Wednesday morning, if all goes well, I will be leaving to Chicago. I am taking two PDA phones with me, one connected through Verizon and another one through AT&T. It will be interesting to compare speeds and services on both networks outside of the New York City. I plan to watch for network flavors in La Guardia airport, Midway Airport, Chicago suburbs and, maybe, some spots in Chicago itself.
It’s been in the works for quite some time. AT&T, in fact, did announce that they are expanding their 3G/HSDPA network and other good things will come to those who wait. However, last couple of weeks I did experience some cell service outage and started thinking that moving to AT&T’s GSM network wasn’t, probably, the best idea. Today, however, I was very much surprised, when while standing on a subway platform in Brooklyn instead of regular E icon I saw 3G . This is indeed very good, since now my newsreader is able to finish downloading all the packages in no time and I can, finally, follow the links from the blogs and feeds I am reading while on the subway.
On the same note – Verizon phone was showing EVDO icon for quite some time now. I just wasn’t really paying attention to it.
Let me brag a little on how this should benefit the small businesses (one of which I am a proud owner of). First of all – it lets you justify purchasing some of those cool smartphones or PDA phones. Not iPhone though, sorry, iPhone is still on a slow EDGE. Second, you may be able to beef up your sales pitch with the help of your web site – some of our clients have been doing just that (they report that the impact is tremendous). Third – it’s cheaper to communicate via e-mail/messaging/web then through the phone, although most of us don’t realize it yet. This, actually, allows you to purchase a plan with less minutes and use data connection for messaging. I am yet to test Skype on my HTC Advantage, but I am sure it’ll work much better then on EVDO.
With all that said – I can’t wait for WiMax. Oh, and Verizon – where’s my FiOS?
So, the first impressions.
The device was ordered August 17 from Amazon, half a month after I have discovered the existence of HTC Advantage (aka Athena) 7501, but arrived almost 3 weeks later, last Friday. While unpacking I came to a realization that the device is just a little too big and a little too heavy. It’s of a size of a small pocketbook, yet I don’t really have any pockets for it (except with winter coming – maybe somewhere in winter jacket). So I end up carrying the unit either in hands or in my backpack, which isn’t really a good idea.
First off – the phone capabilities of this HTC Advantage 7501. Let me go ahead and make a bold statement. Anyone talking with this thing next to his or her head looks dumber then a monkey talking through banana. At least monkey has a reason for that, while no sane human being has no reason to talk into that big black box with shiny screen. Throughout the weekend I used speakerphone (it’s quite decent, try it). First thing I did when arrived at my office – paired my Bluetooth headset with Advantage.
Snap-on magnetic keyboard is a real blessing if you need to type URLs, SMS, short e-mail or use instant messenger, but don’t count on it for lengthy letters. It’s just a little larger then regular thumb keypad, and smaller then any decent size keyboard. I was, however, able to get used to it after couple of days. Keyboard acts as a screen protection when Advantage is stowed away, as a very firm stand (see picture) but absolutely gets in a way when using PDA in a portrait mode. HTC supplies the device with nice leather cover that holds the 7501 by special latches and the keyboard just snaps to magnets hidden in a flap. Overall, if you can get to any horizontal surface – HTC Advantage is a great tool, that will allow you to type away whatever you need.
Not quite so if you don’t have such surface. As a part of my daily routine I spend around 1 hour in NYC subway. Good thing I almost always get a seat. Bad thing that MTA didn’t get tables by them. Reading eBooks from large, 5-inch screen is much like reading a real book. Except for the sun, since the 7501’s screen is almost invisible in bright sunlight. Note to self: I think I saw a protective self-adhesive cover for screen, must try that tomorrow. Writing or typing while holding the devide in the air is very complicated, since the 7501 is much larger then any other PDA, keyboard isn’t in a right place and if you decide to go with on-screen tapping or writing you must hold the device in a proper fashion which isn’t an easy thing to do. Currently I am giving a try to Spb Full Screen Keyboard, but found myself adapting to use attachable one more and more often. After all, it is a real keyboard.
The built-in GPS wasn’t very useful last Saturday, when I was a bit lost while driving to Renessanse Faire. While passengers in the car were very supportive and understanding about my geeky need to figure out how to make Advantage show us right directions it still worked pretty slow, probably because I used Google Maps for Mobile instead of pre-installed, subscription-based (and for some reason non-functioning) TeleNav. We used Garmin Nuvi 360 in the meantime, to get to the place.
Video playback was a major disappointment. DivX programs encoded to 512×384 pixels with 24 fps were a snail-paced slide show (I used Core player, since Windows Media player just won’t accept the DivX video at all). For comparison – the previous HTC that I owned (BlueAngel) was able to play the files flawlessly (if only dragged a little during fast-action sequences, but I don’t watch movies on PDA at all, so it’s okay). However, when I re-encoded files using Pocket DivX Encoder – everything just started flying (and files took much less space – around 100MB for PPC video as opposed to 600MB for source). Now 8GB microdrive starts looking real spacious.
Concluding the first impressions I should add that charging via USB cable yields weird results – battery indicators showed anything they wanted and not the real status of things. Another dis-Advantage is that device is using miniSD memory cards, instead of full size SD (I believe there was plenty of space for it) or microSD.
Knowing how lazy I am I probably would not post a full hands-on review, but I will try to get pictures of line-up of all my devices – Samsung i607, Verizon VX6600 (HTC BlueAngel), HTC Advantage and maybe even iPhone. Stay tuned.