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5 years ago

Round Robin: AT&T Fuze Review & Final Thoughts

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Having spent much time with the AT&T Fuze for the 2nd week of the Smartphone Round Robin, it’s time to wind down and give you my final thoughts!

I think above all other platforms, Android and Windows Mobile share the same market penetration strategy. They direct themselves into becoming the OS behind smartphones rather than attempting to create an end all solution. Though philosophically they might remain different, their similarities are more appropriate than say Android with the iPhone or Blackberry.

So is Windows Mobile a more mature version of Android? Or is it completely different? Is the AT&T Fuze a great device? Can the G1 learn from it?

Read on for the rest of the review!

Also, this is an Official Round Robin Contest Post, Comment to Win a T-Mobile G1 !— More Details Here

Hardware

 

I covered a bit of my thoughts on the Fuze’s hardware in my Video Review and in short: it’s a well-designed, sturdy and solid device.

But when I first came across the Fuze I was ready to mock and hate it. I saw some of the pictures and full review over at WMExperts and couldn’t get passed its thickness. Could any modern device with a great design be successful when it is so thick?

Turns out, I was wrong. The Fuze is thick, to be sure, but because of its small footprint—its width and height are significantly smaller than competing smartphones—the overall thickness isn’t as noticeable. Its overall smallness allows room for thickness because in the end—it’s still small.

The slide mechanism is solid, it’s not as violent as the G1 but also not as graceful. The keyboard is laid out in a grid with no room in between keys, using this design over the G1’s spaced-out keyboard didn’t give a noticeable difference. The static flush buttons on the front-face of the screen offer a great clickiness and familiarity—home button, back button, etc. I did miss a scrolling option, though.

The AT&T Fuze hardware begins to suffer when you reach the touch screen. Coming from a capacitive screen with the G1, it was really difficult to navigate and maneuver a resistive screen with your finger. Tiny links, scroll bars, contact searching were all difficult tasks for me—it helped when using the stylus, but come on, a stylus in 2008? In this day and age, I can’t imagine the benefit of going resistive over capacitive. Can anyone tell me what’s the benefit of resistive over capacitive?

 

Usage

I won’t lie, TouchFLO 3D is definitely nifty. I loved how intuitive the navigation was—simply slide your fingers a certain way and you can easily get from mail to messages to music. TouchFLO 3D looks great too, there probably isn’t a better looking weather app around.

But I still couldn’t manage to efficiently navigate the Fuze using TouchFLO 3D. There were times where I unknowingly opened an e-mail when I intended to move to the next pane and other times when I couldn’t open an e-mail because it just wouldn’t register my touch input. I think TouchFLO 3D is a great idea but it needs to get a better sense of finger gestures and inputs because right now, I’m not confident in my ability to efficiently navigate the phone—it’s just not accurate enough

Also, the Fuze suffers from lag issues. I don’t know how it compares with other Windows Mobile phones but comparing it with the G1, the G1 is a much, much snappier device. What’s odd is that the lag is inconsistent and unpredictable, sometimes the Fuze reacts quickly while other times it takes a couple seconds.

Combining the lag factor with its resistive touch screen makes for an occasionally frustrating experience. I would hit icons I didn’t mean to hit and didn’t know I hit until a few seconds later. On the same token, other times I pressed the icon I meant to press but didn’t realize it until a few seconds later.

My biggest gripe with the usability of the AT&T Fuze is that TouchFLO 3D and Windows Mobile offer two completely different experiences. It’s like using two different phones in one and proves to be mighty confusing for newcomers like myself.

TouchFLO 3D focuses on the pretty (if not inefficient) way of doing things—simplifying tasks and providing shallower access to the user—but making it easier at the same time. Windows Mobile is the complete opposite, disregarding the excess and focusing on allowing in-depth access to the inner workings of the smartphone. Using TouchFLO 3D and Windows Mobile together seemed to combine disparate philosophies that didn’t unify the experience. For example, I found the stylus to be utterly useless when using TouchFLO 3D but integral for the Windows Mobile side of things—I think the Fuze & Windows mobile would be better fit unifying the experience.

