• Devices

    by Published on 05-05-2016 06:32 AM
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    Here's a funny story that you may have missed; it broke while I was on break.

    A previous post about 2016 being the year of the dual rear camera smartphone included news of the Huawei P9 and P9 Plus—both with camera modules designed and presumably manufactured by famous German camera maker Leica. Well, guess what? Turns out those modules are actually being made by Sunny Optical Technology of China. Oops. ...
    by Published on 05-04-2016 06:35 AM
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    A quick heads-up for Canadians reading this: there are two really good deals on round smartwatches right now, ones that won't last long.

    Until May 9th Google is offering $125 CAD off the sticker price of the Android Wear-powered Huawei Watch. Unfortunately, it can't be combined with the $50 credit that Google previously offered to folks like myself who purchased a Nexus 6P. Also, the cheaper silver model is currently listed as out of stock.

    And for Pebble fans there's an even better deal. ...
    by Published on 04-29-2016 06:40 AM
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    What we're looking at here is a thousand-dollar paperweight that I carried with me across Asia. What a fail.

    Two days into my twelve-day trip this Fujifilm X-T10 mirrorless digital camera suddenly and inexplicably stopped talking to its kit lens—as bizarre as that sounds it's apparently a frequent problem with these cameras. What does Fuji have to say about it? From their own support pages:

    The camera is malfunctioning or defective. Please contact the place of purchase.
    Done and done, Fuji. The camera is being shipped back to Amazon today. The whole experience has given me a new appreciation for smartphone cameras, and how far they've progressed in a relatively short time. ...
    by Published on 04-28-2016 06:35 AM
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    The T-Hotel is my favourite place to stay in Hong Kong. Tucked away in the sleepy village of Pok Fu Lam, this boutique property is actually a training facility for hospitality students. Simply put, you get the five-star hotel service of tomorrow, today—and at two-star hotel prices, I might add!

    My girlfriend and I stopped over in Hong Kong for a few days on our way back from Seoul. A new service for T-Hotel guests is a complimentary Android phone from handy, with free data for the duration of their stay. When I first wrote about handy exactly two years ago it was a freebie you could only get from the city's most expensive hotels; it was an unexpected perk to be able to try it out on the cheap. ...
    by Published on 04-20-2016 03:22 PM
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    The other day, I wrote about my Nexus 4 and how it’s still able to get the job done. What I didn’t mention was that I was also fiddling with my Nexus One from many years ago. While a bit smaller, feature wise, it’s not all that far from the current crop of Nexus’.

    Oh and before I continue, all the pictures here were taken with the very same Nexus 4 I wrote about yesterday. It’s old, not obsolete!

    I mean the recipe for a smartphone hasn’t changed all that much. They’re still basically just a processor, touch screen, RAM, storage, camera(s), speaker(s), radio and software, all crammed into a bar like device. Despite manufacturer’s best efforts, this recipe probably won’t change for a while.

    Along the way, companies have tried to mix things up. Samsung includes a heart rate sensor on many models. The Note series includes a stylus. They also included a UV sensor on the Note 4.

    A few have tried infrared blasters. There are a handful of phones with dual rear cameras, for various reasons including 2 different focal lengths, fake bokeh effects, 3D, you name it.

    Call it innovation or running out of ideas, but there is one feature which is slowly becoming a standard feature which I absolutely love; the fingerprint reader.
    ...
    by Published on 04-18-2016 07:43 PM
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    Forgive me for the provocative title, but I was doing some spring cleaning the other day when I stumbled across my old LG Nexus 4. Released in late 2012, it’s now a little over 3 years old and no longer gets the latest version of Android from Google.

    I turned it on and it still works just fine. It got me thinking; just how fast is it compared to something more contemporary? And since when is something barely 3 years old not contemporary?

    Since the Nexus 4 came out, it’s seen 3 generations of successors. After the 4 came the LG Nexus 5 in 2013. 2014 saw the Motorola Nexus 6 while 2015 saw a pair of Nexus (Nexi?); the Huawei Nexus 6P and LG Nexus 5x.

    If I may jog your memory, the Nexus 4 came:


    • quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon Pro 1.5Ghz SoC
    • 2GB RAM
    • 8GB or 16GB storage
    • 4.7” 1280x768 LCD
    • 8MP rear camera
    • 1.3MP front camera
    • 2100mAh battery
    • Android 4.2 at release now at 5.1.1


    Aside from lacking official LTE support and the slightly lower resolution display, the 4 doesn’t seem very far off from the latest Nexus devices. So, what kind of jumps in performance do we see from one generation to the next?
    ...
    by Published on 04-15-2016 11:05 AM
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    Previously I discussed the merits of both the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge and HTC 10’s speakers. If you missed it, both have different strengths but are excellent in their own way.

