• Devices

    by Published on 11-30-2016 08:00 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices



    This video by Karl Conrad recently popped up in my YouTube feed, featuring a smartwatch I'd previously not heard of, the Ticwatch 2.

    Aimed at the Pebble end of the market (the low-end), the Ticwatch 2 has an impressive list of features, including an OLED touch screen, built-in voice search, gesture controls and a "tickle strip"—basically a trackpad on the non-crown side of the watch. Presumably this is why press materials and such show the watch being worn backwards.

    The Ticwatch 2 is not an Android Wear device but does run a customized version of Android OS, and is compatible with Android phones running 4.3 or higher, and iPhones running iOS 8 or higher.

    Its Kickstarter campaign raised over $2 million USD, and the watch can now be ordered direct from its maker, or from Amazon USA. More details on the Ticwatch 2 can be read in the review linked to directly below.

    Review: Ticwatch 2 first impressions: $199 smartwatch offers big specs

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    by Published on 11-29-2016 08:30 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. Reviews and Hands-on



    Over the weekend I finally paid a visit to one of these Google pop-up shops that I've been hearing about. Mobile Syrup reports that there are 14 of them across Canada; I went to the one in the Best Buy at Bramalea City Centre.



    What especially piqued my interest was this video documenting Marques Brownlee's visit to the NYC store. Pretty swish, right? Well, here's what the Bramalea version looks like:



    Don't forget the audio!

    I counted five Pixel phones, a Chromebook, Chromecast and a VR headset that was glued shut. Immediately next to this display were others of equal size from Samsung and Rogers. And directly behind was a much larger area devoted to Apple products. I should also point out that Google's efforts went mostly unnoticed by Black Friday/Cyber Monday shoppers.



    This was my first interaction with an actual Google iPhone (aka Pixel), as the Best Buy downtown has no Pixels on display. So what did I think of it? "Meh" is the only word that comes to mind.

    Its build quality is on par with last year's Huawei Nexus 6P. Google's ROM and launcher seem snappy enough. I didn't get to do much with the camera under Best Buy's horrible lighting, but I will say this: for the exorbitant price it's just not an attractive phone. You can argue that it doesn't matter once you start interacting with the screen, and I'll disagree—you can still feel the thing in your hands, and it doesn't feel (or look) anything like a Galaxy or iPhone.

    The best thing I can say about the Pixel is that it wasn't as disappointing as the pop-up store itself. That's certainly not saying much!

    Link: Best Buy and Google to open 14 Google Shops across Canada

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    by Published on 11-25-2016 08:00 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. Apps



    I'll be honest, I've been collecting links from reputable sources since I got back from vacation last Friday, and I still feel like I'm barely scratching the surface of what's available. So consider this post a Black Friday starter pack rather than a definitive guide. We'll start with Michael Fisher—aka Mr. Mobile—and end with some deals for Canadians, who celebrated their Thanksgiving back in October.¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    Phones

    All Black Friday 2016 phone and tablet deals from Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, Amazon, Apple, BestBuy

    Amazon’s Black Friday deals include huge smartphone discounts

    2016 Online Black Friday Prepaid and Unlocked Phone Deal Tracker

    2016 Black Friday Brick and Mortar Prepaid and Unlocked Phone Deal Tracker

    Apps

    Black Friday app and game sales roundup [Updated Continuously]

    Check Out These Black Friday Deals On The App Store's Best Games [Updating]

    Canadian Deals

    Here are the Canadian carriers’ Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals

    2016 Canadian Black Friday Apple Deals and More: Roundup [Sticky]

    If you've a link or specific deal that you'd like to add to this list, by all means do so below. And if you're venturing out for door-crasher specials, please be excellent to each other... Happy hunting!

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    by Published on 11-24-2016 09:00 AM
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    2. Devices,
    3. Reviews and Hands-on
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    Spoiler alert: it's maybe not quite as great as the title of this post would suggest.

    If you're visiting Japan, especially with someone else, a portable WiFi hotspot rental is a great idea. Rather than line up at an airport counter for a local SIM and futz with radio bands and APN settings you can get a hotspot delivered right to your hotel, complete with a return mailer so you can hand it to the front desk when you check out.

    For my recent trip to Osaka I rented a hotspot from Global Advanced Communications, whose name always seems to pop up when searching the likes of TripAdvisor and Yelp. I went for the "Super Premium" option, and upon arrival at our hotel was handed a package containing the ZTE 303ZT you see here. ...
    by Published on 11-23-2016 07:15 PM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. News,
    4. From The Forums



    If you like the HTC 10 but felt the price was too steep, HTC is offering a limited-time $200 discount, bringing the price down to $499.

