• Devices

    by Published on 04-16-2015 07:45 AM
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    Just yesterday I topped up my mom's SpeakOut Prepaid account for another year. You wouldn't think that a housebound senior would have any need for a mobile phone, but the benefits are actually twofold: (1) I get peace of mind in case the power goes out, taking her cordless landline phone system with it, and (2) she gets to enjoy a network-connected timepiece—not at all what I expected but she loves it for that reason alone.

    It helps that her handset, the Snapfon ezTWO, was made expressly for seniors. But what if the elder in your life prefers a flip phone form factor? If that's what you're after, I've got just the device for you... Meet the Jethro SC213B, $44.99 unlocked from Amazon Canada. My girlfriend bought one for her 70 years-young mom, and it looks like another winner for seniors. ...
    by Published on 04-15-2015 07:25 AM
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    2. Devices,
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    Here's a random photo from the Medical Imaging Department at Toronto's St. Michael's Hospital, where my mom had some tests done a week ago today. She turns 90 next month, and her age is catching up with her. This post isn't about her, though—it's about my brother's BlackBerry Classic.

    What can I say? I'm a horrible son. ...
    by Published on 04-14-2015 07:20 AM
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    2. Devices,
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    My favourite Android smartphone of 2014 is holding up quite well. And it's about to get even better, as the official Lollipop-based Cyanogen OS 12 is finally, finally starting to roll out to users around the world. I myself would be content to stick with Android 4.4 and SlimKat, but since SlimLP for the OnePlus One will likely draw from Cyanogen 12S anyway, I'll probably flash the latter in the meantime to tide me over.

    There will be no OTA for me; I'll have to wait for Cyanogen to post a factory image and flash that. But this is undeniably good news for OPO users. And the news is even better for those users living in Canada. ...
    by Published on 04-13-2015 07:55 AM
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    I booked an appointment over the weekend at my local Apple store to try on the Apple Watch. Any expectations I had about what would go down were entirely due to a post I caught on Mobile Syrup last Friday—to quote its author, Dan Bader: "There is plenty of greatness in this try-on experience."

    ... Which is interesting, because the greatness was decidedly lacking in mine. ...
    by Published on 04-09-2015 08:58 AM
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    Trust me, this is the Apple Watch you want.

    To really understand the hype that's hitting the web right now you need to take a few steps back, hopefully clear of Apple's reality distortion field, and consider exactly what's being said—like Ryan Whitwam of Android Police did with The Verge's Apple Watch review:

    "The Apple Watch ... is kind of slow."

    "Sometimes apps take forever to load, and sometimes third-party apps never really load at all. Sometimes it’s just unresponsive for a few seconds while it thinks and then it comes back."

    "It’s also surprisingly heavy."

    "[The] side button is extraordinarily confusing."

    "In the first of many moments where the Watch felt underpowered, I found that the screen lit up a couple of ticks too slowly: I’d raise my wrist, wait a beat, and then the screen would turn on."

    "Having a screen that constantly flips on and off is definitely behind the curve."

    "There’s no particularly great digital face, and there’s no ability to load up your own watch faces or buy new ones from the store."

    "There’s no master switch to turn all notifications on and off, which is a huge pain."

    "By the end of each day, I was hyper-aware of how low the Apple Watch battery had gotten."

    "You only get a charging cable, which is lame. For $700, you should a nice charging stand, like you get with the $249 Moto 360."

    "There’s virtually nothing I can’t do faster or better with access to a laptop or a phone except perhaps check the time."

    "There’s no question that the Apple Watch is the most capable smartwatch available today."
    Wut?

    As an Android user I've some obvious bias here, but I'll let you in on a little secret: Android Wear is nothing to write home about, either.

    Who knew that the diminutive Pebble—not even Pebble Time, but the one you can buy right now—would be the one smartwatch platform to rule them all? ...
    by Published on 04-08-2015 06:45 AM
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    While you were sleeping—ok, while I was sleeping—HTC held a press event in Beijing, where the China-only One M9+ was made officially official.

