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Opera 9.5 Beta for Windows Mobile Review

The best mobile surfing experience out there?
Back in Feb Opera demo’d their latest Windows Mobile browser to oohs & ahhs from all corners championing it over the iPhone. Sporting a slick fullscreen mode, copy & paste, downloads and image saving, WM users couldn’t wait to get their mitts on it. It’s been a long wait but the beta recently went public. So is it really that much better than the iPhone? Let’s see…

After a straightforward installation and launch Opera 9.5 was happily loading pages over both WiFi and T-Mobile’s EDGE service. The browser fitted rendered pages to fill the whole screen perfectly and from there the finger pointing begins. Swipe up, down, left or right to scroll, double tap any area to zoom and again to zoom back out. The motion as the page moves is beautifully fluid and the zoom renders quickly.

Page loading was slower than my Nokia N810, which also runs Opera, but this is a pre-production version so it’s unfair to make a performance judgement just yet. As a guide over WiFi the NY Times website was half rendered in about 8 seconds and I was able to start swiping/zooming after 25 seconds while the pictures finished loading in the background. When I went to the site a second time, I could start swiping/zooming after about 15 seconds due to caching. Times were about twice as long with EDGE.

There are various display options, including full vs mobile view and screen font size. Images can be blocked to speed up page delivery.
Multiple tabs are also available, although your device’s capabilities will determine how many you can open before running low on memory. Opera 9.5 Mobile is a 8.9MB install which needs to go into main memory for this beta release. However the cache can be put onto a storage card, I allocated 50MB which speeds things up if you visit the same sites regularly.

So from this fully rendered CNet home page, you can zoom into something like this in a second or two…

…and then jump into a story…
…turn on text selection like this…
…and copy the text you want into an email or document just like a normal computer web browser. You can send it directly to someone via SMS as well as the page link, which is even better. You can also send links and images directly via MMS or email. Images and files can be downloaded to main memory or to the storage card for easy portability. Whole pages can be downloaded for offline viewing, for example when in the subway. Hmm, this is sounding like the daddy of convergent mobile internet…
Various other config optionsare included, including the ability to set a cache size. Here’s my 50MB cache in action, if you’re a heavy user you may want to go for more. I’m unaware of any cache limit, my TyTN has a 2GB memory card in it…that kind of cache size might be overkill but you get the idea!
Security options include proper password management.

With the current beta version there are a couple of missing bits, such as ActiveX and Flash so if you want these you might prefer to wait until the full production release. Also bear in mind that this is a beta version so if you do install it on your phone there may be compatibility issues or other freaky things happening – best to backup beforehand just in case!
Overall there’s no smartphone browser I’m aware of which offers such a sweet all round browsing experience. The initial impressions in February were right: where the iPhone’s Safari once led the pack, it’s now in second place. Can’t wait to try the production version…

Neil Berman

Aug 3, 2008 Posted by | Mobile, Reviews, Software | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Thunder to rain down on the cellphone market, iPhone 3G speed could be quicker

As hordes of devotees crowd round the block for the iPhone 3G, competitors are starting to line up to steal it’s thunder. Only this time it’s the thunder which might do the stealing.

Blackberry’s Thunder to be precise. Crackberry has just released the first pics and they look promising, with a screen adorned with haptic technology to give console style force feedback on every key ‘press’. Paired with a horizontal keyboard layout, the Thunder looks ready to battle iPhone in a stormy war.

Can RIM really calm Apple’s tornado? Sounds like an unlikely weather pattern to me, but then who expected Palm’s Centro and others to take 7% of iPhone’s market share earlier this year?

Nokia is also rumored to be preparing haptic screen technology, whilst Samsung’s Instinct (fitted like iPhone with the now-old-skool-non-haptic screen) is rumored to be saving Sprint’s existence at only $129 a pop. The Instinct I tried was pretty sweet and the live TV looked great, although iPhone crushed it on web browsing.

Meanwhile we await HTC’s new Touch series with the Diamond already out in Taiwan to rave reviews of the awesomely groundbreaking 640×480 screen. No date yet on a stateside launch of the Diamond or the keyboard-wielding Pro, but the Tilt has just come down in price by $100 on AT&T’s website so we can’t be too far off now can we…?

