Fennec Pre-Alpha Released

http://blog.mozilla.com/blassey/200…windows-mobile/

“This release is pre-alpha, and intended to get the product into the hands of early adopters in order to get feed back and bug reports. In order to focus our efforts on getting this release out, we have targeted only one device, the HTC Touch Pro. This has a number of user interface implications, including graphics designed for a 300 dpi screen, control layout intended for a vga screen and reliance on a hardware keyboard for text input.”

Fennec has reached a milestone release – a milestone of not-quite-ready-for-primetime-ness! But if you’re psyched to try out this Mozilla project on your Windows Mobile device, feel free to enjoy it’s pre-alpha goodness. Although be preparred for a bit of an experience with it – I’m already hearing reports that WinMo enthusiasts are giving up after taking a quick look this morning! Why even try it then? Well to summon the spirit of Brad, W?BIC!

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One Line Wisdom: Windows Mobile Edition

In the past we’ve asked you to share your best tips with the community, and in the same vein comes my newest talking point, the elusive yet useful joys of a small nugget of wisdom. Your mission, dear community, is to share one short line of wisdom that you might give to new users of Windows Mobile devices, old vets, and recent converts from “dumbphones”. Feel free to expound on your one-liner, but the one-liner should be able to stand on it’s own. Here’s mine:

When it comes to software, less is more

My line refers to the temptation some users get to trick out their phones with every conceivable application under the sun. And trust me – I was no exception to this when I started out with Windows Mobile. I had (still have actually) registration codes for easily the top 30 applications for Windows Mobile. I tried everything, bought most of it, and today use almost none of it. Aside from 3-5 applications I install, my device remains stock. Why? Well it isn’t that the software isn’t well written, it’s simply that I know what I use and try to avoid the clutter of unused doodads. When you find the software that really works for you, you don’t need to spend hours tinkering with everything else. Your smartphone just works, smartly, for you.

Now it’s your turn – share your line of wisdom and explanation (Perhaps it’s When it comes to software, use everything!”)!

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Alarm Master Sleys Elusive Enemy ForgetAllAboutis!

http://www.connectivetools.com/alar…master_ppc.html

“Alarm Master is a convenient and powerful utility that helps managing personal alarms and reminder on your Windows Mobile Classic/Professional device. If you need a reminder solution for a variety of purposes from daily alarm-clock to parents’ calls and monthly bills, this flexible tool is an ideal solution for you.”

So indulge me for a moment and pretend there is a mythical monster named ForgetAllAboutis, and further suppose that he/she/it likes to make you forget about various things you should do (e.g. call people you don’t particularly like, clean out pesky facebook friend requests from ex-girlfriends, or in my case, pay your quarterly taxes). Now imagine that some wonderful program existed that kept alarms apart from Windows Mobile’s calendar, included a today-screen plugin, and generally was customizable as one could wish. Now further believe that it has a trial version available and the full thing costs about 2 1/2 fancy coffees (e.g. around $13). If your (my) dream became reality, you’d have this new release from Connective Tools.

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Feel In Touch: The Samsung Omnia Reviewed

http://omnia.samsungmobile.com/

Product Category: Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional SmartphoneManufacturer: SamsungWhere to Buy: Expansys [Affiliate]Price: $689 USD (16 GB), $634 USD (8 GB)Specifications: 5 MP Camera, 3.2 TFT WQVGA Touch screen (240 x 400), Bluetooth 2.0, Wi-Fi 802.11g, Quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE, HSDPA 7.2 Mbits, TV-out, FM Radio, Integrated GPS, microSDHC, 1440mA battery

Pros:

  • Fun to use & responsive;
  • Sleek design;
  • Innovative value-added features (e.g. flashlight, haptic feedback).

Cons:

  • Widget Bar: full of promise, low on usability;
  • No multitouch ability;
  • Price and availability.

Summary: I’ve posted news on the Samsung Omnia over the last few months and found it to be interesting enough to purchase. What I found when I opened the box got me excited to be using Windows Mobile again, something I doubted could ever happen. Read on for my experience re-discovering the OS through Samsung’s vision of usability.Getting To Know The Omnia

The Omnia measures 113 x 49 x 15.1 mm (4.45 x 1.93 x .59 in) and weighs in at 140g (4.94 oz). It feels nice and light to the touch without feeling cheap. The first thing that a Windows Mobile user will notice is the absence of a normal D-Pad. The Omnia sports a call send, call end, and action button on the front, with the action button holding a surprise. Not only does it work like the normal center button on a D-Pad, it IS the D-Pad. Moving your finger from side to side or up and down will scroll as if using a normal D-Pad. And if that doesn’t float your boat, Samsung has also built in a mouse function that will let the little black action button control an on-screen mouse pointer. Functionality similar to a laptop’s touch pad is provided, with fairly good accuracy while mousing around the screen. Turning the device on shows Samsung’s unique homescreen, slightly customized below (I needed a time readout!).

