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Gadgets Mobile

Operating Systems Compared: Which is the Right Choice for Your Smartphone?

Today, choice of a smartphone is not only governed by features and cool looks, but also by the OS that runs on it. Here we analyze and compare the major smartphone operating systems, including iOS, BlackBerry, Android and Windows Phone.

iOS

It is said that Newton thought about the principles of gravity when he saw an apple falling from a tree. In the field of IT, Apple has always been almost game-changing. They have designed iOS to run only on devices marketed by Apple itself. This has both good and bad sides to it. The good side is that this brings in a sense of exclusivity and an aspirational factor when you own a iOS device, be it an iPhone or an iPad. Another factor that adds to this is that Apple hasn’t created too many variants of its products. There’s only the iPhone and iPad available in 2-3 configurations each. However, even the price for the base model is high enough for most buyers to consider.

The OS itself is easy to use and gives an extremely good user experience, thanks to the support for retina displays and a perfect touchscreen experience. On supported hardware, OS upgradability is smooth. The lack of Flash support hasn’t really deterred users from becoming fans of iOS (and Apple as a whole).

Where Apple does emerge as a clear winner is in the application ecosystem. This acts as a win-win for all three parties involved –the user, Apple and the developer. Apple follows a rigorous application approval process due to which the overall quality of available applications is bound to grow. Developers are given an easy way to track their application usage in detail, besides getting their share of the revenue. There is currently no support for external storage and this is one of the key reasons why Apple’s smartphone dominance in the US has not reflected to the same scale elsewhere. The built-in applications can work seamlessly with iTunes, which is by itself a very good product. Many C-level (top level) executives do use the iPhone as their business phone though, because it is very reliable.

BlackBerry OS

BlackBerry has a reasonably large range of devices to choose from and they are readily available in Nigeria. An entry level BlackBerry device costs less than thirty thousand naira and this has caused many casual users to explore the BlackBerry platform. While the built-in applications such as secure push mail and BBM have been huge hits and it has support for external storage, it’s application marketplace hasn’t been so successful. BlackBerry holds its own in the enterprise, where it is widely trusted to be secure for communication and collaboration.

Android

Thanks to the openness of the Android platform, the available device range for this OS is so wide that many models in the Nigerian market are cheaper than most feature phones, although still costlier than the basic phones. It has been reported to be not as easy to use as other mobile OSes though. Many term Android as a mobile OS for the geek. The widespread penetration of Android has also resulted in high fragmentation, and this is acting as a bane. OS updates reach different users in pretty different time-frames. That said, one of the key reasons Android has been so successful in Nigeria is that the OS supports sideloading apps out of the box. You can get Android applications from any source and install them. There are marketplaces from vendors such as Amazon. This makes it easy for the user to share applications and this seems to have caught on with Nigerian users, thanks to its affordability and external storage support. Users can themselves develop applications and install them on their device (as well as share them with others) without requiring to use any marketplace at all. The Android marketplace too is pretty large (although not as large as Apple’s) but due to the support for sideloading, malware is seen to be creeping into the Android marketplace and Google is reported to be taking efforts to curb the menace.

The built-in applications are obviously designed to work flawlessly with Google’s services such as Gmail, Google Maps, YouTube, etc. One advantage of the open architecture is that there are extensive sources of both professional and community support available for both users as well as developers. Jelly Bean holds promise as a mobile OS but given the current lack of uniformity in the distribution of Android upgrades, it will take time before it reaches the mass in sizable numbers. In fact, developers too have been having a hard time since they need to target multiple versions of Android.

Windows Phone Mango and Beyond

It was only after Nokia’s Lumia range of handsets were launched that users began to take note of the new mobile OS from Microsoft. New because it is radically different from Windows Mobile (the last version being 6.5.3), both on the surface as well as under the skin. Unlike Windows Mobile , Windows Phone was developed keeping the consumer in mind. Currently there are a few second generation devices available in the market which come with Windows Phone Mango pre-installed. Nokia’s Lumia range also brought a decrease in the entry barrier to a more acceptable price point for a wider user base.

