This Week in Mobile News Manor #3: XOOM, XOOM

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 Motorola XOOM got some hands-on time.
Written by James Kendrick, Contributor

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 was unusual as I got to attend an event thrown by Verizon to show off its new LTE 4G network in Houston. I've already had the pleasure of testing the network which is impressive, but it was fun to play with a few upcoming gadgets that have previously only been seen at the CES. The brief time I got to play with the Motorola XOOM tablet was eye-opening, as I found it to be a sweet slate. The XOOM is the first tablet in the wild that is running Android Honeycomb, and it may be a game-changer in the tablet world.

Unlike the controlled demos at the CES, Verizon let me handle and use the XOOM to get a feel for the user experience. The dual-core Tegra 2 processor kept things happening fast, and multitasking was a sheer delight. The Honeycomb interface is optimized for the big 10-inch screen of the XOOM, with everything accomplished via swiping and other gestures. My main takeaway from using the XOOM -- it is fun to use, and even though I prefer smaller tablets like the Galaxy Tab, I want one.

I got to play with the HTC Thunderbolt 4G phone that is coming to Verizon, and was able to experience Big Red's LTE network on a smartphone first-hand. The combination of the HTC hardware, which is very similar to the HTC EVO I use personally, with the blazing LTE network is impressive. The combination of fast hardware and the 4G network turned the smartphone online activity into an experience rivaling that of the desktop. As these super-fast networks become more commonplace the mobile experience is going to change radically.

I have been testing some tech that seems old-school in comparison, as AT&T sent me its latest MiFi to test, the Novatel 2372 MiFi that serves as a mobile hotspot on AT&T's data network. I have been surprised how consistently the AT&T network has performed with the MiFi, and while bandwidth has not been great compared to the new LTE network of Verizon, it has been a solid performer. This MiFi can be used internationally in over 200 countries, so road warriors may want to give it a look.

Mind Mapping, E-books and Wrap-up »

App of the Week

Thinking Space Pro is one of the apps on my top 10 list of apps for the Galaxy Tab, and I find I am using it more heavily over time. I like to use this mind mapping tool as a visual outliner for longer writing projects, as I find it stimulates the creative process to build a freeform outline using the app. Once I have an outline constructed on the screen, the ability to drag topics around to change the order of my thoughts is very powerful.

This week the app received an update that added a useful new feature for heavy users. Mind maps can now be tagged in the library screen, in effect creating a simple folder organization capability. Tags can be used to group like maps together, and more importantly to filter the library view to focus on individual groups of maps. Those of us with a large number of maps can organize them in a way that fits our individual work style, and easily focus on maps of interest.

I have a map tag for possible writing articles, and when I first get an idea for an article I create a blank map. I have Thinking Space Pro running all the time, and when I have a thought about one of these articles I enter it into a topic balloon in the appropriate article map. There are other note-taking apps that can do this, but having it in my outliner has the benefit of letting me grab the captured thought during the outlining process where I need it.

E-book of the Week

This week I continued reading Dead or Alive by Tom Clancey, a fast-moving story as only he can tell them. I typically read using the Kindle app on the Galaxy Tab, switching over to the HTC EVO 4G when the Tab is not with me. Amazon nailed it with the WhisperSync technology that keeps all of my devices in sync so I can concentrate on reading rather than the tool. Since switching solely to the Kindle ecosystem for my ebook reading, I definitely read more than I did before.


That's the week at Mobile News Manor as it happened, I hope you got something useful to take away from the sharing. Until next week, be safe and happy computing!

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