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  • What I Love About the BlackBerry Storm (aka The Perfect Storm)

    Posted on November 30th, 2008 Shawn 6 comments

    There be some haters on the new BlackBerry Storm around the interwebs. So, although I’m no fanboy, I can point out some things of this new device that I really love. Without further ado, let’s give this boy some love…

    Screen Resolution: I still think this thing is just beautiful. Few devices have a screen as crisp, colorful, and just plain nice to look at as the Storm.
    Bluetooth: From calls via a Bluetooth headset, to music/video on a Bluetooth stereo headset, this thing just works. Best Bluetooth implementation I have ever used on a smartphone.
    Multitasking: I can have many apps open and running in the background, without issue. 5 instant message apps, Facebook, TwitterBerry, media player, and still runs well.
    Storage/Memory: 1GB on-board, plus 8GB included memory card. Plenty or room for storage.
    Touchscreen Sensitivity: Although, the click-screen I’m not totally sold on, the touchscreen is perfectly sensitive allowing adjustments for personal preference. Having used many touchscreen devices, I think the sensitivity on the Storm is just right.
    Applications: A bizarre thing I keep reading is people comparing the number of apps for iPhone vs. Storm. Some stating the Storm has zero apps, while pointing out over 10,000 (and counting) for iPhone. Let’s point out some Storm apps that I am using, and loving. Flycast (streaming radio), TwitterBerry (mobile Twitter), XBerry Live (XBox Live), Facebook, Yahoo Messenger, Google Talk, Windows Live Messenger, and AOL Instant Messenger. There are a few others that I haven’t yet had a chance to play with like Flickr, Verizon Visual Voice Mail, VZ Navigator, Rhapsody, and Google Maps. Most of these apps are available on the in the built-in Application Center on the Storm. There’s more coming, and a full Application Store (like mobile iTunes) on it’s way.
    [ad#post-banner-ad]
    Camera: The picture quality on the 3.2 mp camera is great. The video recording is also great for a phone. Plus with a flash that can be used on photos and video, this is a great device to catch those spur of the moment photos or videos.
    Browser: This is a good browser. You can set it up to view mobile web pages, or full pages (as if viewed from Internet Explorer or Firefox). The visual quality of the browser is great, and zoom feature is working quite well. Once Flash is built into the browser, this will easily blow away 99% of the other mobile browsers available.
    Streaming Video: I visited the mobile YouTube site (http://m.youtube.com) and searched for some of my favorite videos. Once clicked, the browser would open up my media player and begin streaming the videos just like on a PC/Mac. Worked, looked, sounded great. Very little lag (unless in area with bad reception).

    The Storm is quite good. Like any new piece of technology, it’s not perfect (I’ll talk about some areas for improvement in tomorrows piece). Fortunately, there is already a BlackBerry OS update (v4.7.0.75) leaked in the wild, and rumored that Verizon will be officially releasing this around December 5. Like the iPhone users, looks like us BlackBerry users are going to be treated to quick and regular software updates, as RIM, Verizon, and Vodaphone work to create the “Perfect Storm”.

  • Update for BlackBerry Storm Available

    Posted on November 30th, 2008 Shawn 1 comment

    There is an operating system update for the BlackBerry Storm just made available. We will be updating later today and will post our results.  If you have already run the update, let us know what’s new and how the update went.

    From what I hear, it’s a leak and not an official RIM update.  Here’s the link:

    http://www.ndnguyen.com/bbstorm/9530AMEA_PBr4%5b1%5d.7.0_rel107_PL4.0.0.94_A4.7.0.75.exe

    SOURCE

  • Cheap GPS, Good Deal?

    Posted on November 27th, 2008 Shawn No comments

    Happy Thanksgiving….now, let’s talk Black Friday. This morning, I did my research on inexpensive GPS units for my wife. Looks like we have a winner (and I got the ok to sell it in our store). Thought we’d share the news with you.

    TomTom One 125 GPS - Black TomTom One 125 GPS – Black
    Let this GPS lead the way on your next trip. With millions of points of interest and turn-by-turn voice instructions, you’ll easily be able to find your way out on the open road.