Like most consumer-focused software developed by Microsoft, Windows Phone is absolutely simple to use. In fact, many reviewers even termed this as a negative point stating that the OS might seem too unappealing to advanced users. Upgradability is a big pain though. Not only was there no officially supported means of upgrading a Windows Mobile 6.5.3 device to Windows Phone 7, but also Windows Phone 7 devices will not be upgradable to Windows Phone 8! This has caused widespread frustration amongst owners of Windows Phone devices, both first-generation as well as those who only recently purchased one. This is quite a drastic change from the desktop scenario where your Windows Vista-capable PC can run Windows 8 as well with no hardware changes requireds (unless you want to use the touch-optimized UI full-time). Sideloading first-party applications requires the device to be `developer-unlocked`, else you can install applications and games only through the official marketplace. The marketplace too was launched here in India only after the release of Windows Phone Mango about a year ago, when Microsoft officially launched the OS here. Although most of the popularly used iOS and Android applications have been ported for Windows Phone as well, in terms of sheer numbers, the marketplace is pretty small compared to Android/iOS. It is expanding very fast though, thanks to initiatives by Microsoft for developers such as the `I unlock joy` program, which is specific to India. Currently no devices support external storage. In fact, until the second generation devices, there were even no devices with a front-facing camera. The built-in applications such as Internet Explorer 9 mobile, Office 2010 mobile (including not just Word, Excel and PowerPoint but also SharePoint integration, Outlook and OneNote) , XBox Live and Zune, combined with best-in-class social network integration, has been a killer app as a whole for Windows Phone.

Other notable choices

Nokia’s combination of Symbian, Maemo/Meego and QT are each by themselves worthy platforms but they are slowly losing market share. And while Samsung’s Bada has not exactly lost market share, awareness about it amongst consumers remains very low.

In conclusion

There are things to look forward to in addition to the already released Android 4.1 and iOS 6. Windows Phone 8 is set to hit the market soon as well as BlackBerry 10 most probably after a few months. There is no stopping the surge in sales of smartphones.

 

Reference : PCQUEST

Categories
Gadgets Hack Mobile

To Root, Or Not To Root, That Is The Question!

The arguments for or against  hacking your mobile device to gain elevated access have been raging on for a decade or so now. Things probably became more heated up with the advent of the Apple IOS and, especially, the Android platforms where most consider rooting your android device as unsafe and unnecessary. I think it is time we put a lid on things as it is beginning to get pretty boring (yawn).

The facts are very clear. The decision to root your decision or not boils down to one single thing – YOU!

Many are content with the stock ROM that came with their devices and absolutely see no reason to change anything. It’s all good. Also, chances are that there are even more people out there that do not even know what rooting/jailbreaking is all about.

However, for the few that feel the need to push their devices to the limit, demanding from their devices its God (or is it Man’s) given capability, with the need to circumvent the manufacturer’s commercially motivated restrictions, there is only one option – ROOT!

I consider myself a Power User and I have been that way for close to a decade now. Right from the early days of the Symbian platform in Nigeria, Windows Mobile and lately, Apple IOS, I have fully familiarized myself with the very simple process of gaining elevated access to these platforms and I fully understand the risks and the advantages it confers.

In simple terms, i do liken rooting of a mobile device to gaining administrator access to a PC, it has it’s risks and advantages. You may read more about that here.

Apart from my compulsive desire to fully own what I broke my piggy bank to pay for (Paid almost $500 for my Toshiba Thrive. I live in a Third World country, Nigeria. We live on less than a dollar a day!), the perpetual habit of manufacturers to stuff unnecessary and very irritating bundled apps with our device makes rooting a very attractive option because it is only via rooting that you can uninstall them, recovering your valuable internal storage.

Take for example the trial version of Kaspersky that is being bundled with the Toshiba Thrive. I do not wish to pay for it but, unfortunately, installing another antivirus to the tablet may cause a software conflict. So root, i did.

And talking about alternatives to apps that require root, let us not kid ourselves, they can not just do the job as well.

For example, there are a myriad of apps for use in backing up your app installation files. In fact, it is even possible to do this with the aid of just a file explorer. But the thing is, all you get done is backing up just the installation file (.apk) because you need to root your device to be able to save your app data and settings.

Rooting is not for everyone and i fully understand the reason why most may not find this option attractive – the fear of bricking your device. Only God knows how many days you had to go without your dollar a day ration to save up to buy your device.

Let’s leave it to the real men to deal with.

I rest my case.

Categories
Gadgets

Behold, All Things Have Become New …

One of the signs of a dying OS platform is the increasingly decreasing (smile) rate at which software applications for the platform are churned out, coupled with the near dry-up in the number of phones that are produced containing the OS. Palm OS, Symbian UIQ and Symbian S60 are examples of now dead or near-dead OS platforms.

