Take Two: The HTC Sensation & The Samsung Exhibit 4G

Image Credit: BGR and PocketNow

Today I wanted to talk about two upcoming Android phones: the HTC Sensation and Samsung Exhibit 4G. They are two very different phones and at CompanionLink we’re excited to see them released to two very different reasons.

The HTC Sensation looks like it will be just that – a sensation. With 4G speeds, the latest version of HTC Sense, a dual-core 1.2GHz processor, 4.3” display, 8-mexapixel HD camera, and more, the Sensation is poised to be one of the top Android phones releasing this summer. And at $199 it is priced to compete. We have yet to try one out ourselves, but from everything we’ve seen this will be the phone to get for those looking for a powerful Android experience. Look for it in Walmart stores June 12th and T-Mobile locations by June 15th.

That said, not everyone wants to spend $199 on a new phone. That’s where Samsung Exhibit 4G comes in. Providing a solid Android experience atop a 1Ghz processor handset, the Exhibit 4G should prove to be a popular phone among those looking for an entry-level smartphone. While it may not be the most powerful Android phone available, it packs plenty of features to satisfy the casual user’s needs. And at just $79, it’s priced to move. T-Mobile has yet to provide a set release date, but has promised we will see the Exhibit 4G this June.

Whether you’re looking for the latest, powerful Android handset or are hunting for a feature-rich phone at a great price, you’re sure to find something you’ll love soon. And, of course, with DejaOffice and CompanionLink you’ll be as productive as ever on your new phone!

Once released, we’ll be testing these phones to ensure they work as expected with DejaOffice and CompanionLink, but at this point we don’t foresee any issues.

Is CompanionLink Part of the Google Tax?

Img Credit: The Globe And Mail

Does Google Apps come with “hidden fees?” That’s what Tom Rizzo of Microsoft indicates in a recent blog post about the hidden costs of Google Apps. In fact, he refers to the extra costs as the “Google Tax” – the costs one would incur if they started using Google Apps to manage email, contacts, calendar, tasks, desktop publishing, and document management.

It’s no secret that many people are searching for a replacement for Microsoft Office. What’s most interesting, perhaps, is that they aren’t actually switching. In fact, Microsoft’s findings show that 9 out of 10 people use Google Apps in conjunction with Microsoft Office; not as a replacement for Microsoft Office. The “Google Tax,” however, still applies. Microsoft mentions CompanionLink as an example of a third-party application that is required if two-way synchronization between Outlook and Google Apps is desired. CompanionLink is part of the Google tax, claims Microsoft in a white paper they published.

Under the scenario where Google Apps is used in conjunction with Microsoft Office, CompanionLink is, in fact, a key component of the Google Apps ecosystem. CompanionLink allows people to keep their Microsoft Outlook contacts and calendar in sync with Google Apps. In fact, CompanionLink supports any Google, Gmail, or Google Apps account – paid or free.

Arguably, people using paid Google Apps services don’t need to use CompanionLink. Google offers a tool called Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook as part of any paid edition of Google Apps. If you’re on a free edition of Google Apps or using a free Google or Gmail account, you don’t have this option and need to look at 3rd party software like CompanionLink.

Even with Google’s tools, however, paying customers are offered forum-based support only. To some degree, this makes sense – they are a cloud-based company, after all. Phone or email support may not fit the cloud model.

This is where CompanionLink really shines.

In addition to numerous advance features, CompanionLink provides both email and US-based phone support. CompanionLink guarantees the synchronization between Google and Microsoft Outlook works on day one and day 365.

So, is CompanionLink a part of a “Google Tax?” Maybe. But we feel strongly that the ability to pick up the phone and talk to someone is, on its own, well worth the cost of admission (which, by the way, is a one-time license fee of $49.95).

Android Fragmentation: A Real Problem or A Hyped Non-Issue?

If there’s one topic surrounding the Android OS that comes up time and time again, it’s the issue of fragmentation. With so many devices and variations of the OS, developing for Android can be difficult. Before deciding if this is a real problem or simply a non-issue, let’s take a step back and define what we’re talking about.

Put simply, Google developed the core code for Android and has allowed device manufacturers such as Motorola, Samsung, and HTC to create custom variations of this code. Google likes this because it gets their OS on a wide variety of handsets. The device manufacturers like this because the bulk of the software work is done for them and they can focus on customizing the OS. End users like this because they have a plethora of choices, all with the same basic features that they’re looking for. Developers, on the other hand, aren’t as keen about the whole situation.

Back in October, the popular Twitter client, TweetDeck, shared some information regarding the variety of devices and OS’s that their app was currently running on.

