Geek News: Latest Technology, Product Reviews, Gadgets and Tech Podcast News for Geeks


Buying a Good Android Phone Takes A Lot of Research

Posted by KL Tech Muse at 9:21 PM on December 27, 2011

Android Phone I have decided to replace my iPhone 4 with an Android phone so I started to do some research. One of the advantages of the Android system is there are a lot of choices. One of the biggest disadvantages of the Android system is there are a lot of choices. Yes, what makes the Android system great may also be it’s biggest weakness. It is too easy to make the wrong choice. The first thing I had to decide on was which carrier I was going to go with. For me that decision was fairly easy I am still in the middle of my contract with AT&T and I am not willing to pay the early termination fee, so I am staying with AT&T. However if I was at the end of my contract I would have to choose between AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, Tmobile or perhaps a local provider. So how do you decide, the best way to decide is not by phone, but service availability. The best phone in the world does little good with poor coverage. So what coverage is best in your area. Look around which service provider do most of your friends have. Look at the coverage map for the provider you think you might want to go with, how is the coverage in your area.

Once you’ve chosen the provider you are going with then you can start looking at phones. Do you need a phone with a physical keyboard or do you want a touch screen. What about the camera, how many pixel do you want it to have. Are you looking for a phone that has social media front and center or is this a phone for business. How big of screen do you want. This where I recommend actually physically holding one in your hands. Some of the phones with the bigger screens felt awkward in my hands, if you have large hands they maybe perfect. What do reviewers both professional and consumer say about your phone. When looking at the reviews, think is what they are complaining about important to me or not. These are all questions you should ask yourself.

Once you find the best phone for your situation, then you need to decide if you want to go with a contract or no contract. You can get a phone for free if you agree to a two-year contract, however if you decided to break that contract before the time is up you are looking at a steep termination fee. Also many free phones are on older versions of Android and may not upgrade. If you decide to go the no contract route, you will have to pay full price for the phone, which can be over four hundred dollars.

The final decision you have to make is the version you want to go with. Thirty-five percent of Android phones are still on Froyo, although that number is going down as more and more phones move to Gingerbread, which now makes up fifty percent of all phones. Which leads to another problem with Android, the up grade process. Different phones, get up graded at different times depending on the manufacture or the service provider or sometimes not at all. The newest Android version coming out is Ice cream Sandwich, some but not all phones on Gingerbread will upgrade to Ice cream sandwich. Which ones will upgrade is still unclear, it is important when reading articles on which phone will upgrade that you read the most recent article, because the list can change daily.

After I did the research I ended up going with the Motorola Atrix 2 with At&T. It has gotten good reviews from most review sites and consumers. It appears it will be getting Ice cream Sandwich at some point in time. I was able to pick it up for $49.00 as an upgrade through the Amazon store. I am supposed to get it sometime later this week. Once I use for a bit I will give a full review of the phone itself. The bottom line is if you want to get a good Android it takes a lot of research and time.

Mobile Telcos – Phone Company or ISP?

Posted by Andrew at 1:42 AM on November 3, 2011

Three LogoIf you ever needed evidence that mobile telcos (MNOs) are moving their business focus from telephones to data, then look no further than a recent post on Three’s blog. Phil Sheppard, the company’s Director of Network Strategy, revealed that 97% of the traffic flowing through Three‘s network was data. Only 3% was voice.

Also staggering was the growth in smartphone data use which grew 427% in 14 months. Yes, over 400% in slightly more than a year. It’s clear that in the last year, lots of people have upgraded to smartphones and are now actively using them online. There’s probably a combination of reasons for the explosion but the wider choice of handset models at a range of price points will be the main reason.

Three has always paid attention to data, being the first mobile company to offer 3G in the UK back in 2003, but with figures like this, it would be a fair assumption that every mobile telco is now shifting more data than voice traffic and that means these companies are more like mobile ISPs (Internet Service Providers) than phone companies. Whenever you hear an announcement by one of these companies, think about it in these terms.

Laza HTC Evo 4G Extended Alternative Battery

Posted by tomwiles at 8:31 AM on September 8, 2011

Phones come and phones go. Our expectations change. Technology marches forward – well most of the time, except when it comes to the bane of wireless pocket tech – battery life.

