HTC Legend…..some software stuff

It’s still very early doors with the Legend and I am still working my way through the software, trying to find out if much has changed behind the scenes with some of the stock applications. Those of you in the UK, like me, who had problems getting the HTC Sense weather widget to work will be delighted (and relieved) to know that it now finally works reliably!

On my Hero I used the Gmail software to handle my email stuff as the HTC Mail app wasn’t up to scratch, I could never get any html email for starters plus on top of that it was just a bit buggy. The version on the Legend of Mail is much improved providing as it does html email and several other enhancements. On the bottom of the front list page are 5 tabs for List View, Conversation view which shows threaded emails, if you like, a la Gmail, a favourites view, an unread email view (quite handy to avoid scrolling through big lists to find those annoying unread ones) and then a list that shows all attachments available for downloading or which have already been downloaded. It’s a much better version than on the Hero and I can see myself using this instead of the Gmail app to handle my Gmail email. Tapping and holding on an email brings up a big list of options that should provide enough options for most users. Also available in any screen is the ability to switch between accounts via the drop down arrow in the top left hand corner and the sync button lets you know when the last sync was done. It can all be set up using Exchange too and will also sync contacts and calendars or in my case, I just set it to check for email every 30 mins to save battery life.

The Android Marketplace has had a makeover in Android 2.1 and now has a light theme plus, when you tap on an application to read the details it now provides screenshots of the software…hoorah, catching up with the iTunes AppStore at last. Most of the other functions of earlier versions of Android  store are there too such as search, categories, your own downloaded apps list (makes it easy to re-download previously purchased applications on a new device….hello Apple) and you can view (also just like the AppStore) software by most recently added, top free and top paid. I just think the whole thing looks more professional. Oddly, and rather uselessly, when you access the Menu in Marketplace the only options available are two items that already have their own screen tabs anyway! Nonetheless the ability to access the market on a new Android phone, find a list of all the apps you have purchased and then be able to download them all via the phone is something that makes Android rather splendid.

For Twitter access I was a bit of a Twidroid type of chap on the Hero but for some reason I can’t get it to work on the Legend with a perpetual connection error message, it can download my profile and followers list but then claims there is no internet connection available to download tweets…hmmmphhh. Luckily, one of the strengths of HTC and Android is that the former has developed some staple apps, such as Twitter, which are built right in and available to use from day one. Another bonus is that they are actually rather good. On the Legend you have Peeps for pure Twitter stuff and also FriendsStream which combines your Twitter and Facebook updates under the one roof. the latter sounds like a great idea and it works just fine but I find that my chums on Facebook, which I don’t actually use very much, do a lot of updating and as such tend to monopolise the app, dwarfing Twitter bits. I soon abandoned it but for those who are active on both social applications, it would be a great bit of software.

Peeps is perfectly adequate though for the more casual or less anally retentive Twitter fiend, offering as it does most of what is accepted to be needed in a decent Twitter app…notifications, picture uploading, re-tweeting and all that stuff in a simple to use and clear interface. I’m not bothered anymore about being Twidroid-less. Other HTC apps that some may find useful and which on other platforms you would expect to have to fork out for are their News RSS application (haven’t tried it yet as I use Newsroom which is superb), Stocks for share price monitoring and the free Google podcasting app Listen, which actually needs to be downloaded.

This is the fourth Android phone I’ve used in the last 6 months so I am well used to how they work and getting through the relative myriad of settings options is now not nearly so confusing. Google has tweaked the Settings menus with big icons giving an idea of what to expect within each heading. It’s all pretty comprehensive, certainly compared to the iPhone’s settings anyway and it gives you an inkling of how much more tweakable and configurable Android is compared to the iPhone OS. I’m not convinced though that the more casual and new-to-Android phone user would find it all so simple straight out of the box.

Okay, that’s it for tonight. I must say howver that I do really like the Legend but I sort of knew that I would in advance having really liked the Hero. This is really just a better specced and nicer form-factored  (in my view) update that does everything I had hoped for, it retains the bits that I liked about Android and the Hero and adds some stuff, like a FM Radio, better camera with flash, AMOLED screen, gorgeous aluminum housing and more…it’s almost ideal for me.

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HTC Legend arrives….early?

