• Devices

    by Published on 10-03-2013 04:17 PM
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    Today I had a chance to play with both the Xperiz Z1 and Ultra Z.



    You can think of the Xperia Z1 as being similar in size to the Galaxy S4. It has a 5", 1920x1080 display, with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage - it one ups the GS4 with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 quad-core SoC, 20.7 megapixel camera, support for more LTE bands plus it's a Cat 4 device. You also get a sexy aluminum frame and a glass front and back. Best of all, you get all that stuff in a device that's water and dust resistant.



    Speaking of water resistance the Z1 is now more water resistant than it's predecessor the Z. At the same time, they've made it easier to use because now there's now no cover over the headphone jack. I am a little annoyed that they didn't make the microUSB jack water resistant too. ...
    by Published on 10-03-2013 08:00 AM
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    Howard has been gracious enough to sublet his Galaxy Note 3 for a couple of days before it's due back at Samsung Canada. There are already a lot of really good reviews out there, including his; I've decided to share my thoughts on the Note 3 with a series of annotated screen grabs using the S-Pen.

    I know -- genius, right?

    ...
    by Published on 10-02-2013 08:15 AM
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    Before anything else you need to know that the ZTE Open, the first widely-available phone running Mozilla's Firefox OS, is a cheap piece of crap. That's not necessarily a bad thing.

    Any mobile operating system that's not called Android or iOS is struggling right now, and anything that's not BlackBerry or Windows Phone isn't even on most users' radar. But there are other would-be contenders out there, and Firefox OS, with its promise to deliver the open web to mobile devices, is at the very least a compelling idea.

    Canonical and Mark Shuttleworth went big in promoting Ubuntu as a smartphone OS. Their campaign to raise $32 million USD for a limited run of the Ubuntu Edge very famously failed over the summer. Mozilla and ZTE have an altogether different scheme for Firefox OS; for just $79.99 USD anyone in North America or the UK can purchase an unlocked ZTE Open via eBay.

    That's how I got mine. I didn't get in on the first batch as they sold out in a single weekend. The second run added Canada as a shipping option, with extra fees. My grand total was $100.38 CAD.

    So what to expect from an $80 phone? As you can imagine, not much.

    ...
    by Published on 10-01-2013 08:30 AM
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    I’ll admit, when the Note II came out I wondered if we hit a point where phones would keep getting better but at a slower pace. While the Galaxy S4 was a good phone when it was released it wasn’t a huge jump forward from the Note 2. However, when Samsung unveiled the Note 3, it began to look like they were about to release a monster on the market. Let’s check it out.

    If you want a second opinion on the Note 3 please check out our other review of the Note 3 here.
    ...
    by Published on 10-01-2013 08:15 AM
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    Yesterday saw a big leak of specs for the forthcoming Nexus 5. Each new tidbit seems to reaffirm that the next Nexus will follow in the footsteps of the 4 and 7 rather than the original Nexus One -- it won't be a premium device, per se, but will instead deliver impressive technology at an equally impressive price.

    If this is indeed the case then specs-wise then the LG G2 will easily trump the new Nexus that it's supposedly based on -- a bigger screen, better camera, bigger battery... You get the idea. Today I'll add some additional thoughts into the mix, which might make you reconsider the LG over the Nexus as your next device. Or not.

    ...
    by Published on 09-28-2013 08:46 PM
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    Apple recently released their new flagship phone, the iPhone 5s. However, unlike previous years where they took the old iPhone and discounted it, they’ve replaced the old 5 with a new model - the 5c.

    Apple isn’t saying why they choose the letter “C”, but the first things that come to my head are Cheap, Colour and Chinese. Apparently Apple is really targeting China with the release of their new iPhones. As for cheap, the 5c is only $100 cheaper than the top-of-the-line 5s. So, while it’s cheaper, it’s still priced like an iPhone. Probably the best guess is that the “C” stands for colour. Yup, you can get the 5c is white, blue, yellow, green and pink.

    It’s funny but coloured phones aren’t that common in the marketplace and when there are different colours, they’re usually just white and black with maybe some other colours being made available months after launch. With the 5c you can get it in all 5 colours from the very beginning.

