• Devices

    by Published on 09-09-2013 11:59 PM
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    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!
    by Published on 09-07-2013 02:18 PM
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    Kizagjo just passed me this interesting article.

    It talks about how Amazon is trying to build a phone that will be given away. I'm talking free as in no contract. Will this free phone have any strings (non contract) attached to it?

    What effect will a free Amazon phone have on manufacturers of high-end phones like Apple and Samsung. Unlike Apple and Samsung, Amazon's reasons for making a phone are different. While Samsung and Apple sell phones for profit, Amazon's reasoning for giving away a phone may be to lock people into Amazon's ecosystem - will you have to buy stuff from Amazon? Where will you get the software from?

    Of course before Amazon can do this they also face other challenges like who will build this phone?

    If Amazon had a free phone and it didn't suck, would you consider using it or would you pay $200-$300 and stick to your Galaxies and iPhones? ...
    by Published on 09-06-2013 01:14 PM
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    I was at a wedding a couple weeks ago and the conversation centered around cross-border shopping. I was particularly intrigued by this secret method of expediting the customs lineup called "Nexus". It magically allows you to use a special queue that produces a giggle directed at the others waiting impatiently. I knew it wasn't a special feature on the Google Phone or tablet although that's probably not too far in the future. And I knew it wasn't that waveform in that Star Trek movie. Nexus is everywhere and I'm sure there's a few evangelical churches that try to use the term. With so many uses (and misuses) in media and culture, this word loses its definition and dilutes its meaning. This is absolutely true with the Google Nexus 7.

    Nexus has a few definition and I postulate Google aimed for the one about connection. My daily phone is the Nexus 4 and it indeed connects me to my digital surreality. This Nexus 7 is a forgettable tradeoff between phone capabilities and a bigger screen. There isn't anything compelling (including the price) about the Nexus 7 and thus isn't worth keeping in your techie napsack. ...
    by Published on 09-06-2013 10:51 AM
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    Can you hear me now? Are you there? Itís been awhile since Iíve tested a signal amplifier. There are a couple of reasons. First off, they usually require installation, which can be quite costly if you canít do it yourself. You have to install an ugly antenna outside and then run wire from your roof to inside where thereís no signal. Itís a hassle.

    It can also be difficult to find a good place to test them. If you live close to a tower, network signal strength may not be low enough to notice a difference. After all, these days, many phones usually sound fine right up until theyíre about to drop a call.

    Fortunately, my house is the perfect candidate for a signal booster. On the top floor, you can actually see the tower that services my houses from the window. However, itís about 1.5km away. This means I get excellent signal in my bedroom and virtually none in my basement.

    Which brings me to the Cel-Fi signal booster. Itís a HSPA booster for Rogers (T-Mobile and AT&T units are also available). Itís wireless so you donít have to run any wires besides plugging it into the wall. It consists of 2 parts; a window unit and a coverage unit. You put the window unit somewhere where you get the strongest network signal (usually a window) while the coverage unit goes where you have bad signal (probably a basement). ...
    by Published on 09-05-2013 08:27 AM
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    Yesterday I watched the Samsung Note 3 announcement at IFA. My first thought was: "Wow, they're really going all-in with the stylus."

    Indeed, this new Air Command feature seems to be a major gateway to productivity on the device -- revealing a menu with no less than four major functions:

    1. Action Memos,
    2. Pen Window,
    3. S Finder,
    4. Scrapbook.

    And it's only accessible via the S Pen.

    It's all very cool, but also a complete antithesis of where Google and Motorola are going with the largely voice-driven Motorola X. Then I read this news article about the popularity of the Note and its kin in Asia, and I wonder... Is this a cultural thing?

    ...
    by Published on 09-04-2013 02:20 PM
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    2. Devices,
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    Samsung just announced some updates to their Note line and the Galaxy Gear watch.

