This week in Mobile News Manor #22: Revolving door for gadgets

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 was a cool watch and tablet.
Written by James Kendrick, Contributor

It has been a couple of weeks since the last column appeared due to a hectic schedule; so much for calling it a weekly column. Since my last one there have been no fewer than five gadgets leave the Manor and a couple of cool ones that appeared.

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 amount 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.

Revolving door for gadgets

The coolest thing about my job as a mobile tech reporter is that people, many whom I don't know, send me gadgets to test. Sometimes they give me a heads-up that one is on the way, and others just send them. It is pretty common for the delivery guy to drop off a gadget that I am not expecting. Some days it almost seems to rain gadgets in the Manor.

These gadgets stay a while for testing and then they go back where they came from. The worst part of the gadget evaluation process is the packing up of a device and shipping it back. Not because I get attached to them, if that happens I end up buying one of my own, but because it is an involved process to pack up a device in the original shipping material, and then hauling it to the shipper.

Since my last MNM column I have packed up and returned five gadgets. It seemed I was always packing something up and taking it to the shipping company. It drove home how clever some gadget makers are getting with their packaging. Repacking some gadgets is like recreating an intricate origami model. Somehow things don't always fit back into a package the way they came out of it. This is actually a good thing as the smaller product packaging is often the result of making things more eco-friendly.

Without going into too much detail, I returned two laptops, two smartphones and a MiFi hotspot. Laptops are the easiest to repack for return, as there is more room in those boxes. Smartphones can be downright tricky as the boxes are now only slightly bigger than the tiny phones. It is amazing how many pieces come out of some of these little smartphone boxes. It reminds me of those little cars in the circus with all of those clowns pouring out.

I have to keep returning gadgets as soon as I can due to others always arriving. My office is not that big and it quickly stacks up with gear unless I constantly rotate gadgets. Two new devices were delivered, one a prototype watch that works with my phone and the other a Honeycomb tablet that just went on sale.

The Fossil MetaWatch is a prototype of a watch for developers to build apps to take advantage of an extra screen for the smartphone. I am finding it very useful, and detailed it in an earlier article. I see this type of gadget kicking off a wave of similar devices in the future.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 just went on sale yesterday in the U. S., and I am finding it to be a delightful tablet for using around the house. The thin, light form makes it the most comfortable tablet I have used to date, and that is an important feature for a device designed to be solely used in the hands. My review of the Tab details the device and what I like most about it.

That review sparked a discussion on Twitter (I am @jkendrick) about Android tablet apps, more particularly the misinformation that is prevalent about them. Many folks still believe that Android tablet apps are simply the smartphone versions blown up to fit the big screen, and that is simply not true. Many Honeycomb apps can't be installed on phones as they are specifically written for the bigger tablet screen. Other apps that work on both smartphones and tablets have a different interface, display and controls when installed on a Honeycomb tablet than they do on a phone. It works exactly like apps that work on both iPhones and iPads; they are totally different versions depending on what device it is installed on.

I use tablets heavily for a lot of different functions, and I find good Android tablet apps for everything I want to do. The number of tablet apps in the Android Market pales in comparison to the number of iPad apps available, but there are some very good ones for Honeycomb tablets. Those considering a tablet would be wise to not write the Honeycomb tablets off thinking there are no good apps available; there are, and other good ones appearing all the time.

App of the week

I am a heavy Twitter user, but don't like the official Twitter web site and apps. I have been a long-time fan of the Tweetdeck desktop app but that is changing since Dwight Silverman pointed me to MetroTwit. MetroTwit is a multi-column Twitter application for Windows 7 that borrows extensively from the Windows Phone Metro interface (thus the name). The app is in beta but it works really well and is a joy to use. I like it so much I often run it on the Mac in a Win7 virtual machine under Parallels Desktop. That says a lot.

Ebook of the week

I was ecstatic to find another novel by John Sandford starring one of my favorite characters, Lucas Davenport. Buried Prey is a great story that sees one of Davenport's first unsolved murder cases get uncovered in the present, forcing the investigation to be reopened. Davenport has to relive the early failure, and put that aside to solve the current case. It is a great addition to the series by Sandford, and I highly recommend it.


This column is now caught up, sorry for missing last week's entry. I will probably begin publishing the column on Saturday mornings going forward, as that better fits my schedule. Have a great week and see you next time.

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