 

Round Robin Must Do’s

1. Use their assigned smartphone as their “main brain” and may not use any other smartphone OR music device (such as an iPod) for one full week.

I did it. It was definitely tough at first because Windows Mobile is just simply overwhelming to a newcomer but as the week was winding down, I got more and more comfortable with its idiosyncrasies (and complications)

2. Get their PIM data onto their phone. Ideally they will ‘Sync with the Cloud,” but a computer sync is ok too.

Thanks to the WMExperts forums I was able to sync my Google Info over to the Fuze OTA. I chose NuevaSync because I didn’t need to download anything onto the device and could just use ActiveSync to get everything done.

3. Get up their email on the smartphone

I got my Gmail onto the Fuze fairly easily but does anyone know why emails disappear every so often? Is this some memory issue? And how come there’s always a notification for one new email? I can’t find that e-mail for the life of me.

4. Use their smartphone to get directions at least once.

Google Maps works decent enough but obviously the appeal in having Windows Mobile is turn-by-turn directions. That is a game changer.

5. Use their smartphone with a bluetooth headset.

It’s easy enough to pair. I really wish I had a pair of Bluetooth Stereo headsets so I could see (or I guess, hear) what I’m missing with the G1

6. Install at least 2 3rd-party apps (if possible) on their smartphone.

I downloaded Skyfire to see how good of a web browser it really is (really good) and Memmaid to see how in-depth I could get with Windows Mobile (really in depth).

7. Play a game

I played Bubble Breaker and having a stylus for that makes it easier and definitely a lot more accurate. Puzzle games aplenty on Windows Mobile.

8. Browse the internet

On Opera Mobile everything rendered accurately but I just found the overall interface to be too clunky. Because the touchscreen isn’t as responsive, I found it difficult to navigate. Plus there's no alternative since the Fuze doesn't have a trackball. The page’s accuracy is on par with the G1 (albeit lower quality images) but I found myself browsing the web less and less with my time with the Fuze.

Skyfire is cool. It gives you the real web but I’m just not sure that this proxy type server/browser is the answer for the future. I would much rather be in the Chrome lite camp than this solution, especially when flash releases.

For some odd reason, I ran into a few errors when I tried to browse the web. I’m checking that off as connection errors (using a wifi network I’m not supposed to be using) more so than anything else, but it is worth mentioning.

9. Add music to their smartphone and use it as their music device.

I didn’t buy MissingSync to link the Fuze with my Mac but if I was to use Windows Mobile full time, I’ve heard nothing but good things from it. For the time being, I was completely music less.

10. Watch a video on their device.

The Youtube App is oddly buried under the Windows Directory, I’m not sure why. When I finally fired it up I was surprised at how clean the whole interface was, great design. Overall, I was impressed with the Fuze's media capabilities considering I expected pretty much nothing from it.

 

What Windows Mobile Gives

The third party application selection on Windows Mobile is great. There seems to be more programs that appear solely on Windows Mobile than any other platform. I think this is where Windows Mobile succeeds—out of the box, Windows Mobile isn’t the most usable smartphone and some of the included apps—Internet Explorer ahem—are downright throwaways—but the sheer availability of any app empowers the platform. We have cool apps on Android but most of them are fairly gimmicky and don’t allow for the power of the apps on Windows Mobile. With that said, Windows Mobile App Market anyone?

So in that sense, Windows Mobile provides users for everything. You won’t run into a lack of stereo Bluetooth or video recording or anything. As convoluted as it may be, there seems to be a way to do ANYTHING on Windows Mobile. You’ll never be offered a lame excuse at why you can’t copy and paste.

To put it bluntly: I sucked as a Windows Mobile user on the first day, was a little less sucky by the end of the week, and if I was allowed a bit more time, I probably wouldn’t suck at all. Windows Mobile has the highest learning curve of any device I’ve seen so far, but also the highest ceiling. Which I guess would make it the smartest smartphone.

