Sprint brings Free Wi-Fi Calling to iPhone

Sprint logoWhen I got my first cell phone in 1995, I opted for a plan that included a whopping 60 minutes of monthly airtime. Back then, cell phones were still looked at as “emergency contact devices” by most people. But much has changed in the last two decades. Today, cell phones are ubiquitous and there’s an expectation that we can use them wherever we go. And for the most part, this is true. However, there are still some challenges when it comes to finding a cellular signal, and smaller carriers such as Sprint and T-Mobile have had to adapt their coverage systems to fill in the gaps where their towers can’t reach.

Wi-Fi calling has been a regular feature on most T-Mobile handsets for years. This service allows customers to make standard voice calls over Wi-Fi when the cellular network is out of range. And now, Sprint is bringing a similar service to its iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 5c and iPhone 5s-wielding customers. Over the next week, Sprint’s iPhone customers will receive a software update that allows them to initiate high-quality voice calls over Wi-Fi. This enhances and expands Sprint’s coverage and connectivity options. The service is as easy to use as Bluetooth – there is a simple setting to turn it on and off. Calls made over Wi-Fi won’t have any impact on a user’s voice or data plan, making those calls virtually free.

Sprint customers will now be able to take advantage of millions of Wi-Fi networks to talk and use data even when cellular coverage may be limited. This will definitely make a difference in office buildings and other places with cellular network challenges. Customers traveling internationally can also use Wi-Fi calling to enjoy free calls from over 200 countries back to the U.S.

When I recently got back into the cell phone game with an iPhone 6 Plus, I didn’t even consider Sprint as an option, mainly due to the company’s lack of overall coverage. Upgrades like this will definitely make the carrier more attractive in the future.

Samsung Galaxy Note Edge Review

edgeWhen you pick you the Samsung Galaxy Note Edge for the very first time you immediately feel the difference. The Curved Edge is just cool to touch, after having used a standard flat screens mobile for years the round smooth edge is truly unique to the feel and touch. While the specifications of the phone itself are incredible I want to focus on my usability of the edge.

First and foremost Android users are going to have to retrain themselves. Instead of swiping to unlock the phone, you just click the home button and then via the edge quickly access the most important apps. I found myself over a couple of weeks customizing the edge menu to the point that it became my central launch point for the majority of important Apps I use on a regular basis. But I will be honest the first few days I kept unlocking the phone and going to the main menu but as I used the device more I found myself saving time bu launching apps from the edge with my thumb.

I loaded Ingress, Mail, Camera, Browser. Google App Folder on my first edge. I then added several apps on the other. By default the Sprint folks that provided the review unit had it loaded with an initial set of apps that indicated to me that they had put some thought into it.

Not only can you scroll the edge side to side they also have a drop menu see below that is loaded with some fun tools, tape measure, voice recorder, flashlight activator, stop watch, countdown times and a ruler.

edge2

Overall Samsung has really outdone themselves.The 5.6 Quad + AMOLED Screen is simply breathtaking.  The images taken with the camera where equally great with a Front 3.7MP and Rear 16MP camera. The Automated F-Stops allow excellent images in dark areas as well. The phone comes with a stylus that is totally unique. They call it S Pen, its like magic you do not even need to touch the screen with it to track. The screen tracked the stylus perfectly, and I could click on hyperlinks from the built in clicker in the stylus. The specifications  of the device are detailed so be sure to review them on the Samsung site.

Here in Hawaii and in Las Vegas Data Speeds where terrific while on the Sprint Network, and calls to and from the device were clear. The phone has good noise isolation as I used the phone as my primary device during CES and callers could hear me fine over the show floor noise. Overall the Sprint Samsung Galaxy Note Edge is a phone that will have everyone wanting to look at the curved screen technology. I encourage you to take a few extra minutes when you visit a retail store to play with this phone.. The edge is beyond useful in getting to apps and functions quick.

 

 

Sprint adds International Wi-Fi Calling

Sprint logoSprint is about to release something that could make life a little easier for people who do a lot of traveling. It will also help families who are in the United States and who make calls to family members who are traveling. Sprint is going to update Sprint Spark and add international Wi-Fi calling (to certain locations) at no additional cost.

