• Devices

    by Published on 06-18-2014 09:29 AM
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    Here’s Acer’s Liquid S1. It’s available for $380 at various places that sell Acer products and is completely unlocked. Since it’s unlocked you do whatever you want with it. You can switch carriers, take it travelling, buy it as present and not have to wonder whether you passed all of a carrier’s rules to get your unlock code nor do you have to visit a 3rd party to get a code.

    For $380 you get a 5.7", 1280x720 IPS display. Underneath the hood is a quad-core 1.5Ghz MediaTek MT6589 SoC with a PowerVR SGX 544MP GPU with 1GB of RAM, 8GB of storage (5.5GB available) and a MicroSD. On the back is a 8MP camera with a 2MP one in front and a 2400mAh battery. There's no LTE but you do get penta-band DC-HSPA+. On the software side you get Android 4.2.2 with Acer's custom launcher.

    Aside from a couple of iPhones (which cost a lot more than the S1), Google’s Nexus 5 and Motorola’s Moto E and some Moto G’s, there aren’t a whole lot of unlocked phones in the Canadian market.

    The way I see it, the Liquid S1 has 2 main competitors; The Google Nexus 5 and Motorola Moto G. Like the S1, both are sold unlocked and some what readily available locally. The Nexus 5 is available for $349.99 online from Google Play while you can pick up the Moto G unlocked from Staples for $249.99. Let’s compare:
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    by Published on 06-11-2014 08:16 AM
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    2. Devices,
    3. Carriers
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    Readers of these forums should know that I'm a big fan of the personal hotspot, or MiFi. Almost immediately after my first experience with LTE data on a DoCoMo MiFi in Japan last spring I got myself one for back home—first from Bell and then another with better rates from Rogers.

    Now it seems that there's a MiFi tailor-made for the savvy world traveller. It takes up to 10 SIMs and can connect up to 5 devices. It's called the Goodspeed, and is sold by Finnish company UROS. ...
    by Published on 06-06-2014 06:45 AM
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    Samsung sent me 2 of there wearables recently: The Gear Neo and the Gear Fit. I just finished reviewing the Samsung Gear 2 Neo. To me, I was really surprised because it’s the first piece of wearable technology that I didn’t truly hate.

    While the Neo is a full fledge Smartwatch, the Fit is more of a fitness band on steroids. What’s the difference between these 2 classes of devices? I’d say the main difference is the shape. Smartwatches usually have large displays while Fitness bands don’t have a display or if they do, it tends to be smaller and more rectangular.

    Where do the steroids come in? Well, in addition to being a fitness band, the Fit is also able to display notifications from your phone. In a way, it’s a converged device.
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    by Published on 06-04-2014 07:15 AM
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    It looks like the Moto G is now available online and in-store at Staples Canada.

    The exact model for sale is the XT1034, with 16GB of onboard storage and support for AWS. Yup, it's the same phone you'd get from WIND Mobile—except that this one comes unlocked for a $21 premium. If you like buying your hardware outright that's not a bad deal. ...
    by Published on 06-03-2014 11:49 AM
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    Technology is an interesting thing; It can simultaneously make our lives easier and be a complete pain in the neck. In order for technology to be successful, it has to be more of the former and less of the later.

    Take the Galaxy S5 or one of its contemporaries. It has a large and wonderful 5.1” display. Its large size is fantastic for reading emails, browsing the web, gaming and just about everything else. The trade off is that the large display means you really have to use it with both hands to get the most out of it plus it’s not quite as pocket-able as a smaller phone.

    However, for many, the large screen outweighs the usability and portability penalty and so the GS5 is a great and successful product.

    With that in mind, what trade offs do wearable technology have?

    Samsung sent me their Galaxy Gear 2 Neo and Galaxy Gear Fit to find out.

    The Gear 2 Neo is a smartwatch with a large display while the Gear Fit is more of a fitness band with a small screen. I’ll talk about the Fit in a later review.
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    by Published on 05-27-2014 07:55 AM
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    2. Devices,
    3. News,
    4. Rumors
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    LG's 2014 hero device, the G3, is to be revealed later today at synchronized events in London, New York and San Francisco. As the timing is perilously close to when I usually post the day's mobile news, I thought I'd post coverage from the tech blogs there while bringing us all up to speed on the G3 here.

    One thing you should know: if rumours are to be believed then the G3 won't be the basis for the next Nexus phone from Google, because there will apparently be no more Nexus devices. As a Nexus owner who basically gets a brand-new phone with every new flash of a custom ROM, that would really suck.

