Notable Updates for the Week

All this… and it’s only THURSDAY!

There are two big stories that I want to cover quickly, as I really don’t want to stretch these out any longer than they need to be. Both are significant, however, and really do deserve some commentary.

Samsung Officially Discontinues the Note 7
Despite what anyone may think, this one surprised me a bit. I didn’t think that Samsung would kill the Note 7. I really thought that it would go away for a while and then come back as the Note 7.1 or Note 7.5 or something like that, after they figured out where to get batteries that don’t blow up in your pants…but I’m just sayin’…

note7-discontinued

It really costs a lot of money when an entire product is cancelled. It also really says a lot about what Samsung’s Supplier Quality program could and could not do when it came to batteries for this device. But again, I guess that’s just me.

It really seems as though Samsung threw in the towel a little early here.

However, according to TechCrunch, Samsung confirmed the status of the discontinued Note 7 to the Wall Street Journal… and that’s it. Samsung didn’t go into any kind of details or provide any additional information on how or why it stopped producing the device. They just stopped.

I also saw a report on The Verge indicating that Samsung was sending customers fireproof return boxes for their Note 7’s.

On the damage control side of things, I knew that the costs to Samsung would be big; but I got surprised here, again. According to Reuters, the cost of discontinuing production of the Galaxy Note 7 could cost Samsung up to $17B USD.

Yes.

That’s billions with a big, fat capital “B.”

When you couple that with the $19B USD stock hit (yes, again, that’s billions with another big, fat capital, “B”) that Samsung has taken, this whole fiasco has cost Samsung over $36B USB.

Yahoo Removes eMail Forwarding
In a move that’s CLEARLY meant to stop the flow of entrenched users from transferring their email to another service, it was reported, again, by TechCrunch that Yahoo is disabled eMail forwarding in all Yahoo eMail accounts that didn’t PREVIOUSLY have the feature enabled.

email_forwarding_discontinuedeMail forwarding is a pretty easy way to maintain your existing email flow while you transition from one address to another. You setup the forward at your OLD address, and have all of the mail received there, forwarded to your NEW address. You can then start socializing the new address while still insuring that you don’t miss any important email while things are changing over.

This is a common feature, and its one that every service – like GMail, Hot Mail (now Outlook.com) and other popular mail services – provides to users. The move here, to remove this feature is clearly one put in place by Yahoo to stop users from leaving after the announcement in September 2016 of a data breach that effected 500 million user accounts.

According to TechCrunch, Yahoo declined to comment on the removal of the feature and instead pointed users to a section of its help text that indicated:

“This feature is under development. While we work to improve it, we’ve temporarily disabled the ability to turn on Mail Forwarding for new forwarding addresses. If you’ve already enabled Mail Forwarding in the past, your email will continue to forward to the address you previously configured.”

Dear Yahoo – no one is buying your BS.

Mail forwarding has been around for years and it’s not something that should be considered an improvement or in any way “under development.”

All you’re doing is holding email users hostage… and it’s really rude.

Thankfully, I never had a Yahoo email account. I simply just couldn’t stomach the *.yahoo.com domain. I was an English literature major in college. I actually know what a Yahoo is. A definition of the word “yahoo” can be found here. It wasn’t always a good thing, kids…

It’s really a term of insult. Why anyone would name a company after a “crude, brutish, or obscenely coarse person” is beyond me… However, after removing the ability to redirect mail, or even, in some cases, deleting an email account (some users have reported that they couldn’t even delete their accounts…), they appear to be living up to their name sakes.

But would you look at that?! It’s not even the middle of the week (as of this writing) and already Samsung has lost upwards of $40B USD and Yahoo’s value is taking so much that even Verizon is considering backing out of their intent to purchase the company.

Boy… If I were Marissa Mayer… I’d be seriously thinking about jumping with that golden parachute of mine before the Yahoo Board takes it away from her…

But again… that’s just me.

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Buy an iPhone 7 or 7 Plus, Lose your Job

Buying an iPhone 7 in certain countries is a shortcut to the unemployment office

I saw this on BGR and thought that it was totally outrageous. However, outrageous is totally from an American point of view – in China, if this report is accurate, this is a huge issue.

