This week in Mobile News Manor #14: Thunderbolt hits the Manor

This is a peek into a technology writer’s home office, aka Mobile News Manor, discussing gadgets, apps, best practices using same, and ebooks. This week the Thunderbolt hit the Manor.

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.

Thunderbolt hits the Manor, other gadgets hit the road

This week saw gadgets arriving and leaving the Manor. The HTC Thunderbolt arrived in a tiny box that fails to do justice to the powerful smartphone inside. Verizon's fast 4G (LTE) network aside, the Thunderbolt is the fastest smartphone I have tested. Everything happens instantly on this phone, and it is the first smartphone on any platform I have used that shows no lag at any time. You trigger an action and it happens immediately, and fluidly. I will be covering the HTC Thunderbolt in detail after spending more time with it, but I am notably impressed so far. The only downside is the abysmal battery life while using the 4G network, which drains the battery so fast you can almost hear a sucking sound.

That was the only gadget that arrived at the Manor this week, but there is one coming later today that has me excited like a kid at Christmas. I have been threatening to drop the Sprint Overdrive 3G/4G modem I have been using for a year, and this week I made good on the threat. I ordered a Samsung 4G LTE MiFi from Verizon that should show up this afternoon.

My reasoning for switching from the 4G network of Sprint to the Verizon 4G network is simple. There is still no 4G coverage in my home office for the Sprint network, yet the Verizon 4G coverage is nice and strong. I tested the Verizon 4G network last year and was blown away with the speed of the network and how good the coverage is everywhere I commonly need it. That made the switch easy to justify and I'm looking forward to the arrival of the Samsung MiFi. I'll report on this gadget after I use it a while.

Most of the gadget activity this week in the Manor centered around the return of four gadgets. I test so many devices that every surface in my office is covered with them, so it's a major event when I can return some of them. The four gadgets that departed this week included two MiFi units (AT&T 3G, Sprint 4G MiFi), the Windows Phone 7 toting Samsung Focus (AT&T) and the HTC EVO Shift 4G (Sprint).

The Sprint 4G/3G MiFi has just gone on sale and was a good replacement for the original Sprint Overdrive modem. It is as small as other MiFis and dishes out Sprint 4G in a trouble-free manner. It was good enough that it made me consider trading my Overdrive for a MiFi, but in the end the Verizon 4G network won me over.

I enjoyed my time with the Samsung Focus and quite like Windows Phone 7. Microsoft has gotten bashed a lot lately due to the WP7 update problems, and I have to admit this Focus has still not received any update. That's a situation that simply must be fixed by Microsoft, and soon.

The HTC EVO Shift 4G is a typically good handset from the company, and it served me well during the testing. As a rule I don't find hardware keyboards particularly useful, but came to really like that on the EVO Shift 4G. The sliding QWERTY keyboard is well designed and easy to use.

Ebooks of the week

One of the ebooks I read this week was a departure from the type of novels I normally read. Asylum by Erik Lynd is a horror tale that involves children with a special ability, and parallel universes. It was quite entertaining and I enjoyed the story more than I thought I would. I should point out that I picked up Asylum when buddy Matt Miller tweeted that it was written by one of his neighbors. Matt should rest assured that he lives in a neighborhood of talented folks.

I just started a second book that is an early work of a very talented writer whose Nic Costa novels make up one of my favorite mystery series. Epiphany by David Hewson is in David's own words a very dark tale, and having only just started reading it that is an accurate description so far. David is a master at setting up the environments of his novels so vividly that you feel as if you are there, and I see from Epiphany that is the case in his early work too.

I should disclose that I consider David a friend, perhaps presumptuously, whose novels I discovered after beginning an online correspondence with him years ago about mobile tech. I have not met David in real life, but have an ongoing virtual friendship with him. Even so, I don't believe I am biased about his novels, he is a best-selling novelist with his Nic Costa series selling well globally. David embraces mobile tech in his work methods, and writes about them on his blog. Writers should be following David's blog to discover how a master at his craft uses technology to perfect it.


That's the week as it went down, I hope you got something useful to take away from the sharing. The column will be back next week at the same time. Until then be safe and happy mobile computing.