• Devices

    by Published on 12-21-2016 07:00 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. Apps



    Here's Michael Fisher with his video review of Samsung's Gear S3, Frontier Edition. If my YouTube feed is any indication, this is the most sought-after smartwatch of the holiday season. It's also a great time to buy, with both Amazon.com and Best Buy Canada currently selling the Frontier Edition of the watch at discounted prices—$299 USD and $400 CAD, respectively.

    A standout among the Gear S3's tricks (and there are a lot of them) is the ability to tap and pay with your watch, even when paired to a non-Samsung phone and even at an olde-tyme magnetic stripe terminal. And here's where I've got some bad news for you: If you're in Canada and want to use a Gear S3 for wrist-based payments you'd better have one of the select few CIBC credit cards currently supported by Samsung Pay.

    Samsung phone owners with root will already know that Samsung Pay doesn't work anywhere—at least that's what I gather from this Change.org petition. What's not so clear to me is whether or not Samsung Pay will work on a Samsung watch that's paired to a rooted phone; I guess it would depend if the Samsung Gear Manager app has the ability to detect root.

    Are there any Gear owners with rooted phones able to weigh in on this?

    Links: Amazon.com, Best Buy Canada, Change.org, Samsung Canada

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    by Published on 12-20-2016 07:30 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices



    So this cheerleader for Team Android has done the unthinkable: he's broken up his Nexus collection with an eBay auction that ended Sunday night. Out the door yesterday was shamu, an all-too appropriate codename for the gargantuan Moto-made Nexus 6.

    I never really liked the Moto Nexus. In one of my more popular contributions here I wrote that Google had jumped the shark—that is, that the recipe that made 2013's LG Nexus 5 so great was thrown out the window in favour of something else that was clearly never meant to be a Nexus in the first place.

    You'll recall that 2013 also saw the release of the OnePlus One. That phone was much more the spiritual successor of the Nexus 5—for me, anyway—and was my sidearm of choice until the following summer when its disappointing follow-up, the OnePlus 2, was announced. Seeing no other available upgrade I reluctantly purchased a Moto Nexus, regretting the decision before I even opened the box.

    Through that fall and winter I tried as best I could to fit the oversized phone into my life. The killing blow for our relationship was dealt when I visited Japan to ring in 2016, only to find that, for whatever reason, the Moto Nexus wouldn't give me LTE data with a local SIM card. When we got home and I eventually bought the Huawei 6P (I am a Nexus fanboy, after all) I tried pawning the Moto off on my girlfriend but she would have none of it, being perfectly content with her OnePlus One. So into a drawer went shamu, never again to see light of day, until its recent eBay photo shoot. But it's infamous legacy lives on in these Howard Forums posts:

    Moto Nexus: The Story of Shamu in 90 Seconds
    Nexus Jumps The Shark
    Hell Freezes Over, Currie Gets a Moto Nexus.
    Just How Big is the Nexus 6?
    I Hate This Phone, All of You and Myself Most of All

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    by Published on 12-16-2016 07:00 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. Tips



    I don't think I ever got around to reporting on Amazon's Prime Edition of the BLU R1 HD; thanks to Brad Linder at Liliputing for reminding me of its existence. It is indeed a $50 USD unlocked Android phone—some specs:

    5 inch HD display with Gorilla Glass 3
    1.3 GHz quad-core MediaTek 6735 ARM Cortex processor
    Android 6.0 Marshmallow
    8GB storage / 1GB RAM
    8MP rear camera / 5MP front camera with LED flash
    Dual SIM and MicroSD support for up to 64 GB of expandable storage
    4G LTE plus GSM

    The catch? Lock screen ads from Amazon. And even worse, it was found that the phone was secretly sending text messages and other personal information to a server in China. Amazon actually stopped selling the R1 HD until the spyware was removed. With assurances from BLU's CEO that the backdoor is gone, the phone is now back in stock.

    So about the lock screen ads... those l33t [email protected] over at XDA have figured out a way to unlock the device's bootloader and install a custom recovery—paving the way for SuperSU and AdAway or, if you prefer, a custom ROM.

    The ad-supported R1 HD unfortunately won't ship to Canada; otherwise I would gladly have a go and report my findings for you all here. Any of our American friends up for the challenge?

    Sources: Liliputing (1) (2), XDA (1) (2)

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    by Published on 12-14-2016 07:30 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. Reviews and Hands-on
    Article Preview



    Here's a quick tour of the Android Wear-powered Casio WSD-F10, with some random observations along the way.

    I'll say this right off the bat: my first impressions of this smartwatch were not great. That screen is an LCD panel, and in this photo it's actually in standby ("always on") mode. That can't be great for battery, and it isn't—the watch won't even last two days on a single charge. You'll also notice the flat tire at the bottom of the screen; it is not an ambient light sensor, and is instead there to make room for the microphone assembly (I think), which includes the black plastic slot up against the strap.

