FEATURE REVIEW – Apple Watch: Part 2

Introduction

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Wearables are a huge deal today. In fact, it’s one of the hottest growing computing categories on the market right now. Nearly every place you look and every person you actually look AT has some kind of wearable tech with them. Smartwatches and fitness bands seem to the easiest to spot, and nearly everyone at the office is wearing one, too.

Perhaps the biggest and most anticipated entry into the wearables/ smartwatch category is the Apple Watch. Is it the nirvana of wearables? Is it everything that its hyped up to be? Was it worth the wait? These are all GREAT questions.

The Apple Watch is a much anticipated, much sought after wearable. In part one, I took a look at the hardware specifically. In part two of this four part review, let’s take a look at what you actually get when you purchase the device – how wearable and usable is the Watch? What kinds of notifications does it send? How does it send them? We’ll look at battery life as well as connectivity options like Bluetooth and Wi-Fi as well as making phone calls and using Siri.

Is the Apple Watch, with the way it works, the device for you? Let’s get into how it does what it does and find out!

Wearability and Usability

Regardless of what case size, type, or band type you get, the functionality of the Watch is consistent throughout the product. In other words, the 38mm Apple Watch Sport at $349 does the exact same things the 38mm yellow gold case Edition Watch with Bright Red Modern Buckle does. In fact, they do the exact same things, the exact same way. The only differences between any and all of the watches here is the case size, case materials and band. Their internals are exactly alike.

Notifications

I’ve honestly put off writing this section of this review for a while as there’s SO much information and feedback that I have on it, that I can’t possibly get it all down in a reasonable amount of words. There’s good and bad here. Some is very good. Some is, “smack yourself in the forehead stupid.” (As in, “Really, Apple..?? I thought you guys were smarter than this!” stupid.) It’s been both exhilarating and frustrating using Notifications on the Apple Watch; but as many will tell you/ comment/ say, “what is a smartwatch for, if not to notify you of incoming events and activities?”

And honestly, they’d be right

So, let’s talk about notifications, and how they work on the Apple Watch.

First, let’s talk about what Apple got right. Notifications appear on the Watch when it’s being worn and is unlocked. Wearing a locked Watch doesn’t provide the user with any kind of Notification feedback. When Notifications come to the Watch, a Notification Indicator, in the form of a red dot displays at the top of the Watch screen, letting you know you have Notifications to address. If you catch the Notification in real time, you’ll likely skip over the red dot and just see the notification. The dot comes in to play after the screen turns back off. This is a good visual cue that you’ve got something to review and check out.

Now, let’s talk about what Apple didn’t get quite right.

Notification Classes

You wouldn’t think so, but from an end user perspective, there are really a couple different types of Notifications – those from native Apple apps and those from third party apps.

Native apps include the following:

  • Activity
  • Calendar
  • Mail
  • Maps
  • Messages
  • Passbook & Apple Pay
  • Phone
  • Photos
  • Reminders

With these apps, unless otherwise specified in each native app’s settings, you have basically the ability to mirror the notifications the app sends to your iPhone or (Mirror my iPhone) or Custom. Custom really only gives you the option to display (not reject …there’s a huge difference. See below…) alerts received from your iPhone.

Third party apps (including, in this case, Apple Store) simply give you the opportunity to mirror notifications sent from your iPhone or not. You also have the opportunity to turn Notification Privacy on or off.

Notification Privacy when turned on, will only display details of a Notification when the notice of that Notification is tapped when it is displayed on the screen.

The distinction between the notification classes is important. Let’s face it. There isn’t’ a lot of control here in the first place. The Watch works the way Apple wants it to. You don’t have a lot of customization routes, despite all of the options and switches you may see in the screen shots here.

Notification Issues

What you need to know here is that like the Notification issue I described with the Fitbit Surge, despite the fact that a particular Notification is turned “off,” the data comes across anyway. This is especially true for Native apps, as you really don’t have any other choice other than displaying the notification or not. You can’t reject or turn off notifications at all.

Like on the Fitbit Surge, this is a huge problem. You should be able to completely turn off Notifications AND stop the data from coming over to the Watch.

Off is off!

This in between shit has to stop!

The underlying issue here is that you really don’t have any control over what Notifications are and are not transferred over to the Watch, and you really should.

For example, I don’t want text messages and their notifications on my device. I can effectively stop the Watch from notifying me when my iPhone receives a text message, but the data still comes to the Watch. As I said in my Fitbit review, this is wrong. Off is off. No is no; and knock it off means stop it now. Honestly, if I could get the Messages app off my Watch entirely, I’d do it. I don’t want this (or data from other apps I’ve turned “off” coming to the Watch. There needs to be more granular control here. One can only hope that WatchOS 2.0 includes this.

Battery Life

Battery life for the Apple Watch is a bit of a love hate thing. If you recall from page two (2) of part one (1) of my Microsoft Band review, I encouraged everyone to find and establish a charging strategy. You’re going to need to do that here with Apple Watch, too.

Depending on how you use Apple Watch, you’re charging strategy is likely going to mimic mine, at least in some small way. It involves a nightly recharge. While many new users are likely to run through the battery of their Apple Watch in 24 hours or less, more seasoned or experienced users have likely gone through all of the Applications, Notifications and Glances and pared them down to just the stuff they know they’re going to use on a regular basis.

This activity is going to GREATLY enhance the battery life of your Apple Watch. As such, you’ll likely find that by the time you’re ready to call it a night, your Watch is going to have approximately 40-50%+ charge left to it.

I get up at 5:30am Central Time every morning. I’m usually out of the house between 6:15am and 6:30am and have put my Apple Watch on shortly before running out the door. My work day usually runs about 12 – 14 hours a day; and I usually take my Apple Watch off and put it on its charging cable between 9:30pm and 10pm every night.

At that point, depending on the amount of activity during the day, I’ve usually got somewhere between 42% to 55% battery life left. Theoretically, I could go about another 12 to 18 hours at least without HAVING to recharge the Watch; but between us… I don’t trust it. I never know how many email notifications I’m going to get or how much data is going to pass between my iPhone and my Watch, so there’s no way to tell how long it would last the second day; and I honestly am trying to not HAVE to purchase a second charging cable or to take it off during the day to charge it.

Watch wearers, myself included, are most active during the day, and I don’t want to be without my watch at the office – especially during a meeting – because its busy charging and I’m getting buzzed to death by my phone due to an influx of email.

While it’s clear that the Watch will have enough juice to get me through my day, you have to admit that battery LIFE on a device like this is very low, meaning that it doesn’t last very long. The Pebble Time has a battery that can last a week, and is about the same size as the Apple Watch. While it won’t do all the fitness or payments stuff that the Apple Watch does, it does do all the notifications, and it can still last a week. Microsoft Band has a battery that can last 36 – 48 hours. With the Apple Watch (nearly) requiring a 24 recharge schedule, it makes it difficult to use it for things like Sleep Analysis or anything else; or even to put it on and leave it for a while (as in more than a day to day and a half).

