Witt's Twaddle

Complete Guide to Maximizing Your Android Phone’s Battery Life

Posted in Tech by Witt on September 5, 2010

You’re no doubt reading this article because you’ve got a shiny new Android phone, but there’s just one problem: you’re so addicted that the battery runs out on a daily basis. Instead of putting the phone down, let’s maximize the battery life.

Saving your battery life isn’t rocket science—the general principle is to get rid of the things that are draining the battery the most, and trim down other things that you need to use, but maybe can tweak a little. Keep reading for the full explanation.

Use Android’s Built-in Battery Usage Screen

There’s a screen built into Android that most casual users probably don’t even know about, and it can tell you exactly what is killing your battery. Head into Settings –> About Phone –> Battery use to see what has been killing your battery life.

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From this screen, you can usually see what apps are the worst offenders, and you will probably notice that the biggest problem—at least, the biggest one that we can fix—is actually the backlight on the phone. Personally I’d prefer to talk less to other humans, but that isn’t always an option!

Note: on my phone, I’ve already configured the backlight to not be very bright—normally that number would be a lot higher.

Adjust the Backlight to be Less Bright

Since we’ve already determined that the backlight is usually the biggest problem, you should probably adjust the settings. Head into Settings –> Display –> Brightness, where you can choose to automatically adjust, which usually works fairly well, or you can just turn the brightness down to the lowest acceptable level.

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You should make sure that the screen timeout value is set to turn off quickly as well.

Disable Your Wi-Fi When You Don’t Need It

Wi-Fi can really speed up accessing data on your phone, but it can also be a big drain on the battery if you don’t need it enabled, especially when you are out and about… The phone will try and scan for a wireless network even though you may not want it to.

To enable Airplane mode, you can head into Settings –> Wireless & networks–> Airplane mode.

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You can easily toggle the Wi-Fi on or off with a widget or shortcut—there’s a built-in widget included in Android phones, or you can use the AnyCut or BetterCut utilities to create your own shortcuts to directly turn them on or off without requiring a widget.

Disable Bluetooth if You Don’t Use It

If you aren’t using a wireless headset, there’s no reason to have Bluetooth running all the time, and you should probably cut it off to save the battery life. If you never use it at all, head into Settings –> Wireless & networks–> Bluetooth.

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You can also enable or disable the Bluetooth when you do need it, using the power widget.

Use the Power Widget to Easily Toggle GPS, Bluetooth, Wireless, and Screen Brightness

Android includes a built-in Power Widget that can easily toggle these settings on or off—just long press on the background of one of your screens, choose Widget –> Power Control to add it to the screen. You’ll notice in this example screenshot that I’ve got my GPS enabled but I’m not using Wi-Fi or Bluetooth at the moment—the icon all the way on the right lets you easily toggle the screen brightness settings.

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This is probably the simplest and easiest thing that you can do to save your battery without having to dig into the settings all the time.

Disable Apps that Sync Constantly

The built-in Email application (not the Gmail one, which uses Push technology) can suck the battery badly, because it syncs on a too-regular basis, especially when you have lots of accounts—each one of them is set to sync every 15 minutes. You’d be better off setting it up to sync manually, but if you want it to sync automatically, you should set it to sync less frequently.

Open up the Email application, head to your account, and choose Account settings –> Email check frequency from the menu. Change this to something more like an hour… or never. You can always hit refresh manually when you want to read your email.

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The same thing holds true for other accounts, like Twitter clients, which are even less important to update all the time. For Seesmic, you can head into Settings –> Background Updates from the main screen. For the official Twitter app, the settings are similar.

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The Facebook application polls automatically in the background, and you can customize the refresh interval for that as well—if you don’t need Facebook updating all the time, you should set this value as high as possible.

From the main Facebook screen—the one with the icons—head into Settings –> Refresh interval from the menu.

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Disable the GPS Location Features

One of the biggest battery sucking features on my droid is the GPS… When I have navigation going, the battery dies far too fast, so I end up having to keep it plugged in the whole time I am driving. This makes sense… but what you might not know is that a lot of other applications use the GPS as well.

