Posts Tagged 'cellphones'

Me and My Android 2.0

 

Android

Meet Android

So, tomorrow’s the big day. I’ve taken the whole day off work. I’ve identified the Verizon Store I’ll be making my purchase at and I know that they’ll be opening at 7:00 am (three hours earlier than usual). I’ve called and crunched all the numbers with a Verizon Wireless “plan expert.” I’m going to show up at the store early (even before their 7:00 AM opening time). Every detail has been considered, processed and addressed.

 

The next question is, will I even like my new Motorola Droid?

I’ve hunted across the net and found mostly raving, shining reviews. There are a few iPhone fanboys and enthusiasts that are shrugging the Droid off (or worse), but for the most part the reviews are glowing. Many people have tried to call the Droid an “iPhone Killer,” but I agree with those who don’t even bother pitting the Droid against the iPhone. We’re talking about two completely separate demographics in the same market. Think Nintendo Wii versus Playstation 3. While they may technically share the same market, the numbers prove that the demographics are so wildly different that they might as well not even be competing against each other.

I think my favorite review so far isn’t about the Droid specifically, but about its operating system, Android 2.0. I found it on Gizmodo, a site I generally get news from through other sources. In this case, Matt Buchanan writes one of the most objective, comprehensive and even stinging reviews of the Android operating system I’ve ever read. Halfway through the article I questioned my decision to buy the Droid this Friday. If you have been considering buying an Android phone, make sure you don’t miss this review.

His conclusion? Keeping his audience in mind (remember, the site is called “Gizmodo”), he says, “I can’t say Android 2.0 is ready for your mom yet, but it’s definitely ready for anybody reading this.”

For one of my favorite aspects of the Android operating system, read this one about its integration with Google services.

Essentially, for someone like me whose life is already nearly fully integrated with the services Google offers (Gmail, Google Talk, Google Calendar, Google Voice, Google Contacts, Google Maps… the list goes on), the Google build of the Android operating system seamlessly synchronizes the online Google services with a device that you carry in your pocket. No more forgotten appointments. No more separate phone/address lists. Everything consolidates nicely into the Google package and I slip it into my pocket. Sure, Android has shortcomings. The Droid may not be the ultimate cellular device, and its hardware may even be lacking in a few areas. But I know that the Google Android branded Motorola Droid is a perfect match for me.

Why? Mostly because I already know I don’t want an iPhone.

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Motorola Droid Discovery

Ever since I first read about the possibility of the Motorola Sholes coming to the Verizon network, I have been bouncing with joy. More than a year ago I was anxiously engaged in trying to determine if and when Verizon might bring us an Android phone. Well, the Motorola Droid (the new name replacing the previous code-name of Sholes) has been officially announced and will be coming very soon to Verizon customers (on the 6th of November).

So, I’m probably going to get this phone, but in the meantime I’ve been receiving e-mail updates, reading reviews, looking for “spy shots” and so forth. In doing so, I discovered something inconsequential but entertaining (to me) at least. Check this out from an e-mail I received today:

Droid is a registered trademark!

Click for full size.

Yes, in the yellow highlighted portion we learn that Verizon or someone had to pay Lucasfilm Ltd. to use the name Droid. I laughed a little when I read it. You should too.

RE: RE: Letter to Verizon Wireless

If you’ve been following since the first letter I wrote, I just received a response to yesterday’s letter and here it is.  It’s short, it’s cold and it’s completely useless.  Notice that the second paragraph is the only thing this lady took the time to actually write to me, the rest is canned.

Dear [Mediocre Renaissance Man],

Thank you for your reply.  My name is [Service Chick] and I am happy to assist you.

[Mediocre Renaissance Man], at this time we do not know if we will have phones that will support the Android software. With [Service Dude]’s response, we cannot even mention any potential phones that have not been announced to the public. I am sorry for the inconvenience this may cause.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to assist you today. We appreciate your business and thank you for using Verizon Wireless.  Should you have additional questions or concerns, please reply to this e-mail.

Sincerely,

[Service Chick]

Verizon Wireless

Customer Service

My response:

Dear [Service Chick],

I am sorry too.  I hope that Verizon offers or announces something before I move in a couple of months.

