Thursday, May 14, 2009

Wireless on the SciPhone G2 Cellphone

One of the biggest draws of the Sciphone G2 is its wireless abilities. I have the Wifi model, which also includes Bluetooth. One of my biggest concerns when buying this phone was how well it would work as a phone as well. If it doesn't pick up a cell signal and get my calls in and out, all the other features don't mean a lot to me.

I've had a chance to use my new G2 under a fairly wide range of conditions since I first got it. I live out on the edge of the reception areas for the local cell providers. There's an Interstate highway going through our town, which helps, but we go to a lot of places locally that aren't right along the Interstate, too. Further, my carrier's coverage has gotten worse in this area over the past couple of years.

So I need a phone that can pick up a signal well. A marginal phone won't work out here.

My prior phone was a Nokia 3650, a phone which was recognized for its excellent reception. It's worked very well for me, even as the cell coverage has gotten worse. It manages to get calls through in places other phones get nothing, and it only drops off the network in places that it's flatly impossible to get a signal through.

My reception with my Sciphone G2 has been equal to that of my Nokia 3650 so far. The only caveat is that it's somewhat sensitive to angle and position. It gets the best signal when held up vertically. It gets a good enough signal to connect even in other positions, but I notice a greater change in signal strength with this phone based on its position than I ever did with my Nokia.

But I have no coverage complaints with this phone. If it'll work for me, out where I am, it'll work for you at least as well as anything else without an external antenna.

Bluetooth



The phone's Bluetooth works well, too. I had no problem going through and getting it set up for my devices. It paired with my computer easily as well. If you've used the Sciphone i68+, it works pretty much the same way, and it's pretty much the same as any other mobile's Bluetooth setup. You can search for devices, pair with them, set what you want to use them for, and so on.

One thing that's less than perfect about the G2's Bluetooth is that its antenna is very sensitive to the phone's position. Data transfer rates vary a lot based on the angle of the phone with respect to whatever it's talking to. I got changes of 10x while transferring photos by how I was holding the phone. It never dropped the connection, but it certainly made a really big difference in how fast the data was going.

I haven't had a chance to try out a Bluetooth headset yet. I expect the really small distance between a headset and the phone will make this not a problem, but when transferring files across the house it does. So if your photos or files are moving slowly across Bluetooth, try holding the phone in a different position.

Wifi



Here's the biggie. Wifi! I'm using Wifi for web browsing on my home's wireless network. The signal strength is excellent under all circumstances. The only hangup I've had with Wifi was the initial configuration, which wasn't obvious enough to do without instructions.

There are instructions at:
Wifi Setup Directions at MySciPhone.com

You can also get other information from the home directory for that file. Basically, you need to set up a wireless profile that uses Wifi, then select that from the available profiles when you start your browser.

The data transfer rates I get are reliably about 2Mb/sec across my 802.11n home network. I'm not sure what version of 802.11 the phone is actually speaking. But the data transfer rates outpace my internet connection to the outside world, and are plenty fast for the types of transfers I do otherwise.

Summary



One minor thing is that Bluetooth and Wifi can't both be on at the same time. You have to turn off one to use the other.

Battery life is not severely affected by the wireless being on. I left Wifi turned on over 6 hours while using the phone outside the house for calls, taking photos, and so on, and the battery level was still at 86% when I got home. Playing music is the hardest thing on the batteries that I've found so far.

I haven't configured my EDGE/GPRS networking for my provider yet. The configuration that worked for the Sciphone i68+ didn't work for me (the Nokia 2610 config.) So I'll need to log into the forums at MySciPhoneShop.com and see what folks are saying there. More on that once I get it going.

My Articles on the Sciphone G2:

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The G2 Cellphone Camera

The G2 Cellphone's camera has a much higher resolution than that of the Sciphone i68+. I'm not going to play games with numbers in megapixels, the camera's native resolution is 1600 by 1200. The included camera software can do interpolation to achieve higher "apparent" resolutions, so the manufacturer claims 4 megapixels for the camera.