You can also change the GPS to use wireless networks, and uncheck the option for Use GPS satellites—this will make the GPS a little less accurate, but it will save your battery. Note that you probably want the real GPS enabled if you’re using Google Maps Navigation.

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Additionally, you should turn off the geolocation features in your Twitter client, weather application, or whatever other apps that you really don’t need them in. If you want to keep it enabled, that’s great, just realize that it does drain the battery, so uncheck this option to help.

Use a Task Manager to See What is Always Running

It is a wise decision to have a copy of Advanced Task Cleaner or a similar application installed on your phone to help you kill applications that don’t need to be running, but more so that you can see what exactly is launching itself repeatedly in the background. You can setup an auto-kill list for applications you don’t use that often—make them cut off when you shut off the screen, or after an interval.

Note: If you’ve configured your application settings to not pull down lots of data or do checking in the background, it’s not quite as important to keep tasks killed all the time—that’s really what kills your battery, not having them sitting idle.

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You can also configure advanced task manager to show you CPU usage for each app, which is a more useful meter than memory usage when it comes to battery life.

Disable or Remove Applications That You Aren’t Using

Once you have identified the application that you don’t want running all the time, check in the settings to see if it can be removed from running in the background. Some applications will give you an option for notifications that can be turned off if you don’t need them, making the application not check in the background so often.

It should go without saying, but we’ll say it anyway—you should remove the apps that you don’t need anymore, especially the ones that are draining your battery as determined from the android battery panel or task manager. Head into Settings –> Applications –> Manage Applications and then you can click the Uninstall button for an app.

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Disable Home Screen Widgets You Don’t Need

If you’ve got loads of widgets that are pulling data from the web, that means they are likely pulling down data in the background all the time. You should try not to go overboard with these, or remove the ones you don’t actually need.

Disable Animated Wallpaper

Yeah, that sweet animated wallpaper doesn’t help your battery any. Get rid of it for a small extra battery savings.

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Use APNDroid to Kill Your Entire Data Connection When You Don’t Need It

If you’re using a phone that’s on the AT&T or T-Mobile networks, you can use the APNDroid utility to kill your data connection entirely with a simple widget. It doesn’t work on Verizon phones in my testing. It’ll disable the data but still allow regular calls and SMS.

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Keep the Battery from Getting Too Hot

One of the quickest ways to kill a battery is to leave it out in the sun—try and keep your phone somewhere that isn’t too hot whenever possible. You’ll end up needing to replace the battery a lot quicker if you don’t.

Additional Notes

There’s a number of other things you can do to extend your battery life a bit—one of which is to use a rooted phone and install the Autostarts utility, which you can use to keep applications from launching themselves automatically. Since this isn’t something you can do on a stock phone, we’re not covering how to do it here.

You can also use an application called Tasker to automate certain actions, like turning on or off the GPS or Wi-Fi when you launch a particular application, or scheduling a time of day to make sure that Wi-Fi is disabled. Lifehacker has a great guide to using Tasker to automate your phone, and they also explain how to use a  configuration to scale back data usage at night.

Reblogged via How-To Geek

10:44pm, 5 September 2010.

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What is rooting and why should I do it? The pros & cons of Android rooting

Posted in Tech by Witt on July 28, 2010

Everywhere we look, there are posts about phones being rooted, the ability to flash alternate ROMs, and more. So why should you root your nice, shiny phone? What are the benefits? Well, that’s what we are here to talk about today. Before we go any further, however – a word of caution: rooting or modifying your phone in any way can cause the device to no longer work, or “brick” it. You are at your own risk, should you choose to root or flash your phone, and we assume no liability for any damages.

What is rooting?

