• howard

    by Published on 10-09-2013 05:46 PM
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    Rogers is currently down for me. A number of members on the forums have also posted this. I'm attached to the network and can use data but I'm not able to make any calls.

    Anyone else on Rogers notice this? ...
    by Published on 10-05-2013 11:56 AM
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    When you look at the Smartphone market, right now itís dominated by Samsung and Apple. Things are going great for them but if you were to ask them what competitor they fear most Iíd bet you their answer would Huawei. Not HTC, LG or Sony.

    I mean eventually Smartphones will reach a point where companies canít keep charging up to $800 a phone. If that ever happens there will be a big race to the bottom to see who can make the best, cheapest phone. If that happens many people figure Huawei will be in a good position.

    While they donít compete at the very top of the market, many people donít realize but Huawei actually makes really good affordable Smartphones. The Y300 I tried a while back isnít going to win ďPhone of the YearĒ but for what it costs itís an amazing deal.

    Now we have the Huawei Ascend Mate. Itís a phone with a 6.1Ē phone that only costs - wait for it - $400 off contract. At $400, itís not going to have going to have specs like the LG G2/Galaxy Note 3/Sony Z1 but for what it costs you get a get a pretty good deal.

    With a 6.1Ē the Mate should be awesome at media consumption. If youíre sitting on the train, there arenít many phones which are better than the Mate for watching and streaming videos - Right? Letís check it out:

    Huawei has found a pretty good niche for the Note. At $400 off-contract, or $99 on a 2 year with the $40 a month, plan it doesnít really have any competitors. There arenít that many phones with huge 6Ē+ screens on the market and the ones that come close cost significantly more. About the only one that comes to mind is the Samsung Galaxy Mega and maybe a used Note 2.

    ...
    by Published on 10-03-2013 04:17 PM
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    Today I had a chance to play with both the Xperiz Z1 and Ultra Z.



    You can think of the Xperia Z1 as being similar in size to the Galaxy S4. It has a 5", 1920x1080 display, with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage - it one ups the GS4 with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 quad-core SoC, 20.7 megapixel camera, support for more LTE bands plus it's a Cat 4 device. You also get a sexy aluminum frame and a glass front and back. Best of all, you get all that stuff in a device that's water and dust resistant.



    Speaking of water resistance the Z1 is now more water resistant than it's predecessor the Z. At the same time, they've made it easier to use because now there's now no cover over the headphone jack. I am a little annoyed that they didn't make the microUSB jack water resistant too. ...
    by Published on 10-01-2013 08:30 AM
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    Iíll admit, when the Note II came out I wondered if we hit a point where phones would keep getting better but at a slower pace. While the Galaxy S4 was a good phone when it was released it wasnít a huge jump forward from the Note 2. However, when Samsung unveiled the Note 3, it began to look like they were about to release a monster on the market. Letís check it out.

    If you want a second opinion on the Note 3 please check out our other review of the Note 3 here.
    ...
    by Published on 09-28-2013 08:46 PM
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    Apple recently released their new flagship phone, the iPhone 5s. However, unlike previous years where they took the old iPhone and discounted it, theyíve replaced the old 5 with a new model - the 5c.

    Apple isnít saying why they choose the letter ďCĒ, but the first things that come to my head are Cheap, Colour and Chinese. Apparently Apple is really targeting China with the release of their new iPhones. As for cheap, the 5c is only $100 cheaper than the top-of-the-line 5s. So, while itís cheaper, itís still priced like an iPhone. Probably the best guess is that the ďCĒ stands for colour. Yup, you can get the 5c is white, blue, yellow, green and pink.

    Itís funny but coloured phones arenít that common in the marketplace and when there are different colours, theyíre usually just white and black with maybe some other colours being made available months after launch. With the 5c you can get it in all 5 colours from the very beginning.

