• Reviews and Hands-on

    by Published on 01-23-2015 03:55 PM
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    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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    2. Humor,
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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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    2. Reviews and Hands-on,
    3. Carriers
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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:
    ...
    by Published on 11-13-2014 11:53 AM
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    Yesterday I finally got my invite to Google's new Inbox, an Android app and companion desktop site. It's not a replacement for Gmail—at least not yet—but yet another Google "experiment" that will exist alongside it.

    As someone who deals with hosted email from no less than five domains, Gmail has been a welcome respite from IMAP issues, TSL certificates and the like. And now Inbox seeks to make email even more useful, organizing my messages for me and putting the important ones front and centre exactly when I need them. It's a compelling idea and if you believe the hype, an reinvention of email itself.

    Is it right for you? Let's take a look. ...
    by Published on 11-12-2014 02:55 PM
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    2. Devices,
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    This is my review of the updated, iNew V8 phone. It has been upgraded by iNew to it's latest form, from 1GB to 2GB Ram and their latest version of the firmware using KitKat 4.4.2.

    There are no firmware glitches as was reported in earlier videos on youtube of the V8, it now runs rock solid and smooth. The ram upgrade is especially important as it allows the phone to run smoother with many apps opened up. But it's biggest benefit is it's much improved benchmark scores, with Antutu updated from around 21000 to over 25500, a big jump for sure. Gaming is a breeze on the V8, with smooth frame rates on all newer games and no noticeable dropout at all.
    ...
    by Published on 11-12-2014 10:44 AM
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    If the rumours are true then the Android 5.0 update will be rolling out to Nexus devices today. The other modder-friendly phone—the OnePlus One—likely won't be in this first round of Lollipop OTAs, so for OPO users here's a different kind of update: Mahdi ROM.

    I first heard about Madhi on the OnePlus forums; if I'm not mistaken it was one of the very first custom ROMs available for the OPO. It has a Cyanogen base and retains most of the features of the stock ROM, while adding to the mix some innovations from other ROMs as well. The team is already working on 5.0-based firmware, which makes the latest Mahdi download a final release—so it doesn't get any more stable than this!

    I've been waiting on an OTA update to the stock OPO ROM, which I was hoping would fix some lag issues I've been experiencing with games and scrolling through long web pages. Since I was going to flash a Custom Recovery and a zip of the OTA anyway, I figured I'd give Madhi a try first. It was good decision. ...
    by Published on 11-11-2014 02:07 PM
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    Motorola really shook up the industry last year when they released the Moto G. Up until then, the thought getting such a sharp display in such an affordable brand name phone was just a dream.

    However, fast forward a year and the market has caught up with the G, particularly in the display size department. Fortunately, just as competitors were starting to catch up, Motorola released their new second generation Moto G. Let’s see how it stacks up. ...
    by Published on 11-05-2014 10:20 AM
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    4. Apps
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    Here's the Amazon Appstore storefront running on the BlackBerry Passport. If I'm not mistaken, the Passport is the first device from BlackBerry to ship with Amazon on board; other BlackBerries got the Appstore via the 10.3 software update.

    I myself am not a BlackBerry user, but I've been intrigued with the notion of running Android apps on that platform ever since official support was first announced last summer. Howard let me have a play with his locked-to-Bell Passport; here's how it gets on with .apk files from Amazon. ...
    by Published on 11-04-2014 06:58 PM
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    Here’s the HTC Desire 510. It’s a new entry-level-ish phone with LTE from HTC that costs $180 Canadian off-contract.

    Currently, the under $200 market in Canada requires you to make a choice. You basically have to choose between having a high definition display or having LTE. You can’t have both unless you’re willing to spend another $50.

    The problem with this is that both high def screens and LTE are awesome features. If a phone were Ice cream, a HD display would be chocolate sauce while LTE would be peanuts - it’s not a choice you want to have to make.

    When you have LTE, apps download faster, webpages pop up more quickly, and in general, you do less waiting. On the other hand, high definition displays are usually nicer to look at. There’s no blockiness or jagged edges to distract you.

    So where does the Desire fit in? It has LTE which is great and a 854x480 display which isn’t so great. Let’s check it out: ...
    by Published on 10-28-2014 04:58 PM
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    Here’s my Samsung Galaxy S5 Active review. Since I’ve already reviewing the GS5 and *spoiler alert* it’s basically the GS5 with more plastic on it. I’m not going to go as in-depth with the Active. It’s more a comparison of the Active with the regular GS5. Since the GS5 Active is the “Active”, does that make the regular GS5 the “Galaxy S5 Couch Potato”?.
    ...
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