Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Optimizing your wireless connection speeds

This article was first posted in Mobility Philippines on June 27, 2007. To some degree it is still relevant today so I am reposting it here.

Some people get good speeds with their wireless connections some do not. Sometimes the problems are network related and at other times they are simply settings. Last night, as I was about to connect to Smart 3G's network with a Sony Ericsson P990i as a modem for a laptop from Seattle's Best Tomas Morato I noticed that Sony Ericsson's PCSuite Mobile Networking Wizard it reported that it was connected to the Smart GSM network.

All 3G devices will connect to either a GPRS or 3G network depending on the signal detected by the device. By default, our devices are set to auto select. If I allowed the mobile phone to auto select, than instead of running on the 384kbps 3G network, it would run on the 62kbps GPRS network. If I let it do that, than I would have a slow connection with a maximum speed of 62kbps and complain that the network is slow.

Now, the P990i allows you to select between three connections options, GSM only, 3G/GSM and 3G only (UMTS only in other brands). I selected 3G only. This usually requires the device to reboot, but the P990i's Symbian UIQ software allows it to go to 3G only without a reboot. While I have my reservations about this phone as a hand held web browsing device, as a laptop modem it is perfect (except for the absence of HSPA support). The P990i went from the 5 bar GSM signal to a 3 bar 3G signal. But a weaker 3G signal is better than a strong GSM signal.

With 3 bars, I got these results using

If I let the phone auto select I would be getting 62kbps or less even with the 5 bar signal.

So if you want to maximize your connection speeds select a device with a 3G only setting and learn how to use this setting. On Globe's HSDPA network I kept my Huawie E620 Data Card on "3G only" all the time, setting it on GRPS/EDGE only when needed. This is a dedicated internet device. With the P990i, it is a mobile phone, so I let it autoselect and set it to 3G only as needed, as 3G only signals are weaker than GSM signals.

Wireless is great, it allows you to go anywhere, but be reasonable. Seattle's Best, Tomas Morato is a challenging location for both Smart 3G and Globe Visibility. Tonight I sat near the entrance of the shop facing the road and place the mobile phone as near to the window as possible. That allowed me to get a 3 bar 3G signal. If I sat further from the door I would get a weaker signal, and if I went all the way back into the smoking area, I would not be able to get a 3G signal at all and would only be able to connect via a poor GPRS signal. Ten meters changes my 330kbps to 38kbps.

Wireless devices are line of sight, so put them as close to clear air as possible. Don't expect to be able to connect from the basement of your house or from the interior room of a building and get good speeds.

If you are having connections problems from your home try different areas in the house and see if you can get a better signal or place the modem or mobile phone in different locations. The Huawie e220 comes with two cables to connect with your laptop. A short one and a long one, the latter to allow more options on where to place your modem.

Two simple tips. I hope this improves your wireless browsing experience.

The slow pace of the Nokia plus Microsoft

Nokia is in a tough position. Having announced in February 2011 that the company will be moving to the Windows Phone 7 platform, it basically killed Symbian^S3. Than came the second part of the announcement, that Windows Phone 7 devices would not be available till the 4th Quarter of 2011, and most likely not commercially till the 2012. So for the past six weeks, Nokia has been promoting their Symbian S^3 operating system, promising a new user interface, a new web browser and other improvements before it finally phases out the operating system. 

It would have made more sense for Nokia to delay the announcement of migration to Windows Phone 7 until Nokia was closer to being able to release a Windows Phone 7 device. Now they have the though job of trying to convince buyers that it is still viable to buy their Symbian based devices even if they will be but phased out by the early next year. 

Microsoft also have been better off with a bit of a delay. While Windows Phone 7 viability benefited greatly with announcement of its adoption by Nokia, the special concessions made to Nokia might deter other manufacturers from continuing Windows Phone 7 production. Of the companies that manufactures Windows Phone 7 devices, HTC, Samsung, LG and Dell, only HTC and Dell have new Windows Phone 7 devices for 2011, and nothing very innovative. But that may have been the case whether or not a partnership with Nokia had been announced. 

Ultimately, the early announcement probably did more good, than the late Nokia implementation will cause harm. It keeps the platform viable until we see the Nokia devices. In other fronts, Windows Phone 7 is looking good. It is getting its cut and paste updates, and the Windows Phone 7 market it now 10,000 applications strong. But by the time Nokia get around to producing Windows Phone 7 devices, Apple will have their iOS 5 and Google should be in the process of integrating Android 3.0 Honeycomb as a mobile phone OS. BlackBerry will probably have their QNX software on their way to mobile phones. In other words, it will be a dual core world, looking at quad core devices in the horizon.

Can Nokia leapfrog one generation of hardware to deliver current Windows Phone 7 devices, or will Nokia and Microsoft emerge in 2012 as one generation behind the curve? And we aren't even talking about the tablet market.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

PLDT to buy 52% of Digitel...

GMA News reports that PLDT will buy 52% of Digitel. When the deal is done, this would effectively place Sun Cellular under the control of PLDT. This would put PLDT in control of its third Telecom, as it already owns Smart Communications and Red Mobile.

