March 3, 2015

Pebble Time Steel added to Kickstarter


Last week Pebble announced the new Pebble Time that featured a colour e-ink display. This week, they're revealing another new watch, the Pebble Time Steel. Like the first generation version of the Pebble, there will be both a standard version and a steel version. The Steel version has a full machined stainless steel body instead of just the bezel. On top of that, they have added an additional 3 days of battery life making it able to boast up to 10 days of use without charging. The Steel version comes in a silver, gold, and black finishes as well as being shipped with both a leather strap and a extra metal strap.


The new Pebble Time Steel takes the same design cues from the standard Pebble Time and features the same display, sensors, mic, and water resistance. While the new design offers no additional sensors and features aside from the increased battery life, the Steel is focused towards a professional crowd.


Along with the Pebble Time Steel, they have also announced "smartstraps" which allows third party developers to build add ons for both the Pebble Time and the Pebble Time Steel through watch strap based enhancements.

The Pebble Time Steel will retail for $299 which is more than many Android Wear smartwatches but you can pick one up on Kickstarter for $250. Backers who already purchased a Pebble Time can upgrade to the Pebble Time Steel without losing their spot in line but will have to wait longer as the Steel is expected to ship in July instead of May.

March 1, 2015

Samsung announces the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge


The Galaxy S line had a few issues it had to address and the new S6 does take care of many of them. The S6 is a huge departure from previous Galaxy S devices, first off it uses glass and metal construction that finally makes it feel like it is worth the price tag. Secondly, it no longer has a removable back cover, removable battery, or expandable storage. The ugly dimpled plastic back that was found on the S5 has been replaced with a nice feeling glass back. This design choice does have some similarities to the iPhone 6, but it still looks different enough that you know it's a Samsung device.

As far as upgrades go, the S6 sports a Samsung Exynos octa-core processor (for international versions of the device with US versions not yet confirmed), 3GB of RAM, a selection of 16GB, 32GB, and 128GB of internal storage, as well as a 5.1 inch QHD Super AMOLED display. The fingerprint scanner on the home button has been replaced with a touch version similar to the iPhone's Touch ID instead of the annoying swipe version on the S5. It also has a 16MP rear facing camera with optical image stabilization, as well as a improve heart rate monitor that also helps with the white balance on the camera as well as checking your heart rate. The S6 also features Quick Charge and has built-in Qi and PMA wireless charging capabilities. The S6 Edge features the same specs except for a screen that is curved on both sides. With the new designs, the S6 and S6 Edge are no longer IP rated so they are not waterproof like its predecessor.

Both the S6 and the S6 Edge will ship with Android 5.0 Lollipop with a new version of TouchWiz which is slimmed down and carries less bloatware than previous iterations. Samsung claim that it will carry 40% fewer preinstalled applications than the TouchWiz in the S5.

It's easy to see that Samsung made the design a high priority for the S6, there are premium materials all around while some features that people loved in the past and have become iconically Samsung such as having a removable battery and microSD support have been left out.

The S6 has a rounded edge with a slight taper taking ideas from the Note 4. The camera protrudes from the back quite a lot. The Note 3 and 4 as well as the S5 have the same issue so it's nothing surprising. The S6 Edge features a curved display similar to the one found on the Note 4 Edge but the distinctive curve is now found on both edges of the screen. This makes the sides a bit thinner and the power and volume buttons are now pushed further towards the back of the device.


The camera also features optical improvements as well as the inclusion of optical image stabilization. A big problem that with previous Samsung cameras, the camera start time, has been addressed in the S6. It has been cut down to 0.7 seconds and can be opened by double tapping the home button.

Samsung has made great changes to the S6 compared to the rather lack luster S5 so it will be interesting to see how it performs. With profits going down in 2014, Samsung really needs something great to turn them around and the S6 might just do that for them.

HTC One M9 Unveiled


At this year's Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, HTC has unveiled its newest flagship handset, like the leaks suggested, the 2015 HTC One M9 looks very similar to last years HTC One M8. While the design has remained the same, the specs have been beefed up.

