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.

Samsung Acquires Boxee for $30 Million

boxee live tvSamsung just stepped up their game in the Set Top Box division by purchasing Israeli and NYC based Boxee streaming media. Boxee came out in 2007 as streaming TV media started to gain traction. Companies like Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon, Vudu and more created apps which could be seen on the Boxee Entertainment System. Even Techpodcasts and Blubrry have channels on the Boxee system.

Boxee had a physical and software presence at the start, debuting on June 16, 2008 – you could download the Boxee software on PC or Mac. Last year, Boxee discontinued that service to focus on their $249 set top box.

Although Boxee has been a distant 4th on set top box marketshare, they did push the game forward in January when they debuted the Boxee Cloud DVR. This is an add-on that connects and turns the Boxee into a DVR.

The Marker first broke this story (Hebrew Website) stating that Samsung will continue to employee Boxee staff – about 40 employees. Boxee was on the market, which AllthingsD reported last month.

Samsung already has software built into smart TVs. Boxee will most likely replace the software and be included in future Samsung mobile devices.

Could Apple iPads, iPhone Get Banned? Apple Loses Ruling vs. Samsung

Apple iPad 3

In an interesting turn, the US International Trade Commission ruled that Apple violated Samsung patents regarding technology that sends information over wireless networks. If an appeals court cannot overturn or presidential veto (which has to happen within 60 days), certain Apple products would be barred from AT&T’s network.

This ruling does not affect 3rd or 4th generation iPad, iPhone5, iPhone 4S or iPad mini (These models are on or have option for 4G/LTE). It does affect iPhone 4, 3GS along with 1st and 2nd Gen iPads with 3G (aka iPad1 and iPad2).

Since the models that could be banned are older models, many are writing this ban off. All iPhone models in the ban are available for upgrade anyway and a report last year on Gigaom said that only 1 out of 10 iPads sold were 3G models (mostly in the 64GB flavor).

It’s a small victory for  Samsung in the patent wars against Apple – even though the blow is more like a mosquito bite to the leg.

Hold Onto Your Tablet With Mobio

Mobio GripToday’s smartphones and tablets are all expensive devices, whether they come from Apple or Samsung, and no-one wants to drop theirs on the floor with butterfingers. Mobio have a neat approach that should keep tablets and phones in the hand. Andy and Scott find out more from Darek Spring at Mobio.

The Mobio Grip is two part set, with a magnetic ring that sticks to the tablet or smartphone, and a handle which then connects into the ring. Holding the handle keeps the tablet easily in hand without blocking any part of the screen and the magnetic handle can be taken off to put the tablet into a case or bag.

Other variants such as the Mobio Pivot and Mobio Go use the same magnetic connector in a stand configuration or for in-car use. The Mobio Grip is $34.95 and is available through Mobio’s store.

Interview by Andy McCaskey of SDR News and Scott Ertz of F5 Live for the TechPodcast 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.

An Open Letter To Apple CEO Tim Cook

ear Mr. Cook,

Like many people, I converted to Apple products because it represented real value. My first Apple computer was a second-hand Mac Mini with a Power PC processor. I was impressed by the fact that a clearly obsolete machine could remain so useful and usable at several years of age, when other older computers of the same vintage were long gone.

My next Apple product was a white plastic MacBook with an Intel processor, which is now six years old. Impressively, the machine still remains highly functional today.

Since then, I went on to get a seventeen inch MacBook Pro, two Intel Mac Mini machines set up in home theater configurations, two iPod Classic MP3 players, an iPad 2 and an iPod Touch.

Apple purchases were easy to justify. An Apple computer might cost three times as much as a competing piece of hardware, but the Apple operating system could usually be counted on to continue to function years longer than a competing Windows counterpart. Back in those days, Apple machines were also repairable. My seventeen inch MacBook Pro has been repaired twice, and I’ve replaced the battery myself once.

In my mind, the Apple brand represented usability, innovation, and long-term value. It was easy to recommend Apple products to friends and family, because genuine value was present.

Unfortunately, in the past year or so there has been a change. Recent product releases have failed to excite me. New Apple laptop computer designs present hardware that is close to being non-repairable and disposable. Apple has become a high-end disposable Bic computer. In the realm of phones, Apple, once the innovator, is now failing to catch up to competing Android phone features. Apple seems to be preferring to go down the path of suing competitors such as Samsung in a desperate attempt to cling to past glories, rather than continue to experiment and innovate towards future effulgences.