Connectivity

Current Apple Watch hardware requires at least an iPhone 5/c/s to work. If you want to use Apple Pay, you’ll need at least an iPhone 5s. This is important information to know as the Watch will not make a call on its own (it needs the phone for that). In order to function, it needs both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi to work its magic…

Bluetooth and Wi-Fi

The Apple Watch uses both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to connect to your iPhone, which I think is kinda cool. If you’re within standard Bluetooth range, your Watch and iPhone communicate that way. If you bug out of Bluetooth range, then as long as your iPhone can find your Watch on the Wi-Fi network ITS connected to, then you’ll still receive any and all notifications iPhone receives. This is a huge help in meetings, as there may be time when taking a phone in to a meeting isn’t the best course of action. In cases like these, you’ll still receive calls, txt messages, and all of your notifications from your phone, even if you’re a couple floors away. The first time this happened to me, I was really pleasantly surprised.

The inclusion of Wi-Fi in the connectivity equation, really makes it easy to keep your iPhone at your desk, in your jacket, in your purse – wherever – and just use your watch. However, there are a few gotchas that most everyone needs to hear about, and if you think about it, it definitely makes sense.

Phone Calls

The first thing that you want to do when you get the watch – aside with play with the Cutesy Stuff (see below) – is to either make or take a call with the Watch. This has you talking to your wrist, a la Dick Tracy; and its totally the coolest thing you’re likely to do with what is essentially, a Bluetooth headset. However, I have found it to be a total train wreck.

First of all, there are at least two Bluetooth audio streams active when you are on a call – incoming (the Watch’s speaker) and outgoing (the Watch’s microphone). The Watch is totally NOT a full duplex device; or if it is, its processor totally gets overwhelmed, and dual, same time audio doesn’t flow over the Watch as it does if you were DIRECTLY speaking on your phone. This means that you have to “walkie-talkie” your calls – you say something, and then I respond back – rinse/ repeat. This is fine unless you’re having a really good or passionate conversation and you can’t wait for the other person to shut up so you can get YOUR point across the line.

Secondly, I have found that even with my iPhone close by, there’s a lot of chop or break-up in both the incoming and outgoing audio streams. In other words, as a Bluetooth headset, the Apple Watch isn’t that great of a way to make and take calls. Something is always lost in translation, and you end up grabbing the phone and switching/ taking the call directly on the phone or putting in a more reliable headset. I ended up turning off call notifications entirely; but as I eluded to above, this doesn’t always make those notifications stop coming across the Bluetooth connection and appearing on your Watch.

I have also found that the speaker doesn’t work very well outdoors. The sound is swallowed up by background noise and its often difficult to hear the caller clearly. The same can be said for the microphone on the Watch. Your caller likely won’t be able to hear you very well outdoors, either. Both my wife and I stopped making or taking calls on the Watch after the first couple of days. This works well in an indoor setting, but I’m more likely to have my phone nearby and accessible when I’m indoors – like at the house or the office – as opposed to outdoors – like the golf course or on the deck at the house – where I’m likely to want to use it more.

Siri

Due to problems with Bluetooth audio, using Siri for much of anything is a bit difficult. I’ve found that even indoors or in the car, for example, she’s not as attentive as you want or expect. The Watch keeps tell me that I need to be connected to my phone to use Siri (and it is), or she tells me that she just doesn’t get me… which is depressing. I thought we were closer than that…

Part 2 Conclusion

I’m gonna say this a lot…, “there’s a lot here.”

Notifications are the life blood of any smartwatch. Honestly, it’s likely the number one reason why anyone who buys a smartwatch actually makes the purchase.

The biggest problem with the biggest feature though, is lack of control. You should be able to do a lot more with customization of notifications here than Apple actually lets you do. I should be able to turn alerts for any notification class on or off. When on, they should work as configured. When off, they should truly BE off and the data should not come to the device at all. That’s a huge security hole as well as a pain in the butt.

If Apple does anything with WatchOS 2.x, it needs to add in a great deal end user based control for notifications and data coming over to the Watch. No is no, and off is off. I can’t stand that unwanted and unneeded information is coming to my Watch when I’ve specifically tried to eliminate it.

Battery life – yeah… it still sucks. I’m hoping WatchOS 2.x makes things better, but I’m not holding my breath. When other smartwatches can last longer, you have to wonder what’s going on and why Apple made the choices that it did. Just because I may not put it on a charger at night doesn’t mean that I don’t expect the Watch to get me through the next day. Apple needs to solve this problem.

Connectivity via Bluetooth has always been problematic, but honestly its really much better than I thought it would be. With my Microsoft Band, having it connected to my phone interfered with the connection to my car radio as my iPhone recognized the Bluetooth microphone it has and expected me to always want to speak to callers through it, though it’s not supposed to support that functionality under iOS. I’m pleased to say that regardless of connectivity to my watch or not, my iPhone 6 communicates (as well as can be expected) with my car radio/ hands free kit.

If you want to try to actually make a call with the Watch, you can try it. I don’t know too many people that still do that after a couple of weeks of ownership though. The experience just isn’t all that great. Because the Bluetooth mic experience is a bit wonky, using Siri isn’t all that great on the Watch, either, I’ve found. As with phone calls, its hit or miss depending on your current environment.

Come back next time for Part 3 of my four part review. During part three, we’re going to get to the heart of the matter and we’ll talk about Software and Interfaces.

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FEATURE REVIEW – Apple Watch: Part 1

Introduction

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The world, it seems is getting larger.

My time is in constant demand. Billboards. Radio. TV. Ads everywhere!

Kids. School. After school activities for the kids. eMail. Text messages…

Calgon, take me away!

Wow. I’ll tell you what – The more I’m connected, the more I’m constantly nagged by a connected world. As a father of three, a grandfather of one and a husband, I’m usually all over the place. My schedule is a busy one and you’d think that I’d be moving enough to not have to constantly worried about my expanding waste line, but that apparently isn’t the case. Just ask my tailor…

When tools like the Microsoft Band (review part one and part two) and the Fitbit Surge are available to help you get a handle on not only the activities of your life and the notifications sent from your smartphone, life can often become a bit more manageable; and let’s face it… we can all use a bit of help there.

Perhaps the biggest and most anticipated entry into the wearables/ smartwatch category is the Apple Watch. Is it the nirvana of wearables? Is it everything that its hyped up to be? Was it worth the wait? These are all GREAT questions.

The Apple Watch is a much anticipated, much sought after wearable. In part one of this four part review, let’s take a look at the hardware that made the tech world stop and consider just what the ideal smartwatch could and should do.

Hardware

The Apple Watch comes in three different styles – The Apple Watch Sport, The Apple Watch, and The Apple Watch Edition. I’ve got the Apple Watch Sport, and I’ve already given you my First Impressions of it.

