• Devices

    by Published on 05-12-2015 07:22 AM
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    So last Thursday San Francisco-based Fitbit filed for a $100 million IPO on the New York Stock Exchange. Good for them. But in this age of Android Wear and Apple Watch someone's going to have to explain to me why their products continue to be so popular. For me the most vexing of all is the $250 USD Fitbit Surge™ you see above. It supports notifications so it's technically a smartwatch, but it does hardly anything else that you'd expect a smartwatch to do.

    I guess I don't really need an explanation; I know full well that Fitbit has become a generic term associated with fitness tracking, like Kleenex and Q-tips® for the things that they do. I also know that part of Fitbit's appeal is the smartphone app and online account that you get with every device, so that you can track your fitness and compete with your friends.

    But you know these things aren't accurate, right? ...
    by Published on 05-04-2015 10:39 AM
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    When Howard asked me if I wanted to review the Acer Chromebook I jumped at the opportunity. While I’ve always been tempted by Chromebooks, I had some reservations; Can they do enough? Are they fast enough? Can they stream HD video smoothly? How is the battery life? Is there enough value?

    Chromebooks are very much purpose built laptops, specifically designed to do one thing. It’s not designed to replace a PC or Mac as they simply cannot do all of the same things. These are cloud enabled laptops which are targetted at Google users; Gmail, Play Music, Books, Docs, Maps, etc. With that in mind lets see how the Acer stacks up: ...
    by Published on 05-04-2015 07:42 AM
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    ... But a refund is on the way. Thanks, Amazon!

    You'll recall that I experienced a sudden and unexpected case of BlackBerry envy a few weeks ago when my mother was having some tests done at the hospital. If you missed it, my brother was texting me with his physical qwerty keypad faster than I could reply with my virtual Android equivalent.

    As dear old mum has a follow-up visit with her doctor planned for this week, I thought it might be instructive to repeat my experience with a BlackBerry, for comparison's sake.

    Now I'm not made of money so a Passport or Classic was entirely out of the question; I did, however, manage to find myself a cheap and cheerful Q5 on Amazon—in my favourite colour, I might add. I always preferred the island-style keys on the old Curve models, anyway, finding them easier to type on than the keys on the Bolds.

    A few days and $200 CAD later I had a new BlackBerry in my hands. The first order of business (after entering my credentials) was upgrading the OS to the latest and greatest version. Only problem was, there wasn't enough space on the device to take the OTA. ...
    by Published on 04-30-2015 08:04 AM
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    Now that the Jesus Watch is making its way onto the wrists of users, those same users are sharing their feedback about it on the web and social media.

    If you believe the hype, the Apple Watch changes everything—never mind that Android Wear has been on the market for almost a year, and Pebble even longer than that. If you're in the market for a wearable and are considering Apple's new product category, you deserve to know what you're getting into.

    Here's what the sheeple aren't telling you. ...
    by Published on 04-29-2015 07:10 AM
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    Yesterday in New York City LG revealed their flagship device for 2015, the G4.

    It's as notable for the features LG didn't upgrade from last year as it is for the ones they did. Unlike Samsung, who took a very different direction with their Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge, LG's G4 keeps the removable battery and support for micro SD. If only you could unlock that bootloader without an exploit, amirite?

    Anyway, the G4 has a lot more going for it than just holdover features from the G3. Here are the notable specs, via HoFo user rogue17:

    Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 808
    Operating system: Android 5.1 Lollipop
    Display: 5.5-inch Quad HD IPS Quantum Display (2560 x 1440, 538ppi)
    Storage: 32GB eMMC ROM, microSD card up to 2TB
    RAM: 3GB LPDDR3 RAM
    Size: 148.9 x 76.1 x 6.3-9.8 mm
    Weight: 155 grams
    Rear camera: 16MP with f/1.8 aperture / OIS 2.0
    Front-facing camera: 8MP with f/2.0 aperture
    Battery: 3,000 mAh removable
    Network: 4G / LTE / HSPA+ 21 Mbps (3G)
    Connectivity: WiFi 802.11ac / Bluetooth 4.1LE / NFC / USB 2.0
    Colours: (Ceramic) Metallic Gray / (Genuine Leather) Black ...
    by Published on 04-27-2015 10:07 AM
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    If you’re familiar with Alcatel OneTouch, recently their portfolio has had 2 parallel families of devices. The Idol X line had beefier specs like full HD displays but no LTE, plus they utilized MediaTek SoC’s. The Idol S line used Qualcomm SoC and some include LTE but they’re less attractive on paper.

    Now we have the Idol 3, which appears to consolidate the 2 lines. It has a full HD display and is the first device I’ve tried with Qualcomm’s 64bit octa-core Snapdragon 615 processor.

    Looking down the spec sheet, you’ll find many features from last year’s flagships like the 5.5” FHD display I mentioned, along with a 13 megapixel camera, 2GB of RAM, stereo speakers and a large battery that approaches 3000mAh.

