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  • Garmin Mobile GPS on BlackBerry Storm…for less than $80

    Posted on December 15th, 2008 Shawn No comments


    Get ready to open your wallets kids. Garmin (you know one of the big guys in the portable GPS game), has just released Garmin Mobile 5.4.2 which is fully compatible with Verizon’s (VZW) BlackBerry 9530 Storm.

    For you long-time VZW people, you might be shocked and confused. You see, VZW is the king of crippling good devices. Always known to not allow devices with WiFi, in fear of people not signing up for a data plan; or lock down GPS, so users will have to pay a monthly fee for VZ Navigator, that’s the VZW we all know and love.

    By the way, VZ Navigator is rebranded GPS software from TELENAV, available on many VZW (and other carrier) phones. It’s decent, not incredible, but decent and costs $9.99 a month. That’s where you can start to get upset at VZW, since they lock down GPS so that you can only use it with VZ Navigator. But, hate no longer.

    In the past few months, there have been rumors of a few Windows Mobile devices to have the GPS spell lifted. Just last week, we quietly learned that all BlackBerry devices with GPS (running OS 4.5 or newer) no longer have the curse either. Yup, GPS is fully unlocked. Many people are still finding it hard to believe.

    So, I’m proving it to you now. BB Maps…works perfect. It’s basically RIM’s version of Google Maps for Mobile. If you are cheap or low on cash, the free BB Maps will get the GPS job done. Oh, Google Maps for Mobile, does not work on the Storm yet. We’ve determined by our non-scientific methods that it’s a Google issue, not a RIM or Verizon issue.

    Here’s the best part, I bought Garmin Mobile last night (with a discount code for only $79). I’ve been using it all day for every basic and advanced GPS feature and it works flawlessly.

    Routing, traffic, weather, spoken turn-by-turn directions, utilizing contacts, finds local places of interest, and on and on. It retails for $99 at www.garmin.com, but with a link to their discount club site, you can get it for $79.
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    Let’s compare this to the stand-alone TomTom ONE 125 that I bought for $99.99 before tax a week ago.

    Maps
    TomTom = preloaded maps.
    Garmin = Loads maps as you drive with GPS and cellular signal.

    Screen
    Both have about a 3.5″ screen, with the Storm having a higher resolution.

    Traffic
    TomTom = no
    Garmin = yes

    Fuel location/prices
    TomTom = additional cost
    Garmin = included

    I’ll be honest, I don’t know a lot about the GPS world (yet). But for a free 7-day trial, plus a 30-day money back guarantee…if you are a Storm (or any BB with GPS) user, you have to try Garmin Mobile.

    Here’s the link for the trial download.  Point your BB browser at it, if you are running the 9530 Storm.

    If you want the link for the discount code, leave me a comment and I’ll email it to you.

    Oh, and to wrap up…I’m returning the TomTom ONE 125 unopened.  Not that I have anything against the TomTom, it actually looks great for the money.  I’m all about convergence.  I want it all in one device, and Thanks for VZW, RIM, and Garmin…nirvana (bliss, not the band) is betting closer.

    Need any questions answered about VZW, Storm, or Garmin?  Let me know and I’ll try best to answer.

    UPDATE: Some things I’d like to see improved in updates:
    * Media Player pauses music when turn-by-turn direction is announced, music never resumes.  Need to automatically resume music after directions are spoken.
    * Turn-by-turn directions voice is a bit “electronic sounding”.  Would be nice to have voice options.
    * Battery drain.  I’m finding that I need to fully charge the Storm twice a day.  I guess I’m a “power user”.  Need a bigger battery, or something to help manage battery life.
    * A car mount that holds the Storm in landscape mode.
    * Voice activated contacts, possibly reusing the Storm’s built-in implementation of Nuance’s voice dialing software.

  • Storms Selling Like Crazy, More Loved features

    Posted on December 4th, 2008 Shawn No comments

    Two topics in today’s BlackBerry Storm post.  First, Verizon should be paying me commission since I have convinced three individual Storm sales this week alone. Second, I have some more features that I’m loving about the Storm which had not mentioned in earlier posts.

