• Commentary and Analysis

    by Published on 10-21-2015 10:17 PM
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    Great Smartphone! It's Oct 21st and the Nexus 5x and 6p that I sent for back in 1985 are finally here!

    I was going to write a whole spiel about the 5x and the 6p but I ran out of time so I took the easy way out and just snapped a bunch of pictures.
    ...
    by Published on 10-20-2015 12:17 PM
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    2. Devices,
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    I had a chance to try the new HTC One a9 the other day. HTC is calling it their new flagship but if you follow HTC closely you’ll know that they typically announce their “hero” phone in the first quarter of each year.

    Time to put on my conspiracy hat; I reviewed HTC’s 2015 hero phone, the One M9 a few months back and found it left me wanting. On paper, it had the right mix of ingredients for a flagship, Qualcomm’s first 64bit top of the line, Snapdragon 810 SoC, 5” 400+ PPI display, 3GB of RAM, 32GB storage, 20 megapixel camera, etc. But while they got the ingredients right, the recipe wasn’t follow properly and we were left with a phone that didn’t really distinguish itself from it’s predecessor, the M8.

    It could be argued that the M9 was a mistake - that said, in the past HTC also usually releases something interesting later in the year. Last year it was the Nexus 9 (a tablet), while previous Q3/Q4 oddities include the HTC One Max (a Phablet), HTC One X+ (they don’t typically do “+” versions) and the Butterfly (one of the first 1080P phones).

    The Q3/Q4 surprises are typically not aimed at the market as a whole like the Q1 heros. The One Max and Butterfly only saw limited distribution across carriers.

    Anyways, since the M9 has had a difficult life and they already have the a9 waiting in the wings, they’re saying that it’s going to be their new flagship for the entire market to help them through the the holiday season.

    I wondered if the a9 represented the end of the M line but was assured that that’s not the case.

    Let’s check it out.
    ...
    by Published on 10-20-2015 08:30 AM
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    Canadians have spoken, and across great swaths of this country the overwhelming consensus is that it's time for a change. After almost a decade in power—with two minority governments and one majority—the Conservative Party of Canada under Stephen Harper will shortly be replaced by a Liberal majority government under Justin Trudeau.

    Though my personal politics don't really align with the Conservatives, I can think of at least two things that party has done for mobile users in this country. Far less clear is how the new government will impact us—the last time the Liberals ran the place was pre-iPhone! ...
    by Published on 10-14-2015 09:41 PM
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    2. Devices,
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    I’ve been reviewing a lot of $250-$400 phones lately and for good reason; With phones like the Moto X Play, Asus ZenFone 2 and Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3, this segment of the market is just red hot with competition.

    Not to be left out, Sony has their $300 locked on Bell and Virgin, Xperia M4 Aqua which brings a very uncommon but very practical feature - water resistance. Let’s check it out.
    ...
    by Published on 10-13-2015 09:45 AM
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    One of my favorite phones of 2015 is the LG G4. It’s a fantastic all-around package with no significant weaknesses. More importantly, the fact that Samsung removed some key features from the GS6 and then hiked the price makes the G4 a no-brainer.

    Still, while the G4’s price is reasonable, it still sports a flagship price tag. Fortunately, if you don’t want to fork out too much dough, there are now more choices than ever when it comes to mid-range phones.

    Here’s the LG G4 Vigor, which possesses some of the G4’s qualities but comes with a much more palatable $350 CAN price tag. ...
    by Published on 10-09-2015 12:14 PM
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    2. Devices,
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    When the iPhone 6 Plus was released last year is was the biggest change to Apple’s iPhone since the original model. Up until then, for whatever reason, Apple had resisted market trends and stuck with small screens for their iPhones.

    With the 6 Plus they jumped at least 2 sizes so suddenly, you didn't need to look elsewhere if you wanted a phone with large screen. The thing with the 6 Plus though is that it wasn’t much of an improvement over the 5s in the processing power department.

    The problem with this is that since its SoC was only marginally faster than its predecessor. So it didn’t really feel any faster. More importantly, just like its predecessors the 5s and 5, the 6 Plus only comes with 1GB of RAM while its competition comes with 2 to 4GB of RAM which makes a big difference when you’re switching programs.

