Category Archives: smartphone

Keep The Note 4?



Motorola Bag PhoneSince the mass adoption of the cell phone happened starting in the 1990’s, like everyone else I’ve gone through a long succession of cell phones. My very first cell phone was a Motorola bag phone. Remember those? Analog cell phones could sound surprisingly good. Of course, in fringe reception areas, the sound quality would often become quite crackly and was prone to dropped calls. Those bag phones could output up to three watts of power, so the reception could be decent depending on the area it was operating in.

The next phone I had was an early analog candy bar style phone with a nickel cadmium battery. It had a terrible standby time of only about 30 minutes. Reception was poor in part because output wattage was cut back to about ½ a watt.

After that, the next one was a more modern Nokia candy bar style phone with better battery life and was both digital and analog. Unfortunately, the digital sound in those days was pretty bad, and the analog reception suffered from vastly diminished ½ watt of power.

The next one was an updated version of the Nokia candy bar phone. It offered somewhat better performance, and a few more bells and whistles.

Cell phone number five was a folding LG camera phone that included a color LCD and was my first phone with an integrated 640 x 480 camera. The phone also had a USB port. I was able to figure out how to plug the phone into a computer and go through a very clunky process of transferring the photos from the phone’s built-in memory to the computer’s hard drive, a process that required some hacky third party software I downloaded from the Internet. Even after I replaced this phone I continued to use it for several years as an alarm clock, a function that worked quite well.

Next came my first smart phone. It was a Windows Mobile phone from HTC with a 3.5” pressure sensitive touchscreen with WiFi and 3G EVDO. It included a storable stylus and a slide-out keyboard, features I found of little practical use.

My second smartphone was another HTC phone running Windows Mobile, this time without the slide-out keyboard. It still had a 3.5” pressure-sensitive touchscreen, WiFi and 3G EVDO.

Smartphone number three was my first Android device, a Sprint Evo also manufactured by HTC. The HTC Evo  included a 4.3 inch capacitive touchscreen and the 8 megapixel rear camera was able to record 720p 30fps video, though the video sound quality suffered compared with newer devices. The HTC Evo’s biggest problem was that it had awful battery life.

Smartphone number four was a Samsung Galaxy S3. It had a 4.8 inch touchscreen and was a better performer than the Evo while offering somewhat better battery life.

Smartphone number five was a Samsung Galaxy Note 3. The Note 3 had a 5.7” 1080p touchscreen and offered great battery life. The Note 3 can record 4k video. The Note 3 has great stereo video sound. Many Note 3’s remain in use today.

The next, and my current smartphone is a Samsung Galaxy Note 4. I really like the Note 4. It has great battery life, fantastic performance and a Quad HD 5.7” touchscreen.

With cell phone number eleven, I find myself in a bit of a quandary regarding where do I go from the Note 4? Three of the Note 4 features I find extremely important, besides the 5.7” screen size, are the integrated Micro SD Card slot, the ability to do fast charging, and the user replaceable battery.

The fast charging feature is game-changing. If I have forgotten to plug the phone in or I find the battery is low, I can plug the phone in and quickly goose the battery. The Note 4 will charge from zero up to fifty percent in only thirty minutes which is incredibly handy. Even a quick 10 or 15 minute charge can be extremely useful in pushing the battery percentage back up to a higher level.

I recently experienced a suddenly failing battery in my Note 4. I was able to buy a high-quality replacement battery via Amazon and I’m back in business. If I had a phone such as the Note 5 with a non-user-replaceable battery, I would be forced to make an inconvenient trip to my phone provider.

I am inclined to simply keep the Note 4 that I have indefinitely. After all, it has everything that I demand. There’s nothing to be gained by switching to the Note 5 or later, and the user-replaceable battery to be lost.


Keep In Touch with GoTenna at CES



goTenna LogoThere are still parts of the country where there is no mobile (cell) phone coverage. There are those who would say this is a good thing, especially when it comes to wildness areas and places of outstanding beauty. However, there are times when it’s good to be able to get in touch with others when out hiking or skiing, especially if people get separated. Aylee talks about the great outdoors with Jorge Perdoma, co-founder of goTenna, about their solution to this problem.

goTenna is a small radio transceiver that pairs with smartphones to provide point-to-point communication when there’s no cell tower in range. It’s a bit like converting your phone into a walkie-talkie but with modern features like text and GPS. The goTenna app on the smartphone works with the goTenna itself to handle all the communication and the transceiver doesn’t need to be in the hand at all – it can be stashed in the outer pocket of a backpack. Range is anywhere from a mile to a couple of miles depending on the environment.

The goTenna has been shipping for a few months and it’s US$200 for a pair of units from goTenna.

Aylee Nielsen is a video producer at F5 Live: Refreshing Technology.

