Bernie Goldbach in Cashel | Xoom snapped in the hallway
I GOT MY WIFE a Motorola Xoom Media Tablet for her birthday and swore I would not be spotted using it. But I'm allowed to share first impressions.
It's a lot lighter than the first generation iPad and it feels lighter than the iPad 2 I've used. It runs smoothly with its 1.2GHz CPU and Android 3.2.but its lack of an SD card surprised me. That said, its built-in MotoCast streaming capability looks like it will work a charm if I can serve the Xoom proper wifi broadband. I will cast the video and audio clips from the cloud, not from a local laptop because I can't get reliable one megabit per second upstreaming.
I couldn't push the Xoom's screen to as bright a level that I can achieve with the iPad. However, its colours and viewing angles are better than the iPad. And it snaps through apps smoothly.
During the summer, we'll have more to say about the screen's performance while out in the wild exploring geocaches. We'll see how the back seat kids like using the Xoom's built-in Flash and whether they prefer it to the iPad's YouTube app. Most importantly, we will ruthlessly put its splashproofing through the wringer.
I GET A LOT OF VALUE from unconstrained mobile storage of personal media and Sony's new Walkman Z1000 looks like it will allow me to carry all the HD video clips that we produce in the creative multimedia curriculum at LIT-Clonmel.
The weakest link in the latest generation of mobile phones is a lack of removable storage. That's what I face with both iOS and Nokia Lumia. Consequently, I cannot sync the collections of HQ audio and video I receive every week from dozens of students as they prepare scratch work for final assessment. I have to step gingerly through collections as they arrive, then manually direct specific clips onto my mobile devices. This is a time sink because of the limited storage space on my personal media players. Sony's Z1000 comes with a 64 GB offering along with 512 MB of RAM, certainly big enough for my personal DVD and academic work for the next two years. The only problem is a cost point around EUR 380.
But there's a lot for that money. The Walkman Z1000 has a nVIDIA Tegra 2 dual core processor, runs Android 2.3 with full Android Market access, and it has an anti-reflective 4.3-inch capacitive touch-screen LCD display.
I don't need cellular connectivity on my personal media player. I do need HDMI output and that's the way the Z1000 is set up to communicate with our big screens.
After repeated attempts, I deleted all 1674 contacts off my phone and that freed up 26 MB of space on the phone's main memory. From experience, I know I need to have 20 MB free on the phone's internal memory if I expect to run the Xperia Arc as a truly smart phone. The phone has 400 MB of internal memory and it's very easy to fill that with apps that won't move over to the SD card. I have also figured out that several apps want access to my contacts and if I fail to control the access, the phone's contact database starts to get bloated. I also know that when I let the contacts sync with Google Contacts, Facebook Contacts and LinkedIn Contacts that I can return to the "phone storage space is getting low" message. So now I'm messing with settings, trying to stabilise the poor phone's data-eating habits. I can keep things under control by occasionally deleting more than 50MB from the cache of Google Plus. According to System Panel, G+ is the biggest memory hog on my phone so I target it ruthlessly.
I SCAN DOCUMENTS every day and use my Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc to deliver the results in one-tap elegance.
The under-appreciated camera optics on the Xperia Arc incorporate some of the best technology from Sony's range of devices. The low aperture rating of the camera mean I can assuredly snap hand-printed notes without flash filling them. This means sharp edges on characters and a better result when Evernote uses its OCR to produce indexed files of my work. Drawn work looks nicer when it's snapped and shared to a Flickr group.
In my day job as a multimedia lecturer, I often put my phone at a lone desk and ask students to snap and annotate work they have prepared for the class. During the first few weeks of the term, this meant a small queue forming towards the front of the room as each student tapped and saved their images. Then I started circulating the camera through the seated classroom, asking students to annotate their work with their name and Twitter nics. In one easy pass, I had an attendance roster and samples of practical work--all recorded in a relevant Evernote folder. Five weeks into the academic year, I noticed the documents were being scanned and uploaded faster than the 30 minutes it normally took. That's because several additional Xperia handsets were in pockets and purses, along with Evernote and Skitch on the handsets. We share public Evernote folders and that allows students to directly upload their work.
