New iPhone or Android phone? So, what to do with that old one?

Palm_Pre_SmartphoneIf you are like me, you probably have two, three or more old smartphones lying around, collecting dust. If they are still functional, they are still useful.  I will pull out the old Palm Pre, charge it and use it to play a few games or even surf the web. It has a good browser and I downloaded a fair number of decent games, a couple will even work with the iPhone/iPad counterparts for multi player action (Shrek Racing, for one.)  So, what can you do with those old phones? Well, read on for a few suggestions…

eReader

  • If you have an old iPhone, Android or Windows Phone 7, there is the Kindle app.  There was also a Nook reader app for Android.  There are also a few e-reader apps from other companies that are available on these and other devices like the Palm Pre. There a thousands of free ebooks as well.

WiFi Phone

  • Older iPhones, Android and Windows Phones have Skype clients that will allow you to use that old smartphone, over WiFi, as a phone. Imagine that. You can use it at home and save those minutes on your cell. Carry one for use when near a hotspot in case your phone has poor service or, again, to save those minutes.  (Granted, it could be cumbersome carrying around multiple devices.)

Web Browsing

  • Most older smartphones come with some kind of browser. iPhones, even the first gen, have the sufficient Safari and Android has it’s native browser. Firefox and/or Chrome may also be available. The Palm Pre has an excellent browser and Windows Phone 7’s Internet Explorer, well, it works. 

Games

  • Here’s where devices like iPhone and Android really shine. There are a ton of games out there for both of these platforms. If your phone is powerful enough, this can be a great alternative to the Nintendo or Sony handhelds. Or, like me, why not have them in addition to the Nintendo or Sony offerings? Lots of the games for the smartphones simply are not available for either Nintendo or Sony handhelds.  I still pull out the Palm Pre and play some of those games. Even my old Motorola Q has a few games I like. It had a nice Sim City game. Hmm…where did I put that? Even older, non-WiFi phones like the Palm Centro had some decent games. If you still have it, why not use it?

285389-htc-evo-shift-4g-sprintSecondary Info Screen for your PC

  • Ok, I’m stretching here, but I use my HTC Shift for weather and email as a secondary screen for my PC. I have it connected via USB so it continuously gets power. Right now, I am using the built in apps, so it isn’t a true secondary display, HOWEVER…there is an app called iDisplay which turns your Android device into a true secondary display.  For more, read here and here. There are also other apps like AirDisplay.

Portable Media Playeriphone4

  • iPhones, especially, make decent portable players. An iPhone is, essentially, an iPod Touch with the cell capability. Android, Palm Pre and Windows Phones are all good media players as well.  My Pre came pre loaded with the Amazon player and Androids have the Google Play store. There are tons of apps, for all major platforms, like Pandora and YouTube. This is, next to games, perhaps the best use of these devices.

Digital Camera

  • Nearly all smartphones have cameras. Some are poor, but most of them are fairly decent. The iPhone and Nokia smartphones have excellent cameras. You can keep one in the car or your bag and when the shutterbug strikes, you’ll have at least one camera around.  I know, your shiny new phone has one too. And it probably is better, but on your older device, you’ll have storage that you may not want to use on your new device. They can make good video cameras as well.

Emergency Calling

  • ALL cell phones, smart or otherwise, can still place a 911 call, no matter if you have service on them or not. As long as they are in a cell network, they can place a 911 call. This is an FCC mandate, so if, for no other reason, you could keep one (charges, of course) in a car or your home for an emergency.  The key, however, is to keep it charged up and readily available.

There are, of course, other uses for the phones, these are just a few suggestions. Others include remote control of televisions, cable boxes, Roku devices and more. Calculators, portable databases, USB storage, etc.  My point is that just because you got something shinier and newer, doesn’t mean these older ones are useless.  They even make great mini-tablets for young children. Since they are no longer in cell service, they cannot make calls so why not let them have one for games or Netflix?

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Goodbye, Android and good riddence…hello, iPhone!

285389-htc-evo-shift-4g-sprintI am about to end my year and change flirtation with Android.  It has been an exercise in futility. While there are a few things I like about it, the multitude of apps and the openness of it, I cannot say that I will miss it. So, what am I replacing my HTC phone with?

