Just don’t use it one handed

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I’m not sure how it happened but my blog has been possessed by Android smart phone posts. I’m pretty sure I have an add_filter('the_content' , 'my_function') WordPress post in my head waiting to get out. Or at least a post about a small plugin.

When is a phone not a phone?

After Lily’s Note II came back to life we realized that her phone developed an odd condition. It stopped being able to make or receive phone calls. To fix this we called up Verizon on Sunday and spent way to much time with some nice people trying to make it work.

Did you know that Verizon’s tech support can with your permission remote desktop into your Android smart phone? I had no idea and it’s weird seeing someone else run apps and make menu selections. That didn’t really solve anything and eventually Lily and I were told that they’re escalating her problem to engineering.

Me: Engineering? That’s great, let’s get them on the call.

Verizon Support: Oh no sir. They will call you back in 24 to 72 hours.

That went over well. I asked them to create the ticket anyway and to see if we could visit a local Verizon store and swap out the LTE SIM card as that was suspected to be the problem. That didn’t solve anything but at least we got out of the house.

It’s all part of a Grand Plan, I’m just not privy to it

While at the Verizon store I took advantage of my upgrade option and purchased an iPhone 5. I then had them put my number on Lily’s not-a-phone Note II and she got the new iPhone 5. Seriously, that happened.

Lily and I commute into Manhattan together so as soon as she got her Note II smart phone I was playing with it. It’s got good battery life, the display is fantastic, and with a 1.6 Ghz quad core processor it is fast and zippy. I used it to tether my laptop during out commute and it worked fine. I told Lily that I’ll get one for myself from Costco.

Lily: That’s just not acceptable and we can’t have the same phone. Why don’t you get the iPhone 5?

Me: Sure I- What?? I’ll spray paint the back of it red. You’ll never mistake mine for yours. And I don’t want an iPhone.

Lily: You just don’t understand. Get the iPhone 5 and we’ll switch numbers.

Me: . . .

poor-marvin

I don’t claim to understand but years of conditioning have done me in. In another dozen years I’m going to be like Marvin in RED.

Monday morning I called Verizon back with “Nice one! Now when can you get me my replacement phone?” and on Thursday FedEx delivered it. This new one actually can makes and receive  phone calls.

Yeah but what about the Note II?

It’s a great smart phone. The one I had before it was an HTC Thunderbolt and it’s night and day in comparison. My old phone was giving me well deserved grief and was working very poorly. This one is fantastic and works like a charm.

There is one draw back though. This phone is ginormous. The screen is 5.5″ diagonally but that doesn’t convey it properly. Think of using the iPad Mini as phone  and you’ll get the idea. You have to operate it with both hands or you will either hurt yourself or drop the phone. It’s just too big and my hands are too small.

It’s the CURSE!

I’ve been complaining about my cell phone on Twitter and elsewhere for many months and have been contemplating getting a new phone. My choices have been narrowed down to the Samsung Galaxy Note II and the Motorola Droid Razr Maxx HD.

Lily got the Note II because she likes the big screen and battery life. I was leaning towards the Maxx HD (32 hour battery life!) but the Note II’s 4 core CPU makes the phone really zippy and the battery life is not bad even after abusing it.

So I took her phone with me to drop off the kids at Chinese school Saturday morning. That was her idea so I can see if it’s too large for my pocket (it’s not) and if I like using it (I do).

While there I saw a flower and took out her phone to take a quick snap. The Note II phone was dead. Dead as in 100% no lights, not responding, removing the battery did nothing. Naturally I did what most grown up men in my situation would do.

It’s important to appeal to the general public in case, you know, something unfortunate happens to me.

After getting home and apologizing to Lily profusely we found that removing the battery and SIM card (it’s an LTE phone and does have a SIM card) did bring it back to life.

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This is not the first time electronics have lost their mind around me but I wish my curse would remain localized to things that belong to me.

Maybe my phone problem IS my own fault

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I like to play with all of my toys and of course I rooted my HTC Thunderbolt phone long ago. I’ve done the whole gamut and have installed different ROMs including CyanogenMod, the unofficial ICS ROM from Team BAMF, and many flavors of Gingerbread. I’ve used apps that require root privileges, I’ve tethered and played with different radio code to get it all working well.

I’ve also created an unsupportable pile of poo that has been driving me nuts.

The damn phone loses data connectivity all the time. I have to baby it just to be able to read my Twitter feed. The battery life is embarrassing and I feel like my charger has become my lifeline. The phone crashes all the time and has spontaneously caught fire on more than one occasion.

That last part may have been an exaggeration but not by much. As sometimes it happens to people suffering in a crisis someone in my life intervened. Lily spoke those words that made me considered a new path filled with enlightenment:

“This happens to you with every phone you have. Maybe you are doing something wrong?”