One other platform that can be considered dead is the Windows Mobile OS iterations; 5,6 and 6.1 and 6.5 platforms. From the enviable height of having about the most apps written for it among other mobile OS platforms, the Windows Mobile platform can hardly boast of any decent app released recently. Such was the predicament i faced when i realised that most programmers have discontinued writing apps for the Windows Mobile platform.

In my quest for a cheap but decent phone, late last year i got a HTC TyTn II (also known as AT&T Tilt), a windows mobile 6 phone with full QWERTY slider keyboard, a device with a fairly decent specs which i got through hayzees for about $180. The first thing i did was to format the phone, remove the whole OS containing the bloatware installed on the phone by AT&T and installed a clean and lean Windows Mobile 6.1 OS (cooked rom), devoid of all unnecessary softwares, thanks to the guys at XDA. With this, i was also able to free up enough space and RAM on the device.

HTC TyTN II
HTC TyTN II

However, a few weeks ago, i got really tired of the Windows Mobile platform and its lack of good up-to-date apps, i decided to lay the plaform to rest and try out the Android Platform via XDA forum. I must confess that, for me, the installation process was a bit of rocket science with a high possibility of “bricking” my phone in the process. Thankfully, i was able to install the crowd favorite, Android “Froyo” 2.2 on the device, complete with access to the android app market.

The snappy speed of the device with the experience of a whole new platform on an otherwise “old school” phone is a really exhilarating experience. It really feels like i have gotten myself a new phone!

Categories
Gadgets

Push Email – Revisited

Love it or hate it, the Blackberry has indeed become the device of choice for a lot of mobile enthusiasts, especially those who want to conduct business on the move.  Another category of users are those, who more out of peer pressure than anything else, find themselves clutching one, not considering the fact that they can barely afford it and greatly ignorant to the advantages the device confers. These are the set of people that would rather offer their BB pins than their mobile numbers, no “credit” for phone calls.

And for those of us who are torn between loving and hating this range of devices,  we would quickly list the following as some of the reasons why we have not caught the Blackberry bug;

– You can not use BlackBerry effectively unless you have a BlackBerry Internet plan. You are effectively tied to the apron strings of your network provider because without it, there is no blackberry messenger or email support.
– Theoretical “unlimited” data usage limited by the less than 3MB download limit using the in-built BlackBerry Browser and email client, a restriction placed by Blackberry.
– Less features compared to phones of similar or even lesser pricing
– Constant access to work.Your boss and co-workers will expect constant communication,  ignoring company emails can have negative effects. This is especially true if your BlackBerry is provided by an employer with demanding deadlines.
– Blackberry devices and Internet Plan are rather expensive and unaffordable to many.

smartphone push email

Grudgingly, we have also identified the following as the advantages or the edge blackberry devices have over other smartphones;
– They use up much less wireless network capacity to complete the same tasks, but some attribute this to the crappy, outmoded Web browser that doesn’t deliver comparable modern Web experience.
– Longer battery life
– Most Blackberries have usable QWERTY keyboards, so you can actually type fast and with no errors

But one major feature that is really the envy  of most is the Email Superiority. This was also our summation in a related post, in which we limited its efficiency only to the quality of internet services being offered by the mobile networks.

So what exactly are the features of Blackberry email messaging that separates it from the rest?
Email was the original purpose of BlackBerry devices and even after numerous operating system changes and upgrades, the email program still works much like it always did. BlackBerry is a Pioneer of Push Email. Wikipaedia describes PUSH EMAIL as e-mail systems that provide an always-on capability, in which new e-mail is actively transferred (pushed) as it arrives by the mail delivery agent (MDA) (commonly called mail server) to the mail user agent (MUA), also called the e-mail client. E-mail clients include smartphones and, less strictly, IMAP personal computer mail applications.Your emails, Calender are synced all the time.

Some alternatives were analyzed, Seven and Emoze email clients were listed among the best. However, these email clients are limited by their functionality. They act mostly by polling emails from email servers on a scheduled basis and pulls any messages into unique folders in your device. This process, apart from the fact that you do not get your mails in real time, it also drains your battery heavily.

push email smartphones

I took it upon myself to find a more satisfying and equally efficient alternative to the Blackberry, an alternative where i am not required to use any particular device and to a large extent, play by my own rules and not that dictated by any network.

