• Reviews and Hands-on

    by Published on 05-27-2016 01:36 PM
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    When it comes to the top end of the market, flagships are more alike than they are different. Of course, the devil is in the details, they’re what separates the has and the has beens.

    I mean, they all come with 5-ish inch quad-HD displays, SoC powered by the latest ARM cores, 3 or 4GB of RAM, that sort of thing.

    So what is different about the G5? For starters, LG is touting the G5 as a modular phone. The bottom part can be removed so that you can attach other accessories.

    It also has 2 rear cameras, no, they’re not for fake Bokeh or 3D or even black and white. The 2nd camera has a super wide-angle lens on it which, in the right hands, makes for some dramatic photos.

    Hmm, modular with a super-wide camera? It could just be what the doctor ordered for an shaking up a slightly stale flagship market. ...
    by Published on 05-26-2016 01:33 PM
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    Last year, instead of releasing one Galaxy S flagship, Samsung’s S line bifurcated into regular and curved versions with the Galaxy S6 and the Galaxy S6 Edge. Later on, the Edge line split again with a Galaxy S6 Edge Plus.

    In 2016, Samsung merged the S6 Edge and S6 Edge Plus into, wait for it, the Galaxy S7 Edge.

    Last year, the GS6 and GS6 Edge weren’t all that different so I thought the regular version was the smarter choice. However, this time around, the difference between them is more pronounced. The screen size on the Edge has grown from 5.1 to 5.5” with a few other changes under the hood.

    Is the regular version still the one to get or has it been supplanted by the Edge? ...
    by Published on 05-12-2016 10:30 AM
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    I remember when HTC was synonymous with Smartphones. While most of us were still pressing the “3” button twice to enter in the letter “e”, HTC was making Smartphones with HTML web browsers, email, MS office with WiFi and Bluetooth.

    However, their 2015 flagship, the HTC One M9 left something to be desired. If I was to describe it in one word it would be “underwhelming”. On paper it was an improvement over the 2014 M8, but in the real world, it was more of a sideways step rather than a step forward.

    The camera had beefy specs but it wasn’t really that great, the processor should have been formidable but wasn’t really any faster than last year’s model. It just didn’t stand out.

    Fortunately, HTC isn’t messing around with their 2016 flagship; the HTC 10 lines up much better with its competitors.

    In Canada, the HTC 10 is available unlocked from HTC’s website for an eye-watering $999 Canadian. Otherwise, it’s a Bell exclusive. At $349.99 Canadian on contract it’s $50 more than the LG G5, $50 less than the GS7 and $150 less than the GS7 Edge . Let’s check it out:
    ...
    by Published on 04-14-2016 02:43 PM
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    Since Andrew is off for a couple of weeks, I’m going to try to take over and share some thoughts each day. Recently, I’ve been playing with the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge and HTC 10 (LG G5 is coming but not here yet) so I figured I compare the 2. I’ll have full reviews for all 3 phones eventually but for now I’m just going to focus on specific areas.

    As a reviewer, one of my jobs is to figure out if newer models are better than previous ones. However, when it comes to features, once they’ve reached a point where they’re “good enough”, most people stop caring about them.

    A good example is screen size. Once phones breached 5.5ish inches most people stopped clamouring for bigger screens. It’s not to say that future phones won’t get bigger, just that the current crop of screens are large enough for most. If we find new ways to use our phones that require a bigger screen, this will obviously change.

    Another thing people don’t really about anymore is camera resolution. As long as you have more than 10 megapixels (enough to also capture 4K video) most people don’t really care about having more. It’s enough for Facebook/Instagram and thus enough for most.

    Still, there are still areas which can use some improving. Areas which I’ll be focusing more on.



    First up are the speakers. The 10 and Edge both have 2 speakers; one on the earpiece and a bigger one on the bottom. ...
    by Published on 04-12-2016 07:46 AM
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    I had a chance to play with the HTC 10 the other day. Here are some first impressions:



    While the 10’s predecessors, the M7, M8 and M9 all shared a common design language, the 10 takes a different approach. The speaker grill stickers are gone in favor of a more minimalistic all-glass front. I don’t know about you but the grills starting to get long in the tooth so this is a welcome change.



    That said, looking at the pictures I kind of wish the silver version came with a white front as the black front is a bit bland but maybe that’s just me. ...
    by Published on 04-01-2016 12:44 PM
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    Until last year, the previous couple of iterations in the Galaxy S lineup were pretty predictable. They were all plastic bodied phones with removable batteries and memory. Then last year, they took the Galaxy S line in a new direction. The GS6 had an all glass and metal body and they did away with the user changeable battery and MicroSD. The last change struck a chord with users because you had to decide how much storage you’d ever need when you bought the phone plus you’d have to pay an inflated price if you needed more than the base model - just like you do with an iPhone.