    At first glance it looks a lot like the "regular" M9, but there are some notable differences: a 2K display on a slightly larger 5.2 inch screen, a fingerprint scanner and, oddly, the return of the Duo Camera—this one matching the 20 megapixel resolution of the M9 for western markets. Oh, it's also powered by a MediaTek chip. Interesting...

    For the moment HTC has only confirmed that the M9+ will be available in China, with no further details of when or how much it will cost. ...
    by Published on 04-07-2015 06:58 AM
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    It's been pretty quiet on this new Apple smartwatch forum, so I thought I'd pass on some news about the forthcoming Apple Watch.

    With pre-orders set to begin at 12:01 PDT this Friday, April 10th, Apple has begun posting guided tours to its YouTube channel. The first four in the series are:

    (1) Welcome (2) Messages (3) Faces (4) Digital Touch

    According to Mobile Syrup, a total of 10 video guides are planned. I don't remember seeing anything like this since the release of the original iPhone back in 2007. Apple's first smartwatch is clearly a big deal for the company—and with a starting price of $519 CAD / $399 USD for the larger 42mm model, likewise a sizeable investment for any interested parties. ...
    by Published on 03-31-2015 07:52 AM
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    On this, the dawn of my second full day with the 1st-generation Pebble, I've pretty much decided that Android Wear, if you'll pardon the pun, has been a colossal waste of my time. We're still in the honeymoon phase here, to be sure, but remember, I haven't worn a watch in twenty years—and yet so far I'm really liking this thing!

    Today I'll walk you through the process of getting started with the companion app for your Android smartphone. The iOS equivalent, as far as I know, has the exact same functionality. ...
    by Published on 03-30-2015 07:28 AM
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    It's a good thing I don't have any children; they would surely starve.

    Pebble's second Kickstarter campaign, for their forthcoming Pebble Time and Pebble Time Steel, closed last Friday—with over $20 million raised by some 78,471 backers to bring this new line of colour e-ink wearables to market.

    And I'm one of them, it seems.

    I know, I know... I've already dismissed smartwatches as unnecessary for anyone who doesn't already have a timepiece around their wrist. And I've realized in hindsight that my investment in a first-generation Android Wear product turned out to be a bad one. But I am honestly intrigued by Pebble's Timeline UI. Also, I guess I just got caught up in the hype. With such a charming video sales pitch, can you really blame me? ...
    by Published on 03-26-2015 06:19 PM
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    When you think of phones, each manufacturer has carefully created a set of expectations that customers like us can look forward to in their devices. HTC tries to make phones that are all metal with no gaps and an emphasis on the camera and multimedia experience. Sony’s are all about their water resistant with glass and metal bodies and integration with their media services. That sort of thing.

    Samsung is all about lots of features - they try to give you as much choice as possible. 2 years ago, when the industry trend was to move away from memory cards, Samsung stood firm and had one of the only flagships that still included this useful feature. Ditto for removable batteries.

    However, that was then and now, Samsung seems set on redefining their brand. Witness their newest flagship, the Galaxy S6 which is quite a departure from previous Galaxy S models.

    The removable battery and memory card slots are now a thing of the past as is the practical plastic body. Those have been traded in for an elegant glass and metal body.
    ...
    by Published on 03-26-2015 06:45 AM
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    It's been a long time since I've blogged about the Nokia of old. And yet, it seems, there are still Nokia fans out there among us.

    I found this testament to Espoo's design mettle on Imgur, an image and gif-sharing site. It's interesting that the 3650 is the first phone illustrated; despite the kooky rotary-style keypad I wanted one of these things bad. I might be mistaken, but I think it was one of the only Symbian-powered handsets to also feature Nokia's famous Xpress-on removable front and back covers.

    There are lots of other designs to reminisce about in this fond look back at a wonderful time when smartphones didn't all look the same. Enjoy! ...
    by Published on 03-23-2015 06:38 AM
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    It looks like this year's flagship from HTC has received its final, production-ready software. Or a press embargo has been lifted. Either way, in-depth reviews of the One M9 are now being posted on notable tech sites.

