Category Archives: smartphone

Upgraded to Pixel 3 … I Just Had to Do It

I’ve had a Pixel Android phone for a couple of years.  However, I started noticing that my battery was not lasting that long on a charge.  It wouldn’t last a whole day at the office, on a full charge.  I would have to do a charge at around 3 pm.  Now I probably could have taken it into a cell phone repair place, buy a new battery, and have them install it, but I heard a lot of good things about the camera.  Then, Black Friday came around, along with all the discounts, so I decided to buy myself an early Christmas present.

I was contemplating, when I had to replace my phone, I might go with an iPhone.  One of my requirements, was I didn’t want a huge phone. The current iPhones were a bit large, and oddly enough, the one that would fit more comfortably in my hand, and not too bulky, would be the Pixel 3.

I have to hand it to Google and GoogleFi … they make the transition so easy.  The Pixel 3 also features an eSIM, which meant I didn’t have to transfer my SIM card over.  All I had to do was log in to GoogleFi, do some USB to USB transfer, and voila.

Probably the most difficult part of this transition was for work related apps.  In order to access email, and other resources on my phone, I had to import some certificates, which took more of an ordeal than it really had to.  It basically meant a couple of visits to IT, with them pushing down a certificate to me.

Now on with the phone .. It’s clean, very responsive, and thankfully, wireless charging is back.  The Pixel stand, the wireless charging stand, is so cool.  The only gripe I have, is that you can’t say “OK Google”, and have Google Assistant work.  I have to actually unlock the phone, touch the Google Assistant icon, and then bark my orders.

I’m sure you have seen the annoying commercials on TV, for the camera on Pixel 3.  The “flash” commercial, or the night vision camera, which allows you to take pictures in low light, without the flash.  I’ve gotta say, it does take excellent pictures.  Here are some samples I took at night, or at dusk.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Not a bad camera, eh?

Turning off Auto-Play of Videos on Twitter and Facebook from your Smartphone

It’s the most annoying thing … you scroll through your feed or timeline, and one of the feeds has a video.  It plays as soon as you scroll to it.  While it is a neat feature, not everyone wants it on by default.  First, it’s annoying, if you are scrolling through it, wasting time, in a doctor’s office.  If you have your phone on half volume, then everyone will hear the video.  Second, it chews up your bandwidth.

So when you read articles from Facebook, it tells you about the obvious disadvantage of it using up bandwidth on your phone.  So why the hell do you have it enabled by default?  You would expect that it would be off by default, and you would opt in, if you happen to be in high bandwidth wi-fi regions.  Not only that, they make it extremely difficult to find the options to disable it.  I guess I should be fortunate that they give you an option to turn it off … but there is no reason why it should be enabled by default, on your mobile phone!

No $749 is not an affordable phone

Apple is so smug. Here they are, advertising they have these new phones and at an affordable price, $749. What the hell? That is not affordable. A Chromebook is half that price.

Why can’t someone make an affordable phone, less than $500? Is that too hard to ask? All I want is the following

  • Decent camera
  • NFC
  • Bluetooth
  • Headphone jack
  • Removable battery
  • WiFi
  • Run social media apps

Is that too hard to ask for?

A fingerprint scanner would be nice, but why can’t we have this less than $500? While we’re at it, how about something smaller than 5 inches? Something I can fit in my pocket?

If you want a big screen, get an iPad.

So Far I’m Liking Google Fi

This year, I decided to sign up for Google Fi.  You may ask, what is Google Fi?  Well, the biggest benefit is that it attempts to latch onto cell signal from a number of different carriers (including Sprint and T-Mobile, to name a few).  It also charges you for only the data that you use.  So what you do is you specify how much data you think you are going to use, and whatever you don’t use, they will credit you back the following month.

Pretty cool, eh?  There is one catch … you have to have a Google phone, which includes Nexus 5x, Nexus 6p, Nexus 6, and the Pixel phones.  I just happen to have a Nexus 6, so great.  They send me a SIMM card, and fill out a particular form on their web site, and voila … they transfer service from my existing T-Mobile to the Google Fi.

