I decided to start a series of posts talking about web sites and applications that I think are really cool…. but I don’t have a use for.
Post #1 – Scrybe
In this case, I should say, “don’t have a use for YET“. This app is still in Beta and has lots of potential!
Scrybe (or iScrybe, I can’t quite figure out which one is more appropriate) has very well done design of calendar and note taking functions. You are even able to work offline, a first for an online calendar as far as I’ve seen. As one might deduce from my blog, I’m a huge fan of 30Boxes, so it would take a lot to steer me away from my benchmark.
The Scrybe calendar has a great interface, making it easy to view day, week, month, or year on one screen. They also have lots of endorsements on their home page claiming how great the application is.
But (and you knew this was coming), here is where Scrybe falls down for me. No ical feed. I’m frequently mobile, which means I only have my trusty Crackberry in hand. Before I go anywhere, I sync my phone with my Mac iCal application which gets a feed from my online 30Boxes calendar. If things change during the day, I have both a mobile web app for 30Boxes or the ability to e-mail new appointments to my calendar.
The offline feature for Scrybe is cool and useful. I’d love to see 30Boxes take on this kind of function. Sometimes you have your laptop but no connection. With the offline option, no problem!
All in all…. cool, but just not quite there.
First a disclaimer, of sorts. I'm not a paid tech journalist, I'm not a Helio employee, and I'm not Tom Cruise, so I paid full price for the phone and the service. Why do I say this? Because I'm not just reviewing the phone as part of my job. I invested (?) into this, so I need to make it work for me, or I need to send it back withing 30 days under the Happiness Guarantee.
I SO don't fit the demographic for this service. I'm not the young, hip (well maybe), professional that lives for MySpace (but I did create an account). I'm a 43 year old consultant and gadget enthusiast. I travel frequently for my job, so I am very interested in mobile technology.
I also have two high standards that I use for comparison, Apple and Treo 650. Apple excels at user interface, integration, and usability, and Treo 650 excels functionally (for a mobile device).
- H.O.T. (Helio On Top) – This is a free add-on a application (currently Beta) for the phone that displays news headlines on the phone's main screen. The news "channel" choices are a little limited (Yahoo Headlines, Yahoo Business, Yahoo Tech, etc.), there's about 6 or 8 to choose from. At this point, there's no user-definable feeds.
- Streaming Video – I'm pretty impressed with the video capabilities of the phone teamed with the 3G network. Helio has a number of videos that are free to watch (although yesterday I got a message about a free trial expiration). I like RocketBoom, and while newer shows have not been posted, I enjoy watching older ones that I haven't seen.
- Gaming – I'm not a big gamer, but I may become one on my Hero. The graphics are very cool. There are 2 games included, a limited version of a 3-D Pool game, and Lost Sister which is you basic walk-around-slash-goons-pick-up-gems kind of game.
- MP3 Player and Headphones – The phone is packaged with a nice set of stereo headphones. The headphones have an integrated microphone for making calls and a button for answering and ending calls. The button also doubles as a Next Track button while listening to the MP3 player. While the 70MB of onboard memory is great for taking pictures and downloading app and other content, its not sufficient for music. I've ordered a 512MB TransFlash card just for loading music.
What's Not So Cool
- Web Browser – The browser is very limiting as far as sites that can be viewed. The current version of the browswer seems limited to strictly WAP formatted sites. There are a couple of ways around this limitation.
- Create your own WAP portal site – I did this for the sites that I like to visit the most. Its just regular HTML with a special header:<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//WAPFORUM//DTD XHTML Mobile 1.0//EN" "http://www.wapforum.org/DTD/xhtml-mobile10.dtd"><html xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml">
- Use a reformatter like Skweezer, iyhy.com, or Google's mobile optimizer. Instead of trying to type long URLs on my phone, I simply use Skweezer on my computer, paste in the URL I want to access on my phone, have Skweezer do its magic, then copy the long resulting URL into my WAP poral site (Option 1 above).
- Uploading Pics – Uploading pictures to MySpace is a two step process (weird!). First you MMS a pic to a Helio server, then you have an opportunity to post it on MySpace. This seems a bit strange considering how much bragging is going on about how well Helio is integrated with MySpace. I will give them credit for the rest of the MySpace integration, it works well.
- E-Mailing Pics – Some e-mail addresses work, others don't. Customer Service doesn't have a clue about this either. I was told "We have pretty good luck sending to a gmail address". IMHO, this is a feature that should work to any e-mail address. I've personally found that pics can't be mailed to Blogger, 23hq and ScanR. I've had "good luck" so far sending to gmail, Yahoo, and FlickR.
- No SMS E-Mail Address – This is standard mobile phone stuff folks! But you don't have it with Helio (there is a work-around, but I'm not posting it here in fear that the hole will be filled). Any other service gives you an e-mail address that links to SMS. For Verizon, its firstname.lastname@example.org, for T-Mobile its email@example.com. I spent about 30 minutes on the phone with a Customer Service Rep that couldn't figure out what I was talking about.
- Customer Service – I realize that the service is new, I realize that the reps are new, but does anyone train these people? I know more about this phone in the week that I've had it than any CSR I've talked to, and I've talked to 4 of them. I end up educating them every time. Sky, hire me!
- Manual – Normally I'm a subscriber to the theory of RTFM, but in this case, there are so many details about the phones applications that are missing, that you have to call Customer Service. Unfortunately, they don't know either. Want to know any details about the MP3 player and the options on the screen? Good luck. When you figure it out, let me know.
