Archive for February, 2009

Plan Changes, Yet Again-Virgin Mobile (Canada)

With the economy slowly declining raising prices is not going to help you sell your product.  For some reason Virgin Mobile Canada did not realize this before jacking up their price on average 17% at the beginning of the month.  Read the story here to refresh your memory. Today Virgin Mobile has went back to their original price structure when post paid plans were first offered.

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The one time account activation fee of $35 is still required when signing up on a myPlan monthly plan from Virgin Mobile Canada.  Hit up the Virgin Mobile Canada website for the complete details.

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Add comment February 23rd, 2009

Samsung m320 Launched

The Samsung m320 is now available through Virgin Mobile Canada.

Slim and stylish, the ultra-convenient Handy Flip phone, at only 95 grams, packs a bunch of good stuff into one of the lightest phones around. Sleek on the outside, flip it open and you can snap pics on the go with the digital camera, connect wirelessly with Bluetooth®, and the advanced voice dial lets you make a call without having to lift a finger.

3 year term: $0.00
2 year term: $29.99
1 year term: $49.99
30 day term: $79.99
prepaid: $79.99

A nice addition to the Virgin Mobile lineup at an excellent price.  Solo Mobile, Bell Mobility’s discount brand and Virgin Mobile competitor, should be launching the Samsung m320 with similar pricing in the next few weeks.

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Add comment February 23rd, 2009

LG Secret

Rogers is getting ready to launch the LG Secret.  Treatz is reporting the device should be hitting retail locations shortly.

The LG Secret features: a 2.4” touch screen display, 5.0 MP camera, and is has expandable memory up to 16 GB.  The Secret also has a built-in accelerometer, similar to the iPhone and iPod Touch,  for gaming and will automatically adjust picture for landscape or portrait viewing.

The LG Secret will be launched at the following price points:

3 year: $149.99 (requires voice and unlimited on device browsing)
3 year: $249.99
2 year: $299.99
1 year: $349.99

secretjq9

Source: HowardForums

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1 comment February 20th, 2009

Nokia n96 Review

side

While the iPhone 3G and Blackberry Bold often receive a lot of attention, I think the Nokia n95 8GB is one of the most underrated phones out there. Here’s the n95 8GB’s successor – the n96.

n96n95

Compared to the n95/n95 8gb, the n96 is noticeably thinner. This s a result of 2 main things; the screen is not as recessed as it is on the n95 8GB plus the n96 uses a thinner, lower capacity battery.

sideopened

Build quality is alright. I’m not sure if it’s because my n95 8gb’s slide is a bit worn out but the n96′s slide seems more secure. The battery cover runs the entire length of the back of the n96 – mine creaks a little after using it for a few weeks.

Let’s take a tour:

top

On top there’s the left speaker, power button, 3.5mm headphone jack (it works with regular headphones as well as video out cables) and a hold switch (no more 2 button presses to lock the keypad).

left

The left has a micro SDHC card slot (to augment the 16GB already built-in).

bottom

The bottom has a right speaker, micro USB and Nokia charger port. There is still no support for charging via the micro USB slot, boo!

right

On the right is a camera button and volume keys.

speaker

On the back is the 5 megapixel camera, dual LED flash and a small stand that’s built-in around the camera.

opened

The design of the keys is more updated and look more sleek. They’re a little harder to use without looking because they lay flat. I prefer the n95′s keys. Texting is a little slower and I sometimes accidentally press the right softkey instead of the end key and vice versa. The keys are slightly wobbly (not in a bad way) which I think was done intentionally to make them easier to tell apart – interesting.

There are a few changes, there is no more edit button, instead there are media player control keys around the nav pad.

mediakeys

Sliding the phone open reveals more media player keys on top which light up depending on the context.

I like the media keys around the nav pad. While I liked the media keys on the n95 I found them inconvenient to use.

The screen looks fine, it’s pretty large given the n96′s form factor though it really needs more resolution when compared with other competing phones.

Memory card performance was difficult to test because I found I results varied wildly even when I was copied the same files over and over again. I noticed anywhere from 500kb/s to over 10MB/s. That said performance was pretty good most of the time. To test speeds I took 16 video files (2.1GB worth) and copied them to the n96. Remember, smaller files (like images and mp3′s) will usually result in slower performance.

It took 7 mins 11 seconds (about 5MB/s) to copy files to the built-in memory while reading from took 5mins 43 secs (6.5MB/s).

I tested 2 memory cards; a Sandisk 16GB SDHC and a Sandisk Ultra 16GB SDHC.

Writing to the regular card took 6mins 5secs (6MB/s) while reading took 5mins 4 secs (7.5MB/s)

The ultra took 5:45 secs to write (6.5MB/s) and to 4:35 (8.3MB/s) to read. Both cards turned in pretty good performance though you’ll usually get even faster speeds using an external SDHC card reader. You’ll also notice more of a difference between the regular card and the Ultra one.

There is an orientation sensor which you can turn on. It’s supposed to auto rotate the screen depending on how you’re holding it but I found it to be far too sensitive – best to leave it off. Also, since the n96 is a 2 way slider you can just use that to tell the n96 how you want the screen.