As far as rudimentary iPhone 3G speed tests go, I measured 48 seconds to load up the BBC homepage fully, 30 secs for NewEgg and 6 secs for the mobile version of CNN. That compares to my Nokia N810 at a hotspot measuring 7 secs for the BBC, 8 secs for NewEgg and 16 secs for the full size CNN home page. Not a totally fair comparison as the WiFi connection is likely to be quicker than 3G in most cases, but an interesting exercise in mobile internet nonetheless. Will try to do an iPhone EDGE vs 3G comparison at some point.

Neil Berman

Jul 14, 2008 Posted by | Analysis, Apple, Hardware, Mobile, Rants | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Getting up close and personal

My new camera arrived, so the picture quality on my blogs should be going up once I get through all my CES pics. Although my TyTN did sterling duty until now, when I need to get up close and personal the HTC’s focusing doesn’t quite make the grade.
Close ups are really important for me and taking good macro photos with a pocket phone or teeny-tiny snapshooter can be tricky.
That’s becaue few compacts take decent macro shots, and those that do tend to demand being around a foot away from the subject. This is often down to lens and focusing quality. I tried the highly rated Canon SD1000 and Sony DSC-W80. Both look cute but struggled to focus at close range.
As ever though, human ingenuity has made some snapshooters out-snap the rest. Some of the Panasonic Leica lensed Lumix range are able to take amazing close ups at web-page friendly resolutions (3MP or under), without the need for either a zoom (increases camera shake) or flash (screws up light).
I went for the FX3 at $105 from Amazon Marketplace. All of the photos on this article are taken indoors at under one inch(!) from the subject, without a flash and at only 3MP. What a camera! Not many SLRs can do this.Colours are vivid and well focused in the sweet bowl (two photos above). The stitching on this bag and the imperfections of the eyelet are perfectly rendered (above).
The FX3 focused perfectly on the awesome Nikon D3’s model number at just 2cm. The D3 could probably do the same thing at night.
Happy shopping to any camera buyers out there,
Neil Berman

Jan 20, 2008 Posted by | Hardware, Home Theater, Photo & Video, Reviews | , , , | Leave a comment

What Price 4G?

Nokia Siemens Networks has completed a proof of concept test for its Long Term Evolution (LTE) mobile data technology, which promises data rates of up to 173 megabits per second. WiMax is already available in some parts of the world and offers up to 70 mbps.

Question is, which mobile devices are going to take advantage of these technologies? Leaving aside both LTE and WiMax as they are currently emerging, precious few devices use the current high speed mobile data networks. In fact very few carriers have even implemented the fadtest 3G technology, HSDPA, which can deliver up to 14.4 mbps peak.

The whole HSDPA community is made up of users of a handful of devices such as the very smartest smartphones and some laptops, whose owners have chosen a carrier network which supports the standard.

At full speed HSDPA should give similar performance to many home or office high speed internet connections, so would increasing the data rate actually increase the market for services?

My HTC TyTN cellphone, which is basically a mini computer with a 400 MHz processor, sometimes has difficulty handling Skype voice calls over 54mbps WiFi because the processor is working so hard. More tellingly it opens web pages as quickly over WiFi as it does over EDGE, which suggests that the performance limitation for current mobile devices is in the processing speed of the device rather than the data speed of the wireless network.

Problem is as processor speed increases, the heat generated and battery power needed becomes highly challenging for a mobile device. In fact like the TyTN, the recently released TyTN II also has a 400MHz processor and I’m not aware of a more powerful smartphone on the current market. So it is doubtful that smartphones will be able to take advantage of higher mobile data speeds in a hurry.

More likely, the slow but ongoing growth of the Ultra Mobile PC (UMPC) sector will be able to make better use of fast wireless networks. These run industry standard operating systems and are more able to integrate seamlessly with corporate networks.

UMPCs also have software readily available for handling data intensive on-demand multimedia applications such as high quality video and music streaming, which fast wireless networks will be able to support. However as a society we have not reached the stage where video streaming into homes replaces traditional TV delivery methods, let alone trying to achieve critical mass in the mobile community.

Some years ago the auctions for 3G bandwith were a bonanza. In an ideal world those 3G data networks such as HSDPA and their associated service offerings would be prevalent across the market by now to repay the investment. In reality implementation and consumer adoption has been slow. There may even have been an ultimate aim for 3G networks to compete with home broadband and cable providers; HSDPA is certainly fast enough in theory.