    To make things more spicy, I figured I’d toss the iPhone 6s Plus and Huawei Nexus 6P into the equation.

    Next up, let’s talk screens; The HTC 10, Edge and Nexus all have 2560x1440 displays while the iPhone gets by with a more modest 1920x1080. If you look really closely there is a small difference in sharpness between the Androids and the iPhone’s display. However, all displays have more than 400PPI which to my eyes is enough that I don’t really care about having more.
    ...
    by Published on 04-14-2016 02:43 PM
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    Since Andrew is off for a couple of weeks, I’m going to try to take over and share some thoughts each day. Recently, I’ve been playing with the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge and HTC 10 (LG G5 is coming but not here yet) so I figured I compare the 2. I’ll have full reviews for all 3 phones eventually but for now I’m just going to focus on specific areas.

    As a reviewer, one of my jobs is to figure out if newer models are better than previous ones. However, when it comes to features, once they’ve reached a point where they’re “good enough”, most people stop caring about them.

    A good example is screen size. Once phones breached 5.5ish inches most people stopped clamouring for bigger screens. It’s not to say that future phones won’t get bigger, just that the current crop of screens are large enough for most. If we find new ways to use our phones that require a bigger screen, this will obviously change.

    Another thing people don’t really about anymore is camera resolution. As long as you have more than 10 megapixels (enough to also capture 4K video) most people don’t really care about having more. It’s enough for Facebook/Instagram and thus enough for most.

    Still, there are still areas which can use some improving. Areas which I’ll be focusing more on.



    First up are the speakers. The 10 and Edge both have 2 speakers; one on the earpiece and a bigger one on the bottom. ...
    by Published on 04-13-2016 06:57 AM
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    When I travel, nothing beats the World Watch watchface for Pebble. Monochrome though it may be, no other face I've tried lays out so clearly the local times at my stopover, destination and back home.

    Grabbing a screen from my Pebble, however, is needlessly complicated. So much so that I thought I'd post a quick guide so that other smartwatch users can share their favourite watchfaces as well. If you wear a Fitbit you can stop reading here. ...
    by Published on 04-12-2016 07:46 AM
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    I had a chance to play with the HTC 10 the other day. Here are some first impressions:



    While the 10’s predecessors, the M7, M8 and M9 all shared a common design language, the 10 takes a different approach. The speaker grill stickers are gone in favor of a more minimalistic all-glass front. I don’t know about you but the grills starting to get long in the tooth so this is a welcome change.



    That said, looking at the pictures I kind of wish the silver version came with a white front as the black front is a bit bland but maybe that’s just me. ...
    by Published on 04-07-2016 07:04 AM
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    What we're looking at here is an "exploded" view of the lens assembly—sorry, assemblies—on Huawei's new P9 Plus, launched together with the P9 this week in London. They are not the first smartphones with dual rear cameras (HTC tried it on the One M8) but Huawei's system was designed in partnership with German camera-maker Leica, for whatever that's worth.

    The idea behind Huawei's setup is this: one camera captures colour, the other black and white. Software merges the two images together, producing an image with vivid colours and perfect exposure. If it sounds like a gimmick don't be too dismissive of it just yet; rumour has it that Apple will be using dual rear cameras in the forthcoming iPhone 7 as well. ...
    by Published on 04-06-2016 06:58 AM
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    I'm not yet sure if this is going to end up being a regular feature or not, but for the next couple of Wednesdays I'm going to devote this space to smartwatches and other wearables. Let me know if you like this idea or not.

    Today I'd like to discuss a subject that's rarely reported on in the gadget-sphere: smartwatches for women. According to Wikipedia wristwatches were made exclusively for women up until the early 20th century (men used pocketwatches), yet many modern smartwatches (Android Wear) look comically large on the female wrist.

    With fashion in mind, Kelly Boyle has posted a very thorough round-up of smartwatches for women. Elsewhere, Erica Griffin laments the lack of innovation in the wearable space. ...
    by Published on 04-05-2016 06:44 AM
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    Way back in the beginning in February I posted a link in the daily news about a new initiative to bring tourists to Korea—up to 250 lucky visitors per week can enjoy a free Galaxy Note 5 for 5 days with 5 GB of free data, courtesy of Samsung, SK Telecom and the Korea Tourism Office.