    Outside of the 5s and the 5, people might cross-shop the 5c with the Samsung Galaxy S4, HTC One which cost similar money or are slightly cheaper on-contract.
    ...
    by Published on 09-26-2013 07:45 AM
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    Ok, technically the photos below were taken with the LG G2 -- but we all know that the same optics will almost certainly make their way into this year's Nexus phone, right? So really the title of this post is only a bit misleading, RIGHT?

    Right, so yesterday I took Howard's Rogers-branded G2 with me on a stroll through the back alleys of downtown Toronto, to see what the camera could do. I purposefully looked for challenging lighting conditions -- saturated colours, bright sunlight and dark shadows, all in the same shot.

    There's also a short video at the end, captured in 1920 x 1080 HD at 60 fps.

    It's all very subjective, and not meant to be a camera test, just some samples of hopefully interesting subject matter to give you an idea of what to expect from the G2's optics.

    Note that the photos are embedded from my Flickr account so that you can view them in their native resolution. If you want you can also compare them to similar shots taken with my Galaxy Nexus and Nexus 4.

    So without further ado, please enjoy these exclusive photos taken with the Nexus 5.

    ...
    by Published on 09-25-2013 08:48 AM
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    If you follow my reviews you'll notice I routinely complain about Super AMOLED displays and how they're not very good outside. Last year's Galaxy S III was very difficult to see, the Note II was a step in the right direction but was still not good enough. The Galaxy S4 was a big leap forward but it was still a step behind LCD.

    After I got my Note III the first thing I did was try it outside. What do you think?
    ...
    by Published on 09-24-2013 07:45 PM
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    I just got a Samsung Galaxy Note 3 but I had to sign a sheet of paper promising I wouldn't review it in depth. So, I guess you'll have to wait a few days before I post it. In the mean time I'll post a couple of pictures of the Note 3: ...
    by Published on 09-24-2013 10:10 AM
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    2. Devices,
    3. HowardForums,
    4. Contests and Giveaways



    ***Entries are now closed. Good luck!***

    We're giving away a 16GB Space Gray Apple iPhone 5s! To enter you can leave a comment on this post, if you use Facebook "like" us and then "like" the link to this post that appears on our Facebook page, and if you are a Twitter user follow @howardforums and tweet about it using #HoFoiPhone5 and linking to this post. Any one will give you an entry. Doing all three will give you three chances to win.

    *Contest Rules: Contest is open to U.S. and Canada users who do not reside in Quebec. If a Canadian wins they must answer the skill testing question: What is the latest version of Apple's mobile operating system? U.S. winner will be responsible for all taxes and customs. Wireless carrier compatibilty not guaranteed. Odds of winning depend on number of entries received. Only one entry per method described above allowed. Contest not open to HowardForums staff and their families.

    Contest ends on Tuesday October 8th at 9:00 PM Pacific. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced within three days after being selected. If the winner does not respond to us within 24 hours of being contacted, a new winner will be chosen.

    Good luck!
    by Published on 09-23-2013 04:12 PM
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    2. Devices,
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    4. Reviews and Hands-on
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    It’s that time of year again. Apple just introduced their new 5s (and 5c), which is supposed to be twice as fast as last year’s 5. They’ve upgraded the camera and added a new fingerprint reader. Oh, and now you can get it in gold. How good is the new 5s? Why should you buy that instead of an Android phone? Read on!

    Comparing Android and iPhone is always really difficult because they’re so different. If they were restaurants, Android would be an all you can eat buffet (a really good one) while iOS is more of a fancy restaurant with small portions. Both appeal to two different sets of people. Heck, many iOS users will view the fancy restaurant comment as a compliment while Android would view that comment as an insult if it were said about Android and vice-versa.

    I’m generalizing here but iPhone’s strength is how well everything is integrated into one package. There’s no custom launchers or anything, you do things Apple’s way or else you’ll have to wait forever for a new jailbreak. You get Apple’s core apps and then you go download more at the App Store.