I’ve had my Sprint HTC Evo 4G phone for more than a year at this point and I’m still very satisfied with its overall feature set as well as it’s performance. The big ongoing problem has been battery life. With the stock battery that came with the phone I have been lucky to get 5 hours out of it just on standby, perhaps extending that a bit by turning off automatic data synching. The original Evo 4G eats battery power like crazy. I knew this would be an issue going in, but unlike a lot of people I can keep my phone plugged into external power most of the time I’m in my truck, so the power devour issue mostly doesn’t cause me too much trouble. In all fairness, turning off data completely in the settings would vastly extend the Evo’s standby time, but this defeats the purpose of having a super smartphone.

There are times when the phone has to be running on it’s internal battery, and I need extra battery life. I got to searching for alternative Evo batteries on Amazon.Com, and I ended up purchasing this Laza HTC Evo 4G 3500mAh Extended Battery + Cover for along with Laza Sprint HTC Evo 4G Extended Battery Silicone Case Black. I was able to get both of these items along with three extra screen covers for $22.54 from Amazon, a real bargain compared to pricey alternative, less-capable batteries sold by Best Buy or Sprint.

The replacement battery is thicker, and therefore the new back is needed to accommodate the extra battery thickness. It makes the phone thicker, hence the need for the alternative extended battery silicone case.

As previously stated, it does make the Evo 4G thicker than before, but even with the extra girth it still easily fits into my pants pocket.

The new battery does vastly increase the phone’s standby time. In normal use it would probably last me all day. Of course, I’m not a normal user – most of the time the Sprint WiFi Hotspot feature is turned on and the phone is paired with my iPod and frequently with my Macbook Pro. Using the phone as a WiFi hotspot I can probably get about 5 to 6 hours of heavy data usage before pushing Android into automatic shutdown. Overall, I love my Evo 4G and would still buy one today were I in need of a new phone.

Laza also sells a variety of extended batteries, backs and accommodating cases in a variety of colors for other Android phone models – simply search Amazon for “Laza.”

If you want extra battery life from your Evo 4G, I recommend checking out Laza.

“Mobile Phone” First Used In 1947? No…

Posted by Andrew at 3:59 PM on June 28, 2011

According to a tweet today from @oedonline and subsequently retweeted by British author and actor @stephenfry, the first use of the term “mobile phone” was in Yank, The Army Weekly back in 1947. The context was, “They say the mobile phone will enable Doc Jones to start out on his rounds and keep in touch with his nurse back in the office.” Very prophetic.

Except that it seems to be wrong…it was 1945. Firstly, Yank ceased publication in December 1945 and secondly, one of the OED’s own quizzes has the question, “When did the mobile phone first enter the English language?” and then helpfully provides the answer of 1945. March issue apparently.

Given that Stephen Fry has over 2.7 million followers, this small error has propagated enormously, especially as the OED only has 8,000-odd followers. If you now do a search in Google, most of the hits reference Stephen Fry’s tweets. Only one entry in the whole ream of results actually is correct.

The Internet is a powerful tool for spreading information…and misinformation.

PS I’d like to emphasise that this post is in no way a criticism of Stephen Fry, of whom I’m a great fan.

Netflix Finally Meets Android

Posted by tomwiles at 8:22 PM on May 14, 2011

Netflix is finally coming to Android devices, albeit slowly, to specific devices at a time. So far, the free Netflix app will show up in the Android Marketplace on the HTC Evo 4G, the HTC Incredible, the HTC Nexus One, the HTC G2, and the Samsung Nexus S.

I have (and still love) a Sprint HTC Evo 4G, so upon discovering that Netflix was available I immediately installed it. The app appears to have a design very similar to the iPod/iPad/iPhone/iOS version, which I also have installed on my iPod Touch 4.

Check the Android Marketplace on your device as well as the Netflix.Com website for additional Android devices as they are added.

WordPress In Your Pocket

Posted by tomwiles at 5:56 PM on May 14, 2011

WordPress has been around a long time and is quite a powerful web publishing platform available to virtually everyone at no cost.

I finally got around to installing the official WordPress app onto my iPod Touch and I have to say I’m impressed with the app. It quickly accepted the credentials to my own WordPress blog, and I found I could update my site directly from my iPod. More impressive to me was when I discovered the ease with which I was able to take photos (or videos) with the iPod’s camera and instantly embed them into blog posts.

Nothing is more powerful than to be able to quickly update one’s own site with not only words but images as well. The official WordPress for iOS is a free download on the iPod/iPad/iPhone/iOS App Store. If you have a WordPress blog and an iOS device, this free app is worth installing.

The Master Switch

Posted by tomwiles at 11:01 PM on May 7, 2011

Once in a while, a book comes along that contains ground-breaking insights.  Such is the case with a book I’ve listened to over the past couple of days, the Audible audio book version of ‘The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires” by author Tim Wu.

