Friday, November 23, 2012

Clash Of The Phablets

Last week, HTC revealed the new HTC Droid DNA, a 5-inch phone that they refuse to call a phablet for an obscure reason. Phablets are the hybrid between phone and tablets and at 5 inches, I consider the Droid DNA to be one so I am going to compare it to the Samsung Galaxy Note II which was announced at the end of the summer. So lets do it !


HTC unveiled the Droid DNA on November 13th, the same day that the LG Nexus 4 “became available” in the PlayStore. That is one of the reason it did not get that much coverage by the media even if it is kind of a beast. It packs a Snapdragon quad-core 1500 MHz processor, 2048 MB of RAM, HDMI out through the micro-USB port, an 8 mega-pixels camera and a 2.1 MP front-facing camera. This is the first phone with a 5 inches screen with a resolution of 1080p and 441 ppi. Since it is made by HTC, it has a built-in amp from Beats Audio which makes the sound very clear. Also, it runs on Android Jellybean 4.1 with HTC Sense and it is powered  by a 2020 mAh battery that is not removable. Of course, it has NFC connectivity and it supports 4G LTE networks. The Droid DNA sure looks like something you should consider if you are currently looking for a new phone and you like big screens with full HD resolution.

Samsung Galaxy Note II

When Samsung outed the first version of the Galaxy Note, in October of 2011, it was introduced as a phablet because of it’s size. It also was one of the first to come equipped with a special active stylus for input. The Galaxy Note II is a big improvement especially for the quad-core 1600 MHz processor, the 2 GB of RAM and the 3100 mAh battery. The rest of the specs are essentially the same : an 8 MP camera in the back and a 1.9 mega-pixel one in the front, support for external storage, NFC, HDMI out and 4G network support. The screen is a little bit bigger, a 5.55 inches Super AMOLED display with a resolution of 720 x 1280 pixels which gives it 265 ppi. With the Galaxy Note II, Samsung introduced a true multi-tasking function that lets you display two different applications at the same time. This features also lets you play a YouTube video while taking notes or perform other relevant tasks. All of this runs on Android 4.1 with TouchWiz, take a look at this video from Android Central to see it in action.

In conclusion, both phones or phablets seem like very good products to me. If I had to choose between the two of them, I would probably go with the Galaxy Note II because of the multi-window feature. 
I would recommend any of them to anyone, you don’t even have to have a hand that is as big as Shaquille O’neil’s. Of course, it could take time before you get used to the bulkiness but in the end, it will definitely be for the best !


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Google Music

Almost exactly one year ago, Google launched it’s Music service in partnership with three huge record label, Universal, Sony Music and EMI. Google Music lets you upload your music collection to the clouds so you can listen to it wherever you are but it also lets you buy and discover new artists through Magnifier. The true advantage of this service is that you don’t have to have your full music collection on your device but you can still play it from anywhere. The sad thing is that unless you have a geeky friend like me, it is not accessible outside the USA. This week, Google announced it would become available in Europe pretty soon. I am not sure if this is completely legal so proceed with that in mind.

How to get access

Basically, what we are going to do is fake our location. Any device that has Internet access has an address made up from numbers. The website you need to use will give you a different address, one that is in the US, so you can get access to the content. This is how it is done :

1. First, go to and sign-up for the free 7-day trial. You won’t be asked for a credit card or anything like that so don’t worry, it is safe.

2. I recommend you do the manual setup, this way, you won’t have to download anything.

3. Once the setup is done, simply go to Google Music and your content is now available from anywhere !

4. Setup Google Music, install the manager and you are ready to go

5. Don’t forget to reset your settings or you might lose your Internet connection after a couple of days.

If you own an Android phone and you already started to upload some of your favorite tunes to the clouds, you can access those songs from your device by going into the Google Music app. To do so, your device has to run at least Android 2.2. It is also possible to access Google Music from an iOS device by using a browser. You can now select which songs you want to stay on your phone and which you just want in the clouds. If you need more info on how to do unlock Google Music, try this forum.


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Fresh Out The Labs : Nexus Edition

As a Google fan-boy, today was supposed to be the greatest day of my life. Sadly, hurricane Sandy decided to pass through New York on the exact same day Google was going to announce it's new Nexus lineup. Fortunately for me and my readers, Google revealed these new products by writing up a post on their official blog and by adding them into the Google Play device section. I am still really excited by what Google outed today so lets get right into it.

LG Nexus 4

I have been reading and hearing rumours about the next Nexus phone since the Galaxy Nexus was released back in November of 2011. But in the last month or so, the rumours became more and more accurate to the point I already knew almost everything there is to know about the LG Nexus 4 before it was officialy unveiled. The specs the Nexus 4 packs are simply amazing : a quad-core processor clocked at 1.5 GHz, 2 GB of RAM, a 4.7 inch screen with a resolution of 1280x768 pixels which gives 320 ppi, a SlimPort for HDMI out, NFC and a 2,100 mAh battery that is rechargeable wirelessly. The camera's resolution is the new standard of 8 mega-pixel and the front-facing one is 1.3 mpx. All that awesome hardware runs on a new version of Android which has the same name as before but has a new version number, 4.2. One of the only deception regarding the device is that it's storage is not expandable via an SD card. The Nexus 4 will be available in two different versions, an 8GB model and a 16GB model and we will be able to purchase them starting from $309 on November 13th. I will definately buy one of these bad boy as soon as they come out.

