Is the Fire Phone for business users?

This review focuses on business productivity with the Amazon Fire Phone.

TLDR Version: Fire Phone’s stock apps for Email, Contacts, Calendar, and Tasks are amateurish when compared to Galaxy S5. A shadow behind every text heading that changes dynamically with phone movements will annoy business users. The 3D Dynamic Perspective feature, while cool, distracts from flat-design principles the mobile industry is pivoting to.

One clever feature on Fire Phone is snippets on the homescreen. You can see 2-3 recent emails on the homescreen. This snippet area is app-specific, so useful snippets show on the homescreen for every app. Saves a lot of time.

Fire Phone packs new software and visuals but lacks the streamlined experience business users expect from $200 phones like Samsung or HTC. Future versions of Fire Phone will, undoubtedly, arrive more polished. Hat tip to Amazon for foraying into competitive territory and establishing their unique mark based on software.

Business category missing on Amazon Appstore

While the Appstore has categories, it fails to include a category for Business. Huh? Android historians will recall early versions of Android Market (now Google Play Store) also lacked a Business category. Perhaps this will come with time.Amazon Appstore has no Business category

 

Stock Calendar app

Fire Phone’s stock calendar app is sleek and mirrors the Galaxy S5. The one drawback in Month view is that you cannot determine how many appointments you have for a given day without tapping on the day and entering Day view. On GS5, each appointment comes with a snippet so you know at a glance how busy your day is.

Multiple appointments are hard to see on Fire Phone Calendar Month view

Adding a Calendar Event

Both devices have common appointment fields like Start/End times, Location, and Attendees. The GS5 lets you select Timezone, which might be important to travel warriors.

Also, the Location field on GS5 has a Google Maps icon that lets you use a map to pick a location. Fire Phone’s Location field is text entry.

Fire Phone stock calendar app missing Timezone

Email snippets on your home screen

Fire Phone has a clever homescreen snippets feature that shows your latest email messages. Because Fire Phone use a carousel theme on the homescreen, they use the space below the app icon to show you snippets related to your app. The carousel for Settings, for example, will show you popular settings.

Fire Phone shows email snippets on home screen

Fire Phone’s email app borrows font-styling from iOS and is better than most stock Samsung or HTC mail apps. I was able to set up my Outlook.com account in seconds. ActiveSync accounts are fully supported, as this BusinessInsider article confirms.

Fire Phone's email app uses text styling similar to iOS

Homescreen slider menu

Swipe on the left edge of the homescreen on Fire Phone and a convenient slider emerges. You can access popular features of your phone right from this menu. What kills the experience is the 3D texture behind the letters. As you can see from this image, it adds a subtle layer of “blur” around the text which may drive business users nuts.

Fire Phone homescreen slider menu

Mayday is responsive, as you would hope

Fire Phone’s personal help feature works. I was able to get “Steven” online with me in less than 30 seconds. During the wait, a message reassures me that Mayday only shares my screen and not anything through my forward-facing camera.

The reaction from the business community will be interesting to monitor. On one hand Mayday is a lifesaver for professionals who need to fix something immediately. On another hand, being one-click away from someone viewing what’s on your screen may be troubling. You decide.

Fire Phone Mayday is responsive

Final thoughts

Fire Phone v1 is naive for business users. If you like the latest technology and a new spin on software gimmicks, try it out. You might enjoy their fresh approach. If you want a mature Android phone, the Galaxy S5, HTC One, or a similar Android unit earns my $200.

The most complete alternative to the sunset Google Calendar Sync utility

Multiple reports are in that Google Calendar Sync will become sunset on August 1, 2014. People are receiving an email from Google’s “The Calendar Team” as follows:

Important Announcement about Google Calendar Sync

Almost two years ago, we announced that we ended support for Google Calendar Sync. Starting on August 1, 2014, this app will no longer sync events between your Google Calendar and Microsoft Outlook Calendar.

