Sunday, November 30, 2008

My Next Major Purchase

I've been having a lot of fun providing you, my faithful readers, with great information about products related to the iPhone or mobile phones in general for the past couple of months.

My old Logitech webcam is a great tool to use for reviews when it calls for one. But, I am in the process of hopefully getting new products to review. And to do justice to those products, I am willing to invest in a dedicated video camera.

If you saw my video review of OrbLive, a dedicated video camera could have been very useful to show how it actually works.

Well, today I was perusing the ad for Best Buy and saw some interesting cameras on sale. I think the one I am leaning toward right now is the Samsung SC-MX20. It's normally $249.99 but it's on sale for $199.99.

So far, my favorite review of this camera on YouTube is by

At this point, what's making it hard for me is that I just bought $70 shoes (should've saved that money) and I haven't bought ANY Christmas gifts yet.

If you have any experience with this product or have another video camera to recommend in the $200 price range, feel free to post it in the comments section.

Samsung Omnia: One Of The Best Cameraphones

The best kept secret this holiday season was that the Samsung Omnia started selling in the U.S. with Verizon last Wednesday for only $249 with a two-year contract.

While Samsung is no stranger to touchscreens, what really makes this phone stand out is its camera features:
  • 5 megapixels
  • Autofocus
  • LED Flash

This makes the Omnia one of the best, if not the best, cameraphone on the market. Unfortunately, there is no optical zoom with this phone.
It also comes with an FM radio, but it doesn't have the standard 3.5" headphone jack.

Another interesting feature of the Omnia is its ability to support the Divx format.

The Omnia comes with 8GB of internal memory, which is a lot compared with other phones other than the iPhone. And the operating system is Windows Mobile 6.1.

I'd love to try out this phone. It could be up there with the HTC Fuze.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

December: Racing Game Month on the iPhone

I'm getting a little tired waiting for "Need For Speed: Undercover." I know it's coming out in December but I was hoping it would be released along with the console games.
Well, Gameloft will give it some stiff competition in December with its latest game "Ferrari GT Evolution." I loved "Asphalt 4" and I think I will be getting this one. It features no less than 33 Ferraris. Maybe I can drive the Testarossa from the 80s or maybe even the 308 GTS from the television show "Magnum P.I.?" Now that would be cool. We'll see. In the meantime, here's a trailer for the game (unfortunately with no real game footage):

Forget HD, Let's Get 3-D Football!

CNET news is reporting that the National Football League will be broadcasting next Thursday's game between the San Diego Chargers and the Oakland Raiders in 3-D to theaters in Los Angeles, New York and Boston.
The demonstration will also include television sets that show games in 3-D. Evidently, some electronics companies have been making TV sets to accomodate 3-D DVDs already. But, the industry has not set a standard on 3-D.
The NFL used 3-D before for the 2004 Super Bowl and when people view the tape they "crouch down to catch the ball. It's as if the ball is coming into your arms."

Although I love HDTV, I have not been quick to set it up in my home because I believe the sets will still come down in price. Also, buying an HDTV set will require a major living room makeover since the entertainment center we have can only fit the standard television. Maybe I should just wait for the 3-D sets!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Crazy Far Walk

Those who know how far it is from Kalihi to Kahala Mall think I'm crazy. I am. But, I feel good. I love to walk if only to track myself using the GPS on my iPhone.

The Last Of The "iPhone Killers"

Needless to say, all the recent touchscreen mobile phones that have been dubbed as possible "iPhone killers" have not lived up to their moniker. And after reading a review of the Nokia 5800 XPressMusic by, it appears it will stay that way for a while.

But, that doesn't mean that this latest phone isn't good. Just looking at the specs on paper, it seems quite solid.
Music is its focus and Nokia spared no expense:

  • 8-band graphic equalizer
  • Dedicated music keys in the headset control unit
  • Stereo FM radio (with wired headset)
  • Standard 3.5" headphone jack
  • Integrated stereo speakers with surround sound (I have no idea how they're going to pull this one off)
  • 3D stereo ringtones

The rest of the multimedia features easily defeats the iPhone:

  • 3.2 megapixel camera (2048 x 1536 pixels)
  • Carl Zeiss optics
  • 3x digital zoom for camera/4x digital zoom for video recorder
  • Autofocus
  • Dual LED flash
  • Flash modes: On, off, automatic, red-eye reduction
  • Photo editor on device
  • Video recording at up to 640 x 480 pixels and up to 30 fps

Other features the stock iPhone doesn't have:

  • MMS
  • 640 x 360 pixels (verus iPhone's 480 x 320 pixels)
  • Expandable memory slot
  • Bluetooth A2DP
  • Voice Dialing
So, why is THIS not an iPhone killer? I think it's because of the overall operating system experience. The iPhone is EASY to learn and adapt to. Check out the menu in the picture. It looks like your old dumbphone.

