Archive for June, 2007

Motorola RAZR2 v8 review

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There’s no denying it, love it or hate it, Motorola’s RAZR was a hit. If you don’t believe me go outside and chances are you’ll see someone using a RAZR of some sort.

Anyways it’s been a while since the RAZR came out and despite numerous revisions; v3, v3i, v3t, v3c, v3m, etc. it’s starting to get a little long in tooth. While the new versions sometimes improved on the original RAZR, they all look more or less the same.

That’s where the RAZR2 comes in. Sure it has a RAZRy profile but the RAZR2 is a totally new phone. It runs Motorola’s latest Linux/Java menu system, it’s thinner, has a humongous external display and just plain looks a lot more modern than the original RAZR.

For now the RAZR2 comes in two flavours; v8 and v9. The v8 can have around 450 to 1950MB of memory built-in while the v9 has HSDPA and an external memory card slot. If you can choose, the v9 is the one you want. I’ll be reviewing the v8 today.

Make sure you check out the gallery for some pictures.

Physical Impressions:

At 118g, the v8 is no light weight. That said the extra heft is perfect for the v8. Compared to a RAZR, the v8 feels more valuable and substantial even though it’s quite a bit thinner.

If you found the 14mm RAZR to be too chubby for your pockets you’ll be happy to know that the v8 is a mere 12mm thick.

The thinness of the v8 means it fits great in your pocket but it does make it slightly difficult to open.

The keys feel like the RAZR’s they’re really flat but work well. I like how the v8′s navigation pad is noticeably bigger. The keys are not seperated vertically so sometimes it can be tricky to use them without looking.

The back is covered with rubberized paint while the front is plastic with some shiny paint on it.

You get a 2.2″ TFT display on the inside (same size as the RAZR). It has a resolution of 240×320 (pretty standard) and can display up to 262,000 colours. The outer display is a larger-than-the-average-external display that measures a whopping 2.0″ TFT display (RAZR has a puny 1.0″). It also has a resolution of 240×320 and can display up to 262,000 colours. The lower part of the display is touch sensitive. It’s not touch sensitive in that it can be used to enter text but it allows for some virtual buttons which you can press.

On the v8, the external display is used to control music playback when the phone is closed and camera self portraits. Also remember that having such a large external display looks really sweet. With the v9 I’m guessing you can use it for video conferencing too.

The RAZR and RAZR2 both have similar shapes but the RAZR2 lacks the RAZR’s bump at the bottom of the keypad. When I used to use a RAZR I would hold it around the bump since it was the only thick part of the phone. It made it easier to wrap my fingers around it when I was talking on it. The RAZR2 lacks this bump so I really couldn’t find an easy way to hold it since it’s so thin and wide. Another thing I found was if I gripped the RAZR2 tightly I would end up pressing the ‘end’ button which isn’t good if you’re in a call. The lack of the bump makes the RAZR2 look cool but it also makes it difficult to hold for extended periods of time. If you’re going to make a lot of long calls get a Bluetooth headset.

It wasn’t apparent to me at first but the RAZR2 has some nice finishing touches. Take a look at the gallery. First off, notice how the Motorola logo on front of the phone is surrounded by a sort of machined finish. The v3i has the same sort of finish but on the v8 the finish is behind a clear coat so that it won’t attract dust like on the v3i. Next notice my close up of the side buttons; they have the same sort of machined finish. The sides are surrounded by a dimpled look. Notice how the box has the same pattern on it. Finally look at a closed v8 sideways and notice the curve where the top part of the flip meets the bottom part. The packaging that holds the v8 has the same curve.

Hands-free usage:

There is support for Bluetooth headsets, stereo headphones, micro USB headphones and a speakerphone.

The speakerphone’s maximum volume is about average (it’s not that useful in loud environments).

There’s a voice command button on the right side of the phone. It isn’t Voice Signal but it’s similar. You can use it to call phonebook entries, dial numbers, launch certain programs, change profiles, etc.