There are 2 versions of the n96; a North American version and a European one. Both have HSDPA, Quad band EDGE (850/900/1800/1900), Bluetooth, and Wifi. The NA one has HSDPA 850/1900 while the Euro one has HSDPA 900/2100.

Software:

One nice thing about Nokia S60 phones is that when you get a new one you can upgrade from the old one quite easily. You can use Nokia PC Suite to backup your old phone and then restore it onto the new one. If you don’t feel like using your computer there’s a program which you can send to the old phone which will copy everything over via Bluetooth.

While the n96 is very similar to the n95 in many ways there are 3 main things which have been changed. The way you view photos, and watch videos.

While 5megapixels is no longer class leading, the n96 still takes really nice pictures (for a camera phone). It has an auto focus lens so there is a pause from when you press down on the shutter to when the n96 actually takes a photo.

There’s an option you can turn on that will automatically geotag your photos so you can see where you took them. I really like it.

You can tag your photos after you’ve taken them though you’ll have to switch to the gallery app to do this. It would be nice to have an option to do this from the camera app. Besides tags you can also sort pictures by month and albums.

When viewing photos there are now fancier animations. If you move from picture to picture it’s animated but if you scroll faster, then the photos zoom out so you can see more of them at once. It’s a nice feature though I wish the animations were a bit smoother. There’s an icon showing you where you’re located in the album which is useful if you have lots of pictures.

When you zoom in on a photo it zooms in more progressively which sounds nice but the way the n96 accomplishes this is by zooming in and then redrawing the picture so you can see the added detail. This is perfectly acceptable but I found it often took a few seconds before you could see the extra detail, it often drove me nuts when I took a picture and wanted to zoom in and view it right after.

While the Video Center application has been around for quite a while I must confess that I’ve never really used it before.

Another feature I’ve never used much before is the video out cable. I must say, while the n96 isn’t exactly a high definition device, the video out quality is pretty good. The n96 only has a resolution of 320×240 but the video it outputs is pretty crisp.

The stand is a cute feature which is nice if you use the n96 a lot for videos but for me I found it just exaggerated the fact that the n96′s display is smaller than some of it’s competitors.

Like the n95 you can control the movie player by sliding the screen down and using the media keys. You can also control them using the media keys that surround the nav pad. When you slide the screen down the video will automatically switch to landscape mode.

If you stop a video halfway, the program will remember where you left off so next time you watch it, it will ask you if you want to watch from the beginning or resume where you left off. It also remembers the last video you watched (even between reboots).

Maps is the same maps program you find on other S60 devices. Maps are free to download over the air or you can connect the n96 to your PC and download maps that way (saving you data and or roaming charges). There are some nice features like a satellite view, plus you can view the outlines of buildings (useful for when you’re in a city).

While the n95 is capable of spitting out directions you have to pay if you want to use the guidance/navigation feature.

The S60 web browser works well though there’s still no official support for tabs and, while it’s no slouch, it’s not as fast as some newer browsers. You can press 8 to bring up a page overview which lets you see the entire page without having to scroll sideways, this way you can scroll quicker.

There is some Flash support meaning you’ll be able to view Flash on some sites depending on what version they require. One note of caution, Flash requires a lot of processing power so it can really slow the browser to a crawl.

The messaging client supports email (IMAP and POP), MMS and SMS. There is now a seperate email client avaialble that has push email – so emails automatically get sent to your phone. You can download it from email.nokia.com. Right now it’s free but it will cost something to use eventually.

While I was a little disappointed that the push email client isn’t integrated into the n96′s messaging client the push email client has a better layout. It has some nice options like the time of day you want email pushed, whether you want push email when you’re roaming – those sorts of things. Another nice thing I noticed about the push email client is that it syncs with your email inbox so that if you’ve read a message elsewhere it will show up as read when you view it on the n96. My Blackberries which are connected via BIS don’t do this.

The phonebook and calendars can sync with ovi.com so that you can sync the n96 over the air – neat!

The music program lets you sort your music by artist, album, etc (just like most other music programs). You can control music playback using the media keys under the screen (when you slide the screen down) or by using the media keys surrounding the nav pad. What nice about these keys is that you can use them when you’re doing something else like reading email or surfing the web.

Music can be stored on either the 16GB of built-in memory or on the SDHC card. Whenever you copy music to the n96, you have to refresh the music library so it can find the new music – sometimes this can take a minute. Once it’s found the music, it won’t distinguish between music on the memory card or built-in memory. This is a good thing since it doesn’t matter where you copy your music.

There are 2 really, really loud speakers, A2DP support (for Bluetooth stereo audio) plus a 3.5mm headphone jack. The speakers sound pretty good though they can be a bit piercing at times.

There is an alarm clock, calculator, calendar with built-in todo list (both of which sync with your computer or ovi.com), metric converter, PDF reader, notes app and Quick Office. Quick Office lets you edit Word, Excel and Powerpoint files but you’ll have to pay extra if you want to create them on the n96 (or just download empty Word, Excel and PowerPoint files here).

