Opening up the HTC 10

HTC sent me an HTC 10 to review…

HTC-10

Introduction

I love mobile devices. For me, when it comes to electronics, smartphones and mobile devices are some of my most favorite things. So, you can imagine my delight when HTC contacted me two weeks ago and offered to send me an HTC 10 to review.

I was wanting to do a video unboxing of the device, but honestly… there’s little to nothing to unbox.  The device comes in a white, square shaped, box with rounded corners. It contains the device, a SIM tray ejector tool, a wall wart and a USB-C sync/ charging cable.  There’s also some minor regulatory documentation booklets that are included by law, but other than glancing at them to see exactly WHAT they are and maybe to see which side of the device the SIM tray is on, you’re never going to look at them… EVER.

I’m working on a full review for Soft32.  I’ve been in the device since late Sunday 2016-05-22, Chicago time. I’ve got a few first impressions that I’d like to pass on to everyone, without going into too much detail at this point. I’d like to save it for the review that I hope to file before the end of May 2016.

Hardware

When you open the device, the first thing you think is, “iPhone,” or “Samsung.” The device really looks like an iPhone wanna be.  That’s too bad, from a form factor perspective; but it’s not all doom and gloom or any kind of “fanboy” put down.  While the device REALLY does look like an iPhone, the hardware is pretty awesome.

I’ve got the device running around nekked right now; and that’s a bit of a shame. The device itself is truly impressive looking; but as I said, the contents of the box are a bit Spartan. Again, you get the device, the AC wall wart and the USB-C cable.  Clearly missing in my opinion, is a basic case, and a set of ear buds.

NOTE: I shot out an email to HTC on this while I was writing this inquiring about both the HTC Ice View case and the missing earbuds.  HTC is partnering with JBL on a set of exclusive earbuds for the HTC 10.  HTC will be offering them in a bundle package that will be “coming soon” to HTC.com. What I received from HTC was due to this as well as “carrier agreements.”

If you get your HTC 10 now, that’s all you’ll get. Starting in late June, HTC will ship the HTC 10 with JBL earbuds.  The bundle that I mentioned, will be an exclusive offer available only at HTC.com.

Battery

The battery life on the HTC 10 is simply amazing.  The device has 27 hours of talk time and up to 19 days of standby time.  The device can go from zero (0) to 50% charged in as little as 30 minutes with its Quick Charge 3.0 charging system.

I’m still trying to see how well the device lasts without a charge. During the week, I often listen to podcasts and make calls while driving, with my smartphone connected to my Pioneer AVH-4800BS in dash DVD receiver.

As such, battery life on my phone doesn’t usually drop below 60% by the time I leave the office during the day.  However, the weekends are a much different story. My phone usually ends up spending most of the time in my jacket, without being connected to power. We’ll see how well the battery holds up over this American Holiday three day weekend.

UPDATE: As of this writing, I last charged my HTC 10 on Friday 2016-05-27 at 6pm.  It’s been off the charger ever since, fully active and with moderate use – gaming, email, calls, etc. – as of 3pm 2016-05-30, I got my first low battery warning at 15%.  This battery is amazing and you should have no issues with the batter lasting you when using this device.  Normal use should have you no lower than 65% at the end of a normal day.

Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow

Suffice it to say I wasn’t too impressed with Marshmallow when I covered it last.  That hasn’t changed much. I am finding that Marshmallow – perhaps Android in and of itself – gets in its own way.  Half of the stuff that I’m trying to do with it seem simple enough, but it just doesn’t seem like it wants to work.

It may not be the mobile OS for me… and I’ll have more on this in the full review.

Connectivity

As with any smartphone, connectivity is the key to making any mobile device a success. Today’s mobile devices have a number of different radios in them, and the radios in the HTC 10 have a few quirks that you will need to be aware of.  While I hope to have more information on this in the full review, there are a few things that I need to cover here.