I took a number of pictures of the same subject at different resolution settings. Here are the extremes, 1600×1200 and 240×180.
Is there more bad than good? No. I like the phone and I like the service. Its not for everyone, no service is. Noone can expect a be-all end-all service that has everything for everyone. Sky Dayton has chosen a niche, and filled it well. I hope to see more innovations, improvements, and additional apps for the phone. It is cool.
Sky: If you're looking for a top notch DB Marketer (Unica), you have my number… literally.
Follow-up Edit 15 JUL 2007:
A few readers have been asking about my more recent experiences with Helio. In one word, “None”.
At the time that I got the Hero, I was traveling frequently, mostly to Richmond Virginia. I had a lot of trouble making and receiving calls pretty much anywhere. The phone would indicate that a call was connected, my party on the other end of the call was there, but I couldn’t hear them and they couldn’t hear me. Being an engineer, I tried to diagnose the problem myself as much as I could, by testing in different geographies, times of day, etc. The problem was sporatic, so I deemed the service unreliable after Helio replaced the phone 3 times.
Helio finally deemed me “unfit” for their service, and let me out of the contract with no escape fee. They determined that the area(s) that I used the phone had marginal Sprint service. Of course, I had expained any number of times that the issues with my calls happened pretty much anywhere. This is just another example of poor Helio customer service and their level of knowledge. After all the trouble that I had, I just wanted out of my contract anyway. Bye-bye, Sky!
What am I left with now? A brick that I still carry when I travel, only for the 2MP camera (I don’t carry another camera when I travel on business), and a game that I like to play.
I have terrible short-term memory, and this might help me (every see Momento?). If you want to remember your whereabouts, add your Flagr RSS feed to your 30B calendar (if you find a ? mark after your name in the feed URL, remove it and the stuff to the right). Now when you post your current location from your mobile phone, it shows up right on your calendar on the day you posted it with the time. When you hover over a day “box” on 30B, you will see a list of the places you were on that day and the times you were there.
I think this is pretty cool. I know it will help me remember the “wheres” and “whens” of things I do.
I don’t know yet. Flagr is a social placemarking mash-up with Google Maps. You mark a spot and tell something about it. Cool, but who is going to use it? What would make me go to Flagr to search as opposed to somewhere else?
I’ve thought about one useful (there are probably more) application for this… Tracking a journey, vacation, whatever. You can post a phone-cam pic along with text about a location, so you could put in tags (perhaps in the description) of the order in which you visited each location. I’m invisioning something obsure for the search tag, then a number. Something like “NYCMAR06 1”, “NYCMAR06 2”, etc. I haven’t actually tried this yet to see if it would work, but its an idea.
What’s going to happen to all of the Google Maps mash-up sites if Google should decide to close the map API due to bandwidth costs? Companies are building their business models on this stuff. Is it smart?
Or at least English that makes sense?
I checked in online for my flight tomorrow on Continental Airlines. Here is the first question they ask.
Will anyone be traveling with an infant on their lap? Then there were choices for Yes and No.
I don’t know how to answer this question. I can’t say whether there will be anyone on the plane with a lapchild. I would assume its likely. Its also probably that someone somewhere will be traveling with a lapchild. But this has little to do with me.
I think a more appropriate question would have been: Will anyone in my part be traveling with an infant on their lap?
I had forgotten about this, but you gotta love it. Creative use of Flickr. There’s another site that is similar that creates words from pictures of naked people. Your Name in Naked Bodies Very racey!
33 resources for Online Storage [Listable]
I’m still scared of the whole “online storage” trend. A server crashes, your shit is gone. You forget where it is, your shit is gone. The company goes belly-up because they couldn’t get enough Google Ad revenue to keep up the Mercedes payments, and your shit is gone.
On the other hand, if I lose my laptop, my shit is gone. But I can back up my laptop. What’s the point of online storage if you have to keep a copy on a local hard drive anyway?
I enjoy evaluating new Web 2.0 apps. I do this for my own personal use rather than in any professional capacity.
2 sites that I’ve spent some time looking at recently are SpongeCell and 30 Boxes. Both are calendar apps and both include “socialing” features. Both also have a cool parsing engine that turns plain text to calendar entries, like “Party at Andrew’s friday 7-9pm”. SpongeCell has the added feature of e-mailing entries to your calendar. I really like this feature because I travel a lot and don’t have internet access 100% of the time. I can enter a calendar entry in an email message on my Treo while on a plane, and it will get added to my calendar when I land and connect again.
I also have the added complexity of keeping my personal calendar on my Mac and my business calendar on my Windoze machine. Airset provides a “sync” function that I use to keep my personal and business calendars in sync.
My only complaint about SpongeCell at this point is the defaults used for entries. I would like to have reminders set automagically 15 minutes in advance of all appointments sent to my cell. Right now, after I make an entry, I have to edit it to set the reminder and the security level (to public to iCal can pick it up). OK, I do have one more complaint, there is no timezone support in the iCal .ICS file. So iCal gets confused on what timezone the appoinments are and the sync to my Treo alarms me 5 hours in advance of any entry.
30 Boxes has promise. It has a nice Ajax interface, as does Airset and SpongeCell. It also has a natural language entry like SpongeCell. What lacks is the offline entry ability (via email).
I think all of these services do what they do well and will improve with user feedback over time.
My mother passed on Sunday evening. I traveled on Monday to be with my Dad. This morning, my mother will be interred at the cemetary.
I don’t think the full impact of this event has hit me yet, and I’m not sure why.