Friday, November 21, 2008
Thursday, November 20, 2008
This is a good review of the last Blackberry Storm 9530, you can find the complete article on mobiletechreview.com written by
RIM has done something different here: this isn't the resistive touch screen usually found on Windows Mobile devices, nor is it the "simple" capacitive display found on the iPhone and a few other phones. The Storm's huge touch screen display is capacitive but it's a screen made of floating layers, and the screen actually moves downward when you press it, giving a tactile click. Thus the whole screen moves just a hair, and clicks like a key on a standard BlackBerry. Funky. RIM calls this "SurePress". This changes the way, or rather ways we interact with touch screens. The light to moderate touch works with the capacitive layer (it reacts to the electrical resistance in your skin, so a stylus won't work). You'll use this to scroll a web page, document or palette of icons. To select a web link, menu item, icon or keyboard key, you must press down until the display moves and clicks. Very funky... but kinda cool. It's one of those things you're either going to love or hate.
The Storm has an acceleromate that rotates the display when you turn the phone on its side (either side). You'll get the full QWERTY on screen keyboard in landscape mode and a SureType keyboard in portrait mode. The accelerometer is quite sensitive and we found a steady hand was required to avoid accidental rotation.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Sony Reader PRS-700 -- Great, But for One Thing ...
And that's all I needed to start thinking about ebooks and ebook readers and how maybe someday all printed material will be digital and there will be no more newspapers or magazines.
Wait! I'm getting a bit ahead of myself.
Do find the whole thing pretty cool so was intrigued by this piece of writing today.
So all you ever wanted to know about the Sony Reader PRS-700 is here at Mobile Tech Review. A very positive review, but there is something amiss ...
What's the catch? The touch screen layer reduces contrast. Yikes!!!
Digital readers like the Reader and Amazon's Kindle use e-ink technology, a very low power, paper-like display that's non-glare and high contrast (much like a book's pages).
Touch isn't part of the e-ink technology, nor is backlighting, so we rarely see a reader offering these. Sony, cutting-edge company that they are, found a way to add these two desirable features.
Sony added a touch layer on top of the e-ink display and embedded LED side-lights into the frame that surrounds the display. Clever.
That's the good, and like I said, check out the whole story at Mobile Tech Review.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
The company had acknowledged some of the work earlier, but it hasn't posted an official comment about the vulnerabilities. But Rich Cannings of the Android security team shared details about the RC29 and RC30 updates that T-Mobile began distributing to G1 customers at least as early as November 1 and November 9, respectively.
Google had acknowledged the RC29 patch for the G1 fixed a browser vulnerability that could have let an attacker use malicious code on a Web site to take over the browser. The severity of such issues is limited by Android's security design, which walls off applications into separate compartments to limit an attacker's power. But Cannings said the patch also fixed two other issues.
The Android browser is based on the open-source WebKit engine for converting HTML instructions into an actual Web page, and RC29 brought Android up to date with two patches that had been released but that Google had missed. One of them is a universal cross-site scripting problem that could give an attacker control of the browser, Canning said.
RC29 also fixed a problem that could let someone bypass Android's locking mechanism by booting the phone into safe mode.
Google plans to publish fuller details on its Android Security Announcements group soon, Cannings said, but the company waits until the patches have been offered to all users before disclosing full details.
RC30 and the root console bug
RC30, which came about a week later, fixed an unusual "root-console" problem in Android in which text that people typed--while composing e-mail messages or searching contacts, for example--could be executed as Linux commands with the highest-level privileges. One user found it by typing the word "reboot" in a text message.
The problem was that Google left in a feature that let programmers execute commands with a remote device attached over a serial port, but when there was no such device attached, the phone just used input from the keyboard.
Linux and Unix users are advised to use their systems with "root" privileges reserved only for administrators, but Android was actually giving anybody that privilege. The problem was lessened because many characters used in Linux commands, such as hyphens, tildes, and slashes, weren't available, but it was still a big problem, Cannings said.
"We tried really hard to secure Android. This is definitely a big bug," he said. "The reason why we consider it a large security issue is because root access on the device breaks our application sandbox."
