Is Retro Good Enough? – The HTC One (M8) Dot View Case

It offers good protection, and the dot view display is cool in a retro sorta way, but…

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When I bought my iPhone 4S, I tended to carry it without a case. Most of the cases that I found, I didn’t like. The ones I liked, were too expensive, or…they wouldn’t work with an Apple branded or third party cradle. I got so fed up with it that I just decided to carry a naked device. Working with the cases that I found was just too frustrating.

That changed a little bit with my iPhone 5.  I’ve been using the same Speck case for nearly 2 years. I’m very happy with it, mostly because the back folds up and out of the way, so it works with devices and cradles that don’t work well with cases. It’s pretty cool to have a case that works – and I mean really WORKS – with your device and not against it.

When I received the HTC One M8 a few weeks ago, I was very excited to see that it came with the Dot View case.  Since it’s a loaner-review unit, the last thing I wanted to do was return it with scratches or dents in the screen or aluminum unibody. I know most reviewers understand that these things make the rounds, but you really want to take care of it. YOU don’t want to work with a beat up review unit. The next guy doesn’t want to, either.

So, the moment that after I unboxed the HTC One (M8), I put it in the Dot View Case. Here’s my feedback, specifically on the case.

1.Dot View Display Doesn’t Always Display

I find this one very frustrating. The Dot View display is supposed to display every time you close the case and then every time you double tap the front cover of the device while it’s closed over the display.  Simply  put, the HTC One (M8) review unit I have initially did this, but then stopped displaying the Dot View Display when the Dot View Case is closed on the device shortly after I started working with it on day one. Since then, the Dot View Display does appear when you double tap the closed case while it’s closed over the display, as required.

 2. Cracks and Wear

I’ve said it before. I have concerns about the hinge on the Dot View Case cracking over time with wear.  The logical way to work with this case is to flip the cover around the back of the device so that the cover stays open while you hold the device.  Over time, that’s going to create stress cracks on the spine of the case, and it’s going to weaken, rip and/ or crack. Period. This is just a matter of time.

3. Dot View Case and the Duo Camera

It’s clear to me that whomever designed the Dot View Case, never used it with the device. Part of the normal use case for the device is to take pictures with the device while it’s in the case.  This presents a couple of problems:

a.   Wrapping the Case Cover around the Device – You Can’t Take Pictures with the Case Cover open and wrapped around the back of the device. It covers the secondary lens, and the camera complains because the lenses are obstructed.  If you’re using the device with the Dot View Case and you want to take pictures, you have to open the case and let the cover flop open…which leads to our second problem.

b.   Elasticity in the Case Hinge – Leaving the case to flop open while you’re holding the device in landscape orientation, using the volume rocker as a shutter button, the Dot View Case cover wants to close shut on the device, turning off the display. This makes taking pictures with the device very frustrating.

In the end, you’re better off taking the device OUT of the case when you want to take pictures with the HTC One (M8).  Having the device in the Dot View Case while using it as a camera is very frustrating and very aggravating. While it’s very easy to take a lot of pictures with the HTC One (M8) and its rapid shutter release, the longer you work with the device as a digital camera, the more you’re going to want to have it out of the case, which completely defeats the purpose of having it in the case in the first place.

I’m not sure what the right answer is here. The case needs a couple of holes in the front at least for the camera (which would screw up the dot matrix look of the case OR require a graphic redesign of the dot view display), or you just need to make a different case choice for the HTC One entirely.

4. Use with Automotive Universal Device Cradles

This is another hot mess.   Most universal device cradles use some kind of spring tension arm to hold the device in place. Arkon makes some great universal holders. I’ve been using them for almost 10 years.

Your device needs to be in a cradle of some kind while it’s in the car. If you’re using it for navigation or for music playback, you’re going to want it secured and within reach so you can change songs, address GPS issues or answer phone calls without diverting your attention from the road.

