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Posts from the ‘Software’ Category

30
Aug

Surface Pro 3 battery issues disappear in today’s update


The Surface Pro 3 has been plagued with a software problem that causes some tablets to quickly lose power once unplugged from a charger, but a firmware update released today squashes the battery bug. Microsoft first acknowledged the problem in July and confirmed it was a software issue, rather than a flaw in the tablet’s hardware, earlier in August.

In an update FAQ, Microsoft explains that the battery levels in some Surface Pro 3s were being misreported to the operating system and firmware, meaning the tablets stopped charging well before they hit full capacity.

“Think of this like a fuel gauge in a car, where the car looks to the fuel gauge to determine how much to fill the tank,” Microsoft says. “In this case, if the fuel gauge isn’t working right, the car would also not be able to fill the tank — even though the tank is fine.”

After applying the update, the battery issues will self-correct over “the next several charge and discharge cycles,” Microsoft says, and any tablets that weren’t able to run on battery power will be able to do so.

Source: Microsoft

30
Aug

Blu Pure XR review: All the flagship you need and only $300


Miami-based Blu has released its latest smartphone, the Pure XR. Worthy of the title of flagship, it features just about every hardware detail you’d need or expect in some of today’s best Android phones. And, why not? It’s the first sibling to the Pure XL, a powerful device with a big screen and kick-ass hardware.

What makes this one different? For starters, it’s got a price tag that you’ll have a tough time beating. At $300 it’s much lower than what you might find in other flagship models. Even when compared to devices like the $400 ZTE Axon 7, it’s a wonderful value proposition.

We’ve spent the last few weeks using the Blu Pure XR as a daily driver, replacing our main phone. Rather than carrying around a secondary phone, we swapped this one in as the phone we lived with for all needs. Why? Because it’s the sort of package that appeals to us. The specs are right in line with just about anyone’s needs; it’s not just for first-time buyers, but for those with a more demanding mobile lifestyle.

blu_pure_xr_top_angle

General Impressions

From the second we picked up the box we knew that the Pure XR was a cut above other Blu models. Whereas you might find a thin and cheaply made cardboard box in the R1 HD, this one is solid. We’re talking a thick, white box that signals a more premium device inside.

Opening it up we see that Blu brought its A-game with the phone and its accessories. Inside are the phone, a charger, a pair of headphones, and semi-clear (frosted) plastic protective case. We can see that Blu put extra care in the accessories as they don’t look or feel generic. Sadly, it’s not everyday that you get the headphones with a smartphone at this price.

Picking up the Pure XR, we noticed it was really thin but with just the right amount of heft. The metal unibody design looks gorgeous; there’s nary an antenna line to break up the look. The model we reviewed features a white front and gold rear, but there’s also a grey version to choose from, too.

blu_purexr_bottom

We liked the chamfered edges on both the front and back, though they aren’t quite as pronounced as what the HTC 10 offers. Nevertheless, the bevel cut certainly catches the light and your eye in the process.

Hardware

On paper, the Blu Pure XR lines up very nicely with phones that fetch $400-$500. This means you’ll get more than enough to run today’s top games and apps, with breathing room for a good year or two as well. It largely depends on what kind of user you are, or end up being, as to how long it will last. We venture to guess you’ll have no problem holding on to this one as long as any other phone you’ve considered.

Power comes from a MediaTak (Helio P10) 64-bit 2.0GHz octa-core processor with a Mali-T860 GPU and 4GB RAM. Storage comes in at 64GB internally, with a microSD card slot good for another 64GB.

pure_xr_side_microsdOther key hardware includes a 16-megapixel rear camera with phase detection autofocus, laser autofocus, and F/1.8 aperture. Around front we find an 8-megapixel wide-angle camera.

As an unlocked phone, the Pure XR is compatible with AT&T, T-Mobile, and their respective GSM networks [4G LTE, (2/4/7), 4G HSPA+ (850/1700/1900/2100)]. Like other Blu models, this one comes with support for two SIM cards so feel free to mix and match, especially if you travel.

In terms of design, the Pure XR looks more expensive than it actually costs. The color palette works well together and we like the choice in material.

The right side of the phone houses the power button and volume rocker with the former sitting below the latter. Across to the left is where you’ll access the SIM cards and microSD expansion card slot. Down below is (from left to right) the speaker, USB Type-C port, microphone, and 3.5mm headphone jack.

The home button doubles as a fingerprint reader while there are two tiny buttons to the left and right. By tiny we mean there are small dots which light up to indicate location. But, in reality, there’s a rather decent amount of space around them which respond to presses. A software setting lets the user define which is the back button and which is the recent apps option.

Display

At 5.5-inches, the Super AMOLED display falls right on the border of super comfy and plus-sized. Its 1080×1920 pixel resolution (401 ppi) screen is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 3 so it can withstand scuffs and scratches that come with life. Speaking of the glass, there’s a gently curved edge to the screen which not only looks great, but responds to touch well.

One area where lower priced smartphones tend to cut corners is the resolution; often they’ll dial down to 720p to keep price down. We’re glad to see that Blu went with a full HD image, especially as others are pushing into the 2K resolution.

pure_xr_displayThe Pure XR delivers a gorgeous and accurate picture in all lighting situations. Pictures pop off the screen and reading text was easy in an scenario. With software in the settings users can define particular options and configure to their liking. Want something more warm in tone? Need a larger font? There’s an easy way to toggle these.

One area where the Pure XR stands out from its competition comes in the 3D Touch technology. Indeed, it’s possible to press, long press, or push down on the screen to pull up different options.

There are a handful of places where we encountered the ability to leverage the 3D Touch. Icons for apps like phone, contact, file explorer, and camera yield quick-access shortcuts to functions within the respective titles. A hard press on the camera icon puts you one tap away from selfie, video, or snapshot modes. The file folder does the same for browsing music, documents, videos, or pictures.

