2 which has been flashed with custom ROM.

Custom ROM specifications
OS 5.2.2
Manila version 2.5.2
ROM version kwbr topix 1.5.3 WWE

Hardware

The iPhone 3GS was made to be held in your hand, I had a problem keeping it in its protective case because it just felt so good to hold. There was no doubt that the built quality was anything but excellent.

Finishing wise the HTC HD2 is quite a different creature from the iPhone 3GS.  It has a matte black metal casing, thin glossy strip where the four tactile buttons sit at the bottom of the screen, and a back cover with a burnished finish. very classy.

My first struggle came in the form of trying to pry open the back cover to insert my SIM card. It wasn’t easy and I was alternating between fear of breaking the cover and fear of breaking a finger(nail). So, “yay” for replaceable battery, and “boo” for that obstinate back cover.

Battery Life

With push mail set at half-hourly intervals, phone calls, numerous text messages, light surfing of Facebook and internet browsing, eBook reading and music listening during the daily commute, the HTC HD2 can last about a day.  Heavier internet usage depletes the battery much faster, and the phone will need a charge by the late afternoon.

Screen

The screens of both the iPhone 3GS and HTC HD2 were a bit of a mixed bag for me. The little app icons on the iPhone 3GS look really crisp and neat on the iPhone’s screen but videos from YouTube or those transfered using iTunes somehow turned out grainy. In contrast, the icons on the HTC HD2 don’t look as crisp (which can be remedied by finding better quality icons and using an app like CSMI) but videos on that 4.3″ screen are g-o-r-g-e-o-u-s.

I have to confess that the combination of the magnificently huge screen and slim profile in my hand makes me never covet another phone in that moment. Kudos to the designers at HTC for making a device with such a large screen feel so svelte.  It won’t fit into the pockets of tight jeans, but it does still fit into some pockets without creating bulge.

Windows Mobile (Modified!)

One thing you’ve got to give to Apple, the iPhone user interface is truly what one could call intuitive and its design is so refined that it really takes a whole load off the mind of people who are not into tweaks, don’t want to read a manual and just want to start having fun with their phone.

I’m no techie but I do enjoy doing simple tweaks and mods where courage permits. Fortuitously, what do I stumble on but the wonderful world of xda developers. It opened my eyes to limitless possibilities.

Though I’m quite comfortable with navigating the actual windows mobile, I really enjoyed the look and feel of the HTC HD2 achieved with CoOkie’s Hometab.  Configuration was done easily with CHTEditor.

CoOkie’s Hometab

There is a homescreen which I’ve set so that it displays an analogue clock (I adore analogue clocks), the next upcoming appointment and two rows of quicklinks.  Swiping down on the calendar will display all the upcoming appointments; swiping down on the quicklinks will reveal a whole page of quicklinks; swiping left or right on the quicklinks will reveal the quicklinks on the first two rows of the other quicklink pages whilst retaining the view of the appointment and clock on the homescreen.

with CoOkie's HomeTab

The lock screen is also customisable and will show an indicator when you have a new message or new email.  If you have an upcoming appointment, it will be displayed during lock screen mode.

Most Commonly Used Features / Applications

Push Mail

Setting up an exchange account to sync with my gmail and hotmail accounts was done without any hiccups.  There is no ability to sync tasks with gmail at the moment, but the calendar and mail functions were more important for me.  I set the push mail frequency to half-hourly intervals to conserve battery life.  Strangely, when I’m logged into gmail on my home computer, I have discovered that the HTC HD2 alerts me to new mail faster than the prompt from gmail itself, resulting in my having to manually refresh gmail on my desktop browser (!).

MobiPocket (eBook Reader)

One of my favourite activities to do with my mobile phone is to read eBooks and MobiPocket has been my eBook reader of choice.  I simply installed MobiPocket on the HTC HD2 and transfered my eBook library (which is also loaded on the P1i) onto the storage card.  Touching either side of the screen turns a page forward or a page back, you can add annotations like bookmarks or comments.  Font, font size, font colour, background colour and line spacing can all be customised.  There are loads of free books in MobiPocket friendly format, and it handles text files too.  The content syncs with the eBook library on my desktop using MobiPocket Reader Desktop so that books and annotations are updated.

Facebook

The Facebook application, which comes preinstalled or which can be downloaded for free from Marketplace, is not as aesthetically pleasing (or as sleek) as the iPhone Facebook app but all the key functions for interacting on Facebook are more or less there.  It is possible to have Facebook notifications automatically pulled but it will be battery draining.  I get Facebook updates manually and it refreshes very fast.

