One of the primary benefits of being a technology writer is the ability to work in my home office, aka Mobile News Manor (MNM). It is a bustling place, with evaluation gadgets constantly arriving and going back to the vendors. As part of my daily work I spend a fair bit of time testing these gadgets for review, and also looking at new apps for various platforms to streamline my work methods.
This column is my look back each week to share pertinent experiences that I believe you might find useful. There is no telling what you might find in this column, but you’ll definitely get a feel for what it is like testing gadgets for a living. Welcome to the Manor.
Gadgetry in the Manor
This week the iPad 2 arrived for evaluation, and I spent a fair amount of time appreciating its new thinner, lighter form. It is largely unchanged from the original iPad, excepting the altered form and the addition of the cameras. I didn't receive the new smart cover to try out so I can't comment on what I believe is an innovative addition to the iPad family.
The new iPad is a great tablet that steps in nicely to fill the original iPad's shoes. It is an evolutionary step for Apple that buyers will appreciate and no doubt pick up in droves. I enjoy using it as much as I did the original iPad, but still find the tablet a bit too heavy for extended use in the hands. The metal construction is a nice design touch and very hardy, but it does come at a price in weight. It's a good tablet for anyone considering such a device, and most will find it to be a good purchase.
I still prefer a smaller tablet and the 7-inch Galaxy Tab fits my needs better. I don't see myself running out and buying an iPad 2 any time soon, but that's just me. I am looking forward to seeing the new Galaxy Tabs when they hit the market, given the thin forms and new device sizes (8.9 and 10.1-inch). I think it's great to have so many choices hit the market to fit the needs of the individual. Tablet size may end up being one of the major criteria that prospective buyers use to make a purchase decision, as I find Android tablets to be quite capable competitors to the iPad.
Apps of the week
This week Sprint pushed out an update for the Galaxy Tab that brought the new Sprint ID themes to the tablet. These are basically themes that bring new widgets and wallpapers to the multiple home screens of the Tab that have one-click application to totally change the look and feel of the tablet operation.
One of the benefits of the Android platform is the ability to customize the entire user experience using third-party apps and home screen widgets, and Sprint ID is designed to make such customization easy for newbies to the platform. Themes are downloaded from the Sprint servers and applied in one fell swoop, and it is easy to change the themes at will once downloaded. There are default themes with a focus on business users, entertainment themes and the like.
I tested Sprint ID and it performs well, and I think newbies to the platform will appreciate this free ability. It should be noted that those who have already customized their Galaxy Tab, as I have will find that Sprint ID totally replaces all aspects of such customization and it can be a bit of pain to revert back to it should Sprint ID not be your thing. It's worth a look to see where Sprint is headed for future Android devices.
Motorola caught a lot of deserved flack when it released the XOOM tablet without Flash support, as this had been a big selling point prior to launch. Support was promised to be coming soon, and this week Adobe rolled out the Flash Play 10.2 with support for Honeycomb. A system update for the XOOM was pushed out by Motorola to prepare for Flash support, and the new Player appeared shortly after in the Android Market.
I applied it to the XOOM I am testing and find it works as expected. It basically brings the XOOM up to the level of all Android devices running Froyo (Android 2.2) and above, as Honeycomb was the only version lacking Flash support prior to this release. I like having Flash on the XOOM as I do other Android devices, and while it's not a major requirement for me I find it better having it than not.
Most Android browsers allow you to configure plugins like Flash to only run on demand, and this is a great way to approach it. Flash elements do slow down the loading of web pages that have them embedded, and this way avoids the performance hit while leaving the option to use such elements if desired. Whether you like Flash or not, some web sites still use it heavily and I find it better to have the option to run such elements, and the XOOM browsing experience is better with this support at last.
This week Mozilla released Firefox 4 RC for Android, and I have been testing it on several devices. It is shaping up to be a nice alternative for browsing on Android, especially the ability to use the Firefox Sync to keep the mobile device environment mirroring that of the desktop. This version is lacking Flash support which Mozilla says is coming, and it further reinforces that it's better to have it than not. I'm keeping an eye on Firefox as a good mobile browser, but for now I prefer both stock Android web browsers and the Dolphin Browser HD, my favorite.
Ebook of the week
The ebook I read this week was a thriller by J. A. Konrath, The List. The List is a novel that starts out with an unlikely story premise, and eventually reaches the ludicrous level. A group of unrelated people get thrown together, and the resulting events, while vaguely entertaining, are so unbelievable that the wheels fall off the story by the end. It's not a novel I recommend for those who don't like stories involving character actions that aren't believable.
These are the high points of my week in Mobile News Manor, and I hope you enjoyed sharing them with me. Hopefully you found something useful to take away and help you in your own pursuit of mobile tech goodness. Next week I'll be back with the next column, so until then happy mobile computing.