 

Windows Mobile vs Android

 

I always thought the more appropriate comparison for Android would be Windows Mobile, specifically the software-software link seemed to be a no brainer to me. But I made this comparison without ever using a Windows Mobile device and to be honest, aside from their market penetration strategy, they couldn’t really be more different.

I’ll never deny the fact that Windows Mobile is probably the most powerful and feature packed smartphone on the market. People talk about Android being open but I’ve never seen such access on a user-end perspective than my short time with Windows Mobile. For better or worse, it really was like running Windows on a mobile.

But I can’t say that that specific philosophy is automatically a good thing. Seeing the iPhone’s success and the G1’s potential, I think making a cleaner user interface that’s easy to use, if not less intensive, is the way to swoon average users. Truthfully speaking, smartphones have been dumbed down in the past 2 years and made easier to use—even TouchFLO 3D is guilty of simplifying.

I think the Fuze is a good device with a couple of stipulations. I think if you’re a dedicated Windows Mobile user, you can be happy about its beautiful hardware and powerful processor—there probably isn’t a better looking phone (other than maybe the Treo Pro which we’ll get into in 2 weeks). I think if you’re new to the smartphone world, you might be able to get by just using TouchFLO 3D and the great keyboard and then slowly learn about the depth of Windows Mobile. But I think if you don’t need the access that Windows Mobile gives you, a G1 and Android would be better suited for your needs.

For me, I would never be able to handle everything that Windows Mobile throws at you because honestly, I wouldn’t know what to do with it. I guess now is as good a time as any to mention that I prefer the call quality on the G1 over that of the Fuze—it just seemed much clearer. The G1 also seemed to lock into a stronger signal as well.

 

Final Thoughts

 

Overall, my time with Windows Mobile can be summed up in a few words. Power. Access. Experience. And of course, Confusion. I won’t fault users for using Windows Mobile because as overwhelming as it is, it really is unique in what it can give you. It’s not exactly the most user friendly or intuitive platform but anyone who has ever used a Windows computer can pick it up and not feel completely out of place.

The lag issues definitely need to be addressed, if this thing was as snappy as Android, Android would have a much more difficult task in taking market share. Luckily, it’s not—and Android has a huge opportunity to take over an (almost) stagnant platform.

I’ll be honest, a lot of my gripes with Windows Mobile could have been solved over time. But time, or rather the shortness of time, is where smartphones make their name. Snappy performance is necessary in today’s market. First impressions mean a lot and if you’re stuck waiting for the lag, well, you get left behind. Windows Mobile won’t get left behind because it’s just too powerful, but boy, it sure is taking its time.

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5 years ago

Round Robin: Help Crackberry Kevin With the T-Mobile G1 & Any Questions on the AT&T Fuze?

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Crackberry Kevin is asking for your help! He knows his way around the G1 pretty well but he would love to know everyone's tips and tricks and 3rd party app recommendations. Luckily, we at Android Central got you covered because if you help out Crackberry Kevin on his forum post (which can be found here) you're automatically entered into our Smartphone Round Robin Contest! You can win a T-Mobile G1 and a boatload of goodies!

Also, my device for the past week has been the AT&T Fuze, a Windows Mobile Device, does anyone have any questions that they would like to get answered about the Fuze or Windows Mobile? Leave a line in the comments and I'll do my best to answer it!

 

This is an Official Round Robin Contest Post, Comment to Win a T-Mobile G1 !— More Details Here

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5 years ago

G1 Data Always Connected = Roaming $$$

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Some hapless soul traveling to the UK with his G1 reports a data roaming bill of $102.85 in spite of jumping into the phone settings and disabling data sync, data roaming and 3G. When pressed, the T-Mobile supervisor "revealed that the G1 always accesses the internet whether you are sending text messages or calls—even when the data roaming features are off." Scary stuff if true.