Before we get started, I want to explain what “rooting” is.  When you root your phone, you gain “superuser” privileges to the Android operating system. When you are using a stock device, you have the equivalent of “guest” privileges. If you are familiar with any Linux operating system, you know that the superuser privilege allows you to gain access to administrative rights. This level of access gets you down to the nitty gritty of the OS with no restrictions, lets you make changes to the system, and run scripts that would normally be blocked with a standard user account. As long as they are not encrypted, that is… such as the case of the Droid X, which has an encrypted bootloader. With superuser privileges on an Android phone, you can install programs that need complete access to the OS – such as ROM installers (like ROM Manager), theme modifiers (such as Metamorph), and simple apps like DroCap2, which takes screenshots from the device without having to plug it in to your computer.

While the act of rooting does not do much for an end user, it means the world to a coder or developer. Rooting your phone gives you access to run the applications that developers create that need elevated privileges. Always be careful what you install, though, because the wrong program could take over, or even brick your phone.

Advantages

ROMS

So, what are the advantages of rooting your device? Once you have root access and the bootloader is cracked, you can install custom software onto your device. I mentioned ROMs before, and you might be wondering what they are. A “ROM” is the software your phone is running. It is stored in the read-only memory of the device, and is executed after the boot process. Think of a ROM as the OS itself. This is where you can add some features and upgrade others – such as the Froyo (Android 2.2) upgrade. By installing a ROM based off of the Froyo 2.2 software, you gain those features before your device is officially scheduled to receive them. This is great for EOL (End of Life) devices, such as the Droid. While it may still receive a few updates for a short period of time, long term support is not guaranteed. If you look at the T-Mobile G1 , that device is still running strong, thanks to custom ROMs. With ROMs and other add-ons, you can install custom themes as well. The Ultimate Droid mod is big on using dark themes for their ROMs. I, personally, am running Bugless Beast V0.4 on my Droid, which is a Froyo build. This allowed me to have the new version of Android before it was officially released, or even supported. There are tools, such as ROM Manager, that help make the process of flashing your phone much easier.

Custom Themes

As I mentioned above with the Ultimate Droid mod you can install full themes or change just about any graphic you want. There are two ways to do this and that is installing theme packages using installers such as Metamorph or by using the ABD shell in the SDK kit to push the images to the file system. Below are two examples. The first one shows the whole theme applies with the installation of Ultimate Droid. Notice the black notification bar and the different dock icons on the bottom. The second picture was taken on a vanilla install of Bugless Beast V0.4. In this example I used Metamorph to install a few custom icons. The Bluetooth, WiFi, and Signal icons I made and created an installer for them. The battery icon I found on another forums and installed using the same method.

Kernel & Speed

In addition to the visual aspects of rooting your device, you can also update and change other aspects as well. Two main features that are widely changed are the kernel and the baseband. The kernel of a Unix device (such as an Android-powered phone) is the heart of the software. The kernel is the layer of code that handles communication between the hardware and the applications. A lot of developers tweak the kernels for added performance, battery life, and more. Take the original Droid, for instance. The Droid uses the Arm Cortex A8 processor, which is clocked at 550 MHz under standard conditions. Developers, such as the well known ChevyNo1, have made custom kernels which allow you to run your Droid at higher speeds… some at over 1 GHz. Other kernels, however, have been tweaked to conserve battery life by running at slower than stock speeds. It’s all a matter of preference, which is really the entire basis of rooting your device in the first place.

Baseband

The Baseband, mentioned above as the other major change in mind when rooting, controls the radio for your phone. It is, essentially, what controls the phone’s ability to make and receive calls and data. By changing to updated or fixed basebands, you can try to improve both signal and call performance. If you noticed in the pic above, I am running baseband 43.01P for my Droid.

Disadvantages

With everything that’s good, there have to be downsides as well, right? The answer: absolutely. Due to recovery software for Android, such as Nandroid, there isn’t much that you can’t recover from, should something go wrong. With that being said, there is always the chance that you could “brick” your phone by altering it. This is especially true during the initial rooting process, as well as while flashing the bootloader.

Other than bricking your device, there isn’t much more that is seen in the way of disadvantages. I suppose one other would be that it is not available on every device. It is up to the communities of developers out there to find a way to root the phone and crack the bootloader. As we recently discovered with the Droid X (which has an encrypted bootloader), it’s like the old saying goes… where there’s a will, there’s a way. A developer named ‘Birdman‘, along with other developers, recently found a way to root the Droid X, which is just the beginning. With time, the device will (hopefully) be unlocked and flashable so we can have all the custom goodness.