Screenshot_20160819-192217To say that the 3D Touch is invaluable would be a stretch. While we were pleasantly surprised at how it was implemented on the Pure XR, we didn’t find that use case where we simply had to use it. It might take some time, but we do see it being helpful and handy. It’s likely going to have to be an Android standard or supported at the platform level before we’re using it on a regular basis.

With all of that said, some of the default apps from Blu were fun to play with and figure out. It’s quite convenient once you figure out which apps take advantage and in what manner. It’s not unlike having one icon on your home screen that pulls triple duty (or more). We look forward to seeing this rolling out to Google apps down the road.

Camera

When it comes to cameras, the Blu Pure XR offers up one of the best experiences we’ve seen this year. And, when you factor in the $300 price tag, it gets even more appealing. We were consistently impressed with the handling of photos, in nearly all scenarios.

The depth of field was downright incredible, and even managed to trick a few of the others here into thinking the images came from some other source. Thanks to macro mode, we really enjoyed taking tightly focused shots and close ups.

Other modes included in the camera software include HDR, night, panoramic, time-lapse, HDR, and a text recognition. Yes, the last one can actually snap a photo of text in a magazine or book and it can be converted to something you can copy or share using Android’s built-in sharing options.

Camera Samples (Flickr)

Blu Pure XR

Time and again we found ourselves tinkering with the options, creating gifs, and other fun stuff. When it came time to editing with apps or sharing on social media, the pictures looked just as good as anything else we’ve taken.

Can you get a better photo from a smartphone? Yes, of course. But, you’re going to spend at least $200 or more for that privilege. The Pure XR is not a perfect camera, but it far exceeds what you should expect from an unlocked $300 phone.

Software

As is to be expected with a Blu smartphone, there’s very little done to distract from the stock Android experience. There are some extra tweaks done here and there, and there are a couple of added apps, but it’s largely the same Android you might get from a Nexus phone.

Among the apps that Blu installs on the Pure XR are McAfee Security, Opera, NextRadio, a couple of Amazon titles, and its own clients for music, sound recorder, notes, and file explorer.

chameleon

There are also a couple of apps for UI (Chameleon, Theme Park), which give the user control over the aesthetics for menus, wallpapers, icons, widgets, and more. They’re not necessary but they do make for a fun experience that can be refreshed in a matter of moments. If anything, we liked using Chameleon to pull real-world colors into our menus, giving us a palette that speaks directly to us.

Users will also find an option in the software for the 3D Touch which toggles a Force touch “Edge Bar”. When pressed on the edge of the screen it pulls up shortcuts to user-defined apps. It’s not unlike what you might get from a Galaxy S Edge model, but without the edge display. Just press harder on it than you would for a tap and there you go. Speaking of 3D Touch, you can adjust its sensitivity so you don’t feel like you’re going to smash it like the Incredible Hulk.

Screenshot_20160829-125304Interestingly enough, Blu opted to put the shortcuts to system settings at the bottom of the screen. Instead of swiping down from the top as you might in any other setup, this one reveals itself from a bottom up swipe. Doing so reveals your shortcuts to sound, vibration, location, screen rotation, settings for Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, and more.

Expand the menu and you get deeper into things like alarm clock, camera, calculator, torch (flashlight), and airplane mode. Indeed, there’s even a “fake call” button that triggers a 15-second timer which rings and gives you a recorded message on the other end, prompting you to get out of your current situation.

For those who have ever wanted to take a long, full page screen shot, the Pure XR has you covered. Instead of piecing together multiple images in a row, or sending separately, the software gathers it all up in one neat picture.

Screenshot_20160819-194943Whether or not the Blu Pure XR ends up with the recently introduced Android 7.0 Nougat release remains to be seen. We wouldn’t necessarily hold our breath on it, but thus far we don’t see many things you need to have. Sure, there are features which are definitely enjoyable, but it’s not like the major updates from years back.

At the very least, we hope to see Blu keeping pace with security updates and patches. Given there’s nothing major going on with the UI, this should not be a problem. But, this is the double edge sword that you end up with on unlocked smartphones.

Were we talking about a $100 phone we would say forget it and move on to a new phone a year or so down the road. But, when discussing a potential flagship model, you hope to see more than the minimum amount of support. Here’s hoping that Blu doesn’t “set it and forget it” with the Pure XR.

Performance

As a daily driver for someone who uses their Android for a little bit of everything, the Pure XR performed admirably. We’re always reluctant to install a bunch of apps and games until we’ve gotten a sense for the out of box stuff; a few weeks into using the Pure XR and we’re back to business with the games, apps, and other settings we’ve become accustomed to using.

blu_pure_xr_box

One of the first things we tend to do with our phones is to swap out the launcher and software experience for Nova or something else. Why? Because it does away with the carrier or branded stuff and gets back to what we’ve defined over the years. Icon packs, wallpapers, widgets, and other settings are a breeze to import; it’s the UI we want.

Strangely enough, going the custom launcher route with the Pure XR was a mixed bag. On one hand we liked going back to the familiar software setup from our previous phones. On the other, doing so turned off the 3D Touch and Edge Bar. In just the two weeks we had with the phone we came to appreciate being able to access select apps and shortcuts from the sidebar.

If you’re not a custom launcher type, you won’t know or care much about this. Go with the stock Blu setup and enjoy yourself. The only real complaint we have with the standard setup is that it removes the app drawer in favor of placing icons on the home screen panels. In other words, you could have multiple pages of icons to swipe through. Yes, you can rearrange them and group into folders, but it can be a little off-putting to users who have come to expect a certain way of organizing things.

As we ramped up the number of apps and games we kept an eye on performance. We’re happy to say that the Pure XR works very well as a daily driver for a seasoned user. The hardware stands up to everything we tossed at it, be it a bunch of apps, GPS, camera, games, or a mixture of all of the above.

