• Commentary and Analysis

    by Published on 04-15-2015 07:25 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. Commentary and Analysis
    Article Preview



    Here's a random photo from the Medical Imaging Department at Toronto's St. Michael's Hospital, where my mom had some tests done a week ago today. She turns 90 next month, and her age is catching up with her. This post isn't about her, though—it's about my brother's BlackBerry Classic.

    What can I say? I'm a horrible son. ...
    by Published on 03-27-2015 07:25 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. News,
    3. Commentary and Analysis,
    4. Carriers
    Article Preview



    If you live in Canada and aren't happy with either your mobile service or what you're paying for it, my advice is this: Get yourself on Koodo's $55/5GB SK/MB plan as per ijcy's instructions before it's too late.

    The likes of Mobile Syrup would have you believe that the coming changes to Koodo (and also Fido) amount to a re-branding for millennials, but forum members know better—the real news here is that loyalty programs and perks are going away.

    If reports (from multiple sources) turn out to be true, then subscribers to the Fido network will soon see their Fido Dollars disappear. The 4% pre-tax credit on a customer's monthly bill could be used towards a new device or applied as a discount to an add-on. It was a good differentiator for what was otherwise essentially wireless service from Rogers.

    The changes coming to Koodo are two-fold. First, the Koodo Tab, a surprisingly reasonable alternative to the traditional (and egregious) penalties of early contract cancellation, will soon be off the table. Even worse, the 10% BYOD discount will likewise be no more. As someone who refuses, on principle, to lock themselves in to any one carrier via a subsidy, that 10% makes Koodo's $55 plan an even better $49.50/month. To get something similar from parent company TELUS would cost at least twice as much. ...
    by Published on 03-25-2015 07:40 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. News,
    3. Commentary and Analysis,
    4. Apps
    Article Preview



    Forget the unifying standard of Apple Pay—or, for that matter, Google Wallet and the forthcoming Android Pay. It looks like we mobile users will soon be spoiled for choice when it comes to paying for things via our smartphones.

    The new mobile payment options I'm highlighting today join the growing list of those already discussed—Uber, SmoothPay, Tab Payments, PayPal, ZenBanx, along with the most popular of them all, the near-ubiquitous Starbucks app. If all this weren't enough, there are now at least three more options on the way from the likes of OpenTable, Google and Facebook. ...
    by Published on 03-24-2015 08:03 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. News,
    3. Commentary and Analysis
    Article Preview



    All I can say is wow, the execs at Cyanogen, Inc. are really blowing their brains out.

    Flush with some $80 million in fresh funding from the likes of Qualcomm, Twitter and Rupert Murdoch, Cyanogen's CEO had this to say in a recent interview with Forbes:

    We’re putting a bullet through Google’s head.
    Uh-huh...

    A bombastic statement like this makes for a great headline but honestly, I've seen this sort of thing before. In fact, if you'll indulge me I'll compare Cyanogen with another technology company to give you an idea of where arrogance like this ultimately leads. ...
    by Published on 03-20-2015 06:56 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. Commentary and Analysis
    Article Preview



    As someone who doesn't wear a watch I've no proverbial skin in this game. I know a good watch UI when I see it; other than that... meh.

    And yet, two stories that appeared in my news feed this morning have got me writing about wearables once again:

    Apple is building a Watch shop in this Tokyo luxury department store

    Google Is Making an Apple Watch Killer With This Swiss Luxury Watchmaker

    The fandroid in me wants to say: "good for Google". Getting Android Wear on a proper timepiece from an actual watch-maker is an obvious win, and similar partnerships may be in the cards now that the spectre of the Apple Watch has reared its ugly head. Furthermore, I suspect that Android will ultimately prevail in the smartwatch wars, because open, distributed platforms always win.

    But all this would ignore an obvious fact: computers and fine jewellery don't really go together all that well. One can last for generations; the other has a shelf life of maybe two years tops. ...
    by Published on 03-19-2015 06:42 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. Tips,
    4. Commentary and Analysis,
    5. Apps
    Article Preview



    If you listen to the Android Central Podcast then you've probably heard the not very nice things that Phil Nickinson et al have to say about Clean Master (Speed Booster). No really, that's the exact wording of the app's name on the Play Store.