Read the whole article by Sean Fallon of Gizmodo here. Has anyone else racked up any data roaming charges while traveling abroad with a G1? If so, tell us your tale in Comments. A special thanks to James for sharing his experience!

[Photo and story courtesy of Sean Fallon @ Gizmodo]

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5 years ago

Smartphone Experts Round Robin Roundtable!

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Hey what do we have here? Early Christmas Present? Sort of. We have a special edition podcast for the Smartphone Round Robin! We're calling it the Smartphone Experts Round Robin Roundtable because Casey, Kevin, Rene, Jennifer, and Dieter met up to discuss three of the Smartphone Round Robin devices: The iPhone 3G, the Treo Pro, and the Blackberry Bold.

We don't quite have an official Android Central podcast feed yet (though we're working on that!) so we'll give you a link to our sister site The iPhone Blog's feed:

 

This is an Official Round Robin Contest Post, Comment to Win a T-Mobile G1 !— More Details Here

Visit the Widget Gallery

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5 years ago

Round Robin: Crackberry Kevin's Video Review of the T-Mobile G1

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This week in the Smartphone Round Robin, Crackberry Kevin is fighting his Blackberry addiction with the T-Mobile G1. He gives his thoughts in a first impressions video and comes away a bit more impressed than expected. To sum it up, he doesn't find the hardware sexy but he definitely thinks Android is easy to use and easy to like. He even feels a bit familiar with the G1 since it has the good ol' trackball and menu button.

Go check out his video review to see what Crackberry Kevin thinks about the T-Mobile G1!

This is an Official Round Robin Contest Post, Comment to Win a T-Mobile G1 !— More Details Here

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5 years ago

Android Booting on Nokia n810 - Seeing is Believing!

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There has been quite a bit of news lately about handset manufacturers developing smartphones running Google's Android OS, but the news ticker has been unusually quiet about enterprising individuals porting or booting up their current devices with Android. The folks over at Android Community have stumbled upon video evidence of Android booting up on a Nokia n810!

It is unknown why we haven't seen more handsets popping up with retrofitted Android, but it's nice to see Android finding it's way onto a Nokia n810. One of the nice things about Android is that, like Windows Mobile, there is no ONE device to accommodate Android and very soon we will have numerous handsets to choose from to run Android. Like the Nokia n810 featured in this video, is there more to come?

[Android Community]

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5 years ago

Qigi Smartphone Running Android or Windows Mobile 6.1

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According to Shawn Brown over at androidcommunity.com, there's another player in the Android handset market - Qigi of China. The new smartphone, called the i6, will be coming in two flavors: one will run Google Android and the other will run Windows Mobile 6.1.

It's exciting that there will be other handsets in the market to choose from for the Android OS. To read more about the specs and see loads of pictures, just pop on over to Shawn Brown's post. Anyone planning on being an i6 early adopter?

[androidcommunity.com]

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5 years ago

It's Unofficial: G1 Auto-Rotation Coming?

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Yes, the G1 screen orientation changes from portrait to landscape when you slide out the keyboard. However, the screen won't rotate automatically when turned to the side, even though an accelerometer is on board that makes this feature possible. Take a look at the YouTube video posted by nuuneoi to see that a hack is already in the works (and apparently working) to do just that - utilize the accelerometer to auto-rotate when the G1 is oriented in landscape.

This feature is claimed to be a part of the SDK and developers merely need to unlock this feature for their app. If that is the case, it begs the question why Google didn't give this unto us in the first place? Why must auto-rotation be a hack or third-party app rather than a feature applied universally to the G1?

[engadget mobile and nuuneoi]

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6 years ago

Round Robin: AT&T Fuze Video

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Kicking off the second week of the Smartphone Round Robin, Android Central gives you a Video Review of the AT&T Fuze. Like the T-Mobile G1, the AT&T Fuze is made by HTC but re-branded and re-named under the carrier. Those familiar with the device will recognize its similarities to the HTC Touch Diamond and for Sprint, the HTC Touch Pro.