The problem is that the case is flexible and there’s a great deal of elasticity in the plastic/ rubber hinge. You have to fold it around the back of the device so you can see the device while it’s in the case and in a universal cradle.  Side gripping cradles want to grab the case cover and fold it in half long ways/ portrait style. When this happens, I feel like the case cover is going to crack. Top gripping cradles want to grab the case and fold it in half short ways/ landscape style. When this happens, I feel like the plastic/ rubber hinge is going to rip AND the case cover is going to crack.

Again, this is another instance where you’d think that taking the device out of the case would be best, but at that point. However, that brings me to my final point regarding the Dot View Case.

5. Practicality Over Time – Don’t Bother

The Dot View Case is a book style case that rests its novelty in a dot matrix styled, retro display created by the holes in the cover.  When using this case with the HTC One (M8), I found I wanted the device in some sort of a protective case nearly all the time. It’s a mobile device, and I use mine most when I am in fact…mobile.

However, I found myself wanting to plug and chug the device in and out of the case more often than not when taking pictures and when putting it in a universal device cradle in the car.  The case doesn’t work well in these use cases.

I have an hour drive to work every day. That’s 2 hours in the car. Add normal picture taking/ selfies posing and other use to this, and I think you’ll find as I did.  The Dot View Case is a flop.

The problem is the case design, not the case type – a book style case. In contrast, book cases for the Samsung Galaxy S4 or S5 works and works well because of the huge window cut in them to display the date and time when they are closed. When you fold them back, the opening in the case cover doesn’t obstruct the camera lens or LCD flash, allowing for unobstructed camera use.  The case hinge also doesn’t have the elasticity that the Dot View Case’s plastic/ rubber hinge and doesn’t want to swing closed all the time. I believe it’s also made of leather or other material and will probably weather the stress a bit better.

In the end, while I truly believe you need a case for any and all mobile devices and smartphones, the HTC One (M8) Dot View Case, unfortunately isn’t very practical; and that really bothers me.  I like the retro styled, dot matrix display and the fact that the device can detect a double tap to activate the display THROUGH the case, but in working with it over the past few weeks, I am too afraid of ripping, cracking or breaking it while using it for it to be of any real, long term use to me or any other user of the HTC One (M8).

What do you think?  Is the Dot View Case’s cool factor enough to excuse its many foibles? With its Gorilla Glass front and aluminum shell, is a case REALLY necessary?  Am I being too critical of the design and of book style cases in general?  Why don’t you give me your thoughts in the comments section below and let me know what you think?

 

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Ashampoo WinOptimizer 11

Keep your Windows PC running in tip-top shape with this must have optimization utility.

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Security and performance optimization are some of the most needed, important computer features today. With all of the security issues that seem to be cropping up now-a-days, the more you can do to protect yourself, the better off you’re going to be. Having the right tools in your toolbox for this is important, and its one of the biggest reasons why I like WinOptimizer 11 from Ashampoo. Its one f the best Windows utilities you can find on the internet today.

Taking care of your PC is often difficult. With WinOptimizer, you get all the assistance you need. It gives you the most your PC can deliver, allowing you to concentrate on your work, rather than concerning yourself with its performance. For example, new in Ashampoo WinOptimizer 11 is Game Booster. With it, you can automatically free system resources and shut down non-essential system services during game play so that your games run faster and more efficiently. It kills all non-gaming essential services (but not processes) and enhances multimedia processing.

Services for mobile devices support, VoIP, browsers that consume a lot of RAM and Office apps like Word or Excel and their associated services will be shut down; but can be easily restored when you’re done playing your game. The best thing is that Game Booster can be activated manually through Live Tuner’s system tray context menu, a shortcut on the apps overview page, or automatically when a game or system intensive app is started.

One of the app’s newest and biggest features is User Rights Manager. This is a comprehensive module that allows anyone with admin rights to the box adjust system restrictions for a single user or for multiple accounts, based on the internal Windows system Policy Editor. A backup of all user restrictions is created automatically in the background before changes are saved.

