• Reviews and Hands-on

    by Published on 06-30-2015 01:16 PM
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    I borrowed a Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge from Howard Chui. I've been a longtime fan of Samsung high-end smartphones, but of late I've become rather disappointed in the slow pace of real improvement in the subsequent models. This isn't strictly a Samsung issue however, as this has been the case with every manufacturer out there. The smartphone, like the PC before it, has begun to reach maturity and the level of improvement from one generation to the next has slowed down considerably. The new models are indeed more powerful and have more features, but only INCREMENTALLY SO. It's becoming increasingly difficult to justify the purchase of a new device every year. ...
    by Published on 06-30-2015 07:15 AM
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    Not mine, obviously—Google's first MVNO venture isn't coming to Canada anytime soon.

    Pennsylvanian journalist and blogger Paul Kuehnel was among the first to sign up for Project Fi back in April, and has reported on the service after using it for about three weeks. I found his post via r/Android on reddit.

    A quick refresher: The Project Fi network uses Sprint, T-Mobile and WiFi hotspots, with seamless handoffs between each. The customer is billed a flat rate of $20/month for unlimited calls and SMS plus $10/GB for data. Unused data from each $10 increment is refunded.

    Today I'll share a few highlights from Paul's post, along with a link so you can read it for yourself. ...
    by Published on 06-25-2015 11:05 AM
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    What do you think this new LG gadget is? A wireless speaker with long porting? A oddly shaped power bank? Some sort of projector?
    ...
    by Published on 06-17-2015 05:25 PM
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    Let’s play some word association: Computers, Motherboards, Asus. About 5 to 10 years ago when I was a huge computer nerd I spent way too much money on Asus parts. I even used to have a stack of Asus Motherboard boxes.

    After Microsoft, Intel and Apple, Asus is one of the brands that comes to mind when I think about computers.

    However, when I think about Smartphones, Asus don’t usually come up.

    Still, when I think about Computers and Smartphones, the next word is Tablet.

    When it comes to Tablets, Asus does come to mind - unfortunately, the tablets that I think of are usually the cheap 7 or 8” sub $150 Black Friday specials, you find at Walmart/Staples/TigerDirect.

    They typically come with a processor that’s a few generations behind, a dim screen and a version of Android that will likely never be updated. Yes, Asus makes more fancier models but then they get lost in the discussion with the likes of Samsung and Apple.

    So when it comes to Smartphones, Asus as a brand has a bit of an uphill battle. Until now, the North American market for phones was pretty much controlled by the carriers. You signed a contract and then got a subsidized phone through them.

    Still, lately phones have gotten very capable to the point that you don’t have to spend top dollar to get a decent phone. Since you don't have to spend as much as you used to, the need for a subsidy isn’t as important as it used to be.

    This opens the door to unsubsidized, unlocked phones which loosen carrier’s grip which in turn allows manufacturers to sell phones via other channels. Some interesting phone include Google’s Nexus line, The OnePlus One and now Asus’ Zenfone 2.
    ...
    by Published on 06-15-2015 05:50 AM
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    Over the weekend XDA posted a review of what's shaping up to be this year's midrange champ, the ASUS ZenFone 2.

    With both micro SD and dual SIM support the cheaper $249 CAD / $199 USD 16 GB model handily trounces the Moto G—except for the unfortunate fact that the ASUS doesn't run anything close to stock Android. If ever a device needed a good AOSP ROM, this would be it. ...
    by Published on 06-12-2015 07:25 AM
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    This week I installed the Android M Developer Preview on my Nexus 5, solely to try out the new and much-needed permissions manager for apps. I'm sad to report that its implementation just isn't very good.

    This Android modder has been spoiled by the superior privacy and protection offered by custom ROMs for some time now. Google could and should have done a better job at respecting their users' personal data; for whatever reason, they've chosen not to.

    For starters, the permissions panel itself is hidden away in the advanced options for the apps settings panel—in other words, you'll need to tap on Settings > Apps > Advanced to get to the screen you see here. But as I say, its how permission controls work that's the real problem here. ...
    by Published on 06-08-2015 07:15 AM
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    It's been two weeks since I first wrote about BlissPop, the first Lollipop-based custom Android ROM good enough for my OnePlus One. Now that I know my way around a bit better, I can tell you at length about why you might want to consider it for your device.

    In case you were wondering, the clock and weather widget that you're looking at is a Lollipop beta of DashClock, and the circular app icons are from the Flux CM12 Theme—I kept the icons and ditched everything else.