    $99.99 via BestBuy.com


    If you have it, let us know what you think. If you have another portable GPS, let us know what you think of yours.
    UPDATE: I just bought this GPS from the “Buy” button above.  Free shipping and only $99.99.  Turn-by-turn spoken directions, 3.5″ touchscreen, 3D maps, USB PC connection to download new/updated maps.  Looks like a steal to me. If interested, let me know and I’ll post a review.  I think it’s limited supplies.  If interested, use our BestBuy.com “Buy” button above (it’s the same price as you’d get from BestBuy, plus you’ll be helping support your favorite blog 😉 My Gadget, Game & Gizmo Obsession (powered by blog.JavaDevelop.com).

  • BlackBerry Music Player vs. Palm’s Normsoft Pocket Tunes

    Posted on November 26th, 2008 Shawn 1 comment

    If you know me, then you know that I have been a longtime Palm OS fanboy. With a transition to a new job, my employer “highly recommends” BlackBerry (BB). After months of hemming-and-hawing, I decided to make the move from Palm OS and go to BB. The BB Storm 9530 is the device I am currently using.

    Media is a very high priority for me on my smartphone, and I have been very involved over the years with the software vendors that support Palm media apps. Ok, so you have my background, now let’s get into the comparison of BB Music Player and Pocket Tunes.

    I’m talking about BB 4.7 Media Player, but specifically focusing on the Music player. For Pocket Tunes, I’m talking about Pocket Tunes 4.0.x for both Palm OS and Windows Mobile. For you iPod/iTunes junkies, please weigh in with comments, since I don’t know that platform well.

    Sound Quality:
    Both are great on sound quality. For Pocket Tunes, there are several devices that support this, so the speaker quality will vary on the device. Both the Treo 650 and Treo 700p have poor speakers. The BB Storm has a decent (though not excellent) speaker. So the Storm wins on speaker quality.
    For headset use, it’s a tie. Both are great IMO. This is a tie.
    Headset Jack:
    This is hardware specific, but nearly all Palm devices have a proprietary 2.5mm adaptor, so standard headsets need an adaptor to connect, not a fan of this. The Storm has a standard 3.5mm jack. Tried it with a cassette adapter, workds great. Though not related to the software, the Storm wins this one. Point to Storm.
    Navigation:
    Storm navigation is slower for me than a QWERTY keyboard with key shortcuts on the Treo’s. Though the navigation screens of solecting bands, songs, etc are both similar. The Storm has a leg up though, because Pocket Tunes must refresh the library after anytime the SD card has been accessed, which can take up to a minute with a full card. So, there’s a trade-off here. Issues with both, no point.
    Album Art:
    Both support album art, which is big for me. The Storm crushes Pocket Tunes here. With the very high resolution on the Storm, album are is absolutely beautiful. Pocket Tunes isn’t shabby, but album are is a bit clunky and limited to the Treo’s 320×320 resolution (other higher/lower resolutions available on other devices). Also, with the Storm having a larger screen size, the art is larger too. Point Storm.
    Speaker/Bluetooth:
    Though this category relates to the earlier Sounds Quality and Headset Jack, I’m focusing on how the software and hardware work together for different sound profiles. For example, using a wired cassette adapter, while synced with a phone Bluetooth headset. Palm OS has never been good as sound profile switching. With anything plugged into a Treo headset jack, all sounds (music, calls, etc) go to the jack. Stereo Bluetooth on a Palm OS Treo is a 3rd party afterthought, and is clunky at best.
    For the Storm, it just works. If I am listening to music on my stereo Bluetooth headset, and then plug a wired headset/cassette adaptor into the jack, the music (and all system sounds) immediately dump to the wired adapter, though all calls will remain routed to the Bluetooth headset. Vise-versa, if I unplug the wired headset/adapter, all sounds are immediately routed to the stereo Bluetooth headset. Flawless. Point goes to Storm (it’s done so well, I’d give more points, if I could).
    Controls (FF, Rew, Pause, etc.):
    Pocket Tunes has many free skins that allow you to cusomize the layout. I don’t know if BB has the same. The default BB skin does not have easy FF and rewind controls, just an onscreen slider. It’s nearly impossible to use the slider on-screen. So, if listening to a 1 hour podcast, there’s no easy way to jump forward or backward a few minutes or seconds. Pocket Tunes has some very easy to use skins that allow one-touch jump capabilities forward or backward, plus both soft and hard FF and rewind keys. For now, Pocket Tunes win hands-down with controls, though some skin updates to the Storm could fix this and even the playing field. Point Pocket Tunes.
    Internet Radio:
    Pocket Tunes integrates streaming Internet Radio, and includes dozens of out-of-the-box stations, plus allowing you to add more. I have not seen any Internet Radio option on the Storm Music Player. I have been playing with FlyCast for BB Internet Radio use, but it’s a separate application. For now, point goes to Pocket Tunes.
    Equalizer:
    Both have EQ, Pocket Tunes is customizable with sliding EQ’s, though requires fine use of a stylus to edit. Storm has several pre-defined EQ settings. Both work well, though I will give it to the Storm for the ability to quickly set EQ. Point Storm.
    Bookmarks:
    Ummm….where are the bookmark features on the Storm Music Player? With Pocket Tunes, I listen to a lot of long podcasts, and don’t always get to finish them in one listening. So, I use bookmarks to hold my place and I can pick up where I left off next time. With BB, there is no bookmark feature, that I know of. So, if I close the Music app or change songs, there is no marking of where I left off on the previous song/podcast. Seems like this could be a fairly easy software update for BB to make. BIG point for Pocket Tunes.
    Crossfade:
    When on a long drive, I like to listen to my music in a radio-like fashion (sans the commercials, of course). I like songs to fade in-out of each other. Pocket Tunes does this, although due to limited hardware resources on Treo’s it can skip at times. The Storm has no crossfade options that I have seen. So, point Pocket Tunes.
    File Management:
    Both let you create/manage/update playlists. Both let you delete songs/artists/playlists. Both have similar navigation. Both let you bulk delete. I can do all of the above a lot faster on Pocket Tunes, but I would call that a learning curve for me on the Storm. Let’s call this one an even playing field. No point on this.
    Playlists:
    Same as File Management. Same capabilities across both. I can work faster on the Treo, but give me some time to adapt to the Storm. No point.
    Desktop Compatibility:
    So the BB claims iTunes support, where the Palm OS does not (note, Windows Mobile Treo’s with Pocket Tunes do have iTunes support). I have not yet tested the Storm with iTunes, but plan to. Since I download several podcasts via iTunes, I hope to use that as my only media syncing app. For Pocket Tunes, I use Windows Media Player. Both have their issues, where Pocket Tunes has occasional syncing glitches. Plus with no multi-tasking on the Palm OS, you can do anything with the device while it syncs. For the Storm with full multi-tasking, you can sync, while listening to music (and basically doing any thing else) on the device. I tried Windows Media Player with the Storm, and got decent results. A couple times, songs did not sync, and one time a playlist in Windows Media Player got corrupted and I needed to rebuild it after connecting to the Storm. This is a hard one to give the point too. Though with multi-tasking capabilities, similar sync experiences, and the potential of iTunes support, point Storm.

