Review: Samsung Focus with Windows Phone 7

As part of WOMWorld Nokia, my friend and mobile technology aficionado Roland Tanglao offered to lend me a Samsung Focus with Microsoft's mobile operating system on it for a weekend. I took it around Vancouver, installed apps, took photos, tracked a walk on Commercial St., and, breaking with tradition, actually made a phone call.

Samsung Focus with the Flickr app

Over the course of four days, I installed the following apps through the Windows Phone Marketplace, listed here in alphabetical order: 1Password, Facebook, Flickr, Flux (Google Reader client), Foodspotting, Foursquare, Netflix, Public Transit (wrapper for Google Transit's website), Runkeeper, Shazam, Stacks for Instapaper, Twitter and YouTube. I resented having to install software to watch YouTube videos, and found the Flickr client incredibly slow. I was grateful that 1Password existed to access my 490 unique passwords, but was disappointed the app did not follow many Windows Mobile Phone 7 app conventions (tapping the hardware search button took me out of the app to Bing, for example). I was generally pleased with the other apps, especially the simplicity of the Twitter app and, compared with 3 years of iPhone experience, the completely different paradigms of Foursquare and Flux, to take only two examples.

I spent no money on apps, instead relying on either free or trial apps. Instapaper requires a $1/month subscription to its service in order to use 3rd party apps, so I bought the minimum 3-month subscription. I would have loved to try out the MLB At Bat™ app (since I'm a big fan and guaranteed buyer of the iPhone app; go on, Major League Baseball, keep raising the price, I'll happily keep paying), but a limited time with the phone didn't make a $11 purchase seem like a good idea. If I owned the phone, it would have been not only the first purchase but first app installed.

Insides of the Samsung SGH-I917 (Samsung Focus Windows Phone)

What I loved:

  • The pane paradigm on the home screen and in apps, with a bit of the discoverable parts showing on the side. Text size is generally big in apps, meaning that going back to the iPhone, everything felt tiny. Tapping on icons made them looked pressed down, and sliding away after pressed is a nice visual touch.
  • Trial mode apps. Theoretically iOS apps are trial mode with in-app purchase, but the WP7 marketplace made trial mode explicit.
  • Apps like Foursquare and Twitter with their big, comfortable-on-the-eyes typefaces, and WP7-native design approach.

What I merely liked:

  • Zune music player, though I wished album covers could be bigger, quicker access to the app from outside it. Swiping from side to side on an album cover switched back and forth between tracks, which doesn't make sense to this thirtysomething still used to pressing buttons to do the same.
  • A hardware camera button, with pressing down slightly to focus. I expected to be able to take a picture in lock mode, or at least get to the camera by pressing the button. No such luck.
VPL WIreless Network Captive Portal

I liked the camera, but found it hard to get a non-blurry shot a little too often. For my comparison shot, I went to Caffe Rustico on Main St. and took a photo of their couch area with my iPhone 4 and from the same spot with the Samsung Focus. Not a huge difference to these eyes. The iPhone 4 had a wider shot and, with the HDR setting on, shows more in the window than the Samsung Focus.

What I neither liked nor disliked, but found weird:

  • Every time I put the SIM card in, I had to reboot the phone. The iPhone spoiled me: put in a working SIM and you're good to go.
  • The phone indicated, incorrectly, that I was roaming. In order to get access to the Internet over 3G, I had to turn on data roaming. Random forums of destiny told me that I can safely expect to not receive a roaming bill because of this.
  • I stumbled on the FM radio receiver. Not a selling point, but if I were caught in a city-wide emergency which affected cell towers (say, an earthquake), I'd be grateful for it.

What I absolutely hated:

  • Vibrating on the capacitive buttons. There is no ability to turns it off. Random forums of destiny confirmed this.
  • A lot of mistaken taps on the capacitive buttons and mistaken hits on buttons, especially while in my pocket when only ever wanting to adjust the volume. Enlist me in the war against the capacitive button cult.
  • Slow charging, when at all. The iPhone wall charger was better than through the computer, but I expected faster recharge times. I expected to be able to charge at least somewhat reliably through my MacBook Air.
  • The default of the phone is to automatically save the screen and then lock, even while reading but not pressing any buttons. Maybe I could have turned it off, but I wanted to stick with the defaults as much as possible.

If I had more time with the device, I'd happily buy some apps, starting with MLB At Bat™, then Flux, then Stacks for Instapaper. I'd be very happy with the software and very unhappy with the hardware. Can I have an iPhone with Windows Phone 7 on it?

Taking out the iPhone 4 SIM card

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Flickr icon for sillygwailo

sillygwailo added a note: Micro SIM card adapter from microsim-shop.com/ I bought it in case my iPhone bricks and I need to use a phone with a regular SIM card slot.

Flickr icon for sillygwailo

sillygwailo added a note: This photo was taken with a Samsung Focus. Blurry, and this was the best take.

Flickr icon for sillygwailo

sillygwailo added a note: Incase Snap Case for iPhone 4, free from Apple thanks to Antennagate.

Flickr icon for sillygwailo

sillygwailo added a note: Apple iPhone 4 SIM card and tray.

Flickr icon for sillygwailo

sillygwailo added a note: Apple brand "paperclip", which I always put back in the box for fear of losing.

Flickr icon for sillygwailo

sillygwailo added a note: iPhone 4. Lock image is from an article on Canadian synth pop legends Junior Boys www.walrusmagazine.com/articles/2011.07-music-back-to-the...

group: Incase

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Flickr icon for yumiang
Submitted by yumiang on Sat 2009-08-01 21:50 #


Flickr icon for roland
Submitted by roland on Sun 2009-08-02 23:16 #

go honey pot go!

