It amazes me how quickly technologies, and in particular consumer products such as cell phones, develop. My mobile media experience over the past year has expanded. Previously, I'd used an Apple video iPod to watch TV shows and movies. It had a 2.5-inch screen, and it was convenient.
Then I got my first iPhone. While I did not use it as a phone, I did download multimedia content onto it and my viewing experience was improved with the 3.5-inch screen. I found I was watching more and more on the micro-screen (big screen is a movie theatre, small screen is a TV set, so micro-screen is a mobile device, right?). But my iPhone had only 4-GByte capacity, so by the time I installed some music, a few games and a couple of TV shows, I found the iPhone was full--I had to change the content almost daily to keep up with my listening and viewing needs. There were a few staple shows I wanted to keep on my phone because I knew that in a pinch I would always watch them, but that left precious little space for alternatives.
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When the next generation Apple products were released in September, I picked up a second-generation, 32-GByte iPod touch. This new iPod allowed me to have more shows on at one time, giving me a variety of choices--sometimes almost too many--but I was still changing content consistently as I finished watching an episode of a TV show or a movie. This experience got me thinking about the cell phone transfer-speed testing I did about a year ago (see "Under the Hood: BlackBerry wins handset data-rate bakeoff" at http://www.eetimes.com/ showArticle.jhtml;?articleID=203101718). There have been some great advances since that article came out, so I decided to perform a similar test to determine how things have changed, and to see if cell phone vendors have taken advantage of the technology, or if users were simply expected to wait longer.
Phones have indeed gotten better over time, and new features have improved the user experience. Last year, we tested one touchscreen phone (Apple's first-generation iPhone). This year, four of the five phones we tested had touchscreens. The exception was the BlackBerry Bold. (The Storm, which does have a touchscreen, is expected soon).
Also, increased storage densities and acceptance of larger and faster MicroSD cards mean users can download and save more content on their phones. Last year the largest internal memory we tested was 4 Gbytes on the iPhone, though 8-Gbyte models were available. This year the iPhone under test was 8-Gbytes, though a 16-Gbyte model is available; the other phones we tested accepted a 4-Gbyte Mobile Ultra MicroSD HC card.
The five handsets selected for the test were the Apple iPhone 3G, HTC G1, LG Dare, Research In Motion (RIM) BlackBerry Bold and Samsung Instinct. These are all popular phones available in the market today.
We ran three tests on the five phones. The first was a feature-length movie, the second an episode of a TV show and the third an audio CD. I loaded all the content on my laptop, a Lenovo T61 running Microsoft XP Professional version 2002 with SP2 installed. The laptop has an Intel Core 2 Duo T7300 CPU operating at 2 GHz, with 2 Gbytes of RAM. For each phone except the iPhone, I transferred the files directly to the SanDisk 4-Gbyte Ultra MicroSD HC card via USB 2.0 by selecting the card as a drive on my computer. For the iPhone, I used the iTunes interface for the sake of simplicity. This seemed fairly typical of how users would download content onto their phones.
Fortunately for me and many other video users, movie studios have started adding digital copies of their movies to the DVD or Blu-ray versions purchased. Recently, I picked up the 2008 version of the "Incredible Hulk," figuring it was great content for test purposes. First, it is already digitally encoded, saving me from having to rip a copy, something I expect many others would have to do as well. Second, the digital edition is higher quality than the software I own would produce. This means they can take advantage of the larger screen size and higher resolution offered by the cell phone. It also has the advantage of producing a larger file than I could produce to better perform transfer tests. The digital edition also comes with two versions--one for iTunes, with a file size of 1,366,229 kbytes, and one for other platforms, with a file size of 1,841,579 kbytes.
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