    First off is the Galaxy Note 3. A 5.7" update to the Note 2.
    • 5.7" Super AMOLED display
    • 2.3Ghz quad-core processor (LTE version)
    • 1920x1080 display
    • 8.3mm thick
    • 168g
    • 3200mAh battery
    • 13 megapixel camera with 'smart' stabilization - not sure if that's true stabilization or just digital stabilization
    • category LTE (up to 150Mbps download speeds) with support for 'up to' 6 LTE Band pairings.
    • 3GB RAM
    • 32GB or 64GB of storage
    • coming to: Bell, Mobilicity, MTS, Rogers, SaskTel, TELUS, Videotron and Wind later this year


    It will be available in black, white or pink. The rear covers are made from leather and can be replaced with other colours. There are also back covers with a metal finish.

    The S-Pen software has been beefed up. Now when you press the button on the S-Pen and tap the screen it brings up a mini launcher that lets you launch certain S-Pen related functions including:

    • Action Memo - a memo pad with hand writing recognition that can launch relevant apps depending on what you wrote.
    • Scrapbook - a place you can organize screen caps you've taken with the S-Pen. screen caps including where you took them (like the url).
    • Screen write - lets you screen cap and then write on it.
    • S Finder - lets you search for stuff including stuff you hand wrote
    • Pen Window - lets you use the S-Pen to multitask


    It has the ability to playback 24bit 192kbps high quality audio.

    Video is captured at 1080p at 60fps and up to 4K video (not sure how long)

    Looks like an exciting device. Anyone planning on picking up one of these?

    The Galaxy Gear is Samsung's smart watch

    It notifies you of incoming messages and shows you information using the Smart Relay feature. It has a built-in speaker so you can make calls. There's hand-free voice recognition if you speak into the Gear which can be used to compose messages, setup calendar entries, set alarms and check the weather.

    It has a 1.9 megapixels camera which can capture photos or video. Finally it has a built in pedometer.

    Inside you'll find:
    • 800Mhz processor
    • 1.63" Super AMOLED 320x320 display
    • 1.9 MP camera
    • 4GB of storage
    • 512MB RAM
    • 315mAh battery
    • speaker
    • 2 microphones
    • Bluetooth
    • accelerometer
    • gyroscope
    • 73.8g
    • 36.8 x 56.6 x 11.1mm
    • many optional coloured straps
    • available later this year


    It looks like it requires a phone for full functionality. Personally, I think it will do well in the market but personally I'm not sold on the idea of a Smartwatch - especially if it requires a phone. I suppose if you have a gigantic phone like the Note 3 you might need it if you don't have 2 free hands to use it but I don't see why I'd want to use it the rest of the time.

    Finally, Samsung announced the Note 10.1 2014 Edition. It's an update to the Note 10.1 and includes a 2650x1600 display, 3GB of RAM and up to 8 cores.

    It will be available in 16/32/64GB sizes. There are LTE, WiFi and HSPA versions but we'll be getting the WiFi only one here in Canada. ...
    by Published on 09-03-2013 06:41 PM
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    While I review a lot of high-end phones, I have a bit of a confession - I really like to check out low and midrange phones. While manufacturers continue to outdo each other in terms of hardware specifications, about a half year ago, we crossed this invisible line. We started seeing phones with 1080p screens and quad-core processors. These phones have just gotten so good that even though the specs keep getting sweeter, weíve reached a point of diminishing returns. Donít get me wrong, eventually the software will probably catch up but for now, thereís little benefit to upgrade if you already have a nice phone.

    So what does this mean for entry and mid-range phones? It means that theyíre going to reach a point where theyíre Ďgood enoughí. You wonít have to fork out big bucks on a phone to get something decent.

    A few months ago, I had the pleasure of reviewing the Nokia Lumia 520. The first entry level smartphone Iíve tried that wasnít utter garbage. It had a decent screen, acceptable performance and was a good all-arounder. I hate to say it, but the worst thing about the 520 is that it ran Windows Phone. Some will like that but overall I think it hurts itís appeal. When I reviewed it, it was around $150 on prepaid but Iíve seen it go on sale for as low as $100. I wouldnít hesitate to recommend it to people on a budget.

