• Reviews and Hands-on

    by Published on 04-03-2019 02:45 PM
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    This is likely going to read very much like a sponsored post; you'll just have to trust me when I tell you that it's not. Ever since my first smartwatch—or, more accurately, my first smartwatch with standard lugs—I have tried a lot of replacement straps. After literally years of trial and error I can confidently recommend one company above all others; that company is Barton Watch Bands. The three big reasons why are:

    1. They sell on Amazon for easy delivery and returns;
    2. They carry the most popular sizes and materials, and
    3. They've consistently shipped me high-quality products.

    Keep in mind that I'm coming at this from the affordable end of the smartwatch market; with such a device, like the Amazfit Bips pictured above (and yes, I have all four of them) you might find the included silicone strap a bit lacking—after a week or two of wearing it you might find it getting somewhat slimy and uncomfortable to wear. It could be that I'm uniquely sensitive to silicone, and I definitely seem to have sweaty wrists. Either way, this has been my experience with cheap OEM smartwatch bands.

    I myself am a fan of NATO-style ballistic nylon straps (Barton, by the way, also sells those), but they're not a good fit for the watches I own. My solution? Barton's quick-release canvas straps, also pictured above. They've got that NATO strap look and, even better, the canvas is able to absorb a bit of sweat and still be comfortable on your wrist.

    If you're a fan of leather bands, Barton's got you covered. They even sell premium two-toned silicone straps for when your original band breaks or gets too clammy. Their sizes and quick release pins are compatible with a wide variety of Wear OS watches (at least the ones from Fossil Group) plus Samsung's Galaxy Gear and Active, the aforementioned Amazfit Bip along with all second and third-generation Pebbles.

    Links: Barton, Barton on Amazon Canada / Amazon USA

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    by Published on 03-03-2019 07:07 PM
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    I checked out the Blackberry Key 2 LE recently. While I thought it was a solid phone, I also got the feeling that it was built to not step on the toes of a more expensive model. The screen was nice but could be better, that sort of thing.

    Now it’s time to check out the fancier model, the Key 2 (no LE). ...
    by Published on 02-19-2019 02:25 PM
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    With The Galaxy S10 set to be officially unveiled tomorrow at Mobile World Congress, Dieter Bohn has posted a pretty great feature (and accompanying video, above) to The Verge, all about Samsung's new software experience.

    He begins by rejecting the antiquated notion of "stock Android", an opinion I've come to share ever since the Google Now showed up on the home screen of my Nexus 4:

    Nowadays, “pure” Android does much less than it used to. The basic Android Open Source Project (AOSP) version of it is not something you’d really want to use on its own anymore — too many important pieces have been pulled out of open source and are now distributed by either Google or the manufacturer instead.

    So to talk about “pure” Android and “skins” is sort of to miss the point. Most phones built on Android have custom software that goes way deeper than the skin, whether they’re made by Samsung, by Xiaomi or — yes — even by Google.
    Preach, brother!

    Then it's on to the main event, Samsung's new One UI. The link below and video above are definitely worth a look, but if you've the time nor inclination for neither it's basically an original take on Apple's reachability for iOS, with the inevitable Samsung caveats: slow software upgrades, extra Samsung apps, and least appealing of all, needless third-party crap that your carrier will dump in there before selling you a Samsung-branded device.

    More on the Galaxy S10 family after it's MWC début tomorrow...

    Source: The Verge

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    by Published on 01-21-2019 12:31 PM
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    It wasn’t that long ago that Google would partner with an Android OEM to release a high end phone priced hundreds cheaper than similarly spec’d phones. However, since then Google has shifted strategies and began designing their own Android phones.

    They’ve followed a similar strategy that Apple and Samsung have been using by releasing a regular sized version; the Pixel and a larger Phablet; the Pixel XL.