    Let's take a closer look! ...
    by Published on 06-04-2015 02:27 PM
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    LG’s last flagship, the G3 was one of the first phones to ship with a quad-HD 2560x1440 display and to be honest, it was slightly ahead of its time. While it boasted the highest resolution screen around, the screen itself didn’t really look any better than the competition but worse yet, the rest of it wasn’t quite as cutting edge. The camera while not terrible, wasn’t terribly good either. Don’t forget that the processor was barely up to the task of driving the high res display.

    Since then, Samsung unleashed their GS6, which in many ways is a big step up from the GS5 which was was the G3’s contemporary. Now LG has the G4; is it enough to compete with the GS6?
    ...
    by Published on 05-25-2015 07:00 AM
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    3. Apps
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    Last November, when the sting of disappointment from the Nexus 6 was still fresh, I proudly proclaimed that I wouldn't be upgrading to Android Lollipop anytime soon. Now, six months later to the day, I'm here to tell you about the new 5.1-based ROM on my OnePlus One.

    It's called BlissPop. It's built on a CyanogenMod base, but offers so much more. ...
    by Published on 05-21-2015 03:01 PM
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    While I’m not sure if it’s by choice, these days Microsoft has decided to devote most of its attention to the more affordable end of the market. Here’s Blu’s entry level Windows Phone, the Win Jr LTE which surprise, surprise, has support for LTE at a sub $100 USD price point.

    Entry level phones are more about what compromises you have to make to reach a certain price point and whether they make sense so let’s check it out.
    ...
    by Published on 05-14-2015 11:33 AM
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    A while back I reviewed the original Parrot Zik’s wireless headphones. They were a good looking pair of cans that sounded much worse than they looked.

    Now, Parrot has released a new version. While they look hasn’t changed much, they promise improved sound quality.

    I hate to be a cynic, but making them sound better is probably not a hard claim to make because there was so much room for improvement. Let’s check them out:
    ...
    by Published on 05-14-2015 11:15 AM
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    Last year, one of my favorite lower cost phones was Blu’s 5.0C HD. It combined ‘good enough’ specs with an interesting, eye-searing neon pink case. It targeted the “I want a decent phone that’s also fun’ segment and came through in spades.

    Of course, the 5.0C runs Android so if you were looking for something of the Windows Phone persuasion there was the Blu Win HD. Now it’s been updated with the added goodness of LTE, let’s check it out:
    ...
    by Published on 05-13-2015 07:04 AM
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    2. Reviews and Hands-on,
    3. Apps
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    For about eight hours yesterday I had a pro subscription to MightyText, universally lauded as one of if not the best desktop SMS solution for power users. My experience was a little different.

    I've tried the free version of MightyText before, and was always bothered by the fact that my desktop browser needed these three cookies for it to work:

    Code:
    mighty-app.appspot.com
    mightytext.net
    textyserver.appspot.com
    If, like me, you block third-party cookies from your web browser (because privacy) and don't enable these three exceptions you'll find that your connection to MightyText will break from too many redirects. I've honestly never seen any other web service work this way.

    And textyserver? Really? ...
    by Published on 05-04-2015 10:39 AM
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    When Howard asked me if I wanted to review the Acer Chromebook I jumped at the opportunity. While I’ve always been tempted by Chromebooks, I had some reservations; Can they do enough? Are they fast enough? Can they stream HD video smoothly? How is the battery life? Is there enough value?

    Chromebooks are very much purpose built laptops, specifically designed to do one thing. It’s not designed to replace a PC or Mac as they simply cannot do all of the same things. These are cloud enabled laptops which are targetted at Google users; Gmail, Play Music, Books, Docs, Maps, etc. With that in mind lets see how the Acer stacks up: ...
    by Published on 05-04-2015 07:42 AM
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    ... But a refund is on the way. Thanks, Amazon!

    You'll recall that I experienced a sudden and unexpected case of BlackBerry envy a few weeks ago when my mother was having some tests done at the hospital. If you missed it, my brother was texting me with his physical qwerty keypad faster than I could reply with my virtual Android equivalent.

    As dear old mum has a follow-up visit with her doctor planned for this week, I thought it might be instructive to repeat my experience with a BlackBerry, for comparison's sake.

    Now I'm not made of money so a Passport or Classic was entirely out of the question; I did, however, manage to find myself a cheap and cheerful Q5 on Amazon—in my favourite colour, I might add. I always preferred the island-style keys on the old Curve models, anyway, finding them easier to type on than the keys on the Bolds.