    So now, the battleground for a good entry level phone has moved to $100. Which takes us to the Huawei Ascend Y300 (insert hilarious Chinese spy-phone joke here). Itís a $100 entry-level Smartphone available on Bell and Virgin that runs Android 4.1. Like the Lumia 520, it has a 4Ē 800x480 display, a dual-core 1Ghz processor, 512MB of RAM, 5 megapixel camera and a relatively large 1730mAh battery. On paper, it looks like a match for the 520 - However, while I was working on this review, I noticed that the Y300 was on sale at Futureshop for $70! No contract or tab needed! Letís check it out. ...
    by Published on 08-29-2013 08:21 AM
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    So if you're wondering why I'm on the front page yet again, Howard has asked me to contribute some daily -- well, week-daily -- content here.

    For the next couple of posts I'd like for you all to get to know me and my interests a little better; it'll be back to more outward-looking stuff next week. And by the way, if you've an idea for an article by all means shoot me a PM.

    So one thing you should know about me: I really like hotspots -- in addition to mobile phones, of course.

    Not the type of hotspot that you'd find in a hotel room or Starbucks, but the much more secure personal hotspot that you carry with you. MiFi is perhaps the less confusing moniker, but it's also a trademarked brand belonging to Novatel Wireless. So "hotspot" it is...

    And why this irrational obsession with something my phone does anyway? Well, three reasons: ...
    by Published on 08-27-2013 11:11 PM
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    Google just cut the prices of the 8/16GB Nexus 4 down from 309/359 to only 199/249 CAN.

    These are unlocked phones that don't require you to sign a contract.

    I just checked and the Google Play store seems to be having problems so these might be selling out fast. If you can, get one while they're hot! ...
    by Published on 08-26-2013 09:17 PM
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    I was really surprised by all the buzz surrounding the Motorola Moto X. The RAZR and RAZR HD were solid phones but they hardly set the market on fire. So why all the sudden interest in the Motorola Moto X?

    On paper, itís much more similar to last yearís Android flagships, like the Samsung GS III and HTC One X, rather than this yearís Samsung GS4 and HTC one. So people arenít drooling over the Xís specs.

    My guess is that since Motorola is now owned by Google, people will assume that the X will like a Nexus phone and receive regular updates from Google. Personally, I doubt this will happen but who knows. In the past, at least in Canada Motorola hasnít been very good with updates. There are also political reason within the Android eco-system why it would be bad for Google to elevate Motorola above other Android OEMís when it comes to this.

    Still, it doesnít mean that the X doesnít have interesting hardware. Motorola has made it so the X is able to listen in with its microphone all the time with minimal impact on its battery. Itís always listening for you to say ĎOK Google Nowí. When you say that, it launches the Google Now app which is sort of like a personal assistant/search program.

    Letís check out the X. ...
    by Published on 08-26-2013 02:29 PM
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    With school just around the corner, itís that time again. Hereís my list of the top phones for back to school.

    If you read the list though youíre probably wondering: ďWhereís the iPhone 5Ē? Well, the way I see it, buying one now is a recipe for buyerís remorse. Last year Apple announced the iPhone 5 in September, the 4s was announced 2 years ago in October. Weíre probably due for a new one soon.

    Heck, even if you donít care that a new one is just around the corner, thereís probably going to be a price cut that follows, so unless you donít have a phone at all right now, Iíd wait a month for the new iPhones to come.



    1: HTC One

    With itís sleek metal casing, the best display on the market, the best sounding speakers, the loudest headphone jack and one of the best cameras, itís easy to see why the HTC One is my top pick.

    It does lose points for not having a memory card slot but then again, it comes with 32GB of built-in storage which helps mitigate this problem. It also lacks a removable battery. Then again, so do most of the other phones here.


    ...
    by Published on 08-20-2013 07:44 PM
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    In the automotive world, the Q5 makes perfect sense: "He" gets the A5 and "She" gets the "Q5". "Her" needs are different because she will drop the kids off at soccer practise and pick up the groceries. It's a great strategy to keep the brand in a given family unit. No longer do you need to go to Chrysler or Honda for that other vehicle; you can shop at Audi for all of your transportation needs. In case I've lost you, Audi is a car manufacturer and they have an SUV model called the Q5. And the gender references aren't intended to offend but merely as an illustration (I drive the minivan in my family).