Apple Watch Sport

The Apple Watch Sport is the entry level watch. It’s got an anodized aluminum case, and a Fluoroelastomer or synthetic rubber or silicone band. The Apple Watch Sport runs between $349.99 for the 38mm case and $399 for the 42mm case. With it, you get one Fluoroelastomer band in your choice of color – White, (Powder) Blue, (Lime) Green, (Coral) Pink, or Black.
Watch Sport
Apple Watch
Watch
The Apple Watch comes in twenty (20) different models. The 38mm or 42mm case is made of a high gloss, Stainless Steel in either silver or black. You have a choice of any of the following bands:

• Black Classic Buckle (black leather with a traditional buckle)
• Milanese Loup (silver only)
• Black Modern Buckle (black leather with a magnetic buckle)
• Black Leather Loop (black scalloped leather with a magnetic loop)
• Midnight Blue Modern Buckle (dark blue leather with a magnetic buckle)
• Bright Blue Leather Loop (bright blue scalloped leather with a magnetic loop)
• Pink Modern Buckle (Off white/ pinkish tinted leather with a magnetic buckle)
• Stone Leather Loop (Taupe-colored, scalloped leather with a magnetic loop)
• Brown Modern Buckle (Medium brown leather with a magnetic buckle)
• Light Brown Leather Loop (Greenish-brown scalloped leather with a magnetic loop)
• Link Bracelet (in either silver or black)

Note, that Apple is only offering the Black Stainless Steel Apple Watch in both 38mm and 42mm cases sizes with the Link Bracelet. Period.

The Apple Watch, depending on case size and band choice, ranges in price from $549 to $1099.

Apple Watch Edition

The Apple Watch Edition comes in eight (8) different models. Here, the case is made of a special, 18 karat rose gold or 18 karat yellow gold alloy. The Apple watch Edition comes with a choice of the following bands:

Watch Edition

• White Sport Band (White Fluoroelastomer)
• Black Sport Band (Black Fluoroelastomer)
• Rose Gray Modern Buckle (Reddish-Taupe leather with magnetic buckle in 18k rose gold)
• Black Classic Buckle (Black leather with a traditional buckle in 18k yellow gold)
• Bright Red Modern Buckle (Red leather with a traditional buckle in 18k yellow gold)
• Midnight Blue Classic Buckle (Dark Blue leather with a traditional buckle in 18k yellow gold)

The Apple Watch Edition, depending on case size, gold color choice and band ranges from $10,000 to $17,000.

Regardless of which Apple Watch you get, you have the opportunity to go through a Personal Setup session after you get it.

Regardless of case type, the Apple Watch really does bear a striking resemblance to the very first iPhone, released in 2007. The metal case comes up the bottom and sides of the case to about two thirds (2/3) of the way up, just as the edges begin to round in.

This doesn’t make the device look ugly, but it’s not as sexy, as say, some of the other devices in Apple’s more recent portfolio like the iPhone 4s, 5/s or 6/+. The rounded, square corners aren’t horrible, but they doesn’t do the Watch any favors, either.

Bands and Pricing
Most of the different styling for the Apple Watch comes in the form of different bands that are available for it. While there are a few different casing style variations, it’s really all academic there – the Apple Watch Sport comes in a anodized aluminum case in either silver or space gray, the Apple Watch comes in a 316L Stainless Steel case in either silver or black; and the Apple Watch Edition comes in either 18k yellow or 18k rose gold.

However, what makes the watches really different is their bands… and their associated prices. Thankfully, bands work with every Apple Watch, so if you simply MUST have a particular Apple Branded Apple Watch Band, you can likely get it; and it will cost you… a lot.

All bands available for separate purchase come in both 38mm and 42mm unless specifically noted.

Fluoroelastomer Bands
Fluoroelastomer Bands
A Fluoroelastomer band is $50, regardless of color; and you have a choice of five different colors– White, (Powder) Blue, (Lime) Green, (Coral) Pink, or Black.
Metal Bands
Metal 1
Apple offers both a Milanese Loop (a woven, stainless steel mesh with adjustable magnetic closure) and a Steel Link Bracelet.
Metal 2
The Milanese Loop is $150, is available in 38mm 42mm sizes and available in silver only.
Metal 3
The Steel Link Bracelet is $450, is made of 316L stainless steel, is available in 38mm 42mm sizes and is also only available in silver. The only way to get the black version of this band is to buy it with the black colored, Apple Watch is Stainless Steel.
Apple also offers a Link Bracelet Kit for $50. It has 6 additional links for wrists that exceed 205mm in circumference.
Leather Bands

Apple offers three different kinds of leather bands – the Classic Buckle, the Leather Loop and the Modern buckle.
Leather 1
The Classic Buckle is $150, is available in 38mm 42mm sizes and available in black only. All other Classic Buckle band colors are exclusives to the Watches they’re offered with.
Leather 2
The Leather Loop is $150, is available only in the 42mm size. The Leather Loop is offered in Bright Blue, Black, Stone and Brown.
Leather 3
The Modern Buckle is $250, and available only in the 38mm size. The Modern Buckle is offered in Black, Brown, Soft Pink, and Midnight Blue.

Part 1 Conclusion

The hardware for Apple watch is impressive, but as you’ll see in additional parts of this four part review, not without its quirks. It’s clear that everything here is VERY EXPENSIVE. The Watch in and of itself isn’t cheap – $349 to $399 for the entry level Sport model isn’t cheap. Once you factor in Apple Care + (another $50 bucks, and a MUST have for a device in this category) and tax, you’re pushing the $475 mark, which is close to the price of a Mac Mini.

Let’s talk about that Apple Care + purchase for a moment, too. Apple Care + for Apple Watch provides extended warranty coverage for a period of two years. During the coverage period, it gives you one extended replacement option per year with a $50 deductible.

So, if you break it during the extended coverage period, you can get it replaced for $50; but you’re limited to two (2) incidents. Apple Care + also covers other normal wear and tear defects. Extensive damage or scratching to the crystal may or may not cost you an extended replacement. It’s going to depend on how bad the crystal is scratched and the Genius you work with at Apple.

Wearables are meant to be used by those that are going to be active. You’re going to knock the Watch on something. You are. Get used to that idea now, before you buy. Get the extended warranty. For $50 bucks, it’s about 10% of the entry level cost, but if you ARE active with it and you break it, you’re going to want the replacement option.

So, stylish… but expensive; and if you do take the plunge, you’re going to want Apple Care +.

Come back next time and I’ll get into Wearability and Usability.

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Apple Releases 8th Developer Beta/ 6th Public Beta of OS X 10.11

With Fall 2015 fast approaching, Apple has released yet another beta of El Capitan

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Those computing individuals that like to live on the wild side should be a bit happier with the world today, especially if those users are also Macs as opposed to PC’s. Apple has released yet another round of developer and public focused beta releases of their next generation operating system – OS X 10.11, code named, El Capitan.

