June a big month for smartphone savvy appraisers

Appraisers are an on-the-go crowd, and many are wisely leveraging the power of their smartphones to run their business from anywhere on the planet, 24X7.  With 3G networks virtually nationwide, browsing the internet via a mobile device is a must have.  And e-mail and text messaging are rapidly becoming preferred means of communications that smartphones make easier and faster.  Our customers in particular are able to leverage their Mobile XSites more fully by checking orders, sending status, replying to e-mails and delivering reports, all thanks to smartphones.  And that's just the tip of the iceberg.  So if you’re in the market for a new smartphone, June is going to be a big month for you depending on your carrier. AT&T and Sprint are offering the new iPhone and Palm Pre, respectively, but Verizon and T-Mobile may have some interesting offerings of their own. So what can you expect?

Sprint/Palm Pre
Exclusively from Sprint, the new Palm Pre will be available toward the end of June. Palm is looking to reignite interest in their brand and is working with Sprint to offer the phone for $200 with a two year contract. We haven’t had a chance to play with the Pre yet, but it will support 3G networks for faster speeds, has a touch screen, full QWERTY keyboard, built in GPS, 3 megapixel camera, Bluetooth, 8GB of storage, USB 2.0 support with micro USB connector, Microsoft Outlook with POP/IMAP for e-mail, and the Palm App Catalog for downloading useful and entertaining apps.

When it comes to touch screen interfaces, let’s face it, Apple set the standard with the iPhone, but the Pre’s operating system (OS), the Palm® webOS™, looks as though it does a great job building on what ground Apple has already broken. One of the nice touches they’ve added that differs from the iPhone is allowing you to switch between running applications without having to shut down one in order to run the other. The iPhone team supposedly dodged this hurdle in order to save on battery life (makes sense), but with Palm’s webOS, the Pre doesn’t have this limitation.  If you're a Sprint customer, this is definitely one to keep an eye on.

Also coming in June is Apple's third generation iPhone. The buzz around the industry is that Apple will make the official announcement about the new devices on June 8th, and have them available for purchase on or around July 17th.  Apple has released a good deal about the new iPhone thus far throughout 2009, but one of the largest questions yet to be answered is, “what’s it going to cost?” For months there have been rumors of a $99 iPhone, yet to be substantiated, but even at $199 an iPhone is a great deal.  There has also been talk of Apple making the iPhone available to carriers other than AT&T, but thus far nothing concrete seems to be forthcoming. 

The new iPhone will boast some fantastic improvements over the previous two generations, including video recording, a better camera, faster internet browsing, cut/copy/paste, multimedia text messaging (at last!), and recording voice memos that can be e-mailed.  There's also been talk of the new version allowing for apps to run in the background.  All these things are exceptionally useful to appraisers.  Also, from what we’ve gathered, iPhone 2.0 owners will be able to upgrade the iPhone OS to take advantage of these new features, while iPhone 1.0 users won’t.  Regardless, the iPhone is a superb device for appraisers, and we're anxious for this upcoming release.

And while we’re talking about the iPhone, development on our temporarily named iTOTAL (think DaVinci Mobile for the iPhone) is coming along rapidly, and is being programmed to take full advantage of everything iPhone 3.0 will offer. For more information, visit www.alamode.com/labs.

Next up is Verizon and the mostly hazy details on the forthcoming next gen Blackberry made by Research In Motion (RIM). Blackberries tend to have cool names like Storm, Pearl, Curve or Magnum, but as of this writing, the new name doesn’t seem to have been released yet. The most recent Blackberry offering from RIM, the Storm, has been panned by many as a dud due primarily to a clunky attempt at a touch screen interface.  The upcoming Blackberry seems to have cured that problem from what we’ve been able to tell. It's germaine to note that RIM hired Don Lindsay as VP of User Experience. Previously he spent 10 years at Apple directing the User Experience team on multiple Mac OS X releases, and it's logical to assume that RIM hopes he’ll be able to use that experience on the Blackberry team.

As for features, the new Blackberry drops the trackball in favor of sporting a new and improved touch screen interface and full QWERTY keyboard. And RIM is also updating the operating system on the Blackberry to include Push technology that enables apps to run in the background and keep pinging a server for updated information while concurrently using other apps, supposedly without running the battery dry. Details on this device continue to trickle in, and a more complete picture should be available in June.  From what we hear, Crackberry users, prepare to rejoice.  We know many appraisers that rely on their Blackberry devices to manage their business while away from their computer, and all signs point to that being even better with this upcoming release.

T-Mobile/Google Android
Last is T-Mobile, perhaps the smallest US carrier (maybe they should have kept Catherine Zeta-Jones as a spokeswoman, she wasn't hard to look at), and their talk of a new Android phone this summer. Android is Google's Linux-based, open source OS designed for Smartphones. The first version of these phones, the T-Mobile G1 or the HTC Dream, apparently failed to set the world on fire, but many manufacturers are lining up to give it another shot. The iPhone is all the rage, but it’s important to remember that Google probably has a much bigger fan base than Apple in the development world. As a result, several manufacturers are lining up to develop their own Android handsets, and Samsung, one of the largest handset manufacturers in the world, may have a new Android phone for both T-Mobile and Sprint/Nextel in June.

It's been reported that T-Mobile has sold over 1 million Android phones so far, which is a relative drop in the bucket, but that's still a one with six zeros.  The Android OS has Bluetooth support, video recording and playback, copy and paste, and full support for Google-brand tools like Gmail, maps, Google Talk, contacts and the calendar. And because Google encourages developers to take advantage of the open source Android OS, you can download AppWidgets, similar to Apple's App Store and Palm's App Catalog.  One major drawback, however, is that it still doesn’t have the ability to pinch-zoom maps, photos and web pages like the iPhone. That’s something you never realized you wanted until you had it, much like the microwave.

Depending on your carrier, network quality in your area, or wants and needs in a smartphone, June will have some interesting new offerings for appraisers looking to more efficiently run their business while on-the-go.  And pragmatism aside, if you’re a gadget freak like we are, new stuff equals good times.

Sources:  The Business Insider - Silicon Alley Insider, and cnet.com.