    The biggest change from last year's M8 is the replacement of the 5 mega—sorry, UltraPixel Duo camera with a more traditional 20 megapixel rear shooter. I myself am of the opinion that this is a good thing; while UltraPixel excelled in low light photography the Duo part ended up being a bit of a gimmick.

    Back to the reviews, are you the sort of person who usually just skips to the end to read the final verdict? So am I. So let's do that now! ...
    by Published on 03-20-2015 06:56 AM
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    2. Devices,
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    As someone who doesn't wear a watch I've no proverbial skin in this game. I know a good watch UI when I see it; other than that... meh.

    And yet, two stories that appeared in my news feed this morning have got me writing about wearables once again:

    Apple is building a Watch shop in this Tokyo luxury department store

    Google Is Making an Apple Watch Killer With This Swiss Luxury Watchmaker

    The fandroid in me wants to say: "good for Google". Getting Android Wear on a proper timepiece from an actual watch-maker is an obvious win, and similar partnerships may be in the cards now that the spectre of the Apple Watch has reared its ugly head. Furthermore, I suspect that Android will ultimately prevail in the smartwatch wars, because open, distributed platforms always win.

    But all this would ignore an obvious fact: computers and fine jewellery don't really go together all that well. One can last for generations; the other has a shelf life of maybe two years tops. ...
    by Published on 03-19-2015 06:42 AM
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    2. Devices,
    3. Tips,
    4. Commentary and Analysis,
    5. Apps
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    If you listen to the Android Central Podcast then you've probably heard the not very nice things that Phil Nickinson et al have to say about Clean Master (Speed Booster). No really, that's the exact wording of the app's name on the Play Store.

    Clean Master is a product from a company called Cheetah Mobile, which I mention only because their entire website looks like a pop-up ad. Here's what it purports to do:

    Features of Clean Master- Phone Booster & Antivirus

    ► CPU COOLER
    Cool off your device by finding and stopping the apps that are causing it to overheat and make your battery last longer!

    ► JUNK FILE CLEANING
    Delete cache and residual files to reclaim storage, boost speed and improve the performance of your device and SD card.

    ► MEMORY BOOST
    Boost your games and apps, free up memory (RAM), speed up your device and save more battery. Our 1 Tap Boost and Game Boost features make it easy to optimize directly from your homescreen.

    ► ANTIVIRUS
    Scan the system, pre-installed and user-installed apps to keep your device safe from viruses, trojans, vulnerabilities, adware and spyware. Keep your privacy safe by scrubbing personal info from your device.

    ► APP MANAGER
    Uninstall unwanted apps or bloatware and back up important ones. Some rooted devices will be able to move apps to the SD card as well as uninstall pre-installed and system apps. Our own Picks section lets you find useful apps that match your interests.
    Um, how about no? ...
    by Published on 03-18-2015 06:55 AM
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    I was all set to order a pair of OnePlus Power Banks when they became available for purchase yesterday, but was informed on the check-out screen that OnePlus "currently does not ship to Canada".

    Up until February or so of this year, OnePlus used DHL Express to get their gear delivered north of the 49th Parallel. For customers residing here it was an expensive proposition; the three OnePlus Ones that I've ordered have come with hefty surcharges—$60 to $65 CAD per item in duties, taxes and fees. This on top of the $27.99 USD premium paid for Express Shipping, the only available option for Canada. In other words, that $349 USD flagship killer has, in each case, ended up costing me closer to $500 CAD.

    An admin on their forums confirmed back in February that OnePlus has indeed temporarily suspended shipping to this country:

    We have heard a lot of feedback from our Canadian users who haven't been completely satisfied with the shipping options available. We are exploring new logistics options and will resume shipping to Canada in the next few weeks.
    But more than a month later, the embargo is still in effect. ...
    by Published on 03-17-2015 07:15 AM
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    Just over a month ago I wrote about the Saygus V², a high-spec Android device sporting a fractal antenna, front and rear OIS cameras, removable battery and support for up to 320 GB of storage, via not one but two micro SD slots. An extra battery and a reduced price tag of $549 USD was offered for customers willing to pre-order.