    Quick tally and summary here.  With a possible total of 13 points, Pocket Tunes gets 4, BB Storm gets 5, and 4 end in a tie.  Very close call.  Although the Storm fairs better, it is newer technology on newer hardware.  It is close enough to either call a tie or a squeaker of a win for the Storm.  I believe that if RIM can update their BB 4.7 OS to fix the areas I have issue with, the BB Music player will be excellent.  Also, I know that Pocket Tunes currently supports Palm OS and Windows Mobile.  If my friends at Normsoft want to start porting Pocket Tunes over to the Storm, send me an email 😉

  • Rock Band now rockin’ Killers, Yngwie, Soundgarden & Lamb

    Posted on November 25th, 2008 Shawn No comments

    Today, we get a dose of new DLC for Rock Band.  For the haters that have been complaining about one band per week, here goes four awesome bands to pick from…all with their own uniqueness.  For me, I’m still out of MS Points….guess I know what to ask Santa for this year.

    The Killers 3 Pack!

    Mr. Brightside
    Smile Like You Mean It
    Spaceman

    Yngwie Malmsteen 3 Pack!

    Caprici Di Diablo
    Damnation Game
    Red Devil

    Soundgarden Singles!

    Jesus Christ Pose
    Pretty Noose

    Lamb of God Single!

    Laid To Rest


    Each track is available for $1.99 (160 Microsoft Points) or $5.49 (440 Microsoft Points) for the complete three packs.

    All tracks are masters.

    This DLC will be available on 11/25 for both Xbox360 AND the PS3 (thanks to the holiday next Thursday).

  • BlackBerry Storm: First Impressions of a BB Novice

    Posted on November 24th, 2008 Shawn No comments

    Alright, it’s Storm time.  After months of discussion, three hours of waiting in line at a Verizon Wireless (VZW) store, only to be told the computers were down and to come back later, I got myself a BlackBerry Storm at 6:00 PM Friday night.  I’ve had some time to play with it, though a lot more time is needed to get a full review.