Given how much Sun Cellular change the industry, especially in terms of pricing, having it go under the control of PLDT is a bit of a worrisome thing. 

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Apple iPad 16GB WiFi versus the Samsung Galaxy Tab P1010

Both of the Apple iPad and the Samsung Galaxy Tab, are no longer the latest and greatest, with newer more powerful dual core tablets set to come out in the Philippine market in the next few months. On the other hand, these devices are also now cheaper than ever, and their current price points are so reasonable, we do not expect to see them go down further. If you have been waiting for a good deal on a premium tablet, now is the time to get one.

Also, while these tablets are no longer the "latest and greatest" I do not think most users will miss the power provided by the newer dual core tablets. 

The size. While these two tablets have been set off as direct competitors, that is really not the case. In deciding which one is best for you, the size will most likely be your primary consideration. The Apple iPad has a 9.7-inch screen. This might sound just a little bigger than the Samsung Galaxy Tab's 7-inch screen, but it is not. The iPad's screen is twice the size of the Galaxy Tab screen. Remember we are talking horizontal measurements. The iPad is also almost twice the weight at 1.5 pounds, versus the Galaxy Tab's 0.8 pounds.

This how you will be using the iPad, not while standing or walking.

Despite all the hype you hear about mobility, make no mistake about it, the iPad is best used on a table. It is a little too  big to use it while standing up or walking around. You would have to cradle it in your arm for use while standing or walking. You also need to get a nice stand or a case with a stand for it, to give it a comfortable viewing and typing angle. All-in-all consider it to be a 2 pound device. 

The Galaxy Tab on the other hand is small enough to actually be used in hand, like an e-Book reader. Not that you want to do that for a very long period of time. The 0.8 pound weight is not as light as it sounds, but yes you can hold it in one hand and manipulate it with the other. Once on a table, the drawback of the 7-inch screen is clear. It is smaller, and too small to do two handed typing  on landscape keyboard.

Basically, if you are looking for a device to grad from coffee table to coffee table, the iPad is the better choice. If you are looking for a handheld computer, the Galaxy Tab is it. No winners here. It really depends on what you want.

The ecosystem. The Apple iPad has 65,000 apps built for it, and its 9.7-inch screen. There is some software designed for the Samsung Galaxy Tab, but for the most part you use the same software optimize for 4-inch smartphone screens. Still most of the software in the Android Market works, but sometimes buttons and elements look a bit bigger than necessary on the Samsung Galaxy Tab. The Apple store gives you access to both free apps and paid apps. The Android Market does not give you access to paid apps in the Philippines. Luckily, 80% of Android apps are free (or add supported). 

If it came down to app support, I would give round to the iPad.

Power. In sheer power, the Samsung Galaxy Tab has the advantage with 512MB of RAM. The Apple iPad has 256MB. Both have 1GHz processors and powerful graphic processing units which can play 720p content and do a fair amount of gaming. But they runs different software, so the additional RAM of the Galaxy Tab is not all that important. Both work well enough.

Battery life. In real world use, browsing and gaming, the Samsung Galaxy Tab will give you 5-6 hours of use. The Apple iPad will give you 9-10 hours of use. Nothing more needs to be discussed in this regard. This round goes to the iPad.

Storage and file transfer. The entry level Apple iPad comes with 16GB of storage, which is non-expandable. In order to access the 16GB from a computer you need to use Apple's iTunes software.  While the iPad does support Bluetooth, but not file transfer to other devices. It is used for peer-to-peer connections with wireless headsets and keyboards. The Samsung Galaxy Tab comes with 16GB or internal storage, expandable to 48GB via a MicroSD card. The Galaxy Tab can also operate on mass storage mode, so it can be accessed from any computer via USB cable without any particular software. You can also transfer files via bluetooth.

The Galaxy Tab has much better storage and file transfer options.

Camera's. The Samsung Galaxy Tab has two, a 3.15 MP at the back which can do 720p video recording and a 1.3 MP camera at front. The 3.15 MP camera is not all that great, but good enough for decent 720p video recording. The Apple iPad has no cameras.

Price. The Apple iPad will set you back Php19,990. The Samsung Galaxy Tab will cost you Php15,999. The Galaxy Tab is cheaper, but the iPad has a larger screen and battery which justify the price. I would call this a draw. 

So which one?  The Apple iPad, its operating system and available apps give it a more polished feel. The Samsung Galaxy Tab is the more versatile device with more hardware (MicroSD Card slot and camera's) but lacks support in terms of dedicated apps for the 7-inch screen.

If there was a 7-inch iPad, I would pick that in a heartbeat. But we do not have that choice. So, we got a Galaxy Tab, and have not regretted that decision. In the end it depends on whether you want a 9.7-inch device or a 7-inch device. 

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Netbook versus Tablet: Acer Aspire One 522 v. Samsung Galaxy Tab P1010

With the price of the entry level Apple iPad having dropped to below Php20,000 earlier this month, we decided to do a netbook versus tablet comparison, between the AMD Fusion powered Acer One 522 and the WiFi only 16GB variant of the Apple iPad. People have been comparing netbooks and tablets for a long time, christening the tablet as the netbook killer. 

