• Devices

    by Published on 10-29-2013 08:49 AM
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    The worst thing that I can say about Oppo is that they didn't pick me to participate in their N1 Pioneer program. But they have shown excellent judgment in including Mr. Marques Brownlee, so we're cool.

    Some of you may know this Chinese company for its DVD players. But 2013 has seen a lot of buzz about their Android smartphones as well. In that department here's what Oppo currently has on offer:

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    by Published on 10-22-2013 09:12 PM
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    In Canada, earlier this year most of us said goodbye to 3 year contracts and hello to 2 year ones. This has had an interesting effect on how we buy phones and how carriers subsidize them. Previously, when 3 year contracts were the norm, carriers were willing to subsidize phones more heavily. This meant most phones sold where either expensive top-of-the-line models or cheap entry level ones.

    However now that weíve bid adios to 3 year contracts an interesting thing has happened. Carriers now have two tiers of 2 year contracts. In order to get carriers to subsidize phones like they used to youíll now need to spend ore per month. If you want a more affordable plan you can still get a phone but it wonít have all the bells and whistles unless youíre willing to spend a lot more on the phone.

    So now thereís a demand for more affordable smartphones which are better than what youíd usually get on prepaid. Itís the rise of the mid-range phone.

    For $149 you can get the cappuccino with 4 shots of foam Samsung Galaxy S4, but it will cost you each month. If you donít want to spend so much per month youíll have to settle for a cup of Tim Hortons coffee GS4 Mini which also costs $149. So whatís the difference between the 2? ...
    by Published on 10-16-2013 09:00 AM
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    Android modders who frequent the XDA Developer Forums seem to fall into three main categories when it comes to devices. There are those who simply want to extend the life of the device they already have. Others, like me, remain faithful to the Nexus line of phones and tablets, enjoying as a result the widest selection of compatible custom firmware. And then there are those who won't settle for anything but the best. They will choose a device on its own merit, and overcome any and all manufacturer restrictions to make it their own.

    The Galaxy Note 3 is one such device.

    Some very clever minds have been hard at work on Samsung's flagship phablet, improving and/or fixing it depending on your point of view. Obtaining root was just the beginning; the video below, from XDA's official YouTube channel, highlights three additional mods:

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    by Published on 10-05-2013 12:56 PM
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    When you look at the Smartphone market, right now itís dominated by Samsung and Apple. Things are going great for them but if you were to ask them what competitor they fear most Iíd bet you their answer would Huawei. Not HTC, LG or Sony.

    I mean eventually Smartphones will reach a point where companies canít keep charging up to $800 a phone. If that ever happens there will be a big race to the bottom to see who can make the best, cheapest phone. If that happens many people figure Huawei will be in a good position.

    While they donít compete at the very top of the market, many people donít realize but Huawei actually makes really good affordable Smartphones. The Y300 I tried a while back isnít going to win ďPhone of the YearĒ but for what it costs itís an amazing deal.

    Now we have the Huawei Ascend Mate. Itís a phone with a 6.1Ē phone that only costs - wait for it - $400 off contract. At $400, itís not going to have going to have specs like the LG G2/Galaxy Note 3/Sony Z1 but for what it costs you get a get a pretty good deal.

    With a 6.1Ē the Mate should be awesome at media consumption. If youíre sitting on the train, there arenít many phones which are better than the Mate for watching and streaming videos - Right? Letís check it out:

    Huawei has found a pretty good niche for the Note. At $400 off-contract, or $99 on a 2 year with the $40 a month, plan it doesnít really have any competitors. There arenít that many phones with huge 6Ē+ screens on the market and the ones that come close cost significantly more. About the only one that comes to mind is the Samsung Galaxy Mega and maybe a used Note 2.

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    by Published on 10-05-2013 11:32 AM
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    Many people don't know that LG stands for "Lucky Goldstar". When Panasonic and Sony were all the buzz in consumer electronics, Goldstar just couldn't compete. That classic Japan vs Korea battle also applied to Honda vs Hyundai or Toyota vs Daewoo. It's a very different landscape right now and the Kimchi is everywhere doing very well. It's amazing what a rebranding strategy can do: Howard, I think it's time to kick it up, Gangnam style.

    As with all my reviews, here's the bottom line for those with ADHDhhddhhdhddh - The LG G2 is not worth the $200 (on-contract) pricetag. I'd still get the Nexus 4 at the current rock-bottom price or get all the frilly bells and whistles of the Samsung Galaxy S4. The LG G2 is clearly a precursor to the G3 (or whatever nomenclature they choose to avoid colliding with Samsung) and you'll be swimming in regret throughout that 2yr contract.
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    by Published on 10-03-2013 05:17 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 09:00 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?

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    by Published on 10-02-2013 09:15 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.

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    by Published on 10-01-2013 09:30 AM
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    Iíll 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 wasnít 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. Letís check it out.

    If you want a second opinion on the Note 3 please check out our other review of the Note 3 here.
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    by Published on 10-01-2013 09:15 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.

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    by Published on 09-28-2013 09:46 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, theyíve replaced the old 5 with a new model - the 5c.

    Apple isnít saying why they choose the letter ďCĒ, 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 itís cheaper, itís still priced like an iPhone. Probably the best guess is that the ďCĒ stands for colour. Yup, you can get the 5c is white, blue, yellow, green and pink.

    Itís funny but coloured phones arenít that common in the marketplace and when there are different colours, theyíre 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.
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    by Published on 09-26-2013 08:45 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.

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    by Published on 09-25-2013 09:48 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?
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    by Published on 09-24-2013 08:45 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 11:10 AM
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    ***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 05:12 PM
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    Itís that time of year again. Apple just introduced their new 5s (and 5c), which is supposed to be twice as fast as last yearís 5. Theyíve 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 theyíre 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.

    Iím generalizing here but iPhoneís strength is how well everything is integrated into one package. Thereís no custom launchers or anything, you do things Appleís way or else youíll have to wait forever for a new jailbreak. You get Appleís 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 Iíll just leave it at that

    With Android, itís more about choice. Since thereís so much choice, things arenít quite as polished as they are on iOS (generally speaking). However, since thereís 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 08:51 PM
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    So far this year, the Galaxy S4 has been Androidís 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 GS4ís 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.
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    by Published on 09-18-2013 09:54 PM
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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 justiceÖ 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!
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