    Keep in mind, this is my first foray into the world of BlackBerry (BB).  This is my first hands-on a BB device, coming from several Palm OS (i.e. Treo) devices.  You can bet my take on the Storm will be quite different from the long-time BB users.

    As I started playing around this weekend, I realized that my first impression would be a mixed bag.  In an attempt to decide how to write the first impression as a fanboy or a naysayer, I will take the approach my parents taught me growing up.  For every negative thing I have to say, I will say two positive things.  So, here goes.

    Naysayer: Typing, is not easy for me.  I’m coming from having a QWERTY keyboard always available.  I have no idea how to use SureType or T9 typing (which is what you get in the Storm’s portrait mode). Passwords, to me, are near impossible to type in this mode.  In landscape mode, you get a QWERTY on-screen keyboard.  This is easier to use, but is taking me a couple days to get used to it.  You highlight a letter to type, and then click it to select.  I had a lot of mistypes these past couple days, thanks to my fat fingering. You need to press a function key to bring up numbers and symbols.  I haven’t figured out how to keep those screens up, so if I need to type four numbers in a row, I need to type the function key, then the number, four times. Not liking that too much. I’m guessing that most of this is just learning curve, and I’ll get better at it as time goes.
    Fanboy: This is a sleek looking device.  The hardware looks real nice, and the UI looks crisp, sharp, and generally eye-appealing.  At first glance, many people will be immediately drawn to it.
    Fanboy
    : Out of the box application integration.  I’m quite impressed with the apps that are included out of the box, like Documents To Go (the best MS Office suite for smartphones), Facebook, Flickr, AOL Instant Messenger, Gmail Talk, Yahoo IM, Windows IM, and more.

    Naysayer: In two days, I have seen two system freezes. Oh, how I’m reminded of the Palm OS days.  The first freeze came as I was browsing around different apps and webs, getting used the thing.  I was at the default home screen with a little clock in the center.  The picture of the clock with spinning arms (i.e. just like the hour glass on Windows), was still there 10 minutes later.  Buttons and touchscreen were dead.  Looked dead to me.  So, I pulled out the battery and put it back in to force a reset.  All was fine for about a day, until yesterday afternoon.  I was at a birthday party, and taking some photos with the Storm.  Next thing I noticed was a white screen (I guess I’d call it the white screen of death), with the clock again.  After a few minutes of waiting, I impatiently reset it by removing the battery again.  Then white screen again for 5 minutes.  I removed the battery again.  White screen…so I waited.  After more than 10 minutes the Storm came back online.  My quick techie guess is that it was in the process of dumping cache and rebooting, and possibly I had so much stuff cached from taking photos, that it took so long to restart.  Definitely, not impressive.
    Fanboy: Bluetooth is just great!  I was able to connect my Motorola S9 Bluetooth Stereo headset in a matter of seconds. That automatically setup Bluetooth for calls, video, audio, etc.  Very easy, and works flawlessly. coming from the abysmal world of Palm’s implementation of Bluetooth, the Storm is light years ahead.  Bluetooth on the Storm is just perfect, IMO.  Listening to music and watching videos, is working great.
    Fanboy: BlackBerry maps. I think that’s the name of the app.  The pre-installed Maps application works great with GPS.  I haven’t played with it much, but it kept my location accurate at all times.

    Naysayer: No WiFi.  The VZW fanboys are saying, “who needs WiFi when you have the best network in the U.S.?”  I disagree.  My old fashioned suburb, has the worst VZW reception.  It’s so bad that I had to wait until today (at work) to try out most of the features.  I barely get 1 bar on 1X at home (basically 1G or no-G).  I’m quite disappointed with the lack of WiFi.  If my local townies can stop shutting VZW out of putting up new towers, then I will stop complaining about lack of WiFi.  Until then, the Storm is no use to me at home.
    Fanboy: Since this is a phone, let’s talk about that.  Solid, works great.  The phone app looks great, is easy to use.  The call quality is excellent.  Speaker sounds great.  Bluetooth is wonderful.  Voice activated dialing is best I have ever used.  Phone is outstanding.
    Fanboy: Storage capacity.  9+ GB out of the box, thanks to the included 8GB microSD card.  That’s excellent, and the storage space will go a long way with apps, music, and video that I plan to put on this.
    Fanboy: The price.  At $199 for new contract, and $99 for renewing VZW customers…let’s face it, the price is a steal.