Samsung Nexus 10

The Nexus 10 was less subject to rumours compared to the Nexus 4. Of course, I heard Samsung was manufacturing a new 10-inch Nexus tablet but I only heard about it in the last month or so. To be honest, the device's design looks kind of odd. It looks like a mix between the HP TouchPad and one of Levono's unpopular tablet. Since beauty should be mesured by what is inside, here are the specs : it will run on the new Exynos 5 dual-core processor from Samsung clocked at 1.7 MHz, have 2GB of RAM, 16GB or 32GB of storage space, a 5 mpx main camera and 1.9 mega-pixel front-facing one, Micro HDMI out, NFC, a 9,000 mAh battery and GPS, barometer, gyroscope, accelerometer and compass. All that hooked up to one of the best screen ever built with a resolution of 2560x1600 and 300 ppi. Just like the Nexus 4, it will run on JellyBean 4.2. One of the great thing about it is that it will have MicroUSB connectivity which is also used to recharge the device. I find the Nexus 10 to be a little expensive, starting at $409, but I am pretty sure it is worth the price.

Asus Nexus 7 32GB

The Nexus 7 was released a couple of months ago but there only was a 8GB and 16GB version available. This week, Google pulled the 8GB version in favor of the 32GB version and the HPSA+ model. The new devices will come with Android 4.2 just like the other new members of the Nexus family. Since it is an upgraded product and not a new one, I won't go on about the specs and other what nots. It's a great product, if you are in the market for a 7-inch tablet, I would not recommend anything else, period.

The New Nexus Family

Android JellyBean 4.2

Just like I tought, Android did not go from version 4.1 to 5 but to 4.2. That does not mean the update is a minor one. In fact, it seems like the new features are pretty neat. First, one of the new things is the quick settings menu that you can access from the dropdown menu. That idea was pure genius because there was already widgets and custom Android version that had that option so including it in the OS is just perfect. Another feature that was long awaited is the multi-user support. This will only be available on tablets and it makes total sense because it's not like you are going to share your phone with different users. Android 4.2 also brings the new PhotoSphere feature which is like a 3D panorama picture and it looks really sweet. Maybe you have not heard about this new thing called MiraCast, it is a way of mirroring your phone's screen on your HDTV with a simple touch and an adapter for your TV. JellyBean now supports that. Gesture typing is another feature that was already accessible through apps or custom keyboards and now it is built right into Android. Widgets always have been the heart of Android and now you can have them on your lockscreen. The last of the new feature is what Google calls DayDream. Basically, it is a customizable screen saver for Android.

To me, Google outdone themselve once again with this amazing new lineup. You know I am a fanatic but can also be objective when it comes to evaluate a device or a platform and I truely think Google is the competitor to beat. The Android OS is constantly growing, evolving and maturing to become the most versatile and user-friendly system. With these new upgrades, I think Android stands stronger than ever before and I am confident it is the best bet for any user.


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Fresh Out The Labs : Apple Edition

Eleven years ago, Apple released the first iPod and yesterday, they kept the tradition going by revealing 5 new products : the 13 inches MacBook Pro, the new MacMini, the fourth-generation iPad, their latest iMacs and the newest one in the family, the iPad Mini. Lets go more into details about what these new products bring to the table.

MacBook Pro

In June of 2012, Apple unveiled the third generation MacBook Pro called Retina because of their screen resolution. At that time, it only came in the 15.4 inches version but since yesterday, you can now get the 13 inches version. The differences are that it is thinner than it’s predecessor, it’s lighter and of course it comes with the Retina display which provides a resolution of 2560x1600 px. It also comes with 2 ThunderBolt ports, MagSafe 2, USB 3.0, an SD card reader, dual microphones to help with noise cancellation when video-chatting and FlashMemory instead of the usual spinning hard-drive. You will get to chose between a Core i5 or Core i7 processor and it will come with at least 8 GB of RAM which is a lot, even for a PC. The great news is that it will only cost 1700$ plus the AppleCare (cough cough).


