• Devices

    by Published on 03-20-2015 06:56 AM
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    2. Devices,
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    As someone who doesn't wear a watch I've no proverbial skin in this game. I know a good watch UI when I see it; other than that... meh.

    And yet, two stories that appeared in my news feed this morning have got me writing about wearables once again:

    Apple is building a Watch shop in this Tokyo luxury department store

    Google Is Making an Apple Watch Killer With This Swiss Luxury Watchmaker

    The fandroid in me wants to say: "good for Google". Getting Android Wear on a proper timepiece from an actual watch-maker is an obvious win, and similar partnerships may be in the cards now that the spectre of the Apple Watch has reared its ugly head. Furthermore, I suspect that Android will ultimately prevail in the smartwatch wars, because open, distributed platforms always win.

    But all this would ignore an obvious fact: computers and fine jewellery don't really go together all that well. One can last for generations; the other has a shelf life of maybe two years tops. ...
    by Published on 03-19-2015 06:42 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. Tips,
    4. Commentary and Analysis,
    5. Apps
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    If you listen to the Android Central Podcast then you've probably heard the not very nice things that Phil Nickinson et al have to say about Clean Master (Speed Booster). No really, that's the exact wording of the app's name on the Play Store.

    Clean Master is a product from a company called Cheetah Mobile, which I mention only because their entire website looks like a pop-up ad. Here's what it purports to do:

    Features of Clean Master- Phone Booster & Antivirus

    ► CPU COOLER
    Cool off your device by finding and stopping the apps that are causing it to overheat and make your battery last longer!

    ► JUNK FILE CLEANING
    Delete cache and residual files to reclaim storage, boost speed and improve the performance of your device and SD card.

    ► MEMORY BOOST
    Boost your games and apps, free up memory (RAM), speed up your device and save more battery. Our 1 Tap Boost and Game Boost features make it easy to optimize directly from your homescreen.

    ► ANTIVIRUS
    Scan the system, pre-installed and user-installed apps to keep your device safe from viruses, trojans, vulnerabilities, adware and spyware. Keep your privacy safe by scrubbing personal info from your device.

    ► APP MANAGER
    Uninstall unwanted apps or bloatware and back up important ones. Some rooted devices will be able to move apps to the SD card as well as uninstall pre-installed and system apps. Our own Picks section lets you find useful apps that match your interests.
    Um, how about no? ...
    by Published on 03-18-2015 06:55 AM
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    I was all set to order a pair of OnePlus Power Banks when they became available for purchase yesterday, but was informed on the check-out screen that OnePlus "currently does not ship to Canada".

    Up until February or so of this year, OnePlus used DHL Express to get their gear delivered north of the 49th Parallel. For customers residing here it was an expensive proposition; the three OnePlus Ones that I've ordered have come with hefty surcharges—$60 to $65 CAD per item in duties, taxes and fees. This on top of the $27.99 USD premium paid for Express Shipping, the only available option for Canada. In other words, that $349 USD flagship killer has, in each case, ended up costing me closer to $500 CAD.

    An admin on their forums confirmed back in February that OnePlus has indeed temporarily suspended shipping to this country:

    We have heard a lot of feedback from our Canadian users who haven't been completely satisfied with the shipping options available. We are exploring new logistics options and will resume shipping to Canada in the next few weeks.
    But more than a month later, the embargo is still in effect. ...
    by Published on 03-17-2015 07:15 AM
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    2. Devices,
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    Just over a month ago I wrote about the Saygus V˛, a high-spec Android device sporting a fractal antenna, front and rear OIS cameras, removable battery and support for up to 320 GB of storage, via not one but two micro SD slots. An extra battery and a reduced price tag of $549 USD was offered for customers willing to pre-order.