LTE and WiMax – call them components of ‘4G’ for now – should be even better placed than 3G HSDPA to enter the home and office market to compete with fixed line data connectivity providers.

However as auctions approach for the rights to the ‘4G’ bandwidth, will the carriers be confident enough to pay such a high price again?

Neil Berman

Dec 28, 2007 Posted by | Mobile | , , , | Leave a comment

A weight off Q’s mind

James Bond’s Q was capable of many wondrous things, but unlike many of his fictional works, Samsung’s Q1 is a wondrous work of fact. That fact, unfortunately, was that the Q1 Ultra really struggled with Vista.

Going to the Samsung Experience at the TWC a few months back, the painful memory was of a killer device killed by its own CPU/OS combination. The Q1U had a couple of other flaws like the Barbie-small keyboard (see photo) and high price, but the basics like watching smooth video and loading up Control Panel in a reasonable time were scarily lacking. Vista was weighing heavy on its mind.

What a difference a difficult-to-stomach-but-sensible downgrade makes. Now that the Q1U comes with either Windows XP Tablet 2005 or Vista Premium, I decided to take it for another test drive. With XP the Q1U simply flies along. Video is smooth, web pages load quickly and battery life gets a boost to 4.5 hours according to Samsung.

I even gave the thumboard another try which, whilst not as tactile as a Blackberry or my HTC TyTN, does a reasonable job once you get used to it. It’s definitely usable and the Q1U would be a great tool for applications which require mainly mouse manipulation with some text input, such as presentation building. I still haven’t clicked with Dial Keys though!

With XP this is really a device that Q would be proud of; especially now he can watch Bond without freeze frame explosions!

Neil Berman

Sep 18, 2007 Posted by | Microsoft, Mobile | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

iPhone vs AT&T 8525 / HTC TyTN

Another day, another thousand iPhone reviews posted. Another bunch of people marvelling at the awesome straight-from-a-sci-fi-flick design. Another bunch of people cursing that only kids have fingers small enough to sms on the thing. Another bunch of people making pointless comparisons to competitors in the market.

See photos and read the latest CES cellphone news here
Read the latest CES 2008 Laptop and UMPC news here

Pointless? Well yes. It’s pretty impossible to make any meaningful comparison to similar devices when there aren’t any. Can you name another 500 buck cellphone which doesn’t have 3G or even stereo bluetooth? Me neither. Can you name another 500 buck cellphone which seamlessly plugs into iTunes, says ‘I’m uber-cool’ rather than ‘I’m a workaholic’ and has captured media attention more successfully than a military coup? Me neither.

So, why stack the iPhone against the HTC TyTN (AT&T/Cingular 8525)?

Well, if TyTN is the king of Smartphone Street then iPhone is the trendy kid who’s just moved in, and it reckons it can set off a few car alarms as it swaggers down the road.

That road happened to be Fifth Avenue New York, where people queued round a glass cube just down the road from a TyTN advert on a subway entrance. Beauty comes in many forms on 5th, but on June 29 it came as a slice of Apple. And what a beauty it was. You pick the thing up and think “woah, this is a real trick tablet”. I mean like what a Trek-era tablet should really be. Just a surface, nothing more. Thin as you could want, it is purity of design in the extreme.

Meanwhile Beast screams out from ads around the city. Functional to the last, TyTN’s touchscreen is almost the size of iPhone’s but with buttons strategically placed to give control over assignable functions. A slick slide-out keyboard with great backlit response hides under the screen. This helps make Tytn big-boned whereas iPhone is size zero.

iPhone’s keyboard is a bit different. Criticized upon release for being difficult to use, Apple has responded by placing an iPhone keyboard video smack on the front of its website. The Apple-simple video explains some of the cool tech behind the onscreen keyboard which makes it intelligently resize target zones as it guesses your typing. A clever implementation of a difficult paradigm. Apple was always up against a challenge by trying to replace the tactile feedback of a thumb-board with an on-screen equivalent. It still doesn’t work for me, I don’t think it can compare to the Tytn which gives a full landscape keyboard and a full screen to write on (see the newly released Tytn II’s tilting keyboard here). But does it need to…?
TyTN is the daddy of smartphones because it is the road warrior’s wet dream. It can run Microsoft Office Mobile so its keyboard is likely to see serious action. iPhone is unlikely to see similar usage. It has a size zero data diet and no productivity software, so I reckon most keyboard action will be for adhoc messaging and occasaional email unless you really get the knack of pressing the ‘keys’.