During the presentation, Phil Schiller, Apple’s VP of worldwide marketing, said “You know there’d be something called Mini in this presentation” and he was right. Rumours about the iPad Mini were all around the Internet for the past month or so but Schiller was talking about a different product : the MacMini. It will come packed with USB 3.0, an SD card reader which seems to be a standard for Apple now, HDMI output, Firewire 800, a Core i5 or Core i7 Intel processor, Gigabit Internet, Thunderbolt ports and memory upgradeable up to an astonishing 16 GB. The cheapest model will be 600$ and they said it is the cheapest way to own a Mac. Still to expensive for me …

The new iMacs

This part was definitely the most amazing of the presentation. Apple showed their new iMacs which look crazy thin, in fact, they said they are 80% thinner than the previous ones. I am sure this will make them impossible to repair so like the folks at Gizmodo said during their live blog : Get AppleCare. The new iMacs will sport a FaceTime HD cam, dual microphones, stereo speakers which won’t probably be that good. They removed the optical drive, surely to make room for the 8 GB of RAM that is upgradeable to 32 GB and the 1 TB hard drive. You can also replace the hard drive by a 768 GB solid state drive. Just like the others, it will come with a ThunderBolt port, an SD card reader and four USB 3.0 ports. And without any surprises, it comes either with a Core i5 or Core i7 processor. The 21.5” version will start at 1300$ ans will start shipping in November and the 27-inch model will start at 1800$ and will be available in December.

The fourth-gen iPad

It seems like the folks at Apple were really excited about the iPad mini because they really did not talk much about the new iPad. What I was able to get is that it will come with a better camera than the previous one, it will likely have a better screen, it will come with the new lightning connector which does not work with the previous iAccessories and it will be the same price as the third gen iPad : 16GB for 500$. Also, the lightning connector will let you do HDMI or VGA out and read SD cards. You will be able to purchase an LTE version for 630$ and this will all be ready for the holidays.

Finally, the iPad Mini

This is probably one of the most anticipated product of the year since rumours have been circulating on the web for a while now. The first thing Schiller boasted about is the very thin bezel, he even compared it to some Android tablets. The iPad mini will have a 7.9 inch display with a resolution of 1024x768 pixels which means it is not Retina and that it only has 162 points per inches. The specs are very similar to the iPad 2, an A5 processor, a FaceTime HD camera which is an improvement, a 5 MP iSight camera on the back and the possibility of LTE connectivity. It will start at 330$ for the 16GB version and you will have to add 130$ if you would like to have the 4G version. Schiller also said that it should get 10 hours of battery life but the real number must be more around 7 or 8 hours of real usage.

From what I have seen today, Apple showed once more great devices but I think they are still stucked in their closed ecosystem. Having more devices running on the same platform is a step in the right direction but I believe they need to come out with even more form factors to keep up with the competition. I would still go with an Android device any day over any of the Apple products but hey, that’s just me.


Friday, October 19, 2012

Fresh Out The Labs : Asus Edition

Since Asus is one of the biggest computer and mobile device manufacturer, it is always interesting to see what new product they are going to come out with. In June of 2011, they announced a new device combo that had not been seen before : The Padfone. It is a smartphone that you can dock in the back of a tablet in a pretty neat way. Asus is definitely a leader when it comes to innovative designs and new form factors. This week, they revealed the Padfone 2 which looks to be improved in each and every way. 

The Padfone 2 and it's tablet dock

Making the phone’s screen bigger was surely a smart move since most new Android phones now ship with a screen that is around 4.5 inches big. The first Padfone’s screen was 4.3 inches with a resolution of 540x960 and is now 4.7 and 1280x720 with more than 300 DPI. The resolution of the tablet has not change from the first Padfone, but 1280x800 px still does the job. The way it docks to the tablet has been improved a lot, it docks in portrait instead of landscape and is made to withstand common mistreatment. That is why they now call it the super-shake dock. One of the other major improvement must be the performances powered by a 1.5 GHz quad-core processor and 2 GB of RAM. The padfone will not ship with Android's newest version, it will run on Ice Cream Sandwich but it will surely be updated to JellyBean really soon. The new camera's resolution has been upped to an impressive 13 mega-pixels and the front-facing one is 1.2 Mpx. Like most new devices, it comes with NFC connectivity which is now kind of a must for Android devices. It will also support the LTE network which can be kind of demanding on battery power but the 2140 mAh battery can surely handle it. From my point of view, the only 2 things that could be improved on the Padfone is the lack of SD-card support and the fact that it uses a proprietary USB connector instead of the standard micro-USB cable that everyone is now used to. Asus did not revealed when it will be available in North America but my guess is any time before Christmas, partially because I think it would make an awesome gift.


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

How to use your new Android device

New owners of Android devices are some times lost in the world of opportunities offered by the platform. This simple guide will help you do more with your new device or will let you know what is possible to do with the platform. This is some pretty elementary stuff but even the most advanced user will be able to learn something out of this.


