• Reviews and Hands-on

    by Published on 03-21-2014 09:52 AM
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    2. Reviews and Hands-on,
    3. Carriers,
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    The big story for mobile in Canada this week was carrier price hikes. In case you missed it, check here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here. I think you get the idea.

    In the midst of this hostile environment I caught a tweet from forums member Ben Klass about a new Android app (iOS version soon) called Snoobe, which promises to deliver the perfect mobile phone plan to the palm of your hand.

    The team behind Snoobe is based in Montreal; thus the current Play Store version of the app is optimized for Canadian consumers. Users in the U.S. are encouraged to download a beta from the company website.

    This Canadian installed Snoobe on his Nexus 5 yesterday and tried it out. ...
    by Published on 03-14-2014 09:26 AM
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    2. Reviews and Hands-on,
    3. Apps
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    I've ranted before about the sorry state of mobile wallets in Canada. It's a bit pathetic that the overwhelming majority of mobile transactions on this continent occur not through a standardized NFC tap-and-pay system, but instead a Starbucks app.

    While the future of tap-and-pay languishes in the hands of carriers and credit card companies, Toronto-based startup SmoothPay is attempting something pretty cleveróto make a Starbucks-like app that you can use anywhere.

    I read about SmoothPay just yesterday in a feature on blogTO; the comparisons to Starbucks are theirs, not mine:

    We haven't seen anyone doing what we are doing here in Canada. There are many payment companies and many loyalty companies, but no one that effectively combines both (except for Starbucks, but they aren't really our competitor). Mobile apps like theirs are actually great for us since it helps consumers become accustomed to using their phone to pay. If you know how to use the Starbucks app you use regularly, you'll know how to use SmoothPay.
    I myself have never used the Starbucks app, but yesterday I tried out SmoothPay at Red Eye Espresso in downtown Toronto. ...
    by Published on 03-12-2014 11:25 AM
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    2. Devices,
    3. Reviews and Hands-on
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    I donít know about you but I can never get enough storage. When it comes to my phones, In the past Iíd go out and buy the biggest card I could find and immediately, Iíd regret it because I wish it was bigger and faster. I canít tell you what size card you need but maybe I can help you figure out whether you should spend extra and buy a faster card.



    To compare, Sandisk sent me two 64GB MicroSDXC cards; One is a Sandisk Ultra card while the other is an Extreme Pro. In Sandisk-speak, Ultra is the next step up from plain Sandisk cards. On the other hand, Extreme Plus represents the fastest MicroSD you can buy from them. ...
    by Published on 02-28-2014 02:14 PM
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    2. Devices,
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    First and foremost I'd like to thank Limefuel for providing this case for review.

    Let me start by stating the obvious.
    I Love my Nexu5. Love.

    I've had S3's, S4's and Note 3's and I've enjoyed all of them, but the Nexu5 they aren't.
    As much as I can understand and see the value that manufacturers place in putting their own touches to Android it drives me nuts.
    I want pure, unadulterated Google Android goodness. To be quite honest, Google almost always refuses to give that to me / us. Not so with the Nexu5. Finally we'd have a powerful spec'd phone with the goods to back up the vanilla Android OS we've been lusting for.

    With fevered anticipation I scoured www.howardforums.com and the general web at large for news and info prior to the launch of the Nexu5. As each day and week passed I was convinced that it would have a 3000mah option on the battery. "the G2 has it, LG makes the G2, so why wouldn't they include it" was the logic I had at the time, and it was sound logic.

    the Nexu5 finally launched and instantly threw me into phone nerd tech rage when it was confirmed it would pack a 2300mah cell.
    "2300mah, WHAT! Again!" I shouted towards the heavens with a clenched fist wondering what bean counter approved this battery. Why wasn't the 3000mah battery in the 32 gig model at least. I want more memory, and arguably more battery so make a slightly thicker model with 3000mah on board. Bah, all thoughts were in vain.

    Should've
    Could've
    Would've.

    Limefuel has stepped up with their L28N5 battery case to address our concerns friends. I'm going to assume that many of us here want more battery life from our phones, so that's a safe assumption to make.