    Outside of the 5s and the 5, people might cross-shop the 5c with the Samsung Galaxy S4, HTC One which cost similar money or are slightly cheaper on-contract.
    ...
    by Published on 09-25-2013 08:49 PM
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    *UPDATE* My 8Com SIM card just stopped working. My phone says it's an unregistered SIM now.

    The other week I noticed some buzz about 8com Wireless, a provider I've never heard of.

    I checked out the website and tehn decided to make the trek to the 8Com store to check it out.

    It doesn't say it online, but 8com is just using Bell's network - in fact, when you sign up, you get a Bell SIM card.

    There website had some rates but as it turns out, in-store they had different rates. Of interest to me was a 49.99 plan which had:


    • unlimited nation wide calling
    • 10GB Data
    • North American wide SMS
    • Caller ID
    • Voicemail
    • Call Waiting
    • Conference Calling (inboud only)
    • Call forwarding

    ...
    by Published on 09-25-2013 08:48 AM
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    If you follow my reviews you'll notice I routinely complain about Super AMOLED displays and how they're not very good outside. Last year's Galaxy S III was very difficult to see, the Note II was a step in the right direction but was still not good enough. The Galaxy S4 was a big leap forward but it was still a step behind LCD.

    After I got my Note III the first thing I did was try it outside. What do you think?
    ...
    by Published on 09-24-2013 07:45 PM
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    I just got a Samsung Galaxy Note 3 but I had to sign a sheet of paper promising I wouldn't review it in depth. So, I guess you'll have to wait a few days before I post it. In the mean time I'll post a couple of pictures of the Note 3: ...
    by Published on 09-23-2013 04:12 PM
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    Itís that time of year again. Apple just introduced their new 5s (and 5c), which is supposed to be twice as fast as last yearís 5. Theyíve upgraded the camera and added a new fingerprint reader. Oh, and now you can get it in gold. How good is the new 5s? Why should you buy that instead of an Android phone? Read on!

    Comparing Android and iPhone is always really difficult because theyíre so different. If they were restaurants, Android would be an all you can eat buffet (a really good one) while iOS is more of a fancy restaurant with small portions. Both appeal to two different sets of people. Heck, many iOS users will view the fancy restaurant comment as a compliment while Android would view that comment as an insult if it were said about Android and vice-versa.

    Iím generalizing here but iPhoneís strength is how well everything is integrated into one package. Thereís no custom launchers or anything, you do things Appleís way or else youíll have to wait forever for a new jailbreak. You get Appleís core apps and then you go download more at the App Store.

    Generally speaking, I think the good apps on iOS are higher quality than the good apps on Android. I could write a whole article about this but Iíll just leave it at that

    With Android, itís more about choice. Since thereís so much choice, things arenít quite as polished as they are on iOS (generally speaking). However, since thereís so much choice, there are many more types of apps - this will appeal to who like to tweak and mod their phone. ...
    by Published on 09-19-2013 07:51 PM
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    So far this year, the Galaxy S4 has been Androidís poster child. Since the GS4 launched, companies have tried to offer something slightly different rather than go head-to-head with the GS4. Motorola has focused on their touchless voice activation while Sony has been experimenting with making their phones water resistant. After all, out-Galaxying the Galaxy S4 is a tall task.

    Still, it now looks like Samsung now has some competition in the LG G2, the first phone that really takes the GS4ís strengths and tries to improve on them.

    I already mentioned that the G2 is aimed squarely at the GS4 but people who are looking at the G2 are probably also going to take a look at the HTC One, the Apple iPhone 5s and the Sony Xperia Z.
    ...
    by Published on 09-12-2013 11:04 AM
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    As the high-end continues to improve, an interesting thing has happened: While down on specs, many mid-range phones now offer virtually the same user experience that high-end phones deliver. I mean unless youíre looking at the spec sheet the difference between 1280x720 and 1920x1080 is negligible at best. Ditto for quad-core vs dual-core and the number of megapixels.