They charge $10/GB data used.  I found out the maximum I ever use is ~ 2 GB/month.  Just to be on the safe side, I specified 3 GB.  For the first month, I ended up using 2.08 GB, and then I saw a credit of $9.43 for unused data.  That’s really cool.

When I drive down to LA every month, I typically take I-5, and usually, I get a dead spot from Hwy 152 down to Kettleman City.  I just tried it with Fi, and I got a dead spot for about 10 minutes, but after that, I was able to get signal all the way through.  That was what I was after … seeing how my coverage is going through rural areas.  This is a win win for me.

Now, I gotta decide how long to keep my Nexus 6, because I really like what I see from the Pixel, and hear lots of good things from Pixel owners.  Gotta resist …

Mysterious Problems with Nexus

I’ve been a customer with Nexus phone for almost 3 years now.  For the most part, I’ve been happy with the fact that I can get the most up to date security fixes on Android. 

There have been some issues with (some my fault, others possibly due to OS and hardware incompatibility).

First, and most stupid … I used my phone to track rides on my bike (including when it rains).  Well I wasn’t thinking that rain could cause damage to my phone.  It shorted out my USB port … The phone still worked, but I just had problems charging it.  I worked around this by getting wireless charger, but eventually, the magnet wore off, and I ended up placing a weight on top of my phone, just so my phone magnet would connect up with the magnet on my wireless charger. 

Then there was the camera issue.  Every now and then, the phone wouldn’t be able to open the camera, forcing a phone reboot.  Based on a combination of these two problems, I ended up upgrading to a Nexus 6.

After upgrading hardware, I never ran into the camera problem.  Fast charging is great.  Security updates arrive on schedule, so it’s nice knowing I am secure.  However, a new problem arose … Every now and then, I would see a message “no sim card found”.  Damn!!!!  Uh, I kind of need this … This is a phone!  SIM card gives you a cell signal!

So after several reboots, it is able to finally detect it.  The is thing is this would happen after being charged overnight, sitting on my desk table.  I would see the problem re-occur, and every time, it requires a reboot, or two, or three, or ten.

Reading the Google forums, it seems others have observed this occurred after upgrading to Marshmallow.  Well, downgrading is not an option … I am not about to downgrade to a security vulnerable OS.  I’ll just have to see how long this Nexus 6 will last.  I know everyone wants iPhone 7 or Samsung Galaxy 7 … But I am holding out.  If I do end up needing to buy a new one, Samsung Galaxy 7 may be the next way to go … I’ve heard that Samsung is getting fairly timely OS uodates … But I’ll hang on to my Nexus 6 as long as I can.  Camera is still pretty nice, battery life is still good.  I guess it’s all a matter if perspective, isn’t it?

Another Reason Why I Love My Nexus Phone

Recently, there have been some exploits on Android, and most recently, there was Stagefright.  This is ones that allows you to remotely control your phone.  Scary. 

I found out about this from an app I have called Lookout, which is like a antivirus for the phone.  It alerted me of this, started some workarounds, but really, you would need to get an update on Android to fix it.  Coincidentally, I see an Android update.  More specifically, a security update.

It updates, and then I check for Stagefright, and no longer vulnerable.  Cool.  That’s one of the benefits of Nexus, and that is they are the first ones with the latest Android update.

New Phone Earlier Than Expected

I’ve generally been pretty happy with my Nexus 5, but I had to go ahead and get a new Nexus 6.  Why?

Well, earlier in the year, I used a phone bike mount, so I can track where I go.  You may be asking why would that make a difference.  Well, there were a few good sized storms, and as a result, the phone would get wet.  But did that concern me?  No, but maybe it should have.  I mean the phone was still working just that it would get a little wet.  Well some time later, my phone decided it didn’t want to charge anymore.  I fried the USB port.  Luckily I had a Qi wireless charger, so I still could charge up my battery.  However, after time, the contacts were not being detected on the charger, so I forced my way to get a new phone.

I loved my Nexus 5, despite the problem I had where it would shut down on its own.  The Bluetooth would also get a little flaky.  I love that I’m able to get the latest Android OS update before any phones do, so that’s why I went with  a Nexus 6.  Ooh well time fit the splurge.