The AT&T Fuze's main OS is Windows Mobile 6.1 but it gets prettied up with TouchFlo 3D, an HTC specific User Interface made for the HTC's Touch Family. Our thoughts on TouchFlo 3D is that it certainly is pretty and useable. Our thoughts on Windows Mobile? Well, check out the video!

Though people have compared the G1 to the iPhone, I think the more apt comparison would be Android and Windows Mobile. Remember, Windows Mobile runs on a plethora of devices--something that Android hopes to do in the near future. So how do they compare? Quick preview: Windows Mobile is all about the power. Check out the video for Android Central's first impression of the AT&T Fuze!

Note: I totally forgot to mention the stylus--its magnetically attached to the Fuze, which is a great touch. The stylus doesn't seem to be necessary, you can get almost everything done without it.

This is an Official Round Robin Contest Post, Comment To Win a T-Mobile G1! – Details Here

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6 years ago

Google Lay Offs, 10,000 Workers at Risk?

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The economic downturn shows no favor. Even the almighty Google is taking a hit and re-arranging the books in order to seem steady. Google's been quietly laying off hundreds of employees and there are whispers suggesting that the final tally may total 10,000 workers.

Though the SEC requires public companies to publicly report layoffs, Google is circumventing the law by terming the workers as temporary operational expenses. Basically full time workers without full time benefits and a boost to their stock because of their high productivity per employee. Yeah, we know. Sad and almost evil.

We're not sure which specific sectors this is going to affect, hopefully the economy gets on an upswing so we won't see any delays in Android development and everybody can get their job back. Until then, be thankful.

[BGR]

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6 years ago

Google Wants to Trademark Android

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Google had tried to trademark "Android" back in August and was turned down. But they're not going down without a fight, we have word that Google is going to appeal the decision before the board and hope for the best. 

We at Android Central think Android is much too hard a term to trademark, there's just too many wide ranging definitions. But seriously, is there any difference if they succeed or not?

[uspto via Android Community]

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6 years ago

Colorware Offers Custom Colors for T-Mobile G1

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Do you think the black, bronze, or white color options on the T-Mobile G1 is just too plain? Do you want your G1 to stick out in a crowd? Well, insert Colorware. Colorware is a company known for its customization capabilities for basically any relevant electronic device--and that includes our favorite T-Mobile G1.

Though the prices are high for the average consumer ($220 to color the whole phone, $770 to buy brand new with no contract), we've heard nothing but good things about Colorware's quality if that's any consolation. So we guess if pink or Android green are really your thing, you can find some way to justify it. Let us know how it goes!

[Colorware via Engadget]

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6 years ago

Asus Offering Android Phones in 2009

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In an effort to stay toe-to-toe with their nemesis HTC, Asus will be very busy releasing up to ten new phone models in 2009. Most of the new models will include 3G and touch screens, and at least one will be based on the Android OS.

If I were a betting man, I'd say Asus will introduce more than just one Android phone, so this is good news for the Android community - more models to choose from!

[talkandroid via DigiTimes]

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6 years ago

Opera Mini & Visual Voicemail for G1

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These are exciting times to be on the Android bandwagon. If you possess a T-Mobile G1 Android phone, you should indulge yourself a little and try out a couple apps that have made their way to the Android platform - Opera Mini 4.2 beta and Fusion Voicemail Plus. Both are free and, according to Matthew Miller over at ZDNet.com, are worthy for trial runs on your G1.

Opera Mini 4.2 beta is a browser alternative, providing fast internet access and bookmark portability and consistency to your desktop and all other devices due to the Opera server carrying most of the load.

Fusion Voicemail Plus is a free app that brings visual voicemail to your G1 via signing up for an account on their website. The process is free and virtually painless. There will be a more detailed look at Fusion Voicemail Plus forthcoming.