For example, you can set policies like always opening flash drives as write protected. You can prevent access to admin features by non-admin users, hide varying shutdown options, prevent access to Control Panel’s System properties that control Display, Bluetooth, Power Management, Network connections, etc. If you have shared computers anywhere in the house and inquisitive computer users, limiting access to these things can save you a lot of grief and troubleshooting later.

I’m always very critical of system utilities for a number of reasons. In many ways they make self service a whole lot easier. However, the more advanced THEY get, the more advanced YOU must get in order to understand the system changes you’re enabling. The biggest reason why I like WinOptimizer from Ashampoo is that they give you the options and capabilities without overwhelming you with all the technical mumbo-jumbo that goes along with it.

WinOptimizer 11 is one of better Windows utility apps on the market today. Its fast, easy to use and understand, yet gives you access to all of the options that many corporate system admins have via the Windows Group Policy Editor, without having to deal with its much more complicated interface.

Ashampoo is one of my favorite software publishers. They have some really awesome apps, and this is definitely one of them. The addition of User Rights Manager and Game Optimizer alone justify the upgrade costs. However, it has a great deal MORE to offer. Download this now and find out for yourself why Soft32 thinks this is a must have for your PC.

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UPDATED – Amazon Releases FireTV

It’s a direct shot across the Apple TV bow. How the industry, and Apple specifically should respond remains to be seen…

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Amazon recently announced the Amazon FireTV, a set-top box similar to the Roku box, Chromecast and of course, the Apple TV. However, there were a few gotchas with the device that have me – and a number of other people – scratching their heads. It’s a good first effort, but; well… I don’t want to get ahead of myself…

Amazon’s FireTV has a similar look to the Apple TV, Apple’s “hobby-based” content streaming project that has them pulling in a great deal more revenue from their content ecosystem than I think most people think or Apple is willing to admit. If you have an iDevice and buy ANY content on iTunes, having an Apple TV so you can play that content on your television set is a no-brainer.

I think Amazon had the same thought. They want to give people that have adopted their ecosystem the opportunity to do the same things – watch their purchased or rented video, listen to their music, etc. on their television sets. However, based on the recently debunked rumors, it seems to me that Amazon had a chance to hit a home run, and instead, swung and missed.

The FireTV… yeah… it doesn’t support Amazon Prime Video. Meaning that you can’t use it to stream any content to your TV from the vastly popular and PAID streaming service Amazon gives its Prime members as part of their (now) $99 annual member fee. Whoever made that decision needs to be hunted down and shot fired.

Apple TV is successful because it allows users to stream items from the iTunes media store as well as a user’s iTunes library. Everything that Apple can stream to your Mac or PC, can come through the Apple TV. Users can also buy and rent content from the set top box.

Amazon won’t stream Prime Instant Video through the FireTV. There’s absolutely NO incentive for any Amazon Prime member to buy the box, even after the $20 price increase most of us have recently been subject to. Again, what idiot thought THAT up? While I understand that they are trying to entice other, new customers and users – many of which may not be Amazon Prime users to the ecosystem – what better way to cement current users into the ecosystem than through a set top box that supports their ENTIRE ecosystem and also allows those users to purchase additional content? I know there was purpose and thought behind the decision not to support Prime Instant Video. I just think their logic is flawed and the decision was, well… wrong.

In my opinion, Apple TV has no direct competitor. Yes. You’re right…there ARE other streaming set top boxes out there. The Roku box and Roku Streaming stick are two big examples at the front of the pack. However, even though it can stream content from external services like Netflix as well, it doesn’t have an ecosystem it could support. The FireTV does.

This decision just feels as though someone was asleep at the wheel. Amazon needs to reexamine it and correct it ASAP. I was seriously considering purchasing one UNTIL I found out it doesn’t support Prime Instant Video. Now, I wonder if I will even bother looking at the product pages for it.

How about you? Are you interested in the FireTV even though it doesn’t support Amazon Prime Instant Video? Would it encourage you to purchase an Amazon Prime membership if it did? Why don’t you join me in the comments below, and tell me what you think of this development.