Figure 1: Samsung’s widget bar, which is shown by clicking the arrow has widgets that can be dragged onto the home screen. The widgets, however, are not customizable (e.g. you cannot add new or remove existing).

For those of you not into Samsung’s new look, they also provide a more normal home screen layout sans widgets. Below is the layout I’ve been using.

Figure 2: Alternate home screen, pressing Settings slides the icons to the right and shows Figure 3.

Figure 3: The settings panel, allowing you to quickly toggle vibrate, Motion (the ability to detect orientation changes and adjust screen rotation), USB mode (Activesync vs. Mass Storage), on-screen mouse, and flashlight (activating the LED flash in continuous mode).

In addition to the funky home screen that is pretty usable, the device also has its own Main Menu, in a further attempt to prevent you from ever having to deal with Windows Mobile’s ugly Programs menu (well, ugly by some standards – I actually like it…)

Figure 4: Samsung’s Main Menu.

Figure 5: Modifying the Shortcuts.

The Omnia also includes Samsung’s “Touch Player”, a more finger centric and friendly interface to listen to music compared to regular old Windows Media Player that we’ve had since the stylus-intense days of old.

Which brings up an interesting point regarding a stylus and the Omnia – namely they don’t want you putting the thing anywhere near the screen. Sure, they include a stylus (a retractable one at that), but it doesn’t have a silo in the device to store it. In fact, the best they can do is put a loop on the end of it so you can hook it to a hook on the device. Why? Well, they want you using your fingers see – and they will not be deterred by us old timers who long for our styli!

Figure 6: Samsung’s Touch Player

Integrated Camera

The Omnia sports a 5mp camera, with LED flash as well as video recording support. The camera works very well under direct lighting, and in the dark thanks to the flash. It’s medium lighting situations where you may get some blurring (as in the third example shot below). Overall the Omnia’s 5mp means that I don’t have to carry around my pocket camera/camcorder, however I find myself still putting it in my bag – just to be on the safe side. For each of the sample shots below, click on the image to get the full, undoctored, picture.

Figure 7: Looks warmer than it really is…

Figure 8: Everyone needs a dressed-up Jamaican Head.

Figure 9: Notice how the medium light makes this picture the blurriest of the three.

“Wow Cool” Features

The Omnia shines in the areas that Samsung has taken the time to improve over a stock Windows Mobile 6.1 core. While WinMo 6.1 is extremely powerful, it’s not anything new or interesting for those of us who have been using these devices for quite some time, and it darn sure isn’t anything that would make you stop and go “Wow… Cool”. But here are some things I found somewhat innovative and “Wow… Cool”-ish about the Omnia.

  • The front camera that is actually useful for those without voice calling: it detects light level to increase or decrease screen brightness, and also (in conjunction with the accelerometer) can enter an “etiquette” mode. You turn the phone over on its face, and it automatically mutes all sounds.
  • The Finger Mouse. Toggle-able from the homescreen, it turns the D-Button (the black button that is sensitive to touch and can act like a D-Pad in one mode or control an on-screen mouse in another). Not useful in all situations, but in some it really shines. Hence the much appreciated toggle on the Samsung today screen for it.
  • The built-in Samsung SIP that’s actually surprisingly useful for someone with big fingers to enter text into. For the ultimate dream though, a third-party app like SPB’s Full-Screen Keyboard really makes one forget about a dedicated keyboard.
  • The flashlight feature that lets the light used for a “flash” actually serves some function. Hold the volume key down for 5 seconds and it turns on, letting you navigate your way through a dark room.
  • The haptic feedback (how did I get to bullet four without mentioning this already): it’s very nice to get some responsiveness after a keypress, a screen rotation, even a quick button press. The weird thing? This could have been implemented years ago – we all had “vibrate” motors!
  • The value added applications such as an RSS feed reader, world clock, reader, converter and even video editor. Nevermind the FM radio built in as well as TV-OUT capabilities.
  • The smoothness of integration. While some gaps are present, Samsung excels at providing one of the best integrations of OEM components and Windows Mobile that I’ve seen to date.

