SheGeeks.net http://shegeeks.net Techology news, tools and reviews in plain English. Fri, 21 Aug 2015 21:17:06 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.4 Mobile’s New Underdog: LG G2 Review http://shegeeks.net/mobiles-new-underdog-lg-g2-review/ http://shegeeks.net/mobiles-new-underdog-lg-g2-review/#comments Wed, 18 Dec 2013 11:59:07 +0000 http://shegeeks.net/?p=4806 The Optimus G Pro marked the beginning of a shift in design for LG. That shift continues with the minimal, gleaming and beautiful LG G2.  Looks are enough to catch attention, but LG is going to need more than a good looking phone to make the G2 a success on par with Samsung and Apple’s lineup. So, […]

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The Optimus G Pro marked the beginning of a shift in design for LG. That shift continues with the minimal, gleaming and beautiful LG G2.  Looks are enough to catch attention, but LG is going to need more than a good looking phone to make the G2 a success on par with Samsung and Apple’s lineup. So, can the LG G2 work as well as it looks? Read on to find out.

 

LG G2 DESIGN

 

The most interesting part of the LG G2’s design is the lack of buttons on the side. The power button and volume rocker are on the back of the phone below the camera. Annoyingly, this redesign forces you to adjust your hold on the phone to avoid tapping the display when reaching for the buttons. A 5.2″ HD display dominates the front of G2 and a subtle honeycomb pattern lines the back.

 

Fair Warning: This phone requires a firm grip! It’s extremely slippery, looks greasy with heavy use and collects more fingerprints than a police station.

 

LG G2 ON DISPLAY

 

When the display is off, you can make out a subtle pattern of lines reminiscent of the matrix. When the display is on, media comes alive with clarity and detail that does every new Beyonce video justice! It’s so good it makes low quality videos look even lower.

On the flip side, the LG G2 packs useful gestures and features for the display (see above image). My favorite is KnockON (aka Knock Knock) which lets you double tap the center of the display to turn it on or off. You can even change the on-screen navigation bar or the aspect ratio of apps in the display settings. Annoyingly, switching from portrait to landscape mode will sometimes cause the screen to turn off.

 

CALL QUALITY & CONNECTIVITY

Making a call on the LG G2 is a walk in the park even when using speakerphone. Callers could hear me loud and clear and vice versa. Verizon hasn’t dropped a call the entire time I’ve been reviewing the G2. The hand-off between Verizon’s 4G LTE to my apartment’s WiFi is quick, but my favorite G2 connection is the mobile hotspot. It’s a piece of cake to activate and connect to another device and get some work done on the fly. Connecting a pair of Beats by Dre wireless headphones to the G2 via bluetooth took less than 10 seconds, which was pretty good unlike the listening experience.

 

CAMERA QUALITY

The LG G2’s front camera was not made for taking selfies. After one ridiculously soft, muted, and noisy shot, I never used the front camera again. The back 13MP camera delivers a much richer experience with sharp, clear and natural toned photos. Occasionally I experienced problems with the camera’s lens focus and the highly touted image stabilization setting didn’t seem to have any effect while taking pictures around New York City. Videos recorded at maximum quality gain a DSLR look and feel that will make pictures taken with the G2 jealous. To learn more about the cool camera features packed into the LG G2, check out the videos in the image below!

 

AUDIO QUALITY

Beats by Dre headphones are notorious for being one thing: loud. The LG G2 doesn’t come near that with wireless headphones. To really turn up the volume you have to plug a wire into the headphone jack at the bottom of the G2. Only then will you experience its deep bass and rich trebles. The speaker is decent More importantly, the volume rocker gives you access to all volume controls, not just one. Still, I wish the G2 were just a little bit louder.

 

LG SKIN & FEATURES

 

The LG skin on the G2 is polished, customizable but cluttered around the notification bar and drawer. The keyboard’s look can be changed and has emoji’s built-in. There’s a tabbed view option in the Settings app just like Samsung Galaxy devices. QSlide, Guest Mode and Clip Tray are standout features on the LG G2. QSlide apps pop-out and let you multitask with a transparency slider that pins up to two apps on the screen while you work in a third app. Guest Mode restricts family or friends from accessing certain apps and clip tray keeps a handy record of text and media you copy.

Rita El Khoury has a great post listing 20 reasons why LG’s android skin is pretty awesome, which is worth a serious look if you’re skeptical about LG’s design choices.

 

BATTERY LIFE

 

The LG G2 got me through a full workday of tethering on Verizon’s 4G network with only one bar of service. That’s great, but how much damage did the battery take? Quite a bit, but still managed to hold on to 20% of its power. I expected tethering, especially on one bar of service, to kill the battery in no time. I can’t even get the Moto X to make it past 16 hours though it promises a full day. This was never a problem with the G2. It takes less than two hours to fully charge and the battery information setting gives the most detailed view of battery usage that you’ll ever see from a phone.

Running low on juice? The battery saver toggle lets you customize  features to automatically turn off when the battery gets low to save as much power as possible.

 

CONCLUSION

 

The LG G2 carries a nice balance of today’s most popular features minus the gimmicks. Despite an annoyingly glossy finish and weak bluetooth audio, the G2 looks great draped in black, performs flawlessly and can last all day in the hands of a novice or power user. The G2 is a diamond in a rough sea of mobile devices and would make a great gift to anyone this holiday season, especially sports fans!

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BlackBerry Messenger for iOS and Android: What You’re Not Missing http://shegeeks.net/blackberry-messenger-bbm-ios-android-review/ http://shegeeks.net/blackberry-messenger-bbm-ios-android-review/#comments Sat, 19 Oct 2013 16:51:49 +0000 http://shegeeks.net/?p=4765 Be honest: when’s the last time you got excited about something BlackBerry released? Don’t worry, I’ll wait… For me it was their first tablet, the BlackBerry Playbook. The Playbook looked good, showed potential, but was DOA. The highly anticipated relaunch of BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) for Android and iOS is no different and here’s why. Bad Tastes Blackberry Messenger […]

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Be honest: when’s the last time you got excited about something BlackBerry released? Don’t worry, I’ll wait…

For me it was their first tablet, the BlackBerry Playbook. The Playbook looked good, showed potential, but was DOA. The highly anticipated relaunch of BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) for Android and iOS is no different and here’s why.

Bad Tastes

Blackberry Messenger sticks out like a sore thumb on Android. You’re immediately greeted with a clunky, gradient navigation bar, big buttons and lots of whitespace – a throwback Instagram look. It feels as if BlackBerry tried to bring their mobile OS to Android instead of adapting to a new environment. The same design isn’t so glaring on iOS, and it’ll be interesting to see if BlackBerry re-releases the app with a design more in-line with iOS 7.

 

Convoluted Navigation

Navigating the app is like navigating a maze. Tapping the top navigation bar shows you profile options like adding your name and updating your status. You can also generate a barcode for friends to scan and pick up your BBM pin or simply start a new chat. The bottom navigation bar gives you quick access to existing chats, contacts and groups. Swiping to the right or tapping the menu icon gives you access to the same navigation options, in addition to contact updates and invites sent/received. Swiping to the left or tapping the options icon brings up more chat actions (multi-person chat, broadcast message, invites), app settings and help information.

Many Ways To Conversate

There are a host of options for inviting others to chat on BBM including via SMS and NFC. Once you’ve got a chat going you can add another person to the mix or send file attachments (pictures and voice notes only on iOS). Tapping the top bar in a chat takes you to your friend’s profile. Bringing up the options menu in a chat lets you end a chat, ping someone or copy a chat. Keep in mind, ending a chat deletes all of its messages, but Blackberry does provide an option to save chats in the app’s settings.

The Bright Side of BBM

On the bright side, BlackBerry Messenger is arguably more efficient than competitors. It’s not bogged down with a bunch of features like Google Hangouts and supports group messaging, emojis and media attachments just like Whatsapp. You’re also not at risk for being bombarded with random chat requests thanks to BBM’s infamous pin system. It has everything the average user would need from a chat app and nothing more.