Well, I really wanted a Windows 8 phone. However, since I have Sprint, my chances of getting one are nearly zero. So far, Sprint has stated that they have no plans to carry such a phone in the near future.  Joe Belfiore, of the Windows Phone group in Microsoft, stated last week (via Twitter) that they have no idea what other carriers are going to carry the phones until they are announced. Seriously? I have a hard time believing that…he IS the face of Windows Phone.

So, what will it be?

Sadly, not Windows Phone. The next best thing, however, is an iPhone. So, I am eating my anti-iphone4Apple words and getting myself an iPhone 4. Why? Well, the ecosystem is established, the price is right ($0) and my son and wife have one, so I may as well get one so we can Facetime.  Hopefully, this foray into Apple’s world will be short.  I’m not willing to switch carriers just to get a Windows powered phone. Maybe, just maybe, next year Sprint will have seen the error of its ways and carry the damned things.  It will be just my luck, however, that they announce next month. 

Why can’t I wait, you ask? Well, FRUSTRATION. Frustration with Android. Every time I want to install something, I have to first: clear the internet cache, erase my Facebook data and clear the cache and then hunt for anything else to erase or clear because the damn memory management in Android stinks. I don’t know why it does not do a better job, but it does not.  Next, the shell. I cannot find a decent, reliable and fast launcher shell. The GO! Launcher was the closest thing I had found, but the themes were just terrible and GO! by itself was butt ugly. Plus, the GO! Locker has a HUGE bug: while the phone is ‘locked’, you can press the volume up and down buttons a few times and return back to the launch screen without entering a code.  Real secure there.  Lastly, speed. Android is DOG SLOW. Period. Performance is sub par to even my old Palm Pre.  Android, may you rot in hell.

iPhone 4, while not perfect, does seem pretty responsive.  Safari, while not the best browser around, is really fast compared to that junk in Android. Admittedly, Firefox on Android performs a bit better, but not by much.  The ecosystem for iPhone is top notch…but, as with Android, there is a LOT of crapware in there.  For every one decent app, there must be 20 terrible apps. It is worse with Android: it is more like 1 and 40.  Terrible. 

Android is not complete crap, though. Since it is Google, it did keep my calendar and contacts in the ‘cloud’ as well as the machine. That will make it easy to transfer them to my new phone. Thanks, Google!

My HTC EVO Shift 4G, hardware wise, was not an awful phone, it just wasn’t a good phone. The only time I really enjoyed it was when I was able to get 4G, which was almost never. I won’t miss that.

So, I am still not an Apple fan and feel really hypocritical for ordering the iPhone, I just don’t feel that there was a decent alternative. I think Windows Phone 8 COULD be that phone, but Microsoft has done little to promote it, sell it to carriers (other than AT&T, which has most of the new phones) or convince developers to code for the OS.  By withholding the SDK, they have not given devs enough time to get product coded, tested and released. What the hell are you thinking, Microsoft? The shroud of secrecy does not work for you.

So, I wait for my new phone to be delivered. Once I have it and have used it for a few days, I’ll post up a review. Yeah, it’s a two year old phone, but it is still relevant since it is now the low end phone for Apple.

Flipboard for Android now available

FlipBoard2One of the best applications for the iPad has, finally, come out on Android:  FlipBoard.  FlipBoard is an RSS aggregator that looks like a magazine, newspaper and web page all rolled into one. It is, visually, one of the nicest looking iPad applications and its Android version looks even better. It isn’t often I say an Android app looks good, but this one does (so does Google+ for Android.)

FlipBoard, for those who have not seen, takes a number of RSS newsfeeds (RSS, Really Simple Syndication, is a means by which web sites can allow users to ‘subscribe’ to their feed for viewing in a browser, email client or RSS reader) and organizes them in categories. It presents any images that may be embedded in a magazine like layout. The use of typography, layout and images gives it a clean, polished look and one that, dare I say, resembles Microsoft’s Metro style.