On the flip side, though, it would have been hard to use: "The barrier is very high to exploit this...It requires a challenger to exploit users," he said. For example, an attacker might have to convince a user to install a game with keyboard movement commands that actually typed out "telnetd" to launch the phone's telnet application to open the phone up to remote control. "
Saturday, January 19, 2008
Redwood City, CA -- Obopay, Inc., the pioneering service provider for payments via mobile phones, today announced Obopay will be available for BlackBerry smartphones from Research In Motion (RIM). The new Obopay application for BlackBerry users provides fast, customizable access to Obopay's full suite of mobile payment services.
"The typical BlackBerry user epitomizes our need for convenience as professionals and consumers. This merges perfectly with Obopay's commitment to giving people everywhere expedient means to send and receive money and pay for goods and services," said Obopay Chief Executive Officer, Carol Realini.
Obopay takes full advantage of the BlackBerry wireless solution's features. With Obopay, users can send and receive money, check their balance and payment history, and purchase goods and services. The customized application gives users an elegant experience, including a simple mechanism for users to send money to individuals directly from their BlackBerry Address Book.
Saturday, January 12, 2008
Above: the BlackJack II in black. It's also available in red with a textured back for better grip.
New for the BlackJack II are: Windows Mobile 6 Standard (smartphone) Edition, an internal GPS, more memory, an improved keyboard, a 0.2" larger display and a 2.0 megapixel camera. Not too shabby for a device that looks nearly identical to its predecessor and adds only the unassuming "II" to the product name. Gone are the trademark Samsung Windows Mobile standard and extended battery in the box; the BJ II has a single battery whose capacity is a capacious 1700 mAh. Better yet, the phone is still slim despite the larger battery.
For those new to the BlackJack, the BJ II (aka Samsung SGH-i617) is a Windows Mobile 6 smartphone (the kind that doesn't have a touch screen) with a QWERTY thumb keyboard. It has a pleasant 320 x 240 landscape orientation color display, Bluetooth 2.0, the GPS, a microSD card slot but no WiFi. It's a 3G (more accurately 3.5G) world phone with triband HSDPA for data and quad band GSM. It's offered by AT&T Wireless in the US, whose line of PDA phones and smartphones is quite broad. In fact, AT&T released the impressive Motorola Q9 Global just a few weeks before the BlackJack II, and the Moto is the BlackJack II's biggest competitor (you don't often see carriers offering two similar devices that compete with each other). It also competes with the older but not yet dead T-Mobile Dash which got a face life with Windows Mobile 6 some time ago and the Motorola Q9m on Verizon and Sprint (Q9c). This gaggle of MS Smartphones all run Windows Mobile 6 Standard with a super-slim design and a landscape orientation QVGA display. Whether you choose the Dash over the two AT&T offerings should have more to do with carrier coverage in your area and pricing. Even the coolest phone does little good if you don't get good service or don't like the pricing. Though if fast data is your thing, AT&T's HSDPA network has a clear advantage over T-Mobile's much slower EDGE network on the GSM network front.
Design and Ergonomics
The 0.4" thin BlackJack II weighs only 3.52 ounces, making it no more of a burden to carry than a well-equiped feature phone. It looks great and that annoyingly slippery gloss finish helps appearances. It still says "plastic" when you look at it, and doesn't look as high-ticket as the Motorola Q9 Global, but it's still a quality piece.
The first BlackJack's keys weren't among our favorites, being too narrow and lacking visual contrast on the number keys which made dialing a challenge under low light. The BlackJack II's keys seem just a tad wider-- just enough to make a difference and typing is easier, though nothing can compete with the Moto Q9 family of smartphones. The numbers clearly stand out (black on a white background) and the backlighting is effective and thankfully not blinding. Like the BlackJack, there are several shortcuts that work with the Fn key: Fn + b toggles Bluetooth on and off, Fn + w launches the web browser Internet Explorer Mobile. You can view the full list under Settings and add your own Fn key shortcuts. There are dedicated keys on the bottom row for the camera, email, web browser, CV (AT&T's Cellular Video service) and silent mode. Windows Mobile phones have number shortcuts for menu items in the built-in applications. That's not terribly useful with front QWERTY devices like the BlackJack II and Samsung has customized these shortcuts to work with letters rather than numbers. Nice!
