The Adventures of Don Chapman

I lead an exciting life.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Why I Switched from the iPhone to the Sprint EVO

I've been a proud owner of an iPhone 3G for two years (read my love letter about the iPhone.) This little device has enhanced my life - I don't think of it as merely a phone but as a personal computing device. And as my lifestyle has adapted to it I've realized I want more. Here's why I made the switch to the Sprint EVO:

1. Bigger screen. Since I'm starting to treat my smartphone as a mini-laptop I want a bigger screen. I'm finding myself browsing the web, reading articles and watching puppy videos posted by my Facebook friends. After I wake up in the morning I reach for my phone for the latest news. I'll plop down on the couch later in the day and catch up on Twitter. The new iPhone 4G has higher resolution but the same size screen as my 3G model. I don't want crisper, tinier text - I want a bigger screen. I love how double tapping any EVO web browser page will automatically center the text on the screen and enlarge it. It's a pleasurable breeze to surf websites with this thing. I picked up my old iPhone the other day and was amused at how tiny it seemed. I can't imagine going back to it.

2. Flash. It seems like one out of three posts or news items I view on my iPhone link to a Flash video and I can't see it. Very frustrating. And from Steve Job's recent, disturbing diatribe about Adobe Flash I assume the iPhone will never have it (Flash is "closed and proprietary?" LOL really, Mr. Jobs?) When I visited the Sprint store to test the EVO I immediately pulled up my website that has a flash MP3 player on the homepage. I literally gasped. Not only is the EVO screen huge, brilliant and beautiful, the MP3 Flash player on my website appeared and worked perfectly. I didn't think Android would get Flash until 2.2 but there it was, working and playing MP3s like a charm. Plus, the Android browser rendered my website as perfectly as any laptop, whereas iPhone's Safari browser never could get the spacing correct.

3. Tethering. If I recall correctly, AT&T claimed the iPhone would tether last summer. As of the time of this writing, still nothing (tethering is your phone's ability to connect to your laptop and provide Internet service.) The EVO can tether up to 8 computers. On the zippy 4G network this will supposedly approach DSL speeds. I only have 3G where I live but this morning I got 1.33 mbps download and .70 mbps upload speeds - fine for checking email and browsing. The EVO's hotspot app worked instantly and perfectly with my laptop, setting up a WiFi hotspot with a password of my choosing.

Sprint sells a mobile broadband device that has a 5 gig limit for about $60 a month. I have unlimited Internet with the Sprint EVO for an extra $30 a month, so it's quite a deal.

I was out of town recently and needed WiFi so I headed to the local library. Got a signal but couldn't connect. Talked to two librarians and moved around the building three times. Nothing. That clinched the deal - I needed an EVO. I travel a lot and now I never have to worry again about getting Internet.

4. Navigation. The iPhone's navigation is abysmal unless you pay extra. My previous Blackberry was a primitive brick compared to the iPhone 3G but boy, could it navigate like nobody's bizness with a lovely female robotic voice providing directions. The EVO has TWO turn-by-turn navigation programs built in. I tested the EVO's Google Maps turn-by-turn vocal navigation and now I know what people have been raving about - it was mind boggling with the satellite overlay.

5. Sound quality. My first call on the EVO took me to a customer service rep who cheerfully welcomed me to Sprint. I immediately noticed a much fuller, louder sound quality than my iPhone.

6. Kickstand. I love this little bonus - an attached, sturdy kickstand to prop up the EVO. I used it to show off my YouTube videos the other day and the speaker is actually loud enough to be heard in a restaurant (forget that with the iPhone.) I can imagine propping up the EVO on the nightstand as my alarm clock when I travel.

7. Camera. Crisp, colorful 8 meg photos that are better than my point-and-shoot. High def video recorder, too.

8. Connection. Before I made the switch I Googled cell phone coverage comparisons. From what I could tell (and who knows if the information is accurate) Verizon is in the lead, followed by Sprint with AT&T far behind. I would tend to believe this as a buddy and I had dinner in a nearby little town - he couldn't send or receive texts on his iPhone but I had full coverage. An additional bonus is that you can hold the EVO any way you want and it will make calls. Steve Jobs has responded to iPhone 4 reception complaints by suggesting the iPhone should not be held on the left side (You're holding it wrong, Jobs says!)

