November 2007


2008 Year of the UMPC for Everyone Except Microsoft?

In a strange ironic way, it looks like 2008 will be the year of the UMPC (Ultra Mobile Personal Computer) for everyone except Microsoft (who coined the term). One model of the Asustek Eee PC has been shipping for a couple of weeks now for a reasonable price ($399) and is getting pretty good reviews. The Amazon Kindle ebook reader with built-in Sprint PCS EVDO service became available this week. The, hmm, 4th generation Nokia N810 just started shipping. And, this model finally has a physical QWERTY mini-keyboard. The OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) is expected to ship before the end of the year. And, if you hurry, you can get opt to donate one and get one your self through their Give One Get One (G1G1) program that runs through Nov. 26. And, every one of these products is available for under $500. In fact, at $450, the Nokia N810 is the only one more than $400.

The least expensive Microsoft based UMPC I could find (although the Asustek Eee PC can run Windows XP, it is not anymore a true Microsoft UMPC any more than any of the other devices I’ve mentioned ab0ve) is $890. And, well, the world isn’t exactly breaking down doors in a rush to buy these things are they?

All of the sub-$500 non-Microsoft UMPCs have relatively limited flash RAM storage (a few gigs at most). However, there is that persistent rumor that Apple is going to announce some kind of sub-notebook at the January 2008 MacWorld in San Francisco. If true, I’m sure this will throw the UMPC world (both Microsoft and non-Microsoft) in a spin the same way the iPhone did for the phone world this past summer.

So, the question is: Can Microsoft and its hardware partners come up with an UMPC that hits the $500 price mark that was originally stated as the target price back in March 2006: Pricing will be determined by our OEM partners. We anticipate pricing in the US$599-$999 price-range. Part of our objective in creating the original reference design for the UMPC category was to engineer a platform that’s both very compact and, through careful component choice, possible to sell for $500 MSRP.

So far, they haven’t even come close to that magic number that everyone else seems to have achieved.

Mobile Devices
Netbook

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Thumbs Up for ifrogz Customer Service

After watching Jeff MacArthur’s review of ifrogz cases on commandN #110, I decided to order a case. The case arrived pretty quickly. Unfortunately, ifrogz sent the wrong case. I sent email to try to get it corrected but became impatient even though I hadn’t even waited a full 24 hours yet. So, I called ifrogz’ customer service number and was shocked to be speaking with a human being right away. No gigantic touch tone menu tree or voice mail jail. The person on the other end (Kim) took down my order number, listened to my explanation and took care of the problem right away. She said the correct product would be shipped to me as soon as possible. No hassles, no DNA samples, no annoying 20 questions. Thumbs up for ifrogz customer service.

Apple
iPod
Mobile Devices

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Google Mail Ate My Battery Part II

Ran a quick test today. Checked the battery level on my T-Mobile Dash Smartphone (Standard Edition). Then, I manually triggered Windows Mobile Messaging (email client) to check the Gmail IMAP4 mail server. After the the glacially slow mail sync completed, I checked the battery level again. It had dropped 4%. This explains why my battery levels became so low in the late afternoon when I had Messaging set to check Gmail once an hour. Ouch.

Mobile Devices
Smartphone
Windows Mobile

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Back to Basics: Windows Mobile Battery Life

Battery life on any device is way too complicated for a brief discussion. But, this is a Back to Basics blog entry. So, I’ll just stick to simple and easy to apply battery life suggestions for Windows Mobile Smartphones (Standard Edition).

First, head over to the Power Management applet to optimize backlight and display times that fit your Smartphone usage style. Press Start->Settings->Power Management. The two key settings there are Backlight time out on battery and Display time out on battery.

Second, learn to use Keypad Lock features (see my Nov. 12, 2007 Back to Basics entry) to prevent the backlight turning on because of accidental key presses (or accidental dialing for that matter).

Third, turn off the Bluetooth radio if you are not using it with a headset, keyboard, or some other BT accessory. BT is actually pretty efficient. But, why waste even a little battery power if you don’t need to?