    Howard approached Lime Fuel for a unit to review and they so graciously shipped one for review so let's get to the brass tax here.
    ...
    by Published on 02-28-2014 10:12 AM
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    2. Devices,
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    Since screen sizes have been creeping up with each new generation of smartphone, it was only a matter of time before companies started releasing smaller, less expensive versions of their flagship phones. The timing is perfect since Canadian carriers are now forced to offer 2 year contracts. Customers are forced to pick their poison.

    If you want a fancy phone youíll have to pay more than you used to each month.

    This is where the less-costly smaller versions come in. If you don't want to spend so much each month you can opt for a cheaper plan and get a less expensive phone.

    I checked out the Samsung Galaxy S3 and S4 Mini a while back and now itís time to give the HTC One Mini a twirl.
    ...
    by Published on 02-28-2014 09:23 AM
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    2. Devices,
    3. News,
    4. Commentary and Analysis,
    5. Reviews and Hands-on
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    With Mobile World Congress over and done I'd be remiss if I didn't bring to your attention some of the other notable announcements from the annual trade show. I've been following the news over the course of the week, and feel confident that the devices mentioned below are a fairly accurate representation of the other highlights from MWC.

    If it's not, you know what to do.

    ...
    by Published on 02-26-2014 11:50 AM
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    2. Devices,
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    This is the first tablet that I've ever tested and I went into it with a bit of an unfair bias AGAINST tablets. I've never really seen the need for one, because I find them too bulky to carry around, and so for me they don't work as a substitute for a smartphone. I'm also a software developer, and so I needed a full laptop to do development work on. My time with the Galaxy Tab Pro 10 didn't change my mind about tablets, but I promise not to let my bias stand in the way of a reporting on this device as I do for all Android smartphones.

    The Galaxy Tab Pro 10 that I tested is one of whole range of new tablets that is slated for release at the end of the February. This lineup will come in 3 screen sizes, which are 8.4 inches, 10.1 inches, and 12.2 inches. There will be WiFi-only versions (which I tested) and versions that offer cellular connectivity via LTE. These devices will also be available in Galaxy Tab versions (which I tested) and Galaxy Note versions. The latter differs from the Tab in that it offers the S-Pen (and its included functionality), but is otherwise essentially the same device. To make the choice even more bewildering, you will also be able to pick up 32 GB or 64 GB versions. ...
    by Published on 02-25-2014 10:38 PM
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    2. Devices,
    3. From The Forums,
    4. Reviews and Hands-on
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    EDIT: See Camera fixes below!





    This is my review of the Alcatel One Touch Fierce, a low cost smartphone that doesn't feel or act like a low cost smartphone. This can be had for as low as $29.99 on MetroPCS, or for around $100.00 on T-Mobile(U.S. prices). It can be unlocked to work on many U.S.A. GSM carriers as well(ebay has an unlock code for around $5.00...or you can use one from the advertisers on here). ...
    by Published on 02-21-2014 12:04 PM
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    2. Devices,
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    I love watching videos on my Android phones. From the large screen sizes, to the wide codec support you get from the plethora of video playback software. Itís just a fantastic platform for this. The problem is that many of the coolest Android phones lack a MicroSD slot. If you own a HTC One, Nexus 5 or LG G2, youíre stuck with whatever the phone came with. I donít know about you, but nothing is more annoying than being stuck on the train and realizing you have nothing to watch.

    Stream video via your network connection is always an option but this can have a heavy toll on your data plan. Do it too often and you could find your data bucket running empty.

    You could copy new videos to your phone whenever youíre about to leave the house but letís face it, copying files to and from a phone is still a bit of a pain since even the fastest memory cards still take some time plus your phone storage is shared with your pictures, music and apps.

    So what can you do? Well one thing you could try is to use a portable drive with WiFi like the Sandisk Wireless flash drive I just reviewed. It does work but it has some problems like being a little complicated plus you canít access the internet while youíre using it unless thereís a WiFi hotspot close by.