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Battery life was great as well. The 3,000mAh power source gets us through far more than a day’s worth of usage without us breaking into a panic at dinner time. The included 9V/2A Quick Charger (USB Type-C) lets users juice up quickly so you’re not stuck to a wall for long at all.

Blu says a 10 minute charge is all you need for one hour of talk time and we’d tend to agree. It’s hard to rate talk time anymore since we use our phones for everything but the reason they were first invented. We tend to throw ours on a charger at lunch for an hour and we’re back in business with a full charge to get us home. Watching a variety of YouTube videos, playing a couple of games, and checking email on a regular basis seemed to have the same impact as what you’ll get in much more expensive flagship phones.

The fingerprint scanner home button was quick and very accurate. Whether you want to set this up for your lock screen or other security settings is up to you, but we totally recommend it. We’d like to have been able to simple touch our thumb to the home button to go back to the home screen, but it’s a trivial point. Instead, you have to press into it to activate the home shortcut.

Conclusion

We’ll cut right to the chase: there’s no reason for us to switch to another phone after using this. Sure, there may be some more exotic looking models out there, but they come at a price. Yes, there those with 6GB RAM or heavier specs, but those, too, don’t come cheaply. You’ll have to do your best to convince us to part with more money after having used the Pure XR for a few weeks.

As the second model in the Pure line from Blu, we really like where it’s headed. It’s considerably more of a flagship series than the Energy, Dash, Studio, Life, or Vivo line yet it doesn’t stray from the company’s roots. In other words, there’s tremendous bang-for-buck in the Pure XR.

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We would recommend that anyone getting into the first Android consider going the Blu route. If for no other reason that carrier flexibility and price, it’s hard to beat ’em. More savvy or experience smartphone users should definitely consider the Pure XR as a replacement to anything from the last few years.

On paper, the phone lines up quite nicely with the Samsung Galaxy S7 or Motorola Moto G 4 Plus. But, only one of these is going to leave you with money left over for accessories, games, or a nice dinner.

  • Shop for the Blu Pure XR at Amazon
  • Shop for the Blu Pure XR at Best Buy
29
Aug

Ocho welojes: The 8 latest smart watches on the market


Asus

Zenwatch 2

The Asus ZenWatch turned some heads when it was released in 2014, but with more of the market moving towards round faces, nobody knew what to expect for its successor. The Asus ZenWatch 2 was announced at IFA in 2015 and released in September of 2015. The ZenWatch 2 was different from its predecessor due to the fact that it was offered in two different sizes; 49mm and 45mm with strap sizes of 22mm and 18mm, respectively.

Watch Face Type: Square
Key Features
  • Built in Speaker
  • Fast charging
  • Curved Glass

2016-08-27 14_03_21-ASUS ZenWatch 2 - Android Wear

2016-08-27 13_58_14-ASUS ZenWatch 2 - Android Wear

2016-08-27 13_58_33-ASUS ZenWatch 2 - Android Wear

2016-08-27 14_02_36-ASUS ZenWatch 2 - Android Wear

2016-08-27 14_02_54-ASUS ZenWatch 2 - Android Wear

Pricing
  • Amazon: $159
  • B & H Photo: $14
  • Google: $149

Casio

Smart Outdoor Watch

Casio is a name familiar to the watch industry. The Smart Outdoor Watch marks the legendary company’s first foray into smartwatches. The watch was announced at CES 2016 and marketed to fans looking to live an active lifestyle.

While it isn’t the cheapest watch out there, you do get many features not included in most Android Wear smartwatches. A rugged design, water resistance, and many connected apps, just to name a few.

Watch Face Type: Round

Key Features

  • 50-meter water resistance
  • Dual LCD’s full color and monochrome
  • Military-grade

2016-08-27 14_10_06-Android Wear - Smartwatches & Wearables

2016-08-27 14_10_59-Casio Smart Outdoor Watch - Mil Spec Android Wear

2016-08-27 14_11_53-Casio Smart Outdoor Watch - Mil Spec Android Wear

2016-08-27 14_12_46-Casio Smart Outdoor Watch - Mil Spec Android Wear

Pricing
  • Casio: $500
  • Google: $499
  • REI: $500

Huawei

Huawei Watch

The Huawei Watch isn’t Huawei’s first foray into the smartwatch world, but, it was its first smartwatch to feature Android Wear. The Huawei Watch was announced at Mobile World Congress in February of 2015 and officially released in September of 2015.

Huawei has impressed so many with its first smartwatch that some say its the best on the market. The Huawei Watch is a beautiful Android Wear device and is definitely worth checking out.

Watch Face Type: Round
Key Features
  • Built in speaker
  • Cold-forged stainless steel build
  • Altitude sensor

2016-08-27 14_41_00-Huawei Watch - Silver Mesh or Black

2016-08-27 14_42_05-Huawei Watch - Silver Mesh or Black

2016-08-27 14_42_50-Huawei Watch - Silver Mesh or Black

2016-08-27 14_43_29-Huawei Watch - Silver Mesh or Black

2016-08-27 14_43_57-Huawei Watch - Silver Mesh or Black

Pricing
  • Amazon: $249
  • B & H Photo: $349
  • Best Buy: $249
  • Google: $399
  • Target: $349

2016-08-27 14_47_51-Huawei Watch Jewel & Elegant - Android Wear

2016-08-27 14_47_07-Huawei Watch Jewel & Elegant - Android Wear

2016-08-27 14_46_07-Huawei Watch Jewel & Elegant - Android Wear

Huawei Jewel and Elegant

  • B & H Photo: $399
  • Google: $499

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Fossil

Q Founder

2015 brought several new traditional watchmakers to the Android Wear community, one of the most notable being Fossil. The legendary watchmaker released a few watches, most notably the Q Founder.

The Q Founder sits in the same price range as watches like the Moto 360 while offering stunning looks and great reliability.  In a crowded market, Fossil is looking to give customers a reason to choose them over the rest of the field.