“The Master Switch” is a compelling look into the history of major information industries such as the telegraph, the telephone, commercial broadcast radio, the commercial movie business, and commercial broadcast television. The book points out an identifiable, slowly-repeating cycle obviated by the fact that these industries were able to gain and hold monopoly status. Each in turn became quite adept at retarding disruptive technological innovations that threatened their respective business models.

Today we take an open Internet for granted, but these same and other forces are looking to take over control of the Internet and turn it into a closed, much more tightly-controlled system.

The book is extremely well written and well researched. The Audible audio book narrator Marc Vietor brings the book to life in a wonderful way.

Mr. Wu does a fantastic job of laying out the often-fascinating histories of companies such as Western Union, AT&T, NBC, etc. As consumers, we think we know these companies through their consumer advertising. The real history of these companies is often quite different and very eye opening.

If you enjoy stories about technology and business, you will almost certainly enjoy “The Master Switch” by Tim Wu.

Whistle Free Calling

Posted by tomwiles at 10:00 PM on April 24, 2011

I recently installed a VOIP phone app on my iPod called “Whistle.” Whistle is gives you a free incoming phone number that can be called from other phones, along with free domestic phone calls within the U.S.

Since my Sprint “Simply Everything” phone plan gives me unlimited voice calls within the U.S., I don’t really need the free voice calling feature. However, I installed it because it’s nice to have alternatives available, just in case. Whistle is free. It works, but the call quality is poor.

Nonetheless, a few days ago I found myself unable to use my cell phone, but still needing to make a call. Since I had WiFi available, I remembered I had the Whistle app available and was able to make my call via Whistle without any trouble.

Whistle has poor call quality on my iPod Touch. However, it is a free app and you can make free calls if you are willing to listen to short audio ads just before your call is placed. I like having extra options which can sometimes come in handy, and Whistle worked for me when I needed it to.

Whistle also offers very cheap rates on international calls.

Whistle doesn’t offer the voice quality of Skype, but Skype costs money to place calls to telephones as well as to have an incoming phone number. Whistle offers both of those features for free.

PowerSkin by XPAL

Posted by KL Tech Muse at 6:16 PM on March 28, 2011

PowerSkin

We have all been there, you are at a conference or out on the town and your phone battery dies at the most inappropriate time. Now you could carry the phones charger with you and run around looking for an outlet, but lets face it that’s not very practical. Besides the fact you start looking like a crazy person. A better solution maybe the PowerSkin by XPAL Power Inc.. XPAL Power Inc is a subsidiary of TennRich International a California based corporation. The design team for the PowerSkin is in Taiwan and it is manufactured in Shenzhen, China.  The factory in China is the first one in that country to focus on lithium rechargeable batteries.   It is also the largest producer of portable power packs in Asia. XPAL is very proud of its high standard of safety in its manufacturing plants and the quality of its products.

PowerSkin is an impact resistant case made of silicon rubber. It is light weight and has a non-slip grip. The case is recyclable, the batteries and internal components are not. It can extend the talk time from 4.5 to 8 hours depending on the phone. The new line of PowerSkin was introduced at CTIA. It is currently available for the: HTC HD7 for $49.99, T-Mobile mytouch for $59.99. and the Samsung Galaxy i900, i903, and 4G for $59.99 at the PowerSkin Web site. The PowerSkin is coming in April for the HTC EVO for $59.99, Samsung Vibrant for $59.99 and the Apple iPhone 4 (both Verizon and AT&T) for $49.99. If you sign up for their mailing list they will send you an email plus a discount coupon code.   If you use your phone a lot at conferences or events, the new line of PowerSkin maybe just what you are looking for.

GadgetTrak Remote Tracking Software For Mobile Gadgets

Posted by tomwiles at 2:46 PM on February 9, 2011

GadgetTrak is a piece of software that you install on your mobile phone or laptop. The software will periodically check in and let you know the physical location of the device. If a camera is present, for example on a laptop, it can even take a photo of the thief and email it back to the owner. The software cannot be disabled by the thief.

For a Mac or Windows laptop, the price is $34.95 per year.

For Android and Blackberry phones, which includes remote data wipe ability, secure encrypted backup and a loud piercing audible alarm even if the device is in silent mode, the price is $19.95 per year.

For iPhone, iPod, and iPad, the GadgetTrak app is .99 cents, The iOS version does not include remote data wipe, but does include remote camera and push notification support to inform the thief of the GadgetTrak software’s presence.

Interview by Jeffrey Powers of Geekazine.

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