UPDATE – This article was originally based on initial information available on the internet at the time just before the announcement of the set top box. Much of what you see above has been updated to indicate that Amazon FireTV DOES in fact support Amazon Prime Streaming Video. This is a huge win for Amazon as well as users of Amazon Prime as it corrects nearly every issue I brought up with the service.

What makes this an even more compelling buy, especially if you have most, if not all of your media content purchased through one of Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablets, is that like the Apple TV, now you have access to all of your purchased content as well as Amazon’s Prime Streaming Video service.

If you do not have a set top box AND have an Amazon Kindle Fire or Kindle Fire HD tablet, this is the streaming set top box you need to purchase.

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HTC One (M8) – Duo Camera

You’re either going to love it, or you’re going to hate it. There is no middle ground…

So… I’m a huge digital photography nut.   I have two Nikon DX series DSLR’s and about 8 different lenses. I love taking pictures with them. My kids and my granddaughter are some of my favorite subjects to shoot.   That is, if you can get them to sit still long enough for me to get the camera out and the right lens attached.   While it is a bit harder with my granddaughter – at 18 months, getting her to sit still for ANYTHING is a challenge – this is the reason why God invented cameras in smartphones.   It’s much easier to whip out your phone and take a number of shots than it is to take them on a real camera, especially if you weren’t planning on taking photos.

htc-one-m8-duo-camera-smartphone-unveiled-03-570x712So, enter the HTC One (M8) and its Duo Camera.   The HTC One (M8) is the first camera that I have seen with a dual rear-facing camera with dual LCD flash.   The camera is supposed to pair its main UltraPixel module with a depth sensor that concentrates on depth of field information in the secondary lens. What you get is (supposed to be) a sharp foreground as the camera knows EXACTLY where everything is and what you’re really trying to focus on.   The camera has different tools related to both foreground and background (Foregrounder and UFocus, respectively) that provide specialized effects that can be applied to the pictures you take…and it’s all possible due to the extra depth of field information you get from the secondary lens.

The camera also has one of the fastest shutters I’ve ever seen in any kind of digital camera, either DSLR or point and shoot.   The HTC One (M8) can take 9-12 continuous shots with an autofocus speed of 300 milliseconds.   The camera begins snapping shots as soon as you press the shutter button.   The shutter is so fast, you’ll barely even notice that its capturing shots, which is one of the reasons why I ended up taking over 600 photos this past weekend (literally…) in under 30 minutes. I’ve never seen any camera so fast on the draw in my life.   There are a lot of features here that the average user won’t ever get to or even think about using.   The camera is pretty advanced.

So, how did it perform in actual use…?

Eh…

I was very disappointed.   As I said, I take some pictures, and I’m used to taking several hundred in a single shoot. There are a few things that are a bit concerning about the HTC One (M8)’s camera that HTC hasn’t hidden, per say, but they haven’t advertised them very well, either.

First and foremost, the rear facing camera has a 4MP sensor.   No.   That’s not a typo. I meant to use just the number “4” by itself. It’s not 14MP, or 24MP or even 40MP. Just 4MP.   That’s it…   The front facing camera intended for Skype and for selfies has a larger sensor at 5MP. While the secondary lens is supposed to compensate for the reduced sensor size and provide extra background information to allow for a sharper picture, that’s not what I experienced.

Many of the photos that I took, in varying lighting conditions, were “cloudy” (and yes, I checked the lens and cleaned any dirt or finger prints off…).   Many of the photos were blurry, even in direct sunlight and when the subject (and the phone/ camera) were relatively still.   I tried some of the special picture features and was equally unimpressed. Many of those things are novelties anyway, and unless you find something you really feel is cool or interesting, they’re not something you’re going to use on a regular basis.   Most people are just going to want to take pictures. Period.

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For example, the rapid shutter setting can either be used to take a bundle of pictures or to take rapid, single, shots.   If you take a bundle of photos, you can have the phone pick the best shot in the bundle and then delete the others.   If you’d rather do it yourself, you wind up with, like I said earlier, between 9-12 shots that are pretty much the same, unless you’re taking pictures at a sporting event or of your children traveling faster than light.   You have to watch, as you can accumulate quite a bit of photos, very quickly.   That’s how I shot over 600 photos over the weekend.