    Clean Master is a product from a company called Cheetah Mobile, which I mention only because their entire website looks like a pop-up ad. Here's what it purports to do:

    Features of Clean Master- Phone Booster & Antivirus

    ► CPU COOLER
    Cool off your device by finding and stopping the apps that are causing it to overheat and make your battery last longer!

    ► JUNK FILE CLEANING
    Delete cache and residual files to reclaim storage, boost speed and improve the performance of your device and SD card.

    ► MEMORY BOOST
    Boost your games and apps, free up memory (RAM), speed up your device and save more battery. Our 1 Tap Boost and Game Boost features make it easy to optimize directly from your homescreen.

    ► ANTIVIRUS
    Scan the system, pre-installed and user-installed apps to keep your device safe from viruses, trojans, vulnerabilities, adware and spyware. Keep your privacy safe by scrubbing personal info from your device.

    ► APP MANAGER
    Uninstall unwanted apps or bloatware and back up important ones. Some rooted devices will be able to move apps to the SD card as well as uninstall pre-installed and system apps. Our own Picks section lets you find useful apps that match your interests.
    Um, how about no? ...
    by Published on 03-13-2015 08:01 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. News,
    3. Commentary and Analysis
    Article Preview



    What happened, Australia?

    OpenSignal, the network diagnostics company that more or less told me where to take my summer vacation last year, have released their State of LTE report for Q1, 2015. What you're looking at above are the average LTE download speeds, ranked by country. I got this particular chart from Quartz.

    You may be somewhat surprised by the rankings of both Canada and the US, but the numbers make sense if you consider the inconsistency of speeds across a relatively large area of service. Hong Kong surprised me too—I would never have guessed that it would rank below Canada. The only explanations I can think of are (1) 3G/TD-SCDMA handsets are more useful for frequent visits to mainland China, and (2) LTE service is lacking because Hong Kongers are too cheap to pay for it.

    But the real head-scratcher is Australia's apparent fall from grace, dropping from the number one country with LTE service to 14th overall in only a year. It's important to remember that all of OpenSignal's data comes from the users of their mobile app. In other words, the more of us that sign on, the better that data will be! ...
    by Published on 03-09-2015 08:16 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. News,
    4. Commentary and Analysis,
    5. Rumors
    Article Preview



    Even before the release of the first-generation iPhone, the tech press—pretty sure it was Gizmodo—started referring to it as the "Jesus Phone". With all the hype I'm reading about today's Spring Forward Event, I don't see why the same divine label can't also apply to Apple's auspicious first foray into the wearables racket.

    Since the Apple Watch was announced last September a fair amount of news about it has made its way into the daily round-ups I post to the front page, so in advance of today's proceedings I thought I'd get us all up to speed with a quick check in our collective rear-view mirror.

    Of the eight links that follow, Re/code, Tech in Asia and TechRadar are responsible for one each. Two links are from iPhone in Canada and the rest are from iVerge. I'd say that's fairly balanced; hopefully you'll agree. ...
    by Published on 03-02-2015 07:53 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. News,
    4. Commentary and Analysis
    Article Preview



    With the Samsung Galaxy S6 and HTC M9 officially official, I've been pouring through some other news from Mobile World Congress, happening right now in Barcelona. And as news goes this is pretty big: Cyanogen, Inc. and Qualcomm have inked a deal wherein Cyanogen will provide the software for upcoming Qualcomm Reference Devices.