    But I digress; back to the G3. ...
    by Published on 05-21-2014 08:27 AM
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    2. Devices,
    3. Commentary and Analysis
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    As the social media marketing juggernaut that is OnePlus continues to cut a wide swath across the internets I've paid particularly close attention to reactions from Google+. Most of the comments I see on OnePlus posts are overwhelmingly positive, even desperate, as everyone tries to secure an invite to what is already one of the most talked-about Android devices of 2014.

    But in other corners of G+ things aren't quite so rosy. I would expect there to be some push-back from OnePlus's aggressive marketing, but I never would have thought that the anger would be so misdirected.

    TL;DR Critics of the OnePlus invite system would do well to educate themselves about another, already-successful Chinese Android phone-maker. ...
    by Published on 05-16-2014 09:42 AM
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    2. Devices,
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    Now that the original Moto G (XT1032 "Falcon") has been around for six months or so, it's probably a good time to have look at available options for custom firmware and such—that is, if you're a fan of such things. I certainly am.

    Root access on an Android device gives you the power to block ads with AdAway, hide software bloat with Titanium Backup or even install a new OS via a custom recovery. It will also, as you can imagine, immediately void your warranty. But since when did that stop a l33t h@X0r anyway? ...
    by Published on 05-15-2014 08:42 AM
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    I realize that I'm writing this for maybe two or three other forum members who, like myself, use Linux as their primary desktop OS. But this freedom beard would be remiss if he didn't relate an odd experience with the new Rogers LTE Moto G.

    This latest version of the G has only 8GB of onboard storage, but compensates for that with a micro SD card slot. For Linux users this should be great news; this Linux user has had challenges with file transfers between phone and computer ever since Ice Cream Sandwich and the introduction of MTP. It's not a huge deal by any means, and MTP (Media Transfer Protocol) has steadily improved in updates to Ubuntu and its derivatives. Most times my Nexus 5 will mount on my Linux Mint desktop just fine; for larger file transfers, like TWRP backups and such, I use FTP on my local network.

    With the Moto G and a micro SD card it's a bit of a different story. ...
    by Published on 05-14-2014 10:22 AM
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    This morning I fired up a pre-production, locked-to-Rogers, LTE-powered Moto G. Here in Canada it will be exclusive to Rogers and Fido at launch, retailing for $225 to $275 outright or $0 on a contract.

    Let's see what's new!

    ...
    by Published on 05-13-2014 01:10 PM
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    So this morning I was also at the Motorola event with Howard in downtown Toronto. Two new Android handsets were announced, a bargain basement Moto E and a new version of the Moto G with LTE.

    The Moto E will sell for $179.99 CAD unlocked from Ingram Micro, while the LTE Moto G will be a Rogers and Fido exclusive at launch. Another bit of news is that starting this June you'll be able to buy an unlocked HSPA Moto G at your local Staples.

    Here, in reverse order, are my thoughts about the phones and the event itself. ...
    by Published on 05-13-2014 10:27 AM
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    The Motorola Moto G with LTE is coming to Rogers and Fido for $224.95.

    It's just like the Moto G that came ...
    by Published on 05-12-2014 08:25 AM
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    2. Devices,
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    Remember last Christmas when I got my 88 years-young, stroke-surviving mother her first cell phone? That didn't turn out so well... She only really ever used it when her landline went down and now, with her carrier Public Mobile being assimilated into TELUS, her handset is set to become a doorstop sometime this month.

    But thanks to Howard, the good folks at Snapfon and some helpful advice from fellow forum members she was surprised this past Mother's Day with a fairly substantial handset upgrade.

    Let's have a look. ...
    by Published on 05-08-2014 10:57 AM
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    If you're an Android user and a regular reader of the tech blogs then you're going to hear a lot about Chinese handset-makers Oppo and OnePlus over the next few months. These two companies—some say they're the same company—are together releasing four high-powered and affordably-priced smartphones by summer's end.

    I've written about both of them before; it's probably worth a quick refresher to get some insight into their forthcoming releases. ...
    by Published on 04-30-2014 08:04 AM
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    I came across something unexpected yesterday on Amazon's Canadian site. They're selling the Samsung Galaxy Note 3, in black or white, for $749.99 CAD. Unlocked.

    Samsung reps have repeatedly told me that smartphones purchased in this country are only available with carrier locks—including the handsets for sale at their one and only Canadian flagship store. The company has been pretty aggressive in fighting grey market imports; every Note 3 ships with a SIM region lock, and so does the GS5.