Windows Messenger

Comes preinstalled or can be downloaded for free from Marketplace.  Works just like the desktop version.  No complaints, but I miss Fring which allowed me to aggregate my contacts from both Windows Messenger and GTalk.  There’s Fring for the iPhone and Fring for the P1i, why not for Windows Mobile?

Virtual Keyboard

The virtual keyboard and I are not getting along very well.  Auto-rotation is not automated across all functions / applications.  This can be enabled for some features using the BSB Tweaks application, but it is quite disappointing that this was not made simpler for the end-user.  At the moment, I am not able to reply to text messages in landscape mode though I can do so for email.  Am also at war with the T9 dictionary which is giving me hives by suggesting all sorts of inane words as I type, and causing so much frustration that the first thing I do when in virtual keyboard mode is to disable T9.  Simply put, the keyboard is a pain and often leaves me missing the iPhone virtual keyboard and the half-QWERTY buttons of the P1i.

Camera

Specifications indicate 5 megapixels and onboard flash and I find the camera function, features and output pretty ordinary.  What I do miss about the iPhone 3GS, is the variety of photography-related apps which made taking pictures on the basic iPhone camera, well, fun.  I noticed that music playback is terminated abruptly if the camera function is activated, don’t understand why multi-tasking is selective, there is no such problem with the Sony P1i (which is considered ancient by techie standards).

Tethering

The HTC HD2 allows me to connect to the internet and acts as a modem with pretty good connection speeds I would say and loads Facebook flash games and YouTube videos at a reasonable speed.  Setting up tethering is simple: Settings > Other > USB to PC > Select “Internet Sharing”.

Web Browsing

Opera is my favourite browser on the HTC HD2.  It allows pinch / double-tap zooming and multiple tabs, loads quickly and web content is extremely readable on the large screen.  What I do miss is the customised rendering which certain web sites have for the iPhone which rendered content very nicely on Apple’s Safari browser, one example being the Soccernet website.  The Skyfire browser can apparently handle flash content but I have yet to try it out.

Coreplayer

I eschew the native video player on the HTC HD2 for Coreplayer.  It handles multiple formats and converted 3GP files playback smoothly using Coreplayer.  There is also an option to load multiple files (like creating an on-the-fly playlist) from an entire folder on the storage card.  Touching the video image during playback will rotate and maximise the screen in landscape mode.  The volume buttons on the side of the HTC HD2 can be used to control the volume output during video playback.

Music Player

The native music player on the HTC HD2 is straightforward.  It plays mp3 files which I’ve dragged and dropped onto the storage card.  There is a bit of a delay / gap between playback of certain tracks, but that might be due to the fact that it is trying to read off the storage card and not on-board flash memory.  Sound quality is pretty good using my Audio Technica CK7 and does not come across as being all squished up between the eyes; there is no discernible bloat in the bass and highs are not shrill.

Album art displays very nicely in both portrait and landscape mode; changing tracks is a simple matter of flipping the albums like you would a rollodex.  Nice touch if you already have a tidy album art library.  I love being able to create multiple playlists on-the-fly (my Cowon iAudio U3 only permitted a single on-the-go playlist at a time) and having the different shuffle and repeat functions available on the playback screen (my Cowon iAudio U3 required me to navigate through the main menu for the each of these functions).

But the main joy for me is drag-and-drop.  Drag-and-drop Apple!!!

Conclusion

All things considered, I wish the HTC HD2 had a better virtual keyboard and/or a full QWERTY keyboard.  Entering text or numbers is one of those things that you would inevitably do with a 3G mobile phone and the difference between having to rely on a touchscreen and having real tactile buttons is felt when you have to do this.  The on-going struggle with the virtual keyboard, and not having the screen and keyboard auto-rotate across all applications does mar the overall HTC HD2 experience for me, but browsing and other activities are a joy, and having the 3.5mm headphone jack really does make the HTC HD2 a viable music player for on-the-go casual listening.

Battery life though not good is acceptable considering how much power it needs for the huge screen and loads of functions running, and I can always spring for a back-up battery which was not possible with the iPhone unless I bought one of those exhorbitant power packs.

A simple micro-USB cable is all that is needed to move content between the HTC HD2 and my desktop.  No proprietary client like iTunes.

