Tag Archives: Android

JLab 7 Pro–Final Review

The JLab 7 Pro in a word should be thrown in jail for fraud. It is a 7” tablet, but far from anything related to professional. First, let’s address why I made this mistake. I wanted to get a tablet for my 6 year nephew. Tiger Direct offered this tablet with a buy one get one free sale. This means the $70 tablet will be a 2 tablet purchase for that same price. Now, for a tablet that is 7”, I never expected much, but this is a serious understatement. Since my nephew is 6 years old, he is probably OK with it, but there is so much left to be desired.

Continue reading JLab 7 Pro–Final Review

May 2015

Not much happened this month. I had an appointment with my anesthesiologist, and since finding a doctor of his recommendations on my own has been unsuccessful, I had ask for his referral. In turn, he is referring me to the the previous office that I had dealt with that I wasn’t in approval of that anesthesiologist. Thankfully, this will not be the reason I will go. I have an appointment in the first week of June, but personally not sure what talking about my pain will do – but I trust my doctor (or I wouldn’t be with him), so I am going to give this a neutral attempt.

Nothing else happened. I bought Xavier (my youngest nephew) a tablet, which was a 2 for 1 special. I kept the second one which in my opinion has been less than suitable. I will be writing a review on it later in June. Otherwise, not much else happened in May.

First Impression – Blu Advance 4.0

This will be a first impression review of the Blu Advance 4.0. I had this phone for a week, although wasn’t able to make full use of the features until about 24 hours ago. There are a couple of reasons why I purchased this phone. The first is to replace the role of my DECT phone which is a terrible product (as with most VTECH phones) for something that will function better in the modern world. The second reason is to see if I will be able to suffice off of a free phone plan when my obligations are completed.

The Blu Advance 4.0 (Model Number A270a) is a Dual SIM GSM-3G phone. It has a 4″ screen, capacitive touch buttons, and a physical power and volume keys. There is also a micro-USB port and a 3.5mm headphone jack. There is a replaceable battery which hides the dual SIM trays, and micro-SD card slot. The Advance can be acquired for less than $100 on Amazon (as of 2015-04-21), and comes in black or white. The phone supports Wifi-N, and Bluetooth. It runs Android 4.2 OS.

The Good

This phone functions well enough as a budget phone. Spending less than $100 on an Android phone is typically a very bad mistake, and while I would never be able to use this a primary phone (due to my requirements), for those on a tight budget – they might find this suitable. The phone comes with 1.27GB of storage space out of the box, but if you need or want a basic phone, expect another 500MB of apps to be loaded. This is good considering that I had real concern that there would have been 250 or 500MB of storage. It’s not the 16-128GB found on newer higher end phones, but the micro-SD card makes up for that somewhat.

The phone is dual SIM. This means I can have 2 SIM cards from the same or different providers. This is unusual in the US, as there are still times when one is required to sign a 2 year contract (which you should run from like the plague). In my instance, I am using one SIM for data, and another for voice. You just have to be careful to install the data SIM into SIM 1. SIM 2 only supports GSM-2G.

And of course, you will find it hard to beat the price. I last seen this phone for $75, and I bought it on sale for $50. Even the Motorola Moto E doesn’t compete on those grounds, although the Moto E has advantages over this phone, it is worth looking at if nothing else.

The Dual SIM management tool was simple enough. I was able to select SIM 2 as default for voice calls, and allowed SIM 1 to handle data by simply selecting the appropriate card. There was a couple of hiccups in navigating when it came to the phone, and services – but this more of an Android problem.

The Bad

There are a number of things that I find at fault with this phone. Yes, I understand that the phone is less than $100, and I am taking that into consideration. There are still some things that needs to be addressed.

First, the OS. Android 4.2 is just not an inconvenience of not having newer features in Android, but a security flaw. Just as people should update the OS on their PC, so should the phone OS be updated. I have concerns that this will never happen and that is a shame. And considering this is a brand new phone – it should have an updated OS. Now some will say that the phone is a lower spec phone. I call bulls**t on that as Android’s newer versions are to be easier on lower end phones.

Next is marketing. The phone claims 3D gaming, and I doubt that with a Dual Core 1.3Ghz CPU on 512MB of memory, nad only 1.3GB of storage. The marketing on the box also screams 4G, and again – Bulls**t. Under the ITU Specs, 4G cellular is LTE and WiMax with Wimax seeing the last days, so let’s just say LTE. HSPA is 3G. Plain and simple, and just because the top of the line HSPA is equivalent to LTE in the infancy doesn’t make it 4G.

And speaking of 3G, it would have been a better value if Blu didn’t skimp on supporting the other two 3G bands. My Nexus 4 from 3 years ago with no LTE at the time supported all of the GSM 3G bands, and I can’t see why a new budget phone can’t do the same. Bands supported are 850/1700/1900 bands. If they are trying to cater to the emerging market, or budget friendly choices, they have made a failing here.