Microsoft Exchange Hosting does pretty much all what Blackberry does and will work across lots of devices. You can pick up any symbian device and either use the free Mail4Exchange or the more reliable RoadSync which is not free. You can also use activesync with your Mobile Outlook for Windows Mobile devices, your iPhone, Android, Palm or just about any device that supports Microsoft Exchange. In a full Exchange environment, not only is everything synced at the server with the mobile device, and depending on your subscription, you would also get a free copy of Outlook 2007 for your home computer as part of the deal and that would also be synced with the server.  So changes to your email, calendar, notes or contacts made on, say, your computer will update the server and the mobile. Everything is synced and pushed in real time.

The cheapest Microsoft Exchange hosting i have been able to research is from mail2web.com. It offers 3 mobile email services;

mail2web Basic
FREE
mail2web Mobile Email
($4.95 or N750/month)
mail2web Mobile EmailPro ($9.95 or N1500/month)
Outlook Web Access Yes Yes Yes
POP3, IMAP4 and SMTP NO Yes Yes
ActiveSync NO Yes Yes
BlackBerry Service Add-On NO Yes Yes
RoadSync Add-On NO Yes Yes
Outlook 2007/2010 (Windows) NO NO Yes
Entourage 2008 (Mac) NO NO Yes

To effectively get a blackberry-like service on your smartphone, all you need is the mobile Email Plan going for $4.95 per month (about 750 Nigerian Naira).

From the chart, BlackBerry Service Add-On simply means that if you have a Blackberry device, you can avoid subscribing to any mobile network. All you need do is pay a minimum of $4.95 for a mobile Email Plan, then an additional $9.95 for a Blackberry service add-on, making a total of $14.90 (about N2,250 per month).

You would still need to subscribe to one of the low cost monthly data plan from, well, the mobile networks. A 50MB plan is more than sufficient, but I doubt if there is any. Etisalat and Airtel (Zain) have a 100 MB data plan for N1,000 per month. But if you’ll rather use Microsoft Outlook, you do not need a mobile data plan for this.

So with just N1,750 per month (could be less), I can effectively rival blackberry services.

But why dabble in uncertainties? Thankfully, mail2web.com is offering a 60 day trial, so you have a long time to test their services before subscribing. However, you will need to leave your card details but you can cancel if you wish. Nigerian Cards Accepted.

You do not have to host your domains with mail2web.com or tamper with your Nameservers in anyway, like some providers may require you to, to subscribe to their services.

The only thing close to a snag that I have noticed is that you are required to create an email address in the form username@mail2web.com, this is the default address mails from all mailboxes would be sent from. You are also required to enable email forwarding from as many mailboxes as you want to this mail box. This is easily done in gmail and CPanel hosted emails. However, the process of changing the default address that mails would be sent from is not very straight forward.

Categories
Gadgets

The TiTan

While we wait for the launch of the first set of Meego devices come 2011, i will be taking a cursory look at a couple of what is on offer at the moment.

One OS that has piqued my curiosity is the Windows Phone 7 (WP7). The only thing the new smartphone OS has in common with its predecessors is the name. It is designed freshly from the ground up for a finger-driven interface and built to be clean, attractive, and consistent. The ambition is that it will finally give Microsoft a platform that will enable it to take on the iPhone and Android phones. This ambition is now a fact. Microsoft has indeed made a powerful comeback. In line with the trend, its focus has moved to consumers with particular focus on social networking and multimedia.It is even compatible with the Mac OSX with an official syncing software released by Microsoft. It’s compatibility with Linux is yet to be determined though. The geek in me finds the WP7 very promising, something to tinker with for a while.

windows-phone-7

There have been so much noise lately about the Nokia N8 but for personal reasons, i refuse to join the bandwagon. With a price tag of about $500, would i pick this device over even Nokia N900? I seriously doubt it. Infact, No! What category of people is this phone targeted at? The BlackBerry-crazed youths and “youth at hearts”, the Business class or the geeks? With a price tag like that, i really wonder.

However, the Nokia N8 is the first smartphone powered by the new Symbian^3 OS and it packs a protruding 12 megapixel camera and a host of other enhancements. How much of the 12 Megapixel is a hype is yet to be determined. But with its brushed aluminium build and design, the product has definitely been well received.

Nokia N8

It is a known fact however that, being human, no smartphone will ever, never ever, be satisfactory to everyone and i expect to start seeing some bad reviews about these OSes any time soon.