    Details here: http://www.htc.com/us/go/buy-htc-10/

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    by Published on 11-23-2016 08:00 AM
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    2. Devices
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    My new Nixon Mission, that is. I haven't actually received it yet, but it's technically a souvenir from my HoFo assignment (ie. vacation) in Osaka and Hong Kong. To explain how this came to be is a bit of a meandering tale, but I'll try to keep you with me for as long as I can.

    I've had the good fortune of visiting Japan twice in the last year, and both times the one thing that has seduced me even more than than the country's hot handsets is their watches—specifically, their Casio G-Shock watches. So it would only make sense that I'd also be interested in the one smartwatch that Casio makes, the Android Wear-powered WSD-F10.

    I know what you're thinking: "Wait a minute, I thought you played for Team Pebble... What gives?" I'll get to that. ...
    by Published on 11-22-2016 09:00 AM
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    2. Devices
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    Sure, my last post on this subject was less than a year ago, but things move fast in the super-futuristic tech utopia that is Japan. And I never miss a chance to visit.

    For this past vacation the girlfriend and I passed on Tokyo for Osaka. Its DENDEN Town might not be the same all-out assault on your senses as Tokyo's Akihabara district, but there's a Yodobashi store just a short subway ride away, and it's just as much of a mobile mecca as anywhere else in the country.

    Just like the Yodobashi in Tokyo, the Umeda store has its bottom two floors devoted to mobile phones and accessories. So let's see what's new! ...
    by Published on 11-17-2016 11:58 AM
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    2. Devices,
    3. Commentary and Analysis,
    4. Reviews and Hands-on
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    I just checked out Motorola’s JBL Soundboost speaker, and Easy Share Projector Moto Mods for their Z series phones. Next up is their camera accessory; the Hasselblad True Zoom.

    Hasselblad is known for their professional grade medium format cameras. So what is their logo doing on this decided un-professional looking camera? Did they really help Motorola develop a camera accessory or did they just have a bunch of extra Hasselblad stickers laying around?
    ...
    by Published on 10-28-2016 08:00 AM
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    2. Devices
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    "Victory is mine! Full systemless root achieved. Boot image mods only, /system fully intact, dm-verity switchable."

    This was the proclamation from SuperSU's Chainfire on Twitter last night. Packaging his triumph into a flashable zip file will take a few more days; once that's released Pixel owners will be able to enjoy an ad-free Android experience, administer apps, theme their device and other wonderful things—for the price of losing Android Pay and Pokémon GO. Whether or not that price is too high is up to the individual user, but at least we now have a choice.

    But wait, you say, don't the Pixel phones sold through Verizon have locked bootloaders? They do, but some other clever XDA developers have just released a workaround, a tool called dePixel8 a tool that will forcibly enable bootloader unlocking on Pixels sold by Verizon and EE in the UK. With an unlocked bootloader you can flash a custom recovery and make backups of your entire Android system. You can also use that same custom recovery to flash Chainfire's forthcoming SuperSU.zip. ...
    by Published on 10-27-2016 08:00 AM
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    2. Devices



    If there was ever any doubt that Google is going after iPhone users with their new Pixel phones, this video should put those doubts to rest. Google is even including an OTG female USB-A to male USB-C cable with every new Pixel to help facilitate the switch.

    Here are the steps in text from a Google support page on the subject:

    STEP 1: CONNECT

    Connect your old iPhone® or Android device to your new Pixel with the Quick Switch Adapter.

    Switching from iPhone? Turn off iMessage before you remove the SIM on your old device by going to “Settings”, tap “Messages” and set iMessage to “off”. Then, go back to “Settings”, tap “FaceTime” and set FaceTime to “off”.

    If you have already removed the SIM, you can request that Apple deregister your phone number with iMessage.

    STEP 2: SIGN IN

    Switching from iPhone? Sign in to your Google Account. If you don't already have one, you'll be asked to create one.

    Switching from Android? Your new Pixel should automatically sign you in to your Google Account, but if not, simply enter your password.

    STEP 3: TRANSFER

    Once you’ve signed in to your Google Account, choose what you want to move, like your contacts, calendar events, photos, videos, music, SMS messages, iMessages® and more. Then sit back and let Pixel do the work.

    Supported devices include: iPhone or iPad running iOS 8 and up.