Deals and Shopping
Our store price:
Price (no rebate required)
BlackJack II (black)
BlackJack II (red)
Or get it direct from AT&T
Get the BlackJack II direct from AT&T.com
We weren't alone in our complaint that the BlackJack's d-pad was too flat, and Samsung heard us: the BJ II's d-pad has raised edges. Not only that, but it spins to navigate through icons and such as well as working like a "normal" d-pad. The call send and end buttons are large which we like, and there's a back button and home button just below the display. The phone feels great in the hand, and is more easily operated with one hand than the wider Moto Q9.
The phone's sides top and bottom have a chrome trim ring (we'd have preferred something more grippy), and the microSD card slot lives under a door in the trim on the phone's right side. The volume up/down keys and combined proprietary sync/charge/headset port are on the left side and the camera lens is on the back where there's a subtle hump that helps keep the phone in hand. The loudspeaker grille is on the top edge toward the rear and the battery is under a door on the back along with the SIM card slot.
The phone fits fairly easily in a pocket since it's so slim and it isn't as wide as the Motorola Q9 Global making for a more comfortable fit in the hand and pocket.
Phone Features, Reception and Data
The original BlackJack was an RF king on 3G; it had great reception. The BlackJack II loses the "king" title and merely has good to very good reception. Where the BlackJack got 4 bars, the BlackJack II gets 2 to 3 bars, and where the BlackJack held firmly onto two bars of 3G, the BlackJack II sometimes switches back and forth between 3G and EDGE. GSM and EDGE are equal on the two BlackJacks. For 3G, that means it will work in areas with strong coverage and areas of weaker coverage but watch out if you live or work near that cellular near-black hole-- the BJ II will fall in. The BlackJack II falls behind the original BlackJack, Motorola Q9 Global or the Pantech Duo. We check actual 3G reception in db rather than relying on bars (enter *#0011# to see detailed reception info on the BlackJack and BlackJack II) and saw an average of -93 db on the BlackJack II vs. -85 on the Nokia N95-3 (lower numbers are better) in a strong coverage area.
Comparing the Tilt, BlackJack II and Pantech Duo, all on AT&T Wireless.
Top to bottom: Pantech Dup, AT&T Tilt and BlackJack II which is by far the slimmest.
Voice quality is very good and reasonably loud, and the rear-firing loudspeaker is clear and moderately loud (as loud as the Pantech Duo but with less buzzing on the loudest setting, but not as loud as the megaphone Moto Q9). Voice quality through the Bluetooth headsets we tested was good and volume was a bit quieter than average. We tested the BJII with the Samsung WEP-200, Cardo S-800 and the Plantronics Pulsar 590 stereo Bluetooth headset. Like the original BlackJack, the BJII sets the most recently paired headset as the default headset. Despite this, it reconnected to the first paired headset automatically for calls with no trouble when the most recently paired headset was powered off. But we did notice a quirk with the stereo headset: even though the BJII connected to it, the phone didn't route stereo out through Windows Media Player Mobile until we went into the Bluetooth headset settings and set the Plantronics stereo headset to be the default.
The BlackJack II supports speed dial and caller ID but doesn't come with voice command or voice dialing software. Microsoft Voice Command 1.6 (available for purchase for ~ $30 from sites such as Handango) works fine with the BlackJack II.
Data transfer speeds on HSPDA were very good in our DSL Reports mobile speed test, with an average of 875 kbit/sec with 3 out of 4 bars of 3G reception. Web pages load relatively quickly, including non-mobile optimized sites with dense content. Standard for Windows Mobile 6 are Internet Explorer Mobile and the mobile version of Outlook, whose email/SMS/MMS component is called Messaging. IE does a reasonable job of rendering HTML web sites, though we recommend checking out the new, free Opera Mini 4 as well. Messaging handles POP3 and IMAP email along with MS Exchange and push email if your company runs Exchange 2003 SP1 or newer. The BlackJack II also works with AT&T's Xpress Mail service and they promise Good push email support in the future. The smartphone can be used as a high speed wireless modem for a notebook over Bluetooth using the PAN profile (AT&T charges extra for tethering).