Apple founder Steve Jobs was a brilliant innovator, albeit with some flaws – i.e., he tended to be controlling and manipulative. As a genuine innovator Mr. Jobs was ultimately successful in spite of those flaws, not because of them. It’s been a year since the death of Steve Jobs. I fear the remaining imprint of Steve Jobs on Apple as his personal innovation fades is deteriorating into Apple embracing the skeleton of the dysfunctional parts of the Jobs personality. The genuine innovator at Apple died a year ago. Growing tendencies toward control and manipulation remain.

Steve Jobs created an unprecedented amount of momentum, which Apple still benefits from today. Apple, now at its pinnacle has reached unbelievable heights even as there is an unnoticed malignancy.

For me, the thrill is gone. IOS 6 diminished my iPad 2 experience. I rely heavily on Google Maps, including both the satellite view and Google Street View. The new Apple satellite images in IOS 6 are clearly inferior and fuzzy when compared directly to Google’s superior satellite images. Street View is gone. The YouTube app is gone. Apple has embraced Steve Jobs’ desire to punish Google for coming up with Android and daring to compete with the iPhone. The removal of Google Maps and the YouTube app in IOS 6 is a move born out of spite, not innovation. Actions taken out of spite are always a mistake.

In Apple’s more humble past there has always been a core of users, often dubbed the “Mac Faithful” that would stick with Apple and buy their products no matter what. In recent years, under the renewed leadership of Steve Jobs, Apple was able to finally move into the mainstream, picking up a vast bulk of new customers that lack this zealous loyalty. People like me were enticed to buy Apple products by the genuine value they offered.

As a long-time consumer of technology, I lack this Apple zealoutry. My loyalty extends only to products that offer good value. I can only speak for myself, but at the present time I don’t see myself buying any additional Apple products anytime soon. I am wondering how many other recent Apple customers share my lack of loyalty?

What has befallen Apple is unfortunate. It was always fun watching the presentations of world-changing innovations. These days, not so much.

Sincerely,

A now-unhappy customer.

Samsung Bites Back: Sues Apple Over iPhone 5

The Apple v Samsung case that was decided a few weeks ago is still far from being over, with injunctions and appeals still pending, but now we seem to be moving on to act 2 regardless of that bit of unfinished business.  Today it was learned that the tables have turned and Samsung is now suing Apple over the iPhone 5.  The Galaxy maker is claiming that Apple has infringed on eight of their patents and adds to previous claims that Samsung had already filed.

“We have little choice but to take the steps necessary to protect our innovations and intellectual property rights,” a Samsung company statement reads.  They claim the new iPhone 5 violates two of their standards-essential patents and six feature patents.  The case isn’t expected to go to trial until 2014.

It goes without saying that, while the Samsung-Apple battles have provided us with some humor, it really just spotlights the lousy condition of our patent laws.  Add that to the atrocious condition of our copyright laws and it’s really enough to make most people hang their heads in shame.  There is some great innovation going on out there, but it’s mostly being stifled by laws designed long before today’s technological world was shaped.

The Rise of the Smartphone

Today I was relaxing in a cafe, taking it easy on Sunday. As I looked around the other tables, everyone else was either looking at a smartphone or else had one resting on the table. They weren’t students or young professionals either; these were mums and dads, grandmas and grandpas.

Brewing coffeeHere’s the tally of what I saw:

Getting away from “my phone is better than your phone”, what might this highly unscientific observation say about the mobile communications market, at least in the UK?

First, it’s diverse. While Nokia and Windows Phone is nowhere to be seen, the three other operating systems seem to be pretty much holding their own.

Second, Apple has iPhones and RIM has Blackberries. Is the Samsung Galaxy now the de facto Android brand? The popularity of HTC seems to have fallen dramatically with the rise of Samsung.

Third, no-one was actually using their phones to make phone calls. In all the time I watched, there wasn’t a single call made or received but there was plenty of reading, swiping, tapping and pecking. It always seems that the PDA was lost in the convergence with the mobile phone, but the reality is that the PDA won the battle and “voice calling” is one feature among many.

