Motorola just released their Android 2.1 update for Milestone users on TELUS. Here’s what’s new:
Animated Wallpapers: This additional wallpaper option enables you to select from a number of wallpapers that can move on your home screen<s>. A selection of animated wallpapers are bundled with the software update – further wallpapers are available on the Android Market.
Multiple home screens The number of home screens you can have now also just got bigger – you can choose to have 3, 5, 7, or even 9 home screens – plenty of space for all your widgets and icons.
Facebook App and Widget A free Facebook App and Widget is included in this update. The Application enables contact importation including Names, Profile Pics and Status into your phones’ contacts. The Widget can be placed on one of your home screens to stream live updates from your Facebook account.
Google Maps Updates** Personalized suggestions: Google Maps on your Android device suggests (auto-completes) locations based on your personal search history on maps.google.com.
Sync with desktop: synchronizes starred items between Google Maps on your Android device and maps.google.com. Sync and personalized features require a user to be logged in to myGoogle account while on maps.google.com
Multi touch is now also enabled within Google Maps.
Other Enhancements Help : A new Help Center app is included that provides mobile access to your user guide, video tours of key features, tips and tricks, and FAQs to help you get the most from your device.
Bluetooth support: support for headset multi function for initiating voice calls and other voice recognition commands ( French & English)
I was at a Motorola MOTOBLUR event earlier today. I got to check out the Android 1.5 powered BACKFLIP, DEXT and QUENCH. The BACKFLIP will be on TELUS, DEXT on Bell and QUENCH on Rogers. I also got a demo of the MOTOBLUR Social networking software.
Here’s a tour of the BACKFLIP:
Motorola MOTOBLUR demo:
Hands on with all 3 devices and comparisons with some competitors:
Both the BACKFLIP and DEXT are similar software wise. Hardware wise both have QWERTY keyboards though their physical design is quite different. The QUENCH lacks a physical keyboard but gets a few extra software features; a special on screen keyboard, multi touch support and a nifty music app. Check out the last video to see those features in action. All run Android 1.5. Motorola is saying that they’re evaluating whether they’ll offer an upgrade in the future so that’s a no for now. While the Quench has the most features software wise I thought the BACKFLIP had the most interesting design. All will be available later this year.
The BACKFLIP comes with Motorola’s Android customization called MOTOBLUR.
It’s got Android 1.5, a 5 MP camera with LED flash, QWERTY keyboard, 480×320 touch screen plus Gmail, Google Maps, Google Talk, AIM, Live Messenger, Yahoo Instant messenger support. The keyboard is located on the back of the device and the screen flips around. You can also leave the keyboard facing down and only partially flip the screen so you can use it like a picture frame.
TELUS just launched the Blackberry Curve 8530 (a CDMA blackberry). It’s got 3G, WiFi, trackpad, BlackBerry OS 5.0, QWERTY and a 2 megapixel camera. Note that unlike the Storms 2 and Tour this one doesn’t have GSM/EDGE/HSPA built in so you can’t roam with it
It comes in red or silver.
Prices are $349.99 straight up and $299.99, $249.99 or $49.99 on a 3/2/1 year contract with a minimum $50 monthly voice + data plan.
For donations to Salvation Army Canada: text the word Haiti to 45678
To donate $5 to the International Rescue Committee: text Haiti to 25383
To donate $5 to the rescue Union Mission and MedCorp International: text Haiti to 85944
To donate $5 to the Yele Foundation: text the word Yele to 501501
To donate $10 to the Red Cross in the U.S.: text Haiti to 90999
Here’s the LG New Chocolate BL40. It’s an HSPA phone on TELUS. On paper the BL40 is decent; 5 megapixel camera, 4.0″ 800×354 touch screen with multi touch support, WiFi/BT, HTML browser, exchange support, etc. The front has a striking buttonless design and the overall phone is very long and thin unlike most phones – it’s form factor is almost chocolate-like.
Design wise there’s a 3.5mm headphone jack on top. On the left is a button which launches the music player. The right side has a camera shutter button along with volume buttons. There’s a camera with a flash on the back.
While the display causes everyone to take a second look at the new chocolate it has a big flaw. The bezel (the area next to the display) is quite narrow so it’s very difficult hold the BL40 without accidentally having part of your hand touch the display. This problem plagued me through my test process and I was never able to get used to it.
Another problem with the display is that it’s too long (or too tall). Apparently the display has the same aspect ratio as many movies but it’s not like the BL40 is powerhouse when it comes to watching video. In the end I found the display wastes a lot of pixels since most pictures and videos are much narrower so everything ends up being pillarboxed.