The Ugly

For what ever reason, companies known to be budget likes to put the micro-USB port on the top of the device. Not only is this unusual, but it can be a problem with handling the device while charging. Next, the micro-SD card cage was a pain to open. The arrows suggested on direction which one will likely imply to open where it is to close. The capacitive touch buttons would have been nice to be rid of. A 4.3″ screen with onscreen buttons would have been better.

Initial Impression

This phone is good enough. I wouldn’t expect it to be anything really good, or an impression, but even as a Single SIM service, it could serve well enough. If you are looking for a “first” smart phone, back up, or in need of a low cost dual SIM phone, this is a good enough choice.

My main gripe is the OS. This is something that Blu can solve with all of this model phone, they just choose not too. If you are worried of a reliable update path, you may have to consider spending twice as much for a Motorola Moto series phones which have a reputation of a reliable update path. However, you may find it hard to get a dual SIM phone, and only model I know is the Moto-G.

Why Smart Phones are Smart

Most people in many first world countries own and rely on a smart phone daily. However, there are many people that still find smart phones as too expensive, too complicated, or just not effective. I am going to address many of the concerns that some many have.

Expense

Yes, most smart phones are more expensive than basic phones, or even feature phones. However, let’s look at the expense. First, the price of a phone. A basic phone can cost as little as $30. However, a reliable smart phone can cost more than 5 times that price. I would recommend at minimum a Motorola Moto G. The Moto G is not capable of supporting LTE, but it is also less than $200. Next is the service. Many cellular plans are about $35 or more. A smart phone plan if one shops around can get service for about $50. What would one get for the extra $15. First, at least 1GB of data. Keep in mind that the extra cost provides for data that a basic phone will never need.

Complicated

In reality, the smart phone is simpler than a basic phone. Yes, there will be some areas where a smart phone might be more complex, but keep in mind that there is much more that a smart phone can do. A smart phone not only will have a 12 key dialer, but can also handle the keys in a larger format – making keys easier to dial. However, where a basic phone will have to rely on T9 for text input, a smart phone can bring forth a QWERTY keyboard. This makes using SMS easier. In addition, a smart phone can handle email, and social networks. Don’t like your SMS capabilities, consider a new one.

And another issue to consider. What happens when you buy a new basic phone. You may have to enter all of your contacts again. All smart phones now can simply import your contacts. So, login with your credentials, and in a couple of minutes – all of your contacts are in your new phone. And rather than trying to find a number, important contacts can simply be put on the home screen (on some phones).

Efficiency

So, what about efficiency. Well, let’s take a look. Your smart phone can not only be a phone, but in some instances, it can also replace your transit schedules. The more routes your city may have, the more valuable this could be. It can also be your map, and navigation. It can be your calendar, and social network clients. It can handle your email, and provide for a basic point and shoot camera. The phone can connect with cloud based services to back up and store your content, and even be a flash light if you have a LED light for your camera. Services with some taxi services, and Jitney services such as Lyft and Uber can be installed. You can also play games, watch movies, read books and media. There is also the ability to have a translate service, and a media player. So, if you have a music library, or want to rely on streaming service – the smart phone can do it. The phone uses the cellular networks for your time, so no matter what time zone you are in, your phone has the right time. And with that in mind, you have an alarm clock. And as if that wasn’t enough, depending on the device – you can even have a digital wallet including storing all loyalty cards.

With this in mind – you can replace your cellular phone, calendar, social network clients, email client, camera (basic cameras), flash light, gaming device, ebook reader, alarm clock, timepiece, loyalty card, and in some cases, an NFC credit card. And of course, if that wasn’t enough – there is a web browser involved. A good smart phone can repalce a number of different devices, and even your personal wallet. I know personally, I carry a phone, photo ID, Google Wallet Card, and my Transit Card. If most places supported NFC payments, and if Port Authority of Allegheny County supported Google Wallet – I would only need to carry my ID.

And if this wasn’t enough, one can likely install a SIP client on a smart phone. This will mean that with a broadband internet connection at home, one can also have a lower cost home phone. If most home phone services are $30, and a sufficient calling plan with SIP is half that – this means that this could actually save the cost of the expense of a monthly service that would have to be paid more.

Reality

My first smart phone was the Blackberry 8320. This was about 7 years ago. Obviously, I had basic phones before hand. I would never consider a basic or even a feature phone. And it is not just me, but I recommended a smart phone to more than a dozen people, and those that took that suggestion, never regretted. In a matter of fact, none of those dozen of people will switch to a basic phone. This is because the basic phone will simply no longer meet the expectations they expect from their mobile device. A smart phone has become too valuable.