    The line is now in their 3rd generation. Let’s check out the Pixel 3. ...
    by Published on 12-02-2018 12:50 PM
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    It doesn’t seem that long ago that you’d need a crowbar to pry a Blackberry out of an addicts hands. However, since then, most of us have grown accustomed to on-screen keyboards. Still, for some, there’s no replacement for a physical keyboard. Fortunately, for them Blackberries have managed to stick around and even better, the keyboards are still being refined with each new generation.

    These days BlackBerry OS is long gone so if you want a BlackBerry, it’s going to be running Android. While it says BlackBerry on the phone, it’s actually made by TCL who also makes phones under the Alcatel and Palm brand names.

    If you want the latest, there’s the upper midrange Key 2 and the midrange Key 2 LE which I’m reviewing today.
    ...
    by Published on 11-21-2018 11:34 AM
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    LG has always had an interesting place in the Android marketplace. I get this feeling like they’re always trying to offer a slightly different take on the Android flagship. The G3 had rear mounted volume and power buttons and higher resolution display while the G4 retained a removable battery. The G5 also had this feature but also allowed you to expand it with attachable accessories like a larger speaker. It also included a second, super-wide angle camera. The G6 was more about bringing it in line with other flagship phones with a more premium feel.

    So what is LG’s take on the 2018 flagship? Let’s check out the G7 ThinQ. ...
    by Published on 11-08-2018 03:32 PM
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    The original plan for today's post was to walk you through the steps for unlocking the Pixel 3's bootloader, installing TWRP and rooting with Magisk. Instead, I'm wiping my data and sending the phone, stand and two cases back to Google. I'll explain in detail below, but here's a quick summary if you don't care to read that far:

    The Great:
    - size
    - camera
    - haptic feedback

    The Good:
    - front-firing speakers
    - wireless charging

    The Bad:
    - hardware/software bugs
    - Google's launcher
    - Google's gestures
    - price

    Save for the glaring omission of Night Sight, the camera delivers everything you could ask for in terms of still images. The haptic feedback, especially on the software keyboard, was an unexpected pleasure. And if you're looking for a premium phone you can comfortably use with one hand well, there just aren't a lot of other options out there right now. Wireless charging and front-firing stereo speakers are also very nice to have.

    My biggest issue with this Pixel is that it feels like an unfinished product. Someone on some podcast somewhere said that Google treats their customers like beta testers—which is fine if you're getting free email but unacceptable for an ultra-premium piece of hardware. I may not be a fan of Samsung's extra apps, and their flagships may, over time, slow down to the point where they require a factory reset every few months, but at least when I poke around on one I feel like I'm using a finished product. That's just not the case with this Pixel 3. If it were really finished then I wouldn't have to install a hacked camera apk to access Night Sight, for example...

    Another example of unfinished business: that issue I wrote about earlier, with swiping across the rear fingerprint sensor. Turns out that it's not just me; other users are reporting the exact same problem with their Pixel 3s on reddit. Also, even after a software update I still can't get a dark background on my app drawer, despite the settings promising me that I can.

    But the single most frustrating thing about the Pixel 3 by far is its garbage implementation of gesture controls.



    What we're looking at above is the app switcher on the Pixel's native launcher. Every single time you swipe up you will be faced with this screen, even if 9 times out of 10 all you wanted to get to was your app drawer. If you swipe up with the index finger of your free hand (the one that isn't holding the phone) then you will mercifully see this screen but for a brief moment before you get to your apps. But if, on this perfectly-sized one-handed phone, you attempt the same gesture with the thumb of your phone-holding hand, guess what? The launcher will, for no good reason, dump you here at the app switcher, making you swipe up a second time to get to your apps. That's just dumb.

    Another launcher (like Nova) will at least provide the option of an app drawer button, but you'll still be forced to use Google's gestures elsewhere. Why? Because you just paid $1,000 CAD to be an involuntary beta tester for Google, that's why!