Patriotism in China runs deep with their citizens. Nearly everyone there loves their country and they have a huge sense of national pride; and this extends into the corporate world as well as with individual citizens.

So as I mentioned, BGR that some Chinese companies have issued warnings to their employees that purchasing an iPhone 7 or iPhone 7 Plus may result in termination of employment. While no specific individual has been singled out as of yet, some companies have issued formal written warnings against the purchase of Apple’s flagship smartphone.

For example, the BBC is reporting that Weibo, a Chinese microblogging site much like Twitter, has issued a stern warning to all of their employees: buy an iPhone and don’t bother coming to work.

iphone7_purchase_warning

There were also a couple of hospitals of note that told their administrative staff,

“Anyone who insists on purchasing one will be removed from candidacy for annual rewards of outstanding performances. And those who could not afford an iPhone 7 cell phone but still bought one will be asked to resign.”

Nearly everyone that I’ve mentioned this to has found this to be completely outrageous. They find it hard to believe that an employer can legally put that kind of consumer purchasing pressure on their employees and get away with it. Apparently, they can in China.

While technically, the sale of the iPhone isn’t banned in China, it is if you want to keep your job. Who knew..?

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No Band for You!

You come back, one year!

microsoft-band

The wearables market isn’t an easy one; and its one that for many, still remains untamed. I spent a great deal of time last year covering the wearables market.

The first device I reviewed in this year long series was the Microsoft Band. In the end, at least before the Apple Watch was released, I considered it to be the go to device that I would have recommended to everyone, largely because (it had)

  • An inexpensive point of entry
  • A cross platform set of apps
  • An easy to use UI and smartphone app

When, a year later, Microsoft released Band 2, I felt vindicated – at least for my initial recommendation – because a second release of Band meant that Microsoft intended to stay in the market, at least for a while.

Yeah… about that…

Microsoft announced earlier this week that it is pulling Band 2 from all of its Stores and won’t be releasing a Band 3 this year.

Later, Microsoft also removed Band’s SDK from their site, which makes sense, since they’re no longer selling the device. They also appear to have disbanded the software team that was tasked with bringing Band in to Windows 10 as a native device and the hardware team responsible for design and engineering of Band hardware.

The one thing that Microsoft is NOT doing, however is dropping Microsoft Health. Microsoft still intends to provide that software and service to users of other fitness bands.

However, Apple Watch users, or those MS Health users looking to switch to Apple Watch, shouldn’t get their hopes up. It’s very unlikely that Apple will provide an API that would permit 3rd party support of Apple Watch with Microsoft Health or any other health monitoring application.

So you can put Microsoft Band into the heap of dead and dying tech revealed recently, including, of course, Blackberry manufactured hardware.

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Blackberry Ceases Phone Manufacturing

The only thing that I’m wondering, is why it took so long…

BlackBerry logo

Over the past five years, I’ve been very bearish on Blackberry and RIM. I’ve covered this extensively when I was Managing Editor at BYTE, the reincarnation of BYTE Magazine. Here’s a quick sample:

I have also covered this topic somewhat on

  • There was no 3rd Party Developer support
  • No available apps
  • No software store
  • No eco system
  • No way to manage, play or obtain digital content

However, I don’t want to spend the next 300 or so words harping on or reiterating what I’ve been saying for the past four to five years. Instead, I want to talk about what Blackberry has to offer the market now:

A fire sale on used office furniture…

If Blackberry is no longer making phones, their mantra of, “the world wants our devices and services because they love our keyboards,” isn’t true. No one seems to care or give a hoot about their keyboards. If they did, then they would have flocked to those devices and the iPhone or the latest Android device wouldn’t be as popular as those devices are.

The truth is no one gives a rat’s patootie about a physical keyboard in 2016. It’s all about apps and a functioning ecosystem, and Blackberry doesn’t have one. So what do they have..??

Messaging services.

