• Devices

    by Published on 08-24-2016 07:00 AM
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    This story came and went while I was on break, but bears recording in the annals of HoFo for generations to come. History needs to remember that McDonald's made a fitness tracker, and it was awful.

    Step-it was a free step-counter included with Happy Meals to help kids burn off the calories from said Happy Meals. I suppose I'll eventually to come to grips with a world where children have to track their own fitness; even so, with a free step-counter you get what you pay for—which is to say not much.

    Step-its were manufactured in six bright colours and two styles, and within their first week of availability were recalled—not because of the expected class-action suit for wildly inaccurate step-counts, but because McDonald's received more than 70 complaints about skin irritation, blisters and burns.

    If you or your child has a Step-it you can return it to any McDonald's for an unnamed replacement toy plus a free yogurt tube or bag of apple slices—what a deal! If you don't have a Step-it, some savvy entrepreneurs are already offering entire sets of them on eBay.

    Just remember to choose your seller wisely, and don't get burned. Literally. ...
    by Published on 08-23-2016 07:30 AM
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    2. Devices,
    3. Reviews and Hands-on
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    Here's the girlfriend's OnePlus 3 capturing the action at Heskjedalsfossen, a photo opp on a fjord cruise to Mostraumen, Norway. This was the first big road test for our pair of OP3s, and they performed admirably.

    Usually when we go on vacation I pack a pair of small tablets for us to use at the hotel, while our phones are recovering from a long day of sightseeing. But with the OP3's Dash Charging and the big battery/HD screen combo those tablets lay dormant in my suitcase for the duration of the trip.

    This alone makes the OnePlus 3 a good choice for those who like to travel. But of course there's an even better reason to bring this phone with you abroad. ...
    by Published on 08-08-2016 07:30 AM
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    2. Devices,
    3. Rumors
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    Over the weekend MacRumors managed to find a 4K video featuring three variants of the forthcoming iPhone 7. The video is from a YouTube account associated with a Japanese iPhone reservation store.

    I've no idea how credible the source is, but the basic design matches what I've seen in other leaks, with cleaned-up antenna lines, larger camera humps and, of course, the absence of a headphone jack. The one red herring is the version with the dual-lens camera—at one point Apple was thought to be working on both a "Pro" and "Plus" version of the phone, but the current consensus seems to be that the Pro version has been abandoned, with the Plus getting the Pro's dual-lens camera instead.

    Confused yet? Me too. ...
    by Published on 08-05-2016 07:00 AM
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    2. Devices,
    3. Rumors
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    It would be the perfect candidate for a OnePlus 3 Mini, but Carl Pei insists that it's not. So what is this mystery 4.6 inch high-powered phone, then?

    Here are the details from its GFXBench listing:

    OS
    Android 6.0.1 (CyanogenMod)

    Display
    1920 x 1080, 4.6"
    Touch screen with at least 5 finger gesture support

    CPU
    Qualcomm Snapdragon 820
    2x Kryo @ 2.1 GHz + 2x Kryo @ 1.6 GHz - ARMv8

    GPU
    Qualcomm Adreno™ 530

    Memory
    5.6 GB

    Storage
    53 GB

    Back Camera
    Picture: 15 MP (4640 x 3480)
    Video: UHD (4K) (3840 x 2160)
    auto focus / face detection / flash / HDR photo

    Front Camera
    Picture: 7 MP (3264 x 2448)
    Video: 3264 x 1836

    Features
    accelerometer / barometer / bluetooth / compass / gps / gyroscope / light sensor / nfc / pedometer / proximity sensor / sim cards (1) / wifi

    For comparison's sake, 4.6 inches is smaller than both the original Moto X and the current iPhone 6s (each with 4.7 inch displays). Whatever this thing turns out to be, it will definitely be going against the grain of current phablet-sized phones. ...
    by Published on 08-04-2016 07:00 AM
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    2. Devices,
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    Android Police has a trio of new Nexus leaks, which I will now share in order of most to least interesting.

    First up is a new launcher, which will apparently make its début on the pair of HTC-made devices expected this fall. As you can see in this gif, the app drawer button has been replaced by an indicator (with swipe-up gesture), and there's now a button/tab combo in place of the persistent Google search bar. These two elements alone give your home screen significantly more real estate to play with, which I like. A lot.

    But wait, there's more! ...
    by Published on 08-02-2016 12:20 PM
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    Making its début in New York City just before noon, Samsung's latest phablet is now official.