Getting them off the device and on to my Mac, I think was the biggest train wreck I’ve experienced. EVER.

With most other smartphones, once you connect the device to the computer, the smartphone shows up as a disk drive, and you can copy or move files off the device; OR in some cases, its recognized as a digital camera and whatever tool you have on your computer that senses cameras starts up and offers to transfer files for you.   That’s what I expected to happen on my Mac.   I was severely disappointed.

On the Mac, you have to install the HTC Transfer Manager.   The app assumes you’re using iPhoto to manage pictures and not any other app. Unfortunately, I don’t use iPhoto.   I had to jump through a number of different confusing screens to finally get to a point where I was looking at the device itself; and where I could browse files.   The photos aren’t in the “camera” folder on the device.   They’re in the DCIM folder.

It’s nice that HTC Transfer Manager supports iPhoto on the Mac, but the app should allow me to configure the device to use any transfer method and/or to show up as a drive automatically. It was confusing to have to wade through all the screens I had to wade through only to have to hunt for the files after I finally located the DCIM folder on the HTC One (M8).

After I imported them into Adobe Lightroom the amount of retouching I had to do to get them to look right was extensive.   You’re also going to see that at just 4MP, you aren’t going to get a photo suitable for anything bigger than a 4″x6″ or 5″x7″ print out. 4MP shots just don’t have enough data to support a decent 8″x10″.   You’re also not going to do a lot of cropping here, either. There just simply isn’t enough detail in the photo (read: enough pixels/ resolution) to support any decent cropping or detailing of the shots you take.

This was HUGELY disappointing to me; as it will be to many potential HTC One (M8) customers as well.   Digital photography is something that nearly everyone does now-a-days, as its every easy with many smartphones now sporting better digital camera sensors and equipment than many point and shoot cameras you can buy at Wal-Mart or BestBuy.   I also do a great deal of post processing to my images as well. There are a lot of tools out there that make retouching and adding post process effects easy.   The lack of resolution at a time when digital photography is something that nearly everyone makes use of on their smartphones is nearly inexcusable.

Is there anything you want me to look at on the HTC One (M8)?   Are you as disappointed as I was with the camera’s performance?   Why not join me in the comments section below and give me your thoughts on the matter?   As I said in the beginning… you’re either gonna love this device as a camera or you’re going to hate it…

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Macgo Mac Blu-ray Player

Play Blu-ray disks on your Mac or on your PC with this GREAT cross platform app.

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The one thing that I’ve always felt has been missing from OS X was Blu-ray support. Apple didn’t – and still doesn’t for that matter – think that Blu-ray was relevant enough to include native support for in OS X. This is why Macgo Mac Blu-ray Player is my favorite DVD player. It provides all the regular DVD support, plus gives you support for Blu-ray DVD and HD video.

The coolest thing about Mac Blu-ray Player is that its the first universal Blu-ray media player for Mac in the world. It plays Blu-ray discs and Blu-ray ISO files on Mac and PC. It will also play all of these on iOS devices. You can also play most any kind of video, audio, or photo formats with it. It has multi-language support and is easy to use.

The app works on both Mac AND PC systems. It will run on any Mac running OS X 10.5 Leopard or later. It runs on any PC running Windows XP SP2 or later. The only obvious hardware requirement you MUST have is a compatible Blu-ray drive for either your Mac or PC

This is probably one of the best apps I’ve got on my computers. I was looking for something that would support Blu-ray on my Mac and on my PC’s and Macgo has a bundle that will allow you both Mac and PC licenses. The app is easy to use, and the interface is decent and easy to follow. With the ability to play nearly any and every kind of video file ever created, this app will give you the ability to play every multimedia file you can put your hands on and then some.

The app can also play HD video on your compatible iOS device. Just like Apple’s AirPlay, the app can project video on your iPod, iPad or iPhone. The only problem is that it doesn’t work with iOS 6.x devices. Macgo says they are working on a solution; but as of this writing, Airx doesn’t work with iOS 6.

