• howard

    by Published on 04-22-2016 03:36 PM
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    Yesterday I wrote about Desjardin Insuranceís Ajusto app and wasnít planning to write about it again for a while but I wanted to mention a few more things I forgot to yesterday.

    First up though, since Iíve been using it for more than a day I got my first score (as opposed to a trip score) on my iPhone.

    After a day of very careful driving I managed, wait for it, 89 out of 100. ...
    by Published on 04-21-2016 02:58 PM
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    Before my kids came, I used to really enjoy driving games. Forza 2 on my Xbox 360 was my favorite but no matter the game, the goal was typically the same, get from point A to point B as quickly as possible.

    That is till now. I just downloaded Desjardinsí Ajusto app to my iPhone (also available for Android). Itís an app which analyzes how you drive and gives each trip a score out of 100. You get points for driving smooth, not cornering too hard, not speeding and not accelerating too quickly. Sounds like the recipe for the most boring car game ever.
    ...
    by Published on 04-20-2016 03:22 PM
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    The other day, I wrote about my Nexus 4 and how itís still able to get the job done. What I didnít mention was that I was also fiddling with my Nexus One from many years ago. While a bit smaller, feature wise, itís not all that far from the current crop of Nexusí.

    Oh and before I continue, all the pictures here were taken with the very same Nexus 4 I wrote about yesterday. Itís old, not obsolete!

    I mean the recipe for a smartphone hasnít changed all that much. Theyíre still basically just a processor, touch screen, RAM, storage, camera(s), speaker(s), radio and software, all crammed into a bar like device. Despite manufacturerís best efforts, this recipe probably wonít change for a while.

    Along the way, companies have tried to mix things up. Samsung includes a heart rate sensor on many models. The Note series includes a stylus. They also included a UV sensor on the Note 4.

    A few have tried infrared blasters. There are a handful of phones with dual rear cameras, for various reasons including 2 different focal lengths, fake bokeh effects, 3D, you name it.

    Call it innovation or running out of ideas, but there is one feature which is slowly becoming a standard feature which I absolutely love; the fingerprint reader.
    ...
    by Published on 04-19-2016 01:36 PM
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    A friend was playing with my HTC 10 and GS7 Edge the other day when the topic of handling came up. In my reviews, I occasionally pan a perfectly good phone simply because I donít think it handles well. Of course, my friendís response was to ask me what the hell I was talking about.

    Let me explain. I typically try to use my phone with one hand as much as possible - even if Iím using one considered to be phablet.

    The thing is, Iíve owned many phones over the years and despite it happening a few times, Iíve never gotten used to the sinking feeling I get when I drop a phone. Itís terrible when my reflex to catch it actually causes it to go even higher and then thereís the sickly crash when it hits the ground followed by a few more bounces. When I pick the phone up Iím usually in denial and avoid looking at the damage for as long as possible.

    As such, I always hold my phone very securely so that I wonít drop it even if even if someone were to bump into me.
    ...
    by Published on 04-18-2016 07:43 PM
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    Forgive me for the provocative title, but I was doing some spring cleaning the other day when I stumbled across my old LG Nexus 4. Released in late 2012, itís now a little over 3 years old and no longer gets the latest version of Android from Google.

    I turned it on and it still works just fine. It got me thinking; just how fast is it compared to something more contemporary? And since when is something barely 3 years old not contemporary?

    Since the Nexus 4 came out, itís seen 3 generations of successors. After the 4 came the LG Nexus 5 in 2013. 2014 saw the Motorola Nexus 6 while 2015 saw a pair of Nexus (Nexi?); the Huawei Nexus 6P and LG Nexus 5x.

    If I may jog your memory, the Nexus 4 came:


    • quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon Pro 1.5Ghz SoC
    • 2GB RAM
    • 8GB or 16GB storage
    • 4.7Ē 1280x768 LCD
    • 8MP rear camera
    • 1.3MP front camera
    • 2100mAh battery
    • Android 4.2 at release now at 5.1.1


    Aside from lacking official LTE support and the slightly lower resolution display, the 4 doesnít seem very far off from the latest Nexus devices. So, what kind of jumps in performance do we see from one generation to the next?
    ...
    by Published on 04-15-2016 11:05 AM
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    Previously I discussed the merits of both the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge and HTC 10ís speakers. If you missed it, both have different strengths but are excellent in their own way.

