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.

Apple, Samsung and a Third Way for Patents

Samsung LogoWhen I heard the verdict on the Apple v. Samsung case, I was angry. Angry with Samsung for copying, angry with Apple for suing, angry with jurors for naivety, angry with the legal system for letting itself be a pawn. Over the weekend, I’ve mellowed a little but I’m still concerned about the impact it will have on consumers.

Apple is not a great first inventor. It didn’t invent the PC, the GUI, the digital music player, the smartphone or the tablet: I will leave it as an exercise for the reader to educate themselves as to who did. Apple is great at design, marketing, timing and extracting value from suppliers, partners and customers. Absolutely no doubts there and they have the bank balance to prove it.

Android LogoThe word on the street was that Apple was looking for a $30 licensing fee to cover the use of the patents. As a consumer, I think that’s a rip off when compared to the overall price of the device. None of those patents are intrinsic to the device and I would happily have a phone or tablet that doesn’t have those features. Multitouch and pinch-to-zoom is over-rated generally, and as for the bounce-back, it’s a waste of CPU cycles.

Obviously there are two possible outcomes from an Android perspective. Either the patents are circumvented and Android users get an arguably lesser experience or the manufacturers stump up the licensing fees.

But there is a third way…Wouldn’t it be great if, as an Android consumer, one could choose whether to avail of certain patents or not? You could accept the Apple licensing and pay the extra $30 or else decline and get the non-infringing version. How brilliant would that be and it would let the market decide which patents are valuable and which aren’t.

Of course, the chances of it happening are slim but remember Google and Samsung, you read it here first.

Thanks Apple! Your Win Pushed Me to Buy a Samsung Galaxy Nexus

Let me be clear that I only casually paid attention to the Apple-Samsung court circus and that I am an Android user anyway.  Further, I had been planning to buy a Samsung Galaxy Nexus for some time.  What Apple really accomplished with their win yesterday was lighting a fire under my behind and prompting me to hurry up and place that order right away, before that silly injunction against the Nexus gets brought back.  So, for that I thank Apple.  I should have my new phone in a couple of days.

As for the court case itself, Samsung has promised to appeal, so it’s not really over.  There has also been a lot of talk about how the real winner in all of this was Microsoft and Windows Phone.  Microsoft is certainly playing it that way with a few well placed tweets from Windows Phone executives.

However, what seems to be mostly overlooked is that the real winner, verdict aside, may be Samsung themselves who, thanks to their devices and a healthy amount of publicity (there really is no such thing as bad publicity) was propelled to the number two mobile phone maker in the world, with the Galaxy S III being the most talked about device for several months running now.  With an appeal in the works, it may not even cost them the billion dollars Apple was tentatively awarded, and even if it does it would be a small price to pay – after all, Microsoft paid 8 billion just to buy Skype.  Thinking of it as one eighth of Skype puts the price in perspective.

As for that alleged Samsung copying Apple claim?  Check out this image of the new Samsung store in Sydney, Australia…

Samsung Unveils Galaxy Note 10.1 Ad with James Franco

Samsung recently unveiled the Galaxy Note 10.1, a larger version of the surprisingly popular overgrown phone that debuted earlier this year.  The tablet is available now for a starting price of around $400 and Samsung has begun pushing the device with a new ad that rolled out this weekend.

The new ad features actor James Franco of Spiderman and 127 Hours fame.  The ad, which is almost three minutes in length, shows off many of the things you can do with new Galaxy Note 10.1 in your everyday life, by showing Franco walking through the set of the advertisement itself.  It’s a unique approach, and rather Apple-like, although saying that brings up the specter of the whole lawsuit and reminds us of the cheeky Conan O’Brien skit from last week.

Check out the ad posted below and let us know what you think in the comments section.

Source: Samsung Mobile

 

Conan O’Brien Makes Fun of the Apple-Samsung Legal Battle

Late night comedian Conan O’Brien recently took on the often talked about legal battle between hardware giants Apple and Samsung.  Apple has claimed that Samsung, among every other Android device maker, stole their ideas and concepts for the Galaxy line of handsets.

Of course, the reality as most people see it is that many patents in technology are simply frivolous and should never have been granted, since the system is supposed to take into account if something is”obvious”.  None the less, that’s where we are in today’s tech world.  Everyone is suing everyone else and there’s no end in site.

However, frivolous lawsuits aside, at least we can still laugh about some of it.  O’Brien took the opportunity to put together a nice parody video.  It doesn’t show Samsung in a very nice light (someone had to be the victim in this), but it’s all in fun anyway.  You can check it out below.

FiiO E6 Headphone Amplifier Review

The FiiO E6 is small headphone amplifier designed to improve the listening experience from personal music players and smartphones. With a couple of equalisation settings, the E6 can enhance the bass range to counteract the high-frequency tendencies of digital compression.

FiiO E6 in Retail Packaging

In the box, there’s the E6 itself, two clips for attaching the E6 to clothing, a USB charging cable and two stereo 3.5 mm cables, 12 cm and 75 cm. For hooking up iDevices, an Apple connector-to-3.5 mm jack is available to buy. There’s also a small instruction manual.

FiiO E6 Contents

The E6 is 40 x 40 x 9 mm, approximately the size of an Apple Nano. The main features are a mini-USB port for charging, two 3.5 mm stereo sockets (one in, one out), a volume rocker and an on/off slider. There’s a small LED on one side, but until the E6 is powered up, you might mistake it for a reset hole.

The E6 is quite light as the case is plastic. Coincidentally, the finish was a good match for from my Sansa  player and could easily be mistaken as a complementary accessory, but clearly that feature depends on your particular mp3 player!