    Amazon.ca's Note 3 looks very much like a grey market device. The exact model they're selling is the N9005, with support for 850/1900MHz and 2600MHz LTE. I'm fairly certain that the version you'd get from Bell, Rogers or TELUS is the N900W8; with the N9005 I'd say you're getting a better deal—the ability to access potentially faster LTE networks abroad plus more available custom ROMs from XDA. ...
    by Published on 04-25-2014 08:58 AM
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    When it comes to wearable technology I've always been a fan of Google Glass. I can take or leave the whole smartwatch thing; as I've written before somewhere the wristwatch for me became obsolete the moment I got my first PCS phone with network-synchronized time.

    But I totally get the concept of anywhere computing—or whatever they call it when the Internet scales seamlessly between multiple screens of different sizes and shapes. And as I'm already quite comfortable wearing glasses, Google Glass seems to me like a perfect fit.

    Or so I thought, until I actually saw someone wearing it in public. ...
    by Published on 04-23-2014 07:28 AM
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    2. Devices,
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    Today at 2:30pm Hong Kong Time—2:30am for yours truly in Toronto—upstart Android phonemaker OnePlus finally revealed their début device, the OnePlus One, on Twitter. You can scroll through the company's feed to see all the details, and there are a lot of them!

    If you haven't heard of OnePlus, they're a company led by former OPPO executive Peter Lau. And just like OPPO, OnePlus has partnered with Cyanogen, Inc. for a custom Android ROM on this, their first smartphone. Despite all the hype they've been pretty good at keeping the actual hardware under wraps; now that it's out in the open let's see what the tech press has to say about it. ...
    by Published on 04-20-2014 07:08 PM
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    Before you ask yourself how this review qualifies to be in the Android forum, placing it here was recommended to me by Howard Chui. After all, I needed my Android phone to fly this drone, so in a sense this is actually an Android app review that happens to work with a piece of external hardware.

    I should start by admitting that I've never tested (or even flown) a quadrocopter before, and so unlike my smartphone reviews I won't have a wealth of past experience to draw upon. When I started this test I didn't even know what the norm was for quadrocopter features, and so I did a little background research. I looked at other reviews of the Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 to make sure that what I'd observed was also observed by others. I found reviews of other quadrocopters that were considered the competition. However, as best I can possibly do, I'll try to keep any other opinions of the aircraft out of this assessment, other than to compare facts, such as battery life or range.

    Perhaps a good place to begin is with the geeky stuff. Were this just a four motors with fan blades on them that somehow the operator managed to fly successfully using just a remote control, then there wouldn't be much to say here. However, to make this device flyable by complete novices such as myself it needed some very sophisticated software. In the end, the only thing the operator needs to worry about is that he wants the aircraft to move forward, backward, side to side, rotate, or go up and down. It's almost as easy as driving an RC car, but not quite. ...
    by Published on 04-17-2014 12:13 PM
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    I had the opportunity to play with the Sony Xperia Z2 today. I was also fortunate enough to bring a HTC One M8 along to compare with it.

    If you're a Sony fan and are familiar with last year's Xperia Z1 then the Z2 is best described as a mild improvement.



    Size-wise, the Z2 and its 5.2" screen make it a little bit bigger. In a way I'm disappointed because the Z1 with its somewhat hard corners makes it feel bigger than it really is.



    The Z2 is also a little thinner.



    When I reviewed the Z1 last year I thought it was a nice phone but compared with it's contemporaries; the LG G2, Samsung Galaxy Note 3, Samsung Galaxy S4 and HTC One (M7) it had the worst screen. In absolute terms, it wasn't a horrible screen but the viewing angle really lagged behind it's competitors.

    So, the first thing I noticed was that the Z2 has a really nice screen. In fact, it's the first Sony phone I've used that has a top-notch screen that's as good as its rivals instead of a good but not great one. ...
    by Published on 04-16-2014 08:15 PM
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    While doing research for this review, I discovered a whole other universe where the limits of precision are still being pursued and a community of fans that have no limits of how much they would spend on time pieces. It's truly incredible that watches have not become obsolete considering it would take you longer (relatively speaking) to glance at your wrist to tell the time than what's displayed on your screen right now. I haven't worn a watch for decades. The day I picked up my Nokia Fido phone was when I didn't see the point of adding mass to my left wrist.





    But in a twist of irony that puzzles me is how much more valuable and costly mechanical watches have become. You would think that when quartz was available on mass, nobody would be interested in manual wind up watches. Could this be a storyline for smartphones? Hmmm...
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