BT performance & connections

If there’s one thing that I really hate about Bluetooth is that its inherently unreliable.  In fact, more often than not for me, it doesn’t work right.

Now, while that is a general statement, it does hold true for the HTC 10.  All of the Bluetooth accessories that I have used with the HTC 10 do not perform as I, or anyone, would expect them to, as you’ll see below.

Olio Model One

This is the one device that seemed to work better with the HTC 10 than with my iPhone 6.  The watch seemed to connect with much form consistency and accuracy with the HTC 10. It connected with much more consistency and accuracy to the HTC 10 than it ever did with my iPhone 6.  However, I’m finding an issue with notifications that I hope to have more on in the full review.

Pioneer AVH-X4800BS
This car accessory is an issue.

Not only does it connect via Bluetooth for phone calls and the like, but it also connects via USB.  Both have issues.  The HTC 10 itself often doesn’t connect to the radio consistently without manual intervention.

Android phones also don’t automatically make any of their multimedia content available again, without manual intervention. Worse yet, this manual intervention must be done every time you connect the device to the radio…and that’s a pain in the butt.

USB Type C

This was an interesting choice for the HTC 10. While it does offer higher speed synching than nearly every other serial connectivity out there, USB C, like all other serial connections, it has its roots in RS-232, and in a technology that is well over 40 years old. As such, it’s not as reliable as you might think, or want it to be, especially when it comes to my car radio.  Yes, it charges well, and audio does play through the cable, but not as well as you might think or hope.  In fact, it doesn’t play through the cable consistently at all; and then, it doesn’t resume audio where you left off. It starts everything from the beginning again – beginning of the song that last played, beginning of the podcast, etc.

The biggest issue I have with USB C is that now, I have to get new cables to go everywhere I have and need cables – my home office, work, the car, and any other place I need to charge.  Type C cables are new, and are, unfortunately, somewhat expensive… and they will be until they become ubiquitous.

Call Quality

Call quality both via Bluetooth and the handset are good… much better than I would have hoped.  However, I’ve used HTC devices on and off for over 12 years. I have yet to run into one of their devices that doesn’t do well with call quality. The HTC 10 is no exception here.

Conclusion

So far, the HTC 10 is a decent device.  It’s got some state of the art hardware that includes one of the best batteries and battery technology that I’ve seen in the history of smartphones. It’s also running the latest version of Android Marshmallow, version 6.0.1.

It’s got some connectivity issues to get over, but this is one heck of a smartphone. If Android is your mobile OS of choice, and you’re in the market for a new device, then you really need to stop and give this one a serious look.

Over the next few weeks, I will be putting the HTC 10 through its paces. I’ll have a full review with pictures and additional information. I may also have some extra articles on the HTC 10 during this time as well.

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Render Unto Caesar…

Google’s Paris Headquarters was raided by French authorities

google-doodle-winners-2012-grade-10-12-5

I get it.

I TOTALLY get it. Paying taxes sucks, especially for the little guy, but when you’re a large corporation like Google, you’re expected to pay what the government thinks is your fair share.  When you don’t, the government may pay an unannounced visit and confiscate a bunch of data looking for information to support their ascertain that you aren’t.

On 2016-05-24, that’s what happened to Google in Paris, France.

Google’s Paris headquarters was raided by French authorities at 5am local time (11am EDT) by 100 investigators.  Based on an investigation that began nearly a year ago, information supporting tax evasion and money laundering was sought, according to Reuters.

French authorities are seeking nearly $1.76B in back taxes from Google and indicated that Google has “very aggressive” tax avoidance techniques.  Large corporations like Google often take advantage of loopholes in tax laws to avoid paying taxes in the US. This process often involves a number of different techniques including keeping cash in offshore banks to avoid paying larger sums in taxes.