    To make things more spicy, I figured Iíd toss the iPhone 6s Plus and Huawei Nexus 6P into the equation.

    Next up, letís talk screens; The HTC 10, Edge and Nexus all have 2560x1440 displays while the iPhone gets by with a more modest 1920x1080. If you look really closely there is a small difference in sharpness between the Androids and the iPhoneís display. However, all displays have more than 400PPI which to my eyes is enough that I donít really care about having more.
    ...
    by Published on 04-14-2016 02:43 PM
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    Since Andrew is off for a couple of weeks, Iím going to try to take over and share some thoughts each day. Recently, Iíve been playing with the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge and HTC 10 (LG G5 is coming but not here yet) so I figured I compare the 2. Iíll have full reviews for all 3 phones eventually but for now Iím just going to focus on specific areas.

    As a reviewer, one of my jobs is to figure out if newer models are better than previous ones. However, when it comes to features, once theyíve reached a point where theyíre ďgood enoughĒ, most people stop caring about them.

    A good example is screen size. Once phones breached 5.5ish inches most people stopped clamouring for bigger screens. Itís not to say that future phones wonít get bigger, just that the current crop of screens are large enough for most. If we find new ways to use our phones that require a bigger screen, this will obviously change.

    Another thing people donít really about anymore is camera resolution. As long as you have more than 10 megapixels (enough to also capture 4K video) most people donít really care about having more. Itís enough for Facebook/Instagram and thus enough for most.

    Still, there are still areas which can use some improving. Areas which Iíll be focusing more on.



    First up are the speakers. The 10 and Edge both have 2 speakers; one on the earpiece and a bigger one on the bottom. ...
    by Published on 04-12-2016 07:46 AM
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    I had a chance to play with the HTC 10 the other day. Here are some first impressions:



    While the 10ís predecessors, the M7, M8 and M9 all shared a common design language, the 10 takes a different approach. The speaker grill stickers are gone in favor of a more minimalistic all-glass front. I donít know about you but the grills starting to get long in the tooth so this is a welcome change.



    That said, looking at the pictures I kind of wish the silver version came with a white front as the black front is a bit bland but maybe thatís just me. ...
    by Published on 04-01-2016 12:44 PM
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    Until last year, the previous couple of iterations in the Galaxy S lineup were pretty predictable. They were all plastic bodied phones with removable batteries and memory. Then last year, they took the Galaxy S line in a new direction. The GS6 had an all glass and metal body and they did away with the user changeable battery and MicroSD. The last change struck a chord with users because you had to decide how much storage youíd ever need when you bought the phone plus youíd have to pay an inflated price if you needed more than the base model - just like you do with an iPhone.

    Fortunately, the MicroSD is back with the latest version along with water resistance - a feature which took a hiatus last year.

    Otherwise, the GS7 is an evolution of the GS6. The look follows Samsungís latest design language, the camera has been improved, you get a more powerful processor a bigger battery. That sort of thing. Is it worth the upgrade? ...
    by Published on 03-14-2016 08:46 PM
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    In the past, Iíve written about my new hobby, wearing Ďdumbí watches. Youíd think that a phone nerd like myself would be all over smartwatches but in fact, I was so annoyed by the ones Iíve tried, it actually caused me to start wearing regular watches again.

    Between the constant charging, the poor ease of use, questionable styling and finishes, and inability to do anything well, smartwatches in general left me wanting.

    However, they did remind me that I like wearing something on my wrist so I went from wearing nothing on my arm to wearing something again.



    Since then, Iíve picked up a few pieces - divers watches, pilot watches, chronographs, automatics, manual winders, radioactive (thatís right), military style, skeletons, etc.



