February 2010: Photo-A-Day Project

3 02 2010

I’ve decided to do a photo-a-day blog for the month of February (and perhaps beyond).

My motivation:

  • Playing with the Nexus One camera and testing its limits
  • Trying out the Photoshop app and other photo editing apps
  • Evaluating Posterous as a mobile blogging platform
  • Documenting my life in photos

Here’s the Day 2 photo, taken at the lighting ceremony for the Wallingford QFC sign.


Nexus One Available At Wal-Mart?

31 01 2010

Over the past two weeks, I’ve noticed blog posts claiming that the Nexus One is going to be sold at Wal-Mart. This information was based on a Wal-Mart web page saying that the Nexus One would soon be available at the megastore. Other reports said the phone would be $99 with a two-year T-Mobile contract. Google has since denied the claim, saying it has no plans to sell the phone anywhere other than its website, and Wal-Mart has taken the page down.

Wal-Mart says that the page was put up by mistake, due to a technical error. “We’re working with our partner Let’s Talk to have it removed as quickly as possible. We have no plans to carry Nexus One in Walmart stores or online at Walmart.com at this time,” Ashley Hardie, a Wal-Mart spokeswoman, said via e-mail.

Let’s Talk is a cell-phone retailer that appears to operate Wal-Mart’s wireless Web site.

I’m a little relieved. I was angry about the possibility of it being available for $99 (after I paid well more a few weeks ago), though I doubted the legitimacy of that price rumor. And I also couldn’t believe that the Nexus One was going to be sold at Wal-Mart of all places. If the phone is going to be available from other sellers, it seems like T-Mobile should be first. (Then there are all my problems with Wal-Mart, but that’s a whole other blog post.)

I’m eager to watch Google’s actions as it moves more into the OEM realm. Fortunately, I haven’t had any problems with the Nexus One that required customer service, but it is interesting having a phone that I didn’t get through T-Mobile. When you log into your T-Mobile account online, there is a spot that shows a picture of your phone and its features. Mine is blank.

Speaking of rumors

I was disappointed that last week’s big Apple unveiling didn’t include announcements about the iPhone being available on other carriers. My boyfriend is happy with his Verizon service, but he wants an iPhone-like device. I’ve been urging him to get a Nexus One once it’s available on Verizon. He’s not opposed, but he’s also interested in the iPhone. Which phone will be available on Verizon first? The race is on…

Oh, and…

I’ll be doing a photo-a-day project for the month of February using the Nexus One to shoot, edit and post the photos. Check it out Feb. 1.

Quick update: Nexus One, Week Three

25 01 2010

I’m still very happy with the Nexus One, but I’m currently a little annoyed.

Last night I read about doubleTwist, a new iTunes-like client for Android and other smartphones. I quickly downloaded it, and the program quickly imported my iTunes library and playlists. However, when I tried to sync a playlist, doubleTwist said I needed to upgrade my iTunes purchases to iTunes Plus. This was frustrating, but I gave in. I went to iTunes and upgraded 84 songs (I don’t buy many albums from iTunes) for about $18. I liked that these songs would now be DRM-free and could be transferred to any device. After downloading the “iTunes Plus” versions of the songs and restarting both programs, it seemed like doubleTwist should work. Nope. When I try to sync a playlist with the Nexus One, nothing happens. When I try to drag a video onto the Nexus One, again, nothing happens. It’s frustrating when programs don’t work, but it’s especially frustrating when they don’t tell you why.

So for now, I will continue to use Songbird to sync playlists with the phone. It’s not quite as user-friendly as doubleTwist appears to be, but it actually works. If anyone has suggestions about doubleTwist, please let me know.

My new 16GB micro SD card recently arrived. I swapped out the teeny cards easily, and I now have space for music and all the photos and videos I will undoubtedly be taking. I played with the camera at a Seattle Thunderbirds game over the weekend, and I was pretty happy with the quality of the photos and videos. Also, I’m enjoying the ability to create, rename and delete playlists within the phone. I like that the Nexus One gives you more control over the files on the device.

Following reports that the Nexus One voice input censors swear words, I, of course, tried it out. I said different swear words and got a bunch of #### as the result. Hilariously, the voice input mistook one swear word for a particular fruit and pulled up search results for Google’s top competitor. This all seems silly, though I do understand Google’s reasoning. “We filter potentially offensive or inappropriate results because we want to avoid situations whereby we might misrecognize a spoken query and return profanity when, in fact, the user said something completely innocent.”

And when I’m not swearing into the phone’s search box, I’m downloading apps. I’ve been on a downloading binge. I’m looking forward to trying live streaming with Qik, listening to podcasts with DoggCatcher and using the Layar augmented reality browser. I have noticed one important app that’s missing: Google Docs. You can view your Google docs through the browser, but can’t edit them. I’m surprised.