According to Digital Trends, commonly employed methods include the “Double Irish” and “Dutch Sandwich.”  These processes have the avoiding company sending their profits through an Irish company who then routes the money through a Dutch company. The Dutch company then sends the money to a SECOND Irish company based in a tax haven.

Google recently entered into an agreement with the UK which ended a six year investigation with their tax authority.  In that agreement, Google agreed to pay $185M in back taxes to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, and to revise its tax procedures indicating that it would “now pay tax based on revenue from U.K.-based advertisers, which reflects the size and scope of [their] U.K. business.”

This – the French – tax issue, is much more serious than the UK one, with Google owing up to an alleged €1.6B ($1.76B USD), according to a recent Reuters report.  How well France’s investigation fares is going to rely heavily on EU tax law which protects companies against paying tax in a country where they do not have a “permanent establishment.”

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No New Windows 10 Builds until it Works…

Apparently, there’s a nasty bug that Microsoft is chasing…

No New Windows 10 Builds until it Works...

During a beta period, a tester or test manager should always expect to find bugs and, more importantly to expect run with buggy software. It’s never really end user ready, despite the fact that you’re opening your user base up to a wider audience.

Case in point – Microsoft has opened up Windows 10 to its Windows Insiders.  You can get prerelease builds of Windows on the Fast, Slow and Release Preview rings.

  • Fast Ring – You get (nearly) every build that Microsoft releases to its Insider program.  While there’s a lot of churn here, you get the most builds, and you’ll also likely see the most bugs. Builds are released almost every other week.
  • Slow Ring – Slow Ring is more stable than Fast Ring, but you don’t see as much churn. Things are still buggy; but there’s a bit more polish than with Fast Ring. While there’s still risk with Slow Ring, but with the right hardware combinations, it can still be very usable.
  • Release Preview – You can think of builds released in this ring being of Release Candidate quality.  This gets you things early, but nearly everything here is production ready, or can be considered Production Ready. Builds hit here a week or two before this hits Windows Update for everyone else.

So, with this model in mind, last week (as of this writing), Windows Insider guru Gabe Aul stated that there wouldn’t be any new builds of Windows 10 to the Fast Ring due to a bug that needed additional development time and attention.

According to Aul, there’s a bug in both Mobile and PC versions of Windows 10 that causes system crashes (what we used to call the Blue Screen of Death). Thankfully, the defect was caught before it hit Fast Ring (so, by Microsoft’s internal testing team), and as such, the details on the bug are sketchy at best. All we know is that it causes PC’s and phones to crash.

UPDATE – While writing this article, Microsoft released Insider Preview Build 14342 on 2016-05-10.  The updated build includes the following:

  • Updated Extensions in Microsoft Edge
  • Real-Time Web Notifications in Edge
  • Swipe navigation in Edge
  • Bash on Ubuntu on Windows Improvements
  • Skype Universal Windows Platform (UWP) Update
  • Updated Windows Ink Workspace Icon
  • Updated Visuals for UAC (User Account Control) dialog
  • Middle click to dismiss Action Center
  • Apps for Websites
  • Feedback Hub Improvements

The crashing bug noted above, has been resolved.

Are you installing preview builds of Windows 10?  How do you find the latest builds?  Are they worth the time and effort? Why don’t you meet me in the Discussion Area, below, and give me your thoughts on them?

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Get Your Free Windows 10 While You Can

Apparently, Microsoft was serious about Windows 10 only being free for a year…

windows10-ad

Sometimes I really have to wonder if the senior leadership team at Microsoft is asleep at the wheel or not; because this just seems stupid.

When Windows 10 was released last year on 2015-07-29, Microsoft said the upgrade would be free to all Windows PC’s running Windows XP and higher for a year. Well, a year will be up on 2016-07-29, and Microsoft is holding firm to that statement.

On 2015-05-05, Microsoft made the following announcement:

“The free upgrade offer to Windows 10 was a first for Microsoft, helping people upgrade faster than ever before. And time is running out. The free upgrade offer will end on July 29 and we want to make sure you don’t miss out.”