Watch Face Type: Round
Key Features
  • Iconic Brand
  • 1 GB ram
  • 24-hour battery life

2016-08-27 14_53_59-Fossil Q Founder - Android Wear

2016-08-27 14_55_44-Fossil Q Founder - Android Wear

2016-08-27 14_56_10-Fossil Q Founder - Android Wear

Pricing
  • Amazon:$275
  • Google: $275

LG

Watch Urbane – 2nd Edition LTE

This is the only watch that can get data on its own without needing a smartphone to connect to it. Using AT&T’s Number Sync feature the watch and get calls that are redirected from your cell phone using your current number.

The Watch Urbane – 2nd Edition LTE also has a huge (considering it’s a watch) 570 mAh battery that should last you all day if not into the night before having to charge it.

Watch Face Type: Round

Key Features

  • LTE built in
  • P-OLED 1.38″ display
  • Sporty Design

2016-08-27 23_39_31-LG Watch Urbane - 2nd Edition LTE - LG - Android Wear

2016-08-27 23_40_25-LG Watch Urbane - 2nd Edition LTE - LG - Android Wear

2016-08-27 23_41_27-LG Watch Urbane - 2nd Edition LTE - LG - Android Wear

Pricing
  • AT&T: $199
  • Verizon Wireless: $449

Motorola

Moto 360 Second Gen

Arguably the most beautiful Android Wear device was released in late 2014, the Moto 360. Folks everywhere were wondering how Motorola was going to follow up the great first run with an Android Wear smartwatch, and whether that annoying flat-tire would still be around. When the new Moto 360 started getting leaked, people were disappointed, until they saw it in person.

The 2015 Moto 360 still has that flat tire that houses the various sensors, but Motorola was quick to let everyone know that the display to bezel ratio was better than any smartwatch available today. It comes in 42mm and 46mm sizes as well as Rose Gold, Chrome, and Black.

SEE ALSO:   Sprint to Announce LG Optimus S for October 31

Watch Face Type: Round
Key Features
  • WiFi built in
  • 24 Hour battery life
  • edge-to-edge Gorilla Glass

2016-08-28 12_25_32-Moto 360 2nd Gen - Android Wear

2016-08-28 12_26_14-Moto 360 2nd Gen - Android Wear

2016-08-28 12_26_51-Moto 360 2nd Gen - Android Wear

2016-08-28 12_27_30-Moto 360 2nd Gen - Android Wear

Pricing
  • Amazon: $224
  • B & H Photo: $289
  • Best Buy: $299
  • Google: $299
  • Walmart: $349

2016-08-28 13_10_18-Moto 360 2nd Gen Rose Gold - Android Wear

2016-08-28 13_11_04-Moto 360 2nd Gen Rose Gold - Android Wear

2016-08-28 13_11_41-Moto 360 2nd Gen Rose Gold - Android Wear

Moto 360 For Women (Rose Gold)

  • Amazon: $316
  • B & H Photo: $322
  • Best Buy: $329
  • Google: $329

27
Aug

EasyAcc Monster 26000mAh power bank is freaky massive and can charge 4 phones simultaneously (review)


Battery life is one of the most important factors in a smartphone. One would logically think with a decade of building smartphones, that the battery life would be around two to three days by now. However, our smartphones are becoming increasingly powerful to handle our desire to do everything through our phones which leads to stagnation in battery life efficiency. Replaceable batteries are going by the wayside as well, and are being sealed inside of the smartphone. That leaves power users, or travelers limited options for staying charged up while on the go. It pretty much leaves us with portable power banks to charge our devices while we are away from a wall or car charger.

If you’ve ever checked for external batteries on Amazon, you’ll thousands of options with a wide range of prices and sizes. I’ve been using the EasyAcc Monster power bank, and it is called the Monster because it is literally one of the biggest batteries you can buy today.

Build and Usage

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The EasyAcc Monster Power Bank is the largest portable battery I have ever used.  It is rated at 26000mAh, which is about 7.5 times larger than the 3500mAh internal battery on my Samsung Galaxy Note 7. There are power banks that are twice this size if you do a search on Amazon, but those are mainly for laptops and cost twice as much.

It’s made of typical plastic that has a matte finish to prevent fingerprints. The Monster is heavy for a portable battery weighing in at a full pound. Even though it isn’t physically all too large at 6.57 x 3.1 x 0.86 inches, you probably won’t be carrying this in your pant pockets. A battery with this much capacity would typically take up to 16 hours to fully charge with a 2A standard input, which is a long time. EasyAcc did something I haven’t seen before, it included dual input slots so you can charge it with two microUSB cables.

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DSC03447

The power bank has four full sized USB A output slots and all can be used simultaneously. The output per slot is 2.4A, which isn’t Quick Charge 2.0 or 3.0 compatible, but it is still faster than your typical charge of 2A. There’s no need to worry about compatibility as the charging ports will automatically detect what kind of charge to give your devices. I used several USB Type C smartphones with this battery and they all charged without issue.

DSC03442

There’s a flashlight built into the front which is bright enough to help you locate items in your car, purse or backpack when you need it. It’s not a flashlight you would rely on for camping, but it is sufficient for most purposes and is a nice feature to have on a battery of this size.

Testing a battery of this size takes time. I needed to get through at least five full cycles to test its reliability. In order to test it, I frequently recharged up to four smartphones at the same time, with a mix of tablets and accessories as well. The Monster recharged four cell phones at the same time with ease, and still had two of its four LED indicators on leaving me with 50% power. Recharging the battery from nearly dead to 100% took almost eight full hours, so you’re going to need to leave it connected overnight before you head out on your adventures.

A battery of this size is perfect for families who need power. Or it is also great for extreme users of Pokemon Go who venture out in groups to capture the little beasts. This is the type of battery I would bring along with me on my next camping trip. I can keep my smartphone and portable speaker powered all weekend long with this bad boy. My friends will also use it to charge their phones as well.