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TPN Crew Picks at 2016 CES



iklip_av_main_image_20151229Jamie Davis is joined by Daniel J. Lewis and Michael Day. They discuss their personal picks from 2016 CES.

Michael talks about a spoon that is designed to automatically compensate for involuntary movements, allowing people with Parkinson’s Disease or Cerebral Palsy to feed themselves.

Daniel talks about the IK Multimedia iKlip A/V, a sophisticated mounting device that allows a smartphone to be used as a light-weight, single hand-held video recorder with a wireless lav microphone and real-time audio monitoring. It should be available in the second quarter of 2016 and should be priced around $100 or under.

Nick Demayo’s pick was the GymWatch Sensor, a Bluetooth-enabled device that you can clip on your arm that is able to detect range of motion, speed, etc. to ensure you are exercising properly and can report data back to an app on your mobile device. The app can graphically display your range of motion on your mobile device and also tell you verbally if you need to speed up, slow down, etc. to ensure maximum exercise impact. The GymWatch Sensor sells for $149 and $289 depending on model.

Jack and Michael like Dog and Bone Bluetooth LockSmart, a Bluetooth-enabled padlock that sells for $89.95.

Jamie found a ThinOPTICS flat smartphone-shaped pod that sticks to the back of your phone case that stores flat built-in reading glasses. Through the use of FlexGrip technology, the ThinOPTICS teading glasses securely stick to the bridge of your nose without arms and stores flat in the back of the phone case when not in use. The ThinOPTICS pod sells for $24.95. Or choose a phone case version to fit your phone for $38.95.

Jamie Davis is the host of Health Tech Weekly at HTWeekly.com. He is a nurse, paramedic and health journalist.

Daniel J. Lewis is the host of the award-winning podcast about podcasting, The Audacity to Podcast. Daniel helps others launch and improve their own podcasts for sharing their passions and finding success.

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Choetech USB-C Power Adaptors



Choetech LogoChoetech USB C chargersAs USB-C becomes more prevalent, it’s unsurprising to see non-OEM vendors start to produce power adaptors for this new standard. On review here are two Choetech USB-C power adaptors designed for the UK power sockets. No, I don’t know how to pronounce Choetech and their marketing rep was non-committal too, so I will leave that as a linguistic exercise for the reader.

First up the Choetech 3A Rapid Wall Charger that has a single USB-C port. Available in black, the TC0001 provides 3A at 5V from a reasonably compact unit though it protrudes around 4.8 cm from the socket. In use, the adaptor appeared to recharge my phone at the expected rate. Here’s an unboxing video for the charger and a USB-C cable.

Next is the Choetech 39W USB-C Power Adaptor. Again designed for UK sockets, this has two USB-A sockets top and bottom, and a USB-C port in the middle. There’s a small blue LED at the very top too. The TC0013 is bigger than the TC0001, extending about 5.4 cm from the socket which is unsurprising given the larger power output. The USB-C will provide 3A and the two USB-C powers will charge at 2.4A each. At full pelt, the charger did get warm but not so hot as to cause concern. Both the TC0001 and the TC0013 are CE marked which gives some level of safety reassurance.

The Choetech USB-C Fast Charger is available from Amazon for £13.99 and the 3 port Power Adaptor is £15.99. Both are worth considering if you are looking for a USB-C charger but I think I would go for the 3 port charger for that extra flexibility.

Thanks to Choetech for the supply of the review units.


iOttie Qi Smartphone Wireless Charging Solutions at 2016 CES



iOttie Daniele Mendez interviews Andrew Moughalian about iOttie wireless charging and automotive mounting solutions. The iOttie iON Wireless Qi Charging Receiver Case Charger Cover is a sleek case for the iPhone 6s/6 that adds Qi wireless charging. It is available now and sells for $49.

iOttie also sells the iOttie Easy One Touch Wireless Qi Standard Car Mount Charger that will work with a variety of Qi wireless charging-enabled smartphones. It offers an Easy One Touch lock and release mounting system that locks the device into the holder with just the push of a finger. It sells for $69.95 and is also available now.

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JAQ Fuel Cell Battery from MyFC



JAQ fuel cellIt wouldn’t be CES without a fuel cell-based smartphone charger making an appearance, and as expected Swedish company myFC turns up with the JAQ, the world´s smallest pocket-sized fuel cell charger. CEO Bjorn Westerholm shows Daniel and Todd the colourful charger.

The winner of a 2016 German Design Award, the charger consists of two parts; an inner replaceable PowerCard (orange) and the outer JAQ fuel cell (blue). The PowerCard is made from water and salt and when mixed, hydrogen is produced which is then combined in the fuel cell with oxygen from the atmosphere to generate electricity along with waste water. The card is thrown away once discharged.

A single PowerCard provides 1800 mAh though with additional PowerCards, more power is available. The best use case for the JAQ and the PowerCards is when the owner is far away from an electrical power source, say, camping.

