Otterbox Commuter Series Cases for the HTC Incredible and Evo#
Post By Eric Hicks

 

When I first purchased my Evo and Incredible the first thing I thought about was how to protect them.  At the time there were a few cases available for each htc4-evo4g-20but nothing that fully protected the phones.  I did find a case that protected the sides and the bottom of the phones but the top was left exposed.  Only the case for my Evo came with a screen protector, my Incredible was left to fend for itself.   I had to find something that would hold up to extensive everyday use and the occasional drop from the coffee table…or my hands.  After some searching I came across the Otterbox Commuter Series cases for both the Incredible and Evo.  Otterbox is a company who specializes in cases which can protect devices from all sorts of mishaps.  For this review we’ll be concentrating on their Commuter Series cases.

According to their website The Commuter Series is a slim and touch protective case made of durable silicon mid-layer and a one-piece, custom-molded polycarbonate shell.  Its smooth finish allows it to slide in and out of pockets.  This case provides added protection against scratches, bumps and shock.”

 

Let’s take a look at the Evo Commuter Series case.  

 

The Case comes with two parts, a soft silicone insert that fits around the entire phone and a hard polycarbonate shell that goes around the silicone shell.  The silicone covers all opened ports (USB, HDMI and the Headphone Jack) which is very helpful for keeping dust, dirt and other things from collecting in these openings.  These covers are also helpful in keeping water and moisture out which can happen if you get caught in the rain while using your phone.  The silicone case also has raised points for the power and volume buttons.  This allows for quick access while providing continuous protection.  The one thing I worry about is the lifespan of the covers as they get moved back and forth during normal use.  The polycarbonate outer shell is easy to grip and adds a firm feel to the phone.  The openings on the polycarbonate shell provides access to the volume buttons located on the side of the phone.  The silicone insert protrude here giving you easy access while still protecting the buttons from dirt, dust and moisture.

covers_hpcovers_bottomsidehtc4-evo4g-20-2

 

The Evo case also has a slot for the kickstand so you can still continue to enjoy your media while protecting your phone at the same time.  I’ve seen some cases that covered the speakerphone opening in a way that affects the volume of the speakerphone.  Otterbox made sure the opening for the speakerphone was large enough to not alter the sound.  The same holds true for the camera and dual flash.

speakerphone_cam

 

Next up is the Otterbox Commuter Series case for the Incredible

 

htc4-incrd-20

inc_backWhen I purchased my Incredible I was worried about the camera as the lens wasn’t flush with the case and I knew at some point I would do something to damage it.  The Commuter Series case for the Incredible took care of this worry allowing the camera lens to be recessed inside the case enough to be protected and not interfere with the camera in any way.  Like the Evo the openings for the camera, speakerphone and lens are large enough that they do not degrade the sound or interfere with the camera. 

 

siliconeThe silicone surrounding for the Incredible protect the usb port and the headphone jack.  The silicone also protects the top of the phone which was left exposed by previous cases I tried.  I’ve put this silicone protection to the test a few times already and I’d just hate to think what my phone would’ve looked like if it didn’t have this protection.  I’ve never dropped my Incredible but once I put this case on the phone the floor became magnet for it.  I can say after all these falls my device is still working and looking perfect, I’d hate to have seen my phone if I didn’t have this case. 

 

front_top

Here you can see how the silicone and polycarbonate shell come together to make a nice fit around the phone.  The silicone shell creates a lip around the outer edge of the screen providing protection to the outer edge of the screen.

 

 

 

A screen protector is included with each case and I’ve found no noticeable visual side effects from the screen protector.  Applying the screen protector was easy and straight forward but if you are a little nervous about applying it you can head over to www.otterbox.com and watch the video tutorial they have available.  The screen protector does a good job of protecting the screen without introducing additional glare.  When properly applied it’s hard to tell that a screen protector is installed. 

Conclusion :  Both cases provide a good deal  of protection while keeping form and functionality on par with a stock phone.  The Evo Commuter Series case curves nicely with the phone and fits it like a glove.  The Incredible Commuter case removes the racing lines of the stock battery cover and replace them with a case that easy to hold keeps your device safe from scrapes and scuffs.  The Silicone surround adds a nice soft layer between the outer case and the phone case.  The texture of both cases allow you to have a firm grip on the phones and at no time gives the feeling of being slippery or loose.   It also provides protection for all openings on the phone which will help protect your phone from small amounts of water accidentally hitting your phone.  The Screen protector provides a good layer of protection for your screen as the Commuter Series cases are designed for pocket use.  If you’re looking for a good case to protect your Evo or Incredible, head over to Otterbox and check out their selections. 