    If you love Google Assistant to the point where you want to see it everywhere, maybe this is the phone for you. Or perhaps you have young children, and want to have the best available smartphone camera with you at all times—if so then by all means give the Pixel 3 a try. Me? I'm just not willing to fork out this much cash for an unfinished product.

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    by Published on 11-07-2018 03:55 PM
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    I did my traditional photo walk through downtown Toronto's Graffiti Alley this morning, and here's the only photo from that shoot. Why? Because honestly, almost any modern camera phone can yield decent results outdoors on a cloudy day with even lighting. I'm actually much more interested in what the Pixel 3 can do in low light, so that's what I'm going to be focusing on (boo) for the remainder of this post.

    Before we proceed, some other notes about the camera(s):

    1. If video is your thing you probably already know that the Pixel only captures 4K at 30fps, so you can continue investigating that iPhone or whatever else you were looking into. Also, it was too windy this morning to effectively demonstrate the inferior audio quality of the P3's built-in mic.
    2. The wide-angle selfie cam is fine. No one here needs to see my face—or yours, if we're being honest.



    Now here's a face worth looking at... my middle-aged mouser is in this shot backlit by only a dim table light, but look at the sharpness in his fur and whiskers. My OnePlus 5T certainly wouldn't be able to pull off a shot like this. I'm impressed.



    Moving outdoors the high fidelity continues, and the exposure is surprisingly good, with only the direct light sources being blown out. You know, the CN Tower in the background reminds me a lot of a vacation photo I took last summer...



    Here's the Auckland Tower as seen from the harbour, taken with my OnePlus 5T. I'm including it here because of how OnePlus has chosen to deal with camera noise. Notice how the striped canopy in the foreground—and also the building directly behind it—look like they're painted? That's deliberate; the pixels are blended together with a mosaic effect to make the image look less noisy.

    But noise certainly won't be an issue on our Pixel 3, will it...?



    Here's a 100% crop of both photos, so you can see for yourself. With the Pixel (left) I'm seeing an unfortunate amount of noise, particularly around the top of the tower, whereas the OnePlus image (right) has suddenly turned from an oil painting into a watercolour—not necessarily better (and certainly not more accurate) but perhaps more aesthetically pleasing for sharing on social media?

    This isn't even a fair comparison, really, as the Pixel image was captured at night and the OnePlus at dusk, thus having a lot more available light. I guess the point I'm attempting to make here is that even the best camera has a threshold that, when crossed, starts to adversely affect image quality. And the Pixel, as impressive as it is, isn't entirely infallible. Maybe when the camera app is updated to include Night Sight it'll be a different story.

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    by Published on 11-06-2018 04:35 PM
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    Canada Post was kind enough to accommodate Pixel 3 week, and dropped off my phone and charging stand earlier this afternoon. I haven't yet put my SIM card in it, but I did set it up with my Gmail account. Here's how I'm getting on with it so far:



    I took this photo in the shadows of my office while Google Assistant was apparently updating over WiFi. Now that it has, the Pixel Stand mode is working as advertised. I even got it to read me the news, which was a neat trick, although I need to set up a Canadian source.

    But I'm guessing you want to know more about the actual phone than its charging stand, so...



    ... Here it is, still in the box! What immediately struck me when I took it out was how much I like its size. For reference it seems about as wide as the LG Nexus 5—not the 5X, the 2013 one—but taller. Some may say that they're getting more for their money with a bigger phone, and that's fine; for me, the less thumb gymnastics I have to perform, the better.



    Check out how my stupid OnePlus categorically refuses to focus on the Pixel's brushed glass finish... I do have to say, though, that I do find said finish entirely unremarkable to the touch, so into a funky cloth case it went straightaway.

    Oh and one thing about the fingerprint reader; I'm having a surprising amount of trouble using it to pull down my notification panel. I thought it might be the fabric case, but even without it the gesture still doesn't seem to work reliably.