9. Freedom. One blogger compared leaving the iPhone for the EVO to escaping a Communist work state. I feel the same way. I can customize the EVO to look and act the way I want. I'm amazed at how easy it is to transfer files of any type to my EVO. Plug it in to my laptop, click and drag (I just discovered an app that will transfer files wirelessly.) I hate clunky iTunes and now will never have to use it again.

Supposed Drawbacks:

1. Battery. I've read much ranting on blogs about the EVO's battery life. TechCrunch's Michael Arrington's bizarre rant against the EVO makes me question the man's motives. While the EVO doesn't last as long as my iPhone, it does last me well through the day and I plug it in at night with usually 20-30% battery life left. My 2 year old iPhone would last a day and a half and I would still plug it in every night anyway.

The iPhone 3G's straight jacketed operating system is what extended battery life - it won't multitask, tether or navigate - all things the EVO does naturally. When I tether, I plug the EVO into my laptop. When I navigate, I plug it into my car charger. One blogger contended that his jailbroken iPhone would gobble up the battery when tethering. Of course any CPU intensive activity will use energy.

The EVO should be managed just as you'd manage a laptop. I have an app to control the screen brightness and an app to close other apps working in the background that I don't need.

And I'll bet the way battery development is going, we'll have a nuclear powered battery by next year this time that will allow the EVO to last four months without a charge. And I'll be able to use this nuclear battery because the EVO's battery CAN be changed. Until then I've found several companies that already offer more powerful batteries for the EVO but so far I'm not finding I need one.

2. Apps. I'd say the Android app store is about 75% as good as the iPhone app store. I'm not an app person but I've found an Android version of just about everything I had on my iPhone - The Weather Channel, DropBox, PhotoShop, etc.

Bottom Line: If you want a bigger, brighter screen, an almost tablet/netbook experience and tethering, the EVO is for you.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

American Idol 2009

America has spoken. They don't like guys who wear black nail polish and guyliner.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Disney's American Idol Experience

Here's a behind the scenes look at my visit with Chris Sligh to the premier of Disney's new American Idol Experience on February 12, 2009.

Before the Disney experience, Chris led worship and I played the piano at the Metro II Music Conference - a gathering of church music directors. That evening we had dinner at Boizao Steakhouse in Tampa - the best Brazilian steakhouse I've been to so far. There we celebrated Chris's Rascal Flatts cut and first single "Here Comes Goodbye." This achievement is probably why American Idol invited Chris to the Disney premier - not all top ten finalists were invited as not all top ten finalists have careers.

Chris and I got to Orlando on Wednesday and Disney gave us each $100 meal cards. I've always wanted to eat at the California Grill - it's the restaurant on top of Disney's futuristic Contemporary Resort. The meal was great (not outstanding) but the service was exceptional. Our waiter was top-notch and loved telling stories of famous people he's waited on. He said his most unfriendly customers have been Rosie O'Donnell and Teresa Heinz Kerry! We didn't leave the place until after midnight. The view is incredible - big windows that look out to the Magic Kingdom and surrounding lake. This would be a great place to watch the nightly fireworks. Make sure you get reservations way in advance if you'd like to try it.

On Thursday Chris and I had lunch with Sligh SuperFan Carmen and her husband at Planet Hollywood in Downtown Disney. I had eaten at a Planet Hollywood once, many years ago when one opened in Nashville (it has since closed) and thought it was one of the worst meals of my entire life. Unfortunately nothing has changed.

After lunch, Chris and I met up with his manager, Mitch, and a Disney representative chauffeured us to the backstage of Disney's Hollywood Studios (formerly MGM) so Chris could get ready for the Idol parade. 

The Disney rep took Mitch and I into the park and led us to the VIP section where we could watch the parade. I recognized Harvey from Celebrity Fit Club. Chris is currently negotiating to be on the show. I asked Harvey what brought him to the premier. He said that he's never seen an episode of the show, but is dating Kimberly Locke (she was 3rd place on season 2, right behind Ruben and Clay.)

The Idols rode their own convertibles down a blue carpet through main street of the Hollywood Studios, and were interviewed at the end of the carpet.

After that they entered a tent for interviews, then walked down a press corridor for even more interviews.