    The contest site has since gone live, and after entering the missus and myself in three consecutive weekly draws we each got an email last night notifying us that we had both won. So... I guess we're going to Korea? ...
    by Published on 04-01-2016 12:44 PM
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    Until last year, the previous couple of iterations in the Galaxy S lineup were pretty predictable. They were all plastic bodied phones with removable batteries and memory. Then last year, they took the Galaxy S line in a new direction. The GS6 had an all glass and metal body and they did away with the user changeable battery and MicroSD. The last change struck a chord with users because you had to decide how much storage you’d ever need when you bought the phone plus you’d have to pay an inflated price if you needed more than the base model - just like you do with an iPhone.

    Fortunately, the MicroSD is back with the latest version along with water resistance - a feature which took a hiatus last year.

    Otherwise, the GS7 is an evolution of the GS6. The look follows Samsung’s latest design language, the camera has been improved, you get a more powerful processor a bigger battery. That sort of thing. Is it worth the upgrade? ...
    by Published on 04-01-2016 12:42 PM
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    I’d never really cared much for the BB10 O/S, but I was most certainly looking forward to seeing what sort of Android phone Blackberry could produce. Clearly they needed to differentiate themselves from the rest of the Android rabble, but at the same time they couldn’t substantially change the O/S without taking away what makes it Android. They also wanted to reintroduce the physical keyboard, which has mostly disappeared from Android. As far as I can tell, the keyboard is there mostly to appease old Blackberry fans, who were used to typing on physical keyboards in older Blackberry devices. ...
    by Published on 03-30-2016 06:50 AM
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    You'd be forgiven for thinking that a new article on AnandTech was tantamount to clickbait—that is, that the best Android phones of Q1 2016 are coincidentally the only flagships released this quarter, the Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 edge.

    Thankfully there's a little more to it than that. For starters, the S7 edge didn't even make the list, and phones that did include some late-2016 handsets, including the pair of Nexus phones that went on sale last November. In other words, it's a fairly good guide for anyone in the market for a new Android device.

    Here are the picks. ...
    by Published on 03-28-2016 07:20 AM
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    An old friend popped up in my news feeds over the weekend; gadget nostalgia site Retromobe did a nice little write-up of the original Palm Pilot PDA. The first two models, the 1000 (with 128kb of RAM) and 5000 (512kb of RAM), first went on sale in March of 1996. I remember it like yesterday, because I was there.

    Unfortunately I was using an Apple Newton at the time—only because a local shop had a bunch of them returned en masse and were reselling them on the cheap. My first Palm would be the next iteration, the backlit Palm Pilot Personal. I would quickly come to depend on its 160 x 160 monochrome display; its utility set the stage for the PDA phones that followed. ...
    by Published on 03-21-2016 06:40 AM
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    With LG and Samsung's flagships now officially official, let's take a look at what HTC has planned for Q2 2016.

    Here are some leaked press images for the HTC 10. Going clockwise from the top left we've got Carbon Gray, Glacier Silver (White), Glacier Silver (Black) and Topaz Gold. The date shown on all four screens is Tuesday, April 19th—widely believed to be when the phone will be announced. I guess HTC finally figured out that calling three different phones the HTC One was a tad confusing, so this forthcoming device will simply be called the HTC 10. ...
    by Published on 03-16-2016 07:10 AM
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    Here me out on this... it's not a knock against Fitbit, Inc. It's not even a knock against those who are reading this while wearing a Fitbit product. At least not necessarily.

    My bombastic proclamation is based on the sample group of the five immediate people I can think of who own one of these devices. Two of them seem to be making great use of all that Fitbit has to offer. One of them wears it as fashion accessory. The other two seem to think that just owning a Fitbit will somehow make them more fit. ...
    by Published on 03-14-2016 08:46 PM
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    In the past, I’ve written about my new hobby, wearing ‘dumb’ watches. You’d think that a phone nerd like myself would be all over smartwatches but in fact, I was so annoyed by the ones I’ve tried, it actually caused me to start wearing regular watches again.

    Between the constant charging, the poor ease of use, questionable styling and finishes, and inability to do anything well, smartwatches in general left me wanting.

    However, they did remind me that I like wearing something on my wrist so I went from wearing nothing on my arm to wearing something again.



    Since then, I’ve picked up a few pieces - divers watches, pilot watches, chronographs, automatics, manual winders, radioactive (that’s right), military style, skeletons, etc.



    However, something happened. Getting all these watches made me more open to watches in general and thus more open to smart watches. Talk about drama!



    But that’s not all, the soap opera that is my left arm isn’t over yet. How do I choose which watch to wear? While my regular watches can sit in my watch box just fine for a few days here and there, it’s best to wear a smartwatch daily. What to do? What to do? ...
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