    Fortunately, the MicroSD is back with the latest version along with water resistance - a feature which took a hiatus last year.

    Otherwise, the GS7 is an evolution of the GS6. The look follows Samsung’s latest design language, the camera has been improved, you get a more powerful processor a bigger battery. That sort of thing. Is it worth the upgrade? ...
    by Published on 04-01-2016 12:42 PM
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    I’d never really cared much for the BB10 O/S, but I was most certainly looking forward to seeing what sort of Android phone Blackberry could produce. Clearly they needed to differentiate themselves from the rest of the Android rabble, but at the same time they couldn’t substantially change the O/S without taking away what makes it Android. They also wanted to reintroduce the physical keyboard, which has mostly disappeared from Android. As far as I can tell, the keyboard is there mostly to appease old Blackberry fans, who were used to typing on physical keyboards in older Blackberry devices. ...
    by Published on 03-22-2016 06:50 AM
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    So there's a new iPhone in town, the iPhone SE.

    To vastly oversimplify, it's Apple's high-end internals stuffed into an iPhone 5 case, albeit a case that now supports fingerprint authentication via Touch ID. Those internals include Apple's current A9 chip with embedded M9 co-processor, powering a 4 inch Retina Display and 12 megapixel camera that can shoot 4K video.

    How much will it cost? The 64 GB model will set you back a very reasonable $499 USD outright, or a somewhat less reasonable $709 CAD. Apple doesn't have much faith in the Canadian dollar, it seems.

    Anyway, the tech press was all over yesterday's launch event; iPhone in Canada rounded up some of the resulting hands-on videos—one of which I'll re-post here, along with two others I found on my own. ...
    by Published on 03-14-2016 08:46 PM
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    In the past, I’ve written about my new hobby, wearing ‘dumb’ watches. You’d think that a phone nerd like myself would be all over smartwatches but in fact, I was so annoyed by the ones I’ve tried, it actually caused me to start wearing regular watches again.

    Between the constant charging, the poor ease of use, questionable styling and finishes, and inability to do anything well, smartwatches in general left me wanting.

    However, they did remind me that I like wearing something on my wrist so I went from wearing nothing on my arm to wearing something again.



    Since then, I’ve picked up a few pieces - divers watches, pilot watches, chronographs, automatics, manual winders, radioactive (that’s right), military style, skeletons, etc.



    However, something happened. Getting all these watches made me more open to watches in general and thus more open to smart watches. Talk about drama!



    But that’s not all, the soap opera that is my left arm isn’t over yet. How do I choose which watch to wear? While my regular watches can sit in my watch box just fine for a few days here and there, it’s best to wear a smartwatch daily. What to do? What to do? ...
    by Published on 03-10-2016 01:21 PM
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    I had a chance to play with the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge the other day. Here are my first impressions.


    GS7 Edge

    First off, there are some changes in the lineup. Last year we had the 5.1” S6 Edge which was released in Q1 and then the larger 5.7” S6 Edge Plus in Q3.


    GS7

    They’ve simplified the 2 Edge phones and consolidated them into one model - you guessed it; the S7 Edge.



    While there are 2 S7’s, the regular and the Edge, the Edge has grown considerably and now sports a 5.5” screen, which takes it closer to the S6 Plus’ Phablet size. ...
    by Published on 02-24-2016 01:07 PM
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    Hello again Hofo friends!

    I'm coming to you today with my review of the Huawei watch. Howard asked me (since I use Android Wear daily) if I wanted to give my thoughts and feeling on the Huawei watch. I jumped at the chance to give it a test drive.

    I want to preface this review by letting you know that I use my Moto 360 V2 daily. I am a "watch guy" in that I always wear a watch vs strapping on an Android Wear watch just because. This review isn't about "should you wear a watch or not", that's for you to decide.

    With that said let's get started. As they say; "Time's a wasting!"
    ...
    by Published on 02-17-2016 03:55 PM
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    It’s hard to believe, but at one point Blackberry was a Smartphone market leader. Of course, the Smartphone industry moves at a brutal pace and now Blackberry’s latest Operating System, BB10 is lagging behind.

    So they have 2 choices; Keep plugging on with BB10 and devoting the kind of resources it takes to keep it up to date and competitive or switch to Android to help cut costs and to also broaden their devices appeal. Well, I guess there’s 3rd choice, they could jump from their burning platform and.. oh never mind.

    Anyways, Blackberry has taken the plunge with their first Android device, the Priv. Let’s check it out. ...
    by Published on 01-29-2016 03:19 PM
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    Samsung’s not the kind of company that believes less is more. Their strategy is to saturate the market at pretty much all price points often times with multiple overlapping models.

