• Reviews and Hands-on

    by Published on 02-27-2015 01:02 PM
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    2014 was supposed to be the year of the wearable. While 2014 did see a whole slew of wearables hit the market and to a lesser degree, gain some mainstream acceptance, wearables didn’t take off like many thought they would.

    One reason is that even though there’s a lot of momentum in the category - for many people, they just found that the trade offs of having a wearable didn’t outweigh the benefit having one would bring to their daily lives.

    Here’s the Samsung Gear S, one of the first wearables from a mainstream manufacturer that has a built-in SIM card slot which allows it to get a data connection even when your phone isn’t around.

    Is built in wireless the killer feature that wearables have been waiting for? Let’s check it out:
    ...
    by Published on 02-23-2015 09:52 AM
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    Yup, that's the official tagline, straight from their Google+ community...

    In case you needed one more reason to take control of your Android experience, today I'm posting a quick screenshot tour of Team Win's Recovery Project—aka TWRP. I got the idea after my frustrations last week with the latest OTA for my OnePlus One. I'll not mince words here: most stock recoveries for Android are crap. Boot into your typical recovery and you'll have next to no idea of what's going on, much less any say in it.

    TWRP is pretty much the opposite of that. ...
    by Published on 02-20-2015 08:46 AM
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    Android Authority pumps out YouTube videos like nobody's business. The content is sometimes a bit iffy but the quality of the videos uploaded by each member of their team look uniformly slick.

    This past week they outdid themselves, with a superb retrospective of Nexus phones and tablets narrated by new presenter Ash Tailor. If you're a Nexus fan and can spare the 26 minutes or so to watch it I highly recommend that you do. ...
    by Published on 02-19-2015 01:35 PM
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    Right now if I had to choose, the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 would be my pick for favorite Android phone. You can imagine how pumped I was when I found out that the Samsung Galaxy Edge was coming here to North America.

    It’s just like the Note 4 but the display has been swapped out for a curved, slightly higher resolution display that spills over the right side of the phone. If you’ve never seen one before, the effect is quite striking. Let’s check it out:
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    by Published on 02-12-2015 08:58 AM
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    Call it a cop-out if you want, but after spending the better part of an evening futzing around with two Linux-based smartphone operating systems—Ubuntu for Phones and Jolla's SailfishOS—all I can say is "meh".

    Clearly I'm not seeing either of these mobile upstarts at their best. I can't get the sound to work on the development release of Ubuntu on my Nexus 5. And Sailfish? the only version I could get was an alpha release. Grabbing screens from either proved to be beyond my limited expertise and ultimately, not really worth it.

    After all, it's Android—and in this case, MultiROM—that's made it possible to run three separate operating systems on my one device. So you'll hopefully understand if I wasn't exactly impressed by the other two. ...
    by Published on 02-03-2015 09:15 AM
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    As my first week with Android 5.0 "Lollipop" continues there's so far not much to report. The KitKat versions of many apps have already been updated to conform with the new material design standard. To be honest there's really only one issue I'm having with this latest incarnation of stock Android:

    Everything is so blindingly bright!

    I realize this is personal preference so speaking personally, I can't stand the white background that seems to be all over this Nexus 6. In some places it makes sense; reading large blocks of text—in a web browser, for example—works with dark text on a light background because it's a better approximation of ink on paper. But in other places—like menus and settings—it just doesn't work at all. At least not for me.

    Fortunately I'm running a custom ROM, so there's an easy fix—today in the form of CyanogenMod's theming engine. ...
    by Published on 01-30-2015 09:43 AM
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    No, of course I didn't buy one... are you high?

    Howard was kind enough to let me borrow his unlocked, 32 GB space grey—sorry, "Midnight Blue" Nexus 6, to see if it really is as despicable as I've made it out to be. This former Nexus fan has made no secret of his strong dislike for 2015's hackable, "pure Google" phone experience. But despite what you might think, I'm open to having my mind changed. And to neutralize my scorn I picked up a few accessories at the Dollar Store on my way home from meeting up with Howard.

    Intrigued? Read on! ...
    by Published on 01-23-2015 03:55 PM
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    *Update* the Grand X Plus Z826 actually comes with 2GB of RAM, not 1GB like I stated originally.