On the other hand, power users may find the app to be too minimal. It doesn’t support video chat or landscape mode.  The design really needs a makeover and the Android version has a creepy BBM icon that stays in the notification bar.

Unless you have a good group of friends still holding on to their BlackBerry’s, or you’re Olivia Pope, you’re really not missing anything.

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New Twitter Setting Lets Any Follower Direct Message You: Should You Enable It? http://shegeeks.net/twitter-direct-messages-from-any-follower/ http://shegeeks.net/twitter-direct-messages-from-any-follower/#comments Thu, 17 Oct 2013 06:19:42 +0000 http://shegeeks.net/?p=4744 Twitter has quietly added a new setting that lets any of your followers send you a direct message (DM). Previously, you had to be following anyone who wanted to DM you in order to receive the DM. It was a simple way of limiting spam and unwanted messages. So, what are the benefits of allowing […]

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Twitter has quietly added a new setting that lets any of your followers send you a direct message (DM). Previously, you had to be following anyone who wanted to DM you in order to receive the DM. It was a simple way of limiting spam and unwanted messages. So, what are the benefits of allowing anyone to DM you?

New Ways To Connect On Twitter

 

Only allowing direct messages from people you’re following means you can miss an opportunity to connect with someone who doesn’t feel comfortable publicly responding to your tweets or messaging you. They could ask for your email address, but one of the beautiful things about Twitter is that it can accelerate the process of making new connections. Email can slow that process down, and not everyone gets thrilled about another email landing in their inbox.

This new setting also makes more room for side-conversations that you normally wouldn’t have with some of your followers.

For example, this year I met a brilliant young professor who is as addicted to Scandal as I am. Due to the nature of her work, live-tweeting Scandal isn’t the most beneficial way for her to use Twitter. However, she does engage me via DMs about my live-tweets during the show. If she couldn’t DM me, I wouldn’t even know she watched Scandal.

But what if I was more interested in our Scandal conversations than her tweets? What if she doesn’t tweet that often? Enabling DMs from all followers eliminates the need to even think about these questions.

Twitter Spam Concerns

What about spammers or rogue apps? Ask yourself, “How much spam do I see on Twitter now?” Most of the spam I get via DMs are from people whose accounts have been hacked, not spammers or rogue apps. I don’t see spam very often in my Twitter stream and I highly doubt enabling this new setting will lead to a rise in spam. Twitter is barring links from being sent via DMs from unverified accounts, which should help balance out any potential spam attacks. On the downside, this will be frustrating for many who send links via DM.

What Will You Do?

So what’s stopping you from enabling this option? I’m going to enable it for the rest of October and see it how goes. I don’t expect it to a difference in how I use Twitter. However, I could see this setting shifting my use of DMs into a quick contact form for others to get in touch with me.

Will you enable Twitter’s new DM setting? Why or why not?

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Aviate Launcher: The Right Apps and Information At The Right Time [300 Invites] http://shegeeks.net/aviate-launcher-right-apps-information-right-time-300-invites/ http://shegeeks.net/aviate-launcher-right-apps-information-right-time-300-invites/#comments Wed, 16 Oct 2013 21:01:46 +0000 http://shegeeks.net/?p=4711 Aviate is a beautiful new android launcher that aims to give you the information and apps you need right when you need them. I have 300 Aviate Beta invite codes for SheGeeks readers! Download Aviate using the widget below and use the code “SHEGEEKS” to register (without the quotes). Without further ado, here’s a look at […]

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Aviate is a beautiful new android launcher that aims to give you the information and apps you need right when you need them. I have 300 Aviate Beta invite codes for SheGeeks readers! Download Aviate using the widget below and use the code “SHEGEEKS” to register (without the quotes).

Without further ado, here’s a look at Aviate Beta, the new android launcher on the block!

 

Spaces

Aviate greets you with a new homescreen or “space” depending on the time of day and where you are. Each space is filled with quick access to relevant settings, apps and widgets of your choosing by tapping the top menu bar.

In the morning, Aviate greets you with a morning “space” as your homescreen. Here, you can quickly access alarm and ringer options, weather forecasts, your agenda for the day and a collection of apps that you use the most in the morning.

When you leave home, Aviate automatically switches to the “Going Somewhere” space that gives you immediate access to a collection of travel apps, traffic information and directions to your home or office. If your destination is your office, a “Work” space will appear with a collection of work relatd apps and quick actions for sending emails and updating your calendar.

If you work from home you’ll have to make this switch manually.

The switch between spaces is seamless and quick, keeping an ever rotating array of tools on your screen for whenever you might need them most.

A quick swipe to the right will reveal all of the available spaces in Aviate, but you can’t create your own space.

 

Check-in

What if you’re going out to eat or for drinks? Aviate’s nearby feature creates a space specific to where you are if it’s listed on Foursquare.

Venue photos taken by Foursquare users are prominently displayed along with quick access to obligatory outing actions: take a picture, share an update and check-in.

Just below all of that you’ll find Foursquare tips, Yelp ratings, business social media handles and the option to tweet the venue. You’ll also see a collection of restaurant-related apps.

This comprehensive overview of a place and interactions makes the Nearby space one of my favorites!

 

App Drawer & Collections

Swiping twice to the left brings up all your apps. You can drag-and-drop app icons from this screen into collections and spaces. Oddly, Aviate doesn’t let you scroll up or down when dragging-and-dropping apps. You’ll have to make sure the place you want your app to go in is already showing on the previous screen.

Swiping to the left of a space once brings up collections, which group similar apps together like folders. Some collections are integrated into spaces. For example, the work collection appears in the drop-down menu for the work space.

There are over a dozen pre-made collections to choose from – except a photography collection. You can customize which apps appear in collections, but you can’t create your own. You can also drag-and-drop apps from collections to a space, which removes the app from the collection as well.

Each collection has a recommendation button to help you discover related apps, but I found myself wishing I could use this button to add apps I already installed without going into the app drawer. Aviate does a decent job of grouping similar apps from the start, making it easier to quickly get started.

   

 

Quirks

My biggest gripe with Aviate is with the way it handles new apps. It doesn’t always add new apps to an existing collection, forcing you to go and hunt them down in the app drawer to manually add them to a collection or space. Options and settings are sparse for most of Aviate’s built-in widgets – some of which can’t be removed  – and launcher settings are nonexistent. I also wish Aviate would allow different sets of widgets for each space.

None of these things are deal breakers for using Aviate and can easily be fixed in future updates.

 

Conclusion

Aviate is good at adapts to context clues in a way that’s almost as seamless as Google Now. It puts the apps and information you need front and center and the spaces concept is more valuable than having a bunch of home screens. On the downside, the user has to do most of the heavy-lifting in setup and maintenance, and the information Aviate surfaces is mostly static, requiring widgets to access real-time information.

I have a good feeling that Aviate could do much more and I look forward to seeing how this nifty Android launcher evolves.

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An In-depth Look at iOS 7 http://shegeeks.net/ios7-review/ http://shegeeks.net/ios7-review/#comments Fri, 04 Oct 2013 00:42:00 +0000 http://shegeeks.net/?p=4611 In 2008, Apple changed the mobile industry with the iPhone and iOS, its mobile operating system. Over time, we’ve seen minor tweaks to the iPhone’s design, but not much about iOS has changed – until now. Here’s a look at Apple’s bold and colorful redesign of iOS that might be their best update yet. Installation […]

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In 2008, Apple changed the mobile industry with the iPhone and iOS, its mobile operating system. Over time, we’ve seen minor tweaks to the iPhone’s design, but not much about iOS has changed – until now. Here’s a look at Apple’s bold and colorful redesign of iOS that might be their best update yet.


Installation and Setup

Installation and setup is business as usual. Update iTunes, plugin in your iPhone, backup your data and download the latest update (752MB).  Once installed, you’ll be greeted with a completely new look and array of colorful icons! I haven’t seen Apple use this much color since they launched the iPod Mini (now the iPod Nano).

A New Attitude

If you can get past all the color, you might call iOS 7 the best update released by Apple. The previous look has been stripped away in favor of a clean and minimal design. There’s a lot of whitespace and transparency in iOS 7 that looks good and refreshing. There are also a handful of new features that brings many iPhones and iPads up-to-date with features that have been available to Android and Windows Phone users for years. So, let’s dig into what’s new.