As you see, there are a number of reasons to root your phone. Each phone is different, so be sure to read over any provided documentation carefully. I was once the type that said “I would never root my Droid!” I though it was pointless, but I can tell you now that I would never go back to stock.

Reblogged via Alan Matson for TalkAndroid.

9:11pm, 28 July 2010.

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Master Google Android: 40 Tips and Tricks

Posted in Tech by Witt on March 21, 2010

The first time you use an Android phone, one thing becomes immediately clear: You’re not in Cupertino anymore.

Android, as recent Verizon commercials remind us, is the antithesis of Apple’s celebrated handset: It’s open source, fully customizable, and free from unexplained app rejections. If the iPhone is Apple’s inalterable masterpiece, the Android platform is Google’s open canvas. The palette is in your hands; it’s up to you to add color.

We’ve assembled 40 tips and tricks to help you make the most of your Android phone. Some are specific to Android 2.0 or later, but most apply to any Android-based device. And not one of these tricks requires you to jailbreak anything.

So grab your phone, and get started–it’s time for you to become a certified Android master.

Optimize Your Home Screen

Add to Home screen

1. Make the most of your space by using widgets–dynamic programs that operate right on your home screen. Simply hold your finger on any open space, and then select Widgets from the pop-up menu. Widgets come in a huge variety of sizes and functions, so search the Android Market to find what works for you.

2. Prefer not to be bothered by a sound every time an e-mail arrives? Head into Gmail’s Settings menu and set its ringtone to Silent. You’ll still see new-message alerts in the notification panel at the top of your screen, and you can always pull the panel down to get detailed information. You can configure text messaging and other alert-generating apps the same way.

3. Set up one-touch dialing for the people you call the most. Hold your finger on an open space and select Shortcuts. Then, touch Direct dial and pick the person from your contact list. If one-touch texting is what you crave, use the Direct message option instead.

4. To drop your favorite Web pages onto your home screen, long-press on any site in your browser’s bookmarks and then select the Add shortcut to home option.

5. Try using folders to keep your home screen organized. Long-press on a blank space and select Folders to create one. You can then drag and drop frequently used contacts, apps, or other shortcuts into it to cut down on clutter. To rename a folder, press and hold the folder’s title bar while it’s open.

Get Around Android

Astro

6. Make file management a snap with a utility such as Astro, which allows you to browse through your phone just as you would a computer, navigating directories and moving or deleting files at will.

7. Need to cut and paste text? Long-press on any text input area. If you’re on a Web page, tap the Menu key and use the Select text option.

8. Use Android’s hotkeys to do everything from zooming in to a Web page to opening a program. Check out our complete list of Android keyboard shortcuts to learn them all.

9. You can set your own hotkeys to open apps, too. Head into the main Settings menu, select Applications, and then choose Quick Launch to get started.

10. If the on-screen keyboard pops up when you don’t want it, touch it and swipe downward to make it disappear.

11. You can see the current date at any time by touching your finger to the top-left corner of the screen.

Stay Connected

12. To load files onto your Android phone, plug the handset into your PC and pull down the notification panel. Tap the USB connected box, and then tap Mount when the confirmation dialog box appears. Your phone will appear as a hard drive on your PC, and you can then drag and drop files as you wish.

13. Manage your music–and even import your iTunes playlists–with DoubleTwist, a free PC-based utility. The program’s intuitive interface makes Motorola’s Media Link offering look like a bloated relic.

Double Twist

14. Sync your Outlook calendar with your phone without the hassle. Install Google Calendar Sync and let it do the work for you.

15. To sync your Outlook contacts without using an Exchange server, try GO Contact Sync, an open-source utility for your PC.

16. Stay up to speed with your feeds with the help of NewsRob, a handy app that syncs your phone with your Google Reader account.