My Suggestions

So, you are going to bite the bullet, and will jump out to a new smart phone. You have a number of options, and this could be daunting. You might ask a sales representative who might be a fan-person (thinks a particular brand/model is the best ever no matter what), or they may be paid by commission of how much money they can get from you. I understand the value of most OSes, and therefore will give suggestions on that. So with that in mind, here is my opinion.

First, unless you live almost entirely in the Apple eco-system, an iPhone will not be the best choice. Even the cheapest iPhone is $500. To jump in the iPhone will mean exclusive use and demand of iTunes, and iCloud. You will also be limited to the types of apps. For example, no call manager for you.

Windows Phone is really only of any good if you are going to remain within Windows entirely. The lineup of apps for Windows Phones are limited, and as with Apple, apps that can handle various controls of the phone is not available. Blackberry has fallen out of favor, and like the iPhone – expect to pay more than you should. You are also limited by the number of apps, and while there is a way to get to use Android Apps, this is not completely reliable.

This leaves Android. And unfortunately, not all Android phones are equal. In my experience, non Nexus devices may get a minor update, but you already bought the phone, and therefore – no one cares about your happiness. In they end, they just want to be good enough to get you to buy their product again. Also, many phones will have OS UI overlays and “value added software” (aka: S**tware). This could be a good thing for some people, but my opinion, it is more trouble than good. Even non-modified UIs do not guarantee a reliable update path (LG G2x is a good example). Why should you care about this? Well smart phone OSes are much like your PC OS. If not updated, it leaves to security issues. However, where you can update your PC, the smart phone is at the mercy of the OS developer, phone manufacturer, and in some cases – carriers.

To avoid this, one should look to one of the following lines of devices

  • Android One (found in India, and eventually 3rd World Countries)
  • Google Play Edition (like other phones, but stripped of UI changes, and S**tware)
  • Nexus Line (specified by Google for hardware, and handled all OS updates)

You should have at least 8GB, or 16GB if you will see yourself in using a lot of apps. 8GB with a micro-SD card is needed if you would want a low number of apps, and want to use media. The Motorola Moto G (Play Edition) with 16GB for $200 is probably the best budget choice. The Nexus 5-32GB is a much better option in every way (no micro-SD card slot) is $400 which will be twice as much, but much better option which includes regional LTE, and global GSM-2G/3G. There is so much more. If you are on a tight budget, the Moto G, and those that can splurge a little – the Nexus 5. If you are going to buy used – a Nexus 4 or 5 is worthwhile if on a budget.

For service providers, you will likely have to utilize a GSM or LTE provider. Even with LTE, consider the carrier to support your bands. In the United States, this will likely limit to AT&T, T-Mobile, and TIng. Also, MVNOs using one of these carriers will likely be sufficient. T-Mobile with 2GB of service for $45 will likely be the cheapest. Cricket Wireless (now owned by AT&T) is $50 with 2.5GB. If your provider is using Assurant, I can not in good concience recommend using this insurance option. Consider outsourcing new or refurbished devices through Securanty, or Square Trade.

What I Do?

I personally use a Nexus 5 which I have payments through T-Mobile. This increases my phone bill, but allowed me to purchase a phone that would otherwise not be available to me. My phone has Securanty as the insurance provider. If my phone breaks, it will be repaired or the money for a new phone will be provided. I also have a Nexus 7-32GB with LTE – also through payments on T-Mobile, and serviced through them. As soon as a new Nexus tablet becomes available with T-Mobile, I will be upgrading which will eliminate the payments I have with T-Mobile on the Nexus 7 and I will start with new payments. As with the phone, the tablet will get Securanty as the insurance provider. While I am on a family plan, I am going to account if it was just these two devices:

  • Nexus 5: $16.50/month
  • Nexus 7: $16.00/month
  • Service: $50+$10 (Tablet – 1GB)+$10(JUMP on Tablet until replaced)+$15(taxes/fees)

In total, I pay $85 for the service for both phone and tablet. About $25 is for the tablet. $32.50 is spread across 24 months. This will pay off the tablet and phone. However if this was just on the phone – one can expect to pay $76.50 and this will assume they went through T-Mobile to get the phone payments across 24 months. If service is cancelled before payments are fulfilled – consider it as an ETF.

What’s On My Phone – 2014

The year 2014 is just around the corner, and in case anyone is curious, I will go with what is on my phone, and why. First, I don’t do a lot of video viewing, or game playing on my phone. For one, this is a battery drain. In addition – it also demands a lot in resources that I don’t want to expand on my phone. For such things, I will prefer to use a tablet which I do not have.

In case anyone wants to know, I have a Nexus 4 – 16GB with a protective case (especially for the glass back). I am using T-Mobile USA as my service provider, and connect to a home Wifi Network with a 25MBPS connection. I will not be noting applications that are included in the OS individually, but instead will provide them in just one section.