Lock Screen

Say goodbye to those hideously thick black bars that lined the top and bottom of the lock screen. Everything is now transparent with your wallpaper and the information you need front and center.

iOS7 Lock Screen iOS7-Incoming-Call

The date, time, charging status and battery information are still along the top of the screen. “Slide to unlock” stills occupies the bottom of the screen next a camera icon that takes you straight to the camera app when you swipe up on it.

When music is playing, the  lock screen transforms into a media center complete with a large album art cover and media player controls.

When you receive a call, it you’ll still see either your wallpaper or the contact’s picture along with three self-explanatory call options: Remind Me, Message and Slide to Answer. Remind me can remind you to call a person back in 1 hour or when you leave your current location (location must be enabled).

When you receive a notification, the wallpaper blurs and darkens for easier reading. Swiping notifications to the right takes you to directly to their app. Unfortunately you can only dismiss notifications from the notification center, which requires swiping down on your screen.

iOS7 Lock Screen - Notifications iOS7 Lock Screen - Music

Overall, the lock screen in iOS 7 looks beautiful, but clearly borrows its minimalistic look from Windows Phone and takes after Android’s lock screen functionality.

Home Screen

The home screen has only minor changes to it, but seems brand new because of the color icons and transparent status bar, folders and dock.

App labels change colors according to your background. Spotlight can now be accessed from any home screen with a quick swipe down. The bland black boxes that Apple used for folders have been replaced with transparent squares that also hold more apps. Newsstand can now be hidden in those folders too!

 iOS7 Home Screen iOS7 Home Screen - Folders

Interestingly, the lock screen and home screen have a motion effect that causes wallpapers, icons and labels to float or shift with the movement of your phone. I hardly notice it, but it can be turned off under the Accessibility menu in Settings.

iOS 7 Notification Center

You can still access the notification center with a quick swipe down from any screen. It has a brand new look that sorts notifications into three areas: Today, All and Missed.

iOS7 Notifications iOS7 Notifications2

Today gives you a glimpse of your daily agenda. This includes a summary of weather, traffic and upcoming events, your agenda for the day, reminders, stocks and a summary of tomorrow’s events.

The All tab includes notifications from all your apps and the Missed tab seems to do the same. The only noticeable difference between the two is that you can only clear Missed notifications from the All tab.  At least you can customize what notifications show up under Settings.

Apple did a horrible job of packaging all of this information in iOS 5, but nailed it in iOS 7. It still doesn’t compare to Google Now, but with the latest enhancements iOS 7 brings to Siri, Apple isn’t very far from a complete Google Now competitor.

Control Center

iOS7 ControlCenter Swiping up from any screen will bring up the all new control center. If you’ve ever jailbroken your iPhone and installed SBSettings, then you know exactly what this is.

Control Center is styled in a  transparent glass box, etched with tappable toggles to enable or disable Airplane mode, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, AirDrop, AirPlay, Do Not Disturb and a flashlight. You can also skip, pause or play songs or open the timer, calculator and camera.

It feels like this is only the beginning for the Control and Notification Centers. They feel incomplete and there are many ways for Apple to improve them.

iOS 7 Multitasking

Pressing the home button twice will quickly bring up a preview of all the apps you have open, which you swipe left or right to scroll through. More importantly, you don’t have to wait for apps to reload when switching from one to the other. When you’re done with an app, just swipe up on its preview to get rid of it.

iOS7 Multitasking

 

Camera

The camera app has been cleaned up a bit.  A thin black bar lines the top of the app with options for Flash, HDR and switching between the front and back camera. HDR settings and grid options have been moved to Settings under ‘Photos & Camera’. A thick black bar at the bottom holds a new shutter button, shortcuts to photos and filters that can be used before or after taking pics. Unfortunately, filters can’t be used on videos or in Pano mode.

iOS7 Camera iOS7 Camera Filters

In the middle of all this is the viewfinder. Beneath the viewfinder is a carousel of shooting modes: Video, Photo, Pano and Square (for Instagram addicts). The iPhone 5s has an exclusive shooting mode called Slo-Mo that records slow motion videos. There’s also a burst mode that takes up to 10 pictures a second by tapping and holding the shutter button. You don’t have to worry about it saving blurry shots either.

Photos

Photo management has always been a mess on iOS, but that could change with the new Photos app. iOS 7 brings three new ways to view photos: Albums, Shared and Photos.

If you liked the old Photos app, then you’ll love Albums. It’s a classic photo gallery view decked in iOS 7 attire. Shared lets iCloud users interact and view activity from all of their shared streams. Photos organizes pictures by Years, Collections and Moments. Years gives you a bird’s eye view of photos by year. Collections groups those images by timeframe and place. Moments are the grouping of Collection images by day and time.

The deeper you dig into the sorting options, the bigger the photo thumbnails appear and vice versa.

iOS7 Photos - Year   iOS7 Photos Collections  iOS7 Photos Moments

You can tap and hold your finger over photo thumbnails to get a slightly bigger preview of an image under Collections and Years. Collections with locations tags can be viewed on a map by tapping the location name and you can share your Moments using the built-in sharing options.

In full photo view you have three standard options: share, trash or edit them. Edit mode provides tools to rotate, crop or auto enhance a photo. There are nine filters that you can apply or switch between if you’ve already applied a filter. There’s also an option to get rid of red-eyes in photos.  Does anyone still use this feature?

AirDrop

Since its introduction, iOS has severely lacked wireless sharing options. Android has Android Beam, S-Beam and Wi-Fi Direct. Both Android and Windows Phone support NFC. iOS? Just bluetooth, and a very limited version of it at that. It’s part of what led me to switch from iOS to Android last year.

AirDrop is Apple’s answer to wireless sharing. It uses a combination of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to wirelessly send anything that’s not a music file or app to another iPhone. The catch? It’s limited to the latest line of iPhones (iPhone 5 and up). When enabled on two or more iPhones, an image of the owner of each device will show up under the sharing options. Just tap the image to send your file. You can even set privacy settings to only allow your contacts see your device when you enable AirDrop.

If you’re wondering if AirDrop for iPhone works with AirDrop for iMac, you’ll be disappointed to hear it doesn’t. Silly, I know. AirDrop should’ve been one of the most impressive feature of iOS 7, but it’s too busy playing with itself to play nicely with others. Typical Apple.

Safari

Safari finally has an omnibar! When you scrolling in a webpage, all bars and buttons immediately disappear and remain hidden until you scroll back up. Swiping left or right will take you back a page or move you forward. Tabs are shown in one long column and can be closed with a quick swipe to the left or right – just like Google Chrome.

iOS 7 Safari  iOS 7 Safari - Fullscreen  iOS 7 Safari - Shared Links

Reading List is grouped with Bookmarks and a new feature called Shared Links. Shared Links gives you a look the the latest links being shared in your Twitter stream. Too bad you can’t do anything beyond reading the links. Hopefully Apple will add options to engage with tweets from this view as well.

iTunes Radio

iTunes Radio is Apple’s version of Pandora complete with ads (less than 10 seconds) and skip limits. You’ll find this new feature inside of the redesigned Music app. It lets you create a radio station from over 250 DJ-curated and genre-focused stations or start your own based on your favorite artist, song or genre.

iOS7 iTunesRadio iOS7 iTunesRadio0

There are several things you can with a station. Tapping the star icon lets you play more songs like the current one, never play that song again, or add it to your iTunes Wish List. The “i” icon at the top of the screen lets you start a new station based on the current artist or song. From here, you can also tune your current station for hits, variety or discovery, allow explicit tracks and share your station.

iOS7 iTunesRadio1  iOS7 iTunesRadio2  iOS7 iTunesRadio3

iTunes Radio keeps track of each station’s history and your Wish List under the History section. You’ll see a history of songs you’ve listen to from each station rather than one stream of all the songs. This should make it easier to fine-tune your stations and keep up with new discoveries.