Fourth and finally, smartphones are now ubiquitous and cross-generational. There wasn’t single ordinary phone to be seen and the range of the users suggests that age is no longer a discriminating factor.

As I said, entirely unscientific but still an interesting snapshot in the evolution of the smartphone.

Coffee brewing photograph courtesy of BigStockPhoto.

Samsung Google Galaxy Nexus Smartphone Review

Samsung Galaxy NexusThe smartphone market is full of great phones running Android, iOS or Windows Phone. Regrettably none of them is running WebOS, so it was with much sadness that I decided to retire my HP Pre 3 and move on to a more current device. I tend to buy off-contract so as not to get locked in, but I don’t usually buy a top-of-the-range, just-released phone as they’re simply too expensive. With a budget of around £300, there’s plenty of choice depending on the age and features. Looking at Android phones, my main thoughts were around the Motorola Razr or one of the Xperias. But then I spotted that the Samsung Google Galaxy Nexus was beginning to be discounted with Expansys offering it for £299 and with its feature set, it’s an absolute bargain.

First impressions count and on unboxing, I couldn’t believe how big the screen was. It’s huge in comparison to the Pre 3, which in turn I thought was big compared to the Palm Pre. It’s also gloriously colourful and detailed and combined with the screen size, there’s definitely a wow-factor when I show it to someone who hasn’t seen either this or a Samsung SIII before. After a couple of days, I got used to the size and started enjoying the extra screen real estate available. It’s definitely worth it.

Secondly, although the Galaxy Nexus isn’t a new phone, it’ll update to the newest version of Android, v4.1 aka Jelly Bean. And it is sweet. The phone is very responsive, animations are smooth and everything that Google says about Project Butter is true. Combined with the lush screen, it’s a thing of beauty and a joy to use. In the few days, I’ve been using the phone, I’ve never had a slowdown, never had a crash and never had to reboot the phone. Being a Google Nexus devices, it’s pure Android without any OEM features laid on top, which in my book, is definitely a plus and I can expect regular updates from Google without having to wait for the manufacturers to revise

I haven’t found that many functional differences between Ice Cream Sandwich and Jelly Bean with one exception…Google Now. This runs all the time in the background, putting the smarts into the smartphone. Simply, it tries to help you run your life a little more smoothly using a set of cards which are like mini-apps. Here’s an example: if I have an upcoming appointment in my calendar and I’ve included the location of the appointment, Google Now will show me the place on a small map and it will tell me how long it will take to drive there. It will also alert me when it’s time to go. There are other cards available for public transport, flights, sports scores and I’m sure more will appear over time.

Other features of note…call quality is very good and a step up from the Pre 3. I can hear people clearly and by all accounts the person on the other end can hear me well too. The camera seems fine to me, taking photos up to 5MP, tracks faces, and there is a panorama mode for taking wide shots. I’m hoping that the lens doesn’t get too easily scratched as the camera seems to be located exactly where the phone rests on a flat surface. Jelly Bean includes the Face Unlock feature which works surprisingly well but I’m not sufficiently narcissistic to want to use. You may love yourself more.

On the downside…the battery life isn’t great, though it’s on a par with the Pre 3. To be fair, it’s a new phone and I tend to be doing more on the Nexus while I’m bedding it in, so I think it might end up being better than the Pre 3 once I get back to normal. I have ordered a larger battery anyway but it’s not arrived in the post yet. Another criticism is with the back cover that comes off to access the removable battery and the SIM card: it’s a bit flimsy but it is textured in the Nexus-style to make it easier to grip. I notice that there are replacement metal covers available but some come with warnings that the cover may interfere with GPS reception so I’ve not bothered. Finally, there seems to be only one speaker which is located in the bump on the lower back of the Nexus. Consequently, if the phone is put down on any kind of soft surface, the speaker easily gets blocked and can become quite quiet.

I’ll always have a soft spot for Palm, WebOS and what might have been. I bought a Palm III when I was a much younger man and have stuck with them ever since but when you can get as good a phone as the Galaxy Nexus, there’s no looking back. The only features I miss from the Pre is the wireless charging and the excellent multitasking app-card metaphor. Can’t have everything.

Overall, the Galaxy Nexus is an absolutely cracking phone and at £300 is a steal. Find one, try one, buy one.

Disclosure – this Galaxy Nexus was a personal purchase and not a review unit.