Pebble Smartwatch and Windows Mobile 10: working, at last

WP_20160815_20_13_28_ProSince I got my Pebble Classic Smartwatch, I’ve only been able to use a smattering of its features. The problem is that Pebble does not and, apparently, will not, support the watch on Windows Mobile.  But, as the watch is very open, anyone is free to develop software to run on the watch and companion apps on any platform.  So, several enterprising souls did that. The second big issue was that Microsoft closed off parts of Windows Mobile-notifications and running in the background-which pretty much killed most of the functionality.

Well, fast forward a year and Microsoft has released Windows Mobile 10 Anniversary Update which fixed these issues.

So, there are now two apps that work with the Pebble smartwatch line of wearables: Pebble  Time Manager 10 and Pebble Essentials.WP_20160815_20_16_37_Pro

I downloaded Pebble Time Manager 10 and began using it.  For a free app, this thing rocks.  I did plunk down a buck to ‘unlock’ the health features and to give the developer SOMETHING for this great product, which is free.  Did I mention it is free?

Pebble Essentials I have not yet tried out, but will sometime soon. This write up is about the Time Manager.

Pebble Time Manager allows you to:

  • Download and install apps and watch faces from the Pebble store
  • Display all notifications from your mobile device
  • Track your health stats (provided you paid for the module AND your watch supports it)
  • Manage installed apps and watch faces
  • Direct Access to the Pebble Store

The notifications is huge.  Being able to get my phone’s notifications and NOT have to have an app running is tremendous.  Previously, you could get Twitter, Weather, email and, maybe Facebook notices but an app had to be running. Since the Windows AU came along, you no longer have to do that. You still run the app, but you can then dismiss it and the notifications keep on going.

WP_20160815_20_14_15_ProThe other big deal is direct access to the store.  Tap an app or watch face and see everything about. Tap the download icon and download the item to your phone. Tap it on the phone and it is sent to the watch.  The app, however, cannot tell you how much space you have, though.

Some watch apps require a settings page. Previously, you just took the defaults, but TIme Manager incorporates the ability to access and use these settings.  A nice touch.

The user interface could use some polish, but it works and is functional, if not a bit bland.  It does not have to be pretty, though, because it just works. And works well.

All in all, the app is worth much more than the developer charges (which is nothing) and is very easy to use. 

Stay tuned for more.  There are a lot of things it will do and some it won’t.  Oh, there’s a desktop version as well.

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T-Mobile, the un-carrier, is just like the others

5055w_front_back-groupRegular readers of this blog know I am a Windows Mobile user and, dare I say, fan.  I am on my third Windows Mobile phone now (Two Nokia’s and one Alcatel-Onetouch) Two of the phones I used on T-Mobile and one on Verizon.  My experience with Verizon was, I thought, the pits.  This company cares nothing about any of its users except for those using Apple products. Android and other devices are treated like second rate citizens.

So, after getting fed up with Verizon’s treatment of the Windows Mobile devices, I decided to buy into John Legere’s statements about the un-carrier, T-Mobile. Now, I had used them while on Sprint.  I got a Nokia Lumia 521 to see if I would even like Windows Phone (as it was called then) and, if I did, perhaps I would switch us over to them. Well, the Icon was released on Verizon and that was the phone I wanted anyway. So, once my Sprint contract was up, I went to Verizon.  That was prior to realizing just how poorly they treat their customers and what they thought of anything other than Apple. I should have known when the salesperson laughed when I asked about the Windows stuff.

When my Icon got to the point where it was only staying charged for a few hours, I decided to jump to T-Mobile, they had just gotten the Alcatel Onetouch Fierce XL with Windows 10.  Not a terrific phone, but it was more up to date and fairly cheap, $140 US. So, I switched.

After a few days, I realize the coverage really isn’t that great.  Then I got an email inviting me to use a couple of apps to make the experience better. Guess what? Those apps were for iOS and Android. Guess how many apps they have for Windows Mobile? TWO.  The account app, which is just a wrapper for the mobile ‘My T-Mobile’ site and the TV app.  Thanks, t-mobile.