    Generally speaking, I think the good apps on iOS are higher quality than the good apps on Android. I could write a whole article about this but I’ll just leave it at that

    With Android, it’s more about choice. Since there’s so much choice, things aren’t quite as polished as they are on iOS (generally speaking). However, since there’s so much choice, there are many more types of apps - this will appeal to who like to tweak and mod their phone. ...
    by Published on 09-19-2013 07:51 PM
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    So far this year, the Galaxy S4 has been Android’s poster child. Since the GS4 launched, companies have tried to offer something slightly different rather than go head-to-head with the GS4. Motorola has focused on their touchless voice activation while Sony has been experimenting with making their phones water resistant. After all, out-Galaxying the Galaxy S4 is a tall task.

    Still, it now looks like Samsung now has some competition in the LG G2, the first phone that really takes the GS4’s strengths and tries to improve on them.

    I already mentioned that the G2 is aimed squarely at the GS4 but people who are looking at the G2 are probably also going to take a look at the HTC One, the Apple iPhone 5s and the Sony Xperia Z.
    ...
    by Published on 09-18-2013 08:54 PM
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    2. Devices,
    3. Humor,
    4. Commentary and Analysis
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    When Howard asked me to review the new Samsung Galaxy Mega, I had already read what he wrote and wondered whether I could do this device justice… without being offensive. I believe in the value of joy in life. A smile and giggle are exactly what our world needs. It's not that I take the ask of Howard lightly; because it's truly a privilege to contribute my thoughts. The problem here is the fact that this smartphone is comical. Let the fun begin!


    There aren't many other things in life that are 6.3" that you can laugh at, and if they do it's time to chop it off and cut your losses. Can you picture those creative South Koreans in a scrum (Project Management talk for brainstorming) discussing the latest rerun of Baywatch and discovering the Western world's affinity with big things that defy all biology and reason? Perhaps across the hall in the design room, Samsung engineers just finished watching Zoolander and got the joke about the tiny Motorola flip phone. And automagically the Samsung Galaxy Mega was born! Finally this was the moment that Asians could succumb to the universal truth that bigger is better (that's what she said) and bigger is more satisfying (that's what she said) and size matters!

    Bottom line for this smartphone is simple: you are trying to make up for your life's shortcomings. Take that every and any which way you like. You can try to tell me about the hardware performance or that it's replacing two devices - I won't believe it for a second. Samsung is boldly making you pay for a joke where you are the punch line.

    Allow me to conclude by encouraging the rest of us in our fragile states of insecurity. Let's face it, every single person has more than one part of their created being that is embarrassing. We are all using "stuff" to make up for something and I admit I'm more like the president of that club (or mayor of that town). Take for instance our first stop: I use a 27" BenQ monitor ...and the Mega isn't bigger than that!
    ...
    by Published on 09-16-2013 07:50 AM
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    With the Nexus 7 giveaway scheduled for later tonight I thought I'd fan the flames of anticipation a bit with my own thoughts on Google's second-generation cheap and cheerful tablet. I bought one to call my own last week, so you don't have to worry about competing against me in the contest.

    You're welcome.

    Why 7 Inches?

    I'll begin with the story of how I came to be a fan of this particular device size. Before I bought my first Nexus 7 in September, 2012 I was pretty wary of tablets in general, with only a vague notion of their convenience for consuming content and playing games. I ended up rolling the dice on this diminutive device for one reason alone:

    Books.

    A 7-inch tablet is, for me, the perfect ebook reader -- portable enough to take with you wherever you go but big enough to read a full page of a PDF in portrait mode. I could have gone for a Kindle for Kobo but a proper tablet has the added benefit of doing what every other tablet does.

    A 10-inch screen would probably make for an even better gaming machine but I've no complaints with 7 (that's what she...) -- anyway, I was actually going to wait for the new Nexus 10 but some review somewhere reminded me of how perfect the N7 was for reading.

    This Canadian got his from Best Buy at $20 off the original price. Futureshop has them for even cheaper than that. So here we are.

    Now onto how this year's Nexus 7 compares with the last...

    ...
    by Published on 09-12-2013 11:04 AM
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    As the high-end continues to improve, an interesting thing has happened: While down on specs, many mid-range phones now offer virtually the same user experience that high-end phones deliver. I mean unless you’re looking at the spec sheet the difference between 1280x720 and 1920x1080 is negligible at best. Ditto for quad-core vs dual-core and the number of megapixels.