She’s a smart woman. I’m lucky to have married her.

She is currently using an unmodified Samsung Galaxy SIII phone and except for the battery life not being as long as she’d like she hasn’t had any problems.

The real reason I hacked my phone (aside from the geek coolness factor) was to be able to run a tethering app. But now with the phone plan I have tethering comes with it at no additional charge. Instead of running a third party tethering app I can now just use the built in one from Verizon.

So last night I undid everything I did to my phone. I un-rooted it, I put it all back to the way it was from the factory and I’m now running the latest Verizon provided ROM on my phone. That includes the radio code as well and anyone looking at my phone would never be able to tell that I did anything to it.

I’ll still beat it to death and see if I can my phone to misbehave. I’ll also still get a new phone when I can as I’m up for getting new one, but maybe I’ll learn not to poke or break the next phone.

Google is my co-pilot

Google’s car navigation for Android phones is pretty good.

The majority of my work is 9 to 5 weekdays but when I need to make (fully approved, vetted, it’s-not-my-fault-and-I-won’t-do-it-again) production changes I have to wait for after 5 PM. Depending on the potential impact, I have to wait until Saturday. This weekend the group I work in was doing Big and Potentially Terrible Things™ and I was part of that.

Yesterday I left the house at 5 AM, drove to Queens and Chinatown to pick up 2 co-workers, and drove 2 and a half hours to Princeton, NJ. I got home after 8 PM. And I used the Google Maps Navigation for Mobile Beta (GMNMB?) as my tool to get there. I turned on Bluetooth (I was in the car), Wi-fi, and GPS and plugged my phone into the car charger. The cup holder doubled as my GPS mount.

My phone has GPS, Verizon assisted, and Google assisted location services and I turned it all on. I did not expect wi-fi to work exactly but I wanted to use that to narrow down my position. It worked fantastically and suggested routes that I would never have thought of. Before 8 AM the drive was uneventful and except for my pal who knew better, the navigation worked well.

When I drove home, instead of suggesting the painful Holland Tunnel to BQE which it did on the way there, it lead me to Staten Island and eventually to the Belt Parkway. It took me just 2 and a half hours to get home about 100 miles away.

Yes, that doesn’t sound breathtakingly fast but I drove through New Jersey, Staten Island, and Brooklyn on a Saturday evening. Fellow New Yorkers who drive will know what I’m taking about.

The map data does not live on my phone and it’s all downloaded and cached from off of the Internet. This entire solution is dependent upon good connectivity. If I were driving to a desert in Arizona then I would use a Garmin or TomTom. But for driving in a metropolitan area this solution can’t be beat.

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Android or iPhone 4?

Do I get an Android phone or an iPhone 4? I’m in no rush to get a new phone but I do periodically suffer from phone envy.

I am a fan of easy-to-use technology. I currently own an iPhone 3G with iOS 4.0.1 installed. My phone has been jailbroken not because I have a “SOFTWARE MUST BE FREE!!!1!” itch, but because I wanted to tweek my phone in ways that Apple doesn’t support for my hardware.

Cool Applications, not so cool app store

One of my favorite apps on my iPhone is Camera+. It lets me take photos, make adjustments, and share those photos online. All within the app and very easily.

The Camera+ developers came up with the idea of modifying the volume up button to be used as a shutter button. This re-mapping of the button would only be done while the user is in the app. It’s a great idea and makes using Camera+ easier.  But the idea was rejected by the app store, so the developers created a back door to enable that setting.

That’s a sensible work around because the app store was apparently afraid that re-mapping the volume up key while in the Camera+ app would create confusion. Since the end-user would have to access a specific application URL, they would have to know what they were doing.

But as expected the Camera+ app has been removed from the app store. Rules are rules, especially when they are arbitrary, imaginary, mostly made up, and not published.

Do I really want to continue using a product that fosters an environment like this? I know that the Android Market Place has it’s pitfalls too but the Apple App store is driven by incompetence.

Android is becoming more cool

I know two people who have Android phones from Verizon.  The first phone I’ve seen is the HTC Incredible.  The UI is easy to use and makes the experience fun.

The other phone is the Droid X.  The display portion alone feels like it’s bigger than my iPhone 3G.  It’s not a small phone in comparison but the display is fantastic. It’s not as slick as an HTC phone but it is close.

How would a Gorilla design a better Gorilla?

I’ve also seen the iPhone 4.  The display is phenomenal but it’s essentially a better iPhone 3GS. It’s more resolution, more memory, faster CPU.  But it’s still an iPhone and I already have an inferior version right now.

Why just get a better version of the iPhone 3G? Why not get a new phone and try out the other guys? If Camera+ existed for the Android phone, that would go a long way to hastening my decision.