Tue Jun 9 19:41:08 UTC 2009

jesusphone day two

After using the Pre for a few days, there's a couple of nits I'd like to pick.

The micro usb port is covered by a fiddly little friction-fit dust cover, which must be a feature designed to offset the convience of a single charging standard, since it was also on my work phone. I ripped that son of a bitch out, since life is too short to spend five minutes spudging the little bastard out with my fingernails every time I want to charge the phone.

The software is very clearly a 1.0 product. Not the OSS 1.0, where a major version number means that the result is bulletproof, but a Microsoft 1.0, which is whatever code checked in when the deadline hits, then shoved out the door. Gestures aren't recognized, window managers get confused, browsers refuse to respond, mp3 playback stutters and occasionally fails. (!)

But it's cool, I bought a gadget on launch day, I knew what I was getting into. Early adopters are the ablative minesweepers of the tech world, blundering onto high explosives as to clear a path for the normal people.

But the camera app. Oh man, the camera app. Let me show you a picture.

The camera isn't magic. It's a tiny, high resolution sensor paired with a tiny, cheap lens, and has the usual bucket of phone camera problems. Terrible low light performance, buckets of chromatic abberation, barrel distortion, lousy focus, electronic shutter artefacting, I could go on. But it's a phone camera! You're not going to be using it for anything serious, so who cares?

But, amazingly enough, the camera software manages to be the weak link in this equation.

Look at that picture again. It's okay enough, even though you can still see sensor noise at, what, 15% of the original resolution, but otherwise it's a perfectly serviceable motion blur shot of a testing Link train, if that was what you were going for. Which it wasn't.

(Background, for those unfamiliar with Seattle mass transit. This picture was taken in the Pioneer Square station of the downtown Seattle transit tunnel, which, for the last twenty years, has been keeping buses off of the surface streets, and from making Seattle traffic that much worse. A couple of years ago it was retrofitted to carry light rail traffic, as part of the grand Link Light Rail project, opening July 18th, and for which it will eventually be dedicated to, around 2020. Recently our fine elected officals have been talking up how the tunnel is the only in the world to carry both bus and train traffic, presumably because it is an election year and they want to take as much credit as possible for the $BIGNUM billion dollar project they've been babying for the past decade.)

Here's the process I went through to take that picture, presented in ordered list form, because I just can't get enough of it.

  1. Notice, by the thundering ringing, that, unusually, there is a testing train pulling up to the platform. Decide to take a picture.
  2. Navigate out of the mp3 player and tap on the camera icon.
  3. Wait ten seconds. The train has now come to a stop.
  4. The app has finally opened, but the UI isn't showing up, and it's ignoring key presses.
  5. Wait fifteen seconds.
  6. The UI finally appears. Press the green "take picture" button.
  7. It makes a clicking noise, but, used to its lies, you keep the camera pointed at the train. DHS guard looks at you funny.
  8. The train starts pulling away, and the screen freezes. This means it has now captured a picture.
  9. Wait ten seconds.
  10. The app becomes responsive again. Tap on the "open gallery" to view the photo you just took.
  11. Wait thirty seconds.
  12. Wail. Gnash teeth. Curse Palm, Sprint, the shareholders and employees of each, and yea, unto the third generation shall you inflict your vengence, great and terrible, for these brigands shall long for death afore your hatred grows dim.

The engadget review mentioned the quality and lack of shutter lag in the camera application. Golly, he must have gotten the Reviewer's Version, the software lacking the hideous, showstopping bugs that Palm instead inflicted on their paying customers. I would like that magical, non-shitty camera app too, Palm.

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