I’d ordered up one from eXpansys on Thursday of last week when they were advertising them as being available in 4 days time. I was very surprised therefore to get an email the next morning claiming that it had been “shipped”, hmmmmmm, everybody else online was offering conflicting news about when stock was arriving with some claiming it had been delayed until early April and others sticking to their end of March shipping date. The only uniform thing was that the Legend wasn’t in stock.

It didn’t arrive on Saturday. On Monday morning, I was just leaving home to walk the kids down to school when the doorbell rang and it was DHL with a parcel containing my Legend. What the heck is going on here was my initial reaction but that soon changed to delight. It had been shipped from France but it appears to be a UK model.

I’d been looking forward to this device as I was very partial to the Hero that I sold a couple of weeks ago, I’d only sold it to fund the purchase of the Legend and to be truthful I wasn’t really expecting anything drastically different or hugely revolutionary in the Legend, a few software tweaks here and there, a slightly better camera, a slightly slimmed down form factor, an improved MarketPlace for software and hopefully the 2.1 version of Android would bring some speed and memory management enhancements and perhaps a couple of unexpected extras. I’ve not felt let down….

It’s a bit hard for me to give it a thorough review as I’m coming from the Hero and basically it’s not hugely different plus there’s an element here of having to justify it ahead of HTC’s other big bad boy, the Desire, which, after all, is better specced, has a bigger screen and is not that much more expensive than the Legend. Why would somebody pick the Legend over the Desire? In my case it is down to a couple of things that are important to me but are unlikely to be as relevant for most others. Personally, the Desire would be just a little too big for me in the hand at 119mm long and a little too wide whereas the Legend is a bit more compact and more pocketable, it doesn’t feel slab like at all. And secondly, the darn thing just looks and feels like a million dollars. It’s nice, very nice and being of unibody design it is creak free and solid. It reminds me a bit of the 1st generation iPhone 2G with the aluminium and black trim which was an equally solid looking and feeling device. Basically then, my choice of the Legend over the Desire, rightly or wrongly, boils down to the fact that the former is smaller and in my typically shallow manner I much much prefer the look of the Legend. Importantly too, the Legend specs on paper look well up to it and are more than sufficient for my needs.

Right then, the camera is 5 megapixel with auto focus and a flash and on paper trumps that on the Hero and I’m pleased to report that it trumps it out on the pitch, so to speak, as well. The camera on the Hero was a lame affair and a big disappointment but this one on the Legend ups the game to an acceptable level. It’s far from fantastic but with the flash added it will take some decent snaps. I’ve enclosed one here of my daughter with her Easter bunnies which you can click on to see full size. It’s not too shabby?

One of the biggest differences of course is the screen as the Legend sports one of these new fangled AMOLED efforts and it is nice. You tend to see the difference in quality most when viewing blacks, with a black wallpaper it looks stunning and colours in pictures look vibrant. Wow. In a couple of years of course these screens will be de rigeur for all new phones and the initial impact will have worn away a bit but in the interim period we should just continue to enjoy the next step up in quality. It is also capacitive and responds easily to presses, scrolling is super smooth and in the couple of days that I’ve been using it I have made very few errors on screen when trying to open apps or access stuff, it just seems all very accurate and not overly sensitive.

One of the hardware changes between the Legend and Hero is that the former dispenses with latter’s trackball and replaces it with an optical one. I must be in the minority here as I actually liked and actually used the trackball quite a bit, sometimes I can’t be bothered with constantly having to touch the screen for all navigation duties and it was nice just being able to gently roll the trackball to move through documents et al. Oddly, I have not been using the optical track pad at all, being recessed in comparison to the prominent Hero makes it less noticeable and I just kind of forget it is there…I must make a conscious effort to get back into the habit of using it. It does seem quite accurate though and easy to use.

Right, that’s it for part 1. Stay tuned for part 2 where I will cover off some of the tweaks that have been made to software, battery life and some other general thoughts on the phone.

coconutBattery 2.6.6 for Mac

coconut-flavour.com – [coconutBattery 2.6.6].

Donationware.

I use this on my MacBook Pro which I’ve had now for close to 2 years. According to the stats, the battery still holds 93% of the original charge which is not too shabby after that length of time.