With the recent price drop of Samsung's 7-inch  3G Android tablet to just over Php20,000 and the release of a WiFi only version for just Php15,999 put more options in the price range dominated by netbooks, a reader posited the question:

"What about the Samsung Galaxy Tab? The wifi only version now sells for only P16,000. Won't this be a good deal against the netbook?"

The answer is yes and no. When we did our last comparison, we concluded that it was like comparing Apples and Oranges. The two devices are so dissimilar, as straight up comparison is really not possible. However, it does not mean that tablets do not threaten netbooks. While the two devices are rather different, they target the same market segment: those looking for low cost ultraportable computers. 

In a one-on-on comparison, the netbook will win on specifications, for now at least. It was more power, more storage and more ports. The second generation tablets do, close the specifications gap between netbooks and tablets. The tablet provides better portability and generally better battery life.

On the other hand, the use different operating systems and software so differences in power are notall  that important. 

We could repeat the system we used in our earlier Acer One 522 versus iPad article, but after writing that article, I realized how pointless it was. We will take a different approach this time. This time we will be putting up the 7-inch WiFi only Samsung Galaxy Tab in the ring against the 10/1-inch Acer Aspire One 522 netbook.

As a standalone device. If you are planning to buy one of these two devices to be your primary computer, which would be best. Someone on a budget, looking for a standalone device is best of with a netbook. A tablet, for now, is still an accessory to another computer. 

Why? Mainly the absence of a physical keyboard and storage. The biggest drawback of the tablet, and advantage of the netbook in this regard is storage. The absence of a USB port so it can hooked up to am external drive really makes it an accessory to another machine. You are limited you to 16GB of storage which can be expanded through MicroSD cards.  The Aspire one 522 has 250GB of storage. Matching this would mean seven 32GB MicroSD (well almost anyway). Seven 32GB Micro SD card will cost you more than a Aspire One. So if you need more storage than 16-48GB, you might as well buy both a tablet and a netbook.   

As a multimedia device. The Acer Aspire One 522 can play and output 1080p HD video through an HDMI port. The Samsung Galaxy Tab is limited to 720p playback and has no HDMI out. Because of this, we think the netbook makes a better multimedia device. But unless you plan to hook it up to an LCD TV, the Aspire One's advantages, 1080p play back ability and HDMI out, is of little important.

As a daily companion. As light as the Acer Aspire One 522 is, it still will weight almost 3 pounds. You can carry it everyday, but you will know you are carrying a netbook. At a bit more than 10 x 7 inches in size, and an inch thick, it is also still fairly large. The Samsung Galaxy Tab at 0.84 pounds and about 7.5 x 4.7 x 0.47 inches, and is  less than one-fourth the size of a netbook. 

Aside of being smaller and lighter, the Galaxy Tab will give you more endurance. It should give you six hours of real world use, while the Aspire One 522, a little more than four hours. The camera on the Samsung Galaxy Tab is nothing to crow about, it takes decent 720p video, so it doubles as a video camera. 

Decisions. We could go on, but it depends more on what you want, than what it can do.  So, which is best for you? I can only draw on personal experiences.

Having bought a netbooks myself, in 2008, and a second one in 2009, I finally ditched netbook for good replacing it with a very light full powered laptop. If you want a highly portable laptop on a limited budget, than get the netbook. If is still a laptop, just a smaller less powerful version. A tablet, never cross my mind. It is simply really, I wanted a keyboard. As a laptop alternative, netbook is a better choice than a tablet, and the main reason is the physical keyboard. 

My wife and a friend of mine, both early tablet adopters, never owned netbooks. One uses a 14-inch HP laptop, and the other a 13.3-inch MacBook Pro. In selecting their laptops, they did not go with the most portable options available. Portability of the laptop was not the number one priority, and they both do not in-fact carry their laptop around much on a daily basis. So why did they get tablets? Tablets are small and light enough, that carrying them around is not longer a chore. 

If you want a small but powerful machine like a Sony Vaio Z, MacBook Air or Lenovo X200, but are on a budget, the Acer Aspire One is your best bet or one of the low cost AMD Fusion laptops is you. If you have never felt the need for a light but powerful laptop, but want something more than your smartphone, the Samsung Galaxy Tab may be more appealing. A tablet is a nice handy device for someone that does not need a laptop on the go. 

The two devices cater to different needs. But in the low cost and light weight arena, previously the only option was the netbook. Tablets are not netbook killers, because they are more capable or better. The tablet gives an alternative solution.  Many would be netbook buyers, will become tablet owners instead.

Friday, March 25, 2011

WiFi only Samsung Galaxy Tab P1010

Browsing over at CMK Cellphones I noticed they now have the WiFi only Samsung Galaxy Tab P1010 available. Specifications are identical to the Samsung Galaxy Tab P1000 except for the absence of the 2G/3G radio, which means mobile data (except via WiFi) and no phone functionality (no calls and text). The price is a very inviting Php15,999. This makes it almost 4K less than the entry level Apple iPad.

