Google Mail

I started to use GMail last night.

Having seen some of the features of Android I’m determined to give it a third trial; allowing Gmail to manage my Hotmail will deal with my only real anti-Android issue.

As I write this I note that I appear to be dwelling on the negative aspects of Gmail, something I will endeavour to change – negativity is never a good thing.

My first reaction to Gmail was one of annoyance; as a UK user I am limited to @googlemail.com, what a mouthful. Furthermore, armaitus@ has already been taken. I’ll explain more about my decision to use Armaitus as a web monicker in a later blog; the short version is that I needed a unique name that wasn’t taken by web services at the time. Every now and then I find that there is another Armaitus somewhere who has taken my user name. And so I am designated the verbose armaitussyn@ address at the equally lengthy @googlemail.com domain.

The user interface is refreshing though and the trivial matter of being able to set a theme pleases me.

One thing did frighten me a little as I was browsing my morning mail.  Whilst replying to a mail that contained the name “Yog Sothoth”, I noticed the ad banner change to read:

Alice at R’lyehhttp://www.murrayewing.co.uk/alice/ – When Alice met Lovecraft… (and Cthulhu popped up, too)”

Cthulhu Cycle Deities and Advertising – makes me shudder even to write about it.

It’s taken until this morning for my Hotmail to sync and there must still be some teething issue as new mail isn’t appearing in the Gmail inbox “instantly” but as long as it’s “timely” I can deal with that. As I understand it, I will still need to take time to clear out messages from my Hotmail but I am definitely a step closer to being able to comfortably use an Android device. (Or ‘Droid as I’ve seen them referred to, how quaint)

We’ll see how well I take to it over the coming weeks, pretty soon the HTC Desire should be released and that does indeed look like a worthy device.

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The HTC Tattoo

HTC Tattoo, smaller box than I expected For the past 4 years I have been a devoted user of Windows Mobile, primarily using HTC devices. I am now so stuck in my ways that the thought of moving away from HTC’s comfortable designs and the familiar environment of Windows Mobile is almost frightening; this in itself is an anathema to me.

Whenever I think of myself constrained by habit or routine I feel uncomfortable – I’m neophilic by nature (and no, that does not mean I have a thing for Keanu Reeves). So when I had the opportunity to make a second venture into the world of HTC’s Android (Google’s mobile OS) devices, I jumped at the chance.

I am currently employed within the telecommunications industry; whilst we might not get cutting edge previews of upcoming devices, we do tend to get them as soon as they are released. Knowing that I am a fan of HTC and that my only issue with previous Android phones has been the lack of decent Microsoft Exchange integration, a colleague showed me the Tattoo yesterday morning.

HTC Tattoo, usual HTC presentationWe’ve admired the device specification from afar and were not let down by the device in the flesh. It had the same solid feel of the older HTC Touch and the software responded with an alacrity I am not accustomed to as a Windows Mobile user. Best of all, the mail setup promised me the integration with Microsoft Exchange that I had found lacking in my first foray into Android.

So I ordered one to conduct a better trial, as did 2 other colleagues. Arriving almost immediately, well we did have one in stock, I was surprised at how small the packaging was. I know companies are being coerced into condensing packaging for the sake of our Mother Earth but I was genuinely taken aback at just how small the box was.

As this was the device I had looked at earlier in the day, the box’s seal was already opened. Sliding the cover off, I was happy to see the familiar presentation of a new device; crisp, shiny and new. There is no way anyone could tell that there had been four people drooling over this very handset an hour or so earlier.

HTC Tattoo, nice design, strudy feelOn first removing the device from the packaging, I noted again the sturdy feel of the Tattoo. It honestly reminded me of my first HTC Touch, albeit without the rubbery grip of the Touch. The buttons were both firm and responsive; a genuine ergonomic miracle sat in my hand. I admit to being unable to remove the back cover but I tend to handle devices such as this with the same level of “I must not accidentally crush this” tenderness as I might a small creature or child. Once the back cover was off and the pertinent cards inserted I replaced the cover and booted up.

The initial setup sequence was nothing new, although it somehow “felt” better than the sequence I had encountered on the G1 when I tried it.  It detected our wireless network and after fumbling with the WEP key I instantly regretted the decision, remembering that my Exchange would need to be configured off the network.  Still, the GUI was intuitive and it was easy enough to step back and change the choices I had already made.

HTC Tattoo, Android's front screenThe Exchange configuration was a little more complicated than I felt it needed to be but it worked.  I then configured my hotmail account; a personal email account that I’ve used for almost 14 years.  I skipped past the social networking settings, eager to toy with this new and exciting operating system.

It pleased me to see that the weather app had automatically determined my current location.  Windows Mobile still can’t get this right, the closest I can get to on a WM 6.5 device is “Leeds, UK” – I’ll blog later about how I got my WM6.1 device to pick up specific areas such as “Lindley, UK”, “Bexhill, UK” and “Spondon, UK”.

Having now convinced myself that this was indeed going to be the best phone I had ever possessed, I decided to test the e-mail features; this is where the device fell down. I am used to having a view of all my accounts in one place, Android forces me to select a primary. This is not a huge issue, a little disappointing when you compare it to rumours of the Motorola DEXT and its converged mailbox though. Whilst navigating the accounts, the mail software crashed a couple of times.

Eventually I got to my Hotmail and found that rather than a Push-style sync with my Hotmail, the Android limited my mail synchronization to 5 minute intervals and furthermore did not synchronize account activity. This has been a bug bear of mine with previous smart-phones and PDAs; I almost exclusively manage my Hotmail via my HTC Touch Diamond, losing this functionality was something that I could not accept.

HTC Tattoo, the TattooAnd so, as petty as it might seem, the device was reset and repackaged. The device now belongs to one of my colleagues; one of the others who had ordered the phone yesterday. He loves it, although he did describe it this morning as “like a beautiful woman with an amazing body and stunning face until she opens her gob and she’s a f***ing scouser”; so I guess he’s having some teething issues.

On clarification, my colleague’s only real issue is the camera. The 3.2 megapixel camera doesn’t appear to have the hardware/software support of similar camera phones. My colleague accepts that, he is used to the far superior camera provided by the (far older) Sony Ericsson C902; we agree that the design of most HTC devices do not lead to intuitive photography and we also expect newer devices to keep up to speed with both the ergonomics and the technology of other modern camera phones.

Incidentally, as you would expect, Gmail works a charm. It’s been suggested that I could use Gmail to reconcile my Hotmail and so forth but my feelings on that are perhaps for another post at another time.

I think the difficulty I am facing with selecting a replacement phone isn’t so much my own finicky nature; it is more that I have been spoiled by the sheer awesomeness of my HTC Touch Diamond. With that as my benchmark then maybe I’ll never be able to ween myself away from Windows Mobile.