17. Want to have your PC’s browser bookmarks on your Android phone? Download MyBookmarks from the Market to import them.

Power Up Your Phone

18. Get extra calling power by integrating Google Voice into your phone. Once you’ve signed up for an account, download the official app and watch your options expand. Bonus tip: Add the Google Voice widget to your home screen for one-touch toggling of your outgoing-call preferences.

19. You can send text messages for free through Google Voice–everything you need is in the app. Just make sure you change the settings to refresh every 5 minutes so that incoming messages won’t be delayed. If you want faster notifications, log in to the Google Voice Website and configure your account to send you e-mail alerts when a new text arrives.

20. Get unbilled talk time by using Fring, a free mobile chat client for Android. Fring lets you make calls over Google Talk, Skype, and any SIP calling service.

21. Cut down on calling headaches by using the free Dial Zero app to call the companies you do business with. It lets you bypass annoying phone trees and get right to human representatives.

22. Keep annoying callers away by routing them directly to your voicemail. First, open the offending person’s profile in your contacts list. Then, press the Menu button, tap Options, and check the Incoming calls box.

23. The Incoming Calls screen also holds the option for setting custom ringtones for callers. Tap Ringtone and change each person’s tune as you wish.

Dolphin Browser

24. Want to use your own MP3 files as ringtones? No problem: Make a new folder on your memory card and name it ringtones. Copy your MP3s there, and they will automatically show up in your selection list. Folders called alarms or notifications will do the same thing for those respective functions.

25. Check out the free app RingDroid. With it, you can easily edit an MP3 file to grab a precise segment of a song for a ringtone or system sound.

26. Android lets you keep multiple browser windows open at the same time. Long-press any Web link to open it in a new window. Tap the Menu key while in the browser to toggle between windows.

27. Prefer seeing Web pages in landscape mode? You can tell Android to always display sites that way. Select the Landscape-only display checkbox in the browser’s Settings menu.

28. Android’s built-in browser isn’t your only option. Try Dolphin Browser for cool features such as tabbed browsing, gesture-driven commands, and multitouch zooming (yes, even on the Droid).

Secure Your Smartphone

29. Android includes an option to use simple patterns to secure your phone; to unlock the handset, you swipe your finger across the screen in a specific pattern. Look for Screen Unlock Pattern under ‘Location and Security’ in the main System Settings menu.

30. Want to back up your phone’s data? Try MyBackup, which saves your apps, contacts, call logs, texts, and even settings to either your SD Card or a secure Internet server. You might also like SMS Backup, which periodically saves all of your texts into your Gmail account.

31. For even more protection, download Mobile Defense. The app allows you to use a PC to track your phone via GPS, remotely lock it, and then back up and wipe all of your data.

Add Essential Apps

Adobe Photoshop Mobile

32. If you handle a lot of Office files, Documents To Go may be just the thing for you. The free version gives you the ability to view Word and Excel files. The full paid version adds editing capabilities, along with PDF and PowerPoint viewing options.

33. Prefer working in the cloud? Get your hands on GDocs or ThinkFree Mobile Office, both of which make it a cinch to connect with your Google Docs documents.

34. If basic note-taking is all you need, download a PC-synced notepad such as GDocs Notepad With Sync. It saves documents directly into your Google Docs account for easy access.

35. For on-the-go photo editing, Adobe’s Photoshop.com Mobile app is tough to beat–and it’s free, too.

36. Jazz up your Android music experience with TuneWiki, which automatically finds and scrolls lyrics next to your songs as they play. Plus, it gives you access to Internet radio streaming and some cool community-sharing features.

Customize Your Phone Completely

37. Adjust how your phone acts by using Locale. The app lets you set custom profiles for practically any circumstance–having your ringer shift to silent when you’re at work, for example, or making your screen glow brighter at night.

38. Take full advantage of your phone’s LED by installing Missed Call, which configures your phone’s light to flash specific colors when calls from certain people slip by.

39. Edit Android’s custom dictionary to include your name and other proper nouns. That way, they’ll pop up in the auto-complete list as you type. Look under Language and keyboard settings in System Settings to get started.