I’ll be reviewing my new apps in the future. I’m also planning a photo-a-day project for the month of February using the Nexus One camera and a yet-to-be decided app. Stay tuned!

Creating a Video Without Editing

22 01 2010

For my multimedia storytelling class, we had an assignment to create a two-minute video that tells a story with a beginning, a middle and an end. But we couldn’t edit the video or re-arrange shots. We could, however, stop and start the camera. This requirement proved to be especially challenging with my lovable child actors.

Using the same story line, I created videos featuring my 7-year-old niece, Lawren, and my 5-year-old nephew, Joey (who just got a Wii Fit as a shared birthday present). Many thanks to my brother and his wife – and Joey and Lawren, of course – for their help.

[Youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rX7ia3n79as%5D

[Youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hxvp3pZAG18%5D

And here are my poorly drawn storyboards that I used to plan out the video.

Nexus One, Week Two

17 01 2010

It’s been 10 days, and I’m still very happy with my new Nexus One phone.

Sunset on the Nexus One

I was just trying out location-based apps on my Nexus One and my fake iPhone for my group project in the Mobile Media and Communications class. Using the two smartphones at once, I decided that I definitely like the Nexus One better. Granted, it’s not fair to compare it to a first-generation iPhone, but the Nexus One is so much faster. And I normally don’t care about things like changing the wallpaper on a phone, but the live wallpaper, customizable home screens and other features on the Nexus One make it a more fun user experience. I’ll admit it — I enjoy watching my live wallpaper – grass in front of a blue sky – change throughout the day.

Other Week Two results:

Phone service. My phone coverage is good and similar to the coverage I had with my old phone. I barely get a signal in the UW Comm building, but that was a problem with my old phone, so I think it’s just a bad spot for T-Mobile coverage. Also, it’s not the most comfortable phone to talk on, but I don’t anticipate doing much of that anyway. (Most of my communication is done over Gmail, text and Gchat.)

Space. After receiving a message that my original 4GB SD card was full, I ordered a 16GB micro SD card. I’ll probably put 8 to 10 GB of music on the new card and leave the rest of the space for videos and photos.

Music. After I complained about not being able to use iTunes with the phone, my friend Brad recommended I use the open-source program Songbird, which can import your iTunes library and playlists, to transfer music to the Nexus One. It takes a couple steps to set it up, but you can use Songbird to sync a playlist or library with a variety of phones. I plan to sync playlists once I have the 16GB card.

Photos. I’ve been having a lot of fun with the five-megapixel camera.

Videos. YouTube videos play beautifully when I’m connected to wifi – as they should. When using the network, the videos load quickly, but the resolution can be poor depending on the connection. Flash Player doesn’t yet work on the Nexus One. Adobe says it will be available for Android in the first half of 2010. I hope it comes soon. I want to be able to watch Vimeo and Hulu videos on the Nexus One.

Apps. I’ve finally gotten to play with apps I’ve been curious about. As a result, I’m now the mayor of Fuel Coffee on FourSquare. I’m also trying out ShopSavvy and other apps I learned about from the Android Network Awards.

Although I’ve found most of the apps I want, some are still missing from the Android Market. I am eagerly awaiting:

  • Tweetdeck
  • Scrabble
  • New York Times
  • WordPress
  • CNN
  • Tumblr

Contacts. I was annoyed that all the phone numbers stored on my sim card didn’t automatically transfer over to the new phone. But, on the other hand, I now really like using Google contacts. Fortunately, all my numbers were stored in my T-Mobile account online, so I’ve been manually entering the numbers into my Google contacts in Gmail, which syncs automatically in the cloud. When I click on a contact’s name on the phone, I have the option of calling, texting, IMing (on Google Talk) and emailing him, as well as viewing his Facebook profile.

Maps/Navigate. If I click on a contact’s address, it takes me to Google Maps and gives me directions to his home. From there, I can use Street View to see the destination or click Navigate, which will use GPS to give me driving directions. The Navigate feature works well, but the voice is annoyingly robotic.

I prefer TomTom’s soothing British accent.

Search. Speaking of syncing in the cloud, I was searching for a business on the phone and the recently viewed items included businesses I had searched for on my laptop. This will come in handy.

(Also, if anyone wants to buy an unlocked Samsung Gravity 2, let me know.)

Review: In love with the Nexus One

11 01 2010

Today marks my fourth day as an owner of Google’s new Nexus One phone. I think I’m in love.