    While the iPhone has usually enjoyed a performance advantage over its competition, the fact that the 6 Plus wasn’t much faster than the 5s meant that they had a chance to catch up and in some cases, surpass it. So a jump in performance is sorely needed.
    ...
    by Published on 10-08-2015 08:48 AM
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    It's been a long time since Howard has trusted me enough to review anything other than a watch or tablet but since I'm one of the few devoted Apple fans here, I think this is my chance to make things right. This is a key question to consider when sifting through all of the reviews out there on the web: do you trust their opinion? Unless you follow that reviewer religiously to build a character profile, there's no way for you to assess if they have been coerced or influenced to help sell more units. Maybe it'll help to know that I'm not getting any kickbacks for this review... just some food for thought before biting into this apple.


    Here is the quick question that I have been tasked to answer: Do you upgrade to the iPhone 6S or not? ...
    by Published on 10-02-2015 08:36 AM
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    2. News,
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    To assemble the Daily News Round-ups on Howard Forums I've got a lot of tech blogs loaded into my RSS reader. As of this morning, The Verge is no longer among them.

    At one point I was a faithful listener of The Verge's Mobile Podcast. Even back then I could see signs of trouble, with surprisingly dismissive jokes about Google+ and its large community of Android users calling them out on their increasingly apparent pro-Apple bias. It's now at the point where I think The Verge has become toxic to Android and Apple fans alike. ...
    by Published on 10-01-2015 08:15 AM
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    2. Commentary and Analysis,
    3. Carriers
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    In 2013 Rogers came out on top; this year Bell gets the nod for fastest overall data service nationwide.

    PCMag has once again tested Canada's wireless providers, with results by city, province and cross-country averages of download speeds, uploads and latency. Two trends I've noticed: (1) in all but one case regional carriers do quite well against The Big Three, and (2) in terms of raw performance WIND's non-LTE network lags far behind.

    Were cost of service a factor we might be looking at entirely different results here. Oh, and about those results... this is no cheap copy/paste job—I've transcribed all the numbers here by hand. So be sure to check the source in case I've made a typo somewhere. ...
    by Published on 09-25-2015 08:10 AM
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    In addition to these forums and XDA I also make it a daily habit to check my favourite reddits. First among them (alphabetically) is r/Android, where one redditor has come to an interesting conclusion about the trajectory of the Android platform versus iOS:

    Android is Simplifying, Apple is Complicating.

    As you can probably guess, this revelation comes in the wake of 3D Touch, a new feature available on the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus. I'll let you read the post for yourself, so you can draw your own conclusions. ...
    by Published on 09-24-2015 07:53 AM
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    2. Devices,
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    Anyone remember Digg? That place where one could read and rank user submitted news before reddit? Well, apparently they're still around, and this week they've set the wayback machine to 2007, rounding up some notable thoughts about the diminutive device that would forever change the face of mobile computing—the original iPhone.

    Remember that the smartphones were very different back then. In North America BlackBerry was the predominant power user's device, while Nokia had a commanding lead of the market worldwide. It was against this backdrop that Apple slowly but surely assimilated smartphone design into the slabs of mostly screen that we use today. ...
    by Published on 09-23-2015 08:55 AM
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    2. Devices,
    3. Commentary and Analysis,
    4. Apps
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    Yesterday I proclaimed that Google's Nexus line of phones and tablets will always have the widest selection of available custom ROMs, thanks to their easily unlockable bootloaders and lineage as reference devices for app developers. I feel compelled to support that claim, so let's take a look at what's available for the current Nexus 6 phone and Nexus 9 tablet some 10 months after their release. ...
    by Published on 09-17-2015 08:36 AM
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    I generally try to avoid "insider baseball"—that is, news about lawsuits and financials and such that don't have a direct or immediate impact on the end user. But this end user has come across two stories about Apple's record-breaking profits that I feel compelled to comment on, if only to debunk them.

    The first is a video by the newly-rebranded YouTube channel Coldfusion, which centres around the $619.77 USD profit that Apple makes on each and every iPhone 6. For the 6 Plus the per-unit profit is even higher, at $711.75 USD. These numbers were reported by Business Insider around this time last year.

    If you've eleven minutes to spare, here is that video: ...
    by Published on 09-14-2015 07:58 AM
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    I continue to be impressed by the front page editorials over on the XDA Forums. Their latest missive, posted last Friday, is all about Motorola, and how things seem to be taking a turn for the worse under their new owners. You might not think so looking at their current product portfolio; the only reason I don't recommend the Moto X Play to friends is because it's not available unlocked here in Canada.