I will certainly check out the Nokia 5800 when it is released.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Fastlane Street Racing vs. Raging Thunder

If you follow me on the iPhone forums, then you'll know that I've been pining for at least the last two weeks for the iPhone version of "Need For Speed: Undercover." My favorite racing game on the iPhone was "Asphalt 4: Elite Racing." [iTunes link] I also like "Crash Bandicoot Nitro Kart 3D" but it's not the same type of racing game.
Well, out of sheer boredom, I decided to take the plunge into two of the hottest racing games in the App Store: "Fastlane Street Racing" and "Raging Thunder."

Fastlane Street Racing - $5.99

This definitely has the BEST graphics I've seen to date on the iPhone. Cars are beautifully rendered and the backgrounds are majestic. And the animation is as smooth as silk. But, that's where my praises end.
I've always been resistant about having an onscreen gas pedal and my worst fears were confirmed. Other games like "Asphalt" have auto-acceleration so that you're mainly concerned about steering. On Fastlane, you're mainly concerned about holding that gas pedal down. Also, the steering interface is puzzling. Instead of using a tilting motion, like on "Asphalt" and "Crash Bandicoot," you have to turn your iPhone as if it were a steering wheel. While that sounds good in theory, it is actually terrible.
It seems Fastlane is more of a racing simulator than an actual game, since it is very close to real-life - the good and the bad.

Raging Thunder - $3.99 (Half-Price Sale)

Raging Thunder also is graphically smoother than "Asphalt," although the backgrounds leave a lot to be desired. This game has elements of what is missing from Fastlane: boosting (blue bar) and tackling (red bar). I've been able to win races using the boost. And I found a bar for "tackling" or crashing into other cars to be pretty interesting. Although I prefer crashing to be a bit more "invisible" like in "Asphalt" where you can just crash into a car. Some things I dislike though is the sound and animation for hitting the sides of the track. They are irritating. Plus, it looks like gunshots. At first I thought there were guns in the game! And like Fastlane, there is a time limit so if you don't hit a certain mark by a certain time then it's game over for you.

Although none of them bests "Asphalt," I do like Raging Thunder over Fastlane Street Racing if only for its fun factor.

Amazing New iPhone Games!

I don't have any of these games, but they look wonderful! They are all premium-priced as well. All of the links take you to a YouTube video of the game.

Armageddon Squadron - $5.99

For whatever odd reason, this video has no sound.

1112 Episode 01 - $7.99

Touch Grind - $4.99 (Introductory Price)

BlackBerry Bold & The HTC Fuze

On my exercise tour of Honolulu yesterday, I decided to stop by the AT&T store. I checked out the BlackBerry Storm and the G1 (sort of) earlier this week so I wanted to see the latest and greatest at my home store.

BlackBerry Bold

The first thing I wanted to check out was the BlackBerry Bold. After having used the Storm, I already had some expectations of the Bold. In general, I actually liked the Bold more than the Storm. I thought it was easier to navigate on the Bold. On the Storm, the whole "pressing down the screen" thing did not agree with me as far as menu navigation. However, the physical keyboard is not any easier to use than the Storm's virtual keyboard. My fat fingers are a bit big for the tiny buttons. And the shift key is a bit low for my tastes. So, ironically, the biggest beef I have with BlackBerrys in general is the keyboard - which is also the reason why BlackBerry users hate the iPhone. If I HAD to get a BlackBerry, I'd get a Bold. The only thing that the Storm has over the Bold is a bigger screen. Unfortunately, that doesn't mean it's a better overall experience.

HTC Fuze

After feeling the hardware of the HTC G1, I was amazed to find that the Fuze was so much more solid! It didn't feel like a flimsy piece of plastic. The Fuze has a nice car-like glossy finish. The hinges that connect the screen to the keyboard are on BOTH sides of the phone, which means you can't simply peel the screen away from the phone like with the G1. The keyboard is also superior to the G1. The keys are raised enough to have a nice feel to them. The G1's keys are too flush. In fact, I have an easier time typing on the Fuze than on any BlackBerry I've tried. I also like the touchscreen on the Fuze, which seems easier to use than the Storm and the Bold doesn't have a touchscreen. The only thing about the Fuze is that it runs Windows Mobile 6.1. If the Fuze ran on the Android platform, I think it could really compete against the iPhone. As it stands, I'd get a Fuze over the BlackBerry.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Today's Long Walk

I was a little tired today so I took a shorter long walk.

As usual, I used the iPhone app Distance Meter Pro [iTunes link].