Continue reading What’s On My Phone – 2014

Final Review: IdeaPad A1000L-F

A few days ago, I received the Lenovo IdeaPad A1000L-F on sale as I would have benefited from a tablet to offset the demands on my phone, and PC. While the concept and thought was good, the product was not. This is my final review of the tablet.

The tablet was purchased from Amazon, and will be hopefully returned to them by this time next week. I opted to have UPS pick up the tablet which they can take 2-5 business days. This could mean anytime between 2013-12-04, and the 9th.

The Good

I still liked the headphone jack was on top, and liked the weight. I would have thought that the name of the brand would have meant something, but in this case, it didn’t.

The Bad

What was there to like about it? With exception of a couple of things, this tablet has been a bane in my existence. When plugging in a headphone, the tablet nags you about the volume. The volume rocker by the way is finicky which would respond for no reason, and other times, it will respond after a minute.

Whatever the CPU was in the tablet, it wasn’t of any value. It stuttered just through scrolling, and as for the wallpaper – it was a plain black wallpaper which should have meant less demands on processing.

Video quality was sub-par even for it being a $100 tablet (the MSRP rather than sale price). The screen also acted as if it was a resistive touch screen which made using a stylus for capacitive screens a problem to use at best. The stylus would have been important in very cold temperatures.

The tablet also rebooted a couple of more times for now reason. And one time – the power button was completely unresponsive. Again, I would have expected much better from Lenovo.

The Ugly

There is still the fact of a lack of rear camera and obviously, an LED flash. One app I wanted to install on the tablet wasn’t possible, while another app I had (WhatsApp) wasn’t compatible neither. And as noted, no Bluetooth.

Final Verdict

This device had an RMA on it within 2 days of owning it. Needless to say, I will not be keeping it, nor would I recommend this to anyone. I will still want a tablet, but will likely consider the Nexus 7 or Galaxy Note 8 as for the next tablet. The Nexus 7-32 with LTE is offered on a payment plan with T-Mobile. I will want to reduce my current EIP payments before taking on another one. However, this tablet is one that I don’t think anyone should buy.

2013-11-25

Not much happened today. I finally got the update for Android 4.4, but some of the features I would have like aren’t on the Nexus 4. Nonetheless, I will be looking forward to possibly knowing what company is calling me being a pain in the behind since 4.4 supports CID with businesses. It was too cold to walk the dogs, so they will have to get a longer walk tomorrow.

As for plans for tomorrow, I will have to mail off some documents, and get a few things at the grocery store. Not much else is planned for the day though. I will obviously walk the dogs, and will want to try to get some laundry finished as well.

2013-10-21

Today was a little bit of a busy day. I took the dogs for two walks today which they didn’t behave either one. I also had to go to the grocery store to get a couple of groceries, and dog food. While buying my dogs their food, I also bought a 20lb bag of food for Nippers (my brother’s family dog). I did a little more work on my a web site, and will be making a few adjustments.

And alas, after a month – Blackberry decided to release BBM for Android/iOS. However, registrations are being phased in. Those who already signed up for BBM notices will be allowed to sign up early. Not that anyone would care, my BBM PIN can be found on my Contact Directory’s IM page.

Continue reading 2013-10-21

First Impressions–LG F6

(Update: Phone was returned due to unsatisfactory resolutions)

The LG F6 is a candy bar smart phone running Android 4.1.2 (current version is 4.3) which is available from T-Mobile for $290 or $50 down payment + $10 per month. The reason for this phone is to replace the back up phone which is now being provided for my brother’s girlfriend

This phone has a 4.5” LCD display with a physical home button, a capacitive back button, and a capacitive settings button. The phone has a 5MP rear camera, and a VGA front camera. There is a volume rocker, power button, and a dedicated Quick Memo button which will use the screen shot and allow for you to draw or write on the screen for saving.

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BBM for Not Android/iOS

Blackberry promised BBM on Android on 2013-09-21, but hasn’t delivered. In turn, a slew of malware fakes have appeared in the Google Play Store. Blackberry claims the reason why it didn’t put the app in the Play Store was because an version that wasn’t ready was unleaked to the public, and they are making some improvements on the IM client. Meanwhile, a select number of iOS users (mostly in the east) have been able to receive it.

This to me raises a lot of serious issues for regards to Blackberry. Now, I have a sentimental fondness for Blackberry. My first smart phone was a Blackberry 8320, and while I had never really got to use BBM, I did like the concept with a couple of flaws such as the PIN (Personal ID Number) was hard coded into the device which meant if you changed your device, your PIN changes too. It would seem as if Blackberry has eliminated that flaw, and made it user credential based.

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