    This does not mean that the Qualcomm equivalent of a Nexus is going on sale anytime soon. Rather than paraphrase I'll let Android Central explain:

    Qualcomm makes special devices with each of its chipset launches called Qualcomm Reference Devices, or QRDs. Think of it like a whitebox program, where Qualcomm provides everything necessary for a company to slap its branding on the side and call it their own. There are hundreds of these devices in the world today, made by dozens of different manufacturers. Qualcomm's program makes it so these manufacturers can "make" and sell a device in as little as 60 days, instead of the months and months a from-scratch hardware launch takes. Most of these devices aren't particularly fun to use, due in many cases to the software.
    So in other words, a lot of those dreary low and mid-range Android devices are about to get a lot better! ...
    by Published on 02-27-2015 08:11 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. News,
    3. Commentary and Analysis,
    4. Carriers
    Article Preview



    Yesterday the FCC voted 3-2 in favour of Title II-based net neutrality rules, a decision which has implications for mobile users, members accessing these forums via their home broadband connection... Internet users in general, really, and far beyond the confines of the USA. I've been pouring through the news on this since the vote came down yesterday, and thought I'd share some of the more interesting bits here.

    What's Title II Again?

    Title II is about the idea of common carriage, first applied to telephone networks in the FCC's Communications Act of 1934, and overhauled with the Telecommunications Act of 1996. The idea is pretty simple: a network provider must treat everything on their network equally. The best non-Internet example that I can think of is the explosion of long distance providers here in Canada during the 1990s. And the Internet? Well, you've probably seen this fake ISP ad before.

    Verizon's Cheeky Response

    As expected, Internet providers in the United States weren't exactly thrilled with the news. Verizon went so far as to post their official response in Morse code... because common carriage is such an antiquated notion, amirite? Anyone? ...
    by Published on 02-19-2015 07:50 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. Commentary and Analysis
    Article Preview



    I just finished reading this fantastic book by Rod Canion, former CEO of Compaq Computers. I had no idea that Compaq was directly responsible for the rise of PC clones—what the author calls "industry standard" computers—due to their successful reverse-engineering of PC-DOS from the original IBM PC. They were so successful that they ended up licensing their reverse-engineered DOS back to Microsoft, who redistributed it via updates to their own MS-DOS.

    In the book's epilogue, Canion turns to smartphones and tablets, crediting Apple with further iterating on the iPod and iTunes Music Store to deliver the first modern smartphone and app ecosystem. No argument there. With regard to Android, however, I was a bit surprised to read this:

    Google was trying to create an industry standard much like the PC industry standard, no doubt hoping for the same powerful results.
    With a current global marketshare of 76% (vs. 19% for iOS devices), it seems fairly obvious that Android has, in fact, done just that. ...
    by Published on 02-04-2015 07:34 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. Commentary and Analysis
    Article Preview



    Last week I caught a thread on reddit wherein a user conducted a survey of the r/Android community in an attempt to figure out the most popular screen size for an Android-powered phone. Though the results could apply to any smartphone the survey was carried out on a subreddit specific to Android, so I should probably follow suit and post this in the Android forum here.

    In the original r/Android post u/ThingsThatMakeMeMad posed the following four questions:

    1. What is the smallest screen size that you would find acceptable in a phone that you wish to purchase?
    2. What is the largest screen size that you would find acceptable in a phone?
    3. What is the ideal screen size for you?
    4. What is your ideal screen resolution, keeping in mind that greater screen resolution = greater battery consumption?


    18,158 redditors responded to the survey; you can view the results right here in Google Docs. ...
    by Published on 01-28-2015 07:35 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. News,
    4. Commentary and Analysis
    Article Preview



    I remember during my first visit to Japan in 2001 wandering through a kitschy shop in Tokyo dumbfounded by what I saw—here in the land of the world's first successful mobile Internet service I was surrounded on all sides by discarded Motorola merch from the 1980s. T-shirts, coffee mugs, Frisbees... all adorned with that instantly-recognizable stylized "M". And this was years before the RAZR ever saw the light of day.

    I believe that marketing people call this "brand equity".

    So it's probably little wonder that Lenovo, Moto's new owner, would capitalize on that brand equity and offer Motorola handsets in their home market of mainland China. That's the story making the rounds in the tech blogs this week, including GizChina, Android Police and The Verge.

