During the past week, the world’s leading manufacturers of mobile electronics —smartphones, tablets and wearable technology— have been showcasing their latest products at Mobile World Congress 2014. MWC is the mobile industry’s equivalent to the Consumer Electronics Show and that means big names (Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg gave a keynote) along with big product reveals —like the Samsung Galaxy S5. Basically, If you want to know what to expect in the world of mobile for 2014, just look at what’s on display at Mobile World Congress. Our MWC 2014 wrap-up covers the big news from Barcelona.
Not satisfied with the default ringtones in iOS 7? Many iPhone owners are happy enough with “Cosmic,” “Stargaze” or classics like “Old Phone.” But if you’re bored with the ringtones you get as part of iOS 7 or you’re tired of reaching for your phone (along with dozens of people around you in the mall) every time you hear that familiar ring, maybe it’s time to change things up. Maybe you’d like a riff from your favourite song instead. While you can buy pre-made music ringtones directly from your iPhone, it’s easy to create your own from your iTunes music library. Here’s how.
Even if you’re pretty plugged in to the smartphone scene, there’s a good chance you haven’t heard of Alcatel. Samsung, HTC, Nokia, Apple, Sony, Motorola —of course. Alcatel? Maybe not so much. But that’s about to change. One of the biggest smartphone brand names in China’s booming smartphone market, TCL’s Alcatel is making a push into the Canadian market with the OneTouch Idol X, a big, colourful and super slim Android device that’s set to challenge the status quo. Look for the OneTouch Idol X to make an appearance soon at Best Buy.
Samsung has a bit of a tough act to follow in the Galaxy S4. The company’s flagship smartphone has been the top-selling Android smartphone since its release in 2013, it’s the biggest competitor to Apple’s iPhone and in many ways it set the bar for what other manufacturers brought to the table since then: bigger displays, more powerful CPUs and innovative software like S Health. Competition in the smartphone market is fiercer than ever in 2014, so the Galaxy S5 really has to hit it out of the park to stay on top. Based on what we saw at Samsung Unpacked today, it looks like the Galaxy S5 has the chops to keep Samsung’s winning streak going.
For years, the basic smartphone form factor hasn’t changed much: a rectangular slab of plastic, glass and metal. As displays have become larger, some people have found that rectangle becomes a bit cumbersome to use as a phone and all the flat glass leads to a lot of glare. Enter the G Flex from LG. Canada’s first curved smartphone, the G Flex ups the display size to 6 inches and offers the high contrast ratio and deep blacks that only OLED can. Thanks to its innovative curved design, the G Flex feels much more natural to use as a phone than much smaller traditionally shaped smartphones, while the curved display reduces annoying screen glare. The G Flex offers even more technological breakthroughs than its unique form factor and it’s coming soon to Best Buy.
byBradMoon01-31-201410:17 AM - edited 01-31-201410:16 AM
We all want to save money and VoIP (Voice over IP) technology is one of those great ways to cut your spending. It uses the Internet and its cheap data as an alternative to making voice calls using a telephone or cell phone. Great idea. When it comes to VoIP, netTALK is one of leaders in Canada and the company has just announced the launch of a new Android app that’s exclusive to Canadians. This netTALK app features a long list of benefits including a free Canadian number, free international calls between app users and free international radio streaming. Given the popularity of NetTALK’s Duo VOiP telephone hardware, this app is definitely worth checking out.
byBradMoon01-15-201403:02 PM - edited 01-24-201406:20 AM
Some of the coolest gadgets are the ones that come out of nowhere to solve a problem you didn’t even realize you had. The new Case + Tilt for the iPhone 5/5S from Logitech is one of those products. It provides the expected protection for your phone, but adds three bonus features: a magnetic mount, a tilt stand and ear bud cord management. Three things you probably don’t think about on a daily basis, but once you see them incorporated as part of a smartphone case design, they suddenly seem like the best idea ever. That’s why the Case + Tilt was a Kickstarter success story, that’s why Logitech subsequently bought the company and released the Case + Tilt case under its own label and that’s why you can expect to see the Case + Tilt soon at Best Buy.
I’m an iPhone owner, as are many of you, and much as I like my smartphone one of the biggest complaints I have is running out of storage space. While 16 GB sounds like plenty, apps are getting bigger to take advantage of higher resolution displays while more advanced cameras are cranking out ever larger digital photo files. Mophie is a name many people will recognize as the maker of some of the most popular smartphone and tablet battery accessories made, including the popular Juice Pack line that combines a smartphone case with a booster battery. Mophie just made history at CES 2014 with the introduction of the Space Pack, the world’s first iPhone 5/5s case that not only offers extra battery power, but includes additional built-in storage.