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DSC03458

When I tested this power bank with my Note 7, I frequently got 6-7 charges out of the Monster, but I never recharged my Note 7 from 0%. Instead I hooked it up when I hit 20%. I basically used my Note 7 for an entire week without ever connecting it to a car or wall charger.

There aren’t many bells and whistles associated with this battery. While it is made of plastic, I prefer that over metal as it is already heavy enough. The build is solid, sturdy and is built to last a long time.

DSC03454

Summary

If you need a lot of power, the EasyAcc 26000mAh battery is the one for you. It’s priced right at $49.99 at Amazon, and if you’re using it just for yourself, you can easily get a full week’s usage out of your smartphone and this battery. Or if you have a family that consumes a ton of power while you’re out and about, having one massive battery is a great option to keep everyone happy.

I’ve used several EasyAcc products in the past and they’ve all held up very well. It’s one of the brands I trust and recommend to friends and family.

Check out the EasyAcc 26000mAh Monster Power Bank at Amazon, priced at $49.99.

 

26
Aug

Satechi’s Fast Wireless charger and multi-port station have all of your charging needs covered (including USB Type-C)


There’s a good chance that you own a new smartphone made in 2016. One of the biggest changes across Android smartphones is the change to USB Type C, the new charging standard. USB Type C brings a fully reversible plug that can be used on both ends of the cable, whereas the older microUSB standard had a full size USB A plug on one end that fit into the wall or car charger with a non-reversible microUSB plug on the other end.

The switch to USB Type C brought about faulty chargers, cables and other accessories due to the lack of quality control from third party manufacturers. It also made Google’s Benson Leung ultra popular amongst tech enthusiasts as he became the trusted voice as to what USB Type C accessories were trustworthy. He fried a couple of his own devices on faulty USB Type C cables and chargers in the process. By doing that he also brought the attention of bad and rushed Type-C products to general consumer. He saved us all thousands of dollars in damages, and reemphasized the need to stick with reputable companies.

A company I trust with accessories is Satechi. Satechi was founded in 2005 with a goal to produce high quality accessories to improve our lives. It’s based in my hometown of San Diego, and Satechi recently released a new wireless charging pad as well as a multi-port charging station with USB Type C included.

Satechi Fast Wireless Charging Pad

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Satechi’s Wireless Charger is made from aluminum giving it an ultra premium feel and look. The top is made of an ultra glossy plastic that is so shiny that is looks like glass. While I dig the look, glossy surfaces always attract fingerprints. However, given this is a wireless charger there should be no need to touch the surface. The metal edges are chamfered giving this thin charging pad a sophisticated and luxurious look. It is only 7.8mm thick and being made of metal, it has a decent amount of weight to it with rubber feet on the bottom, to prevent it from sliding off your desk or nightstand.

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Satechi’s Wireless Charging pad comes in four colors, Gold, Silver, Space Gray, and Rose Gold. To be honest all of the colors look like Apple devices, but there is nothing wrong with that as Apple has some of the best color schemes around.

This is a fast wireless charger with backwards compatibility for all Qi enabled smartphones. In order to take advantage of the fast wireless charging, you will need a Qualcomm Quick Charge 2.0 or later charging plug and a device with fast wireless charging capability like the latest Samsung Galaxy Note 7 and S7.

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Fast wireless charging works as advertised with no side effects like extreme heat build up. It happens with some of the lesser quality wireless chargers. There is a small LED indicator on the front of the charging pad, blue indicates the device is charging while green lets you know your device is fully charged. I like that Satechi kept the LED indicator small so that it doesn’t light up my entire bedroom when I sleep. What I can also appreciate is Satechi’s attention to detail. Even though the surface of the charging pad is glossy, a + symbol made of soft rubber provides enough surface tension on my Note 7 to prevent it from sliding around or off the charger altogether.

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At $24.99 the Satechi Wireless Charging pad is a bargain when compared to the official Samsung Fast Wireless Charging Pad which retails for over twice the price at $59.99. It works as advertised and the attention to detail is something that I rarely see with third party wireless charging pads.

If you own a device with Qi enabled wireless charging I highly recommend this charging pad from Satechi. You will not be disappointed, especially at the $24.99 price point.

Get the Satechi Fast Wireless Charging Pad from Amazon here.

Satechi 60W multi-port charging station

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If you’re still using single port chargers, like the ones provided with your smartphones, you’re doing it all wrong. With a plethora of accessories and wireless devices, just about all of us need a charging station like this multi-port one from Satechi.

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The 6-port charging station has four full sized Type-A 2.4A USB out ports, with two Type-C out ports for charging your compatible devices. If you own an Apple iPad, wireless headphones, wireless speaker, portable power bank and a Note 7 this charging station is perfect for you. It’s compact at just 4.5 x 2.75 x 1.13 inches, making this perfect for setting on your desk, nightstand or bringing it as your sole travel charger. It’s made of high quality plastic with no awkward seams, and it looks pretty cool for a charger too. Generally most charging stations are flat bricks, but the Satechi version has lines and groves that make it look unique and stylish.

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The standard 2.4A USB Type-A ports don’t have enough juice to charge the LG G5 or Note 7 at full speed, but nonetheless they can still charge them. Instead of taking an hour to fully charge my Note 7 at the fastest speed from 0-100, it takes just over 1.5 hours. Like the wireless charging pad, this charger does not get hot, even with five devices charging at the same time.

The high powered USB Type C ports do charge my Nexus 6P at Fast Charging speeds but you will need a fully reversible USB Type-C cable on both ends like this one from Amazon.

What I love about this charger is that it can charge my most current devices while also having backward compatibility with my older devices. At $29.99 the Satechi Multi-port charging station is competitively priced with its rivals, but its quality is unmatched by third party accessory makers.

You can get the Satechi Multi-port charging station from Amazon for $29.99.