My reservation for these OSes is however of a different kind, proprietary restrictions. Nokia probably comes tops here, which is probably a success for Nokia. Correct me if i’m wrong, apart from the N900, i am not sure there are many Nokia smartphones out there that have been extensively hacked or their ROMS modified to the extent of what has been done on Windows Mobile smartphones and the IPhone.

I have to admit that i do not follow the trend when i am buying my gadgets, moreso when frontline gadgets today become lost in the crowd a few months later. For a $500 Nokia N8 purchase, i will only get a few months of glory?! Then, what next?

I ordered for a brand new HTC TyTN II phone (remember it?). Pronounced TITAN, it is a 2007 release. In its hey days, the phone was sold for about $700 but i got it for less than $200! I have used a lot of Windows Mobile phones in my time and one major thing i love about them is the ease of modification of their ROMS. The TyTN II comes with Windows Mobile 6.1 OS, but i intend to flush the OS out as soon as possible and install an ANDROID ROM! Yes, you heard right, ANDROID ROM, courtesy of some crazy guys at XDA DEVELOPERS. I really do not believe in just starring at my gadgets, and only take the limited functionalities the manufacturers have to offer. To me, a phone is NOT just a phone. I can not wait to get my hands on it.

HTC TyTN II

Well, till Meego devices roll out 2011, i’ll stick to the TiTan.

God keep us till then.

Categories
Articles

Crash!

There was a long squealing noise and then silence. My son, in his characteristic loud manner, shouted “Daddy, who is making noise?” Wasn’t sure, but I had been hearing some squealing noises from my computer for a while, a noise I had attributed to the usual noise they make when they are been put to real use. My sixth sense never warned me.

We had just gotten back from church and I was thinking of posting an article on this blog. I tried working with my laptop but the whole stuff was “hanging”! Now, I was getting suspicious. With my heart gradually getting close to my mouth, I forcefully rebooted the system. All I got for my efforts where some error messages. Oh Lord, my God, I must have recited about 5 chapters from the book of Psalms. I dashed for my toolkit, a Live Ubuntu DVD and a Hiren CD. Both confidently reported back that no hard disk was on my laptop! My God, I suddenly felt very sick, the laptop is barely 4 months old! The SEAGATE, 500GB Hard drive in the laptop had crashed. Did I not pray well in church? I know I did, the Pastor even laid hands on me, so why this? The website design I was working on, just because I couldnt pay some guy in the UK $700, was right in it. All my Youtube tutorial videos, my software downloads, my music files and my blog write-ups were all in it. I have not been having much luck with gadgets these past few years, is it me or is it that they don’t make them as good as they used to?

First, it was my 2 high end Windows mobile phones, then my Garmin Car Navigator, followed closely by my Ipod Touch, then my $500 6 hour battery life Samsung netbook literally fell apart. Now this!

Well, what can I do? I couldn’t continue crying over spilled milk. My eyes fell on my wife’s 17 inch, 500GB HP Monster and the proverbial light bulb came on. Made a grab for my screw driver and relieved her of the 500GB Hard Drive, she won’t be missing it anyway, afterall, all she does on the laptop is 75% Facebook, 20% GAMEHOUSE games and 5% Microsoft Word. Why would you need 500GB for that? I replaced it with a 160GB that had been lying around. That, in my opinion, was more than sufficient.

Ok, maybe I did lose all my data, but i’m back on the beat, punching away on my Mandriva laptop.

Moral of the story? Yeah, it’s very boring and a little tedious, but you will do well if you always back up your files!

PS: Suggestions welcomed, will be glad to recover the content of the drive.

Categories
Gadgets

Push Email

With the landmark judgement against Research in Motion (RIM), a Canadian Company and the providers of the Blackberry PDA, for patent infringement in 2006 and an award of US$612.5 Million in favour of NTP Inc, a Virginia based company, it seems safe to say that the technology of push email was pioneered by NTP and not RIM as widely believed. Even as at the time of filing in this report, there is an existing suit filed against Apple, Google, HTC, LG, Microsoft and Motorola for infringement of wireless email patents.

Not withstanding, the initial setback, it is a fact that RIM has been able to create a niche for itself in the wireless email sector, so much that its Blackberry product has become synonymous with Push email. They hold the ace and all other push email providers we will discuss in this write-up only try to attain the standards set by this company.

There are many solutions available and each uses a slightly different approach. However, most mobile solutions do not use a true push-model but employ a pull-model whereby the clients pull emails from the server at set intervals instead of having the mails pushed to the device from the server.