Wednesday, June 20, 2012

App Review: Navigator - Turn by Turn

One of the biggest gripes with Windows Phone is the lack of a true, built-in turn by turn navigation system in the OS. Fortunately, a few third party software solutions are available for users, though most of them come at a very steep price.

Navigator: Turn by Turn is currently available in the Market in two forms, an online mapping version and an offline mapping version. The online version does allow downloading maps in sections and will set users back $4.99. The full US offline version runs $49.99.

With only 16GB of storage available on the Focus S, I took a chance with the online version and downloaded my local area only (roughly the Puget Sound area of Washington State) and chomped up about 300MB of storage. I plotted a few routes which quickly and accurately planned them to businesses, contacts and even just random locations.

While the routes planned quickly, reroutes did even better. The reroutes were flawlessly planned on the fly and the reaction times to being deemed off route was fast, but not too fast.

Overall, I can completely recommend Navigator: Turn by Turn in either form, but my money is on the $4.99 version unless you are a heavy interstate traveler. If you are the latter, the full downloadable version might fit you better, but figure on 1.5 to 2 GB of storage for that US Map.

Sent from my Windows Phone from GetSmartphones.Info 

Is The Focus S Already DOA?

With the announcement of Windows Phone 8 this morning, Microsoft dealt every single one of their customers a serious blow. The devices they have come to love and cherish are a dinosaur. Sure, it's a few months out. Sure, my 7.5 phone is great. Sure, I'm getting a 'special 7.8' update. But the fact of the matter is, we will only get one more. We will only get another month or two of developers writing Apps before the WP8 developer kit comes out. With today's announcement, Microsoft killed off the last 2 years of Windows Phone.

We felt the sting the first time Microsoft did this with Windows Mobile 6/6.5. When the announcement came down at for that one, our Touch Pro 2's, Omnia's and Moto Q's died. Sure, market support was there and it lasted a while, but the Apps weren't written and there was zero tech help to be found. Even XDA bailed on the one time market leader in mobile devices.

Sure, we know that you can't go buy a 2011 Corvette and expect the 2012 options to be added to it later for no charge, but how about a bit of help? Maybe offer those that purchased in the last 90 days a nifty bonus? Something along the lines of the "Nokia network connection issue credit?" Maybe offer Windows Phone 7.5 users a nice $100 credit towards that new slate or Xbox? How about a free copy of Windows 8 for their home computer? Anything to take the sting away.

Microsoft probably will never read this little blog. It's too bad too, because we are the ones that use the devices and we are the ones that feel just a tad jipped right now. Not that our Focus S that is running 7.5 is a problem child at all, but the fact that there is zero chance that a current run Focus 2 that is on sale at AT&T today will run the software that was announced this morning is a total bummer. It just made every device that has Windows Phone loaded on it today almost impossible to give away.

It's really too bad too. The design of the Focus S was a great one, but now the hardware is obsolete and the OS is too. Let's hope that the 7.8 update that comes soon will have plenty of Windows Phone 8 features in it to keep us going a while longer.

Sent from my Windows Phone from GetSmartphones.Info

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Setting Up Your Windows Phone For Red Pocket Mobile

One of the most common areas of complaint about using a prepaid or different carrier with the Samsung Focus S is how to enable the internet connection and media messages. Fortunately, Samsung has stepped in with a simple App called Wireless Manager to handle most of the heavy lifting on this one.

Wireless Manager opens up a simple menu and allows a quick adjustment to the APN, or the Access Point Name, of the device. Now this App is specifically for the Samsung phones, but HTC has their own "Connection Setup" App that does the same job. Nokia has yet to release an App in the US, but it's setup guide is pretty specific on changing that feature as well.

For the Focus S, which is the primary focus of this blog, editing the APN takes just seconds. First elect Wireless Manager from the application menu. One swipe to the right and you will see the "APN" header. A quick tap on "Edit APN" and you will see a few different APN's listed: internet_line, mms_line, softap_line and something resembling this {63A2B00C-1EE0-C086-5DC5-D246A688CF/b} if you phone's APN has been changed before. These are your phone's command sets for accessing the mobile network.