    Now it seems that production of the V˛ has been delayed due to manufacturing issues, leading some skeptics to wonder if this device will ever make it into customers hands at all. I had also wondered about the company's bold claim as "the only smartphone startup to ever receive certification from a US carrier"—Android Authority has confirmed that what they're talking about, the Saygus VPhone V1, never made it to production. ...
    by Published on 03-16-2015 08:28 AM
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    2. Devices,
    3. How-To,
    4. Apps
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    Okay, one last story from Mobile World Congress...

    I'm a regular viewer of BBC's Click, the British broadcaster's weekly tech show that you can watch if you have BBC Canada in your cable package, or know where to look for it elsewhere online.

    At this year's MWC the team set out to conduct a rather grand experiment: to produce an episode entirely on mobile devices. Here's how that went:

    The Good News

    Cameras on most modern smartphones are pretty decent, so capturing HD video wasn't really a problem. Some "pro" apps were used for necessary functions like locking exposure and manual focus—Cinema FV-5 for Android and FiLMiC Pro for iOS were specifically cited in the episode. A handheld gimbal from LanParte kept shots steady.

    The Okay News

    Capturing high-quality sound with said HD video in the busy and noisy environment of your typical trade show was a bit more of a challenge. The easiest and most effective solution proved to be an XLR adapter from ProJive, to interface with the BBC's existing pro audio gear. This particular cable features an extra mini plug so that you can monitor audio while you're recording, but for some reason Android doesn't support this feature.

    The Bad News

    Where everything almost fell apart was when it came time to edit. ...
    by Published on 03-12-2015 12:11 PM
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    2. Devices,
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    Just got my Samsung Galaxy S6 here are my first impressions:

    Edge or Flat?



    This time around, there are 2 Galaxy S6’s. One is the regular GS6 which we’ll call the flat in this section and a variant called the GS6 Edge which has a screen that curves into the Edges.



    While phones with curved glass are nothing new, the Edges screen actually bends over the sides. Pictures don’t do it justice, it’s quite striking in person. Otherwise, aside from the Edge having a slightly larger battery, the GS6 and GS6 Edge are identical.



    If you want the Edge, you’ll need to pay an extra $100.



    Next, you have to decide whether you want white or black and then how much storage you need. They come in 32, 64 and 128GB sizes. I think 32GB will be enough for most people while power users will probably be satisfied with 64GB. Kudos to Samsung for making 32GB, which is already quite generous, the smallest size.



    The GS6 Edge is really cool in person but if you’re a power user you may prefer the flat version. After getting over the curved sides, you may get tired/annoyed of having a screen that only curves on the edges.
    ...
    by Published on 03-11-2015 07:58 AM
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    ... Can be found on the new Pebble Time. End of story.

    The more I see of it the more I'm convinced that the interface on the Apple Watch is a hot mess. And Android Wear goes too far the other way, as in it's too simple—in the vast majority of use cases you'll either be shouting into your wrist to initiate a Google search, a search that has to be completed on your phone, or reading and dismissing notifications from your phone on your wrist.

    Pebble, on the other hand, has designed a UI for your wrist that's both intuitive and useful. Three buttons on the right side of the device allow you to navigate through events and other actionable items in your past, present and future. I honestly don't even know what the button on the left is for. ...
    by Published on 03-09-2015 08:16 AM
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    2. Devices,
    3. News,
    4. Commentary and Analysis,
    5. Rumors
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    Even before the release of the first-generation iPhone, the tech press—pretty sure it was Gizmodo—started referring to it as the "Jesus Phone". With all the hype I'm reading about today's Spring Forward Event, I don't see why the same divine label can't also apply to Apple's auspicious first foray into the wearables racket.

    Since the Apple Watch was announced last September a fair amount of news about it has made its way into the daily round-ups I post to the front page, so in advance of today's proceedings I thought I'd get us all up to speed with a quick check in our collective rear-view mirror.