The first thing you should do when you get a new Android device is explore and play around with it. Once that step is completed and you familiarized yourself with the OS, you should setup your HomeScreen. This is just like deciding what icons will be displayed on the desktop of your home computer. To do so, just go in the app drawer and long-press on the icons you want on your HomeScreen. You can also place app icons on your icon dock, the bottom part that always stays the same, by doing the same operation. One of Android's best feature and major advantage over it's competition is the possibility to add widgets to your HomeScreen. Widgets are mini app views that receive periodic updates or lets you perform actions without having to open up the app. Whatever phone or tablet you bought, it will come with pre-installed widgets. Most of the time, you will get a power widget, a music widget, a calendar widget and an email widget. If your device does not allow you to manage power settings by pulling down the notification panel, I suggest that you use a power widget. Turning off your WiFi, Bluetooth, NFC, Sync and GPS will save your battery life because if they are always on, your phone will always look for a WiFi connection or will always position your device with the GPS and that uses your battery power a lot. You can organize your HomeScreen any way you want but here is how I decided to set it up on my Galaxy Nexus :

My Galaxy Nexus' HomeScreen
I decided to set my HomeScreen so the apps I use the most will be in the middle; news, music, file management and bills on the left; Twitter and Facebook on the far left; power settings and professional apps on the right; and calendar and email widgets on the far right. That way, I am never confused about which app goes where and it is way more efficient that having each and every app placed randomly on my HomeScreen (wink at Apple). Also, I have the applications that are must-haves in my bottom dock.

Download Apps & Games

Your device will come preloaded with applications but you also have to possibility to download and install more. To do so, you have the choice of using the Google PlayStore, which is the default way of doing it, the Amazon AppStore, the TegraZone (if you have a Tegra device), Samsung apps and many other. You can also download apps or games directly from the Internet by googling the name of the app you want plus apk, which is the file extension used for Android applications. You should know that this is not necessarily legal or safe so if you decide to do it this way I am not responsible for breaking or filling your device with viruses. Another way of downloading apps is to go through repositories and using apps like APKtor but this is for more advanced users. 

Pay your bills

Online payment is becoming more and more mainstream and now you can do it from your phones. If you take a look at my HomeScreen, you will see that I have an application called My Account which is Fido's application that allows you to pay your phone bill, view your phone and data usage, view and manage your services and more. Most providers have an app that has similar functions and you can surely find it in the Google PlayStore. I also have an app to pay my credit card and view my bank account balance. It lets me find the nearest ATM, see my services and more but I mainly use it to check if I am broke or not. It is very secure and works all the time so now that I had it for a while, I could not live without it. 


Another thing you can do with your new device is personalizing it so it looks the way you want to. You could even make it look like an iPhone but I wonder who would want to do such a stupid thing. You can change your background, download a new music app, change your keyboard but the real way to change the look of your Android device is by downloading a new app launcher. This will let you completely alter the appearance of your phone or tablet. Here is my top 5 of app launcher : ADWLauncher, Nova Launcher, Go Launcher Ex, Apex Launcher and Launcher Pro. 

The most important thing you must remember from reading this is that you have to experiment. Tweak your device to the point where you know what you like and how you want it to be. Android is really flexible so bend it to the way you are most comfortable and don't be scared, those devices are pretty hard to break.


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Smarten Your TV

Since everyone is watching more and more content online, I thought it was a good idea to present different ways for you to enjoy this newly available content on your TV. There are different ways you can "smarten" you TV but I will concentrate on the 3 I think are the most important to know about. Apple fan-boys and fan-girls, please don't be too deceived I left the iTV out, I just don't think it compares to what I am about to show you.


This is the ultimate setup, obliviously it is the one I have at home. It is the best setup because it gives you the most liberty and lets you do the most stuff. For example, I can use it to play games, watch videos from YouTube, download movies and everything a regular computer lets you do. Also, it is the fastest option because computer towers are the most brains for any type of display. The greatest thing about it is that I don't even need a mouse or a keyboard to control it, I just use my Android tablet or smartphone and a small program called Gmote. So I can lay on my couch like a potato, with my tablet in hand and stream movies or series all night without having to move an inch, that's real life.

Raspberry Pi PC

The Raspberry Pi PC is a credit card size computer, packing a processor comparable to those you find in cellphones. It uses SD cards for storage, has WiFi, 2 USB ports and HDMI out so you can hook it up to your HDTV. It is great for those of you who don't want to have a huge computer tower standing in you living room but you have to be aware that it is going to be a slower solution. The biggest advantage of the Pi PC is that it costs only 25$ so even if you are not satisfied with it, you can always change without having the feeling you lost all your money on a stupid gimmick. Another aspect you have to be aware of is that it does not run the usual software you are used to. It runs a custom version of Linux and does not support every programs and apps you run on a "normal" computer. Still, it is the cheapest solution to be able to watch digital content on your TV. More info here.

Smart Stick

The last option I am going to present is called the FAVI SmartStick. It is the best quality/price solution from my point of view. It is a USB key size computer that runs Android 4.1, the latest version, and has everything you need on-board. The 50$ version has 4GB of internal storage and the 80$ version has 8. It allows you to view the content that is on your home computer, stream from different audio and video streaming services like NetFlix and it basically does anything an Android phone or tablet would. This is a device that is specially made to expand the abilities of your TV so it is also the easiest solution for those of you who are less tech-savvy. Other manufacturers like Roku and Geniatech are currently working on their own sticks to compete against FAVI which is clearly ahead of the competition because their stick runs on the most recent version of Android and also, it is already available for pre-order. More info here.