The resolution of the camera is fine. It's response to different lighting conditions is good, too. It doesn't have any built-in flash capability. It has the ability to set both exposure and white balance, as well as to use a number of effects in pictures (sepia tone, etc.)

A picture of my old Motorola 68000 poster. Somehow the greyscale image effect seemed appropriate.

Here's a section of the above photo at full resolution. Not too shabby, even for handheld.

The only problem I've had with the camera so far is it's shutter release. It uses to "OK" button on the front of the phone to take a picture. The problem is that the button is kind of stiff, so pressing it makes the phone move just as it takes the picture. This results in lots of "transporter accident" photos. There may be a trick to holding the phone still while pushing the button. I'm still working on the "best grip" for the phone while taking pictures, I need to keep my fingers out of the way of the lens, which is way up in one corner, and try to hold the phone still.

My first few images weren't bad. Then I took one bad picture and it's been a struggle to not get the images smeared ever since. The "touch the screen" shutter release on the Sciphone i68+ is much better.
The effects of a stiff shutter release, coupled with holding the camera out at arm's length over someone's shoulder.


Some of my class working away on their class projects. The camera wasn't perfectly still here, but I managed to hold it still enough for snapshot quality.

Pushing the camera's macro ability. This camera is far better than my Nokia's for close up images. The part near the top, in best focus, is only about 3 inches (75mm) from the lens of the camera.

My Articles on the Sciphone G2:

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Web Browsing on the G2 Cellphone

I'm still learning my way around my new Sciphone Dream G2 cellphone.

One of the questions I hear about this phone concerns the lack of a keyboard. Well, it's got a virtual keyboard that comes up in the Opera Mini web browser, at least, when you need to enter text.
Click or tap on a text field in the browser, you get this screen. Tap on the screen to start entering text.

Here's the keyboard. As small as the keyboard looks, you can use it with fingertips. The stylus is easier, though.

Once you've pressed the "OK" button, you go back to this screen. Tap on "Options" in the bottom left hand side (hard to see in this pic, but that's what's there.)

Tap "OK" on this menu. That takes you back to the browser, with your text now entered into the field.


The included web browser is Opera Mini. It's a very nice browser. It does a good job of rendering even very complex pages to the small screen (I thought my Eee PC was challenging!) There was only one thing about the browser that was not obvious: scrolling.

The pages displayed in the browser appear to have a scroll bar at the edge. I drove myself crazy trying to scroll with it, first with my finger, then with the stylus. It turns out this isn't a scroll bar! In fact, it's just showing you where you are on the displayed page. To scroll, touch some part of the screen where there isn't an active link and drag the page in the direction you want it to go. You can actually touch the page on a link or some other live element, and it will detect that you're doing a drag rather than a click. But to be safe, I try to touch an inert part of the page.
That white bar with the strip on the right edge of the screen isn't a scroll bar. It's just showing you where you are on the page. You can't scroll by dragging the red bit. You drag the page itself to scroll.


Next, using the G2 cellphone's built in camera.

My Articles on the Sciphone G2:

SciPhone G2 Phone Use

Here are some updates since yesterday's post.

The ringer on the G2 is very loud! You don't need to worry about missing it. I haven't tried changing the ringtone yet, but the default will let you know you've got a call and no mistake.

The speakerphone output is somewhat quiet, however. Not too quiet, but not loud enough to use unless you're in a moderately quiet environment. A normal indoor room (conference room, office) will be fine. It would be usable in a car with moderate road noise. If you've got background conversation noise, or a loud stretch of road (like Interstate 80 right after winter where the truck chains have removed the road surface) then it may not be loud enough. If you depend on it under these conditions, you'll want a headset.

The transmitted sound is good, both in handset mode and in speakerphone use. I haven't tried the included headset yet.

The sound you receive is good, but it seems to amplify high frequency background noises more than my Nokia did. Clicks, mostly. This is just a first impression, I've only had a couple of brief conversations on it, so I'll be posting more on what it sounds like when I've made more calls with it.