I decided to see if Amazon has some good deals, and low and behold, they are selling Nexus 6 $150 less than everyone else.  Sold, to the tech junkie dork.

image

I was hoping I could just transfer the SIM from my Nexus 5 to my Nexus 6, but the form factors are different, so I had to go into the T-Mobile store.  At least I didn’t have to wait in line at a Genius Store.

One really nice thing about Nexus is that you can copy data from one phone to the other using NFC.  They made it so easy to transfer data from one phone to another.  No all I had to do was download all the apps that I had.   the only other problem I had was I had to unlink Google Authenticator and RSA token.  Boy what a pain in the butt that was.

Now to get used to carrying around this huge phone in my pocket.  I’m going to have to find some jerseys with deep pockets.  But are least I can charge my phone must easier.

My Other Christmas Present to Myself – Nexus 5

I heard about the Nexus 5, but really never looked into it.  I never did because my contract on my Samsung Galaxy S3 doesn’t allow me to upgrade until Oct 2014, so why even look into it. 

I’ve been eyeing the Nexus 5 for a while, and now I find out Verizon will not support Nexus 5 on their network. 
So even if my contact was up, I wouldn’t be able to use it anyways.  So I made the decision to switch carriers.  Yes, I’ll be ready to pay the penalty, but that wouldn’t matter too much.  I decided to go with T-Mobile, and their JUMP promotion, which touts you can upgrade your phone without paying any out of contract fees. It just make sense. Why not but a phone when you want to?

So I went ahead and got the 32 GB Nexus 5. True, it doesn’t have a replaceable battery, so you couldn’t get a higher capacity battery … But when I had my Galaxy S3, I never really went for a higher capacity battery, so the point was moot.

image

I got it 2 weeks before Christmas (took a week after I ordered it), and it came in a box that really looked like I it got new checks.

image

It is really sleek, and I especially like the way the back feels. It has enough friction (almost a rubber like feel), and it just feels good in your hands.

After initial setup (since I already had Google accounts, didn’t really have to fill out a whole lot if forms), it was pretty easy. In fact, after I got connected into the WiFi network, it was smooth sailing. I later found out, through Google, it synced all my Wi-Fi together, and I didn’t need to re-authenticate … It just worked. Really seamless and easy.

There was one really big reason I wanted to get a Nexus … They seem to get the OS updates on Android first. In fact, while all other Android phones on 4.3, mine S3 was still on 4.1. Another reason was a feature called Photosphere, which allows you a full 360 QuickTime-VR like experience. Better than panorama, because you can rotate the picture around.

Google also has a Siri-like feature. All you have to do is say “OK Google” and it pops up the goggle search and it will search location based on what you tell it. Very cool.

There is one really nice feature that the camera has called HDR+. It takes multiple layers of a shot, then takes the best exposure and combines them. Here’s a couple of pics to compare.

First, non HDR+:

image

Now, with HDR+:
image

Seems much richer and fuller.

So I’ve had this Nexus 5 for almost a month, and so far no complaints. There is one claim that the battery recharge is much faster, but I’ll have to play around with that a little more.

Droid X I have been assimilated

image

Ever since apple came out with the iphone, I’ve been wanting a super phone.  But since it was only available with att, I have been holding out.  Why?  Well back when I had cingular wireless (which was later bought by att), they made a ridiculous claim that cell phones are not meant to be used indoors.  That completely insulted my intelligence, so I  vowed never to go to att even if I really liked the phone.  So I was waiting for an iphone equivalent.  Now I think I have found it with the Droid X.

First, apple has been well known for it’s packaging, and the Droid packaging is as minimal a you can get.  The box is almost the same length and width as the phone (about 1 inch wider), with no plastic packaging to cut yourself with.

Transferring service to the new phone was easy.  There is now no reason why you need to go into a phone store if you know exactly what you want.  You dial a special number and they take care of the rest.  Transferring contacts and calendaring is also painless if you have google sync, since everything is on the server … Just sync it.