    Of the eight links that follow, Re/code, Tech in Asia and TechRadar are responsible for one each. Two links are from iPhone in Canada and the rest are from iVerge. I'd say that's fairly balanced; hopefully you'll agree. ...
    by Published on 03-06-2015 12:15 PM
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    When Motorola released the original Moto G, it really turned the industry on its side. Before it came out, all the brand name phones at its price point where not very good. The Moto G was really one of the first affordable phones that didn’t make any serious compromises.

    Motorola followed it up with the original Moto E. With an even more budget friendly price tag, many hoped it would bring the cost of getting a decent phone down even more.

    However, when it launched it was clear it had some serious compromises. The 4.3” screen was too small and cramped, it came with very little storage (4GB) and while it had plenty of megapixels, the camera was terrible.

    Now Motorola has a new Moto E that addresses most of the original’s shortcomings plus it comes with an unexpected extra - LTE support. Let’s check it out: ...
    by Published on 03-06-2015 07:38 AM
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    2. Devices,
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    The wait was longer than expected, but the Meizu MX4 Ubuntu Edition was finally announced at this year's Mobile World Congress. Unlike the bq Aquaris E-whatever the Meizu is a proper smartphone with proper specs—not quite as good as the Android edition, but a full-HD display and 2 GB of RAM at least. That homescreen button in the image above makes we wonder if it's a pre-production model that's making the rounds at MWC. Buttons? Ubuntu don't need no stinkin' buttons...

    Anyway, with both the Meizu and bq on display, Ubuntu's smartphone OS got a fair amount of press, ranging from good to not-so-good:

    The Ubuntu phones are an audacious attempt to take on Android
    Hands-on with an Ubuntu phone at MWC
    Latest Ubuntu For Mobile Hands-On, U.S. Model Coming
    Ubuntu's answer to Android is finally here, but it still needs work
    Is this stylish Ubuntu phone ready for prime time? Not yet.

    But what about the so-called "convergence mode" wherein you take an Ubuntu phone, plug it into a desktop monitor, pair it with a wireless keyboard and mouse and suddenly have a fully-functional Ubuntu-powered desktop PC? That would certainly be a compelling feature, and apparently it's still in development. ...
    by Published on 03-05-2015 07:35 AM
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    2. Devices,
    3. News,
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    Can I tell you how long I've longed for a smartphone from Huawei with an unlockable bootloader?

    Every winter when my girlfriend and I visit Hong Kong someone at a phone shop invariably tries to sell me on the latest from this Chinese OEM. And why not? Their "Ascend P" line of sleek, metal and glass smartphones are gorgeous. And phablets? Son, Huawei was doing 6 inch phones long before 6 inch phones were even a thing.

    The company's no slouch when it comes to moving hardware, either. In his final numbers for 2014 Tomi Ahonen ranked Huawei 4th in sales worldwide with 75 million units shipped, ahead of Xiaomi at 61.1 million.

    The bad news, as is the case with most Android OEMs, is that the stock ROM on their products is crap. Huawei calls theirs Emotion UI, and most reviews I read of Huawei products—at least from the Western tech press—have nothing good to say about it.

    So you can imagine how thrilled I was to read this bit of news on GizmoChina:

    Kevin Yang, the Director of China Research at iSuppli, a leading market research firm, confirmed on Weibo earlier today that Google has indeed chosen Huawei as the next Nexus maker.
    Hot damn! ...
    by Published on 03-04-2015 08:31 AM
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    2. Devices,
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    Qualcomm may have jumped the gun just a bit with their announcement of the Snapdragon 820 at MWC. There is mounting evidence that their current flagship SoC, the Snapdragon 810, is well... a dud.

    The bad news started back in early January, when rumours started circulating about a major OEM passing on the 810 for their top-tier device. That OEM turned out to be Samsung, and the device in question the new Galaxy S6. For the past few years Samsung has sold flagships running their in-house Exynos chips in Asia and Europe, while their Americas-bound counterparts shipped with Qualcomm chipsets. Why the sudden change? Apparently the 810 runs too hot. ...
    by Published on 03-03-2015 08:16 AM
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    As Mobile World Congress continues on in Barcelona, I thought I'd take a quick pause to celebrate, in video, what have to be the undisputed stars of the show: Samsung's Galaxy S6, S6 Edge and HTC's One M9.

