Usually new mobile phones are known about well in advance of their launch. Everything from specs to early reviews are made available in order to create a buzz around the product. For example, a couple of years ago I was sent an LG Shine and encouraged (although not instructed) to take photos of it and blog about it. With the Dell Streak, however, apart from a great video at jkkmobile I stumbled across on the night before it was released in the UK, I’d heard nothing about it!
Full specs of the device can be found here, but the highlights are that it’s an Android tablet/smartphone hybrid with a 5″ screen. Yes, five inch! :-p
Let’s just get past the two (related) questions I’ve been asked most frequently over the last couple of weeks:
Is it too big?
Don’t you feel a bit stupid putting it to your ear to, you know, make phone calls?
It’s certainly on the upper limit of what counts as a phone size wise. Some, undoubtedly, will find it too big. But given that I tended to use my iPhone more for Twitter and other internet based activities than for phone calls, I don’t!
It’s not Dom Joly size and I don’t really suffer from self esteem issues anyway. As for people who think that phones should only be able to make phone calls, get back in your cave please… 😉
Things I really like:
The whole experience and speed of the device makes it über-slick
Spotify, Dropbox and other official apps are better (to my mind) than their iPhone counterparts
The size of the screen makes everything… just better
It’s really quite thin
Several virtual desktops means you can organize your stuff
I don’t have to jail break it to set it up the way I want it
Widgets provide real-time updates
The camera is legendary and the in-phone editing functions are actually useful
I was down in at the University of Bolton at a mobile technologies event hosted by JISC CETIS. Mark Power did a great job at making sure it was a relaxed affair with really quality sharing and networking opportunities. Well done! 🙂
It was the home stretch this week before the launch of the Open Educational Resources infoKit I’ve been working on since I started at JISC infoNet. So there was plenty of delegation to do, especially to Lou McGill, who’s worked tirelessly and to a consistently high standard on it!
Getting back to my productive self
My productivity took a hit after my indecisiveness over the Dell Streak. Now that I’ve settled on it, I’ve learned my lesson in terms of making my mind up and sticking to it! Turns out every decision I make is a productivity decision…
Starting marking scripts
Ever since I, along with a few others, was recruited during my PGCE course at Durham I’ve marked History examination papers for Edexcel. I used to do AS Level Russia, then they moved me to AS Level Germany, and this year I’m marking GCSE Germany.
I’ve got absolutely no problem with the online marking system itself: it’s quicker than doing it on paper and suits me. Of course, I’ve got to virtualise Windows XP on my Macbook Pro so I can use Internet Explorer 6 and some proprietary software, but that in and of itself is no big deal.
What really winds me up about Edexcel is their organizational inefficiency and the general lack of anyone knowing what they’re doing. The emails they send out force you to spend half an hour figuring out what they mean and, of course, not understanding means you are obviously morally or organizationally deficient in some way. Gah.
The sheer horror of the obviously-doing-it-to-save-costs online standardisation procedure could be a whole other post in itself, but I’ll spare you that. Suffice to say that, given my experience yesterday (for which I took annual leave) and the fact that I’m not teaching History at the moment, I’ll not be marking for Edexcel again in the near future!
Last week I explained why I returned the Dell Streak I purchased on a 24-month contract. In this post I explain why I bought another yesterday on a device-only deal.
1. It’s more fun.
You can customise pretty much everything with the Android operating system. You have to resort to shenanigans to customise your message tone on the iPhone, whereas it’s trivial to get some great sounds on the Streak. There’s widgets and weird and wonderful stuff. 🙂
2. The screen is just gorgeous.
Granted, I haven’t seen the screen on the iPhone 4 in the flesh, but the Dell Streak’s screen is so… well, touchable. The high-resolution screen is backed up by an extremely fast processor and enough memory to make flicking between apps easy.
3. The contract was part of the problem
Who wants the same phone after two years? I’m planning to wait until the earliest opportunity to get my Dell Streak unlocked and then go on an Orange SIM-only contract. Why Orange? It’s the only network that offers 3G where I live and my broadband is flaky due to our semi-rural location.
4. I’m online more than I talk
The default orientation of the Dell Streak’s screen is landscape. And that’s because it’s meant to be held like a PSP most of the time. It’s thin enough not to be heavy but substantial enough to feel solid in your hands. I like that.
5. The camera
The combination of large, hi-res screen, 5-megapixel camera and in-device editing functions feels luxurious, it really does.
I was asked to help put together the agenda for our upcoming quarterly planning meeting. This will be my first experience of the two-day events. I’ve proposed session titles including really bad puns – e.g. ‘Getting JISC-y with it’ and ‘Plone Ranger’ (Plone powers our website…)
It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. A friend of a friend, Ben Mawhinney, came to give us some training on Google Analytics at my invitation on Friday. It was really kind of him to share what he knows and help us to better focus on our core audience!
Making the most of my flexi-time
With the sunny weather and spending all week in the office, I’ve been leaving at 15.30 and using up some of my flexi-time. What. A. Great. System!
Getting the go-ahead
My proposal for a review of mobile and wireless technologies was accepted, so I’ll be spending from next week until about the end of October on a review which will inform an upcoming JISC publication.