How I decided to buy the Nexus One

My Various Phones: Samsung Gravity 2, Fake iPhone, and the winner: Google's Nexus One

I’ve longed for an iPhone for two years, but dreaded switching to AT&T. I’ve heard such bad reports about the phone service, and everyone I actually talk to on the phone (my family) is on T-Mobile (so we talk to each other for free). Since the summer, I’ve owned a first-generation iPhone that I bought from a friend. I pulled out the sim card and I’ve been using it as an iPod Touch basically. All of the web-based apps work in WiFi. But when you need directions and can’t find a wireless signal, it can be pretty frustrating. For the past few months, I’ve also had a slider phone with a QWERTY keyboard and Internet capabilities. I can use it to check email and browse the web, but it’s so slow and the interface is so basic that it just could never compare to my fake iPhone.

So after I saw the announcements about Google’s new phone last week, I couldn’t stop thinking about it and reading reviews until I finally bought it. As a T-Mobile subscriber who desperately wanted an iPhone-like device, the Nexus One was the right choice for me.

I’m still discovering new features, watching the video tutorials and searching through the online user manual when I’m not sure how something works. But so far, I’m impressed.

The Pros

The speed. The processor is fast. Apps open quickly; searches happen quickly.

The design. It’s light and sleek. There are some fancy features, like the live wallpaper. My live wallpaper is currently a pond. When I touch the screen, the water ripples. Necessary? No. Cool? Yes.

The camera. I’m an avid photographer. Over the past five years, I’ve posted more than 7,500 photos to my Flickr Pro account. Think of how many photos I’ll take now that I’ll always have a 5-megapixel camera (with an LED flash) at my fingertips. Not to mention all the HD videos I can now instantly send to YouTube or stream live.

The cloud. My life is stored in Google’s cloud. That life includes 4,800 MB of Gmail, 165 Google docs and a very detailed Google calendar. And now that cloud is readily available on my phone. Other than transferring music onto the phone, you never have to hook it up to your computer. Everything syncs in the cloud. In fact, I’ve noticed that the Nexus One gets my email faster than my computer.

The trackball and buttons. I’m surprised I like the trackball. At first, it seemed lame and Blackberry-esque. But I’ve discovered that it comes in handy. The touch screen works beautifully, but it helps to have another option for scrolling and selecting small buttons. I also like that the trackball lights up to notify you of new emails, IMs, calls, etc. I’m also surprised that I like the back, menu, home and search buttons. Others have complained that they’re hard to press. It took me about a day to get used to it, but now I really appreciate these buttons. Under the default setting, the buttons vibrate slightly when you activate them. This kind of user feedback helps shorten the learning curve for this phone.

Happy with my new Nexus One

The keyboard. A couple months ago, I played with every smartphone in the T-Mobile store. These sad excuses for touch screeens irritated me. But the Nexus One’s touch screen and keyboard definitely rivals the iPhone’s. Sure, I make mistakes when typing on it, but they’re the same mistakes I used to make on my QWERTY keyboard.

Voice input. And if you’re tired of typing, you can use voice input for any text box, which is a great feature. But as other reviewers have noted, it’s not always 100% accurate. I texted my boyfriend to say I bought pork and zucchini at the grocery store. The phone understood that as “port and bikini.” Not quite…

Google Maps and Streetview. I love being able to pull up the Streetview of my destination while on the go.

Simultanous apps. Unlike the iPhone, the Android operating system can run several third-party apps simultaneously. This functionality is much more conducive to my multi-tasking habits. And even though the iTunes Store has about 80,000 more apps than the Android Market, so far I’ve found almost every app I wanted.

The Cons

No iTunes. The music player is user-friendly and works just fine. But I wish you could use an iTunes-like program to transfer music onto the phone. The only option right now is to drag files to the drive. Since I only have 4GB of space right now, it’s not a huge deal. But I might get a 16GB micro SD card. In that case, I’ll need a better method for organizing the music on the phone. On a plus note, it’s easy to create a playlist on the phone itself.

The space. I have 23GB of music in iTunes, so 4GB is teeny. If anyone sees good deals for a 16GB or 32GB micro SD card, let me know.

In Conclusion

I finally have a phone that matches my busy, constantly connected, Twitter-addicted life — and I didn’t have to switch mobile carriers to get it. I’m even looking forward to my next bus ride. Life’s mundane activities aren’t so bad when you’re listening to Pandora while keeping up with friends on Facebook.

I’ll continue writing about my love affair with the Nexus One. Stay tuned for updates on the battery life, 3G service and other features.

(And if anyone is in the market for a Samsung Gravity 2, please let me know. I’m selling my old phone.)

Multimedia Storytelling: Deliverable 1

6 01 2010

View on Vimeo.