    However, one thing that’s decidedly un-flagship about the Idol 3 is the price.

    You can pick it up for only $249.99 USD unlocked direct from Alcatel OneTouch. it occupies a part of the market that is currently not very crowded. While there are bunch of less capable phones that cost less than $200 and many flagships that cost $500 and up, $250 is a pretty lonely place.

    When I was trying to think of competitors, flagship alternatives like the OnePlus One and Nexus 5 cost a bit more than the Idol 3 while budget stalwarts like the Moto G 2nd Gen and ZTE Grand X Plus are a bit cheaper. I guess right now, the Idol 3 is competing with the the used and refurbished market. ...
    by Published on 04-27-2015 09:50 AM
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    The Lumia 830 is marketed as an affordable flagship here in Canada. For around $400, you get a phone with a slick metal frame, a 10 megapixel camera with image stabilization, running Windows Phone 8.1.

    It’s tailor made for people on a “Lite” type contract, who only want to spend slightly more than they used to, but also don’t want to drop too much on a new handset.
    ...
    by Published on 04-21-2015 07:05 AM
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    I think I missed the part where drawing pictures on your wrist became the smartwatch's killer app...

    Yesterday Google announced a major update for the Android Wear platform. Apple needed YouTube to demonstrate the many and varied features of its first smartwatch; the official Google announcement is similarly full of animated GIFs. In other words, Android Wear just got more complicated. ...
    by Published on 04-16-2015 07:45 AM
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    Just yesterday I topped up my mom's SpeakOut Prepaid account for another year. You wouldn't think that a housebound senior would have any need for a mobile phone, but the benefits are actually twofold: (1) I get peace of mind in case the power goes out, taking her cordless landline phone system with it, and (2) she gets to enjoy a network-connected timepiece—not at all what I expected but she loves it for that reason alone.

    It helps that her handset, the Snapfon ezTWO, was made expressly for seniors. But what if the elder in your life prefers a flip phone form factor? If that's what you're after, I've got just the device for you... Meet the Jethro SC213B, $44.99 unlocked from Amazon Canada. My girlfriend bought one for her 70 years-young mom, and it looks like another winner for seniors. ...
    by Published on 04-15-2015 07:25 AM
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    Here's a random photo from the Medical Imaging Department at Toronto's St. Michael's Hospital, where my mom had some tests done a week ago today. She turns 90 next month, and her age is catching up with her. This post isn't about her, though—it's about my brother's BlackBerry Classic.

    What can I say? I'm a horrible son. ...
    by Published on 04-14-2015 07:20 AM
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    My favourite Android smartphone of 2014 is holding up quite well. And it's about to get even better, as the official Lollipop-based Cyanogen OS 12 is finally, finally starting to roll out to users around the world. I myself would be content to stick with Android 4.4 and SlimKat, but since SlimLP for the OnePlus One will likely draw from Cyanogen 12S anyway, I'll probably flash the latter in the meantime to tide me over.

    There will be no OTA for me; I'll have to wait for Cyanogen to post a factory image and flash that. But this is undeniably good news for OPO users. And the news is even better for those users living in Canada. ...
    by Published on 04-13-2015 07:55 AM
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    I booked an appointment over the weekend at my local Apple store to try on the Apple Watch. Any expectations I had about what would go down were entirely due to a post I caught on Mobile Syrup last Friday—to quote its author, Dan Bader: "There is plenty of greatness in this try-on experience."

    ... Which is interesting, because the greatness was decidedly lacking in mine. ...
    by Published on 04-09-2015 08:58 AM
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    Trust me, this is the Apple Watch you want.

    To really understand the hype that's hitting the web right now you need to take a few steps back, hopefully clear of Apple's reality distortion field, and consider exactly what's being said—like Ryan Whitwam of Android Police did with The Verge's Apple Watch review:

    "The Apple Watch ... is kind of slow."

    "Sometimes apps take forever to load, and sometimes third-party apps never really load at all. Sometimes it’s just unresponsive for a few seconds while it thinks and then it comes back."

    "It’s also surprisingly heavy."

    "[The] side button is extraordinarily confusing."

    "In the first of many moments where the Watch felt underpowered, I found that the screen lit up a couple of ticks too slowly: I’d raise my wrist, wait a beat, and then the screen would turn on."

    "Having a screen that constantly flips on and off is definitely behind the curve."

    "There’s no particularly great digital face, and there’s no ability to load up your own watch faces or buy new ones from the store."

    "There’s no master switch to turn all notifications on and off, which is a huge pain."

    "By the end of each day, I was hyper-aware of how low the Apple Watch battery had gotten."

    "You only get a charging cable, which is lame. For $700, you should a nice charging stand, like you get with the $249 Moto 360."

    "There’s virtually nothing I can’t do faster or better with access to a laptop or a phone except perhaps check the time."

    "There’s no question that the Apple Watch is the most capable smartwatch available today."
    Wut?