Miscellaneous:

While the RAZR used a mini usb connector, the v8′s thin profile means it has to use a micro USB connector. The micro USB connector is used for wired headsets, charging and for connecting to computers. It is compatible with mini USB connectors if you have the appropriate adapter.

One of the main differences between the RAZR2 v8 and v9 are that the v8 lacks a memory card slot but can come with more internal memory. The v8 supports HSDPA and memory cards.

From this point on, most of my v8 review is lifted from my z6 review since they both run the same software. If you want to see pictures of the software check out the gallery from my z6 review.

Menus:

Software wise, the v8 runs Motorola Linux/Java interface. It’s reminiscent of the RAZR’s menu but really it’s completely different inside.

The menu speed is pretty amazing, it’s incredibly responsive.

I found the menu sounds to be pretty interesting; I actually left them on instead of turning them off immediately like I usually do. When you use the external virtual buttons the phone will shake gently – it’s really cool.

I love the new interface. It’s so much better than the one from the original RAZR.

Phone Related Features:

The phonebook is pretty straight forward. It’s split into entries; each entry can have multiple bits of information. Types of information are sorted into tabs which is similar to newer Sony Ericsson phones. You can search the phonebook by typing part of the entry’s name. Pretty standard stuff.

You can remote sync the v8 with an exchange server (I didn’t try this but there’s an option for it).

I noticed that you can quickly change the v8′s profile by pressing either side mounted volume buttons. This is a nice change from older Motorola phones where pressing up will cause the phone to ring. When you press a volume button the phone will shake lightly. Now that’s great tactile response!

Connected Features:

You get a mini USB connector hidden behind a port cover on the right side. There are 4 different USB modes; Media Synchronization, Memory card, modem and USB printing.

When the v8 is in Media Synchronization mode you can sync media files to it using Windows Media Player. Memory card mode is also known as Mass Storage Mode. You can transfer files to the v8 without needing special drivers in this mode. I clocked the v8 at a respectable 820 Kb/s.

There is an email app that is separate from the messaging one. The email app supports IMAP4 and POP3. It works well and is pretty fast. You can still read messages while the v8 is grabbing your email.

Browsing duties are handled by Opera Mini. If you’ve never used Opera Mini on a ‘regular’ (non-smart) phone let me say it totally kicks ass. Opera Mini uses a proxy server. Basically means that when you request a page, the request gets sent to another computer, that computer downloads the page, reformats it and shrinks the images and then sends it to your phone. This way pages load up faster plus it requires less data to transmit.

I liked the history as well as the support for multiple browser windows. You can have Opera resize webpages so that you can view them without having to scroll horizontally or as they would be rendered on your computer.

Opera is pretty speedy when it comes to scrolling through webpages. I just wish there was a page up/down button.

Multimedia Features:

There’s a 2 megapixel camera. Resolution is ok though the colour isn’t as vibrant as they could be. It’s very ‘camera phone’ looking.

The camcorder app can only record videos with resolutions of up to 176 x 144.

The mp3 player is alright. You can sort your music by artist/album/genre/composer. There’s a playlist feature. You also get some audio processing options like a spatializer function plus you can adjust the bass settings or use the bass boost.

There’s a dedicated music player key + a background play feature. You can use A2DP Stereo Bluetooth Headphones to listen to music. The music player supports AVRCP so you can control it using A2DP headphones.

You can operate the music player when the phone is closed via the virtual buttons on the external display.

Unfortunately you can’t use the external display to watch videos. Hopefully this will change in the production version.

Organizer Features:

The basic organizer apps are included; Calendar, Alarm Clock, World Clock, Calculator, Task List, Notes and Voice recorder.

The alarm clock has been changed so that it’s a lot more intuitive to use. You can now see the current time when you’re setting the alarm. I was a little disappointed to see that you still have to set an alarm as ‘on’ even after you set its time.