    Over on the other side of the glass, annoyances continue. There are just a lot of ways to access Google Assistant here, dare I say too many? You can long-press the pill at the bottom of the home screen, tap on the right side of the non-removable search box above it or give the bottom half of your phone a friendly squeeze. Just one of these ways would be fine, thanks.



    The other big issue that I'm currently trying to solve is getting Google's night mode to stick. When enabled through developer options, your quick settings and app drawer are supposed to have a dark background, instead of the garish white that you'd otherwise see. I keep checking if the setting is enabled (it is) yet the garish white persists.

    Tomorrow I'll have a closer look at the Pixel 3's main attraction: its camera.

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    by Published on 11-05-2018 03:00 PM
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    Not exactly how I thought this series would kick off, but here we are.

    I ordered both my Pixel 3 (non-XL) and two fabric cases from Google Canada almost a month ago, before the #MadebyGoogle2018 event had even finished; since then the shipping date for the phone has slipped, but I did at least get my pair of cases as promised late last week. Let's take a look:



    My Pixel 3 has been requested in "Just Black", so for protection I chose what I thought would be two complimentary colours, "Indigo" (left) and "Fog" (right). Why two? So I could clean one case while still having my phone protected by the other, of course!



    The fabric material on each is both fetching and practical; in addition to providing a sturdy grip it should also absorb any surface oil from my grimy hands. One thing I hadn't considered is my cat using the material to sharpen his claws. That would be... unfortunate.



    The interior of the cases have a velvety lining that will hopefully keep my phone scratch-free.



    And this (soon-to-be) Clearly Black Pixel owner won't be suffering from anybutton envy—at least with the grey case. It's hard to see in the photo but below the buttons are sculpted-out strips to accomodate the volume rocker.

    So, the big question: at $50 CAD a pop, are these first-party cases worth it? I think so, but I honestly can't say for sure without an actual Pixel to put in them. I've just received an email informing me that my phone (and free stand) have been dispatched, so hopefully I can answer that question soon!

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    by Published on 10-18-2018 12:38 PM
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    Sonos has been around for some time for a while it felt like they owned the whole home audio market. However, there are now alternatives and many of them are not exclusive to a single manufacturer. Google’s Home, Amazon’s Echo and Apple’s Homepod devices are marketed first as speakers that have microphones/voice assistants which can also provide whole home audio.

    With that in mind, Sonos has released the One, a Sonos with built-in microphones. Out of the box it has support Amazon Alexa’s voice recognition. Presumably it also has the capability to recognize Google Assistant and Apple’s Siri commands if Sonos can work out necessary licensing deals. ...
    by Published on 10-16-2018 08:24 PM
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    Apple iPhone XS Max

    Here’s the Apple iPhone XS Max. According to Apple, “XS” is pronounced “Ten S”. However it’s hard for me to not see it as “iPhone Extra Small Max”. Silly name aside, the most striking thing about the Max isn’t its notched, large 6.5” display, dual cameras or even the cutting-edge 7nm A12 processor. No, it’s the Max’s breathtaking price tag; the 512GB variant costs a heart stopping $1999 Canadian before taxes. Let’s check it out. ...
    by Published on 09-25-2018 10:39 AM
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    Times up!



    Our review of the Samsung Galaxy Watch (46mm) bluetooth

    I thought I’d do something different with this review of a Galaxy Watch; I tested it paired to a OnePlus 6 rather than a Galaxy line device. I’ve used a Galaxy device with a Gear in the past so I knew how it performed under those parameters, but with Wear OS and the devices being somewhat at a stagnant point, I thought it important to review the device as it performs outside the “Samsung Experience”. After all there are those looking for another Android smartwatch option who may not be using a Galaxy handset.
    ...
    by Published on 09-24-2018 03:15 PM
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    Last Friday this longtime Pebble fan (and currently a paid Rebble.io user) suddenly found himself in possession of a Fitbit.