This caused a flurry of speculation on whether Microsoft was really serious about this and if they were, what Microsoft might charge for the upgrade.

Microsoft answered that with an additional statement:

“After July 29th, you’ll be able to continue to get Windows 10 on a new device, or purchase a full version of Windows 10 Home for $119.”

This is concerning to me, and to a number of other Windows pundits for one big reason – there doesn’t seem to be an upgrade SKU or price point for Windows 10 after 2016-07-29. If you miss the upgrade window, it appears that you’re going to have to pay full price for Windows 10.

The only good thing about this whole situation is that it appears that after 2016-07-29, all of the nagware that is (now) natively part of previous versions of Windows , will be removed. According to Microsoft,

[…the free Windows 10 upgrade offer ends 2016-07-29.] “Details are still being finalized, but on [that day] the Get Windows app that facilitates the easy upgrade to Windows 10 will be disabled and eventually removed from PCs worldwide. Just as it took time to ramp up and roll out the Get Windows 10 app, it will take time to ramp it down.”

All this means is that the Windows Update that turns the nag off, may arrive on YOUR PC sometime AFTER 2016-07-29; but it will happen if you decide to remain on a Windows version that is not Windows 10.

So the upgrade nagging that Microsoft has been doing for nearly a year is going to stop; but the upgrade to Windows 10 is going to cost you more than $120 bucks if you decide to make the jump after 2016-07-29.

There are a few things here that bother me…

  1. It costs $120 bucks
    Really?!? One hundred and twenty dollars?!I can see this back in, like, 2004; but today? The price point is WAY too high. In all honestly, Windows 10 should be FREE, period. OS X 10 is free. Most – if not all – Linux distributions are free. Microsoft is the only major OS maker out there that is still charging for their operating system. At some point, this is going to come back and bite Microsoft in the butt. Windows 10 should be a free upgrade to anyone and everyone forever.I can see a charge for a new, FULL license (the kind you would use to install on a PC you built from scratch); but only at about half of what is currently being advertised ($119). In my eyes, the target price for this should be under $50, after taxes.
  2. Installing Post 2016-07-29
    I’ve been using Windows 10 since the very early Insider Preview Builds in late 2014. Nothing related to installation has gone well with this at all. I’m wondering how much of a problem installing Windows 10 will be post 2016-07-29? In other words, if you download the free update, but wait to install, what happens? It’s it still free? If you need to restore or rebuild after 2016-07-29 and have to start at with the ORIGINAL version of Windows that shipped you’re your legacy hardware, will Setup ask you for money? (It shouldn’t, by the way; but I’m just sayin’…) Speaking of which…
  3. Restore/ Rebuilds
    This process has NEVER worked right for me.Refreshing your PC is simply supposed to put all of the core Windows 8.x/10 system files back on your PC, in case a poorly behaved app or (ultimately removed piece of) malware changed or modified any of them; and you wanted to put everything back to the way those core system files should be. This wouldn’t/ shouldn’t affect any installed apps or (mostly) the way you have Windows configured. This has never worked right for me and always ended up with me Restoring my PC.Restoring (often called rebuilding) your PC is supposed to erase everything and will put the version of Windows 8.x/10 back on your PC that it came with. This is the same thing as wiping the drive, reformatting and starting from scratch… without the reformatting part.You’re going to be stuck redownloading all of the Windows Updates you previously installed all over again, and this is supposed to be the easiest way to repair something in Windows that is just buried too deeply, or is too difficult to fix. Unfortunately, this has never worked right for me either; and nearly almost always requires me to download and create (or in the case of my Dell Latitude 10 STE – buy) the appropriate USB flash drive that would boot the PC and then run it through the setup process.

    This process works well for me on the Apple side of the world, but I’ve never had a Restore on the Windows side work from the device’s recovery partition. Any time I have tried this from the PC’s recovery partition, setup always ends up crashing or in some other error loop that is unrecoverable. I’ve always had to boot from a USB drive to get it to work.