Given build number 15A279b, El Capitan Beta 8 is available to all users with an active Developer Account and is downloadable via a special redemption code in the Mac App Store. While quite developed as far as a beta is concerned, El Capitan still isn’t officially ready for prime time. Meaning, that if you’re looking to run it on your Mac in a production level capacity, you may be disappointed. It’s likely still got a number of different issues that may prevent you from really wanting to do that. If you simply must have beta bits on your production level Mac, you may want to download and install El Capitan Public Beta 6. It’s considered a bit more stable and end-user friendly.

Both beta releases arrive less than two weeks after the previous beta releases of both – Developer Preview 7 and Public Beta 5. So, things are accelerating and hopefully, improving in quality.

Its anticipated that El Capitan will hit the streets sometime in September or October. While Apple is likely to have an iPhone even in the next week or so – a press even is scheduled for 2015-09-09 where we’re likely to see new iPhones and a new Apple TV – El Capitan likely won’t be ready by then. Another even is anticipated – though currently unscheduled – for some time in October when new Macs will like appear alongside the long anticipated iPad Pro.

As with previous releases of their desktop OS, OS X 10.11 El Capitan is anticipated to be a free upgrade and will run on all Macs that ran OS X 10.10 Yosemite, which included MacBooks and MacBook Pros that were originally released in 2009. El Capitan is a spit and polish release, meaning that its largely meant to provide bug fixes and improvements to existing features – a stability release – rather than one that will provide ground breaking new features and functionality.

I’ve currently got El Capitan installed on a non-production based Mac and am working on a full review of the new and revised OS. With features like Metal, Split View and a smarter, deeper functioning Safari, you can expect El Capitan to be a version of OS X that you’re likely going to want to run on your compatible Mac. Stay tuned for the full review and a number of follow up columns about it.

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Hell has Frozen Over – Android Wear for iOS Launched 2015-08-31

I am totally beside myself…

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I’ve been looking at smartwatches all year. I started in January and haven’t looked back since. Here’ s a list of what I’ve published so far:

My latest entry in that series is the Apple Watch, and as of this writing, that four part review is currently in editing.  I expect it to be published in part or in whole over the week of 2015-09-01.

While in this smartwatch mode, I’ve been very cognizant of nearly every smartwatch announcement that’s hit the wire.  Most haven’t been too earth shattering.  This one, however, really shocked me because it’s one that I never thought would happen – Google has released Android Wear for iOS.

Yep – iOS users can now buy an Android powered smartwatch and can use it with their iPhone.

I… am beside myself. Hell truly has frozen over.

According to a new blog post published on the Official Google blog, Android Wear for iOS is rolling out on 2015-08-31.  This brings Android powered smartwatches to an additional 43.5% of all smartphone users in the US.  The only requirements seem to be you need to be running at least an iPhone 5 or greater (so, iPhone 5/5c/5s, iPhone 6/6+) with at least iOS 8.2.

If you look at the blog post on this, some commenters are wondering why people are surprised over this.  Honestly, that’s fairly easy.  A couple of years ago (as I recall) the going thought was that Google wasn’t going to provide support for Android Wear under iOS.  Part of that was because Apple made it pretty clear that they weren’t going to support Apple Watch on Android.  Each wanted a compelling reason for users to pick their platform and stick with it.

While Apple still seems to be pretty adamant about Apple Watch only for iPhone, Google seems to have come around.  They’ve included the following features in Android Wear for iOS:

  • Info at a Glance: Check important info like phone calls, messages, and notifications from your favorite apps. Android Wear features always-on displays, so you’ll never have to move your wrist to wake up your watch.
  • Fitness Tracking: Set fitness goals, and get daily and weekly views of your progress. Your watch automatically tracks walking and running, and even measures your heart rate.
  • Google Now: Receive timely tips like when to leave for appointments, current traffic info, and flight status. Just say “Ok Google” to ask questions like “Is it going to rain in London tomorrow?” or create to-dos with “Remind me to pack an umbrella.”

Notification support is apparently included, though it won’t be as tightly integrated as it would be on the Android side of the world.  However, according to Google, it should be on par with support for the Fitbit Surge and the Pebble Time.

If this holds true, then Android Wear for iOS shouldn’t suck.  Notification support for both of those smartwatches, while not totally ideal in my opinion, isn’t bad.  Android Wear should be pretty functional.

All that remains is to figure out which smartwatch might be the most compelling for me and then to see if it fits in the budget. If it does, I’ll try to  include it in the smartwatch round up before it all concludes.  Currently, I’m only one device away from completing all of those reviews.

I’m waiting on the Olio Model One to ship.  According to the latest information that I’ve received from Olio, I should have the device in my hands before the end of October 2015, if everything goes according to plan.  It’s a bit later than originally planned and anticipated, but according to them, the hardware and software have both been improved over the original specifications, so we’ll have to see about all that.  Not only have the devices been incrementally improved since their first and initial announcement, Olio has added both yellow and rose gold collections to the Model One.  As of this writing, all watches in all collections – Steel, Black, Gold and Rose – are sold out. Unfortunately,  due to their sold out status, you can’t see current prices for the newer collections.  If I remember correctly, the rose gold watch with the rose gold link bracelet was $1200 USD.  The yellow gold wasn’t quite as much, but was comparable; and prices for both of those included the $250 USD “friends and family” discount.

What do you think?   Should I cover Android Wear, now that it’s supposed to work with iPhone and iOS devices?  Will it make a good addition to our round up, or will it simply be gratuitous at this point?  Why don’t you join me in the discussion area below and give me your thoughts?  If enough people think it will be worthwhile, I’ll try to include it in the round up before I publish the series conclusion.

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Court Affirms Samsung v. Apple Ruling

Samsung still owes Apple a ton of money…

unnamed

Yes…  The landmark trial between Apple and Samsung still isn’t settled.

Late last week, a US Federal Circuit court of Appeals denied Samsung’s request for a new en banc review of a previous decision.  This decision largely kept Apple’s patent infringement win intact.  Samsung’s last, and only resort is the US Supreme Court.

A couple of months ago, Samsung petitioned the Court for a rehearing of a previous decision regarding the patent infringement trial against Apple.  Specifically, the appeals court in May found that the readjusted jury trial award was correct.  At stake, is the $400M damage award that Samsung claims is incorrect.

The issue is that Samsung says a “complex device like a tablet or smartphone (the iPad or iPhone) uses [potentially] thousands of patented technologies.”  They’ve noted that Apple only asserted a few that cover minor features of the whole device. Samsung also claims that patents successfully leveraged during the trial are ineligible for damage awards.

If you remember, late last month, news hit the wire that companies like Dell, eBay, Facebook, Google, HP and others wrote a Friend of the Court brief supporting Samsung in their assertion.  These firms warned the court that if Apple were successful in the damages trial, it would “lead to absurd results and have a devastating impact on companies, including amici, who spend billions of dollars annually on research and development for complex technologies and their components.”

