Smartphones (Android, G1, Shadow II) and Google Chrome

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Now that I’ve been back from vacation for a few days, it’s time for a lengthy tech post.

T-Mobile G1 (HTC Dream) I will most likely get a new cell phone (and two-year plan) sometime between now and the end of October, probably through T-Mobile because their monthly plans are the least expensive. But what phone to choose? There are so many options. Even though there’s a certain appeal to phones that are just phones, I think I’ll probably choose a smartphone instead of a basic cell.

Smartphone vs. basic cell phone

Of course it seems really useful to have email, Internet (with a usable mobile browser), integrated Wi-Fi and data cable capabilities built-in, but do I really need a phone with all that? I’m in front of a computer screen for most of the day already. Email and Internet would be incredibly handy to have on my phone while traveling or on vacation, but I doubt I’d like to browse the Web on my phone when a regular computer is readily available.

(By the way, regarding mobile Internet access: Even though T-Mobile hasn’t rolled out 3G service nationwide yet, it’s apparently coming to Portland by October 1, 2008 and will continue to expand until they finally catch up to the rest of the competition, maybe in 2009.)

Google Android Though I definitely see the appeal of smartphones, I’m not completely sold on whether I will enjoy trying to roll the functionality of my laptop and iPod into my phone (there’s always the battery life issue). I still think I might prefer to carry multiple devices as needed. In general, I’m actually pretty disappointed that so few mobiles devices are doing “convergence” (or “all-in-one”) very well. Most cell phones (and even smartphones) are junk, at least those offered in the U.S.

I do have the comfort of knowing that if I end up going with a CDMA phone after all (via Sprint or Verizon Wireless), there’s always BitPim for viewing, manipulating, and backing up cell phone data via Windows, Linux and Mac.

Google Android early adoption?

One thing I’m trying to figure out is just how bad of an idea it would be to get the first Google Android phone on the market, the T-Mobile G1 (HTC Dream). Like any first generation product, it’s bound to have really annoying problems at first, right? This is why I’m usually not an early adopter. But the G1 is tempting, even with Big Brother Google on board (a Gmail account is required to set up the phone). The open source Android operating system and SDK should enable many awesome free services and applications. Once it matures, the Android Market should be much better than the more tightly regulated and arguably anti-competitive iPhone App Store.

T-Mobile phones and HotSpot @Home

T-Mobile Shadow II I kind of like (meaning: dislike less than most) a few Nokia and Samsung cell phone models, but I’m also thinking about whether I should get the forthcoming T-Mobile Shadow II (HTC Cleopatra) instead. A woman I work with has the T-Mobile Shadow (HTC Juno), released about a year ago, and I’ve played with it a few times. It seems pretty nice, Windows Start menu notwithstanding.

I may also find the T-Mobile HotSpot @Home UMA service useful at some point, which the new HTC phones soon-to-be released by T-Mobile should support. (One of my home routers is already a T-Mobile HotSpot @Home Linksys WRT54G-TM, though it’s been modified with a JTAG header and CPU heatsink and flashed with DD-WRT firmware.)

Apple iPhone and AT&T

I’ve thought about turning into that smug Apple guy and getting an iPhone (an older model, since the iPhone 3G still cannot be unlocked to work with non-AT&T service providers). Because AT&T and I have issues, and since I don’t want to deal with repeatedly jailbreaking/hacking my cell phone firmware following Apple updates (see PwnageTool and QuickPwn), I think I’m eliminating that option. Even though the improved iPhone 2.1 firmware has now been released and apparently sucks considerably less than 2.0.

T-Mobile G1 and Shadow II release dates

Both the aforementioned HTC Dream/G1 and the HTC Cleopatra/Shadow II phones will supposedly be released through T-Mobile within the next few weeks. The G1 has a tentative release date of October 13 (or is it October 20 now?) and will run on Android. Rumor has it that qualified existing T-Mobile subscribers can pre-order the G1 starting on September 17. The Shadow II, due out on October 15, is based on Windows Mobile 6.1. There’s also the pretty nice T-Mobile Dash available, if I decide that I really need a full built-in QWERTY keypad that doesn’t slide/swivel behind the screen (and if I want to continue avoiding BlackBerry devices like the plague but still have a model that mimics one).

Google Chrome and Google domination

Google Chrome I’ve also been looking at Google’s new (currently Windows-only) web browser, Google Chrome, and the open source Chromium builds. I don’t think I’m a fan, at least not yet. I like it about as well as Opera, but certainly not as much as Firefox. Not enough functionality and too many issues. Here are a couple of articles: “Building Google Chrome: A first look” and “The Cloud’s Chrome Lining.”

On a related note, do not underestimate the extent to which Google will continue to take over the world and do serious battle with Microsoft . . . on desktops, laptops and mobile devices . . . with the three-headed monster of Android, Chrome and Gears. The possibilities of OS-independent, browser-based applications are huge. Here’s an article: “Could There Be More To Google, Android, Chrome, & Gears Than Meets The Eye?

Here’s Tom with the (sports and) weather.

As a quick Olympics follow-up, we have some confirmation that Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt would have utterly destroyed the world record in the 100 meters if he hadn’t slowed to pound his chest victoriously: “Physicist subtracts showboating, says Bolt could have run 9.55 in Beijing 100.” Also, the New England Patriots are probably done following the loss of Tom Brady in their first game of the NFL season.

Meanwhile, Hurricane Ike is still abusing the Texas Gulf Coast. (I will refrain from jokes related to Ike Turner and the “Don’t Mess With Texas” motto.) Best wishes to everyone in Texas.

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