    This past weekend, I inadvertently convinced my 18 year old brother to get a Storm.  He is due for the Verizon “New Every Two” upgrade, and the Samsung Glyde was in his scopes.  While he and I were out Christmas shopping, I let him check out my Storm (and of course, I kept talking about it’s features).  After telling him the data plan on the Glyde would be higher, he’d get less included memory, and not a “real” smartphone OS, he walked over to the Verizon store at the Natick Collection and ordered a Storm.  I didn’t intend to sell him on it, in fact I tried to talk him out of a smartphone all together…c’mon he’s only 18.  Does he really need to get obsessed like us, at that age?

    The second sale came from one of America’s finest.  As I was leaving the gym yesterday, listening to music on my Motorola S9’s and Storm, a young Air Force captain (dressed in his camo) stopped me and asked if I was using a Storm.  He told me he was on his second Motorola Q (had the original, now rocking the Q9c) and looking to break contract if the Storm was good.  I let him play with my Storm for about five minutes, and we talked about the good and bad.  Good: 9GB of memory & good media player (i.e. no need for an iPod any more), good phone, excellent Bluetooth.  Bad: You will miss the QWERTY keys, no Wifi (you won’t miss that since it’s not on the Q).  He said, he’s going to order one and give it a 30-day try.

    The third sale was my employer buying me one.  Yup, I will soon be in possession of not one, but TWO Storms!  My employer will not let personal units connect up to the corporate BES, that’s BlackBerry Enterprise Server for you new guys (me included).  So, they are waiting on three demo units to arrive from Verizon for testing.  Once testing is complete and (hopefully) approved, they will order me a “corporate” Storm.  At that point, I have lovingly offered to sign my personal Storm over to my dear wife.
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    Now, on to some more features that I love about the Storm.

    • Voice Dialing via Bluetooth. This is something the Palm OS could never figure out.  Some 3rd party apps did ok, but never perfected.  On the Storm voice dialing via Bluetooth is awesome.
      • To you iPhone and Windows Mobile guys, how does Bluetooth voice dialing work for you?  (That’s an honest question, not a dig).
    • 3.2 Megapixel camera/video with Flash.  I’ve never had a flash on my mobile phone before, and the flash on the Storm is bright and awesome.  I set it up to ‘always on’ for video, which allows for nighttime video (and photo) shoots. Plus is doubles as an excellent emergency flashlight.
      • I know the iPhone lacks a flash, and has a lower quality camera.  What about the AT&T Tilt?  I’m thinking the Storm wins here too.
    • Visual Voice Mail.  So, I sucked it up and tried the $3 a month Verizon Visual Voice Mail feature.  Basically, all your voicemails get downloaded to your phone (like MP3s) and you can play them without dialing into your voicemail.  It allows quick on-screen rewind and fast forward, as well as caller ID, and callback.  It’s quite cool, but not sure it’s worth $36 a year. I like it, but will probably cancel it in a month.
    • Standard Headset Jack. I have been stuck with 4 years of Treo’s and their non-standard headset jack, which forced me to buy proprietary headsets or adaptors if I ever wanted to connect.  It was such a pain.  The Storm has a standard 3.5mm jack, and all headsets, cassette adaptors, etc just work and well.
  • 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)…

  • 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.

  • Angry at Verizon’s Private Sale Scam? You’re Not Alone

    Posted on November 18th, 2008 Shawn No comments

    Apparently, I’m not alone in my frustration with Verizon Wireless and their supposed Private Sale for the BlackBerry Storm (see post from yesterday).

    I just did a cursory check of the interwebs, and found more than I can list. Instead of re-posting, here’s a few links that relate.

    http://www.rimarkable.com

    http://gizmodo.com

    http://www.boygeniusreport.com

    There are many more like this, but you get the point.  So, I’ve seen one commenter as pissed as I am at Verizon.  How does this effect you?

  • Verizon Wireless Private Sale…scam

    Posted on November 17th, 2008 Shawn 4 comments

    I’m a bit frustrated at the moment with Verizon Wireless (VZW) and their attempt to early promote the BlackBerry Storm.  Read my earlier posts about this private sale mailer.  The mailed advertisement is individually addressed (with my cell number on it) and states a specific VZW store to visit between November 17 – 21.  On the front of the mailing is the exclusive BlackBerry Storm.  Inside the ad are four other phones that are listed with “special” private sale pricing.