Sliding up the on/off switch turns the E6 on, with a blue LED illuminating the silver corner. The volume rocker switch turns the volume up and down and as this is an amplifier, it’s possible to exceed the volume of the original device, so mind your ears. The battery life is given as around 10 hours which would be in line with my experience of the E6.

On the back, there’s a small pinhole LED showing the equalisation – off, red, blue and lilac. Each further upwards push of the on/off switch steps through to next setting. According to the manual, the four settings are equalisation off, 3 dB boost, 6 dB boost and -3 dB boost, i.e. reduction, but the effects are more subtle than simply amping up or amping down.

Generally, the equalisation boosted the bass while reducing the treble and while my personal preference was for the first setting, both were very acceptable. The equalisation was done well, in that while the balance of frequencies was being adjusted, the clarity was still there. Although reduced in significance, the higher frequencies weren’t muddied and the overall impression was of greater warmth.

A small amount of background hiss was only noticeable between tracks when using the earbuds in quiet surroundings. When using over-the-ear headphones, it couldn’t be detected.

Currently priced at £18.99 from Advanced MP3 Players, the E6 is an inexpensive personal amplifier. It might have a budget price but the E6 punches above its weight, counteracting the tinniness of digitally compressed sound with depth and feeling.

Most of testing was carried out with Sennheiser CX-300 earbuds, Sennheiser eH1430 headphones and a Sansa e250 mp3 player.

Thanks to Advanced MP3 Players for the loan of the E6.

Out of the Shadow of the iPhone

Samsung Galaxy BeamAt this time of year the technology circus does its tour of the world….CES in Las Vegas, MWC in Barcelona and CeBIT in Hanover, Germany. Interspersed are product launches by major companies like Apple.

When Apple and subsequently Microsoft decided to move away from the industry events and do their own mini-shows, many commentators noted that it was disappointing that the market leaders weren’t going to be attending and predicted the death of the big show. From all the evidence I see, it’s been the best thing that ever happened.

Take Mobile World Congress last week – it was a great show with Samsung, Nokia, HTC, RIM all putting out great phones and tablets. With the figures showing Android well ahead of iOS in the US new handset market and the absence of Apple at the show, it really felt like smartphones had come out from under the shadow of the iPhone. Companies were daring to innovate and be a bit different because the competition is no longer simply about being better than the iPhone, it’s about being better than Android competitors.

HTC’s One line-up might not be earth-shattering but there’s a progression from entry-level to top-end. Samsung continues to produce different sizes and integrate other technologies, such as pico projectors (Galaxy Beam), and Nokia supports its long-term plans in the Windows Phone market while still introducing a bonkers megapixel camera on the older line.

In comparison, Apple would have produced largely the same phone as the last one, only a bit faster, yet would have stolen all the headlines. Great products for sure, but Apple isn’t innovating, it’s perfecting.

The smartphone market is in rude health and it’s great to see genuine innovation and competition rather than the predictable progression of a near monopoly.

Waterproof Your Gear With Liquipel

Liquipel LogoNanotech waterproof coatings have been quite the fashion at CES this year but Liquipel‘s offering is a little bit different. Todd and Steve learn more from Kevin Bacon of Liquipel.

Liquipel have developed a nanotechnology-based liquid-repelling coating for electronic devices that makes the device waterproof for short periods of immersion. This sounds pretty much like ever other waterproofing technology on the market…except Liquipel can waterproof gadgets you already own. Woah!

For only $59, you can send Liquipel a phone or mp3 player and they will waterproof it for you. At the moment there’s a restricted list of devices that Liquipel will coat but the list includes some Apple, Motorola, Samsung and HTC devices. The list of approved devices will expand over time and if you have a particular need, you can get in touch with them.

Watch the video if you want to see an Apple iPhone get dunked in water!

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast Network and Steve Lee of Waves of Tech.

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3feet Universal Smartphone and Tablet Stand

3feet Universal Smartphone and Tablet Stand3feet almost need no introduction. Their universal smartphone and tablet stands are well-known for their neat design and their (probably) unique feature of being dishwasher-proof.

Being universal, the 3feet stand works with iPads, TouchPads, Playbooks, Xooms, iPhones, Nexus, Galaxies, Lumias, Nooks, Kindles… Pretty much anything that’s reasonably flat and you want to see. The 3feet can hold a device at three different angles.

Moving away from the gratuitous product placement, there’s now a wider range of basic colours (11) and the opportunity to have different colours for different parts of the stand. The stand is made from recycled plastic and it’s all made in the USA.

Available from good retailers for around $20.

Interview by Jeffrey Powers of Geekazine and Andy Smith of Geocaching World.

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Samsung SmartCam IP Camera

If you are in the market for a home surveillance camera, or IP camera as they are also known, then Samsung has a new one that is worth checking out.  Last month at the Consumer Electronics Show is Las Vegas, Jeffery Powers stopped by the Samsung booth to get a look at the newest addition to their camera family.

The new camera is called the Smartcam and it’s designed to keep an eye on your home while you are away.  The camera is tiny and dead simple to set up.  Simply push a button on the camera and one on your router and you should be up and running.  While it isn’t said in the interview below, we will assume that this means the “WPS” button, which all modern routers and extenders come with.  The camera uses motion-detection and audio-detection to activate it and will send you an alert if it has been activated.  In addition, it will record what it picks up to a personal, password-protected YouTube account.  Features include night-vision up to 15 feet, free apps for all mobile platforms, and an always-on setting to allow you to view it anytime, even when it hasn’t picked up activity.

The Samsung SmartCam will be available this March for $149.99.  Keep an eye out for it at the Samsung site, and check out the video below to get a first look at it.

Interview by Jeffrey Powers of The Geekazine.

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