The Commuter Cases for the Evo and Incredible can be purchased for $34.95 directly from www.otterbox.com

10/25/2010 14:05:57 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00) #     |  Trackback

 

Understanding “Customization” and “Personalization” and The Differences Between The Two#
Post By Don Sorcinelli

With the Windows Phone 7 launch now behind us and the arrival of devices either days (Europe) of weeks (North America) ahead, there is a lot of discussion around the new platform and the mobile phone space in general. One area of both discussion and debate that seems to be popping up quite frequently, both in personal discussions and on the Internet, concerns me a bit. It’s not the discussion per se that concerns me; it’s the use (and often time misuse) of two words that play an important factor in user satisfaction around mobile devices (and technology in general) – customization and personalization. Understanding what these concepts really mean and how mobile devices are designed with regards to the two concepts may make all the difference in determining which platform and specific device best fits your need. As a result, I thought it might be good time to talk to these two concepts in a bit more detail and try to eliminate some of the misrepresentation via interchangeability some have used.

Customization
Let’s start with the the concept of customization. At its core, customization deals with the look and feel of the device. Not necessarily the hardware, mind you, although you can customize what hardware buttons do when pressed. Customization is largely about the aesthetics of the device. It’s changing the layout of screens, the colors of screens, the sounds the device makes. It’s what appears or doesn’t appear on screens and how it appears. Customization is something that, first and foremost, needs to be enabled by the operating system. Those capabilities, in turn, have to be allowed by both the the hardware manufacturer and the mobile operator. Third party software vendors can also potentially play a part in customization, depending on how much access to customization is provided to the developer.

Customization has been either a strong point point or a weak point for mobile platform providers. The Windows Mobile operating system has had a long history of being a very customizable platform. Android has quickly developed this reputation as well. Apple, on the other hand, has taken its proverbial lumps on this front. Customization is, of course, a user preference. For many people, it is simply not that big a deal. Those who desire customization typically are considered to be more of the “power user” of mobile devices. In addition to desiring customization, they often tend to desire more out of their device in terms of ability and functionality.

Customization by and large affects how the device looks and sounds, and to some extent may affect the way the user interacts with the device. There is another level of interaction, however. This leads us to the concept of personalization.

Personalization
It can rightfully be argued that personalization is a form of customization, to stop there would be quite wrong. Personalization goes far deeper into the user experience with the device than customization. If we were to look at the depth of user experiences as an onion, customization largely makes up the outer layers by focusing on sight, sound and basic device navigation. The concept of personalization goes to the next level – it focuses on trying to answer the question how do I make the user experience throughout device usage truly my own.

Like customization, personalization that has to start with the mobile device operating system. Unlike customization, however, the effort involved in enabling personalization is far more complicated. To be successful in this area, in-depth research and knowledge of understanding how a user may work with a device is required. Actually developing a user experience is often the final step in a more time-consuming process of identifying target users and (for lack of a better term) “getting inside their heads”. It is about understanding how people think and behave when interacting with a technology and providing the tools to mimic most closely those behavioral patterns. Finally, it is about enabling the user to tailor those core experiences in ways to make the device more like the user in the way that they think – in this way the device is an extension of the user, a facilitator and truly personal. Perhaps the best way to think of this is through an example.

Suppose I want to get together with a couple of friends before a user group meeting for a bite to eat. From a human thought process, I would probably want to -

  1. Decide on a place to get together;
  2. Determine the appropriate time;
  3. Let just those friends know about the get together.

Seems simple enough, right? Now, try to map those steps to interactions on a mobile device. You likely will end up with something like -

  1. Navigate to a browser or application that allows me to find a proper meeting place. Depending on the application and its ability to recognize and remember your preferences, searching could be either easy or difficult.
  2. Once selected, either remember the location or use some sort of cut and paste mechanism to save the details in memory.
  3. Navigate out of the previous application and into a calendar application to pick an appropriate time. If you don’t share calendars, by the way, the time may just be an educated guess.
  4. Once a time is selected, you will need to paste the location information into a meeting invitation.
  5. Now you will need to find your friends in the contact management application. Depending upon the abilities of the application and search capabilities, this could be difficult (if not impossible). What if your friends aren’t in the default contacts application? What if they are not in any contact application, but are stored in a location on the Internet (Facebook, for example)?
  6. After the searching, you send off the invite.

Even in a simple example, you can see how human thought may not map quite well to device interaction. Most who respond to this example with “well, that isn’t so hard” are people who are very comfortable with technology in general and (through experience) are comfortable in performing this task. They are the “power user”. Mobile phones, however, need to address the more casual user much like other technologies have had to adjust. Think of the our evolution with something as commonplace as the VCR (and subsequent DVD and BluRay). Early user experiences were difficult for all but the most tech-savvy. They evolved, however, to make using the technology easier for the average consumer. Mobile devices are now moving into this same realm. More people then ever are purchasing sophisticated mobile phones, and most are not power users. As a result, the user experiences need to evolve as well.