The next generation of HDTVs will definitely sport features that are similar to the one I just boasted about but if you don't want to wait until you buy your next TV to be able to watch what you want when you want, I suggest you go with a SmartStick. When you will start watching on-demand content, believe me, you won't be able to stop.


Thursday, September 27, 2012

The rebirth of BlackBerry

I never was a fan of RIM's BlackBerry devices but I have a feeling it is about to change. This week, RIM is having their yearly BlackBerry Jam Americas presentation and they are presenting the next version of their platform called BlackBerry 10. They did not provide a lot of material for me to work with but what they presented was amazing enough for me to blog about it. RIM was previously known to built devices that were axed towards productivity, security, reliability and they all came with physical keyboards which was appreciated a lot in the days preceding the touch-screen era. Some of their new handsets will have physical keyboards and I think all of the new BlackBerries will be touch enabled. 

BlackBerry Hub

Since they did not talk a lot about the physical aspects of their new devices, lets focus on software part they presented. The first feature they presented is called the BlackBerry Hub which is accessible with a single swipe gesture. The Hub aggregates informations from all your applications like notifications from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, BBM, voicemail, sms, email, and even more. It basically is a notification center but the cool thing about it is that you can choose which information will be displayed in your Hub. Also, the Hub can be accessed from anywhere, any time. It looks simply gorgeous, well thought and well done.

BlackBerry Flow

BlackBerry Flow is what they call their new UX or user experience. It includes an overhauled calendar, an new on-screen keyboard with astonishing multi-language word prediction and a new feature called Peek. The Peek gesture is what lets you access the Hub with a single swipe. The new user interface looks more like Android's or iOS's but it is definitely different and looks way more professional. 

BlackBerry Balance

RIM's forte always has been they BlackBerry Enterprise Services. With the new BlackBerry Balance feature, users will be able to separate their personal and work related usage. The work part will include access to corporate encrypted emails, remote wiping and more. Users will be able to switch from personal to work with a swipe which looks so convenient. You can understand why they decided to call it balance.

The big deception is that RIM did not provide any details regarding when it will be launched and on what device we will be able to see it first. My prediction is that we will be able to hold a BB10 device in our hands around Christmas time. That might just give the folks at Google enough time to incorporate RIM's ideas into the Android platform. Since RIM is the only Canadian major player in the mobile industry, I wish them success and I hope they will be able to pull it off!


EDIT : see demo here.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Fresh Out the Labs : Back2School Part 2

This week was another great week of premières in the mobile world. On Tuesday, Motorola partnered up with Intel to unveil one of the first Android phone running on an Intel processor and yesterday, HTC revealed 2 new Windows Phone 8 handsets. Lets get right into it !

Motorola Razr I

The Motorola Razr I

In the last edition of Fresh Out the Labs, I wrote about Motorola's new line of Razr but they chose to release this version in a special event on Tuesday. The reason behind that is because it is their first phone that is powered by a processor made by Intel, the Atom. Usually, the processors you can find in smartphones are products from specialized manufacturers like Qualcomm, Nvidia or Texas Instruments. The Atom packed in the Razr I is clocked at an impressive 2 GHz which allows the phone to launch the camera app almost instantly. Speaking of camera, the device sports what is now the standard of 8 mega-pixel and a front-facing camera of 0.3 mpx. It also has 1 GB of RAM, 8 GB of internal memory expandable with a microSD card, NFC connectivity and the same humongous 2,000 mAh battery you can find in the other new Rarzs. It also comes with Motorola's innovative edge to edge screen with a resolution of 540x960 which is 4.3 inches in size. The phone will run on Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich but will be upgradable to Android 4.1 JellyBean like the other Razr. Currently it does not run Google's Chrome browser but it is said that a version supporting the Intel processor will come before or shortly after launch. It surely looks like an incredible device but since it is the first model to include an Intel processor, I would not buy it and be what some people will call Motorola's guinea pig.


The HTC 8X


HTC has been one of the oldest partner in the Windows Phone endeavor and they always had great success with it. Their new line of Windows 8 handsets have been developed closely with Microsoft so the final product's hardware plays well with the new software. HTC presented two new devices yesterday, the Windows Phone 8X and the Windows Phone 8S. The 8S is the affordable version of the 8X so I am going to focus on the best of those two. The most appealing feature is the Beats audio technology that is integrated in both physical and software parts of the phone. It will run on a Qualcomm S4 1.5 GHz dual-core CPU and will be packing 1 GB of RAM. The 8X sports a 8 mega-pixel camera in the back, a much appreciated 2.1 mega-pixel front-facing camera and a dedicated physical camera button. It comes with NFC connectivity like most new cellphones, a 1280x720 4.3 inches screen and a 1,800 mAh battery. If we compare it to Nokia's latest Windows Phone, it lacks LTE connectivity, wireless charging and microSD card support. The microSD part is the most deceiving because it is supposed to be a Beats device, one that you would use to play a lot of music with so it kind of sucks not having the possibility of expanding the storage. Both phones will be available through Bell and Rogers here in Canada and will cost around 199 $. I can't wait to try one out for myself !


