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Customized Gadgets Get Done More For Less

HTC Kaiser aka AT&T Tilt With all the latest craze about smart phones, led by Apple’s iPhone, most consumers are sucked into a never ending craze of updating, switching, getting new ones and so on. Given the tightening budgets it may not be the best way to save. On the other hand, mounting pressure to get more things done can be devastating if your gadgets aren’t giving you the best they can.

What’s the solution? As always, squeezing the maximum juice out of existing hardware with new software.

This passed weekend I was busy doing my homework. Currenly I mostly use my AT&T Tilt, and couple of problems that’s been bugging me is lack of normal mobile browser (SkyFire just doesn’t cut it) and poor reception. My point was that without a decent reception any browser is useless. Thanks to the fact that I am deeply in love with HTC devices since my first smartphone (Verizon XV6600 aka Blue Angel), I keep purchasing devices backed by the same manufacturer (BlackJack being the only exclusion because I wanted Tilt and it wasn’t on the market yet when I switched providers). There’s a great resource for anyone looking to enhance their HTC manufactured device, called XDA developers forum. However, as with any geek-powered resource, there’s plenty of technical information in which any ordinary user would just drown.

In a next few articles, titled “Customizing Your Smart Phone” I will try to explain the process and technology behind it in simple terms, so that us, ordinary business users, would understand and make use of the technology long available but less perused.

5 Reasons NOT To Own A Smartphone

5 reasons not to own a smartphone - old phone pictureTo keep a balanced approach along with the previous article here’s five reasons why you shouldn’t own a smartphone.

1. Too complicated, wasting too much time

A lot of people are avoiding smart phones (and other complicated pieces of technology) simply because they’re afraid they will not be able to figure them out. They are certainly right, these phones are complicated, requiring time and patience to understand and get used to the process. This could be time consuming and some people just aren’t comfortable with this.

2. You look too busy when typing away, people don’t think you’re paying attention

We’re all part of our social environment. If you spend most of your time looking at your Blackberry than you are making an eye contact, people would stop any kind of contacts with you at all. Knowing that some avoid using smartphones to prevent loosing other people’s attention.

3. You prefer your smartphone to real world face-to-face contact

This is somewhat similar with the previous reason, but in fact – just the opposite. Why would you waste time on sending e-mails back and forth if you could just meet for 15 minutes and solve all the issues. In fact, from my own experience, a 30 minute meeting can resolve enough issues to save you about 6 – 8 hours of writing e-mails.

5 reasons not to own a smartphone - old phone picture4. Battery life makes you go crazy

Smartphones are hungry beasts. If you used to recharging your phone once a week (light use) or once every three-four days (heavy use) – forget it. Almost every smartphone even with moderate use requires recharging every night. It could hold its juice for over 24 hours, of course, but would you want to be stuck in the boring meeting next day and don’t have enough power to check your e-mail while you’re at it?

5. Your data gets lost with your phone

That’s the most dreaded thing of all. We tend to sidestep required security locks in the names of efficiency and easiness of use. Just imagine if all the data you have on your phone is in some dirty sticky hands. To avoid that altogether is alone a good reason not to have a smart phone at all.

Pandora, Windows Mobile and AT&T

Last week wrapped up with Pandora announcing the release of Windows Mobile client. Everybody cheered – but for less than a day. As it turned out, there’s always a fly in the ointment. The cost of fun is $8.99 per month in addition to any data plan you already have. Even if it’s an unlimited one, like mine.

Outraged just like anyone else, I immediately shot off an e-mail to Pandora’s support.

Hello,
I am a very dedicated Pandora listener. Aside from enjoying Pandora from my desktop I had encouraged a number of people to try Pandora for iPhone – every time with huge success.

Now, I myself is not an iPhone user – for number of reasons I cannot use iPhone for everyday tasks. It doesn’t mean I have extra money in my pocket, it just means that I use devices that benefit me the most.

When I have heard about the discriminatory policy that Windows mobile users must she’ll out extra money for same service everyone else enjoys for free I felt somewhat betrayed. Definitely upset. Outraged.

However, before jumping to any decisions, I’d like to hear from you the reasons behind such discrimination and, if there are any plans to rectify the situation.

Surprisingly, just a few hours later (that is – 3AM Friday night) I got a response.

Thanks for writing us, and thanks for recommending Pandora on the iPhone to your friends! We were very happy Apple allowed us to offer Pandora for free.

Getting a mobile device to support Pandora is, to a very large degree, up to our potential cellular and platform partners.

Currently there are four WinMo devices which, just like the iPhone, support Pandora for free (advertising-supported). Two on Sprint, and two on Verizon.

We’re very happy we were able to work with these partners to reach this agreement.

It’s up to other carriers how to set the pricing and availability of our service on their network and associated devices.

Best wishes,
–Ian
Pandora Listener Support

If all the above is true it means that AT&T effectively taxing everyone who’s not an iPhone user for using data plan they already paying for. Why this is happening – because AT&T thinks they’ve got it all and can get away with anything they want or because of some other reason – I don’t know. There’s a thread on AT&T’s forums, but no official response has been issued yet.

Pandora’s blog has it this way (in response to comments of disappointed users):

…we share your desire to see Pandora be made available for free on our AT&T implementations. In the mobile world, the carrier has all of the pricing power. If you try to go around their wishes they can, and will, block traffic to your application. Our strong preference is for Pandora to be available ad-supported free everywhere and we’ll continue to work with AT&T in the hopes that they’ll come around to the same view for the Windows Mobile phones on their network.

On the other hand, the Pandora application is available from PPCGeeks forum. I swapped SIM card from AT&T Tilt into Samsung Blackjack and testing the app right now. So far the quality is decent (close to FM radio) (as I am sitting home within stable 3G zone) and delay between songs (while the buffering occurs) is acceptable.

In any case, there remains less and less competition in mobile markets and providers are pulling all sorts of unfair deals knowing that customers will either eat it or not, but there’s really no serious alternative between AT&T and Verizon (Sprint and T-Mobile are really not in the same field).