You can also control iTunes Radio using Siri with commands like “Play more like this” or “What song is this?”. And no matter what i-device you’re using, iTunes Radio picks up where you left off. This is one of my favorite features from iOS 7!

Siri

Siri received a nice makeover as well as male and female gendered voices. The new Siri is cleaner and more polished with a transparent overlay that covers whatever you’re doing. Sound waves at the bottom of the app indicate whether Siri can hear you. Apple claims that Siri sounds more natural, but both male and female voices pronounce words like a computer to me.

Siri can search new sources such as Bing, Wikipedia and Twitter. Just ask Siri what’s trending on Twitter to get an overview of the latest Twitter trends. More command options have also been added to return calls, play voicemails, control iTunes Radio and more.

iOS7 Siri iOS7 Siri2

With these new additions, Apple is slowing but surely moving into Google Now territory. In fact, I found Siri to be slightly faster than Google Now at returning results. Not to mention Google Now can’t tell me what’s Trending on Twitter. It also can’t return Twitter search results.

Add in Touchless Controls from the Moto X, tie Siri into the Notification and Control Centers and Siri could give Google Now a run for its money.

Minor Updates

That about wraps up the major changes in iOS 7. There are plenty of minor changes that would take all day to list, but here are a few that you should know about.

In addition to a new look, the App Store received two new features: Popular Apps Near Me and a Kids category. You can also enable background app refreshing which lets apps continue updating content or use GPS in the background.

iOS7 App Store - Popular Near Me iOS7 App Store - Kids Category

Find My iPhone now requires your Apple ID and password to turn it off and to erase your device. If your iPhone still manages to get erased, it’ll still show a custom message and require your Apple ID and password to reactivate the phone. Smart move!

You can also block unwanted phone numbers from calling,  texting or iMessaging you. And if you’re looking for timestamps for text messages, swipe to the left of any message and hold your finger on the screen to see them. Careful not to accidentally swipe back to all your messages!

One Last Thing…

My only major complaint with  iOS 7  is that you still can’t clear the insane amount of cache/data that apps tend to keep on the iPhone. iOS is supposed to take care of this, but it waits until you’re about to run out of memory to free up that space. Not to mention it only frees up just enough space instead of cleaning every app.

I’ve also seen reports and tweets of iOS 7 not running as smoothly on i-devices older than the iPhone 5. So, if you have an older model (including iPads), you may want to do some research before upgrading.

 

Conclusion: Solid, Unoriginal

It’s no secret that Apple is playing “follow the leader” with iOS 7, but it is surprising since they’re supposed to be the leader. iOS 7 clearly borrows design elements from just about every mobile OS dead or alive: multitasking from Palm’s WebOS, Windows Phone’s simplicity and Android’s controls.

Where is the mark of Apple in iOS 7?

If you think about it in another way, Apple took what was already inspired by them, made it prettier and gave it to iOS users who were long overdue for an update anyway. It’s a copycat move, but that doesn’t stop iOS 7 from being the most solid update that Apple has ever delivered – at least if you own an iPhone 5 and up. I guess Jony Ives did something right, despite my initial impressions of iOS 7’s childish looks.

A poll that pits iOS 6 against iOS 7, shows iOS 7 as the clear winner in terms of design. But do people prefer the feel and function of iOS 7 over previous versions? I do, because Apple just brought an entire lineup of iPhones almost up-to-par with Android and Windows Phone devices in one fell swoop.

Did you upgrade to iOS 7?
What do you think about it?

 

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How Nokia Got Their Groove Back With The Lumia 925 http://shegeeks.net/lumia-925-review/ http://shegeeks.net/lumia-925-review/#comments Wed, 02 Oct 2013 17:48:56 +0000 http://shegeeks.net/?p=4653 Two years ago, Nokia wasn’t making much noise in the US mobile industry. Their first US Windows Phone devices – Lumia 900 and 920 – were less than stellar in sales and performance. The title for camera phone king rested tightly on the head of Apple’s iPhone and arguably still does. Fortunately for Nokia, they’re getting […]

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Two years ago, Nokia wasn’t making much noise in the US mobile industry. Their first US Windows Phone devices – Lumia 900 and 920 – were less than stellar in sales and performance. The title for camera phone king rested tightly on the head of Apple’s iPhone and arguably still does. Fortunately for Nokia, they’re getting their groove back with the Lumia 925. It’s what Nokia’s first Windows Phone should’ve been: thin and light with a banging camera! Better late than never, right?

Nokia Lumia 925 Design & Performance

Nokia Lumia 925- Side

The Nokia Lumia 925 is exceptionally thinner and lighter than its predecessors. Its infamous polycarbonate body is mixed with an aluminum frame that doubles as an antenna and helps Nokia trim some fat off the design. The mix of materials creates a clean two-tone color scheme that looks great in every color except black.

It’s easy to grip with one hand, but you’ll have to deal with your index finger hitting the slightly raised 8.7MP Pureview rear camera – a design annoyance that I use as a way to get a better grip on the phone.

Nokia Lumia 925 - Top The power button, volume rockers and camera button are on the left side of the phone, while a micro-usb port for charging and transferring data, SIM card slot and headphone jack sit on top. This is an interesting design twist because 3-4 sides of the phone are usually occupied by a port or button. Where is Nokia going with this design? No buttons, one port and a SIM card slot?

Despite mid-level specs like a measly 1GB of RAM and a decent dual-core 1.5Ghz Snapdragon S4 processor,  the Lumia 925 can handle whatever you throw at it.  It’s responsive, scrolling is smooth and it switches apps like a Ferrari switching lanes: fast and efficiently. The only time you’re likely to experience a delay is when using apps that requires a data connection to work.

Working so hard with mid-level tools makes the Lumia 925 heat up pretty quickly when used extensively. It’s not hot enough to burn, but it is uncomfortable to feel.

Nokia Lumia 925 Display & Sound

Nokia Lumia 925 & Purity Pro Wireless Headphones

Covering the front of the phone is a 4.5-inch WXGA AMOLED (1280 x 768) display with the Windows Phone navigation keys at the bottom. This isn’t a top of the line display, but it’s one of the best you’ll find on Windows Phone.

Media looks crisp, rich and detailed from every viewing angle. Colors can seem oversaturated sometimes, but you can correct this in the Lumia Color Profile setting by adjusting the display saturation level and temperature to create a better viewing experience.

Nokia Lumia 925 - Front Display

Another feature for the display is Glance. It only shows the time and notifications on the lock screen whenever you hold your hand over the display. You can also set it to show at different intervals or just leave it on. Activating it by hovering my hand over the display took a few tries and eventually I disabled this feature. Instead, I just double tap the screen to see the time and notifications.

The Lumia 925’s speakers know how to make some noise when playing media! Audio is loud and clear, though lacking in bass. A pair of Nokia Purity Pro headphones can solve that. There’s an equalizer setting with presets including one you can customize and Dolby surround sound enhancements for wired headphones. Unfortunately, these enhancements don’t work with wireless headphones.

If you can put up with the limited 16GBs of storage, the Lumia 925 is a solid media device. Microsoft also throw-in 7GBs of free SkyDrive space to sweeten the deal, though an SD card slot would’ve been better.

Nokia, The Camera King

Nokia Lumia 925 - Back Camera

The 8.7MP Pureview camera on the Lumia 925 is on point! Pictures and videos are crisp, vivid and amazing to look at. This camera could seriously replace a few compact point-and-shooters. The wide-angle 1.9MP front-camera is surprisingly good as well.

Even more amazing is the Nokia Pro Cam app for the Lumia 925 and 1020. The regular camera comes with the usual presets for adjusting the white balance, iso, exposure, etc. There’s also an option called Lenses that lets you jump into other photography apps that you have. Nokia has a few exclusive lenses available in the Store to add more features to the Lumia’s camera like Cinemagraph (create GIFs) and Smart Cam.

Nokia Pro Cam - Windows Phone

Nokia Pro Cam turns the Lumia 925 into a mini DSLR and lets you fine-tune settings in a way the regular camera can’t do.