Chris, Mitch and I were next ushered into a restaurant where we were served delicious hors d'oeuvres as we waited for the premier to begin. We sat next to Ace Young and his girlfriend - you almost wouldn't recognize him now that his hair is cut.

When the show was about to start we were all led into the American Idol Experience building. The first two front rows were all reserved for guests and we each had an assigned seat with our name on it. I sat between Chris and Phil Stacey. Phil's excited about working with super producer Brown Bannister on his new album. I noticed David Archuleta and his spooky dad in front of me to my left, Bo Bice in front of me to my right.

Both Chris and Phil were amazed at how eerily realistic the set is. It really is just like being on the show. Every day they'll have several shows with people who've auditioned in the park. At the end of the day, all the daily winners will compete for a ticket that will get them straight to an audition with Randy, Simon and Paula - no waiting for hours.

The show opened with a guest appearance from Ryan Seacrest. He introduced the five finalists. Paula came out on stage, rambled a bit then inexplicably started giving the contestants back rubs. Ryan said something like "Paula, remember the rules about interacting with contestants!" The audience howled. Paula stood there perturbed and said "shut up, Ryan!"

The show even comes complete with a fake Ryan Seacrest, a fake Randy, Paula and a fake Simon with British accent. Each contestant performed and received critiques from the judges.

But before the winner was announced, the real Ryan came out and told us we'd hear from some special guests. David Cook and 5 of his band members came out, sat on stools and sang an acoustic version of his hit "Lights On." Then Carrie Underwood came out with her band members and did an acoustic version of "All-American Girl." David came back out and they did a duet on the old Fleetwood Mac tune "Go Your Own Way." All I can say is wow - the sound was incredible, the musicianship was incredible and their vocals were incredible. Carrie has really grown as an artist.

Ryan introduced the other Idol winners from past years and they all were there: Ruben, Taylor, Fantasia, David, Carrie, Jordan... and then, sheepishly, Kelly walked out on stage. She seemed to have a weird vibe about her. I found out later there had been negotiations for days to get her there. That morning the negotiations were finalized and she flew out to Disney on a private jet and arrived an hour and half before the show! Two different Idols told me that they have hung out with Kelly several times in the past and she acted as if she didn't know them at the premier. Sounds like she's going through a diva spell.

It's clear who Idol wants to promote - their current favorites are definitely David and Carrie, and these talented two deserve it. They both sparkle. I heard Fantasia was let go from her management contract with 19 Entertainment and she didn't look so hot. Ruben has lost lots of weight but you don't hear much about him. Taylor also looked good but he, too, has fallen out of the public eye. At least Jordan's getting a few hits under her belt.

After the audience voted electronically (Phil's voting thingy didn't work and he said "what do you expect, it's Florida!") and the winner was announced (some quirky guy who beat out a real vocalist with talent) explosions and confetti filled the room.

After the show the Idols gathered out front and had their pics taken with Mickey. Conspicuously absent were Clay Aiken, Daughtry and Jennifer Hudson.

I chatted with Mandissa for a few moments - I had played piano for her and Matthew West when they did a Christmas concert at Brookwood Church a few months ago. Mandissa looked great - she's lost 70 lbs and plans on losing 30 more before her new single comes out.

I also got to talk with one of my favorite Idols - Melinda Doolittle. She had just been on the Ellen Show that week promoting her new CD. I reminisced with her about how all of this happened - we all sat in Chris's hotel room two years ago in Pasadena after they had gotten word they'd made it into the top twenty, and we all watched the Idol episode that night where Melinda had her original audition.

Everyone headed down to the Tower of Terror part of the park where Disney had food and drinks galore: sushi, chicken, fish, carved meats... you name it, and all delicious. By this time Disney had closed the park and this party was just for Idol guests. I stood at one of the neon-glowing tables and had a wonderful time chatting with Mike Blanton. He's one of the architects of Christian music, guiding the careers of Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith and others (including Chris, Phil and Melinda.)

Mike, Melinda and I went on the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster with some others (three times in a row with no waiting) and then joined Chris for the Tower of Terror. Melinda prayed loudly throughout the entire ride!

When that party died down we were whisked away by limo to an after party thrown by Idol's 19 Entertainment, held at Rix Lounge at the Coronado Springs Resort. Security guards were everywhere, and only the Idols and their friends & family were allowed to enter. Just more to eat in a dark place with very loud music.