Moving back to our example, personalization would need to focus on a few areas in order to create a more human, or “natural” experience -

  • The device/application would know and/or learn more about your preferences for things like food and use them to help with searching.
  • The device/application would be aware of location in aiding with search selection. Not only your current location, but perhaps the location of your friends.
  • The device would allow you to know more about your friends – where their information can be found and how that information (back to location, for example) will be used.
  • The experience of selecting a location and inviting friends would be more integrated, requiring less navigation and behaving more like the user thinks.

As a wrinkle on the last (and perhaps most important) point listed above, the order in which I perform the task may be different. I may wish to identify people first and then pick a location. Ideally, the device should support that order of interaction in a seamless fashion as well. This level of interaction is what personalization is really all about.

Historically, mobile devices have not been successful when it comes to personalization. The disjointed user experiences contained within Windows Mobile made for a constant sore point for new and less experienced users. Ironically, I am hearing some complaints from new and less sophisticated users of Android devices as well. They are not as bad as Windows Mobile complaints (things like Google integration help in some respects), but they are still there. A couple of years back, the iPhone took the first steps towards improving the user experience and personalization (this has always been an Apple strong point). However, little has evolved from Apple in this are in the last couple of iterations of iOS. Then there is Windows Phone 7.

For those that watched the Microsoft press event on October 11th (if you have not seen it, it is available on demand from the Microsoft PressPass site), a lot of the feedback I have received relates to the integration of applications and the seamless flow of some of the common tasks for a phone user. Ladies and gentlemen, I propose to you that -I wondered if I would ever be able to say this – Microsoft is starting to get user experiences and personalization on a mobile device. While I am a stereotypical power user, I now crave a Windows Phone 7 device. Why? – because customization is superficial; personalization, however, makes things easier. Customization may fulfill an impulse, but personalization males a difference for me in the long run. Honestly, Microsoft has not achieved “personalization nirvana” with Windows Phone 7. They have, however, taken a huge first step in this first release. When you see how fundamentally different the personalization aspect of Windows Phone 7 is, you can better understand why this operating system was a complete departure from Windows Mobile down to the very core of the operating system.

There is nothing wrong with making customization a priority over personalization, or vice-versa. It is, of course, a personal preference. It is a mistake, however, to say (accidentally or intentionally) that customization and personalization are one in the same. These two distinctly different concepts can make all of the difference between satisfaction and success when selecting a mobile device. Just remember to ask yourself what really matters the most.

10/16/2010 10:58:18 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00) #     |  Trackback

 

Windows Phone User and Developer Group Meeting–Wednesday, October 20th, 2010#
Post By Don Sorcinelli

It’s that time again, everyone! The next meeting of the Boston/New England Windows Phone User and Developer Groups will be held on Wednesday, October 20th starting at 6:30pm at the Microsoft offices in Waltham, MA (201 Jones Road, 6th Floor).

Map picture

This month’s meeting is all about Windows Phone 7! On October 11th, Microsoft pulled the wraps off of it’s brand new mobile phone operating system. While the hardware itself will not be available until October 21st in Europe and November 8th in North America, there is still loads to talk about. We will look at the announced features and capabilities as well as some of the applications and games that will be available at launch. Thanks to the launch event, we also have enough information to present a sort of “Buyers Guide” with device comparative information. Be sure to bring your interest and your questions for this fun-filled session.

I look forward to seeing you there!

10/16/2010 09:08:23 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00) #     |  Trackback

 

Windows Phone 7 and “The Hundred Years War”#
Post By Don Sorcinelli

Well, I sit at my keyboard typing on the eve of Microsoft’s “Big Event”. Tomorrow at 9:30am EDT in New York City, Steve Ballmer will unveil the long-awaited Windows Phone 7 platform (for those interested, the press conference will be live streaming here). For those who are involved with or follow the smartphone market closely, October 11th 2010 marks a day a long time in the making. I have had the great fortune to be quite close to all of the events of the last several years leading up to tomorrow, be they good or bad. There is a lot I would love to write about here, but cannot. Some things I will be able to write about in due time, while other things may never see the light of day. However, I thought I would take a few minutes to jot down some “safe” thoughts and observations this “Windows Phone 7 Launch Eve”.

startscreen_web

  • Whether you individually like it not, Windows Phone 7 marks a “company reset” for Microsoft when it comes to the role of a smartphone for the consumer market at large. Anyone who follows the industry (even casually) has read or heard from Microsoft executives about what Windows Phone 7 is all about and who the intended audience for Windows Phone 7 devices are intended. For diehard Windows Mobile users, this move will likely cause some pain; Windows Phone 7 introduces a number of new features and functionalities that are often at the expense of what Windows Mobile was or could do. Putting personal thoughts aside, I can only say one thing to those those who are upset by this change – Windows Mobile just wasn’t working.