While hanging out on my fire escape one night, I noticed a humongous cloud that looked like a wall of fog in the sky. I thought aliens were about to takeover, but just above the this cloud was a dark, clear and beautiful blue sky.  I ran and grabbed my Canon T2i. Unsurprisingly, all my shots came out blurry. I just didn’t have the right lens for night-time photography.

So, I tried Pro Cam on the Lumia 925 and here is the difference in shots (Canon Shot (1),  Lumia Shot (2)):

Night Shot from DSLR      Nokia Lumia 925 Night Shot

The Canon T2i’s coloring is more accurate, but I was able to take a better shot overall using a fun and interactive tutorial in Pro Cam’s options. The tutorial lets you try out various custom settings for the exposure, ISO, shutter speed and more. As you adjust the settings, a sample photo will change to reflect your changes. It’s a great way to understand how to use Pro Cam and how each setting affects a shot before you take it.

You can also reframe photos after they’re taken. Reframing is a bit like cropping a photo except you can reframe a photo as many times as you like. It works as expected, but it’s been noted that there’s a reduction in photo quality when you use the reframe feature on any photo.

To get into other features like removing objects, best shot, or to capture an action shot, grab Nokia Smart Cam.

Lumia 925 Call Quality & Battery Life

Nokia Lumia 925 - Battery Signals

Call quality was on par with my usual experience of four bars at all times. Callers didn’t notice a difference in call quality when using the Lumia 925. I noticed that callers sometimes sounded a little robotic or metallic when talking too loudly.

Battery life is pretty good on the Lumia 925 even with heavy usage. It easily made it past 14 hours of texting, two hour long phone calls, snapping and sharing photos and tweeting with the screen on auto brightness. AT&T’s 4G LTE connection was also enabled the entire time.

Once when I started charging the battery at around 3%, the phone still died. It took a minute or two of charging to power on again, but a full charge took nearly two hours to complete! The Lumia 800, 820 and 920 all feature a Quick Charge option that charges the phone up to 40% faster. There doesn’t seem to be any sign of this feature in the Lumia 925, which is pretty disappointing.

Lumia 925 Wireless Charging Cover

If you’re into wirelessly charging, you can add a wireless charging cover to the back of any Lumia 925 and wirelessly charge it with a stand or dock. But is it really wireless charging if you still need to place your phone on a charger?

 

A Bright Phone With A Cloudy Future

Nokia Lumia 925

What I like most about most Lumia phones is how Nokia develops their own features instead of waiting on Microsoft to do something with Windows Phone. Samsung does the same with Android, but at least Google can keep up with Samsung. Microsoft cannot keep up with Nokia, and Nokia can only pull a giant like Microsoft so far on their own.

Microsoft has to move faster and they can’t without help. That’s probably why Microsoft is acquiring Nokia’s Devices & Services business and licensing the use of Nokia’s patents and mapping services. They’re buying the heart of what makes Nokia the number one choice on Windows Phone. I still think there’s something else Microsoft could be doing to move quicker.

AT&T’s Lumia 925 is $99.99 with a new two-year contract and a reasonable $429.99 out of pocket. I would grab the Lumia 925 for the camera alone. However, when you take Windows Phone into consideration, you run the risk of purchasing a phone that will be obsolete in less than a year – a common pattern for most Windows Phone devices.

Still, that doesn’t make it easy to pass on the Nokia Lumia 925’s improved design, dazzling screen, great performance and powerful camera to match.

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HTC One Review: A Perfect Blend of Beauty and Power http://shegeeks.net/htc-one-review-perfect-blend-beauty-power/ http://shegeeks.net/htc-one-review-perfect-blend-beauty-power/#comments Sat, 21 Sep 2013 04:14:38 +0000 http://shegeeks.net/?p=4563 HTC may have struck gold with the bold and refreshing HTC One! This smartphone is power and speed wrapped in a sleek body with smooth curves and a head-turning aluminum finish. Here’s a look at why the HTC One is one of 2013’s hottest smartphones! Android OS 4.1.2 Startup Time 19s Most Used Feature Video Highlight […]

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HTC may have struck gold with the bold and refreshing HTC One! This smartphone is power and speed wrapped in a sleek body with smooth curves and a head-turning aluminum finish. Here’s a look at why the HTC One is one of 2013’s hottest smartphones!

  • Android OS 4.1.2
  • Startup Time 19s
  • Most Used Feature Video Highlight
  • Least Used Feature BlinkFeed
  • Display 4.7 inches (1080×1920)
  • Size & Weight 5.41×2.69×0.37in, 5.04oz
  • Camera 4MP (Back), 2.1MP (Front)
  • Memory & Storage 2GB RAM, 32GB/64GB

Design & Performance

If there was an award for Best Looking Phone of 2013, it would go to the HTC One. Its sleek aluminum body and gorgeous 4.7-inch, 1080p HD display will take you by surprise. The back of the phone is slightly curved, but remains balanced when placed on a table or desk and feels great in your hands. Three subtle rows of dots on the top and bottom of the phone cleverly hide the One’s BoomSound equipped speakers. They also give the phone a distinct look.

As always with HTC,  the rear camera design is fresh and clean. There are only two buttons along the sides of the phone: a power button that doubles as an IR blaster and volume rocker. A slot for your simcard, a microphone and micro-usb port (that doubles as an HDMI port) are the only markings along the sides of HTC One. Overall, its minimal, clean and absolutely gorgeous!

Under the hood, the HTC One has as much brains as beauty thanks to a Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 600, quad-core, 1.7GHz processor and 2GBs of RAM. Media heavy apps like the camera and YouTube open instantly. You’re not likely to experience any lag while using the HTC One. Gameplay is flawless as long as you don’t move your finger near the bottom of the screen where the navigation buttons sit. This caused me to constantly return to the home screen in the middle of playing Subway Surfers and GTA Vice City.

Display & Sound

The HTC One’s 4.7-inch, 1080p HD display is comes alive when you turn it on! Media looks bright, vibrant and crystal clear. Colors appear natural but warm in tone, which can give white colors a red tint or make the screen seem dim at times. Despite that minor flaw, you won’t have any complaints watching music videos on the HTC One.

HTC One (Dual Front Speaker)

To compliment the amazing display are not one but two equally amazing front speakers. Packing HTC BoomSound, the HTC One could easily be mistaken for a portable speaker when playing music. The bass is great and there’s a lot of treble present. Turn on your AC or a fan and the HTC One goes from BoomSound to low sound. It’s still pretty impressive audio quality for a phone and perfect for small gatherings or for showing off media to a group of friends.

For those who love throwing on a good pair of headphones and walking out the door, Beats Audio is also integrated into the HTC One. I was a bit disappointed with the lack of customization options for the EQ, but enabling Beats Audio will provide some much needed bass and thump to an otherwise flat sound. Overall, I found the Galaxy Note 2 to sound louder and smoother than the HTC One when using my Nokia Purity Headphones.

HTC One Camera

HTC One Camera

The camera on the HTC One is something special. Instead of the usual 6-13MP lens, HTC opted for an “UltraPixel” technology. There are four things that HTC has noted about UltraPixels and the HTC One’s camera technology:

  1. UltraPixel Sensor: Engineered with larger pixels, it enables each pixel to capture more than 300% more light than most leading 13 megapixel cameras.
  2. HTC ImageChip: Offers continuous autofocus, color shading, and noise reduction, as well as more realistic High Dynamic Range.
  3. F/2.0 Aperture: The largest available smartphone camera aperture, it lets in 44% more light than the iPhone 5.
  4. Optical Image Stabilization: Drastically reduces blur in still photos and shaky video footage.

If you’re curious about the difference in UltraPixels versus Megapixels check out Gizmodo’s comparison article here.

So, how does this translate in the real world? I was able to capture some pretty decent photos on a recent trip to the New York Aquarium. Pictures came out sharp, clear and vivid, but a little washed out sometimes. Low lighting photos were also decent, but also had a lot of noise in them. This camera also wasn’t the best camera for capturing the quick movements of fish. Despite taking over 100 shots, less than 50 were worth keeping because the subject was often blurred. Below are the best shots of the bunch.

Eventually I stopped trying to take pictures of the fish and switched to taking Zoes (pronounced Zo-E like Joey) and videos. HTC describes Zoes as HD Photos that move. I think of them as gifs gone wrong.

