Mobile Tech Manor #102: It’s Back!

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Mobile Tech Manor (MTM) is the home office where I cover the world of mobile technology, and it’s an active scene of gadgets and apps. This column is my look back at the week and my outlet to share observations and lessons learned about the tech that crossed my path. I took a hiatus from writing this column, and you made it known (loud and clear) that you wanted it back, so here we go. Sit back and enjoy my week in Mobile Tech Manor.

Big news of the week

Microsoft formally announced Windows Phone 7 (WP7) and it’s looking like a totally new platform with some real potential. The old WinMo platform was getting old and cranky, and the folks in Redmond took a bold approach by totally scrapping it and starting fresh for WP7. I spent some quality time with a WP7 phone in San Francisco a short while back, and I came away with a real appreciation for the platform.

The system of “tiles” and “hubs” is nicely integrated with a touch interface that makes it easy to see what’s important at a glance, and drill down to what matters at the moment. The fluid swiping and swooping to move around the information is well done and fun to use. WP7 bears watching, as many phones hit the market in the next few weeks. It’s not often we see something totally unlike the competition in the smartphone space.

Sprint 4G rocks, when it’s available

The trip to San Francisco had an unexpected benefit, as I found the Sprint 4G network to be active everywhere I went in the city. Sprint hadn’t officially launched the 4G network, but it was lit up in preparation for the rollout. I discovered firsthand what a game-changer it can be to have super-fast broadband available all the time.

I saw speeds on my HTC EVO 4G phone that blew away anything I have seen here in Houston. I was able to use the EVO as a mobile hotspot for my laptop and the iPad, and it was like having high-speed Wi-Fi everywhere I went. It demonstrated how life-changing such fast mobile broadband can be when it’s available.

Unfortunately, availability is Sprint’s Achilles heel as far as 4G is concerned. The network has been active in my home town of Houston for months, but since MTM is way out in the ‘burbs, the coverage is spotty at best. I find that my neighborhood is in the very fringe coverage area, and even when I find 4G to use it is nowhere near as fast as I saw in San Francisco.

The solid coverage I experienced in SF also pointed out something that I had suspected about my experience back home. I have noticed that the area around MTM has small pockets of coverage where I can find 4G, but if I move a few blocks it’s gone. I now believe what I am seeing are pockets of 4G around Sprint and Clear stores that have seemingly sprung up all over the neighborhood. The stores have some sort of equipment to make sure prospective customers are duly impressed with 4G speeds, but this equipment is very short in range. That’s the only explanation that seems to fit. All I know is now that I have experienced solid 4G coverage and performance, I want it all the time.

Gadgets galore

This week one gadget arrived that I’m just starting to test. The TEGA v2 is a tablet roughly the size of the iPad, yet it runs both Windows 7 and Android. Yep, it’s a dual-book slate aimed at the enterprise. I haven’t been testing the v2 long enough to get a feel for it, but the hardware is very nice. It’s only slightly thicker and heavier than the iPad, a first for a Windows-based tablet that I’ve seen.

I’m going to be testing it heavily to see how well it handles daily use, especially on the Win7 side. I can see the benefits a tablet like this can bring to companies that must run Windows and want an easy-to-use slate form for workers.

Apps of the week

The mobile scene has become an app-fest, with new apps released every day for all the major platforms. It’s a real chore keeping up with new apps, and major updates to existing apps that significantly add functionality. I spend a lot of time each week checking out apps to share, and this week was no different.

I’ve covered Pocket Informant for the iPad in the past, as it’s a major part of my work day. It seamlessly brings my calendar and task list together in a format that makes it easy to determine at a glance where I need to focus. PI got a recent major update that added new ways to interact with PIM information and display it more intelligently. It is a must-have update for all PI users.

On the Android front, my search for the perfect on-screen keyboard is well-documented, and this week, I found the best one yet. Ultra Keyboard offers more options than any app I’ve tried, and I find as I use it more heavily, I’m able to adapt it to my work style on  the fly. It makes text entry much more productive on my EVO 4G, and I find myself entering longer passages while using it than I have been comfortable doing on other keyboard apps.

E-books of the week

I am a voracious reader of e-books using the various mobile devices I carry with me. Having the Kindle app on the iPad and the EVO 4G means I have no shortage of books with me all the time. This eliminates wasted free time, as I can pull out a gadget and jump into an e-book right where I left off.

Since the last MTM column, I’ve been reading the Commonwealth Saga by Peter F. Hamilton. I started with Misspent Youth, followed by Pandora’s Star and Judas Unchained. It’s a wonderful epic sci-fi tale covering space exploration, alien invasions and human drama all rolled into a fast-paced story. Highly recommended, and I can’t wait to continue the series with the Void Trilogy that picks up where the first series left off.


That’s the week as it went down at Mobile Tech Manor, and I enjoyed sharing it with you. I missed doing this column and based on the feedback I’ve received, many of you missed it too. Let me know in the comments what you think about the return of the column. I write it for you, and it’s nice to know if it is something you value. Until next week — be safe and happy mobile computing.

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