Then, because I selected the 3gb Simply Prepaid plan, I discover I am not eligible for the Binge On feature they so heavily promote. Now I feel like I’ve been mislead.

Then, Mr. Legere want’s to ‘thank’ everyone for using T-Mobile. Great.  I go to participate only to hit road block after road block.  There’s no app for the Windows or Blackberry devices, so you are directed to a crappy web site. I go there, only to be told I am in-eligible because…get this…I am PREPAID.  I have to use the APP for that. Buuuut….there’s no app for my device.  Seriously? So, I take to Twitter. Bitterly complaining, even whining about it.  At that point, I wasn’t so much interested in free stuff (though that is always a good thing, right?) but was more upset over the misleading ads, tweets and bs from T-Mobile about this and everything else. It was, as they say, the straw that broke the camel’s back.

I got some nice responses from T-Mobile’s Twitter response team. They even gave me free Pizza from Domino’s, which my family thoroughly enjoyed.  I was told the ‘problem’ was fixed, I’d be able to participate.

So…it’s T-Mobile Tuesday again and I try. And get the same ineligible message I got the first time. So, back to Twitter.  Direct Message, then tweeted it.  I got a response:

“I care about you and want to make sure you can properly get thanked for being a T-Mobile customer.  Currently prepaid can only play on the app versions.  I know this is never fun hearing when you have a device that this does not work with.  I care about you and we love having you as a customer.  I have offset your account with a $40 credit as a one time courtesy to show you that we truly value you as a customer. 

Your current plan does not have Binge On, but it does have Data maximizer: If you activated a Simply Prepaid plan on or after January 24, 2016, then you already have our Data Maximizer, a network enhancement that optimizes all detectable video streaming to DVD-quality (typically 480p or better). This feature is automatically enabled, allowing your high-speed data to last up to 3 times longer.  We do have Binge on available on our $65 North american prepaid plan that includes 6GB of web and I would be delighted to help change to that plan,  if that is something that you would like.
*NevinB”

So, while they gave me a forty dollar credit-thanks for that-I am told, bluntly, that I’m not good enough because of my device and plan selections, even though they had said ‘all customers’ and I was told specifically, that it was fixed. I was also told that prepaid or not, I should be able to use the web site.  Basically, they lied.

“Everything should be working now can you give Firefox another go and try Chrome for us as well? If it still fails can you provide us your version numbers for both browsers? We’ll keep working on this until you are a part of T-Mobile Tuesdays and get to join in on all the great merch! Additionally can we give you a call tomorrow and start setting things right? A time including your time zone would be greatly appreciated.  *KeithM”

Again, it isn’t about getting something for nothing. It’s being mislead and outright lied to…by the help desk staff, by the ads and by Mr. Legere himself.  So, like Sprint and Verizon, if you don’t get their expensive plan and phone, then you don’t matter.

As for the wrong platform, that’s just nonsense…Microsoft offers tools that takes iOS app source code and converts it UWP code. From what I understand, it is a rather straightforward process and does not take a lot of time.  There are several apps out in the Windows Mobile store that were developed this way…the latest Candy Crush Saga games were done this way as well as some banking and other non-gaming apps.

I did go back and look at the Binge On ad…buried in the very fine print, they do specify the plans it applies to…but the ads and Legere’s Tweets, imply otherwise.  Same for this current promotion.  Now I know that in any future promotion, I will be treated the same. Unless I buy an iPhone 6 or Samsung Galaxy S whatever and go on an expensive $65 a month plan.

No thanks.

AT and T, can you do better?

EDIT: After posting this, I get the following direct message from them:

Hey there George! We truly appreciate your business and want to make sure we are 100% on the same page moving forward. As a prepaid customer to take advantage of T-Mobile Tuesdays you must use the app versions. At the present time we only have Android and iOS apps. The great news is you can still participate in all of the fun over at https://t.co/pH3K6qyHYC You can view a list of the web requirements here: https://t.co/vgHFxiRCp3 Please let us know if you have any additional questions or concerns. We are here for you. *JasonY

In effect, they consider me a non-customer as that site is for some drawing for non-customers.  Nice.

