Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Primer on smartphones for sole proprietors or small workplaces

Several people have asked me in recent days to recommend a first-time smartphone. Common threads that you've asked for are:
  1. a work phone for sole proprietors or people who work in a small workplace 
  2. a phone that doesn't rely upon enterprise tools like a BlackBerry Enterprise Server or Microsoft Exchange Server and therefore the ability to provision all features on your own
  3. a focus on the core business functionality of a smartphone, to keep in sync with your desktop or laptop's mail, contacts, calendar, and not games and other consumer functions.
(Photo from Time magazine article, from L to R: iPhone, Motorola/Google Droid, and BlackBerry LINK.)

In this quick and decidedly not exhaustive review--that will be subject to corrections--I'll briefly summarize the four main types of smartphone prevalent in the United States with respect to their ability to deliver core business functionality. But to jump to the conclusion: I'd go for an iPhone on ATT, a Google Android device, specifically the Motorola Droid (or later ones with 2.0 software) if you're on Verizon, OR a BlackBerry, particularly on Verizon, if you need the best voice quality possible and lean towards the "phone" part of smartphone rather than the "smart".

HP is utterly bizarre too

Following up on my last post about how bizarre Dell is, I went to the HP website for the first time in a while.

Who are the children running that company?

Its website is such a complete mess I found it impossible to figure out which computer I could possibly want. It appears that there are five models but in fact, clicking on any one of those choices unveils an undifferentiated variety. Amazing. And the pictures are so small you have no idea which computer to explore further.

And then I got an e-mail from Amazon this morning offering me a choice of HP laptops. But the e-mail just makes me want to run away screaming. There are 10 laptops listed. I can't tell them apart. It's like a used car flyer in a newspaper. These people think they have any hope of competing longterm with Apple? Amazing.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Dell is utterly bizarre

Dell has a gorgeous new laptop . . . almost out. Pictures are on various blogs. The thing is thinner than a MacBook Air and has an intriguing and showy way of folding open. So, you'd think there'd be mention of the product on Dell's website? You'd think, but no!

Who are the people running these companies?

Another example: everyone knows the new BlackBerry Storm2 is launching. Vodaphone has it on their website. It will obviously launch with Verizon in the United States. The Verizon CEO wanders around Manhattan showing off the phone to random people. So, you'd think there'd be mention of the product on Verizon's website? You'd think, but no! Pictures are in obscure place on its website but are impossible to find.

Who are the children running these companies?? Do they really think they are capable of going up against an adult company like Apple? It boggles the mind . . .

Thursday, October 22, 2009

annoying lack of attention to detail at "other than Apple"

It is really annoying when companies I like can't live up to the attention to detail that is exemplified by Apple. Case in point: BlackBerry's comparison tables. Look at the difference in the way that the dimensions are displayed. OK. This is utterly insignificant and more than merely bordering on obsessive-compulsive. Guilty. But I just can't imagine Apple allowing these little errors to occur on their site.

Size and Weight
112mm (4.4”)
62mm (2.4”)
14.2mm (0.6”)
130g (including battery)

UPDATE: HEY. They fixed it. :)

Monday, October 19, 2009

more on the "e-mail dying" meme

There appears to be a bit more content of late in the "e-mail is dying" meme.* Probably this is driven by the Google Wage phenomena which purports to be e-mail as if had been invented today rather than last century. A shift from e-mail being yesterday to other communication tools--Facebook, Twitter and Wave, foremost--is said to be catalyzed by the always on capability of the Internet and handheld devices. The argument goes that the asynchronous nature of e-mail is now outdated, an artifact of a time when the desktop reigned as the hub of our electronic world. Today the desktop is more of a periphery, with the handheld becoming the personal communication device that we live with 24/7. My own BlackBerry barely leaves my body. It charges each night on my nightstand (in the new BlackBerry "bedside" mode). These always on and attached-to-the-body devices allow instant response. As declared in a WSJ article titled Why Email No Longer Rules, "Why wait for a response to an email when you get a quicker answer over instant messaging?"

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

GMail application for BlackBerry vs. GMail IMAP on BlackBerry

My previous post was about how to set up GMail on your BlackBerry so that it uses the IMAP protocol. This post summarizes the difference between (1) the GMail application for BlackBerry that you can download to your BlackBerry via m.google.com/go on your BB Browser and (2) using the native BlackBerry mail program with IMAP.

Google GMail application

+ full sync with GMail, including archive, delete, read, unread
+ full search of GMail
+ threaded e-mail just like in the Web application
+ ability to star e-mails

- limited when BlackBerry is offline
- can be slow to get e-mail
- text only, not HTML e-mail
- flashing indicator light is limited to whether you have ANY new mail and once you open the application, light will go off regardless of whether there is read e-mail

BlackBerry native e-mail application with GMail IMAP

+ HTML e-mail
+ gets e-mail more quickly and consistently (I can't tell if it's as fast as true "push")
+ some aspects of two-way sync work (see below for exceptions)
+ can hold more e-mails when BlackBerry is offline

- some aspects of two-way sync do not work
- marking as "read" on the Web won't mark as "read" on the BlackBerry, which is really annoying; it does work from the BlackBerry down to the Web
- no threaded messages
- Yahoo IMAP mail is supposed to have true, unadulterated two-way sync with the BlackBerry, but you'll have to test that for yourself (LINK to Yahoo for information).

A decent post on the subject at BBGeeks: LINK

I've returned to using just the GMail application. The lack of true two-way sync on read messages is really a killer for me.

Update: according to Berry Review LINK via BBGeeks LINK true two-way sync with GMail will be coming soon. Who knows if this is for real.