Head to Head: Omnia vs. Touch Pro

The Omnia came to me mid-October, and after playing with it for awhile, I realized that I needed to view it in comparison to another popular device of its generation, the Touch Pro (a.k.a. the AT&T Fuze). So, without another Windows Mobile Maven around me to bum a device off of, I did the only sensible thing – I bought a Fuze at my local AT&T store (WM Devices are my only real vice, I decided to forgo excessive drinking in my undergraduate days to have cash for them..;). Anyway, it is that purchase that was the genesis of this piece of the review: the head to head comparison. I’ll compare the two devices on four important qualities: Touch Responsiveness, Windows Mobile Customization, Daily Use, and Subjective Value (i.e. my own opinion).

Touch Responsiveness

Quick Response is something near and dear to most Windows Mobile Enthusiasts, and let’s face it, our beloved operating system can at times have the quick response of a party-loving college freshman on Saturday morning. Especially important is the fact that these devices need to respond quickly to touch as touch is really the only thing that you’re encouraged to do with them. The Omnia has a nice haptic feedback feature that I’ve already mentioned that lets you ‘feel’ when some touches are recorded, which is nice if the screen doesn’t draw quickly to let you know that you’re changing. But the Touch Pro will not be outdone – its screen draws in a side-by-side comparison were faster about 80% of the time for me. I know others out there have been critical of the Touch Pro and Touch Diamond’s graphics performance, but at least for the devices I’m using, it seemed to draw quicker. Finally, the last test is entering text. Samsung gives a nice finger-keyboard SIP they custom designed, as does the Touch Pro. I swapped Samsung’s out for a copy of SPB Keyboard 3.0 and was not disappointed. But as it comes stock, I do have to admit that the Omnia does a bit better keying in data, of course the Touch Pro has a real keyboard that can prevent finger-tap-keying in the first place. It’s a touch decision, but in the end I’ll have to go with the one that vibrates.

ADVANTAGE: Omnia

Windows Mobile Customization

Samsung certainly has made a bold statement with their widget bar, and the Touch Pro’s TouchFlo interface doesn’t much resemble the home screen we all known and love (loathe) either. If you’re after information, and a quick way to find it, you’ll like TouchFlo much better than the widget bar, or even Samsung’s alternate interface (See Figures 2 & 3). TouchFlo, however, can be a bit sluggish until you learn the tricks (e.g. that you can hold down your finger on each icon at the bottom and rapidly scroll to the other icons). In the useful category, I’m going to have to give HTC Props, but in the “cool” category, the widget bar does have a more impressive show to put on. Which wins out in the end?

ADVANTAGE: Touch Pro

Daily Use

I recently took a trip to Chicago for a conference and brought both the Touch Pro and the Omnia along with me. Over four days I used the Touch Pro for 2 and the Omnia for the other 2. Interestingly enough, I found that while the Touch Pro could be excellent to browse quick e-mails (e.g. by using the e-mail and text tabs in TouchFlo), it had some strange quirks. The version of Google Maps I’d loaded on it took forever to get a GPS lock, even with a fresh “hint” file download. Google Maps also had the strange habit of going zombie on me. It would minimize but refuse to re-open, even if I stopped it in memory and tried to open it again. Only a soft-reset would help, causing some rather embarrassing moments while trying to navigate my way around another city (But on another note, Thank goodness for Google’s new public transit routing in major US cities!). The Touch Pro, aside from its zombieness did do an admirable job and does have a beautiful VGA screen that puts Samsung’s WQVGA to shame. It is my go-to device when I know I’ll need to enter a lot of text. The Omnia, however, never zombied up on me, got quick GPS locks, was adequate to read my e-mail, and has remained my daily driver ever since the trip.

ADVANTAGE: Omnia

Subjective Value

Subjectively, I like both of these devices (after all, I bought both…). But the Omnia seems to have a certain sexiness that the boxiness and thickness of the Touch Pro lack. Now I know that the Touch Pro needs to be a bit more bloated since it has a keyboard, but why couldn’t it include some of the “sexy” features like a 5mp camera, or better use of the accelerometer like the Omnia does out of the box? But like I mentioned before, if I plan on doing a lot of work using text input, the built-in keyboard will always win over the graphical based one. So My recommendation: if you do a lot of text, grab a Touch pro. If you don’t, or you just really love finger tapping out letters, go with an Omnia.