So, what is a Zoe? Two things happen when you enable Zoe:

  1. 20 sequential pictures are captured, including photos from a second before you press the shutter button.
  2. These pictures make up a 3-second video.

It isn’t immediately apparent why you should use this feature. Since there aren’t any tutorials that explain this, I had to Google exactly what Zoe is supposed to do. You can save individual frames from your Zoe or incorporate it into a Video Highlight, but that’s as far as it goes. You can’t share it and it can only be seen in your Gallery. Zoes could be much more useful if they could be saved and shared across the web. Instagram is the perfect app to share them too.

Other features include an ‘always smile’ setting that takes several pictures and lets you find the perfect face to create a perfect group photo. There’s also an object removal feature to erase photo-bombers and random things out of your picture.

The front camera has a 2.1MP wide-angle lens with HDR capability that lets you to fit more people in a group picture. You can expect your selfies to look almost as good as pictures from the back camera.

HTC One Gallery

Mobile phone gallery apps are usually nothing to talk about, but the HTC One’s gallery does things a little differently.There’s a really cool feature called video highlights that creates a video based on pictures, videos, and Zoes for an event in your gallery.

Half a dozen themes equipped with photo filters, sliding animations and background music can be used to customize any video highlight. This gem can be accessed from any event. It’s by far my favorite feature of the HTC One and the only way to really put your Zoes to use.

 

BlinkFeed & Sense TV

HTC One Blink Feed

Two other features exclusive to the HTC One are BlinkFeed and Sense TV. BlinkFeed is a pretty blatant ripoff of Flipboard. A permanent newsfeed on your home screen. There are numerous built-in news sources to choose from including Twitter and Facebook. Unfortunately, you can’t add your own news sources and you can’t remove BlinKFeed if you don’t like it. Rules of the Matrix, I guess.

Sense TV is pretty self-explanatory. A program guide and all the controls you need to manage your TV are available in this slick little app. You can even access Hulu Plus, Crackle and HTC Watch. Without Netflix on the list, I didn’t have much use for this feature.

It won’t replace a universal remote, but it’s still a neat option to have if when you can’t find your remote.

Storage & Bloatware

The HTC One comes in two storage capacities: 32GB and 64GB and it doesn’t have a micro-SD card slot – or removable battery. So the storage size you order is what you’ll be stuck with.

Out of 32GB, around 25GB is available for use right out the box. This is be more than enough storage space for most smartphone owners, but for those of us that hold media on micro-SD cards, it’s a frustrating trade-off of owning an HTC One.

Bloatware seems to be less of an issue on the HTC One compared to other smartphones. In fact, when you turn on the HTC One you might be tricked into thinking there isn’t any bloatware. That’s because HTC organized those apps into folders instead of leaving them to clutter your app drawer. This simple move saves new owners time and energy from hiding those apps and makes the HTC One look more pleasing right out of the box.

Calls & Battery Life

For all HTC’s talk about BoomSound, my callers aren’t always boomin’ in my ear. Some days, callers sound great. Other days, I have to press the phone into my ear just to hear them. I honestly expected better from the HTC One in this area. At least AT&T’s service is solid, with download speeds hitting 10-13Mbps and 5-7Mbps for uploads.

I was able to get a full day of light to moderate usage with AT&T’s 4G LTE enabled, no wifi, moderate camera use and plenty of socializing via Twitter, calls and SMS. The One can make it through a full workday, but be prepared to charge up as soon as you get home. Forewarning, this phone can get really hot when charging!

Conclusion

For a cool $200 with a new two-year contract on AT&T, or $600+ without one, the HTC One is hands down a great purchase for a new smartphone. It makes me itch for something new. Its sleek and curved design is beautiful to hold or show off. It handles apps with speed and powerful performance.

What was most surprising to me about the HTC One is the camera and features like Video Highlight. These features are comparable to some of the creative things Nokia’s doing with their latest Lumia devices. They make the phone more interesting and useful to use without the gimmicks. I wish every phone was made like this.

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2013 Dodge Dart Review: A Luxury Car at an Affordable Price http://shegeeks.net/2013-dodge-dart-review-a-luxury-car-at-an-affordable-price/ http://shegeeks.net/2013-dodge-dart-review-a-luxury-car-at-an-affordable-price/#comments Tue, 11 Jun 2013 16:32:53 +0000 http://shegeeks.net/?p=4455 Recently I was invited to test drive the new Dodge Dart for 7 days. I usually don’t review cars – and come from a Chevy family – but decided to take advantage of the opportunity to drive from NYC to my little big brothers’ graduation in Atlanta. Within weeks of receiving an invitation to test […]

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Recently I was invited to test drive the new Dodge Dart for 7 days. I usually don’t review cars – and come from a Chevy family – but decided to take advantage of the opportunity to drive from NYC to my little big brothers’ graduation in Atlanta. Within weeks of receiving an invitation to test drive the car, it was delivered with compensation for my time and travel expenses. So, how was the drive?

Styling

The Dodge Dart reminds me of a cute, yet stripped down version of a Dodge Charger, especially when you glimpse the tail lights. Since I received my review unit at night, I immediately noticed the interior and exterior lighting around the door handles and side mirrors. This is a nice touch that makes finding things you dropped near the car easier. The side mirrors feature blind-spot monitoring that flashes a small yellow light when an object is sensed near one of your blind spots.

With a roomy cabin and plush leather seats, my trip to Atlanta was enjoyable for all of my body parts except my butt. Despite the comfort of the leather seating, driving for 13-14 hours took a toll on my lower back and butt.

Look Mom, No Keys!

2012_charger_technology_10I’ve never been in love with a key fob before, but I definitely fell in love with the Dodge Dart’s keyless entry fob and push to start ignition. You don’t need a key to do anything with this car. As long as you have the key fob in, your pocket, a lot can get accomplished with only your hands. You can also remote start the Dart and pop the trunk using the fob. Placing your hand over the door handle unlocks the doors and pressing a button on the door handle locks them again.Sometimes the lock button required multiple presses before working.

Overall, the keyless entry features were an unexpected, but luxury touch.

UConnect

2013-dodge-dart-limited-2

The Uconnect entertainment console in the Dodge Dart is standard. It includes an 8.4-inch display with access to Sirius FM Radio, Garmin navigation, auxiliary, usb and SD card audio options, iPod controls, voice-activated bluetooth, fuel pricing, weather and sports updates. You can also control temperatures for the passenger and driver seat and set seat-heating levels. The process of pairing your phone with Uconnect via bluetooth is seamless and easy. Once they’re paired, you can answer calls and text messages or stream music via bluetooth.

Music is the only media you can experience through Uconnect and support for the iPhone/iPod is far superior to support for Android devices. For Android devices, I’d recommend using the bluetooth option while charging the phone through the USB port to save battery life.

Behind the steering wheel sits a 7-inch digital instrument cluster display that shows turn-by-turn navigation directions, digital and analog gauges, audio or phone information, and temperature readouts. There are also some controls on the steering wheel to do minor actions like change the volume, music, or radio station without your hands leaving the wheel.

Alpine Speakers

My family had only positive comments about how music sounds in the Dart. It packs an amazing surround sound system by Alpine. The bass has no problem dropping low and booming without distorting the music even at maximum volume – which is very loud. With the windows down and the sunroof open, I frequently threw mini-listening sessions of new music that my friends and I wanted to share with each other.

The Ride

2013-dodge-dart-limited-23

The ride in the Dodge Dart is generally smooth and quiet, unless you have music playing from its system. In the city, it picks up speed easily and makes impressively tight turns. On the highway, the ride is smooth, but takes a second to get up to speed. Within 15 hours of driving to Atlanta, I filled-up the gas tank 4-5 times when the meter lowered to half a tank of gas. This all costed me less than $100. Definitely a winning price in the gas department considering how far I travelled.

Conclusion

All in all, this was a great trip made possible by Dodge. The 2013 Dodge Dart will please your average driver with its luxury style and features at an affordable price tag starting at $15,995 for the base model. I test drove the Dodge Dart limited, which will run you around $20,000. For an amazing sound system, great gas mileage and keyless driving options, I think the Dodge Dart is worth every penny.