    The store with my invite is the Circuit City in Burlington, MA.  I went this morning, and waited out front early, since they open at 10:00 AM.  Once they opened, I walked to the VZW counter and asked the rep for a demo of the Storm.  He told me they won’t be available for sales before Black Friday, and there were none in stock today.

    I showed him my private sale mailing, and it was the first he has seen or heard of it.  (That’s the same thing I heard yesterday at the VZW store in Nashua, NH).  He was also shocked at the nice photo of the Storm on the inside, said “That’s the best picture of the phone I have seen so far”.  That’s all he had for me.  Suggested I check back on Friday, but couldn’t offer me anything else.  No hands-on.  No pre-order.  He also told me the pricing for the four other phones was not special, but it was the same everyday price that is currently offered.  I’m extremely frustrated at the moment at this VZW ad, which is looking more and more like some false advertising.

    I also checked this morning at the VZW store in the Burlington Mall, “the local flagship store”, and they also had no idea when the phone would arrive.

    When I got home, I dialed the 800 number that is on the mailing (which I know is the actual VZW customer service number).  Was on hold for 10 minutes, and hung up.  Tried again an hour later, got a message “We are experiencing technical difficulties.  Please call again later.”

    So, some background here.  I have been bouncing back and forth between leaving VZW for AT&T and getting the BlackBerry Bold.  If the Bold came out earlier in the year, like it was planned, I’d have gotten it months ago.  But, with the Storm release date so close to the Bold’s, I’d like to have hands on both before making my decision.

    After this experience, I’m quite disappointed in VZW’s marketing.  Time was wasted today, as I had hoped to get my hands on the new device.  And there looks to be no device shipped yet.  I expect it to arrive in some stores today (but I’m just speculating).  I’ll be tied up with work the next few days, and won’t have a chance to get back to a VZW store before Friday (the supposed official launch day for the public).

    I do plan on calling the VZW 800 number again and talking with a manager about this poor advertisement, and possibly false advertisement.  I’ll keep you posted.

  • BlackBerry Storm VIP Event

    Posted on November 16th, 2008 Shawn No comments

    Some of you have received a mailing from Verizon for a VIP event from November 17 -21 at specific Verizon Wireless (VZW) stores.  If you are like me, you want to get your hands on a Storm before everyone else.  Just a warning, before you run to your local store today (or Monday morning), give them a call.

    I was just at the VZW store in Nashua, NH.  The employees there (4 that I talked with) said the first they heard about the mailings and VIP event was from a customer yesterday.  They confirmed with me that their store currently has no Storm’s in stock and they only receive shipments once a week…Monday afternoons.

    As I was asking the question, a customer standing next to me, also mentioned that she received the VIP invite.  Another person walked into the store as I was leaving and asked the same question.  Scary that so many buyers are ready for the Storm, and a store full of VZW employees are totally in the dark.

    If the Nashua store is indication of the greater VZW store population, it’s very likely that your local VZW store will not be opening early on Monday morning for the VIP event.  More importantly, it’s quite likely that your store will not have any Storm’s in stock early in the day…even to look at.

    We all know that they do not go on sale until Friday, but many are sure hoping to get a feel of this thing…me included.

    For you, our loyal readers, I will be at my local VZW store when the doors open tomorrow morning (with my VIP invite in hand), hoping to be the first in my area to smudge the screen on a Storm.  Though, I warn you to call ahead…since today’s visit makes me think this event will kick off sans it’s headlining act.

  • Verizon Confirms Storm Availability for November 21

    Posted on November 13th, 2008 Shawn No comments

    We are in the calm before the Storm, but things are a brewing.

    Most importantly is the news that came in overnight.  Verizon has come out and stated the price will be $199 with 2-year contract.  We already knew that, but here’s the better news…

    …the confirmed date for online and store sales is Friday November 21.

    Get ready world, this phone is going to take you by….er, Storm.  I just plan on taking that day off of work.  Looks like this obsessed guy will be waiting in line at a Verizon store for a Storm.