You can continue to access all of your Google Calendar events at calendar.google.com or on your mobile devices. Follow these instructions to uninstall Google Calendar Sync from your computer.

- The Calendar Team

Google’s notice appears to imply more than we are not going to support this product. It means the sync functionality may cease due to a change at the API level (programmatic). Google appears to be forcing a shut down of Calendar Event sync between Google Calendar and Outlook Calendar.

This gives existing users 20 days to scramble to find a solution. There are many on the market. Choose one that matches your needs for features, use on multiple PCs or in a household scenario, and technical support options. Don’t overlook the support options. Many business users don’t have time to post questions on forums and moderate answers. They want the ability to pick up the phone and talk to an expert to get answers and their Google integration working. Support is a valuable consideration to the business community.

CompanionLink for Google is our product that comes with free telephone support and handles two-way sync between Google Calendar, Contacts, Tasks, and Groups and Outlook contacts, calendar, tasks, and categories.  The product can also sync multiple Google Calendars to Outlook. Members of the same household can use one license, and business users can install the product on their home and work PCs. Updates are always free.

Gmail, Google, and all Google Apps accounts are supported. Outlook 2013, 2010, 2007, 2003, and 2000 are supported. The product is available as a one-time license for $49.95. Enter ALTGCS on the order form and save $10 on your purchase. If you wish to purchase 20+ licenses for your organization, email us to get a volume purchase discount.

Here’s a full list of data CompanionLink synchronizes.

Calendar

  • Google Calendar syncs to Outlook Calendar
  • Full event details
  • Recurring and all-day events
  • Alarms/reminders
  • Accepted meeting invites (with attendee list)
  • Sync to multiple Outlook calendars (requires upgrade to CompanionLink Professional)

Contacts

  • Google Contacts syncs to Outlook Contacts
  • Names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses
  • Google Groups sync to Outlook Categories
  • Contact notes
  • Birthdays
  • Contact photos
  • Up to 9 custom fields in Outlook

Tasks

  • Outlook Tasks sync to Google Tasks or Google Calendar (you choose)
  • Task priorities
  • Recurring tasks
  • Due dates

Groups/Categories

  • Google Groups sync to Outlook Categories

How to synchronize Act! v16 and Office 365

Businesses who upgrade to Office 365 need a way to tie Act! CRM data with Office 365 cloud accounts. These cloud accounts are powered by Exchange ActiveSync technology that all mobile device manufacturers support. If you can sync Act! with Office 365, you can use the cloud to serve as an integration hub to phones, tablets and desktop email software with contacts and calendar storage. For example, people can store Act! contacts, activities, notes, and histories on Android, iPhone, iPad, Windows Phone, BlackBerry, and PCs and Macs with Outlook desktop clients.

Act! with Office 365

Office 365 serves as an Exchange ActiveSync connection to phones, tablets, PC, and Mac.

CompanionLink has both individual and server software that keeps Act! synchronized with Office 365 accounts. Data synchronizes automatically for a set-and-forget experience.

“Office 365 is here to stay and businesses want to make sure their CRM isn’t left behind,” says Rushang Shah, Director of Marketing for CompanionLink Software. “CompanionLink can extend Act! contacts, activities and client history to your Office 365 subscription.”

Alternatively, you can set CompanionLink to synchronize Act! securely and direct to Outlook 2013 desktop software that comes bundled with Office 365 subscriptions. This creates a secure cloud-free setup for people who choose not to host client data, notes, and history in the cloud. With a feature called DoubleLook Mode, CompanionLink automates the Outlook sync. Here is a convenient setup guide for using Outlook 2013 without the Office 365 cloud.

Visit www.companionlink.com/office365/act for more information about Act! to Office 365 integration.

For advanced Act! users who want an Act!-like app on their mobile device, we have a free app called DejaOffice CRM (Andriod, iOS, Windows Phone, Blackberry) with views for Act! fields like Notes, Histories, Linked Activities, and Groups (ID/Status). The app syncs direct to Act! using DejaCloud, USB, or Wi-Fi technology. More info here.

