The content of this blog is my personal opinion only. Although I am an employee - currently of Nvidia, in the past of other companies such as Iagination Technologies, MIPS, Intellectual Ventures, Intel, AMD, Motorola, and Gould - I reveal this only so that the reader may account for any possible bias I may have towards my employer's products. The statements I make here in no way represent my employer's position, nor am I authorized to speak on behalf of my employer. In fact, this posting may not even represent my personal opinion, since occasionally I play devil's advocate.

See http://docs.google.com/View?id=dcxddbtr_23cg5thdfj for photo credits.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Ming Phone

I'm trying out a Motorola "Ming" phone.

Apparently it is a Linux based phone, running Java applications, that Motorola sels in Hong Kong. The phone I am trying has "China Mobile" stuff installed on it.

The web page linked to above says 'The new Motorola "MING" PDA Smart Phone is a fully integrated gadget that serves as a mobile phone, a PDA, a music player, a camera, a video recorder, a name card reader and a data storage device(up to 1GB). From now, you need nothing but Motorola "MING" PDA Smart Phone.'.

I quite like the phone - physically, it has a nice form factor. I like the stylus. But there are a few issues, mainly with the software. I will record my impressions here.

---+ User Interface

My biggest complaint is that the user interface feels a bit clunky and pasted together.

It feels a bit like an Open Source UI like KDE or Gnome on Linux, as opposed to something like Microsoft Windows: possibly more powerful, but things just don't "flow" smoothly.

For example, I keep wanting to hit the red physical button (the Power/End key) on the face to stop a call - but instead I have to hit the "End" button on the touchscreen. The red physical button seems to be reserved for power down - which means it is a waste of a button most of the time.

Ooops, I lied - you can hit the red physical button to stop a call. It just doesn't always seem to work.

Pressing the green physical button on the face (the Send key) takes you to the calls record application, where you can see the Recent Call screen with calls you have received, missed, dialed, etc. This is a reasonable choice - although it might be nice to suggest a good number to dial, like the last call received or dialed, to reduce keypresses. But, annoyingly, once you select past Dialed Calls, and scroll, you cannot hit the green physical Send key to dial it - you have to use the center push of the 5 way switch, and THEN hit call.

So, the fastest way I have found to redial a number is

0) from the home screen

1) hit the green physical Send key to get to the Recent Call window.

2) 5 way switch up to scroll around to Dialed Calls"

3) 5 way switch center to get to the Dialed Calls screen

4) assuming the call you want to redial is topmost, select it via a center push

5) and now, to this very cluttered call screen, hit the green physical Send key and/or the Call button onscreen.

Five button clicks, of 4 different buttons, to redial! My manual dexterity is challenged.

OK, I just found a shorter way:

0) from the home screen

1) hit an icon in the upper right corner of the Global Navigation bar of the touchscreen to get to the Call dialing keypad screen

2) hit the Redial button at the bottom of the touchscreen

3) now hit the Call button at the bottom of the touchscreen, and/or the green physical Send key.

This is fewer buttons, but they are further apart, and quite a challenge to enter one handed.

Moral: I want the most frequent phone operations (dialing one of my usual numbers, redialing, etc.) to be only a few keypresses away, ideally one handed.

I think what is mainly bothering me is that I have not figured out if there is a pattern to what function is on what key in what screen. Lacking such consistency in the UI, I have to study each screen quite closely - and, in fact, I was not able to figure some things out untilo I had read the manual.

RTFM?: this is one of the first phones in years that I have had to read the manual for. That is not a good thing - it means that its UI is surprising.

In fact, I was inspired to write these notes as I learned that I had to use the manual.

---+ Camera / Business Card Reader

I think they mean what American's call a "business card reader" when they say "name card reader". The camera has a switch that allows it to focus in on something like a business card.

TBD: test it out.

I would really like to be able to use it to scan receipts into an accounting program. Apparently that is not standard, and it is unclear if a Java application can be installed to use it.

---+ Petty Annoyances

Home Screen Setup won't let me get rid of the China Mobile applications.

That's typical, but annoying. I think that I have dialed China twice already by mistake.

---+ Handwriting

One of the things that I most like about this phobe is that it has a pen-like stylus, and a graffiti style handwriting recognizer. I *love* being able to write notes onto my phone, rather than text using a painful keyboard.

However, the graffiti style recognizer is very slow - even when set to fast (Applications/Setup/Input Setup/Writing Speed/Fast).

It took me 52 seconds to enter in the entire alphabet via the recognizer.

Compared to, it took me 18 seconds on the touchscreen keyboard.

And 25 seconds on my old Kyocera Smartphone, with the original Palm graffiti. Not to mention that the graffiti was more accurate.

I can't report a real measure here, but I definitely have the feeling that the Ming is slower in recognizing letters than my now-defunct AT&T Tilt / HTC 8925, a Microsoft Windows Mobile based Smartphone, which has several forms of handwriting recognition.

The Ming handwriting recognition - letter box - is far too slow for real use.
This is sad, since my Kyocera is much older, with a much slower processor - and it was quite useful.

Apparently the only way to enter symbols and special characters such as $ { } ( ) is to use a dedicated virtual keyboard. It is annoying to have to switch from handwriting, slow as it is, to keyboard.

---+ TimeZone

My phone is displaying time for a different timezone. (Not China, interestingly; actually US Central.)

Unfortunately, after clicking around for more than an hour, I still haven't found how to change the time/timezone.

... ahhh, finally I found how to change the time and timezone - using the World Time application. Obvious and appropriate, but nevertheless well hidden. Plus, of course, the usual problem: it won't allow me to specify my preferred locations as Portland OR, or Haifa, Israel - but instead insists on using neighbouring cities such as Seattle or Jerusalem. But it does support Bangalore.

---+ Color Schemes

Color schemes available are red, icy white/blue, and grey.

I understand that red is popular in China.

I'm going with white for now, although I would prefer options such as pastel green, etc. I.e. any color scheme option based on studies of what are least stressful to the eye.

---+ Accidental Keypresses

>unlock phone keys

>When the flip is closed, your phone
>automatically locks the side phone keys after
>a period of inactivity, to prevent accidental
>keypresses (for example, when carrying the
>phone is a purse or pocket). To unlock the
>phone keys, press a key two times in a row
>within four seconds.

Like that won't happen in real life, with my keys jostling against it.

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