Img Credit: TweetDeck

At first glance, there are quite a few OS versions to support. That said, looking at it differently you could conclude that a good 80% of users are on Android 2.1 and above. If you write an app to support OS 2.1 and higher, you can expect it to work on the majority of Android handsets with very little issue, right? Well, maybe. For some applications, this is entirely true.

For others, however, writing an application that works is far different than writing one that works properly. With all the custom variations of the OS, an application may not behave as expected. If you’re a developer writing for Android, guaranteeing that your app works on all Android device means buying dozens of devices to test it on. For most developers, this simply isn’t feasible.

I think we can all agree that fragmentation on the Android platform exists. So the question becomes “is it a problem?” In my opinion, almost. What I mean by this is that unless it’s addressed, it could spiral out of control to the point that it simply isn’t manageable. It may get to the point that certain apps only work on certain devices. Want to play Angry Birds? Get a Samsung phone.

That said, I don’t think it will get that far. In fact, Google has already released a tool to help curtail the issue, and they recently partnered with manufacturers to help ensure devices are kept up to date. Is it enough? Maybe for now, but it’s not a complete solution. So how does Google minimize the imminent fragmentation problem while maintaining the openness that many of us love about the Android platform? Well, that’s the big question, now isn’t it?

RIM Introduces BlackBerry Balance

Image Credit: RIM

Just the other day, Research In Motion (RIM) announced a new feature coming to BlackBerry smartphones: Balance. Balance is a technology that allows companies to define what’s work and what’s personal, then act on that information. For example, Balance can be setup to restrict a user from copying text from a business email into a social networking app. The ultimate goal, of course is to give the company more control over secure data while allowing employees to use one device for both work and personal needs.

At CompanionLink, we’re big fans of keeping your business data separated from your personal data. We’ve written recently talking about how you can use CompanionLink and DejaOffice to do just that, making it much easier for you to use your phone at work and at home. Balance does not appear to offer the same types of features as we discuss, but rather focuses on making a personal device more secure. Initially, the direct benefit to the employee may seem low. However, it is important to remember that, for many, Balance will be the key that finally allows them to carry just one device!

How do you keep your business and personal data separated? Will Balance change things for the better for you? Let us know in the comments!

The Sidekick 4G: Now With More Android!

Historically, the Sidekick was always a fairly popular phone. Of course, since the Danger debacle and recent shutdown notice, we’ve seen this popularity fade away to some degree. Don’t expect the slump to last, however. The Sidekick is back and it features some solid specs, including 4G data.

The biggest news, however, is that the Sidekick 4G will be running Android. This opens the door for a lot of potential. Business users who want to move away from BlackBerries, but still want a solid physical keyboard will want to take a look at the Sidekick and its great keyboard design. Those who know a little about the previous Sidekicks might balk at this suggestion, claiming that the Sidekick is not designed to be a business device. Admittedly, it is marketed more towards a younger crowd. However, the Sidekick 4G features a few nice additions, such as WiFi calling and “cloud-based” texting that serve to extend the phone’s functionality and maximize productivity when you’re away from cell signal or at the computer. And, of course, after downloading a few business-focused Android apps, like DejaOffice, the Sidekick can be just as productive as any other Android available today!

Looking for information on how to sync the Sidekick 4G with Outlook and other popular databases. Click here!

How To Do Contacts, Calendar, Tasks and Notes on the BlackBerry PlayBook

BlackBerry PlayBook by RIM

To be fair, this is not a review of the PlayBook. We haven’t had the chance to get our hands on one yet (though we’ll be getting ours tomorrow). That said, we cannot help but wonder why the PlayBook is shipping without any sort of native email or Personal Information Manager (PIM) applications, such as contacts, calendars, etc.

Yes, it is possible to “tether” your PlayBook with your BlackBerry phone to get this PIM data on the tablet, but that’s not a complete solution. While many of those who buy the PlayBook will have BlackBerries, not all will! For those users, the only option is a browser-based solution, like Google.

Of course, in the long term, there will be other solutions. For one, RIM has stated that native applications will be coming. As to when exactly that is, we don’t know. For users who are getting their PlayBook tomorrow, though, this feature can’t come soon enough!

The other solution is Android. RIM has announced that the PlayBook will be able to run Android apps, like our own DejaOffice. This capability is expected to arrive via software update this summer. We’ll have more information for you on this as soon as we know more ourselves. That said, at this point we are expecting to support DejaOffice on the PlayBook via Android.

In the meantime, we’ll be getting our PlayBook tomorrow and exploring our immediate sync options. We’ll keep you posted!