    In late 2013, an interesting trend emerged in the marketplace; Motorola released the Moto G which was the first relatively inexpensive phone that didn’t suck.

    The bar was raised In 2014; for the same money you could now pick up something with a quad-core processor, 5” HD display and a 8 megapixel autofocus camera: I’m talking phones like the ZTE Grand X (Z933 - Canadian version) or the Blu Studio 5.0C HD.

    Later in 2014 we got different permutations on this formula; The HTC Desire 510 and Nokia Lumia 635 added LTE but they forced you to give up the 5” HD display and 8 megapixel camera. LTE makes these phones more attractive to carriers but as far as I’m concerned, trading these 2 features to get LTE is just not worth it.

    Now we have the ZTE Grand X Plus (Z826). With the Plus you get a 5” display, 8 megapixel camera, quad-core processor AND LTE. You don’t have to make any compromises! You get all this for $200 from Fido.
    ...
    by Published on 01-16-2015 08:23 AM
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    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 12-22-2014 09:35 AM
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    Ok, so this is a bit of a cheat, as I've only fully tested a grand total of seven Android-powered devices this past year. Of the extra pair, one gets an honourable mention and the other a dishonourable one. In fact, let's go ahead and get that part of the list out of the way:

    Honourable Mentions:

    1. Motorola 2014 Moto G

    Moto's refreshed G—codenamed "titan"—didn't make my list only because I never had an extended play with one. But there's no question that it's an improvement over the original in every way, with a bigger screen, more megapixels, micro SD and stereo speakers. That anyone in Canada can buy it unlocked from their local Staples for the same price as its predecessor is icing on the cake.

    2. Xiaomi Redmi 1S

    Here's another improvement over the original Moto G, with a removable battery and dual-SIM support for the equivalent of $150 CAD! Too bad it's 3G radio doesn't work in this part of the world; gotta cut corners somewhere, I guess.

    3. Samsung Galaxy Note 4

    Apart from a Samsung Canada hands-on I haven't really had any quality time with this latest iteration of the original phablet. But from what I saw (and Howard's review) it looks like a solid upgrade in every way. I certainly think that ditching the flap-covered USB 3 hybrid charging port was a good idea. I wonder if Samsung still region-locks these things? ...
    by Published on 12-16-2014 11:01 AM
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    It’s that time of the year again; you’re thinking of picking up a phone for that special someone but don’t know what to get. Here are my top picks: ...
    by Published on 12-15-2014 02:01 PM
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    To Android users, the Nexus brand stands front and center. It stands for freedom from manufacturer crapware. Unlike other Android phones, Nexus are usually unlocked plus their boot loaders are easily unlocked so you can easily throw on a custom ROM.

    They also receive Android updates the moment Google releases them, and not 6 months later if ever like other Android phones.

    Most importantly, a Nexus phone meant you were getting a great phone at a great price.

    Here's the latest Nexus from Google which this time around, is made by Motorola: The Nexus 6. Like previous Nexus (Nexuses? Nexii?), the 6 lacks manufacturer crapware, it has an easily unlocked boot loader and it receives timely updates. However, the Nexus 6 is $750 which makes it the most expensive Nexus ever. However, it’s also the most speced out Nexus ever. Is it still a great deal? ...
    by Published on 12-04-2014 09:46 AM
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    For Android users I probably sound like a broken record sometimes—root this, custom ROM that...

    One of the big reasons why I root my phones and tablets is so that I can block ads system-wide with AdAway. Today I bring good news for anyone who, for whatever reason, is hesitant to take full control of their Android experience. It's a new mobile browser from Ghostery, Inc. that blocks all ads from websites you visit. And that's not even its main gig! ...
    by Published on 12-02-2014 11:41 AM
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    Since flagship phones displays have been increasing in size over the past few years, new segments in the market have opened up for phones which have slightly smaller displays. One interesting segment are smaller versions of flagship phones.

    One of the first was the GS3 Mini; which was really a budget phone named after the GS3. This trend continued the following year with the HTC One Mini and GS4 Mini.

    However, earlier this year Sony added a twist to this trend when they released the Z1 Compact. Unlike the competition, the Z1 Compact was not a budget phone in expensive clothes; it was the first ‘mini’ phone with full-sized specs.