    A simpler solution is to use a USB OTG cable and a flash drive. Itís a good solution; copying files from your computer to a flash drive is usually faster than copying it straight to your phone. Of course, youíll have to fiddle with both a cable and a flash drive whenever you do this.



    Hereís where Sandiskís Ultra Dual USB drive comes in.



    It has a regular USB on one end for connecting to your computer and a micro USB OTG connector on the other.



    The idea is the same as using a OTG cable with a flash drive but this is a little bit more portable. ...
    by Published on 02-06-2014 03:16 PM
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    2. Devices,
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    I donít know about you but when it comes to monthly bills, the cost of heating and cooling my house is one of the highest. You can cut your phone service, cut your cable, but for most people, you canít eliminate your electrical or heating.

    There are a few things you can do to reduce your costs. You can make your house more efficient by changing all your windows and doors, add more insulation, buy a more efficient HVAC/AC, install solar panels but the cheapest and easiest way to reduce your heating and cooling costs is to to install a programmable thermostat.

    The idea is that your heating and cooling needs arenít as great at night and during the day when everyone is at work. Instead of running the AC when no one is at home you tell the programmable thermostat to ease off.

    Thatís the idea anyways but the thing is, cheap programmable thermostats are a pain to program. To save money, they have tiny screens and a minimal number of buttons. Fancier models have larger screens and more buttons but you still need to go up to your thermostat and program it. If Iím lying in bed and want it to be warmer, itís a pain to have to walk over to my thermostat, set it and then go back to bed.

    Hereís where the Honeywell RTH9580WF comes in. The 9580 can connect to your WiFi network so that you can control it using your computerís browser or via an app on your iOS or Android phone. It also has a relatively large colour display. The large colour display makes programming it very easy and letís face it, the big screen looks awesome. Also, since the 9580 is connected to the internet, it knows what time it is and will automatically adjust for daylight savings.
    ...
    by Published on 02-05-2014 05:36 PM
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    I went for a short day trip to the US the other day. Since I wasnít staying long I decided to bring along a Roam Mobility SIM. Hereís what happened.

    In the past when I travelled to the US, I usually brought along a T-Mobile prepaid SIM Card. Once, I was in New York and had some T-Mobile SIM cards shipped to the hotel I was going to stay at ahead of my arrival. When I arrived at the hotel I checked in, grabbed my SIM cards and then had to spend time activating them. Service was $3 a day and for that you got unlimited talk and text within the US and 200MB of HSPA data (if you go over 200MB you get EDGE speeds which is for most intents and purposes useless).
    ...
    by Published on 02-03-2014 11:43 AM
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    Donít you just hate it when you have 10 phones or tablets and you have to figure out how to charge them all at once? And donít you just hate it when each of those devices is able to charge at 2 amps or higher? Okay, chances are, thatís never happened to you but in case you anticipate a windfall of devices, you might want to plan ahead and get Belkinís B2E026 10 port USB charger.

    Seriously though, something like this isnít for everyone. Still, off the top of my head I could see how some businesses or educational institutions might have a use for this. Maybe thereís a classroom with 10 or more tablets. Or maybe youíre a business that runs software on tablets. I guess some people might think of getting one if you have a lot of guests over frequently.

    Anyways, my guess is that if youíre thinking of buying one youíre probably going to be installing it in a custom enclosure. ...
    by Published on 01-29-2014 05:28 PM
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    2. Devices,
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    If you ask any iPhone user what they hate most about their iPhone chances are theyíll mention the battery life. I donít know about you but itís a miracle if my iPhone is able to make it till the end of the day.

    Anyways, the problem with the iPhone is that its battery is almost half the size of some of itís Android competitors. While itís true the iPhoneís screen is only about 33% smaller Iím able to easily make it through the day when I use a LG G2 or Sony Xperia Z1.

    Hereís where Belkinís Grip Power Battery case (say that fast 3 times) comes in. Itís a case with a built-in 2000mAh battery to augment the iPhone 5sí 1540mAh. This should more than double the 5sí battery life and indeed, my seat of the pants feeling is that this is the case. When Iím using the Belkin case itís virtually impossible to run the 5s down in one day. In fact, many users should have no problem getting 2 days of usage.
    ...
    by Published on 01-23-2014 10:57 AM
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    Remember those cheap inductive chargers I got from Amazon? Well, I got my refund ó and then promptly spent it on this...