DejaOffice Now Available In The Amazon Appstore

Amazon has worked hard to help widen and curate the distribution of Android apps. Amazon has their own app acceptance process, which they say will guarantee that only meaningful and legit apps will be distributed on their Appstore.

We want to make it easy to download DejaOffice, no matter which app store you prefer using. Therefore, we’re pleased to report that DejaOffice is now available in the Amazon Appstore!

DejaOffice in the Amazon Appstore is, of course, free and can be downloaded by clicking here. We do want to make you aware of one thing: if you download and install DejaOffice via the Amazon Appstore, you need to continue to use the Amazon Appstore in the future to update DejaOffice to the latest versions. You will not be able to update the app from the Android Market (it will fail to install – you can get around this by deleting DejaOffice and reinstalling from the Android Market if you need). This is due to the way that Amazon handles app installs and is not unique to DejaOffice, so take note for your other apps as well!

We hope you’ll find the increased availability of DejaOffice useful, and we want to hear your feedback. We’d love for you to leave us a review in the Amazon Appstore! It helps us to constantly improve our app, as well as where we distribute it.

Android’s Popularity Continues To Rise

Android, as a platform, has seen growing popularity since its inception. Before Android, Apple had a tight grip on the changing smartphone market. They were one of the first, and certainly the most influential, to transform the smartphone into what it is today. But, as we all know, Apple’s OS only works on Apple devices. That’s where Google stepped in. They created an open source OS that existing phone manufacturers could use. The use of Android as an OS spread rapidly, catching up with Apple’s market share in little time.

Today, that popularity continues to rise. A recent survey by Market Force shows that 34% of those surveyed would like to buy an Android phone, while only 21% indicated they wanted an iPhone. This is no surprise to us – we can see a similar trend among our customers.

Why is this?

Arguably, one of the reasons is that Android runs on more devices. But I think there’s more to it than that. Android is an open platform that’s designed to allow users great customization and flexibility. People like to own their experiences. The Android platform allows them to do just that. With it, you can make your phone as fun, simple, extravagant, or productive as you like! The very same device can be a portable arcade as easily as it can be a mobile productivity hub.

Now, obviously this is just one survey. New Android phones will continue to be released, and Apple is likely a few months away from releasing the iPhone 5 and iOS 5. How this will affect people’s buying decisions remains to be seen. For now, it’s safe to say that Android phones aren’t going to go away any time soon!

Why All Sprint Customers Should Go Sign Up For Google Voice

Google recently announced complete integration between Google Voice and Sprint phone numbers. In my opinion, this is huge news. Sprint customers will be able to link their number to Google Voice and instantly take advantage of all the great features that Google Voice offers. This all works seamlessly, without requiring an app of any kind on the phone.

As a Sprint customer using Google Voice, you’ll be able to forward calls to other phones, take advantage of voicemail transcriptions, send (and archive) texts online, make calls from your Sprint number via Gmail, and more. Having such easy and ubiquitous access to your call history, text messages, voicemail, and more can be a huge productivity boon. For some time now our phones have been able to augment our computer use. It’s about time our computers truly do the same for our phone use!

If you’re a Sprint customer ready to integrate with Google Voice, head over to https://www.google.com/googlevoice/sprint/ to get started. If you’re on one of the other networks (like myself), well, you’ll have to wait patiently and hope that the other carriers follow suit!

Go Ahead, Make The Switch!

The HTC Thunderbolt is (finally) launching tomorrow. As such, I felt it would be appropriate to touch on the process of switching phones. With 4G data speeds, a 4.3” screen, an 8 megapixel rear facing camera, a front facing camera for video calls, a 1GHz processor, and more, the Thunderbolt should prove to be quite popular, causing many customers to trade in their current phone. Of course, this means going through the process of backing up and transferring all your data will become a top priority.

Switching phones used to be quite a pain. Often, you’d find yourself re-entering all your data, which could take a very long time, especially if you used your phone for business. These days, many phones include some kind of sync to help you get most of your data moved over, but it’s not always so easy. A user hoping to switch from an iPhone to the Thunderbolt, for example, will likely run into some roadblocks. Getting contacts, calendars, tasks, memos, and more transferred over isn’t as simple as it is if you were to simply upgrade to a new iPhone. Unless, of course, you use CompanionLink and DejaOffice!

We’ve developed our products in such a way that you can move to a new device quickly and easily. After installing DejaOffice on a new device, you’re just a quick sync away from having all your important contacts, calendars, tasks, and memos back at your fingertips. After all, it’s your data – you should have easy access to it no matter what device you prefer to use!

For more information on how to sync the HTC Thunderbolt with your PC, click here.