This One gets a Snapdragon 810 octa-core processor paired with 3GB of RAM. It's powered with a 2840mAh battery which should keep you going for a while and 32GB of on-board storage with the ability of adding up to 128GB of external memory though a microSD card. The front facing BoomSound speakers are still there but this time with Dolby Audio tuning for even better audio. You get the same 5" 1080p IPS display that was found on the previous One M8 which was not a bad screen at all, although not as great as OLED screens used by other competitors. Early reviews have hinted at colours looking cooler on the M9 when compared to the M8. The phone ships with Android 5.0 Lollipop with HTC's Sense 7 on top of that. The phone will still come in gunmetal grey and silver but will also be joined with a two-tone gold and silver version.

Gone is the 5MP UltraPixel camera and instead the One M9 sports a larger 20MP shooter. The second lens for depth of field is gone as well and the low light performance will be hindered with the removal of the UltraPixel camera. UltraPixel hasn't been removed completely though, instead it has been moved to the front of the camera, making a great low light 5MP UltraPixel front facing camera for "Selfies".

Looks like the HTC One has got a well needed camera upgrade as well as beefed up spec to keep up with competitors for 2015. The One M9 is a great incremental upgrade to it's predecessors, especially if you found that the 5MP camera was lacking in quality. Early reviews do mention some issues with low light performance but HTC is ensuring a software update to address these issues.

February 28, 2015

Review: Phantom Glass


I have never been a fan of screen protectors, they create weird colours on your screen, they're softer than your screen so they scratch from the softest things, and they're a pain to apply. Since my phone doesn't have a screen protector, it does have a few scratches, Gorilla Glass unfortunately doesn't protect against everything. This is where Phantom Glass comes in. They claim it's the last screen protector you will ever need, but is it? It's also interesting that i'm writing a review about a screen protector.

Phantom glass is a Canadian company that is a subsidiary of Proprietary Innovation Inc. The line of screen protectors released under the same name offer protection to many popular devices including phones, surface tablets, regular tablets, and laptops as well as DLSR cameras in the future. They are manufactured using the same Gorilla Glass 3 that is found on your phone/tablet so it offers the same clarity, scratch resistance, and oleophobic coating that makes fingerprints easy to wipe off. What's different with Phantom Glass is that they use a silicon nano-adhesion layer to provide a residue free dry application that also automatically removes bubbles that appear underneath the screen protector. This makes the product super easy to install and can be done in under 30 seconds. The same adhesion layer is also able to fill in micro scratches that may be present on your screen.

Packaging


Since this is a screen protector the packaging is nothing special. It comes in a plastic box which holds the screen protector, a micro fibre cleaning cloth, a wet napkin, and well written instructions.

Installation

The screen protector is one of the easiest I have had to install. You may be wondering why a guy who doesn't use screen protectors has experience installing them, well I have friends who get me to install screen protectors for them so theres that. Moving on, the materials are sorted into steps. Step one is to wipe off the screen with the included wet napkin to remove any oil on the screen. Next is to remove any dust with the included microfibre cloth. Step two is to align the screen protector with your phone and place it on (after you remove the protective film that is). The screen protector sucks itself to the screen by itself but you can help it out by pressing  in the middle of the screen lightly. There may be bubbles under it but not to worry, they work themselves out within 24 hours.

Performance


I took less care of my phone for one week with the screen protector, after that week the corner of the Phantom Glass wouldn't sick to the phone and bothered me a lot. That could be due to it being stabbed by a key or dust some how getting under it and lifting up the corner a little. A email to Phantom glass and a one day wait for shipping and I was all sorted out thanks to their lifetime warranty. After the smooth warranty claim it went back into my pocket with my keys, box cutter (not the safest place to put it), Flash drives, and whatever else was in my pocket, I ended up with a fairly scratched Spigen case and faint scratches on the screen protector that you can only notice under direct light. Now they dont claim it is scratch proof, only scratch resistant, and Gorilla Glass only claims protection from visible scratches. Now the screen protector is supposed to protect your screen from scratches, so it did it's job well. They also do claim that if you do happen to drop your phone, the screen protector itself will crack instead of your screen. I hit the phone screen with a metal tripod, the corner of my desk, and the window shattering part of my multi tool and that did nothing to the screen.


One thing you may notice is the lack of a hole for the camera. Since it is made with the same glass found on your phone, it does not effect the quality of the camera eliminating the need to punch out a hole.