    And once again for those with the ultra short attention span, the Q5 (Blackberry this time) is one of the best communication devices available but has success highly dependent on price. If carriers gave this phone away for free, Blackberry will claw back market share.


    Blackberry Family
    In my analogy above about a brand family, we know that Blackberry currently has 3 offerings for it's BB10 operating system: Z10, Q10, and now the Q5. Does this mean that "Dad" gets the Q10 because he is on the go and uses the practical keyboard to get his messages sent quick and fast? And does "Mom" use the Z10 for the larger screen to look at what's on sale at the outlet mall? It is entirely possible that the "kids" are awarded the Q5 to allow the entire family to communicate via BB Messenger. Like I said, if the pricing of the Q5 is such that it's a "disposable" expense, then Blackberry has hit the nail on the head. This younger generation can text better and faster than writing cursive with a ballpoint pen. With the entire family in the Blackberry brand, this opens up opportunities for a broader product roadmap that spans a couple generations. It's the same way that Apple is capitalizing on the iOS ecosystem/cult: once you're in, it's tough to get out.

    The logical extension of this is the corporate enterprise world where Blackberry is preferred. With the blip in technological progress during the iPhone/Android launch, my theory is that RIM at the time could not catch up leaving a gap that still exists today. This gap is about shareholder and end-user confidence. I have yet to hear a success story about BB10 exceeding information security requirements. This leads to my assumption that this new Blackberry Q5 is like that odd cousin that just doesn't make sense. To equip a small business, a "free" price point for the Q5 makes a compelling business case. But unfortunately at the enterprise level, the Q10 is the best choice making the Q5 ignorable to say the least. It will not help Blackberry get into the black. ...
    by Published on 08-20-2013 07:31 PM
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    I just at a Moto X event and got one to play with. First off, check out the demo. It's long but interesting:



    People have been moping about the Moto X's specifications. While it's true that it doesn't have a quad-core processor and a 1920x1080 display, it does have 2GB of RAM which in my opinion, is more important than the other two specs.

    Anyways, the Moto X isn't priced at the level of the Samsung Galaxy S4. Look, it would be foolish for Motorola to think that they can "Out-Galaxy" the Galaxy S4. If they made their own version of the GS4 it would compete directly with the GS4 and well, you can probably guess how that would turn out.

    Going from dual-core to quad-core results doesn't mean performance doubles. Generally, quad-cores do better in benchmarks but in real life it's debated how much of a difference it makes. Companies use quad-core because it looks good on paper mostly.

    The 1920x1080 screen resolution spec is thing that looks good on paper. In real life, the difference between a 1280x720 and 1920x1080 on a 4.7" screen is minimal. ...
    by Published on 08-19-2013 12:33 PM
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    In past 2 years, the Android tablet market has really changed. Initially, we only had 10Ē and 7Ē tablets. Now we have many sizes with the 7Ē tablets becoming the entry level models. Itís the sort of tablet you buy for your toddler - not yourself. You might get one to use while youíre watching TV, that sort of thing. Itís going to be a companion device that doesnít really replace anything.

    Hereís Samsung entry level tablet - their 7Ē Galaxy Tab 3 which is priced at around $200.

    A year-and-a-half-ago, a $200 tablet would have been quite a deal. These days, you can get 7Ē tablet from first and second tablet manufacturers like HP, ASUS, Acer that are cheaper and pack more hardware.

    If youíre looking at the 7Ē Tab 3 you might also consider both the 2012 and 2013 Google Nexus 7ís, the Kobo Vox and the Amazon Kindle Fire. ...
    by Published on 08-15-2013 06:03 PM
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    I have a bit of a confession, as the father of a newborn and a toddler Iím a bit obsessed with IP cameras. I actually have 7 of them deployed around the house. All of them have WiFi, night vision, microphones, some support 2-way audio, a couple can pan and tilt plus a few have megapixel sensors.

    When I want to take a break from working, I love being able to tune in and watch my kids - theyíre young enough that this isnít creepy (yet).