Horsepower and Performance
The BlackJack II's 260MHz Texas Instruments OMAP1710 processor offers a good balance between performance and power consumption. The smartphone has a bit more pep than the once ubiquitous 200MHz TI OMAP Windows Mobile smartphones, and there's little lag when opening the Start Menu and launching applications (by Windows Mobile standards where there's always some lag). The Motorola Q9 Global feels a tad speedier thanks to its 312MHz processor and the Pantech Duo is the fastest thanks to its 416MHz processor (smartphones don't usually have 400MHz+ processors, rather their Pocket PC big brothers often do). Samsung generously upped the memory and the BJII has 128 megs of RAM (used like RAM in your computer to run applications) with ~ 87 megs free at boot. While running out of memory isn't uncommon among Windows Mobile devices because applications continue to run in the background when you close them, we can't imagine running out of memory on the BJII with average use. 256 megs of flash memory for storage also mean plenty of room to install applications. There are approximately 140 megs free, and if you need more for movies, music and etc. the BlackJack II has a microSD card slot that accepts standard and SDHC high capacity cards.
Multimedia and Camera
Like most AT&T 3G phones, the BlackJack II comes with CV (Cellular Video, formerly known as Cingular Video). This streaming video service offers a selection of free content (a data plan is required however) and pay-for content for HBO TV show episodes. The current HBO lineup includes The Wire, Inside the NFL, Curb Your Enthusiasm and Extras and costs $4.99/month billed to your wireless bill. Episodes are broken up into approximately 5 minute segments, so a half hour show is comprised of 5 segments. Free content includes CNN, ESPN, The Weather Channel, Comedy Central and Fox Sports. Content plays through Windows Media Player Mobile and is streamed at less than the BJII's QVGA resolution. You can use Media Player's full screen option to stretch the video to play full-screen, though it looks less sharp. Voice and video stayed reasonably in sync unless we stretched to full screen view and the quality is as good if not better than Verizon's V Cast video.
For music and video playback of non-streaming content, Windows Media Player Mobile 10 handles MP3, AAC, WMA, WMV and ASF files. Performance was average among MS Smartphones when playing our 330kbps test movie, which means some frame drops and jerky playback. Pocket PC phones with their faster CPUs and sometimes dedicated graphics chips are generally better suited to playback of burned video content.
The BlackJack II's 2.0 megapixel camera takes decent shots with good sharpness and reasonably accurate color balance. To launch the camera, briefly press the camera key on the keyboard, but don't press and hold it for a few seconds as this instead activates the smartphone's screen zoom feature. Image maximum resolution is 1600 x 1200 and max video resolution is QVGA 320 x 240. The camera uses the entire screen as the viewfinder, with small icons up top that appear briefly to inform you of current settings. Press the right softkey to bring up the menu, which annoyingly times out and closes itself in a just a second or two (be fast with your selections). Here you can change resolution, select a custom white balance, use the self-timer, set default save location, set the shutter sound (there is no "off" option) and more.
There are two video options- 176 x 144 short duration for MMS and unlimited duration at up to QVGA resolution. Video quality is passable at the highest resolution setting and is recorded at 15fps in QuickTime-friendly format.
Gone are the standard and extended batteries packaged with the original BlackJack and several other Samsung PDA and smartphones over the years. Samsung opted for a single 1700 mAh battery and somehow managed to keep the phone quite slim. That's a good deal of power for a standard battery and we found the BJII easily lasted two days on a charge with moderate use compared to 1 to 1.5 days with the slim battery on the original BJ. Streaming an hour's worth of CV with MS Direct Push email running all day long will reduce battery life and as phones become more capable, it becomes difficult to describe an "average" usage pattern but under most circumstances the BJII does well. Samsung claims an impressive 7 hours of talk time, and we managed over 5 hours on 3G (GSM talk time will likely be longer).
The internal GPS works with TeleNav Navigator ($9.99/month billed to your AT&T bill) and with 3rd party GPS programs if you're allergic to subscription services. Basic TeleNav Maps (mapping with no GPS use) is free. Though we found TeleNav to be fast, accurate with very good voice guidance, traffic information updates and routing. One benefit of the subscription based service is updates and new map data are sent to the phone when available. No need to buy an upgrade or load new maps from a CD. We tested the GPS with Google Maps and Windows Live, both of which worked fine with the GPS. The GPS isn't the strongest, and had to go outside under a clear sky (or in the car) to acquire satellites, but once we did, it managed to hold onto a signal and get us reliably from point A to point B in the Dallas Metroplex.
