Notes about the G1 as a MID

image It’s surprising that something as portable as the T-Mobile G1 and powerful a platform as Android can be so useful.  Perhaps it shouldn’t be, but I’ve been using my G1 as a mobile internet device more and more often.

The biggest issue as many will point out is power, and the G1 is worse at power consumption and management than any other device.  On the other hand, the abilities simply outweigh the power disadvantages that it has.  Besides, keeping a charger (AC, USB, and auto) at hand eliminates that issue for the most part… minimizes it really.

Since jumping from the Windows Mobile camp to Android, I’ve noticed that my phone is fun & easy to use again.  It’s more powerful, simply because I use it for everything rather than explain how useful it can be as I did with Windows Mobile.  The software is fun too – many more new ideas and attempts to do different things than the staid, boring software selection that WinMo had when I last looked (it’s changing I know).

Anyway, just wanted to drop a note about how much I’ve come to depend on the G1, much more than my MDA that stayed by my side for 3 years.  Even though I believed that to be a powerful, useful device, Windows Mobile can’t hold a candle to Android (or the iPhone) at this time.  The phone is fun again.


The Final Piece?

T-Mobile G1 Its no secret that I’ve long been a fan of Gmail. In fact, I moved my main email domain to Google’s hosted service about  two years ago. I’ve loved the flexibility, space, search, and tagging that are tightly incorporated into the service.

The only problem was a few niggling odds & ends. Not big issues mind you, but a few things that just make it hard to switch 100% to a web-only email environment. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been about 87% of the way there already. When out & about I use the web interface daily for most email tasks. When I need to find something – use the web interface for searching. I’ve used both POP and IMAP to view mail on my Windows Mobile phone since I signed up – and much more.

The few items have been enough for me to keep an email client installed, and here they are:

  • Creating HTML emails
  • Custom HTML Signatures
  • Contact Synchronization with my phone (the real biggie)

A number of these I’ve gotten around. Early on I found that I can cut & paste an email signature from a web page to a Gmail email when composing. Simple, but not convenient. The number of specialized HTML emails that I send are small and the Gmail editor is up to 99% of the tasks. The contact thing is the hardest to get past though.

I have a Windows Mobile phone, and contacts in Outlook sync right to the phone easier than anything else that exists out there. Period. I’ve had Nokia, Samsungs, Motorolas, and BlackBerrys – and all had sync tools that worked, but none as easy as Outlook to Windows Mobile.

At any rate, the real issue with contacts is getting them synchronized between Outlook and Gmail. It’s extremely tough. With the upcoming release of the T-Mobile G1 “Google phone”, it looks like all that might actually be ending. With built-in Gmail support it also has the ability to sync your phonebook with Gmail contacts. Sweet!

So I’ve been debating whether to throw down on this device or not. It may be the one, the final piece that let’s me go web-only for email management.

Oh, the signature piece – yeah I found this great Firefox plug-in called Blank Canvas Gmail Signatures which allows you to have up to four HTML signatures for each Gmail account. Highly recommended!

So is this the final piece to my text communication puzzle? It very well may be.

And 3G to boot! 😀

Google’s Missing Sync: Contacts

Google Calendar Sync Ok, I’m quite happy that Google released a Google Calendar Sync tool for Microsoft Outlook.  Really happy.

Sure, I’m a Microsoft guy and have been for quite awhile.  Because of that I’ve got significant investments in money & time in the mainline business products, namely Windows, Office, and Windows Mobile.

On the flip side, I’ve moved a number of tasks and work that I do to web based systems.  GMail is obviously one of those, and earlier this year moved my calendar to GCal.

Since late March it’s been great to sync GCal with Outlook – works darn well.  Now, since I use GMail (and Google Hosted Domains), I need to have all my contacts there & up to date as well.  Also, there are dozens of contacts in GMail that I would like to sync to my Windows Mobile phone via ActiveSync.  Currently, there is no easy way to do that.

Nearly the same time that Google released it’s GCal-Outlook sync tool, it announced a Google Contacts Sync API.  I’m sure there are good things coming for everyone on nearly every platform for syncing Google Contacts with the major mail clients – at least I hope there is!

So Google, can you drop a few hints, or some info on plans to release a Google Contact Sync tool?  We’d be very grateful.

Life-hacking the T-Mobile MDA

T-Mobile MDA So for all you T-Mobile owners out there, I’ve found a few fun ways to give your device a new lease on life.  It’s true that we are all getting tired of the lack of 3G service by T-Mobile, or maybe the “long in the tooth” look & feel of Windows Mobile 5 and the ridiculous T-Mobile theme that shipped with the MDA.