Think I’ll stick with the HTC HD2 for awhile.  But I ain’t getting rid of the P1i anytime soon.

toy camera giveaway

25 March, 2010 § Leave a comment

modish is conducting a fantastic giveaway!

up for grabs are two quirky cameras – the Shironeko (white cat) camera and a Golden Half Camera in rainbow stripes.

hit the link to find out more at modish!

iPhone 3GS impressions

2 January, 2010 § 1 Comment

iPhone 3GS impressions

have been fiddling with my new iPhone 3GS for just under a month now and thought it time to jot down some thoughts about it. this is not intended to be a review because there are many outstanding and informative reviews out there on the web, but if anyone has any particular questions i’d do my best to answer them.

what i was looking for

first things first, i don’t use the iPhone as a phone. my Sony P1i has that role and does it magnificently i should say. so though it may come across as an oxymoron, what i was looking for was a portable device that would give me internet access on-the-go. though the P1i can do that too, i wanted a screen that was slightly bigger and more vibrant, but not as large as a netbook. i currently have a data card with an unlimited data plan in the iPhone and have internet connection as and when i wish, especially when commuting and when i’m lazing around in bed without wanting to bootup the old desktop.

qwerty or not-qwerty

coming from the P1i, i struggled with the question of whether or not i could live without a qwerty keyboard. that made me examine what i intended to use the device for, since it was not going to be used as a phone, that meant limited messaging on Fring, and the occassional email. i figured that if i wanted to do stuff on with a qwerty keyboard, i would go back to my P1i for that (2.5 years have made me quite handy with the half-button qwerty keyboard design) or find a proper workstation.

tested the keyboards of the Nokia E72 and the Nokia N97 mini; both didn’t feel as good as the Blackberry Bold which the office assigned me. so i decided to give a pure touchscreen phone a shot.

p/s: sadly, the Motorola Droid has not emerged here yet or it would have been a serious contender against the iPhone.

operating system

the P1i uses the UIQ platform which is now defunct but very similar to Symbian. with the launch of the Nokia N900, there is uncertainty as to how long (or brief) Symbian will be around for and i really didn’t want to hop on the bandwagon of a disappearing OS so it was down to android vs apple.

the android devices that have flooded the market in recent months seemed interesting enough (though none really caught my attention save for the Sony Xperia X10 that is only due for release in 2010), but having seen the lagginess of the android OS on the HTC Hero in action on my friend’s device, i was not too impressed.

although variety of applications available was a consideration, for me, i wanted a device that could deliver as seamless a mobile internet experience as possible i.e. no lagginess and ease of navigation within the device menu. have tested the iPhones used by some of my friends and not once have i encountered the lagginess seen on the Hero.

content management

that left the question of whether or not i could live with iTunes.

when i got a 1st generation iPod nano, the first thing i did was install Rockbox on it. i’ve never looked back. the one thing which really cripples the end-user experience is, in my view, the desire by manufacturers to control HOW we use the device. controlling what we can do with a device we paid good money for is sad enough, much less telling me how i should or should not load content into my rather expensive gadget.

so the compromise with iTunes was this. i would use it (since apple doesn’t give me a choice) to manage all content on my iPhone except for my music. sorry apple, i listen to music my way. some days i feel like .ogg, some days like .flac. some days i want to listen to radio (which you clearly have a dim view of). and most days, or rather make that every day, i wish to drag-and-drop music into my music player unsorted, untagged and run with it.

battery life

my grandmother remarked that it was silly that such an expensive device needed to be charged every day (on average) or even more than once in a day. she uses a tiny Samsung clamshell for occassional calls now and then (to me of course) and only charges it once in a couple of weeks (!). but therein is the explanation for why the iPhone appears to guzzle energy like no tomorrow.

the way i see it, part of the iPhone experience is to have data access at the touch of the button. 3G usage really drains the battery very quicky, especially if you enable push notifications to your iPhone. to conserve battery life, i’ve disabled push email notifications, and only enable push for instant messages via Fring when i launch the Fring application. i’ve also reduced the brightness of the screen to approximately 15% when i don’t really feel a need to indulge in the vibrant display which the iPhone is capable of. though, in my view, colours and pictures look much better when the brightness is set to a minimum of 50%.

when i don’t require data access, i make it a point to set the device to airplane mode which helps to conserve energy.

build and design

grease magnet. period.

feels real good in the hand though. and there’s something about a shiny (minus the grimey) white device that makes it stand out amongst all of my little black toys. the proprietary port is a minus point for apple though. they don’t even make the same type of proprietary ports across their own devices (!). sigh. i now need a cable for my iPod nano and another one for my iPhone. thanks a bunch apple.