“coconutBattery isn’t just a tool which shows you only the current charge of your battery – it also shows you the current maximum capacity of it in relation to the original capacity your battery had as it left the factory.
You also get information about the battery-loadcycles (how often did you fully load your battery), the current charger (coconutBattery even warns you if you plugged in a wrong charger for your Notebook) and last but not least information about the age of your Mac.


LG GW620 Android phone…part 1 hardware

(Thanks to techradar for the pics)

T-Mobile have had this Android handset available for a month or so now and on paper it looks ideal for somebody after a decent sounding spec phone sporting the Android OS. I have a couple of contracts on T-Mobile that are used by my wife and son and both have been up for renewal since the turn of the year but I couldn’t muster much enthusiasm for any of T-Mobile’s offerings at that time. However, they now have the LG and Samsung sets available so I took the plunge, had a play with both in the store and opted for the LG on the sole basis that it has a slide out keyboard. I thought that would be the ideal combination, slick Android OS with touchscreen and a qwerty keypad.

The phone is shorter and narrower than the likes of the iPhone and HTC Hero but the slide out keyboard unsurprisingly makes it thicker, but not hugely thicker. It does feel quite compact and unobtrusive in the hand, the battery back cover has that nice soft touch matte finish which feels nice in the hand and makes it more grippy whilst the front and sides are a bit plasticky. The keyboard slides out to the left when you are holding the phone in the normal manner and the screen goes off to the right, well sort of. This phone is not out unlocked and available to buy from the usual online retailers just yet, if it was I wouldn’t expect to pay more than £280/290 for it tops and indeed nor would I when you get a better specced Hero for £30 odd more.

On paper the specs look quite appealing…wifi, bluetooth, 5 mega-pixel camera with flash, 3.2 inch touchscreen, FM Radio, decent amount of memory, GPS, qwerty keyboard  with a dedicated number row are appealing enough but the screen looks low res for an Android phone, well compared to the much sharper HTC Hero one anyway, and it is resistive and at times a bit unresponsive. The phone feels nice in the hand but the buttons on the bottom are odd and when you are holding the phone in portrait mode, you have to be careful you don’t inadvertantly press the Home or Back buttons as they comprise basically the whole of each bottom corner. When I first started using it I was alarmed how often apps would suddenly just close and return you to the home page and was concerned it signified buggy software. I soon realised it was in fact me mistakenly pressing the Home or back buttons which are placed poorly, more or less where you would hold the phone when holding it one handed. Not the greatest design in the world, in fact it’s a major design boo boo….they should have just gone with the smaller keys like you find on the likes of the Hero

This LG handset runs an older version of Android, 1.5, which is the same version that was on the first Android set launched over a year ago. Hopefully it will be upgradeable at some point but I certainly wouldn’t bank on it. Nonetheless, for the casual, first time Android phone user it will probably suffice and at least it is stable and reasonably quick on the LG. LG have also added their own “S Class” alternative launcher interface which is okay but I stuck with the stock Android option. There you go, another newish Android device, another sporting another UI and with an older version of the OS, further sign of the continuing fragmentation of the whole Android experience. I see that the forthcoming Sony and Dell Android phones also sport their makers own take on what constitutes (or perhaps doesn’t) a cutting edge user interface/launcher, it’s rapidly getting a bit confusing…..

As mentioned earlier, I chose this over the Samsung phone as the LG sports a slide out keyboard and I really couldn’t face struggling with another onscreen Android keyboard like I have with the HTC Hero. The keyboard is okay, reasonably clicky with a bit of travel and sporting a 5th row dedicated to numbers. I find I can use it quite easily, with pretty good accuracy but not as quick as I can on the Treo Pro.  If you hit the key in the middle it feels quite satisfying but off to the left or right a little and it feels a bit mushy.Still, I prefer it to the HTC Hero onscreen effort although it does feel a bit cheap, the buttons that is as the design is quite solid.

That resistive screen next. Hmmmmm. I thought I could go back to a non-capacitive one with little or no problem but was wrong. It’s hard to describe the difference but the resistive feels sticky, some presses get recognised no problem and then the next time you have to tap away a couple of times. Scrolling on a capacitive touchscreen is also way better, much smoother, more accurate and the whole capacitive thing just feels smoother and much more responsive and as a result I think for me it is most certainly going to become a pre-requisite for any new phone.