    The very same thing happened with computers a few years ago.

    Anyways, because of this, mid-range phones have suddenly become very interesting. They donít have the same goodies as higher-end phones but when you use it you donít feel like youíre being punished for not spending $700 on a phone.

    Just look at the Samsung Mega. It has half the number of cores as the GS4 and a lower resolution screen but thereís a twist. It has a gigantic, 6.3Ē screen. You donít know how fun it is to meet up with friends and say, ďCheck out this phoneĒ and whip out the Mega. Some lines you can use include: ďSay hello to my little friend!Ē, ďWho says size doesnít matter?Ē, ďBigger is better.Ē, ďGo big or go homeĒ, ďAnything worth doing is worth overdoingĒ Are all phrases which can be used on the Mega.

    I mentioned the mid-range is suddenly interesting. When I think of competitors for the Mega I think of phones priced around the same level along like the Motorola Moto X, and phones with gigantic screens like the Huawei Mate. I also included the Galaxy Note II and Galaxy S III because theyíve been around for a year and you might be able to get a deal on one.
    ...
    by Published on 09-10-2013 01:13 PM
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    Today Apple announced the low cost (for Apple) iPhone 5c which will be $99 (in the 'States) for the 16GB on contract and the 5s which will be $199 (US price) for 16GB on contract. Both will be available for pre-order on Sept 13th. You'll be able to buy it on the 20th.

    C is for Colour? Cheap?

    Now instead of lowering the price of the iPhone 5 theyíre replacing it with the 5c. It will come in green, white, blue, red and yellow. It has a unibody plastic (hard-coated polycarbonate) back while the front is black

    Call me shallow but these new colours do look like fun.

    To me these phones look like an iPhone 5 with a colour plastic shell behind it. The sides really remind me of a Nokia Lumia.

    Spec-wise it looks just like the iPhone 5 but with a slightly larger battery. So thatís a A6 chip, HD front facing camera, 8MP camera with a Ďhybrid IR filterí (not sure if the 5 has this).

    More LTE bands than any other smartphone (so is that 5, 6 or 7 bands?) and Bluetooth 4.0 support.

    Pricing will be $99 for the 16GB while the 32GB will be $199. Not bad for an iPhone.

    Theyíre also bringing out new cases for the 5c which have holes cut out in the back (so that the case doesnít protect the phone?) so you can see the original colour underneath. These cases look really cheap. They will be $29.

    So yeah, it's basically an iPhone 5 with a plastic back.

    Both the 5c and the 5s have very impressive LTE support: You get band:

    1 (2100 MHz)
    2 (1900 MHz)
    3 (1800 MHz)
    4 (AWS)
    5 (850 MHz)
    8 (900 MHz)
    13 (700c MHz)
    17 (700b MHz)
    19 (800 MHz)
    20 (800 DD)
    25 (1900 MHz)

    Unfortunately for Rogers and Bell users Band 7 (2600Mhz) is missing. Still you get bands you can use now as well as bands you'll be able to use later as carriers re-farm spectrum for LTE.

    iPhone 5s

    The new iPhone 5 replacement will be called the iPhone 5s and it will come in black (new space grey), gold and silver. Gold - yuck.

    Under the hood is a new Apple A7 chip. Itís a 64-bit chip (Nintendo 64 FTW!), not sure what the point of this since the iPhone will have less than 4GB of RAM. iOS 7 will be 64-bit. Maybe theyíll use the A7 on some low-end desktop Macís or the next-gen iPad will have 4GB of RAM.

    Anyways, the iPhone 5s will also run 32bit apps just fine. Apple is claiming itís 2x as fast with graphics that are faster than 5x faster than the iPhone 5.

    Thereís a M7 motion co-processor which continuously measures, motion data, accelerator, gyroscope and compass. This will be good for many health-monitoring apps. Doesnít the Moto X have something similar?

    They claim the battery allows up to 10hrs of LTE browsing (8hrs on the old 5).