Props to Satechi for making two very high-quality chargers that are reasonably priced. Learn more about Satechi and its other products at Satechi.net.

26
Aug

How dbrand skins made my cracked S7 edge glass look new and better than ever


Samsung’s latest flagship smartphones are without question some of the best looking devices on the planet right now. I’d argue nothing comes close when it comes to looks. However, its smartphones are made of glass which isn’t the most durable material as it is brittle and will crack or shatter under pressure.

s7 edge front

I used the S7 edge for several months, and I went case free. Why would I want to cover up such beauty with a bulky case? I paid dearly for using that logic, as the S7 edge slipped out of my pocket enough times to crack. While the first crack wasn’t so bad, the next time it dropped completely ruined the look of the S7 edge. Replacing the glass doesn’t come cheap. Already an expensive phone at $750, it would cost another $270 to get the glass replaced by Samsung. Luckily my display glass was not cracked, it only cracked on the front corner as the curve does not withstand falls well, and the entire back shattered entirely.

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Replacing the glass would be a nice option if I had a spare $270 laying around, but chances are I would crack the glass again anyways.

Earlier in the year I tried out dbrand skins on my Nexus 5X and 6P (you can read the full reviews by clicking on the hyperlinks). They elevated my Nexus devices to a different level and also gave my phones a unique and stylish look that stood apart from the stock crowd. I turned to dbrand once again to give my S7 edge new life.

dbrand skins

dbrand offers a wide selection of skins made from the highest quality materials from 3M. It takes no chances on quality and dbrand’s customer service is top notch. There are plenty of reddit feeds that can attest to the quality, price, look, fit and responsive customer service of drband skins. The wide selection of materials offered range in metal, stone, wood, leather, matte, carbon fiber and true color.

dbrand sent me a decent range of materials to choose from for my S7 edge, and whatever I didn’t use is to giveaway to you readers who want to update the look of their S7 edge. Or better yet, giveaway the skins to readers who cracked their glass just like I did.

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The dbrand wood grain skin is legit. I have it up against the House of Marley Get Up Stand Up real wood speaker, and as you can see the grain on the dbrand skin looks as real as the speaker, just a different color stain. There are even real grooves in the skin itself which truly sets this skin off.

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The leather looks so real, I even had 10 of my friends verify the look. They all agreed that it looked like genuine leather.

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The cleanest look is probably the Matte finish, which is perfect for those who prefer to keep their devices understated. The Matte finish does offer a little texture which makes the S7 edge much more grippable.

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My favorite look of the bunch is the carbon fiber, particularly the bright orange. I am always misplacing my phone, but the orange stands out no matter where I leave it.

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Installation is super easy. dbrand provides a cleaning cloth and instructions on its YouTube Channel which I have included below. dbrand includes a video for every device it sells skins for as each phone, tablet and computer are slightly different.

I am the type of person who hates putting on screen protectors. I don’t have the patience nor the dexterity to apply them without getting massive bubbles under the surface. However dbrand skins take me no longer than five minutes to install, and quite frankly, I’m probably slow. Once you watch the tutorial, installation is a breeze.

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You basically just need to align the perfectly cut skin to the corners and camera, then apply pressure to have it stick firmly in place. If you don’t place it right on the first, second or even fifth try, simply lift off and realign until you get it right. The glue doesn’t come off and can be reapplied until you heat it up.

Once aligned, you take a hair dryer to warm up the skin and make it more malleable and then put the corners in place around the rounded edges of the S7 edge. Once you rub the sides down with the included cloth, you cannot feel any of the skins edges around the phone. The skin fits so perfectly that it now looks like my S7 edge was made out of real carbon fiber.

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The one piece front skin is easy to install too. There are two versions that dbrand offers, a one piece front skin, or a split version without the edge pieces. I opted for the one piece that fits around the entire front of the phone.

SEE ALSO:   Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 vs Apple iPad Air 2

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After watching the video, I installed the white carbon fiber on the front to contrast the bright orange on the back. I didn’t really want to stare at a bright orange skin when I used my S7 edge. Installation of the front was just as easy as the back, even with the curved glass on the smartphone.

The results speak for themselves. Check the images below.

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If you don’t plan on using your fingerprint reader, you can cover it with the included cutout provided by dbrand so it will match the rest of your phone. The front capacitive buttons on the S7 edge still work while covered, or you can use dbrand’s seperate bottom piece with cutouts so you can see the illuminated buttons underneath. I opted for full coverage since it gave my S7 edge a complete look.

I can’t say enough about how great dbrand skins are, from precision cutting to premium materials, dbrand does it all the right way. Skins aren’t pricey, as they cost just $14.85 for complete coverage of your S7 edge. dbrand also makes skins for a wide variety of gadgets as well and it has a custom skin builder for each device as well. That way you can see how your skins will look before you commit to a purchase.

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I’m giving away the extra dbrand skins to two lucky readers. In order to win, you must be a US resident (sorry international readers), and you need to make a comment below telling us how much you love dbrand skins. You’ll get bonus points for retweeting this post and including @dbrandskins in the tweet as well. I’ll be giving away one wood grain and one leather grain to two readers. I already used the carbon fiber, so don’t ask for that since I don’t have it to giveaway.

If you don’t want to, or cannot afford to fix your cracked glass, or simply just want to make your phone look badass, you cannot go wrong with dbrand skins. They look and feel like the real deal and are extremely affordable.

Head on over to dbrand.com to learn more.

26
Aug

Parallel Space allows you to run 2 Android app accounts at once (review)


For a lot of us, our smartphones live a double-sided life. For some, it’s one life as a business tool (and often provided to us by our employer), and the other life as a personal digital sidekick.