    The Samsung Galaxy A5 was released in Canada recently. Looking at the spec sheet, highlights include a 5” 1280x720 display, 13 megapixel camera, a Snapdragon 410 processor and 2GB of RAM. The biggest feature however is the metal frame which makes it very solid. Please note that even though it was released in Canada in late 2015, this is the 2014 version of the A5, the SM-A500W. ...
    by Published on 01-22-2016 06:27 AM
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    Did you think I was done with Marshmallow Android custom ROMs after my less-than-stellar experience with the latest CyanogenMod nightlies? Well, I'm not. Here's one more, the AOSP-based Pure Nexus Project. It's currently the most popular Nexus 6P ROM on XDA, and for the foreseeable future will be powering my own daily driver.

    At first glance, the only unique thing about it seems to be an app linking to the developer's social media accounts. I wonder what would happen if I tapped on that hamburger menu? ...
    by Published on 01-19-2016 06:55 AM
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    Here's my Nexus 6P running a recent nightly release of CyanogenMod 13 with the Flux Theme. In case you were wondering about that SMS icon second from the right along the bottom row, it's the AOSP Messaging app. Yes, CM is a CAF-based custom ROM, but the AOSP Android apps—Calendar, Keyboard, Messaging, etc.—are generally better supported by CyanogenMod Themes.

    Theming has been a defining feature of CyanogenMod since at least CM11, and despite the very early state of development for CM13 I had no problems theming my phone. That's not to say that this ROM is ready for use as a daily driver, however. There are still some fairly major issues to be sorted out, at least for my device. ...
    by Published on 01-15-2016 06:48 AM
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    If you'll indulge me, I've got one more vacation-related post for you...

    It was almost a year ago that I first wrote about Canadian fintech startup Zenbanx, an app and web-based service allowing users to send money to friends and family in other parts of the world and, of much more interest to me, allowing those same users to withdraw funds in local currencies while travelling.

    I've now used Zenbanx enough times abroad that I can speak with some authority about it. The first thing you need to know is that the app is a complete waste of time—at least it has been for me. Perhaps it's because I'm running a custom Android ROM on a rooted phone, but I've rarely, if ever, been able to get past this first screen you see here.

    That's the bad news. Now the good news (and maybe just a bit more bad news). ...
    by Published on 01-14-2016 01:09 PM
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    Here’s my review of Microsoft’s Lumia 950. I’ll be honest, I normally carry an iPhone (6s Plus) and some sort of Android device (lately a LG G4 or Nexus 6P) around with me. I only play with Windows Phones when I have a unit that I’m reviewing. This will help you understand the type of shades I’m wearing when I look at a Windows Phone - you'll understand where I’m coming from.
    ...
    by Published on 01-05-2016 09:23 AM
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    I recently received a Nok- I mean Microsoft Lumia 950. I’m currently working on a full review but since Andrew is on vacation I figured I’d share some first impressions. Full disclosure, these are MY FIRST impressions and purely anecdotal - chances are they’ll be completely different from my review which I’ll publish in a few days.



    The first thing I noticed is that the box is way bigger than I was expecting. It made me kind of nostalgic. Back in the day, you could tell how fancy a phone is by the size of the box so seeing the 950’s made me feel kind of nostalgic. You get points if you remember the Nokia n97. It reminded me of the n97’s box. You could fit 3 or 4 iPhone 6s’ or Galaxy S6’s in the 950’s box. Ergo, it must be better right? ...
    by Published on 01-04-2016 11:53 AM
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    Recently, I started cooking with my cast iron cookware. Unlike 'regular' Teflon coated pans, cast iron can handle temperatures of 600+ degrees. While cooking at 600 makes for some tasty, juicy food, the heat blows more smoke than a politician.

    There's enough that it usually sets off my smoke detector. This is a problem when you have young kids in the house as the beeping from the detector will wake them up/scare the hell out of them. Still, I put up with this until one night at 5AM one started to beep because the battery needed to be replaced. That was the last straw - I decided I needed a smarter smoke detector that would politely alert my phone when there was a problem rather than me having to figure out what's going on. Oh and in case you're wondering, I have a fancy range hood fan.

    We don't make the greatest decisions when we're woken up in the middle of the night so in my sleepy haze I decided to pick up a Nest Protect, or rather 3 Nest Protects for my house. My house has 3 floors so I replaced the old detector(s) on each floor. ...
    by Published on 12-18-2015 05:56 AM
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    I know, I know... the very premise of lists like these is faulty. Who could possibly be so presumptuous as to survey the vast and diverse market of smartphones, the most personal of personal computers and tell anyone what's "best" for them?

    This list is a little different, though. Produced by Australian YouTuber Dagogo Altraide for his channel, ColdFusion TV, it uses statistical data from multiple sources to arrive at the result—not something that you usually see from the tech press. ...
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