How To: Sync Galaxy S5 with Microsoft Outlook

Turn the Galaxy S5 into an extension of your office by installing the DejaOffice app (free) and integrating with Outlook. You can enable push sync or set up USB connected sync between Galaxy S5 and Outlook contacts, calendar, notes, tasks, categories, and journal entries.  This is a cost-effective alternative to hosting data in Microsoft or Google’s cloud.

Why you need a Kies alternative

Many people try to configure Samsung Kies to sync with Galaxy S5.  Users have recently reported missing sync options, missing data, and general connectivity trouble when trying to synchronize. You can read about these problems here, here, and here. You can also read about one USATODAY.com editor’s experience using Kies.

If you value your Outlook data and need a solution that works out of the box with Galaxy S5, turn to CompanionLink. It’s been downloaded more than 1.2 million times and is the #1 independent provider for Android sync with Outlook.

Your options for S5 Outlook sync

CompanionLink’s configuration lets you choose the Outlook data you want to sync. You can toggle Contacts, Calendar, Tasks, Notes, and Journal. You can select two-way sync or limit it to just one-way transfer. You can even select the sync direction (Outlook > S5, or S5 > Outlook).

If you have multiple Outlook PST files and Folders, you can select which ones to sync. Let’s say you have an iPad and use iCloud. Your Outlook client will have your default Outlook Contacts/Calendar folder (PST file) as well as a separate iCloud Contacts/Calendar folder (PST file). It’s important that you are able to choose the right Outlook folders to sync with Galaxy S5 so you do no accidently mix data.

You can select to sync specific Outlook Categories to sync with S5. Many professionals store leads and clients in the same Outlook Contacts file under different categories. Or, they store Personal and Business data. It’s important to have flexibility to select which Categories to synchronize with Galaxy S5.

You can pick how you want to synchronize. CompanionLink allows sync to Galaxy S5 over USB, WiFi, DejaCloud, and using a Gmail account. Each sync method has its merits; click here for a complete discussion on this. No other Android Outlook app offers this breadth of sync options to fit the needs for security and convenience.

Someone to call in case you need help

CompanionLink extends free phone support and email support to Galaxy S5 owners. Visit this page for help if you need help.

CompanionLink also serves step-by-step guides to configure each type of synchronization:

You can also purchase a $49 RunStart package that schedules time with a CompanionLink technician who will log into your PC and set up the synchronization. This guarantees a correctly configured Galaxy S5 to PC sync and the peace of mind knowing your Outlook database isn’t being accidently corrupted.

CompanionLink and DejaOffice 2014 Plans; DejaVoice, Galaxy S5, Galaxy Gear Watch, iWatch, iPad, Google Glass

Here is a roundup of our current projects and how they relate to upcoming products:

For Galaxy S5 – we are excited to see the announcement of the next Galaxy series phone.  I carry one, and I hope you do too.  The S5 has a slightly larger screen that is a lot higher resolution, latest KitKat Android, fingerprint scanner, better battery.  Here’s Samsung’s official page.

Look for CompanionLink 6.0 to fully support Office 365 and Outlook 2013 sync to Galaxy S5 and all related Samsung phones; Active, Zoom, Mini, Mega, Light.

Before April, DejaOffice will support the fingerprint unlock, particularly for our encrypted mode which uses high level encryption to lock your contact and calendar data.

Also before April DejaOffice will be getting some new usability features; a side-menu for quicker app switching, and better integration with KitKat notifications.  Some of these require KitKat or higher OS version.  Some features will also be available for lower versions.  The new release will get a new version number DejaOffice 3.0.

We are about to release DejaVoice.  This is a voice dictation system that is intended for voice command, and voice readback.  DejaVoice is a standalone system.  You can use it like a dictation machine where you speak what you would like to write.  DejaVoice is suited to voice editing, where it automatically reads back content, and you can modify it on the fly.  Also coming in March is DejaVoice Translate, where you speak in one language, and it reads back in another.  This is to assist in communication while traveling.  Finally, DejaVoice is also suited for communication for hearing impaired and speaking impaired.  Using the dictation and readback systems separately gives touch based controls to create verbal input and output to assist people to function more smoothly.

