Sunday, May 30, 2010

Eats the iPhone for Breakfast: Sprint HTC EVO 4G

Google CupcakesOnly a crazy person would give away two expensive smart phones at a $400 conference. They may as well flush money down the toilet.

In unrelated news, a few weeks before the GoogleIO conference, Google mailed me a free Verizon Motorola Droid phone with 30 days of free phone service. I felt that was a really nice gift. At least, it seemed really nice until they gave me an even better phone on the last day of the conference. Google gave every attendee the unreleased Sprint HTC EVO 4G with another 30 days of service.

Now I have three phones that ring when people call my Google Voice number. It's a little nuts.

The EVO 4G gets attention. It has:
  • a huge 4.3 inch screen
  • an 8 megapixel camera with two LEDs for a flash
  • a forward-facing 1.3 megapixel camera for self portraits and conferencing
  • a kick-stand on the back for propping the phone up in landscape orientation
  • 4G WiMax data connectivity for fast internet access
  • 720p video recording
  • a HDMI video out port
  • a slick UI
If that isn't enough, people are impressed by the EVO; the phone is a conversation piece, much like the original iPhone was. On the plane back to Austin, a passenger stopped me to ask what it was. Back at work everyone wanted to touch it, and at least one of my co-workers really wants it.

One friend with an iPhone 3G looked at it for 2 minutes and fell in love. Even Jennie thinks might be better than her iPhone 3GS. And the phone is viral: "Hey John, show him the 4G phone!"

In short, it is a striking phone. People want it... until they hear that it is on Sprint only. Then they seem disappointed or wary.

Sprint: thanks for the freebie. I think the phone and the service really shine. Now for the bad news: you need clean up your image. People think that your customer service is terrible, your coverage is spotty, and that your plans are expensive.

Here are my suggestions to Sprint if they want to become the best carrier in the US:
  • Build out your 4G network big time. I get 4G in Austin in some places, but never found it in San Francisco.
  • Promise friendly customer service. Stop arguing with your customers!
  • Offer contract-free plans without subsidized phones. If your service is good, folks will stay.
  • Put together some service packages so folks can get 4G internet at home with their 4G phone for cheap.
  • Deliver the fastest Android version updates in the industry. Lots of Android users are frustrated by how long it takes for their carrier to upgrade their phones to the new Android version. You can't compete with Apple unless you get Android updates out as fast as Apple gets iPhone updates out.
  • Give everybody a free second battery with the EVO. Hey look, you can change the battery. When will the iPhone get that feature?
Some quick thoughts on the EVO 4g:
  • It is quick, as long as you don't run too many apps simultaneously. Hopefully Froyo will help with that.
  • The screen is beautiful. My iPod Touch now seems small and pitiful in comparison.
  • The on-screen keyboard is fantastic, the best I've seen on a phone. The size helps.
  • When you have 4G coverage, web pages and the maps load fast. 3G seems pokey by comparison.
  • When you don't have 4G coverage, leaving the 4G transceiver on burns batteries.
  • The device feels nice in the hand.
  • Finding the lock/unlock/power button by feel is difficult. I think the button needs to stick up more or the case needs some curves to guide the fingers.
  • The internal speaker seems nice.
  • The kickstand is cool, but I haven't used it much.
  • The red trim around the camera and kickstand is nice.
What are your impressions of the phone and Sprint's service?

* Updated 31 May 2010 with minor enhancements and commentary.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Get a Hobby

Chris McCann wrote a nice piece calling for startup company founders to get a hobby. I love it!

I enjoyed that Chris responded to his need for a hobby by adopting 30 of them. And then he made a list and started checking them off. Why start with the notion of having one hobby when you can try lots of them?

Beyond relaxation and clarity, hobbies also are opportunities to get passionate about something you might turn into a business. Maybe you can use your expertise in one field (like computer engineering) to solve a problem in another (scuba diving). Instant startup idea. By trying 30 different hobbies, an entrepreneur gets exposure to 30 different potential target markets.

I also believe that building a diverse portfolio of non-occupational experience helps with creativity. Different hobbies require different kinds of thought. Windsurfing requires the surfer to have a mental model of where the wind is coming from, how the board will react to changes in weight, and how the sail will react to changes in position. Mountain biking requires continuous planning for and reaction to the approaching terrain. The more exposure to different problem solving skills, the more your brain stretches, and your reserves of confidence build to help you get through tough patches in life.

I'd like to try more hobbies, but I'm not doing too bad in my checklist of things I've tried so far:
  • windsurfing
  • surfing
  • western horseback riding
  • hang gliding
  • photography
  • writing
  • cooking (I tried it, didn't say I was good)
  • violin playing
  • piano
  • crossfit
  • reading
  • concerts
  • music festivals
  • shooting
  • archery
  • boating
  • sailing
  • rowing
  • canoeing
  • swimming
  • hiking
  • caving (the touristy kind)
  • exploring new cities
  • brewing beer
  • making furniture
  • flash mobs
  • being an extra in a film
  • standup paddleboarding
  • behind the scenes tours at Disney World
  • juggling
  • indoor rock climbing
The hobbies I'd like to get some experience in:
  • scuba diving
  • flying planes
  • kiteboarding
  • wakeboarding
  • snow boarding
  • motorcycling
  • mountain climbing
  • whitewater rafting
  • hot air ballooning
  • space exploration
  • urban exploration
  • yoga
  • zip lines
  • dinosaur bone hunting
  • driving a tower crane
  • touring in a sleeper car
  • unicycling
  • unicycling offroad
  • stilt walking
  • outdoor rock climbing
What am I missing?