Dialing is easy, and it plays the standard DTMF phone tones as you dial, which makes it nicer to dial without having real buttons. You can also select phone numbers off the SIM card directly. I haven't had a chance to play with speed dial or other such features, yet.

I also got the G2 to talk to my home Wifi once I followed the manufacturer's directions, as relayed on the Sciphone forums. There's a file that includes directions (multilingual, English comes second) on how to configure the phone so that you can select the Wifi as the network connection for the included applications to use.

I was able to browse easily with the included Opera Mini browser. I still have some things to learn about using Opera Mini (particularly with Delicious, since I don't have any bookmarks on the phone.)

The music plays good and loud. The music is a bit tinny through the internal speaker but I didn't expect anything else. Hopefully I'll have a chance to try it with headphones soon. One downside to the G2: It doesn't use standard headphones. It has special ones that use the phone's USB port. I'm not sure if it's compatible with SciPhone i68+ headphones or not, but it looks the same at first glance.

My Articles on the Sciphone G2:

Monday, May 11, 2009

SciPhone G2 First Impressions

My Dream G2B. Now I need to find a calculator program that will do justice to the ledger pad it's on. Anyone know where I can get an HP-41C emulator?

I ordered myself a new cell phone a little over a week ago, a SciPhone G2. I spent a lot of time researching different cell phones before I settled on this one, and considered everything from an iPhone or Nokia E90 at the top end down to anything that would give me at least the same features as my old Nokia 3650.

I spent a lot of time considering the SciPhone i68+, but there were two things that kept me from jumping at it right away: the camera and data networking are no better than my N3650, and I wanted to make sure I found a reliable seller, so that I could be sure I'd be getting the real SciPhone, not a knockoff.

I found a great forum full of information from a lot of users of the i68+ as well as its knockoffs. I got a SciPhone G2B, which has a different layout of keys than the SciPhone G2A. It's not as colorful, but just looking at the G2A's keys I would have to say that the G2B layout should be better to use.

The first challenge I ran into was opening the battery cover. It's not described or illustrated in the manual. Given that this is a phone with a large display, I wanted to make sure I didn't break it while trying to figure out how to get the battery in, before I even had a chance to use it.

The battery cover doesn't have any raised bumps or other clues on how to open it, either. On my G2, the cover runs across the entire back, and the lens cover for the camera is part of the battery cover. There are pictures of two G2s with the backs off in the G2's manual, neither looks exactly like mine.

I ended up using a small plastic tool to pop the back off while pulling with my thumb on the lower part of the battery cover. The cover is made to slide about 1/4 inch (6mm) toward the bottom of the phone, then lift off. It doesn't slide all the way off.

Once you've got the battery in the phone and you go to replace the back cover, you have to press the cover down a bit to get it fully engaged with the back of the phone. Then slide it back up. I usually don't get both the tabs at the top engaged on the first try, but once its in place it's secure. So secure you'll probably have to use a tool to start it loose again.

Getting the battery in isn't difficult. Looking at the battery and the phone will let you see where the contacts are, and therefore which way the battery goes in. You can put the battery in either left-side first (contacts first) or right-side first (contacts last). To get it out, there's a tab on the right side of the battery and a little relief cut underneath the tab on the phone. A small fingernail could probably get it popped out, I use my little plastic tool again.
Using the little red plastic tweaker tool to pop out the battery.
The phone has a solid feel to it, it doesn't feel cheap and nasty. The texture on the case is pleasant, and easy to grip. The case color is a lot nicer than the manufacturer's picture makes it look, it's a standard dark black, not some wishy-washy gray. The screen is good--nice contrast, good colors, and bright. I put the protective plastic cover back on it until I get a protective case for the phone.

When I put my T-Mobile (USA) SIM card in it, it put me on the cell phone network with no problem. I haven't had a chance to configure GPRS/EDGE and MMS/SMS yet. And I'm currently working on getting Wifi working on my home network.

More Articles on the Sciphone G2:

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