    But what if the reverse were true? What if Lenovo smartphones, tuned for LTE data in the Americas, were available for purchase here? Were that the case I might well be the proud owner of a VIBE X2, pictured above. ...
    by Published on 01-27-2015 08:27 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. News,
    3. Commentary and Analysis,
    4. Apps
    Article Preview



    Not a fan of the name but I'm really excited about ZenBanx. Here's why:

    After having an ING Direct Canada account for many years I finally got serious about it, closing my Scotiabank account and transferring all funds to ING, only to see the former buy up the latter only a few months later. This all went down in 2012; unbenownst to me ING Canada's founder, Arkadi Kuhlmann, started working on a new forward-thinking banking venture right about then. This morning that venture is open for invites in Canada, and it's called (perhaps unfortunately) ZenBanx. Here's the pitch:

    Today’s world is mobile; you can jump on a plane and go just about anywhere, but your money can’t follow as easily. ZenBanx will change that.
    For someone who really enjoys travelling and really hates fiddling with paper currency, this could be a godsend. ...
    by Published on 01-26-2015 07:16 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. News,
    3. Commentary and Analysis
    Article Preview



    Last Thursday paywalled tech site The Information hosted an event in San Francisco called Next Phase of Android—no time for definitive articles, we're talking about the future here! Anyway, at this event there was a lot of bluster from Cyanogen, Inc. CEO Kirt McMaster. Seriously, if you believe the headlines that rolled out over the weekend, this is a huge deal:

    "Today, Cyanogen has some dependence on Google. Tomorrow, it will not."

    "Cyanogen CEO Kirt McMaster said the company wants to take control of Android away from Google."

    Meanwhile, every Android modder that ever was is calling bulls**t, because community versions of CyanogenMod been Google-free since 2009. ...
    by Published on 01-23-2015 08:15 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. News,
    4. Commentary and Analysis
    Article Preview



    Maybe it's a good thing Xiaomi doesn't yet offer smartphones tuned for North American LTE networks; the company has a bit of a problem respecting software licenses.

    If you're not familiar with the particulars of free software this can get confusing real quick, so let me know if I lose you. Basically, if you thought that all those wonderful custom ROMs available on XDA were massive reverse-engineered hacks you'd be correct in some cases, not so correct in most. Android, if you didn't know, runs on the Linux kernel, and the Linux kernel is governed by a very specific software license called the GPL, or GNU Public License. What's GNU? GNU's Not UNIX—recursive acronym, long story, not really relevant to what we're discussing here...

    What is very relevant is the terms of the GPL, which allow for any and all modifications to the Linux kernel (for example) provided that those changes are made public for the benefit of all users. Thus, there's a reason why Android modders tend to gravitate towards Nexus devices and, more recently, the OnePlus One: Google and OnePlus (actually Cyanogen, Inc.) release the source code for their hardware, which ROM makers use to build their firmware, which modders then download and flash. Everybody wins. ...
    by Published on 01-21-2015 08:04 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. Commentary and Analysis
    Article Preview



    So I'm still sitting on a small pile of really good links that I bookmarked while I was away. Today I'm going to highlight three of those links, wrapping them into my own premise: the growing schism between where the smartphone industry is going and what customers really want.

    Ok, that's a massive oversimplification—mobile users are, of course, well-served by some manufacturers, less so by others. Though now a mature industry there's lots of innovation to be had in smartphones, just maybe not where you might think. Have a read and see if you agree. ...
    by Published on 01-16-2015 07:23 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Humor,
    3. Commentary and Analysis,
    4. Reviews and Hands-on
    Article Preview



    Ok, one final post about my visit to Hong Kong and Taipei, one that's especially relevant to us here in the West. We need to talk about selfie sticks.

    I've not yet seen one here on the mean streets of downtown Toronto but the things are all over Southeast Asia, and have been for quite some time. I spent a lot of my trip in the midst of younger folk nonchalantly whipping out their cheap plastic telescoping arms, not really securing their $700-plus phones and assuming the position with their best peace sign/duckface combo. And I'm just standing there with my jaw on the floor.

    Now, it seems, the selfie stick craze has hit western shores, with no less than the Wall Street Journal posting a guide to the best ones on the market. I'll weigh in with my two cents on this phenomenon then let the rest of you discuss. ...
    by Published on 12-23-2014 08:49 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. News,
    4. Commentary and Analysis,
    5. Carriers,
    6. Apps
    Article Preview



    That was the year that was... in mobile.