Apparently, the Friend of the Court brief didn’t sway the Court.

What’s left now, is a wait and see game.

We’re waiting and seeing because the SCotUS is a fickle lot.  They don’t hear every case brought before them.  They get to pick and choose which cases to hear; and if they decline to hear the case, then the last decision is upheld.

In this case, that means that the final award tally of $548M – though still currently being contested by both parties – is likely going to be the FINAL award.  …And that’s IF Samsung even decides to go that route.  They may just have to “man up” and take their medicine.

The graphic, above, is still VERY damning to Samsung’s case, even after an additional 4-5 years. I owned at least three of Samsung’s devices shown in the Before iPhone block.  It’s clear and insanely obvious that after the iPhone was released, their designs DRASTICALLY changed to copy its profile.  What was copied internally and in violation of Apple owned patents was – and is – for the courts to decide.

What are your thoughts on this issue?  Why don’t you join me in the discussion area below, and give me your take on the whole Apple v. Samsung issue?  I’d love to hear them.

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FEATURE REVIEW – Microsoft Windows 10 Part II

Windows Live is Dead, Long Live, uh… Windows Built in Apps

The Windows Live series of apps and branding was one of the things that really helped make Windows 7 a success.  While these all changed to ModernUI apps in Windows 8 (and the transition killed what was and could have continued to be a really nice suite of apps), Microsoft has worked hard save some or all of them.  Windows Live is dead.

Long live Windows Apps…!  Uh… yeah.

Windows 10 has some really nice replacement apps that it rescued from ModernUI. While some of them, like Food and Travel will both die as Microsoft discontinues them, others like Video, Music, Photos and Mail and Calendar have been revised and reintroduced in Windows 10.

27 - Windows Apps

Mail and Calendar are two of the apps that help make up the touch version of Microsoft Office (see below) and are really nice Universal and touch implementations of these two (now) system level apps.  All of these apps are available as part of the default Windows 10 installation and are available for use out of the box.  (Whereas with Windows Live apps, you had to go and download a different installer to get them.)

28 - Windows Apps

As a brief aside, the above download will work on Windows 10, as I previously reported, but will require the installation of .NET 3.5 or greater runtime to your Window 10 PC. It’s also the only way to get Windows Live Writer, which, by the way, works very well under Windows 10.

Office Gets Touchy

The touch version of Microsoft Office was first released for iPad in 2014 and then was followed shortly after that with the Android version.  The Windows version is now available for download in the Windows Store, and is free… though, there are a few catches to this.

First, if you want to do anything really and truly productive with it, you’re going to need an Office 365 subscription. Period.  It doesn’t have to be an expensive subscription.  Any one will do; but you’re going to need one.  If you have a Windows computing device that came with an Office 365 subscription, like the WinBook TW700, then you already have the rights to the fully functional bits.

24 - Office

If you have a low-end tablet something with a screen 10.1 inches or smaller, then you can get the apps with basic functionality for free, and won’t need a subscription…unless you need premium features. Here’s the specifics from Microsoft:

“Currently, we are also using screen size to delineate between professional and personal use. Based on our research, we are classifying anything with a screen size of 10.1 inches or less as a true mobile device: You’re probably using it on the go, when it’s not practical to use a larger computing device such as a PC or a Mac. You probably aren’t using a mouse or a keyboard, instead navigating via touch interface. It’s probably not a “pro” category tablet that is used for design or presentations. On these devices, the core editing and viewing experience is free, until you get to those premium, subscription features.”

25 - Office

Any way you look at it, getting these apps is a great idea and something that you will want to have at your beck and call for quick editing tasks or when you simply don’t want to run the full version of either Word, Excel or PowerPoint to make a few quick, light edits.  These are also perfect for school aged children when they need to write a report or to create a presentation for school or some other extra-curricular activity.

26 - Word

Windows 10 is Free

There’s been a lot of talk on this and a lot of it has been confusing, especially when it comes to, “which version and I gonna get?”.  Here’s the skinny on the whole deal.

Windows 10 is a free upgrade, for a period of one (1) year from its release. If you have a PC running a legitimate, activated version of Windows 7, Windows 8 or Windows 8.1, you have a period of one year to get your free upgrade.  After that, it’s thought that you’ll have to pay for your upgrade, but Microsoft hasn’t clarified that.  You may be able to get it free after 2016-07-29; or you might have to pay for the upgrade.  Users who do upgrade to Windows 10 will get a corresponding version of Windows 10 for free.  You must already have a Genuine version of Windows running, however, and there are a few caveats where versions are concerned.

Users of Windows 7 Starter Edition, Home Basic or Home Premium will get a free upgrade to Windows 10 Home.  Users of Windows 8 Home will get a free upgrade to Windows 10 Home.  Users of Windows 8.1 Home will get a free upgrade to Windows 10 Home.

Users of Windows 7 Pro or Windows 7 Ultimate will get a free upgrade to Windows 10 Pro.  Users of Windows 8 Pro or Windows 8.1 Pro will get a free upgrade to Windows 10 Pro.

Users wishing to upgrade from Windows 10 Home to Windows 10 Pro can do so, but can expect to pay $99USD.  This can be purchased online, or in stores, at any time, after the upgrade completes.

As always… clear as mud.

Once you upgrade, Microsoft is planning on supporting Windows 10 for a period of 10 years (so until roughly 2025-07-29).

Performance

I’ve been looking at Windows 10 on a couple different machines since the inception of the Windows Insider Program. I think I’ve got enough information as well as enough experience with the new OS to give everyone a decent take on how the OS will perform on new as well as legacy hardware.  However, as with everything in this world, you mileage may vary – meaning that your experience on the same hardware that I’m using and referencing may be different than what I have depicted here.

Surface Pro 3

Performance on my Surface Pro 3 (Intel Core i5-4300U, 2.0-2.5GHz, 4GB RAM, 128GB SSD) has been acceptable to decent.  Based on what I’m seeing here, and having experienced on my current SP3 this as well as the entry level SP3 (Intel Core i3-4020V, 1.5GHz, 4GB RAM 64GB SSD), it’s clear to me that an Intel i5 processor is likely the bare minimum needed to run Windows 10 with any level of acceptable performance.

As with any version of Windows, it’s going to eat as much RAM as you can throw at it.  The more you have dedicated to a specific processor or processor core, the better the machine is going to perform.

On machines like any Surface Pro or other Windows compatible tablet, upgrading any core PC component, simply isn’t possible. You’re stuck with what you got when you purchased the device.  In situations like this the best thing you can do is buy as much as you can afford.  If you can tolerate it financially, make the purchase hurt just a bit.  While the purchase may be a bit of a stretch, in the end, when you try to make the device do more than it really can or should – and most users likely will – you’ll be glad that it’s there in the end.