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic Ok now to the features.  First it’s got a huge 4.3 inch screen, which means it’s physically bigger.  This makes the iphone look like a toy.  After playing around with the Droid X, then viewing my friend’s iPhone, I have to squint at the iPhone.  When I carry around my Droid X, and when others see it, the first reaction they have is “wow, that’s huge” … err, the phone that is … hehehe.  But actually, it’s not that incredibly huge.  It’s a little larger than your wallet, so you could easily put it in your back pocket.  Plus, when I go on my bike rides, it fits comfortably in my jersey pocket, with no worry about it falling out.

It’s also pretty thin, actually.  It’s a little more than 1/2 inch thick, with is smaller than the original Droid (they can accomplish this since it doesn’t have a slide-out keyboard, which saves on space and on weight).  Oh, and it is a little lighter than most people think.

The camera … so it does have a 8 mp camera, but by default it’s set to 6 mp.  You have to go into the settings, and change it (they figure you’re going to take so many pictures that you’ll run out of space) … come on, it’s got 16 GB flash space … besides, you can offload that to a PC.  So the first thing to do is change it to 8 mp (Thanks to Cali Lewis for the tip).  One thing that I wish it had was camera on front and back facing … this made taking self portraits (without a timer) a little difficult (but that’s being just a little too nit-picky).  This does also mean you cannot do videoconferencing from the phone.  Oh well … like I’m really going to do that?

The panorama feature on the camera is excellent.  It actually uses the internal gyro to synchronize the panorama shots from one frame to the other.  It actually let’s you know when to take the next shot, instead of guessing.  Can’t wait to try that feature out.

Video: it’s got 720p video capability, and it even includes an hdmi port.  One problem … I don’t have an hdmi TV!  Well, I guess that’s next on the list of toys to get.

With the Verizon service, they have a partnership with Blockbuster, so you can rent/buy videos, download them online, and view them from the phone.  I just downloaded “Up in the Air” and the quality is great.  However, there is one problem … playback is not viewable on hdmi.  What???  What’s the point?  So I guess you’ll just have to view the movie on your phone only.  I’ll have to find an hdmi monitor to view, so I can see how it looks with the hdmi output.  This is one big feature the iPhone doesn’t currently have … but I imagine that’s coming around the corner in their next hardware revision.

Now as far as apps are concerned, Apple does beat it hands down … but there are still a large number of apps available for Droid.  I mean it is open source, so just give it some time to catch up.  So far, my favorite app is Buzz Feed, which has a bunch of the latest viral videos, and it’s cool to just view the latest right on that app.  It’s not the most productive, but it is by far the most entertaining (for me, at least).  I haven’t gone around to downloading any games.  I guess I should …

Typing … so not used to typing on a screen, it took me a little while to get used to this.  I kept fat fingering, so I ended up having to turn the phone sideways, just to avoid backspacing from fat-fingering.  Even with that, it’s taking me some time to get used to.  Then, I found, by mistake, how to enably swype.  This is pretty cool that is on the Droid, and not on iPhone.  This allows you to trace over keys of a word, and it will type it on the screen.  You effectively don’t have to lift your fingers off the keyboard to continue typing.  This is really cool, but it can drain the batteries a little more (so there is a little bit of give and take there).  This is not available on the iPhone, because they don’t allow third party vendors from writing to their keyboard.  Since Droid allows you to write to it, that’s why it’s available there.  This does take some getting used to, but just like anything new, once you get the hang of it, it’s not that bad … plus, it’s really slick.

I also tried to create this blog entry completely on my Droid X.  However, some of the apps don’t have the same functionality as their counterparts on PC/MAC.  So although it’s cool to have the WordPress app on the Droid X, I cannot say that it will completely replace the PC … but that’s only because the functionality of the apps themselves are not up to snuff.

I also found that some videos cannot be played on the Droid X (even those that are on youtube).  That’s a bummer.  It will actually tell you that the video cannot be played on the mobile device.

So am I glad I got the Droid X?  You bet … it was a major upgrade from my Blackberry Pearl to the Droid X.  Now, do I regret not getting an iPhone?  Nah, I don’t think so.  Even though the iPhone has more apps, and may be a slightly slicker design, I really can’t complain about the Droid.  Having tight integration of Google apps, like gmail, youtube, etc … is a big plus.  Even though it looks huge compared to other phones, it does fit snugly in my pocket.  It’s perfect in my jersey, so I think I’m a Droid convert.