It’s a good thing too, because right now there is simply too much turmoil in the mobile market to pick a good successor to our trusty little devices.  What are the options?  Go back to a “dumb” phone?  Switch to a non-touch screen Smartphone? Go the Nokia N-series route? Spend upwards of $800 on an HTC unlocked device?  Bite the bullet and jump to AT&T and the iPhone?

Well I’ve got some great ideas and news for you that will help pass the time waiting for new devices, and answers to some questions that will make that aging phone more productive and fun.

T-Mobile First, lets start with the one thing that we simply can’t change: 3G.  No, there is no way at all to fix that.  But there are workarounds: T-Mobile Internet & WiFi HotSpots.  I’ve had the full unfiltered Internet & HotSpot service from T-Mobile for nearly two years and have used it extensively.  Mostly I’ve used the WiFi with my laptop and really like knowing that I can hit any Starbucks Coffee location and enjoy decent connectivity.  It used to be $30/mo. but they changed the pricing on that a few months ago to $20/mo. for customers with a voice plan.  If you combine that, T-Mobiles GPRS/EDGEand some free WiFi spots, it’ll cover a lot of a person’s daily stomping ground.

SPB Mobile Shell Second, we’ll talk a bit about the user interface.  It’s tired, it’s old, it’s boring.  The iPhone sure has a great UI.  But have you noticed the various 3rd party solutions to this problem?  There is the PointUI Home interface, HTC’s “Touch Cube” interface for select HTC devices only, and recently SPB Software House’s Mobile Shell.  I’ve chosen this piece of software because of the simple elegance of it, the functionality, and the fact that it’s really darn stable and doesn’t slow down the device.  In addition I’ve picked up SPB Pocket Plus which, among other things, adds a touch-based scrolling action to the native applications in Windows Mobile.  Too cool!  These simple additions make the device much easier to use, easier to look at and FUN!

Rhapsody Online Third on the list has to be tunes.  For this I was recently surprised that the Rhapsody Music Service recognizes Windows Mobile devices as “Play’s For Sure” devices.  That means that it can sync any of their DRM’d content to the phone.  Sure.. I’ve been an advocate of non-DRM for years – still am actually.  However, I’m just not willing to part with the thousands of dollars that I’d have to spend to get all the music I want to choose from.  With Rhapsody, I can spend $15(US) and be able to sync any track from their over 4 million strong selection to my MDA.  Slip in a larger 2GB (maybe a 4GB…?) miniSD card and I’m pretty darn happy on this front.

So, no it’s not a new phone, nor does it bring a ton of new functionality.  But with these hacks, tweaks, and upgrades, it doesn’t compare badly with newer phones.  After all, it’s really the services and experiences we’re after.  And these darn things aren’t cheap!  I made a $400(US) investment in this phone over two years ago – and to think that I still am getting value from it is amazing.  What’s more, I keep finding ways to answer my immediate needs demonstrates that the HTC Wizard will long be remembered as one of the most flexible and adaptable phones in mobile device history.

Come on! Share some of your hacks and upgrades in the comments below.  What else makes this device still viable in the face of recent competition?

The one thing holding me to Microsoft Outlook

Microsoft Outlook 2007 I’ve come to the conclusion that there is only one feature in Outlook that is holding me to it at the moment.  Can you help convince me that it’s time to drop Outlook?

See, I’ve been a longtime user and proponent of Microsoft software.  It’s actually really good software, and a decent value… for the enterprise.  For personal use, it’s long been questionable whether one needs such overblown feature laden software.

Also, Microsoft’s software is what I’d built my technical career on – and still rely on.  It solves business needs, and integrates together very nicely.  I’m not claming it’s the best-of-breed, or that it’s the most intuitive.  It’s simply been the best value proposition for most businesses when compared to other shipping options, personal opinions aside.

Anyway, want to know what that one feature is?  The ability to sync the contact list to a Windows Mobile phone.  In nearly a decade, it has simply worked time and time and time again.  It’s only failed me on one occasion, which was a user-instigated problem (I goofed up).  In all these years, my phonebook has always been up to date and consistently backed up with changes replicated back and forth with no effort or thought about it on my part.

Addiction by mr gonzales All my mail is online, I’ve moved my calendar to Google calendar, and all the rest – but the one thing left is that sync of my trusty T-Mobile MDA’s phonebook.  With the MDA at 2 years old, I’m soon to replace it too – and it’s likely not to be a Windows Mobile phone… so is it time?  Should my friends perform an intervention?  Can I do it?  Will I have get the shakes?  I’ll keep you posted. smile_wink

Addiction photo credit: Mr Gonzales

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