Is Verizon getting a new Lumia phone?

12647246_962624217140667_8348549796545464349_nRecently, my Lumia Icon has been giving me some heartache. It’s been dropped several times and now has a chip in the glass, a long crack across the Nokia logo and the glass is starting to separate from the metal body.  So, I am going to have to replace it soon.  Problem is, I am on Verizon and I want another Icon like phone, running Windows Mobile 10. Something like the Lumia 950.

Well, last year, very publicly, Microsoft and Verizon seemed to have gone their separate ways.  Icon was dropped as an option and, it seemed that my choices required me to jump to AT and T.  They seem to get all of the ‘good’ phones anyway.

No, I do not want an iPhone.

No, I do not want an Android phone.

I want a Windows Mobile 10 phone.  Yes, I know it is a sinking ship, and I’ll go down with it, but, for now, that is what I want.  Not that Microsoft makes it easy to stay on that sinking hulk. No, they seem to go out of their way to make you want to jump overboard.

Not me.

Not yet.

So, frustration kicked in a few days ago and I’ve gone back and forth with Verizon over Twitter.  Up until today, all I got were comments like this:

Verizon Wireless CS@VZWSupport 12h12 hours ago

@geogray We certainly want you to have a device that you can enjoy. Here are more details regarding Windows OS http://vz.to/1Sfi3wF .

And that link takes you to the Verizon page with ALL TWO of the Windows phones they currently carry.  An LG Lancet and the Lumia 735. Neither phone is as good as the Icon and both are a year old or older. No thanks. 

However, to my surprise, the person followed that tweet with:

Verizon Wireless CS@VZWSupport 7h7 hours ago

@geogray I’m sorry to hear your equipment expectations hasn’t been met. Please keep stay tuned, new Lumia devices will launch soon.

I’m thinking, what!? So I ask:

geogray@geogray 7h7 hours ago

@VZWSupport Verizon is going to have NEW phones like the 950? Running Windows Mobile 10?

And the reply:

Verizon Wireless CS@VZWSupport 6h6 hours ago

@geogray Yes, we are planning to expand our Windows Mobile 10 device line up. The 950 was last year’s model. No date yet for our next.

So, maybe there is hope for Verizon users who want a great phone running Windows Mobile 10.

I am still skeptical, and my contract is not for a few more months, so, hopefully, my Icon will hold up and Big Red does, in fact, get a great Windows Mobile 10 phone.

Now, to their credit, they have been attentive to my coverage issue, but I do not know that they can really do anything about it.

Windows Mobile 10: It’s tough being a fan

About seven years ago, I got genuinely excited about a new consumer product.  That product had WP_20141110_009all kinds of promise: price, performance, looks, ease of use and the ability to be a small computer I could carry around with me to surf the web, read my mail, do some short writing stints and more. Oh, I could make and receive phone calls.  That device was the Palm Pre smartphone.

I laughed at people who waited in line, before a store even opened, for Apple products.  I thought it was absurd. Yet, there I was, with about 15 other good people, waiting in front of a Sprint store to get my Palm Pre.  I don’t recall how much I paid, but, at that point, I didn’t much care as it was not the seven hundred or so that the iPhone was then.

Oh boy, I got my phone and a haircut and rushed home to play with my new toy.  This thing was just spectacular.  Touch screen AND a keyboard (it was a slider phone that looked like big pebble) and was super easy to use.  And, its browser really worked…no more quasi browser like my Windows Mobile 5 powered Motorola Q.  The Pre was just great.  For about a year. That’s when the cheapness of the poorly designed plastic body came into play.  See, the hardware, while attractive, was a disaster.  The body had lots strain from the sliding and would eventually crack.  The battery did last long either. It would die and not even be turned on.  And so ended my love for the Pre, but not WebOS.  There has not been anything close until last year.CIMG0118