    Like the Galaxy S7 the Note7 is dust and water-resistant, and its internal storage can be expanded with a microSD card. Unlike the S7 the new Note charges via USB-C, though there will apparently be a microUSB adapter in every box. And just for kicks, Samsung is throwing in an iris scanner.

    Here's what else you need to know...

    Specs:

    SoC: Snapdragon 820 for the USA, Exynos internationally
    RAM: 4GB
    Display: 5.7-inch 1440p curved AMOLED
    Storage: 64GB plus microSD card
    Cameras: 12MP rear sensor, OIS, f/1.7 — 5MP front sensor, f/1.7
    Battery: 3,500mAh with fast charging and wireless charging
    Measurements: 153.5 x 73.9 x 7.9mm, 169g

    Pricing and Availability:

    Available from your carrier August 19th
    Pre-orders start tomorrow (US only?)
    $770-800 USD / $1049.99 CAD
    Canadian 2-year contract price: $549.99 CAD ...
    by Published on 07-29-2016 07:00 AM
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    XDA rightly calls the OnePlus 3 the perfect tinkerer's device, with one big caveat: the code for their proprietary Dash Charging technology was not made available at launch. This means that none of the 20 currently available custom ROMs for the device support fast charging of any kind.

    Thankfully this is about to change; XDA reported yesterday that OnePlus has published the binaries and kernel source code for Dash.

    This is great news for modders, but there's even better news for users running stock firmware: in the six weeks since the OnePlus 3 launched there have already been three software updates—which is actually bad news for modders, as those updates haven't yet been open sourced.

    Overall though, I'd say that OnePlus is doing a much better job with software support than they have in the past. Remember when we had to wait six months for Lollipop on the OnePlus One? Hopefully those days are long gone! ...
    by Published on 07-28-2016 07:00 AM
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    2. Devices,
    3. News
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    The news came only a day after Apple reported its second straight quarter of declining sales, but a billion iPhones sold in less than a decade is still a monumental achievement.

    In a staff meeting at the company's Cupertino headquarters yesterday, CEO Tim Cook announced the milestone. The billionth sale was rung up sometime, somewhere in the last week, but Apple won't say where. The Verge asked if any special treatment was given to their billionth customer; Apple declined to comment.

    Here's the text from a brief statement on Apple's website:

    "iPhone has become one of the most important, world-changing and successful products in history. It's become more than a constant companion. iPhone is truly an essential part of our daily life and enables much of what we do throughout the day," said Cook. “Last week we passed another major milestone when we sold the billionth iPhone. We never set out to make the most, but we’ve always set out to make the best products that make a difference. Thank you to everyone at Apple for helping change the world every day."
    Rumours abound that Apple is planning a major overhaul to mark the 10th anniversary of the iPhone next year. But clearly, the nine generations of the device so far have been a big hit with users and have done very well for the company. iPhone, you've come a long way since 2007! ...
    by Published on 07-27-2016 07:30 AM
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    If you thought 2016's modular craze was limited to smartphones, you'd be wrong. London startup BLOCKS is working with Taiwanese electronics manufacturer Compal Electronics to bring a modular smartwatch to market in Q3 of this year. And it's not just another Android Wear-powered smartwatch—for starters, it doesn't even run Android Wear. Instead, it's powered by a customized version of Android 6.0 Marshmallow, with support for watch faces, voice controls, smartphone notifications, and activity tracking.

    But what really sets this apart from all other wearables currently on the market are the 30.8 x 25.23 x 7.95mm polycarbonate modules that attach to the band. The current lineup includes of them—one each for "adventure" (humidity, pressure and temperature sensors) extra battery, flashlight, GPS, heart rate, plus a programmable module with a button that can be assigned to anything that the developers haven't thought of yet. ...
    by Published on 07-26-2016 07:00 AM
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    Anyone remember Palm's 2007 Foleo, or Motorola's 2011 Lapdock for the Atrix 4G? The idea of a smartphone-powered laptop certainly isn't new, but if Andromium's Kickstarter campaign is any indication, it's an idea that still has legs.

    The company has smashed through their initial $50,000 USD funding goal and are now approaching a million dollars in pledges for what they call the Superbook—a $99 shell that, with a USB cable, turns your Android smartphone into a notebook computer. So long as your phone supports USB-OTG, it will work with the Superbook.