If you want to see what it's like being on an American Idol show, I recommend Disney's American Idol Experience. It's actually two experiences in one: an audition experience and an audience experience. I was in the live audience on the real show I can tell you it's very realistic. Click through some of my posts on this blog and you can read about my visits to the show.

Friday, November 21, 2008

iPhone Review

My Sprint contract is up and it's time for a new phone. Of course I've been interested in the iPhone, especially now since the new version is out and it's less expensive.

I'm one to relentlessly investigate every option and wanted to make sure the iPhone was the best deal.

First I looked at Sprint. There's been much hype over the Sprint Instinct. I went to the Sprint store, played with it, then immediately went to Best Buy and played with the iPhone. No comparison - the iPhone is much more elegant. The screen is crisper, brighter and can best be described as watching a mini TV. The Instinct's web browser was slow and clunky, although it did render websites satisfactorily. The Sprint TV feature is cool but choppy - not breathtakingly, sharply beautiful like watching an iPhone YouTube clip over WiFi.

However, the Instinct is a nice phone, and several smartphone reviews place it 2nd, with iPhone being 1st. It's not a true smartphone - it doesn't have an operating system like the iPhone, but mimics smartphone capability with GPS, email and web browsing (tech guru Jason Calacanis has said he thinks of his iPhone as a mini laptop.)

Sprint has a great plan going for them: $99 for everything - unlimited text, voice calling and data. I've gotten used to the turn by turn GPS nav on my BlackBerry which the iPhone does not have and the Instinct does. I've also been with Sprint so long I can't remember NOT being with Sprint. Plus, the Instinct is about $70 cheaper than the iPhone.

So I decided on the Instinct. Circuit City had an Instinct special a few weeks ago - $99 for the phone (regularly $139.) I missed the sale but thought "well, I'm such a long-time, loyal Sprint customer, maybe they'll give me a deal."

I went to two Sprint stores. Neither would budge: $139 for the Instinct. So I called Sprint directly. Nope, wouldn't budge either - $139 and that's final. "But I just saw the Instinct on sale at Circuit City for $99!" Well, how about this, Sprint offered: we'll throw in free shipping! How generous.

Sprint's financial woes have been in the press lately and now I know why. If the Sprint customer service rep had said, "sure, we'll knock off $39 bucks and let you have the Instinct for $99 since you're such a great customer" I would have jumped. Aren't we in a recession or something? You'd think they'd be a little more willing to cut a deal.

With the Instinct option gone, I turned my attention to the Google phone. I'm a huge Google fan and since the release date was quickly approaching for the TMobile launch of Android, I started researching it. Reviews were mixed - some liked it, some didn't. One reviewer described it as "homely." It would be cool to have a new, talked-about phone not many people had, so I called a local TMobile store to find out more. Phone rang and rang, nobody answered. Called 2nd local store. No answer. Called 3rd local store. No answer. I turned to the Internet for info, which I'm finding should be my first choice for everything since customer service in all aspects of life is wretched.

Lo and behold, TMobile isn't even selling Android in South Carolina. I gave up, went straight to Best Buy and bought me an iPhone.

It's been one of the best purchases I've ever made.

First of all, the iPhone is now in its second generation. Bugs have been worked out with the hardware (for instance, the new iPhone can accept any headphone jack, the old iPhone wouldn't) and the operating system is being continually refined. Google and other smartphones are still in their first generation.

Basically I decided what's most important to me: web access. I'm a web guy and am constantly on the net for business and info. I don't care for the iPhone's Safari browser and wish it rendered flash, but it's still the best mobile browsing experience by leaps and bounds. On WiFi the browsing is even more zippy. Many smartphones, even the recently touted BlackBerry Storm as well as the Instinct, don't have WiFi capability.

People are complaining about 3G not being fast enough. 3G is the faster ATT network and is in most major metropolitan areas. Where there is no 3G there's the slower, older Edge network. I'm happy with 3G. I was on my way to Atlanta and was using the UrbanSpoon app to look for restaurants. I was in a dead Edge zone and the searches were sluggish. As I approached Atlanta I connected to 3G and the searches were noticeably faster.

