Wednesday, September 24, 2008

T-Mobile G1: Android Alert!

So what's the big deal about the new T-Mobile G1 cell phone with the touch screen and flip-open keyboard? Yes it supports 3G and GPS and has a nifty flip-open, five-row keyboard, a usable trackball and a responsive touch screen, but we've seen all of this before, right?

Right. But that's OK. It wasn't the phone that was the star of Tuesday morning's well-attended T-Mobile/Google press conference in New York, it was Google's new Android phone operating system, a software platform destined to make major ripples in the smartphone market.

The difference between Android and other platforms like Microsoft's Windows Mobile, is that Android's code and software development kits (SDKs) are available free to software developers, thus allowing them to create innovative applications at a lower cost.

As the first phone to use Android, the T-Mobile G1 is temporarily in a class by itself, the only phone able to use the dozens of applications already written for Android.

Tuesday's press event was held under the Queensborough Bridge at Gustavino's, a high-ceilinged restaurant located about as far east as one can go in Manhattan without getting wet, but that didn't stop dozens of journalists from piling in for a first look at the new phone and operating system.

The phone features a 3.2-inch display, a 3.2-megapixel camera, a microSD card slot (a one-gigabyte card is included) and Bluetooth 2.0 wireless networking support.

One nifty Android application is ShopSavvy, a utility that allows you to scan product barcodes with the G1's camera, send the data over the Internet, and get a list of stores that sell that product. Thus you could walk into Store A, check the price of a product on the shelf, scan the bar code and have the phone report back with prices for the same product at other stores.

Of course Google applications and services such as Gmail, Google Calendar, YouTube and Google Maps are fully supported by the T-Mobile G1.

The phone, while offering a partially iPhone-like experience, does not aim to be a direct competitor in all aspects. It has no headphone jack and can't handle protected iTunes files, although it can play MP3s and other music formats.

As the last big cell phone carrier in the U.S. to build out a third-generation (3G) data network, T-Mobile now has a trendy phone that makes good use of it. It supports T-Mobile's HSDPA and EDGE data networks and has Wi-Fi support as well. It can even switch between Wi-Fi and the data networks depending on where the better throughput is.

The T-Mobile G1 costs $179 with a two-year service agreement. An unlimited data plan with 400 free messages is $25 per month. For $35 per month, both Web access and messaging are unlimited. The G1 will be available Oct. 22, but can be preordered now.

For more information, see the T-Mobile G1 Web site.

Text and last photo Copyright 2008 Stadium Circle Features
Other graphics courtesy of T-Mobile and Google.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Tyke Tech for Trendy Parents

Becoming a new parent doesn't mean you have to leave your love for gadgets behind. My piece in today's New York Daily News reviews four products for parents who often balance baby with BlackBerry. As always, let me know what you think.
Copyright 2008 Stadium Circle Features

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Google Chrome: So far, so ... whoops!

The birth of a new Web browser sponsored by an Internet power as muscular as Google Inc. is no minor footnote in the history of the Web. The debut of Google Chrome on Sept. 2 sent almost audible shock waves through cyberspace. 

Remember, it was only in March that America Online ended support for Netscape, the legendary browser early Web surfers cut their teeth on. As it leaves the maternity ward, Google Chrome enters a space already crowded by Microsoft Corp.'s Internet Explorer, the Mozilla Foundation's Firefox, Opera Software's Opera browser and Apple Inc.'s Safari.

Will it make room for itself? Things look promising. 

The good news, at first blush, is that Google Chrome is, as advertised, a snappy, fast and clean-looking browser.

The bad news is that it's still a beta (unfinished) product. There are some irritations you'll run into with the new browser, but chances are good that the problems will be cleared up soon given the size of the Google Chrome development team.

For example, while using the "new" Facebook, I was unable to trigger some links like "Go Online" and "Back to the old Facebook." I couldn't even leave a comment to a fellow user who was also testing Google Chrome. 

To be fair, bugs are to be expected on opening day for a software project this complicated. But on the up side, the software installed quickly and seems very stable.

Early verdict: Worth trying. 

The Windows version is ready now. Mac and Linux versions are on deck, according to Google.

What do you think so far?