How to set up GMail IMAP on a BlackBerry

DISCLAIMER: See post that follows this one. GMail IMAP on BlackBerry has real limitations and only Yahoo really seems to work.

This post explains how to set up GMail IMAP on a BlackBerry. The instructions on the Google site will never help you get it set up correctly. If you don't want to preamble and background, skip down to the "Instructions" section.

Although a BlackBerry may be the best mobile device for e-mail, this assessment should probably be made only if you're running it off of a BES, BlackBerry Enterprise Server. With BES you'll get full two way sync with you desktop e-mail. Without BES, your stuck with BIS, BlackBerry Internet Service, the consumer version of BlackBerry e-mail. Although it uses the same application on the device, the interaction with mail servers is not as seamless as with BES. The touted advantage of a BlackBerry is that mail is "pushed" to you. Your device doesn't have to "reach" out to the mail server and pull the mail down. The result is that mail reaches you more quickly and without as much work on the part of the mobile device. If you delete an item on your desktop machine, it will still show up on your BlackBerry. In recent years, other mobile systems have launched push e-mail as well. Google recently announced two-way sync with push e-mail service between GMail and the iPhone and Windows Mobile devices. But it left off any special push e-mail with GMail for BlackBerry. With BES, you can get push e-mail for most any e-mail service, but it's not a two way sync.

If you want two way sync between GMail and BlackBerry and you're only running BES, you are left with two choices. First, you can use a special GMail application that you can download to from your BlackBerry browser using the address m.google.com/go. It works extremely well but doesn't allow you to change the frequency with which it gets your e-mail. Best I can figure is it's more than every five minutes but less than every minute. You can manually force it to grab your mail. It's a really good application. The only other drawback is that it does not render HTML e-mail. You'll probably want to have it set up on your device regardless because it allows you to see threaded conversations and search and find every one of the many GMail messages you undoubtedly have stored in your GMail archive.

The second choice is to set up GMail IMAP. IMAP is a mail protocol that allows two-way sync between a mail server and a device, whether a desktop or a mobile device. This way, if you delete an item on your desktop, it will also be deleted on the server and therefore also on your mobile device. However, it doesn't actually work as well as you'd think.


Google's instructions (LINK) are incomplete. They say the following:
To integrate Gmail with the BlackBerry's email client, just follow these steps:
-- On your BlackBerry device, navigate to your home screen
-- Select the icon that lets you set up email (this can be called BlackBerry Set-up, E-mail settings, or Personal Email Set-up)
-- Follow the setup instructions provided on your device
Unfortunately, that won't work! The key is to put in your e-mail address and NOT put in your password. Here are instructions that work:

1. When you get to the BlackBerry Set-up screen, either on your BlackBerry or via the BIS setup screen on your computer (LINK).
2. Put in your e-mail address but NOT your password.
3. Click "Next" and you'll come to an "Additional Information Required" screen.
4. Select "I will provide the settings to add this email account."
5. You'll find a choice to indicate if this is your Work or Personal e-mail account. Select either.
6. At the next screen, select "I will provide the settings to add this email account."
7. Finally, you'll get to a screen titled "Set Up An Existing Email Account". Here you can put in your username and password. For Email server use "imap.gmail.com".

Unfortunately . . . see post that follows this one. GMail IMAP on BlackBerry has real limitations and only Yahoo really seems to work.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

BoyGenius, Beejive have launched a great Twitter app for BlackBerry @tweet_genius

The BoyGenius Report ("BGR") and Beejive have launched a new version of the BGR Twitter application for BlackBerry, Tweet Genius. For the next two weeks it's only available for those who paid for the Beta version, which I did. For that reason, I can tell you it's the best third party application (best application period?) that I've used on a BlackBerry. Makes the Twitter experience easily as good, if not better than on a desktop computer. Quite a remarkable achievement. How can it make Twitter even better than on a PC and Mac? The interface is simply easier to read and navigate than anything produced by Twitter, Seesmic, Twirl, Tweetdeck, Hootsuite--any of those. And using it on a mobile means you can grab read Twitter in those spare moments waiting at a bus, on the train, waiting for an appointment instead of wasting time at your desk.

My only complaint is that I wish it allowed the marketing of favorites for later review, particularly valuable when someone tweets a link to an article you think want to read but don't have time to at that moment.

BlackBerry Internet Service 2.8, sadly without GMail sync

BlackBerry has just launched the latest version of "BIS", their BlackBerry Internet Service for those using BlackBerrys without a corporate BES or BlackBerry Enterprise Server.

BIS is the service that delivers e-mail through the phone carriers to your device. BIS 2.8 is their latest upgrade to this service. To take advantage of the new features you do have to be running a Version 5.0 variant of the BlackBerry software on your device--and this is not currently available at most carriers and for most devices. The biggest feature BIS 2.8 adds is 2-way sync for Google Contacts. But sadly, there is no indication that 2-way GMail sync is part of this upgrade. If you're just on a BIS account, you can get your GMail onto your BlackBerry in two ways. First, you can get it pushed to your device to show up in your BlackBerry's native mail program. But this is not a two-way sync. For example, if you mark a mail item as read on your BlackBerry, it will still show-up as unread on your desktop computer. This doesn't change with BIS 2.8. The second way to get GMail on your BlackBerry is through the GMail application. While this works well and produces full 2-way sync, it side-steps your native BlackBerry mail application and mail does not show up instantly but only whenever you manually force a connection or when the program chooses to check for new mail. Again, no change with BIS 2.8.

It would be very nice if the functionality of the new Google Apps Connector for BlackBerry Enterprise Server (LINK) made its way over to the consumer, BIS side. Hoped this would happen with 2.8 but it appears not. BoyGenius on 2.8 LINK and the BlackBerry manual for 2.8 PDF LINK.