Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Rumours: Nokia E63?

I previously mentioned about rumours of a Nokia E72 and E75 here but seems like there's a new rumour in town, a Nokia E63 (?). I'm not sure what strategy Nokia has up their sleeves....

Some (Rumoured) Specs:
  • Symbian 9.1 OS S60 v 3.1
  • Full QWERTY keyboard
  • HSDPA support, Wifi, bluetooth
  • 256k TFT colour screen (?!?)(Note: E71 has 16m colours)
  • Micro SD card compatibility
  • 2 mp camera
From the sounds of it, it looks almost identical with an E71, except, it will (noticably) be made from plastic, unlike the more posh-classy-stainless-steel-clad E71. I guess, this would mean that the price would be significantly cheaper too? Maybe this is a business device for the masses? Let's see....

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

My Apple iPhone 3G review

As I mentioned in my previous post, when the iPhone 3G was first announced, the reception here in Brunei was not as highly anticipated as what you would have seen in the US, or even our close nearby neighbour, Singapore. We definitely did not have any queues outside any stores (of course, this could be attributed to the fact the authorised premium reseller here doesn't have that privilege of selling it in tiny Brunei). So, we locals end up doing what we usually do when buying exotic brands, we hunt overseas.

When I first got my hands on the box, personally flown in from Singapore (thanks "Y"!), I immediately thought, what a small box! Of course, it wasn't REALLY a surprise after reading the numerous reviews already out there on the web. Zooming home, excited to seamlessly plug -and-sync it into my iMac, I was ready to set up my new toy to perfection.

Its been close to 3 weeks of using the Apple iPhone 3G. I love it. So what are my final thoughts and recommendations on this killer phone? Read on....
(I'll try to add a more personal touch to this review, rather than churn out what other sites have already shared)


1 x Black Apple iPhone 3G - 16Gb edition
1 x USB cable
1 x travel adapter
1 x Apple iPhone earphones (doubles up as a wired headset too)
1 x Apple Get started and assorted manuals
2 x Apple stickers (standard when purchasing any Apple product)
1 x special cleaning cloth (Trust me, this is handy)

First impressions
Opening the box, you should expect to see it newly wrapped up in plastic covering the whole unit. Mine had already been opened previously because the reseller in Singapore (with my permission) had neatly pasted on a high quality screen protector onto it (another highly recommended must-have on your iPhone). Holding it in my hands for the first time, I was blown away by how slim it was. It seemed/felt much slimmer than the first gen iPhone. (Note, this is an illusion. The dimensions are similar to the first gen, with the difference being the slight tapered curve at the edges of the 3G version. Hence, the slim feel). Switching it on for the first time was breathtaking too.
A total black theme, with the familiar icons spread out throughout the display. Beautiful. (Please note though, the icons you see above aren't quite the "default" icons as I've tweaked it somewhat. More on this later). So, as you can tell, my first impressions is that the iPhone 3G ...is.... awesome.

Physical aspects

  • The Apple iPhone 3G comes in 2 memory size variations; 8Gb and 16Gb, with the 16Gb available in both black AND white editions.
  • Pricing for both the editions: I will not specifically publish the exact price but do take note, there was only a difference of $100 between the 8Gb and 16Gb (**at the time I surveyed and purchased). So, why not take the plunge with the 16Gb?
  • On the front of the iPhone 3G, its just one huge 3.5" display with a little circular button at the bottom.
  • At the back (mine is a black edition), you will see a highly glossy surface, with the Apple logo clearly placed in the middle, the 2mp camera on the top left and a iPhone 16Gb imprinted at the bottom.
  • On the left, you will see the ringer on/off switch (excellent innovation I tell you) and the volume rocker keys. Both are made of stainless steel material and feels very solid.
  • On the top, you will see the Power/Sleep key and a 3.5" socket for (any) earphone. This is improved from the first gen (which was imbedded slightly deeper thus not allowing anyone to use other earphones except Apple's provided ones)
  • At the bottom you will see the USB connector, a tiny microphone and of course, the speakers (don't be fooled though, this packs a punch! Sounds a L-O-U-D. Another improvement from the first gen)
  • The 3.5" 16M TFT display with 480 x 320 resolution is in a word, "gorgeous".
  • Viewing photos, emails, surfing on the Web, punching in Calendar appointments, typing out SMS's (etc etc etc) are simply a joy to view on this display.
  • Coupled with the built in accelerometer, there is simply nothing out there (yet) than can compare with what the iPhone has done. I have no complaints in this area.
  • Taking down notes is also quite nifty!