The Surface Pro 3 that I have is the mid-range model. I got it when it was on sale and only $100 USD above the price of the low-end i3 model SP3. While this device technically CAN run Photoshop and Lightroom, this configuration isn’t one that I’d recommend doing that on, at least not long term. You’re going to want something with more punch and a lot more RAM than just 4GB.

Low End, Budget and Small Tablets

The biggest problem with Windows 10 on a low end or any kind of budget or small screen tablet, is that these devices don’t have any upgradable storage or RAM… well, and the performance just totally sucks.  Unfortunately, these are the kinds of machines that would likely benefit most from a RAM upgrade.

Budget equipment often uses low end components, like Intel’s Atom processor line.  While this processor can run Windows, performance levels on those machines are really only realized on units that have at least 4GB of RAM.  Unfortunately, devices in the low end or budget category often don’t have that much RAM.  Most of them have 1-2GB of RAM; and you’re going to be lucky to have one that has 2GB of RAM.  Yeah… I think you’ll find that that extra gigabyte of RAM, its strategically important.

The biggest problem with all of this – small tablets like the WinBook TW-700 – came with Windows 8.x Pro.  That means they’re supposed to get the Pro version of Windows 10 on 2015-07-29, when the new OS launches.  Tablets like this suffer from three huge issues

  1. They don’t have a powerful enough processor
    The Atom processor on my Dell Latitude 10 ST2 may be a few years old, but it technically still has some usable life in it. However, I’ve noticed that anything short of Intel’s CherryTrail Atom line – the processor in the Surface 3 – won’t have enough power to push Windows 10.  So, all of those awesome WinBook tablets like the TW-700 and the TW-800 line tablets, are going to have huge issues running the new OS, even though they should qualify for the upgrade.
  2. They don’t have enough RAM
    Tablets in the budget line often have just 1GB of RAM. While Windows 10 will live in that space, it’s like shoving your foot in a shoe that’s half a size too small. You can walk; man, it’s extremely painful.  It’s going to be the same way here.
  3. They don’t have enough storage
    Seven to eight inch tablets are usually 32bit machines.  I haven’t seen one yet house  64bit processor.  The Windows 10 install DVD for 32bit machines is about 3.5GB in size.  This is a problem because many of these smaller, budget oriented tablets only have 16GB of storage space.Decompressed, Windows 8.x requires about 7GB of space, on a virgin drive.  After you add in Windows Update History and an application or two, you’ve only got 2GB or so of space left over.  With Windows 10 requiring at least 4-8GB of space to install, you’ve got impossible space problems.  You aren’t going to be able to upgrade that tablet let Windows 10.  You might be able to do a clean install, provided you do a full hard drive wipe; but then you’ve got to install all of your apps again, and if your product/ registration codes were virtual – meaning they really did come preinstalled on the device – then getting them back is going to be nearly impossibleWindows 10 was supposed to ship with a method that would allow you to temporarily uninstall apps and/ or move them to an SD card in order to facilitate installation, but that feature got delayed, and will likely be part of Threshold 2 (TH2), or the next official big update of Windows 10, due out in October of 2015.  I don’t think Windows 10 will run on these small, budget tablets then, either.

So, what are you to do if you want to try to put Windows 10 on that kind of tablet?  Your best bet is to either find the ISO and burn a hard copy DVD or buy a copy with a dedicated product code and install Windows 10 that way.  Any method you use, however, won’t improve Windows 10 performance on this type of budget tablet.  It’s still going to be slow going and it’s never going to get better, because you can’t install additional RAM.

Conclusion

There’s a lot here, kids.  There really is.

It’s clear that Microsoft really screwed the pooch when it came to Windows 8.  They went all in with touch, but then didn’t embrace a mobile strategy that made any sense.  Windows 8 – and Windows RT too, if you really think about it – tanked because Microsoft didn’t (couldn’t or wouldn’t) give up the desktop.

Windows RT was supposed to be Microsoft’s answer to the iPad, and it would have worked (been better received/ accepted..?) if RT devices were MetroUI/ ModernUI ONLY…and without the Desktop.  Unfortunately, they just couldn’t make that happen, and nearly everyone choked on a touch interface on a non-touch enabled PC.

But that’s in the past.

With Windows 10, Microsoft has tried to learn from its mistakes and has introduced an operating system that tries to embrace touch but gives up enough to allow it to work on the desktop without causing most of the world’s workforce – who does business on a Windows powered PC – to get work done. In this regard, Windows 10 will succeed and do very well.

From a mobile perspective, Microsoft is trying.  They really are… yeah, they’re trying…as in trying my patience.  Windows 10 Mobile still isn’t out yet, and still isn’t available in preview form on the Windows Phones I have access to.

Microsoft is trying to create one “version” of Windows that has enough UI common elements that you’ll feel comfortable and familiarized with it, regardless of what kind of device – whether that’s a smartphone, tablet (regardless of size) or PC – that you’re holding.

What Do *I* Really Think?

Windows 10 is designed to be FAMILIAR… and it is, in many ways. Users of Windows 7 will feel comfortable with the redesigned Start Menu (though they’ll likely remove ALL of the Live Tiles…); but it will at least look and feel familiar enough for them to use and work with.  Those that did move to Windows 8 and are stuck on that paradigm, will find Live Tiles in the Start Menu and can even make it go full screen, if they wish.  Again, familiar.

But again, what do I think..?  That’s pretty easy.

Windows 10 is a decent operating system. I think there are going to be issues with updates and new builds that will likely either break the internet or try your patience as you try to download updates that are likely to come at a pace that’s a LOT more frequent than you’re used to.  I have a feeling you’re going to see a bit more bundling of fixes and such into service packs than we have in the past few years… that will at least make it easier to update your PC after you have to blow it and rebuild it because you got a nasty virus or adware infection.

Using Windows 10 is fairly straight forward and the new UI elements are easy to get used to.  As I said, its familiar; and you’re going to like it coming from either Windows 7 OR Window 8.x.

Should You Upgrade?

If you’re using Windows 7, you can stay there for another year or two if you really have to. There’s nothing wrong with it, but when the Windows 10 upgrade is free, and it’s still fairly familiar to what you’re using now, upgrading makes a lot of sense.  If you’re on Windows 8.x and you don’t like it, and you really need to get off of it or switch to something else, again… the upgrade to Windows 10 is free and at least worth a shot before you go off and buy a Mac or switch to some Linux distribution that will also likely be a bit of a stretch for you.

So, if you fall in any of those spots, yes, upgrade.

Unless…

If you’re on a budget tablet – anything with say an Atom processor and DEFINITELY anything with 1GB of RAM – stop.  Don’t accept the upgrade and stay with Windows 8.x. Period.  I’ve had nothing but trouble with my Dell Latitude 10 ST2 tablet on Windows 10, and it has 2GB of RAM. I can’t imagine what 1GB of RAM would be like.