    Below you'll see the official product announcements from HTC and Samsung, along with some notable first impressions from Marques Brownlee, The Verge, Android Authority and Pocketnow.

    Enjoy! ...
    by Published on 03-02-2015 10:15 AM
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    Alcatel OneTouch will be selling the unlocked Cyanogen OS powered Hero 2+, direct via their website.

    It will be $299 USD (~370CAN) beginning in Q2 2015. It will be available in the US and Canada

    Here are the specs:

    • 6", 1920 x 1080 TFT
    • built-in stylus
    • LTE
    • 2Ghz octa-core Mediatek MT6592 SoC
    • 2GB RAM
    • 16GB storage
    • MicroSD
    • 13 MP rear-facing camera
    • 5MP front-facing camera
    • 3100mAh battery
    • Cyanogen OS 11 with Android 4.4.4
    • 160.5mm x 81.6mm x 7.9mm


    The 6" 1920x1080 display will be plenty sharp and 2GB of RAM should be enough for everyone.

    16GB of storage is also a plus and if that isn't enough, there's a MicroSD.

    Actually, the guts sound pretty similar to the Idol X+ I reviewed last year. The performance of the MT6592 octa-core SoC slots in between a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 and 600 so it should be sufficient for most users.

    What do you think? ...
    by Published on 03-02-2015 07:53 AM
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    With the Samsung Galaxy S6 and HTC M9 officially official, I've been pouring through some other news from Mobile World Congress, happening right now in Barcelona. And as news goes this is pretty big: Cyanogen, Inc. and Qualcomm have inked a deal wherein Cyanogen will provide the software for upcoming Qualcomm Reference Devices.

    This does not mean that the Qualcomm equivalent of a Nexus is going on sale anytime soon. Rather than paraphrase I'll let Android Central explain:

    Qualcomm makes special devices with each of its chipset launches called Qualcomm Reference Devices, or QRDs. Think of it like a whitebox program, where Qualcomm provides everything necessary for a company to slap its branding on the side and call it their own. There are hundreds of these devices in the world today, made by dozens of different manufacturers. Qualcomm's program makes it so these manufacturers can "make" and sell a device in as little as 60 days, instead of the months and months a from-scratch hardware launch takes. Most of these devices aren't particularly fun to use, due in many cases to the software.
    So in other words, a lot of those dreary low and mid-range Android devices are about to get a lot better! ...
    by Published on 03-01-2015 06:58 PM
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    HTC just announced the new HTC One M9 - or is it the newer HTC One M9. There's a quick chart comparing last year's M8 and the M9 after the jump.



    No doubt, the M9 will also compete with the just announced Samsung Galaxy S6. While the GS6 has the bigger 'specs'; 5.1 vs 5.0" screen, DDR4, HD display vs Quad HD, blah blah blah, to me, the M9's are more sensible.

    The GS6 has to push almost 2x as many pixels which will have an affect on graphics performance and battery life. Also, on a 5-ish inch display, most people will find that 1920x1080 and 2560x1440 are just as sharp as each other.

    Don't forget, that the GS6 also has a smaller battery (2550 or 2600 vs 2840mAh) that's no longer removable plus it has to run a power sucking Super AMOLED display. I don't care what Samsung says about AMOLED display using less power, my experience is that they are more power hungry because they usually have to be turned up.

    Still, it's much easier to market a 2560x1440 display over a 1920x1080.

    The M9 also comes with a MicroSD slot and a generous 32GB of storage. With the S6 you'll have to pick whether you want 32/64/128GB and be stuck with that.