In addition to the standard Windows Mobile 6 Standard application suite which includes mobile versions of IE, Outlook, Windows Media Player and MS Office (with read/ edit-only versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint), Samsung and AT&T include a few handy utilities including a Java VM, PDF viewer, an RSS reader, Task Manager, Syncdata's Smart Search, and an IM client that handles AIM, Windows Live Messenger and Yahoo IM services. AT&T includes their usual XPress Mail, AT&T Mall, XM Radio (requires a monthly fee), MusicID and AT&T Music (Napster). MobiTV is pre-installed (a streaming TV service that that requires a monthly fee). Though the Office Mobile apps nominally can't create new documents (just view and edit them), it's easy to create new documents: just keep a blank document on the device and open it to edit it and save it as a new document.
A welcome, though not earthshattering upgrade to the BlackJack. As the adage goes, if it ain't broke, don't fix it; and the original BlackJack was an extremely popular phone thanks to its low price, slim design and power. The II adds features that keep the BlackJack competitive in 2008: GPS, Windows Mobile 6, 2MP camera, more memory and a single slim high capacity battery. The phone appeals both to business power users and heavy texters thanks to its QWERTY keyboard and relatively low price, but it has the features power users crave (minus WiFi). Whether you choose the BlackJack II, Moto Q9 Global or Pantech Duo, you won't go wrong. AT&T's MS Smartphone lineup is impressive and the BlackJack II is one of the most pocketable phones with a front-facing QWERTY keyboard on the market.
Pro: Full-featured and the price is right at $99 after rebates. Super-slim and quite pocketable. Attractive looking and reasonably solid. GPS is handy for those who hit the road and the camera is actually decent, unlike the original BlackJack's. Plenty of memory to run programs and store data. Supports SDHC high capacity microSD cards. AT&T has strong service nationally and 3G HSDPA makes for fast downloads and page rendering.
Con: Slippery! Proprietary Samsung connector for sync/charge/headset. GPS is slow on initial satellite acquisition. Voice dialing software not included.
Web sites: wireless.att.com, www.samsung.com
Price: $99 after rebates with 2 year contract
Display: 2.4" 65k TFT color LCD. Resolution: 320 x 240 landscape mode.
Battery: 1700 mAh Lithium Ion rechargeable. Battery is user replaceable. Claimed talk time up to 7 hours. Claimed standby up to 14 days.
Performance: Texas Instruments OMAP1710 processor running at 260MHz. 128 MB built-in RAM (~87 megs available after boot) and 256 megs flash ROM for storage (140 megs available).
Size: 4.4 x 2.3 x. 0.4 inches. Weight: 3.52 ounces.
Phone: GSM quad band world phone 850/900/1800/1900MHz bands with EDGE and triband 3G HSDPA 850/1900/2100MHz bands.
Camera: 2.0 MP with fixed focus lens and 4x digital zoom. 1600 x 1200 max still photo resolution. Self-portrait mirror but no flash.
Audio: Built in speaker, mic and Samsung proprietary stereo headphone jack. Voice Recorder and Windows Pocket Media Player 10 included for your MP3 pleasure.
Networking: Integrated Bluetooth 2.0. Profiles include headset, handsfree, BPP printing, A2DP with AVRC, FTP, serial port, PAN.
Software: Windows Mobile 6.0 Standard Edition operating system. Microsoft Mobile Office suite including Mobile versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint Internet Explorer, and Outlook. Other standard apps include Windows Media Player 10, Solitaire, Bubble Breaker (game), Voice Recorder. Additional applications: Java VM, PDF viewer, RSS reader, Task Manager, Syncdata's Smart Search, and an IM client that handles AIM, Windows Live Messenger and Yahoo IM services. AT&T includes their usual XPress Mail, AT&T Mall, XM Radio (requires a monthly fee), MusicID and AT&T Music (Napster). ActiveSync 4.5 and Outlook 2007 trial for PCs included.