    You might think that I bought it for curiosity's sake, to see just how much of Pebble's DNA made it into Fibit's second-generation smartwatch. But no, it was the bubbling desire to use my watch to pay for something at somewhere other than Starbucks. That was the justification that got me to my local Best Buy to make a non-wrist-based payment of $299.95 CAD—which, if I recall correctly, was the Canadian list price of a Pebble Time Steel just a few years ago.

    If you don't feel like reading any further, I'm going to return it; if you're at all interested in what went wrong, then read on!

    The Great

    Fitbit Pay worked better than I had hoped. It certainly helps that the credit card from my Canadian bank (RBC) is supported.

    Yes, you are encouraged to protect yourself by setting a four-digit PIN to unlock your Versa, but thankfully you don't need to enter it before every wrist-based payment; instead, you're asked to enter your PIN after you've removed it from your wrist and then put it back on again. For me that's exactly the right balance of convenience and security.

    The Good

    When you buy a Fitbit you're not just getting the device itself; you're buying into an entire platform of software, services and other products/accessories. Fitbit's health tracking seems at least as good as anything else I've seen, and sleep tracking is something that even the Apple Watch can't yet do—although its value for me is a bit dubious. I don't really need a Fibit to tell me that my sleep is suffering because my cat wakes me up every night at 3am demanding to be let out.

    As for the watch itself its build quality is excellent, and I'm especially impressed with the straps. Even if they are somewhat proprietary I do like the lugless design, and I'd certainly consider the purchase of additional first-party leather bands and such from Fibit's online store.

    I should also point out that the Versa is surprisingly light on the wrist, possibly a bit lighter than my Pebble Time Steel. And its screen is definitely a quantum leap ahead of the washed-out colours of my PTS. Even in bright sunlight the Versa's screen is easily readable—that is, when it's on. But I'm getting ahead of myself here...

    The Not So Good

    So the Versa has a square 300 x 300 pixel display instead of a portrait one; I suspect it's because Fitbit wants you to use its built-in coaching app. Imagine trying to do any exercise routine while keeping one wrist immobile opposite your face and you'll hopefully come to the same conclusion as me—that exercising along to an instructional video on a watch is kind of a dumb idea.

    More importantly, the Versa does not have an always-on display. The action of raising your wrist lights it up almost every time; when it doesn't you'll have to mash a button or double-tap the screen to see it. And invariably this will happen when your other hand is occupied—like when you're driving or carrying groceries. This is where I started missing my Pebble. A lot.

    The Deal-Breaker

    I firmly believe that if you're going to call something a smartwatch it had better be able to deliver notifications reliably. This is where the Versa let me down, and let me down hard. I was waiting in a car to pick up my girlfriend and her elderly mother at the entrance of a busy shopping centre; mom's not walking so well these days... Anyway, I completely missed the ping letting me know that they were ready and waiting at the curb, plus the next three messages after that. In my three and a half years as a Pebble user, I can't recall ever having missed a notification in a scenario like that.

    Again, my minimum requirement for a smartwatch is to be rock-solid with this most basic of functions; without that, I don't really see how you can call Versa a smartwatch at all. It's a capable fitness tracker, to be sure. And great for tap and pay as well. But with my confidence in notifications shaken, I think I'll be sticking to my Pebbles for the foreseeable future.

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    by Published on 08-08-2018 01:01 PM
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    Until recently, my wife and I used Bluetooth speakers when we wanted to listen to music at home. I figured Bluetooth speakers were the most flexible solution. Pretty much every phone, tablet and computer sold in the last 10 years has it. Bluetooth support is also built right into Android/iOS/Windows so you don’t need any special software to use it. There are also many, many different Bluetooth compatible speakers available at all price points.

    Still, Bluetooth isn’t a perfect solution. I won’t cover all of them here, but for us the 3 biggest shortcomings are the range, support for multiple users or lack thereof, and the fact that the Bluetooth speaker will playback everything that’s playing on your phone including alerts.

    In terms of range, our phones will only stream reliably while we’re in the same room. This is inconvenient if we need to leave the room temporarily with our phone.