With DejaVoice launched as a standalone product, look for it to be integrated into DejaOffice.  This is the promise (and failure) of Siri to be a verbal IO system for a CRM product.  Look for a command engine to handle “what are my tasks today?” and also the ability to add, change, delete records, to sent notices to attendees, to quickly map the next appointment and launch directions.

Voice commands and CRM together speak a lot to Google Glass, Ford Sync, and other automobile and wearable systems.  The integration of your own contact list and schedules make it natural to want to send out messages, reorganize tasks, dictate letters, and make project notes all while sitting in traffic with both your hands on the steering wheel.  This is our main goal for 2014 is to integrate all these systems with our realtime DejaCloud Sync which supports PC and Cloud destinations like Salesforce, Outlook, Lotus Notes, Act! and Goldmine.

 

 

 

 

Sync to People and Calendar apps in Microsoft Office Online

Microsoft rebranded their online Office app suite as Office Online. It was previously the product known as Office Web Apps. They introduced a new home page with tiles of the apps you have access to online – People, Calendar, Email, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, and the new OneDrive document and file storage service.

This rebranding does not change CompanionLink’s two-way sync with the People and Calendar apps for Office 365, Outlook.com, and Office Online accounts. The only difference is that People and Calendar are now accessible tiles in the Office Online interface.

Sync to People and Calendar apps in Office Online

Connect Outlook 2010, 2007, and 2003 with Office 365 and Office Online

For people running desktop MS Outlook 2010 and prior, CompanionLink offers the missing connection to Office Online and Office 365 accounts. These versions of Outlook have no way to automatically integrate desktop contacts, calendar, tasks, and notes with Microsoft’s cloud. CompanionLink for Outlook is a plug-in that automates the integration between Microsoft’s cloud and Outlook 2010, 2007, and 2003. Here is a setup guide that shows you how to configure PC Outlook to Office Online and Office 365.

CompanionLink syncs to People and Calendar apps in Office Online

How to Sync Samsung Galaxy S5 with Outlook

“Even though we’re doing the software business, we’re not as good as we are in hardware,” said Kwon Oh-hyun, vice chairman and chief executive of Samsung Electronics.

A big problem for Samsung is maintaining software that synchronizes with desktop Microsoft Outlook. Their KIES product ran into great trouble when it omitted sync for Outlook Contacts and Calendar. Those who have tried KIES are left demanding the “rest of their Outlook data” – like tasks, notes, alarms, and categories.

If you use Outlook, you’ll want an advanced Outlook app for GS5 that lets you access your full Outlook database. You’ll want a guarantee that when you update records on your phone, they also update MS Outlook on your PC.

Will the fifth incarnation of the Galaxy S device muster enough software wizardry to make Outlook sync easy? In the past, Samsung has been off the mark, as noted by Marc Saltzman in his review on USAToday.com. He turned to CompanionLink to solve his Android sync problems.

The components of reliable Outlook sync

One key driver of CompanionLink’s reliability is that we develop our own Android app to hold the Outlook data structures. Our app, DejaOffice for Outlook, lets us establish a one-to-one map with Outlook data fields. You can also integrate Outlook data stored DejaOffice with the Galaxy S5’s Contacts and S Planner if you have other apps that rely on these stock Android apps.

Galaxy S5 Outlook Sync

More than one way to sync Outlook with GS5

If you value data privacy and prefer not to host your client notes or address book in the cloud, CompanionLink offers the USB connected sync option. Simply dock the Galaxy S5 to your PC and synchronize in a cloud-free environment. Your data never leaves the wired connection between you PC and S5.

If you have multiple devices (GS5, Galaxy Note 3 tablet, Apple iPad, etc.) and wish to automate the sync across all devices, you can select the DejaCloud option that comes with CompanionLink paid licenses. The cloud ensures data is automatically updated on all PCs and devices using the same account.