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HTC One (M8) Performance at a Premium

The HTC One (M8) is a top notch performing device but comes at a premium price

It’s no secret that I use an iPhone 5.   It’s also no secret that that iPhone is considered a high-end, premium handset by everyone that’s ever seen or held one.   The device was $200 on a two year contract with AT&T. The iPhone 5s sells for a similar price, with similar contract terms, though now you have the opportunity to finance rather than subsidize your phone purchase. This gives you a bit more control over your upgrade cycle (you can pay your phone off early and upgrade on many financed plans, where you can’t with a subsidized device), so depending on where you are with your current phone and your current contract, you may be able to move to the HTC One (M8) sooner rather than later. Unfortunately, the HTC One (M8) is also premium priced, just like the iPhone 5/5s. The 32GB unit is $199.99 on a 2-year contract or $599.99 contract free.

However, today, I wanted to talk about device specs and performance; and not necessarily carrier issues or device cost.   Let’s dive into those at a later date. Today is about everything under the hood.

HTC2-STILL-01Here are the main specs for the device:

·    2.3Ghz quad core Snapdragon 801
·    2GB of RAM
·    32GB of Storage/23GB Usable
·    65GB of Google Drive Cloud Storage for 2 years
·    microSD slot supports 128GB cards
·    NFC
·    LTE/HSPA+
·    UltraPixel Camera

Those that care about raw specs should be happy with these.   The device is no slouch, having as much computing power as some low-end laptops.   The 2.3Ghz quad core Snapdragon 801 processor and 2GB of RAM should give you enough processing power to crunch through even the most graphically intensive games and mobile applications.   The device hasn’t given me any kind of grief or performance burps with any of the included apps or any that were brought down as part of my Google Account.   The device also handles multi-tasking and task switching very well and hasn’t hesitated when moving from one app to another for any reason.

You should have more than enough on-board storage.   With 23 of 32GB free, you should have enough space to put a decent amount of music on the device, plus a movie or two and still have space enough for a game or two.   With Android’s built in support for external storage cards and the M8’s support for up to 128GB microSD cards, you aren’t going to run out of onboard storage.   However, if you do, the device comes with 65GB of additional Google Drive space for a two year period.

NFC, or near field communications, is a nice add-on; but the focus on NFC as a payment solution component has diminished quite a bit over the past couple of years; and this isn’t as compelling of a feature as it once was.   I can say with a great deal of certainty that if NFC were missing from the HTC One (M8), no one would miss it… or even know.   I’m not certain that anyone would even care, either. If I’m wrong, and YOU are someone who has a specific need for NFC, please ping me in the comments below and tell me about it.

What’s slightly more interesting about the device is that it supports LTE and HSPA+ frequencies, allowing it to hang on just about any available, carrier supported frequency. That’s not to say that the device is unlocked. It’s not; but unlike traditional CDMA-based Verizon phones, it uses a microSIM card. It’s very possible that if the device were unlocked, that any microSIM card may work on the Verizon branded device.

As far as carrier reception is concerned, out here in the Lincoln – Omaha, NE area, I am getting 2-3 bars consistently.   I’m used to getting 3-4 bars in the devil’s basement in the Chicago-land area, so it’s clear that the weaker signal is due to geographic location.   While I get good reception on the street, I get 2 bars or lower in my apartment and 2-3 bars in the car.   I’m headed back to Chicago this weekend so I’m expecting to see a huge bump in signal strength once I get to Chicago (unless there’s an issue with the antenna). Either way, you can expect some follow up early next week on this particular issue.

The UltraPixel camera is something that I’m still out to lunch with. I really haven’t made up my mind yet. As I said, I’m headed to Chicago this weekend and will take some shots of the family with it while I’m there.   The camera makes use of two different lenses.   One lens captures the photo you’re looking to take. The secondary lens captures depth of field information.