    LuguLake ó I'm guessing that the company gets their name from an actual lake in China ó may not have the brand recognition of Logitech or other big accessory makers, but in my searches on Amazon for a Qi charger this particular item kept popping up.

    There's really nothing else like it on the market. ...
    by Published on 01-15-2014 09:38 AM
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    2. Devices,
    3. From The Forums,
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    I'd like to thanks TELUS for providing Howardforums.com the review unit of the Samsung Galaxy Gear first and foremost, so thank you TELUS.

    When the Samsung Galaxy Gear was announced I had the same reaction as i'm sure many of you did. "What, why, what's the point?" Once those thoughts settled and I had moved past them I started thinking if I had one, how would I use it? Would I take advantage of all its features and would it really impact my daily life enough to warrant its pretty steep entry price?

    I asked Howard if he had one that I could review because that's always easier then spending my $ on something I may just not like and low and behold, here we are!

    First things first, let's get this out of the way.
    Do you wear a watch currently?
    Yes? Carry on then.
    No? Nothing for you to see here, move along.

    Why do I say this so abruptly?
    Quite honestly, if you don't wear a watch now and you're interested in a smart watch the Galaxy Gear may not be for you. Firstly, there's the well known "issue" of it working with Samsung only hardware so all you HTC / Nexus / Blackberry / Nokia and all need not apply. Secondly, this isn't a small watch. I have fairly large wrists and I found even for me it was a big large. However, style is personal and some love huge watches. 50mm watch sizing shows there's a market for that. Now don't get me wrong, the Gear is not a 50mm watch, but for me it wore like one. Big, brass, bold and it got attention.

    So with all that out of the way let's get this party started.
    For this review I had the Gear paired with my Note 3 for those interested.
    ...
    by Published on 01-13-2014 04:27 PM
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    The WeMo Motion from Belkin is available separately for $59.99 or part as a combo pack with the WeMo power switch which I reviewed a while back for $79.99.

    The Motion consists of the motion sensor and the power brick which are permanently connected via a 6ft long power cable.

    Officially, it has a range of 10ft but I observed that itís actually closer to 13ft.

    The idea is that you put the sensor in one spot while the switch goes elsewhere.



    You set up rules to tell your other WeMo switches to turn on (or off) when the Motion senses movement. ...
    by Published on 01-13-2014 04:25 PM
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    WeMo Switch and Insight I reviewed the Switch recently. While I liked them, it took me a while to find a use for them. When it comes to things I want to turn off remotely, the first thing that comes to mind are lights and I just donít have a lot of lights which plug into the wall. Aside from the lights in my garage and on my nightstand, everything else is in my ceilings and controlled with light switches. Luckily, the Belkin WeMo lineup also includes a light switch.

    The WeMo Light Switch looks just like a standard decora light switch but itís actually connected to the internet and can be controlled using your iOS or Android device just like the rest of WeMoís lineup. ...
    by Published on 01-13-2014 03:49 PM
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    Folks,

    I just had the opportunity to try the Nokia Lumia 625 on TELUS during the holidays. It is a mid-range smartphone running on Microsoft Windows Phone 8.



    Design and Specifications

    Front and center is the Gorilla Glass 2 wrapped, 4.7Ē, 800x480 IPS LCD display. As far as quality goes, viewing angles and readability under bright light conditions are just average. Colours are little washed out and there is some colour shift. The 800x480 resolution sounds a bit low for a large 4.7Ē display. Indeed, while it is not the sharpest display available on the market it is not as bad as you would think.

    At 133.25 x 72.25 x 9.15mm and weighing 159g, its size is similar to many other smartphones. While I liked its minimalistic, clean slate design, I had some problems with its ergonomics. I found it hard to hold without accidentally triggering the soft keys and hard buttons. Hopefully, a case can fix some of these problems. ...
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