Sincerely,

[Mediocre Renaissance Man]

The long version:

I just wish they would reaffirm their intentions to release something, even with no definite time frame.  I think I made that clear in my communications with them, but I was talking to the wrong department.  Customer service doesn’t know much more than I do as a consumer.  I really should have tried harder to contact a different division.  Maybe I will, next time.

RE: Letter to Verizon Wireless

This is follow-up for the letter to Verizon Wireless that I wrote yesterday.

For the follow-up to these letters, see this entry.

The letter submission was successful, and I want to share the response I got back today with you.  I have edited the customer service member’s name out, as well as my own (just for fun, I’m sure most of you know it, I haven’t exactly tried to hide it from you).  Here’s the letter from Verizon, with my response immediately following it:

Dear [Mediocre Renaissance Man],

My name is [Service Dude], and I?ll be happy to assist you with your equipment questions today.

I am unable to provide information regarding which equipment is being considered or approximate release dates, as this may raise expectations that may not be met.

Although we do not have the handset you are looking for at this time, I invite you to view our current phone selection as a possible alternative.  To view available equipment, please click on the following link, which will direct you the “Products” page of our website:

http://www.verizonwireless.com/products

You may also receive free e-mail updates as to when new products and services are available.  To receive your free e-mail update please click on the following link, to view the “E-mail Updates” page of our website:

http://email.vzwshop.com/servlet/website/ResponseForm?OSPEJNlmhtLk_.2ef

There are several wireless phones being tested for functionality and reliability with our network.  Verizon Wireless will not offer a product or service unless it meets the high standards our customers have come to expect.  Verizon Wireless is constantly improving the services, features, and wireless phones we offer to our customers for their communication needs.

[Mediocre Renaissance Man], I hope this information has been helpful.  We value your business and appreciate the opportunity to continue as your wireless service provider. Thank you for using Verizon Wireless products and services. Should you have additional questions or concerns, please reply to this e-mail.

Sincerely,

[Service Dude]

Verizon Wireless

Customer Service

Here’s what I had to say to that:

[Service Dude],

Thank you for your timely response.  I fear you have understood my inquiry well, but somehow managed to pretend you missed the point.

I am familiar enough with Verizon’s complete lineup of handsets and I am not interested in any of them (I currently have the Samsung SCH-U620 and am not displeased with it).  I am not looking for just another handset.  I am looking for an Android handset.  Like I said in my initial communication, this is something of such a great importance to me that I am considering switching service providers unless I receive some indication that I will not have to wait long to get an Android phone on the Verizon network.

I do somewhat appreciate your vague statement about “several wireless phones being tested for functionality and reliability with [y]our network,” but I am afraid it does not provide enough of an assurance that an Android phone will be available to me soon.

I am sure you understand my position as a customer.  Having worked in customer service many years myself, one of the greatest customer service philosophies I came to understand is that loyal customers are the most important foundation on which a business should maintain itself.  If you begin to lose longtime, loyal customers, you hurt your business almost irreparably.

I hope that Verizon will announce something soon that will answer my question.  I will be moving away from my current home in California within the next few months, and when I get to my new home (even if my contract is not yet expired with Verizon Wireless) I will begin researching T-Mobile’s service in my area.  I am sure I am not the only Verizon customer with such plans.  The only way Verizon will be able to retain my business is if concrete plans to release an Android phone are revealed before I move.

I understand that I am just one customer among many hundreds of thousands on the Verizon network, and my changing networks will not ultimately hurt business for the company.  I am not trying to make threats.  I am simply pointing out the fact that good, valuable customers (like myself) are walking away from your company simply because of your inaction.  All it would take is one press release (dated 2008, last year’s press release is not enough) to assure Verizon customers that an Android phone is coming soon, and many customers would be retained.

Sincerely,

[Mediocre Renaissance Man]

Letter to Verizon Wireless

Dear Verizon Wireless,

I have been your customer exclusively since I purchased my first cell phone in my first year of college several years ago.  The years have been good to us, and I am pleased to report that I have been almost entirely satisfied with all of your services.