Around the Web: 7-inch tablets get a new lease on life

I thought 7-inch tablets were dead with Google Android Honeycomb tablet OS being design around a 1280 x 800 10.1-inch screen. But it looks like that has changed. PC Magazine reports that "Google has been working closely with tablet manufacturers to get the Android Honeycomb UI running on seven-inch, 1024-by-600 single-core devices, said Raymond Kim, vice president of sales and marketing for device maker Anydata. This is a change from the first round of Honeycomb tablets like the Motorola Xoom, which have all been dual-core devices with 1280-by-800 screens that are eight inches or larger."

Looks like our Samsung Galaxy Tabs may get a second lease on life.

Seven inch options are also getting more interesting. GigaOM reports that "Research In Motion’s plans for its PlayBook tablet became a little more focused today: The company just announced that its tablet will run Google Android applications through a special 'app player.'"  This would make the BlackBerry PlayBook a very appealing option.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Around the Web - Of monster phones and mini tablets

Monster phones. Last year, Steve Job's commenting on the 4-inch and larger Android phones which had than just hit the market said  "no one's going to buy that" x x x "you can't get your hand around it". Engadget reports that 24% of Smartphone purchased by US Consumers have a screen size of 4-inches or larger. 

Frankly, no pure touchscreen phone with a screen size of less than 4-inches really excites us these days.  When you are tying to do on your handset a task that you used to do on your 12 to 17-inch laptop, or desktop, every tenth of an inch counts. But, we do agree that phones with 4-inch screens can get a bit ungainly. 

Will the sales figures convince Apple that it is time to introduced an upsized version of their iPhone? An iPhone 5 and an iPhone 5 EVO :) 

Playbook pricing.  Laptop Magazine reports that RIM's 7-inch tablet, the PlayBook will be available by April 19th. Initially all the PlayBooks will be WiFi only models. The 16GB PlayBook will retail for $499. The 32GB and 64GB versions will sell for $599 and $699 respectively. The pricing is competitive with Apple's iPad 2, though it is half the size.

While 7-inch tablets appear to be going out of style (well they were never really in), personally, it is my favorite size for a tablet. Will give this one a look, when (and if) it becomes available here.

Samsung strikes back

At the Mobile World Congress in February of this year, Samsung announced its Galaxy Tab 10.1, which looked like it was designed to beat the Motorola Xoom. When the new ultra thin Apple iPad 2 was launched it look like the Android tablets were doomed to continue in obscurity. But it looks like Samsung will not be stopped. It is amazing what the engineers at Samsung can do in three weeks and a trip back to the drawing board.    

At CTIA Wireless 2011, Samsung announced two new tablets, The 10.1-inch Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 we saw at the Mobile World Congress has been slimmed down. It now measures 256.6 x 172.9 x 8.6 mm. The Galaxy Tab 10.1 used to be 10.9mm thick. The Galaxy Tab 10.1 weighs in at just 595g with a 6800mAh battery. This makes it thinner and lighter than the Apple iPad 2.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 also has a smaller sibling, the Galaxy Tab 8.9. It has a 8.9" screen and measures 230.9 x 157.8 x 8.6mm. It weighs at just 470g with a 6000mAh battery. The rest of the features are very much like the ones on its bigger brother, 800 x 1280 resolution screen, dual core processors and Android 3.0.

The hardware is iPad 2 grade. It is now a question of the price. And the price, is match Apple's iPad pricing. The Galaxy Tab 10.1 starts at US$499. The smaller Galaxy Tab 8.9 starts at US$469. Will this be good enough? In any case prepare for a battle royale, again Samsung provides a legitimate iPad contender. Samsung has really arrived. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Mac OSX 10.6.7 update out

There is a new updated version of Snow Leopard out. If you have one of those new 2011 MacBook Pro's with the Intel HD graphics who have been having problems, this should resolve the issue.

"The 10.6.7 Update is recommended for all users running Mac OS X Snow Leopard and includes general operating system fixes that enhance the stability, compatibility, and security of your Mac, including fixes that:

- Improve the reliability of Back to My Mac
- Resolve an issue when transferring files to certain SMB servers
- Address various minor Mac App Store bugs
- Addresses minor FaceTime performance issues (2011 MBP only)
- Improve graphics stability and external display compatibility (2011 MBP only)

For detailed information on this update, please visit this website:
For information on the security content of this update, please visit:"

iOS 4.3 Review at The Borg Colletives

The Borg Collectives says that the iOS 4.3 "seems geared to enrich the Media sharing experience of the user, and further cement the iPhone and iTunes into consumer's lives. Best of all, especially for me, this update strengthens the iPhone + iPad combo." You can read the rest of the review here.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Yes, we are living in a Post PC world

Steve Jobs has declared the era of the PC over during the Apple iPad 2 launch. We are now, apparently living in the Post PC era. It is important to understand what Mr. Jobs means by the PC. Mr. Job's said PC's will become like trucks. Useful for certain tasks, but not for the general market. By PC is meant the x86 personal computer running Windows, Linux and even Apple's own Mac OSX operating system. Tablets and mobile phones are actually personal computers. What Mr. Job's is really saying is that it is the end of the Wintel domination.