Lets roll back time a bit.  The aforementioned Moto Q ran Windows Mobile 5, a cramped and poor copy of desktop Windows. Frankly, it was an abomination.  The interface was pretty bad.  The included applications were awful and the support from third parties was not great. In short, Windows Mobile 5, and all versions before it, was just awful.  It’s only plus was the Windows Live application that, in many aspects, was similar to Google Now or Cortana. You could talk to it and it would, verbally as well as visually, answer you. I used it a lot in the last few months I used the Q.

myWin10PhoneFast forward a few years and Micorosoft is, once again, hawking a product called Windows Mobile for Phones.  This time, the operating system is just gorgeous. And functional.  It’s everything that a mobile operating system should be and more.  It is as good today as webOS was then.  And, it can be used as a desktop operating system as well, via a feature called Continuum. Indeed, on its own, installed in desktop hardware, it could work wonderfully with a keyboard and a mouse. 

Yet, it gets little love and Microsoft is to blame, mostly,  They do not promote it or its capabilities. They port its great features to iOS and Android and even save it for last when developing apps for mobile devices.  It is treated like a distant cousin.  But, that doesn’t mean it does not have fans or support. True, it has few of each, but they are there.  And, now, there are more and more hardware manufacturers jumping on board.  In addition to Microsoft, there are companies like Acer, HP, Asus, the former Sony brand turmyWin10Phone3ned company, VAIO, and a host of others.  The phones range from just OK to stellar.  Most are able to support Continuum (it requires a certain class of processor and 2gb of ram, minimum) and all run Windows 10. 

As a user and a fan, I often find it difficult to stay both when I see stories about its demise, when I see Microsoft putting it on the back burner for some lame iOS project or hear the CEO say in one sentence just how important it is while the next sentence he would, essentially, say it was not that important after all.  Indeed, it is difficult being a fan and staying enthusiastic about the platform. 

Windows Mobile 10, Windows 10 Mobile, or what ever they call it, has so much potential–more than its desktop companion, I think.  There’s no reason why Microsoft could not port Visual Studion to WM10.  With a mouse and keyboard attached (in Continuum) a developer could very easily develop on the phone.  This powerful OS has the potential to, provided the hardware supports it, completely replace your desktop.  Hell, the iPhone could if Apple pulled its head out of its ass.

WP_20150107_003So, yeah, I went from one doomed smartphone to another seemingly doomed platform.  Oh, in between I had an Android and an iPhone 4. Didn’t like them, hated the Android and, early on, liked the iPhone until i ‘upgraded’ to iOS 7…ugh, what a piece of crap that was.  But, I digress.

Even though I hated my Android phone, if I do get away from Windows Mobile, I think I would have to get a Samsung Galaxy whatever. They are beautiful phones and Android is, finally, getting useable. Some of the siliness is gone, but the fracturing is still there.  So, why not iPhone? Well, it’s Apple and that means there are lots of costs.  The hardware is very nice and iOS 9 looks great. My son has a 6 and loves it.  I’ve played with it and it is far and away better than the version I had.  But, it is still Apple and that means you are married to them and that is one marriage I do not care to join.WP_20141110_018

So, how long do I have with my favorite mobile operating system? Well, until Microsoft says they won’t support it or they dump the business they paid billions for, a few short years ago.  I am pining for the Lumia 950, but that Acer Jade Primo looks awfully nice too.  The VAIO looks good as well.  So, there are a few non-Microsoft phones that I would buy, but…I’d rather get a 950. Unfortunately, I have, yet again, picked the wrong carrier (Verizon, which hates Microsoft) and still have about a year left on my bloody contract.  I’m hoping there is a more drool worthy phone out by then. Until then, I’ll continue along with my beat up ICON. It is still a great phone and works like a champ, running Windows Mobile 10. 

Did I mention I love Windows Mobile 10? Oh, right. 