Returning my Dell Streak
It would appear that for everyone who knows me (however slightly) my decision to return the Dell Streak on Friday after a week was entirely predictable. What can I say? I’m a sucker for well-designed tools that increase my productivity. Like the iPhone 4…
No multitouch. I didn’t realise until it was pointed out in an Android forum that this makes typing a whole lot easier.
Lack of apps I use often. Having to use the National Rail website instead of it’s £4.99 app may seem trivial but it’s important to me. Apps pretty much always come out for the iPhone first because of the huge, standardized, user base.
Lack of accessories. I could walk into almost any shop on the high street and purchase cases, speakers and other accessories for my iPhone 3G. How many cases did I have to choose from for the Dell Streak? One. And that was fugly.
Unintuitive annoyances. Holding down the camera button should bring up the camera app. The device should charge if the power cable’s plugged in – even if it is in ‘aeroplane mode’ whilst I’m asleep.
Email. Having GMail, Exchange and IMAP accounts means 3 different apps on Android. #fail
Position of headphone socket. Why put it on top of the screen? Hold it landscape and the wire gets in the way. Put it in your pocket and it’s sticking out the side. Oh, and the volume up/down switch should do the same thing in landscape and portrait. #confusing
Lack of website support. If you go to popular websites on the iPhone then you get a decent browsing experience because they’ve made sure it’s optimised for that platform. Navigating some websites on the Dell Streak was clunky, despite the lovely Opera web browser I installed.
Apps that don’t work. The number of times I purchased apps only for me to have them refunded within 24 hours was ridiculous. I had to force-close so many I lost count.
Lack of ‘magnifying glass’ function. If you’ve made a mistake in a text, tweet or email you to half-guess where to tap to get the cursor to go into the correct position. There’s no ability to ‘zoom in’. This leads to frustration.
It’s not an iPhone. Close as I was to keeping it, the fact that I was indecisive about it kind of sealed it’s fate. I would have been tied into a 24-month contract with the Dell Streak. And that’s a long time for something you only like very much rather than love!
The Dell Streak is, technically, a wonderful phone, music player and internet device. It’s almost perfect for me. I loved the ‘Rooms’ (virtual desktops) feature and the ability to add widgets to these. Spotify was amazing on the big screen and Google Navigation is better than any Sat-Nav I’ve used. The Shapewriter app made text entry fun and the camera is top-notch.
It’s just that nowadays a phone has to be much more than the sum of it’s parts. And unfortunately the Dell Streak only consists of great parts reasonably well put-together… :-p
So I’d written a blog post about my Dell Streak and how I pleased I was with it, thinking I knew what Mr Jobs was going throw at us iPhone-wise. I’d even made a video review.
He announced something that made me sit up and take notice; it made me think that I might have to return the Streak within the 14-day grace period. It wasn’t the pixel count. It wasn’t the 5 megapixel camera. It wasn’t even the video calling or the iMovie app that can edit and share 720p videos.
I’m part of the team putting the finishing touches to the Open Educational Resources infoKit. It’s going to be launched in a couple of weeks’ time at the Higher Education Academy conference so I needed to ensure I was doing thing properly at my end. I approached David Kernohan, JISC Programme Manager and all-round OER guru after a wider e-learning team meeting down in Bristol this week. When I asked if there was anything he wanted me to do with the OER infoKit before launch, he told me to “make it shiny”. 🙂
Re-considering my workwear
Up until a couple of months ago I worked in schools. Which have 6-week holidays. So it’s pretty easy to wear long-sleeved shirts and trousers all-year round. OK, so you might swelter for a couple of weeks, but it’s not worth buying whole new work outfits for such a short period of time.
It’s only really just hit me that I’ll be working all through the summer. Which is fine, but kind of means I should invest in some more workwear. And then there’s the whole roasting hot outside/air conditioning inside problem – but I’ll stop before I sound too metrosexual…
Buying (and almost buying) a new phone
I’d decided on the Nokia N900 as the replacement to my ageing iPhone 3G; I wanted something open and different. The trouble is, a crafty eBayer scammed me on Monday (I’ve since got my money back through Paypal) and then I managed to input my details incorrectly in my excitement at seeing that Carphone Warehouse had some reconditioned SIM-free N900s in stock for half their normal retail price. So I ended up N900-less.
In the end, I’m pleased I did have those problems, because the phone/tablet/slate/hybrid thing I bought yesterday really does seem to kick some ass. It’s a Dell Streak which sports a 5″ screen and runs Google’s Android operating system. I’m going to review it on Tuesday but suffice to say I feel very futuristic using it compared to my iPhone! :-p
Pulling out of the SHP Conference
I was due to speak with Nick Dennis at the annual Schools History Project Conference again this year, for the fourth year in a row. However, I’ve decided for a number of reasons, not least that I’m not currently in the classroom, to let Nick speak by himself at the conference this year. I’ll be helping out with the first-ever TeachMeet at the event virtually.
Getting excited about Google Teacher AcademyI’ve had a couple of conversations with the legendary Tom Barrett recently about the upcoming Google Teacher Academy on Thursday 29th July 2010. I’ll be running at least one of the sessions and am really looking forward to meeting innovative educators at the event!
I really would encourage you to apply to be one of the 50 at GTA UK. Everything you need to know is on this page and you need to apply by Thursday 17th June 2010. It involves both an online application and a 1-minute video. I know it’s a busy time of year and being held during the summer holidays, but you’ll definitely not be there if you don’t apply! 😀