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.