    However, something happened. Getting all these watches made me more open to watches in general and thus more open to smart watches. Talk about drama!



    But thatís not all, the soap opera that is my left arm isnít over yet. How do I choose which watch to wear? While my regular watches can sit in my watch box just fine for a few days here and there, itís best to wear a smartwatch daily. What to do? What to do? ...
    by Published on 03-10-2016 01:21 PM
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    I had a chance to play with the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge the other day. Here are my first impressions.


    GS7 Edge

    First off, there are some changes in the lineup. Last year we had the 5.1Ē S6 Edge which was released in Q1 and then the larger 5.7Ē S6 Edge Plus in Q3.


    GS7

    Theyíve simplified the 2 Edge phones and consolidated them into one model - you guessed it; the S7 Edge.



    While there are 2 S7ís, the regular and the Edge, the Edge has grown considerably and now sports a 5.5Ē screen, which takes it closer to the S6 Plusí Phablet size. ...
    by Published on 02-17-2016 03:55 PM
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    Itís hard to believe, but at one point Blackberry was a Smartphone market leader. Of course, the Smartphone industry moves at a brutal pace and now Blackberryís latest Operating System, BB10 is lagging behind.

    So they have 2 choices; Keep plugging on with BB10 and devoting the kind of resources it takes to keep it up to date and competitive or switch to Android to help cut costs and to also broaden their devices appeal. Well, I guess thereís 3rd choice, they could jump from their burning platform and.. oh never mind.

    Anyways, Blackberry has taken the plunge with their first Android device, the Priv. Letís check it out. ...
    by Published on 01-29-2016 03:19 PM
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    Samsungís not the kind of company that believes less is more. Their strategy is to saturate the market at pretty much all price points often times with multiple overlapping models.

    The Samsung Galaxy A5 was released in Canada recently. Looking at the spec sheet, highlights include a 5Ē 1280x720 display, 13 megapixel camera, a Snapdragon 410 processor and 2GB of RAM. The biggest feature however is the metal frame which makes it very solid. Please note that even though it was released in Canada in late 2015, this is the 2014 version of the A5, the SM-A500W. ...
    by Published on 01-14-2016 01:09 PM
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    Hereís my review of Microsoftís Lumia 950. Iíll be honest, I normally carry an iPhone (6s Plus) and some sort of Android device (lately a LG G4 or Nexus 6P) around with me. I only play with Windows Phones when I have a unit that Iím reviewing. This will help you understand the type of shades Iím wearing when I look at a Windows Phone - you'll understand where Iím coming from.
    ...
    by Published on 01-08-2016 12:48 PM
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    Iíve been trying out Microsoftís Lumia 950 Windows Phone all week. The fact that it runs me Microsoft's Windows made me get a bit nostalgic. Iím a bit of an old-school gadget nerd. Iíve been working on HowardForums for over 15 years now and while Iím a huge phone nerd who always regrets not keeping every single phone Iíve ever owned, my original love will always be desktop computers.

    My memory is a bit hazy but around the time I started the site I had an Intel Pentium 133MMX laptop running Windows ME which was soon to be replaced with an Athlon 600 which I built myself. Hereís a bit of trivia, the first computer HowardForums had all to itself was a Celeron 300 (or was it a 600) which was overclocked. It ran Linux and had a 40GB hard drive. It was cobbled together from new and existing parts I had lying around.

    Over the years I would replace my computer as often as I could afford. Fortunately I had a girlfriend (now wife) who was okay with this. However, a few years back something happen; My interest in computers started to wane. Instead of replacing my computer every year Iíd start replacing it every 2 years. Then I went through an almost 4 or 5 year stint where I didnít change it and really didnít think twice about this.

    Last year I built myself an 8 core Intel computer and unless it breaks I really donít see myself getting rid of it unless it breaks.

    I guess the reason why I stopped caring about computers is that newer versions didnít really do anything my old computer could already do. Mind you with desktops you can always upgrade it incrementally. Want more space? Buy a new hard drive. What better speakers? Swap those out.