The home screen actually has 4 different displays. You can scroll between them by swiping left or right. You get a home screen which contains browser shortcuts, one which has program shortcuts, one with widgets and one with your favourite contacts. You also get 4 program shortcuts to the phone app, phone book, messaging app and the main menu which remain persistent across all 4 home screens. Also persistent across the 4 screens are a multitask button (easily the best thing about LG phones) and a worthless 3D button which allows you to move between the 4 home screens via a 3D cube which is slower than just swiping.
The main menu is LG’s S-Class interface. The S-Class interface looks really cool in pictures but is a headache if you have to use it. Basically, it breaks the main menu into 4 sections, communications, entertainment, utilities and settings. Each section gets a row which scrolls sideways. So if you have a communications-y program you want to access but don’t see you then you have to scroll the communications row sideways. If you rotate the phone into landscape mode then you get 4 rows with 8 icons each. There is no text for the icons when you do this.
As I mentioned earlier you can multitask with the BL40. While it’s a nice feature you can only keep around 3 to 6 apps open at once before you’re forced to close one if you want to open a new one. Despite that it’s still a nice feature.
In portrait mode you use a regular dial pad with T9 to enter test. I don’t have a problem with this since the display is too narrow for an on-screen QWERTY keyboard. In landscape mode there is a QWERTY keyboard. While not terrible I thought it was too short and long to use quickly.
The actual apps themselves aren’t horrible but the design of the BL40 makes them worse than they are.
The browser isn’t lacking in features – in fact it’s pretty competent. First off it can handle HTML webpages, there’s multitouch support so you can zoom in/out using 2 fingers. You get support for tabbed browsing and the phone can switch between landscape and portrait modes.
Anyways feature-wise I don’t have any complaints. The problem is the browser is slow and struggles with large webpages. It can be slow to respond when you’re scrolling. Another problem is that in portrait mode the BL40′s narrow design means text is very small while in landscape mode you have to scroll a lot.
You can tell LG knows people are going to have problems using the BL40 because each time you launch the browser it asks you if you really wanted to launch it. It also asks you if you want to use WiFi or the network – if WiFi was available why would I use the network?
One more problem is the power button. On most phones pressing the power button briefly turns the screen off. On the New Chocolate it just locks the screen so it doesn’t respond to touch, so the screen stays on. The big problem with this is that the screen stays on indefinitely when you do this. So I find myself constantly running out of juice and end up with a very warm phone. If you don’t press the power button the BL40′s screen will turn off eventually.
There is a Google link in the main menu but all it does contain shortcuts to different Google websites like Google Search, Blogger, Google Maps, Google Mail and YouTube. You can view YouTube videos – you go to youtube.com on the browser and then it will open up the videos in the video player.
Picture quality from the 5 megapixel auto focus camera with LED flash is slightly above average for a 5 megapixel camera phone. I did find it tends to blast subjects out (most camera phones do this) and it is a little cumbersome to use. It does have a ton of features including face detection, manual focus, different image size settings, geo-tagging, ISO settings, etc. One thing I hated about the camera is that it has the same problem as the browser were it won’t shut off if you press the power button.
Video records at 640×480 (talk about quality). Video quality is decent.
One area where I was quite surprised was how fast the BL40 is when you’ve connected it to your computer. I was able to copy/read files to a MicroSDHC at the same speed as my computer’s USB card reader. (around 10MB/s).
The image/video viewer is actually quite cool. In landscape mode it organizes items by day; you scroll up and down to change days and left/right to view each day’s photos/videos. Neat!
When viewing your videos the interface is actually pretty cool. Besides being able to move backwards/forward using a slider there are also thumbnails which you can use to move around inside the same video.
The music player has a pretty neat interface in both portrait and landscape mode. There is a 3.5mm headphone jack on top of the BL40.
Apparently the BL40 has Dolby sound. I figured this meant that the BL40 has an awesome built in speaker(s) but I found that the single speaker was very ordinary – it’s not very loud. Turns out it’s just a different sound DSP setting in the music player. There is a built in FM transmitter (as opposed to an FM tuner which the BL40 also has) so you can listen to stuff on the BL40 on your car stereo.
The Phone book works fine – while not included in the box (not mine anyways) you can download software to sync the BL40 with your PC. As far as text messaging goes the SMS client can thread conversations.
There is a built in email client that can handle POP, IMAP and even Exchange mail. I didn’t try the Exchange feature… I assume it’s for email only.