[Matthew Miller @ ZDNet]

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6 years ago

Round Robin: Answers to Your iPhone 3G Questions

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Since we’re in that odd spot where the first week of the Smartphone Round Robin is over and I’ve yet to post the video review (AT&T Fuze, tomorrow!) to kick off the second week, I thought it’d be a good time to answer all the questions you guys had about the iPhone 3G.

Though the iPhone 3G is an uber-popular device there are still features (or lack thereof) that some may not know about!

Read more to see the answers to your iPhone 3G questions!

Also, this is an Official Round Robin Contest Post, Comment to Win a T-Mobile G1 !— More Details Here

Dave asks How much better is the glass screen than the G1’s plastic one?  

The glass screen on the iPhone feels a bit smoother when its clean and well kept, but after smudges, fingerprints, and the usual mess that gets on it during daily use it doesn’t feel as good. The iPhone 3G’s glass screen at its best does beat out the best of the plastic screen on the G1

I do think the plastic screen on the G1 is more consistent regardless of muck. The difference either way isn’t a deal breaker, the average consumer wouldn’t recognize it unless pointed out.

  Loren asks How’s the touch screen keyboard?  

It’s good. But not because it’s easier to type on a touch screen than a physical keyboard but rather because the iPhone’s auto-correct feature is just so darn smart. Trusting the iPhone and just typing away seems to be the most effective strategy in dealing with the soft keyboard. I was a bit less effective when I was trying to carefully tap out the letters.

With that said, the iPhone’s keyboard is still one of the best soft keyboards available. Even in portrait mode, the spacing and size of the keys are manageable. I hope that the future Android soft keyboard can be this effective.

  Matt asks Best advice: get a finger print resistant screen protector.  

Agreed. Fingerprints latch onto the iPhone and rarely disappear. If they do disappear they come back in hordes. Screen protector is the way to go.

  Loren asks Actually… What I really wanna know is whether there are a lot of good free apps on the apps store through the iPhone. I can’t believe some of the good quality apps on the G1 that are free. Does the iPhone compare? And does it offer push email?  

Free apps on the iPhone are great. Remote, Pandora, Sportacular, Yelp, Shazam—it seems like a notable new app is released every other day. Though I’ve yet to encounter any free app as unique as some of the G1’s offerings, the iPhone receives a lot of free applications from big companies and websites that use the iPhone to extend their services.

Push E-mail is offered through either MobileMe, Exchange, or Yahoo. There is no Gmail Push on the iPhone

  Connie asks Two questions, actually: First, do you need to be connected to a computer to sync your email application? Next, do you need to use iTunes to sync mail, contacts and calendar? I find iTunes and Outlook to be huge memory hogs. Thanks!  

No, the iPhone’s email app syncs to your email account via IMAP. Contacts and calendar appointments do need to be synced over iTunes unless you have MobileMe or are part of an Exchange Server which would then simplify the process by syncing everything over the air.

  yoyobo asks hows the memory management on this, i know on the blackberry you always worry about low memory. does the iphone have this issue? or does it terminate the program when you switch from one to another?  

There’s no real background processes on the iPhone (other than perhaps the iPod and the phone itself) so I guess memory management isn’t a big concern. So yeah, it doesn’t have the issue of low memory or memory leaks but it does terminate the program after you switch from one to the other. I’m not sure when, or if, we’ll ever see background processes in the iPhone. The still unavailable push notification is the feature that Apple seems to be pushing over background processes.

  royk asks what’s one thing the g1 could learn from the iphone, and one thing the iphone could learn from the g1?  

The G1 could definitely take a few lessons in design. The iPhone 3G is still the prettiest smartphone on the market and gives a great first impression. People were excited about the Google phone until they actually saw it, which is unfair because in hand the feel is completely different.

I think the iPhone 3G should learn to be open. Okay, it’s asking a lot from a notoriously secret company like Apple but nobody is expecting the iPhone to be as open as Android. If they opened up even just a teensy bit, I’m sure they’ll receive a lot of credit and goodwill. Give it a try Apple, it’s not a bad way to be.

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