    For you haters out there, here’s the official press release:

    BLACKBERRY STORM AVAILABLE IN U.S. NOVEMBER 21 EXCLUSIVELY FROM VERIZON WIRELESS

    BASKING RIDGE, N.J. – The BlackBerry® Storm™ (model 9530) from Research In Motion (NASDAQ: RIMM) – the first touch screen BlackBerry smartphone with the world’s first “clickable” touch screen – will be available beginning Nov. 21 in Verizon Wireless Communications Stores and online at www.verizonwireless.com for $199.99 after a $50 mail-in rebate with a new two-year customer agreement.  For additional details and specifications about the BlackBerry Storm, please visit www.verizonwireless.com/storm.

  • Ummm….look it’s Verizon’s pricing for the BlackBerry Storm

    Posted on November 11th, 2008 Shawn No comments

    This was spotted on a Verizon test server.  (Thanks Engadget).  It’s not listed on the public Verizon site yet. $219.99 with 2-year contract.  Not quite the $199 we previously heard, but close enough.  I hope the business pricing stays at $89.99.

    Though, for the Verizon New Every 2 Program…$119 is a darn good price.  Even if my employer poo-poo’s the Storm for business purchase, I could see myself picking this up as a personal device at this price.

  • BlackBerry Storm & Bold Update

    Posted on November 10th, 2008 Shawn No comments

    I just got back from my weekly stop at the local mall to check on the Bold and Storm. So, here goes the update.

    I’ll start with the Bold since it is now available. Before heading around the food court for 10 free samples of Orange Chicken, I stopped at the AT&T store. Five feet outside the store, I spied the Bold on the display wall….this time, it was a real Bold, not the dummy they had last week.

    I spent some time playing (keep in mind, this is my first BB experience. I’m currently a Treo user). The screen resolution is nothing less than beautiful. I’ll get back to it in a minute, but honestly the most beautiful display I have ever seen on a smartphone.

    The keyboard just feels good. In no time I was typing away like I had used this thing for years.  Keys feel good in the hands, not too big & not too small.  Only thing that I had a hard time with was realizing the ALT key for things like punctuation.  It’s a lot like the Treo, just took a minutes to figure it out.

    Trackball and navigation is really good too.  The track ball flies and easy to use. I hear lot’s of people saying it gets all gummed up after lot’s of use (like a mouse ball).  I can see that, but new it flies.

    The interface is “snappy” (as the kids say).  Seriously, from app-to-app, it just flies.  No lag, like I have always been used to on the Treo.  Very impressed.

    On a similar note, I constantly tried to touch the screen to navigate, due to 4+ years of rocking a touchscreen Treo.  The on-screen buttons/icons on the Bold are so big, I immediately think it is a touch screen, but no.

    Now on to media.  Played a song, and wow it was loud and clear.  The speakers on this thing rock!  I tried two demo videos on the device, and I am in awe.  The Speed Racer trailer is just incredible.  Crystal clear and stunning picture.  Though, to hop off the fanboy wagon for a sec, it stuttered at the end as it was transitioning back to the Media application.

    To round it out, the device feels good in the hand.  The screen is wider but sorter than the Treo’s.  The leather back feels good.  I very much liked the device.  With Treo stylings, and WiFi it’s going to be hard not to pick one of these up.

    Oh….you want to know how the phone works?  Dunno….I generally don’t care much about the phone on my smartphones…go figure.  I’ll post the specs after the break

    Now, I head over to the Verizon store for the Storm update.  Same freakin’ update I got last week.  “Next month”.  I asked, “So are you saying December?”  And the guys says, “*sip from his iced coffee* Yup”.  WTF!?

    BlackBerry 9000 Bold Specs:

    • UMTS/HSDPA: 2100/1900/850 MHz and GSM: 1900/1800/900/850 MHz
    • BlackBerry OS 4.6
    • Intel 624 MHz processor
    • QWERTY keyboard and trackball
    • Integrated GPS/A-GPS reciever with photo geotagging support
    • 802.11 a/b/g WiFi
    • Bluetooth 2.0 with A2DP support
    • 2.75 inch VGA (480×320 pixels) display
    • 1GB internal flash ROM memory and 128MB flash RAM for running applications
    • microSD card slot for storage (SDHC support)
    • 2 megapixel camera with flash
    • 3.5mm standard headset jack
    • 1500 mAh battery
      Dimensions:

    • Weight: 4.8 ounces
    • Length: 4.48 inches
    • Width: 2.6 inches
    • Thickness: 0.59 inch
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