Smartphones don’t typically get the spotlight treatment at the Consumer Electronics Show. There are plenty of big conferences like the Mobile World Congress where these devices tend to get their big reveals. Still, Sony made a splash (literally) at CES 2014 with the introduction of its new Xperia Z1S flagship Android smartphone. With upgraded water resistance compared to the Xperia Z1 and carryover of the powerful 20.7 megapixel image sensor, Sony is now positioning this as “the world’s first ultra high resolution camera in waterproof smartphone.” While Canadians will be happy to know that also means it’s pretty good at keeping out rain and snow, attendees at CES 2014 in Las Vegas could probably make better use of the Xperia Z1’s resistance to dust.
Your smartphone and tablet aren’t just for playing games, surfing the web, watching movies or updating Facebook —although the mobile devices are pretty awesome at any of these tasks. You can also put your favourite gadget to work saving you money. Here’s an overview of five apps that will make you feel even better about your smartphone or tablet in 2014 because that slab of glass, plastic and metal is putting money back in your pocket.
Over the holidays, thoughts turn to family. Chances are, you have family scattered across the country and maybe even around the globe. Being able to spend time with the ones we love isn’t always possible —at least not physically. But thanks to the technology we’re carrying with us every day, it’s easier than ever to keep your family close. Whether that’s taking advantage of Skype to video conference using your smartphone, tablet or laptop, updating Facebook or sharing your photos online, keeping your distant friends and family close is more practical, spontaneous and engaging than a long distance phone call could ever be. So take advantage of your gear’s built-in capabilities to make 2014 the year you reconnect and stay connected.
You won the holiday lottery and someone gifted you with a smartphone. Congratulations! It’s activated, you started downloading some apps, you imported your contact list then called the first person on it just to test the voice quality (and maybe to brag, just a teensy bit). What next? The answer is obvious. Accessorize! Make that shiny slab of glass, metal and plastic your own. Make it stand out in a crowd, do more than a “stock” version can and protect it so you still have it come December, 2014. And with Boxing Day approaching fast, there’s no better time to hit your Best Buy store in search of smartphone customization.
byBradMoon11-29-201308:18 PM - edited 11-30-201309:33 AM
Tablets may be getting much of the attention leading up to the holiday season, but all the top consumer electronics manufacturers have their flagship smartphones on shelves now too —it's a great time for comparison shoppers. Every year choosing the right phone gets more difficult as the devices get faster, more capable and more attractive than the generation before. We’ve gone from chunky phones with 2.5-inch displays, 1 MP cameras and basic texting capability to sleek devices sporting 5-inch displays crammed with as many pixels as a HDTV, along with photo and video capabilities that rival a digital camera, mobile web surfing faster than some home Internet connections and the ability to play console-grade video games. Throw in variables like customized interfaces, and choosing a smartphone is tougher than ever. To help you pick the right phone for your needs, we’ve put together a comparison of five of the most popular Android flagship smartphones.
While flagship smartphones like the HTC One can offer a spectacular user experience, not everyone wants or can afford the absolute latest and greatest. Fortunately, manufacturers have been putting considerable effort into expanding the capabilities and appeal of their mid-range models. The HTC Desire 601 is a great example of how smartphones in the tier below the flagships can be solid devices in their own right. The Desire 601 gives up some specs and the premium finish of the HTC One, but the end result is a more affordable Android smartphone that still offers plenty of performance. The display may not be on par with flagship devices, but it’s still bright, fairly big and reasonably sharp. The camera takes decent photos and the sound is a standout thanks to HTC’s BoomSound dual front speakers. The Desire 601 will be available in Best Buy stores starting on November 8, through Koodoo and Virgin Mobile.
Sony made a splash with the Xperia Z smartphone earlier this year (literally —the Xperia Z is waterproof) and the company is about to release the latest iteration of this flagship device, the Xperia Z1. The new Sony looks very similar to its predecessor, but the Z1 includes some serious improvements including a faster processor, a rounded aluminum case and a huge camera upgrade: a 20.7 megapixel Xmor RS image sensor (1/2.3-inch) with G Lens and BIONZ image processing engine. With the emphasis on the Xperia Z1’s primary camera, Sony is bringing its flagship smartphone into battle with the likes of Nokia’s Lumia 1020 for the heart of mobile users who want to ditch their pocket camera for good.
Samsung received some pretty solid reviews on the Galaxy Note II when it was released last year and has reportedly sold around 30 million to date. The Galaxy Note 3 is the followup with a lot riding on it, and from the reviews that have been surfacing, it looks as though Samsung nailed it. There have been reports of potential speed benchmark shenanigans, but despite any attempts to make it seem better than it is, the Galaxy Note 3 is showing itself to be an incredibly powerful and well-designed device. Some sites are even calling it a contender as the best smartphone ever. Here are three of the key ways the Galaxy Note 3 is proving that it’s a big leap forward.