Messaging services… which are no longer driving the industry. Messaging services… which now have a number of non-proprietary alternatives which don’t cost an arm and a leg. Messaging services… which now don’t require dedicated hardware or a certified, dedicated IT resource to manage. Messaging services… which now have other encrypted alternatives like Apple’s iMessage or Facebook’s WhatsApp. Messaging services… which at last examination, still ran through a centralized hub in Toronto, and were subject to outages if the messaging network were compromised or was negatively impacted by some kind of hardware failure or internet service interruption.

So yeah… if some, part or all of the above is true, just WHAT does Blackberry have to offer the world..?? As I said – a fire sale on used office furniture.

In truth, Blackberry has very little to offer anyone at this point. Now that their hardware is gone, the only thing they have left is their messaging services and software products, and I have NO idea who would really be interested in those.

While thinking about that point, I immediately went to folks like a state government or the Federal Government; but they can make use of existing mail server platforms like Exchange for email and use, for example, WhatsApp, to send and receive secure messages (though I doubt that the FBI, CIA or NSA will actually USE WhatsApp…). Some may argue, that there isn’t even a need for secure messaging in Washington DC; but I digress… My point is there are cheap, affordable alternatives to Blackberry’s software offerings, on platforms with hardware people actually want to use.

Blackberry’s business plan options now are bleak. According to an article by Roger Cheng, of C|NET and published on MSN Money,

“Even BlackBerry’s final Hail Mary, its embrace of the Android operating system, was the brainchild of veteran phone executive Ron Louks. He assumed that wider access to Android apps, combined with its reputation for security, would turn some heads in the corporate world. It did not. The first Android-powered phone, the BlackBerry Priv, was a high-end premium device that landed with a thud… Louks left BlackBerry in May.

…[Blackberry’s CEO, John] Chen believes BlackBerry will live on, but focused solely on software.”

Software that no one is really going to want…

The world has moved on from Blackberry. Blackberry is a messaging dinosaur that had is day and was driven out to extinction by the meteor that is the both the iPhone and is every Android device…ever. The enterprise has moved on to messaging alternatives that more easily allowed IT mail administrators to manage any device that every Tom, Dick and Harry brought to the office via their company’s BYOD initiative.

The big problem here is that Blackberry is dead. The world – including me – has been predicting and foretelling the world of its demise over the past four to five years. It really seems as though John Chen is the ONLY person in the world that either didn’t get the news or completely ignored it.

It just seems a little silly, really.

If you have Blackberry stock, now is the time to dump it before the fire sale begins; because when that starts… it will already be too late. I don’t know what kind of real value Blackberry intellectual property really has right now, or whom would want to purchase it.

As of this writing, Blackberry’s stock (NASDAQ: BBRY) was at 8.29, down 0.04. Its high over the past year was 9.42, back near the beginning of 2016. It’s all time high was 138.87 near December of 2008. Looking at those graphs, the stock seems to be on life support at best.

The party is clearly over. It’s just the host that doesn’t seem to know…

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Pardon Me, but is that an Exploding Galaxy Note 7?

Samsung appears to be having issues with its Galaxy Note 7

Over the past few days, after you get past the hype of the latest Apple Event announcing Apple Watch 2 and iPhone 7, you KNOW there have to be executives at Samsung that are – at least for once – glad that Apple has all the limelight. The latest news out of Cupertino has, no doubt had them thanking everyone for moving on from the latest news out of Seoul: Exploding Galaxy Note 7’s.

note 7

Last week, stories of exploding batteries have been all over the news. It got so bad that Samsung indicated that they were not only going to halt sales of their flagship phablet, but recall the device as well. To dates, there have been 35 reported cases of exploding or bursting batteries. News of fires and burns as at least one of the 35 was reported to have exploded in someone’s pants pocket.

Low quality battery cells were reported to be responsible for the issue and recall.

Reports of what countries are effected and are not effected have varied, with at least one report indicating that Note 7 customers in China are unaffected due to the battery supplier used for units there.