I admit - I'm an iPhone snob. I bought the most expensive 16GB iPhone 3G in the limited edition white. I bought the Contour Showcase to somewhat obscure its whiteness, yet there's a window to tell you, "Hey! I got a white iPhone!" Hell, I even went through a lot of time, money and trouble to get LIVE television on my iPhone!
But there's no status symbol more telling of a person's wealth or ego than his or her headphones. If you've been on a bus or train these days, EVERYONE has their earbuds on and listening to their iPod, iPhone, Zune, etc.
I also have to admit that I actually LIKED the stock headphones that came with my iPhone 3G. The only thing I could really compare them with was my old second-generation iPod Nano headphones, and the iPhone ones were better. Plus, I LOVED using the headphones to take calls.
But, as soon as I found out that there were better headphones with call-taking capabilities, I was THERE! Since I could afford them, I went out and bought a pair of chrome V-MODA Vibe Duos for $99. I heard they were good, and they were right. I love the lows and mids on these babies. I still use them today. Did I mention I was an audio snob as well?
But now, V-MODA has come out with the Vibe II - a more upscale headphone for the Beverly Hills-type. If the Vibe Duos were supposed to be sleek and elegant, then the Vibe II is definitely raucous and shameless. Personally, I like the this particular Vibe II with its "Nero" color (pictured, left).
The silicone earbuds comes in two colors and four different sizes.
It also comes with "earhooks" that add stability to the headphones when running or exercising. I would love to see how that works.
And one of the best parts of the whole package is the nice leather case to keep your Vibes protected.
And these new Vibes can also take calls like the old ones.
However, the price is quite a bit more expensive at $128. That's about $60 away from the cheapest iPhone! V-MODA says the price is a nod to the 128-BPM of most dance tracks. Pfft. How tacky. But, if my current headphones suddenly went dead, don't be surprised if you see these in my ears the next time I go street-hiking.
UPDATE: Saw the Vibe II at the Apple Store. They only had the red ones. Sold them for $120 but not on sale for Black Friday. The earhooks are REALLY cool! They wrap around your ear and keeps the headphones in place. I wish I could sell my current Vibe Duo and pick these up!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

BlackBerry Storm & T-Mobile G1: Hands On

Instead of simply speculating about how the latest mobile phones work, I decided to go and try them for myself.
BlackBerry Storm
I went to the Bishop Street Verizon store in Downtown Honolulu. They were amazingly friendly and helpful. I guess this time of day wasn't that busy for them. So, one of the employees really helped me to understand all the functions of the BlackBerry Storm.
As an avid iPhone user, I thought I might be overly tough on the Storm. But, I was pleasantly surprised that I did like the overall feel of the device.
I didn't think the keyboard was as bad as everyone else makes it out to be. Sure, you can't type faster than on the iPhone because you have to press the whole screen down and let go before typing another button. But, I was able to get adequate speed. I thought the predictive text worked fine. Although the screen didn't have the sophistication of multi-touch, it could swipe and double-tap nicely. The one thing I did notice was that when I pushed buttons closer to the edges of the screen it didn't work 100% of the time. If there was a criticism about that screen, that would be it.

Not all was good with my Storm experience though. I hated the browser. If Opera Mini was available I'd throw it on that bad boy immediately. Also, the GPS was a bit tough to use. On the iPhone, one tap of a button gives you your current location very close to real-time. I had to jump through hoops to get my current location on the VZ Navigator. But, the one great feature of Navigator was getting traffic reports. For whatever reason, traffic reports on the iPhone does not work in Hawaii. That's no surprise because the Navigation system in my Acura can't get traffic reports either but it can on the mainland. But, for some reason Verizon in Hawaii can.
As I expected, video on the Storm was NOT in widescreen. In fact, the trailer that was preloaded was for "Babylon A.D." The familiar green preview screen was in widescreen but the rest of the trailer was in fullscreen. Very odd. I tried to double tap to see if it would transform into widescreen but to no avail.
Loading pictures also seemed to take forever. It was probably loading them from the MicroSD card. Music on the Storm seemed to play very quickly. I'm not sure if they were loaded on the 1GB of onboard storage or on the MicroSD card.
I just also want to mention that there is no Wi-Fi capability for the Storm, which to me is a dealbreaker.
The person who helped me was so gracious that she even let me take a picture of the Storm using my iPhone! If I ever had to switch carriers, I would make it Verizon.
UPDATE: I remember now the one thing that really bugged me about the Storm's keyboard: a lack of a proper shift key! It has a one key upper/lower case selector in vertical mode. I suppose the landscape mode is a bit better, but the upper/lower case selector is a bit too low for my tastes.
T-Mobile G1
Then, I went to the Alakea Street T-Mobile store about a block away.
There was a long line of people waiting to be helped. I certainly did not want to stand in that line and no one was free to help me. So, I never did get to try the best part of the T-Mobile G1 which is its Android software platform.
The only thing I can comment about is the physical hardware of the G1 since the floor models were not actual working versions. After you hold the iPhone 3G and the BlackBerry Storm, holding the G1 in your hand is like holding a Nintendo Game Boy. Whereas the other two phones are sleek and sexy, the G1 feels like it is made from very cheap plastic. It's nice and light, but the "cool" factor is not there. It also didn't help that one of the floor models was broken: the hinge of the screen that reveals the physical keyboard was broken. That REALLY made me think that the hinge could someday break off like the floor model. The way the screen hinge moves is quite violent instead of elegant. And the physical keyboard itself did not feel good. The keys are so flush that you REALLY have to press down to make sure you hit the key.
And, to me, the trackball at the bottom also feels cheap. Another thing that really disturbed me was that I could literally pull the screen off at the top of the phone since there is no hinge there to prevent me from doing that. I'm sure the Android software is revolutionary. But, the hardware leaves a lot to be desired.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Scan Barcodes With Your iPhone