I downloaded it for both my HTC Shift and Kindle Fire and it works well on both, though it is a tad slow on the Kindle Fire.  On the phone, I found my self having to scroll a lot, but the screen is tiny, so it is to be expected. Even the app looks and works great on my phone, the phone is ALMOST too small for this app to be really useful. On the Fire, however, it works well for the form factor.

FlipBoard is free and available from the Amazon App Store and Google’s Play Store.

Just because the tech is old, doesn’t mean it is worthless, right?

So, it’s happened again. One more piece of technology I purchased is relegated to the dust bin. My HTC EVO Shift 4G is not only NOT listed on HTC’s current lineup for Sprint, they no longer support it! It is just at a year old (the phone, not my personal phone that is) and will not be getting the Ice Cream Sandwich upgrade to Android.  Worse, Sprint seems to be deprecating the phone as well. But, at least they will give me $68 (US) on the buy back program (compare that to the $18 for my wife’s Blackberry flip phone.)

So, once again, I find myself looking around at the technology that I have.  My Kindle Fire is the most current piece of tech in the house. EVERYTHING else, mine or a family member’s, is either no longer made, been replaced with a newer model or just plain old. BUT…just because something is old does not mean it does not have any useful life left in it.

For example, our original iPad is used everyday. I use it when I am home, my wife uses and my four year old step son uses (he probably uses it more than any of uPandigitals.)  The white 7 inch Pandigital tablet has been rejuvenated now that I got it’s Android update corrected. I found that using it in conjunction with a stylus from a Nintendo DS makes the abysmal touch screen actually work.  I installed the Go EX Launcher and an Ice Cream Sandwich theme to make it look fresh and put a 2gb SD card to store apps.  It is almost like new. Almost.

My old Palm Pre serves as a backup mini-tablet. It is no longer used as a phone, but it still works and the Wi-Fi functionality is better than the HTC.  Facebook and Twitter work fine and I have Boggle, Tetris and a couple of other games as well. Oh, Shrek Racing on the Pre works great and allows us to play two player – Pre and iPad. Works great.  Glad I did not rip it apart like I was going to do.

An old AMD Athlon based (single core, 1.8ghz) PC that was my son’s computer (with Vista shoehorned in) is still chugging along as a backup computer (currently on loan to my sister while I revive her much better computer).  It may be old and have outdated technology, but it got my sis back on the interwebs.

54647704My ZuneHD still works great, it is used everyday as my podcast player. I can also load it up with movies and, along with the dock, use it as a video player.  Throw it in a bag and take it with you on vacation.  No need for a pile of DVD’s.

My original Kindle (the funky wedge shaped one) still works and gets use. When we have no power, it doubles as an internet device since the browser will work on many sites (the ones I would need in such a situation anyway) and it just sips the juice.

That old Zenith CRT television is now the display for a slew of old video games.  An Intellivision, Odyssey II, NES/SNES combo thingy and two Atari Plug and Play consoles in addition to a raft of plug and play games that were popular a couple of years ago. And, since I have a VCR or two AND an old Laserdisc player, this set is still useful. Couple it with the government purchased digital converter I got in 2009, we can still watch local TV on it.  And, at 27 inches, you can see it too.

I have quite a bit more tech that is no longer in the desirable column, but it is mostly unused. Unused because the functionality is reduced to a point where it is useless, broken, rendered useless by a service (PEEK, I’m looking you) or just plain too slow to be useful (like the 1995 era Toshiba Laptop I have. It works great, but lacks an optical drive, the screen is terrible and it is SLOW. It does boot faster than anything in the house, though.  That’s some100_0862thing, right?

I hate throwing things away. Likewise, I hate looking at gear that used to be the hot thing but no longer is and is probably not worth anything.  Like the TWO Peek devices I have. They look great, the industrial design was fantastic and the screen was nice. Peek, however, is no longer around as a service (I canned it long ago anyway) but the devices, supposedly, can be hacked into little Linux handhelds.  Not sure what one would do with a hacked Peek, but it might be fun to play with. One day.

Yes, one day I will play around with some of this stuff. Like the Peek or the ZipIt 2. Yeah, ONE DAY.

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