Samsung is using lithium-ion batteries in the Note 7. Possible causes for the issue appear to be damaged power cells caused by substandard components, chemistry or design. If a lithium-ion battery is compromised by being over charged, by overheating, damage, or age, the inner cells can “outgas” the flammable, electrolyte mixture within the membrane. An undamaged battery membrane will stretch and bulge to contain this material to some extent; but at some point, the membrane will rupture, and the battery will explode.

Depending on where, when and how violently the battery finally ruptures and explodes, the damage can be devastating.

Samsung has issued a statement informing customers in the United States that they will be able to replace their Note 7s with new units as early as next week.

Customers will be given the option of trading their units in for either a new Note 7 or a Galaxy S7/S7 edge and a refund for the difference. All accessories can also be exchanged for their S7 equivalents.

Samsung is also offering a $25 phone bill credit, or a $25 gift card, for the inconvenience. Device owners can call 1-800-SAMSUNG to arrange a mail exchange, or they can return their device to the retail store where they purchased it.

US mobile carriers are offering the following options to Note 7 owners:

  • T-Mobile is letting customers return their Note 7 in any store for a full refund of the purchase price and any accessories you may have bought. You’ll then be given the choice of buying another phone or receiving a new Note 7 when they are put on sale again, if you wish.
  • Sprint customers can return their device to any Sprint location and can pick up a comparable loaner to use in the meantime
  • Verizon says it has stopped selling the Galaxy Note 7 and has waived the restocking fee for the device through the end of September 2016
  • AT&T is working with Samsung to facilitate Note 7 exchanges. They are also allowing customers to return their device for a different smartphone. Refunds for the difference and for accessories purchased directly from them will be offered
  • U.S. Cellular has not yet announced its plans for handling the recall, but I am assuming they will provide offers to effected device owners.

Did you buy a Galaxy Note 7? Has the battery on this device given you any cause for concern? Have you returned the device or have you decided to hold on to it and roll the dice? If you traded yours in, will you wait for a new Note 7, or did you opt for a different device? Why don’t you meet me in the Discussion area, below and tell me all about what happened to you?

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Five Most Popular Mobile Software Apps

We’ve done our homework over here and have pulled together the most popular mobile software downloads for you.

Introduction
As a mobile device expert I can tell you one thing for certainty about ALL mobile devices and smartphones- they’re only as good as the mobile software available for them. If you recall, I addressed this in part in an article on what I think will make or break the iPad Pro. To be very honest, its true for all mobile devices – Software. Popular mobile software will make or break any mobile platform.

With software so important to the mobile devices that it runs on, it’s important to insure you have the right apps for your device. I’ve spent some time, pulling together five (5) of the most popular mobile software downloads, regardless of platform and brought them here, in no particular order, for your consideration.

The Top Five Apps

Maps.Me for Android
maps.meGPS apps are perhaps some of the best mobile software around. Maps.Me is an Android software download that provides turn by turn directions anywhere in the world. It supports over 345 countries and islands. Its maps are highly detailed, and contain more information than any other map or GPS app anywhere. It has millions of points of interest including restaurants, gas/ petrol stations, ATM machines, etc. It will work both online and offline, provided you have enough local storage available so you won’t incur any data roaming charges. It’s also fast, and free.


UC Browser
uc browserIf you remember, we reviewed UC Browser a few years ago. If you get the opportunity and if you’re interested in the app, you should give it a read, as it has a really complete breakdown of what the app can and cannot do.

UC Browser is an Android app that will allow you to surf the internet. Its adaptable configuration helps you adjust the way your browsing works under different networking connections and conditions. This helps manage bandwidth usage, and ultimately, data costs. The browser can also preload pages, download files in the background, and has an add-on platform that can extend the functionality of the app.


Kingsoft Office for Android
kingsoft officeOne of the most important apps I have on many of my mobile devices – tablets, laptops, and to an extent, smartphones – is a productivity suite. Kingsoft Office for Android is a free android software download. With it, you can create and edit rich text documents, spreadsheets and presentations. The suite is also fully Microsoft Office compatible.

Having the ability to edit content on the go is an important ability. Its why many of us carry mobile devices. Having this ability on your Android smartphone or tablet may just make life easier or save your bacon when you need to edit something in a pinch.


