• Devices

    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?
    ...
    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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    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 05:12 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 08:51 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 09:54 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 08:50 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 12:04 PM
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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 08:50 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 02:13 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 08:55 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 11:59 PM
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    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!
    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? It’s been awhile since I’ve tested a signal amplifier. There are a couple of reasons. First off, they usually require installation, which can be quite costly if you can’t do it yourself. You have to install an ugly antenna outside and then run wire from your roof to inside where there’s no signal. It’s 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 they’re 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, it’s 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. It’s a HSPA booster for Rogers (T-Mobile and AT&T units are also available). It’s wireless so you don’t 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
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. News

    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, we’ve reached a point of diminishing returns. Don’t get me wrong, eventually the software will probably catch up but for now, there’s 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 they’re going to reach a point where they’re ‘good enough’. You won’t 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 I’ve tried that wasn’t 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 it’s appeal. When I reviewed it, it was around $150 on prepaid but I’ve seen it go on sale for as low as $100. I wouldn’t 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). It’s a $100 entry-level Smartphone available on Bell and Virgin that runs Android 4.1. Like the Lumia 520, it has a 4” 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! Let’s check it out. ...
    by Published on 08-29-2013 08:21 AM
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    2. Devices
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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: ...
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