    The camera now comes with a F2.2 lens with 5 elements while the sensor is now 15% bigger - the pixels are 1.5u (vs 2.0 on the HTC One). Resolution is still 8 megapixels.

    Camera software can now shoot multiple shots and choose the best one. You can adjust the colour tone of the flash. There are 2 flashes, a cool and a warm one. You can combine the 2 of them for up to 1000 variations. Thatís cool.

    Auto-image stabilization is coming soon. Itís not Ďrealí but rather it takes a lot of pictures at 10 frames per second, averages the light levels but picks the sharpest photo. Would it kill Apple to offer a stabilized lens?

    When shooting video thereís a 120 frames per second at 720p. Thatís pretty cool.

    The photos, HDRís and panoramas from the new iPhone look really impressive. The sensor looks like it has really good dynamic range.

    There is a new fingerprint reader (Touch ID, I guess iTouch was already taken) that is built-into the home button. The fingerprint ready is square shaped instead of just a short rectangle. The square shape means it can read in any orientation which should make it very usable. The reader will be covered with sapphire crystal (like on a fancy watch) so it will be very difficult to scratch.

    Besides unlocking your phone you now donít have to enter your iTunes password constantly.

    Pricing will be $199/299/399 for the 16/32/64GB. Iím really disappointed theyíre still releasing 16GB base models.

    Pre-orders for both the 5c and 5s will start Sept 13th with release on Sept 20th (both Canada and the US).

    Apple also announced that the iPhone 4s and 5 will be getting iOS 7 on Sept 18th

    iWork, iMovie, Pages, Numbers, Keynote are now all free for new iOS devices.

    Epic is releasing Infinity Blade III which will conclude the trilogy. Canít wait for that since they stopped releasing DLCís for 2. Itís to demonstrate the Open GL ES 3.0.
    ...
    by Published on 09-07-2013 01:18 PM
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    Kizagjo just passed me this interesting article.

    It talks about how Amazon is trying to build a phone that will be given away. I'm talking free as in no contract. Will this free phone have any strings (non contract) attached to it?

    What effect will a free Amazon phone have on manufacturers of high-end phones like Apple and Samsung. Unlike Apple and Samsung, Amazon's reasons for making a phone are different. While Samsung and Apple sell phones for profit, Amazon's reasoning for giving away a phone may be to lock people into Amazon's ecosystem - will you have to buy stuff from Amazon? Where will you get the software from?

    Of course before Amazon can do this they also face other challenges like who will build this phone?

    If Amazon had a free phone and it didn't suck, would you consider using it or would you pay $200-$300 and stick to your Galaxies and iPhones? ...
    by Published on 09-06-2013 09:51 AM
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    Can you hear me now? Are you there? Itís been awhile since Iíve tested a signal amplifier. There are a couple of reasons. First off, they usually require installation, which can be quite costly if you canít do it yourself. You have to install an ugly antenna outside and then run wire from your roof to inside where thereís no signal. Itís a hassle.

    It can also be difficult to find a good place to test them. If you live close to a tower, network signal strength may not be low enough to notice a difference. After all, these days, many phones usually sound fine right up until theyíre about to drop a call.

    Fortunately, my house is the perfect candidate for a signal booster. On the top floor, you can actually see the tower that services my houses from the window. However, itís about 1.5km away. This means I get excellent signal in my bedroom and virtually none in my basement.

    Which brings me to the Cel-Fi signal booster. Itís a HSPA booster for Rogers (T-Mobile and AT&T units are also available). Itís wireless so you donít have to run any wires besides plugging it into the wall. It consists of 2 parts; a window unit and a coverage unit. You put the window unit somewhere where you get the strongest network signal (usually a window) while the coverage unit goes where you have bad signal (probably a basement). ...
    by Published on 09-04-2013 03:16 PM
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    Rumor has it that Mobilicity is currently in talks to transfer their 200,000 subscribers to Wind. This will allow Mobilicity to wind down their operations and cut their monthly losses. The idea is that they can hang onto their spectrum and wait till the 5 year ban on them selling their spectrum to a big three carrier to expire.