  • Screenshot_2016-08-22-21-56-01The business tool side of our device is all business and allows us to perform our work: responding to emails, reviewing documents, reaching out to important customers and colleagues. It’s our professional assistant, and to reveal any silly, suggestive, or just plain private information would be embarrassing if not outright scandalous.
  • The personal side of our device is our social and fun machine allowing us to connect with other like-minded people and show our individuality, quirkiness, and anything else that we choose to use to reveal about our identity.
  • Multiple logins on a traditional device install can be cumbersome and time-consuming, and often one or more accounts are relegated to desktop-only duty. This negates the utility that your mobile device is meant to bring into your day-to-day in the first place!

For other people, there are simply multiple accounts of certain apps to maintain, and the traditional Android installation only allows for a single login at a time requiring you to re-login with a different username/password every time you want to switch. This can be time-consuming and frustrating.

Now in some cases, these two sides can generally co-exist on the same device. But there are many instances where it would probably be best to let one side dominate and
save the other side for only very private viewing. Or it would just be a heck of a lot easier if you didn’t have to re-login to switch accounts.

Parallel Space 1There is an app that allows you “partition” your device, allowing you to put up a virtual fence between your business and personal sides, or between multiple accounts. This app is called Parallel Space from developer LBE Tech.

Setup

The app is available free from the Google Play Store. To keep things straight from here forward, I’m going to take some artistic license and refer to Parallel Space as a “utility”, to separate it from all the apps you can load into and use within it. As far as the utility itself, that’s all there really is to it, unless you want to password-protect your second login (more on that in a moment).

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Experience

Once into the utility (it has an app-like icon on your homescreen), you are shown a blank tiled screen. Each tile represents an app that you have multiple logins to load into Parallel Space. Once you select the app, it appears in that tile. The first time you select that app, you are greeted with that app’s signup/login screen the same as if you were opening the app for the first time on its own.

Screenshot_2016-08-22-21-59-48Here you log in with your second account login info and from there, you are launched into that app with the same look, feel, and screen space as the original app that you previously loaded directly onto your device! When done, you just close the app like normal, and you then can go back to Parallel Space to open another app using a secondary account or go back your device’s native homescreen to use the app with your primary account.

Overall, it’s a pretty slick experience especially if you run corporate social media accounts but also have personal accounts in the same app. Short of having a second phone or laptop at the ready, Parallel Space is a pretty neat solution.

It’s a pretty light one memory-wise, too. All you really load onto your device is the Parallel Space utility itself (total claimed space of 84 MB on my device); the secondary app ‘installations’ happen on the utility’s virtualization engine. All this means you don’t get bogged down with double Facebook apps and background activities clogging up your memory.

Screenshot_2016-08-22-22-00-29This talk of providing login info and 3rd-party virtualization engines does bring up the question of security. On the utility’s server-side, all I can offer is that the utility boasts almost a million downloads in the Play Store, and I can’t find an incident of a security breech anywhere on the web.

As far as security on your device, you are provided an option if you choose to use it. You can secure your overall utility access with it’s own password, which is a handy way of “locking the gate” to all your secondary app accounts. You can also manage notifications for each of your secondary accounts to ensure nothing “pops up” that you’d rather not be seen.

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Caveats

There are a few caveats here that I see, though I personally don’t find them major.

First is some reported problems with battery drain. It is enough of a problem that the utility’s developer addresses it on their website’s FAQ page where it’s related to a first-time login to your Google account with the utility essentially confusing the Google Play service framework.

Second is an occasional speed issue when opening your secondary app account through the utility. The little opening animation can seem to get stuck for a few seconds. Nothing terrible, but long enough that you may start giving your screen the evil eye….though this may likely be a testament to our fickleness than the utility’s performance (how DARE you make me wait 3 seconds to see who’s DM’d me!).

Third is that you can’t add a second app account into Parallel Space if you have or need quick access to three or more accounts. The utility simply can’t run multiple accounts within itself (which sounds kind of ironic).

Conclusion

Simply put, I really enjoyed using Parallel Space as a true Android “utility” that makes my device so much more usable when it comes to using and managing multiple app accounts, especially social media. If you have succumbed to the idea of doing the logout/login dance with any given app on your device, I heartily recommend Parallel Space to alleviate your pain and make your day just a little smoother.

Download Parallel Space from the Google Play Store here.

24
Aug

CLARO changes your Android wallpapers for you (review)


Have you ever looked at your home screen picture and thought….that has been the same forever? It has become easy than ever to change just about anything you want in android. Changing your wallpaper while not difficult just plain gets forgotten. The fix, automatic wallpaper changers! They take pictures from the internet or your gallery and display them on you home screen changing automatically at specific intervals that you set.

I have been using IF THIS THEN THAT to change my wallpaper to the newest Reddit post in the comicwalls subreddit for a while now. This can get kind of tricky since I am not the one putting the data in the subreddit; I have to watch what it’s getting changed to and have often had to change it manually because of an inappropriate post or just something that I didn’t like.

A new app that has come out that makes this less tricky and lets me be in control of the images on my background is CLARO. Lets go through some of the options we get, as well as a gallery of pictures from the into in the app.

With CLARO I pick the content from the gallery on my phone and tell the app:

  • What color to make the pictures, Original, Greyscale,Sepia or random
  • What days I would like these particular pictures to display
  • How often I would like the pictures to change
  • When to start the schedule and when to stop it

Adding Folders

Adding Folders

Add the Images you want

Add the Images you want

Pick how the pic shohuld look

Pick how the pic shohuld look

Pick a time range

Pick a time range

Pick the days of the week it should run

Pick the days of the week it should run

There are also action settings that include:

  • Showing the wallpaper picker so I can pick manually
  • Showing a Notification in the shade when it changes
  • Playing a sound when it changes
  • Vibrating when it changes
  • Waking up the phone when it changes
  • Make several different folders with different pictures in them on different schedules
  • Blurring the image
  • Pick what order to switch the wallpaper, either in a specific sequence or randomly.

The app employs Google’s Material Design principles, which I love, so it gets brownie points in the category. I have been using this app for a few days changing the wallpaper every three minutes and it does not seem to have much effect on the battery and it is also nice to see something different from my gallery every time I look at my home screen.