Steve Job's latest creation, the iPad 2

After reflecting on this on and off for the past few weeks, it donned on me, by gosh, Jobs is right. I really cannot speak for the industry or even a class of consumers, but just for myself. I want to take you back fifteen years. I had just finished college and took my first full time job. Back than, I used personal computers at home and at work. There was nothing very “personal” about the PC at home. Our home PC was a shared device which really just served a modern day typewriter. Weeks might go by without me using it. At work I would use a PC to access data stored on local hard drives, and I could type documents on them too. I really did not have to type though, I had a secretary to do that, and we actually had a pool of encoders, a “typing pool”, at work for longer documents. If we go back fifteen years, PC were like trucks, at least to me. My need to a PC was limited to the demands of work.

I had a cellular phone back than too, which really did nothing other than allow you to make calls. That was a more personal gadget which I took with me everywhere I went. It truth, I wanted one more than I really needed one. It was really just cool toy to flash around. Dragging a phone around with me was cool. I would not have wanted to drag a laptop around with me.

Two years would change everything. From a type writer it had morphed into a portal to the World Wide Web. I got a 60-hour dial connection, and my very first own PC. Back than there was no Wikipedia or You Tube. I have no even heard about Google and used to do searches out of a search engine called Alta Vista. Back we did have email, forums and ICQ (an instant messenger), and the world became a much smaller place overnight. In an odd way, the PC was important to me not because of its ability to crunch data, but as a communications device.

In 2001, I went on my own. Personal computers allowed a small business to exist where previously, only large organizations could be competitive. For both work, and for entertainment, I was now dependent on the personal computer and the Internet. I got my first portable computer, two years later in 2003. It was a HTC Tanager powered by Windows Smartphone 2002. Back than I really did not think of this device as a pocket computer, but more of a personal data assistant.

In 2005, with laptop prices having gone down, I retired my last desktop and my PC went mobile. A laptop kept me connected to the Internet, between a fixed cable connection at home, and WiFi hotspots in the field, on demand 24/7. These are what I like to call the ball and chain years. Each year since 2005, I have been acquiring lighter and lighter devices, and my original six pound ball and chain went down to less than three pounds by the end of 2008.

Accompanying my laptop was a smartphone, but ultimately, when it came to expenditure, from 1998 until 2010, the personal computer was the item that I would devote the largest budget too. The smartphone was fine for as long as it could make calls, send and receive SMS and keep track of your schedule. The PC took care of everything else. But in the end, it was really something I wanted to get rid off. Either you have a desktop or large laptop which you have to go to when you want to send and email or check some information on something, or you have a three pound device on a shoulder bag or back-pack or tucked under your arm the whole day.

I realized, that 2010 is the last year that the PC takes up the largest portion of my gadget budget. The core function has not really changed much in the past decade I have owned a PC. Between Windows 95 and Windows 7, there really is no revolutionary functionality. I upgraded operating systems in search of stability. I upgraded hardware, to keep up with ever more demanding operating systems. But in the end, my current laptop does pretty much the same thing as my desktop in 1998. PC technology for all the advances in speed and capacity, has pretty much remained stagnant. To the point now, that I am willing to let it become a truck again. I paid for faster, because it was a slow inefficient device, and I paid for lighter to reduce the burden of this self-imposed ball and chain.

Steve Job's was referring to the advent of the tablet, or more particularly the Apple iPad when he announced the end of the PC era. Converting my laptop in to a iPad, does not necessarily seem like an interesting prospect to me. It really is just a smaller laptop, without a keyboard. And it won't replace your mobile phone either. In many ways, the iPad is a distraction from where the industry is headed.

It is the smartphone that will end the era of the PC. I still go back to a PC to type things like this article. Or to attach documents to emails. The PC is a productivity tool, and that is the only reason I still need it. The PC is still the favorite accessory of my Digital Camera, but even that is getting less use these days. Yes, there are those who need a true workstation for serious crunching, but for the rest of us, the era of the PC is truly coming to an end.

Instead of browsing the web to visit my favorite haunts, I use Twitter to direct me to articles of interest to me. That are a whole bunch of Apps and services that are focused on "correcting" a lot of the deficiencies of the smartphone as a web browsing device. Communications whether the traditional voice and text, or the computer based emal, instant messaging or social networking, now is the province of my smartphone. Photographs are taken by my smartphone, cropped and enhanced by the same device, and are sent up into the cloud, all from one device.

The Web now belongs to my smartphone

In fifteen years, the personal has gone from being a typewriter, to going back to being a typewriter. I do not yet see myself ever not owning a laptop. But you will not see me paying for Intel fastest processor, or Microsoft's latest operating system. My MacBook Air, is the last of its kind. When it is time to replace my expensive little laptop, it will be replaced by a low cost functional laptop. If it can run a word processor and can be used to blog, it will do fine. I am not willing to pay for lighter or faster anymore. The cheaper the better.