    There's one more thing that, once I show it to you, you won't ever be able to unsee. Look at the notches between 10 and 11 and notice the air bubble there. I thought it was a manufacturing defect, but it's actually present in every photo I've ever seen of this watch. Do a Google image search if you don't believe me.

    And now some surprising news: I actually do like the WSD-F10, mostly because it's the closest thing you can get to a G-Shock in a smartwatch. ...
    by Published on 12-09-2016 07:00 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. News



    If, by this point, you haven't returned your Samsung Galaxy Note 7—I'm reinserting the space to ward off explosions—you might want to reconsider. The Verge reports that Samsung Canada will, as early as next week, roll out an OTA update that will permanently disable Bluetooth, cellular and WiFi connectivity. And an even worse fate might be in store for American variants of the phablet.

    A second report by The Verge details a customer on the US Cellular network who received the following text message:

    AS OF DECEMBER 15TH, SAMSUNG WILL MODIFY THE SOFTWARE TO PREVENT THE GALAXY NOTE 7 FROM CHARGING. THE PHONE WILL NO LONGER WORK.
    In their last official update on the matter, Samsung stated that there were roughly 285,000 Note 7s in the USA that hadn't been returned. What is effectively a remote kill switch could be the company's final attempt to recover these devices, or at the very least remove the threat that they pose to their owners.

    Sources: The Verge (1) (2)

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    by Published on 12-08-2016 07:00 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. Commentary and Analysis



    Exhibit A: The original iPhone, running iOS 1.0, vs the T-Mobile G1, running the first release of Android. These two revolutionary devices could not have been more different—despite Google famously going back to the drawing board when the iPhone made its début.



    Exhibit B: The current iPhone vs the Google Pixel. The software and ecosystems are distinct but not dissimilar—both have their own app stores that run the same popular apps, albeit on different codebases. Design-wise they're largely the same, both slabs of mostly screen. And the prices? Well, the prices are identical.

    Don't get me wrong, smartphones have gotten exponentially better over the past decade. What I'm saying is that they've progressed to the point where they've largely become boring. At least for me.

    There is still innovation to be found, but you have to look for it. The notion of modular phones is interesting, but the execution of that idea by the likes of LG and Motorola is little more than a gimmick; Fairphone's proposition of upgradeable and recyclable phone parts is much more sustainable. Too bad you can only get one in Europe.

    Then there's Google's Project Tango, bringing augmented reality to the palm of your hand. But at present it's available on only one device, and reviews of that device aren't very good.

    Are my expectations for smartphones too high? Always. And I find both Google and Apple guilty of chasing profits more than innovation. To both of them I have this to say: Stop being boring!

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    by Published on 12-07-2016 07:30 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. Reviews and Hands-on
    Article Preview



    For the past week I've been sporting this gargantuan custom-made Nixon Mission on my wrist. Here's a quick tour of the watch and software, with some thoughts and observations along the way.

    This particular watch marks my return to Android Wear from Pebble. I was, as you can imagine, looking for something a little more substantial—and I specifically wanted to try a smartwatch made by a traditional watch company. I don't consider Michael Kors to be a watchmaker by any means, nor am I a fan of the flat tires on those products. Ditto for the offerings from Fossil.

    I am, however, a fan of big sporty watches like Casio's G-Shock line, and when I saw an actual Mission on display in the company's Hong Kong store, I was sold. I ordered my watch from Nixon's Canadian site that evening from my hotel room, paying a little more for this custom colour combo—a brushed steel bezel in the gunmetal finish on a grey body, with blue on black straps. I was expecting the blue on the strap to be a little darker, but overall I'm happy with what I got. ...
    by Published on 12-06-2016 07:00 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. Contests and Giveaways



    If you've got a Twitter account, the odds of winning this newly-announced contest are a bit better than usual. Because it's not just one 128 GB OnePlus 3T that YouTuber MKBHD is giving away... it's one hundred.

    To enter, follow these three Twitter accounts:

    @dbrandskins // @mkbhd // @oneplus

    That's it. Seriously.

    Okay, there is one catch: half of the one hundred units up for grabs have dbrand skins applied. I personally think that phone skins are stupid; if you feel the same you should at least be able to remove it if you're lucky enough to win a phone, but unlucky enough to win a skinned one. I should point out that dbrand is paying to ship the 100 units to their recipients, so I guess they're not all bad.

    If my calculations are correct the contest runs until 6pm Eastern Time on Monday, December 12th—after which the winners will be selected at random from across the three Twitter accounts. Here's how:

    We're using a custom Python script which was specifically programmed for this giveaway. It uses the Twitter Public Rest API to download a list of all @dbrandSkins, @OnePlus, and @MKBHD Twitter followers.

    Once the full lists have been loaded, the script generates a list of IDs which exist on all three lists. This ensures that the potential winner is following all three accounts.