Whatsapp
whatsappWhatsapp is perhaps the most used mobile application in the world, especially outside the US. With Android mobile software being the most popular type of mobile download, Whatsapp for Android is very popular. With Whatsapp being cross platform, meaning that it’s also very popular on iOS, its literally available and used on nearly every mobile device on the planet.

The app allows you to send and receive instant messages over a secure network. With it you can send text, pictures, audio notes, and video messages at no other cost than the cost of the app.

Let’s talk about that secure network thing. Whatsapp doesn’t function on its own network, it functions on any internet signal. However, it does employ encryption that can’t be broken, meaning that your messages can’t be read by “inquiring minds [that] want to know. Private and secure communications is what Whatsapp is all about.


Mobomarket
MoboMarketYour mobile device doesn’t do too much without the software that runs on it. When it comes to Android, you actually have a choice of stores to buy software from. You can use Google Play. You can use the Amazon Store; or you can use Mobomarket.

MoboMarket for Android is a third-party Android Market App that really focuses on free Android games and apps. MoboMarket has a geo-location based recommendation system, helping you discover the apps that you’re interested in most. Apps updated in MoboMarket are updated in real time, giving you full control of the apps installed on your mobile device.


Conclusion
Android mobile software downloads are something that every Android user wants and needs. Getting the right software for your device is something that everyone wants and needs. With Android being the most popular mobile operating system, powering some of the most popular devices in the world, having the best of the mobile software available is what it’s all about. The apps that I’ve included here are some of the best… some of the most popular mobile software downloads on Soft32. If you’re an Android user (or an iOS user in the case of Whatsapp), you need to check these out and see if these mobile apps are the right ones for you.

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FEATURE REVIEW – HTC 10

HTC sent me their new flagship Android smartphone to review, and it’s awesome.

Introduction
I’ve always been a gadget guy. If its electronic and it has buttons of any kind, then I’m usually all over it. Smartphones have always been a favorite gadget, as I’ve always been a huge Star Trek fan (it’s a well-known fact that the idea for the cell phone came from the Star Trek communicator). So yeah… gadgets.

Back in the day, an obscure company out of Taiwan began making smartphones for a company out of Dubai called i-mate. These smartphones were the elite of the smartphone world. EVERYONE that was anyone in the tech journalism world went out of their way to try to get one of them in their hands, including me.

Fast forward to today. That obscure little company out of Taiwan, turned out to be HTC… and their flagship phones are some of the most sought after devices on the market today. Case in point – the HTC 10 is HTC’s latest offering in their Android line. This one is going to be kinda quick; but let’s see how well it does…

Hardware
As I said, HTC has one of the best hardware reputations in the industry. It’s always been great at hardware engineering. That being said, let’s take a look at what you get when you purchase an HTC 10.

What’s in the Box?
When you get a new smartphone, you nearly always expect to find a few things included with the device. Back in the day, you got a number of different gadgets and goo-jams in the box. This nearly always included the device, some kind of device cradle or charging station, a USB cable, some kind of carrying case or pouch and a set of earbuds. Today, that’s just not the case. Nearly NO ONE includes a cradle or charging station. I find that very problematic, as I don’t like to leave my device – in a case or not – just sitting by itself on a desk. More likely than not, I’ve got a glass of something sweet and sticky also on my desk, and I’m the kind of guy that works cluttered, as I like to spread out. This potentially makes the desk a water (read: liquid) hazard zone for nearly EVERYTHING on my desk. I’m fairly good about NOT bumping or spilling anything, but accidents do happen. Having the device off my desk surface at least gives my smartphone a fighting chance; and that only happens with a sync/ charge cradle.

The ICE View Case
When I got the HTC 10, I was really surprised that it didn’t come with w case. The HTC One (M8) came with the Dot View case. It was included with the device. The HTC 10 has a similar case, but it – the ICE View Case – is a $50 USD add-on purchase. It’s not included.