The Calendar and Notes apps can synchronize with Outlook on your PC using Mobile Phone Tools.

There’s a file manager which you can use to browse the contents of the phone’s file system.

Impressions:

The v8 I’m testing is a preproduction unit. As such there are still some issues that need to be ironed out like tuning for the RF part of the phone. I’ll comment more on my impressions of the v8′s RF and update this review with an overall score later.

I found the v8 uncomfortable to use because the ear piece didn’t feel right pressed against my ear. To the v8′s credit the earpiece does have a long sweet spot. The microphone is located to the right of the 6 so it’s easy to accidentally cover it when you’re holding the v8.

Conclusion:

Visually the v8 has a lot of wow factor to it. It’s shiny, has a huge external display plus it’s really thin. However, the extreme thinness is a double edge sword; it looks cool but makes the phone hard to hold.

Feature wise the v8 is fairly up to date. You get most of the features you’d expect with the exception of a memory card slot and HSPDA. Both of these features can be found on the v9.

Ratings (out of 5)
Build Quality 4.5
Battery Life 3
Phone Related Features 4
Ease of Use 2.5
RF Performance ?
Degree of Customizability 4
Overall (not an average) ?
*Please note these ratings are temporal and are really only valid for the date they were assigned. A phone which receives a rating of 5 a year ago will probably get a lower rating today.

Pros:

  • Fast USB transfers
  • Screens are large and looks great
  • External playback buttons are useful
  • Phone will fit in any pocket

Cons:

  • No HSDPA
  • No dedicated buttons to control music playback
  • Too thin to hold for long periods of time

Discuss this review at HowardForums.com | See the gallery here
Written by Howard Chui 06.28.2007
This article may not be reproduced without the the author’s permission.

12 comments June 28th, 2007

Go meet the iPhone @ Apple.com

Apple iPhone

Want to check out how to upcoming Apple iPhone works in detail? Visit www.Apple.com to watch a twenty minute video on how the iPhone’s applications work. It’s very interesting and makes you want one just a bit more. Remember the iPhone will be available at AT&T stores starting June 29th at 6PM.

6 comments June 22nd, 2007

Motorola ROKR Z6

The image “http://www.howardchui.com/gallery/albums/userpics/10001/normal_frontclosed.JPG” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

When I first became interested in phones Motorola’s most popular phone was the StarTac. It was a nice phone but you’d have to read the manual before you could use it. Soon after this they brought out their Synergy interface. Synergy was pretty awesome at the time; customizable menu system, more menu icons, assignable shortcuts, menu animations, etc.

Synergy is still with us (ie it’s in the Motorola RAZR) and it’s has been updated numerous times along the way. However it’s starting to get dated and clunky.

Times have changed and now Motorola has their new Linux/Java interface. It used to be called Moto JUIX or just JUIX. What’s cool about Linux/Java is that it actually uses Java on top of Linux. So here’s Motorola’s newest Linux/Java phone – the ROKR Z6.

Make sure you check out the gallery for some pictures.

Physical Impressions:

The Z6 feels fairly solid when you hold it in your hand. It has a slight heft to it. The front and bottom of the unit flexes a tiny bit. The back has the same sort of rubberized paint you’ll find on the KRZR. The front of the phone is plastic with a piano black finish.

It runs a Java based interface on top of Linux so it has a different interface compared to older Motorola phones like the Motorola RAZR.

The screen has a resolution of 240 x 320. Indoors it looks great. It’s bright and works ok outdoors when it’s sunny.

The keypad is like a RAZR’s; it looks flat but is actually really easy to use. The keys have a decent amount of travel when pressed. I appreciate how the top part of the slide curves inwards at the bottom so that you can fit your fingers over the buttons easily.

Hands-free usage:

There is support for Bluetooth headsets, stereo headphones, mini USB headphones (included) and a speakerphone.

