Living with a Motorola Atrix – The Good and Bad

Frequent readers of this blog will know that I am an avid smartphone user. For years, my primary platform was RIM’s Blackberry and I appreciated the phone’s highly functional physical keyboard. When I changed jobs, my new company did not support Blackberry and so I was issued a Palm Pre Plus which I blogged about here. However, I also maintained a personal phone and back in March decided to upgrade to a Motorola Atrix 4G which is an Android based device. (I did not get the laptop dock.) Having lived with the phone for about 3 months, I wanted to share my thoughts.

Good: Speed

I will not go through the Atrix specs in detail, but one point of note is that the phone includes the new dual-core Tegra processor. Having never owned a single core Android phone, I cannot compare it directly, but can say that it is very fast. It virtually never slows down and runs everything application flawlessly. One of the areas where this is most visible is in Google Navigation. The route re-calculation functionality is instantaneous and I barely know when it happens. This is in sharp contrast to my Tom Tom navigator which takes a good 5 – 10 seconds to recalculate during which time you are driving blind. This phone is in sharp contrast to my Palm Pre Plus and previous Blackbery Bold 9000 both of which slowed down frequently.

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Blackberry OS 6.0 – Is it enough?

There have been numerous leaked videos of the upcoming Blackberry 9800 slider.  The device brings a new form factor to the Blackberry, but most importantly incorporates a brand new OS, 6.0.  The combination of 6.0 and the 9800’s touch screen mimics the experience found in competing phones running Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android, but is it enough?

I have blogged before about how I believe that RIM has to re-write their OS to become competitive in the rapidly changing and multimedia-centric smartphone market.  OS 6.0 represents RIM’s strongest move yet in this direction, but is still based on their traditional Java OS.  Crackberry.com has links to sample videos of the new phone/OS combination in the links below.  (Note: that some of these videos have been removed, and most can be found here.)

These videos show an impressive improvement in Blackberry functionality and features, but I am not convinced it is enough.  If you look at the market, Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android battle on hardware and software features.  They are constantly trying one-up each other with enhancements like video-conferencing (iPhone) or wireless hotspot (Android).  RIM is behind on touchscreen functionality and 6.0 is a catch up release for them.  It breaks no new ground but rather brings RIM a touch interface that is similar to what Android and iOS have been offering since inception.  Where is the innovation in the platform? Continue reading Blackberry OS 6.0 – Is it enough?

Android takes on Apple in tablet computing

I blogged earlier this week about the importance of a next generation smartphone OS and recently ran across this article over at the Wall Street Journal which reinforces the point.  It discusses how multiple vendors are developing iPad competitors based on Android.  The key is that Android is a next generation OS that provides the flexibility to support multiple hardware platforms.  This is similar to how the iPhone was designed.

The other element to consider is that Android is a truly open platform allowing for broad application support.  In contrast, Apple tightly controls the availability and qualification of applications for the iPhone/iPad platform.  The Android approach provides much more flexibility and openness at the expense of control.  Apple tighly controls their environment and can and does limit applications that do not meet their standards or compete with existing functionality (think Google Voice).  Consumers will vote with their wallet on the solution that they want.

Clearly Apple has a big lead in the market with its early launch of the iPad, but the openness and broad vendor support of Android may allow for more aggressive competition.  It will be interesting to see which technology emerges as the dominant one.  For me, I always prefer openness and flexibility and so would be more willing to invest in Android over the iPad.

Choices: iPhone, WebOs or Android and why RIM must rewrite

The Mrs is looking to take the leap into the world of smartphones.  Up until this point, she has used a traditional cellular phone and an old fashioned Palm Z22.  The combination has worked okay, but the requirement for frequent manual syncing of the Z22 due to recurring data loss is frustrating.  It is time for a change.

As I am reviewing options, the realization has struck me that what really matters is the OS.  I define the OS as not just the software that runs on the phone but also the supporting infrastructure.  Apple has masterfully innovated through their iPhone OS and complementary applications such as iTunes and the AppStore.  Apple created an entirely new and highly profitable business model with these products.  They then ported the same technology to two additional platforms in the iPod Touch and the iPad and further extended their reach.  In fact their OS and infrastructure was so revolutionary that they have made few changes to it since the launch in 2007 and it still is the leader.

Continue reading Choices: iPhone, WebOs or Android and why RIM must rewrite