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Vancouver Brightkite Meetup Tuesday July 28th, 2009 at The Irish Heather

Followers of @justagwailo, my automated ephemera Twitter account, know that I'm a frequent user of a service called Brightkite. Brightkite is a social web application that lets people check into physical locations with the intention of socially interacting online. With Twitter integration (you can have checkins, notes, and photos automatically post to Twitter with customizable text), it's an "where I'm at" application which also shows you who has checked in nearby. You can get SMS notification of nearby Brightkite users, and even set privacy settings so that only friends see your exact location and others see a more general city or municipality as your current location. The Brightkite iPhone app makes checkins easy, giving you the option to search for something if it isn't in the "pick a place" listing, using the built-in GPS to find out what's nearby.

On the heels of the successful Brightkite meetups in Berlin and Austin and the BayArea, the team at Brightkite wrote some helpful hints on organizing a Brightkite meetups, spurring me into action to organize one for the Vancouver area.

(I should note that I'm in no way affiliated with Brightkite. I'm just a frequent user.)

In a couple of weeks, Vancouver will host the Geoweb 2009 Conference, though I won't be attending. I would like to invite those who use Brightkite in the Lower Mainland, as well as people who are interested location-based online social interaction tools to join me at The Irish Heather at 7:00 PM on the 28th of July. (That date conveniently happens to be my birthday.) I'd be interested in doing a short introduction to Brightkite, and talk about the future of location-based online social interaction (one word: games).

I see Brightkite as an interesting way to explore a city and expand people's social network. I can also see roadblocks to the effectiveness Brightkite and its ilk, and would like those interested in discussing mapping, social activity online, and collaboratively mapping the world to join me in a week and a half to see where things are going.

Did I mention I'll have Brightkite t-shirts and stickers to give away? RSVP at the Yahoo! Upcoming event listing (understanding that the address is 212 Carrall, not 217 as listed there).

Mobile Theme 1.0 Released

If we are to believe in timestamps, on October 7th, 2006, I took over maintainership of the Mobile theme for the Drupal CMS. At the time there was no iPhone, and stripped down graphics-free versions of websites made it easier for people with small screens on their phones to get to the information quickly. Now, relatively larger screens coupled with effectively unlimited data plans make websites more consumable by tiny devices. My maintainership of the theme continues unabated, as today I (finally) released official 1.0 versions for Drupal 5 and Drupal 6, and dropped official support for the 4.7 version. m.justagwailo.com serves as the Mobile theme's demonstration site. Thanks to Bèr Kessels for originally writing the theme and webschuur.com for its original sponsorship.

A note about version numbers: when the new system for CVS tagging came out way back when, somehow it occurred to me that "DRUPAL-6-4" was the correct version number to assign to a developmental release. What that meant in practices was the version number for the theme ended up as "4.x". Looking at the usage statistics, at this writing, the overwhelming majority of sites that have deployed the Mobile theme use that developmental release. It is my hope that they all move to the 1.x branch, either developmental or official, as that's where all development will happen from now on.

As with any software, there are <a href='http://drupal.org/project/issues/mobile?categories=All">feature requests and bug reports, and I encourage anybody using the theme to give me feedback there. The theme is not to be confused with the Mobile Theme module, which cleverly detects whether a browser is a mobile device and serves up a "mobile" theme for that device. I have the combination of the Mobile Theme module and one of two iPhone-friendly themes at PDXphiles, my Portland-lovers blog.

Upcoming trip: Portland and Seattle

We've bought the tickets, so it's official: Karen and I will be going to Portland for the last week of February, then take a very short side-trip to Seattle on the way back. We're taking the Greyhound bus down from Vancouver, B.C., so we'll get a lot of Interstate 5 goodness. Since we didn't know exactly how we were getting back from Seattle, we decided that at least on the way from PDX to Seatown that we'd take the Amtrak train. A little more expensive, and the Amtrak guy in Vancouver wanted to see our passports. We managed to convince the ticket agent that we didn't know we needed them to buy tickets and that we had just made the decision (both true), so we'll finally be able to do as Djun did in 2005.

We very tentatively decided to neither of us bring our laptops, the idea being that we'll find enough computing power with friends and cafes to check our email as much as we need to and that's it. I'll bring my iPhone, which I'm assured by the fine folks at Fido will cost me an arm and a leg to use the data plan while roaming in the United States. As part of our trip budget, I have an amount of total usage in mind. Again, friends and wifi in the wilds of PDX will get us jacked in when we need to.

To update my thoughts on the PDX Bus iPhone application, the developer today had approved a 2.0 release of the app, which embeds Google Maps inside the application. It also adds a flashing screen to make it easier for TriMet bus drivers to see you. I didn't believe that TriMet actually recommending this, but the transportation agency itself has an explanatory video, including asking for what are called in Vancouver "request stops", i.e. getting dropped off anywhere along the route, not just at designated stops.

250 and 257 Blue Buses cancelled?

Not quite correct, I'm currently on a bus boarded at the ferry terminal the time this screenshot was taken.

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Flickr icon for indyinsane
Submitted by indyinsane on Tue 2009-02-10 15:37 #

I was in Hawaii on this day, and yet part of me wanted to be back home to photograph the snow and its chaotic effect.

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I liked the informative update. I didn't like the all caps text.

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