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Samsung Galaxy S4 Review: All Hype or Next Best Thing? http://shegeeks.net/samsung-galaxy-s4-review-all-hype-or-samsungs-next-best-thing/ http://shegeeks.net/samsung-galaxy-s4-review-all-hype-or-samsungs-next-best-thing/#comments Sat, 08 Jun 2013 01:16:03 +0000 http://shegeeks.net/?p=4423 At the unveiling of the Samsung Galaxy S4 in NYC, the first thing I wondered was whether Samsung products were becoming overhyped. The Galaxy S3 was a massive hit and set high expectations for “the next best thing”. Is the Galaxy S4 Samsung’s best phone yet or is just all hype? GALAXY S4 DESIGN AND […]

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At the unveiling of the Samsung Galaxy S4 in NYC, the first thing I wondered was whether Samsung products were becoming overhyped. The Galaxy S3 was a massive hit and set high expectations for “the next best thing”. Is the Galaxy S4 Samsung’s best phone yet or is just all hype?

GALAXY S4 DESIGN AND PERFORMANCE

IMG_0531

Samsung calls the Galaxy S4 a “lifestyle companion”, which is odd. What is a lifestyle companion?

Galaxy S4 doesn’t stray from the design cues of the Galaxy S3 and the Galaxy Note 2. It’s boxy like the Note 2 and less tapered than the S3. A transparent pattern wraps around its polycarbonate body, much like what LG has done to the Nexus 4 and Optimus G Pro. The S4 feels comfortable to hold and use with one-hand. For the most part, the design of the Galaxy S4 is consistent with the Galaxy S lineup. Fingerprint smudges that cover the phone over time are the only downsides to the look.

Under the hood, the Galaxy S4 is powered by a 1.9GHz Quad-core processor with 2GBs of RAM. That should stand for fast as hell, but the S4 feels responsive more than zippy. Doing things like switching apps or opening new browser tabs has a delay to them. Animations and response times just don’t feel instantaneous which is disappointing considering its superior specs.

GALAXY S4 DISPLAY AND SOUND

IMG_0572

The Galaxy S4’s 5-inch Super AMOLED HD (1920 x 1080, 441ppi) display is a drastic improvement from other Galaxy S devices. Colors are still vibrant, but less saturated. The color white no longer has a blue tint and looks..well…white. Still, it’s not without its flaws. Even on its brightest setting the screen never feels bright enough which makes it difficult to read under a lot of sunlight. Pictures and videos have a slight pixilation and fuzziness to them regardless of whether HD is enabled. Despite these flaws, the display is still pretty good.

The sound quality is nice and loud from the headphones, but sound tiny and strained from the two lines in the back of the phone that function as a speaker. It’s sufficient for a playing music in a small room, but not in group settings.

GALAXY S4 CAMERA

IMG_0602

The Galaxy S4 packs a massive feature-set into an impressive 13MP camera. If your phone is lacking in shooting modes, the Galaxy S4 has 12 of them. There’s a carousel of modes including HDR and Best Face/Shot. The most interesting new modes are Dual recording, Drama Shot, Animated Photo and Eraser.

Dual-recording mode records from the front and back cameras at the same time (see pic above). Drama shot captures a series of images of a moving subject to create an impressive action shot. However, getting drama shot to work takes more effort than opening a jar of pickles. Animated photo creates animated GIFs and you can easily customize their speed, direction and which parts of the picture should move. Eraser takes five consecutive shots and removes moving objects from the picture. It works like a charm most of the time and allows you to see what it’s removing before saving the image.

Galaxy S4 Drama Shot Galaxy S4 HDR Shot Galaxy S4 Camera Night Mode Galaxy S4 Camera

The only minor quirk is the lack of tap-to-focus when using the front camera. Images and videos look sharp, but fuzzy sometimes on screen and on your computer. Samsung has thrown in an app called Story Album that allows you to make a photo album from your photos. Unfortunately, you can’t do much to customize the look and format of the image, which means you’re stuck with whatever Samsung gives you. Good luck telling your story with their options.

ANDROID 4.2.2 AND SAMSUNG TOUCHWIZ SKIN

IMG_0613

The Galaxy S4 is one of a few Android devices running the latest version of Android Jellybean. Android 4.2.2 brings new features like gesture keyboard (swipe to type) for the AOSP keyboard, group messaging via MMS and the ability to add widgets to the lockscreen. Toggles in the notification area can be reordered, though not removed. A nice animation has also been added to the brightness meter icon that changes according to where you set the meter. There’s a new layout when installing new apps or updates that looks nice, but doesn’t add clarity to what apps can do.

The settings app is reorganized into four tabbed sections: connections, my device, accounts, and more. Most options from the Galaxy S3 can be found under the same sections on the Galaxy S4. You’ll also find new options like air view, Smart screen, and Air gestures. Air view, a feature first seen in the Galaxy Note 2, lets you hover your finger over different objects to view more information. Air gestures use hand gestures to browse pictures or accept incoming calls. Smart screen lets your eyes tell the S4 what to do. If you look away from a video, it will pause. When you get to the bottom of your screen while reading this article, it will scroll down for you.

These features sound nice in concept, but are feel gimmicky. I immediately turned most of them off.

What you don’t get in the S4’s version of Android 4.2.2 is two new camera features called Photosphere and Tiny Planet. With Photosphere, instead of looking at a panorama as a long image strip you see the panorama as if you’re at the center of it taking the picture yourself. I like to turn them into Tiny Planets, which is another cool visual effect for panoramas.

GALAXY S4 STORAGE AND BLOATWARE

S4 App Menu

Would you buy a phone that advertises 16GBs of storage, but only allows you to use 8GBs? That’s exactly what you get with the Galaxy S4. If you asked me why this is the case, I’d point to Google, Samsung and AT&T.

Samsung managed to squeeze 14 of its own apps on the Galaxy S4 (including S Health, a fitness tracking app), surpassing AT&T’s 10 apps. Google takes the cake with 15 pre-installed apps. You can bet their apps are taking up an insane amount of the S4’s storage. How’s that in the spirit of companionship? Thankfully the S4 supports up to 64GB microSD cards. You’ll need one immediately to keep your media on this phone.

GALAXY S4 CALLS AND BATTERY LIFE

GalaxyS4Battery

Calls and call quality on the Galaxy S4 are consistently excellent. AT&T’s 4G/LTE network continues to carry 4-5 bars indoors and outdoors. Calls sound loud and clear and callers were easy to hear. Data speeds are also great with SpeedTest.net clocking an impressive and fast 18Mbps for downloads and 10.40Mbps for uploads.

The battery on the S4 hasn’t improved one bit compared to the S3. It drains itself pretty quickly with heavy usage. On average, I was able to get 10-14 hours of battery life with light-moderate usage including calls, texts, using the camera and maps, and posting social media updates. You will need to keep a charger on you at all times for the S4.

CONCLUSION

Is it worth upgrading from the Galaxy S3 or Note 2? The S4’s clean design, comfortable feel, superior specs and bundle of features makes it worth an upgrade.  Camera addicts will find the Galaxy S4 to be more than satisfying for their photos as long as they save pics to a microSD card. The price is nice at $200 with AT&T (2-year contract) and it comes in three flavors: black mist, red aurora, and frost white.

Does it fall into the category of being overhyped? Largely, but not completely. The specs for the S4 make it one of Samsung’s strongest phone’s yet, but it tries too hard to be everything. The overwhelming amount of features sound amazing, but barely work the way they should. In doing so much, nothing of quality seems to really get done with the Galaxy S4. Hence the hype…

What do you think?