Monday, September 17, 2012

Android Phone Pimpin' 101

Usually I try to post information that would be usefull for anyone. This article is targeted towards a more adventurous and curious reader. If your phone runs Android and you are not scared of screwing around and tweak it at a superior level, then this is for you. If not just keep reading anyway.

First of all, it all depends on what phone you bought. The easiest devices to work with are the phones and tablets within the Google Nexus lineup : the HTC Nexus one, the Samsung Nexus S, the Samsung Galaxy Nexus and the latest, the Samsung Nexus 7. If you bought a Motorola, Samsung, Sony, LG or HTC you should be good, else don't even bother toying with it because it is probably not worth it.

Next up is what you can do with it : root your device, replace the boot loader, flash a custom Android ROM or just run a custom launcher or keyboard. The last sentence probably meant nothing to most of you but it will all make sense soon enough. Your device needs some kind of program that will allow you to install an operating system on it and this is called the boot loader. It lets you load a software on it so it can boot, a software like Android. Since Android is an open source project, everybody has access to it's source code and can modify and distribute it. There are communities of developers on the web that are dedicacted to pimpin' Android and add to it's amazing and endless possibilities. You can see how that helps Google to constantly be ahead in the most recent mobile endeavours. The most notorious community of Android modders is named CyanogenMod. They release custom Android ROMs that you can flash on your device. To do so, you need a custom boot loader like ClockworkMod Recovery. So with ClockworkMod you can install CyanogenMod and to be able to perform those modifications, you need to be rooted. Having a rooted phone or tablet means that you have the same rights as Samsung or whoever built it. If your device is manufactured by one of the 5 previously mentionned, then on top of Android, there is another layer of application that lets them customize your Android experience. A big part of that customization is done through the app launcher which is an app that you can replace without being rooted.

The last part is how you can benifit from performing such a tedious and kind of risky task. First it allows you to get rid of the user interface the manufacturer decided to apply over Android and get what we call the Vanilla UI. That means the you experience Android as Google intended you to. That includes icons, screen animations, default apps, number of desktop screens, the way you navigate through them, the behavior of hardware buttons and more that you can imagine. Another plus from flashing a custom ROM is the fact that it is an enhanced version of Android so it contains settings and options that were not available before. Also, it does not come preinstalled with apps that you cannot delete or turn off which reduce you battery life. Basically, you get more choices and flexibility than what the manufacturer gives you.

You can also perform minor enhacements to your phone, without having to root it or anything. For example, you can download a custom keyboard like SwiftKey or dialer like SmartDialer. From my point of view, this is what really makes all the power of the Android platform. The most important thing you must remember from this post is that if you choose to play with your device, no matter how easy it seems, you need to be informed before trying what ever shananigans.


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Don't believe the iPe

Rumours about the next iPhone have been pouring in the last weeks. Yesterday Apple finally confirmed most of those rumours by letting the world see for itself what the iPhone 5 really looks like and what new features it is packing. The first big change is the screen size and aspect ratio. The last iPhone, the 4S, had a 3.5 inches screen with a resolution of 640x960 pixel and an aspect ratio of 3:2. The iPhone 5 has a 4 inches screen with a resolution of 1136x640 px, giving a 16:9 aspect ratio. Apple had to make their screen bigger because their phones look like midgets compared to some Android phone like the Galaxy S II or even the Galaxy Note. Changing the aspect ratio means that developers have to adapt and adjust their apps so they fit on the new screen or else black bars will be displayed at each end of the device, just like when you are watching a movie that is not widescreen on a widescreen TV. Except from that, I think it was a good move to pull, especially because it will add an extra row of app icons. They also changed the processor that is powering the device for the new generation of Apple processor chips, the A6. During the presentation, Apple said that the new chip is twice the speed as the previous model, the A5. They did not give any more details so it is still uncertain whether it is a dual or quad-core processor and at what speed it will be clocked. The iPhone 5 will support the 4G and LTE networks and will be available through Bell, Telus, Rogers, Fido and Virgin Mobile in Canada. After 9 years of using the same connector for their iDevices, Apple decided to change the 40-pin connector we are all used to see to a much smaller, 8-pin connector. This is very sad for the customers who bought iAccessories like docking stations and speakers because they will have to purchase a 30 $ adapter to make it work with the new iPhone. From my point of view, the best improvement they have made on the phone is adding a third microphone and replacing the speaker by a better one. The camera has been improved as well, it is now has 8 mega-pixel resolution and the camera app has been ramped up too. The part of the presention where they were talking about the battery was very weird because it seemed like they were looking to skip that part. I am thinking that the new processor and the LTE support will drain the battery a lot, and on top of that, they said they made it smaller. Apple also released a new version of iOS in which they removed Google Maps to favor their own Map application. We should see it come to our canadian stores on September 21st, starting somewhere between 199 and 249$ on a 2 years contract. 