    The very same thing happened with computers a few years ago.

    Anyways, because of this, mid-range phones have suddenly become very interesting. They don’t have the same goodies as higher-end phones but when you use it you don’t feel like you’re being punished for not spending $700 on a phone.

    Just look at the Samsung Mega. It has half the number of cores as the GS4 and a lower resolution screen but there’s a twist. It has a gigantic, 6.3” screen. You don’t know how fun it is to meet up with friends and say, “Check out this phone” and whip out the Mega. Some lines you can use include: “Say hello to my little friend!”, “Who says size doesn’t matter?”, “Bigger is better.”, “Go big or go home”, “Anything worth doing is worth overdoing” Are all phrases which can be used on the Mega.

    I mentioned the mid-range is suddenly interesting. When I think of competitors for the Mega I think of phones priced around the same level along like the Motorola Moto X, and phones with gigantic screens like the Huawei Mate. I also included the Galaxy Note II and Galaxy S III because they’ve been around for a year and you might be able to get a deal on one.
    ...
    by Published on 09-11-2013 07:50 AM
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    Some quick background about me and Apple: I was a card-carrying member of the cult from my second-ever computer in 1995 all the way up to 2009, when I switched my desktop computers to real Linux -- you know that OS X is actually based on BSD, right?

    But I digress...

    I myself was never interested in the iPhone because, when it came out, the web apps seemed so far behind the very real apps I was using on my S60 Nokia. In retrospect I totally failed to grasp that (1) Apple had revolutionized the smartphone interface, and (2) just about every website had a version optimized for iPhone in short order. And then, you know, the App Store and stuff.

    Taking these past mistakes into consideration, I'd like to think that I'm now able to provide an objective view of yesterday's announcements, whether you use Cupertino's products or not.

    In other words, Apple fans, you need this. Everyone else hold your noses... I'm going in!

    ...
    by Published on 09-10-2013 01:13 PM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. News,
    4. Commentary and Analysis

    Today Apple announced the low cost (for Apple) iPhone 5c which will be $99 (in the 'States) for the 16GB on contract and the 5s which will be $199 (US price) for 16GB on contract. Both will be available for pre-order on Sept 13th. You'll be able to buy it on the 20th.

    C is for Colour? Cheap?

    Now instead of lowering the price of the iPhone 5 they’re replacing it with the 5c. It will come in green, white, blue, red and yellow. It has a unibody plastic (hard-coated polycarbonate) back while the front is black

    Call me shallow but these new colours do look like fun.

    To me these phones look like an iPhone 5 with a colour plastic shell behind it. The sides really remind me of a Nokia Lumia.

    Spec-wise it looks just like the iPhone 5 but with a slightly larger battery. So that’s a A6 chip, HD front facing camera, 8MP camera with a ‘hybrid IR filter’ (not sure if the 5 has this).

    More LTE bands than any other smartphone (so is that 5, 6 or 7 bands?) and Bluetooth 4.0 support.

    Pricing will be $99 for the 16GB while the 32GB will be $199. Not bad for an iPhone.

    They’re also bringing out new cases for the 5c which have holes cut out in the back (so that the case doesn’t protect the phone?) so you can see the original colour underneath. These cases look really cheap. They will be $29.

    So yeah, it's basically an iPhone 5 with a plastic back.

    Both the 5c and the 5s have very impressive LTE support: You get band:

    1 (2100 MHz)
    2 (1900 MHz)
    3 (1800 MHz)
    4 (AWS)
    5 (850 MHz)
    8 (900 MHz)
    13 (700c MHz)
    17 (700b MHz)
    19 (800 MHz)
    20 (800 DD)
    25 (1900 MHz)

    Unfortunately for Rogers and Bell users Band 7 (2600Mhz) is missing. Still you get bands you can use now as well as bands you'll be able to use later as carriers re-farm spectrum for LTE.

    iPhone 5s

    The new iPhone 5 replacement will be called the iPhone 5s and it will come in black (new space grey), gold and silver. Gold - yuck.