    I think XDA has done an excellent job of contrasting Moto's successes as a Google company with their current predicament as a Lenovo joint. See if you agree. ...
    by Published on 09-10-2015 08:30 AM
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    So the new iPhones have force touch. Apple is branding it "3D Touch", presumably to differentiate it as an improvement over the force touch trackpad introduced on their new MacBook last spring. The difference? It's faster.

    Surprisingly, though, the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus aren't the first smartphone on the market to offer multi-level haptic feedback. That title, if you can believe it, goes to Huawei, and their Mate S announced at IFA in Berlin last week.

    Even more surprising is that the Android platform has supported force touch since version 2.0 Eclair, circa 2009! ...
    by Published on 09-08-2015 08:15 AM
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    2. Commentary and Analysis,
    3. Rumors
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    Never mind the iPhone 6S, set to be announced tomorrow; rumours are already circulating about its successor, the iPhone 7—specifically, how thin it's going to be. There isn't an exact number, but MacRumors is reporting a range of 6-6.5mm, compared to the current iPhone 6/6 Plus at 6.9/7.1mm.

    Here's the top-rated comment on that post:

    I guess that means the camera will stick out even more and battery life will be less than it could be. Both perfectly acceptable trade-offs though as we have all been begging them for thinner phones after all.
    I'm going to assume that last part is sarcastic—that is, that nobody has been begging for thinner phones. Am I right? ...
    by Published on 09-07-2015 03:02 PM
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    Consumers have been spend less money on computers and more on their mobile phones. This has given companies like Acer, which is a big name in computers, a challenging time. While they’ve had some mobile phone offerings, they haven’t gained much traction in the market. As such, it’s been awhile since I’ve tried one.

    Here’s their latest offering; the Acer Liquid Jade Z. At $269.99 CAN unlocked, it’s a high-entry/low-midrange phone. Spec-wise you get a 5” HD display, quad-core 64 bit processor, 2GB RAM, 16GB storage, 13 megapixel camera with LTE so on that front, it's promising. Let’s check it out: ...
    by Published on 08-28-2015 07:45 AM
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    Hey, I'm not the one who's going there... You think I'm crazy or something?

    I've quickly come to learn on these forums that it's a fool's game to tell mobile users their business—especially when it comes to their OS of choice. I don't think it would surprise anyone to say that the smartphone market has matured to a point where those invested in either of the two leading platforms, Android and iOS, will see any compelling reason to switch.

    In broad strokes iOS is supposed to offer a superior user experience, and Android unparalleled freedom. Whether or not you agree with this will likely depend on which OS you use and your opinion of the other. And if rabid fanboyism is clouding your judgement, YouTube user ColdfusTion has a pair of videos that will make you see the light. The first traces the history and development of each platform, and the second takes a refreshingly objective look at their major differences.

    The total running time for both is a hair over twenty minutes, perfect for a leisurely weekend viewing and discussion. Enjoy! ...
    by Published on 08-27-2015 08:10 AM
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    2. How-To,
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    As Android vulnerabilities go, this one's pretty bad. In fact, it's probably the worst security scare that the platform has ever seen—despite being only a theoretical vector for attack. At least for now.

    "Stagefright" gets its name from libstagefright, an engine deep within the Android OS used to decode videos in MMS messages. What makes it so potentially scary is that it can be executed remotely on almost any Android device; it requires only the user's phone number and grants the attacker root access and the ability to run arbitrary code.

    So what can you do to protect yourself? ...
    by Published on 08-26-2015 08:32 AM
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    I've written about China's powerful and peculiar smartphone market a number of times now. 2014 may or may not have been the year of the Chinese Android smartphone; Lenovo's acquisition of Motorola Mobility was certainly big news, and the OnePlus One easily took the crown as most polarizing device of the year.

    And yet here we are in mid-2015, and the invasion of Chinese smartphones—the ones made by Chinese companies, not just manufactured in China—doesn't seem to have started yet. There are a few available options for purchase (dragon2knight would probably know more about them than me) but the bigger companies like Xiaomi and Meizu have yet to make inroads into Western markets.

    Today I've cobbled together some links to help us figure this out. ...
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