These days, the percentage of people with both a cell phone and a home phone is much smaller than it was only five years ago. In fact, according to Statistics Canada’s December 2010 Residential Telephone Service Survey, 13% of Canadians reported using a wireless phone exclusively, up from 8% in 2008 – and that data is from three years ago, so I imagine that percentage is even higher now that we’re in the latter part of 2013.
As a wireless-only individual myself, I am completely reliant on my smartphone for all my phone calls. And while I don’t regret cancelling my landline service, I do miss some of the convenience of a home phone. While I’m at the office throughout the day, I keep my phone on silent, and often forget to switch the volume back on when I am home, so missing calls is a frequent event. Also, the cell service in my apartment can be patchy from time to time, in which case I’ve had to stand awkwardly in a corner of my kitchen to do what I can to keep my calls clear.
Enter a new breed of home phone that allows you to pair your cell phone to the system and make and receive cell calls (and landline calls) via a cordless handset – just like having a landline! I tested two cordless answering systems, the VTech Connect to Cell™ Cordless Phone with Caller ID/Call Waiting and the Panasonic® KX-TG7733C Link-to-Cell Cellular Convergence Solution.
Smartphone cameras have come a long way from the days of the 2MP shooter that was included as an afterthought. Those early camera often lacked features we take for granted now, like a flash, autofocus and video recording. Current smartphone cameras are much better, to the point where some people rely on their mobile phone instead of carrying a point-and-shoot camera for casual photography. The Nokia Lumia 1020 takes things to a whole new level. This is a serious camera (41MP PureView image sensor and Xenon flash) with a colourful smartphone wrapped around it. It runs Windows Phone 8 —currently the fastest growing mobile platform— and has the power to compete with the best out there. Look for Nokia’s Lumia 1020 to be at select Best Buy locations with Microsoft Windows Store-Within-a-Stores on October 4.
How long does your smartphone battery last? For many people the answer is simply “not long enough.” That was the case five years ago and even with the latest biometric-scanner equipped, gold clad, must-have phones, a short battery life remains one of the top complaints. Battery technology has improved, but for every slight increase in battery efficiency, there’s been a massive increase in processing power, display size and pixel density —technology that demands more power. The net result is we’re not much better off today than we were then five years ago, at least when it comes to coaxing a smartphone through an entire day of use without recharging. We might be able to buy smartphones that can be dunked in water, sport DSLR-like cameras or with displays that rival the size of a tablet, but none of these has addressed the age old problem of battery life. Until smartphones reach the point where running out of juice isn't something we even think about any more, here are some pointers on how to make your existing battery last longer.
Before Apple and Android, there was Blackberry. A pioneer in the smartphone market, Blackberry was the go-to device for those wanting to stay connected on the go. In no time at all, it made its predecessor, the Palm, archaic. Its growth was unprecedented, and until about 2010, it seemed that consumers were so addicted to their “Crackberrys” – and BrickBreaker, of course – they would never switch to another device.
Fast forward three years … today, the smartphone landscape is much different. Only four years ago, Blackberry held 51% of the smartphone market. Today, that number is much, much lower, with a market share of only 4.5%. There are myriad reasons for this decline, but the bottom line is that Blackberry isn’t the golden child it once was. So, what’s a brand to do? Try its damndest to compete, which is exactly the road Blackberry took last week with its launch of a highly anticipated cross-platform BBM (Blackberry’s proprietary instant messaging application).
Your smartphone is an amazing device. If you bought it recently, you’re looking at a piece of technology with a display resolution that rivals your HDTV, computing power that would beat a high end laptop from only a few years ago, enough battery capacity to run most of the day without being near an electrical outlet and it’s small enough to fit in your pocket. But smartphones —and tablets, for that matter— get even better once you start adding apps. There are free apps and premium apps, but few cost more than a dollar or two so starting a collection isn’t expensive. The tough part is choosing which ones to go with, especially now that some app stores are closing in on the one million mark. “Must-have” is a personal thing, but here’s our crack at a collection of 10 apps that virtually any smartphone (or tablet) owner will benefit from installing.
To say this has been an interesting few days for BlackBerry would be the understatement of the year. But let’s skip past the operational news and the apparent purchase of the company and focus on another announcement. It’s going big. As in joining the big-screen smartphone club, with the new 5-inch BlackBerry Z30. I pointed out in a recent post about growing smartphone display sizes that consumers are increasingly choosing big displays and it looks as though the team at BlackBerry has been following that trend too. The company’s new flagship smartphone isn’t just bigger (the largest BlackBerry ever), it’s also faster, sounds better, runs an updated BB10.2 operating system and sports a massive battery the company claims can provide up to 25 hours of “mixed use” between recharges.
Welcome to the Plug-in Blog!
Get the latest news, reviews and how-to’s from tech enthusiasts across Canada and learn how technology can enhance your lifestyle. Looking to eliminate techno stress? You've come to the right place!