ADVANTAGE: Draw

Conclusion

After using the Omnia for about a month, I can actually say something I’ve been wishing were true for awhile: this is a device that makes me excited to use Windows Mobile again! Samsung has done a good job on their first attempt to seriously tweak the OS, and may have even outdone modifying kingpin HTC in some areas. I didn’t even mention the fact that the Omnia has at least 8 GB of on-board storage to play with, and there are many other nuances that make the Omnia very attractive. The Omnia is my new daily driver, and I’m eager to see what the next generation hardware/software combo from Samsung will be.

Jon Westfall is a Microsoft MVP, frequent contributor to the Thoughts Media family of sites, avid City of Hero player, and most importantly a person adrift in the sea of a doctoral dissertation, looking for an island on which to rest. Track his journey and learn more than you really want to know at JonWestfall.Com

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Vaja’s ivolution Case Snuggles Samsung Omnia

http://www.vajacases.com/home/home_…i&c=7&it=10&s=1

A few weeks ago, I posted news that Vaja cases, the South American based company known for their rather elegant cases, had released an ivolution case for the Samsung Omnia. Shortly after posting the news, Vaja was kind enough to offer to send me the ivolution case so I could take a look at it myself and decide how it well it accompanied the Omnia. I’ve never owned a Vaja case before, so with the case came much anticipation about the quality and design, and today I’m pleased to share my experiences using the case!

The first thing you surely notice about a Vaja case is the packaging. The packaging that the case came with was nicer than some of the boxes my Pocket PCs have come in (looking straight at you AT&T…). The small box slides open letting you easily take the case out, and keep the box for future use. A small thing, but I’m always grateful when i don’t have to destroy packaging just to get something out.

I would have taken more photos of the case I received, however in this case I’ll point you to Vaja’s site as the case I have is literally the exact same case used for the PR shots (The color is spot on to the shots, no strange lighting distorting the true teal seen above). Getting my Omnia into the case was a real snap – I simply placed it into the back at an angle, and shifted it up until the two grips held it firmly in. The gripping pieces are nicely finished and don’t damage the device with even the smallest marking or scratching. The case then folds up and the grip seen in the lower right of the picture above secures it shut.

The case adds very little bulk to the device, always something nice. It can’t be attached to any sort of clip for a belt (that was SO 2003…), and without any sort of nub it looks plain and elegant. The biggest reason I have never been a ‘case’ guy is simply because I can’t stand a bulky case on the device when the device spends the majority of the time in my pants pocket. This case doesn’t bulk up, and still allows the device to slide in and out of my pocket without trouble.

Visually the case is very nice, however functionally I do have two small issues. First, the grip that holds the front of the case to the phone can be a bit hard to open once it’s been shut up. It takes a bit more force than I’d like (at times making me worry about opening it and having the phone pop out), however I suppose that’s needed to keep the phone secure. The second issue is using the case while charging. The charging port is not covered by the case, however to open the port cover, one must use their fingernail to slide along the bottom of the cover and pop it open. When the case is on the phone, my finger is simply too large to get in there and have enough leverage to pop the cover open. The result is that I must remove the device from the case to open the charging port cover, then can place the device back in, plug in the charging cable, and be done. In the morning I can easily close the port cover without removing the device. Takes but a minute to pull it out to open that port, yet it is still somewhat distracting.

Like all Vaja cases, the ivolution comes in a variety of colors and designs. The starting price, before customization is around $75, however if you’re looking for a nice sleek case that appears durable and elegant all at the same time, the price may be worth it. After all, the device you’re housing wasn’t exactly cheap! Speaking of that device, someone should really write up a whole review on it… perhaps having it up on the web by the end of the week… !

Jon Westfall is a contributing editor for Pocket PC Thoughts, as well as a Microsoft MVP for Windows Mobile. Currently he is finishing his doctorate in cognitive psychology, and experiencing the usual holiday stresses! Find out more about him, his life, his cat, his meaningless thoughts, at JonWestfall.Com

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Pandora Puts Personalized Music On Windows Mobile Devices

http://www.phonescoop.com/news/item.php?n=3731

“Pandora provides a personalized, Internet-based radio service. Today, Pandora announced that it is extending its PC-based software to select Windows Mobile devices. The mobile version will have the same features as the online version, such as creating new stations, bookmarking songs, and rating songs with thumbs up or thumbs down. Pandora will initially support the Motorola Q9c and HTC XV6900 on Verizon’s network, and the Motorola Q9c and HTC Touch on Sprint’s network.”