40. If you try an Android app and decide that you don’t like it, return it. The Android Market will give you a full refund for up to 24 hours after any purchase, provided that you haven’t tried to return the same app before.

Reblogged via JR Raphael for PCWorld.

7:56pm, 21 March 2010.

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The Milestone

Posted in Tech by Witt on March 13, 2010

It’s finally here! My new Motorola Milestone, fresh from Hong Kong.

Fortress of Tung Chung Mall

A couple of months ago, I asked my good friend, Dick, who’s a resident of HK to look around for iPhone 3GS prices for me. There is one place in HK where you can get unlocked iPhone 3GS, Fortress, the one-stop electronic superstore. iPhones were priced at HK$ 4,288 – 8GB, HK$ 5,388 – 16GB and HK$ 6,288 – 32GB respectively. With this in mind, I had my eyes set on the 16GB.

Come 6th of March, my friend went to Fortress at Tung Chung Mall finally get the iPhone 3GS. Bad news. All out of stock. The reason: a local carrier unveiled an über-low call & data plan. Hongkees swarmed the shop and grabbed all the iPhones they can get.

With quick thinking, I went for the Milestone. This was my third choice from my recent blog. The Nexus One was available online in Hong Kong, but I didn’t want to trouble my friend with all the fuzz. So Milestone it is. The good thing, it’s a steal! HK$ 4,680 for it’s specs and build, wow!

The Box

Open Sesame

The Goods

What’s in the box:

1. Motorola Milestone

2. Battery

3. USB Cable

4. Power Adapter

5. 8GB microSD card (already fitted in the Milestone)

6. 3.5mm Wired Stereo Headset

7. Software CD

8. User’s Manual

Time to explore the Android OS. Let the good times roll.

5:43pm, 13 March 2010.

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To Droid or Not to Droid, That is the Question

Posted in Tech by Witt on February 15, 2010

The past few weeks was virtually a fashion show of smartphones before me eyes. Reading all available reviews, forums, the pros and the cons. Hands-on testing except for the Android which I haven’t physically experienced yet.

Courtesy of gsmarena.com

Top of my list, iPhone 3GS. Having an iPod Touch for quite sometime is like experiencing the iPhone at 80%. Abbie has an iPhone 3G which she won in a blog contest and I get to hold it from time to time.

Pros:
~ best touchscreen out there
~ billions of apps
~ sleek & stylish candybar design
~ topnotch Social Media device

Cons:
~ sucky battery life
~ despite the added touch focus feature still mediocre camera
~ no flash, both camera & animation
~ zero multi-tasking

Courtesy of gsmarena.com

Second on my list, Google Nexus One. Design base by HTC. Powered by Android 2.1 OS.

Pros:

~ ultra-fast processor
~ multitasking, finally
~ 5 megapixel camera with flash
~ expandable memory via microSD
~ Android OS, unlimited possibility
~ Flash animation seen in the future

Cons:
~ alleged 3G network issues
~ touchscreen not as seamless as the iPhone’s
~ pilot release usually has bugs & glitches

Courtesy of gsmarena.com

Third choice, Motorola Droid (Milestone). Motorola’s first jump into the Android bandwagon.

Pros:
~ huge touchscreen
~ 5 megapixel autofocus camera with dual-LED flash
~ expandable memory via microSD
~ Android OS, unlimited possibility
~ Android = multitasking
~ Flash annimation seen in the future

Cons:
~ bulky built & design
~ not a fan of sliders

Courtesy of gsmarena.com

Fourth and final choice, Nokia E72. A nice update of the excellent E71.

Pros:
~ 2nd Gen E71
~ 5 megapixel autofocus camera with LED flash
~ expandable memory via microSD
~ great battery life
~ cheapest smartphone

Cons:
~ no touchscreen
~ aging Symbian OS
~ expensive & limited apps
~ firmware upgrade?

I’m leaning towards the iPhone 3GS just because it’s a third generation device. The Android look stunning but it may have issues as a pilot unit. As for Nokia, they die young. For now, iPhone 3GS is my clear choice.

10:40pm, 15 February 2010.

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