New Lumia phones and a new Band

Lumia_950_Marketing_01_DSIM1Microsoft introduced a pandora’s box full of new devices. Among them, the new Surface Pro 4, a new Microsoft Band, new Lumia phones and a new laptop, the Surface Book. They also showed off some XBOX One stuff, which I’m not going to talk about here and a nice demo of the HoloLens, which will be available in January of 2016 in developer form for three thousand dollars.

LUMIA PHONES

Perhaps the most exciting part of the introduction was of the Lumia 950 and 950 XL.  These things are monster phones, with either an Octacore or Hexacore processor. They aLumia_950XL_Black_Front_SSIMre liquid cooled and smoking fast. The 950 sports a 5.2 inch OLED screen, 20MP rear cameras and triple LED Flash, capable of reproducing accurate skin tones and no red eye. The XL has a 5.7 inch OLED screen. Both devices are capable of 4k full time video (unlike the current 11 second limit.)  Both phones also double as desktop computers with full screen, keyboard and mouse ability.  You can use both the full screen HDMI desktop experience along with using the phone directly.  The demo was truly impressive and shows what Windows Mobile 10 is really capable of doing.  Both phones come with 32gb storage and are expandable to a theoretical two TERABYTES.

The 950 will sell for 549 and the XL is 649 and will be available in November.

The Lumia 550, a lower end phone, is no slouch either. It sports a nice 4.7 inch HD display, 4G LTE, 5mp camera with LED Flash and 2mp forward camera for skype.  It also features a quad core processor and, like the 950 series, is expandable via SD cards.

All three phones will ship with Windows Mobile 10, Office Mobile, Cortana integration, Skype and a suite of lifestyle apps.

The 550 will sell for about $150.

MICROSOFT BAND 2

Microsoft-Band-2-image-1A new Band was introduced. This thing has every type of sensor you could possibly want, including heart rate, oxygen, caloric/carb ability, GPS, accelerometer, gyro and more.  It has a Golf mode that can tell you everything you need to know about your game.  It features Cortana integration, touch screen, a multitude of apps (including Uber!?) and full integration with Windows 10. It also works with iOS and Android.  The screen is curved, unlike the previous model, which was flat and a bit awkward.

The Band 2 is the first lifestyle type device I’m actually interested in using.  It will sell for $249. 

There’s much more to talk about, so stay tuned for more on the Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book.

Watch the Press Event.

IFA 2015: ACER and Windows Mobile Phone 10

It seems the death knell for Windows Phone/Mobile has yet to fall.  Indeed, At the IFA2015 conference in Berlin, Germany, Acer announced not one, not two but three Windows Mobile 10 phones. Two are aimed at low to mid range markets while the third is a high end phone called Jade Primo.

acer-jade-primo-docThe Jade Primo sports a 5.5 AMOLED screen, Snapdragon 808 processor, 21megapixel rear camera, 8megapixel front camera, and other high end features. 

So what, you say?

Well, this phone also is capable of Contiuum, the Windows feature that turns the phone into a desktop computer. 

Yes, that’s right, a desktop computer.

Think about that.

Yes, I know, Motorola tried and failed with the Atrix. Those laptop docks are now used, by many, for keyboard and displays for the Raspberry Pi.

So, the Jade Primo can be used as a computer, but, how?  Simple. It ships with a dock, keyboard and mouse.  Plug the phone into the dock and a monitor into the dock and, viola! Instant computer.

The way it works is that the monitor displays something akin to a desktop, with a start button.  The phone’s screen is used separately from the monitor.  The phone can run the Universal apps, so Office Mobile runs, and a whole host of universal apps, all at full resolution, full screen on the monitor.  The mouse and keyboard work just as they would on a ‘real’ computer.  Imagine, just carrying the phone and the small dock and no laptop or even a tablet.  There are a ton of possibilities here, and, since it is Windows, I don’t think it will suffer the same fate as the Atrix—which, in itself, was a worthy effort from Motorola, perhaps a bit ahead of its time.

Of course, Microsoft has yet to present at IFA, so there’s no telling what they will introduce. Rumor is that they are also bringing out Continuum enabled phones, but we will see..

Other companies announcing Windows Mobile devices include Asus and Xiaomi.