 

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LG Optimus G Pro Review: More Brains Than Beauty http://shegeeks.net/lg-optimus-g-pro-review-more-brains-than-beauty/ http://shegeeks.net/lg-optimus-g-pro-review-more-brains-than-beauty/#comments Wed, 05 Jun 2013 15:18:14 +0000 http://shegeeks.net/?p=4393 Android may be dominated by Samsung and HTC, but LG is making some noise in the arena as well. LG’s Nexus 4 sold out in less than 30 minutes, though their Optimus G was a flop in comparison to competitors like the Galaxy Note 2. With the Optimus G Pro LG takes another swing at creating a […]

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Android may be dominated by Samsung and HTC, but LG is making some noise in the arena as well. LG’s Nexus 4 sold out in less than 30 minutes, though their Optimus G was a flop in comparison to competitors like the Galaxy Note 2. With the Optimus G Pro LG takes another swing at creating a “phablet”. The Optimus G Pro is quite the powerhouse, but can all that power compensate for an incredibly boring design?

Big, Elegant and Boring

Big is the most obvious word that describes LG Optimus G Pro. Big and boring. It won’t turn any heads based on looks, though the slick finish gives it a fake air of subtle elegance. Overall, the Optimus G Pro looks downright boring until you glimpse its brilliant 5.5″ 1080p HD IPS display. The display changes everything about the way you’ll look at this phone.

LG Optimus G Pro vs Samsung Galaxy Note 2 LG Optimus G Pro (Back) LG Optimus G Pro (Full)

 

A tiny ear speaker, 2.1MP HD camera and sensor for light and proximity sit above the display. A home button tricked out with a notification light ring sits between standard capacitive buttons below the display. Oddly centered on the left side of the phone is the volume rocker and, just above it, LG’s Quick button (more on this below). The power button is on the right and easy to reach with one hand. On the bottom is a micro-usb charging port and call mic while a 3.5mm headset jack, IR sensor and another mic for noise cancellation sit at the top of the phone.

Covering the back of the Optimus G Pro is a reflective pattern reminiscent of LG’s Nexus 4. Unfortunately, it the pattern doesn’t add any appeal to the phone and fingerprint smudges eventually spoil the design. The only breaks in the pattern are for the 13MP 1080p HD camera with flash and a speaker the size of a mole.

Power Performance and LG’s Android Skin

Powerhouse is another word you could use to describe LG Optimus G Pro. It runs on Android 4.1.2 (Jellybean) and is highly responsive and buttery smooth when switching homescreens or apps. Lagging issues? Not here thanks to a Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 processor with 1.7Ghz Quad Core CPUs and 2GBS of RAM. That stands for fast ass hell! It kills my Samsung Galaxy Note II in performance metrics, scoring almost twice as high in benchmarking app Quadrant Standard (11639 to 6906). If only the Optimus G Pro had as much beauty as it has brains.

LG’s Android skin is as bland as the phone, with a touch of clutter. No other phone has a notification panel as cluttered as the Optimus G Pro. It has a row for your toggles, QSlide apps, a brightness adjuster, the date and then your notifications. Ain’t nobody got time for all of that!

notifications

LG managed to get the App Menu to look much better. It uses a tabbed design to navigate options just like the Settings app. There’s over 20 apps installed when you get the phone so the App Menu appears cluttered. Thankfully, you can adjust the size of icons or add a personal touch with a wallpaper.

Clear Views, Sounds, and Call Quality

One area the Optimus G Pro never lacks in is beauty, starting with a gorgeous 5.5″ 1080p display. Pictures and videos are shown in vivid clarity. Colors look vibrant but natural and noticeably less saturated than the Galaxy Note 2’s display. Like most phones, it’s hard to see the screen in direct sunlight. Expect to turn the brightness setting all the way up when using the Optimus G Pro in the summer.

The back speaker plays sounds with as much clarity as the display shows images. Unfortunately, when playing music via headphones as loud as I possibly can the volume isn’t loud enough.

Call quality and reception on AT&T’s network in Atlanta and NYC is great. There were a few areas in Harlem were reception was an issue, but otherwise four bars was a standard thing to see. Data speeds are phenomenal at 38Mbps for downloads and 11Mbps for uploads. Calls sound great in quiet places, but I had trouble hearing callers when walking the busy streets of New York City.

Color Cut Clarity Camera

Clarity is the best word to describe the stunning quality of photos and videos taken with the Optimus G Pro’s 13MP 1080p camera. Even photos taken with the camera’s zoom feature look crisp, clear and beautiful! Occasionally softer colors appeared in pictures of landscapes, but this was a minor problem and rare occurrence.

There’s an interesting camera setting called time catch shot that captures images leading up to your actual shot. Video recordings can feature live effects or a dual recording. Live effects warps your video image or adds a live background to your recording (requires patience and stillness). Dual recording records video from the front and back cameras at the same time. When activated, a resizable box appears on the screen for the second camera recording which you can switch at any time.

Again, LG tries to bring a subtle elegance to the phone with these features. They aren’t overwhelming like Samsung’s camera settings, but they are ultimately boring.

Music and Video Player

LG’s music player is in line with the HOLO style of Android 4.1+ (Jellybean) and looks great – until you get to the Now Playing view. As soon as you play a song, the design of LG’s music player changes from HOLO to a throwback OS X with a brushed metal look. LG, what’s up with that?

At least it’s easy to navigate and features options to search for a song that’s playing via YouTube and edit ID3 tag information.

musicplayer1    musicplayer2

The video player on the Optimus G Pro is typical of any mobile video player (it plays videos), but comes with a few nice gestures. You can pinch-to-zoom into a video, drag your finger left or right to rewind and fast-forward or move up or down to adjust the video brightness. You can also adjust video playback speed or pop a video out (Qslide).

Cool Keyboard

The LG Optimus Pro has two keyboards: a stock android keyboard (AOSP) and a keyboard designed by LG. I love the LG keyboard for three reasons: autocorrect, word prediction and Path (swipe to type option). The keyboard supports handwriting and voice recognition to type as well. If that’s not enough, LG added four themes to its keyboard including a AOSP inspired theme. I hate to say it but, this keyboard does everything I wish Samsung’s keyboard would do.

Special Features

Smart screen 
Smart screen senses whether your eyes are still watching the screen to determine when to turn the display off.

qslideQslide
Available to select apps, Qslide allows you to open up to two pop-out windows on the screen. These pop-out apps can be readjusted or made transparent as a way of disabling the app as you work on something else. Qslide comes in handy when you need to do simple calculations or take a quick look at a calendar while on a call.

QuickRemote
QuickRemote is an app to control your TV, cable box and other accessories except for set-top boxes like Google TV, Roku or Boxee. You can save your favorite channels and fine-tune the remote to different rooms in your house or apartment.

Quick Memo (Quick Button)
Making use of the programmable Quick button, Quick Memo lets you take a screenshot, mark it up, add a note to and save it to your Gallery or a Notebook. While Quick Memo is dead simple to use thanks to the Quick Button, I prefer the flexibility of cropping what I want from the screen with my Galaxy Note 2’s Easy Clip feature.

Battery Life and Storage

Equipped with a 3140mAh battery, the Optimus G Pro easily gets you through a full day of heavy as long as the screen brightness is kept below 50%. When the battery is low, the phone automatically disables apps like the camera and video playback. This is becoming a weird standard for the latest crop of android phones and I don’t appreciate being told by a phone what I can waste the battery on.

BatteryUse   BatteryInfo

The Optimus G Pro packs 32GBs of internal memory with support for 64GBs more via microSD cards. In reality, only 24 of 32GBs can be used. That’s not bad, but it’s not 32GBs. It would help if the Optimus G Pro didn’t come with so much bloatware. Out of 10 AT&T apps pre-installed on the phone – yes I said 10 – I only use 2. Remove Google’s Play Movies & TV, Play Magazines, Talk and Local apps as well and sure another 1-2GBs of memory would become available!

Conclusion

You won’t fall in love with the LG Optimus G Pro for its looks nor all the bloatware it comes with. Once you use it, there’s no doubt that you’ll fall in love with its brilliant 5.5″ display, slick finish, stunning camera and stellar performance. At $200 with a new two-year contract with AT&T, the Optimus G Pro is made for those that want function over form.

Despite a better display and better performance than my Galaxy Note 2, the lack of a stylus with Optimus G Pro would make me hesitate to jump the gun. Say what you want about the stylus, but for devices this big it makes perfect sense to have one. My finger is not a stylus.

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