    As much as there was (and likely will be) a very passionate and loyal Windows Mobile following, it was a VERY small passionate and loyal following. Such user segments are nice to have when market share is great, but when market share falls to single digits, it just isn’t enough. Even in the smartphone segment, there is history that backs this up. Simply look at failed attempts by Symbian/UIQ and the old Palm OS to build upon that small core of loyalty and the end result. In the end, it’s all about business folks – business was not good for the old Windows Mobile brand and change had to happen. For those upset by this change, the options *do* exist, but may not be what you want. Stick with what you have until you cannot any longer, or move on to another platform. For many Windows Mobile users, Android holds the greatest promise for now – Android frequently reminds me of Windows Mobile at its peak in both good ways and bad (good = control and customization, bad = platform fragmentation). I know this may all sound a bit harsh, but like I said – it’s just business and the reality we live with.
  • Speaking of “company resets” in philosophy, for those that think that the moves made with regards to Windows Phone 7 are solely out of desperation and cannot succeed, a little historical “reality check” is in order. This is far from the first time Microsoft has had such a significant change of heart. Remember the Microsoft of the ‘90s, that didn’t think this “Internet-thingy” was worthy of much attention. How about more recently, when the company realized that companies *didn’t* all want everything contained within their corporate firewall and cloud computing was something that had to addressed?

    Microsoft has tackled company shifts that in many ways dwarf the shift being made in the mobile space and has been reasonably successful in doing so. Does this guarantee success with Windows Phone 7? – absolutely not. But to simply dismiss any chance of success because of the shift is foolish, to say the least. Microsoft has too many people, too much talent and too much money to ever be dismissed. The key will be to see how these resources have been and will continue to be utilized to increase the chances for success.
     
  • While there are some things that have surfaced regarding Windows Phone 7 in the media that might sour some potential users (absence of “cut and paste” comes to mind Smile), there is something important to remember with regards to this technology segment – no one has ever gotten it all right in “Version 1”. Not Palm, not Microsoft, not Apple and not Google. The keys to success here (I believe both Apple and Google are doing this) are to “make a splash” up front and, more importantly, quickly evolve to meet demands of users and the industry at large. As someone who makes his livelihood working in this technology sector by dealing with potentially thousands of users and dozens (if not hundreds) of enterprises using all of these platforms, I can safely say that mobile platforms that evolve quickly to meet the demands and requirements of their target audience do gain acceptance.

    Windows Phone 7 will, by and large, will be found to have flaws in the minds of some users and businesses. However, there are enough compelling features at launch to get some to jump on board and others to pay close attention as Microsoft moves to meet their needs. Folks – most business users didn’t go within 10 feet of the iPhone in versions 1 and 2 of the OS. The same can be said for many in the early 1.x (and even early 2.x) features and limitations of Android. I can tell you from firsthand experience, however, that these platforms were never completely dismissed. Instead, the prevailing attitude was “let’s see what comes next.” Microsoft can put themselves in a good position to do the same with Windows Phone 7; personally, I believe they have done this based upon what I have seen. The key will be to adapt and evolve after October 11th, 2010. I also believe they will.
  • I find it amusing when I hear commentary in the mobile segment about “[Fill in the blank] has won the smartphone wars”. Folks – there is no such thing as a “war” here; only an ongoing set of “battles” that will constantly change and evolve over time. If anything, the “war” is more like The Hundred Years War when it comes to mobile technology. If it were truly a war, Palm would have won in the early 2000’s, Microsoft would have won in 2005 and Apple would have won in 2008. Last time I checked, none of those platforms owned a monopoly on the smartphone space.

    In this battle for market share, the companies involved have to be willing to commit to being in the arena for at least a couple of years in order to see any true results. If Google had only committed to 12 months, they wouldn’t be where they are today. Same goes for Apple. This simple fact is important to remember when it comes to Windows Phone 7. If unit sales aren’t astronomical for the first three months and market share has not shot through the roof, this is by know means a sign of failure. If only a few hundred units move in that timeframe, then – well, you’ve got the KIN Winking smile (BTW – The KIN is an entirely different story altogether; I believe we may never know all the details behind this failure unless someone writes a tell-all book).

In the end, I am extremely excited about what Windows Phone 7 brings to the mobile market and sincerely believe it will have an impact on the segment as a whole. I won’t be audacious or arrogant and try to predict the future here – I’ll leave that to the analysts Winking smile I do believe, however, that Windows Phone 7 will “bring enough to the table” tomorrow to at least become a player in this technology-based Hundred Years War. It sure will be fun to watch it all play out, too.

10/10/2010 10:23:32 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00) #     |  Trackback

 

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