    As an Android user I've some obvious bias here, but I'll let you in on a little secret: Android Wear is nothing to write home about, either.

    Who knew that the diminutive Pebble—not even Pebble Time, but the one you can buy right now—would be the one smartwatch platform to rule them all? ...
    by Published on 04-08-2015 06:45 AM
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    While you were sleeping—ok, while I was sleeping—HTC held a press event in Beijing, where the China-only One M9+ was made officially official.

    At first glance it looks a lot like the "regular" M9, but there are some notable differences: a 2K display on a slightly larger 5.2 inch screen, a fingerprint scanner and, oddly, the return of the Duo Camera—this one matching the 20 megapixel resolution of the M9 for western markets. Oh, it's also powered by a MediaTek chip. Interesting...

    For the moment HTC has only confirmed that the M9+ will be available in China, with no further details of when or how much it will cost. ...
    by Published on 04-07-2015 06:58 AM
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    It's been pretty quiet on this new Apple smartwatch forum, so I thought I'd pass on some news about the forthcoming Apple Watch.

    With pre-orders set to begin at 12:01 PDT this Friday, April 10th, Apple has begun posting guided tours to its YouTube channel. The first four in the series are:

    (1) Welcome (2) Messages (3) Faces (4) Digital Touch

    According to Mobile Syrup, a total of 10 video guides are planned. I don't remember seeing anything like this since the release of the original iPhone back in 2007. Apple's first smartwatch is clearly a big deal for the company—and with a starting price of $519 CAD / $399 USD for the larger 42mm model, likewise a sizeable investment for any interested parties. ...
    by Published on 03-31-2015 07:52 AM
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    On this, the dawn of my second full day with the 1st-generation Pebble, I've pretty much decided that Android Wear, if you'll pardon the pun, has been a colossal waste of my time. We're still in the honeymoon phase here, to be sure, but remember, I haven't worn a watch in twenty years—and yet so far I'm really liking this thing!

    Today I'll walk you through the process of getting started with the companion app for your Android smartphone. The iOS equivalent, as far as I know, has the exact same functionality. ...
    by Published on 03-30-2015 07:28 AM
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    It's a good thing I don't have any children; they would surely starve.

    Pebble's second Kickstarter campaign, for their forthcoming Pebble Time and Pebble Time Steel, closed last Friday—with over $20 million raised by some 78,471 backers to bring this new line of colour e-ink wearables to market.

    And I'm one of them, it seems.

    I know, I know... I've already dismissed smartwatches as unnecessary for anyone who doesn't already have a timepiece around their wrist. And I've realized in hindsight that my investment in a first-generation Android Wear product turned out to be a bad one. But I am honestly intrigued by Pebble's Timeline UI. Also, I guess I just got caught up in the hype. With such a charming video sales pitch, can you really blame me? ...
    by Published on 03-26-2015 06:19 PM
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    When you think of phones, each manufacturer has carefully created a set of expectations that customers like us can look forward to in their devices. HTC tries to make phones that are all metal with no gaps and an emphasis on the camera and multimedia experience. Sony’s are all about their water resistant with glass and metal bodies and integration with their media services. That sort of thing.

    Samsung is all about lots of features - they try to give you as much choice as possible. 2 years ago, when the industry trend was to move away from memory cards, Samsung stood firm and had one of the only flagships that still included this useful feature. Ditto for removable batteries.

    However, that was then and now, Samsung seems set on redefining their brand. Witness their newest flagship, the Galaxy S6 which is quite a departure from previous Galaxy S models.

    The removable battery and memory card slots are now a thing of the past as is the practical plastic body. Those have been traded in for an elegant glass and metal body.
    ...
    by Published on 03-26-2015 06:45 AM
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    It's been a long time since I've blogged about the Nokia of old. And yet, it seems, there are still Nokia fans out there among us.

    I found this testament to Espoo's design mettle on Imgur, an image and gif-sharing site. It's interesting that the 3650 is the first phone illustrated; despite the kooky rotary-style keypad I wanted one of these things bad. I might be mistaken, but I think it was one of the only Symbian-powered handsets to also feature Nokia's famous Xpress-on removable front and back covers.

    There are lots of other designs to reminisce about in this fond look back at a wonderful time when smartphones didn't all look the same. Enjoy! ...
    by Published on 03-23-2015 06:38 AM
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    It looks like this year's flagship from HTC has received its final, production-ready software. Or a press embargo has been lifted. Either way, in-depth reviews of the One M9 are now being posted on notable tech sites.

    The biggest change from last year's M8 is the replacement of the 5 mega—sorry, UltraPixel Duo camera with a more traditional 20 megapixel rear shooter. I myself am of the opinion that this is a good thing; while UltraPixel excelled in low light photography the Duo part ended up being a bit of a gimmick.

    Back to the reviews, are you the sort of person who usually just skips to the end to read the final verdict? So am I. So let's do that now! ...
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