The speakerphone’s maximum volume is about average (it’s not that useful in loud environments).

There doesn’t appear to be any voice command software built into my Z6 but apparently most should have it.

Miscellaneous:

You’ll find a mini USB connector underneath a port cover on the right side of the phone. It’s used for charging, wired headsets duties and for connecting the Z6 to your computer.

There’s a microSD slot under the battery cover. You don’t have to remove the battery if you want to swap cards.

The Z6 has some magnets in both parts of the slide so that it can tell when it’s opened or closed (at least this is my guess). I found that if you put magnets near the Z6, you can fool it into thinking it just closed. This is a minor inconvenience if you carry the Z6 around in a phone pouch that stays shut via magnets – it will keep making the open/shut noise.

Previously ROKR phones had some special features that made them more suitable for listening to music. The first ROKR; the E1 came with stereo speakers, haptics and a really crappy iTunes client. The second one had a stereo headphone jack. The Z6 doesn’t really come with anything too special music wise besides the dedicated music client key on the front.

Menus:

Software wise the Z6 runs Motorola Linux/Java interface. It resembles their old Synergy interface (found on the RAZR).

There are numerous changes from Synergy. You can reorder menu items and create custom folders to put them in. At the standby menu, the left softkey is mapped to an option function which lets you quickly access frequently used items.

All the apps are different though they resemble the ones found on Synergy phones. The main menu has a grid view with icons (you can also choose a list view) but the sub-menus are just text so they can look a bit bland.

I found the menu sounds to be pretty interesting; I actually left them on instead of turning them off immediately like I usually do.

I really enjoyed the new interface. It looks great and it’s faster than a speeding bullet.

Phone Related Features:

The phonebook is pretty straight forward. It’s split into entries; each entries can have multiple bits of information. Types of information are sorted into tabs which is similar to newer Sony Ericsson phones. You can search the phonebook by typing part of the entry’s name. Pretty standard stuff.

You can remote sync the Z6 with an exchange server (I didn’t try this but there’s an option for it).

I noticed that you can quickly change the Z6′s profile by pressing either side mounted volume buttons. This is a nice change from older Motorola phones where pressing up will cause the phone to ring.

Connected Features:

You get a mini USB connector hidden behind a port cover on the right side. There are 4 different USB modes; Media Synchronization, Memory card, modem and USB printing.

When the Z6 is in Media Synchronization mode you can sync media files to it using Windows Media Player. Memory card mode is also known as Mass Storage Mode. You can transfer files to the Z6 without needing special drivers in this mode. I clocked the Z6 at a fairly speedy 1.15 MB/s.

There is an email app that is separate from the messaging one. The email app supports IMAP4 and POP3. It works well and is pretty fast. You can still read messages while the Z6 is grabbing your email.

Browsing duties are handled by Opera Mini. If you’ve never used Opera Mini on a ‘regular’ (non-smart) phone let me say it totally kicks ass. Opera Mini uses a proxy server. Basically means that when you request a page, the request gets sent to another computer, that computer downloads the page, reformats it and shrinks the images and then sends it to your phone. This way pages load up faster plus it requires less data to transmit.

I liked the history as well as the support for multiple browser windows. You can have Opera resize webpages so that you can view them without having to scroll horizontally or as they would be rendered on your computer.

Opera is pretty speedy when it comes to scrolling through webpages. I just wish there was a page up/down button.

Multimedia Features:

There’s a 2 megapixel camera with a LED flash. Resolution is ok though the colour isn’t as vibrant as they could be. It’s very ‘camera phone’ looking. Check out the gallery for some sample pics.

The camcorder app can only record videos with resolutions of up to 176 x 144.

The mp3 player is alright. You can sort your music by artist/album/genre/composer. There’s a playlist feature. You also get some audio processing options like a spatializer function plus you can adjust the bass settings or use the bass boost.

