Sunday, July 06, 2014

In praise of FM

The one glaring omission in Samsung's latest smartphones is the decision to take out the FM radio. The old HTC One X pictured he has a very nice digital radio built in as did my old HTC Inspire. While I understand that streaming media like Pandora is all the rage these days, FM still has it's place in my opinion.

First off, FM does not use you data plan. If you are lucky (or wealthy) enough to have an unlimited data plan then stream away with your Pandora app to your heart's content. But, if you are like most folks, streaming media is for use when on WiFi only. Secondly, FM will work even when you can't get a data signal. This is especially useful when in poorly served rural areas and when traveling abroad where data is expensive for Americans.

Why Samsung omitted the FM hardware is really beyond me. They choose to include a boat load of other features, many of which are frankly of dubious value in my opinion. As I understand it, HTC still gives you FM on the new HTC One M8. Come upgrade time, that's where I'll be going.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Mophie Juice Pack Samsung Galaxy S4 Review

The Samsung Galaxy S4 is a truely remarkable device. Between the big screen, the camera, the fast Internet connection and the sd card for your music and videos,  this is almost a no compromise smartphone.  The one area that could use help (like that of most other smartphones) is the battery. The stock battery isn't bad. Its just that this do everything phone is very likely being used so heavily by its fans that no amount of power is enough.

Thats where the Mophie comes in. The case consists of a two part hard case with a soft touch finish that provides another battery with about the equivalent of 80% of the stock cell. The case seems very well built and is relatively slim for what it provides. It is certainly much more sturdy than the replacement battery/caseback combos out there without making your phone too unwieldy for comfortable daily use. I've been using this one for a few months now and, despite a few drops, it is no worse for the wear.

Like all of Mophie's cases, both the case and the phone charge simultaneously through the case's micro usb port. A button on the back activates a row of LED lights to show the charging progress.

The Juice Pack is pretty pricey at $99. That being said though, it does combine protection with power in a good looking well made case. All in all, the added utility makes it worth the price in my opinion. If you are regularly running out of power but are unwilling to sacrifice protection for your phone, get the Mophie.

Never saw such a clean Edsel before

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Cool T Shirt

I'm seeing a lot of these shirts lately. Not sure who's responsible but I like the idea.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Trident Electra battery case for the Samsung Galaxy S4 Review

Remember the USS Vengeance from Star Trek: Into Darkness. Sort of looked like the starship Enterprise but way bigger and more badass? That's the Trident Electra for the Samsung Galaxy S4. First off, this case is huge. There's no getting around that one. This is a big sucker. Bigger than an Otterbox if that helps you visualize it. Now that we've gotten that out of the way though, that size contains some interesting features that may make it very worthwhile to some folks.

As the name Electra suggests, this case contains a second 2600mh battery. Like a Mophie Juicepack, you push a switch on the back when your phone's battery is getting low and, presto-it starts to recharge things immediately. The battery/case combo both charge through a standard droid usb port on the bottom of the case. According to the instructions, the case is designed to charge the phone's battery first and then power up the case's battery. From a practical standpoint, a user should see double the normal battery life. Not bad at all.

The other feature that sets this case apart is protection. Trident was really serious about protecting your phone with this beast. The Electra has three levels of protection built into it. First, there is a silicone form fitting case that goes directly on to your Galaxy S4 to cushion it from impacts. Then a hard plastic bezel with a built-in screen protector attaches to the front of your phone. Then those two parts (once fitted together) snap into a hard exterior case which houses the second battery. The exterior case part has impact absorbing corners and easilly grippable soft plastic points on the sides to allow for activation of the phone control buttons. Lastly, Trident includes a belt clip that the case clicks into for carrying. (I'm not a big fan of belt clips like this so I've chosen not to use it).

  It is tricky to fit the Galaxy into the case the first time you use it. You have to pull things apart from the bottom and side at the same time to get it all apart from what I can see. It will take some trial and error but it does work out eventually. Once on the phone, everything seems very tight and secure. One thing to note, the charging port on the bottom of the case needs to be inserted very firmly once lined up. It stays put just fine after that.

 If you want a case that offers the maximum combination of protection and power, the Trident Electra is it. There are third party batteries for the S4 that offer more juice but none of them offer this kind of protection. This is one very tough customer.