    Here’s their follow up, the Z3 Compact. Let's check it out: ...
    by Published on 12-02-2014 10:24 AM
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    Apologies for my absence on the front page yesterday. It was a travel day for my girlfriend and I; she's on a business trip to our nation's capital and I'm tagging along for the hotel breakfast.

    I actually haven't had the pleasure of taking the train on the Toronto-Ottawa corridor for quite some time. Though there's free WiFi on board I was more interested in my phone's data connection. If you're a Koodo subscriber you'll be pleased to know that data service on this route is generally very good. There was only one 15-or-so-minute stretch where there was no service at all, and most of the time the signal was HSPA+ or better.

    Given that Koodo is TELUS' second-string player I would think that data service would be even better from the Big Three proper. And if you're on WIND, well... at least you can roam? ...
    by Published on 11-24-2014 10:27 AM
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    In a post last week about the OnePlus One I made a passing mention of the theming capability built into CyanogenMod 11. After spending a rainy weekend afternoon obsessing over themes, I'm proud to present the fruits of my research.

    I continue to be amazed by how infinitely customizable Android seems to be. Up to this point I've been content to have my user experience controlled by whatever custom ROM I happen to be using; I'm only now realizing the full extent to which I can control my UX as well. CM's theming engine isn't the only way to skin your UI, but in my limited experience it's proving to be a pretty good one. ...
    by Published on 11-23-2014 07:03 PM
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    When I first saw the Motorola 360 I immediately made a conscious decision that this was the best looking Android watch that would be available by far. At the time of the announcements / internet leaks and various other media outlets we basically had the LG G watch, the Samsung Galaxy Gear, and the Pebble off the top of my head. None of these looked as svelte as Motorola's 360.

    The long road of its availability was another story. As seems to be the case with most internet announcements the path from pictures and teaser videos, even from Motorola themselves, was a long one. Low and behold the Motorola 360 is "here." I say "here" tentatively because it is still in relatively short supply at Canadian Brick and Mortar stores and even Motorola Canada's own web page has it as "coming soon."

    Regardless, I have had the Stone Grey Moto 360 for the last week and wanted to discuss its strengths and weaknesses with everyone.

    Let me preface this firstly by saying that I do in fact wear a watch daily. So to put on the Motorola 360 wasn't an issue. Just a swap out of my daily routine.
    ...
    by Published on 11-18-2014 07:57 PM
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    Hi everyone! As I have noticed that you folks don't watch my video's that I post here, my guess is they are too long. So this time out I made a much shorter one, hope that helps Here are some lifted pics from GizChina(thanks!)to show it off on here:


    This is my video review of the DOOGEE DG580 KISSME 5.5" KitKat phone. Yet another OnePlus clone out of China, it's a very inexpensive(around $100.00US, see converted Canadian price below), well rounded phablet with a strong, well proven MediaTek MTK6582 Quad Core processor. It also has a good Mali 400 multi core GPU. The Antutu score of over 18200 proves that this phone has enough juice to handle apps like a mid level phone, without the mid level phone price

    ...
    by Published on 11-18-2014 07:55 PM
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    I don’t know about you but it seems Sony is constantly putting out new flagships. Indeed, recently they’ve had a policy of releasing a new flagship every 6 months. The problem with this is that that newer versions often don’t differ much from previous versions. The upside is that this helps to really put downward pressure on the prices of their older models which are almost as good as the newer ones.

    Of course, if you end up buying the latest model you might feel burned when rumors of its replacement start making the rounds a week later but I guess that’s part of the Sony Xperience.

    Here’s Sony’s latest, the Xperia Z3.
    ...
    by Published on 11-14-2014 05:55 PM
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    Last year, Motorola’s flagship, the Moto X kind of got lost in the shuffle. While it was a solid effort of Motorola’s part, some of the features they gave it to differentiate it from the competition didn’t really catch on.

    The specs weren’t up to, well, they weren’t up to spec and one of the most important differentiators, the customizability wasn’t even available in Canada! To be honest, I’m surprised they sold any here.

    This time around, let’s see if the second Gen X fares any better:
    ...
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