There’s a dedicated music player key + a background play feature. You can use A2DP Stereo Bluetooth Headphones to listen to music. The music player supports AVRCP so you can control it using A2DP headphones.

Organizer Features:

You get the basic organizer apps; Calendar, Alarm Clock, World Clock, Calculator, Task List, Notes and Voice recorder.

The alarm clock has been changed so that it’s a lot more intuitive to use. You can now see the current time when you’re setting the alarm. I was a little disappointed to see that you still have to set an alarm as ‘on’ even after you set its time.

The Calendar and Notes apps can synchronize with Outlook on your PC using Mobile Phone Tools

Impressions:

Incoming sound quality is good, there’s virtually no hiss. Maximum earpiece volume isn’t bad.

RF performance isn’t that great. My Sony Ericsson W600i was much better than the Z6.

Conclusion:

Even though the RF performance could be better I liked the Z6. It feels nice in your hand, has a very nice looking display and has a blazingly fast menu. Opera is just awesome, it’s good enough that I didn’t mind using it even when I had a Blackberry or some other smartphone in my other pocket.

Ratings (out of 5)
Build Quality 4
Battery Life 4
Phone Related Features 4
Ease of Use 4
RF Performance 3
Degree of Customizability 4
Overall (not an average) 4
*Please note these ratings are temporal and are really only valid for the date they were assigned. A phone which receives a rating of 5 a year ago will probably get a lower rating today.

Pros:

  • Alarm app is more intuitive to use
  • Menus are really fast
  • Fast USB transfers
  • Screen looks great
  • Memory card slot

Cons:

  • RF performance could use some work
  • No HSDPA
  • No dedicated buttons to control music playback

Discuss this review at HowardForums.com | See the gallery here
Written by Howard Chui 06.17.2007
This article may not be reproduced without the the author’s permission.

20 comments June 19th, 2007

Sony Ericsson’s pair of new Walkman handsets

Sony Ericsson W910 and W960

The last two new Sony Ericsson handsets announced are the W910 and W960, both Walkman branded phones. The Sony Ericsson W910 is a slider handset with motion sensitive controls allowing you to shake the handset to control music. It will include Quadband GSM, HSDPA 2100 and sport a 2 megapixel camera, stereo Bluetooth and feature new Walkman music player software. The last handset announced is the Sony Ericsson W960, which features Triband GSM, UMTS 2100, a 2.8″ touchscreen, 3.2 megapixel camera, Wi-Fi, stereo Bluetooht, Walkman media player software, 8GB internal memory and is powered by Symbian OS.

“Market enthusiasm for the Walkman® phone range has far outshone even our own expectations,” says Miles Flint, Sony Ericsson President.  “With lifetime global sales standing at over 26.5 million Walkman® phones and users really understanding the benefits of ‘music on your mobile’, the time is right to release the next album! This means Walkman® phones that make it quicker and easier to transfer or download music, plus innovative ways of searching through all of those tracks. It’s also about thinking beyond music, to games, videos and the Web.”

[Sony Ericsson]

18 comments June 15th, 2007

Bell Mobility “launches” BlackBerry 8830 World Edition

Bell BlackBerry 8830

Bell Mobility has announced pricing for the long awaited BlackBerry 8830 World Edition. It’s now on their website with pricing of $299 with three year contract or $699 with no contract HOWEVER is unavailable to order at this time. Visit www.Bell.ca for details.

[via BlackBerry Sync]

4 comments June 15th, 2007

Sony Ericsson’s two new K-Series handsets

Sony Ericsson K850 (left) Sony Ericsson K530 (right)

Sony Ericsson has launched two new K-Series handsets. The Sony Ericsson K850 is a feature packed handsets offering Quadband GSM and Triband HSDPA. What’s even better it packs a 5 Megapixel auto-focus camera with a Xenon flash. Plus the K850 features a unique Micro M2 / microSD combo memory card slot. Sony Ericsson also announced the K530, a mid-range handset featuring Triband GSM and UMTS 2100, 2 megapixel camera and stereo Bluetooth.