    I've an inkling of the answer but I want to hear it from you: Are any iPhone users reading this actually considering the switch to Pixel? No judgement either way, at least not from me. ...
    by Published on 10-26-2016 08:30 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. Commentary and Analysis
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    Before you start saving up for that jaw-dropping Mi Mix, there's something you should know: someone has found a backdoor in MIUI, the Android ROM that runs on Xiaomi phones and tablets.

    The Libre Guy grabbed this screen from a terminal app on his Mi Pad, running the netstat command. What does it mean? I'll let him explain:

    What this means is that Xiaomi has a background app constantly running which establishes a connection with some backend servers as soon as you connect to the Internet. For example, as shown on the first line, an app is listening on the XMPP port and connected to the IP 111.206.200.2. When I looked up this IP Address on the Internet, it was traced to some Chinese ISP, thus confirming my suspicion.

    What this essentially means is that the person on the other end of this connection may be doing anything to our device through this established tcp connection. Now, it could well be the case that the app is genuinely listening for an update or something, but as we all know, a backdoor such as this can be exploited by any hackers and used in unintended ways.
    Recalling that time I found ES File Explorer phoning home to China I immediately pulled my Redmi 1S out of storage and installed OS Monitor to see if I could find the same thing. Spoiler alert: Not really. ...
    by Published on 10-25-2016 08:30 AM
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    2. Devices
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    Your eyes are not deceiving you. This thing is real, and it's coming to China November 4th.

    Xiaomi's latest phablet has an astonishing 91.3% screen to body ratio—in other words, it's a 6.4 inch display in the body of a current 5.7 inch phone. And that body is entirely ceramic, with all sorts of innovations by the Chinese company and design partner Philippe Starck. The traditional top-mounted sensors have been replaced by all-new tech—the earpiece is now piezoelectric, the infrared proximity sensor now ultrasonic. About the only design concession is the front-facing camera, which has been relocated to the bottom-right corner of the phone's chin. There are no capacitive buttons down there; the Mi Mix uses soft keys instead.

    The value proposition is no less impressive. For ¥3,499 (about $516 USD), here's what you get:

    Snapdragon 821 processor running Android 6.0 Marshmallow
    1080 x 2040 pixel LCD display @ 362 ppi
    4 GB RAM / 128 GB of storage
    16 MP rear camera with phase-detection autofocus / 5 MP camera on front
    4400 mAh Quick Charge 3.0 battery
    Dual nano SIM support
    Included leather case

    ¥3,999 ($590 USD) will get you the Mi Mix 18K, with 6 GB of RAM, 256 GB of storage and—you guessed it—18-karat gold accents around the camera and fingerprint sensor on the back of the phone. ...
    by Published on 10-21-2016 08:00 AM
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    2. Devices



    Yesterday Nintendo released this video of their new console/tablet hybrid gaming system called Switch. Set to launch next March, it will replace the Wii U—and possibly the 3DS—as Nintendo's main gaming platform.

    Here's Nintendo's text version of how it works, courtesy of Kotaku:

    At home, Nintendo Switch rests in the Nintendo Switch Dock that connects the system to the TV and lets you play with family and friends in the comfort of your living room. By simply lifting Nintendo Switch from the dock, the system will instantly transition to portable mode, and the same great gaming experience that was being enjoyed at home now travels with you. The portability of Nintendo Switch is enhanced by its bright high-definition display. It brings the full home gaming system experience with you to the park, on an airplane, in a car, or to a friend’s apartment. ...
    by Published on 10-20-2016 08:00 AM
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    2. Devices,
    3. Commentary and Analysis
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    Wareable posted a feature this week using data gathered from various studies to paint a picture—in broad strokes—of the current wearable market. Sources include CCS Insight, NPD and First Insight (direct link to PDF).

    I'll admit that precious few of these "insights" are in any way surprising; the most encouraging data point for me is that there's a large potential market out there for cheaper hardware. And who doesn't want cheaper hardware?

    Anyway, read on for more! ...
    by Published on 10-19-2016 02:49 PM
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    2. Devices,
    3. Commentary and Analysis,
    4. Reviews and Hands-on
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    I’ve been playing with the Motorola Moto Z and some Moto Mod accessories for it. I recently checked out the JBL SoundBoost Speaker Moto Mod. Initially, I was unsure of how much sense a proprietary accessory would make, but Motorola managed to make it work and I loved the SoundBoost.



    Next up is their Moto Insta-Share Projector. It’s a pic projector that attaches to the back of a Motorola Moto Z family phone (currently there are 3 compatible Z family phones with presumably more to come). There are pogo plugs on the back of the projector which mate to connectors on the back of a Moto Z. It uses magnets to hold it in place which I assure you, hold it very securely. ...
    by Published on 10-19-2016 08:00 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. Commentary and Analysis,
    4. Reviews and Hands-on



    Some embargo must have been lifted yesterday; around lunchtime my RSS feeds and YouTube queue were suddenly filled with reviews of Google's new iPhone, like the video you see here from The Verge's Dieter Bohn.