    Detailed Specs:
    • 11.6" LCD display at 768p
    • 7.6" x 11.3" x 0.7" (19.3 cm x 28.7 cm x 1.8cm)
    • 2.0lb / 0.9kg
    • Custom Charging Port w/ Standard US Charger
    • USB Type-C port
    • Supports Type-C and Micro-B smartphones
    • 8+ hour battery life
    • Simultaneously charges smartphone
    • QWERTY keyboard (Android OS layout)
    • Android-specific navigation keys (Home, Back, Menu, Recent)
    • Multi-touch trackpad

    Smartphone Minimum Requirements:
    • Android 5.0+
    • Dual Core Processor and above
    • 1.5GB RAM or higher
    • Type-C or Micro-B phone port
    • 25mb of free storage (100mb+ recommended)

    All that's needed for a proper, windowed laptop experience on your Superbook is an app from the Play Store. ...
    by Published on 07-22-2016 07:30 AM
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    With its official launch less than two weeks away—Tuesday, August 7th if you want to mark your calendars—SamMobile has posted leaked press renders of the Galaxy Note 7 in three colour variants. Not pictured is Black Onyx, which Evan Blass leaked earlier this month.

    According to Blass Samsung's new phablet will actually be called the Galaxy Note7, not the Galaxy Note 7 or even GalaxyNote7. But I aim to keep its moniker legible for as long as I possibly can.

    The big deal about the Note 7 is that there will apparently be no "flat" version—Blass himself reports on VentureBeat that the only available model will have the same curved glass (and presumably similar software features) as the current Galaxy S7 edge. ...
    by Published on 07-21-2016 07:30 AM
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    Windows Central and MrMobile (aka Michael Fisher) have a bit of a scoop: They have somehow gotten their hands on a prototype Nokia Windows phone from 2014 that never made its way to market.

    What was eventually dubbed "McLaren", the successor to the Lumia 1020 started development in 2013 as a top-secret device referred to as "Goldfinger". And it's easy to see why: using projected capacitive display technology it offered a form of 3D touch that would put iPhone to shame.

    As you can probably surmise from the image above, the user could interact with McLaren without necessarily touching the screen. In fact, there was a special interface planned for the phone, called MixView. But why am I still talking? MrMobile has a four-minute YouTube demo to get you up to speed! ...
    by Published on 07-20-2016 07:00 AM
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    2. Devices
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    This week German security research firm AV-Test published a report comparing seven fitness trackers and their Android apps. The Apple Watch got only a passing mention as it has no companion app for Android. That makes sense, but for some reason Fibit was also excluded from the test.

    It gets weirder: Pebble Time, a proper smartwatch, was one of the tested devices but Android Wear—which obviously has fitness tracking and works with Android—was nowhere to be found.

    The good news is that Pebble Time was found to be the most secure of the group. Woo-hoo?

    The seven fitness trackers that AV-Test looked at are as follows:

    Basis Peak
    Microsoft Band 2
    Mobile Action Q-Band
    Pebble Time
    Runtastic Moment Elite
    Striiv Fusion
    Xiaomi MiBand

    The purpose of their tests was to assess the security of local and cloud-saved user data for each device. To accomplish this they looked at three main areas:

    Tracker – connection, authentication, tampering
    The App – safeguarding and code check
    Secure online communication ...
    by Published on 07-13-2016 06:45 AM
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    2. Devices,
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    Just yesterday J.D. Power released the results of a new survey, ranking the Apple Watch highest of all smartwatches in customer satisfaction. There's just one problem: another survey run by Quartz reports that nobody actually wants to buy one.

    Could they both be right?

    Here are the key findings from the J.D. Power 2016 Smartwatch Device Satisfaction Report. Note that customer satisfaction is calculated on a scale of 1,000 possible points:

    Apple (852) ranks highest in customer satisfaction with smartwatches and performs particularly well in comfort, styling/appearance and ease of use.

    Samsung (842) ranks second, performing well in customer service, display size and phone features.

    Overall customer satisfaction with smartwatches is 847.
    And here's a summary of the findings by Quartz:

    In early 2015, before the launch of the watch Quartz ran a survey asking iPhone owners if they planned to buy one. Only about 5% of owners thought it very likely they’d buy a watch in the next 12 months. A little over a year later, not too much has changed: Only about 8% of those surveyed this time said they owned an Apple Watch.

    The outlook for the next year isn’t much better: Less than 5% of respondents surveyed that didn’t already own an Apple Watch said they were either extremely likely or very likely to purchase an Apple Watch if a new version is released this year.
    The survey respondents, identified as a sample group of 534 US iPhone owners, singled out price as the biggest barrier to the purchase of an Apple Watch. Over 60% of them said that no new feature would justify the purchase of a new version at the launch price of the first. ...
    by Published on 07-12-2016 06:40 AM
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    Qualcomm has just released the successor to its high-end Snapdragon 820 processor, and it already has a place on a newly-announced phone.