There are some ads the pop up when you are setting things up, but they are not terrible; users do not spend much time setting things up most and do not see them very often. A Heads up, though, as the developer’s first language is not English so some of the menus and wording in other places in the app are not quite what you might expect.

The developer claims this app is different because the service in CLARO only runs when it is scheduled to change the wallpaper whereas other “live” wallpaper apps run the service all the time draining the battery and using CPU. According to the developer, this has a benefit over using services like Muzei Live Wallpaper and its various tie-ins. I am not sure how to verify this without digging deep into the Android system but what I can say is I have not noticed any CPU, memory, or battery performance slow downs since installing this app.

Thus far, CLARO seems to be a solid alternative for me and allows me to be in control of the wallpaper will still having it change automatically.

  • Developer:Yogesh Dama
  • Price: Free with $0.99 in-app purchase to remove ads
  • Link: CLARO RANDOM WALLPAPER
23
Aug

Microsoft Office for Mac gets 64-bit support for better performance


Microsoft announced in April that it would make the transition from 32-bit to 64-bit for Office 2016 for Mac. Well, the time has come. The update is rolling out to those who are running Microsoft’s productivity suite on OS X. Apple’s desktop operating system has been 64-bit for a while now, but Windows still allows users to to choose between 32- and 64-bit versions. With this latest update, Office 2016 for Mac is making the permanent switch to 64-bit support which Microsoft says will boost performance and allow for new features.

This new update makes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and OneNote 64-bit for anyone running Retail, Office 365 Consumer, Office 365 Commercial, and Volume License installations of the software. What’s more, the August release (version 15.25) will arrive just like any other update to the apps. You’ll receive a notification on your desktop about the new version just like you do for other releases. If you don’t see that message, you download the 64-bit update manually from the source link below. As 9to5Mac notes, this new version has been available to Office Insider beta testers, but this is the first time 64-bit software has been available to all users.

Microsoft does warn Office for Mac users that the switch to 64-bit software could affect third-party add-ins for the apps. Those companies have had a few months to make the necessary changes, but if you rely on any of those extras, you may want to double check before installing. If you’ve yet to make the leap, Office 365 for Mac costs $70 per year or you can make a one-time purchase of Office 2016 for Mac that’s priced at $150.

Via: 9to5Mac

Source: Microsoft

23
Aug

Tronsmart’s latest power bank is perfect for the Galaxy Note 7 and Nexus 6P


As you have witnessed, the mobile industry is slowly transitioning from microUSB to USB Type C. One of the first major smartphones to move to USB Type C was the Android enthusiast’s favorite, Google’s Nexus 6P. Since that phone was released there have been many other devices that followed suit including the LG G5, HTC 10, Moto Z and most recently, the almighty Samsung Galaxy Note 7.

I find this transition to be a pain in the rear. Almost all of my mobile accessories have microUSB plugs, only my Macbook, Pixel C and variety of smartphones have USB Type C. That means I need to pick up compatible Type C cables, chargers (car, office and home), as well as portable batteries to replace the old standard. Mix in the USB switch with the variety of Fast Charging, Quick Charging, and every other rapid charging method, and even someone like me who has access to all of this information is frustrated with the lack of uniformity.

While I wish I could wave a magic wand and unify the charging standards, as well as plug standards (even with Apple), the reality is the confusion is here to stay.

If you own one of these USB Type C smartphones, there is a good chance you need external power. There are a whole host of batteries to choose from, but not all are created equal. I’ve been using Tronsmart’s Presto 12000mAh battery with my Nexus 6P and Galaxy Note 7 for the past few weeks and can tell you that this is the Type C battery to get.

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Build & Usage

The Tronsmart Presto battery follows the Tronsmart design with a plastic body that is durable and extremely well built. If you own a Tronsmart charger then you will be familiar with the design. The Presto is a candy bar shaped battery that is easy to hold in one hand, and it has a regular USB out with an in/out USB Type C slot as well. There’s nothing fancy or gimmicky about the build, and this battery is as reliable as it gets.

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12000mAh is enough power to recharge my Note 7 and Nexus 6P three to four times each. Note and Nexus users are typically power users, so even though Android has improved battery management with things like Doze, we still push our phones hard enough to need a recharge on long days away from power outlets. There are hundreds of portable power banks with different power output ratings, and if you’re trying to charge your Note 7 or Nexus 6P with a 1W output port or even 2W, you simply will not be charging your devices at optimal speeds. Tronsmart’s Presto is fully compatible with all versions of Qualcomm’s Quick Charge as well as the Nexus 6P’s Fast Charging standard.

In my tests, it only takes about half an hour to get my Nexus 6P from 3-50%. My Note 7 is even faster.

Note 7Note 7

What is nice about USB Type is the fully reversible cable. Not only do I not have to look at my phone’s charging port when I plug in a USB Type C cable, but I can also recharge the Presto with the In AND Out USB Type C port on the front of the battery pack.

I’ve been using the Presto for just over a month and haven’t noticed any issues with the battery. It does get a little warm when charging my Note 7 at full speed, but that’s an issue across most portable power banks.

LG G5LG G5

Summary

Switching to USB Type C from microUSB is without question a pain in the rear. The change is happening and there is nothing you can do to stop it. If you own a smartphone with USB Type C now is the time to switch over your power bank to Tronsmart’s Presto. It costs about $40 at Amazon, and is a high quality accessory from a trusted brand that is certified by Qualcomm to work with your devices. The major downside is this battery is so good that Amazon can barely keep it in stock.

Samsung Note 7 owners, as well as Nexus 6P, LG G5, HTC 10 owners should strongly consider picking up the Tronsmart Presto as it will be the most efficient way to charge your smartphone when you’re away from a wall outlet.

Get the Tronsmart Presto 12000mAh portable power bank at Amazon.

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