    A few days and $200 CAD later I had a new BlackBerry in my hands. The first order of business (after entering my credentials) was upgrading the OS to the latest and greatest version. Only problem was, there wasn't enough space on the device to take the OTA. ...
    by Published on 04-29-2015 07:10 AM
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    Yesterday in New York City LG revealed their flagship device for 2015, the G4.

    It's as notable for the features LG didn't upgrade from last year as it is for the ones they did. Unlike Samsung, who took a very different direction with their Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge, LG's G4 keeps the removable battery and support for micro SD. If only you could unlock that bootloader without an exploit, amirite?

    Anyway, the G4 has a lot more going for it than just holdover features from the G3. Here are the notable specs, via HoFo user rogue17:

    Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 808
    Operating system: Android 5.1 Lollipop
    Display: 5.5-inch Quad HD IPS Quantum Display (2560 x 1440, 538ppi)
    Storage: 32GB eMMC ROM, microSD card up to 2TB
    RAM: 3GB LPDDR3 RAM
    Size: 148.9 x 76.1 x 6.3-9.8 mm
    Weight: 155 grams
    Rear camera: 16MP with f/1.8 aperture / OIS 2.0
    Front-facing camera: 8MP with f/2.0 aperture
    Battery: 3,000 mAh removable
    Network: 4G / LTE / HSPA+ 21 Mbps (3G)
    Connectivity: WiFi 802.11ac / Bluetooth 4.1LE / NFC / USB 2.0
    Colours: (Ceramic) Metallic Gray / (Genuine Leather) Black ...
    by Published on 04-27-2015 10:07 AM
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    If you’re familiar with Alcatel OneTouch, recently their portfolio has had 2 parallel families of devices. The Idol X line had beefier specs like full HD displays but no LTE, plus they utilized MediaTek SoC’s. The Idol S line used Qualcomm SoC and some include LTE but they’re less attractive on paper.

    Now we have the Idol 3, which appears to consolidate the 2 lines. It has a full HD display and is the first device I’ve tried with Qualcomm’s 64bit octa-core Snapdragon 615 processor.

    Looking down the spec sheet, you’ll find many features from last year’s flagships like the 5.5” FHD display I mentioned, along with a 13 megapixel camera, 2GB of RAM, stereo speakers and a large battery that approaches 3000mAh.

    However, one thing that’s decidedly un-flagship about the Idol 3 is the price.

    You can pick it up for only $249.99 USD unlocked direct from Alcatel OneTouch. it occupies a part of the market that is currently not very crowded. While there are bunch of less capable phones that cost less than $200 and many flagships that cost $500 and up, $250 is a pretty lonely place.

    When I was trying to think of competitors, flagship alternatives like the OnePlus One and Nexus 5 cost a bit more than the Idol 3 while budget stalwarts like the Moto G 2nd Gen and ZTE Grand X Plus are a bit cheaper. I guess right now, the Idol 3 is competing with the the used and refurbished market. ...
    by Published on 04-27-2015 09:50 AM
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    The Lumia 830 is marketed as an affordable flagship here in Canada. For around $400, you get a phone with a slick metal frame, a 10 megapixel camera with image stabilization, running Windows Phone 8.1.

    It’s tailor made for people on a “Lite” type contract, who only want to spend slightly more than they used to, but also don’t want to drop too much on a new handset.
    ...
    by Published on 04-16-2015 07:45 AM
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    Just yesterday I topped up my mom's SpeakOut Prepaid account for another year. You wouldn't think that a housebound senior would have any need for a mobile phone, but the benefits are actually twofold: (1) I get peace of mind in case the power goes out, taking her cordless landline phone system with it, and (2) she gets to enjoy a network-connected timepiece—not at all what I expected but she loves it for that reason alone.

    It helps that her handset, the Snapfon ezTWO, was made expressly for seniors. But what if the elder in your life prefers a flip phone form factor? If that's what you're after, I've got just the device for you... Meet the Jethro SC213B, $44.99 unlocked from Amazon Canada. My girlfriend bought one for her 70 years-young mom, and it looks like another winner for seniors. ...
    by Published on 04-13-2015 07:55 AM
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    I booked an appointment over the weekend at my local Apple store to try on the Apple Watch. Any expectations I had about what would go down were entirely due to a post I caught on Mobile Syrup last Friday—to quote its author, Dan Bader: "There is plenty of greatness in this try-on experience."

    ... Which is interesting, because the greatness was decidedly lacking in mine. ...
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