This update is specifically for the Samsung Galaxy S 4 with Sprint Spark. It will become the first device from Sprint to get their international Wi-Fi calling update. The new feature lets users who are traveling abroad, with Wi-Fi Calling enabled phones, to make and receive calls to friends and family in the United States, U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico at no additional charge (while connected to a Wi-Fi network).

International Wi-Fi Calling enables Sprint customers to use voice and messaging services over existing home, office, and public Wi-Fi networks in more than 100 countries outside the United states back to the United States, U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico phone numbers without being charged or using monthly plan minutes.

That being said, it is recommended that you check with your Wi-Fi provider to see if data charges may apply. It would also be a good idea to check with Sprint about standard or discounted pricing for international calling that is applicable to Wi-Fi.

The Galaxy S 4 with Sprint Spark will be the first smartphone from Sprint to get the International Wi-Fi Calling update. Sprint is planning to expand that offer to additional devices throughout 2014. Sprint is making it easier for people who are traveling overseas to connect with friends or family that are in the United States, U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico in a very affordable way.

Sprint Samsung Galaxy S5 Sport Review

sprintDuring the past 3 weeks I have been using a Samsung Galaxy S5 Sport from Sprint. The Samsung Galaxy S5 Sport is an exclusive Sprint Spark-enabled smart phone. The Sport brand is obviously focused for health conscious users. It has all of the standard benefits of the S5 along with Sprint Fit Live.

This phone design has a custom finish that feels more rugged, and has a textured feel very different than the standard Galaxy S5.  Comments from current S5 owners told me that they wish their S5 had the same finish texture. The change in finish was made to make the phone easier to hold, and prevent it from slipping out of your hand. The Galaxy S5 Sport is also IP67 water and dust resistant2 so it can be as active as its user. The textured body also had three hard keys for easier navigation. I honestly liked this slight deviation in design. There was no need to look at the phone when handling it, as you could feel the home and backup button without looking at it.

With Sprint Spark technology the phone is designed to take advantage of advanced network capabilities in certain markets that deliver peak wireless speeds of up to 60Mbps.

The phones major difference is that it came with an complete health and fitness package, under the “Sprint Fit Live” a brand which included bundled fitness applications in a easy to access menu.

Key Features of Sprint Fit Live included the following:

  • Track, monitor, and share workout activity with 12 months of free MapMyFitness MVP
  • Spotify Premium 3 or 6 month subscription included.
  • S Health, an integrated mobile health platform to access health info, map out workouts, and make healthier eating choices.
  • A barometer, compass, flashlight and stopwatch from a single screen
  • Heartbeat Monitor, Pedometer and Exercise Monitor and goal setting.

Most of the health and exercise information is integrated on the front screen or placed on the wall paper of the phone, so that I could just glance at the phone to get the updated info. The phone was running Android 4.4.2 KitKat when I reviewed it

The included MapMyFitness service uses GPS to track all fitness activities, and records work out details, including duration, distance, pace, speed, elevation, calories burned and route traveled on an interactive map. It was neat to review a days workout and check performance.

The Samsung Galaxy S5 is a great mobile phone all on its own. Those that are health conscious, or wanting to take advantage of the customization Sprint has done with the “Sprint Fit Live” platform should give the Sport a look.

Sprint Fit Live also will be available on all new Sprint Android-powered smart phones in 2014 which will give you more shopping options.

Gmail Contact Synching Bug

Last fall I got a Samsung Galaxy S3 phone. I love the S3. It’s an awesome piece of technology.

Sometime overnight a couple of evenings ago, it developed a hardware problem and the next day it would no longer boot. It was working perfectly when I went to bed, but when I woke up something had gone wrong.

So, I went by a Sprint store. The technician tried to do a hard reset, but no go. He ended up giving me a new white S3.

I ended up having a bit of a problem getting my Gmail contacts to synch to the new phone from Google’s cloud. After a bit of research, I discovered there is an apparent bug in Google+. If you have Google+ friend synching enabled on your Android phone, it ends up preventing the Gmail contacts from synching to the phone.

The work-around to the problem is to turn off Google+ synching. Once I turned off Google+ data synching  in the the phone settings, the Gmail contacts instantly started synching over. I’ve got quite a large contact list since the list was originally developed in Windows and has been synched over to a number of different phones as well as OS/X, so it took a while to synch over.

I don’t need the Google+ contact list to synch over to the phone anyhow, so I will keep this Google+ app feature turned off. I had noticed even before this happened that contact updates didn’t synch properly to or from the old phone, so it is likely that the bug in the Google+ synching has been around for a while and as of this writing is not resolved.