Now the ICE View case is a cool HD update to the M8’s low-red DOT View case, but it’s expensive, and honestly, I don’t think it’s worth $50 USD. I happened to be fortunate enough to catch the case on sale for $20USD, direct from HTC, and my device is in one now. It’s nice and I think the device needs to have some kind of protective case. The ICE View case does a good job at $20 bucks, but a horrible one at $50 USD. At that price, it should do a lot more.

But enough about the case that should be, but isn’t, there…

OK, So What IS Included?
To be honest… not much. You get exactly the following:

  • HTC 10
  • SIM Card Removal Tool
  • USB-C Cable
  • Wall Wart Charger
  • Warranty Documentation

Notice, that you do NOT get any ear buds or other type of headphones with the device. I contacted HTC about the lack of accessories included with the device and got the following response:

“I know we used to include earphones but this time around we are teaming up with JBL to bring the highest quality earphones to consumers in a bundle package that will be coming soon to htc.com. The earphones have not hit the market yet. What you received in the package is partially due to carrier agreements as well.”

According to my contact at HTC, the JBL bundle was supposed to the partnership with JBL was supposed to come together in late June. From what I can see, it hasn’t happened. The JBL ear buds that they do show on the site, are just that – earbuds; and they’re currently priced at $200 USD. I don’t care how great they are. No earbuds are worth $200 bucks. Period.

HTC also offers as set of HTC Pro Studio Earphones for $80 bucks and a set of HTC Hi-Res Audio Earphones for $30 bucks. The Pro set has a better dynamic range, and support HTC’s BoomSound audio profile. The plain Jane set don’t. You have to ask yourself if the HTC BoomSound audio profile is worth $50 bucks. For me… it’s not. Quite frankly, their entry level ear buds aren’t worth $30 bucks in my opinion. If you want a decent set of headphones, do some research on the internet and then go to an electronics store. If you’re looking for earbuds to get you listening to audio on the go, go to Wal-Mart or some other value retailer and buy a pair for $10-$15 bucks. Save yourself some money. Earbuds aren’t worth much more than that, in my opinion.

The Full 360
As you can see from the pictures, below, the device is similar in form factor to its cousins, the M8 and the M9. However, the first moment I took it out of the box, the first thing I thought was, “wow. This looks exactly like an iPhone.” In fact, for a split second, I thought I was holding an iPhone instead of the HTC 10.

To be blunt, the hardware is awesome looking. Check it out!

 

IMG_5490 IMG_5491 IMG_5492
FULL FRONTAL: The HTC One (M8), (M9) and HTC 10 LEFT SIDE: From top to bottom – the HTC One (M8), (M9) and HTC 10 TOP: From top to bottom – the HTC One (M8), (M9) and HTC 10. Notice the audio jack placement on the HTC 10
IMG_5493 IMG_5494 IMG_5495
RIGHT SIDE: From top to bottom – the HTC One (M8), (M9) and HTC 10. Both the M9 and the HTC 10 have power, volume rocker/ buttons and SIM card slots on the right side. BOTTOM: From top to bottom – the HTC One (M8), (M9) and HTC 10. The M8 and M9 have microUSB connectors, off-centered. The HTC 10 has a centered, USB-C connector & a bottom speaker instead of the headphone jack. BACK: The HTC One (M8), (M9) and HTC 10. The M8’s dual camera setup was so disappointing, they did away with it.

Camera
I’ve been shooting amateur photographs for quite a while now. I’ve become pretty good, though I will be the very first to admit that I have a great deal to learn when it comes to the manual settings on my cameras. However, one of the things that I do well is compose and take a good picture.

So, when I found out that the HTC 10 supported RAW camera files, I got very excited. For those not familiar with Camera RAW and its benefits, here’s a quick explanation. Camera RAW is basically a dump of the actual camera image that the camera captures when it snaps a shot.

Usually when you take a picture the camera will take the data that it captures and then convert that data into a file that your PC – either Windows PC or Mac – can read. In many cases, in order to conserve space on the SD card you’re camera uses for storage, it also compresses that file. While the choice of this file type and its compression level is user controllable, compressing a file always strips detail out of the file, degrading the image. This happens with JPEG’s and JPG’s regardless of the compression level you use. JPEG/ JPG by default has some compression to it, even when you choose a compression level of “0.”