The web, which made the personal computer so important to me now belongs to the smartphone. This is where my gadget budget is going to now. How much? Show me what it can do. There are really no fixed limits. The smartphone is now the most important gadget. Give me a plug in keyboard and let me plug it into a LCD TV or portable LCD screen, and I may finally retire laptop, the same way I did the desktop, six years ago. The smartphone will rule. Tablets? Their true future is as a smartphone accessory.

The PC has gone back to being a truck. 

The ironic thing is that, this is now a truck
for an Android device. But Apple iOS devices still need the truck.

Is Globe Telecom now the preferred service provider in the Philippines?

TipidCP has an ongoing poll, which, with 2128 respondents is nearly complete. The last time a poll was opened, 2603 members case their votes. The question this time is which is the "network that you prefer". Globe Telecom tops the list by a wide margin.

Smart Communications is the countries leading telecom companies in terms of the number of subscribers, with Smarts 44 million subscribers being more than the combined total of Globe Telecom and Sun Cellular. One in two mobile phones lines in the Philippines is a Smart line. However, in terms of postpaid subscribers Smart Communications lags behind both Globe and Sun, having less than 500,000 postpaid subscribers, which is less than 1 in 5 postpaid subscribers in the country. And it seems with the "A" and "B" markets, Smart Communications does not do so well. The TipidCP poll seems to confirm this problem.

The TipidCP demographic is made up of techie mobile phone users. It is not made up of your typical mobile phone subscriber, but someone who has a passion for mobile devices and is willing to spend on devices and services. While in the market, 1 in 2 subscribers would select a Smart line, with the other half selecting either a Globe or Sun line, TipidPC users, many of whom have 2 or 3 lines, express a preference for Globe Telecoms.

As you can see, it is no small majority. Fifty-seven (57%) percent of TipidCP members who voted expressed a preference for Globe Telecoms. Sun Cellular came in a far second, with 21%. Only 18% expressed a preference for Smart Communications.

But it does seem that Smart Communications is a bit out of touch. It's unlimited call and text packages are still listed as promotions that can be halted any time. Smart's unlimited data packages are also listed a "promo" packages. It seem that the communications giant cannot decide where to go. 

While it was initially the stand of Smart Communications and Globe Telecom that Sun's Cellulars Php350 monthly unlimited within network call and text plan would force the company into bankruptcy, this was not the case. Sun Cellular is alive and well eight years later, with 16 million subscribers and with the most number of postpaid subscribers. Smart Communications seems to still believe that this model won't work and has not committed to it, and offers competing packages as time limited promotions (that it continuously renews). 

At the same time, on the cutting edge of 3G technology, Smart Communications line-up of phones is still made up primarily of Symbian devices, with a sampling of Android's and BlackBerry's and is focused is on offering internet on the mobile phone in bite sized packages with either their time limited plans or through "Value Added Services". Smarts MENSA Data Packages still being listed as "promos".

Globe Telecom, which seemed to have been on the slide two or three years ago is clearly back. Whether it is because of of smart packaging comprised of traditional consumable and unlimited plans which meet Sun Cellular's challenge head on; or maintaining its position as the most "elite" service provider by being the exclusive providers of Apple's iPhone while having the widest line-up of Android and BlackBerry phones in the market, back-ed up by data service packages that can be appended to any of its plans and proprietary apps created through it GlobeLab's unit; or because of smart niche marketing like signing up cosplay model Alodia Gosiengfiao, I do not know. The end result is the same. Globe Telecom is the preferred service provider in the country. As a satisfied Smart Communications subscriber for many years, I do not have enough reason to move. If I was first time postpaid subscriber, I imagine I would go with Globe.

In the past year, Globe Telecom has remodeled its packages to halt the rapid gains made by Sun Cellular, and to renew its battle for the top spot against market leader Smart Communications. 

The AMD Fusion laptops trickle in

We were expecting a deluge of new AMD Fusion powered laptops in the first quarter of this year. That did not happen, but they are trickling in. We have been very bullish about AMD Fusion platforms because they provide the correct balance of features for the average consumer: sufficient processing power, excellent graphics performance and low cost. In some ways, it is unfortunate for AMD that the launch of the Fusion platform is in a world enamored with tablets. Still, we think AMD Fusion platform is a more relevant to the Philippine situation. 

In January of this year, Acer released the 10.1-inch Acer Aspire One 522 netbook powered by an AMD C-50. The Aspire One 522 combined a very reasonable Php17,990 price with the ability to play and output HD 1080p video content. Acer's subsidiary, eMachines, released an AMD E-350 powered machine, the 14.1" inch eMachines eMD644-e352g50mn laptop for Php21,990 (without an operating system though). The AMD C-50 is the lower powered AMD Fusion platform designed for netbooks. The AMD E-250 and E-350 are more powerful Fusion platforms designed for laptops and lower powered desktops.

Sony released it Vaio YB ultraportable laptop powered by a AMD E-350 in February. Being a Vaio it was priced at the higher end at Php29,990 which actually places it in the same price range as Intel i3 powered laptops. 