Call quality
  • The iPhone 3G has improved vastly from the first gen, and from what I remember, the first gen had common issues with soft sound quality. Conversations always sounded like they were muffled.
  • This is not the case with the 3G edition. I would safely say now, that calls/conversations were clear and loud, as what a phone should be.
  • The iPhone 3G supports the whole range; wifi, HSDPA (the whole reason for the upgrade), bluetooth (but no A2DP?!) as well as SMS, Email (Push email with MS support).
  • Contrary to popular belief, MMS support is possible but only via a 3rd party app called "Swirly MMS". But you'd have to jail break your iPhone to be able to access Cydia and download this. (More on this later)
  • Another 3rd party app through Cydia is BiteSMS, which really, should be what the default SMS function perform i.e. SMS forwarding. A small minor issue in my opinion.

Camera / Multimedia performance
  • In the multimedia compartment, I will only say this; this is an Apple product. The only other Apple product that you, and millions out there, would probably know about is... an iPod. And what are iPods known for? That's right! Music, videos, podcasts and photos! The iPhone has the same strengths as all its non-phone siblings. I won't touch on this too much, because it would be like stating the obvious.
  • In the camera compartment however, I'd rather let photos speak for themselves.

(This last photo was taken with a 3rd party app call "Pano". A highly recommended download)

  • Ok, I will admit, the 2mp camera is nothing to shout about. It pretty much does what it is required to do, and that would be with ideal lighting conditions like the photos you see above. I did not include any photos taken at night, because frankly, they suck. But, as you can see, with the daytime shots, they are quite decent. Of course not print quality, but I was quite happy with it overall.
  • As the iPhone works with my iMac's iPhoto, I have synced most of my favourite photos (taken with my DSLR) into the iPhone. Coupled with iPhones pinching and zooming capabilities already evident from the first gen iPhone, viewing photos has never been the same for me, on ANY other mobile device.
  • One more thing I have to recommend, is download more camera/photo apps from Apple's Appstore (built into the iPhone) where you can download thousands of apps (for free or for a fee). So far, I've got Comic Touch, Photolabs, Pano (the photo above is an example), Snapture and even a video recorder called Cycorder (not absolutely perfect yet but at least there's something which allows me to take videos) .
Other reasons why I love the iPhone 3G

  • MAPS. Usually, I don't take much notice of what "maps" capabilities that I've seen from Nokia, SE or even Palm, but with the iPhone, I decided to give it a go. The photo above is an example of what the MAP looks like. You can choose map, satellite, hybrid and search your current location. Note: To use this, you must have your 3G network activated. (For Dst users, make sure your sim card supports 3G. Bmobile users shouldn't have this problem). Just for the heck of it, when I was in my car, I switched it on whilst I was driving in Jerudong and a tiny blue blip was seen tracking wherever I was heading. A minor downside I noticed was that it wasn't very accurate; and by that I mean the blip and I were about a few hundred metres off target. BUT, at least I knew I was in Jerudong. Quite fun.
  • APPSTORE. Today I read online, Apple has announced that they have, in total, 5500 apps out there for users to choose from. This one reason (and Cydia, which I will touch on next) has kept me busy everyday since I've had the iPhone 3G in possession. I've downloaded dozens and dozens of apps; utilities, games (I've got 21 in my iPhone to date), useless time wasters (like virtual lighters and drinks) etc.... One game which is highly recommended is Monkey Ball. (Ok, my photo isn't rotated to landscape mode. Just tilt your head?). Using iPhone's accelerometer, you control the glass ball (with monkey inside) through paths and routes to get to the goal. Highly addictive! Especially with the resolution!