Also included is a SIP (VOIP) client.

You also get an FM radio app (I didn’t try it), voice commands and text to voice (it can announce who’s calling and read you your messages). The text to voice has a really robotic sounding voice but works alright plus it will work in the background. The voice commands on the other hand don’t work that well.

Performance:

Now the n96 comes in a European (HSDPA 900/2100) and a North American (HSDPA 850/1900) version. Since I had the Euro version I couldn’t test the HSDPA. That said, the EDGE radio performed similarly to the one found in my n95 8GB so it’s quite good.

Besides some constant background hiss, incoming sound quality is pretty good. You get used to constant background hiss so it’s not much of an issue. Outgoing sound quality had less hiss.

Battery life wasn’t that great for an EDGE phone which probably means the smaller battery won’t be good for battery life in HSDPA mode on the North American one. That said, most HSDPA smartphones have pretty lousy battery life.

Conclusion:

While the browser is decent there is room for improvement. I’d also like to see a higher resolution display, and the ability to charge the n96 through the micro USB connector.

While the n96 shares many of the n95 8GB’s features, remember that the n95 8GB is already packed to the gills (if it was a fish) with features.

When I first got the n96, I thought it was very similar to the n95 and pondered what the point of it was. While the n95 has always had video out capabilities, they suddenly make a lot of sense with the n96. With 16GB of memory built-in plus the ability to add another 16GB (or 32GB eventually), the n96 is actually a very interesting device if you travel a lot. You can load quite a few movies on it, then you can use the video out to watch it on a hotel room TV. Now, if only the n96 came with a remote control…

The relatively fast USB transfer speeds make the n96 more usable.

The improved photo app with geo tag and name tag support really make the camera fun to use.

Howard Chui
02.10.2009

3 comments February 11th, 2009

Samsung m320-Virgin Mobile

samsung-m320-2

The Samsung m320 has been spotted on the Virgin Mobile Canada website.  No word yet on launch date or pricing but it should not be far away.

The Samsung m320 does not really have any features not even a decent camera only a VGA (648×480).  With disappointing specs like that I expect the Samsung m320 to be available on prepaid or free on a three year contract.

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1 comment February 10th, 2009

Samsung F266-Fido

As we report here and here Fido, Rogers’ discount brand, has launched the Samsung F266.  The slider features a 2MP camera, MP3 player, FM radio and Bluetooth.  The Samsung F266 retails for $25 (2 year term), or $150 (month to month, prepaid, or purchased outright).

sgh-f266

Head over to the Fido website or your nearest retail location to get your Samsung f266.

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4 comments February 10th, 2009

VMC Curve-Price Decrease

Well Virgin Mobile must have realized increasing the price of the BlackBerry Curve is not going to help sell the device.  The price on the BlackBerry was increased January 18, 2009 (read story here) from the launch price of $49.99 to $79.99 (on a 3 year term with BB bundle).  Virgin Mobile Canada has turned around and put the BlackBerry Curve on sale at an affordable $39.99 (on a 3 year term with BB bundle).

bb-pricing-vmc-decrease

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Add comment February 8th, 2009

Upcoming Fido Phones

A leaked document post on HowardForums by “Tomo-Pyon” shows four new phones coming to the discount carrier including launch pricing and approximate dates.
fido-phonesNot quite sure how legitimate  the document is due to the spelling error at the top “Launchs” not “Launches”.  I guess time will tell, maybe Fido just needs to hire some proof-readers.

Source: HowardForums

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1 comment February 7th, 2009

No ETF Deadline Extended-Sprint

Boy Genius Report has confirmed that Sprint has extended the deadline to get out of your contract Early Termination Fee (ETF) free.  The original reason was because they increase the Administration fee $0.24 as reported back in January, no word yet on why the deadline has been extended this time.

So if you have had enough with Sprint  you better hurray and “sprint ahead” to the competition because this time the loophole closes March 15, 2009.

It has been suggested to notify Sprint of your cancellation through their online chat, available on their website, be sure to mention the reason for you cancellation otherwise the ETF may not be credited.

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1 comment February 6th, 2009

iPhone Apps Written by Nine-Year Old?

According to Reuters fourth grade student Lim Ding Wen of Singapore is writing his own applications for the iPhone.  His latest application, which got him all the attention, “Doodle Kids” allows users to draw on their iPhone with their finger.  The app has been downloaded 4,000 from the Apple iTunes Store since its launch two weeks ago.  The nine-year old says he “wrote the program from my younger sisters, who like to draw” they are aged 3 and 5.  Lim Ding Wen’s father, who also writes iPhone apps, introduced Lim to the computer at the the age of 2.  Lim has since learned six programing languages and completed 20 programming projects in his spare time.  Lim says he is currently working on a science fiction game-”Invader Wars”.

Writing applications at the age of 9 is one thing-but owning an iPhone is another. Download “Doodle Kids” for your iPhone through the Apple iTunes Store.

doodle-kids

Source: YAHOO! News

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1 comment February 6th, 2009

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