The Focus S is programmed to access AT&T's network out of the box, and since Red Pocket Mobile is on the same network, changes are minimal. Tap the mms_line setting. Change the 4th line down to att.mvno. Then scroll down to the Proxy address line and enter on it. The last step for configuring MMS messaging is to set the Proxy Port to 80. After that, your MMS settings are complete. Press the check box and you will return to the menu.

The data APN is much easier to change as you can edit this directly in the phone settings in the cellular settings. Enter the settings menu, then select cellular from the list. Data connection should be toggled to "On" and roaming may be selected. The Highest Connection Speed will probably show 3G which is fine. Below that you can tap the Edit APN button and actually change the data settings on the phone. In the APN box, enter att.mvno and skip down to Proxy server/URL. Enter in this box and 80 in the Proxy port box. Close the settings by pressing the check mark button and you are all set.

Now your Windows Phone should be able to receive MMS messages and your mobile data connection is fully functioning. For other carriers, you may need to find the matching MMS and Mobile Data settings in the form of Proxy addresses and port numbers.

To check out the money saving services from Red Pocket Mobile, visit our online store or checkout our new phone retail location.

Sent from my Windows Phone from GetSmartphones.Info

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Capturing The Moment

There are those moments that come along once in a while that you just have to capture before they are gone. Today was one of those days with Evie and her ballet picture day. I snapped this quick image with an overexposed flash on the Focus S and edited everything in Fhotoroom for Windows Phone.

As you can see, the overly exposed image darkened nicely and the colors saturated perfectly with an increase in the reds. The Focus S camera may not replace my DSLR for shooting weddings and portraits anytime soon, but it can sure replace my point and shoot camera any day of the week. Plus, the video mode in 720p is flat out amazing as well.

Sent from my Windows Phone from GetSmartphones.Info

My Favorite Apps

There are always those that respond to my, "I use a Windows Phone," comments with... Really, I might try it, but they don't have any Apps... I laugh and ask them how many their OS has, then proceed to tell them that 15 versions of Angry Birds is more than one store should have. And no, slicing fruit and slicing sheep are still the same game. Those App stores and Markets that have 500,000 titles allow themes, add-on packs and even links to web pages in to their totals. I guess Microsoft has a bit higher standards for what is considered software. With that said, here are a few of my personal favorites.

SkyDrive: This App allows full access to your Microsoft Live SkyDrive online storage. If you were lucky enough to sign up for an account back in the day and saw the notice of the size change, you still have 25GB of free online space. If not, or if you are new, then you will see 7GB of free storage. You can store anything from PDF files to videos. All accessible with one touch.

Navigator: Turn By Turn ($4.99) is the perfect replacement software for those that aren't happy with Bing's 'tap for next' mapping system. Sure it's $5, but the ability to cache maps offline is worth it to most people. I cached the area we travel around the most and turn off the mobile data usage in the settings and life is good. Live rerouting, estimated time of arrival and navigate to contact are also extremely helpful to have. Now coming from Google Navigator in Android, Navigator seems more than a bit flat, but it does the job and does it well.

Fhotoroom is a great free photo editor and sharing system. Simply long press a photo from you camera roll and select Apps from the menu. Then edit away and share on Fhotoroom with one click. When you finish, you can save the photos to your SkyDrive account or you internal phone memory. The perfect App for anyone that likes to play with pictures.

iHeartRadio is the best companion for those days when you tire of the music you preloaded on your phone. With a few simple clicks the App is open and you are in business with the artist of your choice. iHeartRadio seems to be a bit more stable than the other major streaming music App, Slacker Radio, so it has one the valuable storage space on my device.

Amazon Kindle... Do I need to say more. The 4.3" screen is great for catching up on some reading and lets me do it without having to take my tablet out. I don't recommend it for reading War and Peace, but given enough time, I think I'd even get through that one without much issue.

So there are a few apps that are on my Focus S that I think everyone should look at. Let me know what you think of them.

Sent from my Windows Phone from GetSmartphones.Info

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Over Two Months Later...

As I began scrolling through my photos on my Focus S today, I came to the startling realization that I have had this device in my hands for over 2 months now. Honestly, I remember debating the switch from Android to Windows Phone. It wasn't an easy choice and to this day there are plenty of pro's and con's to the move. That said, the Focus S is still my daily driver, and here's why.