    The Snapdragon 821 uses much of the same tech as the 820—the 600 Mbps X12 LTE modem, Ultra HD Voice, etc. In fact, the only significant change is a speed bump from 2.2 to 2.4 GHz for each of the chip's four cores. Thus, Engadget is advising users not to dump their 820 flagships just yet:

    "The 821 is designed to complement and extend the competitive strengths" of its current tech, Qualcomm says. In other words, it'll function as an interim chip for high-end devices until the next-gen processor comes along.
    In the meantime we already have our first Snapdragon 821-powered phone. Engadget's Hong Kong correspondent Richard Lai reports that a refresh of the top-tier 5.7 inch ASUS ZenFone 3 Deluxe will run the 821 chip, and will also feature 6 GB of RAM and a whopping 256 GB of UFS internal storage—expandable by an additional 128 GB via micro SD. ...
    by Published on 07-07-2016 07:00 AM
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    The OnePlus 3 was released last month to mostly favourable reviews. One of the few notable exceptions was AnandTech, who called out the screen as the worst display they had ever seen. The reason cited was the display calibration, and OnePlus was quick to address this with a software update that included an option for sRGB colour space in the developer options.

    I flashed that update on my OnePlus 3 this week, and thought it might be instructive to compare sRGB with OnePlus's default colour calibration. The catch? I'm not going to tell you which one is which; you're going to have to guess! ...
    by Published on 07-05-2016 03:30 PM
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    If there's one source I believe for Nexus leaks, it's Android Police. After posting specs for both upcoming devices—the smaller Sailfish and the larger Marlin—they've just posted a render that they say can be applied to the both of them.

    Here's author David Ruddock with a quick tour:

    "On the front we see the single earpiece speaker, front-facing camera, a small sensor cluster, and that's about it. On the back, you've got some antenna bands on the bottom (horizontal) and top (vertical, off-center), with that big glossy pane likely serving as a window for NFC and other radios. The three holes next to the camera are a bit of a mystery at this point, but our guess is that two of them relate to the camera (auto-focus and perhaps a secondary sensor of some kind) and one is likely a secondary microphone."

    Also interesting is that both made-by-HTC devices will sport an all-aluminum body this year. And what's really interesting is a rumored (but not confirmed) "electric blue" version—perhaps to match the iPhone 7?

    AP gives this render a "confidence level" of 8/10. Assuming they're right, what do you make of the new Nexus(es)? ...
    by Published on 07-04-2016 06:48 AM
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    That's right, I'm observing the 4th of July with an external review of a Chinese smartphone.

    Not just any Chinese smartphone, mind you, but one that will almost certainly provide some serious competition to the already-popular OnePlus 3. Over the weekend, TechRadar got some hands-on time with it. Scheduled for a U.S. release any day now, ZTE's Axon 7 offers a significant bump in specs over the $399 OP3, for a rumored price of $450 USD—only $51 more. ...
    by Published on 06-27-2016 06:25 AM
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    Entirely believable and somewhat questionable.

    I'll start with the almost sure thing first. On Saturday Evan Blass tweeted this graphic, giving more weight to the rumours that Samsung will be skipping the Galaxy Note 6 and going straight to 7 this year, to better compete against the forthcoming iPhone 7 and fall in line with the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge.

    Some specs were leaked as well:

    • 5.7 inch, 2560 x 1440 pixel AMOLED display
    • IP68 waterproof design
    • Iris scanner
    • 12MP rear and 5MP front cameras
    • 64GB of storage
    • microSD card slot
    • black, silver, and blue color options

    The latest iteration of the original phablet is expected to be revealed on August 2nd. I think Blass may have leaked that too. ...
    by Published on 06-24-2016 06:00 AM
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    So you're probably getting tired of me writing about the OnePlus 3. Well, you know what? I'm getting tired of me writing about the OnePlus 3. So here's something a little different: a very early peek at one of the new Nexus phones coming later this year from HTC.

    It's been confirmed from multiple sources that HTC are on tap to be the next Nexus OEM, producing two different models for Google: the T50 "Sailfish" and T55 "Marlin". A trusted source has apparently provided Android Police with the specs for what would seem to be the smaller of the two devices.

    AP gives this leak a confidence level of 8/10. They have an excellent track record when it comes to Nexus leaks, so I likewise feel confident in reposting them for you here. ...
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