    Which brings us to the Belkinís NetCam HD. Itís an IP camera with a megapixel sensor, night vision and a built-in microphone. ...
    by Published on 08-13-2013 06:07 PM
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    If youíre in the market for an 8Ē tablet there are 3 main choices. The Apple iPad Mini which I reviewed a while back, the Note 8.0 that Ray looked at and The Galaxy Tab 3 8Ē which Iím looking at today.

    Aside from the iPad Mini and Note 8.0 you might also consider the rest of the Samsung Tab 3 lineup and the 2013 Google Nexus 7.

    Letís see how they size up.
    ...
    by Published on 08-12-2013 01:55 PM
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    Hereís the Belkin WeMo power switch. Itís a $50 power switch which you can control using your Android or iOS Smartphone.

    You just connect it to a power outlet and then plug something into it.

    Setup is straight forward:

    1. Plug the WeMo into an outlet
    2. Download the WeMo app
    3. Open up your phoneís WiFi settings menu and connect to the WeMo
    4. Open up the WeMo app, enter your WiFi networkís password
    5. Configure Switch and setup rules


    The app lets you view whether the outlet is on or off plus you can create rules about when it should turn on or off.
    ...
    by Published on 08-08-2013 12:39 PM
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    Looks like The Blackberry Z10 and Q10 now have the 'authority to operate' on the DoD's networks. It's the first Mobile Device Management provider to get his.

    Now the US Defense Information System Agency is working to support 10,000 BB10 devices by this fall and 30,000 by the end of the year.

    I wonder if Hauwei will get their ATO next.
    ...
    by Published on 08-08-2013 10:13 AM
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    Source for my info: WallStreet Journal

    Market Share:
    Android 79.3%
    iOS: 13.2%
    Windows: 3.7%
    Blackberry: 3%
    Well, the numbers are in, and Android put every other competitor over it's knee, and thoroughly spanked them.
    I don't mean it was a mild, light spanking, I mean, it was a whallop like no one has ever seen before.
    BUT while large sales of devices is good... it's all about profit for your share holders, and Apple has that number in the bag, though not as devastatingly as the device numbers, and the profit margin IS shrinking between iOS and Android.
    ...
    by Published on 08-07-2013 11:27 AM
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    Today LG announced the LG G2. They announced a few weeks back that they're dropping the Optimus branding on their high-end.

    Aimed squarely at the Galaxy S4 and it's comparables the G2 out-Galaxy's the GS4 on a number of fronts:
    • 5.2" 1920x1080 display
    • 2.65mm side bezels with rear controls
    • 3000mAh battery
    • 13 megapixel camera with optical image stabilization
    • 24bit/192kHz music playback
    • 2.26Ghz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800
    • Android 4.2.2 (did LG wait till 4.3 came out to release this?)
    • 32GB or 16GB of storage
    • 2GB RAM
    • 138.5 x 70.9 x 8.9mm


    So they've managed to shoe-horn a 5.2" screen into the chassis of a 4.7/4.8"ish phone. I don't know about you but the G2 looks like a very difficult phone to hold. To make it a little easier they've moved the controls to the back. I'm not sure how well that would work.

    The 3000mAh battery is a nice touch, that's almost as big as the one you get in the Galaxy Note 2 so the G2 might have a chance of lasting the day on a single charge for more people.

    Under the hood the 2.26Ghz quad-core processor should fly. The North American GS4's come with a 1.9Ghz version of this processor while the HTC One 1.7Ghz. Will it be noticeably faster? Probably not unless you have them side-by-side but it's still nice to have the fastest one out there.

    2GB of RAM is par-for-the-course. Last year's Optimus G came with 2GB as did the Samsung GSIII/GS 4, HTC One, Xperia Z/ZL, etc. More would be nice but 2GB is more than enough right now.

    The 24bit/192Khz music playback is an interesting feature. I'm guessing LG is making use of the fact that Android now supports external DAC. I wonder how good the headphone jack will sound and if they back this with a good amp.

    I guess whiners will whine that it only comes with Android 4.2.2. The timing of the G2's release is kind of funny since LG has this reputation of being a little behind-the-curve when it comes to updates since 4.3 came out last week. Then again, it will probably be a few months till any non-Nexus phone comes with 4.3. ...
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