The camera is actually quite decent with a surprising amount of settings over and above your usual point and shoot plus it takes some okay dokay images, the flash is helpful in that respect plus there is some kind of face recognition thing going on with regard to your pictures that I haven’t quite gotten the hang of yet.

So, overall it is a more than okay phone. I don’t know how much this thing will cost if it ever gets released out into the SIM free world but if it was around £250 then it would represent good value. My concerns revolve around the resistive touchscreen which, if you are used to the newer capacitive, you may struggle a bit with initially, the fact it ships with Android 1.5 and you may end up stuck with that unless T-Mobile condescend to  make some upgrade path available and the odd “home” and “back” button placement which sort of take over the whole bottom left and right front corners….it will drive you mad initially I promise you.

Going going gone

I’m sure I’ve used that title before…..I had a wee bit of a clearout a couple of weeks ago, selling the HTC Hero and the disappointing BlackBerry Bold 9700 (crap keyboard) and the funds obtained will be used to purchase a HTC Legend when it appears. I just really like the look of the Legend over the Desire, shallow I know but an important issue for me as I like the tactile pleasure of a nice device, plus it is a bit smaller/shorter and to be frank I don’t need the extra horsepower that the latter comes with anyway. The Legend should be right up my street as I got on great with the Hero, kept and used it for more than 6 months, which is a long time in my smartphone useage universe pattern, and I only sold it to help fund the new phone otherwise I’d have hung onto it for a bit longer. I had many issues with the on screen keyboard but those eased off when I started using “A Better Keyboard” 3rd party software  and I was starting to feel a lot more confident with text entry on the Hero.

Clove claim to have the Legend in stock tomorrow but as nobody else online seems to be getting stock in until later this month or early April then I doubt they will, unless they have some special arrangement/deal thing going on with HTC. Perhaps it is just a sneaky way to get some pre-orders on the book?

I’m pretty happy using Android as it has virtually all the applications I need and use on a regular basis and offers a decent selection of hardware, well, decent as long as you like tall, thin devices with big screens that is. Nonetheless, that choice is expanding and Android itself is simple to use and fairly easy to pick up and get working quickly,

I see eXpansys have suddenly started to sell the Nexus One by Google for the fairly daft price of a pound off £600. Who the heck is going to spend that on it when the virtually identical HTC Desire will be available in the next couple of weeks for £170 cheaper? Only somebody who is foolishly impatient.

Palm Pre 1.4 updater gubbed my Pre battery

This became available on the o2 network here in the UK a few weekends ago and I eagerly latched onto it. Still no paid apps though which is of greater importance to me than the ability to have Flash on the Pre. I was able to download however, free of charge, as were many others, Sims 3 and Monopoly. I left the Need for Speed game though although it was also up for grabs for nowt.

The official Palm “changelog” is pretty big, various enhancements to email, calendar and contacts being noticeable and of course the major thing is the video capture ability. Palm also claim that there are some battery life enhancements but we will need to wait and see about that.

Anyway, battery life on the Pre with the extended Seido battery was actually pretty decent prior to this update. I could squeeze virtually 2 days out of it which was acceptable in my view. Since the update however things have taken a very nasty turn for the worse. Things are okay with the actual phone switched off and even with wifi on in the house and the Pre connected, it is only dropping about 1% per hour just sitting minding its own business. The second I turn the phone back on things go completely awry. It will lose on average 15% per hour, again just sitting there doing nothing. It can’t be the battery as things are fine in standby or even with wifi left on and it only starts draining badly with the “radio” on.

I tried some drastic measures including two full wipes and restores, turned off all the things that might have been causing the battery drain (push Gmail, GPS etc etc) and, one by one, deleted all apps that use internet access to see if I could find the culprit but to no avail. Even in stock mode, fresh out of the box with no 3rd party apps on board it is still losing a ludicrous amount of power each hour and I can’t seem to get it stopped. I can’t use the Pre at the moment which is a pity as I really like it and I’ll just to have hang on and hopefully the problem will be solved by an update or I will stumble across something in some forum somewhere that points to a solution. Worryingly, having scoured through the PreCentral forums, very few others appear to be having any battery problems sin ce the 1.4 update

It’s a pity Palm couldn’t have sent down the wire a wobbly slider fix when they were at it…..