Speaking of apps, the iPhone app store in itself provides lots of entertainment value. I love searching for new apps at the store and on the web. Many are free and most are under $5. My current faves are all free: Google search with voice, Flashlight (makes your iPhone screen shine as a decently bright flashlight if you need it), MiniPiano, GoogleEarth, Jott (talk into the iPhone and it transcribes your voice), TwitterFon and Twitterific. I think my first purchase will be AirSharing which turns the iPhone into a wireless USB storage device. I've also created links to USAToday, Gmail and PlanningCenterOnline which instantly open Safari to render app-like, custom iPhone views of these websites.

I hate to sound like an Apple fanboy (I'm a staunch Windows guy) but I consider the iPhone to be my most cherished possession. I was sold on Election Day. Stuck in the voting line for two hours, the iPhone kept me completely entertained the entire time. For somebody who hates being bored, I realized then and there I loved the device and I now keep it with me at all times.

Friday, November 07, 2008


Friday, September 05, 2008

Strings on Jeremy Camp's New CD

A few weeks ago I got this random email from Brown Bannister that said something like "do you have time to orchestrate a track - I need it in a few days." I happened to be in Nashville visiting Chris Sligh so we went over to Brown's studio. On the way I said "he probably wants me to do a demo or something." Chris replied "Brown doesn't do demos."

In the studio, Brown showed us his copy of the just-released 20th anniversary edition of Amy Grant's Lead Me On. I can't believe it's been 20 years!! I remember reading back then in the liner notes that one of the tracks had a Synclavier piano and I was amazed. A synthesized piano that sounds that good? Wow! What's funny is, 20 years later, the sound of my software piano from sounds way better. Plus, TruePianos cost $180.00 and the Synclavier cost at least $200,000.00 (that's not a typo!)

After some chit chat, Brown says, "so, I have this Jeremy Camp track I need strings for..." and I, of course, nearly wet my pants! He told me a little bit of what he wanted, burned me the track and I got in my car and raced back home to Greenville.

Importing the track into Sonar, I started playing around with some strings and we emailed back and forth until Brown was happy with the arrangement. Four days later I went back to Nashville for the most exciting session of my life - 5 violins, 2 violas and 2 cellos - a 9 piece studio strings section stacked two times for a rich, full sound.

Brown said "can you conduct?" I said "sure" and mentally retrieved my conducting class from college LOL! Arranger Philip Keveren, who had arranged strings for two songs at the same session, was kind enough to let me use his baton.

Since I had previously done a syth mockup of the strings, I knew how everything would sound and the session, thankfully, went off without a hitch. You don't want to be sitting there with 9 highly-hourly-paid session players in a high-dollar studio (1st Avenue in Franklin) trying to figure out what's wrong with your charts!

I worked on Jeremy's new song I Know Who I Am which is on his upcoming CD. The last I heard it's coming out this November 2008. One of the songs Philip arranged is called You Will Be There and it has a very cool vibe to it.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Radio Tour

Chris is currently on a multi-city radio promotions tour to support his new single, "Empty Me."

Since Greenville, SC (my home) has this crazy airline that offers one way flights for as low as $39, I thought I'd jet down to Orlando last week to observe this next stage of his adventures.

Chris is traveling with the talented Jon Skaggs, drummer extraordinaire. Jon acts as road manager, keeping Chris on schedule, then whips out his djembe on command to accompany Chris for in-house, live over-the-air performances.

Jon is a dream drummer who does two things, in particular, that I have begged church drummers to do over the years: he's happy to play to a click if need be and enjoys creating his own custom drum loops on his computer. That's probably why he's played with Nichole Nordeman, Bethany Dillon, Brandon Heath and Casting Crowns to name a few, and your church drummer... sells insurance.

The boys arise as early as 5am to make a station's morning show, entertaining folks as they drive to work. After lunch and perhaps a mid-day nap, they're off to another town for an interview on a station's afternoon show, entertaining folks as they drive home from work.

Most artists hate doing radio promos. Chris, on the other hand, is not your average artist, and loves promoting his music any way he can (plus he's had great experience doing radio promos while on American Idol.)

In between the excitement we managed to experience the wonders of the Magic Kingdom, and dine at my new, favorite type of restaurant: the Brazilian Steakhouse. Try the delicious Texas de Brazil the next time you're in Orlando. You'll be in meat-lover's heaven as "Gauchos" bring you all the slow-roasted steak and chicken you could possibly want.