    However, the bigger problem is the lack of multiple users. When you turn a Bluetooth speaker on, it usually tries to connect to the last device that was using it. This is fine if I’m the only person trying to use the speaker. However, what happens when I’m around and my wife wants to use it? Switching users can be a hassle.

    Then there’s the fact that Bluetooth speakers playback alerts from your phone. It can get quite irritating when you get a bunch of alerts during your favorite song.

    With these problems in mind we figured we’d try out a Sonos. Sonos has been around for a while, so they have a fairly mature lineup of speakers. I’ve actually wanted to try one for a while but various issues with them me from trying it. ...
    by Published on 06-07-2018 10:19 AM
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    Until recently, my wife and I used Bluetooth speakers when we wanted to listen to music at home. I figured Bluetooth speakers were the most flexible solution. After all, pretty much every phone, tablet and computer sold in the last 10 years has it. Bluetooth support is also built right into Android/iOS/Windows so you don’t need any special software to use it. There are also many, many different Bluetooth compatible speakers available at all price points.

    ...
    by Published on 04-11-2018 10:00 AM
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    Springtime in Canada... Time to show some skin!

    I'm sad to report that my brief affair with the Skagen Falster is over and done. It was indeed a fetching timepiece but all too quickly I was reminded of how terrible Android Wear is. And going back to Pebble is like wearing a ticking time bomb, set to go off on June 30th when Fitbit finally shuts down the servers forever.

    So instead I've been getting reacquainted with the Amazfit Bip. And honestly, the more I wear it the more I appreciate what Huami has accomplished with this little wrist-based gadget.

    I harp so much on the shortcomings of Android Wear/Wear OS because the hardware is so expensive; when you spend $500 or more on a smartwatch you can't help but notice its shortcomings. But with a price tag of less than $100 it's an entirely different story with the Bip; instead of being disappointed at what it can't do I find myself surprised and delighted at what it can.

    Here then, is a quick list of what the Bip does:

    Shows the time, all the time. When I'm out in the world and observe the dead screens of Apple Watches on people's wrists I can't help but shake my head a little bit. Like the Apple Watch, the Bip also has a touch screen. Unlike the Apple Watch the Bip is always readable, even in bright sunlight.

    Holds a charge. Amazfit's bold claim of a battery that lasts up to a month isn't too far off; I've had my Bip for two and with intermittent use the factory charge lasted until a few days ago. Tracking an hour-long walk with GPS on drains less than 4% of the battery, so it looks like it's going to be at least another 25 days before my next charge.

    Displays notifications. This is, after all, the raison d'être for smartwatches. You can't reply to an incoming message like you can on Pebble, Watch or Wear OS. But considering the always-on display and battery life I'm pretty okay with this.

    Tracks your health and fitness. The Bip itself has a heart rate sensor and, as mentioned earlier, GPS. For fitness tracking the heavy lifting is actually done by Mi Fit for Android or iOS, which syncs data from your watch every time you open the app.

    Gives you some useful utilities. The Bip has no official app store, but the utilities on board—including alarms, a compass, stopwatch, timer and local weather forecast—are quite handy.

    Holds promise for hackers. There's already a growing community of watch face designers, and some clever folks are dabbling with Tasker integration via unofficial Android apps. I honestly don't know too much about this, but the very fact that there's homebrew interest in the Bip bodes well for its future.

    Lets you BYOB (bring your own band). Forget Apple and Fitbit's proprietary crap; with the Bip you get a standard 20mm quick-release silicon strap, which can be swapped out for any other 20mm band. Just like a real watch!

    So there, in a nutshell, is a more in-depth look at the Amazfit Bip. It's far from perfect, of course—24-hour military time is currently the only available option. But for its display, battery life and sub-$100 price tag it's definitely worth a look.