    Wind will not be paying Mobilicity much if anything for their customers. Wind gains because they'll get more customers which will help lower the amount they spend on each customer to keep their network running.

    This deal is subject to approval from Mobilicity's debt holders. ...
    by Published on 09-04-2013 01:20 PM
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    Samsung just announced some updates to their Note line and the Galaxy Gear watch.

    First off is the Galaxy Note 3. A 5.7" update to the Note 2.
    • 5.7" Super AMOLED display
    • 2.3Ghz quad-core processor (LTE version)
    • 1920x1080 display
    • 8.3mm thick
    • 168g
    • 3200mAh battery
    • 13 megapixel camera with 'smart' stabilization - not sure if that's true stabilization or just digital stabilization
    • category LTE (up to 150Mbps download speeds) with support for 'up to' 6 LTE Band pairings.
    • 3GB RAM
    • 32GB or 64GB of storage
    • coming to: Bell, Mobilicity, MTS, Rogers, SaskTel, TELUS, Videotron and Wind later this year


    It will be available in black, white or pink. The rear covers are made from leather and can be replaced with other colours. There are also back covers with a metal finish.

    The S-Pen software has been beefed up. Now when you press the button on the S-Pen and tap the screen it brings up a mini launcher that lets you launch certain S-Pen related functions including:

    • Action Memo - a memo pad with hand writing recognition that can launch relevant apps depending on what you wrote.
    • Scrapbook - a place you can organize screen caps you've taken with the S-Pen. screen caps including where you took them (like the url).
    • Screen write - lets you screen cap and then write on it.
    • S Finder - lets you search for stuff including stuff you hand wrote
    • Pen Window - lets you use the S-Pen to multitask


    It has the ability to playback 24bit 192kbps high quality audio.

    Video is captured at 1080p at 60fps and up to 4K video (not sure how long)

    Looks like an exciting device. Anyone planning on picking up one of these?

    The Galaxy Gear is Samsung's smart watch

    It notifies you of incoming messages and shows you information using the Smart Relay feature. It has a built-in speaker so you can make calls. There's hand-free voice recognition if you speak into the Gear which can be used to compose messages, setup calendar entries, set alarms and check the weather.

    It has a 1.9 megapixels camera which can capture photos or video. Finally it has a built in pedometer.

    Inside you'll find:
    • 800Mhz processor
    • 1.63" Super AMOLED 320x320 display
    • 1.9 MP camera
    • 4GB of storage
    • 512MB RAM
    • 315mAh battery
    • speaker
    • 2 microphones
    • Bluetooth
    • accelerometer
    • gyroscope
    • 73.8g
    • 36.8 x 56.6 x 11.1mm
    • many optional coloured straps
    • available later this year


    It looks like it requires a phone for full functionality. Personally, I think it will do well in the market but personally I'm not sold on the idea of a Smartwatch - especially if it requires a phone. I suppose if you have a gigantic phone like the Note 3 you might need it if you don't have 2 free hands to use it but I don't see why I'd want to use it the rest of the time.

    Finally, Samsung announced the Note 10.1 2014 Edition. It's an update to the Note 10.1 and includes a 2650x1600 display, 3GB of RAM and up to 8 cores.

    It will be available in 16/32/64GB sizes. There are LTE, WiFi and HSPA versions but we'll be getting the WiFi only one here in Canada. ...
    by Published on 09-03-2013 05:41 PM
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    While I review a lot of high-end phones, I have a bit of a confession - I really like to check out low and midrange phones. While manufacturers continue to outdo each other in terms of hardware specifications, about a half year ago, we crossed this invisible line. We started seeing phones with 1080p screens and quad-core processors. These phones have just gotten so good that even though the specs keep getting sweeter, weíve reached a point of diminishing returns. Donít get me wrong, eventually the software will probably catch up but for now, thereís little benefit to upgrade if you already have a nice phone.