Expansion: 1 microSD card slot with SDHC support for 4 gig (and likely higher) cards.
by Lisa Gade
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
WiMAX Forum Expects Shipment of Certified Mobile WiMAX Products for General Deployment in Early 2008
Portland, Ore. -- December 19, 2007 -- The WiMAX Forum today announced its lead certification lab is now open for formal Mobile WiMAX certification testing and evaluation of Mobile WiMAX products. WiMAX Forum vendors may begin immediately submitting their 2.3 GHz and 2.5 GHz Mobile WiMAX equipment for testing. The WiMAX Forum's lead certification lab is headquartered at AT4 Wireless in Spain. The WiMAX Forum expects its four other certification labs in the U.S., Taiwan, China and Korea to open for formal Mobile WiMAX certification testing shortly.
With today's announcement, certified Mobile WiMAX products are projected to reach the commercial market in early 2008. The WiMAX Forum expects hundreds of products to be submitted for testing.
"This important milestone in our WiMAX Forum certification program culminates years of development of our certification process and signifies the success of the WiMAX ecosystem's progress and market lead relative to alternative mobile broadband technologies such as LTE which are several years behind WiMAX technology," said Ron Resnick, president, WiMAX Forum. "The beginning of Mobile WiMAX certification enables our member companies to deliver on their business commitments, and ultimately, moves WiMAX service providers closer to bringing the mobile broadband Internet experience and new applications to consumers around the globe next year."
Equipment that passes conformance and interoperability testing will receive the WiMAX Forum Certified designation, thus, assuring service providers that when buying equipment from more than one company the products are interoperable.
"Certification facilitates Xohm's model for open access," remarked Barry West, president of Sprint's Xohm Business Unit. "We applaud the WiMAX Forum for this important and timely step, which will encourage device innovation in anticipation of Sprint's WiMAX network launch in the U.S."
Throughout 2008, service providers are expected to expand current Mobile WiMAX deployments to broader populations in their regions. The WiMAX Forum currently estimates that more than 300 operators in over 65 countries have deployed Mobile WiMAX pilots and trials.
"In Korea, WiMAX technology is the cornerstone of our mobile broadband deployment because of its vast and thriving ecosystem of equipment and solution providers that share our commitment to address the needs of the Korean market and redefine the mobile broadband experience for Korean businesses and citizens," said Dr. Hyun Pyo Kim, director of WiBro planning for Korea Telecom. "Today, with more than 100,000 active Mobile WiMAX users and 410,000 subscribers projected for 2008, the availability of WiMAX Forum Certified mobile equipment will enable us to significantly expand our customer base and mobile broadband service offerings."
As Mobile WiMAX deployments continue to grow in size and scope in 2008, the WiMAX Forum plans to open new certification labs in India and Taiwan to address the demand for equipment certification. Based on the proliferation of certified equipment, the WiMAX Forum will conduct additional product interoperability activities for new Mobile WiMAX profiles and features, such as testing for the planned certification for 3.5 GHz and 700 MHz profiles and core network certification through Mobile WiMAX PlugFests in 2008.
For more information on the WiMAX Forum's certification program, please visit the WiMAX Forum website at www.wimaxforum.org.
About WiMAX Forum
The WiMAX Forum® is an industry-led, not-for-profit organization formed to certify and promote the compatibility and interoperability of broadband wireless products based upon the harmonized IEEE 802.16/ETSI HiperMAN standard. A WiMAX Forum goal is to accelerate the introduction of these systems into the marketplace. WiMAX Forum Certified products are interoperable and support broadband fixed, nomadic, portable and mobile services. Along these lines, the WiMAX Forum works closely with service providers and regulators to ensure that WiMAX Forum Certified systems meet customer and government requirements. Through the WiMAX Forum Congress Events Series of global trade shows and events, the WiMAX Forum is committed to furthering education, training and collaboration to expand the reach of the WiMAX ecosystem. For more information, visit the trade show link at www.wimaxforum.org.
"WiMAX Forum" is a registered trademark of the WiMAX Forum. "WiMAX," the WiMAX Forum logo, "WiMAX Forum Certified," and the WiMAX Forum Certified logo are trademarks of the WiMAX Forum. All other trademarks are the properties of their respective owners.