    Links: Amazfit Bip on Amazfit USA, Gearbest, Geekbuying

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    by Published on 04-09-2018 07:30 AM
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    I've always had a soft spot for slider phones, and seeing this Doogee Mix 4 made me instantly want one. Where the BlackBerry Priv hides a physical qwerty keyboard that slides out from the bottom of its big screen, the Mix 4 hides the selfie cam, earpiece and the usual sensors in a slab the slides out from the top.

    Why? Because more screen, that's why!



    Here's the Mix 4 next to a Samsung Galaxy S9+. The Mix 4 has a downright astonishing screen to body ratio of 97%, versus a relatively paltry 84.2% for the Samsung. As a reference, the screen to body ratio for the iPhone X is about 83%.

    To fully appreciate the Mix 4—which I should probably mention is only a prototype at this point—you should probably watch this unboxing and demo:



    A cursory check of XDA indicates that there are at least a couple of unofficial TWRP recoveries available for previous Mix devices; if this Mix 4 comes to market in its current form I'm betting it'll prove popular enough to get rooted soon after.

    Additional Sources: Android Police, The Next Web

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    by Published on 04-05-2018 07:30 AM
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    David Ruddock, the managing editor of Android Police, has just completed a two-week test drive of Android P Developer Preview 1. I've already covered the visual overhaul of the UI in a previous post; today I present to you a quick summary of David's thoughts on other aspects of this first test build.

    1. Theming is Hard

    ... Especially without user-selectable controls. On other Android devices, like ones from OnePlus and Samsung, theming is actually pretty easy. But for some reason Google will only give you a dark theme if you select a dark wallpaper, and even then your notification cards and Google Feed will remain their regular garish white.

    2. Smart Rotate is Neat

    If you find auto-rotate annoying and keep your phone locked in portrait mode then you'll surely appreciate this new feature. When you rotate your phone to landscape a button will magically appear in your navigation bar so that you can rotate your screen manually to match. Smart!

    3. Screenshot Editors are Handy

    Android P now has a native screenshot editor. There's nothing especially groundbreaking here; Android ROMs from other OEMs—again, like OnePlus and Samsung—have offered this functionality for quite some time.

    Indeed, nothing I'm seeing in this Android Police report has me terribly excited about Android P. Not so long ago a new version of Android meant new features and commits to AOSP that every device builder could use; nowadays it seems like Google is just playing catch-up to other OEMs.

    Source: Android Police

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    by Published on 03-28-2018 07:45 AM
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    Here's the latest Android Wear—sorry, Wear OS smartwatch beside my trusty Pebble Time Steel. Note the similarity in size. Similarities in thickness and weight are perhaps less apparent but trust me, they're closely matched as well. I think that's a pretty big deal; this Skagen Falster is the most reasonably-sized Android-powered smartwatch that I've ever worn.

    It doesn't look too shabby, either.

    Despite past nasty comments about Android Wear, there is a certain elegance in not having to rely on a third-party app to connect your watch to your phone. The Falster itself exudes a similar elegance. Such things are subjective, I know, but I'm definitely a fan of Skagen's minimalist watchfaces. The Falster seems to be geared towards the world traveller; support for multiple time zones is a recurring theme among the default face selection.

    This smartwatch is also practical. Those shiny stainless steel lugs will actually support any 20mm band, and the included leather or mesh strap has quick release pins for added convenience.

    A more in-depth review of the Falster by Android Police criticizes its small battery and big price. I can't really comment on the battery yet as I'm still on my first full charge; I guess that in itself is a good sign. I do agree that at $275 USD and $365 CAD it's expensive, but there are two ways to consider that. You could say that without a heart rate sensor or NFC for Android—sorry, Google Pay, Skagen is charging too much for too little. However, you could also say that you're paying a premium for a piece of wearable technology that's actually wearable.

    That's how I'm feeling about the Skagen Falster right now; I'm definitely smitten. Guess we'll just have to see how long that lasts.

    Links: Android Police, Best Buy Canada, Skagen USA

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