The idea is that the resulting picture is in focus, the background is a bit softer and the entire composition has enough light.   The big downside is that the rear camera itself is only 4MP.   In a time when most smartphone front facing cameras are 5MP with an 8MP or greater rear facing camera, 4MP seems a little light on the digital details.   While 4MP should have enough detail to give you a decent 5″x7″ photo, don’t expect to do a lot of cropping or to print a photo any larger than that. It just doesn’t have enough resolution to give you a better picture.   When you’re used to dealing with a 24MP DSLR, a 4MP point and shoot seems like it’s not going to give you a decent shot.   The camera is also missing the optical image stabilization that was present in the HTC One (M7), which doesn’t make any sense. Without this, most of the video you take is going to look like you took it while you were on a pogo stick or in an earthquake. However, I’m going to leave my final judgment until after I get back from my weekend in Chicago with the family.

The other big problem I have with the camera is that the volume button is on the device’s right side. This means that if you turn the device on its side to take traditionally accepted and expected landscape pictures, the camera’s shutter release button isn’t where you’d expect it to be.

I’m right handed and want to snap photos with my right index finger.   You can’t do this with the HTC One (M8) at all. If you wish to use the volume button as the camera shutter release – which the camera gives you the option to setup   automatically the first time you try to do that – you’re going to have to shoot with your left index finger, or your right thumb.   The camera is totally backwards to what the existing paradigm is on any and every camera I’ve ever used or seen offered for sale in my entire life – digital or film cameras included where the shutter release button is on the top right corner of the device.   I just don’t get it…

Are there any issues or items that you’d like to have addressed?   Are you curious about any specific or particular aspects of the HTC One (M8) that you’d like me to comment on and/or look into?   If so, please let me know in the comments, below, and I’ll be happy to take a look and then get back to everyone in a future blog or in the final review of the device.

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HTC One (M8) Initial Impressions

I have seen the new hardware; and it is good… if you have 3 hands.

As I’ve said, I’ve been in mobile devices for a long time. I’ve used nearly all of them, too; at least on the Windows Mobile and Android side. I had nearly every Compaq iPAQ. I had all the Palm Tungsten T devices (T, T2 and T3… that hardware was totally awesome – solid and well built).One of the biggest and most important tenants of mobile device use has consistently been one handed use.

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With the HTC One (M8), it’s just not possible. The phone is very wide, with the body measuring 137.4 x 68.2 x 9.3 mm (5.41 x 2.69 x 0.37 in). Don’t get me wrong. The device fits very nicely in my hand(s). The problem is that you can’t use the device with one hand. The average person’s hand isn’t wide enough and their thumb isn’t long enough to enable one handed use on a device that’s nearly 5.5″ tall and 2.7″ wide. However, it fits well in the one hand that you do use to hold it. The device’s curved back lends to the comfort you do feel, holding the device

This is a big problem with the current smartphone screen size trend as I see it. You can’t work the device with one hand. You must use two, meaning that in order to successfully use the device for the task at hand, you must focus all of your attention on it and nothing else. You also don’t get to have anything else in your hands. This means that you can’t be at the office, walking down the hall on your way to another meeting with a notebook, tablet or a cup of coffee in one hand while you check newly arrived mail with your smartphone in the other. You either need to be empty handed or you have to stop and put something down so you can use your phone. Not totally intuitive or user friendly, if you ask me; and I think it’s the biggest reason why Apple hasn’t jumped on the new wide screen fad/ paradigm shift up to this point. Jobs was all about one handed use (which is also another reason why he didn’t like styli. You had to use both hands AND it was another thing to carry and lose…)

The screen is clear and bright. It’s easy to read and easy to view content on. For someone firmly in the middle of life where eyesight is currently an issue (and it most certainly is with me), this is a great screen to have on a mobile device. Fonts are easy to read and are crisp and clear. Video is easy to view on the large 1080p compatible screen.

The other thing that struck me right off the bat was the dot case and the clock/weather screen. I activated the phone on Saturday 2014-03-29, shortly after I did my unboxing. The first thing I did was put it in the dot case, because it was included and I honestly didn’t want any scratches or blemishes on this device while I had it on my watch.

