• Commentary and Analysis

    by Published on 11-10-2015 08:37 AM
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    The last few ZTE phones that have come across my desk were all outstanding phones for the money. The problem with this is that the people that typically buy those kind of phones have no idea who made it.

    If ZTE wants to move upmarket, theyíll need to replicate their formula of offering more phone for less dough.

    ZTEís budget line is called ďGrandĒ so hereís their range-topper, the Axon. You can find at Fido for a very un-ZTE $400. I canít think of any other $400 phones that come with a Snapdragon 801 SoC, 32GB of storage and a metal body. Theyíre definitely off to a good start; letís check out the rest of the package. ...
    by Published on 11-04-2015 01:47 PM
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    I donít use tablets very often. There are 2 main reasons why; First off, thereís no nice way to put it but when it comes to tablets, Iím a cheapskate. While Iím fine spending top dollar on a flagship phone, Iím hesitant to open my purse strings - sorry manís bag - when it comes to a tablet.

    Secondly, if I do get a tablet it must have LTE. Iím too lazy to tether off my phone, it has too much of an impact on my battery plus I use way too much data to leave it on anyways. Donít even get me started as to how many days it takes me to realize I forgot to turn it off. However, LTE usually commands quite a price premium - something my wallet is allergic to.

    My parsimonious purse strings purse strings simply wonít allow me drop a stack on a tablet with LTE, Iíd rather having no tablet than have an expensive one with LTE.

    Fortunately, ZTEís Grand X View might be just the answer for me. It's only a cheque book friendly $240 straight up on Bell. I can dig that price.
    ...
    by Published on 11-04-2015 01:26 PM
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    The LG Nexus 5x signifies two changes in Googleís Nexus strategy. First off, itís the first Nexus thatís actually smaller than its predecessor while at the same time, the line itself bifurcates into regular and phablet sizes.

    To me, the smaller size tells me that that for now, the market has decided that they're happy with how large phones are in general. The 6p is also smaller than the 6 but itís still one of the larger phones on the market, which should satisfy people like me who donít mind something a little bigger.

    The 5x is for people who donít want to sacrifice portability and reach-ability for the largest size possible. ...
    by Published on 11-03-2015 07:07 AM
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    This. This right here. The single, most important feature of Android 6.0 "Marshmallow", if you ask meóruntime permissions for personal data, a feature previously only on custom ROMs. You could also control app permissions via modules from Xposed repos, but the only real-time solutions I've ever seen were on MIUI and CyanogenMod-based ROMs.

    Now that this feature is available on stock Android, is there even a reason to root any more? Again, if you're asking me then yes, absolutely. ...
    by Published on 10-30-2015 12:12 PM
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    Last yearís Nexus 6 gained a lot of flack from me and Andrew for its high $749 price tag. Up until then, the previous couple of Nexii phones offered tremendous bang for relatively speaking little bucks. Expensive phones are fine if theyíre best-in-class products but while the Nexus 6 is a nice phone, there were better choices available.

    Hereís the follow up, the Nexus 6p from Huawei.

    Compared to the 6, the 6p receives a minor price cut; the 32GB model starts $699. It gains a rear-mounted fingerprint reader but loses the optical image stabilization.

    Is the 6p a worthy contender? Letís check it out.
    ...
    by Published on 10-26-2015 07:22 AM
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    Kudos to YouTuber (and fellow Canadian) Linus Sebastian for applying his knowledge of high-performance PCs to mobile phones. Just don't expect to see a water-cooled smartphone in production anytime soon.

    It started out as a test to prove/disprove claims that the new iPhone outperforms this year's MacBookówhich, in a previous video, Linus had found to be thermally throttled. The solution? Open up the CPU by cooling it down with ice water. Could the performance of the iPhone 6s be improved using the same method?

    Actually, no. But... it's an entirely different story with a phone powered by the infamous Snapdragon 810. ...
    by Published on 10-21-2015 09:17 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 11:17 AM
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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 youíll know that they typically announce their ďheroĒ phone in the first quarter of each year.

    Time to put on my conspiracy hat; I reviewed HTCís 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, Qualcommís first 64bit top of the line, Snapdragon 810 SoC, 5Ē 400+ PPI display, 3GB of RAM, 32GB storage, 20 megapixel camera, etc. But while they got the ingredients right, the recipe wasnít follow properly and we were left with a phone that didnít really distinguish itself from itís 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 donít typically do ď+Ē 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, theyíre saying that itís 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 thatís not the case.

    Letís check it out.
    ...
    by Published on 10-20-2015 07:30 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 powerówith two minority governments and one majorityóthe 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 usóthe last time the Liberals ran the place was pre-iPhone! ...
    by Published on 10-14-2015 08:41 PM
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    Iíve 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. Letís check it out.
    ...
    by Published on 10-13-2015 08:45 AM
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    One of my favorite phones of 2015 is the LG G4. Itís 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 G4ís price is reasonable, it still sports a flagship price tag. Fortunately, if you donít want to fork out too much dough, there are now more choices than ever when it comes to mid-range phones.

    Hereís the LG G4 Vigor, which possesses some of the G4ís qualities but comes with a much more palatable $350 CAN price tag. ...
    by Published on 10-09-2015 11:14 AM
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    When the iPhone 6 Plus was released last year is was the biggest change to Appleís 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 wasnít 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 didnít 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 youíre switching programs.

    While the iPhone has usually enjoyed a performance advantage over its competition, the fact that the 6 Plus wasnít 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 07:48 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 07:36 AM
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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 07:15 AM
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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 jobóI'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 07:10 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 06:53 AM
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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 computingóthe 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 07:55 AM
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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 07:36 AM
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    I generally try to avoid "insider baseball"óthat 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 06:58 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. ...
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