If you want the convenience of hands-free sync with the security of a cloud-free system, chose the WiFi sync option. This setting automatically pairs your S5 with the PC running Outlook using your WiFi connection. Your phone and PC must be on the same WiFi network (like in your home or office).

More information about Galaxy S5 Outlook sync is available here.

USATODAY.com review votes DejaOffice and CompanionLink as best Android Sync app for Outlook

We are thrilled to share a raving review about our Android Sync products. Marc Saltzman, writer for USATODAY.com, stumbled upon CompanionLink when his frustration with other Android to Outlook sync solutions came to a peak. He found other products to sync incomplete Outlook data or have complicated setups.

Then, he found our Android Outlook app, DejaOffice.

“DejaOffice was able to accomplish what others could not: smooth, reliable and quick syncing between Android and Microsoft Outlook.”

“You don’t need a degree in computer engineering to set it up.”

Marc hits squarely on a sensitive topic for people who used legacy phones and PDAs like BlackBerry and Palm. Traditionally, Outlook sync was an afterthought for mobile users because Outlook integration was bundled with their device purchase. Palm shipped a CD with Outlook sync software. BlackBerry included their reliable Desktop Software companion with every device.

Android buyers weren’t so lucky. During Android’s toddler years, no manufacturer bundled software for Outlook integration. Samsung, for example, has since developed a tool called Kies to address the uproar by Outlook users. However, upkeep of the tool has proved difficult and fragmented as Kies updates often break Outlook integration. The reliability of these tools also vary from device to device and are inconsistent with the Outlook fields they support because every device has different pre-installed PIM apps.

The CompanionLink and DejaOffice platform for Android really shines because it works and looks the same across all Android devices and restores reliable Outlook integration that people expect to come with their device. People are free to choose the security of USB connected synchronization or the flexibility of Cloud synchronization through CompanionLink’s secure DejaCloud service, Google or other cloud services. This allows people to customize their experience to their business requirements; something that isn’t possible with solutions like Kies.

Marc’s review emotes the frustration millions of Outlook users face when they realize their $300 phone investment doesn’t integrate easily with desktop Outlook. CompanionLink agrees that reliable Outlook synchronization should come in-the-box with your phone purchase. Until then, CompanionLink has a product that millions, like Marc, can use to turn their $300 investment into a productivity tool that works with Outlook.

Newkia can thrive by filling the business feature void on smartphones and tablets

Newkia, the new Singapore-based endeavor with plans to siphon Nokia’s Finnish talent to build Android devices, has its heart in the right place. Had Nokia heeded popular advice and supported Android OS, they would probably still be around as a company that builds phones. They chose to become the near-exclusive manufacturer of Windows Phone, a decision that earned Nokia’s C-brass a fortune in the Microsoft acquisition while thousands of employees and avid followers were stranded. Not to mention the hit on the economy in Finland (here’s another great article on that topic).

Smartphones are remarkably dumb with business functionality

CompanionLink has long championed the message for the need for a smartphone with business features. We even built our own business-focused mobile app because we saw this gap. Android and iPhone operate exceedingly well with video, social media, and web browsing. But they lack advanced functionality that business users relied on with legacy Palm Treo devices. For example: an address book that shows more than 8 contacts per screen; a notes app that intelligently links to people in the address book; a task manager that fits productivity philosophies like Getting Things Done and Franklin Covey; and full integration with PC apps like Microsoft Office and Lotus Notes where business people spend 50% of their day.

OPPORTUNITY ALERT FOR NEWKIA: build business productivity into the fabric of your product roadmap. If you need help with this when building your PIM applications, please call us. We’d love to help.

Business users held tremendous hope that Palm webOS would fill this void. The first Palm organization defined mobile productivity. When that failed, business people refocused their hopes on BlackBerry 10. Q3/2013 sales showed BlackBerry sold more legacy devices than phones running on the new OS 10 platform. Yikes!  The Address Book, Calendar and Apple-inspired Remember apps weren’t anything like what business users expected from their BlackBerry.