    Usually bloggers post these things some time between Christmas Day and New Year's Eve, when the Boxing Day sales have come and gone and there's literally no tech news to write about. But yours truly will be spending Christmas Day somewhere near the International Date Line en route to Hong Kong, where I'll be vacationing with the missus until mid-January. In other words, I'm jumping on the year-end retrospective bandwagon a bit early.

    I've gone through everything I've posted over the course of 2014 and am presenting here what I think are the year's most important stories. If there's anything you think I missed by all means let me know! ...
    by Published on 12-21-2014 12:43 PM
    1. Categories:
    2. Commentary and Analysis

    Boxing day is almost here so I threw together a list of phone and tablet deals.

    If you're willing to sign your life away, my top picks are:

    iPhone 6 16GB for TELUS on BestBuy or Futureshop for $79.99 (do yourself a fav and get the 64GB instead).

    Samsung Galaxy S5 for Bell/TELUS/Rogers on BestBuy or Futureshop for $0 plus you get a $175 gift card. If you're the type to experience buyers remorse remember the GS6 is probably 4 months off so expect lots of remorse as you're peppered with rumors of it.

    The Nexus 5 on Koodo/Virgin is $0 from BestBuy or Futureshop plus you get a $125 gift card.

    The Sony Z3 Compact on Bell and the LG G3 on Rogers are both $0 with a $100 gift card at Futureshop. Both are solid phones.

    If Prepaid is your thing here are some picks. Remember, a prepaid phone is an unlock code away from being unlocked with no contract:

    Visions has the LG F4n flip phone (okay, it's not a smartphone) for only 9 bucks, NINE BUCKS.

    Nokia Lumia 635 for $79.99 on Rogers from BestBuy and Futureshop. Our friends down south had these for $49.99 but for 80 bucks the 635 is still a good deal.

    Motorola Moto G first gen (8GB, no mSD) is $79.99 on TELUS at London Drugs. 'Nuff said.

    Samsung GS3 on TELUS for $198 at Walmart.

    Most of the unlocked phones are at Canada Computers, Staples and NCIX:

    Acer Liquid S1 for $229.99 at Canada Computers. I reviewed one before, originally it was a terrible deal at $379.99 but at 229.99 is an absolute steal, 5.7" HD display, usable processor, 8MP (not the greatest) plus it recently got an Android 4.4 upgrade. Buy Buy Buy!

    NCIX has the Sony Z Ultra is 359.99 at NCIX. It's an enormous phablet with a 6.44" display.

    If a Tablet is your fancy there are tons and tons of Galaxy Tabs on sale from the 4 to the S to the Pro to the Note to the Note Pro to the OMGWTFBBQ. To be honest, I don't recommend any of these Tabs, the S is susceptible to screen burn in (happened to mine), the Tab Pro is still too expensive as is the Note and the ridiculously priced Note and Tab Pro versions.

    If you HAVE to buy a Samsung Tablet, stick with the 8" and 10" Tab 4 versions for around $230 and $270 respectively at many places. At least they're sort of cheap.

    If you want an iPad the Air the 16GB is $368 at Walmart which is decent for what it is but still, overall a warm deal.

    The Best deal is the original Surface Pro with 4GB of RAM and 128GB of storage refurbished for $399. This is a full-fat version PC in a tablet form factor. Hook a monitor, keyboard and mouse to it and for many people, it can replace a full-on PC. BestBuy and Futureshop have it.

    Lastly, Canada Computers has the the Lenovo Miix 8" Windows 8 Tablet. This is a full-on Windows 8 computer in a 8" Windows Tablet body for only $158. It only comes with 2GB of RAM but to be honest, the small display keeps you from really getting into RAM troubles. I don't actually recommend this one but it IS a good deal.

    Don't forget, Futureshop and BestBuy start ONLINE on Dec 24th at 8PM EST.

    Follow the jump for a complete list of deals!
    ...
    Page 2 of 15 FirstFirst 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 LastLast