    Under the hood is a new Apple A7 chip. It’s a 64-bit chip (Nintendo 64 FTW!), not sure what the point of this since the iPhone will have less than 4GB of RAM. iOS 7 will be 64-bit. Maybe they’ll use the A7 on some low-end desktop Mac’s or the next-gen iPad will have 4GB of RAM.

    Anyways, the iPhone 5s will also run 32bit apps just fine. Apple is claiming it’s 2x as fast with graphics that are faster than 5x faster than the iPhone 5.

    There’s a M7 motion co-processor which continuously measures, motion data, accelerator, gyroscope and compass. This will be good for many health-monitoring apps. Doesn’t the Moto X have something similar?

    They claim the battery allows up to 10hrs of LTE browsing (8hrs on the old 5).

    The camera now comes with a F2.2 lens with 5 elements while the sensor is now 15% bigger - the pixels are 1.5u (vs 2.0 on the HTC One). Resolution is still 8 megapixels.

    Camera software can now shoot multiple shots and choose the best one. You can adjust the colour tone of the flash. There are 2 flashes, a cool and a warm one. You can combine the 2 of them for up to 1000 variations. That’s cool.

    Auto-image stabilization is coming soon. It’s not ‘real’ but rather it takes a lot of pictures at 10 frames per second, averages the light levels but picks the sharpest photo. Would it kill Apple to offer a stabilized lens?

    When shooting video there’s a 120 frames per second at 720p. That’s pretty cool.

    The photos, HDR’s and panoramas from the new iPhone look really impressive. The sensor looks like it has really good dynamic range.

    There is a new fingerprint reader (Touch ID, I guess iTouch was already taken) that is built-into the home button. The fingerprint ready is square shaped instead of just a short rectangle. The square shape means it can read in any orientation which should make it very usable. The reader will be covered with sapphire crystal (like on a fancy watch) so it will be very difficult to scratch.

    Besides unlocking your phone you now don’t have to enter your iTunes password constantly.

    Pricing will be $199/299/399 for the 16/32/64GB. I’m really disappointed they’re still releasing 16GB base models.

    Pre-orders for both the 5c and 5s will start Sept 13th with release on Sept 20th (both Canada and the US).

    Apple also announced that the iPhone 4s and 5 will be getting iOS 7 on Sept 18th

    iWork, iMovie, Pages, Numbers, Keynote are now all free for new iOS devices.

    Epic is releasing Infinity Blade III which will conclude the trilogy. Can’t wait for that since they stopped releasing DLC’s for 2. It’s to demonstrate the Open GL ES 3.0.
    ...
    by Published on 09-10-2013 07:55 AM
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    Are we settled on the touchscreen slab, then? Because I'm not.

    I understand that a big block of mostly screen -- the iPhone form factor, if you'd rather -- has a lot going for it. It's great for watching full-screen video, the UI rotates with you when you change from portrait to landscape and an entirely new interface is but a software update away.

    iPhone and Galaxy users still enjoy the comforts of a physical home button; Google's Nexus line eliminates even that. But if no buttons is the endgame of smartphone innovation, how come we can't seem to shake the ones for volume and power?

    Me, I like buttons. Lots of them, preferably in a qwerty layout.

    ...
    by Published on 09-09-2013 10:59 PM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. HowardForums,
    4. Contests and Giveaways



    We're giving away a Nexus 7! To enter you can leave a comment on this post, if you use Facebook "like" us and then "like" the link to this post that appears on our Facebook page, and if you are a Twitter user follow @howardforums and tweet about it using #HoFoNexus7 and linking to this post. Any one will give you an entry. Doing all three will give you three chances to win.

    *Contest Rules: Contest is open to U.S. and Canada users who do not reside in Quebec. If a Canadian wins they must answer the skill testing question: What smartphone operating system is developed by Google? U.S. winner will be responsible for all taxes and customs. Odds of winning depend on number of entries received. Contest not open to HowardForums staff.

    Contest ends on Monday September 16th at 9:00 PM Pacific. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced after being selected. If the winner does not respond to us within 24 hours of being contacted, a new winner will be chosen.

    Good luck!

    EDIT: The contest is now closed and the winner will be chosen soon. Good luck!
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