    From this pool of unique account IDs, a random entry is picked using a randomly generated seed based on the NumPy project. This random pick is the resulting winner.

    For every subsequent winner selection, the script will run again. This triggers the Twitter Public API follower IDs fetch again. The script will download the newest followers and keep going until it reaches the followers which were downloaded during the previous run. What this does is save us from having to download a full list of followers every time a winner is selected – while also ensuring that everyone is included and has an equal chance of winning for each random draw.
    More details at the dbrand page below.

    For those of you without a Twitter account I'll do you a solid and enter on your behalf. If I score a OnePlus 3T I'll have it shipped to Howard for a giveaway of his own. If you're on Twitter and end up winning leave a reply and let everyone else know.

    Good luck!

    Link: OnePlus 3T Giveaway Winners & FAQ

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    by Published on 12-02-2016 06:00 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. Tips



    ... Provided you meet their stringent requirements, of course.

    If you're the unlucky owner of an iPhone 6s that randomly shuts down, but lucky enough to have purchased one manufactured in the narrow window of September to October, 2015, then your affected device might be due for a new battery, free of charge from Apple.

    Here's how to find out if your 6s is eligible: Get the serial number for your device by navigating to Settings > General > About then enter that number on this site. If you get a green light you can proceed to your local Apple retail store, Apple authorized service provider or call Apple Support directly.

    There are additional stipulations, of course. Your phone must be in good working condition—a cracked screen, for example, would interfere with the battery replacement process and is therefore not eligible for the program.

    Fingers crossed that everyone affected gets a new battery...!

    Sources: MacRumors via ZDNet

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    by Published on 12-01-2016 09:26 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. Commentary and Analysis,
    4. Reviews and Hands-on
    Article Preview


    I’ve been using my iPhone 7 Plus for a few weeks now and since I don’t have time for a full review, I thought I’d share some observations and compare it with my 6s Plus.

    First off, Apple finally ditching the 16GB base model. These days, you can do so much with a Smartphone, it’s irresponsible to sell such an expensive phone with such a skimpy storage configuration. It’s like selling a minivan that only has 1 seat in it.

    Models start with 32GB which is a useful start. The other configurations have 128 and 256GB of storage, up from the 6s Plus’ 64 and 128GB respectively, at the the same price points, which in a way, makes them a better deal - if you could call a $1000+ phone a good deal.
    ...
    by Published on 12-01-2016 07:00 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. Rumors



    As a fan of their cheap and cheerful smartwatches, this sucks.

    Of course, it's only a rumour, and from a single source at that. But that source, paywall-protected site The Information, is fairly reputable. And it certainly doesn't help that Pebble tweeted, then promptly deleted, this shrug emoticon last night.

    I woke up to this story with a post from Android Police in my RSS feed, but it's big news all around the web:

    Fitbit is reportedly close to buying Pebble (The Verge)
    Fitbit in talks to buy smartwatch pioneer Pebble (Financial Times)
    Fitbit Buying Pebble? Smartwatch Company Acquisition In The Works, Reports Say (IBT)
    Fitbit could be close to acquiring smartwatch maker Pebble (Neowin)
    Reports: Fitbit wants to acquire Pebble (liliputing)

    Worst of all is that there are apparently no plans to continue the Pebble line; Fitbit's interest is in the company's technology and intellectual property only.

    Contrary to what you might think, there is still an active and significant userbase for Pebble products. The subreddit devoted to Pebble actually has more subscribers than its Android Wear equivalent. And unlike Android Wear I actually see people wearing Pebbles out in the world—including the new Pebble Time Round on my girlfriend's wrist.

    So where did they go wrong? I can think of two things: The refocus on fitness with Pebble Health, heart rate sensors and such was bound to end badly—if anything, it got Fitbit's attention and made them an acquisition target. Also, the wide distribution to retail chains like Best Buy—though great for bargain-hunting consumers—might, in hindsight, not have been the best idea. Pebble could perhaps have done better as a boutique online-only smartwatch-maker, funding products via Kickstarter then building them to order.

    Then there are the market forces working against them. Smartwatches are tanking as a product category, so it might well have been inevitable for Pebble to be gobbled up by a competitor with deeper pockets. But it would still hurt to see them go. Pebble wasn't the first smartwatch on the market, but if you know your wearable history you'll remember that it was the first successful one.

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    by Published on 11-30-2016 07:00 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 07:30 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 07:00 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 08:00 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. Reviews and Hands-on
    Article Preview



    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 06:15 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/

    ____________________________
    by Published on 11-23-2016 07:00 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices
    Article Preview



    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 08:00 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices
    Article Preview



    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 10:58 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. Commentary and Analysis,
    4. Reviews and Hands-on
    Article Preview


    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 07:00 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices
    Article Preview



    "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. ...
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