    This morning's plan was to post some links for your reading pleasure, but this longtime Nexus fan couldn't resist the urge to throw in his own snarky comments along with them. Let's start with Dieter, who says that the Pixel phones go "toe to toe" with the iPhone, and that the Pixel "doesn't fall down". This gets right to my fundamental problem with Pixel. It copies the iPhone so much, from its exorbitant price right down to the long-press actions on app icons, that it begs the question: Why wouldn't someone just buy an iPhone? ...
    by Published on 10-18-2016 08:00 AM
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    2. Devices,
    3. Reviews and Hands-on



    Okay, enough griping about Google iPhone wannabes... Here's a new video by Michael Fisher featuring five pretty great mid-range phones—actually, this one only really focuses on three, as the Moto Z Play and OnePlus 3 have already been reviewed on that same channel.

    Rather than just share the video and be done with it I'm also linking to some other reviews of these same devices and, as a bonus for my fellow modders, bootloader unlock information where available. Enjoy! ...
    by Published on 10-17-2016 08:00 AM
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    2. Devices,
    3. Rumors
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    I'm no fan of Google's iPhones and it doesn't seem like many of you are, either. I am, however, duly impressed with Android Police's reporting on the devices prior to their official launch. Leaks came early and often—AP had full specs for one of the phones as far back as last June.

    Now they've taken the unprecedented (for a tech blog) step of revisiting their Pixel coverage and grading themselves on what they got right and what they got wrong. Since they got almost everything right the exercise amounts to a pat on their collective backs, but the accuracy of their reporting is impressive, nonetheless—that is, with one notable exception. ...
    by Published on 10-14-2016 08:00 AM
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    2. Devices,
    3. Rumors
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    One other bit of news to catch up on, and potentially good news for anyone in the market for an Android phone that punches above its price tag. Last Friday Chinese OEM LeEco slipped up and published pretty much everything slated for its big U.S. announcement next Wednesday, October 19th. The pages have since been taken down, but the Internet doesn't forget!

    Here are the specs of the two unlocked smartphones headed our way:

    Le S3
    5.5" Full HD display
    16MP rear camera
    Snapdragon 652 processor
    3000mAh battery
    Quick Charge 3.0
    Fingerprint scanner
    Android 6.0

    Le Max2
    5.7" Quad HD display
    21MP rear camera
    Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor
    4GB or 6GB of RAM
    3100mAh battery
    Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0
    Fingerprint scanner
    Android 6.0

    The bad news? Neither phone will have a headphone jack, but international versions of these devices have shipped with USB to audio adapters. The good news? Price. The larger Le Max2 will retail for $349 USD, with a sale price of $289 until December 18th. The Le S3 will sell for $299 USD, with an introductory sale price of $169. That might be a typo, though. ...
    by Published on 10-13-2016 09:44 AM
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    2. Devices,
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    4. Reviews and Hands-on
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    I’ve been playing with a Motorola Moto Z and a few Moto Mod accessories for a few days and thought I’d share some thoughts on how they work together.

    But first off, I have to mention what really jumps out about the Z is just how thin it is. I mean how can something this skinny pack flagship specs? What’s more impressive is that they managed to do this without having to resort to a gigantic bezel or skimping on the battery capacity.



    They didn’t skimp on features either, on the back are series of 16 pogo pins which allow you to attach a variety of add-ons called Moto Mods. Motorola isn’t messing around either, they sent me 4 different Mods with the Z including:


    • a serious sounding speaker from JBL
    • external battery pack for extended Pokemon Go so I can finally catch enough Dratini to evolve it
    • Camera with 10x optical zoom from Hasselblad
    • Pico Projector so the wife and I can watch Brooklyn Nine Nine on the ceiling




    These can all attach to the back of the Moto Z using magnets. In case you’re wondering; Yes, they attach very securely - they won’t come off unless you want it to and even then it takes a bit of coaxing.



    As it turns out the thinness, allows the Z to stay manageable even when you have a Moto Mod attached.



    So, far the one I’ve used most is the JBL speaker. I’ll talk more about the other mods in another write up. It’s considerably thicker than the Z and at 145g it basically doubles the weight of the package. Fortunately it’s very sculpted so it doesn’t feel too strange in my hand when I have it connected.
    ...
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