My friend and former coworker, Paul Thurrott has an interesting article regarding whether or not the 2016-07-29 date is a hard and fast date or not. He seems to think that Microsoft will keep offering the free upgrade as long as it’s helping Microsoft migrate legacy PC’s to Windows 10, in pursuit of their 1 billion Windows 10 devices goal and not a day longer. By his reasoning, if Microsoft can get there within two to three years, they will have achieved that goal. Right now, that “last day” is 2016-07-29.

I think that Microsoft should extend that date indefinitely, even if they hit 1 billion Win10 devices within two to three years. Keep it free.

What do you think? Have you upgraded to Windows 10? If not, why not? Will you download the upgrade and install it before 2016-07-29? Do you foresee any issues with this offer ending on 2016-07-29? Why don’t you meet me in the Discussion Area below, and give me your thoughts on the matter?

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Olio Keeps Trying

You have to hand it to a company that keeps on trying…

Over the past year, I’ve done a lot with wearables. Again, here’s all the links to the articles I’ve written on them.

Microsoft Band

Fitbit Surge

Pebble Time

Apple Watch Sport

Olio Model One

Waterproof-Watch-5

This list is in sharp contrast to the state of the wearable’s market now. It’s not as prolific, and its currently stagnating a bit, as everyone – and every device – that’s still in the market tries to decide where the next step is.

Case in point – the Olio Model One. It looks awesome; but at the time of review, if you tried to use it past a 2-4 hour window, you’d be out of luck. The battery life was atrocious. It was effectively, unusable due to the battery burning through a charge, especially if it was out of range of your phone.

However, Olio hasn’t given up on the Model One; and despite me being bitterly disappointed and down on it out of the gate, I continue to be hopeful as new software updates come out for it.

Another case in point – Olio has recently released Model One Software Version 1.4; and boy..! What a difference a release (or two) makes!

Olio has included the following in this update:
Gesture – You can now select ‘High’ for a sensitive gesture response, ‘Medium’ for the current default that you’ve been experiencing with gesture on, or ‘Low’ for a less sensitive gesture response and optimum battery life. The gesture feature is located in Settings on your Model One.
Bluetooth – This update also includes improvements to Bluetooth connectivity,
Overall UI Improvements,
Battery Life optimizations for iPhone users

I’ve noticed the following with this update:

1. Battery Life – Battery life is improved by 3x. I can now make it through the day – 12-14 hours without having my watch run out of power. The device is now (in the most basic terms) usable. I can use it without having to recharge or worry about if and when (not it… WHEN) my watch will run out of power.

I still have to make certain that I take my phone with me to meetings. Bluetooth will still go haywire, trying to reconnect to my phone if I’m out of range…

This still needs to improve. The Model One can’t be considered a success here until it can go at LEAST 24-36 hours without needing a charge. Heck, the Microsoft Band version 1 (Part 1 Part 2) can do that.
2. Bluetooth – Yes, it connects quicker. Yes, it seems to find my phone better; but when it loses connectivity, it still searches like mad.

What needs to happen here is that if the phone goes out of range or the watch “loses” the phone, the watch needs to check your schedule. If you have an appointment during the time of communication loss, then the watch shouldn’t try to reconnect until after the appointment ends. Then it should try three times on its own, and then give up. The watch face should turn red (or give some other visual clue that its lost connectivity and has stopped trying on its own to connect) and then give the user the opportunity to reconnect manually. Olio Assist can house the settings.
3. Gesture Sensitivity – High is too high, low is too low, and medium… can be a weird combination of the two at times. Unfortunately, for me, medium is NOT “just right.”

Stay tuned. Olio promises many more updates and improvements to the Model One in the coming months. I’ll have an update on those that make an impact posted to Soft 32 as soon as I can.

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