Fourth, turn off WiFi (wireless LAN) if you are not using it. WiFi is a huge power drain. This is especially true if it is continuously searching for a WiFi access point (WAP) to connect to while wandering around.

Fifth, learn how third party applications work on your Smartphone. You may have some misbehaving apps that are draining power because of their behaving (bypassing the keypad lock, pinging over WiFi, EDGE, EVDO, UMTS, etc.).

Sixth, don’t ignore other potential factors. For example, my blog entry yesterday discussed how Google Gmail’s glacially slow IMAP4 email server caused a huge battery drain on my phone because it took so long to connect and sync compared to other IMAP4 mail servers.

There’s a lot more that could be discussed about getting the most of your Smartphone’s battery. But, the six tips above should provide some things to think about your phone’s battery life.

Back to Basics
Mobile Devices
Smartphone
Windows Mobile

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Google Mail Ate My Battery

My T-Mobile Dash Windows Mobile 6 Smartphone has a pretty decent battery. Up until recently it would generally have a 50 to 60% charge after being on for 12 hours or so (I turn it off at nights). My phone usage (voice and data) is pretty consistent on a day to day basis. Recently, however, it has been dipping down to the 30% range. One of my first clues was that the charge would be under 90% by the time I reached my office in the morning. So, what had changed on my phone in the past month or so? Gmail IMAP. I started using it on my phone when it became available at the end of October. Gmail’s IMAP4 server is incredibly slow. You can see how slow it is on a desktop mail client if you use other IMAP4 services. The web hosting service for MobileViews.com, for example, provides IMAP4 mail service too. It works pretty quickly with Thunderbird in terms of updating the mail list and opening mail to read. Google’s IMAP4, in contrast, is glacial. It takes forever to update a list or open a single piece of email. So, I changed WiMo’s messaging settings from checking Gmail once an hour to once every four hours. I manually had messaging check gmail about once or twice in between. So, mail was checked about once every 2 hours instead of once an hour: A 50% reduction for that event. My battery life improved a bit after that. It moved up to between 40 an 45%. I changed Gmail’s messaging setting so it only auto-checks the Gmail IMAP4 server once a day. Over the past couple of days, my battery charge at the end of day has been between 55 and 65%. Much better. I should probably set WiMo messaging to check Gmail several times a day again and confirm that this is what caused the battery drain I saw.

Mobile Devices
Smartphone
Windows Mobile

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Amazon’s Kindle ebook Reader: Does it Hit or Miss the Mark?

The Amazon Kindle ebook looks like a great device for reading digital books. However, at $399 (US) it has a pretty high price point. My original opinion was that this relatively high price point would kill it as a product. Then, I started reading Kindle’s product description and read this:

Whispernet utilizes Amazon’s optimized technology plus Sprint’s national high-speed (EVDO) data network to enable you to wirelessly search, discover, download, and read content on the go.

Unlike WiFi, you don’t have to find a hotspot. Amazon pays for Kindle’s wireless connectivity so you will never see a monthly wireless bill for shopping the Kindle Store. There is no wireless setup—you are ready to shop, purchase and read right out of the box.

If I understand this correctly, Kindle has built-in EVDO service from Sprint PCS and does not require payment for this service. This is flat out amazing. It also has some kind of email facility since the description also mentions the ability to Email your Word documents and pictures (.JPG, .GIF, .BMP, .PNG) to Kindle for easy on-the-go viewing. This has a cost associated with it though. In fact, even reading the custom blog RSS feeds has a recurring cost. But, I guess that is the way Amazon reimburses Sprint for the EVDO bandwidth.
While it is not a PDA, the Kindle and the other cool non-PDA (the iPod touch) is definitely going to make life very difficult for the Windows Mobile crowd. While carrying multiple devices is not desirable for most people and the Kindle’s $399 is a bit too high for mass consumption, I can see how people might carry an iPod touch (or iPhone), a Kindle, and a dumb but reliable basic function phone (voice and SMS).

Then again, I thought the original iPod was way too expensive when it first came out too.

Mobile Devices

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