These days I work, support a wife and two children and maintain a technology blog in my free time.  As a longtime fan of Google products and services, I was thrilled by the announcement and unveiling of T-Mobile’s new Android enabled phone, the G1.  In fact, I was so excited about the new product that I immediately found myself at your competitor’s web site researching pricing and plan information.  My contract with Verizon won’t be over until November 2009, but I was already considering abandoning my favorite service provider to get the shiny new G1 in my hands, despite the complaints I have heard about T-Mobile services.

So, as a technology blogger, Google buff and loyal Verizon customer, I am asking you directly: when can Verizon customers expect to see an Android phone available?  I am aware that LG, Samsung and Motorola have all announced their intention to build Android phones, but which one(s) will we see on the great Verizon network?  Will Verizon just sit back and watch their customer base switch (even in small numbers) to a competing network without doing anything to retain them?

If Verizon would simply announce something (a date, timeframe or even just the intention to release an Android phone) – other than the announcement last year that Android would be supported on the Verizon network – many customers like myself would remain loyal and wait for the official arrival of a Verizon Android smartphone.

A clear and detailed answer to my inquiries would be much appreciated, and the failure to respond with action before my contract is up will result in at least one fewer Verizon customer.

Sincerely,

[Mediocre Renaissance Man]
Note to my readers:

I e-mailed this to them (via their “contact us” form on their website) today.  Now we wait and see.  I’ll let you know if I get a response.  I’d really rather stay with Verizon, but if I can’t get my hands on an Android phone on their network soon you can bet I’ll be switching.

Their response and my subsequent response can now be read here.

The Future of Social Networking

The Future of Social Networking, Cellphones and Your Credit Card

I love future technology, and I try to follow current trends in the tech world. I follow what is happening, and (to the best of my ability) what is about to happen. Sometimes, I get good ideas; and this is one of them.

Though I see this as simply a “good idea,” I’d like to think that it is also the inevitable outcome and product of current activities, trends and technological advancements.

I’m unsure how it will be implemented, but we’ll talk about that later. There are several options, all of which are viable and possible; but it won’t make much sense to talk about implementation before describing WHAT we’d be implementing.

So, how to describe this… This is the blending of cellular phones, the internet, commerce, personal data assistants, data management and social networking – all in one, easy-to-use, neat, customizable and (hopefully) open source web application.

So, now that we have it outlined (details will follow), let’s talk about implementation. The thing is this: It is an internet suit, dependent on internet functionality; but I think it would be all you should need on a cellphone handset. So, most likely the cellphone would not be a “cellphone” but rather an internet access device, about the size of a cellphone, and with the main purpose of accessing and interacting with the features of the site I will describe below. Because of this, you would also be able to access the site and do everything you can do with your “cellphone” (that little internet device I described above) from any computer (preferably equipped with speakers and a microphone).

On to the site. What will it be like? The features I am about to describe are all existent today in one form or another, but many of them have not been successfully married together by anyone. And NOWHERE (that I am aware of) are all of these features found in one place, especially not with a cell-like device as I expect it will be some day. Yes, even though I describe this as a future idea, the fact is somebody else has probably already begun creating something like it. I know European cellphone services are beginning to resemble some of this, but NOBODY has it all… yet. I believe it will happen soon though, perhaps in five or ten years.

Here it is! The site would at first resemble a social networking site (much like Facebook). You would have a profile, along with everyone else who wants to sign up (I think it should be free to have a profile, while some of the features would probably require a monthly subscription). The main difference is that businesses and organizations would have profiles (like Virb and MySpace), and you would actually add them to your contacts. 😉

Basically, from here it becomes a little like an address/contact list/book. In stead of having all of the profiles you want linked to you as “friends,” you could put them in “circles,” or categories. Depending on the category, the group/individual will have more or less access to your personal information. Some sample “circles” could be as follows: Friends, close friends, family, coworkers, schoolmates, church/club members, neighbors, services, businesses, etc. So, you would search for a listing (your friend’s name or the business name/phone number/address) and then drag them into a circle or into several circles (or, in a less “touchy” interface, you would check boxes by the “circle” names) and they would be saved in those circles.

