Monday, January 9, 2012

Mobile devices for the Scootster

I like to have music when I ride. I have put speakers in my helmet (as I've written about previously) so I can listen to music while I ride and still hear ambient noises. I started out with a cheap Wal-Mart brand MP3 player, upgraded to an iPod, and now have a Samsung Focus running Windows phone 7 (from here on, WP7). The generic Wal-Mart player is hardly worth mentioning. I don't even remember the brand and the quality was so poor it doesn't come close to comparing to better brands. The iPod and Samsung Focus WP7 will be compared here. I wish I had an Android to compare as well, but I don't.

As a scootster, I primarily use the music and photographic capabilities of both of my devices. These will be the primary focus of this entry.

We shall start with the iPod. It is a fourth generation 8 Gb iPod. It's capacity isn't huge, but for my purposes, it works fine. Sound quality is superb (it's an iPod), and the output is good in the standard iPod headphones. The music player is easy to use, but I haven't found a way to set up playlists on the device itself. It seems they much be organized on my computer. getting to the music player is simple enough since it's one of the main icons. I only use my own music while riding, so not having 3G or 4G isn't a problem. iPhone users can use Pandora Radio or Iheartradio (or other services), but these use the data plan.

The interface is easy to use with only a minimal learning curve. Using the camera isn't so bad, but the built in camera doesn't deliver the highest quality photographs. It's alright if the lighting is good, but bad lighting ruins a lot of pictures that I've taken. The biggest gripe I have is the lack of an external camera button. the only buttons on the iPod control the volume. One advantage the iPod has is a huge app store which has a plethora of photography apps, some of which make up for the poor quality of the camera.

Battery life is good. Constant music playing takes about 10 hours to drain it. Not bad. While not riding, I can watch videos on Netflix for about 6 hours. Good stuff.

As for the Samsung Focus WP7, the sound quality is excellent. Even the external speaker is quite good. The volume controls are easy to access on the side, and the lock screen displays playback controls when music is playing (the iPod doesn't, and I have not seen a setting to enable such a thing). Maximum volume in regular earbuds varies depending on the buds. Playlists are organized through the Zune software on a computer (much as the iTunes software is used for the iPod). I'd like to be able to switch things around a bit more on the fly, but I can see why such a function is not enabled. Since my phone does have a data plan, I can listen to Iheartradio, but not Pandora since it is not compatible with WP7 devices, but I prefer not to.

The interface has huge icons and a secondary screen accessed by the arrow at the top right, or by a finger slide. I think it's a bit easier for me to use than the iPod's interface. The camera is excellent, and even though there aren't as many apps in the Windows Marketplace, the picture quality is excellent. I took the picture of the iPod with my phone and vice-verse. The camera is a little slow if you use the autostabilizing function, but it provides a very sharp photo. The shutter button on the side of the phone is handy as well.

The battery on my phone is...not so good. It lasts about 6 hours with constant music playing and only about 4 if I use it for Netflix.

So, the better of the two? It's really close. The iPod is a better sounding music and media player, but getting back to the music player to pause or skip songs takes more than just a couple finger swipes. The Focus has a better camera and accessing the music player is simple and easy. It also has a bigger screen. If I'm just out riding, I carry the phone, but if I'm at work, I take both.

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