Pandora provides a nice alternative when shuffle on your iPod/Zune/MP3 Player of choice is just being too repetitive. I’ve even found more than one new song that I like through it, and it’s nice to see that eventually we’ll all be able to play it on our WinMo devices, with initial support for a select few VZW & Sprint customers.

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i-mate Jumps on Alternate UI Bandwagon

http://www.boygeniusreport.com/2008…e-61-i-mate-go/

“First things first… It’s no TouchFLO 3D. Ok, now that we have that out of the way we do have to say that we’re happy to see another company making an effort to tidy up the Windows Mobile UI a tad. Who knows how far away we really are from Windows Mobile 7 becoming a reality and in the meantime, even many Windows Mobile die hards seem to be losing patience with the very dated look of the OS. Samsung, HTC and Sony Ericsson aren’t the only companies attempting to bandage their mobile OS of choice however, as i-mate has just announced its “i-mate Go” UI. No, it’s not the catchiest name in the game, but those of you looking for high visibility and simple design for your i-mate UI should be pleased. i-mate Go is powered by VITO Winterface of course, a Windows Mobile UI enhancement that essentially started as an iPhone rip off and evolved into a slightly less obvious iPhone rip off.”

Well, it isn’t at all unexpected to see an alternate UI for Windows Mobile these days, which in itself is a bit sad. However, looking on the bright side, I suppose this truly signifies that i-mate is not dead, after struggling with the loss of HTC provided handsets. Still, I’d rather have one nice UI, rather than a patchwork of “improved” UIs floating around.

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Windows Mobile Phone Looks Neat, Intimidating, and Odd at the Same Time!

http://www.engadgetmobile.com/2008/…fe-looks-scary/

“Edinburgh’s own The Medical Phone is just about set to unleash the mobile for the true argonaut in the iCEphone. The Windows Mobile-powered “Swiss Army knife of mobiles” is dubbed a micro-notebook by its manufacturer, and while we’re hesitant to go along with that, we can’t deny the utility here. Sporting a Jacob’s Ladder-style hinge and a full QWERTY keyboard, the unit features three independent panels, a 3-inch 400 x 240 resolution touchscreen, a mouse / tracker pad, dual SIM card slots, HSDPA support, quad-band GSM connectivity, GPS, a 3.1-megapixel camera, WiFi and a 532MHz Freescale iMX31 CPU. We’re told that the phone is just weeks / months away from a release in Thailand, and it should be hitting the UK sometime in the March – April time frame for around $1,000.”

You can’t say this isn’t an original form factor, I rarely see something this big and somewhat intimidating with Windows Mobile on it (Well, perhaps the Rugged devices are intimidating somewhat). Anyone think they want to sport one of these next year?


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Verizon Announces Samsung Saga

http://www.samsungmobilenews.com/20…rizon-wireless/

“Verizon Wireless and Samsung Telecommunications America (Samsung Mobile)1 announced the addition of two new phones to Verizon Wireless’ robust portfolio of global phones – the Samsung RenownTM and the Samsung SagaTM The Saga is a smartphone that features a 2.55″ advanced touch screen and a full QWERTY keyboard that provides business professionals with an easy way to send e-mail, text and instant messages. This productivity powerhouse is equipped with Quad Band GSM/GPRS capability, an optical mouse, Wi-Fi access (802.11 b/g), Opera mobile browser and Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional to keep customers connected to their offices when they are at home and abroad.”

Hopefully the Saga won’t simply “be a a medieval Icelandic or Norse prose narrative of achievements and events in the history of a personage, family, etc” but will be an honest to goodness Windows Mobile device that brings some options to those on VZW. Opera is getting bundled more and more these days, and for good reason. Now if VZW can simply find a way to charge by the keypress, they’d be all set.


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Pharos Unveils New Traveler 117 and 127 Phones

http://www.pharosgps.com/buzz/buzz_…eler117_127.pdf

“Pharos introduced two new GPS smartphones that offer full-featured navigation and lightning-fast 3.5G connectivity on an unlocked, Windows Mobile handset. The Pharos Traveler 117 and 127 are Pharos’ first phones to include Pharos Smart Navigator, a unique hybrid navigation product that is the first to combine navigation software + location services on a Windows Mobile device”

I’ve long been a fan of Pharos Ostia GPS package, and their new hybrid phones that include the Smart Navigator component look pretty nice. Pharos has been at this phone thing now for a year or two – anyone out there have one or have an opinion on one?


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