So, if you get a new Android phone and you are having trouble getting your Gmail contacts to synch over to the new device, make sure that Google+ synching is disabled then cloud synching of your contacts should begin working just like it’s supposed to.

MVB Disko USB File Transfer

MVB DiskoThe Disko from MVB solves that irritating problem when you have a USB memory stick, your friend has a USB memory stick, you want to share some files, but there’s no laptop or PC to make the transfer. Andy finds a solution to this problem and gets a demo of the Disko from Daniel.

Plug a USB memory stick into the Disko and you can browse the stick’s filesystem to find the files that you want to pass on. Once found, copy the files into the Disko’s internal memory and then swap the memory sticks before copying the files back out of the internal memory to the next memory stick.

The Disko also has a built-in mp3 player and FM tuner, making it a pretty handy gadget.

Interview by Andy McCaskey of SDR News for the Tech Podcast Network.

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Samsung Galaxy S3 Update

Samsung Galaxy S3About a month ago I retired my trusty Sprint Evo 4G (original Wimax version) and got a Samsung Galaxy S3.

My initial impression of the Galaxy S3 was quite positive. I’ve spent a considerable amount of time now with the Galaxy S3, so I want to give a bit of an update on my experience with it. I drive a truck over the road and also use it as a podcast aggregator and playback device, so I am spending even more direct time with my phone than the average consumer might.

The Sprint version of the S3 is currently using the so-called “Ice Cream Sandwich” Android 4.04.

Battery life is excellent compared to the three previous smartphones I’ve had over the past several years using the stock battery that came with it.

The large 4.8” inch AMOLED LCD high resolution touchscreen is superb, with excellent color saturation. The extremely thin form factor allows me to easily carry the phone around in a front pocket.

Performance remains excellent even though I’ve installed several dozens and dozens of apps. App performance is rock solid. I had many of the same apps on my HTC Evo that would sometimes crash or cause problems that run perfectly on the Galaxy S3. I attribute this performance increase to more primary phone memory and perhaps better overall hardware design architecture. It’ likely that people that experience problems with certain apps are really experiencing lack of enough physical memory in their device in the same way that desktop computers experience fewer crashes and more overall stability when they have more physical RAM in which to execute the program code.

The Galaxy S3 has excellent WiFi performance. Connected to a Verizon MiFi 4G WiFi hotspot the WiFi has no slowdown issues even when simultaneously using Bluetooth.

The Bluetooth functionality works pretty well overall, but not quite as good as the HTC Evo. I have a JVC Stereo-Bluetooth-capable stereo in my pickup that functioned just fine with the Evo in speakerphone mode that doesn’t work properly with the Galaxy S3. I can hear callers through the stereo speakers but they cannot hear me through the return channel microphone. I don’t know if there is a Bluetooth version number conflict that could possibly resolve the problem via a JVC firmware upgrade, or if the problem might be resolved when Sprint and Samsung release the next “Jelly Bean” version of Android for the Sprint version of the Galaxy S3.

This problem with the S3’s Bluetooth not working properly with my JVC stereo is even more perplexing, since it works perfectly well with the other Bluetooth devices that I own, including a Tango TRX high fidelity Bluetooth stereo speaker that also can work as a speakerphone.

Overall I’m extremely pleased with the Galaxy S3. This is one of the most amazing pieces of technology I’ve ever owned.

In my opinion, the Galaxy S3 is currently the best phone on the market today.

Android Apps Accelerate

When I got my first Android phone a bit over two and a half years ago, an HTC Evo from Sprint, the Android Marketplace was a confused and confusing place. The Apple App Store had the clear advantage. Android apps that did exist then were often clunky.

A lot has changed in two and a half years. Today, the aptly renamed “Google Play” store contains Android apps that very often match their Apple app counterpart in both they way they look and in their functionality. Google Play also contains a lot of other content for sale, including magazines, music and movies.

My HTC Evo had a limited amount of primary memory, so it was effectively limited in the number of apps that could be installed. As a result, I mostly ignored the app store because I couldn’t install anything new without giving up some other app or combination of apps in order to free up that memory. I experimented with apps mostly on my iPod and iPad. Since replacing my HTC Evo with a Samsun Galaxy S3, which has no similar memory issues, I have been experimenting with new apps like mad.