This is an issue because when you go to tweak your photos, you want to work with as much detail and data as possible in order to insure that you get the best results. When you add compression, you strip detail away, and well, by now, you get the point – you don’t get the best results. Camera RAW is the FULL detail of the image you took, and is really the one that every photographer wants access to when they go to retouch their images.

However, most consumer based digital cameras don’t support camera RAW. While it’s mostly because 1) Most consumers don’t care about or understand how the loss of detail effects their pictures, it’s also about 2) The camera manufacturer doesn’t want (for whatever reason) to write the translation filter for your computer so it can read and edit the RAW files for that camera (and yes, each camera/ camera brand has its own RAW file format).

With this in mind, you’re going to need to do a couple of things

  1. Understand that RAW files are big. Pictures normally range in file size from 20MB to 30MB, depending on the lighting, detail, type of shot (macro, zoom level, etc.)
  2. You’re going to want/ need to store files on an external SD card. If you keep files available on your phone, you’re going to run out of space, quickly.

All this said, I was very pleased with the performance of the camera on the HTC 10. Full camera specs can be found below.

Primary
  • 12 MP,
  • f/1.8, 26mm,
  • OIS,
  • laser autofocus,
  • dual-LED (dual tone) flash
Features
  • 1/2.3” sensor size,
  • 1.55µm pixel size,
  • geo-tagging,
  • touch focus,
  • face detection,
  • HDR,
  • panorama
Video
  • 2160p@30fps,
  • 720p@120fps,
  • HDR,
  • stereo sound rec.
Secondary (Front-facing)
  • 5 MP,
  • f/1.8, 23mm,
  • OIS,
  • autofocus,
  • 1.34 µm pixel size,
  • 1080p,
  • HDR

The camera here has decent low light exposure and a decent depth of field, but it’s strictly your basic point and shoot camera. This isn’t going to do pro or pro-sumer level photography. Don’t expect that. The pictures that it takes are decent at best. I’ve noticed that zoomed in photos taken near dusk (some are below) can be grainy, even when using camera RAW.

Here are some unretouched photos that I took with the HTC 10. These are in fact JPG’s, as the RAW files wouldn’t have displayed in this review. However, they are done with minimal compression. However, if you’ve got a good eye, you may see some image degradation and graininess in them. I can; but that’s due more to the “Save for the web” feature that I used in Photoshop Elements than anything else.

IMAG0028 IMAG0029 IMAG0031 IMAG0032
My family at my oldest son’s baseball game. My granddaughter making friends at the game The following pictures are of the coach’s review after the game (they won…) This shot is grainier at the top than it is at the bottom. I think that may be due to the stark color discrepancy between the top and bottom of the shot. Its more washed out near the extreme powder blue of the sky.
IMAG0033 IMAG0035 IMAG0036
The coaches review continues. You can see some graininess here The graininess isn’t as bad here, though, as the picture contains more elements of color than actual white.

Communication
The unlocked version of the HTC 10 that HTC sent me runs on both the AT&T and T-Mobile networks here in the US. The HTC 10 uses a nano SIM, and I was able to pull the card out of my iPhone 6 and immediately stick it in the HTC 10.

As expected, calls were clear. As expected coverage and radio reception were on par with my iPhone 6. The thing that DID go sideways with it was its communication with my car radio, the Pioneer AVH-X4800BS.

While the radio is Siri Eyes Free Compatible, it is neither Apple CarPlay nor Android Auto compatible. The radio uses an app called AppRadio One to display audio and video content and compatible apps on the radio’s 7-inch screen. If you want, you can call this the “poor man’s” version of CarPlay or Android Auto. It does much the same thing, but it’s a Pioneer product.

While I’ve learned that its nothing anywhere close to either Android Auto or CarPlay, I have found that the iPhone communicates and works much better than the HTC 10 does with this radio. I’m not certain if that’s a USB issue (the radio supports a direct, cabled, USB connection), a software issue (it seems to work better with iOS than with Android, in my opinion).