Tim Cook's team unveiled a new line of iPods, new earbuds which they call EarPods and a new version of iTunes. Nothing worth blogging about. The big deception is the fact that it does not include an NFC chip to use for mobile payment. To tell you the truth, I think Apple is playing catch up with Android phones because their product is simply not up to par with the best phones that are currently on the market from both a hardware and software point of view. Maybe Steve Job's departure was the beginning of the end for Apple.


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Fresh Out the Labs : Back2School Edition

Last week was definitely a busy one for the mobile industry. It started with Nokia showing off their new Windows 8 Phones, then Motorola and Verizon announced the new Droid Razr lineup and finally, Amazon revealed their new family of e-readers and tablets.


Nokia Lumia 920

Nokia's yearly product presentation, Nokia World, was held September 4th in Helsinki. This year's edition was special because Nokia was showcasing their first Windows 8 phones, even if Samsung kind of beat them to it with their own devices during the Samsung Unpacked 2012 event last week. The Nokia 920 and 820 are just like the Nexus phones from Google in the way that the hardware and software manufacturers worked together to create a product that works flawlessly. Nokia used to be the biggest cellphone vendor since 1998 but when smartphones started to become more popular, they had troubles keeping up with the competition so they partnered up with Microsoft. That was a great move because Microsoft had the power and resources to develop a mobile platform that would be able to compete with Android and Apple's iOS. So the Nokia Lumia 920 is Windows 8 flagship device and it is also the first Windows Phone with a 4.5 inches HD screen with a resolution of 1280x768 pixel which Nokia calls the fastest LCD screen. It sports a 1.5 GHz dual-core processor, 1 GB of RAM, LTE connectivity, NFC, an 8 mega-pixel PureView camera and a 1.3 mega-pixel front-facing camera. All of this is powered by a 2000 mAh battery. It's little brother, the Lumia 820,  is like a toned down version of it. It has a smaller screen, a smaller battery, less on-board storage but it also has an port for an SD card, which the 920 does not have. It also lacks the PureView camera which is one of the strong point of the 920. The Windows Phone operating system is now up to par with it's competitors so the mobile market now has 3 strong players.

Motorola and Verizon

Motorola Droid Razr HD

Last Wednesday, Motorola and Verizon Wireless held a press conference to announce their three lastest handsets : the Motorola Droid Razr HD, the Motorola Droid Razr Maxx HD and the Droid Razr M. The Razr HD has a stunning 4.7 inches HD screen, a 1.5 GHz dual-core processor,1 GB of RAM, a 8 mega-pixel camera, a 1.3 mega-pixel front-facing camera, NFC, support for SD cards, LTE support and a 2530 mAh battery, which way more that we are used to. The difference with the Razr Max HD is that the Maxx has a 3300 mAh battery, probably the longest-lasting cellphone battery ever made. The last phone they announced last week was the Droid Razr M, essentially the same phone but with a smaller, not HD screen and a smaller battery. All of the Droid Razr are supposed to get JellyBean sometime in the fall.


The new Kindle Family

Amazon's presentation was widely expected by the Android fan-boys like me. They unveiled 4 new devices and each of them is pretty amazing. The first one is the Amazon Kindle PaperWhite which takes it's name from the fact that it looks way more like paper than any e-ready available on the market. It has to do with the screen they used to build it. Amazon is selling this new e-reader for a small price and that will be the key to their success. The next device they announced is the Kindle Fire HD, an upgrade from the Kindle Fire released last year. The new version sports a 7 inches hd screen with a resolution of 1200x800 pixel, 1 GB of RAM, a 1.3 mega-pixel front-facing camera and a micro HDMI port for video output. It runs on Android but it is a customized version of Android, meaning that it will have restrictions that other Android tablets do not have. For example, you will not be able to purchase and download content from Google Play which for me is a total deal-breaker. Amazon also released a 8.9 inches version of it with a full HD resolution, but is is mostly the same device with a slightly bigger screen. I do not plan to buy an e-reader any time soon because you cannot do anything with it but read, especially compared to a real Android tablet.


Next Wednesday, Apple will be releasing the next iPhone. As you can expect, I will be providing a detailed coverage of what will happen during the event. I am eager to see what Apple has in it's bag for us and what features will be added to the next iCellPhone.


Thursday, September 6, 2012

IFA Part 2

The IFA event wrapped up yesterday and it was a hell of a show. New technologies were introduced, amazing products were revealed and great prototypes were demoed. The first thing I want to share is about the new 4K TVs from LG, Sony and Toshiba. The current standard for HD TV resolution is 1080p which represents 1920x1080 pixels. The new standard, called 4K, is 3840x2160 so basically 4 times the standard we are just begining to get used to. That is the reason why they call it Ultra High Definition TVs. The bad thing about it is that there is no content broadcasted in 4K resolution except a few PlayStation 3 games and a minor portion of content on YouTube, but do not worry, it will come. LG's model is 84 inches, also does 3D and costs only 25 million wons or a small 22,000$ US. Sony's model is not priced yet but it is the same size as LG's, does passive 3D too and comes with a 10 unit Live Speaker. Toshiba's 4K TV has a sleeker housing than the others because there are no speakers mounted on it's side. Same as it's two competitors, it will support passive 3D which requires glasses.