Other programs included on the BL40 are a calculator, unit converter, stopwatch, voice recorder, world clock, memopad, calendar, alarm clock and FM tuner.
RF performance is quite poor. Sound quality is average – it’s not terrible but it’s not great either. Maximum earpiece volume is also average.
At first I hated the New Chocolate. I hated it so much I couldn’t get myself to pick it up. Everytime I picked it up the battery would be dead because I thought I turned the screen off when in fact I didn’t, other times it wouldn’t pick up signal from my carrier.
The BL40 sat on my desk for sometime while I tried to forget it. Still, I gave it some thought every now and then when I finally got it. People will buy the New Chocolate because it’s a cool looking phone. Just like how people bought the original LG Chocolate. The original Chocolate was a horrible phone which was hard to use but it still sold. So that’s the thing, you carry your phone everywhere you go – so it’s important that you like how it looks. Just like how people wear clothes that are too small. It may not be comfortable but they do it anyways.
So if you ask me how I like the LG Chocolate my answer would be ‘It looks cool’.
I was very excited when I first saw the LG Eve and IQ. They represent LG’s first really attempts at Smartphones. As a person who loves phones I hoped that the Eve and IQ would be competitve entries in the marketplace.
Let’s talk specs; the IQ has a WinMo6.5, 1Ghz processor, WVGA display, 4 row QWERTY keyboard, 5mp camera, WiFiBTMicroSDHC, etc, etc. It also has a fingerprint reader/optical mouse plus an optional projector that attaches to the battery cover. I tried the projector in my hands-on video a while back.
It’s not very good but it’s still a really cool accessory.
The touchscreen is the resistive variety so it works best if you use your finger nails or a stylus. I found it slightly small for it’s resolution; 800×480 on a 3.2″ display so I found it hard to tap certain UI elements like the icons across the top of the screen – even when I used my fingernails (which aren’t super short) – best to stick with the stylus. The stylus doesn’t fit inside the IQ so you’ll have to bring the included stylus around with you. There is an on screen keyboard when you’re using the IQ in portrait mode. Like I just said the little small (actually it’s too narrow) to type effectively with your fingers.
The keyboard is quite nice. The keys have a great feel when you press them in. I like how it has shortcuts to open up the messaging client, browser, calendar and main menu. I also like how it has directional keys.
There is predictive text entry when using either keyboard. If it guesses the wrong word you can choose the right one by moving left or right. I just leave it off since I used the physical keyboard all the time.
When the screen’s closed up there are send, end, back keys plus an optical mouse/finger print reader. The optical mouse really works more as a scroll wheel. You can use it to scroll vertically or horizontally. While it doesn’t work poorly or anything I don’t see how it’s better than just scrolling with your finger. I would have rather LG had just put a navigation pad there – too bad they’re going out of style on WinMo devices.
Like I mentioned before you can also use the optical mouse as a fingerprint reader. You can set the phone up so you have to swipe your finger before you can use it – I didn’t test this.
There is also an LG interface but it’s a bit of a disaster. LG calls it their S-class interface – they should have picked a better name, S-class has already been taken.
First off LG has their own today screen. You scroll the screen left or right. Scrolling left brings up your favourite contacts, right brings up your favourite media files. The center screen has some program shortcuts along the bottom, you can scroll those left and right to see more programs. There’s a link to bring up the main menu. You can bring up a menu that allows you to open the wireless manager, activate flight mode, change and change the ringers/alert or themes. While a bit of a mess I didn’t mind the today screen.
The main menu has 4 categories; communication, multimedia, applications and settings. Each category get’s it’s own row with 4 icons. To view more options you can scroll each row left and right.
At this point you can open the keyboard. There are still 4 categories but now you can see 8 icons on each one. Each icon is just a picture, there’s no text which makes this menu view pretty pointless – it’s really more for show (notice how I used it in my IQ picture – it sure looks impressive).
If you’re already in a program and the keyboard is open, pressing the menu button brings up shortcuts to messenger, internet explorer, search, schedules, write new message, message invbox, write new email and email inbox, call history and your contacts. What really irks me is that I can’t figure out how to bring up the S-class interface when the keyboard is open.
If I wanted to be mean I’d say the ‘S’ in S-class stands for something but I’m a nice guy and won’t.
The IQ does have one saving grace – the multitask button. Once you have the programs you want open you can bypass the LG and WinMo menus completely.
