This past year has seen a huge explosion in the mobile phone market with the newest crop of Android phones jumping past the iPhone and Blackberry’s as the most popular – and for good reason: Android is a much more open platform, allowing developers to make applications freely while also not being subjected to the draconian Apple apps rules and fees. While both the Blackberry devices and the iPhone offer some pretty good features (the Blackberry still being the best for Enterprise business users), there are things that have contributed to their losing market share, such as the crappy ATT service (Pensacola ATT service is spotty at best in many places).
So if you are looking for a new phone, the question comes, what to buy? One of the biggest factors is what you need your phone to do, as well as how much you want to pay for it – the initial cost of the phone is usually not as much of a factor as the continuing cost of the service. Smart-phone costs can add up quite quickly, especially with the added services such as tethering or mobile hot spots and high usage data plans (ATT has stopped their unlimited data plans and now requires you to pay in blocks which can be very expensive if you use just a little bit too much in a month.). Personally I have found that Verizon coverage is some of the best -Pensacola Verizon service is pretty good, and it definitely is one of the best when travelling across the US, however their pricing is not the cheapest so it is a trade-off between cost and benefits.
I currently am using a Droid (the original, although I plan on moving to a newer Android device in the near future). One of the things that I love about the current crop of Android phones is their ability to view Flash websites and play Flash games, something that the iPhone will never be able to do thanks to Steve (wanna be god) Jobs. In addition, I do like the easy integration with Google apps (gmail, google maps, etc). Also, with the soon to be released Android and Windows based tablets (like the Samsung Galaxy), the wireless hotspot capabilities may come in handy (while I currently have an iPad, I hate being hampered with its shortcomings such as the lack of flash, no usb ports, no camera, etc).
In the end, it comes down to a dizzying array of choices when it comes to phones, so be sure to take some time and do a bit of research before taking the plunge, and look carefully at all the associated costs.
Google has recently released a new feature to their Gmail service which allows US users the ability to make free calls (local and long distance within the US and Canada) right from their computer using a new interface built into Gmail – the service is promised to be free at least until the end of this year. To use this new service you must have a Gmail account, a speaker/mic hooked up to your computer (built in on laptops also works), and you have to install a small plugin which is available here: http://www.google.com/chat/voice/
To use the service from within Gmail, first make sure your speakers or headphones are on at a good volume and that your mic is on and set properly. Then from within Gmail, within the chat box you should see a “Call phone” icon and text – click that to bring up the call window where you can enter the number you wish to call (make sure to dial the area code first).
In testing out this feature, I found that calls where crisp and clear, suprisingly clear actually considering I was using a headset mic. When you call someone, the number you are calling from shows as 760-705-8888 which is no good for return calls. However, if you are logged into Google Voice, Gmail calling will display your Google voice number which may be used to call back. At least for the time being (while the calls remain free) this is a great service.
This feature is still being rolled out to Gmail users and if you are in the US and don’t see it in your Gmail chat box, it should appear their soon. It does appear that this feature is not yet enabled for Google apps users that use a custom domain name for their Gmail, but hopefully this feature will come soon. Free phone calls are always a good, and at least for the rest of this year we can take advantage of it through Gmail.
Finally, Google has added a long awaited feature to its Gmail service – the ability to add images and rich text to email signatures! The next time you sign in to your Gmail account, click on the Settings link in the top upper right corner, and on the General tab about halfway down the page you will see the new Signature box with some new features. In addition to the regular bold, underline, italics etc, you can also change your font, change the font size, color and highlight color. YOu can add hyperlinks, and yes you can finally add images!!
While you can’t just upload an image directly (they must be hosted on the web somewhere) – you can easily just upload your image to a free image hosting service such as http://imageshack.us/ or http://tinypic.com/ and then copy the image address into the Image Url into the Gmail signature Add an Image dialog box. Once you have put in the image url, if it is correct, you will see an image preview. The dialog box also allows you to resize the image. **Note: you really should properly size the image before uploading it to the web, as an image that is too big will take a long time to load into an email message. Remember to click Save Changes at the bottom of the pages when you are done customizing your signature!
Email services like Gmail are constanly adding new features and this is one that people have been wishing about for a long time. The signature feature is a great feature, and if you have multiple Gmail accounts you can customize the signatures for each individual account. Unfortunately, the rich text signatures are only currently supported in the desktop browser version of Gmail and not supported on mobile versions. For the desktop version, you must be using the latest non-html version of Gmail.