What I’ve found is that for the vast majority of apps I use on my iPod and iPad, there are Android versions of the same app. So, I am able to use apps right on the Galaxy S3 such as Flipboard, Skitch, MyRadar, Adobe Photoshop Express, etc., etc., etc. In other words, most of the apps that I use on my iPod and iPad now have Android versions of the same app that function, look and act the same as the iOS version(s).

The Google Play store is better organized than it used to be. One of the major advantages of Android over iOS devices is that the apps can be set up to automatically update without any user intervention. The automatic updates function like clockwork. One you’ve installed dozens or even hundreds of apps on a device, there are always several apps per day that have updates. With iOS devices, the update process must be initiated manually. Let your iOS devices sit a more than a day or two without updating them, and the apps needing updates rapidly escalates. With Android, the updates simply happen automatically and leave a pull-down notification of their success.

Apple still has a clear advantage when it comes to iPad apps versus the confusion that still exists in the realm of Android tablets. However, when it comes to phone devices such as the Galaxy S3, the app advantage once enjoyed by iOS has greatly lessened.

Competition is a wonderful thing for the consumer. It makes products far better. The explosion of hand-held computing devices and fast broadband wireless networks is resulting in a continuing explosion of future possibilities and possibilities realized.

Apple Excitement? Not So Much.

I have a number of Apple products and I’ve been a bit of a fan in the past. Apple products of the past represented genuine value. Not only would the operating system continue to work well on aging hardware, but Apple products used to be repairable.

I’ve had a Sprint HTC Evo 4G for about two and a half years. The original Evo is still a great phone, but it obviously cannot work with Sprint’s new LTE network, so it was time to upgrade.

About a month ago I was seriously considering an iPhone 5. However, the details about the new iPhone 5 screen size began to emerge and I didn’t like what I was hearing – it was only a 4” inch screen. My Evo had a 4.2” inch touch screen, and I didn’t want to go to a smaller screen size – if anything I wanted an even bigger screen.

The original Evo was admittedly a battery hog – I knew that would be the case with it going in. Fortunately, the original Evo has a user-changeable battery. I changed batteries twice in two years. The way I use my phones, I destroy batteries – I MUST be able to easily replace them myself. So besides the smaller 4” inch iPhone 5 screen, it has a sealed battery. (Incidentally, the latest HTC Evo LTE also has a sealed battery, also making it a non-starter for me.)

So, I ended up getting a 16 gigabyte Samsung Galaxy S3 from Sprint. The S3 has a gorgeous AMOLED 4.8” touchscreen along with a user-replaceable battery, which tipped the balance for me in the end. I have the unlimited data “Simply Everything” plan, so I am able to use my phone as my podcast aggregator as well as the playback device. I transferred the 32 gigabyte Micro SD chip from the Evo to the S3 and can even go to a 64 gigabyte chip if the need should arise.

Apple revolved around Steve Jobs and his innovative brilliance. Steve Jobs had some serious personality flaws, but he was able to succeed in spite of those flaws. Now that Steve is gone, I fear that Apple as a company has embraced Jobs’ personality quirks as if they were the source of innovation.

Having high-priced products that cannot easily be repaired for me is a deal-breaker.

By the way, the Samsung Galaxy S3 is an awesome device and I could not be happier with my choice.

Not Just StuffIt! At Smith Micro

Smith Micro Mobile Network DirectorSmith Micro is best known for its Mac software and StuffIt! in particular but the company’s portfolio is much wider than that. Andy and Don chat to Carla of Smith Micro Software to find out what else the company does.

Smith Micro has a portfolio of products in the mobile wireless space, delivering solutions for telcos and cable operators. As Carla points out, if you’ve ever connected your laptop to a 3G network, you’ve probably used some of their software.

Sprint chose Smith Micro’s Mobile Network Director to intelligently manage traffic between 3G, 4G and Wi-Fi connections. A software client on the smartphone works with the carrier’s systems to select the connection technology that will give the best performance in the particular situation. For example, in a very congested 4G area, the software will transfer the data connection to a quieter and consequently faster 3G network.

From the interview, it sounds like Sprint has learnt from the CarrierIQ debacle and while the software on the smartphone works transparently, the owner can override the connection selection manually. Good.

Interview by Andy McCaskey of SDR News and RV News Net and Don Baine, the Gadget Professor.

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