HP Pavilion DM1 @Php22,999 with Windows 7

There are now two new AMD E-350 options in the market, the 11.6-inch HP Pavilion DM1 - 3016AU ultraportable laptop and the thin-and-light 14.1-inch Lenovo G475.  The HP is priced at Php22,999 preloaded with Windows 7 Home Basic, while the Lenovo is priced lower at Php21,995, but without an operating system.

Lenovo G475 @ Php21,995 with DOS

If you are looking for a new low cost laptop, we recommend that you give the AMD E-350 platforms a look. They are bang for the buck options, with not too many compromises. The HP Pavilion DM1 looks particularly interesting.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

GMA News TV Andriod App

I have been using GMA News Breaking News feeds as my source for local news using the built in RSS reader on my device. So, I was pretty interested to learn that GMA News has released a Android App. The App can be found in the Android Market here

After downloading the App, it is a bit disappointing. It really is nothing more than a dedicated web browser for viewing GMA News feeds, with no options to schedule updates. Basically, you will get the same content and actually a better interface if you point your mobile browser at GMA News Mobile site  ( although the App does appear slightly more bandwidth friendly.

Still it is good to see a local media network taking an interest in Apps. But a review by Ethan on the Android Market really sums it at best: "Great to know GMA noticed the exploding popularity of Android OS. The app obviously looks still half baked. It's a good start nonetheless."

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Samsung Galaxy Tab price drop

When the Samsung Galaxy Tab arrived on Philippine shores in the fourth quarter of 2011, it was priced at Php34,900. At that price the 7-inch Samsung 3G tablet with 16GB of internal storage, matched grey market prices for Apple's 9.7-inch iPad with 3G and 16GB internal storage. With the official launch of the Apple iPad in Philippine shores, and the 16GB iPad 3G was priced at Php30,990 in December 17, 2010. We saw the the Galaxy Tab's price drop to Php28,000-29,000 by the middle of January 2011.

With the launch of the iPad 2 on March 2, 2011, we saw a price drop of the original iPad prices. The 16GB iPad 3G went down to Php26,990. In seeming response to this the Galaxy Tab has dropped again, this time to Php20,990 with some retailers. This is now 5K less than it direct competitor, the entry level 3G enabled iPad, and within 2k of the Php19,900 WiFi only iPad.

At the new Php21,990 suggested retail price Samsung Galaxy Tab is a very interesting proposition.

Friday, March 18, 2011

App store wars

Business Insider reports that Google's Android Market is closing in with the Apple App Store.

Year on year, Apple has doubled the number of App available at its app store going from 170,000 apps in March 2010 to 350,000 apps in March 2011. During the same period the Android Market went from 50,000 apps to 250,000 apps. This means that in the past year, 180,000 apps were added to the Apple app store while 200,000 apps were added to the Android Market, which is not really much of a lead.

But there does seem to be some momentum in Google's favor. Since October 2010, the Apple App store added 115,000 apps, while the Android Market added 150,000 apps. Based on these figures it looks like the Apple store will keep it leads for the remainder of the year.

I really wonder if it really matters though. Other than the pre-installed App's on my HTC Desire HD, I have twelve more apps downloaded for the app store. The HTC does come with more than your usual amount of pre-installed and custom apps. Still several hundred quality apps should be more than enough for anyone. It is nice to have choices, but not necessarily too many choices.  

Some eye-popping prices

Nokia E7 @ Php32,000. Nokia is taking pre-order for it's Nokia E7. The E7 is Nokia's newest Symbian 3 powered phone and based on its price is the company's latest flagship. The asking price is Php32,000, which puts it the same price range as the top of the line smartphones. But what do you get for that price? You get a 4-inch  AMOLED clear black touchscreen, but it's 360 x 640 resolution is well below what you expect from todays top of the line smartphones. Like Nokia's previous flasgship the N8, it has some top class features like 16GB of internal storage, USB on-the-go, 720p HDMI out and a dual led flash, but losses the MicroSD card slot and instead of the 12MP autofocus camera on the N8, comes with a 8MP  fixed focus camera. It really makes us ask why? And lets not forget that Symbian S3 is really starting to get old, and is on its way out.

If you are looking for a good QWERTY slider phone these days, we really would recommend the HTC Desire Z instead. You will save 9K on the price tag and get a better overall package. You have to be really out of touch to buy a Nokia E7 for 32K.

HTC Flyer. GSM Arena reports that the HTC Flyer is now available for pre-order at 500 British pounds, which is 600 pounds after VAT. That would put the price in the Philippines at nearly Php40,000. While HTC did a good job with the user interface, is unique coming with a stylus and is our preferred 7-inch size, 40K for a single core tablet running Android 2.4 is going to be a hard sell. 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Angry Birds update

Just after the updates to Angry Birds Seasons, Rovio has given us an update to the original Angry Birds. Version 1.5.3 will give you 15 new levels at the Badlands.

Web friendly crops with the Adobe Photoshop Express

Adobe Photoshop Express

Looking for a photo editor for my Android phone I decided to select Adobe's Photoshop Express. It to crop, rotate, adjust color, and add artistic effects right on your mobile phone and allows you to upload picture to, Facebook and TwitPic. One interesting thing I found out about Adobe Photoshop Express is that cropping automatically reduces the picture size to a more web friendly format. 