[Sony Ericsson]

12 comments June 15th, 2007

Announcing the Sony Ericsson z320 and z250 clamshell handsets

Sony Ericsson z320 and z520

Sony Ericsson has been busy launching several new handsets including the Sony Ericsson z320 (is a mid-range handset featuring a rounded clamshell design and sporting Triband GSM (with North American bands) and a  1.3 megapixel camera. Sony Ericsson also announced the Z250 (pictured right), a lighter version of the z320. It features Triband GSM and a VGA camera.

[Sony Ericsson]

2 comments June 15th, 2007

Sprint-Nextel launches Motorola ic902

Sprint Motorola ic902Sprint-Nextel has just launched another one of their dual-mode iDen/CDMA hybrid handsets. The Motorola ic902 comes packed with multimedia features such as a 2 megapixel camera, media player and a microSD memory card slot. Other features include Nextel’s Direct Connect feature and Sprint’s Power Vision services over EV-DO highspeed data.

“The Motorola Deluxe™ ic902 adds a high-tier, fully featured handset to the Sprint PowerSource portfolio,” said Danny Bowman, vice president of customer equipment for Sprint. “Customers have the power to make the most of their wireless service whether through voice calls, instant Nextel Walkie-Talkie services or one of our Sprint Power Vision applications, including Sprint Music Store.”

You can pick up the Motorola ic902 at Sprint-Nextel stores for $299 with two year contract.

[Sprint]

4 comments June 15th, 2007

Sony Ericsson goes ActiveSync ready

Sony Ericsson has extended their development into email on the go with some of their new products such as the newly announced W910 and K850. Both of the new phones are Microsoft ActiveSync ready to allow push email, contacts and calendar downloads over the air.

Mobile messaging – the ability to send and receive email anytime, anywhere – is fast becoming a vital form of everyday communication in today’s high-speed, 24/7 international business environment. Companies and individuals are having to adapt to changing ways of doing business, and respond to the growing need for greater mobility and flexibility. Sony Ericsson phones with Exchange ActiveSync® provide instant access to e-mail messages wherever you are. They also include a remote device-wipe feature, which allows company administrators to remotely send a command to a lost or stolen phone that will erase all PIM-data (e-mail, calendar, contacts) as well as account settings.

[Sony Ericsson]

2 comments June 15th, 2007

Sony Ericsson, Fossil launch new Bluetooth Watches

Sony Ericsson Bluetooth Watches

Sony Ericsson has just announced three new Bluetooth watch accessories. All three new watches are designed in partner with Fossil.

“From the moment you use a Bluetooth™ Watch you wonder how you ever managed without it,” says José Barreiro-López Head of Sales & Marketing Support of Sony Ericsson. “Using your watch as a wire-free interface with your phone is about as convenient and non-obtrusive as you can get. Now whether you’re out socialising, working, or just at home with your family, there’s a Bluetooth™ watch to go with you.”

With their new watches you can choose from:

  • Bluetooth™ Watch MBW-150 Music Edition: Control your music phone with your watch.
  • Bluetooth™ Watch MBW-150 Executive Edition:Keep ahead of the pace and control your phone in a way that keeps you focused.
  • Bluetooth™ Watch MBW-150 Classic Edition: Relax in casual style while keeping in touch with the world.

“All three timepieces in the MBW-150 range have a scratch-resistant mineral crystal glass face with an antiglare coating. When not using them to control your phone they look exactly like a regular watch, thanks to a discreet OLED display that’s only seen when in use. What’s more, the addition of Bluetooth™ technology does not lead to a compromise on time-keeping. A Quartz analogue precision movement, plus a digital time display that’s synchronised with your phone, make sure that you stay on track.”

[Sony Ericsson]

5 comments June 15th, 2007

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