Sunday, May 11, 2008

Technology Shmecknology Part II: Are you Smarter than a Smart Phone?

One of the cool things about blogs is reading other peoples comments when it comes to technology and schmecknology. Even though the reviews in the professional publications are written quite well, I think you get a more honest review of the product when the writer actually uses his own shekels to purchase the product, and has enough time to learn how the gadgets work which often is not the case with a lot of these reviews that are written under tight editorial deadlines.

I got my phone about three weeks ago and I am still trying to get the hang of it to see what gimmicks will get used, and which are just going to sit there un-used. Every year (except for the strike ruined 2008) I always get a kick out of the new season of 24 to see all the cool gimmicks on Jack Bauer's cell phone. I used to think the show was making most of this stuff up, but now that I have researched this column, I have realized that a lot of these phone chotchkas actually exist.

I really liked my last cell phone, and up until very recently I had not planned on changing it. I wrote about it 2 yrs ago (see the archives from July 6, 2006), and aside from the nuisance of text messaging off a keyboard where 3 letters share a key, I really had no complaints. (Interestingly enough I had to call a friend at his office the other day, and when I had to spell out his name in the automated company directory, I was totally baffled because the numbers on the new phone have no corresponding letters!)

Shortly after getting my previous Samsung phone, I had taken a cool pic at my old condo of myself sitting with white framed pictures on a blue wall. The little blue and white ATT "G" network coincidentally landed right between the 2 white frames creating a very cool effect. But, for whatever reason, I deleted the pic from the phone (after saving it to my memory card) and once I sent it back from the card to the phone, I couldnt "stretch" the pic back to its old dimensions any more. Basically, once I lost the pic, I was ready to upgrade to a new phone.

At some point, the Red BlackJack II must have caught my attention and I started to research it. Aside from the fact that the keys are a lot smaller than other phones, I liked the idea that it has as an mp3 and media player, qwerty keyboard, calendar, and gps. Interestingly enough, I was chatting with Pumpstradamus the other day, and he had bought a smart phone last year but didn't like it because he likes to have separate gadgets, whereas I like to have all my chotchkes in one gadget. And now that I have had the phone for 3+ weeks, the odd thing is its usage as a phone is not really that relevant to me since I like the other stuff it can do.

I had gone to the ATT Wireless store at a local mall and the over caffeinated salesman animatedly pointed out all the stuff about the phone. My 2 questions were the price and whether it came with stereo headphones for the mp3 player. This was a big issue for me back in '06 when I bought the sgh-d807 and none of the ATT stores carried the headphones... and I already had found out that the Blackjack II Headphone jack didnt work with the '06 headphones. Two years ago, I had to buy them from a T-Mobile kiosk at the same mall and they only had it because that phone's headphones were compatible with another Samsung phone that T-Mobile was carrying. Ideally, in a perfect world, Cingular would have just used the same headphone jack on the Black Jack II that was used on the old phone.. but that was not the case. So now I was facing a 2-fold mission - does the phone have the headphones..... and if not.... would T-Mobile or Verizon rescue me??

Mr. Over Caffeination claimed it came with the headphones (at first he said it did not, but a less caffeinated salesman overruled him) and the price would be 200 dollars with a 100 dollar rebate. I decided to think it over a little bit, and ventured over to a local Best Buy to see what they could do. Best Buy was somewhat helpful; the saleswoman very kindly allowed me put the phone in my shirt pocket to see if it would fit there - this phone is bigger, fitting right in the palm of my hand, but weighs less than the '06 phone and fits in a shirt pocket. However, Best Buy told me that they did not carry the headphones and they didn't appear too knowledgeable if it was actually sold elsewhere in the store. Their price for the headsetless phone was 100 dollars straight up - no rebate.

As it turns out, Trophy Wife had obtained some free movie tickets, and after deciding to use them for the mediocre Superheroes movie, we realized we had some time before the movie to stroll along at the mall that houses the movie plex. I saw a Radio Shack and thought that it might not be a bad time killer to see if they carried the stereo headset. This mall was unfamiliar to me and as I asked them where the ATT Wireless store is, since I wanted to get the phone that matched the headset, the salesman brilliantly informed me that the Radio Shack was THE ATT wireless store in that mall. (He was fibbing, there was another one... )

Radio Shack had a good deal.. the salesman there seemed to have as much knowledge as the other guy had caffeine. They told me it would be 50 bucks with the headphones... and he could get the whole thing done for me in time for me to get my pre movie popcorn! I was all in.. psyched, happy and excited and as he rang me up and opened the box.. and there I saw it.... No headphones! The salesman was surprised to see it was not included and at that point.. I decided let's just go for it. He told me (and I later confirmed his truthiness) that the box they get is the same box that the ATT stores get, so if he didnt have the headphones... the stores would not have them either. I visited the kiosks for Verizon and T-Mobile and nobody had the headphones.... Apprarentaly the Red Black Jack II is the first phone to use this newfangled type of connection, so the other carriers didn't have those unique accessories in stock. I ultimately bought them on eBay.... and unlilke my Devils hat, I had them a few days later!

Speaking of the Devils, I saw in the newspaper this week that a judge has issued arrest warrants for 2 former Meadowlands based athletes... onetime NY Giant Bart Oates and former NJ Devil Ken Daneyko because they failed to show up to give depositions in a real estate lawsuit. The judge in Newark is Judge Michael Giles, who it was revealed a few weeks ago got into a bit of trouble for cursing in his courtroom. What happens if these 2 guys show up in court, and the judge roots for The Jets and The Rangers? Is he going to yell at them.... "You bastards....." etc.??

So far, I like the phone but it is important if you buy this phone to lock the keypad because when you walk around you are bound to start dialing numbers! This is my first venture into the world of "The Smartphone" and the number of things it does is quite impressive. Here are some examples in no particular order.