Adobe Photoshop Express

The original picture was a 8MP (3264 x 2448) shot I took with the camera on my HTC Desire HD. I cropped the picture on a laptop using the Shotwell Photo Manager and preserving 100% of the pictures original quality, the resulting crop was a 1200 x 899 sized image with the size of 834 KB.

Cropped using Shotwell Photo Manager

I cropped the same image, covering roughly the same surface area on my mobile phone with Adobe Photoshop Express, and the resulting image was 632 x 451 pixels in size and weighed in at 87 KB.  While many will complain about this being done automatically, without inform the user that the actual image is being scaled down, the loss of image quality was negligible.

Cropped using Adobe Photoshop Express
 Adobe Photoshop Express is available on the Android Market. You can also sign-up for 2GB of free web space to host a photo gallery which contains pictures from my mobile phone and digicam. You can upload pictures from your mobile phone or your desktop. 

The one feature I would really like to see is a resize option. This free app could be updated to have a few more options, or may Adobe should release a pro version. The web hosting service may interest many (I suspect most will use Facebook for their online albums). All in all a decent app, but on the prowl for another photo editor.

Which mobile OS is best for you? - Focus on the Android user interface

If you have not yet read our article on the iOS user interface we suggest you start there.

Customizable. The Google Android user interface is not all that different from the Apple's iOS interface. Instead of adopting a one size fits all approach, Google lets manufacturers and users modify the Android user interface to their hearts contents. You have the stock Android interface, and manufacturer customized interfaces. Whatever interface you start with, there are plenty of third party applications that will let you customize the basis interface. You can even use a live tile like Windows Phone 7 interface if you like. And this is the one of the core difference between Apple's iOS and Google's Android.

HTC's Sense user interface. A HTC customized
interface for the Android offered on it's mobile phones.
Before dwelling on the difference, let us look at the similarities. Like Apple's iOS, Google Android  has several home screens the you can flip through. The default Android interface has five home screens. HTC Sense has seven home screens. Samsung Touch UI can have up to nine home screens. You can move icons around he several home screens and place them in folders if you like. Google  has a dock, which holds three to four icons. The dock is customizable like iOS in some implementations of the Android O.S., like Samsung Touchwiz, and fixed in others, like HTC's Sense.

The weather animations which vary from clouds to
thunderstorms,  large retro clock with weather display maybe
gimmicky. But I like it. My home screen combine two widgets with four icons. 

Android adds some elements not present in the iOS user interface. In addition to the home screen, you have a Application Launcher, which displays all the applications installed in the device. At the top of the Android User interface is the notification bar which notifies you updates, tracks the progress of downloads and installations, and other matters requiring your attention. You can pull down this notification bar for more details. Than there are the widgets.

Swiping to a other screen brings up the Twitter Widget
(alternatively a you also have Friend Stream which integrates updates
from several social networking sites), without having to launch the Twitter app.
The information in these widgets auto-update at user predetermined times.

Another swype brings up my selected news feed.

You can also set up a home screen to look like iOS. The first seven
 "icons" are actually quick access widgets to phone settings. Green mean on, and grey means off.

This is the second basic core difference. Android has them, iOS does not. Widgets are an element of a graphical user interface that displays an information changeable by the user, similar to a window. They are valuable because they can provide a look at lots of different kinds of information and quick access configuration settings without having to launch the application.

With iOS, accessing information means scrolling to the appropriate home screen and launching the app. With Android, the information can be displayed directly on one of the several home screens.

Pinching any of the home screens will bring up all seven of my home screens

Ease of use. Google's Android interface is user friendly, compared to Symbian or Windows mobile. In terms of  intuitiveness, it is just not as polished as Apple's iOS, but comes very close. I have had to Google for information like how to change folder names. Still, you should become proficient with it after a days use. 

What makes Android more complicated is the the ability to customize the UI, and the adverse effects on battery life. Apple's iOS presents you with basically one interface, which Apple has tested to consume an acceptable amount of power to provide an acceptable battery life. iOS also only allows for a limited amount of multi-tasking which reduces battery consumption.

Android allows users to customize as they please and allows for full multitasking. Loading one or two dozen active widgets on the devices home screens results in having several active apps running, and will have adverse effects on battery life. Basically, while Android will let you customize to your hearts content, you have to do so intelligently. Making to many home screens too interesting, will suck your battery dry. 

Apps. Android already over 150,000 according to Google, and 200,000 apps according to other sources. With Android you are not limited to downloading apps from the apps store. The number of apps is not that big a deal if you ask me. With my two Android devices, a have download only about 12-15 apps to supplement the OS and the pre-installed software.

The biggest issue is that in many countries like the Philippines, you have no access to paid apps through the Android market. With the variety of Android phones available, compatibility can occasionally be an issue. Android market

In the end Android offers more customization options and more hardware choices, but does need the user to understand the operating system a little bit more.

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