One the desktop side, it’s going to be pretty much the same thing.  Any older processor types – Core Duo’s, Core 2 Duo’s, Celerons (regardless of how new the PC is) – won’t fare well under Windows 10 with anything under 4-8GB of RAM, and even then, you may not want to upgrade.  And going back to your previous OS may or may not be possible, depending on the amount of storage you have and whether or not you have the original restore DVD’s.

So, in the end, Windows 10 yes. Two thumbs up.

Windows 10 on older machines (say, 4-5 years old)…? Your mileage may vary; but don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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Feature Review – Nexus 6 & Project Fi Part One

Google’s new cellular network, Project Fi, is here. Is it all its cracked up to be?

Nexus-6

Introduction

I’ve been a Google Services user for quite some time. In fact, I have a Gmail address that I still actively use that dates back to one of the very first and original Gmail Invitations. I began using Gmail in 2003, shortly after it was introduced to the public. I’ve been using Google Apps as a (now grandfathered) free, domain account since late 2009. I love Google Services for (seriously) just a very few reasons, the first and foremost being that they usually are always up and running. Its not like the earlier days when they went down all the time.

When Google announced Project Fi, I looked into getting myself a review unit and an account. With device and service now in hand, I am now currently looking into how well it all fits together. Project Fi is the company’s first foray into being an MVNO – Mobile, Virtual Network Operator.

Project Fi combines services from two mobile operators and one universal, networking service (Wi-Fi) in order to provide voice and data services. With Sprint and T-Mobile providing calling and mobile broadband service, combined with Wi-Fi calling and internet access, you should have coverage nearly everywhere… or at least that’s the idea.

There are a couple caveats with Project Fi, however. In this article, we’ll look at those. We will also look at the service it provides, the changes it makes to Google Voice – if relevant in your use – as well as the hardware it requires. I’m not going to go into a truly in-depth look at the Nexus 6 hardware (though I will cover it, somewhat). I’m going to concentrate more on how it works with Project Fi more than anything else.

The device has been available for a while; and if you’re looking for an in-depth or teardown review of the Nexus 6, you should check those out first. Again, I’m going to go over the device , but I’m going to really skim over it. There are a number of really good reviews of the Nexus 6 on the web already. You can find a few at pocketnow.com, C|Net and Engadget. With all that said, let’s get to it…

 

Hardware

The first thing that you need to know about Project Fi is that it requires very specific hardware. You can’t just take a Project Fi SIM and stick it into any phone with a SIM slot. It just doesn’t work that way. In order to use the service, you have to use compatible hardware, and that means acquiring a new device, unless you happen to own a Nexus 6.

Nexus-6

The Nexus 6 is the first (and currently only) smartphone (at the moment, at least) that works with Project Fi. If you already have a Nexus 6, you’re halfway there. All you have to do to get on the service is go to the Project Fi website and request an invitation.

Yep… an invitation. Oh… and then wait. Like, forever.

Nexus-6

Like everything cool that Google does, part of their DNA is to dangle their projects in front of you, make the access exclusive, elitist and again, cool; and build demand for it, if only just to build up the hype. In the end its (metaphorically speaking) just a photo upload service, just a webmail app, just an online office suite, etc.   So, Project Fi is just like a… no. Wait… I’m getting ahead of myself… AH-GAIN.

Nexus-6

In order to access the service, after your invitation arrives, again, you need a Nexus 6. If you don’t have one, don’t worry. You can purchase one through Project Fi. If you do, you have the option of buying it outright, or by paying for it over the course of 24 months as part of your monthly service, interest free.

Nexus-6

Through Project Fi, the Nexus 6 is $549USD for a 32GB version or $599USD for the 64GB version. Project Fi only offers the Midnight Blue version of the Nexus 6, so your only real choice with the device is storage size. If you want to purchase a Nexus 6 via their monthly purchase plan, you’ll pay about $22 a month for the 32GB version and $24 a month for the 64GB version. Again, there are no finance or interest charges. Your monthly charge will include any applicable taxes. If the Nexus 6 on Project Fi is going to be your daily driver, then it really makes sense to purchase the 64GB version, especially if you go the monthly payment route, as the price difference between the two is only $50USD. That process requires a credit check, though.

Nexus-6

However, Google is being very picky about who qualifies for the monthly payment option and who doesn’t. I wasn’t given specifics, but I was told by the PR rep I spoke with that even with my very good credit, that I wouldn’t qualify.

Screen

The first thing you’re going to notice about the Nexus 6 is its huge screen size. The device’s screen specs can be seen below. All of the specs in this article have been gathered from Phone Arena, which is one of the best places I know of to look for hard core, device specs.

Nexus-6

Physical size: 6.0 inches
Resolution: 1440 x 2560 pixels
Pixel density: 493 ppi
Technology: AMOLED
Screen-to-body ratio: 74.03 %
Touchscreen: Multi-touch
Features: Light sensor, Proximity sensor, Scratch-resistant glass (Corning Gorilla Glass 3)

Simply put, at 6 inches, the device… is enormous. With a resolution of 1440 x 2560 pixels, its screen rivals the display resolution of my Apple Thunderbolt display. The only difference in the resolution (and only the resolution) between the two is that the default orientation for the Nexus 6 is Portrait (where any monitor – like my Thunderbolt Display – has a default orientation of Landscape). According to the specs, above, the screen is nearly 3/4 of the entire device. When you see it, you’ll likely have two thoughts – 1. Wow! The screen is 3/4 of the entire device!; and 2. Wait… its only 3/4 of the entire device?? That can’t be right. There’s more screen on this thing than that! The rest is system board, casing and battery.

Nexus-6

With its AMOLED display, the Nexus 6 is incredibly readable in direct sun light. I didn’t have any issues with it in that department. The device is awesome for watching video or taking pictures with its 13MP camera (more on that, below). Game play on this thing has to be amazing, given the screen’s large size and resolution. (I, unfortunately, am not much of a gamer…)

Nexus-6

With such a large footprint, the device is nearly impossible to use one handed. I’ve used a lot of devices with a lot of different form factors, with and without large touch screens. This one is hard to use with only one hand. I’m not certain I’d even try if I were you. You’ll sprain a thumb, at least. When I tried, I kept dropping the display on my desk.

Nexus-6

Lastly, the Nexus 6’s screen is covered with Gorilla Glass 3. The glass is effectively scratch proof, though Google will tell you its only scratch resistant. However, Gorilla Glass 3 is so tough, you won’t have to worry about the contents of your pocket scratching your screen.

Specs

The Nexus 6 runs Android 5.1.x, Lollipop. Google has recently stated that the device will receive an update to Android 5.1.1, “within days,” but since I received my review unit on 2015-07-09, I haven’t seen the update hit. Android 5.1.1 will be arrive as an over-the-air (OTA) update; and will provide a number of improvements, such as improving the display, increasing battery life for Wi-Fi calling and enhancing notifications.