    Now it seems that production of the V² has been delayed due to manufacturing issues, leading some skeptics to wonder if this device will ever make it into customers hands at all. I had also wondered about the company's bold claim as "the only smartphone startup to ever receive certification from a US carrier"—Android Authority has confirmed that what they're talking about, the Saygus VPhone V1, never made it to production. ...
    by Published on 03-16-2015 08:28 AM
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    2. Devices,
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    4. Apps
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    Okay, one last story from Mobile World Congress...

    I'm a regular viewer of BBC's Click, the British broadcaster's weekly tech show that you can watch if you have BBC Canada in your cable package, or know where to look for it elsewhere online.

    At this year's MWC the team set out to conduct a rather grand experiment: to produce an episode entirely on mobile devices. Here's how that went:

    The Good News

    Cameras on most modern smartphones are pretty decent, so capturing HD video wasn't really a problem. Some "pro" apps were used for necessary functions like locking exposure and manual focus—Cinema FV-5 for Android and FiLMiC Pro for iOS were specifically cited in the episode. A handheld gimbal from LanParte kept shots steady.

    The Okay News

    Capturing high-quality sound with said HD video in the busy and noisy environment of your typical trade show was a bit more of a challenge. The easiest and most effective solution proved to be an XLR adapter from ProJive, to interface with the BBC's existing pro audio gear. This particular cable features an extra mini plug so that you can monitor audio while you're recording, but for some reason Android doesn't support this feature.

    The Bad News

    Where everything almost fell apart was when it came time to edit. ...
    by Published on 03-12-2015 12:11 PM
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    Just got my Samsung Galaxy S6 here are my first impressions:

    Edge or Flat?



    This time around, there are 2 Galaxy S6’s. One is the regular GS6 which we’ll call the flat in this section and a variant called the GS6 Edge which has a screen that curves into the Edges.



    While phones with curved glass are nothing new, the Edges screen actually bends over the sides. Pictures don’t do it justice, it’s quite striking in person. Otherwise, aside from the Edge having a slightly larger battery, the GS6 and GS6 Edge are identical.



    If you want the Edge, you’ll need to pay an extra $100.



    Next, you have to decide whether you want white or black and then how much storage you need. They come in 32, 64 and 128GB sizes. I think 32GB will be enough for most people while power users will probably be satisfied with 64GB. Kudos to Samsung for making 32GB, which is already quite generous, the smallest size.



    The GS6 Edge is really cool in person but if you’re a power user you may prefer the flat version. After getting over the curved sides, you may get tired/annoyed of having a screen that only curves on the edges.
    ...
    by Published on 03-11-2015 07:58 AM
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    ... Can be found on the new Pebble Time. End of story.

    The more I see of it the more I'm convinced that the interface on the Apple Watch is a hot mess. And Android Wear goes too far the other way, as in it's too simple—in the vast majority of use cases you'll either be shouting into your wrist to initiate a Google search, a search that has to be completed on your phone, or reading and dismissing notifications from your phone on your wrist.

    Pebble, on the other hand, has designed a UI for your wrist that's both intuitive and useful. Three buttons on the right side of the device allow you to navigate through events and other actionable items in your past, present and future. I honestly don't even know what the button on the left is for. ...
    by Published on 03-09-2015 08:16 AM
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    Even before the release of the first-generation iPhone, the tech press—pretty sure it was Gizmodo—started referring to it as the "Jesus Phone". With all the hype I'm reading about today's Spring Forward Event, I don't see why the same divine label can't also apply to Apple's auspicious first foray into the wearables racket.

    Since the Apple Watch was announced last September a fair amount of news about it has made its way into the daily round-ups I post to the front page, so in advance of today's proceedings I thought I'd get us all up to speed with a quick check in our collective rear-view mirror.

    Of the eight links that follow, Re/code, Tech in Asia and TechRadar are responsible for one each. Two links are from iPhone in Canada and the rest are from iVerge. I'd say that's fairly balanced; hopefully you'll agree. ...
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