Maybe you look up a close classmate, who also happens to live by you, and you are good friends with him/her. So, you look up their name, let’s say “John Doe.” (I know, cliché, right?) John Doe’s EXTREMELY basic profile would appear showing his name, maybe a photo, and any other information he chooses to show everybody at his discretion. Then you would check boxes by the circle name(s) you want him to be a part of (or, in our ultra-cool iPhone-esque scenario, you would drag his photo onto each label, one at a time). Each circle would have a different level of security associated with it, and thus you would only be able to add him to some categories with his approval (like doing a friend add in Facebook).

Each circle represents the relationship you have with this person. Some relationships are very simple, and thus you do not need access too much of the individual’s personal information, but you still might need to have them in your contact list. So, you add John Doe to each circle. Let’s start with classmate and neighbor, which are similar relationships.

For this, each individual sets preferences for how they want them handled (depending on how secretive, paranoid and/or protective of personal information they are). Let’s say John allows people to add him as a neighbor and/or classmate without him having to approve it, but the only privileges associated with this relationship with John are the ability to send text messages and make phone calls. Or maybe classmates are only allowed to send text messages to John through the service, but neighbors are permitted to make phone calls and send text messages.

As for the “friend” relationship, John has set his security preferences to prevent people from adding him as a friend without his permission, so after adding him to these three categories, he will only show up with basic contact capabilities in your address book in the classmate and neighbor circles until he approves your request to add him as a friend, at which time you will have as much access as he deems necessary for his friends, and you will be able to see his full profile. Don’t worry though, you don’t have to wait until he logs into the internet – a text message is sent to him immediately, notifying him that you are waiting.

Now, remember that this service is married to your cellphone? Because it’s an internet service, the phone calls are handled as voice over IP (VoIP), and thus video conferencing will be possible too (though the handsets might be a little awkward for this, it’s not unfathomable). The text messages would not be limited in size, thus they could be considered full messages or even e-mails and would be received into an “inbox”.

As for the text message you sent him… Social networks are difficult and slightly annoying for some people. They can’t be scheduled, they can get very involved and if you’re always carrying it around with you, you’d probably get interrupted a lot unless you just turn it on and off throughout the day, right? Check this out – like an instant messenger (oh, did I mention the service includes IM? It does) you can set your status. And in case you’re worried you might forget to set your status to busy or unavailable, this service is combined with your schedule. You tell it when you’re in class, at work, in meetings, in church, etc., and it keeps silent during those times – you can even tell it to stay quiet for another ten minutes or so (you set the time) after the scheduled event, just in case the meeting goes a little late, or class lets out late.

And if the future is as cool as I hope it will be, you won’t even have to worry about inputting your own schedule. When you get a new job, register for school classes or even arrive at church or the movie theater, the local computer system will automatically connect with your profile and either input the new scheduling information (work will send your weekly schedule to your cell service, which you will be able to view online and on your phone, AND the schedule work sends you will include phone quiet times and break times so you don’t have to set your status – it’s in the schedule), or the church or movie theater will detect that you’ve entered their facilities, and change your status to quiet mode (busy, unavailable, etc.). If you have some kind of urgent, pending business, you can make that known on your profile and even the museum’s computers will understand that certain contacts (which you associate with the emergency situation, like your spouse or the police) will still need to be able to get through to you.

OK, just two more main features before I wrap up by quickly describing the interface.

Part of the aforementioned functions are facilitated by the actual device’s global positioning system capabilities. The system learns the device’s physical location by way of GPS, and this information becomes part of your profile, and is updated in real time while you are logged in with a GPS enabled device. The main service includes mapping capabilities, to display this information. It shows the locations of everything in your contact list on that map. Some relationships or circles will limit the ability to see the location of particular profiles (based on security preferences), but any business you have listed will show up, and the map will provide directions to anything you see on the map.

Finally, the service will include a function similar to that of PayPal. You can transfer money to anyone in your contacts, from any circle, without exchanging banking information. The hand held device will function like a credit card or bank card allowing you to make purchases at stores, and the online service will allow you to transfer money to businesses with which you conduct online transactions. Even donations will be handled in this fashion.