OS: Android (5.1, 5.0)
Dimensions: 6.27 x 3.27 x 0.40 inches(159.26 x 82.98 x 10.06 mm)
Weight 6.49 oz.(184 g) the average is 5 oz. (142 g)
Rugged: Splash resistant

If the screen size didn’t give it away, then the dimensions above, should. The device is really big. At 184g (6.5oz), its also got a bit of heft to it, too. The biggest problem I had the first day I had it, though was actually keeping it in my hands. The device kept sliding out of my hands (as I noted above) because I kept trying to use it one handed. Thankfully, I was sitting at a desk in the office. With a phablet this large, don’t try it. If you’re out and about and you fumble the device, you’re likely going to have it hit the ground, and these things always manage to land on a corner or edge and then the screen shatters (Gorilla Glass 3 or not). That’s physics and geometry. Hitting the corner of a device at the right speed and velocity will likely send enough force up the glass to crack or shatter it. This bad boy requires you to use both hands to operate it. Get used to it and get over it.

The Nexus 6 has a quad core Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 processor and Adreno 420 graphics with 3GB of RAM and either 32GB or 64GB of storage. The device is quick and can handle just about anything that you throw at it. With the native resolution that it has, and support for HDMI (via microUSB), with the right adapter, a Bluetooth keyboard and Microsoft Office for Android, this could make a decent, on the road, laptop replacement. Couple that with OneDrive for Android, and you’ve got a perfect on the go way to edit documents in a pinch. With its large screen, you don’t really HAVE to have a microUSB to HDMI adapter. You could probably edit documents right on the plane in your oh-so-comfy coach seat if you really needed to.

In that regard, the battery on this device is pretty nice too. At 3220mAh, you have about 12 hours of talk time, 14 days of standby time and 10 hours of continuous video playback (or likely somewhere in between, depending on your brightness settings and data needs). When you need to recharge, the device comes with a turbo charger that can take you from 0-50% in 20-30 minutes. The device also supports Qi wireless charging (pronounced “chee”) for your cord-free, charging convenience.

TECHNOLOGY AND CONNECTIVITY

GSM: 850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz
UMTS: 800, 850, 900, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100 MHz
FDD LTE: 700 (band 28), 800 (band 19), 800 (band 20), 850 (band 5), 900 (band 8), 1800 (band 3), 2100 (band 1), 2600 (band 7) MHz
TDD LTE: 2500 (band 41) MHz
Data: LTE-A Cat 6 (300/50 Mbit/s), HSDPA+ (4G) 42.2 Mbit/s, HSDPA+ (4G) 21.1 Mbit/s, HSUPA 5.76 Mbit/s, EDGE, GPRS
nano-SIM: Yes
VoLTE: Yes
Positioning: GPS, A-GPS
Navigation: Yes
Bluetooth: 4.1
Wi-Fi: 802.11 a, b, g, n, n 5GHz, ac
Mobile hotspot: Yes
USB: USB 2.0
Connector: microUSB
Features: Mass storage device, USB charging
HDMI: via microUSB
Other: NFC, MHL, SlimPort, Tethering, Computer sync, OTA sync

Camera

I’ve been trying to use the Nexus 6 as a camera whenever possible. Its not the easiest device to wield and hold; though, in truth, taking pictures with it isn’t a horrible experience. Though (also) in truth…the performance could and should be a whole lot better, especially with the specs on the camera and the system hardware. This thing should be a whole lot faster than it is.

Thankfully, it appears as though Google has heard the wails and cries of its peoples and has released a Nexus 6 and Android 5.1 Lollipop only update to Google Camera that addresses some of these issues (plus others). The update – version 2.5.052 (2005148-30) was released on 2015-06-11. I’ve had this device for about a week, and I’ve had it on every day since getting it. I’m not certain why I’ve only just received this update today.

I’ve got a small gallery of pictures that I’ve taken with the device. They’re not anything spectacular, but you can check them out, below.

Camera: Popup13 megapixels
Flash: Dual LED
Aperture size: F2.0
Features: Autofocus, Optical image stabilization, Face detection, Digital zoom, Geo tagging
Shooting Modes: Popup High Dynamic Range mode (HDR), Panorama
Camcorder: 3840×2160 (4K) (30 fps), 1920×1080 (1080p HD) (30 fps), 1280×720 (720p HD) (30 fps)
Front-facing camera: 2 megapixels

The rear camera is a 13MP camera that will shoot in a number of different sizes and modes. The camera supports both 4:3 and 16:9 aspect ratio shots. You can get 13MP, 5MP, and 3.1MP shots in 4:3, and 9.7MP and 2.1MP shots in 16:9. The camera has a f2.0 aperture, so its pretty fast and should be ok in lower lighting situations. The cool part, though comes in its camcorder modes. The Nexus 6 shoots 4k, 1080p and 720p video at 30fps.

Nexus-6Nexus-6Nexus-6Nexus-6Nexus-6Nexus-6Nexus-6Nexus-6Nexus-6Nexus-6Nexus-6Nexus-6Nexus-6Nexus-6Nexus-6Nexus-6

Speaker pop

I’m not sure why this is happening; but every time I turn the device on or off, the bottom speaker is popping. Its getting pretty annoying, too. The device started doing this out of the box, even before any software was installed or updated on it, so I know this isn’t something that I installed or updated causing a problem or conflict. I may need to contact Google on this one…

Software

Stock Android

The great thing about a Nexus device is that you’re running stock Android. Granted, this is not AOSP (Android Open Source Project), which is what Amazon and similar players use. This has the full Google Services install in it, and as such, you get the full Google Experience.

With the Nexus 6, you are supposed to get updates regularly, and you’re supposed to get all the updates, too. I’ve now gotten my Lollipop 5.1.1 update, and I really don’t see much of a difference in the device’s performance.

End of part one … come tomorrow to see the part two of our review

Related Posts:

Windows 10 Build 10240 Reaches RTM Status

Microsoft has released Windows 10 Build 10240 to manufacturing.

Windows 10 Build 10240

So what’s 6 measly days between friends, right?!

It’s just been announced that Microsoft has reached RTM status and will release Windows 10 Build 10240 to the public, according to The Verge. This is the “last” version of Windows to be released to users prior to the July 29th release date.

While there hasn’t been any indication of release of this RTM build to Fast Ring Windows Insiders, I would expect that to happen prior to the end of the normal work week. According to The Verge, there aren’t any new features included in this new build. It’s largely fit, form and functionality improvements and bug fixes, even with the large build number jump from 10166 to 10240 (which, by the way, is the binary value, equivalent to 10.00… see what they did there..?)

This is the build that will be shipped to computer manufacturers and OEM’s so that it can be put on new machines that are supposed to ship with Windows 10. As I mentioned, its assumed that Windows Insiders will get this build (along with others that will likely come to the general population) prior to the 2015-07-29 release.

The last couple weeks of this month should still be interesting. Let’s see what happens. You can look for a formal review of Windows 10 on Soft32 in the weeks to come.

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