Motorola Backflip (MB300) Review

Motorola Backflip (folded open, ready to use keyboard)
I have been using a Motorola BACKFLIP as my primary phone on AT&T for the last month. It is my first experience with the Android OS and smart-phones in general (my previous phone was a Motorola Razor V3xx “feature” phone), as well as my first full QWERTY keyboard on a phone. Overall it has been a positive experience. For the rest of my review, keep reading…
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Android Phones on AT&T

If you are looking for a 3G phone running Android on AT&T, the pickings are slim. (Mostly because AT&T’s 3G bands are not compatible with many other carriers, and most Android GSM phones work with T-Mobile’s 3G bands. If you are willing to drop down to quad-band EDGE data most GSM Android phones will “work” with AT&T, they just suffer from slow networking.) Continue reading

US GSM Bands (T-Mobile, AT&T)

AT&T and T-Mobile are the two main providers (in the USA) who provide GSM service. Below are the main cellular bands they use.

GSM: 850 and 1900
3G: 850 and 1900

GSM 1900
3G: 1700 (AWS) and 2100MHz

GSM bands not supported in the USA, but active in other countries: 900 and 1800.

Internationally, you may need the 900 and 1800 bands, especially in Europe and Asia (many south American countries work on the 1900 GSM band). If you have a “quad-band” phone it will work everywhere.

Sometimes these bands are called by acronyms instead of frequencies:
UMTS: 2100
PCS: 1900
DCS: 1800
AWS: 1700 (or simply AWS)

The advanced wireless system is a new block of bandwidth that has been opened up for use in the USA. AWS Overlaps with UMTS and DCS (1700/1800 and 2100) The convention appears to be labeling AWS with the number 1700, because 1800 and 2100 are already used to indicate other things.

Motofone F3 working with AT&T Voicemail

A reader has reported that he purchased a Motofone F3 from “Monster-Cellular-Store” on ebay that came with a Cingular branded pleather case and it is set up to work correctly with the AT&T voicemail indicator system. The one I purchased however is still not working, so it appears that some setting or configuration is needed to make them work on the AT&T system. A picture of Neil’s phone and Cingular branded case is below:

Motofone F3 with Cingular branded case

Motofone F3 with Cingular branded case

I would love to know if some type of user configuration can be done with the keypad to make the voicemail work with AT&T.

Laptop Battery Refill update

I refilled the Li-ion cells in my laptop battery about 18 months ago.The battery has worked as expected since then. The only "special" treatment this battery gets is that it travels in my laptop (as opposed to being the extra battery in my backpack) when traveling through TSA security checkpoints. (I figure it's better the have the battery with the fully applied IBM label sticker visible in the backpack, and the battery where I pulled off the label sticker to dissasemble it safely integrated with the laptop.) 

Laptop Battery

Over the last 18 months, the battery capacity has reduced itself to 44% of the original value (This happens with LiIon cells as they age). My last full capacity ACPI reading is now  21060 mWh, and provides 1-2 hours of working time on my IBM X31 Thinkpad. In a few more months it will be time to replace the Li-Ion cells again. Luckly, a friend gave me an IBM T60 extended battery (containing 8 cells) that had failed. When I took it appart, it appeared that 6 of the cells worked fine, and two of the cells were dead (killing the entire battery). TaDa! 6 free replacement cells! 

Motofone F3 (North American version)

I purchased a north American version of the Motofone F3 (Manufactured in Brazil), which operates on the 850/1900 Mhz GSM bands (used almost exclusively in North America) for $34 including S/H from After plugging my SIM card in the phone it reported that it was on the AT-T network. My original Motofone F3 from India worked only on the 900/1800 bands, and wouldn't work on the AT&T network (or any other North American network). 

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MythTV to phone (.3gp) transcoder script and Bluetooth transfer

I built a perl script that can be used as a "User Job" from within mythtv to convert a recorded TV program into a cell phone (.3gp) movie. It makes uses of to get the show and title (for the filename) and mplayer/mencoder and ffmpeg to do the actual transcoding.

Unless you want to drop your files off in the /var/lib/mythtv/for_phone directory, you will need to edit the output directory.  I've found that 35 minutes of TV gets shrunken down to 24-30megs when in .3gp format when transcoded at a generous 80/16 (video/audio bitrate).

Script to transcode from mythtv files to .3gp files

I wrote a second script to transfer any files in this directory to my phone via bluetooth OBEX push every night. I use cron to start the script up each night, and it looks for any .3gp files in the directory and tries to copy them to my phone. If successful, it removes them from the directory.  Note that my Motorola V3xx has an annoying feature where it will receive OBEX bluetooth files into phone memory, and NOT to the default download location (which can be set to the memory card). If your phone is similar, you will have to copy files from the phone's memory to the memory card so that your phone's memory doesn't get full. If your phone's memory gets full, it will refuse further bluetooth transfers until you move the files over to a memory card. 

Script that does a bluetooth transfer to phone

Note that to use this script you will have to find your phone's bluetooth mac address (using "hcitool scan") and put it in the script. Also, you should pair your phone with your computer, and set your phone up to automatically accept OBEX push/FTP transfers unless you want to manually approve each video transfer.

Cingular/ATT is locking down newer V3XX phones

AT&T Death StarI have one of the first Cingular branded v3xx phones that was released when they first hit the market. Although it came pre-stocked with shortcuts to Cingular stores, Cingular Music downloads, and had things like the IMAP email client disabled by default, it was still relatively easy to hack. I was able to use P2kCommander over a USB cable to enable cool features like allowing unsigned java applications to access the internet , and the IMAP email client.  

To use P2kCommander, you had to go into your Settings->Connection->USB Settings and make sure that the default connection type was set to Data Connection (as opposed to Memory Card or USB Printing). If you couldn't set it to Data Connection, you can't use P2kCommander. (Or use the phone as a modem via a USB cable.)

A reader recently wrote in that Continue reading

MIME Types for hosting J2ME .jar and .jad files

If you want a mobile phone to be able to download and install a java application (.jad/.jar file) from your website, you need to set up the correct MIME types for .jar and .jad files if they have not been set up by your webhost.

With apache, you can usually do this on a per-directory basis by adding the following lines to your .htaccess file:

addtype text/ jad
addtype application/java-archive jar

Freeing my V3xx phone from Cingular

After getting ATT/Cingular to take the subsidy lock off my phone, I decided to flash it with the generic International Motorola firmware. The advantages:

  • The Motorola firmware is not “branded” and gets rid of all of the “Shop Cingular” links, menu items, etc.
  • The quadband firmware claims to support all 4 GSM bands (instead of the 3 that the Cingular firmware supports).

The downsides:

  • The Motorola firmware is not “branded”, and I had to re-configure any Cingular specific settings that I like, such as the MediaNet connectivity settings and Cingular Video bookmarks.
  • The Cingular version of the phone has a slightly different button layout than the Motorola generic version (the Clear key is swapped with the Cingular Video key) and I had to remap those keys back to match the custom key layout.
  • Because I flashed the phone, all of my previous SEEM edits and java fixes were lost, so I had to repeat them.

As daunting as the downside list is, I have to say that getting rid of all of the Cingular branding was like a breath of fresh air. You really don’t notice how bad the branding was until it’s gone. Then you just notice all of the extra room in the menus, bookmark lists, etc.

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