So, your friend has a new T-Mobile G1 Android phone and shows you how ShopSavvy can scan barcodes and find competing prices over the internet. iPhone users, however, cannot do that with a stock iPhone. But, with some money and some patience it can be done.

1) Buy a Griffin Clarifi case. The case comes with a lens that slides over your existing lens to take close-up shots. It retails for $34.99 according to the Griffin website.

2) Download from the App Store for free.

Here's a video of how the Clarifi case works with

Now, I do not have the Clarifi case or the app so I cannot vouch for the quality of these products. If Griffin Technology would send me a Clarifi case to review, I would gladly do so.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Shopping With TheFind

Well, it's that time of year again! Black Friday is this coming Friday and it's going to be crazy! To make your shopping a little easier, there is another free shopping app called TheFind: Where To Shop. It may not have as many features as another app I reviewed called Slifter, but TheFind is just as useful.
TheFind uses your GPS to find where you are and it displays the stores that are closest to you that has the product you want. However, the list isn't sorted from closest to farthest. That may have been a good feature.

But, the app does have a map so you can graphically see which stores are nearest.

You can also check out prices on the web to see how they compare with the store prices.

If you want a no-nonsense app for your shopping, TheFind is great. Although you don't get some of the features like Slifter, you also don't have to give up your telephone number.

You can get TheFind for free in the App Store.

And while you're doing that, you can enjoy a fan video of my favorite song about shopping called "Shopping" by the Barenaked Ladies:

Friday, November 21, 2008

iPhone OS 2.2 Adventure

What a week it has been for my iPhone! Yesterday, I lose network connectivity for half the day. Then last night, my iPhone was bricked and my iPhone USB driver was damaged after I tried to upgrade to OS 2.2!

Last night I saw that OS 2.2 was ready for an update. I decided to try and update it before I go to work. It downloaded to iTunes fine and then my iPhone made a backup. But, at the very end of the installation I get an error that 2.2 was not installed. And in one fell swoop, my iPhone was stuck on the screen, just like this picture I posted, and then iTunes all of a sudden could not recognize my iPhone so I couldn't even RESTORE!
So, I had to go to work with a bricked iPhone.

After work, I went to the Apple Store just so that I could get my iPhone restored. Then, I came back home and it took me 3-4 hours to figure out that my Apple Mobile Device USB Driver wasn't working right and I had to get it replaced. Unfortunately, uninstalling and reinstalling iTunes didn't do the trick. What I had to do was go into Control Panel and uninstall iTunes and uninstall the Apple Mobile Device Application. Then, I could reinstall iTunes, launch iTunes and then connect my USB cord to my iPhone and it finally reinstalled the driver.

Thankfully, iTunes still had my backup from last night. However, my backup didn't reload all my applications, music and videos. I'm reinstalling those right now.

I'm sure I'll like the 2.2 upgrade. I'm just not a big fan of it right now.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

No Service In Honolulu

No AT&T service in Honolulu today since about 7:00 a.m. Hawaii time. At around 6:00 a.m. the network intermittently went in and out.

I heard that the Honolulu Police Department uses AT&T for their cell phones.

I hope it comes back up soon.

UPDATE: At around 10:20 a.m. I got phone service back. At around 11:30 a.m. EDGE data was back. Then, at 12:30 p.m. 3G was back. Seemed like an eternity!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Video Review: OrbLive for the iPhone

List of Orb-compatible TV tuners

Specs for my PC running Orb: AMD Athlon 64 2.2Ghz 3400+, 2GB RAM, PNY Nvidia 7600GS 512MB video card. As far as I can tell, Orb has not been developed for the Mac.