there is a standalone physical switch at the top left corner of the iPhone for toggling between silent and non-silent profiles. i considered this a very thoughtful addition and it has come in very handy indeed. phone and headphone volume controls are handled by the same physical buttons just beneath the profile toggling switch. i’m glad there are tactile buttons for this, using the volume slider when in iPod mode on the iPhone is unbearable.

internet tethering

with an unlimited plan data card in the iPhone, it becomes a nifty internet modem for my computer. tethering is so easy, i didn’t need to refer to the manual. it is activated simply by connecting the iPhone to the USB port on my computer, going to Settings > General > Network > Internet Tethering on the iPhone, then selecting the USB option in my case (there is an alternative Bluetooth connection available).

applications

right now, i’ve installed two dozen or so free applications on the iPhone. the first thing i noticed about the applications is that they handle so well on the iPhone. the layout and design of common apps like Flickr and Facebook are thoughtful and intuitive, and really make the user experience fun and seamless. there are a couple of games that are pretty fun, i’m currently enjoying FS5 Hockey (an air hockey game), Tap Tap Revenge 3 (a music rhythm game) and Tap Sudoku (the classic game with rather lovely art).

with the Stanza app, i have been reading ebooks in bed and don’t think i will ever covet a Kindle. there are loads of free books available and you can customise the typography and layout of the words as you choose. what i particularly enjoy is the animation that resembles the experience of reading a physical book. to turn pages, you swipe a finger across the screen and the page will flip over as if you had just turned it over from corner-to-corner. bookmarking is done by touching the top right-most corner of a page, it leaves a virtual “doggy-ear” on the bookmarked page of your book.

websites too seem to have customised views for the iPhone, the Soccernet and Picasa Web Album pages render beautifully and are a joy to browse.

sound quality

as mentioned, i do not use the iPhone as my primary music player. i have a dying Cowon iAudio U3 and a 1st gen iPod nano for that. my primary earphones and headphones are the Audio Technica CK9 and ATH-AD900 respectively. the iPhone has no problems driving either. the sound from the iPhone is decent, by this i mean better than an old Creative V100 i once had lying around, but nowhere as gorgeous as the U3 and nano.

from what my ears tell me, bass is a problem for the iPhone. not that there isn’t any bass, but that bass reproduction is not realistic. there does not seem to be any distinction between the string bass jamming with Diana Krall, the electric bass accompanying Brandi Carlile, the sound of the tom-toms etc. in short, the bass drum on the drum kit sounds poofy. bass drums are not supposed to sound like marshmallows.

still, i’m not fussed about this because the iPhone is not meant to be a dedicated standalone music player; vocals and mids sound nice enough for casual listening whilst. no jazz or classical for me on the iPhone.

summary

if i could sum up my user-experience of the iPhone 3GS to date it would be: FUN. the iPhone is fun to use as a device for internet on-the-go. i could think of the many things the iPhone cannot do, or could do better but that would be to distract myself from the joys of actually using the device. i cannot get over the dismal battery life so easily though and if i were to consider another Apple device, battery life must improve. oh, and please don’t force me to use iTunes.

p/s: for the grease magnet reason mentioned above, this post is devoid of pictures so as to protect readers from trauma.

chiaroscuro by nick falzone

19 December, 2009 § Leave a comment

it took my breath away.  full story here.

iPhone On Sale From 9 Dec 2009 by M1 and Starhub

7 December, 2009 § Leave a comment

M1

Plan iPhone Value iPhone Lite iPhone Extreme iPhone Unlimited
Monthly Subscription ($) 36 56 98 198
Free Local Calls (mins) 100 300 700 Unlimited
Free Local SMS & MMS 500 500 500 Unlimited
Free Local Data Bundle (Up to 7.2Mbps) 10 GB (Excess data usage capped at $36.38) 10 GB (Excess data usage capped at $36.38) Unlimited Unlimited

Starhub

Plan SmartSurf 100 SmartSurf 300 SmartSurf 700 SmartSurf Unlimited
Monthly Subscription ($) 38 58 98 205
Free Local Calls (mins) 100 300 700 2000
Free Local SMS & MMS 500 500 500 2000
Free Local Data Bundle (Up to 7.2Mbps) 1 GB (Excess capped at $48/mth) 1 GB (Excess capped at $48/mth) 1GB (Excess capped at $48/mth) Unlimited

Come on Singtel, you’re missing the party.

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