Monday, July 08, 2013

Hyperion Samsung S4 Extended Battery & Case Review

Hyperion Samsung Galaxy s4 battery/case review

Let me start off by saying that the Galaxy S4 is the first smartphone that I have owned that didn't desperately need a supplemental battery to get through a day's use.  That being said, when it comes to power, especially when traveling, more is always better. While I'm sure that Mophie will eventually come out with one of their excellent battery cases for the Galaxy S4, right now, there is another very effective solution available.
The photos you see above are my S4 equipped with a 5200mh Hyperion replacement battery. Hyperion includes a thicker case back replacement for the S4 to hold this big new battery.  They also sell a TPU (flexible plastic) overskin case for the newly repowered phone with its larger caseback in place. The result is a neat and relatively compact power boost for the S4.  The new battey and caseback certainly increase the thickness of the otherwise sveltd S4 but the end result is about the overall size of an Otterbox case on your phone.  Its bigger to be sure but not unwieldy.  
In practical use, the new battery seems to provide me with a bit less than double the regular battery.  Call it a 1.75x increase from what I can see.  The TPU overcase provides good access to all controls and ports on the S4. It is no one's idea of a rugged case combo, but for ordinary use, it should provide adeuate protection.  
As for the cost of all of this, I paid $44 and change with the shipping for the battery, new caseback and the TPU outer case.  That's a pretty good deal in my opinion.  If you travel from time to time or you are a power user who regularly hass to reach for the charging cable, Hyperion's solution is for you.  

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

I am amazed at the resolution on the Samsung Galaxy S4's camera

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The iPad laptop

If you have an original iPad lying around that you aren't really using, I have a suggestion for what you can do to get some more life out of it.  Simply put, make it into a laptop. It is easy to do and, thanks to the big drop in the prices for type one iPad accessories, really cheap.  

The very laptop looking machine you see in the pictures is really my old iPad in a fancy leather case that includes a bluetooth wireless keyboard. The net result is effectively a cheap netbook or mini laptop.  It obviously won't win any performance contests against a new Mac laptop or even a Windows box but, for word processing, web surfing and email, it works pretty well. 

An iPad is clearly at a disadvantage compared to any real laptop in the software department.  The iOS is pretty cool for what it is on phones and tablets but it is really very limited in its abilities when compared to what a machine with MS Office can do.  There are, however, some ways to lessen the effect of this issue.  At the free end of the spectrum, Google Docs (now available through the free Google Drive app) works pretty well and includes cloud storage for your documents.  Beyond that, Apple's own Pages word processor is really quite good and both Documents to Go and QuickOffice offer well equipped MS Office style software packages for the iPad that are reasonably feature rich. 

Now, none of this so far would make much sense if the cost of making a laptop out of your iPad was high. That's where the cheap part I mentioned above comes in.  Look around on ebay or Google shopping for an iPad keyboard case. There are loads of different styles and colors out there.  The one you see in the pictures accompanying this review cost me all of $28 (shipping included. From btw). Bearing in mind that the iPad was paid for long ago, $28 seemed like a very good deal to give it a new range of capabilities. 

As for how it all works, the bottom line is, quite well.  The keys on my keyboard case are reasonably responsive and I can get text into the iPad many times faster than I otherwise could with the onscreen keyboard. The case itself seems to be a well made piece of leather that uses magnets to hold the whole thing closed (the magnet at this point could be stronger. I think it will hold better as the leather loosens up with time). The keyboard itself is mounted on a stiff leather pad that is held in place by magnets but can be removed if the user wants to put the keyboard in another position relative to the screen (the bluetooth connection should work reliably up to 15 or so feet away). I actually typed up this review in Pages on the iPad. It was significantly easier and faster to do with the keyboard.  

I'm really quite pleased at how this little project turned out.  With my kids monopolizing our other computers for homework and the like these days, I needed my own laptop for after-hours work. Rather than spend a pile of cash for one though, this little solution is proving to be a cheap and effective alternative. I still have to tap the iPad's screen in lieu of using a mouse but there are inexpensive styli available that make the process more mouse-like I have heard.  For now, this does get the job done. And, in tough times like these, it feels good knowing that I was able to get a bit more utility out of something I already had without breaking the bank.  

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