    UPDATE: Naysayer: Sluggish UI.  To quote my wife, “This is B.S.” The UI is a bit sluggish to me and my wife. Compared to the BB Bold, the Bold wins hands down in snappy UI competition.  Hopefully, it’s not due to the Storm having laggy hardware, and hopefully it will be updated with a forthcoming ROM update.
    Fanboy: Multi-tasking.  What a great feeling to be able to keep 10 apps open and be able to navigate back and forth between them.  As I type, I’m syncing music from Windows Media Player to the Storm, and I’m able to move around the device and use other apps, simultaneously.

    I will bring you more of the Naysayer vs. Fanboy approach to reviewing the Storm, but need to get some work done.  Check back later today (or tomorrow)…

  • iPhone 2.2 Update Available Today

    Posted on November 21st, 2008 Pabel 3 comments

    In a pretty underwhelming response to the BB Storm, Apple has released the 2.2 software update for the iPhone.  The following is included:

    • Google Street View
    • Public transit and walking directions
    • Display address of dropped pins in Maps
    • Share location via email
    • Improved formatting of wide HTML email
    • Improved stability and performance of Safari
    • Podcasts are now available for download in iTunes application (over Wi-Fi and cellular network)
    • Decrease in call set-up failures and call drops
    • Improved sound quality of visual voicemail messages
    • Pressing the Home button from any Home screen takes you to the first Home screen
    • Preference to turn on/off auto-correction in Keyboard Settings

    So nothing earth-shattering, but honestly, it’s nice to see a device actually get some good software improvements as opposed to the dreaded “it’ll be fixed in the next version of the product” response companies are usually good at.  I know this is definitely something the Storm-watchers will want to see RIM do w/ it’s new flagship device.

    Anyway, I haven’t gotten the update yet, but am looking forward to it.  The email fetch and wide HTML issues were annoying and will definitely be nice to see disappear.  The new Google Maps functionality will be cool, but nothing I’ll be ultra anxious to use.  Probably the biggest feature I like in this release is the over the air podcast downloads.  Very nice feature.

    Overall, a lot of this probably should have been there from the beginning and I imagine the Storm’s release lit a little fire.  Hopefully this new rivalry will lead to two great phones and two satisfied user bases.  You know, after all the verbal jabs….

  • Chinese Democracy is in my hand

    Posted on November 21st, 2008 Shawn 1 comment

    I am speechless, and sure hope you pre-ordered your copy of Guns N’ Roses Chinese Democracy. My copy just surprisingly showed up in my mail. It is sitting right in front of me, still sealed.
    This is going to be my first GNR album opening since the Spaghetti Incident in 1994.

    Well, just wanted you to know, I have it…and about to open it and toss it in my Xbox 360 for a listen.

    Five minutes ago, I updated to the New Xbox Experience, and I’m in the middle of modding my Rock Band drum kit, oh, and am in a three hour queue at Verizon Wireless to get a BlackBerry Storm. (I’ll be heading back to the store in an hour or so).

    What a freakin’ crazy day! I LOVE this!

  • BlackBerry Storm Accessories NOW in Stock

    Posted on November 20th, 2008 Shawn No comments


    In honor of tomorrow’s release of the BlackBerry Storm on Verizon, we have gone through the available inventory and updated our Store. We’ve got (what we think) are the important accessories that (we believe) will not come in the Storm box from Verizon. Stuff like, screen protectors, nice protective cases, car chargers, and headsets.

    We’ve also done our homework (so you don’t have to) to get the lowest prices we can find.

    If you are a Storm junky, like me…take a look at our Store. Let us know what you think about the Storm, once you get your hands on it.

  • First Storm Reviews Are Up

    Posted on November 20th, 2008 Pabel No comments

    We normally don’t like just linking to others work w/o commentary, but wanted to let everyone know that Engadget has their BB Storm Review up.

    Being the iPhone correspondent, I want to give our staff here at 3G an opportunity to get their hands on the device themselves and post their own thoughts before the compare and contrast battle begins.  All things considered, however, it’s definitely a good/interesting read.

    UPDATE:  Another review is up.  Let the conspiracy theorists and fan-boys unite.

    UPDATE2:  Yet another.  Clearly Apple paid every single one of these journalists off.

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