    It makes me wonder, are we at that point with phones? ...
    by Published on 01-07-2016 02:47 PM
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    Iím dusting off my crystal bowl to make a prediction; 2016 is going to be a much more expensive year to be a phone nerd in Canada.

    Hereís some background; most manufacturers who sell phones in Canada are a usually run by an office in the States. Sure they have a presence here in Canada but the next step up the ladder usually leads down south.

    As such, their performance is ultimately judged in US dollars.

    A few years ago, the Looney was actually worth more than the Greenback and those were probably good times for them. Theyíd just pretend the 2 currencies were at par and theyíd actually earn a tiny bit more revenue on phones sold here. Mind you, the Canadian market is probably 1/10 what it is down south so thereís more scale down south too but thatís for another article.

    However, the Greenback has been gaining steam the last few years and itís gone from par to now where itís worth 40% more than the Looney. ...
    by Published on 01-06-2016 11:24 AM
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    Iíve been reviewing smartwatches on and off for the past few years. If you look closely youíll notice that Iím not generally a big fan of them. I don't like how they take 2 hands to operate; you need one wrist to hold it up and your other hand to operate it. By the time Iíve done that Iím better off taking a phone out of my pocket and using it with one hand.

    So check it out, I got so dissatisfied with Smartwatches in general that I started wearing regular or Ďdumbí watches again even though I stopped wearing them all together a few years ago.

    I guess I missed the feeling of having something on my wrist. As I tried more and more smart watches I got even more annoyed and purchased my first mechanical watch or should I say watches.



    What is a mechanical watch? Smartwatches store power in a lithium ion battery. Mechanical watches store energy inside a spring which powers the watch as it unwinds.

    So why am I talking about mechanical watches on HowardForums? Well, you know that feeling of disappointment when you get a new watch and scratch it? Thatís something to common to both smart and dumb watches.
    ...
    by Published on 01-05-2016 09:23 AM
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    I recently received a Nok- I mean Microsoft Lumia 950. Iím currently working on a full review but since Andrew is on vacation I figured Iíd share some first impressions. Full disclosure, these are MY FIRST impressions and purely anecdotal - chances are theyíll be completely different from my review which Iíll publish in a few days.



    The first thing I noticed is that the box is way bigger than I was expecting. It made me kind of nostalgic. Back in the day, you could tell how fancy a phone is by the size of the box so seeing the 950ís made me feel kind of nostalgic. You get points if you remember the Nokia n97. It reminded me of the n97ís box. You could fit 3 or 4 iPhone 6sí or Galaxy S6ís in the 950ís box. Ergo, it must be better right? ...
    by Published on 01-04-2016 11:53 AM
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    Recently, I started cooking with my cast iron cookware. Unlike 'regular' Teflon coated pans, cast iron can handle temperatures of 600+ degrees. While cooking at 600 makes for some tasty, juicy food, the heat blows more smoke than a politician.

    There's enough that it usually sets off my smoke detector. This is a problem when you have young kids in the house as the beeping from the detector will wake them up/scare the hell out of them. Still, I put up with this until one night at 5AM one started to beep because the battery needed to be replaced. That was the last straw - I decided I needed a smarter smoke detector that would politely alert my phone when there was a problem rather than me having to figure out what's going on. Oh and in case you're wondering, I have a fancy range hood fan.

    We don't make the greatest decisions when we're woken up in the middle of the night so in my sleepy haze I decided to pick up a Nest Protect, or rather 3 Nest Protects for my house. My house has 3 floors so I replaced the old detector(s) on each floor. ...
    by Published on 12-15-2015 02:01 PM
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    Last year, OnePlus made a big splash with their first model; the One which they dubbed the ďflagship killerĒ.

    However, the Ďalmost flagshipí market has matured considerably in 2015 and now, there is quite a gap between the the Oneís follow up; the 2 and an entry level handset.

    With that in mind, hereís the OnePlus X which is designed and priced to fit neatly in this gap.

    It basically has the guts of a late 2014/early 2015 flagship with an upper-midrange price tag.
    ...
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