    So what does this mean for entry and mid-range phones? It means that theyíre going to reach a point where theyíre Ďgood enoughí. You wonít have to fork out big bucks on a phone to get something decent.

    A few months ago, I had the pleasure of reviewing the Nokia Lumia 520. The first entry level smartphone Iíve tried that wasnít utter garbage. It had a decent screen, acceptable performance and was a good all-arounder. I hate to say it, but the worst thing about the 520 is that it ran Windows Phone. Some will like that but overall I think it hurts itís appeal. When I reviewed it, it was around $150 on prepaid but Iíve seen it go on sale for as low as $100. I wouldnít hesitate to recommend it to people on a budget.

    So now, the battleground for a good entry level phone has moved to $100. Which takes us to the Huawei Ascend Y300 (insert hilarious Chinese spy-phone joke here). Itís a $100 entry-level Smartphone available on Bell and Virgin that runs Android 4.1. Like the Lumia 520, it has a 4Ē 800x480 display, a dual-core 1Ghz processor, 512MB of RAM, 5 megapixel camera and a relatively large 1730mAh battery. On paper, it looks like a match for the 520 - However, while I was working on this review, I noticed that the Y300 was on sale at Futureshop for $70! No contract or tab needed! Letís check it out. ...
    by Published on 08-27-2013 10:11 PM
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    Google just cut the prices of the 8/16GB Nexus 4 down from 309/359 to only 199/249 CAN.

    These are unlocked phones that don't require you to sign a contract.

    I just checked and the Google Play store seems to be having problems so these might be selling out fast. If you can, get one while they're hot! ...
    by Published on 08-26-2013 08:17 PM
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    I was really surprised by all the buzz surrounding the Motorola Moto X. The RAZR and RAZR HD were solid phones but they hardly set the market on fire. So why all the sudden interest in the Motorola Moto X?

    On paper, itís much more similar to last yearís Android flagships, like the Samsung GS III and HTC One X, rather than this yearís Samsung GS4 and HTC one. So people arenít drooling over the Xís specs.

    My guess is that since Motorola is now owned by Google, people will assume that the X will like a Nexus phone and receive regular updates from Google. Personally, I doubt this will happen but who knows. In the past, at least in Canada Motorola hasnít been very good with updates. There are also political reason within the Android eco-system why it would be bad for Google to elevate Motorola above other Android OEMís when it comes to this.

    Still, it doesnít mean that the X doesnít have interesting hardware. Motorola has made it so the X is able to listen in with its microphone all the time with minimal impact on its battery. Itís always listening for you to say ĎOK Google Nowí. When you say that, it launches the Google Now app which is sort of like a personal assistant/search program.

    Letís check out the X. ...
    by Published on 08-26-2013 01:29 PM
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    With school just around the corner, itís that time again. Hereís my list of the top phones for back to school.

    If you read the list though youíre probably wondering: ďWhereís the iPhone 5Ē? Well, the way I see it, buying one now is a recipe for buyerís remorse. Last year Apple announced the iPhone 5 in September, the 4s was announced 2 years ago in October. Weíre probably due for a new one soon.

    Heck, even if you donít care that a new one is just around the corner, thereís probably going to be a price cut that follows, so unless you donít have a phone at all right now, Iíd wait a month for the new iPhones to come.



    1: HTC One

    With itís sleek metal casing, the best display on the market, the best sounding speakers, the loudest headphone jack and one of the best cameras, itís easy to see why the HTC One is my top pick.

    It does lose points for not having a memory card slot but then again, it comes with 32GB of built-in storage which helps mitigate this problem. It also lacks a removable battery. Then again, so do most of the other phones here.


    ...
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