Besides the S-class interface LG has their own contact manager, SMS client, music player, photo album, plus another program named ‘my multimedia’ FM radio, camera, video recorder, calendar, alarm clock, weather, calculator, tip calculator and stop watch. LG even has their own settings menu. I didn’t mind these LG programs.
If you don’t like the LG programs the equivalent WinMo 7 apps can still be accessed via the WinMo 7 main menu (just tap the top left). You can also turn off the LG applications and use the WinMo ones.
The LG programs resemble the ones you find on LG’s non-smartphones. One thing I’ve noticed about them is that they use relatively large fonts – this is a good thing since text on the IQ’s 800×480 display can be kind of small at times.
Unlike some of the IQ’s competitors the IQ doesn’t come with Opera so browsing is handled solely by Internet Explorer. While it doesn’t support tabbed browsing it was able to load my test page (www.howardchui.com/speedtest) in around 15 seconds – not bad at all.
For some reason the IQ wouldn’t show up on my computer whenever I connected it to my computer. While the IQ would charge it wouldn’t show up under mobile device center. I tried multiple computers. Maybe there’s an option I missed under LG’s messy interface – but at the same time, I’m quite thorough and tried everything.
There is a music player and a photo program plus a program named ‘my multimedia’ which appears to be the same program as the photo program only you can choose which folder to look for media – it’s kind of confusing. One thing I liked about the picture viewers is that you can choose favourite pictures to show up on the home screen. It’s nice to see that they’re integrated.
To test video playback I transcoded some video from my high definition camcorder. My camcorder captures video at 1440×1080 at 60fps interlaced at around 15 or 20mbps (sorry I don’t remember off hand) as AVCHD files. I transcoded them using handbrake as 1920×1080 h.264 inside a mp4 file container (basically they’re mp4 files). To make a long story short I was able to play files which were 1920x1080p with a bitrate of 4mbps with no skipping or hiccups in the video. While it’s true there’s little point to being able to play high definition on a 800×480 display it’s still amazing that the IQ can handle it. I tried doing this on a Samsung Omnia 2 which a 800Mhz processor and it would not playback the file properly.
I should point out that I had to use Windows Media Player to play the file smoothly. The LG video player was choppy.
As far as music goes the IQ uses a micro USB connector – and you don’t get a micro USB to 3.5mm adapter in the box (at least I didn’t). The built in speaker is average sounding – it’s not terrible loud and kind of thin.
RF performance is lacking, TELUS and Bell share the same HSPA network. In areas where I can use a Blackberry Bold, Samsung Galaxy/Omnia, Nokia N97 just fine the IQ won’t work even though the signal meter says there’s signal.
It was hard to test the battery – I have very weak TELUS/Bell HSPA signal in my house (even in my office which faces forward and is on the top floor) so the IQ spends most of the day searching for signal.
I felt the IQ was better on paper than it was in person. That said on paper it brings a lot to the table.
In the end the IQ does have it’s problems. First and foremost it has questionable RF performance. It has a confusing menu system (though you can always disable it, and no 3.5mm headphone jack. Despite these flaws as far as WinMo phones go the IQ wasn’t bad. I’m sure the USB connectivity problem is just my unit.
As far as WinMo phones go the IQ isn’t a bad choice it has a decent nice feature set, fast processor, a nice keyboard, high resolution display a 5 megapixel camera, finger print reader (if that sort of thing floats your boat) and even a pretty nifty projector that fits on the back. Let’s not forget the multitask button. Another thing to consider is that the IQ is currently $100 on a 3 year on TELUS. While I don’t think any phone is worth it on a 3 year contract the IQ is relatively speaking a good deal.
Here’s my review of the Blackberry Storm 9550 (the Storm 2):
Click more to see a quick summary of my thoughts.
First and foremost the Storm 2 has terrific on screen keyboards. The inclusion of WiFi is nice plus my Storm came with a nice bundle. Besides the charger, leather case and usb cable mine also came with a neoprene sleeve and a car adapter.
I wasn’t crazy about how RIM integrated the four buttons into the touchscreen though this is a minor complaint.
If you’re deciding between the Storm 2 and the Bold 9700 (you can get both on TELUS up here in Canada) it’s a really tough choice. I loved the 9700 but the Storm’s on screen keyboard is so good that I can’t decide…
While the only 2 major differences between this one and the original Storm are screen and the WiFi the screen makes the Storm 2 a major upgrade. You can now type really, really fast with the Storm.
While I really liked the Storm 2 I can’t help but think this is what RIM should have released when they came out with the original Storm. The first Storm didn’t feel like a Blackberry, this newer Storm does.