  • CYDIA. Before I bought the iPhone, numerous online reviews, as well as advice from a good buddy of mine, all recommended jailbreaking the iPhone. This basically allows the iPhone to download 3rd party apps from Cydia (sort of like Appstore).You can then open up a whole treasure box of 3rd party apps, themes, sounds, utilities etc. (PLEASE NOTE: By jail breaking your iPhone, this could potentially void your warranty). Here's an example of some of the Cydia apps I've downloaded. (If I were to explain what each of them does, this would be one LONG review)

  • I travel every so often, and sometimes (believe it or not), its useful to note the WEATHER forecast in the various countries I visit. And I have to say, this function is quite accurate. I took a snapshot of this today while its been raining and unusually cool for us here in Brunei. You can set it up for more than one country, like I have; Hong Kong, Australia, London, Canada.

  • ALARM CLOCK. This was a big deal to me before I made up my mind to get the iPhone. I basically use my mobile device as an alarm clock to wake me every morning. Arguably the best I've ever used were from the Palm devices; unlimited snoozes and multiple alarm times. (Ok, I'm giving away my sleeping habits here) Nokia has decent alarm functions too, but SE is probably the worst. So, yes, alarms are a big deal to me. I remembered that the first gen iPhone didn't really do well for me as an alarm clock. Snooze time-outs of 9minutes?! Why not 5minutes? Why not 10minutes? I've now learnt to set multiple 5-10 minute snooze time-outs. Ok, this may be amusing to you, but really, does anyone use actual alarm clocks these days?

  • Customizable ringtones. Previously, again with the first gen iPhone, there wasn't really anyway to use your own ringtones other than the (boring) default marimba or sci-fi... etc. NOW, there's a way around this. I found this site here that shows you a step-by-step way of making your own ringtones, and then saving it into the default folder for Sounds in the iPhone. The iPhone has since become so much more better! I've now got about a dozen choices I've customized. (So far, I use either Top Gear Theme or Abba's Mamma Mia. Great movie ok?). (NOTE: Through Cydia, there are now tweaks which you can install to change your SMS tones. Otherwise, you'd be stuck with the default Tri-tone or other alerts)
  • CALENDAR. Since I use a Mac as my personal PC, there was no problem syncing iCal with the iPhone. (Windows users shouldn't have a problem either). But the one main issue I had was the lack of a Nokia style "Active standby" screen. With all the thousands of apps out there for the iPhone, I was certain that there must be at least one developer out there who had created this feature! And true enough, there was. Through Cydia, with an app called Intellisync, this has now become the no.1 most used feature on my iPhone. Not a day goes by without referring to what I need to do for the day, right on the wake-up screen on my iPhone. (You can even tweak it to show new SMS's, new emails, news feeds and even the weather). I did not include a screen shot here because of the sensitivity of my schedules. But here's the link you can read more about it yourself. Highly recommended.
  • FACEBOOK. That's right, you read it correctly. F-a-c-e-b-o-o-k. With this social network such a phenomenon around the world now (C'mon, who's NOT on Facebook?), Appstore now has an app just made for the iPhone. All I can say is that I'm speechless. Just log in once. It connects either through wifi, 3G or Edge. You can update your status, read live feeds on what your friends are doing, write on their walls, view their photos, chat with them (if they're online), accept/decline friend requests, upload photos wherever you are.... the list is endless! All from the comfort of your own iPhone, without the need to log on from a PC. If there was one killer app for the iPhone, I dare say this could be it.