    Both have metal bodies. The GS6 does come with some extras like a fingerprint reader (pretty useful), a heart rate monitor (not really useful), while the M9 has stereo speakers which if they're anything like the M8, should be excellent. It should be interesting to see which phone is better. ...
    by Published on 03-01-2015 02:07 PM
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    2. Devices,
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    Samsung just announced successors to the Galaxy S5, the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge. They're almost identical but the 6 Edge's screen curves down on the sides. After the jump is a quick comparison of the GS5, GS6 and GS6 Edge.



    The big difference is that Samsung has ditched the plastic body for metal. The screen is higher resolution though I doubt it looks any sharper than the GS5's - they're just keeping up with the competition in this regard. 3GB of RAM is a nice upgrade plus it's faster DDR4 RAM instead of DDR3. The camera now has optical image stabilization while the front-facing camera has been bumped to 5 megapixels.

    One of Samsung's calling cards is that their phones come with memory card slots. So I was surprised that Samsung has followed Apple's strategy and ditched the memory card slot. You can get the GS6/6 Edge with 32/64 or 128GB of UFS 2.0 (a faster type of built-in storage). Fortunately, the base 32GB model is already a good size unlike the 16GB iPhone 6 and 6 Plus which are way too small and should never have been introduced to the market.

    Another big change is that the battery is now built-in. In fact, while the GS5 comes with a 2800mAh battery, the GS6 comes only comes with a 2550 while 6 Edge, a 2600mAh battery. I'm guessing that since the battery will probably last the day, that's enough for Samsung.

    Finally, unlike the GS5, the GS6 and 6 Edge aren't water resistant. This is a real shame, I'm guessing Samsung will make a GS6 Active later that is water resistant - this actually makes more sense as it was kind of hard to describe the difference between the GS5 and GS5 Active.

    All, in all, except for the removal of removable battery, storage and to a lesser extent, the smaller battery there aren't any real big surprises. I guess the lack of a Qualcomm SoC is a bit of a surprise but this isn't something a user is going to notice. ...
    by Published on 02-27-2015 12:02 PM
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    2014 was supposed to be the year of the wearable. While 2014 did see a whole slew of wearables hit the market and to a lesser degree, gain some mainstream acceptance, wearables didn’t take off like many thought they would.

    One reason is that even though there’s a lot of momentum in the category - for many people, they just found that the trade offs of having a wearable didn’t outweigh the benefit having one would bring to their daily lives.

    Here’s the Samsung Gear S, one of the first wearables from a mainstream manufacturer that has a built-in SIM card slot which allows it to get a data connection even when your phone isn’t around.

    Is built in wireless the killer feature that wearables have been waiting for? Let’s check it out:
    ...
    by Published on 02-24-2015 07:58 AM
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    If you squint just a bit you can see the capacitive buttons on my OnePlus One, when I first unboxed it last July. I never thought I'd actually be using them, as I've grown quite accustomed to the on-screen buttons present on every Nexus since the Galaxy. But thanks to some clever innovations on my latest custom ROM—and, unfortunately, a key shortcoming—I'm now living, and loving, the capacitive life.

    The ROM in question is SlimKat, which I've written about before. The bad news is that I can't completely disable the capacitive buttons even if I wanted to. I can easily turn off the backlight but if I press anywhere on the chin the corresponding button press will still register. There is a high-level workaround that would involve putting a custom script into my /system/etc/init.d folder. Sounds sketchy.

    The good news is that I can do a lot more with the capacitive buttons than I would have thought! ...
    by Published on 02-20-2015 07:46 AM
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    Android Authority pumps out YouTube videos like nobody's business. The content is sometimes a bit iffy but the quality of the videos uploaded by each member of their team look uniformly slick.

    This past week they outdid themselves, with a superb retrospective of Nexus phones and tablets narrated by new presenter Ash Tailor. If you're a Nexus fan and can spare the 26 minutes or so to watch it I highly recommend that you do. ...
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