Newkia appears to have taken a giant leap in the right direction by acquiring a CEO,  Urpo Karjalainen, who understands the business of mobile business.  Mr. Karjalainen served as BlackBerry’s head of business operations for Asia and worked another 20 years at Nokia.

Predictions for 2014, Wearable Computers, iPhone 6, Google Glass and Voice CRM

Happy New Year all!  I’m not the only one that is happy to put 2013 behind us.  Another year of budget sequesters, government gridlock and grinding recession behind us.

My Predictions for 2014.

1. 2014 will be better!  People will feel more secure about work, the economy and technology in our lives.  The wonder of camera resolution, ease of UI, and ever lower network costs will amaze and confound us.   “Wearable” will be the “Watch-word” for 2014, even though no one knows what it means, or how it will appear. Don’t worry, no one really cares, but phones will get cheaper and better, and people ever more glued to the device in their hand.

2. CES 2014 will be useless.  No one will go there but the news reporters, and they will report on virtually nothing.  However, virtually nothing is useful these days, and virtually nobody will watch virtually nothing on their mobile device.

3. Over the year Samsung will release Galaxy S5, with variations; Mini, Active, Note, Light, Heavy, Super, Ultra, Modern, Watch, Catch, Pitch and Visionary.  Covering every size in half inch increments from 3-inches to 110-inches, some people will starve in Verizon stores trying to figure out which one is best.  Someone will write an app to remove crapware from Samsung phones, sell it for $5, and make more money than Angry Birds.

4. In March, Microsoft will purchase Nokia’s Devices and Services business (roughly half of Nokia) with the Lumia line of phones becoming Microsoft products.  Microsoft will promptly announce Windows Phone 9 for Spring, and then delay release for 2 years.  In the mean time Microsoft will include a $25 Windows 8 RT Tablet (remember they still have 2 million unsold tablets) with every Lumia phone they sell.  Microsoft will end the year declaring lack of ripple water effects the Achilles heel of their device line

5. In April, Nokia – minus it’s products and services division – will release the first Nokia Android phone.  By August the new Nokia will be double market share from prior to the Microsoft sale.

6. In May, Google Glass will be released to consumers.  At $595 they will require you have a current Smartphone ($500 plus $80 per month for 2 years).  So this means every Glass user will have a $3000 investment for a device that goes from purchase to drawer in a record 48 hours.  Meanwhile, Bluetooth headsets, microphones and accessories will drop by half in price, becoming 4 times more effective.  Glass is not useless.  Just in it’s first year.  Remember the Google G1 Android?

7. In June HTC will introduce a new phone, called the HTC One.  (Nowithstanding that their 2013 phone was the HTC One, and their 2012 phone the HTC One X).  A CNet reviewer will accidentally buy a two year old HTC One X on eBay and declare it the best phone of 2014.

8. In October, Apple will release iPhone 6, which will feature a new water ripple effect and come in tropical colors.  On the $700 iPhone 6LX the water ripples will make the case glow.  People will line up for hours to buy the new phone, proclaiming that ripples will change their lives.

9. BlackBerry/Palm comparisons are epic.  Consider Palm Treo compared to BlackBerry Classic, and Palm Pre compared to BlackBerry 10.  BlackBerry has said they will abandon their hardware business to focus on Enterprise Secure Software (sounds like Palm focusing on webOS in the last 9 months of Palm).  After September earnings BlackBerry will sell to Lenovo for $1.8b, with the Chinese Government a silent partner and ultra secure BBM network will be used by the Chinese Army to spy on the NSA.

10. Voice CRM is on the horizon.  Look for App makers to increasingly include voice as part of their applications.  Voice Dial was one of the most powerful features of BlackBerry 7, but BlackBerry has abandon that technology in their new focus.  Look for other vendors to capitalize on business use of voice applications.

There you have it!  Have a happy new year.