  • 3G speeds. You will never really appreciate 3G until you use an iPhone. Surfing is a sheer pleasure. The resolution of the iPhone made this possible. Coupled with how you can zoom in an out just by pinching your fingers together, AND with the 3.5" display screen, I can't find a reason to complain about this. 3G speeds are ALMOST as close to wifi speeds! Read this review by Gizmodo for a detailed breakdown on this.
One niggle I do have against the iPhone 3G
(This is perhaps the one and only annoyance I have)
  • If you're into cars, you may have heard of the Bugatti Veyron, potentially the most powerful car in production today; 1001 bhp, $1M+ price tag... a beautiful piece of machinery. But, how far does one gallon of petrol bring you in a Veyron? 11.3mpg only. Compare that to a Toyota Corolla with 40mpg. What point am I trying to make here exactly?
  • The iPhone, like the Veyron, is one of the most fully featured and (some say) sexiest device available today. The problem is, the battery life sucks. There, I said it.
  • I've read about this problem online before, but didn't think it was really that big an issue. I mean, I've used so many mobiles before, like Palm for e.g, so how bad could it be right? A day after messing around with the iPhone, downloading apps, numerous SMS's, random phone calls, Facebooking, photo viewing, I was appalled to discover that the battery life lasted much less than a day! It was horrible! I've even resorted to bringing my USB cable to the office with me just to make sure that I can leave it charging through the day. AND, I've even consciously tried NOT to play too much with the apps or make too many calls in fear I wouldn't be contactable at the end of the day. It was ridiculous.
  • Note: I've found a way around this problem, other than bringing the cable with me daily, and that is to switch OFF the 3G network (which you can do under settings). Other sites have also recommended switching off the "auto brightness" which drains power too. After doing so, its lasted me almost 2 days. So, there's a light at the end of the tunnel. (Of course when I DO need 3G, i'll just switch it back on again. A small price to pay for longer lasting battery life I suppose)
  • There is one last thing with the iPhone which used to bug me, and maybe this is an issue for potential owners out there. The touchscreen QWERTY keyboard and predictive text. Personally, I hated it before too, but after a few days of adjustments, its really not that bad. From poking it with one finger initially, I've now evolved to using two thumbs to type out texts.
d3xlabs recommendations
As I mentioned before, using my iPhone 3G for almost 3 weeks now. Everyday, together with a small community of iPhone 3G users I know, we continue to discover so many new stuff which make us amazed with what (else) this device can do. Its slim, its 3G fast, its got improved sound quality, customizable tones, surfing pleasures, 5500 apps out there to choose from... its close to what a perfect mobile should be. Ok granted the battery life does disappoint and maybe the lack of a physical keyboard, but other than that, I would fully recommend it to anyone, whether for personal users or I dare say, business users too.

Existing first gen owners, I say to you, upgrade.
Potential buyers, I say to you, take the dive.

If you're still not sure, just read the reviews, mess around with a mate's iPhone 3G or even watch youtube videos, you won't regret this purchase. Almost 10 million owners around the world can vouch for this too I'm sure.

My iPhone 3G rating - 4.9 stars
(Would have totally given it a 5 if it wasn't for the battery life)
Retail Price - I will not state this here. You can search my links from Singapore sites.

Other worthwhile iPhone 3G reviews you may like to read up on:
  1. Engadget
  2. Infosyncworld
  3. Mobileburn
  4. Gsmarena
Feel free to msn or email me if you have any other queries on the iPhone 3G. I'll be more than glad to try and help you.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Resistance is futile: the Apple iPhone 3G

It wasn't long ago that gave in to the phenomenon of the world and decided to try out the first gen Apple iPhone, but not wanting the hassle of not-being-able-to-upgrade the "unlocked" iPhone, and the (many) limitations of it (then), I gave up after a while, vowing to never want to use it again.

Even when I heard about the new launch of the 3G version upgrade, or even the "ease" of upgrading the firmwares for all iPhones now, I didn't really flinch much. I had, afterall, decided not to use it again.

Until, after messing a a friend's iPhone, and seeing what it could NOW do, with the (endless) possibilities of the "officially unlocked" sets that Apple had unleashed to the world, on 11JUL08, I thought, why not give it another go?

Sourcing it from Singapore, I managed to get my hands on one without much hassle (through a friend returning from a short trip there). I didn't want to get one locally as the prices charged here were a bit exhuberant for my taste.

Its been a week of use so far, and my 1st (or 2nd, whichever you prefer) impressions?

I love it.

The Apple iPhone 3G.

There, I said it....

Here are some pictures I snapped of my Black, 16Gb version. Sexy.

Its been a while since I've done a proper review. (Blame my day-time job, whatever...)
But watch out for it.... this weekend. Same time, same blog...

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Wishing you Selamat Hari Raya 2008

I'd like to wish all my Muslim friends, readers and families a "Selamat Hari Raya" and happy holidays.

Remember, don't text & drive. Safety first.