The PowerCards are expected to retail for under US$2 and the fuel cell itself will be rented for around $5 per month as part of a phone contract. JAQ is expected to be available soon.

Todd Cochrane is the host of the twice-weekly Geek News Central Podcast at GeekNewsCentral.com.
Daniel J. Lewis is the host of the award-winning podcast about podcasting, The Audacity to Podcast. Daniel helps others launch and improve their own podcasts for sharing their passions and finding success.

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Pioneer Brings CarPlay and Android Auto to the After-Market



Pioneer logoPioneer is a brand for well-known for its in-car audio and entertainment systems so it comes as no surprise that the company is bringing a range of after-market units with Apple CarPlay and Google’s Android Auto. Todd and Marlo get a demo of the latest product with Ted Cardenas from Pioneer.

On show here is the freshly-announced Pioneer AVH-4200-NEX, which is one of three products which incorporate both CarPlay and Android Auto. As a result, the display and user interface will take on the persona of the connected device. The in-dash receiver connects to the smartphone using a wired connection as the phones contribute heavily to the running of apps. Plugging in the phones avoids issues with data speeds and keeps the battery charged, though Bluetooth is used in Android Auto for calls.

Voice is heavily used by both the driver to control the NEX and for the system to respond. Voice can be used to compose and listen to text messages, to navigate and to talk to Siri or Google Now. This keeps the need to look at the screen to a minimum and enhances safety.

If your current vehicle’s in-car entertainment system doesn’t support CarPlay or Android Auto, the Pioneer NEX range offers a great way to upgrade to the latest auto technology. Priced at around $700, the AVH-4200-NEX will be available in March.

Todd Cochrane is the host of the twice-weekly Geek News Central Podcast at GeekNewsCentral.com and Marlo Anderson rounds up the latest technology news at The Tech Ranch.

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Invisible Touch with HandScape at CES



Handscape logoHandScape claim to be “Reinventing touch” and honestly, it’s not far from the truth. Their HandyCase puts a touch-sensitive panel on the back of a smartphone or tablet which lets the user work the device without fingers obscuring the display. LG has put buttons on the back of smartphones before but HandScape take it to the next level. Todd and Marlo see the possibilities with Tong Luo, founder and CEO.

Originally a Kickstarter project, the HandyCases for iPhone and iPad incorporate a touch-sensitive digitiser into a shell case. With multipoint capability, the touches, swipes and taps are transmitted via Bluetooth to the device which then reacts as if it had been tapped on the front display. This is genius. Imagine holding your smartphone in your hand and being able to scroll through your contact list by stroking the back of the phone with with one finger, and then double tapping to dial the number. Fantastic!

Cases are currently available for select Apple products with prices up to about US$150. It’s not 100% clear from the website what works now and what requires developer support so if you are thinking of buying you might want to confirm to avoid disappointment.

Todd Cochrane is the host of the twice-weekly Geek News Central Podcast at GeekNewsCentral.com and Marlo Anderson rounds up the latest technology news at The Tech Ranch.

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iKlip A/V Smartphone Mount



IK MultimediaYou’re covering an event and travelling light with a smartphone for video. For audio, you’ve got your radio mic but where’s the receiver to go? IK Multimedia have got it covered with the iKlip A/V smartphone mount for broadcast professionals. Daniel gets a demo from Starr.

The iKlip A/V is the first portable mount with a built-in pre-amp, allowing HD video from the smartphone to be matched with high quality audio from a radio mic. The mount can hold most standard-sized smartphones, and on the other side, there’s a XLR connection for the receiver. Output from the amp is a TRRS 3.5mm jack which is plugged into the smartphone to give great sound quality.

The iKlip A/V is expected to go on sale in Q2 2016 for around US$179.

Daniel J. Lewis is the host of the award-winning podcast about podcasting, The Audacity to Podcast. Daniel helps others launch and improve their own podcasts for sharing their passions and finding success.

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SureCall Boosts Phone Signal in the Home



Surecall Logo

SureCall’s EZ 4G is a user-installable mobile phone signal booster for homes and offices that unlike most other products does not require an outdoor antenna. The EZ 4G consists of large receiver antenna which is placed in a window or other surface where there is at least some signal. A second smaller transmitter connected via coax cable then rebroadcasts the signals within the room. Don Baine chats with Frankie Smith to get some more details.

The EZ 4G works with all carriers and technology from 2G to 4G to deliver improved indoor mobile phone signal coverage for all phones or SIM-equipped devices within range of the transmitter and works with both incoming and outgoing calls. If there’s any kind of signal in the area, the EZ 4G will boost it.

The EZ 4G system will be on sale in January for US$399 MSRP from good online retailers and big box retail stores. SureCall has a full range of signal boosting systems for homes, offices and vehicles.

Don Baine is the Gadget Professor and gives lectures at TheGadgetProfessor.com

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