The other big thing presented in this year's edition of IFA was the concept of a phone with a different display on each side, a conventionnal LCD screen and an e-reader style E-Ink display. The benefit users would get from that would be an extended battery life and a break from the light that is emmited from the screens we usually have on smartphones which would be a lot easier on your eyes. It is a very interesting idea but I think it needs to be explored a little more. I am pretty sure the final result is supposed to be a phone with only one screen that does both.

There was a lot of other products revealed at IFA but they are all stuff that I expected to come out in a near future. Also, manufacturers like Lenovo and Acer showed us what they have in store for the year to come but I am not really interested in buying anything from them anytime soon. I am not saying that they are bad companies, but they are definitely not the best.


Thursday, August 30, 2012

Internationale Funkausstellung

Each years, Berlin is the host of the Internationale Funkausstellung which most people call IFA. The funny thing about it is that no one really knows or cares what the A stands for. It started in the 20s and showcased inventors like Albert Einstein and multinational corporations like Philips which introduced the audio cassette in the 1962 edition. This year's event will be held from August 31st to September 5th but really started yesterday for a reason I am not aware of. The two main presentations were made by Sony and Samsung it was more than awesome ! They both exhibited their new line of products and this is precisely why I am so excited.


Sony Xperia T

The day started with Sony showing off their new line of Xperia smartphones, the Xperia X or Hayabusa, the Xperia V and the Xperia J. The Hayabusa will be their new flagship device and will be James Bond's phone in his new movie. It will sport a 4.6 Bravia HD display, a 1.5 GHz dual-core processor, a 13 megapixel full hd camera in the back and a 720p camera in the front. It is also a PlayStation certified phone and it will come with Ice Cream Sandwich but will be updated to the latest version of Android, JellyBean, shortly after launch. The Hayabusa will have NFC connectivity and will be able to be hooked up to an HD TV by an MHL port. The Xperia V will have mostly the same specs, except its display will be 4.3 inches and it will have an LTE radio for faster download speeds. They also said it will be the most water and dust resistant smartphone. The Xperia J is more like a low end device so I am not so interested in it. The other product Sony unveiled is the new Xperia Tablet S, a 9.4" HD display tablet with a Nvidia Tegra 3 quad-core processor. From what I understood, the Xperia Tablet S has nothing to stand out of the constant widening range of Android tablets.


Samsung Galaxy Cam

The fun really began when it was Samsung's turn to take the speech. I knew they were going to present the Galaxy Note 2 which is what they call a 'phablet', a mix between a smartphone and a tablet. It comes with the new S-Pen, a kind of smart stylus that you can use to draw, write and interact with the device. It is very cool but it is only an improvement of what the previous version of the Galaxy Note already had. The real innovation was the new Galaxy Camera, an Android powered 16.3 megapixel digital camera. It will come with a 3g or 4g data connection, a 4.8" HD Super Clear display, a 21x optical zoom, a GPS, WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0. There is also an HDMI out port so you can plug it to your tv to look at your pictures or videos. I am really eager to try it for myself and have it in my hands to see how great it is to take pictures with this bad boy. The third part of Samsung's presentation was focused on a totally different topic, their new ATIV lineup. It is actually the equivalent of their Galaxy product line but instead of running Android, these devices run Windows 8. The first baby of this new family is the ATIV S, a 4.8 inches smartphone powered by a 1.5 GHz processor and 1 GB of RAM packed inside a gorgeous brushed aluminium chassis. It comes with a more than welcomed Micro SD card support, a 2300 mAh battery, a 8 MP camera, a 1.9 MP front facing camera and either 16 or 32 GB of storage space. So basically, it is like a great Android phone that runs Windows 8. The next product Samsung announced is the ATIV Tab, a tablet that will run on a 1.5 GHz dual-core processor and an impressive 2 GB of RAM. It also comes with the standard features you would want or a tablet : GPS, WiFi, Bluletooth, NFC, HDMI output and microSD support. Samsung really brought Windows 8 up to par with Android with these two devices. They also showed off two versions of what they call SmartPCs but to me they are more like a rip off of the Asus Transformers. I say that because Asus were the first to produce an hybrid device that crosses a tablet with a laptop. The Pro version comes with an i5 intel processor, 4 GB of RAM and a full HD display. The good thing about it is that it will be able to run the classic Windows programs you already 'love' like Microsoft Office. Samsung also unveiled a new laptop but that is boring compared to what I already talked about.

I will definately continue to keep you informed about what is going on in this years edition of IFA especially since I think more crazy devices will be introduced to the public. Lets just hope one of the big hi-tech manufacturer will be able to top off what Samsung and Sony presented yesterday. To be continued ...