Basically, just imagine if Facebook, Skype, PayPal, Google (Gmail, Google Maps, Google Docs, Google Calendar, etc.), and a high speed wireless internet service provider (like WiMax) all merged together and started a cellphone service. This is what you’d end up with, and I think that the popularity, functionality and practicality of these services point to one thing – they’ll all be the same thing in the near future.

The service’s main page when you log in will be very customizable. I am hoping that this will be an open source project, and third party applications will be a large part of it (like here, at Facebook), allowing users to add widgets, gizmos and applications to their profile and homepage as well as adding additional functionality to the phone. Similar to Facebook’s home page, there will be news feeds, that you can customize, from your family, friends and business contacts, as well as actual news items, weather, etc. Businesses you save in your business circle will display small ads and special offers for you for items and services you would be interested in. You can customize the look of the page with colors and images or even your own coded formatting through CSS, HTML, or whatever else you like.

At the top of the page there will be tabs. You can create your own to hold content you chose, and there will be tabs for your favorite circles. Each one will have specialized news feeds from the contacts in them, and you will be able to view these contacts and their profile pages through the navigation tools. Contacts can be ordered by time you’ve known them, distance from you, alphabetical order, how often you have contact (phone calls, text messages, etc.) with them, and even preference (who you like the most, which business/restaurant you like more, etc.).

Placing a call would be as simple as selecting the contact and pushing the “call” button. There would be a video call button, a send message button, a send photos or files button and perhaps (though third party applications) other buttons could be added as well for interaction with your contacts (anyone up for a good poke fight?).

The actual hardware would HAVE to use OLEDs to save battery power and provide richer images. There would be a speaker, microphone, jack for external components (maybe), bluetooth and other wireless connectivity, USB (or whatever else we’re using then) for a keyboard or something, a multi-touch screen big enough to actually read all that stuff people write on their profiles but not so big you can’t carry it around with you, a camera hidden behind the screen for natural face to face video conferencing, and a couple other things like battery charging accommodations (though that might be wireless too by then) and an on/off mechanism (though you probably won’t use it all that often). It would need to be small enough to fit in a pocket, but not too small. Data entry could be through a slide-out keyboard, on-screen keyboard or even through speech-to-text technology (which is getting better every day).

The internet site that runs your phone might be reformatted to fit the smaller screen, ditching some things to save space and make it fit. When viewed online from a larger screen, this would not be an issue, and the site would have no limitations. The free account would include a profile and all networking functionality. If anything were to be charged, it would be a monthly fee to have high quality VoIP calls with video, though I don’t know why a free subscription couldn’t offer the same VoIP that Google Talk offers today for free. If all goes well, when you sign up for this service, you should be able to tell it the URL and login information of a social networking site you’ve already been using (such as MySpace or Facebook), and it will go in and import all of that hard work you’ve already done there into this new service. That way you won’t have to enter all that personal information AGAIN! After all, who wants to type out all of their favorite music and interests for ANOTHER social networking site? Not me!

One of the coolest features of a service like this would have to be the ability to share your handset. Say you have a friend who signed up and got a profile, but didn’t buy the phone, and he wants to call his mother. You can hand him your phone and he can log on to the site through password verification just like we do on any other social networking or banking site today. He uses your phone as though it were his own, then logs off and you log back on. It’s that easy.

Finally, and I know you’re about to give me the”run-on sentence-king” award and “diarrhea-of-the-mouth” award, I truly do believe that this is all just a couple years away, once someone decides to do it. There are patents to be considered, as well as the availability of high speed wireless internet connections, but overcoming those hurdles, this service is already available, you just have to piece it together and make them talk to each other. If anyone out there is interested in actually doing this, and they have the ability to get things done (find programmers, designers, engineers, manufacturers, web hosts, etc.), I don’t mind if you steal my ideas. First of all, they probably aren’t unique, and second of all, I think it’s going to happen whether I do it or not. The only thing I ask in return for taking my idea isn’t credit, but a piece of the pie. Not a percentage of the earnings, but a handset! I just want to be able to use the service I’ve dreamed up without having to pay for it. Is that too much to ask? I think not!

Happy dreaming, and until next time.


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