The URL keyboard on iPhone is pretty cool with a dedicated .com button and the surfing experience is good. Definitely beats TyTN for me although TyTN loads pages quicker (remember big-boned data diet). To be honest, viewing web pages on anything smaller than Samsung Q1 is a sign of desperation generally (since the time of wiritng the Nokia N810 has changed than with an amazing ultra-portable web experience). But desperate times call for small devices coz there’s not always a Q1 handy when you need one. Shame.

See photos and read the latest CES cellphone news here
Read the latest CES 2008 Laptop and UMPC news here

iPhone iTunes iLike. The iPod created the market conditions for iPhone to exist and Apple has integrated iTunes beautifully into iPhone. By comparison, TyTN’s Windows Media player is clunky and doesn’t seem to have undergone changes in the transition from Windows Mobile 5 to 6. But once you’ve got the songs fired up TyTN sings them wirelessly over Bluetooth…whereas iPhone keeps you plugged in with its size zero muscles dropping stereo Bluetooth in favour of a regular size headphone socket. Whoops, bet that gets fixed in iPhone the sequel.
Recalling nostalgic early iPod days, Apple has chosen to take the hassle out of iPhone battery replacement by offering to do it for customers for 79 bucks. Whilst your battery is being changed you can get a loan iPhone for another 29 green. Tytn batteries are 10 bucks on eBay but you have to fit it yourself. Fortunately I generally find that I am capable of fitting cellphone batteries…

Apple has partially opened up iPhone to third party developers through Ajax, which should lead to plenty of Safari-centric releases. I guess this will also preserve the quality and security of core application releases on iPhone, but I reckon if you want your kid to grow you have to let go. Fortunately TyTN lets its owner try to brick their phone (and potentially void their warranty) by loading on anything the Windows Mobile SDK supports. For example Skype, Google Maps and AvantGo for Windows Mobile work on TyTN. Kewl. I’m looking forward to seeing what gets released for iPhone though, even if at this stage the platform doesn’t seem quite as flexible.

Using iPhone is a jaw-dropping experience. Screen animations are awesome, picture viewing is slick and anything with big on-screen buttons, like the phone dialer, is easy to use. Even the screen lock is great. But I can’t help feeling that much of this ease is due to the size-zero functionality and lack of depth. It’s evidenced by the small number of applications on the home screen. TyTN’s Windows Mobile presents more information at once but you either need a fingernail or stylus due to the concentrated breadth of info on offer. For example the home page on the TyTN I’m looking at shows an internet search bar, email/sms/skype/network/battery/lock status, various notifications and the usual time & date stuff.

With iPhone much of this info seems an extra finger smudge away because the interface is designed with screen consuming easy-to-target buttons. That said, I suspect Apple knows what it’s doing and has given iPhone owners the type of experience they’ve been dreaming about. Much of the finger navigation has been superbly implemented and communication between core applications is sweet.

So do I go for Beauty or the Beast? Well for what I want from a cell, iPhone is a pretty fling but couldn’t keep my attention beyond looking fine and having a good singing voice. It’s a sublime first effort though and I’m sure future models will get even better. TyTN is functionally a more complete device and a king in the techno-jungle. Its convergence is fantastic.

But which one says I’m uber-cool before I even order a drink? That’ll be me at the bar with the size-zero. Question is, does iPhone have enough inside for you to have a long term relationship or will it end up as a one night stand?

Click here to see if iPhone can survive a Maine Coon mauling.

Click here to read about the recently released TyTN II / at&t Tilt.

Click here to read about emerging 4G technologies.

See photos and read CES news about: Laptops & UMPCs, Home Entertainment, Media Players, Cellphones, Gaming and Trick Technologies.

To read all the CES 2008 articles, click here.

Neil Berman


Thanks to anon Apple expert for editorial comment.

HTC TyTN available as AT&T / Cingular 8525, T-Mobile MDA Vario II, O2 XDA Trion, iMate JasJam, as well as other carrier branded models sold globally based on the HTC TyTN/Hermes.

Warning: Installing applications onto your cellphone or making modifications to your cellphone may invalidate your warranty or fry your cellphone.


iPhone at Apple

iPhone at AT&T


8525 at AT&T

TyTN at XDA Developers

Jul 13, 2007 Posted by | Apple | , , , , | 4 Comments


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