1. The usual telephoning.

2. A very addictive video game called Bubble Breaker. Trophy Wife and I have spent hours playing this crazy game where you try to clear a board full of bubbles by popping consecutive bubbles of the same color. The game is a lot of fun and has been gaining popularity among the smart phone game conosieurs. I finally cleared the bubble board... and that was it.... the game was over. No 2nd board??

3. The whole Outlook calendar synching routine is quite cool. Now I don't have to fire up my laptop to see what I have to do on any given day. Plus I am also starting to use the phone to directly type in my appointments.

4. While I was firing up my Outlook synching, it also enabled me to save some word documents which I could then transfer from my laptop to my desktop. It was a little more complicated than using a portable usb drive... but ultimately I was able to move files to the phone. In addition to that, its more than just a portable storage drive, because this phone allows you to edit documents right on the cellphone! Thats pretty nifty.

5. Another file to transfer - music and video. I have been using this as my mp3 player and unlike my '06 version there are no crazy rules about shortening lengthy song titles nor do you have to go to cumbersome extra steps to transfer music. You can also watch videos on a full screen. In addition I was able to transfer my microdisk card from the old phone (Even though the Radio Shack salesman erroneously thought it was corrupted - it had stopped working on my computer).

On the old phone I had to put the disk in a reader, and put that in the computer. But that was so 2006! On this phone it stays inside the phone and I can transfer files directly through a usb connector that goes from the phone to a computer. That disk is 1 gb and it holds quite a bit.. however as I have noticed from watching videos on the phone, the clear although small screen enables a person to watch downloaded tv shows or movies on the phones too! So off I went to eBay, and after comparing the 4 gb to the $23 offered on amazon, I jumped in on a few auctions late one night and jumped out once the ebay auction went over $23. After a few auctions I actually got it for less than 23 bucks and the whole bidding routine was kind of fun. I just wonder what kind of stuff I will load onto that new card and how the phones battery will be able to handle it.

One thing about eBay bully sales from last wk.... The guy who actually sent me the hat was left with a glowing positive feedback. Since I want to build up the positives to offset the negative from the other goniff, I was a little annoyed that this seller had not reciprocated. I checked his "feedback left" file and saw that he was only leaving negatives for people that had negatived him and no positives for the positives he had gotten. However, I got my positive by emailing him that I was interested in buying more stuff, but I only give repeat business to sellers who reciprocate my positive feedback. Within an hour, he left me a positive. I also heard that a lawsuit filed by a seller who was left a neutral against a buyer who never got his product. The neutral-ed seller sued for defamation of character. The case was thrown out of court!

And one note about the guy I mentioned last week. The tables were turned on him! He bought something, didn't get it... and the seller left him a negative! I guess what goes around, comes around.

5. GPS - this is cool. They have a subscription service that you can easily get around by downloading Google earth. All you do is go to Google Earth and they leave you with incredibly easy directions to get the program on the phone. I havent used it yet.. but its nifty. I guess its a good gimmick for drunk college kids who wake up and dont know where they are!

The phone also has internet access - I can read my blog on it. It also has an rss reader that I still have not quite figured out just yet.

6. It seems to be a lot of fun for people who are computer experts. I found some websites designed for the more advanced computer users... or the typical teenager... The sites teach you how to reprogram the phone to change all kinds of things, like the setup for the size of your ringtones file, to other crazy stuff like changing preprogrammed settings such as the log in page and the sound effects or any other minor nuance about the phone. Personally, I don't have much of an issue with these things and I don't feel a need to change their settings, but its interesting to see what type of options are available for cell phone geeks.

7. The camera - not a big deal for me... I actually prefer using a seperate camera. Here is a pic I took this weekend of the new CitiField on my new phone! My phone was so incredibly snazzy that the Reds got distracted and batted out of order!

Overall, I think the phone is fantastic and I would recommend the Red BlackJack II for anyone who is looking to jump on the smartphone bandwagon. And if you are ever on a long train ride with your wife... Bubble Breaker tournamets are a great time killer... and more productive than sitting through Superheroes movie!


I saw this on The Price is Right last week and I knew it was going to have to be put on the blog! By the way the 2nd contestant Kevin was a nice Jewish boy who wore his kippah and tzitzit on the show.

A similar situation also once took place on the original Bob Barker version...

Stay tuned for some big changes coming to my Podcast!


PumpBerry said...

Oh no! How will you ever be able to dial Saiff Drugs in HP?? According to their prominently-displayed outdoor sign, their telephone number is "KI5-0687"!

Nate said...

Good point Pumpberry... or is it Count Pumpula?

Hey anybody catch the 5th inning of tonights Mets game where they had that conversation about Match Game?

And by the way, regarding the Cussing Judge... wouldn't that be a perfect story to be covered by Channel 4's resident Longshoreman, I mean anchorwoman.... Sue Simmons??

alberich said...

I know I'm not smarter than a smart phone ... I can barely figure out my non-smart phone (I also need to figure out which plan my lovely wife and I will have that way we don't have to use up minutes talking to each other).

Anyway (and you heard it here first ... or maybe you didn't): I have been offered a position (which I have accepted) at William Paterson U. So barring any unforeseen who knows what tsuris with budgets or what have you, I'll be back in the NYC area in a few months.

Nate said...

DAS... that is fantastic news! Welcome back to NJ.. WP is right near my alma mater Montclair State!

And you definitely gotta get on the same plan with your wife when the 2 of you have your little smoochy smoochy newlywed phone conversations!

alberich said...

I applied for a position at Montclair State, but I never heard back from them.

Anyhoo ... smoochy, smoochy newlywed phone conversations? In front of the kid?