When you opened and then closed the case, the device clock and current weather conditions would activate as you expected it to. It did that pretty consistently…for about the first hour and a half that I had the device going. Shortly after that, it stopped displaying the time and current weather conditions when the case closed. Now when you close the case, the display just goes dark. The only way to get that information to display is to double tap the case while the cover is closed.

Amazingly, the device detects the double tap through the case cover and displays the time and current weather. However, I have been all through the device’s settings. I can’t find any information or settings page where you control what happens with that case. I find that very aggravating. I didn’t change anything on the device to make that cease from functioning. The HTC One (M8) just stopped doing it on its own. Yeah… I don’t get it.

The dot case itself, however, is a dark gun metal grey. It’s a dark contrast to the HTC One (M8)’s light gunmetal grey metal casing. I like the way it looks. It’s unique in the mobile device world, as I’ve never seen anything like it before; and it does a decent job of protecting the device. The only thing I don’t like about it is that there’s no good way to use the device with any kind of a universal device cradle in my vehicle with the case on.

In order to use the device in the Arkon Slim Grip Ultra mount for example, you have to bend the cover back around the back of the device. This produces two potential problems.

1. Hinge Stress
Unless the plastic in the case will be able to withstand a great deal of stress, I can see cracks developing in the hinge over time. The whole thing makes me nervous; but I’d rather not risk scratching the beautiful screen without one.

2. Flexible Cover
The Arkon mounts I have in my Camry allow me to secure my iPhone 5 as well as any other mobile device (in this case the HTC One (M8)) while I’m driving. That way, I can use either/both device’s built in GPS functionality and/or audio players while the vehicle is moving. However, the Arkon Slim Grip Ultra mount likes to grab the dot case cover while its wrapped around the back of the device and not let go of it when you try to remove the device from the universal mount. I can see the cover tearing away from the case backing, especially if there’s stress cracks in the hinge. You can use a side gripping mount like the Arkon Mobile Grip 2 mount; but honestly, I don’t feel that the device is as secure as I do with the Arkon Slim Grip Ultra mount.

I’ve done a lot of talking about the screen today – size, resolution, etc. as well as the device’s dot case. Come back tomorrow and I’ll have some thoughts on Android 4.4.2 Kit Kat and HTC’s implementation of it on the HTC One (M8) as well as device performance.

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Amazon Free Video Streaming Service?

Yeah… Not so much.  Amazon denies rumors of a free video streaming service.

The interwebs were abuzz the other day when rumors of a new, and free, streaming service from Amazon hit the wire.   The Wall Street Journal had reported that the Everything Store was planning to introduce an ad-supported video and music streaming service in the immediate future.   The service was rumored to feature original series and licensed content, similar to “Betas,” a TV show produced for Amazon’s Prime video service last year.

Amazon-streaming

The big sticking point in this rumor is exactly that – Amazon’s Prime Video service. Prime Video is a perk offered to Amazon Prime Members as part of their (now) $99 per year membership fee.   How this rumored free service would live alongside Amazon Prime Video was not immediately available.   However, the rumor surfaced ahead of a special Amazon media event where the purveyor of nearly everything available on the internet was expected to announce a set top box or streaming stick, capable of delivering web-based video content to your television set.

Amazon’s Sally Fouts, a spokesperson for the Everything Store, has since come out and denied the rumor. Says Fouts, “we’re often experimenting with new things, but we have no plans to offer a free streaming-media service.”

For me, a long-time Amazon Prime member, this is good news.   One of the best perks of Prime membership, one that I use much more often than Prime’s free 2-day shipping, was its video streaming service. If that could be gotten for free, I was giving serious consideration to cancelling my Prime membership.

When I moved to Omaha to take a new job, I decided not to get cable TV service and decided to be a cord cutter. I stream video via Amazon Prime multiple times a week.   If Amazon was going to offer a free streaming service, ad supported or not, it would have left a number of Prime members wondering what they were really getting for their membership fee.

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