The radio does hands free calling via Bluetooth. That works, mostly, without issue. There are more minor Bluetooth communication quirks with the HTC 10 than with the iPhone 6. To be honest, it was one of the major reasons why I went back to the iPhone 6 much earlier than I had originally planned.

Android
The HTC 10 is an Android phone running Android 6.01 Marshmallow (or greater). The full platform specs are below.

OS Android OS, v6.0.1 (Marshmallow)
Chipset Qualcomm MSM8996 Snapdragon 820
CPU Dual-core 2.15 GHz Kryo & dual-core 1.6 GHz Kryo
GPU Adreno 530

I have been watching for updates to the operating system. Since I received the device about three months ago, I have received two OS updates and a carrier update. The device is running well.

The only real concern I have is how long HTC will support the device with upgrades. The device isn’t cheap, and one would usually expect to have it supported with updates and upgrades for at least 2 years (the average of a single “contract” term with any character. However, that may not be the case. HTC and the rest of the other OEM’s have made it clear they’d rather sell new devices than provide support.

Conclusion
I was impressed with the HTC One (M8), though it had its issues. The HTC 10 is a far cry better than the M8.

The HTC 10 is shy on accessories. You get little more than the device, a cable and a wall wart in the box. Even on HTC.com, the number of offered accessories is limited to the ICE View Case and a handful of headphones/ earbuds. If you want a lot of accessories for your smartphone, the HTC 10 may not be the device for you.

However, as the device has killer battery life, and a decent point and shoot camera. Marshmallow is a decent version of Android, though to be honest, while it does a good job with the HTC 10, it’s much like any other version of Android since Jellybean. If Android is your mobile OS of choice and you’re due for an upgrade or looking for a new mobile device, this is a GREAT device of choice.

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WhatsApp Blocked in Brazil due to Criminal Case

Facebook won’t turn over data, so a judge shut it down…

whatsapp-logo-iconeA Brazilian judge has blocked Facebook’s WhatsApp from operation inside the country and has authorized a fine of up to R$50,000 ($15,273 USD) per day while Facebook refuses to comply with a secret judicial order to provide data in a criminal case, according to Reuters. This is apparently the third such incident involving the popular IP-based messaging app since December of 2015.

The judicial order is officially being kept secret, according to Reuters; and is speculated to be related to conversations involving a number of drug trafficking cases currently under investigation. This action, however, appears to be severe, as its open ended. WhatsApp has been shut down indefinitely, and the outage affects more than 100 million Brazilian users.

WhatsApp is popular in Brazil and other countries due to steep local cellular carrier fees.

The big issue here is that WhatsApp’s data is encrypted. This case is similar to the recent case here in the US between Apple and the FBI. The Brazilian government wants to know what information was traded between suspects and is expecting WhatsApp to provide the unencrypted data.

Unfortunately, there’s a problem with the order(s) coming from the office of Brazilian Judge Baniela Barbosa Assunção de Souza from the state of Rio de Janeiro – Facebook doesn’t store the encrypted data on their servers,

“As we’ve said in the past, we cannot share information we don’t have access to. We hope to see this block lifted as soon as possible,” said a WhatsApp spokesperson in a public statement.

Brazil’s attorney general’s office has restated its position that judges who suspend WhatsApp for failure to provide data are incorrectly interpreting a 2014 law meant to provide a legal framework for the internet.

Brazil has five (5) major cellular carriers: Telefonica Brasil SA, América Móvil SAB’s Claro, TIM Participações SA, Oi SA and Nextel Participações SA. None of them had an immediate comment regarding this suspension.

I think they are waiting for either the other shoe to drop or for a higher judicial authority to lift the suspension. Since the nation’s attorney general doesn’t support this type of suspension, I suspect that it won’t last very long, and that any fine levied against Facebook/ WhatsApp will be negated, but we’ll have to wait and see.

What are your thoughts on this development? Should WhatsApp provide any information at all? Should they show the judge that they don’t have the messages? Why don’t you give me your thoughts in the discussion area below and tell me what you think?

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