The screen protector is designed not to interfere with any cases you have on your devices due to its added thickness. I have had no issues with the Spigen Neo Hybrid case or my metal bumper case so they're not wrong. The edges of the screen protector are also rounded so if you dont have a case, you wont encounter any sharp edges.

The screen quality looks exactly the same as it did without the screen protector on. It did not have any of those rainbow streaks you get from cheap screen protectors and doesn't make it fuzzy like matte screen protectors.


The silicone nano-adhision layer does in fact fill in micro scratches, but oddly enough it only filled in 2/3 of the deep scratch on the corner of my phone. Since the screen protector is glass, it does make your screen slightly thicker. The home button on my Note 3 is now recessed instead of protruding but coming in at a mere 0.2mm thick, it's razor thin compared to other glass screen protectors that come in at 0.7mm thick. The protector does not interfere with the S-Pen or the touch experience.

Conclusion


While Phantom glass does run a heft price tag of $40 CAD, it has managed to change my view of screen protectors, but I still think the $2 eBay ones are garbage. I did receive my Phantom Glass for free as a review sample, and big thanks to Phantom Glass for that, but I can say that it is good enough to make me buy one myself for my Nexus 7. The glass is precision made for your device so the edges are well hidden, there are still a few noticeable areas such as the speaker but overall it's hard to notice. Phantom Glass stand behind their product, and offers an unconditional lifetime warranty for their screen protectors as well as free replacements if you happen to break it. Phantom Glass is an amazing screen protector and is well worth the price, its ahead of other glass screen protectors and offers amazing support. I would highly recommend it for anyone looking to protect their brand new device or are tired of the scratches on their old device. Phantom Glass is very likely to be the only screen protector you'll ever need. Pick one up yourself at store.phantom.glass or at a retailer near you.

Pros:
- Optically Clear
- Easy to install
- Bubbles work themselves out
- Dry application
- Made of Gorilla Glass
- Unconditional lifetime warranty

Cons:
- Price
- Tiny microfibre cloth






February 24, 2015

It's about time for Pebble Time


It has been nearly three years since the original Pebble was funded on Kickstarter and it is still regarded as one of the best smartwatches. Pebble has finally come out with a successor and it is amazing. The new watch is called the Pebble Time. It is 20% thinner, it has a colour E-Paper display with stainless steel bezel, it has a microphone, and they are going back to Kickstarter.


The biggest and most obvious feature of the Pebble Time is its 64 colour E-Paper display surrounded with a now wider stainless steel bezel. This allows Pebble to keep its infamous 7-day battery life as E-Paper displays only need power when the screen changes. It also allows the watch to be easily visible in bright sunlight. The only other smartwatch to come out with a colour E-Paper display is the Qualcomm Toq. The watch is also still water resistant and will come in three styles at the time of release:
 - Black watch case and silicone band with black PVD stainless steel bezel
 - White watch case and silicone band with silver PVD stainless steel bezel
 - Red watch case and silicone band with black PVD stainless steel bezel


The new Pebble will also come with a microphone for quick voice replies and the watch will be compatible with all 6500+ current Pebble apps. The watch will also be compatible with all 22mm watch bands and the new Pebble watch bands will feature an Asus ZenWatch-esque quick release pin for easy band switching.


Pebble has always been very open to software developers but with the new watch, they have a great surprise for hardware developers. Very interestingly Pebble has also included a smart accessory port so third-party hardware developers can produce new watch bands with additional sensors or other features.


Recently, Pebble pushed an update that would add Android Wear notifications to the watch, making it much more competitive. The new watch will come with the new Timeline interface promises to bring your notifications and other relevant data to your watch when you need it. You can also scroll back in time and into the future to see more notifications.

Why did Pebble go back to Kickstarter? Well they want to actively work with the community that will be using the watch. It also doesn't hurt that they raised nearly 1.5 million dollars in pledges in its first hour online.


The Pebble Time is compatible with iOS and Android, like its predecessors. With all these new improvements, you would think that it comes with a premium price but it is pretty reasonable. When it is released, it will be available for $199 USD but right now, you can get one of these watches on Kickstarter for as low as $159 USD.