First, the slim line form factor of the Focus S has an amazing feel. It isn't the sturdy feel of the HTC Radar or the slick feel of the original HTC EVO 4G, but it's a very nice feeling handset. The other positive the Focus S has going for it is the extremely solid battery life. A full charge easily lasts me through a normal days use. The last reason the Focus S stays in my pocket is the excellent camera. The video and photo functions of the Focus S are simply great for blogging and capturing important memories.

Now we can move on to why Windows Phone continues to reign as my operating system of choice. The best way to describe why WP7 continues to stay in my pocket is that it simply works. My Focus S has had zero problems with any of the issues that plagued my Android experiences. No text messaging loops, failed messages, data connection problems or incompatible Apps. It isn't a perfect OS, but as far as working as a phone, WP7 is light years ahead of even the best custom ROMs that I loaded on to my EVO 4G or Exhibit II.

Where Windows Phone continues to shine in daily use is something that the others just don't get, integration. Working with the People Hub, you can instantly access all your social networking sites in one simple interface. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are all supported directly in the People Hub. See your phone book, friend's photos and even their status updates with simple flicking to the left and right. Integration this deep almost makes the actual Apps redundant.

The important entertainment Apps are also here. Sure, Pandora is missing, but the built in FM Radio can let you jam to tunes without using any cell data. Also Apps like iHeartRadio, Slacker Radio and LastFM will let you use that data connection to its max every month. Using the Zune software on the device is also a great way to enjoy some tunes without using much battery or data. A Zune pass will set you back a Benjamin a year, but for unlimited music, is a few bucks a month all that bad?

The video and movie enthusiasts will enjoy the crisp 800x480 screens on Windows Phone devices. With apps like the built in Zune player and Netflix, the selection of streaming content is amazing. Just watch that data or you might incur the wrath of the overage lords.

Finally, for those that really want a quality communication experience, Windows Phone doesn't let you down. With features like linked inboxes, live tiles and that aforementioned People Hub, WP7 makes keeping in touch with friends and family all too easy. One touch access to everyone you know is what makes Windows Phone the best OS on the market today.

Sure, it still suffers from what some like to call "smartphone infancy" as it is only in its second version, but as far as functional use, WP7 is an amazing work. As we watch on the horizon for WP8, we can only hope that Microsoft continues to create a superior OS to all the competitors.

Sent from my Windows Phone from GetSmartphones.Info

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Keeping Tabs On Your Friends

If there is one thing that a phone OS must to today, besides sending a text and making a phone call, it is social networking. Microsoft has a great start on building this feature in to Windows Phone with the People Hub.

People Hub gives you one touch access to all things Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn. One tap of the live tile and you are in the main screen, which shows the updates and posts from your various social networks. A quick swipe and you are viewing your contact list. A tap and you can see Bob's most recent Tweet. It is all very seamless and fluid.

There are plenty of other "built in" social networking apps out there, but few offer the fluidity of the People Hub. After simply adding your account in the settings menu, People Hub self populates with the information. No additional setup is needed to get started. If you are a social networker and need to simplify your networking, try People Hub today. Get started by tapping the People tile on your menu screen.

Sent from my Windows Phone from GetSmartphones.Info

Monday, June 4, 2012

Game Review: Mafia Game

As a long time fan of gaming on mobile devices, it is only natural to make sure that gaming on the Focus S is a good experience. With XBox Live titles expanding quickly, it is pretty easy to kill some time with them, but outside the XBox titles are some hidden gems.

Mafia Game is eerily similar to that old MySpace/Facebook title "Mafia Wars". Zynga really did a fabulous job with the original, and Mafia Game is about the same on level of play. The same premise of the game remains. You build out your mafia by inviting others using your code. Then you accrue money and experience to build out your mob's weapons and defensive ratings. The goal is simple and you can't die, so growing in the game is simple.

Although the game play is rather boring, for strategy hounds and fans of old school online gaming Mafia Game will definitely hold its own for a bit. I'm on my 4th week playing and have reached level 55 with 40+ in my mob. Overall, it is completely worth the free download.

Sent from my Windows Phone from GetSmartphones.Info