ONE OF MY NEWEST apps is Skitch and it allows me to snap an image with my phone, annotate it like the image at left and share it in dozens of ways.
Because my Android gallery shows images uploaded into G+ and Picasa, I can pull down those images and mark them up too. For someone like me who has moblogged more than 1000 posts, Skitch is a natural workflow extended. And now that Skitch is wrapped around Evernote, I consider it an essential app. The Evernote podcast crew says there will be a free Skitch app for iOS soon. I hope that means Windows development is also underway because there are so many ways Skitch would help in setting up wireframes, marking up project plans, annotating versions of web designs and highlight issues with infographics.
Sent mail2blog using O2 Typepad service from my Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc.
Marks speculates that Amazon may be setting up to license their tablet code base. This makes senses when you consider how the Android experience on phones is often forked up. I use the phrase "forked up" because in several cases Android presents itself at least two separate ways. You can get a phone containing the Open Source core of Android or a phone with all the Google applications (like the App Market, Maps, Gmail, Talk, Contacts, Listen). It's that first kind of phone that drives application developers crazy since they cannot write their code base once and have it work elegantly with the standard Google application set.
Kevin Marks takes the idea further and speculates that "if Amazon offered an alternative to Google's top half of Android" they could be in a better position to control the revenue stream coming to them through the new tablet. That's what happened with Amazon and Apple when Apple demanded a greater cut of the revenue from every Amazon in-app purchase. If Amazon releases their own seven-inch tablet with an Open Source or lightly licensed version of the Android stack to other hardware developers they could offer the hardware developers a referral fee for anything bought via the Amazon store as an incentive for device manufacturers to ship it. This is just like the model used by PC manufacturers when they burn crapware onto new laptops and desktops.
IF YOU CANNOT DOWNLOAD the Google Plus app in your country after browsing to Google's recommended site at m.google.com/plus, feel free to point your Android handset at my blog and click on the link to download the Google+ app. The app normally downloads to your SD card where you can install it from the phone. I changed my Settings to facilitate the installation by gong into "Application Settings" and selecting the option to "allow installation of non-Market applications". Then I selected "Manage Applications" and tapped the top of the screen until I found "Google+". Tapping the app starts its installation.
AFTER A FEW SHORT WEEKS of use, I can honestly say that the Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc has reset my expectations of what a mobile phone should be able to do with video.
I'm personally impressed at the HD recording effortlessly performed by the phone. On my first weekend using the phone, it recorded a ten-minute review of the Sunday newspapers, complete with auto-focus when I took the phone within three inches of the newsprint.
Today, the phone let me attend a spontaneous hangout inside Online Meeting Rooms while viewing the hangout over wifi. This is the equivalent of watching a six-seat video conference on a retina screen while walking around campus.
I got my Xperia Arc for EUR 90 on contract with O2 Ireland. It's the best money I've spent with O2. Regular readers may remember me saying the Mifi was the best value I've had with O2 but I bought the Huawei dongle separately and got the data SIM only from O2. I can strongly recommend both the Arc and the O2 Hotshot.
I BUY PHONES for their optics because I intend to give them to grandparents after a year's hard use. Sony Ericsson's Xperia Arc is another one of those phones.
Its imaging capabilities exceed all my expectations. Much of the camera's user interface is new to me, including some refinements that make the camera very easy to use. The Xperia Arc's camera is much faster to turn on than any other Android phone's camera function but not as fast to turn on as the iPod Touch camera that I also carry. However, the Xperia Arc's camera can snap off dozens of shots in a row and that's exactly the function I need for action scenes. I snapped 10 images of Mia within a minute (one in the photo) by laying down on grass, selecting the smile function, and holding down the camera button on the phone. That produced 10 images with smiles faster than I could have done manually. I've set up a small Xperia Arc set on Flickr where I will stuff images that I take in a variety of settings, especially the low light environments where the Xperia Arc is meant to beat all comers.